Chapter Ten: Sayonara
Title: Mirrors of the Past
Summary: See previous chapters.
Warnings: Oh, no…the angst returns. THE ANGST!! ...Somewhat.
Disclaimer: I don't own Ayame, nor do I own Fruits Basket. However, the story's mine.
Chapter Notes: I'VE! FINALLY! UPDATED! YAY! After how long? A year or more, perhaps? Boy, does time fly…I'm sorry for that intense case of writer's block, everyone! Is anyone even still reading this? Hope so. At least my muse has finally returned from her lengthy vacation! ^ _ ^
As you may have noticed, all the chapters have names now. This is mainly because I went back and made a few small revisions to this story (style changes, not plot changes). And I came to the conclusion that numbered chapters were boring, so I remedied that. I'm pretty sure most of you know that "sayonara" is "goodbye" in...Japanese? Correct me if I'm wrong, and I shall fix it. :)
We have officially reached the tenth chapter of Ayame's not-as-unhappy-as-before-but-still-unhappy life! Now there's only a few chapters left of his tale…oops. Didn't mean to say that. I'll try to upload these final chapters up as soon as possible to make up for the long wait. Also, since I'm finally back in the groove of fanfiction writing, you know? ;D And for those who don't know, the "Akira-san" that Ayame mentions is Akito's father (and the family head before Akito) in the manga. Anyways, on with the chapter! Enjoy!
"…Where am I…?"
Two sapphire irises snapped open in shock. As the luminous orbs danced about in wild anxiety, Hitomi managed to collect her wits and get to her feet, wondering what was supporting her beneath. She didn't have to question for long...a gentle series of ripples escaped from beneath her feet and grew wider before they vanished into a dark body of water. Even in the midst of her frantic confusion, it became clear that she was standing upon the glass-like surface of the ocean. A very dark ocean, at that. The lucid water and what lay beneath were ink-black in color…despite her fear, the chord of questioning was struck within Hitomi's mind upon this strange observation.
Why was this ocean…and this unknown place…so deep and dark? Why did it just seem to go on forever, like in real life? And what was it doing here in the first place, wherever "here" was? She knew she was only dreaming – the doctors had said things like this would happen – but she remained uncertain as to what her wide eyes overlooked.
Maybe this black ocean was part of something…she just had no idea what. Perhaps it was something that could be seen only through one person's eyes. Something that could lurk within only one person's heart…a manifestation of someone's innermost emotions. Whatever it was, Hitomi was certain of one thing: darkness hung heavily over its surface, and this wasn't just obvious by the color of the water beneath her feet. Something weighty was suspended in the air and slowly engulfed her like a shadow. It terrified her, this heavy, unseen darkness…it scared her so much. What was it?
Hitomi instantly let out a shriek towards the unexpected voice. She was surprisingly quick to recover as her sapphire eyes narrowed towards the source of her shock.
"A-Ayame!" she snarled, readying an arm to strike the small, fragile figure kneeling quietly at her side. "What are you doing up at this hour? Go to bed already!"
The little serpent child gave no response. His golden eyes, shadowed by a curtain of bangs, continued to watch the ripples that had formed beneath Hitomi's footsteps without the slightest indication of him hearing her. His lack of a reply, of course, was enough to make the tall blonde angrier. "AYAME! Are you listening to me?!"
"…Hello," he finally said after what seemed like a century. As his soft voice was carried away into the rippling blackness, he slowly raised a pair of unreadable yellow irises to meet her glare.
Hitomi twitched, startled. "Ugh…you're bleeding…" The surprise continued to linger the more she stared at his effeminate face; his ivory skin had been tainted by the gentle flowing of crimson upon its smooth surface. The scarlet rivers continued to appear from an unseen origin upon his forehead, slowly trailing down his cheek until they ended in silent drips upon the collar of his kimono.
The longer she stared at him, the more acidic her disgust grew. "Hey…do you even know how much that thing cost me?!" she hissed as the crimson stain continued to expand upon the dark silk. "Not like I would expect an ungrateful brat like you to care. Go and wash all that off!"
Silence was the boy's only response. That is, until he glanced back up towards her and spoke in a voice that Hitomi didn't expect. "…Why should I?" he replied, speaking with a calm tone that carried a heavy air of indifference. Tilting his silver-topped head, he added, "After all, you're not my mother. Besides, weren't you the one who made him bleed in the first place?"
Hitomi's anger flared once more. She wasn't an idiot – she knew that it was her fault Ayame had cracked his head on the floor so many years ago – but what gave the little brat the right to speak to her in that arrogant tone? "Don't get snippy with me! Dare I even ask why you think you can treat me this way?!" she snarled.
"I already told you…you're not my mother. Are you deaf, or are you dumb?" Hitomi instantly felt a shiver run down her spine when the serpent child allowed a small, sardonic smile to appear upon his blood-stained features. "I don't exactly have a name, but understand that I'm not the sad little boy you've treated like trash all this time."
The blonde instantly felt her skin crawl when he lightly touched her hand, gazing at her with an expression of bitterness inside his golden irises. "I'm actually the dark part of your son's mind."
Blue was instantly framed with white as confusion and fear began to overtake Hitomi's senses. "What…what on Earth are you talking about?"
She didn't receive a direct answer. Rather, the silver-haired child gazed towards the side in a reminiscent fashion. "I'm the one that he's turned to all this time…no thanks to you and everybody else in this world. But he's found happiness now…he doesn't have much of a need for me anymore," he concluded, turning to gaze once more at the frozen woman before him. "Do you know why that is?" he asked.
"Why would I care?!" Hitomi responded fiercely. "He's the lowest creature in the Juunishi! Why should I expect anything good out of him? He's worthless to me! And you're not much better, you brat!"
"That wasn't what I asked," the serpent child snapped. "But since this is my domain you're in, I call the shots…and I'll decide what you do and don't listen to. He doesn't need me anymore because he's found good people in this world…nice people, like his aunt and his cousins. Because of them, he's finally been able to feel happiness…the joy that he's needed all along in this hellish world. But…"
As his words trailed away into the blackness, the wide-eyed Hitomi prepared herself to turn and run from the tiny child gazing at her. But she didn't get far before something cold and slender made a loud noise and whipped around her ankles. She faltered, immense shock taking over her senses, and was instantly met with more of the white scaly reptiles that slithered out of the black depths of the ocean.
A sudden rush of adrenaline instantly kicked in, and she screamed shrilly, falling onto the surface of the water as the snakes began to wrap around her frame. Their angry hissing filled the black air as they constricted tighter and tighter around her chest and limbs, completely ignoring her shattering cries for help. The more she screamed, the tighter they squeezed without the faintest trace of remorse (if snakes could possess emotions like people).
In the midst of Hitomi's cries, the silver-haired child slowly fell so that he was eye-level with the horrified woman. "It's bad people like you who deserve to drown in darkness, like he's been doing all this time," he finished dryly. Lightly touching her tear-streaked cheek, he added, "Do you get it now? Now do you know how it feels to be hurt and crushed by those around you?"
"YOU'RE CRAZY!" Hitomi yelled, struggling to tear the snakes off of her form. "DON'T FEED ME THAT NONSENSE!" Before she could insult the small child before her once again, the constrictions once again tightened, crushing her frame and causing her to emit an ear-piercing scream of agony.
As her vision began to falter, she managed to take in the fading sight of her son, Ayame Sohma, appearing beside his kimono-clad double as he smiled and gave a light, amused laugh.
"…!!!!" Hitomi's sapphire eyes awoke with a start. Quickly sitting in an upright position, she frantically absorbed her surroundings before breathing a sigh of relief. She was in her own moonlit room once more, with Kentaro sleeping soundly at her side. Despite the comfort that she felt upon this observation, it couldn't fight the enormous headache that seemed to be engulfing her from the inside out. She winced in agony and raised a hand to her head, only to stop short when she noticed how much it trembled.
It wasn't long before a cold sweat broke out upon her forehead. As vicious replays of her bizarre nightmare began to flicker in and out of her mind, she winced, laying a hand gently upon her stomach. Ugh…I don't feel so well. Cursed nausea.
"…Stupid child. Even when I'm asleep, he makes me miserable."
"Aaya! Come on, hurry up!"
"Yikes! How'd you two get so far ahead of me?"
A raven-haired boy with eyes the color of chocolate jostled his falling backpack onto his shoulder. Shifting his eyes a time or two, he responded, "Haa-san and I used our secret teleportation powers. You're awfully slow today, you know."
"He's right," a second dark-haired boy added, shielding his jade-green eyes from the afternoon sun. "Did something happen?"
"Nope!" Ayame Sohma, age ten, chirped as he caught up to his two best friends. Pushing a silky lock of his silver-white hair out of his eyes, he said, "I got kind of wrapped up in thinking and just lagged behind. Thanks for waiting, though!"
Shigure and Hatori exchanged amused glances for their friend as the three began their summer-touched walk towards an afternoon of no homework and excessive freedom. The warmth of the sun's rays upon their shoulders instilled sensations of both peace and exhilaration into the trio…even Hatori's stoic expression reflected a sense of contentment.
"So, has your mom's belly gotten bigger, Aaya?" Shigure suddenly asked. "A while ago, you said she was pregnant, I think."
"…Yeah. Yeah, she is. Five months…or so."
Shigure, puzzled by Ayame's suddenly-odd behavior, gazed questioningly at his friend. "Hey, what's up? Are you sure you're not feeling sick or something?" He paused and gingerly placed a hand upon the snake's forehead. "You feel a little warm…maybe you should see Ha'ri's dad when we get to the main house."
Ayame waved a hand and grinned. "Nah, I feel just fine! Thanks for your concern, though, Gure-san!"
The dog rolled his chocolate-brown eyes playfully. "Who said I was concerned?"
"Don't pretend that you weren't," Ayame joked. Suddenly detecting a change within Hatori's quiet demeanor, he turned towards him in concern. "Tori-san?" he started. "Is something wrong?"
The dragon's jade-green eyes fell upon his companion with silent observation. "...That's the most you've said about your parents in a long time." When Ayame appeared curious towards his words, the midnight-haired boy abandoned the thought and added, "Never mind. I was just thinking out loud."
"You do that a lot, don't you?" the silver-haired boy teased.
"Hey, lovebirds!" Shigure called, waving his hands in front of Hatori's face. "How do you think you did on our presentations in class today?"
Ayame, ignoring his jest, appeared thoughtful before replying. "Hmm…I think I did alright," he admitted. Suddenly appearing self-conscious, he added, "It seemed like a lot of kids were just staring at me, though. Did someone put gum in my hair or something?"
Hatori turned and immediately pointed towards Ayame's silver-topped head. "With that white hair and those yellow eyes, you can't expect to not stand out," he stated.
"Yeah, I know, "the snake laughed. Running a hand through his long hair, he added, "I like it, though, so I'm not dying it or cutting it or anything. It kind of suits me, actually!" he chirped.
Shigure raised an eyebrow. "That sounds…kinda weird, Aaya. Well, whatever floats your boat. Oh, that's right!" he suddenly recollected. "I was going through Sensei's stuff during break, and I meant to show you what I found!" Smiling mischievously, the raven-haired boy lowered himself to the concrete and removed a stack of crumpled magazines from his backpack.
Ayame eyeballed him curiously. "Why were you snooping through the teacher's stuff?"
"For reasons that only I know and should not be known to those such as yourself!" his friend responded proudly. As Ayame and Hatori exchanged obvious stares of confusion, Shigure regained his posture and thrust magazines into both their hands. "Now, open these and be alarmed by Sensei's taste in books!"
The silver-haired boy simply stared at the magazine's cover. Just a woman in a short dress…nothing too alarming about that. Looking up at Shigure, he remarked, "I don't get it…it's some sort of fashion magazine, isn't it? Maybe he's looking for a gift for his wife." As he glanced towards the cover once more, he added softly, "The color of that dress doesn't really match with her skin tone, though." (Oh, boy...a tailor is born! ...Sorta.)
"Innocent, innocent Aaya-chan," the dog sighed, placing a hand upon Ayame's head. "You really are oblivious to all sorts of things, aren't you? Just open the book." Of course, what he said could go in that direction, as well…
Blinking, Ayame did as he was told. He instantly regretted it. With a wide-eyed expression of disgusted horror, he flung the magazine back into his friend's face. "That's disgusting!" he shouted. "What in the world were they doing?! More importantly, what's wrong with you, Gure-san?!"
Shigure immediately burst into a bout of obnoxious laughter. "You should see that look on your face (and blame Sensei, not me)!" he cried between laughs. "Grossed out, much?"
"Who wouldn't be grossed out? I don't even want to know where that came from!"
"I told you, it came from Sensei's desk."
Hatori, wearing his signature deadpan expression, glanced towards the spastically-abhorred Ayame. Holding up one of the magazines, he questioned, "Is it really that bad, Ayame? What's in here?"
The silver-haired boy immediately grasped the dragon by the shoulders and looked deeply into his eyes. "Don't do it. Whatever you do, don't open it."
"Open it, Haa-san! Open it!" Shigure chimed.
"He didn't ask you! Don't open it, Tori-san!"
Hatori, although he didn't usually express this quality, was naturally curious about things that others claimed were bad (as most boys were). It was this trait of his being that prompted him to ignore the snake's advice and open the magazine.
Similar to Ayame's reaction upon glancing over the images, he regretted doing so. As his jade eyes widened and shattered his stoic visage, a shout snaked its way out of his voice box and into the summer air. "Get that away from me!"
Shigure and Ayame could only stare in shock as Hatori screamed louder than they had ever dreamed he could. A moment later, the disgusted boy swiftly kicked the magazines out of Shigure's hands and into the street, where they were soon run over by a taxi.
Ayame made a soft whistling noise as he surveyed the distance they had flown. "…Whoa. Maybe you should join the soccer team when we get into middle school, Tori-san." Shigure, however, could only cry tears of self-pity as he gazed at the remains of what would've been the best blackmail material ever.
As Ayame stepped outside the gates of the main house, a thought suddenly reappeared inside his head. Shyly, he turned. "...Hey…about later..."
The dog and the dragon feel into deep thought. "…Yeah. Don't worry. We'll be here, waiting," Hatori spoke calmly, breaking the heavy silence. "You…haven't told her yet, have you?"
"Is she suspicious? Does she know you've been sneaking your things over here?"
Shigure nodded. "We'll still be here…just don't chicken out on us, okay?"
The pallid boy smiled softly. "I won't."
As Ayame watched the bag begin its descent towards the ground, the words spoken just an hour ago reiterated themselves inside his mind. He jumped when a loud cracking sound erupted upon impact and leaned out his window to investigate the damage. Yikes…I hope my clock didn't break, he thought worriedly. It seems like that's the last of my things…Gure-san and Tori-san seem to have everything else.
"…Well, I guess this is it," he said softly into the newborn emptiness. As he gazed towards the fire-like sunset, his velvety golden eyes reflected its beauty in dark thought. This room…the one tainted with ten years of sadness and turmoil…would soon be vacant within a matter of minutes. Even now, during the lightest point in Ayame's life, his painful memories still lingered within the walls. They hung like ominous storm clouds over his head, their presence so dark and solid that they could easily be clarified as part of the room's interior.
The silver-haired boy was practically sickened with the notion that the room would most likely become his brother's nursery once he was born. The house only had three bedrooms, and one of them was used for storage; it made sense to Ayame that Hitomi would insist on sheltering the baby in the only empty room after his birth. However, he disliked that idea. It wasn't jealousy that bothered him – he wouldn't even have the need for that emotion before long. This room had accumulated so many dark memories over the years that it was deemed unfit for something as innocent as a newborn baby. Something so small and oblivious to the world's heartaches didn't deserve to be touched by the sadness of the room's previous occupant…the mere thought of it was simply disturbing to him.
Even though this now-barren room trapped so much bitterness and pain, it had still been his sanctuary from the rest of his turmoil. So many days had he spent inside its walls, hiding away from the cruelty of the outside world…despite its hidden blackness, he had felt so safe within its shadows. Although Ayame practically hated it now, due to the terrible memories it confined, he couldn't help but feel sentimental towards the idea of leaving it for good. It was a sad feeling, leaving behind something that had provided so much comfort.
For so many years, it had given him a place to escape hell…and he was repaying its kindness with abandonment. The same abandonment he'd known for so long.
"…Thank you." Thank you…for keeping me from going crazy for all these years. For keeping me safe from others when they weren't near me. I'm sorry that you have to hold so much pain.
As the silver-haired boy shut the window, he slowly turned and gazed at the empty room for the last time. Sighing quietly, he gave a solemn nod towards its shadowed interior before closing the door with a faint click.
As soon as the icy-blue irises fixed their glare upon his form, Ayame shuddered. It was mainly the cautious tremor within his voice that suddenly made him nervous, but his mother's agitation was another unwelcome contribution. Hitomi was apparently not in her best of moods today – not that she was ever in a good mood to begin with. Nonetheless, the anger radiating from her eyes was enough to make him question whether or not he really wanted to go through with this ordeal. He could always skip out on it, decide to bring it up another day, and say "Never mind" and turn to go back to his room. It was that simple.
Especially since his mother was five months pregnant. From the outbursts that Ayame had seen Kentaro become faced with over the days, her gestation had made her more irritable than usual. Surely it could wait one more night…
No! Ayame's golden eyes focused on the floors in headstrong determination. I've held off on this for too long…I can't make myself wait any longer. It's not as if her mood will get better anytime soon, so I might as well get it over with.
"…H-hi," the silver-haired boy forced, bringing his flickering eyes to meet the glaring ones of his mother. Ayame was quick to notice another shadow fall upon the floorboards; a quick glance told him of Kentaro's curiously-lurking presence nearby. He shook his head. He doesn't matter. "…Are you feeling any better from —"
"What do you want?" Hitomi snapped, cutting her son off. Her eyes didn't cease to lose their flint-like frown for the slightest second…this was the perfect mask for her current emotions. Through the hatred she possessed for the serpent child, a shallow sense of surprise lurked. Why did he care about how she felt, and since when did he greet her like that? It wasn't any of his concern, nor was it anybody's, for that matter.
"It's bad people like you who deserve to drown in darkness, like he's been doing all this time."
Hitomi's icy glare sharpened. I know this brat's game. "I expect you to answer me…I don't have time to sit around and wait for you to say something," she added through clenched teeth.
Ayame lightly drummed his fingers upon the staircase railing. This was going to be a lot harder than he imagined. "Um…well…" That faltering tremor wove its way into his voice once more, and he began to grow jumpy with anxiety. As much as he wanted to turn against his intentions, a second voice within his head forced him to go through with them. He chose to listen to it. He had a feeling that it was more than just the best thing to do…it would not only be better for himself, but it would even help…
…My mother. "…I just wanted to say…that it's okay now."
Hitomi raised an eyebrow. "What are you talking about?" she spat.
The silver-haired boy looked into his mother's cold eyes…something that he hadn't done for a long, long time. "I'm…leaving, Mother," he responded softly.
As the words escaped his pallid lips, two sapphire irises darkened. ...What?
Choosing his words carefully, Ayame continued with the faintest addition of confidence in his voice. "…I know…that it's sort of sudden, but…when I leave, I won't be coming back here anymore. Akira-san…he's already prepared a room for me at the main house. Most of my things are already there. Gure-san and Tori-san are there, too, so...I won't be lonely." It then occurred to him that Hitomi didn't know who Gure-san and Tori-san were. That's right…I never told her about my friends. I've never told her about anything in my life, have I?
He quietly made his way past his mother and towards the front door, failing to notice the dark change upon Hitomi's visage. As he placed his hand upon the doorknob - for what he knew would be the last time – he quietly exhaled in sentimentality. "…I know there isn't anything for me in this house…there never has been. I need to fit in somewhere in this world, and that somewhere isn't here. That's why I'm leaving." That place is with Gure-san and Tori-san…not here.
Two golden orbs blinked sadly. "...And…I don't want to cause you any more pain."
Hitomi said nothing.
Ayame grew hesitant. His mother's lack of a response was beginning to worry him. Is she happy or mad? "…I know you hate me because of my curse. I've always known. But it's okay," he said quietly. "When I leave…you won't have to feel sad anymore. Because you won't have to see me day after day. I'll be over at the main house, and you can forget all about me then. You can forget about me being your son…also because you have a new son coming." Yellow irises flickered with unknown emotions. "He'll be a normal kid, unlike me…and you can be happy with him. That happiness you didn't have with me can go to my new brother…then you could feel better. When he comes, maybe…you'll let me see him sometime." With the faintest of smiles, he added, "I would be happy if I could."
…I'm jealous of you, otouto-kun (little brother). You'll get all the love and attention that I never got. But…that's good, right? Because you'll be happy as you grow up, and you can have the life that I couldn't' have. Since Mother hates me, she might not tell you that you have a brother. But…I'll try to see you when you come to the main house. We can play and be friends, and I can look after you from a distance. So…
His golden eyes stung ever so gently, and he smiled. "...Be happy, otouto-kun…"
Kentaro listened nearby, his heart aching. Ayame…you've been planning this all along. Since you were old enough to understand about your mother's hatred, haven't you?
Lifting his head, the silver-haired boy sighed. "This will the last time you see me for a while, Mother. …Goodbye." As he slowly turned to look at her, he nodded in silent apology. "I'm…I'm sorry for the pain I've caused you. I'm sorry…that I couldn't be the son that you wanted."
Upon speaking those last words, his eyes immediately burned. I'm sorry, Mother. Even though you hurt me so much and made me feel so much pain. Even though you don't deserve an apology...I'm so sorry…
His mother remained as silent as a church mouse.
As he turned the doorknob, Ayame forced away his sadness long enough to smile towards her…the woman who had caused him so much torment. "So," the silver-haired boy added, "be happy without me…and take good care of my younger – "
He didn't have time to finish before a familiar hand struck him so hard across the face that he instantly lost his footing. Once the fall had ended, his wide eyes flashed in agony as his head hit the railing with a sickening thump. Unconsciousness immediately overtook him, and he fell to the floorboards without a single gasp.
Kentaro stepped back in alarm. As Hitomi silently made her way to Ayame's unmoving body, his dark brown eyes widened in painful despair. Don't touch him. Don't hurt him. Just leave him alone.
The sapphire irises glinted darkly as they fell upon the crimson pool slowly accumulating by Ayame's head. As she dropped to her knees beside him, Hitomi smiled with enough sadism to drive away a dozen starving wolves.
"…You're not going anywhere."
Preview: ...Oh boy. Looks like somebody's a little angry, no? And it looks like Ayame has taken quite a blow. Will he be alright? And what's Kentaro's reaction to all of this? Finally, why is Hitomi so against Ayame's leaving, if she despises him so much? Find out in the next chapter! And sorry to end this on a cliffhanger, everyone...no hating, please!