Disclaimer: Love Hina isn't mine, nor will it ever be.
This is my first fanfic. So go easy if you choose to review, please. Flames will only succeed in making me cry.
Tears Of The Okinawan Rose
Chapter One: Separation Anxiety
Spring time in Japan. The season of happiness for many. The sakura are in full bloom, with the sweet fragrance wafting around the air seemingly intoxicating everyone and filling them with joy.
All except for one. This spring in particular is, in fact, quite the opposite for this person.
Mutsumi Otohime, Hinata Sou's resident Toudai graduate. A young woman with an exterior so delicate that a slight gust of wind would blow her over. Yet, inside this frail body beats a heart of the purest gold that means nothing but the best for her friends, and is full of undying optimism. A very unique individual indeed, she is also somewhat of an enigma. She can say one thing, but hold an completely different meaning and insinuation to what other people may seem to think, and can be very unreadable at the best of times. It is this radiation of happiness and warmth that draws comparisons to the intoxicating fragrances of the sakura petals; the fact that she seems to have the same desired effect as the said petals on those closest to her. Even if one were down in the dumps, it would be very difficult not to so much as crack the smallest of smiles at Mutsumi's presence. In fact, it is a rarity to ever see her sad.
But this day was different. The other residents of Hinata Sou would have noticed that there was something rather odd about her demeanour. Rather than happy and upbeat as normal, she was... introverted. Withdrawn. This was something which did not look right at all on Mutsumi, given her normally upbeat and seemingly carefree nature. When asked about it, she just waved it off. Thinking it was best not to press the issue any further, the other tenants took her word for it and left matters as they were.
She did not want them to see her sad and disheartened. Especially since the upcoming days were approaching probably the most important one in the lives of her two best friends.
Keitaro Urashima, Mutsumi's number one love interest and best friend, was getting married in a few days time to her other best friend, Naru Narusegawa. Both were as happy as ever with each other, with the former three-time ronin and kanrinin having graduated from Toudai with a major in archaeology, and Naru graduating as well.
Her room was dark, the smallest traces of the crystalline moonlight shining in through the closed curtains that fluttered in the cool breeze of the spring night. The Toudai graduate lay on her futon wearing her generic green dress; her face red and eyes puffy and bloodshot from crying, not like the chocolate brown eyes that one could only describe as 'easy to get lost in'. Next to her were a box of tissues. Her hair was sprawled out unceremoniously at all sides, instead of flowing freely like a silky cascade.
Kei-kun... she mused, the hot tears forming beginning to sting her eyes, it is only a matter of days until you get married to Naru-san. I placed my own happiness to the side so you could be happy with her. Watching from the sidelines as you both bond closer together was my wish. But... looking back... was it really for the best? Naru-san is a nice enough person, yes. But she is also very undeserving of you. You deserve someone better. Someone who won't strike you for any misinterpretations or any accidental 'perversions'. I would love you because of who you are, regardless of your faults.
The tears that had been threatening to fall started to do so for the umpteenth time that day. Mutsumi loved Keitaro dearly, so much so, in fact, that she would do anything for him, even if it meant disregarding her own happiness and letting him be happy with someone else. In this sense, she was very similar to her other friend; Kitsune, the saké-drinking freelance writer. If anyone would have known how Mutsumi felt, it would have been the fox-eyed girl as she placed did exactly the same when she and Naru were both teenagers in high school. Naru had such a crush on Seta, her private tutor, as did she. But rather than become rivals with Naru because of nothing more than a simple schoolgirl crush, she placed her own feelings aside and paved the way for Naru.
It was this same 'generosity' as such, that led to Mutsumi's last opportunity to openly declare her love for Keitaro to be taken away from her. She knew that once that opportunity had gone, she would never get it back. This could definitely be said for this situation. Not even the presence of her companion, the hot spring turtle Tama-chan - often described by Motoko as a 'carapace-covered demon that belonged in a river of pesticides' - could cheer her up, despite her best efforts.
When in front of the other residents of Hinata Sou, she was happy. Happy about the fact that her two best friends were almost inseparable, and were willing to spend the rest of their lives with one another. In fact, she seemed to be the one who was the main well-wisher, having known them both since childhood. But this was a facade; a front. The truth was that she was saddened. She loved Keitaro just as much as Naru, if not that much more. The difference between her and Naru was that she was more 'open', so to speak. She was more mature when it came to the subject of expressing one's feelings, although she herself had no experience when it came to having a loving relationship with someone. Naru, on the other hand, had trouble when it came to expressing her true feelings. In order to save herself from humiliation, she kept them under lock and key and took her frustrations out on the hapless Keitaro if anyone dared question her, but gave things away when coming under scrutiny; this was when she made her feelings more blatant than anything else.
In an attempt to try and take her mind off the upcoming nuptials, she reminisced back to the times she and Keitaro had shared together. How she wished she could go back to those days; the happiest days of her life.
Early January, 2000.
Halfway into the first month of the New Year, and it was a usual day at the all-girls dorm. The centre exam seemed to be coming up faster than anything for the three Toudai aspirants. Keitaro and Mutsumi decided to go out not only for reference books for their studies, but also to enjoy each other's company alone and for Keitaro to use this very opportunity to let Mutsumi know that she was his 'promised girl' from seventeen years before. It would also give him a chance to clear his head and have a break from the studying, having spent all of the previous night studying non-stop, as did Mutsumi and Naru.
Five past two in the afternoon. Keitaro was standing at the fountain beside the local railway station, waiting for his female counterpart to appear. Familiar with this part of the hot spring town, he remembered it as the place where he and Naru decided to meet on their first date together, although the auburn-haired girl denied that it was actually a date. Mutsumi appeared a few minutes later, wearing rather attractive looking clothing, at least in Keitaro's eyes. She was wearing a beret, a scarf that was wrapped around her neck with the end just resting above her breast, a plain, generic jumper and matching skirt. Keitaro couldn't help himself from staring at her; in fact, he was too busy drinking in Mutsumi's appearance to see the van hurtling towards them both. It then smashed into the young Okinawan. Running over to his companion, he checked to see if she was hurt. After seeing that she alright, an awkward silence loomed over the two as they stared each other in the eyes for a few moments. Mutsumi broke this silence by standing up and suggesting that they get going to the bookstore.
After getting the books they needed at the bookstore, they both headed off for a bite to eat. The venue of choice just happened to be a Beefbowl restaurant. Neither of them knew that they were being followed, by the most likely of people. Naru decided to follow her instincts and make sure that nothing 'perverted' was being done to the Okinawan, while Su, the hyperactive and crazy schoolgirl scientist, tagged along after coming across Naru at the bookstore. Nothing much had happened during this time, except for Su switching Tama-chan for one of her many Mecha versions in order for her and Naru to keep a track on what Mutsumi and Keitaro were saying and doing.
After leaving the Beefbowl restaurant, both bided their time by walking down the street, looking in the shop windows at what they had to offer. Neither noticed that there was an air vent on the ground. Mutsumi walked over it and got her dress blown upwards by the wind in the process, a sight which Keitaro got a smack across the face for, making him believe it was Naru who had hit him. After Mutsumi accidentally pulled the antennae on the Mecha Tama, Keitaro got launched high into the air and crashed through the window of a tall building, emerging from the doors a minute later. Running away, he grabbed Mutsumi by the arm and dragged her with him.
Both ended up in a park eventually, where Mutsumi asked to go on a boat ride with him.
'Oh, no...' Keitaro thought as he realised the position they were both in once they reached the middle of the rowing pond, 'if we didn't look like a couple earlier, we certainly do now!'
"Urashima-kun, this has been a great first date!" Mutsumi said, the enjoyment in her voice hardly disguised.
A few minutes later, Mutsumi took Keitaro's face in both of her hands and placed his head in her lap, looking down at him as she ran her fingers through his hair gently.
"M-Mutsumi?" Keitaro stammered, a questioning look on his face.
"If you move too much, the boat will rock." She simply replied, removing Keitaro's glasses. "I wanted to take a look at your face. I can take as much time as I need, ne?" Closing her eyes and smiling sweetly, she continued. "When I was very young, I made a promise to someone... that I'd go to Toudai with them. Silly, isn't it?"
"No... no, not at all. But... why bring this topic up now?"
"I wanted to thank you very much. I am indebted to you and Naru-san. I am clumsy and faint a lot, and I'm sorry for being so much of a nuisance to the two of you. But you still stay with me, despite all that. And I feel that I will be able to pass the entrance exam this year, along with both of you."
"Well, perhaps not me..." Keitaro replied sheepishly.
"Thank you very, very much, Urashima-kun. There is one more thing. I'm not sure if I've told you before... but I feel at ease whenever I look at your face. I've felt this way ever since last spring... so, that's why I think that... maybe, I..."
As if recalling a fine wine, Mutsumi managed to smile fondly, even though the tears were still rolling down her cheeks. Breaking off the memory before where Naru and Su intervened, she then found another memory to look back on...
"Oh my, this view is lovely." Mutsumi, with a rope tied around her waist and under her arms to evenly distribute her weight so she does not hang precariously, was being hoisted up to the branch of a tree by her little siblings and Naru. Keitaro and two of the other children were stuck up the tree after they tried to go bug-catching, with Keitaro hanging on by his legs. "Don't worry," she said after getting within an arm's reach, "oneechan is here to help!"
"Mutsumi, I'm so glad you're here..." Keitaro said, breathing a sigh of relief as Mutsumi took her two young sisters from his hands.
"Come on girls. I've got you."
"You are such a lifesaver, Mutsumi. Be careful, now."
"Mission accomplished, guys!" Naru shouted, still holding the rope. However, Mutsumi's other younger siblings had already let go of the rope, meaning that Mutsumi's end was heavier than that of Naru's, thus sending the auburn-haired girl flying up - backside first - towards Keitaro's face. Mutsumi, still holding her sisters, fell and landed safely into a bush.
"W-What happened there?!" Keitaro exclaimed.
"Ara... so that's what happened. My end got heavier than Naru-san's when I grabbed these two. Not to worry, though; I'll let go of my end!"
"NO! DON'T!" Naru shouted. "I'll fall if you do!" She then turned her attention to Keitaro. "Enjoy the view while you can... because you are dead once we get down!" She threatened, venom dripping from every syllable.
"I'd rather live to see tomorrow, thanks! Hold on... what if I try to --" He trailed off as he somehow slipped and ended up with his face in Naru's behind.
"Agh! Get your face out of there!"
"Oh my." Mutsumi said, her cheerful smile present once again. "Fu fu... this is getting good!"
Naru and Keitaro's end of the rope swung around as Mutsumi started to tug on it, resulting in both of them getting tangled in the ropes and Keitaro's face between the legs of Naru, who could only cry in embarrassment and anger.
"You're liking this, aren't you?! Pervert!"
"My bad, ma'am!"
"Oh me, oh my."
Eventually, Naru got herself down, a small log in hand, with Mutsumi being raised in her place as Keitaro was stuck on the branch with a large lump on the back of his head.
"Ara... sorry, Naru-san."
"You two can just stay up there, now!"
Naru then walked off back to the Otohime residence with Mutsumi's brothers and sisters to show off the beetles they had collected before getting stuck in the tree with Keitaro. Mutsumi managed to shift her body so she was sat next to Keitaro on the branch, then untied the ropes used to even out her weight.
"Why must this always happen?" Keitaro sighed.
"I wouldn't worry, Kei-kun. Part of this is my fault. I was trying to get you and Naru-san together, like Cupid."
"Can you stop playing matchmaker? This is why I keep getting beaten."
Mutsumi turned her head to the view before her.
"Oh my. Kei-kun, look at that."
Keitaro turned his view to look where Mutsumi was looking.
"Wow. That is a nice view."
"Do you remember when we were little? We used to climb this tree a lot."
"I can't remember that much, frankly."
Mutsumi sighed reminiscently.
"I remember when we used to get stuck right here. Haruka-san kept having to come and get us down."
Keitaro's eyes widened.
"Ahh... that's right, I remember now! Remember when we'd both cry after being told off?"
"Fu fu fu... hai, I remember." She turned to face Keitaro, staring him in the eyes as she placed her hand on top of his. "I still get excited when I remember what fun we used to have, but I'm even happier that we managed to meet each other again."
Mutsumi still kept eye contact with Keitaro; her eyes not leaving his, not even for a second. Nothing was said between the two for a few moments. Meanwhile, Naru was looking up at the tree, seemingly in two minds about her actions.
'What's happened?" she said to nobody in particular, a hint of concern in her voice. "What's keeping them?"
Back up at the tree, Mutsumi cupped Keitaro's cheeks with both hands, and was closing the gap between each other's faces slowly but very surely.
She sealed his lips with hers in a tender, loving kiss. She broke off after a few seconds, a healthy blush on Keitaro's face as a smile spread across Mutsumi's. She put a hand to the side of her head as she closed her eyes.
"Fu fu fu... I did it again, didn't I?"
Mutsumi's smile widened as she replayed the kiss she shared with Keitaro over and over again in her mind. This was the first of several kisses she had given the kanrinin, but this one was by far the most meaningful... to Keitaro, however, each kiss could have been as meaningful as the last to Mutsumi. Sitting up, she shifted over to her desk and opened the drawer. She rummaged through it for a few seconds before pulling out what she was looking for; a heart-shaped locket. Placing it around her neck, she opened up the locket to reveal two pictures on either side; both of Keitaro. One was a print club booth photo which he had taken on his trip to Kyoto. The second one seemed to be more recent, as he looked to have matured some more with age. She raised the pictures to her lips and placed a light kiss on each one.
"Kei-kun..." she whispered, holding the open locket to her chest, "I wish I was able to tell you how much I love you all this time ago." Her eyes misted up, the tears that fell before once again beginning to make their presence known. "But... my confession would be too little, too late." They started to fall again. Wiping her eyes with a tissue, the tears still continued to fall. She walked up to the window and drew back the curtains, looking into the night. There were hardly any clouds in the sky, with the stars making it look like it were embroidered with sequins. Each star seemed to form a constellation of Keitaro's face, with the 'award-winning' smile that the residents Hinata Sou had become so accustomed to throughout their years of living in the old building. She placed both hands over her heart as the image of that smile came into her head.
"Was placing my feelings aside and letting you go for Naru-san... really for the best?" Walking over to her desk again, she picked up a picture of every resident of Hinata Sou at the top of the large stone steps leading to the front of the building. She looked at Naru's picture, forcing a weak smile.
"Naru-san... there is nothing I can do now that you're both getting married. So, please... look after him."
Placing the picture back in it's original place, she walked back to her futon and laid down, sleep taking it's serene grasp over her frail body.
Author's Notes:Well, this is my first fanfic. Probably a disappointing one at that. This was originally one of GlazedAndConfused's intended fics, but a spell of writer's block put paid to that idea, so he let me write this in his place while he concentrates on getting the current chapter of 'Keitaro, The Savant' out of the way. And on college, of course.
In the reminiscence parts where Mutsumi remembers the times that she spent with Keitaro, you'll probably have noticed that I never included Naru and Keitaro's trip of self-discovery, where they go to Kyoto and end up in Okinawa (Vol. 3). This is because Glazed somehow LOST his copy. The baka.
Anyway. Please review. Constructive criticism is welcome; it may help me improve this story in many ways if you think it is particularly bad. Even if you feel that Mutsumi is out of character, let me know.