On the night that Kirisaki would be searching for the source of the strange sounds, I found it hard to calm down. Of course I believed in her, but I just couldn't help worrying if everything would be alright. Despite the fact that I didn't expect her to report her results as soon as she was finished, I found it hard to go to sleep. My staying awake wouldn't change anything, I knew that, but convincing my heart of that fact was the difficult part.
Fortunately, my anxiety wasn't strong enough to overcome the great power of drowsiness. Before it reached midnight my mind was dragged into a comfortable darkness.
The next day, I woke up before my alarm and forced my lazy body to get up and check the group chat. Kirisaki had reported what she found and Arisugawa had already responded to her so everything was in order, however, as I read what she witnessed, I couldn't help but knit my brows.
'Well, I certainly didn't think of this, but it makes so much sense that I'm surprised that I didn't consider it.'
The first job was complete, but Arisugawa said that we should meet in person to decide how to announce it. Additionally, we still had that matter to discuss.
Instead of the clubroom after school, Arisugawa suggested for us to meet in a park that was on the way to school. Though it was nearby, it wasn't visible from the route that students from the dorm took to get to school so it would be good enough for a discreet meeting. However, there was no way that I wasn't worried that something might go wrong. No matter how solid the plan was, even if it was proposed by my crush, doubt remained.
While trying not to be suspicious, I regularly checked to make sure that I wasn't being followed.
'Now that I think about, I haven't sensed my stalker lately.'
As I cautiously made my way to the meeting spot, I recalled the one who I believed had been following me. When I seriously thought about it, I realized that I hadn't picked up on that gaze since the day I went to buy my game. Meaning, a week had past since the last time I was stalked.
'I wonder what happened?'
I didn't like being stalked, but I was curious as to why the perpetrator finally stopped. I could stop thinking about it there, but then the possibility that I really had been imagining it would fester in my heart.
'Mr. or Ms. Stalker, could you at least hand in a letter of resignation before you leave?'
While thinking about my missing stalker, my mental state improved enough for me to start cracking jokes. In a better mood than when I left the apartment, I made it to entrance of the park. I spotted Kirisaki standing in front of a bench with Arisugawa and Amakawa facing her.
"Good morning, everyone."
Only Arisugawa and Kirisaki returned my greeting directly, but since Amakawa nodded at me I was a satisfied boy.
Of our members, only Zakushi remained but no one doubted that he would arrive in time. While we waited, Arisugawa and Kirisaki were engaged in conversation, and Amakawa had her face stuck to her phone so I was basically by myself.
I lacked both the courage and thick skin to burst into the space of the girls so I quickly decided to take out my phone. However before I could go on a single app, Zakushi appeared.
Once again, everyone except Amakawa greeted him. Some might take this as disrespect towards one's senior, but since it was Amakawa it was almost too natural to complain.
Now that we were all here, Arisugawa looked at each of us before stopping on Kirisaki.
"We're all here. Kirisaki, you can begin."
"Okay. Firstly," almost instantly, Kirisaki bowed her head and continued with a desperately sincere tone, "I'm sorry that I couldn't do it by myself."
After her report, Kirisaki had mentioned that her best friend ended up helping her, but I thought that this topic was already over. Seeing her still worried about it was so cute that a chuckle and a smile came naturally. I wanted to say something but, I gave that opportunity to Arisugawa instead.
Arisugawa got closer to Kirisaki and raised her head up so that they stood face to face.
"I told you, didn't I? You handling this by yourself was just an ideal. Besides, as long as your best friend is trustworthy the result itself will be the same. You don't need to apologize anymore."
"Really?" Kirisaki asked with slightly widened eyes.
"Of course. You did splendidly. In fact, I wouldn't mind rewarding you."
A touching scene was unfolding before me, but the atmosphere was ruined by the special guest behind Kirisaki. As even Zakushi frowned at this interruption, it was clear that the sound was a perfect example of bad timing. However, it was the original reason why we showed up here.
To disperse the awkward air, Arisugawa cleared her throat before telling Kirisaki to present the source of the strange sounds in the female dorm. Kirisaki then turned around and reached into the cardboard box on the bench, before pulling out a familiar furry, four-legged creature.
While thinking about all the trouble this thing caused, I couldn't help but shake my head a little when I saw it for real.
"To think a cat would be behind so many horror stories. Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction."
That's right, it was a black cat all along. The strange sounds were caused by a stray cat that had somehow wandered into the dorm.
"Indeed. I'll need to check if this cat belongs to anyone, but with this the job should be complete," said Arisugawa.
After a short discussion, it was decided that we would wait a day before announcing our success. This was to ensure that the job was truly complete so that we didn't embarrass ourselves. Additionally, Arisugawa decided to inform the teachers of the full story, but we would give a vague announcement to the students while she secretly investigated whether or not this cat actually had an owner. Arisugawa and Zakushi talked about this in greater detail but I didn't pay much attention to it.
After that was settled, we moved on to the next topic.
"So, what will we do with the cat? We won't be able to find the owner or put it up for adoption for now." Zakushi asked.
Kirisaki added, "I kept him last night but the dorm doesn't really allow pets so..."
She looked very sad and reluctant while explaining, but the fact that the school dorms didn't allow pets couldn't be changed. Maybe if she wasn't in the club things would be different, but we couldn't afford to take a risk this early as a club.
'Zakushi and Kirisaki are out, which leaves the three of us.'
I wasn't enthusiastic about taking in a pet, especially since I wasn't sure if pets were allowed in my apartment complex either, but I knew I would find it hard to refuse a request from Arisugawa. Fortunately and yet unfortunately, my assistance was unnecessary.
"We'll take it in," Arisugawa confidently stated.
"The, two of you?" Zakushi asked while looking at Arisugawa and Amakawa.
"That's right. We live together in a house that my family owns so there's no need to worry about whether we have permission to keep pets. And there are people at home who can take care of it while we're at school. A matter of fact, I could call them right now and have someone come pick it up."
I had heard the rumours that Arisugawa came from a rich family, but the way she gave her suggestion casually as if there was nothing special about it really emphasized the authenticity of these rumours. If it was someone else maybe it would seem as if they were showing off, but when she said it, it actually sounded completely normal. Impressed by her humility, Kirisaki looked at her with sparkily eyes and even Zakushi had to pause for a moment before responding.
"In that case, please do so."
Arisugawa then stepped away to call her house while Kirisaki and I kept our eyes on her back.
After a fancy black car came to pick up the cat, we went to school together. From left to right was Zakushi, then Kirisaki, followed by me, Arisugawa and Amakawa. Naturally I felt out of place, but how could I suggest going ahead of them or staying behind when Zakushi hadn't? There weren't that many students on the way to school, but every time we passed by one, their reactions were basically always the same. They would at first be surprised by this elite group walking together, then excited until they spotted me and tilted their heads in confusion.
'Looks like I'll be under more stress going forward.'
Now no one would be able to deny that I was the true Haruto Akishiro, I wasn't sure how my fellow students would treat me. However, as I glanced at the calm face of Arisugawa who was on my right, I was able to suppress my worries and enjoy the moment. I couldn't stare at her face and imprint her profile view into my memory, but just knowing that she was right next to me filled me with euphoria. We didn't even speak to each other and yet I felt fulfilled and ready to move on to the next world.
'Is it sad that this might be the greatest moment of my life?'
I could barely hold back my grin as I truly relished in my youth.