Memories of the Forgotten One
Strong First Son
I would like to thank SexySesshieSama and cheshirejin for their kind reviews. Also, I would like to highly recomend the fics Rising Affections by cheshirejin and Lost and Found by SexySesshieSama to anyone looking for a good Furuba fic to read. I'm glad that you are both enjoying the story. I was planning to post this chapter last week, but my computer erased the document and I had to rewrite it. I'm not sure if this is as good as the original, but I hope it is okay. Summer vacation is almost over, unfortunately, but hopefully I'll still be able to update this story frequently.
I'm trying to get the feel for when this story takes place. It would be in the 1920's, but I don't know much about this time period in Japan, other than a few basic things that I tried to fit in (like Ken'ichi's and his mom's attitudes towards his dad. Speaking of his mom, don't worry if you don't like her. Upcoming female characters will be less annoying.). If anyone knows anything about 1920s Japan, please tell me. I will be eternally grateful, and I will of course give you credit in an Author's Note. Arigato!
Ken'ichi was proud to be the head of the Sohma family. The fact that it was only a temporary position seemed insignificant at the moment. What mattered was that he, Ken'ichi Sohma, had authority. The fact was hard to grasp, but outright invigorating.
When his parents had first approached him to inform him he was a candidate, he had been shocked, to say the least. The fact that his parents were actually paying attention to him was startling in itself, but even more so was what they told him. People were chosen as candidates from the time they were born, based on their immediate family's status within the extended Sohma family. Seemingly every action of a candidate was monitored by Sohmas and reported to the elders. The fact that he or she had been clandestinely observed all their life would be enough to drive most people to paranoia, but oddly enough, once he overcame his initial shock, Ken'ichi just accepted it.
And now, he was head of the Sohma family. Even his parents would have to see that this was better than just being a zodiac member. He would get to make important decisions in the upcoming days, which would affect the people who had previously controlled his life. He had nearly absolute power, even if it was only within a unit of slightly over 100 people.
But right now, he wasn't making any decisions. He had taken a long walk. He wasn't sure why, but he had felt an overpowering urge to get as far away from his house as possible. He began sprinting as the lake came into view, at the bottom of the ledge.
The sight was breathtaking. The sunset was just beginning, and the lake rippled with reflections of burnt orange and lilac clouds, the sun swimming drunkenly in them. Ken'ichi dangled his long legs over the edge and let himself relax, but still took the care to hold on to the branch of a nearby log, just in case he started to slip. Even the air tasted better outside, he thought.
Suddenly, he felt something connect hard and painfully with the back of his head. He lurched forward in surprise, looking straight down. The view no longer seemed so beautiful. It was just really, really dizzying.
He clambered to a standing position, and as he wheeled around, he came face to face with none other than Akira. "What. The. Hell? What are you doing here? I-I could have been killed!" Ken'ichi shouted/stuttered.
Akira said nothing. He walked a few feet away, and picked up a black water bottle that lay on top of the sandy earth. Ken'ichi realized that must have been what had hit him in the head. The younger brother leaned his head back and sprayed some water into his mouth, swallowing it with agonizing sluggishness. Then he pointed the bottle at Ken'ichi. "You're going to tell me everything," he said, in what was obviously intended to be a low, threatening voice. In reality, it just sounded comical, especially when combined with the fact that the boy thought a waterbottle was an intimidating weapon.
"Seriously, 'Kira," said Ken'ichi, unperturbed. "What are you doing here?"
"I came to ask you some questions."
"No. I mean, how did you get out of the house."
Akira shrugged. "They let me."
Ken'ichi laughed disbelievingly. "They let you," he repeated, "Akira, they've never let you out on your own before! Why's this different?"
Akira cast his eyes towards the ground. "They're celebrating," he mumbled.
"What?" asked Ken'ichi, caught off guard by that answer.
"I just said, they're celebrating! Ken'ichi, they're proud of you! Dad's taking us out to dinner, and they're doing nothing but talking about how happy they are for you. I asked if I could leave the house, and they said sure, as long as I find you."
Ken'ichi didn't say anything. Akira's words were spinning through his head, and he didn't know what to make of them. Part of him wanted to be ecstatic, but another part felt furious for some reason he wasn't sure of.
"Now for your end of the bargain." Akira interrupted the battle going on in his brother's brain.
"I don't recall ever making any deal with you."
"I told you about me, now you tell me your side of the story. Why are you suddenly king of the Sohmas?"
""King of the Sohmas?""
"Why should I tell you anyway?"
Akira squeezed the waterbottle menacingly.
Ken'ichi snorted disdainfully. "Please, Akira. I'm not scared of a wa-" he was cut off when his brother shot a jet of water right between his eyes. "Hey!"
"You know they'll kill you if you come home sopping wet, your nice new clothes all ruined."
He could finally see Akira's logic, but he didn't really care. Besides, if his parents were acting all warm and happy and utterly unlike themselves in every way, they probably wouldn't care about the condition of his clothes, now would they? "Watch this," he called behind him, turning to face the cliff.
"What? No, Ken- you can't seriously- you're not gonna - no…"
Rather than answer, his older brother leaned forward, hands above his head, and fell out of view. Akira ran towards the edge of the cliff, and, all fear for his own safety abandoned, he leaned forward. Not enough to fall, just enough to watch his brother's ridiculously reckless dive.
Ken'ichi felt absurdly free and alive as he freefell. Then his hands broke the surface of the water, and he felt himself sink down into a rush of warm water. His eyes were wide open, taking in the blurry turquoise underwater scenery. Plants wavering in the current, rocks overgrown with slimy hairy weeds, and what looked to be a school of small black fish.
His lungs were screaming for air, and realizing he couldn't ignore them any longer, he swam up. His movements were slow and seemed to hardly move him. His clothes felt like a web that was squeezing the life out of him. He could see what looked like a sheet of light, hanging above him. He kicked his feet madly, swimming with all his might. His shoes fell off, but he ignored them. In fact, it was easier to swim without them.
When his head finally reached Abovewater, the land of air and sunlight, it seemed that his chest had been milliseconds away from exploding. He took huge, greedy gulps of air, after spitting the salty water out of his mouth. Then he sneezed several times. "Come on in, the water's fine!" he called merrily.
"You looked like you were drowning," Akira shouted back from on top of the ridge.
Felt like I was too, he thought, but out loud he said "Whatever. Now, how do I get back up?"
"You mean you don't know?"
"Well I don't!"
"I thought you knew everything."
"Sorry to disillusion you."
"S'alright. Now help me find a way back up."
By the time Ken'ichi had actually made his way back up to the pathway, by means of a long trek along the sandy shore while Akira shouted at him to hurry up, the sun was just barely visible over the horizon and clouds that looked like plumes of grey ash hung in the sky. Ken'ichi felt like he had inadvertently entered a zone where time went 10 times faster than usual. He had never considered himself a wilderness expert, but he knew enough to conclude from the position of the sun that he was late, and therefore in trouble as soon as he entered his house. Plus, he had only been able to find one of his shoes.
He felt no need to hurry home.
Akira walked beside him, at first pestering with questions. When Ken'ichi declined to dignify him with more than one- or two-word answers, the younger boy gave up and they walked in silence the rest of the way. Ken'ichi was grateful that it was a warm spring evening, so he didn't feel as cold as he could have, considering his wet clothes.
Ken'ichi had been planning to sneak quietly to his room and change out of his drenched clothes, but his plan was immediately stymied. "Ken'ichi! Akira! Welcome home, you took a bit longer than I expected. But that's alright, you boys can stay up a little later than usual, it is a special occasion after all!" said their mom with a wide smile, coming to greet them the moment they were through the door. There was a sickening cheeriness about her, which she usually only used when Ken'ichi brought friends over. For this reason, he usually went to his friends' houses instead. When it was just her son around, he would practically have to bribe her just to get the time of day.
"Thanks," he said, his voice neutral.
"Oh, you're soaked! What happened?" She sounded genuinely concerned, but it was hard to tell with her.
"I… fell in the lake," he said lamely. Never mind that the nearest body of water was half-a-mile away from anywhere he was supposed to be…
"Well, go change, quick! Your father is taking us out for dinner, and it would be disrespectful to make him wait, considering he is taking his own time to spend with us," she said, dismissing Ken'ichi.
He went up to his room, changing quickly into an elegant black outfit. That went… differently than expected, he mused. His father hadn't said anything at all, though he had been there the entire time, sipping tea and watching them. Then again, his father hardly ever talked, so that wasn't unusual. He was like a ghost that occasionally showed up in the early morning or late at night. Ken'ichi couldn't help admiring his dedication to his job.
His mom was another story. She seemed to be the image-obsessed, status-obsessed type, but she did have moments where she seemed… well, like a real person. But most of the time, she was either obsessive or indifferent. She hadn't always been like this, Ken'ichi thought. He could remember dimly… no, he pushed those thoughts from his mind. He should be happy, he was the head of the Sohma family! This was no time to be angsting about random issues he had with his family unit.
He went back to the main room of the house, where his parents and brother were already waiting.
The stars were sparkling above them as they ate. They had ordered quite a lot of food, so there would probably be leftovers for breakfast tomorrow. He could maybe even take some in his lunch to school with him. It was his last year, and he only had a few months left to go. He wondered what the Sohma policy was on the head of the family attending university. Oh well, he had plenty of time to find out.
"Have some sake, Ken'ichi," invited his father. Ken'ichi eagerly poured himself a glass. He was a little bit underage, but hey, he had parental permission!
"I want some," said Akira.
"No," said his father, with a finality that shut Akira up immediately. Ken'ichi clinked glasses with his parents while his brother sulked.
Ken'ichi rudely stabbed a piece of tamago on his brother's plate with his chopsticks and brought it to his own mouth.
"Hey!" Akira protested, but was ignored.
"So, Ken'ichi," said their dad, conversationally. Still, Ken'ichi knew it must be something important he was going to say, because he was one to use his words sparsely.
"Have you thought of anything you would like to do now that you are head of the family? This is not a position to be taken lightly, so you should have already designed something in the way of a leadership plan."
Ken'ichi felt his heart rate speed up, as a panic began to creep up on him. Think of something! he silently told himself, as the feeling of dread started to grab his shoulders with its cold bony hands. Don't lose it now! He mentally flailed at the creature that had wrapped its arm around him as though to choke him.
But the feeling passed before it became a full-blown panic, and it was gone in a flash of insight. "Yes, I have been thinking," he said.
His father gave no response, which told Ken'ichi he had better continue.
"I was thinking that the Juunishi should go to school."
He could tell from his mom's and Akira's faces that they found the idea positively out of the blue. Come on; say something to make this sound better! "And… they could, you know, learn to interact with regular people. After all, once they graduate they'll have to fit into society, and work with non-zodiac members."
After a long silence, his father spoke. "We already have Juunishi in schools, you know."
"Well, yeah, but not enough of them. Right now it's the parents' decision whether their kid goes to school or is home-schooled. Their parents are overprotective" Oh crap I just insulted them better keep talking well this is awkward "but so are most parents. They just want what's best for their kid" Ack now it sounds like I'm arguing against my own idea! "But what they don't realize is that their kid will eventually have to go out into the world. If they practice concealing their curse at a young age, in a typical setting, they'll be more prepared when they grow up." Hey, that sounded pretty good… in a sort of stupid way.
To his surprise, his father nodded. "I can see your point, and I respect the thought you put into this." Thought? What thought? wondered Ken'ichi wordlessly. "I must say, I have some misgivings about the idea. But if you were chosen, it means you must know what you are getting into. You may go ahead with this plan, Ken'ichi."
"Akira will be excluded, though. Right?" said their mother, looking at her husband for confirmation.
"No," he said simply.
"What?" she asked, giggling nervously as though there must be some mistake.
"If it is good enough for the other Juunishi, it is good enough for him."
She opened her mouth to say something, then closed it again.
"So I'm going to school?" asked Akira, as though he couldn't believe it.
"Yeah," said Ken'ichi, not believing it himself.
"Well… that's good, I guess."
Ken'ichi's half full glass of sake glinted dully in the soft moonlight.