Chapter 5:

Cats Ward Off Evil Spirits

Cat's Hour ~猫の時間~

“Yosh! I just need to take these flyers to the art club and check the suggestion box so I could go back to the Student Council Office before going home.” I hummed to myself while carrying a pile of flyers. Bookmark here

It has been a week since I started attending Nekoji Academy. That also means that it’s been a week since I took the role of Student Council Secretary. Bookmark here

My routine is made up of walking that long trail every morning from the main buildings to the woods where the Student Council Building is. Bookmark here

It was freaking tiring! It took a long walk to go there every morning, I will complain to Irosaki-sensei when I meet her. Because of the long walk every morning, I always ended up haggard when I arrive at the Student Council Building, and Mashiro-senpai would always nag me.Bookmark here

“How many times do you plan on showing up here looking like that?” as he said every morning.Bookmark here

I know that I’m not as pretty as most girls who took effort in their appearance, and I’m also not as pretty as the flawless Mashiro-senpai. Compared to those, I’m just a pebble on the road, something you could just ignore on the side line.Bookmark here

As if I have a choice! I also don’t want to go to school looking like some kind of beggar every morning! Bookmark here

Just imagine the road that I have to walk every morning! I don’t have time to fix my appearance! I even have to skip my first subject sometimes! Mashiro-senpai should put it more nicely, y’know! Bookmark here

But if it was him, I think it was impossible. Haah. Bookmark here

It was a good thing that Yami is always waiting for me in the gate and walk with me to the Student Council Building. If it wasn’t for Yami, I would’ve give up already! Yami gave me motivation to keep moving! Bookmark here

After a whole week, I also met some other cats. There was a prideful white cat that doesn’t want to play with me called Haku. If I see him around, I always have a toy with me or I’ll be ignored instead. It was as if I’m dealing with a statue, you know!Bookmark here

There is also a clingy orange tabby called Mikan. She is a persistent one that always beg for food whenever she saw me, it became my habit to bring some snacks for cats because of it. Bookmark here

The ferocious one was a calico cat called Sanji, he would hiss and show his fangs and claws before trying to launch himself whenever he sees me. I learned how to dodge because of that. Haha. If I want to get on his good side, I’m leaving food on a spot and move away a few meters before he would take it. Bookmark here

The most well-behaved one is a gray cat called Rushia. She’s not hostile towards me and not begging for attention either. She would let me pet her when I see her and sometimes played with me along with Yami. She would also take the cat treats that I’m giving to her peacefully. Bookmark here

The cats reminded me of the Student Council members. For real.Bookmark here

Regarding my classes, there are times when I need to skip them but since the Student Council members have exceptional treatment, it didn’t affect my attendance. Honestly, that was kind of irresponsible. In that week, I tried my best not to miss classes as much as I could. However, I haven’t seen Mikejima-kun in class, not even once. Bookmark here

I’ll just pretend that his reason to absent from class is because he was busy training for Swimming Club and not that he hates me. Yes, let’s go with that.Bookmark here

Overall, the secretary job is tiring for me, but because of the cats, I found the work somehow fulfilling. Well, I got to stay in the school longer because of the student council, if I’m not that busy, I have more time to play with cats. That’s just the best, isn’t it?Bookmark here

Speaking of which, I was always asked to go home after a certain time. There’s also the circulating rumor of something called ‘Cat’s Hour’. I better look it up soon.Bookmark here

“Thank you for taking the flyers here, Terushima-san. You saved us here,” a girl wearing a black necktie, a third year, said to me in gratitude.Bookmark here

“Don’t mention it, senpai.”Bookmark here

“Iya, Terushima-san really helped a lot of us here since you joined the Student Council.”Bookmark here

“Hmm? Why is that?” I slightly tilted my head in confusion.Bookmark here

“Well, you see, most of the students are afraid of them… wait, it’s not like that. It’s more like most of us can’t bring ourselves to trust them. It was weird, you know!”Bookmark here

Hmm. Well, it’s true that the student council doesn’t seem to be the type that you could just approach out of nowhere. If I say so myself, they have the noble air around them that will make you think that you’re just some commoner so you don’t have the right to get close to them. Ahaha… I’m speaking from my personal experience. Bookmark here

Even the jumpy Kurokawa-senpai also have that demeanor when he’s in his own world in the middle of working. It makes me feel inferior too, but I couldn’t care less about that as long as I could play with cats!Bookmark here

“Ne, Terushima-san, how do the other student council members look like?”Bookmark here

“Eh?”Bookmark here

What is she saying? She should have already seen them because she’s a third year, right?Bookmark here

“You can’t also tell, right? As I thought, it was really weird. Not just that, the school itself is also weird,” she said while nodding to herself.Bookmark here

“That’s not it… what do you mean?”Bookmark here

“Sure, we know that we have student council here. We also know that they helped us at times and in-charge of the school order. We even interacted with them one or two times. But it was still weird, no one can clearly describe what they look like, it was as if everyone forgot about them after the interaction. Weird, right?”Bookmark here

I put my hand on my chin and fell in deep thought. Bookmark here

That story sounds familiar for some reasons.Bookmark here

What’s going on here? Does that mean that there is really something wrong with this school? What about the student council? Is it related to why the Student Council Building is located in such a secluded place?Bookmark here

“I have to go now, Terushima-san! Thanks for the help and see you around!”Bookmark here

I just nodded to her and also went on my way.Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

“Alright! We have one entry here!”Bookmark here

I just finished checking the suggestion box where students could put their suggestions, concerns, and problems about the school that the student council could possibly take action. I was assigned to check this box everyday after classes and this is the first entry that I found here. I better take it with me in the student council.Bookmark here

I started walking on my way to the student council building when I ran into Mashiro-senpai in the hallway.Bookmark here

“Ah, Mashiro-senpai!” I called out to him.Bookmark here

He just turned around and gave me an emotionless look. The cold shoulder, right off the bat! Bookmark here

“Are you on your way to the Student Council Building?”Bookmark here

He paused for a while before answering, “Yes.”Bookmark here

“O-oh! What a coincidence! I’m on my way over there too. Should we walk together?” I let out an awkward chuckle.Bookmark here

He gave me a look as if saying, ‘Why would I walk with an idiot like you?’ Just like that, I somehow feel depressed too.Bookmark here

“K.” Bookmark here

What’s with that reply?! That’s the most insincere reply I got!Bookmark here

But anyway, it was a good thing that he agreed. I won’t have to walk there alone this time. Bookmark here

Yami is just walking with me every morning, but after the classes, Yami is always napping in the corridor of the Student Council Building. He’s probably tired during afternoon. Sometimes, Mikan would tag along with me but only if I got food. Rushia would walk with me if I met her along the way but that rarely happens so it was left by chance.Bookmark here

“What’s the letter for?” Mashiro-senpai asked out of nowhere while we’re walking. Looks like the letter got his attention.Bookmark here

“This? It’s a love letter!” I proudly said to him with a huff.Bookmark here

He squinted his eyes to me, “Do you expect me to believe that bullshit?”Bookmark here

“Mean! You should have just go along with it! Mashiro-senpai, you’re so serious!” I complained to him with a pout.Bookmark here

Of course I’m not that good looking and I’m not expecting to get a love letter too. I just want to say that line at least once in my life and Mashiro-senpai really doesn’t get a joke. Bookmark here

“There’s no point wasting your thoughts on something useless,” he seriously said and walked faster than me.Bookmark here

“Wait! That was just a joke!” I also tried to catch up to him. “It was from the suggestion box.”Bookmark here

His steps got slower so I also caught up to him. “That was rare, we didn’t get any letters for a while.”Bookmark here

“Really? Then this is the first one, huh.”Bookmark here

I wonder what kind of letter is this. A request? When I think about it, a complain is more likely.Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

Stare… Bookmark here

This thing is really out of place. I can’t help but look suspiciously towards it.Bookmark here

“What are you staring at the clock? If you want to go home so badly, quickly finish your work and leave.” Mashiro-senpai scolded me.Bookmark here

“Geh. I’m just wondering why this clock looks out of place. The whole building is a traditional Japanese house, right? Then why in the world is there a Grandfather Clock that doesn’t match up in such a place?” Bookmark here

“There’s no need to concern yourself with that. I also find that thing unsightly so you’re not the only one. Just get back to your work,” he nonchalantly said and left me there.Bookmark here

Unsightly? I don’t think it was unsightly, it was actually pretty unique and elaborate with wood carvings. It even looks like it came from Europe or somewhere overseas. It just feels weird and out of place in this kind of setting.Bookmark here

I just shrugged it off, it might just be Mashiro-senpai’s poor word choice.Bookmark here

After that, I also made my way to the office where I’ll be doing some paper works and we’ll probably discuss about the letter we got.Bookmark here

“Eh? The others are not here?”Bookmark here

“Seems like it.” Mashiro-senpai said and started working in his desk.Bookmark here

There are times that everyone are not present during meetings, but it was just one or two before. Right now, Kurokawa-senpai, Mikejima-kun, and the first years are absent. Four people are no-show!Bookmark here

Wait, are you telling me that I’ll be alone with Mashiro-senpai this whole time?Bookmark here

Urk! It will be awkward for sure! Not to mention he’s already giving me the cold shoulder and I might die of hypothermia if I will spend a long time with just the two of us!Bookmark here

“What are you standing there?”Bookmark here

“Ah! Y-yes!” Bookmark here

I quickly take a seat in my desk to start with my work. However, I can’t concentrate! Mashiro-senpai’s cat ears are distracting me! Bookmark here

I thought I got used to it after a week but I still have sudden urges to touch them. The only one I got to touch are Kurokawa-senpai’s, in which I got nearly killed by Mashiro-senpai. Who knows what will happen if I touched him?Bookmark here

For now, let’s try focusing on work!Bookmark here

Bookmark here

Ah, I really can’t focus!Bookmark here

Let’s start a conversation. That’s right! Let’s ask him about weird things that’s happening around the school. Particularly, the ‘Cat’s Hour’!Bookmark here

“Ne, senpai. Isn’t it about time that you’ll tell me about the cat ears? Also, the rumors about the Cat’s Hour, it’s not just a normal rumor, am I right?” I seriously said.Bookmark here

His hands suddenly stopped moving and he gave me a glare. Bookmark here

“Ahaha, I’m just joking! You don’t need to answer!” I frantically take back what I said and look away from him. Talking to him is not a good idea!Bookmark here

He took a deep sigh and stopped what he’s doing. “Fine.”Bookmark here

“Eh? You’ll talk about it?” Bookmark here

Mashiro-senpai is unexpectedly cooperative, huh. He looks cold but if you actually ask him nicely, he would agree to do it. Alright, a new discovery!Bookmark here

“Do you know about the saying with rats playing?” Bookmark here

Rats playing…?Bookmark here

“Ah, the saying, ‘When the cat is away, the mice will play’! Yes, I know about it. What of it?” I answered enthusiastically.Bookmark here

“Reverse it.” Bookmark here

What’s with the riddle? Can’t he just explain it simply?Bookmark here

“L-let’s see… when the mice are away, the cat will play? What does that mean?”Bookmark here

“That’s your answer.” he looks serious, it doesn’t seem like he’s joking.Bookmark here

What in the world does that mean?! Is this what Irosaki-sensei means when she said that Mashiro-senpai is not good with words?Bookmark here

Okay, let’s try to understand it first. The original saying means that when the people with authority are gone, those under them will celebrate. If reversed, when the subordinates are gone, those in authority will play? I’m not really sure about this, but if applied to our situation, the mice are the students and the cat is the student council.Bookmark here

“You mean when the students are gone, the student council are roaming around the school?” I tried to confirm my interpretation.Bookmark here

“That’s surprising. You really understood it,” he said without any hint of expectation. Bookmark here

Ah... Bookmark here

I feel like I just lost some of my brain cells with this conversation. Is this what the so-called 0 IQ conversation seems like? I suddenly want to sulk in a corner like what Kurokawa-senpai does. I slightly come to understand the hardships of Kurokawa-senpai dealing with Mashiro-senpai. Poor Kaichou.Bookmark here

I don’t feel like asking anymore to Mashiro-senpai. I will lose my sanity if I press him further. That’s the last thing I want to happen.Bookmark here

“Oh, it’s just the two of you here.” Irosaki-sensei made her entrance to the office.Bookmark here

It was the first time I felt thankful to see her. I want to launch myself to her for comfort.Bookmark here

“Go ahead, Terushima-san,” Irosaki-sensei said with open arms. “I’ll make an exception for you because you held on alone with Mashiro-kun.”Bookmark here

That’s right! Irosaki-sensei can read my mind! Bookmark here

“Uuuu… Irosaki-sensei!!” I cried to her and she gave me a hug while gently patting my back.Bookmark here

“There, there, you did well.”Bookmark here

I remained like that for a while until I’m relieved of my frustrations from that conversation earlier. Kitsunes aren’t that bad, maybe I should start being their fan too!Bookmark here

“Un! I would like that too!” Sensei added.Bookmark here

I should consider it now.Bookmark here

“So Terushima-san, you’re asking about the Cat’s Hour and the cat ears, am I right?” Bookmark here

I calmed down a little so I let go of Sensei and regained my composure. I just nodded to her.Bookmark here

“You shouldn’t ask the third years about these things, that was a bad move. But I could guess Mashiro-kun gave you an explanation already but phrased it badly.”Bookmark here

“I explained it just fine.” Mashiro-senpai defended himself.Bookmark here

What’s fine? That’s a horrible analogy!Bookmark here

“Maa, I think we should tell you already.” Sensei took a seat in one of the chairs in the room and heaved a deep sigh before giving me a serious look.Bookmark here

It seems like this will be serous conversation. Bookmark here

“Terushima-san, what do you think about these animal ears? Why do we have them? And why can you see them?”Bookmark here

“Eh? I don’t know.”Bookmark here

“Terushima-san, can you see other entities? For example, a ghost.” Bookmark here

“There’s no way—” I was about to deny it when I stopped. A sudden scene just flashed in my mind.Bookmark here

There was a shadow walking towards me in a school hallway with no other source of light. It was slowly approaching me while whispering incomprehensible words that I can’t make out what. Bookmark here

Eh? When did this happen? I can’t remember being in this situation before.Bookmark here

“Looks like you have some experience. Terushima-san, you can see what normal people don’t. In other words, you are attracted to supernatural. These animal ears are also manifestation of spirits, not all people could see them.”Bookmark here

“I can’t follow. Why do you have animal ears and what’s with this supernatural you’re talking about? It doesn’t make any sense.”Bookmark here

“It definitely doesn’t make any sense. I don’t think you would believe this story anyway,” she smiled at me. It was a sad one. “But I’m not joking a bit.”Bookmark here

I pressed my lips together. I can’t take all of this absurdities at once. However, I know that Irosaki-sensei is not lying. I want to believe in her in the least.Bookmark here

“Please tell me more,” I said in determination.Bookmark here

Her eyes widened in surprise and soon gave me a gentle look.Bookmark here

“You’re really just like her…” Bookmark here

She whispered something but it was hard for me to hear. What was that?Bookmark here

“It’s nothing,” she smiled at me. “Going back, otherworldly entities really do exist.”Bookmark here

“You mean like ghosts and spirits?” Bookmark here

“There’s that too. But, there are also others… a god.”Bookmark here

“A god?”Bookmark here

“Yes, I’m a kitsune working under a certain god. For the others in the student council, they are under a contract with that god in exchange for a wish. I’m just a guide for them here while they are under the contract,” she explained. “That god gave them a mission to take care of something within the school. As for what is that, even I don’t have any idea. We are speculating that it has something to do with the evil spirits wandering the school.”Bookmark here

“There are evil spirits in the school?”Bookmark here

“Yes. Didn’t you meet one here already?”Bookmark here

“I did? Wait—that happened here? I can’t remember it clearly.”Bookmark here

“It could be because they have some kind of powers.”Bookmark here

“That’s scary!”Bookmark here

“And that’s why there are cats on the school grounds. Did you know the superstition that cats could drive out evil spirits?”Bookmark here

“Yes! I know that one!” I exclaimed. If it was about cats, of course I know them.Bookmark here

“That was true, in this school that is. However, there are evil spirits that was seriously bad news. The Cat’s Hour was for keeping outsiders not to get caught up with them. What Mashiro-kun is saying earlier was the fact that when everyone in the school left, the student council are patrolling the area searching for those spirits and making sure they won’t cause troubles. They could also talk to them to get leads about the mission from the god.”Bookmark here

“Alright, I think I understand most of them,” I agreed.Bookmark here

It was still hard to take in but they have supporting evidence with the animal ears itself. I’m not sure of it myself but I think there is still something left hidden in that story. Bookmark here

Also, the wish that got everyone in the contract, it feels like it wasn’t to be taken lightly. I have a bad feeling about this.Bookmark here

“Sensei, will it be fine telling me all of this?”Bookmark here

“Yes. You’re a member of Student Council as well.” Bookmark here

“I see…”Bookmark here

I’m happy that they consider me as a member too, but why do I have this uneasy feeling inside me?Bookmark here

“You have something from the suggestion box, right?”Bookmark here

“Ah, yes. Here it is.” Bookmark here

I gave her the envelope and she stared at it intently before her lips curved into a smile.Bookmark here

“Nice timing.”Bookmark here

“What is?”Bookmark here

“Terushima-san, Mashiro-kun. The two of you will do the patrol tonight.”Bookmark here

Eh? Did I hear that right? Please tell me I misheard it.Bookmark here

A loud slam echoed inside the room. I turned around to the direction of the sound only to see Mashiro-senpai with a dark expression on his face, it was different from any expression that I see so far. He’s really scary!Bookmark here

“Sensei, do you understand what you’re suggesting?” Mashiro-senpai was smiling but I could tell that he was really pissed.Bookmark here

“I do, and I’m serious, Tsuki Mashiro.” Bookmark here

Full name! Irosaki-sensei called him in his full name! Looks like none of them wants to back down as they got locked in a glaring contest.Bookmark here

Wait! I should have a say in this! They are trying to drag me in something!  Bookmark here

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You can resume reading from this paragraph.