Cat's Hour ~猫の時間~
I furrowed my brows when I felt a warm touch of light hitting my face. A groan escaped from my lips and I put my hand on my face to cover my eyes against the light.
I rolled over to the other side in hopes of dozing back to sleep.
Mmm, I don’t want to get up yet…
I was about to fall asleep again when I feel a silent and calm breathing in front of me.
Hmm? Is it a cat?
When I opened my eyes, Mikejima-kun’s sleeping face greeted me.
His sleeping face was a peaceful sight. I got a closer look at his face, different from how his forehead wrinkled when he’s awake out of annoyance as it was natural for him, he looks like a child right now. He doesn’t look like he has a care in the world.
I blinked in confusion.
When everything sinks on my mind, I quickly freaked out. I feel blood rushing to my face as I get up quickly.
T-that was so close!
Why are we in that position?! That was embarrassing!
I clenched my chest out of reflex to settle my heart that started beating rapidly. That was not good for the heart!
Calm down, Hikari! Analyze the situation first!
I took a deep breath to calm myself. Despite making a noise when I freaked out earlier, it doesn’t seem like Mikejima-kun wakes up.
That was good. I don’t know how to face him if he ever woke up first. I should remain my distance from him.
I looked around to observe the place we’re in right now.
It seems like we’re in an unused classroom. There are desks and chairs lined up on the corners of the room. There are papers scattered on the floor where we are lying down. However, I find the structure of the room peculiar.
It’s different from the structure of classrooms in Nekoji Academy.
Are we still on the school that we know?!
As I searched for more clues, I noticed that there are bunch of canvas and easel stocked on the room. There are also paints, brushes and other tools all over the place.
Is this an art room? I have been to the school’s art club several times before, and with what I’m seeing now…
As I thought, there’s really something wrong here.
I patted my clothes to search for my phone.
Eh?? Why am I wearing a summer uniform?! This isn’t a Nekoji Academy uniform!
Calm down, let’s see what I have on my possession right now. I searched my pockets and was relieved to see that my phone and Mom’s bell are still here.
Phew. That was reassuring. I won’t settle down if lost my bell again.
I turned on my phone and see if I can make a call.
“Geh, there’s no signal.”
I glanced outside and confirmed my suspicions, we’re not in Nekoji Academy right now. Moreover, it’s not spring anymore. The sakura trees outside are not blooming, with the harsh light coming from outside, it must be summer.
I pulled a chair from the corner and took a seat there while watching over the sleeping Mikejima-kun. I was far from him but even with this distance, his sleeping figure looks so defenseless.
The last thing I remember was investigating the AVR with him. Then, we met a dangerous ghost and…
I unconsciously touched my neck to check the wound that I remember before passing out.
Eh? My wound… it’s gone?
I glanced towards Mikejima-kun’s direction. I can’t see his cat ears and tails anymore.
Did I lost my ‘sight’?
No… there’s something else. In the first place, where in the world are we right now?
“Urgh…” Mikejima-kun groaned.
“Good morning, Mikejima-kun.”
“Uhh… what a horrible dream…”
Seems like he was still half asleep.
“Is this dream something like investigating with Terushima and encountering a ghost in the AVR?” I asked innocently.
“Yeah…” he mumbled and lets out a small yawn.
I just smiled at his direction until he was hit by a realization.
“Whaaa–! What the hell?!” he freaked out and crawled farther from me reflexively.
I just sighed at him. “Unfortunately for you, it’s not a dream. We’re lost in nowhere so if you know something, say it.”
“Y-you… you didn’t touch me, did you?”
He sunk more in the corner and hugged himself as if he was a girl being molested by a pervert. He gave me a frightened look while he shivered in his place.
“Hah?! Why would I do that?! Do I look like a pervert to you?!” I blurted out at him.
“I mean, you really look like a pervert. When you look at cats, it seems like you’re going to do something bad!”
I was just about to say something in my defense when I realized that there are times that I acted like that with cats. Haha, I just dug my own grave.
“That was for cats! Cats are the epitome of beauty! It was a stare of admiration!”
“That sounds like something a pervert will say…” He squinted my eyes at me.
“It’s not!” I whined at him. “More than that, can you explain what’s going on here already?! We’re not in our school, right?!”
After he lets his guard down for a moment, he started talking to me normally.
“I see now…. Damn it, that ghost got us!” he snapped.
“Haha, who do you think is responsible for that?” I laughed sarcastically.
“What do you want me to say? I won’t take it back!”
“Okay, okay, settle down.”
“A shitty game is a shitty game! It was garbage!”
Oh god… that was the reason why we ended up here. Can’t he at least lower his pride for once?
“Oh… kay… I don’t know what you’re talking about and I don’t think I want to know either. Just enlighten me about what’s going on right now,” I sighed in depression.
He was so stubborn about it that it was hard to deal with him now. How passionate can he become because of a game?
“We are inside an illusion.”
“Eh?! Illusion?! Oi, I thought those ghost can’t harm humans! I ALMOST GOT KILLED AND NOW THIS?!” I unintentionally raised my voice out of agitation.
My eyes widened when I realized what I have done. Mikejima-kun flinched with my sudden outburst as he covered his ears out of fear.
“S-sorry… that was too much. I didn’t mean to raise my voice.”
An awkward silence permeates in the room. He’s still covering his ears while he closed his eyes tightly as he sunk on the corner farther.
Now, I really look like the bad guy here… Kurokawa-senpai will definitely kick me out if he learned this. It’s funny how I fear Mashiro-senpai before that I watched my movements around Kurokawa-senpai and now in the same situation again, except it was Mikejima-kun that I should be careful around.
Eh? Is he finally talking again?
“Don’t push yourself too much if you don’t want. I’ll just go with your plan so let’s talk about how we can go back, okay?” I diverted the talk into another topic. “Oh, that’s right! Do you know where is this room?”
He stayed silent for a while before answering, “Yeah.”
“Really? Where is it?” I stared at him in anticipation.
Is he serious?
“Come on, Mikejima-kun. It’s not the time to be joking… ahaha…”
“It’s not a joke. It was the same place in Last Heroine. There is an event in the game that takes place in the art room of the school.”
“Uhh… sorry, I can’t understand what you’re saying.”
“Of course you can’t, normies like you won’t understand!”
I don’t know what’s wrong with what he said but I feel insulted just now. Is he speaking some language that I don’t know?
“A-anyway, if we’re inside the game then the condition to return to reality is clearing the game, right?” I asked curiously.
He nodded at me.
“Then, what was this game about? How can we finish it? Did you already clear the game before, Mikejima-kun?”
“I threw away my copy without finishing.”
T-then… are we doomed?! Why did he throw it?!
“It was so trashy that I stomped on it, crushed it with a bat and threw it in the ocean.”
“W-wow… is it that horrible?” I deadpanned.
“You bet! I gave it one star rating on the net. That was some bullshit waste of time!”
He continued ranting on and on to vent out his frustration about the game. As someone who doesn’t know the tricks and turns of the gaming world, I just nodded my head once in a while to make it seem like I was listening.
I don’t understand a thing!
“By the way, Terushima, can you see something on top of my head?”
“Ha? Ah? Sorry, I’m not listening.”
He squinted his eyes at me.
“Nothing! I see nothing! Ahaha…”
“Are you sure?” he suspiciously said. “Something like a status bar or a heart meter?”
“What was that? I can’t really see anything though… I’m just wondering why did your cat ears disappeared…”
I stared on top of his head intently.
“Y-you’re doing it again! Stop staring!” He tightly closed his eyes and whined at me.
Eh? What did I do?
“You’re acting like a pervert again! Stop it!”
He pointed his finger to me out of conviction.
“Oops, does my expression really look like that? I can’t really control myself when it comes to cats. Anyway, what’s with the sudden question?”
He looked away and closed his eyes before heaving a deep sigh.
Is he okay?
“I can see it,” he simply said. “I can see a status bar on top of your head.”
I tilted my head in confusion.
What is he saying again?
“It was like this…”
Mikejima-kun explained that this is the illusion made by the otaku ghost based on his favorite game which is ‘Last Heroine’. It was something that you called a dating sim where the main character is a high school student and raising the affection of heroines in order to have a happy ending.
He also said what makes this game bad from badly written character settings for the heroines up to the ridiculously impossible plot that there was supposedly only one heroine, so the rest that didn’t get chosen will die out of nowhere. And if the affection level also went down, the heroine will also get killed.
It was supposed to be a mystery romance game where the MC saves the heroine from death but for some reasons, the creators just throw crap together and call it a game then put it in the shelves. That was according to Mikejima-kun.
Honestly, it was too much information for me to process so I just noted what caught my attention the most.
“Oh! So Mikejima-kun is the main character, right?”
“Yeah. That seems right.” He nodded at me.
“How about me? Am I one of the heroines?” I asked excitedly.
“No,” he answered blankly. “You’re Friend A. You don’t have significant role here.”
I sighed in depression. Seems like I’m just a background character here. At least make me a heroine! In what terms am I lacking?
Oh wait… I don’t really have anything special anyway. Is that the reason why I didn’t became a heroine?
“What are you getting down for? Isn’t it good since you won’t die here? The heroines will die if the main character failed to gain their affection,” he reasoned out to me.
“I know that! But it feels like an insult, y’know! We’re both sent here so why am I just a background character?” I whined at him.
“Terushima, do you really have a death wish?”
“That’s not all! If I’m a heroine then you can just gain my favor and we can go back quickly!”
Mikejima-kun was taken aback by what I just said as his eyes widened while he stared at me intently.
Is he going to admire me? Well, I guess I’ll accept it if he put it nicely.
“You’re actually thinking for once, aren’t you?”
I feel a vein popped up in my forehead.
This bastard! He’s really getting on my nerves intentionally!
“You bastard… I’m going easy on you since we’re in a tricky situation. Will you shut up if you’re not going to say anything good?” I smiled menacingly to give him a threat.
He pressed his lips in a flat line and fell silent. I just sighed to myself out of frustration.
What are we going to do now?
Since Mikejima-kun is the main character, everything was on his hands now. I don’t know a crap about this so I’m leaving everything to him.
After a moment of silence, I decided to ask him something.
“By the way, Mikejima-kun, how are you going to gain affection from the heroines in the game?”
When I asked him that, his eyes shone brightly as if a switch on him has been flipped. He went on and on again that I just deadpanned and slightly regretting asking.
“Ahem! You can gain affection just like any other dating sims, but because this is playable in a console with touchscreen back in the day, there are special tricks to gain affection,” he started in a matter of fact tone.
“Wow… you sure know your thing…” I sarcastically said.
“Of course! Anyway, there are three ways to do it. First is…”
He stopped in the middle of talking as I noticed his face started turning pale.
“Hmm? Are you okay Mikejima-kun? Why did you stop talking?”
Seriously, what’s wrong with him? He just stopped explaining in the middle! Wait…
I froze in my place when a sudden realization hit me.
“Mikejima-kun, what were those three ways you’re talking about?” I seriously asked him as I gave him a determined glare.
“I-interaction… s-skinship… r-romance…” he whispered in hesitation but enough for me to hear.
I feel like my eyes will pop out at the moment when I realized what he just said.
W-WHAT THE HECK?!!
That was a call for disaster in our situation! And with Mikejima-kun as the main character in that kind of game… we’re good as gone!
Given that Mikejima-kun is afraid of women, it was a lost cause! This might be an illusion created by that ghost but…
I know for sure that his fear still remains real. Because if it’s somehow different here… he wasn’t supposed to be afraid of me first.
We might be talking normally for quite some time now but that’s just because there’s a good distance between us that he seems a little comfortable in the least. If there’s a moment that I will get closer to him, he will start trembling in fear.
More importantly, those heroines…
Haaah… what should we do?
Ahaha, can we just throw ourselves in the rooftop and go back in reality?
In the middle of the silent atmosphere in the room, Mikejima-kun stayed in the corner and hugged himself in comfort. He’s looking down more than I expected.
I worriedly stared at him.
Will we be fine like this?
I can’t just think of anything but sigh in our situation.
No! Damn it! This is no time to feel so hopeless!
I stood firmly and got his attention.
“Mikejima-kun, are you just going to sulk here and not do anything?! You said it, right? You said that you’ll clear this game! Why don’t you keep your word?!” I burst out which made him flinch.
On normal circumstances, I should be stepping down already… but I won’t. Not now.
I don’t care if push comes to shove. Not all the time he could just succumb to his fear like this.
We’re still young right now, but the reality will definitely be harsher than this. And in that reality, Mikejima-kun will definitely have a hard time surviving.
“I-it was scary… I can’t do it…” he mumbled.
He covered his ears as if denying what I’m going to say to him.
“You can’t do it or you DON’T WANT to? Which is it?”
“W-what… WHAT DO YOU KNOW?!” he yelled while still cowering in fear.
He soon lift his head and faced me. He was glaring at me but… there are tears streaming on his cheeks.
“YOU ARE ALL THE SAME!! WOMEN ARE ALL THE SAME!! JUST BECAUSE WE’RE MEN DOESN’T MEAN WE’RE ALWAYS STRONG!! WE ALSO HAVE WEAKNESSES… Why… why… don’t you understand… no one understands… it was scary… it was painful…”
Mikejima-kun cried. It was cry full of agony. I can also feel something stirred inside my heart.
And before I know it…
Drops of tears also wet my cheeks continuously.
“Why… why are you crying?! Aren’t you supposed to be laughing? Hah. You’re supposed to be making fun of me right now! I’m pathetic! I’m weak! Now that you know my weakness, why aren’t you laughing?!”
Every words he uttered was painful.
I bit my lip in frustration and clenched my fist tightly.
“Mikejima-kun… do I… do I look like I’m having fun right now?” I said in between my sobs as tears continued pouring down.
He fell silent as he stared at my crying face. His mouth agape as he was frozen in confusion upon seeing my reaction.
“Mikejima-kun… I’m not invalidating your fear. I don’t know what kind of pain you suffered because I’m a woman myself… but for me, Mikejima-kun is a brave person.” I smiled, a hint of surprise painted his face.
“Brave…” he mumbled in awestruck.
“Un! That’s right!” I beamed at him and wiped my tears. “Mikejima-kun is brave, you confronted me even with your fear of women. Isn’t that brave enough? Though, it was lame of you to collapse afterwards.”
His eyes widened in shock but soon, a smile formed on his lips as he lets out a small chuckle before wiping his tears.
“You! You’re making fun of me, aren’t you?!” he whined at me like a child being teased by his friend.
“Pfft. It’s compensated though, I praised you so it’s fine to insult you for once,” I reasoned out.
“You’re taking your revenge! As I thought you’re horrible!”
“Hah?! Who’s more horrible among us? You called me ‘bitch’!”
“You said that you won’t ask for apology!”
“But I didn’t say that I won’t get back to you!”
We continued throwing insults among each other for a while after that. However, the atmosphere is not that suffocating compared to before. Right now, it seemed like how friends fool around each other without hard feelings.
We laughed, and we continued until we ran out of insults to throw to the other side. I can’t help but smile to myself.
I feel like I’ve gotten a little closer to Mikejima-kun.
Mikejima-kun is actually just a child. He just wants to be normal, not being looked down upon because of his weaknesses, being treated indifferently, and not having prejudices about him.
I think, I understand this part of him… for I, also hate being treated horribly because of prejudices.
We’re two peas in a pod, aren’t we?
We still remained a distance from each other, but with this development, even a farther distance feels close enough as if we’re beside each other. It feels non-existent.
“Mikejima-kun,” I called, a questioning look painted his face as he glanced towards my direction. “I have two requests for you.”
He looks confused about what I said but he still nodded his head in agreement. “F-fine, let’s hear it.”
“First, you must clear this game so we can return to reality.”
He looked away from me, bit his lip in hesitation before answering, “But…”
“That’s not what I want to hear, Mikejima-kun. You’ll do it or not? Give me a clear answer, either of the two will be fine,” I said at him with a smile.
He fell silent for a while before he swallowed a lump in his throat.
“What if… I don’t want to do it?”
“Then, I’ll think of something myself.”
“Are you fine with it?”
Knowing his pride, I doubt that he could accept my proposal. Of course, he still don’t like women and that very woman will save him. His ego won’t accept it.
“W-what are you going to do?”
“Secret.” I beamed at him.
He furrowed his brows at me and took a deep sigh, “Argh! Fine! I’ll do it!”
See? He took the bait!
He still looks hesitant about this agreement that we reached. It was only natural because he still feared women and this game is all about interacting with them closely.
“It will be fine! Mikejima-kun will clear it, right? You already played a lot of games before so this will be easy for you! Just think of this as a game, this isn’t reality so just think that your fear doesn’t exist here,” I said in a matter of fact tone.
Hmm? What is it?
“Did you say something?”
“Nothing! It’s nothing!” he frantically denied as he furrowed his brows in annoyance before looking away from me. “A-anyway, what about the other one?”
Seeing as how desperate he was to change the topic, he’s definitely hiding something. I just shrugged it and think about the current situation.
What is he asking again?
“You said it yourself! Why do you look clueless!”
“Ahaha…” I chuckled awkwardly and stared at him hesitantly.
“What is it? You’re suspicious!”
“When you overcome your fear in the future, let me give you a good slap, okay?”
He was taken aback by what I said but I just smiled at him.
“Here I am thinking that you’re not half-bad but you’re still horrible! Cruel!”
“It was reasonable! You’re causing a lot of trouble, aren’t you?”
“Urk! P-please go easy on me…”
With that, we came into an agreement that we are going to finish this game and return to the reality no matter what. We started making plans to clear this game and before we know it…
A huge event will soon take place…
“MIKEJIMA-KUN! LET GO OF ME ALREADY!! JUST RETURN ALONE! Please… don’t push yourself anymore…”