Editor: Ferret Thao
Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 1: Homeless Child, Rick
Flash! Crackle! Pop!
Overwhelmed, he didn’t know how to describe what he was experiencing exactly, but these were the things that stuck out to him.
At that moment, Rick came to a halt in front of his residence and stared at the building, which was covered in dancing flames.
“You must be…kidding…”
The blazing fire emitted scorching hot air that heated the skin of Rick’s face and burned so brightly that the sky was illuminated. The light made the onlookers and Rick clearly visible.
It was chaos, and the noises were colliding in Rick’s ears. It was hard to separate the sounds of sirens, screaming, and shouts of firefighters telling people to stand back.
However, Rick was not focused on the noises that assaulted his ears. The situation did not feel real; it felt like he was watching a program on his TV or something.
Rick’s legs were shaking, making it impossible to stand any longer. He dropped down on his knees. The onlookers were unsympathetic as they either flat out ignored him or considered him a nuisance.
The plastic bag of items for his long vacation–magazines and snacks–were strewn upon the ground, where they were ruined by onlookers stepping on them, kicking them around, or tearing them apart with their feet. Rick suffered from the same fate as the items. However, he was glued to his spot as he watched the flames consuming all in their path.
He was in such a trance that when he finally came back to reality, he wondered how long it had been since he heard the words “The fire is out!”
The onlookers had left after the excitement died down and boredom set in, leaving only a few firefighters. Rick was still on the ground struggling to come to terms with the fact that his home and all its contents no longer existed.
“Um, hello? Are you okay?” a voice called out from behind Rick.
Rick slowly turned his head to see who had called out to him. There he saw the sweaty face of a firefighter in his characteristic bright orange and yellow uniform looking down at him.
His face was streaked with soot where he attempted to wipe off the sweat. It was obvious that he had been one of the firefighters who had worked hard to extinguish the fire. Rick knew that he should say thank you first. However, he was so distraught that he could only open and close his mouth before a sob escaped from him. He trembled while the sobs racked through his body uncontrollably. “Uuh!”
Rick inhaled in hiccuping breaths and let out an anguished cry saying, “Oh, my… my house!” It sounded pitiful, even to his ears, but he was unable to stop the tears that were overflowing from his face to the ground.
The fireman scratched his head and looked down in pity at the teardrops that disappeared as they were absorbed into the dark ground.
“You’re Mr. Edwards from Room 101, right?”
“Uh, hic, uuh, yes…”
Before Rick could ask how he knew his name, he remembered that another fireman had also come to confirm his identity earlier. However, Rick had been so stunned and distraught that he hadn’t even been able to answer.
“I’m sorry for your loss. The building was made of wood, so the fire spread quickly…”
“Ah, uh, ahh.”
That’s right. Rick’s apartment was made of wood. It was an old, old apartment building. Its only selling point had been that it was made of natural wood, which is preferred by wood-dwelling beasts. His friends made fun of him for his “ramshackle apartment,” but Rick had found it very comfortable. It was a small apartment building, with only six rooms in total, which he believed were all occupied.
Suddenly, he wondered if the others were okay. Rick pointed at the apartment and was only able to say, “Ah, ah, ah,” in an inarticulate way.
The fireman seemed to understand him and gave him a bright smile and nodded firmly and resolutely.
“The residents are all fine. Many of them were not in their rooms when the fire broke out, and they went straight to hotels or to their relatives…”
“Uh, well, except for Mr. …Edwards.”
The fireman spoke in an awkward way, as he saw Rick’s tears were welling up anew.
Apparently, everyone else had evacuated safely and had secured a place to sleep for the night.
“I, I …don’t even have a house, but I have to hibernate soon….” Rick pressed his hands against the ground as tears streamed down his face.
“Oh, uh, …Mr. Edwards, you’re the hibernating type, aren’t you?” The fireman frowned as if to say, “Oh no!”
Rick, while his chest heaved with sobs, nodded.
Hibernation was the act of sleeping during the cold winter months. Originally, hibernation was a method for animals to reduce their activity as much as possible and lower their body temperature to conserve energy during the winter, when food was scarce. The natural order of things was for them to be much less active in the winter.
When your thoughts and movements become sluggish, you can’t carry on with your normal life. Of course, work also can’t be done as usual. Therefore, those who have a habit of hibernation are socially guaranteed to take a proper vacation during that period. This was commonly known as ‘hibernation leave’ and was such a common practice among beasts that no one would think to complain about it.
Rick, a squirrel beastman, was the type of squirrel that required hibernation.
Because he had begun to prepare for hibernation in the fall, Rick’s room had been filled with nuts.
He would never have imagined that it all would be gone when he got home.
“Hic, hic, I can’t go to… to find a room now and prepare for hibernation all over again.”
It took time and money to prepare for hibernation. It was not something that could be done overnight because of the careful consideration and planning required. This was time and money that he didn’t have.
It was the brink of winter. If he began preparing now, he would freeze to death and die. Rick didn’t have the money to stay at a hotel or time to find somewhere else to stay. In fact, his bank book and all his valuables were burnt.
Having seen Rick’s tear-stained face, the firefighter glanced at the burnt-out apartment. No, it was no longer an apartment. It was just burnt black wood and ashes.
After looking at the apartment for a while, the firefighter clapped his hands together.
“That’s right …. Uhm, Mr. Edwards?”
Rick looked up, his face a mess of tears and snot, while the firefighter fiddled with his cell phone, which he had taken out of the inside of his firefighting uniform.
In the darkness, the phone’s dim light illuminated the good-looking face of the firefighter.
“I came up with a good idea. I have a colleague who will be going into hibernation tomorrow … Oh, hello? Yeah, glad to hear from you.”
The firefighter laughed brightly as he talked to Rick in the first half and then shifted his attention to someone over the phone in the second half.
Rick sniffled and then tilted his head.
“Yeah, yeah. Ah, uh, you’re going on a hibernation vacation from tomorrow? … Yeah. So, can you let someone hibernate with you there? Surely your house … oh yeah. Today’s fire … Yeah. Squirrel Beastman, Rick Edwards.”
Rick shook his little squirrel ears at the unexpected flow of the conversation.
“Oh, really? Okay, yeah, yeah, thank you.”
A beep sounded, and the small light went out. The firefighter smiled at Rick, whose tears still streamed down his face.
“It seems he’s okay with it!”
“………huh?” Rick stopped crying and tilted his head when he was met with a surprisingly cheerful voice and smile.
What the hell is okay? No, actually, he understood a little. Because the firefighter was talking on the phone in a way that was easy to understand.
The man was going on hibernation leave tomorrow, and Rick was going to go to …… his house.
“He said he has a vacant room, so please use it for hibernation.”
“Huh, eh, uh … yeah?”
Rick sat dumbly on the ground, his jaw hanging open, and looked up at the fireman who smiled happily at him.
Say Hello to our new series! It’s a short, cute and fluffy one~