(Formerly known as A Fragile Love)
Created by: Lonely-Avenger
LOVE HINA is property of Ken Akamatsu/Mixx Entertainment Inc. and is trademark of TOKYOPOP. The purpose of this story is just for writing enjoyment. Elements of the anime described in this story are borrowed and shaped to the writer's interests. All rights reserved.
Ar Tonelico: Melody of Eternia is property of GUST, NIS America, and other respective figures. All rights reserved.
I'd like to to say to the following concerned people:
lighthawkdemon1: I e-mailed you regarding borrowing your story premise in "Family Affairs". You didn't receive it? I've waited for the several past weeks for your reply. Anyhow, major credits for the idea of Haruka's love for Keitaro goes rightfully to you! I deeply apologize for posting the idea without your consent (assuming you still haven't read my e-mail), but I hope this small tidbit of info makes up for it.
This story's initial chapter is dedicated to lighthawkdemon1, for his wonderful Love Hina story "Family Affairs". lighthawkdemon1, if you're reading this, let me know your opinion ASAP!
Aside from him, I'd like to dedicate this story to the many dedicated, persistent, and loyal readers who have unknowingly/knowingly supported me to write on "A Fragile Love". It saddens me to replace the story with this new one, but a new beginning and fresh start is what I need to spruce up my writing once more, despite my hectic present schedule. Without your support, readers, I wouldn't have been able to come up with this new story instead.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Keitaro Urashima, 21-year old manager of Hinata-Sou, grows weary of his managerial duties and seeks a fresh change of life, leaving Hinata-Sou. Taking a 2-year vacation in the USA offered by Seta, he then comes back to Japan as a changed man. Unknown to him, his new self would have a startling effect on many women, especially the Hinata-Sou girls...
Word denotes character thought
Word denotes time and setting
"Word" denotes character speech
"Word" denotes flashback speech
-Word- denotes sound effect
-Word- denotes flashback sound effect
Time: February 14, 2000 AD, 10:00AM
Location: Tokyo International Airport --- Tokyo, Japan
With just a large, black suitcase held by his right hand, which signified his only luggage he carried containing spare clothing and some basic necessities, Keitaro Urashima turned to find himself entering the Arrivals area of the airport, greeted by the sight of other arriving passengers walking past his standing figure. Those passengers hurried to their loved ones who waited behind a short barrier, giving space for other arriving passengers to exit the airport. Letting his dark-brown eyes linger on a happy couple reunited with each other, he couldn't help but allow a small smile trace his lips, which lasted briefly for a few seconds before a pang of sadness shot through his heart.
Did I make a right choice, coming back home? Yet, why did I bother doing so, he asked himself inwardly.
Shaking off his stupor, Keitaro ran his left hand through his short, spiked-up, dark-brown hair while letting out a tired sigh from his lips. Decked in all-white clothing consisting of a turtleneck shirt (worn over by a sleeveless overcoat), battle gloves, belted tight-fit pants, and leather shoes, his clothing style caught some attention of other passerby in the airport, making them raise several eyebrows. The only distinguishable color on his clothing was the black insignia of a cross etched on the back of his sleeveless overcoat, adding a piece of mystery and flair to the former manager of Hinata-Sou.
Despite his clothing taste, it was apparent that Keitaro stood out as a handsome, young man. During his initial years performing managerial duties in Hinata-Sou, he had a lanky, average frame, complimented by a thick-rimmed specs, long dark-brown hair, and simple clothes, making him look more like a "dork" (as Sarah McDougal, his archaeological mentor Seta Noriyasu's adoptive 9-year old daughter, would put it).
Oh how Sarah or other critics who looked down on Keitaro would be proven dead wrong.
If she were there with him, taking a good glance at his improved self now, she'd be awestruck with a gaping mouth and instantly take back her retort.
Despite his short vacation in the USA with Seta, Keitaro took up some time to build himself up physically, chiseling his lanky, average frame into a lean, athletic one. While not mirroring Herculean-proportions, his entire muscles beefed up, and they were just right fit for his caliber. Had he been wearing a muscle shirt, the faint outlines of his four-pack abs and broad chest could make any female droop their tongues, with their eyes tantalizing on his dreamy figure. Gone were his thick-rimmed specs, only to be replaced by comfortable contact lenses, which seemed to give a small bright luster to his eyes. His dark-brown eyes held a hint of clarity and charm, and would be able to mesmerize any unsuspecting female drawn to them. He also towered an imposing 5'10", thanks to his devoted time in exercise and several forms of martial arts.
Much luck goes to the woman who tries earning his heart, though. During his time in Hinata-Sou, Keitaro was unfortunately a victim of circumstance, and cursed with clumsiness, he was often punched, kicked, mauled, socked over, etc., by the Hinata-Sou girls, namely Motoko Aoyama and Naru Narusegawa, who took it upon themselves to view the unfortunate young man as a pervert, whenever catching him in a precarious misunderstanding, thanks to his clumsiness. For both girls, they bore a fiery disposition, sharing a dislike for perverts.
Adding more pain to his fiber was Koalla Suu, who viewed him as a playmate, who often greeted him with jumping kicks to the head, and terrorized him with her bizarre, insane inventions of doom, which showed her intelligence and creativity to measure up to the standards of the most brilliant scientists on Earth.
Mitsune Konno, nicknamed "Kitsune" due to her cunning, mischievous, and playful nature, also found it amusing to tease the unfortunate manager of Hinata-Sou through use of feminine charms, and always found ways to take advantage of Keitaro, mostly for financial reasons.
Fortunately for Keitaro, the remaining girls, Shinobu Maehara and Mutsumi Otohime, were the most tolerable people he could get used to. The former bore a caring personality, who'd often go in the way to help others, taking them in consideration, and retained a certain innocence that sometimes gave Keitaro the impression that she was too kind for her own good. The latter sported an amicable disposition, and seemed to be a very gentle, soft-spoken girl; however, she was stricken with fainting spells and the same clumsiness as Keitaro, having the tendency to fall down, run into things, and landing into injurious situations from which she recovers quickly.
Yet, despite the Hinata-Sou girls' faults, Keitaro couldn't help but appreciate having them in his life. But that didn't stop the repressed pain he held deep in his heart, one that described fear of being hurt by a woman, much thanks to being rejected by Naru, whom he considered as his true love. The sad part of that was that the event took place during the time Naru was rightfully admitted to Tokyo University, the university which he had been aiming to enter, as by abiding the childhood promise he held dearly in his mind, after managing to ace the university's entrance exams. However, Naru flatly turned him down, bothered by the fact that he was considered a 3-time ronin, despite all the hard work and effort he put into studying along with Naru and Mutsumi.
That event harbored him to close his heart. And so, learning from his past mistakes, he warily avoided having a relationship with any woman, except being amicable to family ones, namely his grandmother Hinata Urashima (Hina for short) and aunt Haruka Urashima, and not wanting to experience the same hurt of rejection like before.
Despite this sad fact, Keitaro developed a remarkable gentleness and courtesy in his dealings with women. He wouldn't go that far to disliking and distrusting the fairer sex, but he grew to be a chivalrous opponent, which would make any woman give genuine regard for him.
And thus this trait was now being demonstrated, in the form of Keitaro being suddenly knocked over from behind, catching him off-guard. Regaining balance, he quickly turned around, then seeing a stewardess who was about to fall down, due to accidentally running into him just now. Seeing her fallen form, he dropped his black suitcase and immediately went at her, scooping her fallen form in his arms while making her land on top of him and using his body to cushion her fall instead.
The sudden event startled several passerby, getting their attention, as they watched Keitaro gently leading the stewardess to stand back up to her feet. He then stretched his back, soothing the ache emanating from his fall. Seeing this, the stewardess's eyes widen with alarm, and she bowed at him in apology with an ashamed look on her face.
"Oh, I'm sorry! I hope you're not hurt, sir?" she asked concerned.
Keitaro gingerly rubbed behind his head embarrassingly with his right hand, while giving a small smile, "No, it's nothing. I'm just glad to cushion your fall and see you not get hurt instead."
The remark made the stewardess blush with embarrassment, feeling a bit touched by his concern implied and making her feel warm inside. As she took a good look at the kind stranger who rescued her from injury, her heart leapt up a few beats, and intensified her embarrassed blush.
The curious passerby decided to stop watching them and resumed back to their original tasks at hand.
"Um... miss? Are you alright?" Keitaro asked, waving his left hand up and down in front of the female stewardess's face. Seeing and realizing his action, she quickly shook off her reverie and regained composure, eliciting a gladden smile from the kind stranger.
"Er... y-yes... I'm alright," she awkwardly replied. Before she could speak any further, she felt the forms of two other stewardesses finally running up to her, who also sported the same uniforms as her. Quickly gauging their uniforms, Keitaro surmised them to be her co-workers, apparently working for the same airline he took to get here in Japan. He then shifted his view to the female stewardess he just rescued, then realizing her beauty, prompting him to gaze genuinely at her. Standing a few inches short of him, she sported black hair with twin pigtails, black eyes, and a pleasing mouth.
The stewardess's black eyes met with Keitaro's brown ones, and for a moment she felt she was in another world, quiet and surreal, feeling just her and the kind stranger standing face her. Disappointingly, she was quickly shaken back to reality by one of her co-workers gathered around her, who shook her left shoulder from behind.
"Misha, are you alright? You shouldn't have run off like that!" the co-worker exclaimed worriedly.
"...Oh...! I'm sorry, Aurica..." the stewardess known as Misha replied, playfully sticking her tongue out at her co-worker known as Aurica, who shook her head disappointingly. Amused by their behavior, Keitaro couldn't help but chuckle aloud, catching their attention. As all three female stewardess gazed at him, they were awestruck in sheer fascination, echoing a similar remark shared between them.
He's so handsome...!
Oblivious to their dreamy stares directed at him, Keitaro spotted his dropped black suitcase, clutching it with his left hand, and coughed slightly, covering his cough with his right hand, to get the three stewardesses' attention. At the same time, he noticed the time on his watch worn around his right wrist --- 10:15AM.
"I'm sorry, but I must take my leave now. And also," Keitaro then walked up to Misha and handed back her small baggage trolley she dropped from her fall previously, "this belongs to you. Do take care next time... I wouldn't want to see a lady like you get hurt."
A startled gasp sounded out from Misha's mouth, as she could only nod in reply, before watching her savior bring her left hand to his mouth, kissing the back of the hand. The action elicited a hotly blush on Misha's face, as her lips gaped open surprised, while her heart quickened several beats. Then letting go of her left hand, Keitaro gave a curt nod to her, before turning around and exiting the airport, leaving behind three flustered stewardesses watching his retreating form.
"-Sigh- He's so... dreamy," Aurica commented with a smile.
"Yeah... I know what you mean," Misha added with a dreamy look on her face.
"...He's quite an intriguing man," the third stewardess commented, earning surprised looks from her co-workers, "What is it? Why are you looking at me like that?"
"This is the first time we've actually agreed on something, Shurelia," Misha commented, glancing sideways at Aurica, who nodded in agreement.
The third stewardess known as Shurelia gave a pondered look at her co-workers before tilting her head sideways with her right forefinger on her chin.
"I suppose you're right on that fact, Misha."
Aurica then walked in between her co-workers, grabbing them around their shoulders, "Come on, girls, I know of a good place to eat!"
Ignoring her co-workers' protests, Aurica began dragging them along with her, as they resumed exiting the airport and hailing for a taxi. Along the way, Misha couldn't help but trace the spot where her left hand was kissed by the handsome stranger she just encountered.
I think my day just got brighter for now.
A brief, mischievous smile traced her lips.
After hailing a taxi and hauling his luggage inside, Keitaro was whisked off to his intended destination he stated to the taxi driver, who gave a seconds glance at his new passenger on the rear-view mirror before driving off to his passenger's destination. Within several minutes after exiting the airport, Keitaro's taxi soon proceeded to the ever twisty confines of highways, overpasses, and other stretches of roads before entering the Hinata district, where buried memories of Hinata-Sou soon surfaced about in his mind as he began reminiscing about it.
He was so caught up with his travels in memory lane that he hardly noticed the brief time his taxi finally arriving in front of a tea shop, owned by his aunt Haruka Urashima. Setting the taxi to park, the taxi driver glanced back at his pondering passenger, looking at him with a raised left eyebrow of wonder before deciding to voice out his stop.
"Sir...? Sir...? Are you alright? We're already here where you wanted to go."
With his last thoughts turned to his Aunt Haruka, Keitaro then shook off his stupor and regained his bearings. His ears soon twitched, listening to the taxi driver's words directed at him, prompting him to survey his surroundings. His eyes then stopped at the sight of his aunt's teashop signboard --- HINATA TEASHOP --- before letting a flash of recognition mirrored on his dark-brown orbs. He turned to the taxi driver with a sheepish grin, startling him.
"I'm sorry. I was just thinking lots of things. I'll get my luggage off first."
Keitaro gingerly exited the taxi, before motioning the taxi driver to open the car trunk, allowing him to collect his only luggage. Fishing out his wallet from within his overcoat, Keitaro paid the taxi driver with a hefty sum, more than the stated fare measured by the taxi's meter. The taxi driver looked alarmingly at the payment he received then back at his passenger.
"T-This is twice more than the meter says, sir! This is too much!" he protested. Deep down though, he was looking forward to receiving a tip at least from this passenger, but wasn't expecting a hefty sum nevertheless.
"Think of it as something extra for your services. Besides, I think you deserve it. I know the life of a taxi driver isn't an easy one, that's for sure. So, keep the change," Keitaro shook his head in disagreement, slowly pushing back his payment to the taxi driver with his hands, who could only accept it and smile in resignation. He pocketed the money in the front left pocket of his white polo.
"Well... thank you, kind sir. This is actually my first big tip I've got all day," the taxi driver commented wryly.
"Don't mention it," Keitaro replied, then curtly nodding at the taxi driver before turning around, walking to the front door of his aunt's teashop. He didn't bother watching the taxi driver bowing thankfully at his retreating form, before climbing back inside the taxi and driving off, searching for a new passenger to take in.
Stopping at the front door of his aunt's teashop, Keitaro took a deep breath before reaching his right hand to knock at the glass-covered door, declaring his presence to be known. As he knocked, he noticed the "SHOP CLOSED" sign hanged in view from the other side of the glass-covered door, making him raise a left eyebrow in interest.
How could she close up her teashop at this early hour? Well, that explains why there were no customers found here at the first place when I peered through the door.
After several knocks, he decided to open the door, pushing it, and much to his surprise, actually opened, allowing him to enter inside.
I better remind Aunt Haruka to double-check on locking this door next time, he reminded himself, as he decided to enter inside the teashop without waiting for his aunt to answer the front door.
"No, this won't do... -Sigh- If this continues, I'll have to lay-off one or two workers in the teashop..." Haruka Urashima commented to herself, as she placed her pen down on her personal desk in her office situated upstairs in the second floor of her teashop. Taking a deep breath to calm herself down, she looked at a small photo of her and her beloved nephew rested on her desk. Her marigold eyes shimmered slightly as they loomed in the image of her nephew, whom she cherished deep down.
Despite her stoic nature and not being much of a social person, which resulted in her making few friends, Haruka is still considered very beautiful, lingering in an age of 25 years. Having owned her own small business successfully, the Hinata Teashop, she's quite an independent woman. On a whimsical note, these small facts help make her shine, possibly attracting potential bachelors to her fancy.
However, there has always been one man for her... one man who she has always loved with every fiber of her being. And thus lies the problem and the source of her inner turmoil which she has been experiencing since she first laid eyes on him.
Keitaro Urashima, her 21-year old nephew.
Author's Notes (A/N):
Flashback timeline: 1979 AD
Birthdates of the Urashima family line:
1st Urashima Hierarchy:
January 1, 1934: Keisuke Urashima (45 years, father)
May 16, 1935: Hina Kea (44 years, mother)
2nd Urashima Hierarchy:
February 14, 1975: Haruka Kea Urashima (4 years, daughter)
February 15, 1959: Keiu Kea Urashima (20 years, son)
--- May 3, 1960: Miki Asami (19 years, daughter-in-law)
--- January 1, 1979: Keitaro Asami Urashima (newborn, grandson)
Time: January 1, 1979 AD, 6:00AM
Location: Tokyo Medical Center --- Tokyo, Japan
Haruka was 4 years old when she first laid eyes on him.
Her parents took her to see the baby boy, who was starting the journey of his life. He was currently in his mother's arms, with his tiny dark-brown eyes blinking at the people gathered around his mother's bed.
"He's so cute! He has the color of your sister-in-law's eyes, though he takes his look from your brother, don't you think, Haruka?" Hina Kea Urashima asked her daughter, who looked curiously at the baby.
"Yes, mama, he looks like brother Keiu," Haruka replied, nodding to her mother.
"Congratulations, son! What this bundle of joy's name?" her father, Keisuke Urashima, asked his son Keiu Urashima (Haruka's older brother), who was beaming with joy at his baby. He and his wife locked eyes with each other briefly before he replied.
"His name is Keitaro. It was Miki's idea from the start. He looks a bit more like his mother," Keiu commented, letting his right pinky finger for his baby boy's small hands to grasp. The baby gave a small gurgle before staring at his mother, who slowly cradled him into a lullaby.
"Our Keitaro looks like an angel, darling," Miki Asami Urashima smiled to her husband.
As Haruka gazed at the baby, she couldn't help but felt an attraction from those two dark-brown orbs that exalted care, happiness, and love. There was something she wouldn't make of them until she grew older. She watched as those said tiny eyes slowly closed, signifying that the baby was drifting into slumber.
Time: March 1, 1992 AD
At 17-years old, Haruka underwent through her High School years. However, it became apparent that she felt a long distance between her and him.
The years went onto her senior year. Her academic performance was superb, maintaining grades of A's in her subjects.
Nevertheless, she would always find time now and then to visit him, staying by his side. Annoyed by being addressed formally by her cherished love, she reminded him to address her by her first name instead, despite being 4 years older than him. At first he was awkward about it, but as her visits to him continued, he learned to accept it, and grew to be comfortable around her.
Time: April 9, 1996 AD
At 21-years old, Haruka took up a 4-year course in Business Management at Tokyo University. The university had high regulations and standards that she at first made a mediocre performance --- the most she could make was passing marks of 4.0. Thoughts of switching colleges and courses crossed into her mind, as she felt hope draining from her within each poor performance.
At that same time, she'd feel a constant akin to jealousy of other young, pretty girls who would spend time with Keitaro.
One time at a friendly neighborhood gathering in the Urashima residence, she noticed a 14-year old girl, who was a good friend and next-door neighbor, innocently sharing a happy time with him, talking and holding hands. Haruka couldn't help turn a blind eye to this while she secretly watched on the scene. With her heart and mind being filled with envy and jealousy, she had reached the limits of her patience, unable to watch any longer. Thus she quickly rushed towards the girl, shoving her off the chair she was sitting on. At that moment, her mind instantly cleared, as she then realized her action before she fled into the kitchen with embarrassment, leaving the rest of the Urashima family and their invited neighborhood to stare at her retreating form with disbelief and wonder.
Concerned for his friend shoved off from her seat, Keitaro helped the fallen girl up, while wondering what made his aunt do something careless.
"Are you okay, Azusa?" he asked his friend.
The said girl dusted herself off and smiled, before resuming her seat.
"I'm fine, Keitaro. But why did your aunt pushed me just now?"
"...I don't know. But she was acting strange back then. I'm sorry for what she did to you just now."
Standing alone behind the kitchen door, Haruka wondered to herself, placing her hand over her beating, troubled heart.
Why did I just do that? Was I so jealous of that girl spending time with my Keitaro?
A blush sprang forth on her face as she realized the way she was addressing her secret love, like he belonged to her. Deep down, she was afraid of those feelings developing inside her, and she'd use every ounce of willpower to maintain her self-control when dealing with Keitaro.
It was then she realized... it was love.
But hurtful truths regarding incest within the family posed as a serious obstacle she dreaded. Pushing those conflicting thoughts aside, she tried her best to fend off possible romantic interests who confounded their feelings for her nephew.
Despite that incident, memories of him kept her going. She found a ray of hope and inspiration drawn from her love for him, enabling her to progress forward. The 4 long years of study finally paid off, and she graduated with full marks of 1.0, gaining recognition as valedictorian and part of the dean's list from her batch.
That would be a happy start of her adult life.
However, a part of her heart was afflicted with sadness, as she realized she'd never see her nephew again. She sent him her last set of letters, keeping in touch with him for the last time. In those written letters, she poured out all her feelings for him in each word, though not actually confessing to him that she loved him not as an aunt, but a woman.
Time: May 31, 2000 AD
Haruka then decided to explore her horizons, by traveling to the US at a best friend's request after her college graduation. Her best friend, Jessica MacDougal, was a cheery, spirited woman who had a 7-year old daughter named Sarah MacDougal. She worked as an archaeologist in California University. Jessica, a fellow archaeologist, introduced Haruka to a co-worker, Seta Noriyasu. She instantly became interested in him due to his likeness of her first love. Seta's behavior was calm and peculiar; nevertheless, he was devoted to his career.
But as several months past on, he liked both women; unfortunately, he couldn't make up his mind to choose who. So, he made a promise to both that when he turned 30-years old, he'd marry who he selected.
Alas, it was also the time when tragedy struck. While on a routine expedition dig, Jessica suddenly collapsed unconscious. After being rushed immediately to a nearby hospital, the doctor confirmed she had contracted a fatal virus that weakened her immune system gradually.
"I'm sorry… but she doesn't have long to live. I'd give her a month," he guiltily replied, shocking Haruka, Sarah, and Seta.
"Impossible… I always figured she be cautious on wherever location she selects for the expedition dig," Seta adjusted his eyeglasses, with a twinkle of light reflected from its lens. He took the news carefully with a passive face, which hid his shock over the grave news of his loved one.
"I've already run tests on her... I'm afraid there's no possible cure for her condition. Her illness is considered one of the few diseases with little chance for a cure. I apologize for pouring out this disheartening news, but I'm stating the facts. Well, you may see her now," the doctor bowed to them, before excusing himself to see his next patient.
The three related people stepped into Jessica's room to find the said woman sadly smiling at them. She had lost little weight, but her complexity was surprisingly maintained.
"-Cough- -Cough- I'm glad you came. The doctor filled me in on my condition. It looks like I had gotten careless in the midst of my work," she spoke. She saw her daughter clasping her hand over hers.
"Mommy… -Sniff- -Sniff-," Sarah couldn't help but cry. Her mother ruffled her hair and wiped off her tears. She laughed a little, seeing how her daughter was a mirror image of her younger self --- long, blond hair, purple eyes, and bright peach skin.
"Don't cry, Sarah. Sometimes life can be cruel without you knowing it," Jessica kissed her daughter on the forehead. She shifted her gaze at Seta, who was being himself, "Seta, please take care of Sarah for me."
The fellow archaeologist nodded his head in reply, then clasping his hand over hers.
"Don't worry, Jessica, I promise you that. Excuse me, Haruka?" Seta turned facing the stated person, "can you take Sarah with you outside for a moment? I'd like some time alone with Jessica."
The female Urashima sighed, looking at the two important people in her life.
She gently led Sarah to come with her, exiting the room.
15 minutes passed in the hallway outside Jessica's room where Haruka and Sarah sat down in nearby hallway seats, waiting. Haruka took out a pack of cigarettes from her pants' pocket. She took a cigarette out from the pack and lighted it with a lighter. Putting the pack back in her pocket, she smoked a whiff of it, blowing out a puffy ring of smoke.
Jessica... why did this have to happen to you?
She patted the young MacDougal's shoulders, comforting her.
"Don't worry, Sarah, your mother's strong. She'll fight till the very end."
Sarah embraced her with a sad, teary face.
"Thank you, Aunt Haruka."
Jessica's door opened, with Seta stepping out. He motioned the female Urashima to him.
"Haruka, Jessica wants to see you now alone."
"Alright, I'll go see her," Haruka replied with a nod, before snubbing her cigarette out in a nearby garbage astray and breaking her embrace with Sarah. Stepping past Seta and inside Jessica's room, she took slow steps approaching her best friend's bedside. She drew a chair nearby for herself to sit on.
Jessica sadly smiled at her, placing her hand over hers.
"Haruka… it seems that fate has suddenly become unlucky for me. But, it doesn't matter to me anymore. I'll always enjoy my line of work."
"Jessica… I'm sorry this had to happen to you. I was shocked when the doctor informed me of your condition."
"Yes, maybe Seta was right, I've been too focused on my work that I hardly give notice to myself. But that plant sure looked very suspicious back there in the expedition. I was careless."
"It's not like you to blame yourself. Put aside your worries and try to get some rest. Save your strength."
"-Giggle- You always have that stoic look on your face whenever you show care and concern to others."
Haruka smirked at her best friend's remark.
"Well, is there anything you want to talk about? Now would be a good time."
"Yes, I have. Haruka, I'm not asking much, but can do you me a favor when I'm gone?"
The female Urashima squeezed affectionately her best friend's hands as she nodded in reply.
"I want you to find your own happiness in your life."
"W-What do you mean?"
"Well… before this happened, I began to notice you having a sullen disposition, as if you're not sure with what to do in your life. It became evident when you shared with me about your first love, wasn't it?"
"-Giggle- Come on, don't be surprised. It looks pretty obvious to me."
Haruka looked away from Jessica, embarrassed. Well, she was her best friend after all during her college years, and she trusted her well enough in confiding her secrets. But she was annoyed and embarrassed now that Jessica brought that issue up in her stricken condition.
"Haruka… I know this might be a bad time to bring that up, but I just want to help my best friend, who seems to be in trouble."
"-Sigh- Jessica… I'm not sure with what to do in my life," Haruka looked back. Jessica released her hand from her grip and patted it gently.
"Haruka, we all have something to deal with in our lives. But sometimes, not doing anything about it will only make it burdensome and worse for you to bear. For example, I raised Sarah all by myself especially with her father who ran off on us, not to be seen again. Sure it was hard and painful, but as time passed by, I learned to get past it."
"But Jessica… this is different. Can you not see a natural law that forbids incest happening within the family --- even when my first love happens to be the son of my 38-year old brother? Despite my love for him, I just cannot put it aside."
Jessica shook her head in disappointment.
"To me, I think it's a wonderful thing. Sure it's shocking and strange at first, but there can be something special about to happen. Love knows no boundaries, as my psychologist mentor told me a long time ago."
"Haruka, you should at least give it a try, or you'll never know if you don't. Please promise me you'll do it. I never want to see my best friend hurt in any way."
Haruka glanced back at her best friend's piercing eyes, which showed concern.
"-Sigh- Alright. I promise."
After that, Jessica MacDougal fought hard to live. With love and support from her daughter, Seta, and Haruka, she found the strength and will to fight her stricken condition. Chemotherapy was offered to her to help, but she declined, fearing its effects altering her body. Her doctor was also astounded by her will to live on until the end.
Because of this, Jessica got to enjoy some cherished and happy moments in her last days of life. She spent important times with her daughter, teaching her life's lessons.
After a year, the disease eventually took over, claiming her life. Her last wishes were for her body to be cremated, and her ashes scattered over her birthplace --- San Francisco, California. Seta followed and respected her wishes, and did as instructed.
Her family --- Sarah, Seta, and Haruka --- paid their respects and wishes. Fulfilling his promise to her, Seta adopted Sarah as his daughter, and took her to live with him in his archaeological travels.
At 25 years old, Haruka decided to fly back to Japan, in order to get over her best friend's passing. Her mother, Hina Kea Urashima, was looking for a manager in an all-girls' dormitory she had been running for the past 20 years, known as the Hinata-Sou. Haruka genuinely accepted the position and began her managerial duties.
Within a month, the first six tenants signed in --- Naru Narusegawa, Mitsune Konno, Motoko Aoyama, Koalla Suu, Shinobu Maehara, and Mutsumi Otohime. Each girl had unique personalities to boot at first glance. Nevertheless, Haruka laid down the rules and conditions for them.
A problem arose in the form of the dorm's rent. Monthly, it was estimated at Y 62500 (USD 500), with a yearly cost of Y 750000 (USD 6000). The first few months were covered by her parents; unfortunately in the following months, they couldn't generate more money to cover the rent, and all their remaining finances were their retirement funds.
And so, Haruka took upon herself to rent a suitable building a few blocks from the dorm and turned it into a teashop. It became an instant success a week later after its opening. Many residents in Hinata district flocked inside daily, generating enough revenue to pay for the succeeding month. She hired suitable workers to maintain the shop.
Reminiscing made Haruka glance at another small photo of her with Seta and Sarah MacDougal, with all three of them posing happily for the picture.
Jessica… finding my own happiness is hard for me now.
She stood up from her seat and headed downstairs to the kitchen, making herself a cup of tea to sooth her worry. She took a chair offered and was about to drink her now made tea when she heard loud knocks from the door. She sighed inwardly, annoyed to have her private time interrupted, before reluctantly getting up from her seat and walking to the front door, which was locked, until she heard footsteps entering inside the teashop.
"Huh... I could have sworn I locked the teashop," Haruka muttered to herself with alarmed eyes. Seeing no reason to cry over spilled milk, she took a mental note to double-check locking up the teashop next time. She gingerly took out a baseball bat stashed behind the kitchen door, readying it for a possible intruder, though she doubted that there'd be any object of value to be stolen from the teashop in the first place, unless it was petty cash.
As she entered from behind the counter, a scent from the would-be intruder reached her nose. Her body naturally shook up in remembrance. The scent was laced with a particular brand male cologne, but her nose acutely zeroed in on the husky fragrance she'd come to love from her beloved.
I-I-It can't... be... is it really... him?
She soon got her soon answer enough as she stopped in her tracks, glancing up to find Keitaro staring at her with a wide smile. Haruka's heart leapt up a few notches as she laid her eyes on him, finding her beloved to be surprisingly more handsome than she remembered from her last meeting with him two years ago. She found her breath clogging up her throat, until she could barely stammer a greeting.
Keitaro set down his black suitcase on the floor, before walking slowly up to her with his smile still intact.
"Hello, Aunt Haruka. I'm back."
Ar Tonelico: Melody of Eternia - Aurica Nestmile, Misha Arsellec Lune, Shurelia
(For Shurelia, I'm still coming up with a favorable last name, since it's clearly stated she doesn't have one in the PS2 game. Any suggestions, readers?)
Exchange rate of Japanese Yen to US Dollar --- 125 Y to 1 USD (personally suggested)
I plan to include some girls I've recently encountered in video games and other sources, aside from other anime series. I'll be coming up with a list of potential love interests for Keitaro, apart from just the Hinata-Sou girls. This prologue is just the beginning of this experiment.
As you all probably surmised from my post (check the 'reviews' link), dated February 28, 2007, I've now rewrite "A Fragile Love" into this new story instead, induced with a fresh plot, cast of characters, and other significant details. You'll notice that all the chapters of "A Fragile Love" are deleted, and replaced by this new story's ones instead.
So, with that said, I'd like to say to you readers to send in your reviews of any kind! Without feedback, I won't be able to continue writing this story (and fearing my laziness would take over once again, leaving me no writing enthusiasm!).