Chapter 15:

Distance Between

Cat's Hour ~猫の時間~

I stared intently to my reflection in the mirror. Bookmark here

Black bags under my eyes are obvious. My skin was pale and dry. My hair is disheveled and I had a hard time fixing my bed hair that won’t settle no matter how hard I tried to brush it.Bookmark here

“Wow, Hime-chan! You look like a mess!”Bookmark here

Urgh… this ghost again.Bookmark here

I opened the faucet and washed my face to bring me back to my senses. Bookmark here

It’s been two days since I got in an argument with Mikejima-kun and as everyone know, I somehow triggered his panic attack.Bookmark here

After that, Kurokawa-senpai explained what happened. He asked me not to come closer to Mikejima-kun for a while. Not that there’s a difference because we really doesn’t come closer to each other. Bookmark here

I don’t know what comes to Mikejima-kun’s mind that he accused me in front of my face despite having fear of women.Bookmark here

Seriously, does he really think of me like that?Bookmark here

But that’s not the only reason why I can’t sleep for two days. Bookmark here

Kurokawa-senpai himself is also in a bind because of the strange phenomenon in school. Since no one can notice him, he just cooped up himself in the office and work like always as a form of distraction.Bookmark here

And because of this, Mashiro-senpai is watching him carefully as well. I haven’t talked to him about what I found out so we’re not really having any progress.Bookmark here

The student council is in a pinch right now.Bookmark here

I heaved out a deep sigh and stared on my reflection again. Hanako-san is floating beside me with a playful smile.Bookmark here

“What do you need, Hanako-san?”Bookmark here

“Eh? I thought you’re the one who needs something from me. You went here because you’re going to accept my deal offer, right?”Bookmark here

I closed my eyes tightly and sighed out of exasperation. “I’m not going to accept it! I just need to go to the toilet right now!”Bookmark here

I was out of my mind since earlier this morning and I can’t focus on the class at all. I skipped some of my classes and shut myself in the toilet to clear my head first.Bookmark here

I just happened to go to this particular one because students rarely go here out of fear from the Hanako-san rumor.Bookmark here

Now that I have a closer look at the ghost herself, she doesn’t look like dangerous at all. More than that…Bookmark here

“Then, did you go here to admire the shiny toilet bowl? My, why didn’t you tell me sooner! Look! This one is my favorite! It’s so sparkly!~” she dreamily said and floated on top of the toilet bowl in the third stall.Bookmark here

She’s a toilet freak!Bookmark here

Whenever she notices that I’m here, she only talks about two things. One is the deal and the other is admiring the toilet. Bookmark here

Is that her reason for haunting this specific place? Seriously!Bookmark here

“Don’t lump me with you, I’m not a freak,” I said bluntly.Bookmark here

“Ahaha! I’m just joking! Of course, not all people can appreciate the beauty of these toilet bowls!”Bookmark here

I just let out another sigh. I don’t have the energy to deal with her antics. Bookmark here

Recently, I also noticed another fact. The bell that acts as the supernatural encounter alarm doesn’t ring whenever I meet with Hanako-san anymore.Bookmark here

It must be because she’s not hostile to me, but if that’s really the case, then Sakura-chan actually has some grudge that the bell went off when we met her?Bookmark here

Aaah! I’m not in the condition to think about this right now!Bookmark here

“Heeehhh… seeing that you’re not shooing me away and you’re not leaving the toilet, you must be bored, Hime-chan!”Bookmark here

“Bored, huh… not really. I just have a lot of things on my mind.”Bookmark here

“Is that why you look like a panda now?”Bookmark here

“Are you making fun of me?” I sharply glanced at her before taking another deep sigh. Bookmark here

“Wow! I already lost count of how many times you sighed since earlier, Hime-chan!”Bookmark here

“You’re really making fun of me! At least be a little sensitive, Hanako-san!” I whined to her.Bookmark here

She lets out a cute chuckle and beamed sweetly at me. “Now that’s the Hime-chan I know. Say, why don’t you tell me what’s bothering you? I may not be alive but I have more experience than you.”Bookmark here

“Hanako-san…”Bookmark here

I stared at her in admiration while my hand clasped in front of me as if I’m praying to her.Bookmark here

“Hanako-san… are you perhaps a kind ghost? Uwaah! Tenshi-sama!”Bookmark here

“Geez! Stop calling me that! It’s embarrassing!” she scratched her nose lightly and a satisfied grin formed on her lips. “Now, spill it.”Bookmark here

I nodded enthusiastically and told her my story. She was listening seriously and nodding every once in a while as if taking pointers about what I’m telling her.Bookmark here

“What do you think, Hanako-san?”Bookmark here

“Hmm… I can’t say much about that calico since I don’t know anything about how boys of this era act nowadays,” she said in deep thought with a finger on her chin. “My knowledge of this time now are mostly from the girl talks going to this place.”Bookmark here

“Oh… You don’t have any idea after all.”Bookmark here

“Hey! Don’t treat me like I was useless!”Bookmark here

“I understand, I also think it was a complicated situation,” I nodded at her. “Thanks for hearing me out anyway, it made me feel a little better.”Bookmark here

She stared at me with widened eyes, a small smile formed on her pale, thin lips. Bookmark here

It was a heartwarming smile that gave a familiar calming feeling inside me. Bookmark here

“It’s no problem. I’m always here to hear you out, Hime-chan! But of course, if you want some information, my offer still remains!” Bookmark here

She jumped enthusiastically while floating, her bob cut hair bounced slightly and she gave me a bright smile.Bookmark here

“Fufu, sure. But I don’t think I’ll accept the offer. I might drop by here to hang out once in a while. I really enjoy talking to you, Hanako-san,” I said with a soft chuckle.Bookmark here

“Un! I’ll be waiting! Does that mean we’re friends now, Hime-chan?”Bookmark here

I suddenly became flustered as I quickly shifted my gaze away from her out of reflex. Bookmark here

“W-well… I guess it’s fine. But that doesn’t mean we need to return something in exchange so let’s keep the deal away from this, okay?”Bookmark here

“Uwaah! I’m friends with you again! I’m so happy!” she cheered.Bookmark here

What she said made my ears perked up. Bookmark here

Again…?Bookmark here

“Oh! That’s right, Hime-chan!”Bookmark here

“W-what is it…?” I awkwardly asked, slightly taken aback by her enthusiasm.Bookmark here

“I don’t know about the calico but the black cat is definitely in serious trouble right now.” she said in a matter of fact tone.Bookmark here

Upon the mention of black cat, she’s definitely talking about Kurokawa-senpai! Bookmark here

“What do you mean by that?”Bookmark here

“I won’t tell much since I’m just saying this as your friend...”Bookmark here

Her expression suddenly changed from the cheerful smiles to a serious demeanor right now. I swallowed a lump in my throat because of the sudden pressure.Bookmark here

“… this is just the start of everything.”Bookmark here

Start of everything…? What was that?Bookmark here

“The other cats might just be fine even if the recognition loss phenomenon works for them, but that black cat is different. On top of that, he’s drifting away as it is. He won’t hold out longer.”Bookmark here

My eyes widened in shock as I found myself falling speechless. A sudden wave of uneasiness stirred up inside me. Bookmark here

In that short silence, I felt my phone vibrating on my pocket.Bookmark here

I took it out and checked what was that about. It was a message from Mashiro-senpai, he wants me to go to the library.Bookmark here

“Excuse me, Hanako-san. I need to get going,” I nonchalantly said and turn my back to her.Bookmark here

“It’s fine even if you won’t accept my offer, just don’t grow closer to them more than necessary. Indeed, knowing the mission from god will give them a chance to be saved, but that would hardly make any difference for the black cat. In the first place, there’s no way of saving him.”Bookmark here

Hanako-san’s words made me stop on my tracks.Bookmark here

There’s… no way of saving Kurokawa-senpai…?Bookmark here

That’s—!Bookmark here

I turned around quickly to confront her again… but before I know it, there’s no traces of her anymore.Bookmark here

I don’t believe it…Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

“WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?!”Bookmark here

Mashiro-senpai slammed the table inside the school archive in the library with his bare hands out of fury. Bookmark here

I flinched at the sight of it splitting into two.Bookmark here

Mashiro-senpai also has this scary look on his face when I told him about the conversation I had with Hanako-san. Bookmark here

If looks could kill, I’ll be long gone now. Haha, I’m in danger.Bookmark here

“I mean… it’s not me… it’s Hanako-san!”Bookmark here

My life is riding in this! If I back down now, Mashiro-senpai might go berserk and the next time he’s going to split something into two, it might be me!Bookmark here

“Calm down, Mashiro-senpai. I don’t like seeing someone destroying school property in front of me but I’ll let you off because I understand your distress regarding Kurokawa-senpai,” Toujo-kun wearing glasses, who was also here, tapped Mashiro-senpai’s shoulder.Bookmark here

Whether it was to calm him down or to warn him was unclear. No matter what, Mashiro-senpai properly took a seat as Toujo-kun started cleaning the broken table in front of us.Bookmark here

Mashiro-senpai cleared his throat and spoke, “Terushima, don’t meet with Hanako-san again.”Bookmark here

“Eh?”Bookmark here

“Don’t react as if I didn’t warn you. We already talked about this, right? Nothing good comes from making a deal with a supernatural.”Bookmark here

“Y-yes… I remember that. But… I didn’t accept the deal! She told that to me by herself! I didn’t force her and she didn’t force me either!”Bookmark here

His eyes widened in disbelief to what I just said. It was a new expression that I never saw from him before. Bookmark here

Does it really seem unbelievable?!Bookmark here

“H-how did you do that…?”Bookmark here

“Eh? Hmm… let’s see… the first time that Hanako-san met me, she seems like seeing someone in me and she calls me by a name that I don’t even know. She might be teasing me or something.”Bookmark here

“Terushima-senpai, may I ask what is this name you spoke of?” Toujo-kun butted in after he finished cleaning the mess that Mashiro-senpai made.Bookmark here

“Hime.” Bookmark here

“I haven’t heard of that name before. Could it be a nickname?” Toujo-kun spoke his thoughts.Bookmark here

“Princess…? You don’t look like one,” Mashiro-senpai nonchalantly commented which made a vein in my forehead popped out of irritation.Bookmark here

“I know that, Mashiro-senpai! I’m not as pretty as you or Toujo-kun but you don’t have to put it that way, do you?!”Bookmark here

“I’m just saying the truth. Moreover, you look unsightly today.” Mashiro-senpai shrugged.Bookmark here

“Urk!”Bookmark here

Crack! I can hear sound of cracking that seemed like my heart… Oh, that’s my heart.Bookmark here

I’m not planning on letting him have his way with those insults, but since I know how bad he is with words, I’ll just take it as it is and weep inside. Bookmark here

Uuuu. Hearing that from a good-looking person surely hits hard.Bookmark here

“I see, you really look horrible today, Terushima-senpai,” Toujo-kun added.Bookmark here

“Why are you putting more fuel to the fire?!” I whined at the two of them.Bookmark here

Mashiro-senpai and Toujo-kun are the most handsome among the student council members. Bookmark here

And hearing those words from them made it more painful. Bookmark here

Haha, I want to throw myself to a cliff right now.Bookmark here

“But there’s no fire here, what do you mean, Terushima-san?” Mashiro-senpai asked simply.Bookmark here

Ah! I forgot that he was like this!Bookmark here

“Mashiro-senpai, it was an expression. It means–“ Toujo-kun started.Bookmark here

“Explain that later, Toujo-kun,” I cut him off midsentence. It will surely take a while to explain that to Mashiro-senpai with his minimal common sense.Bookmark here

“Anyway, Terushima-senpai, are you not getting enough sleep? You’re one step on becoming like Kurokawa-senpai now.” Bookmark here

I feel like this Toujo-kun is harsher than me when speaking what’s in his mind! His words really slapped you good!Bookmark here

“Are you still bothered about what happened to Tsukasa? I already explained to him that he was wrong about his accusations about you, I’m sure that kaichou also reassured you that you’re not at fault.”Bookmark here

“I know that…”Bookmark here

But…Bookmark here

Why did he confront me when he knows that he has fear of women?! That doesn’t make any sense!Bookmark here

“Are you feeling guilty about it?”Bookmark here

Am I?Bookmark here

“Hah?! Of course not! I feel bad about him but he’s also at fault, he started it!” I retorted at them.Bookmark here

“Understandable.” Mashiro-senpai nodded, also followed by an agreement from Toujo-kun.Bookmark here

“Eh? You’re not angry?!”Bookmark here

“Why would we be?”Bookmark here

“Just because we know Tsukasa longer, that doesn’t mean we’ll tolerate his mistakes. He probably got scolded by kaichou as well.”Bookmark here

“Huh?!”Bookmark here

“Kurokawa-senpai doesn’t tolerate that kind of acts. He might seem weak-willed at first but he won’t back down from his principles. Much like you, Terushima-san.”Bookmark here

“Eh? Me?” I pointed myself to confirm.Bookmark here

“I also agree that you resemble kaichou, just for a bit though.” Mashiro-senpai nodded. Bookmark here

Me? Like Kurokawa-senpai? Bookmark here

There’s no way, right? Bookmark here

I mean, Kurokawa-senpai is an amazing person. He earned the respect of his fellow student council members and he works really hard, not to mention that he treasures his friends from the bottom of his heart.Bookmark here

When I compared that to myself… right, I’m not even on half. I’m just here for the cat ears, that impure motive.Bookmark here

Hmm, now that I remember, Haibara-kun also said something similar before.Bookmark here

They must be imagining things.Bookmark here

After that, we continued our discussion about the next course of action. Given that I relayed what Hanako-san said to Mashiro-senpai, he won’t likely get his eyes off on Kurokawa-senpai out of protectiveness.Bookmark here

And that means… I’ll be Mashiro-senpai’s investigator regarding the hints around the school.Bookmark here

Regarding Toujo-kun, he said that he would help us by searching for information in the library. Bookmark here

The ‘smart’ Toujo-kun is the only person who knows this. The other is still oblivious. I have my guesses about his two personalities but I’m not going to speak about it now that we still have a lot on our plate.Bookmark here

There’s also the upcoming Sports Festival to raise the popularity of Student Council that we need to deal with.Bookmark here

Uwaah… we’re really busy now!Bookmark here

“We can’t take this easy anymore. I’m not going to give up just because of what that toilet ghost told you that kaichou was beyond saving. I’ll do anything even if that means I have to make a promise with that damn god again.”Bookmark here

Hearing Mashiro-senpai’s resolve, a part of me agrees with him. We’ll do anything to save Kurokawa-senpai!Bookmark here

But… Bookmark here

I also think about what might be Kurokawa-senpai’s stand in this situation.Bookmark here

What if Kurokawa-senpai gave up already? Bookmark here

He didn’t ask for help even if he was already in a tight spot. Bookmark here

When I talked to him on the forest path, he just swiftly shrugged it as if he was ready to accept it no matter what. Bookmark here

I don’t want to think about it but if that’s the case… Bookmark here

Then… Bookmark here

Mashiro-senpai’s effort will be all for naught.Bookmark here

It’s leaving a bad taste in my mouth.Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

I returned to the student council building after I did my work for the day. Bookmark here

Somehow, I feel like I’m forgetting something… Bookmark here

Whatever. If I forgot it, it might not be that important.Bookmark here

Now that we’ve gotten busier, I barely had any time to play with cats! I need to get my freedom back! Let’s do our best with this until the situation settled down so we could relax afterwards! Alright!Bookmark here

Resolving myself, I opened the door of the office.Bookmark here

I blinked in surprise when I saw someone standing in the doorway as well. That someone also blinked. Bookmark here

An awkward silence spreads between the two of us.Bookmark here

“Aaaah!” Bookmark here

The two of us reacted in unison as we both took a step backwards.Bookmark here

I just took two steps behind while he took five, obviously showing his vigilance towards me.Bookmark here

It was Mikejima-kun that I almost bumped into when I opened the door. It also gave me quite a shock that I also took a step back.Bookmark here

That wasn’t what I expected!Bookmark here

No one dared to speak any word. Bookmark here

He just remained standing, six steps away from me. It might be awkward if I took a step forward since I’m also watching my distance from him. Bookmark here

I just glanced at him and watched his expression.Bookmark here

Compared to before, he’s not hostile to me anymore. In fact, his reaction just now showed that he was terrified.Bookmark here

His cat ears droop down while slightly flinching, he shifted his gaze away from me and pressed his quivering lips together. Sweat started forming in his forehead. His right hand squeezed his left arm to keep it from trembling.Bookmark here

Damn, it looks like I’m the bad guy here. Bookmark here

If someone will show up right now, I’m definitely going to be make out as a villain. Do I really seem like that?! Bookmark here

I’m also in a pinch right now, I don’t know what to do in this situation!Bookmark here

I could leave right away but that feels like I’m admitting my guilt. I won’t back down. Bookmark here

I could go inside and pretend like it’s nothing but Kurokawa-senpai warned me not to come closer to him, that will seem like I’m disregarding Kurokawa-senpai’s words.Bookmark here

Aaaaah! Whatever!Bookmark here

I lowered my head.Bookmark here

If you can’t think of what to do, you can bow your head and apologize. Bookmark here

However, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t do it because I’m guilty.Bookmark here

“A-ano… Terushima-san…” I heard Mikejima-kun’s low voice. Bookmark here

Judging by his way of speaking, he’s confused about why am I apologizing. Of course, I’m not at fault so I don’t have anything to say sorry for. Bookmark here

But… there’s one thing that I should apologize for.Bookmark here

“I apologize that I triggered your panic attack.”Bookmark here

After I said that, I raised my head and firmly looks at him.Bookmark here

“However, I won’t apologize for the rest. I won’t take back what I said. If it will make you feel better, I won’t ask for your apology anymore. Instead, I appreciate it if you stop thinking that I’m destroying the peace in this place. I’m not that kind of person.” I confidently said while emphasizing every words that I’m saying.Bookmark here

He stared at me in bewilderment but he didn’t say anything about it.Bookmark here

“That’s all. Well then, excuse m—”Bookmark here

“HOLD IIIITTTT!” Bookmark here

As I was about to leave, someone shouted in the hallway. I turned my head to the direction of the voice, only to see Irosaki-sensei walking towards this direction.Bookmark here

“Eh? What is it, sensei?”Bookmark here

When she was in front of me, she grabbed my wrist and urged me to go inside the office.Bookmark here

W-wait! If we go in there, Mikejima-kun might have another panic attack!Bookmark here

“Don’t worry, Terushima-san. It’s fine if you just keep a distance from him.”Bookmark here

“Eh? Why only me? Sensei is woman as well, right?” I suspiciously glanced at her.Bookmark here

Could it be…Bookmark here

“Whatever you’re thinking, stop it.”Bookmark here

I remained silent as she finally succeeded in making me go inside.Bookmark here

While she was talking to me, I noticed a familiar envelope in sensei’s hand.Bookmark here

Then it hit me.Bookmark here


Why did I forgot about that?!!!Bookmark here

“Now then, good timing that Mikejima-kun is here as well.”Bookmark here

I don’t like where this is going.Bookmark here

“The two of you will investigate this case.” She puts down the letter in the table. “Since it was already delayed by two days, we can’t postpone it anymore. I presume you understand whose fault is that, Terushima-san?” Sensei smiled at me, obviously indicting me of fault.Bookmark here

“Y-yes… it was my fault.” I admitted in defeat but retorted afterwards. “W-wait! What are you saying sensei?! I’m fine investigating about it but if it’s with Mikejima-kun, can you please consider? I can work with others, just—” Bookmark here

“What do you think, Mikejima-kun? I can ask Kurokawa-kun to do it with Terushima-san instead.” Irosaki-sensei tapped the frame of her glasses as it reflected a sharp light for a moment.Bookmark here

They ignored me!Bookmark here

Upon the mention of Kurokawa-senpai’s name, Mikejima-kun flinched. Bookmark here

It was the same reaction when Irosaki-sensei used that card to Mashiro-senpai before.Bookmark here

“K-Keep kaichou away from this… I’ll do it,” Mikejima-kun mumbled but enough for us to hear.Bookmark here

“Eh?”Bookmark here

My eyes widened at his answer.Bookmark here

“Seems like there’s no more objections.”Bookmark here

I slammed my hands on the table and faced Irosaki-sensei aggressively.Bookmark here

“Sensei, what are you planning?! To bring up Kurokawa-senpai’s name even at a time like this…” I sent a glance at Mikejima-kun’s direction.Bookmark here

He’s definitely not going to be okay. He will have a breakdown for sure! Bookmark here

“L-leave it be, Terushima…” Mikejima-kun stuttered.Bookmark here

“But–“Bookmark here

“I’ll do it…”Bookmark here

“Mikejima-kun!” I worriedly called him out.Bookmark here

We can’t leave it like this. Bookmark here

“Five meters…”Bookmark here

“Eh?”Bookmark here

“Stay five meters away from me…” he said firmly.Bookmark here

With his words, I was forced to take back my appeal. Just like before, Kurokawa-senpai’s influence is used again. Bookmark here

Mikejima-kun is obviously afraid, he doesn’t have to do it if he doesn’t want to! Bookmark here

What are you planning, sensei?Bookmark here

As I glanced to her direction, only to receive a small smile from her.Bookmark here

She planned this from the start!Bookmark here

I like sensei as a guardian but I don’t like her underhanded ways like this. Bookmark here

They said that kitsunes are mischievous creatures, I never believed it before, but now, I already got my confirmation.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.