Disclaimer – This is a fanfiction work and it is to be deemed as such. Love Hina characters and all crossover elements and characters are property of their creators. This fanfiction concept and any original characters in this work are responsibility/property of its creator, myself.


MOVING FORWARD

By

VoidHawk


Chapter XI


Present

Sirius Star System –

Antonio could see from his cockpit how badly outgunned the Scynthian ship was.

He looks up and down, right and left. Senses in overdrive, he could see they were flying into a hornet's nest, swarming with angry fighters.

He is still shocked at what he saw when Kanako's fighter became a ball of bright light. As his attention was directed right in front of him, he did not see the fleeting image left flying in high velocity after the ball of light vanished.

He was monitoring all exchanges between their wing members. Fast orders, vectors, calculations, all were being exchanged between voidhawks. The AIs of each ship voicing their tactical analysis.

The H'taks were going to win.

Ariel was lost against the pummeling of the two huge warships against it. And the voidhawks were severely outnumbered.

It all seemed like a bad joke. They retreated to seek shelter and inform their comrades of the calamity they had flown into, but as soon as they arrive from the battlefield, they find all hell breaking loose at their supposed safe haven.

[-Attention fighters! This is Ariel. Break out and leave at once! We will not hold much longer-]

They could see it was an open broadcast, in an attempt to make the deathgliders abandon their aggression against the voidhawks. An attempt from the Scynthian captain to save at least the fighter wing pilots.

It was a futile attempt, as the gliders wanted blood and felt assured by their sheer numbers.

[-Attention all voidhawks! We are not engaging gliders. Fly straight to the H'taks. We need to get them off Ariel!-] Antonio listens to their wing commander. It was not the place of warriors to count the odds, and Antonio knew what their duty was.

Ever since he started the development of the ShinMei Ryu Space Division he knew that it was dangerous. But they would try to keep those dangers away from Earth and those who they loved there.

[-Attention all voidhawks, change to emergency configuration. We will attempt to break through using the extra defensive armor. -]

Antonio was receiving, as were all the fighters, the info burst from the leading fighter. They were to accelerate hard and use the gained momentum to hammer through the fighter wall in front of them. The space around them was full of stars…each star a glider reflecting this system's sun.

Damn, this is madness…and we will not be able to steer. They were flying maddeningly fast. Behind the enemy fighter wall he could see the Ariel, being pummeled by the H'taks. It was a hideous scene.

Looking above and below him, he could see the silloutes of his team mates as his voidhawk's system enhanced each image.

[-Change now!-] As he sends the mental order to change, he sees his comrades flashing, becoming midnight black spheres hurling towards the enemy fighters.

Kanako, Takeshi… you both haven't got even the chance to fight… Antonio was counting the seconds the AI informed they all would need to pass through the enemy wall…a whole 30 seconds…an eternity! He could feel some bumps in his way, but his momentum was immense, and he kept going on.

The gliders could do nothing, as the diamond hard spheres were flying too fast to lock any weapon on them. Some in their flight path paid the price, being hammered, destroyed in seconds by the kinetic force imparted by the deadly fast spheres.

All voidhawks flew through the gliders wall, their vectors straight to the ships locked in battle.

Three…two….one….Change! He got his system back, and his enhanced eyes could see the ships ahead of them, looming ever faster. But they were still far, and the fighters behind them were hot in pursuit.

[-We proceed ignoring the gliders. Configure for ship-to-ship missile launch as we are near enough. Attention to hear shielding-]

Antonio could see what Gold One wanted. They would try to use their missiles to cause an overload into one of the ships pummeling Ariel. They had not enough fighters to tackle both but at the very least they could try and disable the shields of the nearest attacking ship.

They cannot fire against us using their anti-fighter batteries before we launch the missiles! Locked in battle against Ariel, their shields were up, limiting their firing solution.

The idea was good, but suddenly more fighters could be seen leaving the H'tak. SHIT! They have more? How many of those bastards can they cram into those behemoths!?

[-Scramble! WE MUST LAUNCH OUT MISSILES OVER THAT BASTARD!-]

Gold One was angry, but focused. Antonio corkscrewed to his left, the enemy tantalizingly near him, and yet not into firing distance but the fighters ahead of him were already firing against them.

As they notice this, the fighters at their backs were also approaching. To his dismay, Antonio saw them fast approaching from behind while they were hurling towards the ones coming from the H'tak. They had to veer to right and left, flying parallel to the enemy's formation back and front.

As their situation seemed lost, he sees a bright flashing above and behind the H'tak they were targeting. His first impression was that another enemy cruiser was coming, and then he could see what was there after the big flash.

"POR DIÓS! MIRA ADELANTE!!!!" He screams into the comm.

A giant barrel shaped vessel was hurtling in between the Ariel and their two assailants. Due the formation the H'taks were in, the Ariel was actually now behind the barrel shaped ship!

The Agamemnon, bristling with plasma cannons firing, dropped out of hyperspace almost on top of the H'taks. It's shielding up, it was barring the firing solution over Ariel, and the H'tak was receiving a full salvo of ship-to-ship missiles and plasma cannons.

[-Here is UNSF Spin Cruiser Agamemnon, Captain Stewart Rowell speaking. You are hereby ordered to withdraw from this area. This is Earth domain by the Asgard Treaty!-]

The H'taks knew Ariel was out of combat condition and recovering from the initial shock, started firing on the human ship.

Not so good…they are alone. Ariel is too badly shaken. It is still one ship against two H'Taks.

[-Attention Gold and Red leaders, we came to assist you-] Antonio knew that voice. Kervona!

Out from Agamemnon hangars they could see fifteen voidhawks coming out, followed by 30 human built space fighters. The fighters from the H'tak were taken by surprise, and the voidhawks caught them unprepared, causing the enemy to scatter.

[-Red wing, we resume initial order. Straight to the H'tak. Let's help Agamemnon! -]

Suddenly, the enemy fighters were scattering, but there were still too many. Antonio could see the new arrivals being chased. Although they were holding right and had better ships, they were still outnumbered in the long run.

As Antonio shoot down two gliders, he saw that four were on top of him, already pummeling his shielding. Overload alerts were already flashing in his mind. Oh, Yumiko anata, sorry…I think this time I will not be able to come home. Overload peaking fast in his mind-feed infos from his fighter's systems, he thought about the friends he lost today, and his wife and son. That is it then…

As he bids his farewell, unable to shake the fighters over him, two of his assailants suddenly become balls of expanding debris. The energy overloading his system decreases fast, as he saw the remaining two enemy fighters' blow as well.

He sees a fast shadow flying at his side. The configuration was strange. Who is there…this seems like out of a sci fi movie. The ship was aerodynamic, like a huge wing or boomerang. It was midnight black as their voidhawks, but that configuration was weird.

He receives a communication burst, actually an open one, just transmitting without being directed to anyone. It was ranting in Japanese: [-Korosu…anatatachi wo korosu! Kaite! Otooto…Kaite neh!!-]

That voice….it can't be! He could recognize the voice.

It was Kanako's voice. But there was something chilling in her voice…something that was not there before. And her ranting: //…I will kill you all! Come back…little brother…come back!// What is happening? Thinks Antonio.

A chilling shriek came through the comm and the black wing shaped fighter accelerates hard, towards the H'taks. He could see that any fighter on its path was fast reduced to plasma. The firing output from that single fighter was fearsome.

"Gold leader, have you seen that?"

[-Red Leader, the beacon says it is Urashima's fighter. Though I cannot discern the configuration, that is her! -]

That much I know…ah, and yes, the beacon is there…damn I have not even paid attention as I already recognized her voice!

[-She is opening a path through those fighters. Lets help her now!-] They dive after her fighter, fast towards the H'tak near them.

The Agamemnon was holding firmly, when another flash comes from behind the H'taks. Immediately a loud comm burst is heard from all comm units.

[-This is UNSF Spin Heavy Cruiser Yamato, Admiral Kodai speaking. It seems a little help is needed here.-] The second Earth ship, a brand new heavy cruiser comes out of hyperspace. Longer than the Agamemnon, imparting a sleek feel to its barrel shape, it came out of hyperspace already fighting, missiles flying instantly after its Eisnteinian space inception. And its inception vector allowed it to do something Agamemnon could not in order to save Ariel. It came with a clear shot for its main giant X-Ray Terawatt Laser Cannon.

The outermost H'tak receives a full salvo of missiles, and the Yamato went full power with its huge frontal laser cannon. The force of the missiles overload the H'tak shielding for an instant as it was already receiving fire from Agamemnon plasma batteries thus making it flare for nanoseconds. It was enough. Already over the assault of Yamato's main cannon the shield collapsed, letting the Terawatt Laser Cannon beam pass. The top of the pyramidal ship became red and then it exploded, making the ship move into the explosion's opposite direction. Micro explosions could be seen coming out from its outer hull, while the ship was slowly moving uncontrollably away from its previous position.

The Yamato did not stop.

Unseen salvo after salvo of its X-Ray laser was pouring from its main cannon. The only sign of the mortal discharge was given by the small light produced when the beam went through a plasma and micro debris cloud floating in its path. Differently from the plasma cannons, the X-Ray Laser Cannon discharge was completely invisible in cold vacuum. It continued to rain its main cannon over the crippled ship, mercilessly. It was reducing it to molten debris, and then the whole ship exploded as its main reactor blew.

[-This is not a warning. Any hostile ship in this area is targeted for termination. Leave now or stay at your own peril-] The Yamato commanding officer was A plkkkkkkmmimiimiimimdmiral Sussumo Kodai and he was a relentless, merciless commanding officer.

The Yamato targets a tight formation of enemy fighters away from the other enemy vessels. It could not fire its cannon over the ship near Ariel as the allied fighters were still swarming near it, but the tight enemy fighter formation was a sure shot. A really stupid thing to do in space, such kind of flying was sheer stupidity against a weapon like the giant laser cannons they had. The Laser Cannon vaporized at least 20 fighters at once. The fighters vaporizing as if by magic.

As that was happening, Agamemnon was covering the Ariel, while the fighters were showering the remaining battle ship in missiles. The plasma cannon batteries from the Agamemnon were in full throttle over the ship as well, causing its shields to be severely taxed. As the fighter's exhausted their missiles they start pouring energy lances over the H'tak while protecting the missile bearing ones.

While that, the voidhawks instead of pummeling the H'tak were protecting the others, chasing all enemy fighters within their firing solution.

The fighter that seemed to be piloted by Kanako was doing a gruesome act, destroying every enemy fighter it could get. Its flying was fast and precise, far more capable than the other ships. It was angrily relentless.

In the blink of an eye, the whole situation changed.

They were winning, and the remainder enemy ship started to recede, trying to move away from the ships assailing it.

As the H'tak started to move away from the human ships and the Scynthian crippled vessel, the enemy fighters still engaging the human ships started to move to screen the fleeing H'tak.

As that happens, Antonio, flying very near the enemy vessel, was able to see the engraving in its upper hull, near the apex of the huge pyramid…

He froze for an instant, recognizing the symbols engraved on that ship.

The enemy vessel accelerated towards deep space, running away.

This split second proved a mortal mistake, as two gliders were upon him, discharging everything they got on his fighter. He felt, too late to trying to evade, the enemies' fire hitting his fighter. Five plasma shots hit him at full force followed by a single missile hit. Too much for his shielding, which collapsed.

Oh SHIT! The ship's AI recognizing the danger changed into its emergency configuration, and for a moment he thought he would die. Even in such configuration, two fighters discharging over him would prove mortal.

The time passed. He felt a big jolt, as if something grabbed his fighter to make it stop, and after 5 seconds the ship reconfigured to normal flight. Antonio notices that his flight systems were dead, he was stuck in space. Whatever stopped his fighter saved his life, for without his flight systems he was inside a very sophisticated coffin. His most advanced systems were totaled. He disconnects from full merging mode. Most controls were down, as his fighter really received a bad beating in the end.

As his systems were down he starts to send a distress signal, and prepares to wait. As his suit could keep him safe for a long time, he opens the emergency latches, opening the frontal cockpit panel to space. As the cabin was not pressurized (standard procedure when in fighting mode) little effect the action had, and he could see the scene outside his fighter.

There was an expanding cloud of debris to his starboard, and to his port side he could see a figure floating in space, over his now stopped fighter. He looks, gaping at the scene he was witnessing. The figure reminded him of one of the Ground Configurations their voidhawks could change into, but it was bigger…and its shape…it was more human-like…a clearly feminine shape.

It was holding what was left of a glider in its arms. It was midnight black and at least 18 meters tall.

His eyes were riveted on the battle mech holding the glider…as it was literally feeding angrily on the enemy vessel. It was tearing it apart, transforming its matter into energy, and engulfing everything…replenishing the lost mass it used in battle…not sparing anything…be it organic or inorganic.

Oh my god…what is happening here? He looks wide eyed to the scene. Do our ships can do that?

He was receiving its beacon through the suit's system. It was Kanako's fighter.

A chill runs down his spine as he remembered her words before, and the frightening shriek he heard right before the communication with her fighter ended.

The gruesome act went on as the screams of victory were heard from all the comm channels.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….


...

5 Days in the Past

...

Haruka's Cafeteria – Kanagawa – Morning

Haruka was still a bit upset with her luck concerning Keitaro, but she was also not sure yet of how to even begin the subject with her nephew.

While tending the morning guests at her Coffee Shop, her mind wanders to what is happening concerning her nephew. What can I really tell him about this? I am not even sure yet myself what is really going on here, though my gut does tell me there is something really fishy going on. Ah well…who knows when the boy will call me again anyway. I need to wait, and when he does call back I will see what to do.

As Haruka tries to dispel her worries without much success, one of her employees calls her from the back of her Shop: "Haruka san, please! Keitaro kun is on the phone!"

Haruka advised them to call her immediately as soon as Keitaro called back.

Haruka quickly excused herself while another of the girls took her place attending to the customers and goes to the phone grabbing it a tad hurriedly: "Keitaro! Why haven't you called back yesterday? You did leave a message telling me that you would call back later!" She sounds hurried, actually noticing that she still has no clue as to how to start the real subject with her nephew. "I did wait, you know!" It went out a bit briskly, rather out of her character that, but Keitaro seemed not to notice it.

-Ah, Haruka! Really sorry! I did mean to call back later, but I ended up caught up in the events here and I got back to the hotel really late –

His voice is different somehow. A lot more relaxed than the last time we spoke right before he left. "It seems your trip is being fun already, neh?" Despite being really worried about Keitaro and the possibility of him actually entering Tokyo U, she feels a bit bad right now, for the whole subject would probably upset Keitaro. After all, the affair with the Toudai tests and Narusegawa's actions made him choose to travel, and now both Toudai and Narusegawa are in the middle of the subject again.

-Ah, you can say that indeed! I have had in the past 2 days more fun than in the last whole year, to tell you the truth- His voice was energetic, something she was not noticing from Keitaro for a time now. Such brings more uncertainty to Haruka's intention to tell him her own thoughts

Am I right bringing this up now? Haruka tightens her grip on the phone, now unsure as to what really do. But if I do not tell him what is happening, he may never really forgive me. After knowing it all he would make a decision over the matter. It is not for me to withhold such information…I am already in debt with the boy for letting him out alone this whole time here.

Haruka objectively knew she was not responsible for the boy's situation, but emotions are emotions, and she cared for the boy.

"So, tell me, how are you faring then? You did not call back in two days." She goes the easy way at first.

-Ah, Haruka…Gommen! It so happens I am in Kyoto right now." A brief silence comes. "Ah, and that reminds me, if I see him around I will make sure to tell him your regards- Keitaro says cheerfully in the other side of the line.

She smiles at his words "Keitaro, thank you" Ah, were I able to talk to Seta san he could help me with this! She sighs silently.

The silence stretches for a minute, when Keitaro goes on – Ah, Haruka, it has been sooo long since the last time I had a time off just for me! It figures both you and Kana 'Nee san were right about me and Toudai. You both always said I should relax a bit once in a while. –

Haruka listens, bowing her head.

-I almost went hikikomori some years ago, remember? - He laughs at this. – But see, I may have come to my senses at last. Enough trying to do something for the sake of empty delusions- His voice is firm – I spent far too much time actually doing nothing but studying and lately working at Hinata Sou. My social life is nonexistent at all but to care for the Dorm these days – He sighs audibly at this – But that is neither fulfilling nor really healthy –

At this, Haruka replies "Come now, you did a wonderful work up there!" She makes an evil grin at this. "And I am making sure your work is not wasted while you are away. You might have some surprises when you are back".

-Surprises? Ah…well. About this, I do not intend to come back soon anyway. Actually I made some friends here this past two days, and one of those already promised to show me around the place. I am really enjoying this time I'm spending here.- He pauses for a few seconds, his voice turning a bit more serious now. – And also, I am beginning to understand a lot of things on my own now. Things I should have seen way before now. But I want to believe it is never too late to change. Jeez, I am only twenty years old anyway…though I feel tired of some things already- His voice went a bit somber now. – Haruka san, do you think I've become a weird person after closing myself off to all the people around me all this time? - He speaks hurriedly now, and Haruka listens quietly at this. – I wish I was a bit different now. A bit more experienced on things. I am already 21 and I feel I have lost a lot of my youth…and both you and 'Nee san always told me to do otherwise. I owe you both quite a big apology for never listening to what you said to me before –

What is happening now? You did realize quite a bit in a very short time. I wonder what have you being doing this last two days… Haruka has always worried about Keitaro's behavior and tried to speak with him at times, but the boy's ideas were like settled in an iron cast. Whatever is happening, I am glad you are coming out of this well. She seats at the bench on the telephone side, now feeling suddenly tired for some reason.

Then what will you do with the news I have here? Will you charge back? Is this really the right thing to do? Haruka thought silently for a bit

– Well, I am happy I was able to talk to you now, Haruka! Sorry for not calling before after telling you I would keep in touch. I will call again soon ok, but I need to go now –

Wait! What am I doing! "Keitaro, wait! There is something I need to talk to you about!" I can't keep this in the dark. Eventually he will discover and then what? If his decision is true about his actions up to this moment then this will not be a great deal. On the other hand, be it as it may, he may have a chance to enter Toudai, if that teacher's words were right. It s up to him then, and he will know he was apt to choose fully.

Haruka rights herself in the bench, making her decision. "Keitaro, neh" she starts "You see, 2 days ago Narusegawa came in and told the girls that her test was reevaluated at Toudai." She stops a bit, and Keitaro listens, not saying a word.

"At this point, she then told everyone that they found out the correction was wrong at the time of the results' publication. Toudai's examination team, after reviewing her tests found out that she passed." She stops, but no reply came. "Keitaro, Narusegawa entered Toudai." She says in a somewhat subdued voice.

-Haruka- Kei's voice came out evenly, calm. – Haruka, you see…we checked the results, as we always keep the answers to check how we did…and our tests came out almost identically in content – He laughs bitterly at this. – Maybe because we studied together all the time after I came to Hinata Sou – He stutters for a split second. – And you see, there was no mistake. We failed. She even got a bit behind me on the answers -

Ah, Keitaro, that is what is bothering me you see. I know you would not blunder on something like your own results review… "I know you did review the results together. But she says she had gone to Toudai to request a review…and the result was that she passed." And that answer came out too fast!

Keitaro's breathing is even in the other side. - Haruka - He does not add any suffix here. She knew he was distressed, even if he did not show it.

He goes on, voice even. – I am glad for Narusegawa Kun. - Formal eh. Notices Haruka. But you see, this has nothing to do with me anymore. –

"But Keitaro, I visited Toudai to ask about this situation. They told me that her test was reviewed after her request, a request that must be placed by the affected party. I can't do it for you here. It is possible that if you come and file a review request here, you may pass as well." She goes on. "I know you got upset with this all, but here there may be a way for you to get into Toudai. It is not what you have wanted all this time?"

–Haruka san, that was true some days ago, and I tried as hard as I could for a long time, but I failed time and again. – He raises his voice a tone. –But the drives behind my attempts were in reality empty delusions. My reason to try Toudai was ridiculous at best! I think it is better to leave things be now. Maybe all the failures up to this moment were already a clear sign that deep down I knew my reasons were not the right ones –

Haruka wrinkled her eyebrows, and carried on: "You may be saying this now, but I still think you should at least check this out. If it is true that you passed, it is due your own value and effort, and that should be acknowledged." She carries out before Keitaro replies: "At least as a closure of these latest events on your life, you should check if you passed or not. Then it is your choice indeed entering or not. You can move ahead after this without any regrets…" Haruka fell silent at this, waiting Keitaro's answer.

-Haruka san, gommen neh…I really need to go now. I will call you back again soon. - His voice is faintly strained, but few would perceive it. Haruka would, and so would Kanako if she were talking to him now.

Haruka feels a bit sad for being the bearer of what could have brought a bit more of confusion to Keitaro, but she sincerely felt he needed to act upon this matter. Not because of Toudai or Narusegawa or the damned Promise, but for himself as a man wishing to start anew. She knew that by trying to deny some things and forget them without a real closure we may create worst worries in the future.

"Keitaro, I do apologize…but I had to tell you this. It was an important matter for you for far too long. I still think you should close this matter properly, but I respect whatever decision you may take." She sighs but tries to keep a cheery voice now. "Do enjoy your time there, and be certain I do support you!" I felt I failed you already and I do wish to atone for that... "And do call again! I may get upset if you just vanish to have fun with some new friends there!" And she says, in uncharacteristically playful tone now: "Who knows, you might even find a suitable girl there to cheer you up!"

Keitaro coughs loudly at this on the other side. –Ah, well…who knows. Though I feel I have a lot to learn about social manners before starting anything new. I lack experience in many subjects due my own fault neh- He says, laughing nervously. –Then, jah ne. I will call you again-

He hang up, and Haruka set her eyes on the phone at her hands, a mix of curiosity and worry on her face and eyes. Humm, there is something here… She rests the phone back, standing up, her face sporting a strange grin. He may do as he pleases, but I still think he should come back and see this through. But I do understand why he is acting like this now. She slams the phone table with her right hand, eyes suddenly sporting an angry look to them.

And yet, if I find that there is indeed something wrong with this whole matter, there will be prices to be paid, and I will surely collect them personally! Due this it seems I even brought a burden to Keitaro when he seems to be doing really fine…Dammit! She straightens her apron. Ah, but he seems to be doing fine indeed. I will tell little Shinobu later. I do know the little one is worried about him.

Looking up, she holds her chin, thoughtfully. It is also time to contact the Aoyamas. Though I cannot do much in the Narusegawa's case right now, Motoko is another matter altogether. Her behavior is worrisome, and I do owe Yumiko a word about her little sister's behavior. The hard phone calls are not over yet, neh. She looks at her hands and to the door leading to her Coffee's saloon. But later. Now work! She is not very anxious to carry on the phone calls now. Especially considering how the Aoyama's could react about their young representative at Hinata Sou.

Haruka goes back to tend to her clients. She is not completely satisfied with the situation, but at least she did what she thought was the right thing to do for now. For this time on it was not her decision anymore concerning Keitaro, though she would help him on whatever she could.

…………………………………………………………………………………………

At Hinata Sou, Kitsune was still upset with the things she was noticing on her friend.

On more than one occasion in the past she disagreed with her friend, which was natural as people have different opinions on many kind of situations, but the latest events where becoming too worrisome for Kitsune just to let it go.

Ack! I am not sure what to do! I am really sorry for my own behavior all this time, and even if it is late in regards to how I acted all this time to Keitaro, I will talk to him if I have a chance. But Naru…what am I supposed to do with her? Kitsune scratches her head with both her hands in confusion. ARGH! I am not used to being this worried! Damn stupid situation this one. But then again we should have expected something like this to come about. At least I should have, for I kind of knew some of Naru's ideas and actions at least concerning her personal life.

She straightens her hair, and leaves her room. She had her duties to complete and at least for the time being, she would not think about things. Kitsune was aware that Narusegawa had a boy friend for some time now, and deep down she felt bad for Keitaro, but then again it was not her duty or whatever meddle in other people's lives, even though she thought Narusegawa should have properly told such to Keitaro, then the boy could try and forget her. More than once she thought about telling him the truth but backed off worrying that such could be a kind of betrayal to her friend. Now she was feeling more than guilty at to where things have gone.

Mah, ii neh. Better start working and think about this later!

As Kitsune is bringing clothing from the bathrooms to the laundry, she passes by Narusegawa, who was preparing to leave once more. The sight angers Kitsune, as all the others were doing their part caring for the house.

"Neh, Naru. I thought you were responsible for the laundry today. I have been to the laundry room at least three times already and I have not seen you…"

"Ah, you see, a little problem has come up and I really need to go out for a bit. Just leave everything there and when I am back I will take care of it, ok?" She says with a pleading face, but it was not the first time since they began to tend for the house that she skips her duties.

"Look, it is not for me that you need to ask or explain anything. But if Haruka comes to check then we cannot hid that you are not around…" Kitsune is with a blank face, more disappointed than anything at this stage. It was already hours since she woke up and started doing her duties of the day.

"Look, once again it is not our duty to be doing this! Damn thing is, the one that should be here is out there enjoying his time wherever he is, and now it seems that his "Aunt" took his side. Who owns the place and calls himself kanrinin? I will do it later ok!" Her voice is angry, speaking fast.

"We all are becoming aware of what means to take care of this place…" Kitsune looks to the pile of clothing on her arms now. "Should we not allow some time to Keitaro? He was trying to do a lot of things by himself for a long time now."

"It really seems you are on his side after he threw his little tantrum and ran away after failing Toudai. I do not understand it. And I do not care! I will do what I need later, ok. But first I have some personal things to take care of." She sighs, walking briskly away. "I thought that your words before were unthought-of ones but it really seems you are more a friend of him than mine. Fine Kitsune…be it as you wish."

Dumb folded, Kitsune froze in her place, eyes wide at the blonde's reaction. "Jeez! What is going on here? Weird and weirder…" She has a sad expression. Kitsune was Narusegawa's friend since they were little, but she was acting more and more as a stranger.

Motoko, who was coming from school at this time, was able to hear the last of the exchange between friends, and saw as Narusegawa left in anger.

Looking at Kitsune, she speaks to the girl still looking at Narusegawa's exit direction.

"Err…Kitsune san, it is not my place to put my fingers into others' affairs, but don't you think you should try to talk to Narusegawa san? You've both been friends for quite some time now, even before I arrived here." Motoko even being reserved was worried as to what things were coming about around her. She did not mind the work and all, but she could feel the tension growing inside Hinata Sou, and the reason for her was simple and plain wrong.

Kitsune looks into Motoko's eyes, determination on her own ones. "Motoko chan…would you oversee something wrong, even if a friend was involved?" She sighs. "Would you let things go just because your friends are involved?"

"N-no, of course not! I would try making my friend see what is happening. Wrong is wrong and letting things be would even be wrong towards your friend! You must be true to yourself as well. If you do not like something wrong, you cannot justify accepting it just because of friendship." Motoko answers, a bit surprised by Kitsune's seriousness.

"Thank you, my friend. Now I need to go for it seems there is extra work with this here." She says, showing the clothing on her arms.

Motoko observes while Kitsune follows her way. That girl is changing. She was always playing around...but those two were so close not long ago. Why this now? Why I feel that since Urashima left things were really falling down? Motoko looks at her bokken, thoughtful. It seems it is really his fault…he seeded this and now look at what is happening. That is why I was against him staying here since the beginning! Things were peaceful before and now look at how things are here…

Taking the only conclusions she was able at this moment, Motoko goes to her room to change her clothes and start her chores. Right now work in something physical seemed better than dwelling on thought patterns that would just anger her at this moment for she had no way to even vent her frustration over the one she held as responsible for what was happening around Hinata Sou.

Speaking with Narusegawa in the night before made her certain that her opinions over the boy were right all along. Pity in her opinion was that Shinobu and Kitsune seemed not able to see it all. Not even mentioning Haruka.

...

.................................................................................................

...

Keitaro, after listening to what Haruka said, and saying his goodbyes, hung up the telephone, and headed for the bathroom

to splash some water on his face.

He looks at the mirror, looking at his image reflected there.

And what does this mean now? So Narusegawa did not fail her test…but how? Not that I wished her to fail in the first place, despite the way she treated me, but the question is that we checked all answers. We failed! He stares at his own eyes in the mirror. But if what Haruka says is true, shouldn't I request this review? I know my initial drive to enter Toudai was wrong, but then again, entering there is an achievement per si. And I could also study for a career for myself. I could be someone and not just a nobody like me now… He looks at the mirror, not really seeing anything. Maybe she would not be so angry with me anymore… He remembers his last two days, and snaps out of it in an instant, looking at himself in the mirror once more.

What am I thinking? Would it even matter? Do I need a person that acts like Narusegawa as a friend? Haven't I been through enough already?

And Tsuruko comes into his mind. And haven't I seen that the world outside of Hinata Sou and that cursed promise has so much more to offer?

He combs his hair, a bit nervous.

And yet, Toudai…I could be someone after studying…for I am really not sure what I am or what I want right now…and that is starting to bother me a lot. Realization over the time he spent chasing clouds was coming to Keitaro. He was becoming slowly aware of himself as well. Thinking about Tsuruko, he felt somewhat lacking. She seemed so mature and secure. Such thoughts made him wish to become something, someone better.

But why this now? And truthfully I even abhor the whole Toudai matter now. The whole affair seems so futile. And I am sure I failed the damn exam. Maybe Narusegawa wrote her answers differently from what she saved for our check, but I am sure about my own test…or am I not?

Drying his face, he goes to the balcony, observing the day outside. Bah! This is nonsense! Why do I need to go back right now to check at something I don't even care about anymore! Sure it would be nice to know I had not failed, but right now I really do not want to go back. Not to something I am not even interested anymore.

He thinks about what Haruka said, about ending this subject properly. Ah, but what is it to end, Haruka san! I am not willing to deal with this anymore…I will live what I am living these days, and later I will see things through. Let me be carefree for a little while. And let me enjoy these days with Tsuruko a little more…who knows when I will have the chance to be with her like this again. It has been so much fun this little time we had so far. I wish this to last a bit longer before going back to deal with Hinata Sou and what I made of my own life up to this moment. I do not even know what I want to do with my life right now. Be back to check this Toudai thing may be pointless when I am not even aware of my own goals.

I am even afraid that I may part ways with that beautiful woman eventually and never see her again…what are the real chances of being more than a friend to such a woman? I should know my place here. His fear making him wishe to quench any thoughts of Tsuruko right now, trying to divert from her. Making him turn to old paths for safety. But he felt alone doing such. He felt that this would not be the answer for him.

He turns towards the balcony's door, resting his back in the balcony's handrails, staring at the telephone. I imagine Narusegawa is happy now, being able to enter Toudai... He suddenly has an image of Narusegawa smiling, in the way that has enchanted him for so long. It has been a long dream. First the promise back in his childhood. Then coming to Hinata Sou and meeting the girls. It was not a very nice beginning one might say, but he was there despite his clumsiness and lack of experience with the opposite sex. He slowly worked his way with the girls, but never quite really tuning with the only one that really moved his heart even before knowing that she was the girl from that old promise, Narusegawa Naru. He held that dream and hope for a long time. The image stood in his mind for a moment. Tears came into his eyes, his heart feeling tight, like a hand was clenching it. He tried once to reach Narusegawa's heart, and he thought he could win over the girl he loved. He failed.

I truly loved you Narusegawa…but it has never been enough.

He remembered some of the nice moments with her, those times when she helped him, when she seemed to be opening for him. Her smile, her scent, her voice.

I sought your friendship, then your love…but things never really worked between us, is it not true? The smiling, beautiful image suddenly was not there anymore. He remembered the beatings, the silly misunderstandings that always ended up in pain, when he limped alone to his room, to tend to himself, afraid that Haruka could discover how hurt he was. Not a word of caring, fists and sword coming to his way mercilessly. Not a single small fault was forgiven. And the moral beatings, the scorn she sometimes displayed, launching hurtful words at him. Oh yes, Motoko was there as well, but Naru, her actions were the most hurtful.

Even though I tried my best, you were so mean at times, so fast to act and so deaf to any pleas…never believing in what I had to say. I was so pathetic I can see it now… The image of Narusegawa, face in anger, faded from his mind.

At this moment, he suddenly remembered the beautiful raven haired woman he met so early in his trip. A woman that was both strong and tender, both skilled and patient. Tsuruko could be a frightening sight when she chooses to be, but at the same time she had a grace that mesmerized him. He remembered the dance when he first met her, the time at the park when she defended a boy, the scary act with those bullies, and the onsen.

Oh my…I thought I was lost then…after touching her body like that. He looks to his hands, remembering vaguely the feeling of Tsuruko's breast on his hand before he went into complete panic and despair. Were it with Narusegawa or Motoko, I think I would be in a hospital by now. He closes his eyes for a moment.

Had I met a woman like you before, Tsu chan, I bet some things might have been a little different for me. He laughs at his own thoughts. Or they would not! I was blind then. I had to wake up from my delusions before meeting anyone! But such things can be painful, though necessary.

He enters back the room. I may actually have one thing or two to say to Narusegawa before leaving this all behind. I think I can understand that, but in reality I owe her nothing but a lot of pain. I don't feel like even talking to her, though this new situation is weird enough.

He remembers the last events with her, and the way she treated him lately. His back end burning with the memory of more than one spanking.

The matter with the tests did upset him a bit deep down, but at this moment Urashima Keitaro was not interested in dwelling on things that were very painful to him. His present reality was more interesting and pleasing. Far more.

But Haruka was right, deep within he felt that a closure to it all would be necessary eventually. And maybe he would need to take some action. Hinata Sou was under his care after all and he would not be able to run away from his responsibilities forever. But as for right now, the day with Tsuruko was yet to start.

I am not sure what you did Narusegawa…the review requests were supposed to be open for 4 days only, beginning yesterday. That much I knew since my first year trying to enter Toudai. And the answer itself should take some time. Of course there were some exceptions in the past for justified reasons, but then again we checked our exams…how could we fail to check something so important…and then again the results were there for us to see. There were no answers where we could have been misinterpreted by the checking team…I really do not understand this at all.

Trying to brush the whole subject aside, he sits at his desk, working a bit more on the drawing for Tsuruko. Ah, you know what, damn it all right now. I will get to this later, but not now…not today!

In a sense he was still running away but right now that was the only thing he could do. He turned his attention to the drawing he was working in, dedicated to it.

He wanted it to be his greatest masterpiece to date! I want to see that smile, and to know it was because of something I made for her. The image of Tsuruko and her smile was engraved in his mind now.

………………………………………………………………………………………………

Great Master Dojo Training Facilities – late morning –

"So, you see my dear, having a dark Ki can have many meanings, and most of those are very different from what many people thought in the past" A man around his sixties, Master Hikari was athletic and full of energy. But despite the appearance of strength, he had a very gentle voice, controlled and well cultured.

Tsuruko, listening with attention, listens to the Master in respect. Even being the Head Master of the whole ShinMei Ryu, she knew to whom she should pay respect, and this man was one of those she respected the most. Not only for his knowledge and wisdom, but for the past she shared with him. He was one of the few that survived that fateful night 5 years ago, when many where lost at the Master Dojo, including his own wife, alongside Tsuruko's husband and her parents.

"Well, it can be then that the person I am talking about has something really traumatic in his past, and that experience made him, unconsciously, create a kind of defense to protect himself, the only kind of defense he could produce without knowledge on how to control his Ki output ?" Tsuruko asks as her curiosity and worry are reflected in her eyes and voice.

"If it is as you said, with the Ki release more noticeable when under stress, yes that can be true. Such ability can be very useful to retain energy when such is needed, especially to people with low Ki output and no active training in dealing with their own Ki. Then they can harness enough to help heal both body and soul." He looks thoughtful for a bit. "But if the field is too intense, as in the way you described it in his case, it means the person has a high output capability without any knowledge of it. Such could be troublesome, for it would hinder the person to an extent. It could also mean that something really strong happened to them…requiring a lot of energy to be dedicated into the healing, protective process." The Master looks to the room, where many young students were practicing focusing of their Ki. "Such state would not be noticed by most people, even for those with such happening to them. Actually the very field could be harmless through the whole healing process occurring to the affected person in most cases. But if the load, and by that I mean load both to the spirit and the body of said person, is too strong, the field may collapse. And such collapse is more like an inversion. It could be very harmful then. Not because the Dark Ki is inherently bad, but the resulting rebound of inverted energy would act contrary to the field's original function of protection, causing effects that may vary from a mild sickness to really serious health deterioration.

Tsuruko seems thoughtful, eyes showing her inner thoughts. Hikari puts his hand over hers, over the bench they were sharing at the training room. "But for that to happen, a really big trauma would have to befall the person again before the healing process displayed by the dark Ki and the suppression effects run its course. So whoever is that you are worried about, just by having you here asking this is already placing him in a long distance from being into any traumatic situation like that, right? Friends can take care of each other and you are more than capable of helping this person if you are this concerned about him."

He gently looks at Tsuruko, and she becomes as bit red at the thought of her worrying about Keitaro. "Err, thank you. And the person I spoke of is most of the time cheerful and well." But this kind of explains why I can't feel his Ki at times…whenever he feels a bit nervous or distressed.

"But then the Ki containment effect is not harmful at first?" She asks once more.

"As I said, not in normal circunstances. There is no danger in the effect itself. It just shows the person has a great output capability and no control at all over it, which you said is true at times. Actually it shows that the person has great potential in Ki output terms but with no training at all, be it conscious or not." He looks to Tsuruko, smiling. "In the past people thought that Dark Ki auras and the absence of Ki at certain times were signs of possession or evil. That is born from ignorance and we already learned otherwise in our times. Research on this subject is already producing very rich material. Of course Dark Ki also means the person has come through a lot, and experiences may change people. The kind of experience that creates such degree of protection and healing necessity may well twist people, but as you said, the person you spoke of seems to have a normal Ki flow if not neither stressed nor disturbed. That means he went though whatever and kept himself true, the Dark Aura an effect of his latent capability to focus his energy into a kind of protection and not a sign of being a thorn, twisted person. If I should say so, it already shows a lot about the person. But you are the one that knows him. You are better than me to say anything about that, Tsu chan."

She reddens a bit more at this. "I do not know much about him, but yet I feel he is a very kind man. And I was worried about this. I think I should have paid more attention to our classes in the past." She says, averting the Master's eyes.

"Ahah, true true…you and your sister were never that much into my classes. But then you came to ask when in doubt, and that shows you know your limits. That I respect in you both!" He says, laughing.

Tsuruko stands up, straightening her robe. "Well, I will not take away any more of your time, Thank you once more, Master Hikari." She bows in respect.

"Ah, do not be so formal. And I tell you, I am happy to see you worried by someone like this. You are a nice woman and I am happy to see you asking something about a young friend. " He says his voice low. "Keep it up my dear, and if you need anything or any help, please call." He stands, looking at his students. "Now it's time to get back to work neh." Master Hikari looks to Tsuruko and bows. "It was my pleasure to have you visiting me, Aoyama Sama." He says with affection and respect.

"You can be sure I will call if I need. And I will drop by from time to time to listen to your lectures. Maybe I will catch up with the things I lost when I was younger." She smiles, turning to the exit.

Master Hikari looks to the woman leaving the chamber. There goes a nice young woman with the possibility of a whole happy life ahead of her if she just makes the choice. I am happy to see you like this. I had a glimpse of your worry for this young friend, and that alone is proof you are ready to start anew. I am happy for you Aoyama Tsuruko. He goes to his students smiling. And lucky boy you are, nameless one. Her worrying about you like this is something a handful of men here would fight vigorously for. I just hope your own situation is ok. We all have our issues, but caring and friendship help a lot into solving those.

Tsuruko goes to her office to finish things off and prepare for her afternoon.

I was worried, but most of the time he is ok. I will try to talk more with him. She smiles. I will make him more and more comfortable with me, and then I will be able to help him more. Yeah, that is it! Maybe it is something related to the images I saw. But I will show him that Ki wielders can be nice and gentle… She laughs at this. Fufufu…especially this Ki wielder here, neh.

Increasing her pace, she goes to her office, relieved to an extent after her talking with Master Hikari, but also worried about how to help Keitaro. She knew more from him now, and adding to what she felt before from immersing briefly into his thoughts, this talk with Master Hikari made her even more interested in the young man. And not in any professional way.

Yumiko was at her office, coming up with the activities for that week.

"Herikawa San, please take care about the Computer Core refitting details with Morisato's people. It seems they will be arriving tomorrow, and I want this to go smooth and fast."

-Do not worry, Aoyama Sama, it will be done accordingly. And in regards to the arrival of our guest from England, everything is ready and the Masters in charge of the training are all prepared. They seem to be happy to have some hard practice ahead of them. - The face in the screen, a young girl in her 20's, hair at her neck spoke cheerfully.

- Besides this, the only other matter for this week is the visit to the Old Dojo by Kazami Sensei's group. - The girl in the screen says, looking at something outside the camera view.

"That is an easy one. The Old Dojo staff can handle that easily. Just be sure to set a coffee with us and Kazami san, ok."

-No problem. We talk again later. - Her secretary calls off and at this moment Aoyama Kura knocks at her door frame. "Am I interrupting you?"

"Ah, Kura Sempai! Done with your own schedule already? We can have lunch together then." Yumiko motions for Kura to seat for a moment.

"Ah, well, not really done yet, but well ahead, thank you." She seats, looking to Yumiko. "Err, Yumiko chan…I have not said it back at our meeting, but I am really sorry to be the bearer of news that will ultimately take Antonio out from his vacation a bit early." Kura is really apologetic, and Yumiko smiles at her.

"You see, we here should be used to this already. Not that I like it, not in the least. But when you marry an operative from ShinMei Ryu you need to have some things already settled, is this not true?" She rests her seat back, looking at Kura. "You did nothing, the situation is as it is."

"I know…but he is going far, and we all know you never really liked these trips out. In reality you were at one point moved to support the idea of not creating any Space Arm inside the Dojo. In the end you saw the necessity of it, but never really liked it even though you are working now to develop our space branch very efficiently."

"I always do my best on any task bestowed upon me." She looks up for a moment. "I confess I do not like the idea, but then again I was here years ago, remember? I know it is necessary." Sighing, Yumiko stands up. "Besides, Antonio loves it, and does know the seriousness necessary to deal with it all. In the end I trust him, but I confess I do get worried. I can't avoid it."

Circling her table, she goes to Kura's side, resting her hand over the seated woman's shoulder. "Worry not, I would never hold you responsible for just doing what we need to do. Let's enjoy the time we have now and later work to have more of such times in the future." Tapping Kura's shoulder, she calls her up. "Now, shall we go to where Antonio is? He called me just before Herikawa saying that we should have lunch together. He will free in 30 minutes, and we can walk and talk a bit before meeting him."

As both women leave the Office, Kura feels relieved. "You know, I envy you. I should get less stressed over these matters, but any kind of action regarding our Space Division is delicate to me, and then I worried for being the one to bring the latest news and moving things around here."

"If it were not you, another would have come. Better it to be someone we like and respect."

"Thank you, my friend." They carry on walking through the large halls from the Master Dojo. The place was very lively at this time of the day. "And will Tsuruko join us?" Kura asks.

"No, she has plans for lunch and the rest of her day. I am happy that this matter will not sway her from those plans. She will spend the rest of the day with Keitaro." Yumiko smiles.

"Ah, I see. It is so good to see her having interest in something else but the Dojo. I am really happy with this. Though, I would really like to meet this boy."

"He is a nice young man, and even though not a warrior or anything like that, he and Tsuruko together made a huge impression on the night we first met. My gut tells me the guy is ok. Maybe a bit on the short side, but ok." She laughs lightly.

"Ah, you say…you both are too tall already." Kura laughs. "And you were lucky to marry a man taller than you anyway." She laughs at this. "I hope the boy is ok with that though."

"Hmm, I think he does not care, or maybe even likes it. He is discrete though. Even shy I would say." She looks up. "Well, not that such would be an obstacle for Tsuruko, neh."

"Ah, on that you are right. If she is really interested, I remember she can be really resourceful and decisive in her action…poor boy if he is her target, hahah!"

Yumiko smiles a broad smile. "I am happy for her, and happy that the boy seems a nice one. Where they will get I am not sure yet as it is too early to say anything, but at least she is opening herself again and that is really good!"

Kura sends a side glance to Yumiko. "Have you got any info on him? I mean, Intel is your expertise after all." She smiles to Yumiko, eyes conveying a little malice at this.

Yumiko nods. "Ah, you know, I have toyed with the idea, but I have not done any research yet. Actually, I think Tsuruko would skin me alive if she discovered I was doing such a thing. Let her be for a while. My impression of the young man is good, so for now I will be satisfied with that" Yumiko says, serious. "Though I may do some, um, homework myself, that is, just out of personal curiosity, neh." Her eyes glint in a very dangerous way, the glint of a predator's eye. Yumiko did enjoy her line of work, and was proud of her efficiency on it.

Kura saw the glimpse of the predator there. She respected Yumiko a lot for that. The Aoyama twin was perfect to the position she held at their Organization.

"Oh well, I would not interfere anyway. Tsuruko has been closed to so many things that this happening is something I would not put at risk. As I told you, I trust my gut, and they tell me the guy is ok, if albeit troubled. There are some interesting things about him, but nothing that could be tagged as a problem. At least Tsuruko sees it that way and I agree with her." She looks at Kura, happy. "When you meet him you will make your own conclusions. He may be young and all, but seems a nice company and anyway we do not even know what will come out of this. They may become friends only, or not, but right now what matters is that Tsuruko is happy. Everything else we will deal with later, right?"

"Heh, you are right, better let it all carry as naturally as possible. I agree." Kura looks ahead, at all the activity they can see around them. "Our lives are already full of uncommon things as it is now. Let's not complicate anything."

They both carry to meet Antonio and have their lunch.

Tsuruko, while dressing to meet Keitaro, tries to organize an interesting afternoon for them both to enjoy together.

Jeez, it has been so long since the last time I had a date. She blushes at the thought. And I would like it to be a very nice time for him. True, for me as well, neh.

While choosing her clothing, she suddenly remembered something she saw at her personal e-mail two days ago. Thinking about Keitaro and what she knew about the boy, it just came naturally to her. She looks at her room's dressing mirror. She got really nice underwear for that day, and now knew what kind of clothing to use, sure as to where take Keitaro that day.

Yosh!!!! That is it! Perfect!!! I think he will really love where I will take him, plus I will be able to meet some friends I am long overdue for a visit! Yeah!!!!

Feeling young and happy, she turns around herself once, hair flowing with her movement. She stares at the present Keitaro gave her the night before, and straightens to look at her full image reflected in the mirror. Ah, I am such a silly girl. But I am happy now, and that is that!

"Omoikane, please call Keitaro's hotel. Leave a message to be delivered to room 445. Tell them to advise that Tsuruko will be arriving around half past noon, ok." She says in a cheery voice.

[Acknowledged, Tsuruko Sama]

She hurries to finish dressing and leave to get Keitaro for their lunch together, and the day they had ahead.

Keitaro, as the time for Tsuruko's arrival neared, came down to the front gates to wait for her, as he did yesterday. This time it would be the two alone. He went down at least 30 minutes before the time she set on the little note she sent to her room number, but he was a bit anxious. This time it was only the two together.

Ahah, looks like a real date…and that makes me a bit nervous! Keitaro looks at his clothing. The best he could do now with the ones he had. As he did not know where they would be going, he was casual but good to fit in almost any place except any expensive club or restaurant. I hope that we will not go to any trendy place…heheh. He scratches his head, a bit worried though.

He sits down on a bench at the front gate, observing again the movement around him to let the time pass. This time he was not sad as the day before. His working on the drawing before coming down making him tuned to the day he had ahead of him.

...

………………………………………………………………………………………………

...

Halfway to the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy, onboard the United Nations Space Force Spin Cruiser Agamemnon.

...

At the rotating section of the UNSF Spin Cruiser Agamemnon, on the crew section, gravity was simulated by rotating the whole section thus creating a centrifugal effect to simulate gravity and then creating an environment healthy for the crew to rest and also work. The main body of the ship, like a needle inserted into the rotating barrel-like section, was kept without gravity. There was located the bridge and the main power reactors, as well as the long barrel for the front Terawatt X-Ray Laser Cannon that was the ship's main weapon.. If the ship entered combat, the rotating section would stop and secure for high g maneuvers.

The whole system was developed by human engineers. Although alien tech was slowly being incorporated into use by human-built ships, the concerted effort from the Earth governments still favored an entirely known technology to commit the kind of money that was necessary to build something like the Agamemnon. At least, where it's functions and designs were concerned. The ship lacked the sophistication of alien designs known to men, but more than compensates it in sheer ruggedness and structural strength. The FTL drive powering the ship and its powerful energy shields were from alien adapted design. But the rest was 100 percent already proved human engineering …

It was not a beautiful or fancy vessel, but when entering combat, it was fearsome.

Entering her cabin, Urashima Kanako looks at the woman already inside it, reading a magazine that was already over a week old. Kanako has her head wrapped in a towel, and is wearing a bath robe.

"Uwaa…this spin induced fake-gravity showers are terrible…the water keeps pulling onto weird directions!" She dries vigorously her hair and sets the wet towel in a partition for used clothing. "Next time I will be riding in the H'tak, ok! At least they have true artificial gravity on those."

"You should not complain, Sempai. It would be a lot worst if we had to use the zero g facilities." She looks at Kervona Neo, who went first to the take her shower. The young Chinese girl was right about that.

"Now, wouldn't it be better if you were studying the papers for the upcoming simulations in Atlantis? " Kanako looked exasperated, but that did not disturb the red haired young girl inside the cabin.

"Nah, oh Kana chan, why are you so upset these past days?" She looks into Kanako's eyes. "AH, I see, you are upset because we all are spending a lot of time in the Zero G areas to learn EVA repairs!" She knew Kanako hated those EVA activities.

The slightly upset Kanako sits at the edge of her bunk, pouting. "I can't deny that is true. I really dislike them, but in the end such training can save us all in an emergency situation." She lies back on her bunk, retrieving her small laptop from its wall latch. "But what really upsets me is this delay on our return to Earth. I was expecting to visit my brother soon, and now we are supposed to go to another galaxy altogether! That would be funny if not completely maddening." She turns her laptop on, reading the last e-mails she got from home, in their last drop from hyperspace.

As she browses through her messages, she read again a mail from her brother at least 2 weeks old. "Kei chan already took his exams for Toudai, but no new word from him after the exam's date. This is not a very good sign." She says to Kervona while carrying on scrolling through her messages.

"He should stop trying that and try something he really likes, like anything related to arts and such." She giggles a bit. "I love artists, but he already rejected me once, neh." She makes a fake sad face.

Kanako smiles at her comment while looking her messages, when one, tagged as coming from ShinMei Ryu and encrypted, came into her attention. It came 4 days ago, but then she had not seen her mails since leaving ShinMei Master Dojo.

She decrypted it and began reading, but never read the whole message. By reading the name of the person sending it she knew nothing that interested her was there.

I just can't understand why this Evangeline McDowell keeps sending me messages. I already told her I am not interested in anything coming from her. Dammit, I want to forget this part of me and this nosy vampire keeps trying to contact me. And using official channels is even more bothersome. I will have to talk with Antonio about this!

She does not delete the message, but does not read it either.

Closing the laptop and stowing it away, she lays her head back, looking at the bulkhead above her. "Neh, Ker, I hope this last jaunt ends quickly. Besides being tired and feeling a bit claustrophobic here I really wish to visit my brother. It has been already a very long time since the last we met in person and enjoyed some time together." She brings her arms under her head. "The last visits we made to each other where quick lunches and only for short meetings. I still haven't visited him at Hinata Sou. I feel I am at fault with him." She closes her eyes. And I have felt a bit uneasy lately. But with all the action we have been through as of late, how could I even write him properly.

Kervona Neo looks to Kanako. She knew how much the other girl cared for her brother. "You know that Kei understands, Kana chan. He trusts you when you say your job forces you into being absent for long periods of time. Worry not, because he would tell you if anything was wrong." Kervona knew how those two cared for each other.

"I know, but then again I cannot tell him anything that happens with me, and I keep lying and postponing my visit there. I hope this latest assignment ends fast and I will be able to visit him properly." She sighs. "I feel like a gap is growing between us…I hate this. On the last times we talked to each other and on his e-mails I got the feeling he is keeping something from me. I can't be totally sure though the feeling has grown lately." She pouts. "Since he moved to Hinata Sou I was not able to really spend some time with him. Next opportunity I will surely try to spend some time with him!"

Actually Keitaro was not telling his sister everything that he was going through at Hinata Sou for the sake of not worrying her. He also knew she could become a bit worked up over the other girls there and thus he tried to keep her from knowing everything that happens to him there, much like he does with Haruka.

"Ahah, when you visit him, do invite me ok. Who knows I could try and win him over at last!" She smiles broadly to Kanako, who laughs alongside her younger Chinese friend while Kervona drops her robe and strikes a sensual pose, wearing only her panties on. "He will not resist me this time." Kervona was taller than Kanako, who was slightly taller than Keitaro, and had a splendid body. The girl was impressive.

"You have my support you know that." Kanako tried to hook her with Keitaro once, with no success tough her friend did liked her brother.

But him being so set on that damn promise, little are your chances, Ker. Kanako was always worried for her brother. And she already disliked the Promise Girl thing, even without knowing her. I hope when you find that girl otooto chan, you snap out of this…or marry her if she is ok. But if she is not, I may get really upset with you both.

"Mah, iika….we better go to rest Ker. There is more practicing tomorrow and we need to be prepared and alert." Says Kanako while standing and taking out the bath robe she was using and putting her underwear on.

"Hai hai, aunty Urashima!" Says Kervona, under Kanako's glare.

They both go to sleep, expecting soon to be leaving their home galaxy.

The Agamemnon flies in its route towards the boundaries of the Milky Way, and beyond.

As the scheduled hyperspace dropout for the last communication with Earth arrives, most crewmembers are asleep per Ship's Internal Rotation. In the bridge, the First Officer is present for the last scheduled communication before the long extra-galactic jump. It was a routine action, but still an important one.

"Sir, drop out of Hyperspace complete. We are ready to establish hypercomm with Earth Control." The comm. Officer says from his station. At the navigation station, Sato Hotaro, the helmsman, says. "H'tak dropped out at this moment, keeping station at 1000 klicks starboard, 12 degrees up."

First Officer Juneau observes the viewport, where the H'tak could be seen.

He then observes his screens while the Hypercom is established. As the communications are up, the messages start to flow between Earth and the Spin Cruiser. At this time, Control calls. –Attention Spin Cruiser Agamemnon, this is Flight Control, please respond.-

As dictated by formal conduct, the First Officer answers the call from his position. "Here Agamemnon, First Officer Juneau speaking, please go ahead." Uncommon for control to call the ship at this moment, as this scheduled comm. stop was mainly for tech info and mail delivery as well as navigational confirmation data.

-Agamemnon, Command has new orders for you now. We are sending a packet with all information regarding the new assignment. Your package is to carry on towards Atlantis. You are being called back to Solar System vicinity. Teams scheduled for training practice in Atlantis are to return onboard Agamemnon instead of proceeding to Atlantis. New coordinates and info are on comm. Packet transmitted now. – Juneau looks towards the comm. Officer, who acknowledges receiving of order's packet.

"Agamemnon confirming receiving of new orders. Package is to continue to Atlantis as per original orders and Teams scheduled for training in Atlantis are to come back onboard Agamemnon. We will input new data and inform crew. Captain Rowell will be informed as this communication ends."

-Affirmative receiving of new orders. A nice fly back. Earth Control out.-

Juneau approaches the comm. officer, and looks into his screen, reading the brief resume of the communication received, mainly navigational data to be implemented as fast as possible. Full packet would be read by the captain. "Well…I guess we have something coming up back home that is making the high brass nervous…." I bet we will be nervous as well in due time. He looks at the navigation station. "Mr. Hotaru, please hold our position while I talk this with Captain Rowell. Input new navdata and await ready to start flying homeward." He moves towards the bridge doors, sailing expertly in the bridge's zero g environment. "Mr. Stevez, please inform our package's crew they are going alone from this point on. Bid them farewell and they may proceed as soon as ready." He looks outside briefly through the bridge's viewport, where the big intergalactic fitted ship could be seen not much distant from their own position. "Good that they are fitted for Intergalactic Jump." He says to no one in particular.

Leaving the bridge, Claude Juneau has an unreadable face while going to the captain's cabin. But he is a bit worried. Whenever something changes an existing order, usually there will be a complication arising ahead tells him his experience within the military service. Well, at least I do not need to worry about transferring any personnel from the H'tak, as all ShinMei warriors are already on this ship. One thing less to solve at this moment. Juneau was a very practical man as well. A trait that ensured him a good position inside the newly formed and yet secret United Nations Space Force.

...

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

...

Kyoto right before lunch time.

Keitaro, who went to await Tsuruko a bit earlier than the expected time by about 40 minutes, ends up napping at the bench in the waiting area of his hotel.

Due the talk with Haruka, his mind was still with ideas of Toudai.

Keitaro dreams while asleep:

...DDD...

Keitaro is in the Toudai campus. It was middle of his first year there. Happy with his studies (which were fuzzy in his dream. He was in Toudai, but not knowing what was his chosen graduation in his dream) he was waiting his girlfriend at an absurdly huge garden he knew was inside the Toudai campus. Somehow in his dream Toudai had a huge garden, like a park, where the students could gather in between classes.

He looks at a tall hill in front of him. At its top, the image of a girl appears. Distant, the image is not clear. The girl stood motionless on top of the hill. This image somehow did not bring him joy…but awareness.

Keitaro looks at the girl for a moment trying to see her features, and then he feels the wind, warmly touching his skin. He looks above and the sun is high in the blue sky.

This wind is bringing with it a nice, pleasant scent in it. A perfume that brought to him a nice sensation with it.

He listens to a voice: "Kei kun! Kei Kun!"

He knew that it was the voice of his girlfriend. He looks to the hilltop, knowing that the voice came from there. The girl weaves her arms from the hilltop. Though she is not at his side, he heard her voice as if right beside him. Not distant but near him. The sensation from instants before, substituted by a happy feeling.

He smiles at her, and she comes running towards him. As she is running from the Sun direction now he could not see her face, but rather her silhouette, hair flowing in the wind. How the sun was high above and then behind his girlfriend did not bother him. Dreams had their own rules.

Graceful, she conveys strength in her stride. Strength and confidence.

Ah, how can a girl like her be my girlfriend! Can this be really true? He thinks in his dream, while looking at the girl approaching him.

He is calm, and happy. At this moment, over the hill, he can see another girl coming into view just like the first image he saw over the hill. This time he can somehow see clearly and he knew who she was now: Narusegawa Naru…

Looking at her, he feels a bit uneasy. She is far and, strangely, he could see every detail of her face. She is looking at him with sad, accusing eyes and he can see her lips moving, but no words could reach him. Then she turns to the other side, going away. Despite being uneasy, he feels as if something weighing him was going away. It was a mix of feelings though. A distant ache echoes inside of him. It was painful, and he almost started running uphill, running after the image of Narusegawa going out of his view, away from him.

At this moment, the one he somehow knew as his girlfriend came by his side. He now can see she is taller than him, and has raven hair flowing elegantly, framing her beautiful face. A classic, royal-like beauty, entrancing him with her eyes. He could smell her perfume, nice and delicate. The same scent brought by the wind.

"Anata" Tsuruko says smiling warmly at him, and holds his hand, pulling his whole arm. "If you do not hurry we will not be able to share our lunch. My martial arts class starts soon. Come! I made us a nice bento to share!" She pulls at his arm strongly but tenderly at the same time. Her hands, holding his, are warm and tender.

Keitaro smiles happy at her. "Ahh, Tsu chan…I'm going…wait a little. You are really energetic today anata…" He laughs happily.

All the uneasiness starts to vanish. He is happy and his heart is filled with warmth and joy. The ache he was feeling upon seeing Narusegawa vanishes, substituted by a feeling of calm happiness. He looks uphill for a brief moment, saying his farewell to something that was important to him once, but was truly in the past now.

"Kei kun" She says softly, pulling him near her. He is very aware of her physical presence.

He slowly opens his eyes while Tsuruko's voice echoes in his mind…

...DDD...

Tsuruko, a bit hurried for arriving late, parks her car in the parking lot and hurries to the front gate. She is wearing a short white loose shirt and a light blue dress going half way down her knees. As she wanted to wear something casual but cute, she took more time than expected to choose a dress.

Ah, after all I ended up choosing a dress, and that made me come with a car. Can't ride my bike wearing this. And that delayed me even further. She closes the car door, sticking out her tongue at her thoughts. But the effect is nice. I haven't worn this dress in a while and I love it.

She goes to the front of the hotel. I hope he is not tired of waiting. I took extra 30 minutes…but I will make sure to compensate.

As she goes to the hotel gate, she sees Keitaro, seated at one of the benches overlooking the entrance of the hotel. And she notices that he is asleep in the bench. Ah, so I am really late, neh.

Approaching slowly, she stands in front of Keitaro. He seems relaxed. She took a moment observing his face, showing an expression of relaxation as he slept. She also notices that he seems to be dreaming. Aha, he seems to be having fun there. He is smiling and seems really happy.

Lowering to get near his face, she keeps looking at him.

He smiles, and she gets closer to him. He is really deep into dreamland, Fufufu.

Suddenly his face becomes worried, as if something was troubling him.

She calls lightly. "Kei Kun! Kei Kun!" His face slowly becomes calm again.

"Anata" She says in a whisper, without thinking. She wraps his hands at his lap in hers.

Tsuruko feels a heat coming to her face and body. It has been a long time since she had been this near to a man. She looks at his face, now smiling softly, and to his lips.

Were I to kiss him now, what would he do? Holding his hands, she slowly approaches his face even further, without really noticing it. She noticed his scent, the light cologne he is wearing. The feeling of his warm breath on the sensitive skin of her lips.

So nice…

At this moment, she can see his lips moving, and she hears him speaking in his sleep: "Ahh, Tsu chan…I'm going…wait a little. You are really energetic today anata…"

Is he dreaming about me? That startles her a bit.

She is right now fully aware of the young man's presence and the effect it was causing on her. Oh well…it has been a long time now…

She basks in his presence, enhancing her own awareness a bit by letting a little of her Ki flowing out.

And Kei is so sweet…

Hearing him calling her anata also made the warmth rush to her even more, if that was even possible at that very moment.

She looks at his lips.

Really sweet…

She calls his name again, this time centimeters from his face, holding his hands. Without really noticing she was really near him, actually yearning to kiss Keitaro.

"Kei Kun" She says softly, and at this moment Keitaro opens his sleepy eyes and sees Tsuruko over him. He can see her face, her eyes, and her lips.

He seems unable to focus for a moment, and suddenly his eyes became wide. By reflex he tries to stand straight and the sudden movement startles Tsuruko, who was also almost dreaming, and she backs up fast, trying not to lose balance as Keitaro stands up, letting go of his hands. "Wowowow…." Tsuruko kept her balance by a slim margin.

He seems a bit confused for a moment, and then he blushes red, bowing to her.

"Oh, my…Tsuruko san! Gommen gommen…I-I think I fell asleep while waiting you here."

She holds her hands together, aware of the reddening of her own face, of the warmth running through her body. "Ah, you see, it is all right...do not worry. I am at fault here for I am the one who got here late, heheh." She was fully aware of herself now. The desire not quite quenched. She knew she wanted that kiss.

She laughs a bit awkwardly, which is unusual to her. Oh my…I almost kissed him while he was sleeping. Get a grip girl! She puts her tongue out. "Hontoni gommen nasai, Kei Kun." She says, bowing slightly her head, palms together in front of her face.

She sits at the bench with a small sigh, crossing her legs. Fondling with the little purse she had in her shoulders, now over her lap, she looks at Keitaro. "Kei kun, please sit here." She taps the bench right at her side. "It may make you dizzy to wake up so suddenly." She looks at her hands, blushing. Awww, I know I do need to sit for a moment… "Heh, it seems I did interrupt something." She says, smiling at him.

"Err…well." He looks at her. "I woke a bit early and the weather is really nice…it seems I got a little too relaxed. Gommen." He was lightly red.

Keitaro was actually remembering the dream he was having.

"Oh, it is all right." She sports a sly grin on her face now, looking at him. "But it seems unfair…by what I could see I was there with you, and I don't even know what I was doing there." She feels the warmth in her body still flowing strong. "What were we doing? I confess to be a bit curious, as I heard you calling my name." Tsuruko easily recovers from her awkward state of moments before.

At this Keitaro turns completely red, sweatdrops on his face. "Y-You heard me? Calling your name?" He stutters for a bit. "S-see, I was remembering the day we had yesterday. It was really fun, you know." My…what else did I say while dreaming…damn! "And I have you to thank for yesterday." He adds, really meaning it, though he remembers the dream. I can't tell her my dream anyway, she will think I am weird…and her being my girlfriend…how could I tell her that? If she laughed at me I would really get sad. And what was that about Narusegawa in my dream?! And that face of hers…do I really think I am the wrong one in all this? His worry now reflected in his face.

Tsuruko looks to his face, tilting slightly her head. Putting her right bang over her ear, she looks at Keitaro with sly eyes. "Now, you seem to be holding something else there. Are you hiding something else from your dream?" She looks ahead, right hand now covering her mouth, laughing lightly. "Fufufu…you may keep your secrets for now, Kei Kun. But you will have to tell me later what exactly I was doing in your dream." Knowing already that Keitaro is a shy man, she takes his actions are due his shyness. She is not that far from the truth anyway. "By the way you were looking there, I bet it was something interesting, neh."

Keitaro looks at her, at a loss of words.

Tsuruko uncrosses her legs and stands up, holding her hands behind her back and turning to look directly at Keitaro. "Mah, ii desu neh. It is all right then! We can carry this on later." And maybe I will not hold back as well. "Anyway I also enjoyed yesterday a lot, and that is why I want to enjoy this day even more!"

After what just almost happened she felt even younger than before. Refreshed and happy. I will have to be sincere with myself here…I am really slowly falling for my Kei Kun. She is smiling broadly, looking at Keitaro.

He does notice it, and stares back awhile, charmed by her smile. Ah, in the end she is now even more beautiful than in my dream... He stands up, face red. "Err…sorry for startling you there. I almost made you fall." He says apologetically while putting back his glasses which were at his side while he was dozing at the bench.

"Nah, it was my fault for being all over you there, fufufu." She laughs, though the warmth in her body was still there. Taking her more usual approach, she adds playfully. "Next time I will wake you up with a kiss if you are not careful." Face slightly red, she meant every word she said, not that Keitaro really saw it that way.

He scratches his head, and laughs with her. After a moment when they laughed at each other, Keitaro says. "Then, shall we go?"

"Yes, sure! Let's have lunch together at a friend's restaurant first. It has been a long time since I saw her last time, and it is a really nice place famous throughout Kyoto!" She looks at him. "I am starving, aren't you?"

"Yes, I just hope I am dressed accordingly then" Oh, my…will it be a trendy place? She is so cute now…I should have brought better clothing! "Y-you are so well dressed, I am not matching you here." He says almost without thinking, looking at her.

She goes to his side, holding his arms. Keitaro loves it, but feels a bit shy to be touching her that way. "Thank you, my charming companion. I am not that well dressed, and you are perfect! The place is famous but it is not snobbish. My friend would never run a place that would not be inviting to everyone. Besides, there is nothing wrong with your clothing." She motions him to go to the parking lot.

Tsuruko's warmth was not subsiding, rekindled by his comment. EH! All the time I took to choose my dress really paid off! Yeah!

They go arm in arm to the parking lot, walking towards her car.

"Today I came by car. Not good to be riding a bike in a dress, right?" She says playfully.

"Well, in that I agree…"Keitaro says, laughing. He feels like in his dream. Happy and warm besides Tsuruko. Remembering that in the dream she was his girlfriend, a little ache crept inside his heart. This is reality, not a dream. But it is a good reality nonetheless! He looks at the ground, trying to keep his feelings to show. He looks sideways at her. Sideways and up. Even using a low-reel sandal, she was definitively taller than him. Oh, my….I really need to be careful here and don't spoils things. Self confidence still low, he feared mixing things with his new and charming friend.

They got to the parking lot, and Keitaro looks at the sporty car she pointed as hers. It was red and very modern. Ack! No matter what she says, the place we are going to must be a very trendy one!

Tsuruko looks at the car, and at Keitaro. She opens the little purse she has on her shoulder and scoops the key out. Looking at Keitaro and the key in her left hand, she asks him: "Kei Kun, one question: Do you drive? Do you have a license?"

"Me? Well, although I do not have a car, I do have a license. I used to drive making errands for the Professor I worked with over a year ago. Why?" He looks at her, puzzled by her question now.

"Ah, you see. I prefer to ride bikes. Would you mind to drive now?" She said, offering the flip up style key to Keitaro.

"Oh…no, not at all. I don't know addresses in Kyoto though. You might get lost with me if I drive here." He says, laughing, right hand in the back of his head.

I really enjoy his laughing. Giving him the key, she says: "Ah, there is no problem then. This one here has a voice activated GPS incorporated to its dashboard. We just need to input the address or tell the name of our destination and we will be there in no time." While Keitaro opens the door for her, she adds while entering the car, in a low whisper: "Though I would not mind getting lost with you, Kei Kun."

"Tsu Chan, did you say something?" Keitaro did not hear it as she said it in a really low voice while entering the car, speaking more to herself than for him to hear.

"Me? Oh, um. I was just thanking you for driving for me." She said, smiling while he closed the car's door. She eases into the bucket seat, observing Keitaro while he motions to enter the car. It has been ages since the last time I visited Satsuki's restaurant. Aha, she will be surprised to see me there and with company. And I miss her and her friends. Keitaro will love the food there. And after that, my little surprise for him! She locks the safety belt and giggles a bit. For him and for me as well. I am really looking forward to our afternoon.

It would be a very fun afternoon, of that she was sure.

Keitaro enters the car, now ready to get Tsuruko to wherever their destination was. As he was entering the car, his mind was racing.

It really seems like a date. I am even the one driving her to wherever we are going. Heheh.

He closes the door, and after a moment he starts the car. Putting the car in gear, he slowly pulled out of the Hotel parking lot.

Tsuruko and Keitaro start their first day going out by themselves.

Though both have different thoughts on their minds, they were both really happy at this moment.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………


End Chapter XI