To Live Not As a Warrior
A Love Hina Fanfic
Tim Williams (ffml_tim@yahoo.com fireangel37@yahoo.com)

All characters and settings are copyright Ken Akamatsu, and others.
Divergence from manga #74 (Volume 9) or anime episode 25. Fairly
spoiler-ridden if you haven't seen or read that far, but not too badly
so.

+++

//We lost.// The thought rang out in the darkness of her mind, filling
her with cold horror. A few moments before, those words would have been
unthinkable, but they were now immutable truth.

//How...// Confusion flooded in, followed by doubt, and a vague feeling
of nausea. The adrenaline of the battle was fading away, and only the
ache of her injured leg remained. //I-I had it... but...// Victory had
been within her grasp. She had literally tasted it. She had come so
close to proving herself.

//The sword... and then...// The demon contained in the sword called
Hina had been sealed, but a chance slip as she landed from completing
the act sent her sliding. Her ankle twisted alarmingly, and it was only
by sheer luck that her ankle and knee had not shattered in her bad
landing. Her sister had arisen first, the attack of the demon sword not
being as strong as it had originally appeared. She faced her sister,
and drained by the sealing and her fall, the Motoko had no choice but to
surrender from her knees, the highest her aching leg would allow her to
rise.

//I lost... That means...// Tears welled up at the realization that not
only must she face the all too familiar humiliation of defeat, but also
pay the penalty for her failure. For a week, she had been tested, and
on this, her last chance, she had been found lacking. She was not
worthy of carrying on the Shinmeiryuu, so her sister had declared.

Motoko shuddered as tears rolled down her face and gasp out the words
which made her burn with even more shame. "I... have to... marry...
Keitaro..." For a moment longer, she clutched the broken hilt of her
Shisui, but the tears rolling down her face seemed to erode her last
vestiges of resistance. After a few seconds, it clattered to the
ground, the inch-long length of the severed blade managing to lodge
itself into a crevice in the torn and broken ground.

Planted in the ground like that, the hilt appeared as nothing so much as
a memorial to the dead. And, in a way, it was. Aoyama Motoko was no
more.

+++

Keitaro saw the hilt slide from Motoko's hand, but did not dare venture
near her. After what he had just seen take place, he was not sure even
his apparent immortality could compete with whatever anger must be
raging inside the kendo girl. The realization of the price of their
defeat had not begun to sink in.

"Tsuruko-san..." he began, but trailed off as Motoko's sister looked at
him. Even he could see the emotions written on her face were a mixture
of disappointment and resignation. It was a look that clearly indicated
that whatever had been going on was now over.

"It is over," the older woman said, her mouth twisting unhappily as she
gave a soft sigh. Somehow, she looked much older at that moment than
she had before this last battle. It seemed almost as if something in
her had died.

"We still have till the end of the day... it's not over yet." He
decided to risk Motoko's possible wrath and hobbled over to her kneeling
form, the cast on his broken leg making the short move a chore. He
placed a hand gently on her shoulder, though whether it was to comfort
her or to steady himself, it wasn't clear. In either case, she did not
try to shrug it off or rise. "Motoko, we can still win... If we work
together."

A faint quivering under his hand was the only response he received.
With cold terror, he realized that Motoko was crying softly and
silently. His eyes grew wide in shock, but his lips could not form
words of protest. He knew that Motoko had already given up.

"It is over," Tsuruko repeated, and this time, Keitaro know it for the
truth.

***

"What? You can't really be serious about going through with this, can
you?" Naru was almost as shocked as Keitaro when Motoko had finally
risen. The girl didn't speak, but somehow managed to lean on Keitaro
while leading him to the place her sister had prepared for the wedding
ceremony, both at the same time.

Motoko did not respond, and the grip she held on Keitaro's arm kept him
from running, not that he would have made it far on a triple compound
fracture, in any case. Tsuruko simply followed along behind them, that
expression of resigned determination still on her face. Keitaro gave
Naru a pleading look, but he did not dare struggle his way from the
vice-like grip Motoko held him in.

Motoko shrugged released her death-grip on Keitaro and sagged into a
kneeling position on a silken cushion. She used one ragged end of her
sleeve to wipe the tears and some of the grime from her face, leaving it
flushed from the abrasion and her anxiety. Keitaro, freed from the only
direct hindrance to a possible escape, looked about feverishly for an
way out, but his time proved to be too short as Tsuruko came up behind
him. The older sister gently but firmly took him away from Motoko and
lead him to a similar cushion a few feet away.

Keitaro sighed as he realized that he was also bound to his fate. He
had known the price for failure when this started, but had thought of it
so lightly then. He hadn't exacted to really fail, of course, but now
that he had, the enormity of what he had agreed to was almost impossible
to accept. However, he was sure that if he ran, either he or Motoko
would end up dead. Possibly both.

He wasn't afraid that Tsuruko would kill him or her sister, but Motoko
was acting very oddly. She had been all too willing to commit seppuku a
week before, and if he did not give in to this, he was afraid she would
really do it. Everything he had seen in the last few minutes showed him
a broken woman, one who might be capable of anything.

Tsuruko, herself, appeared to be in mourning. In a way, he realized,
she was. The Shinmeiryuu school and the Aoyama name were about to die
for good. He kept feverishly hoping that she would call it all a joke,
but she was too much of a warrior for that. She had said that failure
meant marriage, and she followed a code that saw words as bindings
stronger than steel.

Once he had knelt, awkwardly with his broken leg, the ceremony started.

The ceremony itself was like something out of a samurai manga. It was a
traditional San-san-kudo ceremony, though without the frills that
frequently found their way into modern versions. The cup was passed
three times three times and they were wed. As simple as that.

Three times three. So simple a thing was all it took to bind them
together.

***

The train ride back to Tokyo passed in a silence so tense that other
passengers could feel it and avoided them. The three of them sat on a
pair of bench seats that faced each other, with Motoko at Keitaro's
side. After the ceremony, their torn and soiled clothing had been
exchanged for what Tsuruko provided. Both outfits were traditional but
plain kimonos. Keitaro, unaccustomed to wearing such clothes kept
shivering at the draft he got every time he shifted positions. Though
really, he couldn't be certain which shivers were related to unexpected
exposure and which were related to the calm, almost demure manner that
Motoko had adopted.

While Naru simply glared daggers at him, Motoko was silent and kept her
hands folded almost daintily in her lap. The glare he understood. The
glare he could deal with. Making it all worse, neither had spoken a
word to him since the ceremony.

The miles slipped past out the window, and the whole time the tension
only grew more and more palpable. The situation would only grow worse
when they reached the Hinatasou, he was sure. He wanted desperately to
diffuse it somehow, but he didn't believe anything he could think of
stood even a slight chance of working.

The wedding wasn't legally binding, at least. No one had filed any
papers to make it so, and he was fairly sure that Motoko would have
needed a parent's seal, in any case, since she was only seventeen.
Unfortunately, he knew Motoko well enough to know that there was no need
for a legally binding contract when one based on society and tradition
was in place. He had always admired her traditionalism before, but now
it seemed like just one more obstacle to finding a way out of this mess.

After all, he loved Naru. Didn't he?

The look that she had been giving him made him doubt whether or not she
had the same feelings. Certainly, it had been almost two months since
he professed his love for her, and she had never responded. Did that
mean she didn't feel the same way for him?

But if she didn't have feelings for him, why was she glaring at him and
his new "wife" so harshly? If she really didn't, though, maybe he was
better off with Motoko.

Giving up on understanding women, he let out a deep sigh and rested his
head back on the seat. He closed his eyes and let the soft rocking of
the train sooth him a little. During all of the hectic action and
stress of the last week, he had failed to get much rest, and it did not
take long for him to fall asleep.

***

The announcement for Hinata station rang out some time later and the
trio disembarked. Naru vanished into the crowds almost the instant they
set foot on the platform, and Keitaro found himself hobbling along
beside a limping Motoko. Somewhere along the way, he had lost his
crutches, and holding on to each other was about the only way either of
them could move at all.

To a bystander, they must have looked ludicrous, but Keitaro didn't try
to make light of their situation. Since leaving the train, Motoko had
been staring at a point about a meter forward of her feet and ignoring
everything else. He was beginning to think that she really was broken
in spirit, and that troubled him. For the last couple of years, he had
had a lot of practice in dealing with female attitudes and emotions, but
submission had never been one of them.

//Maybe it won't be so bad,// he wondered to himself. //I'll play along
for a few days, and she'll get back to her old self and we can just
pretend none of that ever happened.// Even in his head, the thoughts
didn't sound believable. Motoko was forbidden to practice the
Shinmeiryuu, and that alone was enough to shake her to the very
foundation.

In a way, her family school had been her version of Toudai. All of her
hopes and aspirations were tied up in that one thing, and it was like
she had just found herself a fifth year ronin with declining exam
scores. She would never make it into her dream, unless something
miraculous happened.

Keitaro thought feverishly about what could bring about such a change in
fortune, but even at the snail's pace the two of them set, they were at
the steps of the Hinatasou long before he could come up with anything
reasonable. The steps seemed a fitting metaphor for what was happening
to them. They were steep and treacherous in the dwindling daylight and
they rose up almost out of sight. And he was standing at the bottom of
them, a cripple without a crutch.

They managed about a fifth of the climb before Keitaro had to sit down.
A heavy mist was rolling in, which wasn't uncommon for a mid-spring
night in the hot springs village. The water vapor only served to muffle
what sounds could be heard from the city below and the inn above. He
was more alone with Motoko now than he had been since the wedding.

She was still staring off into space, not really appearing to see
anything. He sighed and for a second, her eyes flickered to him. In
that instant, he caught a ghost of emotion cross her face, and knew that
he was not the only one worried. "I..." He gulped and tried to start
again, his tongue wetting lips made dry by worry and fear. If only he
could conjure up the words that would make everything better. "I will
try my best... Motoko-san. I will not dishonor you."

With some relief, he realized that she had relaxed a tiny bit, though it
was just a teacup from the ocean. It wasn't much, he knew, but it was
something.

***

Coming home had not been quite as bad as Keitaro had feared. Su and
Sara, not really understanding what was going on were as bubbly as ever,
but that was only to be expected. They didn't give Keitaro the usual
kick, a concession to his broken leg, but they did manage to raise the
volume level of the inn by several decibels. Kitsune and Haruka had
simply given them knowing looks and nodded to each other, as though a
missing piece of a puzzle had just fallen into place.

Shinobu offered them both a big smile, but Keitaro had a feeling that
from the glassy look in her eyes, she was more shocked than anything
else. Keitaro idly wondered if he still had that look.

As for Naru, there was no sign of her. The others seemed to know about
the marriage, so it had to be assumed that she had been there at some
point, though her current whereabouts were not indicated.

Kitsune attempted to throw them a congratulations party, but Keitaro
managed to talk them past it. He didn't feel like getting drunk right
then, and he had a feeling that Motoko would fall apart if she drank at
all. The girl's iron will seemed to be the only thing holding her
together at that point.

Carefully, Keitaro lead Motoko up to her room and saw that she was at
least pointed toward her futon before stumbling his way back down to his
own room. The day's activities had set his healing back several weeks,
at least, and the pain lancing through his leg indicated that he would
be paying a direct price for a few days.

As the fatigue rushed in on him again, he barely managed to collapse on
his own futon before darkness and dreams came up to meet him.

***

In the darkness, Keitaro dreamed of a woman, as beautiful and perfect as
a sunrise smiling at him. She held out her hand to him and he flew
toward her. Even in the dream, his leg was broken, but there he did not
need it.

As he grew closer to that shining female form, he realized that it was
Naru and she was smiling at him. He darted forward to embrace her as
she proclaimed her love for him, but as his arms closed around her form,
she became Motoko instead. Nevertheless, the figure returned his
embrace, warm hands sliding over his body.

The dream became a little too real, and his eyes fluttered open in the
darkness. The feel of hands on his body did not go away, and he
realized that someone was giving him an expert massage. His back
screamed out in relief as some of the day's tension slid away, but he
forced himself to ignore his body's protests and pull away to roll over
and face in the direction of the hands. It was then that he realized
that he was naked and under the cover of the futon. And that he was not
alone. And the person that he was not alone with was female. And the
female person that he was not alone with was also not wearing any
clothes.

In the darkness, he wasn't sure who was in bed with him, and tried to
evade the hands which were reaching out for him. In a small patch of
light that could only be the result of a break in the clouds revealing
the moon, he caught a flash of long black hair and knew that it must be
his new wife. Gulping, he gently took her wrists in his hands.
"Motoko... what are you doing in my bed?"

He hadn't expected a response, so it was all the more surprising when
she spoke. "Ura... Keitaro-san, I am doing a wife's duty." In the
darkness, he blinked. Even though she tried to sound so demure, he
could still hear some of the fire that had been in her voice before
today's battle.

"You don't... you don't have to do that for me. I..." While he had
been talking, he had been paying a little less attention to her hands,
and now one of them had found a rather intimate part of his anatomy.
"Really... you..."

She moved closer to him, and he gulped. With her hand... where it was,
he felt powerless to stop her, though he wasn't certain that he wanted
to stop her. "No..." he gasped out. She slid even closer and her
warmth pressed against his chest His entire body quivered under and in
her hands. "N-no..." he tried again, though it was weaker this time.

Her hands, though inexperienced in the ways of love, were doing magical
things to his body, and his mind fogged over. He felt content to be
lead along by her soft but strong fumbling and whatever she was guiding
him to, but suddenly the fog cleared and he froze. "No." This time, he
said it with force and pushed her away from him and sat up.

She tried to continue her press, but his sitting position foiled the
attempt. He could feel her warmth, but he could also feel her
trembling. She was terrified and crying. He didn't want her like that,
though his body may have disagreed. He was a little surprised that
there was a "like that" qualifier attached to the thought.

"Keitaro... please..." she asked, almost pleadingly. A sob escaped her
lips and Keitaro could tell that whatever impulse or need had been
driving her on had broken.

"Motoko... I..." he began, but there weren't words to express the
maelstrom of emotion that was swirling through his head. She was
apparently determined to follow through with the marriage, no matter
what, but he didn't want his first time to be forced or out of
necessity.

"Keitaro... if I... if I am to live not as a warrior, then make me a
woman..." Her voice trembled and her body against his carried the
quiver. The heat of her form was still stirring up his baser urges, but
this was something too important for him to mess up.

"I... I can't..." he said, his own voice trembling a bit as well. There
was silence for a few seconds, followed by the rustling of cloth.

Another break in the clouds glinted off steel. Thinking that she meant
to end her life, he groped desperately toward the flash he had seen, but
encountered her hands instead, pressing something smooth and cylindrical
into his hand. It felt like the hilt of a knife.

"If you will not have me... then kill me, at least leave me a shred of
dignity in death." She had grasped his wrist between her hands and
placed it above her chest. Unseen resistance on the end of whatever he
was holding indicated that she had probably placed the knife to her
breast.

"No!" he said, forcefully and a little louder than he intended. All the
while, he struggled to twist his wrist free. In her current emotional
state, Motoko clung to his hand tenaciously, but he eventually freed
himself enough to toss the blade aside.

As the knife clattered to the other side of the room he felt Motoko
convulse into full fledged crying. Desperate to keep it from
degenerating even farther, he pulled her to him, cradling her body
against his. Somewhere in the exchange, his body's initial reactions
had faded, leaving him free to hold her and comfort her.

An hour later, he was gently rocking her in his arms, her sobs having
faded slowly.

At long last, she spoke again, her voice a little firmer than he had
heard it so far that night. "K-Keitaro?"

"Hm? Motoko?" The warmth of her body against his was beginning to feel
almost comforting, even if the arousal from earlier had faded. All in
all, it was almost... nice.

"I... I am glad it was you." She shuddered as though it took effort to
make the declaration. "Tsuruko could have... she would have forced me
to marry anyone for failing like that... but you... you are not so
horrible as other men."

Though it was said with all seriousness, Keitaro couldn't help but
laugh. He felt her tense and knew that it was the wrong thing to do.
"Motoko. When we were training to defeat your sister... I have to admit
that the thought of failing did not worry as much as it might have..."

She seemed to relax a little at his words. "I will honor you, my
husband."

"I... I will honor you, as well... my wife..."

The dawn broke shortly afterward, but they were not awake to see it.

END?

Author's Notes: The US translation of volume 9 of the Love Hina manga
was released today, and I picked up my copy straight away. Chapters 72-
74 are some of the most "exciting" in the manga, and I realized that it
was almost required to write a fic about what could have happened. So I
set myself a goal and this is the result. This fic is a complete work
(unlike everything else I've ever done), but that's not to say that I
might not attempt a sequel at some point.

On another note, I wanted to make the woman in his bed Naru, but I
couldn't see it being in character. I just don't think she would
respond that way to Keitaro being married. It would have made for a
much more interesting bit, though. It doesn't take much work to spot
the bit where it could have turned into a lemon, either. But I am
strong in the not-so-dark side of the force. And stuff.

If you are interested in my sources, I used the following for
information on the social and legal aspects of weddings in Japan. It
may be different in reality, and, if so, please send me a note or link
with better info. What I found was sketchy, at best.

Marriage ceremonies in Japan:

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html

Legal aspects of marriage in Japan:



As always, general comments, "I read it, you suck" notes, C&C or just
about anything else is more than welcome. Contact points are
ffml_tim@yahoo.com and fireangel37@yahoo.com. Thanks for reading!