“Kuro-chan! Have you seen Mahiru anywhere?!”
Looking up from her book, Claudine cautiously eyed Karen and Hikari, who had approached her in the lounge. Something told her that they had already searched everywhere else (especially Karen, who thought a person could somehow hide in the smallest of places), leaving the one obvious solution they probably overlooked. Again. With a small sigh, she asked, “Did you try calling her?”
“Wh- Of course we did!” Karen almost looked hurt; almost. “She didn’t pick up! We don’t know where she could’ve gone . . .”
“Well, I can’t help you. I haven’t seen her anywhere.” It was the truth. The entire morning, she had been busy reading, and she’s sure she would’ve spotted the girl from her peripheral vision at some point. Defeated, Karen excused herself and went to look elsewhere, Hikari silently following. With the distraction out of the way, Claudine returned to the pages of her book, content with the peace.
A minute passed. Another minute. Another, and then another. Suddenly, the Frenchwoman found herself unable to focus. There was a feeling in the back of her mind, like something, or someone, was watching her. Was Tendou Maya around? Lifting her head, she scanned the room, finding it empty. No one else was there, nor were there the sounds of footsteps heading in that direction. Had she simply been imagining it?
Returning to her room for complete, undisturbed solitude sounded like a good idea, so she stood to do just that. As she was turning the corner of the hall, she saw something from the corner of her eye. Small, dark, and fuzzy . . . had a rodent made its way into the dorm?! A shriek was rising in Claudine’s throat, and she took a step back, barely able to hold the sound in her throat. No, no, that couldn’t be the case. Their dorm rooms were clean! Well, maybe not the one the three idiots shared, but Mahiru had been able to clean up after Hikari and her reckless habits.
It could just be a blanket, or something like that. Think rationally, she told herself. No need to cause a fuss over what might be nothing. Though, there was still the underlying anxiety of it actually being something, so she approached cautiously. It was peeking out of the room of the three idiots, so it might just be trash Mahiru could’ve missed from Hikari’s pile. Slowly, she took small steps, going closer, closer . . .
And then it moved. Oh god, it moved! In a moment of vulnerability, Claudine tripped over her own feet, falling to the floor with a painful “thud” and scooched herself further from it. She couldn’t do this. She should get someone who could handle this situation. But who? Maya? No, that would be far too shameful! Perhaps Nana? She might be calmer about a wild animal in the dorms and be able to escort it out peacefully.
Before she was able to cry out, it moved again. This time, it moved towards her. She was unable to let out her scream of absolute terror when she laid eyes on what it actually was. It was . . . a dog. A pomeranian, to be exact. Any sense of dread she was feeling quickly washed over with relief, then confusion. Their dorm didn’t allow pets, did it? So why was this dog hiding in the room of the three idiots?
It might’ve been Karen’s. She seemed more like a dog person than the other two. The small fuzzy ball came closer to Claudine, giving her the chance to inspect it. Its hair was almost a dark shade of blue, eyes matching. It was unlike any other dog Claudine had seen before, but she wouldn’t be surprised if there were breeds she hadn’t seen for herself. Her head whipped back and forth, once again attempting to spot someone else who might’ve walked by, but it was a fruitless effort.
Two ideas popped into her head. She could report this to a higher up and potentially get the three idiots expelled, but they didn’t quite deserve that. At least, Mahiru didn’t. Claudine wasn’t sure if she could say the same for Karen and Hikari. There was also the option of hiding the dog in her bedroom until Karen and Hikari returned, revealing that she knew of their secret and that they needed to give the puppy a proper home. The latter seemed to be a more reasonable idea, as well as a bit fun. Teasing them wouldn’t hurt too bad.
So, with a tender smile, Claudine shifted herself, getting onto her knees and signalling for the pomeranian to come closer. “ Viens ici ,” she insisted, “I don’t bite. I hope you don’t, either.” The dog seemed to be shaking, almost frightfully, and it was tearing at Claudine’s heart. She wasn’t sure where she stood on the dogs versus cats spectrum, but at this moment, she had a bit of a bias. Wracking her brain for ideas of how to get the puppy to come closer, she tried to remember experiences she had with dogs before.
Calling for a name was out of the question, since this was her first time seeing this one. Instead, she lightly tapped the ground with one hand, hoping it would gather the dog's attention. It certainly did, but not quite in a good way. It hopped back, almost retreating into the room, and Claudine’s face fell. She refused to admit defeat. Again, she tried to call for it without a name.
“ Je ne te ferai pas de mal .” When she spoke in French, her voice was softer, more calming. It was a tone to indicate a safe feeling, that the dog had nothing to fear and could trust her. For a few more seconds, it remained still, then tentatively made its way over. When it allowed itself to be swept into Claudine’s arms as she carefully stood, she felt her heart melt with joy.
Part of her was despising the three from keeping such a cute creature from the rest of the group, especially her. Its fur was soft compared to the bristly appearance it took, and it nuzzled itself into her arms as she held it. Not reporting this was definitely a good idea, but now she was on the fence about telling the others to get rid of it. Conflicted with her own thoughts, Claudine made her way back to her bedroom, making sure to be mindful of any sudden moves or loud noises.
As she sat on her bed, she found herself petting the dog more eagerly, relishing in how it accepted the affection. “You’re a cute little guy, huh?” She mumbled to herself, only for the dog to turn over and reveal it was not a little guy. “ Ma faute , ma’am, you’re quite the adorable girl,” she corrected herself. If dogs could be flustered, she was sure that this one would be, as she hid her delightful face into Claudine’s hands.
Her hands moved to lift the dog into the air, their faces a few inches apart as she did. Now that she had relaxed a bit, the dog held its darling small tongue out, seemingly happy with Claudine. Oh, how could they hide this sweet, lovely pet away from everyone?! Nudging their faces together, Claudine allowed herself to sigh contently. “I wonder what your name is,” she said aloud, as if the dog was able to answer her. “Though, you do remind me of —”
A sudden breeze hit Claudine in the face, as well as a puff of smoke from seemingly nowhere. She flinched, closing her eyes and rearing her head back, and then, there was a weight on her lap, obviously heavier than the pomeranian she had been holding before. When she opened her eyes, she was absolutely shocked to see Mahiru, in her pajamas, sitting on Claudine’s lap and hands gently gripping her shoulders. “K-Kuro-chan . . .” She muttered, face absolutely red.
What in the world had just happened?
It was then that Claudine noticed her hands were firmly planted on Mahiru’s waist, and she pulled them back, looking away as she did so. What — how — none of this made any sense! Trying to keep her voice leveled, she spoke, “Is this some sort of magic trick you’ve been practising? Or a prank? What is happening?”
“I-I don’t know, either, Kuro-chan . . . I woke up like this and ended up hiding under my bed before Karen and Hikari got up . . . when they left, I tried to look something up about it, but I couldn’t use my phone . . .” Claudine’s thoughts instantly went to the small pomeranian Mahiru trying to use her phone to no avail, and a small smile was tempted to creep upon her lips. But it was not the time! She still couldn’t grasp this situation.
“So you’re telling me you just woke up as a dog? And you were miraculously cured when I was — when I was . . . petting you?”
“It seems so . . . I’m really sorry, Kuro-chan!”
“And what is there to be sorry about?”
“Eh?” The playfulness that Claudine had been feeling before about confronting the two idiots earlier was coming back, but this time, she felt like teasing Mahiru a bit. She didn’t feel like she said it much, but Mahiru was a rather enchanting girl. Reaching one hand out, she brushed a stray hair from Mahiru’s face, a grin tugging on her face. “ Ma Mahiru, you were rather cute, wouldn’t you agree?”
The pigtails on the sides of Mahiru’s head seemed to stand when this was said, and she lowered her face, flushed bright red. But Claudine would not allow her to hide herself, taking Mahiru’s chin in between her thumb and forefinger, their faces mere inches apart. “ Tu es magnifique ,” she whispered, pushing herself closer, their lips so close —
Any chance at an intimate moment was shattered the second the door was rudely flung open, Karen’s voice filling the room. Mahiru slipped from Claudine’s grasp, landing on the floor, and from the sound of it, it wasn’t very pleasant. Glaring at Karen, Claudine shouted, “ Espèce d'imbécile! Que fais-tu?! ”
“You know I don’t understand you unless you speak Japanese, Kuro-chan! And anyway, why were you hiding with Mahiru!”
“She wasn’t hiding! She’s allowed to be wherever she wants!”
“But you knew we were looking for her!”
“Karen-chan, please calm down!”
As havoc began to wreak about in her bedroom, Claudine let out a breath, turning her face away. What a rather disappointing turnout. The hand that had been formerly holding Mahiru’s chin hovered over her lips, and she could feel the blood rushing to her face. She was rather excited to steal a kiss from the fellow stage girl . . .
But it could wait for another time.