Love Hina Fan Fiction ❯ Loss and Redemption ❯ Interlude: Shinobu's Decision ( Chapter 9 )
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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 8: Interlude: Shinobu's Decision
Shinobu Maehara had not had an easy life. Problems with her parents had forced her to live at the Hinata House at a far too young age. When she had first arrived there, she had been shy and hardly ever talked to anyone. Gradually, she had opened up and eventually discovered that the other residents were the closest things she had ever had to a real family.
The first time the other residents had allowed her to cook for them, she put all of her effort into it, desperate for both praise and a role in the household. When the residents had unanimously lauded her cooking she had felt like she was on top of the world. Her parents, while not cruel, had never given her the support that she had craved.
Receiving it from the residents had bonded her to them more than to her own parents. She felt as though she had found a purpose and a home. She was still a little lonely, but she was mostly content with what she had. Her life was pleasant enough, if a little boring. But on one fateful day her entire life changed, for better or for worse.
Her first view of Keitaro Urashima, like that of the other residents, had not been a flattering one. He had gone into the women's bath, not realizing that Hinata House was a girls dorm, not a hotel. When Naru had discovered him, she'd flipped out and he'd bolted. He'd already encountered Kitsune and Su before it was her turn. She'd heard the commotion, walked into the hallway and come face to face with a naked Keitaro, who had a pair of her panties on his head. Hardly a stellar first impression.
They'd all pursued him to the roof, trapped him, and exacted righteous fury over his peeping. Only after this had they learned that he was the cousin of the housemother Haruka Urashima. Like all of the other residents, Shinobu had been amazed when she'd learned that he was a student at Tokyo University. She'd gotten over her shock and had even developed a small crush on him when he'd helped her with her homework and praised her cooking.
Keitaro was the first boy that Shinobu had found herself interested in, and he was a Tokyo University student as well. He seemed to be such a nice guy that he was virtually perfect in her eyes. First crushes can be intense emotional experiences for some girls and Shinobu was no exception. She had come to care for him in such a short time that she had no idea how quickly things could change. To Shinobu, being around Keitaro meant that all was right with the world.
She had been walking on air when he'd told her that she could get into Tokyo University, just like him, if she worked hard. His apparent kindness had made her feel wonderful, and that meant that when they all learned the truth about his ronin status, she was absolutely crushed. She'd given him her trust and he'd betrayed her.
She'd opened up to a complete stranger and he'd proceeded to tap-dance all over her feelings. She'd resented him for that and it was made even worse when he became the live-in manager of Hinata House. Shortly after that, he'd fallen into the women's bath and saw her naked. It had been an accident, but it had still happened, and it made her feel about two inches tall. She had then started to go out of her way to avoid him; leaving the room when he entered, rebuffing all attempts at conversation, and basically pretending that he wasn't there.
Keitaro had managed to talk to her when she was picking up groceries that HE had caused her to drop. She took his words of praise and threw them back in his face. She'd let out all of the bitterness and resentment she'd built up and given it to him broadsides. She had taken a guilty pleasure in how devastated he'd looked afterwards. She had enjoyed how miserable she had made him feel, mainly because it made her own depression seem not quite as bad.
No wonder then, that she was stunned to learn that Keitaro had realized that it was her birthday, and had arranged a small surprise party for her to celebrate. She'd spewed venom at him and he'd still tried to cheer her up. He'd apologized for everything that he'd done, promised to try like hell to get into Tokyo University, and asked her to smile again.
Just like that, all of the bad feelings she'd had towards him evaporated. The initial stirrings of a crush returned with a vengeance and she'd warmed up to him again. True, he did accidentally pull a pair of her panties out of his sleeve when he'd handed her his present. This had resulted in her running away crying and him getting walloped by the other residents, but this time her sadness passed quickly and her crush remained.
Shinobu's feeling for Keitaro grew with each passing week; she'd tried to keep them secret, as she was aware that he liked Naru, but in her naiveté, she had no idea that her feelings were obvious. Obvious to everyone but Keitaro that is, who seemed to view Shinobu as a younger sister or cousin.
Shinobu always tried to be there for Keitaro, making him chocolate for Valentine's day, following him when he and Naru went away after failing the Tokyo University entrance exams. She'd even helped try to keep Naru from meeting up with Seta again, even though she figured it might 'free up' sempai.
When the entire Hinata House residency went to the coast for the summer, she'd pretended to drown in order to have Keitaro 'save' her and feel better. But at the last second she'd panicked and lashed out blindly, nailing him in the groin. It had made him forget about all of his troubles for a while, but he wouldn't have recommended it as an anti-depressant method to anyone.
She'd spent time with him at the festival when he and Naru had gone through one of their many rough spots. As much as she had enjoyed spending time with him, she'd encouraged him to try to work out his differences with Naru. Sometimes she wondered if she was too selfless for her own good, as she was always trying to help Keitaro and Naru get together.
When Mutsumi had come onto the scene, she'd been intimidated by the older woman's figure, as hers was still quite modest. This combined with the fact that Mutsumi also seemed to be interested in Keitaro made Shinobu feel as though she had no chance of winning Keitaro, and she'd resigned herself to that fact.
Until Keitaro, Motoko, and Naru had come back from that challenge.
Everything had changed with that; Naru was angrier with Keitaro than she'd ever been, and Keitaro and Motoko were reluctantly married to each other. It seemed that neither was interested in him, and an opportunity for Shinobu to be with Keitaro appeared to have materialized overnight.
When Tsuruko's second challenge was revealed, Shinobu felt like a condemned man getting a reprieve from the governor. She now had a window of opportunity; she'd support him, be there for him, and after the year was over Motoko wouldn't be interested in him, Naru was gone, and her return was uncertain. In a year she'd be a little older, probably a bit more developed, and Keitaro would notice her in a romantic light, she was sure of it!
However, her conscience saw things differently. It had been telling her that Keitaro still cared for Naru and that it was wrong for her to try to 'steal' Keitaro. She'd managed to push that thought aside, but she always remembered that, and she always had a little nagging doubt about what she was attempting.
Just being there for Keitaro never caused her conscience to complain. She remembered one of the days after Keitaro had returned from his run and had come into the kitchen in search of a drink.
"Sempai! How did the run go today?" she asked.
"Not bad Shinobu," Keitaro replied. He was covered with a fine sheen of sweat and was breathing only slightly harder than normal. It was a vast improvement from his first run, which had left him retching, gasping for air, and praying for the end of the world.
"Did you improve your time again?" she inquired.
"Yeah, by a couple of seconds," he answered, as he smiled the proud smile that Shinobu loved seeing.
"That's great Sempai! You'll be ready for the Boston Marathon in no time!"
Keitaro considered the idea of running twenty-six miles and shuddered slightly. "No, no, no, that's a little too long for me."
"O.K. But you're still doing great sempai," Shinobu said as she gave him her best smile. The one that she practised in front of a mirror every night to get it just right.
"Thank you," Keitaro replied, Shinobu's attempt to get him to notice her going right over his head, as usual.
Shinobu, while discouraged by yet another failure, gamely tried again. "I know you'll be able to beat Tsuruko. I believe in you!"
Keitaro didn't react to her praise the way she had hoped. He sighed, shook his head and said, "I can't beat her, I have no chance at all."
Shinobu felt her heart stop for a moment at his admission. "But, but I don't understand, what would you need to defeat her?"
After a few seconds consideration Keitaro replied, "Probably a miracle."
"Then, then, then why are you are you training sempai?" Shinobu stammered.
"Because I don't have to beat her, I just have to impress her."
"How will you do that?" Shinobu inquired.
Keitaro stopped cold at that. "You know something, I have no idea," he replied after a few seconds contemplation.
His candid admission didn't encourage Shinobu, but she did her best to not think about that. "So what will you do after you impress her?"
Keitaro didn't answer her as he opened the fridge and pulled out a bottle of water. Like any other guy, he didn't bother with a glass, he just drank right from the bottle, not noticing Shinobu's aghast look. Leaving a quarter inch of water in the bottle, meaning that he didn't have to refill it, Keitaro put it back in the fridge and said, "I don't know. That's too far into the future to think about, I'll deal with that when the time comes."
"I see," Shinobu replied, slightly bothered by what he had said, and by the fact that she had also used that water bottle. Pushing this thought out of her mind she said, "Well, good luck sempai." He hadn't said he'd try to be with anyone, and she figured that this meant she still had a chance.
Her thoughts were interrupted when Keitaro said, "I've gotta get cleaned up, see you later Shinobu." He gave her one last smile and walked out of the kitchen, unknowingly leaving a melancholy Shinobu behind.
'Why can't he notice me, and know what I feel for him?' she asked herself despondently.
'Because you're too young for him, and his heart is set on another,' her conscience replied.
'But we get along so well, why can't he see me as more than a little sister?' Shinobu wondered.
Her conscience seemed to shake its non-existent head. 'Because six years difference is just too much.'
Shinobu attempted to rebut that argument with an observation she'd made about some married couples. 'But some marriages have more than twenty years difference in age!'
'True, but they were both over eighteen when it happened. You think that he'd be willing to wait that long?'
Shinobu responded with, 'Why not, he's waited over fifteen years for a girl he couldn't even remember!'
Shinobu's conscience sighed. 'This is still wrong, you know,' it said before it went away for the time being.
Deep down, Shinobu knew that her conscience was probably correct, but she also couldn't deny what she felt for Keitaro. So, despite some reservations about her actions, she continued to try to get Keitaro to notice her.
When Naru had returned, Shinobu felt that her chances had improved dramatically; Naru was distant to Keitaro and Motoko was enraged at his expression of concern for Naru. Everything seemed to be working in her favour; both Motoko and Naru were angry at Keitaro, and she'd given him a cold drink and some kind words when he'd gotten back from that run Motoko had forced on him. For the first time she felt hopeful that she could make the right impression with Keitaro.
But the very next day, he and Motoko had gone on that picnic together and not come back for hours. And the day after that, Motoko had taken him on a training trip. The other residents had all followed them, and when they'd found them, Motoko and Naru had nearly come to blows. Only intervention from Keitaro and Kitsune had prevented a fight from breaking out.
Like the others, Shinobu had been shocked by the open display of jealousy and violence, and when Motoko had kissed Keitaro goodnight in full view of everyone, she knew that any hope she'd had was lost. Motoko, who was normally reserved and didn't get emotional, had staked a very public claim on Keitaro. The look on Naru's face had indicated that she had wanted to do something similar with Keitaro as well.
All the effort she'd put into supporting Keitaro, trying to be there for him, to make him notice her, it had all been pointless. 'He'll never see me as a love interest,' she realized despondently. 'I'll never have his heart. I never stood a chance, did I?'
'No, you didn't,' her conscience replied. 'You've always known he doesn't love you, at least, not like how you want him to love you.'
Shinobu felt tears beginning to well up. She didn't want the others to see her grief, so she rolled over onto her side with her back facing the others, clenched her fists, bit into her blanket, and let the tears come unnoticed.
'It's all Tsuruko's fault!' she raged silently. 'If she hadn't gotten involved, Motoko wouldn't love sempai!'
'How do you know?' her conscience replied. 'It might have happened anyway. Even if it hadn't, what about Naru? Do you think she would have lost interest?'
Shinobu didn't want to have this type of conversation, but her conscience was smelling blood in the water. 'Naru is always hurting him!' Shinobu fired back. 'I would never do anything to harm him!'
'If she was so terrible to him, why did he stay with her?' her conscience asked reasonably.
She really didn't like where this conversation was going. 'He, he was afraid to leave her,' she replied weakly.
'You know better than that,' her conscience scoffed. 'Again, why did he stay with her?'
Shinobu tried hard to ignore the question, but her conscience wasn't having any of it. It started hammering her, repeating the question again, and again, and again, until Shinobu finally admitted the one thing that she hadn't wanted to. With the heaviest wave of tears in recent memory flowing down her face, she said, 'Because he loved her. Because he wanted to be with her.'
'Yes,' her conscience replied with a sense of finality. 'You can still be with him, you know. As a friend. He values your friendship, and it would hurt him if you took that away.'
'He hurt me!' Shinobu spat back, her bitterness so high it left a bad taste in her mouth. 'Why shouldn't I hurt him?!'
Her conscience sighed, and said, 'Because you'll feel worse if you do. It might feel good for a while, but it'll hurt you even more in the long run. Just be there for him like you've always been. It may hurt for a while, but it will fade, and you'll remember why you care for him. It will get better, promise.'
Her conscience was correct, the best thing to do would be to continue to support him, and learning to accept that he would never be hers. Her dream was over and it was time to wake up. 'But why couldn't it have gone the way I wanted?' With this thought, she took a deep breath and began the process of finally letting Keitaro go. It wasn't a joyful decision, but it was the right one to make.
Shinobu then dried her tears and closed her eyes to try to sleep. As she finally nodded off, she realized that she'd never see Keitaro in the same way again, and she would never forget what she had felt for him. But he'd still be there, and she could still be near him and that was some small consolation. Besides, in her dreams she could still be with him, and he could love her the way she loved him. With this thought she fell asleep, and was able to be with Keitaro until the time came when she had to wake up.
End Chapter Eight
Coming Soon: Chapter Nine: It's Better To Have Loved and Lost, Than Never To Have Loved At All
I hope to have the next chapter posted in approximately a month.
Pre-read was once again done by Harvey Bautista.
I would like to invite all readers to tell me what about this story they have found interesting, confusing, enjoyable, or disagreeable. Feel free to email me your response, or post it in the feedback section.