Chapter ten:Scent and Sensibility

Author's note:'Danchi' is Japanese for a low income project.

Adachi-ku is a poor neighbourhood about thirty minutes by train, just outside of main Tokyo. It is rife with crime and violence. At least thats what I found on my internet search. =)

Tuesday 5am

It's dark, blackness surrounds me. Deep, impenetrable darkness that I can not see through. I'm sweating because it's really hot and stuffy where I am. Like a sauna, my body has made this tiny space moist and sweltering. My hair is plastered to my face and neck with sweat, I shiver not because I am cold. But because of the overpowering fear that has engulfed me. I can feel the walls pressing against my shoulder's. I am stuck tight in some god forsaken hole, with no light and no air. That is slowly draining all the good air around me. But I refuse to leave, dieing in here is better then what awaits me beyond this hiding spot.

I can't breathe and my chest feels heavy as if I am slowly suffocating in the tiny confines of this cell. But I refuse to leave, I know it is safer here. I look straight ahead into that void before me. It's so quiet now...when minutes before the terrified screaming of its victims and vengeful hollering of the monster had been nearly deafening. It had been on a rampage again tearing through the house, seeking to beat into submission anyone or anything that got in its way. I know to hide then, know to become invisible, to become small and untraceable.

I don't want to be found, I know that if I am caught I will suffer at the monster's hands yet again. I will the darkness to conceal me. Just staring at it makes my heart beat faster, my breathing more shallow and rapid. I feel dizzy and the ache in my chest grows more heavy.

I never feel safe when it's this quiet...too quiet...I know it is hunting.

So quite...

My world has become a pin point of pure terror. As I strain my hearing for any sort of noise, vainly trying to figure out if he is drawing closer...If I need to run?

Then a crack forms in the dark wall ahead of me, a large hand lunges into my sanctuary and my heart stops. I can hear the piercing screams again and my own small voice is wailing along with the other voice pleading for mercy...for forgiveness...for salvation...

"Usagi." A deep, soothing voice echoes out just beyond the groggy fog of sleep.

Usagi moaned, not liking the heavy feeling that always accompanied these bad dreams. It was a pressure, so overwhelming, so full of despair and misery it nearly consumed her. She hated those nightmares...praying that they were just the figments of her wild, overly dramatic imagination and not real memories. Because if they were, she could never handle with that kind of brutality being her reality so long ago.

A cold hard surface was pressed against her face, her shoulder's were shaking and there were sobs mewling out from somewhere just beyond this fog like state between dream and reality. But who was crying?

"Usagi, wake up?" His voice called out again more insistent this time, but the fog was to thick, the surface to far to reach. Suddenly feeling trapped and frightened, her black dreams refusing to let her go. She heard her voice moan patheticly. Then she felt a strong arm holding her, rolling her away from the cold and towards the warmth of his chest. Securing her tightly to his side, the firm pressure of his arm and warmth radiating from beneath his shirt alleviating her fears instantly. As his welcoming scent penetrated through that wall of anxiety that had trapped her rational mind. Breaking its bonds and melting away all her anguish, replacing those troubled feelings with a steady sense of comfort and peace. That the monster could not hurt her anymore, that she was safe as long as this scent surrounds her. She felt every muscle in her chest begin to loosen, her breath evened out as she fell once more into a fitful, dreamless sleep. Her hand curling tight into the soft cotton of his shirt, nuzzling the fabric for further comfort. Releasing a long, drawn out sigh of contentment as a profound sense of security penetrated deep into her subconscious mind. Soothing not only her heart but her soul as well.

"You are really scaring me now...Odango..." Mamoru commented, petting his good hand down the back of her head tenderly. Keeping that arm tight around her shoulder's pinning her to his chest. Staring down at her with a deeply worried frown, wiping away the silent tears still falling down her cheeks with the thumb of his busted hand. Ignoring the sharp pains moving his fingers caused, he had never seen her look so stricken...so utterly broken before. As if what ever was haunting her in her dreams, had shattered her so absolutely she couldn't ever fully put herself back together again.

Mamoru thought back to how this horrible situation had began...

It hadn't taken long for her to fall fast asleep against him when the bus ride had began back in the commercial district of Juuban. At first it was innocent enough, with her head resting sideways against his shoulder. Then her head had lolled towards his chest, her hand and upper body following unconsciously until she was draped over his chest. He didn't mind being her pillow, hell he was enjoying immensely! But things soured rather fast after that...

As they rode the transit bus back into more quaint streets of Azabu, she had begun to get restless. As the ride lengthened, she had begun to squirm and readjust herself from his side, trying to get more comfortable. Inevitably ending up curled up against the window. Mamoru had been disappointed but hadn't thought anything of it, till her nightmares had arisen.

Watching as the long forgotten anguish took hold of her, as she began to sob and plead for a boy named Shingo. To come and save her from the 'monster'...begging for him to not leave her all alone. She looked so desperate and terrorfied it was pure instinct that had drove him. Needing to protect her from the monster that was hunting her in her subconscious mind. At first he had sought to wake her from her bad dreams. When calling her name and shaking her shoulder's didn't work, he merely guided her back against his chest. Wanting to hold her and take away all the pain and fear he saw etched upon her face.

Relieved and somewhat smug that she settled so easily in his arms once again. A silent affirmation that he hadn't yet completely fucked up his chances with her. That somewhere in her unconscious mind she knew...If he allowed himself to think more whimsically. Her heart knew that he would always protect her...even if her rational mind refused to agree.

Mamoru thumped his head against the back of the bench. "I hate seeing you cry..." He whispered, glancing down at her briefly. A hot ball of fear, anger and worry boiling down deep in his gut. Everyone who came to Elysian was somewhat broken, Ikuko offered them each a safe, secure place to rebuild their lives. He had never tried to get to know any of the other tenants on a deeper level. Content to live his own life and let them live theirs. He had never had much thought about what had driven Usagi into Elysian's walls. But now the mystery of her tortured past was consuming him, he wanted to know her more. He was no longer content with knowing her only on a surface level. He wanted to know everything about her. Not just what she liked or what she hated, but what had scarred her so deeply that the trauma of it tormented her even as she slept. He wanted to care for her in all the ways she needed most...he wanted to protect her from any one or anything that might seek to do her harm.

Twenty minutes later the bus began to slow, the rumble of the chassis began to shutter violently, alerting Usagi that they had reached their stop. At first she felt disorientated, as if she was floating aimlessly. Then the feel of his cotton shirt under her tightly curled fingers and the warmth of his chest against her cheek grounded her back into reality. Usagi squeezed her eyes shut as she slowly became more alert, unwilling to leave the peaceful sanctuary she had found. She had no idea what had happened during the bus ride, but the cooling moisture upon her cheeks was a sure clue that she had had one of her nightmares. The fact that Mamoru was holding her close against his chest. Stroking her back tenderly, pressing the palm of his casted hand against her cheek sweetly every now and then. Saying soft words of comfort, over and over again near her ear. Confirmed her theory that she had unintentionally shown him how truly screwed up she truly was. But she couldn't will herself to pull away from him just yet, needing to absorb more of his comfort, his strength. The weight of sadness that lingered inside her chest gradually lifted, the tears dissipated as she finally came fully aware of her surroundings. The surprise and devastating waves of overwhelming embarrassment was quick to follow.

"Gah!" Usagi cried out in sudden humiliation, thrusting herself away from Mamoru's chest and out of his arms. Staring down at him red faced and shocked at how intimately he had been acting with her. Never in all her life had anyone but Shingo soothed her during one of her nightmares. She was feeling incredibly scared and vulnerable, but held absolutely no trust in Mamoru that her heart was safe in his keeping. The fact that he had seen her at her weakest, made her incredibly angry. It was all so unbearable, she had wanted to have a strong front against him. She never wanted to be seen as weak or needy when in his company, but he had seen her at her most vulnerable and there was no way to take that back.

"Are you okay?" He whispered uncertainly, his face inclined upward. As she had bolted up from the bench to stand over him. Moving so swiftly to distance herself from him, as if being in physical contact with him had caused her acute pain. His concerned eyes slowly falling towards his chest, where she still had a death grip on his shirt. A small if unconscious refusal to release that last link to the comfort and security she had found there.

Usagi took a sharp, shaking inhale of air. Snatching her hand away from his shirt and fisting it against her side. Nodding crisply, unable to speak just yet. Not trusting that she could keep the waver from her voice.

"What happened?" he asked, solemnly. His deep blue eyes pleading for her to trust him, to allow him in one more time.

Usagi merely shook her head, turning abruptly away from him and walked briskly down the main aisle to the front of the bus. "I don't know. " She lied, smoothly. Passing him a small, weak smile over her shoulder trying to ease the awkwardness of her sudden departure. "I guess it was just a bad dream or something."

"Want to talk about it?" Mamoru offered, when they had both departed the bus and begun to walk down the sidewalk.

His offer made her walk more quickly, wrapping her arms tight around her middle to ward off the chill she now felt. Her stomach was churning with uneasy feelings and her mind was filled with far to many unpleasant thoughts.

"No." She responded, her voice more high and desperate sounding then she liked.

Mamoru knew he should just let it go, but the thought that someone had hurt her so brutally in the past needled him like a hot poker in the back of his mind. He felt an urgency now to know everything, so that he could protect her.

A brisk wind rose and tossed her golden hair like twin ribbons behind her back, as she strode through the stone walls of Elysian's front courtyard. The morning sun was just cresting the steel horizon just beyond the old apartment building, warming the streets of Old Azabu. The weather today would be warm, filled with the promise of a tranquil spring. But both Usagi and Mamoru felt anything but tranquil this morning.

He dashed forward to catch up to her, grabbing her arm to stall her from entering the building as she closed in on the front glass doors. Knowing that his chance to convince her that his intentions were honourable, that he genuinely cared about her. Would be snuffed out as soon as they entered Elysian, because she had every intention of hiding away in her room and probably avoiding him for a good long time.

"Please, Odango..." he pleaded, turning her to face him.

"I never want to talk about those dreams...not now...not ever!" Her voice was cold and detached, from the trauma she had just relived. Still very much embarrassed of her show of weakness, she was avoiding eye contact with him. Casting her mournful blue eyes sideways towards the doors, squirming in his grasp seeking to end this inquisition before it started.

Mamoru heaved a great sigh of disappointment, but he couldn't force her to open up to him. In many ways he had not earned that right yet and it was rude of him to demand it.

"Fine...but just know if you need me...in any way. I'm here for you." he gave her a small smile of understanding. Then released her arm, rubbing his sweaty hand up and down the side of his jeans. He was worried and overly nervous about her pulling away from him again. But he needed to give her the space she craved. Once again he had to trust and hope that she would not disappear from his life.

He stood stiffly at the entrance watching her dart through the doors and jog up the stairs and out of view in full retreat. Releasing a frustrated breath, Mamoru begrudgingly headed up to his own apartment.

6 am

He spent the morning brooding into his coffee mug, sitting at his low table in the middle of his small living space. Not liking one bit how she didn't trust him, how distressed it made her to even contemplate open up to him. He had to change how she preceived him? She was far more willing to confide in Mina and Mako, she genuinely trusted them. With him she was always on guard, their relationship strained with an adversarial tension that he had created early on. He wondered now, if she even saw him as a friend? They had not shared many genuinely fond moments with each other. He had soured every opportunity to get close to her on a deeper level, by freaking out over his overwhelming attraction to her. Or by pushing her away with his cold, cynical attitude towards companionship. Retreating back into what was comfortable for him, teasing and criticizing her. Not willing to push himself beyond his own comfort zone. His need to claim her as his only rearing up as a possessive beast, when he feared Motoki might take her away. Which naturally only confused her more...

He had been treating her unfairly from the very beginning. He had a lot to atone for before he could even hope for her to see him, even as a friend.

Mamoru heaved a shaky breath, raking a hand through his hair fiercely. All this self reflection was tearing at his heart, he had to fix his relationship with the Odango. Before it was unrepairable...

7:30 am

A soft knock at his front door, had him scrambling to his feet.

"Ohayo..." She sweet voice floated quietly from the front door.

Mamoru heart was instantly pounding in a rapid staccato in his chest, never expecting her to show up so soon. He knew his mouth was hanging open, moving in a surprised motion of a gasping fish. As she appeared at the mouth of his entry way, dressed in her spring fuku. Hair freshly brushed and styled in her Odango and tails. She humbly set her satchel on the floor and slipped off her sneakers. Crouching for a moment to dig into her satchel, pulling out a small cloth wrapped bento like before. She passed him a small smile as she trotted towards his kitchen, opening his fridge and setting it inside.

She had buried all those turbulent emotions, replacing them with a bright, happy attitude that he knew damn well, was just a front. Her expressive eyes always gave away how she was truly feeling. He could still see the dark shadows of that trauma clouding the once clear blue.

"This is for lunch...I will stop by your Prep School later this afternoon to pick up your work. It seems Motoki isn't home. I stopped by his place before I can here and there wasn't an answer. So I am going assume he has no intention of helping you, so I shall take on that responsibility as well..." She was rambling, her voice sounded nervous. Grasping onto the pretext of everything was normal between them. Her promises slightly muffled as she hid inside the open fridge door, attempting to find the perfect spot to her bento in his nearly empty shelves. Taking a deep breath she slowly closed the door . She wasn't acting normal at all.

He had thought they had moved past all this nonsense. But she was back in that jittery, skittish persona she had embodied around him weeks ago after his major blow up at her door. When she had been terrified of him and always bolted from his pressence. It was as if she didn't know how to act, worried how he must view her now? Her embarrassment still lingering like an elephant in the room. Making things exasperatingly awkward between them.

"You don't have to do that." Mamoru moved swiftly to block the kitchen's entryway, raising both arms and bracing them on the sides of the archway. Desperate for her stay just a few moment more. After her abrupt departure at the front door earlier this morning he had been feeling rather anxious and desperate. Worried that he was going to lose her again. He hated this! Hated how scared and uncomfortable she was in his pressence now.

"I promised to take care of you...I always keep my promises." She responded, eyeing the small divide just under his left arm that she might be able to slip through. Swallowing hard, she valiantly sought to remain calm. Seeking to drain all emotion from her desperate expression and feint an impassivity to his entrapment. When she was literally screaming inside, to run...to escape before anything worse could happen. His attempt to cage her in the kitchen had every muscle tensed with fear, her nerves buzzing loudly with danger. Adrenaline was coursing through her small frame, every instinct urging her to choose...fight or flight? The perceived threat in that pose was overwhelming to her.

This overblown reaction towards Mamoru wasn't rational...he may be a complete ass, but he would never physically harm her. She was still reeling from her nightmare and this was not the time for him to be so pushy. She needed to regain her control, to wash away all the yucking feelings those dreams always resurrected inside of her.

Usagi grit her teeth, clenching her fists tight at her sides. Staring up at him, her valiantly trying to look strong, but her eyes were glossy with fear. Pleading for him silently to back off. He was shocked at how scared and uneasy he was making her feel. It had him clear his throat nervously and instantly retract his arms.

"Gomen..." he muttered, knowing he had crossed the line. But dammit! He felt pushed into a corner here? How the hell was he going to get her to trust him...if he couldn't get her to stick around and hear him out?

"I am going to be late for school." She passed him briskly, snatching up her satchel and slipping on her shoes in a frantic rush.

"Usagi-chan...please stay..." He approached her cautiously, reaching out to her with his good hand. He eyes were wet, pleading for her to stay just a few minutes longer. They needed to talk, he felt on very uncertain ground with her now. As if their friendship was crumbling just under his feet. He was frantic and desperate to repair things.

The use of the more intimate honorific had caught her notice and made her pause in the entry way. He had never used the Chan prefix before. It spoke of how close he felt they had become and how important she was to him.

"I'll be back later, ok." She offered him a small smile before ducking out of the apartment.

As soon as she had left, he turned to the wall just before the entryway and thumped his forehead repeatedly against it.

"I" thump.

"Am" thump.

"So" thump.

"Pathetic!" thump.

The humiliation and weakness he felt at his failed but desperate attempt to get her to stay was quickly drowning him. He didn't do needy or clingy but thanks to his busted hand, he was becoming the embodiment of them both. Never in all his life had a girl spun his head so hard! In a matter of weeks, this Tsukino girl had overtaken every facet of his life and he just couldn't bear to live life with out her by his side. At this point he would take anything...even a shallow friendship as long she stayed.

8:30 am

Since she never went back to bed when they got home that morning, Usagi ended up at Juuban High way before first bell. This was the earliest she had ever arrived on school grounds, it would be something to be proud of. If she wasn't so god awfully tired and stressed out. Having nothing but time on her hands, she headed across the front courtyard and wandered towards the large athletic track set on the far south side of the grounds. When she reached the chain link fence that bordered the circular track, a young man catches her eye briefly. He was dressed in the red shorts and white t-shirt of their gym uniform. Jogging down the central lane, his black high top sneakers churning up the dust as he thundered by her.

His soft platinum blonde hair was laying flat against his head, his pony tail snapping in the wind. So focused on his final sprint towards the finish line he never noticed her enter the field and head towards the bleacher's. Mounting the steel steps she rises up towards the very peek of the weathered benches, scanning the school grounds with a long, exasperated sigh.

On that very first day of school, she had found this place far to big and more then a little intimidating. With its many large buildings and expansive courtyards. It was a wonder that she hadn't gotten lost that first day. She had been excited but anxious about starting this new life, with out her older brother. But now, after a month of being on her own she felt desolate and far to lonely. She had made a few friends back at Elysian but they were not family. That unconditional bond of trust and affection that only close family could provide, could never be replicated with mere friends.

Here at school she was adrift in a sea of obscurity, with no connections to anyone else. More then anything she wanted to pack a bag and run back to Osaka, to return to the simple life she had left behind, to hide once again in the countryside she understood best... but it wasn't safe.

Shingo had sent her to Tokyo for a reason, she had to obey him and wait. This wasn't forever...it was just for now. That thought alone gave her hope and made her smile for the first time in a long time.

"Hey! I know you..." A bright, masculine voice called up to her.

Usagi spun to face the young man with blonde hair who had been running the track earlier. He was standing at the foot of the bleachers, wiping down his face and neck with a plain white cotton towel.

She had never been good at remembering names, but faces...faces she remembered. That ability had saved her on more then one occasion in the past. Instantly her cheeks began to heat, as the boy laughed with a mild amusement.

"Your the hentai, chick from yesterday. I caught you peeping on Seiya near the Arboretum." He nodded, ignoring how brilliantly her cheeks were glowing with humiliation.

Usagi didn't want to hang around for anymore, crass remarks and she wasn't about to waste her breath defending herself either. Ducking her head she jogged down the steps, descending quickly to the ground. Keeping her head averted from him, as she sought to escape around the edge of the bleachers. Only to run into the person she least wanted to see.

"Ohayo, Dango-chan. " Seiya greeted her happily, leaning against the side of the bleachers. A cigarette dangling from his perfectly formed lips, as he smiled down at her smugly. "I guess it can't be helped." he shrugged,

Usagi came to an abrupt stop, taking a step backward. She attempted to turn and seek another avenue of departure, only to find the blonde boy now blocking her retreat.

"Looking for me, are you? One kiss and your addicted and want more, huh?" he gave her cocky half smile, blowing smoke out of the corner on his mouth. "

Trapped and with out any options of evading them, she stood her ground as well as she could. Defiantly refusing to look at either of them as they both laughed companionably at her expense.

"Naw, she just likes to watch, Baka. You ain't that amazing!" Yaten shot back, folding his arms across his chest. His green eyes flaring with smouldering jealousy.

Swallowing her screams of protest at their teasing. She kept her eyes low, gripping the strap of her satchel lest she strike out and slap them for their crass behaviour. She didn't deserve to be ridiculed like this, finding that male slut rutting in the back end of the school ground wasn't intentional!

Grinding her teeth she took a sharp breath, this day was going from bad to hell in a very short period of time. Hell...yep. Thats a very accurate description of High school! Because that term was mild compared to how much of a beating her self esteem had taken since entering these wretched halls. The classes weren't so bad, boring..tedious and perhaps a bit pointless. But the social landmines that awaited her in the halls between class was beyond her comprehension. Being so secluded in a small village in Osaka for so long, she wasn't prepared to deal appropriately with the complexities of a big city high school. This was all just to much!

Her face felt so hot now, she thought steam might actually be coming out of her ears. All she wanted to do was run and hide. The thought of skipping the whole school day and hanging out at the arcade passed quickly over her thoughts. She needed a day off from all this crap!

"Enjoy the show, did you?" Seiya asked, cocky an eyebrow proudly. "If you here to ask for a encore, I am sure Kakyu would oblige. She's kinky like that." He added, taking a long drag on his cigarette and blowing the smoke skyward.

"You are such a man-whore." Yaten laughed, "I wish I could get as much pussy as you." He added with a disgruntled huff.

Seiya gave him a weak if amused smile, shaking his head. Then completely ignored him, focusing his 100 watt smile directly at her. His deep blue eyes sparkling with a mirth, as he flicked his cigarette to the ground.

"We had a pretty memorable first impression. If you ever want to finish what we started, Kawaii. I am willing and able, ya know." He offered, with the same rougeish charm he had attempted to use on her yesterday. Cupping her cheek tenderly with his larger hand, his serious deep blue eyes piercing into her's.

Usagi merely squeaked, completely at a loss as to how to respond to that. He had pretty much offered to deflower her anytime. His eroticly bold promise had made her insides clench. His sudden affection causing her mind to scream in panic.

"Hey!" A husky, sensual voice rang out loudly from near by.

Usagi finally raised her head enough to find the young woman who Seiya had been fooling around with yesterday walking towards them. Dressed in her simple white and navy fuku, her long ebony hair swishing down her back in waves of pure midnight. That same dual expression of a non-nonchalant smile and silent fury in her eyes. Stabbing Usagi straight in the heart, making her on guard and wary of the young woman.

Kakyu quickly slung an around around her shoulder's as if they were the best of friends, giving her a quick shake. Then retreated just as quickly to an upright posture, regarding each boy with a cool eye. Smiling sweetly at her for a second before flashing each boy a hot, accusing glare.

"Are these fools bothering you?" She inquired, flipping her long dark hair over a shoulder. As she cocked her waist and braced a hand upon her hip in a sassy flourish. Casting Seiya a tolerant half smile, that she knew exactly what he was up to and she wasn't amused.

Usagi turned to explain, figuring Seiya's girlfriend would be pissed about her non-reaction to his flirting. She should have backed away, said something, anything to get Seiya to stop insinuating that they might be up to something. He was a major player, it was undeniable and he was going to get her into some serious trouble if she could not get some distance from him. She didn't want any further misunderstandings.

"Uh..." She gasped, when the smaller woman again draped an arm over her shoulders. Turning her around on her heel and forcing her to walk away from the two boy now laughing boisterously at her flustered state.

"Relax, Kohai." The woman laughed silently. "Seiya has the sex drive of a porn star, I have long since given up on keeping his interests solely. He loves a challenge and his libido is insatiable. So his need for conquests never ends. He is wild and untamed at heart, I guess thats the reason I find him so addicting." Kakyu explained honestly.
"I don't want to be...a conquest..." Usagi nearly whined back uncertainly, casting Seiya a quick glance under her arm. Finding that he was no longer focused on her, but had his neck craned back staring upward at the white blanket of clouds above. His expression was distant, reflecting upon this thoughts in the abstraction of muted colors that moved upon the heavens. He was quite the enigma...Usagi mused.

"First periods going to start in a little bit, how about we all go grab a coffee from the vending machine and get to know each other a bit better. I like you, Dango. You make me laugh." Seiya offered, still staring upward. Expecting everyone to just follow his whims with out complaint.

"Uh..." Usagi offered patheticly, as the dark hair woman slipped her arm from around her shoulder and grasped her hand tight. Yanking on her to follow as she skipped ahead of the boys, not allowing her any kind of escape.

Usagi was at a loss, as to why this girl even wanted her around so badly? I was obvious that Seiya was interested in her. Her friendly demeanour towards her was not genuine in the least? Shouldn't she see her as a rival? She should be acting jealous, angry even. That her lover was flirting so obviously with another girl...right in front of her...as if her feelings didn't matter? Kakyu's fake affection with her was exhausting. Usagi's brain hurt...she just couldn't fathom having such a shallow, twisted sort of love life with a man?

Fifteen minutes later found them all sitting on the circular cement barrier of a yearling elm tree in the front courtyard of the school. Sipping at cans of instant coffee and watching the student populace slowly filter in through the main gates.

Usagi had kept quiet the whole time, nervously turning her full can of coffee between her knees. That Seiya had bought her. The casanova in question was leaning up against the young tree's soft bark, swigging back the last of his own coffee. Kakyu sat close beside her, her hips nearly brushing against hers. Sipping lightly at her can, glowering and shouting snarky outbursts towards particular young girls who had walked past them giggling and whispering amongst themselves. Usagi had over heard the words whore and slut directed toward Kakyu in less then subtle comments amongst the girls.

Most girls would have reacted by jumping up and bursting into hurt tears, running to hide in the nearest bathroom. Kakyu merely shrugged the foul names off, promising each girl a swift and precise ass kicking in the near future. She wasn't ashamed of her promiscuity in the least, she was actually quite proud of it.

Seiya ignored the whole drama outright, acting as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. It was as if those girls never existed in his world.

Yaten sat a few meters away on the wooden bench by the path, his feet on the seat and his butt balanced on the bench's back rest. He wasn't at all worried about changing out his gym clothes and into a uniform as the first bell tolled. He kept a close eye on the group of girls who had insulted Kakyu, until they passed through the glass doors of the front entryway. Memorizing their faces for later retribution on Kakyu's behalf. He had the dark glower and protective demeanour of a guard dog. Usagi was taken a back by the silent loyalty he had for Kakyu.

"How long you been at Juuban?" Kakyu asked, drawing Usagi's attention away from Yaten.

Usagi stared at her hands, wondering how she was going to politely disengaged herself from these delinquents. Already she could tell that their reputation among the masses was less then stellar. Kakyu seemed to have more enemies among the girls then was a safe. Being anonymous in the hall was something she could survive, being hated wasn't. She was desperate to find a way to escape, wanting to find a way to make them lose interest in her.

"Since orientation." She muttered back.

"Made any friends yet?" Yaten asked from near by, tossing his empty can towards a nearby tin garbage can. It flipped through the air, clanging off the rim and dropping to the ground beside the can. Yaten made absolutely no attempt to clean it up, merely shrugging half heartedly at his failed attempt to deposit the can into the garbage.

"A few..." Usagi lied, casting Kakyu a cautious sideways look. Worried the girl might see right through her. Girls seemed to have a sixth sense when another girl was lieing.

Kakyu merely smiled tightly. "I'll take you under my wing, Usa-chan.." Kakyu bumped her shoulder against her's.

A terrified shiver went down her spine at the thought of being Kakyu's protege. Usagi stared awe struck at the young woman, who was beaming with pride.

"Have you gone to visit Taiki in the hospital? " Yaten broke the light hearted mood.

"Not yet." Kakyu sighed sadly, kicking her dress shoe at a loose stone and sending it flying towards Yaten's bench.

At the mention of Taiki, Seiya growled low in his throat and stormed off.

Usagi watched him leave, her face twisting into a mixture of compassion and confusion.

"Wasn't he the guy, you two were racing to save yesterday from that other gang?" Usagi stated, trying to make sense of what was going on.

"Yeah." Yaten mumbled, staring at the ground morosely. He never wanted to make Seiya angry, he just wanted know if he had gone to see Taiki.

"Wasn't he just a bit banged up after the fight? He didn't look hurt enough for the hospital?" Usagi mused with a worried frown.

"Some middle school punks from Dark Kingdom jumped him late last night, when he was getting off work. Poor bastard got shot three times in the gut." Yaten snarled.

"He's going into surgery again this afternoon." Kakyu finished, her eyes wet with tears, face pale with worry.

"Oh...god..." Usagi gasped, a stomach wound could be fatal. If one didn't bleed out right away, then organs like the liver could be nicked or struck outright that could slowly poison the victim. His spine could have been hit and any manner of paralysis could be diagnosed? If he survived the surgeries that lay ahead. His full recovery was still not certain. A long struggle lay ahead of him to reclaim his normal life again. It was just so tragic, she was struggling to hold back her own tears.

"Fuck this!" I ain't going to be able to concentrate worth shit today!" Yaten professed loudly, leaping off the bench and dashing off through the main gates.

Kakyu sniffed and bowed her head, while Usagi searched for any sign of Seiya in the shuffling masses of students filing through the court yard. In less then a half hour in their company, she could tell these three and poor Taiki had been best friends forever. They were more then just friends by this point they were family. She understood how painful it was to feel helpless when a family member was suffering in the hospital, if there was anyway for her to support or comfort any of them during this stressful time she wanted too.

"It's weird...ya know." Kakyu sighed, drawing Usagi's attention back towards her. "We all worked so hard to get into this school. When we each moved to Tokyo to come here, we thought we left all that shit behind us. It has been years since we had to worry about the Dark Kingdom. I don't get it! While all of a sudden did they'd show up to finish old grudges. Our better future as all gone to shit in a matter of months. Karma's a real bitch!"

"I don't understand?" Usagi urged, grasping Kakyu's hand. Offering the troubled girl,her unconditional support and comfort. Usagi could never stand to see other's in pain, always the first to help out even if it wasn't in her own best interest. She never thought of any of the repercussions of reaching out to Kakyu anymore. She only saw a young woman just like her, who was sad about her past and fearful of her future.

"I met Yaten and Taiki when my mom moved us into the 'Danchi' in Adachi." Kakyu began, her eyes dull and full of remorse for a troubled past she and her friends were never able to out run. "It was full of 'Yanki' trying to prove themselves to the Yakuza. They prowled the streets stealing and dealing and just dragging down the whole neighbourhood. We had to play inside our apartment building, because the streets were dangerous. With the drivebys and gang wars breaking out every other week! It wasn't safe to even walk to school in the mornings." She picked up a stone from inside the planter and hurled it with a sharp cry of fury towards the now empty bench. If it wasn't for them, I would have never met Seiya. He was only a couple years older but he was smart...not just school smart but people smart too.H e knew who to trust and who to avoid in the area. A sly little boy who could talk himself out all sorts of trouble. Nothing fazed him! No matter what kind of trouble surrounded him. He always found a way out of it. With his charm or his wit, he always knew exactly what to say or do. He was always so strong, so confident and just larger then life. Ya, know." Kakyu smiled wistfully. "He was always looking out for us. We all walked to school together like a small gang of our own. Their was safety in numbers and with the four of us, we felt invincible. The thugs mostly ignored us but if one of us got into trouble on the street or at school with some yanki spawn. Seiya would always swoop in and fix things. He should have graduated already. But he skips way to many classes for god know what and was held back for the last two years. This will be his second attempt to graduate. I don't know if he is failing his Senior year on purpose to keep an eye on us or if he is just plain lazy? But he has been protecting all three of us since Elementary." She pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to purge the tears threatening to fall. "Failing to protect Taiki last night must be killing him." She seethed, refusing to break down in front of a girl she had barely met. "I gotta go...see you around Tsukino-san." She hopped to her feet and tossed Usagi a curt wave before jogging off to find a secluded bathroom on campus to have a good cry.

Usagi jumped to her feet as Kakyu made a hasty retreat. Understanding very intimately the anguish the girl felt. She watched sadly as Kakyu ran out of sight into the side entrance near the gym. She wanted to be as far away from the main buildings as possible until she got herself under control. She had a reputation as being an unapologetic bad ass and didn't need that image being tarnished by someone seeing her crying. As soon as the door closed, Usagi scrubbed a hand down her face.

"I think my life just got a lot more complicated" She groused, then trudged towards the main entrance. Cursing her fate as she was now running behind again to get to homeroom on time.

It was lunch time and Usagi was already reaping the rewards of being seen in Kakyu's company this morning. She had heard the words slut and whore whispered not so subtly in her direction from every small cluster of girls in the halls, all the way from her classroom to her locker. It had been inevitable that she would claim the same title by association. With a tight lipped smile, she unlocked her locker to retrieve her bento box. Begrudgingly accepting her self inflicted fate of ill repute for the next couple semesters.

"Well, at least I'm not invisible anymore." She groaned, slamming her locker door closed after retrieving her pink bunny clothed sack from her upper shelf. Slowly bowing her head shamefully, as the clique of girls nearby began giggling and whispering.

She headed for the main entrance only to find the courtyard flooded by heavy spring rain. It was now obvious that Kakyu's so called bad karma was now affecting her as well. With her private picnic spot no longer an option, she had two choices to make. Did she go back and eat alone at her desk like a friendless loser or attempt to find a spot to eat in the cafeteria? Option one sounded far to depressing, so she headed up to the cafeteria. Each step toward the crowded, overly loud and rowdy twenty by twenty matt cell her school mates called the lunch room. Became more and more of a struggle. By the time her hands were braced upon the sliding doors, prepared to push a slat open her courage had drained away. Frozen in the hall listening to the deafening voices of that overly crowded room, that lurked inside. She stood indecisive for a moment then she turned stiffly on her heel and rushed away. She wandered aimlessly through the halls contemplating what option three might be? The thought of skipping lunch all together and hiding in the library looked the most viable at the moment. Swallowing hard she wondered if the Ghost Girl haunted the stacks during mid-day? In every ghost story she had every heard. Ghosts only came out at night or perhaps early in the mornings and late in the evenings. It was very unlikely that she would meet the ghost at this time to day. Confident with her plan she headed back up the stairs, towards the library. Willing to take the chance, just to find a temporary sanctuary from the halls of torture.