Author's Note – This fanfic is written in the continuity of the animated version of Love Hina, not the manga, and takes place about three years after the end of the OVA. Suffice it to say that Keitaro and Naru's relationship hasn't progressed at all during their time at Tokyo University. Keitaro, Naru, and Mutsumi are in their final year of senior undergraduate study, Motoko is about one year behind them, Kaolla is midway through her second term at the Engineering School, and Shinobu is in her final year of senior high school and is studying for the Toudai entrance exams. I do not own any of the characters, nor do I own the concept of Love Hina, though I'd mortgage my soul to Ken Akamatsu-sama if he'd let me have it.
My thanks to my girlfriend, Erika (Filia here at the Pit), who wrote me a very cute little KeiShin cookie, and who is a cute little cookie, herself.
10/3/05 - I have put this entire fic through a substantial edit. I have, specifically, removed the vast majority of the conversational Japanese from the fic, for a couple reasons. Firstly, I am not a Japanese speaker nor even a scholar. I feel that it isn't right for me to use to any great degree a language I don't know, with certain specific exceptions (honorifics and titles, in general). Secondly, I feel as though it acted as a distraction from the story, at times.
I have not changed the plot in any major way, though I have slightly altered a couple of encounters. The edit focused primarily on cosmetic shortcomings more than any flaw in the story, though I'm sure those exist as well. As for the future, I do intend to finish this fic, ideally within 12 chapters, but it will not come incredibly fast. At the very least, I need to verify some backstory details.
Chapter 1 – Late-Night Preparations
Keitaro Urashima stood up from his desk and stretched his legs. "I can't believe I've been sitting here studying for six hours," he said, looking at the clock. "It's already almost nine! It's almost like I were back studying for those horrible entrance exams. Seta-san is a hard taskmaster," he said, smiling about his generally easygoing mentor. He gathered his books and left the main college library, turning right as he walked out the door, eyes squeezed shut from exhaustion. He heard a voice call out from behind him through the crisp November air.
"Well, if you're just going to ignore me, then you can go home all on your own, Urashima-san," the musical voice said, coolly. "And after I came all that way."
Keitaro turned. "Hello, Naru-san. I completely forgot I was going to meet you here. I'm sorry!"
Naru approached him, a touch menacingly. "You forgot about me? Again?"
Keitaro shrank back from her, "Now, now, Narusegawa, you promised you'd stop doing that."
Naru stopped, gritting her teeth. "Yes. I know. I'm sorry."
Keitaro smiled, nervously. "We should get home," he said. "They're probably wondering about us."
Naru blinked, then reddened. "There's nothing like that going on, you…"
Keitaro looked over at her and shuddered again, "No, Narusegawa. I d-d-didn't say there was!"
Naru frowned, and murmured, "Lecher."
Keitaro sighed as they turned around to walk to the train station. They walked silently for a ways, until he said, softly, "I'm glad you waited, Naru-san. I'd have been very lonely on the ride back."
Naru blushed, smiling a bit at Keitaro, who seemed to be concentrating on the ground in front of him. "Well," she said, "if I hadn't waited, then I would've been lonely on the ride back, too." She paused, startled at what she'd just said. "N-not that I need you to keep me company!" she exclaimed. "I'm just tired."
Keitaro grinned, glad that she was talking again. They walked into Komaba-to-daime Station to find that the train was just pulling in. They talked softly about the upcoming vacation period, and about what they were going to get each person for Christmas. For a moment, Keitaro could almost believe that they were dating, if it weren't for the underlying awkwardness in their conversation. Every time he looked at her, he couldn't shake the feeling that there was something missing between them, something they'd somehow missed.
Kaolla Su was manning a pair of binoculars with a cryptic three-eyed insignia on them, scanning the horizon for signs of their manager. When she finally spied him slowly coming up the steps with Narusegawa, she let out a big, loud whistle and shouted, "Soooo, the happy couple comes back late from class! Did you have fun?"
Keitaro blushed madly, and Naru shouted, "No, we didn't! I-I-I mean… we didn't have that sort of fun! Oooh, you know what I mean! Now stop spying on people!"
Kaolla laughed and said, cheerfully, "Nope! Sorry!" and scampered off.
Naru glared at Keitaro. "And what are you blushing about?" she asked, then laughed at herself.
Keitaro laughed, too, looking up at where Su had run away. "Why does she still act like a little kid?" he asked, as they walked through the doors. "It's as though no one ever grows up, here!"
He caught a tiny glimpse of a hurt expression as Shinobu, who had been waiting at the door for them, turned away and disappeared up the stairs, her light footfalls echoing softly through the floor. "Ahhh, I didn't mean that… I'd better go talk to her."
Naru frowned, then yawned. "Do what you like," she said. "I'm tired, and I'm cold, and I'm going to bed. Don't even think of moving that board until at least nine."
Keitaro nodded, his mind already coming up with possible consequences should he overstep this boundary. "I will, Naru-san. Goodnight!"
Keitaro sighed and flopped down on the couch, forgetting about Shinobu for the moment. He thought back over the last couple of years, I remember when it was still brand-new, three years ago, me being accepted to Tokyo University, then going off on all those trips. My younger sister visiting. I'm glad she's back with my grandma, perhaps she can keep her out of trouble. Now, if only I knew which one would keep the other out of trouble…
His thoughts were interrupted by a soft, calm voice at his shoulder. "Urashima-san?"
Keitaro turned, "Yes, what is it, Motoko-san?"
Motoko smiled, "I was wondering if Shinobu told you about your dinner? She left some udon, some broth, and some grilled vegetables. It was delicious, as always. You'd better have it before Kaolla snatches it."
"Thank you, Motoko-san. By the way, how were your classes, today?"
Motoko frowned. "They're harder than I thought they'd be. They ask me not just to know, but to understand, this year," she said, "but I won't give up. I got into Toudai, and I won't give up so easily."
Keitaro smiled, "Exactly! I had the same problem, especially coming in late, as I did. Thankfully, they gave me credit for all those digs I went on, but it still took me a while to adjust. I'd also been out of real school for so long, I'd almost forgotten how much work it could be. Is there a class you're having trouble with?"
Motoko paused, taken aback at the suggestion of her weakness, but slowly calmed herself. "I'm actually having trouble with my English, and also with some of the prehistory of Mediterranean cultures. My dojo taught me a great deal about our own history, but this is so much more detailed, and about so many different places."
Keitaro smiled and said, "Well, if there's one thing I can help you with, it's that. If you have any questions, Motoko-san, come right by and ask!"
Motoko smiled and blushed a bit, then said, "I will, Urashima-senpai. Thank you. Now, go eat, before Kaolla has it all." She turned and padded softly upstairs to study.
Keitaro wandered into the dining room, then into the adjoining kitchen, where he could still smell the spices Shinobu used when she crafted their wonderful dinners. He saw a pair of covered bowls with a note in Shinobu's delicate handwriting that read, For Keitaro. Hands off. This means you, Kaolla. He smiled and took the lid off, and sat down to eat.
"Keitarooooo?" a perky voice came over his left shoulder.
"Su-chan, no. I'm eating this," he told the girl.
"But Keitaro, I'm so hungry! I need something to eeeeeat!" Kaolla cried, flipping upside down and hanging from the rafters.
"There's plenty of food for you in the refrigerator. And what happened to those bananas I picked up for you yesterday?"
"All gone! They were good," Kaolla said, smiling, as she jumped to the floor.
"Ah. I'll get you some more tomorrow," he said, patting her hair. "You get yourself some food."
"I will!" she said. "I get to sleep in tomorrow, Keitaro! No class! Long weekend! Bet you wish you were me!" she smiled, then scampered off.
Keitaro laughed to himself, thinking, She really does act the same. I wonder if she'll ever grow up? At least she never feels the desire to age under that moon, anymore. Of course, she's finally grown into what she wanted to look like, but I wonder if that's any easier on her? Ah, well. Best to let her have her fun for now. He ate quickly, and within a few minutes, he was softly walking off to bed. He waved to Kitsune, who was lounging in her room with a bottle of sake.
Kitsune grinned, rakishly. "Ahh, Keitaro, here for an evening tryst?"
Keitaro laughed, having become used to Kitsune's sense of humor. "Very funny, Kitsune-san. I just figured I'd say hello before I went to bed."
Kitsune smiled at him, and said, "Of course you did, you letch. Want some sake? It's on the house."
Keitaro smiled. "Sure, maybe a little. I do have to get to sleep, though."
"That's fine," Kitsune said as she poured him a small cupful. "More for me!"
Keitaro grinned as he downed the sake. "Hey, that's much better than your normal stuff. I guess you sold some articles lately?"
Kitsune nodded. "I sold one documentary article and two travel articles today. Big money, you know." She grinned and poured him another cup.
Keitaro sipped this one, slowly, and asked, "So, what'd you call me in for?"
"Ahh, the same thing I always do. What's up?"
"You mean with Naru?"
"With Naru, or with anyone, really. I'm so bored!" Kitsune flopped back on the couch, frowning at the ceiling.
"Nothing to report, Kitsune-san. Believe me, you'd know. You have my room bugged, after all," Keitaro said, wryly.
Kitsune's eyes shot open. "That's not it! Those microphones are only there for, um, research purposes! Yeah!"
Keitaro blinked. "Um. I didn't think you actually did have my room bugged."
Kitsune grinned. "Gotcha, Keitaro." She poured herself a cup of sake and raised it. "To our manager, the most trusting man in the world." With that, she downed the sake in one shot.
Keitaro laughed. "Yes, I guess you're right. Oh! Do you happen to know what was wrong with Shinobu-chan tonight? Did she say anything to you?"
Kitsune frowned. "No, she didn't say anything to me. Actually, I haven't seen her since before you got back."
Keitaro sighed, and said, "Ah, I'll go and check on her. I hope she's not upset with me."
"Shinobu-chan? Upset with you? Not very likely. But still, if you're worried, go see if she's still awake. I'll still be up when you get back, probably, so if you want some more sake, you know where to come," Kitsune said.
Keitaro smiled, and said, "Thanks. I'll probably just go to bed, tonight, though. I have to be up for class tomorrow. Thanks for the sake, Kitsune-san!" he said, as he left the room.
Keitaro walked quietly down the hall to Shinobu's door and knocked softly on it, and called, "Shinobu-chan? Are you awake?"
A very tiny voice came from inside the room, obviously fighting against quiet tears, saying, "I am, Urashima-senpai, but please leave me alone."
"Shinobu-chan," Keitaro said, a little hurt. "Why?"
"Because… because…" Shinobu murmured, descending into tears again.
Keitaro frowned, then steeled himself and slid her door open and walked softly through.
Shinobu was lying, facedown, on her bed, her arms hiding her face from him. Her hair, which she had grown out in recent years, covered her like a shield. "Senpai, I… I'm sorry… I should've let you in…"
Keitaro sat down on the edge of the bed and just looked at her, then quietly asked, "Why are you sad, Shinobu-chan? Did I say something to hurt you? I'm sorry, if I did…"
Shinobu looked up at him, her face streaked with tears. "N-no, senpai. You were right… it's fine. Really."
Keitaro frowned and moved closer. "Shinobu-chan, what is it? Are you afraid that you haven't changed at all, like I said?"
Shinobu flinched and squeezed her eyes shut, then nodded. "Yes, senpai. You said… that…"
Keitaro shook his head and said, "I know. And I didn't… didn't mean it that way, Shinobu. I was actually talking about Su-chan. She acts like she's still thirteen." Shinobu smiled, and he said, "Frankly, I'm surprised she's not still wearing her junior high uniform all the time, anymore." Shinobu smiled more and laughed, then looked at Keitaro and shivered a little. Keitaro looked back at her, concerned. "Are you cold, Shinobu-chan?" he asked.
"N-no, Urashima-senpai. I… Thank you for coming to talk to me, I feel much better," she said, smiling with that faintly sad look that he'd seen her give him ever since she first arrived.
"Anything for my Shinobu-chan," Keitaro said, standing. "Now, you get some sleep. You'll need it if you want to be ready for tomorrow's seminar. I hear you've done well, there, much better than I did!"
Shinobu blushed, saying, "I only received a B on the first exam, Urashima-senpai, but I think I prepared well for the second one. We took it last week, and we get the results back tomorrow." Shinobu paused, steeling herself to ask the question she'd dreaded. "Senpai? Can I ask you a favor?"
Keitaro nodded, emphatically. "Of course, Shinobu-chan!"
"Will you… could you possibly meet me after it's done? We get out so late because they're not giving back the exam results until the evening, and I don't feel like going home alone at that hour…"
Keitaro smiled. "I'd love to do that, Shinobu-chan. Hey, that way, I can be the first to congratulate you!"
Shinobu blushed a deep crimson and said, "Thank you, Urashima-senpai. I'll be done by about seven, I think. Meet me outside the test center?"
Keitaro smiled and said, "Of course, Shinobu-chan. I'll be there, don't worry about it." He walked to the door, then paused. "By the way, Shinobu-chan…"
Shinobu looked at him, "Yes, senpai?"
"'Urashima' is so formal, especially between good friends who've known each other for years. I'd love it if you'd call me 'Keitaro' more often."
As he left, Shinobu's cheeks lit up to a bright red, and she burrowed into her pillow, smiling uncontrollably.