The end and the beginning passed in a breath. It was liberating but also constricting.

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We’re finally about to get some answers – but first, we need to explore Kureno’s relationship with Akito.

Akito: Kureno, I criticize you sometimes. But you know that’s just me being me, don’t you? You know that I don’t really mean it?

Kureno: …Yes.

Akito: You’ll stay with me forever, won’t you…?

Kureno: Yes…

Kureno has a very unique relationship with Akito – nothing like the “special relationship” Akito has with Yuki, certainly not like the mutually antagonistic relationship with Shigure. The most similar would probably be Hatori’s relationship with Akito, but even that’s a ways off the mark. Akito seems more vulnerable with Kureno…

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Anyhow, Tohru made a few small steps over the holidays. She got confirmation from Rin about her past relationship with Haru (but no details, of course), found out about Yuki’s little incident defying Akito, and heard about Momiji’s successful mission to deliver the DVD to Kureno.

Momiji: Hey, Tohru! Let’s pray that he’ll watch it.

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Please, let Uo-chan’s feelings reach him. Let her thoughts reach him.

Meanwhile, Akito has been laid up in bed sick since New Year’s (evidently with Kureno for company).

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Hatori: Aren’t you going to visit? That is why you came today, isn’t it?

Shigure: Already did. I went over, got chewed out, and was sent away. Apparently, Akito didn’t care for my attitude.

Akito: Why didn’t you come over right away when that idiot was so horrible to me!? Why are you like this, Shigure!? Why don’t you ever choose me over anyone else!?

Then Shigure starts whining about how Akito “chose” Kureno and I hate him so much.

Hatori: Even God is allowed to play favorites among us Members of the Zodiac.

Shigure: Still, Hatori…haven’t you or the others ever felt it? About Kureno? There’s something off about him.

Several Members of the Zodiac have actually expressed similar sentiments about Kureno at this point…

Shigure: Kureno…he could be…Don’t want to admit it? Because you’re scared? Or sad? Or because you can’t shake your attachment to the bond, even as you shun it? You want to have your cake and eat it too.

Hatori: If that’s not the pot calling the kettle black…

Shigure: True. […] I have no power and little ability. Completely worthless. The worst kind of man, you know?

Hatori: The worst part about you is that you know all this about yourself yet don’t feel one iota of remorse.

Yep, that’s my issue with Shigure in a nutshell.

Hey, tell me Kureno, what does it feel like to be a bird? What does it feel like to fly through the sky? Is it fun? Is it exciting? You’re lucky. You’re lucky, Kureno. I wish I could’ve been a bird too.

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Then Kureno gets a chance to watch the play, and he’s clearly shocked by the strength of Arisa’s feelings.

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He probably felt like he was only depriving himself by refusing to seek out Arisa again, that she would get over it and move on with her life (or didn’t really feel much for him in the first place). Now he knows that her feelings are probably as strong as his, but he still feels helpless to act on them.

He calls Shigure’s house, wanting to speak to Tohru (and Shigure naturally picks up – apparently he called during the school day).

Kureno: There may be something I need to discuss with you too, Shigure-niisan…

Shigure: It’s about time. Listen, Kureno…can I ask you something I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while? You…by any chance, have you…?

Once Tohru gets home from school, Shigure sends her out on an errand, clearly meaning for her to run into Kureno.

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By any chance, have you been freed from the curse?

How can just one person be free? And what does that mean for the rest of the Zodiac?

None of this will be answered in the next few chapters.

Next time: The twist…

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