Prologue | Chapter 13.9 – The Neighborhood Guardian

Artist: くろのくろ

Mandrake scribblings: Hello, new intermediate chapter. If you’re wondering, why so many intermediate chapters? Well, these are chapters that could not fit into the story. So they get a standalone chapter. They give small trivia and exposition and sometimes lead into the new chapter. Enjoy!

<Chapter 13.5 | Main | Chapter 14>

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Shuu Ren: “There we go.”

Shuu Ren steps back to look at the freshly washed laundry hung neatly on the clothes rack. She huffs in satisfaction and looks at the eastern part of the sky near the horizon. The sun has just emerged from the horizon, signaling the start of the Saturday morning. Blinded by the sun’s rays, Shuu Ren closes her eyes and does her morning stretch.

Shuu Ren: “What a good morning for laundry day.”

The early morning news at 5am has announced that the humidity for the day. Shuu Ren pulls in a deep breath through her nose and slowly breaths out while running her nose.

Shuu Ren: [The weather news is right. The air is so dry that the inside of my nose is bone dry. My nose is going to bleed at this rate.] “My laundry will be dry in… Fuuuuu…”

She quickly rubs her hands together to warm them. The warmth of the sun that she was waiting for did nothing to alleviate the biting cold she has been enduring since she hung the laundry up to dry. She skips into the warmth of her apartment and closes the balcony door behind her.

__________________________________

Shuu Ren: “Okay, we’re ready.”

Ama: “Kiu. Kiu. Kiu.”

She lightly taps the wire cage surrounding the female golden eagle, Ama. The eagle peeps energetically, its eye trailing behind Shuu Ren’s finger. Shuu Ren gently smiles and pulls her winter coat over her shoulders.

Shuu Ren: “Okay, second check.”

She opens her bag and checks her contents. Her falconry gloves are there. And more importantly, her prescribed nutritional supplements are there. Satisfied, she puts her bag on her shoulders and walks up to the balcony door.

-Klakka Klakka-

She rattles the door to check if it is firmly closed and tugs at the lock to see if it is secured properly. She then reaches up high to grip the window over the balcony. She tugs the lever in place and twists the keys in the lock with her other hand.

Yozora: “Mureeeoow…”

Shuu Ren turns around and sees her cat sitting on the furniture next to her. Her eyes darts between Shuu Ren and the now locked window.

Shuu Ren: “Yozora, the weather forecast says that today is a bit colder than normal, so I’m locking the exits out of the apartment. I know it’s boring, but is for your own safety, okay?”

Yozora: “Meeeooowuwuwu…”

Yozora draws out her cry a bit longer than usual. Shuu Ren gets the gist that her cat is upset. She snickers and brushes her cat’s head.

Shuu Ren: “I’m sorry…”

Yozora extends her paw and taps the keys in Shuu Ren’s hand. Shuu Ren lets out a snicker before pocketing her keys. She brushes Yozora’s head one more time and walks over to the birdcage.

Shuu Ren: “Alright. Let’s get you to the veterinary hospital to get you checked up. Hisakawa-san is waiting.” [I have to apologize to her for you breakout during my Tokyo trip.]

Ama: “Kiu. Kiu. Kiu.”

Shuu Ren carries the cage and makes her way to the door.

Yozora: “Mew.”

The cat darts towards the door and sits down in front of it. She turns her head towards Shuu Ren, expecting her to open the door. Shuu Ren casts an annoyed look at Yozora.

Shuu Ren: “Yozora. Stay.”

Yozora stares at her and twitches her ear. Shuu Ren walks backwards against the door while watching over Yozora and slowly opens it. Seeing the sunlight pouring through the door crack, Yozora pounces forward.

Shuu Ren: “Yozo- Wait- No!”

Shuu Ren scoops up the cat with her foot. Lifting the cat with one foot, she hops out the door with the other. She places Ama to the side and picks up Shuu Ren in her arms.

Shuu Ren: “Yozora, stay in the house for today.”

Yozora: “Meow.”

Shuu Ren: “Now… There you go.”

She bends down and gently tosses Yozora inside. Landing on her feet, Yozora turns around and darts at the closing door.”

Shuu Ren: “No, Yozora.”

The cat is stopped by Shuu Ren’s finger extended from the door crack. She nudges Yozora on the nose.

Shuu Ren: “I’ll be back soon.”

She retracts her finger and closes the door shut. The keys jingle on the other side of the door and the lock engages. Yozora grooms herself in front of the door before darting across the living room.

__________________________________

A small creature scurries through the tall grass. Its brown and grey fur is ruffled and battered. Its limbs are screaming in pain due to heavy injury but it refuses to slow down for a monster has set it up as its prey. It speeds through the tall grass hoping to shake off the monster but the noise of the rustling tall grass has hidden the approach of an impending doom.

-Whap-

Mouse: “Kichi!”

The mouse flies up over the tall grass. A black paw has swiped at its side and sent it flailing in the air. As the mouse falls down to the tall grass, two paws with black fur emerge from the under the tall grass and catch the mouse in midair.

-Whap-

Mouse: “Chi-!”

The paws swing down with the mouse in their clutches onto the ground. The mouse cries out upon impact and lies motionless on the spot. The paws step forward to reveal their owner, a black cat with a velvet pet collar with a metal tag that reads ‘Yozora’.

Yozora: “Mew.”

-Df Df Df-

Yozora stomps on the mouse with its paws. She uses her weight to stomp harder on the mouse. Sensing that the mouse is already dead, she swipes the body to the side and walks back through the tall grass.

Yozora: “Mew.”

Yozora jumps onto the concrete wall and lay down to rest. The mouse has been a worthwhile prey. Having lasted for nearly an hour of chasing and smacking the poor mouse, she felt that she had a good exercise. She huffs at the its unfortunate luck. The foolish mouse had been sniffing around near the apartments. To stumble across it just as she managed to escape from her owner’s home, she decided to punish the rodent for approaching her home. Its original intention of scavenging food and shelter from the cold, Yozora gave it an ironic death of exhaustion in the cold.

Fully rested from the chase earlier, Yozora stands up and continues her patrol around the neighborhood. She reminds herself to jump into a hot bath before her owner comes back. The Taneshima household will do. She will hop in after the woman of the Taneshima family leaves and before the live-in university student comes in to drink the bath water.

Her ears perk up. Someone is making a lot of noise in the neighborhood. It is the daughter of the Kawaguchi household, Sumiko. Noticing something else, Yozora runs in full sprint in the woman’s direction.

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Sumiko: “Ah, those idiots!”

The college freshman cries out in anguish. She checks the time on her phone and continues her running.

Sumiko: “What the hell are you doing, Kouda?! I was told that I would be picked up from my place but everyone is meeting up at the campus entrance!”

She frowns in anger. She opens her phone to check her location.

Sumiko: [This neighborhood is a maze! Even though the college is near, getting to it is a pain!]

She glances at the street signs and returns her attention to her phone.

Sumiko: [… This turn up ahead and a straight shot to the colleg-] “Uwah!”

She stumbles over her high heel and catches herself from falling. Her face frowns once more over the predicament she is in. She steadies herself and jogs around the turn into a main street. Seeing the college in the distance, Sumiko feels that her little ordeal is over. She then turns on the phone selfie camera and uses it as a mirror to adjust her disheveled look.

Yozora: “Meeoow!”

Sumiko: “Wha-? Ah! It’s that old lady’s cat!”

A cat cry alerts Sumiko of her surroundings and she sees Yozora running next to her right flank. She ignores the cat and returns her attention to her phone.

Yozora: “Meeoow!”

Sumiko: “You’re being noisy! Go away!”

Yozora runs closer to Sumiko’s legs and knocks her leg for a moment.

Sumiko: “Wa~Ah! You, stupid cat! Shoo!”

She tries to swipe at Yozora with her feet but the cat dodges out of the way and keeps pace with Sumiko’s running. Getting vexed, Sumiko is about to say something when her phone rings. It is a message from her group. Its contents enrages her.

Sumiko: “I don’t want to heard that shit from you, Kouda!!”

She approaches the street crossing. The pedestrian traffic light is still glowing green.

Sumiko: [Looks like I can make it.]

Yozora: “Meeoow!”

Sumiko: “Shoo!”

At her wits end, Sumiko is irritated at the constant pestering of the cat. Yozora, on the other hand, is fed up as well and jumps in between Sumiko’s legs.

Sumiko: “What the- AAH!”

Her legs entangled with the cat, she lost her balance and falls to the ground. She stops her fall with both her hands and drops on her side right before the pedestrian crossing. Her hands are hurting, her appearance is ruined, and she is lying on the street. Sumiko snaps and got up.

Sumiko: “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YO-!!”

-FWOOOOM-

A large truck zooms past her at high speed. The wind generated from the truck hits her face and wind toss her hair upwards. Sumiko lean backwards in a heavy breath. She glances up at the pedestrian traffic light. The light that is green has just turned red the moment she looked at it. The driver of the truck must have been speeding and brazenly ignored the traffic light due to the empty street void of people.

Yozora: “Mew.”

Yozora gets up from between Sumiko’s legs and sat in front in front of her feeling proud of herself.

Sumiko: [Had I not fallen…]

Sumiko is stunned by the sudden brush with death. She slowly gets on her feet while trying to take in the spectacle from before.

Yozora: “Mew.”

The cat watches the woman closely as she gets up. Filled with anticipation for praise and gratitude Yozora sits proudly in front of the woman. However, something interrupted Yozora’s senses. She quickly turns around, sniffing the air and turning her ears. Her fur begins to rise and her breath turns into a growl.

Yozora: “Graaoouu…”

Sumiko: “Ah! Wait!”

Yozora sprints back to the neighborhood. Sumiko, surprised at the sudden departure of her savior, calls out to her. However, Yozora ignores her. She senses a strange person within the vicinity of her home. She picks up her speed, faster and faster until her form becomes a blur.

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<Chapter 13.5 | Main | Chapter 14>

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Author: Q-ichi

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