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

This is Chapter 5 from Volume 5 of the Toradora! Light Novel series. The text is from Baka-tsuki.

Transcript

"Whoa! I never thought there would be this many people queuing...... Damn, I'm getting nervous already, what do I do..."

"Be quiet, Haruta."

"You telling me to be quiet!? Taka-ch....WHOA--!"

Thud! Using a black curtain, the narrow front portion of the classroom just in front of the blackboard was partitioned off as a resting area. Haruta was peeking out into the corridor through a tiny door gap, but suddenly yelled and fell backwards. The classmates around him quickly stretched their hands out, and delivered multiple bullet-like flicks on his forehead.

"Just what on earth are you doing!? Can't you stay quiet? It'll ruin all the fun if people from outside hear what we're doing!"

"Can't you behave more like an executive producer? For goodness' sake!"

"Shut up already, dumbass!"

"Ow ow ow! It's not like I did it on purpose!"

Haruta knelt on the floor and crawled forward, evading the flicks on his forehead and pointed towards the dark figure, whose back was faced towards everyone and was preparing for his rehearsal.

"It's all because Takasu was glaring at me with a scary face!"

"Huh? Me?"

I was only telling you not to be too nervous... Upon hearing his friend's unexpected statement, Ryūji turned around.

"Ugh!?"

"GYAAAA!!!"

Even those who were scolding Haruta a while ago were now trembling their legs or had fled towards the wall. "What's going on?" Ryūji tilted his head and frowned. Taiga, emerging from the changing room after changing into her costume, scowled at the commotion and grabbed Ryūji's shoulder,

"Hey! Why're you guys still fooling.... WHOA---!!!"

Taiga quickly tumbled backwards upon seeing Ryūji's face. Something is not right here...... Ryūji picked Taiga up and asked,

"Why're even you reacting like this? Why is everyone yelling upon seeing me?"

"I was too careless... I fell for your Face Flash..."

"My face...? Oh, am I putting on too much makeup...?"

Ryūji finally understood. Though it was now useless to cover it, he still decided to cover his face with his hands.

In order to block out any light from entering the stage, this narrow resting place, which was surround by black curtains, was only illuminated by a small table lamp which nobody was sure who brought it. In this dimly lit space, the light shone from the bottom of Ryūji's evil face upwards, creating a deadly force more powerful than any weapon. His deep blue upper eyelids strongly emphasized his sinister triangular eyes, his thick lower eyelids naturally gave an aura of a dangerous person. His normally dry lips were now applied with so much lip balm that he no longer looked human. If he carries such a face onto the stage, the audience would almost certainly be mentally traumatized for life.

"What on earth are you thinking? You stupid bomb-faced dog!"

Taiga tossed a few makeup removal tissues to Ryūji. Upon receiving the tissues, Ryūji felt a tinge of sadness-- I was merely trying to show my enthusiasm. Though I'd feel depressed about showing this evil face to the audience, but I'd still give it my all. This is to repay everyone for not making a big fuss out of my bust-up with Minori. That's why I want to do my best to play this villain part, that's all.

"Well, I guess I overdid it..."

"That was totally unnecessary!"

Taiga flatly rejected Ryūji's way of thinking,

"You're always like that, thinking 'Am I missing something' all the time. Actually, by having such a thought, you're doing just fine, yet you'll end up overdoing it. Next time remember this."

"I always control myself carefully... By the way, what's with that face of yours? Why is it just you that's so damn cute? You need a villain's makeup! Here, lemme help you!"

"No thanks, I'm fine as it is."

Taiga sat behind Ryūji. From her reflection in the mirror, he could see her calmly shrugging her shoulders; there was no makeup on her face as usual -- she merely tied a high ponytail behind her hair, roughly giving out a bad girl image. "Heh heh heh." She smiled in a cocky pose and fluttered her black cape, while elegantly opening her black feather fan with her other hand, revealing her trademark pose.

"I still have to trade roles with Bakachi, so I'll spare the villain makeup."

Taiga seemed quite happy. Is it because your beloved father's going to move in with you that you're in such a good mood?

Ryūji despondently folded his cape, which was similar to Taiga's, and began removing his excessive makeup. Under his cape he wore a black T-shirt and a pair of black trousers.

Taiga too wore a black T-shirt and black tights. Both simply wore their indoor shoes on their feet. Yet no matter how one looked, they looked nothing like villains in their all black outfits.

"Oh yeah, there's something else more important... you should know..."

"... You're heavy."

Taiga leaned herself on the back of Ryūji, who was kneeling down and removing his makeup. As their eyes met in the mirror, Taiga held her fan in a sadistic way and rubbed Ryūji's terrible looking face, while putting her mouth very near his ear and whispered,

"You must do what I told you this morning."

Under Taiga's cruel stare, Ryūji could only nod. Truth was, on the way to school, Ryūji attempted to resist, but ended up being violently abused by Taiga.

You must apologize to Minorin, and make up with her.

Despite not knowing the whole story, Taiga unilaterally blamed it all on Ryūji, not understanding his feelings at all. Or rather, she had no idea she was the main cause of the argument. As Ryūji made no mention about the reason they argued, Taiga naturally knew nothing about it.

"I said I get it already. Or perhaps you would like to mediate between me and Kushieda? Weren't you chatting happily with her this morning as usual? Couldn't you just casually tell her 'make up with Ryūji already' or something like that?"

"Do you think I'm the sort of person who's perceptive enough to know what people are thinking in order to repair their relationships?"

"So you realize that as well huh... yeah, it's not possible for you to do it. Sorry about that."

Ryūji sighed and redrew the makeup on his eyelids which he over-removed. He was aware himself, even if Taiga didn't tell him, he too had wanted to make up with Minori, he also knew he could not have Taiga as the mediator for this argument, so he had to come up with something. On the other hand, though he wanted to make up with Minori, it didn't mean he accepted what she had said. As long as this matter is not resolved, it was impossible for them to truly amend their relationship.

Ryūji's face became terrifying, and looked through the mirror behind his back.

"Wow! As expected from Kushieda, it suits you."

"Really? You think so?"

Just what is she wearing? Ryūji could only hear a cheery voice emanating from the changing corner, yet its owner Minori was hidden behind a curtain, he could not even see a single hair.

"Ah... such a pathetic face... Hurry up and make up with her! It's the school festival, if you don't hurry and do so, you won't be able to go out with her."

Ryūji didn't need Taiga's reminding, as he was completely aware of it. He looked at Taiga's small pale face... It's all because of you... His resentment suddenly fell like the occasional snow in the city, slowly accumulating before bursting its limit,

"Heh..."

"Wha!?"

Ryūji took the eye pencil he was holding and drew a moustache on that despicable Taiga's face.

"What the hell you doing!?"

"Take this, and this!"

"AHH!!!"

He continued his assault. Neither her forehead nor her chin were spared. Faced with such a sudden attack from the stupid dog, Taiga waved her arms and fled on all fours like a beast.

"OW!"

"Hey Takasu! Don't let the tiger run around in such a small space!"

"Whoa! The black curtain's in danger!"

The classmates making their preparations within the narrow space were feeling bothered. As Taiga prepared to flee under the table full of small props, someone had grabbed her on the neck. She squealed and attempted to remove that hand, but upon seeing who it was, she quickly froze as though hit by a spell.

"Alright, you should stay still for now. The first show is about to begin soon."

The one who suddenly appeared was Kitamura. He was the Vice President of the Student Council as well as being in charge of discipline and event management, he was also going to play as a student of "Team Ami" in the play. Like the other extras, he wore a white T-shirt and a pair of PE trousers. His glasses shone as always.

"According to the guys at the sales counter, the audience for the first show will include all those queuing outside right now, that's more than enough to fill 80% of the seats. There'll also be some people who won't be coming until just before the show starts, so I'm guessing it's gonna be a full house."

Whoa... The people inside dimly lit resting zone murmured.

"Wow, is it really gonna be a full house? And I thought no one's interested in wrestling."

"And aren't there even more visitors than last year? The corridor has been packed with people since this morning."

"Speaking of last year, even our own schoolmates didn't bother coming, the school was quite empty."

"There are plenty of visitors from other schools this year as well."

Kitamura nodded keenly,

"That's right. This year the Student Council has specially gone to visit other schools to promote this event, regardless of the weather, as well as posting plenty of flyers to inform everyone of this 'Inter Class Competition'. It was surprisingly popular. Besides, as each class is attempting to get as many votes as possible, they would get their friends from their junior high to come visit as well, we now even have more junior high students visiting than ever."

"Whoo...! Junior high schoolgirls..."

"Damn! Can I go flirt with them?"

The whole class squatted in the narrow space, withstanding the incredible heat while whispering with each other.

"Maruo, time to get the guests to their seats."

Though they heard the girl from the counter speaking, no one made any sound. Even Taiga, who was agonizingly silent while being grabbed by Kitamura, realized the importance of this and diligently got to her feet. Behind two layers of black curtains was the sound of chairs shuffling and people chatting as they got to their seats, it seemed like there were quite a lot of people.

"Is everyone ready?"

Suppressing her voice, Ami emerged from the black curtain. Upon seeing her costume, everyone in the resting area applauded with their index fingers to avoid making any sound.

As expected from the protagonist, she was indeed the main attraction. Ami wore the same T-shirt like everyone else, though she wore a pleated skirt borrowed from the tennis club, beneath it her long beautiful legs shone brightly. Though she wore a pair of tights under the skirt, but...

"Ami really is understanding..."

"She's too beautiful..."

The guys were nearly kneeling on all fours and worshipping her dazzling appearance. Even the girls' scornful looks and hisses did not affect them. As the last batch of audience took their seats, the classroom was filled with the audience's mutterings.

"Alright... let us do our best for Ami's beautiful legs... Let's go everyone!"

Haruta the idiot lowered his voice to the limit. Everyone nodded and stretched out their right hand, trying as much as possible to overlap them with each other. Ryūji, who carried a terrible villainous face; Taiga, who placed her fan under her armpits and rested on Ryūji's head; Kitamura, who nodded; Ami, who smiled at everyone with her angelic face; Noto, who placed his hand on Haruta's shoulder; Maya, who rolled up her sleeve to reveal her slim shoulders; Nanako, the diligent girl who smiled at the guys who were standing too near; the male classmate who wore a princess headpiece as a prank; the female classmate who held onto her rapidly beating heart; the classmate who still clung onto his script; as well as the classmate who was desparate to go to the bathroom. Everyone, including Minori who was standing where Ryūji could not see, was feeling the same way.

"Well then, I hope that our first Class 2-C pro-wrestling show will go off to a great success! OK everyone! FIGHT---!!!"

"IPPATSU!" (Based on a well-known commercial slogan in Japan by energy drink Lipovitan - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lipovitan )

YEAH!!! As everyone applauded with their fingertips, someone couldn't resist and commented "Why are we using a slogan straight out of an energy drink commercial...?"


  • *

"Visitors, please don't stay in the same spot! On your left is the old school building, on your right is the new one! Why isn't anyone listening to me--!?"

A group of visitors, hesitating whether to go left or right, were now congregated at a V-shaped junction on the corridor. A bunch of sailor uniformed schoolgirls from another school asked, "Where is it?" While some people approached them, ready to flirt. Parents were walking around with their cameras in hand. "Honey, just where is Class 1-D anyway?" "Is it this way, Dad?" Groups of junior high students ran around excitedly. Some visitors found themselves the centre of a struggle for visitors between different clases, with a junior class girl in an apron holding one arm and exclaiming, "We have some tasty crepes in our class!" And another student stopping them and proclaiming, "The crepes in our class are all freshly baked!"

Faced with such chaos, the girl wearing a Student Council armband and responsible for controlling the crowds was now close to tears.

"Can everyone please stop pushing! It's dangerous... KYA!! Umph...!"

The girl made a strange yell and was buried within the chaos. A boy wearing a similar armband quickly rushed over and pulled her out, though this time it was his turn to be drowned by the sea of people, alongside his bad luck.

At the corner of this chaotic corridor...

"Hey, I got an SMS message? What photo is this?"

"Lesse... 'The pro-wrestling show in Class 2-C is awesome'...?"

"Isn't that Kawashima Ami!? She's cute, ain't she... WHOA!? What's with that mini-skirt? Lemme see that photo! Just who sent this anyway?"

"Forward it to me as well! I need to save this! Who took it anyway?"

"The guys who saw the wrestling show. They even said here, 'Takasu the delinquent and the Palmtop Tiger are just hilarious!' ...... Seriously? Now that's creepy!"

"Huh? Is it really that good? What's it about anyway? Where is it?"

"Let's go have a look! Since our shift won't begin anytime soon, and it's not yet lunch break."

“Hey, what's that? Lemme have a look! Whoa, what on earth is this" ...... And so the images coming from an unknown source quickly spread around like a virus.


"T, that's... that's the precious treasure of Class 2-C, passed down through the generations!"

"That's right! The most important treasure... 'the Homeroom Teacher's Red-String of Fate'! Heh heh heh heh!"

"Stop! You can't do that! Not that of all things!"

Ami's screams echoed throughout the classroom. Standing with their legs hideously spread open, the crab-like legion pointed excitedly at Ami and giggled, "Heh... heh... heh..."

When a victim is brain-washed, he'll end up walking like a crab --- That was the setting Haruta had insisted on. A group of people moved their legs slowly in a crab-like manner and surrounded Ami. In other words, all the students in Class 2-C, with the exception of Ami, had been brainwashed. Oh, the terror! Oh, the humanity!

In such a serious situation, the giggles of the audience, together with comments of "How boring!" from some busybody, merely intensified the atmosphere.

"Noto-kun! You too are a Class 2-C classmate! How could someone as kind and gentle as you do something so cruel?"

The spotlight landed on the daughter of the Great Homicide Investigator Yuuzuki Reiko. As expected of Ami, even if her acting wasn't up to standard, from the passion emitted from her voice, she still managed to add to the intensity to this foolish situation.

"We're supposed to be friends! Classmates happily enjoying life together in Class 2-C!"

Ami tremored as she stretched out her hands, trying very hard to convince Noto. Every word spoken was followed by her mini-skirt wavering, showing her long thighs, and capturing the hearts of the male audience sitting in the front row.

"Friends? I don't remember such a thing already... Though my heart was indeed kind and gentle before..."

Noto, who never thought he would play such an important role, took out a pair of scissors. He purposely licked his lips and slowly opened the scissors, placing the 'Red String of Fate' into it. Noto was so into his role that his glasses slid down his nose... even his convincing acting looked extremely foolish.

"But now! My heart is completely dedicated to our master, the Palmtop Tiger! Master, please give us your instructions!"

The spotlights now moved towards a podium formed by a ladder.

"Bibibi, bibibi!"

"Bibibibibibibi!"

Taiga and Ryūji behind her stood on top of that podium.

Both wore a black cape and stood in a crab-like manner with their arms raised, chanting, "Bibibi" non-stop. When brainwashing, you must also do it in a crab-like manner So insisted Haruta the director.

Matching Noto's gaze, Taiga opened her black feather fan, which she seemed to be fond of, and waved it. She stretched out her right hand from beneath the cape and pointed forward, and commanded the brain-washed brigade with a deep and low voice,

"Cat it apat!"

'Boom! The sound effect came on cue, but Taiga had misread her line.

The brain-washed brigade all fell to the floor, their reaction had nothing to do with acting. The audience, who were laughing all along, too fell from their chairs.

"Idiot... bibibi... say it again... bibibi..."

Ryūji, standing behind Taiga and emitting his brainwashing waves, placed his chin on her head and urged her to do it again. Taiga cleared her throat and said,

"Cut it apart!"

'Boom!' The sound effect came again. Noto took his cue and stepped into the spotlight,

"Heh heh heh heh heh! I'm now going to cut it in half, so that you'll never recover it!"

Snip The treasure 'the Homeroom Teacher's Red-String of Fate' was now cut in half. Just as Ami exclaimed, "How can this happen!?" The next second, a yell fifty times louder than Ami's exclamation was heard,

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Sitting at the last row, the homeroom teacher, Koigakubo Yuri (aged 30) suddenly stood up and screamed. Wow! Such realistic acting, Koigakubo! Cried out the audience as they turned their heads around. "Ahhhh! Ahhhh!" The Single Lady cried out in an agony that looked so real, while pulling over the Red String that was cut apart, revealing one end to be actually tied to her little finger. The Single Lady continued her agonizing acting and ran away from the audience. "Wow, Yuri-chan's acting sure is superb! It's almost realistic!" Even when the students from other classes which had attended her English lessons were muttering, she did not stop and turn around.

"As expected of Yuri-chan, great acting!" Haruta, in charge of lighting and dialog, stood under the shadow of the curtains and nodded approvingly of the Single Lady's acting. At first, Yuri refused to participate, crying, "Absolutely not! Even if it's fake! Who knows if it might actually happen?" It was only after the whole class begged her that she gave in. This was partly because she felt herself to be partially responsible for selfishly deciding the class's school festival activity, though another reason was because she heard someone mutter, "It's because she's so stubborn that she's still single..."

As the Single Lady left the classroom, Ami wrapped her head in pain and said,

"This is too terrible! Just what more do you want before you can stop!?"

"Heh heh heh heh heh!"

The wrestling podium consisted of a mat on the floor, with ladders acting as the corners of the podium, and three pieces of rope were tied around these ladders. Besides Ami, the other people standing on the podium were all crabs. Ami was now forced into a corner, and knelt helplessly on the floor.

"What should I do in order to save everyone!?"

"Bibibibibibibi!"

With a determined look, Ami glared at the Palmtop Tiger and her Delinquent Henchman, who were busy emitting their brainwashing waves from above.

"I cannot allow you to do something so horrible! You violent, ugly and miniature Palmtop Tiger, as well as you, the henchman who looks like a delinquent, but actually behaves more like a manly housewife!"

Huh? Is it me or is that line longer than usual? Haruta wondered. "Violent, ugly and miniature...?" "Manly housewife...?" While still emitting their brainwashing waves, veins could be seen popping out on Taiga and Ryūji's foreheads. Though Ami's passionate acting continued...

"Oh! ... But everyone has now turned into hostages! What should I do? I cannot stand by and watch everyone fall like that! Why is fate so cruel to me? Who can save me?"

Sad music started to play, and the lights began to dim, with only one spotlight shining on Ami, who was crying helplessly. This was supposed to be a serious scene, yet for some reason the audience was whistling fervently. Was it something to do with Ami's thighs being revealed as she sat on the floor? Flashes of cameras clicking away could be heard. The crab-like legion took this chance to back down quietly and prepared for the next scene. CLAP CLAP! As flares were forbidden in school, the crew working under the stage used chalk powder instead, clapping the blackboard cleaners together loudly to create a misty effect.

"God has seen everything."

"Heave ho!"

Under the mist, four guys lifted Minori onto the stage. "C, Captain Kushieda!?" "Why is the captain who led her softball team into the last eight of the Kanto Tournament in such an outfit?" Most of the exclamation came from the junior members in the softball team. This was probably the first time they had seen the Kushidea-senpai that they admire in an outfit besides her softball uniform. The other audience members applauded for Minori's serious expression.

A bald-cap, eyepatch, buck teeth, a jumper and belt normally worn by old ladies, this character was what Haruta called a "podium fairy". From the script, it seemed that she is God.

"Warrior Ami, I shall give you a chance. If you can use your own pure power to capture everyone's hearts, then I shall agree to release them from their brainwashed trance... Now come, how will they answer this question I give them? Act carefully."

So said the god with her bald cap, who then suddenly yelled a strange voice,

"ATTACK CHANCE---!"

Her voice sounded eerie, echoing across the podium. The audience was speechless and their minds blank. At this moment...

"Who is the most beautiful person in this world?"

A sudden question.

"KAWASHIMA AMI!!!"

Just as the bald-headed god asked her question, many voices quickly answered miraculously in synch with each other. This meant Ami had successfully captured their hearts.

"Very good!"

Ami's face beamed in a way it was hard to just use "good acting" to describe. Anyway, she smiled ecstatically in a way she would normally not show, slightly distorting her pretty face. "Whoa, how can she have such an evil expression..." As someone with a sharp gaze commented, the lights went out, followed by bright lighting from three different directions.

As everyone struggled to see in this blinding light...

"W, what was I doing?"

"Ami-chan, what happened to us?"

"I felt like I just had a bad dream."

"Amazing!"

"At last!"

"We're back to normal!"

Amongst the classmates who stopped standing like crabs, a group stood in a line and sang like a choir, "Doo-waa!" Announcing that their brainwash was dispelled. The audience applauded in excitement. As it's come to this, there's no way the Palmtop Tiger and her Delinquent Henchman could let them get away with this, according to the script.

"We'll have to take drown... dramat... drastic measures!"

"Kawashima Ami! Unforgivable!"

Just as Taiga struggled to get her lines across, Ryūji quickly concluded for her. By now they no longer need to chant and stand like crabs. They then stood and made their trademark stance on the ladder.

"Let's go!"

"Right!"

After making gestures to each other, they removed their capes and stared at the people on the podium. Ryūji grabbed hold of Taiga's body...

"Ready..."

"Whoooo!" Applause rumbled around the audience. Four of the backstage helpers beat the drum on cue to signify that the fight has began. Taiga at once leapt from the ladder, with Ryūji's arms providing a boost to her leap forward.

"Wow! Amazing...!"

"The Palmtop Tiger is here!"

"Ami-chan, run!"

From the ladder, Taiga made two tumbleturns before landing on the podium, with a group of boys holding her steady as she touched down, allowing her to turn swiftly like a cat and go into battle stance at once. In place of the ropes, which lack any elasticity, the backstage crew placed their hands behind Taiga's back, and using this thrust, Taiga charged forward,

"CHAAARGEEE!!!"

Taiga made use of her amazing spurt, and leapt like a rubber band, jumping a few metres above the ground. She then spun like a top and made a deadly spinning kick.

"Take this!"

"......! That was close!"

Ami exclaimed, and dodged elegantly. Though the attack was all according to script, Taiga's shoes still managed to scrape through Ami's bangs. Amidst the cheers, Taiga changed her centre of gravity and yelled,

"Who you calling violent, ugly and miniature---!?"

She made a double kick aimed towards Ami's head, as though she really intended to break Ami's jaw - Though of course this too was according to script. With two crew members assisting her, Ami flipped backwards in a gracious manner to avoid the attack. "Eek!" Yet Ami's scream sounded very real.

"Hey, did you see that attack just now?"

"No, it was too fast. I can't follow with my eyes!"

The fight was so exciting that even the classmates in charge of commentating the fight were amazed.

Ryūji too jumped off the ladder, just in time to form a Double Lariat combo attack with Taiga. Ami managed to squat quickly to dodge the attack, which was nervously parried by the delicate hands of Maya and Nanako, who came out of their brainwash trance, with their own Double Lariat combo.

"Umph!"

"Ahh!"

Pretending to be hit, both Ryūji and Taiga landed backwards on the podium mat. The classmates from the gymnastic team made their own flipping movements behind, to add to the atmosphere. Ami took this opportunity to get up and sat on Taiga, who was trying to get up. Though Taiga was stuck, Ryūji was slowly creeping behind Ami, and despicably carried a foldable chair in his hands.

"Ami-chan! Behind you!"

Some of the audience stood with their chairs falling over, trying to warn Ami of the danger behind.

"Ha!"

"Takasu, heave!"

"Delinquent, take this!"

Five guys carried Ryūji like a sedan chair and threw him onto the mat, which was followed by everyone else mercilessly falling on top of him. "That's for going to Ami-chan's mansion alone!" "Don't think you can get away with that!" "Why didn't you take any swimsuit pictures if you were going to the beach!?" "You seem to be getting all the best bits!" - All those whispers that went into Ryūji's ears were all genuine. This can be shown by the way they were all crushing Ryūji to the point of him losing his breath, despite agreeing beforehand not to hold him down with their bodies... "W, why you people..."

Finally, it came to the last scene. Ami and Taiga switched stances and rolled around, while exchanging glances with each other.

"OK, here goes, midget. Ready..."

"Ow ow ow ow ow!"

"Ow ow ow ow ow! Stop kicking my legs!"

Lying on the ground, Ami lifted Taiga's light body up with all her limbs, and performed a perfect Romera Special manuever. "Whooooo!" The audience applauded so thunderously that even the windows behind the curtains shook. Paper pieces fell over the stage as the crew beat the drums and rang on the bell to signify that the fight was over. Haruta the umpire-director came on and declared,

"THE WINNER IS: KAWASHIMA--- AMI---! As well as the Class 2-C Brigade---!"

The audience gave a standing ovation, and they clapped and cheered all the way, drowning out Haruta's own cheers,

"AMI! AMI! AMI! AMI! ..." Amidst this cheering,

"Oh no..."

"What's wrong?"

"I think I got a cramp on my back..."

"Just hang on until the curtain falls. Once we switch roles, I'll be the one taking all that pain..."

"Ughhhh..."

Tears slowly dripped out of Taiga's eyes, though no one seemed to notice.


  • *

"Welcome back, Master!"

"Greetings Princess! Your one and only Prince Charming has come to receive you!"

"I-it's not like we really care whether you come to our class' coffee house or not!"

"We have thousands of manga where you can read all you want! Just one drink and you can read up to an hour for free!"

The corridor was bustling with students, parents, junior high schoolers preparing for their exams, as well as students from other schools, which got even more crowded as noon came. Some people were immersed in the festive atmosphere, trying to impress people with their flirting. "Hey! Long time no see!" Some people behind them even started their own mini class reunions. In the end of the corridor were two neighbouring stalls with two equally long queues: "Visitors for the maid cafe please stick to the wall!" "Hold it right there! What do you think you're doing snatching our customers as though it's nothing!?" "The hell!? These are OUR customers from here all the way till over there!" "You're from Class 1-A, right? Just you wait, you junior classmen!" "Shouldn't you seniors be spending time preparing for your exams!?" The trigger was fired, and the battle of the maids has begun.

"Hey, those cuties are quarelling! Yeah, c'mon! Get her, man!"

"Show her what you got, long-skirted maid! I'm rooting for you, senior!"

"Are you out of your mind!? That first year maid's wearing thigh-high socks! 'Absolute Territory' rules, man!" (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ZettaiRyouiki)

A crowd began to gather to watch the commotion, the people queuing too were being roused.

"HEY YOU! Are you trying to get the School Festival cancelled---!?"

Whack! Someone had come from behind and grabbed their heads, banging them together. The two quarelling girls quickly fell on their knees. "I'm sorry, I guess we're a bit too hot headed!" "No, no, no! It's our fault for offending you seniors!" Two boys came forward and dragged their respective maids back.

"Good work, Aniki!"

"As expected from the boss of the Kanou sisters!"

The students broke into thunderous applause. The person who elegantly punished the two bickering girls and raised her hand to respond to her admirers was a very beautiful and elegant-looking girl with snowy, white skin and long dark hair which was hung all the way behind her back.

"Alright! In any case, all of you pipe down! Everyone queue up properly into two rows! And don't cross that line! HEY! I said queue properly!"

"Yessir!"

With her extraordinary charm, it wasn't just the students, even the parents began to queue up in an orderly manner at the sound of her command. - This person was none other than the school's spiritual leader, the perfect Student Council president, Kanou Sumire.

"As expected from the president, you've performed beautifully!"

"By the way... is it OK for Kitamura to loiter around here?"

"I hate that woman..."

Saying those were Kitamura the Student Council vice-president, as well as Ryūji and Taiga. The wrestling show of Class 2-C was a resounding success, and it was now lunch break, and so the three of them were now looking around the chaotic festival stalls together to grab something to eat... Though "together" isn't exactly the right word. Ryūji was still hesitating whether he should apologize to Minori, who had already been grabbed by her junior club members and dragged to who-knows-where. On the other hand, Ami had also left with Maya and Nanako.

For the remaining trio, their leader Kitamura clapped his hands while seeing off the president leaving in style and vanishing from the corner.

"It's fine, those of us in charge of discipline are all strictly sticking to our shifts. What's more worrying is... Aisaka, you alright?"

"Eh...... w, why do you ask!?"

"You're eating your ribbon along with your crepe."

Pfft! Taiga spat out her ribbon tie from her mouthful of crepe. How do you even manage to do that? You're such a glutton... Thought Ryūji.

"Ha ha ha ha! Seeing how seriously you're eating that crepe, it must be really delicious! If I'd known I would've bought one myself. Mind if I take a bite? Just the edge would do."

"......!"

"Ah..." Looking with hysterical eyes at Kitamura, who had opened his mouth, Taiga's face had gone beyond crimson red, it was now pale and devoid of colour. Ryūji was thinking, Would she die just from that? But Taiga still managed to hand the crepe over to Kitamura while trembling, saying in a weak falsetto,

"G, go ahead and have as much as you like..."

"Thanks! You're so generous!"

What a moving scene. With a carefree smile, Kitamura ate up a chunk of Taiga's crepe, even leaving his teethmarks on it. Taiga widened her jaw, but didn't make any sound.

"Hmm... not bad. There's plenty of banana chocolate and ice cream in it as well."

"......"

Kitamura's teethmarks remained on the crepe that was handed back to Taiga, who stared intensely at those teethmarks like sunlight on a magnifying glass. Ryūji could more or less guess that she's thinking very hard with that small brain of hers - 'Should I keep this as a souvenir? Or should I eat it while it's still fresh and have an indirect kiss? But an indirect kiss wouldn't look too nice, and it'll be too embarrassing. Yet I can't just leave it around. What should I do? ...' She's probably thinking along those lines, what an idiot. He first looked at Taiga's hair whorl, and then at Kitamura, who was in a great mood. Even as a friend, one wouldn't be so stupid as to so nonchalantly bite into something that's being eaten by the opposite sex, would he? Just what's with him!?

"R, Ryūji you should have some!"

"UMPH!"

Now this reaction was unexpected. Has Taiga thought of a solution? Or is she just so confused that she's resorted to this? In any case, she had taken the crepe which was munched by Kitamura and stuffed it into Ryūji's mouth.

"UGH! UMPH! BLEAH......!"

"It's delicious, right? Right!?"

Taiga kept on stuffing what remained of the crepe into Ryūji's mouth. "You guys sure get along well." Kitamura smiled and looked at them. Ryūji was having such great difficulty in breathing that he was close to suffocating. He kept on munching and pushed off Taiga's penetrating fingers from his throat, and finally swallowed the whole thing in the nick of time.

"A... are you trying to kill me!? Do you really hate me that much!?"

"AHHH...!"

Ryūji wasn't the only one with teary eyes. "Ugh......" As a result of not thinking with her brain, Taiga had lost the treasure in her hand, and could only look at her empty palms and lower her head despondently. Though Ryūji, who was nearly choked, showed not even the slightest sympathy for her. It's the school festival and yet I can't even spend it with Minori. This is all Taiga's fault. So it doesn't matter if she's a bit lacking in luck, besides, she'll soon be having a happy life with her dad...

"By the way, hasn't your dad come? You got any message yet?"

As her father hadn't arrived, Taiga quickly sent a message to him once recess started, which read, "Still haven't arrived? What time you coming? Only 3 shows left in the afternoon." And though this isn't really relevant, but Ryūji couldn't help but notice the title of her message: "Hey, scumbag".

"Not yet. If he's gonna be like that then say he's not coming... really, just what's with him?"

"You wanna call him?"

"I did... no answer. Sigh, that's not important. We need to get something to eat, I'm starving."

"What about that huge crepe you had?"

"In here."

Taiga at once pointed at Ryūji's stomach. "There's some here as well." Added Kitamura as he pointed to his.

"OK... how about we look for a decent place? What should we have... hmm, yakisoba, udon, okonomiyaki... Is there anyplace that serves desserts or shaved ice? What's this? 'Authentic Chinese!'... Chinese!?"

"Huh? Trying to call dishes made from an extremely weak stove Chinese? Are they thinking too much?"

"We've only got coffee shops left besides those."

The trio stood by the side of the wall to avoid the moving crowds while hesitating as they looked at the stall itinerary. As there's now a competition element added for this year's class activities, most classes have opted to serve food and drinks. As a result, the simpler activities like introduction to local sights and sounds, historical researches, or calligraphy exhibitions were hard to find and were nearly invisible.

"I'm definitely not going to that one."

"Yeah, that's gross."

"Why do they want to do that anyway?"

"Everybody Let's Learn! - Basic Body Toning Exercise Classes" - A strange activity was being held in PE teacher Kuro-Muscle's class. It seems Muscle (his real name's supposed to be Kuroma something) has forced everyone in his class to drink a glass of protein during lunch.

"How weird."

"So is their homeroom teacher."

"Aren't the students who obediently listened to him even more weird?"

"How sad." - The three of them nodded in agreement. Though what they didn't realize was that the schoolmates from other classes were saying the exact same things about them when they heard Class 2-C was to have a pro-wrestling show.

"Master, welcome back~"

Not sure whether she was from the 3-dimensional realm, or just borderline cosplaying - with her long hair tied into twin ponytails, a girl dressed up in a maid costume came out to greet her customers. Could it be because it's the school festival that she's allowed to wear like that? One step faster than the trio who was about to leave, she quickly opened the menu she was holding,

"We're serving lunch right now. One plate of omelette rice is 800yen. Additional drinks would be 200yen. With another 300yen we can even add a cute drawing on top using ketchup!"

"Whoa, expensive!"

Daunted by the prices, Ryūji took a step backwards.

"KYAA! Delinquent Takasu!"

Upon seeing Ryūji's face, this time it was the maid's turn to drop her menu from startlement. "Pfft!" Taiga quickly laughed,

"Hahahahaha! As expected from Ryūji! Even maids trying to solicit customers wouldn't dare approach you! How pathetic!"

"KYAA! The Palmtop Tiger!"

Noticing Taiga hiding behind Ryūji, the maid quickly pretended not to see anything and fled at once. Taiga didn't even have the energy to chase her and simply stood there with her mouth shut.

"Pfft! She ran away. Looks like I'm not the only one that's pathetic, huh?"

"What'd you say..."

Despite knowing it would kill him, Ryūji just couldn't resist fighting back. "Hmph!" "OW...!" Taiga stomped hardly on Ryūji's foot, attempting to crush it. If it weren't for the fact that Kitamura was nearby, Ryūji's foot would be even worse off.

"Alright, enough already. Thanks to you guys, no one is daring to come to us."

And so Kitamura had to mediate between the two. Both Ryūji and Taiga felt something complicated, they had noticed it when the maid fled from the sight of them. Though their poor reputation in school was a combination of truth and rumours, they realized there probably won't be any stall that would gladly welcome them. At this moment...

"Um... can the three of you please wait a moment?"

"May we ask you to come to our class?"

A few boys, whom they've never seen before, timidly asked them. Even when Ryūji and Taiga both turned around, they did not flee in terror. Kitamura smiled and asked,

"Well, what're you guys selling? We're looking for somewhere we could eat."

"Our class isn't selling food, but if you're willing to come, we can pay for your meals as well. Um... pardon me, but are you Kitamura, the captain of the baseball team?"

"Yes, I am."

"And those two behind, it's the Delinq... Takasu-san and the Palmtop... Aisaka-san, right?"

"Yeah."

"What do you want?"

The boys gave a smile as though asking for a favour,

"Our class is holding a 'World Martial Arts Tournament', but as our participants so far have been too weak... We're wondering if you guys are willing to join. We were most impressed by your superb performance in the wrestling show, that was too amazing."

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon_Ball)

Absolutely not - Kitamura, Ryūji and Taiga all gave a helpless look. Here was another class that was holding a strange event.

After firmly refusing their invitation, the three of them continued to wander in the chaotic food avenue within the new school building. After walking a while, they got a bit tired, and went into the less crowded old school building. There was no noise or chaos here, and the corridors were much easier to navigate. Though walking was easier...

"Coming here, it feels as though there's hardly any decent stalls here."

"The Arts Club seems to have some exhibition... let's see what we have, the theme is 'Monotonic Night Scenes'... How boring. Is it because there are all these nonsensical exhibitions that there's no one here?"

"Don't say it like that, since the itinerary does say there're stalls nearby..."

As Kitamura, who walked in front of them, turned around and said to the two people who were feeling disinterested...

"Welcome."

A deep voice from the end of the corridor called out to them. Over there was a very quiet store - sorry, classroom. The signboard outside read "Canteen - University Science Pathway Volunteers". From the name, one could guess this stall was being run by third years studying for university. It was quite different from those stalls that relied on flashy costumes or friendly waitresses to attract their customers.

"Three people is it? We have plenty of seats."

As expected from a third year senior. Wearing a cool-looking apron and opening the door curtain with one hand, the senior did not even look scared when he saw Taiga and Ryūji.

"I went to have a look at your class's pro-wrestling show, it was tiring, right? You guys must be exhausted, so welcome to our yakisoba store."

"W, well... Takasu, Aisaka, what do you guys think?"

Seeing both had nodded, Kitamura led the way and entered the stall.

"Hey! Lead three guests to their seats!"

"Roger that!"

"Welcome!"

Voices in the stall shouted consecutively. Ryūji felt like this was the first time he felt so welcomed by a store.

The decoration in the classroom resembled an izakaya. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Izakaya) The three of them sat on their seats and read their menus. Ryūji began to order, "Um, I'll have...cooled noodles." While for Taiga... "What's this? I'll have grilled octopus then." They actually serve these? Looking a bit surprised, Kitamura said, "Er... I guess I'll go with the yakisoba you recommended then. Extra serving." (TL note: Editors please doublecheck what Ryūji actually ordered. I'm just guessing the English equivalent here. +Did a check for you since I have the originals. The translation for this part should be good now. )

"Got it!"

"Roger!"

The three orders were all clearly conveyed to the kitchen. (Or were they?) Upon sitting properly and looking around, there were other customers in the classroom, some were reading the menus, others were having fried rice, all enjoying the serene and simplistic atmosphere of this stall. They could occasionally hear people commenting on the food,

"This is quite delicious".

Ryūji subconsciously felt the table with his finger, it was smooth and shiny, and not a single speck of dirt was spotted. He looked at the legs of the tables and chairs - blind spots which even well-known restaurants would neglect when cleaning - there was no dust there too. Everytime an order was made, the staff would shout enthusiastically, "Roger that!"

Though it was nothing new, it did bring a sense of liveliness to the stall.

Though I wonder what results there'll be if I inspect the upper area of the door curtain with my Takasu Stick. Ryūji gave a quite evil smile, but then he sensed something wrong,

"Is this stall somehow related to Kanou Groceries?"

"Hmm? Well, Kanou Groceries is the president's family business, we even advertised for them in the itineraries. To put it simply, they're the largest sponsor of the school festival."

Ryūji was pointing towards a corner of the classroom, which stuck a poster advertising this week's special offers from Kanou Groceries. There was even a photo of the store manager standing in front of the store smiling while holding a white carrot, adorned with elegant words that read "Food Supplier". "Aha!" Kitamura clapped his hands and nodded,

"I see, Science Pathway Volunteers... this is the president's class..."

The stall was decorated with violet bonsais everywhere. Violet - the flower of Sumire (TL note: Sumire is literally "violet") - this was probably a way of showing respect to the true leader of this stall event. As expected from the perfect Student Council president, there was no question that her class would also participate in the school festival, and that she too would be organizing it from behind the scenes. Ryūji crossed his arms and said in a cool-looking manner,

"Hmm... this president sure is amazing... Seems like she'll be successful in the catering industry."

"She's successful in anything she does, because she's no ordinary person... In that case, I'm beginning to look forward to what I'll be eating. It should be something good, right?"

For some reason, Kitamura's tone sounded a bit cold. Wouldn't he usually give priority to the Student Council, or indeed the president's orders, over anything else, and would always go on and on about how amazing the president is?

Meanwhile, Taiga kept looking down, punching her fingers onto something, What an uncooperative fellow! Ryūji looked at her hand,

"Hey, what're you doing? You've been quite for a while now..."

"Wha!? Oh, I, I was playing video games..."

Taiga hastily closed her cell phone. Liar - Ryūji could clearly see that Taiga was checking her messages. Taiga's really concerned about her dad, which she had no news on, and was waiting for him to reply. She's probably thinking, "D, dad's still not come yet? Has he really not come yet?" And to think she's got this excellent chance to enjoy the school festival with her crush Kitamura, and yet she's wasting this great opportunity. Ryūji really felt like telling her, "Look at me! I'm completely being ignored by my crush Minori!"

"Sigh," Ryūji sighed helplessly. Is it over now? Spring has passed by, so has summer, has all that hard work to get ourselves just a bit closer all gone down the drain? This isn't something which I can just recover by grabbing and apologizing to her, and I don't think I can ever accept her thinking. The one-sided love that's lasted for almost a year was now like a candle in the wind. The only support that had kept Ryūji moving on now felt extremely vunerable.

"You sure are relaxed. For someone with as simple a brain as yours, your concerns for your loved ones sure is superficial."

"Huh!? What're you talking about? Is your brain alright? I'm really worried about your intelligence, you know?"

As they continued exchanging chilling insults, a plate of roast takoyaki - actually it's just takoyaki - has arrived. Taiga's attention immediately shifted from Ryūji towards the takoyaki, and she picked up a toothpick, ready to take one up. Ryūji stopped her, "Wait for everyone else's dishes to arrive first." Taiga had wanted to complain, but blushed embarrassingly upon realizing Kitamura was here as well. Afterwards came Ryūji's "udon", actually just simple ramen. When Kitamura's yakisoba had arrived as well, the three of them picked up their chopsticks, and in tandem with the waiters greeting new customers, said,

"I'm digging in!"

"Ah...!"

"Whoa!"

Maybe it was because Ryūji was thinking of other stuff, that his "nanny sensor" was reacting slower than usual. As she was about to bring the takoyaki into her mouth, Taiga accidentally dropped it onto her skirt. By the time Ryūji managed to grab the takoyaki, the sauce had already left a smear on the skirt.

"Really, how'd you manage anyway, idiot!? Lean forward, and eat with your chin over the plate!"

"Ugh..."

Taiga stuck her lips outward looking annoyed, and messily picked up the takoyaki on her skirt and stuck it into her mouth, only to wave her arms frantically from being burnt by the hot takoyaki. Ryūji, like a nagging mother, ended up wiping the sauce off Taiga's skirt with a facial tissue before Kitamura, who smiled awkardly.

However, Ryūji had neglected something.

Though he was troubled by his row with Minori, his alertness was way off the mark this time.

The sauce had also landed on Taiga's front sleeve, but no one had noticed it, not even Ryūji. And it wasn't until some time later that stain was discovered.

By the time Ryūji found out, it was already too late, and it left an indelible mark in his heart at the same time.


  • *

It was 4pm, and the pro-wrestling show of Class 2-C had ended in unprecedented success - with all shows being sold out.

The actors on stage and the excited audience all applauded. "Full house!" "Amazing! Great success!" - And complimented each other for their passionate performance, to the point that their voices had gone hoarse. The backstage staff blew the last horn and used up the last pieces of ticker-tape, which flew everywhere in the air.

Amidst this endless applause, Taiga, wearing a villain cape, stood speechless in the corner of the podium. "Hey! Supporting Character No. 1!" But she still got dragged to the centre by a carried-away Haruta, who had her stand beside Ryūji. No matter how thunderous the applause was, she still silently looked at her feet, carrying unhappiness and doubt in her eyes.

In the end, Taiga never did become the protagonist.

Light Novel
Main Series' Volumes

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