Chapter 18:

Role Change

Cat's Hour ~猫の時間~


I dipped a brush on the black paint in the palette. With few touches on the canvas, I smiled to myself as I finished a painting.Bookmark here

“Uwaah! It’s done! Aaah~ it’s so cute! As I thought Yami is really cute!” I dreamily said as I admired my own painting of Yami.Bookmark here

I glanced over Mikejima-kun’s direction, it’s been a while since he started writing something on the scraps of paper in the room. I think it was something that you call a game plan. Not that I know what he is writing anyway.Bookmark here

Moreover, I’m so proud of myself with the painting that I just finished!Bookmark here

I was bored out of my mind for a while now because Mikejima-kun is doing something on his own. In order not to bother him while he was thinking, I decided to mess up with the art tools scattered in the room.Bookmark here

After getting a canvas and an easel, with some paints and brushes, I made a painting of Yami.Bookmark here

“Heeh… you can actually draw, Terushima?” Mikejima-kun commented as he stood behind me in middle of my daydreaming.Bookmark here

“Oi, if you’re not going to say anything good, shut up.”Bookmark here

I didn’t realize that he was already done with what he’s doing since I’m so absorbed with a masterpiece that I just made.Bookmark here

Heh. I should be praised for this.Bookmark here

But expecting something like a praise from this guy here is a lost cause. I’d rather praise myself instead.Bookmark here

Anyway, Mikejima-kun decided to try closing the distance between us. To be honest, he can actually come closer to me without having any reactions, but that was just because he’s keeping his reactions to himself to act tough. It’s not actually helping him.Bookmark here

Still, as long as I won’t touch him, we’ll be fine with each other. Bookmark here

However… Bookmark here

Our problem right now are the heroines of this game. With what I can understand from his explanation, a physical touch is needed to raise affection.Bookmark here

Is he still going to be okay?Bookmark here

“Oi, what was that look? Are you doubting me right now? Just after you gave that speech…” he said as he emphasized what I just said earlier.Bookmark here

I feel blood rushing to my face out of embarrassment. Bookmark here

This guy!Bookmark here

“F-forget about it! You can piss off for all I care!”Bookmark here

“Chill, I was just teasing you. Anyway, it’s unexpected that you can actually do art.” Bookmark here

“Why do you sound like you’re not expecting something that I can do well?!”Bookmark here

“You’re plain.”Bookmark here

“Urk! I… I can’t deny that…” I looked away from him. “W-well! I was doing it when I was a child.”Bookmark here

“Did you stop?” he asked nonchalantly.Bookmark here

I stared at the painting. A solemn smile formed on my lips.Bookmark here

“Yes.”Bookmark here

“Why?”Bookmark here

I swallowed a lump on my throat before letting out an awkward chuckle. “Ahaha… well… what was it? I already forgot, it was a long time already.”Bookmark here

He glanced at the painting as if studying it intently. There was a moment of silence between us. I know that he doesn’t buy my excuse but he didn’t try to press further. Bookmark here

The truth is, I didn’t stop it because I want to. When I was a child, Mom asked me to stop it. Up until today, I don’t know what was the reason why, it might be better if I won’t find out.Bookmark here

In the midst of the awkward silence, I desperately diverted the conversation.Bookmark here

“Oh, that’s right! Something is bothering me since earlier. Why did you agree to work with me when Irosaki-sensei mentioned Kurokawa-senpai? If you don’t want to do it, you don’t need to do it.”Bookmark here

He heaved out a deep sigh and scratched the back of his neck awkwardly.Bookmark here

Somehow, that looks like someone trying to make up an excuse.Bookmark here

“Do you know something about Kurokawa-senpai’s situation?”Bookmark here

As I mention that, he flinched. There it is, he knows something.Bookmark here

I stared at him suspiciously and anticipated an answer from him.Bookmark here

“F-fine! I’ll talk! Stop staring!” He put his hands in the air as if surrendering himself.Bookmark here

I’m not trying to charge you with anything. What’s with that over reaction?Bookmark here

I just deadpanned at him. He took a deep sigh as if gathering courage to speak. Seriously, I’m not going to do something! That reaction really makes me the bad guy here!Bookmark here

“W-well… when I accused you back then, Tsuki-senpai defended you and explained kaichou’s circumstances, he also mentioned your cooperation with it. But don’t misunderstood! I’m still not trusting you!” Bookmark here

He was calmly explaining at first but when it comes to later half, he became flustered that he frantically showed his contempt to me again.Bookmark here

Ah, he was ‘that’. I see now. Bookmark here

“W-what are you looking satisfied for?!”Bookmark here

“Nothing.” I just simply said. “Anyway, I think that proves my innocence about your accusation that I’m seducing our senpais. Don’t think I have ulterior motives… well, except playing with cats, I don’t have anything else.”Bookmark here

“For some reasons, I can’t believe you’re saying that with a straight face.” He deadpanned.Bookmark here

“Is that so? I can talk about cats 24/7, you wanna go?” Bookmark here

“Pass.”Bookmark here

“Come on! Don’t be such a killjoy!” I whined at him.Bookmark here

He just shrugged and ignored me.Bookmark here

How unbelievable! He’s not interested in cat talks?! Impossible!Bookmark here

“Say, Terushima…” he called while fixing the papers that he wrote earlier.Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

“Why are you going to such lengths in helping us? You’re free to leave the student council and not associate with us again… but then… why? Isn’t it troublesome?”Bookmark here

He was looking down with a darkened expression when he asked that. Our eyes didn’t meet so it’s hard to read what he was thinking at the moment. I just know one thing, I should answer him honestly to clear his doubts about me.Bookmark here

“Well, I don’t find it troublesome. I don’t really have something great of a reason so you might find it lacking.”Bookmark here

“Is it the cat ears?”Bookmark here

“Hmm, I won’t deny that it was my reason at first. I really love cats so I don’t think I’ll get here without the cat ears.”Bookmark here

He stared at me in disgust. Well, it was expected.Bookmark here

I just smiled without a care about his reaction. Bookmark here

“But… as I got to know everyone, I got to see them as they are. When Kurokawa-senpai gave me a tour around the school, we actually saw you on the training with the swimming team, he was really proud of you, he was proud of everyone. At that time, I thought that he was really a great senpai. Not to mention that his working speed was outstanding.”Bookmark here

“Kaichou…”Bookmark here

“On my first case with Mashiro-senpai, I saw his desperation when it comes to Kurokawa-senpai. He might not be good with expressing himself but he cares about everyone in his own way. He can be quite frightening at times though.”Bookmark here

He remained silent as I continued with my monologue. Bookmark here

“When I was about to leave because of family circumstances, Toujo-kun lifted my spirit. He has a serious side so I’m slightly confused about it considering how different he was from his cheerful personality, but he was the mood maker of the group. He was playful and sociable, there are times when he was a pain but he’s not half bad.”Bookmark here

Looking back on it, I’m guessing that Toujo-kun has two different personalities, but still both of them are considerate with other people. The playful one might go overboard at times though.Bookmark here

“I really have fun whenever I help Haibara-kun cooks. The first snacks that we made is threatening, but it was still fun. I actually learned from him that you guys all know each other from middle school, you have such great friends, Mikejima-kun.”Bookmark here

His lips agape as if he wants to say something but it might be hard to put into words.Bookmark here

I looked up in the ceiling and smiled to myself.Bookmark here

“I don’t really have a special reason why I’m helping you. To be honest, I’m envious of everyone in the student council, you already shared a long time with each other. Of course, I also thought that I’m barging in the status quo.”Bookmark here

I stretched my hands in the air as if reaching into something invisible and touching it with my hands.Bookmark here

“I never had that kind of friendship before so having friends like that was a subject of my jealousy. However, I also admire your friendship. I might be an outsider but I want to support you all. For that friendship to fall apart… I don’t want to think about it.”Bookmark here

“Terushima… do you really think about us…?” Mikejima-kun mumbled in disbelief.Bookmark here

“Uuunn! It was frustrating!” I whined, closing my eyes tightly and frowning like a child. Bookmark here

“Thank you.”Bookmark here

I froze for a moment and turned to look at Mikejima-kun slowly.Bookmark here

“Just now… did you just say ‘thank you’?” Bookmark here

“I… it’s just your imagination!” He looked away from me quickly, his ears burning red.Bookmark here

Heh. Is he blushing? So he also has this cute side to him. Fufu. Bookmark here

“What’s with that smug look?! Quit it!”Bookmark here

“Mikejima-kun, not honest~”Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

“THAT DAMN GHOST! HE SET IT IN HARD MODE!” Bookmark here

Mikejima-kun started losing his cool and scattered the things in the art room to vent his anger. I just remained silent in the corner, worriedly watching over him.Bookmark here

This game is the kind where heroines naturally flocked to the main character. Of course, Mikejima-kun already encountered two of them. However, because he’s still not used to interacting with women, his discomfort is obviously written all over his face. The heroines somehow noticed this, causing their affection level to drop.Bookmark here

You can probably guess what happened to them. Bookmark here

As for Mikejima-kun, he was saying something like ‘this isn’t on the normal mode but hard mode instead’. Bookmark here

“A-ano… calm down first, Mikejima-kun… let’s think about it calmly, okay?” I tried to talk to him mildly.Bookmark here

“HOW CAN WE BE CALM LIKE THIS?! THERE’S ONLY ONE HEROINE LEFT!” he raised his voice aggressively which even made me flinch.Bookmark here

When he noticed my reaction, his eyes widened as he looked away quickly.Bookmark here

“My bad… I didn’t mean to raise my voice.”Bookmark here

“I-It’s fine…” I stuttered. “A-anyway… why don’t we see how the last heroine is doing? She may be our hope to clear this game… right?”Bookmark here

A look of concern painted his face as he glance at me. He looks worried about me that I can even imagine his cat ears drooping down. It’s too bad that I can’t actually see them right now, probably because of the illusion.Bookmark here

“Aren’t you sacred?” he asked out nowhere.Bookmark here

I was taken aback by the sudden question but after seeing the look of determination in his eyes, I sighed before answering. “I would be lying if I said that I’m not scared. However, that also goes for you, so I don’t have the right to whine now. Let’s just do our best, okay?” Bookmark here

“What if… what if we failed again? What if we can’t go back anymore?” he said while still looking down.Bookmark here

“That won’t do!” I huffed. “Mikejima-kun will clear this no matter what, then we’ll return in reality! Of course, I will also slap you like what we agreed upon.”Bookmark here

“You’re really looking forward to slap me, aren’t you?!”Bookmark here

“Of course! But if worse comes to worst, I’m sure the others are worried about us right now. They will definitely notice that we’re missing.”Bookmark here

“That…” he said in hesitation.Bookmark here

“Hmm?”Bookmark here

“N-nothing… you really put too much trust to the others, you’re too naïve,” he whispered. Just when I was about to react, he changed the topic quickly. “Let’s see what we can do for now.”Bookmark here

“A-ah… yeah…” I just awkwardly agreed.Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

There are three heroines in this game. A clingy gyaru, a cheerful childhood friend, and a studious honor student. The gyaru and the childhood friend already got eliminated. The only one left is the honor student. According to Mikejima-kun, she was the hardest one to get along with, probably because honor students have high standards or such.Bookmark here

“There she is.”Bookmark here

We peeked from the entry way to the rooftop. A girl in ponytail was sitting in the floor of the rooftop, she was wearing standard glasses, as expected from the honor student. She was also having her lunch alone.Bookmark here

“Don’t let your guard down, this event is our only chance left.”Bookmark here

“Event…?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, the main character went to the rooftop because he forgot his lunch money and went here to pass time before the next class. There he find the girl having lunch with herself. As an honor student, she has a strong sense of responsibility so she shared her bento with the main character. The two of them ate together, it was that kind of event.”Bookmark here

Wow… seems like something out of a romance novel. Oh, I nearly forgot that we’re inside a game right now.Bookmark here

“Will you be fine, Mikejima-kun?” Bookmark here

He bit his lip as sweat started forming in his forehead. “I… I don’t know… I’m still scared… if I mess up—”Bookmark here

“It’s fine.”Bookmark here

“Eh?” His eyes widened as he stared at me.Bookmark here

“It’s fine if you mess up. The fact that you tried and gave you best is already enough. As I thought, Mikejima-kun is really brave.” I smiled. “No matter what happened, I won’t blame you for anything. This is partly my fault so I’m also responsible.”Bookmark here

He nodded, a look of determination was shown in his face. “You’re really strange, Terushima.”Bookmark here

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”Bookmark here

With a final glance, he waved at me. “Well then, later. I have an event to finish.”Bookmark here

“Good luck.”Bookmark here

He walked outside and met with the heroine. I was left there and watched the two talk so happily among themselves. Mikejima-kun looks so natural, he was doing great holding his fear inside. Bookmark here

I smiled to myself and felt proud like a parent would.Bookmark here

I raised that child! I couldn’t wish for more!Bookmark here

I closed my eyes, turn around and took a few steps before stopping for a moment.Bookmark here

“Why don’t you show yourself? You’re sabotaging that guy’s effort for a while now. Quit it already,” I said to nothingness as if I’m speaking to someone.Bookmark here

That is, because there’s actually someone here.Bookmark here

“Heh. I didn’t expect that a girl like you would find out.”Bookmark here

A guy showed up, he has a slouchy figure and wears glasses. He has a dark expression in his face with a menacing smile, he laughed like from before. It was the otaku ghost.Bookmark here

I glared at him while he just chuckled at me. I wonder if I can hit him right now, should I try?Bookmark here

“I don’t know about this world so I’m not sure how things work. However, I found it suspicious that those two heroines disappeared right after meeting Mikejima-kun. According to the original plot, the main character will save them from death, and yet, we didn’t even got the chance to save them. You’re playing dirty from the start.”Bookmark here

“Looks like I got found out,” he smiled creepily. “But what of it? Are you going to interrupt the event to tell that to your friend?”Bookmark here

“No. You’re an evil spirit, aren’t you? When you said your condition that you’ll pass on if he cleared the game, it was the only wish you have, am I right?” I asked him.Bookmark here

“Heh. That’s right.” Bookmark here

He smiled haughtily and took a step closer to me. I step back in reflex. What is he planning to do? Bookmark here

“But I won’t let it end easily. That guy is making the game boring as it is.” Bookmark here

He was standing in front of me right now, with only a few centimeters apart. I didn’t falter to his threat, I held onto my resolve and stretched my hands in his way. I won’t let him go in the rooftop and interrupt them!Bookmark here

“You have some guts trying to stand against me. Did you forget that I’m the one controlling this illusion?” Bookmark here

“What—"Bookmark here

“Why don’t we spice things up?” a creepy smile formed on his lips.Bookmark here

He let out a chuckle and snapped his fingers.Bookmark here

Out of nowhere, we’re already in the rooftop outside. I was standing on the edge of the rooftop as the ghost grabbed my shoulder and held it tightly.Bookmark here

It hurts! Damn it!Bookmark here

I was about to fight back when I saw in my peripherals how high up we are right now. Any misstep will definitely cause me to fall to my death.Bookmark here

My sight happened to catch Mikejima-kun and the heroine talking peacefully in the farther side of the rooftop. It doesn’t seem like they noticed us yet.Bookmark here

“Now then, let’s get his attention.”Bookmark here

My eyes widened upon hearing what that ghost said. Bookmark here

“Real or illusion, which one will he choose?” he chuckled to himself ominously. “Oi! The mikeneko over there! Look what I have here!”Bookmark here

No matter how much I wish for our gazes not to met, it was inevitable. Bookmark here

His eyes widened and his mouth agape in disbelief. All colors left his face as he stared back at me.Bookmark here

A small smile formed on my lips as I mouthed ‘win this’ to his direction.Bookmark here

“Well then, bye!” the guy said to me as he pushed me off the edge with everything he got.Bookmark here

A slight feeling of relief that the ghost lets go of me was short-lived as I found myself falling from a height. I stretched my hand to hold on the edge of the rooftop in desperation. Of course, I don’t want to die yet!Bookmark here

Just when I was nearly touching it…Bookmark here

My hand didn’t manage to reach it.Bookmark here

Crap! I missed!Bookmark here

I closed my eyes tightly. Am I going to die like this? Damn it! Irosaki-sensei, you lied!Bookmark here

Out of nowhere, a sudden tug on my hand threw me back to reality. Bookmark here

“Terushima!!” Bookmark here

When I looked up, Mikejima-kun’s desperate face greeted me. His brows furrowed as he gritted his teeth while trying to pull me up. Bookmark here

Both of his hands are holding mine tightly as if not wanting to let me go. It made me feel glad that he came to my aid. I was thankful.Bookmark here

But…Bookmark here

His hands are trembling.Bookmark here

It was obvious how much he’s pushing himself right now.Bookmark here

Moreover, if he was here… that means…Bookmark here

“Mikejima-kun… the heroine…”Bookmark here

“WHO CARES ABOUT THAT BITCH?!” he shouted loudly.Bookmark here

“You can’t go back if she will die!”Bookmark here

“What are you… what do you mean ‘I’ can’t go back?! There’s no point if I’m the only one who can go back!”Bookmark here

I looked down, I could see the height that I’m going to fall from, the moment that MIkejima-kun lets go of my hand. Honestly, it was enough to make me cry and pass out from fear. Bookmark here

Mikejima-kun’s hands… it was cold. I could feel his hands trembling in fear. Of course, he’s touching a woman. He has phobia, this much reaction is expected…Bookmark here

But why… why won’t you let go?!Bookmark here

Damn it!Bookmark here

“MIKEJIMA-KUN! LET GO OF ME ALREADY!! JUST RETURN ALONE!” I yelled with everything I got, but my voice softened unconsciously. “Please… don’t push yourself anymore…”Bookmark here

His grip slightly loosened. It seems like he’s going to let me go. I closed my eyes and waited for my free fall exhibition.Bookmark here

However, he didn’t let go.Bookmark here

“Oi! Mikejima!” I looked up and saw him, his face is pale and his lips are tightly pressed together. Bookmark here

Eh? Don’t tell me…Bookmark here

“O-oi! Are you going to vomit?! Don’t you dare vomit on me!”Bookmark here

He shook his head intensely, he also tried to pull me up forcefully, I could feel cramps on my arm now. Ah, damn it! Let go already!Bookmark here

When he managed to lift me slightly, he bowed down and I could hear sound of throwing up coming from his direction. Bookmark here

Ah, so he’s really feeling nauseous, isn’t he?Bookmark here

“If you don’t feel good, why won’t you let go already?!”Bookmark here

“Terushima, do you really have a death wish?!”Bookmark here

“I don’t have one! It’s because you’re pushing yourself!”Bookmark here

“Look at me, Tersuhima,” he firmly said.Bookmark here

As I glanced to him, I noticed a vomit stain on the side of his lips. Disgusting.Bookmark here

Wait, that’s not all! Bookmark here

Drops of liquid fell to my cheeks. Is it rain? Or tears…?Bookmark here

He’s crying…?Bookmark here

“I won’t let go! There’s no more heroine left! That ghost got her as well!”Bookmark here

Eh…? That means… we failed?Bookmark here

No way…Bookmark here

“Terushima… why don’t you become my heroine instead?”Bookmark here

My eyes widened. My sight was blinded by the sudden intense ray of sunlight so I didn’t see what kind of face he was making when he said that. Still, I could hear sincerity from his voice.Bookmark here

He’s definitely talking about clearing the game, but I still felt my heart skipping a beat.Bookmark here

I smiled to myself. I stretched out my other hand and put it on top of his. I want to calm his trembling hands. It was for a while but he wasn’t shaking anymore.Bookmark here

“You’re a likeable character, aren’t you, MIkejima-kun?” I said, feeling slightly relieved. His hands aren’t shaking anymore but the tears from him continuously hitting my skin started to get annoying. He was also letting out small sobs.Bookmark here

“Geez! Stop crying already! As long as we could clear the game, I’ll be Mikejima-kun’s heroine! There!”Bookmark here

“That’s not… whatever!”Bookmark here

Ding!Bookmark here

“Congratulations for clearing the game!” The ghost floated beside me. Bookmark here

“Eh?” Mikejima-kun and I reacted in unison.Bookmark here

Before that, can someone pull me on the safer place now?! I don’t really like dangling in the air like this!Bookmark here

“Oh… I see. It’s a secret route!” Mikejima-kun said.Bookmark here

“Right! Right!” the ghost agreed.Bookmark here

Cut it out! I don’t understand what you’re talking about!Bookmark here

“Enough of your otaku talks! Pull me up already! I feel like my heart will drop any second from now!”Bookmark here

“Oh… okay– SHIT!”Bookmark here

“WHAT THE––KYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”Bookmark here

Before we know it, the two of us are falling in the air already.Bookmark here

“Terushima, you’re heavy!”Bookmark here

“Rude! How could you say that to me after saying that cheesy line earlier?!”Bookmark here

“Pffthahahaha! The two of you are getting along very well, aren’t you?”Bookmark here

“You damn ghost! This is your fault!”Bookmark here

“My bad. Also, I have a name, it’s Ono.”Bookmark here

“Who cares about that?! We’re falling!”Bookmark here

“Tch. I don’t get why you became a heroine with your lack of femininity. Whatever, thank you for clearing the game anyway,” he passively said.Bookmark here

With a snap of his fingers, a bright light enveloped us while we are falling.Bookmark here

“Thank you, you two. Also, sorry for almost killing you. I went too far, my bad!~”Bookmark here

This ghost! You’re lucky that you’re a ghost! I’ll strangle you back in your next life!Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

The light soon dissipated, Ono-san was nowhere to be seen. He definitely passed on already.Bookmark here

We found ourselves standing in the Audio Visual Room, hand in hand at that. Bookmark here

The two of us stared at each other, laughed in unison, before collapsing on the floor. Bookmark here

“Haha, I’m tired…” Mikejima-kun said.Bookmark here

“That was scary…” I added.Bookmark here

“It’s finally done…”Bookmark here

“Yeah, Mikejima-kun’s crying face looks horrible. You’re actually a crybaby, aren’t you?”Bookmark here

“Same to you! You’re not the one to talk when you look awful when crying as well!”Bookmark here

We continued bantering until the feeling of exhaustion hits us. Bookmark here

I stared at the ceiling, this is definitely our reality, right?Bookmark here

I still remember the door of AVR flying open before I passed out from exhaustion. Looks like Mikejima-kun is also the same. I remember hearing everyone’s voice but since I’m slowly losing my consciousness, I didn’t understand most of what they said.Bookmark here

At least I’m relieved that we’re back on reality now. Bookmark here

But…Bookmark here

My masterpiece!! My pride and joy!! Uuuu… it was left inside that illusion!Bookmark here

Bookmark here

Workaholic
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