Disclaimer: I do not own "Love Hina" or its characters.



Save Keitaro
Lost Soul



"Keitaro, I told you couldn't handle it, you idiot." Aoyama Motoko grabbed her sword and descended the stairs to everyone else gathered for dinner. Maehara Shinobu had surely cooked something worthy of a samurai's discerning palette, but Motoko could not allow anyone to eat the wonderful blessing of Shinobu's cooking until they heard the news. "Something horrible happened to Keitaro."

Urashima Keitaro had not awakened from his meditation. For the untrained, even fifteen minutes of this type of intensive meditation could prove quite deadly. Keitaro had spent seven hours nonstop in the deepest form of meditation known to the Shinmei-ryuu, the free-fall meditation. Even at three hours, Motoko knew only a few well-trained meditation masters who ever lived to brag about such a miraculous feat. After a while, Motoko assured herself that the evident willpower and determination Keitaro showed everyday as male kanrinrin of an all-girls dormitory would safely weather the dangers of free-fall meditation.

At the end of hour seven, Aoyama Motoko saw some congratulations in order. Keitaro had survived the free-fall meditation longer than any Shinmei-ryuu student in recorded history. When she tried to express her appreciation for his strength of mind with a pat on the back, Motoko's refined sense of touch detected something wrong. Motoko carefully guided her hand to his neck and finally realized what her touch had detected. Urashima Keitaro did not have a pulse. From the relative warmth of his body, Motoko could safely deduced that he only entered this state of living death a few minutes ago.

"What happened to Keitaro, Motoko-chan?" Aoyama Motoko watched completely frozen as Narusegawa Naru excused herself from the table, approached her and lifted her up by the neck. "If you did anything to harm him, I'll personally kill you, sword or no sword." Everyone's eyes seemed to linger on Naru as she had Motoko pinned against a wall, repeatedly banging her head against the wall.

Perhaps, at this point, she must have realized that she had showed an unneccessary spark of hidden passion for the safety of her "secret boyfriend," Urashima Keitaro. Frankly, Motoko imagined she could do better, but she had trouble telling her these thoughts with Naru cutting off oxygen to her brain. "I mean, if anything happened to the poor idiot pervert klutz, who would run the Hinata-sou? Yeah, I meant that. I mean, who wants to live on the street if they close down the Hinata-sou because of him? Huh?" Naru chuckled nervously as she returned to her seat at the table.

Her blushing had transformed her into a neon red billboard for emotionally confused women. Sometimes, the two-faced Naru's wishy-washy feelings for him upraged even in her calm bushido-crafted sense of right and wrong. /Love him or don't love him, Naru,/ Motoko concluded. /You can't have it both ways./

Aoyama Motoko explained the situation to the girls. Maehara Shinobu looked upset. Keitaro meant everything to her. Motoko always feared that Keitaro might take advantage of those strong feelings to force Shinobu to do something illegal and improper with him. Konno "Kitsune" Mitsune looked more confused than anything else. Big words like "chi interbalance" and "transcorporeal exhaustion syndrome" probably confused everyone there except Su Kaolla, who seemed to have a plan already brewing in her mind.

*****

Su Kaolla had a plan brewing in her mind. This whole problem with "off balanced" chi during prolonged thought immersion reminded her of her dream viewer. Keitaro had used it some time ago to experience his own nightmares, something to do with Narusegawa Naru and Sakata Kentaro. Narusegawa Naru found out that Kentaro had stalked her since her freshman year. Kaolla did not understand the word "stalker," but it must not have tasted very delicious, because Naru left Kentaro after she got a taste of his "stalking." Kaolla could revise Einstein's theory of relativity to take into account the peculiarities of quantum physics, but she failed to grasp simple concepts like "stalking," or "Toudai" or "Leave me alone, please."

As Kaolla returned to the problem at hand, she remembered that the machine could burrow deep inside the mind of the target, seeking out images and displaying them. Of course, she doubted that the dream viewer could penetrate his mind in this altered state of consciousness. During the meditation, the life essence of Keitaro had fleed deep into his own psyche and stopped operating the parts of his brain necessary to breath. Keitaro could theoreticaly last up to an hour without breathing, according to Kaolla's calculations, but after that, Keitaro would start to suffocate and die. If Keitaro had fleed to the darkest reaches of his own mind, the dream viewer would not find him, much less convince Keitaro to surface.

If they wanted to extract Keitaro from this self-induced coma, the girls would have to enter Keitaro's mind. Kaolla's machine could generate a model of Keitaro's psyche sophisticated enough to interact with his lost soul, but after that, none of the girls could leave the interactive environment. Only if they rescued Keitaro and return him to his proper state of consciousness would his restored soul discharge the foreign souls from his mind and out of the environment. If the girls failed to rescue him after they entered the environment, the girls would experience the last thoughts of a dying brain and Kaolla doubted their nervous systems could survive the resulting shock.

/Do or die./

Su Kaolla handed all the girls watches, all counting down from forty minutes, making a conservative estimate that Keitaro had already spent twenty minutes in this altered state. Kaolla explained her plan in detail to the other girls. Su Kaolla tried to keep the terminology simple. One small misunderstanding could prove disastrous to the success of this mission. In less than five minutes, Kaolla, in a whirlwind of numbers, equations, and computer circuitry, Kaolla had constructed the world's first fully functional psyche display interactive environment. As she predicted, the interactive environment could not pull a soul out once injected into a mind and she told everyone exactly what that meant. They seemed to understand words like "death" and "low chance of survival" quite well, but they still started to undress and latch on the VR helmets and sensory jumpsuits.

Su Kaolla smiled at her own courage as well as the courage of the others. Kaolla spelled out quite clearly that this device could kill them, but she and the others had not taken more than a couple seconds to think over their decision. For a moment, Kaolla wanted to excuse herself and tell them that she needed to run the machine from the outside, but she knew perfectly well that her machinery could run itself just fine. Plus, once injected inside, she could not send messages to them or inject herself in later and they needed her help and expertise on the inside.

Besides, she could not leave anyone behind, everyone had different ideas where to find Keitaro's soul and she did not want them travelling alone in Keitaro's brain. Narusegawa and Kitsune would pair up to search for him in his hopes and ambitions. Motoko and her would try to locate Keitaro in his fantasies and dreams. Mutsumi and Shinobu would go and seek out Keitaro in his conscience. No one alone could search all of his mind in the time allotted to them, sheer number alone would make this much easier.

Breathing a deep sigh to clear her mind of doubt, Su Kaolla latched on the VR helmet as Motoko helped her into her jumpsuit as everyone finished strapping themselves in. Kaolla took a look at the clock. Thirty-four minutes left to save Urashima Keitaro as well as their own lives. Kaolla flipped the switch and a jolt of electricity went through everyone. Thirty-three minutes left.

*****

Aoyama Motoko blacked out and reappeared in a mist covered surroundings. In the distance, Motoko could see symbols and icons and symbols flying around, displaying passages from psychology books, billboards and three giant tablets. Aoyama read some words of the tablets and recognized some of the words written on them. One table on the right read things like, [worthless, pathetic, loser, klutz, idiot, incompetent, stubborn, weak, perverted] and the other on the left read things like, [noble, caring, selfless, compassionate, tolerant, invulnerable, determined, imaginative, hard-working]. The one in the center had nothing written on it.

Motoko hated asking questions, but she also hated not knowing things. Right now, she desperatedly wanted to know what these tablets meant. Kaolla had appeared behind her, so Motoko decided to ask her. "What do these three tablets represent?"

Kaolla looked up at them and scanned the contents of the two tablets. A sensor appeared out of nowhere in Kaolla hand and she held it up the tablets. After a second or two, the sensor came back with a read-out. "Tablets of self-image. It represents Keitaro's struggle to reconcile two conflicting self-images into one single self-image." Motoko took her senses off the tablet of the right. She knew every word on it word by heart, but the words of the words on the left tablet intrigued her. With very little imagination, one could see many, if not all these characteristics in Keitaro at one point or another.

"He hasn't gotten very far reconciling, has he?" Motoko tried to appreciate the positive self-image, but one word on the negative list stood out like a sore thumb. "Perverted." Even if she ignore everything on that tablet, she could not ignore a simple fact of biology. Urashima Keitaro had a man's body, and heterosexual men by nature have perverted fantasies about women. She believed that simple fact so much, she planned to search for Keitaro's soul in his fantasies. Motoko excepted to find him in a fantasy with Narusegawa Naru, or herself, or even Shinobu.

In reality, Aoyama Motoko had no idea what to expect, but she anticipated finding perversion wherever she turned in this pervert's mind. Kaolla said if they found Keitaro and convinced him to return, they would cheat death and save Keitaro. Motoko could care less about saving Keitaro, she wanted to confirm her suspicions of Keitaro's perversion face-to-face once and for all. He always acted like everything he did happened by accident, but Motoko knew that somewhere inside this nest of thoughts and weaknesses, she could expose the pervert within Keitaro to everyone. That would finally put an end to all this "Keitaro-the-innocent-but-well-meaning-victim-of-fate" propaganda that had risen in the other girls too gradually for Motoko to stamp out.

As Motoko started to wander off to apprehend Keitaro in the middle of one of his fantasies, Kaolla grabbed Motoko and pulled her towards her. "We need to review the rules." Motoko gathered close to Kaolla. Su Kaolla rarely spoke so clearly that she did now. "First off, do not try to communicate to anything here. Only a real soul can talk to us before spoken to. If you try to speak with a dangerous mental image, it may attack you. If you don't speak to it, it will ignore you and continue its preset plans. Okay?"

Motoko nodded. "Okay, Motoko, I'll wait here for the others and give them the same talk, you go find Keitaro in his fantasies ... over there!" Kaolla pointed her finger in a direction and Motoko bolted away, ready to expose Keitaro.

/To think I almost congratulated you,/ Motoko thought bitterly as her sword materialized in her hand. /This time, Keitaro, you have no place to hide your dirty fantasies. I will find you./





TO BE CONTINUED ...