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E6 - 6 This article contains HEAVY spoilers. Please view at your own risk.

This is Chapter 3 from Volume 10 of the Toradora! Light Novel series. The text is from Baka-tsuki.

Transcript

There was still a little bit of snow left over on the roads, but they were already stained with mud from the antics of primary school students on their way to school. Under the trees lining the entrance to Taiga's apartment block, there was a line of snowballs that could hardly be described as 'pretty' lined up by size. Ryuuji looked at the smallest snowball and smiled -- though he had actually wanted to laugh out loud. The smallest snowball was the size of a bean.

Is it because of yesterday's snow? The cold air this morning felt especially fresh and pure.

On the rooftops of houses and on top of traffic lights, where little children couldn't reach, a layer of white snow still remained, but didn't look to be staying for long under the glare of the morning sun. As the sides of the layers of snow started to melt, large droplets of water started to drip down, forming puddles on the asphalt road.

Ryuuji avoided the puddles as he walked under the sakura-tree lined road, finally seeing a figure waving to him at the cross junction.

"Ta--Ka--Su--Ku--N. Good morning, Ousame--"

"Sankhon."

Ryuuji lightly raised his hand in response, hearing the middle-school girl behind him mutter, 'It's so cold!' before running off as fast as she could after she had taken a look at Ryuuji's face. As usual, Minori stood at the cross junction, her face red from the cold weather. A square-patterned muffler was wrapped around her neck, as she stuck both her hands into the pockets of her coat, a duffel bag slung over one shoulder.

"......Taiga's not here? I had thought that she would appear as usual if I waited here."

The hair draped beside Minori's chin was blown away by a gust of wind, making Ryuuji squint his eyes at the sight.

"She didn't go back?"

"No. I was hoping that she would, so I waited until three o'clock in the morning......But she never came back."

I see. Minori breathed out a stream of white mist.

"I believe that she will come to school...... or things will become complicated."

"Yes. Oh, what were you doing while you waited till three o'clock in the morning?"

"Cleaning up the apartment, the kitchen, the drains, and I wiped the cooking utensils."

"Oh...... What was......"

"And then I ate breakfast. I had wanted to eat the chocolate from Taiga, but I gave up in the end."

"Ah, me too. I seriously think that my teeth could break from eating that thing."

"In the end, I melted it with milk and drank it as hot chocolate."

"Oh! That's a good idea! I'll give it a try! Does milk really work?"

"After scooping up an unbelievable layer of oil that floated up, I lost consciousness......"

"......Just what did Taiga give us to eat?"

The two of them stood at the cross junction, watching as the traffic light turned from green to red. Only at the next green light did the two of them walk forward silently.

It's really cold, but the weather's good. Within the distance of a few centimeters, the two of them chatted aimlessly, before--

"......You sure you want to run away?"

"Definitely."

"Where are you planning to go? Ami's summer home? Or are the two of you planning to disappear altogether?"

"What are you talking about, and why are you even worried about that kind of thing? Am I that untrustworthy?"

The two of them looked into each other's eyes, as Minori waved her hands animatedly and shouted,

"No no, I don't mean it like that. But I'm really worried--!"

"......That's exactly what you mean."

Minori was still worried about how Ryuuji and Taiga's plan to elope would turn out. 'I believe Takasu-kun, but I still couldn't stop myself from reading 'The Poem of Wind and Trees' a few times over!' -- Ryuuji also felt that it was natural for Minori to be worried. If it was him, he could possibly be even more naggy, more uneasy than Minori, and may even intervene. Even though he had never read 'The Poem of Wind and Trees' before.

"I shan't say anything else since you've never read it before. But it's really tragic! What about 'High School Teacher' then, try to recall the story! I couldn't sleep for the whole night as I kept imagining things. I thought about what Ami said, what Kitamura said, what Taiga said, what I said. And I also thought about many other things......"

"What about what I said?"

"It was really cold so I forgot about it...... Anyway, what was that about? To cry out for love in the center of the world.....? You made me think of that story again. Even Ami cried."

Minori bent down as though her duffel bag was too heavy, as she spoke half-jokingly, before looking down at her feet, her eyes looking slightly upward.

Ryuuji hesitated a little before---

"Hey, 'Minorin'."

Hitting Minori on the back with his schoolbag. His bag swung harder than he expected as it hit the back of Minori's coat with a loud 'thump'.

"Ugh.....!"

Maybe because she didn't want to admit that she was caught off-balance by Ryuuji's sneak attack, the slightly shorter Minori turned and gave Ryuuji a face that reminded him of a candle that was being consumed by the flames of hatred. In that snowy December day many years ago, this must have been the face which Kira Kouzukenozuke had on when he was killed.

"Your face is terrifying......"

Ryuuji couldn't help but blurt out his true feelings. Minori turned and shouted, 'What......"

"But since we've promised to move forward, I'll promise to continue believing in you, Minorin......Kushieda."

"......I guess."

"Since it's like this, then stop thinking about it and get a move on. Move on to the next step, moving forward is always frightening, but once you've decided to move forward, then you must not regret it. This is what you taught me."

"Have I made my decision? Have you made your decision?"

"I've decided. I've decided to run away, and then return."

"......What about Taiga?"

"Taiga too. She will definitely return, return to the place where you and I and everyone else is. For that, we must run away."

Ryuuji drew a large circle in the air with his finger before pointing to the ground. Minori's head followed the line that his finger drew like a cat, as she said, 'I see.' Before lifting her head and giving Ryuuji the first real smile of the day. Under the bright rays of the morning sun, Minori's eyes looked to be even brighter than the sun itself. She stretched loudly, looking as though she was warming up.

"Alright, we're going to be late! Let's run!"

"Huh!? Wa, wait for me!"

Minori ran with huge steps on the road that they always took to school. Ryuuji hurriedly ran to keep up with her. To Ryuuji, who hadn't slept well the night before, the sudden burst of sprinting felt excruciating, but the cold air that flew into his lungs made him feel rather comfortable.

'Ah--Kushieda senpai! Good morning!' A girl from their school smiled as she greeted Minori. 'Morning!' Minori raised her right hand as she replied. 'The two of you are really energetic this morning.' A classmate smiled as he went past them on a bicycle. 'That's great!' 'That's great!' The two of them imitated what Taiga had said yesterday in reply.

"Hey--Takasu! You're too fast, wait a minute, you're too fast!"

Noto flailed his hands around desperately as he tried to catch up. Oh! Ryuuji slowed down as he waited for Noto.

"Where's Tiger? ...... She didn't come to school together with you today!?"

"Taiga had something on. She could be in school already."

"Th, that's great......Umm---Umm, Well......"

Noto placed one hand on his spectacles to prevent it from slipping off as he ran beside Ryuuji, stammering as he tried to speak (not cute at all).

"......Has Takasu heard anything from the master?"

"What?"

"......Did you hear about the chocolates he received yesterday or something?"

"From who?"

"......Ne, never mind! Hmph (he's really not cute)!"

"Sorry, I was just joking. I know what you're trying to say."

Ryuuji caught up with his friend as the two of them reached the school gate--

"Ah! I found the traitors!"

"Hmm? And here I was, wondering who the traitors were. So it's Noto-chan, Taka-chan, and Kushieda! Good~Morning~!"

Haruta had stuffed his grey hood into his school shirt, completing his usual idiotic demeanor. The first thing he did when he saw the three of them was to pose in an arabesque position. But Noto crossed his hands in front of his chest and placed his legs together in rejection as he groaned in a twisted voice, 'Trai~tor~!"

"Huh! Don't say that! I didn't even try to hide it!"

"Tsk! You perverted noble! Just go and build the tower of Babel where all your naked desires are revealed together with your girlfriend! One day, the hammer of divine punishment will give you your just desserts......!"

"Noto-chan! Wait! Believe me~ I'm innocent~! We haven't revealed our naked desires yet~ Nothing has happened between us yet~!"

Haruta chased after Noto pitifully, but--

"Haruta-kun has a girlfriend!? Are you serious!? Wait! Tell daddy everything!"

Behind Haruta, Minori, whose eyes had lit up at the smell of gossip, began to chase after Haruta.

"His girlfriend is an elder-sister type pretty girl! How can I tolerate something like this......!"

Noto answered for Haruta,

"He could have told us eariler! But no, the two of them stunned me by appearing in front of me suddenly! I feel like I've been abandoned! I feel like I've been betrayed! Do you understand my feelings!?"

As everyone ran towards the shoe lockers noisily, Ryuuji patted Noto on the shoulder lightly,

"Noto, since it has come to this, I guess I have something to tell you too. Actually--"

"Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"

His friend leaped into the air. 'Enough, I don't want to hear about this anymore!' -- Before running away at full speed. Ryuuji had wanted to tell him: I've proposed to Taiga, and she has accepted my proposal. If Noto had heard that, he would probably have died to indignation. Noto rushed up the stairs into the school's entrance hallway.

"Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"

"Don't shout so loudly beside me!? Oh it's you, Noto!?"

It was really an unexpected situation. Noto spun violently on the spot, the soles of his shoes almost burning up. 'Shut up!' The person who coldly raised her eyebrows at him was Kihara Maya. She pulled on a strand of hair that hung below her chest as she pouted, her chin buried in a gold and purple coloured muffler that didn't really suit her.

"Wh, What did I do wrong!? Damn it, you're the one with the Miwa Akihiro-style muffler!" (Miwa Akihiro's a famous japanese cross-dresser)

"Huh!? You can't be serious!? How can I look like Miwa!?"

Ryuuji, who just reached the shoe lockers at that point in time, got the joke, and pretended to choke on something as he desperately tried to keep himself from laughing.

"Hmm--About that, Hmm--"

Beside her, Kashii Nanako, who was playing with her soft, curly hair, could only shake her head ambiguously in response. 'Eh, what are you trying to say?' Maya opened her beautiful, double-lidded eyes to their full extent--

"Don't worry, Maya!"

"Ami......!"

Ami seemed to have gone to school together with the two girls. Hearing Ami's confident voice, Maya immediately turned back......

"Maya doesn't look like Miwa at all! Even though your muffler's really his style!"

"Are you serious!?"

Maya was completely defeated. 'I had wanted to say that because this is new, the two of you shouldn't have something like this......' Maya took off her muffler and stuffed it into her bag. Haruta, who already had a girlfriend, said nonchalantly,

"I think it's really nice! It looks really mysterious!"

He ran up to Noto as he threw out words of praise, but......

"I don't really care about what you think......"

Maya pouted like a kitten as she watched Haruta chase after Noto. Ryuuji kept his shoes in his bag and not in the shoe locker. He had wanted to chase after Noto and Haruta, but hesitated a little before stopping,

"Kihara, haven't you made up with Noto?"

"......When was I ever friends with Noto?"

"Now that I think about it, never. Did you give Kitamura chocolates?"

"......What has that got to do with you?"

"Didn't you say that that two of us were comrades? Which is why I'm telling you--I confessed my feelings."

"Even if we're comrades, I......Hmm? Eh? Huh!? I didn't give Kitamura chocolates, but......You said! Ugh!? What do you mean? Are you saying that, that, that......Tiger!? Kya--!"

Giving a high-pitched scream, Maya whacked Nanako on the shoulder, 'Big news big news! Takasu-kun and Tiger!' '......Say it clearly!' Nanako's lips curved upwards as she inched towards Maya. Wait up, tell us about it--Ryuuji was chased up the stairs by the two noisy girls and turned the corner of the staircase before he saw Ami and Minori talking.

"Ah--ah--ah--this is so exciting......What was that about!?"

"Speaking of which, did you hear that? It seems that Haruta-kun has a girlfriend......What do we do?"

"......What--!? You have got to be joking......"

"It must be the end of the world."

"The twenty-first century has just begun. I'm saying that...... Gah! Even that idiot has a girlfriend!? That's really bad! Why is it that I......I......! Ami-chan's going into depression......"

What's so exciting about that, the real thing is just beginning--Ryuuji dodged the questions of the girls as he opened the door of 2-C. Morning! Morning! He greeted the familiar faces in the classroom. And then--

"Morning, Takasu. There......may be a problem."

Ryuuji looked at the uneasy Kitamura.

Taiga didn't appear in the classroom. Homeroom was also not conducted by Koigakubo Yuri, but by another teacher. And then, the first lesson began, and the second lesson began.

Taiga still didn't come.


  • * *

The class president always had to confirm the daily announcements with the class teacher every morning before homeroom. While thinking about other things at the same time, Kitamura Yuusaku still dutifully went to the staff room, but saw that Koigakubo-sensei was not in her place because she had visitors. It can't be? Kitamura had thought of the possibility that it was Taiga and her mother, but was unable to confirm his suspicions.

"......Don't you think there's something wrong?"

Ryuuji didn't speak.

But because of that question, the students of 2-C started to whisper among themselves after being told that the third lesson of the day would be a self-study period. It was supposed to be the English class, taught by their class teacher, but she hadn't appeared, while the teacher that had passed down the message to her students completely ignored the questions of the students before closing the door with a loud 'snap!'.

"Did something happen to Yuri-chan?"

"She didn't take leave of anything right? What's happening?"

"Is she sick? But even if she is, someone should have informed us."

"I just asked, A-class's English class was also changed to self-study."

"Come to think of it, when I told her that Tiger hadn't come to school, she merely replied 'I see'."

--Something's wrong. Ryuuji didn't even bother flipping open his English textbook as he grabbed on to the sides of his table, cold sweat dripping from his palms.

"Takasu, is Tiger not coming today?"

"......No, I should think that she's coming. She told me that she would come."

That was the only thing that Ryuuji could say, and as for the other question-- Could it be linked to the reason why Yuri-chan isn't here? He was unable to answer.

Ryuuji was also afraid. If the short-term separation at the cross junction yesterday was the last time that he saw Taiga, then what should he do? They didn't have any money, nor did they have any plans yesterday. Which was why they had decided to go home to prepare, making Taiga's mother let her guard down at the same time so that it would be easier to run away-- That was what Ryuuji had planned, but was it too naive a plan?

Take care-- If Taiga were to disappear and bond between them cut off just like this, while he only said those two words to her...... You have got to be joking! Ryuuji glared at the bag that held all he needed to run away.

I've already prepared myself, and have made my choice, but if Taiga doesn't appear, then how am I expected to execute my plan of escape?

"Be quiet! The other classes are still having lessons."

Kitamura stood up and reminded everyone in his capacity as class president. But the way with which he pushed up his spectacles seemed to lack its usual calmness; Minori flipped open her cellphone tirelessly; Ami also seemed to be deep in thought, as her finger was incessently pressed onto her lips; Maya and Nanako, who had been noisily trying to find out the truth a while ago, were now silent; Noto had also noticed the strange rigidity in Ryuuji's voice, as he turned and asked, 'Are you alright?'. Even Haruta was awake.

"......Could it be that Yuri-chan would suddenly announce that she's getting married and then resign?"

Some of the students laughed at the joke.

"I say......Could it be that Tiger has done something big again?"

The entire class lapsed into silence. It was not that long ago when groups of third year seniors had run into the class shouting, 'The Palmtop Tiger's gone crazy!', and that incident had left a deep impression on everyone in the class.

".....If it's really like this, then it's going to be really big."

"She was suspended the last time, could it be that she'll be expelled this time round......?"

"No way......That'll be really bad......Kushieda, do you know anything!?"

The girls surrounded Minori with their questions, while Minori looked at Ryuuji hesitantly.

"Taiga, she--"

Ryuuji lifted up his head, and spoke as though trying to convince himself,

"--Will definitely not disappear like this. Definitely! I won't let that happen!"

Taka-chan, what's wrong? What happened? Upon hearing Haruta's uneasy voice, 'Even Haruta's uneasy, this really isn't good!' -- And just as the class was about to descend into complete chaos.

The classroom door opened.

"Sit down, everyone, please sit down. Sensei has something to tell all of you."

Koigakubo Yuri (30), who had been missing up till a minute ago, finally appeared in front of her students, her face buried in a handkerchief,

"About that......"

The single woman covered her teary face as she attempted to control her sobs, her shoulders shaking visibly......Eh Eh Eh? Class 2-C was completely silent. Taiga walked in behind the single woman, and looking at the pale petite face that was covered by both hands, everyone understood that something bad had happened to Taiga.

Toradora vol10 129.jpg Taiga -- Ryuuji's eyes radiated with a glimmer of light. You're really late, you mini slow-witted girl! I'm not going to go easy on you today! I'll kill everyone! Of course Ryuuji wasn't doing something like that. On the contrary, he was finally able to let out the breath that he had held inside the entire morning, and was able to breathe deeply again.

Ryuuji understood her.

"Would Aisaka-san like to say it? Or would you rather sensei......?"

"......Sen,Sensei......Sob,sob,sob......"

She was pretending to cry.

There didn't seem to be any sign of Taiga's mother outside the class. Ryuuji grabbed hold of the bag that was hanging by his desk. 'Then let sensei help you say it. Everyone, please listen to me. Actually--' Koigakubo probably has had been crying since a while ago, as she lifted up her face that was red from crying and spoke to the students,

"Aisaka-san has to move because of family reasons, so she will have to leave our school."

Huh---!? You can't be serious--!? In front of the agitated students, Taiga, who was standing behind Koigakubo slowly lowered the hands that were covering her face as she opened her rose-coloured lips: Ryuuji. As expected, she wasn't crying, as a rebellious and stubborn look returned to her beautiful face. She fearlessly lifted her chin, her bag slung sideways over her coat, and on one hand--Very good. Ryuuji nodded towards her--was the plastic bag containing her shoes.

"I know that everyone is shocked, and even sensei is unable to accept this."

Taiga silently jabbed her thumb towards the corridor, giving the signal for Ryuuji to 'get out of the classroom'. Ryuuji nodded towards her again.

The students of 2-C were bewildered by the contrast between what the single woman was saying and the signals that Taiga was giving Ryuuji behind her, along with the fierce expression on her face. But now that it has come to this, Ryuuji was unable to move. The single Koigakubo, who was standing in front of the teacher's table, said,

"I've been trying to get Aisaka-san's mother to reconsider, but---"

The single woman suddenly seemed extremely large to Ryuuji. Physically, the class teacher was the barrier that separated Ryuuji and Taiga. Ryuuji felt that he would be caught as soon as he did anything suspicious. Taiga was already inching towards the classroom door. Ryuuji also hugged his bag to his chest, his bottom preparing to take off from the chair--

"Aisaka-san's very sad as well."

Koigakubo's tears started flowing once again. She looked around the classroom, trying to decrease the impact of her message to the bare minimum, but to Ryuuji, she looked like an alert guardian, ready to pounce on any suspicious activity.

"Sensei also.....I'm also upset, I'm also wondering why......didn't I put in more effort to protect her......"

After saying these words, Taiga will have to go back to her mother's side. Ryuuji's bottom left his seat, his entire body trembling in this unnatural position. If he doesn't go now......but he didn't want to get caught either, Ryuuji was caught between a rock and a hard place.

At that very moment, behind Ryuuji's back--

"Tiger----------------------!"

As though the class had gone back into time to a similar incident in the past, a scream sounded in the room. Ryuuji jumped at the terrfying scream as he looked back. Haruta, who had screamed at the top of his voice, rolled his eyes into the back of his head as he pretended to be dead. Kya! Among the cries of the girls, the idiotic Haruta spasmed on the floor as he exggeratedly knocked into some tables and chairs before dropping to the ground like a stringless puppet.

"H, Haruta-kun!?"

Koigakubo stared at the idiot who had fallen onto the ground 'What happened to Haruta?' Noto slid on his knees to Haruta's side, his black-framed spectacles askew,

"Sensei, this is really bad! Sensei! Haruta fainted!"

"Why!? What's wrong!? Is he alright!?"

Koigakubo walked down from lecture podium, weaving through the agitated students before coming to Haruta's side, kneeling down to check his breathing -- 'So-So-Somebody run to the staff room to get help! We've got to get him to the infirmary!' Koigakubo shouted loudly as she looked around at her students.

"......Huh......?"

Koigakubo seemed to have caught an image of Ryuuji and Taiga holding hands as they ran out of the classroom. When she finally realized that it wasn't an image, but reality--

"......Koigakubo-sensei, I'm sorry, but we're the Haruta drama troupe......"

The idiot who was supposed to have 'fainted' opened his eyes apologetically. The other students who had gone along with Haruta's script also started to apologize to Koigakubo, but it was already too late.

"......This, this, this...... this-------!?"

Koigakubo didn't even know which direction the two of them had ran off to.

Kushieda Minori also ran out of the classroom, while Kawashima Ami ran off in the opposite direction. 'I'm don't really know what's going on, but let's go!' Maya and Nanako ran off after Ami. The other students also kicked their chairs away and ran out of the classroom amid shouts of 'Let's run away from school!' 'Let's go together!' 'What is going on!?'. Heavy footsteps sounded all around the classroom, as the entire class descended into utter chaos.

There were still twelve whole months to the university entrance exams, so some students sat on their seats and studied as though it was none of their business, some students were stunned at the sudden chaos, while some students even started sleeping on their desks, while others planned to shout, 'You guys are too much!', trying to control the situation. The rest of the students were one step behind Minori and the others, as they finally decided to follow the escaping students out of the classroom.

"I will not let you guys do this--!"

"Gah!"

The slower students groaned as Koigakubo dragged them back by the collars. and in front of Koigakubo--

"I'm really sorry!"

"But, but.....this is a mass breakout!?'

In the midst of all the chaos, Kitamura Yuusaku bowed deeply in apology.

"We've really troubled sensei. We're idiots, fools, kids......I'm really sorry......!"

"Ah, ah, ah."

Koigakubo grabbed onto Kitamura's shoulders and shook him violently.

"If an apology can solve the problem, then we wouldn't need the police anymore! I will definitely, not, agree, with such a childish action! Damn it! You kids have severely underestimated me! By hook or by crook, I'll get every single one of you!"

"Sensei, take a look at this!"

Somebody passed the piece of notepaper that Ryuuji had left on his desk. After finishing the note that started off with 'Sensei...', Koigakubo couldn't help but glare towards the corridor as she threw away her tear-stained hankerchief before sprinting out of the classroom.

Grabbing hold of an unlucky male student on the stairs, Koigakubo dragged him to the staff room as she shouted at the teachers who were not at class, 'They've ran away from school--! Please help me catch them--!' What!? After handing the unlucky runaway to a male teacher, Koigakubo rushed into the visitor room without even knocking.

"They, they ran away!"

"......"

Clink! Taiga's mother, who was sitting on the sofa, slammed the tea cup that she was holding onto the coffee table, as she glared at Koigakubo, who was about to burst into tears again,

"......I was so shocked that my child almost came out......"

"Eh---!?"

"......Not. This is why I wanted to bring her away straight away just now! How could it have become like this...... How could I have such a stupid daughter! Where do the two of them plan to run to!?"

"Please take a look at this first."

Koigakubo placed Ryuuji's hastily written note onto the table -- 'Sensei, I'm sorry, but Taiga will not just leave this school like this. Please believe us. She will definitely contact her mother before tomorrow.' -- What is this? Her brown eyes narrowing in anger, Taiga's mother glared at her daughter's class teacher. The horrifying gaze, the impatiently twisting lips-- Koigakubo couldn't help but think that this mother-daughter pair was really alike.

"Takasu-kun is someone who will keep his promise, he surely has his own way. Of course, we're trying our best to find him and Aisaka-san. But please believe him......believe me, could you at least wait until tomorrow?"

"I don't know Takasu-kun personally, nor do I know you personally. But I know my daughter very well, and she is not the type of person who will contact me and return! The same thing happened yesterday, and she betrayed me once again the next day. Just what do you want me to believe in!?"

"Pardon my rudeness, but the trust that has already been broken cannot be repaired immediately, it takes time to heal. This applies to both Aisaka-san and you."

"I am her mother!"

"I am her teacher!"

In that moment, the two women glared at each other, flames spewing out of their eyes. But in the next moment, Koigakubo immediately lowered her head as she took a step back,

"......I'm very sorry, but I believe in the two of them. And I believe that the two of them trust me as well. I am willing to bet my eight years of teaching, my entire career on this. Perhaps all that I have done these eight years aren't much, but to me, this is my entire life after I stepped into society as an adult. I'm willing to place my trust in them, the two of them will come back, so please trust them."

"You're willing to bet your entire career on this? But didn't they run away in front of you, betraying your trust in the end? Even so, you still trust them?"

"Yes. Because they know that I believe in them, and because they trust me, they ran away, promising to return. I believe in their promise, in their bond with me, in my relationship with them, I believe in all this. Because this trust is part of my job."

".....Very well, then could you please write down an agreement stating that if my daughter doesn't come back tomorrow, you will resign from your job. Koigakubo-sensei, I should think that the trust that you think so highly off will not be overthrown by a piece of paper?"

"......Alright."

Koigakubo flipped over the piece of notepaper that Ryuuji had left behind as she wrote down the agreement on the marble coffee table, the tip of her pen shaking uncontrollable. She had really put her entire teacher career on the line. This small piece of paper could make Koigakubo lose her job. I'm begging you, Takasu-kun, I'm begging you, Aisaka-san. Koikakubo mumbled, the only thing she could do was to trust those kids.

"......I know that Taiga doesn't trust me. Because I've consistently betrayed her trust. Aisaka and I have been hurting each other, disrupting Taiga's life in the process, as we used her as a tool in our personal battle. In the end, it resulted in me not being able to meet her, until now......I am not a good mother, and I never will be."

Taiga's mother looked at Koigakubo writing as she seemed to mumble to herself,

"But right now, I can't possibly leave that child like this."

Koigakubo seemed to be seeing a proud schoolgirl of seventeen sitting in front of her. It must have been because she spoke in exactly the same way as her daughter, Koigakubo thought to herself. Koigakubo put down her pen before looking at Taiga's mother. She was wearing a set of expensive looking clothes, and also wore heels even though she was heavily pregnant, her carefully-sculpted face made even an impatient expression look cultured. Her eyebrows suddenly knotted together painfully,

"Mm......If I give birth here, would you help me......?"

"......You're joking, right......?"

"Yes, I'm joking."

"It's really frightening so please stop it! Are you feeling alright!?"

"I guess."

From the arrogance with which she looked at people to the mocking tone with which she spoke, she was really similar to that child -- Koigakubo couldn't help but think.


Before the third period ended, the escapees from class 2-C were finally dragged back to class, while some of them walked back by themselves.

At this time, Ryuuji and Taiga, not knowing that their class teacher had already put her entire teaching career on the line for them, had already jumped out of the window and climbed over the school walls to escape into a small alleyway.

"Listen up, if someone stops us and asks, 'Why aren't the two of you in school?', just answer that we're late and that we're rushing to school now...... Taiga!?"

"......"

"Taiga! Now's not the time to take a trip to dreamland!"

"Ah......"

Ryuuji patted Taiga on the shoulder. Taiga, who's eyes were unfocussed, hit Ryuuji back instinctively as she said, 'It hurts doesn't it!?'. Looks like she was back in the world of the living.

"......No. I'm trying to clear my mind of all thoughts."

"Why?"

"I've been thinking about what happened yesterday. And those stupid things, like making you fall into the river, happened because I let my thoughts run wild, Which is why I have decided to go into a state of mind where my mind is completely clear, and I just have to follow you, and to make sure that I don't fall. So you have to lead the way properly,

We're going to Baka-chii's house aren't we?"

"How can that kind of thing work! You have to think about this too! We already have a problem."

Ryuuji grabbed Taiga's elbow, steering her into a small pathway. He already had an escape route in his mind, planning to go to the further train station instead of the one closest to school. As for their destination--

"A problem!? What do you mean!"

"I went home yesterday and found out that Yasuko ran away from home!"

"......"

Seeing that Taiga didn't reply him, Ryuuji had thought that she had gone into that state of mind again, but then realized that she was merely in shock. Her jaw dropping in surprise, Taiga stared speechlessly at Ryuuji as she stopped running and grabbed onto Ryuuji's elbow roughly,

"......Wait......Wait a minute."

Taiga's eyelashes trembled as her eyes couldn't stop blinking while she repeated 'wait a minute' weakly, rubbing her snowy-white forehead roughly with the back of her hand,

"Ya-chan left home? Is it...... because she was upset with what you said yesterday?"

"I...... guess so."

"What do you mean you guess so!? Are the two of us planning to run away just like this!? If Ya-chan has also ran away......Then we may never meet up again ever again......"

"Maybe."

"......I don't want that!"

Ryuuji looked at the agitated Taiga calmly.

"I may have decided to live together with you, but that isn't to hurt Ya-chan, or to abandon Ya-chan! Yes, we may look as though we're running away! But we're running towards our future, and Ya-chan...... If Ya-chan doesn't mind, I want Ya-chan to be together with us as well! I've always wanted this, but I never thought that Ya-chan would run away...... And to think that we're the ones who wanted to run away from home....... but now......."

Taiga, who was running to escape from her home, now stood in front of Ryuuji, looking lost. In the face of an unexpected situation, she lowered her eyes fearfully,

"What, what should we do.......!?"

Perhaps she only now understood the real consequences of what she was going to do.

"What do you intend to do?"

Ryuuji held Taiga's hand in his. Would this voice scare Taiga? Taiga looked questioningly at Ryuuji. Her face had uneasiness written all over it, as though she was thinking: If I answer wrongly, would I be left here?

"There's no right or wrong answer. I just want to know what you think."

"Well--Well, of course I want to be together with Ryuuji! I want to be happy together with Ryuuji! But I don't Ya-chan to be unhappy! I know that I'm saying something stupid, but, but......"

"I understand what you're trying to say, and I'm thinking the same thing. I am unable to let go of our life together, nor am I able to let go of Yasuko. Which is why there is something that I have to do, and a place I have to go, but that place isn't Kawashima's summer house. Are you willing to go with me?"

Taiga nodded unhesitatingly,

"Of course! Since you have to go, I believe you, and I'll go with you!"

Light Novel
Main Series' Volumes

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