| This article contains HEAVY spoilers. Please view at your own risk.
This is Toradora!-ish Sunday from Volume 3 of the Toradora! Spin-Off Light Novel series.
It was a peaceful and relaxed Sunday morning, 10 o'clock.
So shouted Takasu Ryuuji towards the southern darkened window. Its darkened state was not the weather's fault, it was all because of the luxurious apartment building towering oppressively nearby and blocking the sun. After a little while, the sound of rough, pounding footsteps going up the metal stairs came from the outside, and without even chiming or knocking...
"You're so noisy this early in the morning! No need to shout like that, I'm not deaf, you know!"
A brute force made the shabby metal front door fling open on its hinges. When a rustling sound of shoes being taken off came from the front door, a round bowl with a tiger sticker was already full of rice, and this morning's miso soup with spinach and fried tofu was also ready. Just as he was putting her chopsticks on their proper place on the rest,
"My name is not 'Rice'! I bet all the neighbors heard you! Jeez, you have no shame!"
Plop! And Aisaka Taiga landed furiously on her personal sitting cushion. A girl of low stature, she had a refined charm reminding that of a healthy rose bud. Her cotton one-piece house dress couldn't suit her better, her light chestnut hair flowed down past her waist - it was an appearance of a top class beauty, but...
"Ah, I'm drowsy again... Gimme some tea, would you!"
"...What? What's with that look?"
"...No, I was just wandering if anything at all could be done about some ridiculously haughty women..."
"Huh? Are you bristling up right from the morning? Let me tell you, I just got up. Just ten minutes ago I'd been seeing a dream. And yet you can't be gentle to me again! I didn't even have time to wash my face!"
This girl, who haughtily announced that without even trying to hide her unreasonably foul mood, was a model of brutal and violent arrogance, and so despite her incredibly tiny size people nicknamed her as "Palmtop Tiger". However, in terms of appearance, Ryuuji wouldn't lose to her. His triangular eyes looking back at Taiga were sloped in a blade-like squint; this gaze, from an outsider's perspective, could well possess an ability to shoot anyone on sight... But it was only a hereditary trait of his face and nothing more.
"Really now, you can say I'm not gentle or whatever, but you should at least try to make your tea yourself. And by the way, go wash your face."
While spitefully complaining, he still made some tea for Taiga, who was really bad at waking up. He already resigned himself to this kind of thing. Rather than continuing useless squabbles, it was a lot faster to give up, thus reducing a waste of time, as well as physical and mental energy.
"Good... mor... niiiing~..."
"Oh, morning. Actually, you can sleep in if you like."
At this moment, opening a sliding door, with her breath smelling of alcohol, his mother Yasuko appeared. To raise her only son she'd always been working until morning and could come home no earlier than at 3am. But even though she might have some more time for sleep...
"Hmm, something smells really good... Morning, Taiga-chan."
Yawning, she rubbed her eyes. Since Yasuko was the head of household, Taiga too obediently responded with 'good morning'. Yasuko sat on her cushion.
"Ah, we have dried horse-mackerel for breakfast! Ya-chan loves horse-mackerel."
Her eyes still sleepy and her huge breasts bouncing, she squeezed her makeup covered baby-face, which started to break into a smile. The only things suiting her age were her waved and dyed, slightly messy, long hair hanging down to her breasts and her beautifully long, pearly-white nails; altogether she gave off a very feminine feel. With her son not resembling her in the slightest, she was known in the neighborhood as 'a marvelous 30-year-old lolita'.
Since all family members were now present (even though there was one person of different genes mixed among them), Ryuuji also sat on his cushion, and, leaving TV on, which was somewhat ill-mannered, all three of them proclaimed 'Let's eat'. With only miso soup, dried horse-mackerel and yesterday's kinpira leftover on the table, they solemnly started their simple breakfast at the right time.
This morning's horse-mackerel was a little fatty to begin with, and after getting soaked in frying oil it was now overflowing with juices. Ryuuji, who had a healthy appetite of a highschooler, already feeling excited, extended his chopsticks towards the fish, but it seemed like he chose the wrong moment. A persistent knock resounded from the front door.
Naturally, Taiga, sipping her miso, just ignored the banging, and Yasuko proceeded straight to horse-mackerel. Left with no other option, Ryuuji whispered to horse-mackerel, which would get cold soon, "Wait for me, okay?..", and went to open a door for an untimely visitor.
"Yes, yes, who is-"
"I just have something to give you."
Swallowing everything he had to say, Ryuuji shuddered. The one, who without any further ado marched through the door, was none other than their 70-year-old landlady. Her back hunched, she still maintained her fighting spirit; she lived right below the Takasu residence; her main weapon was a broom. Whenever they raised a ruckus, the handle of that particular broom was used to hit at the ceiling; then the next day, while sweeping the footpath with this broom, she would most likely read a long and detailed lecture to Yasuko in a shrill, high-pitched voice.
"E-excuse me, what would you like-"
"Here, this was delivered from the village."
"T-thank you... Sorry for all the trouble we cause you."
The thing handed over to him was a bulky, heavy vinyl bag. Inside were potatoes and Japanese radish, and also plenty of fresh vegetables. But it seemed, the landlady was not going to settle on just giving the package, breakfast-time or not.
Is she not leaving, because she also wants to inspect the second floor of her own house? The landlady shuffled further into the narrow 2DK apartment and saw Yasuko and Taiga, who were in the middle of their Horse-Mackerel Festival. Yasuko, who, with great skill and devotion, was picking out the spine of the fish with her chopsticks, stopped dead in her tracks.
"Ah... M-mistress landlady."
"What a rare occasion, to see you awake during the day."
"Aw, b-but I always wake up in the daytime."
"Two or three o'clock can hardly be called a daytime. 'Dusk' would be a more accurate term. But that aside, you are in trouble."
"Eh... how sooo?.."
"The last month's rent. You were supposed to pay it on Friday at the end of the month, yet it's already past Saturday."
"S-sorryyy... Even though I went to the bank, my balance was just a little..."
"Oh man... You are also a party in that contract, don't be sloppy like that."
Since she lives right below us, she could accept checks, Ryuuji thought as usual, but he knew it was impossible. As the landlady always claimed, "If I start to loan, it will never end. This old woman's heart just won't rest; I'll feel troubled, unless I can hold hard cash in my hands". Well, nothing can be said against it.
Once she'd sat on Ryuuji's cushion, her field of vision was occupied with dried horse-mackerel.
"Oho, this horse-mackerel sure looks tasty. Old folk, living all alone, can only treat themselves to some plain, watery rice porridge at 6am..."
"...I-if you would like to..."
"Ah, is that okay? That's a bit rude of me."
Even before she finished speaking, the landlady already accepted the chopsticks for guests offered by Ryuuji, and started to release the horse-mackerel from the skin and bones. Stuffing her mouth with boiled rice, she wasted no time and sent kinpira the same way. Then she gulped some miso soup. "Ah, delicious," she muttered in a satisfied voice, rapidly gobbling up Ryuuji's breakfast. Then she turned to Yasuko.
"Right, fine, you have time until Wednesday. But don't expect such treatment every time, got it? Eh?"
Now it was Taiga's turn.
"And you there too, do whatever you like here... but any funny stuff will only get you into trouble. You don't do anything funny, right?"
What does she mean, 'funny stuff'? Taiga quietly mumbled, merrily stuffing her cheeks with rice.
Ryuuji, who was standing in the kitchen for the lack of free space, thinking, However, that's our daily stuff, just shrugged his shoulders. Such things were an everyday routine.
After all that, if they somehow managed to get Yasuko to stand up, he wondered, would the three of them be able to go to Sudoba and at least nibble at some buttered toast? Even the usual Sunday is not so bad. Once again he felt regret for his lost horse-mackerel.
"Hey, you. Ryuuji-kun."
The landlady's attacking aim suddenly shifted to Ryuuji.
"That won't do, you know, I mean, you and this girl getting married. You have no idea what kind of hardship you would have to break through."
Almost at the same time, Taiga and Ryuuji mumbled together, "Who would do something like that?", but those words didn't reach landlady's ears, of course.