Fruits Basket Fan Fiction ❯ Seasons of Sorrow ❯ Memories of Spring = The Troubles of 'Blessings' from a 'God' ( Chapter 34 )

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

DISCLAIMER: Let's skip the legal jargon…okay, maybe not. Furuba=not mine. Moving on…
34) Memories of Spring - The Troubles of `Blessings' from a `God'
Kakeru saw the epitome of enigma known as Sohma Yuki pass him with a side-glance to him. Tall and proud—that is how he will remember his friend. Well, maybe not very tall, but to everyone, Yuki really did stand above all others. And years down the road, he'll always remember that…he'll always remember this…
The deafening applause of the entire audience soon included cheers and whistles, all loudly expressing their approval of such a heartfelt speech. As the graduating class was now officially given their final farewells by the school administration amidst the revelry, a great uproar was then heard throughout as everyone from family to friends came up to the graduates to bid them congratulations.
For two individuals stuck in the middle of all this celebration, they had to rely on the swift work of one young lady to help them dodge the ever-constant presence of the opposite sex.
“Kyo, go this way! The rest of us are back there, away from the bigger crowds,” called out Momiji loudly as he dodged another female that was passing him by.
It was all Kyo could do to follow the zigzag path that Momiji managed to create in the gaps within the crowd. He was dragging Tohru by the wrist who was immediately followed by her friends Uo and Hana.
“Oi, slow down some! Eesh!” cried out Uo as she bumped into several people along the way. Seeing that Hana had no trouble maneuvering her way through it all, she called out to her, “Hanajima…how the hell do you do it?!”
Calmly following Uo, Hana spoke placidly, “Simple…their waves deter them from making contact with me. Are we almost there, Arisa?”
“Er, can't tell…too many heads in the way. Why? We'll find your family next,” replied Uo assuredly.
“No, it's not that…I was just…” trailed in her comment Hana as she turned her solemn gaze to her feet.
`Hell, this isn't happening! Is Hanajima actually blushing?! Damn, I knew I should have brought my camera!' Immersed in her excited thoughts, Uo did not realize that the `train' before her had suddenly stopped.
Uo braced herself before falling all over Tohru, who in turn did her best not to hold onto to Kyo's back. Her footing however was not stable, so forward Tohru went. She panicked at the imminent disaster that was unfolding before her very eyes, certain that all the assembly will see a Sohma transform into his Jyuunishi form because of her clumsiness.
Shutting her eyes from the disastrous impact, Tohru held her breath as her arms stretched out before her in a deadly embrace that she could not pull out of. However, no `poof' could be heard when she landed on the Jyuunishi's body. Astonished, she opened her eyes and was startled to see that she was not hugging Kyo but someone she hadn't anticipated would be there at her graduation.
“Isuzu-san!” exclaimed in wonder Tohru.
“A little too close for comfort, aren't we?” asked Rin dryly as she held Tohru up back to her feet.
“Sumimasen!” bowed repeatedly in apology Tohru. Releasing her hold on Rin's arms, she quickly explained, “I was caught off guard when we stopped all of a sudden. Thank you so much!”
“Hm,” was Rin's noncommittal comment. Giving Tohru's companions a passing glance, she asked nonchalantly, “Are you here to see the others?”
Tohru nodded happily in agreement. “Hai, I would like to thank them for coming today. But please let me thank you for being here…I'm so very glad that you did come.”
Unfazed by Tohru's radiant smile, Rin gave an indifferent shrug and instead focused her attention to the graduate's jewelry. “Those are…unique. Gifts?”
Unsure at first at what she was referring to, Tohru stood there puzzled until she saw Rin's gaze pinned on her gifts from Kyo. Blushing slightly, Tohru remarked cheerily, “Yes, these are a gift from Kyo-kun, actually.”
“I figured as much…the cat design kind of gave it away,” replied Rin while she fingered the bracelet, then choker.
“No way…Orangey got you those?!” exclaimed Uo incredulously. “Pft, who'd have thought Mr. Anger-management can actually pick good gifts…and for a girl no less?!”
“Shut your trap, damn Yankee!” cried out Kyo annoyed as he emerged from the sidelines.
“Well, if it isn't the creep that ditched us…” shot back Uo irately.
“It's not my fault! Momiji just took off, and I had to catch up to him!” Turning to Tohru, he held onto her arm as he followed Rin's retreating form. “Come this way. It's less crowded, so that's where everyone's at.”
“Everyone?” asked Tohru.
“Well…just about anyway. Shishou is with them, too.” As he reached the more secluded clearing, he saw most of the Jyuunishi members conversing animatedly amongst themselves along with his surrogate father. They sensed their arrival, and immediately turned their attention to the new graduates.
“Tohru-kun!!!” cried out joyously Kagura as she ran forward to hug Tohru delicately, forgoing the bone-crushing kind of hug she would normally give. “Congratulations! You finally did it! Oh and of course, congratulations to you both as well, Hanajima-san, Uotani-san.”
`Oh, I brought Uo-chan and Hana-chan without asking them first if it's okay!' Mentally berating herself for not being proper, Tohru immediately bowed in a humbled manner. “Sumimasen, these are my best friends since middle-school, Uotani Arisa and Hanajima Saki. Uo-chan, Hana-chan, you know most of them and the rest are their relatives as well.”
“Hey there,” nodded Uo in recognition. “You guys really are a big family, huh?”
“A very large family indeed…and they all share the same underlying wavelength,” commented Hana eerily.
“Um, what she meant to say,” butt in Uo as she nudged Hana to tone down on the wave reports, “is that you all look like you belong in the same family. Must be hard to remember the names of everyone in the family…”
“Oh, I don't know about that,” replied Shigure for them all. “It certainly seems like ages pass when we're giving the New Year greetings to all our family, but after a while you just get used to it. Wouldn't you agree, Haa-san?”
“Yeah…ages,” commented Hatori distractedly after taking long drags of his cigarette, easing the tension in his shoulders from having to sit in his family's presence during the ceremony. `Damn nerves are all shot to hell. I swear that I heard those ushers talking about getting the police to drag us all off. Thank goodness they all settled down when Yuki took the stage.'
Uo stood to the side with Hana, silently watching the small interplay between Tohru and her surrogate family. They both glanced at each other, silently agreeing that a bond truly has formed between their dear friend and the enigmatic Sohma family. Seeing Tohru show utter happiness at being surrounded by their warmth, Uo couldn't help but feel a tinge of regret of not being the one to give her the environment that allowed the young lady to truly blossom. Tohru is who she is now because of their care and understanding. And for that, Uo and Hana were eternally grateful and beholden to the Sohmas.
Coming to a realization, Uo turned to Hana and asked, “Hey, where did Orange-top pop off, too? I swear that punk just ups and leaves when he feels like it.”
“Don't go around talking crap behind my back, fool!” bit out Kyo through clenched teeth from behind the silent pair.
“Now, Kyo, that's no way to speak to a lady,” chided Kazuma gently.
“Feh, as if she were one…” grumbled lowly Kyo before he felt the hard smack on his head. Turning to the fuming lady beside him, he yelled, “WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT FOR?!”
“FOR BEING A MORON, MORON!” shot back Uo heatedly with a fist up his face.
“CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH, HUH?!” challenged Kyo with a smirk.
Glaring at her, he yelled, “I'D LIKE TO SEE YOU TRY, BI—“
“Kyo,” stressed Kazuma further, giving him `the look'.
Well, `the look' did the trick, and Kyo kept his mouth shut and settled for glaring hot knives to his female opponent. Satisfied with this outcome, Kazuma turned his attention once more to the young lady with him.
“So, what will you be doing since you've now graduated, Hanajima-san?” asked Kazuma gently.
Blushing prettily, Hana shifted her warm gaze to her toes as she absently kicked an unseen pebble. “I've planned to further enhance my education to help out at my new home with Tohru-kun and Arisa. But I also want to be able to offer something better of myself to that one person I'll eventually marry. Do you think having dreams like getting married and having kids is okay for me to work towards?”
“Well, it's only natural to want to have a family of your own one day. Even though I was never blessed to have a wife of my own, I'm thankful for the small graces bestowed on me for raising Kyo. I'm sure you'll have just as much success, if not more, when you decide to have your own family,” he replied wisely.
“You think so, Sohma-san?” she asked uncertainly as she stepped closer to lay a hand on his arm.
“Of course,” he assured her while placing his hand over hers.
Shyly glancing away from his warm gaze, she giggled lightly. “Sohma-san, you are too kind. Kyo-kun is very fortunate to have you as his guardian.”
“Hey…what the…?!” cried out Kyo in shock as he saw the two of them too close for his comfort. “Shishou, just…er…just get over here and congratulate Tohru! She'll be leaving in a few minutes…”
“Oh, please, do me the honor and join us at my home for a family celebration, Sohma-san. Kyo-kun is welcome to come as well…Arisa and Tohru-kun will be there, too. What do you say?” asked Hana timidly with a faint blush to her cheeks.
“I would never wish to impose on your family, Hanajima-san…” protested Kazuma before she kindly intervened.
“It's no problem at all. We have plenty of food to go around since this will be a feast celebrating our graduation. I'm sure you'd love our dinner…please say that you will come,” she urged with just a slight tug to his sleeve.
“Ah well, let us speak with your family first, all right? I would love to meet them,” he slightly relented as he gently laid a hand on her shoulder.
“You go girl,” murmured Uo quietly while smirking at the still gaping Kyo. “The best way to get to a guy is through his stomach. Oldest trick in the book.”
“But…but…sh-she…she…” stammered Kyo in shock as he stood there ready to burst. And sure enough, he did. “THAT'S JUST NOT RIGHT! SHISHOU…
“Aw, get over it, Orangey. It ain't gonna kill ya to eat with us, right?” replied Uo irritably.
Yes, it is! I ain't goin' through another `family' dinner anytime soon.” It took sheer will power not to divulge his current problem because of the dinner he had to endure the night before.
“Really, Kyo? Wow, then Shii-chan is right!” giggled Momiji from behind. “Hehe, you really did have a problem this morning because of what you ate—“ (Glomp)
“Not one more word, usagi. Or I swear you won't live to see yourgraduation,” replied Kyo ominously while still holding Momiji in a tight embrace with his hand over the young teen's mouth. `Damn dog, wait `til I get my hands on your sorry neck!'
“Eh, Kyo-kun…Momiji-kun…” trailed off Tohru's reply from her place next to Kisa and Hiro.
“Baka usagi never knows when to keep his mouth shut,” pointed out Hiro nonchalantly. Noticing Kisa's sudden tension as she stood rigidly by Tohru, Hiro asked her gently, “Kisa, is there something the matter?”
At the same time, Hana snapped her head to attention, determined to locate the oppressing wavelengths filtering in the air around them. Finally seeing their origin, Hana took steps to block the individual's entrance when she felt a firm hand on her shoulder. Turning her head to look back, she asked the silent question as to why she was stopped.
“No, don't,” advised Kazuma quietly. Retracting his hand, he gazed steadily at the new pair making their entrance known. “You mustn't interfere.”
Bewildered, she remarked solemnly, “This individual is carrying such oppressive waves not normally found in a human being…”
“Hanajima, cool it,” whispered Uo, entranced at the view before her. As much as she wanted to run up to one of the individuals that had come, she felt completely clamped down in her spot. `Damn, why the hell do I feel like worms are crawling up my skin? And for some small fry like that person? And why the hell is Kureno with that person?'
Breaking the uneasy silence, Shigure stepped forward and bowed respectfully to Akito. “Why it's a pleasure to see you again, Akito-san. And you even brought along Kureno-kun. The wonders never cease, and here I thought Yuki-kun's spontaneous speech would be the highlight of my day.”
Oblivious to the tension in the air and to Shigure's animated remarks, Akito glanced all around at the faces of the Jyuunishi, noting that the one she sought was not amongst the group. Smirking at the various glares she received from some of them (Haru's, Rin's, Kyo's, and even Hiro's), she turned her attention to the least likely person anyone would have guessed.
“Ayame, you did pass along my message,” stated Akito with an authoritive air.
Smiling widely, Ayame stepped up to her from Hatori's side. Standing next to Shigure, he nodded happily to her. “But of course, my dear. He was extremely intrigued let me assure you. Didn't you think his speech was marvelous? I do believe he's being besieged by many because of it. Maybe one of us should escort the new celebrity back here…”
“Excellent idea,” she cut him off abruptly. “Kureno, take along Kagura and Ritsu, and bring him back here. We are after all celebrating a momentous occasion here.”
“Hai, Akito,” bowed in deference Kureno as he left with the other two Zodiacs in tow. He barely spared a glance to Uo as he left.
“They're actually doing her bidding like…like…some lackeys?” whispered Uo heatedly to Kyo's ear.
“Not everything you see is as it seems, Uotani-san,” solemnly replied Kazuma quietly from behind, never once breaking his gaze from Akito.
Before anyone else could say anything, Akito grinned widely at Tohru. “Tohru-san, my congratulations to you for your academic achievement on this day.”
Seeing their `god' speaking with Tohru made Kisa tremble with slight fear. Hiro stood by her watching Akito with unease, with Rin and Haru all but snarling at Akito's presence. Clearing his throat slightly, Hatori sent them all signals to not provoke the situation any further than it already was. It was a sheer miracle that Ayame kept himself composed thus far…
Swallowing inaudibly, Tohru nervously smiled and deeply bowed in deference, “Domo arigatou gozaimasu, Akito-san.”
“It is a momentous occasion, Akito-san,” interjected Shigure warmly. “Her friends have also graduated along with her, right, Tohru-kun?”
Just to see Shigure smile at her calmed her nerves a bit, stirring her into action. “Hai. Akito-san, please allow me to introduce you to my two best friends, Uotani Arisa and Hanajima Saki.” Smiling at her friends in reassurance, she continued, “Uo-chan, Hana-chan, this is Sohma Akito-san, the Head of the Sohma family. Akito-san has been so gracious as to allow me to live with Shigure-san and the others these past few years. Akito-san's family has been so kind to me, I can't ever repay them for all their generosity.”
`Smooth, Tohru-kun. Just what she needs to hear.' Shigure was pleased that Tohru was able to handle the precarious situation she found herself in without compromising it further. It didn't pass his notice how Tohru repeatedly mentioned Akito's name, giving her friends the impression that Akito was accountable for all that happens within the family and that this family belonged to Akito. Just what the `god' likes to hear.
At first, Uo and Hana were concerned about Tohru being under such scrutiny by this `Akito'. Yet, with Tohru's encouraging smiles and remarks, they felt it their duty to support her by showing proper respect to this family head. It was after all due to this individual that their dear friend was so well looked after.
“It's…uh…good to meet with you, Sohma-san,” stumbled in her words Uo, not used to showing this level of formality with anyone. Not being able to think of anything that could be considered proper, she turned to Hana and prodded, “Isn't that right, Hanajima?”
Sensing her friend's minor predicament, Hana steadily gazed into Akito's steel gaze. Still feeling oppressed by the waves Akito exuded, Hana replied softly, “It is certainly good to meet the Head of the Sohma family. We do thank you and your family for your generosity in taking good care of Tohru-kun.”
“Yes, Tohru-san has been well taken care of, hasn't she?” Smiling at her rhetorical question, Akito walked up to Tohru and gave a dismissive look to Kisa and Hiro, which they hesitantly obliged. “Now, I understand that you're moving out into an apartment with your friends here, right?”
`How does Akito-san know this? (Mentally slaps herself.) Well, Akito-san does know everything that happens in the family…' Forcing herself to breathe normally, Tohru continued to remain calm so that her voice wouldn't waiver. “Hai, Akito-san. Today as a matter of fact.”
“Yes, and you'll be working for Momiji's father, right?” pressed Akito on without letup. She inwardly smiled smugly at seeing her `prey' squirm in discomfort. “An assistant of sorts to one of his secretary's, correct?”
“Hai, Akito-san,” replied Tohru with a shaky smile. Her heart was hammering in her chest with Akito's continued hard gaze on her, and the `god's' infinite knowledge of her personal life was unnerving to say the least. “I start there next week.”
“Yes, you do. My family is so kind to you…they do make me proud…at times.” Akito then linked one arm with Tohru's in a companionable manner. Too shocked to do anything, Tohru followed along with no comment. Patting her arm amiably, Akito turned her `warm' gaze on her. “Now that I see so many from this family bestowing their good tidings on you, it's only proper that I do the same. You did make a great achievement by graduating high school.”
“Akito-san, you are indeed very kind,” agreed Shigure happily, “but Tohru-kun does need to be elsewhere.”
“And I'm not interfering with that, right Tohru-san?” Seeing that Tohru was still too stunned to say anything, Akito smiled again and reassured her, “Now don't worry…my gift to you will be the greatest of all. Advice. And you do take advice to heart, ne?”
“H-hai, Akito-san,” agreed Tohru with barely veiled anxiety. Turning to her two best friends, she replied calmly, “Ano, I'll only be a few more minutes. Then we can go find your family, Hana-chan.”
Knowing full well that Tohru was frantically panicking yet not making any move to leave Akito, Hana tried to reach out once more to her distressed friend. But once again, Tohru's pleading gaze to Uo and herself begged them to stay put. Not wanting to go against Tohru's wishes, they both nodded and stayed by Kazuma's side as they restlessly looked on from afar.
Tohru could feel their stares along with the other Sohmas on her back as she walked away a bit further with Akito. Her mind was in a tumult, uncertain as to what sort of `advice' Akito was going to give her. Just basing herself on past experiences with Akito, she knew well enough that whatever was said will leave an impression on her mind for many years to come.
Kyo was bristling with anger and rage, yet he still remained where he was. He couldn't understand it, but he stayed put when Akito led Tohru away. He looked to the others and saw the hopeless stares from them as well. The only ones that didn't seem unfazed by this turn of events were Shigure and Ayame.
Angry at this, he marched up to the inu and bit out lowly (so as not to attract Uo's or Hana's attention), “What the hell is so funny, dog?! You know that this isn't good at all!”
“Kyon-kichi, really, ever the dramatist,” replied Ayame flippantly. “You shouldn't worry over matters you can't change. Besides, Akito is not looking to do anything else today. Akito will give Tohru-kun that piece of advice and then we'll be off. Happy now?”
“NANI?!” cried out Kyo in confusion.
“Mou, Aya, you never said anything about this! Do share…hmmm?” pleaded Shigure with the `puppy-eye' look.
Ayame put up a hand to stem Shigure's further pleas. “Gomen ne, Gure-san. This is top secret. The Great Wall of China will cave before I do.”
“Say it isn't so! My best friend is keeping things from me…what a cruel, sadistic world!” cried Shigure onto Ayame's shoulder.
“You should know,” remarked Hatori dryly while keeping his gaze on the retreating pair as well.
“Tori-san, shameful!” admonished Ayame while patting his distraught friend's back. “Gure-san, this is completely out of my hands. I swore not to say a peep of this to anyone…please forgive me, my one and only!”
“Only for you, Aya!” replied Shigure as looked into Ayame's eyes with devotion.
`Even at a time like this, they're at it.' Massaging his temples with one hand while holding a cigarette in the other, Hatori glanced to Kyo who hadn't moved an inch, although the tension in the youth's muscles practically yelled that this Zodiac Cat was about to `pounce' at any given moment.
“Kyo, it'll be okay. Just remain calm, and it'll be over before you know it,” advised Hatori coolly. Noting that Kyo was currently oblivious to anyone's remarks, Hatori returned his gaze to the two females that walked a little further away before they stopped. `I can only hope that everything will be all right…'
`Man, what I'd give to be in a soft, warm bed…completely quiet. No baka neko, no perverted inu, no loud Nii-san…no comforting humming from Tohru-san. God, I'm pathetic.' Heaving a heavy sigh, Yuki leaned against the tree further, trying very hard to stay out of sight of those that were looking for him.
He was amazed at the number of people that were already waiting in line to shake his hand. Where the line came from no one knows (maybe Kakeru knew…hm), but there were plenty that wanted to congratulate him on the speech he had just given. He didn't recognize most of them, but he did know that they were mostly Sohma. He was a bit overwhelmed with all of the attention and was quite afraid that he'd bump into someone what with the crowding conditions, but Momiji's parents saved him at the last minute. Momiji's father just gave him a knowing glance, conveying that he understood Yuki's personal dilemma with crowds.
Grateful for their aid, Yuki spoke with them for a bit until other parents of the Jyuunishi came by and gave their well wishes to him as well. After a short while, he felt that he needed to leave. Thankfully Momiji's dad had lured them to the far corners of the crowd so that Yuki could make his way back to his family unscathed. Of course, along the way Yuki had to often shake the hands of other parents and even teachers that were happy with his speech. Feeling the gaze of his `stalkers', he hurried along and didn't stop until Sohma Yamagi and his wife Keiko (the ones in charge of the Sohma's Zodiac Gardens) interrupted his escape and bade him good wishes on whatever endeavors he planned to take on.
Finally freeing himself from the crowds, he found a rather secluded spot under a tree and sought refuge here. He felt his crazed fans run by, and so he quietly relaxed under the tree. He now only felt vague sensations of his nausea, so he figured the small rest he took before arriving at the ceremony had done the trick. He hadn't meant to be late, but he really did need the break.
`Hm, a break. To think I have finally graduated with the highest honors…and I'm not even going to college. Well, at least not anytime soon, if at all. (Sigh) I wonder if my parents would care at all?' Narrowing his gaze to nothing in particular, Yuki bitterly pondered on that thought. He noted that even though many Sohma had come to his graduation, the two people that should have been there were nowhere in sight.
`It's not like I care. I don't. It was pretty much a guarantee that neither would show up, especially with my little news to them. Still…no, I don't care.' Kicking a rock absently, he crossed his arms on his chest, now glaring at the space in front of him. He was resolved in trying to avoid thinking about the matter any further. He was nothing more to his parents than a blank check, so they mean nothing to him, period.
`Damn…then why does it still hurt? Why?' Exasperated at his thoughts, or lack of an answer, he closed his eyes and counted backwards until his nausea scaled back again. Feeling it ebb away, he let out a heavy sigh and gazed high above him at the swaying leaves on the breeze that allowed for the sky to peek through every so often. `If only I can just make all the hurt float away with the breeze…it'd be so much easier handling everything if that was possible…'
“Sohma Yuki?”
Startled from his downtrodden thoughts, Yuki looked around to see who had spoken. What he found was a child around Kisa's age, but eerily looked like someone he knew.
“Uh, I'm sorry…you wouldn't happen to be related to Hanajima-san, ne?” asked Yuki uncertainly.
“She is my Nee-san,” confirmed the child.
“Really? Well, you certainly do look alike,” smiled Yuki politely. “What is your name?”
Staring off into space, the young youth replied, “Megumi. However, I look nothing like my Nee-san, Saki…nothing.”
`Okay…if he says so.' Smiling softly, Yuki asked courteously, “Are you looking for your sister? I'm sure she's with Tohru-san…but I'm sorry to say that I'm not sure where they are either.”
As Yuki spoke, Megumi could only stare calmly at the graduate. His eyes then suddenly turned round with awe as he stared further at the young man. Not fully aware of what he was doing, Megumi reached out and gently laid a hand on Yuki's cheek. Stunned into silence, Yuki looked at Megumi with confusion spread across his face. Before Yuki could manage to form a coherent sentence, Megumi spoke up.
“You are very different from your family. If this is what Saki sees in people, then yours must really be immense if I could tell. I can't tell much, but…it's there.” Megumi never once broke his eye contact with Yuki, which made the nezumi highly uncomfortable.
Looking away, Yuki nervously replied, “Um, I'm not sure I understand what you mean, Megumi-san. You must be mista—“
“Why?” softly asked the young teen unexpectedly.
Staring back at Megumi with puzzlement, Yuki asked, “I'm sorry, I don't under—“
Megumi abruptly cut him off as he laid another hand on the graduate's other cheek, practically cupping Yuki's face in his smaller hands. It was all Yuki could do to not blush at the peculiar situation he was in. He came to attention once Megumi spoke up again.
“Why? I may not know as much as Saki about these things, but…” Shaking his head at his forthcoming comments, Megumi retracted his hands and replied, “I should not speak when it's not my place to. I'm sorry if I have offended you.”
As perplexed as Yuki was, he couldn't help but feel a little guilty for practically gaping at the youth. It was rather rude, and even though he didn't understand this whole `wave' thing that apparently this family believed in, he still respected them enough to allow them to share their thoughts with him.
“No, I should be the one who's sorry. I'm not offended,” Yuki assured Megumi with a gentle smile. Thinking better of it, he crouched down onto the back of his heels and slightly looked up to the serene youth. “Please, continue…you were asking me why…?”
It surprised the young youth to see this graduate be so kind to a stranger like him. Sure, Sohma Yuki knew his sister, but that didn't mean that he had to pay him any mind. Moved by his selfless kindness, Megumi spoke lowly, “I was just asking why you seemed so sad. Your…I'm not sure what's it called, really…but still…it's just a question. You don't have to answer if you don't want to.”
Understanding now what Megumi meant, Yuki paused momentarily before finally replying. True, he didn't have to answer the question, and the young youth is obviously not expecting an answer. However…
“Well, that is certainly a good question.” Looking down at his hands, Yuki absently fingered a strand of his hair from his face. Thinking back on all that had happened to him in just one week plus what happened this morning…it's small wonder that he hadn't collapsed from exhaustion by now.
Sighing heavily, he carelessly played with his hands, not looking up as yet to the youth in front of him. Coming to a fair response, he quietly remarked, “I'd have to say that it's been a long road up `til now. What I carry with me isn't making it any easier…basically, I guess my answer is pretty simple if you think about it.” Looking to meet Megumi's gaze, he replied, “I'm just tired. (Weakly smiles with a sigh.) Pretty silly, ne?”
Megumi was taken slightly aback at Yuki's honest response and abrupt surge in the air around them. He really didn't anticipate an answer, although he truly wanted to know the answer. He couldn't really understand why he wanted to know—it just seemed important for him to know.
Giving it some thought, Megumi could only think to reply honestly. “If someone who cares so much carries such sorrow, then his reasons cannot be silly.”
It was now Yuki's turn to be taken aback at the response. Looking back to Megumi, he couldn't help but gently smile at the solemn gaze Megumi was giving him. As strange as this whole conversation was, and with Hana's brother of all people, he couldn't help but feel slightly gratified that the pain he had been feeling since early that morning ebbed away just a bit more, if only to make it more bearable for him to carry.
“Hm…I suppose that's true,” quietly remarked Yuki as he smiled a little more widely. A sudden snap of twigs off to his side got Yuki quickly to his feet to see who it could be.
“Yun-chan! We were searching all over for you. Kureno-san had to finally resort to using his little frie—“ Halting in her comments upon seeing Yuki with a visitor, Kagura sheepishly smiled. “Uh, yes he used his good friend, instinct. Yep, so here we are! Megumi-san, a pleasure to see you again!”
Kureno stilled in his steps as well as Ritsu. Bowing slightly in apology, Kureno said, “Gomen nasai. I had not meant to disrupt your conversation, Yuki. We'll wait to the side over here if you wish.”
Yuki waved off any further remarks. “No, not all. We were actually a little lost ourselves. We don't know where everyone is. Oh, by the way, this is Hanajima Megumi, Hanajima-san's younger brother.”
“Pleased to meet you, Megumi-san. Your sister was with our family when I left them behind to search for Yuki—I'll take you to them,” replied Kureno as he moved them all forward. He was curious to know what had the two boys been speaking of since he noticed the heaviness in the air. Nothing ominous, just…heavy. It also occurred to him that Yuki was rather pale in his pallor…maybe the nezumi was suffering a relapse of his cold? For sure he'll be asking later on…to worry is what he does best after all. And worry he did…
“Akito's back there with the others.” Trying to assuage Yuki's sudden apprehension, Kureno hurriedly added, “I'm certain all is well.”
Up to this point, Kagura and Ritsu had been following them, privately having their own discussion until they heard Akito's name. Now upon hearing it, Kagura turned to Yuki and replied, “Everything was okay when we left, Yun-chan. It should still be fine.”
Although he felt the palpable apprehension in the air, Megumi remained silent as he followed quietly along. He wondered who this Akito person was…must be someone of great importance to them. Still, if his sister is there, he could probably ask her some questions that were starting to trouble him.
Yuki was lost in his musings, tensing his shoulders at the upcoming confrontation. `Fine? Akito in Kyo's presence for too long is never a good thing…and with Tohru-san there… I just hope she doesn't make a scene…'
Resolved. That's how she saw herself as. Resolute. Undeterred. Firm.
Well, at least she tried to appear that way, not that she was fooling her companion as they walked a ways from the family. Tohru swore that her heart was pounding a mile a minute, leaving little doubt that Akito would have heard it. Akito does seem to know everything
`Should I say something now? Would that be offensive? What will Akito-san say? (Gasp) What will Akito-san DO? Maybe there's a change of plans…maybe Kyo-kun will be taken away after all! Maybe it was decided that my memories should be suppressed since I'm leaving Shigure-san's home! Maybe—` Sudden giggling coming from her side startled her from her turbulent thoughts. What she saw when she turned to the source only brought shivers down her spine. `Is Akito-san…laughing?'
Removing her arm from Tohru's, Akito started to laugh just a bit louder, walking on without a backward glance to Tohru. She turned to Tohru, and when she saw the graduate's apprehensive gaze, she laughed harder.
“You…hehehe…look…hehe…so ridiculous…just standing there like some idiot! (Giggles louder) And here I thought you couldn't look any more stupid.” Laughing to herself some more, Akito looked past Tohru's shoulder to stare into the distance at the glowering gazes from some of the Jyuunishi members. Once again, the only unfazed countenances she saw were that of Shigure, who had his trademark grin in place, and Ayame, who smiled widely and even waved at her.
Tohru stood silently in her place, looking down to the ground in hopes that her previous fears do not come true on this day that meant so much to her.
Akito breathed in a sigh of contentment and dryly remarked to no one in particular, “Hehe, how I've missed this! I hardly ever get this kind of entertainment anymore.” `I've been confined for too long—damn this troublesome body of mine.' Pausing as she reflected on that errant thought, she turned her piercing gaze to the girl before her. Smiling wickedly, she approached the trembling Tohru and tapped once with one finger onto Tohru's lowered head. “Come now, I've not done a thing but breathe and walk. Is that so terrible?”
Feeling the tap on her head and then hearing Akito's terse remark, Tohru immediately lifted her head to face Akito squarely, remembering Kagura's advice to not push the clan head too far. As much as she wanted to assuage her fears and just plainly ask if any of them were substantiated, she couldn't. To say anything that might put Akito into a foul mood would only bring problems onto the Jyuunishi, so her mind whizzed with ideas of what to say that would keep Akito in a good mood.
`What to say?! Kagura-san said to not interfere with what's going on…Akito-san wasn't going to stick around for long. Akito-san was spending time with Yuki-kun today…' Suddenly coming to a neutral but effective response, she spoke. “N-no, Akito-san. I am very happy that you were able to attend today to see Yuki-kun graduate. You must be…so proud.”
The effect of her carefully chosen comments was immediate. Tohru saw Akito's deepening frown disappear, leaving a wide smile in place. Inwardly heaving a big sigh, Tohru stood a little taller as she awaited the clan head's quick reply.
Glancing around to see if the elusive teen had shown up yet, Akito replied coolly, “Ah yes, seeing my dear Yuki graduate with the highest accolades does make me very pleased. He should have no problem pursuing a higher education should he ever decide to go in the future.”
Puzzled with the remark, Tohru tentatively asked, “Ano, I…I don't understand. I had understood that he was going to a university this year. He…he took all his entrance exams…”
“Hehehe, you certainly don't know much. Not that it shocks me.” Laughing lightly, Akito narrowed her gaze and grinned impishly. “Perhaps you're not all that close to Yuki as you thought you were. But then again, were you ever really?”
Shocked at the statement, Tohru stumbled in her thoughts to think clearly. It was only recently that doubt was cast on how well she actually knew Yuki. It seems that this new development only supported the idea that she didn't know what went on in Yuki's life. `Why? Why would he not tell me? Was he afraid to tell me? Maybe he doesn't trust me after all… I just…don't understand…'
“You poor fool. Ah well, at least it's best to know the truth now rather than later.” Happy to see Tohru's saddened expression, Akito pressed on, intent on making her point clear, thus getting the girl to accept her `advice'. This time though, her methods will be more…subtle. “Now don't take this so hard. From the way you're carrying yourself, I'd say that you were blaming Yuki…”
“Iie!” Tohru held back her tone, reminding herself that she wasn't supposed to upset Akito. She quietly continued, “I was…I just don't understand him. But I do trust him…”
“Of course you do. Yuki is very special…one can only trust him implicitly when they meet him. Everyone does…many even feel that they are `special' to him because they feel so at ease in his presence. He has such a gift.” Turning her back on Tohru, Akito gleefully smiled at how well her plan was flowing along. Since she couldn't very well eliminate the girl from the picture without incurring Yuki's resentment (putting her tenuous relationship with him at risk, which was not acceptable), she thought how best to approach this situation.
Patience. That's what it took for her to get this far. It had taken her months upon months of quiet solitude to come up with this idea. It's true what is said of using one's strength as their weakness. If she had only thought of it sooner, Yuki wouldn't have grown so attached to the wretched girl. `No matter. After today, she'll start seeing things very differently. That I swear…'
“Yes, he is…very special. How can anyone not feel drawn to him?” Tohru mentally recalled all the times she stood in Yuki's presence. It was very true what Akito said…everyone he comes in contact with, including herself, can't help but feel the need to be near him. To reach out to the young man, if only to catch a glimpse of his eyes…if only to be bathed in his attention for a mere moment. And it wasn't with just the opposite sex. Guys flocked to his side whenever he required aid of any sort. Whereas Kyo-kun created attention wherever he went, Yuki didn't have to do anything at all…just allowed his presence to fill a room and everyone was practically putty in his hands. `It's strange how Hana-chan and Uo-chan don't behave that way with him.'
“See? Trusting him is not the hard part…yet, like you said, understanding him is a challenge.” Turning herself back around, Akito innocently gazed into Tohru's solemn orbs. “You have to be truly close to Yuki in order to understand his way of thinking. For me, it's become second nature to know all that he is…both good and bad. What haunts him…what saddens him…what scares him.”
Seeing Tohru's undivided attention and dawning comprehension, Akito serenely smiled. “You must realize how he gives so much of himself to those around him without anything in return for his troubles. Yet, there is so much to Yuki than what one sees. I've been a witness to it all through all the years I've known him. Then again…we are bound to each other above all the other Jyuunishi. That's important for him to have with him, right, someone that can understand all that he is…? Don't you agree that he deserves that peace of mind that he has someone close to him that understands him?”
Wringing her clasped hands together, Tohru's thoughts were all a mess. What Akito had spoken was only the truth…and it hurt to hear it. Tohru understood how hard it was for Yuki to explain himself to anyone. And even though he shared a bit of himself with others and herself, it still wasn't the complete picture. He purposely kept everyone at bay, for reasons he alone kept to himself. It was very true what Rin had said earlier…Kyo was more forthcoming in his thoughts and concerns compared to Yuki.
`Still, that's not enough reason to give up on Yuki-kun. He doesn't have to tell me everything if he doesn't feel comfortable. As long as someone is there for him when he is ready to talk…that's what matters the most. Even if that someone is not me…' Just as she was about to voice her distressing thoughts, Tohru was surprised to feel a firm hand on her shoulder. Glancing back, she looked up to see the hard look of one pair of red-orange eyes. And they were aimed right at Akito.
“Time's up. We need to leave…now.” Kyo just couldn't hold himself back anymore. Tohru's expressions of apprehension and sadness were too much for him to take. Bolting into action before the others tried to stop him, he walked quickly to where Akito was talking to Tohru. He didn't know nor cared what Akito wanted to share with Tohru. Well, actually he was curious to know what `god' had said to his cherished friend, but right now he was taking Tohru away from the sadist. So here he stood, determined to take on the wrath of his `god'.
Infuriated. Yes, Akito admitted that much to herself. She was so close to achieving her goal when he interrupted them. Seething inwardly, she clenched her fists together fiercely, her teeth grating at who was before her. She coldly gazed into his fiery gaze and spat out through clenched teeth, “You dare to interrupt my conversation so rudely, bake-mono? I should have realized where the sudden stench came from. The level of filth you exude from your presence alone is enough to taint the very air I breathe.”
Frozen in her place, Tohru's warm skin grew cold and pale to see the rising altercation between the Neko of the Jyuunishi and his `God'. Jerkily, she placed her hands on Kyo's arm that stood tense at his side, waiting to lash out against his opponent. She just couldn't allow for this to continue…it will only bring down Akito's wrath on all present. And Kagura had counted on her to not let that happen.
“Ano, Kyo-kun…it's okay, really,” she nervously replied while keeping her gaze on Akito. “We were just talking—“
“Don't, Tohru. Let's just get out of here.” Grabbing her wrist, he was about to turn away when Akito spoke out coldly.
“Do not ever think you can dismiss me so easily, neko. You are nothing in this family…keep that in mind each time you awaken that repulsive body of yours each morning, wondering if this is the day when your time is up.” Satisfied to see that within his fiery orbs was the hint of terror, she turned to face Tohru with great disdain. “And you, remember this well…I am who I am and will not allow what I treasure to be taken away from me. One day you will learn that truth and when it does happen, you will let go and stand aside. You can never be something that you're not, and YOU'RE NOT ME!
Whipping her head to the new intruder over Kyo's shoulder, she glared momentarily before realizing who it was that had called out to her. “Kureno…”
“Akito, we are ready when you are,” quietly replied the bird, bowing deeply to his `god'. He carefully surveyed their faces, knowing full well what had set off Akito. It was a good thing that most of the Jyuunishi were there with Kazuma and Tohru's friends…Yuki had paused in his stride to talk with them long enough for him to reach Akito first. Seeing how upset she was when he got there, he immediately made his presence known in hopes that she wouldn't lash out any further, or any louder for that matter.
The change in her demeanor was immediate. The once oppressive air around them vanished instantly as Akito smiled happily once again. As if nothing was amiss, Akito turned away from the two people she was arguing with, all focus now turned to one individual.
Yes, Kyo was terrified…for a moment. Then he was utterly livid, even more when Akito walked off and left them there without a care. `What the HELL?! That freak can't just brush us off…' Intent on following the clan head to finish their `conversation', he let go of Tohru and was about to take off after Akito when he felt Kureno restrain him by the shoulder. Glaring at the servant of his worst enemy, he bit out, “Get your damn hands off me.”
Indifferent to Kyo's demands, Kureno glanced quickly to Tohru's anxious face. `I'm so sorry about all this, Honda-san,' he mentally conveyed to her through his gaze. He then leaned in closer to Kyo and spoke lowly so that only the enraged teen would hear. “Kyo-san, don't give Akito reason to revoke your agreement. To Akito, the liberty of the cat is a privilege, not a right.”
Kyo stilled upon hearing Kureno's warnings. They rang loud and clear through his enraged mind, finally making him see reason and how foolhardy it would be to pursue Akito any further, especially in such a public setting. Shoving Kureno's hand to the side, he looked away and breathed in deeply to cool down his heated thoughts that were still running amok.
Kureno gave an inaudible sigh upon seeing Kyo back down. Turning to Tohru, he softly smiled and bowed, “I apologize for not coming sooner. Please accept my apologies and my congratulations, to you and your friends. If you'll excuse me now…”
“Uh, yes, of course, thank you! I'll pass on your regards to my friends,” quickly replied Tohru as Kureno left the two alone to follow Akito. She knew Kureno wouldn't openly thank her friends, especially with Akito there, so she was determined to make Uo believe that he was very proud of her. Sighing tiredly, she looked over to Kyo and softly asked, “Kyo-kun…are you okay?”
Running his hands through his hair, still wound up from his latest bout with Akito, Kyo heaved a heavy sigh. “Yeah, sure. It's nothing new what Akito spews out of that trap. So, what about you…you okay? Akito looked way too happy when it was just the two of you over here.”
“Ano…” she trailed in her response while looking past Kyo's shoulder to see Yuki speaking to his family and her friends, then to turn to the approaching clan head. She knew well that Kyo would only get upset again if he found out the primary reason to Akito's chat with her and the last heated remarks spoken to her were due to his rival.
Not wanting to provoke the matter anymore, Tohru calmly replied, “Akito-san is very resolute when it comes to the family… Akito-san only reminded me of this fact…nothing more.”
Unconvinced, Kyo pressed, “Resolute, huh? More like obsessed with the whole `god' complex. What did the freak mean with `what I treasure'—what the hell was that all about? Going beserk over that and then yelling at you…Akito wouldn't get so worked up if it were just the family. If I didn't know any better, the wack job was practically desperate. The only times I ever see that happen is when Yu—“
Coming to a sudden realization as to what the whole discussion with Akito was about, Kyo stared wide-eyed at Tohru. He then whirled around to confirm his suspicions, and sure enough, there it was. Seething inwardly, he bitterly thought, `That bastard!. This whole mess was because of HIM?! Just to see those two sons of…ARGH!!!!!!!'
Tohru sensed Kyo's great displeasure upon learning what drove Akito to come to her. `Is he upset with Akito-san being angry with me? Or is he upset to know that it was Yuki-kun that we were talking about? Or…perhaps he's angry to be reminded that `god' treasures the Nezumi of the Jyuunishi above all else?' Afraid that he'd go after them, she grasped his arm and worriedly replied, “Kyo-kun, please…I …I don't wish to see any of you to get in trouble.”
Shutting his eyes for a moment, Kyo took a deep breath and held it. `Hell…she's right. If I do anything now, I won't be the only one to get in trouble.' Breathing out slowly, he took Tohru by the wrist and led her back to the group. “Come on…me and Shishou are supposedly invited to go eat with you guys tonight.”
Relieved to see the tension finally leave them, Tohru smiled and followed along, thankful to see that all in all nothing truly terrible befell them today. There was only this confrontation with Akito, but even then, looking back on it, Akito could have said and done much worse. She had to have more confidence in her Jyuunishi friends…Akito really didn't want to spend any more time than necessary with any of them. The clan head's main focus was currently on just one individual…
`Yuki-kun…I hope everything is all right with you and Akito-san…'
“Let him go, Haa-san. This should prove interesting,” remarked Shigure gleefully when Kyo took off to get to Akito and Tohru. Seeing that Kazuma had come to them and was about to follow his wild son, Shigure calmly reached out to him. “Kazuma-dono, let's not make this into a real mess. It'll be fine.”
Kazuma was panicking for certain…it was never anything less when Kyo was with Akito. Knowing that Shigure was right and that his presence would only push matters for the worst, Kazuma stayed with the elder Jyuunishi, resolved to intervene if he saw the clan head get out of hand.
“Yes, of course,” replied calmly Kazuma.
“Mou, I wish I could hear them, though,” pouted Shigure. With a gleam to his eye, he remarked, “Let's see if I can get closer…”
“Not a chance, Shigure,” blurted out Hatori while grabbing the scheming writer by the collar of his yukata.
“Tsk, tsk, Gure-san. Now you're calling down upon you Tori-san's wrath!” merrily replied Ayame with a grin.
“Ayame,” sighed heavily Hatori, “go find Kureno and the others—they should have found your brother by now.”
“Toute de suite, mon ami!” Ayame went over to the younger Jyuunishi and held out his hand to the young lady. “Kisa-chan, Hiro-kun—come now with your stunning Ojii-chan to retrieve our cherished member!”
“Ojii-chan?!” questioned Hiro skeptically.
“Demo…Onee-chan…” murmured sadly Kisa as she stared at the confrontation between her `god' and Tohru.
Taking her chin into his hand, Ayame leaned down and smiled gently. “Now, don't fret, my little tiger. It'll be fine. Do you not trust me?”
Blinking back tears, Kisa smiled uncertainly. “Ha-hai.”
“That's right, Kisa!” assured Momiji as well. Looking to Ayame gratefully for trying to calm her, Momiji asked, “Can I come, too? I'm fast and can find the others really quick!”
“Excellent! Let's all be off then!” Taking her, then grabbing Hiro's wrist abruptly, he followed the jubilant usagi with a spring to his step (half-dragging the still arguing lamb).
“Damn, he can haul ass with the best of `em,” commented Uo to no one in particular. “Yo, Hanajima, should we still stay put? Can't let Orangey have all the fun of crashing in on a private conversation…”
Hana looked on uneasily at the situation before them all. She was anxious to see Tohru in the middle of such massive chaotic waves coming from the clan head and then Kyo. Still… “Tohru-kun had wished for us to remain here. She rarely asks anything of us, Arisa, so let's do this one thing for her. Besides, Sohma Kyo seems to have everything under control.”
“How can you tell…his back is to us, and now I can't see a damn thing with him blocking the view of the other two.” Huffing in irritation, Uo called out to Haru, “Oi, ain't you gonna go over to them, too?”
Rin turned her gaze from Akito and the others to stare at Haru. He was rather silent throughout all this drama. She gently nudged his arm. “So, what are you thinking?”
Haru's impassive gaze never wavered. “Nothing really…just wondering how stupid Kyo will get. And wondering when is Yuki coming…I still have a bit of film left that I want to use on him.”
Uo and Rin could only stare disbelieving at the quiet guy…both thinking how he could be thinking of something like that at a time like this. Before either could respond to that, another family member came bounding up to them all.
“WE'RE HERE!!!!!” bellowed Momiji joyously while draped over the hunched form of the one they were looking for.
“That's perfect, Momiji,” replied Haru serenely as he readied his digicam and fixated it on the two. “Yuki, try looking up to the camera…say something to the audience.”
“COOL!!! Come on Yuki, let's wave!!!” cried out merrily the usagi while holding onto Yuki's neck by one arm while the other waved frantically to the digicam.
Happy to see the comedic moments lessen the tension in the air, Kagura chimed in. “Let's all wave at the camera…come on, Ri-chan! Yun-chan, that's not a wave.”
“Oi, Prince, have a problem with the load on your back?” replied Uo sarcastically while inclining her head to see the older youth struggling to even breathe and waving frantically to get the load off his back.
“Clever child,” murmured Shigure lowly.
Hatori heard him and watched the peculiar scene unfold. Seeing Kureno practically dash off to retrieve Akito, he had to admit that Shigure was right. “Momiji is certainly doing a good job of distracting everyone while Kureno—“ Interrupted when he heard indistinct yelling from Akito, he continued, “—puts down another fire.”
“Haa-san, you can be so expressive! `Fire'…I like that! It suits our dear Akito-san very well,” replied Shigure gleefully. Stopping in his merriment, Shigure asked aloud, “Ne, where did Aya go off to? He was with you, wasn't he Momi-chii?”
“Eh?!” asked the usagi bewildered, too caught up in his moment of fame in front of a camera. Allowing the words to sink in, Momiji smiled widely. Looking down on his `captive', he replied, “Well, he kind of surprised Yuki when we found him…hehehe…so….hehe…”
“BAKA USAGI!!! Get the hell off of him—he's not a pack mule!” cried out Hiro irately while leading an injured Ayame by the wrist with Kisa alongside him looking worriedly at her ojii-san.
“Mou, he hasn't said anything,” pouted Momiji as he slid off Yuki's back and patted him gently.
“Well, that may be because he couldn't breathe, Momi-chii,” whispered Shigure lowly with a slight snicker.
“Are you all right, Yuki-san?” asked Ritsu anxiously while helping the youth steady himself from being crouched for so long.
Had Yuki been coherent, this would all have seemed rather ridiculous and strange. Of course, that is actually rather normal considering who his family is, but still, he would have found it very amusing. But as was the case, he was definitely too tuckered out to care.
He had been calmly walking while quietly conversing with Kagura and Ritsu, both very happy about his speech and how much it meant to them to hear it. Too tired to notice the fast approach of one slithering snake, he was caught off guard when he heard his name called out and thus resulted in an injured snake.
“My eye…it's going to fall off! I've been abused by my Otouto-kun!” cried out Ayame as he wept `rivers of tears' on Hatori's shoulder.
“Ayame, you barely have a red mark showing on your eyebrow,” informed the doctor blandly.
`I'll say…I barely managed to avoid hitting him squarely in the face. Still…' Sighing in fatigue, Yuki remarked for the thirteenth time, “Nii-san, I said I was sorry. Why do you always catch me by surprise anyway?”
“Because it's fun!” reasoned Ayame as if explaining the very obvious, no sign of distress on his brightly lit smile.
“You won't think it's a lot of fun if he does manage to really hurt you by accident, Ayame. Be more careful next time,” advised Hatori wisely while eyeing Yuki strangely. `I know it's sunny today, but Yuki shouldn't look that pale…'
“Your first injury in the war of brotherly love, Aya! You must treasure this battle scar!” implored the imaginative writer as he grasped the `victim' by the shoulders.
“I will, I will! If I am to be permanently marred, let it be by my little brother's hand!” cried out Ayame as he shook a fist in the air, determined to have more `battle scars' proving that his love for his brother knew no limits. It was, of course, by sheer coincidence that he was posing in his battle stance in front of Haru's digicam.
“This is good…turn over just like so,” advised Haru while getting a good view of both brothers.
“Is this better?” asked Ayame with a 500-watt smile as he casually flipped his hair back from his face.
“Perfect,” murmured Haru. “Now Yuki, come over this way just a bit…”
Gaping at his two relatives, Yuki replied in exasperation with arms rigid on his sides, “Nii-san! There is no `war' and there is no `battle scar' on your face! It's not even permanent!”
“Yuki…you're not moving like I told you. Now, come over this way,” prodded Haru patiently.
`I can't believe either of them! God…I'm getting another migraine. And just when I thought it couldn't get any worse what with Aki—` Suddenly realizing the main reason he was here, Yuki looked all around to see that the clan head was definitely not in the immediate area, although he felt her to be close by. `Baka! I got so distracted when Momiji jumped me from behind when we got closer to here. Where did Kureno run off to?'
Frustrated that something dire could be happening and he obliviously chatting away with his family, Yuki turned to the one person that may know what's going on besides the two bumbling friends that were too caught up in their plans to end the `brotherly war'.
“Hatori, where's Akito?” asked the youth with slight apprehension.
Turning his attention away from his best friends, Hatori directed his gaze to Yuki and pondered momentarily on how best to tell him what's going on. Just as he was about to explain, something else caught his eye…the critical eye that belonged to his doctoring instincts.
“Yuki, your breathing is rather shallow,” spoke the doctor lowly to his regular patient. Discreetly examining him (he honestly didn't want Ayame as his audience at the moment), Hatori made mental notes of all that was not right…pale pallor, irregular breathing, pain barely hidden. Not that any of these symptoms could denote anything serious, but still, he was Yuki's primary physician. On a normal person, this would not pose any real problem…but to Yuki, it could only mean one thing…
`I should have made him take more time off regardless of his responsibilities. I knew he was under too much stress…now it may have come to pass.' He quietly replied for the youth's ears only, “Yuki, did you…'get sick'…before you gave your speech?”
Yuki could only stare speechless at Hatori, hearing the question still reverberate through his head. At first he felt a little peeved that Hatori didn't answer the more pressing question he believed that needed immediate answering. But then he thought back to earlier and recalled how unnatural it was for him to have gotten as sick as he had. Then there was that `mess' he threw up…
Feeling the anxiety of that moment come back to him, he rubbed his arms absently to soothe the nerves that were still raw. Looking to Hatori, his earlier suspicion was confirmed. `So…he does know what is happening to me? But why hadn't he told me? What's wrong with me?'
As if reading the turmoil going through Yuki's thoughts, Hatori softened his gaze and gently laid a hand on the teen's head. `No longer a child, but yet, he'll always be a small child to me,' he thought bemusedly. “It'll be all right. For now, do not worry. We can discuss this better tomorrow. Come by early. And if you don't mind…could you keep this to yourself? Word always gets back to Akito, and I'd rather be the one to do it.”
Childish as it may be, Yuki did always find small comfort when Hatori patted his head whenever he was upset. And as before, he felt his uncertainties fade just a bit more. He believed that he could wait until tomorrow to find out everything. `Yes, tomorrow would be best,' he mentally agreed with a small nod of his head when he suddenly felt her presence.
Author's AM Grumbles (08-23-05):
Welcome all to my rambling thoughts at 1AM. If my thoughts seem really out of it, now you know why.
Ahem, moving along, how do you like this next-to-the-last chapter for the spring segment? Pretty awesome, totally spectacular, mouth-watering delicious? Or maybe you fell asleep reading it? Any and all comments are always welcome to feed the fuel that keeps me running!
What to say…well, I can safely say that having all the Jyuunishi together in one place is disconcerting to the mind. In other words, I fried my brain with getting this portion to flow smoothly, especially with Akito's presence. Now I see why Takaya-sensei doesn't do this scenario very often. Ah well, hopefully this still flowed well with the overall story. You be the judge…
I'm not certain as to how well acquainted Tohru's friends and the Zodiacs are with each other, but I went out on a limb and threw them together the best way I could. If I'm wrong, oh well, critique me as you please. I do hope that I did the Kazuma/Hana moment justice! If you're ahead with the Japanese manga, then you know what I'm referring to. It is very strange and hilarious to see these two mingle, much to Kyo's horror! Viva la amore (at least on Hana's side)!
Now, I know many will have a big `huh?' when you read the portion with Yuki and Megumi. That was a little hard for me to introduce, but I had this portion well thought out for many moons now (along with the grad speech). It's like with Tohru…how she catches certain things that aren't `normal'. The `why' with that along with Megumi `seeing' something on Yuki is actually one and the same and is very important with the main storyline. Confused yet? Let's just say that it's best to keep these moments in the back of your mind for later recollection because these are actual hints to what's going on overall with the story. Okay, no more cookies for you!
Ah yes, Akito and Tohru…the long-awaited moment. I bet many were wondering about this, or maybe not. It was a bit tough to put together, and with Kyo here, it was really hard. But now you get a glimpse to see what is going on in Akito's mind. What she says to Tohru is again really important to the overall storyline. And Tohru is right…she will not forget what was said. It will come back to haunt her… NOW NO MORE COOKIES!!!
Okay, H'kat, get it together. Yes people, only one more chapter after this release, and I'm history…for a while. At least, with this fic. There are many hints and loose threads left along the way that will be answered in chapters to come, especially in the summer segment and then in the autumn segment. Man, it seems like such a long road ahead, and it is.
That's why I need to hear from my support group, my readers…all of you. I've heard from my devoted reviewers and a few new ones, but please, to those that haven't sent in your reply, bless me with your thoughts on continuing this fic. I really do grow on your thoughts and opinions. You may not realize it, but sometimes your reviews give me ideas on how to fill the chapters between the key moments. One spoke of more Mii-chan and Shigure moments, and I do plan on getting more of that in the story. It's my story, but you can also have a part in it as well by just sending me your thoughts, by review or by personal email. All is good…
I have a personal thanks to send to my soon-to-be editor, Miya-chan! We'll start editing this monstrosity known as SOS during the hiatus and work our way up the ladder! Then SOS will be even better than before!
Musical moments…well, actually I cut this chapter off (it was getting too long!), & so my musical selections are actually more significant in the next chapter. Watch for them in the next commentary I make…I was listening to them in both these last chapters. I'm pretty sure you'll like!
Now on to my review board! (H'kat is singing in the rain…sort of.)
Coiling Death: Glad you liked the bickering Sohmas! It was a bit of humor amidst all the angst I put out there. Hope it wasn't too confusing for you! The speech was a bit tough, but well worth it since it really helped with some key points in my storyline (cookie here). Ah, the mysteries continue…
Dark Inu Fan: Yeah, I figured Yuki's health would raise alarm. Truly, though, it's just a background theme for now, so I'm not giving too many details on this yet. Much later the truth of the matter will be revealed but for different reasons altogether. Check out my next chapter on the Yuki/Tohru moment…sort of. You'll see when you read. And you'll also find out the mystery person who picked up the trashed gift! Stay tuned!
S.B. Kisses: Emotions are hard to put into words, so I'm very glad that I'm able to convey them correctly during angsty moments. It's tough…very tough. I rewrote that portion over and over until I felt it myself. Tough to do that since I'm not easily moved by words. There's no need to be jealous of me, hehe! ^__^ This is my very first fic ever, and I'm actually rather amazed it's so well received by the majority. I can only hope I'll have as many people reading this come this time next year or whenever the story finishes. Ah, when this finishes…I think I'll go for margaritas. And I don't drink alcohol!! Man, this fic is burning me out…yep, a hiatus is due!
Zone-out: I'm thrilled to see that my readers saw the importance of the speech with the overall theme in the story. And as for the `third-degree'…hehehe, can't tell you yet! Maybe my earlier cookies helped quench the thirst for answers…some may even be answered in the next chapter. But rest assured that all questions will have an answer to them! Just not as soon as you like, though…sorry!
OfPiratesAndElves: Best fic in the fandom world?! (H'kat is BLUSHING!) Really, that's too kind of you! For being my first fic ever, I'm glad I'm not bringing too much shame on the genre! Please continue with me on this long journey to fulfillment of the story…I promise to make it worth your while!
Thank you to all my readers and my reviewers (kudos to Rjunkie for putting up with my pointless emails—maybe I should get you peanuts instead of kudos…hm). You are all a blessing to my frayed nerves. See you in the final conclusion to `Memories of Spring'! Ja ne!