A/N - After a long hiatus, I'm back! This fic will probably end up at 11 or 12 chapters, so we're fairly close to the end. I hope you still enjoy it! This chapter is relatively short, but I think it covers some important stuff. Reviews are still welcome!

Standard disclaimers apply.

Chapter 9 - Faculties

The next few days were an absolute whirlwind of activity. Shinobu had to confirm her acceptance of Toudai's offer, and registered all of the relevant paperwork. She was a little startled by the admission fee, which was around 300,000 yen, but after talking to her parents, they were so overjoyed that she had gotten in that they were more than willing to give her whatever assistance they required. Her father, in particular, said, "Shinobu-chan, you've done more than I was ever able to do. Now, go and make us even more proud of you."

The university confirmed that she was in their system as an incoming first-year student, and she and the other residents of the Hinatasou sat down in the converted lobby to try and pick out courses. Su suggested she try the engineering school, and Shinobu gave her a wide-eyed look that said, quite silently, that the world would end before she did that much math again.

Keitaro flipped through the coursebook and said, "Shinobu-chan, didn't you tell me a few months ago that you were thinking of doing something that involved drafting?"

Shinobu smiled. "Yes, that's a bit of an interest of mine. Why?"

Keitaro smiled. "Well, you'd be taking architecture courses, then. And that puts you right in the Faculty of Engineering."

Shinobu went pale as a sheet as Su catapulted out of her seat and glomped (the consensus among the residents was that there was no better word for what Su did to people) onto her. "But, won't that...?"

Keitaro nodded. "It'll involve some math, Shinobu-chan, and I know that's not your favorite subject. But it's not going to be differential equations and such, generally, because you're mostly working with geometry. Of course, the instructors at Toudai are among the finest in the world. It's like one of the Ivy League schools you hear about in America. The school is good not just because they set a high requirement, but because their professors are at the tops of their fields." Keitaro managed to say that with a straight face, even as Shinobu opened her mouth to remind him of Seta. "Yes, him, too. He's a great archaeologist. He just has some... issues... with everyday life."

Su grinned and hung off of Shinobu's side. "Yeah, Shinomu, and if you need to get any help, you know where you can get it!"

Shinobu smiled and patted Su, which sent the girl into cavalcades of glee. "Well, what do the rest of you think?" she asked.

Naru spoke up first. "I think it's a great idea! You're great at illustration, so perhaps you can put it to work for you. And I'm sure you can apply it to other fields, like what Keitaro's studying." Shinobu blushed at this and hid her face.

Kitsune picked up on it and said, "I mean, wouldn't it be romantic for you and Keitaro to go off and work on a site together?"

Keitaro smiled and said, "There aren't many whole buildings being excavated anymore, Kitsune-san. Most of what we find are artifacts, and there's not a whole lot of drafting done on those. Just sketches and mapping, and then we package them up and ship them off." He paused for a moment. "We do try to keep them as far from Sarah as possible, still."

Motoko leaned in and said, "Shinobu, you must do what makes you feel most satisfied. Law made me feel like I was doing something worthwhile, which is why I picked it. You should at least try it, I think."

Shinobu nodded, and Mutsumi rested her hand on her arm. "You'll have fun with it, I'm sure. Just think: a drawing that comes out of your pen could one day be an enormous building!" She smiled, then blinked, and said, "Oh! A building shaped like a watermelon would be nice! Make one of those!"

Shinobu couldn't help but smile sheepishly as Mutsumi drifted off into her own little world. I can just see it now, she thought. One day, she'll come up to me and tell me she wants me to build her a house, and she'll want to live inside a watermelon. Actually, that might be a little interesting to design. She thought about it for a second, and said, "Okay. I'll try it out. Who knows, I might actually start to like math." She smiled and began filling out the proper forms.


That night, as Keitaro pulled their futons together, Shinobu asked him, "You haven't been on many digs recently, have you, Kei-kun?"

Keitaro shook his head. "It's the academic year, and this is generally the worst time to go on a dig anyway, in most places. Why?"

Shinobu said, softly, "Those digs usually take a while, don't they?"

Keitaro nodded. "Sometimes months. Why?"

Shinobu said, "You know I'd wait for you if you went away, right?"

Keitaro slid into bed and kissed her softly. "So would I, Shinobu."

She smiled and cuddled into him, whispering, "I felt so alone when you were gone for all those months, Kei-kun. I can't even describe it. It was like my heart was with you in America, and it hadn't left a single beat for me."

"I missed all of you very much, Shinobu-chan," he said, then smiled and tapped her nose. "You, especially. You always made my days brighter with your cuteness and your smiles and your delicious food. I don't know how I got by without you around!"

Shinobu laughed into his robe and said, "I don't know how I got by without you always tripping over things and getting caught in a state of undress!" They laughed softly and sat in silence for a moment. Shinobu whispered, "I don't know how I got by without seeing that look in your eye that told me you believed I could do anything in the world. I don't know how I got by without hearing you call my name. I don't know how I got by knowing that you weren't right down the hall when I needed you."

Keitaro stroked her long, soft hair, and said, "I'm sorry, Shinobu-chan. I didn't mean to make you, any of you, feel that way."

Shinobu reached up and stroked his face. "It's alright, Kei-kun. I forgave you forever ago. You came back, and that's what's important." They rested silently again, until Keitaro cleared his throat, softly.

Keitaro pulled her close and said, "I'll probably be going with Seta on some digs this summer. Maybe you can come along on one, if you have a break."

Shinobu's eyes widened, and she breathed, "Really?"

Keitaro nodded. "I'd love to show you what it's like, out in the field. And I'd love your company most of all, Shinobu-chan."

Shinobu smiled up at him, and a deep blush lit her cheeks. "I would love that, Kei-kun. Thank you so much." She kissed him, softly, and slowly drifted into sleep, lulled by the comforting sound of his heartbeat.

A/N - I took several liberties with the academic, administrative, and financial departments of Toudai, largely because I couldn't find any pertinent information in English. The tuition and fees should be right (about 300,000 yen for admission fees, and about the same for each term). If not, please don't hesitate to correct me. Also, I don't know exactly about the registration programs, but I do know that the basic idea is that one plans for a specialization earlier than in American universities, which have more loosely organized curricular requirements.