I hadn’t really thought it could get any worse. But I guess it did.
Her cheeks were damp again, just as it seemed they always were after she talked to Ren. At least she was gone now.
Akito leaned out the window of her room, letting the wind play with her hair and dry her never-forgotten tears. She loved the wind, loved the way it swirled so lazily through the days, loved the way it took her mind to places she could never be.
But oh, she envied it. Envied the freedom it would always hold over her.
So what if I’m only fifteen? What does it matter?
She leaned out, further, further. Wouldn’t it be nice to be on the “outside”, just for a little while? A smile drifted across Akito’s face at the thought. See what they saw, do what they do, be what they are…
I’ll never be like them. And I’ll never get my chance.
But that stubborn determination was already too strong in Akito’s eyes. She dragged herself back into her rooms and ran to her closet to dig out one of her most precious possessions. She pulled it out, holding it up against her chest. A dress. The only dress she had. She had stolen it from one of Ren’s old trunks. Ren never looked in that trunk anymore, not since she had become a “Sohma”.
I’m going to be a girl today.
You’ll never get away, that pesky little voice whispered in her ear. Never.
Akito ignored it. When she was dressed and ready, she ran back to her open window. Adrenaline surged through her, burning away the tears. With a swift but slightly wobbly motion, Akito leaned out the window, grabbed the rough bark of the tree, and swung herself out with sheer force of will. Jumping to the ground, she looked around. There was no one there. So she ran.
Akito laughed. She actually laughed. Her skin creased and crinkled in ways that she hadn’t known were possible. She stopped abruptly, bringing her hands to her face.
So this is what laughter looks like? What it feels like?
Akito approached the gates at the edges of Sohma property. She couldn’t believe that this was all that had been holding her back. These gates were just a few twisted bars of ornate black metal. What power did metal have over her, anyway? She was held by much more powerful things.
Tentatively, Akito pushed the gate. Her heart leapt into her mouth as she watched it slowly creak open. Akito slipped through the small opening carefully pulling the gate shut behind her.
The outside world seemed so…different…than the inside. Of course she had been on the outside before, but never like this. Never without an escort, without someone there to make sure she held up the impression of what she was supposed to be.
The energy in the air was filling her, mixing with her adrenaline. Akito threw her arms wide, as if she could embrace the entire world within them. Sunlight dappled her face, and she grinned. For a minute, she forgot everything. Her father. Her responsibilities. Her pains. Her regrets. Her future. For just a minute, just one, blissful, minute, she was just…Akito.
She loved it.
And then a footstep broke the silence.
Akito’s eyes flew open and she whirled around, finding herself face to face with her favorite tormentor.
Shigure smiled innocently. “Why, hello, Miss. Are you lost?”
Akito glared at him, the steel back in her eyes. “Tell anyone that I was out and you’ll find yourself discovering exactly how a true dog lives these days.”
Shigure’s smile grew even wider. “No, no, I wouldn’t dream of it.” He stepped closer to Akito, slipping his arm around her waist. She shivered. “It can be our little secret.” Shigure half-led, half-dragged Akito towards the twisted metal gate. He pushed it open, watching as it swung silently out of the way. He gestured to the pristine area spread out before them. “After you.”
“What if I told you my curse was broken? What would you say?”
A look of horror flitted across Kyo’s face. “That’s not funny, Momiji.”
Momiji smiled darkly. He thought it was ironic. Very ironic, in fact, that he had the one thing that Kyo and all the other zodiac members wanted the most. They all fought for it, cried over it, sacrificed the very essence of themselves for it.
And Kyo was the one who had given it to him.
And it was even more ironic that while Momiji had the freedom Kyo wanted most, Kyo had what he wanted most.
He didn’t blame Kyo, of course...not entirely. Kyo was simply clueless to what he had. And to what he had done. Through his determination and love, Kyo had become almost…human. He didn’t know that he had made it possible for Momiji to accept him as a real person, as more than just the cat. Momiji had learned that Kyo wasn’t one he could look down on. And that was the key to his freedom. He had gained the one thing he had always wanted.
And had lost other things.
He lost a bond. Probably the truest and deepest bond he would ever experience. He hadn’t realized it mattered so much. He knew he was going to miss it, in some weird way. Some dark, twisted way. The tears were still flowing freely down his face, burning the memory of their bond into his skin. The bond that had been so forcibly held in his heart for so long.
And he lost her.
Maybe Kyo hadn’t realized he had competition. Even Momiji had to laugh out loud at the absurdity of that thought, the tears still burning. He probably hadn’t realized. Kyo barely even realized why he was fighting, at this point.
She didn’t even realize she was being fought over.
But he loved her anyway. He loved her so much…that’s why he fought the curse, fought Kyo with a different kind of dislike.
So what if she didn’t know he loved her? He had accepted that already. There was so much he didn’t know. What her favorite color was. What food she hated the most. Her biggest hopes. Her smallest fears.
Why…why she loved Kyo, whether she realized it or not.
But he didn’t want to think about that anymore. He didn’t want to be bitter anymore. Kyo, albeit unknowingly, had given him what he always dreamed of. He had opened up his future. He could be whatever, whoever, he wanted.
He had his whole life in front of him now. All those possibilities. He could do anything. He could smile now, really smile, knowing he had a chance at true happiness. No more secrets, no more lies. And he owed it all to Kyo. Even if he knew now that Kyo was a reason that there was one thing he could never have.
Besides, there was someone out there for him.
There had to be.
If you haven't read the 21st volume of Fruits Basket, you're going to be confused. So, you should either read the 21st volume of Fruits Basket or google Akira Sohma before you read this!....
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Same Akito spoiler, and the Kureno spoiler, too...
Akito reclined into the leather seat of the car, stretching his legs out luxuriously. Hatori slid in next to him, pulling the door shut. The car pulled away from the curb of the high school and was soon filled with a stony silence. Akito looked over at Hatori, watching him carefully. The doctor stared straight ahead, making no attempt to talk to Akito.
Oh, dear, he’s mad at me.
“Now, wasn’t that a fun trip to the high school, Hatori?” Akito asked happily. “Yuki was especially surprised to see me. I don’t think he ever expected me to actually come to his school.” Akito chuckled to himself, still watching Hatori attentively. He watched as a storm brewed in Hatori’s eyes, a storm of anger, pity, and sadness. Hatori turned to Akito, his face perfectly calm even as the turmoil swirled in his eyes.
“Akito,” he said, slowly, calmly, “You shouldn’t have gone to that school. Those kids-Yuki, Haru, Momiji, even Kyo- deserve a chance to live their own lives. If you had just asked, they would have come and visited you.”
“That monstrous cat is not my concern,” Akito snapped back. “And besides, I can do whatever I want. I wanted to go visit Yuki, so I did. I wanted to meet that pathetic girl everybody is talking about, that Tohru Honda. What a letdown. There’s nothing special about her; she’s not even pretty. She’s so ugly.”
Hatori turned away from Akito again, his jaw set, a muscle jumping in his cheek. He crossed his arms and looked out the window, lost in his own world. Akito felt like laughing and crying at the same time.
All I wanted was a little attention, Akito thought desperately to herself. She turned to her own window, watching her surroundings blur past her unfocused eyes. She wondered if she really had done the right thing, going to go see Yuki, going to go find out just who exactly this Tohru person was. Why was she so special, anyway? What did everybody see in her? Just because she was pretty, and she was kind, and she was willing to do everything for everybody. They all thought that girl was the angel, and Akito was the dark, evil, tyrannical overlord. Nobody had ever given Akito a chance.
They would all think differently if I was a girl. They would all think I was beautiful, and they would all be on their knees begging me to let them help me. I wouldn’t have to wrangle and manipulate to get everything I want. I might even still have the rooster instead of just its empty shell. They would really love me, not just love me because they have to.
Akito turned back to Hatori, tears weaving their way down her face. “Hatori?” she whimpered. Hatori turned away from the window, surprise and worry etched into his face. It had been years since he had seen Akito cry.
“Akito?” he asked, undoing his seat belt and sliding over to pull her into his arms. “Akito, what’s wrong?”
“Hatori,” Akito sniffled, “Why don’t Yuki and the others love me?”
“Of course they love you, Akito,” Hatori responded automatically, robotically. “We all love you.”
“Empty words,” she snapped back, her anger and desperation beginning to seep through. “They don’t want to love me. The animals inside them love the god inside me. It’s not real. Not like the way you love me. They just put up with me because they have to.” Akito pulled away and crossed her arms, staring ahead defiantly.
“They just don’t understand you,” Hatori reassured her. “You just live in a different world than they do. They just think they owe you more respect than love, that’s all.”
“So they can find it in their hearts to love that girl?” Akito retorted condescendingly. “I’m prettier than her, I’m kinder than her, I love them more than her, and I’m a part of the zodiac. Why doesn’t she go waste her time somewhere else? This is my zodiac. Go let some other guys tell her how special and pretty she is, but not mine.”
“She’s not trying to compete with you,” Hatori whispered, still shocked by Akito’s outburst. “She’s just trying to do the best she can to love those kids. She wants to make everyone happy, including you, Akito.”
“If she wants to make me happy, she can leave. I don’t want her here, taking my family away from me. I love them more than she does. She has friends; let them take care of her. My zodiac members are all I’ve got. She has her freedom, her friends, her femininity…just GO!” Akito was screaming now, tears pouring from her eyes. “JUST GO LIVE YOUR LIFE, BE HAPPY, LEAVE US ALONE!! WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO STAY HERE, ANYWAY? IF YOU CAN LEAVE, LIVE A REAL LIFE, BE WHO YOU WANT TO BE, HAVE PEOPLE LOVE YOU FOR WHO AND WHAT YOU ARE…WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO STAY SOMEWHERE WHERE YOU HAVE TO WORK TO GET PEOPLE TO LOVE YOU? DON’T YOU KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE LAYING AT YOUR FINGERTIPS? TAKE IT! LEAVE US AND GO!”
The car rolled to a stop in front of Akito’s prison. Her maid was waiting at the door, waving. “Welcome home, Akito-san!” The maid called cheerfully when Akito had dragged herself from the car. Is there anything I can get for you? Is there anything I can do for you, Akito-san?”
Akito brushed past the maid coldly without saying a word. She stomped up the stairs of the house and into her room, slamming the rice screen behind her. The maid’s smile faltered and she turned towards Hatori. “Is everything okay, Hatori-san? She asked, noticing the troubled look on his face. “Can I get anything for you?”
Hatori glanced at the maid absent-mindedly, distracted from his thoughts. “No, no, I’m fine,” he answered quickly. “I’m just thinking, that’s all. I don’t suggest disturbing Akito for a little while.” He strode away towards his private quarters, never looking back.
Akito watched him go from the window of her room, the tears still falling.
The lyrics I used in the first chapter are from "Up Against a Wall" by Boys Like Girls. They are NOT mine, and neither are the characters of Fruits Basket.
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