Fruits Basket Fan Fiction ❯ Seasons of Sorrow ❯ Embers of Summer's Glory = Simmering Tempers ( Chapter 47 )

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

DISCLAIMER: Yet again I must state the obvious…I own my fanfic, not Furuba.
Embers of Summer's Glory
Chapter 47: Simmering Tempers
“Yunosuke-kun, how did you do that kick again?”
“Man, Himeka-chan, you're slow! Put that book down!”
“I was only trying to compare how you're doing it versus what this book says. Even Yuki-Sensei suggested that I read it!”
“Yeah, but not during practice!”
“Leave her alone, Shin. Himeka-chan, stand over here and look at it from this angle.”
“Yubo, you're too soft on her!”
As Himeka ignored the grumblings from her friend, she focused on Yunosuke's stance from up front instead of from behind. It certainly made it clearer how the boy was able to execute a kick the way their teacher had taught them earlier that day.
Clapping animatedly, she happily cheered, “That's wonderful Yunosuke-kun! It's exactly—OOMPH!”
“Watch where ya stand, little girl,” called out over his shoulder Hiko as he continued to stomp down the hallway, ignoring the plight of the young girl he shoved to the side when he walked past her. Turning to his companion, he mumbled, “Still don't get why Shihan has this thing for having little brats here at the dojo.”
“Hey, lower your voice, man. People talk around here…you know,” replied glibly Hajime who spared no glance to the children as he, too, walked down the corridor to their next practice session.
“Are you okay?” asked Yunosuke worriedly as he helped her off the floor. Grabbing her glasses that were knocked off from the fall, he handed them to her. “Here are your glasses. Are you really okay?”
“JERKS!” cried out Shinpachi as he rushed past his friends to the doorway to stare down an empty hallway, the two older students long gone apparently.
“It's okay, Shinpachi-kun. It's my fault for not looking where I was standing,” remarked Himeka as she adjusted her lenses.
“No, it's not your fault, it's mine. I should've noticed I placed you too close to the doorway,” replied Yunosuke with a frown, seeing now that when she had excitedly exclaimed her joy, she had inadvertently stepped out slightly into the hallway. “Still, they shouldn't be shoving people around. They could've hurt you for real, you know?”
Patting her two friends on the back, she widely grinned. “I'm fine. I got my balance back real quick…heh, learning how to fall right in class is paying off outside the ring, ne?”
Ignoring the attempt to calm him down, Shinpachi slyly said with smirk, “Hey Yubo…you know what I'm thinkin'?”
Returning the smirk, Yunosuke wordlessly walked down the hallway with his best friends in tow. Turning around, he mouthed to them to keep quiet as he gingerly walked through the hallways `til they reached the room the elder students were practicing in along with others.
“Great, too many to take on at once,” grumbled Shinpachi lowly.
“Take on where?” asked Himeka in a loud whisper.
“SSH!” Clamping her mouth shut with his hand, Shinpachi gave her the look to keep quiet as he turned to his friend up front. “So…now what?”
“Hmm…there's always their change room.” Retreating into the empty hallway, Yunosuke looked deep in thought as he stroked his chin. Eyes brightening with a widening smile, he gestured for the two to follow him. Walking down the hallway to an exit nearby, they quietly marched outside. He quickly picked up the pace as he sought out the window that belonged to the classroom the students were in.
“What're we here for?” asked Shinpachi curiously. “We're supposed to pay them back—”
“No! We'll get into trouble!” protested Himeka.
“Only if we get caught. Just keep an eye out, Himeka-chan.” Taking a couple of rubber bands from his pocket, Yunosuke turned to Shinpachi with a grin and handed him one. “Can you find rocks?”
“Guys…” implored Himeka as she kept a wary eye on their surroundings.
“It'll only be a minute or two, Himeka-chan,” cut in Shinpachi as he scurried around to gather small pebbles for their rubber bands. Handing a few to his friend, he peeked over the windowsill to take in the view inside. “Man, it'll be tough hitting them from this angle. We gotta be careful not to hit the others in the way.”
“Yeah…too bad Nii-san isn't around. I'd get him to beat them up,” sourly remarked Yunosuke as he, too, gazed over the windowsill at their marks. Seeing their window of opportunity as their current path was now cleared of a dueling pair, he nudged Shinpachi excitedly. “Take that Hiko guy first, and then I'll take the one called Hajime.”
“Hurry up, guys!” worriedly called out Himeka.
“Ready…aim…” whispered Shinpachi as he focused on his target, his rubber band being his slingshot.
Upon hearing the expletive, they jerked back down, gesturing to one another to hold in their snickering. They strained to hear their targets inside.
“Hiko, get a grip, man. Work out your cramp.”
“It ain't a cramp, Hajime!”
“Get back into your stance then. We don't have much time before Shihan grades us.”
Smiling in anticipation, Yunosuke carefully looked over the windowsill to confirm that his target was thoroughly engrossed with his continuing practice session. Glancing down at Shinpachi, who gave him two enthusiastic thumbs up, he steadied his rubberband/slingshot, narrowing his gaze to keep his focus.
“Steady…” he murmured to himself.
“Come on, Yubo, hurry up,” loudly whispered Shinpachi from beside him.
“Steady…” repeated Yunosuke.
Standing back up, Shinpachi looked over the windowsill into the room, seeing a prized opportunity with Hajime's back to them. `Not a bad shot…mine was better. It always hurts best when you hit THAT spot on a guy.' Sighing in frustration, he whispered, “You're taking too long…”
“Son of a—what the hell was that?!” yelled Hajime angrily, rubbing his butt as he looked to the students around him that dared to assault him while he had his back turned.
Both waiting to see their reaction before retreating, they snickered lowly at the now enraged student that felt the sharp jab to his backside.
“Funny now, is it?”
Gasping in shock, the two boys immediately turned around fully to face their maker, that is to say in this case, their teacher. “YUKI-SENSEI!”
With a blushing Himeka by his side that looked to the ground with shame, Yuki looked down at his mischievous students with a slightly arched brow. He had been busily tracking them down upon discovering that his after-class helpers had gone missing, only to find them out here causing mischief.
Leaning down to rest his hands on his knees, he steadily looked into their shocked gazes. “Well? Is it that funny to pull a prank on a class in session?”
“It's not the whole class!” blurted out Shinpachi before Yunosuke nudged his arm hard to keep silent.
`At least it wasn't hard to get them to confess. Don't kids usually deny everything when they get caught?' Holding in the smile that wanted to burst forth at seeing the two boys squirm under his stoic gaze, he stood tall and imposing as he questioned them further. “Oh, is that so? Then explain why you were both pulling a prank period while having Himeka-chan cover for you.”
“Um…well, it's because…you know…uh…the Hiko creep is a jerk…his friend, too…and…” stammered in reply Shinpachi as he turned to Yunosuke for backup. For all his pomp for speaking his mind and not backing down for anything, he had learned through the months that he should hold a degree of reverence for his sensei whenever in his presence. Hence, his normally bold responses were tempered considerably when dealing with his sensei.
“Yeah, he's right…that Hiko guy had a lot of nerve to push Himeka-chan around like he did. Tell him, Himeka-chan,” prodded Yunosuke to the quiet girl next to his sensei.
“I'm…I'm sorry. So sorry, Yuki-Sensei…it was my fault,” Himeka tearfully began as she bowed low to her teacher. “They only tried to make things right for me. I was being clumsy again and got in th—”
All four abruptly turned to the outcry from one highly agitated student coming their way along with another agitated student. As he saw them practically coming at them in a charge, Yuki shoved his three students behind him and faced them with head held high, not in the least intimidated by the taller individuals.
“Ohashi-san, Tenaka-san…what are you doing out here?” asked Yuki serenely.
“DON'T GIVE ME THAT IGNORANCE! YOU KNOW WHAT THE HELL THOSE PUNK BRATS DID!” cried out Hiko as he jabbed in the direction of the two boys behind him, his humiliation of being hit in that particular spot still holding strong in his mind.
Do not yell. I am not deaf, Tenaka-san,” sternly replied Yuki with a hard gaze of his own. “As far as the boys—”
“Those boys deliberately messed up our practice session to pull their stupid pranks on us!” cut in Hajime angrily as he recalled the snickering heads of hair he saw by the window while the students around them laughed heartily at their expense. Glaring at the children's teacher, he spat out, “Shihan will hear of your inability to supervise those kids!”
“Do not interrupt me again, Ohashi-san,” quietly warned Yuki with a firm glare, allowing for no disrespect to his person with his students there with him. “And as I was about to say before being interrupted, as far as the boys are concerned, they are ready to make their apologies to you.”
“What?!” cried out in unison the boys from behind him.
Bringing his gaze down from the taller Hajime, Yuki turned around and sharply arched his brow, no further words coming forth as they were no longer required. He could tell his gesture was enough as the boys immediately bowed their heads low in silent consent.
Shinpachi quickly nudged Yunosuke forward. “You first.”
Together, okay?” remarked his sensei with no room for argument.
As much as it detested them, Yunosuke and Shinpachi both stepped forward, bowing low in apology. Forging the words was much harder though, so after a few tense moments, they grudgingly mumbled, “Sorry.”
“That's no apology!” cried out Hajime.
Sighing lightly, Yuki kneeled down and looked into the sullen gazes of his students. Lifting their dropped chins delicately with his hands, he smiled softly at them, which in turn surprised them. “I'm very proud of you both. Not many would swallow their pride in lieu of doing the right thing. Apologizing takes greater strength to execute than any kicks or punches you'll ever learn in a dojo. You remember that, okay?”
“Yes, Yuki-Sensei,” nodded both boys in understanding.
Rising gracefully, Yuki patted their heads good-naturedly with a widening smile. “Good. Now all three of you get back to the room you were in and start cleaning up.”
“That's all you're gonna say to them?!” lashed out Hiko as he towered over Yuki bitterly, the children quickly scattering away around a corner. “You're gonna just let them off just like that and stand there like a FOOL?!”
“No. I'm going to retrieve some more cleaning supplies from the storage shed,” replied Yuki uncaringly as he walked past them, paying no mind to the dagger-like looks they threw at him. “You can stand there like a fool if you'd like.”
“BASTARD!” cried out Hiko as he nearly made a move to lunge at the retreating figure of the young sensei. “SOHMA OR NOT, YOU'RE GONNA PAY FOR THIS!!!”
“Easy, now,” calmly remarked Hajime as he held Hiko back. “Yelling at him isn't going to do any good. We'll just wait for the opportune moment. It'll come, you'll see. Let's just focus first on paying back those little brats—”
“Those `brats' are off limits to you guys, got it?”
Jerking to their right, they found Tetsuya leaning over the windowsill to stare down at them. Hajime was the first to react. “Wh-when did you get in, Tetsuya-Sempai?”
“Just a few minutes ago—you two were too busy arguing to notice me calling for you. Our grading is about to begin, and you're holding up the class. Shihan sent me to hunt you down…again.” Glowering at each, Tetsuya walked off and exited the classroom, quietly heading to where their current class is being held with Kazuma. He heard distantly the quick footfalls of his teammates clambering to catch up with him.
“Don't be in such a snit, Tetsuya-Sempai,” called out Hajime. “We were held up ourselves with a minor problem with that teacher and his students.”
Hiko couldn't help but sneer lowly to himself, “Damn fool! He'll regret messing with me. Stupid brats are gonna get it, too, when I'm done—ARGH!”
“I could care less what you got against the teacher, but you WILL stay the hell away from my little brother and his friends! You understand?” harshly reiterated Tetsuya as he pinned Hiko to the wall with his foot pressed against his neck. The move was done so swiftly and smoothly that Hiko had no time to react…it was no wonder that Tetsuya was given a top rank along with the other Sohmas.
“Tetsuya, what's going on? Ease up on him!” pleaded Keisuke as he caught up with the group in the hallway. Prying his friend away from the other, he looked around at the worked up countenances of all three. “You were all taking so long, Shihan is not happy right now.”
Giving one final look to the other two and without another word, Tetsuya walked off in the direction Keisuke came from. It was highly unusual to see Tetsuya loose his temper like that, and so, staring at Hiko and Hajime, Keisuke demanded, “What was all that about?”
Hiko merely gave a `harumph' and walked off to follow Tetsuya in a huff, all the while rubbing his sore neck. Hajime was the only one to cryptically comment as he made to follow as well, “Sohma Yuki will regret crossing our paths…count on it.”
Staring at their retreating backs before he, too, made to follow despondently, Keisuke could only be amazed at how their serene lives at the dojo had all but come to nothing the longer Yuki sticks around. The dissention amongst the team was clear now and would become plainly evident in their performances today, tomorrow, and possibly even at the tournament itself.
`His presence is becoming too much of an issue to ignore now. It's just not worth the aggravation anymore…he's not worth blowing our chances at the tournament. And the sooner Shihan realizes that, the better off we'll all be.'
“And here's where the usual classes are held. `Course they are all over at the main hall getting ready for the mock fights Shishou will be grading us on. Any questions, squirts?”
“I have a name, you know.”
Fine…HIRO. Better now?”
“Hiro-chan… Ano, Oniisan, do you think we'll do all right with the beginner's class next fall?” asked Kisa in hopes of keeping to the topic of their upcoming training at the family's dojo.
However Hiro was persistent in his current train of thoughts. “Are you going to be the one to teach the beginner class? `Cause if you are, you have zero skills with dealing with us `squirts'. I'm gonna demand a new teacher.”
“Look, I don't have to take this crap from you, Hiro! I'm only doing this because Shishou is too busy to do this himself!” bit out Kyo irately to his fellow Jyuunishi who only returned his glare.
“Like I said, you have ZERO skills when dealing with us,” repeated Hiro snidely.
“Hiro-chan…Oniisan…eh…all we needed was a tour today, that's all. Arigato gozaimasu, Oniisan,” bowed politely Kisa as she hurriedly pulled on Hiro's hand to lead them out before Kyo's temper blew.
“Are you done in here, Sohma-Sempai?” asked a young girl from the doorway. “We need to finish cleaning up in here.”
“Oi, Himeka, come on in. We're done here (`thank God'),” replied Kyo, gesturing for her to proceed with her task.
Followed by her two companions, the children quickly and quietly started arranging the room in an orderly manner. Curiously looking at the two guests, Himeka asked shyly, “Um, are you two going to join this dojo?”
“Well, yes, we are,” responded Kisa kindly, still keeping her hold on Hiro's hand but also staring in wonder at the younger students that were here. “Are you three part of the beginner group?”
“Yeah,” spoke out Shinpachi, “well, kind of. We're the younger beginner group. There's an age limit with ours.”
Glad to see other individuals here that were not as intimidating as their guide or as other students they had met during their tour, she ventured to converse with them further regarding the classes. “Oh, well we'll be joining the older beginner group come fall, I think. By then Kazuma-san…excuse me, Shihan will be available since the tournament would be over by then.”
“Are you gonna go?” asked Shinpachi excitedly. Tilting his head to his friend behind him, he went on, “We're all goin' thanks to his brother. We'll be in the first few rows, awesome seats.”
“Yeah, we'll be there, probably in the same row with you guys,” commented Hiro, now interested in staying longer and talking further with the younger students. They made for better company than Kyo in his opinion. “Say, do you know how the beginner classes get taught? I mean, do they jump you right into the fist fights or doing kicks or…”
“That's not how it goes, Hiro. Shishou would go over that stuff with you when you start,” stated Kyo as he looked down at his watch, his time now growing short since he needed to be at those mock fights to be graded. “Look, I need to get—”
“Shihan couldn't be our instructor this summer, right Yunosuke-kun?” Himeka turned to her friend so that he could clarify for her since he knew about the matter better than she.
Yunosuke nodded to confirm her remarks, but then continued his cleaning of the room while he conversed. “Yeah, too bad. He's been too busy with the tournament. Good thing he came up with a great substitute for us, or else he would've cancelled our summer class.”
“Yuki-Sensei is a great instructor! Maybe Shihan will have him as your instructor for your beginner class, too!” happily commented Himeka, her joy for having Sohma Yuki as her teacher for the summer not at all hidden.
“Onii-san is your instructor?” asked Kisa curiously. Her face then brightened at the idea of having Yuki as her instructor. She certainly didn't feel the least bit intimidated or nervous in his presence. She wasn't used to Kunimitsu's or Kazuma's presence yet, and to her, Kyo was too unapproachable, but having someone she was comfortable with there could make this experience so much more bearable. Her Jyuunishi instincts considerably felt calmer at this possibility, to be surrounded by another member that understood her better than most. It seemed that she wasn't the only one with these thoughts.
Hiro quickly stood to attention upon hearing who was actually conducting the beginner class. It would certainly keep the confrontations down to a minimum the less time he spent in Kyo's presence. It was a mutual understanding between the Sheep and Cat…they just can't keep the peace, for too long anyway. “No kidding, Yuki-niisan is your teacher? Hey, Kyo, why didn't you tell us before? Pft, never mind. So do you like it so far…is it too hard?”
The sudden noise startled the younger children and stunned the teenagers that looked to Kyo with shock. Yet, the elder Sohma couldn't help the gesture, his hand still stinging from slamming his palm against the wall of the room where he had been leaning, so hard and loud that it reverberated soundly across the room.
His jaw was clenched tight as were his fists when the teenagers consulted with the younger students from Yuki's class. They easily fell into conversation about the classes they were taking, ignoring whatever he had said. What truly got to him, though, was the smile of utter delight on the children's faces, each proud to declare one way or the other how great their teacher was. And here Kisa and Hiro were all but anxiously anticipating for more details on how Yuki is doing with the class.
If only he could tell them that their beloved instructor will be long gone when the tournament is over... Yes, that's right…Kazuma had told him so. It was only to be a temporary position, nothing more. Yuki was to leave, and if he had anything to say about it, the Nezumi would be permanently banned from the dojo. The proverbial thorn in his side would be no more and all would be back to how it was supposed to be.
`Hell… who am I kidding? The way his class, especially these kids, are all over him, they'll beg Shishou to keep the Rat on board. To keep him here as their instructor… Damn it all.' He couldn't help the sharp pain piercing right through him when he thought this. It hurt to admit how much his world away from the family was changing around him, and he couldn't deny that it was all due to the presence of this one individual.
Kazuma's dojo… Where he was raised…taught…loved… This place was supposed to be HIS sanctuary, HIS place of belonging. He could always come here and feel free to be him, not the Cat. The chains of the Jyuunishi circle and the family bound to it didn't exist here. It was just his adoptive father's look of approval…his fists, his opponents…his freedom. It was his world, and he didn't want it to change.
However that was not to be apparently. It was changing and drastically so. How could he stop the tides once set in motion, the tides that brought in someone that could very well take away everything that meant something to him?
All he had to do was look around and listen. It didn't stop here with the young students proudly praising Yuki as their instructor. No, it was quite evident with many others in the other classes. Gone was the resentment they carried before when the Nezumi had just recently arrived as the interloper they thought him to be. Now they can only look to him as a permanent fixture at the dojo, hear his opinion on how their training was coming along.
It made it all the more unbearable to see them casually calling out to Yuki, as if he always belonged there, to join them when he should be cleaning the floors or fulfilling other menial tasks at the dojo when he wasn't teaching. How it made Kyo feel like he was now the interloper, especially when they saw him but also saw right through him at someone else…someone better.
`And the sad part…the really sad part…the Rat's doing it all without even trying.'
Shaking his head of the spiraling morbid thoughts, he looked to the others in the room with only a hint of what bothered him. “Look, I need to get going to my own class, so let yourselves out when you're done here.”
As he exited out of the room, leaving the others perplexed as to his sudden departure, he ran into the one person that had plagued his mind moments ago. “Yuki…”
“Hey, I thought you were over with the others by now. Shihan was looking for you over at the main office earlier…drat…” Yuki muttered as he struggled with the load of cleaning items he carried in a case with one hand while the other held onto laundry baskets for the used towels he'll be picking up. He suddenly dropped the items as he rummaged through a bag he had slung over his shoulder.
Finally finding what he had been looking for, he retrieved the article and handed it to the Neko carefully. “Here. You left this at the house when you left early today. I know you like to carry it around with you.” Noting that Kyo wasn't reaching for the item, he decided to approach him differently, thinking that maybe he'd like this idea better. “You know…if you want…I'll take pictures with this camera later on when you're practicing with the others in the mock fights Shihan is grading you on. I'm pretty sure Tohru-san would like to see those kinds of pictures.”
Only upon hearing her name did Kyo react. Snatching Tohru's graduation gift roughly from the Nezumi's hand, he was all ready to lash out at the Nezumi for touching what was his, but he quickly deflated. It just wasn't in him at the moment…the hot anger that boiled his blood in his veins…it was now only but a simmer.
Why? Because, sadly, the Nezumi was absolutely correct. The camera was something Kyo carried on his person constantly to keep taking pictures to share with Tohru via the cell phone or via the emails (which, grudgingly, he's had to get Yuki to do it for him—technology and cats don't mix). And he reluctantly agreed with the Nezumi about taking pictures of his mock practices…Tohru had said so at one point, saying how happy she would be to see her `sensei' in action.
`It's just…so damn HARD to be mad at him…to stay mad at him…to hate him. Damn you, Rat. Damn you.' He couldn't help feeling as if with each breath he took, a noose wound tighter around his neck, making him feel trapped…backed into a corner with no way to free himself. In his mind's eye, the `noose' suddenly became a leash that only the Nezumi had power over…to be drawn in by the warmth he knew there to be in the presence of the Rat.
A deceptive warmth…a warmth that had every cell in his Neko form reeling in horror.
Not able to shake these escalating emotions or mind-set, he briskly walked past the Nezumi without a word, not trusting his voice from wavering with his pounding heart to say anything for now.
Yuki could only look in confusion at the rapidly retreating Neko disappearing around a corner. He had been quite certain that he was going to have to endure another round of yelling from the Neko for making his suggestion, but that didn't happen. All he did know for sure was that Kyo had a glint to the eyes that wasn't there before. Since it was so new and different, he couldn't tell what it was.
“Yuki-Sensei! There you are! We ran out of the cleaning products,” remarked Himeka happily as she went to help with her teacher's load. “Here, let me carry the case.”
“I'll carry one of the baskets. Shin, take the other one,” called out Yunosuke as he, too, took up the task of helping his teacher.
Struggling with the basket a little, Shin hurried to catch up with his companion. “Oi, Yubo, wait up for me!”
Quickly Yuki's thoughts turned to the tasks before him. They certainly needed to be completed very soon if he was to carry out his remaining plans for the day. He was definitely not going to mess those up.
Looking back in the direction Kyo had gone off to, he pondered one last time on the young man, feeling slight pity creep up on him. `Hm…I guess Kyo was just worried about his grading. He shouldn't be…he's actually good. Really good. Heh, not that he'd believe me if I told him so…'
`I am incredibly late! I should have postponed my call with the tournament committee until after this class…'
Kazuma inwardly groaned as he picked up the broom in his office. As he did that, the stack of teetering papers he had just reviewed with the committee fell off his desk with a flutter. Already at his wits end, he breathed in heavily and nodded to himself that it's all going to be just fine. He leaned down once again to gather the paperwork, certain that the order he had them in would have to be redone.
`Dear me… Why is it that when you're late, everything around you is out to keep you behind schedule?' He couldn't hold back the grimace as he pondered that fleeting thought when it was suddenly interrupted.
“Kazuma-san…” was the soft reply accompanied with a knock on his doorway.
Hardly lifting his gaze or focus from the mess, he waved off his guest. “I'm so sorry, but I am running late for my class and I have all these documents out of order and…”
“Oh, but you will make time for me, right, Kazuma?”
Hearing the velvet voice of his superior, Kazuma immediately stood up and bowed respectfully. “I'm sorry, Akito-san, I was unaware that you'd be visiting today…”
“Must I have an appointment put in when I wish to see you?” she asked tartly.
“No! Of course not, I was…I was just thinking that perhaps you made mention of it before, and I had somehow forgotten (`highly unlikely but…'),” hurriedly explained Kazuma in hopes of appeasing her. She was not to be trifled with at this point.
“You certainly don't have your wits about you today, ne Kazuma?” Sighing heavily, Akito looked around her at the upheaval his office was in. Shaking her head, she looked on with disapproval. “My, my…it's a wonder you find anything in here. You should have your assistants help you organize this office.”
Taking her `suggestion' to heart, Kazuma inwardly sighed…he was indeed going to be late to his class. “It will be done by the end of today.”
“Phew…it's too stuffy indoors. Come Kazuma…we'll take a walk outside,” she replied as she stepped through the office's back shoji door leading outdoors.
“Akito…” called out the once-silent Bird. “Hatori-niisan had warn—”
Kureno, not now. Just pick up those papers and give it some semblance of order while I have a chat with our dear Kazuma.” With a quick turn, she left her escort behind to take her walk around the dojo without further interruptions.
“Please, Kazuma-san,” implored Kureno softly, “be sure to keep it slow and steady. Please.”
Nodding in understanding, Kazuma quickly went after Akito outside, now more worried about her health than about the impending discussion with her. It was not lost on him that Akito's health was not improving since he last saw her in spring. She was now more pale…bleary around the eyes…quick to show her displeasure, well, quicker than before. The hollowness in her dark eyes…the hollowness that seeped from her very presence…
Overall, she looked very tired.
`No doubt just getting over another bout with illness.' Finally reaching her side, he slowed down considerably to match her even gait. “I apologize for my delay, Akito-san.”
“Hm.” Paying little mind to his words, she kept her hand lightly against the wall of the dojo since it gave her a sense of balance that she sorely lacked at the moment. Perhaps it wasn't prudent to rush outdoors so soon after her fever-induced nightmares from last night. How she loathed thinking of them for even a moment…
“Akito-san, may I suggest we sit on the bench under the blossom tree over there?” gestured in one direction Kazuma as he slightly held Akito's elbow close. “It'll provide a great deal of shade and cool breeze for the both of us.”
Relieved for the reprieve, she let herself be guided, lest she trip over her own feet to land in an undignified heap before this man. A stray thought came to her, which she voiced. “I don't remember the grounds of the dojo being this large…”
He couldn't help but smile fondly of that long-ago memory she must be recalling…that of her father, Akira. At that time, an expansion of the dojo was completed, and he had given Akira and Akito both a personal tour of the new grounds. He could still see that smile she held that was full of wonder as she looked all around the gardens and buildings. She was an innocent child…so carefree…happy…innocent.
`So long ago… (Sigh) How I do miss that man's presence. He could bring out that one true smile from her. Him…and one other.' As he settled himself on the bench as she carefully set herself down, he recalled the one time he had chanced at seeing this. It was rare, and at this moment, he held onto this memory to help see him through the `storm' he felt brewing next to him.
Leaning heavily against the back of her seat, she leaned her head back and stared at the leaves on the high branches, vaguely catching a glimpse of the aqua-blue sky beyond them. Still lost in her thoughts from long ago, she lifted her arm wearily to see if her hand could possibly reach high into the sky beyond the towering tree. She always could before…she could catch the `rain' that came down on them…blossoms of spring…laughter. She remembered that, albeit muted, but she could still hear his unique laughter. It was so rare that he could laugh so heartily at all that she always ingrained into her memory the laugh of her Nezumi.
That memory alone brought her back to this moment and why she bothered to even escape the hole that Hatori had confined her in. Her bedroom was too stuffy in her judgment anyway…
“Kazuma…how do you fair with the tournament?” asked Akito languidly as she brought her arm down across her middle, her eyes now closed to the world.
And so now, he braved the oncoming `storm', her question eerily reminding him of the last time she posed the same inquiry. That plus what was the end result of that conversation. Striving to keep his calm, he remarked, “All is well on schedule, Akito-san. Many of the arrangements are in their final stages of completion. Our dojo is now conducting grading scores every week to help the students improve their form. We will be more than ready to face our opponents.”
“Opponents. There are many of those, aren't there?” she asked airily, still portraying herself as without a care in the world.
Treading carefully with his reply, he agreed. “Yes…they are quite a bit. My students are well-trained to face them.”
“Yes…trained…” Sighing heavily, she barely opened her eyes, the glare of the day striking her blind momentarily. With a rush of breeze swaying the branches above her, she contemplated if the branches were ever pruned…they looked so unruly.
“Training…control… Control over them…over their training…over their classes…all that is done under this roof. I am in the right, yes?” she went as she now blankly stared at him.
“Yes, Akito-san.” Chancing a glance at her, he saw how her eyes, vague before, were now boring a hole through his head with only her blank expression. He refrained from looking away though, morbidly curious as to what else she will ask.
“Control…heh, complete control?” she asked with a wry grin as she now opened her eyes wide enough to show her total attention on his next remark.
He couldn't help but blink in uncertainty, although he couldn't tell if it was from doubting his capabilities as a teacher training his students or because he was at a loss as to what she wanted to know. Keeping his posture composed as well as his voice, he coolly replied, “I train my students well, Akito-san, I assure you. The opponents they will be facing will have much on their hands when they face them.”
It literally froze his heartbeat for a mere moment when he saw the gleam reach her eyes, the light lit within those dark depths only known to bestow a wrath unmatched by any storm. What could possibly have upset her with his remark about the upcoming tournament?
“Opponents are found everywhere…in the arena…outside the arena. Why, I have my own whenever I go to the office…whenever an insolent member of this family opposes me and my will…you know that well, don't you, Kazuma?”
The chill in her voice cooled his blood considerably, his limbs and mind now numb from where her current line of reasoning was leading him. It could not bode well if she has yet to state her reasons to speak with him. If she dallied this long, it's because she was out to make a point that he won't soon forget.
“Ne, Kazuma, if you have this `control' over your students, then you are responsible for their actions. Is my reasoning flawed?” she asked softly with only a hint of an edge to her voice.
“No, Akito-san.” It was all he could do to say this as he struggled to maintain his composure from crumbling underneath her unswerving attention.
She now leaned forward slightly so that she could reach out to caress his cheek softly, her voice now matching her actions. “Just so that we're in complete agreement… YOU are responsible. This is fact, yes?”
She held so much power in her gaze, such a far cry from being gentle like her touch on his cheek. It drew him in and held him captive, unable to look elsewhere unless she allowed it. But what could he say that he hadn't already said? He had basically confessed that she was in the right with her line of reasoning.
“I am responsible,” he confirmed softly, his voice practically carried off in the hard breeze that just blew by them.
Closing her eyes to him once again, she smiled dryly as the remark pleased her. Leaning away from him, she settled herself against her seat and sighed in contentment. She opened her dark eyes to the world above her, aiming to look further beyond the leaves of the old tree.
After a few minutes of silence, she quietly stated, “Be sure you remember that. I will hold you to it. (Pause) Go…”
Kazuma was at a complete loss of words, heck, even his mind took the time to halt in its thinking. `That's it? That's all she'll tell me?' Not daring to press for an explanation, especially when she had made it clear that she didn't want to see him anymore, he silently stood and bowed in reverence to his clan leader.
“It was an honor to have your visit today, Akito-san. I will retrieve Kureno at once.” Hearing no further remarks from the silent clan head, he retreated from her sight and presence, extremely baffled to her odd line of questioning and her behavior along with it. It didn't pass his gut instincts that somehow, some day, she will make him realize the true meaning of her warning.
`What are your true intentions, Akito-san?'
A pair of red-orange eyes thought the very same thing as they stared at the exchange from a distance, only instead of confusion, bitterness is what he tasted. A bitterness that was only matched with that of the dark depths of Akito's eyes as they clashed with his own.
Fiery red versus the dark, hollow depths—who will indeed triumph?
Coming Back to You! (12-15-06):
Oh, yeah…getting a little hot in here, ne? I love the stare-downs between Akito and Kyo. Gives me the willies!
Phew, I'm finally back from my temporary hike! Sorry for the delay, but it was kinda necessary, for my creative drive as well as for practical reasons. I did finally complete the reorganization of all my notes, and trust me there were A LOT. Man, I have PAGES of notes of what's to come…you will all love the continuation of the story! I'm taking my fic where few have dared, not that I blame them…my first-time fic is now truly turning into EPIC proportions. Hopefully you'll stick with me through it all! I repeat this so often, but it's vital that everyone understands that I need to hold onto this hope in order to continue. Too many times I stared at a laptop that I can't gather much motivation to open up, much less type. Honestly, the words from past and current reviews are what impelled me to keep moving forward. So that said, my BIG thanks and HUGS to all those that have reviewed! Your words really do keep me motivated!
Okay, back to this new chapter release… I had wanted to make this release longer due to my long absence, but then you wouldn't get an update until after the first of the year. So, tossing that idea aside, I'm splitting the chapter in two instead. Here's the first half of the `day' at the dojo. Next half should come around early/mid January. I have vacation coming up, and I hope to make good use of it!
Tension is still ripe in my storyline with little `fluff' moments here and there. Also, to give you a clearer picture of what's going on with Akito, you can check out my recent side-fic, The Problems with a Rat. It's mainly flashbacks, but they also shed more light on Akito's inner thoughts. Who doesn't like to read those?
I also allude to events under SOS chapters 12, 35, and 44 in this chapter release as well as to my other side-fic, The Game of Memory. As this story progresses, my side-fics will hold more importance as supporting roles, so if you've not had the chance to read up on them, please do so. It'll lend a better overall understanding of what I'm up to!
At last we can see what truly stems from Kyo's hard attitude with Yuki at the dojo. I really wanted to emphasize this point and lend a sympathetic light on our little Neko. Understanding him will lead to understanding his actions later on. Trust me, you'll want to remember this…not all is black and white in Sohma land!
Ah, I'm glad I can post. A sense of duty is fulfilled. Oh, yes, musical moments…hmm. I believe Norah Jones' “More Than This” more than suffices! I've read the lyrics to it, and it truly lends an overall sense of despair that Kyo is feeling in this chapter. It really sets the mood to the chapter in general. She's such a great artist!
There, that should do it. Please take care everyone, thank you for reading, and I beg of you to keep your reviews flowing! They give me motivation, ideas to turn my story to your liking, and overall, they make me feel like I have an audience that's just as hyped with my story as I am.
Thanks to all! Ja ne!