You Have Me
Naru stood outside the Hinata Teahouse alone. The sun had disappeared under the western horizon, which was growing darker. Its darkening blue was slowly receding into a faint afterglow. She looked back and forth between the apartments and the direction of the train station, her anxiousness becoming more obvious.
"It's been almost five hours now. Where could she be?"
Inside, Kanako had calmed down since earlier. Her argumentations and heated accusations had ceased. She was now sitting quietly at the table with her arms folded, staring down at the tabletop before her with an expression of weariness. Kitsune sat at the table also. She was leaning over the table while resting her chin on her left forearm as her finger continuously tapped on the table surface. Shinobu had stopped crying, but had since not said a word to anyone and isolated herself at the far corner of the room. She was facing away from the rest of the group, unable to meet eyes with anyone as she stood there holding herself while staring blankly at the floor. Su had become restless and impatient, relieving her frustration by jumping around the teahouse and hanging upside down from the wooden rafters. She swung from this place to that with groans and whines as if the flowing of time itself was overbearing on her.
Naru shivered as she felt the cold wind against her body, causing her to rub her arms for warmth. She turned to see Haruka, pacing back and forth nervously inside the Teahouse, which is something she never does. Her easy-going, never surprised by anything personality doesn't allow it.
Then Naru heard her name called from far away. She turned around and saw Motoko running towards her in full stride, the Knife in hand.
"Motoko! Thank God you're back. All of us have been going crazy waiting for you." Naru said, as she caught her gently by the shoulders.
"I'm sorry for taking so long. How about Keitaro? Has anyone seen him?" she said, slipping the Knife into the top of her thigh high stalking underneath her skirt.
"No. No one's seen him since you left. We're not even sure if he's still in the house. Everything is all dark." Naru said, pointing to the building of dark windows.
"I see. Let's go inside. I have much to tell."
With Naru at her side, Motoko went into the teahouse. Motoko sat down with everyone and told of everything she had learned in Kyoto.
"So…Keitaro is possessed? So that's why his behavior has been so different lately." Haruka said, leaning over Motoko, a lit cigarette between her lips. "And that knife there is the cause."
"But Motoko, can't you bring the old Keitaro back? Can't you? Can't you?" Su said as she sat on top of the table.
"I promise I'll bring him back, Su. I'm the only one who can."
Motoko stood up. "I'm going now." Then she walked outside. She looked to the apartments and became silent for a moment. She narrowed her eyes and slowly tilted her head down as if trying to listen for something. Naru walked up closer behind her with unsure steps.
"He's there. He's in the back courtyard." Motoko said.
"What? But how do you know that?" Naru said, confused.
Motoko turned to Naru. "I don't know. Maybe he wants me to know where he is."
Then Motoko quickly turned towards the house as if something suddenly drew her attention.
"He wants me to go to him." Motoko said as she started towards the house but was stopped by Naru's hand grabbing the long sleeve of her uniform.
"Wait! Motoko, you don't have to do this. We can call the police. They can take care of him."
"Naru, even if they send a hundred police officers, they would still be no match for him."
"Even so, you don't have to face that monster. You don't have to risk your life." Naru said, now blocking Motoko's way.
"I can't believe what I'm hearing, Naru. That's still our Keitaro inside that 'monster'. Have you completely lost all faith in him?"
"I'm going, Naru. And I'm bringing Keitaro back. Whether you believe in me or not."
Motoko pushed Naru aside with the back of her arm and went on towards the house.
Naru stood silent as she stared down at the ground, ashamed as she contemplated the full weight of Motoko's words.
'I do believe in you, Motoko. And I do have faith in Keitaro. I didn't mean to doubt either of you. Good luck, Motoko. Please bring our Keitaro back to us.' Naru thought, looking up to Motoko's now distant form.
Motoko entered the house. All was dark and dead silent. She could feel him, stronger than ever. His presence was like a bright beacon shining in the middle of a dark sea. She ran towards that beacon. Her breaths roared in her ears. In and out, sounding like the breathing of a great beast confined inside an immense cave. Her heartbeat was like the beating of a large drum. Deep, steady. Boom boom boom. She knows she's not ready for this. But she has to do this. Keitaro's very soul depends on it.
She threw open the sliding door to the courtyard. There, in the center of the yard stood a lone figure amidst the light mist that clung low to the ground. His back was turned to her as he stood, statue-like. He turned his head to the side ever so slightly to acknowledge her presence. Motoko carefully began to close the short distance between them. The moment she did this, he spoke.
"I've been waiting for you, last descendent of Aoyama." He then quickly turned around to face her. "Motoko Aoyama, great descendent of Shin Aoyama."
Motoko, staying where she was, said "Keitaro? Is that you?"
"I can feel it. The spirit of Shin is strongest in you."
Lowering her brow, she said. "Ichiro."
"Right you are."
He turned to look at the rolling hills on the distant horizon, which was emphasized by the rising moon. After a few seconds, he spoke again.
"Aoyama: 'Green Mountain'. Shin was so like a mountain: Immovable, unyielding. Unwilling to accept change, to accept that my Tsubasa no Aku was superior." He then clenched his fist.
"Shin-Kami Ryu is not inferior! It teaches us to improve ourselves. To strengthen our spirit and become one with the Chi that flows to us from the earth. It will always defeat a style created only to murder and oppress!" She contested.
He stared at her for a moment. He smiled. Suddenly his eyes flashed the color of gold and then went back to black.
With a gasp of realization, Motoko said,
"It's you. You're the one who's been haunting Keitaro's dreams."
"Correct again. I needed him in order to escape my prison."
"What have you done with Keitaro?! Is he…"
"Oh, he's still in this body, but not for long. My spirit is far stronger than his. Soon he will simply disappear. I do have to say though, he did put up a good fight. I wasn't able to completely take over his body until just a few hours ago."
"You let him go!!"
"No. I think not." He said, starting to walk towards her. "Besides, I need this body to achieve my goal. It's been fifty years. I have a lot of catching up to do. And I've already gotten started. How was your visit with your grandmother, by the way?"
"H-How did you know about that?"
"I do hope you spent some quality time with her. After you left, I paid her a little visit myself." He said, slowly circling her as she stood there hanging on his every word.
"No…" Motoko shook her head as a tear formed in her eye. "What did you do to her?!"
"Let's just say I added a little color to the walls of her apartment. Red adds so much more vibrance to that place, don't you think? It looked so dreary with just white." He started to laugh in his own amusement.
"Oh, Grandma. No." Motoko raised her hand to her face. "You bastard!" she fell to her hands and knees and struck at the dirt with her fist as the tears flowed down her face.
"Luckily, the Aoyama family has grown thin, leaving only a few left. Can't say that I'm not to blame, of course." He stood over Motoko, looked at her and gently placed his hand on her back, feigning a comforting gesture.
"Don't worry, little Motoko. The suffering you feel now will soon be over. After I kill you, you will soon be joined by your father Kenji, your mother Himiko, and your dear sister Tsuruko."
At that, she looked up at him and slapped away his hand with a fiery hatred in her eyes.
She now stood tall before him. "It ends tonight!"
"Hah! You think you can stop me?" He looked closer into her eyes as she stared back at him in earnest. "What fuels that passion I see in your eyes? Is it the sorrow for your dearly departed grandmother? Or…is it your undying love for Urashima."
"You'll never know, Ichiro, because you will never understand. I will stop you!"
"Then come! Show me how strong you really are, Motoko Aoyama!" He said, drawing his sword.
Motoko drew her sword as well, taking her stance.
Narrowing her eyes, Motoko then held her sword horizontally before her and said,
"I call upon the binding rings of the Green Dragon! Bind this man who stands before my sight!"
At those words, three green glowing rings appeared around his body, restraining him.
As he struggled, she walked up to him and said,
"Give up, Ichiro. Return Keitaro to me. I don't wish to do battle and cause pain to Keitaro's body."
He just smiled. "Good. Then that will make it easier for me to kill you!" The rings shattered from his body, the shards becoming dim and fading into nothing at his feet.
He swung his sword at Motoko as she was momentarily caught off guard. Suddenly she disappeared from his sight. He raised an eyebrow and then carefully scanned his surroundings.
"Come out, Aoyama! I promise to make your death quick and painful, hah hah!"
Motoko sat behind a nearby boulder, out of breath. She had used her samurai skill of speed to escape his blade with barely a cut across her left shoulder, which was just beginning to bleed.
'The binding spell didn't work. He's just too strong. I have no choice but to resort to a physical attack to subdue him.'
She stepped out from behind the boulder and stood calmly before him. Drops of blood began to trickle down her left arm, but she paid no attention. He looked her over with an amused smile. She raised her sword and pointed it to him in an unspoken challenge.
"Ah, courage in the face of certain death. That's what I like to see." He said, raising his sword to hers.
"The one who truly deserves certain death is you, Ichiro." She said in disdain.
"No more talk!"
She was then thrown back to the ground by a powerful wind. As she looked, she could make out the dark outline of black wings, extending from his back as he raised up into the air. With a quick lift and snap of her legs, she was back on her feet. Fully manifesting her Chi in a shining white glow around her, she flew up into the air and met him high above the ground. She lifted her sword up and crossed blades with his in a brilliant flash of light. Their eyes were locked in hatred. Still holding his sword crossed against hers, he moved in close, smiled and said,
"Death comes for us all. Why torment yourself? Give up now. Defeat is inevitable."
"I'm not going to die tonight!" She said, striking his blade away, sending him back several feet.
She dashed back, creating a greater distance between them.
"White Dragon Wind Blade, Third form!" She called out.
The Technique sent a powerful force of white energy from her sword. He blocked it with a clear exhausting effort on his part. Then he formed a smirk.
"Not bad. My turn." He raised his sword up high. The blade turned black as his energy flowed into it. "Black Tempest, second form!"
The swift black wave caught her off guard, sending her plummeting back towards the ground.
She landed on her back hard. The impact had almost knocked the wind out of her. She looked up to see him thrusting his sword down on her. She barely rolled out of the way in time. The sword went into the ground where she had laid, penetrating the spot where her heart would have been. His feet caused deep imprints where they landed with a loud 'thud'. Wasting no time, she came at him from the side. He parried her advance and pushed her back.
The battle ensued. Their blades striking at lightning speed, moving from one side of the courtyard to the other and then back again. Motoko was giving it everything she had, but she was slowly losing the advantage. His movements were just too fast. It was becoming a struggle just to keep up with him.
Quickly coming up with a new strategy, Motoko feigned a sword strike from the left and instead hit him hard with a roundhouse kick from the right, sending him rolling across the grass. He came to a stop and seeming disoriented, looked up at Motoko as she ran towards him with her sword high. He widened his eyes and said,
"Keitaro? Is that you?" She said, recognizing his voice.
"Where am I? What's going on here?"
"Keitaro." She said, walking up to him and reaching out her hand to help him.
After she came up close, he smiled and yelled,
Grasping his sword, he struck her with a swift hit, which she was barely able to block. They continued their duel at an incredible speed until Motoko was able to finally send the sword flying from his hand. This did not stop him, however. Dodging her three sword strikes that followed, he performed a spin kick and knocked her sword out of her hand. Before she could even react, he moved in close and started a barrage of hyper-fast punches to her chest. After that, he spun around gave a powerful kick to her chest that sent her flying 30 feet right into a tall boulder.
In a state of shock, her legs failed her and she fell to her hands and knees. Every breath was like burning brimstone in her chest. Then came a horrible choking cough that sent unbearable pain through her upper body. Through the blurry haze, her eyes focused on the ground below her and she was terrified to discover that she had coughed up blood. Much blood. Her breathing was labored, becoming a struggle. She was so weak she couldn't even move as her body began to shake.
She looked up to see his feet there before her. Then she felt a strong hand grip around her throat and lift her up at level with his gaze. He slowly drew her in close and looked into her wavering eyes, forming a smile of victory.
"This is pathetic. I have seen the day when an Aoyama could split the very heavens with their blade. The bloodline has grown weak!" He drew a breath, savoring this moment. "Time to die, little girl. The Aoyama Family will finally fall and then my vengeance will be fulfilled."
Motoko mumbled something inaudible. He loosened his grip, brought her closer and said,
"What was that?"
She closed her eyes, shedding tears down her cheeks.
"I…I love you…Keitaro."
Then he felt a deep, stabbing pain. He looked down to see that she had pulled out the Knife and plunged it into his mid-section. Dropping her, he stumbled back and said,
"H-How…how could you…"
"I'm so sorry, Keitaro." She said, barely able to hold herself up.
He collapsed, the blade still in him. Motoko remembered back to what her Grandmother had told her.
"Grandmother, how do I seal the spirit?"
"The Knife. It is his only weakness. It is imbued with the sealing power of Onmyo. You must plunge it into the center of his body where the spirit maintains control. Then you must chant the sacred spell.
'Kaeru ni kimi no keimusho, kokoro.' Only then will he once again be sealed into the blade."
Motoko put her hands together and spoke the words.
"Kaeru ni kimi no keimusho, kokoro! Spirit, return to your prison!"
With a scream, Ichiro Akume was pulled into the Knife's blade in a brilliant swirl of light and dark energy. She quickly knelt down, pulled the Knife from Keitaro's body and resheathed it, completing the seal. She cast the Knife aside and drew Keitaro up into her arms.
"Keitaro? Keitaro! Speak to me!" She said, shaking him.
He slowly opened his eyes and looked up at Motoko. With a smile he said,
"Motoko is that you? Everything is all blurry."
Motoko reached into her pocket, pulled out his glasses and put them on him.
"Thanks, that's much better." Then he noticed the blood dripping from the corner of her mouth. "A-Are you okay?"
Showing him a smile, "I'll be fine."
"I'm so sorry, Motoko. He hurt you. He did such terrible things and there was nothing I could do to stop him. Ah!" He drew his hand to his wound. His voice became weak. "I guess…it was necessary, huh?"
"Forgive me, my love. It was the only way to save you." She said, placing her hand over his.
The blood from his wound was starting to soak her clothes. His voice was now little more than a whisper. "It…It's alright…you did save me…I'm just glad…I got to see you one last time."
His eyes closed and he became silent.
"Keitaro, stay with me!" she said, shaking him. "Keitaro? Keitaro! KEITAROOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
The camera turns away and fades to black. We open up again on a daytime scene overlooking a large cemetery. The skies are overcast as the cold wind constantly blows from the North. We see a bouquet of flowers laid at a single grave. The camera moves up to show that they were laid there by Motoko. A sad expression across her face, she slowly stands up and folds her hands before her in a moment of silence.
The camera slowly pans right to show Keitaro doing the same. His midsection was wrapped with white bandages that showed inside his open jacket. The epitaph on the grave before them read,
Her love and strength
will always be remembered"
After a long moment, Keitaro put a hand on her shoulder. She looked into his eyes and he slowly brought her into his arms.
"She was a wonderful woman who carried a terrible burden, Motoko. Now she can finally rest."
From his shoulder she simply gave a nod.
"Let's go." He said quietly.
They gave their last respects and then walked on towards the cemetery gates.
After a long silent train ride, they arrived back at Hinata. Two days had passed since the ordeal with the spirit of Ichiro Akume ended. The Knife had been cast into the fires of Mount Fuji, where no one may retrieve it ever again. Keitaro had made a miraculous recovery. The emergency room staff said he would not have survived had he not immediately been taken into medical care. The doctors were very skeptical of the story they were told as to the cause of his injury, but asked no further questions afterward. Motoko never left his side the entire time he was in the hospital. After coming home from the hospital, he was met by everyone's thankful cries. Keitaro looked at Naru and then to her shoulder. He began to apologize, but she just took him in her arms and told him how glad she was that he was okay. All the other girls joined into the hug, saying how thankful they were that he was back. However, Shinobu was nowhere in sight.
Motoko and Keitaro walked into the front lobby and took off their shoes.
"Keitaro, I just need to make a quick phone call. Why don't you go on ahead upstairs." She said to him as she walked towards the lobby phone.
"Okay, I'll see you in a little bit."
Keitaro made his way up the staircase slowly, careful not to upset his wound. Over the past two days he had not seen Shinobu at all. She had made herself scarce, taking her meals when no one else was around, eating very early in the morning and then late at night. He thought it was understandable that she was most likely avoiding him after what had happened.
He opened his door and walked into his room. He laid his jacket on top of his dresser, looked over and was surprised to see none other than Shinobu there, sitting at his desk.
Shinobu stood up and walked over to him. She opened her mouth to say something, but then hesitated and remained silent. Not wanting this awkwardness to continue, Keitaro took it upon himself to brake the silence.
"Shinobu…I just want to say…that I'm sorry. I never meant to hurt you like that."
She looked down and then turned away from him.
"I know…I know it wasn't your fault. You were possessed by the evil spirit, right? So it's okay, because…"
She quickly turned to him and said, "…because I know my Sempai would never say those things to me!"
She showed him her bright smile that he missed so much. She ran up and gave him a big hug, resting her head on his chest. Placing his hand on her head, he said,
"You are very dear to me, Shinobu. All of you are." He held her close.
Then, without warning, she pulled back, placed her hands on his face drawing him down, and kissed his lips. After a moment she broke the kiss, stepped back and looked up at her surprised Sempai with a big smile.
"I love you very much, Keitaro. I'm so very grateful you came to be here with us. I wish you and Motoko nothing but the best. I'll see you at dinner, Sempai!"
Then she happily trotted past him and out his door. He ran and looked out his door to the left and watched in awe as she disappeared down the stairs.
"Keitaro." He heard behind him.
"Erk!" He sounded after he turned to see Motoko standing there. He waved his hands in front of him saying, "Motoko, um, it's not what you think! Shinobu, she um-"
"It's alright, Keitaro. I forgive you." She said, interrupting him. "I saw everything. Shinobu is happy again, after all, isn't she?"
Showing her a pleasant smile, he said, "Yeah, she is."
They stepped into his room and shared a silent moment as they looked lovingly into each other's eyes. Then they drew close as she slowly wrapped her arms around the back of his neck and he placed his arms around her waist until they met in a passionate kiss. Opening one eye, he noticed his open door. Without breaking the kiss, Keitaro reached over and slid his door closed, giving them some privacy.
And so, life was back to normal at the apartments, if there is such a thing as 'normal' in Hinata. The terrible events that had occurred were left to the past where they belong, slowly fading like a nightmare in the morning sunshine. In the wake of these events, the tragedy that had ensued only proved to strengthen the bonds between Hinata Sou's residents. After these past few years, through trial and tribulation, the residents were no longer residents. They had become a close family.