Fruits Basket Fan Fiction ❯ Seasons of Sorrow ❯ Embers of Summer's Glory = Sunny Treats ( Chapter 50 )

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

DISCLAIMER: I'm out to conquer my world by finishing this fic, come what may…but in the end, Furuba belongs to the one and only Takaya-Sensei!
Embers of Summer's Glory
Chapter 50: Sunny Treats
“M-hm! I put on my sun-block lotion. (Pause) Souvenirs are hard to come by out here. We are rather far from the closest town… How about I bring seashells to fill in our vases? We have so many…” (Pause) Uo-chan, I'm NOT going to do THAT! (Pause) Arigato, Hana-chan, I understand…she just misses me. But it's just been four days!”
“Tohru-kun! Come on! It's the girls' turn to pick an activity today!” called out Kagura from downstairs.
“Oh, I have to go. (Pause) I'll call you tonight. (Pause) NO, Uo-chan, I'm NOT going to suggest THAT! (Pause) NO! (Pause) N-NOOOO!! N-Good-bye!” Flushed a bright red, Tohru hung the phone up hurriedly before any of Uo's suggestions of `fun activities' were overheard by others. The tall girl was rather loud on the phone…
`Uo-chan is so liberal on some things. Especially since we've graduated.' Shaking her head to clear it of any stray thoughts, she smiled brightly as she went to grab her straw hat off the bed. Giving herself a once-over in the mirror, she was so glad that she splurged just a little during her shopping last week for this trip.
`Kagura-san was right…this tankini with the skirted bottom covers just enough to look cute! Heh, I love the small piggie logo!' Taking her beach bag with her, she left the guestroom she shared with Kisa and made her way downstairs, her face all a-glow with glee at how her whole vacation had turned out.
It didn't bother her in the least that her vacations tended to be the secluded kind; with this family, discretion was of utmost importance, not to mention the fewer the crowds, the better for their `condition'. They didn't go to any tourist hot spots or scour popular beaches or hot springs. Instead they ended up going to the side of the country facing the infamous Sea of Japan and staying at a private family holding right on the oceanfront. It was utterly magnificent the way the large house stood on the higher ground with an impressive view of the rolling, lush forests that quickly dwindled to a white sandy beach.
Personally, she swore that she could see China's shoreline from her guestroom window, although Yuki assured her it was not so despite Shigure's incessant claims otherwise. She had felt bad for the Inu when the irate Nezumi had enough and knocked him unconscious.
`Still, a whole country like China is just across these very waters! And everyone is here…well, with a few expected exceptions. It's sad that Isuzu-san still refused to come, even after I pleaded with her. But I'm so surprised…Kureno-san is here, and without Akito-san. I hope this is good news…that no one will get into trouble for it…'
Sighting Kagura by the outside veranda, she called out, “Kagura-san, I'm sorry to have kept you waiting!”
“No problems! Aya-chan just finished the trim on my hat…you like?” Kagura quickly posed for her with her sun hat on with the pink-flower trimming on the outside edge of the large straw hat. “It's such a beautiful color!”
“I agree, it's beautiful! Where is Ayame-san?” asked Tohru as she slipped on her sandals and stepped outside to join her friend.
“Just follow that yell,” laughed Kagura happily as she skipped as best she could in her sandals. Leading Tohru down a stony path through the thick trees surrounding their vacation home, they reached the tree line bordering the white sandy beach. And here the loud yelling continued.
“Could you stop your yelling? She heard you the first time around, Ayame,” replied Hatori irately from his lounge chair that was placed to his dismay between the babbling Snake and mischievous Dog. Removing his hand from Ayame's mouth, pointedly ignoring the Snake's pout, he shut his eyes hidden behind his sunglasses, deeply breathing in and out. `I must feel calm…like the waters…calm…ignore the urge to strangle…calm… Two more days…I can do this.'
He would have preferred the quiet solitude of his own small room (he had laid down the law that he was NOT sharing a room with those two—even locked the bedroom door, and, for good measure, slid the dresser against it) that overlooked the thick forest surrounding their home while catching up on leisurely reading that was long overdue. But then…that would have left these two loose cannons, well, loose…without supervision. The damage control would be far less if he were around…that and all the yelling and screaming and damaged property would be kept to a minimum…
“Tohru-kun! Nice of you to join us old men!” quipped Shigure while peering from above his sunglasses, his sketchpad and pencil splayed on his lap haphazardly.
“For shame, Gure-san, we're not old!” claimed Ayame boldly from beneath his obscenely oversized sun-hat, his bright red long-sleeved summer yukata a stark contrast against his porcelain complexion. Fanning himself heavily, he readjusted his sunglasses and called out, “We merely age like fine wine being left to ferment for a much better taste later on.”
Tohru and Kagura could only gape at the comment. “Eh?!”
“Aya, that was poetic,” murmured the Inu slyly. “Perhaps I need to do some research into this `fine wine' of yours…ne?”
“Gure-san…I'm always at your disposal,” retorted the Snake silkily.
“Don't spare them a glance, Honda-kun…Kagura,” interjected Hatori with a scowl to his two friends. “Their minds have long become demented and make no sense. Just go on down the beach…the boys are becoming restless without you two there.”
“You still won't come and join us then?” asked Tohru resignedly. All this time the primary adults of their party remained lounging in the shade of the tall trees, one busily sketching in his pad (she wisely chose not to peek at what Shigure sketched), the other reading (Hatori certainly has a penchant for western literature), while lastly one kept his needle pins busy crocheting a throw rug from the looks of it. Ayame did say he was trying to catch up with his neglected needlework.
“Dears, be off and don't worry about us!” waved off Ayame to the girls. “Personally I'd fry to a crisp in no time out there in this sun. I'm amazed my beloved brother can manage to keep his complexion `fry-free'. Must be some strong sun-block, ne Tori-san?”
While Hatori merely grunted his reply upon returning to his reading, Shigure looked in the direction of the younger Jyuunishi where one in particular caught his eye. Beneath dark sunglasses, no one noticed the sudden glint in his narrowed eyes, clearly displeased with what they saw. Having no power over the presence of the individual, he swiveled his gaze back to his sketchpad, his jaw tightening ever slightly.
“I'm sure Yuki-kun is doing just fine, Aya. He managed well enough last time he was out at the beach. Besides…” his voice dipping lowly, “Kureno-kun is a fine babysitter. Always pitter-pattering behind Akito's heels has given him plenty of babysitting experience.”
“We'll see you two at lunch,” quickly interjected Hatori to usher the girls on their way. Pursuing this current line of conversation would only raise suspicions, at least, on Tohru's side.
“Right! Come on, Tohru-kun!” Pulling the girl away, Kagura smiled knowingly at the trio as she passed them. It was a topic little talked of, but she knew enough not to pursue it. The strained relationship Kureno had with most of the Jyuunishi was understandable, given the fact that he rarely interacted with them, but with the Inu…
Sometimes she was grateful for the ignorance…it spared her from having to see the darker side she knew the Inu to possess. `And the less Tohru-kun suspects THAT, the better.'
“Do you think you can state your thoughts even more clearly for Honda-kun to pick up on?” asked the doctor lowly to the sullen writer while leafing through his selected book.
“Now, now, gentlemen…let's keep the atmosphere free of gloomy feelings. We're on the BEST VACATION EVER, not to mention dry…NO RAIN!! And it's being recorded LIVE by our sponsor, MEGAPIX Digital Camera Zoom 5000! Say HI!!” Swiveling his digicam and focusing on his two best friends, Ayame grinned widely and waved at them. “Now give thanks to my marvelous and beautiful little brother for organizing this outing for all of us to share! To think that he personally invited me…(sniffle)…oh my, tears are still shed! The moment was not recorded but I can reenact it for you, Tori-san, since I was only able to call you about it, but I remember fascinating details down to the cologne I was wearing and the outfit Yuki chose that day, which reminds me that I really need to update his wardrobe as only I can do, forbid the notion that an inept salesman starts to dress MY brother—”
“And he keeps on going! I do believe this is Aya's longest monologue to date, ne Haa-san?” Shigure waved to the camera with a wide grin and thumbs up, willing to drop the earlier topic involving the Bird. It wasn't hard…he really could care less about the puppet on strings, even though those strings are currently cut at the moment.
It did shock him immensely to see Kureno meet them at the house without Akito. Apparently the shy Bird had arrived before any of them to set up house for their party. Not only that, but he stayed on, his silent presence clearly felt amongst the Jyuunishi. And here's where the Nezumi came in… With open smiles and a ready hand, Yuki often included Kureno in whatever he spoke about, drawing out the shy Bird from the seclusion of his usual silent vigil over them. Little by little the others became more receptive to the elusive Bird.
It was far from easy, though, especially since the Inu spirit in him did little to help. He couldn't help the discreet glares or passing comments when others weren't around…it brought him great satisfaction to see the stoic Bird flinch at hearing his words. He was actually rather proud to see said Jyuunishi retreat to his room a couple of times after such enlightening exchanges. But the fun stopped after the second day there.
He was still rather sore thinking about it, but there was no helping it. First and foremost, he's a member of the Jyuunishi, and unfortunately for him, a low-ranking one. The Inu spirit he was cursed with could only misbehave for so long before it was brought under control. And not by his friends since they knew better than to even try to stop him.
`Ah well…it can't be helped. Resisting the call of the Inu spirit is extremely hard, more so as time passes. And like it or not, it will always defer to the higher authority regardless of what I try.' Drawing idly in his sketchpad, he looked over to the `higher authority' that occupied his thoughts now. His Inu spirit even now backed down from any discontent thoughts towards the Nezumi, almost as if the mere idea of being ill-tempered with the Rat was taboo.
`My, the little Rat certainly has learned a lot from Akito on how to give the best glares.' He vividly recalled the small confrontation in the hallway that night…he on his way to his room he shared with Ayame and Yuki heading in his direction, he assumed to the lavatory. The Nezumi had caught him unawares, he being so lost in his thoughts of developments within their circle. It was then at finding himself in the teen's presence that he caught the unusual gleam in the Nezumi's eyes that always unnerved him at night…the chill in them…stunned him momentarily, more so when he felt the caress of those frosty eyes shiver down his spine. He was ready to brush it off with his usual carefree grin, but then the Nezumi surprised him further by placing himself square in front of his face.
Looking down at the shorter Sohma…intense eye contact never once breaking…and not one word was ever spoken between them during that moment. He found it unnecessary given the fact that he trusted his Inu spirit, which knew exactly why the Nezumi was confronting him. Still, he held fast and stood gazing down on the little thing that the Nezumi of the Jyuunishi is, intent on not backing down from an obvious challenge to his superiority. It was one of the longest moments of his life as he felt the heavy gaze of the Rat surround him completely.
He was eventually overpowered, and by the damned curse he was placed under, no less. Like the good little Dog he reluctantly was, he deferred to the higher-ranked Jyuunishi by being the first to look away with a slump to his shoulders. It all happened in mere moments, and when it was over, the Nezumi quietly padded down the hallway to continue his business.
`Such a small being that holds so much weight in those eyes alone. My dear Akito…you really did teach your Nezumi so well…well enough to lead.' For now, he was clearly at a disadvantage, but that will not always be the case. The curse will not always dominate them, and neither will the Nezumi…of that he was quite certain.
“And here, dear audience, we have Gure-san contemplating on his next great literary work! What will his story tell this time around? Do share with the public, Gure-san…just remember it must be rated for all audiences. Later we'll record your more `private' thoughts for the mature audience,” added Ayame as he zoomed in his digicam to record up close the writer's distant expression.
“Aya, my next great work of art will be ground-breaking on a level never done before,” allowed Shigure to reveal as his began sketching anew white, sandy beaches with now bodies that took a female form. `I'm so glad my models came out just in time for this sketch. I prefer to observe the real goods instead of the imagination.'
“Just keep in mind that your editor will censor out a large portion of your `great work of art'.” Hatori couldn't help the passing comment as he continued his reading, certain that the drawings Shigure was putting together bordered on indecent and illegal. `No wonder he wanted the girls out and about. But if he starts drawing Kisa, I will hurt this mongrel, best friend or no.'
“Tori-san, you spoil his inspiration with your words!” declared Ayame loudly with his digicam now focusing on the doctor's hidden expression closely. Once shoved aside by said doctor's hand, he returned his focus onto the writer. “Don't you worry, Gure-san! I'll receive the uncut version of your work before it hits the presses, right?”
“You are my number one fan, Aya…only for you!” spoke Shigure breathlessly as he reached over Hatori to hold Ayame's unoccupied hand. Bringing the Snake closer, both now leaning over an irritated doctor, the Inu whispered softly, “Later we can add a more `personal' touch to your footage…just for you.”
“Gure-san…I blush…”
“MY NOSE!!!”
Returning now to his reading without the theatrics surrounding him, Hatori blatantly ignored the wails of two idiots. `Two more days…just two…TWO DAYS. Two LONG days…and nights. (Sigh) I'll just have to tranquilize them…they're partly an animal, so it won't hurt them. Some side-effects perhaps, but I can live with that. (Sigh) Two days…'
As intriguing as it was to record the moments with his bickering relatives, Momiji took his digital camcorder and recorded Kisa's happy countenance as she busily constructed her sand castle along with an equally content Ritsu. With Hiro's commanding presence as he supervised their work, the castle was coming out rather differently than others he had seen before.
`Wow… a sand castle that comes with parking…definitely modern.' Not wanting to point this out to the easily stirred Sheep, Momiji asked, “Ri-chan, will you be going back to the Honke after this trip or will you head to your parent's hot springs inn?”
Nearly ruining a tower when he was startled by the question posed, Ritsu regained his composure and gave his answer some thought. “Oh, yes, actually, no, no, that's not right. Ah, oh, I will actually need to drop by the inn first but then quickly leave to help Kureno-niisan prepare the house for Obon. Many arrangements still need to be finalized, so I hope to help as best as I can, which isn't much I'm afraid. I just hope it doesn't rain on us!”
“You'll do great, Ritsu-ojiichan,” quickly interjected Kisa, pausing momentarily in her work to rest her hand reassuringly on his arm. “You have tons of experience from your work at your parent's inn.”
“She's right. They'll be counting on you for professional support,” agreed Momiji.
Blushing with the confidence they have in his abilities, Ritsu turned to ask him, “And you, Momiji-san? Your last summer vacation is almost over. I'm assuming this week off was the only break, though, from your studies for the entrance exams, ne?”
Sighing heavily, Momiji smiled weakly as he thought back on all the work he'd put in for these university entrance exams over the months. Granted, he was hoping to pursue his talent in his playing of the violin, but first and foremost, he needed to have at the very least the basics of university course work. Besides, the university he was looking into applying had an excellent music department that he certainly qualified for. His father encouraged him to investigate further which he will when the fall semester started.
“I hope they aren't as hard as the high school entrance exams. I'm hardly getting any sleep now,” spoke Kisa with a heavy sigh of her own, finally finished with her portion of the sand castle topped with a small flag.
“We'll both do just fine, Kisa. And we'll get the highest scores, too,” assured Hiro with a gentle pat on her head.
Momiji couldn't help the close-up with his digicam. He knew how hard the youngest Jyuunishi has had it these past few years, what with managing to study straight through many vacations just to advance one year in his curriculum. Going through the high school entrance exams now with his adored Tiger wouldn't faze Hiro's already honed study habits. It was worth it…with him now attending the same classes with her, the shy Tiger was growing out of her solitary shell now more than ever. All she had to do was look to the Sheep's staunch support in all she did.
“OI! Get that video recorder out of my face!” yelped Hiro as he realized he was being recorded.
Momiji merely laughed and took video from a different angle. “I'm trying to record memories for all of us, silly! Besides, I need something to remember you guys by when I go off to my choice of schools next year.”
Although saddened that they must part from each other's constant company, Kisa was immensely thrilled at the thought that Momiji's own dreams of pursuing his musical talents were finally being realized. Never had any of them thought that permission would be given to the Usagi to pursue a career away from their tight-nit circle. It was too much to hope for in the past, but now…now…
`Changes, so many so soon…it's hard to believe. —It is what it is—that's what Yuki-oniichan had said when Momiji-oniichan had asked why. That's all he would ever say about Akito-san's final decision. Yuki-oniichan had the best smile then…it's because of that Momiji-oniichan had never asked about it again.'
Shaking off her drifting thoughts, she gave a bittersweet smile to her fellow Jyuunishi, asking him, “Ishikawa Music Academy, Toho Gakuen School of Music, Soai University of Music, Shanghai Conservatory of Music, or The Juilliard College School Music Division. Which have you finally decided on? They all sounded like wonderful schools when you described them to me, Momiji-oniichan.”
“Heh, I'm not too sure…I still need to do more research. I'm just trying to build up my academic achievements and the like for when I do finally pick one. All of them are tough schools to get into.” Peering through his lens, he spotted two figures fast approaching them. He gleefully cried out, “Tohru! Kagura-nee! Hurry up already…you took so long!”
“Onee-chan! Kagura-neechan!” cried out Kisa happily as she stood up to run to the approaching girls, Hiro reluctantly following.
“Kisa-san!” called out Tohru as she wobbly made her down the sandy beach. Seeing Kagura make her way down and hug the younger girl with a fierce grip that had the boy pulling on her arm to let the girl breathe, she couldn't help the pause in her stride as she was suddenly struck with a realization.
`They're not kids anymore. When did that happen?' Pondering on this, she grinned seeing how Momiji was clearly enjoying himself while filming his family with their usual antics. Noting his tall stature and broad build under his open cotton shirt, she saw the man that he was fast becoming. He must have a whole legion of the female student body in his fan club with his charm and stunning looks that melted butter on sight. Definitely not the child she remembered allowing in her futon that one time on White Day…has it been that long ago?
`Time flies by so much faster when you're not a kid anymore. It's not fair.' She recalled her mother saying that at one point or another. She had to agree with her…time flew by so fast this summer since her graduation that she hardly noticed the turn of the seasons. Yet it did pass, and the evidence was there in front of her very eyes in the form of the younger Sohma children.
Momiji was no doubt swamped with preparations for his entrance exams…he had told her that was why he was so busy and unable to visit her. She, of course, encouraged him during their conversations at her job or when he would call her over the weekend, but she sure did miss his presence. The same could be said of Kisa and even Hiro, both inundated with preparations for their high school entrance exams, which she was happy to hear that they were applying to her old high school.
Looking to Kisa she saw the tell-tale signs of her maturity into a young lady despite her tied cotton shirt and sarong wrap that hid her bathing suit well. Kisa was all aglow while clutching her sunhat to keep it from flying away with the ocean wind. It seemed that the Tiger's constant companion was also quite aware of this as he occasionally shot a glare towards Momiji's or Haru's direction. Already so possessive…
`But he's also so grown up. He's not as tall as Momiji-kun yet, but he's definitely surpassing Yuki-kun's height.' It was with a tinge of sadness that she just now sees all this, knowing that with time flying forward, each and every one of them will be growing into an individual like no other. And so, shoving the bittersweet ache away, she deeply breathed in and readied herself for what may come to their unique family…and her, too.
`Besides, we'll still be together, even if the distance may keep us apart for a while. Wherever life takes us…takes them…I will look forward to it.'
“Come on Kureno, don't thrust like that! Man, that baka Nezumi has taught you nothing, has he?” Marching up to the elder Sohma, Kyo grabbed a hold of Kureno's shoulders and settled him in a proper stance along with his feet. “Now, lunge your fist at me.”
Kureno still hesitated. “But…Kyo-san…”
“No, no…don't ever hesitate. You hesitate, you die, got that?” pointed out his commanding teacher.
“Die?!” replied the Bird in alarm. “I thought this was just to see how I defend myself.”
“And I could be holding a knife on you! So, yeah, the `dying' part is real! Now, come on! Look…let's do this. I'll demonstrate.” Striding forward, Kyo shook Kureno's shoulders lightly to loosen him up. “Now, you're relaxed. Now look at me…when I take my stance like this, and I'm about to lunge at you with my left ha—”
“Oh, I'm so sorry, Kyo-san! Your right hand took me by surprise…I acted on instinct, really!” Quickly getting on his knees, Kureno busily dusted off the younger Sohma with nervous hands, certain that he angered the Neko for abruptly flipping him onto his back. And just when they were actually on speaking terms…he had to explain himself. “Kazuma-dono's otou-san had me work particularly hard on these hidden attacks from opponents he chose for me. Kazuma-dono practiced at length with me on this as well…'considering my charge'…”
“NOW you tell me?!” bit out the flustered Neko from the sandy ground as he regained his breath from having it knocked out of him upon landing abruptly on the sandy beach.
“You never asked if he was already trained, Kyo. And you did ask him to show you how he defends himself,” remarked Haru with a wide grin from afar.
“SHUT THE HELL UP, OX!!” cried out Kyo, jerking himself to his feet as he flicked off the sand from his back. He then noticed that his `student' had remained silent and anxiously stood to the side out of his way. Smacking the distraught man lightly on the back, he nonchalantly remarked, “Hey, buck up…it was nothing I couldn't handle. You did catch me by surprise, but that's good. Shishou always says you learn more from your falls anyway.”
“And you fall…a lot,” added Haru.
“DAMN OX! GET OFF YOUR LAZY ASS AND FIGHT ME THEN! I'LL SHOW YOU WHAT I'VE LEARNED!” yelled the Neko, enraged that his months of hard work and practice were being mocked by someone who couldn't even beat him in the ring.
“No, I'm fine, thanks,” replied Haru uncaringly as he casually stretched out his legs from his seat on the blanket, thoroughly ignoring the glare aimed at him.
“Kyo…didn't Shihan warn the class not to engage in any fighting because of how close the tournament is? You wouldn't want to blow a knee out now, would you?”
Hearing the soft comment from the once silent Nezumi made the Neko's hair stand on end, but grudgingly he had to concede. He was warned…many times in private…to steer clear from engaging in any matches with anyone, especially with the big tournament just around the corner. Busy days and evenings with nothing but practice has him on his guard for the most part that he couldn't help indulging himself in teaching just a little of all that he's learned with a novice. He had thought that Kureno would fit the bill…now he knew why the Bird was hesitant to spar with him.
`Damn…the guy is just full of surprises. Why didn't Shishou ever mention that Kureno was trained? Oh…yeah…I never asked. (Sigh) Well, why would I?! It's not like I talk with the guy all the time. He's always with… Ergh…never mind. I don't even want to know. It's bad enough the Bird struts after the Nezumi most of the time. He's worse than Haru! At least he's not annoying like the Ox. He's actually like…Tohru.'
And that was what finally drew him closer to the elder Jyuunishi. At first, he was like the others…leery of the Bird's unusual presence in this outing, especially since Akito was nowhere in sight. He like the others waited for the clan head to emerge from hiding, but nothing of the sort occurred. Instead the shy man nervously acquainted himself with everyone, always sticking close to Yuki, and only speaking when spoken to.
However Kureno's personality began to come through to them over the days spent in their constant company. Granted he took cues from the Nezumi to include his thoughts on inane topics being discussed (or argued as usually was the case), but the Bird's politeness and kindness could be felt all around him. How can someone in constant contact with a brutal person come to be so gentle with others? He didn't understand it as others likewise felt the same. All except the Inu…
`I've no idea what the Dog has against the guy, but it's obvious that it ain't all good between them…at least, not from the Dog's side. Good thing the idiot knew better than to have that attitude around Tohru or the squirts. Heh…hell, if Shigure really can't stand the Bird at all, the guy is definitely all right in my book.'
Choosing not to respond to the Nezumi's comment, he turned his attention back to his non-student. “So you did some training…apparently. What sort of training did you go through? Was it anything like Shishou teaches today? I always wondered how he did it back in the early years.”
“Well, Kazuma-dono was very generous to teach me as he did. I wasn't very good, but he was very patient with me,” started off Kureno as he fondly recalled the times he spent with the martial arts teacher as a student years ago. `Time has certainly flown by…'
Hearing the civil conversation between the Cat and Bird, Yuki let out a breath of relief he had withheld. He really wished to avoid any confrontations with the Cat, especially with Kureno nearby. The shy man was just starting to feel comfortable around them…any serious altercation amongst them will only push the Bird back into the security of his `cage'.
It almost came to that…Kureno retreating unto himself for the duration of the vacation. Yuki's skills of persuasion were put to the ultimate test when he had initially asked Kureno to join them in their outing. The Bird earnestly but kindly had said no, giving various reasons relating to Akito's health to family business and everything else in between. But the Nezumi knew the truth of it all…lack of security.
At the Honke, Kureno was not only sheltered from the outside world, but also from the `uniqueness' of their circle. Add to that the presence of one writer that couldn't stand him, and the Bird felt safest in his `cage', despite it being a very dark and smothered world as only Akito made it be. Yuki didn't blame Kureno…after all, it was how the Bird was raised, and it was all he knew.
It's precisely the reason why the Nezumi finally pleaded with the Bird to come out of his `cage' by coming on this outing. For Kureno to see for himself that he can develop a relationship with the other Jyuunishi…a bird should feel safest amongst his family, not shunned nor frightened, and their tight-knit circle would do that. Surprisingly, Akito was the one that finally `requested' that Kureno be placed on one week's leave of the house, along with a disapproving doctor. Any protests the young Sohma men had at that point were all silenced when the frigid glare of one angry clan head was leveled at them.
`Kureno became my shadow for the first couple of days. Haru wasn't even that bad on his worse days. But it got better…especially after my `talk' with Shigure. I still don't know how I managed that one.' He had to admit that he was at his wits end that evening when he saw Kureno quietly exit the living area everyone was in while playing a `friendly' game of cards. He knew it the moment it happened that Shigure was the cause of it…how couldn't he tell with the tell-tale smirk on the Inu's face after seeing the Bird walk out.
No one took notice of the incident, so he let the matter alone at the time, intent on getting to the gist of it when he retired for the evening to the bedroom he shared with Kureno and Haru. However upon arriving to their bedroom later on, the elder Sohma was fast asleep curled up against the wall…hiding as it were, or, at least, he thought so.
Haru had fallen asleep with no trouble, but the dreams for the evening eluded Yuki. And that's when he felt the sudden need to wash his hands. He simply couldn't abide by whatever filth, imaginary or otherwise, staying on his hands. He swiftly shrugged his robe on due to the chill in the evening air and went out soundlessly like his Jyuunishi spirit into the hallway. Several turns later, and he met up with the most unusual confrontation of his life.
`Unusual doesn't even begin to describe it. It was downright creepy. He had never looked that way at me before. Stupid grin, yes…glares, yes…but THAT smile with THAT look in his eyes…I can see now from who Akito learned that expression from. Still…the smile, the look…seriously, the chill in the air dropped lower in that hallway. If I didn't know any better, I could've sworn he was…mocking me. I don't understand for what or why, but it wasn't normal. He…he actually scared me.'
And one thing he learned well from his experience in Akito's presence…
`You bow to no one.'
Fear would be to submit himself to the other that is causing it.
`Never let your fear be seen by others.'
To show fear was to show weakness…that was how Akito had described it to him. And you can't show weakness in this family when you're leading it. So no matter what fears she might have held, she was sure to never allow anyone to see them.
Thus this one time, he used what was taught to him by example. He locked the fear away into the deepest recesses of his mind where much of his old wounds resided. And then…he walked straight to the source of his fear and faced it, never once wavering in his gaze or his stance. Beyond that he allowed his instincts to guide him, feeling that within him for the first time, his Nezumi spirit came forth to soothe his troubled heart.
The bitter chill in the air snapped at that point, the writer having looked away and in all appearances, relenting to him. Taken aback but not allowing himself to let his guard down, Yuki walked on and went about to finish his business…and he scrubbed his shaking hands hard in pure shock.
Kureno was never bothered since.
“Hey…don't you think Honda-san looks good today, Yuki?” asked Haru idly, leaning back on his hands while sitting comfortably on a bedspread under an oversized beach umbrella he had the foresight to bring, having learned from their last beach outing that the Nezumi tended to become ill if left in the sun for too long. Taking his gaze from the girls to look down on the silent Nezumi who was sprawled on his stomach next to him without any cares, he slightly nudged him with his leg. “Well, do you?”
Comfortably settled under the umbrella with the Ox, Yuki broke away from his reminiscing and merely cracked an eye open to look in the girls' direction. He then settled his head back on his folded arms, sighing deeply and mumbling, “You ask me the same thing everyday, Haru. Leave me alone.”
“Well, you don't give me an answer…why is that?” With a small grin, Haru prodded for him to answer. “Come on…do I have to guess?”
“Do what you want…” Yuki had no desire to answer the question or elaborate further on his responses. His dream of enjoying a vacation with no further incidents or hassles from anyone wasn't to be apparently.
“Harsh…really…” grumbled Haru as he laid back down to rest as well.
Certain that his companion was looking away from him, Yuki lifted his head carefully and opened his eyes more fully to see the girls approach. To him, before and always, Tohru looked great in all that she wore, but she wore her smiles the best. He laid his head on his arms as he stared at the younger Jyuunishi gathering around them, seeing her smile growing wider. Her gentle smile always reached out to those around her, bringing them into her alcove of happiness. It's contagious…
“Happy now?” asked Haru with a wry grin that wasn't seen by the startled Nezumi.
“Oi! Tohru, over here!” loudly said Kyo as he made his way to them. Feeling that Kureno wasn't following, he called out over his shoulder, “Come on, Kureno…it ain't healthy to hang out with the Rat all the time. He's not the whole world, you know.”
Kureno was briefly stunned by the Neko's statement before he jogged to catch up to him. He did look back to Yuki who had by then lifted his head to stare at him walk off. His hesitation to continue behind the Neko must have been obvious in his eyes because the Nezumi gave him the brightest of smiles that encouraged him to go on. He could only shyly return the smile as he continued to follow Kyo, silently admitting only to himself…
`Kyo-san, Yuki is my world…along with Akito…and I find no fault with that.'
“Kyo-kun! Kureno-chan! Where are the other guys?” inquired Kagura with the others trailing along after her. Catching a glimpse of Haru and Yuki a ways behind the Neko, she enthusiastically waved at them as well. “OHAYO!!!! Come on, get up, Yun-chan, Haru-chan! We have just the thing for all of us to enjoy!”
“Do I even want to know?” grumbled lowly Kyo before turning to Tohru with a grin of his own. “Did the girls finally let you off the hook? Man, they're like nannies or something…”
Tohru laughed sheepishly. “Ah…heheh… They just worry. But I need to buy souvenirs from somewhere before I go back.”
“Summer greeting cards are on sale at the shop by the highway before reaching the bluff. We can get some there later on,” remarked Momiji as he kept filming them all. “Haru, wave at me this time, okay? I want you to say something, too. Everyone else has already, except of course a scaredy-cat…”
Annoyed with the constant recording of his movements, Kyo replied, “Put that away, Usagi. What's the big surprise, Kagura? Don't make us stand here all day.”
“Tohru-kun, why don't you tell us,” advised Kagura merrily. Giving her large beach bag to Ritsu to hold for her, she pulled out something not immediately seen by the others.
“Oh, yeah! Um…you see, everyone…eh…that is, um maybe you'd like this game. I've never played it, but it seems fun, and it's competitive just like you like it, Kyo-kun.” It took Tohru a while to come to this idea since she had noticed that Kyo was rather restless since he's not been able to expend as much energy as she'd seen him do over the months. “Tug-o-war!”
“TA-DAAH!!!!” cried out Kagura happily as she produced a rope twenty-five feet in length. “Now let's pair up teams! Since we decide the activities today, Tohru-kun and I will be the ones to pick our teams. Okay?”
“Hey, wait a minute, don't we get a say-so on this?” blurted out Hiro as he looked at the rope with disdain.
“Nope! And later on we can play around with the Frisbees! It'll be fun!” retorted Kagura, knotting the middle of the rope with a bright handkerchief. “Ri-chan's with me, of course!”
“Eh…um, Kisa-san!” picked Tohru hastily.
“Haru-chan for me!”
“Obviously.” Ignoring the Sheep's glare, Kagura mulled over her next choice. If she played this right, the final choices will be interesting… “Kureno-chan is mine!”
“Um…” Tohru couldn't seem to come to a final decision suddenly. Was she playing favorites here? Her choices now were not so obvious anymore. “I'm sorry I'm taking so long…ano…”
“Don't worry, Tohru-kun! I'll help you!” With a wide grin, Kagura called out, “Momiji-chan's with me! You can keep the last two for your team. You're going to need them!”
“HELL NO AM I STUCK ON THE SAME TEAM AS HE IS!” protested Kyo ardently as he leveled a heavy glare on the Boar.
“Shocking revelation,” cut in Yuki quietly.
Her grin now came with a sharp twinkle in her eyes. “Kyo-kun…you don't want to just leave Tohru-kun all ALONE with just three members on her team, right? Still, if you think you can't cut it while Yun-chan can…”
“JUST GET THE DAMN ROPE IN PLACE, OKAY?!” Stomping next to Tohru, who tried to calm him down with her soothing words, Kyo stared at the Nezumi nearby. He may be on civil terms with him, more or less, but that didn't mean he wanted the Rat anywhere near Tohru. It wasn't absurd to think that, seeing that throughout this whole vacation they have more or less bridged whatever distance had crept up between them over the hot summer months. Not that he was worried…just wary of the Rat's intentions. He had to be…who else would ever doubt the perfect Nezumi of the Jyuunishi but him?
“Come on, Kyo!” called out Momiji from his side, he busily setting his camera on a lounge chair in a position to record their competition from a distance.
“Tohru-oneechan, you should be in front of me, then Hiro-chan. Kyo-oniichan and Yuki-oniichan would be behind him. That way there won't be any `accidents',” pointed out Kisa wisely, stretching her limbs to avoid muscle strains.
“You're right, Kisa-san. Oh…yes, I'll stretch, too.” Knocking her head mentally for not catching on to what Kisa was doing, Tohru took her hat off and began stretching her muscles, too.
Yuki silently kept to himself while going through his stretches. That is until he felt hot breath near his neck. He whirled around with his fist that immediately connected with an arm. He gasped, “Baka neko! What do you think you're doing?!”
“Heh, seems I just snuck up on you, Nezumi. Didn't think I could do that to ya, huh?” With a triumphant air, Kyo took his arm down and resumed his stretches, keeping an eye on his rival just in case. Narrowing his gaze, he lowly remarked, “Just don't screw this up and lose your grip out there.”
“I could say the same thing about you,” retorted Yuki haughtily before turning his back on the gloating orange/red-haired teen.
“Okay, now, before you two start up your usual tiffs, come on out here. Everything's ready!” Kagura excitedly placed her team in order of her choice…herself, Ritsu, Momiji, Haru, and finally Kureno. She was very sure of a quick victory. Still, the other team could pull an upset…those two last choices were definitely of the same mind when it came to one female in particular, and neither wanted to make her look bad.
“Hehe, Tohru-kun, get your team ready!” Turning to look behind her to her teammates, she looked at one in particular with a knowing look. “Haru-chan, don't you dare go easy back there. Or else, I'll pound you a good one, got that?”
“She's really persuasive, ne Haru?” quipped Momiji, wryly ginning to his companion behind him. He then went on to whisper to him, “She's right…don't go easy on the other team because Yuki's there, okay? You know he'd know about that and wouldn't like it.”
Haru stared nonchalantly at his companion, nodding slightly that he understood. Not that he was happy about it, but if Yuki wanted it that way…
“I still think we have an unfair advantage,” added Kureno quietly.
“Heh, you'd think that.” Smiling with a gleam to his eyes, Momiji looked to his opponents, two in particular. `Yep, Kagura-nee sure worked it out to give us a better show than a plain-ol' Tug-o-war.'
Both teams took positions.
The rope tightened between both groups.
As shocked as they were, they immediately started their pull-on-pull match. Neither group was giving an inch just yet. Still, Yuki couldn't help the distraction that was his boisterous brother, especially when said relative had a digicam aimed closed to his face.
Nii-san! (Grunting) Would you…argh…get that…KEEP A HOLD, BAKA NEKO…get that thing…ARGH…out of my face?!” His face was flushed as he struggled to keep him feet dug into the sand to keep from being pulled any further out.
“THEN GET…dammit…YOUR AGENT…hell…AWAY FROM HERE!” cried out Kyo as he, too, struggled to maintain them in place. But the Snake's presence just felt like, well, like snakes crawling up his legs. Disgusting.
“KISA-SAN…I'm slipping further in!” cried out Tohru in a panic.
“WELL THEN, STOP SLIPPING FURTHER IN!” yelled back Hiro as he pulled ever harder to bring them back a few steps, if that.
“COME ON, GUYS, WE'RE WINNING!” happily replied Kagura while pulling even harder than before. Did she forget to mention that her hidden traits of the Boar of the Jyuunishi that included unusual strength were a blessed gift?
Ayame was glad that he tied a large ribbon around his favorite sunhat to tuck the knot under his chin, thus keeping it in place. It provided wonderful shading for his recording. Expanding his lens to include the rest of the failing team, he reported, “And the tugs-of-the-hearts keeps mounting high! What do you think, my dear journalist of the sand dunes?”
“TUGS-OF-THE-HEARTS?! (Grunting) WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? WHOOAA!!” Kyo quickly regained his footing and started pulling them back again.
“IGNORE THE IDIOT, YOU IDIOT!” called out Yuki irately at having to deal with a distracted Neko and an annoying older brother. “GO AWAY, NII-SAN!”
“We're here live from the sandy beaches of this side of the ocean, filled with luscious ocean views,” remarked the ecstatic Inu, using Momiji's digicam to film the up close and personal views of the female bodies. “Ahem, returning to the story, we have bets coming in at two-to-one odds. Of course, being the wisest and most loyal of animals, I the Inu personally choose Kagura and her team. Why? Because she'd beat me to a bloody pulp if I bet against her. Back to you Aya.”
Coming to a close-up of the other members in Yuki's team, Aya shook his head in dismay. “Well, I must stand by the losing team, Gure-san. The older and loving brother sticks to the little brother in the best and worst of times.”
Pinching the Neko's reddening cheek, Aya then patted Yuki's head lightly. “It looks like the lucky kitty of the family has some spunk still in him, Gure-san! However, the sun of my life that casts his shine on all my pretty flowers will have to pull his little furry friends in to help if he is to win. Back to you, Gure-san.”
“Almost there…” gritted out Kagura as she saw the handkerchief ever closer to passing the line drawn between the two groups.
“GO, OUR LITTLE WILD BOAR, YOU CAN DO IT!” shouted Shigure joyfully. Then turning to her other team members, he nonchalantly replied, “You, too, guys. Heave-ho…come now, put your backs into it!”
“You sure do…argh…know how to…erg…give a pep talk…Shii-chan,” dryly commented Momiji as he leaned in further back onto Haru while pulling with all his might. He will definitely be feeling sore tonight.
“Well, that about wraps up things today. Yuki…I love you no matter what, and I'll be here when you must shed your tears of despair!” declared Ayame loudly as he flung himself onto his precious treasure, digicam and all.
Kagura saw immediate victory in her sights. The handkerchief only needed to be given one final tug their way. “ONE MORE TUG!!! COME ON!!!”
With all that he had, Kyo had dug in his heels hard and held on tightly to save them all from losing at the very last minute, not that it would seem to matter in the next few seconds seeing that they were about to lose. “DAMN YOU SNAKE!!!! GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!!”
Ayame pouted as he still remained wrapped around his brother, his digicam up close and very personal to Yuki's downcast face. “Mou, I was just encouraging my little brother with all the love and joy an older brother possesses! No amount of losses can deter my love from reaching the depths—”
The final tug was quickly done and over with. It was just shocking to everyone though to realize that it actually went the other way than they had anticipated. One tug was all that was done to bring Kagura's team from the brink of victory to a face-splattering defeat.
“Aw…we almost won it. RI-CHAN!” cried out Kagura as she hastily stood up and gathered the sunken Monkey from the depths of the sandy beach. She wasn't sure how she wound up on top of him. “ANSWER ME! OH NO…HE'S UNCONSCIOUS! I NEED TO SLAP HIM BACK TO CONSCIOUSNESS!”
NOOO! I'm fine, see?! I'm breathing now!” sputtered the anxious Monkey while giving her an assuring smile filled with sandy teeth.
Coughing up sand, Momiji got up wearily at having the wind knocked out of him from the sudden fall to his chest. “Wow, that was something else! Are you okay, Haru…Kureno?”
Haru nodded as he dusted his knees off, Kureno doing much the same with his hands and chest. Kureno was just as surprised and said so, “What had happened?”
Momiji was about to ask him the same thing when the answer was quietly but clearly heard.
“Yuki got fed up…”
A bit surprised, the Rabbit and Bird looked in the direction the Ox was staring at with a grin. Kureno smiled but with a bit of concern etched into it while Momiji started to laugh heartily.
“And here we have extra footage not seen anywhere else but here on the Inu's hour. The tangle of webs we all weave are nothing compared to the tangled webs between brothers. Just look at our Nezumi go! The headlock he's giving our dear Aya is a classic but oh so effective move. Trust me, dear observers, Aya's not being released anytime soon. I see red in the little Rat's eyes.”
“Ah yes, in his desperation for help, our dear Aya is strapping himself around Kyo-kun's arm! Let's get a more in-depth response from those closest to them. Tohru-kun…any idea how this happened?”
“EH…WHAT?! I…uh…that is…Kyo-kun! You're going to hurt your arm if you keep pulling it like that! Yuki-kun…your brother doesn't look like he can breathe!” frantically cried out Tohru as she was clearly torn on who to plead with.
“He can survive without it,” bit out Yuki as he tightened his hold. “WHAT DID I SAY ABOUT LEAVING ME ALONE, NII-SAN?!”
“Kisa-chan, how about you? Any idea how you won?” asked the writer while focusing on the intent stares of the younger Jyuunishi.
Thinking on it, Kisa wavered slightly before commenting, “Oh…well, ano…Yuki-oniichan just pulled really, REALLY hard all of a sudden and pulled us all the way here. Then he just…attacked…”
“Oh yes, my dear audience…the sudden rage of a Rat can be awe-inspiring, not to mention a good adrenaline rush. So…it's with great shame that I must cut this short to retrieve the good doctor to help our dear Aya. Oh…just a moment…I think Aya wants to share his final thoughts with us. Aya…the green in my tea…what do you ask of me?”
Gasping and heaving for oxygen, the Snake gestured for the Inu to come closer with the digicam. Widely grinning, he wheezed his remark, “Did my…(wheeze)…digicam record…the win?”
“The man is a complete moron,” commented Hiro with a shake of his head.
Such a frantic morning, and the day had only just begun.
Delayed remarks (03-28-2007):
Shameful of me to delay this chapter so much! I'm at your disposal dear readers. Bash me if you will, but do so gently. I bruise easily.
Still, I'm thrilled that you read my latest chapter in the saga known as SOS. Actually I was struggling a lot with this chapter, but in the end it came out okay. It's hard to introduce these episodes and even harder to come up with the right motivation. So thank you for your continued support in this fic of mine. Trust me…without it, there'd be no more releases!
As stated, this chapter introduces the summer beach vacation. There are lots of fics out there with just this setting as the main focus, so I tried to steer clear of the usual depictions and only went with the essential details…and a little fun moment! I'm not sure if it's well liked or received, but I tried! In the next chapter, it will be really interesting…some of which I actually put into place years ago when I first started out with this fic! Don't miss it!
In the meantime, in this release, we see Shigure and Kureno in close quarters. As any Furuba manga reader would know, these two aren't on the best of terms. I'll say no more since some of you don't know the specifics, and frankly it really has little bearing on the main storyline here in SOS, so it doesn't matter if you know of it or not. What does matter is Yuki's involvement here, in fact, he's involved in many things related to the Jyuunishi as was implied by Kisa's thoughts. This is important as this shows Yuki's slow but steady ascension to what he is to be to them, and that was highlighted by Shigure's moment. The confrontation between him and Yuki…vital info to remember.
I believe I've stated this before, so if it sounds familiar, do ignore this paragraph. I've noticed that as my storyline progresses, many a manga reader will see the many differences between this and the canon. I think I mentioned this before, but just to be clear, this fanfic deviates from much of Furuba as of…well, as of the school play I guess. No…it goes further back…I'd say around the time Akito visited Yuki at school in the early volumes of Furuba. Still, I do use some elements from the canon manga (Akito's gender is a strong example), and used it to my advantage here. There…my clear explanation to those that question my following the canon…or not. If that's not you, then just skip this!
Okay back to the moments here…I needed to bring in the other Jyuunishi in which their involvement with the main storyline progresses. I hope you take note of it! I hope to include them all greatly in future chapters, but for now it'll be a bit limited. We'll also see Megumi as well…just not so soon!
Musical moments: actually, you might really like this. The anime, Hikaru No Go, is based on one of my favorite mangas…simple storyline and wonderful characters. I love Sai! Ahem, breaking away from the ogling, the opening theme song for the anime sung by Dream is “Get Over”. Translated the lyrics are great and the song has a great beat to it. It fits well with the overall message in this chapter.
Phew…time to get out of here. If anyone's noticed, I have a homepage you may refer to under my ffnet profile. This will take you to a website where I regularly blab about nothing much, but I definitely talk about SOS updates as I have them. Check it out!
To my editor, Sei…many, many, MANY thanks to all her help with the SOS editing. Tis no small feat, I assure you, but nothing deters Sei…except school, sleep, eating… Thanks to all my readers and reviewers for lending me your eyes. I hope to be blessed with further words of encouragement or critique from everyone! Take care…Ja ne!