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E6 - 6 This article contains HEAVY spoilers. Please view at your own risk.

This is Chapter 1 from Volume 1 of the Toradora! Light Novel series. The original text is from Baka-tsuki, but the edited version present on this Wiki is from Live Journal.

Transcript

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

Something soft and sweet. If it is spotted, everyone will want to have it.

This is why it has remained hidden.

The world has hidden it so well so that it is difficult to obtain.

But there will come a day when it is discovered,

And only those who should have it will be able to find it.

That is all.


°°°°°


"Damn it!"

It was seven-thirty in the morning. It was nice out 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 muttered to myself. I wiped the mist from the mirror with a frustrated hand. The bathroom was still foggy from my shower so the mirror misted up again instantly. There's no point in taking out my anger on the mirror no matter how frustrated I was so I continued to grumble. "I just can't get this right. This stuff is just a rip-off anyway."

I picked up the men's fashion magazine. The cover read '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 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. "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 wasn't a good idea. So instead I forcefully chucked the magazine into the garbage bin. My aim was off, the magazine smacked the edge of the bin, knocked it over, and scattered trash everywhere. The magazine fell 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 don't care about modeling. I just want 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. I wiped my hands then bent down to clean up the spilled trash. I frowned when my eyes spotted the dark green along the bottom of the wall.

"More mold," I groaned. I wiped away the steam after every shower but I couldn't win in this horribly humid house. Getting rid of the mold was never easy either and I was out of the usual strong cleaning chemicals. I wiped down the bathroom one more time before I made my way to the living room and the cloth covered birdcage in the corner.

"Hey, Inko-chan!" I said out loud to the cage.

"Ah..." A high-pitch voice responded from beneath the cloth.

Good, he's awake. I grabbed some bird food and spare newspapers from the kitchen. I returned to the cage, removed 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 considering there was a large seventy-percent off hanging on his cage. The shop owner even offered 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 spoke 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?"

"I...! In...!"

Inko-chan jerked his head left and right and flapped his wings a few times. He continued repeating the first part of his name in a high-pitched whistle but it looked as if his worm-like gray tongue 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 gram.

As I began putting away the bird feed and spoiled newspaper, I heard my mom's sleepy voice from behind the sliding fusuma door of her bedroom.

"Ryuu-chan… are you going somewhere?" Her bedroom door slid open. She was lying on her back and her head was bent back and upside to look into living room with sleepy eyes. "Eh…? Is that your school uniform?"

"Yeah," I answered with a sigh and a shake of my head. "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 mom 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's opening ceremony and homeroom. I'll be back in time for lunch."

My mom stopped her wailing and gave me a warm smile. She rolled onto her stomach and elbows then clapped her feet together in the air. "Congrats! 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 before falling asleep? Please don't tell me it rubbed off on the pillow!"

She glanced down at her pillow before giving me a meek and guilty look. "Sorry!"

I sighed again.

This is my mom: Takasu Yasuko. She prefers to call herself Ya-chan to seem younger than she really is. She tells everyone that she's twenty-three but I know she's really ten years older then what she says she is. She does act ten years younger though. The leopard-spotted panties she was wearing—one shining example of her wardrobe—attests to that. Then there's her long blond hair, stylish fingernails, childish speech, very young looking face, and figure.

I'm not ashamed of my mom. I just don't want to think about how teenage guys or old men look at her. It doesn't help that she works as a hostess at Bishamontengoku, the only bar in town, with the stage name "Mirano". But considering how she affords this expensive home despite that sort of work, she must really work hard.

"Ah… I'm so sleepy. I think I just came back an hour ago or so." My mom yawned as she rubbed her eyes. "Oh, Ryuu-chan… I bought some pudding for us."

I continued to put away Inko-chan's bird food as Yasuko grabbed a plastic bag from her room and put it on the table in the living room. "Huh… I can't find the spoon."

"Did the store clerk even give you one?"

"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 mom joined me.

"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 bright and warm sunlight. We hardly ever hit the light switch or turned on the 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 it block out the sun but its long shadow increased the humidity: the laundry dried poorly; the tatami straw mat flooring warped, mold grew easily, the wallpaper started peeling, and the temperature dropped so low I dreaded the coming cold seasons. I tell myself that we're just renting this place, we don't own this house, but I have to force myself not to get angry by what happened to my home.

"Good thing I sleep during most of the day," Yasuko admitted.

"There's nothing we can do," I muttered. "Our rent's already been lowered by five thousand yen anyway."

I checked the clock and grabbed my school uniform jacket.

"I've got to get going." Right, there's no point in complaining about humidity and shadows. A new school term was beginning today and there's no reason to get off to a bad start. I tried to keep a positive attitude but I still a little worried. After the opening ceremony the new class rosters are put up. 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 my dark reverie. I looked over my shoulder to my mom waving energetically from the living room. "Good luck and do your best! You're a second year now, something I've never been!"

My mom dropped out of her first year of high school to give birth to me. Remembering this suddenly made me feel even worse than I did a few moments ago. I gave my mom a slight smile and a small wave.

In response she suddenly let out an excited yelp and began giggling like a little girl. "Oh, Ryuu-chan, you look so cool! You're looking more and more like your dad!"

It took every ounce of my self-control to look away from her before grimacing. I quickly opened the door, stepped outside, and began walking towards school. That was the last thing I wanted to hear. Especially today. My mom doesn't know how her words affected me but I couldn't help resenting them. 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 have a habit of 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 eyes.

My mom never had a single bad thing to say about my father. She swooned when she talked about him: how he looked like a hotshot gangster with his gold jewelry and flashy clothes. She giggled saying how cool he was and how he'd line his back with magazines in case somebody tried to stab his back. She blushed when she spoke about how he was gentle and wouldn't hurt anyone without reason. I had no reason not to believe what my mom told me, but none of that changed the eyes that he passed down to me.

Because of his eyes, other people feared me. I suppose my rough personality didn't help. I speak quietly and in a way that point out the fact that I grew up in the poor part of town. Still, I can tell that when others look into my eyes, they get scared. Teachers think I'll talk back to them; people I bump into think I'll shake them down for cash; girls just out right avoid me. Naturally those who've become afraid of me don't stay quiet about it. Just by walking through the school hallways I can hear the rumours about me getting into fights or being a delinquent.

And I'm going to have to deal with that all over again this year aren't I?

My grades are decent. In class, I'm hardly ever late or absent. 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. 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 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.

"Hey, Takasu!" A voice called. 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 other students walking around him. If I go to join him, I'll likely end up scaring them away and that's not the kind of impression I want to make today. No, Kitamura's a good friend, 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 from the branches.

Tormenting worries or not, the weather was perfect for today's opening ceremony.

°°°°°

Takasu Ryuuji. After the opening ceremony, I checked the new class roster and found my name listed under 2-C.

I braced myself as I walked into the classroom, trying to stay calm. The hushed whispers still came, however, and from the corner of my eyes I could see students huddle 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 but I knew I didn't look calm at all. I felt disheartened as the whispers reached my ears. 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 an animal waiting to pounce on the next thing to walk by.

A hand landed on my shoulder. "Same as before, huh?" I turned my head to see Kitamura Yuusaku giving me a smile. He glanced over his own shoulder to look at the other students. "Looks like there'll be some misunderstandings about you in this class too. But I'm sure it will be sorted out quickly. Besides, myself and a few of our classmates from last year are here with you."

I calmed down a little 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 helped 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. There was one thing that would absolutely make my day even better if I just caught a quick glimpse.

I heard her with my ears before I saw her.

"Oh! Kitamura-kun! We're in the same class this year!" Apparently there's little difference between the euphoria of hearing an angel's voice and seeing the glow of its 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 mocked with a smile. Her sweet voice danced and twirled. "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 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, did she just say something 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 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 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 see. 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 away. I raised a hand slowly to wave goodbye but she was already lost in a crowd of 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 slightly. "Hey, what're you grinning at?"

I guess I was day dreaming. "Oh, it—it's nothing," I managed to say.

"Oh, really? If you say so." Kitamura pushed the frame of his glasses up with a finger. Kitamura's probably the only person in this whole school 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 as I thought about what I was going to ask him. "You've –erm—always been good at talking to girls." Like Kushieda-san, I added silently.

"Huh? What do you mean?"

I could tell he was surprised rather than being humble by the confused look in his eyes so I dismissively shook my head. 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 or making idle conversation with her. Yet, Kitamura is able to have such natural conversations with her—every girl, actually—so easily. Not only that, but he's also in the softball club with her!

But it's because of him that I even know Kushieda. It was from watching his natural and effortless 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 show 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."

I wanted to smack him in the face and tell him was so wrong. Looking at my noble, I wasn't sure if he'd understand just how different the two of us were.

Whether he believes it or not, the girls 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 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.

A few more students filed into the room as class was about to begin. Some had a look of shock and fear flash across their faces when they spotted. Most of them began whispering to one another. I was able to catch a few words asking whether or not that pissed off looking guy with the scary eyes was the Takasu guy everyone's afraid of. I got up and headed towards the exit, thinking that it might be better to hide from all the attention before the teacher arrived.

"Hey, Kitamura," I said. "I'm going to the washroom."

I should have looked where I was going. I wasn't paying attention and didn't realize that something was coming through the classroom door as I was walking out. Whatever it was, I bumped into it 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 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'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 hid the anger hidden beneath a thin layer of ice. The girl had long, fluttering, light brown hair that cascaded over her shoulders and 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 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 talk—"

The girl suddenly jerked her chin up and stared me full in the eyes with her own. The ice cracked and a tiger's furious roar shattered through.

°°°°°


"Who you calling a Palmtop Tiger?"

I don't know what happened but I was on the ground. I had some how fallen back onto my ass. The crowd of students had moved back, some of them had stumbled to the ground as well. 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 I realized as 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! Now I know what it's like to look into my eyes and feel fear. She narrowed her own brown eyes, bringing her soft eyelashes closer together, as she looked down at me. She unfurled a fist and swept back some of her long hair over her shoulder. "A dragon? How lame."

I looked down at myself. My school uniform jacket was pulled open when I fell, revealing the image of a dragon on my t-shirt. I normally wouldn't wear something like this but my mom bought it for me and I wore it during laundry days. I quickly pulled my uniform jacket close.

"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. Most guys would probably think she's cute—I would have thought so if I wasn't squirming in terror—but she was covered in an aura of complete ferocity. The look on her face said 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 on the floor, pinned by her glare but a sweet, angelic voice called out and saved me.

"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. Her ferocious aura dwindled and disappeared as she 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!"

Blinking away the shock, I pushed myself off the floor and went back to my desk. The other students were whispering again.

"Looks like Palmtop Tiger Aisaka won that much, huh?"

"I guess Takasu only looks scary. He sure didn't act like a delinquent."

Huh. Well, I guess one good thing did come out of that mess.

°°°°°

Later on, I realized that my delinquent reputation wasn't the only thing spread by whispered voices in the school—how's that for an odd example 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 say he either works as a fixer in the crime underworld or is a crime boss himself. It's also said that she is a skilled martial artist but was expelled from her dojo after attacking her master. 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 guys behind her.

Considering my experiences with rumours, I knew that the information beyond her name and height were 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.

°°°°°

Light Novel
Main Series' Volumes

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