Cat's Hour ~猫の時間~
“You’re an unwanted child! No one will love you! I was the only one who can put up with you! You should be grateful!”
Women are horrible…
Adorned with their seducing smiles, pursed lips, alluring eyes, pretty faces, they can deceive everyone.
With a few tears, they could gain sympathy effortlessly.
They can make people dance on the top of their palms.
And men… are naturally oblivious of that malice.
I was raised in a single-parent household. My father is a policeman, a man with strong sense of justice. I also have a brother, 10 years older than me.
My mother died in giving birth to me, and that was the reason why I was also detached from my father and brother.
They didn’t say it in front of me, but I know…
I was hated.
From childhood, I never actually know what it feels to be raised in a loving family.
And every time I get to see other kids being fetched by their parents in the kindergarten, I could just glance in jealousy.
I remember my brother fetching me instead. Every time he would come, he always has this look of irritation. Of course, dealing with a kid that you don’t like is a pain, right?
He would always walk faster than me, as if intentionally doing it so I won’t catch up. And I was hopelessly running after him.
If I tripped, he would either ignore me or make fun of me.
My father never actually looked on my way. The only time he would look at me is when I failed academically, and he would compare me to my brother then, as if rubbing it in my face.
No matter how much I study hard, academics isn’t really my strong feat. I’d rather do sports.
But even if I win a gold medal on the sports festival, no one will congratulate me.
Even the kids with silver and bronze look more happier than me, their parents are proud of them.
It’s only me that is alone on the top of the podium.
It’s pointless, isn’t it?
Still, I don’t have the right to whine, do I? Getting ignored was definitely better than being mistreated. I just have to get used to it.
One day, it all happened. Father brought a woman in the house.
She was a daring lady, her way of dressing is strikingly catchy. She wears vulgar clothes, a short tight dress as if it was her skin itself, and her cleavage was almost popping out of it.
She wears layers if make up on her face, her lips was color similar to blood.
And her smile… feels dangerous.
“This is Azusa, from today on, she will be your mother. Treat her well.”
Brother also feels like something is wrong, but he just went along with it and introduced himself.
“What are you doing, Tsukasa?! Greet her!”
I flinched when Father suddenly raised his voice. I lower my head and introduced myself.
“THIS BRAT! YOU CAN’T EVEN GREET PROPERLY!”
I closed my eyes tightly. This is the first time that I heard Father this angry. Sure, he’s not hitting me, but with his voice full of rage right now, I’m not surprised if he will hit me.
“Dear~ You shouldn’t raise your voice to a child,” the lady seductively said as she clings on Father’s arms.
“A-ah… you’re right.”
The lady stood in front of me. My head was still lowered from earlier so I don’t know what kind of face she’s making right now.
Is she going to hit me instead?
In my surprise, she touched my head and gave me a pat. I was caught off guard that I flinched but as soon as I lift my gaze up to her, she was smiling brightly.
“Tsukasa-kun, is it? What a cute name! Let’s get along from now on!”
She was speaking to me kindly, in a way that I never heard my father and brother spoke to me before.
It was… the small hope that I held tightly.
Azusa-san treated me kindly. She would talk to me, make snacks, fetch me from school and even congratulate me when I got awards.
I could see the image of a caring mother that I longed for in her.
Of course, while she was staying in the house, she was dressed modestly. It fits her nicely.
Soon, the atmosphere in the house seemed lighter. Everyone gets along well and I got treated better by my father and brother.
Father would praise me for being good in sports, saying that I could become a policeman like him someday.
Brother would play with me once in a while, and even helped me with my homework if it was difficult for me to understand.
It was bliss.
I was thankful that Azusa-san came to our home.
I wholeheartedly trusted her.
And, it wasn’t surprising that Azusa-san married Father.
Their wedding was amazing. As they stood in the altar, it really seems like they love each other.
Father’s friends from the service attended the wedding, they looked so happy for him. And yet… I didn’t think anyone there was Azusa-san’s friend. Not even her family came.
It was still happy wedding, Azusa-san finally became my mother officially.
Is it fine to call her ‘Mother’ now?
But… for some reasons, I can’t call her that.
No matter how hard I tried, it was a lost cause, as if something is telling me that I shouldn’t.
Just when I thought that it was already a happy ending… everything started falling apart in that one night.
It was the middle of the night. Father was out for work in night shift patrol. There are only the three of us in the house.
I suddenly awoke from my sleep during the midnight. For some reasons, no matter how much I tried to go back to sleep, I just can’t.
Feeling thirsty, I went to the kitchen to drink water.
“Hmm? Brother’s door is slightly open… did he forgot to close it?”
Before I could go to the kitchen, I have to passed by Brother’s room. As I got closer to it, I started hearing thumping sounds from the room.
Thinking that it might be a burglar, I frantically ran to check on my brother.
What I saw there was…
Something that scarred my young mind at that time.
The sound of moans from the two seems inaudible to me. My mind can’t process what I just saw.
Azusa-san was on top of my brother and for a moment, she turned to look over my direction.
Our eyes met as she smiled seductively.
I couldn’t remember what happened after that, the next thing I know was I rushed towards the toilet and started throwing up.
It was disgusting…
I feel like my stomach turned upside down as I found myself vomiting more just thinking about it.
It was filthy…
And yet, I found myself crying in the toilet.
Someone, please tell me it wasn’t real…
From that day on, I became wary around Azusa-san.
As I watched her act like a loving wife in the morning, I could clearly remember what I witnessed that night.
And I would find myself throwing up again and again.
Brother and Father also noticed my strange behavior but Azusa-san somehow make excuses for me.
“Dear, Tsukasa-kun seems like he’s not feeling well. I’ll take him to his room and have him rest.”
It was funny how she seemed gentle that I could just laugh at it inside my mind.
“Now, Tsukasa-kun, let’s go to your room.”
As she touched me, it wasn’t the same gentle touch like how we first met. Right now, a touch from her feels like thorns wrapping around me and piercing me until I bleed.
It was painful and suffocating.
“D-don’t touch me!!”
I found myself trembling in fear in that single touch. I hate it.
And in the midst of it, she wrapped her arms around me as if giving me a hug. I could feel my heart clenching painfully as I started having a hard time to breathe.
She leaned closer and whispered to my ears.
“Tsukasa-kun, you saw it, right? Do you also want to be loved by okaa-san?~”
“STAY AWAY FROM ME!!”
I pushed her with everything I got but it hardly made any difference, I was weak.
I fell to my knees, I felt nauseous and I started gasping for air. It hurts… I hate it.
I couldn’t stand it. Being close to that woman was scary.
Everything continued until I was 10 years old. Every time Father was out for work during the night, I could hear the moans coming from outside. I could just lock myself in my room and cover my ears.
I couldn’t tell my father about what’s happening because I don’t want to take that false happiness from him.
It might be a fake dream, but it was still a dream.
As a form of escape, I always go out during the night. I spent my time and money on a game center nearby.
I was uncomfortable with the female receptionist but I still spent my night playing video games in that place. The sounds of buttons being pressed and background music of games was more comfortable compared to what I could hear at home.
There are also crane games there, and I got all sorts of things there. Even the handheld consoles and game cartridge that cost a lot if I’ll buy it on stores or mall.
One night, I went there again. There was no other people besides the receptionist, it was scary to be left alone with a woman so I planned to retreat.
However, something soft rubbed on my legs. I looked down only to find a calico cat trying to get my attention.
“Young man, our resident cat took a liking to you. Here, a free token for the gacha machine at the back.”
The receptionist gave me a token. I don’t plan to go inside but she doesn’t seem like she will do anything, if worse comes to worst, I’ll just run away. At least, I have confidence in my stamina.
The calico leads the way, a gacha machine stood in solitude at the end of the hallway.
“Should I use this token?” I asked to myself.
As if answering my question, the cat purred.
I put in the token and turn the knob, a red capsule went out. I opened it, there was a golden bell and a strip of paper inside.
“The moment that the King of Hearts is losing heart, make a wish in this bell and it will come true…?” I read what’s written on the paper. “Wishes? As if something like that is real.”
However, after that, I confirmed that there was actually no gacha machine in the game center. No matter how much I asked the receptionist, they kept saying that there’s no such thing in the place.
As soon as I return to the house, it was still dark outside. I couldn’t hear the noise, they are probably done around that time.
I entered my room and quickly launch myself to the bed. I was tired.
However, while I sunk deeper on my bed, a sudden sound of my door locking up brought me back to my senses.
There was someone inside the room.
I quickly get up but was slammed to the bed again when someone knocked me back.
The mere sight of the woman on top of me was making me sick. I want to throw up.
“Tsukasa-kun~ you’re growing up to be more and more handsome right now.”
“L-let me go…”
“Say, do you want to feel loved? Okaa-san will give you love~”
I struggled with everything I got. She was holding me in both arms and pinning me to the bed.
Is this really the same Azusa-san that I trusted? She was the first person that I opened up to! She was the only person kind to me!
Is everything just a false fantasy that I somehow mistook as reality?
Of course… I was just a child. I was easily fooled.
I started crying, sounds of my muffled sobs echoed throughout the room.
I don’t want this…
“Why are you crying? You should be thankful to me instead,” she said, a menacing smile formed on her lips.
“I… I hate you…”
She lets go one of my hands and slapped me. The pain was unbearable considering that it was from that woman.
“You’re an unwanted child! No one will love you! I was the only one who can put up with you! You should be grateful!”
When did it go wrong? Just when?!
It was… from the very start.
I realized that there was something odd from the very start… and yet, I pretended not to see.
It was foolish of me.
“Come on~ Don’t look at me like that~ Your father and brother liked it when I was on top of them. You’re the same, aren’t you? You just want to be loved~”
“NOOOOO! LET ME GO! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!!”
“I really like cute kids like you~”
Is love supposed to be this painful? I don’t want it… I was foolish to desire it. I’d rather be hated.
Before she could lay her hands on me, I was overwhelmed with hatred. From the bottom of my shattered heart, I made a wish and…
I found myself in a shrine, I was holding the gold bell in my hand.
I don’t know how I got there, how I escaped that woman, but from the moment that I started to became aware of my surroundings, I fell on my knees and started throwing up in the pavement.
It was filthy…
I felt that I became dirty…
I was confused…
“Oi! Oi! How dare you disrespect my shrine like that?!”
A voice echoed. As I turned around, I was greeted by an entity who introduced themselves as god.
The god smiled, “Now, what kind of wish are you going to make, youngster? Money? Fame? Power? Love?”
At the mention of that word, I flinched.
I don’t want to hear it!
“Oh? Why are you looking pale? Oh right… you must be confused because this is the first time you met a god–“
“That’s not it…”
“You’re a god… right?”
“Yeah. And I could grant your wish.”
I stared at the god. “I want to die.”
“What kind of god are you if you can’t do it?”
They took a deep sigh. “Haaah, Kana got another problem child again. Listen here, brat. You’re still young, there’s plenty of good things out there. Don’t make such a reckless wish.”
“Can you do it or not?!”
“Argh! This brat! I could kill you right here and now if I want but it was still too early for you! I know! Do you want to have your mother back?”
What they said just made me snap.
“Why would I want to see a woman that I never met in my life?! Just get on with it!”
The god fell silent, they gave me a worried look.
“Are you really fine throwing your life like this? You know, there was someone who wished earlier than you, that particular person desperately wished to live. Compared to that person, your wish amount to nothing.”
“I could grant you anything else,” the god said.
I clenched my fist tightly, furrowed my brows, and gathered myself together.
“Then, I wish…”
From that point on, I was bounded to a contract. However, I don’t feel any regret with the wish that I made.
It was reasonable.
I have nothing to lose anymore, even if the god take my life away if we failed the mission, I was prepared for as much.
My wish is as horrible as well.
I was woken up from my sleep by a slight shaking that I felt.
“You’re awake, Mikejima-senpai.”
The voice that I recognized as Asahi spoke. However, the strange way he addressed me right now was not the usual Asahi that I interacted the most.
When I regained my consciousness, Asahi was carrying me on his back. Despite our height difference, he managed to give me a piggyback ride. The others are also walking ahead of us.
Oh, that’s right… I was investigating with Terushima and all sorts of strange things happen.
Wait, how about Terushima?
“If you’re wondering about Terushima-senpai, the third years are taking care of her.”
I glanced forward, it was true. Tsuki-senpai is carrying the sleeping Terushima in his arms.
“More than that, are you okay? You’re holding Terushima-senpai’s hand when we found the two of you,” Asahi worriedly asked.
“Are you sure? If you can’t handle it, we could ask Terushima-senpai to keep her distance, she will definitely understand.”
“Hmm? Did something happened between the two of you?”
“W-what the heck?! Don’t put it that way!”
“Why are you so flustered? Anyway, you didn’t tell her about the wish that you made, did you?”
For a moment, our talk became suddenly serious.
“No. I didn’t. Not everyone will forgive me if they found out what I wished for. You guys are also the same, right?”
“Yeah. It’s not as grave as yours but it’s still something that we should keep to ourselves,” Asahi said. “Still, Terushima-senpai was unique. I don’t know what it was though.”
“Isn’t it that she’s just naïve that she could easily trust anyone? Now that you mention it… maybe she also has her share of worries. I think she seemed lonely.”
“I see, Mikejima-senpai also noticed, huh.”
To be honest, I don’t want to concern myself with any woman anymore. But… I think Terushima is an exception.
It’s not like I like her or anything! I still couldn’t trust her! But, I have to admit that she was a little interesting. That’s all!
“Anyway, Mikejima-senpai, did you ask that evil spirit about the mission from god?”
“No. I didn’t. The spirit just recently died.”
“He’s wearing our present school uniform, and he trapped us in the illusion of a game that got released five years ago. It was unlikely that he knows something.”
“Oh, that’s right. It was the senpai that died a year before we met in middle school. It was bullying if I’m right.”
It was a common pattern among the cases that we’re investigating. Just looking at those cases said it all, no matter what year it was, a school always have dark secrets that wasn’t supposed to be discovered.
“Say, Mikejima-senpai, are you uncomfortable?”
“Hmm? What for?”
“I am though. I can’t believe that I’m giving a piggyback ride to a guy. What a bummer.”
I felt a vein popped on my forehead.
“This brat! Quit your whining!”
“Don’t get violent with me now. If you have enough energy to hit me, why don’t you walk already?”
“How about you? I thought you’re the rational Asahi right now, why are you acting like a playboy as if you’d rather carry a girl instead!”
“I didn’t say that I want to carry a girl, but carrying a guy like this was a little overboard.”
It was normal for me and Asahi to not get along well. The energetic one was a pain in the ass, I could handle the rational one normally. But still, they are the same person and there are times when he really pisses me off.
However… it’s just fine.
We may fight at times but everyone still gets along well.
“You have such good friends, Mikejima-kun.”
Un… I think I have.
“Uhm… Asahi… etto… actually…”
“Are you going to say ‘thanks’?”
I feel my face flushed all of a sudden.
“I-it’s not that! Idiot!”
“What are you laughing at?!” I blurted out and whispered the following. “B-but… thank you, Asahi.”
“You’re welcome,” he simply said.
“Also… about that other day… it was my bad, I’m sorry.” I apologized.
“You’re not supposed to say that to me, don’t you think so?”
“T-that’s! I already apologized!”
“I know, now repeat that with more feelings in front of the idiot.”
“U-urk! I don’t want to say it twice!”
Instead of saying anything, he just lets out a laugh as if making fun of me. He’s clearly doing this on purpose!
Still, I just found myself sighing in defeat.
It was times like this that made me thank that god that they didn’t accept my first wish.
If it wasn’t for that, I would have never met everyone. I would have never make friends. Kaichou, Tsuki-senpai, Asahi, Aoi, and also Terushima.
I may not be able to say it in front of them, but I’m thankful that I met everyone.
If only it could stay like this.
I stared above. The night sky is still cloudy. As if telling us that there’s a storm that has yet to come.