7. Coliseum (Part 2)

The day of the tournament semi-finals has arrived, but before the battles begin, the country’s king has invited the four semi-finalists to his palace for a little entertainment. For the amusement of himself and his guests, the king has asked a troupe of players to perform his favourite puppet show, a tale designed to reflect his own life.

The story begins by introducing a young prince, stifled under the harsh tutelage of his strict father. The father is worried that his son might usurp the throne, but his treatment of his son creates the very situation he wanted to avoid- in due time, the prince murders his father, and takes the throne. On growing up, the new king inevitably marries and has a family of his own. In time, however, he begins to become suspicious of his own children, and so his wife sends them away to safety. Perceiving this as betrayal, the king has her murdered.

The play seems to strike a chord in the king, who begins weeping as he watches- not with sorrow, but with laughter. The content of the play and the king’s reaction clearly angers Shizu, but before he can react in anger, Six-shooter defuses the situation by yawning in boredom and asking if he can leave. As he goes, a sullen Shizu excuses himself as well.

After dismissing the actors and his guards, the king is left alone with Kino and Miss Rose, and immediately takes the opportunity to ask the two women if one of them would be interested in marrying him- in which case they could forfeit the tournament and immediately become first class citizens. As he talks, the king begins to slide into madness, and both Kino and Miss Rose quickly refuse his offer and excuse themselves.

Finally, it is time for the semi-final matches, and first in the arena are Kino and Miss Rose. As always, Kino starts off by asking for her opponent’s surrender, but Miss Rose refuses, and the fight begins. Tossing back her cloak, Miss Rose reveals a shotgun, and begins shooting at Kino. With no time for a counterattack, Kino is forced to dive for cover.

Whilst Kino remains hidden, Miss Rose takes the opportunity to modify and reload her weapon. When Kino asks why she is fighting, Miss Rose replies that she is interested in the new law that the winner is able to create. During her years, Miss Rose lived with her mother, stealing and killing just to survive. Rose began to learn combat skills, but when she was just seven years old, her mother fell ill. Her final request was to see white flowers, but with none nearby, Rose was forced to farther afield to find some. By the time she brought the flowers back, her mother was already dead. Now, in remembrance, she has come to this country, a land where many white flowers grow, to create a special white flower day where everyone commemorates their mothers.

Her modifications complete, Rose concludes her story and the battle continues. Rose has changed her weapon to have multi-shot machine gun capabilities, keeping Kino on the evasive. Finally, Rose tells Kino to emerge from her cover and surrender, and Kino seemingly agrees.

As it turns out, Rose is not quite true to her word, for as something moves out from behind the rocky cover, she goes to fire at it, only to discover that it is just a rolling rock. Whilst she was distracted, however, Kino has taken the opportunity to sneak up on Rose, and now has her gun aimed squarely at Rose’s head. With no way to win, Rose asks if Kino will accept her surrender, and Kino readily agrees.

Unfortunately, the crowd is hungry for blood, and hungriest of them all is the King himself. Even as Kino stands down and accepts Rose’s surrender, a bullet rips through her body. Turning to the crowd, Kino sees the king standing in the gallery, a smoking gun in his hands.

Waiting inside the coliseum, Hermes finds himself talking to Shizu’s dog Riku, who turns out to be able to speak just as well as any human- when he chooses to, that is. Their conversation is cut short as their owners arrive- Kino has just returned from her match, whilst Shizu is heading out to his. Shizu is confident of victory, however, and tells Kino that it would be better if she surrender straightaway rather than face him in the final match- a match that he cannot afford to lose.

In short order, Shizu has won his semi-final match, his amazing speed allowing him to use his katana to deflect Six-shooter’s bullets and knock his gun right out of his hand. Six-shooter has no choice but to surrender, allowing Shizu to advance to the finals.

Resting in her room before the last battle, Kino once again thinks back to the woman she met, the one whose husband died in the tournament. Kino came to this country just to see what it was here that could make that woman so distant and withdrawn, but even after staying here for three days, she has come no closer to understanding it. Nonetheless, Kino must finish what she started- by fighting this final match.

As she heads out for her battle, Kino runs into Six-shooter, who is there to give her one piece of advice- victory is impossible, so she should surrender quickly. Kino has no intention of following this advice, however, and as she faces off against her opponent, Shizu warns her that if she doesn’t surrender, he will have no choice but to win at any cost.

As the match begins, Kino tests her opponent with a few shots, all of which are expertly blocked by his katana. Moving with lightning speed, Shizu manages to knock Kino’s gun away, but fortunately she is able to block his next sword stroke thanks to a metal bracer on her wrist.

As the battle continues, Kino manages to dodge Shizu’s next few attacks. Shizu is impressed, but nonetheless, he is determined to win, and launches another attack at Kino. Quickly drawing her second gun, she manages to block his katana, knocking it out of his hands. Kino quickly aims her gun at Shizu, but even though he appears to be at a disadvantage, Shizu knows that the situation is at a stalemate. If Kino does shoot at him, he will be able to dodge and counterattack, reversing the situation in an instant.

Nonetheless, Kino knows that she must end this battle. As she fires her gun, Shizu dodges, but he was never her target. Blazing over Shizu’s head, Kino’s bullet smashes through the gallery glass and finds its mark- the king. The battle is over.

As the winner of the contest, Kino has the right to choose a new law, and she quickly makes her wishes known to the assembled audience. All of the first class citizens must now fight in one last tournament, where the winner will become the new king. Anyone who runs away or mistreats a second class citizen will automatically be disqualified, and hopefully, out of the chaos, a strong and fair leader will emerge.

Their stay complete, Kino and Hermes continue on their journey, only to run into Shizu and Riku a little way down the road. As Kino had suspected, Shizu is in fact the exiled son of the king, and his plan all along was to win the tournament and then kill his father when the king came out to present him the winner’s medal. Although he could now ascend the throne, he has no interest in the crown- Shizu plans to move on. He even asks Kino to accompany him to the next country, but she refuses; someone once told her to keep well clear of strange brooding men with cute fluffy dogs.

As they leave Shizu behind, Hermes tries to tell Kino about Riku’s ability to talk, but Kino doesn’t believe it. As they once again engage in good-natured argument, the duo head towards the next country, leaving the contest and the coliseum far behind them…