Cat's Hour ~猫の時間~
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.
I really loved those words…
It made me feel like there was a place I could return to, and that someone is waiting for me there…
It was such simple words, a common greeting, but it was enough to make me smile… and a warm feeling grows inside me.
I look forward to hearing Mom’s voice every time I get home.
But in reality…
Happiness is short-lived.
Before I noticed, no one is waiting for me at home anymore.
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.
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.
From one place to another, it was a regular thing for me. I made friends, just to leave them soon.
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.
That’s just a wishful thinking… no one actually remembers me.
‘It can’t be helped.’
I surrendered myself to that thought. But still… there’s a feeling of emptiness inside me.
“Gomen ne, Hikari-chan. Dad is always causing troubles for you. We ended up moving places again.”
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.
‘This is not the home I want.’
I can’t possibly tell him that.
This is the worst.
“Aahn… we can’t do that here, Takkun~”
“Hehe, why not? No one’s here right now.”
“I’ll make sure you’ll like it.”
Aaah! Shut it!
I slammed a hardbound book in the table where those improper couple are doing something inappropriate.
They are getting on my nerves! What’s with that strange noises?! That’s disgusting!
“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?”
“Eeek! Y-yes ma’am! We’re very sorry!”
The two frantically ran away after I gave them a warning.
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?!
Couples can go to hell. Ai-san was right, this is really irritating.
“Terushima-senpai, please handle the books carefully.”
Toujo-kun who wears glasses and reading a book on the reception desk gave a warning to me.
“Terushima-senpai? Since when did you talk to me formally?” I furrowed my eyebrows at him.
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!
“Why? Do you prefer the informal language?” he asked while still reading the book that he’s holding.
“Do what you want, it doesn’t have anything to do with me.”
I heaved a deep sigh and sat on a corner. I slumped my face in the table out of hopelessness.
Damn it! This is really the worst!
“Terushima-senpai, this is not the place for slacking off.”
“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.
I want to blow off steam! I need to cuddle with a cat right now!
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!
“Do you think I’ll be like this just for fun?”
“No. I don’t think so. I’m just merely worried for my senpai because she seems bothered by something since earlier this morning.”
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…
“Are you really the Toujo-kun I know? The way you speak right now is really strange.”
“My, what made you think so? I ‘am’ Asahi Toujo.”
“I’m not convinced. Well, whatever.”
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.
“We just talked about it yesterday, Terushima-senpai. About how we like you for being straightforward.”
I heard the chair in front of me moved. Toujo-kun might have sat on it.
I don’t feel like talking.
“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.”
“It’s not a matter that student council could do something,” I whispered.
“Hmm, I understand.”
I heard the chair moved again. Toujo-kun definitely stood up, the footsteps are also getting farter.
He probably left me.
Haah, this is pathetic.
I told myself that I got used to it…
But then, why? Why am I getting sad?
“Terushima-senpai,” Toujo-kun called.
I lifted my head from the table and squinted my eyes at him.
For what reason did he call me? It better be not something useless.
“Would you give this a read?”
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.
“What is it?”
“See for yourself.”
The front cover is just a plain red, with nothing written on it. It looks plain.
I opened it on the first page and read the title page.
“Eh? Slam book? Wow, that’s nostalgic,” I unconsciously smiled. “I wish I had the chance to make one with a friend.”
Toujo-kun didn’t say anything. He just quietly watched over me as I continued flipping through the pages.
As I read more, I realized what is this slam book about.
“This is the student council members’ information?” I gave a questioning look towards Toujo-kun.
Why would he make me read this? Isn’t this invasion of privacy among other members?
“Indeed, it was our information,” he nodded. “Kurokawa-senpai suggested to do it. It was childish, don’t you think?”
“It was childish…” I admitted. “But it was thoughtful of him.”
“That’s just how Kurokawa-senpai is.”
I stared at the page again. It was Kurokawa-senpai’s entry.
He likes his friends, the student council, his work and tuna onigiri. Fufu, he’s really a pure one. No wonder everyone likes him.
He hates his weak self, so he’s aware of it. He also hates… sleeping?
Wait, is that why he always seems like he hasn’t rested for days? Because he hates sleeping?
“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.
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.
“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.”
“Hmm… Mashiro-senpai is making tea that could help him fall asleep.”
That’s a relief. It was good thing that Mashiro-senpai is looking out for Kurokawa-senpai.
I turned the page on the next entry, it was Mashiro-senpai’s.
The things that he likes are his sister, Kurokawa-senpai, flowers, gardening, pretty things and his hoe.
“Did Mashiro-senpai likes his hoe that much?” I deadpanned.
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.
“It was a gift from his sister.”
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.
About his dislikes… pests and ugly things.
Geh! I feel attacked!
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.
Mashiro-senpai, you’re horrible.
“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.”
“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.
“Yes. I ‘am’ Asahi Toujo,” he answered without any hint of hesitation.
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.
I flipped the page to the next one.
If I’m right, this should be Mikejima-kun’s entry. I gulped before reading the entry.
He likes sports, naps, quiet places, games, and Kurokawa-senpai. Wow, as expected of someone who doesn’t look that social.
The things that he hates are… women.
“What is it?”
“N-nothing,” I awkwardly dismissed Toujo-kun’s concern.
So that’s how it is. Mikejima-kun hates women, it’s not just me. I think I should distance myself from him…
…for what anyway? I’m pretty much done here too. He would definitely like it if I’m not around anymore.
The next one is Toujo-kun’s entry.
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.
“Mechanical banks, huh… that’s interesting.”
“I’m collecting them. Just a hobby I picked up long before,” Toujo-kun nonchalantly said.
“I think it was nice. It was quite unexpected though. Somehow, it feels like there’s something off.”
“It was that idiot,” he whispered something which I barely heard.
“Nothing. Don’t mind me.”
What was that? I’m pretty sure he said something.
I continued reading his entry.
The thing that he hates is wasting money for something useless.
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.
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.
The last entry was Haibara-kun’s.
He likes music, cooking, baking, cleaning, household chores, shopping groceries, doing school works, and Kurokawa-senpai.
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!
Imagine that gentle kid doing the household management, he’s like a wife!
“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.
“That’s true,” Toujo-kun agreed.
Let’s see what Haibara-kun dislikes.
It was a vague answer.
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?
“Kurokawa-senpai is liked by everyone, huh.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Why don’t you write an entry?”
My eyes widened to what he said. Did I… hear that right?
“Actually, you should write one.”
“But Toujo-kun, I…”
“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.”
“Did you know–“
“I see… then, I’ll take you up in your offer!” I beamed at him and pulled out my mechanical pencil.
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.
“Oh yes, Toujo-kun. About the contract…”
“Terushima-senpai, that was a cruel thing to ask.”
“Eh? What do you mean?”
I slowly lifted my face to look at him, but before I know it, Toujo-kun was nowhere to be found.
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.
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!
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.
Yosh! Stay positive, Hikari!
“Ah! It’s senpai-chan!”
Senpai-chan… I feel like there is only one person who would call me that.
When I turned around, my guess was confirmed. It was Toujo-kun running towards my direction.
“You seem like you’re in a good mood, senpai-chan! Are you feeling okay now?” he asked with a wide tooth grin.
“Un! I’m okay now thanks to Toujo-kun!” I also smiled at him.
“Me? Did I do something?” he slightly tilted his head in confusion.
“What are you saying? You–“
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.
“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.
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!
Wait, I’m confused now!
“Senpai-chan, are you going to the office now? We could walk together!”
Well, whatever. I’m not going to press any further. I’m not in the position to ask about it anyway.
“Thank you, Toujo-kun.”
“W-why all of a sudden?”
“Nothing. I just feel like it.”
It was fun walking with Toujo-kun to the student council building.
I can’t do it.
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.
Haah, this is stupid.
“Terushima-san, are you feeling sick? You can go home early if you like,” Kurokawa-senpai worriedly said.
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.
“I don’t want to go home.”
“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.
“Tsukasa-kun, that was harsh!” Kurokawa-senpai scolded him.
“It’s the truth, Kaichou.”
“Don’t get me started, Calico. I’m not in the mood to deal with you right now.”
Before Mikejima-kun could start his argument, the door opened with a loud sound. I also lifted my head to see what’s up.
It was Irosaki-sensei.
“Is Terushima-san around?” she scanned the room and when she saw me, she walked towards my direction.
“What is it, sensei?”
“I’m fulfilling my end of the deal.”
“Ah. No need for that, sensei. I have to quit anyway.” I waved my hand to her.
“Terushima-san… is that true?” Kurokawa-senpai looks like he’s in the verge of tears.
“Sorry. It’s true.” I forced a smile to them.
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.
“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.
“Ahaha, sorry for causing troubles,” I awkwardly chuckled and looked away.
“Senpai-chan! Did Asahi-senpai threaten you?!” Toujo-kun asked.
“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.
“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.”
“You…! Tch, so the feeling is mutual, huh.”
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.
It’s too bad that I couldn’t get back to him tenfold. Well, that’s just how it is.
“Senpai, is that really how you feel?”
“W-why the sudden question, Haibara-kun?” I stuttered.
“Your voice hesitated, senpai.” Haibara-kun looks frustrated.
“Haibara-kun is right, your words doesn’t match your thoughts, Terushima-san,” Irosaki-sensei added.
Why would you corner me like this? You’re just making this hard for me to take!
“You don’t have to hold it in.”
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.
“I… don’t want to leave yet.”
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.
If there is some kind of miracle…
Before I know it, Irosaki-sensei pulled me into a hug. I couldn’t care less if her chest gets in the way.
I really need this hug right now. Something about it sets my heart at ease.
“That wish of yours… I’ll grant it.”
I could feel sensei gently stroking my hair.
It was warm… like a mother’s embrace.
“What do you mean, sensei?”
“How about it, Terushima-san? Why not stay in the dorm with us?”
“But–“ I was just about to say something when sensei cut me off by putting her finger on my lips.
“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.”
And so, I decided to have a heart to heart talk with Dad.
It was a long discussion, but he still gave his agreement.
“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.”
Dad was smiling genuinely when he said that. He looks so happy that I decided to open up to him.
All this time, the two of us are watching our movements that we ended up misunderstanding each other.
Now, I’m glad that I have a talk like this with Dad.
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.
I could deal with Mikejima-kun later, I don’t want to think about it just after I settled my issue.
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.
I held my breath and looked up to the door. This is it.
“Pardon my intrusion…” I mumbled as I peeked through the door.
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.
“That’s wrong, Terushima-san.”
“E-eh?” I took a step back. “Am I not welcome here? Did I make a mistake?”
“That’s not supposed to be ‘ojamashimasu’.”
“What?” I gave her a look of confusion.
“It was supposed to be ‘tadaima’.” She tapped the frame of her glasses.
“W-well then… Tadaima…” I said with a flustered expression.
What was that all of a sudden?
“Okaerinasai,” Irosaki-sensei smiled gently at me.
My eyes widened after realizing it, a small smile formed on my lips.
Such warm words…