Disclaimer: Love Hina is owned by Ken Akamatsu, that kooky manga-ka of song and stage. Should he, or any of his associates ask, this story will be removed from the web ASAP. I'm not making money on this, Ken… don't sue me.
Part 1 – A Guest for Tea
It has been said that most catastrophes start with a small error in judgment. Such was not the case on that fine Tuesday afternoon at the Hinata Inn – unless one counts answering the doorbell as an error in judgment, that is, and if that's a crime, then there is not a soul over the age of 7 innocent of it.
"Hey," Naru called down the stairs, "someone's at the door."
Motoko, the only other resident home at the time, replied, "I'm in the middle of cooking lunch. Would you mind seeing who it is?"
Yawning, Naru meandered down the stairs. "I got it. What are you making, anyway?"
"Just some ramen," Motoko answered, poking her head out of the kitchen for a moment. "Did you want me to add anything special to it?"
"Nah, just make sure there's enough for Keitaro when he gets back."
Motoko nodded and ducked back into the kitchen.
Naru hummed a bit as she headed to the front door. Things were finally looking up. She had confessed her feelings to Keitaro, they were dating and making out whenever they got the chance, and even though everyone else in the Hinata had suddenly confessed as well, she was the one he was with. She had won.
Now if she could just get rid of that nagging feeling that something was ever so slightly off.
"Welcome to the Hinata Inn," she said politely, bowing from the waist as she opened the door. "How can I help…oh, it's you."
The visitor, Motoko's sister Tsuruko, tipped her hat. "I was just in the neighborhood," she said brightly. "May I come in?"
Naru gestured her inside. "Sure," she said, glancing warily to the sword hanging from the older woman's belt.
The last time Naru had seen the elder Aoyama, it had been in a knock-down, drag-out fight with Motoko – a fight that could have ended with Motoko being forced to leave the Hinata forever. Motoko had prevailed, of course, but the memory of Tsuruko's intensity was still fresh in Naru's mind.
Perhaps, she reasoned, because it had only been two weeks prior.
"Motoko," Naru called, "your sister is here."
There was a loud crash from the kitchen, and a moment later, Motoko emerged looking cool and composed… though as she passed by Naru to greet her sister, Naru spotted the handles of butcher knives peeking out from the edges of Motoko's sleeves.
Can't be too careful, Naru thought wryly, guessing by Tsuruko's grin that she was as aware of the knives as Naru.
"Would you like some tea?"
Tsuruko smiled at Naru's offer. "That sounds wonderful," she said honestly. "I am a bit parched." Turning her attention to her sister, Tsuruko mused, "This haircut suits you."
Self-consciously, Motoko touched her shorn hair. "Thank you," she mumbled, excusing herself to her room as soon as Naru reappeared with the tea tray and retrieving one of her practice blades.
Can't be too careful…
When she returned to the living room, Tsuruko was sipping her tea and making light conversation, seemingly harmless and docile as a kitten… though the mental image of her sister as anything harmless and docile was so foreign that Motoko leaned against the wall with her blade resting against her hip, rather than joining Naru on the couch.
Something, she decided firmly, was definitely up.
"Is your manager here?"
Naru shook her head. "He went into town to buy a couple things," she said. "He should be back in a few minutes, though." She hesitated for a moment, then asked, "Why do you want to know?"
"Just thought I should say hi, since I was here," Tsuruko said, pausing for a sip of her tea before glancing at her sister and adding, "You wouldn't want me to embarrass you in front of the man you love, would you?"
Blushing, Motoko shot Naru a nervous look, but Naru simply turned to Tsuruko and said, "You should know that Keitaro's with me."
Tsuruko nodded and set her cup down. "Oh, I know," she murmured. "But Motoko still cares for him, so I wouldn't want to be rude."
"Yes, well, I'm sure he'd get over it," Motoko said uncomfortably, "so there's no need to wait around just for him."
Smiling benignly, Tsuruko rose to her feet. "No need to wait," she said smoothly. "I think I hear him coming up the stairs."
A moment later, the sound of falling metal reached their ears, followed by a cry of dismay. "Sounds like he dropped the cans," Naru sighed. "He's so damn clumsy sometimes. I better go help him."
Motoko waited until Naru had gone outside before leaning closer to her sister and whispering, "Why are you really here? I thought you said you would be happy for me if I was enjoying what I was doing."
Smiling warmly, Tsuruko patted her sister on the shoulder. "I am happy for you," she said firmly. "I just wanted to stop by. Is that so hard to believe?"
Tsuruko laughed. "Come now, sister," she said. "There are other people here I might have interest in seeing…"
As if on cue, Keitaro made his way through the front door of the Hinata, struggling valiantly with a half dozen plastic grocery bags. "Oh, Ms. Aoyama," he said, stopping short and nearly causing Naru to run into his back. "Hi."
"Mister Manager," Tsuruko said, flashing a dazzling smile, "how are you?"
"Pretty good," Keitaro said, looking rather confused as he set the bags down and held out his hand. "What brings you to the Hinata today?"
Tsuruko firmly took his hand.
Motoko had her blade out in less than a half of a second, every danger instinct she possessed screaming that something bad was about to happen – and it was, though Motoko could not have predicted exactly what was about to happen if she lived to be a hundred, because even as she squared her shoulders, Tsuruko's blade was flashing towards her.
Tsuruko's sword hit Motoko's from the side, catching it at the thinnest part and – to Motoko's horror – shattering it with almost effortless ease.
"Give us a moment, won't you?" Tsuruko whispered, speaking as if asking nothing more than a little time with her husband. "This won't take long."
So saying, she brought her blade back… and ran Keitaro through.
Or rather, she would have, had Naru not thrown her hands up in shock and dropped all the cans in her hand, fouling Tsuruko's aim and making her drive her sword through metal instead of flesh. Keitaro's eyes widened, and he yanked his hand free – a feat only possible due to Tsuruko's attention being focused on the skewered can of beef vegetable soup – and bolted, sprinting up the stairs to the next floor without bothering to see if anyone was following him.
The chase was on.
Tsuruko paid Motoko no mind, whipping the can off of the end of her sword and dashing after Keitaro as if nothing else in the world mattered besides spilling his blood.
"You will not escape."
Naru and Motoko goggled at each other for a moment before giving chase. "My room," Motoko shouted, "get my sword – the black one! I'll head them off on the third floor!"
Motoko put her head down and pushed her body as hard as she could, giving the chase everything she had. This is bad, she thought grimly, pounding up the stars and thanking her lucky stars that all of the younger residents were out with Kitsune on a tour of Kyoto so no one else was in danger of being hurt by her sister's madness.
Because, she reasoned, there was no other explanation for what was happening other than madness.
Motoko threw herself to ground as she reached the third floor, barely avoiding a rather large projectile – which, she noticed as it passed overhead, was Ketiaro himself.
"Get over here, Manager!" Tsuruko cried, vaulting over Motoko and pursuing Keitaro as he regained his footing and rushed up the stairs towards the roof. "It won't hurt if I do it quickly!"
Shooting to her feet, Motoko followed, her stomach clenching with fear at the seriousness in her sister's voice. "No," she gasped, "No, no, no!"
The intent in her sister's actions was clear – Tsuruko was seeking Keitaro's life.
She reached the roof just in time to see Keitaro flying towards the far side, bouncing a couple of times before finally coming to a stop, his eyes spirals of dizziness.
Crouching low, Tsuruko cried, "Oni-giri!" and catapulted herself into the air.
Motoko screamed, holding her hand out in a futile attempt to catch her sister's sleeve, but it was too late.
"What?" Naru panted, finally reaching the rooftop. "What the hell is she screaming about riceballs for?"
There was a tremendous clap of thunder as Tsuruko came down on Keitaro's location, kicking up dust and bits of rooftop and concealing both combatants in a cloud of debris.
Slumping against the railing, Motoko hollowly replied, "She didn't say, 'onigiri,' she said, 'oni-giri' – demon slash. It's forbidden in the Shinmei Ryu because of its power." She lifted her eyes to Naru's, swallowing hard before she managed to murmur, "It's meant to be a killing blow…"
Naru immediately started forward, but Motoko caught her arm, gasping out loud as she pointed to the clearing dust.
The two stared in amazement as the air finally cleared, revealing an interesting scene. Tsuruko was on her knees, with her blade held firmly in both hands in a reverse grip, so that the point of the weapon was aimed directly at Keitaro's heart. Or so Naru assumed, based on her pose, but the end of the blade was buried not in Keitaro's chest… but the rooftop – a mere inch from his body.
Motoko slowly shook her head. "My sister doesn't miss."
Slowly Tsuruko released her sword, leaving it driven halfway into the rooftop. Finally finding his voice, Keitaro spluttered, "A-are you crazy? You could have killed me!"
Tsuruko shook her head, offering him her hand. "No," she whispered as he warily eyed her hand, scooting back on the roof to get to his feet on his own. "I just had to be sure."
"What is she talking about?" Naru wondered, but Motoko only shook her head.
As Keitaro looked around for the quickest avenue of retreat, and briefly considered jumping off the roof, Tsuruko shocked them all by sinking to her knees and placing both hands on the rooftop, her eyes directed submissively low as she whispered, "My life is yours, if you require it for attacking you… but if you will permit me to live, I offer myself to you as servant and advisor."
"Sister!" Motoko gasped. "What is this all about?"
Ignoring her, Tsuruko looked up at Keitaro. "What is your decision… Keitaro-shito?"
A soft breeze blew over the scene, ruffling Naru's hair as she stood in confused silence, trying to make sense of Tsuruko's mind-boggling offer to be Keitaro's servant. "Motoko," she whispered urgently, "I think we need to get Keitaro out of here… your sister's cracked."
Motoko slowly shook her head, staring at Keitaro as if seeing him for the first time. "Do you know what a shito is?" she asked, her lips barely moving as she finally released the handle of her shattered blade, letting it fall to the rooftop with a muffled clatter.
"It's a messenger," Naru replied. "Right?"
"Right," Motoko replied. "But a messenger from who?"
Pursing her lips, Naru said, "Umm, God?"
Even as the words left Naru's mouth, Motoko was hesitantly joining her sister in kneeling in front of the now very perplexed Keitaro. As their eyes met, Naru snorted, folding her arms over her breasts and turning her nose up.
"Don't give me that look," she muttered. "We may be dating, but I ain't ready to bow down and worship you just yet."
And the wind continued to blow, carrying with it the scent of the sea, and the unpleasantly decisive fragrance of change. It made Naru's neck hair stand on end, because contrary to the popular expression, in her experience anyway, change was not good.
Next chapter: "What the hell does that mean?" "Doesn't it hurt when you do that?" "I don't care – you can't have him!" "Well, they are soft." "That's right, Urashima… body and soul."
Pre-read on this chapter was done by Hawker-748, who was disappointed when he got to the end and found out there was no necking in this chapter. Sorry, man, maybe next time…