**** The Light from Ashes ****
Andrew Joshua Talon
DISCLAIMER: TV Tokyo owns Love Hina. I am not making any profit off this writing.
I freely admit, I was inspired by Crossover Maniac's "The Reconstruction of Keitaro Urashima" in writing this story. This is my first attempt at a serious Love Hina fanfiction, so please bear with me.
*A/N: This takes place around in LH Manga Volume 4-5. It is an AU, in that the timeline is altered slightly, but not enough to throw off the entire LH continuum.
"All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong? "
~"Eleanor Rigby" the Beatles
The pouring rain casts an icy blur to the hill, distorting all attempts by the sun to bring light into the dismal region. The hill is on the outskirts of town, the only bare spot in a carpet of trees on a monolithic mountainside.
Only the small assemblage of people bring any life to the naked outcropping of soil, and dressed all in black they resemble a patch of dead marsh foliage more than a group of living beings. They surround a deep hole, a shield to preserve some semblance of reverence for the newly departed. A gruff man and a slovenly woman head the memorial crowd, staring into the grave dispassionately. Neither wishes to be here; neither cares much about this ceremony aside from the fact it must be done.
Gazing at the funeral gathering from the trees below, a young boy sniffles once in the freezing rain, but continues to look on to the assembly.
He's not supposed to be here, but as all people driven by love and loss, he had eluded his parent's blockade of a babysitter just to say farewell to his grandfather. The adults above him file slowly down the other side of the hill, oblivious to the large brown eyes following them over the horizon and to their own devices. Some sort of party, the boy sniffs bitterly.
After checking once more that no one remains on the hill, five-year-old Keitaro Urashima hikes up to the summit of the imposing hill, tears falling with every step the tiny boy makes.
He finally reaches it, looking briefly at the gravestone before gazing into his grandfather's last resting-place. Not knowing what else to do, Keitaro sits down in the muddy patches surrounding the grave and swings his legs over the edge. He then sits, folding his hands as he looked on the simple oaken coffin, sighing deeply.
"Grandpa, I don't know if you can hear me, but I wanted to see you before they buried you. I," Keitaro choked a sob, but managed to continue,"I miss you. I don't know why you died, Grandpa. No one told me anything. Mommy just told me to go play and Daddy," Keitaro clenched his tiny fists in anger and sadness,"and he just hit me! He'll always just hit me, Grandpa!"
Keitaro got to his feet, tears pouring freely from his eyes and mingling with the falling raindrops. He screamed at the coffin,"I HATE YOU! WHY'D YOU HAVE TO DIE?! IT'S NOT FAIR, GRANDPA! IT'S NOT FAIR! WHO WILL LOVE ME?! IT'S NOT FAIR!" Keitaro sobbed, grabbing fistfuls of mud and throwing them down into the grave. The sky above him crackled in a blast of lightening, finally culminating in a gigantic boom of thunder.
"I HATE YOU TOO! I HATE YOU ALL!" Keitaro screamed into the heavens, kicking mud into the grave again. He gritted his teeth in a helpless anger, as he glared furiously at the coffin.
"I'll kill myself right now," he whispered, determined,"I'll kill myself and I'll never have to see Mommy and Daddy again! They'll go to Hell, won't they? I'm coming, Grandpa!" In a move that surely would have ended his tender life at that moment, Keitaro backed up from the grave to get a running start. He'd fall into the grave and kill himself. That's what he'd do!
Keitaro took off with a blast of thunder, an inch from the grave before he felt someone grab him around the waist. This person's grip was like that of a panicked mother, trying desperately to save her baby. Keitaro used all of his raging strength to try and break free from the person's grasp.
"LET ME GO! I WANT TO DIE!" Keitaro screamed, sobbing wildly as the person wrapped her arms around him and hugged him close. He resorted to beating his tiny fists on her chest, crying helplessly into her bosom.
Haruka Urashima, age twelve, held her tiny nephew patiently, her eyes closed as she held onto Keitaro with all her strength. Keitaro's fight or flight mode ran out of fuel after about five minutes, as he resorted to fatigued weeping. Haruka rubbed his back, pressing her cold cheek to Keitaro's tear-heated one.
"Why do you want to die?" She asked simply. Keitaro wiped his nose on his sleeve, pulling back to gaze into his young aunt's eyes.
"Grandpa's gone. Daddy and Mommy..." Keitaro trailed off, closing his eyes. Haruka nodded knowingly, sighing.
"I know it hurts, but if you die," Haruka held Keitaro's cheeks, causing his eyes to snap open," who will look out for Kanako-chan? Who will be her big brother, and who will be my little brother, so to speak?" She smiled sadly at him, a single tear running down her face. Keitaro took a deep breath, then curled up into her arms. He nodded, and Haruka wordlessly lifted Keitaro and started walking down the hill, looking up into the angry sky with an unreadable expression.
"Grandpa," she murmured, walking through the beaten path of the trees and towards Hinata House. Haruka shook her head and sighed heavily, an anger festering deep within her soul. The Urashima family had all ruined their lives, out of their own pettiness.
And Urashima happens to be a samurai name, Haruka thought bitterly. It had been a cold experience. However, it was to end tonight, for all three of them.
"Haruka-chan? Haruka-chan? Where are you?" Shouted a late middle-aged woman from the top of the hill Haruka had been climbing for the past few minutes. Haruka smiled, then finally crested the hill.
"Mother Hinata!" The much older woman smiled, a youthful gleam in her eyes as she looked over her daughter-in-law and grandson. She held an umbrella over the two of them, escorting the children into the massive Hinata building.
In the living room of the Urashima ancestral home, two-year old Kanako Urashima happily slashed a bokken about, knocking a number of papers and knick-knacks to the floor. Mama Hinata smiled impishly at her adopted-grandchild, who perked up at the appearance of her brother and her aunt.
"Keitawo!" She giggled, rushing unsteadily to the sopping wet Haruka and boy. Mama Hinata bent down and deftly intercepted the happy child, snuggling little Kanako in her arms.
"Now now, Kanako-chan, your brother needs a good long bath, and then it's right off to bed with you two!" Kanako pouted, but Mama Hinata grinned at her.
"You two will get to play all day tomorrow, all right?" Kanako squealed happily before wiggling out of her grasp and rushing down the hallway. Haruka shook her head with a slight smirk, while Mama Hinata sighed.
"She's so innocent."
"Now. A few years of training and the terrible twos won't even compare," Haruka said with a grin as Hinata gathered the soaked Keitaro into her arms.
"Will you teach Keitaro then?" Haruka asked, already stripping off her clothes for a warm soak in the hot springs. Hinata looked thoughtful then shook her head.
"He's just too innocent, too sweet. He's kept his goodness, even after the hell of those parents of his;" she sighed, glaring at a framed picture of her son and daughter-in-law Kanako had knocked to the floor. She stepped on the frame purposely as she strode toward the hot spring, Haruka in close pursuit.
"Then, how can he protect Kanako-chan?" Hinata grinned.
"He'll defend her soul and mind, while she defends his body. It's a perfect fit, don't you think? Besides, he'll have plenty of time to determine for himself if he wants to learn our ways. You'll all have that option. And, of course, that "other" option remains," Hinata raised her eyebrows, gesturing toward a letter lying on a table. It was half-opened; it's contents lying at odd angles in the envelope. Haruka noticed a seal on the face of the parchment, then turned it upside down.
"Then, our parents, they've agreed?" Asked Haruka, changing the subject. Hinata sighed again.
"Neither of your parents really cared where you went. Gives them more time for their frivolities and perversions," Hinata snarled as she proceeded to strip Keitaro of his wet garments. She then gently set the boy into the soothing hot springs. Haruka also stripped down to her birthday suit, grabbed a towel and waded in as well. She smirked slightly as her nephew woke with a start.
"Huh? Where-where am I? Haruka?" Haruka smiled as Hinata walked out to take care of her other responsibilities.
"We're at Grandma's house, Keitaro. My mom and dad, and your mom and dad, are going to let us live here with Grandma for a while."
"How long?" Keitaro timidly asked, running the warm water through his fingertips. Haruka's smiled grew a bit more.
"As long as you like. Is that okay with you?" Keitaro smiled happily, splashing his hands enthusiastically in the water. Haruka held up a hand to shield herself from the barrage.
"Yeah!" Keitaro's splashing came to a slow stop, as he looked down into the water with a somber expression. He waded away from the deck, and leaned his head onto Haruka's side. His aunt smiled slightly, pulling Keitaro into a hug as the boy sniffled slightly.
Haruka's gaze arched her neck, allowing her to stare into the still-overcast sky. At least the rain had stopped, and the tiny glow of the moon was beginning to peek from between the clouds. She smiled, gently running her hand over Keitaro's tussled hair as his cries slowed...
"Gah..." Keitaro moaned, his malicious mind continuing to pelt him with the darkness of his past. He slowly arose, like the eagle riding a thermal, into consciousness once more. He immediately surveyed his surroundings.
He was in his train seat, headed toward Tokyo, just where he'd been when he'd fallen asleep. The low hum of the lights above was somewhat comforting to the twenty-year old ronin, continuous, dependable. He checked his watch, and whistled; it was 4:00 PM. He'd been asleep for at least ten hours.
Guess I was more tired than I thought, he silently mused.
Keitaro stirred uncomfortably; he got out of his seat and headed forward, toward the lavatories. After finishing up, he turned and headed back toward his seat.
Should I call them? he wondered silently as he passed the pay phones. He thought about Shinobu, and how worried she must be at this moment. Rummaging about in his pockets for a phone card, he slid the small token into the slot and dialed up the Hinata Sou...
"Well, I have finished looking, and I cannot find him anywhere," Motoko said flatly, looking rather tired and annoyed. She'd wasted five hours searching for that perverted weakling, spurned by her inability to deal with Shinobu's anxiety concerning Urashima. If he ever showed his face here again, she would make sure that he thought twice before toying with the affections of others.
Shinobu, at this moment, was experiencing her psyche starting to shatter into tiny pieces, like a china set caught in an earthquake. She was curled into a fetal position on the couch, shivering and shaking all with her eyes wide as hubcaps. Kitsune, Suu, and Haruka were all attempting to comfort her, but it did no good.
"S-Sempai, sempai, sempai," she kept whispering, caught between crying and screaming. Motoko shook her head in disgust, planning a great deal of painful things for Urashima's return.
The door slammed, and a second later Naru Narusegawa marched in, irritable and tired.
"I looked over the whole stupid town, where you'd think you could find one stupid pervert, and I-" Motoko grabbed Naru's arm, stopping her rant. Naru stared, surprised, into the samurai's cold eyes.
"She is too distraught right now to deal with the reality of him," she murmured," so let us take pains to ensure we can ease her away from that baka. Hai?" Naru sighed.
Ring! Ring! Ring! Suu leaped up and grabbed the phone, smiling in her impish way.
"Hello, the number you have reached has been disconnected or is no longer in service-" Shinobu shot from the couch, bonked Suu over the head with a frying pan, and snatched the phone like a frog nabbing a fly.
"SEMPAI?! SEMPAI?!" A startled silence came from the other end.
"Erm... Yes Shinobu, it's me. I wanted to-"
"Are you alright?! Where are you?! Why did you leave?! What's going-" Shinobu's burst of hysterical questioning was broken by Naru and Motoko grabbing the phone. Wringing it like they were trying to choke Keitaro across the airwaves, they both took a deep breath.
"You scummy bastard! What in hell are you doing, you fucking idiot?"
"You dishonorable coward! You weak-willed fool!
"I'll pound you into the dirt!"
"I'll run you through, and it'll be more than you deserve-!"
The screams were familiar to Keitaro, this is true. And any other time, he'd have shrugged it off like a duck shrugging away water. But, with the truth of his past in the know, with the pounding weight of those years of abuse, and the scars of these same women ruthlessly and relentlessly beating him body, heart, mind and soul, something finally snapped. The flood was unleashed.
"YOU FUCKING, GODDAMNED BITCHES! WHO THE HELL ARE YOU TO DICTATE ANYTHING TO ME?! I WAS TALKING TO SHINOBU, WHO HAPPENS TO HAVE SOME GODDAMNED FUCKING SENSE IN HER! NOT YOU TWO UNSTABLE, ARROGANT, SELF-CENTERED, VIOLENT, HYPOCRITICAL WHORES! FUCK OFF!" Keitaro screamed into the phone, widening the eyes of nearly everyone on the train. He stood there, breathing heavily, his fists clenched, his arms shaking as his face was transformed into a veritable transmitter of hate and rage.
"I want to talk to Shinobu, not you!" He snarled.
There was a pregnant pause. Slowly, he heard the phone being fumbled into another's hands. Keitaro held his breath.
"Um... S-Sempai? I'm... I'm here," she whispered, sounding near tears. Keitaro blew out the air from his lungs before taking a deep, calming breath.
"Shinobu, I'm not mad at you, okay? Don't cry, I couldn't live with myself if I made you miserable. I... I love you," he croaked. He took another deep breath.
"I'm just going on a little trip to Kyoto, okay? Things are just so crazy, my life was just so wasted, and... I don't know when we'll meet again, but I'll be happy when we do. Don't worry about me, I'll be alright. I'll give you the num-" Click!
The phone card popped out of the slot, completely used. Keitaro swore under his breath before ripping it out of the slot and stalking back down the aisle.
"Damn worthless card, completely useless..."
Shinobu heard the phone click off. She wouldn't remember much of what she did on the phone next afterwards.
"KEITARO?! KEITARO?! WHERE ARE YOU?! WHAT'S GOING ON?!" She shrieked, smashing the phone frantically against the table. Kitsune, Motoko, Naru and Haruka all managed to wretch the phone away from the sobbing middle schooler, and managed to get her back to the couch. Suu was happily dancing in the background, balancing the frying pan on her head.
"My God, have you ever heard anything like that?" Kitsune muttered, her eyes open fully. Everyone had heard Keitaro's screaming over the phone. Well, except for Suu, but only because Shinobu had knocked her out. Naru and Motoko still looked shocked, even as they tried to settle poor Shinobu down.
Shinobu had regained the color back in her cheeks, and managed to stop hyperventilating, after about five minutes. Kitsune held Shinobu by her shoulders, making level, intense eye contact.
"Now Shinobu, what exactly did Keitaro say to you?" Kitsune asked, firmly but gently. Shinobu sniffled, her eyes drooping.
"Now now, let's have none of that," Kitsune stated, tilting Shinobu's face back up to hers," now, tell us, please?" Shinobu took a deep breath, and sniffled again.
"Oh... Okay. Um, he said he wasn't mad at me, and he never... wanted to make me upset, and... um..." Shinobu trailed off, blushing slightly.
"And that he loved me," Shinobu squeaked, as red as a fresh-painted Midwest barn. Kitsune raised an eyebrow, while Motoko and Naru shook themselves out of their initial shock with a dose of anger. Suu continued to bounce about happily, while Haruka chewed the end of her cigarette thoughtfully.
"All right, what else?" Shinobu quickly repeated everything else Keitaro had told her on the phone, staring at her lap by the time she was done. Kitsune frowned and turned to the others as Haruka walked into the kitchen to fetch something.
"So, analysis, anyone?" Motoko shook her head.
"Only a man without fear would have said those things," the samurai mused aloud, "or devoid of intelligence." Naru snorted.
"I'm voting for devoid of intelligence," she muttered while Kitsune scratched her chin.
"But why would Keitaro fly off the handle like that? He may be clumsy and dumb, but he can't be dumb enough to yell that and still expect to come back." Suu stopped her prancing to leap onto the couch with her usual happy-go-lucky smile.
"Maybe Keitaro is going to kill himself!" She suggested absently. Everyone looked at eachother.
"Of course! Maybe he is going to go commit suicide," Kitsune said in an odd sort of triumph. Motoko snorted.
"Far more of him than I thought of him, I would believe," she said while Naru scowled.
"Oh c'mon! You know how hopelessly obsessed he is with getting into Tokyo U! He wouldn't do something like that, right Shinobu?" Naru waited for an answer. She (along with everyone else) suddenly realized that Shinobu and Suu had departed from the living room.
"Oh good God," Kitsune muttered as she took off up the stairs. "Shinobu! Suu! What are you doing?!" The two other women were in hot pursuit, calling for the middle schooler and the blonde foreigner frantically. They failed to notice a moving carpet behind them...
Keitaro had made it back to his seat by this point, feeling tired again. Well, he had screamed almost everything he'd ever held back against Motoko and Narusegawa over the past year or two. The power had shut off, the containment system had gone down, and he'd let loose his inner demons throughout the world as a sign of upcoming darkness and ruin.
Geez, he'd been watching too many American movies.
Keitaro slumped down in his chair, pressing himself into the industrial cushions for comfort. He sighed, moving his hand to grab a candy bar he knew was tucked away in his backpack. He'd left it on the empty seat next to him...
... Which didn't feel so empty anymore. His hand instinctively grabbed onto something warm, soft and firm. Keitaro blinked.
"Oh my," giggled a sleepy voice next to him, "are you trying to seduce me?" Keitaro snapped his hand back, his eyes wide as he got a look at the woman he'd accidentally groped.
"Erm, I'm sorry, really, I am! I didn't mean to, I was just looking for a candy bar I had in my backpack, which isn't there now, but..." Keitaro's babbling came to a screeching halt when he finally made eye contact with the person next to him.
She looked around his age, long brown hair that reached to her mid-back framing her pale, innocent face. A pair of warm, chocolate brown eyes connected with his own, as comforting as twin home-baked loaves of bread. She wore a white sweater and a black skirt that outlined her graceful, perfect body like a modest Aphrodite. She smiled at him, blush touching her cheeks to the effect that her face radiated an innocent air.
"Oh, this backpack?" The girl asked, holding up Keitaro's provisions. He nodded vigorously before taking the backpack and stuffing it under his seat. He then looked back up and smiled at the woman.
"Erm... Sorry again, about that. Um, so..." Keitaro stopped, mentally cursing his inability to make small-talk. The girl giggled before extending her hand.
"I'm Mutsumi Otohime. It's a pleasure to meet you, Keitaro Urashima." Keitaro gingerly shook hands with Mutsumi before it finally clicked what she'd called him.
"Huh? How do you know my name?" Mutsumi shrugged.
"You just look like a Keitaro Urashima!" She explained brightly, smiling in an incredibly kawaii style. Keitaro blinked.
"And your name was on your backpack," Mutsumi added, to which Keitaro promptly sweat dropped.
"Oh, I see. Um, so, where are you going?"
"Kyoto. I've had some recent problems in my life, and so I wanted to get away and think things over." Keitaro nodded, a knowing expression on his face.
"If you don't mind me asking, what sort of problems?" Mutsumi smiled again, taking on a helpless air.
"I've failed to get into Toudai University for the last three years, and I'm wondering if I should even bother trying again next year."
"No way! Me too! I've been failing three years in a row..." Keitaro trailed off, his features darkened. Mutsumi blinked, concerned.
"Hm? Oh, sorry. Well... If you failed three times in a row, why did you keep trying?"
"Why did you?" Mutsumi asked gently. Keitaro gritted his teeth. Anger swept through him, bitterness and hate taking roost in his mind. He clenched his fists, starting to shake with rage.
"I made a promise, to a little girl a long time ago, to get into Tokyo U with her, and live happily ever after," he began in a deceptively calm voice, "I even thought I'd found the girl I made the promise with, and that things would start to improve. But no, life had to fucking wake up TO THE FACT I WAS LIVING NOTHING MORE THAN A GODDAMNED SHAM!!!" Keitaro roared, slamming his fist down on the armrest and snapping it in two. The train car fell silent, the passengers staring in shock at the enraged young man. Keitaro breathed heavily now, aware of all the eyes watching him.
"The hell's your problem?!" He snarled at a teenaged girl across the aisle. She averted her gaze before pushing herself as far away from Keitaro as she could.
"I see," Mutsumi said quietly, after a silence. Keitaro took a deep breath, gripping his hands into a single fist which he kept squeezing. He sighed.
"I'm sorry. I really am," he murmured, his gaze drifting to watch Mutsumi staring out the window at the passing countryside.
Author's Note:Booyah! I finally got a new chapter up! Well, since CrossoverManiac has apparently dropped into the abyss, I decided to use this chapter I originally intended for "The Reconstruction of Keitaro Urashima" for my own Keitaro-angst-self discovery fic. Still, as both follow similar lines, I needed only to "tweak" it a bit, and add on some more information.
Well... Comments? Praises? Critiques? I would love feedback on some possible themes I could follow in the next chapters (which will hopefully be up around February). So, keep an eye out, ladies and gentlemen.