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

This is Chapter 5 from Volume 9 of the Toradora! Light Novel series. The text is from Baka-tsuki.

Transcript

After school on Valentine's Day, Taiga called everyone to an empty classroom in the old school campus -- A disused assembly room. Taiga had deliberately gone to school earlier without Minori to place handwritten notes into the shoe lockers of these three people -- Ryuuji, Minori, and Kitamura.

Taiga also forcibly dragged a reluctant Ami into the classroom before closing the door. The traditional paper slip was useless for Ami.

"Heh heh heh, you guys are unlucky to meet me here."

Taiga gave an evil smile as she closed the door. It seemed as though she felt extremely embarrassed about having to formally thank her classmates.

"Meet? You were the one who dragged me here......"

"Baka-chi, now's not the time to talk about such inconsequential things! Kitamura-kun needs to go to the student council room later, Minorin needs to go for her club activities,

Ryuuji and I also have an important job to do, so we'll have to make this fast."

"Important job? Are you referring to that part-time job?"

Tsk! Ami crossed her arms in front of her chest unhappily as she stood in a corner of the empty classroom. She also ignored Minori when she smiled and said, 'Ah, there's nothing wrong with this anyway.'. Even when her childhood friend walked towards her in an attempt to appease her, Ami walked away and turned her back on Kitamura, keeping her distance from him. Taiga, who didn't seem to mind, continued to speak,

"Even though the atmosphere isn't very good, but today's Valentine's Day. I've made chocolates as a way of expressing my gratitude towards every one of you!"

After which she carefully took out four wrapped boxes from a paper bag.

"You made it yourself!? Taiga......You're brilliant!"

Minori, who was sitting in front of Taiga, who was standing up, clapped loudly and patted her head. Kitamura, who had once been attacked by her fried egg illusions, sat next to Minori and started clapping as well,

"Aisaka made chocolates for me......Heh! I'm unwilling to even eat it."

Kitamura happily said in a loud voice.

"......Aren't those the very chocolates that you were selling yesterday? I would never have thought that you even dare to say such a lie......"

"Of course not! I merely used the wrapper because I thought it was pretty, I melted the chocolate and solidified it myself! Even though the shape is that of the bottom of a bowl, but I managed to make perfect circles! Look! Dark eye pouches! I stayed up for most of the night to do this!"

Taiga pointed towards her eye pouches in response to Ami's accusation. Ryuuji knew for a fact that Taiga only went to sleep at five o'clock in the morning -- Because Ryuuji couldn't fall asleep, so he ended up looking at the light coming from Taiga's room the whole night.

"Takasu-kun must have helped you again."

"He didn't! I'm going to give a box of chocolates to Ryuuji too."

"But Takasu-kun has dark eye pouches too."

"......That's a normal part of my face."

As if anyone will believe you -- Ami retorted softly. Ryuuji sat down beside Kitamura, but didn't even feel like wiping off the thick layer of dust on the chair as he merely looked listlessly at Taiga's happy face. Taiga was busy placing the boxes on the table; she had made up her mind to continue to get hurt, and to continue to keep quiet.

Ryuuji suddenly realized that there were some things that were able to make people feel completely helpless, and to 'change the heart' of another was one of those things.

"Firstly -- Here! Baka-chi! Thank you for your help yesterday!"

"......It's got nothing to do with me, I was merely called there under false pretenses."

Ami looked extremely unhappy as she received her box of chocolates.

"Next up is Minorin! Thank you for saving my life during the school trip!"

"What are you talking about, you idiot. Of course I would help you in any way that I can. As long as Taiga is in danger, I will surely fly to your side!"

"Minori, I love you!"

"I love you too! Oh oh! Taiga!"

Taiga and Minori confirmed their feelings of friendship as each held the arms of the other. And then --

"Ryuuji! This is for you, thank you! I researched on the internet on how to heat food with water! You should eat this together with Ya-chan!"

"Oh......"

Ryuuji wasn't able to look at Taiga's face as he received his box of chocolates. He had wanted to reply with a smile, but somehow he ended up scratching his nose, frantically trying to hide his expression.

"Last but not least, Kitamura-kun! The biggest one is for you!"

"Oh oh......! It's really heavy! I'm really happy. But would it be alright to give me the biggest one?"

"Of course! Because you pulled me up from below the cliff without any regard for your own safety! Ryuuji told me everything! Ah, it's so embarrassing! I'm really stupid! What expression did I have when I was buried in the snow? Were the whites of my eyes showing? Or was I lying facedown in the snow-"

Taiga's style of speaking became even more difficult to understand than usual as she attempted to mask her embarrassment. However, Taiga's words elicited a soft sound of surprise from Minori as she looked at Ryuuji. Kitamura seemed to have heard Minori as well, as his smile towards Taiga froze, his gaze unfocused. Ryuuji desperately tried to avoid Minori's gaze.

Oh no--

Even though I had gotten Kitamura to lie to Taiga, but Minori...... She had seen everything.

Taiga looked extremely bashful as she recalled her accident, sticking out her tongue with her eyes closed as she patted her own checks in a feeble attempt to hide her embarrassment.

"Ah! I really can't believe that I did something like that. My legs suddenly sank into the snow as I rolled down, hitting my head, my vision going completely white......I guess that should be the feeling when you faint. It felt as though I was dreaming, and that I was sleep talking. I was extremely shocked when I woke up! I couldn't believe what I had done."

Ryuuji, who had finally made his decision, started to try to catch Minori's eye.

I'm begging you, please don't say anything. Please let this incident stay as it is right now -- In return for the ability to telepathically communicate with Minori, Ryuuji would be willing to sell his soul to death or even the devil. But Minori stopped looking at Ryuuji, as she focused her attention on Taiga's blushing face,

"......What did you say in your dream?"

"Hmm......I can't say it, I won't say it! Even if it's Minorin! I'll never tell anyone about that! So please stop asking me!"

"Just say it!"

"No, no, and that should be just be my imagination."

"I want you to say it."

Minori, who was surprisingly insistent, even grabbed hold of Taiga's wrist. Taiga looked a little flustered, as she smiled awkwardly and attempted to change the topic,

"I've already said that I can't even tell Minorin! Those words should never be heard by anyone! It'll be disastrous if anyone hears it!"

Taiga seemed to believe that she would be able to slide by treating it as a joke, as she stared at the ceiling in a dramatic fashion,

"If someone hears it, then it will not come true, I won't be able to continue living like this, the consequences will be really heavy! Heh heh, I don't think anyone has heard it right?"

"Yes, no one! Right, Takasu!"

Kitamura, who was panicking slightly, followed Taiga's example in smiling awkwardly, as he patted Takasu on the shoulder, seeking support. Ryuuji couldn't help but nod heavily,

"Relax, no one heard it!"

No one heard Taiga saying that she likes Ryuuji --

"......!"

Minori's eyes suddenly turned to glare at Ryuuji. And then she pressed her face towards Ryuuji's so close that they looked as though they were about to kiss, their eyebrows almost touching. Ryuuji was so surprised by Minori actions that he couldn't help but hold his breath. The pair of lips that were only mere centimeters away from Ryuuji's opened,

"You. Big. Liar."

Her right hand holding Taiga's wrist in a vice-grip, Minori raised her left hand in a fist and said,

"--You really plan to act as though you didn't hear anything?"

Before punching Ryuuji in the chest, where his heart was. Gah! Ryuuji had the wind knocked out of him.

"This is the thing that you are unable to forget, isn't it?"

".....What?"

Taiga gave a weak groan that sounded as though she was about to be murdered. Her peach-colored lips half open, as her eyes stared unblinkingly at Minori's ears. Hmm? Taiga shook her head lightly as she rubbed her cheeks with the hand that wasn't being held by Minori. Her neck, chin, ears, and cheeks were already in an astounding shade of red.

Ryuuji silently watched these changes as though it didn't concern him. Taiga's porcelain-like skin was dyed a striking shade of rose red, her large eyes looking like a supernova that was close to a meltdown -- Giving out an intense light that had never been seen before.

In the moment that the two pairs of eyes met.

Taiga breathed out carbon dioxide from her mouth and nose before jumping up and twisting her body like a trapped tiger as she attempted to escape from the classroom --

'You're~Not~Getting~Away!' Even when she was being dragged off her feet by Taiga, Minori still refused to let go. Taiga collided with Minori as she was pulled, knocking over the table between the two of them, flipping the chair that Minori was sitting on. Taiga summoned all her strength she she tried to break free of Minori's grip, but Minori stood firm as she attempted to stop Taiga,

"Taiga......! Don't tell me you also want to act as though nothing happened!"

"Let!"

Ryuuji could only stand there with his jaw open, but Kitamura chose that moment to casually open his mouth,

"Hey, Takasu, do you really plan to let Aisaka run away just like that? Would that really be alright?"

"Takasu-kun saved you......! But, something happened that forced him to lie! This was all because of you!"

"Let. Me. Go!"

Ryuuji looked at Kitamura's face and shook his head.

This would not be alright.

I want to listen to Taiga's feelings, and I wish that Taiga would be willing to tell me her feelings --

"Why, Taiga! Why can't you even...... Why can't you even say a simple sentence!"

"Let. Me. Go!"

It wasn't clear if it was because of the sweat on their palms, or that Taiga was stronger than Minori, Minori was forced to let go of Taiga's wrist. 'Argh!?' Minori was knocked back a few steps before she was able to regain her balance. Taiga, on the other hand, had fallen down onto the floor of the classroom due to overexertion, but still managed to burst out towards the door of the classroom like a bullet, almost covering the entire length of the classroom in two steps. Just as she was about to open the door that she had closed......

"Ah!"

Kitamura had stepped in between her and the door. Taiga looked up at Kitamura's face for a moment before running towards the other door.

"Baka-chi!"

Taiga's hopeless scream resounded in the empty classroom. Ami had closed the door in front of Taiga's face.

"......Ah -- You look terrible."

Ami sneered at Taiga.

Minori walked in front of Taiga, who had come to a halt, her escape routes having been cut off, and grabbed her by the shoulders,

"Look here! Taiga! Look at me!"

"No! No No No No No No No--!"

"Look at who I am!? I'm Minori! I'm your best friend! Isn't that right - Didn't you just say that you love me!? Since you do, then trust me! Trust my decision!"

Taiga looked like an exploding timebomb as she swung her arms around unceasingly, resisting even more violently.

"I trust Taiga! I trust that the Taiga who's always going 'Minorin Minorin Minorin' will not attribute your weakness of not reaching out for the thing you want to me! Please don't tell me that I am wrong......"

"Of--course I won't!"

Taiga seemed to finally be able to understand the human language, as she shrilly screamed back,

"I only wish for Minorin to be happy! I only want the Minorin that I love to be happy!"

"Stop.....Joking with me!"

Just like Taiga, Minori shrieked shrilly in reply,

"Only these hands of mine can grab hold of my own happiness! I am the only one who can decide what is my happiness, no one else has the right to decide for me!"

Taiga shook off Minori's hands as she knocked over the desks and chairs in the classroom, looking for another escape route. Minori stepped onto the desks, trying to catch Taiga before her frustration got the better of her, forcing Minori to use her ultimate move,

"Damn it! You're not getting away!"

Minori jumped off the edge of a fallen desk as she charged towards Taiga.

"Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh......"

......That was what she intended to do, but Minori made an uncharacteristic mistake at this point in time. Minori tripped when she landed and ended up with her face on the floor of the classroom, just like what her best friend usually did.

Wow! That's really stupid...... Ami muttered to herself. Taiga took advantage of Minori's fall to once again make her way towards the door of the classroom. Would it be Kitamura or Ami who will be blocking the way? Taiga spent a few seconds looking between the two of them as she tried to guess at their movements --

"Since it has come to this......"

"This is the best we can do!"

The two childhood friends stepped back from the two doors of the classrooms in an identical fashions, looking like siblings, and exchanged a look. 'This is where we have to let go.' 'That's right.' The two of them nodded their heads together.

Taiga easily ran through the door that Ami had opened into the corridor. Minori was the first one to speak,

"Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, Ami, you traitor......"

At the same moment, Ryuuji had also stood up,

"Kitamura......!"

Taiga's footsteps grew fainter, as Minori and Ryuuji looked at each other. Ami's sweet voice sounded clearly in the classroom,

"It'll be too late if the people who want to chase after her don't start immediately."

After I catch up with her -- Then what do I do?

Ryuuji took a deep breath, and gazed at the box of chocolates that he had received from Taiga, attempting to stuff it into his pocket; failing that, he stuffed it into his trousers.

What do I do after I catch up with her? What should I do after I ask Taiga about her feelings? After she grabs hold of the hand that I offer her, what do I do?

"Takasu-kun, I'm going to chase after Taiga, because I still have something that I need to say to her. What about you?"

What should I do?

"I......"

Ryuuji looked at Minori, but what else could he do at this point in time?

"No matter what happens, I will not abandon Taiga, so......"

How should he express this feeling of his? Ryuuji only knew one thing -- That he will not hesitate anymore.

I won't let her go, how can I let her go like that!? I won't let her leave me behind.

"......I'm chasing after her!"

Minori took a deep breath and held it, as she pressed her right hand onto her lips --

"Very good, Takasu Ryuuji -- Goodbye, GIANT!"

"......!?"

Lightly touching the hand that she kissed onto Ryuuji's lips, Minori gave Ryuuji a mischievous smile.

"You should go by the left side, I'll go by the right. Taiga's bag is still in our classroom, so she'll have to go through the connecting corridor if she wants to get back to our classroom. We'll catch her on both sides at the connecting corridor. See you!"

Minori ran out of the classroom after throwing down a string of commands, her skirt dancing with her movement. Ryuuji looked at her receding figure before hurriedly running out of the classroom as well. Minori went to the right, while Ryuuji went to the left, their destination being the connecting corridor two floors down. The two of them blatantly broke the school rules in front of the student council president, as they ran in the corridors with all their might.

What do I do after I catch up with Taiga? What will happen? Ryuuji converted the burning in his heart into the speed of his running. After deciding to never abandon Taiga ever again, what will happen? I don't know, but my footsteps will never stop. Never mind if I don't know, never mind, no matter what we will become.

I only ask for Taiga to be by my side.

'Ehhhh......That's strange!?' 'Oh......' Ryuuji and Minori ran into each other at the connecting corridor, but Taiga was nowhere to be seen.

"How can this be......She can't have avoided both of us......"

The two of them suddenly noticed that the chilly winter wind was blowing into the corridor, and saw that the window between the first and second storey was open. It can't be......The two of them looked towards the other side of the window -- The new school building, where their classroom was at was on the other side of the window, if Taiga had jumped down from here with her indoor shoes, she would be able to return to their classroom in the shortest possible time.

"......The shoe lockers! At the entrance! She can't go home without changing shoes!"

"Oh!"

The two of them were preparing to jump out from the window, but was caught by a teacher sticking his head out of the opposite classroom. 'What are the two of you doing!' Which meant the Ryuuji and Minori could only take the long way down to the entrance of the new school building.

As he was running down the stairs, Ryuuji felt that they were probably too late, something that Minori probably felt as well, but she still continued to jump down the stairs two at one time, running in front of Ryuuji,

"Taiga! Can you hear me......"

Minori shouted at the top of her voice, hoping that Taiga could hear her.

"Hey, Taiga! You've always wanted to know this haven't you......I......I also like Takasu, Takasu Ryuuji!"

She didn't turn back to look at Ryuuji.

"I won't use our friendship as an excuse to run away! I've always liked him! I've even thought about hiding my feelings and giving him to you! You're my best friend, and you need Takasu-kun. Since it's like that, I'm willing to take a step back...... But this was only my self-centered way of thinking......! Haven't I said just a few moments ago? I am the only one who can decide what is my own happiness! I have already decided! I can only be happy if I do this! That's why...... That's why! Taiga! Tell me what you intend to do!"

The two of them only found out that there were other students who were still in school and had turned around upon hearing Minori's shouting when they reached the first floor. Minori and Ryuuji were close to collapsing after their intense running as they finally reached the 2-C shoe lockers.

But Taiga and her shoes were already gone, and it was uncertain whether she had heard Minori's shouting or not.

"......!"

Minori slumped to the ground as she buried her face in her hands. Ryuuji thought that she was crying,

"What's wrong......!"

"......I probably smashed it when I fell in that classroom...... No wonder I kept smelling the scent of blood. Damn it...... I've had enough of this."

Upon closer inspection, Ryuuji saw that Minori's nose was bleeding.


  • *

After the infirmary teacher had left, Minori was looking in the mirror at her nose.

"It should have stopped bleeding already right? Could you not look at me like that?"

Minori sat on the bed, one hand covering the lower half of her face.

"You scared me, I thought that you were crying."

"You thought that I was crying?"

"Of course. People will usually cry in that kind of situation won't they?"

Then my feelings would have been reciprocated -- Minori mumbled softly, as she gave a bashful smile. The two of them couldn't do anything about Taiga running away, so they went to the infirmary to try to stop Minori's nosebleed.

"I've already decided to stop crying. But if someone were to understand my efforts, then it would be a huge motivation to me. You asked about what you should do to move forward a while ago didn't you?"

"I remember that."

"I told you that as long as you have the will to achieve your goal, you will succeed didn't I? Do you know what was my goal? I decided to work hard to achieve my dream. For that, I decided not to be frustrated or to cry anymore, but to move forward positively -- This is my decision. No matter what kind of reality I am in, I will continue walking. If anyone is able to understand that, then I would feel that my efforts have been recognized."

Minori pushed the tissue used to stem her nosebleed back up her nose, and smiled,

"At the very least, the reason that pushes me to work so hard is to prove a point."

Minori happily started to talk about her brother. Her brother was doing well in the world of baseball, as his team got to Koshien, and he was aiming to be a professional baseball player next. But as Minori was a girl, she was unable to continue playing baseball. Her brother's dream took priority over hers in their family.

"I want to...... continue playing baseball. I want to shout, My dream is just as big, and I will make it come true! But I won't be skillful enough to join an amateur baseball team by the time I graduate from high school, which is why I will save up enough money to get into a sports university so that I can continue playing baseball. And then work towards my goal of playing for the Japanese national team."

"This is the reason for your endless part-time jobs?"

"Yes. I've always been worried that I'll be laughed at if I say it out loud, but now, I can say it without any fear. I want to tell my brother, my parents, the little league coach, the middle school teacher who laughed at me, everyone on the baseball team, I want to shout this from the middle of the world. I want to use my own way to reach my peak! The happiness that I've decided to grab hold of is this! Even though I'm only doing this to prove a point, but this has allowed me to stop crying, to push myself onwards, towards a place where I can reach with my own strength. I want to make the people around me speechless...... Which is why I work hard, and why I will endure anything, even if I want to cry, even if it makes me miserable."

Even if I want to cry, even if it makes me miserable -- From Minori's smiling face, Ryuuji saw his own face, in addition to the faces of Taiga, Ami, Yasuko, and the others. Even if they don't say it out loud, everyone was hurting because of something. Some people would have been defeated, some would have been unable to persevere. Minori will surely be able to continue like this: Continue shining brightly like the sun.

To Ryuuji, the light that Minori emanated was more dazzling than anything in the world; It was like the promise of salvation, while at the same time, it was like a road sign.

"......I believe in you."

"Great! As long as you believe in me, I will be able to continue."

Kushieda Minori was dazzling -- That's right! This is the reason why.

"Although this was after 'Goodbye GIANT!' -- Just what in the world is 'Goodbye GIANT!'? I'm happy to be able to know more about you."

"That's because you're extremely curious about me...... We'll surely be able to always show each other our own efforts and thoughts in the future, This is --"

Minori lifted up her hand in front of her, and Ryuuji naturally raised his hand so that their palms were touching.

"Goodbye."

"......Oh."

-- The result of a love that wasn't able to blossom.

But the bond between the two of them had become an unbreakable vow. It was because the two of them had hurt each other because of their honest feelings that they had matured.

Will they be ridiculed? Will they discuss how illogical something like this is? But Ryuuji thought to himself, this is like a journey -- finally reaching his destination after being knocked down, after going by the longer route, his destination being the moment where he made an eternal promise with Minori, their palms touching each other. Ryuuji had finally reached the destination that he had always wanted to go to.

"I've said everything that I have to say to Taiga. I guess she might have heard it...... should have heard it, so I won't chase after Taiga anymore."

Minori breathed in, and out quickly before lifting her head,

"I still have to chase after Ami. She's always running around, and even though she always makes me [angry] again, and even though we may quarrel again, but I still want to find her, to make up with her. Ami's the only one who can quarrel with me like that. I didn't even know that I could be so opposed to someone. She roughly awakened a part of me that even I didn't know existed...... I will never be able to find another person willing to do such a excessive thing for me."

I understand Ami very well. Minori's smile was still so cheerful and steadfast. Ryuuji firmly believed that the heart of the person who is as clumsy as he is will be lit up by Minori.

Ryuuji also wanted to stand up for a second, third, fourth, as many times as he needed to, in front of Ami.

"Alright, Takasu-kun, you should go now. We both have places that we have to go to."


  • *

"Oh!"

-- Ryuuji hadn't expected that Taiga, who had just ran away from school, would come for work. Ryuuji got to the cake shop just in time, but Taiga was already standing behind the cart, making preparations as though nothing had happened.

"I......I didn't think that you'd turn up."

"......Of course I would. Even though I don't need to do much, a job is a job."

Hmph! Taiga turned her face away from Ryuuji fiercely, and stood there unmovingly like a doll. The owner had pasted a poster in front of the cart, proclaiming in big red words saying that, 'Half price sale! Only for today!"

Maybe because it was a yearly habit, or perhaps the customers were attracted by the poster, today's half-priced Valentine's Day chocolates were much more popular than yesterday. Many mothers had brought along their children to buy the chocolates, and there were also quite a number of guys who bashfully bought a few boxes of the beautifully wrapped chocolates.

It was so busy that Ryuuji didn't even have time to catch a breath, his hands always busy with something. Taiga, on the other hand, had clammed up, standing there unmovingly.

Even when the tide of customers had finally ebbed, Ryuuji was unable to speak to Taiga when their eyes met, as he ended up pulling the hem of her skirt away from the heater. Even then, Taiga didn't move at all.

As much as Ryuuji wanted to tell her, 'I won't leave you', he was unable to open his mouth.

If they were able to communicate telepathically, everything would be much simpler -- If he was able to differentiate between the things that Taiga wanted to tell him, and the things that she didn't, then Ryuuji would be able to understand what Taiga was thinking of, what she would say, and continue from there.

Even if he didn't know how to go about doing it, Ryuuji still wanted to know the answer. And then he wished that Taiga would be able to find out that happiness was the result. Ryuuji sneaked a peek at Taiga's face. Taiga was like a stone statue, only her eyes moving as she looked at the people walking about on the shopping street.

"I heard what Minorin said."

Taiga mumbled softly when there were finally no customers in front of the cart.

"You...... Don't laugh at me."

"......I'm not laughing."

"......Don't laugh at me, don't look at me, and don't turn your head."

Taiga should have probably closed her eyes due to her embarrassment, as she continued in a serious tone,

"Please don't laugh at me...... Listen to what I have to say after we finish. If I try to run away again...... Please hold on to me."

How could I laugh at you?

"Got it."

Who would laugh at Taiga's feelings?

Ryuuji continued to work tirelessly, feeling that beside him, Taiga was trembling slightly. Ryuuji had a dream -- Not the ones he had when he slept, but one that he had to work towards. That dream was to start work after graduating from high school, lifting the burden from Yasuko's shoulders, and then get Taiga to stay by his side -- So that everyone would be able to live together. No one had the right to laugh at this dream.

Ryuuji looked at the time, it was almost the end of his shift.

After this two-day job has finished, Ryuuji would find out the answer. Ryuuji had already decided to chase after Taiga, to keep her by his side. He wanted to confirm Taiga's true feelings, he wanted to see with his own eyes the results of his actions.

"--You lied."

Hearing that voice, Ryuuji almost dropped the envelope containing his pay onto the ground.

"You lied to Ya-chan."

After reaching the pavement of the main road, Yasuko suddenly appeared. It wasn't clear how long she had been there looking at Ryuuji and Taiga. Just like Ryuuji, Taiga also froze in her footsteps, holding her breath involuntarily.

"Mama......"

"It's the time that we've already agreed on. Let's go home and pack up."

Under the streetlamp, Yasuko was only wearing a eiderdown coat on top of her casual clothes; A black porsche was parked behind her.

"She's...... your mother? But......"

The pregnant woman who had a lighter shade of brown hair than Taiga's had a calm expression on her non-japanese-looking face, was Taiga's mother. Ryuuji remembered Taiga telling him that she got along well with her mother. But just as Taiga's mother walked to her and prepared to grab hold of her hand, Ryuuji instinctively pulled Taiga towards him. Taiga also called out instinctively,

"Don't--Don't touch me! I won't let you touch me again!"

The sudden change in the situation forced Ryuuji and Taiga to lean together as they moved backwards away from their mothers. The only thing that Ryuuji could glean from what just happened was that Taiga had lied. The two of them were indeed mother and daughter, but nowhere could Ryuuji see that they got along well.

"......You must be Takasu-kun? I've heard from my daughter that you've always been taking care of her, thank you very much. But please forget about my daughter. Because of certain reasons, this child will not have any more connection with the Aisaka family, she will be part of a new family with me."

"Who, who will want to stay with someone like you...... together with your lover, and that brat!"

The frenzied Taiga looked as though she was about to spit fire, as she hid behind Ryuuji, shaking uncontrollably.

"......Wh, Why? Wh, What's going on? I don't understand......"

"Taiga-chan's mother came to our home to look for her. Because I couldn't get through to your cellphones, I could only bring her to the family restaurant that Ryu-chan said that the two of you would be studying at. But we couldn't find the two of you anywhere, so I called Kitamura-kun. He was the one who told us that the two of you were working here."

"There's a reason for this--"

"I don't want to listen to excuses!"

Yasuko didn't want to listen to Ryuuji's explanation, as she shouted at him,

"You promised me that you won't work! But you lied, and broke our promise! I'll never forgive you for this!"

"If you won't forgive me...... Then what do you intend to do......"

Ryuuji also had something to say about Yasuko's unreasonable rage and her singular actions.

"You fainted because you started working more for my sake. Since it's like that, then what's wrong with me taking over your job...... Isn't it natural for family members to help each other out......"

"I don't care about other families! In our family, Ryu-chan only needs to study hard! Ya-chan will not allow Ryu-chan to do anything other than studying!"

"If it's like that...... Then don't collapse like that!"

Ryuuji threw his pay packet onto the asphalt road,

"Only someone whose family is rich has the right to say something like that...... A person who collapses as a result of overworking herself has no right to say something like that!"

"That was only an isolated incident! And it's nothing to faint for something like this! Ya-chan only wishes for Ryu-chan to study hard, to find something the Ryu-chan wants to do, and for Ryu-chan to become a great person. As long as Ryu-chan can do that, nothing else matters!"

"Stop joking with me!?"

Ryuuji, who was also shaking uncontrollably, almost wanted to go onto the street and beat up someone. How could he have gotten such an ending for wanting to help Yasuko, who was floating by herself among the waves?

Yasuko had pulled Ryuuji back to her side not because she wanted to help him -- But because of her selfish sense of self-righteousness. Since she's like that, then why should I be worried? Why should I think so much about it? Since parents are all selfish anyway.

"Who is the one who doesn't study? Who is the one who gave up on what she wanted to do, who wasn't able to become a great person? Isn't that person you!?"

"Ryu-chan......!"

"Your parents were full of hope and expectations for you, but you betrayed them, didn't you...... Because of my existence, you weren't able to do all those things, so now you push everything onto me as my mother! You only want me to achieve the things that you wanted to achieve! You only wish for yourself to turn back into the good kid that your parents loved! And in the end, I--"

Yasuko's face was livid. I never knew that at the very moment that a person's heart shatters, that person will have that kind of expression -- Ryuuji looked at Yasuko's face calmly,

"If not for me, you would have been able to continue being the good kid that you were! You would have been able to have the life that you wanted! If you hadn't given birth to me, if I hadn't existed, you....... Ka-san would have been happy! You're regretting your decision! You're regretting that I exist...... That you gave birth to me......!"

Tears were flowing uncontrollably down his cheeks, just as Ryuuji was unable to take what he had said back. Yasuko slumped onto the ground, clutching her head in her hands as she trembled pitifully, but Ryuuji was unable to step forward to comfort her.

Because there was only one thing that mattered.

That Ryuuji's very existence on this world was a mistake, something that shouldn't have happened in the first place.

Every single thing that he had gone through, his memories of happiness, of tears and laughter, of the faces of his friends, of his many frustrations and the many things that he had learnt, everything -- slipped through his fingers in a blink of an eye, or perhaps it had drained from Ryuuji's heart. He knew that those things had already been shattered in that single moment.

"Ryuuji."

Ryuuji saw that his left hand was being held tightly by someone else's hand.

"......Taiga."

Taiga's mother was busy trying comfort the miserable Yasuko. Ryuuji finally grabbed hold of Taiga's right hand, moving his legs slowly as the two of them started to run.

I want to go to a place without any other person.

Ryuuji and Taiga were sketching a portrait in their mind, whereby the two of them passed each ordinary day together, enjoying the ordinary happiness of being together. Which is why they ran away.

Snowflakes drifted down soundlessly. Though the winter might be extremely cold in this region, snow was a rare sight. Perhaps this would be the first snowfall this winter, and maybe also the last.

Light Novel
Main Series' Volumes

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