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.”
What is the meaning of life?
Is there a point in living?
If it’s painful, why do people want to live?
Why do I want to live…?
I don’t know…
To be honest, I don’t know the answer to those questions.
I’m certain of one thing.
‘I don’t want to die.’
I don’t remember anything about the time when I’m still alive.
My earliest memories that I remember was staring at the blue sky and lying on the ground, feeling the cold pavement on my back.
I don’t have any memories except from my name, Yuuto Kurokawa.
I really like that name, Yuuto, because it means ‘a heroic person’. It has a gentle sound and a gallant meaning.
Aside from that, I also remember something, that is…
The feeling of dying.
It was so clear in my mind.
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.
It was scary…
I don’t want to feel that again…
When I think about it, I can’t help but burst into tears.
I’m not alive anymore, but why is it still so painful? Why could I still shed tears? It doesn’t make any sense.
No matter how many times I tried to wipe my tears, it won’t stop.
Could it be because I know that I’m dead already?
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…
For some reasons, I’m more afraid of the fact that I died.
I don’t want to die yet.
In the middle of crying, I realized that I was holding something round.
It was a small golden bell.
I looked around to search for something, why do I have this bell in my possession?
I don’t know what to do but even if my sight was blurred with tears, I stood up and decided to wander aimlessly.
I can’t remember how long I was walking without any idea of where am I or destination in mind.
I was lost.
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.
I was so happy to see anything aside from plants.
The cat move closer to me and lets out a soft purr as if asking me to rub its head.
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.
Resolving myself, I slowly reached out my hand to the cat.
Before I could touch it, it intentionally moves its head to my hands.
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.
I held it into my arms tightly, feeling a sense of solace in the acquaintance of a cat.
“Ne… did you die as well…?” I asked in between my sobs. Drops of tears wet the cat’s fur. “Sorry… your fur…”
The cat touched my cheeks with its paws. Our eyes met as the cat seemed to give me cheerful smile.
“Don’t worry, Master. You can cry on me as much as you want, nya!”
I froze in an instant after hearing that.
D-did the cat talk just now?
“Ah! Sorry for surprising you, Master… I just want to cheer you up…” the cat said downheartedly with its ears lowering.
“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…”
“Master… please don’t cry…”
The cat comforted me.
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.
At that time, I thought that I’m not alive anymore with the fact that I’m about to meet a god.
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.
We stood in front of a shrine.
And there, a laidback god greeted us. They were playing with a group of cats while eating something that I recognized as onigiri.
I just stood there frantically, not knowing how I should act in front of the being who is known as a god.
“Hmm? The trespasser is a soul of a child?” the god nonchalantly said without looking at our direction.
“Kami-sama! It’s not just a child!” the black cat beside me said.
“S-sorry for disturbing you…”
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.
The god glanced at me, their eyes widened in surprise and they dropped the onigiri that they are about to eat.
“I-I’m very sorry!”
“It’s been a while. Come closer, have some onigiri.”
My eyes widened when the god didn’t get angry at me, instead, they smiled and offered some food to me.
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.
It was a tuna onigiri.
“How was it?”
“Fufu, you haven’t change at all. Saa, eat more.”
“Uhm… excuse me for asking but… what do you mean by ‘it’s been a while’?”
Instead of answering me clearly, the god muffled a laugh. I stared at them in confusion.
“But of course, we already met before. Many times at that,” the god said with a wide smile.
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.
“Do you want to know?”
“If you really want to know that badly, make a wish.”
“Hmm? A wish?”
“Yeah. I can grant wishes. You can wish anything, your memories, your life—”
“Is that possible?”
“Un! Let me guess… you want to live again, right?”
I nodded my head quietly.
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.
The god stared at me intently, as if observing me from head to toe.
“Fine with me, but it’s not permanent. It will be just for a limited time.”
“Eh? Why? Can’t you revive the dead?”
“Are you looking down on me?”
“N-no…” I shrunk in fear.
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.”
“D-does that mean I’ll disappear soon…?” Out of nowhere, tears started pouring down. “I… I don’t want to die yet… please…”
“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?”
I came to a halt with that question.
Why do I want to live?
I don’t know…
In the first place, what does it mean to live?
I don’t know…
I don’t know anything…
Why is this feeling so clear?
I’m afraid to die, I don’t want to believe that I’m not alive anymore, I want to live…
I can’t remember what it feels like to live but I’m looking forward to it.
On top of that…
I have a sudden feeling of longing that I want to meet someone.
I clenched my chest tightly.
Who was that person?
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.
And with that, I made a contract with god.
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.
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.
Not that there’s something for me after the contract anyway.
However, I asked anyway, just to be sure.
“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.
That was… a vague answer.
“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!”
“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.”
“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.”
That… the god of fate must be horrible!
“Kami-sama… what kind of god are you?”
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.
The only thing that made me believe might be the fact that they could see me and even grant my wish.
“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.”
“I-I’m sorry for being disrespectful!”
“It’s okay. About what kind of god I am…”
My eyes fluttered open when the light of the moon shone brightly that night. I blinked to adjust my vision and look around.
I feel weak, it feels like a struggle just to keep myself awake.
That’s right, it all came back to me.
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.
“I’m… still alive…?”
I weakly mumbled as I stared at the ceiling. I was in my room back in the dorm.
My throat is parched and all dried up. It’s surprising that I still have a voice.
“Yuuto-kun! Y-you’re awake… I’m… I’m glad…”
I heard a crying voice. I glanced over to the source of it and saw Tsuki-kun holding my hand.
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.
“What is it? Are you hurt anywhere? Do you want to drink water?”
He worriedly asked nonstop.
I reached out my hand on the bandages on his head.
“Tsuki-kun… I’m sorry for this…”
“What are you saying?! It’s not your fault!”
“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?”
“No! I won’t let that happen! Please… please stop saying these things…”
It was painful looking at Tsuki-kun’s crying face. I looked away from him and stared at the ceiling instead.
“What is it?”
“I made you remember something bad… I’m horrible…”
“No! That doesn’t bother me at all!”
“You can’t say that, Tsuki-kun…”
Silence reigned for a moment before Tsuki-kun spoke again.
“How about you, Yuuto-kun? Why didn’t you say anything? Don’t you trust us?”
“It’s not what you think…”
“Then, what is it?! Why are you always taking everything upon yourself?!”
I closed my eyes and a small smile formed on my lips.
“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.”
“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!”
“That’s the point.”
“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.”
“Who cares about that?!”
“There’s no future for me anymore, Tsuki-kun.”
“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.”
I tried to force a smile but as I thought, I can’t help but shed tears at this talk.
“In the future, Aoi-kun will become a great musician, maybe a chef will also suit him, right…?”
“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…”
“Please… stop already…”
“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.”
“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!”
I stared at him and just smiled. I didn’t say anything more.
Of course, he wants to become a florist someday. I really love the flowers he grows in the school garden.
“Then… Tsuki-kun… will you find my grave and put flowers on it?”
“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…”
“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.”
Tsuki-kun held my hand tightly. Even that small act was enough to set my heart at ease.
“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…”
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.
“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…”
“It’s not your fault, Tsuki-kun… it’s because I’m weak that this happened…”
“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?”
“What is it?”
“It’s not just Hikari-san that saved me… everyone saved me… Thank you for coming…”
I sunk my face to his shoulder.
“Tsuki-kun, I don’t want to disappear… I don’t want to leave yet… I still want to stay here… please… help me…”
I finally said it…
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.
The student council means everything to me, I don’t want to lose my place.
He tightened his hug to me and patted my head.
“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.”
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…
And for some reasons, it felt so familiar…
Am I dead?
Am I alive?
Am I existing?
Am I just an illusion?
I’ve been pondering about those things for a while and unable to find an answer own my own.
In the end, maybe I’m just waiting for someone to prove that I’m real.
Someone who will accept me whether I’m dead or alive.
And those are everyone in the student council.
Irosaki-sensei, Tsuki-kun, Tsukasa-kun, Asahi-kun, Aoi-kun, and… Hikari-san.
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…
But that time… I dreamt of a happy scene.
Everyone has smiles on their faces, laughing and chatting… it was a very lovely scene.
“Uuuu… the alcohol again…”
“Haha! You got what you deserve!”
“Tsukasa-senpai, you’re next. Come here so I can treat your wounds.”
“Don’t worry about it, Senpai-chan!”
Morning came and it was revealed that everyone was injured that they can’t participate to the Sports Festival like what they originally planned.
When I entered the office with Tsuki-kun, everyone surrounded me with looks of worry on their faces.
“Yuuto-senpai! Are you alright?!” Everyone said in unison.
They’re… calling me in my first name?
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…
What is this?
I can’t stop my tears.
“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.”
“My first name…”
“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.
“Thank you… thank you very much…”
I was consoled by everyone again. This time, as if something heavy was removed from my heart, I shed tears of joy.
The once pink-colored trees were now gone.
The flower that blooms in spring fell from above, with a gentle flutter, it stays in the ground.
The branches became bare, however, a small leaf will soon sprout.
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...
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.
However, it's not the end yet... the end is still far ahead.
What's important is the present, I'm alive, I will live.
"Miracles don't happen to the same person twice."
I know that.
But if there is a light of hope, no matter how small it is...
It might be my selfishness but...
I will wish for a miracle to happen again.
"About what kind of god I am..." the god smiled proudly. "... I'm the god of miracles."
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.
The god rolled on the floor, playing with cats and eating some snacks. This god sure is stress-free.
“Ne~ Kana, get me some chips.”
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.
“Kami-sama, I didn’t come here to do menial things just because you’re lazy.”
Despite showing her disagreement, Kana still moved and prepared some snacks for the carefree god.
“Hehe! Thank you, Kana! So? What is it that you want from me?”
“It’s about Yuuto Kurokawa, why can’t you bring him back to life?”
The god hummed a playful tune.
“It can’t be just because his spirit is weak. What makes him a special case?” Kana continued.
The god slowly get up from lying in the floor. They patted their clothes, removing the crumbs of chips.
Kana just watched as the god walked over in front of the shrine, looking up and staring at the blue skies.
“Kana, can dead spirits fall asleep?”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Can spirits feel pain? Can they have dreams when they sleep?”
“No. They can’t.”
The god smiled at her.
“That’s your answer.”
~End of Spring~