Lion Heart: Chapter One: Fatherless
Author's Notes: I simply adore Hikaru's older brothers, and I wish I could have brothers just like them. This is a story centering around Satoru, Masaru, Kakeru, and Hikaru and the possible relationship they might have. Also, I believe that Masaru and Kakeru have deeper characters than what Clamp let us see (you know, not just "insane, overprotective brothers of Hikaru"). This story begins when everybody is really young. Based on the manga.
Fourteen year old Satoru Shidou gasped at the sight inside of his parents' bedroom. Drawers were out of place and clothes were dripping from the rice paper closets and antique oak dressers. In the middle of the tatami floor were several suitcases with neatly folded clothing inside of them. The Shidou father was wandering from dresser to closet to suitcase with the clothes.
"Father, what are you doing?"
Not looking up from his packing, his father replied, "I'm getting ready to go on a trip, Satoru-san. I can't promise you when I'll be back, but..."
Satoru waited for his father to complete the thought, but after a couple of seconds, he realized that he wasn't going to. "Where are you going to go?"
"I don't know," his father admitted, closing one of the suitcases. He hurried off to the closet and shut the sliding door gently, before digging through the dressers.
"But at your job, you are your own boss," Satoru frowned. "If it's not work business, then why are you leaving? Who's going to take care of the dojo?"
His father threw the rest of the clothes inside of the dressers, which, Satoru noted, were only his mother's, and shut the drawers closed. For a while, nobody spoke while his father folded the rest of the clothes and fastened the suitcases, gathering the bags together with a wooden kendo sword and kendo gear just nearby the clutter. Finally, his father approached Satoru and gently rested his hands on his shoulders, looking into his eyes with kindness and...
"Since you are my oldest son, I want you to take care of the Shidou Kendo School while I'm away," his father said. "Like I said, I don't know when I'll be back, but I want you to take care of the dojo and the family for me."
"As you wish, Father," Satoru agreed. His father brushed past him towards the kitchen, obviously to tell the Shidou mother what was going on. "But, Father! Why are you leaving?"
His father halted his tracks for just a moment and swiveled his head around to look at Satoru. "Hikaru-cha-" he began, but stopped himself. "No, Hikaru-san... defeated me this morning. I was trying to go easy on her today, but she wasn't going easy on me--I or you must have taught her well to never hold back--so I tried my best... but she defeated me. I'd wish for this to stay inside the family, but Hikaru-san is only a child. This obviously... pleased her."
Satoru knew better than to press his father further, so he kept quiet as he walked towards the kitchen where his mother was cooking lunch. He turned and sulked to his room, taking in everything his father had just said.
His little sister, Hikaru, had defeated his father in kendo this morning? His sister? Five year old Hikaru Shidou had won a kendo match against her own father.
Satoru was, to say the least, shocked.
His father would never have let anybody beat him; his motto was that you can never teach someone if you just allow him to reach his goals. Just because he was confronting his daughter, who was only in kindergarten, did not mean that he would change that perspective.
Hikaru must have been more aggressive today, Satoru concluded. She doesn't like to hurt anybody intentionally. But if Father said that he tried his best--impossible! How can a five year old defeat a full grown man?
It wasn't until Masaru came running through the hall that Satoru actually believed it.
"Wow wow wow! You should've seen it, Satoru! That was a great match earlier this morning! Were you too busy sleeping, or did Mother have too many chores for you? I couldn't find you all day! Kakeru-kun doesn't believe me, but Hikaru-chan actually beat Father today! Isn't that great?" Masaru bounced, grabbing onto his elder brother's shoulders but stopped after he noticed Satoru's downhearted eyes. "You don't believe me, either, do you? You can even ask Hikaru-chan, but I wouldn't ask Father if I were you..."
Satoru closed his eyes and sighed. "Masaru, Father is... leaving."
"For the reason you just said."
Masaru was speechless as he stuttered to say something. "Wh- wh- I -what?! But- but-" he stopped himself and took a deep breath. "What should we tell Hikaru-chan? You know she's going to blame herself!"
"We have to tell her the truth," said Satoru.
Masaru frowned uncomfortably. Satoru didn't blamed him; Hikaru was going to blame herself, no doubt about it. Children, no matter what the age, tend to put themselves at fault if they were involved with something that had someone getting hurt. Kakeru had a close relationship with his father, and at the age of seven he was going to throw himself at his father's feet, begging him not to go. It would cause more of a distraction to their father, but maybe it would somehow encourage him not to leave. Either that, or it would encourage him to come home sooner.
"Should we tell them now?" Masaru asked weakly, almost in a whisper.
Satoru glanced over his shoulder at the kitchen, the running tap water and fan draining out any noises that his father and mother could be making, and sighed. "We should wait to see what Father wants to do."
The young Hikaru Shidou was ecstatic. After all, it wasn't everyday that somebody beat her father at something he spent his entire life practicing! Plus, Masaru promised to treat her to something special because of it, but he said that it was a secret.
Hikaru had a feeling that Masaru did not know what he was going to do, but Hikaru hoped that it was going to be ice cream!
She giggled at the thought of going to an ice cream parlor with Masaru. The last time they went with each other was before her fourth birthday, and Masaru didn't have enough money to get himself ice cream. He was pleading with Hikaru to share some, but she didn't until he almost began to cry. It was very funny.
She loved it when Masaru had that teary-eyed look. He was almost too cute looking like that.
Hikaru hummed to herself as she rested on her belly, flipping through some of her picture books. She could read the words if she wanted to, but they were in very tiny print; she knew that words that small were boring words; she learned that from her father's newspaper. Newspapers always had small writing, and they were always boring.
Besides, looking at all the puppies and dogs in the book was enough, even if she was looking at them for the ten thousandth time.
Maybe Masaru-oniisama wants to get me a puppy! she dreamed, knowing that it wasn't true. Her father always sneezed wildly around animals, so she never even had a hamster before. No, I guess not. But I wouldn't mind a stuffed animal puppy!
She rolled over to her back to stare at the ceiling and sighed. Why didn't Father come to see me since this morning yet? Is he mad at me?
"Hikaru-chan!" Kakeru sang as he poked his head into her room. "What're you doin'?"
Hikaru sat up and smiled at her older brother. "Nothin'! What were you doin'?"
"Nothin'," he repeated and stepped inside and took a seat in front of her. "Hey, Hikaru-chan! Do you want to come n' fight with me in the dojo? It'd just be for fun!"
Hikaru frowned and looked at the floor. "I can't," she mumbled. "I think Father is already mad at me."
"Why? You never get into trouble with him!"
"I beat him in kendo today."
Both of the children fell silent at those words. Hikaru thought she knew what was going to happen next: Kakeru was going to laugh at her. He loved their father so much that he would never believe her. He was just going to say it was in her imagination.
But he didn't.
"Masaru was telling the truth?" Kakeru murmured. "No way! Really? Hikaru-chan, why are you sad? You beat Father! You should be happy!"
"You're... proud of me, Kakeru-oniisama?" Hikaru stared at Kakeru with wide eyes. Kakeru nodded. This was not like him; he always got mad whenever somebody beat their father! "Really?"
"Of course! Even I can't beat him, even if I tried! And I do try! I try really hard!" Kakeru said, jumping to his feet. "Wow, Hikaru-chan! We should tell Satoru! I don't think he's going to believe Masaru either!"
"Yeah!" Hikaru agreed, scrambling up. "Masaru said he was going to give me a present!"
Kakeru's grin grew wider. "Then we really need to tell Satoru! I don't think Masaru has any money at all. Hey, I'll give ya a piece of candy with my own money, too, okay? We'll play in the dojo later!"
Hikaru couldn't help but to feel happy again. Her father may be angry at her, but her brothers were proud of her. That was all that really mattered.
Satoru smiled at his two youngest siblings as they bounced up and down with joy. However, on the inside, he winced terribly. What was he going to say -- what was he supposed to say when he told them that their father was leaving because of what they were happy about? He didn't want to spoil their good mood, so what was he supposed to tell them?
"AH! Kakeru-kun! So you would sooner believe Hikaru-chan than me?" Masaru yelled directly in Kakeru's face. "I see a lack of trust in your older brother here!"
Kakeru smiled mischievously. "Hikaru-chan never lies. You do. You lie to me a lot. Why should I believe you ever?"
"Why you-! That's not fair!"
"Fair to me!"
Satoru sighed in relief as Hikaru giggled at the argument between the two younger brothers. Though Masaru was in almost the same dilemma as Satoru was (he didn't have to worry about breaking the news to Kakeru and Hikaru since he was younger), he was doing a pretty good job at hiding it. It was that or Masaru was annoyed at Kakeru's doubts at him to forget about the situation they were in.
Luckily, while Masaru and Kakeru argued, the older one did not slip out the fact that their father was leaving.
Satoru's eyes caught a shadow in the doorway, and he turned his head to his side to see who it was. Lo and behold, it was indeed his own father with the most heartbreaking eyes he had ever seen from anybody.
But his father was not looking at Satoru. The eldest son followed the direction of his gaze to see the three youngest siblings teasing and playing with each other happily. Satoru knew exactly what his father was thinking then.
Hikaru is not going to hate you if you leave, just as long as you come back, said Satoru mentally, hoping that by some miracle his father will hear. But Kakeru is still proud of you, no matter if you were beaten by Hikaru or not! Please try to understand--they still need you.
As Satoru directed his eyes back to his father, the elder closed his eyes and shook his head. Satoru sighed once again in defeat. He thinks he has to go. He think he's not good enough to be in this household for another day--that's not true, Father! Hikaru and Kakeru... and Masaru and I want you to stay!
As the Shidou father walked away from the room quietly, Satoru stood up. I'm sorry, Father, but you are making a big mistake!
"Alright, then! Let's go to the ice cream place and later: the arcade!" Masaru exclaimed, throwing a fist in the air. Satoru saw a familiar gleam in his eye that was aimed at him: a call for extra change. 'Just in case.' Satoru pulled out a wallet from his pocket and took out one thousand yen.
Giving it to Masaru, Satoru said sternly. "Make sure you spend this only on the ice cream. Use your own money for the arcade, understand?"
The brothers and sister nodded eagerly and ran out the door, almost tripping over each other's feet as they did so. Satoru's smile was swept away as he stared out the direction that his father had went.
A very big mistake...
Kinoko Shidou was upset. Not the blue shade of sadness, but the red shade that screamed she regretted the day she met her husband.
How dare he do this to her and their children? How dare he! He claimed that he was unworthy to take care of the dojo now that he was defeated by his own student--his own daughter. He could not return home until he was strong enough to provide a challenge for Hikaru again.
Kinoko didn't understand the male pride, but she did know the male stupidity, and this was a fine example of it! She never wanted her daughter--her only daughter--to be caught up in kendo. It was bad enough all three of her sons were! And now, while his youngest son was seven and his youngest child was five--five!--he was leaving them all because of a single match, which shouldn't mean anything at all! It didn't!
Men are too power hungry! Kinoko scowled inwardly as she handed money to her daughter to run an errand for her. I never thought that my own husband would be one of those types who'd go this far to get that power!
As Hikaru ran off to the grocery store, Kinoko turned angrily towards her husband. His face did not waver. "Don't you already have enough fish for tonight?"
"You should have left when the kids were getting ice cream," she stated flatly. "It would be easier for them if you had left when they weren't around."
Her husband nodded knowingly. "Satoru-san and Masaru-san already know."
"Kakeru-kun and Hikaru-chan don't, and they look up to you more than your oldest sons do!" Kinoko raised her voice slightly. "Maybe I should send Kakeru-kun with Hikaru-chan with that errand so he doesn't have to watch you leave."
"You don't have to bother," he replied, walking out the door. "He's taking a bath right now. I'll be on my way."
"Don't bother coming back," she muttered under her breath. When the door to the kitchen closed, Kinoko sighed and slumped against the wall. "I hate you."
Even so, she realized as a wet substance formed in her eyes, why does my chest ache so much?
This is it, Masaru thought, watching his father dump the suitcases in the back of the taxi. This is really it. I can't believe this is happening!
Masaru always had considered the family to be a happy one. Although he was the middle child--Satoru being the oldest son, Kakeru being the youngest son, and Hikaru being the only daughter--he loved his parents and always received equal attention from them. He could have sworn that he was part of the most perfect family in Japan--no, the world!
"When are you going to come back?" Masaru asked, helping his father with some of the suitcases. He didn't want him to leave, but he knew better than to just stand and watch his father load the bags into the taxi.
"I don't know."
"Is that why you packed everything you owned?"
Satoru came out of the house and stood by the gate. "You're going to leave without telling Kakeru or Hikaru why you're leaving?"
Their father stopped for a minute and asked the taxi driver to hold on. The driver mumbled something about costing extra, but he ignored him. "I was hoping that maybe... you two could do it."
"Why us?" Masaru asked, shoving in the last case--a gym bag. "Why can't you do it?"
"I-" his father began before a younger boy ran down the walkway.
"Father!" Kakeru called. "Where are you going? Can I go too? Please please please?"
"It looks like you can tell him now," Satoru mumbled as Masaru closed the trunk. The middle brother settled next to his older brother, watching the helplessness on their father's face. To say the least, Masaru was surprised by that look.
The Shidou father was anguished as he picked Kakeru up. "Ah, you can't come with me because, well, it's business. You'd get bored."
"Business?" Kakeru frowned. "Oh! You mean like work? I wouldn't get bored--I like kendo too! Please? Can I come?"
Behind him, the taxi driver glanced at his watch and back at the father and son moment. Masaru sighed. Kakeru must have sensed that his father was leaving, otherwise he wouldn't have gotten out of the bath so quickly! His gray robe was sloppily tied on and his hair was soaking wet; Masaru could see droplets tumbling down the back of the seven year old's neck. He hadn't even bothered putting on sandals!
His father bit his lip nervously--this was totally out of his character! "Ah, no, sorry, but you wouldn't enjoy it very much," he said. "Besides, I don't know how long I'm going to be gone!"
Kakeru groaned silently as his father set him down; Masaru felt sorry for him. He didn't know what was going on, and he didn't understand why his father was leaving. He only heard not even half the truth. But what their father said next brightened up Masaru's hopes that maybe, maybe Kakeru and Hikaru would never have to find out why he had left!
"Don't worry! I promise I'll be back for your birthday! Yours and Hikaru-san's. How about that?"
Masaru met his father's eyes after he uttered the promise almost threateningly. He didn't like to be like this with him, but he felt that in order to protect Kakeru and Hikaru both, he had to make sure that his father was going to keep that promise.
His father only smiled as he stepped into the taxi, reassuring Masaru's trust greatly. Kakeru's birthday was in the summertime--at the end of July. Hikaru's birthday was only a week afterwards. Two months away!
Masaru smiled. Sure, they could do two months without their father. Just as long that when he comes back, he stays back. He didn't want to go through this for a second time.
As the taxi drove off, Masaru grinned at Kakeru and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Come on! Let's go help Mother with supper!" he suggested.
"Where was Hikaru-chan?" Kakeru wondered. "Why didn't she say 'bye' to Father?"
"Ah, er," Masaru stumbled. "I don't know where she is--Satoru?"
Satoru shook his head, and Masaru had nothing more to ask. "Ah, I see. We just let her run off by herself without her telling us! Come on! We must find her before harm is done upon her!"
"I'll go look for her," Satoru interjected calmly. "You two go help Mother. She really needs it now."
Masaru glared at Satoru for a moment before the words finally sunk in. That's right, Kakeru doesn't know what's going on, he sighed. Satoru is the best person to spill the beans to Hikaru without hurting her feelings.
"Oh, fine," Masaru growled. "Alright, Kakeru-kun, let's go help Mother with dinner."
"What? You don't trust Satoru?" Masaru widened his eyes in playful shock. "Such low faith in your eldest brother is not allowed, Kakeru-kun! I must challenge you to a duel later!"
Masaru winked at Satoru before running back inside the house, dragging behind a protesting Kakeru. Normally he wouldn't agree to such a thing, but considering the position of the two youngest siblings, Masaru knew that there was no choice. Satoru had to tell Hikaru without the interference of either Kakeru or himself.
The news of her father leaving the Shidou household didn't faze Hikaru too much. He was supposed to be back in a couple of months; it wasn't as if he'd be gone forever.
Hikaru knew that if she didn't think about it at all, her father would be back before she knew it. That's what happened every year with the festivals, her birthday, Christmas, and the New Year's! She never thought about it or counted down the days until that particular holiday arrived like Masaru did, and time flew as quickly as a bird did.
It had been a week since their father left, and Hikaru noticed a change in her mother. She wasn't as cheerful as she usually was. She didn't play with Hikaru anymore; she just spent most of her time either in the kitchen, doing the laundry, or vacuuming the house. Hikaru was beginning to miss her mother more than her father.
Satoru was doing a fine job taking care of the kendo school and even managed to find a substitute to teach the students when he was busy with homework and household chores. Hikaru was elated that despite everything he had to do, he still found time to teach Hikaru privately without Masaru or Kakeru. Masaru was growing tired of kendo, anyway, but Kakeru was still interested.
From time to time, Hikaru and Kakeru would spar together. It was no longer a secret; Kakeru claimed that it was no longer any fun to sneak into the dojo--there was no threat of getting into trouble. Satoru and Masaru had always known that the two of them would use the dojo without their father's permission--they also knew that it was Kakeru's idea all the time. Hikaru, however, was relieved that they didn't have to. She hated to disappoint her father, much less getting into any trouble!
Kakeru and Hikaru had been spending more time with each other as a result and have been getting along with each more than they ever thought they would.
It was nice.
"So, Hikaru-chan!" Kakeru said cheerfully from the first branch on the tree. "Pretty soon you'll be going to school with me!"
"After summer is over, Kakeru-oniisama," Hikaru pointed out from the boulder she was sitting on, just beneath the tree. The two children were in the backyard of the Shidou Kendo School basking in the bright spring sun. "Is grade school really fun?"
"Well," Kakeru considered, glancing up at the rest of the branches he had yet to climb, "that would depend on your teacher. But Father will be back by then, so don't worry! He'll help you get over any scary feeling you might have!"
Hikaru smiled brightly. "Yeah!"
From inside of the house, the two youngest siblings heard Masaru scream in agony. "ARGH!"
"He's just trying to do his homework," Kakeru told her. "I think."
Hikaru frowned. "Will I have to do any homework when I start going to school?"
"Not at first, but in the first grade, the homework isn't too hard," reassured Kakeru. "If you have any problems, you can always come to us, your trusty brothers!"
She smiled as Masaru yelled for Satoru. "When I'm ten years old like Masaru-oniisama, is the homework going to be really hard?"
"Only if you're Masaru!" Kakeru laughed as he jumped out of the tree. "Let's go to the park! I'll show you the place Father used to take me, and when he gets back, maybe he'll let you go on the big slide!"
"Why not now?"
"Because he's not here, and it's the big slide!" Kakeru huffed. "You're too small to go on it by yourself!" He began running towards the house. "Get your shoes on and I'll tell Satoru and Mother where we're going!"
Hikaru smiled. There was yet something else to look forward to when her father returned, but she also began to wonder. With brothers such as hers, was there really any need for him to be here otherwise?
The last thing Hikaru expected, two months later, was how much her family really was dependent on him.
To Be Continued