Chapter 32:

My Classmate Wants to Hang Out.

My Dad is an Otaku, My Mom is a Fujoshi, and I Wish I Was Dead

I'm not one for chatting in the morning before homeroom. Not that I'm antisocial or hard to approach, but I'm not a morning person and I think there are better uses of my time than shooting the breeze about nothing at all.

For instance, I can use this time to go over my homework (Advanced Japanese Literature, English 4, Calculus 2, etc.) and get a little extra studying in, which is what I usually do. I do have cram school 4 nights a week, but with finals and entrance exams coming up every second of my free time needs to be devoted to my studies.

Along with that, there's practice to plan. We're getting very close to prefecturals, and everyone's definitely improved considering how little time we've had to prepare, but we still need more work. I'm thinking of breaking out the callout drill today- I haven't used that in a while and it's especially good for the guys like Kouga and Aoki who need to work on countering.

That's right...prefecturals aren't too far away, and that means it won't be long until I step down from the team. It's really a shame. Everyone's improving so much- I didn't think Kouga had it in him, but he's really come a long way, and Aikawa is super talented for someone who doesn't have much experience. Nagase is developing into leadership material- I'm seeing him watch what I'm doing and try to step in and help out the freshmen when they're struggling.

If I could stay and see how far my juniors can go, I would, but the thing about life is that you never have all the time that you want. Next year I won't be at Shinchoushi- I'll be in college, and I'm still not sure what I want to do with the rest of my life. It's been nothing but martial arts to this point- it's inevitable when you grow up in my family.

I guess I can do what I want in college, because I'll come back home and end up inheriting my family's dojo.

But they said that about my brother, too, and now he's gone.

The first time they passed out a future plans survey in my first year, I said that I wanted to be a karate teacher like my father. He is someone I genuinely admire, and I want to emulate him in my life- if they were to pass out the survey again right now, I would put the same thing down. I wasn't always his heir, though. I was the one in the shadows. My older brother was the person who was going to succeed my father. He was the karate prodigy and a future master and the man who would take my family's dojo to great heights until one day he wasn't there anymore and my family was left with me.

The sight of a familiar bowl-cut brings me back to reality from my daydream. "Good morning, Takeno," Mitsuo Yura says as he crosses in front of my desk.

"Good morning.” I don’t even look up.

He takes a seat at his desk and starts reading something. Yura's a lot like me- not a fan of idle chatter, which is why we get along. 3-5 is a pretty quiet class, all things considered. There's a few girls who talk in the mornings or at lunch, but on my side of the room it's me, one desk in front of me, Yura in the row by the window, and behind him a girl whose name escapes me at the moment- Kakihara, I think it was- who spends most of her free time doodling.

Watching her absentmindedly draw makes me think of Shiritori. I hadn't realized that the comic cat thing was manga drawing. I'm almost jealous of how much fun she was having- I've always liked reading manga but I have no talent in either writing or drawing, so I gave up on my dream of becoming a mangaka as soon as I got it in my head in the first place. That's not the case with Shiritori. She has a goal that she wants to pursue and her energy is so infectious that it makes you want to see her succeed as well. She's a really good match for Kouga, I think. He's so serious all the time and he needs someone who can help him enjoy life a bit more.

I wish I could be Shiritori. She has something that she wants to achieve, a dream that she wants to turn into reality. I only do karate because I don't have anything else.

The "circle", or what Shiritori called it, is certainly an odd group- me, Kouga, Shiritori, and the president's shy little sister (that's who that girl had to be, I know no one else with that name and I've overheard the president mentioning that she had a little sister in passing)- but it's not like I hate it. In fact, I enjoyed our get-together, even if Shiritori's taste in manga is questionable.

I know I probably should be studying this morning, but I stopped by the PeopleMart on the way here and bought the newest Janp, so I can take a little break and read the latest chapter of Hero Academy before school starts. No one has ever had a problem with it if I hide the magazine behind my textbook and don't make it obvious what I'm doing. Teachers don't get on your case when you're a well-behaved honor student.

In just a few seconds, I’ve lost myself in a sea of black-and-white drawings, frenetic patterns, and sound effects. This series is fantastic. I can't believe that there's anyone out there who doesn't like shonen.

The sound of the door to my classroom sliding open comes from my right, and a very short skirt and a flash of long, dyed hair passes in front of me, but I don't pay it any attention. This happens most mornings. The president always comes into my class to chat with some person or other.

The babble of my class fades out as I return to reading the manga. This is honestly the best thing ever. I don't have any idea how someone could hate it. Has Shiritori given it a chance? I wouldn't be surprised if she's parroting opinions from the internet, writing an entire genre off without ever having taken the time to experience it. I hate when people do that.

As I turn the page, a steely female voice from my left breaks my concentration. "If you try to reach up my skirt one more time I will end you."

The president is leaning on the desk of the girl who's always doodling, twirling her hair flippantly. "I can't help it, you have pretty thighs."

"Reika!" the other girl snaps so angrily that her bob-cut shakes. "Cut it out!"

"Sorry, Momo. Can I go for your tummy instead?"


Well, they’re just being stupid. That was 30 seconds I could have used to read a few more pages.

I don't get girls at all. Why do they act like that?

The chapter finishes on a cliffhanger. Now I'm dying to wait for next week and see if Touba succeeds in this stage of Higarashi's evil plan. Boku and friends have their backs up against the wall. Of course, I know the heroes are going to succeed, but one of the joys of shonen is that you can still lose yourself in it even though you know the final outcome.

The next page is a spread for the latest chapter of Screwdriver Man. This one's a bit more mature than HeroAca- there's blood and gore and some suggestive stuff. I'm always hesitant to read stuff like this at school, but if it was really inappropriate it wouldn't be running in a magazine that kids can buy.

10 minutes on the clock. Okay, I have enough time for one more chapter.

As I turn the page, something slams down on top of my desk so hard that it jolts me from the comics world back into reality. In front of my eyes is a blue school bag, covered with various charms and phone straps.

"Heyo, Tora-kun..." The president’s standing right in front of her desk with her arms crossed, grinning.

"I- uh- miss, if'n ya could kindly not su'prise me like dat-"

Oh, man, why does my accent always come out at the worst possible times?

"Cute accent." She smiles like a cat. "It's unexpected. Well, not for me."

I need a moment to get ahold of myself, because if I say anything else I’ll talk in hick speak again. My cheeks are burning.


"You mean Reika," she says with an annoyed huff.

"I mean Reika-san. Did you need something from me?"

"Nope, just saying hi to Tora-kun."

"Please don't call me that."

"Why not? I think it fits. Aren't we old friends?"

"We are?"

"Yup. I remember you from when you were a kid. You wore a straw hat and went barefoot everywhere. It was adorable."

"But I don't remember you.”

“You know, Bakery Idol. ‘I’ll fill your anpan with love, bakyun~’, you seriously don’t remember that?”

“Not at all.”

“Was I that forgettable? Ouch.”

“Can you drop the subject? I don’t really like talking about the past. It's pretty embarrassing."

And drop it she does, although I wish I hadn't said that, because she immediately takes a peek over my textbook and sees my copy of Janp. Before I can pull it away, the damage is already done. If she wanted to, she could confiscate it, but instead she looks at me with a curious, surprised expression. "Screwdriver Man, huh? I haven't read it but I heard it's good."

"Uh...I wasn't-"

"You see that video where the mangaka tried to levitate when he was a high schooler?"

"No. I didn't know something like that existed."

"You ought to look it up, it's funny.” She waves her hand a little. "Seriously, though, who would have expected that you like Janp so much that you'd passionately argue with a first-year girl?"

"I-" It takes me a second before I can even say anything else. "How did you-"

"I have my ways, and a very cute little sister."


"I wouldn't have pegged you as the kind of guy who would join a doujin circle, but I guess there's a first time for everything. How'd you end up there?"

"I only joined because I needed to make it up to Kouga..." I can’t make eye contact, because that was embarrassing.

"Really?" The president stares at me, curiously. I can tell she’s not buying it..

"I swear that's the only reason."

"You know, you and Kouga are a lot alike." Suzuran perches herself on my desk as she looks toward the sky. Her leg’s right up in my face, and it leads up toward her skirt…I wonder what it looks like under there? What about the color? White? No, that doesn’t fit her. It would be something flashier, like black, or red, or maybe cheetah print…

It does not matter what color her panties are. Think about something else. Like her face…no, that’s worse. She’s way too attractive.

"What do you mean?" I’ve gotta get my mind out of the gutter, quickly.

"When both of you feel like you've wronged someone, you'll go out of your way to make it up to them, no matter what the cost."

"Oh." She's right. It never feels good to have the inner workings of your mind and moral compass exposed so casually by an acquaintance, but she's right about me. She is nothing if not observant.

"By the way..." She trails off and grins again. "Someone likes you."

"What? What do you mean-" Before I can finish, I'm interrupted by the sound of the bell signaling the start of homeroom.

"Aw, gotta go." Suzuran hops down from my desk.

"You didn't answer my question! What do you mean, someone likes me?"

"It wouldn't be any fun if I told you. You gotta figure it out for yourself. See you later, Tora-kun!"

I told her not to use that stupid nickname a million times, and she's still calling me that.


Just as I expected, running the callout drill was a good idea today. The concept is simple- it's a one-strike spar, but the attacker calls out a strike and location before throwing. The twist is that the person who strikes first doesn't have to use the attack he calls out.

When it comes to competitive martial arts, a lot of the time you will get situations where fighters think too far ahead. They're focused on trying to guess what combination their opponent will throw and how to dodge or counter the second or third strike when they haven't correctly guessed the first one, and that gets them hit. It's especially important in karate because one good hit ends the bout. It's not like boxing or MMA where you can afford to make a mistake and get hit if you have a strong enough chin to shrug it off- in karate, if your opponent scores a clean attack on you, even if you're totally clear-headed, you lose.

That's why my father came up with this drill- the goal here is to be able to recognize the attack that's coming at you and defend instead of reflexively throwing up a guard for what you think is coming and getting caught. It's a lot harder than it seems. Although we're trained to focus on attacks and block, in a fast-paced fight it's easy to panic and run on instinct. I've even seen yondan and godan black belts get fooled by this drill.

First up today is one of the two second-years, Masaru Aoki. I've pulled him and Kouga aside- Nagase, Majima, Aramaki and Aikawa are working on kata.

Aoki is the silent type- very passive, which would make you think that he's good at defense, but I've noticed he tends to leave big holes in his guard when he comes forward, so that's what I'm trying to fix.

"Right hook, body!" This one's not an attempt to fool him, and I'm not hitting him hard enough to hurt- in a competitive match, you're not going for power, you're trying to hit.

He bends away, slapping my hand back, then fires a straight punch back at me that I hop out of the way of. That was good, but it was a bit too fast.

"Jab, nose!" This one's a trick. I'm not going for kizami-zuki here, I'm going for mae-empi- the side elbow strike, on the chest. It's hard to defend against in general because it starts by looking like a straight punch until you fold your arm in and swing your elbow to the side.

Looks like I fooled him. Aoki's arm goes up to knock my jab away, but he realizes I'm going for the elbow and quickly brings his arm down to block it. It's just a second too late, though, and my arm makes slight contact with his chest. He snorts in frustration.

I know he thinks he should have caught that- it is frustrating when you get hit with something you know you can defend against because your opponent fooled you. I've been there before.

"Don't mind it!” I hope my quick attempt to keep his spirits up worked. "Kouga, you're next."

The first-year steps up next. As soon as he takes his stance, he stares at me so intensely it feels like I have two brown lasers trained on me. That’s what I wanted to see. He's watching for the attack.

"Straight punch, solar plexus!" It's half right. I am doing a choku-zuki, but it's aimed at a different location.

My strike flashes toward the target on his chin, but my right hand glances off his arm guard, and a second later an uppercut comes whizzing in front of my face. It’s so close that it whistles as it misses. I think it might have taken a facial hair off or two. I was so focused on Kouga's block that I didn't think he would go for that particular counter.

He watched my strike the whole way and didn't move to block until he saw where it was headed, and then he surprised me with a rare counter sequence.

I don't think the Kouga of last month could do this.

"Open hand, side of the face!" Two months ago, I got Kouga to bite on calling out an illegal attack. My father will sometimes work this in as a "spot check" in the middle of the drill. Different schools have different rules on what sort of punches to the head are allowed- you can get a good idea of what school a student trained in by how hesitant, or not, he is to throw punches to the face, but the constant is that chopping to the head is always banned in every school. Kouga was particularly shy about punching to the head early on, but he did get me pretty good that one time.

He doesn't even make a move to the head. He stares at me all the way, slips out of the way of my kick to the side of the body, and suddenly he's behind me, aiming downwards with the chop to the back. It takes all my effort just to get out of the way- and then Kouga's fist comes screaming toward my face. Just in time, I manage to get my arm up, and his punch hits nothing but guard.

If I was one second slower, I would have gotten hit. I’m not seeing any hesitation from him, like there was.

A few weeks of intense training may not be enough to make you a master, or make you better than someone who has been training his entire life, but it will make you better than you were, and Kouga's the living proof of that.

"Aoki, you're back up.” Kouga slumps down on the wall, breathing heavily, as Aoki stands up and gets back in front of me. We’ve been going hard, so I don't yell at him for resting.


The door to the dojo slides open and everyone stops.

"Hey!" A bright, cheerful female voice comes floating in from off in the distance. "I came by to check on you~"

The student council president casually leans on the open door before getting up and stretching.

What is she doing here?

Oh, right, right, the audits. That was one condition of allowing me to continue as captain of the team.

I rush over to the door. "Are you here for the audits?" I ask her, then turn back to the club members, motion and say "Keep going," but my efforts are futile. Everyone is more focused on our interaction than whatever weak sparring they're doing.

"Oh, that?" She looks up, deep in thought. "Everything looks good, so I don't have any problems here."

I expect her to turn around and saunter off, but she doesn't. "Can I stay and watch?"

"No.” I don't need everyone getting distracted by a girl while we're trying to work, especially one as pretty as her. "If you just came here to play around, leave. We're busy."

"Oh, I got an idea!" The president's face lights up. "How about I fight you?"

"Don't be stupid.” I huff as I turn around and start walking back toward Aoki and Kouga. "Why would I ever want to-"

A pair of hands wraps around my waist, and before I know it I’m up in the air, and then I crash to the ground. My sore shoulders cry out in pain as they hit the hard tatami mat floor, but my lower back is on something soft- and then it gives out from under me, too.

She’s standing over me, looking down at me with a mischievous smile. "Gotcha."

As I hurriedly look around, I realize everyone is staring. The four doing the kata drills aren't even trying to pretend like they're working anymore and are fixated on the two of us. Aikawa hurriedly looks away as soon as I make eye contact with him. I know he saw the whole thing- there’s no point in acting like he wasn’t paying attention. Own up to it, kid.

"I guess even a black belt doesn't know how to defend against a German suplex, huh~”

"No, we don't, cause this isn’t wrestling!" I quickly sit up, trying desperately to play it off, but I can feel my cheeks start to burn. She threw me off my feet that easily? Just how strong is she? I'm around 85 kg and it's hard to throw anyone like that, even someone shorter and lighter than me, and she’s thin. I've never seen her work out or do anything athletic- how could she have done that? Magic?

Sadly, my attempt to save face didn't work, and now everyone in the room is watching us with baited breath.

"Nothing's illegal in a real fight," she smirks, before bending over to me on the floor. Her mouth is so close to my ear that I can feel her warm breath-

"You lost to a girl, but on the bright side, you got yourself some nice skin contact~" As soon as she whispers, my heart starts pounding. "Did ya like it?"

I scoot backwards about a meter in a half-second. I'm sure I'm bright beet-red now. "Leave! We're trying to have practice!"

“A cute girl wants to watch you and you tell her to leave and go do paperwork?” A pout crosses her face. “You’re such a virgin.”


“Just kidding.” She stretches her hands out in a cradle in front of her face. “I know I’m slacking. See ya later!" She waves as the door shuts behind her, but before it completely closes she catches my gaze once again and giggles.

The dojo is silent in her wake. Seven of my juniors are standing or sitting around, staring at me with blank expressions.

How am I ever going to be able to get practice restarted after that? Man, I still don't know how to deal with women…I need help.

Pope Evaristus
Steward McOy