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The Dreams: Chapter Twenty One

Getting to Corine’s proved to be an exhausting ordeal. Rina found

waiting for her friend to be an emotionally draining ordeal. The fight

she spent the day preparing for ended up being much less of a blowout

than she had expected. Instead of being angry her mother just seemed

confused and disappointed.

That proved to be a greater burden to bear than she had prepared

herself to endure. She tried to hold on to the anger she felt to keep

herself from crying. Once she admitted to herself that neither of them

were actually angry at each other she was doomed to spend the rest of

the night with tears in her eyes and she would end up feeling filled

with regret.

She felt pretty tense even before Corine arrived, but she did not

feel any sort of relief once her bags were tossed in the back seat and

they were on the road. The freedom was a relief. The ride in Corine’s

car of questionable road-worthiness brought on a whole new sort of

stress. The car had been nearly on its last legs when she bought it back

in high school, and two years with Corine behind the wheel had done it

no favors. Between the car, the driver, and Rina’s current mood the term

death trap easily came to mind.

There was not much talking during the ride back to Corine’s dorm.

Rina spent most of the ride biting her nails and worrying about how much

she might have just messed up her life.

Corine seemed to understand that she was not ready to talk, and for

once she did not pressure her to speak. That might have something to do

with the frantic texts Rina send earlier in the evening, and then the

hasty phone call she made before Corine even had a chance to send a

message back. She suspected her friend thought she was overreacting, and

now that she was literally putting distance between herself and her

problem she found herself sharing that sentiment.

Back on campus, they hauled Rina’s things from the sophomore parking

lot to Corine’s dorm. The walk was a cold one, and with her bags to deal

with they neither had the energy or the desire to talk much.

Fortunately, they were able to ride the elevator up to Corine’s floor rather than carrying everything up the stairs.

Corine glanced over at her and said, “My roommate might be asleep

already. We’ll have to be extra quiet or she’ll be pissed and probably

want you to go home.”

“Wait. You did ask her if I could stay, didn’t you?”

“Yes and no.”

“What do you mean ‘yes and no’?”

They were off the elevator now and walking down the hallway. It was

late at night, but as any typical college dormitory, this floor was

hardly silent no matter what the hour.

“I mean I sent her a text telling her you were sleeping over tonight, but I haven’t heard back from her.”

“So she never actually gave the okay for me to sleep on your floor?”

“Well, no, but you’re sleeping on the floor on my side of the room so she can just deal with it.”

Rina knew she had nowhere else to stay for the night so she was just

going to have to take Corine’s word for it and hope that she would not

end up being the source of conflict in the room. Already she started to

wonder what time would be a good time to go back home. She knew it would

be pointless to even consider going home again tonight. Even if she

thought it would be a good idea she would not want to be that much of an

imposition on her friend. She had a feeling that many favors in one

evening could put a strain even on their long friendship.

She resigned herself to sleeping on the floor for at least one night,

and possibly more. She knew she might not feel the same way after a few

hours of sleep. Most people cooled down after sleep, but she knew at

least to a degree she calmed down because she flat out ran out of energy

to be mad. After getting a bit of sleep she would find her energy

reserves replenished and with that she might find more anger.

Making predictions about her emotional state once the light of day

arrived would work about as well as trying to predict winning lottery

numbers. Anything could happen between now and then.

Corine continued to read her mood with surprising accuracy and

reigned in her usual boisterous behavior. With the few items she brought

with her, it did not take long at all to get her settled in.

“Are you positive this is going to be okay?” She felt she had an obligation to ask again.

“Sure,” Corine assured her. “It’s just for a few days after all. Once

you make a point and your mom knows you are home by choice and not out

of necessity you’ll be able to go back home no problem.”

“I feel like such an ass acting like this, though.”

“Don’t worry about it. Everyone is a bit of an ass from time to time.

You’re too much of a goody-goody it was bound to come out eventually.”

“That’s not much of a comfort, you know.”

Rina tried to make herself comfortable on the floor without too much

success. There were only so many configurations for a sleeping bag,

blanket, and a few pillows, and none of them did much to take away the

biting hard of the floor. She tried to take solace in the fact that she

would at least be warm. She decided the hard floor would be her penance,

and she would be less likely to overstay her welcome this way.

Corine giggled. “I’m not here to comfort you. If you were upset and

needed consoling you know I’d be there for you, but you’re just sulking

and in this case you need a bit of tough love. Lucky for you, touch love

is one of my specialties.”

“I can’t argue with you there.”

“You know I can’t take you seriously when you say ‘ass’. It’s too strange hearing that word from your mouth.”

“Oh yes. Make fun of me for saying ass now.”

“It’s just too strange, that’s all. You’ve said it twice in the span

of just a few minutes, but I can’t remember the last time I heard it

come from your mouth. Don’t say it again.”

That was all the temptation Rina needed. She saw a way to get them

both out of this solemn attitude they had fallen into. She knew she

needed to break free from this veil of despair. Now she just discovered

the perfect way to get things at least on their way back to normal


She grinned and proudly stated, “Ass ass ass ass ass.”

Corine stuck her tongue out at her. “Are we in eighth grade again, or what?”

“Well, one of us had to do something to break the tension.”

“I guess so. It was getting pretty intense there for a while.”

“So! Do you have any homework you need to do or anything like that?

I’ll shut up and read or something if you need time to study.”

“Ew. Gross. No! I’m not going to do homework at night.”

“Okay then. I just thought I’d ask.”

“Let’s do something fun. There’s still hours of night time stretching out ahead of us!”

“It’s late!” Rina protested.

“It’s only late if you’re a grandma.”

“I’m not a grandma.”

“Then it’s not late and we should do something.”

“Like what? There’s not exactly anything going on around here at this time of night.”

“Once again you prove just how innocent you are, my dear. There’s plenty going on… if you know where to look.”

“And let me guess. You know where to look.”

“Of course I do. Who do you think you’re talking to?”

“I thought I was talking to my best friend, but depending on what you have in mind I might have a change of heart.”

“Trust me, I’m always going to be your best friend. Now let’s see

what I’ve got for you to wear because you can not go out wearing that.”

Rina looked down at her clothes. “What’s wrong with my clothes now?”

“Nothing is wrong with them exactly. They’re just not exactly what I’d recommending wearing for a night out.”

“Well, I wasn’t expecting a night out when I put these clothes on. I

was expecting to have a night in. I thought we’d be staying right here

and sleeping.”

“Oh come on. You’ve done enough sleeping to last you a while, don’t you think. |What you need is some fun.”

Rina nodded. “There has been a lack of fun in my life.”

“Good. I’m glad we agree then. We’re going out tonight and having

some fun. Now let me lend you something to wear so you don’t look out of


After everything she had gone through lately Rina found herself not

really caring about the roundabout way Corine insulted her clothes. She

did not even care that there were going out, and she would most likely

be roped into doing something insane she never in a hundred years would

do under normal circumstances. This was just the sort of change she

found herself thinking she needed in her life. She wanted things to be

different, and that meant she could not turn away from an opportunity to

experience something that finally went beyond her usual routine.

This day was nothing  like what had become her normal life and she

needed to embrace the differences. She needed a new lease on life. She

needed to try something different for once. Her comfort zone needed to

have its boundaries reevaluated and redrawn.

Before she knew what was really happening Corine had her dressed in

an outfit that clung too close to her body for her to ever consider

being seen in public wearing it. She decided that probably made it the

perfect outfit for the night she decided to do something completely


She just tried her best to keep her brain turned off. Thinking only

made her miserable, and for now that seemed like more than enough reason

to avoid thought whenever possible.

In this way Rina came to be dressed and made up in a way she would

never have allowed on any other day. Then while her brain was still

willfully shut off she ended up in the sort of place she never imagined

she would go in this lifetime.

By the time they returned to Corine’s room Rina’s hand had been

stamped and her ears were ringing from being bombarded by several hours

of excessive bass. She felt exhausted, but too exhilarated to even

consider sleep yet, and she was absolutely certain she had no desire to

repeat the experience.

For her part, Corine gloated the entire time. She was almost

unreasonably pleased with her success at convincing Rina to go along

with her scheme for the evening.

Rina had her doubts that this constituted a typical evening for her

friend. She knew she was more adventurous than Rina herself, but she had

faith that her friend could not possibly maintain that sort of

lifestyle on a daily basis. She knew enough to have an idea of when shew

as being toyed with. She just hoped that Corine would not end up paying

the price in the morning.

Knowing her friend though, one night out would not be enough to keep

her from having enough energy to get through the following day. She

might end up not having the motivation for it though. Already Rina felt

as though she had failed in her vow to not act in any way that would be a

detriment to her friend’s school work while staying with her. She made a

new vow to make sure that thing did not get in the way of the rest of

Corine’s life.

It would just be like her to derail her entire life just to play some

sort of elaborate prank to mess with Rina. She just could not allow

that to happen. No matter what sort of things she did to make Rina feel

like she was some sort of deprived, sheltered schoolgirl, she would not

allow it to have a negative effect on her school performance. She needed

to make sure that her life getting all screwed up did not end up

screwing up the lives of the people that originally wanted to help her.

* * *

The trip back home felt like the longest and the shortest she had

ever been on. She slept most of the way. It was a deep sleep full of

strange dreams that would wake her with a start but then evaporate from

her mind before she could even commit to describing it in words.

She ate and drank when Souma stopped and forced her to do so, and she

readily accepted the medicine for pain that he offered her. It made

sleep happen that much more easily. That was all she really wanted these

days. She wanted to sleep because she did not have to deal with

consequences as long as she was not awake.

Souma carried her all the way back home. She could not fathom what he

went through to do it. He abandoned nearly all of the things they had

brought with them so he could carry her. Every time she woke up he was

carrying her and they were moving forward. She was not sure that he

slept at all during the days it took to get them home. He was in a rush

and she could not understand why.

At first it had made sense to get away from the youkai who had caused

the problem in the first place, but he just kept going on without

stopping. It was possible of course that he did stop and rest from time

to time and she just missed it. Even she knew she was sleeping more than

she should.

Any other time Souma would have stopped her from abusing his herbal

medicines in such a blatant way. This time she thought he seemed

relieved when she asked for more and went back to her world of dreams

that she could not remember. She had a feeling he preferred to deal with

her while asleep as opposed to bursting into tears or suddenly hitting

and kicking to get away from him as she had done a few times when she

woke up in his arms. She was much safer for him to handle while asleep.

Somehow they managed to make it home in one piece. Yuzuki knew it was

no thanks to her. Souma had been the one handling everything for the

both of them. Now she was actually safe and in her own bed for the first

time in ages, and the last thing she wanted to do was sleep some more.

Her brain was fuzzy from all of the medicine she had been taking and all

of the sleep she had been doing. There was not much she could do about

either at the moment. She just needed to stay awake long enough to let

the side effects of those problems wear off. She was very, very thirsty

though so she decided she would get out of bed and get something to


Souma had given her orders to stay in bed and rest until she felt

better and he had promised he would take care of everything else until

she was up to doing some it herself again, and she did appreciate the

thought, but she did not think she could just stay in bed and ignore the

world as it passed her by. She needed something to do to occupy her

mind of she would end up going stir crazy as well as a few other things.

Her legs were wobbly and not quite sure how they were supposed to be

used anymore, but she still managed to stumble out of the bedroom

without causing herself any sort to grave injury.

She was surprised to see Souma inside and cooking. She had expected

him to be out in the garden with his plants. After they had been gone

for so many days she was sure that the plants would be craving some

extra care from the resident plant master. He was alternating his

attention between a small book he held in one hand and the pot on the

fire he was stirring with the other. He jumped slightly when Yuzuki

crouched down next to him and peered in the pot.

Whatever he was making looked disgusting and smelled even worse. She crinkled her nose at it.

“What is that?” she asked. “It smells awful.”

“It’s for you.”

“Yuck. That’s not going to be my supper is it?”

“No. It’s medicine.”

“Ugh. I’m so done with medicine. My brain is so foggy from the stuff even now.”

“You’re going to take this medicine, though.”

“Do I have to?” she whined. Mostly she was joking, but she was also a

bit leery of anything that might alter her mental state further. She

wanted to feel like herself again. She needed to know if she could still

be herself and there was no way to know for sure unless she just got

all of the stuff that made her feel numb out of her system.

He turned and looked at her with a dead serious look on his face.

“You’re taking this, and I don’t want to hear a word of complaint from

you about it.”

The room felt as though it dropped a couple degrees in temperature

when he looked at her. The way he spoke sent chills down her spine. He

was almost never this harsh with her. He could tell when she was making a

joke so she did not understand why he was so against joking around this


“What’s it for if it’s so important?”

Now he did not want to look at her. He was staring at the foul

smelling, muddy stuff in the pot. She hoped that he was going to wash

the pot at least if he was going to make her drink that muddy crap.

Since he would not speak she tried to lean over and glance at the

book he seemed to be getting the recipe from. He turned away from her to

hide it. Now she was getting pushed into full blown curiosity mode. She

just had to know what was going on here or she would go crazy.

“Where did you get the book?”

“I had to buy it off the apothecary in town. I went while you were asleep.”

“Oh. Why’d you need to buy a book from the apothecary? Couldn’t you

have just bought the medicine and saved yourself the trouble?”

“I wanted to make sure it would work.” He glanced over at her quickly. “You know I have fresher ingredients than he does.”

“Yeah.” She smiled at him before asking him again. “But what’s this medicine for?”

“Not now, Yuzu. I’ve gotta make sure I get this off the heat in time.”

“Fine,” she said with a huff.

She got up and got herself a cup of water and sat down next to him

again to watch the process. If he wanted her to be quiet and wait she

would just have e to be patient. It was not the end of the world to have

to wait a little while to know something the important part was getting

to know at all. He had to know by now since she had made it abundantly

clear that she would not be taking any more medicine until she knew what

this one was for.

The water did help her to feel a bit better. Her mouth did not feel

fuzzy any  more and she could swear that she was thinking a bit more

clearly already. It might have just been from being awake longer than

ten minutes at a time too. While she sat there she started to realize

how grimy she felt, though. She had scrubbed herself as much as she

could stand as soon as Souma had gotten her to a creek. In fact, she had

remembered Souma dragging her out of the water as she frantically tried

to keep scrubbing at her skin because she had started to go blue from

the cold water. That had been at least a few days ago, though. Now she

had days worth of dust from travel on her skin and her hair was limp and

greasy. She knew she had to look terrible.

On top of just being grimy, she was still covered in marks from her

ordeal. The bruises on her arms were starting to fade to yellow around

the edges but were still dark and purple in the center. Her arms also

still sported scabs from the scratches she had given herself. She

dreaded looking over the rest of her body when she got a chance to take a

bath. Her arms had not exactly been the focal point for the damage she

had taken.

She sipped her water and continued to watch Souma. He was deep in

concentration and she dared not disturb him gain. He looked tired, but

it was different from the tired she had expected. She had expected to

see dark circles under his eyes from lack of sleep. She expected him to

look pale and worn out. She had not expected him to look older. He had

lines on his face she could have sworn had not been there before. His

face looked thinner too.

The changes frightened her. She did not want him to change or to be

older than he really was. She started to wonder what the last few days

had done to her face. Since she was not going to be getting any answers

out of Souma for at least a little while she decided to go find out. She

had  a  small, pocket sized mirror in the bedroom that Souma had given

to her. She went and looked at herself in that.

She was  not sure what to think of the person she saw in that mirror.

Both of her eyes looked bruised and sunken from the intense dark

circles around them. Her face looked thin and pale, but she did not have

the lines that had so abruptly aged Souma. She just looked small, pale,

and haunted. As much as she hated the way she looked right now — the

griminess and the greasy hair were not helping matters in the appearance

department in the least — she really did not care if she looked awful.

She just felt awful that Souma had put himself through so much hell for

her. He did not deserve this sort of torture.

The mirror might have been a bad idea, but when she got back to the

kitchen she decided that leaving him alone to finish his concoction had

been a worse one. Apparently it was finished. It did not look any more

appetizing than it had during its cooking process, and now it looked

like she was expected to drink a whole cup full of the stuff.

There was more than enough, but she eyes the pot and much to her

dread there was plenty of the stuff left in there. She folded her arms

across her chest and leveled him with her most stubborn, defiant look.

“I’m not touching a drop of that stuff until I know what it is.”

He sighed and adjusted his sleeves all in an attempt to put off

telling her the answer to her question. She knew she was not going to

budge, though. He had to tell her or he might as well throw the stuff

out. She had a right to know what she was putting into her body and what

it was going to do to her. She did not know why he was making such a

big deal about it. Obviously, he thought it was important because he

went ahead and started making it without even so much as consulting her

about it. It had to be important, something she had needed that he could

not give her and she had somehow overlooked or simply not been aware of

existing. Either was possible. She was still not exactly in the best

state of mind for clear thinking and she was far from the most

knowledgeable person about medicine and overall kitsune health. She knew

enough not to be utterly miserable if she managed to get herself sick,

but that was far from being an expert on the topic of health and

wellbeing. Souma was generally more knowledgeable about such things at

least in the sense that he knew more about medicinal plants due to his

interest and therefore he knew all about the things they could be used

to treat. He might not know how they do it but he knew which ones did

what and in the end that was all that people really wanted to hear.

Obviously, he knew she needed something and was trying his best to

make sure that she got it. She just wanted to know what it was that she

needed before she took her medicine. It was important to be well

informed about such things and she wanted to be able to do better for

herself in the future. She did not think she was being unreasonable. In

her opinion, she was doing the most responsible thing she could. He

would just have to tell her if he wanted her to do what was good for


She waited. He continued to be uncomfortable and awkward about answering.

Finally whatever the medicine must be for won out over whatever hang 

up Souma was feeling over it and he gave in and started to talk.

“It’s for… well, it’s to make sure you don’t…” he sighed.

She tilted her head to one side. His explanation was not so much an

explanation as a jumble of words that sort of implied that the medicine

would prevent something worse from happening.

“Yuzu, did anyone ever explain to you how… do you know how kits are made?”

“Oh,” she said lamely. Then she understood the implication of what he

was saying and a terrible sense of dread built up in the pit of her

stomach. She grabbed the cup and quickly drank it all before she had a

chance to find out if it tasted as badly as it smelled.

She sat the cup down and tried her best not to gag from the after

taste. It was something she hoped she would never have to do again, but

already she had a feeling it would be a repeat performance considering

the size of the batch Souma had made.

“I’m going to have to do that again, aren’t I?” she asked.

He nodded and quickly referred to the book. “Once a day until you  are sure there won’t be… a problem.”

“Okay,” she sighed. “Why didn’t you just tell me what this was all about?”

“I didn’t want to give you one more thing to worry about if you

hadn’t thought of it, and I was busy kicking myself for not having

already learned how to make it. I guess I just hoped that I would never

have to worry about that sort of thing, but then it happened and could

have kicked myself for overlooking something so important.”

Yuzuki was left looking at him in wide eyed-shock as he just poured

out all of his worries from the past few days to her. Even if she wanted

to say something she would not have been given a chance. Apparently his

silence had caused some sort of build up of words that he now needed to

purge from himself. She found herself both terrified by what he was

saying and feeling a strong urge to comfort him and hopefully be

comforted by him in return. Lately, life had just been too much for both

of them to handle and they were just looking for permission to crash

for a while.

“You should have had this the first day. Every day without it make

the chances that much worse. I couldn’t stand the thought of you with

one of those bastards’ kit in your belly.” He was shaking now.

She found herself shaking too. She was feeling sick. It might have

been from the sludge she just forced down her throat, but it was more

than likely from the thoughts that were not in her head that she had

somehow managed to keep herself from thinking possibly in an instinctual

attempt as self-preservation.

Somehow her mind had been blissfully blank on the topic of any and

all things related to procreation. Then again it was not just in

relation to this incident. She never gave any real thought to the way

kits were brought into the world, and somehow she had failed to actually

ever acknowledge the fact that she was capable of bearing kits.

Intellectually she knew how it happened. She had younger siblings. The

concept was not unfamiliar to her, but somehow she just never thought of

herself as capable of doing the same.

She knew she was old enough. That time had come not too long before

her father had started his inappropriate interest in her. She had been

more concerned with getting away from that than actually putting the two

pieces together and thinking about why he would be interested in her

that way. So it had been a physical possibility for a while now in

actuality, but she had never thought about doing anything to take

precautions against such a thing happening.

There had been no interest in doing any activities that typically

brought kits into existence either so it was not unsurprising that she

saw no reason to consider their prevention. She was immensely grateful

to Souma for taking such things into consideration. She could not

imagine being able to get over what had happened if she had to watch her

body change day by day constantly reminding her of what had been done

to her. That would be an unimaginable hell.

She looked over at Souma and gave him a weak, wavery smile of thanks.

As much as she had come to realize that he was still fallible and had

just as many weaknesses as her in recent days, she still considered him

to be her hero in almost every way possible. Even when he made mistakes

he worked so hard to make up for those shortcomings that she could not

bring herself to begrudge him for what had gone wrong.

That sort of thinking might be naive and she knew that she could very

well be setting herself up for failure in the long run, but everything

she saw and everything she felt told her that she could count on Souma

and he would rather lay down his life than let her down.

She walked over and took his hand in hers and gave it a slight

squeeze. After everything he had just said there was no way she was

going to try to use words to make him feel better. She just wanted him

to know what she was there for him.

Some day she thought she might like the idea of giving Souma a kit.

With him, the idea did not seem so disgusting or scary, but she did not

dare ask him what he thought of that idea, especially since the idea of

actually putting the kit there in the first place made her skin crawl.