Chapter 1: Notus
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
Winds of the World
The minibus ride- the morning after
Tohru sat near the front of the 16-person minibus and glanced out of the window, watching the change of scenery with keenness like a child.
Kisa sat next to her and in front of them Hiro took up his own double seat. Kisa’s plushies sat proudly in the seat beside him. Hiro himself was too grown up for such childish possessions. Hiro had grown up fast and had a mind advanced for his body.
Tohru admired his determination and wit, even if she had to put him in his place when she had found out what zodiac year he was.
“Are we nearly there?” Hiro sighed, kicking his feet in front of him.
“I’m not sure, I knew it was a few hours away so we must be close,” Tohru guessed, biting her lip. In truth she had no idea where they were or how close they were. Her gut feeling was telling her that they were going to arrive soon.
“Well that’s totally useful, you can’t even give me a simple answer. Didn’t Shigure go through the travel route with you?” Hiro responded, folding his arms. He closed his eyes and looked displeased until he got the information he wanted.
“Well…yes…but I was paying more attention about what to pack I think…I don’t remember…” Tohru said, flustered and Kisa squeezed Tohru’s hand reassuringly.
“Don’t be so mean, Hiro. Tohru’s been really busy getting ready for the trip,” Kisa said lightly to Hiro. In response the young boy went quiet and started to occupy himself with flicking a finger at the plushies and eavesdropping on Kagura’s pledging of love to Kyo.
Kyo and Yuki were located at opposite ends of the bus being fussed over by Kagura and Hatsuharu respectively. The true adults were sitting in the driver’s compartment.
“I’m sorry, Hiro,” Tohru offered the ram of the zodiac a snack as a form of apology. It was accepted but without an apology.
“Thanks,” he muttered and chewed on the candy and glanced at Tohru’s lap, “I can’t believe how dumb that rabbit is.”
Tohru tried not to shuffle the precious bundle in her lap. Momiji was tightly curled up in his rabbit form, snoring lightly.
Both Kisa and Momiji had wanted to sit next to Tohru. Hiro had wanted his own seat as long as he was near Kisa. And Hatsuharu had taken the back seats already for him and Yuki.
Momiji had laughed happily and leapt into Tohru’s arms for a hug, which she returned of course. There was a poof and left behind was a pile of human clothes and a very non-human Momiji.
Before the rabbit had fallen asleep, he had whispered “I would hug you every day” into her ear and Tohru had held him closer to her heart.
Momiji was the most comfortable out of the zodiac members she knew, besides Hatsuharu possibly, in their zodiac form. No matter what form he was in, he was Momiji and Tohru loved him.
Tohru realised she was running a finger along his soft ears. She paused for a moment and continued with the action. Kisa pressed against her side and Tohru felt as though she was in heaven.
How could this holiday already be so perfect when they hadn’t arrived yet?
In the corner of her eye, she watched Kisa reach her free hand and grasped Hiro’s firmly. Hiro didn’t let go.
“We’re lost,” Hatori reported.
“No we’re not! Take the next left,” Shigure fumbled with the map attempting to follow their location with a finger.
“It would help if you were holding the map the right way up,” Hatori deadpanned.
“Ha, I knew that!” Shigure chuckled turning the map around 180 degrees, “take the next right, designated driver.”
“You’re a fool,” Hatori said, wondering if anyone would notice if he kicked Shigure out the car onto the roadside and picked him up in four days.
As the minibus drove past the sign labelled ‘Camp Riverside’, Yuki resisted a grin from forming on his face. How unoriginal.
The campsite was located by a river, but surely they could name the camp after more than just one prominent feature.
It was like the classmates at his high school. They saw his charming side, a fake and decided that would become his identity. His only feature. The only thing he could be was a Prince. And how he hated it. He could never speak up, never escape from what they had made him. Just like the Sohma family.
Just like Akito.
Yuki remembered a dark room. He remembered being cold even though the sun was shining and thre birds were twittering outside. Yuki remembered being sick and wanting to fall asleep for a long time because he knew there was no way he would ever get better-
But he did.
Yuki shook his head. He may have physically escaped the confines of Sohma, although his mind was still chained to Akito. He loved and hated him.
Whenever he tried to write his plethora of devotion and disgusted feelings into his journal, words failed. He couldn’t describe what lifetimes of memory and experiences were with words.
The worst part of the curse for Yuki was that. He didn’t have an identity. He was the Prince. He was the Rat. And when he tried to be himself, he was ignored. He was forgotten.
Until he had met Miss Honda.
Living with Shigure and her and the stupid cat had been a blessing for him. He was beginning to develop his own likes and dislikes and speaking up for himself. Yuki wanted to be noticed for who he wanted to be and not what the limelight dictated he be.
He still had a closest of demons to fight. And he was not quite ready to fight them yet.
He would though. It would take time and it would hurt.
But he would win. Someday.
He clenched his fist and Haru looked at him from his window seat. Haru could stare into space for hours on end, but Yuki found he quickly became bored if that was the case. He had packed a couple of books to see him through the journey and free time before dinner. He had also packed the journal.
Yuki carried it around like a weight. It was his burden to carry and served as a gentle reminder that he didn’t want to go back to those lonely, dark days.
He couldn’t go back.
“Yuki?” Haru asked but Yuki simply shrugged, letting Haru know the concern was unnecessary and snapped out of his reverie.
The minibus was a series of fast-fire chatter. Momiji had regained his human form and was bouncing up and down in his seat. Kisa had moved next to Hiro as if the rabbit had too much energy for her.
Miss Honda was laughing.
The damn cat was the only silent one; he had likely been tired out from his daily dose of Kagura. Yuki smirked- it’s what the stupid cat deserved for being a nuisance.
As the minibus pulled into its parking space at reception, Hatori and Shigure stepped out and headed to check them in. The others opened the sliding door to the minibus. Yuki unplugged his seatbelt and shrugged his way out of the seat. He shuffled along the aisle. He took in a breath of fresh air and felt a warm breeze stir his bangs.
He finally took the chance to gaze at his surroundings and it did not disappoint. The campsite was nestled in the mountains. Large peaks towered above them like pillars. A river darted from its source high in those peaks and wove its way across the land like a piece of thread. The river was clear, the trees were tall and the flowers were in full bloom. Shigure could only be inspired from this paradise.
Yuki thought about a walk through the mountain path with Miss Honda, discussing about the vegetables they could harvest once they returned. She was curious how he watered the plants while he was away and how he was confident they would not wilt in the heat.
Miss Honda connected with the world and some of its people he loved so strongly. And that was why he felt himself drawn to her.
She had her summer hat on, her hair loose and she had closed her eyes and lifted it to the sun. Momiji was copying her pose.
“It’s beautiful,” Haru said, nearly making Yuki jump. He had not expected that.
“Mmm,” Yuki composed himself, agreeing with Haru. He could definitely relax here away from the busy hustle and bustle of the urban environment.
Shigure and Hatori stepped out of reception with what appeared to be a map of the campsite. But then someone else came out after them.
Instinct told Yuki to run.
He still had to time to get out of there.
“Oh dear Yuki, it is I, your devoted brother who has travelled the seven seas to spend time with you this weekend!” Ayame Sohma opened up his parasol and flicked his braid behind his back. Shigure applauded his idiotic brother and Hatori lifted a hand to his head, as if the presence of the snake had already given him a headache.
“You’re so dedicated, Aya,” Shigure was moved to tears by Ayame. As usual.
“I have to be. That is the secret, my friend, silent dedication. I would be there for my darling Yuki at any hour of the day or night. If he called my name, I would be there! Now where is my dear brother?” he started scanning the crowd of the Sohma family members for Yuki. His grey hair gave him away easily.
“Can I get back on the coach?” Yuki whispered to Haru before he heard his brother shout to him.
“Oh, Yuki! Come here and thank me personally for embarking on this wonderful trip out of town with you!” Ayame waved frantically at Yuki, calling out his name, “and look how you’ve grown, you’ll be my double before you know it!”
“I think I’ll find somewhere on the opposite side of the camp to stay,” Yuki threatened seriously, an irritating twitch having appeared on his eyelid.
“But we have so much to catch up on! We’ll share a room- now don’t be jealous Kyonkichi, I shared a room with you before!” Ayame replied (while the stupid cat was protesting: “don’t call me Kyonkichi”).
“It’s good to see you, Ayame,” Miss Honda went up to his older brother and shook his hand. Ayame was pleased with this reception. Yuki took a deep breath. If Miss Honda was happy, he could tolerate his brother’s frivolities.
Several hours later, the sun had set and two tents were standing erect, insignificant against the spindle of stars starting to emerge from their cocoons in the darkening sky. Yuki would have wanted to go for a paddle in the river but the walk to where they had pitched their tents had tired him out. Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was the travel from earlier. Or maybe it was his brief but draining encounter with his brother.
But he felt exhausted.
So he had taken a nap in his tent compartment that Shigure had thankfully encouraged Ayame not to share with him.
Rubbing the last remnants of sleep from his eyes, he took a deep breath (which ached) and rubbed at the eye bags he was collecting. Yuki loved the evenings. It was when he was most productive and inspired. And everyone in the family knew how he was not an early bird.
His legs felt heavy and his chest was tight. As he pressed a hand to his forehead, he found himself sweaty, even though it had cooled significantly the later into the evening it got.
It was typical of him to get a fever on the first day of his holiday. He grabbed his inhaler from his bag and took several deep breaths, coaxing his tight bronchioles to relax. Yuki coughed but as breathing became less of a strain, he straightened up and pushed the tent flap to the side.
As long as he did not push his body too hard, he should be fine. With a good night’s rest, he thought he thought he would be able to break his fever by the morning. But he wasn’t going to let it stop him from spending time with Miss Honda.
From inside the main tent compartment, which led to each of their rooms, he could see the outline of the fire, flames twirling above the people gathered around it.
As he stepped outside, he drew his jacket closer to him, surprised by how chilly it was. But Hiro and Haru were just wearing tops and nobody looked to be especially cold (except his brother, but he had an excuse). Yuki’s fever suspicions were confirmed.
There was a table set up for all eleven of them, although it was currently unoccupied. Miss Honda and Kagura had set up a separate station for food and they both were chatting away excitedly about their plans over the next few days.
Yuki saw the only vacant seat squeezed in-between Haru and his brother’s. He was on the opposite side of the stupid cat, thank goodness. His limit was one idiot at a time. While he could remain unnoticed, he quietly skirted around the fire to the food station, the long grass cold where it poked at his sandals.
“Do you need any help, Miss Honda?” Yuki asked from the shadows to which Miss Honda yelped.
“Oh, Yuki, it’s you! I thought it was a bear, or something not friendly. Would there be mountain bears here? I don’t have any food to offer him or her,” she blurted out and her face blushed in embarrassment.
“There wouldn’t be any bears here. I’m sure Kagura’s boars will keep a firm guard up for us,” Yuki promised much to it seemed Miss Honda’s relief. Kagura nodded firmly. Yuki wouldn’t put it past her to set up those protective measures.
She guarded her Kyo carefully and wouldn’t let him escape.
“Oh, that’s good,” Miss Honda laughed weakly, “thank you for your offer but we’ve just finished! It’s a good thing you woke up when you did. Are you feeling better, Yuki?”
“Yes, thank you, Miss Honda. It must have just been heatstroke,” Yuki dismissed her concern with a wave of his hand and smiled.
“Thank goodness,” Miss Honda was never the best at hiding her emotions. The sudden relief in her body posture made Yuki’s stomach tighten: he did not want her to worry about him.
“Let’s eat dinner together and have a wonderful evening!” Tohru’s optimism radiated outwards into the night. She grabbed his hand and summoned everyone to the dinner table much to their combined excitement. That warmth poured into the darkest corners of Yuki’s soul. It reminded him that no matter what, the sun would always rise.
And a new day without the hurts of yesterday would begin.
Yuki didn’t argue with the stupid cat or his idiotic brother the whole evening. The only quarrel was Hiro demanding he stay in the girls’ tent with Kisa. He was young and got his own way. For Momiji on the other hand, it took some convincing to have him sleep in the main tent. Tohru needed her rest too.
And for the first time in a long while, Yuki smiled. It was hidden from view but it was present nevertheless. His demons didn’t come to haunt him that evening.
Nobody noticed the storm clouds brewing over the mountains, watching and waiting for the opportunity to strike.
Eurus is the name for the South-East Wind, one of the major Anemoi (wind deities). Eurus is associated with autumn and the mysteries it holds in potential.
Next chapter: Apeliotes
I'm glad Yuki could get his part in this chapter. He doesn't need to be the loudest presence in the Sohma family but he definitely has his place!
The story is diving into the storm and angst next chapter. See you for that tomorrow!
Winds of the World
Tohru curled up in her blankets, drawing warmth from the material closer to her face. She could hear the faint snores of Kagura, Hiro and Kisa. Tohru smiled. They weren’t having nightmares. Her family could relax and take a deep breath from the stresses of their daily lives.
Out away from the Main House, she hoped they could relax and be themselves. Happiness flooded through her when she had watched them smile over dinner.
Even Yuki and Kyo.
Tohru suddenly fumbled around. She pulled the blankets askew, her hands skimming blindly until they wrapped around what she was seeking.
Tohru closed her eyes holding onto the portrait of her mother tightly.
She was not alone.
Kyo could sleep through the night undisturbed. If he was hot and bothered before he fell asleep, he would get irritated and toss and turn. He did have trouble settling off to sleep but as soon as he was in the dream realm, he would rarely be woken up until his morning alarm. Or if he needed to take a leak. Or if he was pissed off.
On those nights when his mind wouldn’t rest, he would sit on the rooftop and stargaze. He would join the dots together. Shishou had taught him it was a focusing technique. And some other stuff about how he the world was connected like the stars were. He didn’t believe much in that crap. However, on the rooftop, the stars were quiet and that gave him time to process his thoughts. He would think about the good times when he was off training in the wilderness or at the dojo.
And when he settled into bed after, he would fall straight to sleep. No nightmares would haunt him that night.
Another exception to the rule was rainy days. How he goddamn hated rainy days. The Cat spirit would become stressed and pissed off, which pissed Kyo off. It was a pain sharing his soul with such a pernickety bastard.
Kyo felt himself stir from his deep sleep. The air was humid and he felt stuffy. Claustrophobic. And it wasn’t by being in a tent. The Cat shuddered, instincts on edge. He clutched at his pyjama top feeling his breaths coming in sharp gasps.
Why did he feel like this?
Usually he had a wave of irritancy that passed as quickly as it came. He would be antisocial and pissed off but other than that he would endure it.
His heart shouldn’t be pounding. His hands shouldn’t be shaking.
Why the hell was he terrified?
The sky hurtled his answer down to earth at the speed of light. A flash of lightning and snap of thunder split the night. A gust of wind caused Kyo’s hairs to stand erect. The night was still for a second, paused in thought. It came to a decision. The floodgates between the sky and earth opened and rain began falling down in streams.
A storm. They were caught in a summer storm.
And then he heard another sound that pierced through the rain. A scream. He didn’t know who the voice belonged to but it set his mind into action. Kyo allowed the adrenaline to guide him. He grabbed his rucksack, sleeping bag forgotten and heaved it over his shoulder.
He scanned his brain for answers. The scream echoed in his mind. He had heard it before.
And so had the Cat. He hated the rain. He was often teased for being afraid of water. But so be it. He was content in the warmth.
Kisa. She loved rain and water like her zodiac sign. The Tiger had been known to tease the Cat gently about his perpetual fear of water. But she was petrified of lightning.
Koy shuddered. He wasn’t as close to her as the others were. Kisa wasn’t a nuisance to him though. And she had never excluded him despite his heritage.
She was someone everyone in the zodiac wanted to protect.
He nearly ripped the zip off his door as he emerged into the main living area of the damn massive tent. Kyo could see adequately in the darkness. Others were stirring in their beds. In the compartment next to him, he could see the outline of someone fumbling with their zip. He rushed over and yanked the zip all the way around. A wide-eyed Haru glanced at him, nodded and hurried off who the hell knew where.
Kyo trusted Haru to take care of himself and find the others.
By the time Haru had emerged, Hatori and Shigure had climbed out of their rooms. Hatori held the hand of a sleepy Momiji.
Thunder cracked through the sky like a metal whip causing a dazed Momiji to bolt wide awake. The same primitive fear flooded through his eyes, the same expression as Haru. It made sense. Both were possessed by prey animals and their strongest instinct would be to flee.
“Tohru!” he cried and pulled out of Hatori’s grip. Without glancing back, he fled in the same direction as Haru.
Kyo was about to chase after them when Shigure stared at him in the eye and shook his head. He muttered something to Hatori and the doctor nodded, sprinting after Momiji. Shigure gestured for Kyo to follow.
What about Tohru? Kyo was torn but the Cat wanted to remain in the tent. The Cat didn’t want to go out into the rain and his body be dragged down to the ground. Or he would drown in the river. Water was his enemy.
Haru and Momiji were younger than him but they had more bravery than he did.
Kyo was such a damn coward. But he didn’t have time to think. As much as Shigure annoyed him and Kyo had the sinking feeling Shigure wasn’t completely honest about his intentions, the author had saved him from a dark place. He didn’t have to live at the main Sohma family estate and for that Kyo had been immediately grateful to the dog.
Hell, living with that damn rat was minutely better than living under the shadow of Akito, who was sickened by his presence.
Like the monster he was…
He had an ugly bestial form that could endure the night and rain. That had endured the night and rain. But he was too much of a coward. Haru was right. Yuki was right. They were all right.
He was a pathetic monster. Kyo couldn’t even do that right.
Kyo’s legs had planted themselves on the spot and were unwilling to move.
“Kyo!” Shigure shouted over the rain, which was thrashing against the tent’s fabric. Harsher and more ferocious than a few moments before.
“We need to wake up the Aya and Yuki!” Shigure pointed to the tent compartment the damn rat was sleeping in. Kyo forced his head to nod. Too late. Shigure had already beaten Kyo to it and was tearing the zip off and stepping into the damn snake’s compartment.
“But what about Tohru?” Kyo called, frustration and fear an accumulating, swirling mass in the pits of his stomach.
“The others are outside already. They’ll take care of Tohru. We need to get everyone out,” Shigure ordered and the trivial man without a care in the world was replaced with a guardian responsible for them.
He did trust the others to look after Tohru. She would help maintain an air of calm.
Dammit! If only the damn Cat had not hesitated over a crappy fear of water. Kyo had to be the one left behind with Shigure and the useless rat and snake.
How could those brothers sleep through the chaos?
How could they sleep through the screaming?
Kyo closed his eyes, psyching himself up and willing his legs to move. He clenched his jaw and with a grunt, he fought the Cat’s instinct to freeze and dragged himself towards the younger idiot brother’s compartment. It demanded more energy than he was expecting. Kyo could feel cool sweat slip down his cheeks.
“Hey, Yuki, wake up!” Kyo shouted. One hand fumbled at the door (since when had his hand been shaking?) and the other clutched at his stomach willing the surfacing nausea to abate.
Kyo waited for a second (which was a second too long in his mind) for Yuki to reply. No answer.
Relying on instinct over dexterity, Kyo clawed at the fabric with such ferocity that he made a hole.
“Wake up, damn rat!” Kyo bellowed. The sound was loud enough for the whole campsite to hear.
The mass under the blankets finally stirred. But instead of pushing the sheets to the side, the mass huddled tighter and stopped moving.
Yuki was not waking up. If the idiot had fallen asleep again Kyo would slap his girly face to a pulp.
Kyo cursed under his breath and stepped through the hole he had made. Kyo smelt it straight away: the stench of illness. He could relate the sensation to contaminated food; detritus and rotting.
The damn rat was shivering. And wheezing. He was curled tightly in a ball in an unconscious effort to warm himself up. Cough cough cough. Fleeces were wrapped around him. Damn idiot had a fever. And his crappy lungs were being exactly that: crap.
As Kyo was about to call out for Shigure- or anyone really- Yuki opened his eyes, hacking coughs sending spasms along his body.
“Tohru…” he managed to say weakly before his eyes closed again. Kyo blinked and concern flooded through him for Yuki. He never called Tohru that. He must be really feeling sick.
And there was a sudden poof as Yuki lost his human form.
A grey rat landed lightly on the pillow, too weak to move. Kyo couldn’t have the damn rat die or Tohru would be heartbroken. And he wanted to beat Yuki fairly. There would be no victory if he won against Yuki while he was a feverish bundle of fur.
“You owe me for this, damn rat,” Kyo muttered as he grabbed Yuki’s bag in the corner of his tent. He shoved his own coat on and shoved the rat into his pocket, “if you feel like transforming, wriggle or something.
“And if you ruin this coat, I will kill you.”
Yuki didn’t reply but as long as he was breathing, that would have to suffice until Hatori could check over him. Kyo struggled out of the tent with twice as many belongings to see Shigure in a similar position stepping out of Ayame’s compartment. He had a white snake wrapped around his neck. If there was the slightest temperature change, Ayame transformed. But the snake was pointing his tail towards Kyo, eyes intent and alert.
“Where’s Yuki?” Shigure shouted over the noise of the whipping tent.
“Couldn’t stomach the bad weather,” Kyo crossed his arms before pointing towards his pocket. Shigure’s tense shoulders relaxed slightly and Ayame’s tail drooped.
“This tent is unstable. We need to get out,” Shigure said, wasting no time. Kyo took a second to look up towards the tent’s makeshift roof. It was swaying from precariously from side to side. Kyo heard a ping as one of the tent’s pegs became undone.
Was the wind really that strong?
If they stayed in the tent, it could collapse on them. Kyo pulled his hood over his head and braced himself to get wet. His precious Cat spirit would have to put up with it.
Kyo was buffeted by a wave of rain and had to plant his feet firmly on the muddy ground to stop himself from being blown away. Yuki shifted in his pocket once but then was still.
“Could this get worse, damn rat?” Kyo spoke under his breath. His voice was lost to the wind.
The lightning and thunder had paused (for now) but the rain was stronger than ever. Kyo did not waste another second. He started to sprint after Shigure towards Tohru’s tent. He could only barely hear his heartbeat let alone anything else over the pouring heavens. Icy breath escaped through his lips and he lowered his head to avoid the rain slashing painfully against his face. He had to be strong and couldn’t slow down.
He had been useless enough that evening already.
He shot a glance over to his right, where the river was running several hundred metres away from them. Shigure had chosen to be this close to the body of water so the others could swim during the warmest hours of the day. And being a family with their curse, ambiguity was their preferred option. Kyo would have spent that time more wisely; he would have taken a nap.
That wasn’t damn happening. But the river was churning, clear-blue waters turned into something green-brown and sinister. At each meander, the river threw up its contents into the air and water crashed over the banks. The river was full to the brim and would not be able to hold back its contents for long.
Kyo wondered faintly if the others had noticed yet. Soaked orange hair covered his eyes and he hissed internally, forcing his aching legs to push on through the muddy terrain faster.
“Kyo,” her voice. Tohru. Kyo raised a hand to shield his eyes against the rain as he lifted his head up and saw the others huddled together. Everyone looked confused and frightened but nobody seemed hurt. Tohru huddled as close as she could to Momiji and Kagura without causing the rabbit to transform. Kisa was a shivering mass in Hatori’s arms, her tiger pelt slick wet from the storm. She had likely lost her human form when she had heard the thunder.
“Kyo, where’s Yuki?” her eyes were wide with concern but the gossip Ayame uncoiled slightly from Shigure’s neck and spoke to Tohru. Ayame would obviously make himself the hero of their tragic ‘Tent Tale’ and Tohru would believe every word he said.
He skidded to a halt but ended up colliding with Haru. They both fell down into the dirt. Haru turned around. He stared at Kyo and Shigure and back to Kyo.
Kyo was about to form words but found he was too out of breath. His lungs were gasping for air. The terrain had forced his legs to work ten times as hard, as though he was running up a mountain (which he had experience doing). He pointed at his pocket and panted heavily.
“Take your precious Yuki,” Kyo sighed, regaining his breath.
“I don’t want him to get wet,” Haru spoke softly, which was ironic considering his white hair was free and exposed to the sky, all thoughts of a hood seemingly forgotten. Kyo tensed but nodded.
“Right, everyone stay together. We’re going to find cover under those trees,” Shigure pointed to a copse in the distance, voice composed, “and then get to the main entrance of the campsite.”
Kyo froze as he felt a pressure on his hand. Kagura had found her precious hostage and dragged him to where she was standing with Momiji and Tohru.
Tohru was speaking softly to Hiro, who was staring at Kisa.
Before Kyo could say a word, one side of Tohru’s tent, being held loosely by its remaining pegs, was set free into the night. The tents weren’t going to remain pitched for much longer…
Under the mass of indigo-black storm clouds, lightning snapped through the air, a taut string of heaven and earth fraying. The tent flaps looked like wings under the electric luminescence, free and wild.
Kisa squealed. Unconscious Yuki curled tighter into a ball. Kyo saw Tohru’s eyes close tightly, her hands pressed together. Was she praying to her mother?
“Come on, Kyo,” Kagura began shuffling forwards. Kyo was dragged along with her since she had silently linked arms with him. Kyo could only watch Tohru as she opened her eyes, taking Momiji and Hiro by each hand, her eyes fixed at their destination.
“What a dazzling and furious display!” Ayame exclaimed, his scaly head lifted to the sky, admiring the view, oblivious to the hellish destruction the storm was unleashing on the land below.
Even though it was summer, the rain was freezing; when it lashed against his skin, it burnt. The bestial storm had an appetite. Ravenous. It wanted to consume everything in its path until there was nothing left.
Well, Kyo wasn’t going to let that happen.
He stomped ahead of Kagura until he reached where Tohru was ploughing through the mud.
“Don’t dither off now,” Kyo tapped Tohru lightly on the head.
“Kyo! Oh my goodness, you surprised me there. Are you ok?” she tried to turn around but the wind was too strong.
“Yeah. So is the damn rat. What a way to begin the holiday,” he commented dryly and to his surprise, Tohru chuckled a little.
“I wasn’t expecting a storm like this to be honest. I just hope everyone’s ok. And the poor tents,” Tohru’s voice wobbled. Only Tohru would feel sympathetic for tents.
“Let’s get moving,” Kyo said, forcing confidence into his voice. Tohru nodded and squeezed Hiro and Momiji’s hands tighter.
“Come on, Kagura,” Kyo turned to her. She hopped easily from mud-puddle to mud-puddle. This type of terrain couldn’t faze her.
Time passed. For all that Kyo could have told hours could have passed. His fingers had gone numb minutes (years ago?). Everyone had gone quiet. And it was strange. It felt wrong to Kyo. The idiots should be laughing and having a good time. He felt like karma had kicked him in the ass. He had wished for peace and quiet over the weekend but that was not what he was getting. The rain had lessened significantly and the thunder clouds were rolling over the mountains. The storm must have shifted its focal point.
And while they marched across the saturated earth, he kept stealing a glance at the river.
Ugly waters churned like sickness in its depths. He found himself steering as far away from it as possible. Everyone else had their gazes fixed on the trees. They didn’t notice how high the river was…
“My head…” Kyo had forgotten about Yuki. Kyo unzipped his pocket fully and a grey head poked out.
“What the?” the rat blinked, rubbing his eyes as if to confirm this nightmare. Yes, they were outside. Yes, it was raining and he was a rat. Yes, this was a disaster.
“About time, you damn rat. Thought you could sleep this whole thing away?” Kyo sneered to which Yuki ignored.
“What happened, Kagura? Is everyone ok? Miss Honda-” Yuki scrambled out of Kyo’s pocket and hopped onto Kagura’s jacket.
“Yuki?” Kagura asked, delight creeping into her features. The rat on her elbow nodded and the name was repeated among the crowd. All of the other Sohmas started speaking at once. It was like Yuki’s awakening sparked some form of hope in their chests.
Kyo sighed; if it was him in the damn rat’s situation, nobody would give an ass about him. He breathed through and suppressed the jealousy.
“How are you feeling, Yuki?” Tohru spoke softly to the rat.
“Sorry to make you worry, Miss Honda. I’m alright. I think the storm made my lungs and body weak,” the stupid rat coughed in that stupid tiny body of his. Tohru’s eyes widened with concern.
“You should cover up. You shouldn’t be exposed to the rain!” Tohru fretted and when Yuki protested, Tohru’s mother hen mode only intensified. Their troupe had paused while Hatori ran Yuki through the events that had happened and his basic health checks. Tiger Kisa was hidden under a waterproof jacket in Tohru’s arms.
“You’ve got a fever and your lungs feel quite tight. I agree with you,” Hatori said directing his last words at Tohru.
Kyo didn’t give a damn about the sickly rat boy. His eyes drifted back over to the river.
Time slowed. The Cat shuddered and instinct screamed at him to bolt. Run away. Leave this place.
Go go go go.
He saw a wave approaching from the mountains.
Why was the minibus parked at reception?
Why did they have to pitch their tent somewhere so secluded?
Why didn’t he say anything?
Why did that damn rat have to distract everyone with his petty fever?
The flash flood was racing down the hill. The Sohmas were in the area of direct impact.
He forced his legs to move; he forced his mouth to form words. But the Cat was paralyzed with terror.
He had felt fear. Tohru.
He had felt uncertain. Tohru?
But terror? Tohru!
“Everyone, look!” someone else shouted out loud for him.
“Run!” someone else yelled but it was too late. The water had escaped from its confines and sped towards him, like outstretched claws. The air was forced from Kyo’s lungs as a torrent of freezing river water crashed over his face. Kagura’s grip on him tightened but another wave crashed over him, hurling him into darkness and he lost her.
He instinctively shoved the bead bracelet further up his arm. He couldn’t lose that.
His body was heavy. He had that damn rat’s bag to drag him down too. (How could there be so much water?)
Kyo fumbled in the pitch black, flailing to grab purchase onto something. His hands clawed blindly at thin air and his lungs ached miserably.
Biting wind suddenly sang through his hair. He had surfaced. He gulped in air and choked up a mouthful of river water. He realized he was much closer to the river now. He attempted to lift an arm to his head to shield his face. For a moment, he saw the dotted outline of stars in the sky, cold and distant.
As he felt a current drag him under, he saw a mop of brown hair holding onto a precious living bundle.
Kyo forced his aching limbs towards her. She was spinning wildly, out of control. Her body was being drawn to a couple of vicious river rocks jutting out of the watery mass like teeth.
He couldn’t let that happen.
He wouldn’t let that happen.
He screamed into the shadows and plunged deeper towards the river, the Cat screaming in his mind for him to run run run.
The Cat may be one, but he wouldn’t be a coward. Not anymore.
Kyo blindly splayed out his floating limbs. His foot came into contact with the rock first and he felt it crunch at a weird angle. He did not register pain. His foot only felt numb. His body was in too much damn shock to process having a damaged foot.
Kyo didn’t have time for that, dammit!
Using one of the backpacks, he hoisted the strap over the rock and used it as a means to hold onto the rock. Kyo kicked his legs as hard as he could to stay above the churning watery depths.
As he scanned the place where Tohru had been, his stomach tightened into a knot. He couldn’t see her. She couldn’t have passed him already, could she?
“Ditz!” he cried out. “Don’t you dare dither off now!”
And then her arms shot out of the water, the Kisa bundle held in her arms. That was Tohru. Even now, she prioritised the safety of others before her own. She was close. Several metres away.
Kyo spread his free arm as wide as he could, using the other to grip onto the rock. The strain made him close his eyes and found his mouth tasting like iron.
I’m a monster. Weak. Coward.
Tohru was two metres away. Her trajectory was too wide for Kyo to be able to reach her. Without hesitation or doubt, he pushed off (pain shot down his leg- wildfire- agony) from the rock and propelled his body towards the one he loved (so goddamn much).
But I don’t want it to end like this. How selfish is that?
He had let go of his purchase and held tightly onto Tohru. He wasn’t going to let go. He felt himself losing his human form.
I don’t want to die. They don’t deserve to die.
The world turned black and Kyo felt the darkness consume him.
Apeliotes is the name for the East Wind, one of the Anemoi (wind deities). Apeliotes is associated with rain and the period before and during dawn.
Next chapter: Boreas
Poor children >.< Longer update too! It wouldn't have been fair to leave this on a cliffhanger!
Chapter 4: Boreas: Part I
This chapter felt better as two stand alone ones, so part II will be up tomorrow!
Winds of the World
Boreas: Part I
Sunlight streamed against his face and he could feel its warmth rush over him. His body was weighing him down heavily and he did not want to move. Summertime bliss washed over him. All he wanted to do was nap in the sun…
But as he took a deep breath, his lungs tightened. He was curled tightly in a ball as if in an effort to protect himself. There was a block…something…
And memories came reeling back to Kyo, smacking him in the face. A diver coming to the surface, he tilted his head just in time to watch as he retched up a pool of river water. It tasted vile and stagnant, something decaying beneath its murky depths for an eternity.
As he tried to push himself to his feet, he found a weight against his back (how had he not noticed?). An arm was wrapped around his torso. He blinked in surprise- so he was still in his cat form?
Registering the light touch of skin against his fur, Kyo turned his head as much as he could. All that he could see was a thick splay of wet brown hair drying in the morning sunlight.
Morning? Last that he remembered, it was late at night. Or early in the hours before dawn. It was hard to tell. He was an early riser; the night was a time to reflect, but apart from that he hated it.
It made him pissed off.
Kyo wriggled forwards attempting to free himself from Tohru’s grip. After several minutes he hauled his front paws and used his forelimbs to propel himself free. He rose to four paws but a sharp bolt of pain in his left hindlimb caused his paw to retract immediately from the ground.
Brilliant. Goddamn brilliant.
He shook out the remaining damp of his fur and inspected his body for any other injuries. He flexed and extended his limbs (apart from his damaged one- he wasn’t that much of an idiot) and sighed with slight relief. Aside from a few cuts and bruises along his flank and face, he had no pain. Nothing internal hurt either.
He would live.
Now that he knew he wouldn’t bleed out, he hobbled towards Tohru. He glanced up and down her body modestly, eyes honed for any concerning injuries. Nothing jutted out at unusual angles and nothing was bleeding. Kyo took this for a positive sign. Her body was curled on its side as well. If she coughed, she wouldn’t choke.
“Tohru? Hey, are you alright?” he batted a paw at her face concealed by her hair. With three functioning limbs, he pushed her bangs out of her face and took a step back, holding his breath.
Kyo had been lucky. Incredibly lucky.
An ugly scar run its way from Tohru’s scalp down to her cheek. One of her eyes was swollen and purple. Her hair was damp. But Kyo winced when the sharp iron tang of blood flooded through his senses.
Tohru must have bumped her head and had been knocked out unconscious. He called out her name but did not stir.
Do something, you idiot! He silently cursed his useless
He had injured himself enough times training with Shishou that it had become essential for him to pick up some first aid training. He had not received any formal training but he knew enough.
He needed to apply pressure as best he could. Was she still bleeding? The scar on her face had stopped bleeding and the skin was slowly starting to knit itself back together. There was a risk of infection, but he had to prioritise her head injury. Especially if she was still bleeding.
Kyo lifted a paw carefully to where the blood scent was strongest. The wound was not pulsing. He wobbled, to keep his balance on two limbs. Gritting his pointed teeth, he pressed a paw against the wound, concentrating on keeping his tail erect for balance. He despised his cat form on most days but in this situation, the addition of another appendage was proving useful.
He wouldn’t be able to manipulate anything until he regained his human form. He thought uncomfortably about his transformation- his foot would hurt. But that was the least of his worries.
He would live.
Hurry up body, dammit! She needs me… Kyo pleaded to the paw applying pressure.
Until he transformed and until Tohru responded, he did not feel comfortable moving. He could do nothing else except observe the surroundings…
…and he recognised nothing.
The river must have swept them a significant distance downstream. They could have been floating down the current for hours for all they knew. He shook his head. They would not have bene able to dry. His fur was quite thick and he knew that it took hours to dry. The river must have washed them up at least a couple of hours ago. Hopefully they had washed up earlier than that.
That would mean they would not have travelled as far downstream.
Kyo was not an optimist; he was a realist who knew how damned and cursed the world was. But watching Tohru’s steady breaths and intuitively understanding this was the best course of action in a survival situation, he would try to think about the positives.
He could pretend the world was all sunshine and happiness while she could not.
His ear twitched. It didn’t stop the bud of anxiety from blossoming inside of his chest however.
But as he glanced around, he realised they were surrounded by flat land all around. Fields of grasses and wildflowers went on for huge distances around them and all traces of civilisation had been obliviated. The sun was nearing its zenith. The ground beneath him was not damp. So this area must have avoided the storm’s range.
The skies were as clear as they had been this time yesterday. The river had quietened and its rampant appetite had been sated.
Kyo’s had not however. His stomach growled and he thought about that delicious feast Tohru had helped prepare last night.
He always thanked her for meals but out of habit. What tugged at Kyo by the riverside was exactly how grateful he was to her. He adored her cooking. And her smile.
You’ve got to be ok.
“You’ve got to be ok,” he said, head held high towards the heavens. “I know you can hear me. You don’t have to speak so just listen. You’re such a great listener.
“Anyway, be ok. Just focus on that. You don’t have to do anything else. You’re ok,” Kyo rambled and felt that ache in his chest intensify.
Why was his chest hurting? He had not been injured there.
He sighed and willed his tense muscles to relax. A warm breeze settled through some of his fur. He stoically stood guard in silence.
Another warm breeze followed a few seconds later. And another. A rhythm: warm and cold, up and down, push and pull.
In and out.
In and out!
He saw Tohru’s breathing become deeper and her body shuddered, water dribbling out of her lips onto the grass below. There was not much, as if she had had her fair share of coughing already. Weary eyes blinked open but the bruised one closed.
“Cat Kyo?” she asked, blinking again. “I think I had a dream…it wasn’t a nice dream… I was so scared…”
“Take a deep breath and try not to move,” Kyo cautioned but the girl struggled regardless.
“It was so cold. And dark. It felt like I was-” Tohru coughed but this time more than river water came up. “Mother…” she moaned, her eye fluttering open and closed, fragile as butterflies.
With a cloud of smoke, Kyo regained his human form. He sank to his knees and grasped his free hand with Tohru’s, which was clasped tightly shut.
Damn, my beads!
“Your hand…warm,” Tohru muttered and then her good eye closed tightly, realisation flooding through her. “Kyo! You’re oh my goodness. And Kisa! Yuki? Everyone!
“Careful,” Kyo hissed and he heard the panic at the edge of his voice. Tohru remembered what happened and had woken up.
But he did not have long.
After a transformation, he could remain in his human form for some time. But he couldn’t be certain. Those beads were lost. He would turn into a monster (it’s what he deserved).
“Kyo,” Tohru said through Kyo’s racing thoughts.
He would not have changed things. Tohru was injured. He had not been able to save her. But they were both alive. Lost and in a precarious situation. Kyo had survival training. He could learn to control his temper…abate the Cat’s other form…suppress it…
“Kyo!” Tohru’s eyes were clamped shut, a stark contrast on her face. She caught Kyo’s attention and as he was about to ask her, she uncurled her hand to reveal the beads.
The goddamn beads.
She had managed to hold onto those stupid damn beads this entire time?
Kyo shuddered and slipped the beads onto wrist.
“You idiot,” he said. Words of gratitude usually failed him.
“I’m glad you’re ok, Kyo,” she replied, a half-smile appearing like a crescent moon on her lips. It was small but there. Her eyes were closed out of respect, “oh and you’ll need this!”
Tohru shuffled and revealed one of the rucksacks that Kyo had been carrying. Despite being cursed with the spirit of the Cat, Kyo considered himself blessed.
“You’ve hurt your head, dummy,” Kyo started. He removed his hand from her head. He had been holding pressure there for a while. Giving it a glance over, he confirmed there was no new blood escaping from the wound. She would need a cold compress applied to it. And some antiseptic for her bruises.
He quickly shoved some packed clothes on, wincing as he struggled to put on his clothes over his injury. Kyo clenched his fists in frustration. He dragged a hand through his hair, staring icily at his damaged foot. His left foot was tilted to far outwards.
He tapped Tohru’s shoulder and she took his outstretched hand. When she was in the sitting up position, she took in a deep breath and tried to stand up. Her string-like legs shook and she fell back onto her knees.
“Kisa!” she cried. Tears started to form in her good eye. “Kyo, where’s Kisa?”
Kyo took the blessed feeling back. Anger shot through his veins. Anger at the world. Anger at the Cat. Anger at his pathetic self.
He forced himself to his feet. Stars danced before his eyes. Rather than experiencing raw pain, Kyo’s pain manifested as vertigo. In his mind, his body was floating.
He balanced himself on his good leg, grounding himself, feeling the earth beneath his bare toes. He dug in. And as the vertigo melted away, his eyes furiously darted across the surroundings looking for any sign of Kisa.
Tohru was trembling and muttering under her breath. Was she praying? Kyo could not tell. But he couldn’t see Tohru like that.
Kyo closed his eyes and took a deep breath. If he was trapped with an annoying-as-hell spirit, he could put it to good use. The Cat was ostracised from his friends; Kyo was ostracised from his family. They had spent this lifetime together. Kyo would never tap into this stupid bond (Akito could bend it to his will and cause Kyo such pain and he felt such hatred and love for God) unless he had no other choice.
He heard Tohru sob quietly. So quietly.
He had no other choice.
Kyo spread out his awareness in an attempt to sense any members of the zodiac.
Kisa Kisa Kisa. A shy girl who clung to Tohru. The only one who could tolerate that spoilt sheep. The tiger that used to never speak. But she had found her voice.
Kyo did his best to listen. He was breathing heavily and sweat started to form little beaded chains on his forehead.
This exercise did not demand physical energy. But his mind. He was tapping into a curse he had spent his whole life running away from.
Not much longer, he repeated. It did nothing to soothe his racing heart, although it did help him to focus.
There! He could sense the Tiger nearby. She was further away from the riverside. Hidden among the innocent wildflowers. And something else…
A wave of failure-meek-frustration-loss-fatigue-hope struck Kyo. Kisa was not alone. He was puzzled at the overwhelming surge of emotion. He cocked his head, confused, but the feelings persisted.
He didn’t think it was possible for the damn rat to feel emotion.
But Kisa was not alone.
Kyo opened his eyes, pushing himself skywards. He had work to do.
Yuki had also washed up with her.
Boreas is the name for the North Wind, one of the major Anemoi (wind deities). Boreas is associated with navigation and the cold northern winds, a time when spring is like an illusion.
Next chapter: Boreas: Part II
Winds of the World
Boreas: Part II
Her arms were wrapped around the crying girl. The girl did not speak. She sobbed silently into the older teenager’s neck.
Miss Honda soothed Kisa.
Yuki was too weak to move. It was by through complete luck that he had winded up where he had.
Perhaps fate had led him to her. And to that stupid cat.
Yuki had been flung into a deep reed bed and blended in with the scenery. His lungs were sore and it was a miracle that he was alive.
Speaking was a struggle. It would have been after having a mild asthma attack and fever. But the circumstances were even worse when he had been catapulted into the river in a tiny body and subjected to the cold overnight.
He could open his eyes and breathe faintly. That was about it.
In the back of his mind, darkness reached out to him with a friendly face. In the darkness it would not hurt; he would be numb and free.
But as he watched Miss Honda crying with Kisa, the little girl holding on to her lifeline, Yuki knew he would never be so selfish. He had to keep living to repay some of the kindness she had brought with her.
Miss Honda reminded Yuki of cherry blossoms. She was light and colour- purity and fragility. One of the strongest people Yuki had had the honour to meet.
“Oi, damn rat!” Kyo was shouting out at the top of his lungs. He had been pacing up and down the riverside, “you’ve got to be here somewhere, unless you’ve died already. Pathetic.”
Don’t condescend me, you stupid cat, Yuki thought spitefully. However hard he struggled, he could not form the words.
He was aware his time was running out. He had to grab their attention.
“She’s asleep,” Miss Honda whispered. Yuki ignored Kyo and turned to see her wrap a freshly-clothed (the clothes weren’t clean but out here in the wild they were fresh) in a blanket, “hey, Kyo?”
“What is it?” he said without stopping in his search.
“Do you think Yuki could still be a rat?” Tohru wondered standing onto her feet slowly and checking the ground beneath her for any sign of rat Yuki.
“That idiot wouldn’t be able to survive all of that as a rat! He must have transformed back by now…” Kyo pondered. It looked like he was using his limited brain cells. What a horror.
Yuki huffed weakly; Miss Honda knows more about the curse than the stupid cat does. Typical. Hm, why am I not surprised?
“Unless,” Kyo’s brain cells began to function. And then the cat landed on his knees and shuffled through the reeds about twenty feet away from Yuki. “Damn rat, stop making us work!”
My pleasure, Yuki replied snidely. He wished he could find the strength to speak. Kyo’s stupidity was providing him with a much needed distraction.
Miss Honda looked between a sleeping Kisa and fumbling Kyo. And then she came to a decision. She gently lowered the resting girl to the floor and after watching her for a couple of moments; Miss Honda nodded and joined in on the search for him.
This was his chance.
“Here…” Yuki wheezed. He was a rat. His voice was miniscule. In the wider scope of the world, he was miniscule. Why could he not have an impact? How could his family and Miss Honda light up a room while all he could do was be charming?
He focused those years of built up frustration into his voice. His tired lungs cracked. Yuki was beyond the realm of exhaustion.
But what did he have to lose?
“Here,” and he coughed. It was a blessing. Miss Honda flinched.
She pointed with a shaking finger towards the patch of reeds Yuki was buried in. Kyo snorted but started sifting gently through the reed beds closer to where Yuki was.
Miss Honda did the same.
“Miss Honda,” he said. And he caught Tohru’s eye. He could see the scar running along her face and the darker streaks of her hair. Yuki’s animal instincts flinched. He knew it was blood.
At that moment he wanted to be human. He wished his transformation would dissolve and he could be free to wrap his arms around the one he loved. He could hold her tight and protect her from the horrors of the world (they had both seen so many).
She landed softly on her knees and scooped out her palms towards him, “Yuki…”
He flicked his tail weakly and would have smiled if he could. That was all he could manage right then.
Kyo had taken over babysitting duty for a sleeping Kisa, “well I guess our luck went downhill.” Glad you’re alive, damn rat. I need to beat you while you’re living.
Beat me if you can, stupid cat.
Kyo would have to wait until he was no longer several inches tall. And Yuki was not sure how long that would be…
When he had been sick, he had spent days in his rat form. It was not the most comfortable of thoughts, but this time, he had a motivation and drive to get better.
And he would see that through.
“Yuki!” Miss Honda was tearing up. Why would she weep for him?
Yuki did not resist as she lifted him in her palms.
“You’re safe, you’re alright,” she repeated. Yuki glanced at her and saw that her head was bowed. He coughed again and felt the tide of darkness washing over him.
Fight it, just a little bit longer, he willed his body. He would be alright.
They all would be.
“The others?” he rasped waiting for the cries of Momiji or his big brother to resonate across the reeds. Yuki’s eyes widened when Miss Honda simply shook her head.
“But we will find them! We have to go. Kyo, can you sense anyone else?” Miss Honda asked as she set him back down on the ground.
“Ask the damn rat,” Kyo hissed. He would not look at Yuki.
“Kyo, did you actually?” Yuki pondered for a second, shaking off a feather from his fur. Had Kyo used the zodiac bond to locate him? When Kyo had first moved into Shigure’s house, Yuki knew he would not have considered doing such a thing.
The Rat sniffed in disgust. He wanted nothing to do with the Cat.
“So what? I’ve done my part,” and that was all the stupid cat would say on the topic.
“I’ll try,” Yuki began but stars appeared before his eyes and the world was spinning. He stole a glance at Miss Honda’s hands rushed forward to hold him.
The last thing he remembered was the symphony of coughs rising up his airways.
The sunlight was blinding and was not helping him with his migraine. His head had been pounding since he had woken up, which had been a total of five minutes ago.
Hatori Sohma had tried to stand up but his aching limbs protested. His clothes were soaked. He attempted to lift his head this time
When the world started swimming before his eyes, he thought better of that and flopped back onto the dirt taking a moment to reflect on what happened.
He remembered a wave striking him.
He had heard Shigure’s ridiculous voice calling out his name followed by Ayame’s. They had not sounded like they were being swept away.
Hatori had felt his arms reach out, holding onto a lifeline (anything, anyone) before he had been swallowed by the unearthly darkness. He had held on with the strength his perpetually tired body could muster. He was always so tired these days.
But that was no excuse. He had a family to take care of.
He had a duty to perform and unlike Shigure, he did not slack on his duties. He had a reason to hold on.
The currents of the river thought otherwise. He imagined them to the current of fate, guiding him down the path to the future. To the place where he would be needed.
Hatori focused on his breathing. He kept his eyes closed. His heartrate was slowing. The tempest of adrenaline his body had been subjected too was wearing off.
He visualised scanning his body for injuries. His stiff shoulders were riddled with knots, little bundles of tension that were inevitable for the life of a doctor. His left eye ached as it did whenever he was stress. He wiggled his fingers and toes successfully. No additional injuries to the scars life had carved onto him already.
Sohma scars were well hidden within.
Was he alone in the woods? That would be ironic. The only medically trained individual left alone to treat himself when he had no major injuries.
But the peace and quiet was not to last.
“Hatori!” The doctor’s eyes opened. Encouraged by the fact he had only received a minor concussion, Hatori ignored the woes of his body and squinted into the distance.
“Hatori!” the half-Japanese, half-German boy called out, waving one arm madly in the air, coming into focus like his camera lens.
Hatori’s face paled. Momiji’s other arm was pressed firmly to his chest. It was likely fractured.
The younger Sohma was likely in shock and therefore his body had shut off body pathways registering pain. Shock was not a solution however; Momiji’s body would soon begin to process the trauma it had undergone.
“Yuki!” Tohru yelped in shock. Her reflexes took over as she saw the rat collapse and she caught him before he could fall. A sharp string of coughs ensued, rattles in a tiny cage. Yuki’s body was shaking as though he was trying to fight the curse, trying to fight his fever and become human again.
Mother Nature won.
Yuki would be in his zodiac form for a while, she thought, and she would do her absolute best to look after him and Kyo and Kisa. They would find the rest of the Sohmas and-
Well, she had not thought that far ahead yet.
What was she doing sitting here? She had to figure out where they were and set a course for home. Home. Home…
She dusted off her pyjama trousers and stood up. Her legs wobbled and her head hurt a little, but she remained upright. That was good.
Tohru slipped off her cardigan and wrapped it around her waist. She tied a firm double knot and rearranged the cardigan until she nodded with satisfaction. She placed Yuki into a makeshift pouch and when she was confident he would not fall out, she hurried over to Kyo and Kisa.
Kyo was glaring at his makeshift crutch. And then his foot. Back to the crutch.
“Tohru, can I ask you for a favour?” Kyo said.
Tohru glanced at his ankle, still bent at an awkward angle. It was dislocated. Her mother had shown her a photo album of her injuries back in her rebellious stage of middle school. One of them had been a dislocated angle, which looked shockingly familiar to Kyo’s leg.
But that did not mean she knew how to correct it! And what if he had any other injuries? What if she did more harm than good?
“Tohru,” Kyo cut through the cascade of thoughts swirling faster than light in her brain. She made a tiny shake of her head, palms clasped at her side.
“I can’t Kyo. I will hurt you. I don’t-”
“You can,” and the expression on Kyo’s face was identical when he had told her she had a plum on her back. To be told that she was special and worthy, even when she believed the opposite, had been a humbling experience. It was a moment Tohru had not forgotten all these months on.
If Kyo had faith in her, then she had to have more faith in herself.
She nodded firmly and set herself down by his foot. Her mother’s words flooded into her brain: words of how her ankle had been relocated.
She took a deep breath. If only Hatori was here. Tohru knew basic first aid and Kyo had asked her to do this. They were lost in the countryside and their options were limited.
Torhu acknowledged this and that was why she wanted to do her best to help.
“Ok Kyo, I’ll count down from three,” she said as she tightened her grip on his foot.
Kyo grabbed his t-shirt collar with his teeth, preparing himself to bite down from the flux of pain. Images of Tohru lying unconscious compared to the brave woman beside him now set his brain into motion. He had to focus his mind on something…anything.
The terrain. He could see where they needed to go. Obviously upstream. They had a choice to make: did they want to follow the river or take another path?
The former was the more sensible option. But if there was another freakish flash flood-
And before Tohru counted down to one, Kyo felt his foot crack and he stifled a cry. His other foot went sailing in the air and he had to bite harder on his t-shirt. Tears streamed into his eyes. But he did not let them fall. He wouldn’t. He couldn’t.
The pain was subsiding already. A cool throbbing replaced it. It was something Kyo could live with.
He flexed his foot and found he was able to. He was goddamn lucky and he knew it. Perhaps he had not been seriously injured because Tohru had shielded his cat body with her own and taken the greater force of impact from the river.
Kyo had managed to hop along the flat terrain but it had taken time. And when his crutch sank into the bog, he had growled in frustration trying to free it and accidently putting pressure on his injured leg.
The river glistened by his side. He silently challenged Mother Nature and her elements. To some the notion was taboo. Kyo was pissed off. The waters looked tranquil now but hours ago it had wrecked its goddamn havoc. A stupid river would not stun him again!
To ruin the moment, the damn rat coughed. Tohru used to fingers to rub his back soothingly which helped quieten the racket.
“At least she hasn’t got a fever,” Kyo sighed as he hoisted Kisa up. He tried to hide his wince but Tohru could tell he was in pain. With the rucksack over one shoulder, he had his arms free to hold Kisa, who had curled up into a foetal position. His grip was firm but gentle, “if that damn rat wasn’t a damn rat, he would have been a nightmare to carry. I would have left him here!”
“Yuki couldn’t help it!” Tohru piqued when Kyo made a small fist and let it fall lightly onto her shoulder.
“Leaving him would make you sad. You’d be more of a ditz and I’d have to watch your back more. So it’d be a pain in the ass for me,” the orange-haired teen revealed a rare smile.
“Kyo is very sweet and thoughtful really!” Tohru said earnestly while Kyo just rolled his eyes and made it his business to set them off on their trek.
“Anyway, we should follow the river upstream. Give it some berth though. It’ll slow us down but it would be less boggy and safer,” Kyo explained but Tohru nodded enthusiastically.
“Damn ball of sunshine,” Kyo coughed under his breath but already Tohru was dithering; a butterfly lost in her own head.
Boreas is the name for the North Wind, one of the major Anemoi (wind deities). Boreas is associated with navigation and the cold northern winds, a time when spring is like an illusion.
Next chapter: Zephyrus
Sorry for the wait! Illness is a pain, so apologies for the updates! I'll do my best to publish the next parts as soon as I can!
Winds of the World
Morning- day after storm
Shigure woke to someone poking him in the face.
“Not now, Aya, you will wake everyone,” Shigure’s voice was muffled by the arm he was leaning on. Aya wanted an early start; the idea of rising with the sun was repulsive. As a novelist, his creative energies spiked with the moon, the symbol of romance and ideals…
Essentially, Shigure did not want to wake up.
“Come on, Shigure!” Aya was now shaking his shoulder and Shigure had to stop his head from bobbing side to side. He wanted to sleep, thank you very much! He curled himself into a ball blocked out the sound of his BFF harassing him too early in the day.
“Fine, fine. But you’re making the tea,” Shigure waved his hand nonchalantly and proceeded to open his eyes.
Ayame Sohma’s mouth was agape. He had thrown a towel around his body for decency. He was dripping wet and tears were streaming out of his eyes.
“It’s bad, ‘Gure,” Ayame fell to his knees, clasping his hands to his face. For the first time ever, the snake was silent.
Shigure’s eyes adjusted and he could see.
See the torn shreds of their tents, uprooted from the earth from nature’s fearsome wrath. The land was littered with various clothes and pieces of camping equipment: rucksacks and crockery and sleeping bags.
Everyone was gone.
Their temporary home had gone.
The ground beneath Shigure was soft. He wriggled in alarm- was he sinking? How was he sinking? How had this place changed from a woodland paradise to a bog? How dare the storm taint the earth’s beauty like th-
Shigure froze. Something hurt. Instinct made his pulse quicken. And before he could react, his lungs heaved and he coughed and it sloshed inside like the rhythmic tides of the flash flood. His heart twisted into knots when he saw the blood lining his fingers, coagulated and foul.
“It’s bad…it’s bad…” Ayame was muttering. The most confident man he had met was visibly shaking. His golden eyes were darting left and right as if sifting and scanning for questions he did not have the answers to.
“You’re…” Ayame pointed at Shigure’s heart. The dog tentatively moved his robes out of the way. A second passed and another. The man had to suppress a laugh from shuddering through his body.
Shigure glanced down at his exposed abdomen and saw the deep bruises smeared across his skin. They were blotchy shades of purple, indigo, navy- every colour of the midnight sky.
He smiled. It widened. His lips pulled back in a grin and he lifted his head up high and giggled.
He couldn’t help it.
Could being cursed get any worse?
Because he knew it. No more denial.
He was cursed. Fucking possessed by sorrow itself.
It was his punishment for consorting with God.
And the worst part was, he didn’t regret a single moment of it.
When would the high school angels take him away from this place?
Because he would return.
Back to her.
Always back to her.
Evening- day after storm
“How am I supposed to know if it’s edible or not?” Kyo screeched, disrupting the entire forest.
The other voice was trying to placate the hothead. There was a mumble and string of curses. Followed by silence.
“This tastes worse than leeks!” Kyo spat out the food from his mouth. Miss Honda was mumbling apologies and he even heard the gentle murmur of Kisa’s voice agreeing with her ‘sister’.
Yuki wanted a few moments of peace and quiet without the stupid cat ranting. He rubbed his eyes with his hand before he slipped back into unconsciousness. His hand! A sigh of relief slipped through him at having regained his human form.
His silent thought of appreciation was interrupted when he watched a plum soar overhead and land behind him.
The stupid cat was acting like a child again.
Food was food and he should be acting more grateful.
Yuki freed his hair from the confines of Miss Honda’s cardigan, a button snagging his hair. Months ago he would have wandered around aimlessly until someone could untie the knot from him. Miss Honda had taught him well however; within moments the cardigan fell from his bed hair and landed next to him. He was wrapped in a towel which he adjusted around himself.
Evening had settled over the land. He inhaled the forest air and the leafy trees seemingly wrapped tighter together, as if protecting its inhabitants. Night dew had settled on the lichen and ivy crawling up the bark. Yuki wrapped the towel firmly around his body (still feverish, still too weak). He would have to be cautious about his body temperature dropping too low or his fever would end back up at square one.
He had been a burden enough for Miss Honda already.
He allowed his attention to return to reality (such a draining place at times) as Kisa glanced at the plum in her palms, uncertain and hesitant. She lifted the fruit to her mouth and after taking a bite, smiled and swiftly consumed the plum.
Miss Honda was still attempting to sway Kyo into eating a plum.
“You need to keep up your strength, Kyo! We’ve walked far and you have been injured and you had to carry Kisa and-”
Miss Honda paused when Kyo closed his eyes and shoved the plum into his mouth. He spat the seed out and swallowed the fruit faster than Yuki thought was humanly possible.
“Kyo…” Miss Honda stepped towards Kyo, slipping her hand into his, “you’re so amazing, Kyo! You’ve cooked leek soup when I was poorly and you’re trying foods you don’t think you’ll like!”
“It’s just a plum, Tohru,” Kyo mumbled. His anger had dissipated and his head was turned away from Miss Honda’s to hide his embarrassment. Ridiculous cat.
“Mother was proud of me when I tried teriyaki! I didn’t think I would like it but when I tried it she was so supportive and I felt so happy so I thought if I did the same you would be happy too, Kyo,” she rambled.
“She’s happy, for sure,” Kyo shrugged loose of Miss Honda’s grip and returned to their makeshift cooking apparatus. There appeared to be some roasting vegetables over the fireplace (so it seemed the stupid cat was not making up the fact that he had survived in the wilderness for four months).
Yuki stood apart watching and an odd feeling stirred in his chest. A niggling one like a cough that was trapped. Like nausea.
He didn’t like the feeling.
Was it… jealousy?
He shook his head. It must have been the fever delirium sinking in.
The feeling did not fade away.
Realisation dawned upon Yuki as he watched the cat eat another plum. While he harboured these childish thoughts, so insignificant he could barely put a label on them; Kyo was behaving like a young adult. No longer was he throwing his food across the forest. No longer was he thinking solely about himself.
He was listening to Miss Honda.
Not just hearing to what she said. But listening.
How had he changed?
When the jealously flickered like a flame inside of his soul again, his suspicions were confirmed.
He had not changed at all.
But maybe I could, a small voice whispered. The voice of a child.
Memories wrapped around his brain. The rivers of time were sailing him to a place he didn’t want to remember…a time shrouded with darkness and pain and….him.
“You don’t have to be sad, Yuki,” the voice of Akito purred into his ear. Yuki was being held in a tight embrace by the god of the zodiac animals. Yuki had always shuddered at touch: what if he transformed? What if children lost their memories?
He didn’t want to lose any friends again so it was easier not to have any. He really, really wanted to have friends though.
His Papa was always working and his Mama attended lots of parties. He never could go to any of them because Mama told him he was special and he was wanted by Aktio.
Always wanted. Drawn to Akito in ways he could not describe. When Akito smiled, he wept. Not simple tears, but floods of emotion he came to understand as the Curse.
He knew about the curse. But there was also the Curse.
The curse was simple. If his body was subject to stress, illness or became weak, or he was hugged by a member of the opposite sex who was not a part of the Juunishi, he would transform into a rat, the first animal in the zodiac.
The Curse made his heart break.
Whenever he met new people, he was shy and confused. He didn’t want people to hate him despite how distant he had to be. But when he had met Akito, he had not felt like himself. He had been consumed by awe and he would immediately give his life up for this stranger he had an intimate relationship with without having met them before.
Akito loved Yuki.
God loved the rat.
“I adore you, Yuki. You’re my special rat. We’re closer than anyone else in the Juunishi and that means we are closer than anyone else in the world,” Akito promised. Akito promised so much to him. He promised Yuki that when they grew up, they would all live together forever. They would have feasts every night and dance under the moonlight like New Year’s. Unchanging and eternal.
Like their bond.
Yuki was never quite sure how to reply. He found words challenging. When he had spoken to his Mama and Papa, they had told him to stop being petty. When he had spoken to his brother, he had been shrugged off and ignored. When he had begged Hatori to let the little children keep their memories of him (just one please I don’t want to be alone anymore!), he had been dragged kicking and screaming out of the room.
There wasn’t a place in this world to raise his voice.
His world of the Sohmas and Akito and curses and pain.
Because that was what Yuki experienced. Pain.
He started to cough. And sleep more. Cough again. Sleep.
And soon he stopped speaking.
Being lonely was so painful.
Everyone in the world ignored him. Or hated him. Or were jealous of him.
Akito was the only one who loved him.
Yuki believed that Akito loved him. He listened to the Rat’s voice inside, calling him to be with Akito, longing to return to God if they were separated.
But God was not happy with him.
The Curse made Yuki pour his heart into pleasing Akito. Yuki would write intricately thought out poems for him. He would do whatever he could do receive a second of recognition from God.
Always. Always. Always.
But Yuki didn’t have the strength anymore.
When Akito proclaimed his love for Yuki, all he could do was nod and hold his chest really tightly and hope he didn’t start coughing.
He let them slip.
Akito screamed and hit him around the face. He had a purple eye and his grey irises looked up at God.
He was hurt. But the Rat knew it was his entire fault. He did not work hard enough. He needed to do more for God. If he was a good, loyal and devoted subject, he could remain God’s favoured one. He wanted to be bound to God and stay by his side.
Yuki sobbed, clutching his chest. It hurt.
Because for the first time in his life, he didn’t want to be friends with someone.
How could he run away? The moment he was away, the Rat’s voice would not stop speaking. Yuki had always believed the curse made him transform into a rat and that was it.
However, the moment that Akito hit him, he had realized. The Rat’s spirit was inside of him and would control him from inside out where it could. Yuki could fight, but the bond would win. Always. Always. Always.
And that was the Curse.
How could he have the strength to fight it?
But maybe I could, the weakest voice gently reminded him. It was tender and gentle. It didn’t ask anything from him. It didn’t make any promises it would break.
But it gave him something he had not felt before. Something that was unique to Yuki. His. It didn’t belong to the Curse. Or to the Rat. Or to Akito.
He would guard this something with all his heart. A single star in a stormy sky.
… Older Yuki stumbled and clutched his head. These flashbacks happened far too often. Ever since he had started questioning things again.
He had been content for a period of time after moving out of the Sohma estate to live with Shigure. Yuki would study hard and work through his school and seek higher education. He was in debt to Shigure and wanted nothing more in the world.
But watching members of his family and Miss Honda fight…that little voice resurfaced in his mind.
It wouldn’t take a day to conquer his demons. No longer would he sequester them within. He had started to fight but he was still bound.
And Yuki was slowly accepting himself but had yet to forgive.
Time and patience.
Yuki! He could hear Miss Honda’s voice. The light in the darkness.
Through her, he was learning how to love once more. Damn was it beautiful.
He knew that the stupid cat could make her smile. He could tolerate that. As long as Miss Honda was happy…
“Miss Honda,” Yuki called out across the space. Jealousy melted away and peace spread through his body.
He loved Miss Honda. A platonic love. She was his dearest friend.
And that was something he could say for himself. Something that did not belong to the Curse.
“Oh, Yuki!” Miss Honda ran up to him (nearly tripping twice on tree roots) and dug her feet into the ground to prevent herself from crashing into him, “you’re up! I’m so glad.”
“Me too, Miss Honda. I’m sorry to have been an inconvenience. If there is anything I can do to help, it would be my pleasure,” Yuki bowed and as he rose, he let a lock of hair slide through his fingers. Thank you thank you thank you.
“And how are you, Kisa?” Yuki asked the younger girl. She blinked at him with wide eyes while eating her plum and nodded her head.
“We were worried about you,” she said in-between bites of the fruit. Yuki apologised for making her worry to which Kyo scoffed. He did not worry about the damn rat.
“What happened after I…” Yuki began but was paused when Miss Honda placed a couple of biscuits into his hand.
“Kyo had some rations in his bag! We had ours after travelling…sorry we could not wait for you, Yuki,” Miss Honda’s worry was abated when Yuki waved a dismissive hand.
As Yuki nibbled on his food, cautious that he could feel sick if he rushed, Miss Honda explained what happened: “so we travelled upstream and reached the woods without seeing anyone else. I think we were swept quite far downstream.
“We made camp and Kisa woke up a few hours ago. We’re some distance away from the river just to be safe. Kyo said it would be better to go deeper into the forest in case we get lost!”
“I only suggested it,” Kyo shrugged, half-listening to the recollection. He looked exhausted. “And we’re not that far, perhaps half a mile into the forest-”
“Which we won’t get out of,” Yuki subtly commented.
“At least I was useful, you damn rat!”
“Thank you for your help, stupid cat. Thank you for entertaining me.”
“I won’t stand for your piss talk, rat!”
“So you’ve forgotten how to use adjectives? I’m not surprised. Your brain cell has had to work overtime,” Yuki found sarcastic comments at the tip of his tongue. He didn’t have to think of a snide reply. Arguing with Kyo was an outlet for him, a way to channel his frustration and jealousy.
He was being childish but out in the wilderness, that was one of the few things that they had.
And he remembered how when he was fighting with the idiot, Miss Honda would laugh and smile.
He would sacrifice anything to make that happen.
We can’t let her cry, Yuki’s hoped his hidden message in their argument made its way through the cat’s thick and useless skull.
“Well some of us have been busy cooking. I’m gonna get some shut eye after. You’re on lookout, damn rat,” Kyo spat before marching over to the fire and turning over the cooking vegetables, merry logs burning beneath. The smoke plumes unfurled like fox tails, trailing a path to the heavens.
Yuki did not recognise the terrain. He would have preferred a good book, but keeping watch with the solitude of nature by his side did not seem that bad a trade.
Yuki stirred from his reverie to the sound of sobbing.
He was in that transient state locked in a place between reality and dream. His senses were vaguely aware of what was going on in the world but his consciousness had retreated to a realm of deeper thought and contemplation. There his mind would linger until the early hours of the morning. And people wondered why he was not an early bird.
He heard whimpering. It was quiet and muffled like a child hiding beneath the covers, blankets covered over their mouth to disguise the sound of their sobbing and hope that nobody would hear them and-
Yuki took a deep breath. He did not need those demons to leap at him from the shadows at him now (but they were watching- always watching).
His eyes adjusted to the thick fog of night and scanned over the camp. Kyo was asleep in a tree (and Yuki hoped the fool fell out and hit his head) while Miss Honda and Kisa slept below.
Miss Honda was a display of limbs, clearly lost in her dreams. Kisa however was curled tightly in a ball, her weak form quivering. She was having an intense nightmare, but years of guilt-ridden thoughts made her subconsciously try to hide it from anyone else.
Suffer in silence.
Yuki was on his feet before he realised his mind could respond to his jetlagged body. He sympathised with Kisa. No that was not it…
He admired Kisa.
She was brave to conquer her demons at such a young age. She recognised them, had been beaten down by them and now it was her turn to beat them.
She too had fallen silent.
It was Miss Honda and Haru and Hiro who had saved her. He had watched and waited. Waited for someone else to take the initiative. He had started to. Slowly. Surely.
But why had he not been able to help?
Did he have the right?
But maybe I could.
That voice again.
He was moving towards her, careful not to snap any twigs or debris so as to disturb the sleeping trio. He was sure it was turn for Kyo to take the watch but he could let the idiot sleep for a little while longer. Not that it would make him any less grouchy come dawn.
Yuki knelt beside Kisa. A young child. In that moment, she wasn’t a possessed Sohma family member. She wasn’t a freak with golden hair and eyes who transformed into a tiger. She wasn’t subjected to silence from the absolute bastards who had the privilege to know such a beautiful soul-
The storm within Yuki subsided. He smiled at her.
The human child. She was a young human child. Someone he would protect.
He rested a palm on her forehead and her tightly knotted self visibly relaxed.
Yuki blinked as he watched the figure next to them shift in her sleep.
He watched in amazement as Miss Honda made a wide sweep with her arms and cocooned Kisa in a warm embrace. Kisa’s remaining tension then melted away.
He closed his eyes, breathing in the cool fragrances of night, standing up to his full height, admiring the opposing forces of his flexor and extensor muscles; the spine tingles of wind blowing through his hair and the moonlight beaming on his closed eyes, making the world behind his closed eyes turn to liquid silver.
And how he would never forget this memory forged for the rest of his life.
Human beings were amazing creatures.
Zephyrus is the name of the West Wind, one of the major Anemoi (wind deities). Zephyrus is associated with tranquil springtime, ushering a period of peace and prosperity.
Next chapter: Skiron
I've had this waiting for ages, July placements consumed my efforts for the time. They finished yesterday and after watching the Kisa episode, I knew I had to start publishing the rest of this fic!
Regular updates here we come!
Winds of the World
Afternoon- day after storm
“I don’t understand why you’re getting so frustrated, it was only a bit of rain,” Hatsuharu stared absentmindedly into the horizon as Hiro threw one stone after another into the river.
“A bit of rain? Were you half asleep the entire time? Have you forgotten that the storm dragged us somewhere downstream?” Hiro ranted and started throwing the rocks with renewed vigour.
“I was awake. I quite like storms,” Haru muttered, running a hand over his ear. Some of his piercings had fallen out and parts were missing. He silently mourned for his loss.
“I don’t,” Hiro huffed, “and it’s not like we can go anywhere with you in that state.”
“What, this?” Haru asked, pointing with a hand to his malformed leg. It was broken and it hurt some. But Haru wouldn’t ruminate on what was wrong. He was grateful he had not transformed, otherwise he could have injured himself further. And he had no internal damage.
Hiro had cuts and jagging scars zigzagging up his body, but otherwise he was unharmed.
When Haru had woken up after the storm, he had laid by the riverside for several hours before he had watched Hiro walking upstream towards him, kicking the same stone along his way.
Hiro could have easily left Haru behind and continued to search for Kisa (who else would he want to find?). However, he had stayed and subjected himself to throwing stones in the river, watching as its surface rippled, jarring the sky’s reflection for an instant.
Hiro threw another stone, “I just… don’t understand. How you can be so calm? Why hasn’t Black Haru appeared? Aren’t you worried about Yuki and Kyo and the others? About Kisa? She cares about you and I…”
Hiro trailed off and he turned his head away from Haru, turning a bright shade of red in the process.
“Getting pissed off won’t save any lives,” Haru replied, lifting a hand towards the sky.
Hiro, for once, went silent. The only sound that could be heard was the gentle rush of the river’s current and the plopping of stones as they descended into the water’s depths.
“It’s ironic,” a faint smile pushed through Haru’s blank expression and he sat up, careful not to move his leg, “as the ox, I’m usually the one that carries others. And now I need someone to carry me.”
“Don’t look at me,” Hiro mumbled through his shirt. He held a stone tightly in his palm.
Haru recognised that expression. The youngest member of the zodiac was thinking. He could be an arrogant punk at times and Haru wondered how on earth Kisa put up with him (how did Rin put up with him).
But Hiro had a decent brain if he wanted to apply it.
“Out with it, then,” Haru said and Hiro was up on his feet in an instant.
“If we had something else that could carry you!” Hiro folded his arms, realising that he was getting excited. And he couldn’t be a child if he wanted to take care of Kisa.
“You’re the ox. Summon your zodiac animal! There must be farmlands around here,” Hiro closed his eyes, “yeah, there must be. I can sense several flocks of sheep. They wouldn’t be able to bear our weight though. There must be cows too though.”
Haru blinked. If he could summon a few cows to carry them upstream and anyone else that they found, then the family could regroup faster! Despite having no sense of direction, all Haru had to do was follow the river upstream. And he had Hiro with him to keep him on track.
There was no time to lose. Haru felt Black’s essence surround him, motivating him and scolding him for being weak and not coming up with this solution himself. Black Haru was an asset too. People only had exposure to his wilful side when he was overwhelmed and Black Haru could emerge without any restraint attached. Black Haru was the Sohma’s motivation. This side of him was like a personal trainer that lingered in the back of his mind, waiting to be called upon at a moment’s notice. Hatsuharu would use that to his advantage.
Focusing on his breath, Haru immediately sensed the hotspots of where herds of cattle were situated. It was like a beacon of energy in his mind. Loyalty and trust. The animals would respond to his call for help. They were there for each other. Unfortunately, the wild cow was an oddity. He would have to borrow some cows and ensure that they were they were sent home and well cared for while they were away.
He called the closest herd to him. The Ox helped. He was a herd animal and longed for companionship. Haru and the Ox coaxed the cows into finding a weak point in their gates. To break through the confines they were content to remain within.
“Let me help,” Hiro was impatient as usual. The cows sent projections to Haru. There was a metal gate. The sheep flocks were free to roam. If the sheep could help open the cows’ container, they would be free.
There were two bolt latches, one at the bottom and one at the centre of the metal gate’s edge. One of the sheep kicked the bottom one out of place and another butted the higher latch out of place with its head.
Half a dozen cows started trotting down the hillside heading towards Haru.
“See, sheep aren’t stupid,” Hiro huffed, finally throwing the stone into the river.
“They’re both not stupid,” Haru affirmed. In the zodiac story, the Ox had stupidly allowed the Rat to trick him and ride his back all the way to the banquet. And the Sheep had offered to share his ticket to the banquet with the Monkey and Rooster before they had received their own tickets.
Both individuals may not have been leaders, but they did not want anyone to be left out.
But was possession of those traits really ‘stupid’?
Trustworthiness and cooperation were both traits of great merit.
Haru and Hiro could agree on that. They were not stupid.
While waiting for the cows to find him, Haru settled back into his thoughts.
His first was of Rin. She had not met Tohru and she hated people meddling. This was their curse, their burden to carry. Why should a naïve girl who has known the Sohmas for a miniscule amount of time interfere? She didn’t have the right.
Haru respected Tohru. Now he did not need saving by her like Yuki and Kyo and Kisa did. He had others to save him. But she treated him with kindness and compassion. He was treated as an equal and not pitied for being cursed or looked down on like a freak circus act.
Rin would see this with time. But Haru would never force his opinions onto her. Rin was the epitome of freedom; if she had it her way, nobody would control her. But Akito kept a tight grip on the horse of the zodiac. She was too stubborn and independent to fully conform.
But if Rin didn’t, she would be hurt.
She had been distant with him. Haru wished he could ease some of the burdens from her shoulders, but he did not have the right to take that away from her.
He would not chain or control her. Not ever.
The sound of hooves pounding against the rubble made Haru open an eye. The cows had made it. He hadn’t expected them to arrive for a while yet…
And then he saw the flowing manes. The untamed touch of the wilderness carried their every step. The pair of black wild horses whinnied and danced around Hiro and Haru. They titled their heads up and whinnied. Under normal circumstances, nobody would ride these horses. Nobody could lay a claim of ownership on them.
One of the magnificent beasts dropped its head and Haru ran a tender hand along its muzzle. Brown eyes blinked at him. He knew this creature wasn’t Rin but they carried her spirit and her freedom and her longing.
Haru would return.
Momiji fidgeted as Hatori finished tightening his makeshift sling. Upon palpation, Hatori had found that his humour bone had a fracture!
Momiji had broken a finger before and it had hurt a lot. He had been very young when he had broken his finger, back when Mutti still remembered he was her son. She blamed herself. Momiji had been four years old and he had tried to show his mother a melody he had learnt on the violin. She had cried out in shock and told him to go away. She slammed the door shut on Momiji’s finger.
But Momiji could never blame her. He understood that she had been poorly. A type of poorly he couldn’t see physically, but was there nonetheless.
After his finger had been secured with a splint and he had had to write with his left hand for a few weeks and he was ok. He had cried when his finger had broken and his mother had cried but not this time!
His broken arm felt fine! Hatori said it was because he was in shock (the only thing he was shocked about was how calm the doctor was).
Hatori kept rubbing his fingers across his temples and blinking excessively. Momiji noticed. He wasn’t oblivious. He lived on his own and could take care of himself. He just liked to smile and see the world from an optimistic angle.
“Danke!” Momiji beamed at Hatori and scrambled from the log he had been sitting on long enough for the doctor to treat him.
“Be careful, Momiji,” Hatori sighed as Momiji beamed and barrelled him into a hug with his good arm.
“What are we going to do with you?” Hatori rolled his eyes but smiled regardless.
Momiji winked and wriggled free. He stepped lightly towards the river, “I recognise where we are?”
“You do?” Hatori asked.
“Ja! I recognise these trees, they were downstream from the campsite! They seemed really small then though,” Momiji spoke in awe and tried to follow the trail of the highest branch with little success. It twisted and knotted and was lost in the tree’s leafy core.
Hatori looked impressed with his observations which made Momiji twirl on the spot.
“We should be able to get back quicker than I expected. I’m sure the others have the sense to head towards the campsite as our rendezvous point…” Hatori muttered partly to himself. He sounded annoyed but Momiji knew he was only worried about them.
Was? Momiji stopped spinning and glanced in the direction of where the sound came from. In the distance, he could make out several large figures heading in their direction. Momiji’s heart fluttered in anticipation.
As the figures broke through the shadowy reach of the trees, Momiji saw Hiro and Haru riding a pair of horses, flanked by 6 Holstein cows! Momiji knew that breed as they came from Deutschland, where Mutti had grown up!
Momiji waved frantically at them with his good hand, running up to greet them. In his peripheral vision, Momiji glimpsed Hatori shaking his head.
“Haru! Hiro! I broke my humour bone!”
Morning- 2 days after storm
They had to cross the river.
They had to cross the river as lurking above them was a massive cliff, like nature itself was leering at them.
They had to cross the river where rapids stretched downstream for an eternity.
Tohru could barely stand. She said she was fine but she had said that before and collapsed. Kyo could not forget the sight of blood and river water matted into her hair when they had washed up on the shore. She had needed a doctor this time yesterday. Her condition was deteriorating and would only do further. If they made a detour, Kyo had suspicions they would not be able to make up for lost time. She held Kisa’s hand tightly, her steps slow and Kyo watched at the concentration each staggered step required.
Kyo heard another cough. That damn Yuki had started wheezing. Not that Kyo cared that much about him.
So altogether, things were great.
Kyo had woken up when he had fallen out of a tree (which had never happened before and he assumed the rat’s little friends had pulled that prank on him). The day had not dawned well for him. He felt itchy and impatient- stir crazy almost, despite being surrounded by the perpetual outdoors.
The faster they got to camp, the better.
But when he had seen the ravine, looming at a near 90 degree angle for over 10 metres, his heart (carrying that tiny sliver of hope) dropped and Kyo wanted to be sick (never wish for anything, karma will bite you in the ass).
In his peak form, he would have been able to scale the wall. The rat might have made it halfway. But there was no way that Tohru and Kisa would have made it past the first footholds. And with his foot and their collective bruises and scars (seen and unseen), climbing up was not an option.
Travelling back downstream or deeper into the woods were not options either (they had little time, hurry up damn brain think).
Of course the only option involved crossing the river, considering Kyo’s hate for water. Baths and showers were fine, but any of the outside variety heightened his feeling of restlessness and maintaining a level head became that damn bit harder.
The waterfall gushed, the largest of a small set of the bastards, waiting to engulf any of those arrogant enough to stumble into its territory.
Some 50 metres downstream, there was a narrow strip of the river. Several large slabs of rock jutted out of the water like teeth. The waters churned below, boiling and raging and consuming its prey. Restless and ready to strike, similar to the somersaults Kyo’s insides were completing as though his guts were tightening into knots.
This was the best place they could cross. It was dangerous (when had this disastrous trip not been dangerous?) but it wasn’t like they had a damn banquet of options to consider here.
“We should cross here,” Kyo and Yuki exclaimed in synchronisation.
“Quit it and get out of my head, rat!” Kyo cursed.
“I can’t believe your brain had the capacity to reach the same conclusion as me,” Yuki met Kyo’s challenge.
“I don’t have time for you,” Kyo huffed, his eyes glancing at the rapids, mapping a trajectory that should be easiest to cross. It would involve a jump at the end and his foot would burn, but so be it.
“Cross this bridge? Easy peasy! Right, Kisa?” Tohru saw a bridge where he saw jagged rocks and that concerned Kyo just a little. And Kisa was nowhere to be found. Tohru had not noticed that either.
(Hurry hurry hurry).
“We’ve got to move, now,” Kyo said firmly. His words came out in a stilted and frustrated way and he sounded like he was a teacher bossing about his students. He hated himself for it. Deep down he was anxious and afraid, damn afraid of what could happen.
Where the hell was Kisa?
Before he could call out her name, she tottered out of the woods with a long bare branch. Their single backpack had rope. Of course!
There was a gap in the rocks where the branch would slot in. It would act as a perfect anchor to start them off crossing the rapids.
“Kisa, you’re brilliant,” and Yuki went to hug the girl. She smiled serenely. Damn Yuki needing all the damn attention.
“I will make the crossing first,” Yuki affirmed clutching a hand to his chest, “Miss Honda should follow and Kyo, you should take up the rear.”
It made sense. Keep the ditz safe. He could watch her back.
“What about me?” Kisa asked and then she realised, “I’m not big enough to make it across, am I?”
“You need to transform. I’ll carry you,” Kyo muttered but was surprised when Yuki stared at him, “what? You can barely breathe and Tohru…”
The idiot was still smiling at the Kisa she thought was at her side, but was not. The image of Tohru there spoke for itself.
“But how?” Kisa asked, looking worried. It was true- they did not exactly control their zodiac forms. It wasn’t shapeshifting. They were cursed with a vengeful spirit that took advantage and made them lose human form when given the opportunity. And she did not have anybody to hug…
“Tell me what could go wrong,” Kisa abruptly said, “tell me and I’ll get stressed and then…”
“That isn’t fair on you,” Yuki protested but she shook her head and looked at Kyo, knowing she would not get any help from the damn rat. Her golden eyes filled with an emotion Kyo related to: wanting to serve a purpose, be useful, “please?”
How could he say no to that?
Under normal circumstances, easily.
Now? Damn he was becoming soft.
Kyo started. He fabricated up stupid scenarios that involved Tohru and the arrogant sheep getting dragged downstream and a monster from the Mogeta movie would lock them away in a tower and blah. Kyo cringed as the story became more terrible by the second.
But it had the desired effect.
A puff of smoke swirled around Kisa and a tiger sat trembling on the rubble.
“Are you ok?” Kyo asked, kneeling by her, the brave soul she was. Idiotic, but brave, “will you be ok in that form?”
“Yeah…” Kisa muttered, shaking off her fur and some of the worry, “you’re a scary storyteller, Kyo. You might even be able to scare Hiro.”
“You bet I will. Just you wait,” Kyo promised and scooped up Kisa, propping her on his shoulder, “don’t be afraid of digging your claws in. Hold on tight.”
She nodded but said nothing more, likely trying to concentrate on holding her tiger form.
Yuki was speaking in hushed tones to Tohru. She remained looking like a space cadet. Kyo knew what to do.
He snapped his fingers in front of her and she wandered out of her trance, as though he was a hypnotist ending a spell.
“Oi. Keep focused. We need to cross the river. Follow the damn rat,” Kyo said while Yuki fired him a death glare. Couldn’t the rat be more original with his threats? He glanced at Yuki again, expecting to see fever-glazed eyes staring back at him.
What he saw though was ice.
The rat was going to cross the river. He would keep Miss Honda safe. His body could collapse when they had crossed the rapids.
Unspoken promises burnt in his eyes. Ice that blazed brighter than fire.
Kyo grinned- finally there was some life in the rat!
Yuki ran a finger through Tohru’s hair and set off immediately. He made light work of the rapids. To a novice, it would look like he was gliding across the water. Kyo noted the precision of his jumps and the sheer force he was using to hold onto the rocks. But he made it to the other side unharmed. And the rat did not cough once.
Kyo hastily tightened a knot onto the branch with the rope in the meantime and securely tied it to a boulder on the riverside, lecturing Tohru on what she needed to do (in case she had not heard a second of the rat’s ramblings). Filling a ditherer’s head with a whole lesson on river safety in minutes was a feat Kyo did not thought he would accomplish in his lifetime. But here he was.
Tohru followed next. Kyo’s heart was erratic and if it beat any louder, the whole damn forest would hear it. It pounded in his ears over the rush of the waterfall. As Tohru reached the water’s edge, his senses became more acute.
He tried to voice words of encouragement, but all that left his lips was air that vanished into the ether.
She would be alright, she had to be alright.
“Kyo, everything will be ok,” she vowed. Kyo could see her outline against the morning sky. He swallowed the bile rising in his throat, like a snake coiling in his oesophagus.
She was stronger than anyone he knew. Even Shishou. Not that he could say that to her.
Tohru clutched the rope close to her heart. For a second, she looked like she was in deep prayer. Inch by inch, she drew further away from the safety of secure ground.
She didn’t look back.
The river was already at her feet, swallowing her up. The first rock was only a couple of metres away. Time slowed for Kyo. She didn’t surrender to the river’s insatiable appetite. She was waist deep.
And then she reached for the rock, hugging it with all the strength she could muster.
She continued that way. Slowly, uncertainly, fearfully. But that did not matter. She was doing it. Tohru was over halfway there.
It was his turn.
The Cat hissed, irresolute, but Kyo told him to piss off. If he didn’t go, he would wait and loiter around and waste time. It was now or never.
Bunching his muscles, he leapt off his good leg and propelled with enough force to land comfortably on the rock.
His lungs sucked in all the air and he felt the residues of river water in his lungs ripple. A quiet reminder that nature left its mark.
Yuki was waiting on the other side of the river, his arm outstretched for Tohru to grab onto. It all happened at once.
Nature wanted to be a bitch.
A vicious cough raked from the small of Yuki’s back and he collapsed onto the ground. Tohru reached out a hand trying to help the damn rat but she couldn’t and her grip on the rock weakened. She tried to leap for the bank.
In that moment, she should have been caught by the rat and brought to safety. Yuki had made Kyo a promise. Tohru should have reached the other side and shouted words of encouragement to Kyo and Kisa; tending to the rat’s injuries; she should have been fucking safe.
But there was nobody there to catch her.
In that moment, Tohru missed. The waves rushed up to meet her and the current swept her under.
“Rock. You. Wait,” Kyo shivered and Kisa leapt off his shoulder. She may not have done. Kyo could only notice the boiling fury burning throughout his body.
The pounding of his heart was the eye of the storm. Lightning seared through his body. He growled with the ferocity of thunder. He dove headfirst into the waters, fear and terror having buried themselves, hiding out the storm.
He was the heartbeat and energy of life. He can feel it around him; the power flooded him and damn it could try to overpower him. Every nerve in his body ignited. The water burnt, the rapids stabbing against his sides and threatened to consume him.
He let it. Life was a cycle, a symphony and he was a part of that. The river couldn’t wage war with him if he was on its side.
He was complete. He was whole.
His veins were alive with the power. His blood danced with starlight and moonlight. He was kissed by the celestial radiance and he let the raw emotion guide him to where he needed to be.
He had never felt more human.
He propelled his limbs forward. They were screaming as the life force sang through his body. If he pushed himself any further, he would break. His muscles couldn’t stretch to this proportion. The rapids were warriors of brute strength, not meant to be beaten by mortal man.
Meaning they could be beaten by a cursed mortal man.
Sure, he would die and rot and become a tree in the next life. But not here.
If there was anything he was certain of, this was it.
His pin-and-needle fingers clasped around her sleeve and he shot upwards towards the water’s surface and his lungs angrily sucked in air. He threw a hand onto the river side and hauled them out of the water.
Kyo should have collapsed then and there. But he was consumed with an inferno no torrent of water could abate. Fire that rose from the foulest corners of Hell and would not return until it had its justice served.
Kyo bared his teeth and snarled. After ensuring that Tohru was breathing and Kisa had made it across safely, he turned to face the snivelling scum hunched up in a ball on the floor.
Feeling fucking sorry for itself. Weak. Pathetic. Disgusting.
This was the damn rat’s fault.
And he wouldn’t go down without a fight.
Skiron is the name for the Northwest Wind, one of the minor Anemoi (wind deities). Skiron is associated as the bearer of a brewing cauldron and onset of sudden winter, unexpected and biting.
Next chapter: Kaikias
And here we are, reaching the climax! There are only two chapters left after this *gasps*.
Thank you all for reading :)
Winds of the World
He wondered how many feathers it would take for him to pluck off before the bird could no longer fly.
The long summer days were suffocating, humidity and heat blended into living discomfort. And while the nights were short, sleep was a rare bliss.
He longed for spring. Or winter. Or the time in-between. When blossoms peeked through the trees and birds had to brave the migration.
The blossoms on the Sohma estate were intoxicating. Not just to him, but all of nature. Bugs would swarm around its branches and thus the birds came flocking in their hundreds.
And some of those ridiculously naïve creatures assumed they could take more than their share. Defy nature.
Akito Sohma held one of those pathetic creatures. Once one of the dominant birds, he had crashed and fallen. His wing had broken. Akito’s maids had taken care of it, nurturing it back to life and mending what had been damaged.
The wing had snapped at an awkward angle and despite any intervention, the bird would never fly again. As it hopped there in his palm, it may have been fixed physically.
But nothing could replace what had been lost.
The ignorant animal chirruped and hopped around, not seeming aware of what it was missing. Its attempts of flying away had abated. Content and fat on the ground, it had become lax with the assurance its survival was guaranteed.
Akito could even consider that he was jealous of the bird.
His Bird was jealous. He could see it in Kureno’s eyes. Just a glimpse. A skyward glance, longing and sorrow reflecting the blue, blue sky, lonely as a mirror.
Kureno had broken free. But at what price?
Had he really obtained freedom when he could no longer fly? That was something he had had to ponder every day.
Akito had not lost anything. Kureno was still his his his.
He gripped his fist not holding the bird. Imaging for an instant how easy it would be to snap its body into a thousand pieces and they would shatter and fall to the ground. The bird had started falling. Akito could help it finish its journey.
“Don’t,” his Bird (his one and only favourite bird) said slowly, closing the door from which he had entered.
“You came,” Akito muttered, not taking his eyes off from the bird. Its enthusiastic hopping had stopped as if it could sense the shift in dynamic.
“Of course. I made a promise,” Kureno’s voice held a sigh before a smile crept up on his features. The man was a scatterbrain and too optimistic for his own good.
“My loyal Kureno,” Akito soothed and reached out for his free arm for Kureno to come to him. His loyal Bird came up to him without a moment of hesitation.
“I didn’t know you had a…” Kureno’s words ran out. Akito could see him stumble on the word ‘pet’. Akito smiled. As long as Kureno was loyal, he could assume what he wanted.
God settled; their essence calming. Irritability that had seeped through Akito’s being began to melt away too.
God could not be described as a vengeful spirit. They were an essence, the source of the bond that spread throughout all the members of the Juunishi. God was created to be something more than the members of the zodiac and hence why Akito was not considered one of them. They were the ruler. The way it had always been, the way it was and the way it would always be.
“If only my other Juunishi were as dedicated as you are,” Akito changed the subject, lifting a hand to cup Kureno’s chin in his palm. “Rin runs a riot and guides that stupid Ox with her. Hiro thinks he is the smartest! How could he be when he loves Kisa and thinks he can get away with it? Her loyalty is to me.
“And my dear Yuki. Shigure will stay on my side and that’s why-” Akito cut off. He couldn’t spill his heart to Kureno and allow the member of the Juunishi to see him completely vulnerable. Angry, yes. Frustrated was tolerated. But desperate? Akito frowned on anyone, especially members of the Juunishi, seeking pity on him.
Kureno was a member of the zodiac. He was not a confidant.
Akito composed himself, “that’s why he can live with that damn Honda girl and that filthy monster. A perfect pair to consort. What vile abominations for my Rat.”
“I would like to meet her one day,” Kureno spoke unexpectedly.
“I thought I would see what capabilities the outsider that knew our secret had to offer,” Akito sneered, “and I was fucking disappointed. She is bland and speaks lowly of herself. That’s one thing she is good for.
“She is a waste of your time, but I’m not, my sweet Bird,” Akito sighed wearily and buried his head into Kureno’s shoulder. His heavy breathing moments later made Kureno hold him tightly. Everyone was vulnerable, especially in slumber.
“Sleep well,” Kureno whispered and although his voice may have been unheard by one, sometimes words have more than that single meaning.
“Get up, you fucking coward!”
Yuki’s body shuddered. Didn’t the damn fool understand…sometimes he couldn’t get up?
Did that damn cat not understand anything?
Sometimes he could not simply get up and carry on like everything was normal.
Sometimes he opened his eyes first thing in the morning and gasped for breath like it was his last. His chest would twist or knot as though his bronchioles had done a loop-the-loop. And then his heart would start to race. His breathing only became harder and faster and it was a loop. The worst cycle. Yuki was not able to calm down and thus the panic attacks could surge through his body at full throttle.
Sometimes he wished someone else could take the weights forced upon his shoulders. He didn’t choose this.
Why would anyone choose this?
“Get up, you fucking coward!”
Kyo never swore like this.
Kyo was hot-headed. And he was angry with himself. He used to take it out on other people and himself but he was beginning to learn there was another option he had not considered.
He could heal.
But Tohru felt the mist in her eyes thicken as she watched one of her dearest friends lose everything he had found.
Love and a place of belonging.
Tohru winced. Was it the pain in her head as it throbbed, white spots dancing before her eyes? Was it the ache that settled throughout her body, as rhythmic as the rapids?
Or was it her heart breaking as she watched as Kyo let out a hellish cry, black smoke and purple eyes engulfing his form? Watching as his body started to warp and twist against his will, fury and pain and fear driving the change while his mind became paralysed. Was it watching him losing control over what little he had that was making Tohru cry?
She lifted a hand to her neck where his claws had dug into her skin. He had hurt her and Tohru winced. She knew that Kyo would never forgive himself.
Why was this world so cruel?
He could hardly prepare himself for the attack. He was still collapsed on his side, an arm draped over to protect himself. Vulnerable.
Kyo’s claw swiped and tore Yuki’s arm open. Blood pooled as grey eyes landed on Kyo’s.
Through the smoke, Kyo’s form became visible. He wheezed and his chest rattled for breath. There was a hunger and desperation in his eyes, something primitive and unspoken, the hidden force that lay dormant waiting for an opportunity to strike.
The Cat’s vengeful form.
However, although it appeared to have consumed Kyo, it hadn’t. His body was a jigsaw of monster and human. One of his hands had morphed into an extended paw with menacing claw-like digits, muscles bulging under skin. His eyes were not human. His gait was asymmetrical through having two opposing limbs.
With a snarl, his inhuman arm swiped towards Yuki-
He couldn’t hear Tohru screaming after him.
“Is this it?”
“Are you going to die?”
Akito’s words hit, each syllable like a bullet to his soul.
He was tired. Beyond that. Exhasuted. Fatigued. Weary with living. Every breath was a struggle. He didn’t remember the last time he had slept soundly. He did not remember a childhood with friends he would laugh and play all day with. He did not remember going to bed and being excited about what the future would bring.
Younger Yuki stared out of the window from his bed. That’s all he could do, day in and day out. Something to make the time pass.
The blinds were shut.
His parents never came to visit. His brother didn’t acknowledge his existence. He knew he was not special. The Rat had tricked its way into being the first to the banquet. Yuki sometimes wondered though.
Why was he being punished for something he did not do? Why did he have to shoulder the blame?
He couldn’t ponder on his thoughts for too long. It made his head hurt too much.
Hatori had come to him the day before. Yuki had sat back in his breath and patiently took a deep breath in. His attempt failed and he spluttered and had a coughing fit for five minutes. He could feel his life energy ebbing away. So much for rebelling.
He could never escape.
He had given up crying and fighting. When he protested, he was hit and he was spat upon like the lower lifeform he was in the eyes of God. Nobody came to see him.
The family doctor had been permitted to visit him. Before it was too late. Could be dying.
Yuki could hear but everything to him was a blank. Why should he care?
He had no energy to.
Yuki saw Hatori staring at him. Examining that which he could not see. There was nothing left within Yuki; there was a numbness that had settled and it was so freeing.
The Rat had become quieter as if it too was losing the will to live. It was taking its time.
Yuki carried on breathing quietly and stared at the closed windows. He could hear children laughing. In his mind, the sound of children laughing was common. He listened to laughter, joyous and innocent.
But then there was the sound of the transformation.
And his begging Hatori.
The man who was sitting in front of him had taken away his friends. Yuki had begged and screamed and sobbed. What was the point?
Yuki had been born to walk alone. To tread in the footsteps of God and never cross that threshold. Every moment of his life had been spent walking on the edge.
Even now, he never slept with a pillow. Why would he want sweet dreams? Nothing in this world was his. He was possessed and he was beginning to understand its meaning.
He was chained and belonged to the Sohmas. He belonged to his parents when he was born before being sold to Akito. That was his purpose in life and when he had run and rebelled, the choke chain on his neck had been pulled taut and he was dragged back.
He took a shaky breath. It was hard.
He shuddered, spots dancing before his eyes. There was a perpetual ache within his body.
Yuki imagined he was standing at the edge of a battlefield. He could see the cruel grins of Akito in the centre. Always bringing him back. Yuki had nothing to defend himself with; he was exposed and undoubtedly vulnerable. He could be shot at point blank range and he wouldn’t have the time to react.
Hatori placed the stethoscope back into his bag and Yuki heard the doctor’s case clip shut.
Yuki knew the other members of the zodiac were trapped in his hellish mental war too. Stray too far from God and you froze; stray too close and you burnt.
Hatori looked at him with those eerie purple eyes, “your body isn’t what is broken, Yuki.”
Yuki could hear gunshots and chaos but closed his eyes and braced himself for the inevitable impact. He remembered the first time he had been shot, when those children had lost their memories. Akito couldn’t knock him down when God had broken him already.
“It is your heart. You should take care of it.”
“Is this it?”
“Are you going to die?”
Yuki braced himself for impact, eyes sealed shut. He waited for the Cat’s wrath to bury itself into him and atone for the sins he had committed.
Those from a previous and from this life.
But he was trying.
“But maybe I could.”
The moment he felt himself getting stronger, he fell. Climbing back up every single time drained him. Especially when he was facing his ancient nemesis.
Kyo knew he was destined to lose, although that was his catalyst, bestowing him with the drive and determination, the fuel to win.
Like how Yuki stood against Akito. He knew he couldn’t win.
“But maybe I could.”
Except, nothing hit him. There was no pain, no searing agony burning his body, a sensation he had become familiar to after defying Akito one too many times (once was enough).
When he opened his eyes, he realised he had not been vulnerable at all.
Miss Honda was standing with her arms outstretched in front of him. The damn cat’s claw had paused in its descent. The half-monster screamed, discord ringing in the forest and he leapt away.
She had protected him. She had been brave enough to fight the inevitable rather than face it. And that was why she was so fucking incredible.
“Are you hurt, Yuki?” Miss Honda wobbled on her feet. She turned around, her eyes watching the brambles where Kyo had taken temporary cover. Animal instincts screamed at Yuki to run; he could sense that Kyo was watching and waiting. Stalking him until he had the perfect opportunity to strike.
Before he could reply, a rumble louder than thunder shook Yuki’s body. He lurched over and his hand gripped his chest. The pain was like a tide; it surged strong one second and subsided the next. He didn’t notice the blood.
Why should he?
She was bleeding. But she had been his shield.
Now he had to do the same for her.
Yuki rubbed the blood splatters from his lips and shakily got to his feet.
He had far exceeded his body limits. He should have transformed into a pathetic rat. That could wait until after. Mustering his willpower, he thrust the Rat’s spirit back into his mind, taking full control of the body he felt was rarely his.
I know you want to fight him, Yuki thought, images of Kyo filling his mind. The Rat watched him closely and supplied older, fainter images and feelings. Of hurt and regret. Of humiliation.
We are the same, the spirit supplied.
No, Yuki thought simply, because I’m human.
Birdsong had silenced. The world was quiet in the forest and even the rapids had slowed, a gurgle of water, watching and waiting to see how the present unfolded. When the bushes rustled, the grey-haired boy pivoted on his feet, raising his arms into a fighting stance. There was no emotion there. Blank. Numbness. Ice.
Stray too far and you freeze.
Stray too close and you burn.
Life surged through him. His own fury. Neither quiet nor controlled like the persona he had forged himself. Gone was the regal ‘Prince’. Here he was: plain and simply human. That was all he needed to be.
He didn’t need to be a damn knight in shining armour or have a crown on his head to protect those he loved.
Kyo’s transformation had paused. His distorted form let out a low growl, pacing slowly towards his target, him.
Good. If he hurt Miss Honda or even thought about looking at her, Yuki would kill him.
“Let’s finish this…” Yuki mumbled, his voice lost. The monster cocked its head and glared at Yuki, eyes full of menace and challenge.
“Didn’t you hear me?” Yuki bellowed, “Let’s finish this you fucking coward!”
And he lunged.
Despite being naturally weaker than Yuki, Kyo had the resistance to overcome failure over and over again. Compared to the ordinary person, they were both artists. They could weave and glide towards their opponent and strike.
Kyo’s human arm swung at his head but Yuki ducked gracefully underneath its swoop. His foot came up to the cat’s abdomen and Yuki used that force to propel himself backwards. He needed ground to work with.
Too fast. Kyo moved, too quick to trace. Lightning amid the clouds.
The monstrous arm caught Yuki in the shoulder and he was thrown back next to the river. That damn river.
Kyo charged in his direction. Yuki rolled to his side; Kyo was able to skid to a halt before he crashed into the river. He bared his angular teeth aiming for Yuki’s throat. Yuki’s uppercut into Kyo’s chin brought him precious seconds he needed.
Yuki darted past Kyo, moving upstream as he did so. And as he ran, a plan formulated in his mind. It was the oldest trick in the book. He lowered his head and counted his footsteps up to ten repeatedly.
That was where they were different: Kyo was reckless, Yuki was methodical. The fire in his blood honed his senses, sharpening them. Colours took on a vibrant hue. Yuki could hear his heart pumping and he was so very alive.
He heard Kyo snarl and charged once again towards him.
“You really are pathetic,” Yuki stood perfectly still, his breathing calmer. Every breath required effort from his whole body- biphasic and strenuous. It would be over now. He had done what he needed to do.
He stared at the river and watched with his back to the Sun as his plan unfolded before his eyes.
Kyo raised his head to meet Yuki’s challenge. But behind Yuki, the Sun’s rays beat down, rays dazzling the water, making sparkles dance across the riverbank. Sparks danced before Kyo and he visibly winced, disorientated from nature’s direct hit.
The stupid cat grunted and shook his head. Yuki watched as he bunched his muscles, preparing himself to cross the void, blindly attacking at anyone who threatened him.
Yuki felt a smirk cross his face. He would meet the challenge. Always.
However, as his feet left contact with the ground, he felt something within him pull taut and he collapsed to the ground.
Voices flooded through Yuki’s mind. So many voices and emotions. All were speaking to him. Channelling and projecting the feelings within their hearts to him:
Twelfth: The Boar with her fierce fighting spirit. Now the force was not directed at fighting but fighting to protect what mattered most.
Eleventh: The Dog was the most relaxed spirit. He vouched for that. What was the purpose of fighting? There were other less…violent forms of contact.
Tenth: The Rooster was the disconnected spirit. Not quite…there. But somehow, images of sunshine and bright blue skies filled his mind.
Ninth: The Monkey spirit apologised for interfering. This was necessary however! Fighting was bad…fighting hurt…
Eighth: The Ram spirit thought this was all dumb. When others got hurt, he thought it was unfair and so wanted it to stop too.
Seventh: The Horse spirit wanted nothing to do with this. Nobody else should be dragged into their mess. It had to be resolved now.
Sixth: The Snake wanted this sadness to end. It was a cycle. When did happiness stop being an option?
Fifth: The Dragon’s spirit was the gentlest. He promised to take care of him, in more ways than one.
Fourth: The Rabbit didn’t wish this pain upon them. It was ok to argue but he knew that bad things can happen when one forgets who they are and what they stand for.
Third: The Tiger’s spirit believed in bravery. She would speak out for what she believed in. And that was for everyone to come home safely.
Second: The Ox’s spirit was bountiful with love. He would defend to the death, but remembered that everything had a light side too.
First: His…The Rat’s spirit, as promised, was quiet.
Yuki realised then what was happening. Each of the zodiac members were speaking to him through their bond. It was something that had never happened this intensely to him before.
Yuki had always felt alone in this big reality.
Like there was nobody else that understood what he was going through and keeping the secret day after day, year after year had set a heavy toll upon his shoulders.
But, he had never been alone. All of the other cursed members of the Juunishi wore the same hidden scars he did.
It was easy to forget however.
Not just the Juunishi. The entire human race had demons to fight, disguised like the dark side of the moon. And everyone had to battle those in their own time, in their own place. Even the damn cat in front of him.
And in that time, Miss Honda had staggered in the middle of the battlefield. She took one look at Yuki and one look at Kyo.
“Please don’t fight anymore. You both… really mean the world to me.”
The cat blinked and fell to his knees, smoke rising around his body. Like being rid of a plague, humanity seeped into the cracks left behind by the fleeing monster and Kyo was himself again. Still stupid. Still a perpetual nerve for Yuki to tolerate.
They could fight each other for eternity. But where would that pain lead them?
Nowhere. In circles. On repeat. Life after life, the same pain and suffering reaped.
It was not the Cat he should be fighting.
The Yuki from years ago was wiser than his present form.
God’s smile filled Yuki’s mind. All of this time, he should have been the one that he should have been fighting. The one that should be the target to the frustration he had accumulated over the years, scars etched across his soul.
But not just yet.
Yuki was so tired…he finally let the fatigue wash over him and peace settled over him at last.
When he closed his eyes, the world was no longer black.
It was as if he had his eyes closed while taking a nap in the sunshine. The world had colour even when his world consisted of dream and possibility.
The world was no longer black.
Like a shifting palette, the darkness that had consumed his vision for what felt like eternity shifted from black to grey to white. The colour of purity and Heaven (like such a place existed).
But…the whiteness didn’t fade away. It remained.
Kyo guessed he had no choice but to open his damn eyes.
He was in an ancient hall. Nobody had walked into this hall for a long, long time. Decorations and lanterns lined the hall, but when Kyo peered closely, those decorations were only a disguise; they were chains.
There were twelve seats arranged in a circle. And in the middle was a chair, grander than the others. And upon it sat a white cat, eyes misted over with age.
“Where am I?” Kyo demanded, striding towards the wizened creature, fists clenched at his side.
There was no answer. Kyo instead could hear background noise. It was a faint buzz, like he was a child wrapped up in bed and he could hear the New Year celebrations echoing throughout the night. Gradually become louder it did and Kyo watched, frozen in shock as the seats took on occupants. Animals only too familiar to him. Their shapes were faded, a part of the background. Their chatter was visible but still Kyo could not discern individual words. There was a figure in the chair at the centre of the circle but the white cat was not anywhere to be found.
“This is the first memory,” a voice spoke to his side. Kyo scowled and looked down. He had seen enough damn crazy stuff to think this was weird. The cat, sown from snow, sat beside him and the creature’s ears flicked. Kyo did that when he was thinking about something else or when he was annoyed.
“It’s some dumb banquet that never happened,” Kyo didn’t have time for this. He shoved his hands into his pockets and yearned to pace the halls. He wanted to get away. That was how he solved problems: he ran away from them. His feet felt firmly planted to the ground however.
“Stories do have truth to them,” the white cat sighed, his tail sweeping in front of his paws, “it has been so long. I have been reborn so many times I’ve forgotten.”
“But why remember now?” Kyo asked. He couldn’t help it; he was stuck here. He was curious.
“Perhaps, after all this time, the winds are changing,” the cat mused, eyes wide and focused on the individual at the centre. Kyo’s gaze followed that of his companion. The figure in the chair clapped their hands, but they were crying.
“This is…” Kyo stammered. But he knew exactly what this was. He felt the pang in his chest. His spirit was crying too. Remembering was so bittersweet. This was when the Cat- when he- had died for the first time. Before the cycles started. Before the memories became a story. Before the promise had become pain.
And as they appeared, the eternal banquet faded into nothing. The hall was empty once again save for the two of them.
“I’m going to forget,” Kyo muttered before he stiffened, “I’ve got to go back! I-I hurt her, I hurt them all, again.”
“You are not me. You are possessed by me. That does not make you a monster,” the Cat blinked at him, “I believe the promise will be fulfilled, one day,” and with that the white cat waved his tail, calling the dream to an end.
The other Sohma members ended up coming downstream and found Tohru first.
Shigure had been rushed off to hospital and according to Hatori, was being a ‘drama queen’. He was only internally bleeding from one organ and he would be fine and thus the Sohma doctor thought the man being pedantic.
Momiji wanted to show his broken arm off to Tohru, but he was stopped by Kagura. The boy bounced and tried to free himself from Kagura’s hold, but he paused when he saw what she was looking at.
And he smiled.
Nobody wanted to disturb the girl with rat and cat she held close. She showed no signs of letting them go any time soon.
Kaikias is the name for the North-East Wind, one of the minor Anemoi (wind deities). Kaikias is associated as a brewer of a cauldron, showering hailstones and winter thunder in the form of evil against the world below.
Next chapter: Aeolus
This chapter has so many breaks. Yuki and Kyo both wanted to hoard the POV my goodness.
And thank you for the comments! I'm looking forward to replying to them :)
One more chapter left: Aeolus- God of the Winds... *dramatic music plays here*
With that, I'm going to sign off. See you then!