Work has kept me from finishing this book, allowing me to defer the decision of what to do next, since I haven’t found OCRd copies of books 15-17 to run through my scripts, and I don’t feel like scanning and OCRing my own copies. Back to Kino? Back to Louie for another book and a half? Make an attempt at Haruhi, Dirty Pair, Tsutsui stories, Nishimura stories, porn novels (lots of new vocabulary!), or go back through and reread without the crutches? Haven’t decided yet.
Anyway, continuing with AsoIku 14 from where we left off, chapter five ends with our favorite teenage goth-loli cyborg MI6 agent kicking the asses of the same domestic terrorist group she slaughtered in her first appearance, who have been nudged by Nirumea into hating alien catgirls. This leads to a short discussion that there are so many violent fringe groups trying to get into Japan to stop the Pope from meeting with Catia that the Japanese agencies are merely coordinating the cleanup, requesting that each country take care of their own whackos.
The chapter ends with the revelation that this historic meeting is scheduled for 清命祭 (read as Shiimii in Okinawa), a Buddhist ceremony honoring one’s ancestors, or more importantly, exactly one year since Kio met Eris.
Chapter six finally brings the Pope onto the field. Antonia dispatched a private jet to Italy, and to save time, Kio is teleported there to meet him at the plane, as are the Catian escort craft, which consist of Eris and Manami in Ruros and a squadron of assistoroids in tiny little F-22s that leave their feet dangling as the landing gear. The Italian Air Force provides a more conventional escort, but of course the assistoroids steal the show, neatly diverting the reporters until the Pope is aboard.
While they’re waiting for him to show up, though, Eris has Manami trapped on her ship, and forces her to admit that she still wants Kio. Eris being Eris, she offers to share, and assures her that Aoi will agree. Manami denies everything, of course, until Eris reveals a secret she’s been hanging onto since book 8: 6-chan spotted her sneaking a box of homemade chocolates into Kio’s house for Valentine’s Day. Eris had also tried to question Yun-fa, and discovered that his memories of that period were quite thoroughly locked down out of loyalty.
I can pretty much insert the scene from the anime where Manami fought back against the idea of such a relationship by referencing Earth law and custom. It works about as well here, with Eris hand-waving it all away. Eris’ trump card, though, is a guilt trip: if the meeting with the Pope tips the balance enough to normalize relations between Earth and Catia, it wouldn’t be a first-contact situation any more, and she’d be recalled to the homeworld for extensive debriefing and retraining, and wouldn’t be back for 1-3 years. Left to themselves, Kio and Aoi won’t move their relationship forward; they need a sparkplug like Eris, or a pushy busybody like Manami. Or both.
Meanwhile, once they’re in flight, the Pope strikes up a conversation with Kio (in fluent Japanese), leading off with his favorite Japanese movies: Kurosawa’s Yojimbo and Sanjuro, and Yoji Yamada’s Love and Honor. Thanks to movie-buff Aoi, Kio is well-prepared to discuss these films and how they reflect Japanese character.