Changed Leaf

(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.


AUTHOR'S NOTE (May 10, 2007)

Finally, I managed to come up with this big update, and it has taken me weeks racking up my brain in constructing the chapter's plot flow, and also formatting it right.

I apologize for the unusual and late times of the story's updates, but time in my OJT has taken its toll on me now and then, and I sometimes resign myself to the seductive lullaby of sleep.

But still, I persist in continuing this story. I'm afraid the story's flow will come slow in upcoming chapters, so I'm experimenting with several ideas involving characters from various video games I've played. If you're asking if this story will turn out to be a crossover, then yes it will be, but not a massive one as dreaded.

As always, readers, reviews are much welcome. Any questions to be addressed will be answered in the next chapter.

With that said, enjoy the chapter!




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...



Chapter 3: Cleaning House

Word denotes character thought

Word denotes flashback speech

Word denotes time and setting

"Word" denotes character speech

-Word- denotes sound effect


Time: February 14, 2000 AD, 3:35 PM

Location: Hinata-Sou; Hinata District, Japan

Fear was something Shinobu rarely encountered; save for a memory of her parents' unhappy divorce (which eventually landed her living as a tenant in Hinata-Sou two years ago), she wasn't one to dwell in negative emotions more than normal like the average person.

But unfortunately, the shy, timid girl found her self standing rooted to the floor of Keitaro's temporary room by a cold gaze directed from her crush's twin dark-brown eyes, as he quietly approached her with threatening weapons in hand. Shinobu's thoughts ran wild as she tried coming up with a better explanation for her crush's peculiar behavior.

What's he going to do with those swords? Why is he looking at me like that? He's scaring me…

"Shinobu…" Keitaro uttered to the said young girl, as he stepped closer to her with both his sheathed nodachi in hand.

Despite her body's natural instinct telling her to flee immediately, Shinobu mustered little courage to stay put and see what her crush intended to do to her.

"S-S-Sempai…?" she stammered.

Before he took the last step to close the small distance between his self and Shinobu, Keitaro narrowed his gaze at her, scaring the young girl more, before he uttered something off-guard to her.

"Get down!" he commanded, then turning his cold gaze to the empty space of the hallway behind Shinobu and instantly rushed forward.


Obeying his command by reflex, Shinobu barely brought herself falling hard to the oak-polished floor of her crush's temporary room while using her hands to soften the impact and covering above her head after. She then turned around and glanced up, seeing a black-cloaked figure appearing instantly before her eyes and wielding wicked, twin curved daggers that popped out from within the figure's long sleeves. The figure poised for the kill, directing its focus on the defenseless Shinobu; however, it hardly had a second to attack when its form was quickly stabbed through the heart by Keitaro's twin nodachi.


At the next second, Keitaro pulled out his twin nodachi from the black-cloaked figure's stabbed chest and delivered an x-shaped slash at the same time, cutting open its dark clothing slightly and revealing a faint, red-traced x marked on its entire chest.


The black-cloaked figure and Keitaro stood eerily still, with the latter then taking a step back and shielding the defenseless Shinobu for an attack from the former.

A startled gasp sounded from Shinobu as she witnessed a mysterious black-cloaked figure being killed in an instant by her crush before her eyes. Her eyes widened further upon seeing the black-cloaked figure suddenly dropped its twin curved daggers and crumbled to the floor back first.


Needless to say, Shinobu was instantly shaken by her wits; feeling her body course with shock, she did the only natural thing she could do in a life-threatening situation such as this.

She screamed.

Slightly shocked by her outburst, Keitaro proceeded to gather the frightened girl in his arms and comfort her. Unbeknownst to him, his senses were too focused on Shinobu, while not detecting another black-cloaked figure appearing instantly in view from behind him with twin wicked, curved daggers in hand and poised to deliver the fatal blow to the former female dorm manager.

"Shinobu, it's okay, you're safe," Keitaro cooed the said frightened girl, kneeling down next her and about to gather her in a protective embrace. As she broke off eye contact with her crush in her frightened state, she then noticed another black-cloaked figure sneak up on her crush from behind. Her eyes widened alarmingly.

"KEITARO-SEMPAI!" she screamed.


A loud shriek of the former dorm manager's name being called sounded from upstairs, catching the attention of the other occupants gathered in the living room downstairs. They instantly stood up from their seats in alarm.

"What was that scream just now?!" Mitsune asked, feeling the hairs on her skin stand up.

"…Was that Shinobu? Has something happened to her?" Haruka wondered aloud. Before the group of females could proceed forward to investigate, they suddenly found themselves surrounded by black-cloaked figures, which instantly appeared out of thin air like ghosts. The figures drew out twin curved daggers from within their black sleeves, brandishing them in view.

Alarmed by the sudden appearance of intruders, Motoko hustled the rest of the girls in a protective circle sticking close to each other and unsheathed her samurai sword, Shisui. Taking up a battle stance, she darted her eyes from left to right, quickly gauging her opponents.

"Intruders… but how did they get inside here instantly?" she muttered to herself. Her senses kicked up high upon detecting the level of the unknown intruders' ki, or spiritual energy. Her eyes narrowed alarmingly as she felt a menacing surge emanating from the unknown intruders.

They wield such a dark strength… like they were tainted by evil… are they assassins?

"Whoa… what the heck is going on? Who are these creeps?" Mitsune asked confusingly the female swordsman of the group and standing close next to her right side. She felt her right arm being gripped tightly by Naru, who had her own right arm held tight by a frightened Suu. Haruka outstretched her arms acting as a shield to cover the ambushed group of females.

"Uninvited guests, to put it simply, Mitsune," Haruka replied, eyeing the unknown intruders warily. She assumed a fighting stance, which surprised everyone in the room off-guard. The black-cloaked assailants tensed up immediately, gripping tightly their drawn weapons.

"Haruka-san… you can fight?" Motoko asked with a raised left eyebrow, glancing at the female Urashima from the corner of her left eye.

Haruka smirked in reply, but inwardly, she reprimanded herself, having felt insecure on her minor fighting skills.

I just hope I can still remember some of the basics father taught me.

The fact of the matter was that Haruka could fend for herself, strictly speaking in terms of basic fighting skill. During her teenage years, she was taught a self-defensive fighting style by her father, Keisuke Urashima, who dubbed it "Urashima Style". As the name obviously suggests, emphasis was placed basically on the importance of self-defense and non-killing. Despite the strict forbidding of killing, the fighting style was considered formidable by those unfortunate to cross its path.

For Haruka, she learned the basics of her family's fighting style, and in no time was able to grasp quickly. To her father, she was deemed to have a huge fighting potential, and wanted to personally continue her training. But unfortunately, Haruka shown no further interest in developing her family fighting style, and was only content in learning the basics enough to defend herself.

The female Urashima didn't have the faintest idea to instantly recall her training until she found herself immersed in a threatening situation happening to her now.

"…Interesting… the Urashima and Shinmei-Ryu styles… this is delightful," commented the black-cloaked assailants' leader as he stepped forth with folded arms, appearing out of thin air like his cohorts. The females in the room were startled by his appearance, while the battle-ready ones (namely Haruka and Motoko) steeled themselves for battle.

"What's your business here in Hinata-Sou?" Haruka questioned coldly.

The assailants' leader chuckled slightly underneath his mask and extended his gloved right hand in a mocking gesture at the surrounded females, "Keitaro Urashima is marked for death by my superior. But," he paused, taking a second's glance at Motoko and suddenly eyed back Haruka with a deadly glint in his eyes, "I'm afraid I can't allow you all to bear witness to his demise. I'm merely following orders."

"What has Urashima to do with you people?" Motoko demanded an explanation from the assailants' leader, who didn't bother to reply. Instead he snapped his right fingers, signaling his cohorts to attack. Before they could close in for the kill…


Suddenly a dead body of one of their comrades was flung hard from upstairs and crashed down to the living room like a rag doll before coming to a complete stop with a sickening thud. Judging from his hunched up form, his neck seemed snapped, while a menacing x-shaped wound was etched on its chest and its front clothes cut open.

The surrounded Hinata-Sou ladies gasped shockingly at the sight.

The assailants' leader narrowed his gaze at his subordinate's dead body. He motioned two of his cohorts in the living room to examine their fallen comrade's form, but paused alarmingly at the sound of footsteps coming downstairs. Instead the leader directed his selected cohorts to the supposed arrival. At his command, they withdrew from within their cloaks two pairs of large, sharp shuriken and poised waiting to hurl them at the unfortunate target… who happened to be Keitaro.

"…What the…?" he mouthed as he stepped down on the living room floor, appearing in plain sight. No sooner had he uttered his words when four pairs shuriken instantly latched onto him --- one on his forehead, two on his chest, and one on his right thigh --- killing him.


The former dorm manager staggered shockingly like a drunkard before his form collapsed to the floor, lying back first.

"KEITARO!" the surrounded Hinata-Sou ladies exclaimed horrifyingly. Their impulse to run to Keitaro's fallen form was cut short as their unknown assailants surrounding them inched closer, immediately stopping them in their tracks. Tears slowly poured from their eyes as they stood helplessly, witness the demise of the former dorm manager.

The assailants' leader shook ruefully his head before shrugging his shoulders, "Tsk, tsk… not how I quite envisioned his demise, but this will do. You've gotten careless, Keitaro Urashima."

"You bastard…!" Haruka cried out angrily while clenching her hands into shaky fists.

"You'll pay for this outrage!" Motoko chimed, sharing the same feeling and gripping Shisui tightly.

The assailants' leader turned his attention back to the surrounded Hinata-Sou ladies, eyeing them nonchalantly. Placing his hands behind his back, he concluded, "You shall all join him very soon, I guarantee that. Eliminate them."

Giving his command to his cohorts, the leader stepped back, awaiting the impending slaughter of the surrounded Hinata-Sou ladies. As the rest of the assailants closed in for the kill, their two shuriken-wielding comrades joined in the fray.

Turning their backs to Keitaro's fallen form, they suddenly felt another presence stepping in between them and pushing them slightly aside.

Their eyes widen at the sight of their dead comrade (who was previously thrown downstairs like a rag doll) standing upright before them. The next moment they were instantly stabbed through the heart by their dead comrade, who used his dual wicked-looking daggers to do the deed, not bothering to look back and leaving his weapons embedded in place.


As their crumpled forms crashed loudly to the floor, alerting everyone's attention, the 'dead' assailant flexed his hands. The assailants' leader stared disbelievingly at his supposed 'dead' subordinate then down to his shuriken-wielding subordinates now killed instantly out of the blue.

"H-H-Holy… what the hell…!" Mitsune stammered, pointing a shaky right forefinger at the 'dead' assailant.

"Wasn't he like… dead… just now?" Naru spoke to herself with a twitching right eyebrow. Scared and clutching her by the waist close like a teddy bear, Suu couldn't help but stare curiously at the 'dead' assailant standing before her.

"…I find this quite hard to swallow," Haruka commented with her usual stoic face.

"I agree with you there, Haruka-san," Motoko added.

"Impossible… what manner of trickery is this?" the assailants' leader wondered. Shaking off his disbelief, he angrily gestured two of his remaining cohorts surrounding the Hinata-Sou ladies, "You two! Finish him off now!"

Obeying his command, the two selected assailants charged at their 'dead' comrade with their wielded dual daggers in hand.

Sidestepping a rushed thrust aimed for his heart, the 'dead' assailant right-kneed hard the first assailant's stomach, forcing him to stagger down while grabbing hold of his right arm. Seeing the second assailant coming at him from the corner of his left eye, the 'dead' assailant used his left hand parrying an incoming slash (while using his other hand keeping hold of the first assailant's right arm) and swiftly left-kicked him on the chest, knocking him down to the floor. Turning his attention back to the first assailant, the 'dead' assailant brought his right foot sweeping his grabbed foe's legs (and letting go at the same time), flipping him down to the floor back-first.


Next, the 'dead' assailant left-kicked the fallen first assailant's fallen dual daggers up in the air, while at the same time, kicked hard his face from the left cheek, sending him unconscious.

The second assailant, previously knocked down, flipped back up to his feet and resumed where he left off, attacking his intended target quickly.


Unfortunately for him, he was successful closing the short gap between him and his supposed 'dead' comrade, but not in landing a blow to him instead. He looked down to find a dagger stabbed through his heart, then back up at his 'dead' comrade, who then withdrew his dagger from his foe's stabbed chest and finished him off with an instant horizontal twin slash, cutting his foe's chest and black clothing.


As the second assailant crumbled lifelessly to the floor, he managed to bring his right hand grasping shakily his 'dead' comrade's mask. In seconds, the mask was peeled off, fully revealing a surprise for everyone --- the earnest face of Keitaro Urashima.

"KEITARO!" the Hinata-Sou ladies exclaimed, relieved to find their beloved dorm manager alive and standing before them.

The assailants' leader was aghast. Had he not wore his mask, his agape jaw would be seen, mirroring his disbelief. Narrowing his gaze intently at Keitaro then at his supposed other fallen form (which had four deadly shuriken embedded on him) near the stairs, he gritted his teeth in disdain.

"Impossible! You were lying dead over there!" he pointed out with his right forefinger at the crumpled form of Keitaro near the stairs.

"What the eyes see, the mind believes…" Keitaro merely replied, removing the rest of his mask. Seeing fully his handsome face, the Hinata-Sou ladies swooned little at the sight.

Suddenly, the crumpled form of the other Keitaro disappeared in a cloud of smoke, leaving behind four deadly shuriken on the floor. Seeing this, everyone was astounded by what they just witnessed. The assailants' leader was generally peeved by this, feeling angrier at himself rather than at his intended target.

A shadow clone… how could I've fallen for such a basic deception?

"Attack!" the leader barked out suddenly to his remaining 9 cohorts. Withdrawing out a double-sided sword from within his cloak, he immediately rushed at Keitaro with instant speed. Dodging sideways a slash, Keitaro was slightly surprised to find the leader instantly detaching his sword into twin short swords and leapt at him in one motion.


Leaping up the air to dodge the attack, Keitaro delivered a falling dropkick to the leader's chest, knocking him off his feet.



While Keitaro was busy with the assailants' leader and three of his cohorts, Motoko and Haruka squared off against 6 assailants attacking the rest of the surrounded Hinata-Sou ladies. Parrying consecutive slashes coming at her from both sides, Motoko barely brought Shisui blocking another slash aimed for her head from behind.


Such strength… they're not to be underestimated, she cautioned herself. Gritting her teeth in tension, the female swordsman then exerted enough power pushing her attacker from behind, forcing him to stagger back and dropping his guard for a few seconds. Feeling the short opportunity presented to her, Motoko quickly spun around and brought her samurai sword cutting vertically down the first assailant in one motion.


"Naru-sempai, take Mitsune-san and Suu with you and hide in a safe place!" Motoko warned the said female.

"Alright…! Suu, Mitsune, this way…!" Naru exclaimed to her said companions, who were eager not to get tangled up in the battlefield, motioning them to follow after and hide in the kitchen.

Not pausing to see the assailant's demise, Motoko turned her attention to the other two assailants continuously attacking her with wicked dual daggers in hand. Parrying a thrust to her chest from one of her attackers, Motoko took a step back and executed a left under slash, fatally cutting down the second assailant on his chest.

Now faced with the remaining third assailant, she quickly was forced back into the defensive as she blocked deadly thrusts and slashes at her from random directions, in an attempt to confuse her guard.

At that moment, Motoko felt time slowly unwinding. Feeling focus garnered in her eyes, she widened in realization upon guessing the next attack coming at her.

There! Another feint thrust followed by a slash to my left!

Gripping Shisui tightly, Motoko stepped towards her attacker, catching him off-guard and making him expecting her be nailed a guaranteed hit. However, she lowered her samurai sword's blade arching to the left, bearing the brunt of a feint thrust from her attacker.


At the same time, she then knocked away her attacker's weapons up the air, forcing him to release them from the impact. The assailant was left wide open.

"Secret Art: Air-Splitting Sword!" Motoko cried, bringing her weapon vertically down hard just inches from the assailant. Instead of him being cut down by the samurai sword, rather, a sudden vacuum of air roughly sent him hard on a nearby wall of the living room.


As the vacuum dissipated seconds after impact, the assailant felt his ribs shatter, as well as his heart crumbling to a dead halt. Within the next 3 seconds, the assailant's limp form crashed to the floor face-first and dead at the spot, and leaving a huge hole on the wall behind him.

As Motoko stood upright, sheathing Shisui, the dead assailant's dual daggers (which were knocked off up the air previously) landed and stabbed the floor in front of her.


Haruka meanwhile eyed her attackers warily in her fighting stance, watching them circle around her like a pack of wolves. Beckoning them with a mocking right hand, she taunted her opponents into attacking first. At that instant, one assailant leapt at her, aiming his dual daggers at her heart. Seeing this, Haruka also leapt up to the air, intent on meeting the attack head-on. As the attacker and defender neared each other...


The attacker was instantly greeted by a right backhand, followed by two consecutive kicks to the stomach and chest (a front left kick followed by a roundhouse right kick), which he was sent up to the air, also knocking away his dual daggers in the process. His stunned form came crashing down to the floor after.

Using her hands to cushion her fall, Haruka flipped back up to the air, latching her legs around the head of the second assailant coming at her from her left side. Stunned by her hold, the assailant tried in vain to shake her off him, which she happily obliged by right-chopping above his head, then releasing her hold and jumping off him, staggering him back.

Landing on a roll backwards, she barely stood up, avoiding having her head being sliced off from behind, which turned out coming from the third assailant. Sensing this, Haruka left-elbowed the third assailant on the gut, temporarily knocking the wind off him, then reached both her hands grabbing him from behind and throwing him over her shoulders and down to the floor with impressive strength.


Landing painfully back-first on the living floor, the third assailant had the wind taken out of him again by a left axe kick to the gut, followed by a hard right hook to his face, sending him unconscious.

Seeing her remaining attacker (the second assailant) regaining his bearings, Haruka rushed quickly at him. The second assailant lashed out with two consecutive horizontal swipes of his dual daggers, from which Haruka closely ducked and executed a right leg sweep, knocking his legs off and sending him tumbling to the floor. Following after, the female Urashima jumped and flipped over, executing a left leg drop landing hard on his throat, applying all her leg weight in the process.


The assailant's windpipe was crushed instantly from the impact, resulting in a quick death. Getting up to her feet and dusting herself off, Haruka took a hard look at the assailant's dead form, then shaking her head disdainfully.

...I actually killed someone with the family style, she thought ashamedly. She was so caught up with the thought that she hadn't noticed the first assailant (who was still conscious) rushing at her for the killing blow from behind.

"Secret Art: Air-Splitting Sword!" Motoko's voice cried out.


A gust projectile of air went flying out of nowhere, hitting the first assailant dead-on and sending him crashing through the kitchen door and against the kitchen wall hard, surprising Mitsune, Naru, and Suu, who previously hid inside to avoid the skirmish. The first assailant's body bounced from the kitchen wall (making also a huge hole and cracks) and slumped down to the floor face-first, unable to withstand the force of the impact.

Recovering her senses, Haruka glanced up to find a concerned Motoko running to her aid.

"Haruka-san…! Are you alright? You were almost struck down just now!" the female swordsman exclaimed worriedly.

"Huh? What do you mean?" Haruka wondered, then turning around at the direction where Motoko's right forefinger was pointing at. The female Urashima was slightly amazed to find the slumped form of the first assailant farther inside the kitchen and no kitchen door as well. She glanced back sheepishly at Motoko, rubbing behind her head with her left hand, "Oh... whoops."

Motoko sweatdropped at Haruka's behavior then noticed Keitaro in the midst of fighting with the remaining three assailants and their leader. Tugging Haruka's right arm, she motioned her to follow, "Haruka-san, let's help Keitaro!"

The female Urashima nodded earnestly in reply, following after the female swordsman.


Inside the kitchen, with kitchen utensils in hand for self-defense, Mitsune, Naru, and Suu warily got out of their hiding place to check the slumped form of the first assailant attacking Haruka. The resident party girl glanced at the first assailant's body then at Naru before wryly asking, "Do you think he's still alive?"

Naru eyed her best friend confusingly, "How should I know? Why don't you check and make sure that he is or not!"

"What...! Why do I have to be the one to do it?"

"Ahem, I have Suu trapping me in a bear hug from behind here, you see," Naru emphasized her point, pointing with her left forefinger at the resident foreign girl clutching her tight from behind.

Letting out an annoyed huff of breath at her best friend, Mitsune cautiously went near the first assailant's body, then prodding it with a rolling pin she had in hand.


"Hmm..." Mitsune wondered, deciding to stop her prodding. Using her slipper-clad feet and rolling pin, she gingerly rolled over the first assailant's body, finding his chest a bit compressed deep, indicating a sign of broken ribs. The figure seemed not breathing as well, indicating an instant demise.

"Woah... that clearly is Motoko's work, that's for sure," the resident party girl concluded with an impressed whistle and a cringed look on her face.

This guy won't be getting up anytime soon… I think Motoko went a bit overboard with him.

"Cool!" Suu blurted out of the blue, raising her right hand in a fist to the air.

Naru turned her attention to the living room, finding Haruka and Motoko helping out Keitaro, who was still fighting with the remaining three assailants and their leader.

Keitaro... what's happened to you before you came back?


Twisting his body around while leaping over incoming dagger swipes, Keitaro dodged back an overhead slash aimed at his head coming from the assailants' leader. His body's natural instincts kicked in high, alerting him of another joint attack coming from both his sides; obeying the impulse, Keitaro leapt up in the air, kicking both the first and second assailants' faces. Landing on the floor, he spotted Motoko and Haruka rushing to his aid, but motioned them to stop at their tracks with a cold gaze directed at them.

"Motoko-san, Haruka-san, don't interfere! I'll handle this!" he barely exclaimed, before being pressed back into the defensive by the assailants' leader, who took a quick glance at the two said females rushing up to his target's aid.

It seems I underestimated those two females... but, I'll not let them get in my way!

"Tch... you three, deal with them!" he ordered his remaining cohorts, before forcing his target to retreat outside with continuous sword swipes. The three remaining assailants turned their focus on their new targets as their leader headed after Keitaro outside Hinata-Sou, stopping Motoko and Haruka in their tracks.

The two said females took up fighting positions once again, bracing for another attack. Motoko unsheathed her prized samurai sword, gripping its handle with both hands. As Haruka followed her lead, she was startled to find her blocking her way.

"Motoko, what's this?" she glanced at the female swordsman with a raised left eyebrow.

"Don't worry, Haruka-san, I'll handle them. You go and help Keitaro!" Motoko earnestly replied, before she suddenly sprung up at the remaining assailants with a horizontal swipe of samurai sword, forcing them back and making a clear path to the front door.

Not wanting to argue, Haruka nodded thankfully at the female swordsman, before she rushed outside to aid her beloved. Seeing her retreating form, the three assailants were unable to pursue, for they were pushed back again by Motoko, who coldly eyed her opponents with resolve.

"Your opponent… is me!" she exclaimed.


Running around the outside premises of Hinata-Sou, Haruka looked around for her beloved. After several seconds of searching back and forth in the area, she headed for the courtyard down below. There she finally found Keitaro slugging it out with the assailant leader, as they traded each other a flurry of punches and kicks, hoping to expose an opening to exploit.

Feeling out of place, Haruka settled for being a spectator, realizing her presence might be a disadvantage for her nephew. She couldn't help but be awed by the intensity the fight between her beloved and the assailant leader was slowly rising.

She managed to repress a surprised cry at the next second as she witnessed the ease Keitaro was dodging menacing sword strikes from the assailant leader, who then opted to use his available weapon to his advantage after having enough going at unarmed combat with his target. Although each strike narrowly missed their mark, they each were executed with deadly precision.

Jumping up to avoid a leg sweep from his foe, Keitaro then looked up to find a copy of the assailant leader in a flying right kick poised at him.

A shadow clone…?

The former dorm manager barely brought up both his arms, crossing them like a shield to meet the attack.


The impact was rough, but Keitaro's arms were strong enough to absorb most of the impact and take the instant damage. However, the impact sent him a short distance back and skidding his feet on the ground. Uncrossing his arms, he looked up to find five copies of the assailant leader mercilessly lunging at him with twin swords in hand.


Despite the number advantage he had over his target, the assailant leader allowed an annoyed scowl etched on his face as he noticed the surprising agility his target exhibited, narrowly dodging each consecutive sword strike.

Tch… his skills haven't diminished as reported. How can the scouts be so wrong about him!

Noticing the slight uneasiness of his opponent, Keitaro opted for his counter-attack.

I think I've been defending long enough.

Dodging a twin sword thrust aimed for his back, he grabbed hold of one assailant leader clone (clone 1) by around the head with his right hand. Seeing another clone (clone 2) coming at him from the front, he leapt up and kicked the rushing clone on the chest hard, using the impact to rebound himself and flipping over and out. At the end of the motion, he left-elbowed the held clone (clone 1) hard on the neck, crushing his windpipe and sending the clone disappearing in a puff of smoke.

Feeling another clone rushing at him from behind (clone 3), Keitaro executed a fast leg sweep, knocking down the clone to the ground. Getting up to his feet after, the former dorm manager grabbed hold of the fallen clone's legs with both hands, then started to spin around to hurl the clone like a discus, sending it crashing hard on another charging clone (clone 4).


The impact sent both clones disappearing in a puff of smoke. That left the remaining two clones standing (clone 2 and the real assailant leader). Placing his hands behind his back, Keitaro glanced passively at the two assailant leader clones, "It's over… tell me who sent you after me."

Both clones simply smirked in reply, and stood crouched down forming a hand seal.

"-Chuckle- You'll have to kill me to find out," they quipped, finishing their hand seals, "Lingering Mist Technique!"

Suddenly, a large fog was conjured in the atmosphere, limiting visibility greatly in the area.

Watching from the sidelines, Haruka was surprised and unable to see clearly her nephew and his mysterious opponent. Her eyes continued looking all over the area.

How did fog suddenly appear out of nowhere here? Damn, now I can't see Keitaro!

Staring down at the ground in front of him, Keitaro's ears perked up, listening to the assailant leader's voice intently. He knew he had to pinpoint his opponent's location, and also discern the real person from the remaining clone (clone 2) while at it.

Even though I can't see him, I can feel his presence. This mist... it's definitely a ninjutsu technique.

"Now... how should I kill you, I wonder? Would you like your death to be slow and painful, or swift and precise?" the assailant leader's voice echoed amusingly throughout the area.

Keitaro's senses wavered as he felt the two assailant leader clones slowly circling him in the mist-filled area. He glanced back and forth, trying to discerning his opponent's location. Hearing several seconds of fading footsteps and movement from his opponent, the former dorm manager stood his ground waiting.

Instantly coming from the mist, twin swords were hurled fast towards Keitaro from behind him. Hearing something thrown fast at him, Keitaro spun around seeing the two said projectiles about to land their mark. At a split second, he bent his back in an arc, while feeling the sudden, small vacuum of air from the twin swords trailing past his face.

Then suddenly, an assailant leader clone jumped out in view, hovering above Keitaro with its twin swords in hand. As it poised from an overhead strike, it joined its twin swords together, forming its double-edge sword, and then grasping it with its right hand. Seeing Keitaro getting up to his feet, it had a small window of opportunity to take. As the former dorm manager leapt up to meet the clone's attack, he didn't realize the twin swords thrown at him previously suddenly materialize as the real assailant leader, who had four large, sharp shuriken in hand and hovered in the air.

"Ha... you fell for it!" the assailant leader exclaimed with a triumphant smile, before hurling his projectiles at his defenseless target up in the air. Victory was within reach!

Unfortunately, it was short-lived in a matter of seconds.

Parrying the clone's overhead sword strike up in the air, Keitaro temporarily stunned it with a left palm strike to the face. Next, he propped both his legs at the clone's chest, before using it as a springboard to propel himself away from the incoming path of four large, sharp shurikens, which hit the clone instead, sending it disappearing in a puff of smoke.

The assailant leader stood watching in shock at his failed attack. Quickly shrugging off his failure, he was now hell-bent in killing his target. Seeing Keitaro still up in the air and landing towards him, the assailant leader leapt up to the air, deciding to meet his target head-on, while withdrawing his double-edged sword from within his cloak.

"I shall end this here and now!" he bellowed angrily.

Finding his opponent meeting him furiously head-on, Keitaro narrowed his gaze at him earnestly. As they quickly closed in on each other, the former dorm manager secretly reached out for something stash within his black cloak.


Haruka's ears perked up at the audible resounding slash. Immediately she feared the worst coming to her nephew as she darted her eyes all around her, trying to look for his appearance.

...! I hope... I'm not hearing... what I think it is just now.

Suddenly, the mist slowly dissipated before her eyes, and she could spot two black silhouettes nearby. Upon closer look, she saw her nephew and the assailant leader crouched down with blades in hand --- a double-edged sword sported by the assailant leader, while a twin nodaichi sported by Keitaro --- and facing a short distance away from each other. Haruka held her breath in suspense as she watched the outcome of her nephew's fight slowly unfolding before her.

The assailant leader first stood up to his feet, setting his double-edged sword pointed down to the ground, and slowly turned facing his target. His eyes widen slightly in surprise as he noticed the twin nodachi his target held in both hands while he turned facing him.

Where did he get that weapon? Could it be... he had it hidden all this time, and waiting to use it at the last chance?

Keitaro slowly stood facing the assailant leader with his earnest expression still intact, his twin nodachi pointed downwards at the ground.

As the two warriors stood staring down at each other, the mist around them slowly faded, revealing the clear, sunny afternoon atmosphere. A soft breeze of air whistled by, carrying a single dead leaf, probably from one of the nearby trees in the courtyard area. Strangely enough, the dead leaf was then carried and placed in between Keitaro and the assailant leader, and slowly fell to the ground.

"...Once again, I ask you... who sent you here?" Keitaro inquired, breaking the silence.

The assailant leader smirked beneath his mask.

"...Judgment... Judgment sent me."

As the dead leaf landed on the ground, blood sprayed forth from a sudden large gash on the assailant leader's chest, causing him to buckle to the ground in writhing pain. He felt blood dripping out from his mouth as he struggled propping himself up with his double-edged sword using both hands on its handle.

Looking closely at the tips of Keitaro's twin nodachi, small lines of blood dripped to the ground.

The victor was proclaimed.

Feeling his death being imminent, the injured assailant chuckled heartedly, catching a peculiar stare from Haruka. Keitaro retained his earnest look, however, as he watched on.

"...You're... -Cough- definitely skilled as rumored... -Cough- A pity... that you had to be an enemy," the assailant leader uttered his last words before collapsing to the ground back-first, dropping his double-edged sword next to him. Blood oozed out from the fallen assailant leader's wound, creating a puddle beneath his body.

Sickened by the sight, Haruka turned around, suppressing the urge to throw up as she covered her mouth with one hand and held over her stomach with the other.

Watching a minute or two at the dead assailant leader, Keitaro rummaged through his thoughts, pondering on his opponent's particular statement that caught his attention.

"...Judgment... Judgment sent me."

Judgment... where... where have I heard of this word, he thought grimly.

Deciding to ponder the matter at another time, Keitaro shook his head, clearing his mind. Holding both his nodachi with his left hand and by their handles, he took out a large white cloth from within his cloak, then using it to wipe his weapon's blades clean. He walked over to the dead assailant leader and threw the cloth landing on his bloodied chest.

"Life isn't something to throw away," he uttered, before slowly sheathing his twin nodachi in place.

Upon closer look at the used cloth lain on the dead assailant leader's chest, an insignia of a black cross was etched on the bottom right-hand corner (which was also the same insignia on the back of his white overcoat and on the scabbards of his twin nodachi).

Noticing the lone figure of his aunt nearby, Keitaro approached her quickly to find her back turned towards him. Slowly holding onto her shoulders, he gently turned her around facing him, catching his aunt in short surprise.

"Haruka-san...? Are you hurt?" he asked concerned.

The said female Urashima couldn't help but be entranced by his brown eyes, which gazed genuinely at her with attention and concern. It took her another second or two to realize her bearings, and she blushed little in embarrassment.

"Ah... y-yes, I'm okay. I was just shaken up by what's happening right now," Haruka replied, slowly regaining her stoic face.

A sudden loud explosion from the outside premises of Hinata-Sou upstairs alerted the two Urashimas, who glanced upwards at the direction of the explosion's sound.

"What now...?" Haruka groaned annoyingly.

Keitaro narrowed his eyes in earnest once again, feeling matters with the unknown assailants yet to be finished. He instantly broke off in a sprint, leaping fast and high with surprising agility and dexterity, and leaving Haruka behind.

"Keitaro…! Wait!" she protested, beginning running after her nephew.


As soon as he set foot back on Hinata-Sou's outside premises, Keitaro saw the remaining assailant's body sent crashing limply towards him. Dodging the incoming body in a split-second, Keitaro looked up to find a huge hole where the front door of the female dorm building used to be. Emerging out of the hole, Motoko dusted herself off after sheathing Shisui in place. Glancing up, she noticed the arriving former dorm manager, and was relieved to see him.

"Motoko-san, are you alright?" Keitaro inquired, relieved to find Motoko unhurt.

"Yes, I'm managing well, K... um, Urashima," the female swordsman awkwardly replied, unsure in addressing the form dorm manager. Nodding in reply, Keitaro looked back to see the remaining assailant's body lying limp like a broken record near the stone steps where he arrived just now.

Well... I guess Motoko is faring well as always when it comes to her swordplay.

The said female swordsman paused her breath momentarily as she stared close at the new look Keitaro was sporting.

I have to strangely admit, he does look more handsome in the enemy's clothes than in his regular clothes.

She blushed slightly at the thought, turning her back towards Keitaro to cover up her embarrassment.

"Hmm... I'm worried about the other girls. Ah, Haruka-san, good timing…!" Keitaro commented at the arrival of his said aunt panting hard and catching her breath, "Motoko-san, Haruka-san, may I ask that you check up on Naru, Mitsune, and Suu? I'll check up on Shinobu in my temporary room upstairs, I instructed her to remain hiding there and locking up after."

Regaining her composure, Motoko nodded in reply, "Very well, Urashima, I'm happy to help. I've also managed to take care of the remaining intruders. That one I sent flying over there was the last," she pointed at the remaining assailant's limp body lain near the stone steps, "Haruka-san, this way."

Before following after Motoko's lead, Haruka sighed inwardly. She took a last glance at her nephew, giving him a smile, which he returned back with his own. She then went inside Hinata-Sou, catching up after Motoko.

Keitaro's senses kicked in once again, as he felt a lingering presence watching him. Turning around facing the outside premises of Hinata-Sou, his eyes darted back and forth, examining any overlooked detail in the area. After several seconds of looking around, he then felt the lingering presence fading away.

One conclusion came to mind: someone was watching from behind the scenes.

...Someone was definitely watching me just now.

Deep down, he blamed himself deeply for bringing trouble to Hinata-Sou. Bringing his gloved right hand opening up, he saw it shaking little before clenching it tight.



Keitaro's intuition proved to be right, for, swiftly darting through the sparse forest near Hinata-Sou, the very last remaining assailant (assailant 3, who was knocked unconscious by Haruka previously) was dashing hard and fast, intent in bringing back a report of failure to the head of his ninja clan. In the aftermath of the battle occurring against Motoko and Haruka back in Hinata-Sou, he had managed to slip away undetected, after receiving a mental link from his squad leader ordering him to retreat and report the findings on their sole target.

"-Cough- Failure... this wasn't supposed to occur," he cursed beneath his mask. He knew well that death awaited him back in his ninja clan's hidden territory, and failure wasn't a welcoming word in the vocabulary for his clan head.

But he still had to perform his duty, whether this may be his last.