Chapter 13

“Can you hear me?”

After finishing the big breakfast, Ran, Ayame, and Isamu all thanked Miya and disappeared to Ran’s room. Ayame seemed particularly excited about exploring the room, after enough reassurances from Ran that she wouldn’t be intruding at all. Isamu sat on the bed while Ran and Ayame sat kneeling down on the somewhat small but blessedly thick carpet.

“In fact, I want to talk with you, Ayame-chan,” Ran said.

“Really?!” Ayame asked with such enthusiasm that it gave Ran some pause before continuing.

“Uh. Yes,” she lowered her voice. “Where did you find the cat?!”

“Hehe, well…”

I was stalking your house and saw the cat! I should probably not say that…

“I was just passing by, and saw the cat, and I had to grab it, and it went all ‘woah, let me go!‘ when I caught it, and I was all ‘eeek, a talking cat, that’s so awesome!‘ and we talked and talked and when I was trying to get him to come home with me he said he was waiting for you and…”

“Breathe, Ayame-chan,” Ran interrupted.

“Kyaaaa, this is so cool! You have a talking cat!”

A familiar voice intruded into the conversation. “She doesn’t have a talking cat. She’s just lucky I’m working with her.”

The three girls turned to the voice, and saw Kitteh coming through the open window.

“Kyaaaa! Kitteh!” Ayame called, standing up like a Jack-in-a-box.

“Ack! Stop that!” =O_O=

Ayame took off like a rocket chasing after Kitteh, and before long the whole place was in disarray as they crashed on furniture, walls, and the other girls. Ran couldn’t stop laughing the whole time, despite the protestations from Kitteh about the crazy girl. In a final bid for safety, Kitteh jumped on Isamu’s lap, and Ayame stopped mere inches away from giving both Kitteh and Isamu one rather energetic tackle-glomp.

“Uhhh, that’s no fair!” Ayame complained. She tried to continue protest, but in the face of Isamu’s impassible expression there was nothing she could do but quell her enthusiasm.

“But really… Hahaha! Really now…” Ran said, fighting hard to regain her composure. “The expression of terror on your face, I… I… Bwahahaha!”

They were interrupted by a soft knock on the door.

“Is everything okay girls?”

“Yes mom!” Ran answered.

“Yeeees…” The other girls replied.

“Right, but keep it down a bit,” Miya replied.

“Okaaaaay.”

Ran and Ayame looked at each other and giggled, and even Isamu managed a small smile.

“What a pain,” Kitteh complained unhappily.

“Kitteh-sama… What exactly did you tell Ayame?” Ran asked.

“I told her to stop stalk–”

“Kitteh!” Ayame suddenly cried, lunging for him and interrupting the very inconvenient revelation.

To her surprise, Isamu was faster than her; she grabbed Kitteh and lifted him out of the way, only to put the black feline down on her head. Ran and Ayame looked at her with wide open and surprised eyes, and two heartbeats later broke out laughing again.

“What a royal pain…” Kitteh said.

“I agree,” Isamu added with perfect calm.

“Anyway,” Kitteh interrupted them from his vantage position. “I told her you weren’t here and that you were out fighting the aliens.”

“B-But…” Ran stammered, turning to Ayame.

She saw that Ayame was looking at her, and had a look a mix of adoration and admiration, with eyes and mouth wide open.

“That is… So! Cool! Shimizu-sama! Fujihara-sama!”

“Eh-hehehe,” Ran scratched the back of her head in embarrassement.

“This is no joke, girls,” Kitteh interrupted them. “You do realize how serious this situation is, don’t you?”

“Buuuuu-uuuut!” Ayame complained.

“Ayame-chan,” Isamu said, in a soft but commanding voice.

“Yes!” She suddenly snapped to attention towards Isamu, despite the fact that she was still wearing Kitteh as a hat.

“As Kitteh-san says, this is no laughing matter. We will have to risk our lives, and if we are to make a difference we will have to step into a conflict that has so far involved the whole of mankind. This is no easy task.”

“But…” Ayame complained again, through overdone pouty lips. “I’m no good at thinking all that stuff, I just think this is so cool. I wish I could go on adventures with you.” :3

Ran looked at Ayame and then at Kitteh. The cat merely sighed.

“Don’t look at me like that, I told you I’m just a cat.”

Ran turned her confused eyes to Ayame again. Her head was in a flurry, and the thoughts that were fighting for supremacy were at complete odds with one another.

I don’t know. It’d be great to have another ally, but why her? I don’t want her to be in danger, but… Wouldn’t it be nice to have more friends by my side for the battles ahead? But that’s so selfish!

“Nyaaaaaa!” Ran cried out, scratching her head with both her hands and closing her eyes in her protest. She suddenly realized what she was doing, and after she opened her eyes again, how everyone was looking at her. “Eep… Sorry. Anyway! Ayame-chan!”

“Yes!”

“This is a dangerous thing, and, it’s important to keep it secret!”

“I won’t tell a soul!”

“And Kitteh-sama! I want to know…” She stopped talking when she turned to Isamu, and saw Kitteh curled up on her lap, eyes closed and purring while she scratched him gently behind the ears, completely ignoring the rest of the world. “Really now…”

She looked down as she sighed, and Ayame put a hand to her head.

“Poor Shimizu-sama.”

She started scratching Ran behind the ears too, making her smile, then giggle, then start purring. In a few minutes, Ran had her head on Ayame’s lap and was purring contentedly with her eyes closed. Ayame looked at Isamu, and they both smiled.

“I wish I could go on adventures with you, Shimizu-sama.”

“Eh-hehehe, it’s not that fun you know,” Ran replied.

“It’s okay, I don’t care.”

“I think we could use more help. But I don’t want to see more of my friends in danger…”

“I don’t care.”

Ayame spoke softly, and was looking down at Ran through half-lidded eyes, blushing slightly.

“Kitteh-samaaaaa,” Ran called in a lazy tone. “Are we going to get more help or not?”

“How should I know? I’m just a cat,” he replied, matching Ran’s own tone.

“You keep saying that. But you speak and you gave us our powers, and…”

“No, no, no.”

“Hm?”

Ayame thought both kittens (figuratively) were on the verge of falling asleep. Luckily, Kitteh continued talking.

“I just sense when someone can acquire these powers. I’m not the source.”

“Then what is?” Ran asked.

“I dunno,” he purred.

“What do you feel when someone can get powers, Kitteh?” Ayame tried, not interrupting the cat-care she was giving Ran.

“Potential. Resolve.”

“I have those?” The energetic girl asked, with a bit more enthusiasm.

“A lot of girls here have the potential.”

“And I have resolve!” Ayame said with all her energy, almost shaking Ran out of her half-catnap.

“I dunno,” Kitteh mumbled again, “it’s not something you can tell you have. It’s deep inside. Unconscious. You could convince yourself you have the resolve, but deep down not have it at all.”

Ayame looked down at the smiling, purring Ran.

I’ll have it. Whatever it takes, for Shimizu-sama, I’ll have that resolve.

“Kitteh-san,” Isamu interrupted. “What are we supposed to do?”

“What d’ya mean?”

“Obviously, we can’t simply go out and kill every alien with just the three of us.”

That grabbed Ayame’s attention. “Three?”

“Yes,” Isamu answered, and left her hanging when she turned to Kitteh again. “So?”

“Fujihara-sama, who’s the thir-”

“Dunno,” Kitteh interrupted. “All I’m trying to do is find you girls.”

“Hmmmm,” Isamu hummed as she thought, “okay, you mentioned the aliens have a power similar to ours, and that’s why conventional weapons don’t work so well on them, right?”

“Yes…”

“Do they have that power just like that? Or… Well, is there a source?”

“Who knows.”

“Is there a source for us?”

Kitteh stopped purring and looked up at Isamu. They held each other’s gaze for a few seconds, until he laid down again.

“I mentioned Gaia before.”

“Obviously, but you said it wasn’t like the old Greek goddess.”

“That’s right. Dunno what it is. Something that has been with mankind since the dawn of time, that’s all I know.”

“So it gave humans power.”

“Chicken and egg,” Kitteh answered.

Isamu looked at the cat for a few seconds, then closed her eyes and started scratching him again.

“You’re hopeless,” she concluded.

Kitteh started purring again. “I know. Nyah.”

The conversation very much died down, until Isamu decided it was time for her to go.

“Uwah…” Ran raised her head slowly from Ayame’s lap, rubbing her eyes. “I think I fell asleep there.”

“That’s okay, I am very well rested today so I will keep an eye on things,” Isamu said.

“I’m not actually that tired,” Ran replied. “It was just very comfy. Nyah!”

Ran turned to Ayame and they both giggled.

“So you are feeling okay?” Isamu asked Ran.

“Yes, why?”

“I’m going to talk with Nereida Aegea about training.”

“Okay, so… Oh I see. I’ll be on standby then!”

Ayame looked at the exchange without understanding, but didn’t say anything. It looked as if she was trying not to be noticed. Ran and Ayame walked Isamu out and, after she had left, they returned to the room, sitting on the bed next to each other. Ran let herself fall back on the soft mattress with a sigh.

“Is something wrong Shimizu-sama?”

“No, not really,” Ran said, closing her eyes. “I just have all these questions, and nobody seems to have the answers.”

Ayame looked at the purring cat resting on the head of the bed, and then fell on the mattress next to Ran.

“But finding out things can be fun too!”

“I really hope so.”

Shimizu-sama…

“What?” Ran said.

“Ah?”

“You just called me.”

“I did? Sorry I was just… Um… nevermind…”

I just wanted to know. Shimizu-sama… What is Fujihara-sama to you? Did I say your name out loud?

“Yeah, you did,” Ran answered softly.

“Ah?! Shimizu-sama!”

Ran opened her eyes and looked at Ayame. The girl had sat up and was backing away from her, with eyes wide open and the perfect picture of what one would find in the dictionary when looking up the word spooked.

“Are you reading my mind?!” Ayame demanded.

“What?”

“I… I wasn’t saying anything! I was just thinking… You can read my mind?!”

Ayame was getting visible flustered, speaking fast and blushing considerably. Ran tried to calm her down.

“I really thought you were talking! Kitteh-sama!”

The cat opened his eyes and turned slowly to the girls.

“What is happening?”

“Don’t ask me,” he replied in an annoyed tone, curling up again.

“Woah. Ayame-chan?”

“Yes!!” She almost jumped out of bed.

“Let’s try! Think of something silly, okay? I’ll see if I can read it.”

“O-Okay…”

Fried rice with cabbage and pumpkin seeds in a tinned tomato sauce, with bacon!

“Well?” Ayame asked.

“Um… Nothing?”

Whew! Shimizu-sama, for a second you scared me there.

“Did I?” Ran asked.

“Kyaaa! You heard that?!”

“Oh! Really? You didn’t speak it? I honestly thought I heard it! Wait… I think that works when you want to say something to me!”

“Uh?”

“Try it! Call me and say something.”

“Okay…”

Shimizu-sama, there’s a cat in my hat!

“There’s a cat in your hat!” Ran replied, and laughed heartily.

“Yes! Well, no, actually it’s the cat in the hat, why did I say there’s a cat in my hat?”

“This is getting silly… But it works!”

“Y-Yes!” Ayame finally found her excitement back. “It really works!”

I can talk telepathically with Shimizu-sama!

“Wow, this is amazing. I’m going to have to try it with Isamu-san!”

“Oh. R-right!” Ayame stammered. “Of course!”

Ran looked at Ayame and saw her expression had changed, uncomfortable, and having lost much of her enthusiasm.

“Um, Ayame-chan?”

“Yes?”

“Isamu-san is… Well, she’s a friend, and an ally! We both got these powers, and it’s great! I’m kinda glad we became friends, actually. She looked so cold and so serious, but I think she was just a bit lonely.”

“I… I see.”

“Don’t you agree?”

“I’m not sure, I really never spoke much with her. I guess so?”

“Hehehe,” Ran giggled. “I think she could use a good dose of Ayame at full energy! Anyway, why did you want to know?”

“Ah! No, no, just curious, hehehehe.” She talked in a slightly embarrassed tone. Still smiling, she looked away from Ran.

I just… I thought you liked her Shimizu-sama, but if not, maybe I… I… maybe I could tell you that I lov-

Ayame’s heart suddenly skipped a beat when she realized what she was thinking. She turned to Ran very slowly, and saw that she was looking at her with a surprised face, eyes wide open and mouth gaping. She felt her face heating up as she blushed and turned crimson red. Without a second thought, she jumped to her feet and took a couple of steps away from Ran.

Ran couldn’t find the words. “Ayame-chan…”

“I-I-I’m sorry!” She cried, turned, and rushed for the door.

“Wait!” Ran managed to grab her by the arm before she got the door open. The action jolted Ayame like an electric shock, and Ran felt she was trembling. “Don’t leave like that. Really now.” Ran gently pushed Ayame around until they were facing each other. Ran put her hand under Ayame’s chin, and slowly made her look up at her. “You really mean it, don’t you.”

Ayame nodded timidly. Ran could tell her heart was racing. And her thoughts!

I can barely follow… I don’t want to follow! I have no right to intrude like that!

“I… I don’t know what to say, Ayame-chan. It’s so sudden… And there’s so much going on in my life…”

“I’m sorry Shimizu-sama. I shouldn’t have…”

“No! It’s my fault! You didn’t, I took it from your mind! Gosh, I feel terrible, I had no right to…”

“Shimizu-sama!”

Ran had been averting her gaze, and Ayame suddenly grabbed her hands and looked straight into her eyes.

My… my heart. Shimizu-sama. Can you feel it?

“I…” Ran hesitated, and finally looked away. “I’m sorry Ayame-chan…”

“I see…”

“I wish I had an answer to give you,” Ran said, still refusing to look at Ayame, “I really do. I don’t…”

“I’ll wait!!”

Ayame had interrupted Ran again, taking the red haired girl’s hands onto her own chest. When Ran looked at her, she saw she was smiling.

“Ayame-chan…”

“It’s okay Shimizu-sama. Of course it is! Tee-hee. Of course I can wait! I thought you were going to say no, but if you need time, I’ll wait! I’ll wait for as long as you need!”

“Really now…” Ran sighed and smiled. “If only I hadn’t gotten this silly mind reading power just now.”

“Well, now I’m glad you did. I have this special link with Shimizu-sama now, ne?” She made a cutesy sideways move with her head as she spoke, which made Ran giggle.

“Really now… I guess we do.”

There was a short and surprisingly awkward silence.

“Okay, and now I’m really going!” Ayame said.

“Ah?”

“It’s Sunday, my little brother will be mad at me if I don’t play with him. I’ll see you tomorrow, Shimizu-sama! Bye bye Kitteh!”

The cat merely waved his tail at the girl, and Ran walked her out. She was pretty sure it was an excuse, or at least a convenient alibi, but at that moment she felt they both wanted to table the discussion for the day.

“Ara, all your friends left,” Miya said as Ran closed the door of the apartment. “I was hoping they would stay for lunch too. It’s so rare for you to bring friends other than Sugi-chan home.”

“So, um, is it okay if they come back again?”

“Of course dear!”

“Hehe, thanks mom,” Ran said with a big smile.

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