Hidan No Aria - Volume 13 - Chapter 1
This American-made human weapon, capable of of surpassing bullets travelling at the speed of sound... this Genion.
Posessing the same amount of fighting power that I do, and my younger brother.
In just one hit...!
He was taken down.
This girl from Rampan, Kou, hit him with a laser- an attack at the speed of light.
W...What is this...?
Under the moonlight, on top of the tiled roof of the Kagataka Family's residence, I stood frozen, unable to respond.
G-3 hadn't moved a single muscle.
Turned sideways in the instant he had fallen, his face still bore the same look of shocked surprise.
His blue-green eyes are dilated and staring.
Even though blood is oozing from his mouth, he shows no sign of voluntary muscle movement.
But I can't even approach his body. Because Kou has fixed me with her red, right eye.
The one that just fired the laser.
I have no doubt that she is fixing her sights.
If she hits me with one of those attacks, I'll be dead 0.1 seconds later.
The overwhelming reality of that fact kept me glued to the spot as if I were tied in place.
「-Kou! I implore you to stop! This is the land of Wa! If you start killing humans- it would provoke a war between the kesshou of Wa and Tang!1 I implore you to stop!!!!」
Ignoring Tamamo's shrieks-
The small girl Kou in the cut-off sailor suit uniform raised her hands.
She pointed both her hands toward me as if guaging proper distance between us for a formal assembly line-up.
As if she were taking careful aim at me instead of G-3 who was behind me. Just then, the two leaders from Rampan- CoCo and Shokatsu-became frantic.
「Koru oru, torumaesu karugararu.」
The words were unitelligible, but from the tone suggested a warning not to interfere.
No one can stop this Kou! It is as if we truly have awakened the wrath of a god!
Kou's long hair that reached to her feet rocked in the breeze...
-She's going to shoot...!
I swallowed my saliva, and just then...
With a high-pitch whine like a bottle-rocket, red smoke went up from the garden and reached into the sky
Carried by the wind, the smoke curtain spread out and coated the night sky.
After that another, and another shot out, aqua blue and ivory white.
The tri-colour smoke screen drifted up over the roof of the mansion.
These synthetic Butei bullets obstruct visibility by dispersing fine coloured paritcles with an aerosol.
Red, blue, and white: the colours of the Union Jack. Aria is providing back-up.
Aria had seen the laser fly through the air and deduced that it was an enemy attack that we were unable to counter. As expected of Holmes the 4th. I am grateful for that unmatched sharpneness.
Smoke filled the space between me and Kou, and neither of us could see each other.
I ordered when in became diffiicult to distinguish the fox girl at my feet. Nodding, she used her tail as a sled, and as she slid down the roof tiles-I shot a glance toward G-3.
Then, grabbing and hugging G-3's limp body tightly, I slipped down the slope of the roof.
As I slid down, my Hysteria Mode enhanced hearing picked up:
『Kou still hasn't woken up!』
『Patra's key should do the trick.』
As Coco and Shokatsu shouted.
Shifting G-3 on to my back mid-air, as I landed with a *Thump!*, I sprinted out of the garden.
In the lot outside of the garden there was a white convertible- a Lamborghini Murciélago. I stuffed G-3 into the passenger seat and jumped in myself.
Taking a bump key out of my Butei handbook, I started the engine. The car's rear was facing out, so I put it in Reverse gear-spinning it around and aiming for the exit gates.
As I did this, there was a *Clunk!*. Tamamo's getas struck the transparent engine cover behind the seats as she jumped on to the car. I don't see Aria. She must have already evacuated.
Now... all that's left is to run and hide.
If she comes after us with the laser, there's nothing I can do to stop it.
Once we cleared the gates, I stomped down on the accelerator.
I ground my teeth in frustration.
After travelling several kilometres along the Metro Electric Rail line, I pulled off the road and flipped on the hazard lights...
I rested my forehead on the wheel, taking deep breaths and steeling myself-to look at G-3's lifeless body.
He smiled. A smile formed on G-3's bloody mouth.
His eyes met my gaze and looked back at me.
He seemed to be in pain and a cold sweat, but grinned back at my astonished face.
Tamamo, who had said: 『We cannot help G-3!』, her eyes widened into saucers.
「...Just now, Aniki, you showed me a new technique. So in return, I'll show you one of mine. Actually, it's two.」
He said in a weak voice and raised two quivering fingers in a victory sign.
Y-you're really alive!
Even after being hit with a laser to the chest.
「Number one- 『Possum』2. You purposely dilating your pupils-something even a rookie Pentagon spy can pull off. As for the blood, you bite your tongue to add some extra flair.」
「D-don't speak! You've been shot in the chest...!」
「No major organs were hurt, so relax. In America getting shot or punched is like saying 'hello'. As soon as I detect danger, I change my position so that bullet will hit at the angle I want. The bullet passes through the space between the organs. Thats number two-『Organ Through』3 But I never imagined that they would be using a laser!」
I've survived many scences of carnage, but as expected of an American, he's hardcore.
It's a technique that I absolutely never want to use.
The instant he noticed that Kou's eye had become something like the muzzle of a gun- he cancelled his 『Meteor』. Then, avoiding injury to his internal organs, he made the risky decision to let the laser pass through him. He then finished the crazy stunt by playing dead.
Th-That guy.... has some real balls!
While I am impressed, there is not doubt that he must have recieved a serious wound.
In actuality, G-3 can't even sit up in the passenger seat.
Then-from the sky *Ta!* *Ta!* *Ta!* *Ta!*... I heard the sound of a rotor.
A chopper. It was getting closer and lower. Headed our way.
I gazed up into the gloom.
Rampan is following us...! Where are they...?
From the sound... it's a dual-motor, four-blade Black Hawk UH-60. A military chopper.
You have some nerve to fly that thing through Japanese airspace!
9 mm bullets will bounce off a Black Hawk like a pea shooter, but as the sound drew closer I grasped my Beretta and-G-3 softly laid his artificial hand on my arm. Then...
*Zzz!* *Zzz!* *Zzz!*...*Crackle!* *Crackle!*
With a sound like a giant bug zapper, a black attack chopper appeared in the sky 200 metres away.
It looked like it had suddenly warped in from another dimension.
-I remembered seeing something like it before.
It was the same as G-3's Galleon-Photo-refractive Camoflauge.
「Sorry Aniki. I'll be gone for a little while.」
G-3 said, then there was a *Bam!*.
It was the sound of someone making a considerable drop from the Black Hawk and landing on the right side of the Lambourghini.
Then with a *Zzz!* sound... taking off a Photo-refrective Camoflauge hood and wearing Neue Ange body armour, a woman appeared.
If I recall, this is Tsukumo, G-3's underling. So G-3 called for relief.
「Third-sama! Oh, Oh... Wh-what has happened...!?」
Her fox ears were working anxiously under her medium length chestnut hair, and with eyes for no one else, Tsukumo rushed over to G-3.
She isn't even worried about herself.
「-Don't make such a ruckus! This is nothing, I tell you! If it wasn't for my meddling Aniki, I would have entered Hysteria Agonizante4 and escaped by myself!」
G-3 brazened it out.
Nodding along, with fingers trembling in her fingerless gloves Tsukumo took out carbiners... then finally noticed Tamamo's presence.
「M-...M-m-m-My Lady Tamamo! Her Highness the Young Empress, Greatest among the Powerful Kitsune, I am a f-fool for having addressed you in such an uncouth manner! This one, I-I-I-Ikuina Tsukumo, is unworthy, unworthy ! 」
Spreading her coat on the ground beside the car, Tsukumo suddenly prostrated herself. Even her ears were bowed.
But it seemed that she couldn't totally forget about G-3, so she stayed there quivering and twitching nervously.
「-Worry not, worry not. These are dire straits. Attend me in G-3's treatment.」
Tamamo said that... Tsukumo stood, but looked like a nervous employee wigging out while standing in front of their company director or chairman. Her own and G-3's armour were equipped with metal fittings, and she failed many times to attach the clips.
This is the first time I've heard about a kitsune social hierarchy, but-
It seems that Tamamo is very highly ranked kitsune. In reality though, I don't see how.
「G-3's wound is of Tang-ian origin and is a result of Kou's Compliant Rod. I attempted to placate the Bhudda, however... it was as if Kou did not hear me at all. It was as if she had completely lost her reason.」
Hearing those names, Tsukumo's eyes bulged out of their sockets.
It seems that Kou is a famous name in the world of youkai.
But that is only to be expected. The other name Tamamo blurted out- Sun Wukong- is a name everyone knows. The legendary monkey from 『The Journey West』, one of the Four Chinese Classics.
Sun Goku travelled with Xuanzang on his famous journey and in recognition for his noble deeds was granted Bhuddahood. I thought it was all a fairy-tale, but...
To think that it really happened and that he is alive...!
And if that weren't enough, he is that girl!
It defies all normal forms of logic. Something impossible to swallow. And that the Compliant Rod- the 『red rod able to stretch to any length』- was actually a laser beam.
-But I have to accept it all as fact.
It would be dangerous to do otherwise.
Kou is a soldier for our enemy 『Rampan』.
Thanks to Vlad-Count Dracula- I already have experience fighting hostile monsters.
As I reflected on my experiences with the otherworldly, my hair whipping wildly in the helicopter's downwash- a cable fell from the chopper, and I helped Tsukumo attach it the the fittings on her armour.
Even though I had helped Tsukumo, she shot me a look that said: 『It's your fault that our Master is so injured』...Ignoring it, I spoke.
「That's what you get for defying a god. I hope you learned something from this, Kinzou.」
I said, concluding that I might not see G-3 for a while.
I'm not a devout person myself, but even after hearing Kou was a god, G-3 still tried to kill her.
He also has this great ambition to use the power of the 『Hidan no Aria』 to revive someone who is dead. But really, this total lack of respect for the gods is too much.
With that, he turned his eyes away from me, and was now in a position that made it look like he was embracing Tsukumo.
The sound of a winch motor came from the Black Hawk-
G-3 and tsukumo were lifted up from the car.
「I will consult with Fushimi about this matter. There will also likely be emmisaries from Tang and Tenjiku as well.5 Those of you of the lower second rank and below should refrain from hasty action6. Tell your older sisters Nagumo and Yakumo to contanct me. A telephone call will suffice.」
As Tsukumo rose, Tamamo gave her some kind of order- and having retrieved both Tsukumo and G-3, the chopper became transparent again and vanished into the darkness.
After that, I was able to get in touch with Aria via my mobile, but... Aria was pursuing the car that the members of Rampan were using to escape, using her flying skirt.
However, the well-established failure rate of Hiraga's inventions manifested itself. One of the control fins failed, forcing Aria to crash on Otome Road7 in East Ikebukuro. And so they escaped...
「In the car were Coco, Shokatsu... and that Nagoya High Girl in the cut-off uniform. It looks like that elementary-schooler fainted or something.」
The elementary-schooler looking Aria said...
I warned Aria just how dangerous that chibi could be. I didn't know why she fainted, but if I didn't warn her, Aria might be the next to be killed by the laser.
Aria took the warning seriously.
「-Understood. I'll keep an eye out. Anyway, Kinji, just leave the car there. The Foriegn Ministry will settle everything somehow. Don't go bask to the scene, go home. It would be a problem if you were arrested, wouldn't it?」
She said, and I followed her instruction and left the Lambo...
In order to avoid being picked up on a totally different charge, I asked the elemetary student looking Tamamo to transform into an amulet, and trudged back home on my night journey.
As I walked, I check the news sites on my mobile- as expected, tonight's gun battle had been reported. But since there were no casualties, the coverage was minimal. Such is the sad state of Modern Japan.
The incident was reported with the headline 『Internecine strife within the Kagataka Family?』, but there wasn't a follow-up report. With no mention of names.
The Media must be getting pressure from the Foriegn Ministry. And the one putting pressure on the Forieng Ministry- the pink twin-tail who just crashed on Otome Road.
I phoned Kaname and told her about how G-3 had been hit with the laser- to which she gave the casual reply:
『It's something that happens to G-3 a lot...』
But still somewhat anxious, I think, she said that she would make a get-well visit tommorow at their secret base.
The words 'Secret Base' made my head spin slightly, and I asked: 『Where's that?』 to which she replied: 『Which one? In the Pacific, Honolulu and in the Atlantic, Havana』.
Hearing that, I lost all feelings of sympathy for G-3's injuries-
That Bastard! Only establishing his bases in tropical paradises...
Rounding the corner of my house to face the front door- I was brought up short.
A black, unmarked Toyota Crown was parked in front of our house...
Standing in front of the door, my grandfather was bowing, as a figure disappeared into the backseat.
Some kind of client or guest?
But who would be calling in the dead of night?
Peering around the corner, I couldn't see very well.
By moonlight, I could only catch their profile, but no features.
i might have seen him before, or maybe not. I wouldn't call him old. He's a young-ish man of medium build that I wouldn't know to call 'Oji-san' or 'Onii-san'.
But he had a driver for the car...
Huh...? That guy sitting in the driver's seat...
It was dark, and I couldn't make him out very well... it looked like Shiranui, maybe?
I thought that, but I was unable to check. and as the car left
My grandfather called to me with his back still turned.
Well, for my ex-military grandfather, my attempt at hiding must have been mere child's play. He had know full well that I was there.
So I stepped around the corner like I normally did, and walked over to the front door.
My grandfather didn't offer any scolding words for my nightlife activities.
「I think it's about time I asked you. What have you learned about in that new school of yours?」
His breath puffing white as he spoke.
I got the feeling that he could see right through me.
「Differential Equations, the Sarashina Diaries8, and... -myself.」
My grandfather smiled and turned to face me.
「And you understand where you have to be.」
It's as if he was implying that I had to leave.
But there was a tinge of sadness in his eyes... so I answered him with a smile as I nodded.
「I'll visit every now and then.」
「Yes. Come whenever you want. I will be waiting with the new and improved version of the 『Clear Fall Water』 Gravure!」
-Please, don't trouble yourself. You really shouldn't.
「Yes, Tohyama will be changing schools even thought it has only been a short time.」
Several days later, at the beginning of an extra long homeroom, Gori announced to the second-year Class 2-2.
I have discovered what I need to be in order not to cause trouble for ordinary people.
So, I must leave East Ikekuburo High School.
I had missed two days because of my dispute with the Kagataka Family, but... from the way the class is buzzing, It seems the the rumour that I am changing school has already spread during that time.
Well, I did call Moe, Fujikibayashi, and Asao and tell them. As they say: if three people know, the world is sure to find out.
「Uhhh... It has been a short time, but thank you all so much.」
I tried to end things on an uneventful note using a canned phrase (essentially parroting what Gori had said), but-
Everyone repeated my name in shock. Their face were like children whose favourite superhero serial was ending.
It made me feel a pang of sadness...
The way Moe lay face-down, sobbing on her desk while the girl sitting next to her consoled her.
On the other hand, the former braggadocio Fujikibayashi with a bandage plasterd across his face, and the giant Asao with his arm in a cast:
「You won't forget us, right, Tohyama-san!?」
Wearing their uniform properly after having previously worn it sloppily, they both hugged me.
I won't forget. How could I forget such colourful characters?
Then, the long homeroom came ot an end...
After school was over, dusk fell.
I had come from the Staff Room, having received paperwork from Gori regarding my school transfer. They should outline the amount of partial credit that I have earned at this school... There were a bit more generous than I expected. I supose it must be 'thanks' for reforming two delinquents.
I left the Staff Room with a bow, and then-
Reki, who was also transferring schools with me, also exited the Staff Room at about the same time.
「In the end... I am dragging you around with me, Reki. I'm sorry.」
I apologised for making her transfer schools for the second time on my account... but she shook her head
「There is nothing to apologise for.」
She said as she shook her head from side to side.
Then with a *Tap!* *Tap*, she followed me like a shadow.
The evening sunset shone through the windows of the school where I had sought tactical cover on my very first day. The whole area was dyed an angry red.
Exiting the building, I cast a glance toward the bicycle racks where I had fought Fujikibayash and Asao-
It has only been two weeks... but I am feeling nostalgic leaving this school.
I was walking along the tree-lined path that led to the school gates, and that I had onced walked with Moe when...
I heard Fujikibayashi and some girls from the neighboring Class 2-1 shout to each other.
Reki and I looked back up and saw them unfurl with a rustle.
The students all simultaneously released large paper banners from their windows.
Each of them bore a single Katakana character.
My name: 『To』 『h』 『ya』 『ma』 and Reki's alias: 『Ya』 『da』.
They wanted to give us a proper send off...!
They must have made those banner specially for us.
「Tohyamaa! Call me when you want to have some fun!」
「Yada-saan! You should hold an art expo, alright?!」
This is a little embarassing... tears are welling up in my eyes. Reki only looked up with her unshakeable poker face.
On a second look the seeming phrasing of the banners 『トウヤマ ヤダ』9seemed unfortunate- I grinned wryly at it.
Then I realised it.
Until now, I had not even smiled once at this school. But at the very last moment, I could show a smiling face.
Everyone, thank-you. Thank-you for all of your help.
I will never forget it. My horizons have been broadened, and I have learned many things at that school.
Things, I could not have learned from any number of crime scenes and no matter how many millions of bullets I shot. The most important thing I learned was about myself.
Yes, this school was a place for learning- learning about myself.
With our extremely odd academic records, getting into a high school at this time of year would be difficult... but there is one extremely odd high school in the Tokyo Metro area that would welcome us with open arms.
You guessed it. Tokyo Butei High.
We came crawling back to where we had started. Even though I had made up my own mind to leave, I made a U-turn and came right back.
It was embarassing.
But when I telephoned MASTERS, and Ranbyou picked up she cheerfully said:
『We've been expecting you!』
What was this? Did you have a bet with the other teachers that Reki and I would come back?
They also waived the academic and practical skills tests. We only had to attend an interview to be approved for re-admission. This school is as lax as a worn-out rubber band.
Capitalising on the fact that we had already paid tuition earlier in the year, they didn't even charge us an additional fee. It looks like the whole system is designed with the expectation that students will return.
But due to the stunt Reki had pulled on the day we transferred, this time we were ordered to attend our interviews seperately. I can't do anything about that.
Because her interview was that morning, after seeing Reki off at the train station, I killed some time in an Ikebukuro gun shop- and that afternoon went back to the station.
Belatedly, I realised that there was a Junior High School girl watching me.
That little sister must have some real detective skills!
I thought that, as I stepped from the platform into the first train of the day on the Marunouchi Line departing from Ikebukuro...
*Tap!* *Tap!* *Tap!* *Tap!*
My former classroom neighbor, Moe Mochizuki had come down the stairs.
She was still wearing her school uniform, and must have left school early.
That Junior High girl watching me was Saki. Ever since I saw her, I hoped that Moe would come, but...
No. I shouldn't get any more involved with her.
My world is strange and dangerous. Moe's is normal and safe.
It's not just because of the Ulus proverb, but I can't let a normal human enter my world.
So I stopped and looked back at Moe and kept silent.
「W-well ummm... I'm sorry about this.... I must look like some kind of stalker...」
Even Moe could read the situation, and she did not enter the train car.
As Moe bore a bewildered look on her face, seeing me in the same bulet-proof uniform as that night
『The train servicing Ogikubo will depart at 12.56 on track No. 2. Thank-you for your patience.』
The station announcment echoed through the sparsely occupied platform. Since the train was leaving soon, I-
「The police. It looks like one of my friends took care of it, but... They didn't come to your house did they?」
That night in the Kagataka Family's garden, Moe had shot a gun illegally- so I wanted to check.
At my words, Moe shook her light brown bob-cut from side to side.
「And nothing strange has happened around you?」
「No, nothing. I'm fine.」
From the news, I had heard that the Kagatak Family Executives had all been rounded up and all their assets frozen.
Even the members of the Family who weren't present found themselves cut off from their money, and unable to continue in the Yakuza business, disbanded.
-Kikuyo made a plea bargain and paid bail to be set free.
I inferred this because she sent me a mail that said: 『I'm so lonely and I want to see you!』 to which I have not replied.
『The train servicing Ogikubo will depart shortly on track No. 2. Please board at the nearest door.』
The station announcement urged-
Moe looked up at me.
Although not as much as Aria who turns as red as a manga charater... what's this? Moe blushed furiously.
Gathering her resolve-
「Uh... Umm.. Please... give me this!」
For some reason, she clutched at me tightly.
She said this as she grasped the second button of my uniform jacket in both hands.
It was all so sudden. Why would she want the second button from my bulletproof uniform since I am leaving?
But to apologise for all the things that have happened, it's a small thing- So I popped off the second button and placed it in Moe's soft hands, wondering if something so simple will really suffice.
Even though she had asked, Moe seems surprised that I had given it to her.
Then with her double-lidded eyes moist-she clutched it to her large soft chest. WIth hands clasped as if in prayer, it looked as if she had received something very, very important, the greatest treasure of her entire life.10
The warning bell on the train rang, and Moe became agitated as she looked at me.
『The track No. 2 train's doors are closing. Please do not try to force your way aboard.』
「Oh, Oh! I... I... still have something to tell you, and I haven't said it yet!」
The bell stopped ringing and Moe said to me-
-And the train doors shut.
Through the glass I could see Moe's cherry-coloured lips moving, but I couldn't hear her voice.
Moe finished her sentence. She had said what she wanted me to hear.
But I purposely did not read her lips.
It was something Moe certainly wanted to tell me with her own voice. It would be wrong to steal it from her lips. She is an awefully, awefully good girl, after all.
I boarded the Yurikamome Transit Line11 at Shimbashi Station on my way to Daiba.
The Christmas season was in full swing in Daiba as I boarded the monorail to Butei High's artificial island.
Not even the fresh salt-water scent relaxed my clenched jaw.
Walking from Futoukita Station12, I cast a glance at INQUESTA as I entered MASTERS... Takamagahara-sensai met me there, as I went once more to trade formalities with Headmaster Takeru Midorimatsu. While in his office, I had the impression of : 『Oh, so he's that sort of a person』, but in the instant we left the room, the impression was lost-
After that, I only had my interview with my Homeroom teacher, Yutori Takamagahara-sensei.
Takamagahara-sensei is an older bespectacled beauty, and the two of us alone carries the danger of hysterising, but... I have to handle this interview seriously. Because, right now, I am not in any kind of position to complain.
「As for residence... You will have your old room. Because the likelihood of their return is high, it is policy to keep the rooms of transfers vacant for a while.」
So they guessed I'd be coming back.
「Just pretend like your secret mission is over and come back to school with dry eyes, alright? It would be better, for the present, if you weren't too conspicuous.」
I'm very good at being inconspicuous. I'm naturally lacking in presence, for some reason.
No one really notices if I'm there or not. I'm sure of that.
And so, I answered cheerfully,
「Well, well, that is a fine answer! Tohyama-kun, have you possibly gotten slightly more handsome?」
「Ha Ha Ha! Return students either come back useless and without confidence, or having grown more serious and diligent, and... You seem to belong to the latter category.」
Takamagahara said, looking pleased as she squinted through her glasses.
「And since your tale has had such a pleasant ending... Ta da!」
While voicing that sound effect with her mouth, she took official looking documents from an international mail envelope.
There's some kind of writing on the envelope... I can't read it. I looks like English, so I can't read it. The sender's address was... Gardone Val Trompia, Italy... Is it from Italy?13
「What is it?」
「Why do you think it is so difficult to get a scholarship to Butei High?」
You're asking why, Sensei?
Do you really think that any kind of right-minded organisation would give money to a school that teaches gun and sword-play?
「There seems to be a misunderstanding that we are a corrupt school where the lives of our boys and girls are exposed to danger.」
You're calling that universally known fact a misuderstanding...?
「And so we have stopped soliciting funds from Japanese companies. The legal restrictions are too strict.」
As they should be!
I found myself wanting to retort, but instead, I found myself replying: 「Yes」 「Is that so?」 「Sounds right」 and nodding along. I could follow such talk about money.
Both of my eyes turned to Yen symbols as Takamagahara showed me the envelope.
「This was the solution: sponsorship contracts!」
「Butei High promotes it's most promising students to various companies, and we have created a system that allows them to recieve money from paid advertisment. In your case, Tohyama-kun, your offer is from Fabbrica D'Armi Pietro Beretta and it says: 『We are pleased to offer you a monthly, interest-free loan in the amount of 1000 Euros until your graduation.』 These papers explains the valuation of the loan agreement, and includes the official contract.」
1000 Euro, that's over 100,000 Yen.14
Granted that it's a loan and I have to pay it back afterwards, but at no interest, it's a deal no one could pass up.
「Translating-『Based on US Pentagon reports, your favoured weapon is the Beretta M92F, and although young, have already risen into the top 100 Asian SDA15 rankings and British Security Forces have classed you as a C-minus Rank on their list of Quasi-dangerous Butei. It is thus presumed that as a highly ranked Butei, you will have occasion to fire many bullets.』-」
'Fire many bullets'. There is a certain S-Rank whose name starts with the letter 'A' who is involved in daily gun-battles. Ha Ha Ha Ha! G-3 is even an R-Rank, Beretta.
...It's no good! I had intended to tune out and ignore it, but, dammit, I can't! I've already heard it! What the heck is the Quasi-dangerous Butei List!?
「-『Furthermore, in both Japan and America you are being examined in much the same light』-」
As Takamagahara continued reading out words that I did not want to hear, I plugged my ears, pretending to scratch it while humming 『Hmm』 to myself to prevent the unpleasant information from reaching me.
Now. I think that should be long enough...
Taking my finger out of my ear...
「-『With your super-human, virtuosic techniques, you have certainly brought the superior quality of our firm's products into greater recognition within the Butei Industry where they have previously been sorely undervalued. And so we propose to deliver these avertisment fees. P.S. In the event of death in the line of duty, all accounts must be settled at one.』 That's what it says. So what are you going to do? Are you going to sign?」
Still smiling, she presented the Italian contract to me, and she seemed not to have any concerns or queastions about the letter she had just read aloud. As expected of a teacher at Butei High. They're all mad.
But... Well, this...
Who tells someone that's only 17 that they have been watching them and starts talking about the end of their life? Also, for someting 'virtuosic' shouldn't they lend me more than 100,000 Yen per month? And another thing: Who expects someone to pay back a loan after they're dead? These, and many other retorts came to mind, but I said...
「I wiｌl sign. Thank-you very much.」
「Here's a pen. You can sign in kanji.」
Borrowing a pen from Takamagahara, I signed the contract.
I get it, I get it, Sensei. There's a scary light hidden behind your kindly eyes. It really ruins your beautiful face.
-The timing of receiving this money...
I had deserted once, and MASTERS was sending me a message: 『We even got you money, so don't act up again, alright?』
I can't resign.
Instead, I should do what I have decided and stay on at Butei High. I'll be grateful for the loan.
From hereon, I will insist that: 『The M92-FS is the best in the world!』
In reality, it has become widely used due it's adoption by the US military, making the gun itself and it's part cheap to buy... and that is how my Beretta and I met.
But after shooting it for so long, it became familiar. Now it is my favourite weapon. That's a fact.
「By the way, I heard from Nangou-sensei who is in New York... Apparently the the International Armed Detective Organisation (IADO) is deliberating on what alias to give you. They've been using an unofficial name, but now they want to formalise it. An alias at 17, that's wonderfully quick. Amazing, simply amazing!」
「Is that so?...But Aria...Kanzaki-san got her's at 14 though, right?」
Ah... I don't want an alias. It's some thing a chuunibyou would like.
My international fame is probably because of that incident: my fight with G-3 in the skies above Sagami Bay. After my face was picked up by the US surveillance satellite KH-14, some Pentagon employees must have spent the time to dig up all the footage they had of my past.
I'm trying to remember.... how many times had I had a gun battle under the sky or some other satelite.
The battle with the barrage of bullets on the armoured deck of I.U. and the gun fight on top of the bullet train. The fights with Vlad and Hilda-even through the gaps in the clouds they could have seen something.
And in this video record of my questionable past they would have seen me: 『Turning bullets around with my bare hands』 『Dodging and diverting missiles』 and they would have shared the information with small arms makers, Security Forces in allied countries, and the International Armed Detective Organisation.
Last month, G-3 did say that.... I was going to be a celebrity. In the underworld, at least.
With an unbroken smile, Takamagahara turned to me.
「You've led a slightly unusual life, Tohyama-kun. But don't worry. Outstanding students usually have an unusual life.」
Takamagahara gave me an angelic smile. She was trying to encourage me.
But hearing her words, my heart sank, and I hung my head.
Even in this school full of strange people, I am considered 『unusual』...
After my time at a normal school, I made up my mind to live as a Butei. I'm not suited for anything else.
But when I decided that, I wanted to be a 『Normal Butei』.
Why can't I do that? Just drift with the current. Why do I have to be special? Being different gets you ostracised. This is Japan.
So from now on I must aim to be 『normal』.
Of course, I've given up on that dream of being an ordinary office worker or government official, but if I embraced the fact that I am no longer human, I won't be able to stay in this country.
So from now on, I will aim for normal Butei status, and then...
I'll be a normal security guard, and then normal bouncer!
I raised my head with new resolve. That's right. Look forward, Kinji. You've grown mentally stronger over the last few days, if I do say so myself.
Earning this unusual recognition at this unusual school, might be normal. Multiplying a negative number and a negative number gives yeilds a postive, doesnt it?
But adding them makes it even more negative.
After concluding the interview that only added to my mental burdens, I left MASTERS...
The clear, cloudless sunset sky dyed the world orange.
Yesterday when leaving East Ikebukuro High the sun felt very distant, but now that I've come back to Butei High it feels warmer. As if it were welcoming me back-
I heard a voice say, and turning toward it, the colour of the suffused sunset sky blended slightly with pink twin-tails.
Wearing her sailor suit, Aria was leaning against a bulletin board and looking at me.
She must have seen me come back to Butei High and waited for me in front of MASTERS.
I was ordered to go on with dry eyes, so I said:
I gave her a weak smile... then,
*Tap!* *Tap!* *Tap!* *Tap!*
With small steps that belied more strength than the average girl, Aria rushed over toward me-
The tie of her sailor suit fluttering, Aria wrapped her arms around my front.
Although, because of our respective height differences, it was as if she was hugging my middle.
Under the darkening sky, Aria silently buried her head into my chest.
Her hair carried the bittersweet scent of jasmine...
「...Don't go anywhere else again...」
With a sniff-
Aria whispered her prayer as her head was buried against my chest.
But I heard that soft whisper.
「Anywhere...? What do you mean?」
I asked abruptly.
With a face about to erput into tears, Aria answered:
She shouted, and suddenly her face told me that she had realised that she was embracing me.
Then looking up sideways at me, our faces less than 10 cm apart-
With each heartbeat, her face grew redder and redder-
But true to her stereotype, she not only blushed red, but changed her expression as well...
...And she turned an angry, vengeful Niou-like16 face toward me.
Aria ground her teeth.
With strength like the heavy machinery that is used to break down the steel girders of a building, Aria gripped me around my back with both hands... and squeezed...!
「O-Ow! Ow-wow-ow! O-oi! Aria! Quit it! Put me down! You're going to break my spine. There! I think you've already broken something!」
With a typical Aria-esque yell- I thudded to the ground.
From a bearhug, she had gone into a front suplex! And I got my face planted into the ground.
Then with a *Plop!*, I landed on my back dazed... What was that for?
Finally, when my eyes could focus again, I saw Aria standing in a frightening pose with a smug, devillish sneer on her face that would make anyone unused to Aria's actions wet themselves-
Taking the edge of her own blouse, she lifted it to reveal her stomach.
...Umm....What's going on?
Is this a new female pervert prank? This is something Riko would do!
「The people in the thunderclouds will steal your belly-button, huh? That was a funny joke, wasn't it, Kinji...?」
...Ah, that's right...!
I had called Aria from my home in Sugamo-
She must have really been scared by what I said.
「After you told me that, I asked Shirayuki and Riko: 『So, is it really true?』 and they just laughed at me...! They called me name like 『Baby』, 『Child』, and 『Little Girl』...!」
Because of the bright sun, I could see the 『D-shape』 veins on Aria's forehead and the 『I-shape』 vein on her neck throbbing. They pulsed with a life of their own.
「No, I was just informing you about Japanese cultural superstitions... If you're going to get angry, you should be angry with Shirayuki and Riko for laughing-」
Without waiting to hear my words, Aria began moving.
Perhaps having taken ballet lessons as a child, she stood on her toes and stretched herself upward.
For some reason she stood there silently. An unspeakable sense of dread washed over me.
Swallaowig my saliva with a gulp, Aria began to spin like a ballerina-
*Spin!* *Spin!* *Spin!* *Spin!* *Spin!*
「I'll open a wind-hole... in your belly button!!」
*Spin!* *Spin!* *Spin!* *Spin!* *Spin!* *Spin!*
Her twin-tails and skirt began to spin around her with the centrifugal force, and she pushed off and jumped as she turned.
Then she pointed the tips of her toes like a whirring drill head!
She aimed a spinning toe-kick down to pierce through my belly-button.
-As if I could do that!
With all her strength, Aria bore down on my prone figure and plunged into the ground... That is when I saw him. On the second floor of MASTERS, having apparently completed his own secret mission, I saw Shiranui grinning down at us.
He mumbled something, and with the sudden sensory boost as I lay in danger of my life, I read his lips: 『There's another issue resolved.』
How can you call this problem 'resolved'? You need to see an opthamologist, no, a nuerologist!
Since it had been so long since I had been to Boys Dormitory No. 3, I thought that I'd stop in my room for a bit, but as soon as I unfastened the first button on my jacket-
A kitsune tail muffler suddenly appeared around my neck. It was stifling!
The tail that had appeared twined around my neck. At the end of it was the Road Safety Charm, and I tried to get it over my head when... *Poof!*
From a small puff of steam, Tamamo appeared wearing a miniskirt school uniform.
This is surreal.. too surreal. It must be the continuation of the time Hilda appeared from her own shadow Surrealism: Part 2.
「Tohyama. I must proceed to Kyoto. To Fushimi, the haunt of many kesshou, even the hopeless Youko17 to meet with the sages. By custom, it is there that the Great Yashima Council18of powerful kitsune invoke Inari.」
「I have no idea what you just said, but does it mean that I've finally exorcised you?」
「You lack proper respect for the gods! divine punishment!」
Taking the gohei19 that she was wearing in her obi, Tamamo hurled it at my face. That was the most direct divine punishment I've ever seen.
「There are your just deserts! Now make an offering to the gods, I require traveling expenses. I wish to take the high-speed train. There is also fried tofu I would like to acquire for the council.」
With a jangle of coins,Tamamo spun around, pushing the offertory box on her back in my direction, and as I was about to say: 『I don't have any money』-
「You're getting a payout from the Beretta company, aren't you? So come on and make an offering.」
-she pre-empted me. I do have money this time. Dammit!
Besides without her, I might have rushed in and attacked Kou like my my stupid brother, so I put in enough fare for the high-speed train (Child's Fare-One-way).
I haven't even gotten the scholarship money yet, and in the end, I eneded up dipping into my savings that I didn't want to touch yet.
「Tohyama, listen well-I sense that Kou has left Japan and is now in Hong Kong. She is weak, so she must be with the Chinese that brought her.」
So....they're in Hong Kong, huh?
I can puzzle it out. The reason for their hasty retreat.
Rampan had heard that I, the leader of Baskerville, had transferred away from the rest of the group.... Taking advantage of this chance, they used the Kagataka Family, the Japanese yakuza they did business with, to bring Kou to Tokyo and launch an all-out attack.
But Kou was unstable, so they withdrew to Hong Kong.
And, as soon as Kou recovers, they will attack again.
They've already killed (or think thay have) a DEEN soldier, and they must be thinking that the battle didn't turn out badly.
This last attack was a hit-and-run.
They will wait until their enemy shows a weakness, patiently waiting in their own territory, biding their time until the perfect moment.
Then, when the chance appears, they will attack, kill someone, and return swiftly to their own territory.
They will repeat this strategy, picking us off one-by-one, if they can... So that's their plan?
That's the Chinese for you. Patient. They were able to build the Great Wall, after all.
That strategy is built upon a false assumption. And if we wanted to exploit that fact, we could.
Rampan is counting on the fact that we would never attack them.
In the CoCo sisters' ancestor Cao Cao's20 compilation of Sun Tzu's writings, he identifies the 3 key elements of victory as: the Blessing of Heaven, the advanage of the land, and the unity of the people.
As for the 『Blessing of Heaven』... I might have just the thing.
Because our daily lives are beset with savagery, for students at Butei High without Christmas plans, MASTERS has planned an event every year... For second-years it is a school trip.
It's a graceful method allowing students to assert: 「I have plans for Christmas」 whenever this time of year comes round.
I don't have many good Christmas memories. Last year I hit rock-bottom when my older brother disappeared, and when I was little, I have vague memories of my father buying cake. After these experiences, the day merely became one where the town got very busy.
But about the school trip- depending on how many credits those in their Team have earned, each group can choose to go abroad to Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, Singapore, Bangkok or Sydney. the second-years are restricted to destinations within Asia and Oceania, while the third-years can go to America or Europe.
All without teacher supervision.
In principle, there is supervision, but in practice the teachers all treat the school trip like a work holiday and do whatever they want. This has given rise to many legends concerning these trips.
Tsuzuri ate a whole head of beef Yukhoe21 in Seoul, Chan Wu free-climbed the Taipei 101 tower, and Ranbyou got so drunk that she went to the Singapore Zoo, sumo wrestled an elephant, and won.
A Sumo match with an elephant? Wouldn't her opponent's front feet-acting as 'hands'- be touching the ground from the beginning?22
Incidentally, Ranbyou is the daughter of the Hong Kong yakuza group, Gui Lan Hui, but for some unknown reason, she is not allowed to enter Hong Kong.
For that reason, Hong Kong is a very popular destination for Caravan II. Everytime she goes to a marraige interview or a group mixer, she adds to the list of Japanese establishments she is banned from. Sooner or later, she is sure to be banned from everywhere on earth except the battlefield.
This year Ranbyou is leading the group to Singapore- the place where Jeanne and Nakasorachi's 5-girl Team 『Constellation』 is headed.
Jeanne had told me on the phone that she planned to meet with the remnant of Daio, I.U.'s elite students, to try to convince them to fight in FEW.
As one of those attacked by GRENEDA's Rampan, I thought I should expain, so after a short combined second-year PE Test
For the first time, I called for all of Baskerville to assemble, saying: 「We are having a strategy meeting, come quickly.」
This was my first battle after having made a fresh start.
I wanted to do my proper duty as leader of Baskerville.
The timing of my call-to-assembly could not have been any worse...!
I watched as all of them wearing their gym suits, filed into my room one by one. The members of Baskerville filed into my room one by one, along with the representative from affiliated organisations: Jeanne (I.U.'s Daio), Watson (Liberty Mason), and retreating to a place by the wall, I fell face-forward to the floor. Should I retreat into my metaphorical shell and cry?
I was prepared for the fact of 6 girls and 1 boy in the same room, but...
This is like a scene out of one of those games that Riko plays where all the heroines in their gym suits gather in one place-the whole setup for such an event is absurd! What kind of meeting is this!?
I said a Stra!-ta!-gy! Meeting!
「Why didn't you change...!?」
I asked Aria who was wearing her hair straight down for PE.
「What were we supposed to do? The girl's changing room is destroyed!」
She said, forming her mouth into a tight 'へ' character and wearing shorts and T-shirt.
Dammit, Aria! Why do you have to look so cute all the time?
Your usual twin-tails are cute, but with your hair down and spread out, you look very feminine. This is a fresh look for you. With this level of cuteness, almost anything you do could be forgiven.
Aria's statement that the 'room' was 'destroyed' might make an ordinary person uncomfortable, but here at Butei High it means that the girl's changing room really was destroyed. It was hit with an anti-tank rocket in a training accident.
「You said something Butei-like for a change like 『A strategy meeting 』 and 『Come quickly』 so you had us worried. We thought: 『Do you think he picked up something strange off the street and ate it?』 so we rushed over without changing.」
Watson, carrying a MEDICA equipment case added-she is still playing the role of a boy, but she is actually a beautiful girl with short hair. Fortunately, I am well experienced in dealing with this cross-dressed character.
I can manage the two Brits and Reki, who is sitting by the wall hugging her knees. They are wearing the normal T-shirt and shorts gym suits
But in the dark red, navy blue, and pink-
Shirayuki, Jeanne, Riko....!
-Those three are wearing bloomers!
Due to several scandalous hidden-camera incident, those kinds of gym clothes were eradicated from schools in the last century! Haven't they realised that they are almost identical in design to underwear, and that was the reason for the scandal?
I would have liked to scold them, but I didn't like the odds of 3-against-1.
Shirayuki sat seiza which showedcased her plump thighs.
Jeanne sat on a stool showcasing her long white legs.
And showcasing her own stupidity, Riko was wearing a pair of pink lantern bloomers.
It wouldn't require an Ikegami23 to explain to each of the reason why 『Kinji Tohyama wants you to stop wearing those gym suits』. But I just gave up.
Ignoring the crushing headache, I sat down on my sofa...
「-This strategy meeting is about Far East Warfare.」
I announced solemly.
At this point all of them spread themselves out on the floor in front of the sofa.
By doing so, the girls placed tehmselves in front of the stream of air coming from the air conditoiner.
Ugh... because they had worked up a sweat in PE.... the scent of jasmine, peach, vanilla, mint, citrus, and cinnamon wafted toward me-a symphony of feminine scents.
It might be called se*ism, but the woman-hater in me is nauseated by such smells. - rip
However, vomiting in front of everyone would be excessive. So, stopping breathing through my nose-
「-We are going to launch an attack. Our target: Rampan.」
「Why did your voice suddenty become nasally, Kinji?」
A certain person whose name starts with an 『A』 blurted out...
「Shut up! Sometimes a person's nose just gets stuffy. Hey, Jeanne! What about the Coco sisters?」
I turned to face Jeanne who was sitting across from the sofa, and whose legs-thanks to the design of her navy blue, side-striped bloomers- were completely exposed.
Jeanne nodded her head and the braids on top of it.
「I looked into it because you asked me to, and I confirmed with INFORMA... The three Coco sisters captured during Caravan I will soon be released. It seems that they have paid an enourmous amount in bail.」
Riko, who seemed to be trying to annoy Aria by attempting to sit in her lap, repeated the word.
Jeanne responded with a nod of her head.
「That's right. For now, the three Coco sisters are still in custody at Nagano Prison. As I believe you have all heard, during Tohyama's secret mission where he dismantled a non-registered criminal operation24,-he met another Coco. This fourth Coco's abilities are uncertain, but in appearance she is identical to the others, except for her glasses.」
Everyone was aware how dangerous the Coco sisters were, and the atmosphere became tense.
Turning to face everyone,
「It's not just this new Coco we have to worry about, there's also this man Shokatsu we know nothing about. There's also this litte girl Kou who was able to take out G-3 in one blow. She is strong. According to Tamamo, she is Son Goku, and her Compliant Rod is a laser beam. In a word, it's an insta-kill technique. There's no one that can win against it. Except me.」
I began by outlining our prospects of victory for everyone.
If I hadn't, these Butei High girls would have been madly scrambling for their shoes, vying to be the first to attempt to achieve victory.
「Leave Kou to me. I'll take revenge for what she did to my younger brother. When I need help, I'll ask for it, then you can take action.」
Am I sounding too much like a demanding husband? Or so I thought.. but they were all looking at e with an expression of: 『No way! He's amazing!』 This isn't exactly bad. This must be the way to handle girls.
-To be honest though, I had no idea how to hadle that insta-kill technique.
That laser beam travels at the speed of light! If I could shoot nuetrinos from my eyes, I might be able to win, but there isn't even an American superhero that can do that.
But I have to fight.
I have to avenge my younger brother, and as an Aniki, I can't do nothing.
When my younger brother attacked my younger sister, I defeated her assailant, but if I don't avenge my brother, he will start sulking. It's complicated.
「But Kin-chan, you started off by saying: 『We are going to launch an attack』...?」
Shirayuki, who was sitting seiza (and wearing her un-striped bloomers) in a way that it was hard to determine if it was good manners or not , asked as she turned toward the sofa.
「-Until now, we have been waiting for someone to attack us in Far East Warfare, and with the distances between us, we have fallen into a deadlock with our enemies. When Kou's condition deteriorated, the members of Rampan hurried back to Hong Kong. I'm not such a fool to wait until they have finished their preparations. This is war. This isn't a sport, and there's no prize for 'playing by the rules'.」
I repeated what Tamamo had said to me after Bandire-
「Sounds like you stole those lines from someone, but that was great, Kinji!」
With a snap of her arm, Aria pointed at me, smiling.
「Attack is the best defence! In a battle, you have to attack! I've been thinking for a long time that being on the defensive wasn't my style!」
Nostrils flaring, the elite of ASSAULT vigorously agreed with my offensive plan.
Turnig to the others...they seemed stunned.
「Kin-chan-sama, I love the way you're taking charge!」
「Ki-kun, what have you picked up and eaten? This time Riko will make sure you leave it on the road.」
「Tohyama is the leader of Baskerville. It's been so long that I'd forgotten.」
「Tooyama, I never would have thought it of you, but you've taken some kind of illegal drugs... haven't you?」
One by one, each of them interjected their own rude reaction.
Ignoring them for the moment,
「That is why we will take advantage of Caravan II. Of the various destinations that we can choose from, Baskerville will choose Hong Kong. Are there no objections?」
I looked at Aria, Shirayuki, Riko, and Reki.
「Sounds good to me!」
「I will follow you to the ends of the Earth.」
「Riko will eat chestnut moon cakes!」
Receiving 4 out of 4 Yes's, my offensive plan was passed. Since the time Aria accepted the plan, everyone else agreed.
Shirayuki does whatever I say, Riko goes along with everyone else, and Reki has no opinions.
「-Tooyama, I will stay in Tokyo. Jeanne will be in Singapore for Caravan II. Don't worry, as an exchange student, I have enough credits to pick a city in Asia, and I choose Tokyo.」
I was slightly concerned about how to distibute personnel, but Watson has offered herself to garrison Tokyo.
-When a group of Butei launch an attack from their base, it is inadvisable that every member goes along.
Naturally this is to prevent an enemy spy from infiltrating, stealing important documents, or destroying equipment...but an ally is also needed to serve as a communication network hub. If something unexpected happened, and we were defeated and had to retreat to Tokyo- we would need someone to help us re-group.
For these reasons, is is essential to always have at least one person in Tokyo, and in charge of watching our base.
Watson isn't affiliated with any Team-a lone wolf free agent.
Such a person could save us with some quick action
The role of guard might seem easy, but actually is the hardest because 『there is nowhere left to run 』 and 『they must defend the base for everyone else with their life』-
「Sorry about this, I'll help you with your reports afterwards.」
Watson had assumed the heavy responsibility by herself, so I conveyed my thanks.
「Well, when you're back in the country, let's visit Roppongi, Akibahara, and Asakusa together, alright?」
Watson had listed the standard tourist spots visited by foriegn tourists and gave me a wink.
Ugh. No good. That strange Watson charm is chilling.
In fact, that wink would be enough to bewitch any Western soldier.
Rather, Watson, you're a cross-dressing as a boy, so stop doing that!
If you give that wink to another guy, it might lead to a strange misunderstanding. Shiranui already misunderstands.
Despite having seized leadership and declared: 『We are attacking Hong Kong!』, the truth is that I've never been outside Japan. I've never set foot outside Honshu.
In Baskerville, Aria and Reki are foreign citizens, and Riko was only born in Japan, but grew up in Europe. Jeanne and Watson are certified Westerners, and so that leave me the one with the least experience travelling.
But wherever you go, there's bound to be someone worse off than you...
「Kin-chan, look! Look! An airport! Woow! Look at all the airplanes...!」
Her long-lashed eyes wide, Shirayuki pointed at the airplane maintenance area through the monorail window. In the morning we will board, but I don't have the experience to take the lead. I wonder if it will really be alright.
「That's just the maintenance area. The real airport is still ahead.」
Coincidently, that Fall MASTERS required us to get passports, and we both applied at the same time. It was in that interview that I found out... Ever since she was born, Shirayuki has never been on a plane.
That means she has less experience than me, because I was on a plane during the hijacking.
I never thought that I'd ever go overseas, but...
As part of a school trip, Far East Warfare, and to avenge my younger brother (even though he is alive) by attacking his enemies: Kou and Rampan-
There were several reasons I was going, but I have to admit, I was looking forward to it a little.
This is how things should be, with a little extra room for some enjoyment.
We'll take care of everything quickly, then afterwards, when the pressure is off, I want to buy some Hong Kong Manju souveniers.
There are a few things I want to see. Just as a simple tourist.
『The Million Dollar Nightscape』
The Hong Kong nightscape is said to be so beautiful the it is worth a million dollars to see.
I've seen it in films. Many skyscrapers crammed into a small space, reaching all the way up to the coast. All the shining lights of the city, reflected on the ocean water make the scene twice as dazzling. It's a sight you could never see in Japan with all of its earthquakes.
I remember seing it in a Jackie Chan movie. Right before my father's death.
『-Before I die, I'd like to see that sight one more time.』
My father wished, but it did not happen.
But your son is here to fulfill that wish. I will make it come true.
After beating Rampan, it will feel even sweeter.
Arriving at Haneda airport the next morning, Shirayuki's gaze darted around the airport.
Never having gove overseas before, she clutched an overnight bag to her over-sized chest, looking around curiosly. This is her first time in such a place.
「Oi! We're here.」
Waiting in the third floor international flight lobby, I spoke to the rest of the gang by telephone-
As planned, all members of Baskerville gathered. All wearing our bullet-proof uniforms.
「Mnnrgh....I usually meet up in the lounge.」
For some reason I didn't understand, Aria, who had stayed the night in the airport hotel, was somewhat sullen. I guess rich people don't get up at 5 AM.
She had a double-room that could take one more person, and Reki slyly took advantage.
Haimaki was left in the care of a first-year AMBULANCE student, Tsugumi Soumiya, who was conveniently studying veterinary medicine
「Wait! Mission to review the catalogue's with Kyou-chan: Complete! To prepare for Comiket, Riko will force herself to do without sleep!」
Yelling these words, Riko arrived holding a piece of bread in here mouth, and although she was speaking Japanese, I couldn't understand a word of what she was saying.
「Bwaha! Ki-kun, you have such a weird face in your passport photo. Yuki-chan, yours is so serious! 」
At some point, Riko had stolen my passport from my pocket and Shirayuki's from her purse!
Even though she had been up all night, she was still full of energy, and I snatched my passport back from her and said:
「-You know that ID photographs always come out looking strange! Rather, I do hope you haven't forgotten your own passport in your room, have you?」
Riko only smiled at my small barb.
「That's why Riko always uses professional studio photographs! I have four, which one do you want to see?」
She displayed four passports, one French, one American, one Japanese, and one from a country I didn't recognise.
Why... did you bring them all with you...?
I thought about asking that, but I didn't. They're probably all forged, anway. Except for the French one, they all had fake names.
This phantom thief is not restricted by international borders.
「Oh! I have another passport in my bag with Kana's face on it too. I guess I'm a Japanese guy too.」
「...Alright. As long as you can get through immigration.」
I was already getting a headache when Riko said:
「Aria, I want ot see yours! I've never seen it before!」
And cozied up next to Aria.
Usually, at this point, Aria would say: 『If you make a ruckus in a public place, I'll put a wind-hole in you, Stupid-Riko 』 and draw her two pistols, but... instead:
「Quit messing around, we need to get our luggage checked.」
And with a *Whipsh!*, she spun around and started walking away briskly.
With Reki beside me, and Shirayuki following behind like a little duckling because she had never been to an airport before... we followed the sound of Aria's rolling suitcase wheels to the check-in counter.
Riko and I could only exchange looks at Aria's atypical reaction.
Why doesn't she want anyone to see her passport photo. Is she making a really strange face in it?
At the counter we received our boarding passes with our seat numbers, flight time, and departure gate written on it (In short, our airline tickets), and checked our bags...
Because Shirayuki and didn't have anything besides Yen, we exchanged our cash for Hong Kong Dollars at the airport's internal bank while Aria raged at us. The money here really is different than in Japan, and the 20 dollar bill has 3 different designs. The 10 dollar bill has a part that is made of clear plastic. Now it really does seem like we are going overseas.
In terms of time, the flight will take about 4 and a half hours. I was thinking that we would arrive in such a far country in the time it takes us to complete several class periods. Of course, the exact time depends on the destination country.
While thinking that, I passed through the private Armed Service Person foreign departure gate.
It was a pain because in order to take them out of the country, I had to declare-in minute detail-the exact number and type of guns and bullets. Because we were going to fight Rampan, we were all heavily armed.
「1 Beretta, 1 DE, 1 knife, a scramsax... medium-size sword. Now... how much ammunition did I have?」
So I had to count the 9mm Lugers I was carrying, and dropping them on the floor, I heard someone walk past me quickly.
*Tap!* Tap!* *Tap!*
「What are you doing, slow-poke!」
「Ki-kun, I'm bea~ting you~!」
It seems that Aria, Reki, and Riko had already filled out their forms beforehand, and now thay all streamed on ahead of me. Cheats! They could have at least helped and told me. As a result... Shirayuki and I were left to slowly fill out the form.
「Kin-chan, waaaait! *Whew!*...Haa!.」
「Oi! Hurry up Shirayuki They're already at the boarding gate.」
Without even time to browse the airport duty-free shop, we had to run straight for the gate.
Damn those world travellers.
They all had plenty of time to window shop before boarding.
Tangling her feet, Shirayuki fell with a 「Kyan!」. The reason... an automated walkway. Clumsy as ever.
Our flight number was ANA-1171, a Boeing 777-300ER aircarft.
Inside the plane, a clear social distinction was made. The truth of which was soon made apparent.
-First there was Aria...
As usual, she was personally conducted toward the first-class seats toward the nose of the plane.
Coincidentaly, last night I just happened to check the Internet, and a one-way, first-class ticket from Tokyo to Hong Kong costs 250,000 Yen.
Furthermore, a more luxurious Executive First-Class offering exists where you can charter a whole flight and not have to fly with the common people. Aria had boarded one of those flights to London on that unlucky day in April Riko had hijacked the plane.
At the time I had guessed that such a one-way fare would be 200,000 Yen, but I had been short by a zero. But it turns out that it was a blessing in disguise. If I had known that is had cost 2 millon Yen, I would not have been able to stop myself from going crazy and starting a gun battle.
-Finally. there's Riko and Reki.
The two of them, it seems, had found it a good deal cheaper and convenient to fly eclusively with this airline many times in the past. They were able to exchange their accumulated trave miles with ANA for a seat upgrade to Business Class.
In any case, they are expending a lavish luxury on a mere 4 and a half hour flight.
What a regrettable waste! It appears they know nothing of Japanese virtue.
Tohyama Charter, Article 1: One should always be guided by a desire for simplicity (I've just drafted it now.)
「Shirayuki, stay close to me. If we get separated, you'll get lost. Where's your seat?」
I asked as we made our way toward Economy Class... trembling... Shirayuki began to quiver.
「K-Kin-chan, I'm sorry...I...I... It's a Hotogi rule.... Whenever we have to use public transportation, in order to prevent theft, we don't travel in anything other that first or second-class...third or freight-class... is unacceptable.」
Wilting, with tears welling in her eyes, and hiding her mouth and nose, She showed me her ticket-
B-Business-Class...! These people...!
「I'm so sorry!」
As if she were doomed to be sepearted from her beloved because of the differences in their social class, she turned and walked away.
She vanished into the section at the front of the plane reserved for rich people...
Then there was a *Click!*
The Cabin attendant had drawn the curtains separating Busines Class from the sections above and below, denying me even the sight of those Ojou-samas, and closing me off in Economy Class.
I had already recieved the first installment of the the so-called 'scholarship' from the Beretta Company, but in order to save as much as I could, I bought the least expensive ticket that I could find on-line, and my seat was... at the back of the plane, next to the very last window.
To top it all off, the man in the seat next to me was a sumo wrestler, of all things.
As expected of the second-year Tohyama's incredibly bad luck.
「Excuse me. Thanks, bud.」
As he made his apologies, his large frame encroached upon my personal space, and I didn't ask him to make room because I didn't want to fight. Sumo wrestlers are not merely fat. Their body fat percentage is actually quite low compared to the average person, and these giants fight wrapped in an armour of muscle and fat.
One of my senpai in ASSAULT said: 『Sumo wrestlers are the only people I will not fight』...
Glancing to the side, I noticed that his )s were as thick as frankfurters. Seriously!
Left with no other options,
I answered in a small voice, resigning myself to an even smaller space within Economy Class..
So I paid the same price for my ticket as this sumo wrestler who is three times my weight? That's a little strange when you think about it...
With this petty thought in my mind, I looked out at the view of the runway-
The roar of the engines intensified, and the body of the plane increased in speed like a roller coaster, faster, faster... I thought, and the next moment...we were flying, and the ground fell away.
Butei Charter, Aricle 9:-Launch out into the world.
So... I guess I've made a simple beginning like this.
Disappointingly, I hadn't even learned English, making pointless excuses pretending that I was too busy.
The wolrd is only a plane ticket away, you just have to buy one and get on- that's how it starts.
The number of destinations stretch on toward infinity, and each is different, but none of them are too hard to reach.
The world, huh...
I should be celebrating this first, small step.
But thanks to my neigbor the Sumo, I can't enjoy this feeling of wanderlust.
The plane climbed higher, and eventually the seat belt warning light faded.
But from the pressure of the Sumo next to me, all parts of my body- including my feet, torso, and arms- were fixed into position like a parquet.
That is how I was travelling to Hong Kong.
As my spirits reached their lowest ebb...
「Pardon me for the intrusion, Kinji Tohyama-sama. Would you step this way for a moment.」
A cabin attendant had shown up and spoken to me, so the sumo wrestler stood up...
I stepped into the aisle and followed her.
She gestured with her hands, as if to say: 「Yes, yes, right this way, please」, and led me into the galley at the middle of the the airplane.
There in the simplified kitchen area, having doffed his regulation cap and holding in in front of his chest was... the co-pilot...? He bowed to me. What is this? Why have they called me here?
「-Tohyama-san. I was the co-pilot aboard flight ANA-600 when you made that emergency landing on that artificial island in April. The captain of this plane was also in command of that plane as well... thank-you so much for what you did for us. 」
「Oh, that time... 」
The hijacking incident aboard ANA-600 was the first time Aria and I worked together to accomplish something.
We crossed paths during that incident, and ended up saving the pilot and co-pilot, and now it seems that they are the very same ones piloting this aircraft. Fate is strange, isn't it?
「We would like to offer a humble token of our gratitude by upgrading your seat to First-Class-will you accept it?」
Would I? There's nothing to stop me! The sumo wrestler will be more comfortable if no one is sitting next to him.
Coming to that conclusion, I availed myself of their offer-and the cabin attendant who had ust closed the curtain behind me, now opened the curtain ahead of me, and I boldy entered.
It isn't just Aria and I, but the perpetrator, Riko, is also aboard...but, it would be for the best if I said nothing.
In Economy Class, 9 people are seated side by side, unlike Businees Class where there are only 7.
The seats are also wider and more comfortable.
Indeed, as the name sugests, there was a scattering of seated Businees Executives, and I began moving down the aisle-
From one of the seats,
「Ki-kun! You came to see Riko?! You must like Riko a lot to do that~!」
Riko turned to look up from the anime she was watching and the in-flight meal she was eating.
Empty boxes of sweets that she had purchased at the airport were scattered on the floor by her seat.
She was clearly relaxing. Her feet were swining back and forth aimlessly. Do you think you're at home?
「I didn't come to visit. I'm on my way to my new seat in First.」
I said, looking down with a~ll the scorn I could muster, as Riko was licking her plate.
「Huuuuuuh?! Ki-kun, you've become awefully rude! RAAAWR!!」
She made horns with her index fingers and while still seated, aimed a series of kicks toward my abdomen.
With each kick, something flashed breifly between her legs, so I sought refuge by continuing forward on my original course. As soon as I averted my eyes to the floor, I noticed it-
There were two of them. Hilda must have come along.
Rather, Hilda was probably catching a free ride. Just hide in someone's shadow and you can go anywhere in the world. Whether it's a cinema or public bath, you could go as many times as you want.
Pondering Hilda's, if I say so myself, stinginess, I continued walking.
「Endure it... Endure it...」
There's the traitor.
With a blanket covering her knees and a sleep mask, Shirayuki was taking anti-travel sickness medication and delerious.
It seems Shirayuki was stricken with a bout of air-sickness as punishment for abandoning me.
But you're supposed to take the medicine, before putting on the mask.
I thought about pinching her nose shut, but I didn't want divine judement to fall on me.... so I restrained myself and passed up the opportunity.
I guess its just a poor man's desire, on my part, wanting to be resentful for something that happened earlier to me.
So-slightly further on, and sitting in a window seat,
Reki was staring out at the empty sky with a blank look of total boredom.
Sitting motionless, Reki made absolutely no effort to take advantage of the especially spacious Business Class seats.
Why didn't you just buy an Economy ticket then?
I thought that as I watched her, and Reki's reflected eyes and mine met in the reflection of the window.
But Reki said absolutely nothing. Same as ever.
*Stare!*... She just watched the reflection of my eyes in the window.
...Alright, I'll stare back. I have nothing else to do.
*Stare!*....Reki and I stared at each other...
Huh?...With a slightly embarassed look, Reki dropped her gaze slightly.
Who is this cute little animal?
I began watching her more intently, fixing my gaze.
With that thought in mind, I looked down at Reki in her seat and, just for fun, stared at at her for about a solid minute ( about halway through, I could no longer see her reflection, and started looking at her real face)... then Reki hung her head, face turning red. Her short hair underneath her headphones fell forward to cover her eyes and cheeks.
Her face and the set of her mouth, however, were as expressionless as ever.
How to explain it... This makes me a little happy.
In the half-month that Reki had lived with the five of us at my home, she had become more human.
When she shows these human actions, it's wonderful, no, very cute!
As someone who knew the old, Robot Reki, I love seeing her express more of Mint-chan Yada.
Passing through Business Class, or as Shirayuki would say: Second-Class, I made my way up to First-Class-
Setting foot in First-Class, I could tell it was removed even from Business-Class.
As expected of First, even the carpet underfoot was different.
In the use of space, there was ample elbow room left. In the same space that Economy crammed 50 seats, there were only 8 seats so large that they approached the size of moveable beds.
At the front there were two seats in the centre, and only one of the pair was occupied.
In other words, this whole space has been reserved for Aria alone.
They must have offered me the seat upgrade because it was so empty.
But... If that's the case, I'm slightly embarassed.
That means that it's just the two of us, Aria and I in this room.
Quietly, I crept up to Aria's seat and...
In her capsule-like seat, Aria was asleep.
Just like an infant in a cradle.
Oh! Aria's passport...
It sat on the cocktail table by her seat, as she dozed, unwaking and defenceless.
Aria currently holds dual Anglo-Japanese citizenship, but her passport does not have the Japanese chrysanthemum design,but rather bears the unicorn, lion, and crown of the UK.
Inspecting it, it looks fairly well-used. If I had to guess, about 5 years old.
Speaking of her passport, back at Haneda, when Riko pressed Aria to see her photgraph she didn't want to show it for some reason. She even got depressed.
Well, let's consider it. At any rate, she probably sneezed, or there is some other such embrassing thing in the picture.
Now that you're sleeping, I have the chance to see it..
So, taking the passport in my hand, *Flip!* *Flip!* I found the Photographic Identification page.
Quietly, I closed the book.
I...don't have the words.
I'm sorry. I just looked on a whim.
But I think it was better for me to see it. In a way, it has cofirmed my resolve once more.
To fight at your side as a Buei for a little while- that is my resolve.
As I looked down at the dozing Aria, and carefully replaced her passport on the table...
Aria inhaled her own saliva with a noise, and starting, awakened.
What the heck!? Is that the plural f momoman?
Aria awakened to find me looking down at her, and she was opening her camellia eyes little by little.
「Momomen? Is that th plural form of momoman? Well, at least I know how much you are looking forward to trying genuine Hong Kong momoman.」
「W-What's this? Are you saying that food is the only thing I care about...?」
「Say that after you wipe away the saliva.」
I plopped myself down in the seat next to Aria.
I sat with all the dignity and ease I coud muster. And feeling like a celebrity, I crossed my legs comfortably.
Yes, this is magnificent. So this is First-Class?
The seats are so soft and comfortable, that they would make anyone-not just Aria-feel drowsy.
「Sir, could I please check your boarding pass?」
Thinking I had just come up here of my own accord, Aria asked me, immitating a cabin attendant whilst sitting in a sloppy seiza.
「You'll have to go check with the pilot. I'm sure he'll be delighted to take care of it.」
「I don't understand it at all, but it seems that you got a hold of this seat fair and square.」
It seems Aria had applied her sharp deduction skills and reasoned out the truth from my bearing.
Revealing a cat-like canine, she smiled in delight.
She was probably lonely in this large space alone.
Indeed she seems to be in a rather good mood. That's good. It meas that I don't have to worry about my safety for the rest of the flight.
「So, Kinji, what are you planning to eat for dinner when we get to Hong Kong?」
She was thinking about food after all.
「I don't really have any specific plans. I'll just eat whatever.」
「Well then, let me buy you dinner. Hong Kong has a lot of delicious restaraunts, but I don't want to go to any of them alone. They're usually crowded.」
Her seat was so large that it looked like the pint-sized Aria was sitting on a bed instead of a seat because she was crawling on all fours.
「Then I'll take you up on your offer. You can't fight on an empty stomach. But one thing. If possible, I'd like a place with a view of the nightscape.」
I asked, wanting to see the 『Million Dollar Nightscape』 that my father had not been able to see-
「N...nightscape. Got it.」
Mistakenly reading something else into my words, Aria straightened with a sober expression.
In eager anticipation, she leaned her upper half forward.
Doing so, the neckline of her sailor suit opened, and I could see down to her chest and... in an instant, I thought that I was doomed, but, no, I was safe.
It wasn't Shirayuki or Riko's cleavage, so all I saw was a growing shadow inside.
But apparently noticing where my fearful galnce had landed,
「Ah...! You're doing it again...! Stupid Kinji...」
With a blurred movement, Aria gathered the front of her uniform in her hands, and hugged it to her chest. Then, with a *Whiph!*, turned to sit with her small back facing me.
「-Why are you trying to look at my chest? You have some pretty strange tastes, don't you think?」
She said, half-looking over her shoulder and turning red with embarassment...
「No...That's not right at all. Guy's eyes naturally go to those places regardless of their personal preferences.」
I tried to offer up an excuse, explaining by logic that it was a general rule rather than an individual wrongdoing.
「But I don't have anything to provoke natural instinct. Sometimes Shirayuki calls me all of a sudden in the middle of the night to say: 『Guys prefer large breasts』, then hangs up.」
What are you doing, Shirayuki? That's a psychological attack.
「You can't conclude that about all men. At least it's not true in my case.」
Large, or small, it doesn't matter. A girl's breasts are a problem.
As I spoke, Aria whirled her head around.
「T-That's a lie!」
「Why are you turning around with such a huge smile? You words and actions are out of sync! Rather... you've been in a good mood lately... Did something good happen?」
I asked, beacuse in the course of a normal conversation, by this point 7-8 bullet have usually been fired.
I've been with Aria for more than 3 minutes, and for some reason she still hasn't pulled out a gun, sword, or Baritsu move.
Rather than calm me, this has me even more disturbed.
「Yeah... something happened.」
While hugging a pillow to her chest, Aria blushed slightly again and hid behind the pillow... and turned to look up at me.
「These last few days, you've been moving forward. Acting like a Butei. And that... makes me happy.」
Speaking in an uncharacteristically sweet voice, Aria stared at me distractedly.
Seeing her in this unusual state, I was flustered.
Is this one of Aria's secret traps?
When other people are around Aria constantly acts like she is my master, but when it's just the two of us, she becomes a spoiled child. As each day passes, I feel as if this is becoming a more fequent occurence.
But as for this taking advantage of other people, she has alwas had enough beauty to be published in a foreign fashion mag. When it comes down to it, even the women-hater in me is stirred by her. To be honest, she's really not bad looking.
Captivated by that feeling of sweetness, I said:
「Oh... well, that is to say.... I wanted to talk to you about something-the reason I began taking things seriously. It was during my secret mission. But, I could never compare my resolve to yours.」
I said, and Aria opened her mouth in shock.
Still cluching the large pillow to her, she made a sound of wonder and joy.
Then in her excitement, her face gradually reddened.
「Then... You're saying that you won't try to stop being a Butei anymore?.」
「Yeah, I decided not to quit. There's no other job I'm good at anyway.」
It seemed Aria was quite happy with my answer...
The easily readable face of the famous Quadra became the face of a little girl who has gotten an early Christmas present.
「Then, so you'll keep being my partner?」
I feel like this conversation has evolved rather quickly, but for my part:
「That's right. But please treat me with care.」
Thereupon, Aria buried her face into the pillow and gave a muffle scream of : 「Kinji~!」 in her anime-like voice as her the tips of her feet flailed in front of her seat.
...She was happy. Very much so.
I see, so that how it is?
-Everyone in Aria's family-the Holmes'-needs a partner.
As the one whom she had acepted as her partner, I had not been showing much enthusiasm, but it seemed as if I had started showing more motivation for some reason...
That must be why she is in such a good mood.
I wonder, what it is she sees in me...?
I understand her putting her faith in me when I'm like that, but she has to know all about the current me.
If I were her, I wouldn't want to join up with someone like me. I'm about as much use as a lamp in the middle of the day.
Looking over at Aria, she is still flailing her legs and happily embracing the pillow, and although she is mostly hidden, I can tell that her ears and neck are red.
And in a soft, almost ultrasonic voice that was difficult to make out, I heard: 「Lovelovelovelovelovelove!」
...? I can't really make any sense of this squeaking. She must have forgotten I am here.
She loves... something...?
One thing is for sure, I've been the target of her wrath ever since she delivered that spining toe-kick- So it has to be somthing besides me.
I have to think about this logically.
What does Aria love...?
Hmm, Is that it?
Every once and a while Aria has an attack of 「Momoman Mania」. (Riko named it.)
Like that time Aria had forgotten her wallet, on the way back home she suddenly yelled: 「I love momoman!」-Meaning, 'Go out and buy some now!'
I wonder if it could be that?
Since we got on the plane... She has wanted to eat them, but she can't, so it brought on this attack.
Those imaginary momoman in her dreams were just a symptom, and she is probably going through withdrawl.
Blushing red like a rose, Aria said:
「I...Uh, i...Kinji....Kinji...I'm....going to sleep!」
With her face buried in the seat, she closed her eyes and fell asleep.
How can a girl about my age sleep in such a carefree manner...?
When I, a boy, am sitting right next to her, and fall into a deep sleep?
Aria has always possesed the skill to say 『Goodnight』 and fall asleep in 3 seconds-is really is amazing-, but falling asleep on a plane midair-that must have taken some practice.
Shirayuki would even drink a tea brewed from fingernail grit for that kind of sleep.
...But what have I done?
I've accepted an invitation to dinner, championed the cause of a child-like figure, and promised that I wouldn't stop being a Butei and her partner...haven't I spoiled her like a child because she was cute?
But it's fine. It's not a problem.
I-must complete this journey if I can, because I've remembered that I bear a heavy responsibilty.
Aria's hair is pink blonde and her eyes are now camellia... beacuse of the Hidan that is stil inside of her.
The bullet I couldn't stop at I.U.
And now Aria, having lost the Karagane, is in imminent danger of possibly becoming somehting other than herself.
Hihigami-the Scarlet Goddess.
And if that happens it won't just be her hair and eye colour that change.
She will probably lose all memories of ever being Aria, hijacked by a malevolant goddess who only cares for Love and War.
If that happens...
It would be disaster.
Tamamo said she would kill her before that.
The changes in Aria will be gradual over time, so it will be hard for her to notice them, but that moment undoubtedly draws closer moment by moment. I have to protect her if I can. Even with my life.
Because I am her partner... and...
This whole thing with the 『Hidan no Aria』 started at I.U., and it's my fault becuase I didn't stop Sherlock from firing.
Rampan is in Hong Kong.
They're waiting for us.
At first there were 7 Karagane shells. but now there are only 3 inside of Aria-and they've stolen one of them.
I'm going to get them back. It depends on each case...but I'm probably going to have to use brute force.
Whenever I fight with Greneda in Far East Warfare-I will have an extremely important reason to do so.
I'll remember it. Aria's passport photograph.
I looked across at the cocktail table where I had replaced it.
It looked like it was from the time she was 12 years old.
-Aria had blonde hair and blue eyes