Chapter 8:

Tea Time

Cat's Hour ~猫の時間~

“Oh! It’s Haku!”Bookmark here

As soon as I opened the door to get out of the room, I was greeted by Haku, sitting in the entrance as if waiting for me to open the door.Bookmark here

“Nya.”Bookmark here

“O-oh, w-wait…ah”Bookmark here

I was caught off guard when Haku started rubbing his body in my legs, making me step outside, while purring gently. Bookmark here

E-eh? Since when did Haku became affectionate to me? As far as I remember, the Haku I know is a prideful one that doesn’t pay mind to me. I would rather be the one begging for attention since it seems like I was dealing with a statue instead.Bookmark here

However, looking at this cat who is now acting as if he doesn’t want to get off me, there’s no trace of the Haku that I know.Bookmark here

Wait, could it be that this is a different cat? Bookmark here

I squatted in front of the cat. The Haku that I know would dodge in reflex whenever I tried to touch him. I’ll test it and see for myself!Bookmark here

I slowly reached out my hand to him.Bookmark here

Without my hand even getting closer, Haku rubbed his head in my hand and purred gently.Bookmark here

“C-cute!! So cute!!” Bookmark here

I covered my mouth with my free hand to muffle my voice from screaming how cute Haku is right now. Bookmark here

“Oi, what are you doing there acting like a pervert?” someone behind me spoke.Bookmark here

I turned around and saw a familiar tall person towering behind me.Bookmark here

“Oh! Mikejima-kun! Look at this! Haku likes me now!” Bookmark here

I carried Haku and showed it to Mikejima-kun as if I was bragging that I’m getting along with Haku now.Bookmark here

Of course, I’m proud! I don’t know what happened but Haku suddenly became affectionate to me! It was a win-win!Bookmark here

“Ah, that seems like it. Hurry and go to the office now. Everyone is waiting,” Mikejima-kun nonchalantly said and walked passed by me.Bookmark here

“Eh? Office?” Bookmark here

“Hah? What are you looking clueless for? You’re the secretary, aren’t you?” Bookmark here

He stopped in his tracks and faced me with a scowl in his face. He’s really showing that he doesn’t like me!Bookmark here

“E-etto… about that…” I looked away from him and fiddled my fingers. Bookmark here

“What? If you have something to say, get on with it!”Bookmark here

Uuu, his voice is really loud. He sounded like those delinquents in every school drama that is always looking for a fight! There is no need to raise his voice, is there? Bookmark here

“Where is this place?”Bookmark here

“Hah?”Bookmark here

“I said, where is this place?!” Bookmark here

“Oi, did you hit your head?” he asked in disbelief. “Did you forget that you’re the student council secretary?”Bookmark here

“Yes, I think I hit it... wait. That’s not it! What I mean is, where in the world is this place? I’ve never been in a ryokan before!” Bookmark here

Of course, I still remember that I’m the student council secretary! But I don’t understand why am I in a Japanese inn!Bookmark here

“Ryokan…?”Bookmark here

An awkward silence reigned between the two of us when no one reacted for a moment. The quiet atmosphere was broken when Haku lets out a purr.Bookmark here

“Nyaa!” Bookmark here

“Oh, wait! Haku!”Bookmark here

Haku jumped from my arms and landed on the floor.Bookmark here

“Ne, you didn’t know about this place?” Mikejima-kun asked.Bookmark here

“Y-yes.”Bookmark here

“It’s the student council dorm.”Bookmark here

“Dorm? In such a fancy place?” I reacted in surprise.Bookmark here

I didn’t know that there is a dorm in school. Moreover, it was an amazing place! Like a vacation house! Student Council really have it all! The special treatment is really beyond normal!Bookmark here

“Fancy, huh. Whatever. Just go already." He turned his back and dismissed me.Bookmark here

“Wait!”Bookmark here

“Hah? Do you have more to say?"Bookmark here

“I don’t know the way back.” I looked away from him and shrunk in fear.Bookmark here

I know Mashiro-senpai is terrifying, he was still smiling in the least and he doesn’t raise his voice without any reason. Bookmark here

But Mikejima-kun is really just plain scary! His voice is loud and scary! Moreover, he’s tall and have that frightening face when viewed from below!Bookmark here

“Tch.”Bookmark here

“Hii! I understand! I’m just going to find it myself!” I blurted out and bows out of reflex.Bookmark here

“Oi, Haku. Guide that girl to the office,” Mikejima-kun said to Haku who is licking his paw at the moment.Bookmark here

Haku stood properly and daringly looks away from Mikejima-kun before walking to my direction.Bookmark here

Uwaah! Haku! You’re so cute!Bookmark here

“Just follow Haku and get out of here.” Bookmark here

“Thank you, Mikejima-kun!” I said with a smile to his direction.Bookmark here

“Whatever,” he simply said without any reaction.Bookmark here

Oh, that’s right. He said that I need to go to the office earlier and that everyone is waiting there. Does that mean that we have a meeting? If so, then Mikejima-kun should also go there, right?Bookmark here

“Ano! Mikejima-kun, aren’t you also on your way to the office? If you like, we could go there together,” I suggested to him awkwardly.Bookmark here

I’m not getting my hopes up here, I’m just trying to be on good terms with him since we are both second years and classmates. We should at least get along with each other.Bookmark here

I was expecting him to at least decline properly if he doesn’t want to, but instead, he gave me a glare that I can feel daggers pointed in my throat.Bookmark here

“I-if you don’t want to, it’s okay…” I take back my words right away.Bookmark here

“Terushima.” Bookmark here

“H-hai!”Bookmark here

“Let me set this straight. I have no intention of putting up with someone like you. I’m just dealing with it because sensei and kaichou decided to assign you as the secretary. Don’t be chummy with us just because you know the circumstances behind the cat ears and the third years started to recognize you.”Bookmark here

“That’s not—”Bookmark here

“You just got lucky that Tsuki-senpai is with you in that ghost encounter. You can’t even do anything when you’re alone,” he said with a smirk.Bookmark here

“You–!” I clenched my fist in anger.Bookmark here

From the very start, I know that Mikejima-kun doesn’t like me. It’s not like it bothers me so I just let him be. I can’t just force my way on anyone, I’m carefully watching my steps.Bookmark here

But this is beyond the belt! Mikejima-kun crossed the line! Bookmark here

Ah, in the end, he really hates me, huh. This bastard!Bookmark here

“Know your place, useless woman.”Bookmark here

My eyes widened as I watched Mikejima-kun’s back getting farther away from me. Bookmark here

I clenched my fist and gritted my teeth in exasperation. I really, really want to land a slap on that face! Bookmark here

But…Bookmark here

I can’t do it. Bookmark here

When he said that…Bookmark here

His cat ears twitched…Bookmark here

And there is a hint of fear in his voice.Bookmark here

“Haah… maybe I’ve gotten soft,” I sighed to myself and followed Haku to the student council office.Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

“What do you mean I’m a bait?!” I slammed my hand in the table which created a loud sound that echoes throughout the room.Bookmark here

The people in the room are the four other members of the student council, Kurokawa-senpai, Mashiro-senpai, Toujo-kun and Haibara-kun. Of course, Mikejima-kun is not here. Bookmark here

After what happened earlier, I bet that he doesn’t want to see my face. That goes without saying! I also don’t want to see him!Bookmark here

Right now, everyone fell silent as they all looked in my hand that just slammed the table.Bookmark here

“Senpai-chan, isn’t that painful?” Toujo-kun asked as he stared on my hand intently.Bookmark here

When he said that, the feeling finally sunk on my mind and I could feel my hand writhing in pain. Bookmark here

“I-it hurts!” I could feel tears forming in the side of my eyes because of pain.Bookmark here

“Calm down, Terushima-senpai. Give me your hand,” Haibara-kun said with a smile as he was bringing the first aid kit.Bookmark here

“Thank you, Haibara-kun,” I said to him while sniffing. “You’re really kind…”Bookmark here

“Don’t mention it, senpai.” He gently took my hand and tend to it. “Yosh, it’s done.”Bookmark here

Haibara-kun is really a sweet child. Compared to the others, he’s the most approachable one that I can count on.Bookmark here

“That’s what you get when your emotions easily influenced you,” Mashiro-senpai said as he took a sip from his teacup.Bookmark here

“I’m not! Who wouldn’t react if they are told that they are a bait for a ghost hunting?! You should put it more nicely,” I said and took a cookie from the basket.Bookmark here

“Like what? Offering?”Bookmark here

“Geh! That sounds more horrible!”Bookmark here

“I’m glad Tsuki-senpai and Terushima-senpai are getting along well,” Haibara-kun said with a light chuckle. “I’ll pour you a tea, Terushima-senpai.”Bookmark here

“Ah, thank you.”Bookmark here

Right now, we are having a tea break in the office. Haibara-kun prepared the tea and snacks for us and we are talking about the Ai-san case that we just finished.Bookmark here

Mashiro-senpai is saying that I played the role of bait in there. Of course, my pride won’t allow that. Why don’t he just say that I helped them?Bookmark here

“Speaking of which, the Ai case really gave us a lot of headache, huh. Especially to the third years since they have been targeting that ghost for a long time,” Toujo-kun commented.Bookmark here

“What do you mean, Toujo-kun?”Bookmark here

“Hmm? Senpai-chan don’t know? It was a long-lived rumor, you know. Everyone in the school knows it.”Bookmark here

“Ahaha, I’m a transferee, Toujo-kun.” I deadpanned at him.Bookmark here

“Oh, it’s true,” he lets out a laugh.Bookmark here

“Toujo-kun, that’s not something to laugh about.”Bookmark here

“Oops, sorry.”Bookmark here

I took a deep sigh. I barely know anything about it. Also, Mashiro-senpai didn’t hear out Ai-san’s story that time. Bookmark here

“Asahi-kun is right. We really have a hard time finding that ghost.” Kurokawa-senpai admitted. “We tried all means we can think off before, right Tsuki-kun?”Bookmark here

“Yes,” Mashiro senpai simply responded.Bookmark here

“Like what?” I asked out of curiosity.Bookmark here

I took a sip on the tea while listening to Kurokawa-senpai’s story.Bookmark here

“Since Ai is only targeting lovers and we are all guys here, we tried to lure her by having Tsuki-kun dress up as a girl.” Kurokawa-senpai smiled brightly as he told the story.Bookmark here

“Pffftt… cough, cough, cough,” I spit my tea out of nowhere and choked while trying to stop myself from laughing. Mashiro-senpai is smiling menacingly to my direction.Bookmark here

“Terushima-san, you’re wasting the tea that I work hard to make,” Mashiro-senpai said in a threatening voice.Bookmark here

That’s what you’re worried about?! I just laughed about you dressing up as a girl. Man, I want to see it.Bookmark here

Cough… cough… sorry.”Bookmark here

“Senpai, here’s a towel.” Bookmark here

Haibara-kun quickly gave me a towel to wipe the tea that I poured to myself accidentally.Bookmark here

I’m really amazed how Haibara-kun is always ready with this kind of situation. He was like the guardian among the people here despite being the youngest one.Bookmark here

“Thank you, Haibara-kun. By the way, did Mashiro-senpai make the tea?”Bookmark here

“Yes, Tsuki-senpai planted and dried the chamomile used to make this tea. I’m just the one that brewed and served it.”Bookmark here

“It’s a great tea! Don’t you think so, Terushima-san?” Kurokawa-senpai asked out of admiration to Mashiro-senpai.Bookmark here

“Yes, this is nice. So this is chamomile tea. That’s unexpected,” I commented. “How about the snacks?”Bookmark here

“I’m the one that made them.” Haibara-kun said with a smile.Bookmark here

“They’re so good!” Bookmark here

“Right? When it comes to cooking, Aoi-kun is second to none!” Kurokawa-senpai proudly said.Bookmark here

“Hehe, thank you for the praise.”Bookmark here

“We drifted off topic but may I know the story behind Ai-san’s case?” I asked them.Bookmark here

“Ah, sure. Let me get the reports,” Kurokawa-senpai stood and shuffled the papers on the drawer.Bookmark here

Reports? Why are there reports? Are they investigating the ghosts in the school that they are making documentations as well?Bookmark here

“Here it is.” Kurokawa-senpai gave a folder to me with the name ‘Ai Toyama’ written in the front page.Bookmark here

This is… Ai-san’s file.Bookmark here

I scanned the pages and saw pictures of her from her time when she was alive. Different from how we met her as a spirit, the Ai-san on the pictures looks gloomy in most shots. She has a lonely air around her, it was disheartening.Bookmark here

“But why do you have files of them? We could just ask the ghost herself last time, Mashiro-senpai. Why did you stopped her from talking?”Bookmark here

“Terushima-senpai, we can’t just ask the ghost about their past lives,” Haibara-kun seriously said.Bookmark here

The atmosphere in the room suddenly became gloomy. Everyone also have dark expressions on their face.Bookmark here

Mashiro-senpai and Kurokawa-senpai returned to their seats silently.Bookmark here

“It was the same pattern, every spirits in the school shared some resemblance that made them haunt the school for a long time,” Kurokawa-senpai started. “It wasn’t just Ai-san, other ghosts are still bound to wander the school.”Bookmark here

“Pattern…?”Bookmark here

“Those evil spirits bear that grudge in the school and haunts them after all these years. You noticed how Ai-san has a different uniform, right? That was the school’s uniform 50 years ago.”Bookmark here

I covered my mouth in disbelief. Bookmark here

I don’t need to ask about the details, I could pretty much picture everything inside my mind. Bookmark here

So that’s how it is, huh. Bookmark here

Schools are really such dark places. Not just in the past, but up until the present. To be honest, it just becomes more and more scary as the time passed.Bookmark here

What’s scary isn’t the evil spirits wandering the school… when I think about it, the stories behind might be more painful than I imagined. Bookmark here

“T-then… the reason why Mashiro-senpai didn’t ask for Ai-san’s story…”Bookmark here

“Yes. I know her story… she was tricked by the guy that she likes, got mistreated and bullied, and got driven to death.”Bookmark here

“That’s…” I looked down in frustration. Bookmark here

Of course, it was like that. Bookmark here

School is really such a scary place. Not because of the spirits haunting them, but because of the cruel reality hidden within. Bookmark here

I can’t stand it.Bookmark here

“If we made her tell her story, it might bring back unwanted grudge from her. Things may get out of hand if her emotions got the best of her. When exorcising spirits, we ought to finish it quickly, no questions asked.”Bookmark here

“… sorry.”Bookmark here

“Why are you apologizing?”Bookmark here

“… I felt like I have to.”Bookmark here

“Terushima-san didn’t do anything wrong.”Bookmark here

“I know. I understand now why Mashiro-senpai is in a rush… but I still don’t understand why you would hit her with a hoe!” I puffed my cheeks in frustration.Bookmark here

Ai-san suffered such tragedy, then why would he dare to threat her with a hoe?!Bookmark here

“Tsuki-kun is close minded about negotiations so he tends to resort to fastest way possible.”Bookmark here

“Somehow… that seems scary,” I flinched. “But can you hit them? They don’t have physical body, right?”Bookmark here

“We can hit them. You can see this cat ears, senpai-chan? That makes us half spirits, we’re basically supernatural entities as well and that’s why we could also see and touch others.”Bookmark here

“Ah! Like cats!” I exclaimed.Bookmark here

“Senpai, we’re basically cats.” Toujo-kun deadpanned.Bookmark here

“Ahaha, sorry. I’m forgetting about that sometimes. I’m actually convinced that you’re just normal students most of the time.” I chuckled lightly.Bookmark here

“Normal, huh…”Bookmark here

Eh? Did I said something wrong? Everyone just fell silent all of a sudden.Bookmark here

“Terushima-san, you’re really a straightforward person, aren’t you?” Kurokawa-senpai asked with a sincere smile on his lips.Bookmark here

“Y-yes… I’m the kind of person who speaks what’s on my mind easily, so some people may find me rude most of the times,” I admitted while scratching my cheek shyly.Bookmark here

“It’s fine, isn’t it?” Mashiro-senpai elegantly sips his tea with a slight curve on his lips.Bookmark here

“Senpai-chan’s reactions are amusing to watch, it’s cute!” Toujo-kun beamed at me which made me flustered.Bookmark here

“We’d rather have someone who treats us indifferently than someone who sugarcoats their words,” Haibara-kun smiled gently.Bookmark here

“Everyone…”Bookmark here

I feel like I’ve gotten closer to everyone. I feel appreciated by them, maybe they could recognize me as their comrade soon. It made me look forward to working with them more.Bookmark here

If we could help others like Ai-san, I feel like it will set my heart at ease. Bookmark here

There are ghosts bound in all places. If we could at least free them from their grudge, I think it was worth giving a shot. Bookmark here

Without noticing, I unconsciously smiled at them.Bookmark here

“If you feel that way about me, why in the world did you let me fall harshly? You could’ve catch me, y’know? It hurts like hell.” Bookmark here

They all flinched at what I said and looked away from me at the same time. They didn’t want to meet my eyes in the least.Bookmark here

“Pfft.” I tried to hold my laughter.Bookmark here

“Terushima-san…?”Bookmark here

“HAHAHA! I’m just joking. But seriously, thank you. Let’s get along, everyone!”Bookmark here

“Un!”Bookmark here

If only this moment would last forever, I want to stay like this.Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

“Tadaima…”Bookmark here

It has been a long day in school. I’m feeling tired, but I also feel hyped at the same time. I really enjoyed our tea time in the school council. I think I’ve gotten closer to everyone!Bookmark here

If only Mikejima-kun doesn’t hate me that gravely, we could be close even for the bare minimum as coworkers. But… haah, that’s out of question now. He hates me that much.Bookmark here

“Okaeri, Hikari-chan.” Bookmark here

Eh?Bookmark here

“Dad?”Bookmark here

“Hmm? Why do you look like you’re not expecting me here?”Bookmark here

“Ah… that’s…”Bookmark here

I can’t tell him that I’m actually surprised to see him here. Well, we barely meet each other since the two of us are always busy. Even in holidays, we can’t even spend time together.Bookmark here

This is strange, did he got fired?Bookmark here

“What do you want for dinner? Vegetables or meat? I could also make something for dessert,” Dad beamed at me.Bookmark here

This is bad, I don’t want to eat dinner. But it would be rude because I barely spend time with him.Bookmark here

“Ah, then vegetables will be fine. I don’t want desserts.”Bookmark here

“Vegetables it is!” he exclaimed happily. Bookmark here

It’s been a while since I saw him this energetic. It made me remember the old times that I nearly forgot. This is nice every once in a while.Bookmark here

“Alright! Time to dig in!” Dad cheerfully said as he laid all the foods in the table.Bookmark here

“Itadakimasu…”Bookmark here

We started eating after that. Dad prepared vegetable dishes as I requested, but more than that, isn’t he going overboard with this?!Bookmark here

“Hikari-chan, actually, I have something important to tell you,” Dad hesitantly started a conversation.Bookmark here

“What is it?” I asked while chewing the vegetables that I’m eating.Bookmark here

“I will be transferred to work in another place again. This time, it’s overseas.”Bookmark here

My eyes widened to what he said and I dropped the chopsticks that I’m holding making a clacking noise as it hits the floor.Bookmark here

No way…Bookmark here

Ana Fowl
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