Chapter 19:

Femme Fatale

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!”Bookmark here

Women are horrible… Bookmark here

Adorned with their seducing smiles, pursed lips, alluring eyes, pretty faces, they can deceive everyone. Bookmark here

With a few tears, they could gain sympathy effortlessly. Bookmark here

They can make people dance on the top of their palms.Bookmark here

And men… are naturally oblivious of that malice.Bookmark here

_Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

My mother died in giving birth to me, and that was the reason why I was also detached from my father and brother. Bookmark here

They didn’t say it in front of me, but I know…Bookmark here

I was hated.Bookmark here

From childhood, I never actually know what it feels to be raised in a loving family. Bookmark here

And every time I get to see other kids being fetched by their parents in the kindergarten, I could just glance in jealousy.Bookmark here

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?Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

If I tripped, he would either ignore me or make fun of me. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

No matter how much I study hard, academics isn’t really my strong feat. I’d rather do sports.Bookmark here

But even if I win a gold medal on the sports festival, no one will congratulate me. Bookmark here

Even the kids with silver and bronze look more happier than me, their parents are proud of them.Bookmark here

It’s only me that is alone on the top of the podium. Bookmark here

It’s pointless, isn’t it?Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

_Bookmark here

One day, it all happened. Father brought a woman in the house.Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

She wears layers if make up on her face, her lips was color similar to blood. Bookmark here

And her smile… feels dangerous.Bookmark here

“This is Azusa, from today on, she will be your mother. Treat her well.”Bookmark here

Brother also feels like something is wrong, but he just went along with it and introduced himself.Bookmark here

“What are you doing, Tsukasa?! Greet her!”Bookmark here

I flinched when Father suddenly raised his voice. I lower my head and introduced myself.Bookmark here

“I-I’m Tsukasa…”Bookmark here

“THIS BRAT! YOU CAN’T EVEN GREET PROPERLY!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Dear~ You shouldn’t raise your voice to a child,” the lady seductively said as she clings on Father’s arms. Bookmark here

“A-ah… you’re right.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Is she going to hit me instead?Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Tsukasa-kun, is it? What a cute name! Let’s get along from now on!” Bookmark here

She was speaking to me kindly, in a way that I never heard my father and brother spoke to me before. Bookmark here

It was… the small hope that I held tightly.Bookmark here

_Bookmark here

Azusa-san treated me kindly. She would talk to me, make snacks, fetch me from school and even congratulate me when I got awards.Bookmark here

I could see the image of a caring mother that I longed for in her.Bookmark here

Of course, while she was staying in the house, she was dressed modestly. It fits her nicely.Bookmark here

Soon, the atmosphere in the house seemed lighter. Everyone gets along well and I got treated better by my father and brother.Bookmark here

Father would praise me for being good in sports, saying that I could become a policeman like him someday.Bookmark here

Brother would play with me once in a while, and even helped me with my homework if it was difficult for me to understand.Bookmark here

It was bliss.Bookmark here

I was thankful that Azusa-san came to our home. Bookmark here

I wholeheartedly trusted her.Bookmark here

And, it wasn’t surprising that Azusa-san married Father. Bookmark here

Their wedding was amazing. As they stood in the altar, it really seems like they love each other. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

It was still happy wedding, Azusa-san finally became my mother officially. Bookmark here

Is it fine to call her ‘Mother’ now?Bookmark here

But… for some reasons, I can’t call her that. Bookmark here

No matter how hard I tried, it was a lost cause, as if something is telling me that I shouldn’t.Bookmark here

Just when I thought that it was already a happy ending… everything started falling apart in that one night.Bookmark here

_Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Feeling thirsty, I went to the kitchen to drink water. Bookmark here

“Hmm? Brother’s door is slightly open… did he forgot to close it?”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Thinking that it might be a burglar, I frantically ran to check on my brother. Bookmark here

“Brother…?”Bookmark here

But… Bookmark here

What I saw there was…Bookmark here

Something that scarred my young mind at that time.Bookmark here

The sound of moans from the two seems inaudible to me. My mind can’t process what I just saw.Bookmark here

Azusa-san was on top of my brother and for a moment, she turned to look over my direction.Bookmark here

Our eyes met as she smiled seductively.Bookmark here

I couldn’t remember what happened after that, the next thing I know was I rushed towards the toilet and started throwing up.Bookmark here

Disgusting… Bookmark here

It was disgusting…Bookmark here

I feel like my stomach turned upside down as I found myself vomiting more just thinking about it.Bookmark here

It was filthy…Bookmark here

And yet, I found myself crying in the toilet. Bookmark here

Someone, please tell me it wasn’t real…Bookmark here

_Bookmark here

From that day on, I became wary around Azusa-san. Bookmark here

As I watched her act like a loving wife in the morning, I could clearly remember what I witnessed that night. Bookmark here

And I would find myself throwing up again and again. Bookmark here

Brother and Father also noticed my strange behavior but Azusa-san somehow make excuses for me.Bookmark here

“Dear, Tsukasa-kun seems like he’s not feeling well. I’ll take him to his room and have him rest.”Bookmark here

It was funny how she seemed gentle that I could just laugh at it inside my mind. Bookmark here

“Now, Tsukasa-kun, let’s go to your room.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

It was painful and suffocating.Bookmark here

“D-don’t touch me!!”Bookmark here

I found myself trembling in fear in that single touch. I hate it.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

She leaned closer and whispered to my ears.Bookmark here

“Tsukasa-kun, you saw it, right? Do you also want to be loved by okaa-san?~”Bookmark here

“STAY AWAY FROM ME!!”Bookmark here

I pushed her with everything I got but it hardly made any difference, I was weak.Bookmark here

I fell to my knees, I felt nauseous and I started gasping for air. It hurts… I hate it.Bookmark here

I couldn’t stand it. Being close to that woman was scary. Bookmark here

_Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

I couldn’t tell my father about what’s happening because I don’t want to take that false happiness from him.Bookmark here

It might be a fake dream, but it was still a dream. Bookmark here

As a form of escape, I always go out during the night. I spent my time and money on a game center nearby. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

However, something soft rubbed on my legs. I looked down only to find a calico cat trying to get my attention.Bookmark here

“Young man, our resident cat took a liking to you. Here, a free token for the gacha machine at the back.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

The calico leads the way, a gacha machine stood in solitude at the end of the hallway. Bookmark here

“Should I use this token?” I asked to myself.Bookmark here

“Nya!”Bookmark here

As if answering my question, the cat purred.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Strange…Bookmark here

_Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

I entered my room and quickly launch myself to the bed. I was tired.Bookmark here

However, while I sunk deeper on my bed, a sudden sound of my door locking up brought me back to my senses.Bookmark here

There was someone inside the room.Bookmark here

I quickly get up but was slammed to the bed again when someone knocked me back. Bookmark here

The mere sight of the woman on top of me was making me sick. I want to throw up.Bookmark here

“Tsukasa-kun~ you’re growing up to be more and more handsome right now.”Bookmark here

“L-let me go…”Bookmark here

“Say, do you want to feel loved? Okaa-san will give you love~”Bookmark here

I struggled with everything I got. She was holding me in both arms and pinning me to the bed. Bookmark here

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! Bookmark here

Is everything just a false fantasy that I somehow mistook as reality? Bookmark here

Of course… I was just a child. I was easily fooled.Bookmark here

I started crying, sounds of my muffled sobs echoed throughout the room.Bookmark here

I don’t want this…Bookmark here

“Why are you crying? You should be thankful to me instead,” she said, a menacing smile formed on her lips. Bookmark here

“I… I hate you…”Bookmark here

She lets go one of my hands and slapped me. The pain was unbearable considering that it was from that woman. Bookmark here

“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!”Bookmark here

“Stop… p-please…”Bookmark here

When did it go wrong? Just when?!Bookmark here

It was… from the very start.Bookmark here

I realized that there was something odd from the very start… and yet, I pretended not to see.Bookmark here

It was foolish of me.Bookmark here

“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~”Bookmark here

“NOOOOO! LET ME GO! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!!”Bookmark here

“I really like cute kids like you~”Bookmark here

Is love supposed to be this painful? I don’t want it… I was foolish to desire it. I’d rather be hated.Bookmark here

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…Bookmark here

I found myself in a shrine, I was holding the gold bell in my hand.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

It was filthy…Bookmark here

I felt that I became dirty…Bookmark here

I was confused…Bookmark here

“Oi! Oi! How dare you disrespect my shrine like that?!”Bookmark here

A voice echoed. As I turned around, I was greeted by an entity who introduced themselves as god. Bookmark here

The god smiled, “Now, what kind of wish are you going to make, youngster? Money? Fame? Power? Love?”Bookmark here

At the mention of that word, I flinched.Bookmark here

I don’t want to hear it!Bookmark here

“Oh? Why are you looking pale? Oh right… you must be confused because this is the first time you met a god–“Bookmark here

“That’s not it…”Bookmark here

“Hmm?”Bookmark here

“You’re a god… right?”Bookmark here

“Yeah. And I could grant your wish.”Bookmark here

I stared at the god. “I want to die.”Bookmark here

“You–!”Bookmark here

“What kind of god are you if you can’t do it?”Bookmark here

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.”Bookmark here

“Can you do it or not?!”Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

What they said just made me snap.Bookmark here

“Why would I want to see a woman that I never met in my life?! Just get on with it!”Bookmark here

The god fell silent, they gave me a worried look. Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“That…”Bookmark here

“I could grant you anything else,” the god said.Bookmark here

I clenched my fist tightly, furrowed my brows, and gathered myself together. Bookmark here

“Then, I wish…”Bookmark here

From that point on, I was bounded to a contract. However, I don’t feel any regret with the wish that I made.Bookmark here

It was reasonable. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

After all…Bookmark here

My wish is as horrible as well.Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

I was woken up from my sleep by a slight shaking that I felt.Bookmark here

“You’re awake, Mikejima-senpai.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Oh, that’s right… I was investigating with Terushima and all sorts of strange things happen.Bookmark here

Wait, how about Terushima?Bookmark here

“If you’re wondering about Terushima-senpai, the third years are taking care of her.”Bookmark here

“I-I see…”Bookmark here

I glanced forward, it was true. Tsuki-senpai is carrying the sleeping Terushima in his arms.Bookmark here

“More than that, are you okay? You’re holding Terushima-senpai’s hand when we found the two of you,” Asahi worriedly asked.Bookmark here

“Un…”Bookmark here

“Are you sure? If you can’t handle it, we could ask Terushima-senpai to keep her distance, she will definitely understand.”Bookmark here

“No need.”Bookmark here

“Hmm? Did something happened between the two of you?”Bookmark here

“W-what the heck?! Don’t put it that way!”Bookmark here

“Why are you so flustered? Anyway, you didn’t tell her about the wish that you made, did you?”Bookmark here

For a moment, our talk became suddenly serious.Bookmark here

“No. I didn’t. Not everyone will forgive me if they found out what I wished for. You guys are also the same, right?”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“I see, Mikejima-senpai also noticed, huh.”Bookmark here

To be honest, I don’t want to concern myself with any woman anymore. But… I think Terushima is an exception.Bookmark here

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!Bookmark here

“Anyway, Mikejima-senpai, did you ask that evil spirit about the mission from god?”Bookmark here

“No. I didn’t. The spirit just recently died.”Bookmark here

“Hmm?”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“Yeah.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Say, Mikejima-senpai, are you uncomfortable?”Bookmark here

“Hmm? What for?”Bookmark here

“I am though. I can’t believe that I’m giving a piggyback ride to a guy. What a bummer.”Bookmark here

I felt a vein popped on my forehead. Bookmark here

“This brat! Quit your whining!”Bookmark here

“Don’t get violent with me now. If you have enough energy to hit me, why don’t you walk already?”Bookmark here

“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!”Bookmark here

“I didn’t say that I want to carry a girl, but carrying a guy like this was a little overboard.”Bookmark here

“You–!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

However… it’s just fine. Bookmark here

We may fight at times but everyone still gets along well.Bookmark here

“You have such good friends, Mikejima-kun.”Bookmark here

Un… I think I have.Bookmark here

“Uhm… Asahi… etto… actually…”Bookmark here

“Are you going to say ‘thanks’?”Bookmark here

I feel my face flushed all of a sudden. Bookmark here

“I-it’s not that! Idiot!”Bookmark here

“Heh.”Bookmark here

“What are you laughing at?!” I blurted out and whispered the following. “B-but… thank you, Asahi.”Bookmark here

“You’re welcome,” he simply said.Bookmark here

“Also… about that other day… it was my bad, I’m sorry.” I apologized.Bookmark here

“You’re not supposed to say that to me, don’t you think so?”Bookmark here

“T-that’s! I already apologized!”Bookmark here

“I know, now repeat that with more feelings in front of the idiot.”Bookmark here

“U-urk! I don’t want to say it twice!”Bookmark here

Instead of saying anything, he just lets out a laugh as if making fun of me. He’s clearly doing this on purpose!Bookmark here

Still, I just found myself sighing in defeat. Bookmark here

It was times like this that made me thank that god that they didn’t accept my first wish. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

I may not be able to say it in front of them, but I’m thankful that I met everyone.Bookmark here

If only it could stay like this.Bookmark here

I stared above. The night sky is still cloudy. As if telling us that there’s a storm that has yet to come. Bookmark here

Hades
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kazesenken
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-june-
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Pearlyn.M
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Bookmarked
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