Chapter 12:

Everything Comes With a Price

Cat's Hour ~猫の時間~

Golden Week passed by in the blink of an eye. We returned to our regular business when the classes resumed. Bookmark here

After that farce between Mikejima-kun and Toujo-kun, the two of them became awkward around each other. There are no bad side and good side here, both of them are in the wrong.Bookmark here

The next morning after that, I found out that the two got a bruise on their forehead and it was their punishment for fighting with each other. It seems like Kurokawa-senpai flicked their foreheads with everything he got.Bookmark here

Somehow, my image of the weak Kurokawa-senpai is slowly crumbling. Is this what Irosaki-sensei meant when she said not to underestimate Kurokawa-senpai? I mean, I’m already convinced about it.Bookmark here

Now that I noticed, Kurokawa-senpai always apologizes with every little things, he was jumpy and anxious about a lot of things, but… he never once made a mistake with his work as a student council president. He’s quite amazing, I must say.Bookmark here

I continued living in the dorm with everyone. It’s not a public knowledge that the student council is living in a dorm in the middle of the woods so no one knows about this except us. The situation in the dorm is just normal. Bookmark here

Haibara-kun is the one in-charge of preparing food, considering his cooking skills, there’s no doubt that we always got to eat good food everyday. I’m also pitching in every once in a while to help him. He even considered me as his assistant, he really won’t let go of that.Bookmark here

Regarding my classes, I’m still attending everyday. And as expected, Mikejima-kun is still not showing his face in the class. I can’t ask anyone in my class about it because of the weird phenomenon that they can’t recognize the other student council members. Bookmark here

But still… his name is still mentioned in class.Bookmark here

I stared at the side of the board with names of students in charge of class duties for today: Hikari Terushima and Tsukasa Mikejima. It was the two of us.Bookmark here

I just heaved a sigh of disappointment. I’m sure I’m just going to do the class duties alone today. What should I expect to that guy? As if he will show up and help me after classes. In my dreams!Bookmark here

“Terushima-san, why the long face?”Bookmark here

“Did something happened?”Bookmark here

My classmates gathered around me when they noticed that I was out of it for a while.Bookmark here

Since I transferred here and continuously doing my job as the student council secretary, I gained some popularity as well. From first years to third years, everyone basically know me as Miss Secretary. Not that it matters, really. Bookmark here

“Ah, it’s nothing. I just noticed that I was assigned with class duties today.”Bookmark here

“Oh… of course, who wants to do it anyway? There were times like that, right? When you don’t feel like doing it.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, that’s right! It’s a pain in the neck!”Bookmark here

That’s not what I meant! Can’t they mention something about the other assigned person? Ahh, whatever, it was probably blurry for them because of that phenomenon.Bookmark here

I tried searching about it by asking the student council members. They said that they don’t have any idea about it. It was probably because this is the first time they know it, considering that it came from an outsider such as myself. Bookmark here

I thought that it might be a consequence of promise with god, but Kurokawa-senpai strictly denied it. He was really certain that it’s not an effect of that. They even said that they are still considered as students of the school and some might still know them. Bookmark here

Since I remember Haibara-kun and Mikejima-kun interacting with more students, considering that they are their respective year representatives, I tried asking people. It was strange that Haibara-kun is still recognized by some. Same goes for Mikejima-kun considering he is the swimming team’s ace, he’s not just that recognized to the class itself. Bookmark here

But for the others… they don’t know them. Bookmark here

Is this a phenomenon regarding popularity?Bookmark here

“By the way, Terushima-san, did you know about the story of Hanako-san?” one of my classmates mentioned.Bookmark here

“Hmm, isn’t that the legend about the girl on the toilet?”Bookmark here

“Yeah! Actually, Nekoji Academy also has a similar rumor. It was one of the school’s seven mysteries!”Bookmark here

What do you mean seven? There are a lot of weird things in this school! Seven is just an understatement. Bookmark here

Still, that Hanako-san might just be a rumor and nothing more. I mean, Hanako-san is a story that almost everyone are familiar already. Not to mention it was even depicted in different forms of media for entertainment. Bookmark here

“Terushima-san doesn’t look like she believes us, it’s true though!”Bookmark here

“Agree! Actually, it happened yesterday after dismissal. We’re on the third floor now, right? I want to go to the toilet before heading home but…”Bookmark here

“What happened?”Bookmark here

“I didn’t get in! Just when I was standing in front of the door, it suddenly slammed shut!”Bookmark here

“Could it just be wind? You might be imagining things,” I said to them.Bookmark here

Lies. As someone who already met ghosts and spirits in the school, I should better know that they are real.Bookmark here

However, a part of me wants to believe that this is just a rumor and nothing more. If it ended up to be a case, we have to go through lots of trouble and deal with it. Haah.Bookmark here

“I also thought about that! But when I tried to open it, the door was locked!”Bookmark here

“Then, someone is inside.”Bookmark here

Come on! Don’t make this harder for everyone! I want to spend my time peacefully after this! I have to play with cats!Bookmark here

“Is there a point in locking it? There are stalls inside, they could just lock it from there!”Bookmark here

“Well… that’s true.”Bookmark here

Oi! Give me a break!Bookmark here

“There is also something weird that happened after that. I heard the sound of faucet turning on and flushing toilets, it was as if it was turned on at the same time… after that, all of a sudden, there is too much water flowing out from under the door! I ran away after that! It was definitely Hanako-san!”Bookmark here

No matter how you look at this, this is really a strange story. There is no doubt that this is caused by none other than a supernatural!Bookmark here

“Fine… I’ll ask someone to check it. It might just be some weird student trying to pull a prank.” I sighed in defeat.Bookmark here

I’ll just report this to the student council after the classes and try to ask the others about it.Bookmark here

Hanako-san, huh…Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

“Hmm… hearing your story, it indeed sounds like Hanako-san,” Mashiro-senpai nodded after I told them about my intel.Bookmark here

“Come on, at least deny it!”Bookmark here

Haah. So there’s really a Hanako-san in the school. Bookmark here

I heard a lot of stories about Hanako-san of the Toilet before. All of them, if I must say, are definitely cruel. And if any of those stories are true, that will just mean that she is certainly carrying a huge grudge towards the school. Bookmark here

Dealing with her sounds dangerous. I don’t want to go.Bookmark here

“It was one of the seven mysteries, right? They might know anything about the mission from god,” Kurokawa-senpai added while pressing the mechanical pencil for several times.Bookmark here

“The possibility is high. That Ai also said something about a supernatural who stayed longer in school, she mentioned a girl. It could be Hanako-san.” Bookmark here

“You’re seriously admitting it?!”Bookmark here

I have a bad feeling about this. I’m sure that I’ll be playing an active role with this one again.Bookmark here

“Good guess, Terushima-san. You will be taking part here,” Irosaki-sensei said.Bookmark here

Haha. As I thought.Bookmark here

“Don’t be like that, Terushima-san. The others can’t get in touch with Hanako-san so we have no choice but to send you.”Bookmark here

“Whyyyy?” I whined like a child and slumped my face to the table.Bookmark here

AAAAA! This is the worst!Bookmark here

“Senpai-chan, did you forget where Hanako-san is haunting?”Bookmark here

“Eh?”Bookmark here

“It was the ladies’ toilet on the third floor of the main building. Guys can’t go in there.” Bookmark here

W-well… they do have a point there.Bookmark here

“But! If we’re going during the night, there should be no problem!” I suggested proudly.Bookmark here

“Are you an idiot? The other students are not the problem here, that cursed spirit herself will not let us in her territory. Think, Terushima! Think!” Mikejima-kun turned down my suggestion harshly.Bookmark here

“You don’t have to say it that way! You damned Calico!” Bookmark here

“Hah? You picking a fight–“Bookmark here

“Ahem!” Kurokawa-senpai cleared his throat and glanced at Mikejima-kun’s direction.Bookmark here

He settled down silently after that. There! You got what you deserve!Bookmark here

“W-well… if Terushima-san is really against it, we can’t force her…” Kurokawa-senpai muttered under his breath and gave an awkward smile.Bookmark here

Everyone tensed up. Bookmark here

Something about what Kurokawa-senpai said made them stop for a moment. A deafening silence reigned inside the room.Bookmark here

“Kaichou, are you really–“ Mashiro-senpai was the first one to break the silence. He was cut off midsentence by Kurokawa-senpai.Bookmark here

“It’s fine, Tsuki-kun… there are definitely other ways.” Kurokawa-senpai smiled gently to him.Bookmark here

However, that smile did not comfort Mashiro-senpai in the least. To be honest, he looks the most frustrated about it among everyone.Bookmark here

“… we’re running out of time.” Bookmark here

I don’t know what they are talking about.Bookmark here

They never told me anything and I’m not in any position to ask.Bookmark here

I don’t like it.Bookmark here

It definitely has something to do with Kurokawa-senpai… and they are running out of time.Bookmark here

It’s not like I don’t want to do it. I want to help as well. But… I have a bad feeling about this.Bookmark here

“I’ll do it.”Bookmark here

I have to do something.Bookmark here

“Eh?” Bookmark here

Everyone looked at me in shock. They might not be expecting that I’ll agree with it easily.Bookmark here

Well, that’s right. This comes with a price. The last one is also made with a deal so I won’t let this become just a free service. Bookmark here

“What do you want in exchange?” Irosaki-sensei asked, probably after reading my mind.Bookmark here

“Tell me more about the contract.” Bookmark here

“Terushima-senpai! That’s–“ Haibara-kun was about to say something when I cut him off.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry, Haibara-kun. I’m not asking about your wishes. Just give me the details about that contract, what are the consequences, what kind of god did you contracted with, those kind of information,” I said without any hesitation. “I don’t want to be left in the dark all the time.”Bookmark here

“Terushima-san, that’s private information, we can’t just give you the details.”Bookmark here

“That’s why I’m making a deal, Irosaki-sensei. I’ll help you not just on this one, but to the following cases as well. Mashiro-senpai said it, right? I can act as a bait.”Bookmark here

“Indeed, I said that. But I’m not saying that you’re going to put yourself out there alone. That’s just plain suicide.”Bookmark here

“Nope. Irosaki-sensei said that I won’t die,” I reasoned back.Bookmark here

“How naïve can you be?”Bookmark here

Hah? Mikejima-kun is still saying something even at this point? He should just shut up if he’s not going to say anything good.Bookmark here

“If you have something–“Bookmark here

“Why?”Bookmark here

“Eh?”Bookmark here

“Why are you helping? You could just left it like that and pretend like nothing happened. You could just think about yourself and be selfish, are you just doing this to gain our favors?” He sent a glare to my direction.Bookmark here

I raised my palm to made him stop.Bookmark here

“I’m not that kind of person,” I said in a straightforward manner. “I definitely have my selfish desires like touching everyone’s cat ears and the likes. Don’t misunderstood, I’m not doing this to win you over. It’s not out of self-satisfaction either. It was just my way of returning the favor for taking care of me.”Bookmark here

“It was creepy how you can say that with a straight face, Senpai-chan,” Toujo-kun deadpanned at me.Bookmark here

“If you’re returning the favor, why ask something in return?” Irosaki-sensei also added.Bookmark here

“Hehe. Just humor me.”Bookmark here

“Ano… Terushima-san… are you really fine with it? I’m sorry… we’re imposing too much on you…” Kurokawa-senpai bowed profusely.Bookmark here

“It’s fine! Besides, I haven’t done anything yet.”Bookmark here

“W-well… if it will make Terushima-san feel better… I… I’ll let you touch my cat ears…” Kurokawa-senpai timidly said.Bookmark here

Uwaaah! For real?!!Bookmark here

“Kaichou! What are you saying?!” Mashiro-senpai blurted out.Bookmark here

“I mean… Terushima-san said that she wants to touch them…”Bookmark here

“Please think about it!”Bookmark here

Hehe. Mashiro-senpai really has a protective side for Kurokawa-senpai, huh.Bookmark here

“I won’t mind having Senpai-chan touch mine!” Toujo-kun raised his hand energetically.Bookmark here

Yay! Even Toujo-kun is aboard! Now I’m motivated! I just want to touch them at least once… those cat ears.Bookmark here

“I’m also fine with it.”Bookmark here

Even Haibara-kun?!Bookmark here

“B-but… that’s…” Mashiro-senpai has a contemplating look on his face.Bookmark here

I smiled at him mischievously as if expecting to hear his answer. Bookmark here

I’m not getting my hopes up with this but maybe, just a little push will do. Bookmark here

“Okay. I’ll allow it.” Mashiro-senpai finally resigned himself to it.Bookmark here

“Really?! Yayy!!” I exclaimed in delight.Bookmark here

“Don’t celebrate just yet. It was only if you managed to get some information from Hanako-san.”Bookmark here

“Bring it on!” I puffed my chest confidently.Bookmark here

“Tch. I won’t let her touch me. As long as that girl will prove herself useful, then whatever.” Mikejima-kun stood up and walked away. He left all of us in the room without a word.Bookmark here

Just you watch, Mikejima-kun. Bookmark here

I’ll have you take back that you called me ‘useless’. I’ll get back to you tenfold. Mark my words!Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

Night. Bookmark here

I stood firmly in front of the toilet door. I have a flashlight with me and brought Rushia as well. Haibara-kun said that bringing cats in a situation like this can give me some kind of protection. It’s not like I want to treat the cats as a tool, I’m just personally having them to calm me with my anxiety.Bookmark here

Now that I remember, Irosaki-sensei also made me bring Yami back on the Ai Case. It must be like that as well. Bookmark here

Alright! Let’s enter!Bookmark here

Ah, it’s not locked! Bookmark here

I wonder if Hanako-san will show up. Bookmark here

The toilet doesn’t seem haunted at all. The lights are bright and the floor is even spotless. The white walls also seem like it was sparkly. Yes, not haunted at all.Bookmark here

I mean, ghosts normally show up in nasty-looking places, right? They prefer dimmer and eerie atmosphere, that’s what I noticed from the horror media that I normally see.Bookmark here

Haah. My intel might be wrong. That’s just a rumor from high school students, there is a high chance that they are exaggerating things.Bookmark here

“What do you think, Rushia?” I put her down on the floor for a while to wash my hands in the sink.Bookmark here

“Nyaa…” she just purred normally.Bookmark here

Nothing out of ordinary, huh.Bookmark here

“Anyway, this toilet really looks like it was taken care off very well.” I scanned my eyes around the white walls of the toilet. “This school is really fancy even for their toilet. Where else could you see a school toilet that can be on par with those in the hotels?”Bookmark here

I also washed my face on the sink to keep myself awake. I’m really bad at staying up late at night so washing my face might wake me up.Bookmark here

I lift my glance and saw my reflection on the mirror. Bookmark here

Eh?Bookmark here

There’s someone standing behind me…Bookmark here

I washed my face again. I might be seeing things! Bookmark here

Don’t turn around… don’t turn around… Bookmark here

When I look at the mirror again, there’s no one behind me anymore. Bookmark here

“Eh? What was that…? Rushia–“Bookmark here

I called out to Rushia and noticed her hissing at me. She raised her tail in hostility and showed her fangs at me. W-wait… am I hated now? Bookmark here

“A-ano… Rushia…”Bookmark here

I was about to stretch my hand to her when she waved her claws at me. I swiftly retracted it in the last second. What’s wrong with you?Bookmark here

“Ne… this is a nice place, don’t you think? How about staying here with me?” someone whispered to my ears.Bookmark here

What…Bookmark here

I froze in an instant and felt my heart beating like crazy. It was the same pressure. Hanako-san came and she was latching behind me. Rushia might’ve felt it too. Bookmark here

Crap… I’m scared. I can’t move a muscle. Bookmark here

I swallowed a lump in my throat. This is not the first time that I faced a spirit. Be strong, Hikari!Bookmark here

“A-are you Hanako-san…?” I stuttered.Bookmark here

“Eh? You can talk to me?” she sounded surprised by it.Bookmark here

“Y-yes…”Bookmark here

Is it really a big deal that we can talk to them? Ai-san, Sakura-chan and even Hanako-san reacted the same way.Bookmark here

“Wait! I know you!” she exclaimed at me. Bookmark here

“I… I think you got the w-wrong person.”Bookmark here

I closed my eyes tightly. I don’t want to see her. What if she looks like those horrible ghosts?! I said that I’ll be fine with it as long as there are no jump scares! Bookmark here

“What’s that reaction? Are you scared?” she teasingly said.Bookmark here

“Of course I am! Hanako-san just showed up and latched onto me, who wouldn’t be scared?!” I blurted at her with my eyes still closed.Bookmark here

“Pfft. You haven’t changed at all,” she chuckled lightly. “Calm down, I’m not going to do anything bad.”Bookmark here

Eh… what does that mean?Bookmark here

W-well, if she won’t do anything bad… I guess it’s fine.Bookmark here

I slowly opened my eyes and saw the ghost floating in front of me. Red skirt, bob cut hair, and a cute face of a girl. She just looked like how they described her in the net except that she’s not scary at all.Bookmark here

“Hmm, let’s see… you sure looked different from when I last saw you…” she leaned her face closer too mine and stared at me intently. I noticed that she also has red eyes that is now observing me carefully.Bookmark here

“A-ano… what do you mean by that?” I hesitantly asked. “This is the first time I met you…”Bookmark here

“Hmm? I still remember you though. You’re Hime, right?” Bookmark here

“A princess? There’s n-no way I’m like that!” I frantically declined. Bookmark here

“Nope. You’re Hime, so I’ll call you that.”Bookmark here

“Listen when people are talking to you!”Bookmark here

“It’s troublesome to call you different names so I’m going to call you Hime.”Bookmark here

“Geez! What’s with that Hime?!” I whined to her.Bookmark here

“Your name.”Bookmark here

I put my hand on my forehead unconsciously. What’s with this stubborn spirit? She’s calling me names that I don’t know!Bookmark here

“Haah, how many times have we done this already? Aren’t you tired already? You shouldn’t have come in contact with those cats again,” she sighed.Bookmark here

Eh? Cats?Bookmark here

“Hanako-san, what do you mean by that?!” I blurted out.Bookmark here

“You came here to know about the contract of those cats, right? The mission that they have to fulfill…”Bookmark here

“Yes! That’s what I came for! Please tell me about it, even a little information will help!” I gathered my courage and pleaded to her. Bookmark here

I can’t let this chance pass. I made a deal with everyone… also, they are running out of time about something. After knowing at least that, I can’t just stand and turn a blind eye to it.Bookmark here

“You’re still as stubborn as before, aren’t you? Sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong.” She glared at me which made me flinch.Bookmark here

I looked away quickly out of reflex. She’s still scary even with that cute face! Bookmark here

But… I wonder what she meant by that.Bookmark here

“Ne, Hanako-san… you have been speaking to me as if we know each other. Are you seeing another person in me?” I asked curiously.Bookmark here

She stopped for a moment and entered the third stall. Bookmark here

“Who knows…” she responded. “Now, let’s get down to business. You’re the caretaker of those cats, right?”Bookmark here

By ‘cats’, I’m pretty sure she meant the student council. Bookmark here

I deadpanned. “It's not like that. I’m working with them in the student council.”Bookmark here

“I see, using the student council as a cover, huh. Nice strategy.”Bookmark here

“Strategy?” I tilted my head in confusion.Bookmark here

“Wait, you don’t know? Those cats are supernatural entities.”Bookmark here

“I know that, but that’s just half true because of the contract, right? They are still human to me.”Bookmark here

Hanako-san fell silent to my reasoning. Why is she not saying anything? Is there something that I don’t know? Bookmark here

No, I definitely don’t know about a lot of things.Bookmark here

“Believe what you want. Those guys, are still supernatural entities. The fact that they are in between living and spirits made it more dangerous for them.”Bookmark here

Seven… mysteries… Bookmark here

They didn’t mention anything about that. Bookmark here

“You want to help them find that mission, right? Then, how about it? I’ll answer any of your questions in exchange for a favor. Not bad of a deal right?”Bookmark here

She is outright suspicious. This deal is really fishy.Bookmark here

“You don’t look convinced, huh. I’ll give you a bonus.”Bookmark here

“A bonus…?”Bookmark here

“You might’ve noticed the other students not being able to recognize the student council, right?”Bookmark here

“How did you know that?!”Bookmark here

“I can hear the students coming here talking about it. They are all uncertain about the existence of student council. For supernatural entities, notoriety is the proof of our existence. It doesn’t matter if it was rumors or popularity, the more people that know us, the more our existence is recognized. It doesn’t matter if they are just under the contract or not. In this school, those cats are considered supernatural.”Bookmark here

“That…”Bookmark here

I don't know if I could trust her but... it all makes sense. She doesn't seem like lying as well.Bookmark here

“They are not aware of it. Now that I told you about it, what do you think about making a deal with me?”Bookmark here

“Let me think about it…” I said while looking away.Bookmark here

I don't want to just make a random deal here. Moreover, I don't know what she wants from me.Bookmark here

“Sure. Take your time. I’m just here in the third stall if you want to accept. By the way, I suggest you watch carefully the black cat…”Bookmark here

Black cat… is it Kurokawa-senpai?Bookmark here

“That one… he’s the one you have to watch out the most. He’s slowly drifting away and as soon as his contract ends, it will be over for him,” Hanako-san seriously said to me.Bookmark here

“Wait! What do you mean?!” Bookmark here

“Heh. Who knows…” she let out a small chuckle before the door of the third stall slammed shut in front of my face.Bookmark here

I raised my hand to knock on door… only to drop the idea halfway.Bookmark here

What does that mean… Kurokawa-senpai is drifting away?Bookmark here

Knowing nothing is really frustrating.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.