Love Hina Fan Fiction ❯ Loss and Redemption ❯ Unexpected Mercy, Unexpected Chance ( Chapter 3 )
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This fanfic is based on the manga and anime and borrows facets from both of them.
"*" Spoken words
Loss and Redemption
Chapter Two: Unexpected Mercy, Unexpected Chance
When morning came to Hinata House, it was presented with a sight so unusual that if the sun had had a face, there would have been a series of brief eclipses as it blinked in surprise. The sight of Keitaro and Motoko sleeping next to each other was not a new occurrence anymore, as it had been happening for a week by now. What was new was the sight of them locked together in a tight embrace, Motoko resting her head on Keitaro's chest and with his arms wrapped around her. Both were clothed and there was no evidence of any 'activity', but the sight of them in such an intimate setting would have caused the other residents' jaws to hit the floor with enough force to register on the Richter scale.
'Mmmm, nice,' Keitaro thought to himself as his mental capacities slowly brought themselves back on-line as he reluctantly emerged from slumber. At this early in the morning, Keitaro had no idea where he was, or why he felt so comfortable. All that his mind was aware of was that he felt very calm and at peace. He increased the force of his embrace slightly, inadvertently starting Motoko on her path to consciousness.
'So secure,' thought Motoko, as she nuzzled up to what she was sleeping on. However, unlike Keitaro, Motoko was able to get herself up to speed in just a few moments. 'What am I holding?' Recollection hit her like a hammer, as she realized exactly who was holding her. Motoko lurched back and tore herself from Keitaro's arms, waking him up completely in the process.
"Motoko? What's goin' on? Wh-what happened?" Keitaro mumbled as his brain finished firing up the last couple of neurons. Belatedly, he remembered what had happened the night before, and how he had ended up in an embrace with his reluctant wife. He colored slightly as he recalled how nice it had felt to hold her. He was thankful that the blankets were concealing a common waking occurrence for males from Motoko.
"Is anything wrong?"
"No Hono-, Urashima, I-I-I was just a little startled, that's all." She noticed that Keitaro was favoring his arms, "was it uncomfortable?"
"No, my arms just fell asleep, I think I was holding you all night," he replied as his blush deepened slightly. "Are you sure you're alright? I mean, last night-,"
"I'm fine!" Motoko snapped. Her expression softened slightly, "well, not really, but I promise you, you don't have to worry about a repeat of last night. If you'll excuse me, I have to prepare breakfast," she said as she turned to leave. She was stopped dead in her tracks when Keitaro reached up and grabbed her wrist.
"You don't have to Motoko, Shinobu can do it just fine, and she seems to be upset that you're taking her place."
"In more ways than one," she murmured quietly before adding, "but it's my duty as a wife to do this."
"We may or may not be married, but that doesn't mean you have to be someone you're not. There's no need to change so dramatically."
Motoko reflected on his words for a few moments before she responded. "I'll try, but I don't know. My whole life has been turned upside down."
"We both have. Let's just see what we can do about it."
Breakfast wasn't as tense as it had been for the previous week. The tension was still there, but the air didn't crackle with nervous energy, it was merely uncomfortable.
There was even consideration beyond requests for things to be passed, although the conversations were heavily muted. Actual eye contact was possible; the previous week a group of complete strangers could have been substituted for any of the residents and nobody would have noticed. Even the food seemed to taste better, although that was more likely due to Shinobu having taken back cooking duties for that morning.
There had been conversations, but they had been muted, and only between certain people; Naru and Kitsune; Sarah, Su and Shinobu; Keitaro and Motoko. This continued until Naru spoke up and announced, "I'm going to be leaving Hinata House for a while and go visit my family for a while, perhaps for a month or two."
"Naru-sempai why?" asked Shinobu.
"I need to get away, clear my head, avoid all the distractions around here," she replied and hit Keitaro and Motoko with a glare. Both Keitaro and Motoko flinched slightly. The look in her eyes cooled any ardor for protesting her decision.
"When will you leave," asked Kitsune.
"Today, in about an hour. If you'll excuse me, thank you for the wonderful meal Shinobu," Naru finished as she pushed away from the table and walked back up to her room to finish packing. A stunned silence reigned in the wake of her departure.
"We, we have to do something, we can't just let her-" babbled Shinobu.
"Let her go," interrupted Kitsune, "and don't try to follow her either. Do you understand Su?"
"Okies, I'll stay here," Su pouted.
"I mean it, don't try to stop her. I think the time away may help her get over everything that's happened." She looked towards Keitaro and said, "There's just too much weirdness around here."
Keitaro's thoughts were in a shamble at the news of Narus imminent departure. 'Naru, you don't have to go, I need you, I'll straighten this Motoko mess out and we can be together!' He was already mentally chasing after her, begging her to stay.
Then a new and different train of thought started. 'I can't leave Motoko, who knows what'll happen!' He stopped cold at that, and almost unwillingly continued the train of thought. 'Naru is at least stable, worry about Motoko for now, you promised you would!'
He frowned inwardly. 'Promise. That word gets me into so much goddamn trouble! I'll never promise anything again for as long as I live, even if I live to be 300!' he silently vowed.
'Naru…' he thought miserably, 'why does this always happen to us?'
'Let her go, for now. We'll fix this up when you get back. I'd better start mending fences around here, or I won't be welcome anymore. Better start with Shinobu.'
He got up from the table, picked up his plate and walked over to where Shinobu was seated. "Shinobu, may I help you with the clean up?"
Shinobu blushed a brilliant shade of crimson and stammered, "su-sure sempai!" With that Shinobu began picking up the remains of the food, while Keitaro started to collect the dirty dishes and bring them in to the kitchen.
As Keitaro washed the dishes and passed them to Shinobu to dry he asked, "so what do you think of all of this?"
"Naru leaving, Motoko and I getting married."
Shinobu tensed up slightly and her small hands tightened into fists. "I don't know what to think sempai," she muttered. "I don't understand this at all."
What do you mean Shinobu?" Keitaro asked as he scrubbed a stubborn stain off one of the pots.
"I thought you and Motoko hated each other, why are you married?" Shinobu asked with a lot more force in her voice than she intended. At this point her façade of acceptance was starting to crumble and she was forced to face the prospect that Keitaro would never be hers.
Keitaro sighed and once again imagined throwing his grandmother to the sharks. He knew that Shinobu was upset, but he was still in the dark about her feelings for him. "It isn't that simple Shinobu, it's not like we decided to run away and get married. We were forced into it, and I don't even think it's sunk in yet, for either of us. I still can't believe that Motoko sleeps next to me each night."
This attempt to make Shinobu feel better backfired horribly. She was reminded yet again that Motoko was unwillingly sleeping in a place that she would have given anything to accommodate. Her latent jealousy came boiling to the surface and she realized that she was angrier towards Motoko than she had ever been towards anyone in her life. 'Why doesn't she appreciate him? Why doesn't she LOVE him? Why couldn't it be ME!?'
Shinobu blinked quickly to try to stove off the tears that were threatening to erupt any second. Her knuckles went white from the force of her clenching her fists. This went unnoticed by Keitaro as she was holding a towel, waiting for a dish to dry. "Why are you with her if you don't like her?" Shinobu asked stiffly.
"We don't hate each other, we just don't always see eye to eye, that's all."
"I thought you loved Naru!" At this point Shinobu was nearly shouting.
'I do, at least I think I do,' thought Keitaro miserably. Out loud he replied, "Motoko and I didn't want to get married," 'at least I don't think so,' "we were forced into it and now she's honor bound to stay with me."
To burn off some of the nervous energy that had built up Keitaro continued washing the dished so he wouldn't fidget with his hands. He took a moment to collect his thoughts. "I wish things were back the way they were before this happened, Shinobu. Things were simpler then. I was single then."
'I had a chance then,' Shinobu silently added.
"I'm going to try and figure a way out of this for both of us, but I'm not sure how it will work or how long it will take," Keitaro continued.
Shinobu didn't know what to think. She had an earth-shattering crush on Keitaro, and was jealous of anyone, even Naru, being close to him. She was grudgingly accepting of Naru, but the idea of anyone but her and to a lesser extent Naru being with Keitaro made her heart ache.
On the other hand she knew that he was a good man, and wouldn't willingly do anything to hurt anyone. If he said that he was trying to find a way out, she'd believe in him. It also meant that Motoko wasn't stealing him away, and that maybe she needed some support as well.
Besides, if this all worked out the way Keitaro planned, he wouldn't be married to Motoko anymore. He would be more available, more 'free.' There was still Naru, but with only one obstacle then maybe, just maybe, she'd have a…
Shinobu terminated that train of thought with extreme prejudice. 'Think about that later, after this has all been resolved! For now, just be there for sempai.'
She decided to stop actively avoiding the two of them, but she wasn't sure that she could completely trust them for a while. "O.K. sempai, thank you for the help, and I hope that everything works out for you."
"Thanks, Shinobu. Actually, I'm going to be leaving for a few days myself."
"Why sempai?" Shinobu asked as her eyes began to moisten.
"I'm going to try to find Motoko's sister, see if I can change her mind. But I need you to promise not to tell anyone where I'm going, I don't want Motoko to know what I'm doing, she might get upset."
Shinobu's eyes dried up a little. "Please be careful sempai."
"When are you leaving?"
"Tomorrow. Can you please make sure that everyone is alright after I'm gone?"
"Thank you Shinobu, now let's finish up this kitchen."
Naru's departure caused mixed feelings for Keitaro. Torture in that she was leaving, that he hadn't been able to talk to her, clarify his feelings for her, and because they were parting on such bad terms. But ironically, there was also relief from the fact that she was leaving.
There'd be fewer distractions for him while he attempted to sort out the situation with Motoko, and when she came back the trouble would probably be over, and they could try to patch things up again.
Even the way that she left was abrupt, she had stopped by everyone's room, Motoko and his being the exception, said goodbye and bolted. 'Couldn't you have at least said goodbye?' he wondered. 'I'm hurting too, can't you realize that? I have to help Motoko. I'd be chasing you now if I could.'
'At least with her gone I can focus all of my attention on dealing with Motoko. And while I'm on that subject…' Keitaro continued reviewing what he'd say to Tsuruko the next time he saw her, assuming he could find her. 'I hope she wants to be found, because I don't think I'll be able to track her down otherwise.'
"Urashima, is something wrong? You've been inside our room for hours," his wife asked him.
'Here we go,' thought Keitaro, 'I hate lying, but I think it's the only way I can do this.' "No, there's nothing wrong, but I'm going to have to leave for a few days myself."
An entirely foreign and unexpected emotion suddenly made itself known to Motoko: jealousy. Surprised and a little disturbed she asked, with a little force than she might have used otherwise, "Are you going after Naru?"
"No. NO! I'm just going to visit my family and tell them what's happened." 'After all, Tsuruko is my sister in law now, isn't she? She's family.'
Relief flooded through Motoko upon hearing his answer. Surprised at its intensity, she acted quickly to try and prevent Keitaro from figuring out what she had been thinking. A question popped into her mind so quickly she vocalized it without thinking, "can I come with you?"
"Excuse me?" replied Keitaro.
"Can I come with you to see your family?"
Keitaro felt a couple of sweat drops bead on his forehead. As nonchalantly as he could he asked, "why do you want to?"
"Aren't they my family now? It would be the right thing to meet them. I am your wife, after all." Her voice had a hint of steel in it that reminded Keitaro of the Motoko of old. In any other circumstances Keitaro would have been thrilled to see Motoko acting like her old self, but since he was attempting to deceive her, he was more than a little worried.
"Yes, that's true but I-I think it would be better if we let them get over the shock first before they meet you," Keitaro replied. 'I don't want you to know that I saw your sister behind your back, and I don't want you to try and stop me,' he silently added.
His answer seemed to mollify Motoko slightly but she still felt some tendrils of suspicion towards her husband. She decided to switch to a different topic.
"When will you leave?"
"Tomorrow morning. I'll be back in a few days at most."
She nodded in understanding. She then fired off one last question, "what will you tell them? About us I mean?"
"That I'm married now. My wife is gorgeous, intelligent, charming and athletic. Quite honestly, I don't deserve someone as wonderful as her." He responded without any hesitation or doubt in his voice.
Motoko's lips curled up slightly at that and she walked out of the room to take care of some chores. Keitaro noticed that she was standing a little prouder than she had been when she walked in.
The next morning, after he had said his goodbyes to the other residents and asked Kitsune to make sure that everything was taken care of during his absence, Keitaro boarded the bus for the ride to the train station. 'Guess I'll go back where this started and fan out from there,' he mused, 'can't think of a better place to start. I couldn't get information from Motoko without giving the game away.' He sighed, 'the price of dishonesty, I suppose.'
"Hey Keitaro! How ya doin'?" Surprised at hearing his name, Keitaro looked up and saw…
"Haitani! Shirai! What are you two doing here?"
"Just hanging out," replied Haitani. "How are things-" he broke off when he and Shirai suddenly noticed the gold band that he was wearing on his left hand.
"Keitaro, is that a wedding ring?" asked Shirai quietly. Keitaro just nodded in response. A period of silence ensued, broken by,
"Keitaro you lucky bastard! Congratulations man!" exclaimed Haitani.
"Do you believe this guy? He gets married and doesn't even invite us to the ceremony or the bachelor party!" added Shirai. "So who's the poor girl, Naru or Mutsumi?"
Keitaro hung his head low and whispered, "Motoko."
"Say what? Mind repeating that?"
"Motoko," he replied with a little more volume.
"Motoko," deadpanned Shirai. "Couple of inches taller than you, few years younger, long black hair, carries that oversized cheese knife with her. That Motoko?"
"How in the name of hell did that happen?" demanded Haitani.
"We lost a challenge and we were forced to marry," replied Keitaro.
"So now what?" asked Shirai.
"I'm trying to find the person who forced this to happen and change her mind."
"So you and Motoko aren't staying together? Is she that bad or are you that hung up on Naru?" wondered Haitani.
"Being with Motoko wouldn't be so bad but we had no choice in the matter. As for Naru, she's rather upset with me now."
Both Haitani and Shirai nodded in agreement. "Yeah, I can imagine that," Haitani admitted.
Keitaro looked up and realized where he was. "This is my stop, I gotta go guys. Catch you later," he called out as he stepped of the bus.
Back on the bus, Shirai looked at Haitani and said, "that guy gets in the most trouble, doesn't he?"
"Yep," Haitani replied, "let's hope he can get himself outta this one."
The train ride had been long but uneventful, and Keitaro was able to find a place to stay for the night. 'No point wandering around in the dark with this leg,' he reasoned, "I'll start trying to follow Tsuruko tomorrow.'
The following morning Keitaro made his way to scene of the battle. It was fresh in his mind and he spent some time wondering if there had been any other tactic that could have changed the outcome. After drawing a blank, he casually started looking around and wondering, 'where do I begin?'
Keitaro nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard the voice from behind him. He whipped around and was astonished to see Tsuruko standing behind him.
"Surprised to see me I assume?" Tsuruko asked with a smile.
"Where in the hell did you come from!?" shrieked Keitaro. "Damn it, I almost had a heart attack!" He had looked behind him not 5 seconds earlier. He would have bet his life that no one was there.
"That's not my fault," replied Tsuruko.
"How do you DO that?"
"That's for me to know and you to learn. I was expecting you to show up Urashima," Tsuruko stated. "The fact you're here shows that my impressions about you weren't wrong."
"What impressions? What are you talking about?"
She ignored the questions. "Why are you here Urashima?" she asked as she began to slowly circle him.
'Like a shark,' he realized. Gathering all of his courage he replied, "I came to try and find you."
"To get you to end this marriage. To let Motoko back into the Shinmei School."
"Why? I always felt that she needed someone to settle down with. She's never had a boyfriend before, and now she has a husband she can settle down with. It must be a dream come true for her."
'More like a nightmare.' "This isn't right, the two of us don't belong together!"
"So she's not worthy of you?"
"I'm not worthy of her! She doesn't deserve this, she deserves the chance to be warrior again!"
"It is our way, it is our tradition. Why are you, an outsider, trying to interfere in our business?"
"It's killing her! You ripped away everything that she ever cared about! She's so committed to honor and tradition she's going to ignore the fact that the marriage can't possibly be legal. She's willing to die by degrees rather than go against your wishes. You're her sister, how could you do this to her?" Keitaro was dizzy at the thought of standing up to Tsuruko but he had to do it for Motoko. He would never forget that night on the roof. His hands still bore the injuries.
Tsuruko's smile grew slightly wider. "So you think you know what is best for my sister?" she said as she stepped right up to him, easily violating his personal space. "You believe that you know what is the best way for her to live and behave?"
"What? What are you talking about?"
Tsuruko walked away from him until she was thirty feet away and turned back to face him. "You would prefer it if my sister acted more like this?" she called out as she launched a massive ki attack towards Keitaro.
Keitaro saw the strike coming and froze. As he stared at the onrushing wave he went weak in the knees and started to collapse. This happened to cause him to fall on his ass and have the wave scream by him.
A small voice in the back of his head congratulated him for urinating earlier.
"Wait a second, I didn't mean anything like this!" Keitaro shouted desperately.
Tsuruko saw that her first attack had missed and fired off another one. "Or perhaps some thing like this?"
As Keitaro sat there trying to get his bearings back, the second strike raced towards him. He clumsily clambered out of the way, wailing like a little girl. The first miss had made him think that he had dodged out of the way of a bullet train. As the second one screamed over him, he felt like he'd just missed getting nailed by a low flying F-15.
'What the hell's going on? I didn't ask for this!' his mind raged as movement caught his eye. He looked up and saw…
…Tsuruko, on the downward portion of her leap, blade over head, and descending fast. Since it would be an exercise in futility, he made a conscious effort to not put up his arms in a defensive posture. As the blade neared his throat time stopped, and the blade just hung there in the air, poised above his throat.
After what seemed like an eternity but was probably only about 3 seconds, Keitaro realized that time hadn't stopped, the blade had. "I-I'm alive?" he questioned weakly.
"Congratulations Urashima, you have exceeded even my expectations," Tsuruko replied as she lifted the sword clear of his throat.
After a few moments of just laying there, stunned beyond movement, Keitaro slowly got to his feet. "What in the hell are you talking about?" he rasped.
With a clinical look, a cold smile, and a brief gleam in the eyes, Tsuruko replied, "if I had thought you to be unworthy of my sister, I would not have allowed you to be with her, Urashima."
Keitaro felt his eyes narrow. "Then why-?" he managed to get out before Tsuruko interrupted him.
"I sense potential in you Urashima, and I will not easily see it wasted. You just demonstrated incredible bravery in facing me, and in daring to find me as well. You are also capable of great compassion. Your injured your hands helping Motoko correct?"
"Yeah, you could say that," he guardingly replied.
"From the location of the cuts, I would venture that you prevented my sister from killing herself with her sword." Keitaro face was a perfect caricature of shock when she said that.
She leaned in close to him, almost sneering in his face. "Why would you do something that foolish?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"You heard me. Why save the life of my sister, she made the decision on her own, correct?"
Keitaro felt his blood briefly turn to ice, and then burn with a fire he'd never experienced before. "How can you say that about your own sister?!" Keitaro shouted.
"Excellent, you are capable of displaying spine as well. You continue to exceed my expectations Urashima."
Tsuruko turned and walked over to a rock and from behind it pulled out a sizable duffel bag. She then walked back over and handed it to Keitaro. "Take this Urashima, do NOT open it, and take it to my sister. She will open it and your curiosity about the bag will be satisfied. I will say this, that the contents of that bag have the potential to make everything well for you and my sister." She then turned and started to walk away.
"Hey! You think this is over, that this bag will solve everything?!"
She looked over her shoulder and said, "No, I merely said it had the potential to. The rest is up to the two of you." She turned back and walked away, leaving a confused Keitaro alone with his thoughts and the bag.
'Now what?' he thought to himself. 'I'm glad to be alive now, but I still don't have a clue what to do. I'm still married to Motoko, she's still banished, and Naru's still pissed.' He briefly considered looking in the bag, Tsuruko be damned, but he thought better of it. 'I'll see it soon enough anyway and I'm not certain I'd live to tell about it if I opened it.' He picked it up, 'at least it's light,' and started walking back to the train station.
"Well, let's see what happens now," he said to himself, "it's time to go home." He continued walking, with the noonday sun looking down on him like an unwavering sentry. As he walked his thoughts were mainly of what had just happened and how he could defend his actions to his spouse. "Hope she's as forgiving of insult as Tsuruko," he said with a humorless laugh as he continued his journey home, where an uncertain future awaited him.
End Chapter 2
OMAKE! OMAKE! OMAKE! OMAKE!
As soon as Tsuruko was out of sight, Keitaro stopped walking, sat down on a rock and opened the bag. 'Let's see, scented candles, a dozen long stemmed red roses, chocolate covered strawberries, oysters? What the hell?' Keitaro's eye began to twitch violently.
He continued to empty the bag. 'Bottle of Dom Peringion, Barry White CD, Marvin Gaye CD,' he held up a small plastic bottle and examined it. 'What the hell's 'Astroglide?''
He pulled out a shiny gold box tied with a bow. 'Who's Frederick, and what's this box doing here if he's from Hollywood?' He opened it, and turned the color of a ripe tomato. 'Is this an eye patch?'
With a now shaking hand Keitaro removed the last of the bags contents. 'A copy of the Kama Sutra?! Handcuffs?! A ball gag?! Cat o' nine tails!?' "Aauuugghh!" Keitaro's scream was heard for miles.
After the echo died away, Tsuruko shook her head in disgust. "The fool. I told him it was for Motoko."
Special thanks to Harvey Bautista for the pre-read and for giving me the idea for the omake.
The next chapter is in the works, but I'm not sure when it will be posted. Real life does interfere with writing from time to time. Hopefully, not more than two weeks, but I make no promises.
Coming Soon: Chapter Three: Returns and Repercussions