Fruits Basket Fan Fiction ❯ Seasons of Sorrow ❯ Embers of Summer's Glory = A Moment is Now ( Chapter 46 )

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

DISCLAIMER: It's not mine. Next question.
Special Note: Man, I'm on some streak or something for putting out lengthy chapters. Eh, it happens. Read on!
Embers of Summer's Glory
Chapter 46: A Moment is Now
“You should have made your move here and here. That would have increased your territory, and you would have taken these as prisoners.”
“How about the motif on the saya? It was etched differently than others.”
“No. I must point out that my territory is increasing dramatically.”
“The cloth on the hilt is not of the same age as the sword.”
“Perhaps it's fake.”
“No! You're not concentrating. This offends me.”
“It's impossible to determine what it is from just looking at it.”
“Then would you stop reading from that book? Shigure-kun will no doubt be shooting out more of those books soon enough. Have some respect—we're in the middle of a game!”
“Haji-ojiisan, I was thinking—”
“Pft, more like ignoring me…” grumbled the eldest Sohma as he sat back in his chair with a creak to his limbs. If he had known how enthralled his nephew would become over reading the latest novel by their family's talented writer, he would have forced this game on him some other time. As it was, Kazuma wasn't very adept to a game of go, but to an old man, beggars can't be choosers…and he really begged Kazuma for a game.
“I didn't mean to ignore you. But my guesses are not getting any closer than when I started months ago.” (Clack) Setting his engrossing book to the side, Kazuma looked to his watch and sighed lightly. “Well, we still have half an hour left before the next tour comes up here. Would you want to clean up now?”
“Might as well. I already won this game.” Shuffling all the black and white stone pieces back to their prospective bins, Master Haji thought back to Kazuma's remarks earlier. Smiling broadly, he suddenly clapped Kazuma on the shoulder, startling the pensive martial arts teacher. “I've got just the thing.”
Rubbing his slightly sore shoulder (who would have thought the old man still had strength in his aging body) Kazuma was of course perplexed as to what he meant, knowing how quickly the elder Sohma's thoughts shifted from one thing to the next. “Haji-ojiisan, what do you mean?”
Walking briskly through the expansive 6th floor exhibit, he made his way to his destination with his prized cane resting over his shoulder, taking time to minutely adjust a statue or other display and unknowingly knocking these same objects down with the cane as he walked past them. Kazuma could only panic wordlessly as he fluttered about behind the elder man, taking care that none of the display items fell to the floor with a crash, which a few certainly did come close to it. Juggling with those pieces with the speed and skill of one lucky martial artist, he set all the pieces carefully back to their position. Accompanying his elderly grandfather to be a personal guide for today's tours was proving challenging indeed.
“Come along, Kazu-kun. Quit lagging behind…or else I won't give you that hint you've been begging me for all this time,” called out Master Haji over his shoulder, finally stopping before his prized display.
Kazuma prided himself in being up to any challenge, but as he stood heaving against an armor display, he had to admit that his grandfather certainly came close to breaking him. Sighing inaudibly, he suddenly brightened when he realized what the old Sohma meant. “Yes, that would be wonderful, Haji-ojiisan.”
Waiting until his grandson finally caught up with him, idly wondering why the man was panting slightly, Master Haji shrugged it off and turned to the display. “Now look hard at it. But first… (Beep) Wait, turn around and cover those eyes…no peeking over the shoulder either.”
Hidden in a panel was the keypad for deactivating the security system to the wall display, and Master Haji certainly blocked any visual view of it while he entered the code. Kazuma smiled wryly at this, shaking his head as he thought, `Paranoid as ever.'
“There! Now you may turn around,” came the reply from the elder man.
“You know, it's not difficult for someone to take a guess at the code you use. A birthday date is usually the most basic of codes,” advised Kazuma as he turned to face his elder.
“Boy, can't you keep your voice down?! Walls have ears, don't you know that by now? Especially with this family?” declared Master Haji as he looked suspiciously all around.
`Ouch…that hurt!' Kazuma's fleeting thought certainly brought back to mind Kyo's run-ins with the infamous cane. Yet, he couldn't say he was too surprised with the treatment. Normally his grandfather smacked him upside the head with the palm of his withered hand that still held the strength of his youth, but apparently the cane was the choice this time around.
“Itai…Kyo must really have a head made of brick to take this pain all the time,” mumbled Kazuma while rubbing gingerly his sore head.
“Quit your whining, boy…it doesn't befit the Master of a dojo.” Setting his prized cane back to his side, he quickly donned cotton gloves and reached in to the now open display. Breathing in deeply, he shallowly breathed out, as if afraid his own breath would damage the priceless antiquity.
Being this close, face to face with no barrier between them for the first time, it was…well, it was more than just something. It was…everything good that could be thought of. The experience was that overpowering for Kazuma.
It was a masterpiece among masterpieces. The quality of both the saya, the engraved markings, their mon, the deep maroon binding that was wrapped around the hilt with a peace-knot…
“That's it. The binding…its color is still well preserved after so much time has passed,” remarked Kazuma triumphantly while leaning in to examine this more closely.
“Oh, you do make me proud! That's partly it.” Holding it out before him in the proper manner, Master Haji softly asked, “Do you want to hold it?”
The wide smile on his grandson's face said it all. Donning his own pair of cotton gloves he used before to handle the more delicate artifacts with care, Kazuma reached out carefully and lifted the treasure from equally careful hands. Examining it with a more critical eye, he could see how intricate the details were on their family crest, not one mistake with the complicated design. The tsuba itself was a work of incredible art as he scrutinized the delicate motif of the Rat and Cat seemingly chasing one another in an endless circle. He couldn't overcome how brilliantly made this was made and how it still…breathed, so to speak, a life of its own with a luster that seemingly never lost its shine.
`This is rather heavy…peculiar. Must be the kind of wood used for the saya.' Taking note of the knot, he asked, “Can we untie the knot to see—”
“Don't be absurd! That's priceless!” proclaimed the elderly Sohma, shocked that the thought ever crossed the younger Sohma's mind.
“You mean…you never…I mean, of course you've had to unsheathe it…right?” asked Kazuma incredulously. “You surely have seen the blade of this katana, right?”
“Of course not! That knot has been in place for more years than…than…well, it's been a while, trust me.” Huffing with the indignity of it all, Master Haji gently retrieved the saya and sword and returned the priceless gems to their casing, sealing them back behind the impenetrable barrier.
Kazuma couldn't help but be perplexed at his grandfather's reluctance of not wanting to untie the knot when he knew of other instances in which the elderly man did so with no conflict of interest. Still, if his grandfather didn't wish of it (and from the sounds of it, neither did anyone else before him), he would leave it alone. “I see. So…how do you examine the blade? It's quality…it's structure…”
Very carefully,” the elder replied tiredly. “It's a good thing we have modern technology. We've been able to uncover more about these items than we have in the past without compromising the integrity and quality of the artifacts. It's not an easy job, but it's well worth the time and money we spent on it.”
“I see.” Taking this moment as an opportunity, Kazuma asked tentatively, “Haji-ojiisan…how about…Kyo's bracelet? Anything new that would give us clues…”
The younger Sohma allowed his words to drift when he saw the haunted look come to his grandfathers gaze…a look that conveyed how much it affected him to hear those words. Truthfully, this was the first time he brought up the matter with his grandfather so directly, whereas before it was merely alluded to. It was his experience with living in this family that it was wise to let the `dead lie', especially when it involved past Jyuunishi members. Their stories, their lives, their very existence ceased to be mentioned once they passed on, to always be treated as a taboo subject. Anything in relation to them was never to be discussed…ever.
Yet, here he took the chance that perhaps his grandfather would be a little more yielding to at least answer the question in general. The silence continued, though, with the elderly Sohma's weary gaze now settled on an unseen image in the display, absently running his fingers over the top of his aged cane.
“Haji-ojiisan, I'm sorry if I offended you—” started off Kazuma when he was interrupted.
Holding his hand up to stop the flow of conversation, Master Haji tiredly smiled. “No, it's…fine. I understand that your concern is for the boy.”
Silence reigned supreme yet again as the elderly man looked away, his sharp but fatigued eyes indicating how far away his mind is currently. Kazuma dared not say anything, for he knew if his grandfather wished it, the elder would speak further then, not a moment before.
“Yes…not much is discovered, I'm afraid. We at least confirmed that its origin is from the same source as the statues. Quite the enigmas, ne?' Laughing half-heartedly, Master Haji made his way to a chair and heavily sat down. Looking to his cane, he softly asked, “How's the boy holding up with…it? With everything actually?”
“He's well more or less…you've seen him. But…the uncertainty of his `situation' is making him…making us wary of what's to come. For now, I'm just glad that the upcoming tournament at least has him too busy training to give much thought to his state of affairs.” Sitting heavily down in the opposite chair, Kazuma sighed deeply as he looked to his lap, intertwining his hands tightly then loosening them. How agitated he suddenly felt… “Haji-ojiisan…it's been becoming more difficult. With him, he's becoming…dissatisfied, I think. As if what he's known is not enough anymore…”
The elder Sohma nodded as he heard this. How it certainly brought back memories. “Hm. It's to be expected. Much is the weight the Cat carries.”
Kazuma barely nodded in agreement, his eyes worriedly looking to his grandfather. “I've tried so hard to reach him, Haji-ojiisan. Yet I still feel that I've failed him every time he carries that sorrow in his eyes… He's distant…too far out of my reach. For a time, with Tohru-san's company, it was less so. Lately, however…there's much…bitter sadness, but not at anyone in particular, just in general. I just don't understand it.”
Softly patting his grandson's tightly clasped hands, the elderly man consoled him, “It's also to be expected. You nor I will ever fully understand the bond of the Jyuunishi. Only those tied to the blood bond will comprehend the weight of the curse. And as I've said before, the Cat carries much weight.”
Kazuma replied despondently, “Well, Kyo's definitely—”
“No, not Kyo. The Neko. You must realize that these…well, these forms of the Jyuunishi are in a state of despair as well for never finding peace. That's how it was described to me long ago.” Master Haji stood then, walking steadily to the other end of the room where the walls of glass gave him a clear view of the tapestries that hung from the ceiling to trail to the very bottom. They were remarkably made and in well condition for their age…the vivid colors of their woven threads blending beautifully in the sunlight pouring in from the high windows from the vaulted ceilings.
He closed his weary eyes to this striking sight, bracing himself for what must be said, no matter how hard his grandson will take it. “It's a situation beyond our grasp, so we must leave it be as is. It's for the better…trust me.”
The tone was dismissive, abrupt. Kazuma failed to recall his grandfather ever speaking to him in such a manner before. If the subject weren't so dire, he would have held his tongue. However, this was his son they were discussing…and of all people to suggest letting the matter go…
“How can you suggest such a thing of me, Haji-ojiisan?” he demanded to know as he quickly went to his grandfather's side. His grandfather refused to face him, so he went on. “Kyo…the Neko…it doesn't matter to me. There is despair and helplessness in those eyes now more than ever, and I need to know why. Is it because of having the possibility of confinement still over his head; is he being harassed by the family to be confined? Or is it something else? Don't you see, I can't stand aside and do nothing. I can't be like you!”
Eyes snapped open suddenly, the look sent his way hard enough to be the slap he rightfully deserved for speaking so disrespectfully. He immediately bowed his head in apology, his voice soft, “Sumimasen, Haji-ojiisan—”
Master Haji's sharp gaze softened slightly yet his tone conveyed how upset he still was. “Never speak of matters that you have no knowledge about…have I not advised you of this time and again? Akito wasn't about to lift a finger for the infamous Cat when that ridiculous deal was struck. I saw to it that your education and upbringing of Kyo proceeded as you saw fit with no interference from the family, even from that so-called father of his. Do you see all that as being nothing?”
Bowing low in deep apology, Kazuma quietly replied, “Haji-ojiisan, you've done so much for us both…it was never `nothing'. It was `everything', truly.”
“You weren't referring to the current Neko, were you?” asked his grandfather, still a tad annoyed.
“As you said, I spoke of matters I didn't know about. It was your business, and I had no right in speaking of it. I am so sorry,” his grandson again deeply apologized.
(Smack) “There. That oughta knock back sense into your head. And quit bowing, you're giving me a backache just by looking at you.” Walking back to his favored chair, Master Haji sighed heavily as he twirled his cane absently, never noticing the teetering objects that were left behind him.
Constant skill of mastering gravity, Kazuma quickly settled the objects safely in their spots once more. Rubbing his throbbing head, he was thankful that this time his grandfather opted to discipline him with the hand in lieu of the cane. Smiling now that his grandfather seemed to have calmed down, he took his seat next to the elderly man once again. He was surprised with what the man started to say.
“Your grandfather, my Nii-san, was a remarkable man. He may have been the Neko, yet he always managed a smile for me, for anyone really, even to those that would taunt him. He'd say, `they may abhor the Neko, but they can't help but be fascinated by it just the same'. He kept his dignity instead of giving it up to the bitterness of the family, even when it came to his `other' form, merely describing it as `a rather smelly kind of creature'. Your grandfather was the one after all who had told me of his Neko's spirit lack of peace. He gave the matter no further thought beyond that.”
Noticing Kazuma hanging on to every word he spoke, Master Haji lightly grinned. “The reason I say these things now is for you to understand what I had said earlier. It isn't out of lack of compassion I say such things. Nii-san's acceptance of his life is what gained him the respect of a few of his peers, enough so that he was allowed to have a family of his own, to a limited extent of course. Do you see now…he never turned his back on what he was, the Neko of the Jyuunishi. All that that entailed…the woes, the restrictions, the burden…and yes, even the blessing…he accepted it all, without complaint.”
“I know Kyo isn't like the previous Neko. The fact that neither `God' nor the Nezumi were born in the generation of my Nii-san probably made the circumstances a little better to bear. Nonetheless, he was what he was…the infamous Cat of the Zodiac. There was no denying it and no escaping it. And strangely, he found his peace in accepting this truth.”
“How could he have found peace in the injustice of it all, I cannot grasp this, Haji-ojiisan,” interjected Kazuma desolately.
“Recall of what I said…we're not directly involved, and so we'll not fully understand their way of thinking…their way of being who they are. The blood bond is everything to them, you know this. I know that up to this point, several of the Jyuunishi have fought against this bond for reasons of their own. Trust me when I say that the tides are turning now. Why, I cannot say…again, I'm not involved. But I do know that when the time comes, we must help Kyo find his peace in accepting this truth. The Neko will not rest otherwise.”
Kazuma couldn't wrap his mind around this reasoning at the moment. How can he when it went against everything in his heart to do. To look his grandfather in the eyes was now impossible. “How? To just—”
“Let it be. Let Kyo be…let him go. Let his Neko lead him the way…for once, let Kyo listen to his Neko. We may need to help him with that since he's not much of a listener,” chuckled soberly the elderly man. Reaching out to grasp his grandson's hands with his own, he waited until he saw the elusive eyes meet his kindly old ones.
“Let their story play out.” Seeing the sudden confusion in Kazuma's gaze, he smiled widely now. “Not that of the old folk story. But their's. My Nii-san had told me his story wasn't so terrible when he looked back on it. In the end, he had you as his grandson. How could he possibly regret that?”
“But he did have his regrets…I only want to spare Kyo of all that…” went on softly the younger Sohma, thinking yet again of that long ago memory of him rejecting a gift from his grandfather…and that sad smile full of acceptance…of understanding...
“We all have our regrets. I regretted not being able to protest for my Nii-san. He regretted not being able to be the father or grandfather he wanted to be. Yet, for all our regrets, it leads us to where we are now. And now is our moment to act upon them. We've done all we can to guide Kyo the best way we know how. It's time that we set him free to find his own way without holding him back with our regrets.”
“It's so hard to just…allow it…” replied Kazuma in vague consent although he struggled with the truth of it all.
“Nii-san allowed it.” Looking down to his cane, Master Haji lifted it slightly to rub his hands the length of it, a dazed looked to the eyes. “When he gave me this cane, he made me swear to never let my regrets hold me back from forgiving myself and others related to this curse. It was the one and only thing he ever asked of me.”
“Regrets…they do follow us wherever we go, don't they.” Keenly aware of the underlying tension in the family, Kazuma dared to warily ask, “Will these `tides' in the family bring on more of these…regrets?”
A measured gaze met from the elderly man implied that much more would be involved. “Time will tell the severity of it. Certain members of the family are already seeing to that.”
“Oh…is that so? Wryly smiling, Kazuma replied, “It went that well with your meeting with Seto and the others?”
Returning the smile with a grin of his own, Master Haji reflected on the events from a few days prior. The tension in the family had only increased since then. Yes, the `tides' of this family were indeed turning in a direction he wasn't even sure of. But one thing's for certain…
“Let it be said now that those who will end up controlling the Jyuunishi will control all our fates. And that I'm afraid will not come about without its share of misery—you remember that…for Kyo's sake.”
`I'm in hell.'
“You-uuuu've lost…that loooovvvin' feeeeeeeling, whooooaaa—”
“You sound like a wounded dog, ya banshee!”
“Momiji-kun, which song did you want us to sing together? Remember we all decided to sing one old song from the US.”
“Hmmm…this one, “I Got You, Babe”—that has parts for the both of us!”
“You're not singin' that with Tohru!”
“She asked me, not you, Kyo! We're the ones that got paired up together—aren't you supposed to be singing with Uotani-san?”
'Singing' ain't the word I'd call her howls for help—”
“One more peep, and I'll nail your ASS to the ground!” growled Uo angrily as she held her mic over Kyo's head threateningly. “Dammit, why the hell did I have to draw YOUR name?! And why the (thwak) HELL did ya pick this song, ya MORON?!”
Never would Kyo openly admit that he didn't really know any of these old US songs, and that he had picked their song at random, hardly looking at the title. Nope, he wasn't saying a word, especially not in front of the one person that was now looking at him as if he agreed with Uo's remarks.
“Hey, it's a song, OKAY? So stop lookin' at me like that!” lashed out Kyo to the observant Rat of the Zodiac, all the while nursing the hard lumps on his head thanks to a very unforgiving mic.
“It's not much of a song if you're not singing it, Kyo,” pointed out Haru quietly from next to Yuki.
“Please don't stop, Uotani-san, you were doing just fine. Kyo-kun can't help it if he can't sing,” added Kagura in assurance. Ignoring the sputtering Neko in front of her, she turned to her date and urged him as well to comment. “Ri-chan, you agree, right?”
Nodding in agreement and wisely avoiding meeting Kyo's livid gaze, Ritsu replied, “Uotani-san is doing fine—”
“I CAN TOO SING!” cried out Kyo finally after much fumbling with his words.
“Sure you can…oh! My hands are dirty! I'll be right back; hold my spot, Ri-chan!” In a flash, Kagura stood up from the couch, leaving her spot between Yuki and Ritsu open. She quickly exited their private karaoke room to head for a nearby restroom, mentally hoping that Ritsu would now open up on his own in her absence.
The timid Monkey had other ideas once he saw a raging Cat cry out to the fleeing Boar to return in that instant. Recalling a long ago instance of meeting the Cat's anger head on, he opted to remain silent for now. He wasn't so comfortable amidst Tohru's friends, but he bore it well…at least when Kagura was there. Now he felt rather anxious, his hands twirling around one another in a nervous gesture that didn't go unnoticed.
“Ano, Ritsu-san, how was your mother when you saw her last? You've been making more frequent trips to the onsen nowadays, am I right?” gently asked Tohru to the shy man, turning slightly to see her old friend strike up the karaoke machine again.
Startled by the question, Ritsu stiffened his posture until he realized that it was only Tohru pulling him out of his spiraling thoughts. Not wanting to reply too loudly that it would distract the other from singing, he whispered, “Um, yes, I was down there recently. She's been getting a little better at the new onsen, but still too weak to handle her duties as much as before. I've been helping where I can. She sends her best to everyone here, including you, Honda-san.”
Smacking his hands over his ears, Kyo yelled, “Would you stop your calls of the wild, Yankee?! It's makin' my ears bleed!”
“THAT DOES IT! THIS BASTARD IS GOIN' DOWN HARD!!!” bellowed Uo with a fire lit in her eyes.
“Arisa, please, remember we'd be on our best behavior today for Tohru's guests today. Look at him...he's practically too shocked to breathe now,” pointed out Hana quietly from behind Haru's camcorder as she focused on Ritsu's ashen face.
“He's not breathing?!” cried out Tohru in a panic. “Air! Air! I need, no, he needs air!”
“Who needs air?” asked Kagura from the door as she entered.
“Ritsu-niisan can't breathe—Kyo spooked him too much,” calmly replied Haru with a sly grin.
One swift kick to his abused head by a rampaging Boar had the Cat seeing bubbles of light for a time as he lay slumped against the wall. It never bode well to anyone to cross Kagura, especially when it involved Ritsu. Kyo had already run into this side of her before…he really needed to remember to watch what he did whenever he was around the Monkey. His head can't take much more kicks of her caliber.
“So, whose turn is it to sing? Hanajima-san, right?” contentedly inquired Kagura as she daintily straightened her dress and sat next to her beloved man who was worriedly looking over at the twitching body of his fellow Jyuunishi.
“You did that on purpose,” quietly stated Yuki to his companion.
Embracing his smaller relative with ease, Haru retorted, “Eh, it was fun to watch him knocked down by a girl half his weight. At least everyone's calm now.”
Hana stood up at the stage with her mic in place. Calmly looking to them all, she solemnly spoke, “I will be somewhat reciting my song. Sohma Kyo, please be sure to let your father know of this.” And upon clearing her throat, she waited for her selection to come up and then began singing her selected tune:
Wishing and hoping and
thinking and praying,
planning and dreaming
each night of his charms
that won't get you into his arms,
so if you're looking to find love
you can share, all you gotta do,
is hold him and kiss him, and love him
and show him that you care

Show him that you care just for him,
do the things that he likes to do,
wear your hair just for him,
cause you won't get him, thinking and a praying
wishing and a hoping

Just wishing and hoping
and thinking and praying
and planning and dreaming
his kisses will start...
that won't get you into his heart...
so if your thinking how great true love is
all you gotta do is...

Hold him and kiss him and squeeze him and love him
just do it and
after you do, you will be his—
“Oh my GOD!!!!!!!!! STOP, DON'T SAY ANYTHING MORE!!!” yelped Kyo in shame— Hana's selection being sung seemingly to his adoptive father was so shocking to him it roused him back to life. Fumbling with shutting down her mic and the karaoke machine, he breathed heavily and prayed that the damage was minimal. “DAMN…tell me no one heard THAT!”
“Loud and clear!” piped up Uo wickedly. “Damn, Hanajima, you can sing to your man! Hell, I'm jealous now!”
“HE'S NOT HER MAN!” denied Kyo loudly.
“I heard it!” chimed Momiji happily. “She sings very pretty!”
“THAT'S NOT THE POINT!” angrily shot back Kyo.
“I have no problem with my hearing,” added Yuki nonchalantly. “Congratulations on your father's devoted admirer.”
“SHUT THE HELL UP!” screeched the red-headed teen.
“I didn't know we weren't supposed to listen,” commented Tohru worriedly. She hurriedly added, “But it was wonderfully, eh, sung. The selection was very…unique…eheh. You must have spent a lot of time on deciding it, Hana-chan.”
All Kyo could think of doing now was thump his head against a wall, begging for a hole to open up and eat him alive. It was his only means of escaping the shame of it all.
Kagura herself was in awe. “Hanajima-san has a wonderful voice, and the song—how romantic! Shihan would be so flattered!”
“NO, HE WOULDN'T!” Kyo felt himself on the verge of a full-on fit. Pulling his hair out sounded very tempting now.
“Right over here, Kyo, let me get a closer look at those flashing eyes of yours,” called out Haru while refocusing his camcorder to continue recording everything that just went on.
“GET THAT DAMN CAMERA OUT OF MY FACE!” yelled Kyo into the close-up lens.
“My song…” quietly replied Hana. So softly it was said that everyone including Kyo looked to her. “My song…was…ruined.”
Now a flashing set of dark eyes met Kyo's set of bright red-orange. However, the flashing eyes from a denpa who felt slighted were indeed more ominous than those of the taller teen. Kyo immediately shrunk back once he saw an unseen wind whip her hair all around her.
`DAMMIT—HER WAVES ARE COMIN' FOR ME!!!!' mentally cried out Kyo as he weakly brought his arm up in hopes of avoiding the pain of being cursed by a denpa.
“Ladies and gentlemen, pardon my intrusion,” politely called out their hostess from the doorway, “but your food and dessert are now ready to be served in the room next door. We have a specialty chocolate torte for your pleasure this evening. Please follow me.”
The static electricity that once ignited the air because of the denpa's temper suddenly snapped, leaving behind a calmer, more serene girl in its wake. “Yes, we must try the chocolate torte. Thank you.”
Gaping at her abrupt change in demeanor at the mention of chocolate, everyone sighed deeply in relief at their narrow escape of having to face her wrath. Kyo in particular made a mental note to never interrupt a singing female…ever. His experiences tonight taught him better.
“Chocolate…the sole weakness of many a female. Many should take heed of this for future reference,” went on Haru in his commentary behind the lens as he made his way out the door to catch more footage of the strange girl.
“Eh, um, let's all follow Hana-chan…we wouldn't want the food to get cold, ne?” suggested Tohru uneasily as she went out as well, dragging Uo out before more words could be exchanged.
“Right behind you, Tohru-kun. Come on, Ri-chan.” Kagura felt a sudden tug from her hand, finally noticing that Ritsu didn't budge. “Ri-chan?”
“Please go on ahead without me. I…I need to or I would like to speak with Yuki-san, if that's alright, of course, with you, Yuki-san,” requested Ritsu softly.
Surprised by his request, Yuki thought of asking him exactly what he wanted to talk about, but the timid man's imploring gaze gave Yuki pause for concern. “Well, that's fine, Ritsu…we'll be along, Kagura. See if you can try keeping the baka Neko's mouth shut long enough for there to be a little peace and quiet.”
Kyo immediately became incensed. “Kuso Nezumi—”
“Come on, Kyo-kun,” cut in Kagura as she wrenched Kyo away from the other two into the hallway. She, too, was curious as to what Ritsu had wanted to talk with Yuki about. He had been strangely out of sorts (more so than usual) since he returned from his last trip from his family's onsen. Perhaps it was related to that…
`But what could it possibly be? I wish he'd tell me…' Still, she had to respect Ritsu's way of handling his private matters. He has grown so much as an independent individual, and she was very proud of that. She will just have trust in him to tell her what's bothering him on his own. `At least he's going to someone for help, advice, whatever. And I trust Yuki to help him.'
“Hey, I'm gonna get some fresh air outside at the balcony, okay? I'll be there in about five minutes,” called out Kyo from behind her as he made his way outside the sliding door leading to the outdoor terrace.
`And he's the biggest mystery of all. He's way out sorts…I haven't seen him this restless in a long while. Then again, a lot of us are on edge. Tohru-kun's efforts tonight to help us relax if only a little are appreciated. Still, what's really on Kyo-kun's mind?' she wondered, concern starting to set in as she realized that there's much more involved now with their lives than in the past. There was just…something not right about this underlying stress with them all. It felt out of place…but natural at the same time. What could it all mean really?
Stressing was exactly what Ritsu was going through as he absently paced in the empty karaoke room. Yuki was starting to get dizzy with his pacing until finally Ritsu managed to speak his mind…somewhat.
“I'm…not sure…how…that is, I mean…I'm a little nervous, it seems, I'm sorry, but…” stammered Ritsu before he felt a firm grip on his shoulder. He turned to finally notice that he wasn't pacing anymore and was now looking straight into the gray-violet eyes of the shorter Nezumi.
“How was your trip to the onsen, Ritsu?” asked Yuki calmly while carefully sitting Ritsu down on the couch. He believed starting off slowly will help the anxious man in sorting through his thoughts better. That plus it was the only way he could ensure that he didn't get a headache from watching the man pace back and forth.
“Fi-fine. I'm sorry…my words…” started rambling off again Ritsu before he stopped at Yuki's sudden hand signal.
“It's okay, you're doing fine. How about your mother…your father? Are they both well?” asked the younger Sohma with practiced patience.
“Yes…well, my mother could always be in better health, but…well…” Ritsu's eyes turned soft at mentioning his mother, clearly a subject he was very emotional about at the moment.
Understanding that his fellow Jyuunishi's mother's condition was a touchy subject, Yuki moved on, glad that his patience and carefully placed questions were slowly calming down the worried Monkey. “I see. Are you all right?”
“I'm…well, that is to say…in a way…I'm sure it's not as bad as I make it out to be,” began the young man's rambling yet again as he rubbed his hands repeatedly against one another.
Noting the nervous gesture to be a similar trait amongst the family, Yuki inwardly sighed. Shrugging away the wayward thought, he knelt down and calmly took the fidgety hands into his own. “What's the matter, Ritsu? Tell me what's bothering you.”
The sincerity in the younger Sohma's voice eased his fears considerably. Deeply breathing in, Ritsu softly remarked, “If there were any other way, I would never burden you with my worries, Yuki-san…”
The words rang very familiar to the Nezumi, a clear indication that something is definitely wrong. “Tell me.”
“We had a…or actually it was about me, but I wasn't allowed to join them, so it was just my mother and father…” Closing his eyes to mentally sort through his chaotic mind, he finally found an order to them, and he placed them in that way before the Nezumi. “The day before I left, a few days ago, we had an unexpected guest. I wasn't so sure at first why he would visit the onsen without his family, but I had then thought he wanted to discuss business matters with my parents. That's not unusual.”
“Who had visited, Ritsu?” softly asked Yuki, a sudden wariness creeping up along his back.
“Seto-dono. He was…well, he was so displeased when I greeted him. When he demanded to see my parents, I rushed to get them, of course.” Pausing here, Ritsu reflected back at the dark look leveled at him from the elder Sohma. Clearly the harsh man showed no like for him; not that it was surprising since he's the unremarkable Monkey and very unworthy of attention.
“What happened, Ritsu?” The mention of the elder Sohma's name brought back memories of his recent run-in with him. `Did he leave right after that meeting to meet up with Ritsu's parents? Why would he meet with them of all people?' Instinctively he dreaded the answer to that line of questioning.
“He had heard about my helping them with handling many of the everyday functions of the hot spring inns we own. He was so upset with them. He…implied that I was not worthy enough to be amongst the family elite. And being what I am, I shouldn't be involving myself with the matters of our family business.” Ritsu definitely wasn't about to repeat the crude remarks he had overheard from the other side of the wall during that meeting. Sohma Seto was explicit enough in his description of him being a continuing disgrace to his parents. “He said having me there will jeopardize an honorable family business such as ours…that he would seriously consider replacing my parents with others that were more capable of handling the business if they couldn't perform their duties anymore.”
As Ritsu explained the situation he was facing, Yuki could only stare at him silently in veiled astonishment. Indeed…Sohma Seto had been furious after their family meeting that day. Yet, to have gone through the trouble of traveling to the onsen they owned just to belittle Ritsu (which basically that's what it boiled down to) in his parent's eyes, then threatening them with having the business taken away…
`Seto-san's behavior seems erratic…it just doesn't make any sense. They have nothing to do with the disagreements going on between him and Akito…at least, I don't think so. I don't see the connection. So…why? Why come after them?' He stood up then, wringing his fingers together in that nervous twitch common in their family, contemplating what this new twist in their family drama could possibly mean. Ritsu certainly was shaken up by it, and for good reason.
“I only came to you because…it's just… Hm. I'm not sure how else to say it,” softly continued the distressed man. He then lifted his despondent gaze from the floor to face the Nezumi's slim back. He stood up as well to be beside the younger Sohma, unable to keep his worry in check any longer. “I can't…I won't tell her. She may try to involve herself, and I don't wish for her or her mother to come under Seto-dono's scrutiny. I'd never forgive myself if that were to happen.”
Yuki couldn't fault Ritsu for his decision when he himself has done the same thing when the situation involved Tohru and Akito. How many times had he refrained from showing any emotion regarding his old housemate when he visited Akito in those early visits long ago? Truthfully, it was for the best because in the end, the less the girl's name was mentioned around Akito, the less prone `God' was to direct any attention to the innocent girl. And that really was the best thing for Tohru then and even now…to never come under the scrutiny of their `God'.
“Have you talked with Akito, Ritsu?” demanded to know the Nezumi, the piercing look to the Monkey allowing for only a straight answer to be said.
The question was not out of place. Ritsu had already known of Yuki's knowledge of his more frequent visits with the clan head, especially upon his return from his trips to the onsen. Brief were the visits…very brief, lasting from a mere greeting to a quiet cup of tea, all conducted in perfect silence. Nothing more. It was not lost on either of them as to the `why'…truthfully, it was the very least that Ritsu could do since he was permitted a certain luxury not afforded very often to the Jyuunishi. A cherished luxury that he couldn't ever fully thank Yuki for.
Ritsu's subdued expression was enough to answer that question. “No, I wasn't sure how to say anything about it. I'm sorry…it does make sense to advise her…”
His eyes widened at the abrupt remark. Was the young Sohma implying that they hide this problem from Akito's notice? It was never wise to hide anything from Akito…she always found out the secrets in anyone's closet. And it was a horrible punishment to those that hid it from her to begin with…
Yuki looked to Ritsu's surprised expression and calmly reassured him. “I'm not saying we're going to hide it from Akito. Just…don't say anything to her.”
“Why?” Immediately the thought that entered his mind went out his mouth. Ritsu clamped his hand over the offending member of his person and quickly bowed low in apology. “I'm sorry…I shouldn't question you. I'm not worthy enough to be questioning my superiors—”
Firmly holding the rambling Monkey by the shoulders, the Nezumi forced him to stand back up. The commanding gaze of the Nezumi swiftly silenced the rambling, leaving the Monkey humble before him. He softened his grip and asked tranquilly, “Ritsu, why did you come to me?”
The older Sohma male averted his gaze back to the floor, his face bashfully flushed. “You may think it strange, Yuki-san, and I won't blame you—”
“Ritsu…” slightly warned Yuki to keep Ritsu from deviating again.
“I'm so—I mean, it's because…” His remark trailed off as he finally revert his gaze back to the Nezumi, regaining his posture to stand upright once again. Looking into the solemn eyes of the fair-skinned youth, he suddenly felt the words come forth naturally. “I had to. It only made…sense. It felt…right…to let you know. I could trust you with my problems.”
If it weren't for having dealt with Kagura and Ritsu before, Yuki would have had a hard time accepting that remark as truthful. It was strange nonetheless to be trusted with their concerns whereas before they kept it to themselves. What made it so that they could now come to him for aid? It made little sense in every logical way of looking at things, but his family was not logical. It never was.
`If they give it so freely to me, I won't betray their trust. I'm not so sure how this will work out, but I have to try.' Smiling softly, he stated, “Then trust my decisions.”
“But, Yuki-san, I can't let you take on my burden, it wouldn't be right—” immediately remarked Ritsu when he was cut off again.
“Your burden is my own…and it wouldn't be right to let you carry it alone anymore.” That much he knew was truth…deep within his sense of being, Yuki knew that it was completely natural that he take on the burdens of those in the Jyuunishi circle. He felt the duty in saying that and meaning it. Seeing the hesitation still in the young man's eyes, he quietly asked, “Aren't you tired of the loneliness, Ritsu? Tired of the worry…of the fear that never seems to let you go? Aren't you just…tired?”
It was clear to him now how much of a burden each of his fellow Jyuunishi have had to carry on their own over the years. Having been so sheltered from all of it in the past…no, no more. He had made his decision the other day at that family meeting that he will no longer hide behind his ignorance or to turn a blind eye to the pain his family is going through. No more will he hide behind the wall he erected to keep his personal pain of being the Nezumi of the Jyuunishi at bay.
No more.
And with that resolve, he came to find the peace that could only be found in the chaotic world of their curse. He was no longer afraid…he was no longer tired. He felt at peace after so much searching. And to have found it in his family the whole time…
Reflecting on the questions posed to him, Ritsu couldn't deny the truth of the matter…he was tired of being helpless, being unable to do anything for his parents' welfare beyond handling the bookkeeping and such. His family deserved only the best of treatment after having endured ridicule on his behalf for so long. And now…an elder member of the family comes to his parents with threats of forsaking them for the welfare of an onsen? Whatever the family politics may be, he knew what must be done. And he also knew he couldn't do it alone.
`Strange…it all makes better sense now that I've discussed it with him.' Trepidation still laced in his voice, Ritsu commented, “Yet, I still can't help but worry about Seto-dono's remarks—”
“Seto-san is not Akito, Ritsu. His word is never final.”
The curt statement was said with such conviction that it startled Ritsu into stillness. Could it really be that simple…that true? Gray-violet eyes looked up to his brown set with no uncertainty within them. The resolve in Yuki's eyes silenced any further doubts from him.
“I trust your judgment, Yuki-san. Forgive me for doubting you,” murmured in apology Ritsu while bowing low. Standing fully once again, he suddenly realized a fact that escaped him. “Dear me, you are shorter than Ayame-niisan. Perhaps it's the nature of your cursed spirit…”
A dark haze gathered around the Nezumi that definitely didn't escape the Monkey's notice. “Eh…perhaps…I think, we should just…go—”
Inevitable stomping and clash of doors slamming shut were immediately heard. None dared to ask why a pleading Sohma asked for forgiveness from every known member of the family in the middle of the hallway.
- Each held an air of superiority. -
Grasses rustle in the unseen breeze.
- Each were naturally placed around it. -
A darkening horizon came closer.
- Each conveyed serenity that was not felt around him. -
Soft whispers carried in the wind. Behind…
- Each told their story in writings he couldn't read. -
From behind, far behind…softly weeping.
- Each began to vividly glow…brightening like stars on earth. -
Heavy breathing coming from behind…
Bright shine…his bracelet was brightly shining along with statues that had no right being here with the lonesome and imposing tree.
Jerked back to his senses, he whirled around to face the child that implored him with tears to— “What? Don't do what?”
“NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!!!!!!!!! screeched the little boy while pulling his hair in desperation. “NO, STOP IT!!!”
He reached out quickly to embrace the convulsing child. Smelling the child's natural fresh scent in his hair, he soothed the boy the best way he knew how, the way his own father used to do when he was plagued with nightmares long ago.
“Ssh, I'm right here, okay. I'm right here,” he gently pacified the child with those words that were once said to him. He felt the soft silky fabric beneath his rough hands, taking care not to damage the delicate fabric. The smell of freshness was clinging to his nose now…
“They're awakening…” miserably replied the boy in his arms, sniffling all the while.
His spine stiffened; fear…cold fear. “What's waking up?”
The boy took to heavy tears again. “I can't stop it anymore. (Sobbing) I'm trying, I'm trying…”
“Trying to do what, huh…please. Tell me,” he begged desperately.
The boy pulled away from the warm embrace, to stare brokenly yet with small hope shining in his eyes. “You will take care of her, right? (Sniffling) Don't…don't—”
“Kyo-kun, I brought you a slice of the dessert before the others ate all of it. Heh, Hana-chan had such a big piece of it,” remarked Tohru happily as she presented a nice slice of the infamous torte that calmed the rage of a woman scorned.
Kyo was in such a daze that he hadn't realized where he was at first. Staring over the railing at the streets below from his perch at this outdoor terrace this up-scale karaoke room had built, he remembered that he had gone out to get some fresh air. It certainly felt like long ago…
“—and they all agreed. So, what do you think?” asked Tohru while setting his piece aside on the table and sipping her hot tea.
Yet again he had fazed out of the ongoing conversation, if it could be called that. “Huh…I mean, um, what?”
She suddenly realized that she had startled him out of some reverie he didn't seem wanting to let go. “I'm sorry, how rude of me. I'm intruding on your solitude…”
“No, no, not at all…I'm just…not thinking. Thanks for the slice.” Taking a forkful of torte, he forced the gooey chocolate down his throat. Could he use the excuse that he's a cat and cats don't eat chocolate? He was very tempted to do so.
“You're welcome.” She, too, looked out to the streets below, happily humming to herself the song that Hana had loved so much.
She was so serene, content with all that's around her. He couldn't help but admire her under the starry sky above them. The lighting out here was bright enough to give her a glow that only enhanced her natural beauty. He felt very lucky to see her under this light.
He so much wanted to tell her how beautiful she looked, but knew that it wasn't the right time to make her fully aware of his intentions. When she organized tonight's get-together, her behavior all but yelled that she was not ready to become more than what she was now with him.
`What did she say about that Rat…? That she didn't see enough of him outside of our daily commute…?' Yet what hurt him most was to hear her softly murmur to herself that she felt alone when the quiet Nezumi was not with them. `-It's not the same without him. It's…lonely.- She didn't think I was listening. `Course I was eavesdropping on her phone conversation with the little Usagi, but still…she had said it.'
He tried not reading too much into it. As much as he hated to admit it, the Nezumi was one of her closest friends. God only knows what they discussed in private in those emails they exchanged or whenever she had moment alone with the Rat. Again, he tried not reading too much into it.
`She juggled with the date and time to suit the damn Rat. She called everyone time and again when the dates kept changing because HE couldn't be there. FINALLY he committed to it. Pft, jerk just had to make a big show of it, too, by booking this fancy place for her as a surprise.'
Not everyone could book this place without shelling out more than the usual yen for a simple karaoke room. Everyone was ecstatic to be coming to such an exclusive restaurant/karaoke room. The Nezumi was praised often throughout the evening, and now it seemed he's even enthralled the dim-witted Monkey. It was no surprise he's been feeling a little more testier than usual tonight.
“You're not happy about tonight, are you?” asked Tohru glumly. “And I didn't even notice until now…”
“NO, that's not it at all.” `At least, not all of it…' Erasing the guilty look from his face that was sure to give him away, he brightly grinned at her. “Look it's…it's just been a long day for me, you know. Tournament prep and stuff like that. Don't think anything of it. It's a good get-together you put together for us. Thanks.”
“Oh, I didn't do much,” she replied with her cheer back in her voice, “but I'm sure Yuki-kun enjoyed himself tonight, don't you think?”
“Yeah…a thrill…” he murmured with a tight grin.
“Thank you.” She set her cup on a nearby table and fully bowed to him in deep thanks.
Startled, he stammered, “Whoa, what…why're you doin' that?”
Facing him, she smiled guiltily. “I know it's hard for you to be here tonight. You put up with me so much…with insisting that Yuki-kun be here. It's just—”
“I know…don't worry about it. Just because I can't…stand the Nezumi don't mean you can't hang around him more often.” He mentally steeled himself to say what needed to be said, for her own comfort. It was as neutral as he could possibly keep it. “You don't see him or hang out with him like you did at school. So, it's cool…really.”
“Really?” She blinked in surprise that he was so understanding of her desire to spend more time with Yuki. She honestly thought he would start numerating many reasons why the Nezumi was a fool that didn't need her company. `That's childish. We're not kids anymore, right? Silly me, I should remember that more now…we're growing up.'
`Damn punk better kiss my sweet toes for letting off on Tohru just so that she can spend time with him…kuso Nezumi.' Keeping himself from grinding his teeth in frustration, he looked out to the streets below. He could trust to control his voice, but his facial expression was another matter.
“Ano…what has you so afraid, Kyo-kun?” she asked as her voice wavered but not her resolve.
“Huh?” He looked back at her quizzically and saw her standing there biting her lip nervously. “What do you mean?”
“It's just…I didn't mean to pry earlier…” Walking back to the railing, she stared resolutely at him, keeping his gaze locked with her own. “I saw your face earlier… I wasn't going to say anything, but… Your face…you looked so scared, I just had to call you out of whatever it was that had you so scared. I even pretended that I didn't notice. I'm so sorry for lying to you.”
`She definitely can't hide anything from anyone, not even her conscience.' Waving off the apology with a smile, he broke his gaze with her to look to the sky above them, again not trusting his expression to remain neutral. “It's nothing big…just a whole lot of nothing.”
“Oh…” She kept the disappointment outside of her voice. He, too, has been distant with her, not in the physical sense as Yuki was, but in the figurative sense. Many of her Jyuunishi friends were in the same state, but Kyo's been more secluded in his thoughts nowadays. She organized this gathering in hopes of at least getting them to set aside their worries, if only for tonight. Whatever has a hold on the cursed members now was strong enough that had even the usually stalwart members of the cursed Jyuunishi unconsciously looking twice at their surroundings…as if searching for something that's there but not there. Whenever she tried asking them, they just snapped out of their self-induced trance and laugh or shrug it off as nothing.
`Just like Kyo-kun said…nothing.' Pondering on her internal debate to press the matter further or not, she quickly brightened as she recalled something not too long ago.
'In time we hate that which we often fear.' Yeah, that sounds right,” she replied as she resolutely nodded to herself.
He stared back down at her, caught off guard by a remark that was a surprise to him. “Where'd you hear that?”
“Oh, um….well, you see it's actually a long story,” she babbled with a sheepish grin, “I was really grossed out by a roach in my room one night, and I was speaking to Yuki-kun when it happened, and I must have yelled or screamed and said how much I hated those things, and well…he had said that. He…eh…well, he explained it to me. And I find it to be true because I really am afraid of those ugly things. I mean slugs and beetles are one thing, but roaches, I just can't stand them—”
She stopped in her rambling when she saw the he was yet again distant in his mind, perhaps recalling those moments prior to her earlier interruption on his thoughts. Maybe her roach problem (thankfully they fumigated the house after that incident) wasn't the best example of what Yuki meant.
“I wonder, Kyo-kun…” she replied quietly, waiting until he brought his stare back down to her. “Akito-san…the fears Akito-san carries must run very deep if it manifests itself into such anger…hatred. I wonder…what it is that Akito-san fears so much?”
The connection with the odd saying and Tohru's concerns finally made sense to him. Heck, it made even more sense now than before. He was thinking about how those words made sense for the clan head. And he knew the answer to that question.
“Dying. Dying with no one to shed a tear on the grave marker. Can't say I blame the little…pft. Ain't worth thinking about Tohru, you're better off holding in your pity for someone who actually deserves it. Trust me on this.” Looking to the clock on the cell-phone, he was taken aback at the hour. “Damn, it's getting late. We better get back in there—”
“WHAT THE HELL IS THIS? We're in there waitin' for you two to come in to chow down on some food. I'm starved! Man, I didn't think singin' this much would make me so hungry!”
“Arisa, will you be eating your portion of the torte? I wish to take some home with me.”
“Yuki's Bash was a success this evening…Kyo, move over that way. I want to get a clear shot of the moon.”
“Kyo, come on! We've got to choose a song for us guys to sing first. It was Tohru-kun's suggestion, so that way we all sing at the same time and no one's left out. Then it'll be the girls' turn!”
The ruckus of their friends and family barging in and dispelling the serenity was very sudden. Gasping at being startled like that, Tohru clutched her chest in shock. “You scared me, Uo-chan! I'm sorry we were late getting back in. It was just so wonderful out here tonight. There's a nice breeze out.”
Deeply breathing in the summer evening, Kagura couldn't help but agree with a wide smile. “You're right, Tohru-kun. It feels good to be out here. Hm…maybe we can have the hostesses move the karaoke equipment out here. I'll go ask!”
“Hey, don't be making people go out of there way with their work, Kagura,” warned Kyo aloud, knowing full well that this Boar was rather pushy at times when she wanted something. Looking down at the new attachment to his back, he growled out, “Yo, Usagi, get off my back! I don't haul people. Ask Haru if you want that.”
“What's that supposed to mean, CAT?” bit out a slightly `black' Haru.
Quickly taking referee position between the two enraged Sohmas, the Usagi grinned bashfully to the taller Neko. “Oh, heh, Haru wanted to eat more of the sesame salad but they ran out. Isn't that `funny'? Hehe, he really liked it, too, so he started to `swear' just a little, so we had to get him some fresh air, too—”
“Well, pansy pants? Are you gonna put up or piss off?” cut in Haru in full `black' mode now, having turned over his favored camcorder to the dark-haired denpa. Apparently he had been very miffed to be denied a delicious dish and was more than ready to take it out on the nearest distraction.
“Ehehe, isn't that just like Haru, ne?” sheepishly grinned Momiji as he slightly nudged Haru away just a little more from the steamed Neko.
Seeing Momiji in dire straits with trying to keep the two Jyuunishi apart, Tohru piped up with her call for peace. “Ano, Kyo-kun…um, I almost forgot! We decided to pair up by gender. That way, we all get to sing with everyone else, or close to it. What do you think?”
“Kagura…where are you going?” asked Ritsu, seeing her wandering the halls as he reached the door that lead to the outdoor terrace. “Yuki-san just checked in with the hostess and was told that one of us was getting upset with them for running out of the sesame salad. They deeply apologized and lent us the use of their outdoor karaoke patio as compensation.”
“That's wonderful…I think. Well, come on, we're out here now! I think everyone is getting ready by now.” Opening the door for them, she smiled brightly and called out, “Okay we're ready!”
“You two had better knock it off NOW,” firmly commanded a voice that neither could ignore and cut through their frenzy.
Simultaneously the two Jyuunishi that had each other in a firm and painful headlock let go of the other, both gasping for gulps of air. They still couldn't set aside their anger, so they settled to throw leers at one another while keeping their distance.
“Honestly, can't you keep the peace for ten minutes, Kyo?” asked Yuki, clearly exasperated with their conduct in public.
Gathering his bearings once more, Kyo lashed out, “HEY! It ain't my fault this Ox has some complex with his salad! He started it!”
Ignoring the blaring yells from the Neko, the Nezumi now turned to the abashed Ox. “Haru, we were going to eat at your place tonight, remember? I was going to spend the night over…you were going to make me sushi with leeks…does any of this ring a bell?”
Embracing him suddenly, Haru held his smaller relative closely. “I'm sorry. I'll make it up to you tonight…promise.”
“Whew, damn Hanajima, you better be taking a close-up of THIS. And to think I was disappointed the Princely Sohma stopped the fight. Hell, THIS is SOOO much BETTER!” quipped wickedly Uo as she fanned herself, suddenly feeling it to be too hot out there.
“Their waves are amazing,” consented Hana from behind the lens. “Complimentary in many ways.”
“EH…HEH. Ano…Hatsuharu-san is very affectionate of Yuki-kun, ne?” Tohru delicately put it together.
“Yun-chan is Haru's favorite,” pointed out Kagura. She leaned in and whispered to Tohru, “Why do you think Isuzu-chan is jealous?”
Tohru couldn't help but stare back astonished at being told that, her close Sohma friend grinning from ear to ear and only nodding her head that it was very true. “Just don't tell her I told you, she'd flip if I had said anything about it. Heh, not that Yun-chan is all that thrilled about it either.”
Looking back at the two Jyuunishi locked in an embrace, Tohru could see how much the smaller Nezumi was enjoying this much attention from the Ox. He was trying to pry the affectionate teen off of him with little grace.
“Damn you two, get yourselves a room elsewhere!” griped Kyo as he was too disgusted to look at them anymore.
Haru looked to see the Neko turn away and concluded, “Oh, you're feeling left out. Come here…there's room.”
“WHAT THE—” Abruptly Kyo found himself in the clutches of the Ox's firm embrace. It was no wonder that the Nezumi was struggling to pry himself away. “GET THE HELL OFF ME!”
“Haru, let me go, or I won't come over tonight! And dump the Cat over the railing…maybe it'll shut him up for once,” grumbled the Nezumi irately while pulling himself out of the affectionate embrace.
“OVER THE RAILING?” cried out Tohru worriedly.
“Oh, it's all right, Tohru-kun,” reassured Kagura with a pat to the shoulder. “I'm sure Kyo-kun will land on his feet. We're just one story up.”
“He is flexible…perhaps a fall won't break him after all,” calmly noted Tohru as she looked over the railing.
“Not if I'm lucky,” mumbled Yuki lowly, sitting down in the patio chairs along with Momiji.
“Hm…it'd be easier if he didn't weigh so much,” remarked Haru coolly, analytically looking Kyo over, patting the other's tummy lightly. “Been eating too many fast-food bentos there, ne? You should watch it…what with the tournament and all.”
“Wha—are you saying I'm getting FAT?” That was the pinnacle of no return. Kyo reached out and grasped the level-headed teen in a firm headlock.
Uo nudged the moaning teen with the heel of her foot, grinning wickedly all the while. “Man, you Sohmas give karaoke a whole new meaning, right Hanajima? Never a dull moment…”
“It makes for great filming,” replied Hana as she focused on the twitching man laid out cold.
“There…that'll simmer down the wild cat.” Nodding in approval of her kick technique to silence the Cat, she looked to everyone. “Well, let's get this party started up again! Boys are first! Be sure to pick out something extra special for my Rii-chan!”
“That's not necessary, Kagura,” bashfully replied Ritsu.
“I'll help you, Rii-chan. This will be fun!” remarked Momiji as he took a look at the selection the karaoke system offered.
Ritsu's bright smile finally reached his gentle eyes. Staring at the man who was now more relaxed than before, Kagura couldn't be happier. Whatever the conversation was between Ritsu and Yuki, it was enough to dispel the troubled expression Ritsu had been carrying for these past few days. `Count on Yun-chan to help no matter how difficult our problems are. I just hope this particular problem won't have to involve Akito. There's no telling what would happen…or what she would do.'
“Kyo, have any words you want to say on record for being knocked out TWICE tonight by a girl half your size?” Once he had be given back his camcorder, it was all Haru could do to not chuck it at Kyo for getting him in trouble with his favored relative. No, it was an expensive piece of equipment anyway, so he went with the next best thing…humiliation.
“Would you stop filming me already? And it was totally cheap shots, okay?” Dusting himself off, looking directly into the recording lens, he heatedly glared into it. “Got that everyone? CHEAP SHOTS.
“The wounded pride of the Cat is interesting to see,” commented Haru dryly.
`Maybe if they both just threw themselves over the railing…maybe then they'll be quiet. (Sigh) Then again, they would scream all the way down. It's just not fair.' As morbid those thoughts were, Yuki went on contemplating them, especially as the argument began to escalate again. He was highly enticed to just do the job himself even though that could put their curse under threat of exposure. Still, it was an entertaining idea…
“You look like you have a lot on your mind,” stated the slim girl as she sat down in the chair next to his.
“Hm?” Turning to Tohru dazedly, he quickly brought his mind to her statement. “Oh, no, not really. I'm just thinking of what other ways to silence those two…permanently.”
“Eh…hehe…okay.” Odd but completely normal coming from the quiet Nezumi. Normal…it felt very good to be in the midst of their sense of normality. It's been quite some time since she's felt it.
“You look happy,” he remarked softly.
“Eh? I do?” she asked off-guard.
He nodded. “M-hm. Your smile says it all. That's good.”
Touching her mouth, it certainly was widely smiling. She then sheepishly grinned at not having noticed that. “Well, yes, I am smiling…well, of course I am…that is to say, yes, I'm thrilled…happy. It's been a great getting together like this! It's been a while since we've had these moments to share.”
“True… I had hoped this place had met your expectations. I'm very glad that it did.” Tucking away a stray hair from her face, he softly replied, “I'm sorry…for not being around as much.”
“Oh, no, please don't apologize! I know from your emails that it's been pretty hectic with you. Family comes first, I completely and totally understand that,” she stated determinedly.
Although he had been vague in his few emails as to what in particular those family matters were about, she was still happy he thought of her enough to keep calling or emailing her about other things he deems insignificant but that matter to her very much. How much he detests seeing the color Shigure picked out for his closet on a daily basis…how many times he has had to pull weeds from his garden…which of his students he was proud of for the day… He shared so much of himself in that way that she couldn't complain—still, having him here with them was infinitely better.
Yuki counted on these moments `alone' with her. They tended to occur so fast that he almost misses them. He was pleased that tonight turned out better than he had anticipated, despite the new development with Ritsu. He hadn't been so sure if Tohru would forgive him for dodging her last attempts to get together. If only Akito's health hadn't been so unpredictable… No, he promised himself to dedicate all his time, mentally and emotionally, to this girl that reached out to everything with her whole heart, including a simpleton like himself.
“Thanks, but I'm still going to make it up to you,” he replied resolutely.
“OH, PLEASE…you don't have to do anything for me! I'm perfectly and utterly content and happy and thrilled and good and…” Running out of words midway through her rant, she bashfully looked away. Turning back to him a little flushed, she tentatively asked, “Is it some sort of gift or—”
Yuki delicately laid one finger to her lips, completely silencing her. “Ssh…it wouldn't be a surprise if I told you, now would it?”
“Hai…” Smiling prettily, she blushed even more, her exhilaration knowing no bounds now. Truly, tonight gave her cherished friend back. She was lonely no more.
Kyo saw the close exchange between Tohru and Yuki, but had decided to stick with his original promise that he wouldn't interfere. He can always keep the Nezumi away from Tohru when it's possible, but with her…he just couldn't keep her away from the Nezumi. If that's what she wanted, he could and would bear it. He'd put up with anything if only to never hear that downhearted tone in her voice ever again.
And she almost came to that point with him earlier when he didn't tell her the truth. He dared not tell her anything more about his `visions', `dreams'…whatever the hell they were. He promised this to himself.
`Sorry, Tohru, but I just can't let you in on that one, no matter how much you care to help me. Not this time. (Sigh) It's better this way. It's better for you.' He couldn't help but recall the chilling moment the words left the little boy's mouth just before he was jerked back to reality by Tohru's voice.
“Don't let her remember.”
And he swore then and there that he never would.
Words that have no sense (10-03-06):
HOORAY! I'd never thought I get this one out in time (actually, I didn't)! Trust me, I wasn't counting on this `filler' chap to be so `non-filler' like. It gave me a workout!
I anticipated Kazuma/Master Haji moments to be `heavy' and for the rest to be fluff. NOT. Blame my rebellious mind to keep the angst mood going throughout, with a little more humor along the way.
How did you like the Kazuma/Master Haji moments? Pretty serious stuff if you ask me! Anyway, it's VERY hush-hush as to what the previous Zodiac were and how they dealt with their curse and well…everything about them is never spoken. The only thing canon about past Zodiac is the Cat, and we only know this through Kazuma. Yep, yours truly took artistic liberty here in so many ways. Heh, now we know from where Master Haji got that cane. How touching…sniffles…
Karaoke…even though there' s been quite a number of `karaoke fics' put together (I've not read any of them, so I'm assuming the characters are in a similar setting), the idea originally came to me while reading a resource book of modern Japanese life. I've never had the opportunity to enjoy this form of entertainment, but I'm told its lots of fun for everyone (not to mention that it's a very cheap form of entertainment for the masses in Japan). Still, for this part of the chapter, I had to be quite vague on the specifics of this form of entertainment. Shame I don't know more, but at least the funny moments held themselves together on their own!
And what moments we had! I had lots of fun with the Uo/Kyo moments, but more so with the Hanajima solo! The song, “Wishing and Hoping” by Dusty Springfield, just came to me as being one big laugh if Hana sang it to her crush. Since Kazuma couldn't be there, singing it LIVE to everyone there was enough for her. Hehe, I only wish FFnet wouldn't be so nit-picky about lyrics being posted up here…and so, being the rebel that I am, I went ahead and left them in FOR NOW. It'll come off of FFnet site soon, so those who read the fic soon will get the full effect of the moment! As always, check my Mediaminer link under my profile since everything stays intact for that website. Woohoo!
By the way, “I Got You Babe”… Sonny and Cher! No wonder Kyo dissed the idea!
Now, the true reason this chapter took its sweet time…Ritsu/Yuki moment. I really didn't put much thought into it at first, so it's my fault it took longer than anticipated. I really thought it to be just `side-info', but lo and behold, it took a life of its own. I'm pleased with it now (after many hours redoing it) since it supports the plotline even further. It gives us an overall look at how some of the Jyuunishi are already being affected by the changing tides of the family. It also emphasized Yuki's growing influence over members of the Jyuunishi whether he realizes it or not. Honestly, this part would make more sense if you read the last two chapters of my Ritsu/Kagura sidefic, Sometimes…. At the very least, you'll get a clearer understanding of some matters that involved Akito/Kagura/Ritsu.
It's also critical to see how each one of the Jyuunishi is starting to fulfill their role in the circle they belong in, even Kyo. Heh, I never thought this chapter would bring it all together like this. Interesting development!
How about the latest `vision' into Kyo's world? Pretty eerie, huh, now that Kyo's bracelet is becoming more involved. Poor child…and what indeed is waking up? Why wouldn't the poor boy want her to remember? What isn't she supposed to remember? Very interesting developments!
Kyo's moments with Tohru certainly made it clear that he can't move forward in his relationship with Tohru when she insists on having Yuki in her life. He gets the drift that she's not ready to be getting into that sort of relationship at the moment…or is she? Anyway, there's the Kyoru moment, along with a Shakespearean saying…-In time we hate that which we often fear.- That quote carries a lot of weight in this fic, so do remember it!
How was the wrap-up party in the ending? Heh, there were rounds with a rabid Neko (gaining a little weight, kitty?), a little fanservice for Yuki/Haru fans, Yukiru (finally!), plus a dash of eerie words. Kyo recalling the last remark from the boy certainly gave me the goosebumps!
Musical selections (aside from the karaoke) is brought to you by my demented mind. Okay, I'm blatantly aiming for Yukiru here (hey, we've had enough Kyoru moments, all right?), so this is my selection for them, “And Forever” from the anime Big-O. Fun anime to watch except the ending…what is it really with all those tomatoes? I'm a tomato, I guess… Ahem, moving on to the next selection, “Desert Rose” by Sting (plus another singer which I can't remember his name…sorry!) for Kyo's momentous moment with the little boy and overall `vision' moments. I highly recommend reading the lyrics…it fits rather well!
I leave this as it is for now. Sorry for the delay again, but I also found myself re-editing my sidefic, Sometimes…. It couldn't be helped; I just can't keep my fingers from tweaking it a little more…etc. Ah well, let's hope this long chapter eased your pains, if there were any. Hopefully the last chapter didn't put any of you off, though I can't imagine why…Thanks, though, to all who have read and continue to support me with your reviews…they are bottles of joy that I often open to keep me motivated!
Well, leave me your thoughts, good and bad, on your way out. Be careful with the screen door! Ja ne!