Ticket to Freedom
Chapter Forty-Six: Ticket to Freedom:
Hitomi stared out the window of her room above the school. Despite it being a warm morning, she felt chilled to the bone. Last night, Haruka called her up. Hitomi was sound asleep at the time.
“Hello?” she asked in bed.
“Hitomi-chan!” an old lady’s voice croaked on the other line. The kitsune teacher sat up like a jet in bed.
“How are you tonight?”
“Do you know what time it is?”
“Yeah, yeah. Never mind that.”
“What do you want, Haruka-sama?”
“I just want to talk!”
“Why?” Something in Hitomi’s gut told her that her dear friend was in real trouble.
“Okay… What’s on your mind?”
“Oh, not much. I’m doing fine.”
Hitomi’s eyes shifted in the dark. She had no idea how long this would take. Haruka sounded worried about something. “Is everything okay?” The other line went silent.
“Ah, yes. Why would you ask such a thing?”
Hitomi bit her lower lip. “Just…”
The teacher shook her head. “It’s nothing.” The women talked until five in the morning. The whole time, Hitomi resisted asking questions. That nagging feeling wouldn’t leave her. Why won’t you tell me what’s wrong, Haruka-sama?
Hitomi pressed her forehead against the glass. Her breath tagged up the cold surface. Haruka-sama… She froze when she felt eyes on her back.
“Who’s there?” Hitomi asked, turning around. Kato stood in the doorway of her bedroom. The kitsune reached for her knife.
“Who are you?” she asked. The ghost man stepped forward.
“A friend,” he said. “Just an old friend.”
“But I do not know you.”
“Actually, I am a friend of your beloved Haruka-sama.”
Hitomi shook her head at his mocking tone. “She never mentioned you before.”
“I didn’t think she would.”
Hitomi looked at him as if she dared him to move. Her eyes darted left and right. Kato chuckled shaking his head.
“Don’t worry, I’m not here to harm you. Besides, it would be useless to kill me again.”
Hitomi froze as she looked puzzled. “What?”
“Don’t you recognize me?” Kato vanished and reappeared in front of the kitsune. His face was pressed against hers. “Your beloved Haruka-sama had you kill me. Remember?”
Hitomi’s eyes widened with panic. “No way!”
The kitsune fell to her knees, shaking. “Please don’t kill me! I was only following orders!”
“I know. But I’m not here for revenge.”
She lifted her head, blinking. “What? Then why did you come here?”
Kato bowed his head as he spoke. “I came to talk to you.”
“Huh? About what?”
He took hold of her face, smirking. “How would you like to be free from her?”
“What do you mean, `free’?”
The ghost pulled her to her feet. “I will help break the hold Haruka has over you if you agree to do something for me?”
“Why would I want to be free?”
“Because…” Kato sat down on her bed and stretched out his feet, not letting his eyes up. “I know you are not a killer.” The old man leaned forward.
“Do you want to spend the rest of your life killing and being her pet?”
Hitomi stared at him, wide-eyed. “Me? Be free from Haruka-sama?”
“Only if you agree to help me.” He patted the spot on her bed. “Come sit with me.”
As if in a daze, Hitomi walked over to the bed and sat down. Kato broke into a huge smile.
“Good,” he said. “Let us begin.”