Fruits Basket Fan Fiction ❯ Seasons of Sorrow ❯ Embers of Summer's Glory - Choosing Our Regrets ( Chapter 39 )

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

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Embers of Summer's Glory
Chapter 39: Choosing Our Regrets
(Blip-blip-blip. Click.)
“Sohma Executive Offices, Honda Tohru speaking. How may I assist you?”
“Yes, one moment please.”
(Blip-blip-blip. Click.)
“Sohma Executive Offices, Honda Tohru speaking. How may I assist you?”
“Hai, the meeting was postponed until further notice. (Pause) Hina-san will be calling with the new arrangements. (Pause) Hai, arigatou gozaimasu. Good day to you as well.” (Click.)
(Sigh) “Momiji-kun, I'm sorry if I'm boring you…” trailed off Tohru in her comment as she set her filing to the side while eyeing apologetically at an apparently bored teenager sitting across from her.
“M-mm. Don't worry about me, Tohru-kun! I'm used to waiting on `Ojii-chan' in the office. I just hope we're not late for Momo's recital.” Momiji quickly took his cell-phone out and looked at the time. Shaking his head lightly, he sighed heavily and replied, “We'll barely have enough time to get through traffic and reach her school.”
Tohru smiled fondly on the younger Sohma that had certainly hit his growth spurt these past few months. She's actually had to crane her neck upward to see him face to face. He will certainly be as tall (and as dashing) as his father, who he's taken to calling `Ojii-chan' around the office (too many ears around to call his father…well, Father). Even though Momiji has altered his clothing somewhat to fit his growing stature and maturity, he still acted and behaved very much like a mischievous and fun-loving teenager…much to Kyo's distress since he continues to be at the receiving end of the Usagi's antics on a constant basis.
“I'm sure he'll be done quickly. It was just a last minute change in his schedule since his meeting was cancelled.” Resuming her filing, she curiously asked, “Is Momo-chan excited about her recital? I would be so nervous to perform in front of people.”
“She's fine…she plays the violin so well for someone of her experience. I hope he has the digicam so we can record it.” With a melancholy air, he gazed at his folded hands, softly commenting, “I have to be in the back where Kaa-san won't see me. That video will be important so that I can see Momo up close.”
Nodding in understanding at his continued situation in life, she smiled gently. “I'm sure he'll have it ready and waiting to record it well for you. He mentioned it as he was getting ready earlier today.”
“Really?” he asked excitedly as his spirits were lifted to the high skies once again. Smiling widely, he happily laughed. “Trust him to always remember!”
With that, the elevators swished opened to the large reception area, revealing a tall, well-built young man in an elegant suit, his hair coiffed in a style that was common with the Sohma men. Said individual hardly looked up as he was busy typing into his Palm-Pilot. Or whatever it was that you do with those complicated pieces of electronics.
`They still confuse me.' Tohru turned to the young man with a smile. Addressing someone of his status by his name unnerved her for a month until he insisted that it was to his benefit. `Way too many Sohma's in this place. Be specific.' Recalling his remark vividly, she brightly welcomed him. “Tetsuya-sempai, how may I assist you?”
“I'm here to retrieve my father. Is he done harassing the innocent people of this building?” he asked dryly while seemingly finishing the last touches to his task. Looking up, he set his clear hazel eyes on Momiji and smiled faintly. “Eh, Momiji-kun…it's been a while. How are your studies holding up at school?”
“Okay. I have Haru keeping me company when I get bored with the classes,” replied the high-schooler with a wry grin, obviously thinking of the continued adventures he still has at school with his unstable relative.
“I see. Hatsuharu is definitely…lively to have around.” Tucking his electronic device into his laptop case he was carrying, he pulled out his cell-phone and quickly entered in a few keystrokes, likely text-messaging someone. Giving Momiji a lop-sided grin, he went on, “He took out half the second-years when they said his earrings were `inappropriate' for the dojo. Shihan had him cleaning out buckets and scrubbing the floors for two months straight.”
“Sounds like our Haru!” Happily sitting back in his chair, Momiji takes off the wrapper on his lollipop, sighing once again at how late it was getting. “Ne, Suya-kun, how much longer you think your father will be? I have an appointment with Ojii-chan, and we'll be late for sure at this rate.”
“I just text'd him that I'm leaving without him, so hopefully he shouldn't be long now. He hates calling a cab around here.” Tetsuya abruptly stopped when he felt his phone vibrate with a waiting call. “Excuse me, Momiji-kun, Honda-san. I need to take this call. Honda-san, please inform my father that I'll be downstairs in the lobby for the next ten minutes.”
“Hai, Tetsuya-sempai. Have a pleasant day.” As she gazed after him while he went back into the private elevators that took him away, she pondered on a thought that has been at the back of her mind for some time since she's started working there. It seemed her pondering also caught the attention of another.
“Ne, Tohru-kun…is there something on your mind?” asked Momiji curiously.
“Eh? Oh, um, it's just that…well… I'm not sure, that's all, of who he is or who is father is. I mean, they seem so important, but then again…I don't know. Maybe I'm prying…I'm so sorry.” Not sure where her coherent thoughts went, she sat in her chair, more confused now than before.
“Hm…that's okay. They don't normally stick around here, but when they do, it's usually…serious.” Getting up from his seat, he quickly went to her desk and kneeled next to her, softly whispering. “They're considered part of the `inner' circle. At least, his father is. His father knows of…us. He's one of Kazuma's cousins, so he knows of…that part of the family. Suya-kun doesn't, but I think that'll change later on.”
“Oh? Does that mean…?” she trailed off in her question.
Momiji breathed in heavily, crunching loudly on his candy. “His father is pretty high up in the rankings of the family. There's so much about the family that I'm not too sure about, but I know it's…complicated. I know that this meeting was really important, and for it to be cancelled…well, I know for sure that he's awfully mad.”
“But Momiji-kun, your…uh…Ojii-chan was all prepared for this meeting…I'm certain! I was all ready to get the snacks and such done!” exclaimed Tohru as her loyalty to her boss, his father, shone through.
“I know…but he's not mad at Ojii-chan. He's just mad at someone you can't say anything to, so he's taking it out on Ojii-chan,” smiled sadly the teen as he twiddled with his fingers.
The sudden opening of the heavy oak doors that barred out all noise from the reception was heard clearly in the quiet office. A man of equal stature and authoritative presence as Momiji's father came walking briskly across the office. Yet the man carried a scowl that clearly indicated his displeasure at the moment.
“I will push this to be taken care of soon. With our without the approval of the Honke. You can pass that on to them.” Those words drifted from the angered man as he quickly turned to Tohru and Momiji, just then realizing their presence there. “Honda-san, was my son not here?”
“Hai, Sohma-san,” she quickly stood up and bowed in deference. “He had left word that he would be waiting for you downstairs in the lobby for ten minutes.”
“Hm,” he grunted in reply as he merely nodded his head in recognition of Momiji. His parting words to the elder Sohma drifted behind him as the doors to the elevator opened once again. “Be sure to give my most high regards to the…Head.”
When the elevators finally closed and took the man's overwhelming presence from their office, all sighed heavily in relief. Tohru was just nervous around the man, Momiji was happy to see that he may just make it on time to the recital, and the eldest Sohma was just glad to be free from the tense company.
“Well, Momiji, you waited patiently for me, hm?” asked his father with a tired grin as he affectionately patted his head. Despite the distance that was forced on them, his father made it up by always making a gesture of contact with his son, no matter how trivial or how fleeting the moment was. They were treasured moments all the same for the both of them…
“Hai!” Giving his father a big hug, Momiji quickly pulled on his arm, still showing how eager he was to leave. “Come on, we just have enough time to get to the recital!”
“Okay, okay. The car is all ready and waiting downstairs. Oh, the digicam is fully charged, so we don't need to carry an extra battery,” added his father off-handedly while giving Tohru several reports that needed to be filed.
Momiji lit up completely as Tohru's words from earlier came back to him. `He always remembers…and that's all that really matters in the end.'
“Tohru-kun, go ahead and finish up here, and let Hina-san know that I'll be off for the rest of the day. You can then both have the rest of the day off.” Giving her a wide smile, he closed his office doors and slipped on his coat. “I'm just terribly sorry that we had to cancel the meeting today…you worked so hard on those arrangements. But I'm very pleased with your effort in getting the arrangements nicely done.”
“Oh, it was all Hina-san's guidance and patience! I had nothing to offer except maybe a few rearrangements of the flowers and such…” trailed off Tohru hurriedly as she humbled herself to her boss.
“Hm, I'm sure Hina-san would agree with me that you've done well today. Now, remember to lock up…Momiji, let us be off,” remarked the kind Sohma father, setting a brisk pace to the elevator.
“Hai! Tohru-kun, I'll call you later! Ja ne!” called out the jubilant teen as he followed his father into the elevator, waving joyously to the timid lady until the closing of the doors.
She was glad that all had turned out well, despite the tension she felt earlier from the other Sohma male that was obviously displeased with the sudden change of plans. She could almost swear that a shouting match would ensue when said individual was informed of the change by Momiji's father. The man's face…it was bitter, and his bitterness weighed heavily in the air so much so that she found it difficult to breathe freely.
She noted that as time passed on and she became more familiar with the workings of the Sohma family on the business-level, she was still left in awe at how the Jyuunishi manage to keep their secret intact, seeing how this family ran their businesses by keeping a tight reign on all that went on. Truly, nothing ever escaped the notice of this family full of highly driven men who seemed to excel in all that they put their minds to, hence leading to the family's incredible financial success.
Momiji's father was such a man, but unlike all of them, he held a deep regard for his family…including their ill fate that awaited future generations. Perhaps the curse of the Jyuunishi taught him well the value of family, and how they as a family must always take priority versus selfishly pursuing goals that would not promote the family unity or preserve the secret of the Jyuunishi curse. It was plain to see that for him the welfare of the family as a whole meant a great deal to him, especially that of the Jyuunishi. He demonstrated it enough when he saw to the funding of the Jyuunishi's personal finances—it was his lead on this matter that kept these finances secure and very discreet.
`I've learned this much by only being here a few months. He's…an honorable man. Perhaps…maybe…Akito knows this and…trusts him. It would explain how often he speaks with Kureno-san over private matters of the Jyuunishi. That much I remember from accidentally overhearing them when the door was left wide open. But with Tetsuya-sempai's father…'
It didn't take a genius to decipher the tension between this man and Akito. If she were to be honest with herself, she'd have to say that there's a tangible struggle underneath the calm façade of the family. Momiji even now confirmed it when he said that family matters were `complicated'. It was the fate of grand families that held great wealth and power…the shift of power from one strong individual to another. And like many shifts in power, this will not be easily gained or lost. For the act of actually trying or actually achieving it…it will all come at a price.
Question is…how high will this price be?
But more importantly… `Will the Jyuunishi be caught in the middle of the power struggle? I hope not…I sincerely…I pray that it isn't so. Please…spare them. They've all paid a high price for being cursed…even Akito. Spare them of anymore pain. Please…'
Jaw tense, hand clutching phone handle firmly. Mouth set in grim line, frown clearly seen across face. Eyes hard and staring at the crease along the wall. Silence reigned in the small office of this martial arts master. Yet, to glimpse into the mind of this individual, one would be overwhelmed to see the disorder within. A turmoil that was enough to weigh heavily in the room.
“No, I've already spoken to him…countless of times. It was Akito's decision. No, he won't listen to me.” Pausing momentarily, Kazuma breathed evenly, quietly listening to the other person on the other end of the phone call.
“No…no…NO. I won't have his presence tolerated any longer at the dojo or at my residence. If he persists, I will handle him personally.” The tone in his voice then spoke volumes of how nonexistent his patience was at this moment. “If he doesn't want to take up the matter with Akito directly, then I suggest he keeps his complaints to himself. No one wants to hear them, least of all me.” (Click!)
As he set the phone to the side, Kazuma sighed heavily. He leaned heavily against his desk, closing his eyes to the world while taking in deep calming breaths. Had the conversation gone any further, he was sure he would have said things that were not proper of him to speak of. He was Kyo's guardian, not his father. That was the undeniable truth in all sense of the word. Oh, and how he hated that truth being shoved into his face each time someone from the family's inner circle or Kyo's real father came parading into his private affairs with his `son', in all instances demanding the seclusion of the Neko.
`This call was no different. Kyo's father may be more vocal than most, but he's not alone with his objections on Akito's decision of letting Kyo remain free. Not a week goes by nowadays that I don't get a call on this…' It's not surprising that his patience with certain family members was at a limit, and he wasn't averse to cutting off the harassing calls as he deemed fit. He'll hear their complaints about his `misconduct' the next time they call…and he'll cut the call short again. A never-ending cycle…
“Fans of the Cat giving you a hard time, Kazuma?”
He turned abruptly to the lone figure of the female sitting in his chair, tired lines etched around the contours of her face. Gazing at him languidly, she asked, “Do they always have to be so annoying? Damn, I heard their yelling all the way over here.”
“Isuzu…” Surprised to be having such an impromptu visit by the wayward Horse of the Zodiac, he hurriedly inquired, “Are you well today? Have you had lunch already? Perhaps dinner would be more suitable now. I have some tea—”
“Okay, okay. I get the point…you were worried.” Giving the elder Sohma a smirk, she leaned back in his chair and stared up at the wooden ceiling high above her. “Dinner…sounds good. I'll be by your place later…”
He smiled softly at the girl, glad to know that she would at least have one decent meal today. Well, he was by far no expert in the kitchen, but he is improving. The infamous graduation dinner from a few months back taught him well. He was eager to put those hard-earned lessons to good use even though his own son forbade him from ever entering their kitchen again.
`Kyo exaggerates too much. So the fire may have been a bit much for the kitchen to handle. And his…ahem…indigestion was over with after a couple of days.' Thinking about the latter, Kazuma decided that maybe tonight he'll have takeout instead. No need to risk Isuzu's delicate health. He can always experiment later when Kyo comes to visit.
“So…how did you weather last night's storm?” she asked as she examined her nails with disinterest. “It was…dark, heavy even.”
Taking a moment to interpret what she meant, he stood pensive for a moment. “Eh? Oh…yes. Well, it wasn't too severe over here. I did have the power go out, but it came right back up. How did you fare, Isuzu? You know the invitation is always open for you to spend your nights here if the need arises. I hate to think of you out there in the middle of such weather…”
“Don't worry about it,” stressed Rin once again while staring haughtily at him. Snorting lightly, she added, “It's not like my company here will help matters any. You have plenty of family melodrama to keep you busy. No need to tack on my load of crap to that list.”
“Isuzu...” started off Kazuma before she cut him off again.
She stared hard at the papers littering his desk. “Speaking of which…it's true then. About Kyo…he's not being locked up…”
He sighed heavily, clearly not in the best of moods to ponder on this matter that have at times kept him awake late into the night. Truly, how can he relax when at any given moment Akito could very well change her mind yet again? How long will this so-called peace last? Was it even meant to last? Such difficult questions weighed deeply on his mind on a constant basis nowadays.
He settled to answer her question with no further elaboration. “It's true. He's to remain free.”
“You trust Akito on that?” asked Rin in soft whisper.
Recalling the `catch' to this new arrangement thrust upon him by Akito, Kazuma restrained himself from voicing that out loud. It didn't pass his notice how much she loathed Yuki's presence, so he opted to once again keep his answers simple and to the point.
“I have no other choice on the matter.” He went on to gather his papers from the desk and arranging them to be put away when she spoke again.
She sneered in reply, “Hmph, since when did we ever get a choice in life? If I did, I'd have traded in my parents for something useful, like a pair of new boots. The damn fools…”
He remained silent, knowing full well that her anger with her parents was well justified. If he thought Kyo's father was bad, her parents were part and parcel of the same crop. Having a confrontation with either one of them always dealt a severe blow to his nerves…Kunimitsu would attest to that since he would always catch him relieving his pent-up stress by practicing his martial arts in an empty dojo.
“You know Akito won't let it last. It's just a matter of time before she chooses to change her damn mind.” She sullenly looked out the window of his office that overlooked the other complexes of his dojo. She then abruptly stood up and went to the doorway. “I'd keep an eye out on that little pet of hers. The Rat's been getting too cozy with the royal-pain-in-the-ass. If you're not careful, he'll make you regret ever taking him in.”
True, it has been tough around the dojo lately since Yuki arrived. The pressure from his students to replace Yuki was overwhelming, but over time most of them have accepted the young Sohma's temporary teaching position. Those that were still miffed by the arrangement kept their thoughts to themselves, although he was certain that they still gave Yuki a hard time about it. He knew the Nezumi will never complain if that were the case, but he hoped the others (particularly Haru) would look out for him.
Yet…to actually regret his decision of having Yuki with him at the dojo…
“Whatever Akito decides is her right to do so as the Head of the family, just as it is my right to decide what is best for my family and the dojo.” Taking measured steps to the tense girl, he softly continued, “But I won't ever choose to regret having Yuki's company at the dojo. I just can't ever do that…and I won't. What will you choose to do, Isuzu?”
`Since when did we change the topic to me?' Yet, what could she say?
To say he was a fool for ignoring her warning? To say that he was blind to the dangers of associating with the Rat? To say that he's stubborn and refuses to see the truth? To say that he's weak against Akito's decisions…
To tell all this to a man who has helped her fellow Jyuunishi at one point or another…to a man that took in the Cat that wasn't wanted and raised him…to a man that helped Haru overcome his more unstable half of his personality…to a man that respected her…to a man that cared for them all…
“What I choose to do is what I do. And I choose not to believe in empty promises from a sick clan head or let a rodent loose around those I care about.” Without a backward glance, she walked off into the hallways and left the Sohma man at the doorway, ignoring the soft voice in her conscience that protested all that she had said. She denied listening to it…she denied it for what it was…
`I will have no regrets from what I do. I'll only regret what I can't do. So I'll do all that I can when I can…I need to do this.' Her thoughts brought her the image of the one she was doing all this for. To the one who made up her small world, she would not regret one single thing she does or says. She can't…she won't.
It was a decision on her part that Kazuma could do nothing about no matter how much he wished it. And he wished for it very much…
“Shishou, what's up?” called out Kyo as he sauntered in to the office with several towels in hand. Noting the silent nature of his father, he curiously asked, “Shishou…is something the matter?”
“Shihan, is everything all right?” asked Haru as well who laid against the wall while drying off his sweat with a towel, too.
Kazuma snapped out of his reverie and looked to the two youths with dazed look. Mentally ridding himself of the unease from before, he smiled widely at them. “Yes, all is very well. But I don't see Yuki with you two. Did he already leave for his doctor's appointment?”
“Pft, yeah…creep took off without cleaning up the dojo which is his job,” grumbled Kyo lowly while sitting down with a plop behind the desk.
Narrowing his gaze slightly at Kyo, Haru explained, “Yuki told me to tell Kunimitsu that he had left to get the visit over with since you weren't around. If you need help cleaning up the dojo, I can do it.”
“Thank you, Haru. That would be appreciated.” Turning to his son who was busy making faces at Haru, Kazuma added with a grin, “We will also contribute, won't we, Kyo?”
His father's grin was different this time. It clearly left no margin for dispute. Biting down his complaints of why he has to do the cleaning when it's not his job, he returned the smile with one of his own that lacked true sincerity, “Sure, Shishou. I would love to help.”
“And I love it when you agree without an argument,” went on Kazuma.
“And I love it if you love it,” pressed on Kyo with clenched teeth.
“You know there is such a thing as too much `love' in the air,” murmured Haru as he chose to ignore the `sparring' between father and son. Speaking loudly to the both of them, he stated as he went out of the office, “I'm going to Kunimitsu's class, see if he needs help.”
Kyo gaped at his father-figure and immediately went after the wayward Ox that was already heading down the wrong hallway. “Oi, baka! You goin' the wrong way…again!!! Geez, how many times do I have to show ya?! This is the way to go to the bathrooms…”
Leaning against the doorway, Kazuma sighed heavily in utter wonder at how those two Sohma youths have always been looking out for each other since their early years. They are as close to being siblings as any could get to be. Haru may have a tendency to always stick like glue to Yuki's side when he's present, but it was more like the mother hen looking over a frail chick that was making its way down the treacherous path known as life. True, Yuki was now much more capable of taking care of himself, but habits are hard to break, and Haru was not very willing to give up his `mother hen' status after so many years.
`Kyo doesn't need to be looked after like that. He'll only take the help I offer and barely that. He's just so set on proving himself to be a strong individual and not the Cat everyone thinks is a monster.' Thinking back on his conversation with Rin, Kazuma could see clearly how much she is like those two young men. She tries to be strong on her own two feet, rarely asking for any help. And from what he has deduced, she also tries to protect those she holds dear to her heart.
`I can respect that. I just…I hope she realizes that in the end, our regrets can quickly become our burdens to carry in life. And our lives are long enough…'
“It's not funny, Hatori.”
“You're smiling…”
“Quit it!”
“Ano…uh, Yuki, I'm not understanding how you can see that when Hatori-niisan isn't even facing you,” remarked Kureno confused while sipping his tea quietly. Taking a dish filled with some sweet bean cakes, he offered it to Yuki with a warm smile. “Here, I bought these for you…I'm sure you'll like them.”
“Arigatou.” Setting his teacup down, Yuki took a cake and set it on his own plate, taking a small bite while still eyeing his doctor warily. Looking back to Kureno, he whispered, “He is laughing. You just can't hear it.”
Giving Yuki the benefit of the doubt, Kureno merely smiled softly and continued to take his cup of tea silently. After a few moments of silence, he heard Yuki speak out once more.
“He told you about carrying me out of the room, didn't he?” asked Yuki suspiciously.
Ever the professional, Hatori turned to his patient and stoically stared at him. “Well, Shigure did blabber on and on about every single detail…but I wasn't recalling that one in particular.”
“See, Kureno…he's smiling. He's laughing, too,” remarked the irritated Nezumi.
Looking at Hatori's still face, Kureno could only blink confusedly, hoping that maybe his confusion was plain for the doctor to see. It was.
“Don't think on it too much, Kureno. Yuki does know me better than most,” replied Hatori with barely a hint of a twitch on his lips. Kneeling next to Yuki, he took his stethoscope to the youth's back. “Stop chewing. Breathe in and out slowly.”
Definitely indulging himself in rolling his eyes, Yuki did as he was told. He then abruptly squeaked a series of hiccups. (Hic) “Ha-(hic)-tori, I th-(hic)-ink I need wa-(hic)-ter.”
“Fine time for your hiccups, Yuki,” replied Hatori as he set aside his instrument. “Kureno…”
“Here.” Handing Yuki a fresh cup of cool water, Kureno took the pitcher of water he had ready and set it on the table along with their tea set. He then asked him, “Is your head feeling any better? The tea is one that I use with Akito's headaches from time to time.”
Yuki smiled at him thankfully. (Hic) “Yeah, it's much better, thank you. (Hic) I was going to ask you (hic) where is she…she's usually here (hic) by now.”
“Oh…well, yes she would if she…could,” trailed off Kureno warily as he looked down to his teacup.
“Oh?” Drinking his water in slow gulps, Yuki wasn't sure he understood him clearly, so he waited until he elaborated some more. However Hatori spoke up before he could.
“Yes, I have her on bed rest so she can recuperate from her lack of sleep after last night's storm. I'm sure you're tired as well,” pointed out Hatori as he took his stethoscope once again to the Nezumi's back since apparently the hiccups subsided.
Shrugging at the remark, Yuki finished the last of the water in his glass. “More or less. But the cut to my head really burns when I kept shifting in my sleep.”
“Hm…well, let's look at it. You can resume eating—I'll just have a good look.” Taking a special light, the doctor aimed it at Yuki's head while he parted the hair away from the two-inch cut. “Hm…he can be a moron at times, but Shigure apparently does well for administering first-aid. The cut doesn't look infected. I'll reapply some antiseptic and then an ointment to keep it from becoming infected, okay?”
Nodding in understanding, Yuki took another bite from his cake, sighing inwardly that he'll have to go through the whole burning experience of having his wound cleaned out again.
“Yuki, it's all right,” assured Kureno as he took Yuki's hand gently into his own. “If you need to, just squeeze my hand as hard as you need to. It'll pass.”
`How funny. He can read me as well as I can read Hatori.' Sipping his tea calmly, Yuki smiled brightly. “I hope I don't hurt you, Kureno.”
“You won't. Akito has…a firm grip, too,” replied the Bird sedately, mentally recalling the last instance in which Akito took a good `firm' hold of him. It was something Hatori himself had experienced just last night and wasn't about to let Yuki know about it.
`If he only knew of the hysterics Akito came up with last night. In a storm of all times…' Hatori looked over Yuki's head to Kureno, wordlessly conveying to him to keep the matter quiet as he instructed him to. Seeing the silent confirmation in the Bird's eyes, he turned back to his patient. “Now, did you really sleep in Honda-kun's old bed? I always thought it too pink for my tastes, but Shigure assured me you fitted in quite well.”
Eyebrow twitching angrily, Yuki suddenly felt the antiseptic sting, and with a sudden lurch cried out, “OUCH—DAMMIT SHIGURE!”
“Yeah, sure…I'll clean the floors. (Grunts) No, no, I insist on scrubbing the floors. I'll even take up the towels and put `em away in the washroom. Is there anything else?
“Your sarcasm is improving, Kyo-kun,” quipped Kagura from across the room they were cleaning. Taking up her cloth after cleaning her section of the floor, she wiped the sheen of sweat from her forehead. “First it was all about calling Yun-chan `the rat that jumped ship', and then calling him `the baka Nezumi who chickened out of cleaning'. I think sarcasm suits you better than name-calling, Kyo-kun!”
“What sort of compliment is that?!” cried out Kyo as he stood up as well from his kneeling position on the floor. Seeing that Kagura was already done with hers, he asked in awe, “How the hell did you finish before I did?!”
“Hm? Oh, I was just working away while you kept complaining. Heh, count on Yun-chan on having a system to cleaning all the floors and picking up the used towels for the laundry. I'm already beat!” Brushing past Kyo, she `lightly' smacked him on the shoulder while exiting the room and merrily calling out, “I'll help Haru-chan in the next room. I'm sure he's close to being done by now.”
“Hey! Why don't you help me?!?” Rubbing his sore shoulder, Kyo ground his teeth together, grumbling lowly, “Damn annoying girl…”
“Hehe, you're too funny.”
“What the—” Whirling around to face the childish voice heard from behind, he raised his hand that held the cloth to clean the floors, his intentions clear to all. “Okay, what the heck are you doing on my CLEAN floors?!?”
Shock. The child that he was certain was just behind him was now twirling around the room in a carefree manner. What shocked Kyo though was his manner of dress…it was definitely not the standard uniform of the dojo. The boy certainly had traditional parents to be wearing silk robes in the heat of summer.
“Who are you? What d'ya doing here? You know this place is off-limits to kids unless you're taking classes here,” admonished Kyo as he lowered his hand to his side. Throwing the used cloth to a basket out in the hallway, he moved towards the little boy calmly, but strangely his Neko spirit was at unease with this action.
“Hehehehe…” giggled the child impishly as he ran around Kyo in circles. “Catch me, catch me, catch me!”
“OI! This ain't no place to goof around…HEY! Quit running around!” demanded Kyo, vainly trying to grasp the child's wrist. `Damn kid is fast!'
“No one can catch me! No one can catch me!!! Hahaha…!” Laughing heartily, the child abruptly stopped and stared at Kyo curiously with bright eyes, their color as dark as the dark ocean waters. “Are you okay? You looked scared. Did you see another rat? I'll scare it away…”
“NANI?!?” With wide eyes, Kyo looked down at the concerned boy and harshly remarked, “I'm not afraid, kid. And I sure as hell ain't afraid of some damn rats!”
“Oh…I see. It's okay if you're afraid. I'm afraid of the dark, but you always say that you're with me so I don't have to be afraid. Since I'm here now, you don't have to be afraid anymore.” Smiling innocently, the boy's small hand reached out for Kyo's left hand. “Let's not be afraid anymore. Come on…”
The spirit of the Neko stilled at the piercing gaze this boy held so innocently in those enchanting dark blue eyes. And with the sudden warmth of the smaller hand clasped around his calloused palm, the world that was reality and secure turned ashen gray, as if the life were seeped out of it. Kyo jerked his head forward, his mouth agape at the stark change of scenery that was before him.
No longer the soothing color of aged wood met his startled gaze, but that of an infinite horizon that was blinded by billowing clouds of smoke that hid the blazes of fire sweeping closer to him. In the far distance, he heard clearly what should only have remained a nightmare. In the far distance…he saw what should not have been possible.
The tree. Her tree. Their tree…fully erect yet ablaze with a fire that knew no end.
“We have a traitor, Eldest Brother. And darkness is coming soon.”
Heart pounding wildly, Kyo whipped his head to look down at the young boy that held the sorrow of hope lost. Yet the boy's remark rang through the tumbling thoughts in his mind.
“What?!? I'm…your… WHAT?!?” cried out Kyo desperately while latching his hands onto the small shoulders of the child.
The boy seemed oblivious to Kyo's distress as he stared listlessly in the distance. And suddenly, he hugged Kyo tightly, crying softly against his neck. “I'm so afraid…please save us. Save her…”
“Kyo-kun, be careful!”
Reality crashed down on Kyo swiftly and surely…once again quite literally. He had somehow managed to open the sliding doors leading outside and he is, or rather was, standing at the platform. Yet his startled reaction at hearing Kagura forced his uneasy balance to tip enough to cause him to fall flat on his behind on the ground.
Shaking her head at him, she continued to reprove him. “Silly kitty. You may have great balance, but you can still hurt yourself with teetering yourself on the edge like that. What if you really injured yourself? Then you'd be in no shape to participate at the Tournament…”
Her words came through to his mind like muddled murmurs, his thoughts far and away, still thinking what that young boy had meant. `The kid!'
“Where is he?!?” blurted out Kyo as he frantically went back inside, practically mowing down Kagura in the process.
“Kid?” she asked curiously. “All of Yun-chan's students have left for the day, Kyo-kun.”
“No, it wasn't some student, okay? It was a little kid…a boy, all right? He had really dark hair and was short…where the hell did he go?!?” Irritated beyond reason, he looked over the room and saw no evidence of the child. He quickly ran into the hallways, calling out frantically, “Hey, KID! OI!!! Quit playing games and come on out! KID!!!”
“Kyo-kun, there's no kid around. Honest,” replied the Boar while looking over the Neko with worry in her eyes.
He turned on her angrily with a menacing glint to his red-orange eyes. “SHUT UP! THERE WAS ONE, OKAY?!? SO GET OUT OF MY DAMN WAY IF YOU'RE NOT HELPING!!!”
“Kyo, that's enough,” was the cool reply that cut through the thick tension in the air.
“Shihan,” murmured Kagura apologetically. “It's my fault for getting him angry. But honestly, Kyo-kun, there's no boy here. I would have noticed if there was one. I was cleaning out the hallway when I caught you outside.”
“That's a bunch of crap, Kagura! He WAS here, okay…I didn't make him up!” Still angry, but not wanting to unleash his rage any further to those around him, he stomped off to the open doors in the room where he met the little boy. He then sat down with a huff on the ledge, sending out enough vibes at how upset he still was.
“Kagura, I'm sorry,” whispered Kazuma lowly.
“M-mm. It's okay. Maybe you can talk to him, Shihan. I'll bring you both some tea from the kitchen,” happily replied Kagura as she charged down the hall, careful to not have any `male' encounters that were certainly not needed at this time.
Sighing heavily, Kazuma walked out to the ledge where Kyo was plainly pouting. “Kyo, whatever it was, you should do better at controlling your outbursts. Kagura is your fellow teammate, but more than that she's family. You are a young adult…act like it.”
The reprimand for his volatile behavior struck Kyo hard. How could he deny any of it? He'd be a fool for trying. His anger tapering off, he felt shame overtake him instead and so looked to the ground for possible answers to the unasked questions.
“I'm…sorry, Shishou. I'm sorry,” softly replied the younger Sohma as he brought his knees to his chest, wrapping his arms securely around them.
Closing his eyes briefly, Kazuma took in deep breaths of a waning afternoon. He was always happiest outdoors and took sabbaticals in the large countryside the family owned whenever possible. One was definitely due after the Tournament.
“You can give your apologies to Kagura directly.” Sitting down next to his repentant son, Kazuma stated, “Now, calmly tell me what has you so bothered.”
Seeing the reluctance in his son's eyes to even broach the topic, he softly patted down the wild red-orange hair, giving the scalp soothing strokes of his fingers. Smiling gently, he prodded, “I have your trust, don't I, Kyo? You know whatever you tell me, I won't laugh, I won't judge, and most of all, I won't tell if you don't want me to.”
It could have been the relaxing strokes from his father's fingers across his head that made his mental defenses crumble. It could have been the images still lingering in his mind of billowing smoke and fire consuming what he knew to be living beings. It could have been the shrieks of what he knew to be of lives extinguished. It could have been the image of what he clearly saw as himself in the middle of all the mass hysteria while holding something in his hands. Or it could have the hopeless sorrow embedded in the eyes of such an innocent child.
`It sounded like some title…the Eldest Brother part. He begged for me to save them…save her. Is Tohru in trouble? How? She's fine, I'm sure of it. But why then…why does every instinct I know to be true is screaming that something's changing everything in my life? And why do I feel so damn afraid of it?'
“…darkness is coming…”
Those words reverberated through the turmoil of his mind, and he was certain that a whimper left his lips. Hiding his panic-stricken gaze, he ducked his head into his knees, vainly trying to hide from his nightmares that were all too real but far from reality, if that made any sense.
“The traitor…he's here…I know it,” bit out the distraught youth quietly. “He won't get the best of me, Shishou. He won't.
Pushing further for details or just clarification at what was said was pointless, Kazuma knew. With a heavy heart, he saw the makings of regrets that will be carried by his son for many years to come. And all he could do was sit and watch it unfold, for this is something that the curse of the Jyuunishi was destined to do…to build the regrets that will lay foundation for the next generation of cursed members.
Always a never-ending burden of regrets to be passed on from one generation to the next…
`The sorrow of hopelessness is what I saw in my grandfather's gentle smile so long ago. Am I doomed to see the same in my son's smile?' Biting his lip in frustration at how futile it's all becoming, he reached out to the still form of his son and hugged him fiercely, praying that in some form his goodwill and love for this boy could just maybe lessen the blow of what is yet to come.
“It's…okay, Kyo,” softly remarked Kazuma tremulously, willing away the unshed tears of hopelessness. “It's okay to be afraid. I am here…I'll always be here when the time comes. So…don't stay afraid because…I'm with you. Always.”
From the desolate hallway, both Jyuunishi looked to the pair outside, neither one daring to breathe in for fear of ruining the tender moment. It was all they could do, to stare at the two Sohma men outside, and then stare back at one another, silently understanding that many things will come to pass to this family, and sadly, they were powerless to stop the flow of sorrow that was sure to come.
It was just a matter of time…
And Drum Roll Please! (04-18-06):
YOOHOO! I'm here and happy to put this one out for your reading pleasures! Can you guess who the two Jyuunishi were in the end? It's not hard…if you can't guess, it was Haru and Kagura. No big mystery there. I had initially planned to add more towards the end, but I really wanted the `day' to end plus the other stuff would have just dragged the story on. So I'll just add what was left out from here to the next chapter release. No worries!
Well, this chapter actually turned out to be more angst than I had planned, but it worked out in the end, ne? It had a peek into Tohru's world as it is now plus it offers a glimpse of the inner workings of the Sohma family. It's always but not really touched on in the canon or in most stories I've read, so I'm trying a new approach by giving the reader a look inside what I perceive to be a family with strict control over many things. This will be elaborated further in chapters to come—be sure to look for those moments when they come!
My bit with Yuki and Hatori and Kureno was actually supposed to be elaborated in the missing segments I cut off from the ending, but I decided to leave it in there since it did lay out something important. I would believe that Hatori has had more of a chance to be `unguarded' around Yuki in their early years at the estate, and since they were usually in each other's company when Yuki was allowed company, it stands to reason that Yuki would know Hatori better than others. I wanted to capitalize on that and hopefully bring this to light with just the right measure. It was a scene that was short but sweet in my opinion. Hopefully you agree!
Ah yes, Kyo with his demons…sort of. It definitely turned out `darker' than I had expected quite honestly. But the more I read it, the more it grew on me, so I left it as is. It conveyed exactly what this whole chapter was about and ultimately what the storyline will carry on some level. I always want to point out that my excerpts with Kyo and his `friends' are to be taken in stride…file it away. Don't try to interpret them just yet…of course, if you'd like to play private investigator and love a good weave of the web that is my story, please have a go at it! Truly, though, the story will develop all these little threads and hopefully it will `wow' you…hopefully!
For musical moments, I had to think about it some. Finally, it dawned on me that my second hunch was good to go with. So here's my recommendation for your listening pleasures for this chappie…Madonna's “Live to Tell” song. It conveys the dire situation the Sohma in general live with plus highlights Kyo's desperation with all that has been happening to him. It's a popular song so it shouldn't be too hard to obtain a copy. Need help? Just let me know!
Well, I best be wrapping up this commentary. My battery juice on the laptop is running low (forgot the AC adapter at work!), so I'll just say a big hello and good-bye and thank you to all my readers, especially to my reviewers. I hope to have replied to each one of you, and if not, please accept my humblest apologies! I really do read all your reviews! Even the ones on my other fics like Never Say Good-bye…thank you so much for continuing to read my other works. It really makes me happy to know that although they're not as long running as this fic, they still hold their own. So thank you again!!!
Two announcements just in: One, new editor solicited, two, CONTEST TIME! Yep, my dear Miya-chan has succumbed to the terrible reality of life. Heh, no really, she's so busy she can't edit my work anymore. I still want to give her a BIG HUG and THANKS for all that she did manage to do for me. So, here's my want-ad: EDITOR, preferably one that has good handling of verb tense plus grammar/spelling skills. Must be willing to work long hours (I'll take anything at this point) with nagging emails from me! Knowledge of Furuba world will of course be a big plus, especially with honorifics. I am so bad about those… Any takers?
Regarding the contest, I've entered my side fics in support of Eraya's contest, “The Fruits Basket Readers Choice Contest”. It's a great way to read up on other terrific fics besides my own, but yours truly is rather shameless in saying that I'd like to have at least one vote from you for my side fics. I don't expect to win any award for any of the categories, but if I see one vote for my fics, that'll make my day. So little keeps me happy for days! Here's the link: . I'll post this link up in my profile as well in case it doesn't follow through in this commentary (ffnet and their bunnies are eating up links).
As always, leave your comments, thoughts, critiques, and general bashing at my door. Just click and blip and boom, you're there! Take care and catch you next time! Ja ne!