Part 172: Arigato for 556EP5 was released 15 August 2009 at Comiket 76 and, at the same time, one of the TIPS called Arigato for 556. Yes, spelled exactly like that. This one later got the Tsubasa treatment but, honestly, I feel like it was somehow an even lazier job than the usual Tsubasa chapters. I'm not going to bother linking the music here because most of it is tracks we've yet to even hear.
This has until now been the only TIP that's been fully available in Japanese yet remained untranslated. After translating it with a little help from my witch friends, I can kind of see why.
In '68, the Minister of Defense urged domestic military magic manufacturers to submit design documents for a new type of magical soldiers for the Imperial Guard that could operate under the following specifications.
These specifications were referred to as the 3F Project, and the three F's to be achieved were namely First Detection, First Shot and First Kill. Moreover, emphasis was placed on qualities such as streamlined maintenance, operation and deployment in order to provide convenience for the one giving the orders.
Eventually, two well-established companies, RAC and Chiester, offered to design this new model of a magical life form and submitted their respective design documents.
RAC made impressive changes to the traditional M-Series model based on the Imperial Guard specifications, putting emphasis on the fighting strength so as to not tarnish the name of the Dragon King Pendragon's Imperial Guards.
In order to implement the three F's, the model was made to specialize in overwhelming and independent offensive capabilities, being fitted with a tremendous capacity for onboard weaponry.
As such, the model was to be capable of heavy firefighting even as a single unit and, at least based on the manual specs, a magical life form of such heavy firepower that it had the potential to rewrite the entire history of weapons.
The Ministers were so taken with the terms 'single unit' and 'heavy firepower' that they very nearly gave a tentative offer to adopt the M-Series model just before the end of the selection process.
On the other hand, Chiester had instead decided to emphasize quick maintenance, operation and deployment. Contrary to RAC's M-Series, the company proposed a Chiester Series model that was inexpensive, robust, mass-producible and fast to deploy.
To satisfy the 3 F's, single-unit implementation plans were abandoned at early stages. The Chiester Series models were implemented with individual specialized abilities and were used coordination in order to cover matters of tactics.
Although the argument for the implementation was sound, government officials were under the impression that the Minister's intention was to have guardsmen worthy of the Dragon King Pendragon's personal Imperial Guard, and so the Chister Series was not initially considered at all.
That decision was about to be gradually overturned, however, as the state of military equipment in the Heaven, the spirit world and so on was facing changes.
The spirit world, feared as the greatest military power at the time, had claimed overwhelming saturation attacks as their forte.
However, another major player seeking to even out the military balance, the Heaven, rewrote military history in '71 by succesfully constructing the Spirit Particle Combat System.
The system would utterly suppress any kind of brute-force type attacks reliant solely on military strength, budgets and resources.
With this, the figure of a lone heavily armed hero soldier, as the epics of old used to depict and children used to aspire towards, had become nothing but the stuff of ancient fairy tales.
Chiester had been quick to react to this turn of events and decided to add anti-Spirit Particle Combat capabilities to the Chiester Series.
Thus did the most prominent feature of the Chiester Series, nicknamed "Rabbit Ears", come to life.
Unlike the more traditional type of hardpoint equipment model utilized by RAC's M-Series, their armament was developed as a rapid-deployment extradimensional weapon rack in specific response to Spirit Particle Combat.
Also in direct contrast with the M-Series, it sacrificed onboard equipment capacity in favor of specializing in stealth.
Thanks to the efforts of Chiester lobbyists, the Minister of Defense made a substantial policy change in the same year and declared anti-Spirit Particle Combat measures to be of the utmost importance for the 3F Project.
And so, the Chiester Series which had been previously completely overlooked stepped into the limelight in a single stroke...
This was how the Chiester Series by Chiester Corporation won the honor of being named the Memorial Order, formed in commemoration of the Flight of the Red Dragon.
So were born the Chiester Sisters who were the first Imperial Guards to go against the conventional idea of the Guard consisting of independent heavily armed soldiers. As such, there were still conservative government officials and other stragglers who failed to grasp the concept of Spirit Particle Combat and saw the Sisters as nothing but cheap, inefficient and unfitting for His Majesty the Dragon King, and lambasted them as mere ceremonial soldiers, going so far as to call them dolls.
However, the design of individual units being dedicated exclusively to specialization allows for both a low cost manufacturing as well as a rapid operation and deployment of specialist units.
It eventually became clear that by organizing the specialized soldiers on a mission basis according to their respective abilities, they could be used to deal with a wide variety of tasks.
These individual abilities were a far cry from those that had belonged to the other heroic and heavily armed Imperial Guard soldiers.
However, this squad of Sisters, formed of specialized soldiers with their own areas of expertise, excelled in their results in this new era of warfare with every battle they fought.
The word "Sisters" in Chiester Sisters Imperial Guards eloquently speaks to the solidarity among the girls of this combat group...
She was fitted with an excellent firing radar but due to her unique settings she read the measurement results in an analog manner.
All modern Spirit Particle Combat is performed based on precise measurements. By all rights, there ought to have been no room for analog ideas to exist.
However, the battlefield is analog, not digital. The possibility for unexpected circumstances outside of pure 0's and 1's is always there.
Chiester 410 was a prototype specifically designed to excel in grasping that gray area.
Early on in her enlistment she was ranked quite low. During practice her skills as a sniper were mediocre at best and her peculiar personality didn't do her any favors either.
However, after having been paired with Chiester 45, who specialized in firing calculations, 410 began to distinguish herself in short order.
The following year she dramatically blossomed into an excellent field sniper during a proxy war against a certain puppet nation.
In just a single week after taking up her post, she had achieved a grand victory against the 34th Automated Giant Squadron, using an armor-piercing sniping bow from a range of 1800 merute to cause decisive damage to two units and to disable one unit's autonomous walking capacity.
Her impressive military achievements kept only increasing in count from there on, and a year later she was promoted to senior designated marksman. Her former instructor later reminisced that nothing had ever compared to the surprise of seeing her face at the promotion ceremony.
Receiving the Golden Bow, said to be a symbol of honor to snipers, only further nurtured her talents. She was the fastest one ever to climb to the ranks of the elite ten snipers of the Chiester Sisters Imperial Guards...
...is what I've written here.
It's nice to think that thanks to 45's excellent support, 410's rare talents were allowed to bloom.
As I told them this, giving the credit to both of them, 410 burst into a cackling laughter and told me this...
"410 is always so meean, I'm really trying hard to get exact calculations, don't just ignore them, that's so mean...!!"
"45, your calculations are pretty ridiculous, close enough is good enough nyeh."
"It's not good enough, lately you've been all over the place...!! And I've been extra careful because you made me so maad!!"
Let me write about Chiester 45 as well.
45 was created specifically for the purpose of calculations in Spirit Particle Combat.
Calculations are meant to be ruthlessly exact, accurately determining 0's and 1's with no room for error, and then to report the results.
However, with her digital-esque measurements, 45 cannot fully interface with units designed in the prewar format.
Coupled with her weak and easily intimidated character, she had no confidence in her measurement results. In a manner of speaking, as a measurer she became the lowest of the low.
Needless to say, her training record was poor as well, causing her peers in the Imperial Guard to entrust her with nothing but rear surveillance, treating her like baggage.
As such, she was paired with 410, another nuisance as a sniper. The idea was clearly to put the troublemakers together.
Although, seeing as this pair eventually went on to win significant military victories, you can never know what this world has got in store for you.
I struggled for a long time trying to understand how this bizarre duo could be the amazing sniper combination that they are, but I believe I recently came up with a possibility.
It's because this pair is driven by 410.
Because of her frequent troublemaking and insubordination, she was often paired with people who would keep her in line, high-strung people to monitor her or even senior soldiers.
When she received an order from her superiors, 410 wouldn't act entirely on her on own whims but obey the order, however half-heartedly. That way, she was not acting independently.
However, 45 wasn't strong-minded enough to keep 410 in check. For the first time, 410 was allowed to act independently and to demonstrate her abilities.
...Can that really be called "acting independently", though?
If you ask me, 45's timidness simply lets 410 act as recklessly as she wants...
That's why, for a long time, I thought that the secret to unlocking 410's talents had been the fact that she was allowed to do whatever she wanted.
That didn't seem to be the case, though.
410 finds teasing 45 to be hilarious and so she likes to intentionally ignore her measurement data and perform difficult, eccentric shots.
...Her marksmanship is truly astounding, much to the astonishment and dismay of 45. It seems that her reactions only serve to add to 410's self-satisfaction, further escalating her behaviour and contributing to her military success.
45 really dislikes being treated like a plaything.
She is so meek and uptight that there is no end in sight to her one-sided harassment. This won't be a fair relationship for her.
I have petitioned several times, in secret from 410, an alteration to their inappropriate pairing.
Nevertheless, since the headquarters are well aware of the military gains this pair brings about, that petition will likely never be accepted...
Typically military gains are something for both members of the pair to boast about.
However, although 410's eccentric shooting is obviously just showboating of her abilities, there are people who would even call it art.
As such, the successes attributed to the two of them are actually often credited to 410 alone.
Even 410 herself has spoken of them as her personal achievements...
Even as meek as 45 was, she wasn't too happy about that.
Shadowed by 410's genius talent, however, she would never say that aloud.
...As their superior officer, I could sense that to be the case, so I adviced 410 to be a little more appreciative and grateful to her partner.
"Without the link from 45 you surely would've failed most of your shots. Shouldn't you show a little more appreciation towards her?"
"Nyeh nyeh, 00's started another lecture nyeh."
410 stared at me blankly like I was an idiot.
I told her that 45 had her fair share of troubles, and a word of thanks from 410 would ease her mind.
Looking a little indignant from hearing that, 410 spoke to me.
"00 doesn't get it nyeh... Sure, I act big and boast about the victories, but I've never thought of them as mine alone, the credit always belongs to the two of us nyeh."
"...Is that so? Based on your usual talk and behaviour, I wouldn't have imagined you thought of your victories as belong to both of you, though..."
"How rude nyeh. 45 is my best partner, I've always thought that and I always will nyeh. Together with 45 we can do anything nyeh! We're the best partners! I'll always want to be paired with her nyeh...!"
With the way she was smiling, I couldn't possibly bring myself to reveal to her that I had petitioned a pair change for 45...
"...So you're telling me that you actually really are grateful to 45?"
"Of course I am nyeh. She's my partner after all nyeh. It's kinda pissing me off that you keep going on about it nyeh."
Rather than being disappointed with her... now I was disappointed in myself.
I finally undertood the difference between the two of them.
410 isn't an obedient personality; she likes to exaggerate and twist the things she says.
So from an outside perspective, her boasting of her victories seemed like she was talking about her own abilities alone.
In actuality though, she understood and appreciated the fact that without 45 none of that would have been possible.
She had the highest respect for 45 as a partner and wanted her by her side forever.
...The problem was that her feelings didn't reach 45.
45 thought of herself as incompetent, someone to be derided by 410 and not much more.
To her, all of their victories were thanks to 410's talents and if 410 only were paired with a better sister, her military gains would be that much greater...
So I told 410 that unless she shows her appreciation with words, it will not be communicated.
"I don't wannyeh."
"I appreciate it, thank you, whatever. It's kinda embarrassing, isn't it, to have to say it deliberately, it feels pathetic nyeh. 45 and I are the greatest of partners, so at this point we understand it even without saying...!"
The feelings are already shared in form that's too complicated to put into words.
Translating the feelings in your heart into words means diluting them.
...Having told me this, she ignored my advice to articulate her gratitude to 45.
...Because I'm blinded in my right eye and therefore inefficient in my specialty, reconnaissance, the final task assigned to me... seems to be keeping this troublesome pair of snipers in line.
410, also aware of the blind spot on my right side, nimbly dodged my emotionally charged slap...
Her specialization was squad fire support. Simply put, she was in charge of the heavy firepower.
At the time 410 was well known both domestically and abroad as a charismatic sniper, so putting 556 and her brand new weaponry together with her was thought to be a sure-fire way towards even greater military victories.
"Squad fire support? Pretty excessive nyeh."
"A-although our pair specializes in long-range firing, we're lacking in the ability to suppress a large enemy force simultaneously closing in at short range... I guess she's supposed to compensate for that..."
"Picking off delicious prey from long distance and then vanishing into thin air is our specialty nyeh. Fire support is unnecessary, you dunce nyeh♪"
410 was saying that they had no need for a newbie who would only get in the way of their shooting.
For 45, who surely thought of herself as a hindrance as well, those words only added to her emotional scars.
...But 410 simply and honestly thought they didn't need an outsider to butt in on the perfect pair that was herself and 410.
I understood what was on both of their minds, and the uncomfortable situation made the old scar on my ear act up, making me scratch it.
"Do you read me, 556? Are the preparations ready?"
"Yes, this is 556, I'm ready. Thank you very much."
556 was standing in the outdoors shooting range.
It was time for the first demonstration of state-of-the-art weaponry.
At a glance, 556 seemed to be on pretty much the same wavelength as 45.
She was meek and polite... So just like with 45, her compatibility with 410 would probably not be all that great.
"Target, blue target group. 45, commence analysis."
"U-understood. Commencing Terrain Analysis and Error Correction. Data Link to 556."
"...Nyeh. Come on then, show us what you've got."
"Data Link from 45. Target Identified. My thanks. Commencing Attack."
556 drew a crude, large lead bow.
...It didn't have even a fraction of the elegance of the golden bow that 410 and 45 used.
Firepower is not proportional to elegance, though.
In direct contrast to 556's gentle atmosphere, the lead bow spat out a swelling lead serpent towards the ten-odd targets standing in a row and, like a lead serpent would, slithered under the targets as if licking and tasting them and then cut them down sideways, crushing them to tiny pieces.
It was nothing like beautifully sniping and piercing the opponent's weak point with a single golden arrow.
It was something completely different, a terrifying strike that overwhelms the opponent by engulfing them with dozens if not hundreds of swelling lead arrows.
We couldn't help but stand in awe of the merciless offensive power of this new type of weaponry.
...Then I suddenly realized something.
This overwhelming firepower would, for certain... set 410's rivalrous heart alight.
No doubt about it. And with the same certainty it would end up causing me more headaches, I suppose.
...Never mind about the supposing part... Yep, 410 is picking a fight already. Oh, my poor head...
"...Not bad nyeh."
"Thank you. It was all thanks to 45's Data Link."
"N-not at all... At this distance... 556's firing radar alone would have been plenty to target it..."
"But with your data, the firing was successful. Thank you."
556 had a calm demeanour and a gentle way of talking.
She had another peculiarity to her as well: her tendency to fill her conversations with 'thank yous', indiscriminately expressing her gratitude.
Every time she responded to something, she would end her sentence with thanks.
"But... it lacks beauty nyeh. There were just 15 targets to pierce and your lead arrows went and tore into them like that. Punching a hole in the middle would've been enough, now each one of them is shredded to pieces."
"...Shut it, 410...! Beauty or lack thereof makes no difference in the middle of war. Stop nitpicking 556's shooting."
"556, pay her no mind. 410 has a bit of a duplicitous side..."
"Not at all, 00. Thank you."
"And thanks to you as well, 410. You're right, even in wars such an uncouth way of fighting is unacceptable. Thank you for telling me that."
Even when 410 was clearly just looking for something to fault, 556 simply smiled gently and thanked her.
"Were my skills as great as 410 and 45's, I believe I could carry out my missions causing only minimal pain, by piercing exactly what I aim at and avoiding any unnecessary injuries or incidental victims... But all that I can do with my violent shooting is just ruthlessly crush my opponent..."
"I believe that mercilessness is inexcusable, even on the battlefield. Thank you for telling me that."
Despite how hard she was trying to pick a fight, not even 410 could have imagined being thanked like this.
Afterwards, when she'd had time to collect herself, she went back to picking fights about various things, with 45 desperately trying to patch things up as she went on. Every single time they would be met with a delightful smile and a response that ended in thanks.
These exchanges kept repeating themselves until 410 finally declared "this kid's nickname is now 'thanksie bunny' nyeh" and stormed off.
This seemed to completely sour 45's mood.
45 then went after 410 who had walked away sulking.
"...Why do you say thanks so often? Is there a meaning behind it?"
A troublemaker like 410, in order to show just how much of a troublemaker she was, unconsciously raised that question.
...For example, like with her tendency to end sentences with 'nyeh'.
But the way 556 did not see her as a troublemaker, and like with her insistence on thanking everyone, saw past her words to their literal meaning, was interesting to me.
...That's when 556, for the first time without thanking me, told me something.
"I am strong. I even received excellent marks from the Chiester headquarters test team... But none of that is reason to be conceited. I had teammates supporting me from the sidelines so I could get those high marks."
"And for that reason I'll be always be thankful for those close friends who supported me."
"...I feel like boiling the dirt under my fingernails and making 410 drink it."
"But I had some doubts over whether that gratitude was really reaching them."
"Yes. I am grateful to everyone... But unless I tell it to them, they'll never get to know it if it happens that I don't get to meet them again. They would probably think for the rest of their lives that I wasn't grateful to them, even though I really was."
"We are soldiers of the Chiester Sisters Imperial Guard... no, regardless of who we are, there will inevitably and suddenly come a day when two people will be able to talk to each other for the last time."
"When that unexpected day comes, even if you thought you'd try to hastily convey all of your piled up gratitude, you can't do it anymore... At that time, how would they feel about me...? I think that... would be sad."
There are many countless people that I've felt thankful to.
But I haven't told that to anyone.
So even if they think that I'm not thankful to them, that is no fault of theirs.
"And if the opportunity to clear up that misunderstanding were suddenly lost forever one day... they would forever keep thinking of me as an ungrateful, coldhearted girl, wouldn't they?"
"And I would forever keep regretting it, wondering why I never once managed to convey my gratitude. Surely my feelings will eventually be communicated? Using words is boorish? We understand each other so well we don't need words anymore...? I've come to hate things like that."
"That's why... I'm always frightened that, whoever I'm with, that meeting might turn out to be our last. Even as I'm talking to you like this, 00, I wonder if today is our last day together... So I'll never again... want to miss an opportunity convey my gratitude... by always adding thank you to whatever I was talking about. So, for listening to this story..."
That was indeed... a sad story.
If 45 were to suddenly disappear one day... 410 may forever regret that she couldn't communicate her feelings of appreciation to 45.
...45, as well, may be forever wrapped in sadness that 410 never said a single word of thanks to her, despite the fact that 410 really was honestly grateful for 45.
"So, that is why I want to thank you too."
"...There's no need to thank me."
"As the leader of this squad, I will not leave anyone behind. I won't hear nonsense like that from anyone."
"That includes you too, soldier. Throwing around all these thanks, like you're prepared to leave our squad at any time, is incredible disrespectful!"
"Anyone who dares to display such cowardice will be severely disciplined, you mark my words. Welcome to the squad...!! You're part of the team now!"
"Thank you very much, 00. Chiester 556, reporting for duty."
From that day on, the personal guard of Lady Maria had four members...
Thank you, 556
To put this in some context that the fans found out a couple months later, Ryuukishi07's webmaster, editor, debug tool writer as well as his first reader and best friend, BT, had passed away due to an illness on July 10, just a month prior to the release of EP5. In Ryuukishi's words, "I wrote both Higurashi and Umineko because I wanted to surprise him". As a result, he says that he lost the joy of writing but decided to go on because "if I stop writing, it will be as though I never met you... So, I'll grit my teeth and write. As I remember what you taught me."