Thursday, March 15, 2012

Toradora! Vol. 1 - Chapter 2

Though it began quite tumultuously, Takasu Ryūji's new life as a second year high school student went rather smoothly.

This was due to many reasons.

The rumor that "Takasu-kun is a delinquent" got clarified much earlier than Ryūji's pessimistic self could ever have imagined. Luckily, many of Ryūji's old classmates, including Kitamura, were also in the same class this year. More importantly, he was defeated by the Palmtop Tiger in a matter of seconds, leading everyone to quickly conclude that he was just a 'normal guy' (Ryūji even wanted to sincerely thank Aisaka Taiga just for that).

Secondly, he avoided having to do annoying work in the class committee and his seat that was chosen through the drawing of lots was the third seat from the front in the window aisle - it was a great seat where he could sit back and relax. The homeroom teacher was the same as last year's (Koigakubo Yuri, 29 years old, and an unquestionably single lady); aside from her still being single at such an age, Ryūji had no beef with her.


"...If I do that, then the sides of the bucket will harden! What's that called? You mean the part near the edge? But since the middle is still watery, when I pour the soft jelly by the edges like this I'll have to..."


"Wah, Takasu-kun! I'm sorry..."

The most important reason was this:

His sunshine, Kushieda Minori, had now become his classmate. It was this reason alone that made Ryūji's daily life as colorful as a rose and as dazzling as sunlight... Even after she had accidentally poked him in the eye, her sparkle hardly diminished.

"A, are you alright? I'm so sorry, I didn't notice you behind me! Uwaa... Did my middle finger just poke into the white bit of your eye?"

"...Don't worry about it, it's nothing."

"I'm so very sorry! Hmm, where were we? Oh yeah, I was saying, I have to pour the jelly in the bucket like this..."


"Wah...! It looks like I poked it even deeper! I'm so sorry!"

It's okay, I'm fine, Ryūji gestured with a wave of his hand. Even this was a blessing for him. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry!" said Minori as she bowed her head, which gave off a fragrance that even a fly would have nothing to complain about. No matter what, the Minori that was currently apologizing to him had her eyes only on him, so even when his eyes got poked twice, it was a small price to pay to be able to experience such bliss.

He wouldn't have minded it even if she wasn't talking to him. He would be just as happy if she were just speaking to someone sitting near him, since he would be able to hear Minori's cute voice. In trying to describe how big the bucket was, she waved her hands to mimic a circle shape; and every time she did so, she would come into contact with him (even though it was just his eyeballs).

But, just what is this bucket thing that she's talking about? Noticing Ryūji's puzzled expression, she explained,

"We're talking about the pudding that I made using a bucket."

Minori grabbed her finger tightly (Hopefully this time I won't poke into anyone!) as she explained in a serious tone. Though 'explain' didn't seem to be the right word...

"Does Takasu-kun like pudding?"

We're having a conversation! Ryūji's heart started to beat so rapidly that he wasn't able to utter a decent word, his anxiousness was driving him mad. After waiting so long for this chance...


And that was all he could muster. She's probably thinking how boring this guy is... Probably thinking about not ever speaking to this guy ever again... While Ryūji frantically tried to think of what to do, Minori continued musing about her ultimate desire to make pudding in a bucket.

"But I haven't been successful. Maybe it was because it was too big, so it's hard for it to have the sticky and soft bits gel together in one shape... Oh yeah, I can show it to you as well, Takasu-kun! Think of it as an apology for poking you in the eye!"

"Eh? ...S...Show me...?"

Could it be that she wants me to try her pudding? Ryūji's eyes became sharper as he stared at Minori's cute smile. Minori nodded and replied,

"Yeah, I'll show you. Let me go and get it."

Could I get any luckier than this? I'm glad I got poked in the eye! As Ryūji watched Minori excitedly walk towards her desk, he suddenly felt like running away for some reason.

If she really brought the pudding over, what expression should I have when eating it? It's not lunch time now, so it'll look weird for a guy to feast hard on just a pudding. Besides, if she brings the pudding, should I eat it right away? Or should I just thank her and put it away for later?

"Damn... I, I don't know already...!"

Nervously, he began to caress his face. No matter what, I should at least clear my desk. He had decided to just eat it on the spot.

Feeling excited, Ryūji's heart beat even faster. He slowly moved his gaze away from Minori, who had just come back, since she was just too dazzling to look at directly. Minori revealed a cheerful smile and tilted her head as she stood in front of him, and then...

"Here you go, Takasu-kun,"

Through her very tender voice, Ryūji thought he could even see a heart shape appearing after she had uttered 'Takasu-kun.' Slowly lifting his head in trepidation, Ryūji politely received the object that she gave him.

"...Ah, um. This..."

It was much thinner and lighter than he had expected...

"...This sure is a great photo..."

"But it looks gross, doesn't it?"

So she's showing me photos, not pudding. Even though the stuff shown in the photo did look gross, it was still mind-blowing. On top of a plastic mat stood a large bucket, and it contained some sort of light yellowish cream... No, it looked more like slime. Though saying this would have been disrespectful to Minori, it just didn't look like pudding. In the second photo, the slime was being slowly and stickily poured out, leaving the whole place splotched with solid and watery substances. And then, in the third photo...

"It even smelled strange... I think it's because I didn't wash the bucket thoroughly!"

Minori knelt on one leg while eating the piece of slime with a big spoon. I want that photo! Just as Ryūji was thinking about that...

"Thanks for looking! I still need to show these to Taiga as well. Eh? Where'd she go? She was here a minute ago."

Coolly taking back her photos, Minori quickly left Ryūji behind and ran off to look for the Palmtop Tiger, Aisaka Taiga, who was listening only a moment ago. Thus ended a blissful period.

...Still need to show these to Taiga... Eh?

Ryūji sighed as he saw his crush leave the classroom in search of her good friend.

He was very lucky to be classmates with her. He was able to see Minori anytime during school, so he no longer had to sneak past her classroom and peek through the door just to have a look at her smile. Even a center back defender gets his chance at scoring goals. If this was not being lucky, he didn't know what was.

But in order to get even closer to her, there was one obstacle he had to pass through... And that was Aisaka Taiga, who was always seen standing next to Minori, at all times.

Ever since the Opening Ceremony, Ryūji had tried to keep his distance from Aisaka. It seemed like she was a very difficult person to handle, but if he avoided Aisaka, he would not be able to get closer to Minori, and that was the worst outcome for him (although this wasn't the only reason he hadn't been able to strike up a conversation with Minori).

Aisaka didn't seem to register Ryūji on her radar in any way, while Ryūji tried to avoid any opportunity of them coming into contact with each other; so far she had not made herself a hindrance.

Ryūji's main goal was to try and get rid of the Palmtop Tiger and approach Minori alone. If he could accumulate those lucky moments like before, it might still be possible.

And so, Ryūji's bittersweet life had been going quite smoothly.

...Until today, that is, just after school.

* * *


As he opened the classroom door, he was left speechless by what he saw inside...

There were two, no, three chairs being thrown in the air.

This was followed by a loud crashing noise as they landed on the floor. Amidst the loud noise and flying chairs, a figure could be seen flashing before his eyes.

What on earth just happened? Ryūji wondered, blinking his ferocious eyes. In truth, he was so terrified he couldn't catch his breath.

As the duty student in charge, he had to leave the classroom to take care of some stuff, so it wasn't until some time after school that he was able to return. Normally, there wouldn't be anyone left in the classroom by then, but what he saw...

There was no doubt about it, he saw a girl in a uniform there just a moment ago. Perhaps spotting Ryūji entering, she quickly hurled herself into the dark corner of the classroom cabinet and hid herself there. At the same time, Ryūji also saw the chairs being kicked into the air and crashing with a loud noise. Despite this, he could still see that person very clearly right now, since there was a mirror at the top corner of the classroom, which completely reflected her back and head of hair.

Incredibly, that clumsy fellow tried to hide her arms and legs by squatting there quietly. She apparently did not notice the mirror above her, as she even stuck her neck out to check out Ryūji's whereabouts.

Gulp! Ryūji swallowed and pretended that he didn't see anything. This was because of that tiny fellow... The one with the nickname Palmtop Tiger. Just seeing her back's reflection on the mirror was enough to tell who she was. That long hair and pale white face... Besides, for someone this small, the only person Ryūji could think of was Aisaka. She was probably moaning Why'd he have to appear now!?

As a result, Ryūji decided that he saw nothing, heard nothing, and knew nothing at all.

After making that decision, Ryūji decided to enter the classroom. Though he didn't want to enter a place where (for whatever reason) the Palmtop Tiger was hiding, he had left his bag inside and couldn't leave without it.

The sunset-filled classroom was silent, it was as if Aisaka were a spider weaving her web, or setting up a powerful forcefield, which upon entering caused one to feel the strain in all his bones. Ryūji cautiously walked slowly, trying very hard to walk at a pace as though nothing had happened, trying not to excite Aisaka and trying not to react as though he knew she was there...


One moment of carelessness and the whole classroom was filled by the nervous shout.

The object that rolled out threw all of Ryūji's efforts out the window. By rolling herself up tightly, Aisaka Taiga had lost her balance and rolled all the way out from the corner of the cabinet. Unfortunately for her, she stopped right in front of Ryūji.



Aisaka looked up, while Ryūji looked down. This was no longer a distance where one could pretend nothing had happened. Both exchanged wordless glances for a few seconds...

"Are you... okay?"

Ryūji managed to squeeze these words out of his throat. He hesitatingly tried to stretch his arm out to Aisaka, who was trying to get up, but all he got in response was a few inaudible words, something like "I don't need your help" or "mind your own business." Aisaka's piercing glance shot at Ryūji through her bangs.

Ryūji couldn't help but back off, giving Aisaka enough space to get up totteringly. She lowered her head as she patted the dust off her skirt and kept her distance from Ryūji, with her back towards the window and her piercing eyes fixed on her prey. It didn't seem like she intended to leave the classroom. Shouldn't she feel embarrassed? Perhaps this type of thinking did not apply to the Palmtop Tiger.

If Aisaka was to remain in this classroom, then it was all the more reason for Ryūji to leave as quickly as possible.

"Ah yeah, the bag..."

As if deliberately letting Aisaka hear that, Ryūji rushed to get his bag.

Aisaka Taiga continued to stand by the window while silently watching Ryūji. Ryūji had no idea what her expression was, since he was afraid to look at her. In any case, he walked as silently as possible in order to reduce his presence. As Ryūji traversed the classroom, his face shuddered as it was stared at by Aisaka's eyes. I must not react. I must not provoke her. I just need to walk casually...

His bag wasn't on his desk though. He remembered that he had been speaking to Kitamura while on the way out, and had placed his bag on Kitamura's desk. Once he retrieved that, all he had to do was leave the classroom. Suppressing his anxiety, he slowly approached his bag, 20cm left, 10cm...


...He jumped up.

What happened?

Does Aisaka Taiga intend to stop me? Ryūji turned his head in trepidation and looked at the little doll standing by the window.

"W, what is it?"

"...W...What. Are. You. Doing?"

Something unbelievable had happened here... the Palmtop Tiger suddenly looked anguished to the point of fainting.

"...I, I'm just here to get my bag, and... Ai, Aisaka? What's wrong? You've looked strange for some time now."

Her tiny cherry lips opened and closed, while she paced backwards and forwards as though she was dancing some strange dance, while her fingers quivered before her face.

"Y, y, y, you said, your bag? But isn't your desk over there? W, w, w, why, why is it t, t, t, t, there?"

She was stuttering while admonishing Ryūji.

"...Why is it there? I was speaking to Kitamura when I got called out by the I just placed it there... WHOA!"

Aisaka, who was supposed to be standing a few meters away, had shortened the distance between them in an instant and appeared before his face. Just where did she get such amazing mobility with such a small body?

"...! ...! ...!"

"Wait, h, hold it!? Ai, Ai...saka?!"

With great strength she grabbed at Ryūji's bag, which he clutched to his chest, trying to pry it away from him.

"J, just lend it to me...! Let go!"

At such a close distance, Ryūji could see that Aisaka's face was redder than the sunset outside. Her cute face was distorted like a demon, and her expression was terrifying.

"Lend it... to you?! Stop fooling around...!"


He couldn't push her off, so Ryūji decided to hold his ground by standing firm, since if he let go now, Aisaka's little body would fly off quite far.

So much for being considerate of her.


Aisaka twisted her hips and grabbed the bag with both arms, the eyes on her red face now shut tightly, while the veins on her forehead were beginning to show. She was trying to win this by sheer brute force.

Finger by finger, Ryūji was slowly losing his grip on his bag. Even his feet, which he had anchored onto the ground, were beginning to get dragged. To put it bluntly, he was close to losing.

"H, hey, that's dangerous... Let, go, now!"

"Uuuuuuuuuummmph... Ah...? Ahhhh..."

I'm not gonna make it...! Just as Ryūji was thinking of that, he suddenly saw Aisaka look dizzy and fall backwards, her tiny hands spreading open towards the ground, letting go of his bag... She let go?!




The "...AHHHH!!!" belonged to Ryūji, the "ACHOO!" belonged to Aisaka, while the crashing sound was Ryūji again. They were, respectively, Ryūji screaming in terror, Aisaka sneezing, and Ryūji knocking his head on something.

As Aisaka had released her hands when she suddenly sneezed, Ryūji naturally lost his balance and fell backwards. He held on tight to his bag as he fell and knocked his head on the teacher's desk.

"Owwww... That hurts! Y, you... Just what the hell were you doing... That hurt, you know? ... I could've been killed!"

He protested, teary-eyed.


Aisaka made a strange sneezing noise, ignoring what was going on around her. After causing Ryūji to lose his balance, she sniffed and then collapsed in the aisle between the desks.

"Ai, Aisaka?! Hey, you alright?"

Her long hair was lying on the floor, her tiny body curled up, and she moaned silently. There was no response. Could she be feeling unwell? Ryūji rubbed the back of his head while running towards her to get a closer look. The face which had been bright red a short while ago was now devoid of color, her quivering lips were now as white as a piece of paper, while her forehead was sweating.

"Whoa... You, you look pale! Are you anemic? Hey, grab my hand."

She was the same as Yasuko. This time he didn't hesitate and stretched out his hand...


The hand Ryūji held out was slapped away by Aisaka's icy cold hand. Though she was shivering a lot, Aisaka still managed to get herself up by grabbing onto a desk.

"Ai, Aisaka! Are you alright?"

Still no response. With every step she made, the desk she held onto would shake, while her long soft hair would flutter. Her tiny figure seemed intent on running away as quickly as possible. As she was sitting up a while ago, her skirt was slightly rolled up revealing her tiny and smooth thighs.

"Wait, wouldn't it be better for you to head to the school clinic?"

While it sounded nosy, he couldn't just leave her alone, but right as he was about to follow...

"Stay away... Pighead!"

She told him in a fierce tone that sounded like she was being forced into a corner. Ryūji stopped his footsteps at once. If she still has the energy to yell, that means she's okay, right...?

"W, what a mess..."

Ryūji, now alone, sighed exhaustedly.

Aisaka's footsteps in the corridor became softer and softer, while only the person who was called a pighead remained in the classroom.

His head still hurting from that fall, he took a look at his bag, which, like that baby in the famous Ooka Tadasuke case, was nearly torn in half, and was now covered in Aisaka's scratch marks. The originally tidy desks and chairs were now totally messed up, this was just unacceptable.

What a mess.

The tables, Aisaka, all of it was a mess. What a troublesome fellow.

Being sensitive to things like this, Ryūji began to tidy up the desks, all the while trying to make sense out of what had just happened. All in a supposedly empty classroom after school, Aisaka Taiga rolling out before him, his bag nearly being taken away, her sneezing, his head getting knocked, the girl's anemia... No, he just could not figure out what this was all about.

"I'm no good with these kinds of puzzling things..."

Ryūji muttered and sighed to himself.

It would be three more hours before Ryūji could really make sense of what just happened.

* * *

To Kitamura Yūsaku-kun, From Aisaka Taiga

"T, this is... AH...!"

7pm. As Yasuko had to go to work with her colleagues that night, she had left earlier than usual. After making dinner for one person, Ryūji finally made some sense of that mysterious event after school.

It was when he returned to his four-and-a-half tatami-matted room to begin doing his homework and opened his bag to take out his books that he noticed that thing...

It was a light pink envelope. Is that the kind of paper they call washi? There were lots of silvery cherry blossom patterns all over the semi-transparent paper.

The front of the envelope read: "To Kitamura-kun"

While the back read: "From Aisaka Taiga. I spent a lot of time writing this. If this troubles you, please throw it away at once!"

The words were written in a light-blue ink.

It didn't seem like an invitation to a duel, nor did it look like a class committee memo, and it definitely was no I.O.U. note.

"C, could this be... a love letter...!?"

This was very unexpected.

Feeling curious, Ryūji squinted his fierce eyes, not because he was mad, but because he was feeling extremely distressed.

To put it simply, the Palmtop Tiger had gotten the wrong bag. Thinking this was Kitamura's bag, she had quietly stuffed the envelope in. It also explained why she was trying so hard to snatch the bag away from him.

"... This, you stuck it in my bag by mistake, right? I didn't read any of the contents inside, so I don't know what it's saying. So you can have it back..."

Ryūji began to practice how to feign ignorance when returning the letter.

"That's just impossible!"

But it only lasted a moment. I can't do this, it's just too difficult. I can no longer just say that I don't know anything! But I can't think of anything better. That does it, I'm just gonna have to return this nonchalantly to Aisaka as though nothing happened! That's all I can do.

Although it is a love letter, maybe she doesn't know that I know it's one, so I don't have to say anything specific and make things even more complicated. Though it's quite impossible, there's no other way out of this. In order to avoid embarrassing Aisaka, hurting her pride and causing her to hate herself, this is the only way.

Ryūji forced himself to accept this train of thought and prepared to stick that dangerous object back inside the bag, then something unexpected happened...


His heart suddenly stopped for a while.

In order not to mess up the envelope, Ryūji carefully placed it on his palm, yet it suddenly opened on its own. NO! Don't open! Though he yelled in the bottom of his heart, the seal on the envelope, which was already quite loose, still popped open due to the pressure exerted by its own weight, causing Ryūji to lose his breath momentarily.

And so, a criminal that selfishly opens letters meant for other people was born.

"No, no.... NO! But I didn't see anything inside! That's right! I gotta glue it back...! Then no one will find out!"

That's right! Inko-chan parroted from the living room. Ryūji frantically looked for the glue inside his drawer. Finally finding the glue, Ryūji was about to glue the envelope back without any trace when...

"...Eh, ehhh~?"

Ryūji was so surprised that he stopped what he was doing.

There was no letter inside the long envelope. After hesitating for a while, he reopened the envelope again, took a peek inside, and made sure by shining light through the semi-transparent envelope... There was nothing inside.

... What... the... hell!?

Ryūji fell face flat on his table. The hell? Seriously, quit fooling around already! ... She sure is hopeless!

Aisaka Taiga, you really are an idiot!

Hiding in a place where I can see you, rolling out right in front of me, getting the wrong bag, wasting energy trying to grab that bag, sneezing, fainting... All this just to retrieve an envelope that is empty... There's a limit to being stupid!

After coming to his senses, Ryūji went back to foolishly trying to glue back the empty envelope, since he was already feeling dejected.

I wonder if I can still pretend that nothing has happened when I return this to Aisaka tomorrow? Once he realized how stupid the whole thing was, Ryūji prayed that he wouldn't laugh out loud at that time, as he might just get eaten alive by the Palmtop Tiger.

In any case, the matter should be settled by now.

As the incredible night became darker...


Ryūji suddenly woke up and opened his eyes drowsily.

He seemed to have dreamt of something... After taking a look at his clock, he scratched his stomach and wondered. He used to be able to sleep all the way till morning, so why did he wake up halfway tonight? Ryūji had no idea.

Could it be because he was only wearing his T-shirt and boxers? Ryūji shivered even though it was already the middle of April... Maybe it had something to do with him sleeping with the window open? As the Bourgeoisie-style apartment block was just opposite the window, security for the house had become quite lax. Though he reckoned there was nothing in the house worth stealing, Ryūji still closed the window and made sure it was locked.

After getting out of his bed (which he bought himself), feeling uneasy, Ryūji gave a weak yawn. Was it a bad dream? His heart was beating rapidly... as though someone was watching him... he felt a strange atmosphere he couldn't quite describe.

"... Calm down..."

Walking wobbly on the tatami, he wondered if something had happened at Yasuko's work place. He checked the phone display, but there were no calls from the bar. Maybe I'm thinking too much. Ryūji sighed, Since I'm out of bed, I might as well go to the bathroom. So he began to walk barefooted on the wooden tiles of the kitchen towards the bathroom.

At that moment...


He felt a cool swishing sound near his neck. As he instinctively tried to turn around, his foot landed on a newspaper lying on the ground and he fell beautifully backwards. Thud! He landed on his backside, causing a tremor to go from his hips all the way to his head and causing him to lose his breath for a moment.


He could not even scream as a result.

With great intensity, something had just slashed through where Ryūji's head was just a moment before. After missing Ryūji, the object hit onto something by Ryūji's side and made a loud and terrifying smashing sound.


Within the dark two-room one-kitchen apartment stood a suspicious silhouette. That person once again raised up the stick-like object and went straight for Ryūji... Ryūji was being attacked!

But, why!? Is this a dream? Somebody help!

Ryūji rolled along the floor silently. Should I turn on the lights? Or call the cops? Or the landlady? His mind was blank, he could not think of what to do, and his body was so stiff that all he could do was dodge the attacks and try and crawl towards the entrance, but...


He was about to get hit! The weapon was aimed directly at his head! Out of reflex, Ryūji stuck both his hands out and tried to stop it...

"Ah... I, I actually caught it...!"

He couldn't believe he was able to catch it, though he only caught it due to luck.


As the weapon was caught, the intruder tried to push through with brute force. Ryūji also gave everything without holding back. The two forces silently pushed against each other as their shadows fluttered in the darkness. Then he distinguished a small figure and what seemed to be long hair over the figure... It can't be!? Ryūji appeared to grasp the identity of the intruder; in fact, he had already noticed it from the beginning.

Gritting his teeth while holding back, Ryūji came to a conclusion. It has to be! Who else besides that fellow could do something this messed up!?

But just as he was about to verify the identity of the intruder... Ahh! I'm not gonna make it! His trembling arms were about to give in, even his hard neck was near its limit. I'm gonna die...



The balance was broken in an instant!

As the strange sneezing noise was made, the incredible pressure suddenly disappeared, yielding to the force that Ryūji still exerted. The intruder was pushed back while crying out softly, "Ah, wah!" before wobbling backwards and falling softly onto the bed. Ryūji quickly stood up and turned on the lights...



"Use a tissue, dammit!"

Ryūji tossed a tissue box towards the Palmtop Tiger, Aisaka Taiga, who was rubbing her nose with her dress as though nothing had happened.

* * *

Her long hair fluttered on her back. She was wearing a loose one-piece dress, separated into many layers via soft laces. This was definitely an appropriate outfit for her small figure...

"G, give me that wooden sword..."

Ryūji regretted not confiscating Aisaka Taiga's weapon a while ago...

He could have taken it when he turned on the lights, he could have taken it while handing her the tissue, in the end, the crisis still remained unresolved. Aisaka's eyes glittered like a tiger spotting it's prey, and began circling around the narrow room. Of course, Ryūji also kept his distance from her, circling around the room in his boxers.

This can't go on forever. As he thought of that...

"Aisaka... I know what you're thinking, you want me to return that love... letter, right? The letter that you placed in my bag by mistake."


Just after Ryūji got the courage to speak, at that instant, Aisaka, who was still silently prowling, suddenly grew very big in appearance... or so she appeared to be. She was like a bomb about to explode... with the trigger already ignited.

"I, I'll return the letter to you! So please calm down! I didn't read anything inside!"

"... Do you think you can get away just by returning it to me?!"

She growled in a deep tone as though she was about to leap up and attack,

"Don't be ridiculous... Since you already know of the existence of that letter..."

Whoosh! The huge wooden blade elegantly swerved over Ryūji's head.



She charged straight at Ryūji with her wooden blade aiming directly at Ryūji's head. How can she be so fast? From a few meters a moment ago, she had already reached Ryūji's chest, and had the wooden blade not missed and smashed the wall (My deposit!), Ryūji would have been killed.



With tears in his eyes, Ryūji tried to escape from this place and yelled at the top of his lungs,

"What kind of person would want to kill her own classmate?!"

"Shut up! Since you already know about that letter, how do you expect me to continue showing my face around? Only death can save me from something this embarrassing!"

She pointed the edge of her blade towards Ryūji's throat.

"Hey! If death is the only way out, why am I the one that has to die!?"

Ryūji instinctively and miraculously dodged the attack, but Aisaka's strength was too great and tore through the fusuma (I just refitted that!). Without any sign of hesitation, her eyes read I'll kill you with all my might!

"I don't want to die yet, so I'll have to kill you instead! Sorry about that, so hurry up and die! If not, then erase all your memories of it!"

"That's impossible!"

"Of course it's possible, as long as I use this..."

She looked at her shiny wooden blade,

"All I need to do is just hit you on the head with this, it won't be enough to kill you, but it'll probably wipe out all of your memories!"

"Don't go around erasing my memories on your own!"

How can she be so inconsiderate!? It's pointless trying to argue with her, we just cannot communicate. Common sense, ethics, consideration for other people, all these do not apply to Aisaka.

Ahh! That was why I didn't want to have anything to do with her!

In contrast to Ryūji, who was nearly coughing up blood, Aisaka was busy wreaking havoc in the whole place. In order to attack Ryūji, who kept running away, she smashed the basket on top of the cupboard, poked a hole in the fusuma, and kicked the small table over while yelling,

"Remove that love letter from your memories!"

Aren't you just admitting that you wrote that yourself, you Palmtop Tiger!? Nobody would have known that was a love letter if you hadn't said anything (since it can be ambiguously mentioned away). Great, now she's openly admitted it and made things even messier. No, from the moment I got involved with Aisaka, everything has been a mess, not to mention...

"You saw it, didn't you!? You saw it! You must think I'm an idiot... an... idiot... sniff, sniff, uuu..."

"Wha!? Hey! Wait... are you... crying?"

"No I'm not!"

From her fierce howl one could sense a long suppressed sigh being released, the eyes that were aiming at Ryūji were now a little red and the corners looked a bit watery. Aisaka looked like she was crying a bit. But I should be the one that's crying... It'd be great if I could just cry without having to move around, but this is now a matter of life and death...

Argh, dammit, just what the hell is this!? Why am I the one being attacked? It's as though I've done something bad.

Ryūji had had enough, he decided to put himself at the mercy of fate. After pretending to dodge around for a while, he determinedly grabbed Aisaka's wrist. At that moment, Ryūji felt that her hands were so small they could easily be twisted that he began to feel afraid again.

"Let me go!"

He had to take out his trump card now. At this point he slowly breathed in. I'm sorry, my neighbors! Forgive me, Mrs. Landlady! He then shouted with every ounce of his strength,

"I won't let go! You listen to me, Aisaka! You've just made a terrible mistake! That envelope you stuffed in..."

"Let... me... go..."

After forcefully shaking off Ryūji's grip, she could now attack him at a very close distance! As Aisaka's eyes glittered with an intent to kill...


Ryūji's yell came just in time.

The wooden blade stopped just above Ryūji's head, very nearly razing through some of his hair. An awkward silence followed. After a few seconds, she finally squeezed out a few words,

"... It's... empty...?"

Her child-like voice asked Ryūji that, to which Ryūji nodded his head vigorously.

"T, that's right, it's empty... that's why I said I didn't see anything inside, and, oh yeah, it's fortunate you didn't hand this to Kitamura. Do you have any idea you were this close to becoming a major laughing stock?"

The watery eyes widened as Aisaka stood motionless. Taking this chance, Ryūji quickly crawled away from her and into his room on the other side of the fusuma. His hands trembling as he frantically tried to search for that envelope inside his bag.

"Here! You see, you see?"

With veins showing in his eyes, Ryūji stuffed the envelope into her tiny hands. Her wooden blade made a sound as it was dropped to the ground, she began to wobble, though she still supported herself by standing with her legs opened, and examined the envelope through the light.

"... Ah..."

Her little cherry lips opened slightly.

"Ah, ah... Ahhh... AHHH! UWAAA!"

With her hair in a mess, Aisaka fervently tore open the envelope and shook it upside down. After she confirmed that there was indeed nothing inside, she turned around at looked at Ryūji with a blank expression,

"... I'm so hopeless..."

After saying that, she slowly sat down on the floor. Her eyes, which were still wide open to the point of cracking, slowly closed. Her thin lips quivered softly, while her chin made a clicking noise.

"Ai, Aisaka?"

A compulsory shutdown...

Sitting before Ryūji, her face became pale instantaneously and the tiny body that was wrapped up in the one-piece dress fell down sideways just like that in the living room of his two-room, one kitchen apartment.

"Hey! Aisaka! Are you alright?"

It all happened too suddenly, Ryūji quickly ran up and carried the unconscious doll in his arms.

At that moment...

Grumble~ Grumble~

"Was that... her stomach... grumbling?"

* * *

At the Takasu residence, there was always food ready at any time.

The garlic and ginger were all cut beforehand, while onions were available all the time. A few turnips were added and finally some bacon and eggs. Of course, in order to make sure there was never a lack of seasonings, the kitchen always had plenty of chicken soup powder, spices, as well as chicken bone soup base.

A bit of castor oil was added to the one and a half cups worth of rice, adding in some chopped turnips to give it a clearer taste. The rice was coated yellow as egg was mixed in, so all that was left was to add in the onion to sweeten it and the bacon to complete it. After including some additives - bit of pepper, salt and some oyster sauce - the last thing to do was to decorate it with the saved up cilantro.

Together with the soup, which only required pouring hot water on top of some chopped onions and chicken soup base, the whole meal was complete in 15 minutes. There was even time to clean the dishes while the food cooked.

Though it was 3am, Ryūji's cooking was still flawless.

"G... garlic..."

Grumble~...... Ryūji could hear her sleep-talk within that ludicrous grumble. He wondered if he should give her a push...

"...Ai, Aisaka Taiga, wake up! If you want garlic, it's here, with castor oil on top as well."

Ryūji softly shook the little figure that was sleeping on the bed.

"Fried... fried..."

"Yes, it's fried rice!"

"Fried... rice..."

Drool began to drip down the edge of her pale lips. Since I saw it, I can't just leave it like that. Ryūji thought as he couldn't help but softly wipe her mouth with a tissue.

"Get up, or your rice is gonna get cold!"

Aisaka's eyelashes shuddered for a bit. To avoid touching her, Ryūji tugged her down from the mattress by pulling on her dress. Aisaka even twitched a bit halfway as she reluctantly sat up.

"... Ah... Eh?"

Looks like she's up. She gave a scowl and shoved Ryūji's hand away, while suspiciously removing the wet towel from her forehead. Slightly moving her nose, she said,

"... What's that? That smell... it smells like garlic..."

Her eyes rolled all over looking around.

"Didn't I just say it's fried rice? Hurry up and eat, this'll get your blood glucose level up! Otherwise you're gonna faint again."

Ryūji pointed at the plate of fried rice placed on the short table. AH! Her eyes glittered for a moment, but...

"...Just what are you plotting...?"

She quickly squinted her eyes and scowled, staring straight through to Ryūji, who was now in his track suit.

"Why would I want to plot anything? I guess the only thing around that can wake you up is that fried rice, isn't it? Your stomach was grumbling quite loudly, you know? You had the same anemic symptoms at school as well... Hey, don't tell me you never eat at all?"

"That's none of your business! Leave me alone! ... This apartment, do you live here alone?"

"Well, there's my mom, though she's out working. And when trying to assault someone, at least get an idea of who's inside! If it were someone else, they would've called the cops already."

"Ah, shut up... You, you didn't do anything funny to me, did you?"

Aisaka looked sternly while shielding her body with both her arms, her eyes squinting to a small line while examining Ryūji in a very provocative way. You're the one that's funny around here! Ryūji forced himself to swallow what he was about to say.

"... You're least qualified to say such things, when you were the one who intruded into another person's apartment to ambush him, but fainted because of starvation! Alright, hurry up and eat!"

Despite all this, it was still three in the morning and it certainly wasn't the time to argue and disturb the neighbors.

"I don't... mmmmm!"

Ryūji scooped a large spoonful of fried rice and forcefully stuffed it into Aisaka's mouth while she was still rambling away on his bed. This required a certain amount of courage, but Ryūji had already consigned himself to his fate, so he figured he might as well face whatever comes his way. For a while he certainly felt manly.

"W, what are you doing!?"

Aisaka pushed the spoon away while her eyes glittered, but it didn't seem like she intended to spit out what was in her mouth. Her little face chewed on the food nonstop, looking very much like a squirrel.

"Mmm... mmm, d, don't think you can get away with this..."

Gulp. She swallowed the food.

"...I'm not yet done with you!"

She snatched the spoon which she had pushed away a minute ago from Ryūji's hand and continued,

"Most importantly, how did you know the envelope was empty?"

She picked up her long dress as she slowly got out of bed,

"You must have taken a peek inside and opened it, right!? You are the worst! You voyeuristic pervert!"

Hmph! She turned her back towards Ryūji and sat before the short table.

"... No, it isn't like that! I... well... I saw it through the lighting."

Though it wasn't entirely correct, Ryūji had to settle for that answer, though he wasn't sure whether she was even listening. Sitting in front of the table, she flattened the tiny hill of rice using her spoon and then in a strangely intense atmosphere, slowly brought the rice towards her little mouth.

Munch, munch, munch, munch, gulp. She then sipped a spoonful of soup. Ah... And then released a sigh of relief before sipping another spoon. Facing Aisaka, Ryūji brought up the issue he was thinking about while cooking,

"Hey, Aisaka, listen to me. It's like this..."

Munch munch munch munch

"Your letter... I mean that envelope, there's nothing to be ashamed of, even if I saw what was inside..."

Munch munch munch munch munch munch munch, chew! Crunch!

"I think..."

Chomp chomp chomp chomp chomp chomp chomp chomp chomp chomp!

"Hey, listen to me!"



Good thing I made extra... Ryūji muttered to himself, scooping all the rice from the frying pan into the bowl and returning it Aisaka.

"Like I said... listen to me already!"

She doesn't seem to be listening. Is this what you call undivided attention? Just where does all the food go in that tiny body of hers? Aisaka focused on nothing else but fried rice, fried rice, and still fried rice... This was her personal Fried Rice Festival.

This is going nowhere and the fried rice's gonna run out soon. Ryūji decided to stand up and bring the birdcage from the corner of the living room over.

"Hey Aisaka, come and have a look at this... it's tasty!"

"Something tasty?"

Now that he had her attention... Whoosh! Ryūji removed the cloth on the birdcage and showed her its contents.


"Well? He looks disgusting, doesn't he?"

Past experiments had shown that only an earthquake of magnitude 4 or above could wake up Inko-chan... A spasmodic face, rolling white eyes, a wide open beak, and his weird tongue sticking out... The ugly sleeping face quickly worked its wonders and Aisaka bounced backwards.

"That's disgusting! Why'd you show me something like that!?"

Apparently she could finally hear what Ryūji was saying.

"... Sorry about that Inko-chan, so go back to sleep... Anyway, Aisaka!"

After covering Inko-chan with the cloth, Ryūji sat directly opposite from Aisaka, who had finally returned to her senses. What do you want!? Her eyes read as she glared at Ryūji, though she still had the bowl in her arms as she continued with her Fried Rice Festival.

"Just eat and listen. What I want to say is... that there's nothing to be ashamed of. We're second year high school students, it's only natural for us to have one or two people of the opposite gender that we fancy, so there's nothing wrong with writing a love letter. Don't all the couples right now have to go through all these troubling things in order to get together?"


She chewed while covering her face with the bowl. She still appeared to be feeling embarrassed.

"But then again, who would really put their love letter into the wrong bag? ... Not to mention forgetting to place the letter inside the envelope."

Once Ryūji finished...

"It's all your fault!"

Slam! Aisaka suddenly pounded her fist on the table. She looked up and pointed the spoon at Ryūji,

"... You've been rambling on for quite some time now. Let me set things straight, I was still hesitating on whether to put that letter inside the bag when you appeared. I panicked and wanted to hide the letter, so I ended up putting it inside by mistake... I never thought that it would be your bag..."

"Hey, Aisaka... you've got some rice on your cheek."

"You. Are. Annoying."


Her eyes flashed terrifyingly like a sharp blade. Under a glare like that, Ryūji quickly shut up and stopped talking.

She now appeared to be fully recharged with her full stomach. Hmph, She proudly lifted her chin and locked on Ryūji with those killing eyes. The Palmtop Tiger, now fully re-energized and ready to kill, gave a low and savage growl.

"Takasu Ryūji... this wouldn't have happened if you had obediently handed over that bag... Now how should I punish you? How should I remove your memories! After doing something so embarrassing, how do you expect me to live on!?"

We're going in circles here. Ryūji clutched his head for a while, and then...

"Didn't I already say there's nothing to be ashamed of!? Look, you stay here and wait!"

Ryūji's decided to burn both ends of the candle.

Leaving the living room, he entered his room and came out carrying loads of stuff and placed them all before Aisaka. There were many notebooks and small notes, CDs, illustration books, a second hand MD player and more. Since it's come to this, I'll show you everything. Everything.

"What are these?"

"Just have a look at them. Feel free to pick anything up."

Tch! Aisaka annoyingly grabbed the nearest notebook and gave it a flick. Her fingers then stopped as she scowled and looked at the notebook and Ryūji.

"Seriously, what's this? What are you doing?"

"That's a 'catalogue'. You probably don't know what that is. It's a playlist of concert songs I compiled for the girl that I like. I might as well tell you, the songs are arranged according to different seasons, so there's four themes in total. I even made MD recordings of those songs."

"And this is it." Ryūji then turned on his MD player and stuffed the earphones into a reluctant Aisaka's ears. From the faint music coming out from the earphones, Ryūji could tell that it was the first song for his summer concert.

"And this is a poem I wrote. At the time I was thinking 'What Christmas present should I give to her after we become a couple?" when writing it. Would perfume be fine? Sure, but it had to be Eau de Toilette! I've even got all the names of the perfume brands listed, I also took the trouble to find out the prices for each bottle of perfume and wrote them all down... How about that? That's the sort of stuff I used to do."

"That's disgusting!"

Aisaka pulled out the earphones and threw them back at Ryūji as though they were something dirty. Although he got hit by earphones, Ryūji did not back down,

"If it's disgusting, then so be it. But the reason I'm telling you is because I don't feel ashamed of it! What's wrong with liking a girl!? I'll admit I'm hopeless in not having the courage to confess my feelings and only indulging in my fantasies, but I find nothing to be ashamed of!"

Well, maybe I am a bit ashamed, but since I've already said it... Just at that moment, Ryūji lost his balance as he turned around and the thing which he didn't want to show Aisaka now slid to her feet.

"Ah! Not that..."

"... What's this? An envelope?"

He tried desperately to grab the envelope back, but he was one step behind the pair of tiny hands and ended up grasping at air instead.

"From Takasu Ryūji... To Kushieda Minori-san... Kushieda Minori-san!!??"

"T, that's... no, w, wait, don't..."

"A love letter!? And... for Minorin!? You!? This as well!? And this!?"

There was no room for denial. Those three love letters were only written to make himself feel better, and were not meant to be delivered. They were now all under the spotlight.

"Uwaa... you? Like Minorin... Eh!? ... You're joking!? Aren't you a bit full of yourself now..."

"Y, you're not any better, are you!? What's with that 'eh'!? Don't you have a crush on my pal Kitamura as well..."

"... S, shut up, didn't I tell you to forget about that? ... And instead of squirming about, hurry up and confess already!"

"I can say the same to you!"

"You want to bring your wooden blade? Or do you want to throw that away!?" "You want a piece of me? Or you want something even better?" After bickering with each other for a while...


Ryūji suddenly realized that with all the commotion, the sky outside the window had started to brighten... the sun was about to rise.

"Damn! It's four already!"

It's almost time for Yasuko to come home from work. Things will get bothersome if Aisaka continues to stay here, as Yasuko will ask a lot of questions, and besides, I don't want anyone else to see Yasuko's face when she comes home, with her moaning "Ryū-chan, it's Ya-chan~, I'm thir~sty~, mmm" and all.

Not to mention the landlady's gonna be up once the morning post arrives. She'll probably come up to complain about the noise we made first thing in the morning... No, she may already be up and just be waiting for the right time to come up. Ryūji instantly went pale at such a possibility. Oh shit. If the landlady throws us out now, we won't have any money to find another place to live... Our savings were used up last month (selfishly by Yasuko) to buy a flat-screen TV that doesn't fit with the apartment...

"A~nyway! I won't tell this to anyone and I don't see Aisaka as an idiot, since I'm hardly any better. So let's put an end to this, okay?"

"... No, I can't do that."

"Why!? For now just get the hell... I mean please go home for now...! My sick mom's about to come home..."

In a way, she is indeed quite sick, so he wasn't exactly lying, but...

"No! I don't trust you, besides... besides..."

Like a small kid, Aisaka kneeled down right in the middle of the living room. Staring at her knees, she twirled her fingers around the tatami and said,

"... Um, that... love letter, what should I do... I just don't feel it's time to deliver it yet..."

Great! Aisaka chooses now to ask me for tips on romance! "AHHH!" Ryūji clutched his head and said,

"I, I'll tell you about it some other day! C'mon, just go home for now... I beg you!"

"... Are you sure you're going to tell me about it then?"

"Yes! Definitely! I'll listen to anything you say, and I'll help out in anything you ask. I swear!"

"... You're going to help me? No matter what?"

"Yes! Anything, anything!"

"You'll help in anything? You said so... You'll help me like a dog? And do everything for me as my dog?"

"Yes, yes! I'll work hard like one, I swear! Whether as a dog or anything, I'll help! ... So, let's end this today, okay? Okay?"

"Okay... Then I'll go home."

She finally seemed to accept. Aisaka picked up her wooden blade and got up. She took a glance towards the window, there was a pair of small shoes thrown beside its base. So she did crawl in through there... Aisaka turned to glance at Ryūji who was muttering, then picked up her shoes and headed for the entrance. Suddenly she turned around,


What is it now!? Ryūji made a defensive stance, but...

"Is there anymore... fried rice?"

"Huh? Oh, no... cause you ate it all."

"That so? Ah well."

"You're still not full? That was four bowls worth of rice. Are you really that hungry?"

There was no reply. Aisaka turned her back towards Ryūji and put on one shoe.

"... The fusuma..."

She said quietly and turned around without warning again.

"Man, you sure talk a lot."

"There's a hole in the fusuma... is fixing that going to cost a lot?"

She asked while looking up at Ryūji, her large eyes blinking two to three times. Feeling his heartbeat going wild, Ryūji avoided Aisaka's eyes. Not because he was afraid, but because he was puzzled. This was the first time he'd ever seen Aisaka not looking angry.

"Ahh... um... if it's fixing that, I can handle it myself... I think. I just had a look, the hole isn't that big, so it'll be fine if I have some good quality washi. Though you can only find normal quality washi paper in these parts."


He couldn't tell what she's up to with that expressionless face.

"Washi... If possible, you can use this!"

Aisaka stuck something out. She wants me to use this? ... Ryūji looked confused at the thing that she stuffed into his hand. How should I put this? Asking me to fill the hole in the fusuma using her letterless love letter envelope...

"If you find that useful, then use it! If you need money to fix it, I'll pay for it."

"Ah... er... um!"

Without answering whether she was full or not, Aisaka began to tie her shoelaces with a scowl. Looking at that round back of hers, he just felt...

"... Hey, wait a moment!"

He just felt he had to call her.

"What now?!"

"... How long have you not eaten?"

"Why do you care? It's not like I don't eat... I got tired with the stuff from the convenience store... so even after buying them I couldn't bring myself to eat..."

"Convenience store? All three meals? Wouldn't that be bad for your health?"

"There was a fast food stall in front of the station, but it closed down last month. So I could only get food from the convenience store... the cooked food in the supermarket... how do I put it... I don't know how to buy it..."

"You don't know how to buy it? Just pick what you like and put it into a transparent box, and then take it to the cashier to weigh it and that's it... By the way, where're your parents?"

After tying her shoelaces, Aisaka stood up. Ryūji saw her shake her head ambiguously. Oh dear. Every family has their secrets, especially the seemingly enigmatic Aisaka family. Even if something unimaginable had happened within that family, there was nothing to be astonished about. I came from quite a tough family background myself, but I got on well with it, so how could I have come up with such an inconsiderate question? Feeling embarrassed, Ryūji did not ask further and simply stood and watched the figure with long hair open the door and walk out.

"Ah, wait! Let me walk you home! It's a bit dangerous to walk alone at this time of day..."

"Relax, I live closeby... Besides, I have a wooden blade."

"No, wouldn't that be even more dangerous?"

"It's really close! Anyway, bye, Ryūji, see you tomorrow."

She turned and ran off. Ryūji quickly put on his slippers and without even locking his door, tried to give chase. Yet from his entrance looking downstairs, Aisaka was nowhere to be seen... She sure possesses some extraordinary speed in her legs.

"... In the end I let her go back alone. By the way..."

Did she just call me by my first name?

Ryūji blinked and looked with a screwed up face in the direction that Aisaka had disappeared into... He wasn't angry, just feeling very confused.

Before sunrise, just before Yasuko returned, Ryūji had already tidied his room up. This was thanks to his habit of tidying things up.

From that day onwards, on the fusuma in the Takasu residence was attached a small pattern of light pink cherry blossom petals.


Post a Comment