| This article contains HEAVY spoilers. Please view at your own risk.
In the end, it became almost impossible to get near Minori at all --- By the time Ryuuji realized this, it was already dinner time, and everyone was dining in the hotel restaurant.
"Hey, I heard you guys got into a fight with the girls?"
"We heard you got Ami-chan mad? Just what happened between you guys?"
The boys in Kitamura's team were occupying a table, barely managing to place the cold brownish food stuff into their mouths. Students from other classes looked on curiously with their eyes gleaming, approaching them one by one to query quietly.
"Hard to say... to put in a nutshell, it's merely a dream if you ever want to be friends with girls. These people only think for themselves, toy with us guys, treat us like trash, justifying everything that they do. There's no way you can develop any friendship with them as equals."
Noto said while munching the vegetables in his mouth. "Enough, this conversation ends here." Kitamura stopped him from going further. The girls were more or less the same, gossiping with students from the other teams.
Even with the heater on, the air was still quite cold in this spacious restaurant. Like a swarm of bees, the high school students were chatting everywhere. Under a sunlight that felt like a lamp that could be turned off anytime soon, everyone had removed their skiing costumes and changed into their own clothes, commenting on their same dishes. The food's not really that nice, but it was fun to eat together... or that should have been the case., Ryuuji thought as he drank his miso soup and gulped his rice.
The girls over there are probably saying bad stuff about us right now. Maya was still feeling unpleasant, steadfastly refusing to look at the boys. Minori tried in vain to smile and talk with her, but to no avail.
At this rate, let alone just figuring out Minori's true feelings, I won't even get to talk to her, let alone approach her by the time this field trip ends. I didn't even get into a fight with her, but with things like this, it's not possible for me to even get near other girls.
Why must things turn into a boys versus girls fight? Sitting next to Minori, Taiga clutched her chopsticks, looking at her large plate of dried roast fish with troubled eyes. That greedy girl couldn't even take care of one dish, looks like I'm not the only one feeling troubled right now. But when it came to Taiga, Ryuuji wasn't as confused as to why it happened. Just now he was genuinely angry, and ended up fighting with her, even now he couldn't forget about it--- Being whacked hard in the back of my head by her, it still hurts right now. After getting hit so many times, I can't even register a counter-hit, that's what pisses me off!
"Hey~~ Taka-chan, you want seconds? Can I finish the rice in here?"
Ryuuji lifted his head upon being called, and saw Haruta clutching the rice pot. "I'll pass." Ryuuji shook his head, and handed all the rice to Haruta. Taiga wasn't the only one who had trouble consuming the terribly made roast fish, yet Ryuuji still moved his chopsticks and removed the bones from the fish.
"No appetite? For some time you've merely been poking your food with your chopsticks, but I don't see you ever taking a bite."
Sitting next to him, Kitamura said while looking at him. Ryuuji stopped what he was doing momentarily.
"Hmm? What's wrong? Something happened?"
Seeing Kitamura's face, Ryuuji felt like putting down his chopsticks. He had unknowingly remembered something that he didn't need to be bothered with.
Taiga wasn't the only one that didn't tell him about going to the shrine to pray during the New Year, Kitamura didn't tell him either. Now that he thought about it, when Taiga disappeared during the Christmas party, Kitamura didn't even bother asking where she went, this meant they had met each other already without him knowing. Ryuuji's eyes slowly moved away from Kitamura's tall nose.
Ryuuji certainly wasn't foolish enough to require Taiga to report everything to him, but it felt even more unnatural for her not to say anything. It's as though Taiga and Kitamura are working together to hide something from me... This feels, how should I say it... Being isolated? Or am I just sulking?
Ryuuji began to think in silence. "There're things I don't feel like saying!" How did I feel when I heard Taiga say that? The world continues forward, and people get along with their lives whether I realize it or not --- Something so simple, I'm surprised I only now realized it.
Even though I understand people have difficulties understanding each other, and I was never so conceited as to think that I would understand anyone, yet was my thinking self-centered after all? Or...
"You don't look well... was it because of your fight with Aisaka early this afternoon?"
"No... My stomach's feeling unwell, that's all. Sorry about that, didn't realize you guys were still eating."
Kitamura may be dense about his own situation, but he can be pretty sharp in assessing other people's circumstances. As though trying to avoid Kitamura, Ryuuji stood up. Feeling Kitamura's merciless glance behind him, he left the restaurant.
At the end of the tasteless carpet-laid corridor was a cold and dark lounge, right next to the restroom at the corner.
Maybe because it was so cold, there was hardly anyone in there. After picking a sofa and sitting down, Ryuuji sighed. When they asked him where he was going, he wasn't exactly lying when he said he was headed to the bathroom.
Behind the large window was a snowy view. Though it was already dark, there were still plenty of visitors enjoying a night time ski. Reflecting the glowing illumination, the skiing track glimmered in white.
When did it snow? Snowflakes could be seen floating under the lighting, so beautiful one wanted to record it with a camera. Though he thought of doing so, he didn't have the energy to. Ryuuji made a thinker's pose and closed his eyes.
"Aha! You're sighing!"
Startled, Ryuuji quickly turned his head around.
"Gotcha!" There stood Minori as she imitated the "Get's" gun gesture. She wore a black waist tight jumper, with the zip pulled all the way up to her chin, while wearing a pair of track-suit trousers.
"How could you sigh on your own here?"
Minori smiled while looking at Ryuuji, who was too terrified to even breathe or think properly.
"... Why are you here...? Oh, are you going to the bathroom? I'm sorry, I was just sitting here, so don't mind me and go on ahead!"
He even gave Minori a cryptic V-sign. But...
"No! I saw you leave the restaurant, so I followed you while pretending to go to the bathroom."
"There's something I needed to talk about with you."
Ryuuji went petrified on the spot in his V-sign pose. Minori quickly walked in front of Ryuuji, and sat on the sofa opposite the coffee table, looking directly at him. From a close distance he could see the deep glitter within her beady black eyes, Ryuuji's heart felt like being clogged by something. He had wanted to ask why, but what he said was...
He ended up speaking like someone from the medieval ages, though Minori still understood him enough to reply,
"Actually I've been looking for a chance all along, it's just that Maya had a bust up with Noto, so..."
I've also been looking for a chance as well! Ryuuji thought from the bottom of his heart, and nodded stiffly like a puppet. Hey, just what's going on here? Though Ryuuji acted calm, his eyes were already burning, his neck was stiff and his body was shivering non-stop. He sat upright on the sofa and crossed his legs to prevent Minori from finding out, but he couldn't stop his body shivering nor his legs shaking. Oh man, just have to pray the heavens for this.
Could this be the moment---
To ask Kushieda Minori what her true feelings really are?
A chance to get a different answer?
Opening his mouth and closing it again, Ryuuji was at a loss on what to say, but sitting before him, Minori was furrowing her brow in a serious look and said,
"Everyone's fighting each other, I wanted to figure out a way to settle this peacefully."
She completely made no mention about anything related to their relationship.
"... SIGH!" Ryuuji couldn't help but sigh deeply.
It is just as well, there's no need to hurry. Just take it slowly.
"W... what do you plan to do?"
"That's why I need to talk with you. Because... I don't want a hard to come by field trip to end with everyone bickering. I wish for everyone to make up with each other, back to where it once was."
"Concerning this... my thoughts are exactly the same."
Probably even more so than you-- Ryuuji silently returned Minori's gaze. Minori nodded her head, removing her slippers, she placed her feet on the overly soft sofa,
"Is there a good way? The main problem of all this... or rather the main reason... would be Maya-chan likes Kitamura-kun."
Ryuuji was so stiff that he no longer had any visible signs of life, and was close to becoming a statue.
"Other people... this time it's Noto-kun that taunted her, which is why they fought. And that's why, everyone couldn't help but say what they thought... Sigh... it is hard to resolve..."
Minori didn't notice the slowly petrifying Ryuuji, who was close to fainting. I never thought she would talk so freely about other people's romantic feelings when she herself has rejected me already...! Though she doesn't know that I've just recently managed to struggle out of my zombie mode and had wanted to start things over.
Without any precaution, she unconsciously moved her face over,
"Takasu-kun should be able to know. The reason why Noto-kun is getting in Maya-chan's way is because he's 'misunderstood' about Taiga liking Kitamura-kun, and wishing to help Taiga, decided to clash with Maya-chan..."
Minori's totally off-hand comment had lit up a flame within Ryuuji-- Just what are you talking about!? Though he knew this wasn't the main cause, he still felt he had to respond to Minori's comment for some reason. You don't know anything! You're supposed to be Taiga's best friend, how could you still not know Taiga's true feelings?
Anxiety rushed into Ryuuji's head,
"Maybe he didn't misunderstand,", Ryuuji's voice had suddenly become sharp, causing Minori to widen her eyes. "Even Kushieda couldn't know everything about Taiga, right? Even if she didn't tell you, perhaps she really does like Kitamura."
"... Impossible. As long as it concerns Taiga, I would know. There's nothing I wouldn't know about her."
Should we continue? Ryuuji had wanted to purposely mention about Taiga and Kitamura going to the shrine together during the New Year, but he decided to keep quiet about it. It would be meaningless even if he did mention it, since they didn't go together for the sake of letting people know. Besides, whether Minori knows about this or not wouldn't change anything.
Hence Ryuuji knew about it but Minori didn't, nor was she aware of her own ignorance.
"... Anyway, it's more complicated than you'd imagine. I too hope everyone could get together again."
"Complicated... maybe. Maybe it's more complicated than me or Takasu-kun would ever imagine."
Minori muttered and flickered her bangs, which seemed to get in her way. Only the hardly warm heater made any noise in this resting room, as Ryuuji was feeling a bit embarrassed to talk. Neither did Minori speak.
-- Both had something they didn't speak of.
Minori pretended the fact that she rejected Ryuuji never happened, neither did she want to touch upon that subject. And even if she didn't say anything, Ryuuji was certain he would be able to understand.
As for Ryuuji, he never did let go. He could hardly forget about it even if he wanted to, he even wanted to bring it up again, and ask where Minori's true feelings lie, it's just that he couldn't find the chance to.
The words he wanted to say were stuck in his throat, and so he had to resort to testing each other out.
We could still converse naturally a while ago, why can't I do it now?
"... What should we do?"
Minori quietly muttered, Ryuuji then realized why they couldn't communicate smoothly.
The fact was, an irremovable barrier existed between him and Minori.
Minori didn't seem to want to match Ryuuji's movements, if that were the case, then Ryuuji would actively match her movements. In other words, to pretend she never dumped him, or the barrier would never be removed.
Yet now he couldn't pretend he could forget about it.
"I wish there's some magic spell, where we can get everyone to make up in an instant."
Like cogs that couldn't match each other, they were making noises of friction, which would sooner or later cause problems. Despite knowing that, Ryuuji still couldn't say anything.
If he didn't pretend together with Minori that "nothing ever happened", then the cogs between them would never be able to turn.
But that would amount to cheating themselves.
That's right--- nothing was ever smooth all along.
It was like that when he carried Taiga's bag together, speaking with each other through the window, being together in Taiga's kitchen, or skiing together earlier today--- and every time they smiled at each other, it was all the same.
Thinking their relationship was going smoothly, they were happy together, hoping this could all continue--- These thoughts were all results of Ryuuji deluding himself. Suppressing his thoughts to match Minori's movements, struggling and hoping that she too could change, yet this balance was disrupted by other people, just like when they were skiing together.
"Um... we must come up with something. This would be our last field trip, it'll be over in an instant... Damn, could this all end like this?"
Minori sighed, and slowly put her hand in her pocket and took something out, placing it on her obstructing bangs, and then...
"Where'd you get that?"
"Oh? This hair clip? Taiga gave it to me. She said it's a treasure and told me I must absolutely cherish it. Looks cute, right? Oh, I don't mean me, I mean this clip."
Minori smiled cheerfully as an orange glow emanated on her head. That was the very hair clip which Ryuuji chose. This meant that, when Ryuuji gave it to Haruta that day, Taiga rushed to grab it when their homeroom teacher arrived--- it ended up with Taiga.
Ryuuji laughed, and covered his face and thought,
I understand completely now. When he saw Minori putting on the hair clip, which represented his lingering hopes, he knew the cog was completely broken.
Forcefully trying to fit something which never fitted-- the result is, of course, malfunction.
Minori said she wanted things to remain the same and not change, hoping everyone would remain just as they were, and always remain like that.
In order to do that, in order to match Minori's thinking, Ryuuji must conceal the the origins of that hair clip, he must suppress this fact. He must suppress himself, and his own feelings.
He had to conform with Minori's world where nothing would ever happen, smile while saying "I'm fine even when I've got dumped", lie that he's already forgotten about it, as well as maintain the same expressions with Minori.
But I can no longer do that.
Because my feelings are alive just like I am, if I suppress both, blood will come out.
Thinking back, all this was just set up deliberately by Minori to prove that "everything's fine". Those feelings of touching each other, smiling with each other, all of them were deliberate. Even when looking for me now. All of them.
Everything came from thinking "it's nothing", "there's no big deal"--- This was all created by Minori. Ryuuji could only think like that now.
"Ahaha... is that so... so it's like that."
"... What's wrong, Takasu-kun? How come you're not saying anything? Hey, what's going on?"
"No! It doesn't matter anymore."
Ryuuji widened his eyes behind his hand which concealed his face.
I'm already broken, already bleeding, and can no longer withstand being deceived anymore."
The "business as usual" which Minori wished for was hurting Ryuuji's heart on a daily basis. Ryuuji knew very well if he didn't conform, he would not be able to maintain "business as usual". Despite all that, she still chose to dump me on Christmas night, and still insisted on maintaining "business as usual".
I'm arrogant and cunning-- Ryuuji finally understand what Minori meant when she said that.
This meant that "If you want to like me, then you have to accept my arrogance and cunning, and must obey my command to suppress yourself, and accept everything."
Why wouldn't she just come out and tell me "I hate you, and I don't want to go out with you"?
Ahh--- I get it, it's all to do with being arrogant and cunning, is it? Not having the courage to hurt people, is it? Yet what she's done has merely caused an even greater injury.
"Takasu-kun... Takasu-kun! What's wrong? Is something the matter? I'm sorry, was it something I said?"
"No, I'm fine, it's nothing." Ryuuji lifted his head and smiled as he stepped slowly away from the sofa, pulling a distance between himself and Minori. "Where are you going?" He didn't even respond to Minori's question as he turned and left.
Everyone should still be at the restaurant, right? The smile still remained on Ryuuji's face as he speedily walked along the corridor back to the noisy restaurant and to his table.
"I'm having stomach troubles, so I'm going back to my room for now. Now where's the key..."
He was aware Kitamura was looking at him with a stunned expression, he also knew Noto and Haruta was looking at him quietly.
Yet he said nothing, and grabbed the keys as he left the restaurant.
Before, Ryuuji had believed that the most sorrowful night of his life would have have been that night on Christmas. But never did he think that this record would be rewritten so soon.
Returning alone to the dusty and dark Japanese-style room, he quickly took out the futon which was folded at the corner and unfolded it without even tidying its corners before placing the pillow and blanket on top of it. Without even taking a bath, he crawled straight into the futon in his casual wear. At least for this hour... no even thirty minutes will do, just let me be alone. Ryuuji hoped that no one would come into this room.
On that Christmas night, he at least had a home to return to, and a bed to crawl in. His mind then went blank as a result of catching a flu afterwards, his memories became as blurry as a dream -- Probably something to do with the fever.
Yet everything right before him was reality, an incontrovertible reality was being played out before his very eyes, and impressed within his brain.
Kushieda Minori will never accept my feelings. She's already made her decision, and this is the reality that cannot be overruled. She wanted to end my unrequited love by pretending "nothing's ever happened". She never did, and never intended to stop her cogs from moving. I don't know why she made that decision, and I don't know when she made it. In any case, Minori will never accept my feelings, or even acknowledge that it ever exists in this world. When she said there were no ghosts in this world, and that those UFOs were probably my imagination, which meant that all my devoted love towards her had been a mistake --- that's what it all is.
Clutching his pillow, Ryuuji bent his body, forcefully closing his eyes and biting his lips, his heart hoping, Please, don't let anybody come in. But at this moment the door slided open. KERAK!
"Takasu, what's wrong? Did something happen?"
"You asleep? We were worried about you."
"Are you really having stomach problems~~? Don't tell me you're secretly keeping some food for yourself~~?"
His wish was brutally rejected by the heavens. The three footsteps mercilessly came besides his futon.
You are kidding me... Sorry to say this, but this is reality.
Ryuuji was grateful for their friendship, but right now all he wanted was for them to leave him alone. He pretended he didn't hear them, and hid under his blanket pretending to sleep. "Hello~ Hello~~" ... Haruta's finger was aiming right for his butt. If I had really had diarrhea and went to sleep now, wouldn't poking me there make things rather disastrous? "Hmm~? He's really sleeping!" Unable to read the situation, Haruta began tugging at the blanket, and Ryuuji too grabbed the blanket edge and resisted.
"Heh! Are you really asleep~?"
Too much resistance would merely arouse more suspicion... And so Ryuuji allowed Haruta to tug the blanket away. He could feel the idiot approach with his gross breathe, and struggled to cuddle himself with his eyes closed.
This action is obviously telling you guys that I'm feeling rather unwell, and need to be alone. Ryuuji hoped they could smell his "leave me alone" scent he emitted.
"... He really is sleeping~ Can't be helped!~ Let's leave him alone!"
Yes, that's it. Sorry, Haruta; sorry, everyone. Yet just when Ryuuji sighed a breath of relief, the next second Noto screamed something very shocking,
"H, hey! Kitamura! What do you think you're doing!? Why the hell are you taking off your clothes!?"
Ryuuji's eyelids twitched an instant. No way, man. He had a very bad premonition about this, and couldn't help but hold his breath.
"Takasu's asleep, I guess I should sleep as well."
"WHOA~~! Why are you only naked in the bottom half!? You exhibitionist... I can see your member!"
"I'm fine just wearing like this on top. Now where's my bag~~?"
"Ahhhh~~! That thing's dangling~~!"
"Hurry up and hide that Johnny of yours!"
Kitamura... your bag's under the cupboard! Ryuuji desperately tried to communicate telepathically, but it seemed Kitamura totally didn't receive anything. Just hearing Kitamura walking idly around was scary enough, yet what's more scary was his footsteps had arrived right above his ahead. He's not thinking of walking over my head, is he? A terrifying image flashed by Ryuuji's mind...
"Oh... my, I feel some incredible gas is coming out of my ass..."
"He's gonna spray it out directly!? Without any filter whatsoever!"
"Ugh~~! Disgusting~~! Poor Taka-chan, poor guy~~!"
You're kidding me, you're kidding me, you're kidding me, no friggin way! Stop it, stop it, STOP IT--- "POOH!"
"YOU... BASTARD~~! How dare you spray such unhygienic gases full of toxins and bacteria ON MY FACE--- Eh!?"
Ryuuji finally got up.
"... You really believed."
"... You actually believed~~"
The three idiots looked at each other. Kitamura was wearing his tracksuit while standing above Ryuuji's head, his arms crossed to simulate the sound of flatulence.
"Why. You. Bastard..."
For five whole seconds, Ryuuji could only stand stunned and motionless at the same spot.
"... WHOOOAAA!!! Do you know how much terror I had to endure just now!?"
"Sorry about that. But we were worried about you, you seemed strange."
Kitamura's eyes behind his glasses looked quite serious. Wrapping his head, Ryuuji felt troubled. You're the ones who were acting strangely! Though he wanted to say that, but he couldn't being himself to.
"Well? What's the matter anyway?"
Noto said as he widened the eyes behind his glasses, which were far smaller than Kitamura's (though he hardly looked cute at all). Even Haruta spoke,
"My feet's cold~ Can I stick them in~?"
And treated Ryuuji's blanket as if it were a kotatsu.
"... It's nothing... really."
"Then how come you're returning to sleep on your own? Takasu, weren't you worried about me last time and listened to my troubles? This time let me listen to yours, let me return the favour. We're really worried about you, so please tell us."
Kitamura sat upright on the tatami and approached Ryuuji. Ryuuji understood how Kitamura felt when he said that, because back when Kitamura dyed his hair blond, Ryuuji too was very worried for him.
But doesn't Kitamura also have things that he couldn't say? Ryuuji couldn't help but think.
"... Alright? Please tell us."
... Ryuuji quickly felt ashamed for thinking only for himself.
He lifted his eyes so that they met with Kitamura's, as well as Noto's and Haruta's.
These people are my true friends.
They're my irreplaceable mates.
I should believe my mates, if my mates have something they're unwilling to say, then I should believe he has his reasons for not saying.
He raised his arms-- Ryuuji had subconsciously raised his arms. It's an unconditional surrender. You win.
"... I've never said this before all this time..."
Those that concede defeat must give way, that is the rule of men.
Ryuuji scratched his head after hesitating for some time, and then--
"I've always, l, like, liked..."
He finally managed to squeeze the sound out of his throat. Upon hearing up to this point, even Haruta was sitting upright, while Noto and Kitamura were already longing for the answer.
"I got dumped that night in Christmas..."
"... Go on!"
"And just now, we were still, talking over there... and then it's all over..."
"Come on, continue!"
"I said it's over!"
Banzai! Ryuuji raised his arms. Yeah right! And was once again worn out, all the energy in his body used up in one breath, and his mind became blank once again, like ash which had been completely burnt up. If there was wind, the ashes might even fade away into dust.
No one said anything.
No one said anything. Kitamura took a peek at Noto, who sheepishly looked towards Haruta, who slowly looked back at Ryuuji.
All hell broke loose.
The four of them went howling like idiots. "YAAAH!" "UWAAAH!" "WHOOOOA!" "ARRGGHHH!" They shoved each other, smacked themselves on the bedsheets, rolled all over, and scratched the tatami, bouncing about like shrimps.
"When did it happen!? Kushieda... you mean that Kushieda!?"
"Hey, how did it come to this? Why, why, why why why!?"
"Kushieda!? Kushieda!? It can't be... that Kushieda!? Are you kidding~~!?"
"Yes!" Ryuuji nodded,
"That's right! It's Kushieda Minori! I'm sorry, but I've been secretly in love with that strange girl for over a year! But she doesn't even think anything of me! She didn't believe me! She denied me! Denied my feelings...! WHYYYY!!!???"
Ryuuji fell heavily onto the futon. It won't matter anymore if I suck in any fleas! Neither would it matter if I get an allergic reaction! Go ahead, cry! Right now, it doesn't matter if they see how pathetic I look! It's too late to hide it from them anymore!
"But... I thought you get along well with Kushieda? I remember seeing you guys chat casually a number of times."
"Me too!" Hearing Noto, even Haruta, who was known to have a terrible memory, nodded in agreement. This hardly counts as consolation, you know? Ryuuji felt like retorting what they said.
"Why did Kushieda reject you? For what reason? I can't accept this result! Absolutely not! I never heard about her having any boyfriend or secretly falling in love with anyone! But a guy that Kushieda likes... doesn't seem to exist!? Just why is that?"
"The hell should I know!? Why don't you go ask her!?"
Ryuuji just felt like pissing off right now when he answered that. At this moment, Kitamura stood up,
"Alright, let's go ask her."
"Wha!?" Ryuuji looked at his face.
"I too cannot accept this result. If I were a girl, I would go out with Takasu."
"Me too, me too!" "And me, and me!" Both Noto and Haruta yelled as well. Kitamura certainly looked serious as he pushed up his glasses with his middle finger. There didn't seem to be any hesitation within.
"Whaa---t!? Stop fooling around!"
"Yeah, while it sounds like going to ask Kushieda about Takasu's stuff, it's more like wanting to say something to the girls."
"If that's the case, you should go on your own! D, don't drag me into this!"
Kitamura placed his hand on the shoulder on Ryuuji, who was painfully struggling, and with a wise-looking face spoke his usual nonsense,
"Takasu, rather than sleeping here, why not face Kushieda and those girls head on? There's too many things happening today, my brain's about to explode, we should settle this with the girls once and for all! Fighting's not going to do us any good! Understanding each other is the first step towards a harmonious society! After all, there're only men and women in this world!"
"Don't give me this bullshit! Doesn't it sound strange to you!? Don't drag me into this! Please!"
Ryuuji moved his arms about, trying to stop Kitamura's crazy plan--
"Takasu, I too have something I want to say to the girls. So let's go together. I remember the girls' room is downstairs."
"Taka-chan! This is to avenge Taka-chan! Our precious Taka-chi... I mean Taka-chan! How dare she dump our precious Taka-chan, I'll never forgive that Kushieda~~!"
"Alright, let's go, right now!"
"Let's go, everybody! Takasu's coming as well!"
"Take this~~ Take that~~ Damn you Kushieda~~!"
Ryuuji grabbed the fired up Kitamura, attempting to stop him,
"Don't go, don't go, don't go! I said don't go! Can we all sit down!? Please!?"
"Noto, bring the keys! We're moving!"
Ryuuji's hand got yanked out of the futon by Kitamura. "W, w, wait a minute, are you guys serious!?" Everyone nodded their heads,
"Takasu, this is now the Chuushingura play. You're the tragic daimyo of Ako, Asano Naganori, and we're his Forty-seven Ronin out to avenge his death."
"That's just using me as an excuse!"
"That's right, Kushieda would be the treacherous Kira. Though we're just gentlemen, and would only seek to have a talk with the girls. Alright, the room is now locked."
"How can this be just a talk!? It'll definitely turn into a brawl!"
"Oh~~ Kira is cool~~ I've collected the whole set~~! Though the story's a bit hard to understand~~! I should cut my hair to resemble him~~ But wouldn't it be a bit embarrassing to bring a manga to the hairdressers?"
"Your Kira is completely different than our Kira!"
While Haruta showed his usual idiotic face, Kitamura and Noto had already left the room, and Haruta had to follow quickly.
"Damn it! I... I, I, I don't care anymore! Suit yourselves!"
Ryuuji was close to crying, yet was still worried that without him, the Chuushingura play could not be performed, and so had no choice but to dash after his friends.
"Alright, you girls! We've come to seek revenge! Hurry up and open the door or else... Huh? Hey, it's open!"
Kitamura turned the inexpensive door handle and it instantly opened, startling him a bit as he quickly turned to look at everyone else. "Okay, everybody, show's over," Just as Ryuuji was about to close the door again...
"How lucky~~ Heh heh. You damn girls~~ Don't tell me they're really closet exhibitionists by purposely not locking the door while changing..."
"Let's go! Kitamura, Takasu!"
Without hesitation, Haruta pulled the door open and charged into the room, followed by Noto as he pushed Kitamura in and pulled Ryuuji's hand. As the four of them ran into the girls' room, Ryuuji found himself completely stiff as he prepared for the terrifying screams that would follow. But...
"Hey! There's no one in here!"
"Really... that's too sloppy of them. By the way, what's this?"
Ryuuji inspected the six square meter room, and frowned like a possessed old hag. Is this really the same type of room as ours?
The luggage of the five girls were randomly placed everywhere --- the bags which were zipped up were still fine, but for those which were unzipped, their contents were overflowing. On the floor one could see toothbrushes, hairdryers, decorated cellphones, tiny bags, magazines, and all sorts of ladies' accessories. The skiing costumes were simply thrown aside, and only two coats and four skirts were hung properly in the closet. Finally, there was a single sock by the wall. What Ryuuji couldn't stand most was odd socks lying around without their partners.
"How can someone be so messy...! ARRGGHH...!!!"
"Restrain yourself, Takasu! Now's not the time for that!"
Kitamura held onto Ryuuji's shoulder to stop him, while Ryuuji was shivering all over. Incidently, under Ryuuji's supervision, everyone in the boys' room had their bags inside the closet, properly hung their uniform inside, while their skiing costumes were hung by the window to dry after squeezing excess wetness off. Besides, he even mandated that everyone must place their own belongings back in their bags after using them.
All this because if four or five high school students can't even stay tidy in a six square-metered space, then there's no way to maintain a comfortable space for each person. Besides, stuff lying around would simply attract more stuff, if someone threw something, the mess will gradually accumulate. A messy environment would lead to a messy state of mind for those living in it. Our moods would be worse off if we live in such a chaotic and narrow space.
Yet I never thought... Though it's only for three days and two nights, don't these girls want to sleep a bit more comfortable? At least they should tidy up their uniform and skiing costumes! The costumes can get smelly, while the uniform skirts can get roughed up... Argh, I musn't! Ryuuji bit his lips, trying his best not to make himself tidy things up.
"The door's not even locked, and they left the room like this... They must be thinking that the door locks itself and went somewhere else to play, right? Or have they gone to take a bath? By the way, just how much snack have they brought anyway?"
As Noto looked absent-mindedly at the carnage in the room, he suddenly yelled, "WHOA!"
"What's up~~ Noto-chan~?"
"I saw it! A blue camisole top!"
"I found a wet towel~~! Yay---!"
Noto and Haruta lifted the treasures they found and blinked at each other while praising their spirit of adventure. As the conscience of Class 2-C, Kitamura warned them,
"Hey, stop this at once! How could you... Takasu, you stop this as well!"
"Ugh... T, this is not what you think it is!"
Ryuuji quickly hid someone's sock behind his back.
"Seriously, even Takasu's like that... Stop messing with other people's private belongings! Alright everyone, put them back where you found them! Whoa, what did I just step on? What's this... Essence lotion? Hmm... I wonder if this is hand cream or facial cream? Hmm-- smells of herbal essence."
"Lemme see, wow..."
"Oh boy~ Just smelling it feels naughty enough, heh heh."
Kitamura squeezed some of the lotion from the tube onto the back of its palm, and everyone came forward to smell it. Rubbing it, Kitamura said, "Wow, it's smooth." --- That completely didn't sound anything like the conscience of Class 2-C.
"... Eh heh heh!"
Haruta suddenly laughed,
"You know, we look completely like perverts, don't we? We'll get caught like this, right?"
"What are you talking about? We're here to exact revenge. At least our objective's normal."
That's right. Hearing Noto's reply, both Ryuuji and Kitamura nodded in agreement.
"But this really looks bad on us right now!"
Now that they thought about it... They realized they do look suspicious just by appearance alone.
Haruta hung someone's used towel on his neck, Noto was holding someone's camisole top, Ryuuji had stole a single piece of sock, while Kitamura was rubbing lotion on his hand, as well as indulging in its smell.
Kitamura rubbed his hand softly and said,
"... We do look suspicious now, but we're no perverts out to loot girls' belongings. Though we may look like perverts right now, but if we place back the girls' belongings where they belong before the girls come back, and then re-invade again, then everything will be alright. What do you guys think?"
It was a perfect speech. Everyone seemed to agree, but at this moment...
Click! Within the room where the perverts were creating a scene for the girls' belongings, the sound of the door handle opening could be heard.
Of all the people to come in, it had to be Taiga.
In nothing flat, everyone rushed into the closet, their hearts beating like mad. Of all the girls, Taiga was the fiercest, as well as the hardest to communicate with.
From a tiny gap within the closet door, they could see what's happening outside.
SHHH! Ryuuji stopped Noto from his wailing, but even he was feeling despair to the point of pissing his own pants. By entering the closet, everyone had by default become perverts... Massive perverts. This was far worse than getting excited over the girls' private belongings in an empty room. They now no longer had any proper excuse to call this a righteous invasion. We don't even have that right!
Ryuuji gulped, for right now they could only hide and observe. Taiga didn't seem to notice Ryuuji & Co were watching her as she tossed the key onto the tatami, she didn't even notice that the door was unlocked to begin with.
Looks like she just came back from the bath.
Wearing a hooded T-shirt and trousers, she hung her long, wet hair over. With a reddened face, she sighed and dried her hair with the towel on her shoulders, and then picked up the hairdryer which was left in the middle of the room, holding the cord while looking around. She seemed to be looking for the socket.
The socket was right ahead on the wall where Taiga was standing, yet Taiga drooped her shoulders disappointedly and said,
Ryuuji slid from the futon he was sitting on, if he hadn't landed on Noto's foot, he would have already made a sound.
He apologized with a voice even softer than breathing. It's all Taiga's fault for being so stupid, I can't believe she just tossed the hair dryer away without even noticing the socket's right in front of her. Just as Ryuuji was wondering how Taiga was going to deal with her wet hair, as though remembering something, she walked in great strides towards the refridgerator and took out the bottled tea she bought earlier.
Taiga stood while opening the lid. After taking a bath, she decided to place a hand on her hip and drink the whole bottle in one gulp just like that.
And got choked as a result.
The tea came out of her mouth as a result of her coughing. Taiga took a look and merely said,
Now's not the time to be saying this! ... The person inside the closet was feeling annoyed as well. Ryuuji gritted his teeth as he saw the puddle of tea on the tatami, If you don't wipe that off quickly, it'll leave a stain on the tatami!
Did Taiga received Ryuuji's telephatic signals? For she quickly took the towel she used to dry her hair and began to bend down to wipe the stains. Then what are you gonna use to dry your hair with? Right before a worried Ryuuji, Taiga quickly answered his question: By wiping her hair with the same towel.
"Ehhh...!?" Even Haruta was exclaiming, while Ryuuji was on the verge of going ballistic. Unbelievable! Absolutely unbelievable! AHH~ Taiga, how can you be so absent minded like that? Ryuuji then looked at Taiga's cheeks as she drank her tea again. She's like a doll, as cute as a princess from a fairy tale story, but yet... "HIC!" Can I please beg you to not do that? And don't hiccup as well!
Placing the cap back on the bottle, Taiga wandered about the room again, while using the towel she just used to wipe the tea stain to dry her hair.
And got tripped by someone's luggage, landing flat on her face. By simply doing that, she had made everyone inside the closet react in someway, such was her ability.
The half empty bottle which was in her hand had ended up landing on her head. "...!" "Ugh...!" The boys had to cover their mouths to restrain their laughs while twitching their bodies uncontrollably, for they had seen the Goddess of Clumsiness. Yet for Taiga, that amount of clumsiness was business as usual.
"Ah... what the hell... Ahh..."
Taiga rubbed her head while looking releaxed, she rolled herself over and lied down on the tatami with her arms and legs outstretched while yawning. She twisted her waist while humming a song with her eyes closed, "Chirpity~ Chirp~" --- The song was nothing but mimicking of cicadas. Oh man, I can't take it anymore.
The culprit was Ryuuji.
Tension gripped the closet as the other three banged their fists silently onto Ryuuji's back, but it was too late to retrieve the voice. Taiga quickly noticed something was wrong and got up as agile as a cat while grabbing the bottle in her hand. Terror appeared in expression, her face was pale as though wearing a mask, only her eyes which suppress any emotion glimmered, widening as much as they could. She scanned everywhere in the room with her eyes, and after going one round, and stopped in front of the closet as though suddenly discovering something.
Taiga held the bottle on her right hand, while shielding her face with her left, and walked slowly towards the closet. At this moment, something unexpected happened...
--- "Don't think Taiga would lock the door before sleeping, would she?"
--- "It's possible, it does seem like something she'd do."
"Ahahahaha..." The laughter of four girls could be heard, as well as Maya and Ami talking. The voices of the girls in the corridor had transmitted through the hotel's thin walls and into the closet. The voices were getting nearer, and they were about to enter the room, while in front of them Taiga was about to open the closet door.
"Shh! Don't make a sound!"
I was the one who accidentally laughed, so I should take responsibility. Praying to the heavens, Ryuuji opened the closet door quicker than Taiga did.
When a person encounters something truly terrifying, they may actually be unable to make any sound at all. And so Taiga screeched like a little monkey, her eyes going white while her legs kneeled in paralysis before Ryuuji, who suddenly appeared before her. Even when she knew everyone in the closet, this reaction was expected upon seeing a bunch of perverts appear inside, with one of them even leaping out attempting to drag her in.
"Please please please don't make a sound! I'm very very very sorry about this! Please forgive me!"
"R, R, R, R, Ryuuji f, f, f, from the c, c, c, closet...!?"
With a face of a demon-possessed old hag, Ryuuji not only knelt to apologize, he also grabbed onto Taiga's stiff hand and dragged her into the bottom compartment of the closet. Just before Taiga passed out, Ryuuji was explaining like a husband who just got caught commiting adultery, "I'll explain everything to you afterwards." At the nick of moment...
"Huh? The door's unlocked. Hey, Taiga! How can you be so careless...?"
The door clicked open, and the voices of Maya and the others trickled into the room. Kitamura had softly closed the closet door at just about the same moment.
...LP! That's all Taiga could say.
"This is all I ask of you... for all my life... so please..."
Ryuuji had become a true pervert, softly whispering besides Taiga's ears while locking Taiga's body up with his own. He could sense Taiga has indeed just taken a bath, as he could feel her body warmth transmitting through her hooded T-shirt and trousers.
As Taiga was a girl after all, this sort of behaviour alone was really going to get him arrested, not to mention Ryuuji was muffling Taiga's mouth. She tried to bite his hand with her beastly jaws, yet Ryuuji simply resisted yelling from the pain. The wet head of hair struggled beneath Ryuuji's chin. Knock! He could feel her head bumping into his. Even so, Ryuuji didn't make a sound. Can't make the same mistake again. Ryuuji then realized how tiny was the hand he held, how slim the body he was grabbing onto, for a while, he was worried whether he was exerting too much force on her. But was relieved when the amount of force that kept banging onto his jaw was as strong as ever. A feeling that was slightly different from guilt was scattered along with the pain.
"Huh? Taiga's not here... Didn't she say she's coming back first to dry her hair?"
"The key's over there. Could she have gone to the bathroom? Ahh... that sure was a nice bath...! Though it was no hot spring, it sure feels nice to dip in such a huge bath."
"Me too. I feel like taking another dip afterwards. We can dip as many times we like before lights go out, right?"
"Nanako-chan, you sure do like your baths. If you're going, count me in as well. I can lose weight that way. By the way, Ami-chan, are you sure you don't want to do a photo-special? I'm sure that'll create a lot of headlines!"
"Really~? But I'm not interested in becoming a celebrity~"
Returning to their room, Minori, Ami, Maya and Nanako began to chat amongst themselves, using each other's perfumes, eating their snacks and watching television. Everyone was doing their own thing, but no one seemed to notice the sexual harrassment that was going on inside the closet. Ryuuji's strength alone was never going to be enough to restrain the berserked Palmtop Tiger.
Things will be bad if Taiga ever escapes. Is it only a matter of time when things get exposed? Just when Ryuuji thought about that...
"... I just thought of something. Could Taiga have gone alone to the boys room? To look for Maruo?"
With a towel over her long hair, Maya asked while sitting roughly over the tatami. Upon hearing her name, Taiga twitched for a moment. So too did Kitamura in the upper compartment of the closet.
Sitting opposite Maya and applying her facial lotion (the one Kitamura smeared on his hand a while ago), Nanako smiled and said,
"Taiga going alone to the boys room? How could that be possible? You think too much."
"Oh, it could be that she went to do something with Takasu-kun, only for Yuusaku to appear... That's possible as well, wouldn't it?"
"What do you mean by 'doing something'?" Nanako asked puzzlingly. Ryuuji was feeling the same way, What do you mean 'doing something' anyway!? This, while Takasu-kun is holding Taiga imprisoned within the closet!
"Eh---!? If that happens, I wouldn't like that! By the way, just what's going on with Taiga lately? Is she really going after Maruo? After all this talk, doesn't she get along best with Takasu-kun? A while before when we went to her place, Takasu-kun was even cleaning the dishes! This means he goes to her place all the time, right? Could it be that we've merely misunderstood about her liking Maruo, and she's actually going out with Takasu-kun? That would be great if that's true!"
... Taiga, who had been resisting all this time, stopped moving suddenly. With things as they were right now, not even Taiga would find it convenient to get out. Ryuuji decided to loosen his grip as a result, and Taiga didn't barge out of the closet yelling, "I've been in here all the time!" From the light that shone through the gap into the closet, Taiga held her breath with a stiff face and took a quick glance at Ryuuji, as though telling him, "I'll remember you for this!"
"Kushieda-san, what do you think? You get along best with Taiga, so you should know, right? Does Taiga like Maruo or Takasu-kun? It's Takasu-kun, right?"
"Oh my, even if you were to ask me, I wouldn't know how to answer. Why don't we wait till Taiga returns?"
Minori was using hair clips to hold onto her cleaned hair as she tilted her head to answer.
"Eh~~!? How could Taiga possibly tell us!? By the way, you've been quiet since the beginning... Is something wrong?"
"Really? Maybe I'm too exhausted from all the skiing. I've been feeling like sleeping for some time now."
"Eh~~ We can't let you sleep yet~! We're gonna have a good girl's talk tonight! Let me ask you, if Takasu-kun and Taiga were to end up together, wouldn't you have any opinion on that?"
"Minorin would go 'ow ow ow~' and then say nothing~"
"HA!" Ami made an enigmatic laugh, instantly freezing the atmosphere in the room, as well as the air in the lower compartment of the closet.
"Huh? What is it? What does Ami-chan mean by that? Tell us please! You want to know as well, right, Nanako-chan?"
"Well, of course I do. Come to think of it, for some time Ami-chan has been saying stuff that only Kushieda-san can understand."
"Oh my, I didn't know even you two could figure that out~~? Minori-chan, I'm sorry, but since you were acting dumb, Ami-chan couldn't help but to say something about it."
Minori kept quiet, and only looked at Ami's face. Blinking her usual chihuahua eyes, Ami purposely displayed a cute smile and looked back at Minori.
"Hey, stop communicating with your eyes and say something! Ami-chan!"
"... So Maya-chan says. Minori-chan, what do you plan to do? Want me to say~~?"
As Ami tilted her head, Minori finally spoke,
"... Say what?"
Ryuuji gulped. Just the subject alone was chilling enough, yet what was scarier was Minori's expression - her eyes were slightly squinted as she lifted her chin to look into Ami's face. He had seen such an expression before, and he never did forget it. It was back during rehearsal for the school festival, when she was asking about Taiga's father. This expression meant she was really angry.
Though Ami didn't yield, and even revealed a relaxed smile, like the Queen of Mischief revealing her true powers, her beautiful face announced,
"About how Minori-chan had turned down Takasu-kun's confession during Christmas night! Or have you forgotten about it already? Oh my~ As expected from the popular girl being sought after~! How cool~! How awesome~! So those getting dumped aren't worthy of being remembered~! Ahaha!"
"Huh? Wha? EHHHHHHH!? W, w, what happened!? Takasu-kun confessed to you!? Is that true!?"
"And you rejected him!? On Christmas night!? No way! How come Ami-chan knows about this!?"
"Hmm~ I wonder how~~ It really is incredible~"
Ignoring the excited Maya and Nanako, Minori sighed and coldly said,
"...Amin, why are you mentioning this...?"
Hearing this question, Ami's response was:
"Because you've always been playing dumb. I think you. Are. Truly. Amazing. You can just pretend as though nothing had happened, say whatever it suits you just to get through the occasion."
Ami's words were so direct it was scary, and her harsh tone sounded as though she was about to pick a fight with Minori.
"The person who Takasu-kun liked wasn't Taiga, it was you, wasn't it? But you rejected him, and now you pretend you don't remember a thing, acting all dumb and saying stuff like 'Let's get along together!' Or "I hope everything remains the same as always!'... You really know how to talk! Do you realize how scary you sound? A girl telling the guy she just dumped to get along well with her! Act as though everything's the same as before! How do you expect him to take it!? It was the same during the skiing session, purposely getting close to him, as though intending to tell everyone how dense you are. Do you realize the consequences of your unconscious actions? Do you even know how cruel that is?"
The people inside the closet and the girls in the room all held their breath. Neither the main actors nor the bystanders could say anything.
"... Just when did you notice that I didn't care!? Did you see it? What do you understand about me anyway!? Can you read my mind!? Moreover, this has nothing to do with you! You stay out of this!"
Only Minori spoke.
"Because it's got nothing to do with me, is it? Ah... I get it, I'm sorry. But when I heard you'd rejected Takasu-kun, my thoughts were 'Was it because of guilt?' Turns out it had nothing to do with me."
"I already said it's got nothing do with you, and I don't get what you just meant. If you believe that I don't seem to care, suit yourself, and leave me alone."
"I would if it had nothing to do with me~ Then it'll have nothing to do with guilt. Oh my, and I thought you always liked Takasu-kun, but decided to turn him down only because you felt guilty... for someone... But it turns out it's simply because you hate Takasu-kun that you rejected him~. Then how about Ami-chan go tell Takasu-kun tomorrow that 'The reason Minori-chan rejected you was because she hates you'? Rather than drag on like this, don't you think it's more merciful to end this decisively sooner rather than later?"
"... Do whatever you want."
"OK! Roger that! Oh, how about I do it now?"
"... I already said suit youself."
"... You really know how to act like a goody-goody."
"... What's that supposed to mean!?"
"... I wonder, what was that supposed to mean?"
"Enough! Stop it!" Maya decided to risk herself and intervened between the two of them. The time that had froze had finally began to move once again.
"Ami-chan, what's with you anyway!? Don't do this, we're in the middle of a hard-to-come-by school trip! I take back everything I said! The one who pisses me off is Noto-kun! That's it! Kushieda-san, can you stop this as well? I beg you!"
Sitting besides Minori, Nanako too spoke,
"When Taiga returns later and finds you two fighting, she's going to feel bad. Her parents are divorced, you know. Coming from a single-parent family, I know how it feels like to be reminded of my parents bickering when I see people arguing with each other. So... Ami-chan, you've gone too far this time, please apologize and put an end to this."
Ami went silent for a while, and finally apologized,
"... I'm sorry Minori-chan, looks like I went too far, can we forget we ever said this?"
Ami lowered her head. Minori looked at her, and clapped her hands hardly,
"Right! That makes us even! Okay, I've forgotten about it!"
The tense atmosphere had finally relaxed.
"By the way, where has Taiga gone to? Why don't we go look for her, as well as have a change in mood?", Maya purposely proposed in a cheery tone. Hoping to change the mood quickly, the girls quickly nodded and left the room.
Creak The closet door opened.
"... I think we just saw something we weren't meant to see..."
First to come out was Kitamura. Noto and Haruta followed as well.
"How should I say this, Kushieda... Yikes, I'm just glad I didn't ask her any weird questions..."
"The thing is I completely don't understand what they were arguing about! Was I the only one? What does Ami-chan had to do with all this? Hey, Taka-chan, do you know why...?"
"T... that's what I want to know as well! What the hell... everyone's like that..."
Ryuuji's thoughts were thrown into chaos as he crawled out from the lower compartment of the closet.
"... Why you... miserable... BASTAAAARRRRDD---!!!"
Flicking her long, wet hair away, whether it was from her getting pissed off or something else, Taiga's face was completely red as she stood while breathing heavily. Oh boy. Ryuuji was prepared for what the Palmtop Tiger was about to do, and quickly closed his eyes.
"Grit your teeth hard, bastard!"
As he awaited Taiga to give him a big slap... "Wah..!" Taiga's right hand somehow missed, and she ended up falling on the tatami. She embarrassingly covered her reddened face,
"This is ridiculous! Just what the hell was going on... and why must I get dragged into all of this!? You guys can still go back to your own room! But what about me!? I have to spend two more nights with them, pretending as though I don't know anything! I have to play dumb with Minorin and Bakachi acting like that...!"
"You're right~ You poor thing~"
"Shut up, you hairy idiot! But, just what was going on... why were Minorin and Bakachi fighting? Was it because I didn't tell Bakachi anything...?
No one present dared answer Taiga's question. The boys were now exchanging awkward glances with each other after seeing a girls' fight they weren't supposed to see.
Kitamura said softly as his glasses slid down his nose,
"Anyway, we didn't see anything. Aisaka, when you were returning to the room, you saw Takasu, and ended up chatting with him, and so you found everyone had left the room by the time you came back... You okay with this story?"
Seeing Kitamura looking at her, though her face was still red, Taiga still nodded. Kitamura looked at Taiga and placed his hand on his forehead while saying to himself, "This is all my fault for getting too carried away." Ryuuji had no idea what he meant by that, though as it didn't seem to be referring to him, he decided not to say anything.
Next thing was leaving the room, and so the perverts of the closet safely escaped, while Taiga had to remain alone in the girls room, pretending nothing had happened for two more nights. She was still full of rage as she said towards the group of perverts about to return to their room,
"... By the way, what were you guys doing here...?"
|Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6|
|Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6 • Spin-off|
|Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5|
|Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6|
|Prologue • Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6 • Chapter 7|
|Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6|
|Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5|
|Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6|
|Prologue • Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5|
|Prologue • Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Epilogue|