Winds of the World
It had been another sweltering hot day. Sweat trickled down her arms at the shopping bags she was clutching, full to the brim. Tohru Honda took a deep breath and looked determined up towards Shigure’s house, a lonely silhouette against the cirrus sky, which was beginning to turn into the pink and orange hues of early evening.
The house was far from quiet however. Her grocery bags were more than twice as heavier than usual, accommodating for the other individuals taking up lodgings there for the night. In addition to Shigure, Kyo, Yuki and herself, they had six other guests.
She had set herself the challenge of preparing a banquet before they left the house in the early hours of the morning. As she trudged up the tears, bags threatening to unbalance her, she listed the ingredients in her head, a mantra to distract her from the weight of her load. When she was half a dozen steps away from the top, she squeezed her eyes shut and launched herself up the stairs. She could make it!
Tohru though was not the most graceful individual. And she lost count after 3 and her legs continued to stretch and propel her weight off the ground despite her having no more steps to climb.
She thought she was still climbing stairs. If she opened her eyes, she would wince and succumb to vertigo. She had to endure it. And then she could finish packing her bags for tomorrow… tomorrow… tomorrow!
She was going on a camping trip with the Sohma family! When Shigure had told her that he had arranged the trip to ‘gain inspiration for his newest novel’, she had not wanted to be an inconvenience. But Shigure had shrugged off this comment. He had unfolded an instruction manual for the main tent he was planning to bring. Tohru’s eyes had widened when she had seen how many rooms were in this tent. She blushed, thinking about her demolished former home and how miniscule it looked in comparison.
And Shigure had another tent for Tohru to use. It was smaller but appeared to be no less grand than the first one. Tohru’s tent was like Shigure’s house compared to the main Sohma family house.
Shigure had smirked. They were set to leave in three weekends. The other zodiac members Tohru was friends with had accepted their invitations. Hatori was driving the Sohma-owned minibus and the younger zodiac members had permission from their guardians to spend three nights in the forest.
Those three weekends had passed by quickly. Tohru was kept busy with housework and her job, which she was working more hours for now that school term had finished.
When she had woken up this morning, a strong beam of sunlight shining on her face, stirring her from the remnants of slumber. An excited wave of adrenaline was sent singing through her body. She had laundry to finish! A house to vacuum and polish! If she was shirking on her duties for three nights, she would make up for that with her hard work today.
Throughout the day, Sohma members arrived. First came Momiji, practically bouncing in excitement, which had annoyed Yuki and Kyo to the extent that the two left the house and retreated to their safe dens: the vegetable patch and roof respectively. Kagura had shown up after lunchtime (disappointed that Kyo was nowhere to be found) followed closely by Hiro and Kisa. It was then that Tohru decided to leave to get some groceries. When everyone had offered to give help her, she had politely declined. They were thankfully distracted when Shigure asked for their assistance in helping practice assemble the tents.
Hatsuharu and Hatori had yet to arrive when she had slipped out of the front door, a bright smile resting on her face.
She adored her family and was so grateful that they were a part of her life. The only thing she wanted, her mind vaguely reminded her, was her mother to have met the Sohmas. Kyoko would have loved them all, especially Yuki and Kyo.
She could hear her mother’s voice in her mind, squealing at how ‘adorable’ Tohru was and how proud she always was of her daughter. It made Tohru’s steps feel lighter and quicker.
The sun was slipping towards the west, now past its zenith, by the time she had departed from the store with food-laden bags. The walk had taken longer than she had expected and by the time she had reached the property’s grounds, a hush had come about the land. The only sound that could be heard was the humming of cicadas, entrapping the land in a trance only summer could bring.
But once she had finished climbing the stairs proper, she could hear the chaos of Shigure’s house.
Tohru, back in the present, opened her eyes which widened in shock. In front of her was a beaming blond-haired boy with caramel-coloured eyes. Tohru gasped, feeling her insides twirl like a ballet dancer in the middle of a pirouette. Vertigo seized control of her limbs and she tottered precariously backwards.
A hand took a gentle but firm hold of her arm and started to pull her away from the edge of the stairs. Momiji Sohma’s expression was relaxed but his eyes suggested otherwise: they were brimming with concern, as though the rabbit of the zodiac was going to cry. He carefully hid his face for as long as he could but Tohru felt her giddiness fade away the instant she had the boy hiccup.
“You shouldn’t have done this much shopping by yourself, Tohru,” the half-German, half-Japanese Sohma moved his hand down from her arm and gently lowered her hands to the ground where she could unload her shopping. He shook his head so his bangs obscured his face.
“Momiji, are you alright?” Tohru cupped a hand on Momiji’s cheek. She directed his head with her hand until he was looking at her.
“Tohru…” Momiji shivered, his head lowered and shoulders sagging, “you’re ok, aren’t you? You’re not sad, are you? I just thought…because you left without anyone…without me…”
Tohru gasped. Momiji must have been waiting for her. Even worse, he could have just been about to start the trip to meet her at the grocery store. She had taken a much longer time than usual. But she hadn’t thought about telling anyone that. And now she had made Momiji worry unnecessarily about her. What about the other Sohmas? Had she made them worry too?
“Momiji, I’m so sorry! I’m not sad at all. I’m so excited to spend this trip with you and the others-” Tohru started and then heard him hiccup again.
“Momiji?” she questioned, but the younger Sohma shook his head.
“No, I’m not going to cry. If you’re not sad, Tohru, then everything’s alright. We’re going on a trip together this weekend! We can roast marshmellows and swim in the river and tell ghost stories- I’m happy. So happy,” Momiji’s eyes were watering but he didn’t shed a tear. He closed his eyes and started humming his song.
He grabbed hold of one of the grocery bags and used all of his strength to carry it towards the house. She took the remaining bag and hurried over to him, where she linked arms with him. They hummed his song quietly, faint over the drone of the cicadas.
She was cast into shadow by Shigure’s house looming over her. But she didn’t feel cold at all.
Tohru Honda was safe and warm and loved.
She was home.
Earlier, while Tohru was shopping
This was the hardest task Kyo had to complete so far this year.
How could he get into his own damn home, unnoticed, when there was a rampant boar stalking the corridors waiting to beat him to a pulp? And there were too many other intruders in his personal space too. Why couldn’t they have come tomorrow morning?
Why did Shigure have to invite them the night before?
Part of Kyo suspected it was to annoy him and Yuki. Shigure enjoyed a joke.
He ruffled a hand through his hair, too damn annoyed to think.
Why did he even have to go on this trip in the first place?
He was perched in a tree in viewing distance of the house. If someone bothered to look in his direction, they would see an angry orange-haired young adult with baggy clothes scowling. There was no easy solution, dammit.
He couldn’t just waltz into his bedroom through the window (which would be the route he usually opted for). His bedroom was to be shared with Momiji and Hiro that night. This camping trip hadn’t even started and it was already shaping to be a disaster.
He could see Shigure and the damn rat discussing something at the table. Momiji was sitting by the porch, his legs crossed and eyes staring intently into the horizon. Kyo faintly wondered what was going through his Tohru-obsessed little head.
And who the hell knew where Kagura, Hiro and Kisa were. Being nuisances, Kyo knew.
Haru had probably got himself lost somewhere on his way. Just like Tohru…
Snap out of it, she doesn’t need you to babysit her, Kyo rolled his eyes and planned a strategy.
There was no way he was going to transform. He felt uncomfortable enough wearing the beads carved from bones on his wrist day in, day out. Plus, that made him easier for Kagura to trap him. He wouldn’t do anything that stupid.
He had learnt to think things through since he had lived in the mountains. His temper had quelled (a little) and he was developing patience. Not that he was a calm or patient person. It would just help Kyo in a fight against damn Yuki.
Kyo had been summoned back due to his growling stomach. He wanted to eat something, anything. And as much as he wanted to spend the weekend in isolation that wasn’t going to happen.
He leapt out of the tree, landing nimbly on his feet and shoved his hands into his pockets, trudging slowly towards the house.
The damn rat was in his line of sight but the clueless idiot had no idea that he was approaching. Shigure was surprisingly distracted too.
That’s when he heard them talking. Kyo mentally tuned his hearing to what the dog and rat were discussing.
“What do you mean, Shigure?” the rat’s usually quiet voice was poisonously sweet. Yuki was fiddling with a strand of his hair, probably making his hair match his pretty face.
“I couldn’t say no now, could I, Yuki?” the dog simpered his voice sounding pathetic and he clutched his forehead as if he had a headache.
Kyo already had one listening to their petty conversation.
“What I want to know is how he found out about the trip in the first place,” Yuki glared at Shigure. Shigure shivered even though he had a fan in his wrist, feebly trying to blow away the sweat forming on his neck.
“I may have...accidently…but don’t look at me, it was Haa-san who insisted that I called him!” Shigure was shedding fake tears that were not helping his cold. Yuki started smiling. Shigure shook violently.
And Kyo pieced together the pieces in the brain.
The damn rat was a polite bastard and tried to be nice to everyone. Kyo didn’t understand- he actually had a place in this family, something that Kyo had been fighting to claim his entire life.
However, he could dismiss his rivalry with Yuki. They combined hatred forces against him.
“Plus, Aya can’t wait to see you!” Shigure couldn’t help but add.
Yuki stood up, his smile growing even wider and stalked across the room. He took a deep breath and grabbed Shigure’s arm and dragged him to the door, “get out. I don’t want to look at you for the next month.”
“I’m sorry, Yuki! Your brother loves you!” Shigure sobbed as the door was slammed shut on his face and the rat let out an exasperated sigh.
“You might as well stop gawking there, stupid cat,” Yuki said, his tone flat.
“Tell your damn brother to piss off, damn rat,” Kyo huffed, “he’s your problem.”
“He’s already on his way, apparently,” there was a pause, “and just so you know, Kagura’s been looking for you,” Yuki sighed, sitting back down in his seat. He picked up his half-finished book with one hand and rubbed his temples with the other.
Kyo’s stomach and throat growled in synchronisation, albeit for different reasons.
“Kyo’s back?” Kagura’s concerned voice filled the ground floor.
“Stupid cat,” Yuki said as Kyo tried to back away.
“Why did you leave me alone, Kyo?” Kagura slammed through the paper and wood lattice where Shigure was still standing pathetically.
Kyo’s mouth widened into a silent scream.
The nightmare had begun.
“Ayame can make it too? That’s such good news! I can't wait to meet him there tomorrow,” Tohru cried with delight, clapping her hands together when Shigure gave her the good news. She knew that Yuki and Kyo wouldn’t be happy about this. Hopefully it could give them a chance to get to know each other better, especially Yuki and Ayame.
“I’m so glad you’re appreciative of my hard work, Tohru,” Shigure took a sip of his drink. He was watching Tohru prepare the food. But he had been pushed to the side of the kitchen by the bustling helpers that were gathered like a cloud around her.
Kisa was stirring a bowl full of something sweet. Momiji was seasoning some rice. Kagura was busy chopping vegetables. Tohru was praising them endlessly which encouraged them to work harder. Shigure didn’t think she realised the effect she was having on her work force, but it was an efficient technique he should try and utilise with Yuki and Kyo.
There was a merry and warm vibe to the house and Tohru was its nucleus. Shigure could not imagine going back to a time where the kitchen was an ocean of garbage and he had had to endure eating burnt rice every day.
He loved Tohru and her cooking and the thought of her growing up could bring him to tears.
And he was looking to this mini feast she was preparing. It was worth it for having to surrender his study for Hatori overnight. The minibus was parked outside ready and petrol had been collected, to save the hassle for Hatori this evening. The doctor needed to eat and breathe and sleep too.
As if on cue, he heard a ring of the bell. Someone answered the door and let Hatsuharu and Hatori in. Shigure could imagine the house sighing, imagining how many more people it had to accommodate.
“Did you miss me, Yuki?” Shigure heard Hatsuharu say as he pattered from the kitchen to the front entrance. He was only being a hindrance to the cooking effort and he couldn’t let that happen. He could go and annoy Hatori instead.
They were best friends forever of course. Shigure grinned, fully aware of how Hatori hated the phrase.
“So many people in a small house for a dumb trip. It’s nearly as dumb as Mogeta,” Shigure watched Hiro hurry away from the crowd gathered by the door, presumably going to stalk Kisa in the kitchen. Shigure was about to call out to young Hiro to be careful in there and not get hugged by Tohru. Hiro had more common sense than that and wouldn’t appreciate being told what to do by Shigure.
When he saw Hatori, he waved frantically only for Hatori to sigh and ignore him.
How rude! Shigure was going to find Hatori to have a smoke with him and question him about his love life when he heard the angelic cry of Tohru’s voice announcing “food’s ready!”
Everyone was in high spirits. The camping trip was going to be a chance for everyone to bond but more importantly it gave him the opportunity to torment his editor for three nights.
Shigure skipped to dinner, happier than he had ever been.
The car journey
There was silence in the car between the two individuals sat in the driver’s seat and passenger’s seat. Silence in that there was no communication. The music on the radio was a different story altogether.
For five minutes, the car sped contentedly along the road to the fine bow of the violin and a classical ensemble of instruments. The classical music station was switched over with a press of the button to something punk-rock heavy.
God knows, Hatori thought silently, almost laughing pathetically at that thought, while Hatsuharu Sohma thumped his hands against his lap, staring absentmindedly out of the window. The cow of the zodiac likely wasn’t aware what his hands were doing. His mind often dithered off.
Hatori envied his younger relative for that. His mind was a constant hub of activity. If he had something to occupy his thoughts, like his work, he could let his brain accelerate into top gear as his car did. His family was enormous- an entire clan of its own; the head of the family could become infected with a cold by stepping outside the house and a proportion of family members required medical as well as veterinary treatment.
All in all, Hatori Sohma spent the majority of his day preoccupied. He let his somewhat functional brain and caffeine do the work for him.
When he had finished his rounds with Akito that morning, he had come to the realisation that he would have nothing to do for the next four days. And while the thought of that would be bliss to ordinary human beings, for him it was an inconvenience. It meant that he had the time and resources to think.
Thinking and logic was his most loyal ally although it was also unfortunately his biggest weakness (of which he had many). But when he had free time, a different type of thinking driven by memories and the past stirred emotions in the doctor. It made him notice things. Like how his left ache had a permanent ache to it. Or the fact that he felt tired. Perpetually tired as though existing was a chore at times (or all the time).
His thoughts lingered on her. They always did. He had not spoken to her since. Hatori couldn’t even look at her in the eye despite there being a time not long ago when those eyes could alleviate any intrusive thought or care that was plaguing his brain.
He couldn’t look at her. How could he? What kind of right did he have to drag Kana back into the abyss that was his life? She was happy. And she had another chance. If guardian angels existed, he would sink as low as praying for her to be happy.
She deserved to shine and enjoy the simple pleasures of life, just like this beautiful, beautiful summer’s day.
He shook his head instinctively. Being possessed by the Dragon’s spirit made him fiercely protective of what little he had. And she was not his. Kana was a human who had blossomed after forgetting the icy wasteland that was the time she had spent with Hatori. He had to sate his spirit’s appetite by focusing his energy on his work and the insiders of the Sohma family. This was where he belonged. With the other cursed members who shared his burden, reminding him selfishly how he was not the only one constantly haunted by a vengeful spirit.
He could hear his spirit’s whispers when he was thinking. And he had to summon the willpower to repress that voice and remind the Dragon that he was the one in control. He drove the car.
He thought about his idiotic best friends. He thought about the Honda girl who reminded him so much of her. He thought about Akito getting another cold and how possessive she would be of Kureno.
Akito this. Akito that. Akito Akito Akito.
The Dragon was jealous. Hatori was fearful.
Shut up, he chastised his thoughts suppressing them deep in his head.
No matter how loud the music played, no matter how fast the car was skirting on the roads, his mind wouldn’t stop damn thinking.
He inched his foot down on the accelerator and without taking his eye off the road, he deftly changed the radio station back to his classical.
“I don’t like it, Hatori,” Hatsuharu’s voice reminded Hatori that he wasn’t on his own. That was the sheer power of his brain: it could isolate him from the world and deposit him in his icy wasteland, where nothing but winter and death resided.
It ostracised him in a way that no human could.
“Well, I do,” he replied, turning up the volume as he spoke.
“Let’s listen to something else,” luckily White Haru was present. Hatori had limited patience as it was, least of all for Black Haru.
“10 minutes and then I’ll consider swapping,” Hatori watched in his peripheral vision as Haru settled deeper into the seat, closing his eyes.
“Fine. As long as I get to see Yuki, I don’t care,” Hatsuharu drifted into a light sleep. Hatori was well aware that Haru had not had it easy in life. He was cursed to be scorned and mocked; not to the same extent as the cat, but Haru was part of the inner circle and couldn’t escape from the limelight as easily as Kyo could. Although he was second in line in the zodiac order, Hatsuharu did not have any privileges over the other Junishi at all.
Haru was more than ten years Hatori’s junior. But he had his own thoughts and demons to fight.
Hatori sighed and changed the radio back over.
He couldn’t look himself away in that wasteland forever.
Kana was right. She always was.
Notus is the name for the South Wind, one of the major Anemoi (wind deities). Notus is associated with bringing late summer showers and the storms of early autumn.
Next chapter: Eurus