Friday, 29 August 2014

Gakuen Kino 5 - Chapter 8 (Part 4)

A long chapter. Enjoy.

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Chapter 4: The Diamond Shines Forever
~Rough Diamond~


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Many things happened simultaneously in the seconds following Totsugawa’s transformation.


First, the baseball team.

“I-it’s a demon!” “Totsugawa, you dumbass!” “How could you fall to temptation?!” “Run!”

They reacted like normal people would, and scattered like normal people did whenever a demon ran amok.

The catcher, too.

“Shit!”

Even he couldn’t do anything about this. He hurried to the bench on the third base-side.

“Totsugawa-senpai…”

And as Yuri whispered in a daze, the catcher grabbed her hand and dragged her behind the building.

“What about senpai?!”

“There’s nothing we can do! I’m sure the warriors of justice will handle this!”

“But today’s a day off—”

“…You’re right. But there’s nothing we can do.”

“A-all right…”

Well, there’s no way that a normal baseball team—or actually, normal students—could change things.

The entire team swiftly disappeared from sight. All that training really did pay off.


As for the Take Action Now Club,

“Whoa! A demon!”

Kino’s forehead shone. She was holding a donut in her hands. But she could not interrupt a feeding frenzy. Munch munch. Yum.

“A demon. I’ve never seen a transformation in person.” Shizu commented. “Everyone, stay calm and follow the edges of the grounds to evacuate. I’ll buy you some time, so don’t worry about me. Walk so you won’t trip and fall.”

Spoken like a true honors student. That sword he carries around is no toy—it’s for times like this that he carries it around.

As for Inuyama—

“…”

He glared at Shizu from behind. It looks like he’s trying to see if this was his chance to finally take him down. It looks like he’s running all the simulations through his head. It’s nice to see that Inuyama never bothers trying to hide his intentions.

And as for Chako-sensei,

“EEEEEEEEEEEK! It’s here! Ugh, it’s ugly! Something ugly showed up!”

The moment she saw the demon, she ran for her life. She left all her students behind and fled.

Her legs spun like a cartoon as she whooshed past, leaving a trail of dust.

Sara and Elias watched, mouths agape.

“Well, better than her getting spooked and getting in our way or something.” Kino admitted.

“Mm.” “Mm.” “Mm.”

The three kuroko reacted identically, quickly standing in front of Sara and Elias.

It looks like they were going to protect the students Chako-sensei had abandoned. They’re KAERE at heart after all. They’re not doing this job for nothing.


And as for the four people who were with neither the baseball team nor the Take Action Now Club—

“Play ball!”

It looks like they intended to keep going. Why aren’t they running?

“We are umpires. Even if it may cost us our lives.” The home plate umpire said solemnly. Where’d that awesome manliness suddenly come from?

“We are born umpires.”

How?

“Really. It’s in our baby books.”

Pics or it didn’t happen.

“All players, return to the game.”


“What do I do? What do I do?” Kino wondered, reaching for her fourth donut. It was filled with whipped cream and coated with chocolate.

“What do you mean? You have to transform and turn him back.” Hermes said cooly from her belt.

“Mm hmm. Yeah, but—”

Still eating, Kino turned. Shizu had a hand on his waist and was prepared to draw. Inuyama stood quietly behind him.

“—there’s too many people. Man, this is good.”

Standing nervously behind them were Sara and Elias.

And the three kuroko, defending the two with determination clear in their eyes. (Editorial dept.: How?)

There were too many people. Kino could not transform here.

“GUUOOOOOAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!”

The demon was still standing on the mound. It hadn’t taken a single step. But there was no guarantee that it would remain there. Naturally, Kino wanted to transform quickly.

“Munch munch. Wonder if I have a smoke grenade…”

Kino reached with her free hand into one of her pouches.

At that moment, everything got darker as an indescribable noise filled their ears. It was a low frequency, mixed with the roar of engines and the sound of blades cutting through the wind.

“Guoh?” “Hm?” “Hm?” “Hm?”

The demon, Kino, Shizu, and Inuyama looked up. There was a helicopter hovering overhead. A CH-53E Super Stallion. It was a massive helicopter twenty meters in length.

It must have flown very low to clear the school building, and had come to a sudden stop at the grounds to hover. It is very difficult to hear a helicopter if it is approaching from a very low altitude.

Upon closer inspection, they saw a circular sun design on the white body. It must be from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. It says so right there.

The blades swept up powerful gusts of wind across the grounds, creating dust clouds. The moment the clouds surrounded Kino, dropping visibility to two meters—

“I don’t know what’s going on, but this is your chance, Kino!” Hermes cried.

Kino cried, too.

“NOOOOOOO! My donut’s covered in dirt! Hey, helicopter! What the heck were you thinking?! Get down here and pay me back for this poor donut! Now!”

“Never mind, Kino! Just transform now!”

Even Hermes got angry when he had to.

“Fine… I’m sorry, donut. I’m sorry I couldn’t eat you.”

Giving up on her donut, Kino gingerly placed it in front of the box as though burying a loved one(because she might still be able to eat it if she dusted it off), then reached for her holster.

Ta-dah! She drew the model revolver with her right hand. Cocking the gun, she raised her right hand high into the air, placed her left hand on her waist, and slightly bent her right knee.

“From my cold! Dead! Hands! V qba'g trg guvf ersrerapr!”

There’s something a little different about her transformation catchphrase today…

She put pressure on her trigger finger. The gunpowder ignited.

Kino was surrounded by light.

Her sweats scattered, leaving behind a suspicious silhouette wearing nothing but a gun belt and a holster. But don’t bother doing the frame-by-frame routine—it’s not drawn in detail anyway.

The transformation BGM played, and uselessly beautiful colors drifted in the background. Sparkle sparkle.

A sailor uniform and sweatpants appeared out of nowhere and settled on the spinning Kino.

So she transforms into her school uniform no matter what she happens to be wearing, huh? The author just realized that himself.

The flood of light died down and the BGM came reached its climax.

“Transformation complete! Fight to avenge your food, Mysterious Bishoujo Gun fighter Rider Kino!” Hermes announced. Our hero is here! Our horrific Warrior of Justice!

—uh, I mean… Terrific Warrior of Justice!

“I will avenge my donut! Once I beat the demon, you’re next, helicopter!”

I guess ‘horrific’ works too.


Perhaps it didn’t want to be beaten by Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino—the helicopter began to ascend. The dust cloud slowly settled.

First, Kino and Hermes saw the blue sky and the school grounds.

“Argh!” “Huh.”

Then they saw two men.

One was dressed in pure white—

A white school uniform and a white cape, with a katana at his side, a pair of white doggy ears on his head, and an apple between the ears.

I’m sure I don’t have to spell it out for you. There’s only one character in the whole world who goes around dressed like this weirdo. One is more than enough. On that note, it’s not very often you get a word where the ‘e’ comes before the ‘i’.

“Ahoy there, Mysterious Kino! You are late! I couldn’t wait until the maiden of justice found herself in danger—sorry, I just couldn’t wait.” The man—Samoyed Mask said with an embarrassed smile. His pearly-white teeth gleamed in the sun. Stop talking like a college girl who just marched into her boyfriend’s apartment in the middle of the night.

The other was dressed in pure black—

Black pants and black boots, along with a black coat and black sunglasses.

His description’s notably shorter than Samoyed Mask’s.

“…”

Standing there silently was Detective Wanwan.

It’s kind of weird to say this, but as if in their stead, Shizu and Inuyama had disappeared. Where in the world had they gone? Oh, wait. Shizu is Samoyed Mask, so he must have stripped and clothed himself instantly into his current costume. But where could Inuyama be?

“Who cares? Maybe he ran off like Chako-sensei in the dust cloud. Good riddance.” Kino concluded.

Let’s just go with that.


In any case,

“Detective Wanwan! And—”

Kino spoke with both joy and despair.

“I am Samoyed Mask! S-A-M-O-Y-E-D M-A-S-K! Now, repeat after me!”

Samoyed Mask, growing more annoying by the second.

“I know that! I just don’t want to say your name!” Kino howled.

“That can also be a sign of love.”

“As if!”

“You’re just embarrassed, aren’t you? Feel free to call me ‘darling’.”

“Shut up!”

“Oh! So close!”

Kino and Samoyed Mask could become a comedy duo, if nothing else.

But Kino finally remembered that she had no time for comedy shows. Though late, she holstered her mysterious transformed model gun—Big Cannon~Shining Iron Demon Destroyer, which could turn demons back into human form but could only be used once per transformation—and turned.

“Sara! Elias!” She called.

The two students were so overwhelmed by the sudden crisis that they were standing around in a daze. but Elias quickly reacted.

“Yes, Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino?” He replied, getting Kino’s full title correct.

Elias has always been knowledgeable about these things—about Kino, Samoyed Mask, and Detective Wanwan—and Sara also met the three of them in the previous volume. Although they have no idea about the secret identity things. They couldn’t possibly know.

Kino breathed a sigh of relief when she saw that the kuroko were dutifully protecting the two.

“I’m going to turn that demon back, so I want you guys to get somewhere safe.”

“O-okay.”

Elias nodded. And still under the kuroko’s protection, he stepped forward as though shielding Sara.

“Good boy. Take care of her.” Kino said, vaguely quoting something familiar. “Now, let’s take care of this thing.”

Free from worrying about innocent bystanders, Kino finally turned to the demon.


Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino.

Samoyed Mask.

Detective Wanwan.

Three heroes faced down the demon on the mound.

It was unusual, but this time they knew exactly who the demon was. It was Totsugawa. It had to be.

Kino pointed squarely at the demon.

“Hey, baseball-throwing senpai! Don’t think your ploy to end the losing match by turning into a demon’s gonna work on us!”

Samoyed Mask chimed in.

“You had an excellent game going, too. …Uhh, I was just watching from the distance, I swear.”

Even the quiet Detective Wanwan spoke up.

“It’s not becoming of a man to throw a tantrum in the middle of a game.”

“ROAAAAAAR!”

The demon was insulted. It howled and spun its arms as it lunged from the mound—ahem. It seems as though I’ve made a mistake. The demon did not lunge from the mound—

“Guohh, groaaaar!”

Surprisingly, the demon was pointing at home plate, where the home plate umpire still stood.

“Huh?” “Hm.” “Hmm…”

The heroes stood in confusion, not knowing what the demon was getting at.

“GUOH!”

At that point, the demon suddenly pulled out its own fur and threw it into the air.

The warriors of justice sensed the monsters coming. They quickly prepared for battle. And just as they expected, the hairs turned into monsters. They were the same heights as humans, and had arms and legs. They were like bipedal dogs. But strangely enough, there were only eight of them.

Didn’t most demons make at least two hundred right off the bat?

As our heroes looked on, the eight monsters scattered. Seven into the infield and outfield, and one to home plate.

They went to each of the bases, and the other positions. Upon closer inspection, Kino found that the monsters each had baseball gloves on their hands.

“GROOOOOOAR!”

The demon howled proudly.

Even Kino, who only ever thought of eating—

“What?”

Ahem. Kino, with her sharp eyes and keen wit, could see what it was getting at.

“So you wanna settle things with a baseball game! You weren’t throwing a tantrum!” Kino cried.

“I see. This is getting interesting.” Detective Wanwan commented.

“Heh. It still hasn’t lost its pride.” Samoyed Mask grinned.

“We continue the game. Batter, step up to the plate.”

This umpire from Yahoo! Auctions has balls of steel.


“It’s decided, then! Just as the demon and monsters play on behalf of the baseball team, we warriors of justice will take the place of the Take Action Now Club. We swear to finish this game with all our love, friendship, and youth, fighting to the bitter end!”

Samoyed Mask declared out of nowhere, his right hand held high.

“Then to the plate. We resume the game from the top of the seventh inning.” The umpire said.

Suddenly, the demon threw a practice pitch.

No one knew where it had been hiding the black ball—it didn’t look like a baseball, but was exactly the same size.

The demon wound up and threw.

Whoosh. Thud.

The whoosh was the sound of the ball cutting through the air.

The thud was the sound of the catcher monster catching the ball.

“Th-that was fast…” Kino gasped. What was that just now?

It had only taken an instant for the ball to leave the demon’s hand and end up in the catcher’s glove. It was, literally, in the blink of an eye. Like a black line had suddenly been drawn in midair.

“That ball just now—”

“250 kilometers an hour.” Hermes said.

“No way!”

160 was the record set by a professional baseball player. This was outrageous. It was on the same level as the shinkansen.

“Incidentally, the ball’s made of something really hard and sturdy.”

One dead ball might spell death for the warriors. It could even fly right through their bodies.

Kino turned.

“Sara. Elias.”

“Yes?” “Yes?”

“And you three kuroko—Sendai, Morioka, and Aomori.”

“Yes.” “Yes.” “Yes.”

Wait, were those their names?

“As you can see, you’re finished here. It’s out turn now… so get somewhere safe and wish us luck.”

In other words, Kino was shooing them away. She couldn’t let innocent bystanders be harmed.

“O-okay…” Sara replied. Elias and the kuroko nodded firmly.

Suddenly, one of the kuroko spoke up.

“Oh, look. There’s a piece of bulletproof glass 10 centimeters thick, 3 meters wide, and 5.5 meters long over here—it’s shaped like a U and it’s even got a cover.”

“What a wonderful coincidence.”

“Let’s make use of it.”

The other two piped up, and moved the extraordinarily heavy piece of glass with a small crane that just happened to be on the grounds. They also placed a sturdy metal divider that they happened to find in front of the benches by first base.

The kuroko sheltered Sara and Elias safely behind it.

“That’s one load off my shoulders.” Kino sighed, relieved. Now Sara and Elias would be safe from errant balls.

Oh? It looks like there’s another piece of bulletproof glass set up on the other benches. The monsters had worked together to make it.

Please don’t think too hard about why there would be bulletproof glass and cranes lying around the school grounds. Things like this happen sometimes.

“All right, I accept your challenge! Let’s get this game started!”

“GUOOOOH!”

And so began the second round of the Take Action Now Club vs. the Baseball Team(inaccurate).

Ta-dah.


“Play ball!”

The umpire solemnly announced the resumption of the game. Kino stepped up to home plate.

Kuroko 2—uhh, Tsukishima? Was supposed to be batting, but they could not let an ordinary human to make an attempt here. So Kino, Detective Wanwan, and Samoyed Mask would take everyone’s place, in that order.

Kino put on her helmet and picked up her metal bat.

“Gimme all you got!”

Kino faced down the demon. The demon raised its arm.

Time for a good, honest—thud.

“What?”

“Strike one!”

The moment Kino raised her bat, something like a shadow crossed past her stomach. The black ball was nestled in the catcher’s glove.

“Huh? Wait, did he throw?” Kino asked the umpire.

“It was a perfect strike. An excellent throw.” The umpire replied matter-of-factly.

That was fast. Too fast. Is this umpire even human?

Kino found herself screaming.

“I CAN’T SEE IIIIIIIIIIIIIT!”

“That one was 500 kilometers per hour.” Hermes said matter-of-factly.

“That’s double the speed from before!”

“Yeah. You’re a human calculator, Kino.”

“Do you want me to crush you between my fingers?”

“Sorry.”

“Damn it! He was holding back before!” Kino complained. At that moment, the demon wound up again.

“Just try!” Kino raised her bat and kept her eyes trained on the demon’s—thud.

“Strike two!”

Kino blinked. She didn’t even have a chance to move her bat.

“500 kilometers per hour again.”

“Argh! I almost saw this one!”

Gritting her teeth, Kino prepared for the third pitch.

And she stared for the moment the ball left the demon’s hand. She stared a hole through the hand. She focused to her absolute limit.

Just like she did when she ate.

A professional food-lover can tell in an instant what combination of side dishes and main dishes is necessary to draw the best flavor out of a meal.

“Hah! I see it!”

Kino’s superhuman focus and sight finally locked onto the ball. Even the fastest throws become clearer after two or three throws.

The third throw was also going to be a strike. But Kino could do it. She could hit it.

“I can do it!”

Kino swung. The tip of her bat broke the sound barrier.

Crunch.

Thud.

“Huh?”

For your information, the crunch was the sound of the metal bat breaking. The thud was the sound of the catcher receiving the ball.

“Strike! OUT!”

That was a foul tip. Kino had struck out.

“No way!”

For the first time in four chances in the batter’s box, Kino had struck out. She was, understandably, furious.

She looked at her broken bat.

“What…?”

There was a ball-shaped hole through it. Like it had been cut with a knife. Kino could probably cut something with the bat.

“I can’t hit anything with a broken weapon!”

It’s not a weapon.

But it was true that a broken bat was no use in a baseball game.

“Hm.”

Detective Wanwan, who was next in line, as well as—

“Hm.”

—Samoyed Mask, who was after, swung on the third throw once their senses had adjusted. They each broke a bat.

It was time to switch.


The bottom of the seventh.

“It’s not gonna be easy, defending with just three people.”

Kino was right. Three people could not cover the same amount of ground as nine.

Kino was the pitcher. Detective Wanwan was the catcher. And as for the rest—

“HAAHAHAHA! Even on my own, I can catch anything! Lalalala!”

—a suspicious man wearing a white cape with a katana at his side, hopping about the infield. Children should not be watching this travesty.

“If we don’t give ‘em more than one run, it’ll be a called game. Right?” Kino asked Hermes.

“Yeah. So if you’re lucky, you just might win after three outs.”

“All right.”

The demon’s black ball was lying on the mound. Kino picked it up.

“Whoa, this is heavy.”

It was. The ball probably belonged in shot put more than baseball. It looked metallic, but was somewhat elastic as well. Above all, it was heavy.

“I can’t lose!”

Our hot-blooded warrior of justice was not cowed by such things.

“I will avenge my donut!”

Oh, so not for the greater good, then.

“C’mon out, batters! I’ll strike you all out! I’ll break your bats!” Kino declared loudly. If a demon could do it, so could she. Their flimsy metal bats couldn’t hit this ball.

A monster stood in the batter’s box. It was wearing its helmet like a good boy.

In its hands was a large, thick black bat.

“What? Where’d that come from?” Kino asked. That bat obviously didn’t belong to the baseball team. It was about twice as thick and large. It looked kind of strong and magnificent.

“Isn’t this a little underhanded? Hey, referee! Isn’t that bat against the rules or something?” Kino complained. Why didn’t she complain like this about the ball?

“Hmm…”

The umpire gravely fell into thought. Then,

“Now that I think about it, we didn’t do a mutual equipment check before the game. If we followed the rules to the letter, we should have done so. But since the game has already started, any equipment goes. A man does not go back on his word.”

“WHAT?!”

Kino’s complaints continued for a minute and thirty seconds, but the umpire refused to budge. The demon and the monsters, meanwhile sat in a row on their bench and waited patiently. How polite of them.


“Play ball!”

In the end, Kino was left with no choice. She swung, aiming for Inuyama’s glove—

“Hah!”

And threw the stupidly heavy ball.

Thanks to her justice-enhanced warrior of justice muscles, Kino managed a 200-kilometers-per-hour throw. She couldn’t lose. Not to a demon.

“Take that!”

It was a weighty ball aimed squarely at the strike zone. Hit it if you can!

CLANG!

“Huh?”

The monster hit it. The mysterious bat neither broke nor snapped.

“Oh. Even I can’t catch that.”

As Samoyed Mask looked on from near second base, the ball passed approximately 53 meters overhead and hit the school pool’s diving board, disintegrating it.

The swimming club would shed tears if they could see this. It was a perfect home run. Kino let slip a home run for the very first time.

“NO!”

As Kino stamped her feet on the mound, the monster stepped on every base as it circled the baseball diamond and returned to home plate.

Take Action Now Club 8, Demon Baseball Team 1.

The Take Action Now Club’s dreams of a no-hit-no-run game and a perfect game went down the drain.

“Urgh… Grrr…”

Kino ground her teeth in anger and trembled. She was overflowing with passion for the game.

“Now I won’t get the extra prize!”

Oh, the one Chako-sensei promised her. Sorry. It looks like this protagonist really only cares about food.

As Kino raged, Samoyed Mask came up to her.

“Should I pitch?”

“No. This is no time to be panicking!” Kino said defiantly, shaking her head. She glared at the next batter.

The new ball the demon handed to the home plate umpire went to Inuyama, then to Kino.

As long as Kino did not give them another run, the game would end. A perfect game was impossible now, but they could still end things off with the starting pitcher throwing a complete game.

Incidentally, I accidentally wrote ‘the starting pitcher throwing a party’. Which party comes first into your mind?

Kino threw at the monster.

CLANG!

“Ah—”

Another home run. This time, the shower building next to the pool was destroyed.

That makes the score 8:2.

Kino refused to back down. She kept throwing.

“GOOOOOO!”

CLANG!

“HYAH!”

CLANG!

“AAAAAARGH!”

CLANG!

“ARGH! DAMMIT!”

Kino looked up.

The monsters had pulled off five home runs in a row.

The vicinity of the swimming pool and the tennis court looked like they had been recently bombed. The water from the pool was flowing out into the grounds.

“Kino…” “Kino…”

Elias and Sara whispered behind the bulletproof glass, concerned for her.

Unable to take any more, Detective Wanwan the catcher jogged over to the mound.

“Are you all right?”

“For now, but… damn it!”

“Calm down, Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino. From now on, do as I say.”

“Yeah?”

Whisperwhisper. Detective Wanwan is whispering something in her ear. Whisperwhisper.

“Aha! That’s a plan!”

Kino’s eyes sparkled like the stars, before giving way to worry.

“But wouldn’t that put you in danger?”

“Don’t worry. I have faith in you.”

“…”

Although Detective Wanwan’s eyes were hidden behind his sunglasses, Kino sensed something resolute in his eyes.

“All right. I have faith in you too.”

She nodded.

“Then have faith in me, too! Trust me!” Samoyed Mask said, suddenly popping up behind her. A lone dove flew future him. Uh, I mean, past him.

Disgusted, Kino ordered him:

“Go back and do your job.”


Back to the game.

Batter 6 was a monster that looked identical to the rest. It was holding the aforementioned black bat, and was standing proudly.

“…”

Kino stared at Detective Wanwan.

“…”

Detective Wanwan nodded firmly.

Kino raised her hand.

“Yah!”

And she threw.

This was another throw straight to the middle. The monster seemed to grin.

“Try this!” Kino suddenly dared, and reached into her pouch. She pulled out an IMI Desert Eagle. One of the most powerful handguns on the market, it uses .50 Action Express rounds .

Bang. Bang. Bang. Kino fired with her right hand.

The bullets followed after the ball—

Would they turn the monster to dust? No, not at all. Just before the monster swung, the bullets struck the ball and changed its course.

Whoosh!

The monster hit nothing but thin air.

Thud!

Detective Wanwan easily caught the ball.

“Strike one!”

The solemn umpire declared solemnly.

“Whoohoo!” Kino cheered from the mound. “Try hitting that!”

She’s back.


“GUOOOH! Roar! GAOHHH!”

The demon ran over from the bench and howled at the umpire.

“Grrrr… GROAR! RRAGH!”

It was hard to hear what it was saying, but the gestures were enough. The demon must be complaining that the use of a gun to change the course of the throw is against the rules.

Yet the home plate umpire refused to be intimidated by the demon, even as it towered over him.

“I understand what you are trying to say, but I don’t believe there were any rules that stated, ‘no use of firearms’.”

Obviously.

“Grrr…”

The demon had no choice but to return to the bench.


“Hah.”

Kino threw the ball. Then she shot it.

“Strike two!”

The ball curved in an impossible direction in midair. With her incredible sharpshooting skills, Kino could easily control the ball’s trajectory. Hers was a truly demonic pitch.

Detective Wanwan seemed to be able to calculate the trajectory of the ball. Each time the monster swung, he managed to catch the ball.

“Strike! Out!”

Finally, the batter was out.

“All right! I just have to keep going!”

After giving up five runs in the seventh inning, Kino managed to strike out three monsters.

She didn’t forget to clean up the fallen shell casings as she left the mound.


The score was 8 to 5. There was no more danger of a called game at this point.

Whatever happened, there were two innings left.

Kino, Detective Wanwan, and Samoyed Mask returned to the protected bench where Sara and Elias waited for a strategy meeting.

There was nothing they could do about the five lost runs. No one blamed Kino. The most important thing now was to defend their lead and increase the difference as much as possible.

They managed to come up with a plan this time, but there was no guarantee that shooting the balls to throw them off-course would work next time. The demon and his crew would come up with a counter-strategy.

“Our priority should be to get as many runs as possible.” Detective Wanwan said. Everyone nodded.

“Then we need a weapon. We need the best bat we can get.” Samoyed Mask said. Everyone nodded. Their plain metal bat couldn’t possibly hit the heavy ball. It was like fighting the final boss with a wooden stick.

But there was no way that the demon’s baseball team would lend them the bat.

“Maybe if we asked?” Elias suggested tentatively.

“No way!” Kino raised her voice, about to say that something that stupid would never happen.

Whoosh. Thud.

Something flew over to the Take Action Now Club’s bench and pierced the ground in front of the bulletproof glass.

Everyone stared. The object was driven about fifty centimeters into the ground.

“Look!” Elias cried, his eyes glinting. There was the black bat.

“Ha!”

Kino and the others turned to the other bench.

The demon had its right hand raised up high.

As though it was saying, ‘Bring it on’.

“Heh. Giving salt to the enemy(1), I see. A large salt intake is critical to your health, but too little is just as dangerous. In order to avoid dehydration, it is a good idea to mix in small quantities of salt into your drinking water. And sprinkling salt onto watermelon sweetens the flavor.” Samoyed Mask explained, his teeth glinting.

“Interesting. We’ll make them regret this.” Detective Wanwan grinned.

“So whoever pulls that out becomes the next King of England?” Kino wondered, completely lost.

Time for the eighth inning to begin.


Kino was up first.

“Wow, this is hefty.”

The legendary bat from the demon’s side was obviously heavy. What in the world could it be made of? It took the warriors of justice a lot of effort to even pull it out of the ground.

If the transformed Kino felt it was heavy, then the bat was probably too much for most humans.

But with this weight and density, the bat could definitely withstand the demon’s pitches.

Several practice swings later,

“All right, do your worst!”

Kino stepped into the batter’s box.

The demon pitcher threw.

“I’ll hit it!”

Kino put all her weight into her swing. There!

But just before it hit the bat, the ball began to shift suspiciously. It wobbled as though it was dancing, and it almost looked like there were multiple balls in the air.

“Huh?”

The ball hit the tip of Kino’s bat and flew straight at her. It smashed through her helmet with ease and flew into her head.

“ARGH!”

Kino spun and flew three meters backwards.

It was a sad sight. And a foul. So that was strike one.

“Ouch… ow… I hit myself…”

Tiny chicks were spinning around her head, but Kino stood. She would have been a goner if she wasn’t transformed.


“A formidable demonpitch. It seems that I’ll be the only one who could make a hit.” Samoyed Mask said confidently from the bench, sipping the tea Sara handed him.

“Hmph.” Detective Wanwan snorted. “Anyone could hit that throw starting from the second pitch onward. Both me and Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino.”

“Is that so? I look forward to seeing what you can do.”

“So you acknowledge that you’re making a childish mistake.”

The two heroes didn’t bother acting friendly. Elias tensed.


“Heh.”

A smile just rose to Kino’s face. She flung off her useless helmet.

“Give it your best shot!”

She picked up the heavy bat.

The second pitch. The ball seemed to multiply yet again.

“If you think you’re getting away with that, I’m getting away with this! Get away? This? That?” Kino raised her voice, swinging her bat.

What? It looks like the bat is multiplying.

“Ah! That’s the anti-demonpitch swing! That was what I was going to do!” Samoyed Mask cried, rising from his seat with tea in hand. Without spilling a drop. This is what is means to be Samoyed Mask.

“…”

Detective Wanwan smiled quietly.

“What’s going on?” Asked Sara.

“I don’t get it, either.” Elias replied. Samoyed Mask quickly began to draw a diagram on a whiteboard provided by the kuroko.

First, he drew a baseball that seemed to have multiplied.

“Let me explain. Although we don’t know how, that demonpitch looks to have split into multiple balls. Although of course, there is only really one ball.”

“Right.” “Right.”

Sara and Elias nodded.

Then, Samoyed Mask went on to draw Kino standing in the batter’s box. He was an incredible artist.

“Maybe I should up her bust size?”

Why don’t you ask her?

“Let’s not. I don’t want to die. So what she’s doing now is—”

Samoyed Mask drew her bat—it looked as though it had multiplied.

“—she is shaking the bat so it looks like there are multiple of them. In this state, she is able to hit the demonpitch. Does that make sense to you?”

“It makes sense.” “I get it!”

Sara and Elias smiled. It looks like Samoyed Mask has a talent for teaching.

“I will tell you many times today that there’s nothing more important than the basics.”

With that, he put a lid on his marker and placed it under the whiteboard. That was when Kino hit the ball.

I’m sure someone will raise a fuss about temporal progression and all that, but please don’t worry about it.

CLAAAAANG!

The heavy ball made contact with the bat.

“Argh! That’s heavy!”

It really was. Kino got in a solid hit, but the ball rolled toward the shortstop. It was an infield grounder.

“Dammit. I’ll hit harder next time.”

Kino still ran. She ran with all her strength.

The infielder demon grabbed the ball and quickly threw to first base.

“No!”

Even as she ran, Kino could see the ball. At this rate, she would be taken out. She had to avoid that at all costs.

“I can’t let you do that!”

Kino took out a Remington Model 870 shotgun from her pouch. It’s one of the most common shotguns, and uses 12 gauge cartridges.

Bang! Click. Bang! Click. Bang! Click.

Kino pulled the trigger. The ‘bang’ is the sound of gunfire, and the ‘click’ is the sound of reloading.

Six slugs were fired with each pull of the trigger. They hit the first basemonster and turned him to dust.

The ball passed through thin air. Kino easily made it to first base.

“Whew. That was close.”

Standing at the base, Kino put the Remington back into her pouch.


“Grrrr… Roar! Guoooooh! Groaaaaar!”

The demon used every gesture it knew as it furiously complained at the umpire.

Isn’t shooting a defenseman against the rules? It seemed to be saying.

“Hm. There’s no rule in baseball that states that one is forbidden to shoot an opposing defenseman and turn him to dust, but—”

It would be scary if there was.

“—if I permit any more of these actions, the baseball game will end up turning into a battle. I’ll let this one slide, but any further attacks on the defense, be it with guns or swords, will be deemed an interference and any offending player will be declared out.”

That’s the verdict.

“Grr.”

The demon seemed to accept the judgement. It pulled out another hair and threw it. The hair turned into a monster. Happy birthday to our new first baseman.

The new rule was relayed to Kino.

“What? Oh. Okay.”

She was very disappointed, but the astonished people on the Take Action Now Club’s bench sighed in relief. At least she got to keep the base. Even Kino knew that getting to a base increased the team’s chances of scoring runs.

If Detective Wanwan or Samoyed Mask hit a home run, they could score two or three runs in one go. Mwahaha.

Detective Wanwan, who was headed for the batter’s box, and Samoyed Mask, preparing for his turn, knew that well.

The demon’s pitches were incredibly fast, but not impossible to counter. Its lending the bat was just a show of sportsmanship, but the warriors of justice would make it regret that mercy.

“Grooooooaaar!”

The demon on the mound howled mockingly.

“Hmph.”

Detective Wanwan snorted. But,

“What?”

He could not hide his shock at the demon’s next move.

“Guooooh!”

The demon began to throw intentional balls. It ordered the catcher monster to stand, then threw slow balls at places Detective Wanwan could not reach. (Still at over 50 kilometers an hour, though).

“BALL!”

“Damn it…”

After the fourth ball, the disgruntled Detective Wanwan headed for first base.

Samoyed Mask, who took up the bat and stood in the left batter’s box,

“Not good.”

Also realized how much danger they were in.

The demon pitched again. Another ball.


“The demon’s got us.” One of the kuroko commented.

Sara and Elias asked him to explain why.

“If he lets that extravagantly-dressed man named Samoyed Mask get a walk to first base, then we’ll be at zero outs with the bases loaded. It’s a good thing, in most cases. But for us…”

“Oh!” “Oh!”

“That’s right. We only have three people on the offensive right now. In other words, there aren’t any batters left.”

The umpire announced four balls, and Samoyed Mask walked to first base.

Zero outs. The bases were loaded.

It was a perfect chance for the Take Action Now Club.

“There’s no batters left! I’m supposed to be up next!” Kino finally realized. She was supposed to bat, but she was stuck at third base.

“Wait! Umpire!”

“What is it?”

“What do we do now?”

“If you don’t have anyone to bat, you forfeit the game for lack of players. You would lose, 0 to 9.”

They’ve been short six people ever since they started playing against the demon. Didn’t anyone notice?

“That doesn’t matter.”

Okay.


“Argh… what to do?”

As Kino held her head in her hands, Samoyed Mask suddenly called to her from first base.

“Ahoy there! Mysterious Kino!”

“Stop calling me that! And what do you want?”

“Shoot the glass… I mean, shoot the monster.”

“What?”

“It doesn’t matter which; shoot any monster. He is barefoot.”

“Uh… you want me to shoot a monster? And not you?”

“Calm down. What would you gain from shooting me?”

“I’m calm. And I always want to shoot you.”

“There’s a point when your attempts to cover up your embarrassment end up almost sounding rude—”

“I’m not embarrassed. And you’re always rude.”

“Setting that aside, you must shoot a monster.”

“What? Then I’d be out.”

Kino tilted her head. Hermes kindly explained.

“He means you should get yourself out so you can bat for us. Otherwise we’d lose the game. Go on.”

“I get it. I guess I have no choice…”

Kino took out a Colt Python .357 caliber revolver(the 4-inch model).

“Hah.”

She shot the monster on third base right next to her. Over and over again. The monster scattered to dust.

“Runner out!” The third base umpire declared.

Kino returned to home plate and stepped into the batter’s box again. One out, with players on first and second base.

But—

“NOT AGAIN!”

Naturally, Kino was the one on the receiving end of a base on balls. The umpire had declared four balls before she could blink.

There was nothing they could do.

Detective Wanwan reached third base—a pair of Micro-Uzi submachine guns slid out of his sleeves. Then he opened fire at the recently-revived third basemonster. Shell casings danced in the air, sparkling all the way to the ground.

But even if he stepped into the batter’s box, the outcome was as clear as day. Another base on balls. What kind of game is this?

“I suppose we have no other choice.”

They could not forfeit now. Samoyed Mask drew his katana.

“HA!”

The target of his blade was the poor beleaguered third basemonster. It was cut clean in two.

And that was three outs.

The Take Action Club ended their offense without a single run. The score was still 8 to 5.


The bottom of the eighth. The demon baseball team was on the offense.

The demon finally stepped up with the bat. It filled the entire batter’s box.

“You’re finally up.”

Kino glared at it from the mound.

They had discussed what to do during the strategy meeting earlier. The conclusion was that they would stick with the last-second curve pitches for the time being.

Kino pitched. Then she quickly changed course with a shot—

“ROAR!”

CLANG!

Once again,

“Dammit!”

The ball flew over both Kino,

“If only I could fly~”

And Samoyed Mask. It was a clean home run. The ball drove itself into the bottom of the now-empty swimming pool.

Their strategy was a failure. They had expected it somewhat, but the opponent had come up with a counter after all.

The demon’s plan was to wait until the last second before swinging. It waited long enough that Kino could not hold back the shot any longer.

There was no meaning to a curve ball if the curve happened before the batter swung. It was a technique only the demon could pull off, with its incredible reflexes and strength. The ball easily cleared the outfield.

Kino could potentially hold off the shot a little longer, but that would endanger Detective Wanwan. She did not want to end up shooting him.

The demon returned to home plate. The score was 8 to 6.

The demon came into the baseball team’s bench.

“Guoh! Graah!”

It exchanged high-fives with the monsters. Sure looks smug, huh?

“Damn it…”

Kino was beginning to look nervous. Detective Wanwan came up to the mound for another strategy session.

Maybe only the demon was capable of that high-caliber move. They would see if the next batter could do the same.

“Hah!”

Kino threw. Then shot the ball.

CLANG!

“Not again!”

The monster also managed to hit the ball. A home run, at that. The pitch was a failure after all. That made the score 8 to 7. They were fresh out of savings.

“Should I take over, pitcher? You must be fatigued.” Samoyed Mask offered, hopping over to the mound.

“I don’t need your pity, dammit! I’ll never give up!” Kino refused. “I won’t get my food if I don’t pitch the whole game!”

So that’s it, huh.

But it was clear that they were in trouble. At this rate, they would give away one run after another until they lost. What to do? Kino ground her teeth.

“Detective Wanwan. We switch.”

This time, Samoyed Mask walked normally to home plate.

“What’s your game?” Detective Wanwan asked suspiciously, getting to his feet. Samoyed Mask answered quite seriously.

“Tell Mysterious Kino, ‘You may shoot to your heart’s content’.”

“Wha—”

Detective Wanwan realized what he meant.

“…”

And though he was clearly frustrated, he handed his gear to Samoyed Mask

On his way to the outfield, Detective Wanwan said to Kino,

“He says you can shoot all the curve balls you like. Because he’ll never die of just a few gunshot wounds.”

He was furious that Samoyed Mask could do something he couldn’t; but he didn’t let it show.

“I see!”

Kino understood. Samoyed Mask could parry the bullets with his katana if things came down to it.

“And even if I hit him a few times, I’d like to think that I have that right! For all the times he screwed up!”

What an awful protagonist.


The game resumed.

“Here goes!”

“Go, Mysterious Kino! With love!”

“No such thing!”

After pitching at the demon, Kino waited until the last second before shooting her Desert Eagle.

The result was the most powerful curve ball yet.

But the bullets ricocheted and headed ruthlessly toward Samoyed Mask.

“Hmph.”

Clang clang clang clang.

He deflected them with ease. Even while in position as the catcher, using his katana to parry all the projectiles was a piece of cake.

The monster swung.

Whoosh!

“Strike one!”

Yes!

Kino threw the second pitch with gusto. But—

CLANG!

It looks like the curve was a little weak. The monster got a hit—and a home run, to boot. The score was tied.

“Don’t worry, Mysterious Kino. You must concentrate! We simply have to win back those lost runs!”

It was difficult for Kino to accept criticism and encouragement from Samoyed Mask, but she had no choice but to keep going.

“Dammit.”

Even for Kino, it was no easy feat to pitch 200-kilometers-an-hour balls and shoot them with sniperlike precision.

But she had no other choice.


“Kino…”

“Everyone…”

As Sara and Elias looked on from the benches supportively, the warriors of justice continued to fight.

After losing home runs and striking out batters,

“Strike! OUT!”

The eighth inning finally came to a close. The baseball team had taken four runs.

Take Action Now Club 8, Baseball Team 9. The tables had turned.

And whether they laughed or cried, coming up next was the ninth—and final—inning.

If the warriors of justice didn’t score at least one run, they would be defeated.


“Damn it!”

Kino could not hide her frustration as she returned to the bench. But she didn’t lob her glove at things or kick stuff around her. That’s just bad sportsmanship.

“Good job. Here, have some tea.” Sara offered.

“Thanks!” Kino drained it at once. “I can’t believe they turned things around. Grr…”

As Kino ground her teeth,

“What will you do, Mysterious Kino?” Samoyed Mask asked, also holding a cup of tea from Sara.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, will you continue the match?”

“…”

Everyone shut their mouths. The bench was enveloped in silence. In other words, it got quiet.

Kino knew very well what Samoyed Mask meant.

Kino was a warrior of justice. If she wanted to, she could easily shoot the demon with Big Cannon~Shining Iron Demon Destroyer and turn him human again. She could overpower any monsters that got in her way with her arsenal.

And to be frank, it would be a piece of cake to snipe the demon as it headed from the baseball team’s bench to the mound.

But,

“Non.” Kino said. In French, for some reason. “We’re playing to the end. Whether we win or lose.”

She reached into a box of donuts.

Then, she took hold of a crispy donut that had survived the dust storm.

Stuffing it into her mouth, she declared:

“Mmmph! Mmmmmh! Mmmmph!”


It was the top of the ninth.

Kino was batting first.

She stepped into the batter’s box with the black bat in hand. If they didn’t get at least a single run, they would be defeated. If they didn’t get at least two, they could not win. Although two runs was not nearly enough for them to feel safe.

If the demon threw more bases on balls, the warriors of justice would surely lose. Then there was only one option.

“I’ll hit it!”

“ROAR!”

The demon pitched defiantly. The ball was headed about a meter away from the strike zone. Yes. You know what this one is, folks.

“Not if I can help it!” Kino cried.

At the same time, she leapt gracefully into the air. Yes. She jumped.

The batter’s feet are not allowed to leave the batter’s box, but there was nothing wrong with batting in midair. Just as long as her feet were where they were supposed to be at the moment of impact.

“HAAAAAAAH!”

Kino threw herself to the side as she swung.

Clang!

The ball just narrowly hit the tip of the bat. It began to roll toward third base. This was as far as she could send it while swinging in midair.

“All right!”

Breaking out of her roll, Kino quickly got to her feet and ran. The third basemonster stampeded forward and threw to first base.

Could Kino make it? It was a tough call.

Thud. Immediately after Kino rushed in like a gust of wind, there came the sound of the ball hitting the first basemonster’s glove.

“Safe!” The umpire called. Yes! Kino made it to first base!

“Yes!” Kino cried. She raised her right arm at the bench.

Look, a hit! This was a sign of things to come. The Take Action Now Club strikes back!

“Whoohoo!” Kino cheered.

“Hey, Kino?” Hermes suddenly spoke up.

“What is it, Hermes?”

“You know…”

“Yeah?”

“I know you tried really hard to get here, but you know there wasn’t much of a point to getting to first base, right?”

“Why not?”

“The demon was going to give you a walk to first base anyway. You could have gotten here without lifting a finger.”

Kino thought. She thought some more. And then some. Something terrifying came to mind.

“…”

It looks like she’s got it.

That there was no meaning to anything but a home run at this point.

“Then… what about all my hard work?”

“All for nothing.”

“…”

It looks like the protagonist is depressed. Please hold.


Detective Wanwan was up next. He knew exactly what they were getting into, so he didn’t try too hard.

He knew that, even if he managed to hit the pitch, it would be difficult to hit the heavy ball out of the park.

No matter how frustrating, Detective Wanwan never wasted effort on useless things. It must have taken a lot of practice.

Not a loser. Definitely not.

“Ball four!”

Detective Wanwan cooly let the ball pass by before walking to first base.


“My turn.”

Samoyed Mask stood from the bench.

He slowly looked round and at someone, from under his mask.

And he said in a dandy voice:

“We’re counting on you. You will be the hero of this game.”

The person gaped.

“You know what you’re capable of, don’t you?”

“…”

“It’s up to you now.”

With that, Samoyed Mask left the safety of the bulletproof glass with a swish of his cape. He departed like a white wind.


“Ball four!”

Another base on balls. Samoyed Mask walked to first base.

The Take Action Now Club had zero outs, and the bases were loaded. This was their chance.

If it were normal baseball, anyway.

The Take Action Now Club also only had three members. They were repeating the previous inning. If Kino didn’t get herself out so she could bat, they would forfeit by default.

“Grr…!”

Stamping her feet at third base, Kino shot the monster next to her a glare.

I’ll blow away that adorable mug!’

Kino reached into her pouch to take out a PSG-1 sniper rifle.

“Wait, Mysterious Kino.”

“Whaddaya want, Samoyed Mask? I’m a bit busy here!”

“Our next batter is on the way.”


‘What is this creep thinking?’ Kino thought.

“Who is the next batter?” The home plate umpire called.

“It’s me.” Said a solemn voice.

“Hm?” Kino turned.

“Hm.” Detective Wanwan as well.

“What?!” Sara looked at the boy reaching for the black bat lying on the ground.

“Heh.” Samoyed Mask grinned.

“I’ll do it.”

It was at that very moment that a blond-haired boy took hold of the bat.

“Elias?! Wait! Time out!” Kino quickly called. She left third base and went over to Elias.

“Wait, wait! You can’t be out here!” She scolded him, but Elias slowly picked up the bat, ignoring her.

The bat was supposed to be too heavy for normal people to hold.

“Hey, Elias?”

Kino looked into his eyes.

“…”

She had no choice but to back down after seeing the look on his face. It was pure determination.

Kino had made that face in the past herself. Right before an eating contest.

“I’ll do it. For victory.” Elias said.

“...I see.”

That was all Kino could say.

‘I’m counting on you.’

But instead of saying that out loud, she lightly waved her right hand and returned to third base.


It was the top of the ninth.

There was just a single-run difference between the teams.

Elias was in the batter’s box.

A gust of wind blew dust into the sky.

“…”

It also shook Elias’s messy hair.

Kino was on third base. Detective Wanwan was on second. Samoyed Mask was on first. And Sara was on the bench. All four of them swallowed their breaths.

“Guoh.”

The demon intoned quietly, then raised its arm.

Then, it threw. It was a powerful pitch, its speed at over five hundred kilometers an hour.

THUD!

The catcher monster was pushed back slightly by the impact.

“Strike one!”

Elias did not swing.

“…”

He just quietly watched.


“Hermes, wasn’t that a strike just now?”

“Yeah. It’s kinda obvious, but they’re trying to strike him out.”

“Then what happens?”

“You’re gonna have to bat again.”

“Dammit…”

The demon was cold and calculating. It planned to win through baseball.

Not even Kino or Hermes knew how much of its sense of self a demon retained when it transformed from a human. Although it probably didn’t have any left.

“But you know one exception, Kino.” Hermes said meaningfully.

“Hm…” Kino nodded gravely. Then, “who?”

Hermes was disappointed. Very much so.

“I’m talking about Elias! Did you already forget what happened last time?”

“Oh, right! Now that I think about it, I never shot him with Big Cannon.” Kino mumbled thoughtfully.

“Yeah.” Hermes was relieved that she finally understood.

“Should I shoot him now, then?” Kino asked.

Hermes was highly disappointed. Very much so.

“If you do that, the bat’s going to crush Elias!”

“Oh, right. That would be dangerous.”

Said the most dangerous person in the vicinity.


The demon threw its second pitch.

Thud.

Another powerful strike.

“…”

Elias did not budge.

“Elias…”

Sitting on the bench, Sara looked around at Elias in the batter’s box, and at all the other teammates around the diamond.

She took a deep breath.

“Do your best~♪ Elias~♪ Lalala~♪ Do your best~♪ Everyone~♪”

She began to sing. She was cheering them on.

Japan’s greatest songstress was singing her heart out.

“Don’t lose~♪ Elias~♪ Lalala~♪ Don’t lose~♪ Everyone~♪”

The lyrics and melody were improvised. It was a humble song.

“…”

Elias looked more serious now than ever before.

He didn’t even blink as he stared at the demon’s form.


The third pitch.

It was a true demonpitch. Maybe as fast as 600 kilometers an hour.

“There!” Elias squeaked.

The bat cut through the air—

—and hit the ball.

“I’m a club member, too!”

Elias put strength into his bat-arm. Refusing to lose to the speed. Refusing to lose to the weight. Believing that he had the power.

CLAAAAAANG!

It sounded like a gigantic bell had been rung in the school grounds. The ball flew.

Elias’s desperate line drive flew straight at the shortstop monster.

“NO!” “It’s right to the shortstop!” “It’s going to catch it!”

The kuroko cried out in unison. but the ball shot straight through the monster as it reached for the ball. It had reached out a little too late.

Sssshhh. The monster turned to ash, but the ball flew past and rolled into the outfield.

“It’s a hit! Run!” Hermes commanded.

Wakatta!” Kino replied in Japanese, and slid into home plate! The score is tied!

Detective Wanwan followed, stepping on third base and running straight to home! That’s two more runs for the Take Action Now Club!

And as for Samoyed Mask,

“AAAAAARGH!”

He was making a run for home plate. The left fielder monster threw at the catcher monster.

Oh? The demon pushed the catcher aside. It wanted to catch the ball and get Samoyed Mask out personally.

“Hah! A challenge, is it?”

At that moment, Samoyed Mask became a shining gust of wind.

With his white cape aflutter, he shot toward home plate.

Thud.

The demon caught the ball. It looks like Samoyed Mask is done for. Was his effort in vain after all?

“Ahahahaha! Take that!”

He soars! Samoyed Mask soared into the air.

He rose higher and higher into the sky like a lone swan.

This is on a completely different level from what Shizu did in the sixth inning. Samoyed Mask wasn’t flying—he was soaring!

A lone white knight was gliding through the air, drawing a graceful arc.

His cape fluttered in the wind, and the sun glinted off the apple on his head.

“Ah…”

Kino looked up.

“…”

Detective Wanwan, too.

“You’ll do well to engrave this into your eyes. The knight of justice soars through the air! Look, no hands!”

Samoyed Mask’s smile glided gracefully in the sky.

He can fly!

He can fly!

He can fly!

And just as he dropped down to home plate,

“Guoh.”

The demon waiting on the ground tagged him in midair.

“Out!”

“Huh?”

You soared too high. What did you expect when you took dozens of seconds just to land?

“Th-that idiot!” Kino cried. She couldn’t not.


After the hit, Elias ran as fast as he could to get as far as possible.

He tried to get to third base from second while Samoyed Mask was in the air, but—

“Guoh!”

The demon tagged Samoyed Mask out and threw to third base. It was a smart play.

“Agh…”

Poor Elias floundered between third and second base, before finally being tagged.

He plodded back, deflated.

“I’m sorry.”

Kino shook her head.

“What are you talking about? That was an awesome hit! We scored two whole runs!” She said encouragingly.

“I’m sorry.” Said Samoyed Mask.

“That’s what you get for being so greedy!” She snapped.


Two outs, no one on base. The score was 10 to 9.

The Take Action Now Club had taken back the lead, small as it was.

Kino was up again.

“All right. If I make it to base again, we can add Elias to the lineup and get more runs!” She said, confidently taking the batter’s box. “All right! Just try and pull off another base on balls!”

It’s a little sad to see that Kino is totally fine with something underhanded, but they had to get more runs at whatever cost. The warriors of justice would fill the bases and Elias would get in a hit to earn them more runs.

“GUOHH!” The demon suddenly howled. Then,

“What?”

Every monster save for the catcher gathered at home plate.

“Huh?”

Were they going to fight? Kino quickly took a stance. But the seven monsters completely ignored Kino, walked behind the catcher, and had the umpire stand aside as they clung to the catcher’s back.

“What’s going on?”

The result: A very long catcher composed of eight monsters lined up in a row. It was probably the longest catcher ever. Hello, world record.

The umpire stood behind it. He was quite far.

“Play ball!”

But I guess he doesn’t care.

“Hm… what are they planning?” Kino wondered. “Oh well. Give it your best shot!”

She clutched her bat.

Now that there was no one on defense, Kino could feel free to leap at the ball like earlier that inning. With the empty diamond behind it, the demon wound up.

It pitched.

Kino was blown two meters backwards.

The ball hadn’t hit her.

“Strike one!” The umpire called from a short distance.

“Wh-what just happened?” Kino gasped, getting to her feet. Her warrior of justice-mode uniform was covered in dirt.

Let me explain. Just as Kino made to hit the ball, she was blown back as though something had pushed her. It was hard to tell what, but it was quite shocking.

“1300 kilometers an hour.” Hermes said calmly from Kino’s belt.

“What?”

“The speed of the pitch, I mean.”

“Wha?”

Kino returned to the batter’s box and took a good look at the catchers.

“No way!”

The ball was in the glove of the monster at the very front. It was smoking because the friction from the throw had heated up the ball to the point that it was burning the glove.

In other words, the monsters had come together to catch the mach-speed ball. Kino had been flung back by the shockwave.

“Damn it! There’s fast, and then there’s just plain teleportation!”

The ball returned to the demon. It immediately pitched again.

“EEK!”

Kino was flung back.

And the third pitch.

“ARGH!”

Kino was flung back.

That’s three strikes. Kino was out. It was time for another batter.

“They got me! Dammit, we’re only leading by one run.” Kino complained, putting down the bat and returning to the bench.

Samoyed Mask’s teeth glinted.

“It’s all right. We’re still winning.”

Detective Wanwan agreed.

“Yes. As long as we prevent any runs in the next inning, we will be victorious.”

Sara continued to sing.

“Do your best, everyone~♪ I have faith in you~♪ I’ll cheer you on from here~♪ Lalalala~♪”

Her voice was clear and lovely. It was like listening to a musical.

“I’ll join the defense, too! Please let me in!” The tiny Elias piped up, showing more determination than most boys his size. If he could hit a pitch like that, getting hit by one of them probably wouldn’t kill him.

Looking around at her optimistic allies,

“…”

Kino quietly shook her head. As though deriding herself for her weakness.

Then,

“All right! We just have one half-inning left! Let’s do our best!”

Yeah!

The team punched the autumn sky. It was halfway through afternoon.


Some people were watching the Take Action Now Club through a monitor.

The feed from the school’s security cameras switched to another view.

On the screen was the baseball team led by the demon. Astonishingly, they were huddled together as they roared for team spirit.

“It looks like they’re both going to go the distance.” Chako-sensei said from behind.

They were in a clubroom near the back of the school.

They couldn’t see the grounds in person because the main school building was in the way, but several security cameras conveyed the ongoing game to a 65-inch television.

And the people watching were—

“Totsugawa-senpai… you kept going, even after turning into a demon…”

—Yuri and the baseball team.

Yes. After taking cover, they were gathered together by Chako-sensei to watch the game from the clubroom.

There was juice and snacks on the table, courtesy of Chako-sensei. Most were emptied—it looks like the team was busy.

“Whether you laugh or cry, this is the bottom of the ninth. The game’s almost over.” Chako-sensei said firmly.

“Waahhh… Heh heh heh.”

Hey, you don’t need to do both.


It was the bottom of the ninth.

Batter 7 was up first from the demon’s team.

“Hmph. So I just get two monsters out, and the demon-senpai’s next…”

Kino grinned confidently on the mound.

Elias was at first base with a glove on his hand. Samoyed Mask was the catcher, and Detective Wanwan was the shortstop.

They could not allow a single run. That would be a tie, and as there would be no extra innings in this game, the Take Action Now Club could not emerge victorious. And if the demon’s team hit a home run, the game was over.

Losing the match wouldn’t kill anyone. Kino could simply turn back the demon after the match.

But Kino and the rest of the Take Action Now Club(exception: Chako-sensei, who skedaddled early on) wanted to win, fair and square.

They had to keep fighting for victory until the last of their hopes was extinguished.

That was also a courtesy they had to show to their opponents.

“All right, let’s do this. Whether we laugh or cry, this is the last inning.”

Kino fixed her cap and looked at the batter. There was something like satisfaction in Kino’s eye.

The monsters were now somewhat adjusted to Kino’s gun-supported curve balls. Even when she waited for the last millisecond, they stubbornly refused to be defeated. They had hit four home runs in the previous inning.

Then—

Kino whipped her arm forward.

Then she took out a gun. Instead of the Desert Eagle, she grabbed an SR-25 sniper rifle, with the extra firepower that rifles offered.

The target: her own pitch. Kino quickly took aim and looked into the scope.

In less than a second, she calculated how to alter the pitch so the batter couldn’t hit it.

“There!”

Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.

Shell casings flew into the air. Four 7.62mm rounds chased the ball.

And they made contact. The pitch shifted.

Thud!

“Strike one!”

“All right!”

Kino punched the air, taking a victory pose. She hadn’t changed the course of the pitch. She shot so she wouldn’t have to. In other words—

“I see. You shot the center.”

“That’s right.”

Kino had shot the very center of the ball and accelerated the pitch in four stages.

“Excellent thinking, Mysterious Kino. Feel free to continue your curve balls and speedshifters. Don’t worry about accidentally shooting me.” Samoyed Mask said, throwing back the ball.

I won’t, Kino thought.

“And defeat them all.”

Once the baseball team’s finished, you’re next, Kino thought.


<Strike! OUT!> The umpire’s call rang from the speakers next to the monitor.

“Oh!” “That’s one out!” “She got us!” “It was so close, too!”

The baseball team was captivated by the match.

The eight players and the manager were staring a hole through the TV, not even touching their snacks anymore. Chako-sensei had already left the room.

On the screen, Kino pitched and shot with the determination to allow not even a single hit. She was fighting a very close match indeed.

“Dammit…”

One of the team members said. He was the one who had been catching Totsugawa’s pitches until not too long ago.

Then, he turned to the others.

“Guys—”


The last stage of the game was at its last stage.

“Hah!”

Sweat dripping down her face, Kino pitched with all her might, then quickly sniped the ball with the SR-25 on her back and altered is course.

This time, it would curve from the edge of the box to the center.

Kino fired eight rounds for this shift. She had to shoot at locations the altered pitch had not yet gone, all with microscopic precision. It was like threading a needle from across the diamond.

“Yeah!”

But Kino managed to do it. Again with the billiards foreshadowing.

Thud!

She had put heart and soul into the throw. The ball landed right in Samoyed Mask’s glove.

“Strike! OUT!”

That was a strikeout, folks. The monster didn’t even have the chance to swing. Yet the umpire’s call was absolute.

“Sweet!”

That’s two outs.

One more out, and the Take Action Now Club would be victorious.

The next batter was—

“Grrrr…”

“You’re finally here.”

The demon that was once Totsugawa.


Kino and the demon faced off, 18.44 meters between them. Yes. It was the very distance of victory, spanning the gap between the mound and home plate.

On the mound was the ace, Kino. The food-loving warrior of justice who had defended the mound all alone.

In the batter’s box was the demon. The responsible captain with a weak stomach.

It was the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and no bases filled. There was just a single-run difference in score.

“Here goes! WHOAAAAAA!”

With a battle cry, Kino whipped the ball. Then, she fired eight shots in a row—she would make the ball curve from the upper edge of the strike zone to the lower edge.

“GUOHHHHH!”

The demon swung with all its might, the bat slashing through the air.

CLANG!

The curve ball bounced off and flew over the baseball team’s bench. It landed on the school building and totaled a concrete pillar.

“Foul!”

That’s strike one. But,

“Th-that was close…”

Beds of cold sweat dotted Kino’s face. Kino had seen the moment of impact—the ball had only narrowly been a foul.

“Grrrr…”

The demon shot her a glare.

“Heh. Not bad.”

Kino glared back. Then, she switched magazines on the SR-25. The new one was fully loaded with twenty shots.

“Say, Kino. You should try missing on purpose.” Hermes suggested. Kino tilted her head.

“Huh? Miss on purpose? Upwards? Downwards? Left? Right?”

“No, no. I mean you should try and throw for a ball. It would be great if the demon swung for nothing. You don’t have to limit yourself just to strikes.”

“Right. Just like those times when Chako-sensei stuck out her glove really far.”

“Yeah. It’s a good strategy.”

“Okay. But I’m not gonna do it.”

“What?”

“Even if the demon never swings once, I’m going to strike him out. That’s what it means to fight like a man.”

“But—”

“You should know something, Hermes. Parfaits and sundaes are both the crown jewels of dessert, but there’s no clear difference between them. There’s theories that say they have different origins, or they take different amounts of time to eat. But there’s nothing definitive. And it’s nothing to care about, either. And since I ate mountains of both, I know what’s important. That they’re both delicious. So maybe that’s more than enough?”

“I see. So what does that have to do with baseball?”

“Nothing, really.” Kino replied. Then, “HERE GOES!”

Kino wound up. Her target: The lower edge!

“HAAAAH!”

She pitched.

“There!”

She fired.

This time, she used more firepower. Twelve shots, to be precise. Such a feat was only possible because she was wielding the SR-25, an automatic sniper rifle.

The ball accelerated and curved from a higher position, just skirting the strike zone.

“GUOHHH!”

The demon swung.

CLANG!

The desperate hit echoed across the grounds.

The shockwave from the impact rattled every window in the school building. They would have shattered to bits if they hadn’t been replaced with bulletproof glass.

“No!”

As Kino turned, the ball cut the wind as it flew straight toward the left.

There was nothing that the Take Action Now Club’s defense could do. Nothing but watch.

“Please be a foul!”

And at that moment, it drove itself like a meteor into the ground right before the home run line. The earth shook a little.

The ball was just on the foul line on the third base side. Which side of the line was it on?

If it was inside, it would be a valid hit. It would be impossible to dislodge the ball from the ground before the demon circled the pitch. The running home run would tie the score.

If it was outside, it would be a foul. That would make two strikes.

The third base umpire rushed over.

And after checking the newest crater on Earth, he raised his arms.

“FOUL!”


“Whew…”

Kino breathed a sigh of relief.

“I told you it would be risky to be so aggressive. That ball was only a foul by a matter of microns.” Hermes said.

Incidentally, the umpires had all gathered to fill the crater before the game resumed. Please hold.

“So throw a ball next time.”

“Hm. So what should I throw for the final pitch?”

Kino’s not listening at all.

“I’ll give it an extra twist. The only thing that packs a bigger punch than a 7.62 and is capable of repeat fire would be a beast that uses .50 BMGs. And I just happen to have a Barrett M82A1 that’s perfect for the job!”

Assured of victory, Kino turned to the demon. There was a uselessly confident look on her face.

“…”

The demon shut its mouth. Kino spoke again.

“Hey, hey, hey, whazzup? You scared, batter? Hey, hey, hey!”

“…”

Man, that’s just cruel.

“What? Why?”

It was a tense battle of spirits. Though Kino seemed to be cornered, she was mentally cornering the demon.

“Grrrrr…”

Oh! The demon just pressed its left hand to its stomach! It looks like it’s in pain! Its stomach must be hurting! It looks like his mental fortitude hadn’t been changed by the influx of demonic energy.

Once the crater was filled, the umpires returned. It was almost time to resume the game.

“Now’s my chance!”

Kino would use any means necessary to win.

“I’ll finish it with this pitch! Here’s to a strikeout!”

She relentlessly assaulted the demon with her confidence.

“Grrrrrrrr…”

The demon leaned forward, its hands on its gut. Oh, the home plate umpire returned and took place behind Samoyed Mask.

“Play ball!”

The game resumed. They were at two outs, no balls, and two strikes.

“Now! Now—”

Kino had just convinced herself that, though merciless, she should end things then.


“Demon! Do your best!” Someone called.

“Huh?” Kino looked up.

Not ‘Do your best, Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino’? She was very confused. Talk about self-centered.

“Demon! Give it your best shot!”

“Don’t lose!”

“Nail that one!”

“You gotta be strong! Put your back into it!”

“The coach ain’t here, pal! It’s gonna be all right!”

“Have confidence! You can do it!”

“You have to be calm!”

“Demon! Demon! Demon!”

Finally realizing that she hadn’t heard wrong, Kino turned to the source of the voices.

“N-no way!”

It was the baseball team’s bench.

“We have faith in you!”

The baseball team and the manager pushed the monsters away from behind the bulletproof glass, cheering wholeheartedly for the demon in the batter’s box.


“Heh… a rather passionate crew.” Samoyed Mask grinned, his teeth glinting.

“Hmph. Who needs friends?” Detective Wanwan muttered cynically.

“I’m a little jealous.” Elias confessed from first base.

“Friends, huh?” Sara smiled from the opposite bench.


“GUOOOOOOOH!”

With a howl, the demon returned to form. It raised its head and held up the bat.

“GRRRAR!”

And as though daring her to pitch, it shot Kino a frightening glare.

If Kino’s aura was cloudy and black, the demon’s aura was clear and pure like the color of the sky!

Uh, who’s the protagonist here again? It’s kind of confusing if you just look at Kino on the mound and the demon in the batter’s box.

“Heh! I know. This is the last one!” Kino roared back, and took out a massive rifle about 1.5 meters in length and 12 kilograms in weight. It was her Barrett M82A1.

Pulling the heavy lever, Kino loaded the powerful rounds and pulled the gun onto her shoulder.

Then,

“This is…”

She slowly traced an arc with her arm,

“The pitch of my soul!”

And threw.

It was a blistering pitch. The fastest one of the day.

And,

“HAAAAAAH!”

Kino took aim.

BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG

Ten consecutive shots. Rounds powerful enough to shoot down a helicopter made contact with the ball, one after another.

Up, down, right, left, acceleration, up, down, acceleration, acceleration—

The ball moved on an impossible course.

“GUOOOOOOH!”

The demon swung.

Without so much as a hint of hesitation.


CLANG!


According to a man in the city of Wakkanai, Hokkaido, very far from Kanagawa prefecture—

“I thought they were ringing the bell at the local temple.”


“No way!”

The demon made the hit. The demon hit Kino’s pitch of the soul.

The ball rocketed toward Kino’s feet.

“Ah!”

It was too fast for even Kino to react to. Her left hand just missed it.

Rolling between her legs, the ball hit the mound directly—and thanks to the low angle, it bounced high up into the air.

“Whoa!” “He did it!” “Go!”

Every member of the baseball team was on their feet.

The black ball soared into the sky. Higher and higher it rose toward center field.

At the same time, the demon broke into a run. It made it past first base. What incredible speed.

Kino turned.

“It’s too late…” She whispered, gritting her teeth.

At this angle, the ball would fall just narrowly in the outfield—but the demon was bound to get an inside-the-park home run before that.

It was the tying run.

At least, that’s what everyone thought.


“…”

Until a little girl raised her head near the center field.

“Ah! That girl!” Detective Wanwan cried.

“EEEEEK!” Samoyed Mask shrieked.

“Oh!” “Oh!” Sara and Elias said in unison.

And—

“Ti!” Kino called her name.

She was twelve years old, and had short white hair and emerald-green eyes.

Her face was blank like a doll, her expression inscrutable.

She was a highly skilled bomber girl whom Kino had encountered several times. Her name was Ti.

Upon closer inspection, it was clear that she had a baseball glove on her left hand.

“Are you going to join the defense? But—”

The ball was tens of meters above her head. It was impossible, everyone thought. But then,

“…”

Ti took out a Mk 2 grenade from her backpack and pulled the pin.

And more. She scattered many grenades around her, all missing their levers.

The grenades, of course, exploded. In unison.

If Ti was just a girl who liked grenades, she would have died then and there. But she was different. She was a master of the Chain Blast Technique, which entailed creating multiple explosions to create a perfect safety vacuum in the center.

And this time, the explosions were not just a shield.

“Sh-she’s flying!”

Just as Detective Wanwan pointed out, Ti was launched into the air like a rocketship. Whoosh.

It was a technique borne of impossibly impeccable calculation.

And when the girl bounced up to the highest point—

There was the ball.

Thud.

Ti grabbed it.

The demon had already passed second base and was nearing the third. One monster was spinning its arms round and round. So fast that it looked like it was going to fly off.

“Throw it home!” Detective Wanwan called to Ti, who was still in midair. But when he turned to home plate,

“…”

He was thunderstruck.

“WAAAAAAAH!”

Samoyed Mask, the catcher who should have held his ground to protect the base and catch the ball,

“NOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Was running away in tears.

“I’ll get it!” Kino yelled, and made a mad dash for home plate. It looks like she’ll get there before the demon does.

“…”

The girl in the air threw back to home.

But it was clearly a weak ball.

“It won’t make it!” Detective Wanwan growled. But at that moment, Ti threw again. this time, she threw multiple grenades.

Chains of explosions shook the air, each and every blast focusing the energy into one precise point to give the ball a devastating push.

The ball was now zooming back to home, directly at Kino. Not even a Major Leaguer can manage a throw like this. I hope you didn’t need me to tell you that.

“Sweet! Thanks, Ti!”

Kino’s eyesight was more than enough to see the ball shooting toward her like a bullet.

“Kino! You have to touch the demon with the glove that you’re holding the ball with! And don’t drop the ball afterwards, either!” Hermes cried.

“Got it!”

The demon passed third base and stampeded toward home plate.

The ball arrived before the demon. Thud. It landed in Kino’s glove.

“The moment of truth!”

Kino ran. Straight toward the demon rushing her way.

“GUOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH!”

The demon refused to slow down.


The Take Action Now Club swallowed.

And,

“Take that!” “Run!” “Tackle her!” “Finish it!”

As the baseball team watched,


Kino and the demon’s silhouettes overlapped.

Like two beasts going head-to-head.


THUD.

There was a powerful impact.


The crash happened so quickly that no one could see what had happened. But—

“AAAAH!”

Kino was the one sent flying.

She was thrown from home base to the Take Action Now Club’s bench.

“Urk!”

And she crashed into Samoyed Mask, who had fled in tears.

“Waaahh—gurk.”

Launching him out of the grounds, Kino bounced in the opposite direction. Again with the billiards foreshadowing.

“Huh…?”

—over Elias’s head as he watched, slithering across the diamond—

“Gah!”

—crashing into the baseball team’s bulletproof shield, then bouncing again—

“Agh!”

—to finally land on her face on the school grounds.

The demon, meanwhile, had run clear past home plate after throwing Kino, and crashed into a fence hard enough to shake the ground. It broke through the fence, fell, and stopped moving.


“Which one?” Wondered Detective Wanwan.

“Wh-which one?” Wondered Sara.

“Oh… which one is it?” Wondered Elias.

“Out?” “Safe?” Wondered the baseball team.

Ti, who had set off a grenade underfoot just before hitting the ground to soften her landing, replied—

“You’ll see.”

—and turned away.


“…”

The home plate umpire strode up to the baseball team’s bench.

“Yeaaargh… yakisoba…”

He went up to Kino, still lying in a daze on the ground.

Everyone was silent.

Solemnly, the umpire said,

“Pardon me, miss.”

He flipped over Kino like an othello piece.

Flop. He looked into the glove on her left hand.

The black ball—

“Hm.”

Was still secure in her grip.

“OUT!”

The call resounded across the autumn sky.


“YES!” “We won!” “Wow!”

The Take Action Now Club celebrated.

“Argh!” “Oh man!” “So close!”

The baseball team grumbled.

The long battle was over. Game set.

It was a wonderful match. It was one for the history books, if it could go down in them in the first place.

And the umpire, who was vigorously waving a checkered flag, noticed something.

“Fwah… can’t eat anymore… seconds please…”

That even as Kino continued to talk in her sleep, there was a revolver in her hand.

And he also noticed—

—that there was a faint wisp of smoke rising from the muzzle.


-----


Finale.


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(1) ‘Giving salt to the enemy’ is a Japanese saying referring to playing fair.


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