Chapter 21:

Uneasiness

Cat's Hour ~猫の時間~


Plop.Bookmark here

“Nyaa!”Bookmark here

After looking up on the roof for what seemed like eternity– I mean, few minutes, the calico cat finally came down and landed to my face purposely as if pissing me off.Bookmark here

However, more than irritated, I’m on bliss right now~Bookmark here

Sanji finally opened up to me! He’s not minding when I touch him anymore. Though, he was doing mischievous tricks like this, at least he’s not charging towards me and trying bite or scratch me.Bookmark here

“Geh. What the heck are you doing?” I heard a disgusted voice from nearby.Bookmark here

I gently take off Sanji on my face and look at the source of the voice. There was Mikejima-kun and Toujo-kun walking together.Bookmark here

Well, it was obvious that the insult just came from Mikejima-kun as he is also looking at me in disgust.Bookmark here

“Look! Sanji is getting along with me now!” Bookmark here

As if ignoring what he just said, I bragged about the cat while I shove Sanji to his face.Bookmark here

“S-step back, you’re too close…”Bookmark here

“Oops, sorry.”Bookmark here

I put down Sanji and he quickly ran over towards Mikejima-kun’s side.Bookmark here

“By the way, Mikejima-kun…” I said. “You wanna go?”Bookmark here

I gave him a sharp glance as if challenging him into a fight.Bookmark here

“Ooh~ are you two fighting?” Toujo-kun butted in.Bookmark here

“I-it’s not like that, Asahi! She’s talking about the class dance!” Mikejima-kun retorted.Bookmark here

“Class dance…? Oh! You’re on the same class! If I remember correctly, your class will be dancing by partners, right?” Bookmark here

“That’s right! Since Mikejima-kun started attending classes regularly and he’s also helping with promoting the event, he was recognized by the class now. Our class rep suggested that the two of us should partner for the dance since we’re both from student council. However…”Bookmark here

“I can’t do it…” Mikejima-kun mumbled and looked away.Bookmark here

We’ve been trying to practice our dance for the few days already. And it’s not going well… Bookmark here

Mikejima-kun is showing his fear once in a while so I have no choice but to step back. In the end, we just settled with shadow dancing for practice but it’s still different from having a partner dance with you personally.Bookmark here

I smiled at him. “Don’t let it bother you, we could quit if you really can’t take it. We could just reason out the we’re busy with facilitating the event!”Bookmark here

It’s been a few days since we finished the AVR case. But even then, Mikejima-kun still looks uncomfortable around me, which is understandable.Bookmark here

He’s not hostile around me anymore so it was still a progress. I was fine getting closer to him but not to the point of being a touchy feely. Bookmark here

Different from that is this clingy Toujo-kun latching onto him. Well, he doesn’t mind it because it’s not a girl, but he looks slightly irritated by now.Bookmark here

“Heh. Since when did you two made up?” I asked, with pointing finger on my chin and giving them a playful smile.Bookmark here

The last time I remember, these two are awkward around each other because of the ordeal in the Mirage Garden. Bookmark here

Looking at them now, they seem to be getting along well. Bookmark here

“Listen here, senpai-chan! You see, Tsukasa-senpai—”Bookmark here

“Damn it, Asahi! You don’t have to tell her that!”Bookmark here

“Heehh~” Toujo-kun and I gave him a smug look in unison.Bookmark here

“S-stop it! Don’t make fun of me! I won’t apologize to you again, Asahi!” With his cheeks flushing red, he retorted to us with a flustered expression.Bookmark here

“Heeh~ So you apologized to Toujo-kun?”Bookmark here

“That’s right, senpai-chan! It was a great apology and all!” Toujo-kun proudly declared.Bookmark here

“You bastard! Quit it!” He gritted his teeth at Toujo-kun but the later just looked away while whistling.Bookmark here

Looking at them, I let out a small chuckle. Bookmark here

It’s good that they are getting along now. Everyone seems to be on good terms with each other.Bookmark here

“A-ano… Terushima…”Bookmark here

“Hmm?”Bookmark here

Mikejima-kun scratched his head, a subtle hint of pink tinted his cheeks while he has an anxious look on his face.Bookmark here

“I… I just want to say thanks… if you have something that you like, I’ll try to give it–“Bookmark here

“Then, let me touch the cat ears!” I exclaimed.Bookmark here

“Except physical touch.” He deadpanned at me.Bookmark here

I pouted in disappointment that he won’t let me touch his cat ears but… it’s fine.Bookmark here

The corners of my lips curved into a smile. “It’s okay. Just continue getting along with everyone, not get into fights, and learn to trust others, that’s enough for me.”Bookmark here

“A-re? Tsukasa-senpai, are you crying?” As if not reading the mood, Toujo-kun butted in shamelessly.Bookmark here

“You brat! You haven’t learned your lesson!” Mikejima-kun snapped and grabbed Toujo-kun’s necktie.Bookmark here

“Ahaha, let me go. I’m just teasing you.”Bookmark here

With a sigh, he lets go of him. Bookmark here

They might be like this but at least they’re not that tense compared to before. Might be how friends fool around with each other.Bookmark here

After that, other people also arrived. Bookmark here

“I’m glad that everyone gets along well now, especially the second years,” Kurokawa-senpai said with a smile. Along with him is Haibara-kun carrying a tray of breads.Bookmark here

“Everyone, please have some.” Haibara-kun offered the breads to us.Bookmark here

There were all sorts of bread there. The smell is also good as if it was freshly baked. Bookmark here

“Uwaaah! What is this? There are different breads!” Toujo-kun delightfully stared at it.Bookmark here

Now that he mention it, there really are. Melon pan, curry pan, donuts, croissant, and other more. Bookmark here

Isn’t it too much?Bookmark here

“Well, we’re making breads for the bread eating race. We made all kinds to see which one is the best that we could have on the event.” Bookmark here

“I see.” I nodded and glanced at the breads. “Can I have some?”Bookmark here

“Sure! Feel free to take anything you like!”Bookmark here

I grabbed the melon pan and put it in my mouth without hesitation. I could feel its subtle warm as I bit into its crispy crust up to its fluffy inside. Bookmark here

Mmm~ It’s so good!Bookmark here

“H-how is it, Terushima-san?” Kurokawa-senpai asked anxiously.Bookmark here

“It’s perfect! If you’re going to put the melon pan on the bread eating race, I’ll participate!” I said with my eyes sparkling in delight.Bookmark here

“I-I’m glad… Thank you…” he sighed in relief.Bookmark here

Hmm? Did Kurokawa-senpai made the melon pan? I thought it was Haibara-kun that made it, but if it was really him then he’s really amazing!Bookmark here

“Terushima-senpai, Kaichou is the one who made the melon pan! Isn’t he the best?! He’s so cool, right?!” Haibara-kun started to sing praises to Kurokawa-senpai which caused the latter to become flustered.Bookmark here

“Hora, Aoi-kun! I’m still incomparable to you! It’s not that great!”Bookmark here

“Oh! It’s true. This is delicious.”Bookmark here

“Mmm~ this is the best I’ve had so far!”Bookmark here

“Asahi-kun, your opinions doesn’t count, you’ve been saying that whenever you eat something good.” Haibara-kun looks at him in disdain. Bookmark here

“Urgh… so harsh.”Bookmark here

“Well, it’s true that it was the best! Kaichou made it after all! He helped making others as well but he made the melon pan specifically!”Bookmark here

“M-mou!!”Bookmark here

I see, he really made it himself. I have to admit that it was great, it tastes better than what I got at that time when we tour around the school before.Bookmark here

Wait… did he made it because of that?Bookmark here

Hmm…Bookmark here

There’s no way, right? I shouldn’t assume things.Bookmark here

We spent a while there tasting everything. It’s too bad that Mashiro-senpai is not around, I’m sure he was on the library and searching for hints right at this moment.Bookmark here

Kurokawa-senpai hasn’t been going to classes lately because the students are still unable to perceive him. Different from others who are starting to be recognized by everyone, only he… was left behind.Bookmark here

Mashiro-senpai is definitely worried about him that’s why he’s working in secret. I’m sure everyone feels the same.Bookmark here

To be honest, after I saw Kurokawa-senpai cried when everyone in the school can’t see him, I arrived at the conclusion that he doesn’t want to disappear as well. Bookmark here

For his reason why he won’t tell us, it must be something that may bring harm to us.Bookmark here

After all, he was that kind of person…Bookmark here

Eh?Bookmark here

Why…Bookmark here

Why am I speaking as if I know him well?Bookmark here

This… doesn’t make any sense.Bookmark here

I glanced at him. He was innocently talking to the others, with a genuine smile on his face, he was having fun interacting with them.Bookmark here

But…Bookmark here

What is this uneasiness inside my heart…?Bookmark here

It was frustrating.Bookmark here

Hmm?Bookmark here

What was that? Bookmark here

I noticed his left hand covered in bruises, there are some bandages wrapped in his fingers. I guess it could be from when he was cooking and accidentally burned himself. However, that’s not the only thing that caught my attention.Bookmark here

It might be a glimpse but I saw a black patch on his skin. It was mostly covered on his wrist by the long sleeved blazer, which is part of our school uniform.Bookmark here

The others didn’t seem to notice it.Bookmark here

I rubbed my eyes to ascertain myself about what I’m seeing. Bookmark here

When I looked at it again, it disappeared…Bookmark here

Am I just seeing things?Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

I closed the file of a document that I just finished reading. It was the information about Ono-san, the ghost of the AVR room.Bookmark here

Kazuya Ono, a second year student who died 5 years ago. At first, the fact that he was an otaku was not known. However, he would go to the AVR room to play some games, being part of the school’s game club gives him privilege to use it. And then, a girl who hates otaku found what he was doing. His secret was exposed and he was soon ostracized, and then, driven to death. Bookmark here

This is really dark… I can’t continue to read these kind of stuffs.Bookmark here

“It was the harsh reality that happens to most of the evil spirits haunting the school. That grudge keeps them from passing on and somehow made them seek revenge to the living for what they suffered.” Glasses Toujo-kun explained. “Ai Toyama is also similar, right?”Bookmark here

“Yeah…” I mumbled absentmindedly. “Ne, back then, is Irosaki-sensei the principal of Nekoji Academy?”Bookmark here

“No. She was the principal of our middle school before she transferred here when the third years entered the school.”Bookmark here

I see… she was watching them even from their middle school. But how come they didn’t know others made a wish when they are already that close to each other? Bookmark here

“It was a dormitory school. We have different rooms so we don’t interact much with each other. It was Kurokawa-senpai who gathered us together. When I look back on it, it was as if he knows that we all made a wish to that god. It was too good to be a coincidence.” Bookmark here

Toujo-kun faced me, a serious expression is written all over his face. He tapped the frame of his glasses as his expression darkened.Bookmark here

“Indeed, it might come out as suspicious. However, kaichou doesn’t have any malicious intent. He’s definitely hiding something but his emotions that he showed us all this time are genuine.”Bookmark here

Mashiro-senpai, who was reading in the corner of the school archive silently since earlier, finally spoke and joined our conversation.Bookmark here

He didn’t even look at us, he just continued scanning the book that he’s reading.Bookmark here

“That’s true… there is only one liar among the five of us and it’s not Kurokawa-senpai. But we can’t deny the fact that he started being downhearted all of a sudden when the school year starts. It’s somehow bothering.” Toujo-kun stated.Bookmark here

One liar…? Also, Kurokawa-senpai became weak-willed when the school year started?Bookmark here

I don’t know much about what happened since I transferred here two weeks after the start of classes. Bookmark here

But why all of a sudden?Bookmark here

“What kind of person was Kurokawa-senpai before?” I asked without hesitation.Bookmark here

Silence remained in the room as the two looked at me in unison.Bookmark here

C-crap! I spoke my mind again! Bookmark here

“S-sorry, it was a slip of the tongue…”Bookmark here

“No, it’s fine.” Mashiro-senpai sighed.Bookmark here

“I also think that it was about time Terushima-senpai learn about the true nature of the contract.” Toujo-kun also added.Bookmark here

“Eh? Would it be fine?”Bookmark here

“Why not? You already proved yourself useful. It’s not just after talking with Hanako-san, you are also a huge help to Tsukasa, and more than that, to everyone of us in the student council.” Mashiro-senpai gently said as he closed the book that he’s reading.Bookmark here

Toujo-kun and I remained silent as we just stared at him in awe.Bookmark here

“W-what are you looking at?”Bookmark here

“It’s the first time…”Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

“It’s the first time that Mashiro-senpai’s words make sense. Somehow, I feel like I should pray…”Bookmark here

“Agreed. Let’s go to the shrine now.”Bookmark here

“You two… are you mocking me?” He glared at us coldly. Bookmark here

“No, no, don’t misunderstood. It’s a good thing, you know. Mashiro-senpai is also making progress when speaking what he really wants to say,” I said in a matter of fact tone.Bookmark here

“I agree with Terushima-senpai, just take it as a compliment,” Toujo-kun added.Bookmark here

Mashiro-senpai squinted his eyes to us and seriously said, “Why do I feel like your words doesn’t match what you said earlier?”Bookmark here

We looked away from him awkwardly and whistled as if we did nothing wrong.Bookmark here

Well, we’re actually making fun of him at first. We can’t deny that.Bookmark here

“You two are synchronized in useless things.” Mashiro-senpai sighed. “Whatever, let’s tell Terushima-san what she wants to know for now. We don’t have the time to have leisure talks.”Bookmark here

And so, I asked three questions to satisfy my curiosity. They said I could ask more but I settled with three for now because knowing too much might put me on a risky situation soon. Bookmark here

First, I asked the consequences of making a contract with god. Bookmark here

After making a wish, the cat spirits possessed them and they became guardians of the school. It sounded unbelievable but I just accepted it as it is in order to not complicate things. Bookmark here

Also, the people directly related to them and their wish will forget their existence. That means, their family, friends, and other relatives completely forgot about them after they made the wish. When I think about it… it was kind of sad.Bookmark here

However, everyone doesn’t look too much affected by it. It was as if they were better off with the others forgetting them. Bookmark here

Well, if I would also make some kind of wish that was equal to being spirited away and serving a god, it was better if I won’t be remembered by my father. That will surely make him really sad.Bookmark here

When Kurokawa-senpai denied that the recognition loss phenomenon has something to do with the contract, it might be similar, but the school is not directly related to them or their wish so it’s not possible that it was part of the contract.Bookmark here

As expected, it was an outside force.Bookmark here

Second, I asked what kind of person Kurokawa-senpai before I transferred in Nekoji Academy. Bookmark here

Kurokawa-senpai and Mashiro-senpai are classmates from their first year of middle school, and Kurokawa-senpai is the most popular student at that time.Bookmark here

He’s not particularly handsome or a stand out but he has a charm to attract people to him. He’s kind and he understands the problem of every students which made him earn their trust in no time.Bookmark here

When no one dared to approach Mashiro-senpai because everyone thought that he was out of their reach, Kurokawa-senpai is the only one who became his friend. Bookmark here

And on their first year, Kurokawa-senpai became the student council president in no time. Bookmark here

Kurokawa-senpai was once an optimistic person, he’s the kind of person who works hard more than anyone and think of others more than himself. Bookmark here

As the time passes by, the others also entered the school and Kurokawa-senpai also reached out to them.Bookmark here

As for the reason why he became as he was today… Bookmark here

“I think kaichou was cornered now that the contract for us third years will soon be over.”Bookmark here

“What do you mean, Mashiro-senpai?”Bookmark here

“If you put one and one together, you might come up with something.” Bookmark here

“Hmm?”Bookmark here

“I’ve been searching for hints about the mission all this time but I have yet to find something. However, I’ve come up with a theory about what will happen when our contracts end without completing the mission.”Bookmark here

Mashiro-senpai gave us a dead serious glance. I found myself breaking a cold sweat and swallowing my saliva.Bookmark here

“Pray tell,” Toujo-kun said.Bookmark here

“I don’t think that the god is so heartless to take back the wishes that we made, however, that doesn’t mean that they will let us off without giving something in return.”Bookmark here

“Do you mean…”Bookmark here

“Yes. They will take something precious in return. For example, our lives…”Bookmark here

“That’s!”Bookmark here

“However, Kaichou is in a different situation. What I think is that… whether we finished the mission or not, he will disappear, or in other terms… he will die.” Mashiro-senpai’s clenched his jaw as he raised his fist in the air.Bookmark here

My eyes widened when I realized what he’s going to do again. I reflexively stood from my seat and took a step back.Bookmark here

He will break another table!Bookmark here

“Stop that, Mashiro-senpai. I won’t let you damage school properties, I let you off before, but this time, the student council will be held accountable if you did it again.” Bookmark here

Toujo-kun grabbed Mashiro-senpai’s wrist and stopped it from hitting the table.Bookmark here

Silence spreads in the room as I just stood there and slightly scared that the two of them is now quiet.Bookmark here

Good looking people can be really scary if they are silent! It was like the coldness and fiery heat were clashing inside the room!Bookmark here

“My bad. My feelings got the best of me.” Mashiro-senpai emotionlessly said.Bookmark here

“It’s alright. Just get yourself together, you’re not the only one who is worried about Kurokawa-senpai.” Toujo-kun sighed.Bookmark here

I also got relieved for some reasons. Bookmark here

And lastly, I asked how does the student council get nominated. The fact that all of the members are fellow people who made contracts with god, is outright suspicious.Bookmark here

In both Nekoji Academy and their associated middle school, only the president is elected. The president would then choose other students to be part of the council.Bookmark here

There are three factors that could decided who will be the next president. Bookmark here

First, the recommendation from the school principal. Irosaki-sensei obviously gave her approval to Kurokawa-senpai before.Bookmark here

Second, the recommendation of the former student council president. Kurokawa-senpai proved himself to his senpai even in his first year, it was too good to be true. However, it’s definitely possible if it was him. Bookmark here

And third, the opinion of the student body. Because Kurokawa-senpai was once the person who stood at the top, it’s not surprising that he gained the trust of the students. Bookmark here

When I asked about the former student council, Toujo-kun said that the council before them is just a regular one. However, there are records in the school archive that states that this isn’t the first time there are people who made contracts with the god. Bookmark here

“I see… I think I understand most of it.”Bookmark here

“Say, Terushima-san, aren’t you too calm about this? A normal human should be panicking by the sight of something strange.”Bookmark here

“I don’t know, I feel like it was normal. Ahaha, maybe I got used to it that my definition of normal got twisted already.” I chuckled awkwardly. Bookmark here

“Haah… you’re definitely strange yourself, Terushima-san.” Mashiro-senpai nonchalantly sighed. Bookmark here

“I know.” I simply beamed at them.Bookmark here

“What are you looking happy for? It’s not a compliment, senpai.” Toujo-kun deadpanned at me.Bookmark here

After our discussion in the school archive, Mashiro-senpai and I left the library together.Bookmark here

On our way back to the office, I decided to speak to Mashiro-senpai about something.Bookmark here

“Mashiro-senpai, I’ll convince Kurokawa-senpai to talk about his condition.”Bookmark here

Mashiro-senpai stopped on his tracks and faced me with a serious face. Bookmark here

“What are you saying?”Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

Night. The sky is also cloudy right now.Bookmark here

I looked up on the sakura tree beside the dormitory. The flowers are falling one by one as time passed by. It was the signal that the spring season is coming to an end.Bookmark here

“Hello, Dad? Are you doing well over there?” I spoke to the phone.Bookmark here

Dad just gave me a call. He’s calling me once in a while and it was one of those times that he wants to check up on me.Bookmark here

“Un. I’m fine over here. It’s starting to get warmer since the summer is coming closer now.” Bookmark here

I hummed to myself and stretched my hands outside the window. A sakura petal fell on my palm, I looked at it intently… what a gentle color.Bookmark here

“My plans for vacation? Before that, we still have a lot to do in school. I’m sure Dad will just have one week vacation so it’s not like I will spend more time with you.” I chuckled lightly.Bookmark here

Our talks continued like that all night. I was glad that I could speak to Dad every once in a while like this. We might be far away from each other but I feel like we’ve gotten closer than ever now.Bookmark here

I just hope that he’s not overworking himself. It’s really a bad habit of his.Bookmark here

“By the way, Dad, do you remember why Mom made me stop painting?”Bookmark here

“Hmm? Ah, you don’t know? It’s alright. Sorry for asking.”Bookmark here

“Eh? You have a photo? A-alright, please send it to me. Thanks, Dad!”Bookmark here

As soon as our call ended, I opened my laptop and looked at the file attachment that my father sent to me.Bookmark here

Eh?Bookmark here

My eyes widened when I saw what kind of painting it was. I covered my mouth in disbelief as I stared at the photo intently.Bookmark here

“D-did I… really made this when I was a child…?” I mumbled to myself, dumbfounded. Bookmark here

W-what’s going on here…? Am I seeing things?Bookmark here

Pearlyn.M
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