AsoIku book 13, finished

This one took a while. Not because the story was as baffling and filled with nonsense as book 11, but mostly because a lot of characters talked funny. Lizard-girl Sawori’s accented Japanese is indicated with katakana and the occasional mispronunciation, much like American cowgirl CIA agent JACK, who’s also in this book, with more dialog than she’s had in the last six books put together. Then there are the various international spies and government agents pretending to be exchange students on the Catian ship, whose mostly-fluent Japanese tends toward the official, and the bonus pile of new vocabulary used to explain Gaavuru culture. Add to that the usual fun of figuring out the childlike writing of the assistoroids, and it made for a bit of a slog. There are sections where my comprehension was maybe only in the 60-70% range.

Much is accomplished, however, including the most significant plot development in the entire series: Kio finally stops addressing his junior girlfriend as Futaba-san and starts calling her Aoi-chan.

Half-alien little sister Sawori’s sudden appearance, revelation, and duel have served as the catalyst Aoi needed to finally investigate her past. She starts by asking Antonia to dig up the dirt, and the first thing she learns is that her mother died about a year after abandoning her. Coincidentally, the very next day is the anniversary of mom’s death, and she goes to visit the grave with Kio and Eris providing emotional support.

Surprise! Her uncle is also there, and he uses his laptop to show her a recording made years before, a video message to grown-up Aoi. Mom was a bit psychic, y’see, and while she could often see the future, in the end all she could see was Aoi’s future. She didn’t know what had happened to dad, but she knew her own death wasn’t far off, and that staying with her would lead Aoi to a future that sucked. Turning her little girl over to the government to be trained as an assassin was better, because she saw beyond it to a new happy family, with a boy and two girls (no, Manami is still not in the game, Just Best Friends). She knew it would be bad for Aoi until Eris came to Earth, but it was the only good ending she saw for her daughter.

(and, yeah, it strains credulity more than usual that it just happens that the duel with lil’sis is a few days before the anniversary, and that that’s the day the student/agents just happen to play hooky and give them the chance to visit the grave, and that Uncle just happens to arrive at the distant, isolated cemetary in the brief period that they’re visiting; I’ve got to say that as interesting as the characters, situations, and scenes can be, the author is really not very good at constructing novels)

Also, it just happens that mere moments after Uncle’s car is out of sight, a beat-up and disheveled Sawori teleports in and tells them to run like hell, because mama Rauva just found out that Aoi wants her dad back as her reward for winning the duel, and she’s in a killing mood. “You’re trying to kidnap what I’ve rightfully stolen”, etc. Sure enough, she shows up with blood in her eye and throws down the gauntlet, which Aoi coldly accepts. Surprising everyone, Kio breaks in on their pre-duel debate and asks them to please not destroy the nice temple and graveyard that they’re still standing in, and gets the fight moved to the Catian embassy grounds the next morning.

And then he has an idea. Two, actually. The first is a quite rational fear that Aoi will kill Rauva if she wins, and vice versa. The second is a possible way around this. Enlisting the aid of Manami, Ichika, Eris, Uncle Yuuichi, Sawori, and a team of Catian technicians, he prepares a little surprise for Rauva, which consists of challenging her to fight him first. The Gaavuru observers complain at this irregularity, until he proclaims that Aoi is part of his family, making it legal (“but we thought you and the catgirl were…”, they object; “no, both of us”, Eris replies). Kio is dressed for the occasion in battlesuit and an unusually large and bulky cape, which hides the surprise.

Rauva is happy to tear him limb from limb in front of the girl she intends to kill next, and accepts. Kio activates his battlesuit, which instantly bulks him up into a considerably more impressive figure. When she attacks, though, it’s like hitting putty; more precisely, a gooey trap that sprouts tentacles, rendering her battlesuit useless. Being more than capable of killing him with her bare hands, she exits the suit, exposing herself to his real weapon, concentrated cigarette smoke (provided by an evening of chain-smoking by Uncle Yuuichi). It seems that after the first duel, he’d noticed that the observers were very bothered by Yuuichi’s smoke, and after consulting Ichika discovered that they had an even stronger reaction to alcohol, so as Rauva is choking on second-hand smoke, Kio nails her in the mouth with a squirt-gun full of booze. Ta-da, another lizard bites the dust, and Kio insists that they pay up and deliver dad. [Every line Rauva has for the rest of the book is basically the incomprehensible phonetic rambling of a dead-drunk depressed sore loser; I got maybe one word in six, and would have been completely lost if her words had mattered.]

In the aftermath, the Gaavuru elder has a nice quiet chat with Captain Kuune, in which he formally opens diplomatic relations with Catia, including among his reasons the previously-unknown fact that the Orsonians are waking up from a long hibernation, and maybe now isn’t the best time to be known as one of those races that runs around exploiting primitives (less vigorously than dogs and angels, perhaps, but hunting them still looks bad on your galatic report card, apparently). So now we know the third outlaw race, which explains how Sawori was able to set up her attack on Aoi last book with local support, making it possible for the plot to be discovered.

With mom safely locked in the drunk tank, dad is finally informed of what’s going on and sent down to Earth, with Sawori accompanying. He’s fully adjusted to his new life, and is quite happy living among the Gaavuru, but while he’s not homesick for Earth in general, his family still matters to him, so he’s delighted to be reunited with Aoi and saddened by his first wife’s death. As they sit in Kio’s back yard and talk things over, Sawori joins the others inside and knocks back multiple cups of scalding-hot tea; she’s still rather prickly, but confesses that really hot drinks break down their emotional reserve, and she’d go violently nuts right now if she couldn’t vent her feelings about losing her father to Aoi. It seems dad’s un-Gaavuru-like gentleness made for a much stronger bond than is usual among her species, with both mother and daughter.

Somewhere in there, Kio thinks to ask what Sawori had actually planned to do with Aoi if she’d won the duel, and her answer was: bring her to the Gaavuru fleet for dad’s sake, and also make babies with her. “Um, you are a girl, right?” “No problem, our genetic engineers are as good as Catia’s, and between dad’s high-quality genes and her special powers, our kids would be amazing”. “Ooookay, then”.

Back in the garden, a few more minor revelations. “Sawori” (usually pronounced Saori in modern Japanese) was originally the name they’d chosen for Aoi, until her mom said “let’s use that if we have a second daughter”. Also, seeing how much dad loves his new family makes Aoi realize why Kio felt the need to duel in her place: if she’d killed Rauva, she’d never have been able to talk to dad like this.

Would it surprise anyone if I said that Rauva busts out of the drunk tank and comes looking for a rematch with Kio, announcing her arrival with a shockwave that would have flattened the house if it hadn’t been reinforced with Catian technology? She’s not sober and deadly, fortunately; in fact she can barely keep herself vertical, and her tear-filled refusal to accept the loss of the duel and her beloved husband is shocking and shameful to the team of Gaavuru enforcers who teleport in moments later. It looks like she’s facing serious punishment, and then Aoi breaks in and thanks her father for meeting her and asks him to please visit Earth again sometime.

The concept of the victor giving up the spoils is alien to the Gaavuru, but the elder is willing to play along and write off Rauva’s behavior as a reaction to booze and smokes, and it ends happily, with her only punishment being bumped up to management (paperwork being a rather unpleasant job for a race of hunters).

In the aftermath, Eris tries to get Aoi to move in with them (“family should all live together!”), which gets shot down by Aoi and Manami, but Eris and Manami then team up to insist that after accepting Aoi as family, Kio has no excuse whatsoever for addressing her so formally as Futaba-san. Stammering and blushing, he tries to weasel out with Aoi-san, but they won’t have it, and Aoi-chan it is from now on. The assistoroids cheer and throw confetti.

The book ends with a surprising email that may finally shake things up enough to progress Catia’s diplomatic relationship with Earth: the Pope wants an official audience.