|As the Rain Falls
Author: Color-de-la-Musica PM
Finding comfort in a mysterious foreigner after a heartbreaking tragedy, Haru is thrust into a past she never thought the Cat Bureau could possibly belong to. Baron x HaruRated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Mystery - Chapters: 6 - Words: 18,622 - Reviews: 51 - Favs: 49 - Follows: 53 - Updated: 01-01-13 - Published: 08-15-09 - id: 5304808
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Mystery After Mystery
"Excuse me, ma'am."
Ushio Yazuki blinked, and averted her brown eyes from her computer screen to look in front of her…only to see a tiny hand waving to her, its owner still below the counter. Cocking an eyebrow, she rose from her seat and bent over the counter, revealing a lanky but petite girl of probably only eight years of age. Her eyes softened but maintained their curiosity. "What can I help you with, my dear? Have you lost your mother?"
The girl's head tilted sideways, her maple eyes blinking innocently. "Mommy's at a quilting convention. I took a bus here by myself."
Ushio's eyebrows shot upwards. There was no way. The girl didn't seem affected by this at all. "All alone…without your mother? Dear, how old are you?" she asked, her mind still in a whirl that any mother would leave such an adorable child alone.
The girl giggled. "No, I'm not really alone. My daddy's still at home. But he's out working today too." Her eyes seemed to grow distant, and a little melancholy. "They love me very much, but they're both very busy with work and all…" she murmured, as though she were trying to convince herself of this fact. But her spirit rebounded and she smiled widely at the librarian. "I'm Yoshioka Haru, by the way. It's nice to meet you. What's your name, ma'am?"
The thirty year-old librarian had to let a laugh escape her lips. "It's a pleasure to meet you too, Haru. My name's Yazuki Ushio. I suppose this is your first visit to the library?" She was answered with an eager nod, the high ponytail Haru's chocolate locks were tied in bobbing cheerily. Warmth seemed to spread through Ushio's system, and she pointed over the children's section. "Children's books are over there, sweetie. Plain fiction isn't too far to that, just go to the right a little more. I hope you enjoy yourself here."
"I've always loved books, so I'm sure I will!" the girl chirped enthusiastically. She bowed gratefully. "Thank you, Miss Yazuki."
Ushio's lips curled into a warm smile once more. More than she had in such a really long time. "Call me Ushio, Haru, please. Enjoy yourself. Take as long as you'd like."
Throughout the day, Ushio busied herself with work, but she could never truly take her eyes off of the young brunette for more than half an hour. Haru would have a different set of books every couple glances, scouring through the pages hungrily. For some reason, she felt oddly attached to this new wonder.
And she would continue to be, for eight long years afterwards.
Until one day, Haru hadn't appeared for more than a week. Ushio had to admit to herself she had seen it coming. Such a vibrant girl, however shy and without friends she was, was bound to have some jumpstart in social status. She was bound to be out socializing her friends, or even with a beau. Ushio knew that Haru was destined for such great things, and if anyone deserved to have those privileges, it was her Haru.
Years had gone by since then. Ushio was still decent looking her forty-six, but the gray hairs were visible in her raven locks and lines were apparent around her eyes and mouth. But one thing still remained the same: she worked diligently on her computer, even in the early morning hours. She was the first one in the library, and the last one out. Her co-workers would continue tell her doing so was pointless, and if not dangerous for her health. But Ushio refused to do so; she loved this library too much.
And who knew? Perhaps Haru would show up, and what would Ushio do if she had allowed herself to miss that?
It was one of those early mornings, where Ushio's surprisingly adept fingers were rhythmically drumming against the keyboard as she lay hard at work. Night was still fighting the day for the sun's time over the sky, but alas, the moon's light was no match for the sun's, and it gave up its place in the sky, as it did every day. There wouldn't be a patron in the library for another hour or so.
But too her surprise, Ushio heard clear footsteps making their way inside, and she nearly jolted, her bifocals easily becoming lopsided across the bridge of her nose. She looked up from the desk, ever so curious as to who in the world would dare to be up this early. But she couldn't see the incomer at this angle. Frowning to herself, she grudgingly pushed herself upwards from her faithful leather chair, and her flats clicked against the marble floors of the library as she made her way down to open the small door that was the sole barrier between librarians and patrons. She leaned forward, putting most of her weight on one leg to get a better visual of her mysterious early bird.
Her heart nearly skipped a beat.
"Haru?" she all but shouted, her clear voice ringing throughout the halls of the library.
Sure enough, there was the brunette that had touched her heart those ten years ago. But at the same time, Ushio couldn't help but notice how dramatically different the formally shy, insecure schoolgirl was. Her hair had grown down to her waist, and was no longer constricted by her then-usual high ponytail, and her bangs had grown out slightly, framing her eyes nicely. She wasn't in her school uniform, but in a white dress shirt tucked into sharply-pleated gray suit pants, her black flats clicking against the floor. And yet her maple eyes, still as kind as she remembered, lit up brilliantly at hearing her name.
It was so glorious, and yet so startling. Without really thinking, Ushio found herself walking swiftly over to the brunette, almost breaking completely into a run. "Haru!" she exclaimed, wrapping her arms around the slim girl, who laughed and eagerly embraced her back, but not as much force as she used to. "Relax, my dear, I can still handle a tight hug from you," Ushio reassured, and nearly beamed with relief as she received that wanted hug.
"Ushio, I'm so sorry I never visited you, after so long…" the remorse vibrating through Haru's voice was almost too painful for Ushio to hear. "Can you ever forgive me?"
"There was never anything to forgive, Haru-chan," Ushio murmured, parting from Haru, but keeping her arms securely on her shoulders, in order to get a good look at her. "You've become so beautiful – I was expecting your visits to become limited. You've finally gained that confidence I knew you would possess, and life's been busy because of that, right?"
Haru nodded. "I always enjoyed how sharp you were, Ushio. How have you been?" she asked as the two made it back to the librarians' desks.
"A little lonely, to be honest, and a little older, but…seeing you makes that all the better! And you?" the years that they needed to catch up were immense, and bound to have been eventful.
Haru's eyes, much to Ushio's surprise, became anguished, however. "Mom…Mom passed away three weeks ago, unfortunately. I've been living with a friend now, so I'm not entirely lonely. Otherwise…I've been very well."
Never thought I would hear Haru mention a friend, Ushio thought, She was always so lonely… She put a smile on her face, to show that the news hadn't made her as sorrowful as it truly did. "I'm sorry to hear that, Haru, but it brings me much happiness to know that things are working out."
As if triggered by something she had said, Haru snapped to attention and began searching by a cream messenger bag that she had strapped around her breast. "I…I know I haven't been around in awhile, and the book arrangement, titles, and numbers have probably changed significantly, but…since I'm on my own now, I'd like to become a librarian as well. I don't have a formal résumé, but I have a form of sorts that could qualify –"
Ushio held her hand up, silencing the potential ramble. "Say no more. You're hired."
Her hand was just about to grasp a black binder before it froze, and Haru looked at Ushio in shock. "Ushio, are you sure –"
"—More than you would think, my dear." She took Haru's smooth hands in her own slightly wrinkled ones. "You practically grew up here. I'll admit, the library has seen better days, and we haven't changed whatsoever since your last visit. Our staff has been reduced to half of what it was, and we need help, but more importantly, Haru; you're highly qualified for the job. You remember all those times I showed you what my job was all about?"
"Of course! I took you to career day a couple years when I was a kid, even."
"So it's decided. How does today sound?"
The sun shone through the glass windows high above the walls of the Tokyo Library, its position sending bright rays of sunshine into Haru's unprotected eyes. It took all her willpower not to yelp and mutter some unintelligible as the books in her arms fell to the floor. Thank God that the floor was draped in carpet in this section, otherwise no one would have a very good impression of their new and admittedly young librarian.
"Danggit," was all she grumbled as she reassembled all the books into her arms, quickly arranging them in their proper places in accordance to the library's sorting system she had practically memorized as a child.
There were a significant amount of patrons in the libraries, at least one looking through every few aisles. The fiction section was in its proper order, so she turned her attention the sections she had visited a little less than the others, particularly the nonfiction section.
The library, although far from empty, wasn't in a very hectic state. Perhaps Ushio would even allow her to read something on the job, so long as her duties were done. Haru turned left and entered the first, then second nonfiction aisles, searching for anything that she found remotely interesting.
Marvelous Wonders of the World. Didn't everyone at least know seven?
Miracle of Miracles: The Making of Fiddler on the Roof. Finding that out would just take the fun out of the musical.
Mysterious Unsolved Cases of Tokyo.
Haru stopped mid-step, even taking a few paces back to look at the title once more. "Now here's something," she whispered to herself, reaching out and taking the silver paperback book into her slender palms, brushing away the layer of dust to see the title in brilliant, metallic scarlet letters across the front cover. Hm, it looks so strangely recent for a library that hasn't changed its stock in over four years,she had to think to herself as she flipped it open to the table of contents, seeing that there were actually several unsolved mysteries in Tokyo that not even the young adult gossip circuit was aware of. Sure, there was the twelve year child model that suddenly disappeared after a photo-shoot, then rumored to have been killed, gutted, and stuffed, and there was the teenage boy who shared a different but equally as tragic a fate, but that was all the mysteries she knew about. There were so many…
Four Unfortunate British Souls.
"Hm?" she wondered, looking to the left to see the page number. 233. When did that section end? She looked downwards and her eyes shot open. 256.
"Two fifty-six!" she said loudly, but instantly clamped her hand over her mouth, cursing herself for being so oblivious to her surroundings. But no piercing hushes replied to her outburst, thank goodness.
But really, 23 pages? Must be some story to write about, I guess.
She then flipped open to 233 and found the chapter title. Soon enough, Haru became lost within the world of the mystery…
It was supposed to be a relaxing vacation. A joyous opportunity to see the world before their respective duties were forced upon their young souls, and to get one last taste of all the adventure life could offer. After all, the allegiances between Japan and Britain hadn't been tarnished by World War II just yet. All four were looking forward to their trip in the mysterious world of Tokyo.
Their trip started off well enough. Visits to old antique shops, dining at authentic, simple restaurants…the four young adults wanted nothing but a genuine, simple Japanese experience.
It wasn't until the only female of the group, a fiancée to one of them, had suffered the ill intentions of a young German traveler, where the trouble seemed to begin. Her fiancé defended her pride fiercely, along with the two other men. From what several witnesses, the quartet seemed an extremely close-knit arrangement, and there appeared nothing scandalous about the beautiful young woman being surrounded by three equally-attractive young men.
"They were still foreign to us, but no one could deny their overall beauty; even the young men seemed like the Greek gods of old to us," says one of the barmaids of one of the restaurants the four had dined at.
The four encountered strange experiences from then on. From…
She read on and on about the unfortunate tourists, as they encountered strange and somewhat supernatural events at various places they visited, while the investigator who wrote the book discovers that the strange German traveler from before had been near all those places at the exact same time the quartet had been. What a creep…poor… Haru stopped mid-thought, stiffening slightly.
The report failed to have mentioned any names whatsoever. Strange. Don't these reports normally name the subjects as quickly as possible, like Yagami Aoi, 18, or Ichinosen Hana, 45?
Suddenly Haru was thrown towards the bookshelf as a shoulder brushed passed her own.
"Oof!" she cried quietly, barely able to catch her footing. She looked over to see a distressed young man with dark brown hair and blue eyes gaze worriedly at her before rushing over.
"My apologies, miss," he whispered, frustrated. "I hadn't meant to cause you trouble. Are you alright?" He had a strange accent much like that of Baron and Louise, but Haru couldn't help but think he was of different European descent. Besides, that hadn't been the only thing about the stranger that had struck her as…shocking.
"I'm…I'm fine, sir, don't trouble yourself," Haru whispered shakily.
His blue eyes stared down at the book, and his eyes softened considerably as he clicked his tongue over the roof of his mouth. "Oh, that old mystery. Tragic, isn't it? Those poor nobles and their friend."
"They were nobles?" Haru whispered, barely above a whisper as she took a look at the article again, not really reading the words. It was just for an excuse not to look at him.
"Oh, I supposed you haven't read that far into it," the young man murmured, seeming somewhat disappointed. He bowed by the waist, shocking Haru with his apparent knowledge of their customs. "Sorry to have troubled you, miss. Have a nice day." With an apologetic smile, he made his way down the aisle.
"You –" she was cut off as the young man made a turn right, disappearing from her view, "…too…" Now that she was sure no one could see her, Haru allowed herself to start trembling violently.
He…he looked almost exactly…like Daddy… she thought, the young man's piercing blue eyes burning into her mind. However…there was something different about him. The only reason she hadn't practically jumped into the man's arms, crying over and over "Daddy, you finally came back" was that there was something…dishonest about his gaze. Her father never had that in him. His eyes had been full, happy, and as open as the sky.
But the resemblance was absolutely chilling. "E-E-Excuse me," she whispered, placing the book back at its rightful before making a run down the hallway in the direction the mysterious man went. "Sir, I—"
Her view of the library was suddenly obstructed, because as soon as she turned the corner, Louise's face was in in close proximity to hers. "Why hello there, Haru," the blonde foreigner greeted quietly, a strange calmness in her lilting accent. Come to think of it, her dear friend didn't seem herself at all at the moment. Her meridian eyes were dulled in shine, as if she had spent the night before crying her heart out. Still, Louise had a brilliant, if not weak, smile on her face. "Fancy seeing you here, hm?"
Haru's shock immediately melted away at the sight of the blonde. "Louise!" she whispered, throwing her arms around the blonde's waist in a tender hug, sending heat up Louise's cheeks. Haru stepped back, elbows bent against her body and palms out defensively towards the blonde. "I'm sorry, was that…?"
She was cut off as Louise gently shook her head. "No, it's not that, Haru. Not that at all. I'm not quite used to getting hugs from females, is all. My…" she laughed softly, "my life, you could say, was plagued by rambunctious boys."
A guilty smile crossed Haru's lips at bringing her friend any discomfort, "Oh, my bad. You're still a bit of a mystery to me, y'know…" The melancholy aura that seemed to permeate over her friend caught Haru's attention once more. "…What's wrong, Louise?"
The blonde's eyes widened and narrowed all in one second. "Haru, don't worry about me, you hear?" she whispered, and for some reason, looked behind her with a nasty look on her face, as if warning somebody not come near. Her face relaxed as soon as she turned towards Haru, however, and an easy smile crossed her face once more. "So what brings you here? Never took you for a bookworm."
Baron said that same thing last night, Haru thought, cocking her eyebrow at the extraordinary similarities between the two. She knew not all British foreigners were like them, but these two being the only ones she was aware of, it was starting to seem that way. Haru sweat-dropped and laughed nervously, but quietly. "Um, actually, I just got hired as a librarian today. I'm living with a friend of mine now."
"I noticed. I had a panic attack when I saw your house had been emptied. Especially when I only saw you a few days before."
Another sweat-drop. More nervous laughing. "Yeah…they really helped with the packing." In truth, Baron had magicked all the furniture she had wanted to keep into her new home. But with all the space she had, the house still seemed so expansive.
"I'll say!" Louise replied as they made their way to the front desk, where Ushio was gazing fondly at Haru speaking amiably with a friend. The blonde foreigner lay a playful punch on her darker friend's arm, "You had the gall to not tell me!"
Third sweat-drop. "I-I-I-I'm sorry…I was kind of caught up in the whole thing. Think you could forgive me?"
Louise's eyes didn't seem as wistful when a smirk crossed her face. "Already forgiven, silly."
Haru crossed into the last alleyway and was grateful that she was almost home. Sighing with relief, she hopped eagerly out of the passageway and eagerly awaited her body shrinking as she made her way inside the Refuge. Toto and Muta, much to her amusement, were already deeply set into one of their scuffles, Baron quietly watching them from the bench in front of his cottage, sipping at his tea gingerly.
A slim smile made its way across her face. I guess things passed on just normally for them.
"Just try the darn mulberry tea, you overstuffed pillowcase!"
"Oh yeah, I'm taking culinary advice from someone who's been dieting on boiled grass and worms. Freaking over-grown chicken!"
"Okay, seriously? Could you come up with a more original nickname, you helium-filled marshmallow? That got old the first sixteen times you used it!"
"Your creativity ceases to amaze me, fatso!"
"Come now, Toto, you're not exactly a genuine Mark Twain, yourself." Haru had told jolt slightly at Baron's unusual interjection into the fray. Wouldn't he normally sit back and watch?
"Yeah, what Baron said!" Muta agreed, a smug grin on his face as he proudly crossed his arms over his furry chest.
The crow gargoyle toppled the obese feline in an aerial head-butt. "Oh, please, name one book Mark Twain wrote!"
Haru saw Muta open his mouth to answer confidently, but Baron interrupted once more, an uncharacteristic smirk across his face as he said "One which isn't The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." He and Toto shared a cheeky, knowing glance, sure that they had Muta stumped.
"That's easy. A Connecticut Yankee in King Author's Court!"
Baron had to turn around to spit his tea in utter shock, an action Haru thought would never witness. Both the baron and the gargoyle stared in utter amazement at a very smug Muta.
"Whipped," Muta remarked, the expression of shock never leaving Baron's or Toto's expressions.
At the last remarked, Haru found herself laughing hysterically, causing all three members of the Cat Bureau to look at her in surprise.
Baron's horrified face flushed red as Toto started hiding his beak in one wing, his body wracking with silent laughter. Muta, however, preferred to be honest about his mirth, and the large white cat doubled over on the cobblestone pavement, chortling.
"H-H-Haru," Baron stammered, the added color to his face dimming only a little. "How…how long have you been standing there?"
The brunette in question held a hand over her chest as if to calm her own laughter. She wiped a tear from her eyes, still giggling. "I think it started with Toto trying to convince Muta to drink mulberry tea…"
"Then…then you saw…" Baron quickly looked away, completely embarrassed to have let his guard down so immaturely in front of Haru.
Haru giggled again. "Don't be ashamed, Baron. I'm happy all three of you are so comfortable with one another." A few more laughs escaped her, and her heart felt incredibly lighter. Even though Louise had made her laugh several times, nothing had made her laugh so uproariously as the scene that had just unfolded itself. "I…I'm thankful, really. I haven't laughed like that in ages."
At that, Baron was able to face her again, a nervous grin on his face, "Well, I suppose when you put it that way, I'm happy we were able to take your mind off things." He then shot quick glares at his two other comrades, who both looked slyly to the side after ceasing their own amusement. "…Anyway. I take it you got the job, Haru?"
Haru nodded, "Easily. My friend over there was so kind to me."
"You'll have to tell us about it later," Toto said, calming down for the moment. Haru wasn't able to really tell due to his pitch-black coloring, but she could barely see the makings of a smile on her friend's beak. "We'd like to know how your first day went."
"Today…today was…eventful, to say the least." Even though she easily had the trio's attention thanks to her vague summary, she smiled with her eyes closed, nervously waving her hand. "But don't trouble yourself with me yet. I'll go get changed into something a little comfier." With that, she strode over quickly to her new home, stealing a quick glance backwards at her favorite trio before shutting the door behind her.
She then veered to a sharp left and silently lifted a corner of her white curtains to look at them without being noticed. Toto and Muta were pointing wings and paws at Baron, mocking him for something Haru wasn't exactly aware of. Baron, after seemingly losing his composure once more, began chasing after them with his cane, with Toto easily evading him with taking off flying, laughing as Muta was stuck being chased by the incensed baron.
A soft smile crossed her lips once again. A practice she was grateful to become used to again. Baron really lets himself go with those two, hm? she thought to herself. I guess that makes sense, with all the time they must have spent together.
That's when a question arose in her thoughts, and Haru wondered why it hadn't come up sooner.
Just how long had the trio been together?
Muta, being a feline, couldn't have been spending more than seven years with them. Wasn't he already getting older? And Toto…wasn't he the one to have first reached the Refuge? 300 years ago? And Baron, judging by his clothes, could only have been here for seventy years or so.
Baron and Toto, both being immortals, being comfortable around one another, Haru could understand, but when Muta, the sole mortal, was placed into the equation…that was when things didn't seem to make sense.
For her to be so comfortable with somebody, she would have to know them at least a decade.
But these three seemed to have known one another for several.
How strange, she thought. The man that resembled her father. Louise's sudden change of mood. That book…
Haru gasped and she slapped her head with the same palm of her hand that had held the corner of the curtain, completely losing sight of her favorite trio. "Crap, I didn't get to check it out!"
Blue eyes stared intently at the orb of neon green light before him, where he saw a certain brunette make her way up to her personal quarters. "Good. Getting her away from that book was simple enough," he muttered to himself, swooping one arm over the light in order for it to dematerialize into several light green wisps.
The man turned back, his once youthful and clean-shaven face now lined and bearded. His dark brown locks, once feathery and smooth, were slightly tussled and bristly now. He narrowed his eyes as he saw a feminine form materializing in front of him. He hastily turned away into the darkness of his hideaway, his hands clenching into fists. "I thought I told you I hated your presence in this place, Louise."
"And I really give a damn," snapped the fiery blonde, her emerald eyes blazing with rage. "I thought I warned you to stay away from Haru. Not freaking barging into her life and making her briefly think you were her long lost father!"
A loud slap echoed throughout the man's fortress, followed by Louise hitting the floor hard. "NEVER talk to me that way!" the man snapped. "I'm the reason you aren't completely dead!"
"I might as well be!" Louise countered, pure anguish flowing through her eyes as she rubbed her soar cheek, which would probably remain red for a few hours. "I'm invisible to those who I really care for, and visible to Haru and complete strangers." Her eyes turned begging, and she looked up at the man. "Please, Reich, stop this."
Reich cocked an eyebrow, and turned so that he could bend down to meet Louise's eyes. "Will you swear to love me?" he asked stoically, and as he expected, his vision was filled with spit. "Naturally. Well, no can do then. Terribly sorry, my dear."
Louise rubbed her mouth clean of any remaining saliva, her eyes narrowed dangerously at the lanky figure. "You horrible monster."
"Why, thank you, Louise. That's probably the first compliment you've paid to me these past seven decades."
Reich looked towards the right of his dark abyss, and held out a hand towards it, muttering a few unintelligible words that caused his palm to glow in his familiar neon green signature. A light green orb soon emerged from the depths, and as it reached him and the fallen Louise, began to form into the slumped form of an unconscious man, barred to the floor with chains.
If not for his clean-shaven face and tidy brown hair, he could have passed as Reich's twin. But as he opened his eyes, Louise instantly knew that wasn't the case.
Those blue orbs were far purer than Reich's.
She whipped around to Reich, her teeth clenched in a newfound fury.
"What have you done?"
A sickeningly twisted smirk contorted Reich's features as he stared down at Louise, then back at the man. "I've simply garnered a way to help me destroy Creations."
Alright, so there you have it. I hope these chapters sufficed your wants for an update.
And I doubly hope that you all have a wonderful holiday season! Please pray that I won't get that deep a Writer's Block anytime soon.
Have a great season!