| This article contains HEAVY spoilers. Please view at your own risk.
This is Dragon Yasuko from Volume 3 of the Toradora! Spin-Off Light Novel series.
"It's 'Ma'. Ya-chi, I came to visit. 'Ma' delivery time has arrived."
Holding the latest, massive, plenty-to-read issue of 'Ma' (which is actually called 'Margaret', a smiling face of the main series' heroine on a pink background stuck on the cover) under my arm, I carefully opened the door to my childhood friend's room.
There was no answer, so I closed the door causing the air in the dark room to stir. The gust of wind on the tip of my nose felt lukewarm. Deeper inside my childhood friend's room, with a folded towel placed over her forehead, there was a mound, silently lying and breathing on the bed.
Convinced by that silence, I carefully turned my head and quietly whispered to Auntie, with whom I had come up here,
"Ya-chi seems to be sleeping. I should just go home after all."
"Is that so?", Auntie said, looking back at me.
"She was awake just now, she also had Morimori for dinner. Hey, Yasuko. Are you really asleep?", she called out peeking in the room.
Still no response.
Trying to stop her, I whispered again in a panicked voice,
"It's alright, it's alright, Auntie, no need to wake her up, really. Did Ya-chi catch a cold?"
"Probably. She has a little fever I think. Sorry, you even came all the way here."
"I got this new manga issue, so I just thought I should come, that's all. I'll come another time."
I like 'Ma', while Yasuko prefers 'Hanayume'. Even now, in a high school, we both are still crazy about that manga magazine for girls, which comes out twice a month, so we share a duty to buy it, and then give it to each other at school. That has been going on for years already.
In an elementary school, then in a middle school, and also in a high school, although we are now separated, we've always been friends. Yasuko was absent today, so I came to see her after classes.
Not that I had to disturb her, I could go home even without seeing her face, nothing to worry about. It was pretty common for us to simply say, "See you later", and part.
However, when I closed the door and started to go downstairs, following Auntie,
"...Sorry, it's just..."
Yasuko's face popped up.
"It's just that I can't quite distinguish dream from reality... Mo-om, Ya-chan needs water..."
"Sure, sure," Auntie said and headed down to the kitchen on the first floor, leaving me behind in the middle of the stairs. Turning back and looking up at Yasuko, I stood there, uncertain of what to do.
Go home, maybe.
Really, what to do? While I was thinking that, the feverish Yasuko was looking back at me through the crack in the door. That red face. Full lips, slightly agape. Black pupils.
Then I remembered about 'Ma' in my hand.
"...Well? Want to read it?"
When I asked, Yasuko, although slower that usual, still gave a nod. Turning around on the stairs, I slipped inside Yasuko's shadowed room behind her back.
"Ya-chi. Your breath is strong."
After my casual words, Yasuko covered her mouth with her hand and puffed.
"Does it stink? Not good."
"No, that's not it. It's hot. Your breathing, it's really hot."
Without turning on any lights, we sat down. Yasuko was sitting on the bed she had been sleeping up until now, and I pulled a chair on the rug for myself.
If she extended her hand she could take 'Ma'.
But Yasuko, having received the thick manga magazine, just let it rest on her lap, not opening it. Clasping her hand over her mouth again, like someone who wishes to know whether her breath smells, she blew on her palm.
She probably wanted to confirm that her breathing was really that hot.
"...You are right. Wow, amazing. My breath is burning hot."
Seemingly ascertained, she nodded, knitting her thin brows. And looking like she was reminded of something, she went on,
"Isn't it kind of like in a manga, when after eating something peppery they can, 'hiii～☆', breathe fire?"
"Yeah, it's 'hiii' for fire?" (t/l note: they are probably refering to sounds in a manga, also 'fire' in Japanese is spelled as 'hi')
"Exactly, 'hiii' for fire. And now Ya-chan is also like that. Like I can breath fire or something."
Slightly straightening her back with sudden energy, Yasuko exhaled with 'haaa', showing off and looking somewhat too lively for someone who had to skip school. After calming down a little she declared,
"I'm a dragon. Dragon Yasuko."
I laughed, and Yasuko laughed too.
"To tell the truth, I became a dragon just a while ago," she added with a carefree attitude.
"A while ago?"
"You mean, when you caught a cold? And you felt your fever rising?"
"Nah, I don't think it's a cold."
"Is that so? Then what is it? Well, doesn't your throat hurt?"
Yasuko stopped laughing abruptly. Not answering my question, she just stared at me.
Her eyes that were crescent-shaped from laughter just now, suddenly showed a sharp expression, and now that I think about it, Yasuko's been making that kind of a face, how odd, I thought.
Usually we, Yasuko and I, would only fool around, jokingly poking each other. But today Yasuko, in this dark room, was breathing fire. All gloomy, she cast her eyes down.
"...Ya-chan has a feeling, she may really reek of sweat..."
"Oh? I think you have absolutely nothing to worry about."
"My head probably stinks too... Haven't taken a bath since yesterday."
Pulling aside with both hands the throat of the T-shirt she was wearing, and sticking her nose inside it, Yasuko checked her body's smell. When she moved, the weight of her body tilted the bed, causing a balled-up tissue fall from under the cotton towel.
That's probably where she'd blown her nose. I glanced at the tissue, but even without closer inspection I realised, that it wasn't only used to blow a nose. The moment it hit the floor, three yellow pills flew out from inside.
It's a cold medicine, isn't it? I thought. I looked at Yasuko and noticed that she also noticed me looking at her. Then she slowly picked up the fallen cold medicine. Wrapping up the tussue again and grabbing it in her hand, she hesitantly held it out towards me.
Her long hair indeed looking greasy, Yasuko remained face-down. In gaps of her bangs her lips could be seen moving, as if trying to say something.
"This, you see... I would throw it in the trashcan, but then Mom will notice. Mom is sharp. That's why... take it with you on your way home, please."
"Why don't you want to take it?"
I felt like I've seen an orange flame in Yasuko's distorted lips.
The flame reflection lit her jaw profile, and then suddenly it seemed like the blaze erupted outside.
Watching this beautiful but intimidating sight, I took the dirty tissue Yasuko was holding out. Once I'd received it, I asked,
"Ya-chi... Ya-chan. Hey, but still, why?"
"Won't you read 'Ma'?"
"Won't you buy 'Hanayume'?"
It was already too late to ask.
With a flop, Yasuko stretched herself on the bed. Shutting down her eyelids as if she could not bear it anymore, she said, her eyes seemingly ready to close any moment,
"Sorry... Somehow... for some reason... I'm sleepy..."
Still clutching 'Ma' with heroic resolution, Yasuko continued to breath a weak and small fire. Don't sleep, she seemed to be saying to herself. She forgot all about our previous conversation.
"Really, really... I'm so... drowsy..."
"...That's alright. Don't force yourself and go to sleep."
There was no response already. I gently took 'Ma' from her hands. One of her knees was extended from the bedside, her body was prostrated on the bed just like back then, and one could see the laid-down Yasuko's big, soft breast moving.
Below the hem of the long-sleeved T-shirt fabric, Yasuko's relaxed, rounded form were revealed.
Auntie entered the room, holding water for Yasuko and juice for me. She smiled and asked if everything's alright, then saw Yasuko who'd just fallen asleep, and let out a small, muffled sigh as she understood.