Fruits Basket Fan Fiction ❯ Seasons of Sorrow ❯ Embers of Summer's Glory = Midnight Affairs ( Chapter 44 )

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

DISCLAIMER: And we are back to the same fact. I am not the owner of Furuba. Really.
Embers of Summer's Glory
Chapter 44: Midnight Affairs
Crickets chirping.
Constantly chirping.
Loudly chirping.
Very loudly.
The moon, with the numerous stars in its company.
Illuminating all in its wake no matter the obstacle.
A bright full moon shining through the cracks of any branch or absence of one.
Bright like the lightening that strikes the skies in a storm.
Very bright.
Annoyingly bright, particularly when it's on one's face.
`Particularly on my face at this ungodly hour.' With a heavy sigh, Yuki yet again turned in his bed, swearing on his talented hands that he will cull the meat off of Shigure's bones for forgetting to put in curtains, blinds…anything to block out the bright outdoors of a summer evening. He did enjoy the view of the forest scenery just outside his window, but damn it all, did it have to be so absurdly bright outside at this early hour?
`Okay, not my hands, but I will give that selfish prick a good kick in the head come morning…later morning. Hmm, is that even a word…appropriate phrasing? Did we discuss this in school? (Sigh) I really need to get some sleep…now I'm discussing grammar in my head. How absurd…'
`And this damn clock is getting on my nerves!' And out went the clock through the open window. `Perfect…that was Kakeru's gift to me for graduation. A clock that big with two large bells on top are hard to come by…stupid thing woke me up pretty well, too. It only took me a minute and a half to come around…sort of. (Sigh) I'll get the clock tomorrow…well, that's ridiculous since it's already tomorrow…technically anyway. I'll get it later morning…argh…now it really doesn't sound right. I need to SLEEP!'
Twisting and turning and finally with one finally flop on his stomach, the distraught youth stuffed a pillow on top of his head only to chuck it to a distant corner in his well-lit room since he couldn't breathe very well with that thing over his head. Besides, it gave him the sensation that there was no light in his room, and he was averse to feeling caged in darkness. He immediately felt the fluttering of his panic flood away as he sensed the soft warmth of the nightlight that was much better to bear than the blaring illumination from the pale moon outside his window.
Giving up on finding sleep in his bed, he threw off his lightweight covers and sat up with a growl in his throat. Stretching his arms over his head, he lightly yawned as he looked around his room. It was completely renovated since the night of the bad storm, and now his room had the soft colors of dark pastels, with his wooden floor given a darker stain than before that contrasted perfectly with the walls. Much of his personal belongings that were damaged with the rain were replaced along with his stereo and lamp. The only thing that he truly loathed was the color of paint in his clothes closet.
Pink. A very soft blush of pink. But nonetheless, pink.
Aghast. Shock. Speechless. But that quickly dissipated to a charging rage as he hunted the mischievous Inu down with a passion. Apparently the survival instincts of said Inu were kicked into high gear as he took off in a dead run that led both Jyuunishi to the Main House in no time…a new record. And after tearing through the hallways, they both wound up in Hatori's office where the enraged Rat cornered the whimpering Dog (many thought this very odd indeed) and grasped him in a firm headlock. Hatori was nonplussed about the Dog's condition but was clearly upset about the damage to his office. It was only on the threat that Hatori would give both a round of shots that both wild animals took to their corners, the Rat clearly still steamed but obeying while the Dog was nursing his throbbing neck, careful to mention in low tones that he thought the pink was a nice touch to the room.
Smirking in the dark at that pleasing memory, Yuki pulled himself up to look out his window, his gifted vision lending him a hand as he tried to find his clock in the darkness below. The only thing he could see under this bright moonlight was the shadow of the tree branches below. Here and there fireflies made use of the evening while the crickets played their incessant tune with gusto. Leaning out further, thankful that no one saw him in this precarious position, he was able to make out the gleam of the clock lens. Just then his furry friends came out from hiding, each squeaking their greeting to their tall friend. With a flurry of activity below, the rats quickly took the clock from the undergrowth and rolled it into full view for Yuki to see.
Thankful that it didn't look too damaged from his vantage point, he quickly directed them to stay put as he ducked back inside. Donning his robe over his pajamas (the summer nights in this thick forest certainly came with cool breezes), he quietly opened his door, checking that all was clear. Taking with him his flashlight that was kept at the lowest setting, he padded down the dark hallway, careful of the creaking wooden floor, when he heard faint grunting and rustling of sheets from Kyo's room. Pausing momentarily, he noticed that the Neko was actually fast asleep and in the throes of a dream. Not wanting to guess what it is Kyo dreams at night (probably a victory over the Nezumi), he swiftly went down the stairs and through the rest of the house as silently as a…well, as a mouse.
`What the…!' Grasping his chest in sudden alarm, he heard his cell phone ring in the stillness of the night just as he was about to walk out through the back way. Rushing back through the house, he took the stairs two steps at a time, nearly slamming himself into the wall in his rush to get to his room. By now, the phone was ringing loudly enough to wake even the dead.
“Moshi, moshi?” blurted out Yuki as soon as he retrieved his phone, flustered from the quick exercise. When he heard nothing but raspy breathing, he became very annoyed and clenched the small flip phone as if to break it.
`I should have known it was a prank caller…the morons.' And just as he was about to slap his phone shut, a voice so low yet clear as tinkling glass reached his ears.
`A moment together can become an eternity within the heart…'
`Hm…that's…deep.' Rubbing his eyes wearily, Haru looked to the digital clock radio next to his bed, seeing that the hour was indeed late. Still, he kept on reading by the light of a table lamp a book that he had randomly `borrowed' from Hatori's collection, inwardly amazed at how much of a literary his caretaker is. Western literature seemed to be the Dragon's favorite…it's well enough, Haru supposed.
However engrossing the reading was, Haru much rather preferred to be sleeping the night away. But he found himself restless early on in his sleep, his instincts driving him to wander outside and keep going. Damn the animalistic instincts he inherited… Hence, here he was, physically restraining himself from taking a stroll with no purpose, and mentally keeping his mind preoccupied so that it'll sleep off in exhaustion. So far, it's not working fast enough…
`Let's see what other book I have here…Edgar Allen Poe, The Prose of a Dark Heart. That's…creepy. Why does Hatori-niisan read this stuff?' Shaking his head at that idea, he sifted through other `borrowed' books until he found one with just pictures of wide-open plains. `Heh…American Frontiers, A Story in Pictures. Sounds like good reading…'
“Having trouble getting some shut-eye?”
He jerked from his seat at the couch and found a beautiful girl at his window. Her bored look and blasé attitude while sitting on his windowsill, giving him ample view of a very fitted short dress with long, slender legs (which he paid more mind to than intended), could only mean one thing…his `girlfriend' is back.
“Rin…you look good.” Shutting the book, he turned to her fully and carefully eyed her as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Sleep isn't coming easy for either of us, is it?”
“Yeah, well, it's no news.” Rin quickly threw in her legs into his bedroom, careful to keep her boots off the floor by staying put at the windowsill. She scanned the room carefully, taking note of a few things that weren't there before, a picture of him and Yuki at the graduation ceremony being one of them. `Of course he'd have taken a picture of him with the Rat. All framed prettily…'
Sensing no further remarks from her, save an unspoken disdain for his prized picture of him with Yuki at the graduation ceremony (the quiet Nezumi had actually allowed the hug from the Ox for the duration of the photo shot), he stood carefully and went to sit under the windowsill next to her. He heaved a small breath of relief when she didn't cringe away from his close proximity…it's been a while since they were like this. She had been more distant than usual these past few months, always carrying a shroud of wariness with her.
It was this wariness that worried him most as of late. He's known her for more years than he's known Yuki, and that's saying a lot. In all those years, he had never seen her…uncertain…wary…worried, always keeping the wall between her and the world. Not that he'd ever say this out loud since he was sure to receive a fierce denial along with a fist to his solar plexus.
`I'd prefer to keep things calm between us. Less hassle in tracking her down and less bodily harm…that's always a good thing.' He had been successful in the past in climbing over this wall (mind you, it took great effort) and reach out to her, but somehow, this time around, he hadn't been able to connect with her. She was…off, but more importantly, she was highly agitated about what's going on within the family.
He, too, felt the tension in the family. Despite appearing oblivious to his surroundings, he was fully aware of a growing shift in the house of Sohma. Every Sohma adult he'd come across at the estate has had some sort of preoccupation weighing on their minds, their guardedness evident in their dazed eyes. It was an expectation of sorts, except that most knew not of what they were waiting for. It was just…there…simmering in a place where they cannot see, where they cannot reach.
Jittery was not a feeling he was accustomed to, however, over these past few months, he'd definitely felt that and more. His fellow Jyuunishi members living at the estate could also fall in that category as well, their higher instincts giving their lives more of an edge since they clearly sensed the looming of…something. It was difficult to describe, but if they were to ever revert to their animal forms, they would all be pawing at the floor (Hatori being the exception naturally), restless and very willing to flee from this…feeling…unknown force, whatever it was that had them agitated.
It was hard to come to grips with it since in all honesty it made very little sense when thought of logically, and he had indeed thought this over multiple times. Sighing heavily, Haru flipped through a magazine with disinterest, asking her softly, “You keepin' yourself safe from trouble?”
She could only laugh sardonically, leaning against the window frame to stare at the black and white hair on his crown. “Yeah, well, I don't go causing trouble if that's what you mean. I leave that to others.”
Her stress on that word made it pretty clear of who she thought of that would cause problems. It was a sore subject between them since it involved Yuki, and he was rather protective of the Nezumi, more so as of late. He really didn't want to shoo her away with another argument over the tired topic, so instead he opted to lean against her leg gently, hesitating momentarily in case she decided to kick him square in the face.
“Will you be coming to the tournament, Rin?” The change in subject was obvious, but he really did want to know if she had made her final decision yet. She had dodged the question numerous times, never giving a specific yes or no. “I just want to be sure to look for you cheering me on. It does a guy good to see his woman there, cheering him on.”
“Your ego obviously doesn't need any `cheering on'. And I don't know yet…just depends what I have planned that day,” she replied tartly as she gently ran her fingers through his thick hair, mentally making note of how long it's been since she has done this.
Smiling widely that she didn't deny his claim over her, he decided to relax fully against her, the soothing rhythm of her fingers through his hair relaxing him further. It has indeed been too long since they enjoyed each other's company like this.
“What's the matter?” she asked softly, too softly since he barely caught the question.
Opening his lulled eyes, he kept still, uncertain of how to reply to her inquiry. She rarely asked such things because normally he wasn't one to worry. And if he were to worry to a degree that she notices, then of course it must be of a serious matter. It was.
“I wish I knew exactly.” Pausing momentarily, he looked up to see her directly, holding her gaze with his own concerned one. “You know what I mean, right?”
She quickly looked away, yet her hand remained in his thick hair. She looked out to the dark pitch of the night, listening intently to the sounds of a summer evening, but also perceiving the heavy silence behind it all. She couldn't…she tried…she really did…
“It follows me wherever I go. Do you know how that is?” Her voice full of trepidation was grating to her own ears, but it was only here, in this room with this young man, that she could articulate her thoughts better, where it makes more sense. “Damn thing…it's just…there. The harder I tried to push it away, to turn away from it, it just kept getting…larger…stronger.”
As she spoke quietly, he cautiously sat next to her on her perch, noting that she held the same dazed look in her eyes as the other Sohma adults. Those eyes that waited. Waiting…expecting…
“Is it pulling you back here, too?” he asked quietly but enough to startle her from her trance. Seeing her look at him with shock, comprehension dawning on her, he took her face gently with his hands to keep her from turning away. “I can't explain it either, but it is there…looking for…something. It calls to my…(pause)…is it calling for you, too?”
Her pupils dilated to magnificent proportions, confirming his suspicion of what he had thought earlier. Wearily sighing, he brought their foreheads together, closing his eyes to the twisted world that was his family's realm, and just heavily breathed in her smell of honeysuckles in bloom. He loved the smell of her lotion, and she knew this well.
“You know it has something to do with them…with that…that…demon clan head!” Biting back her words that she knew would only fuel her anger, she reflected on the eerie silence that seemed to permeate their bond as Jyuunishi. It was so silent yet deafening in its presence amongst them. A loud silence…if that made any sense. Yet, that's what it was. And it was getting louder…
She didn't know when she had done it, but in the next moment she realized that the Sohma youth was embracing her while she in turn held him firmly. Her heartbeat was furious, and she knew her eyes to be wide with apprehension. She found that her gaze was set once again to view the pitch black of the evening outside his window.
“It's coming, Haru… It's just waiting…waiting…” she trailed off in her warning as she closed her eyes to the dark night, willing the chilling sensation away but knowing it to be futile.
“I know…I know.” Cradling her in his arms, he could only look out to the dark as well, feeling the evening breeze carry away the stifling air, leaving behind a cool touch on their skin. If only a little, the edge was taken off as he held her there with him, his mind somewhat at ease that at least she was within his reach once again…where he could protect her if need be.
“I'm here, Rin…neither of us will be alone for what is to come.” And it certainly will come…of that he did not doubt in the least. Question is, what other blight will befall the family of Sohma…the Jyuunishi? More importantly, will they be able to overcome it? And above all, why?
Such questions concerned Rin to a great extent, however, the answers were not as forthcoming as the inquiries posed. Helpless was what she felt now, and oh, how she hated it. To have this…thing…whatever…to come at them from the shadows was infuriating. She couldn't let it get to her…to him…
`There's got to be a way out of this hell. There is…I know it. I have to find it soon…before it gets to us…to him…' Lethargy claimed her finally as she started to fall asleep in the arms of the one she trusted above all others. And for this person, she will have no regrets in what she will do to achieve her goals.
Haru remained there with her through the night, knowing that the dread felt amongst the family will only increase as time passes. Unable to do anything to ease their worries, he suddenly felt drained from their small conversation. As he relaxed further in her embrace, he ran his fingers through her hair idly, holding her closer to him to cherish this peaceful moment for as long as it holds out.
`Heh, how weird…a moment with her does feel like an eternity…'
Open fields of tall grass, swaying to a silent breeze. It all appeared austere…no color to it at all, with the sky heavy with murky clouds, casting a shadow across the vast area. Silence so thick it weighs heavily on the ears…
Smells…burning of wood. It chokes…hard to breathe. The coughing echoes eerily.
“You dare sully the name…”
Twists back to see behind the tall grass…to hear it again. It sounded…familiar…
Wind is picking up. A scent brought in with it…spring blossoms. Runs towards it. The grass…it never ends. So silent…
Burst of light up ahead. Suddenly the fields give way to burning ruins…a wall of inferno.
“A betrayal nonetheless…”
Looks back…nothing.
Spark of light. Thunder so close it shakes the ground. A soft touch to the hand. Looks down to see a young boy with wide eyes. A question conveyed in his ocean blue orbs.
Screeching winds whip past them. Jerks back to see an imposing tree. The tree…
“Do you still fear rats?”
Looks back to see the young boy is gone. Looks back to the tree. Boy suddenly there…crying heartbrokenly.
“You are fortunate to have the luxury of this warning.”
It dripped with pent-up ire…a rage that chilled with its intensity… It was so familiar…the voice…the underlying tone…it was sad.
“Please…help me. Please…HELP ME SAVE HER!”
The inconsolable boy sobbed against him. What else could be done?
“Let none escape our wrath.”
He held the boy close…tightly in his embrace. It was said softly, gently…yet… That statement…froze the hot blood…it stilled everything around them. All was deadly silent...all still.
And that voice was so very familiar…
“Are you okay? You look very pale.”
Kyo stood up from the ground hastily, his back covered with grass. Only did he now notice that he was wearing a very old style kimono, down to the many layers he felt he was wearing. Putting the obvious question to the side, he looked all around him, searching for the boy he just held a moment ago…searching for that voice that hid behind unseen shadows…searching for the nightmare…
`How the hell did I get here? And how…I was just with…' Stumbling around with wobbly legs, he nearly teetered too far to the left before he heard his companion call out again.
“You look so confused. Please sit down, or you may fall again.”
Finally, he did focus his sight on his companion. “Tohru…how…why…”
“Sit,” she replied calmly from her lowly position on the ground.
Completely disregarding her suggestion, he quickly went to her and held her close, burying his face into her soft hair to smell her wonderful soft scent. It calmed him immensely, lifting the heavy weight on his chest. The images still flashed across his eyes, but now…in her presence…it all seemed obscure…fleeting.
“Tohru…I…you were…” stammered in reply Kyo as his pounding heart slowed in its pace. Until he was sure of his composure, he forced himself to pull away from her to see for himself that she was here with him. Grasping her shoulders firmly, he confirmed with his own eyes and touch that she was indeed `real', not a passing moment of existence that so often plagued him as of late. Such as the young boy and the images he evoked, the…smell…the voice…a voice not her own.
“It's okay…I'm here. All will be well, you'll see.” She reached out to caress his cheek for a moment before pulling herself out of his embrace. Standing up, she looked to the massive tree standing over them. Sighing tiredly while dusting herself off, she softly remarked, “Look at the time…the hour grows late.”
He lastly took note of his surroundings with that remark. He noted how the endless fields that were a vast floral landscape were now vacant of their wild blossoms from before, dead stems of what once was now littering the landscape. They all swayed with the constant breeze that whistled in his ears. Looking up, he saw the branches of the large tree bend with the occasional hard breeze, taking notice of the withering leaves that fell from high up. Many were still green, but less so…less vivid. As if the very essence of its life were leaving it to rot…
“Tohru…what's going on—” He left his question hanging in the air as he turned to look at her fully. It was shocking, too shocking…her appearance was so different. And the way she carried herself…tired…worried…but most of all… `She looks desperate…afraid.'
She didn't look back at him, letting her gaze fall blankly to the branches above and to the bleak sky above her. With clouds heavy and low to the horizon, the ever present breeze took hold of her long hair, giving it the allure that it was dancing to a silent tune. Tucking errant strands away from her face, she breathed in heavily and hugged herself against the cool breeze, the air of melancholy hanging thick around her.
He didn't want her to leave as quickly as these moments tended to end. Holding back his urge to demand answers, he carefully grasped her thin shoulder and quietly asked, “Tohru…tell me. What's wrong?”
She snapped back to attention, as if just realizing that she had `dozed off'. Smiling resignedly, she shrugged her shoulders and looked out to the darkening horizon with veiled trepidation. “Nothing…everything. Times are…difficult.” Closing her eyes to the grim `reality' around them, she shook her head vigorously. Breathing heavily, she turned back to face him, a plastered smile ready to take on the challenge of sordid moments.
Not willing to let this moment of truth pull out of his reach, he took hold of her shoulders again. “Look, you don't have to keep hiding things from me, okay? Some pretty serious…stuff…is about to hit the fan. Let me in.
Her smile wavered for only a moment, her eyes glinting with a repressed emotion not clearly identified. She reached out to caress his cheek again, a merry laughter bubbling forth amidst the dreary atmosphere. And for that moment, all seemed lighter…less hopeless.
“You are in. I am happy not to be alone anymore. It's rather scary being alone in the dark with nothing but ominous gloom all around you, don't you think? But you're here…so, it's not so bad anymore. Thank you.” Pulling away from him, she quickly began her ascent up the tree, swiftly moving from one branch to the next. Looking down, she laughed happily as the cool breeze lifted her hair all around, her kimono rumpled with the exertion she used to climb up. “Well, come on! This is much too easy to win if you don't try!”
And just like that, it all fell into place. Hopelessness…fears…desperation…confusion…loneliness … These all were heavily felt in the small world they lived in. And they were easily taken away with the smile of innocence she now held. A sense of calm is all that he felt around him, but more importantly, from within as well. Why? Why so serene when all looked to be desolate?
He quickly took to the branches, climbing them with amazing speed and accuracy that showed off his Neko's abilities. He was soon close to reaching her, but of course, she took flight once again. They continued in this frenzied pace until they were to the top utmost branches that could withhold their weight. Breathing heavily, he looked to her and caught her joyous gaze. His intent was clear…he wanted to ask her directly.
She, however, was rather perceptive and laughed tiredly as she looked back out to the endless horizon of desolation. Sitting down, she leaned back and sighed heavily. “If you worry too much, you'll miss it.”
“Eh? Miss what?” he asked while gasping for breath, amazed that she looked perfectly fine despite their vigorous exercise.
“Heh, hope, silly! It's sometimes so small that we don't always see it. Okaa-san would remind me of this constantly…and she was right.” Looking back at him, she held him captive in her piercing gaze, searching deep inside him so that he truly understood her. “It's there…trust it to always be there.”
He so wanted to look away, to look away from something that could only be true in her eyes. “It can't always be there, Tohru…I should know.”
“However small it may be, it's hope just the same. Don't you trust me?” she asked with a slight hurt in her eyes.
“It's not about trusting you,” quickly retorted Kyo as he stood firmly against the trunk of the tree with the breeze becoming cooler as time passed. He couldn't help the frustration bubbling forth as he went on. “It's about reality…it's about what does happen. How can you look around right now and see something that doesn't exist?”
“But it does…right here,” she stated firmly as she laid her hand on her chest. Now standing up and facing him, she held his gaze captive once again with her determined eyes piercing his very being. “All around me can be without life, but as long as I have my hope right here, all will be okay. I refuse to lose the little hope that I have just because I'm afraid.”
“I'm NOT afraid,” he declared ardently.
“Lies. You are not very good at it.” She narrowed her eyes at him, silently daring him to contradict her. His deflated stance served to prove her correct. She then jumped to the branch he stood on, embracing him fiercely as she quietly continued. “You see everything, but nothing at all. It is all that you know… All your life you've only seen what can't be done…what can't possibly exist… Yet, here you are. Don't you see this for what it is? This is your hope.”
He held her close, trying to come to terms with a truth that was too frightening to believe in. A dismal world that held little to no life at all…yet in the midst of it…here she was. Standing tall and firm…a light in the dark quite simply put. And she wasn't giving up hope…she wasn't giving up on him… She wasn't defeated.
“You'll remember to look for it, won't you? Promise this to me…”
Her soft plea was the last he heard as he awoke with a start to a wet pillow and a faint glow from a very familiar beaded bracelet on his wrist.
Yuki very nearly dropped his phone, never once expecting to receive a call from this person at this hour. He stood there completely still as he pondered over it until the exasperation in her voice brought him back.
“Say something. Your heavy breathing is becoming bothersome. Are you under some sort of asthma attack?”
He stammered in shock, “Uh…Akito…I…”
“I'll have Hatori sent over right now…” went on Akito, shoji doors being heard open and shut in the background.
“NO. I…I mean, that's okay. I'm fine,” he reassured her. “You just surprised me.”
“Why? You told me to call you. By the way, why are you awake at this hour? I was so sure it'd take at least several minutes for you to pick up the phone.” More doors shut were heard, and now the crickets were heard more loudly than before.
`Perhaps she went outside. I hope she has her robe on…' Returning his straying mind back to the present, he quirked an eyebrow in confusion at what was said. He decided to take it slowly and keep it direct…his body may not find rest, but his mind he found was already going off to the lands of dreams. “I'm awake because…I can't sleep.”
“Why?” she asked, a yawn softly heard just then.
“Just…things on my mind. It's nothing important.” Wanting to get the clock back before the stupid thing rings outside where no one can turn it off, he resumed his journey through the dark hallways with flashlight in hand. This time the floors were a little unfriendly as they creaked loudly into the night. After a sharp intake of breath, he was relieved that all was still as before.
“You are loud for a mouse, Yuki.” After a heavy sigh, she asked, “What's on your mind?”
Continuing on his way down the stairs and out of the house as silent as before, he debated on whether he should tell her about what he had been thinking earlier on. He seriously doubted she'd find his concerns to be…well, of concern, to her anyway. Despite the fact that the events that took place at the gala opening occurred the other night, he still went over them with meticulous thought.
Tohru…Kyo…Tohru…Kagura's problems…Tetsuya's sudden attitude that hasn't improved since then, the `respect' he receives now at the dojo completely forced. And the dojo…well, suffice to say he's losing face with the whole advanced class. He can't imagine why…did he offend them? How? He couldn't figure it out no matter how many times he thought about it. And Haru was on edge more than ever with this turn of events. It was getting harder day by day to keep the Ox cool and even in his manner. What must Kazuma think of him now? He must be regretting ever agreeing to have him help out with his school.
Tohru. Although she gave him a detailed explanation as to how she ended up escorting Kyo that evening, indicating she really wanted to help him out as well as see another part of the Sohma family at work, she hadn't stopped hovering over him, as if she were guilty of a crime or something. He understood her reasoning and didn't hold it against her (not that he'd ever do something like that), but really, she was starting to make him feel uncomfortable…making him feel doubt. And how he hated to feel doubt, especially where she was concerned.
Reaching the cool outdoors, he stepped lightly down to the crisp, clean grass. `It wasn't a real date for her. She had implied as much, even though she did just say this out of Kyo's earshot. Still, she looked relieved to have told me everything…I know she doesn't like to hide things from me. She's always so honest—'
“Did you fall asleep on me? If you don't say anything, I'm hanging up. Really, if it's nothing important, then it shouldn't take you this long to answer my question. Are you awake? This is getting ridiculous…” The exasperation now evident in her tone was enough to incite him to give a hurried response.
“I'm sorry. It's just that you surprised me so much with your call this late at night…why are you awake at this hour?” Good, it respectfully turned the question back on her, just enough to buy time to come up with an adequate answer. And an answer it must be…she never walked away from a question she posed without the full answer that she demanded.
“I already told you…this was your idea, remember?” she pointed out in such an obvious tone.
`Honestly no, but then again it is late…early…pft, whatever.' He suddenly became worried, his mind starting to kick in full gear. Was she hurt? He wildly thought that she was stuck hurt somewhere with only the phone as her lifeline. Illogical, yes, but he wasn't much for logic at this hour. “Are you okay, Akito? Did you hurt yourself? Do you need me to go over there?”
“Of course not! I'm…well…or close to it anyway.” Her hesitation and slight confession led him to remember why anyone would be awake at this hour. His lack of sleep due to incessant worries…her lack of sleep due to…
“Do you…” Sitting now under the veranda outside, he wrestled with his words to be sure they didn't trigger a reaction he couldn't handle. Insulting her by pointing out a weakness like fear or feeling anything but in control was not what he wanted to do. “Would you like to talk about it…sometimes it helps.”
Sometimes. And no, I don't.” Her clipped remarks quickly squashed his continuing thoughts to ease an answer out of her. She in turn asked quietly, “What are your worries?”
“They hate me.” Now that remark was said without one iota of contemplation. His current track of mind was on Akito's problems, not something like what he just said. Yet thinking back on it, perhaps that's what truly kept him awake…the truth of the matter as it were.
Strange…the truth beneath all the excitement was that he was starting to feel the bane of being the Nezumi of the Jyuunishi. Times were certainly becoming more difficult. He certainly took advantage of Tohru's welcoming and comforting presence, no matter how fleeting. He cherished each moment and carried them with him to cope with the mounting pressure at the dojo he faced every day. And to think that he once believed to have left that behind him…to have moved on beyond the petty squabbles of those with equally petty minds.
He hadn't felt this much strain on his feelings since he moved out of the Main Estate, back when he was as lifeless as the dead leaves on the ground. It was fact that those around him at the dojo for the most part knew nothing of his `condition', but he could almost swear that behind every eye there, he was being measured and calculated, as if seeing how worthy he was of being referred to as `special'. It was strange…too strange…and too close for comfort to be confessing something close to this truth to Akito of all people.
“I mean…they don't actually hate me, I'm sure of it. They just don't understand me, and that I can understand since I don't understand myself at times. I'm…confusing...right?” he lamely ended his quick but futile recovery.
“Who are `they'?” All in the forest along with her end seemed to stand still at the very cold question that was spoken with an equally frigid tone.
`Okay, that wasn't exactly what I'd hoped she'd ask.' Reminding himself to keep it simple and above all truthful, he replied calmly, “Truthfully, their opinions of me aren't important to me. They do concern me, but I really shouldn't let their problems get to me. I'll just keep the peace and wait it out until the end of the tournament. And maybe—”
You bow to no one, Yuki. Must I remind you of what Tou-sama told us?” Heavy breathing on her end alerted to how close she was to yelling, but thankfully refrained from doing so. “You are not to condescend to any one's level. If they can't handle being in your presence, damn them, but you WILL NOT humble yourself just to keep the peace. That is BENEATH you to do so, and I WILL NOT abide by it!”
He should know better by now that she is of the cranky sort when she can't find peace, as is the case this evening…lack of a good rest would do that to anyone. He was afraid now of what best to say, so instead he stuck with what he knew best, softly replying, “Sometimes it helps, Akito, to let people sort out their feelings out in the open. It's not always pretty, but at least they are openly admitting that they have a problem. When they do, they sometimes then realize that it's really not that big of a problem, and usually they leave it alone or a solution presents itself.”
“Yuki…no.” was the curt remark heard from her. He knew well that she wasn't agreeing to any of this, and honestly, she didn't have to. This was his decision that he was adamantly holding onto.
“Akito, it's not about bowing down to anyone, but reaching a point where they can live with their opinions about me, good or bad, and leave it at that. It's just…” Flustered and completely worn out from having to explain something he couldn't understand himself, he heaved a heavy sigh and sat down on the veranda as his feet rubbed against the cool blades of the grass below. Looking to the distant stars for answers that weren't forthcoming, he settled for staring at the luminous moon above, having turned the flashlight into his shirt to avoid attracting bothersome bugs.
Having nothing else to say that would make sense or even appease her, he quietly commented, “They will leave me alone, Akito. They can't always go on with imposing their opinionated views on me. It will pass, and that's what I have to remember. It'll all pass…”
Silence was not as golden as he had imagined it would be after his remarks were said to dead air. Not even her breathing could be heard over the phone, making him pull the phone away to see if his signal was somehow fading. It wouldn't surprise him, after all, he was out in this secluded area, but his phone indicated a strong signal and the line was still active.
“Akito…?” he asked tentatively.
“You are…too kind…” Her voice indicated her frustration with the whole conversation but also a trace of resignation. She bit out, “There are FOOLS…WRETCHED IDIOTS… that will not hesitate to taint your kindness with their poison. To expose yourself like that…don't you realize that they may hurt you just to prove their point?! And yet you…”
Heavy breathing was now heard once again from her end, her anger evident even to him. He could faintly imagine the pacing she was doing at the moment to keep her temper in check (if she felt like it which he assumed she did at this hour), the clenching of her unoccupied hand while the other grasped the phone to her ear to near-breaking point, the stiffening of her jaw to hold it all back…
“It is foolish…I know this—” he went on before being cut off.
“Foolish doesn't begin to describe it, Yuki!” cut in Akito vehemently.
“But it's all I could ever be, Akito!” he desperately tried reasoning with her. To him, at this moment at this hour, it was vitally important to him for her to understand…to accept him. Staring out into the dark forest with eyes eerily reflecting the moonlit night, he clenched his knee in desperation, vainly reaching for the right words. “For better or worse, I am who I am, faults and all. And I can't deny being me…even if it means being weak…”
Silence reigned once again between Master and servant, the tension from before dispelled into the night by the servant's passionate plea for his decisions to be understood if only a little. The crickets were once again singing their melody to the waning hours of this late evening, early morning hour while the two sat at their respective places, each looking to nothing in front of them but at the same time seeing all that they wanted to see. One lone voice finally broke the spell upon them.
“Indeed, you are weak…” Akito murmured softly.
At hearing that, with a heavy heart he mentally braced himself to hear her judgment of him. It would hurt to hear more but it was truth…the way she saw it anyway. Akito, although warped at times in her reasoning, never told a lie…not in her opinion.
“Still… That's not a fault…” she wistfully trailed in her continuing remark, “Tou-sama really did knew you so well already by just taking one look at you…”
“Akito?” asked Yuki curiously but also worriedly since he knew she disliked talking about her father.
“No matter,” she replied waving off his concern. “He prepared me for this part of your nature long ago. Do what you please. And I'll do what I have to do.”
Now he wasn't too sure if that was a good development or not, but he did feel at peace that she at least gave him her `blessing'. Many would have seen this as another directive from their Master, but to him he knew it to be for what it was…
`She may not like it, but she does understand. And that's really all that matters to me…' Sighing heavily and tiredly, he laid down on the veranda floor, lifting his legs so that they were draped over the edge. Using his arm as his pillow, he yawned lightly while staring at fireflies that decided to investigate his personal space. His thoughts then took him back to her, finally coming to a question that he knew she'd understand.
“Is it still as dark as before, Akito?” he whispered so lowly that the evening breeze would have taken it away if it were tangible. The continuing silence on her end led him to believe that she wasn't going to respond, which didn't surprise him. She had made it a point before that she didn't like for him to know of her personal problems.
“No…the doors…they stopped knocking,” she murmured, her voice taking on the sense that she was falling back to sleep but without the anxiety that marked her tone in the beginning of their conversation.
Not understanding her comment but glad that she was feeling better, he smiled into the night as one firefly perched itself at the end of his elbow, glowing softly against his robe before taking off into the dim world around them.
A dim world that was lit by the light of the moon…much like the world she was in. Much like the world they were all in…
“I'm glad you called, Akito.”
And with that said, their conversation drifted with the gentle winds through the dark forest, and with the melody of the quiet evening. All was serene once again, the pressure of mounting problems now only a distant memory. This was the last coherent thought before Yuki fell asleep there on the veranda, under the watchful eye of the fair moon and under the gaze of those furry creatures that clamored about to be closer to him.
It was to this scene of serenity that Shigure found upon his late night trek through his home. He had such a restless evening, words failing to come from his creative mind to be put on screen. Napping edgily on his keyboard, he woke up with a sudden start, his heart suddenly pounding through his chest. He had to walk the premises just to be sure all was in order…his Inu instincts demanded no less.
`Hm…his flashlight, his phone, his clock with a cracked lens…what in the world was our little Nezumi thinking? And sleeping out here in the cold? This child is really pushing to get me under the guillotine with Haa-san…' Shaking his head in dismay, for he will surely hear of this from his best friend should he find out (and of course, he'll deny it to the end of his days), he went back in to retrieve a blanket. Covering the Nezumi with the blanket, he smiled wryly, sorely tempted to open an eyelid to see if he was really asleep. But he did know not to go that far with a sleepy Nezumi…Yuki could be so vicious when bothered in his sleep.
`There's no way I'm moving him. Let him have a crick in his neck.' But knowing that not to be an option since very likely Hatori would be consulted which in turn would lead to questions asked that he didn't have an answer for even though it was Yuki's fault for being careless but then again Hatori will not see it that way since he's the one in charge and everything is his responsibility… `Honestly, I can go on and on…well, there's no way around it.'
So here he now sat with his back against the column supporting the wraparound porch, resisting the urge to smoke since it would surely reach the younger Sohma's delicate lungs from this close proximity. And he was very close…
`I wonder if Yuki will sever any bodily parts on my person when he wakes up and sees his head on my lap. Hm…I'm so glad I brought my camera! Aya will love this picture! Beautiful…drooling, but still beautiful…I'm definitely feeling the inspiration now.' He gently sifted his fingers through the unnaturally soft hair of his charge, careful to keep from waking him.
Looking out into the dim forest, Shigure still felt the weight of many things clouding his mind, but most of all, the heavy silence that permeated his sense of personal space as the Inu was now but a small hum compared to the roaring waterfall from before. For this moment in time with only the dark woods as his witness, he let his mask of complacency fall to the wayside, his eyes scrutinizing the world around him.
`Tick, tock. Are you watching us now? Tick, tock. Time is moving forward leaving little behind. Tick, tock. Will you prevail against time? Tick, tock. Will our blessed union continue still? Tick, tock. Not if I have anything to do with it… Tick, tock. And to hell with what you bring. Tick…'
Tales from the Sanitarium (08-01-06):
Welcome back dear readers! Not as long as the other one, but still good! Sorry for the delay, but duty calls and I had to work on a large project in my spare time…ew. It's over, so we're cool now!
Whew, once again I surprise myself. Honestly, I didn't plan for this chapter to be so…dark. Heh, I really just wanted a `break' of sorts between the more dramatic moments of the story, but hey, it's all good!
This chapter uses references from my other sidefic, The Game of Memory (TGoM). As I mentioned in my TGoM fic, that fic serves as part of my support for the plotline in SOS. I merely highlighted some points here from Akito's father in the sidefic. Also, you will note how I've reiterated a small but significant point here with Yuki's position in the family. He may not carry himself this way, but he is in a very high status within the family. He bows to no one (save Akito), and it's interesting to me that he hardly uses any form of honorific with his extended family (with the immediate family, he does). I wanted to go a step beyond that, to infer that his superiority with others is a given (at least, in Akito's mindset), and in some form or another, he is placed in this position with the general populace. It's not to say he's always well liked, just that it eventually occurs, and with that, conflicts arise. It really doesn't pay to be Yuki.
Okay, I brought back Rin and Haru…it's been a while! I wanted to just give them some time alone…together…blissfully…or not. I did intend to keep the moments `light', but my mind didn't agree I guess. Oh well, they are in good company with Kyo…poor guy just doesn't know what to expect anymore. Remember, keep these `vision' sequences in mind…they will all come together eventually.
I done up this chapter with only Akito and Yuki in mind, but as you read, that idea ballooned to include others on the side. I wanted to further develop the awkward relationship between them as well as get a small glimpse into Akito's problems. Definitely something to keep in mind for later!
Shigure's moments were short but really creepy. The `tick, tock' thing was thrown in at the last minute, but I think it did well to emphasize the constant need to be aware of time passing. It also was kinda cool to end it with that phrasing when that's how it started off the chapter. Eh, that's my take on it.
My musical moments could be the first ending theme from the anime, Outlaw Star. Loved the characters! The title of the Japanese song is “Hiru no Tsuki”, or “Daytime Moon” as it's translated. The melody is melancholy but nice and the lyrics fit fine, too. I also really like the song from Mariah Carey, “Anytime You Need a Friend”. Its lyrics are perfect for Rin/Haru moment, and it really does well to fit in with Kyo/Tohru moment, too. Heck, it can be used overall for this chapter!
Well, I must be off as yours truly is typing this at work…ssh! Take care sweeties and thanks to all for continuing to read my deranged fic. Special thanks to my anonymous reviewers whom I can't reply to…your reviews are read and so appreciated. To those reading this on MediaMiner, give me a shout just so that I know you're reading and liking it! No reviews from over there in a long while…I need to be sure all is well with you, making sure you get your daily vitamins and reading my fic!
Thank you! Review on your way out! Ja ne!