Fruits Basket Fan Fiction ❯ Seasons of Sorrow ❯ Memories of Spring = A Morning in Spring ( Chapter 32 )

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

DISCLAIMER: Someday, but not today…or the day after… Next week doesn't look good either. Bummer…
32) Memories of Spring - A Morning in Spring
Spring's dew glistened on the blades of each leaf in the trees. Songbirds sang their tune to greet the early risers. Breezes flowing through the forest carried with it the scent of fresh grass and wildflowers, each patiently waiting to meet the bright sunshine that was climbing slowly but surely on this most joyous day. However the glory of the day went by unnoticed by several individuals within a particular household.
“Kyo…I said I was sorry! Please come on out. (Knock, knock) I have some medicine here that you can take to ease your…er…um…problem,” called out Kazuma through the bathroom door. Trying to stifle the chuckle, he coughed lightly and knocked on the locked door once more. “Kyo…honestly, I truly believed that I had done it right this last time around. (Knock, knock) Do you really think I meant for this to happen? No one else has gotten…eh…sick from the fish I served. You must have a very delicate stomach; I can understand that. Please, open the door.”
“Kitty isn't coming out, is he?” inquired Shigure mockingly while focusing the camera lens on the father and son moment. “Hehe, who knew the close bonding moments between a parent and his child before the graduation ceremony would take place in a bathroom.”
Sighing heavily, Kazuma leaned onto the doorway and began reading the instructions on the box. `BooBoo's Backup: When the going gets tough, the tough will be gone! Take twice a day until your backup is no more! Use only as directed.' Turning to the writer, he remarked uncertainly, “Shigure-kun, I seriously doubt Kyo will take this. This box alone will send him running the other way.”
“Sorry, but that's the only thing I have to cure his…(snickers)…ailment,” chuckled the inu lowly. Clearing his throat, he called out with authority through the door, “Ahem, it's either this or nothing, Kyo-kun. So, be a man and open this door! Or you can sit in there and pout all day and miss your graduation ceremony. Better yet, I can write this moment in history in my memoirs… (Snickers) Oh yes, I can see it now…'Cunning nezumi sneaks all food made by the chef into one mesh and purposely hands it over to the gullible neko who ate it willingly…hehehe…thus resulting in a small problem with the…ahem…internal plumbing of said neko.' (Snickers) Hehehe, actually that sounds pretty good. I better write that down…”
“WHAT THE…! WHAT THE HELL DID YOU JUST SAY?!” yelled Kyo enraged as he glowered over the twitching body of a writer-turned-cameraman-turned corpse on the floor.
“Hm, that is very interesting, Shigure-kun,” thought out loud Kazuma as he tapped his chin in recollection of the previous evening's events. “That would explain why Yuki insisted on serving everyone himself even when the act itself was rather complicated for him.”
Shigure slowly stood on his feet and nursed his head from the injury Kyo had inflicted. Regaining control of the camera once more, he replied, “Ugh…well, I don't know about you, Kazuma-dono, but I'm going to kiss Yuki-kun for letting Kyo-kun have the honor of trying out your food first. No offense, but I can now throw away the rest of the leftovers you had left in the fridge that couldn't fit in the trash bag. After all, there are only so many scientific experiments that one is allowed to have in his fridge.”
“I would have to agree,” remarked Kazuma reluctantly as he stared at the drop-jawed face of Kyo. Looking at his ill son with slight confusion, he asked, “Kyo, is there something the matter? You look like you didn't know. Hm, you're turning a little red…perhaps a fever or maybe your tummy is acting up again…here, try this box. I'm sure you'll have yourself back to normal in time for the ceremony today.”
`Baka nezumi! Kuso nezumi! DAMN BASTARD!!!!!!' were just a few of the livid thoughts that were running around Kyo's mind while his mouth hung wide open in apparent shock at the truth behind his sudden ailment. `How the hell did the rat con me into eating Shishou's food? No wonder my food looked different compared to the others! Damn you TO HELL, YUKI!!!!'
“WHERE THE HELL IS THAT BASTARD???!!! I'LL RIP HIS SCRAWNY ARMS OFF!!!” screeched Kyo as he throttled the poor writer/camerman that was recording this up close and personal. “THAT STUPID, CONNIVING, LITTLE, SON OF A…”
“Now, Kyo-kun, my film is rated a strong PG. Please don't blow it for me with your vulgar vocabulary…editing the film can be a real pain in the derriere,” advised the writer from behind the digicam.
Ignoring his comments and shoving him to the wall, Kyo stomped his way up the stairs and down the hallway. Ripping the door open to Yuki's room, he immediately cried out, “BASTARD!!! KUSO NEZUMI, I'M REALLY GONNA HAUL YOUR ASS ALL OVER THIS HOUSE, YOU DAMN SON OF A…”
“And now a word from your local sponsor,” interjected Shigure into the camera lens while vainly trying to tune out Kyo's very loud indiscretions.
“Sounds like Kyo-kun is trashing Yun-chan's room pretty well,” replied Kagura nonchalantly from inside Tohru's room where she was helping a worried Tohru with her hair. “I wonder if he's noticed that Yun-chan is not here.”
“Eh? He's not here? Where could he have gone…and so early, too?” inquired Tohru curiously. She was currently inspecting her outfit in the mirror while trying to remain calm upon hearing things being thrown around in Yuki's room. `Yuki-kun will definitely send Kyo through the roof when he finds out! And they'll be fighting nonstop…then again, I've not seen them fight in quite some time. Strange…'
“Here, have some,” remarked Kagura while handing Tohru a plate of snacks. Taking some for herself, she went on calmly, “Oh, Yun-chan had left when I was coming in. He said he had to do something before he met up with you later. You were probably in the restroom then. I did give him some snacks to take along the way.”
“Arigatou, Kagura-san,” thanked Tohru heartily, smiling widely enough to let her know she was grateful for the snacks and for looking after Yuki. “I wish I could have had a chance to cook this morning for everyone…you went through all this trouble to bring snacks for us.”
“No trouble at all, really,” Kagura hurriedly said. `The kitchen looks worse in the light of day. She'd have a stroke.' Patting her shoulder assuredly, she continued as she stared at Tohru's reflection in the mirror, “You should focus on your big day. After all, today's the day that you finally fulfill your Okaa-san's dream. Relish the moment, Tohru-kun…this day won't come around again.”
“You're right, Kagura-san,” replied demurely the young graduate. Staring at her reflection, she pondered on the long road she had taken to get to this point. All the hard work her mother had endured to be sure a high school education was always within reach. So much sacrifice and now living with the Sohmas, she couldn't imagine how she could have succeeded in the end without their help. Turning around to face Kagura, she immediately hugged her tightly and commented, “Kagura-san, I can never thank you or your family enough for all that you've done for me. I can never repay you all for your kindness.”
“Well, it's not like we did much anyway. You had it in you always, Tohru-kun,” returned the hug heartily Kagura. “I was afraid that maybe we might have held you back instead…our family isn't the easiest to get along with as you well know by now.”
“Your family did help me. Whenever I started to think how hard it was to get through my problems, I always thought how hard it was for all of you to just live your lives day after day despite your troubles. That's when I realize that my problems are nothing compared to yours.” Staring intently into her eyes, Tohru remarks, “Your strength gave me strength. Thank you so much.”
“Well, we can say the same thing about you…truly. I'm sure everyone else will agree with me…with a few exceptions,” stated Kagura as she looked off to the side.
Sensing who she may be referring to, Tohru asked quietly, “Kagura-san, will Akito-san or Isuzu-san be there today at the ceremony?”
Fidgeting slightly, Kagura rubbed her arms absently as she turned to the mirror Tohru was using. She set about adjusting her wide-brimmed soft-white hat atop her head, sifting her fingers through her tendrils of hair that graced either side of her face while the rest of her hair was swept up and hidden under the hat. She then gazed at her cotton dress (courtesy of Ayame's shop) and was happy to see her soft jade pastel sheath fitted her well. The dress had the typical satin ribbon below the breast-line with a small bow finishing the look.
Smiling at her reflection, she breathed deeply and turned to Tohru. “I had talked to Isuzu before I left and had asked her. She didn't say anything except give me her usual flat stare and shrug of the shoulders before she had walked out. That's a definite maybe for her.” She pauses here as she ponders how best to phrase her next remarks—`best to be direct.' (Sigh) “Akito will very likely be there…this is after all Yun-chan's graduation. Akito would never miss something like that.”
Tohru was happy that maybe Rin was going to see her and the guys graduate, but if Akito were there… `This is going to really make Kyo-kun nervous. What if Akito-san decides to take Kyo-kun away then? What if Yuki-kun gets upset with Akito-san there…or maybe Akito-san has something else in mind with everybody there?'
Seeing Tohru's distress as she contemplated over the news, the Boar of the Zodiac softly continued, “Don't worry, Tohru-kun. It's been very peaceful at the main house for a while now. (`Strange as it is to say that, but it is true.') If Akito were to speak with either you or Kyo-kun, I'm sure it'll be very brief. Not to belittle any of us, but I'm pretty sure Akito will not waste time with any of us when Yun-chan's there. You'll be busy today after the ceremony, ne? You're going over to your friend's home for a small celebration…?”
Noting how the swift change of subject, Tohru inwardly heaved a sigh of relief, glad to know that Akito will not be spending a great amount of time with either Kyo or herself. She didn't mind speaking with Akito if it was necessary, but she was afraid of the confrontation (it's never anything else) between `god' and cat. She knew well enough that any chance they were to even see each other, neither party will regard the other with anything less than contempt. She truly wanted this day to be a day they could all recall with joy, not with bitterness.
Clearing her throat, she responded, “Yes, I'll be going over to Hana-chan's home. Uo-chan will be coming along, too, so we can all celebrate with Hana-chan's family. They're making oden and curry and so many other things for dinner tonight. We're really excited. Then we're staying over until we can get all of Hana-chan's things to our new apartment. There are so many things to do…” She then turned pensive before continuing in a quiet tone. “Ne, Kagura-san, do you really think it'll be okay today…with Akito-san I mean. I'm not worried about myself, but I am a little nervous about Yuki-kun and Kyo-kun having to speak with Akito-san. Kyo-kun may get upset, and Yuki-kun…he really doesn't feel comfortable in Akito-san's presence.”
“Hehe, I know what you mean—not many of us feel `comfortable' in Akito's presence,” chuckled lowly Kagura. “Still, I don't think Akito will do anything that may draw attention to the family. Discretion is our number one motto, and Akito is an expert on that.” Turning contemplative momentarily, she tentatively remarked, “But…just to be on the safe side, don't interfere with whatever Akito does or says…trust me on that.”
Speechless, Tohru silently wondered what was in store for them all if Kagura had to warn her on how to behave around Akito. Before she had a chance to voice her concern, she felt a squeeze on the shoulders from Kagura and a fierce hug as well.
“Just go with the flow today. It'll all turn out fine…you'll see. Just help me keep Kyo-kun in check today. We really don't need him going ballistic today—the last thing you'd want is for Kyo-kun to provoke Akito into doing something for all eyes to see,” happily replied the boar.
“I'll do my best,” smiled in agreement Tohru. `Perhaps if I do keep Kyo-kun occupied, Akito-san won't feel the need to speak with him about his prolonged freedom after his graduation. Maybe Akito-san will also go easy on Yuki-kun and leave him be as well. Yuki-kun would get so bothered whenever Akito-san's name is mentioned. Even if he hasn't said anything about Akito-san recently, he may still not be all too comfortable about the whole thing. I do want him to feel free and happy today…just like I do.'
Kagura could only stare at the young lady before her. It still amazed her to see how devoted Tohru was to her cursed family despite all the problems they managed to bring upon her simple life. More specifically how Akito had tried to taint the bright outlook Tohru held in life. Yet she still maintained her true kindness and bathed everyone in it no matter who they were. It's little wonder that Akito was eager to quell this young person, seeing Tohru as her rival on some level.
Strange how now even that didn't seem to be the case anymore…'seem' being the key word here. Kagura was not kidding herself when she thought how weird things have been at the main estate. Peaceful. As odd as that sounded, especially when talking about her family, that's exactly how things were. It was a mystery that developed ever so slowly that she hardly noticed anything was amiss until Ritsu made mention of it in an off-hand remark after he stayed over at the main house. “For once, I can honestly say that staying overnight was rather…comfortable”—his words still sounded strange in her mind. However they spoke volumes as to how in actuality everything had seemed to settle down into a content state.
`Why is that really?' thought Kagura as she gathered all her hair styling supplies together while Tohru gathered her things to get ready to leave. `How come we didn't notice it sooner? Not that I'm complaining…but I am concerned. It's like a veil was placed over us…making us complacent in our attitudes. One can only wonder what's really happening behind closed doors at the main house. Akito is not known to leave things as they are. (Sigh) Well, if Akito is planning something, there's not a thing we can do about it. We'll just do what we do best…ride this new wave out until we crash into another one. At least Tohru-kun won't be directly in the warpath, should there be one. She's moving on, and she'll be even further out of Akito's reach.'
(Knock, knock)
“Oi! You two ready yet? We're gonna be late,” was Kyo's muffled remark at the door.
“Um, hai, Kyo-kun!” called out Tohru from her small closet where she was pulling out a light sweater to wear with her outfit. Turning to Kagura, she asked pleasantly, “Are you ready, Kagura-san?”
“Hai!! Let's get going before Kyo-kun starts beating down your door!” remarked Kagura with a wink. She then trotted after Tohru, toting her bag full of styling products along with a small purse that matched her dress.
Upon opening the door, Kyo immediately cried out, “I'm not beating down Tohru's door, okay?! It's all that damn Yuki's fault anyway! If it weren't for that kuso nezumi, I wouldn't—.“ His train of thought suddenly was cut off as he once again felt the unbearable need knot itself into twists and turns in his lower abdomen, all the while forcing him to fight the…um…urge. `Dammit! Mmmm…er…son of a…argh, when I see you damn mouse...'
The ladies could only look at Kyo's quickly retreating back (not to mention squirming form) disappear into the restroom upstairs. Puzzled at his strange behavior both ladies stared at the door then at each other. They then turned their attention to the stairwell as Shigure came up the stairs with his faithful digicam that was recording every moment.
“Ladies, such an honor you've bestowed upon me by gracing your presence in my film!” exclaimed Shigure joyously. “Please, allow me to say this much…both of you look ravishing! Kagura-chan's jade dress against Tohru-kun's coral dress is stunning! I'm certain Aya went through a lot of hard work to get you two into the right dresses.”
Blushing brightly, Tohru shook her head in response. “Ayame-san deserves all the credit by giving me such a beautiful dress to wear. I could never thank him enough for presenting me such a wonderful gift.”
“I'd have to agree! It's a simple georgette style, flowing in an A-line to just above the ankles. (Sigh) Mou, if only this old man were just a little younger…” mused aloud Shigure.
“Shii-chan, you're too funny,” chided Kagura cheerily while slapping him rather hard on his back. Sending the poor writer to the floor accidentally, Kagura cried out worriedly, “Shii-chan…gomen ne! I had thought you were planted to the floor!”
It was to this rather normal scene that Kazuma found himself in when he went up to see what all the commotion was about…besides Kyo trashing Yuki's room. Which made him wonder…
“Where's Kyo? Wasn't he just up here?' asked Kazuma quizzically. They all pointed to the restroom door, and he, in hopes of saving what's left of Kyo's dignity, quietly knocked on the door. Grinning sheepishly at the ladies, he softly remarked through the door, “Um, Kyo…you really need to take this. Otherwise, you'll only feel the need to go every five minutes. You'll never make it through the ceremony.”
“Eh? Does Kyo-kun need to go somewhere every five minutes? Perhaps I can help with his problem…if he needs to go, I can help him get there,” offered Tohru innocently.
Kazuma only blanched at this rather appalling yet innocent remark from Tohru while Shigure kept a steady aim of the digicam on the scene. Of course, since the opportunity presented itself, there's no way the mischievous inu was going to pass it up.
“Hehehe, I do believe you have a point there, Tohru-kun. Perhaps your help is needed…maybe you can help me `go' as well…!” guffawed the writer as he struggled to keep the digicam focused.
“DAMN DOG! WHEN CAN YOU KEEP YOUR DAMN HEAD OUT OF THE GUTTER?!” yelled the irate teen at the twitching writer below his foot who still held tight on the digicam.
“Ano…Kyo-kun. Do you need me to help you go?” asked Tohru naively.
Kyo could only burn to a deep cherry red upon hearing her question. Kazuma turned his head the other way as he vainly tried to stifle a smile. And Kagura could only wonder at how blissfully ignorant a person can get.
`Well, it can't be helped. It's part of her charm,' thought with amusement Kagura as she shook her head.
“Kyo-kun, you do look…um…nice. The suit that Momiji-kun picked out for you fits you well,” softly mentioned Tohru with a slight flush to the cheeks.
Once again, Kyo found himself feeling the hot burning sensation of bashfulness at being complimented for his suit. He honestly was a little happy at getting to wear such an outfit. It was just a simple black suit, but the color of his tie and handkerchief was a dark red-orange…a perfect match to his hair.
“Yeah, well…thanks,” mumbled Kyo under his breath as he stared off to a point on the floor. Tilting his head just a tad to Kazuma's direction, he held his hand out and awkwardly took the medication.
“That's right, Kyo-kun…be a man,” said Shigure with a wry grin. Focusing his digicam to the irate teen's scowl, he replied, “You must start stepping up as an adult in this cold, cruel world. What sort of a martial arts teacher would you be if you can't take a simple BooBoo's Backup? I hear it works wonders.”
“THAT DOES IT!!!” cried out the neko angrily as he tried to lunge himself at the laughing inu.
“Whoa!” cut in Kazuma as he held back the youth from inflicting further bodily harm on Shigure. “Kyo, now really isn't the time. You are going to be late!
Kyo had barely enough time to blink before his father abruptly shoved him back into the restroom. Shutting the door on his face, Kazuma leaned on the door and heavily sighed. `At this rate, the boy will never leave the restroom!'
“That's the spirit, Kyo-kun! Do give us your best when you come out,” called out Shigure wickedly. Turning to the ladies, he remarked gaily as he continued recording, “Now ladies, now that our future martial arts teacher is finally relieving himself of his affliction (hehehe), why don't you two relay to us your future plans for our general audience? Today is a day of what tomorrow will bring.”
“Eh? Oh…um…well, I was hoping to earn my living by working as best as I can,” shyly commented Tohru. “It's not such a grand goal, but I know that Okaa-san worked hard to support me when she was all alone. I can only hope that I get to do my job as well as she had done hers.”
“Nothing could be grander than achieving success in the goals you set for yourself, Tohru-kun. I'm sure your mother would agree with me,” replied Shigure serenely. “Ahem, what of you Kagura-chan? You're due to graduate soon from college…what future endeavors are you hoping to accomplish?”
“Me?” asked the boar in disbelief. “Oh…hm…hehehe…I don't really know yet. Maybe it'll come to me by the time I graduate.”
“Hmph, maybe you can sign up for a demolition crew…you got arms of steel that'll rip up anything,” grumbled Kyo lowly as he joined the gathering in the hallway.
“I am a lady, and don't you forget that,” remarked Kagura eerily with eyes shining like a rabid boar bent on a warpath, fist still clenched tightly.
“Whoa and what a lady you are, Kagura-chan! Not many ladies can land a punch on our dear neko that will leave him out cold,” exclaimed the inu gleefully as he zoomed the digicam onto Kyo's twitching form on the floor.
“Very true, Shigure-kun,” agreed Kazuma sagely. “She is my best student in the female division, and she certainly can hold her own when sparring with the members in the male division (`mainly Hatsuharu and Kyo for obvious reasons'). I do see her with a bright future using her talented skills…perhaps serving in law enforcement or as a bodyguard of sorts.”
“Hmm, big surprises do come in small packages after all. Ne, Kagura-chan, what do you think? Sounds like something you'd like?” Having asked that, Shigure switched the focus on the digicam to from Kyo to Kagura's more relaxed pose as she pondered on their musings.
“Why, I've never given it much thought. You really think I'd be good for something like that, Shihan?” asked Kagura bashfully with no signs of anger showing.
Kazuma smiled at her warmly. “Certainly. You need only to apply yourself.”
“Hai, you'd do a wonderful job, Kagura-san,” contributed Tohru as she fanned life back into the groggy youth on the floor.
“Well then…” replied Kagura quietly with a wide grin. Shaking her head abruptly to clear her thoughts, she remarked, “Hey, we really need to get going. Come on, Tohru-kun, we have no time to lose.”
“EH? But…um…Kyo-kun…” Tohru's voice trailed as she was led away from the floor.
Dragging the graduate down the stairs, Kagura called out over her shoulder, “Kyo-kun, we'll just meet you there when you're back on your feet!”
Snapping out of his stupor, Kyo jerked to his feet and wobbly tried to walk to the stairwell. Yet as soon as he stepped one foot in front of the other, he was immediately struck with his good friend, the `urge'.
`DAMMIT!!! When the hell does this stuff do its thing?!' bitterly thought the youth as he squirmed his way back into the restroom, shutting it loudly behind him.
Snickering to himself, Shigure focused his digicam on the now deserted hallway and mused aloud, “Ne, Kazuma-dono, how a house becomes so lonely when the sunny youth of today leave to become the bright adults of tomorrow.”
“DAMN IT ALL TO HELL!!!! I'M GONNA KILL YOU, KUSO NEZUMI!!!” was Kyo's muffled scream from inside the restroom.
“Well, some of them do anyway,” chuckled lowly the inu. “What do you think, Kazuma-dono…think Kyo-kun has a shot?”
Leaning against the wall once more, Kazuma let out a groan of defeat as he heard through the door his wayward son's grumbles that alternated with unique explicatives about a certain mouse that were best left to no one's imagination. `I really need to work with him on his language…'
“Well, he certainly has the will to succeed when he puts his mind to it…” trailed in his comment Kazuma when the door swooshed open to reveal a highly pissed off cat.
“HELL, I'M GONNA KICK HIS LITTLE ASS ALL OVER THAT STAGE!!!” yelled angrily Kyo as he stomped down the stairs, a steady digicam recording all of his seething form.
“Hm…did I say `bright adult of tomorrow'?” asked the writer wryly.
(Sigh) Smiling into the camera, Kazuma remarked, “Just give him five minutes for the medicine to kick in. He'll be the `bright adult of tomorrow' then.”
`I can't believe my Nii-san convinced me to do it this way…' thought Yuki irately as he shook his head in disbelief. Heaving a heavy sigh, he continued onward at a leisurely pace albeit still slightly limping, despite time being of the essence. He was in no hurry to reach his ultimate destination, nervousness taking a full hold of his senses at the moment.
`How will she react? Will she think this too strange? Who's to know if she'll like it in the end anyway? She may just take it out of being polite…' His thoughts continued their downward spiral as he trudged along the walkways by the playground. Hardly a soul graced these parts as most were either at work or congregating at this moment for the start of the graduation ceremony at his school. A ceremony he himself should be at already in order to help with all the last minute details. Thankfully he had already pre-arranged with Kakeru to take over all the duties—more out of `punishment' for the Prom fiasco than as a favor.
`And did he ever whine about it like a baby, too. At least he's not getting in my way now.' Turning a corner that will take him by the swing set, he came to a stop at a bench found here under the flowering trees. He set his bag down on the table and carefully sat so as not to dirty the outfit Ayame had gone through great lengths to make for him.
`He's always changing colors on me. Now it's a deep violet color. Good thing it's not a heavy material, otherwise I'd be suffocating in this outfit out here in the sun. But it's still rather cool weather…very nice.' He turned to his watch to see that time really wasn't on his side today. `Damn, I took so long with Nii-san this morning. Maybe I already missed Tohru-san. (Mentally shakes his head.) No, I told Kagura to tell Tohru-san to meet me here…she would not leave if she knew I was expecting her here.'
Letting out a deep breath he was holding in to calm his nerves, he looked all around him at the tranquility this park exuded during the day when very few visited its grounds. Being tired and exhausted just by thinking of what's to happen today, he found his mind drifting back to the last few years that he spent as a student at Kaibara High…all of which would come to an end on this day. When he first came to this school, it was no small feat on his part to walk down the hallways without shrinking back into his small haven that his mind had offered. He felt the utter despair of loneliness despite all the attention he managed to garner.
It was only after having Tohru come to be his unexpected friend and housemate that he finally felt many of his inhibitions drift to the winds. Mind you, the episodes from his past left him with unseen scars that he must always bear, but with coming to know the person he's become now, the scars only served to prove that he can meet any adversity and move on to live his life the way he had always wanted to. To live freely with no parent or oppressive `god' making the decisions in his life for him…
`Kaa-san probably won't be at the ceremony today. Although I think it has more to do with the fact that she still looks beat up. She never could stand to look less than perfect for all eyes to see,' bitterly pondered the youth, lazily gazing at the rustling leaves overhead with the sunshine peeking through every so often. `Still, who knows? Maybe she'll be there. Will Tou-san be there? Does he even know?'
Running his hands through his hair in frustration, he mentally chastised himself, `It doesn't matter anymore. It doesn't.' Focusing once more on the current matter on hand, he checked his watch once again, seeing that time was marching ever so certainly while he sat there in agonizing wait. Drumming his fingers across his lap, he sighed anxiously as he stood up to pace the ground. He quickly drew his hands together and rubbed on them subconsciously, still patiently waiting for the presence of that one special lady.
`It's cool…it'll be fine, right? Nii-san was sure that this way of presenting her gift would make it memorable for her. So…I should be calm. It's no big thing…I can do this. I've had to deal with huge problems in life…giving a girl a present shouldn't be that hard. (Dejected sigh) So why am I so damn scared?' Yawning softly, he rubbed his eyes tiredly and sat back down in a huff. It was an early start for him on this day, and his body still felt sluggish, although not as much as it was in the morning. It was incredible that he managed to form a coherent thought, let alone a sentence, when he spoke to Kagura earlier that day as he was leaving to pick up Tohru's gift.
`Maybe I should have mailed it to her. At this rate, I'll be a mess by the time she gets around to getting here.' Squeezing his eyes tightly to `blink out' his bleariness, he opened the bag for the umpteenth time since receiving it from his brother earlier. The contents were still the same as before yet he couldn't help but make sure the gift was intact. `Well, this will be my last chance with her alone before the ceremony. Afterwards she's going to Hanajima-san's home to celebrate with her friends there. And I'll be busy, too…'
“By the way, Akito has a surprise for you after the ceremony.”
Staring back up at the towering tree above him, he recalled this last comment from his brother before he left him. Not even giving him a chance to ask further, Ayame rushed off with a twinkle in his eye. Past experience had taught this mouse well that he should always expect the unusual when it came to his brother's antics. But for his brother to actually be somehow involved with what Akito was planning…well, that was truly unexpected. Shocking…earth shattering illogical even…it was plain creepy.
Regardless, that was the current situation. Now as he turned the matter over in his mind once more, he centered his thoughts on one particular female. The same past experience that helped him in the `brother category' also helped him with this female. Such knowledge attained prepared him for the one thing when it came to Akito...the worst.
Physically, emotionally, or mentally, she has the in-borne talent to bring the worst upon anyone, be they family or not. He could certainly attest to it, having been on the receiving end of such talent too often to count. However…now…
`Now she's got me completely confused. I just don't understand her. I…I don't know…what to do about it. At first, I was just going to prove to her that I'm not intimidated by whatever sick game she's playing now at my expense. But…that's just the problem. I honestly don't sense anything deceitful when she…'
Heavily sighing, he leaned back against the table as he shut his eyes to the world. Folding his arms to his chest, he slowly recalled bits and pieces of memories better left dead. `A kind word…a warm gaze…an embrace…even a slight touch. Regardless if it made me look like a weak person, those were things I craved for in that solitary room. I craved for them because I knew Akito was capable of giving them—I didn't imagine those times when we were little and she gave it all so freely. To be denied those things from her back then for so long, I…'
Sighing despondently, he drapes his arm across his closed eyes, desperately trying to block out the images of a very lonely child that couldn't understand why no one wanted him, not even the person he once saw as his best friend. He then recalled the young chocolate-haired beauty and inwardly smiled. `Yes, Tohru-san showered me with those very things when she walked into my life. It was…wonderful, revitalizing even. More than I deserve in this life of mine.'
He then frowned on his next thoughts as he recalled this past week and any recent event involving his interactions with Akito. `She can still be intimidating without even trying, but that's not what sticks to my mind. She has given me kind words, in her own way of course. She's gone so far as to display kind gestures—although `defending' me from my Kaa-san's assault could probably be classified as a bit extreme. When she looks at me, she sees ME, not the Nezumi of the Jyuunishi—I wonder if she realizes that. She's given me a…soft touch…when I least expected it (and in the soaking rain, too). And her embraces…consciously or unconsciously, they are…warm…and she gives them so freely. (Sigh) And that's not even the worst part…'
Retracting his arm back to his chest, he opened his eyes by a fraction, noting the flitting leaves against a soft breeze with the sun's rays reaching down into the shadows below. Transfixed with these images, his thoughts further contemplated this latest twist in his situation, eyes suddenly looking worried. `The worst part… The worst part is…I'm…I'm starting to crave them again. Not in the same sense as with Tohru-san, but all the same, I want them. It's so hard to admit it, but it's true—and that's what scares me the most… To be so vulnerable and practically at her mercy while craving this, knowing she could very easily turn on me like she had before. Then…why? Why do I risk believing in her this time around, knowing that possibility? (Pause) Hm…funny how the answer is actually very simple. It's all about possibilities…the possibility for the worst to come down on me, but also the possibility that she doesn't mean to deceive me this time around. It would be easier to doubt her motives, her gestures, her words. But to believe in her…most would call me a fool.'
Her words…her gaze…her embraces…her touch. To believe that they're genuine…
`Incredible…and here I thought the baka neko was the biggest fool of the family at times.' Lightly laughing ruefully at himself, he considered what lay in store for him later on. What exactly is Akito planning later on, and how in the world did Ayame come into the equation? Mix those two together, and he was more that just a little curious…more like apprehensive. Suddenly realizing that Akito would physically be present in public for all eyes to see, he started to wring his hands together absently, wondering about her reaction to the many people that will be there.
`Come to think of it, this will be the first time I'll actually see her with all the Jyuunishi since New Year's. She can still be so domineering when it comes to them… But then she'll also be seeing Tohru-san and her friends. I wonder what she'll say about them.' His eyes then lit up when he came to a sudden realization. `Kyo. She'll be seeing the idiot today after so long. What will she do? What will she say? Damn…I should have thought about this earlier. To at least prepare the baka neko from making a fool of himself while she's there.'
No, he shook his head once more to clear the pessimistic thoughts away. He will not fall in the despair that has marked his life so many times already. He's come a long way…he has to have faith and believe that all will be well when the time comes. He knows that Akito doesn't think highly of the Cat of the Zodiac, but she won't jeopardize the family by giving in to her whims as `god' for all eyes to see. And if necessary, Kureno will be there to make sure all goes well. The Bird of the Zodiac is timid, but he can handle her. And if that fails, there's always Hatori, Shigure…even his brother.
`Okay, I'm obviously desperate here. I'd better just get the speech over and done with so I can make my way to them before Akito decides to speak her mind to those around her. I can believe that she'll be `civil', but I can't trust that she'll stay that way. She has been ill and her temper has a shorter fuse when she's been like that. And knowing Kyo, he won't hesitate to test the limits of her temper, regardless of who's watching. That stupid cat…'
Groaning quietly at the impending stress level he was sure to endure when the time came for the face-off, he rubbed his eyes even more. Keeping his lids shut, he roughly massaged the now throbbing temples and only wished that he had brought some sort of migraine medication.
It was at this moment that he heard the sound of footsteps headed in his direction as well as the light laughter of the lady he had been waiting on. Sitting rigidly, he felt the quick pulse of his beating heart through his chest. Wringing his hands furiously once more, he took a deep breath and ever so slowly pried his eyes open while letting out his bated breath gently. Blinking to regain focus, his gray/violet orbs quickly surveyed the contents of the bag he had next to him. Getting the visual assurance that his gift had not gone off on its own, Yuki stood up unwaveringly and with bag in hand, turned in the direction he heard her coming from.
`Finally. But…now what do I do?' he thought frantically as he paced himself to emerge from the dense group of trees. Not yet seeing her, he quickly set his bag down and absently tugged his outfit more in place, running his fingers to pick off any lint or debris that may have attached itself to him. Noting no wrinkles on his person, he closed his eyes momentarily and taking a short breath, he picked up his bag and marched on with determination, with grace, and with no clue as to what he'll be saying to her.
`Mmm…this is just great. What now? I'm going to look pretty stupid just standing there and gawking. What am I going to say? How am I going to say it? How does a guy normally give a girl a gift? Man, I should have asked Nii-san a little more about this. (Sigh) Well, that's just great…I'm starting to really wish Nii-san were here. What has the world come to?' The slight breeze in the air momentarily detained him as waves of flowering buds fluttered all around him, leaving a nice trail of blossoms still clinging to his hair. Frustrated at this, he immediately started to run his hand through his hair to get rid of them, but they only seemed to mix into his hair even more.
`Perfect…now I look absolutely ridiculous. Even the baka neko can't possibly reach this low.' Setting the bag down once more, he ran both hands through his hair and started to ruffle it as much as possible. Satisfied that he got most of the petals out of his hair, he ran his hands through it to place his locks of hair into place. Gliding his hands down once more over his shoulders and arms, he attained the prim and proper pose he excelled in. With a nod of approval, he was about to breathe in heavily when a violent sneeze forced its way out, followed by another, and another…
(Sigh) `This will certainly be memorable for Tohru-san—me sneezing right in her face.' Taking a hankie out (not the hankie, a normal cotton one), he dabbed his eyes and nose gently, hoping to stem off any stimulants that would trigger his sneezes anymore. However he failed to realize that he was moving around absently until he felt the distinct crunch under his heel. Large eyes widening exceedingly, he whirled around and heard further crunches before finally realizing that he was crushing the bag his gift was housed in.
`Baka! BAKA!!!' he mentally yelled at himself while immediately hunching down to retrieve the sack with the broken gift. Panting heavily, he opened the bag hurriedly and found his gift in near ruins. Anxiety taking a full hold of him, he nervously reached in with trembling hands and took out the main part of his gift. Visibly he let his shoulders slouch as he sighed with immense relief…the gift was not completely ruined.
`Okay, this is good. It's not a total loss…it'll be fine. She won't mind it too much…I hope.' Taking a hand to his chest, he felt the pounding in his chest ebb just a bit. He was grateful that the less stressful life he was now forced to lead actually helped his body to remain calm instead of falling into some sort of attack. Now that wouldn't have been advisable, especially out here in the middle of a bunch of towering trees by a deserted playground. Breathing in deeply, he closed his eyes and allowed a small smile of relief to grace his features, happy to know that he hadn't ruined Tohru's gift.
It was then that he heard the distinct laughter of the young lady in question…along with a heavier and, dare he say it, heartier laughter belonging to a guy he had believed could never laugh...
“Hehe, are you okay there?” chuckled lowly Kyo as he reached down to pull up Tohru from the ground. “I'm sorry…hehehe…I didn't mean to laugh at you…hehehe.”
“Hehe…no, that's okay,” Tohru replied happily as she gratefully took Kyo's hand. Still laughing lightly, she pulled herself up with his helping hand. Dusting her dress off, she added, “You told me about the tree and like a dunce, I ran right into it anyway.”
“Are you okay?” he asked now a little more calmly, checking her over for any bruising.
“Hai. It seems that my head has become harder over the years with me running into things all the time,” she said as she rubbed her temple gently. Looking perplexed, she slightly frowned as she asked, “Ne, Kyo-kun, do you know what that sound was? It sounded odd.”
Kyo shrugged his shoulders in response as he leaned against the offensive tree while crossing his arms over his chest. “Can't say that I remember. But I think…hehehe…it sounded almost like a toy mouse being squished. You shouldn't have bothered trying to search for it.”
“Hai, I know. But I had thought it might have been a small animal that was calling out.” Standing now next to Kyo under the tree, she let out a huge sigh of contentment as she waited patiently for Yuki. `I was pretty sure Kagura-san had said that he would be meeting me by the swing set that we were at the night of the dance. I wonder where he could be?'
“Dammit, how long was the damn rat supposed to make you wait?! We don't have time to be standing here…stupid creep,” grumbled loudly the irate neko. He was still very angry about his personal ailment—of which he solely blames Yuki for it, not on his Shishou who actually cooked the portion he ate.
“I don't mind waiting at all. I want to wait so we can all walk together to our ceremony. It'll be…the last time we'll be doing this very same thing we've been doing for over the last few years.” Letting her gaze soften, she stared high into the sky, noting the soft hues of blue becoming ever so much that color with each moment the sun rose. `So clear…so peaceful. A perfect day, Okaa-san. I'm finally doing it…and with such dear friends.'
`Our last walk to high school…feels weird.' The teen shifted in his form against the tree, crossing one leg over the other as he thought of multiple forms of abuse he would inflict on one particularly conniving pest. `Don't think I'll let this slide, kuso nezumi. That small ass of yours will get the kickin' of its life!' Tucking one hand in the pocket of his slacks, his hand brushed against a small box within. Realizing what it was, he grasped the small box tightly and pulled it out.
`Damn, what with everything that went on this morning, I totally forgot about this. Should I…?' trailed his thought as he stared at Tohru standing a couple of feet away. She still had the far off look in her eyes as she looked towards the skies, as if searching for answers to questions left unasked. Inwardly rolling his eyes, he berated himself, `Baka! Well, who else would she think of on this day? She's finally fulfilling her promise to her mother—the one thing she's had her heart set on for the last few years…graduating high school.'
“Hey, I'm sure she's jumpin' for joy. She's not gonna miss it,” he replied with a small grin.
Hearing the abrupt remark, Tohru literally brought herself down from the heavens and allowed Kyo's words sink in her mind. When she realized what he had said, she allowed the words to settle in her heart and softly smiled with slight tears in her eyes. “Arigatou. I'm sure she is.”
“Hey now don't get teary-eyed on me,” he remarked hurriedly (albeit with a nice blush on his cheeks) as he took out a small handkerchief he hand with him. He walked forward and dabbed her eyes quickly with it. “I didn't say it to make ya cry. I mean…(sigh)…hold your tears for later. You have a big day ahead of you, and I know you worked hard to look this good.” Gasping in shock at his own words, he blushed to even a darker shade than before.
Tohru mirrored the rouge in Kyo's on her own set. `Did he…did he just say that I was pretty? I must be mistaken.' Looking into his eyes, she saw the evasiveness there, trying not to look at her directly. `It's just my imagination running away with me again…'
“Hey, I…I don't kid. You do look…great.” Boy, if he thought he couldn't get any redder, he was sorely mistaken. The red/orange color of his beads paled in comparison to his now flustered face.
Thoughts frozen in mid-step, she could only look at the ground to her dainty toes sticking out of her sandals. As flustered as Kyo, she also smiled warmly at his compliments. “Arigatou…you're too kind.”
“Yeah, well…it's only the truth.” Coughing to clear the now stuffy air he was breathing in, his hand reached up to his collar, trying to loosen his tie somewhat. `Damn, it's getting so damn hot here!'
Looking up, she saw that he held a small box in his hand that wasn't there before. “Ano, Kyo-kun, what's that in your hand?”
Surprised at her question, he glanced down to his hands to see what had caught her attention. Certainly enough, the small box he held before in his pocket was now out in the open for her eyes to see. Stunned silent, he immediately returned to his usual cherry color, holding the box at arms length as if it held some plague.
`Dammit! I can't do nothing right…argh. What do I tell her now?!' Groaning inwardly, he shook his head of his rampant thoughts and focused on the next task at hand. `Well, baka, you could just give it to her…too late to back out now.'
“Yeah…well…it's…hmm,” stammered in reply. This stunned Kyo into shock once more. `Dammit! That's the best you can come up with boy?! Damn, hell, even that kuso nezumi could come up with something better than that! Yeah, that's right…I'll just come up with something better than what that rat can come up with.'
Tohru seriously became worried at how he held himself now. `Oh my, I must be making him uncomfortable.' Without delay, she reached out to touch his arm in comfort and replied, “Kyo-kun, it's okay if you don't want to discuss it. I shouldn't have pried into your business. Gomen nasai.”
“Nonesense. It's not you. (`Well, actually it is, sort of…hell…') Anyway, this is for you actually. The baka usagi didn't rummage far enough into my drawers to pull out the other half of your gift.” He then handed the small mystery to her, still too flabbergasted to further comment on this. Clearing his throat, he looked away as he replied, “You can…open it…if you want.”
It was now Tohru's turn to look flustered. `My other gift? Really? But…this is too much…' Nervously taking the small box into her trembling hands, she tucked a wayward hair strand behind an ear, too on edge to look into the youth's face. “Ano…Kyo-kun…this is…too much. You are too kind to give me another gift. I don't deserve this…”
“Didn't I say that it's the other half of your gift? So in reality you didn't get the whole thing last night.” Standing straight, he resolutely stared her down, silently daring her to deny receiving the gift. `She could never stand to be impolite and risk offending the person giving the gift.'
She looked back at the red/orange orbs that stared back at her, resolve hidden behind them. She noted as well hints of a smile behind his determined gaze, letting her know that he was hopeful that she'd take the gift without further delay. Smiling shyly, she began to unwrap the small tie around the box and open it. The trinket she found within had her reaching to her chest while holding the box up to her face for closer inspection.
“Kyo-kun…this is beautiful. It's just like the bracelet you gave me.” She noted the fine details on the small choker, intricately woven charms of the same red/orange cat that dangled from her bracelet, which she happened to be wearing on this day. “Tha…thank you! Thank you so much!”
“He-here…let m-me,” he stuttered as took the box from her trembling hands. Unsnapping the clasp, he got behind her and gently took her hair in one hand, placing it all on her left shoulder. Taking deep breaths, he closed his eyes momentarily before reaching around and bringing the choker to her slim neckline. Gulping loudly, he breathed softly in her ear as he snapped the clasp shut. “Um…well…ahem, the…um…ch-choker is on…now.”
Turning around slowly, she fingered the necklace around her neck, trying to imagine how it looked like on her. `I'll just have to wait until I reach the school. Then I can sneak into the restrooms quickly to take a look before getting to the ceremony.' Looking back up to the youth next to her, she saw how he shyly tried to keep his blushing gaze on her face but also trying to stare off to the side at the same time. Smiling widely, she asked timidly, “Kyo-kun…how do you like it? Does it look okay?”
It was all he could do to refrain from reaching out to her and fiercely hugging her. To curb the urge, he stuck his hands deep into his pockets, settling to smile down on her instead. “Well, yeah…I did get it for you, remember?”
“Yes, of course! This is so wonderful. I…I promise to never take it off,” she stated cheerily while fingering the choker with her fingers. Taking his hand into her other hand, she softly remarked, “Arigatou…truly. For all that you've done for me over the years. I'll…I'll never forget our times together at the house or on the roof.”
Remaining silent, he allowed his gaze to turn wistful, reaching out slowly to tuck behind her ear the obstinate hair strand that wavered across her face with the gentle breeze. Pausing in his action momentarily, he inclined his head closer to hers, never breaking contact with her wide eyes. He softly whispered, “Neither would I, Tohru. Neither would I.” And without a second thought, he softly kissed the crown of her head.
Incredibly flustered at his close proximity and soft kiss, she looked down to her toes, blushing redder than she ever had in her entire life. `Why…why did he do that? Why is he looking at me like that? He's never looked at me like this before…'
Remarks from the Missing Author (08-05-05):
Konnichiwa! Aloha! Hola! Bonjour! Hello! Greetings to all!
Well, that was long overdue, I think! Hi everyone, it's been a good while! And it's not because I've forgotten about this story. Far from it! I've been working rather hard on these last few chapters for the past few months. That's right, you read right…CHAPTERS! So why is there only one chapter released this time?
That's a good question and here's your answer. I had released previously multi-chapters simultaneously, but the result was rather disastrous. Although it saved me overall time with loading the chapters, almost half of all my readers didn't read the first chapter from the two chapter releases. As an example, take chapters 30 and 31. Both were released at the same time, however only half read chapter 30. By the way, if you were one of my readers that didn't get to read this chapter, I highly recommend it!
So, in lieu of multi-chapter releases, yours truly is going about this the old-fashioned way. I'll release a chapter this week and release the other one the following week and the one after that the week after the following week. Okay, I may have lost you there, but in essence I'll be releasing one new chapter for the next few weeks. Hopefully this time around my readers will have the full benefit of reading the whole story.
Phew…that's a lot to swallow. A lot like why I took so long to begin with. Well, the issues involved with these last few chapters were not easy to articulate into words. Correlation is key in this portion because these last few chapters will finalize the spring segment! (Yes, break out the champagne bottles!) As such, I have to tie in many aspects of the storyline…from the winter segment to what's now going on. And let me tell you, there are major hooks being dangled as to what the summer and fall segments will be covering.
With so much going on, I was for a short while rather intimidated by my own story. It's so long…I mean, I've already passed my one-year anniversary since this story was published on ffnet. I honestly never saw this story taking off in the direction that it has. It definitely has a mind of it's own! It's now like some epic novel in the making instead of a simple story told by a first-time writer.
Hence why yours truly didn't feel as motivated as I'd like to work diligently on this storyline. Writer's block is not what I suffer…I wish that was the case! It's easier to fight that off instead of the lack of wanting to do it! I guess the reason for being `not as motivated' is because I'm not getting as much feedback as I'd like from the majority of my readers. Not that I'm complaining or anything…to the loyal reviewers that are out there, let me tell you, you guys are the BEST and I LOVE THAT YOU STILL STICK BY ME!
No, that's not it…I'm just afraid that my story isn't as compelling to read anymore. It has been a long road thus far, and I don't blame anyone for not hanging in there with me. So I propose this…I will finish out the spring segment (that portion is in it's final stages to be released). And then I'm taking a hiatus of sorts. I'll start on a very short fic (more like a long one-shot) starring my unusual pairing Kagura and Ritsu—basically how those two came to be `one'. During such time, I will monitor the progress/hits/reviews that this story is generating. If there isn't much going on or if I get any feedback supporting the idea that I should just give this a rest, then so be it. If, however, that's not the case and everyone is groveling for the rest of the story (I can dream, right?), then I'll continue on with the release of this story.
Now, just to let you know, I have many details already lined up for the summer and fall segments, including the epilogue. Now how is that possible, you ask? Well, again the rabid person that's your author actually has been working out these details during the winter/spring chapter releases. When I'm not typing the story, I'm working on ideas to use for the future timeline of the story. That's why I drop a lot of hooks along the way in the winter/spring segments so that they tie in with the summer/fall segments. A lot of time and work really does go into this story…and it's a lot of fun. A lot of work, but a lot of fun, too!
So there you are…the future of my story, I shall leave in your hands…
Ahem, now getting back to why you're actually here, the chapter end remarks. Well, let's see…Booboo's Backup. Another quirky product by the imagination of yours truly! I just couldn't let that go…Kyo's ailment with Kazuma's food…hehehehe. I'm cruel (sorry Kyo fans!).
I also let my audience know that this perceived `peace' amongst the Jyuunishi and general household is being noticed. I used Kagura in this sense and hopefully this came off well.
Another thing I worked hard on was Yuki's monologue. That was hard to put together for obvious reasons…poor guy, though! I wonder if guys always find it hard to give a gift to a girl. I assume that it is! Back to his monologue…yep, I really made a leap forward with our cute mouse. He's now starting to feel something here with Akito, and he's nervous as to where this new endeavor will take him. Wouldn't you like to know…heheheheh…
Okay, honorific-wise I'm pretty sure I botched it somehow. I do try! Ah well, correct me as you see fit. Oh and I apologize in advance for taking liberties with the whole culture issue with how Japanese children graduate school. I've honestly not had the time to research this, and so I sort of made a compromise between the western/eastern cultures. If I offend, I grovel for your forgiveness!
Oh and before I forget…can anyone beta? I mean, to be really picky about grammar and tense usage. I'm just finding out about certain problems with my story that involve this. I try hard…I do…with getting these chapters as error-less as possible. But I'm no expert and when a reader points out to me that they rate my story sub par because of these errors, I feel very disappointed in myself for not trying harder. I want my readers to come away from reading my story with a sense of anticipation, not trepidation. It's important to me that my readers remember the essence of the story, not the fact that I got my tenses wrong or that my grammar really made it hard to understand the story. So, if you feel like tackling a gargantuan project and get paid with oodles of attention and devotion from an author who's sanity borders on eccentric, then look no further! This story can be yours to beta…all of it…from past releases to future ones (if all goes well!). Scared…petrified…? You should be…(insert sinister laugh here).
Reviewers…to all my reviewers from my last release—thank you and sorry for not replying here or anywhere to your remarks. I love them and grow on them…what little ego I have really needs these. So thanks to all my readers and reviewers…thanks to all the memories! Until next week!