Chapter 23:

Like the Wind

Cat's Hour ~猫の時間~


The most important things to us are not something that we could perceive by the eye.

A book that I have read before said something similar. It was a lovely quote.

Just because we can’t see something, that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t there.

Like the wind that gently passed by, leaving a trail of refreshing and calming breeze…

…. He was there.

__

After finishing our workload yesterday, we only have to rest to prepare ourselves for our participation to the Sports Festival tomorrow.

I decided to participate in Bread Eating Race and Class Dance. About my partner in dance, I think he will do okay.

Today, Kurokawa-senpai said that he will tell us his situation. He asked us to gather in the office after breakfast.

However, I woke up earlier so I have a lot of time on my hands before that.

I decided to feed the cats this morning.

There are only four cats here. Haku, Mikan, Sanji and Rushia. Yami was nowhere in sight.

Normally, he would be here every time they needed to be fed during morning. Even Mikan who normally touches the food of other cats is not doing anything to Yami’s part.

I watched the others eat while waiting for Yami to show up. But even after that, he never did. His food was left untouched while the others finished theirs.

I grew worried about him because it was odd that he didn’t show up.

Did something bad happened to him? It would be a relief if he’s just sleeping somewhere.

And then, the pitter patter sound started being picked up by my ears. Drops of rain wet the soil in the blink of an eye.

It’s pouring down.

If Yami didn’t show up here, that means something happened. It’s also raining now, it might be bad if I can’t find him when the rain falls heavily.

I returned inside the dorm and grab an umbrella. I’ll search for him.

I passed by the living room and meet the others there. They are all doing different things, Mashiro-senpai is drinking coffee, Mikejima-kun is playing games in his phone, Toujo-kun is reading a bank book and Haibara-kun is wiping the center table with a cloth.

“Senpai-chan, are you going outside?” Toujo-kun asked.

“It’s raining, Terushima-senpai. What do you need to do outside?” Haibara-kun added.

“I’m searching for Yami. He didn’t show up when I’m feeding the cats.”

I was about to sped off when I noticed that they all looked surprised to what I said.

“Is there something wrong?”

“Terushima-san, since when did Yami went missing?” Mashiro-senpai put his mug down and seriously asked me.

“He’s not there this morning. I’m looking for him outside.”

Mashiro-senpai stood up all of a sudden which caught us off guard. “I’ll check up on kaichou.”

Eh? What was that?

“Tsukasa, go with Terushima-san and find Yami.” Mashiro-senpai ordered strictly.

“O-okay.” Mikejima-kun agreed. He might have noticed that Mashiro-senpai’s mood suddenly changed so he just needs to comply.

But… what was that about?

“Hurry, Terushima! We need to find Yami!”

Mikejima-kun grabbed a raincoat and gave it to me.

“Leave that umbrella. We’re in a hurry right now.”

“W-wait! What’s going on, Mikejima-kun?!”

“I’ll explain on the way.” He turned to the first years. “You two, go to Irosaki-sensei’s room and talk to her.”

“Okay!”

Seriously, what’s going on here?! They just suddenly became frantic as if something bad is going to happen.

Wait…

What if something bad will really happen?

Ah, damn it!

Mikejima-kun and I made our way outside the rainy weather. Without looking back on me, his cat ears twitched as he swiftly sped off.

“Wait!”

I ran after him with everything I got. I know I practiced running for the Bread Eating Race, and I somehow improved my stamina, but this guy is physically competitive! Not to mention he’s serious in sports! How could I catch up to him?!

He’s soaking wet from the rain when he stopped on the torii gate. When I caught up to him, I was a panting mess.

I shivered as I felt the cold rain and wind on my skin even with the raincoat on. The water splashed to my face as if waking up my senses in this rainy morning.

“Shit! This damn rain!”

Mikejima-kun grunted as he looked around with his furrowed brows.

“Haah… Mikejima-kun, can you tell me what’s going on now?” I said with my hands on knees and panting in exhaustion.

“Tch. The rain is washing away Yami’s smell. I can’t track him anymore,” he grunted.

“What do you mean by that?”

“Argh! We just need to find him or else kaichou will face some consequences.”

“Eh?”

He lets out a sigh. “Terushima, you’re not an idiot, are you?”

I raised a brow at him.

Ah… why does he have to ask that?

He let out another sigh and calmly spoke.

“You probably noticed that the cats you’re taking care of resembled every one of us. It’s because those cats are the manifestation of our spirits, they carry our desires and personalities. It was like they are mirrors of our souls. The god gave them as proofs that the contract is active.”

“Huh?”

That was the only thing that I managed to say.

It was a sudden revelation that my mind didn’t process it right away.

That does mean those cats are… Argh! I’m so confused! Why does it have to be so complicated like this?! Who made these messed up conditions in the first place?! They are definitely not right in the head!

Ahem! Let’s go back to the problem at hand.

“Does that mean if Yami disappeared…”

“Kaichou’s contract will break.” He gritted his teeth in anxiety. “I just hope we’re not too late.”

I clenched my chest tightly. An unbearable weight of uneasiness started growing in my heart.

If Yami and Kurokawa-senpai are connected that deeply, I wonder what’s happening back in the dorm right now… I hope he’s safe.

I bit my lip in frustration.

We continued searching for Yami in the midst of the rain. The sky is dark, as if it was a night in day.

And there, we found an unconscious cat soaking wet in a puddle of water and fallen sakura petals.

My eyes widened when my sight landed on the figure of it. I shook my head in fear of believing what I’m seeing right now.

“Y-yami…”

“Did you find him–“

Mikejima-kun was still speaking to me but my mind couldn’t comprehend his words. My senses got blurred and I could only see Yami lying on the ground.

“Yami!”

I ran to his direction quickly.

N-no… NO! THIS CAN’T BE!

“YAMI! WAKE UP! PLEASE… p-please…”

Compared to the cold rain touching my cheeks… I felt something warm instead. Tears.

I held Yami in my arms.

He’s so cold.

He’s not moving.

What happened… for him to end up in this state… Why did it turn out like this?

“Mrrow…” a weak purr came out from Yami.

He’s still…

“Terushima! He’s still alive!” Mikejima-kun snapped me back to reality.

I sniffed back my snot and tears before nodding.

It’s alright. We just need to go back and keep him warm. We can do this!

“Mrow…”

“I-It’s alright, Yami! We’re going home now! We’ll keep you warm!” I reassured him as I myself is also crying. Not that it was obvious because it was raining anyway.

However…

The weak cat lifted his fragile limbs and gently touched my cheeks as if telling me not to cry.

It was the same…

“Please don’t cry anymore…”

My eyes welled up with tears once again as that person’s words resounded in my mind.

How could I not cry if it was this painful…? Ne, answer me.

It was only for a moment that the feline’s strength held out. Shortly after that, the paw that he touched my cheeks with fell down.

Just a little bit more, Yami. Please… hold on.

A loud roar of thunder resounded. The rain falls heavily than earlier. And a sharp wind blows harshly.

By the time we returned home… there was another thing that we didn’t expect to greet us.

__

“CUT THE CRAP, SENSEI!”

“Tsuki-senpai! Calm down!”

“SHUT UP, AOI! DROP THE ACT, WILL YOU?!”

“That’s not…”

“You’re too much, senpai!”

“DON’T GET ME STARTED, ASAHI!”

When we arrived there, the scene that greeted us was Mashiro-senpai holding Irosaki-sensei by the collar and the first years trying to stop him.

“I see. This is what will happen when that person disappeared. Such a huge impact, isn’t it?” Irosaki-sensei said calmly that it somehow felt insulting.

“Stop fooling around and speak. I don’t care if you’re a teacher or a direct servant of that damn god. Just answer already.”

The way Mashiro-senpai speaks right now was ominously frightening. It was as if the winter came earlier than the summer. There was a chilling snowstorm inside the dorm.

“Terushima, over here.” Mikejima-kun called me over to the kitchen.

“W-wait, are we just going to leave them there?”

“They aren’t kids anymore, they know what to do. We need to take care of Yami first.”

“O-oh…”

It was a good thing that Yami was still hanging in there. It seems like he just fell unconscious. However, we still don’t know what really happened for him to end up like that.

Mikejima-kun took out towels to dry Yami up. He also opened the room heater that was stocked in the kitchen to keep the cat warm.

We wrapped him up in layers of towels as well. And it was reassuring that he just looks like he’s normally sleeping now.

It’s a relief.

What’s more bothering are the noises that could be heard outside. Glasses breaking, a loud thud, inaudible shouts, it was a mess.

After few hours of clashing, it seems like they settled down. Mikejima-kun and I went outside to see the scene.

I could feel my jaw dropped seeing the horrible state of the dorm right now. Shards of broken vases scattered on the floor, rubbish, dirt, and even the walls have dents.

What the heck?!

“You sure have some guts standing up to me, Tsuki Mashiro. I need to put you in your place.”

“Heh. Do what you want. But tell me where kaichou is!”

“Seriously, you… argh, why do I have to babysit these kids?” Irosaki-sensei sighed tiredly and put her palm on her forehead. “Alright, let’s talk in the student council office. I presume Kurokawa-kun promised to tell you his situation, right?”

Mashiro-senpai looked away and fell silent.

I walked over to the first years who are frozen in the corner of the room. Seeing that kind of fight might have shocked them to the bone.

“Ne, what happened? Why did Mashiro-senpai and Irosaki-sensei fight?”

“It was…”

The two of them looked away from me when I asked them. They both have a weary look on their faces that made me curious about what’s wrong with them.

“Actually…”

“What?”

“Kaichou disappeared.”

Eh?!

W-what…?

__

“Now then, what are you flailing around for, Mashiro-kun?”

Everyone is in the student council office now.

Well… it was supposed to be everyone…

Except that Kurokawa-senpai is not around.

Where in the world is he? He most certainly didn’t ditch us, did he?

“Explain yourself, sensei. Why is kaichou’s room empty? There’s not even a single thing left! Where is he?!”

Mashiro-senpai threw a barrage of questions to Irosaki-sensei right away.

Wait… did he mean that Kurokawa-senpai’s room is thoroughly cleaned or he’s serious about what he said?

“There’s nothing left in kaichou’s room. Not even a piece of paper,” Haibara-kun said.

What… does that mean?

“Alright, now, what in the world—wait, don’t tell me…” Irosaki-sensei froze and looked at a particular direction. I also followed her gaze but I couldn’t see anything there.

“Haha, are you kidding me? How troublesome… I’m not paid enough for this,” she sighed out of nowhere.

Is she talking to someone? I seriously can’t see anything there.

“To think that your contract was nearly broken, what are you thinking, Kurokawa-kun?”

Eh? Is she talking to Kurokawa-senpai?! Where is he?!

“Terushima-san, Mikejima-kun, thank you for saving Yami just right in time.” She looked at us seriously. “Any later than this will definitely cost your dear president something precious.”

“W-what do you mean?”

“Enough of that! Just tell us where is kaichou right now! There’s no way he would abandon us!” Mashiro-senpai butted in, he was looking desperate than ever.

“What are you saying, Mashiro-kun?” Irosaki-sensei fixed her glasses firmly.

“Why don’t you just—!”

I grabbed Mashiro-senpai’s shoulder to have him settle down.

“What are you doing, Terushima?!”

“Senpai, please be quiet first,” I seriously said.

He gave me a look of suspicion but he still listened to me and just heaved a sigh to calm himself.

A moment of silence reigned in the office. The only sound that everyone could hear clearly was the sound of raindrops coming from outside.

However…

A gentle wind blows inside the room, and there, I heard it…

“… kari-san…”

It was a whisper but I’m sure I heard it right.

Kurokawa-senpai was calling my name and he was crying at that.

It was just for a moment, the next thing, I couldn’t hear him anymore.

“Was that…?”

“It’s Kurokawa-kun. I’m amazed that you can even hear him at his current state, Terushima-san.”

“What do you mean? What’s going on, Terushima-san?” Mashiro-senpai faced me with his brows furrowed and showing his hostility.

No way… is this for real?

Kurokawa-senpai is here with us. That’s for sure. But why can’t we see him? Not to mention that the others can’t even feel his presence.

“Seems like the Recognition Loss Phenomenon is the main problem here. Did anyone do something to make his existence disappear?”

“Nothing comes to mind.”

“I see…”

Irosaki-sensei fell in deep thought.

“But why did he disappear? We still know him, we have memories of him, why of all things?!”

The most affected person right now is Mashiro-senpai, he was the one standing up to find answers to the mystery surrounding our president.

“I agree. If it’s just recognition loss, then it should be our memories that disappeared, why him?”

Haibara-kun spoke out.

“The recognition loss that affected us only made the students unable to recognize us. This doesn’t make any sense!”

Toujo-kun also joined in.

“Why did we suddenly became unable to see him? Kaichou was here with us, right? Surely, he could tell us what happened, right?”

Mikejima-kun added.

Irosaki-sensei fell silent as if listening to something before facing us seriously.

“Kurokawa-kun said that he doesn’t have any idea what happened. He just woke up not in his room but here on the office instead.”

Eh? I’m sure we definitely head back to the dorm last night. He couldn’t have went out the night, could he?

What is going on? This just took another confusing turn!

“What…?”

“Did you really not realized something about your friend for six years, Mashiro-kun?”

Mashiro-senpai flinched at Irosaki-sensei’s words.

“That also goes to the rest of you. I understand that Terushima-san is clueless but for the four of you? Is he really that great of an actor that you blindly believed him?”

“Don’t speak ill of him!”

“My, I was praising him, Mashiro-kun. Don’t get triggered. You’re the one who first discovered that there’s something wrong, aren’t you? And yet, you didn’t confront him. Are you a coward?”

“That’s not true!” I raised my voice at Irosaki-sensei.

She was pressing Mashiro-senpai as if he was responsible for what’s going on but he just lowered his head and remained silent.

He’s not guilty of anything so why is he not saying anything?!

“Enough, Terushima.”

“Why…”

Why did he not defend himself?!

“Also, Haibara-kun, you claimed to know him thoroughly as a form of admiration, and yet, you didn’t even know what’s going on with your president. Aren’t you a hypocrite?”

“That’s…”

Wait! Why is Irosaki-sensei attacking everyone personally? It’s too much!

“Mikejima-kun and Toujo-kun are not completely off the hook as well. The two of you are causing too much troubles to him even back then, you rely too much on him, but what about him? He doesn’t have anyone to rely to.”

The four of them fell silent. This talk is definitely out of my boundaries but does she really have to put it that way?

“Enough… sensei…”

There it is! I could hear Kurokawa-senpai’s voice! He wants sensei to stop attacking everyone.

“Even at these times you’re still looking after them. You’re too selfless for your own good.”

She’s talking to Kurokawa-senpai. I couldn’t hear his voice anymore so I don’t know what they are talking about, but I’m sure of one thing.

Kurokawa-senpai was crying.

Sensei heaved out a deep sigh. “No matter what you say, they can’t hear you anymore, Kurokawa-kun. You’re weak.”

“Stop it! Why are you like this, sensei?! Everyone in the student council cares for Kurokawa-senpai! You can’t invalidate that!”

“Just caring for something doesn’t mean that they can go to any lengths to protect it.”

“But Mashiro-senpai said that he will do anything!”

“Stop it, Terushima. I spoke carelessly back then.”

What?!

How can you take back your words now?!

I glanced at everyone’s face, hoping to see at least a small light of hope. However, they all looked away from me, as if not wanting to say anything more.

Why are they like this?! Are they giving up now?!

My lips quivered as I pressed it tightly to keep myself from sobbing. Warm tears blurred my vision.

I don’t care if crying at a time like this made it seem like I’m begging for attention. That’s great if they could look at me and be convinced by pity. It’s alright with me.

Just…

Don’t make that face as if you are all giving up.

“It’s not like that, Terushima-san.”

“Then, what is it, sensei?!”

She walked towards my direction and stopped in front of me. She grabbed my shoulders and looked at me with a conflicted face.

Sensei as well… why do you look sad? Aren’t you supposed to be calm like earlier? Why…?

“Everyone knows that boy for six years, they more or less have an idea on what’s going on with him. And they realized the truth that they’ve been ignoring all this time.”

“W-what do you mean?”

“The others are not severely affected by the phenomenon because they are still alive, considered as half supernatural under the contract with god. However, Kurokawa-kun is different.”

My heart tightened up. It was suffocating. A part of me doesn’t want to hear it.

However, it was still the truth.

I have to hear it.

“That boy is a lost spirit who made a wish to god. In the first place, it was only for a limited time. It was supposed to pass on already.”

My mind went blank.

There must be some kind of mistake… right?

My knees gave up on me. I could only sink my face on the floor as I screamed on top of my lungs.

Tears, sweat, spit, drops of liquids mixed on the floor. But there’s nothing more horrible than what I’m feeling right now.

That person’s voice echoed in my mind.

“But they are still there… watching the living in envy, because for once, there is also a point where they are alive.”

It was there! Why didn’t I noticed?! I was taken for a fool! I felt betrayed…

And yet…

Why can’t I bring myself to resent him?

What is wrong with me?!

As if grieving with us at that moment, the sky cried. Heavy rainfalls for tears, loud thunders for screams. It was a melancholic day.

In what seemed like a void of despair, my peripherals caught a small bright light.

“A light…”

I lifted my body from groveling on the floor and noticed that it was coming from my skirt pocket.

Wait! This is…

Mom’s bell!

“T-terushima-san, why do you have that bell?” Mashiro-senpai blurted out while everyone also have the same surprised expression except Irosaki-sensei.

I wiped my tears and stared at the bell intently. It was emitting a bright light that made me cover my eyes with my free hand.

W-what is this blinding light?!

“No! Don’t make a wish, Hikari-san!”

Out of nowhere, a strong wind suddenly blows. I unintentionally let go of the bell and covered my face from the wind.

Everyone is also doing the same. It was as if there’s a windstorm in this room.

But even then, I could feel someone held my hand. It was cold, but for some reasons, it was calming.

I couldn’t see who it was because of the wind but I’m sure… it was Kurokawa-senpai.

“Don’t make a wish, Hikari-san!”

He’s pleading to me desperately.

His voice is clear now. I could definitely believe that he was here in front of me personally.

No.

He’s definitely here.

I want to confirm that he’s here.

“Kurokawa-senpai! You’re here, right?! Just say that you’re real, I will believe you! If you say that, it was enough for me!”

I shouted with all my heart. Please… make it reach him.

The wind settled down and a deafening silence envelops the surroundings.

“Hic… hic…”

I could hear some soft sobs from that person.

I slowly removed my arm that was covering my face and gave a look at him.

Time seemed to stop, as if we’re not in the student council office anymore.

His crying face was full of agony. There are no more cat ears and tail on him. I could also see ominous black patches on his skin, from the wrist that I saw before and now, extending to his jaw.

“I’m real, Hikari-san… please… help me.”

He’s desperately crying for help.

I want to help him.

I clenched my chest and gave him a look of determination.

If he said that he’s real, that’s enough of a confirmation.

He hid too many secrets from us, but that doesn’t change the fact that he genuinely cares for us.

It’s not supposed to end like this. There must be some other way.

“You’re like the wind, Kurokawa-senpai. Even if we can’t see you, just knowing that you’re with us was a relief.”

A smile formed on my lips unconsciously.

“I will believe in you. We’ll definitely get you back, please hang in there!”

“Hikari-san… Thank–– Kuh! Ack!”

He started coughing and there’s a black smoke coming out from his body. I realized that it resembled something beck from the Ai-san case.

Could it be…?

“K-kurokawa-senpai…?”

“Haah… haah… I’ll wait for you, Hikari-san…” he said in the middle of grasping for breath, he smiled brightly at me for one last time.

“This time, please don’t forget me, Hikari-san.”

All of a sudden, a bell went off.

It was the bell signaling the start of Cat’s Hour. But…

It didn’t sound ominous at all.

Instead, a solemn harmony of ringing bells like that of a funeral echoed. It was melancholic.

What––

__

“Terushima-san, are you okay?!”

“Terushima! You’re finally awake!”

“Senpai-chan! You made us worry!”

“It’s a relief, Terushima-senpai.”

A dream…?

I stared at the ceiling of the student council office. Everyone’s faces greeted me as soon as I woke up. It seems like I passed out.

When I remember speaking to Kurokawa-senpai, I frantically stood up.

“Kurokawa-senpai! We must bring him back!” I blurted out which earned me looks of worry from everyone.

Why are they giving me that look? Do I seem like I’m joking?

“My, the princess is finally awake. Seems like you talked to him, am I right?” Irosaki-sensei said.

“Yes! Sensei, please tell me how we could bring back Kurokawa-senpai!”

“He stopped you from making a wish to god so he definitely doesn’t want for you to use that. There’s a way, but the success rate is uncertain.”

“It doesn’t matter what is it!”

“He used almost all his spiritual strength in stopping you and even trying to talk to you. I’m amazed that he’s still hanging in there.”

She smiled gently at us.

“Have you tried proving something that may or may not exist?”

“That’s…”

“His existence will completely disappear when the day changes. You need to search anything to prove his existence before that time.”

All of us seriously exchange looks among ourselves. As if looks of hesitation and desperation means similar, we resolved ourselves.

We need to get back Kurokawa-senpai! We have to do this!

“It doesn’t matter if it were photos, signatures, gifts, anything as long as it was related to him will do.”

It certainly sounds like a hard task. But…

We can’t afford to fail this.

We will definitely save you, Kurokawa-senpai! Hang in there!

We’re proving the existence of something we can’t see, but, we could still feel it.

Even if it was impossible, we will find a way to hold the wind in our hands.

Hades
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