Haru rushed outside onto the dark, black street, his feet hitting sharply against the pavement as he slowed down to stand in front of the stormy girl. Her entire frame was comparable to a rainstorm. Her ink-black hair blew around her body in beautiful mess, her eyes like lightning and her fists balled up, threatening to strike him down if he got any closer. It was surprising how she could still run while wearing high-heeled boots that reached her knees, but this meant little to nothing to Haru. All he could think of was how she was right there, in front of him. He wouldn't let her get away this time.
"Rin!" he called, but she kept running. Apparently she knew he was there. With a rustle of clothing he ran after her, adrenaline fuelling his body. Her black hair flowed behind her like a wave, and he caught her by the arm roughly when he got close enough, not daring to go easy on her just because she was, well, Rin. She was not to be taken lightly, ever. He had learned that well enough over the past years. She spun around, her eyes fierce even though she knew she was caught.
"What do you want?" she snapped. "Are you going to tell me all about your new little girl friend? Or will you just pretend like nobody knows?" Her words crackled like a whip and her tone dripped with venom. Haru didn't flinch, but his stone-cold eyes bored deeply into hers.
"Rin, we need to talk." he tried to stress the importance, but she continued to stare furiously at him, blocking out his words. He persisted. "About us."
"There's nothing about us anymore, Haru." she said flatly, still struggling in his grip, twisting this way and that. For such a skinny girl, she was surprisingly well-muscled. Haru looked into her eyes as they widened in surprise.
"Then why are you acting like you're so jealous?" he asked quietly. Rin looked at him in amazement for a few seconds, but then pushed him away roughly, and he let her go. She didn't run, and he knew she wouldn't.
"Don't touch me." she shook her arms, as if his fingers had burned her.
"Ok, fine, I won't." he muttered. Rin's eyes remained just as guarded; she could never be sure of him.
Haru watched her through the dim, pulsating lights of the city; she wore a short skirt, a revealing top, and her leather boots. Attractive. He remembered the days he would hold her in his arms, the only sound between them the beating of their hearts. But now all she would do was push him away. Finally her eyes returned to him, furious. He found that made her even more beautiful. Or maybe he had always seen her that way. Maybe just being in her presence made her beautiful to him.
"I came here to warn you." she said shortly.
"About what?" he asked.
"The Zodiac members are being divided. I overheard this from members of the family. It seems people are being picked and others labeled as traitors."
"Dividing the zodiac?" he shook his head, running a hand over his hair. "This doesn't make any sense."
"Better start believing it." she said dryly. "Because it's true. Starting today the selection's being put into place." Haru stalked around the street, attempting to absorb this new information. Rin watched him with crossed arms. "It's not about Tohru anymore, Haru. Can't you see that? It's about something much bigger than that."
Haru took a moment to think, silently looking away, then met her eyes, his own dark and holding some deep thought.
"What side are you on?" he asked.
"It all depends." she said. She seemed to struggle with her words as she added quietly, almost in a whisper, "And you?"
"Same answer." he said. It seemed as though now they were sharing a private discussion, whereas before it had been a yelling match. Both of them were filled with a kind of longing, a kind of sadness, but were too afraid to express their feelings. Haru wondered if they were even speaking about the zodiac anymore, or about them. It all depends. Her words rang through his mind, and he had a feeling that they wouldn't stop for a while yet.
"Just think of where your loyalty lies, Haru." she said, her dark hair blowing wildly in the wind. "I'll be waiting to hear your answer." Then she turned and ran off, too quickly for him to call out her name or stop her. Damn.
Haru didn't know whether he felt sad or empty about what had just happened. Now none of that matters, though, he thought. There were more important things happening than his feelings, however much of a lost cause they might be. He knew that he had to do something, and soon. No matter what Rin had said, Tohru was still the most important thing if the zodiac members against them were after her. He cursed aloud, which didn't help but made things a whole lot easier to deal with.
He would help make this right, in his own way. He had to. And that's when he knew he had a plan.
I felt my hands shake as I picked up my food, my stomach churning. I was eating outdoors, near a river, with Hana and Yuki. I tried to concentrate on the task at hand, but my mind kept wandering frantically away.
Something had happened, then—at the festival. I had just gone to look at all the pretty things and see the sights—and then I had seen him. Kyo. It was still a mystery to me how I knew his name, but I did.
I took a deep breath in, feeling the inside of my stomach squirm with anxiety as tears filled the sides of my eyes. I guess it scared me—knowing but not knowing. And then feeling emotions that I had never felt before for anyone…
But that was hardly the most interesting part of it all, the feelings. He had walked up toward me. It was all very intimidating, really, no matter how breathless or overrun with emotions I was—his girlfriend was staring at me so intensely I thought I would melt on the spot. So I ran. It was foolish, it was ungraceful, I know—but I couldn't help it. It was like an instinct.
And the silliest part of it all is that he followed me.
* * * *
I thought I had escaped him. But he was right behind me the whole time. For some reason this seemed almost like a ritual now; running, being chased, running…it was like I was following a rhythm. But this time I didn't play the melody alone.
He caught up with me, panting and out of breath. I felt my nerves on edge and I didn't know which way to go. Thoughts were speeding through my mind, telling me what to do, and I worried over each course of action. I don't know what to do!
"Tohru," he spoke finally, breathless. I felt like running again, fear pulsing through my veins and I realized my heart beat quickened at the sound of his voice. I tried to choke it down.
"Tohru." he repeated, and tentavily stepped closer to me. Why was I so scared of him? No, I decided, this isn't fear. It's sadness. It was sadness like I had lost someone. It didn't make any sense. I didn't want to cry in front of a stranger, but my emotions were running too high.
I let my tears fall, closing my eyes, and then opened them to look up at him. He was very close now, only a few inches of space between us, his gaze intent. And when I looked up and saw his calm face, I realized that I knew him, but my mind struggled to piece together memories with his face.
"I…" All fear or sadness had left me completely, now overrun with a kind of mist overlapping my mind. He seemed ready to grab my shoulders, he was so tense.
"What? Tohru, say something, what?" he asked, throwing out each question so quickly.
"Kyo." I said, and a smile spread unto my lips as if the sun had just filtered through a cloud, as if all the answers were finally there, on his face, in his eyes.
"Yes." he said, and I could have sworn I saw the same happiness in his eyes in that instant. Everything in the world suddenly seemed to shine, as if everything was set right. I think I speak for us both when I say I felt as though I could have faced anything in the world at that moment. "I've been waiting so long to tell you, so now I can finally say it."
And then he reached out and hugged me, pressing me to his chest for only an instant, his face in my hair and I felt a wetness on my head and I realized he was crying, too.
"I don't know why I'm so joyful right now," I remarked, digging my face into the crook of his shoulder.
"Does it really matter?" he asked, and I realized the truth of his words. "I just can't believe I'm…you're…we're hugging and nothing's.." he trailed off, wrapping his arms around me. I could feel his bracelet pressing against my head, in my hair, and my mind registered faintly that I could even smell him. My eyes shut tighter and wished that there was some way I could get nearer him, closer to his heart.
"Tohru, now that everything's okay, I need to tell you. I've missed you so much, and I--"
And then he was gone.
* * * *
I still can't explain it. It's like there's a blank in my memory, or a blackout or something—and the worst part is I can't even prove he was ever there. As if it had all been a daydream.
I considered my lunch, pretending to not be lost in my thoughts. No, I couldn't prove he was real. But those feelings I had had—that moment I had shared with him…whether it was real or not, it was something that I treasured.
I hoped I would meet someone like him some day, and maybe make a relationship work. When we had recognized each other, it had been beautiful. I wanted to love like that for real. It was strong, it was a bond—and it left a glowing impression of happiness on me that I couldn't explain.
"Tohru-kun?" Yuki said, as if he had been asking me a question and I hadn't answered.
"Huh?" I said, a little too loudly and surprised.
"You've barely touched your food at all, besides holding it near your face. Are you alright?"
"Uh, yeah, sorry." I said, feeling embarassed. "I was just lost in my thoughts for a while. But now I'm back! So how are you enjoying the lunch?"
"It's very good." Hana said, nodding. "These strawberries you grew taste excellent." she said, speaking now to Yuki. He blushed a bit.
"Thank you. Strawberries…well, they're my favorite." he looked at me when he said that, and I wondered if it had some second meaning I was unaware of.
"So, Yuki, you seemed kind of rushed when you arrived." I noted.
"Yeah, sorry I was late. Things have been tight with my family lately." There was a pause as I waited for him to explain, but he remained silent, returning to his lunch. I felt that maybe it was best not to ask why.
As it turns out, everyone enjoyed the food and we all talked pleasantly with each other. Yuki added comments here and there, seemingly casual, but I could tell there was some other meaning behind his words. He was checking on my safety, and I could tell this from more than just his words—every now and then his body language would become very defensive, protective—and he tended to ask me questions about how I was feeling. He might be able to hide it from most people, but I could tell.
And I noticed something else—whenever he would ask a question in that way, he would turn to look at Hana. It was as if he was confirming something with her. I wondered if they knew something I didn't.
Yuki didn't stay for long—at half past sharp he looked up and excused himself, saying he had to be somewhere and left in a rush. Hana and I had said our goodbyes, and I had held a little worry in my heart—I hoped things would work out with his family. Hana sat quietly sipping her iced drink and I picked at a strawberry desert Yuki had prepared.
"That was nice," Hana said, smiling.
"Yes, thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it." I said, delighted. Hana paused, looking around at the trees. I waited patiently for her to speak; she seemed to be formulating her ideas. Finally she turned to look at me.
"I know why Yuki was here today." she said, her pale fingers gliding across her small plate as she spoke, a habit. "I could sense his waves emenating off of him from a mile away. He's nervous. I'm not sure about what, exactly—but most of all, he's worried for you. In a very protective way." I nodded; I could tell as much. "But I wanted you to know I'm a little worried, too. I don't want you to get hurt." Her last words seemed to drag on a bit, as if she was going to continue but didn't. I felt my arms go weak as she spoke—to think I had friends that cared so much for me!
"Hana, I'll be alright. Really, there's nothing to worry about." She smiled faintly as if she wished it were true, but didn't believe it. "Looks like I'll have to prove to both of you that I can take care of myself. I learned to do so when Mom died, and since then I've gotten a job and I'm doing a lot better in school. I know I hurt myself, but it was just once and now I'm back on my feet." I put as much enthusiasm into that little speech as I possibly could, to make sure she knew I meant it. She seemed consoled. I smiled back, glad I could calm my friend. We spent the rest of the time laughing, just like before.
Hana passed her fingers through her hair, thinking, the long dark locks hanging loosely over her shoulders.
The lunch had gone well. She had managed to gather information about Tohru as well as meet with Yuki for the second time. She picked up the note that was left sitting near her. It was written in Yuki's neat, elegant script.
Hanajima-san, I need you to keep preparing, and thank you.
Shishou had told her all about what had happened to Tohru when she had visited him. He had told her that Tohru's memory had been erased by supernatural powers, something that she understood very well since she had such powers herself. She had been curious and had asked many questions, which he answered—but afterwards he had made her promise not to speak a word of it to anyone she couldn't trust. He didn't have to explain why; she understood that the circumstances were serious.
Hana stretched out her hand and watched as sparks of something resembling electricity ran across her fingers. She had a plan to help Tohru, but she wouldn't be doing it alone.
She had a group. They would rebel against anyone who stood in their way.
Kyo walked along the street, holding the letter his family had sent him tightly in his left hand, the one that was asking him to move away and leave all this world behind. He looked down, briefly drifting off into his thoughts, into his memories; delving into the reality of what had happened only days ago.
Tohru had remembered him again. It was true, what Yuki had said—she was remembering more and more. He would have to congratulate him the next time he saw him, for being right (for once). The feelings he had felt during those few moments….they were the happiest seconds of his life. He had almost gotten the chance to tell her what he had been waiting to say but right before the words escaped his mouth he had transformed.
He had never felt more like a human being than he had when he had been with her. It was as if ever single part of him had been relieved, as if the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders and suddenly she was there, and she was Tohru again, and that was all that had mattered. He had felt shaken, he had felt light headed, and the only word he knew anymore was her name.
But when he had received that letter—it was difficult to explain. His entire life had been centered around being exiled and confined when he reached an adult age, but now they offered him freedom. They offered him a life; all he had to do was leave all of this behind. Everything he worked for, every relationship he built, every dream he had—he had to throw it away.
Kyo pushed the door open roughly, arrogantly. He wasn't about to be polite to the people who had worked so hard to screw up his life. As he had expected, there were family members there, caught by surprise. Good. He wanted them to be schocked. In a way, he saw this like a martial arts match. He didn't set the rules, but he struck at his opponent hard every time he or she looked weak. Looks like it's time to fight.
Kyo looked a way, a split second of decision. Tohru. She was etched into his very being—every breath and every step he took was about her. He knew it was too late to be thinking about this, that he had already made his decision—but he couldn't help it. It was almost a reflex now.
"I've decided." he said, pushing back his thoughts and the pain in his chest. "I'm leaving."
Sometimes love isn't enough. We make our own choices. Sometimes feelings don't cope with those decisions, and sometimes they run achingly through our veins for years. Kyo knew he would have to deal with that for the rest of his life, but he had to move forward.
He had a new life to live.