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

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

Transcript

Because the news had come so suddenly...

"WHAT...!?"

Ryuuji stared unblinkingly at the face of the single woman (30) in front of him. After homeroom, he had been summoned to the teachers' office. At the moment, the office was saturated with an awkward atmosphere.

"Do-Don't stare at me with such a sharp gaze... I'm very sensitive about my wrinkles..."

"No, I wasn't looking at those. Is that true, Sensei? Could you have made a mistake?"

"It's true, Kitamura-kun still has not handed in his application. The class teacher of 2-A has already confirmed with the student council member there, the one who said that he would run for the election if Kitamura-kun didn't."

"Ah, Murase... When I talked to him during the lunch break, he still thought that Kitamura would run for the election and was extremely happy about it..."

"I see... Is Kitamura-kun still in class?"

"I'm not sure about that, I came as soon as you called me. But... Sensei, why are you asking me about this? Shouldn't you be asking him about it?"

"I don't want to interrogate him in public... Everyone's so happy about Kitamura running for student council elections, so no matter how he answered to 'You haven't handed in your application form. Are you not running after all?', it would place enormous pressure on him..."

It appeared that not even the single woman knew what to do. She sat on her seat, sighing deeply, and then twisted her back forcefully, cracking her spine loudly. Seeing this, Ryuuji felt an overwhelming urge to bow and tell her "Thank you for your hard work." She had it just as bad as Ryuuji... No, maybe even worse. Recently, the thirty year-old single class teacher had also been constantly worrying about Kitamura, resulting in her back aches. She had worked so hard and had worried so much, but in the end, it still ended up like this. Kitamura still had not turned in his application for the student council president elections.

What did his promise this morning mean? Did he change his mind? No, he probably forgot to hand in his application. If that was the reason, then it's too early to assume anything. It'll be better to just ask Kitamura himself as we probably won't be able to guess the correct answer by ourselves.

"Anyway, I'll bring him here first."

"I'll leave it to you. The rules state that if his application isn't received by four o'clock, then he will not be able to participate in the election."

Ryuuji bowed hurriedly ran out of the teacher's office. Because he had been admonished by a teacher on the way, "Stop running!", he could only walk with as big a stride as he could manage back to the classroom, climbing the stairs hurriedly.

Just like the rest of the student population, Ryuuji had assumed that Kitamura had already handed in his application. What if he had already gone home?

"Oh!"

"What's wrong, Takasu?"

He's still here. As he opened the door to the classroom, Ryuuji saw Kitamura, who was at his desk, casually packing his bag to go home. There were still a few students in class, but Taiga, Minori, Noto and the rest of the usual people were nowhere to be found.

"Where are Taiga and the others...?"

"They've gone with Ami and the others to the pastry and coffee cafe that just opened in front of the train station. Noto and Haruta also went with them. They asked me to go along, but I rejected them. Because you weren't in class, they left you behind. We're really dispensable aren't we."

Kitamura wore his usual cheerful smile. Ryuuji wanted to speak, but stared at the smiling face.

"Hey, what's wrong? Is there something on my face? Ah, it's the bandage isn't it."


Kitamura sighed while jokingly touching the cut on his mouth.

"Kitamura, now isn't the time to casually drink coffee, is it?"

"..."

Kitamura's smile immediately froze, the eyes behind the glasses showing a trace of uncertainty. Looking at his expression, Ryuuji understood that he didn't forget to hand in his application.

Kitamura was still hesitating.

Just what is this guy trying to do!? Ryuuji wanted to hold his head and shout it out to the school, but he swallowed his rage at the last moment, resisting a wave of tiredness and fighting to keep his cool. It wouldn't do anything for him to be frustrated, and there would be no meaning in forcing Kitamura to hand in his application. It wasn't to say that Kitamura would be doing the right thing by running for student council president, but that forcing him to run would do nothing to unravel his complicated feelings.

There was no right or wrong regarding Kitamura's decision to run for the student council president, as it would simply be his own decision. There was no right or wrong answer or decision. Asking oneself to answer that question was a question of individual will and ambition. A person who rebels to show his inner frustration will not go along with decisions that other people make for him. Ryuuji finally understood that point. Kitamura had already understood that himself, which was why he spent so much time hesitating between the two choices, trying to find the answer.


The problem was that there wasn't any time left.

"The single woman says that you have to hand in your application form before four o'clock."

Looking at the clock, it was currently three-forty in the afternoon. There was still twenty minutes.

"What are you planning to do? Do you really want to..."

Ryuuji didn't want to interfere in Kitamura's decision. Having said that though, he still...

"Let's go home, Takasu."

"What!?"

The short reply left Ryuuji speechless.

"Let the two of us, the dispensable people, go home together."

Wrong interpretation. Kitamura wasn't hesitating; he had already decided not to run for student council president.

"Go, Go home... Would that be alright? Everyone believes that you'll run. Are you serious about this?"

"I changed my mind. After thinking about it, I decided not to run after all."

"You, you still have twenty minutes to reconsider!"

"No, I've already made up my mind, so stop trying to persuade me to do otherwise. Come on, pack your bag, I'll wait for you."

"Kitamura..."

Ryuuji couldn't say anything else since Kitamura had already decided. Since it had come to this, there was nothing left to say. He packed his bag under the impatient eyes of Kitamura, remembering that his muffler had been taken away by Taiga in the morning again. The two of them opened the classroom door and prepared to walk out into the corridor. Ryuuji started to worry about Kitamura again. Would this really be alright? Would this be enough?

He knew that worrying would do nothing to remedy the situation, since he would never be able to understand the decision. It was Kitamura's personal choice, be it good or bad. On the other hand, Kitamura was...

"It's been a long time since we've gone home together because I'm in the student council and the softball club... We haven't done this since we were first years, right?"

Way too casual.

"Oh, is that so... That's right..."

"Let's go somewhere to celebrate, shall we? Ami and the others are at the building in front of the train station, so we should avoid that... How about Sudouba? A pastry and coffee cafe sounds too girly anyway, so I'm not interested in that."

Looking at the figure of Kitamura walking ahead of him, Ryuuji finally let out the breath he had been holding in. I give up.

Yes, Ryuuji wanted to see Kitamura as the student council president, thinking of how he would thrive in that position like a fish in water, giving off the boundless energy reminiscent of the coach from hell. He would be extremely suitable! He would surely become a great student council president! But Kitamura chose the other option. Ryuuji was unable to predict the consequences of this choice, and that of Kitamura's future. Since he was unable to see it,... he decided to walk alongside him, to see his future together, continuing to be the best friend in the life that Kitamura had chosen.

Right! Ryuuji jogged to catch up with Kitamura, and the two guys walked side by side rather oddly,

"That's right, guys should go to Sudouba. I'll order a black coffee and a spicy hotdog."

"What a mature choice. I'll have coffee too, and cinnamon toast... No, that's too girly. I'll have a cheese toast."

"Good choice. How could real men eat cream after school?"

"That's absolutely right, you shouldn't add cream to your coffee either!"

"I'm not adding it! We'll drink black coffee while staring at the middle-aged boss of Sudouba!"

"Sudo-san, is it!? I want the sports section!"

"Ah, me too!"

Ryuuji and Kitamura raised their hands in a strange fashion and walked out of the classroom. As the two of them talked about random topics while walking along the corridor, Ryuuji thought,

Everything is destined.

This assertion is not admitting defeat, but just an objective assertion of the truth.

Everything was predetermined by fate. No matter how frustrated or how much one wished otherwise, when it came to it, one could only move forward on a path that only one's eyes could see. Each choice, each decision was a step towards the "end". After reaching this "end", one must make another decision, so that the "end" becomes a "checkpoint". Each of the destinations ahead was one's own decision, so one could only move forward.

That's why people hesitate. Considering all of the choices, one could lose hope and try to run away, because no excuse would ever be sufficient. No matter how dangerous the long journey in life was, or how one admits to being dealt the short end of the stick, everything that happens in life is the result of one's own choices, a road chosen by oneself. Even if this path is hard, and there's no chance of changing past choices, one cannot place the blame on others. No matter how angry or frustrated one is, one is alone on that path, for there is no one to replace you.

"Ah... I haven't seen such a beautiful sunset for some time now."

"Mm..."

And then you believe.

The end of the path that Kitamura has chosen would surely be "very Kitamura". This is how Kitamura opens up the only way for himself, and there is no right or wrong in this decision. The corridor that was dyed orange by the setting sun made Kitamura scrunch his eyes as he looked out of the window. He stopped, probably to look at the beautiful sunset.

"Right... I'm really surprised that we haven't gone home together for over a year already. The main reason is because of my student council activities, which take place everyday."

"I remember we started talking because we were sitting beside each other on the bus during the class trip in May. You joined the student council shortly after that."

"That's right, it's so nostalgic... We hadn't even talked to each other before May because you were always pitifully guarding yourself against other people."

"Of course I have to guard against other people! I had already heard other people saying that I was a delinquent on the day of the school entrance ceremony. You were also distancing yourself from me because of those rumours, weren't you?"

"No, you misunderstood me. I didn't really care about my classmates since something else had caught my attention immediately after entering school... Ah, I haven't told you about what happened then, have I? And I thought that I would never talk about it ever again..."

Under the dying rays of the setting sun, Kitamura suddenly turned to face the notice board.

On the notice board was the black and inauspiciously-coloured poster for Taiga's election campaign. Kitamura lightly took out one of the pins holding the poster in place, taking out a piece of paper that was hidden underneath the poster. Manly-looking calligraphy stared up from the piece of paper, "Students are not allowed to run in the corridor - from the student council". Kitamura pinned the poster back into its original place, and pinned the piece of paper beside it.

Ryuuji followed Kitamura's actions, listening as he continued.

"I was very filled with enthusiasm, when I first entered this school, as I hoped that I would be different from how I was in middle school. I had a very unhappy time in middle school, so I wanted to live happily in this new world."

"Oh..."

"To talk about a happy high school life, one must have a girlfriend, right? At that time, I heard that there was an extremely cute girl from another class who came from a famous private middle school, and was rumoured to be the daughter of a very wealthy family. My interest was piqued, and I went to see her... and it was love at first sight. How could anyone be so cute...? My life would be rosy if only I could be friends with such a cute girl. But I saw that the scores of guys who confessed their feelings for her came back crying, hearing that they were either humiliated verbally or threatened with violence, destroying all traces of their manly pride. Do you know who I'm talking about?"

"Yes... Please continue."

Ryuuji didn't tell Kitamura that he already knew as he merely looked at the pair of spectacles that was reflecting light off it.

"I was very excited as I didn't know what kind of answer the pretty girl would give me, but I really wanted to know. So on a certain day, I went to Aisaka's- Ah! I said it. Never mind. Yes, I went to Aisaka's class and called her out, telling her after making sure that no one was around at the stairwell, 'You're really pretty!' But Aisaka screamed, 'You're so disgusting!' and gave me a beautiful straight punch with her left hand, but stopped about one centimetre away from the bridge of my nose. A gust of wind even blew in its wake... It was the first time I had met a girl like this, so I was really excited. So I immediately stood up again and confessed to her, 'That's great! I like your straightforwardness!' and then I stretched out my hand like this. But Aisaka thought that I wanted to assault her, and shouted unhesitatingly, 'Go to hell! Pervert!' This time it was a right hook, and it didn't stop, scoring a perfect hit on my left kidney. Of course, I was unable to stand up after this, so I just laid there on the floor, listening to Aisaka's fading footsteps."

"That was a rather stupid thing to do... and you were really pitiful..."

"Yes, it was extremely pitiful, and it was very painful, and she hated me. Ah, my rosy high school life left me just like that... Just as I was feeling sad, someone appeared from the shadows of the stairwell, Kano Sumire. 'I saw everything! First year, you were rejected, right? Don't worry, your high school life has just started! Join the student council! There are endless boring administrative works to be done everyday! Being busy will make you lively again!' When I snapped back to reality, I was already in the student council room. Actually, that is a favourite trick of us student council members, since we're always short-handed when it comes to administrative duties, so we always drag in bored-looking first years in to do the work for us. I was one of them."

Us student council members... Kitamura didn't notice his own words as he looked up at the setting sun,

"I was dragged in, and joined the student council, and then... all the way until now. I became friends with Aisaka, the rosy high school life I had dreamed of was finally here, as we ate lunch together, went to the beach together, danced together at the cultural festival... Yes, Aisaka even told me that she liked me. But what she really wanted to say was not that she liked me..."

Kitamura smiled at Ryuuji,

"...Never mind, it's not something I should say. Anyway, I'm happy, for my high school life is rosy even if I don't have a girlfriend. The first shaky step that I took when the president called out to me and dragged me by the arm wasn't for waste. From there, from that first step, I unlocked the happy things in my life. I really think that way, but..."

Kitamura suddenly stumbled over his words, his smile blown away by the wind.

No, it's because he can't move. His stiff legs conveyed that message. Even if he had already decided not to run for student council elections and to go home together with Ryuuji, he still couldn't move.

He had already chosen one of the two choices, but he was still unable to move towards his next destination.

The next sentence could have been directed at himself,

"I don't dislike the idea of becoming student council president, but I just don't want to say goodbye to the president. But no matter how much I wish otherwise, no matter how large a tantrum I throw, time will not stop, nor will reality change. In the end... I couldn't decide whether to become student council president or not. Actually... Actually I only wanted to run away to deny the fact that the president would soon be leaving. I wanted to run away to a world where the president wouldn't leave... but, that kind of world does not exist."

Ryuuji silently stared at his best friend's head, continuing to stand beside him.

"There are no hiding places. I can only move forward in the real world. That's why I have to accept reality, so that I can move forward. I know all of this, but even then, I can never... take the next step. My legs turn to jelly, they resist my movement with all their might, I can't move to make myself accept the reality of the situation. That's not my wish. Though I know that I must move forward, I don't want to take the next step. I even wanted time to stop... That's all I thought about... All these stupid things..."

The rays of the setting sun started to sting their eyes.

After saying that, Kitamura lapsed into silence, slumping down onto the ground.

Can I tell him that everything is alright? Ryuuji didn't know what to say. It's alright, the pain of the unrequited love will vanish someday. Would it be alright to say something so depressing? Or should I say that perhaps someday Big Brother will notice your good points and turn back?

No, that's wrong.

He knows that he must step into the real world, but his legs refuse to listen to him. Right now, Kitamura did not need any comforting or cheering up, he doesn't need any of these right now...

"Hey...!"

Ryuuji was shocked at the sound of that voice.

Behind Kitamura, who was sitting on the ground, was a long shadow. The shadow seemed to surround Kitamura on all sides, implying that the person would definitely not be smiling.

Looking at Ryuuji, the other person only raised her eyebrow slightly - such a troublesome girl.

"Hey, idiot."

"...!"

Kitamura's shoulders shook.

He was unable to turn back, and could only expose his unprotected back to the girl he liked.

"I came here looking for people who looked bored. Do you have any suggestions? The vice-president suddenly disappeared, leaving behind a mountain of paperwork."

"...No. And our expressions are extremely interesting right now."

"There's no hope for you, even your words are boring."

"...I'm sorry."

"If you're really sorry, then quickly stand up! If you have the time to think about useless things, then quickly take the first step!"

Bang! Kano Sumire seemed to be giving him an example to follow as she stomped on the ground behind Kitamura. Kitamura's shoulder shook again due to his surprise at the loud sound and the overpowering aura.

"Or are you planning to abandon all those kids who decided to place their hopes and trust in you? Are you the kind of man who would do that? Huh? Have these two years meant nothing to you? Do you really not need it anymore? Your feelings, have you lifted your foot yet? Have you lifted your foot to take that next step? Where do you intend to place that foot? In front of you, right? Do you intend to place your raised foot to the side or behind you, to run away? Doesn't the path you have chosen point forward? Well? Do you intend to spend the rest of your life as the loser you are right now, desperately wishing that time would stop or thinking about new ways to run away? Are you stupid?"

Sumire said everything in a low, fear-inducing voice in one breath. Ryuuji heard her loud and clear, and Kitamura must have heard her as well.

Sumire only said one sentence, one single, short sentence...

"You want to take that step forward, right!? You hesitate precisely because you want to take that step forward, right? A person who doesn't want to take that step wouldn't even be frustrated over whether to move forward or not! It's precisely because you're afraid to move forward! You know that best! You've already made that decision in your heart! Just step forward! Otherwise, what do you want to do!?"

"Go!"

"Go! Go! Go! Move forward! Move! Run!"

"Move onto the path that Kitamura Yuusaku should walk on!"

"You're not allowed to stop here!"

"Go!"

Kano Sumire shouted.

"I will be watching you, to see what kind of student council president you become, and how you will lead the students of this school. No matter how far away I am, I will still be watching you. You're not allowed to slack off, for no one can escape from these eyes of mine, do you hear me!?"

She suddenly hit Kitamura on the back. A piece of paper slapped onto his back along with the hand, which read "Student Council President Election Application Form".

So that's how it is... Ryuuji thought.

"A person who hesitates over whether to move forward or not doesn't need support or comfort, but a voice that pushes him forward, and a forceful and slightly painful push that will send him forward to where he needs to be. Like this, he will have the courage and strength to stand up by himself."

"That's it."

Kano Sumire gave a manly grin and waved at Ryuuji. She didn't turn back but merely strode forward purposefully as usual, leaving unhesitantly.

The rays of the evening sun still stung their eyes, the blinding orange rays bouncing off the walls of the corridor. The retreating figure of the big brother was bathed in the strong light, disappearing in an instant.

Even then.

"Ah... How should I put it...? What's the time now?"

"Three fifty-eight."

"The president is truly a big star, always appearing at the most crucial of times."

Clutching the piece of paper that Sumire gave him, Kitamura finally stood up.

He looked up at the sky in the same position as on a certain night, took off his glasses, rubbing his eyes roughly before fixing his fringe.

"Sorry, I suddenly have something I must do, so it looks like I won't be able to go to Sudouba with you."

He put on his glasses once again.

Kitamura Yuusaku, Ryuuji's unchanging best friend, revealed his usual honest smile.

"Ah, that's a pity. Never mind, we'll just go some other day."

"Yes, we must go some other day."

When there's a will, there's a way. That saying was right. Ryuuji smiled in response to Kitamura. I knew that he would be like this in the end, but it was rather slow, seeing that everything has been resolved. Ah~ right, I've always known that everything would turn out fine.

In the corridor that Sumire had just left, Kitamura took her place as he strode away hurriedly but determinedly. He was probably headed towards the teachers' office. The single woman should be waiting for Kitamura anxiously.

"Do your best!" Ryuuji whispered, and walked in the opposite direction from Kitamura. With his back facing Kitamura, he stepped forward by himself - an exaggeration. He just wanted to go home.

After choosing their own paths, everyone moved forward.

That would be alright, because even then, one will not be lonely.

Everyone has their own destination which they are walking towards, and everyone is making their way forward alone. Their own choices, their own decisions, their own actions to opening the path ahead. Sometimes they will reach a crossroad, sometimes they will walk with a companion, and then bid their companion farewell, perhaps seeing them again some other day, maybe not.

All of the stars, and Orion that were seen that night would always be shining above everyone. Whether or not they can be seen by humans, they will always be there. There will be something that is unchanging in life.

When one has lost their way, their strength, and hope - this kind of situation awaits everyone on their path in life. In these kinds of situations, Ryuuji would choose to look up at the sky.

Looking up at the distant stars, thinking that a certain someone is also looking at the same star in another place. No matter how great the distance, even if he was unable to fly to that person, as long as he believed that the star that they were looking up at was the same, it would give him strength.

And then the night will come to an end as morning comes. In the morning, the stars are unable to be seen, as the sky would be an icy blue. Cold gusts of wind would separate the clouds, announcing to the world that it would be a cold morning.


  • *

"So...cold...! Why does the gymnasium seem to be even colder on the inside than the outside in winter?"

"No, it's probably even colder outside... Brrrrrr..."

As he was shivering with Noto in the cold, Ryuuji contracted his body and rolled his hands into a tight ball in his pockets, feeling as though his fingers were going to freeze off.

The election took place during the club activity period on Saturday. The gymnasium where the elections were held was filled with sounds of shivering and complaints as the girls huddled together for warmth. "That's nice, but guys shouldn't do that!" Ryuuji wanted to say that. Just thinking about the acne-covered faces slowly moving closer... Just thinking about it made one feel even colder.

In short, today is extremely cold. It's cold and noisy, and we have to keep standing. Why can't they start now? Freezing students obviously will not give a warm reception. If everyone were to sit down, they'd just freeze their butts off. But there's also a problem with the gymnasium in the summer, as it's as hot as a sauna in summer. Anyway, nothing good will come out of holding events in the gymnasium.

Even so, the students of 2-C still stood there shivering, the thought of skipping the elections never entering their heads.

"Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...Uguuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu..."

Taiga had taken Ryuuji's scarf today too, covering her nose with it and making animal-like noises while looking like a masked criminal. Minori, who was huddling closely to Taiga, kept their hands and feet together, and had worn her gym clothes under her clothes and jacket, causing her body to appear bloated. Maya and Nanako, on the other hand, were desperately trying to pull their sweaters down as far as possible, trying to keep warm. Ami was squeezing something in her jacket pocket; it looked like a heat pad. Her nice-girl facade forgotten, Ami wrinkled her eyebrows at the freezing weather.

The students of 2-C looked up at a guy on the stage.

The watermelon-skin hairstyle that had been returned to its original black colour shone brightly on stage, reflecting Maruo's style. His glasses were so clean that they were reflecting light, and his tightly-shut mouth appeared very reliable. Although he had a pitiful-looking cut by the side of his mouth, Kitamura still stood there with a resolute look in his eyes.

The expression on his face showed that he had already decided to face up to reality, and accept the pain that would surely come with the choice.

"Right... Microphone... Ah! The power's on already? Sorry for making everyone wait."

The emcee, a first-year boy from the student council, finally walked onto the stage. "So slow!" "Don't you know that it's freezing out here!" Complaints sounded from every corner of the gymnasium. But among the students, there were a group of strange people who clapped with a passion that did not belong in a freezing gymnasium, Ryuuji being one of them. The passion of the students of 2-C raised the temperature of the freezing gymnasium slightly.

"We shall now proceed with the student council president elections. There is only one candidate, the current student council vice-president, Kitamura Yuusaku."

Hearing the passionate cheers of his classmates, Kitamura waved back sheepishly. Off stage, there were happy smiles on the faces of Kano Sumire and the rest of the student council.

"Now we shall invite Kitamura-senpai onto the podium to sketch out his political manifesto!"

"Yes!"

Kitamura answered loudly, walking over to the microphone stand, adjusting it to the proper height.

"Maruo! Do your best!"

"Kitamura! Thank you for saving us from the clutches of the Palmtop Tiger!"

Kitamura acknowledged the support from his schoolmates by nodding and smiling, looking extremely reliable. Although it wasn't clear if Kitamura was purposely trying to erase the signs of his rebelliousness, at that moment, he looked extremely reliable.

Ryuuji crossed his frozen hands in front of his chest. Very good, Kitamura. Looks like he has already mentally prepared himself for the eventual separation. Kitamura's eyes didn't contain any trace of uncertainty or sadness, for he had already left those feelings behind, deciding to move forward. This was the aura of a real man.

"Hello everybody, I am Kitamura Yuusaku, I..."

Kitamura gripped the microphone with his right hand.

Go! Ryuuji silently willed him to continue..

His classmates, the student council, Kano Sumire, and every student who had hoped for Kitamura to run for the election must also have been holding their breaths in anticipation. Go! Say something exciting. Let everyone look forward to a happy and fulfilling school life. Let everyone believe that you're the best candidate for the position of student council president. Tell everyone that Kitamura Yuusaku is qualified to be the student council president!

"I!"

Kitamura opened his mouth as wide as it would go, taking a deep breath, and then shouted to the school... No...


"President! I! Love you!!!"


He shouted to a girl below stage,

"I'm standing here right now because I like you! I know I'll never be good enough for you! And that I must forget you, because you're going to a faraway place! But I have to tell you this no matter what! Your voice, everything you say to me always encourages me! Therefore, I want to ask you a question! President... do you have any feelings for me!? I always believed that you must have some feelings for me! So even now, when I should have given up, I'm still unable to give up! I'm begging you! Please, please please please give me an answer! Do I have no hope at all!? Is there really no special destiny for you and me!?"

After shouting it out, the red-faced Kitamura bowed deeply to Sumire.

Ryuuji's mind went blank.

Everyone in the gymnasium had their mouths open in amazement.

Not just the students, even the teaching staff were shocked into submission. The single woman, Haruta, everyone widened their eyes in shock, replaying the previous scene in their heads. Everyone was too astonished at the sudden confession to react. Yes, no one, not even Taiga, was able to react. Ryuuji looked at Taiga, who was standing up front. Taiga was rigid, just like a statue, her feelings unreadable. Even when everyone around her started to talk loudly, Taiga still froze in that position.

"A confession...?"

"It was a confession... right?"

"Wh-Wh-What's going on? He confessed to the big brother!?"

The noise gradually evolved into an excited chatter. Kitamura, who was clenching his teeth, was blushing even more furiously by the second. But even at this time, Ryuuji was still unable to move.

Kitamura had finally taken that uncertain step forward, but the choice that he had made wasn't "running for elections" as Ryuuji had thought, but to "change the unacceptable reality".

This was his last struggle against the unchanging reality that he hated. Kitamura had neither accepted reality nor rejected it. He had chosen to resist it like a man.

What will happen? How will the future change?

"Big brother, answer him, answer him!!!"

"That's right, let us hear your answer!"

"Give her the microphone!"

The excited crowd snatched the microphone from the dazed student council member, stuffing it into Sumire's face like paparazzi.

Sumire looked at Kitamura as their eyes met. Even Kitamura's ears were red, but Sumire's expression didn't change. She raised an eyebrow in her usual fashion, looking as though she had just heard something humorous...

"...So that's what he says."

She spoke into the microphone nonchalantly.

Sumire looked away from Kitamura and shrugged her shoulders at the student population, revealing a smile, saying,

"What do you think? The student council vice-president Kitamura Yuusaku is an interesting guy, isn't he? With such an interesting guy as the student council president, this school will surely become even more interesting. So please vote for this interesting guy!"

Her brilliant speech won the applause of the entire school, as Kitamura's confession was covered by the waves of noise and laughter. "I'm voting for him!" "Me too, me too!" Kitamura, who had no competitor in the first place, suddenly saw a sharp increase in the number of votes for him.

"Ah..."

Kitamura purposely hugged his head and looked to the sky with exaggerated movements. His confession in front of the whole school had been cleverly turned into a campaign speech to garner votes, and it looked like he had been rejected. Faced with such an answer, Kitamura leaned on the microphone stand pitifully and lowered his head, looking as if he was completing a pre-rehearsed routine.

Kitamura's one-sided feelings had been crushed into powder.

Nothing was left.

Kitamura had tried to change reality, but he had failed.

The shoulders of the man who had lowered his head on stage now trembled as tears rolled down his cheeks. Ryuuji couldn't have been the only one who noticed that... probably.

Haruta, who had remained just below the stage throughout the excitement, put his arm around Kitamura's shoulder's as he helped him off the stage. Noto also waited at the stairs leading up the stage, helping to shield Kitamura's face from the crowd. Kitamura still refused to raise his head, as Taiga remained frozen in position.

"The voting will be conducted on special forms that will be..." Ryuuji didn't bothering listening to the instructions as he thought about what he should do.

What can he do for the friend who had been hurt under the same stars? Ryuuji tightened his facial muscles as he sketched out the night sky in his mind.


  • *

"Kano-senpai!"

The corridor and stairways were flooded with students returning to class. But even then, Ryuuji still chased after a certain girl as best he could, reaching the highest level of the school that he normally wouldn't go to - the third-year classroom corridor.

Upon hearing Ryuuji's voice, Sumire, who was just about to turn into her classroom, turned around. Seeing Ryuuji, she raised a hand in greeting.

"What's happening!? Kano, is it another confession!?"

"Shut up, go into class, I'll be back soon."

With her usual smile, Sumire side-stepped her classmate's teasing and walked towards Ryuuji. But she stopped Ryuuji from speaking, and said,

"It's a bit noisy here, follow me."

Ryuuji followed her to the stairwell that led to the rooftop. Even though the noises from the third-year classroom corridor could still be heard, the two of them could hear each other more clearly than in the corridor.

"Yes? Takasu, anything you want to say?"

"Why didn't you give him a definite answer?"

Ryuuji glared at Sumire unreasonably, but Sumire stood there steadily, listening to Ryuuji speak with a royally casual attitude. Even Ryuuji's glare did not have the intended effect on her, but even then, Ryuuji still faced her,

"Why do you intend to escape from it? Didn't you tell Kitamura to move forward just yesterday? Wasn't it you who said those words, Senpai? Why did you expound such noble truths if you yourself attempt to escape as if those truths do not apply to you?"

Nobody is forcing the two of them to fall in love, it can't be helped if she really doesn't like him. But that wasn't the problem. Ryuuji was unable to forgive Sumire for deftly evading the boy who had confessed his love for her in front of the whole school, placing herself outside the zone of disturbance, watching from the sidelines as he fell.

Pushing Kitamura forward harder than anyone else, telling him to keep moving forward, and giving him the courage that he needed. Weren't all these Sumire's actions?

"I only told him to run for the elections, not to confess. Didn't you hear it as well?"

"By saying such things... Do you intend to continue running away...?"

"What's wrong with running away? People who are straightforward are well-liked, that's a fact. But the person who only recognizes one single way forward can only be described as clumsy, so Kitamura better learn to be a bit cleverer and to adapt to situations quicker. You too."

"To be cleverer you say...? Just like you!?"

Ryuuji clenched his teeth tightly, but Sumire merely smiled,

"Yes. Just like me. Clever, skillful, and able to run away when the situation calls for it. That's right, learn more with this as your goal... That's the difference."

Sumire pointed to her own head jokingly, her beautifully sculpted face still clad in a casual smile. Ryuuji was unable to respond or even rebut her. It was not because Sumire spoke the truth, but because Ryuuji didn't have enough time to think over his response calmly. But he wouldn't give up. Although he didn't want to give up, he was unable to do anything in the face of Sumire's cold and calculating smile.

Not everyone is like you!

Don't you wish you could have everything too?

Looking up at the sky, swallowing the tears that flow down, moving forward with all your might even though the only unchanging things in this world are the stars. The person who would soon step into the rocket granted to her by heaven and blast off into space obviously would not understand the pain and frustration of normal people.

But Ryuuji couldn't say it. Everything that had happened to Ryuuji and his friends, Taiga and Kitamura, everything that had happened to them were stuck in his throat. If only he had the courage and power to spit it out. Ryuuji didn't want to admit defeat to everything, but he looked like a caged animal, only able to gnash his fangs in thin air.

Looking at Ryuuji, Sumire's facial expression softened,

"Takasu Ryuuji, you're such a good friend. I would have liked to know you better, but unfortunately, there isn't anytime left, goodbye. Carry on being best friends with Kitamura, and prevent him from being taken advantage of by a clever 'serpent' like me... That's all I have to say."

That was it.

Sumire quietly gave a look that alluded to her apparently enlightened being, turning to walk away while ignoring Ryuuji's glare. Ryuuji didn't notice that he was being left behind for a moment as he gaped at her moving figure.

No...

Subconsciously, without knowing what to say, Ryuuji had already caught up with Sumire. How could she say goodbye like this? I won't let you run away amid your smokescreen of pretty words and sentences! Ryuuji thought that Sumire had made everything go according to her own plan, finally abandoning that plan, then going away to build up another story that had Sumire at its center in a new world. Then what would happen to the feelings of the "pedestrians" in the old world? Did she think that as long as she refused to look at it and forgot it, she would be able to sever all connections with it?

I won't let you do that!

"...!"

As Ryuuji was concentrating on chasing after the figure that had gone into the classroom, his stomach suddenly came into contact with something warm. Looking down, he saw a mess of light-coloured hair and hair whorls. That girl had run into Ryuuji, and was trying to push him in the opposite direction.

"Tai...Taiga...!"

Bit by bit, she pushed Ryuuji back to the stairwell, and then pressed him to the wall with both of her hands. Taiga lifted her head, pinning Ryuuji's body to the wall with her hands, standing there with her legs apart. Ryuuji wanted to push the unnaturally strong arms off his body, but his hands were slapped away. The two of them stood in that position silently.

"Taiga! Why did you stop me! I'm doing this for Kitamura..."

"Kitamura-kun is crying. Go and stay by his side. Ryuuji, I'm begging you, go to him."

"Tai..."

Taiga raised her head. Ryuuji thought about whether she was crying as her long-standing crush on Kitamura shattered. Taiga, who had witnessed the confession, should be the one crying, right?

"I can't do it, I can't stay by his side."

But Taiga's eyes, the orbs that were locked onto Ryuuji had no hint of moisture in them, no wavering silver line. The pair of eyes that had understood everything now stared unblinkingly at Ryuuji.

"Are you really alright? Is it really okay for things to become like this?"

"I'm alright, don't worry."

A small smile appeared on Taiga's slightly-dry lips. Then, she took off Ryuuji's scarf from her neck, and stood on tiptoe to put the scarf back onto its rightful owner, just like that night before. The scarf was wrapped twice around Ryuuji's neck, and then an ugly knot was tied just below his chin, followed by a pat.

"I'm alright... Quickly, go to Kitamura-kun. Run, don't turn back."

"What about you? What are you going to do by yourself?"

"I'm alright by myself, I'll be with you shortly. Just go, I'm begging you."

Taiga's icy hands suddenly grabbed Ryuuji's and spun him around, as if she was making up for the dance at the campfire on the night of the cultural festival that never happened.

"Go."

Ryuuji was concerned about the sizable bulge behind Taiga's back, but before he could confirm its identity, Taiga had already pushed him forward. "Run! Don't turn back!" Although Ryuuji hesitated for a moment, he still started running, running towards his best friend, who had been completely annihilated in his battle and was crying his eyes out.


Looking at Ryuuji's receding figure, Taiga closed her eyes.

I like Kitamura. I still like him even after I've gone through the infatuation phase, the phase where I knew too much about him, and the inner turmoil that no one else could see. Even if he likes another girl, my feelings will not change.

Kitamura is the person who held my empty hands after I had stopped in the wake of understanding the law of the universe which stated that "one will never get the very thing that one desires". He called out to me with a warm voice that completely seeped into my soul, chose me, and told me that "I want to be with Aisaka".

I'll never be able to express my gratitude towards that kind person enough. Taiga slowly opened her eyes to the empty corridor. The students had already gone into their classrooms, noisily casting their votes in the absence of the teachers.

She wished that she could be like Kitamura, but she couldn't do it. She was unable to stay by his side. The person who should be at his side wasn't her. The one he wanted wasn't her. Knowing this, Taiga was unable to stay together with him. She was afraid of being hurt, so she was unable to continue to stay by his side to face the cold, harsh reality. This was her weakness.

But no matter how weak she was, she still wanted to do what she could, just like how Kitamura treated her. Even if she couldn't hold his ice-cold hands, even if the distance between them was even larger than expected...

Up till now, the only things that Taiga had ever given Kitamura were the miserable excuse of a fried egg and the weird stuffed animal from the baseball training centre.

And now...

Taiga's right hand slowly moved towards the back of her neck, grasping the handle of the dangerous object that she had hidden in the back of her uniform, and took out the wooden sword that Ryuuji hadn't noticed. Was this the wrong thing to do? It could be the wrong thing to do, but Taiga didn't know.

She only knew that she wouldn't stop.

She was already unable to stop.

The anger that was close to boiling point had eaten up every bit of her weakness, turning it into nutrition for her rage to grow even bigger. She tasted metal on the inside of her cheek, her ragged breathing making her nostrils expand and contract unnaturally. Even though she felt a dull pain between her eyebrows, Taiga was unable to stop. Even Taiga herself could do nothing about the rampaging rage that was coursing through her veins. The rage would not disappear until she had beaten up that unforgivable woman. Get there before this rage seeps away! Taiga ordered her legs to speed up. Don't trip, bring me to that woman.

Standing in front of the classroom door, Taiga pulled it open with bone-crushing force. Bang! A shocking noise resounded from the door, the seniors staring at Taiga in surprise.

"KANO... SUMIRE!!!"

Her war cry held a significant trace of blood lust. "The Palmtop Tiger!?" "Why is she here!?" Taiga shouted to the noise-makers,

"I'm here to beat someone up!!! Kano Sumire, reveal yourself!!!"

One swing of the wooden sword overturned a nearby table, summoning a scream of anguish from a random student. The students quickly backed away from her, leaving an empty space around Taiga. Taiga was not going to stop until she appeared.

"That's irritating... Another one. Another idiot has appeared."

"I'm going to kill you! You hurt my friend! You Machiavellian woman! I'll never... forgive you!"

That woman casually walked into the space cleared by Taiga. Taiga swung the wooden sword forcefully, signaling to the watching students that she would kill anyone who interfered, and pointed the edge of the sword at Sumire's nose,

"I'm never going to let you off the hook. Even if you run away, I'll chase you to the ends of the earth."

"Don't worry, who said anything about running away? Alright, I'll play."

"Bamboo sword!", Sumire called out, and a certain third-year student immediately whipped out a kendo bamboo sword that was concealed in his bag, throwing it over. Sumire caught the sword with one hand, skillfully undoing the rope tying the cloth covering the sword together,

"Running away is a form of wisdom. I think that it's correct to run away when the situation calls for it. No one can stop me if I really want to run away. But I'll give you special treatment today, so let me be your opponent. Aisaka Taiga... Let me correct your stupidity. I was just feeling annoyed at the huge number of idiots on the face of this earth. You came at the right time."

"Che!"

There is no need to show mercy to the woman that you despise! Taiga pushed the edge of the wooden sword forward into Sumire's face. Sumire jumped backwards, making eye contact with Taiga.

"Sorry, but I'm not just clever and pretty, I'm also very athletic. I'm also a black belt in both kendo and Aikido."

"That's nice'", Taiga said as she smiled. "I was worried that this would end in an instant. Looks like I can enjoy myself."


  • *

The door of the classroom was suddenly pulled open forcefully, as all the students of 2-C turned in the direction of the door in surprise. Inside was a silent Kitamura, who still had his head bowed, Ryuuji, who was sitting beside him, attempting to cheer him up, Noto, Haruta, Maya and Nanako, who had left everything to the boys to solve, Minori, who was preparing to look for her best friend in the toilet, and Ami.

"Where's the delinquent Takasu!? Come and help us!"

"Huh?"

A few breathless third-year girls stood at the classroom door. After seeing Ryuuji, they immediately ran to him and forcefully dragged him away.

"Huh!? What's happening?"

"Your friend, the Palmtop Tiger, went to our class to challenge Kano to a duel! Now everything's a mess!"

Huh? I don't understand, could you repeat that? Although his brain thought that, his body had already jumped up. Without any encouragement from the senior girls, Ryuuji flew out of the classroom.

"Hey, we're going too!"

"Takasu won't be able to solve this by himself!"

"What's that tiger trying to do!"

Ryuuji didn't see his classmates running out behind him as he ran up the stairs shouting "What is that idiot trying to do!?" He didn't need to think to know which classroom it was. All he had to do was to look for the source of the cries of anguish, and the people at the door of the classroom who were either running away or joining the crowd...

"Move! Excuse me! Let me through! Taiga!"

"Ah! Takasu joined the fight!" someone shouted. Ryuuji pushed him away, finally reaching the scene of the duel. In the middle of the classroom, amid fallen furniture and school materials...

"You, you big idiot!!!"

Sumire slashed down on Taiga with her bamboo sword, hitting the wooden sword out of her hands. Taiga calmly gave up her weapon, moving close to her in an instant clenching her fists,

"Idiot idiot idiot idiot, that's all you've been saying since just now!"

"Gah!"

A punch hit Sumire squarely on the chin, her head moving upwards with the force. As her chin came back down...

"Ah!"

Taiga let fly another punch, hitting her chin in the opposite direction. The stunned Sumire dropped her bamboo blade, looking as though she was going to fall. But Taiga showed no mercy as she crouched down, preparing for yet another attack.

"Ka!"

"Ah!?"

Taiga's jacket had been pulled back by a pair of hands. In that seemingly-magical moment, Taiga's small body received a kick from Sumire and flew into the air, landing straight down. Sumire crushed Taiga under her body as she prepared for the countdown, but her face was full of blood. Taiga rolled into a ball to avoid being squashed by Sumire, her face also full of blood. The blood made both of their grips slippery, and gave the advantage to Taiga in this round, as she grabbed Sumire's hand which had slipped off, switching positions with Sumire in an instant as she gave a primitive animalistic warcry, pulling on her hair and raising her fist.

"Don't do it... Stop! You shouldn't be fighting! STOP!!!"

Minori was the one who shouted. Ryuuji also rushed to stop Minori, who had moved between the two fighters in a bid to separate them and stop the fight. If she got involved in the fight as well, Ryuuji's problems would be severely compounded.

"Stop, Kushieda!"

Ryuuji shouted to the person who was holding Minori in place and ran towards Taiga.

"Roarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!"

He grabbed Taiga's enraged body from behind, keeping her arms in place with all his strength. But Taiga had no idea whose pair of hands it was as she screamed and struggled to break free. Even though she knew that Taiga had been subdued by Ryuuji, Sumire still took the opportunity to knee Taiga in the stomach and hit her in the face. Now Ryuuji had to protect Taiga's face from harm. He shouted for Sumire to stop while rolling onto the ground with Taiga in his arms. Taiga struggled to get up, while the hand that Sumire was using to grab at her collar was devoid of the cold, harsh reasoning that was associated with the student council president.

Someone grabbed Sumire's arm. A few others took the opportunity to drag her away from Taiga.

"Let go of me!!! I'm going to punish this stupid tiger!!!"

Sumire's screams stung Ryuuji's ears.

"What did you say!? Who're you going to punish!? Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat are you trying to say!? Punish me!? Who do you think you are! You're only a coward!"

"What did you say!?" Sumire prepared to stand up again, but Kitamura frantically held her hand in place. Taiga shouted in an even higher voice,

"All you do is boast! All you do is to pretend to be a saint! You're afraid of being hurt, and afraid of hurting others! Your cowardice and cunning hurt Kitamura-kun! I'll never forgive you! NE-VER-FOR-GIVE-YOU!"

Taiga, who was held tightly by Ryuuji, continued to kick wildly while shouting at the same time,

"Coward! Despicable! You don't have the guts to face your own feelings! Coward-Coward-Coward-Coward-Coward-Coward-Coward-Coward!"

"I'm alright with being a coward. You're just a violent maniac!"

"At least that's better than an escaped criminal such as you! Say it! If you don't want to accept Kitamura-kun's feelings, then say that you hate him! Say it! Say it!!!"

"SHUT UP!!!!!!"

Sumire jumped up, intending to kick Taiga, but one of her indoor shoes instead flew straight to Taiga's face. Taiga shielded her face with her hands, instinctively rolling up. Sumire said breathlessly,

"I... I can't lie! That's why... I didn't say anything!"

Sumire changed tactics, taking off her other indoor shoe and throwing it, missing her target.

"You... Aisaka... What do you know!? What do you know about me!? I would be glad to be a naive idiot like you if I could! I also want to be an idiot! I also want to become an idiot and run straight ahead without thinking of the consequences...!"

Her sobs becoming hoarse, Sumire continued as she bent down,

"If I said that I liked him... after I say that! That idiot would surely want to follow me...! If he knew that I wished for him to do that, he would surely do it for me! He would surely give up on many things for me! He's that kind of person! Thats why... That's why! That's why I can't be an idiot!"

As she twisted her body painfully, tears that were even thicker than the blood on her face flowed down from the perfect face of the student council president. Sumire shook her head roughly, looking as if she didn't want to admit that she was crying, but no matter how hard she shook her head, the tears didn't stop flowing, nor did the words and feelings that she had conveyed stop. Twisting her face, her hoarse throat continuing to shout, crying out her innermost thoughts,

"I also... want to... be an idiot...! But... no matter... how hard... I try... I... can't... do... it..."

Why hadn't they noticed this before? Kano Sumire was just another eighteen year-old kid.

Ryuuji thought to himself. Everyone present here are kids, and this wasn't a problem of being stupid or not. It's because everyone of us are kids that we can only scream and cry when our path doesn't take us to the place we want to go. It's always been like this.

The situation had become so bad that the teachers had intervened to clean up the mess.

Someone looked closely at Sumire's face to check the extent of her injuries, and someone else grasped the wrist of Taiga, who was similarly injured. Ryuuji instinctively reached out to grab her hand back, but after seeing the stare from that person, Ryuuji and Taiga's hands merely briefly made contact in mid-air before separating. Taiga was forcefully brought out of the classroom to another place.

The crowd continued to stand there, not knowing what to do...

"The president's too kind."

"Kita..."

"I like you from the bottom of my heart! Meeting you was the best thing that has ever happened to me! To be able to like you... It was really good to be able to fall in love with you! I don't regret it at all! Thank you for everything!"

The two of them looked at each other with tear-stained faces. Kitamura bowed deeply, as though he was about to let go of everything. He whispered to himself, "Goodbye." and followed after the violent person who had been forcefully taken away out of the classroom. Someone had to explain the situation.

The teacher who was preparing to send Sumire to the nurse looked at Ryuuji's face. Whether it was the result of Taiga's flailing, or the result of trying to protect Taiga from Sumire's attacks, Ryuuji hadn't noticed that his lips were cracked, and had numerous scratches on his face. Ryuuji would probably also be sent to the nurse.

After everyone who was directly involved in the fight had left, only the students of 2-C who didn't belong in the third-year classroom were left. "Should we help to clean up?" Someone hesitantly bent down, and suddenly found...

"Hmm... A student handbook?"

"Whose is it?"

To confirm the identity of its owner, the handbook was opened in the presence of everyone. "Aisaka Taiga" was written on the cover page.

"It's Taiga's... She must have dropped it earlier."

"Help her keep it, don't lose it. Takasu-kun... Ah, right."

"Can someone take it to her first?"

"Ah."

They hadn't intended to peek, and were going to close the handbook after confirming the identity of its owner, but a large chunk of sticky tape was stuck to the hand of the person who had opened the handbook. Everyone accidentally saw the inside of the cover, just like that, and fell into silent contemplation.

A photograph had been carefully stuck on the inside of the cover. Everyone saw it. It was the picture of the two of them dancing on the night of the cultural festival. And then everyone understood that the memory was so precious to Taiga that she hoped to carry it by her side all the time.

That's right, so important that even after Kitamura was rejected, she still came to beat the other person up.

"She really, likes him..."

It wasn't a rumour, nor was it a joke. A young girl's feelings of love were out in the open. The person who was holding the handbook suddenly noticed that there was another photo below the one from the dance.

"I'll take care of this for now."

The handbook was snatched away before the second photo could be confirmed. The person that stuffed Taiga's handbook into her pocket while wearing a slightly depressed smile, looking like a wise angel, was Ami.

"Come, let's all help to clean up... To all the seniors, I'm extremely sorry about this incident, the tiger from our class is just too..."

"No, it's not Kawashima's fault."

"Right, don't worry, cheer up!"

The situation would become like this with a bat of Ami's delicate eyelashes. The students of 2-C helped their seniors clear up the mess. Only one person stood motionless, her eyes scrunched up into a line.

The usual cheerful smile had disappeared from Minori's face as she seemed to be deep in thought. She seemed as if she had suddenly thought of something, then wrinkled her eyebrows to try to forget something, and then shook her head. Looking at her, Ami seemed to understand what was going on.

Ami made a move to get up, but thought better of it, instead crouching back down to continue tidying the notes that were scattered on the floor. But she noticed the weight of the student handbook in her pocket, and stopped what she was doing once again, thinking of that person's usual actions. Ami also stood up expressionless like Minori. She won't sympathize with her! Although she didn't sympathize...

"..."

Ami went over to Minori soundlessly, like a cat, and whispered into her ear,

"Has your sense of guilt disappeared yet?"

"Huh...?"

Minori turned around, her eyes wide with surprise. Looking at Minori's shocked expression, Ami regretted saying that, her chest suddenly feeling heavier, but she didn't want Minori to find out. Ami left Minori standing there, and snuck out of the third-year classroom without anyone noticing.

She ran along the corridor and down the stairs to the gap between the two vending machines.

"...!"

After slotting herself into her usual hideaway, Bang! Ami banged her head onto the wall.

She'd said something stupid. If only she hadn't said it. Was she intending to trigger something big by saying that? She had wanted to become a better person, which was something she had tried so hard to do, but was unable to. Bang! Bang! She banged her head on the wall twice more.

That's right.

It wasn't just sympathy, for there was also a certain degree of jealousy, and a myriad of other...emotions mixed together, so much so that she didn't know what to do anymore. She didn't know what she wanted to do, and didn't understand, as she couldn't do it correctly.

She wasn't able to make her wish come true. She was unable to change, to become the person that she wanted to be.


The uncomfortable noise of a head hitting a wall sounded three more times.

Minori was dazed, her hands full of cuts from a broken vase.

Although the doctors had initially thought that Sumire might have a broken nose, X-ray scans showed that her nasal bone was not broken, owing to her shockingly high bone density. Her face was as bruised as Kitamura's had been a while ago, and she went through her last day of school with that face, bidding goodbye to her status as a high school student amid an overwhelming wave of flowers, then flying to America two days later.

Kitamura had displaced Ryuuji as the number one "pitiful guy" in the school. He also got the position of student council president.

Ryuuji had to go to school with a face that was more terrifying than normal. Although his injuries weren't serious, his face made him look like a gangster who had just gotten out of jail. For some unknown reason, Yasuko was extremely excited when Ryuuji arrived home with that kind of a face...

Taiga had gotten suspended from school for two weeks. Although she should have been expelled, Sumire's parents expressed their opinion that since Sumire had fought too, it would be extremely unfair for the school to let Sumire go overseas but expel Taiga. They would not allow Sumire to go overseas if Taiga was expelled, so Taiga had gotten an extremely light sentence. Throughout all this, the guardian from the Aisaka side did not appear in person, only conversing through his secretary. Taiga also went with the single woman to the supermarket that the Kano family owned to apologise, and obtained their forgiveness. On their way home, they met the worried Takasu mother and son.

The single woman, who had not smoked for eight years, took out a cigarette, etching another permanent wrinkle into her forehead.

Orion was still shining brightly above them.


  • *

Ryuuji arrived home from a Taiga-less school, but didn't see any sign of Yasuko in the apartment, thinking that she probably went to the convenience store. So he went to his room to hang up his uniform.

Opening the window to look over to Taiga's bedroom, "That idiot." Ryuuji softly admonished. Although it was already winter, the windows and curtains of Taiga's room were still open, and it seemed like Taiga was still sleeping. Ryuuji was unable to see the whole of her bedroom from his vantage point, and as such could only infer from the relaxed foot hanging from the side of the bed.

"Ah... Isn't she cold?"

Ryuuji decided to wake her up by calling her cell phone, but there didn't seem to be the sound of a cell phone coming from Taiga's room. She was suspended from school to reflect on her mistakes, and yet she's taking an afternoon nap... She was way too casual about it.

Ryuuji stuck his head out of the window, shouting across the space between the two buildings, taking care not to disturb the neighbours, "Hey! You'll catch a cold like this! Close the window if you want to sleep!" In response, Taiga's foot flipped over, but she didn't seem to be getting up. Ryuuji could only think to leave her alone.

"She's so lazy..."

But almost immediately, Ryuuji thought of the fact that he'd have to take care of Taiga if she fell sick, so Ryuuji went out of the apartment, still in his uniform. She should wake up if I press her doorbell, right? If she wakes up, then I'll get her to go shopping with me. There should be a special sale on fish today.

Ryuuji entered the marble entrance and pressed on Taiga's doorbell repeatedly. As his left hand jabbed at the button madly, Ryuuji realized that his scarf had once again been taken away by Taiga. Though I want her to return it to me, would I be able to endure her "so cold, so cold attack"?


At that very moment, the scarf in question was currently wrapped around Taiga's shoulders. Actually, Taiga was already awake, as she finally couldn't take the incessant attacks of the doorbell and sat up.

The elasticity of the mattress pushed the stack of paper that was on the edge of the bed off onto the floor. It was the letter of apology that the school had ordered Taiga to write, and two postcards.

The postcards were from the single woman, to which she responded, "the school didn't ask for this...". One was to be sent to Kano Sumire in America to apologise, and the other was to be sent to the single woman, with no restrictions on the content of the postcard. It would have been too childish to write nothing or to simply draw a disgusting skull, so she decided not to write anything but to paint the postcard with one single colour.

Taiga laid on her bed trying to decide what kind of colour to paint the postcard with, as she looked out at the sky and clouds from her open window, and then shifted her gaze to Ryuuji's window.

She still had not decided on what colour to use.


  • *

On a certain day, a postcard found its way to the small room that Kano Sumire and her friends rented. There was no name written on it, but the identity of the sender was obvious once the other side of the postcard was read.

Only one word was written on the back of the postcard - "Idiot".

Sumire, who hadn't been in the best of spirits since arriving in America, suddenly stood up and laughed loudly, like a middle-aged man, shocking her roommates into dropping their lunchboxes.

Light Novel
Main Series' Volumes

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