Disclaimer: Rosario + Vampire is the property of Akihisa Ikeda and Shonen Jump. I earn no cash, and lawsuits will have to wait in line…
Rosario + Vampire:
He Who Fights Monsters…
Chapter One: Dangerous Ground
Written by: Hawker_748
Tsukune Aono set down his bags and took a look around at his surroundings. "Where the hell is this?" he murmured. He'd had no idea where his parents had gotten the pamphlet for this school from, but it had certainly not mentioned what it was like; the sky was a grey blanket, overcast as far as the eyes could see, despite the fact it had been a bright, sunny day when he'd boarded the bus that had brought him here. Then the driver, (and what was up with his eyes? Tsukune wondered,) had rattled of some facts about him that had his passenger considering how and why he knew them, giving a cryptic warning about the school, the menace blunted by the horrible puns he'd used.
And it hardly even looked like Japan anymore, with the expanse of dead trees looking like the aftermath of a forest fire, the dark grey water of the seashore that was visible over a sheer cliff face combining to complete the desolate and bleak landscape. Assorted skulls were littered over the ground, some of which looked disturbingly human, and the headstones simply enhanced the macabre air.
Tsukune sighed morosely and picked up his bags; this was going to be his new home for the next few years while he went to school. Each step he took towards the creepy looking buildings caused his sense of dread to grow, and he found himself wishing he'd worked harder when he'd studied for his exams. 'If I'd known I'd end up here, I probably would have worked harder,' he noted with grim amusement. 'Nothing to do now but make the best of it.'
"Get out of the way!"
If asked about it later, Tsukune would have liked to say he'd narrowly jumped out of the way of the ten-speed that zoomed towards him, gracefully avoiding a collision. But he was never comfortable with lying…
As he tried to protect himself with his hands and move away, his ankle got caught on a dead tree root, causing him to fall over with a yelp, twisting in his tumble and landing face first in the dirt. Wincing in pain and spitting dead grass and dirt from his mouth, Tsukune looked up and saw that the pink haired cyclist hadn't even slowed down, or even looked back to make sure he was okay.
"I'm alright, don't worry about me, you keep going. I'll be okay…" he softly called out to the rapidly disappearing girl, who probably couldn't have heard him without a megaphone at this point. Tsukune let out an aggravated groan, keeping his eyes on the cyclist, hoping she'd lose control of her ride and slam into a tree. He felt guilty about wishing harm upon her, but he was still disappointed that karma didn't balance the scales. He hadn't even reached the school yet, and his classmates, especially the girls, were already ignoring him, if not actually assaulting him. It seemed as if high school was going to pick up right where middle school had left off.
Getting back to his feet, brushing himself off, and attempting to salvage what little was left of his dignity, Tsukune squared his shoulders and resumed his course towards Youkai Academy, certain that things would only be going downhill from here.
"My name is Shizuka Nekonome, your homeroom teacher," the cheerful brunette introduced herself to the class. Tsukune had given her a few discrete looks, thinking to himself that at least there was some nice eye candy in his class. The teacher was rather cute as well, with her short skirt and bubbly personality brightening his mood a little. While he had no preference for older women, Tsukune had nothing against them either, and at least it meant he wouldn't mind watching her during classes.
"And as you know, Youkai Academy is a school just for monsters."
"The primary purpose of this school is to teach monsters to blend into the human world," the teacher explained, drawing on the blackboard, and not noticing that one of her students looked like he'd just stepped through the looking glass. "So you are required to stay in human form at all times, going into your monster form is strictly forbidden."
'…What the hell…?' Tsukune asked silently, wondering if this was just some prank they were playing on a new student. That certainly made the most sense. He felt an urge to laugh good naturedly at the humor to break the ice, but a little voice in the back of his head was screaming at him to keep his mouth shut, and Tsukune decided to listen to it for now.
"Even though humans are strictly forbidden here, and none have ever been to Youkai Academy and lived to tell about it," the teacher cheerfully concluded.
This was certainly an interesting way to start the year, Tsukune decided. He'd seen all sorts of things that different teachers used to lighten the mood before, but this one took the cake. Tsukune glanced around him, looking at the faces of his classmates, expecting to see humor in their eyes, and with a little nervousness hoping he was the only one not in on the joke, but the serious expressions they wore made him pause. 'S-she wasn't kidding,' he realized with growing unease. 'I'm a human in a monster school!' It seemed absurd, completely off the wall, no way it could be real. This was simply an elaborate prank on the student who'd gotten his acceptance just days before. But a nagging feeling in his gut kept him from giving voice to his beliefs; as crazy as it would seem, something about what he'd seen and heard so far made him willing to accept it as fact.
"Why do we have live with humans?" a brash new voice cut into Tsukune's musings. "We should just kill them, except for the pretty girls, we can molest them."
Even if he'd been 100% human, the new speaker would have been instantly tagged a thug by anyone who saw him. Considering what it might possibly under that brutish exterior only made him worse by several orders of magnitude. If he was a monster, the classmate seemed to have chosen a form designed to utilize as many delinquent stereotypes as he could; dyed hair, a surly, smug expression, sheer physical size, and an assortment of piercings that would have raised the blood pressure of any self-respecting principal. His appearance, combined with his apparent contempt for humanity, made Tsukune vow to do whatever he needed to do to avoid antagonizing him, or even drawing his attention.
"Excuse me! I'm sorry I'm late!"
The latest interruption to Tsukune's frantic attempts to control himself, (dogs could sense fear, and he suspected monsters could as well) made him look up, and he couldn't keep his eyes from widening. While the girl was cute by anyone's standards, it was the pink hair that drew his gaze. "That's the bimbo that nearly ran me over!" he wanted to shout out, but remembering just what the situation was made him bite his tongue. The girl's eyes met his for a second without a flicker of recognition, and Tsukune felt himself scowl at the realization that she couldn't even recall the innocent pedestrian she'd almost smoked.
He could hear the comments some of the guys made as she went to the desk she'd been assigned, but as far as Tsukune was concerned, she was off limits. That went for any of the girls as well; some of them looked gorgeous, but the saying 'beauty is only skin deep' was quite literal here. Who knew what their monster forms might be? Tsukune had held out hope that he'd find a girlfriend at the new school, but he disavowed any notion of that now. He supposed it had been a desperate hope anyways. What were the chances that even one girl would have shown any interest in him?
Tsukune trudged through the hall of the dormitory, looking for his room. After homeroom, his day had been a constant battle to keep from descending into utter madness. The last, desperate hope that the whole monster thing was just a joke died a violent death when he'd seen a few students in the hallways between class either sprout wings, grow claws, or transform into something out of a madman's nightmare. He'd managed to crush down any display of terror, telling himself that his life depended on it.
Tsukune had experienced an immediate urge to bolt for the exit, attempting to break the land speed record while running for the tunnel that had brought him here. But he found himself hesitating; if he made a run for it, chances were someone would come after him, and he suspected that many of his classmates could outrun a cheetah.
And even if he did manage a lucky break and escape successfully, what then? His parents would never believe that they'd sent him to a school for monsters, they'd just think he'd let them down, again. They'd made such a show of being happy that he'd been accepted to a high school, that abandoning it wouldn't be accepted by them, even with a believable reason, never mind something off the wall like having Frankenstein as a classmate. The teacher had even said that everyone had to stay in human form, so maybe he could bluff his way through this, at least until he was able to transfer somewhere safer. Staying here would be a risk, but waiting for a transfer to be approved would be the best decision, keeping him alive, and his parents happy. Perhaps a nice quiet school in Afghanistan would let him transfer in…
Lunch had been even more surreal, with half the food in the cafeteria appearing for all the world like normal, everyday human food, and the other half… not so much. Tsukune had stuck with things he recognized, and made an effort to NOT consider the possibility that the human looking food was only a disguise as well. After taking an empty table and gulping it down to reduce the risk of discovering a deception by taste, he left the cafeteria and headed for the first afternoon class.
By the second class after lunch, Tsukune was mildly surprised to realize that he had settled down enough to actually pay some sort of attention to his Geography class, astonishing himself by recalling the names of several European capitals when the teacher asked him. But even as he rattled off the names of the cities, he kept flicking his eyes around, looking for any hint of a threat. And giving the answers had required him to swallow a few times to keep his voice from cracking as his mouth was as dry as dust. After class had ended for the day, Tsukune had made his way to the library, needing more information on his possible classmates. The cryptozoology texts had been impossible to locate, and he was about to ask a librarian for help when he got a sudden hunch. He nearly broke out in delirious giggles after he finally found them in the non-fiction, reference books.
Tsukune took a quick look around, saw he was alone, and slipped three of them onto his school bag. Walking through the library stack, grabbing a few books at random, he made his way to a study carrel in an empty corner, setting all the books on the desktop, opening one to any page. After making sure that there were no witnesses, Tsukune took the books from his bag and carefully peeled out the magnetic anti-theft strips. He'd always considered himself scrupulously honest, but considering that his life was on the line, swiping a few books seemed like a small price to pay for his survival.
He checked out another book legitimately to salve his conscious a little about the three reference books concealed in his bag, the weight of the tomes a bit heavier than Tsukune had expected. As he stood in front of his dorm room, he found himself considering what he would do if he had a roommate to worry about, and hoping the dynamic would be more like a dormitory than a prison. When he opened the door and saw only one bed and desk Tsukune almost collapsed with relief, walking inside and locking the door behind him. After a few seconds thought, he pushed the desk in front of it, forming a makeshift barricade. If he could move the desk that easily he had no illusions about it keeping a determined monster out, but maybe it would buy him a second or two to go out the window. He was four floors up, and there was no fire escape, but it was still his best choice. On the other hand, if he broke his leg while trying to flee… Tsukune tried not to think about that too much.
Flipping on all the lights, Tsukune opened the closet and looked carefully within, then scoping out under the bed, both places he was sure had hidden monsters when he was a boy. Finding nothing, he searched every drawer and nook and cranny until he was satisfied that he was truly alone in his room. Collapsing onto the bed, Tsukune began shaking, the pent up fears and worries finally catching up to him, nearly bringing him to tears. After allowing himself a couple of minutes of cathartic release, he willed himself back in control and tried to clear his head, needing to get his focus back if he had any hope of pulling off his deception. He reached into his bag to retrieve the books he'd pilfered to try to become familiar with his new surroundings, when his fingertips brushed against cold metal.
Tsukune pursed his lips. The books from the library hadn't been his first theft, if he really wanted to split hairs. Closing his fingers around the metal, Tsukune pulled it from his bag, seeing his reflection in the stainless steel finish. As far as blades went, it was pretty pathetic, and he'd almost ignored the impulse to slip the simple table knife into the cuff of his jacket, and then into his bag. It had a rounded point, and only the barest trace of a sharp edge, just a stereotypical cafeteria knife. If he was ever attacked by a monster slice of toast, he'd probably be able to butter it into submission. It was more likely that the monster that ate him would use it to pick pieces of Tsukune from between its teeth.
Still, it was fractionally better than nothing, and while Tsukune had no intention of ever getting into a conflict with a classmate, he wasn't certain he could avoid it, and without some sort of weapon his odds of survival were somewhere between zero and not much. It had been this thinking which made him make an additional stop on the way to his room, using some of his credit at the school store to pick up a couple of things. He'd been surprised to see so many normal toiletries and sundries for normal humans, and it made him suppose that monsters had the same troubles grooming their human forms as humans did.
He took out one of the three cans of hairspray he'd purchased, using his thumb to flick off the cap, making sure that the nozzle was turned away from him as he withdrew one of the cheap lighters he'd also bought. He thumbed the flints and fired it up with his left hand, using his right index finger to trigger the hair care product.
The flame was larger than he'd expected, a three foot gout of fire that brightened his room with a satisfying roar and a rush of heat. It probably wouldn't be all that practical in a full on melee, but it might give a monster some pause. The blast for fire lifted his spirits a little, and he reminded himself that most creatures retreated from fire. Tsukune wasn't sure where monsters fit on the evolutionary picture, but he found himself hoping they were closer to beasts than men. He set the lighter and the aerosol can onto his night table, the faint, lingering odour of smoke familiar to him, allowing some hope to rise in him. He was still in the same mess he'd been in five minutes ago, but at least he had a makeshift flamethrower as a security blanket now.
Tsukune shrugged out of his jacket and tossed it onto the chair bracing against the desk, pulling off his tie and undoing his shirt. He was a little taken aback to discover it was damp with perspiration, and he wrinkled his nose as the scent registered with him 'Do I smell like a human?' he wondered, his mind forcing yet another disquieting prospect into the forefront. He hadn't noticed that any of his classmates smelled different, but what if they had more developed senses than he did? For all he knew his normal odour might be the equivalent of Death by Chocolate to a monster, all but ringing the dinner bell.
After a few frantic seconds of consideration, Tsukune decided there wasn't much he could do about it, so he would be better off not thinking about it too much. However, he figured that before he reached the classroom in the morning, he'd rub his jacket into the dirt, to try to mask the potentially human smell. Stripping down to his skivvies, Tsukune splashed water against his face and brushed his teeth, idly curious if his next door neighbors were doing the same, or if they'd hang from the ceiling, or sleep in a coffin. Looking at his reflection in the mirror, and forcing his appearance to harden up a little, he slipped into bed. He reached for his light switch, before retracting his hand and leaving the lights on.
Tsukune couldn't remember the last time he's needed a night light, nevermind all the lights blazing, but he'd never been in a situation like this before. Setting his alarm to get up early to start reviewing the monster encyclopedia before going to class, Tsukune closed his eyes and let his head hit the pillow. He stifled a laugh when his thinking went off on a tangent if his neighbors checked under their beds looking for humans hiding under them, and tried to fall asleep. But every little creak or groan the old building made nearly had Tsukune hitting the ceiling, and it was well after midnight before he fell into a fitful, unsatisfying sleep.
Trudging down the path and struggling to suppress another yawn, Tsukune felt far less human than he really was. Morning had come a lot earlier than he'd liked, but he'd forced himself to hit the stolen books, at first stunned, then awed, then terrified of the vast listings of different monsters that were described on its pages. He'd flipped through the smallest one, not really reading, just getting a feel for all the possible types that were out there. Before he'd had a chance to read about any of them in more detail, it was time to get cleaned up and eat, and he had a quick shower to rinse away the sweat from the frightening images that had haunted his dreams.
Frowning at his bloodshot eyes and making sure his tie was just so, Tsukune made his way to the cafeteria, grabbed a coffee and a few donuts and made his way towards classes, the brief rush from the caffeine fading disappointingly fast. 'Way I feel now, if anyone asks, I'll say I'm a zombie,' he told himself. 'The way I look, they'll buy it…' A yawn did force its way past his lips as a couple of students zipped past him; supposedly, it was forbidden to appear as a monster while attending Youkai Academy, but it seemed as if the rule wasn't strictly enforced. Tsukune had seen a few displays in the halls yesterday, and he wasn't that surprised anymore by the various species he'd encountered.
'Lizard men,' he noted in passing as the aforementioned students rushed towards class. 'Gotta be warm blooded,' his mind decided. 'They couldn't be this active this morning otherwise.' It was another drab, overcast day, but Tsukune suspected that the weather would be constantly like this. A place like Youkai Academy just called out for gloomy weather, the better to match the atmosphere it radiated; constant thunder and lightning would have been perfect for it. Trying not to seem out of place, Tsukune picked up the pace a little, telling his brain that it needed to go on full alert. A human attending a class at Youkai Academy was like a cow paying a visit to a steakhouse, and if he wasn't careful, he'd end up as someone's lunch.
Feeling disproportionate relief that he'd made it safely to his homeroom class, Tsukune took his seat and retrieved his notebook from his bag, his fingers brushing against the aerosol can of hairspray and his table knife, stroking them briefly like they were talisman. Leaving the makeshift weapons in the satchel, the presence of the cigarette lighter a comforting bump in his inside pocket, he opened his book and pretended to look through it, in actuality listening to the chatter of his classmates.
Tsukune was honestly surprised at the mundane nature of the conversations. He heard the students talking about their classes, the teachers, which girls were the hottest, and how that scrawny looking dude over there smelled really tasty, almost like a real huma- 'Oh shit…' Tsukune nearly went pale. He'd been so groggy that morning he'd forgotten to rub his jacket into the dirt to try to disguise his scent, and now someone had taken notice of him. Struggling to keep his composure, and casually looking around and wondering who'd said he'd make a nice, light snack, Tsukune almost sighed with relief when the teacher walked in. With class starting, it was likely that he was safe for a little while anyway, it was unlikely (he hoped) that someone would stroll over and take a sample bite.
As he tried to pay attention to the lecture, Tsukune kept reminding himself that he couldn't afford to make any slip ups here, that his life was quite literally riding on how well he could fit in here. 'No mistakes,' he admonished himself, attempting to return his attention to the vaguely feline looking teacher. 'No mistakes ever!' Even as he felt his stomach tightening up with stress, Tsukune let the tension ease from his shoulders, trying to look like everyone else in his class. 'Keep it cool,' he reminded himself. 'You get stressed too much, you'll die from a heart attack before you get eaten…'
Tsukune took in short breaths, biting his pillow to silence his cries of pain. The sharp, stabbing pains each breath caused seemed to indicate a cracked rib or two, or at least that's what the first aid text he'd liberated from the library seemed to indicate. Aside from the textbook he'd bought as many medical supplies as he could from the school store without appearing suspicious. Despite being in unspeakable agony, Tsukune had dug deep and slammed the door on the pain, not letting anyone see how much he was hurting, despite wanting to shriek with each tortured breath, nearly blacking out from the sensory overload.
'All I was doing was leaving class!' he raged silently. 'I've never had to face students throwing each other across the hall in a fight…' Tsukune had packed his things into his bag after the end of classes that day and casually slipped out, only to be greeted by the unbelievable sight of some vaguely human looking thing hurtling through the air towards him. Fortunately he hadn't been directly in the flight path, otherwise he'd have probably been killed right then and there. As it was, one of the monster's limbs slammed against his chest, violently smashing him against the wall, nearly knocking him unconscious. The monster that'd been thrown across the hallway must have been badly cut in this fight, for a strange bluish black ichor spattered all over Tsukune, covering his face and soaking his jacket.
Tsukune would later express astonishment that he hadn't lost his mind right there.
And secretly wonder if maybe he had...
Using the uproar of the fight to slip away unnoticed, Tsukune ducked into a washroom, splashed water on his face until he no longer looked like as extra in a monster movie, and gritting his teeth at the pain that the simple act of breathing caused, then made his way to the library for a medical textbook. That had been over an hour ago, and he was still wracked with pain; he hadn't realized it at the time, but the blow had left a cut across his chest, not very deep, but the thought of what could have happened gave Tsukune a chill. His shirt was ruined, his tie having somehow escaped unscathed, but his jacket still had dried blood all over it. The dark color his it from view, but even with multiple rinses he couldn't get the lingering stench out of it.
"Won't have to worry about smelling human anymore," he told himself with a grim chuckle, coughing when that made his ribs throb. Using the first aid book as a guide, Tsukune had washed his wounds, closed off the cut with butterfly bandages, and used a long bandage to wrap up his chest, causing the pain to fade to somewhat manageable levels. A couple dry swallowed Tylenol helped even more, but moving without looking hurt was going to be difficult for the next little while. In the mirror Tsukune had noticed that he had an ugly dark bruise over most of his upper back, and while he'd used ice from the small fridge in his room, it would still be obvious to anyone who cared to take a look.
'Use make-up to hide them?' he'd wondered as he adjusted the wrapping a little, gaining just a little more relief. 'Why the hell am I still here?' he asked himself for the umpteenth time. The logical move was to leave, right now, just drop everything and run, but he knew it wouldn't be that simple. His parents would be disappointed in him if he left, regardless of the reason. The prospect of losing an entire year of schooling was also disturbing to him, even though being here put his life at risk. And on a more practical level, it was getting dark, and since he knew that most monsters supposedly only came out at night, a nice lonely stroll in the dark wasn't that appealing.
Resigned to the notion that he'd be here for at least one more day, Tsukune got into bed and picked up one of the monster encyclopedias, flipping to the first entry, 'Abominable Snowman,' and began to read up on his classmates. He'd reached as far as 'Bigfoot' before he finally fell asleep, his slumber disturbed once again by horrific images.
"Rise. Bow. Dismissed."
The next day's classes came to an end and Tsukune had to keep himself from slumping with relief. His injured ribs had been a dull ache all day, but he'd sucked it in and gotten through it with willpower and painkillers. He wasn't in as much pain as the night before and he liked to think that it was a sign that he was healing up, and he hoped he'd be able to get rid of the wraps soon enough. Taking his time loading up his bag, deciding to wait until everyone else was gone before leaving, which he hoped gave him a better chance avoiding a fight, Tsukune stayed in his desk until the last stragglers headed for the door. Getting to his feet he followed his classmates, planning on going to his room and studying until dinner, go eat, then bone up on his stolen monster encyclopedias.
"Excuse me, Aono-san…"
Tsukune froze, swallowing once before turning to face his teacher. "Yes Nekonome-sensei?"
"I need some boxes carried to the staffroom," the cheerful feline looking instructor explained. "Would you mind giving me a hand?"
He almost turned her down; his injuries made carrying even his school bag a discomfort, and a heavier load would be worse. But he couldn't think up a reasonable excuse that would require admitting he was hurt, and doing that might be worse than a little more pain. And when he considered it, being close to a teacher might keep him from getting involved in any disturbances. "Sure, I'll do it." Besides. A trip to the nurse would spell instant, probably messy, discovery.
Ms. Nekonome gave him a contented smile. "Thank you so much, I just had my nails done, I don't want to chip them."
"…no problem…" Tsukune replied.
If Ms. Nekonome noticed how strained his smile was, she didn't let on. "It's those three over there. Just follow me."
Keeping a few choice comments to himself, Tsukune lifted the load, wincing while his back was to her, before putting on a brave front and following the lively woman out the door. As they made their way down the hall, Ms. Nekonome fell in step next to her student. "So, Aono-san," she started. "What do you think of Youkai Academy?"
"Never been to a place like this before," he murmured with complete honesty.
"Why'd you decide to come here?"
"Parents decided for me."
Ms. Nekonome made a sound that was oddly close to a meow. Tsukune took a brief look at her, noticing that she was dividing her attention between him and their surroundings. For a second he had a brief impulse to scratch the top of her head between the tufts that looked a lot like cat ears, but he decided against it. He was worried that she'd get angry at him for that, but even more worried that she wouldn't. 'I wonder if she purrs…'
Shaking his head, and making sure she didn't try rubbing against his legs when they went down the stairs, Tsukune followed her into the staff room. He struggled to open the storage room while his teacher batted at a moth that fluttered by, placed the boxes on the shelf and relaxed briefly. While trying to catch his breath, a small object caught his eye; a whetstone for sharpening scissors was peeking out from behind some dusty office supplies. A quick glance made sure his teacher was still distracted, and Tsukune slipped in into his jacket pocket. The way things were going, by the time the school year was over, he'd have stolen everything that wasn't nailed down.
"Thanks again," his teacher told him when he closed the storage room door.
"My pleasure," Tsukune replied with false sincerity, thinking only of the bottle of Tylenol in his room. Forcing himself to walk normally through the now empty hallways, he made his way back to the dormitories, ignoring a pair of fights he passed on the way, save for taking a second to try to identify the species of combatant, vowing to study longer when he came up blank on all of them. Finally reaching his room, locking the door and barricading it, Tsukune finally let his mask of composure slip. "Son of a bitch!" he hissed, clutching at his chest.
He opened his shirt and looked in the mirror, scowling when he saw that the gashes he'd closed were seeping a little, small crimson spots on the white gauze. Tsukune opened the pill bottle and dry swallowed two of them, the gritty bitterness hardly even registering with him anymore. Peeling off the bandages, he dabbed the weeping wounds with alcohol soaked cotton balls, gritting his teeth and suppressing the pain. Once he'd cleaned the cuts again, he added new dressings to cover them, re-buttoned his shirt and left for the cafeteria and an early supper.
Tsukune spent the rest of the evening locked in his room, his eyes tracing over the images of various monsters and their characteristics, slowly running his dinner knife over the whetstone. The silence of the dorm room was broken only by the occasional rustle of paper, and the faint 'shick' of metal grinding against stone.
The normally crowded hallways of Youkai Academy were even more difficult to navigate today, what with all the display tables set up by the student clubs looking to attract new members. Tsukune's homeroom teacher had asked for people to join the newspaper club she was the head of, and he was considering it, but he wanted to see what else was available first. He was once again struck by just how mundane the majority of clubs were, most of them familiar sounding from the schools Tsukune had attended before. Yes, this school was designed to make it easier for monsters to fit into the human world, but he'd still expected things to more, well, monstrous.
Tsukune would have preferred just sticking with the 'going home' club, but membership was mandatory, and he didn't want to raise any suspicions by not joining one. The newspaper club seemed like a safe bet, with little prospect of physical threats, but it would also mean dealing with his fellow students, and that might not be the best idea. The bikini clad members of the swimming club had caught his eye, and he'd briefly considered that, but then he'd used his primary head to do some reconsidering, and decided that it wasn't worth the chance of being eaten alive.
As Tsukune walked down the hallway he looked over the display tables, deciding whether or not the club was worth considering joining.
Light Music club?
Unarmed fighting club?
Human hunting club?
No. With extreme prejudice…
There was a banner over a doorway that announced the 'Tea ceremony Club.' Genuinely curious, Tsukune made his way over, opened the door and took a look inside. He was just able to keep in a scream of horror as he felt the blood drain from his face. With a shaking hand he slid the door shut, trying hard to clear away the memory of what he had beheld.
He absently wiped cold sweat from his brow and trudged down the hall, trying to console himself with the idea of becoming a reporter when a small table in a corner caught his eye. "Cross Country club…?" Tsukune had never heard that term before, and the student behind the table seemed almost timid. He approached the table and tried to figure out the best way to ask.
"Hi there, thinking of joining our club?" the guy behind the table asked with a warm smile.
"I dunno, what's a cross country club?" Tsukune replied.
"Basically, we're a running club."
"You mean track and field?"
The young man shook his head. "Not exactly. We don't run on tracks, we run cross country," he explained. "I'm Ichiro. Ichiro Suzuki."
"Pleased to meet you Tsukune. We run longer distances, not marathons, but five, ten miles over fields, through woods, that kind of thing."
"That seems… ordinary," Tsukune admitted.
"It's rather liberating," Ichiro countered. "You're out on your own, no worries, no real crowds, the isolation is relaxing."
"I've never been much of a runner," confessed Tsukune.
"Neither was I, but now I love it," Ichiro enthused. "It kills stress, it's good for you, and if you ever need to get away from trouble, it's good to have."
Tsukune chewed his lower lip; he had few illusions about being able to compete with a monster in physical challenges, but it might be good to get in better shape. "I don't have a lot of experience, or equipment."
"Oh, you'll throw up at first, but you'll learn to love running later," he insisted. "And all you needs is shorts and sneakers."
Tsukune mulled it over. It might not be his first choice, but being able to run further and faster was useful.
Ichiro must have seen the spark of interest in his eyes. "We're having a run tomorrow after class. If it's not for you, fell free to walk away."
"Deal." Tsukune extended his hand and they shook on it, the human trying not to wince at the monster's grip. "When and where?"
"Five o'clock, at the athletic shed behind the school."
"See you then."
"Welcome to the cross country club."
Tsukune walked away, heading for the relative safety of his room. Ichiro seemed nice enough, but Tsukune decided to keep his guard up. If Ichiro had suspected his newest members true nature, he doubted he would have been welcomed with open arms. Still. It was nice to talk with someone approximately his own age. Once he was ensconced in his room, Tsukune found himself wondering what Ichiro was, as he resumed his study of monsters with Dijini, promising himself to finish up to the F's that night, constantly sharpening his knife.
End of Chapter One
I have a destination in mind, and a route planned…
Pre-read by Random1377 and Mereo Flere