Hisashi balanced the silver pipe of his kiseru in his fingers as he exhaled wafts of white smoke into the cool night air. Seated on the engawa right outside his room, Hisashi looked up at the moon in the sky looming large amidst the clouds.
In the quiet night, he listened to the chirps of insects hiding in the garden and the muffled noises of his father's discussions with a Chinese trader. The foreigner was an old acquaintance of his father's, someone he met in his younger days and had not met again until today. Well, granted, they had been exchanging letters all this while.
Hisashi brought the pipe to his lips and inhaled. Whatever their relationship was, it had nothing to do with him. That's what his father would say. He parted his lips and let the smoke escape, watching it swirl in the stillness of the night.
Stillness? Hisashi paused. Weird. He could still hear the voices of his father and the trader, but the air had gone stale, unmoving. The insects and even the wind had gone silent. He frowned. Unusual. There would, at the very least, be some sort of-
A soft, almost inaudible rustle caught Hisashi's attention, derailing his train of thought and his eyes darted towards the shrubs lining the wall on the far side of the garden. Spotting a pair of golden eyes shining in the gloom, Hisashi squinted his eyes and stared. There were cats wandering around the city but he didn't recall seeing eyes like these on any of them.
The eyes blinked, melting into the darkness for a brief moment before more rustling reached his ears and a cat with rosette markings on its back stepped out into the moonlight. There was not enough light for Hisashi to make out exactly what colour the cat was, but it was a rather large-looking cat; bigger than any stray or housecat Hisashi has ever seen. It held it's fluffy, black-ringed tail high in the air, waving it ever so slightly as it started trotting towards Hisashi without hesitation. How strange, weren't cats typically skittish around people?
As it made its way over to Hisashi, the cat appeared to exercise some sort of deliberate caution, only treading on the stepping stones laid out across the garden as if particular about keeping its paws dry from the grass still damp from this afternoon's shower. Watching it quietly, Hisashi brought his kiseru to his lips and sucked again. The cat came ever closer and Hisashi shifted forward, towards the edge of the wood flooring outside his room to sit cross-legged. Noticing his movement, the cat paused and stared at him. For a fleeting moment, Hisashi thought that it might run away, but that passed and the cat continued its oddly determined approach.
Soon, the cat came close enough for Hisashi to touch it. But he knew better than to do that. He had seen others get scratched by cats when they reached out at this point, thinking that cats were as amiable as dogs. Cats were nothing like dogs.
The cat sat down on the paving stone in front of Hisashi, flicking its black-tipped ears as it cocked its head to the side and stared at him with its golden eyes, pupils wide and large. Hisashi had to admit that it looked adorable, even if was somewhat feral-looking. It appeared to wait as it sat there, unmoving with its tail curled around itself and covering its paws. Hisashi had no idea what it wanted. He held his pipe in his right hand and stretched his left hand out to the cat to wait and see how it would react.
It smiled. Or rather, it looked like it did. Do cats make such expressions? Hisashi blinked, surprised. He had never seen that happen before. That odd smile disappeared when he blinked once more. Eyes fixed on the animal, Hisashi wrinkled his nose. Perhaps it was just a trick of the light.
Carefully making its way up the slope that prevented rain from accumulating under the house, the cat came towards Hisashi's relaxed hand and bumped its head against it. Hisashi curled his fingers lightly and scratched the cat under its chin as it rubbed its face all over the offered hand. Soon enough, the cat emitted a low rumble, purring with its face seemingly delighted by Hisashi's gentle scratches.
Now that the cat stood right before him, Hisashi could see that its coat was sand-coloured, decorated with rosettes, as he first noticed, all over its body. Even if it was friendly, judging by its appearance, this was no housecat; this much Hisashi was sure. What was it then? Wild cats do not come around here. Well, none that he knew of at least. Then again, wild cats would not behave like this, would they?
As Hisashi continued puzzling over its origins, the cat came even closer, stretching up to put its paws on the edge of the engawa. It looked up at Hisashi, making eye contact with its large golden eyes as it let out a soft mew.
Hearing it surprised Hisashi. He was not expecting such a dainty sound to come out of a cat of this size. Without waiting for a response, the cat proceeded to climb up onto the platform and into Hisashi's lap.
Hisashi tensed slightly when it did, suddenly conscious of the fact that it might be grimy and he would need to change his robes later. He considered removing the cat but looking at the way it curled up in his lap, it seemed like it was too late for that now. Hisashi swallowed, his left hand hovering as he wondered what he should do. He did not have to, for the cat decided for him.
Reaching its front paws out, it put its paws on Hisashi's hand and pulled it closer as if urging him to pet more. Shrugging to himself, Hisashi complied. He casually stroked the cat's body, feeling its soft fur under his fingers as he continued smoking his tobacco leaves.
It was nice; petting the cat while he relaxed and enjoyed the evening. Much about the cat struck him as odd, but it seemed friendly enough. It appeared to have a rather agreeable disposition too.
With all the purring Hisashi heard, the cat sounded like it was enjoying itself as much as he was. He looked down at it, admiring its striking coat and its sleek form stretched out in his lap. It turned and looked up at Hisashi, golden eyes blinking slowly with a contented look on its face as it flicked its fluffy tail. Hisashi smiled back at it and put his hand on the cat's head, smoothing it along its body, all the way down to its tails.
Hisashi froze and blinked. Tails?
Startled by a loud burst of laughter followed by the sound of a shoji door sliding open, Hisashi snapped his head towards the source, his attention snatched away from the cat. As he set eyes on his father and the trader in the tea house, now enjoying the night with what might be sake in their hands, he suddenly felt the weight and warmth of the cat in his lap disappear.
Hisashi looked down, saw no cat, and then twisted around, eyes searching the darkness for a glimpse of golden eyes or rose-patterned fur but neither was anywhere to be seen. He furrowed his brow and pressed his lips thin, somewhat disappointed that he lost the short-lived companionship.
Breathing in deep, he shrugged to himself and went back to smoking his kiseru. Oh well, that was the most cat-like thing it has done so far and it was bound to leave sooner or later anyway. The tails thing still puzzled him though. Perhaps it was just his imagination. A cat with more than one tail? How absurd.
Hisashi put his palm behind him, using it to support himself as he leaned back and stretched his legs out. He noticed that the sounds of the insect calls have returned, as has the light, pleasant breeze. He smoked the remaining tobacco leaves in his pipe and exhaled. Odd.