The great big question mark that is The Future looms large in this chapter, as the characters face the prospect of both coming up with career goals after high school and the upcoming parent-teacher conferences.
Tohru has the humble goal of getting a job after graduation to support herself, although Arisa suggests marriage as a reasonable alternative for her.
Arisa: Well, marriage aside, I have met a guy at my job who seems pretty decent. […] He kind of reminds me of Tohru.
Good job, Uo-chan! The hardest part is finding a decent guy (who doesn’t annoy you).
Momiji: Even us first years have to turn in a career goal form or whatever, although I’ve already decided, so that one’s easy for me. […] It might not be possible, but even so, it’d be great if I could do it. That’s why I keep believing. I’ll show you one of these days, Tohru!
After Tohru gets home from work, she finds Kyo in the kitchen and offers to help him make soumen (a kind of noodles).
Tohru: Did you go to the dojo today, Kyo-kun? How is your master doing?
Kyo: Huh? Oh, fine, I guess. He cut his hair short in the back, which looks better.
Tohru: What a waste! Why would he do that?
Kyo: A waste? He ain’t a woman.
I have experienced this very same feeling before. Even if it is a man, cutting long hair short is just really hard to understand – it almost feels like a part of the guy’s personality, until you finally get used to the idea. Apparently Master-san had held off on it for a while because he was afraid it might upset Kyo.
Tohru: So Kyo-kun, is your future goal inheriting your master’s dojo?
Kyo: I don’t know if that’s possible. The truth is, I wish I could, but I’m possessed by the Cat spirit, so no matter what I do, even if it’s something I really want, and my master agrees, if the Sohma family doesn’t like it, the plan gets stopped in its tracks. When it comes to stuff like that, there’s nothing that can stop them.
This appears to be an issue with all of the members of the Zodiac – the family in general (and Akito in particular) can veto any plan for any reason, or no reason at all.
Kyo: Anyway, I’m the Cat, so when I get asked about my goals for the future and whatnot, I think, “You’re assuming I can even be a part of society!” I don’t know if I’d be able to live among normal people. Just thinking about stuff like that leaves me at a loss. I can’t bring it up with my master – and it ain’t like I don’t trust him, and I know Shigure, for example, has a career, more or less, but that’s not it. It’s like – what? What’s that face for? I figured you would understand what I’m talking about.
Tohru: Wha? Me?
Kyo: Graduating from high school, finding a job, becoming self-reliant…it all sounds like a future you decided on for your mother’s sake when she was still alive. But she isn’t now, and you’re all alone, so you’re probably anxious about deciding your future.
Tohru: No, not really? Even though it’s just me, I intend to get a job and work hard.
Kyo: Is that right?
Kyo seems to think that he doesn’t really have a future, while Tohru is just blindly pursuing the future she thinks her mom wanted for her. Neither of them thinks they have a choice.
Tohru: Don’t…don’t, Kyo-kun. If I don’t keep acting like it doesn’t bother me, I won’t be able to help breaking down like this.
Kyo: I’m used to your waterworks by now. Just don’t drip snot on the floor.
Spoken like a man who truly cares.
Then Shigure butts in on their romantic dinner and actually offers some good advice.
Shigure: Listen Tohru-kun, if thinking about something makes you anxious, the best thing you can do is stop thinking about it! It’s like this: Imagine you’re in the middle of a mountainous pile of laundry, so much laundry that you can’t even take one step. On top of that, you don’t have a washing machine, so everything has to be washed by hand, one at a time. You don’t know where to start. “Can I really wash everything? Can I make everything clean again? Can I make everyone happy?” You wonder if you have what it takes to accomplish this task. But every time you think about it, you get stressed out. Still, time is marching on. What should you do? Maybe you should start by washing the laundry at your feet first. It is important to think about what lies ahead, but if you only focus on that, you’ll trip over the laundry at your feet, right? So it’s also important to think about what you can do right now, today. If you do that, washing one piece of laundry at a time, before you know it, the sun will be out, beaming down on you. And sure, you’ll still feel anxiety from time to time, but when that happens, take a little break. Go read a book, watch some TV, or eat soumen with everyone.
And so Tohru invites Yuki to join them so they can all take a break from stressing out together (although I’m not sure if Shigure really needs that).
On an anxious night, it’s better to be together in a warm place.
Until next time…