NOTES: First off – I am so sorry for the long delay. It isn't writer's block, believe me. I have the whole story outlined even before I started writing it…but it just took me longer to write the thoughts because of a very busy and hectic schedule for the last fourteen months and so. I had been busy with internship, thesis papers, comprehensive exams, graduation and now review classes. Oh yes, I AM ALREADY A GRADUATE! Yay! So you all see why I've not been able to update as soon as we all want me to…anyways, enough with the ranting…
This will be the second to the last chapter…hehehe… and I'm so sorry for the short chapter, too!
Much thanks to all those who reviewed the last chapter (chap 8) but I wanted to mention one specifically…
Hey Leo's Starlight! I like your Username, for the very simple reason that I'm a Leo. Hahaha! Anyway, I wanted to thank you for your thoughtfulness. Yes, I already have my Angelic Layer DVD's, thanks for asking. It just touched me that you remembered to ask if I got them already or not...thanks again, pal.
DISCLAIMER: MKR still doesn't belong to me…yeah, big news, huh? Last time I checked, they're still CLAMP's property.
Chapter 9: THE MOMENT OF TRUTH
Lantis drove the car in silence. At his side was a sulking redhead, who has her face turned sideward, her breath fanning the window, making hazy, white fog appear on the window every now and then. Lantis noted that she has a tight grip on her black skirt, that her knuckles were almost white. He also took notice of her numerous sighs and deep breaths, and the occasional shaking of her head.
Obviously, his girlfriend was in a deep thought.
When they reached the gates of the Imperial Palace, Hikaru finally turned at him, "Our dojo is by that-"
"I know. We've been here the weekend before," he cut off, flashing the startled redhead a grin.
Hikaru blinked, and she turned her head to the road, then back to Lantis' smiling face, "Oh. But why? Are you with Umi and Fuu?" she asked.
Lantis nodded. "Umi, Fuu, Ascot and Ferio. We were so sure that you really are the Shidou Hikaru we knew of nine years ago, but we have to make sure. So we went to your house and drilled your parents of questions about you. And well, they did enlightened us, and confirmed that you are the Shidou Hikaru that has become our friend and we lost a long time ago," he answered, a glow of sadness in his violet orbs.
Hikaru's heart tightened, and she reached up to grip his hand that was on the steering wheel, "Gomen nasai for the pain I've caused you, ai. It must have been hell for you to look for me all over Tokyo and not find me here, much more disappoint you on seeing me here, waiting for you, but then you'd find out from my best friends that I'm missing. Gomen, Lantis-kun…"
Lantis glanced at her again as he rounded the corner beside the Imperial Palace. "You were worth all the pain and longing, koishii. And I'm just happy that you're here again beside me, with your memory of the past still intact," he answered, smiling tenderly at her.
Hikaru let her hand linger on his hand for a while, and then pulled back her hand when he had to change gears. After a comfortable silence, they finally parked outside the Shidou house. Lantis and Hikaru went out of the car.
Hikaru swept her eyes over the estate. Tears formed on her eyes as she pushed open the wooden gates and walked on the path towards the front door. Her eyes traveled the length of the garden, her garden, and settled on the big, flowering sakura tree at the other end of the perimeter. Her face twitched up and her eyes crinkled, narrowing a little bit. She took in the healthy sight of her orchids, her Bermuda grass, her dandelions, her roses, her santans, and everything that she planted with great care and love in her little sanctuary.
She turned her head at her back and her eyes instantly met violet ones. "I really missed this place, Lantis. Very much," she murmured, eyes sparkling.
Lantis smiled and made his way towards her side, then pulled her to him and squeezed her tight, sending her his silent message.
Hikaru smiled, and then made the rest of the way towards the house. She tapped on the rice paper doors, and seconds later she came face-to-face with her mother.
"Hikaru-chan! Lantis-kun! Come inside!" her mother gushed, smiling brightly at them. When they were safely behind the doors, Hajime called inside the house.
"Haido-chan! Hikaru-chan and Lantis-kun are here!" then she turned to the two and hugged Hikaru tight. "We missed you so much, my little baby. It's been quite a while since we saw you! And my! How you've grown!" she finished, looking critically at her only daughter with love.
Hikaru groaned while her cheeks reddened the same shade as her hair. "Okaasan! You're embarrassing me!" she protested.
Hajime just laughed and pulled her daughter for another hug. "Oh, I'm just teasing. It's so good to see you again, Hikaru-chan. And you too, Lantis-kun, it's nice to see you too. Where are your friends?"
Lantis offered a small smile at the woman; "They're at Kawasaki, on the college. Hikaru and I decided to take the day off and went here for some…questions," he answered carefully.
Hajime nodded. Just then, Haido peered inside the room, and upon seeing Hikaru he rushed forward and gave her daughter her third hug for that day. "I missed you so, Hikaru-chan. It's good that you paid us a visit here, and with Lantis-kun," he said, acknowledging the young man's presence with a smile.
Hikaru smiled and kissed her father at the forehead. "I missed you as well, 'tousan,"
Hajime and Haido settled down on the mat, Hikaru and Lantis following suit. "So I guess you're here for answers, Hikaru-chan, now that I see you've got your memories back," Haido started.
Hikaru nodded. Her eyes turned grave, and she looked at her father straight and unblinking. "I only wanted to know why, 'tousan, why rob me off my memories, and how,"
"We wanted you to live without the pain and suffering of having known that I have a mistress, much more with the knowledge that I chose my mistress over you, my true and loving family. Plus, Satoru suggested that we should do immediate actions for you to not remember the painful memory that led you to ran away and have that accident. So when the psychiatrist at Sapporo suggested to us that you could be hypnotized and have a new memory, we talked over it for a week. Your brothers agreed to it, so we pushed through with the session. And that was the start of the new life of Shidou Hikaru," her father explained.
Then he turned to Hikaru and held her hand, "We just wanted the best for you, Hikaru-chan, always. That's why we proceeded with the hypnotizing process. We wanted to give you a fresh start, a clean life. And we thought we're doing what's best for you, until he," he said, gesturing to Lantis who was silently listening, "Came here with your friends, asking questions. Your mother and I realized that we robbed you of the opportunity to be with the persons that you consider your second family, to be happy with them, especially to be happy with the man that you truly love," he finished, looking meaningfully at Hikaru and Lantis' hands intertwined.
Hikaru and Lantis blushed. Hikaru then cleared her throat and looked at her father, "What happened to Michiro-san, 'tousan? If you chose her over us, why are you still here with us?" she asked, almost bitterly. She felt Lantis squeeze her hand for support, and she squeezed back with the same passion.
Haido cleared his throat; "After we learned that you were missing, I immediately decided that nothing and no one could keep me away from this family, the family that I loved and nurtured so much. I instantly cut off all connections with Michiro, and I told her that I love this family more than I love her, and it's a shame that I only realized that after you made such harsh decisions. The fact that my youngest, kindest and most passionate child ran away shook me like nothing else before. It made me worried and sick to my stomach and I kept beating myself up for being so insensitive and careless in deciding. I love this family more than anything else, and maybe Michiro clouded that feeling when she entered my life, but like the light that is your name, you lighted up my darkened mind and made me see that this family is important to me, in fact, more important than my life,"
Hikaru had tears in her eyes as she looked at her father and mother then back to her father, who also had tears in his eyes, "Honestly 'tousan, I don't know what to say. I wanted to get angry but I know that that will not change anything. In fact, I should be thankful of what you did, for I know that you only did it because you love me very much and wouldn't want me to get hurt once I recover my memories. Also, I wanted to thank you because now that I have my memories back again, I realized that my friends, especially Lantis, mean so much to me. Back then, I only felt that strong connection towards Umi-chan and Fuu-chan, but now, after having missed them for more that nine years of my life, I realized how much they truly mean to me, how much I care for them, how much I treasure them,"
She then looked deep into Lantis' eyes and smiled up at him, her hands tightening their grip on Lantis'. "And I wouldn't realize that there is no one else in this world who could make me happy and contented the way that Lantis does."
They spent the night at Hikaru's house, where Lantis slept in one of the guest rooms, the one that was beside Hikaru's room. The next morning, the people at the Shidou Dojo indulged in a tasty breakfast that Hajime prepared. Haido showed Lantis his favorite liquor, and then Hikaru and Lantis spent the afternoon looking through the photo albums.
"'Ne, Hikaru, you really look cute here," Lantis teased, pointing at Hikaru's picture when she was five years old, her fiery red hair in disarray, laughing while a grinning Masaru ran behind her.
Hikaru smiled as she rested her chin on Lantis' shoulder, "Masaru-niichan took me and Kakeru-niichan on the park to have fun. When we went by the lake, I pushed him on it, and he chased me all throughout the park and threw me at the lake as well. It was very funny; a policeman went to us and reprimanded Masaru-niichan that people are not allowed to dive in the park. Ever since then, we never returned nor passed by that park. It was really hilarious," she related.
Lantis turned on a few more pages and stopped at a photo of her, Umi and Fuu taken at the dojo, all three of them dressed in traditional kendo suit.
Lantis pointed at the photo and looked at Hikaru, who was grinning behind him. "And when was this taken?" he asked.
"A few days after we returned from Cephiro the second time. It was my idea that the three of us teach each other of the martial arts that we knew. It was I who taught Umi and Fuu first of kendo," she answered. She turned on the next page and pointed on a picture of the three of them again, this time attired in fencing suit. "Then after a month, when I finished my basic kendo lessons at them, Umi taught me and Fuu of fencing. It was really fun because fencing was somewhat alike in kendo in the principles and the stuff, but also completely different, and it matched the skills of a swordsman," then she pointed at the photo on the following page. "This was how we looked like when it was now Fuu's turn to teach me and Umi archery. We had our bows and arrows, and we practiced at the field near Fuu's school. Out of the two sports that my friends love, I must say that fencing was the easier sport because I'm a swordswoman as well, but I also enjoyed archery very much, because it was all too new for me. All in all, the three of us enjoyed the lessons very much, and after that we became closer to each other,"
After that memory trip, Hikaru and Lantis decided that they should head back to Kawasaki. After so many good byes and reminders, hugs and kisses, the older Shidous finally let Hikaru and Lantis go.
The trip back to Kawasaki was comforting. The whole time they were on the road, they had their hands locked tightly around each other's. Except when Lantis needed to change gears, they never let go of the other's hand. It was as if overnight, their closeness was like before, in fact, even more.
And they were really happy of this long-lost happiness that they found at each other's company again. And now that they're back to Kawasaki, Hikaru have to face another person from her past.
Hikaru stood tentatively outside Rei's apartment at the outskirts of Kawasaki, near Yokohama. She insisted on Lantis that she must face Rei alone because she can explain better alone. So with her heart thundering in her chest, she knocked on the door and waited for Rei to open the door.
Several seconds passed and Rei stood in front of the open door. He looked surprised to see her, but just the same he ushered her inside and led her to a sofa.
She looked around his apartment. It was a big mess; magazines and newspapers were sprawled across the coffee table; his books on herbal and medicinal plants were lying on top of a stack of dirty clothes at one corner of the living room; at the other end were piles of cartons and bags, and finally, the walls were bare of any painting or pictures that she knew Rei loved to hang.
"What happened here?" she asked quietly, looking at Rei. Rei sighed and looked around his apartment, a certain glow of sadness in the depths of his eyes.
"I'm leaving tomorrow for Batangas, a province in the Philippines, where my colleagues found out a very interesting herbal plant known as the digitalis. They said that glycoside can be extracted from it, and it can be very useful to heart ailments as well. So…my team called me up to head over to Batangas right away and take a look," he started, then gave her a half smile, "This might be the big break we've all been looking for. There has been no scientific explanation on the actions of this plant, and some articles even said that digitalis is a poisonous drug, which can lead to death and convulsion. But if we prove them wrong…then this is the break that we're looking for," he finished, not quite meeting Hikaru's eyes.
Hikaru has a frown on her face, and her eyes did not leave Rei's face for even a single second. Something is definitely wrong here…"But why tell me only now?"
Rei cleared his throat, "Because I don't have much time," he simply said, "And I know you're busy with something else," he added meaningfully.
Finally, the pieces fell together, and she stood up from her seat and looked straight at him. "So, you knew about my amnesia?" she asked.
Rei turned his body away from her and started to walk away. She grabbed his arm and forced him to look at her straight, "Answer me Rei, damn it!" she exclaimed.
Rei closed his eyes shut before turning to her, "Yes! I knew all about it! Your brothers told me about it, everything! But I still accepted it whole-heartedly, because I love you so much that nothing else matters but my feelings for you! I took my chances in getting you to love me back, and I succeeded. But then, you saw your friends from before and the first man that you love. Your father told me so," he confessed heatedly, his fist clenched at his sides, his body rigid with tension and pain.
"And you didn't tell me about it! How could you!" she asked back.
"Because—I love you so much that I wanted you all to myself. I was afraid that you'd leave me once you remember everything," then he glanced at her and laughed bitterly, "But then again, you got your memory back again, and you're still going to leave me for him," he said. He finally opened his eyes and looked tearfully at her.
"I'm not going to beg you to come back to me, because I know that that is wrong and selfish of me. 'Cause I know that in your heart, it's still him and not me, always. I just interfered, and your parents just washed away his memories, but his space in your heart never left, even through the years that you're with me and away from him. I always felt that the love you're giving me lacks something, and I know that that lacks satisfaction and peace, those two vital elements of a relationship that only he can give you," he continued, looking her in the eyes.
"Hikaru…this is really hard for me, but because I love you and I want nothing but your happiness, I'm going to set you free once and for all. You don't have to explain, you don't have to say you're sorry. That will only make me hurt more. Just…promise me one thing…"
She did no speak. She did not trust her voice to be as strong as it is. Instead, she just waited for him to continue.
"I want you to promise that you're going to be happy with him, that you won't let yourself be separated from him like before. And could you tell me something?"
Hikaru nodded, urging him to go on as she saw the hesitation in his eyes.
"Did you-did you loved me the whole time that we were together?" he asked softly, almost as if he was afraid to even utter the question.
Her heart whimpered at his helpless sight. She closed the gap between them and threw her arms around his neck, hugging him close.
"Oh, Rei. Of course I've loved you! After all, you were my first boyfriend! My first official boyfriend! How could you think such things?" she wailed.
She felt Rei's arms around her waist, and he tightened the hug on her. "Domo arigatou gozaimasou, Hikaru, and aishiteru. Forever." He said solemnly. Then he pulled back from the hug and looked down at her, "Now, scoot! I have to prepare for my departure tomorrow! And one more thing, I don't want to see you there, okay? I don't want tearful goodbyes and everything," he said, a light now in his eyes.
She laughed. But before she headed for the door, she turned to Rei again, gave him another hug and then a brief kiss on the cheek. "Arigatou as well, Rei. Take care. I'll never forget you,"