Chapter 5 to those who have been waiting so patiently. To leave you to reading without any further ado...
"There is a 53 percent chance of it succeeding." Inui assured the frowning buchou of Seigaku, whipping out four little bowls from the bag he had slung over one shoulder, and proceeded to pour the Juice into the bowls.
"53?" Tezuka asked, still frowning. "That's only a slight margin past a half-chance of success."
"According to my calculations, if I'm right, and I usually am, 53 percent if the best we can hope for for now." Inui recapped the jar and beamed down at the four cats, pen and notebook poised and ready. "The match with Hyoutei is two days from now, and we haven't told Ryuzaki sensei the truth why four of our players have mysteriously not attended tennis practice for the past few days."
Tezuka pinched the bridge of his nose in a sigh. He'd forgotten momentarily about the match. Two more days...he really hoped Inui's Juice worked properly this time. Perhaps he should consider banning the use of Inui Juice as a 'motivator' for the regulars to practice, especially if they caused unforseeable problems such turning the boys into furry little animals.
The two human Seigaku regulars watched as one honey-furred cat finally padded his way to one of the bowls. Trust Fuji to take the lead. As everyone watched with bated breath, he licked up the small amount of Juice, pink tongue curling over the tip of his nose to catch a drop that had landed there.
Ryoma followed his sempai's example obediently, and soon after, Momoshiro and Kaidoh hesitantly slurped up the Juice after seeing no (immediate) side effects of the liquid. Inui looked vaguely disappointed that no results could be observed. His pencil didn't seem to stop recording, though, as he wrote line after line of scrawled, barely legible handwriting.
"Nothing happened." Tezuka stated flatly after ten minutes had gone by.
"Perhaps ingredient number 29.001.5 wasn't measured out properly." Inui murmured, looking up briefly to inspect the felines before dropping his gaze to his notebook. Even Tezuka was slightly unnerved by the bespectacled teen's mutterings. Ingredient 20.001.5? That sounded...highly complicated. Even so, Inui's juice had failed to turn the cats back into their human selves. What was even odder was that the Juice seemed to have no effect whatsoever. Usually, if Inui's juice didn't kill, it crippled. More or less.
"It didn't work." Momoshiro complained in disappointment. He flopped down on the floor beside Ryoma, his tail swishing lazily across his back. "It didn't even make us pass out."
"Inui-sempai must be slipping." Ryoma said. He was half-relieved, and half-disappointed. He couldn't decide whether he wanted to turn back into a human, or whether he felt lucky that he had escaped a horrible pain by Inui Juice.
Half an hour slipped by, and it was apparent that the juice, whatever it was, hadn't worked. Inui packed up the Juice, jar and everything, into the bag, and stood to leave.
"Three more days." Tezuka reminded Inui sternly. "Three more days to undo this mess, or else we might have to cancel the match with Hyoutei."
A sudden gleam came into Inui's eyes, and a slow, crafty smile spread across his face. "Don't worry. Hyoutei might just cancel the match themselves."
Leaving the captain and the four cats to puzzle over his words, Inui let himself out of the room.
It was a Saturday today, a wonderfully glorious and warm Saturday. Seeing as there were no classes today, Tezuka decided to head out into town. As he pulled a sweater over his head, he remembered that he still had four very predictable and clever cats residing in his bedroom for the time being.
He looked around the room for the said cats. One was basking full out in the sunlight on the windowsill – that one was Ryoma, Tezuka knew, because of the rich dark green fur that fluffed up in the warmth. Another one was lying curled in the ebbing warmth og Tezuka's pillow – that was how Tezuka had gotten a 'wake up' call of sorts from Kaidoh, who had been eager to sleep on something softer than the hard wooden floor. Fuji was nowhere to be seen, but Tezuka's sharp eyes could spy a dark bottlebrush tail (that presumably belonged to Momoshiro) sticking out from under the bed.
"Look here." Tezuka tried putting on his strictest, sternest voice.
Not one of the cats moved. Ryoma continued sun bathing, stretched out in full luxury, Kaidoh was still sleeping in a heap, and Momoshiro's tail twitched once before lying still again. Tezuka suppressed a sigh, and added a bottle of aspirins to his mental shopping list.
Then he felt a heavy fluffy weight attach themselves to his legs, and he saw Fuji rubbing a happy cheek against his ankles. The cat was wound around his legs, purring in contentment even as his sharp cerulean eyes lay hidden behind the eyelids.
"Fuji, I'm going out for a short while. I'm going to leave food downstairs in the kitchen, and you can help yourselves to whatever's in the bowl. Do notruin the house. My parents will throw you out if you do, understand?"
The cat glanced innocently at him. Tezuka really did sigh this time, and reached down to stroke the cat gruffly on his sleek, smooth head.
"Make sure you do what I said." Tezuka said, finally taking his hand away. "And don't leave the house for whatever reason you have in mind."
Fuji did nothing but smile slightly to himself. Deciding that he had told them everything he had to, Tezuka picked up a small carry bag and left the house, carefully locking the bedroom door and the front door after him.
The minute Fuji saw that Tezuka had walked down the driveway of his house, the honey cat leapt up on the windowsill, dislodging Ryoma who fell with a yowl. Ryoma landed on all four paws, naturally, but he was terribly ruffled and irritated by the sudden evict from the sunny spot on the windowsill. He grumbled briefly under his breath as he forcibly licked both front paws.
"Let's go." Fuji said quickly, glancing out of the window to make sure that the target hadn't disappeared from sight entirely.
"Go where?" Ryoma grumbled. Kaidoh-sempai was still sleeping, and so was Momo-sempai. Why had Fuji-sempai chosen to pick on him? He had just started to soak up the warmth, too.
"Quick, before Tezuka-chan goes too far away." Taking a calculated leap, Fuji landed directly on top of the sleeping Kaidoh, causing the poor cat to jump up in fright and tried to take a swipe at the assumed attacker. Fuji paused only to make sure that Kaidoh had well and truly woken up, then he jumped to the floor and swiped under the bed to make Momoshiro come out.
"We're going out again?" Kaidoh asked warily, remembering their ordeal the day before at the mercy of the huge humans they had encountered. "I don't want to go out."
"You have to." Fuji insisted, going to the door via means of the chair-desk-doorknob method. Again, with the help of his sharp, tiny claws and deft twisting, Fuji the cat managed to unlock the door. He trotted out of the room, looking back expectantly when none of the other cats followed him. "Well?"
Fuji-sempai could pack a lot of meanings into a one-syllable word. Ryoma felt a shiver trail down his spine, and he shook his fur out. It was better not to get into an argument with his sempai. Quickly, glancing once at his two other sempais, he padded after Fuji.
Momoshiro and Kaidoh followed soon after. Momoshiro paused in the kitchen once, to scarf down the food Tezuka had set down for them, but soon abandoned it after having filled his little stomach. They trotted out of the front door that Fuji unlocked and all sleepy thoughts fell away as they sniffed the fresh air and felt the warmth of the sun's rays on their face.
"He went that way." Fuji said immediately, making a bee line to the corner on their right. The three cats trailed after the tensai neko, sniffing hard as they went. Their sense of smell had sharpened with the addition of cat abilities, and they could pick up a faint whiff of their buchou as they walked along the sidewalk.
"Why do we have to follow buchou when he goes out?" Momoshiro complained. "He did tell us to stay in the house, right?"
"Silly, isn't this much more fun?" Fuji smiled without turning back. "Tezuka-kun must be doing something secretive, to leave us alone at home. Aren't you the least bit curious?"
Ryoma decided to neglect mentioning the saying of how 'curiosity killed the cat' as he felt that it was slightly inappropriate for the situation. He was a cat now, and he sure as hell didn't want to get killed. Or at the very least, he wanted to die after he had defeated Tezuka-buchou, Fuji-sempai, that arrogant Atobe Keigo, Seiichi Yukimura and whoever else was good at tennis. Oh, and his useless excuse for a father, too.
The cats rounded another corner – and spotted the figure of their tall, stern buchou in the near distance. As one, the four cats dived behind a public dustbin, crouching so as to not get noticed. Their buchou didn't seem to have noticed, however. He continued striding to his destination, his carry bag swinging on his shoulder as he walked.
"Where is he going?" Momoshiro hissed, his interest now fully piqued. "The town's in the other direction."
"Considering what lies in this direction..." Fuji mused, "He can only be going to Rikkaidai."
Tezuka had the oddest feeling that someone was shadowing him. He looked back once or twice, but he couldn't see anyone (or anything) suspicious. Occassionally, there wasn't even anyone behind him. He wondered if he was briefly losing his sanity, thanks to having had to put up with his regularly insane regulars, four of whom had turned into sleek felines.
He dismissed the disturbing thought from his head, and walked straight into the almost deserted school grounds of Rikkaidai.
"So buchou was going to Rikkaidai!" Kaidoh hissed in surprise.
"What for?" Momoshiro asked. "Rikkaidai's not a very nice place to be."
"It looks neat enough to me." Fuji said cheerily. He walked straight past the open school gates, keeping an eye out for the elusive Tezuka. "And since we're here anyway, let's go have a look around."
The cats didn't need to hide every few seconds to avoid the scrutinity of students since there weren't any students around anyway. Sure, they spotted the odd group of sports students using the field, but they dodged those pretty easily. The problem was that they had lost Tezuka-buchou while hopping around the various dust-bins, lamp posts and pillars around the school grounds.
"Now what are we going to do?" Momoshiro grumbled, eyeing a potential food source – the dust-bin.
"Can we go back now?" Kaidoh asked hopefully. His hopes were dashed when Fuji continued craning his head to look around for Tezuka.
"Just a bit more." Fuji soothed the ruffled cat, patting one of Kaidoh's ears with a paw. "Besides, wouldn't it be fun to look around Rikkaidai's school grounds? We might even get to meet Yukimura!"
"Well, well. What do we have here?"
The sound of the new voice froze all four cats.
"Cats! We have four cats wandering around school?"
"Oh my goodness. What are we going to do with them?"
Almost afraid to look, Ryoma lifted his head and glanced up. His worst fears were confirmed when he saw a familiar visage of unruly black curls, a mop of red hair, and – oh – Sanada-fukubuchou was there as well, an inscrutable look on his face. Akaya and Marui were peering down at the cats in vivid interest, and Jackal stood slightly away from them, his face wrinkled up in annoyance.
"We're going to be late." He complained, crossing his arms.
"Sanada-fukubuchou is going to be late." Akaya corrected. "We're technically not required at the meeting anyway. Sanada is, and Yukimura's already there."
"It's better to go together as a team." Jackal insisted heatedly.
"Well, we're not going to have a say in whatever Yukimura's planned, so what's the point of going?" Akaya grumbled. "I want to play with the cats. They look cute. Ne, doesn't this one look like that Echizen brat from Seigaku?"
Ryoma froze. Did he really look like his human counterpart?? Why did everyone who met him call him a brat? He wasn't really that bad...right?
"Akaya and Marui can choose not to attend the meeting." Sanada said abruptly. "It's just a casual meeting between the Seigaku captain and Yukimura-buchou, after all."
Ryoma's ears perked up at that. So Tezuka-buchou was here in a meeting with Yukimura from Rikkaidai?
"Jackal, keep an eye on Akaya." Sanada instructed, then left the three Rikkaidai regulars with the cats. Jackal exhaled explosively and glared at Akaya, who beamed a 100-watt smile back at his team mate.
"Why do I always end up babysitting you?" Jackal demanded of Akaya in annoyance.
"Because you like me?" Akaya suggested innocently.
Marui reached out and, before Ryoma could do anything to stop the bubble-blowing kid, picked Ryoma up and sat the cat on his knees, gazing into Ryoma's wide golden eyes.
"Isn't he cuuute?" Marui exclaimed suddenly, and gave Ryoma an impromptu hug. "He has, like, the most awesome fur I've ever seen!"
"I like this one." Akaya pointed directly at Fuji, who stared blandly back at him. If Akaya even thought about trying to pick Fuji up, he resolved to claw Akaya's hands off. But Akaya seemed to sense Fuji's murderous intent, and he rocked a little on his heels and he tilted his head to observe the honey cat a bit better.
"What are we going to do with these cats? Let them wander the school?" Jackal asked. Ryoma was trying his best not to be glomped to death by the hyper Marui, hissing until the red-head loosened his tight grip. "Oi, Marui, don't kill the cat."
"I say we take them somewhere safe and...look after them." Akaya proposed. He had this look in his eye which Jackal recognized instantly.
"Killing animals for fun is prohibited." Jackal said immediately. "Besides, they might belong to someone."
"They don't have collars on, right?" Akaya countered. "So technically, they're strays."
"So leave them at a shelter, for goodness sake."
"I want to take good care of them." A smile was spreading over the second-year's face. "Come on, Marui, you can take that cat, Jackal, you get the brown-haired cat, and I'll get the other two."
"Didn't you say that you liked that one?" Jackal asked, puzzled, as he collected Fuji into his arms.
"Yes, but I have a feeling it'll scratch me the minute I try to touch it." Akaya replied, grabbing Kaidoh and Momoshiro before they could make a break for escape. "Isn't that odd?"
"Just don't do anything weird towards them." Jackal warned as Fuji nestled smugly in his arms, a catty beam on his face. He looked down at the cat he was holding. He had a feeling that these cats had more to them than what could be seen.
"Let's go to the clubhouse." Akaya decided, a cat tucked under each arm, and Jackal and Marui followed, Marui still crooning over a disgusted Ryoma.
I think I shall finish this story up in a couple more chapters. Have got the fuzzy outline planned, but not solid yet. I'm not a very creative person. I have cat ears in almost every PoT story, which is the extent of my creativity. Any typos, do let me know and I'll fix them as soon as possible. I read through this once and caught some of the more obvious typos, but I shall have to rely on you faithful readers to catch the rest. Kudos to the God of Typos (me) for making more work for you...XD
Please do let me know what you think. Comments, criticism, constructive advice are all welcome. Thank you!