Kino no Tabi:Volume2 Chapter2
 “Overprotection” —Do You Need It?—
It was the second day in the country.
While on her way to pick up Hermes at the car park after lunch, Kino encountered a bickering couple in front of the motorrad. They appeared to be a married couple in their thirties, and beside them stood a boy, about ten years old and looking more than a little lost.
The father spoke. “That’s why I’m telling you —— you’re being over-protective!”
The mother retaliated. “No! You are being stubborn. This is for his own good!”
The three were blocking her way to Hermes.
Kino began by clearing her throat, “Ahem!”
Before she could manage to say “Excuse me, may I pass through and get to my motorrad behind you?” the father noticed her and asked,
“What do you think?”
“About what? I didn’t hear the conversation…” Kino cocked an eyebrow, amused by the sudden question. But before the father could explain himself, the mother interjected,
“This stubborn man insists that our boy doesn’t need a bulletproof vest.”
“Why would he need something like that?” asked Kino.
“The war, of course! Our son is joining the army,” replied the father.
“Yes, it broke out a few months back. It is the first one we’ve had since the country was founded. The army has been recruiting soldiers for the front lines. My son will be joining the army today. Not to boast, but he will make a fine soldier, probably will return a hero too! But this foolish wife of mine keeps insisting that he wears a bulletproof vest. What nonsense.”
“Honey, the vest will protect our son from shrapnel!”
“He just needs to crouch down to avoid that, not to mention there are trenches to take cover in.”
“Even so, it will protect him from all sorts of things. He can’t be a hero if he gets hurt; our son needs to be able to do his best to become a hero.”
“But won’t the vest be heavy? He can’t move freely if he’s bogged down. Soldiers should have the grace of a butterfly and the sting of a bee! Also his squad will ridicule him if he’s the only one wearing one.”
“All he needs to do is say it’s a gift from his loving mother.”
After listening to the parents, Kino glanced at the boy and said in a carefully neutral tone,
“Why don’t you ask the boy’s opinion?”
“Oh… you’re right! What do you think, Timmy? You will listen to mommy, won’t you?” The mother bent down to gently place her hands on his shoulders.
The father also squatted down next to him, and held up an encouraging fist. “Come on son! You are a man, right? Real men don’t need this junk.”
“Don’t worry, mommy and daddy will respect your decision.”
“That’s right, boy!”
The boy answered with a quaver in his voice, “I… I don’t wanna go to war!”
The father immediately stood up, and with a tone completely different from before, “We’re doing this for your own good!”
The mother also stood up and stared down at her son. “You need to join the army and become a hero. That way you will be able to enter a good college and university, and then you will get to work for a large company. Don’t you understand? We are doing this for you. Didn’t you say that everyone in your class is joining? Do you want to lose to them? Is it okay with you to get left behind?”
“But… Johnny’s parents won’t let him go.”
The mother began to raise her voice at her son. “What Johnny does is not our problem, you should decide for yourself!”
“That’s right! You shouldn’t compare yourself to others!”
The poor boy’s face went pale with terror after this outburst from his parents.
The mother took out a brand new bulletproof vest from her bag. The small vest was still wrapped in plastic, with a card attached that read, “To our brave young soldiers! Specially designed to reduce stress on the shoulders. Now with adjustable height to suit growing children. Ideal for long term use.”
She half-squatted and placed one hand behind her son, gently urging him. “Put this one on and let’s go to the recruitment center. Don’t be scared. Mommy will be with you.”
“See? Like I said, you are being over-protective.”
“I just want the best for our son!”
“I know. Just stop overdoing it.”
And so the bickering began anew. In the midst of it, the boy timidly said again, “I don’t wanna go.”
“Not again! You must have inherited that cowardice from your mother’s side.”
“What?! Ooooh! He’s as stubborn as you are, you old mule!”
Again the boy protested, now almost crying, “I… really… don’t want to go!”
Kino interjected, her voice still carefully controlled,
“Maybe you should rethink this, with the boy.”
The parents gave Kino a horrified and insulted look.
“Why don’t you mind your own business? This is a family matter.”
“Yeah, this is our problem! We really are doing this for our child.”
“Right,” Kino nodded. “I’ll do that.”
“Come on.” The mother grabbed the boy’s hand and began to drag him away. “We should head to the recruitment center before it’s too late. We’ll decide about the vest once we get there.”
“Let’s go, Timmy.”
Kino watched as the parents dragged their son away.
She shook her head, and then turned back towards Hermes. The motorrad greeted Kino as she kicked up the stand.
“Must have been tough.”
Kino answered honestly before hopping onto Hermes.
“Yeah. It was.”
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