Planted or Buried?
“That corpse you planted last year in your garden, has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?"
T.S. Eliot (The Wasteland)
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Yuki remembered seeing his garden by the light of the moon. Strange, pale shapes poking out of the rich, black earth—leeks or onions? No. Then he felt the bite of cold, the icy night air, and realized it was his own body: his shoulder, his hip, the length of his thigh. He was half buried in the soil, naked, numb from the cold. He became aware of a light pressure, warmth against his forehead. Looking up, he saw Hatori. It was Hatori’s hand on his forehead. He knew what that meant. He knew why he didn’t remember how he came to be half buried and naked in his garden. Hatori had erased the memories.
Yuki looked helplessly into his cousin’s single, visible eye.
“What did you take from me?” he asked. Hatori looked away.
“You have a fever,” he said sternly. Catching Yuki’s arms, he pulled the boy out of the earth and wrapped him in a blanket. “You shouldn’t be out here.”
Yuki was sick for a long time after that. When he recovered, he was allowed to leave the main house of the Souma estate and live with Shigure. The garden in the moonlight, the dragon’s hand on his forehead—it seemed more like a dream than something that had truly happened. Still, he could not quite forget it entirely.
Hatori knew what Yuki did not remember.
Yuki remembered the room with the bars. The days spent alone there and, even worse, the hours with Akito.
Yuki remembered all that Akito did and said in the barred room. He remembered Akito’s whip, Akito’s words, Akito’s cruel smile. He remembered all the times Akito’s face was the last thing he saw as he lost consciousness.
Yuki did not remember all the times the first thing he saw when he returned to himself was Hatori’s face. He did not remember how the doctor was always there to patch him up, to clean up after Akito. Aware of all that had been done.
Yuki did not remember how he cried, how he begged the doctor to help him, to protect him, to take him away from Akito. He did not remember how Hatori looked through him as he pleaded—face set, betraying no emotions.
When Yuki was small, he was Akito’s good little pet. As he grew older—twelve, thirteen—he became difficult. He made things difficult for Hatori.
Yuki did not remember the time he ran away to his brother. He had told Ayame everything: about the room, the whip, the onslaught of Akito’s cruel words, and how Hatori knew and stood by and treated his injuries but always handed him back to Akito.
Ayame had promised Yuki he could stay, but when the boy slept in the guest bedroom, he had called Hatori.
“He’s making it up, of course,” Ayame had said with a nervous laugh.
“And if he weren’t?” Hatori asked.
“I can’t be responsible for a little boy, Tori. Especially one with so many problems. Besides, Akito has a hand in financing the shop. I can’t risk…”
After that, Yuki’s tears and pleas for help were replaced by a cold, accusing glare that met Hatori each time he saw the boy. The doctor understood that in Yuki’s mind he was no more than an extension of the boy’s tormentor, Akito’s accomplice.
Hatori wanted to believe he was good and kind. That he was Yuki’s advocate, that he influenced Akito, served to restrain Akito’s violence and cruelty. Each time he saw Yuki, the boy’s eyes told him otherwise.
Each time he saw Yuki, the boy’s eyes said, “I hate you for letting this happen to me.”
When he gave up his fiancé, Kana, and erased their feelings for each other from her memory, Hatori resigned himself to living without love. He found that being hated broke his heart all over again. He could not bear Yuki’s loathing when already he loathed himself so much.
He knew he should have taken Yuki away, somewhere safe where the boy could be happy. Where Yuki would smile at him again and look at him without disgust.
Still, he had to obey Akito. Since he let Kana go, he had lived in the palm of Akito’s hand. There was nothing else. Akito was the limits of his world.
Yuki did not remember the garden he’d kept his last year at the main house. He did not remember how he’d grown only poisonous plants. He did not remember how he’d eaten the berries and leaves. He did not remember how often he’d been sick—vomiting, fainting, his heart racing.
Hatori didn’t know what was wrong with him, couldn’t diagnosis him, but he had to keep Akito away lest the frail invalid who ruled the family was stricken by whatever the rat boy had.
Yuki did not remember how he finally felt safe (though racked with fevers, chills, pain, and nausea) confined to his bed and out of Akito’s reach.
All through summer and into fall, Yuki’s unexplained illnesses came and went. Deprived of a favorite toy, Akito seethed with a rage Hatori bore the brunt of.
“What use are you?” Akito shrieked at the doctor. He tried to soothe the anger, but it erupted into fevers, delirium, attacks against his body, against his soul. One way or the other, Akito left him bleeding nearly every time they were together.
He felt trapped between them, Yuki and Akito. They blurred together in his mind, both so pale and fragile, just a few years apart in age. Their wide, red-rimmed eyes demanded things he could not give.
Yuki didn’t remember the crisp autumn day Hatori found him out.
Hatori had begun watching the boy closely during the brief periods he was well enough to be about. When Yuki left the manor, Hatori followed him to his garden. There he recognized nightshade, foxglove, and a dozen kinds of berries, orange and white and red, that should not be eaten. And Yuki picked these berries, picked leaves and began to chew them. Then Hatori knew; he understood the strange illnesses that would ebb after a few days but always come back when Akito called upon the boy.
He was angry, angrier than he had ever been in his life. He caught his cousin by the throat; his fingers sweeping Yuki’s mouth of the poison leaves and berries.
He was shouting. “Is this what you’re doing, you little monster? You could have killed yourself? Do you know what you’ve put me through?” He was shouting and shaking Yuki till the boy’s teeth rattled.
All the way back to the main house, Yuki struggled against him, crying and gasping for breath.
“I’ll run away again,” the boy threatened, and in his cruelest moment, Hatori had lashed out with Akito’s words.
“Where will you go?” he asked. “Your own brother doesn’t want you. Do you think anyone else would take you in if they knew what you are? You’re a filthy little vermin who’s sometimes a scheming, sullen, ungrateful, wretched little boy. Do you really believe anyone else would want someone like you?”
Then he himself had locked Yuki up in the room with the bars, and he’d ordered Akito’s servants to tear up the garden, to uproot everything, to burn it all. A strange, medicinal scented smoke hung over the Souma estate that day.
Yuki didn’t remember how, days later when Akito was finished with him, he somehow managed to slip out of the main house in the dead of night and return to his garden. Everything was gone. It was a torn up patch of dark earth, an open wound.
He had believed every word Hatori said. He had nowhere to go, but it was unbearable where he was.
Yuki lay in the black soil; as hours passed, the coldness seeped into him, into his lungs. It hurt, but he did not move even when he changed form, changed back, naked and exposed. The pain passed into an aching numbness. He lost consciousness, fell asleep. That was how Hatori found him.
When Hatori had found Yuki’s bed empty, he went to the garden. In the moonlight, he saw the boy’s pale form half buried in the ground, his breath ragged and shallow.
It had to end. It could go no further.
Hatori pressed a hand to his cousin’s forehead.
“What did you take from me?” the boy asked.
Hatori did not touch the memories of the things Akito had done. If he had, Akito would simply have started again at the beginning. He left the room, the whip, the cruel words, the crueler smile, but he took away Yuki’s resistance. He erased Yuki’s efforts to escape by running away or through sickness. He erased Yuki’s pleas, his tears, and his accusing glare. Hatori erased his own part, his compliance, his cruelty, his failure from Yuki’s mind and with it the anger and hatred the boy had felt towards him. He took away his part in everything that had happened. He buried his guilt.
Yuki was sick for a long time after that. During this time, Hatori managed to coax Akito into letting him leave the Souma estate. The boy went to live with Shigure who, for his own reasons, was more than happy to separate the child from Akito.
Outside the main house, Yuki thrived. His health improved significantly; he was able to lead a more or less normal life, attend school, and even have friends. His life opened up, and this was, to Hatori, justification for what he had done.
And yet, he could not ignore the damage he had inflicted on the boy. Hatori had obliterated all the outward paths Yuki’s anger might have taken. The anger remained inside him.
Hatori saw this in the grim determination Yuki brought to his battles with Kyou, the relentless way he pushed himself, how he refused to accept help.
In taking away Yuki’s memories, Hatori had broken him as Akito never had. Because Hatori had taken away his anger, his efforts to break free (futile and self-destructive as they had been), Yuki remembered only surrender—giving in, being Akito’s good little pet.
Yuki hated himself for this submission. Hatori let him hate himself. He let Yuki live with self-loathing because he could not bear to be hated again.
Hatori knew his guilt, but he could not bear the consequences of it. He could not allow it to be unearthed.