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

This is Chapter 6 from Volume 4 of the Toradora! Light Novel series. The text is from Baka-tsuki.

Transcript

“The perpetrator was---me!”

Thump!

…Looking at Minori who pointed at herself, Ryūji, Taiga, and even Ami were shocked speechless. Sitting side by side on the couch, their mouths were agape like they were children in a stupor.

And, Minori pointed at Kitamura next to her,

“This is my accomplice!”

“Sorry everyone.”

“I’m very sorry!”

They bowed their heads deeply.

A silence fell over the villa living room for a while, only broken by the sound of the constant waves. The sun was already down, and outside the window the sky was like a transparent indigo sheet.

“…What…exactly do you mean…?”

Taiga’s weak moaning voice trembled slightly with a strained, almost panicky tone.

What Minori and Kitamura were confessing to was first about the pillow in Ryūji’s room. Next, there was the matter of the clothes left in Taiga’s room. Also, the shaking window and the closed door. Even the hair in the cave. And finally, there was that weird monster.

“And well, you know. It’s like this…The both of you were so naive that I wanted to tell you guys how to do it right, you know? By the way, the squishy liquid was concentrated lotion. And the hair was from my own head.”

Grabbing the hair at the back of her head, Minori was certainly holding a bundle of hair, but it was cut short.

“Naïve, you said…So then…That means you knew all along? About the plan Taiga and I made?”

As Ryūji asked incredulously, Minori nodded “Yes”.

“From the beginning, I thought something was up. There were so many weird things happening, and Taiga and Takasu were whispering so much. Are those two scheming something, I thought. But what confirmed it was Kitamura’s ‘doppleganger’ when you were making the curry. Takasu-kun, you were just pretending that you were with Taiga the entire time, weren’t you?”

“Y, yeah.”

“With that, I got a clear suspicion. Like, I get it, you know? That is, even though Taiga sucks at chores, Takasu-kun kept saying “so good, how skillful” and so on.”

Well, he had just thought that if Kitamura had been listening in that it’d be good to better his impression of her…But of course Ryūji couldn’t say that out loud now.

Seeming completely unremorseful, Kitamura scratched his head as he spoke to Ryūji.

“But, didn’t you think it was weird? In the cave, it was nothing but a string of failures. Didn’t you think “there’s no way that Kitamura could be this unreliable” or something?”

“Ah, not really, I just thought ‘so this guy really is an idiot’…”

“R, really?”

Hearing such a low opinion from his best friend, Kitamura’s expression turned somewhat gloomy. He’d had no idea, but rather than that,

“…I was completely fooled by Kushieda’s stellar acting…I really thought you were scared.”

“Eh? Didn’t it seem unnatural? That sort of weird reaction wasn’t really like how a scared girl would act, was it?”

“No, since it’s Kushieda, that’s exactly how I think you’d react…”

“R, really?”

Minori took on a slightly complicated expression. But really, she had fooled him completely. He hadn’t thought that Minori would be one of those people who could trick others so easily, but maybe he had decided that too quickly.

“…Ahh…geez…so it was all for naught, huh…”

Clasping the thoroughly exhausted Taiga by the shoulder, Minori was smiling.

“Mm well, it was fun! Thanks Taiga. And Takasu-kun as well.”

“…You’re not mad? That we tried to take advantage of your fear of horror? Well, we failed, but…”

“I’m not mad.”

Minori was waving double peace signs while shaking her head side to side,

“And actually, all the declarations that I’m easily scared, were really for a time like this. In other words, that is…I’d say things like, I’m scared of horror, so scared…or, zombies are so scary. It’s all part of my luring method.”

“Umm…Eh? What are you talking about?”

“That is, if I keep saying I’m scared, eventually someone will get the idea “Well, why don’t we scare her”. Then I get to enjoy it, you see? Putting it clearly, I really really absolu~tely love it. Horror, thrillers, the occult, zombies, I just can’t get enough. I scream “Kyah, kyah!” and make a big fuss, but really, it’s the most fun thing ever for me. Well, I also love roller coasters.”

I was completely fooled---Thoroughly beaten, Ryūji stared up at the ceiling. Taiga’s mouth was hanging open dumbly as she was overtaken by exhaustion and laid her head upon her arms and closed her eyes. The lie she had told Kitamura last night might have come true. Minori’s act had basically beaten both Taiga and Ryūji into submission. Right from the start even.

“Actually, last night, you know, after I figured it out, I got Kitamura-kun to join me, so then we held a tactical meeting. And then, Taiga and Takasu-kun did too, didn’t you. So taking the opportunity, I sent him as a spy.”

“Ami was added optionally.”

Being called optional, Ami didn’t say anything, just making a sort of grimace. Just maybe, the most unlucky one might have been Ami.

Looking up at the ceiling, Ryūji couldn’t even make the slightest motion. Just what in the world was I doing?

Finally on such a trip, with such a chance, just how could it have ended like this?

Taiga must have been in a similar state of mind as she sat curled up on the couch, furrowing her brow worriedly. She had even tossed aside her chance to get closer to Kitamura and for what? Nothing, not a thing, right?

It had been such a waste. And now, their summer was over.

With nothing else and no change in his relationship with Minori, his one and only 17th summer was ending.

“Well, um anyway…Ta-da!”

Maybe feeling guilty, Minori and Kitamura acted deliberately cheerful, taking out a large bag.

“Actually, yesterday I bought some fireworks as well. Let’s head out to the beach!”

Ryūji wasn’t in the mood to act energetic, but he thought he might as well go along with it as it might be just what he needed.

The blooming, scattering fireworks---well, he himself didn’t have a chance to bloom…


The breeze that passed over the beach carried the sorrowful cry of cicadas from the direction of the mountains. The sun had gone down much faster than expected and even autumn seemed to be approaching rather quickly.

Listening to the waves, Ryūji walked along the surprisingly cold beach in his sandals. Just earlier when they had been walking back, it had been so warm in the sun.

“Uwah…! Scary, it's scary Minorin!”

He turned as he heard Taiga yell.

“It’s fine, not scary at all. Just look! It’s pretty!”

Taiga had her arms outstretched, and Minori lit her fireworks for her. Suddenly, the cylinder Taiga was holding started emitting a steady stream of pale green flame, sparking noisily, and giving off a faint burst of light to the surroundings like a star. As if she wasn’t sure what to do, Taiga just stood and stared at it. The flame lit Taiga’s ever so pale face, as well as Minori’s smile.

“Alright, now which one should I get~. Maybe this one?”

Then, picking out one from the bag, Minori lit her chosen firework. There was a bit of a pause,

“Oops!”

“Uwah!”

As Minori and Taiga cried out, there was a vivid burst of pink as the flame shot out. It grew brighter and shone clearly,

“Ahaha! This is awesome!”

The ecstatic Minori spun around and around. Swinging the pink flame around in the darkness with her arms outstretched, she left behind a ribbon of light in a circle around her.

What a wonderful smile, Ryūji thought. Even more so than the fireworks, Minori’s pearly teeth emitted a radiance from her smiling face. And her shining eyes glittered even more strongly.

As for the one watching her, without a trace in Minori’s life, without even a shred of proof of his existence, he was going to disappear. Becoming her boyfriend, getting closer to her, or being able to surprise her were all things he couldn’t do…He had even gone as far as to use such despicable scare tactics, but in the end even that hadn’t worked. Making her happy would be absolutely beyond him.

His feelings of nearly wanting to cry weren’t just because summer was nearly over.

A bit off to the side, Kitamura lit the firework launcher he had set up, and with a shrill screech, it soared into the sky. “Wow~!” Minori cried out. Taiga wordlessly watched with her mouth agape. As the girls looked on, the shot burst with a bang, blossoming into a flower of red and green over the waves of the sea.

In the other direction, Ami was sitting down. While she pretended to be watching the fireworks as well, she was in fact not looking at anything at all. With an unfocused gaze, she was simply clutching her knees. She just looked bored, and a little lonely.

Ami seemed to have found out about his feelings for Minori. How in the world did that happen---Then, as he was looking at Ami’s face, she seemed to notice his gaze.

Looking at Ryūji, she then shrugged. Without even a hint of a laugh, it was a slight motion.

Now that he thought about it, Ami had asked him something in the cave earlier---Takasu-kun, do you feel lonely? She’d asked. Ryūji hadn’t replied. Now, he thought that maybe he was.

The way he had replied earlier, just maybe, might have made her feel just like he was feeling now. As if, even if he were to disappear, it wouldn’t matter to anyone. Maybe that’s how she felt. Minori’s worth to him and his own worth to Ami, no matter how much he considered it he couldn’t think that they were equivalent.

Standing up, Ryūji started walking. Coming to terms with his rejection, he stood next to her.

“Hey…Today was just ridiculous, huh.”

“…”

Looking up at Ryūji with an annoyed expression, Ami quickly looked away.

“About the conversation earlier. I never did reply…You know, I would be lonely if you weren’t here. But, how should I say it…”

He realized what he wanted to say.

“…That is…It’s not about whether someone else is lonely, it’s about whether you’re lonely or not, right? If you feel lonely, or start to feel that way, then you’ll want to find a solution…isn’t that right? Look. That’s how it is for us. Just as you said…we’re the same. If you’re lonely, I think it would be better to just come out and say it.”

As she stubbornly refused to look at him, Ami’s eyes shone brightly. The fireworks that Kitamura fired into the sky reflected clearly within her large eyes. It was extremely pretty. It wasn’t a matter of lies or truth, he just felt that it was beautiful.

“…Takasu-kun…”

Finally, Ami opened her mouth.

“You know I, I---“

Still turned away, without meeting his gaze, she whispered almost inaudibly. Eaten up by the waves, her voice was faint, fading like the bursts of fireworks.

--- Never considered whether I was lonely or not, she said.

“Think about it. Think carefully.”

“…Won’t that…be painful?”

“If you can do something about it, I don’t think it should hurt that much.”

The loneliness…Ryūji understood and started walking. What he told to Ami also applied to himself. There was definitely something he could do. There was something he had to do to stand on equal ground. Really, it was something very simple.

“Hey Kushieda.”

“Hm?!”

With some fireworks in hand, Minori turned around. He was saddened by the fact that he didn’t have a place with Minori. That he wasn’t on the same ground, that was definitely it. So, he had to try calling out to her. To search for any possibility, to find the space, he had to call out for something, anything. He wanted to shout, I’m right here!

“Umm…”

Next to Minori, Taiga started to sneak away. Muttering, “I’ll go give Bakachi some fireworks”, she made way for Ryūji. To show his appreciation for her support, he regrouped his courage.

“…Umm, Kushieda. T, thank you.”

“Eh?”

“I was really scared. But now, I guess it was fun. You had me completely fooled. When you’re around, how should I put this, it’s always a surprise. When you’re around---It’s fun. In any situation.”

As if she was tired, Minori was surprisingly quiet, but then,

“…Ahaha, I should be the one saying that!”

She looked back at Ryūji with her usual smile.

“I really had fun on this trip. Really, thank you. You really gave me a great time. The seaweed ghost, and also, the spicy curry. It was delicious…Ah, and when we made those sandwiches together. You tried my Minori special that was packed with mustard. And…also…my weird talk, you listened without laughing. You were really understanding.”

Minori was slowly spinning the firework in both hands, staring at the stream of flame that came out, and smiling.

“And, about scaring you, I’m really sorry. I’m also sorry for dirtying your towel. Next time, I’ll get you a present…I just really, wanted to show you a ghost, and I went overboard.”

“You wanted to show me…?”

“Yeah. That’s right.”

Minori was bent over looking at the spark, but then she slowly looked upwards. The fire reflected brightly in her eyes as she looked straight up at him.

“You told me before about how you wanted to see a ghost. So, I thought I'd show you one---Takasu-kun seemed to be trying really hard to show one to me after all. Although I was acting about being scared, I was being serious when we were talking. Those were my real feelings.”

Listening to Minori explain her intentions, Ryūji remained silent. Minori continued on to fill in the silence.

“Hey Takasu-kun, why do you think you tried to scare me?”

“Ehh---That was…Because Taiga said you disliked horror, I guess…”

“Playing a prank?...Just messing with me, you mean?...I don’t think so. Takasu-kun isn’t the type to openly show dislike for someone else. You seem more like the type to try and spread happiness.”

He was at a loss for words. Still, even as he remained silent, Minori didn’t get mad, didn’t even laugh, but just continued to look at him.

“…By scaring me, you probably felt that you could create some sort of happiness, right Takasu-kun? That is what I really want to believe…I think it’s really mysterious.”

“That’s…”

He licked his dry lips. Like a fish struck through the heart, he continued to flail.

But he spoke.

He wanted to say it.

“…I want to make you believe, that ghosts do exist. I wanted to show you them. That it wasn’t a lie, and that you’re not isolated, so---so that’s why.”

He merely prayed that Minori would somehow understand his jumble of words without misunderstanding.

“…I see.”

Saying nothing more, Minori showed a rather tender expression. Just maybe she had been able to understand what he was trying to convey. Just how well, though, he wasn’t entirely sure.

Showing that slight smile, she continued.

“…Takasu-kun, did you see a ghost?”

Ryūji slowly nodded. I did. I certainly found one.

Maybe Minori had noticed. A ghost—and his own existence, perhaps she had found them. Without actually asking, Ryūji just stared at the sand at his feet.

He really hoped that she had noticed.

Even just a bit, he hoped he had a place in her mind…Maybe not even as a ghost but as a fragment of a spirit, that would be enough.

“…Well, then next time, oh I know….Hey, Takasu-kun. Why don’t we go looking for UFO’s together some time? Real ones, not just an artificial satellite.”

Suddenly looking up towards the sky, her eyes narrowed into a smile.

“After ghosts will be UFO’s…Then after that, Tsuchinoko. Just like that, if the world steadily changes…if I find the things I’m searching for…as my world changes, then, just maybe, someday…”

It was at that moment.

At the edge of his sight, Ryūji saw it shine.

He quickly pointed to the sea.

Turning around, Minori saw what Ryūji was pointing at.

Toradora vol04 247.jpg It was a ball of light shooting upwards from the dark horizon. Then, it burst.

Against the indigo sky, it flowered outwards in a great circle. A second later, the sight was followed by a deep resounding boom.

Right over Minori’s head, it looked as if the fragments were raining down.

With her arms outspread, Minori’s eyes were wide open, shining more brightly than even the stars. The tip of her nose was lightly dyed in the light of the fireworks. Then, she murmured. Maybe she didn’t mean for anyone to hear, maybe she was just speaking to herself…

“It blew up---The UFO did.”

Kitamura as well looked up at the sky.

Even Taiga and Ami looked up at the sky in the same way.

So then, they were all rendered speechless. It was just so sudden, the splendor of the flames in the sky.

They continued to shoot upwards, bursting, followed by the sound of the explosion and falling back towards the earth. Red, yellow, blue, green, the midsummer fireworks scattered and glittered throughout the night sky.

“The start of the Milky Way War…is it…?”

Stretching out both arms towards the sky, Minori murmured as if she still couldn’t believe it. Over and over again, like in a dream, I saw it, she said.


Beneath the dazzling sky, there was something Ryūji never noticed.

Taiga’s upraised arms slowly dropped. The fireworks are awesome, just look at them, stupid dog---Unable to grasp onto the hem of his t-shirt like she normally would, Taiga’s hand dropped.

Then, she finally understood. That she hadn’t understood at all.

I see.

---So it’s like this, is it, she thought.

Only the eyes of Ami nearby gazed at the side of Taiga’s face. Beneath the sky where the fireworks continued their performance, rather than look at her with pity, she rolled her eyes, but not saying a word, she only continued to stay by her side.


  • *

“…!”

When she awoke, Taiga didn't know where she was for a moment. She felt like she had just seen a weird dream, and still feeling caught up in the dream’s atmosphere, she was scared, thinking that she'd been abandoned in some horrible place.

“What are you doing, come on, we’re getting off!”

“…Ah? Eh?”

In front of her was Ryūji. Next to him was Kitamura as he unloaded Ami’s luggage and handed it over to him. Completely oblivious, Ami was staring into her Chanel-brand compact while crying “Ahh, I knew being in this train would dry me out~!”

“Taiga! We’re going!”

Pulled by her hand, she was pulled out of her seat. Minori was smiling ear to ear as she got Taiga’s luggage for her.

Oh yeah, the trip’s over, she thought. Before she knew it, the express train they were on was back at the station they were all familiar with, where the platform was overflowing with passengers getting off.

Hurriedly taking her stuff and grabbing onto Minori’s hand, she started walking down the narrow aisle. Not sure when she had fallen asleep, her head was in tremendous pain from oversleeping. Actually, her stomach hurt quite a bit as well.

“Minorin…I think my stomach hurts…”

“Eh? Really? Umm, will you be okay? Takasu-kun, Taiga says her stomach hurts!”

What, Ryūji turned around. Kitamura did as well.

“Do you want to take some medicine? We’ll rest for a bit on one of the platform seats.”

Beyond his glasses, those kind eyes that could evoke tears just by looking at them were staring gently at Taiga’s face. However, Taiga shook her head, saying she was fine and turning to look away.

It’s fine.

It’s fine like this.

In only a few days, summer break will end. Life will be back the way it usually was.

An unchanging status, an unchanging classroom, and unchanging days and nights. And maybe, something that changed just a little.

However, Taiga just thought, that’s fine. After all, there's no reason for it to not be fine.


At the ticket gate where they met up two days ago,

“A trip’s not over until you’re home! Everyone, make sure you keep your wits about you so that you’ll arrive home safely!”

Kitamura gave a slightly embarrassing speech. Completely ignoring him, Ryūji’s face was full of contemplation,

“Should I stop by the supermarket…Today’s Friday, so the tuna should be cheap.”

How about it Taiga?, he tried to ask her,

“Be quiet, I’m tired! Always going on like some housewife, geez.”

And was rejected cruelly.

Ami was lost in her own thoughts as well. Seemingly worried over her slightly sunburnt nose,

“Maybe I’ll go and visit my parents’ estate today~…”

She announced grandly. Tugging forcibly at the disorganized group, “Hey hey hey! Get over here! Come on!” Minori spoke seriously.

“Ehh, ending this trip without any accidents is most important! Ah well, anyway, see you everyone! Until the new semester! Let’s meet up again at school!”

---We have club activities tomorrow though, Kitamura’s blunt words were left behind as they waved goodbye. So then, heading towards the bike storage at the north entrance, Minori turned away from everyone. However, turning back around and calling Ryūji’s name, “I’ll bring a towel next time, you know! What color would you like?” she said. “Um, blue!” “Eh? Hot pink?” “I said blue!” “Eh? You want one made from gold and silver?” “B.L.U.E!” “Oh, I see, khaki!” Minori continued understandingly with an ever-increasing smile. “Ah, o, okay then…Khaki it is…” he said.

What idiots, Taiga said with a cold look while sitting. Looking for only a moment at Taiga with a slight laugh, Ami called out “see ya!” as she hit Ryūji’s back, donning her sunglasses. Her face turning from a highschooler on summer vacation back to that of a model, she walked off to the ticket gate for a transfer to get back to her parents’ house. Kitamura gave Taiga some medicine before waving, “I left my bike over there too!” he exclaimed before setting off to join Minori.

And just like that, Ryūji Takasu’s summer as a second-year high schooler ended.

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