Fruits Basket Fan Fiction ❯ Seasons of Sorrow ❯ Memories of Spring = What's For Dinner? ( Chapter 31 )

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

DISCLAIMER: And the fun continues. Sort of…in a way…hm. Well, one thing's for sure…I don't own Furuba. But I do own FruFru All-Purpose Cleaner, not sold in stores.
Special Note: Part two of this two-part release! You thought the last chapter was long…this is even longer! I hope that's a good thing!
31) Memories of Spring - What's For Dinner?
“Shihan, are you sure about this?” asked Yuki warily.
“Of course. Just keep stirring,” replied Kazuma assuredly.
Scowling at the object in question, Yuki persisted, “Demo, that's the problem. Look, it's not coming off the sides of the pot…it's stuck.”
Taking his eyes off the cookbook he was reading, Kazuma turned to his apprentice and eyed the offending pot. Arching a brow lightly at the substance that refused to cooperate with Yuki's spoon, he then turned his gaze back to the book. `Now where was that recipe this dish belonged to?'
(Flips pages) “Ha…here it is,” he called out triumphantly. “Hm…see here. We've followed it to the letter…hmmm. (Purses lips in thought.) Okay, this isn't helping. Let's just do what I always do.”
“And that would be…?” trailed Yuki's question.
Grinning widely, Kazuma grabbed a glass and filled it with water. Taking the glass of water, he slowly poured it into the smoking pot of sticky goo that had at one point in time passed off as something edible.
“There. Now just keep stirring and it'll be soupy in no time at all,” replied Kazuma while giving his assistant thumbs up. “Oh, but do remember to dig into the edges of the pot to grab the stuck-on food. It'll loosen as the water heats up to a boil.”
Nodding in acknowledgement to his superior's instructions, Yuki went back to work in stirring his pot of mystery goo. At that moment, he began to notice a slight smell and dark smoke coming from behind him. Turning around, he saw that the offending sight and smell were coming from the rice cooker.
“Shihan,” Yuki immediately called out, “I don't think that's supposed to happen. Last time that happened here, we couldn't use the cooker for a week.”
Looking up immediately from his nose in his trusty cookbook, Kazuma saw the object of Yuki's concern. He quickly went over and opened the lid and started whipping the smoke awake. “Ahem (cough, cough), I think you're right. (Cough, cough) Don't worry—I'll just spoon out the good rice. That should stop the smoking.” (Cough, cough)
Confused, Yuki tried recalling that incident that involved his ineptitude and the rice cooker. Shrugging his shoulders at the vague recollection he had of it, he want back to dutifully stirring the pot. Noting that his dish was more watery than soupy, he asked Kazuma, (Cough, cough) “Shihan…I think the water was a bit much. What do you think?”
Kazuma looked over his shoulder and eyed the contents in Yuki's pot. “Hm, I think you're right. Try adding more of the same ingredients as before…but this time just add a little less than what you put in. If it's still too watery, just keep adding more.”
“Oh, okay,” Yuki happily agreed. `But how much is `less'? Oh well, I'll figure it out…I have to think for myself at some point.' Seeing that the smoke wasn't clearing away in the kitchen, Yuki stopped stirring and adding ingredients to his pot long enough to open the window and let the smoke all out.
(Ring, ring)
“Oh, could you get that Yuki? Kagura left the phone right next to the fridge,” remarked Kazuma while continuing his task of rescuing the rice.
“Hai.” (Yuki grabs phone to receive call.) “Moshi, moshi?”
`Finally, just about done,' thought Kazuma happily as he spooned the last edible rice from the still smoking cooker into a bowl.
“Shihan, it's for you. Someone's calling about your suspended classes…?” replied Yuki uncertainly.
“Ah yes.” Wiping his hands on a washcloth, Kazuma turned to Yuki and explained, “You see, I wasn't so sure about the reception quality out here, so I left instructions that if I was needed, they could reach me at Shigure's home phone number. Shigure didn't mind when I had asked earlier if it was okay.”
Taking the phone from Yuki, Kazuma went off to a corner in the kitchen and attended to his call while Yuki returned to the bubbling brew in his pot. `Hm, Shihan's suggestion seems to be working out okay. Now it's all lumpy…I'd better add more water and keep stirring.'
“No, I'm sorry. Right now, it's the best that I can do. (Pause) Yes, once the tournament is over, all normally scheduled classes will resume. (Pause) Yes, the beginner bracket group will commence as well. (Pause) Very well then. (Pause) Hai…arigatou. (Pause) Same to you.” (Click) Sighing, Kazuma resumed his place in the kitchen and proceeded to pick up his cookbook once more to read about the dish he was making with the fish.
“Now, where was I? Oh, here I was.” Before Kazuma could forget, he retrieved the bowl of rescued rice and placed it in the fridge to keep it out of the way.
“Shihan, is there something the ma—OUCH!” asked Yuki then yelped in momentary pain as the still boiling mixture he's stirring came to life and bubbled up abruptly to let out hot steam towards his hand. It had startled him into dropping the spoon on the floor while he nursed his hand. `Damn, that was hot!'
“Here, let me see.” Taking Yuki's hand into his, Kazuma gave it a good look to see if it was hurt badly. Seeing that it was just scalded, he smiled happily at his assistant and replied, “It's okay. It'll sting for a little while though, so try running it under cool water for a few minutes.”
“Yeah,” grimaced Yuki slightly at the redness. Turning to the sink, he ran the cool water and visibly relaxed when the water made contact. `Man, I wonder if Tohru-san goes through this often? She's pretty brave to keep taking this abuse without complaint.'
“Yuki, you were asking me something…” prodded Kazuma to the teen, taking up the book once more to peruse its pages.
Trying to recall the question, Yuki brightened and asked, “Hai. I was just wondering what was bothering you. Your phone call…”
“Ah, yes. That was just a parent,” explained Kazuma with a shrug. “She's one of several parents that have been asking why I cancelled the classes for the starter groups.”
“Why did you? I thought you liked teaching those classes in particular,” Yuki asked bewildered.
“Hai, that I do. I wish I could cater to their needs, but this tournament has left me with very little time. Such as it is I barely have time to eat during the day—and here I thought I could do it all. But all my time is taken up with constant training for the teams that are going to the tournament,” mused tiredly the teacher. Sighing again, he looked up from his book and stared at Yuki. Shaking his head at a stray thought, he continued, “Kunimistu is too busy training the members that aren't on the teams. So I guess you could say that I had to cut my losses.”
Nodding his head in understanding, Yuki turned his attention once again to his rebellious soup. Stirring absently, he failed to notice that it was spurting everywhere, leaving fine dribbles all around the stove. “So, you're not taking up the classes anymore until the tournament is over? That's a ways off…”
“M-hm. It's okay, I'm sure it'll work out. I just hope that my slightly impatient students will forgive me. They worked so hard,” smiled sadly Kazuma at the thought of one of his youngest students. `He's barely grasping the fundamentals after struggling to get as far as he has. Such a shame…his self-confidence was just becoming more solidified. Now he'd have to start all over again when the tournament is finally over.'
“I take it you can't spare anyone else to take over for you? The basics are all that you cover in those classes anyway…I'd think it'd be very easy for even the second-year students to handle.” Yuki saw how his concoction in the pot was becoming rather messy on the stove, but he noticed that if he just stirred faster, the sputtering would decrease. So off he went…and inadvertently sloshed more of his soup outside the pot. `Geez, this stuff gets on everything. I don't see how Tohru-san keeps everything so nice and clean. She's truly amazing.'
“That's true. However, I find that my younger students in the starter groups don't respond well to their sempais, no matter how well suited they are to teach the starter groups.” Putting his book down, Kazuma gave Yuki a lop-sided grin while leaning against the counter. (Sigh) “My starter groups kindly refer to their sempais as `Lords of Patience'. I think they meant that in a derogatory manner.”
`Sounds like a baka neko I know of,' thought amusedly Yuki.
“Well, I guess it would stand to reason…third years are out of the question. But a lot of the second year students are either participating on the teams that are in the tournament or are helping those that are on the teams. Not much patience can be counted on right now,” Kazuma explained further. With a defeated sigh, he retrieved some vegetables that were soaking and started to slice them with precision. “No, this arrangement will have to do. I'll just have to grovel for forgiveness when I resume the classes.”
Yuki was once again absently stirring the soup slowly, lost in thought on an idea that was slowly developing in his mind. `A bad idea…really bad. Even if he says yes, that doesn't mean it'll work out…'
Finally coming to a decision, Yuki took a deep breath and voiced out loud his idea. “Shihan, I know I was just going to help out at the tournament only. But if it's okay with you, I would like to help in any way I can with your classes. I know the fundamentals, and I have the patience with whomever I happen to be tutoring.”
“Yes, that much is true…” was Kazuma's trailing response.
Instincts telling him that there's more behind that remark, Yuki turned his full attention to his former martial arts teacher. He noted then how well Kazuma was masking his hesitation on further conversing over the matter. Pressing his lips in a thin line, he closed his eyes and sadly smiled. “It's about Kyo…isn't it?”
Smiling widely, Kazuma replied, “Well, I seriously doubt he'd welcome the idea with open arms. However, the idea has merit…”
Yuki continued with confidence, “I understand that you'd be worried with Kyo and myself going on a rampage throughout the dojo, but as of late, he's been rather good about using self-control…he really has. (Snickers) Apparently miracles do happen, even in this family. He hasn't once engaged in a fight with me in months—that's a record in Sohma history, ne Shihan?”
`Well, that's not really Kyo's doing…still, I do believe that I just heard a compliment from Yuki on Kyo. This could be good…' Smiling softly at his former student, Kazuma mulled over the thought some more. He commented then, “Well, I have no doubt that my dojo will survive the carnage, should there be one. But I was actually thinking about you… (Deeply breathes in) You are aware that you will be subjecting yourself to his whims in a lot of ways…”
“How do you mean?” was Yuki's perplexed response.
Setting his knife down, Kazuma turned to full face Yuki as he explained. “Well, my school is structured so that our graduate-level students basically have free reign over how all the classes are handled. The staff and myself basically perform supervisory duties over them while they learn the principles of accountability with their peers' education as well as learn how to conduct themselves in a responsible manner while interacting with the students under their charge. They in essence will be your superiors as well since you have no official seniority with the school. As your sempais, they will direct you on what to do aside from your duties with the starter groups.”
“I'm guessing Kyo is under the `graduate-level' group…” stated Yuki in sudden realization at the precarious situation he's asking to be put under.
“Hai.” Kazuma then retrieved another set of vegetables that were waiting to be chopped. “He along with five others normally receive actual training from myself and Kunimitsu twice a week while the rest of their time is used to help run the dojo. During their training, I will have all the classes sit in and observe so that they may learn from watching them. However, with the tournament upon us, I'm having them plus the other teams participating in the event train every day in addition to their duties with the dojo. Duties that include directing the starter groups on how to keep a dojo looking immaculate, how to keep the change rooms well organized, how to keep the supply rooms well stocked…”
Sighing heavily, Kazuma resumed chopping vegetables. “I know you don't require any education on the fundamentals of being responsible or martial arts training for that matter. Yet, seniority is very strictly upheld with the students, and so anyone coming off the streets is subjected to the same treatment as the starter groups. It eliminates any possibilities of someone not getting equal treatment. Bottom line, you will be required to follow the directions of not just Kyo, but the other graduate-level students. (Pause) Will you be able to handle that, Yuki?”
Yuki remained silent while rubbing his arms absently, thoughts going over everything Kazuma had explained to him. `Can I take it? That's a pretty good question…how can I answer that? Man, I should have paid more attention when the baka neko talked about his training with Shihan. I wonder if Haru is a graduate-level student? Maybe so—he is good enough to take on Kyo…'
“Yuki, you don't have to do this, really,” was Kazuma's sudden remark. “All in all, I'll be fine, and so will the young students. I just wanted you to know why I never asked you to begin with. I would never want to put you in a situation that would belittle you or your abilities. You don't deserve that.”
`So he does want my help…' Smiling, Yuki came to his decision. “I'll be fine, Shihan. I want to do this for you. It's the least I can do for all that you've done for me. I'm just glad that I finally have the opportunity to show you how grateful I am for that.”
“You know that's not necessary…” protested the teacher ardently.
“I know, but I want to, and I'm not afraid of a little hard work,” retorted Yuki firmly. “Besides, this will be great practice on how I can fold uniforms properly and how to wash towels and clean out the showers. (`Yeah, real pleasant.') It's good to earn one's keep…I don't mind.”
“You don't have to earn your keep with me…” continued to object Kazuma.
“I want to do this, Shihan. (Sigh) I promise not to get in anyone's way…I'll even forgo paying any attention to Kyo's blabbering mouth—I'm sure he'll have plenty to throw at me while I'm there. So you see, I won't verbally or physically fight with him—no matter how much of a baka he's being.” Tiredly, Yuki leaned on the counter and quietly reiterated, “I will not be a burden…if I am, then please feel free to remove me. I'll understand.”
Kazuma turned the matter over in his head, every logical objection crowding his mind at the moment. Yes, Kyo will have more than just a `hissy fit' (stray comment from Haru once). Yes, Haru will be distracted beyond reason to be near and protect Yuki…a real problem if he decides to go Black should he feel the need to. And yes, Yuki doesn't have any official seniority with the students, and the fact that he's teaching a class, no matter how temporary that is, will not roll over well with some of the students, especially those from the graduate-level. Still, despite these and other valid objections, they all paled in comparison to one truth.
Yuki is asking for something from him. Although he's merely volunteering to help in a time of need, the fact remains that the timid Nezumi of the Jyuunishi is asking for something to be allowed to him. The only other time he's ever done that was when long ago Yuki asked to be trained, and even then, Akito was the voice for the young nezumi's request. To deny him now…
`…is simply impossible.' Putting his knife down once again, Kazuma broadly grinned at the youth before him who was too busy looking down at his feet, undoubtedly feeling a rejection coming on. “I've told you before that you're never a burden. If we're going to make this work, you'll start next week, bright and early. That'll be very good training for you, ne?”
“Um…hai,” Yuki stammered in shock at Kazuma's final agreement. Early hour or not, he'll be there next week…maybe half-asleep, but he'll be there.
“Good. I'll take care of the class and prepare Kyo. (`That'll be fun.') I'll also instruct the graduate-level students not to coach you in any martial arts since that would be pointless,” grinned knowingly the teacher. “Oh, and I'll be sure to leave plenty of time for you for whatever else you'll be doing in the day. I'll only need you in the early morning and early afternoon hours for the most part. It'll only be one day out of the week that you'll be required to stay later when the starter groups are allowed to observe the graduate-levels. You'll only need to answer their questions should they have any about the methods the participants used.”
“That's fine,” agreed the youth.
Kazuma claps his hands in joy. “Well, that's settled. Why don't we get this dinner moving along, ne?”
“Sure,” approved Yuki of the idea. It was then that a very foul odor came to his senses. (Sniff, sniff) “Ano, Shihan, what's that smell?”
“Eh?” Noticing the mess behind his young assistant, Kazuma hurriedly remarked, “Yuki, your soup!”
At the exact same time, Yuki blurted out, “Shihan, did you turn off the rice cooker? It's still smoking…”
Both chefs of the kitchen turned to their respective dishes, one attempting to control the splurts of goo all over the stove while the other strived to clear out the dark smoke from the rice cooker due to the stuck on rice still cooking, er, burning, while in another part of the household…
“Ne, Shii-chan, why is it smoky in the hallway?” asked innocently Momiji as he sat in Shigure's study, truly the only locale besides the bedrooms (Hatori marked those as off limits to the usagi) that was not being decorated. Kagura was adamant that no one goes in and out of the living room-turned-banquet hall while she finished the final decorations outside. Directing the infamous digicam that was indeed recording the two at the desk, Momiji asked again, “Shii-chan…do you know why?”
Tears that would shame a waterfall were cascading down Shigure's face. He and Hatori had arrived a while back to find a scene in the kitchen that was burned into his memory banks for life. He honestly doubted that even Hatori's unique `ability' would be able to erase from his mind the state that his kitchen was in.
“Momiji, I think Shigure is still in shock. Be kind and point your camera in another direction,” quietly ordered Hatori as he continued to read his book, effectively blocking out any unpleasant reminders that the kitchen was indeed meeting its doom ever so slowly.
“Okay,” brightly replied the usagi. Pointing the digicam to Haru, who also sought refuge in this room but was outside in the veranda, Momiji asked once more, “Haru, do you know why?”
“Yes,” was Haru's one-worded response while refusing to look up from his own reading material. “And the answer is not meant for young ears.”
“Oh…” muttered Momiji in understanding when he was startled to turn his digicam to a breathless Kagura at the door. “Kagura-neechan! What's the matter?”
Shigure could only thump his head on his keyboard in utter mortification at the idea that his kitchen was lost to him. Hatori on the other hand merely gave a nod in a direction and calmly remarked, “Third shelf in the closet down the hall.”
“ARIGATOU!!!” called out the boar over her shoulder as she barreled down the hallway, broke the closet door from its hinges, and pulled out everything from the closet but the extinguisher. Finally seeing the item that she was searching for, she grabbed it and barreled down the hallway once more. Pausing at Shigure's door for a moment, she cried out, “HEHEHE, NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT SHII-CHAN! THIS IS JUST FOR JUST IN CASE. REALLY!!!”
Momiji was grinning widely as the digicam recorded everything in all its glory. “Wow! I'm going to the kitchen! I'll be right back!” And out the usagi went after the charging boar, much like a lawyer after an ambulance.
Silence fell heavily on the three left in the wake of the storm that hit them. The stillness of the air surrounded them once again, palpable to the fingers. The breeze blowing in carried with it the sounds of peace and tranquility that came from the forest outside.
After a few moments, the sounds of laughter, panicked shrieks, as well as kitchen items tumbling down on the floor echoed down the hallway. Tearful sobbing was now heard throughout the room, joining the peace and tranquility. Along with the sobbing, incoherent mumblings about rats and kitchens could be heard, with the slight mention of committing the kitchen as a disaster zone.
“Shigure, I'm reading. Keep it down,” replied emotionlessly the doctor without budging from his current position. Clearing his throat, Hatori continued, “Hatsuharu, did you bring my medical kit?”
Nodding his head, Haru settled further into his seat against the wall. “Hai.”
“Hm,” responded indifferently the doctor as he engrossed himself once more in his reading.
And thus the peace and tranquility settled upon the group once more, albeit with some sobbing, fits of laughter, anxious yells, possible property damage…
“That was a marvelous dinner!”
“I agree, Gure-san! Superb! Magnificent! My little brother is a chef in disguise I tell you!”
“It was delicious, Yuki-oniichan, Kazuma-ojiichan. Arigatou.”
“Thank you for enjoying it, Kisa-chan. Kyo, why the peculiar look?”
“Shishou, how dirty is that kitchen? Why won't you let us in there?”
“Ano, Kyo-kun, that's okay if we can't go into the kitchen just yet. We have all the food and drinks we need right here. I'm sure Shishou-san has taken good care of the kitchen.”
“Feh…then why did he put a cloth over the doorway? And why the hell do I smell burnt wood? Ah, hell, this all just screams that something's wrong. No way in hell that they just made all this without something going wrong. And my fish tasted weird!”
“Yes, indeed. Say, Yuki-kun, you've not said a peep throughout this wonderful meal. Do enlighten your audience of what you and Kazuma-dono have done to bring us this astounding banquet.”
It was all Yuki could do to keep the blush of utter shame from coming across his face upon hearing all the comments of how wonderful the food was, even more so when talk turned to the kitchen and the smell that came from it. And of course, with Shigure's last comment, everyone turned to see their amateur chef looking very much like a rat trapped in a corner.
That is everyone minus Haru, Hatori, Momiji, and Kagura—the first two feigned ignorance, while the last two were smiling openly yet remained silent as well. It was a mutual agreement upon all witnesses to the hidden catastrophe that befell the kitchen to allow everyone to believe the beautifully crafted lie.
`Baka inu,' berated Yuki silently as he glared coldly at the writer who had the smug look on his face. Not that Yuki could really blame the mischievous writer for being a tad sore at him…Kazuma and himself did very nearly burn down his kitchen. `It was all an accident…stupid burn marks will disappear over time. And the microwave and rice cooker can easily be replaced. Shihan had already said that he'd pay for the damages even though Shigure insists that he was taking a good sum from my bank account. What more does the baka want?!'
Deciding it was safer to pick at his food, courtesy of Shigure's trusty takeout restaurant (and many yen later), Yuki replied truthfully but not honestly, “It was really hard work. I can never thank you enough, Tohru-san, for making our meals three times a day, every day. I definitely understand now how much hard work goes into just making onigiri…”
“Iie, it's been wonderful for me to cook for all of you!” exclaimed Tohru excitedly. “Onigiri, nato, baked fish…there are so many dishes I've made over the years that I wouldn't have done otherwise. Really, I learned so much by being here with you, so please let me thank you! You both worked so hard on tonight's dinner…I'm so grateful!”
“Now, now, Tohru-kun, don't be so modest. Your cooking has been my favorite, and I doubt my palette will ever taste food that's just as good when you leave,” stated Shigure with conviction while eyeing a particular nezumi pointedly. `I must be committed to a psych ward should I ever think of letting Kazuma-dono or Yuki-kun into my kitchen EVER.'
Speaking up to steer the conversation away from the kitchen and food, Haru remarked languidly while holding up the recording digicam, “So, can we now open the presents? It's getting late…”
Smiling widely for the save, Kazuma turned to Kyo before his stubborn son persisted in his line of questioning. “Ne, Kyo, I have it on good authority that your presents are right in that corner over there along with Yuki's and Tohru-san's. Let's bring them over, shall we?”
Grumbling lowly as to why he had to get a certain nezumi's presents along with his, Kyo helped his father figure grab all the presents from all assembled. Placing his gifts down gently next to his spot at the long table (carefully erected and decorated by Kagura), he then passed to his left and gave Tohru her share of the gifts he carried, gracing her with a set of warm eyes. Thinking about what transpired earlier that day, he mentally swore yet again that he'd stay true to her requests and not disappoint her…as long as it didn't involve taking her on a tour of the office building. Did they ever get lost! They were thankful that Hina-san had hunted them down to guide them back. Otherwise, they would be eating their dinner in that maze of offices.
`Damn buildings and their confusing corridors,' silently cursed Kyo as he went over to Yuki who was seated on Tohru's left. Dropping the gifts labeled for Yuki in a not-so-gently manner, he turned on his heel and muttered, “Here, little miss, take your damn gifts. Maybe there's a guidebook in there for ya to improve your girly ways.”
Upon hearing Kyo insult him once more, Yuki felt the thin shred of patience all but evaporate. Not wanting to wreck the decorations that Kagura worked so hard on, he graciously stuck his hand out and grabbed onto Kyo's retreating foot and tripped the redheaded youth effectively.
“I suppose it's a lie that cats always land on their feet,” replied Yuki serenely while sipping his tea.
The unspoken challenge was heard loud and clear to Kyo as he immediately stood up with `cat ears and tail' on end. “FINE, SHORTY! I'm on my feet now, so get up and bring it on!”
Not wanting any further damage to his already heavily damaged home, Shigure quickly interjected, “Now, now, Kyo-kun, we are in the middle of a party…”
“WHO THE HELL CARES…HIS ASS IS MINE!!!” yelled Kyo heatedly, all but forgetting who else was there.
“Kyon-kichi, now that's no way to speak around the presence of beautiful ladies and children,” chided Ayame while carrying more presents to the soon-to-be-graduates. “Here you go, my precious little brother! Be sure to open mine first!”
“Now Kyo, come and sit here while we get these presents opened,” insisted Kazuma with a wide smile, all in hopes of bringing this latest tiff to a quick end. `I wonder if he'll be this animated when he learns of the news?'
“Hai, Shishou.” Settling back in his seat with a huff, Kyo finally noted all the gifts that surrounded them. “What's all this?”
“Your gifts, silly,” replied Momiji happily. “The one from me has the bright orange wrapping…open that one first. Please, please, please…”
“Okay FINE! Just quit your whining,” grumbled the annoyed neko as he ripped off the wrapping quickly and opened the box. Seeing the gift, he swore that his eyes were bugging out of its sockets. “What the he—”
“YEP! That's beautiful for you, Kyo! When I asked Papa about what I should get for a guy graduating, he gave me so many ideas. And then I remembered that you don't own any of these. So, here it is!” cried out joyously the rabbit. “Please, you've got to wear it tomorrow during your graduation ceremony. That would be so cool!”
“The hell I'm wearing, this…this…” stammered in barely veiled shock Kyo.
“It's called a suit, Kyon-kichi,” interjected the snake immediately. “Really, I didn't think you to be so uncivilized as to not know the name of that garment. And I worked so hard to pick the right size out with Momichii!”
“I know what the hell this is, baka! And stop calling me that!” lashed out Kyo as he started to rise once again from his seat until he felt the feminine touch on his arm. Looking down, he gazed directly into Tohru's pleading orbs.
“Onegai, that suit does look wonderful. I hope you can wear it…you'll look great in the pictures we'll be taking tomorrow,” Tohru confessed with a nice blush shading her cheeks.
Now turned red with embarrassment, Kyo immediately sat down and closed the box hurriedly as he set it aside. Coughing slightly, he turned to her and replied, “Hey, it's your turn…open your present.”
“Wow, talk about hot and cold,” remarked dryly Hiro.
“Shut up, you little brat,” seethed Kyo through clenched teeth.
“Okay,” Tohru consented as she delicately unwrapped the gift that said it was from Kisa. Opening the box hidden under the blue wrapping, she saw a beautiful set of sterling earrings in the shape of miniature tigers along with scented bath products. “Kisa-chan, thank you so much! This is so pretty! I'll always think of you when I wear them! And these others smell wonderful…I'll be sure to use them right away!”
Kisa softly blushed at the compliments bestowed on her. She smiled widely as she replied softly, “I'm happy you're happy, Onee-chan.”
“See, Kisa, she's happy as she can be. Now you don't have to worry so much anymore,” quietly blurted out Hiro from beside her.
“Cool,” remarked Haru quietly as he focused the camera on the earrings.
“They're too kawaii!” exclaimed Kagura excitedly.
“Okay, now let's get to you, Yuki! Come, come, I want you to open mine first!” pleaded Ayame while shoving his rather large box to Yuki's face, giving the youth's nose a good smack. He then felt Hatori's restraining hand on his shoulder.
“I told you to behave,” scolded the doctor quietly.
“But I am…YUKI! What happened to your nose?” called out worriedly the snake as he slipped out of the doctor's grasp to settle himself next to a glowering Yuki. “Were you being clumsy again? You know, you do have to take better care of yourself. Oh look, now your nose is strawberry red. Here, have some ice.”
As Ayame grabbed the melting ice from the bucket on the table, Hatori grabbed his arm firmly this time. “Sit back down, Ayame.”
“Of course, Tori-san! As you demand, it shall be done!” cried out spiritedly Ayame, oblivious to the murderous gaze Yuki was throwing at him.
Coughing for undivided attention, Hatori turned to the seething teen and replied quietly, “Yuki, go ahead with your present.”
“Yuki-kun,” asked Tohru nervously, “is your nose okay? Ayame-san is right…maybe some ice will help…”
“I'm fine,” remarked Yuki, his voice muffled by his hurt nose. Twitching his nose and blinking rapidly to bring his vision back to focus, he settled his gaze on the rather large box his brother gave him. `Might as well amuse him…'
Kyo meanwhile stared the other way, keenly trying to avoid showing any interest as to what gift Yuki had received. He also tried to avoid looking at the nezumi's share of the gifts that clearly yelled that they were bigger than Kyo's share.
“WOW!” blurted out Momiji excitedly! “That's awesome! You can wear those on special occasions or when you're visiting…”
“Yes, he knows, Momiji,” interjected Hatori quickly before the youth spit out the name that would only dampen the mood somewhat. `You'd think that Ayame actually knew of Yuki's personal visits to Akito. That's impossible…still, she would be most pleased to see Yuki wear those.'
Kyo couldn't deny his curiosity any longer upon hearing all the squealing and then stared wide-eyed at the box full of vibrant colored clothing. Deflating immediately, he spoke out, “What's all your yelling for? They're just fabrics!”
“Don't be silly, Kyo-kun,” scolded Kagura. “Those are very high quality robes! They must be worth quite a bit!”
“Robes?! They look so…girly! HAHAHA!” guffawed Kyo at his own joke.
Feeling the pain cut his laughter short, Kyo nursed the bruising behind his head. Glaring irately at the nezumi, who looked like he hadn't budged an inch but did show a satisfied grin, Kyo spat out, “Dammit, baka nezumi! I only told the truth!“
“Now, Kyon-kichi, (Kyo yells, “Stop that!”), I'll have you know that these fabrics are indeed in high demand and aren't easy to come by! Why that's hand-made silk imported from China…I know a great supplier there, and let me tell you, getting them to make these for me toute de suite was nothing short of a miracle, and of course, they had to delay the shipment, so I spent night and day for two full weeks creating these works of art!” declared the tailor matter-of-factly in a single breath. Turning to Yuki with a grin, he continued unabashedly, “Plain yukatas with somber colors don't suit you, Yuki! These colors suit you much better—vibrant, cheery…they just sing `you'! You'll wear them, won't you, unlike some best friend I know that rarely wears the one I made for him ages ago…”
“Aya, surely you can't be talking about me?!” was Shigure's astonished reply. “I wear it whenever you ask me, too! Remember I had posed for your camera wearing it…”
“Gure-san, how could I forget that intimate moment between us? I cherish the very memory to this day,” seductively remarked Ayame with a soft blush. “Maybe I just need a refresher…”
“Aya, let's `talk' more after the party, hm?” asked Shigure huskily.
“Gure-san, don't be so bold! At least, not in front of the children,” admonished the snake.
“Sick freaks, CUT IT OUT!” yelled Kyo from his place at the table.
Haru spoke up while twisting the digicam to cover the interlude between the inu and snake. “No, please go on—this is making my film a little more interesting since the kitchen went ka—.”
“I really love those colors, Yun-chan!” butted in Kagura hurriedly before Haru inadvertently finished his thought out loud. “You have to wear one of those soon…maybe at the summer festivals?” she suggested cheerily as she examined from her seat the delicate fabrics still in the box on Yuki's lap.
Yuki was tuning out the ongoing commotion with his brother and family, while hearing Kagura's question. He fingered the garments gently and brought one robe up to eye level, gazing at it critically. It did tend to the feminine side, but not overly so as first thought. He did have to admit with his brother…the colors were bright and cheery, and their obis matched well with them. This particular robe had the dark indigo that shimmered in the light, and along one sleeve, soft pink sakura petals were sporadically splashed across it and down the robe in a swooping fashion. It wasn't heavy at all; it went over his fingers delicately. He didn't even realize that he was being stared at until he heard Tohru speak.
“Yuki-kun…you're smiling,” softly remarked the lady by his side. Tohru was all joy at being given gifts so freely, but it truly made her day to see Yuki smile openly at something his brother gave him. “These robes really do become you, Yuki-kun. I agree with Kagura-san. You should wear these during the festivals this summer. We can then all take pictures together, ne?”
Blushing prettily, Yuki snuck a look to his brother who of course heard everything, and from the looks of the tailor's 100-watt smile, his brother saw him smile at his gift. “Hai, Tohru-san. That's a very good idea…arigatou, Nii-san.”
Seeing Yuki smile softly at the gift and in his direction was too much for a brother to take. Glomping him abruptly, Ayame took him into his embrace and hugged him hard. “I knew it! My little brother worships me! Don't be shy…let it all go! I'm here now to accept your adoration with open arms!”
`Damn, he's strong!' thought Yuki as he struggled to breathe in the deadly embrace of the snake. Trying very hard not to roll his eyes at the rather laughable irony of this mess, he focused to articulate his words since his struggles proved fruitless. “Nii…san…I can't…breathe.”
Ayame was too caught up in his moment of glory to hear the plea until he heard Hatori call out once more. Bewildered, he turned to him and asked, “Eh, Tori-san? I didn't hear you.”
Sit down now,” commanded the dragon firmly.
Dropping the nezumi quickly, the snake pranced over to his seat once more with nary a hesitation. “Bien sur, mon ami! Yuki, we can talk later!”
“Yuki-kun, daijoubu?” asked anxiously Tohru upon seeing Yuki's slump form next to her. When she noticed that he was very determined on retribution, she hastily remarked, “Ano, Yu-Yuki-kun, why don't we go ahead and open some more presents? I'd like to see what else you've been given.”
His quell of anger that was swiftly consuming him was immediately dispersed upon hearing Tohru's anxious voice. Gracing her with his smile, he nodded in consent and replied, “Hai…let's keep going.”
`This is too funny…seeing both mouse and cat wrapped around her finger,' thought wryly Shigure while capturing the moment indefinitely with his trusty Mega 20000 Version 3 digital camera.
And funny moments continued to abound throughout the evening, as present after present was unveiled with as much fanfare that could be had. Soon, all three graduates were surrounded by gifts of all varieties.
Tohru had many housewarming items bestowed on her for her new apartment such as throw pillows, curtains, goose-down comforters, cooking sets, dinnerware, glassware, even spare futons for overnight guests. She also received enough makeup kits and perfumes to last her several years, along with bouquets of flowers and gift certificates and a new cell phone, courtesy of Shigure. It truly shocked her to see that with one basket of flowers, lingerie of fine silk was in a small bag attached to it. Ayame couldn't stop himself from voicing some rather intimate suggestions to Tohru about how to put to good use such fine quality clothing—that is until he was quickly dealt with two knocks on the head from a very angry nezumi and neko.
Kyo on the other hand was given clothing of all sorts, including silk boxers that Ayame gave him. It was the tailor's belief that Kyo never bought any of those and so proceeded to advise him how a gentlemen is supposed to be well prepared with fine undergarments should the urge arise…which of course earned Ayame another knock on the head by the neko. Ultimately, Kyo was also given a cell phone, courtesy of Kazuma, plus a rather unusual gift of pillows with cats as their patterns, courtesy of Kagura's hobbies.
He then turned to Tohru's happy face at being given so many gifts from everyone. The epitome of joy was clearly expressed on her face, and he didn't want to do anything else but keep this moment to himself always. Of course, moments are just that, and in the next moment, he saw her turn to Yuki. Quelling his jealousy some, he turned to see that Yuki was a little lost in the sea of gifts that surrounded him currently.
Yuki indeed found himself inundated with gifts of all sorts. From bottles of expensive cologne to shoes to a digital camera to a new cell phone (Ayame really didn't like the idea of his mother paying for the old phone or its service)…variety thrived. What did surprise Yuki was the amount of gifts that weren't from the members of the Jyuunishi, but from the Sohma family in general. Hatori had mentioned that they had been arriving at the main house, and so he brought them with him earlier that day.
The curious nezumi perused through the mass bouquets of flowers and found that their cards were to convey mostly well wishes on his graduation. That plus bank checks made out to him in high amounts. He was taken aback at these freely given monies, and so he tried his best not to voice out the amount on these checks (not all went anonymously back into their envelope—the few that he had to voice out loud certainly gave everyone a shock as well as inciting some whistles. Shigure silently smiled at him knowingly…yep, the kitchen was definitely getting a nice makeover). As much as he wanted to give back the checks, he knew it'd be folly and extremely disrespectful on his part. He'll just have to talk with Kureno later on how to disperse these funds into his personal account.
Discreetly keeping the checks with Hatori, the slightly blushing nezumi turned to the final three boxes that Shigure held onto rather haphazardly. Curiosity piquing him, he asked, “What are those?”
“My gifts to each of you,” replied the inu sweetly as he handed each gift to each one carefully. To Yuki, he whispered, “Just don't ruin this like you ruined my kitchen.”
Narrowing his gaze at the remark, Yuki opened his box along with Tohru and Kyo. Eyes widening, he heard Tohru gasp in surprise. Not that he could blame her…this gift was rather unexpected.
“Shigure-san, this is…I mean I'm grateful, of course, but…I…ano…” stammered in shock Tohru while gazing at her gift. “You must have spent a fortune on these…”
“Is this a bribe?” asked Kyo suspiciously while eyeing his gift with slight awe.
“I'm hurt, Kyo-kun! I give a gift from the heart and here you think ill of my motives. I'm crushed!” cried out plaintively the writer while `sobbing' on Hatori's shoulder.
`I don't put much faith in your motives either, Shigure. (Sigh) Still…' Clearing his throat, he looked up from his gift and commented softly, “I'm…pleased, Shigure. This gift is very nice of you to give…arigatou. I'll take good care of this laptop.”
`We'll see how long the poor electronic device lasts,' thought the writer amusedly. “Yuki-kun, I can always count on you to just accept what's been given to you with little fuss. Now Tohru-kun, don't be shy at all…I'm happy to provide you with this. Now you and the boys can chat with each other at home when you can't see each other. Of course, you can always chat with me, and we can go into a private chatroom for just the two of us…”
`And his motive is thus revealed…' thought Yuki with a mental shake of his head.
“Gure-san! Not that chatroom…she's much too young for that one!” exclaimed Ayame incredulously.
Turning to his friend, Shigure mirrored his astonishment. “Aya, of course not that chatroom! It's the other one.”
“Oh, that one,” nodded in consent the tailor. “That's perfect.”
“Quit that!” cried out both boys at Tohru's side.
“Ano, what is a chatroom?” asked the lady in question.
“Don't worry about it, Tohru-san. I'll guide you through the process of how to use your laptop with no perverted writers around,” Yuki replied steely while frowning on Shigure's smirk.
“Damn writer,” muttered angrily Kyo. `What the hell is a chatroom?'
“Hey, we haven't gotten to the real fun part,” spoke out Kagura gleefully. “Guys, weren't you going to exchange gifts?”
“Yeah! Kyo…what did you get for Tohru?” questioned Momiji impishly.
“None of your damn business, baka usagi!” bit out Kyo threateningly.
“Could it be what's in this box?” asked the rabbit with a gleam in his eye as he showed a small box in his hand.
Stunned, Kyo hurriedly reached out to retrieve it rather unsuccessfully. The fast rabbit darted out of the neko's reach and promptly deposited the box onto Tohru's lap. Too happy at his small victory, Momiji called out, “Go ahead, Tohru! Open it!”
Seeing Kyo turn tomato red, Tohru hesitated. “Ano…maybe I should wait.”
Rolling his eyes, Kyo gruffly replied, “Nah, go ahead. You can open it now.”
Tohru still wasn't sure, but upon finding Kyo softly smiling at her through his eyes, she beamed at him. Opening the small box with grace, she opened it to find the gift very fitting for her. He obviously remembered how much she had wanted to be under the cat sign instead of the dog.
“Oh, Kyo-kun, this bracelet is very pretty,” remarked Tohru gently while observing it carefully. She found the small red-orange cat charms hanging from the sterling silver chain-link bracelet to be breathtaking. “This is such a wonderful gift, Kyo-kun. Thank you so much!”
Burning a beet red, Kyo could only cough and nod at her thanks. Of course, his family was more than willing to speak for him.
“That's too cute!” happily commented Kagura. “They're just like Kyo-kun when he's in his kitty form.”
“Aw, Kyo, you are so romantic,” teased Momiji.
“I agree, Momichii. Kyo-kun, you little devil. Trying to impress on our dear flower to think of only you,” taunted mercilessly Shigure while nudging Kyo and giving him a knowing wink.
“KNOCK IT OFF YOU TWO BAKAS!” cried out the neko angrily.
“Lookin' good, Kyo,” murmured Haru from behind the camera as it remained focused on Kyo's red ears.
“STOP THAT!” yelled the neko with a fist in the air.
“Um, please allow me to get you your gift, Kyo-kun,” shyly spoke out Tohru amongst the yelling. “It's not anything grand like your gift, but I hope you'll like it.”
Blushing furiously at this, Kyo stammered in reply, “Yeah…sure…tha-that's good. Anything's o-okay…really.”
“Can Kyo get any redder?” asked Momiji merrily, swiftly dodging another swipe from the neko's `claws'.
Kyo was bent on inflicting severe pain on the usagi if it weren't for the soft feel of wrapping on his lap. Seeing Tohru's gift there, he tentatively looked up to see her expectant eyes full of hope. `God, at this point she can give me a toaster for all I care.' Shaking his head of the thought, he tried to hold back his eagerness as he deftly tore open his small package wrapped in simple white with a string shaped in a bow.
A book with a picture of a cat met his eager gaze upon opening the package. `Okay, is she telling me something here?'
“It's not much, I know, but I worked very hard to get the scrapbook set up with just the right set of pictures of all that's happened since we all started to live together. Oh and here, this camera is for you to take many more pictures for your scrapbook…so that you keep holding onto more memories as you make them,” explained Tohru quickly in hopes of ridding the look of confusion in Kyo's eyes. Opening the book nervously, she started pointing out various pictures and mementos. “Look, this was taken during the first school festival we were all in together. That's you giving directions on how to set up the booth for our onigiri sales. And…and…oh here's the one with you and Uo-chan playing `Rich-man, Poor-man'…well, maybe not in this shot with each of your hands at each other's collars, but you were playing the game. ”
Grinning sinisterly, Kyo still had the memory embedded from the onigiri sales. He furiously started to flip to previous pages, and certainly enough, he had a picture of stunning clarity of one distraught nezumi basked in the limelight surrounded with drooling females bestowing bunches of flowers on his dress. Yes, that was a memory worth holding onto in full color.
Snickering, he blurted out with a grin, “Ha! This is great, Tohru! Now there's proof that Yuki has worn a dress!”
“Lemme see!” called out Shigure earnestly. “Why didn't you ever tell me about his momentous event?!”
“Not so fast, Gure-san,” pitched in Ayame just as eagerly. “I'm his Nii-san, and so it's my duty to see what dress my young brother wore—it had better not be a monstrosity.”
The memory that gave Kyo all the joy in the world only brought a sick feeling in the pit of Yuki's stomach. He had already started to feel a tad sick with all the attention that was given on Kyo's gift to Tohru, though he hid it well with a mask of indifference. Just thinking about his own last minute gift to Tohru only brought the sick feeling around even worse than before, so much so that he could almost feel the bile rising in his throat. Despite the humiliating experience of having his one and only moment in life of him in a dress forever recorded in full color, he much rather preferred his family ogling over an old picture rather than persisting in finding out what gift he had come up with for Tohru.
`I really thought I could give it to her privately. Kyo obviously thought so, too. It's not even her real gift…just something I had to come up with last minute,' pondered Yuki helplessly, all the while praying fervently that his one wish would come true. Yet, wishing could only do so much before hard reality fell on him…literally.
Glomping his younger brother once again, Ayame ecstatically called out, “Now, see here everyone. My brother may look cute in that dress, (which by the way, Yuki, you should really come see me next time if you want a dress…that outfit in the picture is way too outdated), but I assure you that his gift for Tohru-kun will have you floored. Come now, my dear, don't keep your audience waiting. The lady of your dreams is waiting patiently for her gift from you.”
“Get off of me, Nii-san,” bit out Yuki through clenched teeth. Seeing his brother close to his face, he whispered harshly to him, “Nii-san, you told me only today that her gift wouldn't be ready until tomorrow.”
“Yes, I know, but that's because they told me about it just today, too. Besides, you did get her something in the meantime, didn't you?” whispered back Ayame while using a paper plate to `hide' their intimate conversation.
Clenching his teeth once more, he ruthlessly retorted lowly, “Nii-san, that's not enough time for anything! I had to go to the nearest grocery store and…”
“Ne, what are you two gossiping about, Aya?” asked the writer with a dry grin. “Surely you'll share the news with us.”
“Gure-san, there are some things that must remain amongst brothers,” remarked the tailor briefly as he quickly returned behind the plate. Seeing Yuki clutch the gift bag to his chest, he whispered to Yuki again and quietly pleaded, “Give the bag to me, Yuki. I'll do it for you if you can't do it.”
“No,” spat out the youth in a hush.
“Now, give…
Unbeknownst to the bickering brothers, everyone else watched on with growing interest, or at least tried to catch a glimpse from behind the plate—they settled for hearing the heated whispers although they couldn't make out what they were saying up until the `no' part. Shigure was highly tempted to go over there and lend his two cents worth for Ayame, but Hatori held him back firmly. On the other hand, Haru was getting good coverage from behind the digicam…he was already contemplating making copies of tonight's events and selling it for a good price.
“Why don't we just skip the gift exchange from Yuki to Tohru-san,” suggested Kazuma apprehensively.
The suggestion was not met with open arms from a certain neko. “Aw, hell no! I had to do it in front of everyone, so does the baka nezumi.”
Stomping over behind a bewildered Tohru and then sneaking up behind a distracted nezumi, Kyo slipped his hand in and grabbed hold of the bag. Unfortunately, he wasn't as discreet with his snatching abilities as he'd like since the nezumi held tight to the bag.
“Let go, baka neko!” cried out Yuki angrily.
“Dream on, kuso nezumi!” retorted Kyo enraged.
“Uh, guys, you're about to tramp all over Tohru-kun,” warned Shigure good-naturedly.
“EEK!” blurted out Tohru as she dodged their feet and settled herself next to Kazuma. “Ano, Yuki-kun, Kyo-kun, it's okay. We can finish with the gifts some other time.”
“Hell no, Tohru…(grunts) He's coughing this one up!” gritted out Kyo as he held firmly to his end of the bag. `Damn, this bag is made tough!'
Not giving in an inch, Yuki bit out, “This…(grunting)…isn't…(argh)…y ours, ba…ka…ne—”
The indestructible gift bag was no more as its contents were flung across the floor, one particular item making its way to Tohru's knee. Tohru picked it up hesitantly and gazed at it wide-eyed.
Everyone else imitated her reaction upon seeing what she had in her hand and what was on the floor. If a pin could be dropped, it would have been heard as a resounding thud in the room.
Pursing his lips together, Shigure cleared his throat to stifle the laughter that was threatening to overwhelm him. “Well, I must say that it's…unique.”
Ayame quickly nodded in agreement. “Hai, Gure-san! It's marvelous…simple, yet meaningful. After all, good hygiene means good health, ne Tori-san?”
Pinned to a corner by Ayame's pleading gaze, Hatori sighed heavily and remarked quietly, “Certainly. Good health is always important.”
“Hm, is that strawberry flavored toothpaste?” asked Hiro with a narrowed gaze on the item in question. “I didn't think they made that.”
“Hai, Hiro-chan, I just saw it advertised on TV. They were giving free samples of it when I went with Okaa-san to the store last Sunday.” Kisa then turned to Tohru with a small smile, “Ano, that's a very good toothpaste to use…it's supposed to clean twice as fast.”
“Hey, Yun-chan, didn't I see this shampoo and conditioner in the store when I went to buy the bandages earlier?” asked Kagura with a thoughtful air as she looked at the two bottles in her hands that had rolled in her direction. “Hm, I think so…it was a two for one special if I recall. Oh and look…you get thirty percent free in each bottle. What value!”
“I think Kaa-san uses this brand of housecleaner,” remarked Haru nonchalantly as he zoomed the digicam's focus from all three items to the one before him. “It says `FruFru All-Purpose Cleaner. To get the most bacteria out of your kitchen and bathroom. No ammonia added. Not tested on animals.' Now that part's important.”
Amidst all these keen observances of the products Yuki bought for Tohru was a crying neko rolling on the ground. Although the tears Kyo was shedding was not due to any ill malady. A teacher certainly for wished for it to be so if only to prevent a natural disaster in the living room…he had already been through one in the kitchen.
“Kyo, you can stop laughing now,” was Kazuma's tired response while massaging a throbbing temple. It had been a very stressful day for him after all.
The moment his red-orange eyes saw the items that were passed off as gifts by the nezumi, Kyo could not contain himself. Even insults were lost to him as he started to laugh so hard he hardly made a sound while clutching his stomach, thus resulting with him crying tears and rolling on the floor.
“That's…(hehehe)…that's …(snickers)…pretty…(guffaw s)…sssaaaddd. HAHAHA!” laughed loudly and silently the neko while trying to soothe his aching sides and slapping his knees in his fit. “He bought everything (hehehe) for under (hehehe) 800yen. HAHAHA! Was that all you had in your bank account, nezumi?! HAHAHAHA!”
“DAMMIT, WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT FOR?!” cried out Kyo while rubbing his sore chin. He immediately put up a block with his arm from the oncoming fist that belonged to an enraged ox.
“WHAT DO YOU THINK IT'S FOR, BAKA NEKO?! OR ARE YOU THAT STUPID?!” remarked derisively Black Haru. Jerking his fist back, he jabbed a right foot to Kyo's left side, which the neko barely had a chance to block. “There's nothing wrong with a gift being economical. FruFru is pretty damn good if you ask my Kaa-san!”
With a thrust of his fist to Haru's jaw, Kyo yelled, “WHO THE HELL CARES ABOUT FRUFRU, YA DAMN COW?!”
“I LIKE FRUFRU! IT'S NOT TESTED ON ANIMALS!!!” screamed Black Haru as he lunged himself onto the angered neko.
“Cool! This is too awesome,” replied Momiji merrily while focusing the digicam (entrusted to him by Haru just before going Black) on the scuffle between the ox and cat.
“Stop this! This house can't take much more abuse today!” cried out Shigure with a river of tears threatening to break the dam once more.
“There, there Gure-san. Allow me to be the shoulder you cry on,” consoled Ayame while patting Shigure softly on the shoulder.
“I'm not fixing anymore wounds today, so you're on your own, children,” called out Hatori with an annoyed glare in the direction of the dueling teens.
“A week's allowance on Kyo,” betted the usagi wickedly as he turned the camera onto Haru's squished face that was planted against the floor by Kyo's foot.
“Hm, nah…two week's allowance on Haru,” countered the sheep from behind the usagi. “The ox is seeing red right now.” Sure enough, the roles were reversed on the two combatants with the neko now under the ox's foot.
Sighing heavily, Kazuma did what any normal adult would do in his position…save the gifts. Sooner or later the boys would tire out and then the real punishment would begin for them. He was currently debating whether or not he should have them do 300 katas plus 100 laps around the dojo or just have them clean out the lockers for one month. Decisions, decisions…
“How do you like your gifts, Tohru-kun?” asked Kagura with a wide smile, all the while pulling Tohru and Kisa along the walls and out of harm's way. “I'm sure you can find good use for FruFru in your new kitchen. Oh, did you like the bed sheets with the little boar patterns? They were too kawaii to pass up!”
Tohru was overwhelmed with everything around her, from the scuffle between the guys, to the betting pool next to her, to Kagura's comments about anything not related to the fight happening right before them. She had no idea where to start to even think of a comment when she noticed one blaring detail amongst the chaos…Yuki was missing.
Indeed a mouse has a way of disappearing mysteriously among a crowd. Such ability was not lost on this nezumi as he hastily slipped out through the front door to avoid further mortification. Not that it helped lessen the feeling of utter embarrassment, but at least Yuki didn't feel the urge to throw up his dinner. That would have been the icing on the cake as they say.
`800 yen is all I had in my pocket, baka neko. (Sighs heavily) I'm dead tired…too tired to even care what the baka neko says right now. Now that's tired,' mused Yuki silently to himself as he walked further into the quiet forest. The stars shone out tonight as the glittered in their dark blanket of the sky that could be glimpsed through the leaves of the towering trees. Ignoring the sonnet of the crickets, he focused on just hearing a beautiful sound…nothing. Absolutely nothing…it was lovely to hear.
`That's rather beautiful to hear, too,' noted Yuki while turning to face his visitor. “Tohru-san, what are you doing out here?”
“Um, I'm so sorry if I'm bothering you,” nervously replied Tohru as she clutched a small bag to her chest. “You had run out before I could give you your gift, so…I…um…”
Face faulting, he hung his head low and remarked, “No, I'm sorry. You're not bothering me…it's just that… (Sigh) I didn't think you'd want to see me after the…gifts…I got you.”
“No, not at all. I love my gifts. They are practical, and I'll be putting them to good use real soon, so thank you so much,” she ushered out while holding his arm in her hand.
The young man looked down to the glistening orbs of the fair lady. Turning his gaze to the ground once more, he softly whispered, “I'm sorry…I had really meant to get you something else, but it wasn't ready so…I had to get something for you tonight. I'm really terribly sorry it couldn't have been something less practical and more special.”
“But your gift was special to me, Yuki-kun,” assured Tohru persistently. “They were from you…how can they not be special?”
Giving her a small grin, he dryly remarked, “You're too kind, Tohru-san.”
Shaking her head at this compliment, she smiled widely and extended her gift bag for him to take. “I'm not so kind if I keep forgetting to give you your present. Here, go ahead and open it…they're part of your gift.”
Smiling shyly, Yuki proceeded to open the bag and pull out a small box. When he opened it, he saw that it was an exquisite handkerchief with a matching tie, both colored a deep rich indigo. Pulling it out, he saw the full pattern on both items. The tie had soft sakura blossoms sprayed across the length of it. The handkerchief was more intricate in its pattern with a sakura tree stitched perfectly onto the corner of the silk background, with a white dove gracing the branch that extended from the tree. It was remarkable work and knowing this, Yuki grew concerned on the amount of money Tohru had invested on this and was about to comment on this point when she spoke up.
“Please keep it. Momiji-kun helped me with the purchase, and I'm so glad that he did. Seeing them in your hands, they suit you.” Grinning widely, Tohru let out a relieved sigh. “They really do suit you…please keep them.”
Seeing her resolved with her decision to give them to him, he nodded in consent and placed the prized items back into their box for safekeeping. “I'll take good care of them, Tohru-san. Arigatou.”
“Well, it's not over yet. Go on and open the next box,” she merrily prodded.
“Oh, okay…let's see here,” he commented to himself as he turned the medium-sized box right side up and opened it. He saw that it was a gardening set with the handles engraved with small mice patterns. He grinned at this, but then remembered that his garden really wasn't much of anything anymore. `Still, it's a wonderful gift.'
“Hm, this is getting way too romantic,” commented the usagi while keeping the camera focused on the oblivious couple outside. “What do you think, Shii-chan?”
“Absolutely. Keep filming it. I think I can use this for my next book,” whispered the author back while jotting down notes on the interlude under the night's haven. `That's actually a pretty good title.'
“Gure-san, shameful! You had better give Yuki proper credit in your book,” remarked haughtily the snake.
“All of you get back in here. Now,” commanded the dragon from inside the doorway. The scuffles from the other boys could be heard distantly along with Kagura's yells and Hiro's sardonic comments.
Unaware of the eavesdroppers, the drama continued to unfold between Yuki and Tohru. Anticipating the sad look on his face, Tohru tried hiding her excitement as she grabbed hold of his hand and dragged him further into the woods. Surprised, he allowed this action and blindly followed her through the well-worn path they always took when going to the garden. He really didn't want to look upon said garden, knowing how much in disarray it had become. It always depressed him to great extent to know that he had abandoned the sanctuary he had created, knowing that it was his fault for not keeping the tender shoots of vegetables alive and well cared for.
`It's doesn't matter now. Maybe I can take it up again. It'll be a lot of hard work, but I'm sure that in a few months time it'll look…' were Yuki's thoughts as they trailed off upon coming into the clearing before him. And what a sight it was…
“What do you think, Yuki-kun? Did I do okay? I…uh…well, it was a lot of trial and error since I didn't know a thing about any of this until I read books on the subject. But even then the books contradicted each other, so I tried out different things over the months,” she nervously rambled on while wringing her hands together. “So…so…is it…okay?”
Okay? He couldn't articulate his thoughts or feelings…he merely stared and stared at the vision before him. His dilapidated garden was no more…it was now a thriving mesh of organic matter, clearly well maintained. All vegetables and fruit growing here seemed to be in excellent condition. Not even a worm or other insect could be found on the fledgling leaves of some of the plants here.
Tohru honestly didn't know what to expect…yet his next reaction caught her by surprise as he suddenly fell to his knees while clutching his gift bag to his chest. Rushing to his side, she kneeled next to him. “Yuki-kun, daijoubu? Please, tell me, are you all right?”
He just couldn't bring himself to verbally express himself at the moment. Resorting to just nodding, he turned his gaze from the ground to the garden and was once again overwhelmed with complete contentment. `Hai, Tohru-san, I am all right. More than you'll ever know.'
Fingering a growing reed delicately, he quietly remarked, “Arigatou. This is…perfect. (Pause) Arigatou.”
She barely heard the soft remark that the wind carried to her ears. However, she really didn't need to hear the words. He gave her all the assurance she needed with the simple act he gave.
A smile from the heart. One that left her in awe as it lit up the night around her with a glow that rivaled the moon's shine. A smile that spoke volumes of everything he wanted to say but couldn't. Shaking her head from her sudden reverie, she thought with profound admiration, `No, Yuki-kun, your smile is perfect.'
Truly it was a smile that she had once thought lost to her since they had drifted apart over the months. She wasn't ignorant…she felt the growing chasm between herself and her dear friend. It frightened her at times to the point that in the dark hours of the night, she'd wake up and trudge over to this garden and immediately start working on it...almost as if the act itself would close the drift somewhat between herself and Yuki.
Thankfully with this past month, things were starting to look up for them, but now, the threat of separation not by Akito but by her own choice will definitely be a challenge. Will she ever be able to spend as much time as before with him? Will things continue to progress for the better or will it come to an unexpected end? Will their friendship suffer the same fate as the garden had? To slowly wither away till just mere memories are all that's left of what once was?
“…you can always trust me to be right there with you every step of the way.”
That one phrase echoed in her mind as she recalled the conversation she had with Yuki just yesterday. Smiling widely, she inwardly promised, `You've made your promise to me, Yuki-kun…that you'll be there for me. And I'll do the same as well. We may not be able to spend a lot of time together, and we certainly can't predict what'll happen in the future. But here and now…I will live the moments that we do share together…so that I'll always look forward to the next time we can have another moment together. And until then, your smile will always light my way…'
“Tohru-san, why are you crying?” asked Yuki apprehensively while gazing at the silent tears that fell tenderly against her cheeks. `Had she hurt herself somehow? We are in the dark with just the moonlight to guide us…maybe she hurt her head or her ankle or her…'
Sniffling and shaking her head, she quickly remarked, “Iie. I'm fine…I'm just so happy that you can still smile for me.”
Struck off guard by her comment, he blushed slightly and very kindly used his new handkerchief to wipe her tears away. Smiling once again, he whispered, “I'll always smile for you.”
“Baka neko should try finding me first if he wants to take me on,” grumbled Yuki to himself as he slowly stood on his feet in one fluid motion. Not wanting Kyo to find them here, he reached down and helped Tohru to her feet as well.
Grinning sheepishly, she suggested, “Maybe we should get going before they come across your garden, Yuki-kun. I wouldn't want them to ruin it.”
As she followed Yuki out of the clearing and into the direction of where Kyo's yelling was coming from, Tohru hummed quietly to herself and finally let out a huge sigh of relief. All those months of hard labor with uncooperative plants and biting insects plus sneaking around to be sure no one stumbled on her project were all worth the effort. She only needed to recall Yuki's smile to remind her of that.
“How strange, don't you think so, Yuki-kun? What's a trash bag doing all the way out here?” asked curiously Tohru.
`I knew I should have buried the trash bag with today's `leftovers' that survived the microwave, rice cooker, pot…' thought Yuki with scorn as he started to rub his temples in an attempt to stave off a migraine. Now if he could only manage to convince Kyo that the bag was thrown there by a passerby from off the road…
`If only. (Sigh) I'm just not that lucky.'
Crickets chirped quietly outside as the rays of the moon brightened the night skies. The house felt oddly still and empty…very much like it should be after a rambunctious party. And the dinner was anything but sedate. Still, many laughs and well wishes later, it was an enjoyable event…aside from the betting pools on Black Haru and Kyo.
The Jyuunishi visitors had all managed to go home together in a van that Hatori had borrowed from the main house. Kazuma on the other hand opted to stay on for the night, citing extreme fatigue. It had taken near miraculous proportions of persuasion that the trash bag with stale food was nothing more than old leftovers from the fridge. Thankfully, Tohru had already gone to bed and was not there to voice any opinion on the matter, so Kazuma stretched the truth as far as he could get it to stretch. A dubious neko accepted the explanation somewhat begrudgingly, and that was more than enough for Kazuma.
Reflecting on this, Yuki sat alone in the soft light of the desk lamp he brought down with him from his room. He had sat cross-legged at the low table, his head on his arms with his eyes closed. There was so much on his mind that he just couldn't sleep no matter how tired he was. So instead of tossing and turning in bed, he decided to come down and mentally recite his speech for tomorrow's ceremony. Yet that was even proving futile for him since all he could remember was the smell of burnt plastic from a scorched microwave, the smell of burnt wire from the electrical fire from the rice cooker, and of course, the torched pot of food he had left forgotten on the stove while helping Kazuma contain the fire.
`Damn, that kitchen really is shot. No wonder Shigure is pillaging my funds for the remodeling,' pondered the youth wryly. Fingering the small box in his hand absently, he mused, `Still, not all the fish was wasted…some of it survived. (Snickers quietly) I wonder if Kyo noticed the difference between fish we made and the fish that was ordered out. I made it a point that he had eaten the fish we made…'
“Geez, dammit nezumi! What the hell are you doin' awake at this hour? You scared the hell out of me!” whispered harshly Kyo at the startled youth at the table.
“What are you doing up? I thought you went up with Shihan to go to bed hours ago,” whispered back Yuki as he sat up straight.
“That's my business!” shot back the neko rather loudly in the still house. `I'm not about to tell him that Shishou's fish is not agreeing with me…'
“Lower your voice, stupid cat. Everyone's asleep.” Giving him a final glare, Yuki stood up and stretched. “Well, I'm off…you can stay up if you want.”
“Like I need your permission, kuso nezumi!” heatedly replied Kyo quietly. `Damn nezumi, just go! I need to do my business now!'
Yuki did note the subtle squirming from the neko, but wisely ignored not to comment on it…it was just too late to even think of the words to say anything meaningful. Yawning softly, he unplugged the lamp and was about to pass the preoccupied neko, when he paused.
`Just get this over with…the sooner, the better, and my conscience will leave me in peace.' Inwardly sighing, he turned to Kyo and held out the small box he was fiddling with earlier. Letting out a soft breath, he stated, “Here. This is for you.”
Before Kyo could come up with a response, Yuki was already ascending the stairs with hardly a backward glance. Eyeing the box strangely, the neko opened the small note and quickly read `To the baka neko…'.
`What the…this is…' With realization dawning on him, Kyo retorted vehemently, “Hey, just because you got me something doesn't mean squat. I don't owe you anything.”
Pausing in mid-step at that remark, Yuki didn't turn around to give his flat reply. “I know that. Keep it anyway.”
At the sound of retreating steps upstairs, Kyo made a swift dash to the restroom to attend to his private matter. Once done, he quietly crept up the stairs and down the hallway, finally closing his door soundlessly. He really thought he did a good job until another voice in the room startled him.
“Kyo, what did Yuki gave you?” asked Kazuma calmly from his side of the futon.
Clutching his beating heart with his hand, Kyo whispered irately, “Shishou! What the…I mean, you shouldn't eavesdrop on other people's conversations.”
“I couldn't help it…you left the door open. Are you going to tell me?” persisted Kazuma with a small grin.
“I don't know, and I don't care,” sourly replied the youth as he opened a drawer filled with odds and ends. It was here that he shoved the small box to a far, dark corner and shut the drawer with a sharp bang. “Er, um, sorry Shishou. I didn't mean to make so much noise. Let's just go to sleep.”
Deciding to let the matter slide, Kazuma settled himself alongside Kyo. As he heard the even breathing of his stubborn son, Kazuma smiled brightly while tucking a wayward strand of hair behind the youth's ear.
`How the time certainly flies by us, Kyo. I just hope that you come to realize that soon…so that you can appreciate the little things you are given. Yes, even a small gift from a rival…'
Author's Words…for what they're worth (06-01-05):
Eureka!!! I'm done with these two chapter releases! And what a boatload they were…my fingers are cramped and my mind is mush once again.
I really wish I could have done this sooner along with the actual graduation day, but yours truly runs into mental blocks sometimes. Lack of motivation can also do wonders to one's stamina. SIGH! I'm just glad this came off believably well.
Okay, moving forward, the last chapter was focused on Kyo quite a bit. Even a Kyoru was implied here…I wonder if my Yukiru fans are readying their whips for me…hm. Anyway, the guy needed the light shining on him and this was it. I also even came up with a musical suggestion for him (fair is fair), and my suggestion was “For You I Will” by Monica. I like the lyrics a lot…they fit well!
Oh, betrayal came up again and Kyo is already trying to protect himself and Tohru from the imminent chaos. The dream/vision sequences are baffling on purpose, but keep them to heart and just accept the information given to you during these moments. In the summer segment, the story will connect the dots somewhat on this situation…and of course, a big cliffhanger towards the end of that segment since the truth will be somewhat revealed. Wow, I've got a ways to go!
Now, Ina-chan, tell me, how did I do with the Yuki/Kazuma moments in the kitchen? I had promised I would and here you have it. It wasn't too overly drawn out, but I think my readers can get the gist of the catastrophe that befell the kitchen. If only to clear up any questions, they did save part of the meal and most of it went to Kyo…hence why the poor boy had to make a minor trip to the bathroom late at night. The rest went to a trash bag that Yuki just chucked out into the woods since they had no time to put it anywhere else…
Speaking of which, poor Yuki. Nothing ever goes his way, and his present was nowhere near ready, so what's a guy to do? Grab your 800 yen (aka $7) in your pocket and buy all that you can for it at the convenience store. It was good…FruFru is mine by the way…I made up the name! Haru liked it a lot…
And speaking of Haru…like his digicam moments? I did!
I kept the dinner/presents as detailed but brief as possible. I didn't want to spend too much time on it while moving this story along. Hope you like it just the same.
My Yukiru moment was brought to you by Color Me Badd's “The Earth, the Sun, the Rain”. I like the lyrics because they carry a lot of the emotion Yuki has starting from the last chapter I had released last month to this chapter release. At least, I think so...
Well, enough blabbering H'kat…on with your reviewers:
Fanfiction Review Board
Coiling Death: I'm glad you liked the god/inu's interaction…it wasn't easy to put together! More `betrayal' themes in this release…hope it intrigues you still!
S.B. Kisses: Hi there! Thank you again for kind remarks…I can't wait to read yours when you're back up and running!
Dark-Bitch: I'm glad you're still holding onto my story…and thanks for your kind thoughts on my other fic. It really means a lot to me. I did read your profile page and your explanation on your name. I understand now…!
Fangirl Vee-chan: I'm trying to break my angst streak here…hope I was successful this time around! Shigure can indeed be manipulative. Ask anyone…the guy can be creepy! Anyway, I hope to still see you here!
Kate (anonymous): Yeah, I know…this release is long, too! Hopefully that doesn't put you off…does it?
Rjunkie: My dear! How are you? Long time no speak! You know I love Yuki more than green beans…and I really like green beans. What to say…let's see. WWF? Hehehe, that's nice challenge right there! Oh, well…so much has happened in this story, it's hard to know where the story is leading us, even to me! Akito is definitely a mind boggler and everyone wants to know what's really going on in the little head of hers. Well, you and me both! These chapters are long, too…is this a good thing? Sure…why not.
MediaMiner Review Board
Yuki-girl: You left me a riddle! And with my mushy mind, how am I to resolve it?! Cruel world!!! Are you Kate? I messed up, huh? SIGH! Still, I'm glad you could relate to real life situations when encountering moments in my story. I do try to convey as much real life drama as I can in these angsty moments—not easy, but it's worth it!
MiakaRyo: I'm so happy to read your reviews on this fic and the other one. I'm glad you like my Kagura/Ritsu unique pairing as well as my song suggestion. I always wonder about that…please bless me with more of your wonderful reviews…I love reading them!
Finally a big thanks to OmegaOmega and Yori-Chan on this review board for their very appreciated comments on my other fic. They mean a lot to me!
Phew!!! Finally…this is it!!! I hope all my readers will leave a kind note on their way out…one word is good enough for me! Please keep me motivated with your wonderful remarks…I sorely need them!
From your twisted author, this is H'kat signing off until next chapter release! Ja ne!