By Shouji Gatou and Shikidouji. Released in Japan by Fujimi Shobo. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Elizabeth Ellis.
Welp, it’s another of those “I tried to make it fit into one book but it got away from me so have a two-parter” books, meaning this volume is VERY short by modern light novel standards. That’s not to say that there is not a lot going on in it, however. The title implies the end of the status quo, and that’s not a lie. After a first half that’s mostly action sequence, Sousuke is told that he’s being pulled off of Kaname bodyguard duty and sent back to finally figure out how to bond with the Arbalest that he’s been not-so-secretly grumbling about. This upsets Sousuke, who takes it out on Tessa, who in turn takes out her own spurned love on him. And in the meantime poor Kaname is left baffled and afraid. But really, this is Sousuke’s book, as he’s forced to confront a question that he’d never really thought of before now: what does he want to do with his life? As a child soldier who can die anytime, this never came up. It does now.
Sousuke and Kaname spend almost the entire book apart, but it’s telling that two of the best scenes involve the two of them. The first is hilarious, as Kaname, back at school, is on the phone with Sousuke trying to see how he’s doing, and Sousuke (in an overloaded car running from the Sicilian mob, which I suspect is a Lupin III homage) is answering as best he can whi8le avoiding explosions. The second is sweeter, where, after a disastrous attempt at getting a haircut at a salon goes south, Kaname offers to cut Sousuke’s hair. This shows off how much he trusts her now, and is really sweet, but also leads to darker things. Kaname has two bodyguards, one “hidden”, and the other bodyguard, in Sousuke’s opinion, has been incompetent. “Wraith”, the hidden bodyguard, also seems to hold Sousuke in contempt. In fact, Sousuke is rather untrusting of most of Mithril at the moment.
Which may not be a bad idea, as the reader (and Tessa) go from last volume’s “there was a mole or two in our ranks” to “are half our ranks and our entire intelligence system filled with enemies”? It’s well handled, as the decision to recall Sousuke is both a good one (he really does need to bond with his AI, it’s become a real problem) and also highly suspicious. (Honestly, I’m amazed Kaname wasn’t kidnapped IMMEDIATELY after this happens, but they seem to be ramping up her own paranoia as well.) It also leads to the final “best scene in the book”, the frustrating screaming match between Sousuke and Tessa that reminds you that no matter how brilliant these kids are they probably should not be in major paramilitary anti-terrorist organizations. It doesn’t help that Sousuke is still clueless about Tessa’s feelings.
So everything is set up to blue up in the next book, which should have more action adventure and lots more angst. Is Sousuke’s new commander *another* enemy agent? Is Kaname’s hidden bodyguard an enemy agent? Is the nice general Tessa used to work for an enemy agent? It’s hard to tell who the good guys are anymore. Well, Kaname’s good. We have that.