Thursday, March 15, 2012

Toradora! Vol. 1 - Chapter 1

There is something in this world which no one has ever seen.

It is soft and sweet.

If it is spotted, I'm sure everyone will want to have it,

Which is why no one has ever seen it.

For this world has hidden it quite well, so that it is difficult to obtain.

But, there will come a day when it is discovered by somebody,

And only those who should obtain it will be able to find it.
That is all.

"Damn it!"

Seven-thirty in the morning. It was a fine day, and dim inside the house. The house was a double-room plus kitchen apartment facing south in a two-story townhouse, about a ten minute walk from the railway station. Rent was around 80,000 yen.

"I give up! I just can't get this right!"

A frustrated hand wiped the mist from the mirror. The run-down bathroom was foggy due to an early morning shower. So after wiping the mirror, it returned to being cloudy. It was pointless to take anger out on the mirror no matter how frustrated one was...

"This stuff is nothing but a rip-off!"

Make yourself gentle with floating bangs — That slogan was seen in the latest men's fashion magazine. Takasu Ryūji's bangs were now "floating". As the article instructed, he pulled his bangs at length, blow-dried them until they stood up, and then gently rubbed them sideways with some hair gel. He specifically woke up a half-hour early in order to make his hair resemble that of the model's and have his wish granted.

Nonetheless, "Maybe I was too naïve in trying to change myself just with my bangs."

Ryūji dejectedly threw the trendy magazine, which had taken him a lot of courage to buy, into the garbage bin. Unfortunately, his poor aim meant it completely missed, opened itself up as it landed, and tilted all the trash out of the bin. The open page read "You can still make it in time for the start of school. Gentle or wild? Our journey towards modeling."

Were it up to me, I'm not too sure if I would care about modeling. Still, I wanted to change.

But I failed.

Feeling defeated, Ryūji wet his hands with water and messed up his hair which he had spent so much time making up. He reverted to his usual randomly straight hair. He then knelt down to pick up the trash that was all over the ground.

"Ah!? What's's moldy!"

Even though he had always wiped the steam off, even after spending a whole day last week cleaning out the mold in the kitchen and bathroom... All his effort had gone to waste in that horribly humid room. Biting his lips begrudgingly, Ryūji tried to see if he could wipe off the mold with some tissues. Of course, it was never going to be that easy, and he ended up tearing the tissues to shreds.

"Damn, I just used them all up a while ago. I'm going to have to buy some mold removers again." For now I'll have to leave them aside, but I'll definitely come back and destroy you guys! Ryūji glanced downwards at the moldy patch while picking up the trash. He then gave the ground a rough wipe with some paper towels, clearing up any loose hair and dust and wiping off the steam on the washing basin before lifting his head up and sighing.

"Oh yeah, pet food. Hey, In~ko-chan!"


A high-pitched voice responded to the high-school student's ferocious shout.

Good, he's awake. Getting himself together again, Ryūji went barefoot into the wooden-tiled kitchen, took some prepared pet food and spare newspapers, and headed towards the corner of the tatami-laid living room. Removing the cloth over the birdcage there, Ryūji greeted his cute pet which he had not seen all night.

Now, other people may raise their pets differently, but this was how the Takasus raised their pet parrot. Because he looked rather horrible when he slept, every morning before he woke up, he had to be covered with a cloth.

"Good morning, Inko-chan."

A yellow parrot, that was Inko-chan. As usual, Ryūji added some pet food while talking to him.

"G, good...morning," his eyes blinked upwards in a rather unpleasant and enigmatic way, though he still managed to reply in Japanese. Though he had just woken up, it looked like he was in quite a good mood. This was why he was cute.

"Inko-chan, try saying let's eat."

"L, let's, e...let's eat! Let's eat! Let's! Eat!"

"Okay, enough. Now let's see if you can say that! Try and see if you can say your name...come on, say Inko-chan."

"I, I, In, I, In, Iiii...I..." Inko-chan seemed to be using a lot of energy, as he shook his head and rapidly puffed up his body, and then flapped his wings quickly. "......iiiii......"

His eyes squinting, one could vaguely see the gray tongue that stuck out of his beak. Maybe he can do it today, thought his master as he gripped his fists. In the end...


Argh... Why are birds so dumb? As expected when you have a brain that only weighs a gram, Ryūji sighed, wrapping up the soiled newspaper. He threw the newspaper into a plastic bag. As he was about to put it together with the other trash in the kitchen,


The idiot lying behind the fusuma seemed to have woken up as well.

"Ryū-chan, is that your uniform you're wearing? Why?" she asked wearily.

Ryūji elegantly wrapped up the trash bag and replied to the voice, "I'm going to school. Didn't I already tell you yesterday that school starts today?"


Opening her legs on top of the futon, she repeatedly muttered the following as though she was about to cry, Then, then...

"Then, what about Ya-chan's...lunch? I haven't smelled any food...didn't you make some for me?"


"Ehhh~... Then...what's Ya-chan gonna do...when she wakes up...? There's nothing good to eat..."

"I'll be home by the time you wake up! I'm just going to the Term Opening Ceremony."

" that it..."

Hee hee hee hee, she smiled as she closed her open legs together and began to clap her hands ...Sorry, clap her feet.

"Opening Ceremony, huh? 'Grats~! That means, Ryū-chan is gonna be a second year from today on?"

"Let's set that aside. Didn't I already tell you before that, no matter how busy you are, you must always remove your makeup before you sleep? Since you moaned about how bothersome it was before, didn't I specifically buy some special makeup removing tissues," Ryūji inspected her surroundings a bit better, "...Ah...AH! You've gotten makeup powder all over the pillow! I can't wash that off! You should take better care of your skin; you aren't young anymore!"


Her leopard-spotted panties were completely exposed. As she got up, her large breasts shook while some of her messy blond hair got stuck in her cleavage. Whether it was the waving of her hair or the long nails from her fingers, she gave off a very feminine feel. But still, "Must've drank too much, I just came back an hour ago. Ah~ So sleepy," she yawned, "Oh yeah...I brought some pudding home."

As she exhaled and rubbed her thick eyelashes, she slowly wandered towards the convenience store bag at the corner of the room. That appearance — her cherry lips muttering "pudding", her plump cheeks, and her round eyes — such child-like features just did not seem to fit her. Though she was a bit weird, perhaps she could still be called a pretty lady.

"Huh...Ryū-chan, I can't find the spoon."

"Maybe the store assistant forgot to put it in?"

"Can't be! I saw him put it inside. That's strange..."

This was Takasu Ryūji's mother Takasu Yasuko: stage name "Mirano". Thirty-three years old (she always claimed to be forever 23), she worked as a hostess in the town's only bar "Bishamonten Kuni".

Yasuko poured the contents of the convenience store bag out and rummaged through them at the corner of her futon. Her little face frowned, "It's so dark in here...I can't find the spoon like this! Ryū-chan, can you open the curtains?"

"They are open."

"Eh~...? Ahh, that's right...since I don't always wake up at this time, I must've forgotten..." Inside a dark room, the rather odd mother-son couple sighed together.

It was the window facing south.

It had been six years since they moved in here. Inside this little house where the two of them lived, their entire source of natural light came from the south side window. As the entrance was on the north and because they were surrounded on the east and west sides by their neighbors' houses, only the south side had windows. Despite this, sunlight had been abundant, especially during the mornings. There was no need to turn on the lights from sunrise to sunset, unless when it was raining. The bright sunlight used to always shine plentifully on Ryūji while in his uniform preparing breakfast for the two of them and on Yasuko who would be sleeping soundly.

However, all that came to an end last year.

"Damn that apartment building."

"Just what kind of people live there anyway? And turn on the lights already!"

Last year, just a few meters from the south side of this house, a ten-story luxury apartment building was built. As a result, the sun no longer shone through. This had driven Ryūji to the brink of madness and frustration countless times already — the laundry could no longer dry; the tatami now expanded due to the humidity, curled at the corners and grew moldy; and sometimes it would even get frosty. The wallpaper was starting to peel, which must have had something to do with the humidity as well. It doesn't matter since this is just a rented apartment, Ryūji wanted to tell himself. Yet being extremely sensitive about keeping a place tidy and clean, Ryūji just could not get himself to tolerate and compromise on such a thing. Looking up towards the white-tiled high-class condo, there was nothing those two poor people could do but stand shoulder to shoulder with their mouths open.

"Hmm, it doesn't affect me much, since Ya-chan sleeps in the morning anyway!"

"There's no use complaining. Besides, the rent's gone down by 5,000 yen as a result."

Taking out a spoon from the kitchen and handing it to Yasuko, Ryūji scratched his head and said, "Well, I'll be going." This wasn't the time for family bonding; it was about time to leave.

Wearing his gakuran jacket, Ryūji bent his ever-growing body and pulled up his socks. As he made sure he brought everything, he suddenly realized the faint call within his heart.

That was right, today was the beginning of a new school term. After the Opening Ceremony came the changing of class. Even though he had failed in attempting to change his image, it wasn't enough to make him depressed, as some hope still remained in Ryūji's heart. Or was that just expectation? Anyway, it was that sort of faint feeling, though he did not find it appropriate to express it.

"I'm going. Remember to lock the door, and change into your pajamas!"

"Ok~ay! Ah, hey Ryū-chan," Yasuko laid on the futon and bit the spoon with her molars. She began to smile like a child. "Ryū-chan looks more energetic than usual today! Fight hard! You're a second year now! This is an area which Ya-chan has never been to before, you know."

In order to give birth to Ryūji, Yasuko dropped out of high school when she was still a first year, so she was not familiar with what life as a second year was like. Ryūji felt a sense of sadness for a moment.


He smiled for a bit and raised his hand. This was to give his thanks to his mother. However, this well-intentioned act led to an unexpectedly bad result. "KYAA!" Yasuko yelled and began rolling to and fro, and finally said that phrase. She had finally said that phrase!

"Ryū-chan is sooo~ cool! You're looking more and more like your dad now!"


...she said it.

Ryūji silently closed the front door and looked towards the sky. He spun his eyes as he felt he was being sucked into a whirlpool beneath him. NO! I don't want that! I don't want that! Just shut up!

That! That's the one thing I don't want to hear. Especially today.

You look just like your dad — it seemed as though Yasuko didn't understand that this phrase caused Ryūji a lot of torment. It was also the reason he bought that kind of magazine and tried to make his bangs "float gently".

Leaving the house, Ryūji headed towards the school which was within walking distance. His tightened face looked twisted. Despite this, he still walked with great strides as though he was riding the wind. Sighing, he placed his fingers over his bangs in order to cover his eyes. This was a habit of Ryūji's. Indeed, the source of Ryūji's agony was none other than his eyes.

They were bad! It had nothing to do with his perfect eyesight. It was their appearance; they just looked fierce.

This past year Ryūji had been growing up at a rapid pace, he now had that manly look. Though he wasn't the super-handsome type, he was not exactly the aloof geek either ...Ahem. Anyway, he didn't look bad, though no one else had said that; at least that was what Ryūji thought.

Yet his eyes were unusually fierce, they were so bad that it was no joking matter. His eyes were the sort that tilted upwards with the white parts occupying most of his eyes while his pupils took up a small section of them. Of course, these were just the basics, that was not the worst part. Since his eyes were big, the white in his eyes would constantly reflect a very strong, stinging glare, while his tiny pupils would move sharply as though they were about to slice the opponent before him, regardless of Ryūji's intentions. It was these eyes that usually led to a person running away at full speed upon coming into eye contact. He knew that all too well. In fact, when he saw a group photo with himself, even he would be at a loss after wondering, "Geez, why does he look so pissed ...Ah, is that me?"

On the other hand, it could be partly blamed on his rough personality. He spoke in quite an unrefined way, which had something to do with his extreme sensitivity. This was why he rarely joked around or said anything foolish. Maybe it was because of that, or maybe it was because he lived with someone like Yasuko, which caused him to lose all virtuosity and trustworthiness. Above all else, Ryūji prided himself in being pragmatically protective of himself.

But, as a result...

"Ta–Takasu-kun...! Are you trying to defy a teacher!? S, someone! Bring me a baton!"

No I wasn't! I was just trying to apologize for forgetting to hand in my homework.

"I, I, I, I, I'm so sorry...I didn't mean to bump into you! It was that guy who pushed me over to you!"

Who is going to get mad over getting bumped on the shoulder?

"I heard Takasu-kun gatecrashed a graduation ceremony of some other school while he was in junior high, he even took over their broadcast room!"

Stop making me sound like I'm some sort of bad delinquent!

" — Am I going to get all these misunderstandings all over again?" Thinking back on all these painful memories, Ryūji couldn't help but sigh.

His grades were not bad, and he had never been late or absent. He hadn't even gotten into an argument with people, let alone into a fistfight. To put it simply, Takasu Ryūji was just a normal young person. Despite that, due to his fierce eyes, and it was only because of this, everyone had come to the conclusion that he was some kind of vicious delinquent — his only relative being a night hostess also indirectly lead to this conclusion.

After spending a year with his classmates, most of the misunderstandings had been resolved. A year was not short, especially for a high school student. The problem was that everything started anew today, not to mention that his effort at changing his image had ended in failure.

There was still something to look forward to in changing classes, since Ryūji wanted to be in the same class as a certain person. But when his thoughts moved to the torment that he would have to face afterwards, his naïve expectations instantly shrunk in half. Not to mention Yasuko's big mouth. No, that was wrong! All the blame had to go to his father's troublesome genes!

"Your dad, huh? He's in heaven now. He was quite cool, used to calmly sweep his hair backwards, his sharp shoes were always shiny, and he always hung such a lo~ng gold chain around his neck while wearing a casual suit with his Rolex. Inside, he always stuffed a thick magazine.

"What for? When Ya-chan asked him that, he said 'So that I don't have to worry about getting stabbed.' Ahhh~ I was so moved~!"

All Ryūji could think of was how Yasuko swooned when talking about him, and then there was the sole photo of his father that was left behind. His father's pose was just as Yasuko had described him to be. Standing open-footed while looking proud, he carried a small briefcase under his armpit. He was dressed in a white suit with a flamboyant open neck shirt. The two golden rings on his fingers glittered and he even wore a diamond earring in one ear. And then there was his face that read "You talkin' to me?", with his chin pointing downwards towards the camera. One of his hands was groping the breast of his mother, who looked much younger than she was now. His mother, carrying a pregnant belly, smiled cheerfully. His father even had a gold tooth as he smiled.

He was actually quite gentle, and serious, and would never hurt a normal person, or at least that was what Yasuko would say, but why on earth would a gentle and serious person become a gangster!? And who on earth would let such a young high school girl get pregnant? Most importantly, those eyes... If one were stared at by those sharp eyes, they would quickly hand over their wallets and hope nothing else bad happened. Those eyes were used for just that: violent extortion. And yet those objects were now fixed upon his face. Ryūji suddenly shuddered. If even he thought of his father that way, no wonder everyone still misunderstood him!

By the way, it was possible that his father was still alive. According to Yasuko, while helping an underling escape, he was beaten into a pulp and dropped to the bottom of Yokohama Harbor. However, there was no grave, no altar, no artefact, no epitaph, not even a body; there was no record of such an event ever happening. Sometimes a drunk Yasuko would jokingly say for no reason "I wonder what Ryū-chan would look like if your dad were to suddenly return? Hohohoho, I'm just kidding!"

Dad is probably meditating in some icy cold room! As his son, I just feel that —

"Hey, Takasu! Morning! It's a great morning, isn't it?"

Hearing someone call him from behind, Ryūji quickly turned around and raised his hand, "Oh, Kitamura. Morning!"

Can't help it, if I stop and wait for my friend to catch up, people will think that I'm gonna strangle him to death, even though that's not the case. Ryūji silently considered this. Being misunderstood was unavoidable, and in such an event he would have to explain as nicely as he could. As long as he spent time on it, people would eventually understand. Though it was quite troublesome. That was the only thing he could do, so it was the only thing he had to do!

Looking up at the blue sky, the bright sunlight caused Ryūji to squint his eyes. Today was a fine day, there was no wind. The cherry blossoms silently wilted at this time of year and gently fell on Ryūji's head.

Ryūji continued to carry his torment and strode forward in his shiny black shoes. The weather sure was great for today's Opening Ceremony.

* * *

"Whoa! We're in the same class as Takasu, you gotta be kidding me!"

"He sure looks intimidating, how scary!"

"So who's going to go talk to him?"

"Nope, not me."

"Why don't you go? Hey! Don't push...!"

Say whatever you want, I am no longer affected by anything.

Ryūji entered the classroom in the most unfazed way possible, ignoring the glances of his classmates, and sat on his desk with his back towards them while staring into the distance with his sharp eyes. Licking his dry lips, his legs began to shake on their own. To a bystander, he looked like a vicious carnivore on the lookout for weak prey.

"Same as usual, huh? Looks like there will be guys that misunderstand you here as well. Oh well, it will all get sorted out after a while anyway! Besides, I'm with you, not to mention there's quite a number of our classmates from Class-A here."

"Oh, don't worry about that, I don't really mind."

Ryūji replied with a gentle smile to his good friend Kitamura Yūsaku, who was in his class again this year. Honestly, Ryūji was currently in a very good mood, but not in a way where he would cruelly lick his lips just before pouncing on his prey. If that were the case, he wouldn't be grinning from ear to ear and ready to lift off like a rocket. The reason he was happy was not because of his relation with Kitamura. To a friend like him, Ryūji would simply smile gently and say, "Looks like we're in the same class again, Kitamura!" No, the reason he felt like blasting off like a rocket was because of —

"Oh! Kitamura-kun! We're in the same class this year!"

— her.

"Huh? Ah! Kushieda, you're also in Class-C?"

"Eh!? You mean you only just found out? How cold, at least check the class roster on the first day of school!"

"My bad. What a coincidence. This means we can have more time to sort out our club meetings!"

"Ahaha, that's right! Oh, Takasu-kun ...right? Do you still remember me? I appear in front of Kitamura-kun from time to time," she paused.


"Ah, um, is it okay if I call you Takasu-kun?"


At that moment an angel revealed herself. Before Ryūji's eyes was a smile that shone as brightly as the sun, as warm as the sunlight that used to dwell on the south window of his house, illuminating everything within his sight. The light rays were intensifying to the point where Ryūji could no longer keep his eyes open.

"Kushieda Minori, right?"

AHH! Dammit! I got the words right! But! His voice just sounded too cold. Ryūji felt like screaming. Why did I only come up with a response like that? Why couldn't I come up with something better!?

"Wow! You remembered my full name, I'm so glad!" She paused a bit, "Oh dear! Someone's calling me from over there! I have to go, Kitamura-kun. See you in the first club meeting of the term as second years! So don't forget! Takasu-kun, let's talk again some time!"

Seeing her turn around, Ryūji slowly and awkwardly raised his arm, but it was too late. She had already disappeared.

She said she was glad. She said we'll talk again some time.

Kushieda Minori.

She said she was glad. She said we'll talk again some time.

He finally got his wish of being in the same class as Kushieda Minori.

She said she was glad. She said we'll talk again some time.

She said, She was glad...


" —Whoa!?" Kitamura suddenly appeared before his face, causing him to fall over his chair.

"What're you grinning at?"

"No, it–it's nothing."

"Oh really?" Kitamura pushed up on the frame of his glasses with his middle finger. Ryūji felt very grateful from the bottom of his heart, for Kitamura might have been the only person in this world who could tell whether he was smiling or not. There was one more thing he was grateful to Kitamura for.

"...Kitamura, you," Ryūji fumbled his words. "How should I say this. Er–you always seem pretty relaxed when you talk to girls," Ryūji went down to a whisper, "like Kushieda-san!"

"Huh? What do you mean?"

The eyes behind Kitamura's glasses widened. He wasn't being humble. Rather, he was surprised. Looks like he doesn't realize it himself. Ryūji decided to hold back what he was about to say to this rather dense person.

His leisurely conversation with Kushieda a while ago just sounded so "natural". No, it wasn't just a while ago. Since last year, Kitamura had always been able to speak with her naturally. Furthermore, they were both in the softball club! Ryūji was always there, constantly trying to give her a gentle smile or receive a greeting from her; it was an effort that could move one to tears.

To use soccer as a metaphor, Ryūji would be a center defender who hardly ever had any chance of participating in offense. It was also thanks to constantly being beside Kitamura and observing his cheerful conversations with Kushieda that Ryūji started to realize that she was really cute and that he liked her and wanted to become friends with her.

Her various cheerful expressions.

Her delicate body and exaggerated movements.

Her innocent smiles and clear voice.

Despite his intimidating appearance, she still managed to keep her usual cheerfulness in his presence, even to this day.

That's Kushieda Minori for you.

For Ryūji, in order for a girl to become his girlfriend, she would need to be appealing to the eyes and as sparkling as the rays of the sun. Being energetic and direct was more important than anything else for him, and that was how a girl should be. But still —

"What're you talking about? How's it possible for me to talk naturally to girls? You should know very well what they like to call me!"

Ryūji couldn't help but sigh. How enviable! Just looking at the way Kitamura talked was enough to make his eyes bleed. Yet Kitamura continued, "I'm no good with girls. I think I probably won't ever find a girlfriend for the rest of my life."

Even though he wanted to answer with "I don't think so...", looking up at the blindingly radiant noble before him, Ryūji swallowed what he was about to say. No matter what he said, this fellow would probably never understand. Ryūji suddenly felt a wave of depression.

It was true that the girls called Kitamura "Maruo", after the typical "Mr. Nice Guy" from Chibi Maruko-chan. Perhaps there is some resemblance, explaining how he got the nickname. On top of this, he has many more traits: glasses with very high prescription, a straightforward personality, excellent grades, he doesn't follow the trend of being flirtatious, and holds quite traditional values. In the right situation, he would say "That's correct"; he is the sort of guy capable of creating a cheerful atmosphere in the classroom. Speaking of which, he is the former class representative, the current vice president of the Student Council, and the front-runner to be the new president of the softball team. It is natural for everyone to make fun of him.

His looks aren't the problem. No. To be precise, upon closer inspection one would discover that he is surprisingly handsome. Combined with his consistent personality inside and outside, as well as the ability to make fun of himself, there is absolutely nothing unlikeable about him. So although he claimed to be constantly teased by girls, it wasn't because they hated him.

Ah, so that's why, Ryūji finally understood. Come to think of it, Kitamura was quite popular with the girls, not just with Kushieda; he was able to talk to all of them naturally. Whenever the girls saw him, they would go, "Ah~ I'm in the same class as Maruo again!" to which Kitamura would nonchalantly reply, "Oh? Is there a problem with that?"

And yet he claims that he's no good with girls. It's not as though they fear him like me. Just as Ryūji went into deep thought, he heard someone say "Whoa, scary."

See? Here we go again! Ryūji laid on top of his desk and ignored those voices that he would occasionally hear. Just a while ago he was floating over the moon from being in the same class as Kushieda Minori, so he did not mind others and what they thought of him.

"Sure looks formidable. I told you this guy isn't a normal person."

"Whoa, look at those eyes. If you piss the owner of those eyes off, you could get killed!"

The spell seemed to have been broken. Ryūji started to notice that the non-malicious whispers began to increase.

It might be better to hide in the bathroom until the new homeroom teacher arrives, Ryūji thought hopefully. It would clear his mind a bit.

So he stood up, and just as he was about to walk through the door, he felt something bump into his stomach. "Hmm...?"

Ryūji thought he had bumped into something, but there was nothing in front of his eyes. That's strange. Ryūji moved his eyes around, yet all he could see was —

Students started calling out,

"Yikes! As expected from Takasu-kun; is he going to make the first move?"

"Has the death-match started already? When I saw the class roster, I knew this was going to be a terrible class."

All Ryūji could see were the new classmates whispering amongst themselves. Are they talking about me? But still, why?

One of the members in the class came up with a title, "Clash of the Titans. Hmm?"

"We're already in the final showdown."

Everyone was talking strangely. Clash of the Titans? Final showdown? What the hell are they talking about? Ryūji tilted his head trying to make sense of what was going on.

"Are you not even going to apologize after bumping into someone?" He heard a very cold voice emanating from somewhere. The strange and calm tone of voice sounded as though it was suppressing and holding back some emotion that was about to explode. Yet he could not tell where the voice came from.


The mood became dark. Ryūji glanced to the right, there was no one; he glanced to the left, there was no one there as well; apprehensively, he looked upwards. Fortunately, there was no one there either.

"That means — "

So it did come from below. Down, right below his eyes, in a place much lower than Ryūji's chest, was a head of hair. The first thing he thought was that she resembled a doll.

Anyway, she was very small. Her long straight hair softly fluttered and covered the tiny body of the Palmtop Tiger. "Palmtop Tiger?"

That mysterious terminology suddenly appeared in Ryūji's thoughts, causing him to say it out loud without thinking. Seems like he must have heard someone whispering that nearby.

Palmtop Tiger!?

Then that means...

"Who– "

Is that what this little doll is called? Though she is small enough to fit into a palm, how is she like a tiger?

" –who you calling a Palmtop Tiger?" This was not an occasion where one could think for a long time, as whatever it was began to lift her chin, and with her eyes...


It took three seconds. Everything went silent, though perhaps it was only Ryūji's imagination. For an instant, it felt like a vacuum created by a shock wave just after an explosion. The background noise slowly returned to everyone's ears. By the time he realized it, Ryūji found that he had fallen backwards onto the ground. It wasn't just him, the few classmates nearby were hit as well and moaned, while others were already getting ready to escape.

Just what happened? I already know. Nothing really happened. It was just that this girl before his eyes —

"Such a hopeless person."

All she did was stare at Ryūji with those two large eyes of hers, nothing more.

That was it. Within a few seconds, Ryūji had already been struck down by awe. His mind went blank, his body felt paralyzed just by the sheer pressure she created. Ryūji was repelled by her glare, or to be more precise, he was repelled by the aura that emanated from her eyes, causing him to fall on the ground.

Their difference was way too large, they were on completely different levels. For a person whose eyes were no less intimidating, Ryūji had been completely defeated. 

This was the first time Ryūji understood what it meant to have fierce eyes. It included the necessary essence one carries, as well as a ferociousness to match; or to be more exact, an "intent to kill."

"Hmph." For a few seconds that felt like an eternity, Ryūji felt a subtle contempt in her eyes that would not be swayed even if she were stabbed in the heart.

"A dragon...? How lame." She opened her cherry lips and shot out words like bullets that carried a certain child-like quality to them. Her incredibly small hands roughly swept aside her fluttering hair, while her soft eyelids hid her killing intent. Those eyes were now as transparent as the glass eyes of a doll and stared coldly at Ryūji.

She's cute, but she's scary as well. She had a pale white face, unbelievably long brunette hair, and tiny limbs and shoulders, while her shiny pupils were surrounded by gentle eyelashes. She was as adorable as a candy containing deadly toxins, as lovable as a flower that could kill just by scent alone.

Yet when she stared at him, Ryūji could feel the carnivore leaping out from those eyes of hers. Of course, this was all just an illusion, yet it felt more real than reality. The carnivore's weight had knocked Ryūji down on the floor and it roared with a sound that shook deep into his blood. The sound it produced seemed to be saying, "I can take out a guy like you anytime I want." The sharp claws and fangs slowly approached him, emanating a sense of bloodthirstiness and the scent of a beast. Compared to her small figure, the much larger illusion that loomed before him was...a tiger.

"Ah, ahh–ah, ah, ahhh...t–that's right." Without realizing it, Ryūji began to nod and clapped his hands. So that's why she's called the Palmtop Tiger! I wonder who gave her that name, but —

" — Isn't that a wonderful name?"

And such a fitting name as well, I'm impressed. The girl glanced at Ryūji, silently uttered "dragon", and then looked at him with disdain.

It was not hard to see why. Whether from the fall or from being ripped open by the phantom tiger, Ryūji's gakuran jacket was now open. Under his jacket, he wore a colorful "Soryū (Rising Dragon)" T-shirt that Yasuko had happily bought for him. It wasn't like Ryūji had wanted to wear a T-shirt that would cause such misunderstandings, it was just that all his other clothes were taken to the laundry for that day and he wasn't expecting anyone to be able see what he was wearing inside with his jacket on.

Feeling embarrassed for some reason, Ryūji quickly covered his chest, like a girl that just got assaulted by a ruffian. At that moment, he saw someone tip-tapping her way closer.

"You're late, Taiga! You skipped the Opening Ceremony, didn't you?"

"I overslept. Anyway, I'm glad I'm in the same class as Minorin this year."

"Yeah! Me too!"

It was none other than Kushieda Minori. She directly called the Palmtop Tiger "Taiga", and even smiled and gently caressed her hair, while the Palmtop Tiger also intimately called her "Minorin". Watching all of this, Ryūji began to hear the whispers around him.

"So Round 1 is won by the Palmtop Tiger Aisaka?"

"Looks like Takasu is only scary in appearance, he's no delinquent!"

"Huh? Really?"

"That's why he lost to the Palmtop Tiger. Besides, she's the real thing when it comes to ferociousness!"

The misunderstandings were resolved much sooner than Ryūji had expected, however...

* * *

The Palmtop Tiger had an amazing name called Aisaka Taiga. Her height was 145 cm. Aisaka Taiga and Kushieda Minori were what you would call good friends. From the various whispers Ryūji had heard, it was rumored her father worked as a fixer in the underworld. There was another story that her father was actually a karate master ruling the underworld in America. And then there was yet another that said she herself was a karate expert, but was expelled from her dojo for attacking her master.

Back when she first entered this school, a lot of people were fooled by her beauty, and many guys lined up to confess to her. Of course their dreams were all ruthlessly shattered as they were intimidated, bitten, torn to shreds... There were quite a few that never did recover after they were mercilessly belittled by her. Wherever Aisaka went, her path was drenched with the blood of countless corpses of male students.

There was just a lot of bad press concerning Aisaka Taiga. Regardless of whether the rumors were true or not, there was no doubt that she was the most dangerous being in this school. It was many days after the Opening Ceremony that Ryūji learned about these things.


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