Warning: Spoilers for chapter 68.

The Stone of the Fruit

"Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain." - On Pain, Khalil Gibran

Kagura is going to give up the chase.

But not without goodbye, of course – not without a bang and maybe some fireworks, not without a little drama, not without a proper ending, because she's waited all this time, after all, and she deserves it. So she wears a pretty skirt and her fashionable brown boots, to make her feel a little bit tougher, and she even blow-dries her hair, but it's not like he'll notice, he never does. But that's okay, it doesn't bother her. He wouldn't be himself if he did, and that's what she admires about him, after all: his strong sense of self.

Even if the cat is a cursed animal. Even if the cat is a despised, disgusting thing.

Sometimes she wishes she were born the rabbit instead, or maybe the sheep - something soft and cute and cuddly - even if thinking such things is taboo among the Jyuunishi. Well, she can't help it. No girl wants to be called a pig, much less a boar. It hurts particularly because she knows how well-suited she is to her zodiac – how she's stubborn and self-centered and oftentimes a brute. Pig-headed's the right word, of course, but one that's not particularly flattering. Which explains why it's hard restraining herself when she throws her arms around his neck and embraces him, because they both know he's stronger, and if she doesn't put up this vicious display he might wriggle away for good.

But he shouldn't have to wriggle away – she's letting him go, isn't she?

Kagura is not a spoiled girl, not really. She has both her parents, after all, and even if they fight, they've tried their best to keep it together for her, which is much better than what some of the other Jyuunishi's parents have done. Sometimes she still feels awful knowing how she caused her mom to suffer, but her mom hasn't abandoned her, and that's what matters. Kagura has a house and a bed full of stuffed cats; she has friends in school and a nice wardrobe and even a music player. And she gets along all right with most of the Sohma household, even if Kyo never returns her hugs and Rin's eyes are always cold.

Kagura is not spoiled, but she is something far worse, and she learned this the night she watched Tohru run after Kyo – Kyo in his frightening, rotten form, Kyo full of shame and hatred; Kyo who she wanted to love so badly, but she was never strong enough.

Kagura is a selfish girl. All this time she believed herself to be some angel of purity and sacrifice – look at me, I am doing what no one else could do, I am loving the monster, I am loving Kyo – but she was being a demon instead, and pretending, pretending, pretending, ignoring his feelings, ignoring his hurt, all for her own selfish reasons.

She did it to wash away her shame, her disgust at the hideous Kagura that couldn't help screaming and running away from the thing that had appeared once she removed his bracelet. She wanted to be able to retrace those steps and redeem herself, because it had been her fault. She wanted to be able to call herself beautiful and forgiving and human; to show that she was capable of loving, even something as despicable as the soul of the cat. And all that time she thought Kyo was being a meanie for not appreciating her love. Seeing Tohru's form flying into the darkness, one hand over her nose and mouth and tears streaming down her cheeks, Kagura had felt like a demon.

She clicks the hairdryer off and looks at herself in the mirror, then ties a ribbon through her hair, picks up her handbag and tells her mom that she's going out to see Kyo.

It's because love is selfish, she thinks to herself, as she walks to their meeting place with a hum in her throat and her eyes cast up to the sky. It's because I was never told otherwise. I always thought I was doing the right thing, playing with him like that, and I think he even liked it at first. And when we grew up, it only seemed natural to declare ourselves lovers. As if they had grown closer, when in fact they had grown apart – she had found him more handsome as the years went by, but it wasn't anything serious, really, and besides he was too obsessed with beating Yuki to be good for much else.

Then Tohru came along and changed everything.

Well, that's okay. If anyone has done any good for this family, it's Tohru, and she's so nice to Kagura that there's no way the spirit of the pig can ever resent her. She can envy her, at least. Envy her selflessness and the way her smile makes everything all right; envy her no-fail attitude and the fact that she would never, ever put Kagura on the spot because it's so obvious Kyo has fallen for her. Tohru's not that kind of girl. She's a nice girl.

A selfless girl.

Kagura stops looking up at the sky and stares at the pavement instead. It isn't going to rain. That's good. She wants to go to that place with him.

She arrives at their meeting place half an hour earlier than needed, but that's all right, she can use the time to straighten out exactly what she wants to say. This is it, after all. The grand finale – years upon years of glomps and hugs and fake engagements finally coming to fruition. She giggles a little to herself, thinking about how silly she's acted the past few years. Will she be able to make up for it this afternoon? Will she be able to make things turn out all right? Well, that's up to her, isn't it – it won't matter to Kyo, but she wants to make it better for herself at least.

She'll admit how cruel she's been, and apologize for it. She knows that he'll forgive her, even if he might not want to hear it – he's grown up in the past few months, and he's always been somewhat gracious and noble underneath his hotheaded nature. She'll tell him the reason why she played with him that time, no matter how it will sting, no matter how ugly she'll look. She'll tell him the truth. And hopefully that will be enough.

Tohru once said that she envied Kagura – that she looked up to Kagura for loving Kyo as strongly as she did – and Kagura had actually gotten flattered by it. Thinking back on it now makes her feel sick with shame, but at that time they didn't know each other very well, so it's probably all right. Even if she always says that she loves Kyo best in the world, that he is number one in her universe, that she is the person who cares about him the most, in the end it is Tohru who will save Kyo.

And that's fair.

Love is selfish. To say I love you, one must first know how to say I, and maybe that's all Kagura ever thought about in her time with Kyo. But she sees him now, walking with steps suddenly steady and sure, looking more like a man than she's ever seen him before – and she knows, deep down inside, that every time she punched him, every time he brushed her aside, every time she held his hand and he allowed himself to be smothered by her, even for just a little bit – she was trying to put force on that last word. I love you. You. You.

She does. Honest. And maybe she'll say it and maybe she won't, but either way, this race is over.

Pigs always run in a straight line, and she's at the end of it at last.

She sticks up a hand and waves, all smiles. "Kyo! Over here!!"

A/N: Kagura isn't really my favorite Furuba character, but reading this manga chapter always breaks my heart, and makes me appreciate her character all the more. :D Comments would be greatly appreciated.