| This article contains HEAVY spoilers. Please view at your own risk.
This is Chapter 3 of "Fall-Fattened Tiger" from Volume 2 of the Toradora! Spin-Off Light Novel series.
It was no big deal.
That one was just bitten by a dog.
Putting an end to the situation, they went to try out the quiet exercise machines, and next thing you know it was one o’clock. With lunchtime approaching, they exercised with all their might, pushing the hardware to its limit for ten minutes, finishing up in this area. Ryuuji, Taiga and Ami separated and headed for the locker rooms.
Ryuuji took a quick shower, dried his hair and got dressed, but the two girls were not ready yet. While the girls took their time getting changed, Ryuuji sat on a bench, quietly waiting. He was discovered again by the cats-eye lady, who was drifting by. "Hey!", she waved, "Hi!", he replied somewhat uneasily.
Aerobics had made him forget the yoga class. Yoga suited him. He quietly breathed the way he had learned while constantly checking his e-mail with his cell phone. Even so it was slow, and his bored face looked fearsome whenever he looked over his shoulder towards the girl’s locker room.
An echoing shriek, "What’s this? What’s this?", made everybody turn and look. The cat’s eye lady turned, too. Staff rushed over to the locker room, then,
Ryuuji held his breath.
Accompanied by staff, Ami "H, heavy...!", appeared burdened. It was Taiga. Her face was pale, already at death’s door. Ryuuji, in haste and confusion, rushed over and asked,
"What’s happened!? Are you anemic!?"
Taiga couldn’t say anything, so Ami answered.
"...It was the crazy body-fat meter in the locker room. After all the exercise, what do you think it would show? Once it settled down... Taiga was ‘chubby’..."
"After that 'You have lost weight but are still overweight. This is normal.', it seems it was a bit much for her, to be impartially declared a little fat. Looks like she collapsed from the shock."
Taiga, lifted up on her old enemy Ami’s back, couldn’t even lift her head. For the moment Ami carried Taiga piggyback --- why? Her short body felt super, super heavy. Indeed, wasn’t she a little chubby?
"Ta, Taiga, you’re doing OK... right? Coming here again would be OK... wouldn’t it? Yes, you might as well buy a membership. I can’t take care of the financial arrangements, though."
"That’s true. I would be able to come here every week. Seriously, let’s do the machines."
"...Sounds good... good enough..."
"I’ll do my best to do as you say, OK? We’ll refrain from snacking, and we’ll watch our meals."
"...If you say so… I’ve tried hard at this, I’m not all that good... not at all..."
"Sounds like this isn’t your first try at this."
"...No it isn’t... rather... Please forget about my problems... Thank you for what you’ve done so far..."
Startled, Ami’s and Taiga’s eyes met. Taiga was a bit depressed, from what could be seen.
Ami chewed on the earpiece of her sunglasses, looking a bit worried. "Yes. So it is.", she said, raising her eyebrows.
"You are rather down, aren’t you? ... Well, we’ve been given an unusual sight: Ami-chan pitching in and helping out."
"It’s OK, don’t bother… I’m not a flasher..."
"So nice a mouth, you’ll pay for that. 'Thank you very much Ami! I got so thin thanks to you, Ami!', you should always try to say."
--- What on earth was she thinking? In the end, Ami had a good laugh.
Monday, the start of a new week.
"Yo! Aren't you feeling well, Taiga? A cold, I suppose? Ah, maybe the extreme diet?"
"...Shh. That word isn’t allowed anymore."
"Oooh. ...So what now?"
At the usual meeting place, the corner with the Keyaki tree. Minori frowned while looking worriedly at Taiga’s depressed-looking face. Taiga, silent, hanging her head in shame, absent-mindedly walked by herself.
Taiga’s spirits had not yet recovered from that first time at the gym. It would have been rather nice if only that appetite would have just disappeared, but Taiga went back to overeating because of stress, and her little bit of extra weight just wasn’t going away. Because of that excess stress piling up... a nasty roulette wheel had long ago started spinning.
"Taiga... Are you OK...? Hey, heey..."
Minori’s call wasn’t answered. The wind blew. Underfoot, dry leaves whirled around from the chilly breeze. Right at that moment, Ryuuji sighed for some reason.
Looking back the way they came, for some reason they saw about a dozen guys in school uniforms that looked like they were running towards them, paper bags covering their heads. Was this a bad dream? It had to be. Ryuuji blinked over and over again, dumbfounded and at a loss for words. "The ground isn’t... the ground is shaking!", cried Minori ... transforming into a withered old hag and trembling.
Taiga also noticed the strange situation, and surprised, lifted up her head. What is this paper-bag gang up to?, she was thinking.
Without saying anything, they grabbed both of Taiga’s arms. It took two guys, arms in arm, firmly locked. As might be expected in such unexpected circumstances, even of the Palmtop Tiger, she was unable to shake off her bonds and simply raised an astonished shout. Then,
"Drop her weight she will, Taiga will lose her fat!"
The paper-bag gang shouted together. Still pinned by both shoulders perfectly, by brute force, those guys got Taiga running as fast as she could. Nonetheless, very politely, and before she knew it, there was a rope tied around her body, with a tire at the end of it. "Whaaaa! Wha, what are you guys?" --- Even while Taiga was shouting, they didn’t stop running. If she had lifted her feet, as it was she would simply drift, unavoidably carried along.
In a daze after having seen it all happen, Ryuuji suddenly realized something. One of the voices coming from the paper bags sounded like one of Noto’s close friends. It sounded familiar, like one he had heard amongst his classmates.
"Waahhh... They must be demons!"
"May I say… Taiga, that we’ve taken you for ride!?"
She exchanged a confused look with Minori and then, "He-llo ♥" --- From behind her, close to her ears, whispered a sweet voice. It was Ami.
"Oh! Hello Amin! Did you see just now!? Taiga was kidnapped by demons!"
"Yep yep I saw it, I saw it. It was scary! ... Really something."
"He he", said Ami towards Minori and Ryuuji, her cute, rather small face smiling.
"Look, they’re the boys from our class. You see, yesterday we had a little discussion to come up with ideas. 'To tell the truth, Taiga was a bit worried about her weight, Takasu-kun was concerned about losing weight too, and I requested the help of two of the strongest guys. Getting Taiga thin again inside of one week, that was our goal. We made a game where if she lost, she would have to stop dating Takasu-kun. What do we do?' If word of this game were to spread around the rumor mill... Takasu-kun? Did you hear me?"
"... Ha! At the worst time, he goes off into a trance! Hey, you, how dare you treat all this like some huge joke...!"
"Takasu-kun is a really solid guy!"
With that support from Minori, Ryuuji somehow pulled himself out of wherever he was, and was able to finish listening to what had been said.
"Then OK, 'For the sake of Ami-chan we guys are going to get Taiga thin in one week!' Everybody looks all fired up. The guys are really nice about it, so we might say that as far as Taiga’s concerned, we have no worries, right?"
"Aamin, you’re fantastic!"
The sound of Minori’s hands clapping echoed. With an angelic smile, Ami spoke. "Minori-chan, that means that today you go with me to school! Would Takasu-kun like to come along with us too?"
And Ami really was fantastic. ... Well, more precisely, fantastic to the young men of 2-C. Ryuuji was going to attend no matter what, but from every direction came cries of "Why does Ami-chan give him attention!?", the other guys looking daggers at him. As usual, accompanied only by Kitamura, Nota and Haruta, he paid them no heed.
During recess, the guys shuffled off to put paper bags on their heads, so Taiga would not remember who it was that gagged her "St---op---it---!", and carried her away running.
Through the corridors. The grounds. The stairways. They gave up their free time for snacks, at mid-day break they would come and give a thorough inspection inside her lunchbox, and then again the paper bags, run-run-run-run! And so it was.
When they started, Taiga was often dragged along, otherwise her feet would be running foolishly in mid-air, being brought back down by the weight of the tire. Anyway, it was a sorry sight to see. But look! The second day, third day and fourth day she continued to improve, little by little, Taiga together with the paper-bag squad ran through the corridors faster and faster. Even with one of the paper-bag guys sitting on the tire, she ran easily, pulling it along. Like a workhorse… no, a hero magnificently advancing across the battlefield, like a warhorse she was.
"Well, she’s learning discipline, looks like."
"Hey, look at that expression. She’s like an animal born to run."
Carefree, Minori was like the wind pursuing Taiga. "Go for it!", called Ryuuji. "Shut up!", answered somebody further away.
Gradually it could be seen, more and more clearly, that Taiga’s body was slimming down. First, she lost all the looseness in her waist, toning up completely and looking better. Sharp lined, tinged with wildness, chin pointed, even her cheeks sharp-edged. Her features somehow tinged with ferociousness, that look all the more fiery and bright. Her uniform-clad body was drawn in simple lines, nothing wasted, now better than ever. Quickly, easily, there weren’t any slow parts to her. If you were to keep it up day after day, going to school, returning from school, during break-time and lunch-time, those tire-dashes could teach anybody discipline, don’t you think? It may be only to get thinner, but it’s super-healthy. Ryuuji tried to make low-calorie, high-protein meals, and made nothing between meals. In the classroom, in the street, in the supermarket, the members of the paper-bag gang stuck with their job. In the house she had freedom, but Taiga’s body was so exhausted that at mealtime she just wanted to sleep, and after a healthy meal, she would fall dead asleep.
Taiga’s muscles were being blessed more, now, naturally waking up to the running.
And so one week passed.
Taiga slimmed down splendidly. The perfect figure and even more so, her looks, her truly pretty looks, returned to what they were before Fall started.
And now. Start of the school day, a little before seven-thirty in the morning. Taiga sat quietly, cross-legged in the middle of classroom 2-C, wooden sword in hand, meditating. Her head was completely cool. She was sharpening her thoughts. First of all, she struck (swish!) the first guy who came in. And then she struck the next guy. Skipping the girls, she struck the next three. In short, she struck every guy but Kitamura. While she was at it, she even struck Ryuuji. And lastly, she struck Ami. A word of thanks, and a strike of the sword, to Ami-sama and Company. With that, the long painful diet week was over. ... It was finished, by this hand!
Heh heh, I’m nice, am I? Ah, maybe I fell in love? This isn’t a joke, can’t we just stop? For your information, it’s just a whim. W-h-i-m.
"---Why did we work together so much for Taiga’s sake?", they asked amongst themselves, "Is this what we get in return?" Ryuuji thought that comment rather Ami-like, and a bit laughable. Cutesy, mean-spirited, affected, but in the end… just let it pass. To that Ami he said, "It’s a good start", though the words weren’t really appropriate. A whim it may be, in exactly that sense. What isn’t good about that?
"...Yes! It’s done."
A little work was yet to be done, and already Taiga’s share was headed to school, and his own share. And today one more. He was skipping lunch, since because of a certain somebody he could only eat salads and sort-of-sandwiches. Cooked brown rice and hijiki, bean salad, fried marlin with mushrooms. Afterwards fruit, since the kyoho grapes had finally arrived. A bit sparing on the calories, but a fall lunch it was. Whether or not that she would accept it was another question. She was either a cutesy girl in a smiling iron mask, or at rare moments, a somewhat sad smile. Either way was fine: Ami was both. If they were together, she would wind up laughing in her peculiarly malicious way. In some ways Ami Kawashima was an idiot.
Ryuuji, after all this, unconcerned by the expectation of a hellish attack on himself, wrapped three bentou nicely in differently colored mini-furoshiki.