Love Hina – Inheritance
Fanfic by Steven Biggs
Chapter Eighteen – Outpaced and Out of Time
Shortly after breakfast, Motoko and Amalla meet at the starting point of their race. Keitaro and Aoyama join them to watch for the flares to signal the winner. Earlier, the others made their way to the finish lines. Mutsumi, Sara, Haruka and Seta joined Su and walked cross-country to the end of Motoko's course. Naru, Kitsune, Kanako, and Shinobu walked with Tsuruko into town.
Amalla motions to Keitaro and he walks over. She hands him another flare.
"Kaytro, ya needs to light this up when the race starts so that the others will know to be ready for us. Simple enough for ya Jack?"
Keitaro takes the flare and nods his head.
"I think I can handle it."
Amalla tilts her head.
'Ya sure seems nonchalant about this race. Are ya that confident that Motoko will beat me?"
He looks up from the flare in his hand.
"Oh, it's not that. I just have something else on my mind. You know me, I get distracted easily."
"What's the problem?"
Keitaro shakes his head.
"I'm not sure. There's something I've been trying to remember, but I don't know what it is."
Amalla pats his shoulder and smiles.
"Ah'm sure that you'll come up with whatever it is. Here, have a banana, they is good thinking food."
Motoko walks over and looks at Amalla.
"Are you prepared to begin the race?'
"Yeah, it's almost seven o'clock. Do ya like the course I picked out for ya?"
Motoko's eyes narrow, but she allows herself a slight smile.
"Amalla-san, you are vile."
The woman from Molmol pats her on the back.
"Ya'll is one to talk! Giving me that metal umbrella during dodge ball was a sneaky trick."
Aoyama walks over and looks at Keitaro's watch.
"It is almost time. Please take your places at the starting line."
The two women take their positions and wait for Keitaro to set off the flare. He looks up from his watch and pulls the cord, sending a brilliant red, sparkling sphere rocketing skyward.
Motoko and Amalla begin their race, moving with the speed of a javelin launched by a mighty warrior. Keitaro's mouth drops open as he watches the women quickly disappear.
"I never knew that Motoko could move that fast!"
Aoyama stands next to him.
"Indeed. Yet, she is quite motivated for this event, Keitaro-san."
After a few minutes, she turns and looks at him.
"You have an air of consternation about you. Does something disturb you this morning?"
Keitaro watches the last distant wisps of dust settle in the wake of the two runners and then faces Aoyama.
"I feel like Motoko is in trouble, but I can't explain why. There's something that I need to remember, but it's just out of reach.'
Aoyama pats his shoulder.
"There is naught out there that is unknown to her. The only things in that direction are hills and an ancient shrine."
He looks at her intently as a chill runs up his spine.
"An old shrine? Please, tell me it's not the Shrine of Aoyama Hisaki!"
She stares at him for a moment.
"How did you know of this? It is among the oldest and most revered structures of Shinmei-ryu. Only members of the Aoyama family are permitted there!"
"I remember Seta-san mentioning it a long time ago. He said that he would like to have Toudai sponsor an expedition someday to excavate nearby. Do you have Motoko's map with you?"
She hands him the rolled up map and he studies it carefully.
"Is it near one of the hills that Motoko's path goes through?"
Aoyama looks at the map and points to the second hill.
"It is here, just to the north of this knoll."
Keitaro shakes his head.
"I've got to stop her! Seta-san told me that the hill nearby is very unstable because of copper mining that was done there almost a thousand years ago! If Motoko uses the Shinmei-ryu arts inside there, it might trigger a collapse of the old tunnels! That's what I was trying to remember!"
Aoyama goes pale.
"Spirits protect her! It is too late; there is no possible way to reach Motoko-chan in time."
He drops the map and grabs Aoyama's shoulders.
"There might be a way, Aoyama-san!"
At that moment, a few kilometers away, the far side of the first hill explodes outwards. The swordmaster leaps through the fissure, nimbly dodging the debris raining down around her. Pushing herself beyond her limits, she increases her pace as she arrows towards the second hill two kilometers before her.
Back at the starting line, Aoyama stares at Keitaro, terror widening her eyes.
"You cannot be serious! What you suggest is madness itself!"
"Aoyama-san, we don't have time to argue! You have to use the Messatsu Zanku Zanmasen technique!"
"But, can even you survive this? It is the final ultimate skill that must be perfected before bestowing mastership of the sword!"
Keitaro shakes his head.
"Even if I don't, it will prevent Motoko from making it to the hill. But we have to do it now!"
"But . . ."
"PLEASE! We have to save Motoko!"
A tear runs down her cheek and she gives Keitaro a quick kiss.
"May the spirits guide my hand and protect you, Keitaro."
"Don't hold back anything. You've got to throw me to the second hill or this will all be for nothing."
Aoyama takes a few steps back and calms herself. As she closes her eyes and draws her sword, chi swirls around and lifts her hair. Attaining calm, she rises a meter above the ground. After a moment, her hair falls back onto her shoulders as she reins in her chi. Her eyes, burning with blue flames, snap open and she unleashes her strike.
"Shinmei-ryu no Messatsu Zanku Zanmasen! God's Cry Attack of The Demon Slashing Wind!"
The blast of chi, focused into a tight vortex, hurls outward with vicious force. Keitaro braces his arms as the maelstrom crashes into him. As he is flung into the sky, he fights against the pain of shattering bone and torn tissue to maintain his consciousness. Aoyama falls to her knees as he tumbles into the distance.
In town near one of the vendor's stalls, Tsuruko looks up sharply.
"Spirits, what has happened?"
Kitsune looks at her.
"Tsuruko-san, what's wrong? Ya'll are as white as a ghost.'
"Someone has used Messatsu Zanku Zanmasen! It feels like my mother's chi, but, it, it is so powerful. I have never known her to use the skill with that great of force."
Naru braces a hand against the stall.
"It's K-k-keitaro! Somehow I, I can tell. But why would she strike him?"
Motoko, concentrating intently on focusing all of her strength in her dash through the hills, does not sense her mother's strike. The second hill rapidly grows as she approaches. Panting, she grips the handle of her sword and prepares to blast her way through the rock. As she plows through a row of bushes, arms wrap around her and she falls to the ground. Her impact is softened as her assailant twists so that she lands on top. The swordmaster's eyes burn with rage as she reaches out and closes her hands around her foe's neck with crushing force.
"You vile scoundrel! You shall pay dearly for this despicable act! I shall rend your very soul from . . ."
Her eyes widen as she recognizes Keitaro's scraped, pain filled visage. He coughs weakly and smiles at her.
"M-m-motoko, thank God I c-caught you in time. You, you mustn't go through that, hill. It is too . . ."
His eyes close as pain overwhelms him.
A few minutes later, Amalla skids to a stop as she passes Tsuruko and the others. Holding a hotdog in one hand and a bag of cotton candy in the other, she smiles sheepishly at them.
"Dang, that was why Motoko chose this course for me! I couldn't helps myself! I guess I lost it fair and square."
Tsuruko raises the flare and pulls the cord. Shinobu shakes her head.
"You beat Motoko-sempai. Her flare hasn't gone up yet."
Kitsune holds open the door to a waiting cab.
"Get yourselves in and let's get back up there! If Naru and Tsuruko are right, Keitaro-san is in trouble!"
Forcing the driver to put the pedal to the floor, they make it back to the starting line in less than five minutes. Aoyama, still kneeling and holding her sword, stares across the land looking for any sign of Keitaro's fate. Tsuruko rushes over to her.
"Mother, what has happened? Where is Keitaro-san?"
In a quiet voice, she explains the reason she unleashed the technique. Shinobu grabs Naru's arm for support and points at the ground nearby.
"Aaauuuuu! There's blood!"
Shuttered in his room, Motoko, her mother, Tsuruko, and a Shinmei-ryu physician tend to Keitaro. Gathered in the hallway, the others pace the floor and wait for updates on his progress. Naru looks at her watch and sighs.
"I wish someone would tell us something. This waiting is terrifying."
Mutsumi places her hand on Naru's shoulder.
"Urashima-kun will be alright. He always bounces back from this kind of thing. He is very strong."
The door to Keitaro's room opens. Motoko and her sister step into the hallway. The swordmaster motions to Amalla and turns towards her office. Tsuruko watches them depart before addressing the others.
"Keitaro-san will be fine. He suffered a broken left arm, bruised ribs and a sprained right ankle, a minor concussion, and various abrasions and lacerations; the latter of which have already started healing at his remarkable pace."
Su jumps over and shakes her hand.
"Thanks for the update! Ya don't know how we was worrying. What's Motoko doing with Amalla?"
"I do not know. My sister has not spoken much over the last few hours."
The women turn as the physician exits the room, bows formally, and walks down the hallway. Kitsune scratches her head.
"That's a relief. When Seta and Motoko showed up carrying Keitaro, I thought he was a goner."
Shinobu, Sara, and Kanako cry as they hug each other. Haruka waves her hand.
"Let's go get some tea; I'm sure we can go see Keitaro soon."
They follow her and walk up the hall and turn the corner to the dining area. After a few seconds, Tsuruko sprints back into view and rushes to Keitaro's room. She flings the door open.
"Mother! How many times must I tell you that you are now on a diet?"
Aoyama leans back, turns her head, and licks her smiling lips.
"I am just apologizing for injuring Kei-kun earlier. I was most distressed for causing him such hurt. He is such a courageous, charming, and handsome young man."
Tsuruko rips an ornamental shield from the wall and stalks her mother. The smile fades from Aoyama's lips and she moves towards the window.
"Please, my dear daughter, do not overreact. Remember your training; you must maintain inner calm at all times!"
Aoyama leaps for the window, nimbly landing on the sill. She crouches down and launches herself in a graceful back-flip across the room. As she reaches the peak of her arc, Tsuruko slaps her out of the air with the shield. As she falls to the floor, landing next to Keitaro, she steals a quick kiss from him and scampers through the door like a cat. Tsuruko drops the shattered shield and sighs.
"I believe she was expecting me to attempt that and took advantage of the situation."
She looks at Keitaro as he continues sleeping and sighs again.
"If my sister prevails in this contest, you shall have an interesting life together. Motoko takes after mother in many ways."
In her office, Motoko turns and faces Amalla.
"I yield to you, Amalla-san. I will not continue this contest and the victory is yours. As much as I desire Keitaro, I cannot bear that he must pay the cost of my yearning. He came close to death this day to protect me and I, I . . ."
Tears, like tiny rivers, flow from her eyes as her voice falters.
Amalla bows to the swordmaster.
"Ya is a true gentleman, Motoko. I am honored to have matched skills against you. Ya won'ts regret this. I'll treat Kaytro right for ya."
Everyone gathers in Keitaro's room for the brief ceremony. Even with the pain in his heart, he honors Motoko's decision. The customary procedures and words of the Molmol ceremony have been explained to Aoyama and she stands at the end of the room. Amalla gently supports Keitaro and they stand in their places.
"Don't ya worry none trooper. I'll make sure that ya has a happy heart."
Aoyama looks back and forth across the room, her gaze lingering briefly on Motoko where she stands in a place of honor that Amalla bequeathed to her. She steadies herself as she looks finally at the woman from Molmol and begins the ceremony.
"Does ya, Amalla Su, Queen of the land of Molmol, knows what it is that ya wants, and is ya prepared to announce it to the good folk that stand here as witnesses?
"Ya bets I am!"
"Then, states ya's plans so that it may be written down so that ya can read about it again once upon sometime later."
Amalla leans close to Keitaro and kisses him. After a few moments, she steps back and sighs contentedly.
"I hereby's proclaim that Kaytro, uh, I means Urashima Keitaro shall from this day forth be knowns throughouts all the lands as husband to Aoyama Motoko!"
The room is silent as she guides Keitaro to her left and places him directly in front of Motoko. The Queen of Molmol takes two slow steps backwards and raises her hands.
"Ya can kisses the bride already, ya lucky son-of-a-popsicle!"
Keitaro looks at Motoko.
"Did we just, are we really, is this . . ."
Tears of joy spill down her cheeks as she smiles at him.
"Keitaro, I believe that we are, that this was . . ."
As Keitaro kisses his new wife Urashima Motoko, the room erupts in cheers and tears. Su leaps over and hugs her sister.
"I loves ya, Amalla!"
Amalla smiles and wipes away a tear.
"Dang, Ah was that close, but Ah just couldn't brings myself to do it."
Motoko walks over, bows to Amalla, and then wraps her arms around her neck.
"Thank you, Amalla-san! You are a true friend and I shall always cherish your kindness!"
She returns her embrace.
"If ya's isn't against it, will it be okays if I smooches the groom?"
Motoko turns to her husband.
"By all means! It is the least that I . . . MOTHER!"
End of Chapter Eighteen.