| This article contains HEAVY spoilers. Please view at your own risk.
With vacation over, the next shock came early the following morning.
It was just a bit past eight in the morning.
Their homeroom teacher arrived earlier than ever, and homeroom started ahead of time as well,
---All hell had broken loose.
This just might be the kind of situation where that phrase applies. Unable to stop himself from crying out, Ryūji sat in disbelief. It was hard to believe, or rather, he didn’t want to believe it. But, it didn’t seem like it was a dream.
With his mouth agape, he turned around to face Kitamura and rapidly exclaimed, "I never heard anything about this," but Kitamura just casually raised his hand with a "Hey" and a nonchalant expression.
Anyway, he couldn’t just ignore reality.
Partially frozen, Ryūji’s gaze was three-times worse than usual and he could do nothing but accept the hellish situation as it was.
The source of Ryūji’s distress walked up to the class platform with slender legs and beautiful hair that swayed with each step.
Looking straight ahead with a little embarrassment, her smile almost blended in perfectly amidst the gentle morning sunlight. Sure enough, while slowly raising her eyes---
"Starting today, I’ll be a student here at this school; my name is Ami Kawashima. Please look after me."
---An emphatically pure and genuine looking visage.
This is ridiculous.
"…How, did things, like this..."
No one paid any attention to the moaning voice. And so oblivious to Ryūji who was in shock, the rest of the class continued on,
"E, eh, that girl, didn’t she appear in a magazine?!"
"What?! Really?! But, she’s really cute!"
"No way", "It’s gotta be a lie", "Incredible, that’s incredible"…The girls who liked to follow trends were in the middle of making a big fuss. Nearly all the guys, on the other hand, were acting suspiciously subdued, remaining oddly silent and just staring enraptured with passionate eyes at the pure angel on the platform. Noto Hisamitsu, Ryūji's friend who wore black-rimmed glasses and sat a bit in front and off to the side, very slowly turned around,
Murmuring warmly as if delighted from the bottom of his heart, Noto looked at Ryūji and tightly clenched his fist.
Ryūji replied vaguely, but rather than clench his fist back, he simply gulped.
Ami looked beautiful upon the platform. Her skin seemed even smoother and fairer than yesterday; and her large jewel-like eyes seemed to be shining even brighter than yesterday. Without forgetting to smile, she tilted her head as she looked over the class. Her somewhat immature appearance was most likely due to her petite chin, but she had a perfect eight-head figure. Ami was the absolute epitome of beauty, almost to the point of obscuring his sense of reality. Ryūji’s headache had also become absolute.
He covertly turned his head to look at a seat somewhere towards the center of the class. Right now, the person who should be experiencing the worst shock was sitting over in that direction. That would be the one called Taiga.
He spotted her.
He immediately turned away. She was making a face that shouldn’t be seen.
Her eyebrows were raised nearly vertical and her eyes had clouded over moistly, looking as though they had liquefied into a thickly bubbling lava flow. Her lips that were just like a rose trembled visibly and were turned up ominously; her face was puffed out as if she were holding a bomb in her mouth, possibly a manifestation of her barely contained fury directed against the real world that she couldn’t stand. It seemed as if a weak-bodied person might die simply from meeting her gaze.
From where she stood, Ami could also probably notice Taiga volleying her serious killing intent from the middle of the classroom. Just for an instant, Ami raised her eyebrows ever so slightly. However, she acted just as one would expect of a professional who was used to the public eye.
"Everyone! Please call me Ami!"
Flawlessly pretending to be oblivious, she smiled prettily and wholeheartedly. But that action alone was more than enough to inspire dread in Ryūji. Women, were they all like this? Shuddering from a sudden chill, he instinctively fastened a button on his open gakuran uniform.
“Everyone! Let’s get along with our new friend! Now, let’s welcome her!”
Strangely discernible from the welcoming applause, their homeroom teacher and well-established bachelorette, Yuri Koigakubo (29), raised her voice. Wrapping an arm around Ami’s shoulder with overfamiliarity, "They’re all good kids, so you’ll get along right away!", she exclaimed while striking a victory pose…He wondered if something had happened over the break, as her personality seemed to have completely changed. She used to wear fashionable pink ensembles, but at the moment she was wearing a rough hooded jersey,
"Well then, it’s a fresh start for Class 2-C~!"
She gave a vigorous thumbs up.
It seemed even a tongue click from Taiga, who was giving off a suffocating aura of displeasure while looking up from below, wasn’t enough to phase her today.
"…Hey, stop it with that kind of noise! Try smiling happily for one day at least!"
"…Just for today if you can, to welcome our new friend."
Nugunuguu---Reduced to making sounds without articulating, she suddenly clutched her head. Then almost as if doing a somersault, she spun around ending up at her desk seeming depressed and hiding her face in her arms.
"M, Miss Yuri…?"
"Um, are you all right…?"
Not surprisingly, the classroom was pretty much silenced by the scene, while Ami, who stood nearby, no longer smiled as she watched. The bachelorette finally looked up, after a full fifteen seconds had passed. While trembling a little and hanging her head just a bit, she sounded regretful as, with some difficulty, she started talking about her private affairs.
"…During the break, I, my last chance…the very last one,…it ended in failure…~! So, I thought I'd have to try my best, I'd need to work hard at my job, but, but…Just forget it! It’s not like any of you will understand anyway! You guys, I’m sure you’ll understand when you’re older, so…! Kitamura-kun, please take care of the rest!"
Having been called upon, Kitamura got to his feet and, turning around to face the class, spoke,
"Everybody, please listen to me. Ami is actually a friend of mine from some time ago. I had no idea she was going to transfer to our class, but please try to get along. Well, that’s all for this morning’s homeroom. Stand! Bow!"
‘Enough already~’---Like an explosion, the bachelorette’s pitiable moan burst amidst the noisy classroom before fading into nothingness.
* * *
"Ka, Kawashima-san, shall I move it?!"
"No, let me!"
"I’ll move it for you, definitely!"
"No, no, choose me! Or rather, just sit back and leave it to me."
In an instant, a crowd of boys moved into Ami's vicinity, who in turn was about to move her desk and chair. The more reserved ones watched the crowd from a distance looking jealous. It seemed like everyone wanted to get to know her one way or another, but whether they were nearby or far away was just a matter of assertiveness.
"It’s fine, fine! I can do this much by myself at least! It’s not like I’m that weak, you know!"
So without asking anyone for help, Ami exclaimed ‘Yoisho!’ and lifted her desk with her slender arms.
"Ah, watch out!"
"Kawashima-san, let us help!"
"I said it’s fine, so stop worrying!"
Weaving through the crowd of guys wanting to lend a hand, she quickly moved on her own,
"…See! Didn’t I tell you? This much is no problem."
Having placed her desk and chair in the designated spot, she smiled a happily angelic smile. With that turn of events the boys quickly lost their pretense for talking with her. They left reluctantly while calmly saying, "If anything comes up, we’ll help you!", and were replaced by some girls who approached Ami.
"Ehh, Kawashima-san, you moved this by yourself? You could have just asked the guys to do it."
"That’s right, that’s right, or more like, I get the feeling that all those guys desperately wanted to talk with Kawashima-san. They’d be happy if you made use of them, I’m sure."
Facing the girls with an even brighter smile than the one she had shown the boys, Ami waved her hands in front of her face playfully.
"It’s fine~, since something like this is easy!...Or so I said but, just between us, I’m actually the type that ends up getting really nervous when talking with boys."
"Really. More than that, thanks for coming to talk with me! This is the first time girls have come to talk to me, I’m so happy! It’s fine if you just call me Ami, you know!"
After politely saying those kinds of things, she was about to sit in her seat when,
She banged her shin against the leg of her desk. With her face contorted, almost to the point of being comical, Ami appeared to be in serious pain.
"Ahh, geez! How uncool! Even though I wanted to go with a fashionably styled image since I took the trouble to transfer here. I guess I’m just the laughable type after all~!"
In response to Ami's self-deprecating style of speech, the girls spoke up as they laughed.
"Kawashima-san…I mean, Ami-chan, could you actually be a real klutz?"
"Somehow, it just seems so natural! Geez, even though you’re fortunate enough to be cute, why are you making such a funny face?"
"Don’t say it’s funny or anything like that~! I really planned on being fashionably cool~!"
Hahahahaha~---It went something like that.
Meanwhile, resting his chin on his hands as he sat near the window, Ryūji silently stared at the circle of excitement centered around Ami. Missing their usual glint, his eyes were unusually empty as he wondered, So she can also put on this kind of act?. For some reason he had managed to become a little distrustful of girls.
As he pondered about that, he accidentally ended up meeting Ami’s gaze. While uttering an ‘Ah’ from her partially open mouth, Ami blinked her large eyes as if surprised. Ryūji wondered if she had really just now realized that he was in the very same classroom without even noticing Taiga. Ami pointed a slim finger at Ryūji,
"Ehh, no way! Isn’t that Takasu-kun?"
It was completely on reflex.
Reflexively, he ended up turning his face away as if he hadn’t heard anything. It looked exactly as if he was turning away from something unpleasant. Though it was only for a moment, he wondered if he had left an excessively bad impression …but he didn’t have the confidence to look at Ami again. So as he maintained his forced inattention, Ryūji could only listen as the girls continued their busy conversation.
"Ami-chan, you’re acquainted with Ryūji Takasu?! How?!"
"Well, when I went to a family restaurant with Yūsaku, we met by chance and were introduced, but…for some reason, it seems like I might be disliked? Just look, I’m being snubbed right now…"
She might have intended to be discreet, but Ami’s voice easily made it all the way to Ryūji’s ears. No, perhaps she was intentionally letting him hear her…For Ami to do something like that, he probably shouldn’t be the least bit surprised.
"Ehh, about Takasu, he’s just an asocial guy, so it’s not like he hates you or anything. I’m sure he’s just being shy."
"That’s right, before we became classmates, we all definitely thought he was a major delinquent and were too scared to go near him because of his constantly scary expression, you know."
---'He seemed bad because of his unsociable demeanor.' Ryūji just stared out the window, but privately, that really hurt his feelings.
"So Takasu-kun's not really bad or anything?"
"He’s just kind of different. The first years and other students from other classes seem like they’re still scared of him, but Ami-chan doesn’t need to worry about any of that!"
"Ehh…So that’s how it is…"
Fu~n…He could feel an appraising glance on the back of his neck. Like an unbearable itch, the sound of their voices brushed against his neck. He became unable to pretend he wasn’t listening, though it was for just a moment. He was shifting his back against the itch when he ended up inadvertently looking at Ami.
Thereafter---Ami smiled faintly. Agitated, Ryūji’s expression took on a gleam like that of a sharp knife.
While they had certainly only connected for a moment, Ami’s eyes were apparently moist.
Immediately facing the girls with a smile, she went right back to their group, but…somehow she seemed to be embedded with an unspeakable sadness. As if it had been burned into his retina, he couldn’t erase the image from his memory. Rather than anger or bitterness, the expression of anxiety as she looked at him vividly remained for some time. Still amidst the group of cheery people, Ami’s eyes were cast with a dull light like the reflection off a still pool of water. Looking exactly as if she was secretly tearing up, he got the feeling he could hear her voicelessly speak. ‘Hey, why are you being so cold to me…?’
"…N, no, that wasn’t my intention…it really wasn’t."
Shaking his head vigorously, Ryūji erased the afterimage from his head. It wasn’t like that, it wasn’t, it probably wasn’t.
Even though he should know how dreadful her beauty was, having already witnessed her true character yesterday, he was on the verge of being tricked by her chastely beautiful façade.
Pulling himself together and standing up, he went over to Kitamura’s desk. As it was, he couldn’t even be sure that what he remembered of yesterday’s events wasn’t just a dream...He could easily believe that. He needed to talk with someone else who had also witnessed what happened.
"Hey, Kitamura…Isn’t that remarkable?"
When Ryūji indicated Ami and the others with a flick of his head as he spoke, Kitamura gave the rambunctious group a glance before sighing with a bitter smile.
"Ah. As expected, she really knows how to get people’s sympathy, doesn’t she."
"…Why didn’t you tell me yesterday about the transfer?"
"Hmm? I didn’t?"
"Don’t play around. I was really surprised, seriously."
Leaning against Kitamura’s desk, Ryūji reprimanded his best friend in a quiet voice. His eyes were extremely intense as he glared at Kitamura, but of course, Kitamura was aware that Ryūji wasn’t doing it on purpose. Kitamura lightly scratched his head and laughed,
"My bad, sorry. How should I put this…I’m hoping that Ami will get along with people properly while remaining her natural self. So, when we met yesterday, I opted to not mention that you guys would be attending the same high school. I knew that if I had, she would have put on a complete front and then become immediately deceptive."
"…Isn’t that just what she did yesterday anyway."
"She showed her actual nature to Aisaka at least. And so Ryūji, you saw it too. Right?"
"Could you possibly want to expose Ami’s true personality? She’ll just be despised for it."
"I don’t plan to spread it around, of course. I have no right to do that after all. But, I hope that it eventually gets out. It will surely be better than the deception, for Ami as well.---If she is despised as a result of it, maybe it’ll convince her."
"…Convince her, you say …I don’t really get what you mean."
"Is that so? Hm, and I thought what I said was easy to understand..."
Taking off his glasses and wiping them with a cloth, Kitamura gave Ryūji a glance with his unexpectedly large eyes.
"I don’t hate Ami’s real self at all. It’s all the deception that I want to end. I think it’s best for people to just be themselves. To tell you the truth, it makes me a little sad now when she greets me with that facade…About when she started modeling, she suddenly started doing that good girl act even to me…Anyway, I think it would be nice if more people would like Ami for who she really is. That’s kind of what I meant."
Looking into the eyes of this passionately idealistic and just man, Ryūji couldn’t reply for some reason. Even though there was just one thing that he wanted to say.
It’s probably impossible. That’s all.
The automated juice vending machine was meant to be used only during afternoon recess, but it was fine as long as none of the stricter teachers noticed. Especially with the second year classrooms being very close to the separate two-story building with the vending machines, students violated the rule all the time.
Soon after third period math ended, Ryūji left the classroom with some pocket change, intending to violate that very rule and get a drink. He had some lukewarm tea he brought from home, but today had been unexpectedly stressful. He needed to do at least this much to relax.
In the separate building he quickly walked down the empty corridor before stopping in front of the three vending machines lined up side by side near the stair landing. Should he get a can of coffee or soda; while stingily counting his change, it was time to make his selection.
A white hand that suddenly appeared from the side was blocking Ryūji while putting coins into the machine. Surprised by the interruption, he turned around,
And was even more surprised.
"Ehe, so the vending machines were in this kind of place, were they?"
An angelically innocent smile was blooming directly in front of him.
The one sweetly smiling while looking at Ryūji was the source of his stress---Ami.
Tilting her head while her eyes sparkled,
"I wonder what Takasu-kun planned to get. Let me try to guess, hmm…How about this one?"
Out of all the possible choices, she selected the nastiest looking energy drink and pointed at its picture with her pink-colored fingernail.
"Eh?!...No…That…C, coffee, actually."
After he replied in a shamefully nervous and excited tone of voice, Ami said ‘I see’, nodded once, and pushed the button for coffee. Then she turned to Ryūji and presented him with the can that had rolled out noisily.
"Here you go. It’s my treat. Actually, I saw Takasu-kun leave the classroom, and I followed you here."
"Huh? W, why?"
As he was rigid and unable to understand just what was going on, the can was deftly placed into his hands. Ami put some more coins in without replying to him,
"I wonder which one I should get…Maybe this one?"
After a bit of meandering, she pushed the button for straight tea. The sound of the falling can brought him back to reality, but it was already too late,
"Ah, wait a second! Here, buy it with this!"
He hurriedly tried to give her his change, but Ami had already put her money into the machine a while ago. Then, looking up.
"Well, I bought it already."
Sticking her tongue out a little, she shrugged while making a mischievous expression.
"No, that’s no good. This just isn’t right. Take this coffee instead then."
"No way, it’s fine, it’s fine! Think of this as an apology for yesterday."
"Apology, you say…"
"Hey, why don’t we drink right here?"
With these words, Ami quickly pulled the tab on her can open, and without listening for Ryūji’s response, she took a sip of her illegally obtained drink.
With things as they were, he expectedly couldn’t just leave her behind when it was her first day after transferring.
"…Buying a drink when it’s not afternoon recess, that’s a violation of school rules."
"Is that so? But, I don’t want to be told that by Takasu-kun, since the one who came to do so was Takasu-kun."
"…I suppose that’s true. Thanks…Itadakimasu."
Ryūji couldn’t do anything but start drinking his coffee with her. While the two of them were drinking, it became quiet except for the low hum of the vending machines, which resounded with a hint of melancholy. Trying to hide his discomfort, he gave Ami a sidelong glance but couldn’t get himself to speak first. He just couldn’t figure out what he should talk about. So of course at a time like this, no other students or strict teachers showed up.
"Whew…It’s cold. It’s really good when it’s chilled."
Wiping her wet lips with the end of her finger, the one who started speaking was Ami. Side by side with Ryūji, she leaned against one of the vending machines,
"That aside, I was pretty surprised to find out I'm in the same class as Takasu-kun. Even Aisaka’s there…Yūsaku, he didn’t say anything at all about that yesterday."
She smiled amiably as if saying ‘Right?’. But Ryūji, while vaguely nodding, could only return a stiff facial expression. Of course his eyes also ended up becoming more wild. Even setting aside Ami’s actual personality, he was suddenly alone with an extremely pretty girl that he wasn’t all that familiar with, which made him feel constricted.
However, Ryūji wasn’t sure how Ami perceived his response.
She moved from his side and stood directly in front of him. With her gently shining eyes discreetly raised and her eyelashes weakly trembling, she whispered roughly.
"…By any chance, I wonder if you heard anything from Aisaka-san…Even though there isn’t really anything I can do if you were told…But, you know. I hope you’ll just forget about yesterday. This is…also for Aisaka-san’s sake."
"Y,…Yesterday you say, what do you mean?"
Nervous from being face to face, Ryūji took a step back wanting to desperately escape, but his back was met with resistance from the vending machines. Ami made such an effort futile anyway by moving forward a half step. She wasn’t fazed at all by his bad expression. So what she meant about yesterday was, ‘the family restaurant’, ‘the slap in the face’, and ‘the breaking down and crying’; it was probably about those three points---
"I’m wondering… did Takasu-kun hear from Aisaka-san about what happened?"
Ami’s searching eyes, which somehow sparkled reminiscently of that Chihuahua from the commercials, were clouding over and even now looked as if they might start shedding tears at any second. He was desperately trying to come up with the best possible answer with a mind that had gone totally blank while continuing to look away from Ami’s sad pretty face.
"N, no…I didn’t hear anything."
He muttered it sincerely since it was technically true. The fickle angel holding her hands out in front of him was the liar. Though he justified himself thusly, the answer he replied with wasn’t actually a lie anyway. He had seen it all with his own eyes, so he didn’t need Taiga to tell him anything.
"…Really? I was so sure that you had…but maybe I was mistaken. If that’s the case, I still want to say some things…About yesterday, it was totally my fault. Aisaka-san didn’t do anything bad at all."
Her Chihuahua-like teary eyes were sparkling as she gently blinked.
"Hey maybe, that…I, I think that maybe because I seem kind of air-headed that I was making Aisaka-san irritated…Aisaka-san, when we were talking, she’d suddenly become really emotional and said all sorts of things that I didn’t really understand, like ‘conceited’ and ‘getting caught up in the moment’…I ended up panicking. Like ‘Eh? Eh? Why?’, just that sort of thing…so…"
What nerve, to make that kind of expression as she told such a story suited for her own benefit---Feeling that minor chill again, he gave a small sigh of near amazement. Interrupting him,
"…So! Aisaka-san didn’t do anything wrong."
Ami shook her head. Her Chihuahua-like eyes were shining even more and more,
"I…If I was more…If only I was a more level-headed person…So, I want you to forget about it. That…The truth is…Really you know, girls saying weird things all of a sudden like that, it’s…normal…So! I’m not going to worry about that kind of thing! It’s fine! I’ll keep trying my best!"
I’m the victim!---Ami was pleading that with her entire self when the bell started ringing. Speechlessly watching Ami’s theatrical display, Ryūji felt like he had been saved.
"T, that’s the bell. We have to get back to the classroom…Come on, finish your drink. I understand what Kawashima wanted to say."
Haa, he certainly understood. In other words, Ami had come all that way to make excuses for herself and to keep him from talking.
As if swallowing his uncertainty, Ryūji drank the rest of his coffee in one go. He momentarily narrowed his eyes intently at Ami’s somewhat satisfied looking smile.
"We have to hurry or we’ll be late for class!"
With a couple gulps, she similarly drank what was left of her iced tea in one go. After disposing of the empty cans in a trashcan, they took off down the corridor side by side.
"…Hey, Takasu-kun. You’ll promise me now, right? That you won’t say anything about this to anyone, right? That is---I’m really sorry that I ended up crying yesterday."
Ami’s teary Chihuahua-like eyes were searching for reassurance. Ryūji deceptively nodded any number of times,
"I get it…I get it already. C, come on, hurry up."
Shaking off the sudden onset of fatigue, Ryūji moved forward and continued to run in front of Ami. Because of that, he wasn’t able to see it. Ami, who was running behind him, gave a small laugh as if to say, ‘This guy, he's such a simpleton'.
However, even if he had noticed, it’s not like he would have been at all surprised by it.
[Why did you get back to the classroom at the last second with Ami Kawashima?]
It came as the teacher had her back turned since she was writing on the blackboard.
A scrap of paper that someone else had recklessly thrown onto Ryūji’s desk had those words written in pink ink. There wasn’t a name on it, but he could recognize the neurotic handwriting.
He knew he was right when he looked towards the center seats. Looking visibly displeased with her mouth in the shape of an upside down V, Taiga was looking right at him. With cold forsaking eyes Taiga whispered, arrogantly mouthing ‘Reply’.
Did he really have any obligation to reply or anything---He wasn’t sure how he should write about what just happened, and to begin with, he certainly didn’t want to get dragged into their little quarrel. He pocketed the piece of paper in a way that Taiga could see him do it and pulled the textbook he had out closer to himself. Like that, he planned to show her that he wasn’t going to be replying.
However, in his peripheral view, Taiga was making an underhanded throwing motion…
…By the time he noticed, it was too late. Well, it was late, but he was still saved.
Coincidentally, he had been scratching his head while holding a leather-bound pencase in hand. It was sudden---the pencase was pierced easily by a mechanical pencil dart. Really, it could easily have been the center of his forehead that was pierced. The four students who unfortunately happened to be sitting between Ryūji and Taiga were all equally surprised, wearing stiff expressions as they looked for the shot that had just missed them.
“Wh…What the heck was that…”
She intends to kill. This girl, she really wants to kill me. Going ‘Che, how disappointing’, Taiga nevertheless kept a calm face…she snapped her fingers while making that cold and apathetic expression.
Staring at Taiga with rabid-looking eyes, Ryūji swore resolutely in his heart that he absolutely wouldn’t reply. Just who was the one with the bad split personality; if you tried asking Ryūji, he wouldn’t be able to say for sure. They were just about equally troublesome.
He caught a glimpse of Taiga mouthing her complaints, but he had no desire to get involved with her. First of all, if he went ahead and relayed what Ami had told him moments ago to Taiga, it was obvious that he’d just be adding fuel to their already treacherous dispute.
Deciding that he would try to completely ignore the situation, he casually started building a barrier around his desk with his textbooks and notebooks. He planned to use them as a defense against that violent girl’s troublesome attacks.
However, a few minutes passed. Again while the teacher’s back was turned, a folded piece of paper was thrown onto his desk by someone in front of him. Thinking it might be Taiga again, he was just about to throw it away, but,
---He ended up seeing those words, and something akin to a sigh escaped from his throat. When he looked to the opposite side of the classroom, he even saw Minori going ‘He~y’ while looking his way and waving her small hand from her seat near the hallway.
Frantically waving back silently, Ryūji gingerly opened the note with trembling fingers. He didn’t want to rip it…and he didn’t want to get it dirty…After all, this was the first time in his entire life that he had received a letter from the girl he liked. It may have just been a small scrap of paper, but even so, this was the treasure of a lifetime for him. Even when he becomes an old man, he was absolutely certain he wouldn’t forget this day and this moment in time.
[Now look here, Takasu-kun! Minori is seriously angry you know!]
What’s with this beginning paragraph…? Ryūji swallowed with a bitter taste in his mouth.
[I heard from Taiga; isn’t Takasu-kun being kind of suspicious with that transfer student?! I already told you before on the rooftop you know, that if you toss Taiga aside …I’ll punish you~! Toradora vol02 skull.png]
…That’s how the first half went.
There was actually a skull mark on the very first letter he was fortunate enough to receive from the girl he liked. He continued on to read the latter half as he tried to stifle his incredulity.
[I’m just saying this in case, you know; that transfer student is certainly a very cute girl. But you know, things that are perfect, they’re not really interesting, right? As proof, my ever-insatiable Minorin Radar (my detector for sweet girls), it’s not responding this time even a bit.]
Well, that’s probably not the problem…Ami Kawashima is interesting…in a way… Rather than that…that bothersome Taiga had tattled to Kushieda. So she’s not only violent but a coward as well. He glanced sideways at Taiga, but she was giving him the cold shoulder, facing the other way and completely ignoring him. Her back was giving off a thick violent aura that said ‘You’re the one at fault, you know’.
Chewing his lips that were dry with an inexpressible anger, Ryūji still used a steady hand to tear a perfect square of paper from one of his notebooks. He’d make his objection to Taiga later, but for now anyway, he needed to reply to Minori.
[There isn't anything suspicious going on between me and the transfer student, but before that, there’s nothing between me and Taiga either.]
He wrote that much with carefully arranged letters, then thought a bit,
[Anyway, excuse me for completely changing the subject. What does Kushieda think about people who label themselves naturally air-headed?]
…He tried to pad it a little like that. For some reason, he wanted to try asking her that question. Also, it seemed like she might get a little angry if he just wrote one sentence the first time, and it didn’t even seem very well put. In an email conversation, putting in questions would invariably help keep things going well. But this wasn’t email.
Aggressively hiding the throbbing feeling that was nearly bursting from him, Ryūji passed his return note to the guy in the seat in front of him. Each time the teacher wrote on the blackboard or glanced at the textbook, his note made its way to Minori bit by bit---Soon enough a few minutes later, it arrived safely into her hands.
He was staring as she opened up his note, worrying futilely and wondering what in the world she was thinking when Minori slowly turned to face Ryūji and stood up. The teacher had her back turned and was in the middle of writing a bunch of things on the board, but Ryūji, Taiga, Kitamura, Ami, and pretty much all the other students had surprised looks on their faces and ended up staring almost involuntarily at the standing Minori.
Minori closed her eyes and, reminiscent of the crucified Christ, raised both hands so very slowly while wearing a peaceful expression. Her expression that had been like that of a dead person very, very slowly shifted into a smile. Her hands ended up making a large circle over her head…at least, that’s what it looked like at that moment.
With her face crinkled and her mouth opened as if she were crying out, both her hands crossed violently in a slashing motion. They ended up forming an X.
“Umm, and so…”
At the same time that the teacher turned around, Minori was already sitting in her seat acting as if nothing had happened. It might have seemed as if a single giant question mark was looming collectively over the students’ heads.
That X was probably the answer to the latter half of his letter…Ryūji was puzzling over what just happened as well. He just seriously hoped that she wasn’t making that X in regards to the first half.
Then he thought. You might call a person like her naturally air-headed.
* * *
Even though Ami is such a beautiful person, she wasn’t prideful at all, she was easy to talk to, and just an overall good person!
…The overall opinion of the class unified like that before the period even ended.
There were a lot of guys who were trying to help Ami on her first day, and so no matter who it was, she would gladly say ‘Will you teach me this? Thanks!’, ‘Ah, so that’s how it is~! I’m so glad, you really saved me~!’, ‘Eh~, I’m so happy that I could talk with everyone~!’…Slyly putting on such a convincing smile, she showered her affection indiscriminately with a shining aura like that of an overly pure angel.
The three who were aware of Ami’s true nature were Kitamura, Ryūji, and also Taiga, but it seemed like Kitamura wasn’t going to be doing anything more than necessary, so Ryūji didn’t feel he had to waste his time going around telling everyone about Ami’s dual personality. After all, he didn’t want to get mixed up in things any further than he was already.
"…Go get me something to drink."
Looking angry and displeased, a trespasser was occupying the seat opposite Ryūji.
Partway into the lunch break, she had come to return the emptied bentou box, but it seems she intended to take the opportunity and make him fetch her a drink.
"…Um, you know, haven’t I been constantly telling you to wash the bentou box before giving it back?"
"Haven’t I kept telling you that the school sponges are old and disgusting?"
"And I told you that I keep some new sponges in my locker, didn’t I?"
"And I told you that it’s too troublesome, didn’t I?...Wait wait, it seems like something is bothering you."
He suddenly gave Taiga a sharp look,
"That reminds me…Just why did you say those weird things to Kushieda?"
But he still handed over the bottle of tea that he had brought from home to Taiga. She unscrewed the cap and poured some tea into it, using it as a makeshift cup.
"You’re the one doing weird things. Anyway, I didn’t even say anything. I wrote it…Hey, where did you drink from?"
"…Umm, about on that mark."
"Even if it’s an accident, I really don’t want to drink from the same spot."
She squinted suspiciously at Ryūji, then,
Horribly exaggerating, she shut her eyes and brought the makeshift cup to her lips. If it was that detestable, she could have just wiped it, but it seemed like instead of doing something like that, she would rather complain or just get angry. Anyway, they were already close enough that they shared food from the same plate. They had probably already exchanged saliva some time before---But if he actually said that to her now, he’d probably be killed in less than three seconds.
"Well then…what were we talking about again? Oh yeah, didn’t you go off with Ami Kawashima somewhere?"
"Are you bringing that up again? You’re so persistent."
"Well, you didn’t answer me!"
With an unusually agitated expression, Taiga cried out.
She had ended up spilling some tea from the cup in her hand onto the desk.
"Geez, what are you doing, seriously…"
Wiping the desk incredulously, Ryūji gave a long sigh. First he took care of the area that had gotten wet, then he finished by giving the whole thing a final rundown. After all, tea could be used as a cleaning agent.
He was already used to being with Taiga, who was usually clumsy like this. However---he still didn’t want to get involved with her quarrel with Ami. He didn’t like her being irritated like this, but he had already colluded intricately with Ami during the recent passing period.
"…Taiga, what was it that you were saying yesterday when we were preparing dinner?"
"Eh?...The maguro tuna, cut it rea~lly thin, I said…"
"That’s not what I meant. About Kawashima. You said you wouldn’t waste your time getting involved with her, but you’d be able to forgive her once you were mature enough."
"Ah…I didn’t say that…No, wait, I lied, I did say that."
"I really think what you were saying is right. It’s fine if you don’t make friends with her. Just forget about what happened yesterday and never go near her again. You can just keep living normally. Just because you ended up seeing her again doesn’t mean you have to become irritated again, does it? It’s not like she’s done anything to you…at least not today."
"…Yeah…That’s right, but…Yes, that is right…"
Quietly moaning before falling silent, Taiga’s sharp look started to soften albeit only very slightly. Maybe things would be okay like this. Even if she is the commanding Palmtop Tiger, it doesn’t mean she should just go do whatever she wants and hate other people. If she can live with a gentler heart, then there shouldn’t be any more of these incidents.
"Well then, let’s go wash our bentou boxes."
"…Huh? No way."
"Don’t say something so ridiculous; don’t you realize what will happen at this temperature? Are you going to be able to use that bentou box again with the rotting rice still inside it? Isn’t that disgusting? I know it is to me. So I’m going to wash mine right now. I don’t know about yours though."
"What’s with that? Couldn’t you just wash mine for me at the same time then?"
"This isn’t a matter of labor, it’s a matter of consideration and common sense. Since I made your lunch for you, you should wash the box before returning it. When the temperature is this high in spring and summer, you should clean out your bentou box. A word of warning about mold infestations, being unprepared for decay-causing microbes is the worst possible mistake!...The only microbes that I love in this world are ‘lactic-acid bacilli’, ‘bacillus subtilis natto’, and ‘the necessary bacteria that live in the mouth and intestines’."
He forced the bentou box back into the hands of Taiga, who was frowning with a look of serious disgust, and started prodding her into standing up. And then, just when he had finally been able to ever so slowly separate Taiga at least five centimeters from the chair,
"Takasu-kun! That was fun earlier~!"
…He just wanted to scream, ‘Why?!’.
"I hope we can talk easily like that again sometime."
Leaving the group of girls, Ami had walked about halfway to where they were sitting. Facing Ryūji and waving a slender arm, she had an unrestrained beautiful smile plastered over her entire face. The simple uniform fit her well-proportioned limbs almost criminally well, but in Ryūji’s mind, she no longer fell into the categories of ‘cute’ or ‘beautiful’ or anything like that. The fact that she was two-faced outranked any of that.
…Or at least, that should have been the case.
"…Hey, you know…it’s about our secret chat from earlier."
Ami suddenly got really close. While he wondered what in the world she was thinking, Ami gently bent her slender body over and brought her lips close to Ryūji’s ear. The warmth of her breath tickling his earlobes caused Ryūji’s pores to open all the way. In a sweet voice,
"…Um, about what we discussed earlier. Really try to forget about it, okay…Please, all right?"
Her whisper flowed out gently even though the nearby Taiga was right before her eyes. Without saying anything to either Ami or Ryūji, Taiga just…stared with a look cold enough to freeze water.
And then Ami pulled away from Ryūji’s ear with a short ‘Ehe’---While her eyes hinted just a little bit of sadness, she displayed a praiseworthy smile. Then silently turning to Taiga, she gave a look of pitying or sympathetic kindness. Her eyelashes cast a faint shadow on her face, and Ryūji unconsciously stared as if spellbound---
"…I have class work I need to do."
Taiga’s voice broke his trance. No good, he got caught again…Or maybe he should say, he was deceived again.
With a bang, the Taiga who had pulled Ryūji back to the real world forcibly jammed the bentou box at his chest before getting up from her seat. At that instant, Ryūji sighed thinking, ‘At least another quarrel has been avoided for now’. She should have let it go, but Ami followed after Taiga anyway. As Ami pestered her, saying ‘Hey’ and other such things, Taiga’s hair for just a second literally and truly puffed up like it had exploded.
"How surprising…I can’t believe that we ended up in the same class…You know, this is just my impression from up until now, but…Aisaka-san, do you not have any friends other than Takasu-kun?"
"…Shut up you damned brat, do you want me to make you cry again?"
---They clashed for only a moment.
No one---In that moment of confrontation unnoticed by anyone other than Ryūji, Ami and Taiga exchanged glances only for that one moment.
The two quickly looked away from one another and walked off in their respectively opposite directions. It would be fine if this was as far as things would go, but…he tried to ignore the ominous chill of presentiment running down his back.
However, while the two had only now clearly identified each other as rivals, the fuse had already been lit a long time ago.
|Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6|
|Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6 • Spin-off|
|Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5|
|Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6|
|Prologue • Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6 • Chapter 7|
|Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6|
|Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5|
|Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6|
|Prologue • Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5|
|Prologue • Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Epilogue|