Summary: Kyo and Tohru married after graduation, but she suddenly vanished at the urging of Akito. It's been almost eighteen years since anyone in the Sohma family has seen her, but now she's suddenly come home, and with an orange-haired reason…
The Last Banquet
Chapter 6 - The Formal Introduction
Kyo's heart nearly beat out of his chest as he stood in front of Miharu's room. He felt like proposing to Tohru was child's play compared to meeting his daughter.
"Okay Kyo," He chanted, trying to encourage himself, "you can do this! It's your kid and you want to meet her!" Suddenly what little courage he did have escaped him and he hung his head in defeat as he sighed. "Hell, who am I kidding, this is terrifying!"
Yet after admitting his fear, he seemed to feel ready for this. Breathing steadily as he knocked on the door, he waited for it to open.
"Huh?" Hazuki quietly said, turning his head to look back at the door. He looked back down at Miharu, whose eyes had also flittered to the door. She had since stopped crying and calmed down completely, but liked the warmth that Hazuki offered. "Let me answer the door, okay?"
"…Okay..." She replied, though reluctant to let her source of comfort leave her.
As she slowly loosened her grip on his navy colored uniform, she sat up along with him, rubbing the back of her head with a slight grimace on her face as she watched him go to the door.
Hazuki was surprised to see a visibly nervous Kyo on the other side of the door.
"Hey, Hazuki." Kyo halfheartedly greeted him. "Sorry, I'm looking for Miharu, I thought this was her room."
"It is." The teenager replied, stepping out of the way, revealing the said girl.
Kyo could swear he felt his heart stopping. Sitting inside was the child he never knew he had, actually in front of him, and not in the form of the Cat demon. The round face and large blue eyes watched him in the doorway, surprise lining her face. 'She looks so much like Tohru…'
It was a heavy moment, and Hazuki could feel it in the air. "I, uh, guess I'll leave you two alone. You gonna be okay, Miharu?" He asked, looking from Kyo to Miharu.
She never took her eyes off her father. "Yeah…I think I'll be alright."
"Okay." Was his reply as he slowly stepped out of the room, shutting the door behind him. Ever so slowly, he made his way to the stairs, taking his time going down each step.
Back in the room, Kyo nervously went over and sat down in front of Miharu.
"Uh, hello Miharu." He said, figuring he had to begin somewhere, fidgeting a bit.
She was pretty sure she knew who this man was and why he was here, but she waited for him to affirm it. "…Hi…and you are who exactly…?"
He didn't really know where to begin, so he just introduced himself. "Maybe you already know, but my name's Kyo Sohma. I'm, ah, I'm your," he gulped before saying the last word, "father."
The emotionless look on Miharu's face had scared Kyo more than anything. The moment felt like an eternity for Kyo as she said nothing.
"So," She finally began, her blue eyes examining Kyo's face as if this was the last time she would ever see him, "you're the one who named me."
His red eyes flew open at the statement and a certain memory came to mind.
"Kyo, if we ever had a child, what would you want to name it?" Tohru innocently asked out of the blue as she and Kyo were doing some shopping.
The question caught him off guard, but he wanted to answer anyway. "Well…I always liked Naota for a boy."
Tohru smiled. "That's a cute name, I like it. But what if we had a girl?"
"Hm…" He stopped to think it over. "Miharu. I'd name her Miharu."
"Miharu?" Tohru asked.
"It means 'protector'." Kyo replied, resuming his walk. "Miharu is a strong name. I want her to be able to have a strong resolve and stay tough no matter what. To stand up for herself and others and what she believes in. A perfect name for a girl. Especially a Sohma."
"That's such a pretty name." Tohru replied, a warm smile running across her face. "But why give the girl the stronger name?"
"Because the boy would be just like me, he wouldn't need a tough name to live up too." Kyo joked, laughing a bit as he wrapped an arm around Tohrus shoulders as she laughed along with him, continuing on their way.
The memory made Kyo want to cry as it pulled at his heartstrings. Tohru had taken the conversation to heart, and even after leaving she gave their child the name he wanted her to have. "Yeah, yeah I am." He said, an almost sad looking smile lining his face because of Tohru. "You're a pretty tough girl, especially with what you did to Akito and all. Obviously you're living up to the name."
A scowl he recognized as his own creeped up on Miharu's face. "The bastard deserved what he had coming to him."
Kyo laughed a bit. "I can't deny the truth in that." He could feel an awkward silence coming on, so he shifted the conversation to the item in his hands. "So, you're the Cat, huh?"
"You saw that?" She replied, though looking at him like it really wasn't that big a deal. "Honestly, I'm pretty surprised you aren't scared of me right now."
Kyo let out a little laugh. "I've seen it before. I know what happens when you lose them. Actually, I saw Akito destroy your Zodiac beads."
The statement hit Miharu like a ton of bricks and her eyes flashed down to her wrist. "Oh-oh my God, they really are gone…!"
"Hey, don't freak out or anything!" Kyo said, placing a hand on her shoulder in hopes of preventing a meltdown. "You'll be alright!"
She looked at him like he was insane. "How the hell is that possible!"
Kyo looked at her and gave an understanding smile that made Miharu stop and pay attention. "I don't know if you mother told you this, but the Cat before you was me." He grabbed her left hand and swiftly slid the beads he bore all his life onto his daughters wrist. "I've had to wear these since birth. I also know the feeling of how hopeless and terrifying it is when you don't have them. For the past thirty six years they were mine, but I know you need them more than I do. And as your father, I want to be the one to give them to you. I want this to be the first step in knowing and learning to love you, Miharu."
Miharu's eyes glittered with shock as she slowly moved her eyes from her fathers to her wrist. She couldn't muster up the words to thank him. As she brought her arm closer to her, she examined the black and white beads. They were identical to the ones she had always wore, and they had the same heavy feeling of loneliness hers had. She sincerely wanted to thank him for giving up such an important part of himself to her, but she couldn't speak. Instead she did the next best thing.
She leapt from her place on the floor and wrapped her arms around her father.
Kyo was stunned, but for the second he had, he tightly embraced her. For that one second, he really did feel connected to Miharu and he just knew she was his. 'I should not have had to wait sixteen years for this.'. He thought, a cloud of pastel red clouding his vision and a ball of fur and clothes in his arms.
As the smoke disappeared, he held up the petite cat. Kyo couldn't help but smile as he looked at her. The blue in her eyes seemed brighter against her soft reddish fur, and her tail was significantly fluffier than his had been. But what really got him was all the piercings in her ears had stayed in, all five in each ear. He couldn't help but snicker a bit.
Her feline face gave him a questioning look. "What? Don't laugh! I know I look funny, my fur's all short but my tail is super fluffy…it looks ridiculous…" She felt so embarrassed she could scratch him in the face.
"No, it's not that." Kyo smiled, looking from her ears to her eyes. "I've just never seen a cat with pierced ears before."
"Oh, these?" Miharu asked, pawing at one of her ears. "Yeah, it's pretty cool they stay. It'd suck if I lost them. By the way, is the seahorse here?"
"Seahorse?" He asked, raising an eyebrow. "You mean Riku?"
"No, the doctor one." She replied.
"Oh, Hatori." Kyo said, thinking she meant the current Dragon. "Yeah, he's downstairs. Your mom needed some stitches after the whole Akito thing. Why?"
"I hit my head pretty hard when Hazuki jumped me at the main house." Miharu responded. "I can't shake this dizzy feeling, and I'm pretty sure the lump on the back of my head is the size of a small planet. Hazuki was gonna get him for me a little while ago, but I didn't let him. Besides, I'm about to change back anyway."
Kyo immediately set the small cat down. "I'll go get Hatori for you then…"
No sooner did he turn his back to leave, he heard an all too familiar poof sound. 'Safe! Made it out just in time.'
The rapid beating never left Kyos chest as he made his way down the stairs. A thousand thoughts had filled his head, and part of him still believed this was all just a dream.
As he hit the base of the steps and rounded the corner to the living room, he had heard the voices of its occupants.
"Hey, Hatori." Kyo said, breaking up the little group talk they were having. "Miharu hit her head pretty hard earlier, she wants you to check it out."
"Very well." He replied, getting up and passing Kyo in the doorway. Once past, Kyo went and took his place next to Tohru at the table, where Hazuki had joined his father and the rest of them there.
"How did it go, Kyo?" Tohru asked, impatience eating away at her.
Kyo looked up at nothing in particular as the event played through his head. "It was…it went pretty well, actually."
Hope shined in Tohrus eyes. "Really?"
"Yeah." He replied with a stunned smile, all the stress of meeting Miharu vanishing from him. "She was a bit skeptical at first yeah, but once I said who I was, she seemed open to the idea of talking to me. I told her I was the previous Cat, so that seemed to really break the ice with her."
Tohru looked like as if the weight of the world was lifted from her shoulders. "Oh, you don't know how relieved that makes me feel…!"
Kyo gave her and odd look. "Why, you think she'd hate me or something?"
"No!" Tohru replied. "But…Miharu usually hates new people. She's always been like that, never really wanting to get close to others. She had a friend in Hokkaido, but something happened and her trust in others was badly damaged. Anyways, I'm glad she took to you."
"What happened in Hokkaido?" Kyo asked, wanting to know more about his daughter.
Tohru looked sad. "It happened at school. Miharu hasn't even told me about it yet. Every time I brought it up, she just flew into an uncontrollable rage. I figure one day she'll tell me on her own. All I know is one day I received a call from work and her teachers had told me she was in the hospital and they had expelled about seven girls. Even they weren't sure what happened."
"How long ago was this?" Kazuma asked, some pain lining his face for his granddaughter.
"About three months ago." Tohru replied. "Before I told her about moving back to Tokyo. I withdrew her from school the next day and pretty much made up my mind about coming back here as soon as possible."
"Is that why she keeps her arm wrapped up in gauze then?" Hazuki spoke up, his interest in this school incident highly peaked. "I noticed it today, and the day I met her too."
Tohru blinked in surprise. "Y-yes, it is. Though I'm sure the wounds on her arm have long healed, I'm not really sure why she keeps it on."
Yuki looked at his son, curiosity clearly covering his face. "You met Miharu-chan before? How long ago?"
"About a week ago." He replied, looking to his father. Then a bit of shame lined his face. "You remember that day I came home with a black eye?"
"Yes." Yuki replied.
"Yeah, she did it." He admitted.
Then suspicion arose in Yuki. "But you told me you got hit in the eye playing baseball at school. So why the lie?"
"I told him not to tell anyone about Miharu." Hatori said, popping into the room out of nowhere. "Shigure, Shouta, Riku and Katara, they also were not to tell anyone about her. If Akito found out they knew before he did, they would be in serious trouble. I wanted to spare them."
"Makes sense." Yuki agreed.
"How's Miharu?" Kyo asked, beating Tohru to the punch.
"Nothing serious." He replied. "She hit her head hard, but she doesn't have a concussion or anything. But with what she's been through today, I would just leave her be and let rest. The day has been traumatic for everyone."
"Hatori-san, do you know how Akito-sama is?" Tohru asked. Despite the fact that he tried to kill her, she couldn't help but wonder if her daughter had killed him or not.
"Not yet." He replied, walking over and picking up his bag. "Speaking of which, I really should be heading to the hospital and see how he is and how long he'll be there. I'll see myself out."
"Have a good night then, Hatori-san." Kazuma smiled, giving him another bow. "Again, thank you for coming over."
"It was no problem at all." Hatori replied. "Have a good night." And with that, Hatori left Kazumas home.
Turning back to face each other, Yuki was the one who spoke up next as he looked at his son. "I think we'll be doing the same. Machi will probably start worrying if we're not home soon."
"Oh, and uncle Kakeru is coming over for dinner with aunt Komaki!" Hazuki exclaimed, eyes wide with realization. "We have to go, mom'll kill him if we're not there to protect him."
Yuki blinked a few times as he processed the words. "You're right, I completely forgot about that." He said, reaching in his pocket for his cell phone and getting up, Hazuki following. "Damn, it's almost eight. I guess we'll be leaving also."
"Have a safe trip home then, Yuki-kun, Hazuki-kun." Tohru said, giving them a smile as she said goodbye. Both men waved and left, leaving only Kyo, Kazuma and Tohru.
There was an awkward silence for what seemed like the longest time before Kazuma spoke.
"So. What are you two going to do?"
Tohru and Kyo looked from Kazuma to each other then back to Kazuma.
"W-what?" Kyo said dumbly.
"What do you mean, Shishou-san?" She was nervous as she asked.
Kazuma smiled. "About your relationship."
"Oh!" They both said together as they looked at each other. Each of them had the same unsure look on their faces.
Tohru never tore her gaze from Kyo as she spoke. "I…I really don't know right now. In all honesty I came home expecting a grave, not the real thing. I still love you so, so much and I'd give anything to be with you again. But now, I just…I can't think."
As she looked down, Kyo cupped her face with one hand to bring her attention back. "I can tell you're getting that guilty look on your face. What you're feeling, it's okay. Truthfully, I'm feeling the same way. And I'm not sure where to go at this point."
"I'm not saying let's just forget about each other and pretend we were never married or anything. I never thought I would, but I finally got you back. And I know we can't go back to before the Akito thing, but I want to see how we can make the best of this and where we can go from here." He smiled, making Tohru feel calm. "Just jumping in and trying to go back to like it was before would be a relationship suicide. Let's just think on this for a while, okay?"
Tohru reached up and placed her hand on Kyo's, and gave a teary smile. "I think you're right, Kyo. That would be irresponsible, and then there's Miharu to think of. And she needs so much help right now from the both of us."
Kazuma gave a clap and said with a smile. "Very wise decision, both of you. It's very much in your family's best interests you take this slow. Especially for your daughter. She finally has a father in her life, but if you two don't work out, then that could jeopardize their relationship. I've grown quite fond of Miharu, and I do not want to see my granddaughter hurt because you two rushed into something that shouldn't have."
"Well said, Shishou." Kyo admitted. "I don't want to lose a chance at getting to know my own kid."
"Very good." Kazuma smiled. "Well, I think it's time we all start getting settled down. Remember Kyo, we have a class to teach in the morning at seven. We can continue this discussion afterwards."
"…okay." He said, looking back at Tohru, who could tell he didn't want to leave at all. "I guess I'll get going."
"W-wait!" Tohru said, getting up with him. "I'll walk you to the door, Kyo."
He was a little taken back, but the gesture elated him. "Okay."
As the pair walked out of the living room where Kazuma remained, the walk to the front door seemed to last forever, and not long enough. As Tohru watched Kyo put on his shoes and take a step out of the front door, she wanted nothing more than to pull him back in and make him stay with her. But as she was ready to bid him a good night, he turned around and wrapped his arms around her.
Tohru's heart was beating so fast she thought it would explode. She wanted to hug him back, but her body was frozen with shock. "K-K-Kyo?"
"I'm sorry." He said, giving her one final squeeze before pulling away. "I've just been waiting nearly eighteen years to do that. I couldn't wait anymore…"
Tohru surprised him as she pulled him in and gave a hug of her own. "Don't be. I've dreamed about this every night since I left."
They let their warm little moment continue for as long as they could until Kyo had to leave. They wished each other a good night, and promised they'd see each other again tomorrow. It was the first time in seventeen years the pair actually felt some hope.
The next day at school, Hazuki was surprised to see Miharu there in class. And the day was typical, aside from Riku drilling Hazuki on what he did yesterday after running off on him.
"So, why did you blow me off yesterday?" Riku asked, eyeballing his friend as they were returning from lunch on the roof, making their way back to class.
"I didn't blow you off." Hazuki said in defense. "We didn't have anything planned…"
"No, but you did rush out of class like you were on fire or something." Katara said, curious as Riku was. "So what were you chasing?"
Hazuki was fighting with himself. He never kept secrets from his two best friends, but he didn't really want them to know what he saw yesterday. And he was afraid of how them knowing would affect him and Miharu.
"So?" Riku pressed harder. "Were you chasing a girl or something?"
"W-what!" Hazuki got nervous, Riku didn't know it, but he was close. "No! I wasn't chasing a girl! Besides, we can't have normal relationships anyways, so why would I try?"
"Hey! There you are!"
The three Sohmas turned around at the voice. Walking towards them was another Sohma, and Hazuki welcomed the distraction.
"Hiroya, what's up?" Katara asked, giving the boy a smile.
"A lot." He replied, his demeanor a little serious, which wasn't usually like him. "Did you guys hear? Akito is in the hospital."
Hazuki paled as Riku and Katara freaked at the news.
"You're kidding!" Riku laughed, thinking Hiroya was playing a joke.
He gave the blonde a slight glare as he crossed his arms. "Obviously you didn't hear about it, cause you also woulda known it was because the Cat attacked him."
"The Cat…?" Katara trailed off on her sentence before the realization hit her. "Oh my God, Miharu didn't really, did she?"
Riku and Hazuki both looked as if they were struck by lightning.
Hiroya gave the redhead an inquisitive glare. "Miharu? Who is she?"
"Katara," Riku said, placing a hand on her shoulder, dread lining his face, "I just want to thank you personally for signing all of our death warrants, as Akito is going to kill us for this."
"I-I…oh, I completely forgot!" Katara cried, fear taking over her face.
Hazuki decided it was time to save them. "Guys, stop. Akito already knows."
The three of them turned to look at him.
"Wait, run this by me real fast." Hiroya said, not grasping anything at the moment. "You obviously know something I don't and I want to be on the same level here, punishment by Akito be damned."
Hazuki took a breath before explaining. "Katara, Riku and I, we met the Cat last week on our way to Shigure's. Her name's Miharu. She's Kyo's kid."
"Seriously?" Hiroya piped out, his arms falling to his side from the bomb that seemed to drop in front of him.
"Yeah, there's a lot to that story so I won't elaborate, but I followed Miharu after class yesterday and-"
"So that's what you were doing!" Riku shouted, pointing at the confused boy next to him.
"Riku, shut up." Hazuki snarled at the interruption. "Anyways I followed her and found out she and her mother were gonna visit Akito. I had a bad feeling about it and tailed them, and long story short, a fight broke out and Miharu transformed and beat the holy hell out of Akito for trying to kill her mother. After I stopped her and she changed back, Arata saw the whole thing and the five us ran for it."
The three Sohmas just stood there, mouths open as the stared in disbelief. Until Riku punched Hazuki in the arm.
"What the hell, why didn't you tell us!" He barked, feeling a bit angry.
"Riku, stop!" Katara demanded.
Hazuki was rubbing his arm and glaring at Riku. "It's not exactly what I'd call a conversation starter. And besides, if you would've seen the Miharu I did yesterday, you'd keep it a secret too. I'm pretty sure she doesn't want it getting out either."
The bell for class rang, which caused the teenagers to look down the hall and see the kids scurrying in the halls.
"I gotta get back to class." Hiroya reluctantly announced. "But hey, the real reason I came looking for you, Arata called a meeting for all the Zodiac after school. I think it regards this Miharu girl."
"R-really?" Katara asked. It was rare Arata interacted with the Zodiac at all, but to call a meeting was totally out of the ordinary.
Hiroya nodded his head. "Yup. I'm assuming the Cat has to be there, too. Miyami and Miyuki did say every single one of the Zodiac, so she must be invited."
"Looks like we gotta tell her." Hazuki said. "Wonder how she's gonna like going back to the main house…I'm going." He said, turning away and leaving. "See you later, then."
Silently, the group broke up and went their own way. They remained quiet until they reached their classroom.
"Hey, Katara." Hazuki called. "You tell Miharu about the meeting."
"Why me?" She looked stunned at the request.
"Cause she'll probably hit me if I ask." He replied, not wanting to bring up the topic of returning to that place to her.
"No way!" Katara said, walking to her desk. "Do it yourself!"
As he watched his friends ditch him, the contemplated on how to ask, and what would happen. So with a deep breath, he walked over to her desk in the back corner.
"Hey Miharu." He casually greeted, looking to see if she was even paying attention to him. "Got a second?"
"Depends." She replied, a little surprised he was talking to her.
Now he started feeling uneasy. "So I, ah, I got some news about all of us Zodiac…"
She eyed the nervous boy. "You can continue, you know. I won't hit you or anything."
It was now or never. "Miharu, we have a meeting at the main house today. All thirteen of us. And Akito won't even be there! He's gonna be in the hospital for a while. It's Arata who called it."
Her face was unreadable. She held no emotion at all from the news. But before Hazuki could ask what she was thinking, the teacher came in.
"Alright, get to your seats and get your textbooks out."
Hazuki looked back to Miharu before returning to his desk. "Just meet me at the gates." He turned to head over and stopped a step in. "Oh hey, where were you for lunch?"
"…I was in here." She replied. 'Sort of an odd question…'
"Sohma! To your seat!"
"Yes, sensei." He replied before looking back once more at Miharu. "Don't eat alone next time, just meet up with us, okay." He smiled, turning away to his seat.
Miharu felt her stomach flip flop a little as she kept staring at the spot he stood in, blinking a few times.
Meanwhile, Riku watched the whole thing from his desk a row over from Miharu. 'I don't get it. She's the Cat, so why's Hazuki being so nice to her?'
The last bell of the day rang, and Miharu only let out an anxious sigh. "I guess this is it…" She mumbled, packing her notebooks away in her bag and slowly getting up from her seat.
"Hey, you ready to go?" Hazuki asked, walking up to her. She could sense that he wasn't looking forward to going back to that place anymore than she did.
"Hn, guess so." She replied, throwing her bag over her shoulder and walking out and towards the gates, Hazuki following.
The walk was silent and uneventful as it was suspenseful. It wasn't until they got to the gates that Miharu noticed more than Riku, Shouta, and Katara waiting for them. She stopped in her tracks when she saw two more teenagers standing with them. "Hazuki."
"Yeah?" He asked, turning back to look at the girl.
"Those two with Shouta and them, are they cursed too?" She said, pointing to the two.
He looked over at the gate. "Yeah, that's Hanako and Hiroya. Hanako's a first year like Shouta and Hiroya's a second year like us, but in a different class. Why, you seem surprised."
"I guess I just didn't realize there were that many of us in the same place." She said, resuming her walk and heading over to the rest of the group. She didn't show it, but she was intimidated by the group. After all, she was the outsider and Akito made sure she knew it yesterday.
"Hazuki, Miharu!" Katara shouted, waving the two over their way.
"Hey!" Hazuki greeted. "You ready to go?"
"I guess." Hanako shrugged, looking from Hazuki to Miharu. "So you must be Miharu."
"Yeah, so what?" She replied, giving the girl a small glare.
"Nothing!" Hanako jumped back a bit. "I just thought we'd never get to meet you, that's all. C-can I introduce myself? I'm Hanako."
Miharu watched the girl and she sensed no hostility in her. She seemed to genuinely want to know her. But there was the part of her that trusted no one, and it seemed to overrule. "Isn't that why we're going to the main house? It's probably about me anyways…"
Shouta gave a low whistle. "Stone cold as always, huh Miharu-chan?"
"Shut up, Shouta." Hazuki said, wanting to avoid trouble. "Let's just go, I'm sure the others are already there.
As the walked from the school and to the enormous Sohma estate, curiosity began to eat away a Miharu. They were nearly there, but she had to strike up a conversation of some kind. "Are we the last ones to arrive there?"
Hiroya answered her question. "Pretty much. The rest of us are in either middle or elementary school, so they get out earlier. The seven of us are the oldest of the Zodiac. Hazuki's the oldest of all of us, he'll be seventeen in October."
"Oh, that's about two months away…" Miharu mumbled to herself.
"Miharu, when's your birthday?" Hanako asked, trying to break the ice with her.
"January first." She replied.
"New Years day?" Riku asked. "That's pretty cool."
"It has its moments." Miharu replied, shrugging a shoulder and noticing the large concrete wall the hid the estate from the rest of Tokyo. "Oh God, we're here…"
"You don't seem like you're looking forward to this." Katara asked, noticing Miharu's statement.
"Let's just say I've had a not so hospitable experience last time I was here…" She commented, remembering the last twenty four hours ago. She groaned a bit as she examined the home. "At least that bastard Akito isn't here…"
"Where is he?" Hanako asked.
"I sent him to the hospital yesterday." She replied with a smug look on her face. "He's only lucky I didn't kill him…"
Shoutas mouth dropped in shock. "You freaking serious? Why?"
"Miharu, that's quite enough." Hatori called from the gate. He caught everyone's attention. "Hurry in, everyone. Arata and the rest are waiting for you." As the seven teenagers shuffled past him and to the front door of the main part of the house, Hatori stopped Miharu.
"Miharu, Arata has a spot set up for you right in front of him, so…" He seemed to trail off for some reason.
She seemed to get an idea. "Don't worry, I'm not gonna do to him what I did to Akito. Besides, he's a kid right? I'm not gonna stoop that low and beat a kid."
This did make Hatori feel better, enough to make him smile a little. "Very well. But you will be meeting the rest of the Zodiac. Are you prepared for that?"
"Now or never, right?" She replied, giving a shrug.
Hatori ushered her through. "I suppose."
As they got closer to the room where everyone was, Miharu could hear the voices getting louder and louder. She didn't dare admit it to Hatori, but she was starting to get scared. They were just like her, but what if they would reject her? After all, she was born to be hated.
Inside, he saw everyone she went to school with, and younger kids also. As she examined them, she immediately noticed a set of identical twins, blonde with honey colored eyes. It almost freaked her out a bit, they were such mirror images of each other, form their uniforms, to the way they wore their slightly wavy hair. Looking around more, she noticed other kids that looked like they could be twins also. It was a little odd to her.
As she walked to the center of the circle they formed, Miharu went ahead and took the spot across from Arata, who looked like he came from the same school as the little girl and boy next to the blonde twins.
The room became silent as Miharu walked in. Yet as the moments passed, they made her feel anxious. And from what she could tell, Arata was feeling about the same.
"Hello, Miharu-san." He said, his green eyes glittering with fear and hope. "First of all," He said, surprising everyone as he bowed down in front of her, "I want to apologize for what my father did to you and your mother yesterday. Neither of you deserved that, and I'm really sorry!"
The sentiment stunned Miharu to the point of being visibly flabbergasted. "Wha-wait a minute, you're apologizing to me?" She asked, trying to make sense of the situation. "I mean, you did witness me nearly crush your fathers skull in. If I were you, I'd wanna kill me right now. And aren't you supposed to hate me like the rest of the Zodiac does?"
Arata sighed and gave a sad smile. "Though he is my father, and I'm his son, father and I are nothing alike. He feels the Zodiac should fear him, but I don't. You should be treated with respect like a normal person, not like an ill-mannered exotic pet that constantly needs to be punished. I rule with love and understanding, father rules with intimidation and violence."
All thirteen occupants let out and audible gasp at Aratas admission.
"You're right, you are nothing like him." Miharu admitted, causing Arata to sigh in relief.
Then he turned serious. "S-so, I called this meeting with all of you today for two reasons. One, my father is in the hospital, so I will be in charge while he's gone." A lot of them were surprised at the news of Akitos hospitalization. "And second because the last one of us has finally arrived." Arata stated, though clearly a bit nervous. "This is Miharu-san, the Cat."
She paid no mind, but she felt twelve pairs of eyes just stare at her like she was a priceless artifact.
Arata continued. "Don't treat her like an outsider. She's one of us, so please make her welcome."
"I don't believe she is." The little boy next to Arata said. He had golden orange hair, dark brown eyes, and was currently giving Miharu the evil eye.
She looked over at the little boy and returned the evil eye as the little girl next to him spoke up. "Ayato, don't be so mean."
Ayato looked at the little girl. "C'mon Sumi, you and everyone else are probably thinking the same thing too. I heard one of the adults say this girl came from Hokkaido. She's probably just a fraud trying to look for money or something so she doesn't rat us out. If they were smart, they'd just sic Hatori on her."
There were some mumblings amongst the younger Zodiac that seemed to agree with Ayato, and Miharu was resisting the urge to walk over and hit the kid. "You got quite the mouth on you don't you, you little brat."
"I only call them as I see them." Ayato replied with a mean smile.
Miharu returned the smile with a sinister glare of her own. That's when Arata decided to take matters into his own hands.
"Obviously Ayato wants proof, Miharu-san." He knew Ayato, and he knew they boy was the type who had to see things to believe them. He then looked around to the rest of the Zodiac, then to Miharu. "You can refuse this if you really want, but to prove to Ayato and the rest of us, can you show us your true form?"
Miharu visibly paled. "What are asking me again?"
Arata looked away for a moment. "Well, it's not just shutting Ayato up, it's…I want to see the Cats true form for myself. What I saw yesterday terrified me, but I want to see it again. I want to see how a girl like yourself can take on such a form. There's just some things I have to know. Again, if you really don't want too, I'm not going to force you."
Miharu sat there for a moment, contemplating on what she wanted to do. Taking on that form only made her feel the pain of the hundreds of souls that carried the curse of the Cat. It scared her considerably and she would feel part of her humanity being stripped away. But she felt as if she couldn't deny Arata his request.
With a deep breath Miharu stood up and gave her answer. "What you're asking scares the hell outta me and I never want to take on that form, but you know what? Respect for respect."
Arata looked confused for a second as he caught something tossed to him. "H-huh?" He looked down at his hands and in them were the black and white beads she constantly wore. The gasps and shrieks of rooms occupants had brought Arata back from his thoughts and up to Miharu.
It was just as he remembered from yesterday, the pale leather like skin, the long gangly limbs, and the eyes that reminded him of blood. The fear from the day before came flooding back, and as he looked off to his left, he noticed Ayato looking pretty scared.
"D-do you believe Miharu-san now, Ayato?"
Ayato looked like he was holding back a terrified scream as Miharu looked over at him. "Y-y-yeah…! I-I do now…"
Miharu looked back to Arata, praying that he would hand her the bracelet back. But he wasn't done yet.
"Before I give these back, there's one more thing I need to see, Miharu-san." He said, looking past the demon and off to his right. "What I saw yesterday didn't make any sense at all. Hazuki-san, can you please come up and change Miharu-san back?"
Hazuki felt all eyes on him, and he didn't like it. "You want me to do what now? I can't do that, I don't know how and besides, it's impossible!"
"You don't remember when you shoved her off my father?" Arata asked, doubting himself a bit. "The second you touched Miharu-san, she changed back. I saw it myself."
"Huh?" He mused, trying to remember the day before, oblivious to all the stares. As the memories flashed through his head, he remembered the said event, yet for some reason he couldn't remember the moment they touched. It just seemed like it didn't exist.
"I…I'm sorry, Arata-sama," Hazuki apologized, feeling like he was missing something, "I don't know if what you're saying is true."
Arata didn't want to give up. "Can you try? If it doesn't work, I'll never bring it up again. Promise."
Hazuki couldn't argue with the boy. Partly because he wasn't even sure himself. Slowly he got up and walked over next the monster that stood in the room.
He was scared, but nowhere near as scared as he was yesterday. After all, it was still Miharu underneath the horrid exterior. As he looked at her, he could see fear, anguish, and regret in her crimson eyes. She wanted to change back, and just hide from the world. Her helpless state seemed to make Hazuki want to try all the more.
She heard him quietly say her name, but she was frozen and she kept her eyes locked on something nonexistent on the ground.
"It's okay, you can trust me."
The words worked, and Miharu looked over at the young man. He hand his hand extended towards her and while his face was emotionless for the most part, his violet eyes seemed to beg 'take my hand'.
She kept her eyes locked with his as she slowly she reached up, but her arm felt like it was weighed down. Halfway through, Hazuki's hand met hers, and he wrapped his fingers around hers tightly. As he did, he immediately felt her cold and misshapen hand shrinking. He watched as her eyes went from red to purple to their natural bright blue, and her long narrow face return to it's doll-like shape. Even as she dropped about two feet in height, their eyes were still locked on one another's.
Even after she changed, Hazuki still kept a hold of her hand. He knew she would break down like she did yesterday, and he just didn't want to let go.
"Hazuki-kun, how did you do that?" A boy with choppy brown hair and gray eyes asked.
"I don't know, Keito." He replied, still watching Miharu. Just as soon as he realized his heart was beating out of control, Arata spoke up.
"Thank you, both of you." He said with a smile. "I know that was hard to do, but really, thank you Miharu-san. I promise I won't ever ask that of you again."
"You better not." Miharu replied. "Cause that feeling really sucks…"
"I won't." He replied, getting up. "We're done here, you guys can go home."
As everyone got up and debated on what they wanted to do regarding Miharu, she was still rooted to the floor with Hazuki at her side.
Hand still in Hazuki's, Miharu bent down and grabbed her schoolbag. She gave it a quick squeeze before leaving. "Thanks for changing me back. See you later…" She said halfheartedly with some shame lining it.
"Wait, Miharu!" He called, wanting to chase after her, but was stopped by Riku and Shouta.
Riku gave him a suspicious glare. "Dude, what's going on?"
"Yeah," Shouta added, "what the hell was up with the shojo manga stare you were giving Miharu?"
Hazuki felt nervous. "N-nothing! I wasn't looking at her like that! Was I…?"
"Hazuki," Riku said, looking oddly at his cousin, "you don't…like like Miharu, do you?"
End of chapter 6