Disclaimer: I don't own Love Hina. It belongs to Akamatsu Ken and Tokyo Pop. The original concept belongs to Beyond The Bounds. All the rewritten sections belong to me.
Original Concept by Beyond The Bounds
Rewritten and continued by Zenithos
Hiya, my name's Zenithos and I'm covering for BTB as he's currently too busy with university business. Most of Forevermore has been rewritten, under BTB's orders, to address certain issues. Unfortunately, in the rewritten version, Lee Davis has been cut out. We're sorry for the inconvenience. We sincerely hope that you enjoy this rewritten version. Thank you.
I am still a beginner fanfic writer, and as yet I still lack experience. Your comments, opinions, and suggestions, would be invaluable in helping me improve and develop my capability to give the very best of the best for you readers. Thank you in advance.
If you'd like to see beta versions of the story before they are published, feel free to visit the fanfiction forum s14(dot)invisionfree(dot)com(slash)The(underscore)Fanfiction(underscore)Forum. Thank you.
Proofread by David Alan Abramscyzk. I can't thank you enough for your support during the rewriting of this story.
I would also like to thank the friendly people at the Fanfiction Forum for all their help in making this rewrite possible. Thank you.
Rain…thunder…lightning…patches of the sky lit up as fiery bolts slash across the stricken sky. More rain…falling in ice cold sheets…penetrating every bit of his skin. The cold, dagger-like, stabbed into his bones, chilling his very blood. Needless to say, he was soaked, to the point where the expression 'to the skin' just didn't cut it anymore. His water-clad shirt and trousers were sagging down, weighing him down. But nothing felt heavier than his heart at that very moment.
More lightning flashed across the sky. This time, it lit up a long, curved, shiny jet black stick-like object in his hands. Before him, its contours deepening under the effect of the blitzing light, were the stone inscriptions, "Urashima Keiko, 1979-1992, an angelic daughter, a dear sister, and a good friend. May she find eternal peace." His hands shook as he fell to his knees. The stick-like object fell with a dull splash into a dark puddle of mud at the foot of the stone on which the words were inscribed. His tears merged seamlessly with the relentless rain. Forwards he fell, before bowing before the white tombstone.
"Keitaro-kun?" A voice, slightly above a whisper, came from behind him. The rain suddenly ceased to fall on him. He could hear the rapid rapping of the rain on something that could only be a traditional Japanese umbrella. A hand touched him on the shoulder.
"Tsu…Tsuruko-chan…" He looked up into her face. She was kneeling beside him, a paper lantern in one hand, an umbrella in another. She placed the paper lantern she was holding in the mud and raised a hand to Keitaro's face. She shook it a bit and grasped a bit of the long sleeve of her gi before wiping some mud and tears off his face.
"Keitaro-kun…Keiko-chan wouldn't have wanted to see you crying all alone like this…" She said gently, looking deep into his eyes. She raised her hands and pulled him gently into a tight, sisterly embrace.
"Tsuruko…chan…" He sobbed. "I…I…"
"Keitaro…kun…" She whispered. "Please, don't cry…I'm here for you." She tightened her embrace. "You're not alone….you'll never be alone….I promise."
6 years later…
"So…this is the Hinata Sou…" Keitaro said, a slight bit of awe inherent is his otherwise seemingly uninterested voice. The air was blistering hot for springtime, perhaps a foreshadowing of the fiery summer to come. The sun was high overhead, its rays streaming down gently through the sakura leaves around him. His clothes were soaked through completely, from his simple shirt to humble black trousers. A gentle breeze blew by, raising the loose bandages wrapped around a long, curved, stick-like object on his back. His only other piece of luggage was his modest black school bag containing everything he could scoop up before getting kicked out of home.
As many others before him, he paused at the end of the arduous flight of stairs up the Hinata Hill as he regarded the ancient majesty before him, the Hinata Sou. It looked down upon him, with an air of one grown wise and sagely with age as it watched the people who've come in and out. He gratefully entered the cool shade of the living room as he called out, "Hello?! Grandma? Is anyone home?" He scanned the living room, half darkened due to the glare of the sun outside. "Man…even the bell boy isn't here….I guess it was just too hot to work…" He sighed, placing his shoes neatly by the verandah before walking into the living room.
A flight of stairs and a short walk later, he was in his grandma's room…which was devoid of his eccentric grandma. "That's strange…oh well, I guess I'll just wait until she gets back." He placed the bandaged stick-like object reverently on the table in the room before looking about the room. It was your standard traditional Japanese room, with rich yellowish green tatami mats. He decided to get up and walk around to find some breeze from the windows, swinging his arms about casually as he did. Then he came by something that immediately attracted his eyes….
Its surface gleamed under the gentle spring sunlight. Keitaro picked up the small photo frame from the top of the old armoire and took a closer look at it. There wasn't a speck of dust on it, which could only mean it meant a lot to the owner. It was a family photo, probably taken around 10 years ago. He managed to identify himself, standing by his smiling parents. Grandma Hina, Aunt Haruka, a tall man in a white labcoat, and a few other people were also in the photograph, happily smiling at him…and there was her…
6 years ago…
"Keitaro-kun…" She swept up her long white cloak backwards before sitting down beside him. They were both sitting on the verandah, looking out at the frost covered landscape. The winter winds had come in earlier than expected. She placed her blade beside her and sighed, letting out a small puff of steam out into the chilly air.
"Tsuruko-chan…I…I'm sorry…I should be calling you Aoyama-san now…" He shook his head quickly and bowed his head. "Forgive me for my rudeness."
"Emm hmm…" She shook her head. "There's no need for formalities…" She looked up at the overcast sky. "We're still best friends…nothing will change that." She raised her hand up to the sky as the first snowflakes began to twirl down.
"I…are you leaving?" He looked up at her. She lowered her hand, got up and pulled her white scarf off. She wrapped it around Keitaro's black jumper and stood back to admire the effect.
"So kawai…" She giggled, before sitting back down.
"Yes, Keitaro-kun. I'm leaving tomorrow. Now that the engagement details are settled, I must return to my duties." Tsuroko said, closing her eyes.
"Tsu…Tsuruko-chan…are you really all right with all this?" He asked, unconsciously grasping the scarf.
"It's an honour and a privilege, Urashima-san…" She bowed. "Or rather…that's what I should say." She looked up at him and smiled enigmatically.
"Ah…I…I'm sorry…" Keitaro bowed his head again.
"Nothing to worry about, Keitaro-kun. We'll take everything one step at a time." She said, closing her eyes again, her small mysterious smile still in place. "It's our duty…"
Nothing more was said…they just sat together, watching as the snowflakes slowly twirled in a slow earthward dance. Before long, she had rested her head on his shoulders. Neither noticed the other blushing bright red, neither had the courage to look at each other's face, both uncertain about the other's feelings. No words were said until they parted.
"…Tsuruko-chan…" Keitaro gently touched the face of the serenely smiling girl in the picture and sighed. He placed the photograph back where it belonged and fell backwards onto the warm tatami mats. He let out a long sigh as he raised his hand before him. He regarded it for a moment before letting it fall onto the tatami mats with a heavy thud.
It just so happened that his hand fell on his open bag, on a pamphlet to be precise. He brought it up before him as he looked the pamphlet while still lying on his back. It was crumpled and creased from repeated reading. The first page bore the photograph and emblem of his current goal, 'Tokyo-U'. He just sighed again. "So…Tokyo-U…" He closed his eyes. "I wonder…why was it I wanted to go in the first place?" He started to reflect on his life…the fact that he has never had a girlfriend…or any proper interactions with any members of the opposite sex outside his family either. It wasn't his fault either…
As his reminiscence reached the events a few hours ago, he started to scowl. "Damn it…why on earth were we born into such a family…" Not that Keitaro hated his family…he just hated the entire system to which his entire family was bound…it has caused all of them nothing but suffering, as far as he was concerned. Keiko-chan was barely 13 when it happened…and he blamed the Urashima-ryu for everything. Just a few hours ago he went through what he swore would be the last row he would ever have under the Urashima clan's roof as he and his parents diplomatically went over a few trivial family matters…such as why he should give up Tokyo-U…how he should just continue the family business…and off course, the most trivial and unimportant of all…engagements…
Needless to say…he was ecstatic about it…and so was Kanako…
"Seriously son, I can't see why you're so obstinate…it's for the good of our school. She's a good daughter of a really well-respected school. As much as we dislike the idea of pre-arranged unions, it's the only way we could ensure the preservation of both schools. Keiko, God rest her soul, would have been more than enthusiastic…" His father had said, right before Keitaro exploded, upon hearing Keiko's name come into the discussion. A few moments later, he was out the door, his belongings in one hand, pure hatred in another. At least Kanako still understood him, though all she did was voice her support for him through a simple letter. Apparently studies were taking up a lot of her time.
After a few moments of silence, he got up. "I guess Grandma won't be back any time soon…oh well, guess I should go take a shower or something. I'm getting nowhere being depressed like this…" He walked out of the room and descended the stairs. "Hmmm…I think I saw a bathroom around…hey…what's this?" he crouched by a door and touched the floor. It was wet. Something was flooding from the other side of the wooden sliding door.
Meanwhile, a few hundred kilometers away to the west of Kanagawa, the other side of the story unfolds…
A few sakura petals floated by, carried in the gentle breeze. She took a deep refreshing breath as she paused while sweeping the large courtyard. She closed her eyes as she savoured the fresh scent of spring. Her hakama and gi rustled gently in the caressing breeze.
"Tsuruko-sempai!" A voice called from across the courtyard. She opened her eyes and looked at the little girl who had just called her. She smiled a serene smile and continued sweeping.
"Setsuna-chan…finished morning training?" She asked with her usual gentle smile as she greeted the 6 year old black haired swordsgirl.
"Hai, sempai….umm…sempai?" She asked, a slight tone of uncertainty inherent in her voice.
"I…I heard…you're…leaving?" Little Setsuna asked. Tsuruko remained silent for a moment. "Go…Gomenasai, Sempai…" Setsuna stammered as she bowed clumsily. "I didn't realize you didn't want to speak about it." Setsuna's normally refined composure merely broke down every time she faced the sempai she respected beyond anything.
"It's all right. Yes…Setsuna-chan…that is correct." Tsuruko said. "But only for a short while. I must meet someone in Tokyo."
"Oh…is it Motoko-sempai?" Setsuna asked.
"Well, yes. But not only her. There is someone else I must meet. My fiancé…" She smiled as she blushed slightly.
"Oh…what is a fiancé?" Little Setsuna asked.
"It is someone to whom we've promised our hearts to." Tsuruko said, sitting down on the verandah of a nearby building. She patted the space beside her, gesturing Setsuna to sit down as well. Setsuna scrabbled onto the raised platform and did her best to copy her sempai's way of sitting.
"What is your…fiancé like?" Setsuna asked, her curiosity on hyperdrive.
"Well…" Tsuruko blushed slightly as she recalled what her fiancé was like. They rarely met, and even when they did, a strict air of formality always commanded both. It was so different from their childhood days when they were best friends. "Well…one thing to note…he's a bit clumsy…" She chuckled.
"Eh? It's warm…" Keitaro gently knocked on the wooden door before deciding to let himself inside since no one answered and if there was anyone inside, there wouldn't be any flooding in the first place. He took his socks and rolled up his trouser beforehand. He walked through what seemed like a changing room towards another door which he judged to be the source of the flooding.
A shroud of thick steam assaulted him as he opened the doors. "Oh man…hot springs?" He looked about, trying to make his way through the dense steam…stepping through inch deep water…before the water ceased to be inch deep, dropping straight to a full one meter. "IYAAAAAAAAGH!" He shouted, as he suddenly treaded water and plunged straight in.
"He's…sweet and caring, always there with solutions to other people's problems…though he's hopeless at solving his own." Tsuruko said, closing her eyes as she looked back at the past. Setsuna cocked her head to one side as she tried to imagine this person.
"Oh darn…" He spluttered, wiping stinging hot water from his eyes. He practically burned himself upon falling. He looked about, trying to see what he could do, before noticing something at the bottom of the pool. "A valve?" He asked, taking off his water logged shirt. "Well…this might help…" He said, taking off his sodden water-heavy trousers, leaving him in his boxers. He placed them on a stone by the hot spring before diving down and turning the valve. It resisted obstinately at first, before finally giving away and creaking slowly, letting out a burst of bubbles. Keitaro grunted and heaved the valve all the way to full before kicking off the floor and breaking the surface.
He gasped as he took a deep breath and looked around in satisfaction as he saw that the water was no longer flowing outwards from the pool. "Right…at least I got that fixed…" He was about to get out when a nearby voice startled him.
"Oh…the water's overflowing…but I guess it's fine. I'll just get Haruka-san to call in the repairman later." A female voice said, as Keitaro heard the sound of the soft splash and gurgle of someone sliding into the water. "Ah….the hot springs are so great, especially at noon…"
"He's very courteous, polite, very refined in his ways…" Tsuruko said. "Especially to girls."
"So he's a nice person?" Setsuna asked, summing everything up into a single word.
"Why…yes." Tsuruko smiled at Setsuna's choice of words. "As simple as that…yes, he's a really nice person."
"Oh…crap…" Keitaro thought, as he tried to swim away…but against all the laws of reality, the owner of the voice approached him from behind the thick mist and asked him…
"Hey, do you think my breasts have gotten larger lately?" The brown haired young woman asked, blowing them out to Keitaro, who immediately shrank backwards out of pure fear and shock…who is this girl? And how long can he hold this nosebleed? Not that he wanted to think unholy thoughts…it was just impossible not to notice…err…certain things at that moment. And it was her exhibiting 'em too. "Hey, I'll let you touch'em too!" The young woman said, grasping Keitaro's hands.
"H…hey!" Keitaro shouted, before he could stop himself. But it was out of pure reflex. He had to try and maintain SOME decency.
"Huh?" The girl picked up a pair of specs and looked at Keitaro through them…before letting them fall out of pure shock.
"He's very soft-spoken. He always chooses his words carefully." Tsuruko said.
"Ok…let me explain…just…calm down, ok?" Keitaro said, trying to regain control over the critical situation…
The young woman's lips quivered…before she opened them wide. Keitaro held out his hands, trying to make gestures for her to calm down…but it was too late. "WAAAAAAAAAAAAH! HELP! SOMEONE! HELP! THERE'S A PERVERT! A PERVERT!"
"He's a very responsible person…always in control of the situation." Tsuruko smiled.
Before he could think of anything else, his self-preservation instincts sent lightning fast impulses to his legs to immediately initiate the most basic self-preservation maneuver - run. He slipped and slid his way to the changing rooms. In his panic, he accidentally slid headlong into…something soft. He slowly looked up as, to his horror, it started to dawn on him the nature of the soft object he had just rammed into…
"Uhh…Hello there…I don't think I've ever seen you around here before." The blonde haired young woman to whom the soft objects belonged to said, gently trying to dislodge the shell-shocked Keitaro.
"Mitsune! That's the pervert! Stop him! Quick!" The young woman from the baths earlier slid into view in the opening to the hot springs and pointed an accusing finger at Keitaro.
"Hey! Stop right there!" the woman named Mitsune shouted as Keitaro immediately bounded away, accidentally knocking over a dark-skinned girl carrying a basket of clothes as he did so. One of her undies chose to cling onto him, branding him as an undie thief as well as a pervert.
"Damn…how come the girls keep on showing up one by one?!" Keitaro shouted as he slid out of the changing rooms and into corridor beyond. Behind him, the rampaging beave of a hunting party rushed out of the changing rooms and went straight after him.
He couldn't help but hear the faint yet distinct whine of a device of some sort starting up. Against his better judgment, he looked over his shoulders. Needless to say, he didn't like what he saw.
"…very tolerant to others…though one can't help thinking that his head's in the clouds sometimes…" Tsuruko continued.
"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrghhhhhhh!" He screamed as he spun up into the bright blue sky, propelled forth by what could only have been a thermonuclear explosion. "Wha…what was that?!" He looked behind him. The dark-skinned girl was right behind him, blazing hot plasma flaming out of the back of her school backpack, a nuclear launcher over one shoulder.
"Errr…can we talk about this?" Keitaro asked. The dark skinned girl merely grinned as the lock-on tone (which sounded a lot like the la cucaracha theme for some reason) filled the silence. "….Apparently not…" Keitaro braced for impact as the girl flew up to a higher altitude and squeezed the trigger. The sun shone bright for a moment behind her dark silhouette before the light from the cannon lit up her smiling face.
What happened next could only be described in terms of blast radius, gravity, acceleration, and force of impact.
"Ouch…Owies…" Keitaro heaved himself out of a smoking crater in the garden a moment later. As he tried to shake off the daze from having been thumped on the head by a class 6 nuclear warhead, he saw something else worth thinking about…the 2 other girls from the baths. They were kicking up a stream of dust as they approached him at a demonic speed.
Deciding that staying put would lower his life expectancy, Keitaro started to make tracks. Before long, he found himself back in the hot springs corridor with not 2 but 3 girls behind him. The blonde haired one, the brown haired one, and the dark skinned one too. In a way, he always fantasized about what it would be like being chased by girls…now he decided that it was probably a bit overrated.
He noticed another girl in the corridor, a dark-blue haired one in an apron. She shrieked as she looked up and noticed him. "Oh God….not more of them…" Keitaro sighed inwardly.
"Even my little sister is quite fond of him …" Tsuroko's face turned into a slight frown, though her smile still lingered. "…I think…" She added.
"Ah…There you are, unholy scum… Another girl, a raven haired beauty in a hakama and gi, said, as she slid her katana an inch out of its sheath. She looked up at Keitaro, her eyes narrowing.
"Not another one…" Keitaro moaned, before the ki wave she sent roaring in his direction blew him through a wall and out into the courtyard.
"Wait…was he…?" the raven haired swordswoman watched as Keitaro picked himself up and hightailed it straight down another corridor. Her hair flew up as it was caught up in the draft raised by the three blurs behind him. "No…it couldn't be. He's just a fiendish monster."
A few moments later…he found himself cornered with nowhere left to run, atop a tall wooden platform-like structure on one side of the Hinata Sou. "Err…ok…I uhhh…came here to find my grandma…and errr…I was hoping she'd let me …stay at this inn…I assure you I didn't intend to peek or anything…and… errr…I was just… trying…to…fix… that…" He faced the gathering of girls and started to explain, putting on the most diplomatic smile he could put on…he was about to learn that diplomacy in Hinata Sou worked in a completely different way. To be precise, in a way that would make trigger fingers like Hitler and Napoleon jump with glee.
"EAT MY ATOMIC PUNCH!"
"SHINMEI-RYU OUGI! HIKEN! ZAN GAN KEN!"
"Ah…why me?" Keitaro wondered, as he was flung across the platform, skidding and sliding before smashing into the railing. "That…smarts…" He rubbed his head in pain as he tried to decide which side was up.
"What do you mean you want to stay at this inn? Try and make more believable lies next time. This place used to be an inn a long time ago, but now, it's a male-prohibited contract dormitory…in other words, an all female's dormitory. Now…you will come quietly with us to the police station. You've got a lot of guts breaking into this particular dorm…" The brown haired girl he had met in the hot springs bore down on him, her eyes flashing menacingly.
"He's…honest…too honest sometimes. He's the noblest of people…no matter what others said about him, he always chose the path he believes to be right. But…sometimes, others take advantage of his good nature…" Tsuruko sighed. "He tends to let others have their way with him. That's where Keiko used to come in…"
Needless to say, Setsuna was getting slightly lost at that point as Tsuruko gradually immersed herself deeper and deeper in her own thoughts.
"P…Please, just listen for a moment…I didn't mean to peek…the water was overflowing and…." Keitaro tried to appeal once again. Just then, someone else walked up to the platform.
"Haruka-san! We've caught this pervert!" The brown haired girl shouted, pointing at Keitaro.
"Oh…if it isn't my good ol' nephew, Keitaro…" The dark haired woman who had just walked up onto the platform said in what could only be described as a bored tone, while taking a drag on her cigarette.
"Haruka? Haruka-san?" Keitaro looked up at her. "Haruka-san! Long time no see!" Keitaro ran up and hugged her in relief and…to some extent…joy…finally, someone familiar.
"eh?" Everyone just stared.
"As happy as I am to see you, nephew…it would be a lot nicer if you would save your hugs and kisses until you're a tad bit more presentable…you look like you just lost a major game of strip poker…" Haruka said, gently dislodging the overjoyed Keitaro. "Get some clothes on and we can talk about this…"
"So…that's the situation?" Haruka asked, right after Keitaro finished his explanation. He kept it simple, limiting everything to university entrance only. They were all seated in the Hinata-Sou's spacious living room, all trying to decide what to do with the sudden intruder. Well, not try to decide perse. Most of them had already decided.
"ABSOLUTELY NOT! This place's an all girl's dormitory! I would never allow a pervert like you to stay here for even a day!" The brown haired girl screamed. The only thing keeping her from pummeling Keitaro again was the hands of the blonde girl.
"I…I didn't know the inn had been turned into an all girls' dormitory…" Keitaro said.
"I said no, and that means no!"
"b…but…I am the owner's grandson after all…"
"Peeping, breaking into the hotsprings…" The brown haired girl was laying charges faster than a person who just stole a wallet full of credit cards. Keitaro seemed to grow smaller with every accusation. When the charges came to the subject of flashing before a 12 year old girl, the victim in question tried to defend the accused by saying she didn't really see anything cause it was so small, resulting the accused diminishing at a faster rate.
"I was so sure grandma would let me stay, so I didn't bring any money with me. Oh yeah…where is Grandma, anyway?" Keitaro asked, scratching the back of his head, a sign of slight frustration.
"Unfortunately she took off on a trip around the world about a year ago…" Haruka said, taking a long drag on her cancer stick. "She hasn't been back since."
"Oh...so…she's not here…" Keitaro sighed. 'I guess…fate really does work…as father says…' he thought.
He decided to admit defeat and get up to leave. "Yeah…I guess, I have no right to force my presence on you people…me being a boy and all. It's not right for a boy to live in an all girls' dorm, I guess. Sorry for disturbing all of you." He bowed.
"…you should be a Tokyo-U student now, right?" Haruka said, deciding on a new tactic.
"Huh? Uhh…Haruka-san…about that…" Keitaro laughed, scratching the back of his head. But before he could elaborate, Haruka knocked him on the head with a paper fan, signaling him to be quiet. Just then, the room erupted as all the girls started enquiring about him being a Tokyo-U student. In less than a second, he went from unwelcome to worshipped. Just then, the room erupted as all the girls started enquiring about him being a Tokyo-U student. In less than a second, he went from unwelcome to worshipped.
"It's settled, right? We can let him stay and be our tutors." The blonde haired girl said in a final tone, as if to wrap up the matter.
"Wa…wait just a second, Mitsune!" The brown haired girl protested.
"What, you're going to toss out this poor young man out into the cold, harsh night? He came here looking for his grandmother after all…." Mitsune said, putting on a sorrowful face.
"It's almost summer….the nights aren't that cold anymore…" The brown haired girl tried to put up an argument.
"But that's so cruel…" the blue haired girl whispered, tears brimming in her eyes.
"Anyway….now that everything's settled…WELCOME TO THE HINATA INN!" The blonde haired girl shouted. Everyone else shouted out the last 5 words along with her…all with the exception of the brown haired girl.
"What?! What was settled?!" She cried, but to no avail.
"Ok then, Shinobu-chan…what's for dinner?" Mitsune immediately turned around to leave the room, her mind changing gears completely.
"hmmmphh…how could you people take this so lightly…" The brown haired girl grumbled as she too got up to leave. The other two girls, the dark skinned one and the dark blue haired one, followed suite.
"So…Keitaro…I don't think anyone could've thought of a bigger entrance…" Haruka sighed, as she stubbed out her cigarette. She took out her packet of cigarettes and bit a fresh one off.
"Sorry about that, Haruka-san." Keitaro laughed.
"I heard about the circumstances behind your leaving home…" Haruka turned her eyes towards Keitaro.
"Ah…about that…" Keitaro looked down.
"Don't worry about it…I don't blame you for leaving…in fact, your father did the exact same thing. Though back then, he was already best friends with your mother…he was only uncomfortable with the idea of having to force his best friend into marrying him. But your mother agreed to it wholeheartedly, and when she did, your father also decided to go through with it…it was quite a tale." Haruka reminisced. "I'm sure he didn't tell you this…"
"No…he didn't…" Keitaro said.
"Off course he didn't. He didn't want to inspire the same rebellious spirit in you…but I guess genetics took its toll." Haruka smiled. "The thing is, Keitaro, you, as the heir to the Urashima-ryu, have a duty to uphold…"
"Not you too, Haruka-san…." Keitaro sighed, getting up. "I've had enough of this 'duty' you're all so proud of…"
"Keiko-chan, may she rest in peace, died carrying out her duties." Haruka said, taking another drag on her cigarette.
"That's what I'm against, Haruka-san. She died…and for what? Duty?" Keitaro asked, rhetorically.
"She carried out her task as an Urashima-ryu heir to the very end. And that, Keitaro, not her duty, but what she accomplished through it, is something to be proud of. Now…the school's task is to protect the weak and the unjustly treated. To that end, the school must survive. And right now, the school's dwindling…we need to unite with another school in order to survive…for that, we need you, the heir to the Urashima-ryu, to marry the heir of another school. That simple." Haruka said. "We're not asking you to risk your life or anything."
"It's not that simple…I mean…she deserves someone…a lot better. I'm seriously not worthy of someone like her…" Keitaro said. "I don't care…if they told me I had to go die for the Urashima-ryu, then so be it. But I can't ruin someone else's life for the sake of the school."
"What your problem is, young man, is your confidence. I'm not going to preach further…I'm sure your parents have given you a hell load of all that…but I will suggest you think things over. I believe she's thinking the exact same way." She said, standing up. "Well then, Keitaro, I forgot to say, welcome to Hinata Sou."
"Tsuruko-sempai? Do you love him?" Setsuna asked, though truth be told, her idea of 'love' went as far as cuddling teddy bears.
"…Yes. I love him." Tsuruko smiled.
"Tsuruko-san!" A young man shouted from the other side of the courtyard as he ran towards her.
"Setsuna-chan…I think it's time for your lessons now. Run along. We'll talk more later." Tsuruko smiled down at Setsuna.
"Hai, sempai." Setsuna said, getting up and running away towards the main building.
"Tsuruko-san. I made it…I've been selected as head sensei of the dojo." The young man shouted with excitement as he reached her.
"What wonderful news, Kojiro-san. This is certainly a day to celebrate." Tsuruko smiled up at him as she got up.
"Tsuruko-san...now that I've finally reached a respectable position in our school…I…I…" He blushed a bright red as he stammered. He closed his eyes in frustration as he tried to blurt out his words.
"Shhhh…" Tsuruko shushed, raising a finger to her smiling lips and closing her eyes. "I know what you'd like to say."
"Ye…yes?! You do?!" Kojiro asked. "Tsuruko-san!"
"But, unfortunately…my heart already belongs to someone else…" Tsuruko said, still smiling, though in a rather sad way.
"A…U…Nani?" Kojiro was at a loss for words in his shock.
"I apologize, Kojiro-san…your feelings mean a lot to me. They really do. However…" She looked up at the sky towards the south. "My heart is no longer mine to give away…" She smiled as she blushed slightly and chuckled. "Though…I…I fear for his feelings…"
"Wh…who?" Kojiro stammered, trying to get over the shock.
"…" Tsuruko merely smiled her usual mysterious smile as she closed her eyes.
To be continued…