Fruits Basket Fan Fiction ❯ Seasons of Sorrow ❯ Embers of Summer's Glory = Public Sentiments ( Chapter 66 )

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

DISCLAIMER: Furuba and all its characters shall forever not belong to me.But this storyline does come from my demented mind.
Embers of Summer's Glory
Chapter 66: Public Sentiments
“Is allthat we see and seem buta dream within a dream?” — Edgar Allan Poe, “A Dream Within a Dream”
“So was there a confirmed earthquake in the vicinity of the sports arena?”
[“It rocked the arena some, but the main area affected was the exhibit hall at the other end of the building. Much of the damage has been reported there but unfortunately that location has been sealed off, so I cannot visually confirm at this time—”]
Our communication is cut off once again… Good evening to all. If you are just tuning in with us now, we are continuing to cover the late breaking news that took place just a few hours ago. Reports have been flooding in from both our correspondents at the tournament and the general public who were eyewitnesses to this extraordinary event.”
Hai, Kusagi-san. It seems that this story has reached international coverage as well since many from the foreign media that were covering the tournament and their countries' athletes were still at the arena when this earthquake took place.”
“That's correct, Arisawa-san. Now, let's goto our correspondent who's at the local university monitoring the findings of the seismologists that are there investigating the matter. Keno-san…have they located the epicenter of this seemingly minor earthquake?”
[“Yes, they have pinpointed the general area of the earthquake's epicenter to be located on the outskirts of town but surprisingly caused very little in damage around the immediate area. There have been unconfirmed reports of animals behaving strangely, but outside of that, the only real sign of the earthquake were tremors from deep in the ground. The investigation is still continuing—”]
“Keno-san, allow me to interrupt you. It seems our communication with Ihara-san at the arena has been restored. Ihara-san…can you hear us now?
[“Kusagi-san, I can hear you now. As I reported last, the true damage at this point really does seem localized to just the Grand Exhibit Hall at the Sohma Arts Complex located on the other end of this vast structure where the tournament was taking place.”]
“So the arena itself where the majority of the crowds were still located has no damage whatsoever?”
[“No, fortunately none at all. I myself only witnessed the sway of the light fixtures above and just a general tremor all around us. If it weren't for the electricity flickering and all our satellite feeds going dead at the same time, we would have very likely brushed off the whole incident.”]
“Have any witnesses there been able to provide further account of the areas that were damaged or the injuries that were incurred? We've had initial reportsfrom several eyewitnesses that many security personnel that were dispatched to the exhibit hall were being escorted outside, somehow all showing signs of shock and not remembering much of the event.”
[“Yes, we tried getting to anyone of those security personnel, but unfortunately the medical staff on the scene are not allowing any interviews to be conducted. From what we did observe, however, there were apparently members from the Sohma Dojo at the location at the time the earthquake took place. They were also being treated by the medical staff outside, many of them for minor scrapes and bruises and only two were seen taken by ambulance to the local hospital. We also have speculating reports that members from the Sohma family were reportedly at the facility as well, but we have yet to see any member of the family come forward to confirm these rumors or to comment on the condition of the many artifacts still on display inside the likely unstable building.”]
“Were any others able to speak to you on this?”
[“We did manage to interview other employees at the facility that were evacuated at the time the security alarms went off. Their first-hand accounts are astounding…imploding windows, loss of electricity, and shockingly they felt impact tremors from above and then descending—”]
“I'm sorry, but impact tremors coming from above? Could it have been the power being systematically damaged one floor at a time?”
[“According to the people from the power company who are here to inspect the facility, that could very well have been what they felt. They will know more when they are allowed into the facility to conduct their inspection. Right now, building engineers along with security personnel are going throughout the exhibit hall and adjoining areas to inspect the damage in detail. Until we receive their findings, we will continue to gather further eyewitness accounts and bring it all to you exclusively. This is Ihara Taeko reporting LIVE outside the Sohma Arts Complex…back to you in the studio, Kusagi-san.”]
“Thank you, Ihara-san. Arisawa-san, has there been any official statements releasedfrom the Sohma familyregarding their damaged facility or to confirm any of these reports? It's now late in the evening and several hours since this disastrous incident started…”
“Kusagi-san, thus far the only official statement from the family was to acknowledge the efforts of the emergency personnel and to thank them. They have neither confirmed, denied, or even acknowledged any of the reports coming through the media. As has been proven in the past, they are keeping to their privacy as the local authorities handle all the inquiries from the media related to this event.”
Undoubtedly this revered family is staying true to their nature. We will take a short break now for our sponsors and will return to continue providing coverage on the true tremors that shook the tournament. Stay tuned.”
“If I get asked one more DAMN time why the HELL I'm here, I'm gonna start kicking everyone's asses ON CAMERA!”
“Arisa, that will accomplish nothing.”
“Oh come on, Saki! We've been through the entire arena…with no little amount of hell let me tell you! Man, I never thought that the security would be so damn tight! And for what?! Lounges, restrooms, locker rooms, storage rooms…all turning up empty! Tohru and your brother are nowhere to be found and EVERYONE is too BUSY to HELP!”
“Oi, Uotani-san, Hanajima-san! Got something over here!” yelled Kakeru as he wildly waved from behind large placards advertising the tournament.
“Finally SOME progress,” irritably remarked the tall girl.
Hanajima couldn't agree more with her companion's sentiments. Under the veil of an imminent storm, marked by constant lightening across the sky, they had spent literally hours scouring the entire arena and surrounding area for their dear friend and her younger brother. It had stood to reason that since all the occupants and participants at the arena were let out moments after the earthquake hit that Tohru and Megumi would be amongst the huge crowd. Sadly not a trace of either them or the Sohmas in general was found. They all seemingly vanished.
`And all these chaotic signatures from everyone's auras aredoing nothing to help me sense them nearby.' Hanajima was at her wits end, truly, especially with her parents persistently calling her to ask how she and her brother are doing. There was only so much time before they caught on that something was wrong, if they haven't already. She needed to find at the very least her brother…right now.
“And I've been telling ya, I know Yun-Yun, er, Sohma Yuki. We were old friends since back in high school—”
“I am sorry, but there is no way you can substantiate your claim, and I do need to leave. I cannot say anything related to the family, but if you are a friend of theirs, then you will have to call on them on another day. Now if you'll excuse me…”
“Oi, hold on right there,” exclaimed Uo as she finally reached them. Standing toe to toe with the gentleman, she was bound and determined that this man will help them…willingly or not. “I have had my one day off this entire summer shot to the pits of HELL and YOU WILL NOT TURN US AWAY—”
“Yeah, what she said!” chimed in Kakeru with as much a threatening pose as that of a bird. “So, talk…or else!”
“Enough…Arisa, Manabe-san,” remarked Hanajima, hoping her calm voice will tone down their over-eagerness enough to allow her to try to get some answers. They were about to protest when she smoothly continued, “He's more than willing to cooperate if we don't ambush him. He has very solid waves…he can be trusted—”
“Oh man, Saki, now's not the time for bringing that up! He's gonna freak and blow us off,” cut in Uo exasperated.
“Waves…you mean `chi'?” the man asked curiously.
Chi…waves…whatever!” cried out Kakeru in frustration. “Look, I just want to know where Yun-Yun is, okay?”
“He doesn't know who the hell that is, Manabe!”
“Well YOU ain't doin' any better, Uotani!”
“ENOUGH.” Taking a moment to gather her wits and dwindling patience, Hanajima turned to the young man with an apologetic plea and low bow. “I apologize…my friends are frustrated. My name is Hanajima Saki, and we're looking for Honda Tohru and my brother, a young boy by the name of Megumi. Do you know them?”
“Tohru-chan? Megumi-kun?” He relaxed with evident relief. He politely bowed and warmly smiled in return. “My name is Tomoda Kunimitsu. It has been equally frustrating for me as for your friends…I've been hounded endlessly from the media. They are quite merciless in their efforts to get a story on my employer or any Sohma for that matter. Are you close friends of Tohru-chan? I can sort of see a family resemblance with Megumi-kun…”
“FINALLY!” exclaimed Kakeru cutting in. “He's actually speaking to us—”
“Pipe down, idiot!” shot back Uo. “Let them talk!”
“Yes, we're Tohru's roommates. And…well, though I disagree, I've been told my brother and I do resemble one another. So you have seen them?” eagerly asked Hanajima, feeling very certain that her trust in the man was valid.
Kunimitsu quickly stood on his guard as he saw several wandering media members closing in on his location once again. It's hardly a surprise that some from the press were able to sneak past the tight security parameter considering how security personnel were stretched thin.
“Please come this way,” he lowly remarked as he grabbed hold of Hanajima's elbow, bringing her that much closer to his side as he led her in the opposite direction of the incoming reporters. He quietly continued, “It's best to keep a low profile…the press is after anything Sohma-related, even Tohru-chan if they knew of her association. She's…(pause)…her friend's support would be very welcome I'm sure.”
Seeing his hesitation to elaborate further, Hanajima couldn't help the rising panic in her voice, “Is she hurt? And my brother? Are they okay?”
“Only a few scrapes. But…” He stopped short of passing another restricted section where medical staff was busily checking emergency personnel for air contaminants and acquired injuries. “I will have to ask that your male companion remains here.”
“What?! Why?!”
“Manabe, would you just shut it!”
“Arisa, please.”
“I apologize, Manabe-kun, it's nothing personal,” intervened Kunimitsu before the argument could escalate. “It's just that the way you are now, you're no better than a reporter that would demand information from Tohru-chan on Yuki-kun's whereabouts. She's in no condition to be interrogated in that manner. I'm sorry, but I must insist you remain here.”
“But Yuki—”
Kunimitsu placed a comforting hand on the distraught teen's shoulder. “I've been assured by a family elder that Yuki-kun is in good hands and not to worry. What we should be worrying about now is getting Tohru-chan home safely. That's what Yuki-kun would want, wouldn't you agree?”
Deflated, Kakeru nodded in agreement. “Yeah, he would want that.” To the girls, he remarked, “Go ahead…I'll go get us a ride to take us all home. Meet me by the fountain across the street…it's cleared for traffic now.”
“Thanks, Manabe…sorry about earlier, really,” replied Uotani, her surly mood now replaced with a growing sense of gratitude, seeing that as agitated as he was, Kakeru was setting it aside in favor of helping them once again with Tohru. `Hn, the Sohma Prince has such a hold over this guy even when he's not around. Gotta thank the Prince for evoking such loyalty from his friends.'
Parting ways, the trio carefully made their way through the throng of medical and emergency personnel. Everyone around them was on a mission and paid little attention to their presence. Of course it paid to have their male escort as he continually flashed his access badge and repeatedly stated that the girls were with him.
With all the hubbub, they could barely hear their own thoughts, let alone speak above it all. Yet for Hanajima, thought and speech was not needed as she felt a growing apprehension within her. Something was just not right aside from the obvious state of emergency. Living in this country, earthquakes were a natural norm. Each left a signature behind that she was familiar with, but with this reported earthquake…
Underneath it all…an underlying current of…something not normal, amplified by the electrical storm that had developed in the last hour… Simply put, it was unnatural. `It' had eyes and was very much looking at them…
The others were brought to a halt as Hanajima stopped cold. Uotani reached out to her first, “Hey, Saki, what's up? This guy was saying we're almost there.”
Kunimitsu noted that the young woman was tense under his hand and was frantically looking all around her, clearly disturbed by whatever she was sensing. He couldn't blame her for her uneasiness…he felt much the same. “It's alright, Hanajima-san. I know it's not easy coming into this area. But it is dissipating…perhaps our cell service and electrical equipment will be fully functional by night's end.”
“What do you mean by that?” asked Uotani as she took Hanajima by the shoulders to offer comfort.
“Well…let me see, how best to put it,” lowly replied Kunimitsu before coming to a satisfactory answer. “Yes, if you were to believe in your friend's comments on `waves', then you believe her to be sensitive to `chi' or `qi', the energy force that all things give off. Around here, due to what's happened, it's exceptionally potent and not very easy on the senses of people who are sensitive to it. Phones and electrical equipment are easily affected as well.”
“You actually believe in that?”
“I am a professional athlete of martial arts, of course I do.”
“It's…not natural,” quietly interjected Hanajima as she got her barings back, sensing the truth in his earlier remarks as the dark, clashing aura dissipate further with each minute passing by. “There's something…wrong with it all.”
“Admittedly it's not giving me an easy vibe either but it's getting better…thankfully. Now we just have to worry about this storm over our heads. Come on, we're almost there.”
As they resumed their walk, Hanajima couldn't help the persistent prodding into her mind. It gave and pulled and pushed harder and…it clicked.
“Tohru! Megumi!” So lost in her thoughts and under the stifling aura, she barely registered their wavelengths. They were very close now.
Just as she was about to take off with Uotani hot on her heels, she felt her elbow caught in a firm grip. She looked over her shoulder to the kind man, wondering what prompted him to stop her.
“Before you go, I must point out something that I couldn't say in front of your other friend.” Seeing he had the girls attention, Kunimitsu cautiously proceeded. “Tohru-chan…she is physically fine, but…emotionally…maybe even mentally, I'm not sure…”
“Could you please just spit it out?!”
“She won't acknowledge my touch, not even my presence. I can't reach…her. She's clearly traumatized by—”
“Arisa, let him go!”
Gently and calmly, Kunimitsu loosened Uotani's hand from his collar and guided it slowly down. “Please, control your outbursts. She doesn't need your anger and worry. She needs your support, so please, just be there for her and remain calm, for her sake. The injuries the boys sustained—”
“Boys? Who? The Carrot-top? Prince, too?! DID YOU JUST LIE TO MANABE BACK THERE?!”
“Arisa, enough.”
“I hadn't meant to mislead your friend, but both Kyo-kun and Yuki-kun are having their injuries looked after. I can't tell you anymore than that because I've been told nothing else beyond that. But clearly, this has all upset Tohru-chan.”
“Ya think?!”
“Arisa, please, no more rudeness.” Hanajima sighed heavily, now understanding the full weight of Kunimitsu's burden. If the Sohma boys were injured in any way…
Uotani and she have strong bonds with Tohru, no question about it. Friends through the good and bad as only the very best of friends can do. But when it came to those young men and that family…Tohru's heart would break should anything bad happen to them. She would break.
`And that's how she is now…broken and lost. Her signature tells me all this…all her despair.' Turning to Kunimitsu, Hanajima bowed respectfully. “Thank you for all your assistance. We will look after her now.”
He returned the gesture in kind. “I only wish I could do more for her. Please, here's my card. Feel free to contact me for anything. I have her home number, so I hope you don't mind that I'll be calling periodically to check in on her.”
As he walked away, Uotani couldn't help but lowly comment, “Something stinks to high heaven, and it ain't all about the guys getting a small bump on the head.”
“Then perhaps we should get to her. The sooner, the better.”
Both girls made haste as they meandered through different relief stations, finally coming upon a cleared area. And only two people were found here…
“Megumi, Tohru!”
Tired…exhausted. Megumi felt all of this in under one hour when he tried to get Tohru to talk to him. Had he been any other bystander, he would have left her so that he could get a hold of his family to pick him up as many others had already. His sister and parents would no doubt be worried sick by now with no response from him. His cell phone, as everyone else's, was of no use. And Tohru…she just stared at nothing…her misery impenetrable. Oh how he had wished upon any believable wish that he had been there with her when the `incident' had happened.
Incident…that's what everyone was referring to the mass hysteria that occurred earlier when the tremors hit. He had been calmly waiting in the private suite where Kisa and Hiro had left him when they followed after the elder Sohma men to go congratulate their relatives privately on the winning matches. The Sohma teens were to return in half an hour they had said, but shortly after they left, Shinpachi and Yunosuke along with Himeka were taken away by Yunosuke's mother. Parting ways, he was left alone in the large suite to wait for his friends.
It was the TV first that started acting funny, the screen flickering until it finally died. The lights were the next to flicker and die out. Then came a tremor. Gentle at first but they increased in quantity and pressure. He had never been so terrified in his short life but quickly sought to go under a table to avoid possible falling debris.
He knew he couldn't stay put for fear of possible aftershocks so out he went into the corridors. Pandemonium had broken out all over. He managed in the darkness as best as he could, following the rush of bodies that seemingly headed towards an exit. His efforts were sadly in vain as he tripped along the way, crashing down to the hard floor below. He felt kicks and was sure to be trampled further had it not been for another's timely presence.
`Where didthat guy go off to anyway?I wonder how far he's gone to get us a ride home?' Megumi looked at his bandaged arm and hand, the ache on his leg sharpening just a bit when he moved it the wrong way. The gentleman who pulled him out of that deathtrap and protected him through the panicked crowds was apparently good with giving him first-aid from the medical kit he had on him.
Of course, the man had to be prepared with these sort of things…he belonged with the Sohma Dojo. That much the young teen could tell from the man's uniform. And some time later, his superior (`I think he called him Master Haji.') had emerged from the building, leading a very distraught Tohru away from the influx of reporters that came upon them.
`And I'm back to the beginning…no closer to an answer.' Despite the lack of reaction from her, he was bent on consoling her, even if it's only to offer her his shoulder so she could lean her head on. He was truly at a loss on what else to do or say.
`Nee-san, where are you?'
“Megumi! Over here!”
The loud, brash voice was unmistakable. He looked beyond some tall bodies and spotted Uo amongst some medical personnel. Apparently they were in a heated discussion, judging from Uo's wild gestures. `Hn, I doubt flipping the medicthat particular finger will get Uotani-san any closer to me.'
Such immense relief had never washed over him before. He was instantly at his feet, mindful of Tohru's weary form. “NEE-SAN!!!”
Seeing that one of their patients finally had family come for them, the medic allowed Uo and Hana through without further delay. Both ladies swiftly made their way to the two sitting on a stretcher. Hana couldn't help the overwhelming surge of emotions once she saw her brother sporting injuries. She never spoke it aloud nor did she allow the thought to sit in her mind, but she had been worried for his safety…very worried.
“Megumi, does it hurt? Are you injured anywhere else?” asked Hana softly as she gently ran her hands across his bandaged arm and hand.
“Just some bruises on my back and shins. I had tripped trying to get out.” Thinking further, Megumi looked amongst the crowd around them. “This man helped out and took care of my immediate injuries. He was from the Sohma Dojo. Did you see him? He was trying to get us a ride home.”
Thankful to Tomoda-sensei for taking care of her brother, she replied, “He led us here and left. But we must be sure to give him our thanks later, don't forget.”
Nodding in consent, he then turned his attention the silent lady beside him, seeing Uo trying to get a response from her. “Nee-san…I'm sorry…I never could get her to tell me anything.”
Hearing her brother's quiet remarks, Hana saw what both Tomoda-sensei and Megumi were referring to with Tohru…she was oblivious to them, to everything around her. In vain Uo tried to get a reaction from their friend. Nothing.
Honestly, Tohru did acknowledge what was around her. She noted the increasing lightening in the sky, the stifling air she was breathing, the organized chaos that was slowly dwindling as the numbers of people were dispersing. Apparently the injured were all taken care of, and now it was a matter of cleaning up the mess that was left behind by the…
No. She would not remember that event. She had not spent all this time, with extreme effort on her part, to put those memories far from her foremost thoughts just to bring them right back for her to face…to acknowledge.
How could she? Her life with her surrogate family was…it was the next best thing to having her mother back. No, that wasn't true anymore. Just as her mother was her home, the Sohmas are home…they were all her home. Her friends were dear to her, truly, but she needed her home. Their despair was hers…their joy hers. The tears they shed, she shed ten-fold. They would say repeatedly to her how much her kindness had saved them, but she would always believe that they were the true saviors. They had after all given her a home to call her own. Were there problems? Certainly. Would she give up being with them because of those problems? Never.
And to have that threatened…to be cut off…to have it taken away with a mere flick of the hand…
`Your world crashing all around you'…she had thought her mother's death was the epitome of that remark. How foolishly naïve she had been.
So, how could she confront a truth that tore at her heart? Was it cowardly of her to put it out of her mind? It was safer to not acknowledge it…at least, not now. Will she ever? She was not strong enough to bear it…to bear her failure…
Her betrayal.
Reality, though, never ceased to relent. Too weak to hold them back now, those memories were now gushing out in spurts, leaving her numb to her friend's embrace. The hateful exchanges between Cat and Rat, both verbal and physical...each wound they gave to the other was one she felt in her bones.
Rumbling thunder was softly heard.
Then there was Kazuma's intervention, landing the poor surrogate father in the midst of an epic confrontation that even he couldn't stop... The grown man was easily tossed in the air by such an unnatural force that no one saw but knew that was there and that it came from one lone youth who was pinned to the floor. Such bitter coldness seeped into her blood then, frozen in that moment of time.
Lightening flashed overhead, thunder followed, louder this time…and along with that, her friends worriedly calling out her name.
Then…then she…
[] I will only allow you to continue to retain them if you never, EVER come near Yuki. Swear it on your mother's grave.”
“I swear it…”
Those words…her words…condemned her broken heart over and over…
She never noticed how she took to quietly sobbing into her clenched fists, her shoulders slightly shuddering with her restrained efforts to hold it in. Nor did she notice the tighter embrace from both of her friends. She did dimly note that it started to drizzle.
`Can I ever wake from this sad dream?Can they?'
“Well HOT DAMN if that's not the most CRAZIEST SH—(he looked momentarily to his guests before speaking any further)—ahem, that is to say, what you have here is definitely proof that this whole `incident' is more than just some random earthquake, Sirs.”
The elderly man quietly asked, “And how have you come to that conclusion?”
“It was rather simple, Master Haji,” the supervisor boasted. “Although the majority of our surveillance equipment here and out there sustained considerable damage, what we managed to retrieve and base our findings on is all here in these recordings. They're grainy even after my man here cleaned them up good, but they're good enough to support our theories.”
“I was also able to retrieve some thermal video, Sirs.”
“Well don't stop there, Mitsuru! Show them what you've shown me already!” his supervisor yelled, his sixteenth cigarette almost falling out of his mouth. Turning to his honored guests, he humbly remarked, “I've made absolutely certain that any and all security surveillance video around the whole perimeter of the exhibit hall be brought in for your review as you have requested. We apologize for the delay but it took us an hour just to get the backup generator fully operational!”
“Ye-yes sir! Here are the more striking images we were able to retrieve.” The technician quickly punched a few buttons off his massive control panel, with monitor screens completely surrounding one long wall while another wall was completely covered with one huge display screen. Nothing was left out of sight in a Sohma building aside from the restrooms.
The supervisor quickly hit a switch to pause at one screen then hit another switch to send the image to the large wall-screen. “Now see here! There! That is probably our best picture of the young man falling down—”
“Um, no sir, he is definitely not `falling'. I ran the numbers and reran the footage and trust me…this kid isn't falling—”
“Look Misturu, if the kid took a nose dive from the SIXTH FLOOR through those windows (which by the way I don't know how the hell he managed that!), then he's FALLING.”
“Sir, if I may clarify, he did `fall' from the sixth floor, but if you look at the time lapses on the video… (All observe the video carefully.) He…damn, I can't believe it! His descent starts out fast but…Yuki-sama's fall slows down as he approaches the second floor's balcony. The video unfortunately cuts out at this point as does all the power in the whole building including backup generators.”
The supervisor nearly choked on his smoke as he ran the same calculations through his head as his subordinate. It was all shockingly true. Unbelievably true.
“With such sophisticated equipment then, you should have excellent footage from the time our clan head made her presence known in the exhibit hall.”
The jubiliation that the security personnel had felt completely left them as they could tell where this line of questioning was going. Turning to the other gentleman who had just spoken, the supervisor lowly bowed.
“Kureno-sama, our revered head of the family had ordered the security personnel on the floor to discontinue their surveillance of the ground floor and that of the sixth floor. With that order, my men dispersed from the two areas and passed the message along to my other engineer that was monitoring the activities from in here. He then turned off the LIVE feed from the cameras on those floors.”
“What about when Kyo-kun had arrived prior to Akito-sama?”
“Yes, Master Haji, we have good footage of when he arrived. Mitsuru, punch that up on the big screen.” The technician quickly hit a flurry of keystrokes that brought up the specified timeframe. His supervisor began explaining, “There's no sound but this clearly shows his frustration. Strange that he'd be so worked up after winning his matches today… Anyway, he makes it up to the fourth floor…having a drink it seems.”
“Sir, he doesn't move until a short time later,” spoke up the technician. “He goes up the private elevator with his security badge…to the sixth floor.”
“I thought no footage was available on the sixth floor,” pointed out Kureno confusedly.
“Not on the floor, but the cameras on the elevator are always turned on…there's no way to switch those off,” clarified the tech. “So we can see a little of what went on inside the floor.”
“Not much, though…damn. But the security film in the stairwells are okay, right, Mitsuru?”
Responding to his supervisor, the tech efficiently brought up various images on other screens, clearly showing two individuals going up the stairs. One goes down while the other continues to the sixth floor albeit at a much slower pace.
“So, Kagura-chan went back down and Yuki-sama doesn't go inside the sixth floor when Kyo-kun and Akito-sama are together. He didn't see anything…” murmured Master Haji.
“That's true to a certain point. Hey, Mitsuru, fast forward the time lapses on these stairwell recordings. Then have both the elevator cams tuned up as well as the thermal images from the sixth floor.”
“Isn't the video footage from the sixth floor irretrievable? That would make any thermal images useless as well,” pointed out Kureno.
“Yes sir, the video footage is too damaged but the thermal images I'm referring to are not of the room itself but of the displays cases themselves.” Seeing the confusion in his guests' eyes, the supervisor explained further. “You see, for security purposes, we have a thermal device in each display case to gauge temperature changes. Any deviation from the set temperature level and the system automatically alerts an engineer here.”
“Here we go, sirs.”
All gentlemen now stared at the various screens. They saw Yuki disappear into the sixth floor, followed moments later by Kyo's image entering the lift.
“There! Mitsuru, slow the playback!”
“Yes, sir. (Pause) Incredible, he must have run like hell to get to that point…”
Master Haji couldn't agree more with the tech. There it was…the lower half of Yuki's body was recorded just out of range of the elevator camera. And Kyo, obviously bitter and angry, had his back to the Nezumi the whole time. `Didn't he even realize Yuki was RIGHT THERE?!'
“Now here's the really weird part, gentlemen. Aside from the `fall'.” The supervisor quickly pressed more keystrokes until the thermal image gauges were up on screen. “It's just Yuki-sama and Akito-sama in the sixth floor now. But look…for some far-fetched reason, the temperature starts dropping but not just everywhere…just around the area by the display cases against the wall. But just as quick as it happens, it snaps back to normal, which is why the engineer just logged it as something to investigate in his next shift.”
“While that happened, Sohma Kagura ran up the stairwell at break-neck speed up to the sixth floor. Shortly after we have the alarms go off on the same floor which we later learn that it was the display cases by the wall being broken into. Later investigations logged only one item as missing. After a few minutes, more alarms go off…this would be when Sohma Yuki…eh, well, when he `stepped off' the sixth floor.”
“And that brings up another…oddity.” The technician then brought up other views on the monitor screens, this time of shattered glass strewn on the floor. “This is the security glass from the display cases…completely shatterproof, bulletproof…everything. But there you have it…all broken into little pieces. And this…the tempered glass from the wall overlooking the atrium of the exhibit hall…all this glass from all the floors is pulverized…practically broken down to its basic component.”
“Faulty materials would then be the cause?” inquired Master Haji.
“No, not ever! Our building is made of the highest grade of raw material out there and made to withstand shockwaves from strong tremors. To have this level of damage to the glass but not to the building itself is beyond strange. Highly abnormal. This is well worth investigating further, wouldn't you agree, supervisor?”
“Indeed, Mitsuru! I'll be getting a full crew on hand to put all these pieces together…”
By then, Kureno had then turned away from the distorted but true images on the screens, his heart as heavy as the burden on his shoulders. He had hoped against all odds that any evidence gathered would be disputable but that was hardly the case here. How he cursed the latest technology the Sohma family had to employ in this building. It could ruin them…
Just not today.
“Thank you two for your dedicated work. We the Sohma Family are truly in your debt for your devotion to keeping all our property safe from harm. And knowing the truth of the matter is very important to us as we get to the bottom of things.”
“Kureno-san is absolutely right,” agreed Master Haji. “We now have a much better understanding of what has happened today. Your efficient work habits have done us very proud.”
“Oh, but…well…thank you, sirs! Thank you!” blurted out both employees as they stood to attention and bowed repeatedly in gratitude.
“And on that note, please let our physician take a look at you both. He has already seen to the well-being many of the employees in this building.” Master Haji then opened the door and revealed a very haggard but determined doctor. “Sohma Hatori of our family clan will be very quick in his examination. One at a time is the proper way to examine them, is that right, Sohma-sensei?”
Hatori inclined his head in recognition. “Yes, Master Haji. I have already examined all the security staff, and they are currently fulfilling their duties downstairs. I will be brief in my examinations and send you both down to meet up with them.”
“Oh, but we couldn't impose on such a revered—”
“Now, now, none of that humility. We insist as your employers. It's only right that we take extra care of such devoted employees, right, Kureno-san?”
“Yes, Master Haji. Akito-sama would have it no other way.”
“There, you see! Now who's going first?”
The tech rose first and deeply bowed to his employers before following the family doctor out of the security office. As they quietly walked the long, deserted halls lit by emergency bulbs, the technician dared to ask, “Please forgive me, Sohma-sensei, but I must declare my…aversion to needles. They are quite…frightening.”
Coming into a small reception room, Hatori closed the door quietly behind them as he tiredly replied.
“Do not worry, sir. I will not be using any needles for this examination.”
“So, what's the status of the security footage at the facility?”
“We have just received confirmation from Master Haji that all of it has been thoroughly disposed of.”
“And the personnel?”
“Everyone except Tetsuya-kun. There was no point as he's in line to take over Seto-san's position. It was time he learned the truth.”
“The Dragon's talent never ceases to amaze me.”
Hatori-sensei was able to effectively remove their memories and plant more `agreeable' ones.”
“There were so many people…is he absolutely sure he got them all done correctly?”
“He was very certain he did it all `exponentially well'…his words.”
“How is the condition of the building?”
“What of the exhibit displays and such? Much of that is priceless or on loan!”
“The building engineers just gave their approval and are just now allowing our people to get in there and start the removal of the artifacts. We should have this all done by first light tomorrow.”
“How are those vultures at the media spinning this `incident'?”
“As usual, they will go with what reports the emergency officials come up with. Our private contacts there will ensure all is very discreetly handled.”
“Excellent. It seems that our valiant efforts to confine this mess to more manageable portions are finally paying off,” stated Seto crossly as he rubbed his bleary eyes hard. Looking to his watch and noting the very late hour, he took another sip of his coffee. Addressing the members seated at the long table, he stared at each one hard, giving emphasis to his next words.
“I think it's now time that we discuss exactly what's on everyone's minds. Akito-sama, the Nezumi, the Neko, the other Jyuunishi…any objections?”
Momiji's father was quick to respond. “Seto-san, I believe any discussion of any sort about my child or any of the other Jyuunishi without Akito-sama present is highly inadvisable. We should wait—”
Forgive me, but I quite disagree,” cut in Seto in frustration. “Having an honest discussion of what's really on everyone's minds without Akito-sama's presence is exactly what needs to be done. Those Jyuunishi were responsible for a number of serious injuries inflicted on outsiders and even to members of this family!
“I am inclined to agree with those amongst us who want to wait,” quietly interjected Yuki's father. Everyone looked to him then, the father of the Rat, as he dully looked at the table. “It is not our place to discuss matters concerning the Jyuunishi, regardless of our personal relation to them. Akito-san has made that perfectly clear over the years, and those who have defied that decision have sorely regretted doing so.”
Seto's wife shifted uneasily in her chair as she vividly recalled those few that had defied Akito. Kumiko looked to her husband and reasoned as well, “Seto, given the extremely long day, I would recommend that we all adjourn until such a time that Akito-sama can attend a meeting. We'll be more rested and better able to argue any points of concern with her then.”
Seto looked at the weary faces and agreed that for now he would let the matter rest…almost. Pulling out a small memory disk, he inserted the device into an open computer port. The images that displayed on the large viewing monitor behind his head garnered the reaction he was hoping for.
“What is this?!”
“Where did you obtain that, Seto-san?!”
“Is that…I thought all footage at the facility was destroyed!”
“It's them…”
Seto calmly replied to all, “Rest assured everyone that what I have here is the only copy in existence. It's badly damaged as was all the other security footage, but clearly it gives us a close view of what happened between the Rat and Cat. Now, we need not discuss anything tonight…but at the very least, just watch.”
And they did. Each kick, throw across the room, slash from a sharp blade…the eyes of each opponent…the malice… They saw it all. It was enough for Seto.
`My thanks to you, you wild Horse of the Jyuunishi. I will indeed pass along your regards to Akito when I next meetwith her.'
On that note (11-22-09):
I can't believe it…I finally posted! Late but at least it's up!
I'm sorry for the delay. This time we can blame the job for all the frustration in getting this put together and out the door. I hadn't planned for it to drag on as it has but reality never settles well with my plans. I know I should be grateful for even having the job, but there is such a thing as too much work. I'm very much burnt out…fried crispy…
Enough of the whining. Onwards we go and what a chapter! It's a filler plus more…I had to connect the events that will lead up to the final chapters in this segment of `summer'. I had wanted a more `outside' look of the aftermath. With the media, personnel, and family, I think I did well to get it right. Sorry no Yuki or Kyo or anyone really outside of Tohru and her friends. Next chapter we'll get into it really good!
Song of choice for me: Don Henley's “End of Innocence”. Terribly political in its nature but it grasped the desperation the singer felt at the time. So much of what was once wonderful and peaceful and comforting were all being done away with, leaving behind despair and turmoil. I felt that the song truly conveys what this chapter is, a turning point within the family as they come to grips with the harsh reality that befalls them with the sudden exposure of their curse and the aftermath.
Well, hopefully I can post again soon. Given how my job has been as of late, I may take another while before I post. But I will post as soon as I can! MANY thanks to all who have read and reviewed and `faved' me and my story. It's a definite boost to my tired and weary bones. Take care all and be safe out there!