Fruits Basket Fan Fiction ❯ Seasons of Sorrow ❯ Memories of Spring = Time of Your Life ( Chapter 25 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

DISCLAIMER: Yes, yes, I know…get my head out of the clouds. It's never gonna be mine. Fine…happy now?
Memories of Spring
Time of Your Life
“Wow, this whole place is already starting to pack up!” Uo called out, sporting a simple emerald green velvet gown that fit every curve on her body.
She stood with the others outside of their transport in front of the location where the party was being held. Everyone (minus the helpers) had shared the ride in the long limo that was provided by none other than Yuki (boys to one side, girls to the other—avoiding `complications'). It was not a very quiet ride, to Yuki's dismay, as the usual opponents, plus sidekick (that's Momiji), squared off with each other in the car. Compliments and insults were all a-mingle during their ride, and Yuki felt truly thankful to the point of kissing the sweet ground when he finally got out of the car, only to be met with another problem.
Stares…lots of them. Jaw-dropping, salivating, lip-smacking, `I'll eat you' kind of stares. Words could never really fully describe just how everyone was now gawking at the beautiful Sohma member. Yuki could swear that he heard the screeching of tires braking as he stepped out of the vehicle. Yet these same people also noticed that a certain chocolate-haired beauty wore an outfit that was a semblance of Yuki's own. Already Hana has had to `zap' the poor imbeciles that dared to approach Tohru maliciously from a distance.
Tohru was completely oblivious to it all as she eyed her surroundings with wonder. She was ecstatic the whole time she was getting ready with her friends, and she was infinitely grateful that Kagura and Kisa, plus Momiji, were there to provide much needed help and support. Her surrogate family truly came through for her tonight as she had stared at her own reflection in the mirror earlier that day.
The color of her dress matched that of Yuki's own, a deep indigo color. Although that was actually a bit misleading…there were two layers to this dress that gave the effect. The top layer was the black beaded/sequin overlay with curly patterns across the lower body of the dress (below the breast line) while the top portion had the black beads/sequins completely meshed together, held up by thin beaded and sequined straps. The bottom layer had the actual color of the dress, which was a bit of a lighter blue, but with the black overlay, the indigo color was the result.
She couldn't thank Ayame enough for preparing her dress for her, or for that matter, sending Mine to help her into it and make a final adjustment to it…a single deep red brooch that was shaped in the animal of the rat that was attached to the base of one of the straps. Add a good pair of heels, makeup done just right, hair upswept gracefully, one very happy smile, and Tohru was ready to step out into the world.
She was surprised to find the transport just pulling up for them when they left Hana's house. Immediately Kyo stumbled out of the car to hold the door open, only to see him with a look of shock and anger that Yuki got out as well. Tohru could tell that Yuki was more than just shocked at seeing her…she had hoped that she was dressed okay. He assuaged her fears when she saw him bow low to her and help her into the car with a very wide smile…one of those rare smiles that lit up his face.
“Oi, Tohru, isn't that Kureno?” whispered Uo lowly to her.
Tohru, startled from her reverie, looked to where Uo had glanced towards and saw the impossible. Kureno indeed was there, a ways off, talking to some adults that she didn't recognize. Just as she was going to reply to Uo's comment, she noticed that one member of their party had already made his way to them.
Yuki had noticed Kureno conversing with some strangers and immediately went over to them. As he neared them, Kureno had noticed Yuki approach them and gave him a smile when he stood next to him.
“Sumimasen for my intrusion. Kureno, when did you arrive?” asked Yuki curiously as he stood next to him.
“Just a little while ago,” replied Kureno softly. Gesturing to the two individuals he was speaking to, he continued, “Allow me to introduce you to some relatives you probably never met. Sohma Yamagi and his wife Keiko-san…they are the caretakers of the grounds and facility that your school is using tonight. (Turns to couple.) This is the young man I was speaking to you about, Sohma Yuki.”
In deference and gratitude, Yuki bowed low and stated in appreciation, “Pleased to meet you. Your employees have been extremely supportive in helping us out in our time of need. Arigatou gozaimasu.”
“Iie, the honor is truly ours, I assure you,” admonished Yamagi as he and his wife bowed low to Yuki. “I was just thanking Kureno-san for escorting us here. When we found out that it was actually you that was in need of this place, we couldn't have been more elated if the Head of the Family were to have personally requested it.”
“Eh?” was Yuki's stunned response.
“Absolutely,” agreed Keiko in support of her husband's declaration. “When we found out, we immediately called the House and requested that Kureno-san introduce us to you. It is just such an honor to even be in your presence, Yuki-dono.”
“Truly it is. If you are ever in need of anything related to these grounds or to the other properties we own, please do not hesitate to let us know about it. We would be more than happy to fulfill your requests as best as can possibly be done,” assured Yamagi with a bow once more.
“Um, well, that is, I…I appreciate your sincerity…um,” stammered Yuki as he blushed furiously while wringing his hands together. He then looked to Kureno for some type of explanation to all this attention since he was too confused to comment any further.
Kureno was observing Yuki the whole time that the couple spoke to the youth. He could clearly see Yuki's bewilderment at their actions to his presence there, and Kureno couldn't help but inwardly smile at the nezumi's innocence in the world that surrounded him, especially that found within the Sohma family.
It stood to reason, though. Yuki was purposely kept separated from those in the family that held authority in different areas of the family hierarchy. He did have some knowledge of how well off the family was in general and how it was all generally organized, but Kureno was pretty certain that the young man had very little understanding about how the family truly valued his presence in the family line and why they did. Such ignorance was meant to occur, and so for good reason, Kureno had debated bringing the couple to meet Yuki. However, after bringing the matter to Akito's attention (anything concerning Yuki and the family was always relayed to her), she gave her consent to their request, citing that it was time Yuki became more acquainted with the more influential members of the Sohma family.
“He will certainly inform you if he requires your assistance, thank you Yamagi-san, Keiko-san,” answered Kureno with a small bow in Yuki's place. “But now it's time for him to return to his entourage. If you'll please excuse us…we'll speak at another time.”
“Of course. Please give our utmost regards to the Head for us, Kureno-san. Yuki-dono, an honor,” remarked Yamagi as he and his wife once more bowed low to Yuki in deference.
While the couple walked away to their waiting transport, whispering amongst themselves, Yuki turned to Kureno and asked in utter confusion, not to mention embarrassment, “Kureno, what was that about? They were acting really…peculiar.”
Kureno could tell how nervous and uncomfortable Yuki was feeling, seeing how the youth was anxiously tucking a strand of his hair behind his ear. Giving him a reassuring smile and a small pat to the back, Kureno replied, “For now, I cannot fully explain to you what you will need to know regarding certain aspects of family affairs. That is for Akito to provide. Just understand that your position within the family as a whole is somewhat related to your position within the Jyuunishi circle. Although few know of our true nature as Jyuunishi members, practically everyone of authority within the family know how well regarded you are by Akito. It's a bit complicated, but trust me, many in the family think very highly of you.”
“How? I've never met most of those in authority,” Yuki questioned in disbelief.
“You don't know them, but they know you very well. Whether you realize it or not, you are constantly observed by the family, as many of the members in the Jyuunishi circle are. It's not that they know of the curse…all members of the family just feel naturally inclined to be deferential to the Jyuunishi without really knowing the reason why. They don't question it because it's sort of second nature to them…a comfortable feeling if you will.” Stopping in their walk back to the group, Kureno held Yuki's gaze steadily as he continued to explain the more touchy part of this whole matter. “Yuki, the family's connection to you is just as strong as their connection to Akito. You have the strongest pull out of all the Jyuunishi, and therefore you stand out more. They don't even have to look at you or meet you personally to feel drawn to your `essence', if you will. The Jyuunishi's bond with each other is the strongest bond there is, but the bond within the Sohma family as a whole to this circle is very much considered the second strongest.”
Looking a little lost to this new information provided to him and silently wondering why Kureno was telling him this all of a sudden, Yuki bowed his head and remarked quietly, “Why are you telling me this now?”
Pausing for a moment as he thought how best to explain himself, Kureno reached out to bring Yuki's gaze back to his, and further explained, “I had to. Akito had wished you become more informed of general family matters sooner rather than later and so left that task to me. As an example, she allowed Yamagi-san and his wife to meet you in hopes that you come to a better understanding of sorts in regards to your position in the family.”
Feeling a little less confused, the youth tentatively asked, “So Yamagi-san and his wife weren't lying about what they said? They weren't trying to `gain favor' or whatever?”
“Some family members may do this, but they'll never be introduced to you. As for Yamagi-san and his wife, the answer is no, they weren't lying—they meant what they said. Just as you complete the circle within the Jyuunishi, you complete your position within the Sohma family. Yamagi-san and his wife were not exaggerating in their thanks to you when they said it was an honor to be able to meet you personally. They truly felt thankful to have served you in any way,” stated Kureno with conviction. As a stray thought came to him, he smiled softly to his young relative and whispered to him, “You know, as Yamagi-san was speaking with you, Keiko-san commented to me that she was extremely pleased that you were so `endearing and captivating'. Her words exactly. I do believe she was quite taken by you.”
Blushing furiously as he had moments ago, Yuki blanched at this comment. As he brought a hand to his face to hide his very red blush, he glanced up to see Tohru and Uo approaching them. Straightening himself, he called back his composure and nodded his thanks to Kureno for explaining to him what he needed to know for now. From what he had just heard, he knew that more was involved, and like Kureno said, Akito would be the one to provide these particular details.
“Tohru-san…Uotani-san. I'm sorry to have left you so abruptly,” apologized Yuki to the girls.
“Iie, it's all right. We wanted to say hi to Kureno-san…it's been such a long time since we last spoke, ne Kureno-san?” asked Tohru nervously.
Yuki noted that his companion had completely gone silent at the arrival of the young ladies. Kureno was actually keeping a steady gaze on Tohru's blonde-haired friend who was also amazingly quiet. Smiling at this sudden circumstance, but not an unwelcome one, Yuki gave Kureno a small pat on the back as he walked away. Grabbing Tohru by the wrist, Yuki silently conveyed to her that it was better to leave the two to their own private conversation. Tohru, who was silently wishing for precisely that, smiled widely in agreement and walked off with Yuki.
As they neared the gate, Tohru asked Yuki quietly, “Yuki-kun, may I ask how did you know about them?”
“He told me,” was Yuki's simple reply as he softly grinned at her.
As she was about to respond to that, the other half of their group was having another tiff of sorts, particularly between the Ox and Cat that could be heard loud and clear.
“We're waiting, Kyo,” remarked Haru tersely, somewhere between White and Black Haru.
“No, we're not, Haru,” seethed Kyo.
Haru continued, “Yuki…”
“Damn the Mouse! I'm leaving to go inside!” interjected Kyo heatedly.
Just as Black Haru was about to emerge, Yuki went between the two combatants and held both hands up to their faces. Giving them both a good glare, he quietly stated, “Any fighting here, and you'll both end up going home a lot earlier than planned. I mean that.”
Haru immediately backed down, primarily because the object of his concern returned to him. Kyo however was about to retort to this command from the Mouse when Tohru came forth once again to appease the angry Neko.
“Kyo-kun, we're all here now. It'd be awful if you had to leave because of an argument. Uo-chan is a little busy, but she can meet us inside. Let's all go in and have a nice time today. Come on,” she pleaded as she tugged on his arm to go towards the gates.
“Yeah, Kyo, come on! They have sweets already lined up at the buffet! Hurry, let's go in,” coaxed the jubilant Momiji.
Feeling somewhat appeased for the moment, Kyo relented and huffed instead to Yuki. As Kyo and Tohru, along with Momiji and Hana, walked to the gates, Yuki let out a heavy sigh, thankful that he didn't have to exercise his right as the student in charge. He really didn't want to kick his cousins out, but if it came down to it, he would have if only to save face with the caretakers of the facility. A brawl at such an exclusive event as this would not have looked well for their school in the eyes of the family.
“Oi, don't look so down,” commented Haru languidly as he swung an arm around his smaller cousin. “It's time we finally got this show on the road, ne?”
Smiling brightly and letting all the previous apprehension leave him, Yuki nodded in agreement. “It's the time of your life from what Nii-san had told me…let's hope that really is true.”
The first wave of scented candles is what the casual observer would have noticed upon entering the grounds. It seemed that the burning candles scattered all over the area were having the desired effect of being surrounded by a field of blooms, particularly hydrangea and lilac. Strips of white cloth were tied from tree to tree, giving the idea that they were all interconnected. The different variety of trees was of course highlighted by the most common and prettiest of them all, the cherry blossom trees. These trees were lined around the main stone courtyard where the real masterpiece of the decorating committee centered.
Since this rather large courtyard was located outside of the gazebo where the food and beverages were being served to the tables being housed there, they had erected a `tent' of sorts using a more durable cloth to make up the ceiling. These gave the ceiling a flowing effect right straight to the middle where a large hanging bouquet of fresh flowers with balloons hung low. What was also remarkable about this makeshift dancing area was that each corner, twelve in all, had one animal of the Chinese Zodiac carved in ice and on display here with a spotlight accenting each one. They even included the Cat within the sculpture of the Rat…both depicted seemingly at peace with one another.
This particular sculpture was the one Tohru was currently eyeing at the moment. It had never been made secret to her that the family members that knew of the Jyuunishi curse looked down on the Cat's presence within them. To have these two creatures together like this was not what Tohru expected…she honestly believed that they would have excluded the Cat from this ring.
“How do you like the final arrangements? I was relieved that they were able to get these done on time,” commented Yuki a little fatigued. He had actually been running around getting last minute details taken care of, all the while dodging rabid members of the female population plus dragging Kakeru from one assignment to another. Currently a breather was in order as he stood next to Tohru.
“Hai, these are beautiful sculptures. They must have cost a fortune to pay for,” replied Tohru in awe.
“Actually, they were a gift from the family. They, um, were happy to help out,” remarked Yuki as he downplayed the eager help the family was more than willing to provide to his school. He still was mentally reeling from his conversation with Kureno earlier, but he quickly cleared his head when he heard Tohru speak up.
“Yuki-kun, I was just wondering…why did they include the cat in this setting? It was just rather unusual, especially considering they have the Cat here with the Rat. I was just curious,” Tohru asked timidly while rubbing her mask absently (each of them had been carrying their mask around until the actual dance started).
`I was actually hoping this wouldn't be brought up…' thought Yuki to himself while gazing at the sculpture in question. In reply to her, he commented, “The old story is about them both anyway so why not have the Cat in the picture is what I said. It was a little hard to convince them to do it, but I had some help along the way.”
“You had personally requested this? You don't mind that (whispers softly) Kyo-kun's Neko form is next to your Nezumi form?” asked Tohru curiously.
Looking at her with slight confusion, he replied quietly but with certainty, “Well, no, why would I? The baka neko gets on my nerves, but he's still family. Family always stick together, even if he is a hot-headed lout with nothing better to do than give me grief.”
“Eh…” murmured Tohru to herself.
“Oi, Tohru, where are you?” called out Kyo.
`Speaking of the lout,' thought Yuki wryly. Beaming to Tohru, he replied, “I had better hurry back—Kakeru is probably trying to sell off some old pens I used. I'll be back, though.”
“Hai, I'll be here. Uh, be careful…with the crowds I mean,” requested Tohru with a small smile.
When Kyo finally made his way to her, he saw that she was talking to Yuki quietly. As he finally made his approach, he saw how she reached out to grasp Yuki's hand and give it a squeeze. At this, Kyo narrowed his eyes and stomped his way to the two.
“Tohru, we were looking for you. Everyone is at the gazebo grabbing some food. You need to eat something,” tersely remarked the Neko while glaring at the Nezumi who was not even sparing him a glance. “We can come back and look at the sculptures after we've eaten. Nezumi, don't you have somewhere else to be?”
“Eh, he was just leaving to attend to his duties, Kyo-kun. Hm, ah…Yuki-kun, do you need me to get you a plate of food? I'll bring it to you wherever you are. I wouldn't want you to miss out on the wonderful meal they brought us,” said Tohru anxiously while squeezing Yuki's hand tighter.
“Iie, I'm fine. Really. I need to get some details straightened out with the music and then some other things. Go ahead with Kyo, I'll catch you later,” grinned Yuki as he gave her hand a squeeze back and let go. He glanced sideways at Kyo with no emotion while walking away, across the courtyard.
“See you later, Yuki-kun,” Tohru waved happily. “Gomen for making you wait, Kyo-kun.”
“Don't worry about it,” grumbled Kyo lowly as he took her hand and headed towards the gazebo where the other half of the group was already dining.
It was a crowd to be sure, but somehow the gazebo housed all the grade levels remarkably well. Each table had a beautiful floral arrangement as its centerpiece with a scented candle in the middle. Employees of the grounds manned the buffet tables, and the variety of food provided was extensive. As soon as they got through the table, loading their plates with food, Kyo led Tohru through the crowds carefully until they reached their table.
“Tohru…where did you wander off to?” asked Uo while munching on an egg roll.
“You seem at peace with yourself,” commented Hana languidly while taking a sip of her drink, careful not to let the bells of her black lace sleeve (she wore a simple black lace dress with bell-like sleeves) rub against her food.
Sitting down with a smile, Tohru replied, “Gomen, I didn't mean to worry you. I had been looking at the decorations over at the courtyard. They are remarkable…I'm pretty sure everyone will love it. Oh, then I ran into Yuki-kun,” remarked Tohru softly. “I wish he could be here with us. He seemed so tired. (Smiles widely) Maybe I can still get a plate together for him and find him later on. I'm sure he'll be hungry.”
“Don't worry about the fool,” remarked Kyo through mouthfuls of food. “He doesn't eat much as it is anyway. Don't go wasting your time on him.”
“Well, compared to you, Yuki doesn't pig out as much, hehehe,” giggled Momiji joyously.
“Shut up!” shot back Kyo.
“I'll help you, Honda-san,” chipped in Haru quietly.
“Arigatou, Hatsuharu-san,” replied Tohru happily. Turning to Uo, she whispered, “Um, Uo-chan, are you okay now?”
Knowing what she was referring to, Uo gave her a grin in return. “Yeah, kinda…it's cool, really.”
Deciding not to push the matter, Tohru returned her attention to her group at the table. As she ate, she listened to the ongoing arguments between Kyo and Momiji, every so often hearing Haru's contribution to it. Uo was detached from their grumbling, still thinking about a certain gentleman while Hana calmly ate her food in silence, `zapping' a rogue female gone feral every now and then.
“Attention, all ladies who posted their entries to me,” was the crackled announcement from Kakeru over the megaphone. “All results are being tallied and sorted, and the winners of the prizes will be announced later. If you haven't entered and would like to, we still have some forms left. With a surcharge for processing these late entries, they'll be accepted, only the betting pools are completely closed…”
“Quit that!” exclaimed Nao while snatching the loud piece from Kakeru. “We're supposed to be announcing that the dance is commencing.”
“Yeah, yeah, later, “ replied Kakeru off-handedly. “Right now, we need to locate the object of our affections. Where did Yun-Yun run off to?”
“Far away from you,” mumbled Nao irritably.
“Our fair Yun-Yun was last spotted with the musical arrangements, then headed over to the other side of facility with some of the employees,” reported Kimi from behind Nao.
“Perfect…more time to tally the votes,” commented Kakeru happily. Turning to Nao and snatching back his megaphone, he called out, “Attention everyone, it's time the dance started. Please move in an orderly fashion with your partner, and remember, no attacking or groveling or drooling of any sort should be done around our dear Yun-Yun, wherever he may be. Seniors, remember to keep your mask visible on you at all times so we can judge them with little trouble.”
At hearing this, many of the students moved towards the courtyard, many having finished their meals some time ago. Tohru perked up, too, and she quickly began to finish off her meal. She looked up when she heard Kyo address her.
“Oi, don't worry too much. Take your time…we're not going anywhere until you're done,' remarked Kyo as he leaned back in his chair lazily.
“Um, arigatou. Are you ready to dance, Kyo-kun?” asked Tohru while finishing up her meal.
“Dance?! Me?!” asked Kyo incredulously.
“Yeah, that'll be the day!” cried out Momiji with a grin. “Kyo can't form two dance steps if it killed him.”
“BAKA!” called out Kyo while smacking Momiji on the head. “I know how to dance…Shishou taught me a long time ago.”
“Oh, he did, did he?” questioned Hana with a starry look in her eyes. “If he's as good at teaching you to dance as he is at being a martial arts teacher, he must dance divinely.”
Slapping his forehead with this nonsense from Hana, Kyo turned back to Tohru. “Look, it's not that we don't know how to dance. (Whispers) Other `complications' may come around if it's too close for comfort, you know.”
Suddenly realizing what he meant, Tohru softly blushed at this and hung her head low at her ignorance. “You're right…it would be `complicated'. I'm sorry I didn't think about it before. (Looks up—understanding smile.) Don't worry because you can still be with me and Uo-chan and Hana-chan, too. I know I won't be asked out to dance, and there are lots of walkways through the gardens we can go through, and you guys haven't seen all the decorations since they put them up after we left earlier today. What do you say?”
“Yeah, whatever. It's okay,” agreed Kyo nonchalantly as he tilted back in his seat with his arms crossed behind his head.
Stifling a giggle, Momiji reached out and jabbed the idle Neko just a tad, but enough to send the poor guy on his back straight to the floor.
“Oh, Kyo-kun, are you okay? Do you need some ice for your head?” remarked Tohru worriedly, kneeling next to Kyo's sprawled form.
Yet the instant Kyo's eyes snapped open, she knew that no ice in the world was going to temper Kyo's fury at the moment. Letting out a sharp `eep', Tohru backed off Kyo as the angry Neko got up on his feet, fists clenched to the side. With a deadly glare to Momiji, Kyo walked to the Usagi much like a predator to a prey. And Momiji sure knew when he felt like the prey…
“AAAHHHH!! Move away!!!” Bolting through tables, Momiji dodged people still milling about with Kyo close on his heels.
“DAMN USAGI!!! STAY PUT!!!” screeched Kyo as the fury was going through him in waves.
“Stupid Cat…don't you know that you're MAKING A SCENE?!” yelled Black Haru towards the end.
“Eh…guys, you can get kicked out,” replied feebly Tohru as all three ran circles around the facility. She was silently grateful Yuki didn't catch any of this, but still, their tiff was getting unwanted attention from the chaperones heading their way.
“Oi, guys, hawk alert, 10 o'clock,” called out Uo in warning to the fighting cousins.
Mayuko was making her rounds at this end of the grounds, and she heard quite the commotion from the direction of the gazebo. Seeing that most of the students were already at the courtyard, she went into the gazebo to see who else was left. She came upon Tohru's group sitting calmly at the table with no hint of mischievousness in the air. But instincts told her otherwise…
“So, how's it going here, peoples? Anything…new?” interrogated the teacher with an arched brow to the students that would likely cause a ruckus.
Sensing her gaze on him, Kyo rolled his eyes irritably. Angry that he couldn't send the Usagi through the roof, he opted to glare to a dark corner of the place. “Nothing new, geez. Why don't you stick your long nose elsewhere, you old bag?”
(Smack!) “Sure, keep talkin' Sohma, and I'll have you in detention way after graduation,” threatened Mayuko with a malicious grin.
“You can't do that!” cried out Kyo while nursing his bump on the head.
“Try me…” Mayuko dared him with a knowing gleam now in her eyes.
“Oh yeah, this is going to be good,” stated Uo with a sly grin as she made herself comfortable to see the standoff. Momiji sat with her, bowl of sweets on hand, while looking on with the same eagerness as the blonde.
As Tohru tried her best to calm down the two, Uo and Momiji cheered the teacher on, with Hana continuing to eat quietly. Seeing all this only brought one thought to Haru's mind.
`Damn, is this what they meant when they say that tonight will be the time of your life?'
`If this is having the time of my life, I'd rather be home dead asleep in my bed.'
Such a thought was currently circulating through Yuki's mind while hearing the endless drone between council members and students alike from his perch against a tree. The dinner portion of the affair was over without incident (there was mention of some broken chairs and tables but nothing extraordinary—he only prayed his cousins didn't have a hand in it). The dance was now in full swing, and although he didn't see anyone from his group dancing, he did spot one every so often chatting endlessly with each other and with other students.
Thinking about this, Yuki sighed once more, wondering absently how he came to be mixed up in this mess to begin with. He never liked loud gatherings, or for that matter, loud people. Seeing both types all around him, he had to honestly wonder how he's been keeping his sanity thus far with all this brouhaha everywhere. The reason probably is more attributed to the fact the he currently was hiding in the shadows, and whenever an employee of the grounds needed help away from the party, Yuki was right there willingly volunteering to help in any way. Staying out of sight but not out of mind from many of the seductive stares out there was his goal for now, and so far, he was doing well.
`Hm, I should check on Tohru-san and the others. They may be looking for me,' thought the Nezumi idly. With that in mind, he kept to the obscure shadows of the grounds and went in search of his group until he ran into somebody from said group.
“Gomen ne, I didn't…Haru?” asked Yuki incredulously at seeing the cow in front of him.
“Where were you? I was looking all over for you, then I somehow ended up in the kitchen, then the gazebo…” trailed off Haru as he counted up the places he's been over the last few hours. “I should have just went with my gut instead…”
“Don't worry about it,” interjected Yuki. “Where did you leave the others?”
“At first they walked all around the walkways in the gardens…the accessible ones anyway. Then I lost track of them,” calmly remarked Haru. Pausing in thought, he slowly stated, “I do remember that they had wanted to look at the ice sculptures more closely…we should check there.”
“Perfect…now I'm worried,” mumbled Yuki desolately to himself, wondering which ice sculpture will suffer the demise of being smashed into pieces by a bumbling usagi or wild neko.
Yuki really wasn't exaggerating in his concerns. Said cousins were all but close to another close encounter of the most painful kind. The ice sculptures really were vulnerable to an attack as Kyo stared down Momiji with a very thin thread of patience. All through the night he had stayed by Tohru's side, at times being by himself with her. Those were moments he cherished, slipping into easy carefree conversation with her. The fact that he couldn't dance with her the way he wanted was appeased, and he felt completely at ease with speaking with her like he always had. Of course, said moments were not long since the rest of their group (particularly Uo and Momiji) made it their goal to antagonize him at every moment. Hence why the ice sculptures' future was uncertain whenever he was around in a bad mood.
“Aw, come on, Kyo…you know you want to see it,” pleaded Momiji while hanging off his irate cousin's arm.
“Get off me, baka,” remarked Kyo irritable as he tried pulling his arm away. “I don't have to go see another stupid ice sculpture to what the animal Zodiacs look like, especially the kuso nezumi's.”
“Demo,” intervened Tohru, “you had already seen it earlier, didn't you?”
“No, I just saw you standing with the damn fool,” grumbled Kyo to himself.
Laughing at his expense, Momiji piped up, “Yeah, it figures. You really can't see anything else when Yuki is around.”
Closing his eyes as he tried reeling in his temper, he tightly remarked to the Usagi quietly, “Say or breathe another word to me, and I'll be sure to smash your sculpture on your head.”
Just as Momiji was to respond to that very obvious threat, they had all arrived at the final ice sculpture. Tohru gazed at it most appreciatively, happy to see this designed with the Cat and Rat together.
“Oi, this one's pretty good, too,” commented Uo while taking a closer look at the details. “Look here, the cat's not even chasing the rat. Creepy, they just seem to be hangin' around this rock.”
“They are etched quite skillfully together. You can tell more care was given to the details on this sculpture, particularly to the Rat,” stated Hana serenely.
“Yo, Orange-top, come on, let's now compare your mask to this thing,” replied Uo—this was something they had been doing since they began viewing the sculptures.
Kyo however didn't hear her, standing transfixed before the sculpture. He really did have to agree with Hana that this sculpture definitely had more care given to it than the others. He'd be more than miffed by that fact alone if it weren't for the blaring detail that the cat form was included in this sculpture. He would have preferred the Cat get its own sculpture, but since that wasn't likely to happen, this would have to do. Still, he was shocked to even see the Cat included in this Zodiac ring…he had to admit that for once, he was utterly speechless.
“Kyo-kun, are you all right?” asked Tohru with concern. `Even though it's just an ice sculpture, he really is taking this inclusion of the Cat in this Zodiac ring to heart. I hope it's for the best.'
“Hey, Kyo,” interrupted Momiji, “did you know that Yuki was the one to get this one set up the way it is?”
Snapping his attention back to the group, he quickly glanced to Momiji and gave him a cold glare. “You lie,” he bit out in disbelief.
Startled by his behavior, Tohru was hoping to clarify this matter to Kyo and make him believe that what Momiji said was true. However, the object of Kyo's displeasure had made his presence known then.
“What are the two of you arguing about now?” asked Yuki languidly, eyeing the ever so familiar scene of an angry Neko bent on damaging the Usagi on some level.
“Nothing important, kuso nezumi!” shot back Kyo heatedly before anyone else chimed in. Turning his back on them all, he turned his gaze to the huge crowd in the makeshift tent where many of them were dancing in the central part of the courtyard.
Letting out a deep breath, Yuki turned his attention back to the group, thankful to see that all the ice sculptures suffered no damage at the hands of his boisterous cousins. “Tohru-san, are you enjoying your time so far?” he asked with a kind smile.
“Oh yes, it's been wonderful so far. How about you…did you finally manage to eat something?” asked Tohru worriedly. “I have a plate here with me that has some food I know you like. That is, if you don't mind it being cold.”
Upon receiving the plate of food, Yuki couldn't help but smile widely at her kind gesture. “Arigatou. I don't mind that it's cold.”
Tohru smiled equally in return, seeing how hungry Yuki actually was as he ate in big bites his dinner. As she watched him contentedly, she never felt the steady gaze on her back. Nor did she sense the sad feeling coursing through a person's veins at seeing her undivided attention on his rival.
“Why aren't any of you dancing?” asked Haru mildly while eyeing Uo and Hana.
“Nah, it's cool. We've officially scared off each male that has come near us, and that includes the underclassmen,” remarked Uo with a smirk.
“It does look like a lot of fun though, doesn't it Uo-chan?” questioned Tohru wistfully. “Well, if we can't dance, we can at least keep enjoying each other's company. It's been great, hasn't it?”
“True…we've got to make this night count for the history books,” consented Uo.
As Yuki finished his meal a little more quietly, he did note that although Tohru spoke happily about not being able to dance, he could tell there was something else in those eyes. A sense of longing perhaps. It was a shame that no one has asked her to dance. She was magnificent and she was dressed superbly. He had wanted to carry out such an honor himself, but his duties left him high and dry and very far away from her. He could only hope that she was enjoying herself on some level, even if it meant dancing with a guy other than himself (that thought really didn't please him). However, it seemed that the guys were probably too scared to come near her with Uo and Hana nearby, not to mention Kyo's glares stopped the poor saps cold from even glancing Tohru's way.
Wiping his mouth delicately with his napkin, he made his decision. Yuki was not afraid of either female (well, not morbidly) or any death glare from a cat. And he wasn't going to stand idly by and watch Tohru gaze at an unfulfilled wish.
“Tohru-san, would you like to dance?” asked Yuki with a small bow as he took her hand in his.
Stupefied at this, Tohru was undoubtedly speechless. Kyo could only glare crossly at Yuki, mentally kicking himself for leaving Tohru's side. His other cousins however chimed in with concerns of their own.
“Um, Yuki, are you sure?” asked Momiji incredulously.
“Yuki, this is risky,” remarked Haru uncertainly. “What about the `difficulties' you have with dancing with a girl? Or the crowd even?”
Yuki quickly snapped his gaze to both cousins, needing only to narrow his gaze at them to silence their babbling. If truth be told, both cousins have seen this look of authority before…on Akito herself.
Returning his attention back to the girl of his dreams, Yuki pulled her along with an assuring squeeze to her hand. As they carefully maneuvered their way through the crowd, Tohru pulled on Yuki's hand to get his attention.
“Yuki-kun, they're right,” replied Tohru with a panic. “I can't let you risk yourself just so that I could get a chance to dance. It's not worth it, really. Let's get back to the others, okay?”
“Do you trust me, Tohru-san?” asked Yuki suddenly as he pinned her with his gaze, not allowing her to look elsewhere but at him.
Staying glued to his eyes, she resolutely responded, “Hai, you know I do, but…”
“Just as much as you trust me, I trust you,” he continued with determination. “I trust you, Tohru-san. (Leans down to her.) I trust you to be careful, just as you trust me to be careful as well. It'll be okay…just have faith in me. Please?”
As she still remained unsure of what was to happen, he leaned in closer so he could whisper in her ear, “Your mother may have wanted you to start and finish high school. But I am certain that she wanted you to also enjoy it while it lasts. This is the time of your life, Tohru-san…please allow me to share that time with you.”
Blushing softly at his proximity, she closed her eyes in quiet consent. Smiling back up at him as he leaned back, they both continued their way to the dance floor with no further interruptions.
Seeing them go off, oblivious to the cousins' hesitation with letting them dance, Uo grabbed Hana as they ran to catch up with their friend. “Yo, guys, come on. We need to be sure that the Prince's fan club or the other rabid females don't maul Tohru!”
`Or squish Yuki in his rat form—that'll be good,' thought Kyo angrily while steering himself away from the crowds to watch Tohru from a safe distance. As he leaned against a tree, he saw them at the edge of the dance floor, waiting for the next song to come up. Looking down at his mask, he twirled it around and around, absently wondering why didn't he risk dancing with Tohru just like Yuki had.
Seeing Yuki emerge from the crowd with Tohru in tow brought a smile to someone else's lips. `Finally, our dear Yun-Yun finally got up the nerve! Man, I'm making good money on the betting pools tonight!' thought Kakeru wryly. `This momentous occasion deserves some real slow music, but just to make him comfortable, let's first start out with an oldie. They're always good to start with.'
Sensing the current song coming to an end, Yuki looked down at Tohru's happy face. `She really does light up a room with her smile. Please let Nii-san's dance lessons work for me tonight,' he pleaded silently to himself. “Ready?”
“Hai,” she chirped gladly while allowing herself to be led to the dance floor. `He trusts me as much as I trust him. I won't let him down,' she resolutely promised herself.
When the next song started up, they were silently grateful it was an easy song to dance to and very well known. Yuki could have sworn that someone picked “My Girl” with him in mind. Shaking the thought, he turned his attention back to his dance partner. Coming as close as he dared to, he saw that Tohru had her right hand in his left, and her left hand was pushing against his right shoulder, effectively keeping him at a safe distance from her at all times. He could see her quiet determination behind those kind eyes to keep the curse in check. Smiling and relaxing at this, he brought his right hand to her lower back (but not too close to himself) and let himself guide her calmly through the crowds, ever so mindful of his position with her and everyone else around them.
While they danced on, Hana made good use of her camera and `zapping' the occasional psychos that dared come near Tohru and Yuki on the dance floor. Uo made good use of her steel pipe this evening, calmly swinging it around (out of sight of the chaperones), intent on letting everyone know that she has it and she's not afraid to use it.
“Are you getting good shots, Haru?” asked Momiji excitedly yet with concern laced in his voice.
“Hm,” answered Haru affirmatively while snapping a few shots with the camera and taping the moment with the digicam that Shigure lent him. As the song came to an end, Haru let out a breath he'd been holding the whole time. `Good, now he can get out of there.'
The next song also was of the same era, and soon enough, the crowd continued to dance, including Yuki and Tohru. They seemed to have fallen into a rhythm while dancing with each other, and seemingly defied the odds of dancing in close proximity. Haru could only look on in worry while taping the moment plus taking shots with the camera. Momiji was concerned as well, but he allowed himself to trust his older cousin.
Yuki and Tohru were oblivious to such concerns as they focused on each other's presence during the dance. It was rather amazing that they have danced without incident thus far, and both were more than pleased that they were indeed having the time of their lives. As this song ended, Yuki paused to catch his breath and laugh happily with Tohru. Upon hearing the next song come on, he noticed that it was more slow, and yes, rather romantic. Blushing at this thought, he looked to Tohru for confirmation of continuing to dance with him…maybe she'd rather dance with someone else now…
“Iie, Yuki-kun,” answered Tohru without the question being asked while nervously wringing her hands together. “I…I want to dance with you.”
Smiling softly to her, he brought her closer to himself and resumed the position that they started out with. Leaning his head down to hers, he slowly relaxed himself in step to the melody being played. Closing his eyes and letting himself get lost in this moment of his life, he noted that the song chosen was in Spanish.
Cómo quisiera poder vivir sin aire...
Cómo quisiera poder vivir sin agua...
Me encantaría quererte un poco menos.
Cómo quisiera poder vivir sin ti.
Pero no puedo, siento que muero,
me estoy ahogando sin tu amor.
Cómo quisiera poder vivir sin aire.
Cómo quisiera calmar mi aflicción.
Cómo quisiera poder vivir sin agua.
Me encantaría robar tu corazón.
He carefully translated the song in his head, and he had to admit…it fit him so well. `To wish for the impossible knowing it won't come true is incredible. To wish to be able to live without her is an impossibility that I'll gladly accept.'
¿Cómo pudiera un pez nadar sin agua?
¿Cómo pudiera un ave volar sin alas?
¿Cómo pudiera la flor crecer sin tierra?
Cómo quisiera poder vivir sin ti. Oh No
Pero no puedo, siento que muero,
me estoy ahogando sin tu amor.
Cómo quisiera poder vivir sin aire.
Cómo quisiera calmar mi aflicción.
Cómo quisiera poder vivir sin agua.
Me encantaría robar tu corazón.
Cómo quisiera lanzarte al olvido.
Cómo quisiera guardarte en un cajón.
Cómo quisiera borrarte de un soplido.
Me encantaría matar esta canción.
Hearing the song come to a close, he paused and looked down at the girl in his arms. Gazing at her, he knew deep down just how impossible it would be for him to let her go. `And I won't let go…I won't.'
This very same thought was also shared by a different person altogether. He gazed longingly as the lady of his desires was literally being swept away from his grasp. Sudden panic plus a distinct ache in his heart were slowly driving him over the edge of keeping his anger in check. But seeing how completely taken she was with Yuki's charm only rubbed salt on the bleeding wound even more so.
`Damn him, I swear, DAMN HIM TO HELL!' seethed Kyo in his thoughts. With eyes hardening to glittering jewels of garnet, he clenched and unclenched his fists tightly that one could hear the knuckles crack under the pressure. `If only he can feel the pain I'm feeling…heartless bastard! He knows NOTHING of all the pain I went through to be as close to Tohru as I've become! He's not going to tramp all over that just to take her away from me, the damn fool. I won't let him…I WON'T!!!'
“Well, that was incredible, everyone!” exclaimed Kakeru over the mic. “This night is slowly coming to a close, and the concluding fireworks display and bonfire as well as announcing the `Best in Show' for the masks our seniors are wearing is just moments away. But before all that, we have some unsettled scores to settle.”
`Oh, dear Kami, please tell me he's not going to do it!' thought Yuki frantically as he tried to find an exit for himself and Tohru.
“LADIES (and some gents—cough—you know who you are), get your raffle tickets out and gather around here so I can I announce the winners of all our entrants!” cried out Kakeru with an impish grin. “Quick now people, time's a wasting and the chaperones are definitely making a beeline towards here.”
“Eh, um, Yuki-kun, you must be…uh, honored,” stuttered Tohru in her response to the overwhelming masses trying to vie for a winning spot.
Yuki could only hang his head low at this new predicament he found himself in. `The baka better have put a good disclaimer in his contracts if he wishes to live to see his graduation.' As he bitterly thought that, he did note that most of the crowd moved in to the stage area where Kakeru was, leaving Yuki pretty much outside the crowd along with the stragglers. Seeing this golden opportunity, he grinned and formulated his plan in his head.
“Now, what we'll be doing first is calling out the winning number for an all-nighter with our dear, delectable Prince with a side of chocolate munchies in a basket for the lovebirds. READY?!” called out Kakeru in expectation. “The numbers are 10, 22, 54, 32, 5, 23.”
“10!” yelled one female.
“22!” called out another.
“54!” was the mystery masculine voice in the crowd.
“32!” yelled a teacher from a corner.
“Anyone with all numbers plus the last number?” asked Kakeru uncertainly, eyes wide in anticipation.
As the hushed masses were rereading their tickets, a small, solemn voice spoke up. “23.”
Turning around to this voice, they noticed that the owner of the voice was Hanajima herself. Holding up the ticket, she repeated herself. “23. Now can I have my basket of chocolates?”
Blanching at this remark, Kakeru stammered in shock, “W-why yes…of course—it'll be delivered to your address. But you are aware of the bigger `prize' here, right?”
“Of course. That's why I'm asking about my chocolate,” quietly stated the denpa. “When is it to be delivered? Will I receive a tracking number for the package? Be sure it's marked perishable so the chocolate will not melt in transit.”
“Um, yeah, sure thing,” agreed Kakeru hurriedly. `Can't disagree with her…damn, chocolate really is a woman's best friend.' Shaking his head, he continued on with a grin of a show host. “All righty then, the night's not over yet folks…here I have the next prize up! A pair of Yun-Yun's personal gym attire! Complete with his pair of shorts and sweater still kept sealed in plastic. But wait, there's more! You'll also get the towel he personally used during the heated endurance runs he's had to participate in…not once washed since he's used it. Any takers?”
At this declaration, the many females were practically swooning to try to get to the package Kakeru held out in the air. “Here we go! 88, 2, 47, 62, 9, 17.”
“YES!!!” screamed an avid fan from the Yuki Sohma Fan Club. “Thank Kami, I GOT IT!!!
When the president of said club saw this, she immediately went into a rage and tackled the poor underclassman. “AAAH!!! GIVE ME THAT, YOU BITCH!!!!”
As both students went down for the count, Kakeru couldn't help but smile at how his plans finally worked out like it was supposed to. After all, the betting pools (where his real money was coming from) were all based on the catfights his contests were sure to bring forth. Now, if only he could convince the girls to wrestle over in the mud…
“Whoa, the fur is flying, folks!” gleefully called out Kakeru into his mic. Grabbing a bowl of snacks, he remarked those closest to him, “Hey, stand aside. The bets aren't legally bound if I can't judge the winner appropriately. All right, let the bets commence! Kimi, please provide the in-depth play-by-play while I handle the transactions, okay?”
“Ten-four,” saluted Kimi dutifully. Turning to the growing mayhem in front of the stage as more rabid females joined the fray, she immediately started commenting, “Now we have our dear President of the Yuki Sohma Fan Club biting into the hand of the poor sap on the floor in vain hopes of trying to retrieve that winning ticket! Wait…she's fighting back…yes, people she is using her nail file! Anything goes, folks, anything goes…whoa! That looked like it hurt! Moving on, here we have the classic hair-pulling technique! Wow, I didn't know you could pull that much hair off one person! Ugh, that looks messy…are you sure that's sanitary?”
“Odds are 7-1, dude. Pay up or be off,” said Kakeru in his business tone. Turning to another, he replied, “The odds went up on that girl…no, I can't split 500yen, get out of here! Hey you, careful with the merchandise there…”
Turning far, far away from this spectacle, Kyo fumbled his way through the fringes of the crowd, barely reaching his group unscathed by the females that demanded he help them with trying to cheat on these contests.
“Damn fools. All for that stupid rat,” bit out Kyo irately. He saw that Haru was busy taping the chaos while Momiji happily munched on sweets watching the show. Hana and Uo were pretty much doing the same thing, but one couple he was looking for was not here. “Where the hell are Tohru and the damn rat?!”
With a smirk, Haru snickered in reply, “Gone like the wind.”
“NANI?!” screeched Kyo agitated. “What do you mean?!”
“Gone. Slipped the leash. Flown the coop. Gone, gone, gone, GONE!” spelled out Momiji. “Anything else?”
“Shut up! Where did they go, Haru? You better tell me or else…” threatened the Neko lowly with a gleam to his eye.
“Oh, please Orangey,” intervened Uo with an annoyed air. “Do you honestly think he'd stick around for this fiasco? I made Tohru leave with him, too, so that she doesn't get caught up in this free-for-all.”
“But where did they go?!” demanded Kyo further.
“I really don't know. Somewhere on the grounds,” replied Haru nonchalantly while continuing taping the rather dirty ladies on the floor.
“Tch,” huffed the angry Neko as he stomped off in search of the missing couple.
True to Uo's word, Yuki really didn't want to find himself in the middle of what could only be classified as an assault on his character (`could he legally prosecute Kakeru for this?' he mildly wondered). He took the golden opportunity that Kakeru had made for him and ran for dear life. He hadn't anticipated taking Tohru along with him, but he had to agree with Uo—the ravenous wolves, er, girls would likely turn on the poor unsuspecting Tohru.
“Yuki-kun, where exactly are we? The guard back there looked rather worried that we were taking a stroll through these gardens,” remarked Tohru anxiously.
It was true that the guard was at first concerned that a member of the party was closing in on a restricted area of the grounds. There were many guards in this part of the grounds to keep away strangers from the more personal Sohma property. However, once the guard became aware of who Yuki was, he allowed access to both of them without hesitation.
“It's okay, Tohru-san. These are the personal gardens of my family. They are off limits to the rest of the people at the party, so it's safe to walk around here,” commented Yuki calmly.
“Oh, okay,” replied Tohru uncertainly. “Do the gardens here have a different flower variety?”
“Hai, that plus something else…” responded Yuki quietly.
“Really, what sort of flowers…do you…” trailed off Tohru's voice as she stood before a huge statuesque. “What is this? It looks like…a bird…”
“Hai,” Yuki quietly confirmed. Turning to her, he explained, “This statue along with the others around here depict the members of the Jyuunishi in their animal form. It's why we call the grounds Zodiac Gardens.”
Staring dumbfounded at the statue, she could see the precise detail given to the rock sculpture. All around the base of the statue, a floral arrangement was planted carefully around this, maintained to perfection if the healthy glow of the plants were any clue. A sole spotlight was focused on the front of the statue, giving the `bird' life to its stony features. The light also highlighted an inscription of some sort that was etched to the base of the statue. It was clearly etched, but the words seemed gibberish to Tohru.
“Yuki-kun, what does this say?” asked Tohru as she peered at the inscription more closely.
“I am not sure,” replied Yuki thoughtfully. “No one really knows. Many Heads of the family had thought at some point that maybe the inscriptions were a chant of some sort to dispel the curse. I don't know if Akito believes this, but I don't believe it to be the case.”
“It would be incredible, though, wouldn't it? So these statues are pretty old then?” she inquired. “They look brand new…”
Gazing back at her, he smiled softly in reply, “That they do. The family has been cursed for many ages now, and no doubt these statues are as pristine as the day they were made. It's been said that these statues have been in the family since the curse was placed upon our family line, and therefore, the meaning of the inscriptions have been lost to time.”
“Demo, Yuki-kun, if it's been that long ago, why haven't they withered away like all old statues?” asked Tohru bewildered.
“They're tied to our curse somehow. Just as the curse proves indestructible, so do these statues. Not one chip can be made into its stone,” stated Yuki with a slight frown. Shaking his head from a stray thought, he remarked, “Many of the family members are afraid that these statues have some wrathful aura within them, but I don't believe that to be true either. Come, I'll show you around to the other statues, and you'll see what I mean.”
Tohru nodded in consent and held onto Yuki's hand as he led her around the grounds. Certainly enough, the other statues were spread around the garden, in a circular pattern from what she could tell. Facing each statue, she saw how each was separated from the spectator by an immense flowerbed, each statue with a different variety. Yet, she had to agree with Yuki…not one of the statues had conveyed any sort of malicious aura that she could tell. One only needed to see closely at the features of each animal that they were carved in a way to denote a peaceful air. The real proof, however, was actually found in the last statue, the Rat.
As he led her to the middle of the gardens, she noted how this particular statue of the Rat Zodiac was completely different from what she would have suspected. Much like the ice sculpture, this statue had both the Rat and the Cat of the infamous fable. Interestingly as well, no aggression was conveyed in either animal's eyes. Instead of a rock they were perched on, a tall stone tree was in its place with the two animals seemingly running around it in an innocent form of chase. The base of this statue also had a lengthier inscription to it along with miniature forms of the other Jyuunishi etched all around the base. Even the flowerbeds were a combination of all the floral species found at the other statues, accented by a large ring of water that acted like a moat around the entire masterpiece with spotlights embedded in the moat all around. All in all, this sculpture gave the sense of camaraderie among all Jyuunishi members, including the Cat.
Noting this rather drastic detail, Tohru looked up to Yuki in complete bliss. She was so happy that in reality the Cat was included in the banquet after all, sort of anyway. Still, why the sad story? And why make Kyo live that lie?
“Yuki-kun, why would they exclude the cat if he was part of the circle to begin with?” she asked quietly.
Knowing that the question was inevitable, he gazed at the statue before him. He always wondered himself about that detail…heck, after first seeing this statue, he was extremely happy to see that the Cat was his friend after all. But cold reality soon washed over him once he met up with the actual Neko of the Zodiac. Bitterness and rage seethed from the tiny body of Kyo back then, so much so that Yuki was in shock. He remembered even staying up late at night, staring at the stars and asking himself constantly what had he done wrong to upset his cousin so. He never understood it, and he found himself still bewildered as to why the family held on to the illusion that'd been passed down for so many generations.
Shrugging his shoulders, he replied softly, “I don't know. The story has been in place long before the Sohma line came into contact with the curse. I guess the family supposed it explained their lot in life and so stuck with the traditional story. Tradition overrides common sense at times, and that tends to happen a lot within my family.”
“Oh,” she said with a forlorn face. `How very sad that Kyo-kun has had to live such a life for the sake of tradition.'
“Hey,” remarked Yuki quietly as he cupped her face gently, guiding it to meet his own. “Don't be sad. Everything is working out well now, don't you think? The baka can be really moody, but at least I'm not as tempted to shut him up all the time, ne?”
Shaking her sad thoughts away, she beamed a wide smile to Yuki. “Hai!”
“Good. Now every time I come here, I always do something before I leave. Want to join me?” he whispered mischievously.
“Um, sure, what do you need me to do?” she hurriedly asked.
“Stand like this…back straight, arms to the side. Close your eyes.” Seeing Tohru obediently following his instructions, he continued softly, “Now don't say a word.”
Nodding in consent, Tohru remained still. She felt a breeze flow by her, carrying with it a floral scent that set her at ease. As she did this, Yuki was completely mesmerized at the vision before him. He knew that he would never forget this moment…a tall, handsome lady with skin as soft as velvet and lashes like that of a porcelain doll. Her simple beauty is what he simply couldn't get enough of…and hoped that he'd never be without.
Slowly raising his hand, he tucked a stray hair back into place. With the same hand, he brought Tohru's own up and laid it flat against his own outstretched hand. Leaning forward ever so carefully, he let his forehead touch her own, feeling her soft breath against his face. Feeling shivers going up his spine, he closed his own eyes and focused once more on the task he's been doing for as long as he can remember. Now, normally he'd be leaning both palm and forehead to the base of the large statue (he'd jump over the obstacles when no one was looking), but instead he had Tohru with him. It gave him a definite skip in his heartbeat, having her this close and open to him.
Breathing in deeply, he whispered softly, “May the peace and tranquility be with my family. And let my love for my family set them free.”
Opening his eyes once more, he eyed Tohru for a moment longer before speaking. “Tohru-san, you can open your eyes now.”
Snapping them open, Tohru saw how close he truly was to her. Her hand was still laid out against his palm, and she immediately blushed at such intimate contact. “Oh, um, did I do okay? Was everything like you had wanted?”
Seeing her ramble on with obvious embarrassment brought a wide grin to Yuki's face. “Hai. We're done…I hope it wasn't too strange or silly for you.”
“Iie,” she quickly replied, “that was…very moving, Yuki-kun. There's nothing strange or silly with wanting the best for your family.”
“Hm, it just came to me when I first started coming here. This really feels like home to me,” Yuki wistfully remarked as he gazed up into the dark sky above that had its `jewels' shining ever so brightly.
Tohru followed his gaze and lost herself in his presence, staring high above at the endless inkiness of the sky. The stars shone their best this evening, and here she was by Yuki's side, feeling everything and anything that surrounded her. The peace and tranquility that Yuki wished for his family were certainly found within her at this moment.
`This really has been the time of life,' she thought with satisfaction. Arigatou, Yuki-kun. Arigatou for making this evening a night I'll always remember.”
Not letting his gaze stray from where it was, he gently squeezed her hand he had suspended with his own. Smiling with heartfelt happiness, he replied, “The pleasure was most definitely mine, Tohru-san. I'm very, very thankful, Tohru-san.”
Just as she was to return her attention to star gazing, she felt an ominous chill in the air. And a whisper over her shoulder didn't help matters at all. Jumping to the side in fright, she immediately looked around in the darkness that seemed to press down on them.
“Tohru-san, is something the matter?” asked Yuki with concern, seeing how apprehensive she had become.
“Iie, I just got sp-spooked by the breeze,” hurriedly remarked Tohru, the suffocating darkness now gone yet she still warily eyed her surroundings.
“Well, we'd better hurry back for your coat. I don't want you to catch a cold…the breezes in the evening are still chilly,” commented Yuki as he guided her back to the path leading to the outside. It was then that a loud crash was heard, and of course, Tohru yelped in fright.
“Damn nezumi, think you were about to get away from me?! Huh, DID YOU?!” yelled the irate Kyo Sohma.
“Kyo-kun, you scared me!” called out Tohru while fanning life back to her pounding heart.
“Stop your nonsense, baka neko. We're leaving, and you can keep running around the grounds unescorted for as long as you'd like.” That said, Yuki continued to guide Tohru past the angry neko. He didn't catch anything unusual with Kyo, but Tohru certainly did.
“Kyo-kun, are you all right?” she asked awkwardly. `He's staring at this statue so hard…just like with the ice sculpture. It's basically the same design except for the tall tree. He must still have a hard time accepting this…I don't blame him.'
Although it was hard for Kyo to see the cat with the rat, what really caught him off guard was in fact the tree. The tree…the very same tree he's been seeing in all his dreams. He knew he'd never come to this part of the gardens before, so how in the world could he dream this tree up? The statue correctly depicted every single detail of that tree…down to the branch that he saw Tohru jump off of.
`What the hell?! What's going on here, dammit? WHAT?!'
“Man, I'm beat…these heels killed my feet,” complained Uo as she plodded along the street bare-footed.
“I can ease your pain easily. Just stay over my house for the night, and I'll apply the remedy so that it can soak into your feet overnight,” suggested Hana quietly.
“You could have just not worn them to begin with if you knew they'd hurt you, baka,” shot out the still brooding Kyo.
“Shut up, stupid punk,” retorted Uo irritably. “You're just jealous that the Prince had a brawl in his honor. Too bad Mayuko-sensei had to break up that bash…it was a blast! Reminds me of when I was back with the gang…”
“Shut up…I don't want to hear about your illegal activities, okay?” interjected Kyo with a glare to the ex-Yankee.
“Why you…” started out Uo with a glare of her own.
“Still,” interrupted Tohru gracefully, “I'm glad it all worked out in the end. Yuki-kun, are you sure it's okay that you're coming home with us? Wouldn't you'd like to stay and watch the bonfire and fireworks?”
“No way, I'd rather stick pins in my eyes than go back to the lechs,” replied Yuki lowly to himself. Seeing a park as they walked by (their limo was picking them up at a later hour—he had called already), he turned with a smile to Tohru, “Hey, I've got an idea. Come.”
Seeing Yuki take Tohru by the hand towards the park, Kyo growled lowly to himself while narrowing his gaze at his cousin. He immediately set to work and followed them, adamant to never let them leave his sight. He saw Yuki lead them to a swing set that was vacated at this late hour.
“Here, sit,” prodded Yuki to Tohru.
She hesitantly did so, and while adjusting herself, she felt Yuki's firm hands on her back as they pushed against her. She immediately smiled widely and let herself get lost in the relaxing motion of the swing. It really did soothe her aching muscles…it had indeed been a long day.
The other members of the group trudged along the sand at the swing set. Sitting down on the other seats, they swung themselves as well, each letting out a heavy sigh of contentment. Haru preferred to be with Yuki, but seeing his nezumi cousin having the best time with Tohru, he went to push Momiji on the swing, seeing how excited the young Usagi was when he spotted the swings. It was quite obvious that everyone was tired, and for once, Momiji allowed the quiet stillness of the moment lull him into relaxation.
Such silence didn't last long as the first fireworks made their way to the air. All looked up and saw the colorful display high above them, still swinging themselves contentedly.
“Arigatou, Yuki-kun,” softly remarked Tohru, swinging higher into the sky, almost but not quite reaching the fireworks.
Smiling softly, Yuki just stared at her back, enjoying her presence that he had the pleasure of having for the most part this evening. He shook his head as he thought how he was going to thank his brother for the dance lessons…they really came in handy this evening.
Kyo quietly seethed against a pole of the swing set, oblivious to the firework display. He was more concerned with the `fireworks' going on right next to him. Letting out an exasperated sigh, he thought back to that moment in front of the Rat and Cat statue. He couldn't really understand what it meant, but he knew he wasn't meant to see it even though Yuki made no effort to get him away from there.
`A trap…that's what it was. Somehow the Nezumi is trying to trick me into believing a lie…all over again. Damn the baka…I'm not falling for it.' He then turned solemn at his next thought, `But what's with that tree? How could it be there when I've never seen it anywhere else but in my mind? Tohru, what are you hiding?'
Tohru herself was lost in thought as she absently continued to watch the fireworks display. Swinging through the air really brought back old memories of her mother doing the very same thing Yuki was doing.
That plus it reminded her of that ominous chill she felt earlier…along with the breath of a whisper that grazed her shoulder. Shuddering at such a memory, she focused herself once more on Yuki's reassuring presence behind her.
'How odd, though, to hear it like that. Maybe I was just imagining it…Yuki-kun didn't seem to hear it all. That must be it. Still…why was it so sad? Almost like it was blaming itself for something terrible…it would sort of make sense with what it actually said at that moment while I was standing there.'
She stared vaguely at the fireworks with the stars behind them as the cold whisper brushed through her thoughts once more…
—If only it could be undone, if only the light could shine in the darkest of plights. If only I hadn't failed…if only…—
Edited by: Seiren-no-Kaze 02-23-07
Author's Long Overdue Thoughts (02-10-05):
Hoo-wee!!! Thank me, please thank me! I made it, I finally finished this part of the story! I'm so happy…tears, sniffles…
What can be said? This was tough to churn out after cleaning up this fic. Hopefully my efforts to get these two chaps out more than made up for the lack of updates.
To start off, overall I weaved a sense of romance plus mayhem and plenty of drama to go around, with a touch of angst and mystery. I hope this effect didn't bum you guys out too badly! I wanted the story to be happy, but also informative so that the plot keeps moving along.
Yuki really didn't have many carefree moments to himself with Ayame around…oh, I just couldn't resist! Liked Haru and Kyo's close encounter there? Hehehe, my oh my, why did you look down there, Haru?! He was honestly helping Kyo look good…oh well! Towards the end, I hoped the brotherly moment suited the occasion. I don't believe I addressed the issue before of Yuki not blaming his brother anymore, so here it is now! Shigure, oh Shigure…why do you give my poor dragon such heartache? Power play issues are starting to surface, and somehow Yuki is mixed up in it (unknowingly, of course). Please look after him, Hatori!
With the next chapter, we see everyone having the `time of their lives'…all in their own special way of course.
Kureno does a cameo here (where has he been?), and what a dollop of info he served Yuki. I would think that the Sohma family as a whole has some sort of connection to the Jyuunishi…after all, the cursed members come from their bloodline. So in going with that theory, I brought this connection to light and how it supports the Jyuunishi connection, which is very strong. A few embellishments here and there and the result is what you have before you. Oh, the thing between Uo and Kureno…uh, uh, not telling—I respect their privacy!
The ice sculptures were something I thought of last minute when I tried to picture the scene of the dance floor. I hoped it suited the occasion well…I really don't even know if they have those made over in Japan (Yes, no, Rjunkie? Ina-chan?). Scented candles of hydrangea and lilac lavender smell wonderful…try it!
The rabid fans of Yuki's mere shadow were running amuck tonight! Using Kakeru to bring these moments to light, as well as getting other characters to corral these beasts was so much fun. I do have to warn that these heartwarming moments will be something to cherish as the story rolls along, so please enjoy for as long as possible.
My Yukiru moment is brought to you by a song from the Latin American group, Mana, with one of their many singles, “Vivir Sin Aire” (To Live Without Air). Direct translation (okay, so sue me, Yuki may not know Spanish, but anything is possible in the world of Furuba!) of this song would be awkward, but I did give a sense as to what it meant. I'd be happy to help out fellow readers with getting the song…it really is beautiful to listen to. The meaning of it basically uses something unusual in the world of romantic songs…contradictions. Wishing for the impossible, yet knowing that it will never come true is something nobody wants to feel. But in this song, impossibilities are actually welcomed, especially if you wish to forget the lady of your dreams…an impossibility that Yuki is glad to have. Make any sense? I'm a hopeless romantic…
Once again the drama and mystery return as Yuki takes Tohru on a stroll through the more intimate parts of the Sohma property. My, oh my, what web we are weaving with these new developments coming around? What could it be…suggestions, Kyo? I love tormenting the mind of the poor neko, can't you tell?!
Wrapping all this up is a moment we all like to treasure…a moment that would take us back to when you're just a kid, sweet innocence that you long for. The swing set scene was also laid out in my head from the very beginning…I hope you find it to your liking.
Additionally, I was hoping to give Tohru's presence more meaning from here on out. I plugged in a last minute detail here with giving Tohru's character a more active role…sort of. I hope to have her be more like the voice of concern at sensing when things are starting to become pretty desperate within the Sohma family. So, what was Tohru talking about? Kyo, are you doing this to her? What's really going on in the dark depths known only to exist in the Sohma family? (I'm a dramatist.) Stay tuned!!!
Now, a word to our reviewers!
Alcapacien: Yep, our dear Yuki is dragging himself by night's end. Not that you could tell…he has Tohru by his side now! Hope you liked how the girls were dressed…I honestly didn't go into to much detail with Hana's and Uo's dresses due to lack of time. Sorry…I do hope you liked Tohru's outfit. It's a description of what my own dress looks like, except its color is lilac for the second layer. Very pretty I think!
S.B. Kisses: Yuki asleep in any form anywhere is a definite YUM in my book! Here's hoping you liked the Yukiru here! I'm also into your fic, too, so keep it up!
Rjunkie: Kyo losing his mind? Could be…hehehe. Kakeru is great for laughs (in my fic anyway)—hope you like his new endeavors to make a `decent' yen! As for Mayuko and the exam…hmmm, see the next chap on this development! Yukiru galore for this chap…hope you enjoyed it!
Fangirl Vee-chan: Where have you been girl? I was worried that you had abandoned me like so many already have (sniffles…). Hehehe, I'm glad you're still hanging with me on this twisted fic of mine! I'm YUKI all the way, next is Yukiru, and a very distant last place is my kitty. Kyoru falls after that…although I'm not one to bash the pairing in public. I'm just informing the locals of my preferences. Hehehe, hope to catch you soon!
Pika318: Hello to you, too! I'm glad you're with me still! And I'm happy that the twists and turns in this story are to your liking…it's tough! Kyo certainly has issues with these `dreamscapes'—it seems now with this chapter release that our Tohru is getting caught up in it. Oh no! And Shigure…don't even get me started with that…dog! I mean it with all the best sense, of course! Keep hanging in there…some of his mystery will be slowly revealed to the inquisitive eye!
Coiling Death: What a pen name! Please don't strike me…I hurt easily. Dreams are a pain to many who try to make sense of them…Kyo is in good company on that one. Thanks so much for believing that my writing is improving. Please expect nosedives every now and then though…it's a curse I live with. All chaps in one sitting? Wow, I'm impressed and flattered you took the time to do it!
Ina-chan: Poor little neko…always getting shuffled off along with his loony mind. Oh well, no tears shed here! I am bad…Kakeru sure can make a yen out of anything! Hopefully this chapter brought that to light very well! Next chap will have the Mayuko and exam scene…definitely a must read! Did you like my Yukiru moments spread out here? I wonder if I did it right…oh well, the jury will decide!
Ihuntathraeil: I hope I got the spelling right! Hehehe, you read this whole thing in one sitting, too?! I am so glad that in the end it was worth your precious time…must have been lots of time! Akito didn't grace my chap (sorry!) this time around, but she'll come around sooner than you'd think! Stay tuned, dear reader and thank you!
Whew, that's it…I think. I may need to go back through these two chaps and polish it up some, but for now, it's shipping out as is. Enjoy this dish, dear readers, and I hope that you'll continue to grace me with your presence in reading on to the next chapter.
Thanks to all and to all a good afternoon! Ja ne!