Fruits Basket Fan Fiction ❯ Seasons of Sorrow ❯ Memories of Spring = Secrets Kept True ( Chapter 29 )

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

DISCLAIMER: In my continuing saga to reach world domination, Furuba has yet to be bestowed on me…for now.
Special Note: Hm, what to say… Oh yes, this chapter is rather long and um, oh, there are some…physical situations that may be a little on the volatile side. So sorry if this offends!
29) Memories of Spring - Secrets Hold True
(Huff, huff. Panting.)
Running. Darkness all around. Hard floor.
(Huff, huff)
Running faster...a maze…
Rumblings through air. Bright light. Gone.
(Breathing harder)
Echo of footsteps. Empty void. Floor slippery…
(Short breaths)
Footsteps…stop. Stop.
(Ragged breathing)
Footsteps…they're coming.
Stop. Cold. Smell…
(Hitched breathing)
They're coming.
(Raspy breaths)
Don't turn around.
(Breathing stops)
Light. Ink splotches…everywhere…
(Not breathing)
Gone. Pitch black…ink splotches are still there…
(Not breathing)
(Labored breathing)
…they're not….
(Can't breathe)
That's not ink.
(Inhales sharply)
Sudden image moves to center of view. Hooded figure…whips around…can't see face. Mouth moves…can't hear.
`Come closer.'
Few steps. Murmuring heard.
`Come closer.'
Reaches out with hand…
(Breathing heavy)
Hooded figure vanishes. Echoes all around…
“Betrayal is the deadliest of blades,
Hidden in the deepest of shades.”
“Smell it…feel it…fear it…”
“But above all…”
`Who's going to betray me?'
“Above all…”
Touch on shoulder. Whirls around. Her face…
Rain drops…ripples…
(Zip. Slash. Press.)
`Whew! That's one box down…many more to go,' sighed heavily Tohru. `I know Yuki-kun and Kyo-kun both told me not to start without them, but I don't want them to work more than they have to just for me. I barely managed to convince Uo-chan to go on to work and Hana-chan to go home. I can get some of my packing finished up by the time the guys arrive…'
“Hey, Tohru. Which of these did you say you're ready to have packed?” asked Rin while holding up some garments on either hand.
“The items on your left are ready to go. The ones on the right I want to wash. Please, if you can place them in that basket there, I would really appreciate it. Arigatou, Isuzu-san!” replied Tohru gratefully.
Needless to say that Tohru was struck dumb when she saw Rin at her doorway this afternoon after arriving from school. The house was pretty much empty besides her—after school Yuki had to run his errands (he didn't provide details), Kyo had gone to Kazuma's dojo for training, and Shigure wasn't home when she arrived, having only left a note to say that he'd be arriving later on in the evening. After serving her unexpected guest some fresh tea, Rin simply asked what she was doing, never once explaining her presence there. Tohru shrugged that aside and explained briefly that she was finishing her packing now because the graduation dinner was the following evening, and then of course the day after is the ceremony… Well, after all was said and done, Rin had convinced Tohru to accept her help with the packing and so…
“Stop thanking me already,” remarked Rin exasperated. “One thanks is enough to last the whole day, okay?”
“Um, hai…ariga-…um, yes, of course, uh…hm,” stammered Tohru, confused on how to stop thanking Rin for her help.
Shaking her head in mild wonder at how Tohru manages to live her days without thanking the bees for their honey, Rin asked, “Say, did you have all this stuff with you when you moved in?”
“Oh, is this too much to ask of you? I'm so sorry! I'll take care of it all by myself…” blurted out Tohru wildly while running around grabbing all her things and stuffing them in a heap in a box.
With a sweat drop, Rin clarified with a deadpan look, “I meant that it must have been a hassle to move your things in when you first moved in.”
As the clarification dawned on her, Tohru blushed and sheepishly grinned, “Oh, um, hehehe. Ah, no, I didn't have most of this with me when I moved in. These are all things I've gotten over the years from everybody. Hm, it's so strange to see it all in boxes now…so many memories.”
“Yeah, well, just imagine unpacking all this stuff when you move into your apartment,” pointed out Rin as she sealed one more box shut.
“True. Hehe, I could still remember when I moved in here. Actually, I didn't move in here. Shigure-san and Yuki-kun had caught me out in my tent. Before I knew it, I was in their home trying to get over a fever with Shigure-san taking care of me,” replied Tohru wistfully. Smiling fondly at her next memory, she remarks, “Yuki-kun had spent the entire night digging through so much dirt and filth with his little friends to get my things out of the landslide. He even lent me his clothes so I could have something clean to wear. (Sigh) They both welcomed me into their home no matter the risk to themselves at the time.”
Rin frowned and mumbled to herself while getting another box ready, “Maybe it would have been better if you had stayed away.”
“No, not all!” exclaimed Tohru with conviction. “If it weren't for them, I'd never have met any of you! To have met and lived with all of you…really, your whole family is my whole world now. I can't imagine my life without anyone of you. I am so grateful to have been given so much when I had very little to offer in return.”
Shaking her head while grabbing more `approved' items and placing them into the box, Rin sighed heavily and remarked, “To each his own. Still, do yourself a big favor, and from now on stay away from here. (Quietly whispers.) It'll be less…'complicated' with you out of the way.”
“Eh? I don't understand what you mean, Isuzu-san,” Tohru asked bewildered.
“Then best leave it at that, Tohru,” advised Rin with a slight edge.
Pressing her lips into a thin line, Tohru pushed on, concern for the Sohma men in her life overriding her nervousness. “Isuzu-san, if there's something going on with Shigure-san, Kyo-kun, or Yuki-kun, then please tell me. If I can do anything for them…”
“This really isn't any of your concern,” interrupted the Horse of the Zodiac with a trace of exasperation, not bothering to spare another glance in Tohru's direction.
“Please, Isuzu-san, don't exclude me,” pleaded Tohru quietly while clutching a dress to her chest. “I may not be of much use for anybody, especially to your family. (Teary-eyed) I haven't even found an answer to your Jyuunishi curse…after all this time. (Sniffles—blinks away tears and stares resolutely.) I can understand that by having failed before you would want me to stay away from here and not get involved anymore, but if there's even something, anything that I can do to help you or Shigure-san or Kyo-kun or Yuki-kun, then please…let me help.”
Elbow on bent knee, Rin leaned her chin to her upturned fist, and pondered on what the other girl had just said. Sighing ruefully, she shook her head and replied, “Listen and trust me on this, Tohru. The curse of our Jyuunishi forms is nothing compared to what goes on behind closed doors at that estate. Call it…'family intrigue'. It has a way of pulling everyone around into its web of deceit and lies…it can very well reach all the way into this house when it sees fit. So, you see, it really would be in your best interest if you're not around here for it.”
“Demo…” persisted Tohru.
“No buts. (Sigh) Don't you understand?” asked the eldest girl, now plainly exasperated. “There's only so much you can get yourself into with this family without Akito getting personally involved. That…prick may not be doing anything to you now, but don't count on that to always be the case. I'm pretty sure that because you're moving out Akito hasn't felt the need to take action against you. So don't give that sadist any reason to come after you. It's bad enough that you're already friends with it's little pet.”
“Pet? I don't know what you mean, Isuzu-san,” replied the younger girl confused.
`She really has no idea about the damn rat's position with Akito,' thought Rin grimly, mind lost to the sick feeling she had started to feel. `How fooled they have you Tohru. It's high time someone took that thick veil of ignorance from your eyes…'
Rin's narrowed her gaze and pinned Tohru to the spot with her next question. “Tell me…how well do you know the rat? And be completely honest with yourself.”
`Nani? She's talking about Yuki-kun, right? Why is she asking me this?' Brows furrowed in uncertainty, Tohru remarked, “What does Yuki-kun have to do with what we're talking about?”
Sighing heavily, Rin stood up and walked over to Tohru, grabbing the garment from her clenched hands. Leaning into her face, she replied quietly, “He is the pet, Tohru. And like all pets, this one has a master that won't hesitate to do whatever it takes to get rid of any `problem' that may affect them in any way. Trust me, I speak from experience. (Pause) You've not answered my question.”
Tohru stared back into the pitch-black color of Rin's eyes, trying to come to grips with what she had told her plus try to come up with a satisfactory answer. Pressing her lips into a thin line again, she responded, “I trust Yuki-kun if that's what you mean.”
Arching a brow high into her bangs, Rin leaned against a wall and stared at Tohru with an unreadable expression. `Damn, she still doesn't get it! Gods, I hate being blunt with her, but she's not giving me much choice on the matter.' Breathing in deeply, she replied slowly as if explaining to a child, “Tohru, remember what I had just said. That rat is Akito's pet. Akito's pet. Do you trust Akito?” Sensing Tohru was unwillingly to respond to that question, probably because she didn't want to admit out loud that she didn't, Rin continued, “How can you then give your trust to something that you don't know well at all? It's true that you don't know everything about any of us, but we're not the rat. We're not Akito's pet.
“Yuki-kun…he…I know…” stammered Tohru hurriedly before Rin spoke again.
“You know only so much as he's willing to show you, Tohru. Hell, I'm pretty sure you're closer to Kyo because you know more about him than that rat, right? Doesn't that give you a clue?” probed further Rin while Tohru gazed back wide-eyed. Exhaling loudly, she pushed herself off the wall and stood toe to toe with Tohru. Staring hard at her, she bit out, “He's the rat, Tohru, remember that. Lies and deceit are in it's nature, in it's bloodline. Same goes for that damn `god'. We're not the ones trying to deceive you with lies.”
Shaking her head, Tohru tried to negate Rin's accusation of Yuki, but her mind stopped her. After all is said and done, how well did she know Yuki? Rin was correct, of course…compared to Yuki, to her Kyo was practically an open book by now…not completely, but quite a bit. It's also a safe bet that Rin knew more about Yuki than she did, so Rin should know about the past he's kept hidden from many. Still…
Yuki-kun has not lied to me. I know that,” replied Tohru softly.
He's the RAT! Don't forget that story that we all know and love, Tohru. The rat deceived and lied to all, just to gain `god's' favor. And trust me when I say that this story holds more weight and truth than you realize. That story is a definite warning about the real traitor in our family,” exclaimed Rin with unbridled passion. Eyes glinting, her gaze bored into Tohru's haunted expression, hoping that what she said would be taken to heart. “For generations, this family has been nothing less than dark and twisted, thanks in large part to the `god' and its `rat'. None have escaped this curse that takes its shape in the form of two beings that would lie and betray this family at any given moment to protect themselves. We're all sucked into their twisted world without any hope of leaving it. The cat is just the epitome of what they've done to this family.”
Silence permeated thickly throughout the room after this outburst. Tohru could only stare back blankly at her guest, too taken aback to reply to Rin's passionate declaration. Rin could only level back that same stare, hoping that some of what she said would be taken seriously. Recent activities within the family are definitely going to start making themselves commonly known amongst the Jyuunishi, and Rin truly had no desire of Tohru becoming any more involved with the filth that she perceives Yuki to be.
“Tohru, I only tell you this because it's only a matter of time before Sohma Yuki starts wrecking havoc in the lives that surround him, yours included,” replied Rin quietly while gathering all the leftover items into the last box. Standing back up, she warned, “He's the rat. The Nezumi of the Jyuunishi. Trust him, and he will betray you…he will. It's just a matter of when. (Pause-sigh) Just stick with Kyo, okay? I'm pretty sure he's always hanging around you anyway, and he keeps a good eye out for that rat. He's the cat after all…he'll know when something's up. I've gotta go…hope you like the hair accessories I gave you for your present.”
Soft steps echoed in the hallway and down the stairs. Rin was outside when she finally took another deep breath. It had been so stifling in that bedroom that she couldn't take a breather. She had to admit that she also couldn't stand to see Tohru's sorrowful expression any longer. She hadn't meant to take it that far, but Tohru's steadfast ignorance in trusting Yuki unconditionally nerved her `til no end. She kept telling herself it was all for the best in the end…that the rat and `god' will not get a chance to drag the oblivious girl into the hell that their lives are.
`It's all for the best. Damn nezumi won't be able to hide behind his little façade for much longer. He won't be able to fool Tohru anymore,' Rin chanted to herself repeatedly as she walked down the familiar path to the main road.
“Why are you so afraid to believe me? …”
That remark made a while back to her by said nezumi echoed throughout her mind, straining to be heard above the bitter thoughts that were running amok in her head. She tried shaking it out of her mind once again, as she had done before, yet…
`Why the hell did that have to come up now? Dammit! I'm not going to think about it anymore…I won't. He's the liar…the RAT,' Rin resolutely thought to herself.
“…afraid…to just hope.”
Stopping suddenly in her tracks, the deep recesses of her mind once again brought out another memory from that tense conversation between herself and Yuki. A conversation she loathed to remember, but for some odd reason, bits and pieces always managed to surface in her thoughts seemingly from out of the blue. She expected to have forgotten all about that tense situation, however strangely it seemed that her heart was determined to maker her remember…make her believe…if only for a moment.
And what scared her the most…her Jyuunishi spirit was reaching out to embrace that tether of hope that Yuki was dangling in front of her.
`NO! Damn him, damn him to hell for making me even think of the possibility of hoping…of believing. I'm tired of being used and abused by those in power,' angrily deliberated Rin as she resumed her trek out of the forest. `He won't get me to believe in a lie…he won't get the chance to betray me. Just you wait and see, Yuki—I will be sure to make Tohru see the RAT that you are inside. I will.'
Those thoughts of bitterness were in complete contrast to Tohru's own thoughts as she herself struggled to keep up with her turbulent emotions left in the wake of such a distressing conversation. She still stayed in the same position as Rin had left her, still staring into nothing.
`Is that what she sees you as, Yuki-kun? Is that what you are to your family? Who else feels this way about you? I mean, Kyo-kun…he…I don't know why, but I thought he was the only one who felt bitter about you…all because of you being the rat,' clashed Tohru's thoughts with one another. `There's still so much I don't know about your family. It always comes back to that story… Is there more to that story? Is there truth in that story…is that what they're afraid of? That you'll betray them, just like in the story?'
She went to sit down on her bed and struggled to pull herself together, yet the tears pushed forth as she quietly sobbed. `To have anyone hate you because of fear…how painful it must have been to live with that all your life… (Sobs) And I didn't even know…I didn't even know. (Sobs) I really don't know you at all…I don't…'
“Are you sure that this goes here, Yuki?” asked Kureno uncertainly. “It says in this book…”
“Yes, I'm sure,” interjected Yuki kindly while setting a bulb into the fresh soil. “Could you hand me that spade on your left?”
Gardening was the order of the day when Yuki had arrived earlier. He had wanted to pay a visit to Akito, but it seemed that she was currently attending to some private family affair. He did wonder why Kureno wasn't with her, but when he had asked, Kureno merely smiled softly and told him that he's exactly where he needed to be. Shrugging that aside, Yuki went to work to help Kureno with his garden that was increasing in size by the week. Needless to say, the difficulties with maintaining the garden were also increasing.
Seeing Yuki dig into the soil next to the one he just planted, Kureno pursed his lips once more and asked again, “Are you sure? In the book, the bulb needs to be planted…”
“Give me that,” replied Yuki with a roll of his eyes as he pulled the book from under Kureno's nose. “You don't always have to follow by the book when you're gardening. Let loose and enjoy yourself…that's what gardening is all about. Besides, don't you think there are enough perfectly manicured gardens on this property? Let's try making ours different. It'll look great in the end…trust me.”
“Hm,” was Kureno's one worded response. He then glanced back up at the talkative birds overhead in the trees. He caught the `conversations' they were having and with more resolve than before, decided to drag out his time in the garden longer. It would do Yuki no good to see Akito at this time, especially right then…
`Hey, I know you can't come to the dinner tomorrow night, but you do know the time of my graduation ceremony, right?” asked Yuki eagerly as he took another bulb into his hands and placed it gently in the upturned soil he had just dug up.
“Of course,” remarked Kureno assuredly with a wide smile that lit up his face. “We won't be late.”
At this, Yuki looked up to face Kureno. Relief swept his countenance as he replied, “Akito is better then? (Pause-quiet sigh) I'm…relieved.”
Seeing his younger relative visibly at ease, Kureno smiled in understanding. Both he and Hatori have done their utmost to keep Yuki from seeing Akito these past few days since the infamous incident. That in itself was probably the most astonishing thing ever…they were actually refraining Yuki from seeing Akito, not the other way around like it was so common to do in the past. It's definitely what he and the doctor have suspected for some time now…the special bond between the nezumi and `god' was strengthening to unprecedented proportions as more time passed.
In Kureno's opinion, it was all for the best, as anyone could clearly see that Yuki's more relaxed while in Akito's home, let alone in her very presence. Whatever Akito had said to Yuki underneath the sheets of rain on that horrid day gave the shy nezumi the confidence he needed to return repeatedly to the main house to visit Akito without any fear (still a little apprehensive but not too much). Unfortunately, her health was too poor since that stormy day, and she wasn't coherent enough to receive any visitors. However, she practically panicked when she was told during her more lucid moments that the nezumi was close by waiting to see her. Kureno knew that she never wanted anyone to see her in that kind of state, especially Yuki. So, with a great deal of persuasion from himself and Hatori, they managed to convince Yuki to come at another time.
So today was the day Yuki was hoping to finally meet with the clan head, if only for a moment. Kureno dodged Yuki's questions about why he wasn't with Akito, and instead directed the nezumi's attention to the gardens. Here under the bright sun of the day, both he and Yuki relaxed and spent their time leisurely in the gardens.
Being bathed by such light, Kureno was puzzled upon looking closer at Yuki's face. He asked tentatively, “Ano…Yuki. Did you do…something to your…injury?”
“Hm?” was Yuki's distracted reply while he remained focus on his task.
“Your…injury…to your face. It's…well, it's not as prominent as I had expected,” continued explaining the timid bird. Seeing Yuki redden considerably and bow his head, Kureno hurriedly remarked, “No, please, it's okay. Gomen nasai. I shouldn't have brought it up. You can hardly tell it's there at all…amazingly.”
Yuki was so busy getting the plants in place that when Kureno had first asked him about the injury to his cheek, he scarcely knew what Kureno meant by it. That is until the shy bird started to point out that the bruising on his face wasn't as obvious as it ought to have been. Of all the times Yuki wished to be in his nezumi form, it would have been at that moment.
Cringing and praying he could hide under a rock somewhere, Yuki barely whispered audibly, “Tohru-san…”
“Oh, okay…” replied Kureno confused. “What happ—“
“I didn't want…it…showing…so much. (Sigh) I kept trying to find ways to hide it with my hands with some kind of gesture, but…I looked so ridiculous,” Yuki softly remarked while staring listlessly to the sky. He then closed his eyes and bowed his head once more as he continued. “I didn't know Tohru-san was watching me from the hallway while I was doing this in my room. She then…well… (Heavy sigh) It was the only way…”
As intrigued as Kureno was, he hadn't meant to put Yuki on the spot. If it was that uncomfortable for the nezumi to explain… “It's okay, really, Yuki. You don't have to explain anything to me. I was just curious.”
“Iie. It's not you,” was Yuki's immediate remark. Gazing back at Kureno, he gave him a half-hearted smile. “I just thought that I was past this…embarrassment…but I guess I'm not. Just don't tell Akito, okay? (Breathes in deeply.) I couldn't hide the fact from Tohru-san that it bothered me so much, so…she made a…suggestion. After an hour, I finally agreed, and after another hour, we went to the store and…well, that's it. (Whispers-bows head again.) I honestly didn't know that there were that many different shades of makeup foundation…it was a nightmare.”
Stunned, shocked…well, more than anything, Kureno felt relieved that it wasn't anything serious. Really, Yuki was acting like it was the most… `Wait, he did just say makeup foundation, right?' Leaning closer to Yuki's face, Kureno did notice that it was true—his charge was wearing…MAKEUP…a good shade, too.
Feeling the curious stare from the bird, Yuki definitely wished for his Zodiac form now more than ever. Mortified is a term that only mildly described his discomfort at confessing this, very similar to how he felt when he was in the makeup aisle at the store with Tohru…trying on different shades of every sort with and to his horror, makeup tips were coming from all sides when women just happened to pass by there. No, he wasn't mad at Tohru…how could he be when she only meant the best for him.
And she was right…the makeup had helped immensely with downplaying the bruising on his face. When he went back to school, the makeup was flawless (Tohru picked the perfect shade) that hardly anyone could tell that he had an injury to the face. Even Kakeru was amazed that it wasn't more obvious until it hit him as to why that was the case. However, before the overzealous teen had a chance to even say one word about it, Yuki silenced Kakeru with a good, hard glare.
Taking his hand back up to his face, Yuki reflected on his last few days at school and was extremely relieved that Kakeru never mentioned to anyone about the incident. In fact, the incident was something that Kakeru never spoke about at all…he merely gave Yuki a squeeze on the shoulder and a soft smile upon his return to school. Smiling at this thought, Yuki had to admit that he'll miss Kakeru's antics (not much mind you) and understanding (as rare as it was shown but it was there) when they graduate and go their own separate ways. Oh, the memories he'll take with him…not that Yuki will confess that to him.
“Well, I say that it looks…pretty good,” remarked Kureno assuredly. He did have a hard time suppressing a small smile, but he kept it under control if only for the sake of Yuki's dignity. He did know how much Yuki hated being compared to a female in any form or manner, so for Yuki to take it upon himself and wear a product specifically for the female gender, it really hit his pride hard. “I can't even tell. Your secret's safe with me.”
Feeling Kureno's hand pat him on his arm, Yuki looked up and smiled softly in return for his understanding. It was exactly the reaction he hoped for…it was nothing compared to Shigure's or Kyo's reactions… Oh yes, the cat and dog certainly had welts on their heads for even daring to smirk, smile, gloat, or even breathe a word about his invincible disguise. Yuki half-expected that Kyo would retaliate…he had after all went hard on Kyo's thick head, but the neko merely seethed in controlled anger and went to vent outside against a defenseless tree.
`Weird…you'd think he'd get fed up enough by now to want to beat me, tournament or no,' thought Yuki momentarily before shaking his head and resuming his gardening. `Unless he's purposely not wanting to fight with me anymore…but why? Hm, maybe this is the opportunity…'
“Yuki, would you like anything to drink? It's rather sunny out here…maybe you'd like some refreshment or snack,” suggested Kureno suddenly as he got up and dusted off his khakis.
Seeing Kureno abruptly start to leave, Yuki flashed him a grin and replied, “Oh…hai, that would be great. Whatever's cold is fine with me.”
“Certainly. I'll be right back,” called out Kureno softly over his shoulder. As he hurriedly made his way inside, he leaned against the wall and breathed out a sigh of relief. He hadn't meant to be so abrupt in his departure, however his loyal feathered `friends' had barely given him warning…
Humming aimlessly to himself, Yuki suddenly felt the gaze of another on him. Looking up, he gasped in surprise at who was there with him now.
`Well, now I know why Kureno walked out so quickly,' Yuki reasoned to himself. Not wanting to prolong a conversation at the moment, he merely replied to his visitor (who was too shocked to say anything at the moment) with a small grin, “Ohayo. Lost again?”
Haru admittedly accepted the fact that the Sohma grounds at the estate were…confusing. He's been living there for YEARS, yet he still managed to lose his way—how the hell did he stay lost for three hours in this particular area of the grounds? He knew this area to be Akito's personal grounds, and all the more reason he frantically tried to find his way out. Making a mental note to himself, maybe it wasn't such a good idea to stare at a butterfly so intensely that he followed it without realizing it.
`Damn butterfly…I can't find my way out now!' Such displeasure turned into profound astonishment at seeing the thick green foliage that he was wading through open up to a clearing and revealing a teenager, with gray hair that shone brightly in the sunlight and with porcelain skin that glowed under the same light, intent in his task.
`Yuki…what're you doing here?” Haru asked incredulously, warily glancing around him every so often to see if Akito or Kureno were about.
Giving him a slight smirk, Yuki went back to his gardening, intending to end any further conversation with Haru, although that was looking less likely to happen. “Gardening. And you…you are lost, aren't you?”
“That's not the point,” remarked Haru with a smirk of his own. Leaning down to sit next to Yuki, he continued his interrogation. “So, what brings you here, of all places? Don't tell me it was the urge to garden here, okay?”
Sighing heavily, Yuki stopped in his futile attempts to block out Haru's presence. Setting his gloves to the side, he wiped a hand across his forehead, wiping the perspiration off in the process. Licking his lips together, he calmly replied, “Just because.”
“Because…?” prodded Haru with an unbelieving gaze.
“Just because I wanted to.” With a wry smile to his cousin, Yuk stood up and yawned softly while stretching his tired limbs. Closing his tired eyes, he breathed in heavily, only to suddenly have a coughing fit. Trying to hold back his dry cough in vain, Yuki's eyes watered, and he wished desperately for something, anything that could cool his parched throat and stop the coughing.
`Kureno was right…it's rather hot out today… (Cough, cough) Damn, I thought this cold was already gone by now. It wasn't so bad before… (Cough, cough) I better help Haru get back home…' As the coughing subsided, he wiped his watery eyes and runny nose on a handkerchief, and turned to Haru with a small smile of assurance that all was well. Sniffling a little, he remarked, “Hey, come on, I'll take you back.”
Turning around, Yuki faced Kureno's approaching form, the bird's face and voice kept completely neutral. Kureno's usual adherence to be completely unemotional and indifferent while around others was his trademark, and Yuki expected nothing less. However, upon coming closer to him, Yuki could clearly see the worry expressed in the bird's eyes…and so could Haru.
`How did…what's he doing here…why?' were Haru's tumbling thoughts as he saw the normally shy bird approach Yuki confidently. Kureno didn't even spare him a glance as he started speaking to the nezumi.
“Yuki, are you unwell?” asked Kureno softly, his eyes being the one expressive feature as he gazed directly at Yuki.
“I'm fine, really. It's just a head cold, that's all…it's nothing,” was Yuki's assurances to Kureno. Of course, Kureno being who he is…
“Are you certain?” continued asking the young man while placing his hands on Yuki's face, feeling all over for any high fever. `Face flushed, quickened heartbeat…hm, perhaps being out in the sun for too long. Hard to tell…'
Taking Kureno's hands off his face rather abruptly, Yuki replied with a touch of annoyance, “I'm fine. Haru, come on.”
Kureno started to suggest, “Ano, Yuki, perhaps I should escort Hatsuharu back…”
“I said I'm okay,” interjected Yuki impatiently.
Startled at this, Kureno meekly took a few steps back and slightly bowed. “Sumimasen. It was rude of me to impose my opinion on you. Please excuse me.”
Bowing his head, Yuki mentally cursed at himself. He really hadn't meant to lash out like he did…he now had to admit that his head cold was definitely making him cranky. `That's still no reason for me to do that to Kureno.' Feeling utterly guilty and terrible, he went after the timid bird and softly called out, “Kureno, wait! Please don't leave. (Reaches out to grab Kureno's arm.) Gomen ne…I didn't mean it like that. (Sigh) I was the one being rude. It's just that…I knew you'd worry if I told you anything. I'm so sorry.”
Turning to face his charge fully, Kureno smiled fondly and replied, “That's okay…you don't have to apologize. I understand. (Kureno softly pats Yuki's head. Whispers quietly.) Still, I wish you would tell me if you were unwell…I wouldn't have kept you out here for so long. And if I worry, it's because I want to worry about you. Now if you'd like, I can get you a tonic I made for Akito earlier. It would really help soothe your throat, and it doesn't taste terrible…would that be okay?”
With a slight blush of embarrassment at his kind response, Yuki nodded his consent and allowed Kureno to walk back to the house. Sighing heavily once again, he turned his attention back to Haru who stood looking at him with a wide grin plastered to his face. Wondering what it was for, Yuki cleared his throat and asked, “What are you smiling at?”
“Nothing,” replied Haru with a knowing grin. `He doesn't have to explain a thing…it's kind of obvious why he's here. Still…' Walking toward his cousin, he asked tentatively, “Are you sure you know what you're doing?”
Taken aback at Haru's piercing gaze, Yuki paused momentarily as he thought over that question. Did he really know what he was doing? He remarked with a small smile, “No, not really. But that's okay…ne?”
Shaking his head in disbelief, Haru could only sigh ruefully. It made sense now…why things have been quiet at the estate, within the Jyuunishi circle. The atmosphere at the estate had become considerably lighter to the senses for a good long while now. He never knew why…he just thought that perhaps it had to do with the old saying, `the peace before the storm' type of thing. Now seeing what was actually going on behind the scenes, it all started to come together. He was still a bit worried that Yuki would be exposing himself like this to Akito, but he knew that he wouldn't be able to change the nezumi's mind once he's made up his mind. He will have to trust the nezumi enough to do the right thing. Besides, if it didn't bother Yuki anymore to be in Akito's presence, then he'd leave the matter well enough alone. After all, no one is getting hurt, and their `god' left the rest of them alone—that in itself is worth its weight in gold.
To think that he honestly thought Akito was the one behind Yuki's injuries on that dreadful day. He had immediately gone `black' upon seeing Yuki's beaten form that day. He was bent on inflicting severe retribution on the clan head for marring his cousin's features and for the ankle injury until Hatori adamantly denied that it was Akito. He was certain that Hatori was lying to him until the doctor finally confessed that it was Yuki's mother who had expressed her `displeasure' with Yuki's decision on his education. That really snapped Haru back to `white' mode since he knew how much that hurt Yuki emotionally. Not wanting to drag it out anymore than it already has been, Haru let the doctor bandage Yuki up while he held the nezumi's hand in hopes of giving him a little comfort from the pain his cousin was in both mentally and physically.
Blinking back his thoughts, Haru continued to stare at Yuki and noted that his bruising was starting to fade despite the makeup he wore to hide it. Oh yes, he definitely found out about Yuki's invisible disguise…however, this Ox of the Zodiac was smarter than the dog and cat and spoke not one word on the matter. He was, though, personally thankful to Tohru for lending her feminine touch to help Yuki out…the makeup worked wonders on that ugly mark. He often wondered what Yuki thought each time he woke up and saw that mark on his face in the mirror. As much as he'd like to know the answer to his idle thoughts, he knew that he would never ask.
Finally snapping back to reality, Haru replied languidly, “If you're okay with it, I don't have a problem with it. (Narrows his gaze.) Just promise me that you'll be careful, okay?”
“Yeah, I know,” responded Yuki tiredly. (Cough, cough) `Ugh, I'm so thirsty…I should have gone to help Kureno…'
“Sorry for keeping you waiting,” was the sudden reply from the missing bird. Holding out the mug to Yuki, he remarked, “I had wanted to serve this to you hot so I had to heat it up first. Drink slowly.”
Yuki took the mug eagerly and forced to drink the hot/warm liquid slowly. He instantly felt refreshed and sated as his parched throat finally had a smooth coating to block the irritation. Relaxing somewhat, he lazily closed his eyes and breathed in and out evenly. He also felt Kureno's right hand on his chest while running his left hand on his back, rubbing the area between his shoulder blades. Feeling immensely at ease, Yuki felt a smile come to his face as he relished the soothing sensation.
“Is that better?” asked Kureno quietly. Seeing Yuki nod affirmatively, Kureno softly smiled and continued with his ministrations with nary a care as to who else was watching.
`Well, you don't see this often,' thought Haru bemused. It was odd to see the bird dote on the nezumi, but still… `It's a good thing to see, I have to admit. Though I'm a little jealous, but this is Kureno…I can't think of anyone more deserving of being shown how kind the world can be just outside these walls. Yuki can certainly make him see that.'
“Please go ahead and sit over under the shade of the porch. You may rest there while I take Hatsuharu back to Hatori-niisan's home, okay?” requested Kureno softly.
“Oh, um, okay,” replied Yuki distractedly, too caught up in his world of utter tranquility. Snapping back to attention, Yuki glanced over to Haru, and nervously remarked, “Ano, Haru…could you please not tell anyone…about seeing me here? I don't want any…misunderstandings…”
Grinning, Haru responded assuredly, “Don't worry about it…I know what you mean. I'll see you tomorrow…if not at school, then I'll see you at the dinner.”
Smiling in appreciation, Yuki waved him off and wondered just how it came to be that he was blessed with good friends in his family. He didn't feel that he deserved such attention from them, but he was grateful all the same.
`Thank you, Kureno…Haru. For everything,' mused Yuki to himself. Staring down at his nearly empty mug, he asked himself silently, `Do I know what I'm doing? Being here of my own free will? Haru, I may not know what I'm doing, but I know one thing for certain. (Stares back up at sky.) I've never felt so at peace than when I'm here…there are doubts at first, but they fade away the longer I'm here. This is right…somehow, it's just right.'
Kureno shared his younger relative's thoughts on this. Everything was just right whenever Yuki visited. Not allowing himself to gaze at Haru, he quietly spoke, “Arigatou. This means a lot…to all of us.”
“It's okay,” assured Haru once more, knowing full well why Kureno thanked him. Narrowing his own gaze to the bird's back, he calmly remarked, “Just be sure to look out for him…out in the open or behind closed doors.”
Kureno in turn knew that the worried teen was talking about Akito. Giving him a glance over his shoulder, he gave his own assurances, “All will be well…for our part. Do not fret. Although, I do ask that you refrain from speaking this matter with anyone until we can arrange for it to be known publicly. (Turns back around.) Some members of the Jyuunishi will not take kindly to this…'arrangement'. Their reaction could very well be…aggressive.”
It was those words that struck Haru to the core. Aggressive? Pausing momentarily in mid-stride, Haru instantly thought of one person, `Rin…could it be that you found out?'
“That stance is too lax…”
“Repeat this kata ten times…”
“Where's the leader in this group?”
“How can I correct this, Sempai?”
The sounds of varied conversations and exercises echoed throughout the dojo. In the midst of it all, Kyo was busy running his exercises with Kazuma after sparring with another member of his team. However, focusing on this normal routine was proving difficult for him…
“Kyo, your concentration is lacking,” reprimanded Kazuma. “Try it again.”
Wordlessly, Kyo resumed his stance and started to practice once more when Kunimitsu came over.
“We're ready in the other dojo,” remarked the assistant.
“Fine.” Turning his attention to Kyo, Kazuma noted that the teen was back to his incorrect stance. `He's doing it all wrong again. These are just basic steps to his exercise…' Clearing his throat, he called out to him, “Stop Kyo. This isn't working out.”
Kyo snapped out of his daze when he heard Kazuma's command. Gazing at him perplexed, Kyo remarked tersely, “Why? I'm doing…”
“Poorly. Your mind is not here, Kyo, your exercises and your earlier sparring clearly indicate this,” reprimanded Kazuma. “We have the tournament in just a few short months. I can't afford you being distracted in your training during this crucial time.”
“Hai, Shishou,” bowed Kyo slightly as a way of apologizing. Watching Kazuma retreat with Kunimitsu, Kyo seethed inwardly and slammed a fist to a nearby wall. `Dammit, I can't concentrate! Dammit it all…argh!'
Sensing that he wasn't going to be able to do much on this day, he decided to wrap it up early and go home to help Tohru with her packing. Feeling better knowing that he'll see her soon, he hurriedly went into the change rooms to get out of his uniform.
“Kyo? Are you leaving already?” was the sudden question asked.
Glancing up, Kyo saw that Kazuma had this look of worry across his face. He was about to reply when Kazuma asked, “Are you unwell? I'm sorry for being hard on you in there…are you alright?”
`All right? Hell no, not after this morning…' Straightening his posture, the teen replied, “I'm okay. I'm just not with it today. I'm going on home to help with Tohru's packing. It'll help me clear a few things in my head.”
“Gomen nasai,” apologized Kazuma one again. “I've been distracted so much with this competition, it's been rather stressful. I didn't mean to pressure you today. You've been training so hard these past few months; you must be exhausted in both mind and body. If you need time to rest, then please by all means, take as much time off as you need.”
“Iie, it isn't you, Shishou,” was Kyo's immediate retort. Staring off to an unseen point, he continued, “It's just been…a rough last night. I'll be fine…don't worry about me.”
“Rough night?” questioned Kazuma confused. When Kyo refused to elaborate, he tactfully asked the question he's been meaning to ask ever since Rin's visit to his home. “Kyo, does this have anything to do with what happened last Sunday? Either with Yuki's…accident, or perhaps something else…?”
`Is that what they're calling it? (Snorts) Feh, don't matter to me…it's not like I care what happens with the damn rat in the end anyway.' Oh yes, after sulking over his brush with all-consuming guilt, Kyo immediately felt it dispel when he saw how the entire student body including teachers showered his nezumi cousin upon his return to school with get-well gifts and wishes for a speedy recovery. That certainly brought reality crashing down on Kyo's emotions…the reality being that his cousin could be gone for one day and the whole school would be at his beck and call the following day. `It was always that way for the kuso nezumi…wherever he goes, he's always welcomed with open arms…'
Clearing his bitter thoughts once more, he replied with sarcasm, “Yeah, like I'm worried about that fool. It's his own damn fault for getting into an accident like that…baka nezumi. Then he makes Tohru and everyone else jump through hoops all week because of it. Selfish jerk.”
“Kyo…” warned Kazuma slightly. “You've not been engaging him in any…'volatile encounters', have you?”
Snickering at the discreet terms his father used, he smiled wryly and replied, “Nope, but the damn baka sure is pushing it. Just because I told him that he could be a model for makeup commercials on TV, he goes all ballistic on me. I should have pounded him good then…kuso nezumi.”
`Makeup…what does that have to do with anything?' was Kazuma's perplexed thought. Seeing Kyo rub his head absently, he could only imagine that his wayward son had somehow insulted Yuki with makeup. No far stretch there…still, he thought Kyo would at least lay off instigating any problems with Yuki. After all that's happened…
Very few things escape Kazuma's notice, especially when it involves his family and in particular if it involves Kyo and the other Jyuunishi members. So naturally he found out about the truth behind Yuki's `accident'. Only a handful of individuals, himself included, knew about the incident. For good reason, too…for one thing, gossip would make Yuki's life a real hell within the family what with the humiliation he'd have to endure for being rejected by his own mother. It was also a benefit to that woman…
`Foolish woman…she definitely incurred Akito's wrath from what I heard,' Kazuma thought bitterly. `She was stupid for letting her anger get the best of her. It's to her benefit that not many know what really happened… the family would have been outraged that she laid a hand on Yuki. Not many know him personally, but I've already run into plenty within the family that hold him in high regard. (Shakes his head.) It's incredible how the Nezumi of the Jyuunishi is so revered even to the strangers he meets. And they don't even realize their attachment to him…they just naturally seek him out and accept him. That could partly explain why Akito has had to keep Yuki out of the public eye so to speak. (Narrows his gaze to the floor.) Still, it's strange that Yuki can create this reaction within everyone around him, particularly with the `outside' Sohmas—I don't ever recall a previous Nezumi member having this much influence inside the clan.'
Upon thinking this, Kazuma turned to fully gaze at his son, a forlorn thought coming to pass through his mind. `No doubt, Kyo senses this…no matter how hard I try to shield him from this truth, his neko spirit knows that the nezumi is admired by all that come in contact with him while he as the cat cannot have that connection with anyone inside the family. (Tired sigh) That connection…blood bond or whatever it is certainly has given the Neko of the Jyuunishi enough heartache to last many lifetimes. The same sadness I saw in my grandfather is the same burden Kyo carries with him wherever he goes. Can anyone really blame him for being how he is? (Small smile) Thankfully Tohru-san understands this point very well…Kyo is all the better for it with his growing relationship with her. She doesn't realize it, but it gives me great peace of mind knowing that she stands by Kyo's side like she does. I can only hope that she does so for a long while to come…'
Oblivious to the ponderings of his father or to the silence that befell between them, Kyo sank back into his own world. Although Kyo's thoughts were far removed from what Kazuma was pondering…and far more disturbing.
`Tohru…what did happen this morning? What happened to you?' reflected Kyo, inwardly cringing on seeing the images that never ceased to appear in the back of his mind, replaying over and over and over… `No, nothing will happen to you while I'm here. NOTHING. (Heavy sigh) But what can I do to help? What? Please tell me…'
The pictures in his mind were as fresh as when he had them in the middle of the night/early morning hours. He felt the oppressive air inside and all around him—so much so that breathing was labored at best. He couldn't reach out to her like he had in the past whenever they shared these encounters with each other. She was completely out of his reach, and what's more, she was oblivious to his presence there until the very last moment when the inhuman screech upon seeing him chilled him to the core, blood immediately freezing in their course through his veins. And much like in the beginning when they first met like this, her countenance was completely hidden from view…only the inhuman screeching that reverberated through the ground to the air and back to his own ears was all that he took with him upon suddenly jerking himself awake.
He would have brushed the entire episode out of his mind as one hell of a nightmare, however his neko spirit was roaring within him to reach out to her…now, in that instant. He had fumbled his way out of bed, and he quickly gathered his frayed wits together and hurriedly but quietly made his way down the hall to Tohru's bedroom. Taking a deep breath, he silently opened her door a crack and peeked inside to find the young lady peacefully sleeping with nary a worry gracing her delicate face. Breathing a deep sigh of relief, he opened the door further and walked to her bed cautiously so as not to wake her. Simply gazing at her, watching her breathe every breath softly, he had no idea how long he had stood there…he just knew that the edge in his nerves was growing intensely by the second.
Cursing his wayward state of mind, he decided to take a look around the house just to be sure that all was well. Thinking that maybe that'll calm his neko spirit, he walked out and quietly shut the door to Tohru's room. Upon reaching the hallway, he made quick work to survey his surroundings. Nothing was out of order; all was as it should be. He walked down the stairs silently and quickly surveyed the living room and kitchen. Nothing. He went to walk barefooted outside with still silence meeting him at every turn, crickets long ago ceasing their melodic music for the night.
Frustrated that nothing was out of place and his neko spirit not any less assuaged of its panic, Kyo stomped back into the house. Deciding to do the unimaginable, he quickly looked into every cabinet and every closet. He even peeked into the abyss that is Shigure's room. Still nothing. His second neko form was now fighting for control of his body despite the bracelet practically burning into his skin to keep it in check. Ascending the stairs rapidly, he went back into Tohru's room silently. Gazing at her closely, it took all that he had not to touch her lest he wake her up. Relenting to just softly kiss the top of her head, he went back out and closed the door to her room quietly. Determined to end this restlessness, he conducted the same search in this floor with no success of placating his neko. Finally, the truly unthinkable had to be done. He irately opened the door to Yuki's room, with little care if he woke up the occupant of the room, only to find that all was well and peaceful with the nezumi sound asleep.
Cursing his luck then, that was when Kyo was startled out of his wits by the inu of the household. Shigure had asked Kyo if there was something the matter, but of course, Kyo couldn't very well tell him the truth. He'd be laughed straight through the week. Opting to glare at the writer, Kyo marched off back to his room without a backward glance or thought to the writer left standing in the hallway. It hit him then while standing still in his room in mid-step…the panic, the imbedded fear that was coursing through his mind and body was immediately dispersed as if it had never been—the `spell' seemingly broken.
`I never thought I'd be thanking that baka inu for snapping me out of it. Almost humiliated myself by barging into the kuso nezumi's room. Don't how much longer I could've held out before `it' decided to take over.' Sitting with Kazuma now, Kyo truly wanted to talk to him about this latest crisis in his life. `Shishou would understand…but still, I don't even know if it's just me. Maybe he'll know…his grandfather was the last Cat. Maybe this is normal…right? This has to be…normal. (Stares in determination at nothing in particular.) Betrayal…that's what she tried to warn me about. She knew it to be true, and it's going to happen…but when? (Heavily sighs) Damn, I have to find a way to reach her again…somehow…'
“Kyo, are you sure you're okay?” asked Kazuma with growing concern at his son's prolonged silence and anxious countenance.
“I'm good—like you said, it must be just the stress with what's going on here and at school,” reasoned Kyo as he stretched his arms out while coming back to reality. Arching a brow to his father, he calmly asked, “Oi, you know what time we're having the dinner tomorrow, right? You're not going to forget now, are you?”
Noting Kyo's swift action in changing the subject, Kazuma allowed the teen his privacy on the matter. “Yes, yes, of course I know the hour of your dinner tomorrow. I'll be there in plenty of time, don't you worry.”
“Hm, yeah sure. I'll be seeing ya then,” called out Kyo as he hurriedly went out the doors, not allowing for Kazuma to press him on the issue that had been bothering him.
Kazuma could only look on at his stubborn son walking away, no doubt carrying upon his shoulders the weight of his woes. Shaking his head in slight dismay, Kazuma sighed heavily and made his way back to the dojo with the other students. `I wished he'd just tell me. It must be serious if he's so restless about it. Then again, maybe Kyo wants to come to terms on his own with whatever is bothering him. (Soft sigh) I just hope he remembers that I'm here for him, no matter what.'
`I can't involve Shishou just yet, not without finding out first about this betrayal,' thought Kyo with resolve. `It's pretty obvious from where it's going to come from…question is when. When are you coming for me, nezumi…when?'
(Birds twittering—soft wind blows)
“You know, it's dangerous to be sitting at the windowsill like that.”
“Really, is this any way to greet your guest, Akito?”
`Well, I should be grateful. At least she's not swinging any of her crystal vases my way,' mused Shigure while rubbing the back of his head absently. Observing her carefully, he noted that Hatori's comments about her recent health were correct. She still held a sickly pallor across her face, and he could hear her raspy breathing succinctly. `I wonder where her sitter went off to? Hatori would pitch a fit to see her at the window after all the hell she put him through this week.'
Sighing ruefully, Shigure opted to join her at the window. Gazing to the ground below them, he saw the tops of trees still in full bloom and the varied gardens that graced the grounds. The leaves were rustling softly with the breezes that were blowing through them, and every so often they offered a glimpse of the view below them. It was in these instances that he saw what entertained Akito's attention currently.
A very serene setting was laid out before the two observers—Yuki quietly chatting with Kureno in the impromptu garden that they were both working on when not in Akito's immediate presence. From this distance, Shigure could still make out the small smiles that appeared every so often between the two, like two old friends sharing a favorite pastime.
`Eh? So…it seems that our enchanting bird has found a new playmate. From the looks of it, they've been playing with each other for quite some time now…interesting,' mused the inu to himself. Sparing a glance to Akito, he also noted how tranquil her very aura was exuding at the moment. `Well, at least I now know why the home-front has been so calm recently…'
“Ne, Akito, have you found a new use for your caged bird? He's certainly taking a liking to freely associate himself with our dear nezumi,” remarked Shigure tactfully in hopes to elicit a response from his `god'. “Do you think it wise to let them be like this?”
Not removing her gaze from the scene below her, Akito calmly replied, “It's as it should be.”
Smirking slightly, he took one step closer to her, ever cautious that she may turn on him—hell, it surprised him that she was as calm as she was. In reflection, he thought, `Well, she has been through a lot. It's not like she's up for a debate, even less up for a fight. Hm…'
Reaching out with his right hand, he gently grasped her chin to turn her attention his way. Seeing her steel black onyx orbs finally gracing him with their notice, he smiled widely and traced her jaw line with the same hand while his left hand caressed her right cheek, faintly tracing her brow and nose. He couldn't help but wonder what lay behind those eyes that conveyed the arrogance that was so familiar, yet so enticing to him. Oh, but he had his ways…certain methods that always gave him what he desired and therefore wasted no time in going forward.
“Well, Akito, aside from your little cold, you do look infinitely much better than in months past since I last saw you. Should I be giving my thanks to anyone in particular?” asked the writer mischievously. `Let's see how far she's willing to admit it…'
“Have you grown even more stupid since then?” retorted the clan head in a flat tone. “It's plainly obvious that Hatori is an excellent physician…wouldn't you agree?”
He gave a small, amused laugh at how she answered each question honestly but not answering it fully at the same time. `I can see how Hatori learned so well this little trick. He has such a good example here…oh, how I do miss it.'
He then brought both hands to fully grace her face, lightly outlining all her features ever so gently. “Well, he is the best that I know of which I'm afraid doesn't say much on his behalf. (Sigh) In any case, you are a sight to behold after so long. You do wound me when I cannot be here by your precious side.”
She in turn lowered her lashes and reached out with her own right hand to bring him closer to her. She shoved both legs back inside and stood proudly before him in her robes while falling into his sudden embrace. Closing her eyes to the slight breeze that blew her hair from her face, she leaned into his chest and heard the steady beat of his heart.
Letting out a deep breath, she softy questioned, “Is that so? Am I your most precious?”
“You are very near and dear to me,” affirmed the writer while lifting her face back to his own. Whispering as gentle as the breeze, he stared deeply into seductive gaze and asked, “Should I remind you of this, my dear Akito?”
She responded with bringing his head down closer to her own, her lips lightly grazing his own, only to dodge his forwardness to make it into something more. She took one finger and traced his lip ever so delicately while raking her fingers through the back of his hair, all the while biting at her lower lip. She then inclined his head down so she may purr into his ear directly, “Mmm. Very tempting…after all the stress you put me through, you do owe me this.”
Shaking his head in mild wonder, he nuzzled her hair and then her neck, taking in her scent deeply. As he did this, he took the liberty of running his hands across her back in a soothing manner, sensing utter contentment from the young female in his embrace. Turning to her ear, he replied with a slight smile, “Stress? Mou, Akito, you torment me. I wouldn't want to put you through that. It was merely a way of getting our sweet nezumi to see how silly it was to hide from you. I take it you made that clear to him, ne?”
“Hm. Still, what about that bitch of his mother? She truly vexed me…talking back at me and such,” she voiced softly while allowing the writer caress her neck intimately. She brought her hands down to his chest and rubbed them against the soft lapels of his yukata. Breathing heavily, she commented lightly, “Although you getting her involved in my personal affairs…with the nezumi…wasn't something I expected.”
Smirking against her neck, he lifted his head to kiss her ear gently, noting how her breathing was increasingly becoming labored. Relaxing even more into her open embrace, he began to kiss his way down her neck to her now exposed junction between her neck and shoulder. Finding it hard to now concentrate on the conversation and his goal to get more information about her and Yuki, he distractedly replied, “Well, it certainly evolved itself into a more complex situation than even I anticipated. (Heavy sigh) Mou, at least our little nezumi came out relatively unscathed. And I seriously doubt that woman would ever come near…”
“Filthy mess…true STAIN…”
The hard slap. His gray/violet eyes widening in shock.
“…soiled rodent…FREAK!”
The harsh pulling of his soft hair. His luminous eyes squinting in pain. And through it all, his eyes shone with despair, pain, regret, shame… They were all seen and felt…how strange to see it all from here. His eyes…
“…I was stupid…afraid…of disappointment…”
How could hope still be found in his solemn eyes? After so much, he was not broken…how can that be?
“…I don't want to lose the chance… I will still keep trying…no matter how much it hurts.”
So much sorrow in that one gaze…he was hurting. His beautiful eyes…
“…I am indeed a very stupid person.”
NO. He's simply…innocent. A precious innocent. His eyes called to me.
“…you are notstupid. Never believe otherwise.”
`My precious innocent.'
It took all of Shigure's focus to keep from falling flat on his back when he felt Akito jerk away from his arms suddenly. Before he could even react, she sent a hard slap across his face, cutting his lip in the process. Her sheer force behind that action completely stunned him.
`She's definitely not sick anymore…damn Haa-san, what medication do you have her on?' was Shigure's errant thought while nursing his stinging cheek. Licking his open wound on his lower lip, he replied testily, “Was that really necessary? You could've just come out in the open with your…displeasure.”
“One good deed deserves another, ne?” she answered derisively while arranging her robes about her once again. Narrowing her gaze, she lashed out, “How DARE you involve yourself in MY personal business with Yuki? And to think I had at one point thought of you being as somewhat intelligent. Hmph, did you honestly think that I would now want to share myself with a filthy mutt like you? I can't even stand your smell on me now…so repulsive.”
`Touché, Akito…using my one weakness against me very well. I would have expected the usual tantrums at the expected intervals...this was certainly a new twist.' Choosing to ignore her insult, he countered with a grin, “I don't recall you ever complaining before when we were…”
Don't even bother to drag that out. Your `usefulness' then only served to distract me from going completely insane with boredom,” she sneered at him while settling herself back in her perch at the windowsill. “Such distraction has long made me ill. (Frustrated sigh) It's either pity from one or disdain from another…I'm so sick of it all. I just simply don't care to put up with it anymore.”
“Akito,” replied Shigure softly, “it may not seem like it, but I do care…”
“What the hell do you care about besides feeding your childish ego?” she barked out. Eyes flashing in tempered rage, she jerked her gaze back to the gentlemen below. She bit out contemptuously, “I've no use for condescending attitudes or pitiful caresses. It's all…anathema to me. So spare me your useless remarks...they mean NOTHING to me!
`Really? A shame, Akito…truthfully you are a pathetic sight to behold. Still, you are right…time for games is over.' Not wanting to provoke her any further on this matter lest she fall into another bout with illness (he did promise Hatori after all), he remained silent and stood across from her at the windowsill. Inwardly sighing, he pondered on how best to get her to reveal how far her ties to Yuki have grown.
It's not like he didn't already have a clue, given the state Yuki's mother was in when she had confronted him at his home. He was rather amazed to see that much of Akito's rage had not abated since that day. Nope—despite the harsh days of being so ill, she managed to recover enough so as to have this long overdue `tête-à-tête' with him. Their chat started out remarkably well, but it ended rather painfully, for him anyway.
And it still hurt. Rubbing his cheek lightly, he pressed his lips together to find that the minute cut was coagulating now. He had to admit that she certainly gave as good as she got…she always did hate it when someone meddled in her business. He had foolishly believed that her illness had made her lethargic and needy, and therefore, she posed no real physical threat to him. Quite the contrary—she was far angrier than she let on, but unfortunately for her, she had to scale back her physical displays of rage in lieu of her pride. She was most certainly cursing her body for not being able to handle much stress currently. But no matter what, she is `god' to them all, and she adamantly refuses to appear weak in any form when she's in the presence of others.
`Lucky me,' was his amused thought as he leaned further onto the windowsill, always mindful not to touch Akito in any way. To touch her or her clothes or even invade her space then would only antagonize her further, forcing her to completely clamp down and say nothing more to him. `I can't afford for that to happen anymore. I need you to prove me right or wrong, Akito. And I'm afraid that it will not be pretty…for either of us.'
“Ne Akito, has having Yuki nearby rid you of your demons…of your nightmares?” tactfully asked the inu. “Or have they just become more unbearable?”
A clenched jaw was her response as she remained silent to his line of questioning. Never once did she bat an eye to the inquiries…she seemingly ignored the inu altogether.
“Hm, I suppose it's hard to think about that. It's terrible to have to wake up in night sweats with images of horror still vivid in your mind,” he continued without letup as his voice dropped lower, cautiously glancing at her from the corner of his eye.
“ENOUGH!” she spat out viciously, shutting her eyes out at the memories he was scratching at.
It was no secret of how she was constantly plagued by those instances of hysteria. Being in her constant company in the past allowed him to become intimately acquainted to this very distressing aspect of her troubled life. It seemed to increase in intensity and frequency as she aged…he silently wondered just how many of these moments of madness has she had to endure over the past few months since he had last visited her.
`I only seek the truth you hold, Akito. If only a glimpse…that'll be enough…for now.' Licking his lips (going over his cut carefully) and shifting his weight to lean against the windowsill, he narrowed his gaze at her and remarked, “Perhaps, my dearest, you need to exercise your right as `god' once again.”
“My right?” asked the clan head incredulously, finally gracing the inu with her piercing gaze. “Not that it's any of your concern, but what the hell are you referring to?”
“I only mean to point out the most logical course of action, Akito,” explained the writer further with a mere shrug to his shoulders. “It would be wise of `god' to at least consider this course of action once again…”
“Save your riddles and just tell me plainly what you're babbling about,” demanded Akito impatiently.
Eyes glistened brightly as the next thought came to his mind. “Your misery in the past seemed to have lessened only when the nezumi was locked away from sight and mind. You've not forgotten this fact…right? Maybe it's now time to consider it once more…”
He was wrong to think that she couldn't get any paler than she already was. It seemed that the last comment struck a chord deep within her. So much so that she was speechless, and it was all that she could do but gape at him and pin her astonished gaze on him, wordlessly challenging him to repeat himself.
Holding his breath momentarily, he gave her a look of sincere bewilderment and replied, “I don't understand why you hesitate in doing what you always did in the past to make yourself feel better. The `discipline' that you gave Yuki in that room always brought you peace, did it not? I'm just at a loss as to why you're holding back now—UMPH!”
He immediately felt the wind knocked out of him when Akito had lunged herself against his chest, sending the both of them onto the floor with a loud thud. Yet, she didn't stop there…she at once started to pound on his upper body with her clenched fists while straddling his hips with her legs, flailing all about and screeching incoherently to the dazed writer's face.
Hatori would normally have left the two individuals to their own devices had it not been necessary for him to administer her medication. Knowing that they were only conversing, he had gone into her residence with little worry. However, upon hearing the commotion and her screaming, he rushed to her room, only to find that she was not only verbally but also physically assaulting Shigure, who seemed bent on keeping Akito from hurting him even more by covering his face with his arms. Profound shock struck Hatori hard as he yelled at Akito, and dropping his bag at the doorway, he ran in there and scooped her up and away from Shigure. She was far from cooperative as he tried to placate her.
“Akito, calm down!” Hatori pleaded as he strained to keep her to his chest.
“NOOO!!!!!” she screamed, arms bound by Hatori's arms but feet kicking every which way. LET ME GO!!!! AAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!! (Pants heavily) Damn him, damn you all…!!!”
She was starting to abate in her struggles, but Hatori felt her second wave of energy start to come around as she fought once more to detach herself from the persistent doctor. Worried that she was now bordering on falling ill once more, he saw no other choice but to bring out his own trump card.
“Akito, that's enough! HE will hear you!” he loudly remarked.
All resistance on the clan head's part ceased immediately upon hearing the doctor's remarks. Heavily panting, she hung limply against his chest, staring listlessly at the floor with wide eyes.
Hatori sighed heavily in relief now that realization dawned on Akito. Secretly praying that Yuki didn't hear this commotion, he set her carefully on her two feet, lightly embracing her to keep her from falling over. He then turned to frown at Shigure, clearly upset that the inu had broken his promise of not disturbing the still recuperating `god'.
“What did we agree on?” demanded to know the doctor while looking at both parties. “I only allowed this meeting to take place as long as the both of you…”
“Just leave me be!” blurted out the frail female as she broke free from Hatori's arms. Glaring at them both, she turned to Shigure with a passion and vehemently replied, “GET OUT. Keep away from me, and stay out of my business, DOG.
Surprisingly, her heated words and earlier actions did not once bring any sign of shock or pain to the inu's face. Only the look of acceptance graced his features, the kind that normally comes when one confronts an inevitable truth.
A truth that Shigure had been waiting to see revealed for a long, long time now…a truth that will finally come to light soon…a truth that will shake the core of the Sohma family line.
Straightening his yukata, he responded quietly, “That I will, Akito. I will say no more.”
`See that you don't, you filth,” she bitterly remarked as she made her way to the door. Turning her head slightly, glancing at him sideways, she softly warned, “Cross me again and touch what's mine, and I will personally see to it that you stay locked up in place of the cat.”
As Akito stalked off into the darkened hallways, Hatori immediately called out to her, “Akito, you need to return to your bed. You are due for your medication…”
“Haa-san, Haa-san,” chided Shigure coolly, “let her be for now. You know where she's going. Let her go to him…she needs that.”
Eyeing him guardedly, the doctor asked, “And you? She didn't inflict too much damage from what I can see.”
“Nah, she wasn't too strong to begin with,” replied the inu with a grin. Rubbing his head, he winced and admitted, “But she does have a strong grip. Mou, my little spit-fire has some strength in that hand of hers.”
Sighing tiredly, Hatori leaned against the doorway and stared at his old friend. Instinct told him that much more had gone on between the two than the writer was letting on, but knowing the cunning inu, not one iota will ever be revealed…for now anyway.
“Shigure…you do realize that she meant what she said,” commented the dragon softly, undoubtedly feeling the full weight behind `god's' warning to the inu. Hatori now knew that nothing in any form of existence will stop Akito from eliminating any threat to her greatest treasure.
“Hm, I suppose she does,” the inu answered absently. Shaking his wandering thoughts, he gave the dragon a small smile of understanding. “Don't fret so much, Haa-san. Gray hairs don't become you as well as they become Yuki. (Sigh) I best be off before she decides to come back…I doubt she'd be thrilled to see me anytime soon. I'll see you at tomorrow's dinner, yes?”
Snapping back to attention, Hatori nodded. “Just be sure to wash off that cut on your lip.”
“Certainly, Haa-san,” assured the writer as he was walking out. Shigure could keenly feel the dragon's strong gaze on his back, no doubt looking for answers that weren't forthcoming.
`Gomen ne, but this truth must be kept silent for the time being. If it were to be known, I seriously doubt that I'll be able to carry it through to the very end…it's difficult even now. Such truth holds enough horror that Akito herself is afraid to even recall it. (Sigh) She didn't have to voice the truth out loud. Her reaction was clear…and her eyes…they spoke the truth loud and clear. Loud and clear…'
Said person was now gazing at a very knocked-out nezumi that was asleep on the floor underneath the veranda. Apparently the dozing nezumi heard nothing of the brouhaha that took place nearby, much to the clan head's relief. She was kneeled next to Yuki's lying form, the teen oblivious to her presence there. The only movement between the two was their hair playing in the wind that blew through softly, bringing with it the scent of blossoms in the air as well as the twittering of the ever-present birds.
“Akito, are you all right?” asked one bird in particular.
“Stop fussing, Kureno,” replied Akito irately. “What happened with Yuki? (Squints at Yuki.) And is he wearing makeup?”
`So much for discretion…not that Yuki could hide it from her anyway.' Clearing his throat, he bowed slightly. “Yuki was slightly unwell, so I gave him some of your tonic. I had also slipped in a small sedative. I `sensed' the growing…disturbance…from your quarters. I just took the small precaution, just in case. It will wear off in half an hour.”
“Very well,” she quietly acknowledged. “What of the ox?”
“Taken care of, Akito. He will remain silent on the matter,” assured the bird to his `god'.
She then settled herself next to Yuki, and wrapped an arm across his chest, pulling him closer to her while she continually gazed at his face. “Leave us.”
Bowing slightly, Kureno walked off into the house to get her quarters ready once she's ready to return. He let out a soft sigh, happy to know that he was able to prevent a messy situation. He clearly saw Akito's haggard form, and of course, he silently wondered at how her meeting with the inu had transpired. What was said…what was done…not that she'd ever tell him.
True to his words, Akito persisted to put out of her mind the altercation that transpired in her quarters. Instead, she was focusing for her attention on her one true pleasure at the moment. She leaned into Yuki's neck to breathe in deeply, once again imprinting into her memory the scent that's his alone, a scent she never grew tired of. She closed her eyes and lost herself in that world of tranquility that she rarely found. Glad to sense that her stress from earlier was leaving her, she inaudibly sighed and laid her head gently onto Yuki's shoulder, thus allowing herself to finally relax. Only the stray thought now fleeted about in her mind…
`Nothing will ever come between us, my precious nezumi. You'll see…they will all see soon enough…'
“Oi Tohru, are these all the boxes…I didn't see anything else in your room,” called out Kyo over his shoulder from the entryway of the house while placing the packaged box on the floor next to the others.
He turned around to face her, noting that she failed to respond to him once more. He had arrived earlier to find her at the living room table staring out into space with a blank look, resolutely denying that anything was bothering her. She kept giving him `the smile'. He knew `the smile' pretty well by now…it's the one she'd give whenever she was upset but didn't want others to notice.
`I can see right through it…why doesn't she just admit it?' thought Kyo exasperated as he plopped himself in front of her view. “Yo, what's eatin' you?”
Blinking in surprise, she once again gave him `the smile'. “Nothing is the matter, really. I'm just very tired what with packing everything up. I had been thinking of all the good memories we all shared. It's strange to see so much of it packed up in these boxes.”
“And…that's bad?' prodded the impatient teen.
“Not so much as bad. It's just that…it feels like I'm taking all the good memories with me,” Tohru commented quietly. “All that's left is an empty room… I was just being selfish and wondered if maybe you and the others will remember all our wonderful memories together. Selfish, ne?”
Breathing out heavily, Kyo leaned onto the table and propped both elbows onto the table, chin resting on both upturned hands. “Listen, there's nothing selfish about wanting others to remember the good times…it's what's being friends is all about. So don't be so glum about it…there may be an empty room there after you leave, but it'll always be your room. It doesn't seem empty when you think about it like that, right?”
Smiling gratefully, she nodded in agreement and wiped away the tears that fell during his remark. She immediately fell at ease knowing how much she was still welcomed in this home. She was also touched to see how much Kyo had made her feel better about herself and her decision to move out…so much like her mother would do for her.
This whole conversation almost eased the pain in her heart that she still felt in her bones. As much as she wanted to tell Kyo what had been bothering her, she knew that her doubts that Rin had raised wouldn't have ceased. It was quite overwhelming to see two members of the Zodiac legend agree completely on one point—that the rat and `god' were to be distrusted by all means…the rat being the key to the demise of all those involved with the curse.
“Ittai!” Turning her attention back to Kyo, she saw him giving her a good-natured glare. She could only smile sheepishly in return…he had caught her spacing out once more. “Gomen ne…”
“Aw, don't say that,” replied the neko wearily. “Just don't get so down in the dumps. Let's think about tomorrow. What time do you think we need to leave to head into downtown to get this tournament business crap taken care of?”
“Hm, you're right, what time, what time…” pondered Tohru worriedly, now remembering the errand Kazuma had asked of them to do for him since he'd be unable to do so. She remembered how proud Kyo was to see that he was given such responsibilities within the martial arts school. She had agreed then to accompany him since class let out early tomorrow being it was the last day of school. “What time would you like to go? Right after school or do you want to come here to change and then go or…”
“Nah, let's just stick with going straight from school. Less time wasted,” remarked the red-haired teen. Narrowing his gaze momentarily, he replied, “Feh, I forgot to ask where that building was exactly. Let me call him up real quick…his classes should be done by now.”
Sighing softly, Tohru stood up and stretched her weary limbs back into place. She was glad that Shigure had ordered food to be delivered, saving her from having to cook up anything for tonight. It will be a big day tomorrow, and she was still at a loss as to what to put together for the big feast tomorrow. Sure she had agreed to let Kagura and Momiji take care of all the arrangements tomorrow including the food, but still she wanted to contribute in some way by keeping everything prim and proper. Her boxes will need to be packed up…she recalled Shigure mentioning that Hatori was going to come prior to everyone else and help her move the boxes into her apartment…
`So many good things are being done for me, I'm definitely being swept away,' mused Tohru fretfully. `I wish I could say no, but then they'd feel bad…they even said it was their turn to take care of me. I can't ever repay them for all that they do for me. Everyone is so kind and generous to someone like me…'
“He's the rat, Tohru, remember that. Lies and deceit are in its nature, in it's bloodline.”
Gasping, she brought her hand once more to her chest, clutching her apron tightly in her fists. The emotional roller coaster that she had been on earlier came back with such a force that it overwhelmed her once more. Sniffling lightly, she tried breathing in and out steadily, hoping that this would calm her nerves somewhat.
`Please, oh please, stop thinking that. I'm becoming a mess again…Kyo-kun will see me,' she admonished her subconscious self.
“Trust him, and he will betray you…he will.”
“No, that's not true,” she silently told herself. “That's not who Yuki-kun is…he's kind and generous. He will never…”
“…it's only a matter of time.”
“Please, stop. Onegai…” she pleaded with eyes tightly shut.
Breathlessly she opened her eyes with a start and looked to the doorway. In walked in a rather cheerful nezumi with grocery bags in either hand. Taking his shoes off, he walked around the boxes and set the groceries down on the table. In the late afternoon sun, the orange rays cast shadows across the living room, creating a soft glow around Yuki as he gazed at her with a smile.
Yuki was indeed in good spirits. He was surprised to have found out that he had dozed off unexpectedly at Akito's home. He wasn't too upset though since he felt much better after taking the small nap. Sure it was shock to find a sleeping Akito on him once again, but he wasn't too shaken up by it. He did wonder what had happened prior to him waking, Kureno only mentioning that she wanted to rest by Yuki's side. At least Yuki felt assured that she was not as sick as he had thought her to be…having her sick because of his problems really made him feel guilty the whole week thus far. It's not like she had energy to spare for that sort of thing, and Yuki had felt terrible that he had a hand in creating an unnecessary burden on her.
Eventually Kureno took her away to her quarters once more, and so Yuki headed for home, stopping along the way to pick up a few things plus some basic essentials for tomorrow's graduation dinner. Now grinning at Tohru, he presented her with some of his purchases.
“Ano, welcome home, Yuki-kun,” was Tohru's cheerful reply. “What is all this?”
“Things we need for tomorrow. Here are the napkins, plates, utensils, bowls…oh, I also was able to find a nice tablecloth that we can use for the table. It's a soft yellow color,” mentioned the young man. “I also got some more ice cream, so we can have it as dessert for tomorrow. And I brought these…”
As she was perusing through all of his purchases, he proudly presented her with baskets of flowers…flowers of all varieties and smells.
“Wow, these are beautiful, Yuki-kun,” she exclaimed excitedly. “Where did you get all of these?”
Not wanting to let her know that Kureno had helped get these for him from the nursery at the estate, he replied tactfully, “Oh, um, they were readily available for me to obtain. We can place these all around the house. I thought it could lend a festive mood to the occasion…is it all right with you?”
“But of course! That is a wonderful idea,” she agreed heartily. Noticing another bouquet in another bag, she took it out and saw that it was different from the others. She asked quizzically, “Ne, Yuki-kun, what are these for…they're not like the others.”
Blushing slightly, he took them from her and breathed in their fresh scent. He shyly remarked, “Ano, these are daisies. They are rather simple and not as obvious as the others. Yet, they are just as beautiful and they smell just as wonderful. Here…these are for you.”
“EH?!” she cried out in disbelief while trying to give back the flowers. “Oh no, please, I don't deserve these at all…this is too much for me!”
“Iie. You deserve these…I only wish I could give you more,” Yuki gently contradicted. He presented the flowers to her once more, and with a wider smile he insisted. “They reminded me so much of you…they are very happy flowers. They suit you so well…please take them.”
Taking the bouquet into her arms, she teared up once again but this time out of joy. She couldn't express herself with words, so she merely offered a teary-eyed smile that lit up the room. It was all the thanks that Yuki could ask for.
Yuki glanced around the living room and noted that her boxes were all ready to go. Disappointment filled him as he saw that he had failed to help her with her things. He sadly remarked, “Gomen ne. I had been caught up with my errands, and I let myself lose track of time. I'm sorry I couldn't help you with your packing.”
Sniffling, she cleared her throat and hurriedly replied, “No, that's quite all right. I had lots of help…um, Kyo-kun helped with the boxes and such…”
Before he could respond, she quickly went into the kitchen before she felt the need to give him more detailed information about her `help' earlier that day. `I can't let my problems become his…he has enough responsibilities to worry about…'
Left alone in the living room, Yuki couldn't help that maybe there was more to it than what she had said. His instincts were never wrong, but if she had meant to keep anything to herself, then he should and will respect her privacy on the subject. With a gentle sigh he picked up the items on the table and took all the purchases into the kitchen.
By then Tohru had her bouquet in a plain rose-colored glass jar. It certainly brightened the darkened room, and she couldn't help but smile at how wonderful it looked at the kitchen window. “Arigatou, Yuki-kun. These are so pretty.”
Blushing slightly, he turned to her once again as he leaned against the counter. “I'm glad that they please you, Tohru-san.” Inwardly he thought, `I only hope you like your present just as well as the flowers.' Gazing down at the floor, he glanced fleetingly at the boxes at the doorway, letting out an audible sigh.
“Daijoubu, Yuki-kun?” she inquired with concern.
“Yes, I'm sorry…I didn't mean to alarm you,” he remarked calmly. With a far-off look out the window, he quietly said, “It's just that…I was remembering…things.”
“Oh, I see,” she replied. “Is it okay if I ask what you were remembering?”
“Just old memories…how many things have happened since I found you at your tent,” recalled softly the nezumi, still gazing through the window as if the moment was reliving itself before him. “So many memories these last few years…it's rather strange to see how they could all conveniently fit into boxes. Like they were being taken away from here...” (`Away from me.')
“I feel that way, too,” she admitted timidly. “It's like they were just swept away without a trace. It sort of reminds me of when I had to box up all of Okaa-san's things when she died. It was so hard because I thought that by having her things around, she was alive and well. I felt like she was going to come back to me. Of course that never happened, so I had to pack up all her things and send them away. I kept a few things with me, mostly pictures, but still, having to let her possessions go was very hard…I never felt so alone as I did then.”
“Gomen nasai, I didn't mean to make you sad,” apologized Yuki, ashamed that he brought her to near-tears for recollecting a sad memory of her mother.
“Iie. It's a memory,” she replied with a small smile. “Good or bad our memories are our own. To keep the good you must also keep the bad…how else can you appreciate the good moments that happened? (Sigh) No matter how happy or how painful they may be, I want to keep them with me always.”
`Hm, to cherish the memory…' Sighing heavily, he gazed once more out into the darkened forest from the open window, the sun setting very rapidly, leaving the kitchen quite dark. He stared down at the sink that was pristine in its cleanliness. `I wonder how long it will take `til everything reverts to looking like a trash heap once more.'
With a bittersweet smile, he quietly confessed as his eyes closed, “Still, I can't help but be selfish. Memories are wonderful to have, but I still prefer to have the real thing versus the memory of it.” (Sigh) `I prefer to have you here instead of your memory.'
Tohru remained silent, being too much in a stupor as she let Yuki's words sink into her mind and heart.
“It hurts to have just the memory instead of the real thing, but then again, it's okay that it hurts. It shows just how much that one thing means to me…and the memory will serve to remind me of that,” remarked Yuki softly. Pressing his lips together into a thin line, he continued, “I know I'm being very selfish. I know I can't replace your mother's good advice nor am I Uotani-san or Hanajima-san, but please remember that you can always trust me to be right there with you every step of the way. That way you don't ever have to feel lonely no matter where you're at because I'll always be with you wherever you go.” (Sigh) `Promise me that I won't become a memory. Please, take me with you, if only the memory…'
Silence hung thick in the air. Yet it wasn't uncomfortable for Tohru. The emotional torture that ate away at her subconscious mind by Rin's assertions evaporated with the breeze that suddenly blew threw the open window of the kitchen. Her outward reaction happened soon enough.
“Wha—um, Tohru-san? What's the…” stammered in surprise the now miniature nezumi.
“Gomen ne. I'm fine…everything's okay now,” she tearfully responded with a wide smile. Holding Yuki close to her shoulder, she tentatively asked, “Please, is it okay that I hold you, just for a minute?”
Relaxing onto her shoulder, Yuki nodded in agreement then squeaked, “M-hm.”
Both were lost in this moment…another memory to be cherished for a lifetime.
Yuki felt complete contentment on her shoulder as he felt her hand stroke him gently. It was the first time that he could recall in which he wasn't ashamed of his nezumi form.
Tohru was grateful beyond words to be reassured that what she had believed was indeed true. `Baka, how could I be so faithless in you, Yuki-kun? You're my dear and wonderful friend…how could I ever doubt that? (Sniffles) You believe in me with no doubts holding you back—I know that to be true. Arigatou. Thank you so much for reminding me what it was to believe. (Sniffles) To always believe…'
Neither knew of the attention they were receiving by the hidden audience. A pair of red-orange eyes that glowed with repressed anger gazed at them from around the doorway. He couldn't understand why, but Kyo couldn't bring himself to barge in there. For some reason, this memory did not allow for him to be included in the picture. Almost as if their moment was meant to be only witnessed by him…
Little did he know that indeed this was one memory he will carry with him always.
And little did anyone know that a writer was listening carefully to their conversation from inside his study. He himself smiled sadly, but for entirely different reasons.
`Memories to cherish…like the memory of seeing Kyo standing in the dark hallway with his beads glowing brightly with an angry red color. Yes, this is but another memory that I'll remember well… However, I do believe it'll just bring me pain in the end. Will it be the same for them as well when it all comes to an end?'
Author's Vague Recollections (04-21-05):
It's late, and I'm dead tired. But I am so thrilled that this chapter is out of the way…sort of. Alas, it was difficult to put together, but once again I'm hoping for the best from my readers and reviewers.
First off, let me say one thing. I've released two chapters at a time a couple of times before this one, and I've noticed how many readers inadvertently skip over the first of the two chapter releases. I want my readers to grasp the whole story because each chapter lends a hand in allowing the story to develop fully. That said, if you didn't know about this or maybe you'd like to be sure you didn't miss any releases, the ones I released at the same time are as follows: chapters 24 and 25, chapters 27 and 28. Thank for your support…now, onward!
Well, where to start? There's that bit of dark ramblings from yours truly that gave me the goosebumps when I wrote it. Later in the fic it's revealed who the individual was that dreamt these nightmares…hehehe, trust me when I say that the gist of this story is found in this passage. So tuck this away in your memory bins!
Rin and Tohru…I was worried about this scene. I'm still unsure if I got their interaction down correctly according to their characters. A big thanks to Rjunkie for helping me with this portion…hope you like this version girl!
As you can see, throughout the whole chapter, betrayal was the key word. Sad to say that instead of just a few of the Jyuunishi believing this, Tohru is being dragged into this belief as well. Will Tohru prevail in her beliefs or will they become marred, thus allowing the seed of doubt to grow? Well, that's a good question…H'kat walks off to think.
Finally we have Haru coming across Yuki's secret…good thing it was all acceptable to Haru. Still, now he has an idea of the bigger picture, and perhaps now realizes why Rin is behaving the way she is. Oh, by the way, the tonic I had in mind was actually a good ol' fashion remedy…cinnamon tea with bee's honey and a touch of lemon. Yummy!
Kazuma and Kyo sure have their hands full. Kazuma concerned about the family state of affairs that indirectly affect Kyo. Kyo is worried about his little brush with the dark side of his `dreams'…can't these two ever get a break? Not if I have anything to say about it. Oh, to clarify, I have no knowledge of how karate or its tournaments work, so if I'm wrong in any way, please let this uninformed author know about it. I want to keep things authentic, so all help is appreciated!
Shigure and Akito…yipes. This was HARD…really HARD. More so than with Rin and Tohru. References to manga releases are implied but never pointed out. That's just how it works in this fic, so hopefully no one is too upset by it. I had to smile when I got Shigure all `pumped up', only to be shot down pretty cruelly. It wasn't planned, but I liked getting Akito to bring retribution on Shigure using the wiles any woman possesses. Go woman power! Still, it was hard to get the right amount of info revealed to the masses about what's really going on. You know, it's never really revealed why Akito had locked up Yuki in a room so many times…one of the mysteries yet to be resolved satisfactorily by the manga. Anyway, my interpretation was actually last minute. I am glad that in the end, it did work out well for my fic. What I didn't anticipate was the volatile reaction that Akito displayed…I debated over that portion for quite a while. Ah well, at least I'm done with it. Did I do it justice…you be the judge!
Finally, we have sort of a farewell of sorts from Yuki to Tohru. It's not a permanent good-bye kind of thing. It's sad to see the people you care for the most leave your side after being together for years. I was very sad when my sister moved out to live on her own. We were always together since the day we were born, and now she lives away from me. It's sad and my experience and feeling with that is conveyed in Yuki's words to Tohru. Again, I wonder if I did this scene justice…
Music selection brought to you by my weird mind. `Tubular Bells' is a melancholy theme that fits the tone of this story well. So much angst, but next chapter will be much livelier. It's high time I fulfilled my promise to Ina-chan a while back…you'll see what I mean in the next chapter!
As you can tell, the spring segment is coming to a close…finally! The dinner and then graduation…it's been a long time coming! I am so happy!
A word to my reviewers—
Coiling Death: Two chapter releases are tough, but I do try to keep them interesting all the way through! Your speculation on my fic is incredible…but sadly, it's not where this story is headed. You are correct to pinpoint that the bond between the rat and `god' is a key element to the curse. Now, no more cookies for you!
S.B. Kisses: Fellow author, hello! Beautiful work with your fic…I'm waiting ever so patiently until you are ready and able to continue your fic. For this fic, I'm glad that you liked my Ayame/Yuki moments. They are hard to put together…giving Ayame a serious streak along with his flamboyant self is tough!
Sanka (anonymous): Thank you so much for your kind thoughts on my fic! I only wish that I could give you a better story than what I have written down. This will have to suffice for now… You asked how long this fic is going for? I honestly don't know. About 70% of the spring segment was made up as I went along. I still have summer and fall to get to…quite a long road ahead of me. This fic isn't over for a quite a while. Thinking that I kind of got depressed, believing that the story may lose its luster along the way. It's a risk I have to take I suppose…
Dark-bitch: What a pen name…I didn't think would allow that. Oh well, either way, I really thank you for your support to my fic! I'm happy to see that this story is still holding your interest despite the long turnaround on these chapter releases!
A word to my reviewers—
To Emily V. and cheekynezumi-chan: I already replied on your reviews to me, but I wanted to give you proper thanks here in my fic.
Teddy Bear: Thank you so much for your ideas and support! You mentioned some problems, however, I'm at a loss as to what chapter(s) you were referring to. Please let me know so I can properly fix as necessary. Thanks again!
Yuki-girl: I'm thrilled to see another person that can relate more to Yuki's character. I'm the same way, and I agree that Yuki's more discreet in his emotional displays whereas Kyo is the opposite. This fic will continue to twist and turn, and it's my hope that you and all the readers on this site stay with me `til the end. More Momiji action? Well, let's just say he gets more spotlight along the way!
Wow, this is wonderful. Great readers and great reviews keep me going. I need this kind of support at 3AM when I'm working on a tough part in my fic. You guys are truly the best…especially Rjunkie who is always willing to hear my complaints and worries, even lending me a hand with Furuba questions (Ina-chan, thanks to you as well!). I appreciate this so much!
Thanks. Thanks to all my readers and reviewers—do leave me a message on your way out! Until the next chapter! Ja ne!