Fruits Basket Fan Fiction ❯ Seasons of Sorrow ❯ Memories of Spring = Advice From the Heart ( Chapter 30 )

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

DISCLAIMER: I'm running out of things to say here…really. You know I don't own Furuba, so let's move on, shall we?
Special Note: Not as long as the last chapter release, but pretty long!
30) Memories of Spring - Advice From the Heart
(StaticRECORDING. Haru stares into the digital camcorder's lens.)
“Testing focus, lighting…are we good to go? Hm, the red light is on. That's a good sign.” Nodding in satisfaction, he clears his throat and goes on to say in a mysterious tone, “Live from the house where it all began, this is our Final Supper. Why you may ask? Allow me to show you.” (Digicam view is turned towards kitchen.)
“Bean sprouts.”
“And Kyo's favorite, leeks,” remarked Kazuma proudly. “Yours, too, of course.”
Smirking, Yuki replied, “Check.”
“Now that we've got all the items accounted for, why don't we get this meal started? Which do you think we should start off with?” asked the martial arts instructor-turned-chef as he tied an apron around his waist.
(Digicam turned back to Haru.) “I never thought seeing Shihan in an apron would bring shivers down my back. Let us return to the making of another Sohma legend.” (Digicam turned back to Kazuma and Yuki.)
Yuki contemplated seriously on the wisest course to follow. No doubt, previous experience in the kitchen taught him that a healthy amount of respect and fear is demanded here.
(Digicam zooms into his face—a little blurry at first, but focus is regained—Haru clears his throat.) “Ahem, Yuki barely survived the onslaught of his fanatical club when he left school earlier. Now he's helping Shihan prepare the dinner for tonight as a surprise for Honda-san and the others. I do believe they'll be more shocked than surprised. Anyway, he does look stunning with his long sleeves rolled up like that…he's ready to tackle the ever evasive art of cooking. Let us watch the making of a miracle…or a disaster.”
“Well, normally you start off with the dishes that take the longest to cook or the ones that go into the oven. Tohru-san does that all the time,” explained the nezumi carefully.
“Hm, good choice,” agreed the `chef' happily. “Let's get the fish seasoned and marinated first. We can work on the others next.”
“Okay,” nodded the `assistant' eagerly. Shyly he smiled and remarked, “Arigatou, Shihan, for allowing me to help you.”
(Camcorder zooms into smile only. Sigh.) “Yuki should smile more often, don't you think? No one stands a chance against that smile of his.” (Camcorder zooms back to whole scene.)
Smiling widely in return, Kazuma handed him another apron he had brought from home. “It's always a pleasure to have assistance in the kitchen. It's what makes cooking all the more enjoyable.”
`Is that why Tohru-san likes having Kyo in the kitchen with her…because it's more enjoyable to have him there? Did she ever feel that way with me? (Sigh) Probably not…' Yuki mused to himself as he recalled the many times she put up with his ineptitudes in the kitchen. Shaking his head of the unsettling thoughts, Yuki tied the apron somewhat and turned to Kazuma, ready to start helping out. “I suppose you're right. I'll get the fish.”
(Focus on Yuki's retreating back.) And they're off. What will come of this journey into the unknown—a greater knowledge and understanding of the whole concept of the culinary art? Or will they come away with the charred remains of what once was edible in its raw form?” (Digital camcorder returns to view Haru up close.) “The mystery shall remain so until later on today. Until then, let us focus on Yuki's charming presence.” (Digicam back to Yuki...lens starts from below and works its way up his body.) “Now our dear nezumi is still rather short by regular standards, but that just makes him all the more adorable and huggable. No wonder he has a hard time fending off the female population. He has well toned muscles, a fine, lithe build, a delicate chin with lips that are full and ever so feather soft. His nose is as cute as a button, so the saying goes, and he has a remarkable hairstyle with silky hair that one can only envy. However, his eyes are by far his best assets.” (Video cam zooms in on Yuki's eyes.) “Eyes that girls would kill for…depending on the lighting, you can see a soft gray color in those pupils of his or you can see a nice shade of violet. Such a vision…such beauty…such anger…”
“Stop focusing the camera on me, Haru!” called out Yuki crossly from his place at the counter while dipping fish into a marinade sauce Kazuma made the day before. Eyes twitching every so often, he bit out, “You said you weren't going to be filming me…”
(Digicam once more focused on Yuki's full lips.) “I said I wasn't going to film you all the time. And I'm not.” (Digicam turned to Kazuma who was smiling widely—lens completely unfocused.) “Ne, Shihan, tells us how you managed to get rid of Kyo and have him take Honda-san along for the ride.”
Kazuma stood pensive for a moment as he recalled his little scheme to lure away his worrisome son. Taking the fish he had been marinating into his hands, he unconsciously waved it around while the marinade dripped everywhere. “Well, I convinced my sweet Kyo to take some papers concerning the dojo and the upcoming tournament directly to the downtown offices of one of the Sohma buildings. It's really just official documents that needed to be signed by me. I could have just mailed them or have Kunimitsu take them, but I also wanted Kyo to have a little more responsibility with the dojo now that he's graduating high school. I used this opportunity to get Kyo comfortable with his growing obligations as well as get him out of my hair while we prepare the dinner. I had asked Tohru-san to take care of him while he goes down the busy streets of the city. The plan was a success, ne?”
(Digicam finally obtains focus of Kazuma.) “That was a nice story, Shihan. Arigatou.” (Digicam swings back to focus on Yuki's hands with the fish.) “Yuki's hands are incredible. They look so fragile and soft, but let me tell you, looks are indeed deceiving. Those hands can do serious damage. I'll interview Kyo so that he can tell us first hand the meaning of pain inflicted by those very hands…”
“Stop it!” cried out the nezumi while he slammed his hands down. Unfortunately when his hand hit the edge of the pan where the fish were being marinated, said action caused the marinade to splatter all over the counter while the fish flew up into the air like a bird. They flew but for only a moment and then came crashing down, a soft kersplat testament that the fish was now marinating on the floor.
(Digicam followed the flight and downfall of the fish.) “Hm, that's not my piece, was it?” (Digicam returns to Yuki's face.)
Clenched fists were on either side of a trembling Yuki as he tried to reign in his rage. He closed his eyes and breathed in and out heavily. In a calm tone, he slowly remarked, “Leave me alone.”
“Yuki, why don't we just wash them off? I'm sure no one will notice any difference. I've dropped some already, too, so it's okay,” replied Kazuma with a soft smile in hopes of placating the angry nezumi. Turning to Haru's camcorder, he stated serenely, “Now, Hatsuharu, we can't have any more distractions. Be off now and film the others that are busy decorating the rest of the house for tonight.”
(Heavy sigh) “Fine. By the way, there's smoke coming from the microwave.” (Camera zooms to black smoke from microwave.)
“Eh?!” asked Kazuma bewildered.
Springing immediately to action, Yuki opened the door and waved off the smoke. “Shihan (cough, cough), what did you put in here?”
(Cough, cough) “Um, I defrosted the fish that were still a bit frozen. That's all,” was Kazuma's innocent remark.
(Zooming in closer to view the remains—Haru arches brow.) “Um, Shihan…aren't you supposed to remove the fish from its foil and brown paper wrapping?”
Both `chef' and `assistant' stared at each other in confusion then at contents in microwave. Kazuma pursed his lips as if in deep thought and replied to Yuki seriously, “You know, that could explain why my microwave doesn't work anymore. Remember that, Yuki, for next time, okay?”
Yuki took in the new knowledge seriously and nodded his head resolutely. “Hai, Shihan. Maybe we should take notes, so that we don't forget.”
“Good idea. Let me get a pen and paper.” Kazuma rummaged through drawers to find the items while Yuki took the burnt contents of the microwave and ditch them in the trash bin. Neither thought of the fish still on the floor.
(Zoom to fish on floor.) “Uh, Shihan…the fish?” (Said fish now served to further embarrass the nezumi—camcorder catches the moment the nezumi slips on the fish and lands smack on his back. Digicam turned back to Haru's face.) “Just for the record, that's not my piece.” (Smack! A rather dirty and smelly fish was propelled onto Haru's cheek.) “As I move out of the line of fire, let us focus on the other members in this house that are working nonstop in the living room.” (Digicam focuses on others decorating the living room.) “Give us details on what brought you both here today, Kagura-nee, Momiji.”
“Eh?!” asked the bewildered boar. Realizing that she was on camera, Kagura immediately lit up and waved joyously, “Ohayo minna! I'm putting up all the decorations for tonight's dinner! And don't worry about a thing, Tohru-kun…I'll personally see to it that the house doesn't burn down!”
“Thank you for your assurances.” (Camera zooms in on rabbit's face.) “Momiji, anything you care to add?”
“Hm,” pondered the not-so-small rabbit, tapping his chin carefully. He then asked with dread, “Do I really have to eat the `dinner'?”
“We heard that Momiji,” called out Kazuma from the kitchen.
Smiling sheepishly, Momiji teetered on his heels as he leaned against a wall. Bringing his hands behind his head, he sighed and whispered, “Do you think anyone will bring any `real' food?”
“I can still hear you,” replied the `chef' once more from deep inside a cabinet.
“I wish Ri-chan would come tonight,” mused Kagura out loud. With a wide grin she remarked, “He would definitely be ecstatic to help in any way he could.”
“I'm barely trying to figure out how to survive tonight's meal. Ritsu-niisan's ecstatic moments could break me.” (Camera zooms in on decorations. Ribbons strewn all around and on the ceiling with the graduates' names on the big banner above the kitchen doorway.) “Hey, where did Shigure-sensei head off to?”
“Shii-chan went with Hari to unload Tohru's boxes at her apartment to make room for tonight. I wanted to go see her new apartment…” whined Momiji.
“We'll all go later, Momichii! We'll be giving her a big housewarming party at her place soon when she's all settled,” consoled Kagura as she brought another streamer across one end of the ceiling to the wall.
“What the…” (Camera zooms back to kitchen.) “Hey, what's going on in there?”
“Nothing's the matter, Hatsuharu,” commented Kazuma as he emerged from the kitchen with one pot in hand. “It just so happened that the pot we needed was way in the back in the top cabinet. All is well…nothing's broken.”
Kazuma cringes at the sound. “Hm, one moment if you will.” With a wide smile, he turns to the kitchen to see the latest developments. “Yuki…”
“These pots are not staying put!” cried out the nezumi irately while trying to keep the cabinet closed. Yet gravity being what it is…
“Damn,” was the quiet, one worded comment that floated out of the kitchen.
“Don't worry, Yuki. Anything broken can be replaced…” assuaged Kazuma to the nezumi.
“Oh my, what is all that on the floor?!” cried out Kagura upon rushing into the kitchen, only to run into Kazuma accidentally… “Umph!”
(Camera turned abruptly from kitchen doorway to Haru's face.) “We're experiencing technical difficulties. Why don't we take a short break, and we'll return as soon as we rescue the kitchen.” (Haru's face disappears and camcorder laid on its side on the floor, still recording…voices now only heard.)
“Gomen nasai, Shihan. I didn't mean to run into you like that.”
“It's all right, Kagura. Come on Yuki, we can get these back into the cabinet like so. (Noisy clutter) There. Now let's close this and…”
“Daijoubu, Yuki, Shihan?”
“We're fine, Hatsuharu. Just help us off the floor.”
“That looks like it hurts to be under all those pots and pans, ne, Yuki?”
“Momichii, leave them alone and help me get my clothes.”
“Oh! Ano, Kagura-neechan…your clothes are under the pots and pans.”
“That's okay. Here you go, Kagura-nee.”
“Arigatou, Haru-chan. I'm just glad the camcorder was turned off so it wasn't recording any of this.”
(Pause) “You have to actually turn it off for it to stop recording? It's not automatic?”
(Dead silence)
“Ahem, calm down, Kagura. It wasn't pointing this way, right, Hatsuharu?”
(Footsteps thudding across floor. Camcorder view jerked in motion and now turned askew with kitchen upside down.) “Nope, it was pointing the other way,” remarked the ox nonchalantly.
“You see, Kagura, nothing to worry about. Now, Yuki, let's get this mess out of the way before someone gets hurt,” instructed Kazuma to the already weary teen who was eyeing the pots and cabinet with contempt.
While trying to button up her dress, Kagura called out to Momiji above the noisy clutter of pots, “Could you please retrieve my socks that are behind you?”
“Hai.” Momiji then asked in wonder, “Haru, you did remember to turn that off now? Kagura-neechan is still dressing…”
“Haru-chan…” remarked tersely Kagura.
“There!” remarked Kazuma happily when the cabinet closed with pots intact and inside. “Now that all that is cleared, let's get to working!”
Nodding in agreement, Yuki walked over to the sink, “I'll wash my han—“ (Smack! Nezumi is back on the floor courtesy of the fish that no one bothers to pick up.)
Finally dressed, the boar asked the nezumi worriedly while helping him up, “Daijoubu, Yun-chan?”
“I hate fish,” was Yuki's livid response from his lowly position.
“Okay, so we may have a few broken items here,” conceded Kazuma with an embarrassed grin, absently rubbing the back of his head with his hand.
“I didn't think you could damage pots and pans,” casually remarked the rabbit as he gazed at the pot in his hand. “Look, this one has a dent, this other one seems to have the handle loose, and this one over here…”
(View from camcorder flipped back upright by the enlightened ox.) “Oh, here's the button…”
Sunshine bathed the bustling city, many walking about tending to their personal affairs. And amongst them were a pair of teens that were doing their utmost not to get too entangled in the throng of people milling about.
“Dammit, why the hell is it so damn crowded?!” exclaimed Kyo crossly.
“Ano, we're almost there, Kyo-kun,” assured Tohru for the umpteenth time. “The address given to us by Shishou-san says that it's right about…here! This is it…let's go inside.”
“Finally,” he replied in relief as he felt the cool wind hit his heated face, the perspiration he had been sporting immediately dispelling.
“Sumimasen,” she bowed lowly to him. “I should have tried to find this building sooner. I thought I could remember the layout of the city…I'm so sorry.”
“Stop that.” Pulling her back up gently, he remarked firmly, “I'm not blaming you. It's not your fault the streets are as crowded as they are. Besides, we're here now. Let's just get these papers delivered, and then we can head back home to get things ready for tonight.”
“Um, hai,” she feebly replied with a shy smile.
Taking her by the wrist, Kyo made his way to the receptionist at the desk and made his inquiries known. In the meantime, Tohru decided to take a good look around the lobby, seeing then that it wasn't much different from the building she had worked in as part of the cleaning staff there.
Thinking back on her old job, she recalled the distraught faces of her co-workers, their tears of joy on her last night at work moving her to shed a good many tears. She was extremely grateful for their company and support over the years while she had worked with them. She only hopes that she'll have good people to work with as well in her new job. And speaking of new job…
“Tohru-san!” called out a well-dressed lady from across the lobby.
Turning to the voice, Tohru smiled widely and bowed in greeting. “Good afternoon, Hina-san.”
“Fancy meeting you here,” replied Hina breathlessly upon reaching them with her quick strides. “I didn't think I'd see you again until you started your internship at Sohma-san's office next week.”
“Hai, I was just running an errand for Sohma Kazuma-san with his son Kyo-kun,” remarked Tohru happily as she gestured to her companion that now stood by her bewildered.
“Is that so? Well, welcome,” Hina bowed in greeting to the other teen. “It's always a pleasure to continue to meet more members of the Sohma family. Besides the usual Sohma business associates, I only know of Sohma-san's nephew, Momiji-kun. Tohru-san, did you require meeting someone in particular?”
“Uh, I needed to meet someone. Here, this is all I had been given,” commented Kyo befuddled. He was actually rather grateful that someone was willing to help him get his delivery made—the receptionist was proving rather difficult since she was adamant about appointments being made and such. `Presentation is always the first impression'—was that not what Kazuma had kept telling him? Now Kyo knew what he meant by that…he should have worn something a little more formal than just his jeans and pullover.
“Ah, yes,” she replied as she perused the documents. “This tournament is proving to be quite popular with the media. I've heard Sohma-san mention how the family is looking forward to this event. It's quite an honor for the family's dojo to be the official host this year. I'm sure your father is proud.”
“Uh…yea-yeah, he's thrilled,” stammered Kyo for lack of a response, not bothering to correct her on his actual relationship with Kazuma. He was too surprised at how open and kind this lady was with him, seeing that she was well informed of the family business affairs. If Tohru was going to work with this lady, he found that he could relax knowing that she'll be well looked after by such a generous person.
“Very well then,” she smiled brightly. Glancing at the receptionist, she called out with authority ringing in her soft voice, “I am escorting these two guests to the 11th floor. Please make a log of it, and prepare their badges. (Turns to Tohru.) You know, I can't wait to have you start next week. I am in dire need of your help. We're planning a luncheon with some overseas clients that I'm having such a hard time with preparing it along with all the other reports I have to prepare for the meeting.”
“Oh, I see. I will help in any way I can, Hina-san,” replied Tohru eagerly. A little bashfully, she added, “I just hope that I don't get in your way while you are training me.”
“Of course not. That's what the internship is for…to help prepare you for positions that carry more responsibility.” After retrieving the badges from the disgruntled receptionist, Hina turns them over to the two teens and motions them to follow her to a set of elevators. Pushing a button, she continues, “Sohma-san speaks very highly of you—it's easy to tell that he greatly appreciates the strong relationship you have with his nephew. Those skills will serve you well when tending to high profile clientele.”
Tohru blushed prettily at the implied compliment as they walked into the elevator. “Arigatou gozaimasu, Hina-san, it's such a great honor that Sohma-san is giving me this opportunity. Still, I don't deserve such recognition. I'm sure there are plenty of people that have a college education that can use this internship and do much better than I could.”
“Nonsense. Trust me when I tell you that a piece of paper doesn't dictate the worth of a person's skills. A person can have a degree in various fields yet still fall short of being an outstanding employee, and sad to say, they have a condescending attitude to boot,” advised Hina with a small grin. “Besides, even without Sohma-san's recommendation, I would still hire you…not many can carry themselves in a dignified yet humble manner before people that are complete strangers to them. Our clients need to feel the security that they are accepted as is and welcomed no matter who they are—you fill that void perfectly. Wouldn't you agree, Kyo-san?”
Startled that he was called upon, Kyo turned to Hina with a surprised look before giving her remarks more thought. `Hell, she knows Tohru pretty damn well already—must be her recruiting skills. Shishou has those, too, when choosing students for the teams…' Clearing his throat, he smiled at Tohru softly, “She'll be great.”
That one sentence certainly brought chills down Tohru's spine, not to mention that she was blushing harder than ever before. “Ano…um…uh…”
“Ah, yes,” widely grinned Hina, giving Tohru a wink. “See what I mean? Maybe the opinion of a young man will change your mind, ne? You certainly have a wonderful boyfriend, Tohru-san.”
“EH?!” cried out in unison the two teens, both blushing to a red tomato.
“Here we are,” remarked the young woman while stepping out of the suddenly stuffy elevator. “Follow me if you will. It's right this way.”
Turning abruptly to the voice behind them, another female employee called out to their escort. Smiling in return, Hina remarked, “Well, I'm certainly running into lots of acquaintances today.”
“Hina-san, I'm so glad I caught you before you left. There are some packages and documentation that Soboki-san had wanted delivered to Sohma-san,” stated the newcomer hurriedly.
“Figures he'd want something delivered last minute,” grumbled Hina quietly while continuing to listen to the secretary's incessant prattle.
Seeing their escort preoccupied, Tohru carefully directed her gaze to her male companion. She was keenly aware of how embarrassed she still was from Hina's last comment to them. Wanting to break the unnatural silence between herself and Kyo, she tentatively whispered, “Ano, um, I…I am very sorry for Hina-san's misunderstanding. I'll straighten everything out when she comes back.”
Kyo was too much in a daze to have heard Tohru clearly at the moment. He was busy seriously considering the possibility that it could be conceivably likely for Tohru to see him in that manner. `To be more than just friends… Will she…want that? Can she care for me…like that? It seems possible now with the way things are going in the family. Can I hope to dream for this—should I dare to hope?'
“Kyo-kun?” asked Tohru with concern at his prolonged silence.
He jumped with a start upon hearing her soft voice. Registering her last remark, he replied, “Nah, don't worry about it. She'll figure it out on her own.”
“Oh, uh, okay,” commented Tohru as she accepted that line of reasoning.
“Tohru-san, I'm very sorry for the interruption,” apologized Hina as she approached her guests once more. “Business can never wait around here. Say, come to think of it, why don't I introduce you to some associates here that you'll be working closely with once you get the hang of things at the office. I need to pick up a package from them anyway…what do you say?”
“Oh, but Kyo-kun…I didn't want intrude with completing your errand…” said Tohru with slight shame.
Shaking his head, he interjected gently, “It's all right, go on ahead with her. I'll wait here for ya.”
“Are you sure?” she asked anxiously.
“Sure I'm sure. Go. The sooner you go, the sooner you get back, right?” Kyo then gave her a smile that reflected how at ease he was with staying behind while she became acquainted with her new co-workers.
“Of course…you're right. I'm dawdling again, aren't I?” Turning to Hina, she replied with a wide smile, “I'm sorry for delaying us. Please, let us continue.”
“Certainly. Thank you Kyo-san for your understanding. We'll return shortly,” remarked Hina with a perceptive grin. Turning to Tohru, she commented off-handedly as she strode away, “You really have quite a catch there, Tohru-san…don't let him go.”
Tohru immediately turned to her regular cherry color at the stray comment. She could only stumble in her walk every so often, too stunned to say anything to Hina on that minor misunderstanding. Said misunderstanding was also something that Kyo couldn't wrench from his thoughts…
`Dammit, why can't I give it a chance?! Just because Akito tells me I can't have a life because I'm the cat?!' Sighing heavily, Kyo turned to the lobby where the elevators were and continued down to the wall of windows at the opposite end. Staring out, he noted what a beautiful view of the city lay below them; he could probably spot his home from here. (Shakes head) `Argh, I'm dodging the issue again. (Sigh) Maybe it's pointless after all. You never know when hell's spawn will pull a 180 and send me packin' to my cage. Argh…Shishou never told me why Akito suddenly decided to change our contract. I can't let my guard down. Somehow, someway I know that nezumi is involved dammit…I just know it! They have to be in on it together…hatching some plan to betray me…'
“You are troubled.”
“Huh?!” exclaimed the anxious neko as he whirled around to locate the voice that never failed to ease his worries. Sure enough, he found himself in the ever-familiar environment of field blossoms on a clear spring day. Only major difference was that the once clear, pristine azure skies were now a dull shaded gray, overcast with heavy cloud coverage. The contrast was particularly striking between the gray of the clouds and the vivid colors of the fields, giving the beloved sanctuary a forlorn air, much like he seemed to be. It was then that he spotted the young lady he cared so much about sitting serenely under the tree.
“You must be under a lot of stress. I was just thinking of what burden you must be carrying around with you to make you feel that way,” she remarked softly.
To say that he was elated was an understatement. He stared at her disbelieving, relief evident across his features, clearly not having heard anything she had said. Too stumped to say anything at the moment, he rushed over and scooped her into his arms, embracing her tightly to his chest.
“Ano…daijoubu? Is everything okay?” she asked apprehensively while standing rigid in his arms.
He merely responded with tightening his hold on her. Nuzzling into her hair, he breathed in deeply her scent of spring that closely mimicked the scent of the flowers around them. “You had me scared,” he whispered.
“Wha—I mean, why? How?” she asked anxiously, allowing herself to relax in his hold.
Horrific images…bloodcurdling screams…such vivid recollections were not going away as hard as Kyo had tried to block them. Even now his heart was racing inside him, blood pumping furiously through his veins, his neko spirit evidently still not at ease with the danger it senses. Not wanting to worry her about his troubling situation, he stepped back a little within arms reach, and he intensely gazed into her bewildered eyes. He gasped in realization.
`This is what I had been looking for on that night, morning…whatever. How come I couldn't tell that you were okay when I came into your room that night? Why?' Licking his dry lips, he looked off to the side, staring blankly at the brightly colored blooms. Not releasing his hold on her arms, he asked warily, “Do you ever feel like something is not right…so much so that it scares you to death?”
She blinked at his unusually serious tone—if he was under any emotional strain, he would normally have let out an emotional outburst, not calmly ask her a question. Taken aback by this change in his manner, she lightly sighed and cocked her head to the side as she gave his question serious consideration. She finally gave her well thought out, albeit short response. “The dark.”
“Eh?!” he asked incredulously. `Is she serious?'
“Hai, it's not something you can feel or touch, but it's there just the same. I never did like it, however, there's little you could do to the dark,” she replied matter-of-factly, giving every indication that she was indeed serious about it. “The only way to make it go away is for the light to shine through it. Okaa-san was good about taking care of me in the dark.”
`Okay, that's in no way remotely close to freaky to be afraid of,' was Kyo's bemused thought while struggling not to gape at her. Giving her a lop-sided grin, he replied, “You do know that being afraid of the dark is kinda…childish.”
“Maybe so, but I just can't help it,” she remarked with a soft laugh. “Besides, not everything is too small or too great that you can't be afraid of it, so my Okaa-san would remind me when I feel bad about it. I guess it's true what they say…you can never be too old to be afraid.”
“Um, okay, sure I'd have to go with you on that one,” agreed Kyo while shaking his head at her well grounded although naive logic behind being afraid of the ever-so-terrifying dark. Coughing to cover the laughter in his throat, (after all, it would be insulting to laugh at her innocent fear), he forced his grin down to seriously consider the matter that was bothering him before. `Yeah, that nightmare…it's pretty babyish to be afraid of dreams like that, too, come to think of it. (Sigh) Still, it was more than that…and she was in it. I'm sure of it.'
“Come on,” was her sudden remark as she took hold of his wrist and ran from the shade of the giant tree to the vast fields of blossoming flowers, her loose hair bouncing to the beat of her jog.
`How the hell can she run in that outfit?' he mused while smiling widely and laughing a little, his gloomy thoughts from before now fluttering away with the winds passing him by.
Letting go his wrist, she finally came to a stop. Smiling brightly to her companion, she stared at the high skies above her, and closing her eyes gently, she slowly brought her arms high over her head, the long sleeves of her kimono pooling at her shoulders. As if trying to reach the clouds that weighed down on them, her fingers were stretched fully and openly as if waving at them. She breathed in and out deeply, visibly relaxing herself, and ever so slowly she brought down her arms till they were parallel to the floor beneath her. Never letting her smile fade, she gradually started to turn clockwise in her spot. Soon, her turns were becoming fluid and in motion with the breeze that caressed her locks of hair and the sleeves of her kimono.
Kyo stood transfixed as he watched her twirl seemingly to her heart's content. Her serenity that she exuded washed over him in waves, and he couldn't recall presently a time where he was more at home, more at peace than he was at that moment just by simply gazing at her. He could all but hear the content purr of his neko spirit that agreed wholeheartedly with him. All his tension, all his apprehension…yes, even his doubts, were scattered to the fore winds, leaving behind the small glow of hope that she had constantly kept assuring him that did exist within his grasp.
`She sure wasn't wrong about that…' he mused with a soft glow to his eyes. `I can hope for the best. And best of all, it won't get taken away from me. Not if I have anything to do with it.'
Coming to a stop, she looked over to her quiet friend, and delicately blushed at his intense gaze. Trying to cover her face, she stammered in reply, “S-So, are you feeling better now?”
Realizing what she meant, he couldn't help but smile widely and once again bring her into his arms. `If only I could do this when we're out there, not just in here…'
“Hey, why don't you try it?” she requested as she shifted gracefully out of his embrace. Taking hold of his wrists, she urged him on, “Try it…it'll feel refreshing, promise.”
Eyeing her with doubt, he teetered back on his heels, hoping to find some way in kindly refusing her request. Of course, he took one look into those luminous orbs of hers and all but melted right before her. With a heavy sigh, he conceded, “I guess, but just one turn around. I'm just glad that baka inu or the kuso nezumi aren't watching me now. I'll never hear the end of it.”
Giggling quietly, she stepped back to allow him room to try out this soothing `technique'. Even though he repeated her steps without the grace she gave her own, she commended him for the effort. “Yes, that's it…you're doing fine.”
“Hm,” he grunted, inwardly feeling like an idiot. `I am so glad no one is seeing me now. Damn, I give this whole twirling thing a bad name.' Then another thought suddenly came to him.
“Hey, where's your KoKo thing, whatever…did he ever find his buddy?” he questioned her curiously.
Laughing quietly, she knelt down with poise and tucked her legs to her chest, knees under her chin. “Hai. He's with her right now…they're pretty tired. I had them next to me under the tree.”
After a moment of silence, he glanced down and saw how she seemed to look out to nothing in particular at the endless rows of blossoms before her. She absently wrapped her arms around her propped legs, and inaudibly let out a tired sigh, the forlorn air he felt when he `arrived' tainting her countenance. Alarmed to see her as despondent as she was, he began to take note of the slight fatigue gracing her brow and the touch of anxiety that he could detect in her eyes.
Berating himself further for not noticing sooner, he crouched down and knelt next to her. Tucking a stray strand of hair behind one ear, he gently nudged her shoulder with his fist. “Hey, what's the matter?”
Blinking rapidly, she regained her senses and stared back at him. She seemed to contemplate his question momentarily before she shook her head and gave him one of her brilliant smiles that never failed to lift his spirits.
“Nothing is the matter. I'm just a little tired, that's all,” she reasoned while tightening her arms around her legs. She then turned her face away from his prying eyes, opting instead to lean the side of her face on her knees. She then closed her eyes to the world around her.
Not one to give in so easily, Kyo nudged her again. As she turned her face to his once more, he calmly remarked, “You do know this friendship thing goes both ways. If something's worrying you, then talk to me.”
With a small grin, she nodded. “Thank you.”
Tilting his head to the side, he pondered out loud. “Is this about those people you've been trying to reach? No luck yet, huh?”
Glancing down, she shook her head. “I sometimes think that I did, but then it comes to nothing. I'm still…here, waiting. Just waiting…”
“You will reach them. They can't hide forever, right?” he assured her, hoping that what he said would take away her sadness.
Lifting her gaze to meet his own, she grinned widely. “You're right. It'll work out…it always does.”
“Of course I'm right!” he chided her as he leaned back on his heels, staring up at the overcast skies. Suddenly confused, he asked, “Hey, what's up with the weather here?”
Kyo kept staring and finally noticed that the silence was rather stifling. He turned to her and saw that she was facing away from him once more. He was about to nudge her in case she had fallen asleep (she did say she was tired), but her soft voice suddenly broke the spell upon them.
“You are deeply troubled, are you not?” she asked gravely.
Not understanding the nature of her question or the abrupt change in her mood, he was dumbfounded for a few moments before deciding to respond to her question or rather statement. “Uh, well, yeah, sort of. It's okay though—it's not important. Don't sweat it.”
She then stood on her feet in one fluid motion. With her back to him, she started to walk off into the fields of blooms, the breeze lifting her hair in a melodious motion. She stated with slight trepidation, “It is important if you're troubled by it. (Pause) Will you remember something for me?”
“Sure. What is it?” he asked eagerly.
“It's very important that you don't forget. I am not deserving, but will you promise me that you won't forget?” she persisted.
“What kind of talk is that, Tohru? You are deserving, and yes, you have my word,” he promised, caring less how he sounded and now was anxious to know what's on her mind. Walking over to her, he placed his hand on her shoulder, hoping that she would turn around. Just then the bright light of the sun shined through an unseen gap in the clouds, immediately blinding him so that he can only see the outline of her head against the stark rays of the sun in front of her.
Her whisper was barely heard with a shadow of reluctance that could be detected. “It's said that betrayal is the blade we all carry within us…that it's entirely left to our hearts to wield it against those within our reach. (Pause—she turns to him, face hidden in shadows.) I will never betray you…not now, not ever. You have to believe me.”
Comprehending now that she knew more than she let on, he hurriedly retorted, “Of course I trust you. You know I do. Please, I know you know something's up. Just tell me what's going on! (Grasps her shoulders roughly.) I don't understand!”
“I'm so sorry,” she replied as she abruptly hugged him tightly after his outburst, then just as quickly turned away and walked out of his grasp. Her frail voice was lifted with the breeze that blew against his face. “Don't worry, you will understand—time waits for no one, and my time here is becoming limited.”
“Tohru! Wait! Don't go!” he cried out as he ran up to catch up with her retreating form that was bathed in the dazzling rays of the sun.
“It's okay to be afraid…because I'm afraid, too,” she softly remarked to the winds that picked up the blossoms all around her and blew them to the rhythm of a waltz. The flurry stopped Kyo in his tracks effectively. Turning to him, he could barely make out the outline of her eyes and mouth with the light shining brighter all around them with each passing moment. She sadly smiled to him, “Just don't let your heart wield that blade because you're afraid, no matter how just and right it may seem to be. Betrayal can never be just or right—it can only divide us all and break our bonds with one another. (Voice shaking) And I don't want to let you go or anyone else…especially them…especially to that one person…”
Kyo could only gape at her heart wrenching remarks. Delicately spoken, but her words were piercing and clear in his mind and heart. He brokenly replied as he tried reaching for her, “Tohru…please…”
Not taking his hand, she turned her back to him and whispered, “As long as you remember, it'll be all right. Trust me…you'll be all right.”
Before he could get a chance to ask her more about it, he was jerked to look behind him.
“Kyo-kun, daijoubu?”
He nearly jumped out of his skin as he felt Tohru's hand touch his shoulder. Jerking around to face her, he clutched his chest to calm his beating heart. “Geez, you surprised me, Tohru!”
“Sumimasen!” she cried out earnestly while bowing in apology. Tohru then looked at him quizzically, “But I was calling out to you for a few minutes now. I was getting worried that you didn't answer back.”
“Eh?” he asked in confusion. Finally letting reality set in, he looked around to see that he had not moved an inch from his position at the window. The view remained the same as before…although now he could see a little further out in the distance. He could at this point feel the numbness in his legs for not moving in a while plus the slight sweat that trickled down his back despite the cool air conditioning.
“I'm so sorry to have kept you waiting,” was Tohru's expressed regret once again with a slight bow. Pointing behind her, she replied, “Hina-san is waiting for us on the other side of the hallway to show us the way. Are you ready now?”
He rubbed his eyes furiously, trying to dispel the spots that were swimming in his vision. Breathing out heavily, he focused his gaze on her, trying to regain his bearings back. Noticing her anxiety in her eyes, he forced himself to smile for her, despite the gnawing feeling in his gut. “Yeah, sure, I'm good to go. Show the way.”
Relief swept over her upon seeing him smile. Tohru didn't know what had held Kyo's attention so well that he had ignored her calls to him. `Maybe he saw something down there. Still, he's sweating so much. It's not hot in here…'
“Ano, Kyo-kun, is there something wrong?” she asked awkwardly while placing her hand on his arm. “You're so pale.”
“I'm all right, really. Don't worry so much.” Letting out a breath he held in, he grabbed her wrist and pulled her forward. He called out over his shoulder, “Let's just get this over with.”
`Whatever it was, he's not going to tell me,' she mused sadly as she was led through the halls of the office. `Still, even if he won't tell me, that doesn't mean he's not feeling upset. How would you do it, Okaa-san?' With a determined look, she remarked, “Kyo-kun, I trust you. Whatever it is, I'm sure it'll work out.”
He stopped in his hurried steps and just barely managed to keep Tohru from running into him. He looked down at her and saw her determined gaze. Giving her a lop-sided grin, he shook his head in mild disbelief. `Damn, she's catching on pretty quick when something's bothering me.'
“Come on, let's go,” he replied with more warmth than before. Turning back around, he quietly remarked, “And…thanks.”
She wasn't sure how he'd react to her remarks, but now upon hearing his thanks, she smiled widely and allowed herself to feel relaxed once more. “Hai.”
Kyo then stopped suddenly and turned to his companion. A little shame-faced, he asked lowly, “Hey, where the hell are we?”
Both Kyo and Tohru stood together in the middle of the hallway pondering that question for quite a while…
And the fun just keeps on going…but not here. Hit the `next' button, my dears! See you there in the author's corner!