Cat's Hour ~猫の時間~
I stared intently to my reflection in the mirror.
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.
“Wow, Hime-chan! You look like a mess!”
Urgh… this ghost again.
I opened the faucet and washed my face to bring me back to my senses.
It’s been two days since I got in an argument with Mikejima-kun and as everyone know, I somehow triggered his panic attack.
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.
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.
Seriously, does he really think of me like that?
But that’s not the only reason why I can’t sleep for two days.
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.
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.
The student council is in a pinch right now.
I heaved out a deep sigh and stared on my reflection again. Hanako-san is floating beside me with a playful smile.
“What do you need, Hanako-san?”
“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?”
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!”
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.
I just happened to go to this particular one because students rarely go here out of fear from the Hanako-san rumor.
Now that I have a closer look at the ghost herself, she doesn’t look like dangerous at all. More than that…
“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.
She’s a toilet freak!
Whenever she notices that I’m here, she only talks about two things. One is the deal and the other is admiring the toilet.
Is that her reason for haunting this specific place? Seriously!
“Don’t lump me with you, I’m not a freak,” I said bluntly.
“Ahaha! I’m just joking! Of course, not all people can appreciate the beauty of these toilet bowls!”
I just let out another sigh. I don’t have the energy to deal with her antics.
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.
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?
Aaah! I’m not in the condition to think about this right now!
“Heeehhh… seeing that you’re not shooing me away and you’re not leaving the toilet, you must be bored, Hime-chan!”
“Bored, huh… not really. I just have a lot of things on my mind.”
“Is that why you look like a panda now?”
“Are you making fun of me?” I sharply glanced at her before taking another deep sigh.
“Wow! I already lost count of how many times you sighed since earlier, Hime-chan!”
“You’re really making fun of me! At least be a little sensitive, Hanako-san!” I whined to her.
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.”
I stared at her in admiration while my hand clasped in front of me as if I’m praying to her.
“Hanako-san… are you perhaps a kind ghost? Uwaah! Tenshi-sama!”
“Geez! Stop calling me that! It’s embarrassing!” she scratched her nose lightly and a satisfied grin formed on her lips. “Now, spill it.”
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.
“What do you think, Hanako-san?”
“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.”
“Oh… You don’t have any idea after all.”
“Hey! Don’t treat me like I was useless!”
“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.”
She stared at me with widened eyes, a small smile formed on her pale, thin lips.
It was a heartwarming smile that gave a familiar calming feeling inside me.
“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!”
She jumped enthusiastically while floating, her bob cut hair bounced slightly and she gave me a bright smile.
“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.
“Un! I’ll be waiting! Does that mean we’re friends now, Hime-chan?”
I suddenly became flustered as I quickly shifted my gaze away from her out of reflex.
“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?”
“Uwaah! I’m friends with you again! I’m so happy!” she cheered.
What she said made my ears perked up.
“Oh! That’s right, Hime-chan!”
“W-what is it…?” I awkwardly asked, slightly taken aback by her enthusiasm.
“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.
Upon the mention of black cat, she’s definitely talking about Kurokawa-senpai!
“What do you mean by that?”
“I won’t tell much since I’m just saying this as your friend...”
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.
“… this is just the start of everything.”
Start of everything…? What was that?
“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.”
My eyes widened in shock as I found myself falling speechless. A sudden wave of uneasiness stirred up inside me.
In that short silence, I felt my phone vibrating on my pocket.
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.
“Excuse me, Hanako-san. I need to get going,” I nonchalantly said and turn my back to her.
“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.”
Hanako-san’s words made me stop on my tracks.
There’s… no way of saving Kurokawa-senpai…?
I turned around quickly to confront her again… but before I know it, there’s no traces of her anymore.
I don’t believe it…
“WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?!”
Mashiro-senpai slammed the table inside the school archive in the library with his bare hands out of fury.
I flinched at the sight of it splitting into two.
Mashiro-senpai also has this scary look on his face when I told him about the conversation I had with Hanako-san.
If looks could kill, I’ll be long gone now. Haha, I’m in danger.
“I mean… it’s not me… it’s Hanako-san!”
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!
“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.
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.
Mashiro-senpai cleared his throat and spoke, “Terushima, don’t meet with Hanako-san again.”
“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.”
“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!”
His eyes widened in disbelief to what I just said. It was a new expression that I never saw from him before.
Does it really seem unbelievable?!
“H-how did you do that…?”
“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.”
“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.
“I haven’t heard of that name before. Could it be a nickname?” Toujo-kun spoke his thoughts.
“Princess…? You don’t look like one,” Mashiro-senpai nonchalantly commented which made a vein in my forehead popped out of irritation.
“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?!”
“I’m just saying the truth. Moreover, you look unsightly today.” Mashiro-senpai shrugged.
Crack! I can hear sound of cracking that seemed like my heart… Oh, that’s my heart.
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.
Uuuu. Hearing that from a good-looking person surely hits hard.
“I see, you really look horrible today, Terushima-senpai,” Toujo-kun added.
“Why are you putting more fuel to the fire?!” I whined at the two of them.
Mashiro-senpai and Toujo-kun are the most handsome among the student council members.
And hearing those words from them made it more painful.
Haha, I want to throw myself to a cliff right now.
“But there’s no fire here, what do you mean, Terushima-san?” Mashiro-senpai asked simply.
Ah! I forgot that he was like this!
“Mashiro-senpai, it was an expression. It means–“ Toujo-kun started.
“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.
“Anyway, Terushima-senpai, are you not getting enough sleep? You’re one step on becoming like Kurokawa-senpai now.”
I feel like this Toujo-kun is harsher than me when speaking what’s in his mind! His words really slapped you good!
“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.”
“I know that…”
Why did he confront me when he knows that he has fear of women?! That doesn’t make any sense!
“Are you feeling guilty about it?”
“Hah?! Of course not! I feel bad about him but he’s also at fault, he started it!” I retorted at them.
“Understandable.” Mashiro-senpai nodded, also followed by an agreement from Toujo-kun.
“Eh? You’re not angry?!”
“Why would we be?”
“Just because we know Tsukasa longer, that doesn’t mean we’ll tolerate his mistakes. He probably got scolded by kaichou as well.”
“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.”
“Eh? Me?” I pointed myself to confirm.
“I also agree that you resemble kaichou, just for a bit though.” Mashiro-senpai nodded.
Me? Like Kurokawa-senpai?
There’s no way, right?
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.
When I compared that to myself… right, I’m not even on half. I’m just here for the cat ears, that impure motive.
Hmm, now that I remember, Haibara-kun also said something similar before.
They must be imagining things.
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.
And that means… I’ll be Mashiro-senpai’s investigator regarding the hints around the school.
Regarding Toujo-kun, he said that he would help us by searching for information in the library.
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.
There’s also the upcoming Sports Festival to raise the popularity of Student Council that we need to deal with.
Uwaah… we’re really busy now!
“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.”
Hearing Mashiro-senpai’s resolve, a part of me agrees with him. We’ll do anything to save Kurokawa-senpai!
I also think about what might be Kurokawa-senpai’s stand in this situation.
What if Kurokawa-senpai gave up already?
He didn’t ask for help even if he was already in a tight spot.
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.
I don’t want to think about it but if that’s the case…
Mashiro-senpai’s effort will be all for naught.
It’s leaving a bad taste in my mouth.
I returned to the student council building after I did my work for the day.
Somehow, I feel like I’m forgetting something…
Whatever. If I forgot it, it might not be that important.
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!
Resolving myself, I opened the door of the office.
I blinked in surprise when I saw someone standing in the doorway as well. That someone also blinked.
An awkward silence spreads between the two of us.
The two of us reacted in unison as we both took a step backwards.
I just took two steps behind while he took five, obviously showing his vigilance towards me.
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.
That wasn’t what I expected!
No one dared to speak any word.
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.
I just glanced at him and watched his expression.
Compared to before, he’s not hostile to me anymore. In fact, his reaction just now showed that he was terrified.
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.
Damn, it looks like I’m the bad guy 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?!
I’m also in a pinch right now, I don’t know what to do in this situation!
I could leave right away but that feels like I’m admitting my guilt. I won’t back down.
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.
I lowered my head.
If you can’t think of what to do, you can bow your head and apologize.
However, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t do it because I’m guilty.
“A-ano… Terushima-san…” I heard Mikejima-kun’s low voice.
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.
But… there’s one thing that I should apologize for.
“I apologize that I triggered your panic attack.”
After I said that, I raised my head and firmly looks at him.
“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.
He stared at me in bewilderment but he didn’t say anything about it.
“That’s all. Well then, excuse m—”
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.
“Eh? What is it, sensei?”
When she was in front of me, she grabbed my wrist and urged me to go inside the office.
W-wait! If we go in there, Mikejima-kun might have another panic attack!
“Don’t worry, Terushima-san. It’s fine if you just keep a distance from him.”
“Eh? Why only me? Sensei is woman as well, right?” I suspiciously glanced at her.
Could it be…
“Whatever you’re thinking, stop it.”
I remained silent as she finally succeeded in making me go inside.
While she was talking to me, I noticed a familiar envelope in sensei’s hand.
Then it hit me.
AAAAAAH! THE LETTER FROM THAT DAYYYY!
Why did I forgot about that?!!!
“Now then, good timing that Mikejima-kun is here as well.”
I don’t like where this is going.
“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.
“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—”
“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.
They ignored me!
Upon the mention of Kurokawa-senpai’s name, Mikejima-kun flinched.
It was the same reaction when Irosaki-sensei used that card to Mashiro-senpai before.
“K-Keep kaichou away from this… I’ll do it,” Mikejima-kun mumbled but enough for us to hear.
My eyes widened at his answer.
“Seems like there’s no more objections.”
I slammed my hands on the table and faced Irosaki-sensei aggressively.
“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.
He’s definitely not going to be okay. He will have a breakdown for sure!
“L-leave it be, Terushima…” Mikejima-kun stuttered.
“I’ll do it…”
“Mikejima-kun!” I worriedly called him out.
We can’t leave it like this.
“Stay five meters away from me…” he said firmly.
With his words, I was forced to take back my appeal. Just like before, Kurokawa-senpai’s influence is used again.
Mikejima-kun is obviously afraid, he doesn’t have to do it if he doesn’t want to!
What are you planning, sensei?
As I glanced to her direction, only to receive a small smile from her.
She planned this from the start!
I like sensei as a guardian but I don’t like her underhanded ways like this.
They said that kitsunes are mischievous creatures, I never believed it before, but now, I already got my confirmation.