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

This is Chapter 1 from Volume 7 of the Toradora! Light Novel series. The text is from Baka-tsuki.

Transcript

– She didn't really want to admit she'd been bothered about something else, but...


Sitting on a frozen, battered bench, and hanging her neck low with a glove resting on her head, Kushieda Minori still couldn't bring herself to stand up. Each of her teammates had tried to give her words of encouragement. Captain, please cheer up; Everybody was in bad shape today; These days happen; It's only a practice match, don't worry about it. ......She couldn't not worry about it. As their captain, it was too pathetic. She couldn't forgive herself for fouling up this miserably.

If she'd been asked if she played in this match, with really, honestly, no distractions, at 100% concentration, the fact was that she couldn't give a firm yes.

It had happened at the end of the ninth inning, with two outs, bases empty, and a three to one lead at the final stretch.

The ball, making a dumb sound as it was hit, had come falling down in a slow bounded arc, like it was saying catch me to the glove she had drawn out. Okay, we won, then, catch. Throw it to first and game over, or what should have been game over. But instead of that, "What!?" "What are you doing, Kushieda!" "Kya!"

The screaming had come from their bench. Shouts of, "We did it, we did it!" "Go, run!" were coming from the bench of the other school. No way. All the hairs on her head bristled. For some reason, the ball fell out of her glove before she could throw it. The more she panicked, the more the situation worsened, and when she tried to pick up the rolling ball, she accidentally kicked it away. There were cries telling her to run. Nowaynowaynoway, not good, not good, not good. When she failed at picking it up again, the runner had already made it to second base. With screaming and cheering in the backdrop, she finally picked up the ball and threw it to third base. But, it was a bad throw. The runner made it to home plate. So then.

The dust had been so thick she could choke from it.

Her body had been chilled by the midwinter wind.

It had been the late afternoon of one Sunday. The light of the sun was tilted.

She had sat there, vanquished and unable to rise up.

......It was like a domino effect. The stupid mistake of their ace member, Kushieda Minori, was the trigger that broke the team's concentration and since then, it hadn't recovered. One person went to first base due to a walk on balls, and in no time flat, the other team scored back one point thanks to more and more errors, and then finally, a homerun.

"Aaaa...... no......"

She hunched her back while holding her glove-hooded head. She pushed her nose against her knee, not minding the dirt on it.

It wasn't her team's fault. It wasn't okay because it was a practice match. It wasn't that she was in bad shape. It wasn't just today.

It was because she had been distracted and couldn't concentrate. That's the reason for this mess. In other words, if she kept being like this, her team probably wouldn't be able to win again.


"......What am I doing......"


  • *

"What are you doing!?"

"I didn't do anything......"

You dilly-dallying, dilly-dallying, dilly-dallying, dilly-dallying, dilly-dallying, dilly-dallying, dilly-dallying, dilly-dallying, dilly-dallying, dilly-dallying, dilly-dallying, super-dilly-dallier! ------The midwinter breeze spiraled like a typhoon with the showered insults and whirled up from Takasu Ryuuji's feet. With bangs of hair fluttering and eyes wide open inside the whirl of frozen wind, his appearance was most certainly, an illustration of the explosive birth of a demon king. His sinister countenance would have given onlookers the impression that he could blow away a star or two as he pleased. Except, it's not like he became a demon king because he wanted to. He's just a little down because somebody pointed out a certain fact to him in public.

"......There was nothing I could do! After all,"

"Shup!"

The mystery shout was accompanied by a roundtrip slap on the right and the left. He had probably been told to shut up. Holding both cheeks, Ryuuji fell silent. Yet again, he was taken aback by this sudden act of violence. Then,

"Don't make excuses you damn dilly-dallier! You damn dilly-dallying, damn ugly, damn horny Russell Terrier! Be a rice stocker for the rest of your life! Fish-flake smearer! You and your Blacky, the Sea Lion face!"

The intensifying verbal abuse was like a multi-warhead missile launched from another dimension. The missiles inside gorged the heart of the demon king by force from all angles and was finished off by the mocking sound of a "Keh!" The hooligan......, no, that's too soft a description for her. That "ogre" tilted her body back with cold arrogance.

Her pose was haughty. Her raised chin was arrogant. Her scorn-filled half-opened eyes emitted coldness. That girl, cheeks tinged in rose-red from the cold wind and brushing her hair upwards, was Aisaka Taiga – the beautiful evil ogre known as the Palmtop Tiger.

Her French-doll-like, delicate, beautiful face; her petite small stature which is also the reason why she is called "palmtop"; and her voice, which from her build, was surprisingly low, cool, and had little vocal inflection,

"......Ryuuji, you might really live the rest of your life alone......"

Slash! He was cut across from the shoulder.

Ryuuji turned into a silent stone statue on the street. This was more brutal than the roundtrip slap, he thought. Just listen to this cruel statement, the icing on top of the cake of a "to defeat" by "slander"-propelled onslaught of derision. Wasn't this violence itself? Officer, is this really okay? Is this justice, Japan? Shouldn't this be enforced by the law? Scraping together the shattered pieces of his courage and holding tight his broken heart, Ryuuji gathered power in both his eyes. He mustered together his courage and glared at Taiga.

"D-.......don't think that this law-abiding nation will let you go running wild forever.......!"

"Haa?"

His life-and-death act of defiance turned into dust and was wiped out in an instant in the face of her ear-picking "Haa?" Cold wind blew between the two of them, separated by sharp silence.

It was that kind of midwinter Sunday.

The sun fell fast. Even though it was a little past five o'clock, the sky already begun to show the colors of the night. The familiar shopping area was just a little bit crowded and full of housewives and their families, masked old ladies groups, and youngsters on their way to entertain themselves.

His elbow lightly bumped against by a passerby. Ryuuji gently lowered his head on reflex and moved out of the way. That's right, now matter how much that horrible thing she said had hurt, he couldn't keep standing still like a statue in the middle of the street. He'll get in the way of the pedestrian traffic. He returned to being a living human being with common sense and was about to start walking, but,

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

He noticed that the other-dimensional-missile-firing ogre that had been right in front of him was gone. Even though she was an ogre, she was a palmtop tiger...... that didn't make sense, but anyway, what he wanted to say was that she was small. Petite Taiga might have been swept away by the crowd and become lost.

"Hey! Taiga, where did you go!"

With heavy eco-bags hanging on both arms, Ryuuji briefly moved right and left, wandering inside the crowd, looking for the hair swirl of the missing Taiga. The visual markers he was looking for were wavy hair reaching the waist, an expensive-looking white Angora coat, and a fluffy men's muffler wrapped three times.

They would both be going back to the same Takasu residence anyway, and even if she returned to her own home, her apartment was next door. In this case, he thought it was okay if they went home separately, but it was more than a little worrisome to him that he had lost sight of her under this chilly December sky. Where was she? Furrowing his brows at this, he looked around for her, but then, "Eek!" He mentally told the young mother carrying her child and running to the edge of the street to avoid him – I am not a street slasher. Then,

"What are you doing? You almost look like a street slasher when you're standing there."

"Ou! Where did you go, I've been looking for you! ...... Wait, you really don't give a damn about me at all......"

Taiga, smoothly appearing from the wave of passers-by, grinned, then said, "This, this," showing him what her right hand was holding. Even though the lower half of it was covered with plastic wrap, the sweet smell of butter and milk, and the all-too-signature ring shape couldn't be mistaken for anything else.

"...A donut. Where did you get it?"

"Over there. Hehe. It smelled nice so I bought it! I don't know what it'll taste like, so I only bought one for now. If it's good, I'll line up again and buy a lot."

There was a white minivan parked past the alley that Taiga pointed at using the donut. The back hatch was used as a makeshift storefront and several people were lined up. Now that she mentioned it, that area did smell sweet. To sweets lovers like Taiga, it must have been an irresistible scent. Even Ryuuji certainly didn't have any objection to the taste of sweets. "Really," he said, eyes automatically passing over the handwritten advertising board, but then, his head immediately tilted. The letters written with magic markers for what was thought to be the name of the store was "Krispy Kreamy" ...... That reeked of flat-out trademark infringement. Actually, what else could it be other than trademark infringement?

"......Is that really safe? The shop name's suspicious right off the bat."

"It's fine. See, see, that person over there is eating while walking. It isn't poisoned. Probably."

"Why the hell do you have to brace yourself for something like that when you eat?"

"Because, look, it says Krispy Kreamy. Haha, this is definitely a rip-off."

"Which is why I said it's suspicious. A normal store wouldn't be using a name that identical because of trademarks."

"But, I just can't eat the ones from the real place. I once peeked inside, but it's always so crowded! I got sick just looking at the lines! But see, the people that eat their donuts say it, don't they? ‘It's crisp, but it's fluffy, and melts in your mouth.' I really wanted to taste it."

"Yeah, they do say their donuts taste totally different from other donuts."

"Yes, yes. And if they're being this bold about selling their donuts with that close a name, don't you think they made their donuts so they'll taste close? Mmmm, it smells good! And now, for the taste..."

Opening her big mouth with an "Ahh," Taiga bit down on the edge of the donut ill-manneredly on the street. At that very moment, her pleasant smile gradually dulled and her expression turned dubious with each jaw-biting motion.

"......How was it? Different from the other stores, huh?"

Taiga nodded while chewing. However, her tension was obviously low.

"Yes... it's... certainly... different....... It's kind of, dry. The water in my mouth is being sucked up......"

"Eat all of it. Don't waste food."

"Ah, I have a good idea! Let's leave this in your closet. I bet it'll suck up the humidity."

"Eat all of it. Don't waste food."

"Ugh......"

Looking at the large donut with some bitterness, Taiga frowned. The people that bought the same thing and were eating and walking did seem lively. Nobody had collapsed. But their expressions were uniformly dubious. Taiga also joined the group of dubious expressions. Neither Ryuuji nor Taiga were meddlesome enough to go out of their way to tell the junior high girls happily lining up with change in one hand and shrieking, "Hey, donuts~!", "Hey, it's Krispy Kreme (incorrect)~!" that it tasted awful.

"Dammit, why did you have to eat something strange before dinner? How much did you pay?"

"200 yen......"

"Two hundred yen! You paid 200 yen to eat a closet moisture absorber!"

This was his revenge for the previous verbal abuse. Actually, it wasn't so much as that. He had to bring himself to say something to Taiga, donut in one hand and tension spiraling downwards. This was educational instruction to make sure she didn't make the same mistake ever again.

Incidentally, tonight's dinner was a simple yellowtail and Mizuna nabe made with Japanese alcohol, complete with spicy hot lotus root and burdock kinpira with chicken skin, and mixed grain rice cooked with ginger. And frankly, the yellowtail was expensive. Fillets, but still expensive. Caught wild, so they were expensive. But he bought them. Three person's worth. Because it's the season! Even the fish-farmed ones aren't cheap so if he was going to buy yellowtail, he might as well take the wild one! And, also,

"Today's yellowtail nabe is for your celebration!"

"I know......"

"You're not psyched up enough! You don't get it! You're getting fooled by strange street stall donuts because you're acting like that! You saw the price, didn't you!? You can tell I'm psyched, right!? How dare you waste the space in your stomach on an awful snack....... I don't want to have to be petty about this, but the yellowtail is my treat! Dammit, I don't care if it's fake, give me a jubilant reaction that's worth the amount it cost!"

"Yay, yay, it's yellowtail, it's yellowtail!"

"Do it again!"

"A big catch of yellowtail~, yippy!"

Gazing at Taiga jumping with expressionless delight with the donut in one hand and her long hair bobbing up and down, Ryuuji nodded his head. With this done, the yellowtail and the several bills that vanished from the Takasu family budget can go to heaven appeased. Taiga's 200 yen will probably become angry spirits and wander aimlessly for eternity, but they're not in Ryuuji's jurisdiction.

That's right. Tonight's a celebration. Tomorrow, Monday, Taiga's suspension will end. From tomorrow, Taiga can go to school. Now that he thought about it, those two weeks went by quickly.

In other words, two weeks have already passed since that nightmarish incident – Ryuuji sighed once more. A nightmare, or a...... no, he didn't want to remember it. What was the use in remembering? The fact was that Taiga didn't get expelled and could go to school again tomorrow. Isn't that more than enough? That's how Ryuuji felt, with a peaceful feeling inside of him, but,

"......So. We were still in the middle of that conversation. Why are you, like this?"

The girl in the Angora coat narrowed both her eyes. Just the slight movement of her eyelids made him predict that tyranny would come dripping out. Cautiously distancing himself, he asked her,

".......Like, what?"

"Like why are you such a dilly-dallier. Why can't you do anything in the chance you had when a pest like me was out of the way. Why can't you raise your intimacy level with Minorin. That's what I wanted to say. Just what have you been doing? For whose sake do you think I became suspended?"

"......That wasn't for my sake, you know."

"Don't change the subject, you coward!"

"......"

Ryuuji instinctively shut his mouth from the irrationality that penetrated the pit of his body bit by bit. Taiga closed the distance between them with no pause and began further pursuit.

"You could have walked to school with her, just the two of you, when I wasn't here! You could have asked her to eat lunch with you! You could have made plans with her over the weekend! There were tons of things that you should have done, right!? So why haven't you!? I bet you haven't even been sending emails to each other, right!? Ha! What a laugh, you dilly-dallying, dilly-dallying, dilly-da... ow! I bit my tongue.......!"

Ryuuji, seizing this chance, succeeded in presenting his excuse to Taiga as she held her mouth back in agony.

"There was really nothing I could have done! If you're gone, Kushieda won't come to the usual spot in the morning, she'll eat lunch with the other girls, I'm not close to those girls, and after school, she'd be with her club the whole time! Even with email, there's nothing I can think of that I can send casually!"

Once he said it, he felt pathetic. But this was the truth.

When Taiga was suspended and stopped going to school, all the common ground between Ryuuji and Minori vanished in an instant. Because of how long his crush was, the distance between the two of them shrank – it still wasn't a romantic relation yet, but at least it seemed like they became friends. But, ultimately, without Taiga, their common point, Ryuuji couldn't even keep up a conversation with Minori. Of course, it wasn't as if they were ignoring each other, and they had been greeting each other on the level of good morning, bye bye, YO, how you doing, if they saw each other.

Ryuuji was about to make a long sigh but stopped. Ah ha. He lifted his face.

".......Then again, compared with April, this is a big improvement........? Yeah, it might be."

He crossed his arms, about to convince himself with a yep, yep, that might be true follow-up, but...

"OF. COURSE. IT. IS. N'T. YOU. DIL. LY. DAL. LI. ER!"

"Hiwaaai......"

A new type of scream, one never made before, emerged from his throat. That's our Taiga, the rare scream maker. But, this was not the time to be saying that.

Taiga's fingers had grabbed Ryuuji's upper lip as if to pull and were going tear it with full force from above. In this situation where it seemed like the part connecting the gums and the inner side of the upper lip could go RIIIP at any moment, Ryuuji unconsciously tilted his head upwards and stood tiptoed, out of fear that his whole face might be ripped off.

"Because she won't wait for you? That's stu-pid! Stu-pid, stu-pid, stwuuuupid! How long are you going to take the ‘wait approach'!? Who do you think you are!? Hachikou!? If you shut up, be passive, and wait, do you think Minorin is going to conveniently ask you out!? Ooh my, oh my, what a loser! How horrifying! My God!"

"Huuhiwawa!"

Pulling the upper lip upwards with wrongful power, Taiga raised her donut. It was ghastly just imaging what she might do to him with it.

"This habitually opportunistic procrastinator must be given the death penalty! Keep on waiting for Minorin in the afterlife!"

"Hahyaaaaaa!"

- Help!

He closed his eyes and began seeing his life flash before his eyes from this genuine life and death crisis. Nursery school...... wetting myself at graduation...... entering primary school...... I was the only one with a used backpack...... school trip at grade 2...... Yasuko woke up late so no packed lunch......a nd right around that time, people started calling me Gangster-kun......

"Ah."

At the same time she uttered this small voice, Taiga's fingers came off of Ryuuji's upper lip abruptly. Staggering after being freed from the upward gravity hoisting his face, he opened his tear-moist eyes. Then,

"......Ou.......!"

Ryuuji also grunted quietly. The people around stopped moving, and here and there, there were cries of "Wah!" and "Wow!"

A band of light raced across the store fronts lined up on both sides of the street.

Illumination, probably purchased by the neighborhood committee, lit up all at once. Twinkling gold blinked on and off in loops and waves as if to trail the buildings, while glittering blue traced a brilliant flashing but continuing arch. The sky of the shopping area became a vivid planetarium in a wink and drowned out the pale evening stars.

The light was beautiful.

BGM starting off with the sound of bells ringing came out from the speakers, and a smiling Santa and a red-nosed reindeer nestling against each other were brightly lit in a fir tree-shaped lamp hanging on a street lamp. In the balloon-type illumination, the letters "Merry Christmas!" twinkled.

"......Right........ yes, that's right! It's almost Christmas......!

Surrounded by twinkling lights, Taiga broadly stretched out her arms and looked at the sky. An innocent smile, one that he had never seen before, appeared on her face. She whirled around and turned to Ryuuji.

"Wo.......w! Oh, how beautiful! .......How wonderful! There wasn't anything this fabulous last year!"

The twinkling LEDs reflecting in her eyes dazzled with gem-like brilliance. "I wonder if there's a tree somewhere!?" – As he looked at Taiga, before he knew it, Ryuuji forgot about the pain in his upper lip and smiled.

"Ou! They really put a lot of energy into this year's decorations. Christmas, huh? Yeah, it's pretty soon."

"You know, about Christmas. I---......"

Once she shut her eyes tight, closed her fists, and crouched her legs, Taiga jumped ridiculously with her arms and legs stretched out as if she were exploding like a firework and shouted, "LOVE IT". Oh my, that girl sure is happy, noticed the passers-by, smiling. With both her hands still extended and her head bent backwards facing the sky, the sparkle in Taiga's eyes twinkled even more. It even looked as if she were teary-eyed, as if she would cry.

"Ah, what fun......! I'll have to be a good girl for a while! I have to be a good girl! Since he'll be arriving in Japanese airspace soon!"

"Who will?"

"Isn't it obvious? It's Santa! Santa Claus!"

Taiga shouted this with no embarrassment and beamed.

"Let me have this. I'll carry the other bag for you."

One eco-bag was stolen from Ryuuji's arm. Ah, thief! ......Er, no. Then he moved by reflex.

"......Wha, what is it?"

"Taiga, don't die!"

"I don't have a fever," she said, pushing away Ryuuji's hand which had been pressed against her forehead. The way she used her hands, however, was far gentler than normal. There was neither harshness nor scorn in her earnest eyes as well.

"Sometimes I want you to let me help you, that's all! At least for now, when Santa's approaching, I really am going to be a good girl. I really, really, love Christmas!"

"No, I understand that, but it's too sudden and....... uh, why? Why do you like Christmas that much?"

"What do you mean, "why?" Do I need a reason to like Christmas!? See, the town's all sparkly and pretty, everyone is smiling and happy and....... that's right! Ryuuji, please, on the 25th, make an amaaaazing dinner! Something amazing that we haven't eaten normally before! Like, TA-DAH, it's chicken! Or, TA-DAH, it's beef! Or! The stuff foreigners eat!"

TA-DAH, it's chicken! TA-DAH, it's beef!

......Had there ever been words that caused Ryuuji's heart to race so much? Ryuuji's raised sanpaku eyes glimmered with crazed excitement and trembled. Then, he licked his lips...... but it wasn't all because he was thinking about TA-DAH, it's chicken!,TA-DAH, it's beef!, TA-DAH, it's human!, or higiigyaahahahafu! The romantic Christmas lights were simply sparkling in his opened eyes.

"Now that you've already said it, I suddenly can't wait to try it out........! Ou! I'm fired up! Christmas dinner is going to be an extraordinary feast, right! Okay, leave it to me!"

"I leave it to you! I'll go to the department basement and buy whole the most delicious cake they have! Ehehehe, which one should I go to!? Should it be Bûche de noel!? Ah, I better buy a magazine and do some research! Oh right, I should get champagne for Yacchan, the best type they have!"

Kyaaa, what fun! The two of them were pumped up for a while on the street, and then. "Now then." Even the timing of how they suddenly shut their mouths was in perfect sync.

"The problem is......"

"......Eve, right. .......I don't know who's responsible for deciding it, but"

"To the public, it's a day for couples......"

Ryuuji and Taiga exchanged glances and both sighed immediately after. What had been on their minds, of course, were their respective crushes. For Ryuuji, it was Kushieda Minori, and for Taiga, it was Kitamura Yuusaku.

In particular, in Taiga's case, there were circumstances that would make her want to at least sigh.

"........I, can't do it. I can't ask him. It's, ........how should I say it? It's like taking advantage of him when he's down? That's what it feels like....... Taking advantage of his broken heart."

It happened two weeks ago. On the same day that Taiga was suspended, Kitamura masterfully performed the feat of being rejected by the previous Student Council President in front of all the students of the school.

Just the fact that Kitamura had a bro........ a woman he loved was probably a shock to Taiga, but because that bro....... woman was physically separated in the form of study abroad, it became unnecessarily difficult to create a "fair" situation. Even Ryuuji could understand this well.

But speaking of a fair environment being difficult to make,

"But, Kitamura's been worried about you being suspended."

"No way! ......Really? We-well I did get emails asking me about how I was doing."

"For real. If you invited Kitamura, he definitely wouldn't say no."

"Aaah.... you think!? But I don't really like that! It's like subtly forced...... I can't tell if he is really happy about being asked, or if he's only being nice."

".......Yeah, maybe. If you were a woman deft enough to take advantage of the situation and settle things at once, you wouldn't be merrily shopping with me for tonight's dinner, on a Sunday night that's also the night before the end of your suspension."

Together with Taiga, who was weakly muttering You're right, Ryuuji once again slowly began to walk.

Needless to say, he wanted to support Taiga's romance, but this situation was too messy. Taiga started a fight with the person that turned Kitamura down and was suspended as a result. Kitamura naturally feels indebted to Taiga and there was probably no way that he'd refuse anything that Taiga asked of him. In other words, because she had such an advantage, it was unfair, which made it harder for her to act.

Next to this weakened Taiga, Ryuuji also had the blues. He thought that he also definitely couldn't ask the person he liked on a date on Christmas Eve.

If there was a reason he couldn't ask Minori out, it was much simpler than Taiga's. First, that day was Christmas Eve. Honestly, there was a lot of pressure. The date of December 24 was far too romantically oriented globally (or was that only in Japan?). If he tries having a date on that day, it's going to turn into a confession or a proposal. He didn't think it was a day where he could get away with an, I had fun today, anyway, I'll see you later, line. And confessing to Minori – c-c-c-c-can't do it. It's too fast, impossible. And the next reason was even more practical. In a busy season like Christmas Eve for the foodservice industry, labor-loving Minori was probably going to be busy with part-time work. This was very possible.

"Aaah....... Even if I can't ask Kushieda out, it's boring to stay inside the house. Still, if we go outside, the couples are going to be all lovey-dopey...... How about we rent a DVD and watch it at your place?"

"Hah!? What are you saying you horne- "

"Oh, no, must be a good girl, must be a good girl.......," she said, closing her mouth shut, distorted from nearly insulting him, and then massaged her face around the center of her forehead. Then, she formed a gentle anti-Santa face and said,

"......Oh Ryuuji dear, so full of sexual lust you are. That's not good, what are you saying? You will ask Minorin out just fine. You'll be fine. I'm with you; I, who have been reborn as the angel of this love, Lord Angel Taiga."

YAY. She gave the V-sign for victory. Ryuuji instantaneously replied,

"I feel sick!"

His honest feelings blurted out from his mouth. However, Taiga still remained gentle, clasped her hands in prayer and said,

"Say what you will. The present me is a living Buddha."

"You're pulling the same facial transformation routine that Kawashima does! And hold on, you're a Buddha!? Weren't you supposed to be an angel!"

"Right, I'm an angel, an angel. In order to protect everyone's happy Christmas, Angel Taiga is unwaveringly prepared to roll up a sleeve or two and even take it all off."

"......Uh huh, take it all off. I heard it, so you better follow up. You're going to do just that."

"Do as you please! But plan your usage carefully! Anyway, you will ask Minorin out for a Christmas Eve date! Absolutely! Angel Taiga will handle the production! Uhehe, I wonder if Santa's looking! At my pure and good determination!"

"......"

As Taiga was getting carried away with her eyes sparkling from the lights, Ryuuji no longer had the willpower to be the straight man. It was honestly too difficult for him to comprehend how Taiga could be in such a hyper high-tension state just by the coming of Christmas. It was beyond Ryuuji's understanding. However, what was the point in raising the hurdles even further for this drastically low-success-rate mission? There's nothing more worrisome as much as when Taiga's motivated – but he couldn't say that out loud.

"Ryuuji, do your best! Yes, it's Christmas after all! .......I want everyone to be happy! Which is why I have to be a ‘good girl'!"

Swinging her hair, Taiga looked hard at the lights, her eyes brightening, and apparently hardened her unwavering determination or whatever it was. The worrisome-ness also became bigger and bigger as if it were proportional to her increasing determination.

"I don't need your backup. Stop it, I mean it."

"Why?"

Finally, Ryuuji broke the silence.

"Because I definitely can't do it! Asking her for a date on Christmas Eve? That's spilling the beans about me liking her, isn't it!? I knew it, I can't do it, I can't do it! It's blatantly fishy! I can't ask her casually!"

"You don't have to be ca, ca, ca, geez….you don't have to be casual about it."

Haughtily sticking her chest out and raising an eyebrow, Angel Taiga stuck a white finger onto the tip of Ryuuji's nose. That was close – if this wasn't the angel version of Taiga, the finger might have gone up a nostril and poked his brain.

"It's fine if she finds out. Yes, take the opportunity to say flat out how you feel. It's Christmas, so you have to say what you want to say the most! Be honest, Ryuuji! You have me and Santa as your guardian spirits!"

"Te-te-te...... tell her how I.......! ......You idiot! There's no way I can do that, right!? It doesn't matter if you're an angel, if you're a Buddha, or if Santa's watching, I can't do what I can't do!"

Ryuuji frantically shook his head to the side as if blood was gushing from the top of his head. Well, yes, he did want to tell her how he feels. He wanted to just say he liked her. He wanted his long crush to bloom, on Christmas Eve, on the day of lovers.

But Ryuuji was too clumsy, timid, and negative. He kept thinking of bad stuff like, what if his one-sided feelings inconvenienced Minori or what if it ended up destroying the feeble relationship they had constructed. He couldn't believe there was a happy next step waiting for him beyond the confession. That's why, it was good enough to keep things the way they were, that's how he felt.

"You'll be fiiine, you'll be fine, leave it to me," Taiga spoke softly, as if singing, while she started walking ahead of him. Then, within the busy crowd of pedestrians, she unexpectedly twirled around, and then, for some reason, put that partially bitten closet moisture absorber...... er, the donut ring, over her head.

"Ehehe, what do you think? Don't you think I really look like an angel!?"

".......You don't look like one. Also, crumbs are falling onto your head."

"No way!? Uwawa....... Brush it off, brush it off!"

Ryuuji, sighing, brushed the hair of a sorrowfully stupid Taiga. Small, sweet scented pieces of it sprinkled down the tip of her nose and her long hair. What an idiot she is, seriously.

– But, still.

Ignoring the production bit, it might not be so bad for there to be a "good girl" version of Taiga once a year. Ryuuji smiled slightly as he watched Taiga brush off the donut pieces that fell on to her face with her small hand.

Spending Christmas happily was, probably, the wish of all humanity.


  • *

"Ah! She's here! It's Tiger-san!"

"The Palmtop Tiger's returned to school!"

"Tiger-saaan! Welcome back!"

Uoooooo! – Rumbling and coarse shouting reverberated together with rowdy footsteps. Ryuuji unconsciously cringed and swiftly stepped aside to one side of the hallway. That turned out to be the correct course of action. Surrounding Taiga, who came to school for the first time in two weeks, were men to her right, men to her left, men in front, guy behind, men, men, menmenmen....... a men-filled "Palmtop Tiger Fan Club", also known as the martial arts maniac male students. They were a group of men continuing to look at, with passionate eyes, the overwhelming power and natural fighting sense of the Palmtop Tiger, Aisaka Taiga, and her sadistic, ruthless tyranny. He had known about them for a while, actually. Their numbers gradually increased, and at the Cultural Festival, when Taiga performed in the pro-wrestling and the beauty contest, they multiplied, and before he knew it, they assembled a considerable number of people to become a fine corps of whackos.

"Takasu-kun, out of the way! Tiger-san, I have a question!"

"......Ou!"

Ryuuji was shoved out of the way and pushed further against the wall. In a blink of an eye, dozens of men were around Taiga, who had walked to school together with him. She was stuck in a whirl of roaring and sizzling hot frenzy, even thought it was winter.

"Tiger-san! We really want to know what happened! In the mythical Bro vs. Palmtop Tiger battle, Tiger-san won, right!?"

"Because you heard about Bro studying abroad, in order to settle things once and for all, you picked your first and last fight with her, didn't you!? Uooo, what a hot plot twist!"

"We have faith in Tiger-san's victory!"

Good lord...... Ryuuji, kicked out of the frenzied ring, realized what had happened. The nightmarish battle two weeks back apparently mutated into this story among the students that didn't know the facts. And the matter of who won, still unclear because of conflicting reports, was that Bro went abroad and Taiga was suspended – However, it wasn't something that simple.

"......Silence!"

The men were silenced by Taiga's voice. Squinting their bedazzled eyes, the onlookers gratefully and reverently looked at the figure of Taiga, raising her hand as if to control the area. Ryuuji gulped. With a shout of keh! or kah!, a normal Taiga would shred, throw, shred, throw, then kick, stomp, spit, and finally put them on the ignore list. That is what should have happened. However, today's Taiga said,

"The fight on that day........ was very tough! A lot happened and it was dangerous!"

She was very much into this. She theatrically crossed her arms then closed her eyes like she was recalling what happened.

The men held their breath in reaction to Taiga's gracious words and brought their ears forward. Then, she dauntingly stood up to full height inside the circle of men and broadly opened her eyes.

"Hooooooowever!"

The men standing still and alert, rumbled. Then Ryuuji understood what was going on. Ah ha, so this was one part to the Christmas-only "good girl" Angel Taiga. With Christmas close at hand, good girl Taiga was trying to make her obnoxious fans happy.

"It should be obvious! The last one standing in the ring is the victor! In oooooooother words! I, am the true victor!"

That's Korosuke! cynically reacted Ryuuji alone, however, "UOOOOOOOOooo!" "We finally have it, the victory proclamation!" "Our Tiger-san's Number Oooooone!" ......The men, amassing tears even, popped their party poppers and threw out confetti. During the applause and shouting and jubilation, for some reason, a chorus of "We are the champions...." began spontaneously. Then, they split up and lined up at both sides of the hallway, folded their arms up high, and made a runway for sending Taiga to the classroom with a hot Tiger cheer. Angel Taiga generously nodded, answering to the frenzied call, and proceeded down the runway rapidly. Despite being patted hard on the shoulder and the back with male force while being told, "Keep putting up the good fight!" "Tiger-san rules!" etc., it did not distill the good-humored smile on her rose-like lips. In some cases, someone thrusting his face forward and asking her to hit him would be knocked away with a full-force slap, further increasing the cheers.

What the...... Ryuuji was taken aback, but at that time, someone yelled "Takasu-kun, you go too!" and pushed his back down the runway. Unable to turn back now, he managed to put both hands on Taiga's shoulders and followed her from behind. The two of them wound up walking enveloped by the Tiger cheer and low chorus, as if they were a wrestler and a manager entering a ring. Still, he could say this was fun in a way – but that would be an utter lie. He didn't like it.

"Y, you........ are you okay with this!?"

"Nua, ha ha ha ha ha! It's great! I didn't think so many fans would be awaiting my return! I'm glad I didn't quit school on impulse!"

"Tiger-san! Hit me too!"

"Why certainly!"

Whip! Out went one more sharp slap. The receiving person rubbed his swollen cheek and suddenly rolled over on the floor. He had a very happy mug on his face, but to Ryuuji, he didn't have time to be encircled by the excitement of these men any further.

"We have something more important to do, remember!? Let's ditch these guys and get to the classroom quickly!"

"Ah, okay, okay, I know."

Still coupled together like linked cars, Taiga and Ryuuji sped up and exited the musky and male-stinking runway to head to 2-C with applause at their backs.

What was bothering him should be the same for her too. Minori wasn't waiting at the usual spot. Even when it was the commemorative day of Taiga's return to school. Even when, although they almost didn't make it, they arrived on time. They didn't even get a message from her about going ahead. This was the first time this had ever happened. Maybe Minori was at home, sick today, or,

"The trembling tendon~......"

While Ryuuji was worrying about that, it happened the moment he opened the classroom door. A high-toned open throat voice suddenly poured out.

"Of a taut~thigh~......"

"......Wha, what the!?"

It was Kushieda Minori.

Grass in mouth and sitting on top of someone's desk.

With cheeks red from the cold wind, a blue pea coat on top of her uniform, a Tartan check muffler around her, and giving off the air that she just arrived, she sang with a Castrato voice. In her eyes was an ancient forest. Ryuuji was struck speechless, but the one next to him wasn't the sort that would become surprised by this level of mysteriousness after all the time she's been with her.

"Minoriiin! I'm back! So please stop that weird song and glomp!"

Clung onto by a leaping glomp, Minori lost her balance and was about to tumble off the desk. She was able to recover her footing just in time, and said,

"Fugu....... Free me! I am human!"

"Minorinminorinmiinoriinu!"

"Live! You are human too!"

"I love you Minorin! Fuga!"

"Ah, it can't be stopped......! Minorin loves you too!"

Staggering, Minori firmly embraced Taiga, the attention-wanting human disaster. Rubbing her nose against Taiga's hair swirl, she ruffled her hair until it was a mess and cuddled her like crazy. Incidentally, Taiga was wearing a grey duffle coat and black winter tights (the real 100 denier deal) and today, instead of stealing Ryuuji's muffler, covered her neck by shoving her long hair inside her coat.

"Oh, Minorin! I weally, weally, missed youuuuuu!"

Taiga buried her face at the back of Minori's neck and pressed forward with her forehead while, for all intents and purposes, wailing. Stopping all of it with her chin, Minori kiss-stamped Taiga's forehead.

"Theeere, there, there! Taiga's current intelligence is at the Rei-san class! And by Rei, I'm not talking about the Ayanami one you know? I mean the giant space bull! Moo!"

"What, I don't get it! More importantly, why didn't you come with us this morning!"

"Oh that, well, the truth is that I was late this morning, so then I panicked and dashed, and that's why my thigh's stiff....... wait a sec, how did I get to the classroom before you guys when I was the one that was late!?"

He hid his nervousness with a cough and had been waiting for this moment. Takasu Ryuuji! One step forward! Prepare to fire! 3, 2, 1....... Fire!

"O, ou, we were surrounded by some strange guys and,"

"Shut up, boy!"

Instant death!

......That was, well... a metaphor, but still, Ryuuji died. Carved in his chest were the letters, S, H, O, C, K. He thought that he had seen the afterlife. He was told to shut up. That always cheerful and kind Minori bared her fangs at him and told him to shut up with a Miwa voice....... She hates him...... The spark of life was disappearing from Ryuuji's face. His soul was rising up to heaven. Witnessing this while still latching on to Minori, Taiga let out a "Pfffft!" stifled laugh.

The one that was in a flurry was Minori.

"O......oh!? Did I just say something!? Was it....... my gag (choice)!? I messed up (I think)! I screwed up!? Oh no (sorry)! Forget it (pretty please)! Aaaah........ if only....... I wasn't such an idiot....... ah?"

While trembling, she sung, tensed her face, and then suddenly said,

"No, wait a sec!? This might be a good thing!?"

Flash.......! Her face lit up and she left the past behind her.

"See! Because I made such a mistake, I must show that I am repentant! Yes, yes, that's right, thanks to this mistake I made, see! Ah! How lucky I am! Because I can use the favorite item that I'm carrying around fair and square in this very way! This is too lucky!"

Taiga was pushed off and fell onto the floor. Ignoring her, Minori took out a bald wig from her bag. Then, she put it on.

"See! See how lucky this is! Yes, I'm swoo lucky! I wuz able to put this on naturally! I'm swoo fwortunate I can't belieeeeeeeeve it uwaaaaan!"

She cried.

Wearing the bald wig, she fell down onto the floor, coat still on, threw aside her back, and suddenly cried manly tears, yelling, uoooooooooooon, I'm dwone for! and such.

"Mi......Minorin!? What's wrong!?"

"Hey, Kushieda! Anyway, get up, the floor's dirty!"

Not only Taiga and Ryuuji, but even the mob gathered around, murmuring, did Kushieda go nuts again.

"Yo, Takasu! Oh, hey, Taiga, long time no see, Taiga! Kushieda, what are you doing?"

"Whoa, it's Taiga! How are you!? Did Kushieda break apart again?"

Noto and Haruta also came over and patted Ryuuji on the shoulder, while looking down at the mad Minori.

"I really should have my hair shaved," said Minori as she crouched on the cold floor and held her head. She finally lifted her head up, sniffed, and screamed out in abandon while her face was still a seriously tear-ridden mess.

"Ah, I'm glad I had the bald wig with me! I'll be making good use of this for a while!"

There – she was still wearing the bald wig, for a while. For the duration of her flowery high school life, her limited youth.

Not knowing in what way and exactly how he should be playing the straight man, Ryuuji was dumbfounded and speechless. Taiga, in her own way, was shaken apparently and jutted her jaw out, producing sounds like au, au~. The best she could do was murmur, stop.......

"No, no, no... actually......"

Making a strangely feebly decrepit voice, Minori sniffled, knit her brows, and twirled her finger on the bald wig. To Ryuuji, that gesture was kind of cu-....... no, cute.... it was not. He wanted her to stop wearing the bald wig at least.

"Actually see, I, yesterday, in a softball match, made an unbelievably, fatally stupid mistake, and because of that, we lost to a team we should have been able to win against........ miserably."

Judging from the length of the long siiiiigh......, it was easy to understand the depth of her melancholy.

"So anyway, I'm actually in a very bad, bad state. I brooded about it yesterday, and ended up almost not getting any sleep at all....... ugh, cough, cough...... I'm starting to lose my voice...... forgive me, it was the day that Taiga returned to school too....... I wanted to organize an event, but I'd only cause trouble because of my health....... cough, cough! Gasp, it's bloooood~!"

Neither Ryuuji nor Taiga could say anything to a suddenly elderly Minori. By the way, she wasn't bleeding.

The usual Minori would have prepared some blood for the gag. Ryuuji watched Minori unsteadily walk back to her own seat and regretted that he couldn't say anything at all.

He couldn't say anything to Minori even though she was depressed. Then immediately after that, he regretted that he even had that thought. What a self-centered way of thinking. Wasn't "he couldn't say anything" regretting that he couldn't show the appeal of his own kindness to Minori? His own, huh. Showing himself off was more important than a hurt Minori, was it?

No, he really, for pure reasons, wanted to cheer up Minori, but no matter how much he told himself that, ultimately, it was probably just that. It was probably that he couldn't impose himself on Minori while she was down. – And thinking such thoughts gloomily for three seconds round and round, Ryuuji sighed. He was the same as Taiga. He was trapped by the idea that it wasn't fair to do anything just because the other person's weakened and couldn't move. In the end, he turned into a cold-hearted bastard that couldn't do anything for the person he loved when she needed cheering up.

– This was over-thinking. Both him and Taiga. Two of a kind non-acting thinkers. No, no, this isn't good enough.

Scratching his head and rubbing his eyes, Ryuuji stretched his back and was ready to act. Who cares if it isn't fair, so what if it's taking advantage of her when she's weak, so what if it is a bald wig? The trembling in his heart was real.

He walked over to Minori's seat and casually went into action.

"......Ah......"

"Because. It'll get sweaty."

He removed her bald wig.

No matter what unconscious motives were hidden inside his own actions, he still wanted to tell her that he was worried about her. He felt that he should tell her just that. For now, he pretended not to notice the parts about "showing off," or "taking advantage of," or "being unfair." But, he didn't want to feel regret for "overlooking someone else's wounds," ever again. He walked over to her because that feeling was inside him.

Minori, for one moment, looked up at Ryuuji as if looking at a terribly bright object and blinked. Their eyes met, he thought.

Ryuuji hid his nervousness and tried to awkwardly smile.

Then – Minori averted her eyes away from Ryuuji. She took back the bald wig from Ryuuji without looking at his face, and with a laugh, said, "Hehehe, dat's right. Don't have to wear da wig." She smiled, and without changing her expression, closed her mouth. He noticed the oddness of this for one slight moment, but then,

"Aaaaaaaaaaisaaaaaakaaaaaaaa!"

He virtually jumped up because of the echoing scream. When he looked back,

"Oh, Aisaka! You're finally able to come back to school, eh. Congratulations! How long the two weeks you were away were...... It's been extremely dull, I mean it!"

The new Student Council President, Kitamura Yuusaku, was face flat on the floor. Basically, he was lying, at attention, on the floor. This was his best friend? Ryuuji became slightly dizzied by the sight.

"Aaaaaaa Ki-ki-ki-ki-kitamura-kun, good mor-mor-mor-morning."

Taiga rigidly gestured with her right hand in the direction of the floor.

"Good morning! Oh, it's been a while since we've greeted each other like this! ......I am moved beyond words!"

Kitamura, still flat on the floor, lifted up his refreshing smile with the nape of his neck. Then, he also became aware of Ryuuji's presence.

"Oh, good morning Takasu!"

"......Why!?"

"Because it's morning isn't it!"

"No! Why that pose!?"

"A kneeling bow isn't enough! A kneeling bow isn't good enough to show how I feel towards Aisaka! ......Hey, Aisaka. I'm sorry I caused you to get suspended, something that could ruin your life. And, thank you. After that big embarrassment, I thought I couldn't take being in this school. But, thanks to you, Aisaka, I'm still here. I've.... started my Student Council President responsibilities without problems."

Flat on the floor, Kitamura looked up at Taiga directly with a gentle smile and beaming lens-covered eyes.

"If there's anything I can do, I will do anything. So please, don't ever fight again. For anyone's sake either. No matter how right you may be. If there's something you can't forgive, first, talk to me."

Then Taiga,

"...Aaaan......."

Fainted.

"Ou! Hang in there Taiga! It's only a flesh wound!"

Ryuuji hastily caught Taiga from behind and hit her cheeks. Kitamura's loyalty was too powerful. He confirmed slight movement from her eyelashes as she moaned, "Ugh, ugh." Okay, she's alive.

"Breathe slowly....... that's right....... relax......."

"Su......haaa.....suu......haa......"

Ryuuji sat with one knee up to support Taiga and desperately rubbed her shoulders to get her back to her senses. And then it happened.

"......!?"

He felt stares at his back for sure. Not one, but multiple. He turned around like a killer attempting to hunt all the life forms on the Earth singlehandedly, but

"......" "......" "......" "......" "......" "......" "......" "......" "......" "......"

There was only a string of multiple cases of silence, multiple backs of heads, and multiple backs. Whaat, just his imagination! Of course not. Ryuuji's brows furrowed. What is this?

Almost everyone in the class simultaneously became silent and faced directions away from Ryuuji, Taiga, and Kitamura. There was no way this could be normal. Even Noto and Haruta's eyes were wandering the other way. Without saying anything at all, either.

This was....... b-u-l-l-y-i-n-g...... At almost the same the time those ghastly letters floated in his mind, a far too care-free Kitamura said,

"So, anyway, I've started the Great Illuminator Deity of Broken Hearts service!"

Bang! This time, Taiga fell off of Ryuuji's lap from this incomprehensible situation. Had this been news that Ryuuji had heard the first time, he would have liked to fall over with Taiga. But that wasn't the case – Yes, Kitamura had begun it. The Great Illuminator Deity. It was too idiotic and not so easy to explain to Taiga while she was suspended, so he put it off until today. But just at that time, someone knocked on the door of the classroom.

"Um, excuse me........ is the Great Illuminator Deity of Broken Hearts......"

"Hi! Over here, over here!"

Kitamura smoothly got up from the floor and energetically gestured to the girl – an underclassman probably – that was peeking at the pre-homeroom classroom from the entrance. The girl fidgeted while walking towards him. While looking at the girl's back, Taiga was in a virtual panic.

"Begun.... the Great Illuminator Deity..... service? It's not as if he's selling cold-served Chinese food, and... and, what the, what the!? That biiiiiitch! The nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nerve of her!"

Trembling, Taiga bared her fangs and even now was dripping blood red murderous intent from her eyes like she was going to eat that girl, but. "......Whoops! Must stop, must stop, be a good girl, be a good girl......," she said, head shaking frantically, and bit her lips. Only her eyes didn't separate themselves from their two figures.

The girl, whose life was unknowingly spared thanks to Good Girl Week, reverently drooped her head in front of Kitamura and said, ".......I don't have the courage to confess....... Please help......." Then Kitamura, the Great Illuminator Deity of Broken Hearts, replied,

"Hm, hm...... it's fine, your prayers will be answered as long as you believe! Go forth without doubting yourself!"

"But....... I don't have any confidence in myself...... I'm not pretty either......"

"Don't think! Go to a Soap!"

"......Soa....? ......What?"

"Don't think too much."

Then, Kitamura chanted some mumbo jumbo over her head and bowed. The girl also bowed and left. "......Haa......?" Taiga said, slanting her neck so much that her face turned. She could not comprehend the situation at all

That's right. A lot had happened in school while Taiga was suspended.

"What is this, Ryuuji, what's......"

".......The truth is, ever since the ‘big confession', Kitamura's turned into the sect founder of love within the school – or more like, he's turned into an object of worship for those people that have someone they want to confess to......"

"Oh, really?!" exclaimed Taiga in surprise, but immediately after,

"But he was turned down!"

How true. Coming from Taiga, the mechanisms of her petite brain did their job quite well, remarkably.

"That's the reason why. Like ‘Kitamura will be taking all the bad stuff'."

"In other words, it's evil spirit exorcism."

Noto popped his head out and followed up with the rest of the explanation.

"Well, it's also because the previous Student Council President had too strong a personality, you know? This also carries the meaning of adding flavor to the new Student Council, and that's why he's going out of his way to promote the ‘Great Illuminator Deity of Broken Hearts'. This was the second person this morning. After school's just wow; they actually make lines at the Student Council. The Student Council's getting carried away too and they've got a shrine at the entrance, like they're really going to do the Great Illuminator Deity act."

"Really!? So that's what it was about, I didn't know! Isn't Kitamura amazing~!?"

The one that had spoken up was Haruta, who was then given a cold chide of, "May I ask you what of Kitamura you've been looking at the whole time?" from Noto. Completely ignoring Haruta, Taiga quietly looked at the returning Great Illuminator Deity of Broken Hearts with a hard-to-read expression. Looking at the side of her face,

"......Shall we try it?"

After Ryuuji whispered this, she nodded slightly with a "Yeah," and Taiga and Ryuuji both discreetly put their hands together in prayer. They lowered their heads slightly to the Great Illuminator Deity of Broken Hearts. What they were thinking was, of course –

"What, what, you guys too? Is there somebody you want to confess to?"

"Ou, you found out. .......No, but somehow it felt like the thing to do."

".......Same. Somehow or another."

"All right! Go to a Soap!"

Don't think so...... thought Ryuuji as he averted his eyes slightly, whereas Taiga lightly scratched the area under her nose. Noto, comparing their two faces, then suddenly said,

"You know, Taiga, you're awfully quiet today......? You're keeping a low profile because it's the first day back from suspension, something like that?"

To that question, which he asked carefully while keeping a tab on the distance, she replied,

"Ah, you noticed? That's right, I'm, being a good girl."

"Eh he!" laughed Taiga, with generous sweetness to the likes of Noto. Noto as well, either surprised or scared, jolted grandly, knocking his glasses askew.

"See, I've decided to be a good girl since it's almost Christmas. Because, see, Santa's watching...... doee!"

Then, adorable Taiga was sent flying forward. She plowed down desks and chairs, taking with her several others including Noto and tumbled onto the floor exposing her tights-covered butt.

"Kyaahahahahaha ☆ Are you stupid~!? Santa! You said Santa! To think I'd hear you say that~! It doesn't, fit, you! Kyahahahahaha ☆! Oh yeah, it has been a while hasn't it~! Suspended! That kills me~!"

He knew who it was without having to look.

The name of the beautiful girl that knocked Taiga's butt with her bag and laughed loudly while brushing upwards her silky hair was Kawashima Ami. The undisputed, perfect, super beauty.

Despite having the shapely, well-proportioned figure of a model, despite overly perfect features properly settling in at the perfect positions on her small face, and despite radiating the brilliant and smooth aura of a jewel from everywhere while walking towards Taiga, Ami was an overwhelming social miscreant. To Taiga, the sole owner of the title of the most vicious and strongest being in the school, she could indeed be said to be her archenemy. If she was knocked away on the butt by that Ami, naturally, it should be Taiga's turn to pay her back. But.

"........Long time no see, Bakachi......"

"......Ooh?"

Taiga, who had been sent flying and knocking over desks, however, got up and greeted Ami. It was too much to expect her to smile, but even so, she waved her hand amicably. But from her sleeves, the tip of a sharp knife was...! No, that didn't happen. But between her fingers, a poison needle was...! No, that didn't happen. In her pointed shoes, a frog was...! No. From above, a metal basin was...! No.

Taiga remained elegant and graceful.

"Bakachi, it's almost Christmas. If you still keep being a bad Chihuahua, Santa won't be coming to see you. See, I'll make a concession. I'll take that blow as a greeting and forget about it. So, let's stop fighting until Christmas is over. I, love Christmas. I don't want to fight over something stupid in this once-in-a-year wonderful season."

"Kyaa!"

......With one hand held by Taiga, Ami shrieked. Quite a reaction. Ami desperately knocked off Taiga's extended hand. She looked at her right hand, screaming as if it were decaying, shook it violently, and then finally opened her eyes like something would come spilling out.

"You, there is so something wrong with you! Did something happen while you were suspended!? You're abnormal, abnormal, abnormal, you're strange! Ah, maybe that's it!? You're going to die tomorrow!? Ugh, how awful~!"

"......You're saying the same thing Ryuuji did...... Why does everyone say I'm sick, that I'm dying, when I decide that I'll be a good girl. I don't understand at all. It's almost Christmas. Bakachi, I think it's a good idea to change your ways. Because Santa, see, will be in Japan's skies soo-......"

"Nooooooooo!"

Ami's serious scream rumbled throughout the classroom. Also, while she was at it, it climaxed at the "Oeee!" vomiting kind of sound.

"What, Santa, are you for real!? Gross, gross, gross, gross, actually, kyaah, I got it! You've got your sights set on using this opportunity to get a personality makeover!? Uwaa, that's creepy, no, stop shitting me, gargh! There's no room for one more in the airhead or pure slots, dammit! Actually, I was planning on saying ‘Ami-chan, loves Christmas~ ♥ Ehehe, I believed in Santa up to Junior High~ ♥ Isn't that stupid~ ♥,' but because of you, it's all pointless, dammit, how are you going to take responsibility for this, bitch!? Aaah!? Dammit, this is freaking me out. You made me dilate my pupils, you idiot!"

Not giving the time of the day to the several boys clinging to her highness' legs – It's okay; We like that fake pureness of Ami-chan; We love Ami-chan's real, occasionally overflowing, ferocious feelings; Whip me, hang me, tie me, turn my life into a mess– she said,

"Hah! .......Oh. Ami-chan's figured it out!"

Ami suddenly raised her face and gulped. Then, continued,

"You're on speed......"

"That's it, that's it, it's speed, it's speed! Oh no, that's totally frea~ky! It has to be that! Gasp, eek, oh no! My heavens~!"

She apparently satisfied herself with her own theory. She wriggled her body, moistened her large eyes, put both hands to her cheeks, and META FUSED her cutie pie iron mask! It was a facial transformation, as expected of a pro, with more years of seasoning than Taiga's "good girl."

"Quit it! Of course not. Ah, wait, Bakachi!"

"As such, anyway, Ami-chan will inspect your belongings ♥ You're, totally, totally, suspicious. Let's see, let's see......"

Ami picked up Taiga's bag from the floor and opened it all the way, hard. However, for a joke, the way her hands were moving were too rough, and,

"Oh dear, whoopsidoo!"

"Ah! What are you doing Bakachi! Why you, I'll k-...I won't kill you."

Everything in Taiga's bag became scattered on the floor. Ami panicked, then squatted on the floor and began picking up the mess. Ryuuji couldn't prevent himself from not helping upon seeing this horrible mess.

"What the hell are you doing? ......So to get to the point, you're happy that Taiga, your quarrel partner, is back at school, aren't you? Be honest."

"Oh, Takasu-kun, good-mor-ning ♥ Stop with the gross jokes, I'll-kill-you ♥ By the way, could you pick that up ~?"

With the smile of an angel, Ami forced Ryuuji to fetch a pen that had rolled all the way against the wall. Then, with the bag back in its original state, she passed it back to Taiga, then added,

"Ah, this one too. I'll put this here."

To finish things off, Ami slipped Taiga's student handbook in the back pocket of the bag. She muttered, "Good grief," but then forced a smile, saying to herself, "Stop, stop, must be a good girl, a good girl......," and took the bag from Ami. Then, Ami's hair was touched from behind.

"My...... I knew it, Ami-chan, really is kind......"

The one whispering this with a bit of a wry smile was Kashii Nanako, who had come to school with her.

"What~? What might you be talking about~? Ah, that reminds me, I brought that limited edition lip gloss? Nanako, do you want to put it on? Oh that's right, that's right, Maya also said she wanted to try it ♥ Let's go, let's go."

"Ah, I want to try it, I want to try it! Maya, come on!"

Kihara was gestured over by the two of them, however, on the way there, "Hah? Kushieda, why do you have the bald wig? That's a riot!" "Dyou want to wear it? Dyo you want it?" "By the way, why is your voice all nasally? That's a riot!" "I just cried." "Why did you cry? That's a real riot!"

She was having a lot of small laughs at Minori's seat on the way over. Tugging Maya's arm, the usual trio moved to Ami's seat. Clamoring nosily, the sweet, voices of the 2-C Official Beautiful Trio echoed gorgeously, as usual, in the pre-homeroom classroom.

Light Novel
Main Series' Volumes

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