The three were immediately seated at the cake shop, cutting in front of three couples in line. Ryuuji felt the death glares on his back as he was told by the waitress that they had a special seating for him and his party. Ryuuji assumed this was all Hakuoh's doing. Even if he was with the famous Ami Kawashima, there would still be a tad of a wait, maybe five minutes tops. Of course, they would have apologized for taking what they cited to be so long. Most likely Ami would cheerfully say thank you, but in her mind, she would complain about how long the waitresses and waiters took. Ryuuji and company sat down at a wooden table near a large, elegant window. Ryuuji then realized the window was large enough for anyone from the outside to look inside. Even though there were no securities cameras, Hakuoh was still watching from outside the shop and through his father's employees. A female waitress with long, purple hair and blue eyes approached them. She wore a pinkish maid dress, which seemed to be the uniform for the establishment.
"Hello. May I get you something to drink?"
"I'll have water," said Ryuuji.
"I'll go with a Cola," said Ami.
"Soy milk," said Taiga.
"Um, we have regular milk."
Taiga narrowed her eyes at the waitress. Tension was high between them, causing the waitress to nervously smile.
"Right, a cup of soy milk."
The waitress left in a rush. As Ryuuji grabbed the menus on the table and passed them around, Ami looked at Taiga.
"Soy milk? Since when do you drink soy milk?"
"Well, if it's like beans, it will help."
Ami was confused by what she said. She faced Ryuuji, only to see his hand covering his face. She looked back at Taiga who had crossed her arms and formed a small blush on her cheeks. Confused, she looked back at Ryuuji.
"Am I missing something?" she asked to no one in particular.
Ryuuji dropped his hand.
A sharp pain entered his leg. The little tiger, who had sat across from Ryuuji, had kicked his shin. Annoyed, he sternly faced Taiga. She displayed a pouted face. Ryuuji coughed to clear his throat and faced Ami.
"Ami, how is it going in the modeling business? Do you have any photo shoots coming up?"
Ami wanted to challenge why Ryuuji changed the subject, but she let it slide. It seemed kind of personal to Taiga. The pouted face had given it away.
"Oh, um, not for a while. We have those college placement tests."
Ryuuji remembered that the college placement tests were in fact coming up in a few weeks. However, he did not care much for it. He was not a bad student. It was just why bother trying to go when you had no money to get in for college.
"Say Ryuuji, are you going to college?"
"Um," started Ryuuji, rubbing the back of his neck. "Well, I'm not sure if I am college material."
"Huh? Aren't you like the top twenty-five in are class?"
"I'm more like the twenty-fifth," sighed Ryuuji.
"Yeah, but you're smart enough," she said, and then whispered, "and smarter than me."
"Did you say something?"
Ami shook her head.
"Nothing, but Ryuuji, you should try to see what you want to do. I kind of image you as a chef."
Ami nodded, silently blushing.
"The food you make is good. Too good. I'm pretty sure if you opened a restaurant, it would be successful."
"Yeah," Ryuuji breathed, knowing that he had to think about it more. He had time to think about it. After all, he had one more year to think long and hard. Maybe being a chef would be nice.
"And you might even get your own cooking show."
"I don't know about my plans, but I have to think about it."
"There's a lot more about entering college than just scores," he replied, slightly coldly.
Ami felt she was on thin ice with him. She figured not to press any further.
"How about you?" asked Ryuuji. "What do you plan to do after high school?"
"Oh. I think I'll take acting lessons and follow my mom."
"Right, your mom is shooting a film right now."
"Yeah. She's in Kochi, shooting for a movie. I think they're almost done."
"So then, you'll do no more modeling."
"Basically. I got into modeling because my dad forced me to. Even after he left, I still continued because it's an opportunity to get famous and then go into acting."
"Um… Don't American models do that and then fail?"
"What do you mean?"
"Like that girl from Transformers."
Ryuuji somewhat slowly pronounced the actors name in English.
"Oh, Megan Fox. Please, I'll develop better acting skills than her."
Ryuuji formed a smile.
"You probably will. And you say her name so effortlessly. Do you go to America often?"
"Just like beaches and resorts. Hey, I can let you come with me if you want."
"To America? I don't want to be a hassle or anything."
"No, it's fine. Think of it as a reward to spend time with Ami-chan."
Both of them heard someone clear their throat. They looked across the table and saw Taiga staring coldly at them. Ryuuji was taken by her stare as Ami gently rubbed her finger on her chin.
"Oh, Taiga can come too."
"The way you make it sound is like it's involuntary," sneered Taiga.
"Well, I'm not sure," said Ryuuji. "For us to go with you, we would have to buy tickets, find a room in hotel, and still have money for food and sight-seeing."
"What do you mean we? Stupid Dog."
Right, Taiga's father still owns that banking company or whatever. These two are richer than me, yet they are totally dense when it comes to taking care of themselves. I'm like their unpaid maid.
"Don't worry about room or airfare. I can cover for you for the airplane ticket for helping me out."
Ami then silently tilted her head down in a way a cute girl was hiding the fact she was embarrassed.
"And I can always ask for a two-bed room, so you can stay in my room."
Ryuuji did not really know how to reply and just stood still, blushing. Taiga pushed herself out of the table and stood to her feet. Ryuuji and Ami faced her as her cheeks were swallowed.
"H-Hey! Th-There's no wa-way the t-t-two of-of you are-are-are-are sharing a room if we go. Ryuuji's my dog, so if we go, he stays in my room."
Being the klutz she was, Taiga really thought of what she said two seconds after she said it. Her face reddened as a red tomato and steam seemed to be coming out of her ears, metaphorically. She looked down and took a deep breath to relax.
"Get me the strawberry shortcake."
Taiga left to the restrooms. Ryuuji watched her leave and then faced Ami, who sat next to him.
"Hey, you didn't have to go that far."
Ami had dropped her teasing face.
"Geez, aren't you being Tagia's big-shot father?"
"Look. All I'm saying is to not tease her in something that wouldn't happen."
"You think I'm joking about that," she mumbled as her face grew serious. "Stupid."
Ryuuji was taken by surprise at her words. She sighed.
"I'm not joking. I think it'll be fun if I had a real friend with me. I may need to pull some strings, but I think I can do it."
Can't even take a hint. Stupid Ryuuji… No. He's not the only stupid one. Why did I have to fall for him?
The waitress came back with their drinks and asked if they were ready to order. Ami ordered a red velvet piece of cake, and Ryuuji ordered an angel cake and Taiga's strawberry shortcake. The waitress left as Ryuuji looked out towards where the restrooms were.
"I hope Taiga is alright. She just used the restroom at the arcade and now here."
"Don't rush it, Ryuuji. A girl needs her privacy."
Ami had a feeling why Taiga would take long. When Taiga rushed herself to the restroom at the arcade, it was not the fact she needed to go. The whole situation with Ryuuji giving Ami the bear had upset her, and she just needed a place to vent her feelings. Ami knew what she was doing. She had heard the whimpers from Taiga and the aura for the need to get over Ryuuji. However, the fact she was struggling with it was a clear implication that Taiga truly loved Ryuuji. She may try to deny it all she wanted, but there was no way of escaping it. Even if she ran away, the thought would still linger, because the fact Taiga truly loved Ryuuji. Ami lightly clenched her fists.
"It's not fair," she mumbled to herself.
"Ami, did you say something?"
Ami quickly relaxed and changed faces. She shook her head.
Ryuuji did not buy it.
"Are you sure? You seem un-"
"Ryuuji, I'm fine. Don't press on it."
Ami looked slightly down. Suddenly, she felt warmth on her head. She looked over to Ryuuji to see him in adult mood. She mentally blushed.
"When are you going to stop? Something's wrong. You're just being childish again."
She diverted her eyes away from Ryuuji with a sadden expression.
"It's not fair," she grumbled.
"Fair? What's not fair?"
"Geez, Ryuuji. Do you know anything about a girl's feelings?"
Ryuuji blushed as he retracted his hand from Ami's head to the back of his neck. Ami completely faced him.
"Where is this coming from?"
"Just answer me."
"Well, probably not. Yasuko is the only female I got to know really well."
"Yasuko? You mean your mom? Stupid Ryuuji. That doesn't count. I mean those girls that you could…d-date."
Ryuuji's blush deepened as he dropped his hand to his lap.
"The first girl I got to know why was Taiga, and then you, and then Kushieda. I get it when you and Taiga are angry, sad, and happy. I just don't know why."
"You don't know why?" wondered Ami, kind of irritated.
"I do try to find reasoning, but I mostly don't get it… I learned that when you seemed upset with me after winter break. I thought I knew why, but it wasn't the true reason. You know, the more I think about it, the more I realize I'm clueless as to why you were mad at me."
Ami thought back to that time in the beginning of the semester. She was annoyed by Ryuuji by the fact he was still playing this game of house with Taiga and Minori. She basically wanted that whole idea to drop and for Ryuuji to choose between them. She knew one of them would get hurt. That is why she did not get involved in the actual gameplay and acted more like a catalyst. However, the more she pushed and became involved with the three, the more she would likely fall into the game and acted like the close coworker of the father who was interested in him. She was not only mad at Ryuuji, but in some slight way or form, she was also mad at herself.
"Oh, yeah, that. That's old history. What's important is the future and how we respond to it."
"Doesn't the future get dictated by the present?"
Embarrassed, Ami pouted.
"Yo-You know what I mean."
Finishing up in the restroom with fixing her natural appearance, Taiga looked at the mirror with her stubborn, irritated face.
"Stupidchi. Stupid Dog. I'm being treated like the third wheel. Why am I even here? It's obvious it's a date."
Taiga turned off the faucet and looked at the mirror again. She looked at her whole image, especially at her chest, and sighed.
How can I compete with her?
With that thought, Taiga walked out of the restroom with her head down and walked through the short hallway that had the doors to the restrooms and a payphone. Upon entering the large dining floor, she lifted her head. She wished she had not done so. She saw her table in the distance and the two people sitting there. She had witnessed something she knew that was a part of a date, and she had just seen it: Ami leaning over and kissing Ryuuji.