Yay! Thank you so much to my reviewers! It just makes me so happy to see that people are reading and enjoying, and I like to know what you guys are thinking about where the story's going. You guys rock! I would also like to apologize for taking so long to update. I'm always ridiculously busy, and I had trouble finding time to write this time around. I will do my best to get the next chapter up sooner!
This chapter is a sort of collection of everyone's responses to Tohru's "absence." Hope you like it!
"I'm sorry, Yuki-kun, I haven't heard anything about Akito-sama. You know he doesn't come out of his house much."
Yuki sighed in exasperation. "Yes, I know. Thank you," he said as he hung up, not bothering to wait for a reply. This call was identical to the ten before it. No one has seen Akito, no one has talked to him. He didn't blame them. If he were at the Sohma complex, he would avoid Akito at all costs.
"Nothing new?" Shigure asked from across the kitchen. He had his laptop out and was actually working on his new book manuscript. He'd been doing a lot of work lately. His publisher was ecstatic that he'd more or less thrown himself into the manuscript, but Yuki knew better; he was trying to fill the void in his life that Tohru left behind. They all were.
"No," Yuki answered simply, "Nothing new." He looked at the clock and sighed - time for another meaningless day of school. Without Tohru there to brighten up the mood of the classroom, it was all he could do to keep from sulking the entire day. Regardless of his feelings toward school though, he knew he had to get going. He threw on his uniform jacket, slipped on his shoes, and walked out of the house. Alone.
Uo and Hana
Uo's hand slapped hard on Yuki's desk.
"Well, where is she?" she demanded after homeroom ended, "You can't seriously expect us to believe that she still has the flu."
"And if she is that sick, we want to visit her," Hana added as she walked up to stand beside the desk.
"I'm sorry ladies, but Honda-san is still ill and just needs more rest," Yuki told them politely.
"That doesn't mean we can't go visit her though," Uo persisted.
"Look, it's contagious, alright?" Kyo interceded from across the room. Yuki hadn't even noticed that he was there. He must've slipped in the classroom late after a morning run. "Morning" wasn't quite the right word though – Kyo was out all night training nowadays to get his mind off of Tohru.
"That's a lie!" Uo shouted. "If it's contagious, then why aren't you sick, carrot top?"
Kyo's face turned redder then his hair as he stood up angrily. "What, so Yuki says she's sick and you believe him, and I say she's sick and I'm a liar?!"
"Are you admitting it?" Uo countered.
"I didn't say that! You're twisting my words!"
Yuki cleared his throat to get their attention. "Look, though I'm sure Honda-san would appreciate your concern, you know how she is. If you visit her, she'll just wear herself out worrying about your concern."
Hana placed her hand lightly on Uo's shoulder. "He may be right. Tohru's good nature may be her demise. Come on, Uo, let's go get ready for gym class," she said as she led Uo out of the classroom.
"Oh, come on, Hana. You can't seriously believe them," Uo said once they were out of earshot.
"Not at all," Hana replied, "Their electric signals are completely off, more so than usual. I believe they're hiding something."
Shigure sat in his office listening to his publisher bang heedlessly on the locked door.
"Shigure, open this door right now or I swear to god I will beat it down!" she screamed from the hall.
"I'm sure you will," he responded quietly, more talking to himself than her. He didn't quite have the energy these days to keep up with his personal uptight prison warden.
She was furious with him over the latest chapter he submitted for his manuscript. He had been writing another M-rated saucy romance story, but after Tohru went missing, he couldn't find inspiration anymore. He was writing constantly to try to work out his sorrow, but the only thing that felt right was to write a tragic breakup scene that ended with the main character's death.
"This story isn't a tragedy! And even if it was, you're only on chapter four! You can't kill off the main protagonist in chapter four! Who would buy that? No one!"
Shigure sighed, stood up, and walked to the door, opening it gently.
"Well," he began, "sometimes people are gone long before you even considered losing them."
With that, he wondered aimlessly past his publisher and out of the house, leaving her speechless.
Hatori stood in his office staring at the open medicine cabinet across the room from his desk. He was sure it was missing.
Due to Akito's constantly deteriorating health, Hatori kept a plethora of prescriptions in his office in case of an emergency. He was sure that he had antibiotics used to treat pneumonia in stock, but it wasn't there. Someone had to have taken it, and Akito was the only person besides Hatori himself who had access to the office after hours.
On the off chance that Akito was actually sick, Hatori decided to pay him a visit. He quickly walked the short distance to Akito's home, which was nearby because of all the house calls he had to make frequently.
Upon approaching the largest home in the Sohma complex, Hatori lifted his fist and rapped three times on the door. The door opened shortly thereafter, and a cute maid with short red hair and bright green eyes poked her head out of the house. He recognized her as Akito's new handmaid. His short temper caused him to fire and replace his maid's frequently, and this young woman was the latest one.
"Oh, hello, Hatori-san. What can I do for you?" she asked politely. She had already encountered him twice before when he came to check up on Akito's health, and she was pleased to see him. His kind demeanor was a pleasant change of pace for her.
"By any chance, do you know if Akito-sama is in poor health today?" he inquired, anxious to hear her answer.
"O-oh," she stammered, "To be honest, I don't know. Akito-sama has been insisting on complete privacy for the last couple weeks. No visitors."
Hatori exhaled sharply in frustration. He was afraid of this.
"I'm sorry," he responded, "but it's an emergency. I need to see him." Although Akito's will was the ultimate authority, he couldn't stand by if he was holding an ill person captive without proper treatment, especially if that person was Tohru as he suspected.
The maid looked at him helplessly. She knew that Hatori was a kind man that ultimately had everyone's best interests at heart, but she also knew that Akito was not forgiving. She had only been Akito's maid for two months, and she had been punished many times for not carrying out his orders exactly. He would not be pleased if she permitted a visitor to enter.
"I'm sorry too," she countered sympathetically, "Really, I am, but I can't go against his wishes."
Hatori looked hard into the girl's eyes. He pitied her. She was so controlled by fear that she couldn't act for herself. She was merely Akito's puppet.
"Forgive me," Hatori said as he forced the door open further and pushed himself past her. He didn't have time to waste arguing with her.
"Please, come back," he heard her beg, but he was already halfway down the inside hallway. He couldn't turn back – not when someone's health may be at stake.
He was headed through the living room toward Akito's bedroom when he heard his voice.
"I thought I said no visitors," Akito said with venom in his voice, "That new maid is an incompetent fool."
Hatori turned around toward the voice and saw Akito lounging on a black futon that lay against the back wall of the room. He had walked right past him without even noticing.
"It's not her fault," Hatori said as he walked closer toward Akito, "I didn't give her much of a choice."
Hatori sighed. There wasn't time for banter. "Akito-sama, are you in good health?"
"Of course I am. If I wasn't, I would have actually invited you here," he said coldly as he rose to stand over Hatori, irritated that he forced his way into his home unannounced.
"My apologies, but you see," Hatori started carefully, "I noticed that some medicine from my office was missing. Akito-sama, if someone is sick and you're keeping them here, I need to know. They need a proper doctor."
Akito narrowed his eyes. "Do you dare call me a thief?"
"Not exactly, I just-" Hatori was interrupted by a hard slap to the face. His head turned sharply to the side, and he cupped his painfully throbbing cheek with his hand.
"Let's get one thing straight," Akito sneered, "What I do is my business. If I want to take something from your office, that's my right. I am the head of this family, and you will never question me again."
Hatori was completely torn. As a doctor, he had sworn to do everything in his power to treat the ill and take care of them, but he couldn't act against Akito. He spent his whole life serving him out of a combination of loyalty and fear. He couldn't change that now. He didn't have the courage.
"Forgive me," he said simply as he bowed to the head of the family. He didn't even give Akito a chance to answer – he was walking back out the way he came immediately. On his way out, he passed the maid. He noticed that the pitying look he gave her earlier was now mirrored in her eyes. No doubt she overheard their discussion. Hatori looked away, humiliated that he wasn't brave enough to stand up to Akito. What kind of a doctor turned his back on a patient because of selfish fear?
"I'm so sorry I couldn't help, Tohru-san," he said as he walked out of the house empty handed.
Thank you for reading!
UPDATE: I apologize for my lack of posting; I've been in the Teton mountains for the last month and I won't be returning until late July or early August. I fully intend on continuing once I return though. Thank you for all your support :)