| This article contains HEAVY spoilers. Please view at your own risk.
The third floor of the old school building.
Even though it was just after the end of the school day, the corridor was dim and there were no other students in sight. The busted fluorescent lighting would occasionally buzz and flicker, gloomily shining down upon Tomiie Kōta’s already melancholic face as he walked.
He finally arrived in front of a door that had a piece of paper held up by scotch tape with some words someone had messily written in pencil.
It read, ‘Student council room’.
“Haa.” Kōta sighed and looked down at the decrepit doorknob with dull eyes. He wondered, just what was the point of coming to this place everyday---
“…That’s gotta be the president.”
Knocked back by the overwhelmingly spirited laugh that emanated from beyond the door, he was hesitant to risk treading any further. Without really thinking about it, an image of the owner of that laugh popped into his head.
A dependable person who sometimes showed fatherly tough love...Like an older brother or a coach, terms like that fit that person’s definitely ‘manly’ personality. Kōta had decided that he didn’t hate that sort of person. However,
He opened the door and stepped inside in one simultaneous motion.
“Hey! You’re late, first-year! Go ahead, sit over there, sit!”
It had already been a few weeks since their first meeting, but he still couldn’t get used to it.
“What’s with that? Such a spiritless reply.”
Tch, the manly person whose real name was Sumire Kanou immediately followed up the tongue click with a full and generous grin, saying “Go ahead and eat” while tossing him a pastry.
But moreover, that person was,
“Excuse me, president, I have the financial data for last year.”
“Ohh, I’ll look over it so give it here.”
Having long silky black hair gently resting on her delicate shoulders, a downcast look, and a pale complexion, she was wearing the appearance of a refreshing Japanese-styled beauty.
She was Sumire Kanou, the student council president.
She was also an honor student to the core, having never relinquished the top academic spot even once since being admitted to the school. By the way, her sister Sakura Kanou who was younger by two years was a freshman at the school; the two of them were called the Kanou sisters within the school grounds. That is, being the president and the elder of the two, Sumire was more like the older brother of the Sumire sisters.
“Hey Kōta. You were eating by yourself today, weren’t you? I happened to pass by your class and I saw you were all alone.”
“…Please mind your own business.”
Sitting near the window with her feet planted far apart and holding the documents in one hand, Sumire was looking at him with a smirk. It seemed like she wasn’t planning on leaving it alone,
“You still haven’t made any friends? Even though May is almost over? Hasn’t it been over two months since you joined this school?”
There was no consideration in the words coming from her light pink lips. Kōta remained silent, turning his back on her and looking down at the agenda.
“You’re going to ignore me even though you’re just a first-year?”
“Now, now, president.”
Coming to his rescue was the second-year vice-president, Yūsaku Kitamura. With his earnest-looking silver-rimmed glasses glinting in the light, he intervened by speaking calmly.
“Kōta started a month late, so I believe it’s only been one month so far.”
“Ohh, that’s right!”
With a light bang, Sumire made a gesture similar to a clap.
“What, could you have been hit by a car the day before the school opening ceremony…?”
“…No. I got hit by a car the day before the exam for my first-choice school.”
“Right, right, hmm, ah I’ve got it, your neighbor’s house caught on fire and so your house got flooded as a result…”
“…That happened the day before a field trip in middle school. The day before the school opening ceremony, what I thought was an intense stomachache was actually my appendix, which burst while we were out eating to celebrate, and I knocked over one of the neighboring tables and collapsed…”
“Ah! So then you were hospitalized for a month!”
---Kōta could only hang his head in silence as she pointed at him. He already knew what Sumire was going to say next.
“Seriously, you’re like a disaster magnet!”
Kyahahaha!...What was so funny?
“President, you’re laughing too much. You’re making Kōta feel bad.”
An unbridled laughter continued to resound until Kitamura intervened, and a couple of general secretaries---Two second-years were pretending to be deeply involved in their work while their shoulders shook slightly.
‘Go ahead and laugh if you want to laugh’, Kōta pouted and turned away. Sorry for being so prone to misfortune. It was definitely true though.
Whenever there was a significant event, Kōta would inevitably suffer some cruel twist of fate. From the moment he was born up until today, that had always been the case for him. Incidentally, the battery in his dad’s video camera died the moment Kōta had been born, which ended up distracting the doctor who had then dropped him right back onto the delivery table.
And so he continues to have problems to this very day. In any case, he had ended up joining the student council at his own discretion.
Getting a late start in the all-important event of entering high school, Kōta had become disconnected from everyone else without realizing it. As he didn’t really have a cheery disposition to begin with, he had been thinking of joining a club to make friends, but he had missed the freshmen recruitment season and thus missed the chance to join any of the clubs.
It wasn’t like he was hated or anything, but of course he was stuck with absolutely no friends to hang out with during free time. One day as he was wondering why he was in such a pitiful situation, Kōta came across a poster.
[General assistants wanted! Freshmen welcome! Student council]
General assistant…Basically, he took it to mean just helping out with various tasks. It wasn’t like he really had any interest in helping out the student council with their business. However, the words ‘freshmen welcome’ really stood out to him at the time. As if the door to the last car of the train he had missed was still open---That was how he felt.
He had hoped he could become friends with other first-year helpers. Or else, if he became a member of the student council, then at least he could avoid being a nobody like he currently was. That’s what he had thought.
He could still clearly remember the time when after summoning his courage as he faced the student council room, he had opened the door for the first time.
He remembered the beautiful black-haired Yamato Nadeshiko who had turned around in surprise. That he could work together on the student council with such a beauty was beyond his imagination; he was unusually lucky---he had been thinking those kind of things. But then she had greeted him in a manly manner, yelling out “Yo!” and raising one of her hands. She had flopped down haphazardly onto a chair with her legs apart, and saying “A freshman, right?! What’s up?! Well, go ahead and sit!”, she had patted an empty chair…Kōta’s knees had gone weak. Waiting in front of him had been a dependable ‘older brother’ wearing the guise of a Yamato Nadeshiko.
Furthermore, there weren’t any other freshmen helpers and even his homeroom teacher was unaware that such a position in the student council even existed, saying “Eh? You’re an assistant?”.
However, he couldn’t just quit because things hadn’t turn out as he had hoped, and so Kōta was stuck going to the student council room each and every day.
He was seriously out of luck.
“---Ahh. I want to touch the Palmtop Tiger…”
Breathing a sigh, he was only talking to himself out loud. However,
Kitamura responded right away.
“Just now, did you say ‘Palmtop Tiger’?
“…Kitamura-senpai, do you know about the Palmtop Tiger?”
“You shouldn’t answer a question with a question.”
Like he was using a disciplinary love whip, he hit Kōta over the head with the edge of Sumire’s notebook.
“Ee!...What are you doing? I couldn’t help it, because I really want to know.”
With the edge of the notebook resting on top of Kōta’s head, he started to rapidly move it back and forth like a saw.
“Don’t take the notebook lightly; it’s essentially wood. Why do you want to know?”
“S, so violent…It’s just something people in my class were discussing.”
---He’d heard that if you touched the Palmtop Tiger, then you’d have good luck for your entire high school life.
Kōta had found out about it as part of the seven wonders of the school today at the same time that Sumire had seen him by himself during the afternoon break. He had overheard it from the guys who were chatting behind him.
“Hmm. So, with your horrible luck, you were thinking you definitely wanted to do it, but since you weren’t friends with them, you couldn’t ask about the details, is basically what happened.”
“So timid.” When he heard Sumire resume speaking, Kōta turned his back on her once again and muttered gloomily.
“That’s enough already. Please drop it…I was just kind of wondering. It’s not like it’s real. Something made-up like that.”
“No, you’re wrong.”
Kitamura’s voice echoed throughout the room with an eerie intensity.
“The Palmtop Tiger does exist. I’ve seen it myself.”
“Eh?! Is that really true?”
Surprisingly, Sumire also raised her hand,
“I’ve seen it too.”
Even more members followed after the president saying it does exist and raising their hands while exchanging looks.
“So all of you upperclassmen are saying you’ve seen it?”
“Yeah, it’s pretty well-known amongst us second-years…But a legend of the Palmtop Tiger bestowing happiness…So it’s gotten exaggerated that much…”
As if he couldn’t take it anymore, Kitamura let out a bit of laughter. Sumire and the others were even grinning oddly.
“…W, what’s with this atmosphere…?”
Unable to understand what was going on and trying to find out, Kōta looked around helplessly, but,
Sumire suddenly shouted.
“Kōta, touch the Palmtop Tiger.”
“If we have someone like you who’s so prone to misfortune, then it’ll spread to the rest of the student council, won’t it? So this is my order as the president: you must touch the Palmtop Tiger and cure yourself of your misfortune without fail.”
“…Even if you tell me to cure myself, I don’t even know what the Palmtop Tiger is.”
“You should be able to ask your classmates. Start gathering information as soon as possible tomorrow.”
“…But it seems impossible.”
Going “Wha~t?”, both of Sumire’s eyes went sharp until Kitamura cut in again with a “Now, now”.
“I guess it would be difficult to just throw you into this, after all. Kōta, I’ll give you one hint to start you off. In my class, in class 2-C there’s someone named Kushieda; you should try talking to her. As far as I know, there isn’t anyone in this school who knows more about the Palmtop Tiger.”
“Kushieda…senpai, is it?”
Nodding affirmatively, Kitamura looked down at Kōta with a kind smile, but,
“You look like you’re having fun.”
“Yeah, a little.”
His intelligent eyes behind those glasses, somehow they always seemed to be bottomless. Even now with the smile, he seemed to be looking through Kōta, his calm look piercing straight in front of him.
Kōta thought of Kitamura as a kind upperclassman, but after all, he was Sumire’s right-hand man---Or rather, for some reason he felt like there was something up with everyone gathered in the student council room.
The super unlucky Kōta put his own strangeness aside and just stared at the faces of his upperclassmen with a suspicious look.
- * *
Got it, Kōta? First, the Palmtop Tiger is real. Also, it’s horribly ferocious, so touching it is going to be a real task.
---Calling it her special service, Sumire had told him that much as a hint. However, with only that, he still didn’t know just what the Palmtop Tiger actually was. In a situation like this, the normal expectation would be something like a bronze statue.
“…They’re just messing with me now.”
It was the next day, and Kōta was obediently standing before the door to class 2-C.
In any case, he had been strictly ordered by Sumire---She had told him that if he ignored her presidential command, it would become troublesome for him.
“Umm, in other words…You’ll have me fired?”
If it was just that, it’s not like he would really mind. However,
“No. I’ll force you to be the next student council president.”
“…Shouldn’t the next president be one of the current juniors?”
“Congratulations! You’ll be the first freshman president.”
So, looking sadly downwards, he had made his way to the second-year classroom by himself. He had been idly peeking inside for a while, but unable to find the reliable Kitamura, he was a bit stuck. There seemed to be nothing else to do but call out to someone on his own and ask them to get Kushieda for him.
“Umm, excuse me.”
He courageously called out to a passing female upperclassman. Turning around to face him,
“What is it?”
She had a bright smile, looking at Kōta with kind looking brown eyes. With her round face that was completely dazzling with a shining smile, her pink lips that were smooth and glistening, and a straight-forward honest and healthy appearance, she was completely different from the president’s representation of an elder brother.
“Ah, umm…I, I’m looking for Kushieda-senpai who should be in this”
He was looking at the person in front of him who had her hand raised straight up in the air. Kōta tilted his head for a bit. Umm, thinking over what just happened, the person who suddenly called out “Here~!” was,
Indeed, she was a cute but slightly strange girl…He felt somewhat disappointed all over again. It seemed like everyone he met in this place was strange, but Kōta wondered if it might be the result of his own continuous bad luck.
“Come now, it’s not ‘Yeah’! You called me over here!”
She pushed him by the shoulder over-familiarly, making him stagger. Still, he regained a firm stance and looked straight forward,
“…Kitamura-senpai referred me to you.”
He didn’t want to be picked on by Sumire, so for now he had to deal with Kushieda. However,
“Kitamura-kun? Mmm, I didn’t hear anything about this, you know?”
Recalling that guy’s glasses-clad face, Kōta stood speechless. That is, he was thinking about how he’d have to explain from the beginning about how he was searching for the Palmtop Tiger. The whole thing was kind of embarrassing. A freshman coming all this way to a juniors’ classroom to ask “Where can I find the Palmtop tiger?”---that’s really, it’s kind of…
“Hey, Kushieda! This guy is a freshman, Kōta Tomiie. He’s trying to find out about the Palmtop Tiger, so I told him about you. That is, that you’re the most knowledgeable on the subject. Well, see ya!”
Like a passing breeze, Kitamura had popped by and easily explained everything Kōta had been too embarrassed to say before leaving just as quickly,
Just as quickly, Kushieda’s eyes suddenly became distantly cloudy.
“So you’re trying to find out about the Palmtop Tiger…?”
“…Senpai, what’s with that expression?”
As if cutting off Kōta’s escape route, Kushieda stretched her arms out while remaining against the door. Her previously bright smile was now completely gone, replaced by a concave expression,
“After you investigate the Palmtop Tiger, then what do you plan on doing…?”
Speaking in a purposefully low and raspy voice, she stared at him searchingly.
“Ah, that’s…try to touch…”
“To touch. Touching. Wanting to touch. You want to touch.”
“…You said it four times, didn’t you? Well, yeah.”
Fuh~. Kushieda’s long sigh brushed against Kōta’s bangs.
“…Have you got any insurance? Of course, I’m talking about accident insurance.”
At any rate, because of his fated misfortune, no matter what might happen, he was fully insured for just about any mishap possible.
Hearing that answer, Kushieda nodded firmly with an “Ok”.
“I guess it’s fine, you’re young after all…It seems like you still don’t know what the Palmtop Tiger actually is…”
“Yeah. That’s why I’m here asking you.”
“No matter what you hear from this old lady’s lips, you still won’t be able to understand…There’s just one thing this old lady can teach you…The Palmtop part of Palmtop Tiger is referring to the size…”
In front of the confused Kōta,
“U~! Cough! Cough, cough!”
“Ku, Kushieda-senpai, are you okay?...Ehh?!”
Gogh, while calling out the name of the famous painter, Kushieda the self-proclaimed old lady crumpled to one knee with her hair disheveled.
“Umm, you’re just acting, aren’t you? You’re just poking fun at me, aren’t you?”
“It’s all over…for this old lady…Next you…should ask someone…named Takasu…”
Then just like that, she feigned her death in the hallway during the break, falling to the ground with a thud. Her skirt became flipped up to expose her white underwear from behind, but she showed no signs of being anxious or moving to do anything about it, which in a normal situation might elicit a nosebleed and be considered lucky, however…He was in distress wondering about what he should do…
“…Umm…Just who is this Takasu?”
Eventually, one of the girls from Kushieda’s class passed by and then bent down over her, saying “Hey, I can see your panties.” before fixing her skirt for her. Even then, Kushieda remained on the ground, but she pointed inside the classroom with her index finger towards one of the corners for him. Following her finger, he saw a few second year boys chatting happily.
Then Kōta gulped and stopped breathing. One guy from that group had noticed and turned around,
“…What’s Kushieda doing…?”
Kōta thought he was going to be killed.
The way that guy muttered deeply gave off that kind of an atmosphere. Also, he had a sharp gaze that wasn’t playing around. His face looked twisted in irritation and his appearance seemed too cruel to be human. He was tapping his foot and his whole body was emitting a thick and dangerous aura that took over his surroundings. Kōta wondered why such a terrible delinquent was in a high school like this that had relatively good standards.
Then, it hit him.
Without a doubt, that delinquent had to be Takasu.
Whatever he thought of as the most undesirable outcome, Kōta’s fate would inevitably follow the path that led there. So he knew he was right. He’d had enough, so he was just about to go back to his classroom. Kōta believed that was the correct course of action, he was sure of it, but...
“Takasu-kun…This guy, it seems like he has some business with you…”
An instant before he could get away, the supposedly dead Kushieda had kindly called out to Takasu for him.
Of course, Kōta wasn’t surprised at all when that delinquent guy responded to her call with a “What is it?”. His eyes glinting, he shifted his chair back and stood up from his seat. He wasn’t particularly bulky, but the terrible strength coming from him as he stood up seemed to even distort the space around him.
Licking his dry lips, Takasu started closing the distance. Moving in large strides at full speed, he quickly made his way over.
Reflexively, Kōta had pivoted around. Turning around as if about to leap, he was prepared to dash away---
He felt a light shock in his chest. He had accidentally run into someone. Reeling back, he spun to face the other way,
Confusedly lowering his head, he got ready to run. However,
It seemed like it was a more serious accident than he had thought. A small-looking girl was crouched to the side of the hallway; Kōta must have knocked her down when he had smacked into her. Surprised, he ran over to her,
Squish, there was an unpleasant sensation beneath his feet---Probably what the girl had been carrying, a sandwich that had rolled into the hallway, which he had then stepped on. However, with Takasu getting closer and the girl still fallen in a crouch, there wasn’t any time to worry about the bread. In any case, he extended his arm to help her up,
“Are you alrig…”
He lost his ability to speak.
Like a doll, her long hair was gently concealing her small body. Glancing upwards just a bit, she stared at Kōta.
Her face looked so purely white, it was almost transparent.
Her eyes twinkled mysteriously like the night sky.
Her lips were like a partially opened rose bud.
Seeing her amazingly elegant good looks peeking out through gaps of her interlocking hair, for a moment he practically forgot to breathe.
Feeling a shock like being struck by lightning, Kōta had forgotten about all the misfortune that had befallen him and was simply entranced by her stare. Like he was jumping naked into a shimmering night sky full of stars, he felt such a dangerous impulse---He completely lost touch with his surroundings. The second years who had gathered there seemed to stop moving and his breath caught at the same time, and he couldn't think about anything else at all.
Simply fixated on the beauty in front of him…
It was Takasu.
Before he knew it, Takasu the delinquent had gotten next to him and jumped in front of him. Blocking the way as if trying to hide the girl behind his back, Takasu looked extremely dreadful,
“Go, if you value your life, then go!”
He yelled. He was waving Kōta forward,
“Don’t just stand there, get going!”
It was definitely a threat. While Kōta didn’t understand, he was unable to resist Takasu’s voice and had to just leave the girl where she was and run off.
In other words, that girl has to be a prisoner.
Looking over the series of events, Kōta arrived at that conclusion. That delinquent Takasu was strong-arming her through fear to be his caged bird. He didn’t know all the specifics, but he was sure that’s how it was.
“…I really want to save her...”
Fuuh~…Heaving a sigh while imagining, Kōta was in the student council room after school.
Surprisingly quickly, two people turned to look at Kōta’s face from the side without really looking at him.
“That’s just what I’d expect of Kōta.”
Sumire muttered with a hint of admiration. Folding his arms next to her,
“He rushes towards disaster like he’s being steadily pulled by it…It’s beyond all of our expectations, how he just runs blindly into danger.”
Kitamura was also saying that kind of thing. Even the other members were similarly going “Yeah, yeah” in agreement, creating a strange feeling of unanimity in the relatively crowded room.
“…Go ahead, say whatever you’d like.”
Feeling suddenly outcast, Kōta kept the back of his head facing his upperclassmen.
To set things straight, the current Kōta wasn’t afraid of misfortune or whatever. Rather, if accepting some misfortune would let him rescue that beautiful second-year girl, he would accept time and again---The important part was that he had fallen for her at first sight.
He couldn’t help but feel horribly regretful thinking about how he had run away and left her there. Even being glared at by that delinquent…No, he didn’t care what sort of antagonism he’d have to face. If he could just make it through a bit of pain, then he believed there would be a true happy end waiting for him.
“President. I’m going to do it.”
Firmly raising his head, Kōta looked determinedly into Sumire’s apricot-like eyes. She was silent for a while, but then she started shaking her head side to side.
“Don’t do it. Give up. Don’t do anything so frivolous. Just now, I shivered…Knowing your bad luck, just lay as low as possible.
“No way! I’ll do it. I’ll definitely get it done. I’ll rescue that poor girl. Then I’ll touch the Palmtop Tiger and be happy!...I’ll touch it together with that girl…so we can both become happy together…Besides, the one who told me to do it in the first place was you, the president, wasn’t it?”
“…But, it doesn't seem like that poor girl or anyone else actually asked to be rescued.”
Kōta was in a dream-like state of mind, however, and wasn’t listening to what the others were saying. He was thinking of that girl’s fair face. And her eyes that were like a star-filled sky. And her fragile expression that was like glass. That girl’s gentle fairy-like features…he was sure that there wasn’t anyone else in this world like her.
“Umm. Kōta, you know, there’s a something I think you should hear..”
“Please just leave me alone.”
Kitamura tried futilely to stop Kōta's pleasant delusions, but he was already too far gone to turn back. Kōta was fully settled into his own private dream world. That girl, himself, and the Palmtop Tiger, the vision of a trinity of happiness floated vividly in his mind.
“Ah, fine. It’s fine, Kitamura, so let’s drop it. If it’s like this, just let him do as he likes until it’s over.”
Even Sumire’s firm voice didn’t reach Kōta.
“Kōta already said that he wants us to leave him alone. He’s not going to listen to any advice from us. Well, good luck to him or whatever.”
“…Will this really be okay? Well,…Whatever.”
- * *
Holding himself back from crying out, Kōta passed in front of the classroom while trying to look inconspicuous. For a while he had been repeatedly passing by the entrance to class 2-C, just walking back and forth in the hallway and casually peeking in through the window, and he had finally found her. It was lucky that he wasn’t spotted by anyone like Kushieda or Takasu.
Against the wall near a corner, he hid himself and thought over what he had seen. Even though it was break time, she had been sitting silently in her seat alone, not talking to anyone else. Her slender shoulders had been trembling in isolation, but she was like a fragrant rose. She didn’t have any friends, the same as himself…He thought that for a moment, but then he shook his head right away.
She was definitely being threatened by the jealous Takasu, being forbidden to make friends with anyone else. He was sure of it. That Takasu, what a despicable guy. Just how small-hearted could he be.
“…Please don’t give up. Because I'll find the Palmtop Tiger and bring it to you soon.”
After quietly mumbling, he started walking quickly down the hallway again while acting casual. With his hands in his pockets he firmly grasped his present to her. Still warm, it was a can of coffee he had just bought recently.
Of course it would be great if he could hand it to her himself, but they weren’t nearly that close yet. So as it was now, remaining anonymous,
He sent it with impeccable control---Targeting via the window, he tossed the warm can of coffee towards the girl of his affections. In his head a scene played out: “Here, drink this!” “Eh?” Toss…Spin, spin, spin…Catch. Then she would say “It…It’s warm…” as she grasped it with both hands…Or something like that. Just like in his vision, the can was following the trajectory beautifully as it headed straight for the girl’s head; after he was certain of that much, he dashed away leaving the scene.
The sound of a thud could be heard behind him, but it didn’t register with Kōta as he was running in a daze. In any case, Kōta could hardly believe it himself that he had done something so extreme. That he who’s normally shy could even do this sort of dramatic thing. Ahh, now that he felt this love, he was steadily feeling more like a man…Grasping his blushing face with both hands and running away, he actually looked kind of girly.
That present of a warm can of coffee, in Kōta’s mind there was a deeper meaning attached to it. That someday, something even warmer…he would give her something even better. Yes, that is, he would give her everyday happiness. In other words, he would deliver her from Takasu’s captivity.
At this rate, even the day when he would touch the Palmtop Tiger together with the rescued girl wasn’t all too distant. The palmtop-sized tiger statue or painting or whatever it was, hand in hand and side by side, the two of them would touch it, gently and smoothly. “Let’s become happyToradora vol02 heart.png,” he’d say. “YesToradora vol02 heart.png,” she’d say.
“…Oh yes. My luck is finally turning around…”
Kōta shivered in delight---
His shivering was soon disturbed by a different sort of trembling in the sudden stillness of the afternoon. The ever dull time in the student council room had passed by, and he was standing in front of his shoe racks, which he had looked into when he was preparing to go home.
Placed inside of Kōta’s shoe box had been a carefully folded piece of paper, which had made him wonder. Just as he was speculating what it could mean, his heart had suddenly gone cold.
There in scribbled letters,
Be careful walking at night 2-C Takasu
Just those words,
Jumping at the voice that called out, Kōta tensed up and made a racket bumping backwards against the shoe rack.
“W, what is it?! You, don’t you have club activities?!”
“Today is a day off.”
Even though he had been called ‘you’, Kitamura’s gentle smile didn’t waver as he peered at the piece of paper that Kōta was holding in his hands behind his back.
“Is that a warning message from Takasu? He must be pretty troubled as well.”
He muttered something ridiculous like that.
“That’s not how it is! T, this is, actually…In other words, you know what, right?”
“Basically, it says to be careful walking at night, doesn’t it? Takasu’s so kind, he’s giving out a cautious warning to an underclassman he doesn’t even know.”
At such excessive optimism, Kōta didn’t have the will to reply. Saying to be careful walking at night, isn’t that just like what something a yakuza would say? Like basically, you won’t be forgiven for doing something weird, or you better prepare yourself.
A chill went down his spine. He was resolved to oppose even Takasu if it was for that girl’s sake, but right now, remembering that glinting dangerous stare, he couldn’t stop his whole body from shivering. He wouldn’t be surprised if that guy whose eyes looked crazy went so far as to ambush an innocent underclassman along the streets at night; it would probably be easier than breathing for that guy. Kōta could just picture Takasu coming for his life wielding an unrefined wooden sword or something.
“Well then, see you tomorrow.”
Leaving the terrified Kōta alone, the heartless Kitamura quickly walked out of the school building. Reflexively, Kōta was about to call out at his back to get him to stop.
Kōta firmly balled up his outstretched hand.
A fleeting image of that girl’s face crossed his mind. Hadn’t he decided to rescue her even if it meant some misfortune? If that was so, then he shouldn’t be scared just because of Takasu’s threat. He shouldn’t be relying on Kitamura for help either. Forcing himself to act strong and in control, Kōta crumpled the sheet of paper in an instant. Then without really checking to make sure, he tossed it in the direction where a trashcan was supposed to be.
“Wahaha, that’s right! I threw it away!”
“Sounds like you’re having fun.”
When he turned around to face the bitter voice, he saw Sumire standing a bit apart from him.
“…President, what are you doing?”
With a piece of wastepaper precariously balanced on top of her head like a miracle, Sumire was scowling and making a generally sullen face.
“If it had been a pebble or something, then I’d be gushing blood from my head like a fountain and I’d have died in an unsightly manner.”
“Hah…If it was a plate, you’d be a kappa then.”
He was vaguely nodding when the situation finally became clear to him. The thing on her head was what he himself had just thrown away.
“…It seems like the president has relatively bad luck as well. Normally it wouldn’t land so perfectly, would it?”
Muttering “Okay, my bad”, he walked up to her and plucked the scrap off her head, and he was just about to place it into the trashcan. However, he was suddenly hit by a strange fit of laughter.
“Fufu, the president just now…Ahaha, it was like this.”
He wasn’t letting Takasu’s threat bother him---A sudden elation took over Kōta’s unusual tension. Putting the scrap he was holding onto his head, he turned around to face Sumire. Imitating that ridiculous looking appearance, he couldn’t stop laughing. Sumire just stared at him a while without any change of expression. He was starting to think ‘Ah, maybe this is just a bit too stupid’, but,
“Even though you’re eighteen, hahahaha, you were wearing trash on your head.”
Shaken during his fit of laughter, the trash didn’t stay and grazed his nose as it fell towards the ground.
“Hahahaha, hahaha, haha…ha~a.”
Finally sighing, nearly a minute had passed by the time his fit subsided. Bending down and picking up the paper, he finally threw it away for real. Then going “yare-yare”, he wiped his forehead that had gotten sweaty from laughing too much,
“Well then, good-bye.”
Like that he turned away from Sumire setting off to go home. However,
“What is it?”
Sumire was grasping his shoulder firmly.
A smile. The living, smiling Japanese doll placed a key into Kōta’s hand.
“This is the key for the student council room. I was going to the vice-principal’s room to return it, but I just remembered something important. You know about the locker, right? Inside there’s close to a hundred volumes of activity logs that are kept by each generation of the student council. Each volume needs to be labeled by year. They need to be labeled on the front cover and on the binding and arranged accordingly so they’re easy to look through. Before today is over…I leave it to you, assistant-kun.”
“…Huh? Right now? Me, by myself?”
“That’s right. I’ll check it tomorrow morning and if it’s not all finished…You understand, right? Well then, good luck.”
“But it’s not possible.”
Within both of her pretty and calm-looking eyes, the single character for ‘wrath’ glowed as Sumire waved goodbye with her fair white hand.
- * *
Over three hours had passed by the time he finally finished with his appointed overtime work.
When he looked around he noticed that the sun had completely set and it must have been evening for some time. He passed the school gate and moved along the main road, and by the time he made it to his residential area, night had completely fallen. Kōta walked briskly along the asphalt road that was intermittently lit by street lamps. Be careful walking the streets at night---That brief message came back to him all of a sudden as he walked home along the dark street…
Even though he had gathered his courage and vowed to face things head on, now that he was actually walking along a dark road, he was feeling extremely wary of his surroundings. Had it always been this quiet? Both in front and behind, there wasn’t a single sign of life.
Unconsciously, he felt practically frozen where he stood,
“…No. It’s not like I’ve really done anything yet.”
He whispered quietly to himself like that and firmly raised his head to get over his anxiety. That’s right, there wasn’t anything to be worried about. And there wasn’t anything to be so afraid about either. Sure, he had been threatened, but that didn’t mean anything was actually going to come of it---he was thinking when,
The thicket rustled. So surprised he thought he was going to die, Kōta jumped to the side. He was just about to run away, but,
A small voice cried out.
“Wha…Is it a cat?”
Almost blending into the shadows, a jet black cat peeked its head out from the thicket. Stepping a bit forward, only its paws were white; looking as if it was wearing socks, it was really cute.
Looking up at Kōta as he sighed, the kitten cutely cried out once more. Then it raised its tail high and snuggled up against his pant leg.
The whole thing was quite cute, and Kōta unconsciously forgot to be afraid as he looked down. When he extended his finger and called out “Tut-tut”, the cat pressed its head against his ankle.
“C, cut it out, you’re going to get fur on me…Ah, I’ve got it.”
He remembered that he had the tail from a fried mackerel left over in his bentou box. Squatting down on the spot, Kōta took out his bentou box from inside his bag. While shying away from the cat that kept mewing and pushing on him, he untied the bundle, removed the lid, and picked up the mackerel tail with his fingertips.
It would suck for fur to get all over his uniform, so he couldn’t just stick around here playing with this cat forever. So as a parting gift, he was thinking of throwing the tail into the thicket where the kitten had emerged. The kitten would probably follow it and then return home, and once that was done, he could return home too.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m giving it to you right now. There!”
With a toss, Kōta had planned to throw it forward and off to the side. However, the kitten’s golden-colored eyes were fixated behind Kōta. The mackerel tail left his hand and flew cleanly behind him.
Ignoring Kōta as he mutter “Crap”, the kitten charged towards him. However,
Near Kōta’s knees, it suddenly puffed up its fur all over its body. Expanding to roughly three times its size, arching its back, and pulling back its ears, it trembled and took a step backwards, and then like a bouncing ball, it ended up jumping into the thicket.
“Huh? You don’t want it?”
Standing up as he wondered what was wrong, he turned around about to look for the tossed mackerel tail---
He was speechless.
A girl was standing right in front of him.
With the tail of the eaten mackerel unbelievably stuck to her forehead, the girl he liked was standing right there.
Like an extremely faint growl, it was a terribly level voice that crept along the ground. Meeting so suddenly, the immediately obvious need to apologize disappeared into the darkness of the night. He couldn’t even ask her why she knew his name or anything.
The girl’s eyes. Her stare.
“You know, I…I had been planning to forgive you.”
The edge of his face went numb as he started panicking, and Kōta was thinking, “How weird.”.
With her long hair, her beautiful face, and her short stature, it was unmistakably her. The captive girl he continued to long for. But, he wondered why she was here.
“Even though you knocked me down and stepped on my sandwich, because it didn’t seem like you did any of that on purpose…And because you’re Kitamura-kun’s underclassman…In a personally rare showing of tolerance, I was going to kindly forgive you for all that.”
The girl who was like a sweet spring wind, when he looked at her after they crossed paths on the night street, she seemed to be shaking with unusual intensity, and so...and so...
“A, a, a, ah…?”
Remaining by her, he---Why, he wondered why he wouldn’t stop trembling.
Too scared to move, he wondered why he couldn’t even get his voice to come out.
“And then, when you knocked me in the head with the coffee can, I was going to tolerate it and even forgive you for that too. Because Kitamura-kun had desperately apologized. ‘Please forgive him for my sake’, he said…Now that I think about it, it seems like Kitamura-kun was way too nice to you…And I think I was too.”
It felt like her presence was steadily growing.
As Kōta’s whole body started freezing up, he unconsciously took a single step backwards.
Her eyes looked like empty spaces filled with darkness.
Kōta couldn’t even breathe as he desperately tried to comprehend the situation.
“U, umm…Eh? W, wha?”
“Even Ryūji Takasu made an effort to stop me. “He’s a freshman so don’t do anything mean to him,” he had said…And now here I am, completely coincidentally. I had to finish up something for art, so I was late going home…And it just so happens that you were walking in front of me.”
“H, how strange…”
Kōta’s feeble voice became fully immersed in a monologue.
“Just now, when I turned around, I thought there was nobody around…Ah, could it be…Yeah, it must be because you’re too short, so I didn’t see you, I think…?”
He was talking to himself---However, it seemed the short girl in question could hear him as well. He saw her fair face begin to twitch. It was definitely not a good sign,
“…Is that right? Yeah, I see…That’s right.”
The girl deliberately picked the well-stuck mackerel tail off of her forehead. Giving it a glance for just a moment, she wryly laughed with a “Fu” as her lips curled,
Smack! She threw it at Kōta’s legs with terrifying force. Kōta leaped backwards without saying a word. From within the thicket, the kitten with the sock-like paws watched as the mackerel tail embedded itself into the asphalt like a bullet. It tried to discreetly extend one of its trembling front paws,
Hearing her thin voice that sounded like a poisonous harp that might be played in hell, it timidly shivered and silently retreated.
“Even I have a limit to my tolerance.”
She silently raised her face. That stare, it went right through Kōta.
He tripped over his own legs.
He fell backwards.
Her eyes as she looked down at him---Tinged with madness, they looked ready for murder.
The mad glint in her eyes was that of a beast spurred on by the scent of blood in the air; it was basically saying, “There’s prey”---She would bite her prey to death and consume it; she would rend its flesh and feed her hunger---Her ferocious growling voice,
“…I won’t forgive you…”
It was engulfed by melancholy as she smiled viciously.
With her blood-red lips perfectly resembling that of a ferocious tiger,
Dreadful and brutal…And small…Kind of, palmtop-sized…?
His mind went blank in an instant.
A boy’s wail resounded throughout the residential district, until finally---it disappeared.
- * *
7:15 in the morning.
Without any other students around yet, Kōta arrived unseen by anyone at the entrance where the second-years’ shoe racks were lined up.
The topmost and leftmost shoe box for the girls’ of class 2-C.
Just as he was ordered, he tried to thrust the paper bag he held with both hands into that spot. But it didn’t go in, so he tried to rearrange the contents so it would fit.
A special sandwich box set and the most popular tomato, bacon, and cheese sandwich from the Maruya shop that was near the north entrance of the station. The second most popular teriyaki chicken sandwich. Along with that, special syrupy puddings that were only sold at the local convenience store, in custard and café au lait flavors. A three-pack of yogurt that contained vanilla beans. And then one liter of milk.
There shouldn’t be anything wrong with the goods as he had checked everything over as if he might die.
He tried to put it in again after having made the bag just a bit more compact, and this time at least, his offering fit in just perfectly. Finally, he verified the spot once more, and he verified the nameplate once more,
He fell to his knees exhausted. That girl was most definitely the living legend, the Palmtop Tiger. Anyhow, her name was Taiga Aisaka. Taiga…The palmtop-sized Taiga-san.
“Who the heck came up with such a ridiculous nickname…?”
He didn’t even have the strength to laugh, and he just crouched underneath the Palmtop Tiger’s shoe box. The things that were firmly stuffed into it were the requested items of simple luxury.
“Huh? Kōta, what are you doing here this early in the day…?”
Turning around at the voice coming from behind him,
Kōta stared up at Kitamura as he burst into laughter.
“Y, you…Your face! Did Aisaka do that to you?!”
“…You should be able to figure it out just by looking…What about you, senpai?...Is it club activities?”
“That’s right, club, club ac…Buh.”
Buahahaha, he was being laughed at with a spitting guffaw, but it’s not like he had the strength to retort. He’d have to just live with this face for a while.
Last night, handling Kōta roughly and taking complete control of him in the end, the Palmtop Tiger had said---“A natural idiot like you should borrow the powers of Feng Shui to live!”
So on Kōta’s face, his nose was the center of the cardinal directions…Carefully with an oil-based magic marker, she had started with his chin as north and drawn a freehanded octagon like a Feng Shui compass all over his face. Whether he rubbed at it or washed his face, the compass for finding happiness just wouldn’t come off at all.
“…Se~~riously, it was a horrible experience. She’s definitely a tiger. She’s a beast that can’t be handled. Because she’s a dangerous creature, and like that…She’s become so famous that she’s a legend, right…All of you upperclassmen knew all about it, and yet you encouraged me to keep going, didn’t you?”
“We didn’t plan on doing that. I tried to tell you, but didn’t you say to leave you alone? And the president said to leave it alone too.”
“…You, would you follow the president’s commands no matter what she says?”
Hm, that’s probably about right, Kitamura was nodding while looking calm,
He suddenly broke out in laughter all over again.
“Anyway you, that face! Your face looks kind of like an anus!”
“G, go ahead and laugh if you want to laugh…I seriously believed in what you guys were saying and you make fun of me…Anyway, I get what the Palmtop Tiger really is now, but…what about the others? Like Kushieda-senpai.”
“Kushieda is, well, no matter how I look at it, I’d say she’s Aisaka’s closest friend.”
“F, friends?!...Those two?! Are friends?!...That’s quite a shocking development. Well then, what’s that scary looking Takasu-senpai to the Palmtop Tiger? Is he a friend too? Or, could it be…he's her boyfriend, or something?”
When he asked that, Kitamura’s laughter immediately receded,
“You want to know? It’s unfortunate, but that’s the one thing I really can’t say anything about. The relationship between those two is possibly the only real school mystery.”
“What’s with that…Ah well, whatever!”
In the end, he was just being played around with by the student council members. He was just being made fun of by them. He understood that much at least.
Kōta angrily turned his back on Kitamura and ran off. In any case, he had an anus on his face, and he was cursed with misfortune after all---!
“Ah, Kōta! Wait up!”
Was he supposed to turn around? Just ignoring Kitamura’s voice altogether, Kōta continued to run.
“So you touched the Palmtop Tiger! How was it, do you feel like you’re blessed?!”
He quickly climbed up the staircase silently and shook off the question. He didn’t even feel like telling him 'No'. Ahh, that’s right, he had certainly touched the Palmtop Tiger. He had pushed back against the oil-based magic marker that was pressed against his face while he was being ridden like a horse, and he had even struggled with desperate seriousness. And, he had been completely overpowered. Against that short girl, he hadn’t been able to put up any sort of resistance.
Just what kind of person was she---He couldn’t think of her as anything but a definitely weird person. Shaking off his vexation, the unfortunate Kōta ran determinedly down the hallway. Then, he jumped into the classroom that should have been empty,
He hastily covered his face with both hands. However, it looked like it was too late.
The few classmates who were in class earlier than expected for some reason yelled out in surprise, looking at Kōta’s face.
That’s right after all, if some guy suddenly appeared with compass directions on his face, just about anyone would be surprised, probably. Kōta was relatively desperate, and just leaving his scribbled face bare, he walked over to his own desk. Ahh, now he was going to be even more separated from the rest of his class…is what he was thinking.
“Wahahaha! Tomiie, what’s wrong with your face?!”
“Let us see, let us see, what the heck did you do?!”
Bright voices full of laughter suddenly began to engulf Kōta’s surroundings. His classmates who rushed over were roughly rubbing at his face with their outstretched fingers but refrained from being too rough.
“N, that is, this,”
“Eh, what is it, what is it? What happened?”
“Tell us, come on! How the heck did you get like that?!”
Circling Kōta’s desk, they were waiting for him to speak with shimmering eyes. They waited to hear about what the heck happened, about why he was in such a ridiculous state.
“…This is, actually you see,”
Facing them as they leaned forward expectantly, Kōta started at the beginning of what happened, speaking quickly. The others seemed to think the whole thing was quite amazing. As soon as the story progressed, they’d interject, like “Geh!”, “Seriously?!”, “Cool!”, further increasing the excitement.
And so Kōta had confronted the legendary Palmtop Tiger.
He had even been able to touch her.
The third floor of the old school building.
“See you tomorrow!” “Yeah, see ya!”…Noisily parting with his classmates, Kōta was walking quickly down the hallway.
He was even considering quitting the student council, but right now, his legs were taking him unwaveringly to the student council room. So he was thinking he would just keep going for a little while longer. There were things he wanted to say to those malicious upperclassmen, after all.
That he had touched the Palmtop Tiger.
That some good things had happened.
Saying ‘good things’, he’ll probably be laughed at by Sumire for believing in it, but…after getting delayed a month for entering high school, finally being able to talk with other people was a blessing enough for Kōta that he would believe in the miracle of the Palmtop Tiger. He felt like he had laughed three times as much today as he had the entire month from when he entered high school up until yesterday.
So Kōta’s eyes were brighter than usual as he pushed open the familiar door. As if a new everyday life had begun for him, that was how he felt---
“Sorry I’m late…Uwa!”
In an instant, a dazzling flashing light had bombarded his eyes, and he looked away in confusion. What in the world…
“A, a flash?!”
“Jackpot! Already got one for commemoration!”
As soon as he opened his eyes just a little, Sumire had the digital camera ready and set off the flash again. Behind her were the second-years, the secretary and general assistant combo who easily handled the workload like always. Also,
“Well done, president.”
Next to Sumire, Kitamura was clapping.
“Wh…What are you doing?!”
“Your face is pretty interesting, so I was thinking we need to keep some commemoration photos…No, even so, really…Bufu! That face!”
Her extreme outburst of laughter that was twice as manly as usual resounded throughout the student council room. So just like that after all, Kōta was intimidated now that she was right in front of him,
“Ah, I laughed and laughed! All right, since we’ve got the commemoration photos already, go ahead and quickly take it off with this!”
Wiping away her tears, Sumire tossed Kōta a small tube.
“What is this?”
“This brand of remover is said to be among the best on the market. In any case, it dissolves even nail polish, and if that’s no good, then I guess you've got a skin disease. Here, take this too.”
She threw him a towel, and Kōta slung it over his shoulder. Usually in this case, he would go “Yes, yes, I got it.”, however,
He had turned around as he said that.
“You’re quite kind.”
Suddenly, Sumire’s eyes became round. Her lips seemed to forget what to do, with her mouth remaining just a bit agape---Kōta just left the room. Walking down the hallway, he struck a small victory pose.
“I got her…!”
For Sumire to make such a face…Yeah, it was the first time that he had stumped that ‘older brother' figure and even made her speechless. He had made her unable to say anything back.
He was feeling pretty good. He might have markings on his face, but even so, today had turned out pretty well. Maybe his luck had really turned around after touching the Palmtop Tiger.
Perhaps because he thought about it like that, he didn’t feel any hatred at all for the Palmtop Tiger, even if she did cause him some suffering. Of course, she was scary, so he didn’t feel like getting involved with her a second time, but,
“Well, a beauty is a beauty.”
Seeing her close up, the Palmtop Tiger was a first-class extraordinarily beautiful girl. He felt like he could understand just a bit why his upperclassmen would call her by that kind of a nickname. Scary, someone you don’t want to get involved with or make angry, but, you can’t just ignore her because you’re scared.
If he couldn’t ignore her, he would watch that pretty girl along with everyone else from a distance---Without intruding, from a safe distance. If he treaded past the border approaching her, he would be hunted down. Without knowing the danger or anything at all, Kōta had accidentally gotten one step too close. The result was that he became a guy with compass markings all over his face.
And so, what did Kōta decide to do now that he was fully aware of everything?
He decided to maintain a safe distance.
Whatever unfortunate events he might call upon himself because of his own unluckiness, he decided he would at least remain far enough away from the Palmtop Tiger that he wouldn’t provoke her any more than he already had as he continued to watch her discreetly. The comfort of the safety zone didn’t seem all that bad. With such complicated feelings in his heart, he was going to finally start living his high school life from here on in.
Humming contently in the nearby bathroom, Kōta forcefully opened the window wide open. Actually, he did it with a little too much force,
He ended up dropping the tube that Sumire had given him outside. Confusedly leaning out the window and looking down to the ground, he became petrified. He was frozen. It just had to be like this, didn’t it? Even though he had said he would withdraw to safety, his own bad luck completely ignored his wishes with ease.
“A, awa, awawa…~”
Down there, below the open window.
Seeming like a tiger, the one gripping her head and holding the tube in her small hand was---
|Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6|
|Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6 • Spin-off|
|Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5|
|Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6|
|Prologue • Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6 • Chapter 7|
|Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6|
|Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5|
|Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6|
|Prologue • Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5|
|Prologue • Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Epilogue|