Chapter 16:

A Shitty Game

Cat's Hour ~猫の時間~

A few hours after Irosaki gave the task to the student council secretary and the second year representative, she returned to her office in the main building.Bookmark here

She glanced outside the window, the sight of students doing after-school activities, some students are walking with their friends, chatting and laughing as they head to the gate, leaving the school after another day. Bookmark here

Irosaki smiled to herself.Bookmark here

‘Ah… it must be nice to be young.’Bookmark here

She looked up at the orange-colored sky of spring, the sakura petals swirls in the wind outside. The sun is about to set, watching the sunset from her office is breathtaking.Bookmark here

“It should be about time.”Bookmark here

Turning around and facing the door, Irosaki waited for it to open.Bookmark here

Alas, the door flew open just as she expected. Without a word, the panting youngster she knows as the student council president barged in the office.Bookmark here

He was normally not the type to rushed things and showed his desperation like this. He glanced at Irosaki in conviction.Bookmark here

“Now then, what was the reason for your visit, Kurokawa-kun?”Bookmark here

Despite knowing the answer to her question, Irosaki still asked as if she was teasing him.Bookmark here

“Sensei, what are you planning on Tsukasa-kun?! You know that he’s afraid of women, but you’re making him work with Terushima-san!”Bookmark here

The young man furrowed his brows and his eyes glared at her sharply. He gritted his teeth in frustration.Bookmark here

“Why not? Mikejima-kun said that he will do it.”Bookmark here

Irosaki tapped the frame of her glasses confidently.Bookmark here

Seeing the reaction of the school head, Kurokawa became frustrated even more.Bookmark here

“Why?! Why would you do something like that?!”Bookmark here

Despite the boy snapping in front of her, Irosaki maintained her composure. She took a deep sigh and crossed her arms in front of her chest.Bookmark here

“Kurokawa-kun, I didn’t think someone could be so selfless and yet so selfish at the same time.”Bookmark here

Upon hearing these words, Kurokawa’s expression darkened, he looks down and shifted his gaze away from her.Bookmark here

Irosaki knows what’s happening to this fragile boy in front of her. Seeing him like this, he looks like he will break any moment from now.Bookmark here

It was different from the first time she saw him. Bookmark here

When she looked back on it, she already knows that he was having a hard time before but still, the shine of his soul at that time was something that she can’t forget. It was a bright, warm light. Bookmark here

He was a child that could smile no matter how hard it gets. He WAS.Bookmark here

Compared to that, his soul at the moment was a dark and lonely void. Not even a small light can be seen. As if all hope has been lost.Bookmark here

“How much pain are you still going to take for others?”Bookmark here

The boy remained silent.Bookmark here

“You’ve been taking everyone’s pain, but who’s going to take yours?”Bookmark here

“Enough…”Bookmark here

“You’re trying to save everyone even if they don’t know it, but who’s going to save you?Bookmark here

“... Stop it! I don’t care about myself! How could I just leave them be if I saw them suffering like that?! I… I can’t…” Bookmark here

Irosaki observed the boy in front of her.Bookmark here

Irosaki’s reason for devising this turn of events is in favor of him. Whether he can use it in his advantage or not depends entirely on how he handles the situation.Bookmark here

She took out an unopened deck of cards in the drawer of her table. Bookmark here

“Look over here, Kurokawa-kun.”Bookmark here

As she called him, the boy lifted his gaze at her.Bookmark here

She opened the box and put the deck of cards on top of the table.Bookmark here

“Do you know how to play cards, Kurokawa-kun?”Bookmark here

The boy was taken aback by the sudden question but he managed to answer, “Y-yes… Toujo-kun taught me before.”Bookmark here

She earned a look of hesitation from the youngster. She didn’t pay heed to it and just continued what she was about to tell him.Bookmark here

“That god was fond of playing cards like this.” Bookmark here

She motioned her hands in the deck. Bookmark here

“Why don’t you draw one?”Bookmark here

“O-okay…”Bookmark here

The boy touched the top card of the deck, he draws it and turn it over. Bookmark here

“A joker…”Bookmark here

“That’s right. You are a joker.” Irosaki nodded and faced him. “In a standard deck of cards, there are 4 suits. Spade, Club, Heart, and Diamond.”Bookmark here

“I know that…”Bookmark here

“On top of that, there are two jokers in a deck.” Irosaki draws another card and showed it to him. Another joker.Bookmark here

“T-that’s…!” Kurokawa’s eyes widened as if he realized something. Bookmark here

“It’s just as you thought, this is a game that god made. Kurokawa-kun is a special case, you are under some different circumstances from those other four. On the other hand, the other joker was…”Bookmark here

“… Terushima-san.”Bookmark here

“That’s right, Kurokawa-kun and Terushima-san are the two jokers of this game.” Irosaki placed down the card on the table. “Now then, how will you play the game, Kurokawa-kun?”Bookmark here

“A game… Don’t joke with me! Does the god enjoyed playing with our lives like this?”Bookmark here

“Those who made the wish are not in a position to say that, don’t you think so, Kurokawa-kun?” Bookmark here

“Still–!”Bookmark here

“If your lives are truly fine as it was, there’s no need for you to make a miraculous wish from the god, right?”Bookmark here

Kurokawa took a step back. He fell silent upon hearing those words. Irosaki made her point clear.Bookmark here

If everyone doesn’t have something grave that they need some kind of miracle for, there’s no way that they will be bound by a contract like this.Bookmark here

In the first place, the contract even gave them another chance. Bookmark here

“Don’t worry, the god doesn’t mean any harm. As long as you will get the mission done, you can be freed from the contract. However…”Bookmark here

Irosaki paused for a moment and glanced at Kurokawa who was looking down and clenching his fist tightly.Bookmark here

“… that doesn’t apply to you.”Bookmark here

Kurokawa took a deep sigh of frustration. Bookmark here

“Haha… right…” the young man looked up in the ceiling with an agonizing laugh. “As I thought… it was supposed to be like this, isn’t it…?”Bookmark here

Irosaki closed her eyes and cleared her mind. She took a deep breath and slammed her hands in the table to get the attention of the boy.Bookmark here

“Are you just going to give up like this?”Bookmark here

Finally, she acted like a teacher would.Bookmark here

“You’re already losing the game without even knowing the mechanics.” She grabbed the other joker card and showed it to him. “Did you know? Depending on the game that you’re playing, a joker can make you win or lose.”Bookmark here

“But… what can I do? In the first place… I’m…”Bookmark here

“You’re not the only joker of this game.”Bookmark here

“W-what do you… what are you planning to do with Terushima-san?!”Bookmark here

“Calm down. I’m not planning to act like that anymore. In the first place, she’s already moving on her own.”Bookmark here

“That’s…”Bookmark here

“She’s collaborating with Mashiro-kun and others.”Bookmark here

“With Tsuki-kun?” Kurokawa froze for a moment with the sudden realization. “D-does that mean they found out…?”Bookmark here

He trembles in anxiety as tears started forming in the corner of his eyes. Bookmark here

“I… I have to stop them…”Bookmark here

“Hold it, Kurokawa-kun. They don’t know everything yet, why don’t you take this chance to tell them?”Bookmark here

“N-no! I can’t do that!”Bookmark here

Irosaki sighed at his actions. “Geez, you’re really a handful, aren’t you? They will still find out sooner or later, why not tell them already? Or do you want me to tell it instead?”Bookmark here

“No! I don’t want that either!” Kurokawa cried but it seemed like he started to think about it calmly. “I… I’ll tell them myself. I need some time first.”Bookmark here

He wiped his tears and faced Irosaki firmly. “Don’t use these underhanded ways again, sensei. Promise me.”Bookmark here

“Fine. I promise.”Bookmark here

Kurokawa sniffed and fixed himself in resolve. “I’ll go with your plan for now, sensei. I’ll leave Tsukasa-kun in Terushima-san’s care.” Bookmark here

“Sounds good.” Bookmark here

Irosaki gave a gentle smile to him. Bookmark here

He turned his back to Irosaki, but before he could leave the office, she asked one more thing.Bookmark here

“Say, Kurokawa-kun, why don’t you pass on already?”Bookmark here

Kurokawa stopped in his tracks. He clenched his fist tightly as his expression darkened for a moment.Bookmark here

Soon, a small smile formed on his lips as he turned to look at Irosaki one last time.Bookmark here

“What are you saying, sensei? I’m still alive.”Bookmark here

After Kurokawa left, Irosaki took a sigh of relief.Bookmark here

‘How many does this make again? Ah, that’s right… Bookmark here

It was already your ninth life.Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

The sky is cloudy tonight. I glanced outside and there are no stars in the sky. It also seems like it will pour down.Bookmark here

On top of that, I’m doing the patrol with Mikejima-kun tonight. Bookmark here

As he said, we’re walking five meters apart and there was an awkward atmosphere between us.Bookmark here

What am I expecting anyway?Bookmark here

Our destination right now is the Audio Visual Room. The letter said that in the middle of the day, when there’s no people there, a monitor is lit up and showing some static.Bookmark here

The witness happened to go there at that time and saw the strange events.Bookmark here

The sender also heard a voice of a man whispering from the speakers, “One more…” and they got scared that they ran away quickly.Bookmark here

Given that this ghost is a man might be a good thing for Mikejima-kun. The spirits that I met are mostly women, Ai-san, Sakura-chan and Hanako-san. I didn’t think that there are male ghosts that are haunting the school as well.Bookmark here

And so, we arrived at the Audio Visual Room, since I’m behind him by five meters, he was standing in front of the door while I was still watching my distance.Bookmark here

Honestly, this is troublesome. A pain in the neck!Bookmark here

“I’ll enter first, watch your distance.” Bookmark here

“You don’t have to say that to me every time! Just go! I want to finish this and go to sleep already!”Bookmark here

“Sleepyhead.”Bookmark here

“You…!”Bookmark here

Before I could say anything more, he already entered the room.Bookmark here

This guy!!Bookmark here

For someone who has fear of women, he has some guts to start an argument with me. Look what he got after confronting me! Bookmark here

That attitude of his is definitely going bite him back someday!Bookmark here

As I thought, I really can’t understand why he’s picking a fight with me! He doesn’t seem like he’s suspecting me of seducing our senpais anymore but he still pissed me off!Bookmark here

“Get your ass moving!”Bookmark here

“Grr! You really have a vulgar vocabulary! I’m coming!”Bookmark here

I feel like I can’t finish the night without my blood pressure rising. I might have to check it later.Bookmark here

I entered that room with a flashlight on my hand. It might be dark inside but I can say that it was an outstanding place.Bookmark here

Rows of seats arranged like that of a movie theater, a wide monitor at the front and some high-end equipment for presentation.Bookmark here

Seriously, this school is flaunting how extravagant they are. Tell me, where did they got the funding for this school?Bookmark here

Mikejima-kun is standing in front of the monitor. I didn’t step closer and just remained standing near the entrance. Bookmark here

If things got dangerous, I’m ready to run away and leave him there. Hehe.Bookmark here

Just kidding! There’s no way I can’t do that no matter how much I don’t like him… hmmm... maybe?Bookmark here

“Strange…”Bookmark here

“Did you find something?”Bookmark here

“None. There are no signs of appearance here. I’m going to look on the control room,” he nonchalantly said and walked towards the side door going to the control room.Bookmark here

“Okay, I’m going to look over here. You might’ve missed something,” I said. Bookmark here

When there’s a good enough distance between us, I made my way to the front of monitor as well.Bookmark here

He just raised his eyebrow on me before turning his back.Bookmark here

Bleeh! Piss off!Bookmark here

Oops, he looked back again!Bookmark here

Let’s pretend that I’m not doing anything.Bookmark here

“No need to hide it, the feeling is mutual.”Bookmark here

“Of course!” I huffed in irritation.Bookmark here

Uuu! I really want to land a slap on his face at least once!Bookmark here

Just when I was ranting inside my mind about how Mikejima-kun pisses me off, a cold wind suddenly touched my skin.Bookmark here

“E-eh? It’s gotten cold out of nowhere…”Bookmark here

Is it the air-conditioning? Bookmark here

The sudden change in temperature is giving me goosebumps. I crossed my arms in my chest to keep me warm.Bookmark here

Weird…Bookmark here

“One… more…”Bookmark here

A voice of a man…?Bookmark here

I froze in my place when I heard a cold breathy voice whispering in my ear.Bookmark here

Out of nowhere, I heard the familiar sound of ominous bell that I know very well. Bookmark here

I gulped out of fear.Bookmark here

Is this…Bookmark here

The ghost of the AVR?!Bookmark here

“One… more…”Bookmark here

W-what is it…? Bookmark here

I closed my eyes tightly and started uttering my silent prayers. Bookmark here

Mikejima-kun is busy searching the control room for the ghost… but it was here! The ghost is behind me right now!Bookmark here

Did he not hear the bell or he’s intentionally ignoring it?! Damn it!!Bookmark here

My hands are shaking intensely at the moment. I squeezed my arms tightly until my nails dig on my skin to stop myself from trembling. Bookmark here

If I do something to get Mikejima-kun’s attention, the ghost might do something to keep me from calling for help.Bookmark here

Uuu… I’m holding on to the words that I won’t die… but this is really frightening!Bookmark here

There’s no need to turn around and look behind me, I can feel his pressure even without moving in this place!Bookmark here

“One… more…”Bookmark here

What was that one more?! Bookmark here

“One more…”Bookmark here

I can feel a cold touch in my neck that made me flinch. Before I know it, tears came out from my eyes. I bit my lip to keep myself from sobbing.Bookmark here

But a few muffled noise failed to be kept inside.Bookmark here

“One… more…”Bookmark here

A menacing voice sent shivers down my spine. My lips continued trembling as I find myself unable to speak a word.Bookmark here

P-Please… Bookmark here

I’m not getting along with Mikejima-kun but please… Bookmark here

Please show up right now!Bookmark here

“Haah… looks like there’s nothing on the control room as well…” he tiredly said and get out of the room nonchalantly.Bookmark here

“M-mikejima-kun…” I tried to call his name between small sobs coming out from my lips.Bookmark here

“Hah?! What–“Bookmark here

He finally looked to my direction. His eyes widened as he came to a halt. Bookmark here

All of a sudden, the monitor lit up. It showed a static screen just like what’s said in the letter. Bookmark here

Along with that, I also felt cold hands wrapping around my neck as if aiming to strangle me.Bookmark here

“Terushima!!” Mikejima-kun shouted. Bookmark here

He was about to come to my aid when he stopped on his tracks with a few steps away from me. Bookmark here

His expression turned like that of fear and sweat started forming on his forehead. He pressed his lips together and froze in his place.Bookmark here

His fear of women is acting up!Bookmark here

“Mikeji—kuh!”Bookmark here

The hands wrapped around my neck suddenly tightened up and started strangling me.Bookmark here

“Nnghh...”Bookmark here

I can’t breathe…Bookmark here

No good… I need air…Bookmark here

I reached out my hands to my neck in hopes of loosening the grip even for a little, but it was hopeless. Bookmark here

I can’t touch a ghost!Bookmark here

“It was your fault…” the ghost whispered.Bookmark here

What fault?! I didn’t do anything wrong!!Bookmark here

“It was because of girls like you…”Bookmark here

Girls…? Bookmark here

Is he on the same league as Mikejima-kun but instead he hated them to death? Bookmark here

AAAAAAH! I’m definitely at risk right now!Bookmark here

Mikejima-kun is still out of it!Bookmark here

“Ku… nnngh….”Bookmark here

Even if it was futile, I tried to struggle with all my might. It was a survival instinct. Bookmark here

I can feel my own nails digging on my neck. I’m sure struggle marks already showed up by now. Bookmark here

What is that damn Calico doing?! Is he just gonna watch there while I’m being murdered here?! Bookmark here

“It was because of girls like you that I died!” the ghost raised his voice full of grudge as the grip tightened once more.Bookmark here

Crap… my consciousness is going away…Bookmark here

“One more… one more…”Bookmark here

Ah… I’m losing my strength…Bookmark here

I gave one last glance to Mikejima-kun. Bookmark here

He was still stoned there and just staring at me with widened eyes.Bookmark here

I apologized to you, right?! I’m taking it back! You’re still a jerk! Bookmark here

Even if you have fear of women, at least do something about someone dying in front of you! Bookmark here

A tear escaped from my eye, it was my last message to him as if begging him to do something.Bookmark here

Before I loss all my strength on my arms, I stretched it towards his direction.Bookmark here

He flinched for a moment but his eyes still stares at me.Bookmark here

And with that, I showed him my middle finger.Bookmark here

Fuck you! Go to hell, Mikejima! You bastard!Bookmark here

Oof! He got triggered.Bookmark here

As if a miracle happened, what I did irked him and managed to make him move out of annoyance.Bookmark here

“You!!”Bookmark here

A vein popped out of his forehead as he gritted his teeth in irritation.Bookmark here

“ORAAAAAA!!”Bookmark here

He shouted like an anime character and charged towards our direction with his full force.Bookmark here

Oh, that’s nice. Bookmark here

I closed my eyes tightly in expecting the punch to land in my face. I bet I’ll just have my nose broken with this but at least I’ll survive. Not a bad deal.Bookmark here

“Haah… haah… haaah….” I catch my breath as soon as I was freed from the grip of that ghost. Bookmark here

I fell on the floor as I touched my neck. I can feel a sting, probably when I struggled too much and ended up scratching it. Bookmark here

I never thought that evil spirits could touch humans like that! It was dangerous!Bookmark here

Oh, that’s right, the punch didn’t hit me. Mikejima-kun punched the ghost instead so at least I’m thankful for that.Bookmark here

Iyaa… I’m not expecting that to work. Actually, I just did that because I want to curse him one last time. Bookmark here

“Terushima! Are you okay?!” Bookmark here

He quickly come to my aid and grabbed both of my shoulders giving it a light shake.Bookmark here

His eyes are full of worry as it stared at me intently.Bookmark here

Is he… worried about me?Bookmark here

My eyes widened when I realized what he’s doing.Bookmark here

“A-ah… I’m alright… but Mikejima-kun… are you fine touching me?”Bookmark here

When I asked him that, his eyes also widened as he quickly let go of me and took a distance away out of reflex.Bookmark here

“Wow, you’re really showing your distaste.” I squinted my eyes.Bookmark here

“That’s… not it… haah… haah… it happens all the… time…”Bookmark here

He started hyperventilating as he covered his mouth. His face started turning pale and he also started trembling.Bookmark here

“Mikejima…”Bookmark here

“S-stay back!” Bookmark here

I worriedly stared at him. It doesn’t seem like he’s a bad person, but… I’m worried now that he started showing symptoms of panic attack again!Bookmark here

“One more… one more route…”Bookmark here

Ah! Crap! That ghost is still here!Bookmark here

“I could have finished that game… one more route…” Bookmark here

Eh? What is he saying?Bookmark here

“D-dating sim…” Mikejima-kun stuttered weakly.Bookmark here

Are they talking about games?Bookmark here

“That’s right! One more route and I can finish it! Why did those girls drive me to death?!” the ghost whined in agony. “And you! What is wrong with you?! Punching someone in the face like that!”Bookmark here

Uhh… you just nearly killed me. Bookmark here

Actually, scratch that, you deserve more than just a punch!Bookmark here

I observed the ghost in front of me. He looks average, he also wears glasses and has a slouchy figure. What he just said give it all, he’s an otaku for sure.Bookmark here

“I… I can finish that game for you…” Mikejima-kun forced himself to speak even with his condition.Bookmark here

Is this guy for real?Bookmark here

“W-what are you saying Mikejima-kun?! You’re not in a condition to do something right now!”Bookmark here

If I remember it right, Mikejima-kun likes to play games. But that’s not it! How can he just play a game in that condition! Not to mention, the ghost is ready to kill as it is!Bookmark here

“Terushima… do you want to die…?”Bookmark here

“Urk! Of course not!"Bookmark here

“Then, show me! I don’t think some amateur like you can clear it so I’m giving you an advantage.” The ghost smiled menacingly. “One heroine. Capture one heroine and I’ll pass away silently.”Bookmark here

“I accept…” Mikejima-kun said as he slowly stood up. Bookmark here

“Hoh? Are you sure?”Bookmark here

“Yeah. Get done with it, bastard.”Bookmark here

“You sure have some guts, do you even know the game I’m talking about?”Bookmark here

“Last Heroine.”Bookmark here

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

Oh... that's right! How did he even know that?Bookmark here

“Heh. Who do you think I am? I played countless of games from retro to modern, and I’m confident with my skills! About Last Heroine…” Bookmark here

Mikejima-kun went on and on, talking about games. He’s saying unfamiliar terms that I don’t even know. Still, it seems like he knows what he’s saying with that confident look on his face as if he quickly recovered from earlier.Bookmark here

Does he really like games that much? It was unexpected though.Bookmark here

Wait…Bookmark here

When I glanced to the ghost, his expression is dark as if he was more hostile than earlier.Bookmark here

“Uhm… Mikejima-kun…”Bookmark here

“What?! Are you saying that Last Heroine is a good game? It was shitty!”Bookmark here

Wait… all this time he’s been badmouthing that game? Bookmark here

No wonder the ghost has that kind of expression… wait, that ‘s not it.Bookmark here

“Wait! Stop talking first, Mikejima-kun!”Bookmark here

The ghost seems like he will kill us!Bookmark here

“You… HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT?!”Bookmark here

The two of us exchange looks among ourselves.Bookmark here

“Oops… maybe I went too far.”Bookmark here

“What do you mean ‘maybe’? You really went too far, Mikejima-kun!”Bookmark here

And that… was how we incur the wrath of a vengeful otaku spirit. Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.