Chapter 11:

Mirage Garden Conflict

Cat's Hour ~猫の時間~

Haibara-kun leads the way to the school backyard. If I remember right, Mashiro-senpai is working on the flowers here. He was so strict about it that we MUST not bother him here. At all cost.Bookmark here

I felt a shiver on my spine just thinking about it. Not to mention, he definitely has his hoe on the vicinity. Who knows what he will do to us if we got on his bad side?Bookmark here

“Haibara-kun, what are we doing here?” I whispered to Haibara-kun as we continued walking deeper to the flower fields. Bookmark here

I haven’t gotten this close to the flowers since I am just looking from afar when I got a tour with Kurokawa-senpai. Also, I don’t want to get on Mashiro-senpai’s bad side so I’m keeping my distance.Bookmark here

“Flower viewing. You don’t know what flower viewing is, senpai?” Bookmark here

“I know that! But why here? Mashiro-senpai said not to go here, right?” Bookmark here

“It’s fine. Tsuki-senpai agreed to held it here. Well, he was strongly against it at first but when kaichou pleaded to him, he was left with no choice but to agree,” Haibara-kun explained in a matter-of-fact tone.Bookmark here

“I can imagine that happening…” I deadpanned. “But why are we having a flower viewing? Is there some kind of occasion?”Bookmark here

“Hmm, there is.” The way he said it so simply is suspicious in itself.Bookmark here

I squinted my eyes at him and gave him an observing glance. “What kind?”Bookmark here

“Ahaha, why so suspicious, senpai? We’re not going to do anything bad.” He lets out a soft chuckle.Bookmark here

“I don’t know. I just feel like you’re lying through your teeth, I might be imagining things.” I put my finger on my chin and fell in deep thought. Bookmark here

“Lying, huh…” Haibara-kun whispered and looked away. It was for a moment, but I saw his expression darkened.Bookmark here

I blinked in confusion and rubbed my eyes to confirm if I’m not imagining things. I have trust on my eyesight and memory, I’m sure about what I saw. Bookmark here

But… I want to think that my mind is just playing tricks with me. There’s no way the kind Haibara-kun will have that look of hatred… right?Bookmark here

“Ano… Haibara-kun…”Bookmark here

“Sorry, I was out of it for a while. About the occasion, right? Let’s go there so we can see for ourselves.” He smiled like he always used to.Bookmark here

“That’s not… sorry, it’s nothing,” I apologized and looked away.Bookmark here

A little while after that, we spent our time walking together in an awkward silence. Bookmark here

I glanced at Haibara-kun’s direction, he’s just acting like normal. He doesn’t look conflicted about it but I felt a pang of guilt about my slip of tongue earlier.Bookmark here

I don’t want to bring it up, but I also can’t stand the silence. I remember reading in that red notebook that Haibara-kun doesn’t like silence. Bookmark here

I might as well try to strike a conversation with him.Bookmark here

“N-ne, Haibara-kun… about Sakura-chan…” I hesitantly started a conversation. Bookmark here

“Ah, that’s right. Senpai is also curious about Sakura-chan’s story, right?”Bookmark here

He responded! All right, this is a good ice breaker!Bookmark here

“Yeah. Sakura-chan is not a student of the school before, right?” Bookmark here

“That’s right. She was a daughter of a teacher here 50 years ago. About the cause of death… sorry, I can’t tell you the details.” Haibara-kun said. “You noticed it too, right? Sakura-chan has not realized that she died yet. She’s just a lost spirit who can’t pass on.”Bookmark here

“I see… so she doesn’t have any grudge towards the school,” I mumbled.Bookmark here

“We can’t say that she doesn’t have any grudge. It was more appropriate to say that she doesn’t remember it. There are times where spirits can’t remember that they died because of the shock they got from suffering death. Moreover, Sakura-chan is still a child. It was hard to process for her that she died that young.” Bookmark here

I fell silent. I feel bad about Sakura-chan’s death, there was dark side to this that Haibara-kun refused to tell me. I also feel like I don’t want to know it. I just want to pray for Sakura-chan’s soul.Bookmark here

If I got the chance, I want to visit her grave and offer mochi to her again. I don’t know if she’ll like it considering how horrible I am in making them, but I want to give her a different one, not that nightmare of a cat shape.Bookmark here

“It was thanks to senpai’s mochi that Sakura-chan finally got to go in the afterlife.” He smiled to himself, his eyes have that light of admiration. “In a manner, senpai is also like kaichou. To have admirable senpais like you, I think I’m lucky enough.”Bookmark here

I feel blood rushing to my cheeks because of the sudden praise. I covered my reddened face in embarrassment and quickly looks away from him. Getting words of praise from my kouhai… I can finally say that I became a recognized senpai. Yatta! I got a title now! I’m not just a transferee student anymore!Bookmark here

Hehe, praises really lift your mood. Bookmark here

“By the way, Haibara-kun, how long did you know each other? I just noticed how close the first years to the upperclassmen. Is there some kind of connection?”Bookmark here

“We are all acquainted with each other since middle school. Nekoji Academy also has an affiliated middle school, we met each other there,” he started.Bookmark here

“Oh… so everyone went on long ways already,” I commented.Bookmark here

“That seems to be about right. But at that time, we don’t know that the others also made a wish, we just happened to know it when we got to high school. We are all good friends back then so we don’t have any problems dealing with each other. Whether it was a coincidence or not, no one can tell.”Bookmark here

“Wow, there was a story like that with you guys…”Bookmark here

“At first, it also didn’t go well. Especially towards Tsukasa-senpai. He thought that kaichou was annoying before and raises his guard around him. There was a time before that Tsukasa-senpai shoved kaichou out of irritation, we all expected that kaichou will be injured! But you know what happened? Kaichou held Tsukasa-senpai’s arm like this and he lifted him effortlessly despite the height difference, then he slammed him on the floor.” Haibara-kun reenacted a martial arts technique that I could only saw in movies. “Uun! Kaichou is really cool!”Bookmark here

Haibara-kun looks like a child telling his friend about a superhero that he likes on TV. He looks like he’s having fun telling great things about Kurokawa-senpai. Bookmark here

I don’t think Haibara-kun is lying here, but he might be exaggerating things. I mean, looking back on the present Kurokawa-senpai, does he seem like the type who can stand up to someone taller than him in a physical fight?! I don’t think so!Bookmark here

Well, whatever. As long as Haibara-kun is genuinely having fun like this, I could hear him out as he tells the story of mighty Kurokawa-senpai. The way he told them makes it seem like Kurokawa-senpai was an amazing person. Bookmark here

It also made me think that, maybe Kurokawa-senpai is a great person like what Haibara-kun said…Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

We arrived at the middle of the field. I didn’t realize that there was a greenhouse here. Maybe because I’m just looking from afar or I’m not paying attention to my surroundings that I didn’t notice it before.Bookmark here

But that was strange… Bookmark here

“Let’s go in, senpai.” Haibara-kun faced me and opened the door, urging me to go inside first.Bookmark here

“Thank you.” Haibara-kun is really a gentleman!Bookmark here

We soon entered the greenhouse and I stopped on my tracks just after taking a few steps. My mouth agape as I stared in the dangling flowers of the giant wisteria tree in the middle of the greenhouse. Bookmark here

This is…Bookmark here

Watching the sakura trees outside was breathtaking in itself. However, the wisteria here is equally amazing. It was a mystical view… it was as if my eyes are playing tricks with me that the flowers are like gems. They are all shiny and sparkly.Bookmark here

When I look from outside, the greenhouse doesn’t seem that wide. My eyes is probably tricking me by then. The greenhouse is so wide from inside. Not only that, I’m expecting to see different flowers since this is a greenhouse from outside but there is only the wisteria here.Bookmark here

However, there’s also one thing that particularly stood out.Bookmark here

I clenched my hand on my chest who started beating rapidly out of nowhere since I saw the wisteria tree. There was a feeling of familiarity that I can’t explain. Bookmark here

A nostalgic feeling.Bookmark here

A sense of déjà vu. Bookmark here

What is this…?Bookmark here

It was as if I was taken to another world right now. Bookmark here

I was thrown back to reality when I felt someone tapped my shoulder. It was Haibara-kun.Bookmark here

“Senpai, let’s go. Everyone’s over there,” Haibara-kun beamed at me and pointed under the wisteria tree where everyone is sitting on a picnic cloth on the ground. Bookmark here

Everyone was there, even Irosaki-sensei. Mikejima-kun is not sitting on the picnic cloth but he’s lying on one of the branches of the tree. Mashiro-senpai is scolding him in exchange.Bookmark here

“Tsukasa, get down here,” Mashiro-senpai said with his signature threatening smile.Bookmark here

It wasn’t meant for me but I also felt a chill down my spine. Uuu, so cold.Bookmark here

“I don’t want to. This is a perfect place to distance myself from that girl. I’m doing you a favor here, Mashiro.” Bookmark here

“That’s senpai to you, damn brat.” Bookmark here

“What did you say?!” Mikejima-kun fumed and was about to launch himself to Mashiro-senpai when Kurokawa-senpai stood up in between. Bookmark here

“T-that’s enough, you two… if you really hate it, I’ll just leave instead,” Kurokawa-senpai muttered under his breath. “I just forced you to do this, right?”Bookmark here

Kurokawa-senpai continued mumbling to himself in the corner of the tree. The two quickly settled down and tried to comfort him.Bookmark here

Wow, I was on the verge of believing Haibara-kun earlier. It’s a good thing that I got a grip of reality to see Kurokawa-senpai acting as usual. It might be more on the negative side but Kurokawa-senpai is still great to deal with fights like this despite his personality.Bookmark here

“Ah, Senpai-chan and Aoi-chi! You made it here!” Toujo-kun waved his hand to us.Bookmark here

“Sorry for being late. Here are the mochis that we made.” Haibara-kun gave the containers to Toujo-kun.Bookmark here

“Uwaah! Senpai-chan’s mochi! I’ll eat it!”Bookmark here

While Toujo-kun was staring intently to the mochis, a chop landed on his head which came from Haibara-kun.Bookmark here

“That hurts, Aoi-chi!! How mean!” Toujo-kun whined with a pout.Bookmark here

“You greedy man, that was for everyone! And for the record, I made them with Terushima-senpai, stop sounding like an attention seeker!”Bookmark here

“Sometimes, I’m really wondering if you hate me. You’re only mean to me, Aoi-chi!”Bookmark here

“Quite the opposite. We’re close enough to be rude without hard feelings. That just means we’re good friends, right?” Bookmark here

“Aoi-chi…”Bookmark here

“Only if you stopped acting like a pervert, Asahi-kun.”Bookmark here

“P-pervert?! Harsh…”Bookmark here

I chuckled watching them like this. It was chaotic but that makes it fun to watch. Everyone seems like having so much fun. They are like cats playing together in a meadow, basking in the sun and loafing around. Fufu, that’s so cute! Bookmark here

“My, looks like you met some troubles on the way,” Irosaki-sensei commented to me as she was sipping on a cup of tea.Bookmark here

“Actually, yes. We happened to stumble upon a case. You didn’t hear the bell?” I took a seat beside her.Bookmark here

“I’m sure you also noticed that there is something out of ordinary in this place. Well, that seems right. This place is the Mirage Garden. Mashiro-kun is the person in-charge of this place.”Bookmark here

“Mirage Garden? What is that?”Bookmark here

“We are in the school but this place is not inside the school. For a second it was there, only to disappear soon. That kind of mirage.”Bookmark here

“I… can’t understand anything.” I squinted my eyes in confusion.Bookmark here

“It might be hard to understand for humans. In short, this place is a mirage, a place that exists in nowhere. We are still in school, but this place isn’t. That explains why we didn’t hear the bell.”Bookmark here

“Ah… I think I understood a little. Just a little only,” I admitted while making a pinching action with my hand.Bookmark here

“Fufu, that’s a good reaction. Some people that found this place will start to get hysterical, y’know.”Bookmark here

Hmm? Why was that? This place doesn’t seem dangerous at all. I personally think that it was a lovely place. We can’t always see wisteria tree with such pretty blooms all the time. Bookmark here

This place seems like it was frozen in time.Bookmark here

“Heh. That was a good description,” Irosaki-sensei butted in.Bookmark here

“A…” I was about to open my mouth to ask when I realized that she can read my mind. Damn, I’m always forgetting that.Bookmark here

“Fufu. You’re really interesting, Terushima-san. Say, what would you do if you are bound in time? For example, you can’t get old and die.” Irosaki-sensei asked with a smile on her face.Bookmark here

Is this a test? Or just a curious question?Bookmark here

I put my finger on my chin and think about it deeply. Let’s see… Bookmark here

Personally, I would say that I’ll spend my time leisurely playing with cats. It might end with sad good-byes at some point, but it was part of living. You may be bound in time but that doesn’t mean that you’re not alive. Bookmark here

Wait, that was a biased answer. Bookmark here

If it was a test from Irosaki-sensei, that answer might sound stupid.Bookmark here

I want to come up with something witty. Urgh… I can’t think of anything! My mind is just full of cats at this point!Bookmark here

“Alright, you don’t have to say anything. I understood your point.” Irosaki-sensei nodded at me.Bookmark here

“Wait! That’s not what I meant!” I puffed my cheeks at her.Bookmark here

She just chuckled at me and looked forward with a smile on her face. “Living, huh… it might be worth a shot.”Bookmark here

“Ano, sensei…”Bookmark here

“Terushima-san, sorry about this… you just got here and that was the first thing you saw! I’m really sorry!”Kurokawa-senpai bowed profusely in front of me.Bookmark here

I was caught off guard because of his actions. Why is he apologizing all of a sudden? That surprised me, y’know!Bookmark here

“Ah… senpai, you don’t need to apologize to me. I came here uninvited so I should be the one apologizing. Sorry, for bothering you.” I also stood up and bowed slightly to him.Bookmark here

“That’s not…” he bit his lips in frustration and looked away from me.Bookmark here

Eh? Did I say something wrong?Bookmark here

“Oh, that’s right! No one told Senpai-chan, right?” Toujo-kun butted in.Bookmark here

Hah? Told me what?Bookmark here

I gave a look around but they are all just exchanging glances among themselves. Somehow, this brings me back from the first time we met. They are just looking among themselves and leaving me out. Haha. It’s happening again.Bookmark here

After a moment of silent from their telepathic communication by exchanging glances, Mashiro-senpai stepped forward.Bookmark here

“Welcome party.” He nonchalantly said without even an ounce of emotion.Bookmark here

“Hah? What welcome party?” I retorted in confusion.Bookmark here

Mashiro-senpai just shrugged at me.Bookmark here

Oi! What the heck?!Bookmark here

“Wait a minute, Tsuki-senpai! That sounds effortless!” Toujo-kun whined at him. “It should be like this… ahem! Senpai-chan, it is our greatest honor–“Bookmark here

“Why waste your time coming up with long-ass speech? Boring.” Mikejima-kun sneered.Bookmark here

Everyone fell silent upon hearing that side comment. Bookmark here

Oi! If you’re not going to say anything nice, you should just shut up! This guy!Bookmark here

“And that’s why you don’t have a girlfriend, Tsukasa-senpai~” Toujo-kun teasingly said to him in return.Bookmark here

“Hah?! Who needs girlfriend? I don’t need a woman in my life. At least I’m not like you, pleasing girls just for a bit of attention. How shameless!” Mikejima-kun rebutted.Bookmark here

“Shameless, huh… I’m not like that, Tsukasa-senpai. It can’t be helped,” Toujo-kun snickered at him. “I’m just loved by everyone, but what about you, se-n-pa-i?” He continued in a sing-song voice.Bookmark here

Toujo-kun, that was to much! You crossed the line as well!Bookmark here

Mikejima-kun jumped from the branch with a solid sound. He gritted his teeth in exasperation and sent a glare to Toujo-kun’s direction with his right hand clenched tightly.Bookmark here

W-wait! Is this a fight?! Bookmark here

“Sorry, Terushima-senpai. Actually, there’s something that I didn’t say to you earlier.” Haibara-kun stood beside me and started talking. “Tsukasa-senpai doesn’t really get along with everyone. Kaichou is the only exception, but for everyone, it was just on neutral terms. Somehow, Asahi-kun and Tsukasa-senpai are always on bad terms.”Bookmark here

“So this is a fight?! We should do something!” Bookmark here

“Leave them be, Terushima-san.” Irosaki-sensei said.Bookmark here

“W-what?! They can get hurt if they ended up fighting for real!” I raised my voice to reason out. “You’re the sensei here, right? Irosaki-sensei, please do something!”Bookmark here

“They all have some kind differences with each other. Fights like this are bound to happen sooner or later, Mikejima-kun and Toujo-kun have the most contrasting personalities among everyone here,” she calmly responded.Bookmark here

“But sensei!”Bookmark here

“Senpai, calm down. Every time they are fighting like this, there is always someone stopping them before everything gets worse,” Haibara-kun commented and focused on looking at the front.Bookmark here

Out of curiosity, I also faced the way and fell speechless.Bookmark here

Wind. Bookmark here

It was like a wind.Bookmark here

A sharp yet elegant movement.Bookmark here

It was so fast that I’m not sure what I just saw. The last thing I realized was Kurokawa-senpai aiming both of his hands to chop on Mikejima-kun and Toujo-kun’s necks. Bookmark here

T-that seems dangerous…Bookmark here

“Ne, this is not the time for your cat fights. We’re here to have Terushima-san’s welcome party. I presume that the two of you know that already, right?” Kurokawa-senpai said in a threatening voice.Bookmark here

W-who is this? Bookmark here

“H-hai…” the two answered in unison.Bookmark here

“I can’t hear you.” Bookmark here

“Hai! Kaichou!”Bookmark here

“We’ll have a long talk about this on the office later.” Kurokawa-senpai retracted his hands on both of their necks and walked away from them as the two took a sigh of relief.Bookmark here

“The two of you, stop causing troubles for everyone,” Mashiro-senpai seconded with a warning. “If you can’t help it, just make sure that kaichou is not around.”Bookmark here

Mashiro-senpai glared at the two before following Kurokawa-senpai.Bookmark here

“S-scary…” Toujo-kun mumbled after that.Bookmark here

“So cool…” Haibara-kun, who was standing beside me is gasping in admiration. Bookmark here

This is getting weirder now.Bookmark here

Just as Kurokawa-senpai said. It was a welcome party for me. But after what happened, it ended up being an awkward feast. Bookmark here

Irosaki-sensei is probably the calmest one here as if not minding everything and just eating the mochis peacefully. Bookmark here

Man, how envious… I also want to have a peace of mind like that.Bookmark here

Just a short while after, I can already hear Kurokawa-senpai mumbling like normal and Mashiro-senpai hearing him out.Bookmark here

“Tsuki-kun… what should I do…? Maybe it was too overboard… should I apologize now?”Bookmark here

“Kaichou, you don’t have to apologize. It was the right thing to stop them.”Bookmark here

I agree with Mashiro-senpai on this one. Kurokawa-senpai doesn’t have to apologize for anything, he’s not at fault. Actually, every time he apologizes, it was not even his fault. Is it a habit of him?Bookmark here

“Kaichou is cool, right? I want to be like him in the future…” Haibara-kun dreamily said in admiration.Bookmark here

“A-ah… yeah…”Bookmark here

It was an awkward celebration but it was extremely informative for me.Bookmark here

‘Never get on Kurokawa-senpai’s bad side. AT ALL COST.’Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.