Revision note: The only thing of significance that has changed in this
update is Tsuruko's offer. Feel free to skip ahead if you're read this
before.

Then To Live As a Woman
The First Day
A Love Hina Fanfic
Tim Williams (ffml_tim@yahoo.com or 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. This is the sequel to "To Live Not As a Warrior".

A quick note. I spent some time trying to come up with the most
respectful title a wife could give to her husband. I came up with
shujin-donno which is an educated guess. There might be a better word
than "shujin", or there might be a more commonly accepted form. If you
know of a better one (or can fill me in on how a very submissive,
traditional wife would act), please let me know and I'll change to
accommodate it.

***

Sunlight streaming through the open window touched Keitaro's face and
brought him slowly to wakefulness. Grumbling to himself, he moved one
hand to block out the light and wipe the sleep from his eyes. His lips
were dry, and his mouth offered little moisture for his tongue to rub
across them. He groaned in discomfort, and stretched his back out a
bit, which caused a soft series of pops but no real relief.

//What day is it?// he wondered, the world was a little blurry, and he
didn't quite feel like getting up enough to find get his bearings just
yet. //What time is it?// He ventured opening his eyes enough to peer
through a slit in his fingers at the window. The morning was gone, it
seemed, and afternoon was creeping in. His leg ached terribly. The
triple compound fracture wasn't healing very well, mostly because he
didn't give it much of a chance. Not with all the fighting he and
Motoko had been doing. //Tsuruko is certainly a tough opponent.//

He blinked. //She had been a tough opponent... yesterday... we
lost...// Memories came tumbling back to him and he found more than
enough willpower to sit up. He... and Motoko... and last night...

She was not in the room, which brought him some relief. //Maybe that
was all just a dream... she couldn't really... we aren't really...// As
much as he wanted it to be otherwise, he realized that it could not have
been anything but reality. His questing eyes had finally finished their
scan of the room and his brain finished analyzing the environment for
changes. His room was certainly cleaner than it had been since he could
remember, but it was also more crowded. All of Motoko's things were
arranged neatly to one side of the room and her futon was rolled up near
them. She had definitely been here.

Keitaro took a deep breath and sighed whole-heartedly. "This is a fine
mess," he grumbled to himself. Last night, Motoko had been so
insistent, and he had wanted to oblige her. The memory of her warmth
pressed against him made his skin pebble with gooseflesh. But when he
had balked, she had demanded that he kill her.

No, she hadn't demanded it. She had begged for it.

That made it even worse, in his mind. It seemed that if she couldn't be
a warrior, she had to find some other definition for herself or else
life wasn't worth living. Keitaro wasn't sure what he wanted, but he
definitely knew he didn't want Motoko to die. He was also sure that he
couldn't take advantage of her in her irrational state, even if she was
his wife.

Wife.

The word seemed to almost boom inside his skull, its single, ominous
syllable as frightening as any threat he had ever heard. Somehow, for
all of their inept fumbling at a relationship, he had spent the last
year dreaming about that word in relation to Naru, but now it had bound
him to Motoko, instead. //This... wasn't part of the plan.//

//Wife...//

//Motoko...//

//If two people who love each other go to Toudai together...//

He lay back down heavily. This was all a little more than he could
process. There had to be a way out of the marriage that would please
both of them. //Life can't be that unfair. Can it?//

He laughed to himself. Of course life could be that unfair. He'd spent
three years working like crazy to get into Toudai, and a sizable chunk
of a building had fallen on him as he attempted to attend the welcome
ceremony. For at least three months, he was going to miss classes and
fall behind the other students because of the broken leg he had received
in that incident. Then he had confessed his love to Naru from his
hospital bed only to have her avoid him for a whole two months, and the
next time he got a chance to talk to her, he was instead getting married
to Motoko.

Now he was married to a girl who seemed more than willing to die for
failing to live up to some idealized standard, but appeared to want his
permission to do so. He rolled his eyes and sighed again. "Women!" He
almost growled the word, making it sound like an accusation. In a way
it was, since it seemed to summarize the hell that was his life rather
thoroughly.

"What about us?"

From the drawl, he didn't need to get back up to know that it was
Kitsune who had spoken. He rose anyway, only a little surprised to find
her slipping into his room and closing the door behind her. Pulling a
cushion up behind him, he managed to get into a relatively comfortable
sitting position that allowed him to see her and the rest of the room
without craning his neck. He could have stood up, but without crutches
there didn't seem to be much point to it.

"Everything," he grumbled. The look Kitsune wore spoke as much to
amusement as worry, but both were present, even if not in equal
portions. "What's going on?"

"Nothing... I just wanted to look in on the happy groom and see if he
was still breathing." She smiled a little, though whether at her jest
or something else wasn't clear. "Naru filled us in on the how, but I
have to say that the why is still a little confusing."

"It... it's complicated."

"Fine, but if you don't want to talk, I'll just take my sake and go back
to my room," she said slyly, holding out the bottle she had previously
kept hidden behind her back. "Motoko didn't get to all of my stash, but
it's the survivor till I get restocked."

Keitaro sighed. "Fine, have a seat. I definitely need a drink."

***

Though Keitaro and Konno Mitsune had never been the closest of friends,
his convalescence and her lack of employment meant that they had spent
the better part of a month alone in the Hinatasou during the day.
They'd taken to sharing an afternoon drink together as often as not,
though Keitaro maintained it was for medicinal purposes only.

Today, however, he was as tempted to loose himself in the bottle as she
was. He had just finished recounting the previous day's activities when
he realized what had been bugging him for the last several minutes.
"Say, have you seen Motoko today?"

"Eh?" Kitsune asked, looking up from her drink. She had started a fair
while before coming to see Keitaro, and her cheeks were already flushed.
"Yeah, she was cleaning the hot spring when I came up to see you. Tho'
she didn't want to borrow my maid outfit this time." She winked
mischievously at the mention of it. The clothing in question had caused
no end of trouble the week before and was from that "special" collection
that Kitsune apparently never got a chance to use. Well, not that
Keitaro had ever noticed, anyway.

"She didn't go to school?" He asked it as a question, but he had
suspected it for truth even before Kitsune mentioned it. She was
shaking his head, confirming that his new wife had decided to play
hooky. Of course Motoko wouldn't want to go to school the day after she
got married. Her peers had envied her as a strong, independent woman,
but when news of her current status got out, it would shatter that image
forever. Motoko was a complicated girl, but Keitaro knew that to her
image and reality were often the same animal.

He sighed heavily at the thought. It was almost two in the afternoon,
and there wasn't a lot of time before the other residents of the house
started drifting in. Talking to Kitsune had at least helped him get his
thoughts in order, and the sake had done a lot to relieve the tension he
had been feeling, though he was careful not to get too tipsy.

"Keitaro?" He was startled to realize that her voice was dead serious,
laced with worry. "Motoko is going to be okay, right? If there's
anythin' I can do..." She trailed off as Keitaro nodded.

"She'll be okay. She's just in shock from the fight," he tried to make
the words sound believable, but he knew that it was wishful thinking, at
best. The shock of the fight had been forgotten as soon as the wedding
was over, he would have wagered. "Give her a few days and she will be
back to her old self."

"It's... well... seeing her like this... and last night... it made me
realize..." she leaned in closer as she spoke and Keitaro could feel a
confession of some sort coming up. He gulped as his mind franticly
tried to put together what she was going to say before she said it. Was
she going to try to steal him away from Motoko? Was she- His thoughts
were interrupted as she continued. "If you don't do something soon, I'm
going to have to start sleeping with Su again. And I don't know if my
back can handle it."

Keitaro blinked, his fantasy fading like mist before the rising sun. Of
course, he had experienced the bedtime thrashing that Su could dish out
and understood Kitsune's anxiety. He laughed nervously to cover his
surprise. "Y-yea... I'll try to get it sorted out as quickly as
possible."

***

By some miracle, Kitsune had found a crutch for him that was still
serviceable. The set he had left the hospital on were somewhere in
Kyoto, probably in several pieces. Even if there was only one, it still
made his movements a great deal easier. Hobbling down the hallways and
paths of the Hinatasou toward the kitchen, he was surprised to catch a
faint hint of cooking food on the breeze as he stepped out of the main
building. At this time of day, the kitchen was usually deserted.

Since he had last seen Kitsune heading toward her room, it could only
mean that Motoko was the one in the kitchen. He almost turned around
and headed back inside, but he knew that delaying could only make him
more nervous about eventually talking to her than he already was. He
took a deep breath to calm his already frazzled nerves and limped
inside.

From the doorway to the small dining area before the kitchen, he
couldn't see his new wife. He took the extra moment offered him by the
layout of the kitchen to plan what he was going to say. Motoko was one
of the strongest people he had ever met, but she was also... well,
fragile. He certainly didn't want to let the husband and wife act go
too far, but he didn't dare rebuke her outright. There was a fine line
he would have to tread until she came to her senses.

//If she comes to her senses,// some pessimistic part of his brain
added. His lips twisted in distaste, though even he was not sure
whether it was at the thought itself or at the part of his brain that
added in, //Would that be so bad?//

He couldn't let himself be drawn into that trap now. He had resisted
taking advantage of her a week ago. He had resisted taking advantage of
her the night before. He was going to resist taking advantage of her
now, as well. He nodded to himself as he strengthened his resolve and
took a step forward to look into the kitchen.

During the course of his life at the Hinatasou, Keitaro had seem Motoko
go through an evolution. When he had first moved in, she had hid her
femininity with a religious devotion that few could or would rival.
Through one series of events or another, however, she had gradually
become more feminine to the point that she would actually wear a skirt
without being forced. Sometimes, at least. Today, Keitaro realized, he
may have just seen the next stage in that progression.

Motoko was dressed simply, in the kimono she had been given by her
sister the day before. He had seen her wear kimonos to festivals
before, and always thought they looked good on her, but somehow, today
it was different. //She's certainly become more ladylike...// He'd once
forced her to wear a skirt to make her look more like a woman, and she
had balked. Now he could see that she had been holding something back
before. She hadn't wanted to look like a beautiful woman, so she hadn't
let her resistance go.

For some reason, she wasn't resisting her feminine side today, and it
showed itself in all of its glory. If he had really thought about it,
he might have realized that a traditional beauty such as she looked best
in traditional garb. The attire, in and of itself, wasn't fancy. It
was simple, but it hugged her body well and seemed to fit her as well as
her kendo garb ever had.

When he looked into the kitchen, she was just finishing the arrangement
of a tray of food. She chanced to glance up at the door and caught him
looking in as she was finishing. He realized, in some amazement, that
she had been humming a soft tune to herself while she worked. If she
hadn't stopped upon seeing him, he was certain that he wouldn't have
realized it in the first place. The tray she had been working on, held
a simple, traditional breakfast of miso, rice, and vegetables, much the
same as he had seen her prepare a week before.

Still awestruck by her beauty, he could only stare at her, mouth
slightly open. Motoko bowed a little at him, backing away from the tray
a half step. If he hadn't known better, he would have sworn that she
was blushing. "I am sorry, Shujin-donno, I did not realize that you had
arisen."

Keitaro's stupor only deepened at her humble, self-effacing manner. Had
she really just implied that he were her lord and master? While the
majority of his mind reeled in shock, some part of him realized that if
he wasn't going forward in this conversation, he was loosing ground.
"Motoko... I... you..."

She bowed her head to him respectfully, "Does my husband wish breakfast
at the table or in our rooms?"

"I... here is fine..." he managed. His lack of mental agility almost
resulting in a nasty fall as he forgot to move the crutch instead of his
cast-bound leg. He regained his balance quickly enough that he didn't
think Motoko had noticed and hobbled to the table, still drifting along
on autopilot.

The tray was placed delicately on the table and she laid out chopsticks
for him. She remained there, watching expectantly, until he started to
eat. He wanted to decline, but his stomach rumbled loudly at just that
moment and he knew that a refusal would be almost insulting.
//Besides... I eat Shinobu's food all the time, and that's not taking
advantage.// Consoling himself with that thought, he began to partake of
the meal that had been prepared for him. At first, the actions were
slow and mechanical, but eating alleviated the need for conversation and
soon his brain caught up with current events. //She is a good cook,//
he thought to himself as he finished the meal. //Her recipes are just a
little on the utilitarian side.//

//What am I thinking?// another part of his brain screamed at him. //I
came to diffuse the situation and I end up letting her call me "master"
and cook for me? If Naru saw this she would... she would...//

That part of his mind he had come to hate rang in with the answer.
//Nothing. She would do nothing. She never answered me after the
hospital, and now I'm married. She doesn't care now and maybe she never
did.//

He sighed silently and bowed his head, his eyes closing as the tried to
fight off the headache that was building. A long week was getting
longer. Realizing that he had forgotten the topic at hand, he looked up
just in time to catch the look on Motoko's face before she put back on
her 'contented wife' mask. He really shouldn't have been caught off
guard by the sight of her in the kitchen. He'd lost the initiative and
now had to play catch-up just to stay in the game.

"Motoko..." he tried feverishly to come up with a course of action which
would lead to a productive conversation. "Please... ah... help me back
to my room." It wasn't the most inspired idea he'd ever had, but it
would certainly give him a chance to think and watch Motoko a bit more
closely.

As they walked, he took the opportunity to do just that. Motoko's eyes
were a little puffy, no doubt the result of poor sleep and the weeping
she had done the night before. Not that Keitaro was about to criticize
anyone for either action, since he had engaged in plenty of both in the
last couple of years. She was tired and confused, from what he could
tell. She was acting like a perfect wife, but that may have been only
because she didn't want to have to deal with the real situation.

The walk went slowly. Keitaro didn't mean to drag down the pace as much
as he did, but his injury had definitely been better a week before.
Motoko, for her part, did not complain, and simply matched his pace,
steadying him as he walked. Soon, they were back in his room. //Our
room,// some part of his thought process added.

"Ah... please... have a seat?" he asked, though he had originally
intended it as a statement.

Motoko did, and so did he. She simply folded her hands in her lap and
looked down at the edge of the table, too demure to even look in his
direction, much less meet his gaze.

"Ah... Motoko," he began, barely having any idea of what he was going to
say before it came out. "About last night..."

She broke in as he trailed off. "I am sorry, Shujin-donno, I shall not
act in such a shameful manner again." She was blushing, he was sure of
it this time.

"No. I mean... it wasn't shameful. I understand that all of this is
very hard on you." He drew in a deep breath and looked at her for a few
seconds before going on. "Please, call me Keitaro or Urashima or
something. I am not the kind of guy who needs that kind of deference.

Motoko seemed to hesitate for a moment but nodded her head. "Yes...
Keitaro."

She seemed so resigned about it, he realized. He could probably ask her
to do just about anything and she would without more than a moment's
hesitation. He resisted the urge to sigh, again, though it was strong.
"Motoko... I... I know that everything is different now... and that it's
all been so difficult for you... for both of us. You're acting... I
liked the old you. You know... before..."

Keitaro wasn't sure if she looked relieved or frightened at the notion.
"I... I will t-try..." she stammered, appearing completely unsure of
herself. The contrast between this and her personality before the
wedding was stark.

It was at that moment that he realized that there was no magical fix for
the situation. Whatever had been broken inside Motoko wasn't simply
going to repair itself, and she may never be who she had been before.
Being banished from the Shinmeiryuu had shattered her spirit into a
thousand pieces, and he was going to have to pick them up and try to
make them into a whole unit once more.

They sat in silence for a while, though the gap in the conversation only
got longer and longer. Motoko wasn't about to offer to speak without
being spoken to, and Keitaro was desperately trying to decide how to
tackle the situation. He had to keep up the husband routine, if for no
other reason than it was for her safety.

//Not that I would mind being... you know... but with the old Motoko,//
he finally admitted to himself. He drew a long shuddering breath,
actually blushing at the thought, though it was one he had had before.

The silence was eventually broken when Motoko produced a sheathed blade
from the folds of her kimono and laid it gingerly on the table before
Keitaro. For his part, Keitaro started at the blade for a few moments,
not understanding, then the night before came rushing back to him and he
protested, "I'm n-not going to kill you..."

She shook her head. "I... you say you w-wanted me to act like... like
before," she said as she turned her head to the side slightly. "I don't
know if I can... so much has changed." Keitaro realized with a start
that she was on the verge of tears. "But... I would have you know that
I won't kill myself. No matter how bad things get..."

"Motoko... I..."

"I have always served a blade, it seems," she said with a bitter smile.
Tears were rolling down her cheeks at this point. "If... when you no
longer want me as a wife, just give me back that blade and I will make
an honorable end to myself."

"No!" he said with force and feeling. He came up to a half standing
position as he said it, but couldn't maintain it with his broken leg.
Somehow, he managed to limp halfway around the table to sit adjacent to
her, down the next table edge. "I don't want you to die... ever..." He
took one of her hands in his, and he was surprised to find that he was
also crying at this point. She didn't resist him, and her words seemed
to lend her a little bit of comfort. "So don't talk about killing
yourself anymore... okay?"

She had degenerated to full tears as well and nodded, unable to form
words without her voice betraying her. He reached out and drew her
closer and they sat there, in a heap of sobbing for a few moments. Even
as upset as he was, Keitaro couldn't help but notice how nice she felt
against him, but he quickly pushed aside such thoughts. //Think pure
thoughts, think pure thoughts, think...// he reminded himself, and it
became a mantra. Of the things he was likely to do in the near future,
taking advantage of Motoko wasn't going to be one of them, he decided.

After their initial crying, they stayed in that position for a bit, and
Keitaro was surprised to find Motoko's hands curl up in the clothing
across his chest. She pressed the side of her face against it, as well,
and he had nothing to do with his arms except hold her.

***

Motoko held on to Keitaro for quite a while. She wasn't forceful about
it, but it was clear to him that extricating her would require some
effort. It didn't seem worth it, though, since it was oddly comforting
to him, as well. He inhaled the smell of her hair and something...
stirred. He gulped, but tried his best not to make it any more obvious
than it already was that he was growing aroused.

Feverishly, he tried to think of anything except the matter, and woman,
at hand, but only succeeded in fixating on the feel of her against his
body. //Not good, not good!// he reminded himself.

Fortunately for Keitaro, his door slid open at exactly that moment and
Kitsune poked her head inside. "Eh, Keitaro?" she asked, looking in.
"Oh..." she trailed off as she spotted the two of them.

Keitaro suddenly found himself free of Motoko's clutches as she quickly
went back to a more dignified pose. He could see a blush creeping
across her face, and her hands fretted at the hem of her kimono. It was
almost cute to see her like that. He shook the thoughts from his head
and turned back to Kitsune.

"Y-Yes?" he asked, his embarrassment causing his tongue to flub the
simple word.

"I... ah... someone left some stuff at the top of the steps for you. I
brought it in." She produced a thick leather envelope, almost large
enough to be considered a satchel, and tossed it to him. The weight of
the package was sufficient that it landed only a few feet away with a
heavy flopping sound. "I'll... ah... just leave you two alone..." She
backed out, almost appearing embarrassed at having walked in on them,
though it likely had more to do with the oddity of Motoko's behavior
than anything else.

Keitaro nervously picked up the envelope, noticing that whoever had
addressed it had used only his first name, written in neat kanji on the
front of the package. Breaking the seal, he was surprised to discover a
half dozen scrolls and a small sheaf of other documents contained
inside. The scrolls were each sealed, so he lifted up the sheaf of
papers first.

The title of the first sheet immediately caught his attention and he
gulped dramatically. While he had been consoling himself with the fact
that the marriage had been a thing of tradition only, the document in
his hands was embossed with official seals and carried a title much akin
to "Certificate of Acceptance of Notification of Marriage". He skimmed
the document, barely able to make sense of the words written thereon.

He wasn't quite sure how Tsuruko had managed it, but it was possible
that she had friends in the right places who had helped her get a
marriage declared official without all of the requisite documentation.
It was also possible that documents had been falsified, but petitioning
for an annulment would likely be the last thing Motoko wanted at this
point.

He realized that Motoko was giving him a questioning look, though she
was still apparently in her shell enough not to interrupt his gawking.
"I... we..." he stammered, sliding the document toward his new wife.
She looked it over and nodded, as though it were only what she had
expected. He discovered that the next page was a letter from Tsuruko.

"Keitaro-san,

I trust that this letter finds you and my sister well. This all must
come as a harsh adjustment for the both of you, but I saw the way you
worked together against me and feel that your marriage is not an ill-
fated one.

Though your debt to me has been discharged, I feel that I must ask a
favor. The family line of which I and Motoko are the last descendants
will die out completely with your union, and the Shinmeiryuu may well be
lost or fragmented beyond repair without the Aoyama family to lead it.
I care for the Shinmeiryuu almost as much as my own sister, and wish to
put forth the following offer so that both may flourish.

It is my wish that your family continue the Aoyama line. Should you
choose to learn the way of the Shinmeiryuu, I shall return to the
Hinatasou each year on the anniversary of your union. If I am defeated
by honorable means by the pair of you, then I will stand to certify you
as a master of the school and allow the school to pass on to your
second-born child, provided he or she takes up the Aoyama name. Until
such a time as your child is able to take up the school, my sister will
have to manage the dojo.

If you do not wish this, then I still wish both you and my sister a
happy life together.

Tsuruko"

Keitaro reread the letter a few times, trying to figure out what,
exactly, Tsuruko intended. He had known all along that she hadn't
wanted Motoko to loose against her, especially since she had gone so far
as to tell him outright, and this seemed like it might be a second
chance for Motoko. Or was it?

He would have to set the destiny of his second-born child before his or
her birth, though he wasn't sure destiny was such a bad thing.
Certainly it would give some meaning back to Motoko's life, or at least
keep her from pretending to be his property. He would gladly agree to
do it, if it meant her happiness. It didn't even require him to
relinquish his ownership of the Hinatasou, though he certainly couldn't
manage it effectively from Kyoto, with his own family's business to
consider and whatever career he ended up with on his own... It certainly
seemed like he was going to be in for a lot of work if he agreed.

His true misgivings were about the offer of further matches to become a
master of the Shinmeiryuu. He had seen Motoko's skill and dedication
and knew he possessed neither. Even if he were virtually immortal,
there was no way he could best Motoko's sister in a fight in just a
year's time. He looked up at his wife, who looked down at his glance,
though she had been watching him read intently. He could catch just a
hint of excitement in her expression, and he knew what he must do.

He passed the letter to Motoko, and, as she read, leafed through the
other papers in the stack. The first was a long flowery note informing
him that he had permission to study the Shinmeiryuu school with Tsuruko
as his official master. The second was a similar letter notifying
Motoko of her banishment from the school. Third in the line was a note
very similar to the first which allowed Motoko back into the school, but
only on a provisional basis to train Keitaro, and it also placed Tsuruko
as her official master. The scrolls were charts of techniques and
pressure points suitable for a student of the martial arts.

Keitaro shook his head. Tsuruko was a woman of her word, but she was
also the type to find a way around even the most definitive declaration.
She had seen to it that Motoko was banished from the school, but then
let her back in within a matter of moments. Then she had given him an
impossible task, but completing it would mean he would be able to return
Motoko to her previous status. Doing so would also mean he would be
duty bound to be sure that the Shinmeiryuu dojo was properly cared
for... coupled with his own family obligations, somehow, his dreams of
archeology didn't seem like they were going to come true.

He looked back to his wife and saw that she was crying as she reread the
letter, though they were not the hopeless tears that she had shed
earlier or the night before. At that moment, he knew that what he had
to do. At least, this time, he was sure that he had a choice in the
matter, even if he weren't the type of guy who would ever choose the
other path. //Besides, old rocks are boring, anyway...//

"Motoko... I... will you train me? So I can defeat your sister?" he
asked hesitantly.

He had expected a nod or an agreement. Instead, he found himself
tackled and being given a long, deep kiss. //Salty... she must have had
some of the miso soup earlier...// His mind was, more or less, fried at
that point. He had been kissed by her just the day before, but this
time it was different. For one thing, there wasn't a demonic entity
moving him about like a puppet, and there was no reason outside of the
two of them why it should be happening. Eventually, he just relaxed,
his arms falling lightly around her and did his best to kiss her back.

Since fate always seemed to conspire to ruin any perfect moment Urashima
Keitaro may have ever had, the door to the room slid open a little, as
though someone were seeing admittance. There was a gasp and then the
sound of running feet, which could only indicate Shinobu had seen them
doing what they had just been doing.

Keitaro let the kiss go on for a few more seconds before he could regain
enough composure to break it off and push his wife away slightly. For
her part, Motoko realized what she had just done and blushed a deep
crimson. She lingered for only a moment before sitting back and
climbing off Keitaro. She looked embarrassed, but she wasn't yelling or
crying, which Keitaro decided had to be a good thing. He wanted nothing
more than to kiss her back, but, with the heat of the moment gone, he
wasn't sure it wouldn't evoke a little too much of the old Motoko and
lead to more pain for his injured leg. Besides, Shinobu wasn't handling
the whole marriage situation well. //She's probably just being
overprotective of Motoko,// he decided.

"I should go after her..." he said, rising to find his crutch. Motoko
only nodded, her face still beat red. Apparently she had not intended
to be so forward.

***

Keitaro finally found Shinobu in her secret place among the rooftops.
He was going to greet her, but realized that Su was already present and
that the two were having a conversation. He edged closer, as quietly as
he could with a crutch under one arm and listened in. //Just so I know
what's bothering her,// he assured himself. Though he did have a bad
habit of eavesdropping that often ended in being attacked.

"... not like I ever had a chance. I mean... sempai is always getting
caught in... situations with everyone but me." Shinobu was saying, and
he could tell from the tone of her voice that she had been crying.

"Keitaro is great and all, but I don't know why you're so upset. What'd
he do?"

"He... I... he was kissing Motoko, with his h-hands all over h-her... I
k-know that they're m-married, b-but... I didn't think it was for
real..." she trailed off, sniffling.

"Hey! I know!" Su almost bounced in her excitement, though Su almost
bounces in just about any emotional state, so it was no surprise. "Why
don't you get him to marry you, too? That way you could get all kissy
with him, too."

From his vantage point, Keitaro couldn't see them, but he could almost
feel Shinobu blushing. "We... we don't do that in Japan, Su. Besides,
he still treats me like a kid..."

"Awww... things are easier back home."

Keitaro realized that Shinobu must have a crush on him. It certainly
explained a lot of her behavior over the last year. He also realized
that he was the last person who should be trying to talk her through
this trouble. Shinobu had been right about him being married. Whatever
happened with her, he was sure he couldn't marry her, and if Motoko
regained even a portion of her former confidence, cheating on her would
be as good as signing his own death warrant.

He slipped back inside before he was seen and crept very carefully until
he was well away from the area. He'd just breathed a sigh of relief
when a few paces ahead of him a door slid open, and Naru stepped into
the hallway from the laundry area. She noticed him immediately and made
a small noise similar to "humph" and turned to go the other way.

"Naru, wait..." he began, certain she'd keep walking. He was rather
surprised when she stopped and turned on her heel again. "I... ah...
I'm sorry about everything..."

Naru suddenly smiled at him, broadly. "Whatever for? You don't have to
apologize to me for anything, Urashima-san." The impersonality of her
address stung him even though the words themselves did not.

"I never meant to get married... it was all an accident," he said, but
her expression remained the same sarcastic smile.

"Well, you certainly didn't put up much resistance."

"I... we... Tsuruko's scary..." He had no good excuse that he could
share. Somehow, the fact that Motoko had spent the last two days ready
to commit suicide didn't seem like it was anyone's business except for
his and hers. Well, and Kitsune, but she had just been worried about
Motoko. "Besides, what do you care? You've been avoiding me for the
last two months!"

"You're right. I don't care." She was still smiling as she stomped her
foot, turned and walked away.

Keitaro didn't try to follow her for much the same reasons that he
didn't talk to Shinobu before. He had been convinced he was in love
with Naru, and he still thought she felt something for him. However,
her behavior had never shown it. Besides, unless he found a way out of
this marriage, it was all a moot point.

//Do I even want to get out of the marriage?// some part of his mind
asked. He honestly didn't have a good answer for it. In the last two
days, they had kissed twice, and he could not deny that he felt
something when they did. He watched Naru's retreating back and realized
how much he had missed her for the last two months, but that seemed to
be something that he was going to have to grow accustomed to, if this
meeting were any indication.

He sighed again, realizing the irony that the one girl in the Hinatasou
that he had always tried to avoid was now one of the only two girls who
would still listen to him and seemed to like him. He certainly hoped
that Shinobu came to terms with his marriage and still liked him. He'd
always thought of her as something of a little sister, but that might
not have been an image he would be able to maintain. And Naru was...
well, Naru. Su was still Su, of course, and Sarah was still Sarah, and
Mutsumi was still Mutsumi, though she hadn't been around in a while.
Those three, however, weren't very good with conversations, as a rule.

The only thing that made it seem like a livable situation at all was
that just a year and a half before, having even a single female friend
would have been a daydream. Now he had a fairly good female friend,
provided he didn't trust her too much, and a wife that was beautiful and
intelligent. Even if she was still in highschool.

//Of course, she'll be taking next year's entrance exams... maybe she
could go to Toudai, too...// he smiled at the thought. Maybe childhood
promises were a bit overrated.

***

The rest of the evening passed as well as could be expected. Naru was
nowhere to be found, and Shinobu seemed to be avoiding Keitaro and
Motoko with a similar passion. Kitsune, Sarah, and Su were as jovial as
ever, though it seemed a little hollow without the others around.

Motoko, herself, seemed a changed person since the arrival of the
letter. She'd thrown off the passive persona she had adopted that
morning and returned to some semblance of her old self. After dinner
that night, she had insisted on teaching Keitaro how to hold a blade and
the two of them had hobbled outside and practiced for a little while.
Of course, when Motoko said that she wanted to teach him how to hold a
sword, she meant exactly that. The entire first lesson was devoted to
nothing other than the proper grip and wrist posture. The lesson wasn't
very challenging, but what she could teach him while he had a broken leg
was rather limited.

The sun began to set before the lesson was over, and they walked back as
the fiery orb of the sun slowly sank below the horizon. Keitaro was
exhausted from the practice, and leaning against Motoko provided him the
support he needed to be able to walk. At least, that's what Motoko
assumed the reason was. I wasn't that he just wanted to be close to her
or anything, not that she minded the attention much.

Or maybe it was that he liked being close to her. Some of her old
confidence had returned after the letter and even more as they practiced
that night. While a wife in her family wasn't required to carry on the
family school, neither was she forbidden if her husband was also willing
to take on that responsibility. Her own mother had taught the basics to
the youngest students, herself and her sister included, for years.
Doing so freed up her father to do the more in-depth training that the
elder students required.

Whatever ended up happening, she was sure that Keitaro would not prove a
too bad match of a match. Marriage wasn't always about love, and
traditionally that was even truer. For a while, she had thought that
her life was over, but common sense eventually won through. She started
to remember all of those times that the two of them had grown close and
realized that, just maybe, she could fall for him. He certainly wasn't
a bad kisser. She blushed at the thought of her earlier forwardness,
but smiled a little at the same time.

The sun finished setting just as they entered the Hinatasou and Motoko
helped Keitaro to the men's bath, though she didn't go in. The hot
springs were deserted and she wanted to have a soak of her own before
bedtime, the hot water further serving to wipe away the horrible day
before and the lukewarm ending to this one. She wasn't ready to share a
bath with her husband. At least, not yet.

***

Keitaro sighed as he washed himself. He was sore all over, though his
broken leg didn't ache any more than it had that morning. Motoko was a
good teacher, and quick to adjust for his injury. Having choices seemed
to make Motoko alive again. She was still greatly changed from a week
before, but now he wasn't so sure it was for the worst. She'd thrown
off the "humble wife" act and gone back to at least a semblance of her
old personality.

Somewhere in the transition, though, she had forgotten to be ashamed of
the fact that she was a woman. She was so much softer, so much more
feminine... He sighed again, though this time there was a smile on his
face as he did so. Whatever he had feared the night before, today
certainly hadn't turned out a complete disaster. Aside from Naru and
Shinobu, everyone else just sort of took it all in stride.

He laughed as he realized how well off he had it. He was the owner and
manager of a girl's dormitory, which made just enough money to cover
repairs and keep him fed and offered a place where he could live for
free. He was married to a beautiful woman who didn't seem to mind,
well, not much anyway. Best of all, of course, he had reached his
lifelong dream of becoming a student at Toudai.

There were black patches, of course, the broken leg and Naru's confusing
behavior being near the top of the list, but all in all, life was pretty
good.

After about a half hour of cleaning and soaking of various limbs,
Keitaro hobbled back to his room, only a little upset that he couldn't
have a full bath because of the cast. He laughed softly to himself.
//Maybe when the cast comes off, Motoko and I can really take a bath
together...// Surprisingly enough, even this thought did not cause his
nose to bleed. Apparently, being married gave a man some protection
from such embarrassment.

Returning to his room, he found, with only a little surprise, that two
futons were laid out, side by side. Of course, he remembered, Motoko
was still insisting on living in one set of rooms together. She had
declared that doing otherwise would violate the spirit of her
"punishment", something she was keen to avoid, consider the provisional
return of her training privileges. He had a feeling that she would
still obey any order he gave her, if he insisted, but he wasn't sure
what she'd do if Tsuruko countermanded it. Of course, it was possible
she had ulterior motives at stake, but he doubted it.

Since it was late, he went ahead and laid down on the futon closer to
the door. He didn't really have a "side" of the room, but the only
other time he'd slept with other girls in the room, aside from the night
before, it was the one he'd taken. He had just settled in when the door
slid open again and soft footsteps came into the room, followed by the
closing of the door.

It was dark, but he could just make out the outline of a female form
which slipped around him and into the rest of the room. He didn't roll
over to watch the form, but the rustling of cloth indicated clothing was
being changed. Shortly thereafter, the other figure settled onto the
other bed.

"Motoko?" he asked, almost tentatively.

"Yes, Keitaro?" Her voice was soft and just a little bit drowsy, though
it quite warm, as well. She hadn't spoke to him that way more than a
handful of times since they had met, when he thought about it.

"Did... did I show any promise tonight?" he asked, thinking about the
practice they had been doing earlier in the evening. "Do you think I
can learn enough to best your sister?"

There was silence for a few moments. "I think there is some potential
in you. I believe you will do fine." Her tone was confident, and he
didn't think to ask what type of potential she was talking about until
she was already fast asleep.

END

Author's notes: Hmm... There were some hard decisions in this story.
The letter/package thing I'd wanted to do all along, but it changed a
lot since its initial concept. The timing of it was also a big deal. I
kind of copped out and didn't let the angsty part of the story go on any
longer than it needed to, but I don't like to write angst so much.
There are also the reactions of the other Hinatasou residents to
consider. While it might have been fun to have them react to angsty
Motoko, I think this would just end with Keitaro coming off as a villain
for many of them, which isn't a bad theme, but it wasn't what I was
going for.

As for character reactions... well, this is a relatively long fic so I
can write longer notes. I'll go over it character by character with a
few general subjects thrown in.

Keitaro: He hasn't put up much of a fight on anything that's been
thrown at him. Why? Well, it's complicated. After two months of
avoidance, he was starting to doubt that Naru returned his feelings, and
maybe his own feelings started to fade somewhat. By the volume of the
manga where I diverge he actively wonders about whether or not he would
be happy with Motoko instead of Naru at least twice. It doesn't take
much in the way of plot to make him take that chance (particularly since
they're already married).

Motoko: Motoko is, at the same time, both OOC and IC. The manga
version of her would never do or say most of what's going on in this fic
and the prequel, but the manga Motoko also didn't loose the fight in
chapter 74. She had everything she ever dreamed of taken away from her
and found herself forced to marry at a young age to a man she didn't
hate, but didn't necessarily love, either (I understand this changes in
later volumes of the manga, but it hadn't happened by volume 9, so it
didn't happen in the story). She might have felt some "like" in the
teenage sense (which only makes sense... she is a teenager) for him and
might even have dated him if he'd been interested and asked (circa
chapter 72). What happened to her, though, was traumatic, and robbed
her of her very identity (that of a swordswoman). She coped by
attempting to redefine herself into another role. She tried to become a
"perfect wife" for Keitaro and when she initially failed to complete
part of that, she felt that she had failed again and wanted to die.

To a large extent, Motoko's character is always a struggle between being
a warrior and being a woman. At the start of the manga, she wants to be
one to the exclusion of the other, and while she makes some tentative
steps toward being a little of a woman in addition to being a warrior,
having the one she knows stripped from her (the warrior aspect) and
replaced with only the woman aspect is difficult and leads to the role
she tries to play. This explains why she wants to die, since she had
defined life as two roles, and believes herself a failure at both.

Now, she's somewhere in between. She has a role again, but she is much
more balanced between woman and warrior. And it's possible that she's
discovered some feelings for Keitaro that she was keeping hidden from
herself.

Naru: Naru is complicated. Right now, she is upset and can't do
anything about it. She has to be blaming herself as much as Keitaro for
letting this situation arise. My feel from the manga is that Naru has
three reactions to a turn of events she doesn't like. 1) She hits it.
2) She runs from it. 3) She "kills with kindness", which is really
sarcasm. Option 1 doesn't really apply here, which leaves us with 2 and
3. Some people thought in the first part that she should have stormed
out, but in this instance, I believe she is convinced it's all a huge
mistake that will come crashing down on Keitaro. So she's adopted
option 3, instead.

Shinobu: Poor Shinobu. There's not a whole lot I can do for her in
this fic. She tends to run away from things she doesn't like, but she
has nowhere to run to. She will get over it in time and come to terms
with the marriage, but it won't be easy.

Su: Su is Su. She doesn't have romantic interests in Keitaro, and even
if she did, she'd probably just try to convince him to engage in
polygamy.

Kitsune: I don't know if I wrote Kitsune as very IC or very OOC. She's
both one of the most mature and most immature characters in the manga,
and she puts forth the notion that she would take Keitaro for her own,
if he wanted. She is also quite possibly Keitaro's best friend during
the period where Naru won't talk to him in Volume 9. After looking her
character over carefully, I understand why Keitaro + Kitsune is a
relatively common pairing in fanfiction. In either case, she's very
adult when it comes to relationships and wouldn't be any less of a
friend to him if he were dating/married to someone else.

Sarah: Sarah is Sarah (much like Su is Su). She has no romantic
interest in Keitaro, and I don't know her character well enough write
it, so she fades into the background a lot. Which she does in the
manga, too, so that's okay.

Japanese Marriage: I've tried fairly hard to get the various aspects of
Japanese marriage right. If I've made a mistake somewhere along the
line, please let me know, I'm always interested in learning more. If
you have any good websites on the subject or firsthand knowledge, that'd
be great.

Tsuruko's marriage: It's been pointed out to me that Keitaro's family
has a business that they want him to continue as well. In the original
version of the fic, Tsuruko's deal was for Keitaro to give up his family
name and join the Aoyama, but doing so would lead to him shirking his
own familial obligations and probably he would give back the Hinatasou
as well. In this version the bargain is simpler. By becoming a master
of the school and agreeing to have his second-born (or possibly first
born if it is female, since the Urashima probably care about that but
the Aoyama definitely don't) carry on the school, it seems a little bit
neater. This also makes Motoko into Uruashima Motoko. Why doesn't
Tsuruko simply do the same thing for her child and take the school that
way? Good question... and one I'm considering the possible answers to.
Most likely, through some unfortunate circumstances, she is barren,
making it impossible.

Continuation: Maybe... We'll see. I was trying to write a "one week
later" fic, but it isn't going well. I might back up to the second day
and write from there again. We'll see.

Thanks for reading:

Tim Williams
ffml_tim@yahoo.com
fireangel37@yahoo.com