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

This is Chapter 2 from Volume 7 of the Toradora! Light Novel series. The text is from Baka-tsuki.

Transcript

“.......Then, when I asked my date, the Associated Professor, ‘Where are you now?’, he said, ‘I’m in the café at the station front’. Then he said, ‘There’s a file I have to read up on all of a sudden, so could you push back the time we’re meeting?’ But, I was at that café when he called.......I thought this was strange, and I asked him, I asked him casually, ‘Did you get a good window seat?’ to which he replied, ‘Yes, I got one.’ He said, ‘I’m sitting in a good window seat, ah ha ha.’ ......But, at that time, I was sitting in the only window seat......”

“Oh ho. A strange lie from out of nowhere. That’s quite bad.”

“I thought that he was meeting some other woman, I mean wouldn’t you? But, we’re not officially dating, so I couldn’t confront him. ......I thought he was a promising candidate, and the fact is we’re both not young. He might have to terminate a few relationships before we could formally begin dating each other, I thought. He said that he would be one hour late, so I didn’t think it was a good idea to hang around there.”

“I see, you didn’t want him to know that you knew he was lying.”

“Yes. We hadn’t even reached the point where we could argue with each other. So, for the moment, I left the station-side building while it was raining. I could kill time browsing at a bookstore or a clothing store for one hour, I thought. It was on that terribly cold Saturday......”

“Yeah, it sure was a cold day. It didn’t snow one bit either, just cold rain.”

“Yes. So, since my umbrella was small, my clothing and shoes got wet, and there I was, walking and thinking, ‘Oh what should I do~’...... And then, I found him......!”

“Oh ho! Where was he and what was he doing?”

“He was playing with a pachinko slot machine!”

Aaah......

Low rumbling gathered inside 2-C. This dubious twist brought the hands of students eating their lunch to an automatic stop.

“This is...... quite the story. When he should have been reading files in a café, he was playing pachinko. Even when he was missing an appointment. Even when he was standing up the person he’s dating.”

“This was definitely a bit too much......I thought. There’s a limit to how much I can pretend to be oblivious. I didn’t want to hear excuses, I didn’t want to hear lies either, so then I decided to wait for him to exit the building at that spot.”

“You didn’t storm the building?”

“I wouldn’t do that, I’m an adult. I simply stood in the rain. But he didn’t leave the building. He didn’t leave the building even after one hour. I still stood there. With no roof cover. At 8:00 at night. On the street. He didn’t come out after another 30 minutes passed. ‘Isn’t he an hour late?’ I thought. ‘You don’t have the decency to even call,’ I thought. ‘No, in the first place, are pachinko slot machines > me?’ I thought. ...... But, the blackness inside me grew as big as the amount of time I waited, and I was too frustrated and sad to return home......Even worse, it was cold, and I was pitiful and miserable the colder it was, then I thought if he looked at how pitiful I was, he might regret what he did......”

“.......Hmmm.....Didn’t you make a phone call or send an email?”

“I did. ......To a friend. ‘Right now, I’m crying because of what that Associated Professor was putting me through, what should I do~?’ I said to her. Then, I realized something major......”

“My hands are sweating with anticipation.”

“There is apparently no such thing as the occupation of Associated Professor.......They call the profession Associate Professor now. ....... Then I started wondering, ‘Who the hell are you?’”

“.......Oh. So his whole story became fishy.”

“I haven’t been in contact with him since then. Then, the reason why everything turned weird is, well, I discovered what it was. ......Mercury, you see, had been retrograding.......”

“Ah.......Mercury, you say.......”

“Yes, Mercury! They say that when Mercury retrogrades, computers will break and plans will get delayed! When it eventually moves normally again, ah, at the beginning of next year I think, he’ll contact me again! Don’t you think so? You think so, right!”

“Er.......Hmmmm, well, that boyfriend is, to be honest.......Isn’t it a good idea to go see him the next time?”

“If there’s a next time, of course I’ll go dammit!! But it’s not that! It’s not that. A-n-y-w-a-y, I, wanted to complain! Yes!”

“Ah, ah, uwaaa.......if you strain yourself that much, you’ll hyperventi......”

“But!? He came out from the pachinko parlor!? He saw me!? He wasn’t surprised or nervous, and the first thing that came out of that lousy sob’s mouth was, ‘You were following me weren’t you!? So that’s the kind of person you are! You’re scum! It’s because you do things like this that you’re still single at this age!’ Excuse me, but I was the one that wanted to say that!? You’re the one that’s still playing bachelor upper-level occupation fraud at your age! ‘What you say!’ pant, pant....... Shimura.... Aaaaa........ uuuuu~oooooooo.......”

“Well then, having gotten to the point of the story, I sure hope Mercury does turn direct soon. That’s it for today, thank you very much. Here, take these tissues....... You still have classes in the afternoon. You should wipe off your tears and fix your makeup.......uh, Radio Name B-rette (30)-san”

“......Y-chan.”

“Excuse me. Y-chan (30). If you want help, please tell us your story on the “Great Illuminator Deity of Broken Hearts Restaurant” corner. – The Student Council is the cheer squad of your love. .......Now, we’ll be playing Y-chan (30)’s request, so listen up folks.......”

Powdeeeerrr~~~~~~~~snooooooww!

A somewhat nostalgic winter song flowed out from the speakers. Finally, somebody hit the nail on the head.

“What does Kitamura hope to accomplish by making our homeroom teacher cry......”

Ever since Kitamura awakened as the Great Illuminator Deity of Broken Hearts, the broadcast room at lunch was occupied by the Student Council. What was ceaselessly leaking out from the speakers was the Student Council’s voluntary school broadcast, the “Cheer Squad of Your Love.” Procuring them from somewhere, students would be subjected to love counseling anonymously, Kitamura would suddenly go running off on his experiences, and today, on the matter of lack of romantic relationships, they succeeded in summoning the friendly neighborhood 2-C homeroom teacher, K.gakubo Y.ri (30 – D-shin) as a corner guest. The pain grade of the show increased daily. As if to agree with that,

“.......Let’s pretend we didn’t know that was Yuri-chan.”

“.......Yeah.”

Thus the boys and girls at this delicate period of their lives grew steadily into adults. Meanwhile,

“Hey, hey, Ryuuji.......Don’t you think the master tape for this broadcast is saved somewhere? If we know where it is, we can sneak inside at night, take it, and edit the Kitamura-kun parts....and then every night, before I sleep....n, fu-........”

There also was somebody whose large eyes were lit with fiery desire, nose flaring with harsh breathing, and was hugging her own body and raising her body temperature to steaming. Opposite to her and opening his boxed lunch, Ryuuji cried out, “It’s out, it’s out.” He wasn’t smiling at the new power he developed – “It’s out, it’s out, cursed, poisonous smoke is gushing out from my eyes.” He was rolling his eyes at the emergence of a ridiculous idea from the person in front of him.

“Weren’t you supposed to be a ‘good girl’ until Christmas? I can’t believe you’re thinking about stealing .......Your eyes are black with self-interest.”

“Oh my, what an awful thing to say.”

Taiga clasped her two hands before her chest and leisurely brought down her long eyelashes.

“If I really think about it, I believe the one at fault here is Ryuuji for not telling me about this wonderful lunch hour broadcast and not recording it.”

“.......If I told you, you’d want to listen to it. I’d look like a moron if I recorded this in class. Hey, I was trying to be considerate since it’d actually be cruel to tell you while you were on suspension.”

“Oh, no, no, you don’t understand at all, Ryuuji. Your way of being considerate is totally, and completely, missing the point. That habit of yours is self-satisfaction like the type you get after doing something good and complete self-righteousness. Your personality, is like an old man that’s pouring sugar on top of a slug then in the time that he’s watching it melt, the sun comes down, but he still goes, ‘it was a good day, wasn’t it!’ While I’m at it, even your mug is missing the point; and it’s a Yakuza mug with your canine spirit showing. But in spite of your faults, Ryuuji, the current me won’t hold that against you. I won’t hit you or kick you. I won’t throw you, strangle you, or drop you on the ground either. I won’t say you’re worthless. Aren’t you amazed by this good girl demonstration? Ehee.”

“That’s more than enough, so cut it out!”

Ryuuji sadly dropped his chopsticks. My personality’s like sugar on a slug......! Aaaaah! thought Ryuuji, but ignoring him, Taiga puffed up her hair with a small sigh.

“It really is too bad though. Well....... breaking in and stealing it is certainly iffy, isn’t it? But, all I wanted to do was somehow get possession of Kitamura-kun’s beautiful voice that I had missed out on while I was suspended, edit it as much as I please, customize here and there to fit my tastes, and fill both of my ears with a Kitamura-kun voice that belongs only to me......”

Then, there was a pat on Taiga’s shoulder.

“Tiger, if you want, I could give this to you?”

Thinking that this very embarrassing conversation was overheard, Taiga flipped around. Ryuuji was also quite surprised. The ones who talked to Taiga were girls that normally didn’t talk to her. They handed out one ROM to Taiga.

“I’m in the broadcast committee. I was asked by Maruo, so I’ve been recording the lunch hour broadcasts everyday. This has all the broadcasts up to yesterday, and if you like, I’ll give it to you.”

Ryuuji and Taiga looked at each other automatically and stopped thinking for several seconds.

“Eh, wha, wha........eh? Wh, why.......?”

The answer to the question that finally came out from Taiga’s mouth was simple.

“Well, I kind of, by coincidence, just heard you saying you wanted to hear it. And, I just happened to have a spare backup ROM with me. Right?”

“Oh yes, right, right. We also recorded today’s of course, and we plan on continuing, so if you want, I’ll make a copy. It’s interesting. It’s really funny too.”

The ROM was pushed into Taiga’ s small, hesitant, shaking hand with a “Here.” Taiga’s cheeks turned red, and she stood up, knocking over her chair in a panic with her legs.

“Um, um, um,”

She looked back to Ryuuji for only a moment as if to ask him what to do. Prodded by Ryuuji’s hand which seemed to be saying, go on,

“Th......thank you.......”

Fidgeting, Taiga finally managed to quietly whisper this while blushing greatly. The girls laughed, and waving their hands, they said,

“Don’t worry about it. Think of it as a gift to celebrate the end of your suspension.”

“Yeah, yeah. School’s dull without Tiger around. I’m glad you’re back.”

They returned to their own seats where their boxed lunches were opened. Taiga was frozen still for a short time then abruptly nodded as if she came to a decision on something. She took out a box of sweets from the inside of her desk, caught up with the girls, and held it out to them.

“......n!”

She said.

“Aah, thank you! This tastes good, doesn’t it?”

“I like this too! I’ll take one.”

Flaring her nostrils, she returned to Ryuuji’s seat and then jumped at the desk with an “Nfa!” grunt. While hugging the ROM and closing both eyes, her face became completely red with even the back of her neck turning a hot cherry pink.

“D-d-did you see that just now!? Is it really okay for me to be this lucky!? I’m too happy!”

While shouting with a small voice, she wildly stomped her feet up and down on Ryuuji’s from under the desk. This was, by the way, not an attack, but something like how a delighted cat tries to make her owner turn by poking him with her nose. Ryuuji couldn’t help but smile.

“Yeah, that was pretty lucky. You’re surprisingly loved by the girls, aren’t you? Maybe it’s a blessing from the Great Illuminator Deity of Broken Hearts? At any rate, you don’t have to steal.”

“Yeah!”

Taiga stuffed her mouth with lettuce chahan which was served with a nice helping of petite tomatoes. Directly facing her, Ryuuji also stuffed his mouth with the same boxed lunch meal. The quality, of course, was excellent as usual. It was made up of the acid taste of tomato and fresh lettuce, a full serving of one egg for one person, and canned scallop eye as its trump card. Accompanying it on the side, was a sauté of zha cai, pepper, and chicken breast, as well as a salad of special sesame-sprinkled cucumbers and seaweed, and for dessert, there was tangerine jelly. Today’s lunch was superb. Since it was the first day of the end of Taiga’s suspension, Ryuuji also put a little energy into making it.

However, during this precious lunchtime, Minori was away from the classroom because of a club meeting, and that one point alone was too much of a shame.

“Yippy, yippy, yippy! Ehehe.”

Taiga, munching on the chahan while frolicking in delight, had lit her eyes up like she was happy to the bottom of her heart, so he figured he’d look at her face to comfort the boredom. Then,

“I finally bought bread! It’s too crowded at the school store!”

“Oh hey, the Kitamura radio’s on again today? Oh man, this song’s way old.”

“Don’t say that. It’s our homeroom teacher’s selection.”

“Geh, that’s kind of sad.”

Noto and Haruta, the bread purchasers, pulled their chairs close to Ryuuji’s desk. With two desks, three guys, and a little one sticking to the edge by herself, it was extremely cramped, but this was, in its own way, a fun moment in the day.

Powdeeeerrr~~~~~~~~snooooooww! finally ended, and once again, Kitamura’s slightly artificial facetious voice began to stream from the speakers.

“......Well then, today’s high temperature is 8 degrees and low is 3 degrees. We’re in the middle of winter. The wind’s cold, the air is dry.......It’s frightening isn’t it, influenza, accidental fires......”

Shaddup, Noto mocked while biting into his bread, and ahaha, laughed Ryuuji and Haruta. Taiga strained her ears and extended her head out like a turtle to greedily listen to Kitamura’s voice.

“Speaking of scary things, it’s almost time for the semester finals. Folks, how’s your studying coming along? By the way, I, the Great Illuminator Deity of Broken Hearts, also would like to get down to studying soon but.......Ah ha! Things just won’t go according to schedule."

“What did he say~!?”

Haruta suddenly shouted.

“Isn’t this broadcast irritating|!? Why does he have to start talking about exam studying!? Isn’t the title ‘Cheer Squad of Love’!?”

“Whoah, whoah, calm down. Why are you getting worked up? We can’t hear the Great Kitamura-sensei’s good broadcast, right Tiger? Are you okay? Can you hear it?”

Noto turned to Taiga, and Taiga, creasing her brows, nodded. Noto and Taiga’s relationship was kind of good, almost as if they were normal friends? Damn Noto, don’t get full of yourself just because Taiga’s in her Christmas mode.......er, no, he musn’t think like that. Ryuuji’s eyes flashed manically as if to say oh, what a heartwarming scene, but Haruta stubbornly continued to shake his head with a “Naw, naw.’ In spite of laughing just a little earlier, he violently bit off a portion of his yakisoba bread, annoyingly swung his long hair, and said,

“I don’t want to hear about studying! Don’t you feel the same too Noto!? Takacchan’s the same right!? Tiger, you too!? Hey, I, hate studying! It might be surprising to you, but honestly, I don’t want to study for even a second!”

“Ou! You spit blue seaweed on my desk...... I have to take out my antibacterial wet tissues.......”

“This isn’t the time to be wiping blue seaweed, Takacchan! Stop it! By the way, what’s up with you Tiger!?”

Haruta’s anger was abruptly directed at Taiga. Under normal circumstances, Haruta would be sent to the gallows, die in 2 seconds, go to heaven in 5, then reincarnate 10 seconds after, and be wailing, “Ogyaa!” in a new world. However, the pre-Christmas Taiga, somewhat miserably replied,

“......What is wrong with me......”

She simply looked up at the long haired idiot. The person in this world that should be thankful to Santa the most is without a doubt Haruta, Ryuuji thought. Then, that idiot got more carried away, pointed his finger at Taiga, showed his teeth with blue seaweed sticking all over,

“So, I had just bought bread, and the Head of our Year shouted, ‘You, the idiot over there!’ and stopped me, and out of nowhere, I got scolded by him to do exam studying since I’m the guy that’s closest to being held back in our grade! So I went, ‘But Tiger’s on suspension! She’s in more trouble than me!’ but then he scolded at me some more and said, ‘You’re in far more trouble than her you idiot! You are the Idiot King!’...... Pfffft! Ah hahahahaha! Doesn’t that make you crack up!? Idiot King he said!”

While a further solitary outburst of ahhahahahaha~! trailed off, Ryuuji asked Noto “Really?” with his eyes. Noto replied back with a silent nod. What could Taiga be thinking as she continued to silently look at that Haruta King? Soon, she quietly said,

“.......Please, let this idiot also have a happy Christmas......”

She laid her fingers on top of one another and sent her prayers to heaven. And, what resounded inside that holy blessing wasn’t the trumpeting of angels, but the “Kyaha...........!?” voice of Hayashiya Paako ? Nope, it was Haruta’s super sonic wave.

“What’s wrong Tiger~!! Ah~ you have a really kind side, don’t you! Ah~.......oh oh, I don’t really understand, but just now I kind of bla-“

Stab! Noto’s surprisingly sharp hand chop was thrust into Haruta’s neck in that instant. Haruta dropped into his chair and his head fell. All right, nodded Noto, while Ryuuji took away the yakisoba bread from Haruta and put it on the desk.

The two men gave each other the thumbs up sign. Taiga, not understanding what happened, looked with blank eyes at Haruta, shut off from the forced power outage and rice crumbs still sticking to the edges of his mouth. Then, she turned her face to Noto and said,

“What was that just now? What was he trying to say?”

“Don’t worry about it, girls needn’t worry about it! ......Oh yeah, more importantly, shouldn’t we really start studying soon? Why don’t we get together at the family restaurant? And Haruta, especially, isn’t going to be able to get into the next grade if we don’t force him to study. Also, that thing you have, Takasu. I’d like a copy of that. Is it all right? You know, the Bro Notes.”

“Ah, ou, of course. Great stuff. Let’s pass it along to the gang. .......Ah, right, it isn’t just mine. You should ask Kushieda too.”

The Bro Notes. The study notes for all the subjects, left behind by the previous Student President and given to Ryuuji and Minori as the prize for winning the lucky man marathon at the end-of-fall Cultural Festival. Ryuuji was holding on to them but the note books officially belonged to the two of them. He hadn’t entered the contest because he wanted them, but when he received and opened them, he was surprised. The class and textbook information was there of course, however, even more complicated information was written in a way unbelievably easy to understand and summarized even more carefully than the study aids on sale in the market. Seeing this, Ryuuji at last understood. The genius Bro that Kitamura had once been in love with didn’t slack off, she put in daily effort in order to further polish her god-given gift. She was the “real deal.”

“Thank you! Isn’t that great Haruta! Right!” Noto replied to Ryuuji’s pleasant answer, rocking the shoulder of his friend. Haruta was still unconscious and Noto’s unnecessarily long arm whacked him in the area around his thigh. Then, continuing, Noto turned his head and said,

“But hey, Tiger, it’s great that your suspension ended while you can still take the semester finals. The tests are next week too, and Taiga, of course, you’ll be studying with us right? See, well, you know. ........I’ll mention it to Kitamura too, so how about studying with us? Right? How about we start tonight?”

“.......!”

Taiga’s eyes brightened from those words, and she then looked to Ryuuji. As if to say, Did you hear that!? He most certainly did hear that. He most certainly heard that Noto said he’ll get Kitamura to go to the study session. Taiga somehow suppressed her happy expression, but her eyes sparkled, her cheeks swelled in pink, and she quietly answered, “I do-do-do-don’t mind,” like she was trying to suppress a smile. Noto laughed and then nodded.

“Oh right, can we ask Minorin to come too!? The note books, they’re Minorin’s too! Right, Ryuuji!”

Taiga was so delighted that it seemed that she’d almost hum, and said “Right!” as she peeked at Ryuuji’s face. If people weren’t watching, he would answer Angel Taiga’s persistent supportive efforts with a salute. .......However, Ryuuji put that feeling aside and stared at the side of Noto’s face, sensing that something was out of place.

“....Hm? What is it, Takasu?”

“......Nothing.”

“Huh? If I look real carefully at Takasu’s face, you look like this Joker card I have at home......”

“....Ou. I’m told that sometimes.”

And Noto somehow looks like a pitiable jer.....but that’s not important. He thought there was definitely something wrong with the way Noto was acting today. Just because Taiga was in her Christmas only good girl version, just because it’s been a while since he last saw her, wasn’t he being too straight with Taiga? Then, suddenly inviting her to come over for a study session......No, it’s not just that. There were several decisively strange points. That’s right, Noto for some reason has been,

“Ah, Minorin! Over here! You’re late! We already finished eating!”

“!?”

– He popped.


Ryuuji’s mind was instantly blown away. The pieces of his scattered ego were drawn together by the figure of one girl and finally reformed themselves into a human shape. A stupid man, one that lost all of his nearly-assembled thought processes and one that was in love, was being reconstructed.

“Sorry, the meeting dragged on!”

She directed her smile at Taiga and strutted forth with a leap-like step. Minori alone rose up with vivid colors and as a bright outline in the familiar, dull landscape. That figure, that voice, that smell, swept away Ryuuji’s heart with tremendous power. Looking down, he acted like he was cleaning out the remains of his boxed lunch. He turned away his eyes and pretended not to notice Minori’s arrival. He drank his Oolong tea in one gulp to replace what he wanted to say.

“Minorin, did you have a boxed lunch too?”

“I bought bread!”

“Then, come over here and eat some snacks with me!”

“Okay, hee-haw !”

When Taiga waved out the sweets box, Minori, smiling, was about to move her legs to come here, however,

“Um, Minorin, we were talking about it just now, but tonight, we........Minorin, why are you moving away?”

“Hee-haw, hee-haw, the big thing on my crotch won’t stay put, it be , hee-haw.”

With an abnormally well-performed moonwalk, she gradually retreated. “Ah, that’s dirty talk! Kushieda, you’re vulgar!” booed Noto. Ryuuji’s face twisted like a poisoned demon, his eyes radiated terrifying lightning, and his fists trembled with the power of a man. A low-pitched voice for finishing off a mortal enemy emerged from his lips. “And you mixed Saigou Don in it.” YES! Ryuuji shouted with delight mentally. After a long hiatus, he succeeded in casually pulling off the straight man response. However, Minori,

“Hee-haw, hee-haw, it be, it be.”

She didn’t stop her laughing reverse moon surface walking. She went back further and further with smooth movements which couldn’t possibly be from someone with something sticking between the legs. Even if she bumped into somebody and received a “Hey, watch it!”, even if her rear hit someone’s desk, Minori did not stop. Just when Taiga, Noto, and Ryuuji were about to ask together how far she was going,

“......By the way. The Christmas you folks have been waiting for is coming up after the painful exams.”

A Christmas song began to run as background music accompanying the voice of Kitamura. Realizing this, Ryuuji watched Taiga’s face turn into a smile. Her beloved Kitamura began to talk about her beloved Christmas. Of course she’d have a pleasant smile.

“We, the Student Council have an announcement. After the end of the end of semester examinations, there will be a closing ceremony on the 24th, Christmas Eve. And after that, in the gym, we will be holding a student-run Christmas party!”

– At that moment.

The lunch hour clamor came to a halt. Taiga’s mouth opened excitedly. Even Haruta regained consciousness and opened his eyes.

This was....this was! Ryuuji stopped breathing. He instinctively exchanged glances with Taiga.

“I don’t have to be telling you couples this, but to you ......yes, you, the person that can’t ask out that certain someone you’re interested in. Why don’t you invite that special someone to this occasion, this romantic holy night of Christmas Eve? We await your cooperation in launching the Preparatory Committee. We also await your funds. The Student Council is the supporter of your love.”

Kyaaaaa~! .......Two maidens were explosively born.

This was it. This is what he wanted! This project! Ryuuji and Taiga both lost control of themselves and could no longer utter words. Raising their excited and shrilly voices, they did a double high five, then shrieked again, nearly wrapping their arms around each other.

This way, Ryuuji can naturally ask Minori out. How about going with everybody? That will do it. They’ll go to the party together, and the rest is up to the way the wind blew, and the mood.......No, Ryuuji was satisfied with simply enjoying Eve with Minori. Taiga doesn’t have to be unnecessarily worried about this and that being fair or not, and as long as she goes to the party, she can meet Kitamura. It might be difficult for the two of them to be alone together, but at any rate, she should be able to spend Eve with Kitamura.

And the ones that turned into hyperactive girls hadn’t just been Ryuuji and Taiga. “It’s not like I’m going to have anything scheduled for Eve anyway!“ “This might be pretty fun!?” “I hope we can wear our own stuff!” “I wanna wear a cute dress!” Several people soon began to announce their participation. If it’s the already event-loving denizens of 2-C and the host is the head of 2-C, the Great Illuminator Deity of Broken Hearts, there was no way they couldn’t get excited.

What a great mood.......Ryuuji tenaciously goggled his reptilian eyes. No, he wasn’t being haunted by a snake one of his ancestors killed. His heart couldn’t refrain from being happy. From getting riled up with everyone, having a romantic party on the night of Eve........and then just maybe, just maybe, really, really, being able to even confess his feelings to Minorin. If, if that really happened, what answer would Minori give – Lickings his lips chapped from tension and suppressing his excitement, he was going to turn around in Minori’s direction secretly. But,

“Oh right, why don’t you join the Preparatory Committee, Taiga?”

“Oh yeah, you did say you liked Christmas just a little while ago~”

“You fit the job description! You should do it, you should really do it!”

Surprising voices began to come up from his surroundings. “Join the Committee!” laughed Noto as well.

Taiga, surrounded by those voices, stood up nervously with her face completely red and announced,

I-i-i-i-if everyone’s wants me to do it so badly, I’m willing to do it! Fuhahahahaha!”

She laughed loudly to cover her embarrassment. Then, she hmphed and for now, swaggered back, then added,

“You will join too, sugar slug dog!”

She pointed at Ryuuji, however, her face was coming undone like it was melting. She can work on the preparations for the Christmas party together with Kitamura, and not just that, but under the natural pretense that she had to live up to the expectations of her classmates. Right now, Taiga’s desire was about to be granted in perfect form. Of course that would make her face melt. Then, the fingers of that face-melting Taiga pointed at Minori.

“Minorin, you too! Let’s do it together, together!”

Kyaaaaa~~~~! Ryuuji was kicked into a whirl of even further delight. What a good girl Taiga is. She’s an angel of love and a renowned producer. She’s the donut-haloed child of Christmas. Ryuuji lifted his ogre face and turned to Minori. Let’s do it! Together! Together! However,

“Sorry. This time, Minorin passes, hee-haw.”

“Eh!? Why!?”

The voice of Ryuuji’s mind synchronized with Taiga’s. The hee-haw hee-haw it-be it-be back-stepping Minori closed her eyes obstinately and shook her head right and left.

“I’m not in the mood for Christmas parties. Seriousy....... It ain’t really the time for me to be festive........ that match, you know, I really, really, feel responsible for it. If I’m getting bubbly while this is happening to my team, I think I would be setting a bad example to them. There’s a match at the turn of the year too, so we have to practice. That’s why, I’ve gotta say sorry. Enjoy yourself to your heart’s content, Taiga.”

No way – In other words, she wasn’t going to join the Preparatory Committee, and she wasn’t going to go to the party. Ryuuji couldn’t speak from the shock. It was also partially because he got too excited on his own and thus couldn’t deal with the gap in tension. But then, at the moment that the world nearly lost its color all at once, it happened.

“......Ou!”

“Ehehe ♥ In that case, how about I join in place of Minori-chan!?”

Bang! The one that struck a sitting Ryuuji hard on the back and was half-way leaning over him, was Ami, complete with a little whisper of, “What’s up with that face?” Taiga then instantly contorted her face.

“Geh, Stupichi!? No, no, don’t come here, no hairy guys! Go away, go away, hair balls should do as hair balls do and go back to their forest den!”

“Oh, oh~? Oh my, Tiger-chan, should you really be saying that? Weren’t you supposed to be a good girl until Christmas~? Isn’t Santa watching~?”

“Ugh......”

Putting her index finger to her lips shiny from gloss and giving her an up-from-under look, Ami magnificently scored one point and silenced Taiga. Then, uttering, “Ufu ♥” and her sweet smile going into full bloom, she leisurely gazed down at the faces of her classmates with her bright, sparkling, large eyes. She assumed control of the mood of the class with her unfair beauty, drawing in the eyes of all those here by force.

“Isn’t this going to be fun!? I’m definitely going! Having a Christmas party at school, that’s too awesome a plan coming from Yuusaku! I really love these kinds of ideas~! Let’s rock the house with 2-C power! Right, everyone!?”

“Yay!” yelled somebody, and applause came about naturally. “I’m definitely, definitely, going!” “I’ll join the Committee too” “I can’t believe I can spend Eve with Ami-chan!” “This is the peak of my life!” said the men as they shed tears here and there. Even the eyes of the girls sparkled noisily and cheerfully as they were pointing and laughing at those same men.

She really is good at stuff like this – Ryuuji looked up at Ami, practically astonished. Ami further stirred up the enthusiasm of the class with her smile, put her arms around Taiga, saying, “Let’s do it together~♥,” and even kissed her on the cheek. “Ogeh!” Taiga said as she was pushing her away, but because she was limited by her “good girl restriction,” she couldn’t seriously reject her.

“Oh~? What is with those eyes? You don’t want to work with me, is that it?”

Probably noticing Ryuuji watching, Ami raised one brow just a little bit while retaining her smile and brightened her large eyes with delight. After looking around just a little at the people who began to get ahead of themselves, she nestled up to him, and, with a quiet, low and nasty tone in her voice,

“Oh riiight. Takasu-kun prefers to be with a certain somebody and not me~”

She blew that whisper into his ear. Ryuuji, naturally, got angry. Likewise, he countered, with a small voice into her ears,

“.......Mo-ron, mo-ron, mo-ron!”

He whispered back hotly, persistently, and hatefully. Despite the feebleness of this questionable lexicon, this was the best counterattack he could muster against Ami. Ami shouted in surprise, covered her ears, and attempted to get away. What an unexpected effect – her ears were ticklish apparently. Victory, snickered Ryuuji.

“Heh, serves you right!”

“......Oh, that’s so mature!”

Ami glared at him hatefully and sharply, but he didn’t give a damn. He’ll add a little dance on top to mock her.

“Don’t push your luck because Tiger’s being strangely quiet! .......You should know though, Takasu-kun. I think it’s in your best interests to be nice to me.”

“Why?”

“Oh~? You don’ know? Projects like this are Ami-chan’s forte. It all depends on Ami-chan whether it takes off or not. .......What do you think some medicine from Ami-chan might do for noisily stirring up and getting a certain someone that’s gloomy from who knows what to come......”

Ryuuji knit his brows. A smile formed on Ami’s lips. What was that smile supposed to mean? And what was Ami’s intention?

But the only thing he understood was that what Ami was saying was a fact. The event, the party, the project morale.......these were all Ami’s super specialties. He didn’t think that the most black-hearted girl in the world, Kawashima Ami, would lend a hand in bringing his crush to romantic fruition, but – her sweet whisper went on.

“Takasu-kun, you want to make the party a success right? I also want to make it a hit~. I’m not Tiger, but I really do like Christmas too. I don’t have a boyfriend to spend it together with, unfortunately, I don’t have work either, and even if I go back home, my parents are busy. I want to have fun, enjoy myself, and party with everyone at school~........really.”

Ami laughed further. Brushing her hair up, her bottomless, moist eyes brightened.

“And, that, is, why. Let’s bust our butts on this, together, okay? .......You had wanted to drop out of this, right?”

Ryuuji lifted his face. Then, Ami, with flinching momentum, nodded with an “.......Okay!”

The answer was of course, yes. Yes, yes, yes. He hadn’t wanted to bust his butt on this work. But right now, it wasn’t the time for him to be dead here. It wasn’t the time for him to be trying to figure out what Ami was thinking. For the moment, what he had to do was just act. The battle for Minori and his happy Christmas had begun.

“Ou! Let’s do it! Together, Kawashima!”

“Aha ♥ You’re finally motivated ♥”

Ryuuji and Ami in perfect rhythm, high-fived each other amidst the cheering. “Ah! Don’t get friendly with Ami-chan!” “No good, we have to do something about Takasu quickly.” ......He could feel a bucket load of resentful eyes on him, but right now, let’s ignore that, let’s ignore that. There was only one thing he was thinking about. Please, please, get Minori into the festivities – On this once a year special day, on this day of battle where those in love are set ablaze, please light Minori’s heart on fire.

Minori’s eyes were, however, still quiet and cold. She only looked expressionlessly at the face of Ami, the focal point of the cheers of the classmates, and merely stood still. Seeing that, Ami smiled even more gorgeously and beautifully at her, and strangely spoke to her slowly, under her breath.

“.......Oh~? What’s the matter, Minori-chan? Just like I thought, you wanted to join? In that case, I’ll, welcome you, aaanytime?”

“I told you, I can’t.”

Rapidly retorting just that alone, Minori abruptly turned her eyes away. Ryuuji looked at the side of Ami’s face at that moment. Thinking there was something unusual, he continued to watch but didn’t ask.

For a while, Ami quietly looked at the turned face of Minori. As if she was waiting for Minori to say something.


On that day, several dozen people from each grade, a more than sufficient enough number of people, were selected as candidates for the Preparatory Committee. Not only the festival-loving people that agreed with the project, but the news of the announcement of Kawashima Ami’s participation reaching the other classes was probably the reason for the explosive increase of people.


  • *

“Eh~, Ryuu-chan, are you studying for your finals~? With Taiga-chan~?”

“Yeah. At the usual family restaurant. There’s a salmon hamburger steak in the fry pan, so eat it after you heat it up a little. Be careful to not burn the bean paste. The miso soup in the pot has radish and tofu. And, there’s leaf mustard in the fridge, so put it on the plate before you eat.”

“A~n, what a yummy meal~! But why not eat here if it’s already prepared ~”

“I’m supposed to be having dinner with the other guys.”

“Oh, then, Yacchan’s all alone~......”

His real mother let out a sad funya~ from behind him, but he put his arms into the sleeves of his down jacket as if to shake off the guilt. He lied to Yasuko. The other guys were actually going to arrive after they finished eating at home. It wasn’t necessary to go out of his way to have dinner at the family restaurant. But Ryuuji had a reason for wanting to get there in advance no matter what, even if it meant wasting money on eating out, even if it meant lying to his mother, the one making that same money.

He threw his study set into his sailcloth tote bag, and – careful not to forget about it – also threw the Bro Note bundle into it, then checked the contents of his wallet. He already put his mobile phone and key in the back pocket of his Denim pants. He wrapped around himself his muffler, which had escaped the fate of being stolen by Taiga, and while thinking a little on whether he should put on his knit cap,

“Aw~. Yacchan’s giza sad, Gansu.”

“......”

He dropped it. He looked back.

Inside the chilly Takasu family 2DK (there’s a heater, but it’s not on, since the kotatsu is), silence was piling up like snow. What the hell was that – His real mother was lying down on the floor, inside the kotatsu up to her shoulders, and weakly melting. She laughed at her son with an Ehe~☆ gaze.

“Ryuu-chan, you don’t know about it? It’s the new fad~ The newcomer at work taught it to me~, the youngsters are talking like this, Kasu! It’s like so giza cute, Gasho! It’s the giganto new thing, Gansho! Ehehe~☆ Then, Yacchan thought that if she can get c’aught up with new trends, she’ll be like so gizagiza smart ~ De Yansu, Gansho~nu!”

“.......That’s enough! Stop! There is something terribly wrong with this!”

Feeling like he wanted to seal his ears, Ryuuji screamed hysterically. The wounds his mind bore were deep. First, fundamentally and decisively, Yasuko was wrong in a lot of ways. Now what do you think of the stupidity of his real mother? The act of reporting happily to her son, “This is in fashion,” reeked of old woman! At one point he had believed that his mother was young, too young, or better yet, childish, but just as he thought, his mother was very much an old woman. Oh, the burden of this truth he was faced with! A famous poem in his Japanese textbook, “When, I picked up my mother screwing around, I realized her old age in her lightness and was hit by shock,” looped in his mind

Unaware of the injuries of her son, Yasuko sharpened her lips on the cushion and in the kotatsu, with not a care in the world

“Eh~? I’m not wrong, Kansu, this is so giza right isn’t it, Gesuyo~. This is terra correct, De Yansu~”

With no make up on and wearing her Uniqlo dressing gown, she snorted haughtily. Alas, that action resulted in showing even further the data file corruption of her face. It was at this time, and only this time, that Ryuuji thanked God for having him inherit only his father’s genes. Seriously, thank God he didn’t inherit Yasuko’s slippery structural imitation of a brain. He never met his father, didn’t know whether he was dead or alive, and couldn’t begin to imagine how smart he was, but at the very least it looked like he was the owner of deeper brows and more concentrated neurotransmitters than Yasuko. He wondered how much chaos the Takasu family would be in now if they were both in the “Slippery giza brain yansu kasu~ ☆” state. Just imagining it was scary.

“.......Inko-chan. Take care of Yasuko. You’re the only one I can trust.”

He gently talked to his pet, Inko-chan, the ugly parakeet standing inside the birdcage with its wings folded in. After doing so, Inko-chan’s closed and trashy eyelids twitched. From the edge of its diseased colored half-opened beak, foam fell. Slurping the foam with its tongue up and down its beak slowly and leaving behind sticky threads, it uttered one word.

“Can’t.”

Then with a whiff, it popped the whites of its eyes, braced its chapped, branch-like legs to the point of shaking, and turned its back to its master. While it was at it, poop plopped out of it.

“Ou! What disobedience.......!”

“Inko-chan’s sad too, Kasu, so he’s sulking~, right~ Inko-chan ☆ Gyah~☆”

Inko-chan bit and pulled lightly on the skin of Yasuko’s finger, then spit it out with a “Peh!” This was terrible disobedience. By reflex, Ryuuji hardened his face to be as rough as the L'aiguille Creuse and raised his voice.

“What’s wrong Inko-chan! Where has my obedient and lovable Inko-chan gone!?”

“Ah ☆ I know what’s bothering him~! Ryuu-chan, it’s that~!”

What Yasuko was pointing at was the cook book he borrowed from the library, “The special treats of Christmas.” On its cover, was TA-DAH, an outstanding, barbequed chicken! In large red letters, “Let’s throw ourselves around a whole bird!” He hastily jumped over to the book and threw it under the cushion. Then,

“......I’m sorry, Inko-chan. That was insensitive of me. I promise you, I won’t make something like TA-DAH, it’s chicken! in here, ever.

He sat on his heels facing the bird cage and bowed his head. Yasuko, following suit, lowered her head with a “Sowwy ☆.” Inko-chan’s dirty eyes flickered towards its mother and son masters.

“.......Really!?”

“Really.”

“......You promise!?”

“I promise.”

The popped pupils of the beak-shaking Inko-chan reflected the sharp, near-critical-mass light coming from its owner’s eyes. Hair follicles were opening on the bald, bird skin exposed portion at the top of its head. But, just at the moment when the rift in the relationship between pet and master was about to be mended,

“......How regrettable......! This is, a very, regrettable sight........!”

Taiga had entered the living room before they had realized it and expressed her regret on witnessing the kneeling of mother and son towards the bird cage. She probably came up since Ryuuji wasn’t coming down, even though they were supposed to be meeting in front of the apartment. He was sure that Taiga had a lot more to say, but since she was still in the middle of her “good girl” term, this was as far as she would go.

“Ah~Taiga-chan! So you’re going out to study~?” Break a gira leg, De Yansu~☆”

“Ya, Yacchan!? W.....wh...wh, why are you,”

Yasuko tightened her lips, and began slowly wriggling her arms. Her son began to think. Was this supposed to be a Sankai Juku dance troupe act? No, this had to be an octopus imitation. She was happily mumbling, “Squiid,” but this was definitely an octopus dance.

“Regretttaaaabbllle.........”

Holding her forehead with her hand, Taiga closed her eyes as if she were fighting off dizziness.


The sun completely fell and the midwinter night air became chillingly cold. The sole saving grace of this night was the fact that no wind was blowing. All the people on the street had their coat collars up and walked quickly with scowls. A conversation other than “It’s cold!” and “Uooooooo!” couldn’t even be passed between Ryuuji and Taiga as well, and as if competing against each other, they trotted down the asphalt street for almost 10 minutes.

“Uwa~! It was so cold~!”

“Haa~! It’s warm~! .......Wait, it’s damn hot. The heater’s way too powerful.”

As if they were leaping in, they had pushed open the bright glass door.

They were in the familiar highway-side family restaurant. Ryuuji took one step inside and felt like he was suffocating from the hot air of the heater. Groaning “uwaaa” and “fueee,” Ryuuji tore off his knit cap, while Taiga removed her colorful and fluffy mohair cap. Her long, lightly-colored hair fell softly, and the two of them finally caught a warm breath.

They told the waitress that came to greet them that friends would be joining them later and for the moment got a window seat for four. Ryuuji looked around the restaurant and then asked the waitress,

“Um, excuse me. Is Kushieda-san working in today’s shift? Um.....we’re, her friends at school.”

“Kushieda is off today. When you have decided what your order will be, please press the button.”

Ryuuji stiffened from this plain answer. She’s off? That’s impossible. Taiga also knit her brows and said,

“I can’t believe it, that’s weird, I was sure she’d be here......she’s always working here on Monday nights. Is she off only for today?”

“I knew it, we should have checked for sure before this........Ah, damn, what a screw-up.”

Taiga invited Minori to come to today’s study session, but Minori refused, saying, “I have work after my club’s over.” She even added that she’ll ask for the note books when she needs them, so Ryuuji could use them however he pleased in the meantime. Because of these circumstances, Ryuuji childishly went to the trouble of coming to this family restaurant, the place where she should have been working today. However, he struck out perfectly.

“There’s something weird going on. Let’s ask her where she’s working now.”

Taiga, twisting her head, quickly took out her mobile phone, but Ryuuji extended his arm out from the other side and stopped her.

“.......Don’t worry about it. Just forget it. We’d be bothering her if we called her while she was working, and she can’t reply back even if we send her an email, right. We can’t do anything about it today. It’s our own fault for not making sure she was here. And, this might be heaven telling us to study. .......Let’s eat already, give up on this, and study. Here’s the menu.”

“......Hm.......”

Taiga took off her coat, opened the menu, but a part of her seemed to be half-distracted and thinking about something else. When he flicked the corner of the menu with his finger, Taiga finally began to look at the letters.

“I’ll have a winter vegetable beef curry. What about you?”

“I’ll take a pumpkin doria. And the drink bar option.”

They called the waitress with the button, finished ordering, went together to the drink bar, and picked up their drinks. There was some time before what they ordered would come, so he thought about taking a look at a textbook. But when he was just about to open it,

“.......Hey, Ryuuji. I was thinking about it, but.”

Taiga mumbled awkwardly. What, he wondered as he raised his eyes and put his mouth to the coffee.

“You’re not being avoided by Minorin are you?”

Clang. The coffee cup noisily missed the plate. Not only that, some of the hot liquid inside landed on his hand, and his elbow, which reeled back in surprise, hit the wall hard. So painful and numbing that he couldn’t speak, Ryuuji hung his head down on reflex.

“Aaah......I knew it, I shouldn’t have said anything.......”

“.....No! You’re going to tell me! Wh, why!?”

Taiga’s eyes were pointed up like she was astonished, and she then spoke softly while twirling her long hair with her fingertips.

“Today, I was looking at you and Minorin as a set for the first time in a while, and I was thinking. .......Before I was suspended, the two of you were talking normally, but today, the amount of conversation between you was zero.”

“.......It’s not as bad as zero. I talked to her. Properly. Several times.”

“That might as well be zero. Actually, there weren’t even any chances for you to have a real conversation with her. Minorin definitely wouldn’t come close if I tried to get her to come near you. Ryuuji. She spent the whole time messing around and didn’t really talk with us. She wouldn’t come even after I invited her here. She’s supposed to be working, but she’s not here. .......Maybe, she’s lying about working today.”

“She’s lying? That’s a little hard to swallow.”

Minori would definitely not lie. She wasn’t the person that would lie. ......Or at least, that was what Ryuuji believed, but apparently Taiga didn’t.

“I don’t know. Minorin isn’t some ‘stupid and cute girl’, no. Even a fanatic like you should at least know that the simple, bright, and funny girl personality isn’t all there is to her, right? ......That personality’s also one of Minorin’s good points, but.......”

“......Well, that’s......”

Yeah. Now that she said it this way, Ryuuji also had to agree. Being called a fanatic didn’t sit well with him, but he’d seen that other side to Minori many times, like for example, back at summer vacation, when he was tricked by her.

“.......That’s true, but.”

“And, on top of that, she said she won’t go to the Eve party or participate in the Committee. She said she doesn’t plan on coming. That’s not possible for the normal Minorin.”

“.......No, but Kushieda said that she’s not going because she’s upset about the match. I really can’t believe she’s lying. .......Yeah, if you think Kushieda’s acting strange, it has to be because of the match.”

Thus, he’s not being avoided by her. Ryuuji then spoke slightly louder as if to put a lid on whatever Taiga was about to say next.

“The problem is how to excite her enough to come. This is where her Lordship Angel Taiga gets to show off her skill, am I right? Didn’t you say you’d even go bare naked to help me out?”

“Haa? Bare naked? I didn’t say that. You’re kidding, in this situation?”

Ryuuji inadvertently faltered because eyes, cold enough without verbal abuse, were looking at him. She let out an artificially large sigh. Taiga probably was in the mood to click her tongue, but she held it back and sipped her cocoa.

“......Well, yes, I remember, of course. Angel Taiga is the messenger of love. The heaven-sent child of Christmas. The good girl mirror. Santa’s watching and checking too. .......Which is why, I’ll bring Minorin to the Eve party no matter what it takes. I fully intend to back you up as your Cupid and make your confession a success.”

And to show just how serious she was, closing one eye, she made the motion of mounting an arrow to a bow, took careful aim, and then fired it into Ryuuji’s heart. ......He got the feeling that there wasn’t much of a point in aiming at his heart over here, but that wasn’t the problem.

“I don’t even know if I can co....n, fess to her.......”

“You should. It’s Eve after all. It’s the night before holy Christmas after all.”

She asserted frankly, this time with clouds forming over her brows at her second sigh.

“.......But, there’s definitely something strange going on. I just know it. I don’t know how to support you two anymore. This is different from before. Before, you two were more,”

“I’ve brought your order!” said the waitress, cutting off what Taiga was going to say. Food was placed before them, the bill was slipped into the bill holder, and for a while, there was silence. After the waitress left, Ryuuji handed a spoon over to Taiga.

“And? .......What comes after ‘you two were more’?”

“.......Oh, never mind. There’s no use in me thinking about it either. There’s no way you would understand either. Let’s eat before it cools down, for now........Ow ow ow ow! Aaaa!”

Taiga quickly burned herself from the first bite, but in addition to that, dripped white sauce on the opened math textbook.

“Aaaaaaa! Dammit, I knew you would do that! You klutz! Wipe it, wipe it, wipe it!”

“I wiped it, okay. This is good enough. ......Ah~, there’s oil stains on it.....Oh well. At least this way, we have an easier test scope, from where the stains are.”

What the hell is she saying, thought a dismayed Ryuuji as he picked up the textbook. He was going to try a little more at removing the stain that Taiga gave up on. But, at that time,

“Yo! Takasu & Tiger, we kept you waiting! We’re all here.”

“We’re here! Ah, aw nice, you’re eating! That looks great~ maybe I should order something too~”

Raising his face to the sound of Noto and Haruta’s voices, Ryuuji yelled an “Ou” and waved his hand. And behind those two, were two more people, slightly surprising Ryuuji. Taiga was also shaken, it seemed, and froze with the spoon still in her mouth.

“Yo! It’s really cold today isn’t it! Even I’m starting to want to get a down coat.”

“See, Maruo, didn’t I say that a down coat’s the best way to stay warm? There’s cheap ones too. Ah, see, see, Takasu-kun also has a down coat.”

Sticking to the side of Kitamura, who was wearing a grey-duffle-coated like he was preparing for his college entrance examinations, was a short-down-coated and large-puffy-bag-holding Maya, wearing out of sheer willpower a miniskirt for her exposed legs and long boots. Her silky, straight, lone hair, which was redyed into a slightly dark tone, went well with her light makeup of only mascara and gloss, and it was obvious that the brigade of school-uniformed boys sitting nearby were looking at Maya. These eyes were different from the, “She’s a performer......Uwaa!” that Ami gets and different from the, “What a beautiful girl.....Wow~!” of Taiga. This rawer, closer type of flurry, in which it was very possible she might be hit on, reached Ryuuji’s ears. He didn’t feel superior that he was meeting with that same Maya. Well, actually, a little bit, but.

“Kihara. ......What’s up? I didn’t think you’d come.”

“I also wanted a copy of the Bro Notes. I didn’t feel like studying by myself. Is it okay if I’m here?”

“N, not a problem at all....Kawashima and Kashii are?”

“Ah, they can’t come it looks like. Oh right, can I have copies for Ami-chan and Nanako too?”

“I don’t mind at all, but......”

He could understand why Ami would come, but Maya? He didn’t think she’d come by herself, independent of the usual trio. “Hey, let’s sit down already,” said Maya as she pulled on the sleeve of Kitamura’s coat. Wrinkles formed on the brow of Taiga, spoon still in mouth. Maybe she didn’t know how she was supposed to deal with Maya as opposed to Ami, or maybe her good girl restriction was getting in the way. Taiga silently alternated glances between Kitamura and Maya, who was clinging to Kitamura. Then,

“Okay then, okay then, let’s sit down, let’s all sit down! It’s a bit too crowded here for six people.”

Announcing his territorial occupation of it, Noto put his bag on the two-seat table across of them in a strangely abrupt way.

“Okay, okay, Tiger, stand up! Haruta, you go all the way in over there. Kihara will be sitting next to Takasu, go on, go on. Then, I’ll be next to Haruta. Tiger, come over here, bring the doria, yeah, this seat. Okay, Kitamura, you go over here. Take my bag, thanks. Right, we’re done.”

Before he knew it, Taiga and Kitamura were excellently positioned and facing each other at the two-seat table and slightly removed from the other four.

“Eh, eh, wait, wait, hold on!? I want to sit there too! No, I mean, um, ah, I know, us girls will sit together! Right, right, right, Tiger, how about it!”

Maya, strangely nervous and panicky, was about to get up, but not even giving her a moment to wait for Taiga’s response, Haruta said, “Silence~,” heartily picking his nose.

“Uwah, gross!”

“Don’t be such a baby~. Is sitting next to Takacchan that horrible~? I feel totally sorry for Takacchan~, you’re so cold~ Kihara. She’s cruel~, right, Takkachan?”

This time, he pointed his dirty finger at Ryuuji. Kihara shook her head with a frantic look.

“Eh!? No, no, it’s not that! It’s not that, but,”

“Anyway, let’s order something! Drink bar for four, that’s okay, right?!”

Noto shut out the rest of Maya’s sentence with abnormal skill. He swiftly pushed the button, called the waitress, and completed his order. Maya, losing her timing, shut up, but glared at Noto like she still had something to say. Ignoring her, Noto removed his glasses, muttering “Ah, a finger mark,” and proceeded to wipe the lens busily with a napkin.

What is this unpleasant feeling in the air – Just when Ryuuji was about to take a slight gulp of air,

“Well then, now it’s free drink time! We’d be disturbing the other customers if we all went, so I’ll pick up something for you guys. Any requests? If not, you’re all getting cola!”

The one that stood up, moving along at his own pace regardless of the unpleasantness, was Kitamura. Noto, Haruta, and Ryuuji spontaneously applauded the manliness of “You’re all getting cola.” However, immediately after,

“Ah, ah, ah, I’ll have something w, warm ....no! I’ll go too.”

Taiga, face completely red, got up from her seat to chase after Kitamura. Noto and Haruta gave each other a high five. Ryuuji was speechless. Maya was silent. Over at the drink bar, glasses were passed between Kitamura and Taiga, ice was put inside, a waitress was called when they couldn’t find cups, ice was dropped (Taiga), ice was picked up (Kitamura), tongs were dropped (Taiga), tongs were picked up (Kitamura). They made a pretty good combo from an outside point of view.

Noto and Haruta were looking at this with smug looks –

“......And. What are you trying to pull.”

“Eh? What. What are you talking about?”

“Don’t play dumb with me.”

Ryuuji’s evil eye penetrated Noto’s glasses and were homing in on Noto’s simple, otter eyes. He might be dense, but even he’d realize there was something up when it was being done this blatantly.

“Why are you trying so hard to hook Taiga up with Kitamura?”

Yeah. Since this morning, Noto has been acting strange. He’s been doing nothing but pushing Taiga towards Kitamura. He’s continued doing it in a way that can’t be described as casual; it was blatant. A little otter couldn’t dare hope to survive the dark elemental, burning, black, flame of Ryuuji’s eyes. Noto gave up without a fight and stuck out his tongue. This was, by the way, not adorable at all.

“......So you figured it out. Well, that’s fine anyway. I wanted your help for this too. You know, I’m thinking that Kitamura and Tiger are looking good together.”

“Ah, me too, me too~!”

Sickeningly putting their hands over each other, Noto and Haruta nodded at each other. Ryuuji’s movements were brought to a stop.

“Kitamura’s all heartbroken from getting left by Bro. He’s doing fine as the Student President, but he has to be hurting on the inside. I want to him to cheer up fast. And to do that, don’t you think a new love is the perfect remedy? And, don’t tell anyone else this but.....”

Noto briefly turned his head to the drink bar, making sure that Taiga and Kitamura didn’t come back yet, and then lowered his voice.

“......It looks like Tiger, likes Kitamura. This is serious like, serious. .......You probably didn’t notice at all, you being the way you are.”

Without thinking at all.

Without thinking at all, he stared back at Noto. With his mouth half-opened and a stupid look on his face. Noto went off on his own, to a “Yes, yes, I know, I know” kind of expression of understanding and continued.

“Aaaah, I knew that’d surprise you. It was a major surprise to me too. Who would have thought ‘that’ Tiger had that kind of girly side to her? And since you’ve been the one that’s been looking after Tiger the closest, it’s only natural for you to be shocked.”

He couldn’t talk. He couldn’t say anything. Not even one word.

How did you find out, or, I knew that for a while; none of these were the words that were stuck in his throat. It wasn’t that, and surprising to himself, they were,

- What do you people know.

Or,

- Don’t butt in when you don’t know anything.

Or.

- Mind your own business.

And so on.

These words were quietly boiling inside of him from an almost pale anger-like sensation and were stealing the expression off from Ryuuji’s face. He was covered in an invasive possessiveness, inflated sense of superiority, that sort of off-the-mark hue.

But in addition to that, he thought, “It’s not that.” “You’re wrong, you’re wrong.” .....It was when he reached that point that he finally realized the strangeness of his own thoughts. Just what was, “It’s not that”? Just what was “wrong”? Taiga loves Kitamura. Wasn’t that fact? Wasn’t that the straight to the point proposition that had been lying in front of Ryuuji and Taiga? Wasn’t what Noto was saying....correct?

Then, why was he trying to deny, even reject “it”, even when it had been clearly worded as objective truth?

He didn’t know. He didn’t understand anything anymore –

“Okay, sorry for the wait! Here’s four colas!”

A tray was placed in front and Ryuuji lifted his face as if it had been bounced back. With his usual all-Uniqlo casual wear showing completely, Kitamura swiftly passed the drink trays to the four of them.

“First, why don’t we all start off from math? Then, if there’s anything we don’t understand, let’s all spend some time thinking while we look at the President’s notes.”

“Okay, sure, but there shouldn’t be anything that the Great Sensei doesn’t understand, no~? Me, there’s nothing I know.......”

Kitamura, while laughing, shook his head to what Haruta said.

“That’s common. Okay, talk to you later.”

He turned around and was returning to Taiga’s table. Even when looking at her from the side, he could tell that Taiga was nervous all over. When she was about to clear away her doria, she dropped her spoon, when she was about to pick it up, she dropped her pencil case, when she was about pick that up, she dropped her textbook, and finally, dropped her note book. Each time that happened, the color of her face went up one grade higher in thick pink. Kitamura, asking her if she was all right, then moved to help her. As he helped pick up the items, she replied that she was fine with a clumsy smile. Kitamura, looking back at her, smiled gently. With no opportunity for Ryuuji to do anything, the four arms efficiently picked up what had been dropped.

“......I told you. They sure do look like a good couple. With that done, I’ll be off to the restroom for a bit before studying.”

“Ah, I want to go too~.”

Noto and Haruta stood up, but even still, Ryuuji was still there and didn’t move. He felt extremely strange. By being given the perspective from a “third person” like Noto, right now, and suddenly, it almost began to seem like Taiga and Kitamura, sitting slightly off from him, were people he had never met before. But, ah ha. Ah ha – If he thought of those two as being people he didn’t know, it did seem like Taiga and Kitamura made a good match, more, far more than he had ever thought. They did, really.

“Ta, Takasu-kun! Hey, hey, hey, hey! Hey!”

“.....Ah, ou......”

Maya, who had been sitting next to him, rubbed him with her elbow and snapped him out of his trance. Maya lowered her voice to a tone that only Ryuuji could hear and whispered with an impatient scowl on her face.

“What do you think, Takasu-kun!? Are you thinking the same thing they’re thinking!? .......Do you think that they look good together, do you think that they should date each other!?”

“Eh.....er....that’s...actually, ...a bit...too sudden....”

“I knew it!” exclaimed Maya, nodding, like she sniped the sentence fragment he inadvertently stumbled at.

“I knew it, you don’t think so right! .......Everyone’s saying that, but they’re all wrong, right!”

“Wait, hold on, what, do you mean by everyone.......”

“You’d be upset if Tiger and Maruo hooked up right! Everybody in class is saying that the reason you’re with Tiger is because you’re just really, really nice and can’t help taking care of people. Nothing more and nothing less, that’s what they say. But, the truth is, you like Tiger, right!?”

“What!? Wa, wa, wait, .....What!?”

“I’ll support you, Takasu-kun! I really will! .......So don’t give up!”

After showing off a vigorous fist pump, Maya quietly looked at Taiga and Kitamura’s table. At this point, anything he might say to deny this wouldn’t change her mind. He’d known for a while that Kitamura was popular among the girls, so he wasn’t surprised about the hot eyes that Maya directed towards Kitamura, but it wasn’t that. Just wait a minute.

Exactly what had happened while he wasn’t looking? Who knew what and how much of what, and what did they want to accomplish? What should he do? He’s only been getting more confused and couldn’t resolve what he was feeling anymore. This is giganto confusing Guns and Roses. My terra Andalucia is Iscandar. Does not compute. That’s about all he understood.

Taiga and Kitamura had the doria plate taken away, opened the math textbook, but without dropping their eyes, they seemed to say something to each other. The words that he could hear in fragments were, Christmas Eve, party, Preparatory Committee, Stupid Council, ........ Noto and Haruta returned and textbooks began to be opened at his table as well. “On the way back, we could all go on a copying spree at a convenience store on the way back, right.” “Better yet, why don’t we start leaving in turns now and go copying~?” “That’d annoy the people running this place wouldn’t it?” He nodded and shook his head to make it look like he was participating in the conversation, but Ryuuji was unsettled. Restlessly drifting, wandering, and not even knowing where to look, he looked right and he looked left while being washed away. Then he looked in front of himself and remembered. Crap, the curry’s gotten cold. He’d been so distracted that he’d forgotten to eat. .......That’s right, first, he should finish this.

But then, it happened. Right at the moment that he clenched his spoon and shoved a load of curry and rice into his mouth,

“Stool test! Ryuuji, there’s a stool test! The committee members, they all have to take stool tests!”

“Ppht---!” He almost spit out all of the curry. He frantically puckered his lips and gulped down the brownness.

“Yo, you.....you were waiting for me to put that in my mouth weren’t you!?”

“Haa? Waiting for what?”

Taiga tilted her head with a curious look on her face, and from behind her, Kitamura shook his head gravely.

“She’s right. Everyone has to take a stool test since they’ll also be dealing with food.”

“Quit it~! Hey, you people~! Where’s your delicacy~! Don’t talk about curry when people are eating scat~! Whoops, my bad! I mean, don’t be talking about scat when people are eating curry! Right, the sca....curry-eating Takacchan over here!”

After he was dealt an additional blow to the stomach by kind Haruta, the curry began to look like something else to Ryuuji’s delicate eyes. Mera, oh my gAnderson.

Light Novel
Main Series' Volumes

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