Thursday, March 15, 2012

Toradora! Vol. 1 - Chapter 5

"Hey, move your head over! You're blocking the TV!"

The head that was blocking half of the TV screen from Ryūji's vision replied without turning,

"Ah, shut up already! Can't you just shift over a bit?"

Speaking nonchalantly, Aisaka gave a very irksome reply.

"What?! I believe that's my TV!! Say that again and you can get the hell out! You live just beyond that window anyway!"



Ryūji's yell finally got Aisaka to turn her head around, her eyes glittered under her long eyelashes, reflecting a cold stare,

"I'm watching TV right now, so can you keep it down? Sigh~ A stupid dog never learns, does he?"

"Why!!! Why you..."

Annoying neighbor was the first thing that came to Ryūji's mind. As he stood up in front of the small table, about to poke the person who was occupying the TV screen and claiming to be Ryūji's master...

"Ryū~-chan... you mustn't fight now~"

Yasuko appeared before the opened fusuma and told him,

"Yesterday Ya-chan got scolded by the landlady. She said we were already noisy to begin with, but that it has been getting worse lately~"

"Well, it's mainly because of that girl... Hey! How come you aren't wearing anything?!"

Ryūji's voice got Aisaka to turn around in surprise, even Inko-chan glanced startlingly at Yasuko. As three pairs of eyes stared at her snow white skin, she herself didn't seem to mind...

"Of course~ not, silly. It's supposed to be worn this way~ and then I put this on top~"

Wearing a nearly translucent one-piece dress and twisting her waist, Yasuko was indeed carrying an elegant leopard-spotted jacket in her hand.

"... That dress looks cool!"

"Hee hee, it's cute isn't it? What else do you think, Taiga-chan?"

As Yasuko giggled and waved her skirt, Aisaka simply stared at her without changing her expression. As Ryūji held his breath...

"... There!"

Aisaka pointed her finger towards the centre of Yasuko's buttocks.

"Your panties are showing."

"Wah...! Really!"

Inko-chan quickly replied without hesitation,

"But it's better this way!"

What an idiot. Who on earth would really accept a suggestion from a bird?! As Ryūji fretted his brow, his mother suddenly cheered up. Oh god, she actually accepted that?!

Yasuko pulled up her skirt and spun around in a circle with her panties exposed.

"Then I'll be wearing this! I'm off to work!"

She smiled happily while jiggling her voluptuous breasts, and then quickly grabbed the bag of buns that she had bought using the pocket money she had saved up and waved her hand innocently,

"Well, Ryū-chan, Taiga-chan, Ya-chan is going now~"

"Yeah, take care. Don't drink too much, and remember to call with your cell phone if you bump into anyone strange!"

"O~kay~! Taiga-chan, don't go home too late now!"

"Sure, take care."

As the antique door creaked to a close, the Takasu residence was once again sealed off from the outside world.

What's important is, right now, to put it simply...

"Haaa, I'm gonna go get some tea."

"Get me some too, and dessert as well."

"Dessert? Do we have any? Is eating all that matters to you? At least bring something useful from time to time!"


"Will you stop ignoring me?!"

In case you hadn't noticed, Takasu Ryūji and Aisaka Taiga have now completely gotten used to each other's presence... as well as Ryūji's family. But this can't be helped, in any case, the two were now pretty much living together.

To make sure Aisaka didn't oversleep, each morning Ryūji would go over to her place to fetch her. Bringing along the bentos that he would prepare beforehand, he would also make a simple breakfast as she finished getting ready herself.

When walking to school, they would leave some distance between each other just before bumping into Minori, while continuing to maintain a suitable space between themselves until they reached school.

At school, they would often discuss various strategies in order to win Kitamura's heart, and then put them into action... Though they had all ended in failure so far.

After school, they would head to the supermarket for some shopping... In the beginning the cooking was done at Aisaka's place, but they quickly ran into a problem: it would be fine if it were just them having dinner, but Yasuko would be left out. If Ryūji only made Aisaka's share, then he would have to cook again when he went home, meaning he would have to cook twice, which would be bothersome. He could cook the whole lot at Aisaka's place and then bring his family's share home, but that was bothersome as well.

So it was decided that the cooking would be done at Takasu's place, and the three of them would eat together, which was what they were doing now. When you think about it, it was indeed exhausting trying to do things in both places. Though Aisaka's kitchen was sparkling clean, it was unexpectedly difficult to use. The knives were hardly sharp and there weren't enough plates, another reason for Ryūji to feel irritated.

Unexpectedly, Yasuko was quite open to accepting Aisaka, and Aisaka, for her part, wasn't overly curious about Yasuko's eccentricity, she simply came to have dinner. And when it was time for Yasuko to go to work, she and Ryūji would wave and see her off.

In the beginning, Aisaka would go home just after Yasuko had gone to work, but later she began watching TV, reading manga, taking naps, wondering how Kitamura and Kushieda were... And the time she spent in the Takasu residence slowly grew longer...

"... Ah!"

By the time Ryūji noticed, things had become like this.

Wiping the drool off his mouth, he frantically called out to the fellow on the other side of the small table,

"Hey, Aisaka! Get up!"

"... Hmm...?"

While lazily watching TV, they had unknowingly fallen asleep. Ryūji was wearing his tracksuit, while Aisaka was wearing a fluffy one-piece dress as they slept on the tatami... It was already 3am.

"No matter what, it's not that good to sleep at my place, is it? So hurry up and go sleep at your place!"

"... Umm..."

He wasn't even sure whether she had heard him, as she laid her face on the sitting mat, using it as a pillow. Aisaka stuck her hand inside her clothes and began scratching her tummy... Why you... Ryūji quickly yanked the mat from under her head.

"Ugh! ... Umm..."

As Aisaka's head knocked onto the tatami, she momentarily opened her eyes. She then moved a bit, as though getting used to the feel of the tatami, shifted into a comfortable position, and began to snore silently once again.

Ryūji squatted down next to her and leaned over to look at her sleeping face... Such an intimate relationship we're having! Maybe I've come to the age where I can hang out naturally with girls... No! That's not it! She's no ordinary girl, she's the Palmtop Tiger. But was this girl before his eyes really that Palmtop Tiger who roars so fiercely?

The pattern of the mat was imprinted on her pink cheek, while some warm milk still remained on the edge of her lips. Her long hair was just lying on the tatami like that, there was hardly any tension on that peaceful sleeping face.

"... Hey... Aisaka... Aisaka... wake up!"

Silence. Only the refrigerator motor could be heard in the silent two-room plus kitchen apartment. There was still some time before dawn, when Yasuko would return, and Inko-chan continued to sleep soundly under the cloth with that ugly face of his.

"Aisaka. Taiga!"

As Ryūji's body cast his long shadow on her face, he could see her pulse beating on her neck. Ryūji planned to approach Aisaka's ear and yell at her, so he leaned forward, but at that moment, his body stiffened. He smelled a strange fragrance, it was coming from Aisaka.

"If you don't wake up... I, I'm going to assault you!"

... Of course I'm not serious. It's not possible. I mean, why would I want to do anything to Aisaka? Besides, I already have someone I like (Minori...) So I never even thought of wanting to do anything to her... Seriously! ... Honest!

But she's too thick-skinned. Since she's not going to wake up, I have to give her a scare... Just to say something to startle her, that's all.

But she continued to remain motionless. He now noticed a small tatami thread on her snow white cheek... That might cause a scratch Ryūji thought. Nothing malicious... I'm just concerned... I'll just remove this for her... Ryūji gulped, and then slowly reached out his hand...


He was then sent flying to the other end of the room.

"... Hmm? What... are you doing?"

"... N, nothing..."

If it was a coincidence, then it came too coincidentally. As Aisaka rolled her body over, she had moved her arm as well. Her powerful fist then unintentionally gave Ryūji's chin an uppercut.

Aisaka woke up and scratched her head, she then frowned as she looked suspiciously at Ryūji, who had landed upside down,

"... Strange... just what are you so noisy for? It's the middle of the night. Last thing we want is the landlord to scold us again!"

"L, leave me alone!"

If Aisaka was awake just then, Ryūji would be dead by now. She's still scary even when she's sleeping...

Aisaka was indeed the Palmtop Tiger. The savage genes saturated her blood, she was the sort of aggressive high school girl who would bite at any opponent that came at her.

Though he was now quite familiar with her, Takasu Ryūji felt he still needed situations like this to confirm that fact.

* * *

Testimony 1

"This is Haruta Koji from Class 2-C reporting: I really saw it, it happened when I was grabbing a bite on my way home just after club activities had ended, in the supermarket near the station... Those two were definitely Takasu and the Palmtop Tiger! Takasu was carrying a shopping basket and was deciding on which fish to buy when the Palmtop Tiger stuffed a piece of meat into the basket. Takasu quickly yelled at her, 'I thought we're having steamed fish tonight!' And placed the meat back on the shelf. Then they bought some onions and radishes. As they came to the counter, Takasu said 'take 1000 yen from our common wallet', which was followed by the Palmtop Tiger obediently taking a wallet out. He said 'common wallet'! How can I put this? It just feels like they're a married couple."

Testimony 2

"This is Kihara Maya, also from Class 2-C, reporting: I saw it happen during the morning on the way to school... I usually ride a bike... You know that brand new posh apartment block? Every time I went past there, I would always wonder how great it would be to live there. It was then when I saw Takasu-kun coming out. I then thought, 'No way! He lives here?!' Then I saw Aisaka running after him and muttering 'I'm still sleepy! You should wake me up earlier!' I didn't believe my eyes! I couldn't help but keep watching, and saw Takasu-kun turning around yelling 'I've already called you many times!' ... Could this be... could they be... ?"

Testimony 3

"Um, this is Noto Hisamitsu from Class 2-C. I used to be classmates with Takasu during our first year, and we still hang out often. But lately, Takasu always seems to disappear whenever I want to walk home with him. I can't help but wonder just what has been going on. Just yesterday, since my favourite band had just released their new album, I thought about going to the record store with him, so I went to ask him during lunch... In the end... It's really strange, he told me 'Hang on a moment,' and then turned around and said, 'Aisaka, I can't go home with you today, is that okay? ... I'll be back at 8.' ... This made me curious. Back? To where? And what would he do there? Then, while we were at the record store, I asked him what that was all about, he simply replied, 'Don't worry about it' ... There's definitely something going on!"

Testimony 4

"This is Kushieda Minori of Class 2-C. I guess you can call me a good friend of Taiga, but lately... it seems like she's hiding something from me. Every morning, I meet her at the same spot before walking together to school, but, how should I put this... Takasu-kun also comes with her... He always appears just a bit behind her, walking as though he doesn't know anything. Does that mean they're 'an item'? Or are they 'sworn to never part'? But Taiga always claims 'We just happen to meet each other on the way,' or 'Really? I didn't even notice.' Umm, though I'm glad Taiga has gotten rid of her bad habit of oversleeping and being late for school every three days, but... I'm really bothered by the feeling that she's hiding something from me. The two of them also look kinda sneaky even at school, god knows just what they're scheming... Huh? Is this feeling called jealousy? Then what will become of the Soeur System? What will become of Rosa Chinensis and Rosa Gigantea? ... And what the hell am I talking about?! Ahhh, even I don't know what I'm saying anymore~!!!"

... Ryūji was still Ryūji. His fierce eyes would often lead to misunderstandings and rumours. But he was already used to, or to be more precise, in order not to get hurt, he learned to ignore what other people said as a defence mechanism.

... Aisaka was still Aisaka. She was the sort of girl that didn't even care about rumours. Basically, she was not interested in anyone besides herself (Minorin and Kitamura were exceptions).

Because these two were "celebrities" to begin with, they were completely unaware of the growing whispers around them.

In the ever restless classroom, their classmates whispered into each other's ears, passing glances at the two and nodding: "... I saw it myself, they both came out of the same building...", "I really saw them in the supermarket the other day...", "There they are whispering again...", "Ah! They've both disappeared!", "Palmtop Tiger called Takasu by his first name", "Takasu sure has guts as well, to be able to casually call her an idiot", "And emerge unscathed as well...", "Even their bentos are the same!"

Could Takasu Ryūji and Aisaka Taiga be...?

"Oh, damn it!"

The tiny Palmtop Tiger gasped, causing everyone else to shudder. What happened? Has she lost her prey? Though Aisaka's expression remained unchanged,

"Hey Ryūji! I forgot to tell you something..."

Aisaka walked directly over to Ryūji's desk by the window, ignoring the fact that their classmates sitting around him had begun to lean over and eavesdrop.

"What now?"


Aisaka's voice was getting softer... I can't hear! Said the paparazzi as they leaned even closer.

"... forgot to tell you..."

Ryūji grunted and lifted his face while listening to Aisaka's soft voice. She kept on whispering in a voice only Ryūji could hear, while the ears around them tried to receive any signals that came out from their position.

"... not coming home tonight..."

WHAT!? The guys sitting behind Ryūji froze stiff upon hearing that. What did she just say? They began to pass notes and transmit to everyone what they had just heard. She just said she's not coming home tonight! Everyone fell silent. Ignoring the glances around them, Ryūji replied,

"... staying the night?"

"... Yeah."

"Then... already prepared..."

"... Yeah."

No way! No friggin way! Is this for real!? The whispers swept throughout the classroom. Hey, hang on, could they be... he said staying the night... and said be prepared...

"So this means, the Palmtop Tiger is staying over at Takasu's place?"

Swallowing his saliva, the long haired Haruta whispered softly.

"He said be prepared... t, that means... going to bed? Oh boy... this feels wrong..."

Standing just behind Haruta, the four-eyed Noto replied softly as well.

Uwaa~! Some of the girls began to gasp softly. This could be the first officially known sexual experience of this class! ... Kihara Maya blushed and proclaimed, "I don't think this is even their first time!" Some of the guys muttered in agony, "Actually I always thought the Palmtop Tiger was kinda cute... And was hoping no one had claimed her..." Others also came in and added, "Me too. When I confessed to her last year, she said as a matter-of-factly that if that was the case, then all guys should go to hell..." More and more decided to voice their opinion.

The whole class turned uniformly towards Ryūji and Aisaka, watching them exchange each other's futures. Aisaka was looking towards the window, so no one could see her expression, while Ryūji fretted his brow, as though he was about to have a duel with someone... most likely Aisaka's father.

"Ku, Kushieda, looks like something big is about to happen to your good pal tonight!"

Kushieda remained silent.


No matter how many times the girls patted her shoulder or poked her with their elbows, she remained motionless, and simply stared at those two.

Though it's not really necessary, I might as well mention what was actually being said:

"Didn't your mom leave without eating anything yesterday? She wanted me to tell you 'I forgot to tell you, I'm not coming home tonight.' Since it was the bar landlord's birthday, so the birthday party is gonna last till morning,"

"Yasuko's going to stay at the bar? Could she be staying the night?"

"Yeah, that's what she said,"

"Then she must be already prepared with having to put up with that old man Inage whining away all night, he just got divorced last year,"

"She said that as well, something about ' Yeah, that Inage-san is so and so...' ... AHHH! Dammit! Stop using me as your family's personal messenger!"

"If you don't like it, then stop coming to my place to eat!"


"How many times do I have to tell you to stop ignoring me?!"

* * *

It was a very normal recess time in Class 2-C. Takasu Ryūji read his manga in his sunlight-drenched desk, while Aisaka Taiga quietly sipped her box of milk with a bored expression and an aura that seemed to say, "Leave me alone".

Yet a very courageous fellow came and patted Aisaka on her back,

"Hey, Taiga... Are you free now?"

It was none other than Kushieda Minori. So she's finally going to do it, huh? ... The whole class was now gazing at the back of the Palmtop Tiger.

"Why such a serious face... Hey! Minorin?!"

Wearing a serious expression unlike her normal ones in the past, Minori dragged Taiga by her collar and pulled her up from her seat. The tiny Aisaka exclaimed,

"I, I can move on my own without you pulling me! I'm gonna fall!"

"Just follow me!"

Apparently Minori was the only person in this world capable of doing such a thing to the Palmtop Tiger. If it were anyone else, they would have been bitten in less than three seconds. As everyone held their breath, Minori dragged Aisaka on the ground as though she were a piece of luggage and told to the person before her,

"... You. Come along as well!"

"... Huh? ... M, me!?"

The person she pointed at was none other than Takasu Ryūji. He felt a bit ecstatic at being called out... Though she simply called me "you"... His eyes squinted a bit at the thought, though no one else could really tell that he was frowning.

The school roof was filled with a tense atmosphere... though it couldn't be seen, but that's what it felt like anyway.

It was a fairly nice day. The clouds slowly floated above in an idyllic manner.

"M, Minorin...?"


After dragging Ryūji and Aisaka here, Kushieda Minori had her back towards them... Whoosh... In this unusual situation, the tracksuit jacket that she wore on top of her uniform for some reason, fluttered against the wind.

Ryūji suddenly suppressed his voice and whispered to Aisaka, who was standing 30cm below him,

"Hey... what's going on here?"

"How would I know? ... This is also my first time seeing Minorin look like that... maybe she's angry about something?"

Aisaka looked a bit melancholic and tilted her head uncomfortably, nevertheless she decided to step forward...

"U, umm... M, Minorin...?"

As she stretched out her hand, her voice stopped. The whole world seemed to stop as well. Turning around, Minori's eyes seemed to glitter for a while before she suddenly jumped in front of Aisaka.

"Wah?!" Aisaka yelled, shielding herself with her arms. What's going on? Minori quietly glided past Aisaka and then...



Minori slid to just a few meters in front of Ryūji and elegantly knelt down before him.

Amongst the flying dust and fluttering tracksuit jacket...

"I now entrust my Taiga to you! PLEEEAAASEEE----! Take good care of her!!!"

She yelled with a voice that pierced the skies.

"... Huh?! Wha...? EHHHHH?!"

Minori bowed down with her hands on the ground, touching her fingers with her forehead. Ryūji was completely awestruck by all this, as was Aisaka, who struggled to keep her jaw shut.

"Takasu-kun, this girl... Taiga, she's a very important friend of mine. She may have a really bad temper at times, but she's a very kind and gentle girl! ... Please! M, make her happy!!!"

Sob ... All Aisaka could see was Minori sobbing. A second has passed... ten seconds... thirty seconds....

The first one to come to his senses was Ryūji,

"Kushieda, h, hang on a minute... W, what are you talking about...?"

"Please stop saying that!"

Minori lifted her head and looked at Ryūji with a serious expression,

"Stop pretending you don't know anything, all right? Takasu-kun, that's enough already! I know everything now! I'll support you all the way!"

Minori exclaimed that with a clear and determined expression, while staring directly at Ryūji... Ryūji, for his part, was so mesmerized by her decency that he couldn't speak.

"... Do you think I never noticed? Don't you two always walk to school together every day? And I'm always in the way. I've been waaaaiting so long for you to tell me that you two are seeing each other... But! No matter how long I waited, you just wouldn't tell me! That's why!"

"N, No! T, that's not it! T, that's, Kushieda, you've got it all wrong..."

"I just wanna tell you guys to stop sneaking around already! Takasu-kun! Taiga! I already know that you two are seeing each other! I've always wanted to tell you this!"

Minori pointed at Ryūji with her finger while still kneeling, she then smiled cheerfully and bowed deeply again,

"That's right! It can't be wrong! Takasu-kun, you're Taiga's one and only! I definitely won't let anyone else get in your way! So please rest assured and continue dating, okay?!"

Even if you beg me, I... As though being hit by a huge force, Ryūji knelt down wearily, as though his soul was about to abandon him.

The shock left him speechless... even though he wanted to deny it. I have to deny this!

"No! Y, you got it all wrong, Minorin! We don't have that sort of relationship!!! Can you at least listen to us first? So please hurry and get up!"

Aisaka leapt in front of Ryūji and started to explain away. Ryūji was moved to the verge of tears... That's right, there's still Aisaka. She can help the hopeless me explain this misunderstanding. Ryūji fell on the concrete ground and transmitted this voiceless message.


"Ho ho ho, there's no need to be shy. Congratulations, you two!"

Minori patted her skirt elegantly like a gentleman and glanced silently past Aisaka's shoulder at Ryūji...

"... Takasu-kun, if you make Taiga cry, I'll never forgive you!"

She revealed a very solemn expression.

That doesn't matter! Hold on a minute! It's not what you think! It isn't!!! Ryūji yelled from the bottom of his heart, struggling to say something, to stretch out his hand, to explain to Minori who was now turning around and preparing to walk away... But his throat, his hand, and everything else was paralyzed by the shock, and he was unable to explain to her.

Before a motionless Ryūji, the last remaining hope that he could count on to explain everything - Aisaka - was also knocked out by the slash of a blade. The tiny lifeless body now fell backwards before his eyes, and remained still; blood sputtered out and dyed her body blood red.

"So that's how it is... Hmm, I was wondering whether you guys were going out together! Takasu, I was just about to see you so I came over... But I guess it doesn't matter anymore. Congratulations, both of you! Though I still can't believe that you never told me about this before."

This was because Kitamura was here as well...

He saw everything from the entrance of the staircase. And after hearing Minori's confession, he misunderstood everything as well as a result.

He approached the tiny corpse lying on the ground, and gave her the finishing blow,

"Aisaka, I leave Takasu in your care. Make sure you cherish each other. Come to think of it, you two sure are a great match!"

And so the two stunned bodies remained on the ground like that, no longer able to get up...

* * *

"Umm, may I please, take your order..."



"... E, excuse me, but if you aren't ordering anything..."

"... Some juice will do..."

"... Make that two. Same as hers..."

"... Drinks, is it? Well, the cups are over there, so please help yourself."

After finishing his designated lines, the waiter turned and left. Yet no one at the table got up to get any drinks.

It was around 10 in the evening, in a family restaurant beside the main road. Sitting at a non-smoking table by the window were two corpses...

Though it was still April, the large one was wearing a loose T-shirt, the hair clip that he used while washing his face remained on his head; the small one wore a red checkered blouse and green checkered skirt, on her head was a messy mop of long hair.

Both looked absolutely miserable and wrecked. Unable to say a word, they didn't even blink, they simply allowed time to pass slowly by.

"How... did it... turn out... like this..."

The first to speak was the larger corpse Ryūji. Placing his elbows on the table, he clutched his head and spoke softly,

"D... Did something go wrong? How did Kushieda Minori get the wrong idea..."

Ryūji finally saw a side of Minori he did not know: a very individualistic girl, unable to listen to other people. In other words, she was super egocentric. However, since she was Aisaka's best friend, it made sense that she had something in common with Aisaka.

"For Kushieda of all people... to misunderstand..."

And to have his crush of one year suddenly kneeling before him... Equally important, however, was that Aisaka also suffered the same blow as he did.


Aisaka shifted her blank gaze, looking upwards despondently while sitting very near the edge of the sofa. She'll slide down if she sits like that. Is this really the Palmtop Tiger? Is this really the Tiger of Class 2-C that can kick a guy miles away with just her gaze? The Tiger that roars with such ferocity? Ryūji began to feel genuinely sorry...

"A, Aisaka... pull yourself together..."

Ryūji stretched his arm across the table and shook Aisaka's tiny shoulder, but...


Aisaka's soul still had not returned.


Using up the remainder of his energy, Ryūji fell exhaustedly onto the table. Really... why did this happen?!

He should have already been used to feeling hurt.

Whether he was being misunderstood or giving the wrong impression, he should have been used to all this since kindergarten.

"... Ahh, that's it..."

Ryūji then realized why he was so shocked. It wasn't because he was misunderstood, it was because even after being misunderstood, what he received were cheerful smiles and serious words of encouragement instead... as a result, he was unable to properly explain himself and that was really why he was so frustrated.

I'm such an idiot! Ryūji cursed at himself. It's only to be expected... Even though she never really did fancy me, and I never really did do anything to win her heart. Just what was I expecting?! Perhaps I don't even have a right to feel dejected?

After remaining in that state for a few minutes, he raised his head, noticing something...


The sound of two glasses being placed on the table.

"... This is yours. I didn't know what you wanted, so, anyway... it's Peach West Indies, it's got plenty of vitamin C..."

Aisaka had silently gotten up from her seat, and had brought back two large glasses of red juice. After setting the glasses on the table, she slid back into her seat.

"... Aisaka..."

When did she start breathing again? Aisaka released a deep sigh in front of Ryūji. Sitting upright, she lifted her head and said,

"I'm sorry, it's because we're always sticking with each other... It's all because I always wanted to do it my way that it ended up like this... Always wanting Ryūji to get involved... For a hopeless master like me, I have no right to call you a stupid dog..."

Only her eyes maintained her usual sharpness. Although she said that, she seemed exhausted, and the glitter in her eyes lacked its usual luster.

A stone fell in the bottom of Ryūji's heart.

Aisaka feels the same. It's because we're always together that we got misunderstood and hurt! Whether it was Aisaka or me, we both got involved thoroughly. And because of that, always facing each other, always together...


"... Well... I don't really mind... us being... together..."

Ryūji wanted to say something, but decided to give up. Aisaka is also hurting inside! That's why... I can't just talk to her in a confident mood... This time Aisaka spoke,

"I've... decided."

Playing with the ice in the drink with her straw, she lifted her head and looked straight at Ryūji with a pair of determined eyes,

"Tomorrow, I'll just go and confess to Kitamura-kun. There'll be no room for foolish errors. I'm going to use the most straightforward... and normal way to confess."

Even though her eyes betrayed her insecurity, she still added, "I've decided."

The one gasping for air was actually Ryūji.

"... Aisaka... why... so sudden... No, right now you've hardly even had any progress with him..."

"That's right. There's no progress at all, not to mention..."

He misunderstood us, and I got you dragged in as well... She said that in a very soft voice,

"... Which is why, I want to put an end to this."

"An end? What do you mean..."

"Put an end to us 'being together all the time'."

She concluded.

After finishing, Aisaka's eyes turned clear, though her expression looked cold as though she had just fallen into a pool of water. Ryūji was speechless.

"You're free from today onwards! In this case, you can do whatever you like... I won't do anything. If you want to confess to Minorin or whatever, go ahead! ... No matter how my confession tomorrow ends up, you no longer have to listen to me."


"Your work as a dog ends today. From tomorrow onwards, we'll go back to our old selves... back to before the love letter!"

An emancipation declaration.

He no longer had to listen to her.

He was supposed to be happy for this moment!

Even then, Ryūji said nothing.

He could at least have said "Thanks for the company" or "Finally, a time to celebrate" or something like that. But he said nothing. Not even "Things will be lonely from now on"... absolutely nothing. Ryūji's brain could not come up with anything, all he could do was hold onto the icy glass... Even though his fingers were already beginning to get stung by the chill of the ice, even though his heart was now as cold as winter.

Yet for some reason Aisaka smiled... she smiled silently. Looking at Ryūji, she turned her eyes away from him abashedly and covered her mouth with her hands as she lowered her head,

"... It's very strange, why did we end up together like this? Even today, when we didn't even make any appointments! Two walking zombies who just naturally end up meeting here... Eating together every day... Constantly goofing off together or quarelling together..."

A small laugh emanated from her little hands, while her eyes squinted into crescent moon shapes. Aisaka was really laughing, the first time Ryūji had seen her laughing from the heart.

"I... don't want to go home, I don't want to go back to that place where it's just me alone, so I always barged into your place and even ate there, this is really... umm, very..."

Aisaka stopped what she was trying to say and shrugged silently. Just what is she up to? She shifted her gaze casually and then closed her eyes, as though carefully sealing away all that her eyes had seen, very gently, not making a single sound.

"It's... haha, how should I say this? But... umm, that's right, good thing I didn't starve to death. Um, I'm really clumsy, aren't I? You noticed that I live alone, right?"

Aisaka probably didn't see Ryūji nod.

"It's a cruel story. I didn't get along very well with my parents, and we were always arguing. One day I said 'I'm leaving this house', and they simply said 'Go ahead'. And then they gave me this apartment... Before I realized it, I was already thinking of moving out... But, I was too proud to take back what I said... And by the time I moved in, I discovered I couldn't do any housework... It's such a pain, really! There hasn't been one, not a single person who has come to see me... What's really stupid is that even when I knew my parents were those sort of people, I still insisted on moving out. Pretty dumb, huh? So go ahead and laugh! I won't get angry anymore."

Aisaka opened her eyes.

After saying all that in one go, Ryūji knew that her shoulders must have worn out already.

What the hell is this? Ryūji's made a grunt in the bottom of his throat.

I mean, what the hell is this?! This simple story that Aisaka told... isn't it one of those tragic stories of abandonment? Isn't this like a doll that got left alone in a castle after being abandoned by the king and his family?

But Aisaka was laughing, and it seemed like she was hoping Ryūji would laugh along as well. So...

"Heh... ha ha!"

That's why...

"Heh heh heh! Hahaha! Yeah, that's pretty dumb..."

"Told you so!"

Ryūji laughed, though his heart felt like it was being torn apart, he still tried his best to laugh happily and gently... Because no one had ever wished so strongly for him to laugh before.

It'll all end today. Everything will revert back to how they were before, from tomorrow onwards - Not even bothering to greet, back to being the Palmtop Tiger that no one dares to approach, back to having a terrifying classmate known as the Palmtop Tiger.

If that was the case, then he might as well laugh all he could now, and carefully observe Aisaka's last ever smile in this blandly decorated family restaurant.

Then, I might as well show her! I'm sure she'll laugh like hell after seeing that.

"Hahah, oh yeah, let me show you something interesting. You know who this is?"

That was an old photo he placed in his wallet.

"Huh? Ah... could this be... your dad?!"

"Bingo! You got it!"

"Pft! Wahahahahahaha!" A loud laughter that attracted the gazes of everyone around,

"Wha, what is this? You look just like him! Ahahaha! Man, that's so funny!"

"Look around his eyes... we're a match right? Me and this thug!"

"Enough already! Stop showing me that! Ahahahahahahaha!!!"

Twitching and holding back her tears, Aisaka lay on the table laughing, banging on it with her hands, kicking wildly with her legs. She continued to laugh even as her voice became hoarse. The perfectly inherited gangster face seemed to have triggered something within Aisaka. If the inherited feature for which he so despised could make her this happy, then perhaps it was something worth having after all.

"... I've never shown anyone this photo before."

"Ha, haha, man...! I don't think I've ever laughed this much before... How did you manage to get such genes?!"

"It's fun, right?"

"You bet! Ahh! That's right! As a token of gratitude for showing me your secret, let me also tell you something interesting as a reward... I'll tell you my secret."

"You know..." She said sneakily, covering her mouth to prevent her laughter from coming out; Aisaka's cheeks puffed crimson red while her eyes glittered like a prankster. She gestured Ryūji to come over as she whispered into his ear,

"... Those cookie crumbs were salty, weren't they?"


Her soft voice got Ryūji yelling. How? How did she know what they taste like...

"Heh heh! Actually when I retrieved the cookies, I gobbled one up out of frustration! You know what? They tasted horrible! But you didn't even let me stop you, and you ate them all in one go... and you even lied to me..."

She suddenly came out with such a revelation.

As Aisaka held her breath, even her smile became sad as she tried to look for words that she seemed to have lost. Sighing, she lowered her head and covered her expression,

"You... Ryūji, as a dog, you're a very stupid dog. But as a human... you're just about right! That's why... that's why I know, so let's end this... You're not a boring guy, our relationship, how should I say it... isn't a master and servant one, but one as equals..."

"You probably don't get what I'm saying anyway!" She added.

She suddenly stopped talking, when she raised her head again, Aisaka was back to her usual cold expression...

"I'm feeling hungry again." She said as she opened the menu, Ryūji did the same. They both ordered a hamburger steak dinner. "The steaks that you make definitely taste better!" They would then have their usual conversation, and then argue over who should head to the bar to get some drinks - of course it ended with Ryūji having to go. And then... their limited time together began to tick away by every minute and every second...

Time flows equally for everybody, with no pause whatsoever.

After paying the bill, the two walked along in the dark towards their apartments.

There's something magical about the night temperature in spring, the dreamy wind blows softly on the skin, causing it to itch. Ryūji could not bring himself to stop talking, and Aisaka was also unusually talkative.

For the duration of the twenty minute walk, Aisaka constantly rambled away... about how her mother was now living in some faraway city, how terrible her stepmother was, and how she was part of the reason Aisaka had chosen to move out.

Ryūji talked about living together with his mother, about how poor they were and how they were constantly ridiculed, as well as the creep that kept stalking Yasuko. He also mentioned about how he often got misunderstood thanks to his intimidating looks, he even spoke about the daily embarrassing stuff experienced through puberty.

Ryūji had never told anyone else about these personal woes, maybe it was because Aisaka too had told him about her personal problems... Am I right? Though he didn't ask that question as it was too intimate, but that was what he thought.

And then there were those happier days, and they lamented how time flew by too fast.

Still, no one can stop time from moving forward. It would flow slowly, and finally...

"... Ahhh, dammit!"

Under an electric pole in the street corner.

The unlucky pole had become the target for Aisaka to vent her frustration. Whack! Pong! The destructive attack went on and on. Looks like she's drunk!

"This is so unfair! ... Why must this world be so cruel to us little people?! Who can understand just how frustrated we are?!"

That tormented voice echoed throughout the residential area in the dark. Ryūji didn't stop her, and instead simply stood by Aisaka nodding approvingly,

"That's right! Damn right! Nobody knows that people with scary looks like me and Aisaka can also get depressed!"

"Ahh, this pisses me off... so pissed off! Pissed, pissed, I'm so friggin' pissed!!!"

She performed a series of kicks which a normal person wouldn't be able to pull off, then panted and turned her head suddenly,

"... Hey Ryūji! You feel troubled whenever you think of Minorin, right? Thinking about how there's no progress between you two, and what you should do to get together with her, right? You get all frustrated thinking of that, right?"

"Yeah, maybe!"

He only really started to begin thinking about that question after giving his answer. Come to think of it, I was always worrying about how to pass each day peacefully with Aisaka that I was too exhausted to even think about the torment in my heart...

"Then, does Ryūji ever... cry?"

"... Do you?"


Silence quickly engulfed them.

Aisaka lifted her head and stared into the night sky, moving away from the pole. She waved her messy hair, revealing her snow white face, which was clear and delicate.

"I've been thinking about all these things today... Whether I'll ever get close to him, or whether he already has a girlfriend... And, I think about other stuff... just like an idiot, thinking of many, many things... Probably no one will ever know... No one will ever understand me... No one..."

Her voice was now as soft as a mosquito, and although Ryūji couldn't hear properly, he felt as though the cloudy night sky had been silently engulfed by that lonely voice.

"... If everyone knew what kind of person you are, they would definitely be surprised!"

Ryūji also looked towards the sky, seeking for the moon while saying,

"Who would have guessed that even you would cry over such a thing? ... Only me, only I know."

"How shameless," Aisaka quipped. She sighed as her gaze wandered,

"... Ryūji, you're the same as me! No one understands you, except me, and I know quite a lot as well."

"What are you talking about?! ... Like what?"

"... Though Ryūji may look like that, he doesn't even dare talk to the girl he likes most; though he looks like that, he doesn't even know how to get angry with anyone; though he looks like that, he's definitely not the type to hurt anyone; though he looks like that, he's actually very good at cooking... And though his eyes look so scary that no one would dare approach him, he's actually a very considerate person... Am I right?"

"I never knew I was so hopeless."

"... You call that hopeless? ... I don't think so..."

Under the gentle spring breeze, Aisaka's hair now fluttered softly like a cloth. She held onto her hair with her fingers, while saying something softly with her lips:

You're actually a very gentle person.


Am I just a boring nice guy? He originally wanted to reply, but he couldn't say anything, because Aisaka's face seemed to be twisting in pain.

"... I, I'm just the exact opposite of you. I'm such a useless person, I'm not good at being gentle, and there are many things I don't know... Or I should say, there just aren't many things that I approve of! Anything that gets in my way, should, just, scram! All of them! All! Of! Them! ..."

Lifting the edge of her skirt, she stuck out her pure white legs and began kicking away...

"... I... AM... SO... PISSED...!!!"

She gave the icy cold electric pole a finishing blow. Ryūji was scared silly by this sudden burst of emotion and began to back away. Yikes! He muttered and thought, besides protecting this ferocious tiger, there was nothing else he could do.

"Dammit, dammit, dammit! What Palmtop Tiger?! Do they... seriously think... I wouldn't give a damn???!!! WHY?! Why doesn't anyone understand~???!!!"

The yellow moon appeared above them, as though summoned by the howls of the tiger.

The shadow of Aisaka abusing the electric pole lengthened on the cold tarmac road. Ryūji simply stood and watched, and then as he moved slightly closer to shorten the distance, his shadow too elongated.

Their shadows overlapped, though they did not actually come into contact with each other.

"Everyone... Every, single, one... pisses me off! ... That idiot Minorin! ... Why wouldn't she listen to me?! Same for Kitamura-kun! Why does everyone have to believe her?! Why won't anyone try to understand me?! Minorin, Kitamura-kun, everyone! ... All of them, even my parents, everyone, I... I'll never forgive them! Because, nobody, understands me! ... Nobody! Understands! Me!"

Aisaka wrapped the pole with her arms and kept knocking it with her knees until she could speak no more. She must've been tormented to the point of tears many times before, so much so that she must have choked on the tears swelling up in her throat and...

"Ugh, Uggghhh...!"

"Hey! Stop it, you idiot!"

She leaned backwards, preparing to use all she had to make a headbutt... Ryūji managed to stop her forehead with his palm in the nick of time. There's no way a forehead can beat an electric pole!

"But I'm just so pissed!"

She cried, this time with tears as well.

Aisaka had now become an innocent child who could not stop crying in the spring night. Oh boy! Ryūji decided he had made up his mind... sort of. Though he wasn't capable of doing something incredible, he could at least do something more useful than saying empty words like "I know how you feel". That's why...

"... Let me help you!"

He took a deep breath, and with all his strength as he puffed out his breath,


A person who was not used to kicking things had now joined in, he even did a few spinning kicks. Using techniques he had seen in K-1 tournaments, Ryūji's kicks shook the electric pole with his unreliable balance.

Ryūji and Aisaka probably looked despicable right now, attacking the pole together. This was because Ryūji had an enemy, and this enemy was like a rock getting in the way of his life, and Ryūji could clearly feel the threat it emanated. Aisaka too had an enemy... sort of. The same enemy that stands between her and her life truly exists. When Aisaka liked someone, or wished to be with someone, this enemy would appear and reveal its weight. Perhaps this enemy can be called "low self-esteem", or "fate", or "genetics", or "environment" or so on, it could even be called "self awareness during puberty" or "something one can't do alone". This enemy carries all sorts of names.

No matter what, it was impossible to try and defeat this enemy, and they had no idea how many times they would have to do battle with this shapeless enemy in the future. If they did not savagely kick the electric pole now, they probably wouldn't be able to vent their anger. They could have chosen to take it out on a wall or a bedsheet... but it seemed like this was the electric pole's unlucky day.

Ryūji decided to help based on that reason alone. No matter how stupid they were, or how foolish they were, or how bored they were, they had now transformed into savage beasts attacking ferociously while howling away in the spring night.

Aisaka's enemy looked especially bigger and heavier than Ryūji's... At least that's what Ryūji thought. Now I get it. You became a tiger in order to protect yourself from this unseen enemy. The pole now seemed to grow bigger, heavier, harder, and more difficult to strike down. Aisaka always hoped to have the power to fight against this enemy, that's why she had to become a tiger.

Amazing. Though Ryūji and Aisaka were still young, there was one thing they had in common. This was why Ryūji understood Aisaka so much. Whenever he saw her looking exhausted or starving to death, he just couldn't leave her alone.

No matter how annoyed, or how pissed he became, the truth was he just couldn't abandon her.

"Ryūji, move off!"

"Why'd you pick up that bat from the lawn... Whoa!"

Ryūji was startled by Aisaka suddenly lifting her head, and all thought vanished from his mind at the sight of her face.

There was a smile on her face, a very bitter smile. Glaring venomously, the Palmtop Tiger stared at her prey with a mood to kill...

"Take this!"

That sort of mood.

She walked some distance away to the end of the path, and then lifting up the edge of her skirt...

"Just you wait! Kitamura-kun! I'm going to confess to you right nooooowwww!!!"

The audience (Ryūji) gasped. After an explosive run, she did a flying kick with perfect timing: Her tiny body flew elegantly, and under the illumination of the moonlight, stretched out her right leg and aimed it towards the pole.


Ryūji couldn't help but close his eyes at the sight of such an exaggerated scene, and did not open them until he heard a loud thud of something landing on the ground. He then ran towards Aisaka, who had fallen beside the pole on her bottom.

"Idiot! Your leg..."

"... Ryūji, look!"


Aisaka pointed at the pole sticking up towards the sky. What about it? Ryūji turned to face Aisaka again, and saw her smiling triumphantly,

"Don't you think it's tilted now?"

"What?! That's not possible! How can it tilt just by someone kicking it..."

Ryūji glanced at the barbed wire beside the fence, and was quickly overcome by horror,

"... Damn, it's really tilted!"

"Told you!"

Yes! I win! Aisaka smiled to herself. Of course, it was possible that the pole was tilted to begin with; or maybe the barbed wire was crooked all along. Instead of Aisaka kicking the pole off balance, those two possibilities just sounded more plausible.

But Ryūji believed her...

He believed that the pole had indeed been bent by Aisaka the Palmtop Tiger.

Because she was smiling, after all.

"... Shoot, is that a cop?"

Maybe it was because they were too noisy, as they saw a silhouette riding a bicycle heading in their direction. It was indeed a uniformed policeman. Ryūji frantically turned to Aisaka,

"This is bad, let's get the hell outta here! Huh... what's wrong? You okay?!"

Ryūji looked at the fool who simply sat there without moving.

"It hurts..."

"No way!"

Aisaka still looked very pumped up from when she attacked the pole. Now she sat with the edges of her skirt spread out, rubbing her right knee with her tiny hand. She looked at Ryūji with a hopeless expression,

"I think, I may have injured myself during the kick... Ow!"

Her mouth formed an inverted V-shape. Oh dear! Ryūji scratched his head,

"Isn't that obvious?! Jeez... it seems to have swollen up..."

Ryūji knelt down in order to look more carefully and fretted his brow. Under the dimly lit streetlamp, he could clearly see on top of the tiny leg, a red lump on that white skin.

"... The pole must be very hard... Ow...!"

"Of course it is! Really..."

Ryūji sighed deeply. You're hopeless. He then knelt with his back towards her... I guess this is what they call chivalry. He seemed to be enjoying the feeling as well.

"Come, I'll carry you. Hey, wait... UMPH!"

He was looking forward to carrying her, but he forgot one thing: she was the Palmtop Tiger after all. Despite the pain in her leg, she still managed to leap up with a great force and land on Ryūji's back. She also held tightly onto Ryūji's neck, causing him to nearly suffocate.

"I... I can't... breathe..."

Ryūji frantically slapped on Aisaka's hand, which was pressed against his windpipe and artery, trying to tell her that his life was in danger.

"Oh no, Ryūji! Isn't that a cop? We'd better run!"

Didn't I already point that out a while ago?! ... Since his throat was being strangled and unable to talk, Ryūji had no choice but to start running.

Taking the long route into a quiet alley, Ryūji ran silently in the dark. They came to a small alley devoid of illumination. In the surreal silence, neither said a word. Sensing each other's warmth, they didn't even convey how scared they felt to each other.

Ryūji was indeed carrying Aisaka on his back.

Aisaka's chin softly rubbed against the rapidly beating pulse on Ryūji's neck.

Without speaking, she simply pointed ahead, towards a traffic light which was barely visible at the end of the alley...


Clang! A low smashing sound resonated; Aisaka gave a yelp.

"What? What happened?!"

Ryūji quickly stopped and turned to look at Aisaka on his back. Feeling her breathing very closely, they exchanged glances in the dark,

"T, there seems to be a road sign... and I bumped my forehead into it."

"Wha?! Why didn't you dodge it?!"

"It was too sudden! And I can't see anything in this darkness! Did you not see anything either?! ... Ouch, dammit..."

"Where'd it hit you? Over here?"

Ryūji stretched his hand and touched Aisaka's burning forehead - since it was pointless to look in such darkness.

"... Doesn't seems to be bleeding, and there's no lump... I think you'll be fine."

"How unlucky."

"This has got nothing to do with luck, you're just too stupid."

"What did you say?!" Ryūji quickly carried Aisaka, who was protesting and catching her breath, and started running again. Once they reached the main road, they wouldn't be far from home.

"... It's good that you weren't hurt."

As the sound of a police whistle blowing could be heard some distance away, the person riding on Ryūji's back probably couldn't hear his muttered words.

"You have to confess your feelings tomorrow. It'll be bad if you scratch your face... so it's ok!"

Aisaka said nothing.

It's good...

He felt Aisaka's soft cheek pressing on his neck... riding on his back without any injury. That's good... As long as she stays like this, it'll be fine.

After making sure the police bike wasn't pursuing them, they finally emerged from the small alley and returned to the dazzling light from the streetlamps of the main road. As they walked, they crossed paths with commuters returning home after the day's work, as well as some old ladies walking their dogs. Everyone was busy in their own way, and didn't bother to look at Ryūji and Aisaka. Whether it was commuters, blue collars, old ladies, or old geezers, everyone had their own enemy to fight against, and they probably all wanted to have a night where they could kick the crap out of an electric pole. Though the reason they didn't do that was because they were all grown up.

Suddenly, the image of all those people taking their frustration out on the electric pole popped into Ryūji’s head, and he couldn't help but laugh to himself, which Aisaka noticed and asked,

"What're you laughing at?"

Aisaka stuck out her head, her breath landing right on Ryūji's cheek.

"Nothing... just something useless."

"Eh?! What is it? Come on! Tell me!"


His neck was being strangled.

"W, why you..."

"Cause I'm curious! Just what're you laughing at?"

"... Like I said, it's nothing important, so don't worry about... I... I can't breathe!"

"If you don't want to say it, then I'll make sure you won't be able to for the rest of your life."

Seriously... how can people like this exist? Ryūji wondered while keeping his windpipe clear so he could argue with her. As a tyrannical tiger, she's forceful, violent, selfish and obnoxious. Just how many times have I suffered thanks to spending time with her? There's that time, and that time, and that...

Come to think of it... those pains seem to have mellowed as I think more about them. There's probably no emotion under that warm body of hers right now. Even as we approach that Bourgeoisie-style apartment block, she probably won't have any change in emotion like always...


The arms that held onto his neck suddenly loosened.

"You can drop me off here."

Aisaka said, tapping on Ryūji's shoulder.

In front of the apartment block entrance, Aisaka elegantly leapt off Ryūji's back. As his back became free of the burden, Ryūji felt the weight disappearing, but he also felt the warmth disappearing. As everything disappeared, Ryūji turned to look at Aisaka standing before the glass door.

He then felt his heart hurting as though it were being blocked... So it really hurts.

"This is it, Ryūji. And we're just in time, look!"

She lifted her tiny hand and showed him her watch. The two hands on the face of the watch pointed exactly at 11:59.

"Ahh, I'm so tired... At least we made it home peacefully. It all ends today, right now. After today, you'll no longer be my dog. There's thirty seconds left... Hey, do you have anything to say before then?"

"... Anything to say... what do you mean?"

"You do have some last words to say as my stupid dog, don't you, Ryūji?"

"... Well... to suddenly ask me to say something..."

Standing two meters before him, Aisaka smiled, at least she looked like she was smiling. She tilted her tiny neck, as though expecting Ryūji to speak. But what could I say... what could I say...

"... Ten seconds... Five seconds..."

He couldn't say anything.

A breeze blew between the two. Aisaka lowered her hand and said,


"Yeah... S, see you tomorrow! And good luck!"

That was all he said.

"Goodbye, Takasu-kun."


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