20 – Quantum of Solace
The hospital smelled the same, no matter which district it was. Laharl wondered for a moment if there is a sort of unwritten rule that all of them must use the same brands of cleaning materials: that rather annoying smell of disinfectant and the same staleness all throughout the building.
Whoever said cleanliness was next to godliness should have also stated when to draw the line.
Laharl knocked on the door of room 207, and entered. He was greeted by the odd sound of a keyboard being used, being typed away. He spotted Keitaro on his bed, with a laptop on his serving table. The agent acknowledged his existence with a wave of his hand, though his eyes never left the monitor.
It's been a three days since Keitaro's soul was safely transferred from that world back here. Keitaro was checked, by the doctors, and a Heavenly Agent to see if Laharl had brought back something he shouldn't had. The agent was cleared by both, though he needed some physical rehabilitation. The hybrid prepared his homecoming by giving updates to KU, who would relay the message to Shinobu, who in turn would say it to everyone during dinner.
Haruka was also preparing for his cover... three planned calls the day after he arrives to hinata-sou, each in a different time, and each with a different reply. It was going to further cement his existence as a family lawyer for the business.
The whole thing was a business trip. That's how it was going to be done as.
"What are you doing?" Laharl asked.
"My report on everything," Keitaro muttered. "Seems like G wants a full detailed report so she could report back to Heaven on what happened."
"Ah... Nitasha and I went through the same thing... though our version must be really shorter than yours," the hybrid muttered. "Explained to the guys up there what happened down there... death of a goddess isn't really a joke to them, and they are trying to find someone to blame."
"Bet they were rooting for me," Keitaro replied.
"Yeah, but they can't. You were already punished when you had killed the angel, and I was there to state that fact," Laharl looked up in the ceiling. "Miyabi had done what she had done on her own accord, never mind the state of mind. She also was responsible for almost recklessly destroying a Universe. She was her own perpetrator of her own demise."
"Good riddance," the agent muttered before going back to his laptop, and continued typing.
"Well, there's another thing you can celebrate about..." Laharl smiled. "The Soul Burn... its gone. That Heavenly Agent that checked you over said so. It seems that with Miyabi's death, the burn faded from your soul."
Keitaro just nodded. Laharl just paused for a while, looked at his friend. The two stayed silent for a moment, the hybrid wondering what else to say. The agent concentrated and continued to type away, until after a few minutes, he sighed, and with a last few movements with his cordless mouse, he relaxed back to his inclined bed and relaxed.
"Yeah," Keitaro replied. He looked towards his arms, and then his hands. "It's strange... I thought this body was in a coma for a week or so..."
"I woke up, and cursed when I realized that I had worked out hard after the last incident at Hinata-sou only to have to work even harder because my muscles lost mass, and just after three days of some physical therapy... I'm back to normal," Keitaro finished. "It's really odd."
"Heh..." Laharl scratched his chin. "It may surprise you, but I was slightly expecting it."
"What do you mean?"
"Your reiki is reacting to your body, molding it to how you remember it," the hybrid nodded. "You may not expect it, but you did change from your travels. You finally awakened your latent potential."
Keitaro looked at Laharl, who was now twiddling his fingers, occupying himself as he went silence once more. The agent scratched the side of his head slightly with his index finger, wondering how to bring up the subject he had wanted to ask since Laharl mentioned her.
Miyuki Tenki. When he was young, he liked her… loved her, most probably. She died when her moving van was hit by a demon on the bridge, and plunged into the river. The last time he saw her was in his arms, hugging her, touching her hair, telling her to wake up.
First time he saw her again, he was in her arms, touching his face and hair caressingly. She said this was her fondest memory… her last memory.
Before he had taken the codename K2, he studied up on her during his strenuous and intensive training under his sensei. There, he knew the details. Who she was… why she was at Hinata-sou. He found out about her family… Spiritualists who specialize in exorcism, slowly fading by the beliefs and culture of the modern times, were looking at one of the few families to branch to.
The U-Faction won, having their own young man as a direct bloodline heir, while the Aoyama's are still squabbling about their sexual integration. Miyuki Tenki and Keitaro Urashima met, the latter not knowing the reason of her visit, the former not knowing her ultimate fate. They just connected.
"Laharl…" Keitaro paused for a moment. He looked at the hybrid. "Did you know?"
Laharl looked at him for a moment, his lips frowning at one side, his eyes narrowing. He turned, and faced Keitaro completely, and nodded.
"Yeah," he muttered. "Remember the time I used the Demon Eyes on you?"
Keitaro nodded, remembering the test in Okinawa.
"That's when I first suspected something was up," the hybrid continued. "I saw a silhouette… there was something, or someone mingling at the background. Then came your incredible endurance in fighting off vampires and two neko-lycans to the point you were beaten to a bloody pulp, when I expected worse. Then there was our training… you learned slightly faster than I expected you to, and continue to improve ever since…" Laharl chuckled. "I first thought you were using Ki to augment yourself… but it wasn't. It was subtly different."
"It was reiki," Keitaro finished.
"Yeah… it was leaking around your body, helping you…" Laharl sighed. "After some research, I realized what was giving you such high amounts of raw reiki. Another soul was merging and mingling with yours. Who, with high spiritual energy, was close to you enough to transfer their soul to you… and then I realized one girl."
"Miyuki Tenki," Keitaro frowned. "She… she told me that the process was complete. On the other world, I mean. Laharl…" he paused. "What does it mean? What is going to happen now?"
The hybrid looked at him, smiling slightly. "Nothing. It means nothing except that you have to work harder if you want to be able to use your reiki to its potential."
Keitaro looked away for a moment, and took a deep breathe. To its potential, eh?
"Any advantages of having a strong reiki?" he asked.
"Well… truthfully, reiki is more or less like ki, with very subtle differences. One of the main advantages of reiki usage is that not a lot of people are actually able to read it," Laharl caressed his chin carefully. "Reiki is the energy, signature of one's soul, one's identity. Ki, on the other hand, is the energy created by the body. In theory, if one wants to develop ki, they have to mold their body and mind to manipulate it. For Reiki, one has to look inward, spiritually, and of course, there's the mental part as well. I actually don't know what's the real differences between the two… I'm no expert."
"Huu," Keitaro smirked slightly. "It seems like it's the first time I've seen you not having an answer for once."
Laharl smiled. "Hey, I did answer you… incompletely, it may be. Besides… its something I really can't understand. I mean… this is the most I can do with my reiki…"
He opened his palms, and Keitaro blinked when a small green ball seemed to appear from the hybrid's hands, and then exploded into a million pieces. The agent then was surprised when the whole room stopped smelling stale, and a multiple scents attacked him from all direction, and the feeling of solidness engulfed him. He closed his eyes. He could imagine a field filled with grass of different varieties, spurning flowers of different colors. Then appeared a tall oak tree standing with the warmth of the sun splashing him… it was Earth.
Then as quickly as it came, faded, and Keitaro opened his eyes and smelled the disinfectant creeping up again. His whole surroundings turned bare, white and clean. He shook his head.
"What was that?" Keitaro asked.
"Imposition of Identity," Laharl replied. "Or that's what she said it was. Reiki is, as I said earlier, your soul's signature. Dispersing just a few amounts can change the surroundings slightly to what your identity is. Mine's Earth, by the way."
"My ex-teacher. She taught me on stuff like this… Ichihara Yuko, the Inter-Dimentional Witch" the hybrid replied.
Keitaro's eyes widened when he heard her name, and Laharl noticed it immediately. He stood up from his position, and approached Keitaro quickly.
"You saw her?" he asked.
"Yeah," Keitaro replied.
"In that world?"
Keitaro nodded. "I wished for something."
"Don't worry… I paid the price," Keitaro assured, though he cracked a slight smile. "Remember me breaking my leg on that world?"
"Yeah… but what does that have to do with anything?" the hybrid asked.
"That was the price… long story short, I needed a small leg healing, and she told me the price for it was to break it again," Keitaro explained. "And it happened… though I never really realized that until after everything was over."
Laharl looked a bit soured, though his expression with his puffed cheeks looked funnier than serious, but nevertheless, his annoyance was shown when he spoke.
"I'd rather you not have anything to do with her," he muttered. "She's… she's something to be feared. Especially… when she doesn't like you."
Laharl shivered slightly, nervously scratching his cheek.
"Still…" he continued, and smiled. "I guess she must have been annoyed to be given such a simple wish eh?"
Keitaro nodded. "She said it wasn't really something she'd do." He laughed. "You know, Laharl... once I've thought about it, the whole thing wasn't so bad. I had a few... set-backs, and I may have tempted a few fires, but everything was…"
Keitaro then remembered Aoyama Motoko. Her tears, her sorrow… wiping Hinata-sou and cooking lunch in a French Maid uniform… her smile as her eyes narrowed, telling him to concentrate on his strokes and to fix his feet. Her dark laugh as she held the Hina sword, vibrating on his memory as it changed suddenly again to her angelic face, pale and unmoving, resting on the ground. Her eyelids closed, impassive to the world around her… and finally, her burnt back to complete the whole picture.
"… peachy." Keitaro sighed. "Everything turned out peachy."
He looked towards Laharl, who was looking at him with a serious face. The hybrid's lips quivered slightly, his eyes shifting away.
"Look… Keitaro… when you're done with the whole thing, the reports, I can make sure you won't have a recollection…"
The agent held his hand, and shook his head. No, Keitaro didn't want that. He never told Laharl the full story… he never told anyone. What happened in that world… his relationship with Aoyama Motoko and the short marriage they had was something he wanted to keep for himself. The hybrid may have suspected something, but he was kind enough not to ask, or even mention what he may know or deduce.
In reality, this was the first time that Laharl has ever shown that in fact, he knew something. His assistance was appreciated, but ultimately, not needed. Keitaro wouldn't want to forget what happened. No matter how painful those memories were, they were now a part of him. His battle with the older Aoyama, the truth of not only the multi-Universes, but also Mi-chan's appearance… the conversations they had, and finally the soul and power residing in him… how would he, in good mind, forget all that?
"Its fine, Laharl…" Keitaro stated honestly. "It's fine."
The two men were quiet as Laharl drove his car back towards Hinata-sou. At the baggage compartment, two suitcases filled with various of souvenirs that hopefully, the tenants would like. It was Keitaro's idea… he hoped that the souvenirs would help him quell most complaints that the tenants may have (one big sake bottle for Kitsune… that would calm her alright). He didn't know what to get some of them (for Naru, he just grabbed a few finger snacks), but it didn't matter anyway. He was home again.
Home… Keitaro looked slightly out of the window, his head relaxing on the headrest. He looked at Laharl who was tapping the steering wheel with the beat as the rock song on his radio played continuously. He didn't care much for the song, not because it was something he didn't like, but because he didn't know what to feel at the moment. He sighed.
He was beginning to think too much. His mind wandered on about the worlds... the multiple possibilities, the lives his other selves live. He had just witnessed, and experienced one of the strangest things in his life, and as of now, it was starting to bother him.
Would he have actually enjoyed living like how Keitaro of that other world lived? As un-cool as he thought it was, the life the other Keitaro lived was more comfortable. Worries of only passing an entrance test to Todai, worries of trying to get into a normal relationship with a normal woman... maybe at the end, work in an office or somewhere respectable, and with good pay, and hopefully, die a peaceful death with your family there to mourn.
"Would it have been better... I wonder..." he whispered, silently, and trailed off at the end.
"What would be better?" Laharl asked.
Keitaro looked at his hybrid friend for a moment, and shook his head. He was being stupid. Did it really matter what some life of some other person (even it was supposedly another him) was living some life and he had experienced part of it? Temptation of having a rather more peaceful and stable life was nothing more than wishful thinking on his part. He lived in a world where a wrong move could kill you... and as he experienced, his actions have more dire consequences than he could fathom.
"I wondered if it would have been better to get two large bottles of sake for Kitsune," Keitaro replied, smiling.
"Ah… well, you have been gone for a while, it may have been better," the hybrid nodded. "Though I don't think she'll complain about one bottle… especially considering how big it is."
They both laughed, though one was softer than the other's. His mind finally deciding on his course of action as Laharl's car passed through the bridge, a place full of memory for Keitaro. It was the landmark where Tenki Miyuki's truck had been struck, crashing out of the bridge and towards the river. Hinata-sou was visible from here, already, up in the hill, and just a few minutes later they'll be arriving at the base. A long stairwell flight, some awkward greeting, and Urashima Keitaro, family lawyer and manager of Hinata-sou will finally arrive after his trip.
Laharl helped him unload his stuff, but when it came to it, Keitaro wound up going alone towards the steps to Hinata-sou. The hybrid, unexpectedly, had something to do... the young agent just rolled his eyes, but didn't complain when the other man left. Now he had two arms of plastic bags loaded souvenirs.
Shinobu and Su were the first two to greet him. The former's face shone when he arrived, literally. Her lips parted and gave him a rather wide smile, and offered to help him with his load. Keitaro, greeting back, gave her the lighter one, though it was still rather heavy for her, was upbeat as she carried the bag with her two arms towards the living room area.
Su smiled, and greeted him normally, which he in turn, returned amicably. He waited for her to ask something about his adventure in another world, but all she asked was if he got her bananas.
Narusegawa Naru... he would never admit it, but her small contemptuous stare showing her annoyance at his return was something he had been looking forward to all day. Spending months in the other world, where Narusegawa was actually very friendly to him was something he could never really get over with... maybe he was being rather immature about it, but this was the first sign of normalcy which he wanted.
"And here, bananas," Keitaro declared, giving Su her favorite fruit. She gave a very kiddy yell of appreciation, grabbed the fruits and bound away on her 'threes' (her one arm was busy carrying her prize). He handed some stuffed toys to Shinobu, who readily accepted them (though looked tad disappointed). He promised himself to give her a better gift next time.
Naru reacted to his gift neutrally, accepting them without resentment, and even garnering her thanks (whispered). Keitaro guessed you really couldn't do wrong with food. Asking where the others were, Naru just shrugged, and left, leaving Shinobu to answer.
"Motoko-sempai is in the roof, practicing," the young girl paused for a moment, thinking how to say the last bit. "Kitsune-san... well, I think she's still in her room."
Nodding, Keitaro grabbed the bag with the last two items he was going to give away and climbed up the stairs towards the roof. The closer he got to his destination, the more he could hear the muffled grunt of Motoko, and the sound of the air moving fast. He then heard the wood tweak slightly, and he guessed she shifted her feet, either to turn or to correct her swing posture.
When he was about five steps away from the top, the grunts paused for a moment, and as he climbed, he could see the eyes of Aoyama Motoko staring at him from the side. Her wooden sword was steadily adjacent to her chest, her face slightly glistening with sweat. She held her position until Keitaro finally set foot on the roof, and slowly approached her.
"Welcome back," she greeted indifferently.
"Thanks," Keitaro replied with a slight whisper. "Too busy to greet me downstairs?"
Motoko scoffed slightly. "I was in the middle of practice. Are you looking for an apology, Manager-san?"
"Nope," Keitaro answered with a small smile. "Came here to give you this."
His hand went towards the bag he had been carrying. Moving the big sake bottle aside, he found a bound book. Motoko looked with curiosity as Keitaro reached the book to her, and she hesitated for a moment, wondering what it was…
It was a novel, a fiction story written just recently by a well-known and renowned author. Motoko's eyes widened with recognition, which Keitaro was quick to spot. He extended his arm, and waited for her to get the book, but looked down slightly. Then, she raised her head, and looked at his eyes defiantly.
"Another one of your jokes, Urashima? Like that friend of yours, who gave me that garbage at Christmas?" Motoko asked.
The image of the flying erotic manga of a certain naughty samurai came quickly to Keitaro's mind, and his lips quirked upwards with amusement. Motoko's eyes narrowed at that, her lips quivering with slight anger.
"No joke, Aoyama-san," Keitaro replied seriously, his smile still present. "If you're curious enough, check it for yourself."
Motoko grabbed the book, and muttered a slight 'thanks'. She gently placed the book at the wooden floorboards where she had been practicing, and looked back and see Keitaro looking at her. She frowned.
"Do you have anymore business with me Urashima?" she demanded.
"Nope, not at all," Keitaro replied, raising his hands peacefully. He quickly made an exit down the stairs, leaving the samurai girl on her own devices. He wasn't even down the stairs when he noticed a Kitsune looking up at him from the base of the steps. Her eyes were narrow, staring at him rather angrily.
Her finger curled, beckoning him. Obediently, he came to her call, and sped his way down, where he received one painful, tight, and wettest kiss he ever expected from her. She tore at his lips hungrily, pinned him to the wall without mercy, and growled as her fingers dug deep on his shirt.
"You come back... and you don't come to me first!?" she demanded as she finally broke her kiss with him.
"You know what they say… save the best for last," Keitaro winked at her, lifting his hand to show Kitsune the last gift he was carrying. She looked at the big bottle of sake, and she smirked.
"You think that will make me forgive you?" she asked.
"Well… if you have something in mind…"
Kitsune cut him off with another wet kiss, shorter than the first, and grabbed him by the shirt, and slowly dragged him towards her room. It seemed like a flash, and Keitaro found himself pushed towards the wall, his shirt being unbuttoned, while his own hands were working towards her shirt, the sake bottle on the corner of the room, soon to be opened.
But not too soon.
Her fire was almost unquenchable. He lost track of time as they spent the hours away in her futon, locked in a sensual embrace, salted by her sweat. It wasn't until she had finally had her fill that she went for the sake bottle, crawling towards it, naked.
Keitaro smiled at the view.
The sake was sweet, warm, and satisfying. Kitsune appreciated it as well, sighing after she swallowed her first sip. She moved closer towards him, the bottle in her hand, refilling his small dish, and then hers.
She then spoke once again.
"I saw you interacting with our resident samurai," Kitsune smiled slightly. "What's up with that?"
"Jealous are we?" Keitaro asked, earning him a small weak punch to the ribs.
"Well… slightly. The only girls you normally interact with are Shinobu and Su," Kitsune replied. "Most of the time you ignore Naru and Motoko. I'm not deaf you know… I knew you arrived the moment you walked into that door. You gave Naru the same treatment, but you went for Motoko up there… and looked like you wanted to spend time with her.
"I know, I was watching!" Kitsune declared, with her eyes narrowing at him. "Now… is this residential fox have to mark her territory again in case you start… moving?"
She contracted her fingers, mimicking a claw, and made mock scratches at his arm to prove her point. Keitaro watched her as she did her motions, and laughed with genuine amusement.
"Oh, claw's don't work on you, eh?" Kitsune's smile turned rather evil. "Maybe something else…"
Keitaro kissed her, surprising her slightly. She returned the kiss, and both shared a tender moment in each other's arms. He broke his kiss, and looked at her, smiling.
"The residential fox has no need to fear of her territory being invaded," he stated. "I have absolutely no interest in anyone here beside you." He paused slightly. "Maybe in another world, another time… maybe. But not here. Not now."
She frowned. "Another world, another time?"
"Yeah…" Keitaro looked away slightly. "Another world."
Kitsune growled, and suddenly pinned him down again in her futon. Keitaro's eyes widened as his grip on the dish was lost, and landed inaudibly on the futon.
"Quiet!" Kitsune growled. "Another world? Another time? It seems that this fox's territory is being threatened! She has to take drastic measures to mark what is hers!"
Her smile widened. Keitaro broke his own.
"Do your worse," he exclaimed.
She did. All the way until dinner. And he never complained.
Finally… Finally… FINALLY! Yes… its done! Sorry for all the delays… but what can I say? Persona 3: FES, Arcana Hearts, and Mana Khemia kept me so busy. Quality games, I recommend to anyone with slight interest in fighting games and RPGs.
So, what is next? Who knows. I am thinking of updating my other fics like UNNC, or even Sin Eater. I have the next arc of K2 in my head, but don't expect it anytime soon.
Anyways, enjoy the end of AVT. Ja ne!