To Melt A Frozen Heart

DISCLAIMER: I do not own Fruits Basket or any of its characters. I wish though.

########## at another place

'...' thoughts

dream sequence

recall

That's all for now. Enjoy, minna-san!!

Chapter 7-Rescue and Censure

"What do you mean that Yume is gone?"

Akito was in Hatori's office. It was nearing midnight and there were still no signs of Shisho or Yume's return, and it had been a good few hours since the redhead had rushed out of the Souma property. Outside, the wind howled and lightning crashed dramatically.

The patriarch looked imperiously down at the doctor, which was some feat considering that Hatori was a good 13 inches taller then the former.

"I meant what I said; Yume had just walked out of the house and have not returned since. Find her and bring her back!"

The seahorse closed his eyes for a moment, hoping that all the problems would just disappear had he closed his eyes long enough. Things weren't so fortunate for him this time, however.

"Did you hear what I just said?" Akito demanded. "Go and retrieve Yume now!!"

Hatori had to face the facts then; Akito is not going to leave anytime soon, that is unless his redheaded bodyguard cum nurse is returned to him, which is not going to be very soon at all if Hatori's inkling of what had happened earlier is correct. With a deep sigh, the doctor massaged his temples and opened his eyes again.

"Akito, what exactly had you said or done this time to rile Yume up again?"

The younger man was affronted, to say the least.

"Why do you think that it is I who had made her mad? Can she not leave the house of her own accord?" Akito argued, slightly surprised that the doctor was not using his normally formal tone to speak to him.

"Because I know that nobody in their right mind would want to leave a cozy and warm house just to brave the stormy elements outside."

Akito could not find anything to refute that, so he fell into a huffy silence.

Hatori shut his eyes again. Since they were in his office after all, he could afford to outwait Akito until he decides to spill everything, and sure enough, the irate patriarch spoke after fifteen minutes of tensed silence.

"Shisho Souma has gone missing and Yume wanted me to help," Akito spat those words out almost as if they held poison. "As if I could do anything at all. I am not a goddamned kami!! Just a human being with a shorter lifespan than others."

The last sentence was hissed out with bitterness, and Hatori knew that Akito was still coming to terms with his mortality.

"So in a fit of anger at your unhelpfulness, she left to look for the boy herself?" The doctor asked sharply.

Akito nodded in affirmation and Hatori thought that Yume had acted too rashly. Hatori also knew who Shisho is, but had not heard that the child had gone missing. It was until Akito had informed him that he realized.

"She is too reckless for her own good." The younger man growled. "Someone should be beside her to curb her wild ways."

Hatori wondered vaguely if Akito had himself in mind.

He was about to make out a plan to look for both Yume and Shisho when there was someone at the door.

"Come in." The seahorse commanded.

Hesitantly, the door to his office slid open, revealing a small group of Souma boys.

"We...we are looking for Akito-sama." One of the boys spoke fearfully when the entire gang had stepped into the room and closed the door behind them.

"What is it?" Akito asked harshly; not mindful of the cringes and the scared looks that the boys had on their faces.

"We think that we know where Shisho Souma is," Another boy answered slowly as he guiltily looked at his shoes.

The extremely terrified nature of the boys and the guilty way they behaved were not missed by Hatori; and certainly not by Akito either. It did not take a genius to guess that these kids probably had some form of involvement with Shisho's disappearance.

Already frustrated by all the events that had occurred today and also by Yume's departure, Akito practically felt his blood stir at this huge chance at venting his anger at what had most probably been the cost of all his annoyance.

Like a predator stalking its prey, Akito glided over to the frightened children, never minding the fact that there were none past the age of twelve.

Chocolate brown eyes glinted.

"Yes, what do you know?" Akito's voice was not harsh anymore, but silky and smooth. "Do tell me EVERYTHING."

The boys knew better than to be comforted by that. Instead, they grew even more petrified, and tried to press against each other in an instinctive way to make themselves appear smaller.

Through it all, Hatori sat by his office table and regarded the scene with calmness and neutrality. He knew better than to interrupt the patriarch when he was in that kind of mood. Furthermore, the seahorse was fairly sure that Akito would not be that extreme with his manipulation, seeing that the opponents were just kids. The doctor decided then that he would intervene only when Akito plays too rough.

Leaning back into his chair, Hatori once again closed his eyes as he waited for Aktio's interrogation to be over.

"Shisho...Shisho, you must pull yourself together." Yume panted as she piggybacked the barely conscious boy across the sports field into the shelter of the school building. The important thing now is to get them both to shelter against this merciless rain and then to access the full extent of Shisho's injuries the next. Filled with purpose, Yume lengthened her strides despite being increasingly fatigued by both the freezing temperature and the almost deadened weight that she was carrying.

"We are reaching the school building already, Shisho. Bear with me a little bit more ne?" Mindful of Shisho's injuries, Yume delicately adjusted the boy on her back to get a better grip, and all but ran the last few meters into blessed shelter. Upon reaching there, she slowly but skillfully lowered the boy from her back to the ground almost gently.

Shisho opened his eyes then, and with great difficulty.

"Yume...nee...chan..." Weary hazel eyes that looked too old on a boy so young regarded the female assassin with childlike trust. "Boku wa...I knew that you would come."

Yume had felt like weeping then. All that time when she was searching blindly all over the place instead of concentrating on the school area, Shisho had fiercely clung on to the belief that she would be coming in rescue.

"H...hai..." The redhead's voice wavered a little, and then held steady; now wasn't the time to indulge in emotions like these. With sure hands, Yume checked the boy up and down to determine how badly injured Shisho was. She is dismayed to see and feel the bruised ribs and black and blue marks found all over the boy's body. At the same time, the redhead stripped off Shisho's rain-sodden shirt in an effort to keep him warm.

"And I tried too. I tried so hard, but I still could not do it." The little boy muttered, whimpering once in a while whenever Yume's hand brushed acrosss a tender spot.

"Nani? What do you mean?" Yume half-listened to the boy's words as she continued her ministrations.

"Yume nee-chan...They hit me. They hit me so hard that I cried. I made noise to make them stop." Shisho started crying softly then, pitiful tears that made tracks all over his cheeks. Yume's heart wrenched at the sight. "I am not brave, like what Akito-sama had told me. I am a coward, ne?"

The redhead was stunned.

Had Akito's words made such a great impact on the little boy that he had been brave just because of them?

"Iie, iie, Shisho." Yume answered huskily. With a hand, she gently brushed away an errant lock of hair that lay on the boy's forehead. "You are the bravest boy that I have ever known; and I am sure that Akito would agree on this too, if he was here. You survived this, didn't you? You survived this."

It took awhile for Shisho to think thinds through, but when he did, he smiled; the smallest tilt of his lips. It was took almost all of his remaining strength to do that; and his eyes reflected what his facial features could not show; the childish pleasure of a work well done.

"Hai, I did." The boy breathed softly. "And Yume nee-chan helped me too. Arrigatou." With that, his strength was spent, and the little boy closed his eyes again in rest.

Yume watched over him, and smiled too, regardless of the near freezing weather.

"Rest then, Shisho-chan. Wait here while I go get help, okay?" She told the sleeping body of the child even as she herself struggled to get up.

The cold had made all her joints frozen and body movements sluggish, and it was on totally numb legs that had Yume staggered onto. As with normal effect of a body when left out too long in the cold, Yume felt all sleepy and tired. But she knew that to fall unconscious now would be suicide. Determinedly, she ploughed on to outside the shelter of the school compound, and her body protested as it was being subjected to the cold rain again.

'Shimatta, I should have brought a mobile or something. But then, thinking now is too late. I should have thought earlier and acted later.' The redhead thought, berating herself silently.

'Atashi wa...I must go on.' Yume told herself repeatedly even as she tried in vain to find warmth within the thin kimono that she was wearing. 'Shisho needs help more then I do. I must go on. I must.'

But words of encouragement could only work when the physical body could, and the delicate redhead was almost near exhaustion. She was just a few steps away from the school exit when her legs gave out on her.

Stumbling awkwardly like newborn foal with unsteady legs, Yume was about to collapse heavily onto the ground when she felt hands supporting her and pulling her upwards.

Too relieved to even question the identity of the kind Samaritan, the girl simply leant heavily onto the person.

"In the school compound," She whispered between gasps. "There is a boy in the school compound. He needs more help then I do. Please go and save him first, onegai shimasu. I am still alright."

For awhile, there was no answer at all from the mysterious person, and Yume thought that maybe he had not heard her speak. She was about to repeat her words when the person finally spoke in reply.

"Stupid idiot. You are trembling so hard and you are so weak that it is almost laughable. And yet you are still worrying about someone else. You should have known better then to rush off in this kind of weather." The voice coming from her savior was harsh with fury, and it took Yume a good ten seconds before she realized the identity of the person.

"A...Akito?"

"They shouldn't have done that."

Akito appeared not to have heard Hatori's remark. He continued staring outside the window. Outside, the rain continued pouring, and became even heavier if possible.

They were in a car, with Hatori driving towards the direction of Shisho's school.

It turned out that the group of Souma children had confessed under the pressure of Akito's brutal manipulation and had spilled out all the details. Hatori cringed inwardly at the memory.

Those children won't be talking bad behind Akito for a long time.

"We are reaching, and hopefully Yume should have found Shisho by now."

The car pulled into the sheltered school porch and almost immediately, the two passengers got out. With his longer legs and larger strides, the dragon pulled opened an umbrella and switched on the torchlight, disappearing into the school alley which the boys had described in a matter of moments. Meanwhile, Akito made his way into the school building.

The interior of the building was rather dark, but not to the point where visibility is impossible. With his normal pace, Akito casually ventured deeper into the school. It was not the same school as the one where Yuki, Kyou, Tohru and the other younger Soumas had studied in, but the atmosphere here was the same.

However, that was not what Akito had come for.

The patriarch kept his eyes sharp for a familiar emerald green kimono and brilliant shimmering hair, but to no avail. After a mere five minutes of searching, Akito was but ready to give up. It never occurred to him to call out for the redhead; it was simply unthinkable; an act below his stature. Furthermore, his pride would never allow him to go around yelling like a common fishmonger.

'Besides,' Akito thought furiously, 'Yume deserved it. She was the one who ran out on me like that. Her welfare is entirely none of my concern.'

But even as he tried to convince himself that he was right, his heart thought otherwise.

RECALL

"It was never your fault, Akito; and I will prove it to you that it wasn't Shisho's too."

RECALL

Akito felt his fists clench at that memory.

What the hell did she think she was trying to do, playing with his head like that?

Everyone in the Souma clan knows that it was his fault; he was, after all, the reincarnation of the kami that had cursed the clan with the spirits of the twelve zodiac animals. He was the bitter reminder of the Soumas' fate, and not once had he been allowed to forget that fact. It had been always like that from the moment of his birth; and would most probably stay that way till the time of his death.

Cursed, and whoever gets too near to him would suffer the consequences. Wasn't Shisho a fine example? Had he not allowed the little boy to get too close to him, such a thing would never have happened.

Whereas the others are cursed to change into animal forms whenever hugged by the opposite sex, his is much worse and infinitely more painful to bear; to be alone for life.

His fate had been sealed the moment he was conceived; and there was no way that it would ever change.

Damn Yume for making him think, or even worse; wish for the impossible.

His mind was about to ruthlessly weed out the optimistic thoughts that Yume had seeded when the doubts in his heart halted it.

Demo...what if...

What if she was right?

Molten eyes lightened curiously for just a smallest fraction of a second; but what was clearly there was unmistakable.

A tiniest seed hope had just been planted there...

But will it ever grow?

All of a sudden, lightning flashed, quickly followed by a sharp crack of thunder, thus successfully jolting Akito out of his thoughts. The man quickly re-orientated himself and decided then to walk back to the car porch to await Hatori, seeing that there is no one in the school building.

However, just when he was about to reach the entrance, there was a shadow, and Akito spotted movement. Instinctively, the patriarch hid in the shadows, concealed by darkness.

The moving shadow was moving inwards to the building, and the unknown person seemed to be carrying a burden.

When the figure staggered closer to him, it was then that he saw and recognized the person.

Yume.

And she was piggybacking Shisho.

The two of them looked a sight; A petite, fragile-looking girl carrying a boy almost her size. Akito thought that Yume was looking extremely worn out and fatigued, what with her obviously tightly shivering form and pale features.

But yet she did not even care about her own comfort; it was all about Shisho.

For the next fifteen minutes, he watched and listened to Shisho and Yume's conversation with mixed emotions.

He was stunned that Shisho had treated his careless comment so seriously.

He was angry that Yume had been stupid enough to run around in the thunderstorm with practically no protection against it at all.

To his surprise and great reluctance, he found himself worried about the two of them.

He was still listening in his quiet corner when Shisho whispered his thanks to Yume before falling unconscious. He looked on as Yume told the boy that she was going out to get help.

Akito knew that he most probably should appear by her side that very moment, but his anger at her rash foolishness had not subsided yet and he decided to remain in the shadows; watching to see what she would do instead.

And Yume being Yume, she did not fail to make him even madder.

He watched with disbelief as the little redhead staggered unsteadily to her feet and started to the entrance of the school again.

'Iie, I don't think that the little baka is that stupid to...'

She proved him wrong.

Akito was practically near bursting with fury as he watched her walk out into the needling rain again. He saw her wince at the impact that rain had made on her skin, but still she forced herself to move on.

"I cannot believe this." Akito muttered to himself.

"Did I just see Yume walk out of here?" Hatori lowered his umbrella as he stepped back into the shelter.

Akito did not bother to answer him.

"She has found the boy. He is inside." The patriarch lifted a slender finger and pointed towards the school building.

"Sou desu. What about...Yume?"

Akito was still not looking at Hatori. Vaguely, he took the umbrella from the doctor's hand, opened it over his head and stepped out into the rain.

"I will get her."

The dragon nodded without a thought and upon retrieving a small doctor kit from the car, all but ran into the building to attend to the boy.

He watched every single movement of hers; every misstep and stagger.

He would trail a little distance behind and look on even as her small frame shook with fatigue and exhaustion. He wondered when she would give up and realize that she would not be able to find help at all, given the worn out condition that she was currently in.

But she never did.

Either she don't recognize her limits or that she knew and did not care; he did not know. She would stop every few steps to re-gather whatever energy that she has left before forcing herself to move on again. All he knew was that watching that determination of hers hurt, even though it made him very proud of her.

Can she not for once act like those weak women; those who would wait and ask for help instead of looking for it themselves?

For twenty minutes he had been trailing after her, and still she did not admit defeat. Yume had the will of steel, and it seemed to him that it was going to be the death of her. It went to the point where he was silently asking her to give up, to fall.

Fall so that he could help her.

He had always been a proud person, and offering to help had never been his strongest point. He does not know the proper way as to asking to help, and so, the only sure way to doing it is to wait till the other party has no choice in that matter before he makes the offer.

He didn't have to wait long for this time though, as her physical body gave out on her soon after, even though when her mental state was not ready to give up yet. Fluidly, he grabbed the chance and swept in at the last moment to gather her cold body into his waiting arms.

'She is so much lighter than I first thought.' He wondered with surprise as he easily supported her. But even as he did that, her frozen state and uncontrollably shivering body was starting to rile him up all over again.

'Why can't she understand that she has her limits too? Why must she always push herself to the point of danger?'

Yume spoke then, through chattering teeth.

"In the school compound," She whispered between gasps. "There is a boy in the school compound. He needs more help then I do. Please go and save him first, onegai shimasu. I am still alright."

Akito could hardly take it anymore then. His temper got the better of him and he opened his mouth before he could stop himself.

"Stupid idiot. You are trembling so hard and you are so weak that it is almost laughable. And yet you are still worrying about someone else. You should have known better then to rush off in this kind of weather."

In a purposely detached state, he waited as she took a rather long moment to identify him; she was that battered.

Again, Akito had to force himself to calm down or he was going to start tearing into Yume again, and even he knew that she would not be able to respond properly in this state.

Thus with a huff, the patriarch resigned himself to getting wet and dropped the umbrella in favor of getting his phone to contact Hatori.

As usual, the doctor responded with efficiency, confirming Yume's find and Shisho's safety, and at the same time, promising to reach the couple very soon.

"Are you mad at me, Akito?"

The patriarch was inwardly surprised; he had assumed that Yume would have gone unconscious or have fallen asleep by now, seeing the state that she was in.

Sharp brown eyes met tired emerald ones.

"What of it?"

Yume stared at Akito with smiling eyes, despite her condition.

"I am sorry to make you mad. Honto ne gomen ne. Demo I am still so happy all the same."

An eyebrow rose; and Yume vaguely wondered how interesting it was that Akito could look all cool and calm despite getting rapidly soaked standing in the middle of a storm.

'It must be in the Souma blood that Akito's upbringing is so impeccable.'

"You are glad that you made me angry?"

Yume broke out of her whimsical thoughts and shook her head in denial.

"Iie, I am happy because you came to look for Shisho too, even though when you said that you wouldn't."

Akito looked sour then.

"How could I not? I don't recall being given a choice at all," Annoyed eyes regarded the redhead. "You had acted too rashly and impulsively."

Yume lowered her eyes.

"Hai, I know that that is my greatest weakness."

'And one of your greatest asset.'

Akito did not voice that out loud though, lest she got the wrong meaning and decides that it is perfectly all right to go haring around anytime, anywhere. Just because of the fact that such activities are a very common part of her lifestyle does not mean that he has to follow suit now that they are going to be together. If there was something to be done, it was that he was definitely going to try his best at curbing those impulsive and unthinking tendencies of hers.

They both have so many things and issues to iron out if they are going to have an affair together!!

'This is most probably because our characteristics are so vastly different from the other.' The patriarch thought. Yume had fell silent now in order to conserve her energy, leaning lightly on Akito and closing her eyes, content in the knowledge that Shisho had gotten medical help.

'Life with Yume will certainly be full of ups and downs and kami-knows-what next.'

This was not the first time that Akito had indulged in affairs. In fact, he was rather familiar with the standard procedures, having had his first woman at the age of fourteen. Nothing was to be denied to the young patriarch, and it seemed that that applies to relationships too.

But the one thing that he was unfamiliar with this time is women with Yume's personality. The women whom he had associated with in the past were experienced players of the field themselves, polished Geishas who were taught all the arts to pleasing a man, be it physical or emotional. They were graceful, collected and subservient creatures, always agreeing with their male counterparts with poise and bearing.

They were dead boring.

Chocolate eyes turned molten in thought.

It was the first time that Akito had met such an individual as Yume; exciting, infuriating, confident and so much more. And just for those reasons alone, he could hardly wait for Yume to finally belong to him.

But now was not the time to have such thoughts, and just then, the doctor arrived in the car, in tow with a still unconscious Shisho in the front passenger seat. Quickly, the pair got into the car and Hatori drove off in the direction of the Souma residence.

"Arrigatou, Hatori-san; for coming to help."

The doctor looked into the rear-view mirror to stare at Yume. At last, he nodded in acknowledgement.

"I have expected you to be more professional than this, Yume; just impulsively running around like that, especially when you ran out on Akito, the person whom you were supposed to protect. What if the real assassin took this as an opportunity to try to hurt Akito again?"

Guilty silence.

Akito did not say anything to refute or agree with Hatori. The doctor was partially right after all; Yume really needs to learn about control.

"...Gomen nasai, minna. Atashi wa...atashi wa will try not to behave that rashly again."

Yume was very ashamed of herself. It was so like her to just drop everything to pursue something else just on impulse, which was why she would never make a good bodyguard. Her pride had also taken a severe beating; seeing that she, a professional, had to be rescued by two civilians.

Again, the dragon regarded the girl through the mirror, and it seemed that he was convinced that her apology was sincere. Taking his eyes back onto the road ahead, Hatori spoke again.

"We will continue this again when you are feeling better. You are not in your best shape to explain your actions to us right now; demo I will be expecting a good reason for these behaviors of yours."

"Hai...domo."

Akito merely snorted.

"What do you mean by 'explanation'? Do you think that there is a logical explanation for impulse? I think not. I don't want any explanations; all I want is for her to stop making this kind of stupid moves and make us chase her around like a pair of baka in the middle of the night."

Yume stiffened slightly at the sarcasm in Akito's words, but the patriarch did not seem to notice at all. He continued on with his rants. Hatori, on the other hand, had quickly noticed the sudden 'drop' in the temperature in the car. He winced inwardly and tried his best to contain his exasperated sigh.

Akito had better not come to his suite tonight to complain about the redhead. Hatori did not think that he would be in the mood to entertain the younger man, especially when everyone is sleeping. With a genuine sigh this time, the doctor began to contemplate if Shigure would be willing to allow him to bunk in his house tonight.

Unbeknownst to the group of people who had just driven off in the car, someone had been at the school too, and had seen everything that had occurred there. The shadow of the person detached itself from that of the school buildings and moved quickly into a car that had been discreetly hidden behind the sports field.

The assassin could hardly believe what his eyes saw.

Akito Souma was still alive.

That would explain why there was no news about the patriarch's supposed murder and (hopefully) death. However, the man was sure that his daggers had met flesh, so why was Akito still standing here a few moments ago, all hale and hearty? Even if he had not died on impact, the wounds that the knives had inflicted would have caused the frail Souma to be at least bedridden for half a year or so.

So what had happened?

The man's eyes narrowed. Something did not smell quite right here. Akito could not have detected him that day; he had purposely hidden his scent so that normal people would not be able to sense him at all.

Unless...

The Soumas had hired a professional?

If that was the case, then he had to quickly weed out and exterminate that barrier which was blocking him from his goal. Time is running out, and he had to act fast. His client is getting more and more demanding each day, and he worried of ever getting paid the full sum of a mission accomplished.

The assassin was getting desperate, and desperate times call for desperate measures.

Hehehe, sucky ending to this chappy, I know, I know. Honto ne gomen nasai, minna-san!! For making all of you wait so long!! Gomen gomen!! If you were really interested to know what had happened to me these past few months, well, it's the exams. Yup, it got to me too, but I survived it. Yeah for me, ne ne? ;;; But as compensation, I have written a slightly longer chapter this time, so I hope that makes you all a little happier. I would really like to thank all the recent reviewers of this fic who had sent in their reviews urging me to update soon. I am so happy that I am missed!! I am not invisible after all!! Lalalalla.... --;;

Hmm...any personal or urgent comments that you would like to leave me but not want to put it in the 's review box? Lol, coz I had just set up an online journal. As I visit the journal practically daily, which is more then I do for nowadays, I can reply much faster. You can feel free to ask anything or comment, would be happy to hear from you!!

Oh and before I forget, this is the webbie:

Do remember to review!! Your reviews are my fuel!! And please pardon the spelling or grammatical errors that I might have. I really need a beta-reader. Phew. Any interested parties? Domo, and until next time, ja ne, minna!! scurries off to finish the next chapters of The Girl Who Didn't Believe and And Babies Makes Six