Chapter 25:

Dead or Alive

Cat's Hour ~猫の時間~

“Even if you cry instead of laughing, even if you if you frown instead of smiling, every tears you shed is a relief for me… Please stay alive, Yuuto.”Bookmark here

What is the meaning of life?Bookmark here

Is there a point in living?Bookmark here

If it’s painful, why do people want to live?Bookmark here

Why do I want to live…?Bookmark here

I don’t know…Bookmark here

To be honest, I don’t know the answer to those questions.Bookmark here

But…Bookmark here

I’m certain of one thing.Bookmark here

‘I don’t want to die.’Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

I don’t remember anything about the time when I’m still alive. Bookmark here

My earliest memories that I remember was staring at the blue sky and lying on the ground, feeling the cold pavement on my back.Bookmark here

I don’t have any memories except from my name, Yuuto Kurokawa. Bookmark here

I really like that name, Yuuto, because it means ‘a heroic person’. It has a gentle sound and a gallant meaning. Bookmark here

Aside from that, I also remember something, that is…Bookmark here

The feeling of dying.Bookmark here

It was so clear in my mind. Bookmark here

I remember pain all over my body, how hard it is to breathe, my eyes getting blurred, my consciousness fading away… and a dark void embracing me after that.Bookmark here

It was scary…Bookmark here

I don’t want to feel that again… Bookmark here

When I think about it, I can’t help but burst into tears. Bookmark here

I’m afraid.Bookmark here

I’m not alive anymore, but why is it still so painful? Why could I still shed tears? It doesn’t make any sense.Bookmark here

No matter how many times I tried to wipe my tears, it won’t stop. Bookmark here

Could it be because I know that I’m dead already? Bookmark here

I’m afraid of the feeling of dying, I don’t want to feel it again… but there’s a pang in my heart when I think that I’m not alive anymore… Bookmark here

For some reasons, I’m more afraid of the fact that I died. Bookmark here

I don’t want to die yet.Bookmark here

In the middle of crying, I realized that I was holding something round. Bookmark here

It was a small golden bell. Bookmark here

I looked around to search for something, why do I have this bell in my possession? Bookmark here

I don’t know what to do but even if my sight was blurred with tears, I stood up and decided to wander aimlessly.Bookmark here

I can’t remember how long I was walking without any idea of where am I or destination in mind.Bookmark here

I was lost. Bookmark here

And that is when I met a black cat. It was the first living thing that I saw except from the plants in the area. Bookmark here

I was so happy to see anything aside from plants. Bookmark here

The cat move closer to me and lets out a soft purr as if asking me to rub its head. Bookmark here

I was hesitant to touch it, fearing that my hand will just pass through the cat. However, it purrs again as if giving me a reassurance that it will be fine, I have nothing to fear of. Bookmark here

Resolving myself, I slowly reached out my hand to the cat. Bookmark here

Before I could touch it, it intentionally moves its head to my hands.Bookmark here

My eyes widened when I could clearly feel its soft fur against my skin. It was warm… and before I know it, I burst into tears.Bookmark here

I held it into my arms tightly, feeling a sense of solace in the acquaintance of a cat.Bookmark here

“Ne… did you die as well…?” I asked in between my sobs. Drops of tears wet the cat’s fur. “Sorry… your fur…”Bookmark here

The cat touched my cheeks with its paws. Our eyes met as the cat seemed to give me cheerful smile.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry, Master. You can cry on me as much as you want, nya!”Bookmark here

I froze in an instant after hearing that.Bookmark here

D-did the cat talk just now?Bookmark here

“Ah! Sorry for surprising you, Master… I just want to cheer you up…” the cat said downheartedly with its ears lowering.Bookmark here

“N-no… it’s…” I tried to say something but my mind went blank and I can’t help but cry. “Uuu… I’m sorry…”Bookmark here

“Master… please don’t cry…”Bookmark here

The cat comforted me.Bookmark here

When I calmed down, I was confused why the cat is calling me ‘master’, but I didn’t got the chance to ask as the cat said that I should meet the god in that place.Bookmark here

At that time, I thought that I’m not alive anymore with the fact that I’m about to meet a god.Bookmark here

To be honest, I don’t want to go. If I met the god, I’m afraid to learn that I was dead already. I don’t want to accept it. I thought of running away, but I don’t know where to go. The god might also know where I am and they might give me a divine punishment.Bookmark here

We stood in front of a shrine. Bookmark here

And there, a laidback god greeted us. They were playing with a group of cats while eating something that I recognized as onigiri. Bookmark here

I just stood there frantically, not knowing how I should act in front of the being who is known as a god. Bookmark here

“Hmm? The trespasser is a soul of a child?” the god nonchalantly said without looking at our direction.Bookmark here

“Kami-sama! It’s not just a child!” the black cat beside me said.Bookmark here

“S-sorry for disturbing you…” Bookmark here

I lowered my head to ask for forgiveness, I don’t want to incur the wrath of a god and receive a divine punishment, more especially now that I’m a lost soul.Bookmark here

The god glanced at me, their eyes widened in surprise and they dropped the onigiri that they are about to eat.Bookmark here

“You…”Bookmark here

“I-I’m very sorry!”Bookmark here

“It’s been a while. Come closer, have some onigiri.”Bookmark here

My eyes widened when the god didn’t get angry at me, instead, they smiled and offered some food to me. Bookmark here

I’m not sure about this but I should accept the kindness of god so I found myself eating an onigiri with them as well. Bookmark here

It was a tuna onigiri.Bookmark here

“How was it?”Bookmark here

“It’s delicious…”Bookmark here

“Fufu, you haven’t change at all. Saa, eat more.”Bookmark here

“Uhm… excuse me for asking but… what do you mean by ‘it’s been a while’?”Bookmark here

Instead of answering me clearly, the god muffled a laugh. I stared at them in confusion.Bookmark here

“But of course, we already met before. Many times at that,” the god said with a wide smile. Bookmark here

My eyes lit up when the god said that. I don’t have any recollection of my life but I’m curious about what kind of person I was. When they said that they met me already, I want to at least learn something.Bookmark here

“Do you want to know?”Bookmark here

I nodded.Bookmark here

“If you really want to know that badly, make a wish.”Bookmark here

“Hmm? A wish?”Bookmark here

“Yeah. I can grant wishes. You can wish anything, your memories, your life—”Bookmark here

“Is that possible?”Bookmark here

“Un! Let me guess… you want to live again, right?”Bookmark here

I nodded my head quietly. Bookmark here

If the god could grant wishes, I wish to live. I may lose my chance in regaining my memories but it’s just small compared to a chance to get back my life.Bookmark here

“Hmm…” Bookmark here

The god stared at me intently, as if observing me from head to toe. Bookmark here

“Fine with me, but it’s not permanent. It will be just for a limited time.”Bookmark here

“Eh? Why? Can’t you revive the dead?”Bookmark here

“Are you looking down on me?”Bookmark here

“N-no…” I shrunk in fear.Bookmark here

The god took a deep sigh and look at me worriedly. “I’m not angry, why do you look like a mistreated kitten? Haah… listen, if it’s just turning back the hands of time, I can do as much. But you are a different case. With a spirit as weak as yours, you should have pass on already, and yet, you became a lost soul instead.”Bookmark here

“D-does that mean I’ll disappear soon…?” Out of nowhere, tears started pouring down. “I… I don’t want to die yet… please…”Bookmark here

“You have such strong desire to live and yet, the god of fate doesn’t favor you. Don’t worry, I’m on your side.” The god smiled. “Say, why do you want to live?”Bookmark here

I came to a halt with that question.Bookmark here

Why do I want to live?Bookmark here

I don’t know… Bookmark here

In the first place, what does it mean to live?Bookmark here

I don’t know…Bookmark here

I don’t know anything…Bookmark here

And yet…Bookmark here

Why is this feeling so clear? Bookmark here

I’m afraid to die, I don’t want to believe that I’m not alive anymore, I want to live…Bookmark here

I can’t remember what it feels like to live but I’m looking forward to it.Bookmark here

On top of that…Bookmark here

I have a sudden feeling of longing that I want to meet someone. Bookmark here

I clenched my chest tightly.Bookmark here

Who was that person?Bookmark here

I can’t remember them… I want to regain my memories but I want to live as well. It’s alright, if I’m alive, I could still meet them. Bookmark here

And with that, I made a contract with god. Bookmark here

The time limit is six years, just before I could become an adult. I was disappointed that I won’t live that long but of course, beggars can’t be choosers.Bookmark here

The god also mentioned something about a mission, but they also said that I don’t have to do it because completing it will just spare me from the consequences after the contract ends.Bookmark here

Not that there’s something for me after the contract anyway. Bookmark here

However, I asked anyway, just to be sure.Bookmark here

“I’m not the kind of god who likes to spoon-feed humans so I’ll just say that you’ll know it right away,” the god nonchalantly said.Bookmark here

That was… a vague answer.Bookmark here

“Also, since you wished to live, you better live your life to the fullest. Make some friends, study hard, help others, be kind, have fun, do all sorts of things, you better make sure to live a happy life!”Bookmark here

“T-thank you!”Bookmark here

“Heh. It’s nothing. This time, you should at least obtain happiness. That god of fate was a bitch for making you and that girl suffer.”Bookmark here

“A girl…?”Bookmark here

“Ah, yeah… she was like you. The god of fate played a trick on her and she was bound to suffer over and over again.”Bookmark here

That… the god of fate must be horrible!Bookmark here

“Kami-sama… what kind of god are you?”Bookmark here

I asked the god. They just look like a normal person, not to mention that they look like slacking off when I met them. It was actually unconvincing that they were a god.Bookmark here

The only thing that made me believe might be the fact that they could see me and even grant my wish.Bookmark here

“Heh. It’s understandable that you’re doubting me... I’m not a busy god after all. I have lots of time on my hands so I like playing around.”Bookmark here

“I-I’m sorry for being disrespectful!”Bookmark here

“It’s okay. About what kind of god I am…”Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

My eyes fluttered open when the light of the moon shone brightly that night. I blinked to adjust my vision and look around.Bookmark here

I feel weak, it feels like a struggle just to keep myself awake.Bookmark here

That’s right, it all came back to me.Bookmark here

I was affected by a strange phenomenon because of the fact that I’m a spirit. At that time, I nearly became an evil one if the midnight happened to come.Bookmark here

However…Bookmark here

“I’m… still alive…?”Bookmark here

I weakly mumbled as I stared at the ceiling. I was in my room back in the dorm. Bookmark here

My throat is parched and all dried up. It’s surprising that I still have a voice.Bookmark here

“Yuuto-kun! Y-you’re awake… I’m… I’m glad…” Bookmark here

I heard a crying voice. I glanced over to the source of it and saw Tsuki-kun holding my hand.Bookmark here

The moonlight dawned, making it possible for me to see him. Bandages wrapped on his head and tears streaming on his cheeks. A sense of relief painted his face.Bookmark here

“Tsuki-kun…”Bookmark here

“What is it? Are you hurt anywhere? Do you want to drink water?”Bookmark here

He worriedly asked nonstop. Bookmark here

I reached out my hand on the bandages on his head. Bookmark here

“Tsuki-kun… I’m sorry for this…”Bookmark here

“What are you saying?! It’s not your fault!”Bookmark here

“No… it’s my fault.” I said in a weak voice. “I nearly became an evil spirit… who knows when will I completely turn into one?”Bookmark here

“No! I won’t let that happen! Please… please stop saying these things…”Bookmark here

It was painful looking at Tsuki-kun’s crying face. I looked away from him and stared at the ceiling instead.Bookmark here

“Tsuki-kun…”Bookmark here

“What is it?”Bookmark here

“I made you remember something bad… I’m horrible…”Bookmark here

“No! That doesn’t bother me at all!”Bookmark here

“You can’t say that, Tsuki-kun…”Bookmark here

Silence reigned for a moment before Tsuki-kun spoke again.Bookmark here

“How about you, Yuuto-kun? Why didn’t you say anything? Don’t you trust us?”Bookmark here

“It’s not what you think…”Bookmark here

“Then, what is it?! Why are you always taking everything upon yourself?!”Bookmark here

I closed my eyes and a small smile formed on my lips.Bookmark here

“You see, I’m not alive anymore, Tsuki-kun. The reason why I’m still here is because of the wish that I made. In the first place, I’m not supposed to be here, I’m not supposed to exist.”Bookmark here

“And so what?! Even if you’re a spirit, even if you’re dead, does our friendship also non-existent just as you claim it to be?! Answer me, Yuuto!”Bookmark here

“That’s the point.”Bookmark here

“Hah?!”Bookmark here

“It’s because I’m a spirit that makes it all impossible. I’ve been living my last days in the way that I want. Did you know? Even if I cleared the mission, nothing will change. But Tsuki-kun is different… everyone is different… there is still something in store for everyone.”Bookmark here

“Who cares about that?!”Bookmark here

“There’s no future for me anymore, Tsuki-kun.”Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

“Tsuki-kun, you still want to see your sister again, right? The others also have a bright future waiting for them. I will be happy if you all obtain happiness in the future.”Bookmark here

I tried to force a smile but as I thought, I can’t help but shed tears at this talk.Bookmark here

“In the future, Aoi-kun will become a great musician, maybe a chef will also suit him, right…?”Bookmark here

“Yuuto-kun…”Bookmark here

“Tsukasa-kun will become a professional sportsman, he will participate in the Olympics someday… Asahi-kun will become a businessman, he will be the richest man someday…”Bookmark here

“Please… stop already…”Bookmark here

“Tsuki-kun will be reunited with his sister and you will make medicine from the plants that you grow… you will change the world, making medicine to save people with it.”Bookmark here

“I don’t have that grand of a dream! Who cares about changing the world when I can’t save you?! Don’t joke with me!” Tsuki-kun blurted out intensely. “I’d rather run a flower shop than do something like that! Stop forcing your ideals to us!”Bookmark here

I stared at him and just smiled. I didn’t say anything more. Bookmark here

Of course, he wants to become a florist someday. I really love the flowers he grows in the school garden.Bookmark here

“Then… Tsuki-kun… will you find my grave and put flowers on it?”Bookmark here

“Stop it! Enough already! I don’t want to hear anything more! Where did the Yuuto-kun back then go? The one who smiles warmly at us, the one who leads us, who befriended outcasts like us… why…”Bookmark here

“I thought it was just fine if everyone was happy. I told myself that I will watch over you, I’ll take my secrets to the grave, you don’t have to know that I’m a spirit… I thought it was fine… but it’s not.”Bookmark here

Tsuki-kun held my hand tightly. Even that small act was enough to set my heart at ease.Bookmark here

“Tsuki-kun… I’m not strong at all… I’m scared… To be honest, I’ve been getting nightmares… when everyone found out that I’m a spirit, you looked at me in disdain and asked, ‘who are you?’… I can’t take it, Tsuki-kun…” Bookmark here

He pulled me into a hug all of a sudden and rubbed circles on my back to give me comfort. I just cried on his shoulder like a child. Bookmark here

“Sorry… we can’t become that strength for you… we’re ashamed to face you after we forgot you easily like that… we might even be the cause why you suddenly disappeared…”Bookmark here

“It’s not your fault, Tsuki-kun… it’s because I’m weak that this happened…”Bookmark here

“But we haven’t done anything to save you… it was Terushima-san that brought you back. When I think about it, I was frustrated, we just got acquainted to her recently, how did she managed to save you when we can’t do anything?”Bookmark here

“Tsuki-kun…”Bookmark here

“What is it?”Bookmark here

“It’s not just Hikari-san that saved me… everyone saved me… Thank you for coming…”Bookmark here

I sunk my face to his shoulder.Bookmark here

“Tsuki-kun, I don’t want to disappear… I don’t want to leave yet… I still want to stay here… please… help me…”Bookmark here

I finally said it…Bookmark here

Those words… I’ve been hesitating to say it to them for a long time. Fearing that the truth will make them hate me, I hid a secret that was better to be left unsaid.Bookmark here

The student council means everything to me, I don’t want to lose my place.Bookmark here

He tightened his hug to me and patted my head.Bookmark here

“It’s alright, everything will be alright, we won’t lose you again, we’ll do everything to help you, so don’t go anywhere else.” Bookmark here

Tsuki-kun’s words at that time was like a soothing voice, it feels like a cozy feeling of a big brother consoling his younger sibling…Bookmark here

And for some reasons, it felt so familiar…Bookmark here

Am I dead?Bookmark here

Am I alive?Bookmark here

Am I existing?Bookmark here

Am I just an illusion?Bookmark here

I’ve been pondering about those things for a while and unable to find an answer own my own.Bookmark here

In the end, maybe I’m just waiting for someone to prove that I’m real.Bookmark here

Someone who will accept me whether I’m dead or alive.Bookmark here

And those are everyone in the student council.Bookmark here

Irosaki-sensei, Tsuki-kun, Tsukasa-kun, Asahi-kun, Aoi-kun, and… Hikari-san.Bookmark here

Thank you.Bookmark here

That night, I was able to sleep soundly. I was afraid of sleeping, fearing that I may not wake up anymore… fearing that I’m going to wake up in a harsh reality…Bookmark here

But that time… I dreamt of a happy scene.Bookmark here

Everyone has smiles on their faces, laughing and chatting… it was a very lovely scene. Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

“Uuuu… the alcohol again…”Bookmark here

“Haha! You got what you deserve!”Bookmark here

“Tsukasa-senpai, you’re next. Come here so I can treat your wounds.”Bookmark here

“Don’t worry about it, Senpai-chan!”Bookmark here

Morning came and it was revealed that everyone was injured that they can’t participate to the Sports Festival like what they originally planned.Bookmark here

When I entered the office with Tsuki-kun, everyone surrounded me with looks of worry on their faces.Bookmark here

“Yuuto-senpai! Are you alright?!” Everyone said in unison.Bookmark here

They’re… calling me in my first name?Bookmark here

I stopped for a moment but I soon found myself crying in happiness. I’m so happy that they are calling me in my first name…Bookmark here

What is this? Bookmark here

I can’t stop my tears.Bookmark here

“Yuuto-kun, you shouldn’t cry right now. You will be hosting the Sports Festival today.” Tsuki-kun rested his hand on my head. “After you finally took a proper sleep, don’t let it go to waste.”Bookmark here

“My first name…”Bookmark here

“Ah! Senpai-chan suggested that we call you by your first name! It looks like it made you happy but please don’t cry anymore.” Asahi-kun awkwardly explained.Bookmark here

“Thank you… thank you very much…”Bookmark here

I was consoled by everyone again. This time, as if something heavy was removed from my heart, I shed tears of joy.Bookmark here

The once pink-colored trees were now gone.Bookmark here

The flower that blooms in spring fell from above, with a gentle flutter, it stays in the ground.Bookmark here

The branches became bare, however, a small leaf will soon sprout.Bookmark here

As the season changes, I know that my time is also running out. I may not have enough time from the start, but as long as I could watch over them...Bookmark here

Someday, when the end arrives, I will pass on with a smile on my face, carrying the memories that I made with them, those days that I cherished the most.Bookmark here

However, it's not the end yet... the end is still far ahead.Bookmark here

What's important is the present, I'm alive, I will live.Bookmark here

"Miracles don't happen to the same person twice."Bookmark here

I know that.Bookmark here

But if there is a light of hope, no matter how small it is...Bookmark here

It might be my selfishness but...Bookmark here

I will wish for a miracle to happen again.Bookmark here

"About what kind of god I am..." the god smiled proudly. "... I'm the god of miracles."Bookmark here

__Bookmark here

In a place that exists in nowhere, it was there, it was not there, a mirage that no one knows about, a shrine of a certain god stood up. Bookmark here

The god rolled on the floor, playing with cats and eating some snacks. This god sure is stress-free.Bookmark here

“Ne~ Kana, get me some chips.”Bookmark here

A certain fox lady sighed. Her reddish brown hair in a bun was adorned with a kanzashi, she was wearing a traditional kimono, her slit eyes has red eyeshadow. This is how Kana Irosaki looks in the abode of the god.Bookmark here

“Kami-sama, I didn’t come here to do menial things just because you’re lazy.”Bookmark here

Despite showing her disagreement, Kana still moved and prepared some snacks for the carefree god.Bookmark here

“Hehe! Thank you, Kana! So? What is it that you want from me?”Bookmark here

“It’s about Yuuto Kurokawa, why can’t you bring him back to life?” Bookmark here

The god hummed a playful tune.Bookmark here

“It can’t be just because his spirit is weak. What makes him a special case?” Kana continued.Bookmark here

The god slowly get up from lying in the floor. They patted their clothes, removing the crumbs of chips. Bookmark here

Kana just watched as the god walked over in front of the shrine, looking up and staring at the blue skies.Bookmark here

“Kana, can dead spirits fall asleep?”Bookmark here

“What do you mean by that?”Bookmark here

“Can spirits feel pain? Can they have dreams when they sleep?”Bookmark here

“No. They can’t.”Bookmark here

The god smiled at her. Bookmark here

“That’s your answer.”Bookmark here

~End of Spring~Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.