Cat's Hour ~猫の時間~
In this world, there are things that we can’t explain no matter how hard we try…
Ghosts, supernatural entities, gods, dreams, nightmares, the flow of time, the reason to live, what happens after death… there are lots of questions that we don’t understand, mysteries that we have yet to uncover.
“And the greatest mystery of them all was… Cats.”
My mother who loved telling me various stories claimed that the most baffling mystery of the world… are none other than cats.
You can see cats everywhere, what makes them some sort of mystery if you can see them almost everyday? Mom might just be saying those things because she loves cats. But for my young mind at that time, I believed her words and agreed with her.
“Just like humans, we also don’t know the reason why cats exist. When you think about it, it’s quite puzzling, right?”
That’s true… I think it was indeed mysterious too.
“Can you take a guess, Hikari?”
“Hmm… I can’t think of one. How about you, Mom?”
“Fufu, I think it was still complicated for you but I’ll tell you something.”
“What is it?”
“Cats are miracles.”
“Miracles? What was that?”
At that time, I didn’t know what miracle means. Mom didn’t explain it to me and just give me a warm smile.
“Someday, you’ll find out.”
“But I can’t wait that long!”
“Fufu, you are really a child, Hikari. Then, I’ll give you this.”
Mom took my hand and gently put a round golden bell on top of it. It looks so pretty.
“I’m glad that you like it. You see, it was a special bell for me. Please take care of it, okay?”
“Un! I’ll take good care of it! But Mom, what is this bell for? It was different from the bell we give to our other cats.”
“A special cat gave me a wish, and that bell is the symbol of our promise. It was mysterious, right?”
I never had the chance to ask her what she meant by that.
That idea of mystery also grew within me all these years that has passed. And so, I also found myself extremely fascinated with cats at present.
“Uwooah! Cats are really mysterious!” I said in admiration.
I was scrolling through my phone to look at cat pictures online while I was boarding a train to go to my soon-to-be school.
Cats all come in different shapes and sizes, some are slim and have a graceful appearance, there are also some cute ones with big fluffy bodies that are good for cuddles. Their tails also have different lengths, there are long ones and there are also short ones. So cute!
The paws are also worth mentioning! It was so soft! If it was me, I would be glad if the cats stepped on my face with their paw beans, how blissful.
Oh, and don’t forget the best of them—the cat ears! If we’re talking about cats, we can’t forget the cat ears. Those adorable ears that perked up in excitement or droop down in sadness. Their emotions are easily distinguish from the ears, I would like to touch them! They are lovely!
Aside from that, there are also a wide variety of cats that have different fur color and patterns. We have the pure color of white, the gentle hint of gray, patterns of an orange tabby cat, the tri-colored calico… but as I thought, black cats are the most interesting one. This is my personal preference so leave it there.
I arrived in front of the school. I stood there in anticipation.
Of course, I’m fully prepared at this point. Who do you think I am?
I am Hikari Terushima, a second year transfer student in Nekoji Academy. I transferred here because it was a school known for being called a cat sanctuary. As a person who loves cats, there’s no way I wouldn’t want to study here. Being able to play with cats after a stressful day at class feels like a dream.
That’s why, when my father was reassigned to work somewhere near this school, I used that excuse and apply for Nekoji Academy as a transfer student. Of course, with my given academic ability, there’s no way that I wouldn’t pass.
“Huh? A cat sanctuary? There’s no way that this school is something like that. Nekoji Academy is just a normal academy. Surely, there are some stray cats wandering around and it’s not prohibited here. But a sanctuary? There’s no way something that exclusive will be known our school for.”
The teacher that guided me on my orientation chuckled at my story as if it was some sort of amusement. Imagine my disappointment when I was told that! It was so embarrassing that I feel like I’m just wasting my time with something so pointless.
However, that’s not enough to discourage me! The teacher said that there are still some cats around the school and it was not prohibited on the school grounds.
I swear upon my creed.
‘As long as there are cats, I’ll stay!’
Mark my words!
Going back to the main topic, I was told about my class section and was given a locker space. My textbook would be given at a later time so I was ask to share a book with my seatmate for the mean time. It was also required to join at least one club or organization in the school. Maybe I should check it out on my first day.
After I finished fixing my documents, something was caught in my peripherals. A cat just passed by the door of the room. There’s no mistake, it was a cat!
It was because of my instincts that I have the sudden urge to follow the cat.
“May I have a look around?”
“Sure. Just be mindful of time, okay? Don’t stay here longer after you heard the bell.”
“The bell? Do you still sound it here even when there are no classes?”
“It was an automatic one. It was set to ring at a specific time and everyone must leave quickly after that bell rings.”
For some reasons, what the teacher said sounds more like a warning. There was suddenly a bad feeling inside me that started to swell up. Regardless of what it is, I walked around the building in search for the cat not minding it one bit.
I searched for the cat quickly and when I found it, it ran away causing me to run after it too.
This cat is really fast!
It was a long run but I managed to catch up to it. It was a cat with pure black coat, it purrs gently when I pet its head. So cute! I want to take it home! As in right now!
Though, I suddenly remember that the apartment that I’m staying at doesn’t allow pets. It was too bad! But still, the cat probably has a proper home in this school so it might not be that bad.
“Ne, what’s your name?” I asked the cat.
I chuckled to myself when I realized that I’m asking the impossible from the cat. As if it can answer me. Haha. Anyway, the cat still purrs at me as if answering my question. It makes me feel glad in the least.
I was frozen in place when someone answered my question. It wasn’t the cat, right?
“I guess you just thought that the cat talked to you.” Someone said.
The voice was coming from behind so I slowly turned around to see the person in question. It was a tall lady with auburn hair that was tied neatly in a bun. She was wearing glasses but I managed to see her upturned eyes similar to that of a fox. Her attire was also that of a teacher but she was good at carrying her clothes that it emphasize how mature of a lady she is.
Look at those melons! Compared to my chest size, I suddenly feel inferior.
“I suddenly feel that you’re thinking of something improper, miss.” She uttered while giving me a suspicious look.
“Ah, sorry. You’re just too pretty, ma’am.” I stood quickly and responded while scratching my cheek in embarrassment.
“Well, thank you.” She smiled at me. “You must be the new student. I’m Kana Irosaki, adviser of the student council committee.”
“Y-yes! I’m Hikari Terushima, nice to meet you.” I said with a slight bow.
“Well, I have to get going. That cat’s name is Yami, it seems like he’s attached to you for some reasons. Please continue taking care of him within your stay in this school.” Irosaki-sensei said to me.
“Well then, you should also get going. You can’t stay here after the Cat’s Hour.”
With that, she took her leave and I was left puzzled by what she meant. What in the world is this Cat’s Hour? Is it a cursed time like how demons showed up in films within a particular time? As if something like that exists.
I looked around the surroundings, I didn’t realized that I ran off this far already. Not to mention, the sun is already about to set. Squatting in front of Yami and patting his head, I decided to bid farewell.
“See you next time, Yami.”
The cat also purrs as if it was send off remark. I just smiled to myself about how cute the cat was.
I decided to head home after that. However, there was an emergency along the way.
“Not here… It’s not here!”
I checked everything on my possession and I can’t find it. My mom’s bell is missing! I’m always taking it with me whenever I go as a protective charm and it was nowhere to be found now!
To lost something that important… I have to find it quickly. I won’t go home until I find it.
Did I lost it while running on the school grounds? Is it when I was playing with Yami? Could it be when I was on my way home? No matter what, I need to retrace my movements to find it.
I ended up returning to school. I know I was told not to stay here after something like a bell rings but I have to find my memento first! There are no classes anyway so this should be just fine. I won’t stay longer as long as I find it quickly.
“There it is!”
I exclaimed in relief when I found it lying on the floor of the room where I talked to the teacher that orients me. I might have dropped it after I finished fixing my documents.
As I left the room, there was a sound of the bell that echoes through the place. I came to a halt in an instant.
It wasn’t a normal school bell that you would hear in morning assembly and afternoon dismissal. For some reasons, it was a high-pitched sound that gives you the eerie feeling when you hear it.
Could it be the so-called Cat’s Hour?
Don’t tell me someone was pulling a prank on me!
I shivered in fear and found myself unable to move a muscle.
Eh? What’s going on?
Out of nowhere, there was a shadow coming towards my direction.
“A--?” I was just about to call it for help when I realized that I can’t even speak a word.
Seriously, what in the world is going on?!
As the shadow got nearer, my fear started to grow more. It was then I realized something… the surrounding is already dark and there are no bright source of light. Then how in the world is there a dark shadow here?!
I don’t like where this is going.
I can feel that my heart is beating rapidly and a cold sweat broke on my forehead. One thing is for sure, the shadow was not a normal human.
Could it be the reason why it was prohibited to stay at school after the said bell rings was because the school is haunted?
I closed my eyes tightly and utter my silent prayers. I can feel that the shadow is really coming closer. There are no footsteps but I’m certain about it.
This is scary! I don’t want to die yet!
As I was cowering in fear, I also felt tears escaping from my eyes and I tried my best not to let out a sob. Please spare me!
Then, it all happened quickly. It was like a wind passed by and I was swept off my feet.
When I slowly opened my eyes to take a peek, there was someone carrying me in their arms. I couldn’t recognize their face because it was too dark but as the light of the moon shines from the windows in the corridor, I somehow got a glimpse of their silhouette.
“You shouldn’t have come at this hour.” It was a voice full of worry.
At that point, I’m sure I saw it right. The person has cat ears.
Cat ears? Could it be I’m hallucinating after going through something frightening? There’s no way, right?
“Sorry, I have to do this to you.”
That unknown person gave me a kiss on my forehead which caught me off-guard.
I was just about to say something when I suddenly feel sleepy.
Ah, no good. My eyes are closing.
“With this, you will forget about what happened tonight.”
I gasped for air as soon as I woke up, swiftly getting up on my bed out of fear.
Eh? I was in my room?
Somehow, I feel like I had a horrible dream… but I think it was so realistic. I can even feel my heart almost popping out of my chest. I can’t remember what it is, it must’ve been a scary one.
I decided to prepare myself for school. Today is my first day in Nekoji Academy after all. I’m still disappointed that it’s not a Cat Sanctuary that I thought but still, it was a pretty interesting school. The uniforms are also cute with blue blazer and white blouse underneath, it also comes with black and blue striped skirt. For the necktie, it is different per year so for the second year, it was gray. It was held with a brooch of Nekoji Academy insignia.
Dad already left for work earlier. It was expected, we barely meet each other despite living under the same roof. It was very different from when Mom was still alive. Very different.
I made sure that I have my treasured bell with me before bidding farewell to the picture of Mom like I always do whenever I leave the house.
“I’ll be going, Mom.”
Mom is really pretty. She has a long wavy blonde hair that she always braid to the side, it was the same hue as mine but my hair is just reaching my chest and I always let it down, I couldn’t bother to fix it myself so I’m just leaving it like that.
Mom has such a gentle smile, she was like a sun, and she was more cheerful in the photo along with the cats that she’s taking very good care of.
Cats… I feel like I’m forgetting something.
I stared intently in the picture and my sight focused on the ears of the cats.
“Ah! Cat ears! That person have cat ears!”
I paused for a while.
What was that…?
I regained a piece of a strange memory that I have last night, but I don’t know what was that about. It was as if I just blurted ‘cat ears’ out of nowhere.
Shrugging the thought, I just decided to go to school for now.
With hopes of enjoying a good time of high school with cats after classes, studying in an average and laid-back manner, I headed to school without any idea on what is waiting for me there…
“Hikari Terushima, from this day on, you will be assigned as the secretary of the student council. Whether you like it or not, there’s no way you can decline, do you understand?”
A white demon with cat ears give me that threat.
He was smiling perfectly, but his eyes were definitely digging holes in my skull and I don’t have any choice but to nod my head in obedience while trying to hold myself from letting out a shriek of fear.
What is this situation?