It was now two o'clock on Sunday. Ryuuji had left the house and was walking to the mall alone. He would have taken the train, but he was afraid he would not have enough for his date. Lucky for him, the wind was blowing as he walked across the bridge he and Ami walked over to get to her house. He sighed.
How did it come to this? Kawashima and I were just to put on a show, and then I had to say I was taking her on a date. Bah! I couldn't think of anything else. Even Kawashima had brought it up again and again throughout the week in conversation. She hadn't really spoken to me about it, like reassuring me it was just for show and we weren't going on a date. Then I got that phone call from her yesterday, saying we should do it since more people might see. I don't know if she's expecting we will really bonk into someone from school or something… The more I think about it, the more I feel this is an actual date.
Ryuuji walked along the road's sidewalk for fifteen more minutes until he reached entrance to the commercial zone. The destination was at the center of this people-crowded area. Like most people enjoying their day-off, he wore a normal t-shirt and some blue jeans. The shirt he wore was a red shirt with design of a dragon curled up in a ball and facing outward on the chest area of the shirt. Over the shirt, he wore a white, light hoodie unzipped. Ryuuji looked forward to see the three-story, white-painted mall in front of him.
Well, I'm here.
Ryuuji crossed the street along the crosswalk and saw the clock lamppost that he told Ami to meet him by. When he got there, he saw her standing near the lamppost. He briefly stopped as he was taken by her beauty. Ami had brushed her long, blue hair down like she normally did. She wore little blush; the same amount she used at school. A pink, slightly formal blouse, light blue pants, and white shoes that looked like Converse made her attire. Ryuuji also saw two girls taking to her and a few boys gawking at her from the distance. As he approached, he heard the conversation Ami was having with the middle-school girls.
"Well, if you try hard, then your classmates will notice you. You just need to be confident in whatever make over you decide to do."
"But I'm not sure," said one of the girls. "My glasses get in the way."
"Mm… Let me see those."
The orange-haired girl took off her metallic red framed glasses and handed the squared glasses to Ami. Ami put them on and quickly went into a model pose; she had one hand behind her head and the other one on the left side of her waist.
"Say, Ryuuji. What do you think? Do I look great?"
Ryuuji's face turned red as he turned away from Ami and rubbed the tip of his nose with his finger. Ami smiled.
"See, he's so stunned by my beauty I left him speechless."
Ami took off the glasses and gave them back to the girl.
"It's all about how you look at yourself," said Ami. "You should try to present yourself with fashion, but try to not go overboard. Even one blouse or the way you do your hair can make the difference."
The orange haired girl nodded as her short black-haired friend looked at Ryuuji.
"Ms. Kawashima, do you know this guy?"
Ami smiled and walked over to Ryuuji to grab his hand.
"Yes," she happily said. "He's my boyfriend."
The two girls, shocked on the inside, turned from Kawashima to Ryuuji, wondering if the scary-eyed guy tricked the model into dating him. However, after seeing Ami's genuine smile, another thought came in. Probably Ami just liked troublemakers.
"O-oh, really," said the orange-haired girl. "Um, we don't want to annoy you or anything, so please excuse us."
The two girls bowed and left. Ryuuji looked at the two girls walking away and then faced Ami.
"Looks like you're having fun without me," he said as he led Ami towards the mall.
"I waited for ten minutes at the lamppost, and I didn't want to attract attention, but it happened."
"Probably, you should have worn a sun hat."
"And mess up this beautiful hair?"
"Right, right. It's like how you always say: Ami-chan is so wonderful."
"I feel like you're making fun of me," grunted Ami.
The two entered the mall. As they did, a honey-blonde doll saw them from a distance. She evilly smirked as she winded up her hand. Wearing a yellow dress and short bottoms to cover her underwear, she thought she would blend into the crowd unseeing, but due to her stature, she was somewhat noticeable.
Taiga faced leftward to see a middle school student with short, black hair and blue eyes. He wore a plan black t-shirt and some dark blue pants. His skin was as white as Ryuuji's skin, and he was about Taiga's height. The smile he gave Taiga crept her out.
"Whatcha doing all alone? Want to keep me company, Doll?"
Taiga narrowed her eyes and did not rely as she stared at him coldly. However, the boy couldn't take the hint and grabbed her hand.
Taiga quickly twisted his hand around his pressure points and dragged him to the ground.
"No one...calls me...D-oll."
She threw his hand down and stormed off to follow Ryuuji and Ami. People just looked at the boy on the ground, paralyzed by the pain Taiga inflicted on him. They only did this for a few seconds and continued back to their Sunday walk, not bothering to help him up.
Ryuuji looked around the clothing department, wishing he was not the only guy there. In this outlet inside the mall, there were only a few customers, all of them girls. There were racks and hangings of womanly clothing and accessories. He, instructed by Ami, was to wait in front of the changing rooms until she put on the sky blue dress. As he waited, he heard the gossip between two girls about him.
"Who is that guy with? He's kind of creepy."
"Yes, but he did come in with a cute girl."
"A cute girl? Are you sure?"
"I don't know if a cute girl suits him though."
Ryuuji sighed and looked down.
Maybe the mall was a bad idea, thought Ryuuji.
Ryuuji looked up to see Ami. Once again, her beauty beamed as she wore the white dress that looked like a long, wavy skirt and a blouse were finely stitched together. The women at the store were all taken by Ami's appearance. Ami smiled. Ryuuji blushed a little.
"I can tell by your face you're stunned by Ami-chan's beauty," she teased.
Ryuuji cleared his throat as his blush vanished. He warmly smiled at her.
"I think it looks great," he said, being polite about it.
Ami turned from Ryuuji and walked over to the mirror near the changing room. All she could do was grin and praise herself as she saw her image.
"Oh, my! Ami-chan looks adorable!"
She does look at the mirror a lot when she changes. It can be kind of annoying, but that's her personality. The mall is the idle place for her.
"Takasu, come here."
Ryuuji walked over to Ami and looked at her. She was staring at herself in the mirror, hardly smiling. Ryuuji grew somewhat concerned about this sudden change in personality.
"It's kind of funny, seeing myself in the mirror. You know that myth about mirrors. How they are supposedly portals to parallel worlds. How what you see is your parallel self? Outside, I act like this nice, innocent Ami, but when I see a mirror, I can't help release my arrogant self. Makes you wonder if what you see in they mirror is your true self."
"I guess. I mean, if the images you see is your parallel self, wouldn't your parallel self want the opposite you want?"
"What do you mean?" asked Ami, facing him.
"Your parallel self would want to be more like the fake you."
"Mm… I guess…you're right in that sense."
"Mirrors may see your true self, but they can't react like us people; they can't say their opinion about the real you. I don't know what would happen if they see the mirrored you, but I know there will be a few people who truly accepts it."
Ami looked at Ryuuji dumb-folded and then smiled.
Ryuuji nodded, causing Ami to turn away and blush slightly.
"C'mon. I know of a place where you can be the real you where people can accept you."
Ami nodded and went back to the changing room as Ryuuji waited for her. Unknowingly to both of them, Taiga had found them and were looking at them through the large windows of the store, gritted her teeth. She had stayed there for the length of their conversation. An associate from the store, who had noticed her for a while, walked out of the store and approached her.
"Miss, is there anything I can help with?" came the associate's sweet, feminine voice.
"Stupidchi," grumbled Taiga, "stupidchi, stupidchi, stupidchi."
"Miss?" the associate acknowledged more loudly.
Taiga turned to her coldly, giving the high school associate chills down her spine. Worried, the girl backed away.
"Sorry about that," the girl said with a faint heart and quickly went back into the store.
Taiga huffed and walked away from the store.
"The arcade?" questioned Ami as she stood in front of the wide entrance with Ryuuji.
"Takasu, are you a gamer or something?"
Ami faced Ryuuji.
"Then why did you bring me here?"
"Well, this was the only place I could where you could be yourself."
"You'll see what I mean. For now, let's go play a game."
Ryuuji walked inside as Ami followed by his side.
"Mm… Let's see what they have."
As the two walked inside, Taiga saw them in the distance as she finished slurping her soda through a straw.
She finished slurping her cola and tossed it in the trash near her. As she walked towards the arcade, she heard some familiar voices. She looked to her left to see two of Ami's friends, Maya and Nanako. She frantically looked left and right, seeing that she was in an open space of the mall. She quickly turned the opposite way Ami's friends were coming from and was quickly walking away until she heard her name.
Taiga froze and turned around. Maya was waving at her. She faked a smile with nervous eyes. The two girls approached her, giving Taiga enough time to fake her entire expression.
"Aisaka," said Nanako, "how's it going?"
"G-Great. Just, you know, doing some shopping."
"Did you just get here?" asked Maya.
"Well, I don't see any bags."
"O-O-Ohh, yeah. I just got here."
"Did you come alone?"
"Yeah," said Taiga with a hint of sadness. Lucky for her, the girls did not catch it.
"Well, since Takasu's on his date with Ami, it's to be expected," stated Nanako.
"Hey!" exclaimed a happy Maya as she clapped her hands together. "Let's go shopping together. Nanako and I were going to get an outfit and then go to the spa."
"Th-that sounds fun, but-"
"Great," said Maya with a smiling face. "Let's go."
Maya gently placed a hand on Taiga's back and guided Taiga in the direction she and Nanako were going. Taiga reluctantly allowed this, knowing that if she said no and went into the arcade or if she ran away, they would tell Ryuuji and Ami. It was best if she followed them and lied about being in the mall only for shopping.
"Takasu, you expect me getting on that thing," Ami whispered.
The two had found a game called Wave Racer. It was a racing arcade game where the players raced with computer generated players on tracks in the water with jet skis. To control your player, there was an actual jet ski you could climb on and move as if you were really riding a jet ski in the water. There were two machines side-by-side, which meant that two friends could race against each other or in a race including six computer players.
"I'm not sure," said Ami.
"Let's try and see. I think you might like it."
"Fine. If I don't though, you buy me a crepe."
"Promise?" Ami asked with her shy, model voice.
Ryuuji, ignoring the tone of her voice, nodded. Ami got on the jet ski, trying to figure out how to sit on it. After putting her feet where they needed to go and her hands on the turning handles which acted like the throttle, reverse switch, and the brake, she chuckled nervously.
"Never even got on one of these in real life."
Ryuuji smiled and inserted coins in both the games. He got onto the arcade jet ski next to Ami's jet ski and situated himself comfortably. Ami saw this and smile slyly.
"My, Takasu. You make it look so easy to get on. Have you ever played this game?"
"No, but I've seen other people play it last year. Here. Select your player by turning the handle bar left or right and turn the throttle when you're done."
Ami did so and selected a female character. Ryuuji selected his character and jet ski. The waiting screen appeared. Ryuuji looked over at Ami who was looking at a fashionable jet ski with blue flames and a black background. However, the stats of that jet ski was high acceleration, medium top speed, and hard turning.
"Takasu, what do you think? Does it fit my character?"
"I don't know. Did you see the stats? I think it might better that you pick another one."
"But I checked the other ones, but they don't fit my character."
"All I'm saying is that it might be too hard for you. How about pick one with moderately slow acceleration, medium high top speed, and somewhat easy turning?"
"But I like this design."
"You can pick it if you want, but I'm suggesting you take it easy since it's your first time playing."
Ami thought about it and grumbled.
"If you say so."
She finally found another jet ski she liked that meet Ryuuji's suggestion. She selected it, and the two began the countdown for the race.
"When it reaches to one, turn the throttle and go like if you were driving a car."
Ami and Ryuuji were playing against each other in one race. Both were close to each other, Ryuuji in the lead. Ami, wanting to win, turned her throttle to max speed to catch up to him. She moved the handle of the jet ski left and right as she raced her character through the physics-defying course. She neared Ryuuji, but she could not pass him. It was not until the final turn that Ryuuji accidentally made a wide turn as Ami made an inner turn. Ami glanced at Ryuuji when she passed him, only to see his worried face. Ami looked back at the screen and saw her player pass the finish line first. Excited, her hands shot up into the air as she celebrated her victory.
"Yeah! Ami-chan's the best! I beat Takasu!"
"Did you have fun?"
"Yes," smiled Ami. "Now Takasu has to buy me a crepe."
"I won, you lost. Loser buys me a crepe."
"Wait! I didn't agree to that!"
"You think I'll miss any opportunity for a crepe?"
"Fine. I get it."
"Good, but first I need to excuse myself to the restroom. I can meet you at the entrance of the arcade."
Ami smiled and trotted off to the restroom. Ryuuji smiled.
I guess games also bring out her true personality. Well, games and mirrors might be portals to different worlds, so it makes some sense, I think."
Ryuuji got off the ride and walked towards the entrance. As he walked, he started to be deep in thought. Today, Ami surprised him. To spend this amount of time with her made him think differently of her. Of course, she was her usual self, but there was still something different. Somehow, there was a little more understanding between them. Ryuuji knew that Ami acted nice and innocent at times when people were staring at her, but her true self would appear to either people who knew how selfish and spoiled she was or through mirrors and, now, video games.
"I wonder what I would see if I looked at a mirror?"
As Ryuuji was in deep thinking, he did not notice what was in front of him and bonked into someone that was facing the other way. Ryuuji snapped back into reality and moved back a couple steps. He saw a male teenager about his age turning around towards him with an agitated face. Ryuuji was kind of taken by how agitated this person was by an accidental bonk. The person had brown hair that a Caesar hair style. His eyes were reddish brown, and his skin was as white as Ryuuji's skin. He was about three inches shorter than Ryuuji, and he seemed somewhat physical, though his chest did not pop out. He wore a brown, unbuttoned long-sleeve shirt over a faded green t-shirt. He wore blue pants that complimented the brown shirt. He looked at Ryuuji, waiting for something.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Ryuuji said, slightly bowing his head.
"Seems like you were not watching where you were going. A simpleton like you should watch where he is going."
This kid is kind of rude. Maybe he's just having a bad day… Kind of reminds me of Taiga
"What? Do I have something on my face?"
"Not at all. I'm sorry about bonking into you. You seemed stressed."
"Well, I came here to relax and clear my mind. It's Sunday, right? Unfortunately, I am busy today and only have this hour of me time. I still have stuff to do, and I was enjoying my chocolate until you bonked into me. Luckily, I caught it."
"Once again, I'm sorry," Ryuuji said, tilting his head in apology.
"Just be careful where you're going, okay?"
"Yes. Um, excuse me."
Ryuuji walked pass the guy and exited the arcade to wait for Ami. He looked out into the mall, remembering the guy for only a moment.
Definitely reminds me of Taiga.
Taiga rubbed her nose to dry off the wetness the sneeze had caused as she continued to walk out of the mall with Ami's friends. To make sure her manicure did not go to waist, she rubbed her nose with her arm.
"Bless you," said Maya.
"Thanks… Ugh… I feel like someone's talking behind my back."
"I doubt that, Aisaka," said Nanako.
"Must be the boy I met that I twisted his arm for calling me Doll."
"Um…yeah," Maya replied with a nervous and frightened face.
The sun's rays dimly pierced the night sky as Ryuuji exited Ami's aunt's house. From the mall, they bought crepes from a stand and then left for home. When they arrived to the house, it was five. Ami's aunt, a slightly big lady with curly, dark sea blue hair with reddish brown eyes, greeted them. Ami was surprised by this, but she then remembered that it was Sunday. Every Sunday, her aunt would close the store early and come back around three. Her aunt was a workaholic, usually working until ten every night. This was so that she could take the whole month of July off to travel a part of the world. After greetings, Ami's aunt invited Ryuuji to stay for dinner. During dinner, Ryuuji and Ami talked how they met, what Ryuuji usually did at home, about school, and how today went. Once dinner was over, Ryuuji excused himself and Ami walked him out. Once outside on the other side of the door, they had their own private conversation.
"Your aunt is very nice."
"Yeah. I'm surprised she doesn't get stressed out from work since she's there almost all the time."
"Yeah… So, about tomorrow's-"
"Let's not bring that up now. Let me enjoy this moment with no worries."
"Kawashima…" Ryuuji whispered.
"Hey, Takasu. Thank you for today. I had fun being myself with you."
"To be honest, you didn't have to do this."
"What do you mean? I accidentally told my classmates about it. I kind of have to keep my word after that."
"Yeah, but we could've stayed home and made up the whole thing."
"But you said that it would be good if more people saw."
Ami slyly smiled.
"I was just referring to our class. It's not like we bonked into anyone from school, and even if they said they didn't see us in the same place, we could make up the time or where we were."
Ryuuji stood there with a dull face with the word 'dunce' written across the forehead as Ami laughed at him for a few seconds.
"Oh, Takasu. The look on your face…"
Ami slowly stopped her laughter.
"And that's why I say thank you for today. Alright, Takasu. I'll see you tomorrow."
Ryuuji watched as Ami entered her house and closed the door behind her. He shook his head, having flashbacks of the day, and smiled.
Ryuuji left the property and started to walk home. As he walked, he thought about tomorrow.
I wonder what this guy will be like. If he was in the modeling business and dated Kawashima, he probably thinks high of himself. The way Kawashima described her story with him also makes him seem this way. I guess once you had a taste of a celebrity, you would want to keep it. That's how some are. Hmm… Hopefully, we can set him straight, and he'll leave Kawashima alone. Then we have to apologize to the class for our big lie.
Ryuuji made it to the bridge and started to walk across it when he saw someone at the center of it, looking down at the water. The person sneezed and rubbed her nose with her arm as she looked down at her reflection.
She sneezed and rubbed her nose again. Soon afterwards, she felt something light covering her head and body. She looked to her left shoulder to see that the thing on her was a white light jacket. She looked towards her right to see Ryuuji standing there.
"Idiot. You're going to get a fever wearing that."
"Ryuuji…" Taiga whispered.
"Besides, why are you out here?"
Taiga looked out at the small river canal.
"Why do you care? Shouldn't you be dating Stupidchi anyways?"
"She's at home. I dropped her off."
Taiga stood silent, just looking at her nails. Ryuuji then realized something.
"Your nails seem cleaner than before."
"I got a manicure."
"Stupidchi's friends invited me to get my nails done at the mall."
"Well, that's nice of them… Wait. The mall? Taiga, did you-"
Taiga's cheeks turned red as she angrily faced Ryuuji.
"Yeah right! Kihara and Kashii just invited me, and I thought it would be fun. I didn't follow you or anything like that!"
"I didn't say that you were following me."
Taiga's blush brightened.
"B-But you were gonna!"
"That's it, stupid dog! You better make me something or else!"
"Huh? Why are you changing the subject?"
"I can and I will!"
"You're not making any sense," sighed Ryuuji.
"Because someone forgot to feed me," she said, kind of irritated.
"You know you could have gone to Johnny's."
"Think of it as punishment for surprising me with this date thing!"
Taiga grabbed Ryuuji's arm and pulled on it fiercely. Taken by surprise, Ryuuji was pulled down quite a bit until Taiga released him. Ryuuji stood back up and rubbed the spot where Taiga had gripped him. He cleared his throat.
Taiga smirked and started to walk.
"I want the plum drink and rice balls with soybeans inside."
Ryuuji heaved into a smile and followed Taiga home.
"Good morning, class," said Yuri from the front of the classroom. "Today, we will be having our transfer student joining us."
The smiling teacher looked at the door of the classroom and called for the student to come in without calling his name. The student, in school uniform, walked from the door to the front of the class, receiving some distressful looks from a few guys, including Koji, and dreamy looks from a copy of girls, including Nanako. Though his appearance was new to most of the class, two people recognized him. One was Ami, who was looking out the window. The other one remembered that he had bonked into the same guy at the arcade yesterday; Ryuuji. The new student faced the class after writing his name on the board and presented himself with a somewhat cool looking smirk.
"My name is Fujita Hakuoh. I'm looking forward to this class."