My first Fruits Basket fic, be kind and review. This is a re-release of the first chapter as a very welcome review from MysticSorceror made me realize I needed more originality. However comfortable and safe falling into the usual story line is--something a bit differnt is always better. I hadn't even noticed I was going the usual rout until she pointed it out. Thank you!
The coming dawn was obscured by the slate sky raining a deafening downpour of monstrously large drops of water. Trenches of puddles had formed alongside the streets. Small rivers flowed down hills and umbrellas were ripped from numb hands. It was not a morning for anyone to be out. She watched her umbrella disappear in the gloom and wondered why she hadn't taken the weather man's advice. Summoned or not, she was going to be swept away and never found again. Lost to the monsoon.
Her blond hair was plastered to her skull in seconds after her umbrella had taken a different direction from her. Her hair's usual dark blond was almost black as it overflowed with angry drops. She didn't dare to even think to move, but soon remembered she wasn't allowed back inside. She would have to venture out after all. The only direction left to go was forward.
Her coat had become heavy full of water and weighing on her thin frame. Her eyes squinted through the downpour as she gave the indistinguishable space of grey her umbrella had fled to another sad longing glance. All of the stores were closed and the streets were empty, albeit the new rivers flowing around her boots. She frowned, burrowing her mouth deeper into the collar of her coat and seeking its warmth. Her jeans had begun to stick to her legs once they started to fill with water as well; they were pulling uncomfortably with every step she took through the layer of rain covering the sidewalk. The tough uncomfortable tread took an unplanned stop.
A familiar bitter taste entered her mouth and she stopped suddenly to rip her hands from her damp pockets and shove them over her throbbing ears. He was calling again. The sharp staccato pulsed through her head making her moan. She gritted her teeth and grimaced through the streams pouring down her face. Didn't he know how annoying his incessant calling was? Her honey eyes filled with upset tears as she scowled though the pain. Her hot tears instantly disappeared and became indistinguishable among the rain.
She pushed off the barred store window she had collapsed against and trudged on through the monsoon-like weather. Her ears continued to ring in the aftermath of his calling, a reminder that he would do it again if she didn't show soon. He was such an impatient man. She sighed into her collar. Her pretty face was drenched with rain and contorted into an angry frown as her boots sank further into the water gathering over the streets. She tightened her arms around herself in an attempt for warmth.
She wasn't familiar with the city, and the rain (the word did no justice to her situation) made it impossible to see more than blurry outlines of the distant buildings. Everything was an unhappy shade of grey. An uncontrolled shiver racked her body as a stream of water trickle down her back under her shirt. It had been Spring back home, she groaned longingly. Sun and flowers, she thought sighing in memory. To think she left it all behind for this.
He called again and the sharp taste numbed her mouth. There wasn't a shop window to fall against this time and she collapsed to her knees holding her soaking head in the middle of a large puddle. The sound of pounding rain and repeated splashes faded as another and another pulse shot through her head. Damn man. She growled climbing to her feet again. She encouraged her anger with him as it was the only thing that could keep her going. She feared that if she let her anger falter she would give up and drown in the street instead. She pushed off her knees straightening her back; the extra water from the puddle wasn't noticed. She had already been soaked to the bone. She couldn't remember a worse week.
During school her homeroom teacher had made a pass at her after class—the third girl to receive it. Yet her father still refused to hear anything of it. Her school was too prestigious to house such men. Then later that week their house's water main had broken flooding the kitchen and her room. And now this. The Gods were not on her side.
It'd been two days ago when she received the first of his calls. The distance had mellowed the pulse and had only made her gasp in the middle of class with surprise. That'd also been the day her father had received a call from Grandmother, the head of her father's family. It was time for him to give up his daughter, He wanted her in Japan. He wouldn't wait any longer. She was sad to recall the monotone her father had used to break the news. He felt nothing for her.
Her flight was the next day; she wouldn't see her father again. He'd been relieved.
"Goodbye, Otou-san." She didn't receive a responding farewell.
Her grandmother met her at the airport personally and then she was carted to the main Mamoto House immediately. She was stared at for her blond hair and strange eyes. She'd inherited the hair from her French mother, but the eyes ran on neither of the sides of her family. She was treated grudgingly at the Main House and children who knew her story gasped in fear. Why not? She wondered. Their mothers had told them stories about the monster to get them to sleep and to obey their words or the cursed Mamoto would take them away.
Grandmother had been civil as the Head of the Family very well should be. As it was Grandmother knew the full story; her knowledge was something few others could claim. Very little words had been expected from her during the stay. She was to leave for his Main House in the incredibly early morning. Back then she hadn't received another call from him. She hadn't realized how harmful the call would be in close range.
And so, she stopped at a corner squinting past the sheets of rain looking for any signs of cars. She knew no one else had been stupid enough to fair the storm, but it was a habit her father had brainwashed into her mind since a young age (--Look both ways, dear--) it had been the only paternal thing he had ever taught her before he gave up on her. She glanced down at the small decline on the sidewalk; it'd been drowned under a fast moving stream that had formed along the street. She frowned knowing she was going to have to walk through it. At least she wore her boots today. Heavy drops pounded on her skull as she hesitated. She was glad she wore waterproof mascara today too—though she couldn't imagine what could make her look any worse.
Looking up through the watery blanket she could see a huge estate across the street. The dark silhouette towered over the other homes on the opposite street. She had left the shops and small apartments behind and had entered a rich neighborhood in the city. She could feel the vibrations across the street; he was in that huge estate. A tiny fenced community trapped in the city. He took that time to call again. The worst call yet. She crumpled against the nearest light post wrapping her arms around the wet metal groaning with effort. She wouldn't fall into the street river sloshing against the sidewalk if she had anything to say about it. She clenched her teeth to ward off a cry and hugged the pole tighter. Why did it have to hurt so much?
The ringing left over from his call made her nose itch and eyes water as she tenderly moved across the small river and into the street. She had met him once before. He had come to her home with her father and had brought another man with him, a man she'd met many times before. He'd been kind enough and polite, but he wasn't a nice man. He had a scornful attitude and he hid behind an empty smile. He always had seemed like he was laughing at the world because of a joke only he understood. She remembered the man he brought with him fondly. She had always liked him; his only fault was his connection to Him. Though he rarely smiled toward her back then she could still imagine how much warmer it would be when she saw it again. It was discouraging to realize how much bigger an impact he'd made on her then her father had her whole life.
She solemnly knocked on the outside gate to the estate. Her hands were numb from the cold and her knuckles stung with the effort. The plaque above the huge doors had proved her assumption. She was at the Sohma Main House. The huge gate creaked open like an old tree and an older man with an umbrella met her wet glare.
"Akito-san has been waiting." He greeted. He stepped back to allow her inside the gates. She paused longingly in the doorway of the gate as the rain ceased to pound into her shoulders, but it was short lived as the wind shifted and pushed her inside. As they approached the largest of the buildings inside the walls she watched the man struggle with the umbrella. By some feat he managed to keep a hold of it.
Her escort frowned as she twisted her hair over her shoulder releasing hands full of water onto the rock floor. She hadn't the will to be polite after fairing the storm. He took her drenched coat without a word as she mildly mused over the only slightly damp state of her thin jacket and shirt she wore under her heavy coat, a minor miracle to be happy for. Her under clothes were sticking close to her body from the moisture and tracing her athletic form quite clearly—she pulled on the fabric trying to hide in the folds again. And of course her jeans were many shades darker than they started out as. The thick material pulled on her legs uncomfortably.
As the man left to hang her coat somewhere it could dry properly she pulled at her jeans trying to unstuck them—there was no such luck. Sighing, she shook her head layering the front room with even more water. Feeling lighter she slumped onto the step that led to the rest of the house and pulled off her black boots. She smiled surprised with another small miracle as she found her socks dry. That was one thing going right.
The man that took her coat came back with a towel for her. She toweled her face and hair gratefully and gave the cloth back heavy and damp. He felt bad for her having to walk the storm and everything. And now what would Akito-san say about her state? He worried as he disposed of the towel in the kitchen. He hurried back to the girl ready to lead her to the room her welcoming party waited. He really didn't understand why most of the people in the room were there in the first place. Most were just children. Who was she exactly?
She stood taller than the short man—he was maybe a few inches over five foot, and he shuffled along the halls in a plain dark blue kimono-ish outfit with his back hunched. She rearranged her damp hair with a slight frown feeling a self-conscious wave overcome her. She felt like she shouldn't be presented to anyone the way she looked now. A sigh filled her ribs once more before she took off with the man down another hall to face Akito. The house was as quiet as a home could manage in such a storm. It felt like everyone was still asleep as they should. It seemed almost a sin to be awake so early on a Sunday. She frowned again missing her bed.
Inside, the storm was like an ominous growl shaking the roof and rattling the sliding doors down all of the halls. She mildly wondered if the pits of hell would open up under the house and release pain and torture onto human kind for their sins. She tried not to shakily laugh at the thought as her situation demanded a serious attitude and not a childish one. Her guide stopped and asked her to wait there as he approached a singled out set of traditional sliding doors. He entered almost reluctantly and slid the door shut behind him with a soft snap. The storm roared as soon as she was alone in the dark hallway as if it knew her nerves were already strained. The monsoon had decided to add thunder and lightning to its résumé. The paper walls lit up as lightning flashed through the rain. Suddenly her light attitude from before was lost, and she didn't feel like laughing anymore.
She felt cold left alone in the wide hallway in more than one way. She held herself repeating the route out of the house in her head for comfort. She had mesmerized all of the turns they had taken just in case. She didn't care that Akito was able to call to her with a painful pulse. She would run if she ever felt inclined to.
She could see through the wall that the room Akito was in was well lit; the paper door and walls were glowing with the light as shadows minutely passed over them. But the hardly transparent walls were surprisingly efficient at muting any sound from coming out of the room. She strained her ears while trying to ignore the remaining ringing from their abuse as she listened for anything coming from the room. All she heard was the moans and grumbles of the storm, and the resulting strain the house had to endure because of it. She heard nothing from the room. Quite unfortunate.
She swallowed a surprised gasp as the door slid open suddenly. Where had these nerves come from? It was only her future under discussion. Goose bumps grew across her arms and back rubbing painfully against her shirt. What was bothering her?
"They will see you now, Miss." It was the man that had escorted her through the house. He looked kind of sad. They? She realized with surprise. She hadn't known anyone else was going to be there. Would he be there too with Akito? She quickly buried the thoughts as she tried to observe the man's face. What had they said to him to make him frown? She wondered slowly nodding as she approached the door. "Good luck." He whispered before softly shutting the door behind her. She turned and stared at the closed door jam in surprise. Good luck? She thought worried.
Once on the other side of the doors the normal sound of living people brushed against her bruised ears. There were lots of people in this room and much more than two. Most of the people were starring at her now including Akito; he stood at the center of their weird circle like the ring master of a dark circus. Thoughts of a cult passed through her mind as Akito held her stare away from anyone else in the room.
She blanked her face and straightened her back ignoring the goose bumps. The room was much larger then she had first thought. It must have been Akito's sitting room because of the big self important chair set against the far wall. And in front of that chair Akito still commanded her attention. She cocked her head in confusion. There were at least ten people kneeling on the wooden floor around Akito: that much she could guess from the blurred edges of her vision. Some were tall and adult-ish looking, and still others were small as if children. What an odd group.
In the large room the storm seemed (if possible) even louder. She couldn't lift her confusion, why were there so many people there? What was the purpose? What was going on? Why hadn't Grandmother prepared her for this?
"Nani?" She voiced her confusion and stared skeptically at Akito. She was happy her nerves could be so easily buried under her confusion. Akito turned the rest of the way toward her and emptily smiled at her. She remembered that smile. He was dressed in some weird kimono outfit that sagged from his narrow shoulders and touched the floor. She shuddered to think what would happened to her if she was a nerve-wrecked mess standing before Akito rather than the wet stubborn form she was struggling to hold onto.
She glanced away from him for the first time and observed the circle around him; she saw him frown out the corner of her eye with some satisfaction. She received shocked looks from most of them but controlled a smile as she recognized one man. Even in the dim light she could recognize him when no one else had distinguishing features. All of the other faces were blurred and shapeless in the horrible light, but Hatori-san was clear as a summer day. He nodded discreetly to her and the corner of her lips twitched as she noticed him hold back his own form of a smile. How she had missed him. And he was happy to see her; she thought lifting her head and looking back to Akito. She could do this after all. No need to fear.
"You had us waiting for such a long time, Mamoto-san." He said instead of answering her confused gaze. She could taste the other fear in the air once she conquered her own; Akito was obviously the subject of the bitter emotion. He couldn't have been too much of a family man if most of the shapeless faces were scared of him. But he wasn't the head of her family; and she wasn't part of his family at that. She would only give him the respect of an acquaintance.
"I'd guess you haven't looked out the window yet, Sohma-san." She answered. It was hard not to notice the dampness of her appearance. She stared at him un-amused as he laughed humoring her. How could he hold her accountable for her tardiness? If he'd left her brain alone she might have arrived at a more suitable time, but she wasn't willing to let him know how effective his calling was.
"Please, come farther into the room." He said waving her in. "All of you can leave. Hatori, stay." He announced to the rest of the occupants, the tone change between addressing her and addressing his family was uncomfortably harsh. She didn't move as the circle obediently broke apart and walked past her to the door. The light around her was even worse, but as they neared she picked a few remarkable features she could recognize later. Few met her eyes, and most ignored her as sleep called their names. She counted the group as they past her: twelve. And counting Hatori-san, thirteen. Her eyes widened and she turned watching the last of them leave through the door. "Yes," Akito answered her unasked question. "All of the cursed Sohma's must be present to call the Kitsune. Welcome to your new family, Anju-san." He announced spreading his robed arms wide.
She glared as he thought she would have. Akito turned looking indifferent to her scowl and draped himself into his chair set into the wall. Her eye twitched at the formal and extravagant decorations surrounding the simple chair. It was too much; she thought sighing and deciding to saunter farther into the room. She refused to let Akito get to her. She didn't want to be one of the scared kids that had passed her.
"Do you know why the Kitsune only appears into your family? Why it's never born into the Sohma family like the rest of the spirits?" He asked after she had situated herself on the floor next to Hatori-san.
"Of course." Anju Mamoto answered seriously. "Obaa-san told me the story as soon as I had the attention span to listen to the whole thing." Anju said to Akito staring up at him in his seat innocently. And in truth she was innocent as she had never done anything to him; nothing had come from her to intentionally hurt him. Akito nodded to Anju encouraging her to tell him the story she knew. "Well," Anju thought glancing to the side to stare at the wall as she remembered the story of the kitsune. "Obaa-san said God had intentionally cursed the fox for its devious and cunning nature long before he made the mistake of befalling his friends of the Zodiac." Anju said. She hadn't been sure she would be able to recall the jest of the story. "The separate incident resulted in a separate family." Grandmother had told her the story a long time ago. "Though I can't remember what the fox did to be cursed." She admitted looking up at Akito to see if he knew.
Akito nodded looking back at her. She settled in quickly, he noticed, as she waited for him to say what she had indirectly asked. Anju Mamoto was the burden of the Mamoto Family, and the secret they had tried to bury away and forget. Akito had been the one to track her down after he'd found the story of the devious fox. He was the owner of the complete set, and she wouldn't escape him either.
"Of course, the story has always been remembered through an old nursery rhyme. It refers to the deity isolated on his hilltop. Among the clouds and mountain peaks God could see the on goings of man." Though Anju wouldn't understand Hatori-san had barely been able to hide his shock. Akito was telling Anju a story. "Particularly, he could see one man's farm where he raised his animals. And as God watched the man work hard to raise his stock every morning he would find his hen house broken into and the birds slaughtered." Anju nodded as she began to remember and Akito smiled to himself. He continued to stare past Anju and Hatori as he recited the story he had found in an old book to couple the rhyme. "And sadly the man would gather all the money he had saved and purchase more birds for his farm. God grew sympathetic for the man, and one night, he stayed watching the farm." Akito sighed dramatically as he tried to recall the rest of the story. "God watched the Kitsune approach the farm, and watched the animal trick the farmer's dogs to look for it in the barn. And finally, God watched angrily as the Kitsune took its pick of hens and retreated into the orchards unopposed."
"God cursed the Kitsune because it needed to eat?" Anju asked frowning. Again, Hatori watched as Akito didn't grow angry with Anju. What had this girl done to Akito? Did his power really only reign over the Sohma family?
"He cursed the Kitsune because of his sympathies with the farmer. That's the way the story goes. Of course there's no way to know if it's true or not. " Akito explained still staring off at the opposite wall. Akito never said if God had been right to do so or if he thought the decision were a bad one. Anju sighed folding her hands in her lap looking indifferent and at ease. Silly bedtime stories couldn't explain everything she decided. That was no reason for her curse. The story probably only surfaced to try and explain what happened to her family through each generation.
"Seems an awful long time to be cursed over eating a man's chickens." She mused aloud, tracing the rings in the wood floor with her honey colored eyes. "So did bring me here only to find out how much I knew of the Kitsune's story?" She asked, meeting Akito's gaze and pushing herself off of her palms to sit properly. "Or is there something else on your mind, Sohma-san?"
"Your Grandmother agreed that you will be living with us now. You'll have breakfast with Hatori-san at eight." That was Anju and Hatori's cue to leave but Anju couldn't bring herself to even take a breath yet. That had been very direct. They finally just got rid of her. She frowned as her eyes clouded over. Anju never knew she had actually been given away to the Sohma's. Not even her father had told her, but he had never been approachable with her. And he resented her for carrying the curse. But he had still been her father. He should have told her so she could have been better prepared for this moment.
"Oh." Anju said staring at nothing in particular. She heard Hatori-san stand next to her and felt his hands guide her to her feet. "I'm not staying here, am I?" She asked widening her eyes. Anju couldn't even imagine that happening. Akito ignored the look she adopted and simply gazed out at the door that led to a garden inside the estate. Lightning flashed dramatically as Anju waited for Akito's answer. Her fate depending a great deal on this horrible man now, she couldn't believe her luck. Did God resent her for those chickens too? Would this never end?
"After the storm passes, I decided that you'll live outside the estate. It seems the best place to keep you as you're not actually a Sohma." Anju didn't remember much else after Hatori-san dragged her from the room.
Review and tell me what you think! It's not much differnt now but the small tweaks I did now will completely change the destination for this story. So REVIEW!