Chapter 9:

Okaerinasai

Cat's Hour ~猫の時間~


“Okaeri, Hikari-chan!”Bookmark here

I could still remember how brightly Mom greeted me every time I arrived home. Whether I came from school, played with cats in the neighborhood or just venture in a childish walk outside, she would always greet me with the same bright smile.Bookmark here

I really loved those words…Bookmark here

It made me feel like there was a place I could return to, and that someone is waiting for me there…Bookmark here

It was such simple words, a common greeting, but it was enough to make me smile… and a warm feeling grows inside me.Bookmark here

I look forward to hearing Mom’s voice every time I get home.Bookmark here

But in reality…Bookmark here

Happiness is short-lived.Bookmark here

Before I noticed, no one is waiting for me at home anymore. Bookmark here

There’s no one that will greet me with a bright smile every time I get home. The place that I will return to was a lonely place where I’m the only one there.Bookmark here

Shortly after that, Dad struggled to raise me on his own. We need to move places because of his work… in the end, we left the place we once called home. Bookmark here

From one place to another, it was a regular thing for me. I made friends, just to leave them soon. Bookmark here

I got used to it as time passed. If I made friends that I have to leave soon, I’ll just give my farewell and thanks for the memories that we shared. I will just wish that they would still remember me even for a short time that we spend together.Bookmark here

That’s just a wishful thinking… no one actually remembers me.Bookmark here

‘It can’t be helped.’ Bookmark here

I surrendered myself to that thought. But still… there’s a feeling of emptiness inside me.Bookmark here

“Gomen ne, Hikari-chan. Dad is always causing troubles for you. We ended up moving places again.”Bookmark here

Dad would always force a smile and apologize to me. After knowing all his sacrifices, I can’t bring myself to be straightforward with him.Bookmark here

‘This is not the home I want.’Bookmark here

I can’t possibly tell him that.Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

This is the worst.Bookmark here

“Aahn… we can’t do that here, Takkun~”Bookmark here

“Hehe, why not? No one’s here right now.”Bookmark here

“Oooh, Takkun~”Bookmark here

“I’ll make sure you’ll like it.”Bookmark here

Aaah! Shut it! Bookmark here

I slammed a hardbound book in the table where those improper couple are doing something inappropriate. Bookmark here

They are getting on my nerves! What’s with that strange noises?! That’s disgusting!Bookmark here

“Ne, you two. Our school does not restrict having relationships, but if you’re doing something out of question here, you know the consequences… right?”Bookmark here

“Eeek! Y-yes ma’am! We’re very sorry!”Bookmark here

The two frantically ran away after I gave them a warning. Bookmark here

Yes, that’s right! Get lost! Don’t come back here, you insensitive people! Even if you’re in a relationship, that doesn’t give you the right to do some of your naughty acts in public! You just want to flaunt it in front of the single people, don’t you?!Bookmark here

Couples can go to hell. Ai-san was right, this is really irritating. Bookmark here

“Terushima-senpai, please handle the books carefully.”Bookmark here

Toujo-kun who wears glasses and reading a book on the reception desk gave a warning to me.Bookmark here

“Terushima-senpai? Since when did you talk to me formally?” I furrowed my eyebrows at him.Bookmark here

I decided to visit the library today to calm my mind after what happened at home. I was hoping to have a quiet place to think but I got a flirting corner instead! Don’t joke with me!Bookmark here

“Why? Do you prefer the informal language?” he asked while still reading the book that he’s holding.Bookmark here

“Do what you want, it doesn’t have anything to do with me.” Bookmark here

I heaved a deep sigh and sat on a corner. I slumped my face in the table out of hopelessness.Bookmark here

Damn it! This is really the worst!Bookmark here

“Terushima-senpai, this is not the place for slacking off.”Bookmark here

“I don’t want to hear that from you after you let those people flirt inside the library,” I said with a muffled sound since my face is still on the table.Bookmark here

I want to blow off steam! I need to cuddle with a cat right now!Bookmark here

But the thing is… I haven’t seen any cats since this morning! If I have time, I will definitely search the whole school for them! I really need cats right now!Bookmark here

“Something happened?”Bookmark here

“Do you think I’ll be like this just for fun?”Bookmark here

“No. I don’t think so. I’m just merely worried for my senpai because she seems bothered by something since earlier this morning.”Bookmark here

I don’t know what Toujo-kun was up to right now with my face flat on the table. One thing was still bothering me for sure…Bookmark here

“Are you really the Toujo-kun I know? The way you speak right now is really strange.”Bookmark here

“My, what made you think so? I ‘am’ Asahi Toujo.”Bookmark here

“I’m not convinced. Well, whatever.”Bookmark here

Ahh, I’m not in the mood to do anything. I’m sure everyone in the student council also noticed that I was out of it this morning. Even Mashiro-senpai didn’t nag me earlier. Bookmark here

“We just talked about it yesterday, Terushima-senpai. About how we like you for being straightforward.”Bookmark here

I heard the chair in front of me moved. Toujo-kun might have sat on it. Bookmark here

I don’t feel like talking. Bookmark here

“If something is bothering you, you can tell us. Before you are the student council secretary, you are also a student of Nekoji Academy. It was the student council’s duty to hear out every students’ troubles.”Bookmark here

“It’s not a matter that student council could do something,” I whispered.Bookmark here

“Hmm, I understand.”Bookmark here

I heard the chair moved again. Toujo-kun definitely stood up, the footsteps are also getting farter. Bookmark here

He probably left me. Bookmark here

Haah, this is pathetic.Bookmark here

I told myself that I got used to it…Bookmark here

But then, why? Why am I getting sad? Bookmark here

“Terushima-senpai,” Toujo-kun called.Bookmark here

I lifted my head from the table and squinted my eyes at him.Bookmark here

For what reason did he call me? It better be not something useless.Bookmark here

“Would you give this a read?”Bookmark here

He put a red notebook in front of me and took his seat. As I thought, he was really sitting in front of me since earlier.Bookmark here

“What is it?”Bookmark here

“See for yourself.”Bookmark here

The front cover is just a plain red, with nothing written on it. It looks plain.Bookmark here

I opened it on the first page and read the title page.Bookmark here

“Eh? Slam book? Wow, that’s nostalgic,” I unconsciously smiled. “I wish I had the chance to make one with a friend.”Bookmark here

Toujo-kun didn’t say anything. He just quietly watched over me as I continued flipping through the pages.Bookmark here

As I read more, I realized what is this slam book about. Bookmark here

“This is the student council members’ information?” I gave a questioning look towards Toujo-kun.Bookmark here

Why would he make me read this? Isn’t this invasion of privacy among other members? Bookmark here

“Indeed, it was our information,” he nodded. “Kurokawa-senpai suggested to do it. It was childish, don’t you think?”Bookmark here

“It was childish…” I admitted. “But it was thoughtful of him.”Bookmark here

“That’s just how Kurokawa-senpai is.”Bookmark here

I stared at the page again. It was Kurokawa-senpai’s entry. Bookmark here

He likes his friends, the student council, his work and tuna onigiri. Fufu, he’s really a pure one. No wonder everyone likes him. Bookmark here

He hates his weak self, so he’s aware of it. He also hates… sleeping? Bookmark here

Wait, is that why he always seems like he hasn’t rested for days? Because he hates sleeping?Bookmark here

“Toujo-kun, don’t you think that Kurokawa-senpai deserves to rest? He likes working but he hates sleeping, isn’t that just plain overworking?” I commented.Bookmark here

I know about it, Dad is always overworking too. For some reasons, I feel bad that Kurokawa-senpai is not having enough rest compared to how hard he works in the student council.Bookmark here

“Everyone also feel that way, but Kurokawa-senpai is stubborn about it. We can’t force him to sleep if we don’t take countermeasures.”Bookmark here

“Like what?”Bookmark here

“Hmm… Mashiro-senpai is making tea that could help him fall asleep.”Bookmark here

That’s a relief. It was good thing that Mashiro-senpai is looking out for Kurokawa-senpai.Bookmark here

I turned the page on the next entry, it was Mashiro-senpai’s.Bookmark here

The things that he likes are his sister, Kurokawa-senpai, flowers, gardening, pretty things and his hoe. Bookmark here

“Did Mashiro-senpai likes his hoe that much?” I deadpanned. Bookmark here

I also noticed it in Ai-san’s case. He won’t let go of his hoe no matter what. When he did, he really looks sullen.Bookmark here

“It was a gift from his sister.”Bookmark here

“Sister, huh…”Bookmark here

Oh, the love experience that I asked before! It could be his sister! I didn’t put it clearly so that’s a misunderstanding on my part. Bookmark here

About his dislikes… pests and ugly things.Bookmark here

Geh! I feel attacked! Bookmark here

Does this mean that in his eyes, I was nothing but a pest?! I know I’m not pretty but the way he looks down on me as if I’m unsightly said it all.Bookmark here

Mashiro-senpai, you’re horrible.Bookmark here

“I don’t think Mashiro-senpai sees you as ugly. He’s just hostile towards you because of what happened on the first day. He’s the closest person to Kurokawa-senpai after all.” Bookmark here

“But still…! Wait, I’ve been wondering about this for a while. You’re really acting different from usual, are you really Toujo-kun?” I gave him a suspicious look.Bookmark here

“Yes. I ‘am’ Asahi Toujo,” he answered without any hint of hesitation.Bookmark here

This is really strange! I can’t put my finger on it but I know something was up. For now, I will let it off because that’s none of my business anyway.Bookmark here

I flipped the page to the next one. Bookmark here

If I’m right, this should be Mikejima-kun’s entry. I gulped before reading the entry.Bookmark here

He likes sports, naps, quiet places, games, and Kurokawa-senpai. Wow, as expected of someone who doesn’t look that social. Bookmark here

The things that he hates are… women.Bookmark here

“Ah…”Bookmark here

“What is it?”Bookmark here

“N-nothing,” I awkwardly dismissed Toujo-kun’s concern.Bookmark here

So that’s how it is. Mikejima-kun hates women, it’s not just me. I think I should distance myself from him…Bookmark here

…for what anyway? I’m pretty much done here too. He would definitely like it if I’m not around anymore.Bookmark here

The next one is Toujo-kun’s entry.Bookmark here

He likes girls. As expected. He also likes foods and snacks, books, mechanical banks, festivals, board and card games, vacations, discount sales, and Kurokawa-senpai.Bookmark here

“Mechanical banks, huh… that’s interesting.”Bookmark here

“I’m collecting them. Just a hobby I picked up long before,” Toujo-kun nonchalantly said.Bookmark here

“I think it was nice. It was quite unexpected though. Somehow, it feels like there’s something off.”Bookmark here

“It was that idiot,” he whispered something which I barely heard.Bookmark here

“What idiot?”Bookmark here

“Nothing. Don’t mind me.” Bookmark here

“O-okay…”Bookmark here

What was that? I’m pretty sure he said something.Bookmark here

I continued reading his entry. Bookmark here

The thing that he hates is wasting money for something useless. Bookmark here

I hate that too! I don’t want to waste money but there are times when I have urges to spend more that necessary. I hate myself for that.Bookmark here

However, that was just my opinion. Toujo-kun is definitely serious about what he hates. I just have a feeling that it was not a shallow reason like mine. Bookmark here

The last entry was Haibara-kun’s. Bookmark here

He likes music, cooking, baking, cleaning, household chores, shopping groceries, doing school works, and Kurokawa-senpai.Bookmark here

Uuuu… Haibara-kun is really a good student. He’s like a parent here! I feel like he’ll be a good wife. Yes, a wife! Not a husband, but a wife! Bookmark here

Imagine that gentle kid doing the household management, he’s like a wife!Bookmark here

“Haibara-kun is like an ideal child and an ideal parent at the same time,” I softly chuckled about how adorable it is, Haibara-kun is really a sweet boy.Bookmark here

“That’s true,” Toujo-kun agreed.Bookmark here

Let’s see what Haibara-kun dislikes. Bookmark here

This is…Bookmark here

Silence.Bookmark here

It was a vague answer. Bookmark here

What does he mean when he said that he hates silence? I can’t also stand silence since I’m more on the talkative side. However, this one… is there a deeper meaning to this?Bookmark here

“Kurokawa-senpai is liked by everyone, huh.”Bookmark here

“Hmm, ‘like’ was not the exact word, it was more of a respect and admiration. When he first read our entries, he cried so much that we all ended up comforting him for hours.”Bookmark here

“I can see that from happening.” I deadpanned. “Anyway, thank you for showing this to me. But… I don’t think I have use for this information anymore.”Bookmark here

“Why don’t you write an entry?” Bookmark here

“Eh?”Bookmark here

My eyes widened to what he said. Did I… hear that right?Bookmark here

“Actually, you should write one.”Bookmark here

“But Toujo-kun, I…”Bookmark here

“Whether you’ll leave or not, the fact that you became a student council secretary will always remain. You should at least leave something behind.”Bookmark here

“Did you know–“Bookmark here

“Yes.”Bookmark here

“I see… then, I’ll take you up in your offer!” I beamed at him and pulled out my mechanical pencil.Bookmark here

I started writing my entry thoroughly. Toujo-kun said it, I should leave something behind. If it was like that, then I’ll write with everything I got.Bookmark here

“Oh yes, Toujo-kun. About the contract…”Bookmark here

“Terushima-senpai, that was a cruel thing to ask.”Bookmark here

“Eh? What do you mean?”Bookmark here

I slowly lifted my face to look at him, but before I know it, Toujo-kun was nowhere to be found.Bookmark here

“Toujo-kun…?”Bookmark here

Where did he go? He just disappeared out of nowhere! I also looked around but it seems like I’m just the only one here right now.Bookmark here

I finished writing on the notebook and left it in the reception desk. I just hope that Toujo-kun will see it once he returned. He just left me there without a word!Bookmark here

Anyway, talking to Toujo-kun and writing on that notebook lifted my mood. I don’t feel bad about it anymore, I feel like I can bear with it in the least.Bookmark here

Yosh! Stay positive, Hikari!Bookmark here

“Ah! It’s senpai-chan!”Bookmark here

Senpai-chan… I feel like there is only one person who would call me that.Bookmark here

When I turned around, my guess was confirmed. It was Toujo-kun running towards my direction.Bookmark here

“You seem like you’re in a good mood, senpai-chan! Are you feeling okay now?” he asked with a wide tooth grin.Bookmark here

“Un! I’m okay now thanks to Toujo-kun!” I also smiled at him.Bookmark here

“Me? Did I do something?” he slightly tilted his head in confusion.Bookmark here

“What are you saying? You–“Bookmark here

I paused for a moment when I noticed something different from him compared to where I saw him earlier. I leaned closer to his face and stared at him intently.Bookmark here

“A-ano… senpai-chan, I know that I’m good looking but you’re too close,” he awkwardly raised his hand and took a step away from me.Bookmark here

“Oops, sorry.”Bookmark here

He’s not wearing his glasses! Is this a different person or the other is the different one? Glasses said that he is Asahi Toujo! And this one is also Asahi Toujo!Bookmark here

Wait, I’m confused now!Bookmark here

“Senpai-chan, are you going to the office now? We could walk together!” Bookmark here

“Yes, sure.”Bookmark here

Well, whatever. I’m not going to press any further. I’m not in the position to ask about it anyway.Bookmark here

“Thank you, Toujo-kun.”Bookmark here

“W-why all of a sudden?”Bookmark here

“Nothing. I just feel like it.” Bookmark here

It was fun walking with Toujo-kun to the student council building.Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

I can’t do it.Bookmark here

After all the troubles that Toujo-kun did to lift my spirits, I still can’t bring myself to say that I will be quitting.Bookmark here

Haah, this is stupid.Bookmark here

“Terushima-san, are you feeling sick? You can go home early if you like,” Kurokawa-senpai worriedly said.Bookmark here

My face was slumped on my table and I don’t want to do anything. I’m just slacking off even in the student council office.Bookmark here

“I don’t want to go home.”Bookmark here

“Then–“Bookmark here

“Don’t go here if you’re not going to help. We don’t need a dead weight here.” I’m sure that was Mikejima-kun.Bookmark here

“Tsukasa-kun, that was harsh!” Kurokawa-senpai scolded him.Bookmark here

“It’s the truth, Kaichou.”Bookmark here

“Don’t get me started, Calico. I’m not in the mood to deal with you right now.”Bookmark here

“Calico?! You–“Bookmark here

Before Mikejima-kun could start his argument, the door opened with a loud sound. I also lifted my head to see what’s up.Bookmark here

It was Irosaki-sensei.Bookmark here

“Is Terushima-san around?” she scanned the room and when she saw me, she walked towards my direction.Bookmark here

“What is it, sensei?”Bookmark here

“I’m fulfilling my end of the deal.”Bookmark here

“Ah. No need for that, sensei. I have to quit anyway.” I waved my hand to her.Bookmark here

“Terushima-san… is that true?” Kurokawa-senpai looks like he’s in the verge of tears.Bookmark here

“Sorry. It’s true.” I forced a smile to them. Bookmark here

Everyone also looks shocked by the news. Of course they would be. It’s just been a few weeks since I transferred and I have to quit already.Bookmark here

“I see. So that’s why you’re so out of it since earlier,” Mashiro-senpai said with hand on his chin as if he was on deep thought.Bookmark here

“Ahaha, sorry for causing troubles,” I awkwardly chuckled and looked away.Bookmark here

“Senpai-chan! Did Asahi-senpai threaten you?!” Toujo-kun asked.Bookmark here

“Why are you blaming me?! I just warned her not to get close but I didn’t say that she should quit!” Mikejima-kun defended himself.Bookmark here

“No, Mikejima-kun doesn’t have anything to do with it. Though, I would be lying if I said that he didn’t get on my nerves.”Bookmark here

“You…! Tch, so the feeling is mutual, huh.”Bookmark here

Of course, the feeling is mutual. I also don’t want to put up with how he treats me so I don’t have any plan on just taking it without a fight.Bookmark here

It’s too bad that I couldn’t get back to him tenfold. Well, that’s just how it is.Bookmark here

“Senpai, is that really how you feel?”Bookmark here

“W-why the sudden question, Haibara-kun?” I stuttered.Bookmark here

“Your voice hesitated, senpai.” Haibara-kun looks frustrated. Bookmark here

“Haibara-kun is right, your words doesn’t match your thoughts, Terushima-san,” Irosaki-sensei added.Bookmark here

Why would you corner me like this? You’re just making this hard for me to take!Bookmark here

“You don’t have to hold it in.”Bookmark here

What Irosaki-sensei said to me flipped a switch. The tears that I tried so hard to hold back finally poured heavily. I burst into tears.Bookmark here

“I… don’t want to leave yet.”Bookmark here

I said it in a whisper, hoping that they won’t hear it so I won’t bear any hard feelings. It might just be my selfishness. But deep inside, I also wished that they will hear it.Bookmark here

If there is some kind of miracle…Bookmark here

Please…Bookmark here

Before I know it, Irosaki-sensei pulled me into a hug. I couldn’t care less if her chest gets in the way. Bookmark here

I really need this hug right now. Something about it sets my heart at ease.Bookmark here

“That wish of yours… I’ll grant it.”Bookmark here

I could feel sensei gently stroking my hair. Bookmark here

It was warm… like a mother’s embrace.Bookmark here

“What do you mean, sensei?”Bookmark here

“How about it, Terushima-san? Why not stay in the dorm with us?”Bookmark here

“But–“ I was just about to say something when sensei cut me off by putting her finger on my lips.Bookmark here

“You don’t have to say anything anymore. You should talk to your father about it, the two of you might be misunderstanding each other.”Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

And so, I decided to have a heart to heart talk with Dad.Bookmark here

It was a long discussion, but he still gave his agreement.Bookmark here

“Your old man caused enough troubles to you, don’t you think so? Hikari-chan, you are free to do anything you want as long as it will make you happy. If it becomes unbearable, you can always go back.”Bookmark here

Dad was smiling genuinely when he said that. He looks so happy that I decided to open up to him. Bookmark here

All this time, the two of us are watching our movements that we ended up misunderstanding each other.Bookmark here

Now, I’m glad that I have a talk like this with Dad.Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

Yosh! Starting today, I’ll be staying in the dorm with the others. Irosaki-sensei is also staying there with everyone. It was such a fancy place too! I’m looking forward to stay here.Bookmark here

I could deal with Mikejima-kun later, I don’t want to think about it just after I settled my issue. Bookmark here

I stood in front of the dorm building. It was an extension of the student council building which means it has a similar structure. I haven’t entered here before except that one time after the Ai Case.Bookmark here

I held my breath and looked up to the door. This is it.Bookmark here

“Pardon my intrusion…” I mumbled as I peeked through the door.Bookmark here

I let myself in and was greeted by Irosaki-sensei in casual clothes. Her arms are crossed in front of her chest and she gave me an observing look.Bookmark here

“That’s wrong, Terushima-san.”Bookmark here

“E-eh?” I took a step back. “Am I not welcome here? Did I make a mistake?”Bookmark here

“That’s not supposed to be ‘ojamashimasu’.”Bookmark here

“What?” I gave her a look of confusion.Bookmark here

“It was supposed to be ‘tadaima’.” She tapped the frame of her glasses.Bookmark here

“W-well then… Tadaima…” I said with a flustered expression.Bookmark here

What was that all of a sudden?Bookmark here

“Okaerinasai,” Irosaki-sensei smiled gently at me.Bookmark here

My eyes widened after realizing it, a small smile formed on my lips.Bookmark here

Such warm words… Bookmark here

☆Veronica☆
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