Toradora! ~Adaptation~:Volume1 Chapter1
Something soft and sweet.
If it is spotted, everyone will want to have it,
This is why no one has ever seen it.
The world has hidden it so well, so well to make it difficult to obtain.
But there will come a day when it is discovered,
And only those who should obtain it will be able to find it.That is all.
"Damn it!" It was seven-thirty in the morning. It was a fine day outside but dim inside my home. I lived on the upper floor of a two story town house. My home has two bedrooms, a combined kitchen-living room, and a south-facing window and balcony leading out from the living room. Rent was roughly eighty thousand yen but the railway station was a ten minute walk away.
"I give up," I said to myself. I wiped the mist from the mirror with a frustrated hand. The bathroom was still warm and foggy from my early morning shower so the mirror fogged up again almost instantly. There's no point in taking out my anger on the mirror no matter how frustrated I was so I just continued to mutter to myself. "I just can't get this right. This stuff is just a rip-off anyway."
I picked up the men's fashion magazine. On the cover were the words Give yourself a gentle look with soft, floating bangs. My bangs were soft and floating. I followed the instructions within the article word by word: I pulled the bangs out, blow-dried them upwards from below, and then gently rubbed them to the side with some hair gel. I woke up a half-hour early to make my hair look just like the cover model's. Despite all the work I sighed and berated myself. "It was naive of me to think that changing my bangs could change anything else about how I looked."
Taking out my frustration on the mirror wouldn't have been a good idea. However, I didn't think it'd be any trouble being a little violent to the magazine--which took me quite a lot of courage to pick up from the stand and hand over to the cashier--so I chucked it into the garbage bin. Unfortunately I was wrong: my aim was off, the magazine smacked into the edge of the bin, knocked it over, and scattered trash everywhere. Among the strewn trash the magazine laid open to a page that read Gentle or wild? There's still time to begin your journey towards modeling before the start of school.
I didn't care about modeling, I just wanted to change how I looked. I wet my hands in defeat and ran them through my hair to go back to my usual, plain straightened hair style. After wiping my hands on a hand towel I knelt down to clean up the spilled trash. Just before I put the garbage bin back in its place, however, I frowned when my eyes spotted the dark green mess along the bottom of the wall.
"More mold," I groaned. Even though I wiped away the steam after every shower, I just couldn't win in this horribly humid house. Getting rid of the mold was never easy either. I would have to buy some more strong cleaning agents to deal with the mold later on when I had the time.
I gave the bathroom one more wipe down before I made my way to the living room and the cloth covered birdcage in the corner. "Hey, Inko-chan!" I said out loud towards the cage.
"Ah..." A high-pitch voice responded from within the covered birdcage.
Good, he's awake. I grabbed some bird feed and spare newspapers from the kitchen. I returned to the cage to remove the cloth and greeted my cute pet budgie with a smile. I've been told by that "cute" isn't the best word to describe Inko-chan but I've got no idea what those people are talking about. Frankly, I felt lucky that I found Inko-chan in the pet shop. After all, there was a large seventy-percent off hanging on his cage and the pet shop owner offered even more discounts on bird supplies when I hesitated for just a little bit.
As I replaced the bird feed and newspaper lining the bottom of the cage, I talked to Inko-chan as usual. "Inko-chan, can you say let's eat?"
"L--let's...! E--eat...! Let's! Eat!"
I smiled. Inko-chan's been at it for almost a month now and he's almost able to say it without struggling. "Inko-chan, can you say your name?"
Inko-chan jerked his head left and right and flapped his wings a few time. He continued repeating the first syllable of his name in a high-pitched whistle but it looked as if that worm-like gray tongue of his froze up in his beak. "Okay, okay. That's enough Inko-chan. Rest now and eat your breakfast." I can't blame a bird for having a brain weighing about a single gram.
As I began putting away the bird feed and spoiled newspaper, I heard my mother's sleepy voice come from behind the sliding paper door of her bedroom. "Ryuu-chan, are you going somewhere?" her bedroom door slid open and she looked around the living room with sleep-filled eyes while still lying on her back on her futon. "Eh, how come you're wearing your school uniform?"
"It's because I'm going to school," I sighed and shook my head slightly. "I told you yesterday that school's starting, didn't I?"
"Ah..." she looked at me with a slightly lost expression on her face before she started wailing in a panic. "Ah! But, what about my lunch? Did you make anything for Ya-chan?"
I love my mother and think the world of her for providing as much as she can for me but sometimes she does act like another bird in the house that needs help feeding herself. "I didn't make you anything but I'm only heading to the school term's opening ceremony and homeroom. I'll be back by the time you wake up in time for lunch."
My mother stopped her wailing and gave me a warm, wide smile. She rolled onto her stomach and elbows clapped her feet together in the air. "'Grats! Ryuu-chan's in second year from now on, huh?" As silly as it looked and sounded, I could tell she was proud of me.
I nearly smiled in return but frowned when I noticed that she still had make-up on. "Didn't you say you'll remove your make-up? Please don't tell me it rubbed off on the pillow!"
She looked down at her pillow before lifting her head to give me a meek and guilty look. "Sorry!"
I sighed for who knows how many times this morning. This is my mother: Takasu Yasuko. She prefers to call herself Ya-chan to seem younger than she really is. She tells everyone that she's twenty-three so I'm likely the only one who knows she's really a decade older than that. Though I suppose I can see how people would believe her considering the undergarments I see her shamelessly wearing like a teenage girl as she lies on her futon. Then there's her long blond hair, stylish fingernails, childish speech, very young looking face, and figure. I'm not ashamed of my mother, I just don't want to think about what teenage guys or old men think of her. It doesn't help that she works as a hostess at Bishamonten Kuni (translate this?), the only bar in town with the stage name "Mirano", but considering how she's able to afford this expensive home despite that sort of work I guess she's really does work hard.
"Ah, I'm so sleepy, I think I just came back an hour ago or so," Yasuko yawned as she rubbed her eyes. "Oh, Ryuu-chan, I bought some pudding for us."
I continued to put away the things from feeding Inko-chan as Yasuko pulled out a plastic bag from somewhere within her room and brought it out to the table in the living room. "Huh, I can't find the spoon."
"Did the store clerk forget to give it to you?"
"I saw him put it in," she upended the bag and began looking through the contents on the table. "It's so dark in here, can you open the curtains?"
"They're already open." I sighed again and this time my mother joined me in doing so.
"Oh, yeah," she turned her head towards the south-facing window. We've been living here for six years and the south-facing window provided us with the bright light and warm glow of the sun such that we hardly had to make use of electrical lighting or heating for a good majority of the year. All of that came to an end last year when a ten-story luxury apartment building was raised to the south. I hated that building. Not only did the building block out the sunlight but its long, dark shadow increased the humidity: the laundry dried poorly; the tatami mat flooring warped, mold grew easily, the wallpaper started peeling, and the temperature dropped so far down that I dreaded the coming of autumn and winter. I try to tell myself that we're just renting this place, but even though we don't own this house, I have to force myself not to get angry by how my home is affected.
"Good thing I sleep during most of the day," Yasuko admitted.
"There's nothing we can do," I muttered in response. "Our rent's already been lowered by five thousand yen anyway."
I checked the clock and grabbed my school uniform jacket. "Well, I've got to get going." Right, there's no point in complaining about the apartment building's shadow. A new school term was beginning today and there's no reason to getting off to a bad start. Despite this positive attitude I still felt a slight worry within me. After the opening ceremony the new classes are announced. As I paused at the door with one hand on the handle, I asked myself: did my image change at all since last year? Am I going to have to deal with the same problems all over again?
"Hey, Ryuu-chan!" That cheerful, childish voice startled me out of the dark reverie. I looked over my shoulder to my mother who was waving to me energetically from the living room. "Good luck and do your best! You're a second year now, something I've never been!"
My mother dropped out of her first year of high school to give birth to me. Remembering this suddenly made me feel worse than I did a few moments ago when I was asking myself those questions. I gave my mother a slight smile and a small wave with a lifted hand.
In response she suddenly let out an excited yelp and began giggling like a little school girl. "Oh, Ryuu-chan, you look so cool! You're looking more and more like your dad now!"
It took every ounce of my self-control to look away from her before grimacing. I quickly opened the door and stepped outside and began walking towards school. That was the last thing I wanted to hear. Especially today. My mother didn't realize how what she said affected me but I couldn't help resenting those words. Those questions I was worrying about before I stepped outside, why I worry about my image, why I try to change my image, all because of him: my father.
When I look at pictures of my father, what stands out the most are his eyes. My father had the eyes of a vicious beast. They were large and angled sharply but held small, focused pupils. He always looked like he was grimacing, frowning, or glaring. His eyes are my eyes. His eyes are why I developed a habit of constantly pulling down on my bangs in an attempt to hide my eyes. Of all the things I inherited from my father, I was dealt the worst of luck to have inherited my father's vicious looking eyes.
My mother never had a single bad thing to say about my father. She'd swoon as she described how he looked like a hotshot gangster wearing expensive gold jewellery and Rolex watches. She'd giggle as she praised how cool he was and how he'd line his back with thick magazines in case somebody tried to stab him from behind. She'd blush when she spoke about how such a gentle man he was who wouldn't hurt a normal person. I had no reason not to believe what my mother told me, but none of that changed the eyes that he passed down to me.
Because of his eyes, other people feared me. Though I suppose my recent growth spurt and growing up in the neighbourhoods I did doesn't help. Still, I can tell that it's when others look into my eyes that they start becoming afraid: teachers think I'll talk back to them; people I bump into think I'll shake them down for cash; girls just out-right avoided me in any way possible. Naturally those who've become afraid of me don't stay quiet about it. Just by walking through the school hallways I could hear the rumours heard about me getting into fights or being a delinquent punk. And I'm going to have to deal with that all over again this year aren't I?
My grades are decent. I'm never late or absent from school. I've never been in an argument, let alone a fistfight. I'm just another decent teenage guy. None of that stops the whispers and rumours though. Not all of them at least. It took a whole year in one classroom to convince my classmates I'm not anything like the rumours they've heard about me. But now am I going to have to start all over again with a new class and new classmates?
I let out a sigh and hefted my book bag slung over my shoulder. With all of these thoughts running through my mind, I couldn't help but slump my shoulders slightly. But my feet didn't slow down and my steps didn't falter. There was still something good to look forward to with this new school year and new classmates.
"Hey, Takasu!" A voice called from behind me. I looked over my shoulder and smiled at the sight of a familiar friend walking on the sidewalk across the road. "Morning! Looks like a great day, doesn't it?"
I nodded in response and waved. "Kitamura. Morning!" I considered crossing the street to join him, but there were a few other students walking nearby with him as well. If I go to join him, I'll likely end up scaring away all of those other students and that's not the kind of impression I wanted to make on this first day of school. No, Kitamura's a good friend, I'm sure he wouldn't mind or take offense. There'll be other chances for us to meet up and chat.
Despite all the worries that burdened my mind, I lifted my head and looked up into the sky. Kitamura was right. It was a great day. There wasn't the slightest of a breeze in the clean air. The cherry blossoms were wilting and fell softly and silently from the branches.
Tormenting worries or not, the weather was perfect for today's opening ceremony.
Takasu Ryuuji. Right after the opening ceremony I made my way to look at the new class roster and found my name listed under 2-C.
I braced myself as I walked into the classroom, trying to seem as calm and collected as possible. The hushed whispers still came, however, and from the corner of my eyes I could see groups of students huddle closer together as I made my way to a desk near the front of the room.
"We're in the same class as Takasu? You've gotta be kidding me!"
"He sure looks intimidating and scary!"
I sat down with my back to the other students in the class room but at this point I knew I didn't look calm or collected. As the whispers reached my ears I felt disheartened. My eyes dropped to the desk in front of me and I started bouncing my right knee nervously. I felt horrible but to anyone else, I probably looked like a vicious carnivore waiting to pounce on the next weak prey to walk by.
A warm hand landed on my shoulder. "Same as before, huh?" I turned my head to see Kitamura Yuusaku giving me a warm smile. He glanced over his own shoulder to look at the other students. "Looks like there will be some jumping to conclusions about you in ths class as well. But I'm sure it will be sorted out in a while. Besides, a few of our classmates from last year and myself are here with you."
I felt myself calming down and returned Kitamura's smile with a nod. "Don't worry about that, I don't really mind," I partly lied. I do mind, but I try not to. Kitamura also made me realize that things weren't as bad as I thought they were. I can't believe I forgot there were good people like him who aren't afraid to approach everyone with a smile.
Now that Kitamura had cheered me up quite a bit, I took a quick look around the classroom. I had been looking forward to something all morning and maybe I might have missed it when I got distracted by the whispering in the classroom. There was one thing that would absolutely make my day even if I were just to catch a quick glimpse.
I heard her with my ears before I saw her. "Oh! Kitamura-kun! We're in the same class this year!" But it still had the same affect on me. Apparently there's very little difference between the euphoria of hearing an angel's voice than seeing the glow of an angel's beauty.
"Huh? Ah! Kushieda," Kitamura turned around to face a young girl who had approached the two of us. "You're also in this class?"
"Eh? You just found out now? How cold," she smiled brightly as her sweet voice danced around. "You should check the class roster on the first day of school!"
"My bad," Kitamura chuckled in return and continued the friendly chatter. "Hey, this means we'll have more time to sort out our club meetings."
"That's right!" she suddenly turned her eyes from Kitamura towards me. "Oh, Takasu-kun, right? Do you remember me? I appear around Kitamura-kun every now and then."
Crap! Was I staring at her?! Wait, what did she just say to me? Idiot! I shouldn't have been spacing out! I opened my mouth to respond but shut it quickly after realizing that my mouth was already opening. Was I gawking at her?! My heart was pounding and my cheeks felt warm.
She tilted her head slightly, still smiling. "Ah, is it alright if I call you Takasu-kun?"
Stop gawking you fool! Say something! I swallowed slightly before I finally managed to speak. "Yeah, that's alright. And you're Kushieda Minori, right?" Damn it! That sounded awful. My voice came out so cold, so disinterested.
Kushieda's smile widened and her face lit up even brighter than the cheerful expression it held just before. "Wow! I'm glad you remembered my full name! Oh?" Somebody else within the classroom had called out to her. "Looks like there's a bunch of others I need to say hello to. Kitamura-kun, I'll see you in the first club meeting later on. And I'll see you again sometime, too, Takasu-kun."
She turned around to move on. I raised a hand slowly to wave goodbye but she was already lost in a crowd of other students. She said she was glad. She said she'll see me again sometime. Kushieda Minori. Today was an amazing day. An incredibly amazing day.
"Takasu?" Kitamura startled me so that I jerked my chair back slightly. "Hey, what're you grinning at?"
I guess I was day dreaming. "Oh, it's nothing," I managed to say.
"Oh, really? If you say so." Kitamura pushed the frame of his glasses up with a finger. Now that I think about it, Kitamura's probably the only person in this whole world who could tell when I was genuinely smiling. I'm lucky to have him as a friend. I must never forget that.
"Hey, Kitamura," my words fumbled slighty as I came to realize the topic I was steering the conversation towards. "You've always been good with talking to girls." Like Kushieda-san, I added silently.
"Huh? What do you mean?" I could tell he was being surprised rather than humble by the slight widening and confused look in his eyes so I just dismissively shook my head instead. Just because he's my friend doesn't mean I can't be envious, right? I'm always struggling to do something as simple as giving Kushieda a smile in the hallways or making idle conversation with her. Yet, Kitamura is able to have such natural conversations with her--every girl, actually--so easily and effortly. Not only that, but he's also in the softball club with her! I should be careful or else my subconscious might lead me to punch him across the face when I mean to pat him on the shoulder.
But it's because of him that I even know Kushieda. It was from watching his natural and effortlress conversations with Kushieda that made me realize what I liked about her. Her various cheerful expressions. Her delicate figure and exaggerated movements. Her innocent smile and clear voice. And she's never been intimidated by my eyes or the rumours spoken about me. That's what so wonderful about her: she's filled with a kindness that she isn't afraid to energetically direct towards others.
"What're you talking about?" Kitamura continued on. "It's always the girls who start conversations with me. You've seen it haven't you? I don't think I'm any good with them. I'll probably never have a girlfriend."
At this point, I didn't just subconsciously want to smack him in the face. I wanted to tell him how wrong he was, but looking up at my noble friend in front of me, I wasn't sure if he'd understand just how different the two of us were.
Whether he believes it or not, the girls seem to adore him. They've even given him a nickname: Maruo, after the typical nice guy character from the old television show Chibi Maruko-chan. With his good grades and straight forward personality, he's a typical hard working student. So what sets him out from the rest of us? Maybe it's because the girls don't find him threatening since he never flirts. He says the girls tease him but it's not because they hate him. You wouldn't be last year's class representative, vice president of the student council, or the next president of the softball team if you had problems with that many other students.
As the beginning of class approached a few more students began filing into the room. Those who glanced towards me had a look of shock and fear flash across their face. Sure enough, most of them were quick to begin whispering to one another. I was able to catch a few words and phrases talking about whether or not that pissed off looking guy with the scary eyes was the Takasu guy everyone's afraid of.
I thought to myself that I should go freshen up in the washroom before the teacher arrived but I knew that was just a cover to hide from the attention for a little bit. I lifted myself out of the chair and began walking towards the exit. "Hey, Kitamura," I said to him as I passed by. "I'm just going to head to the washroom."
I should have looked where I was going. Since my head was turned to look over my shoulder at Kitamura, I didn't realize that something was coming through the classroom door as I was walking out. I bumped into something but when I turned my head forward all I saw was a crowd of people outside in the hallway. Why were they looking so scared? It wasn't just my eyes scaring those people. I looked over my shoulder and the students inside the classroom also had a fearful yet strangely expectant expression on their faces.
A few tense whispers reached my ears. "They're already getting into a fight? I knew this class was going to be trouble when I saw Takasu-kun's name on the roster. But this class is going to be hell with the Palmtop Tiger in it, too." I continued looking around in confusion. Palmtop Tiger? What were they whispering about? Then I realized that I didn't need to look forward ahead of me. I needed to look down.
"Shouldn't you apologize when you bump into someone?" The short girl before me spoke in a cold voice that just barely covered the anger hidden beneath a thin layer of ice. The girl in front of me had long, fluttering, light brown hair that cascaded over her shoulders and around her petite body. She looked so much like a doll that I had to blink my eyes a few times to make sure she was a real, living person.
The awkward, tense silence was bewildering. I couldn't stand it. I spoke my next thoughts outloud instead of thinking silently, "Are you the Palmtop Tiger people are ta--"
The girl suddenly jerked her chin up and stared me full in my eyes with her own. The ice cracked and a tiger's furious roar shattered through.
I'm not really sure what had happened. I was on the ground. Apparently I fell backwards onto my ass. The surrounding crowd of students had moved back as far as possible, some of them had stumbled to the ground as well. What just happened? I looked up to see the girl standing in the same spot a few seconds ago, her arms crossed over her chest with her hands rolled up into fists. Did she punch me? I moved my jaw around. No, nothing's hurt. Or at least broken as I realized that I felt numb all over.
"Pathetic." The girl nearly spat between her cherry-coloured lips as she stared at me with two large, contempt-filled eyes. Those eyes! I suddenly felt as if I knew what one experiences when they look into my eyes and feel fear. She narrowed her own brown eyes, bringing her soft eyelashes closer together, as she looked down on me. She unfurled a fist and used the hand to sweep back some of her long hair over her shoulder. "A dragon? How lame."
I looked down at myself. My school uniform jacket had been pulled open during my fall, revealing the image of a dragon on the front of my t-shirt. I normally wouldn't wear something like this but my mother bought it for me and I resorted to wearing it during laundry days. I quickly tried to pull my uniform jacket closed.
"Hey, I just wear this when--" I stopped short when I looked back up and saw the girl glaring at me. Her eyes were like those of a raving, hungry beast. Though most guys would probably think she's cute--I would have thought so myself if I wasn't too busy recovering from that recent bout of sheer terror--she was covered in an aura of complete ferocity. The expression on her face gave the impression that she wouldn't think twice about tearing you apart in seconds. She was short and small and cute, but she carried herself like a tiger that was proud of what its claws and fangs could do.
She is the Palmtop Tiger.
I thought I was going to be stuck sitting on the floor, pinned by her glare but a sweet, angelic voice called out and saved me from that fate. "Taiga! You're late!" It was Kushieda Minori. "You didn't even show up for the opening ceremony did you?"
The girl looked away from me and it seemed as if all of her ferocious aura dwindled away as she appeared to forget all about me and made her way to Kushieda. "I overslept," she explained. "I'm glad I'm in your class this year, Minorin."
Minorin? Is that a nickname? I wondered as watched Kushieda pat and rub the top of the girl's head while replying with a cheerful, "Me too!"
After blinking away the shock, I pushed myself off the floor and made my way towards my desk. The other students were whispering again.
"Looks like Palmtop Tiger Aisaka won that much, huh?"
"Seems Takasu only looks scary. He sure didn't act like a punk delinquent."
Huh. Well, I guess one good thing did come out of that mess.
Later on, I realized that rumours of my punk delinquent reputation weren't the only thing spread by whispered voices in the halls of my school--how's that for a strange case of narcissism? The Palmtop Tiger apparently had a more feared and widely held reputation than me. By walking through the school hallways, I was able to pick up quite a bit of information about her. Her real name is Aisaka Taiga. She is one hundred and forty-five centimeters tall.
Rumours of her father ranged from him working as a fixer to being the leader of the criminal underworld. It's also said that she is a skilled martial artist but was expelled from her dojo after attacking her teacher. When she first entered this school a lot of guys were instantly enchanted by her beauty and cuteness. Many confessed romantic feelings for her but they were all rejected--violently. It seemed where ever Aisaka went, she left a trail of blood-soaked, heart-crushed male student corpses behind her.
Considering my experiences with rumours, I realized that the accuracy of the information beyond her name and height were likely questionable if not entirely made up. None of the obviously exaggerated things bothered me. What did was the plain fact that Aisaka Taiga and Kushieda Minori were really good friends.
|Return to Main Page|