A Friend in Need…

By: Tezza1502

Disclaimer: I do not own 'Love Hina'. Ken Akamatsu and Tokyopop do. Nor do I own any other copywrited works that ma show up in this fic.

Notes: Well, here we are. The final chapter of AFiN. Over eighteen months in the making. A lot of skull-sweat, teeth-gnashing, and stop-start typing, as well as heaps of love (i.e.; continual berating to finish the damn thing or else!) from my Soulmate.

Enjoy!


Chapter 20: If a final chapter is posted and no alerts are sent out, does it still exist?

Motoko Aoyama was sitting on a bullet train heading from Kyoto to Tokyo, late on a Friday afternoon. Sitting and fidgeting.

Tsuruko was next to her, and her husband was seated across the aisle from them.

"Motoko-han, please stop doing that." Tsuruko chided her gently. "You will fray the hem before we even get off the train, much less reach the Hinata Inn."

At the mention of the word 'Hinata', Motoko noticeably flinched.

Tsuruko noticed. "Ah. Are we back to that again?"

Motoko froze, before shifting her hands from picking at the hem of her knee-length dress to stroking her still growing hair. "I don't know what you are talking about." She stated in a small voice, turning to look out the window at the blurred scenery beyond the glass.

The older Aoyama sighed. They had gone over this many times in the past week. "Motoko. It has been over four months since you left the Hinata. Once a week I get either a letter or a phone call from at least one of your former housemates, enquiring as to how you are doing. Asking if you are okay, after what happened."

"I know."

"They also ask why you don't wish to talk to them, or reply to them."

"…"

"So, in an effort to stop you from giving up on your friends, we are spending tonight, all of tomorrow and a good part of Sunday at the Hinata. During which time, I hope, you will see with your own eyes that they do not hate you, and in fact miss you greatly."

Motoko sighed.

"Including Keitaro."

"Please sister…" Motoko begged softly. "I am not ready."

Tsuruko sighed as she put her arm around her sibling's shoulders and gave her a light hug. "I know you feel that way. But this trip is not just for you. You have come a long way in a short time, and now you need to show them that progress. Let them see how much you have learnt about yourself. And…I want them to see how proud of you I am."

Motoko pulled back and looked up in to her sister's eyes. "Really?"

Tsuruko nodded. "I'm so glad you let me be a sister to you again, after I kept you at arms length for so long."

"But you didn't-"

"Yes I did, in my own way." Tsuruko contradicted her. "I could have visited you, or called, or even sent Shippu with a letter. But, in an attempt to distance myself from the political intrigues of the Elders surrounding the position of 'The Heir', I stayed away, telling myself that you would be alright in Hina's care." She took a deep breath, trying to steady her emotions. "I forgot that you were my only direct family left, my blood, and that as family we need each other."

Now it was Motoko's turn to put an arm around her sister. "We have been over this before, Ane-ue. Neither of us are to blame. Or both of us are. You and I were both hurting after our parent's deaths. How many times did I scream at you that you were abandoning me for Satoru? That if you had been there that night, they would be alive?"

Tsuruko smiled slightly. "About as many times as I yelled at you to stop being a spoilt little princess, and accept the reality that I was not going to leave him just to suit your whim."

"Exactly." Motoko shared the smile. "We are Aoyama's. Which, as I now understand completely, means that we are far too incredibly stubborn for our own good."

Both ladies politely ignored the 'Damn straight!' coughed out by Tsuruko's husband across the aisle.

"And…it is not so much the thought of seeing the others, or even him, but seeing them." Motoko's voice wavered slightly. "Together."

Tsuruko looked at Motoko, a little sadness creeping onto her face. "You really did fall for him heavily, didn't you?"

Motoko nodded miserably.

"It is, I'm afraid, something that you will have to come to terms with, my dear sister." The eldest Aoyama stroked the youngest's hair softly. "As much as Keitaro cares for his tenants welfare, asking him to drop Kitsune for you would be a little above what he would be willing to do, I think."

"I know that!" Motoko replied hotly, incensed that her sister would think her capable of asking such a thing. "But, it does not make it any easier to bear." She finished sadly.

"It also does not mean that I am ready to start seeing any of those little boys you oh so conveniently keep throwing across my path either." Motoko continued when she saw her sister about to open her mouth with a familiar gleam in her eye.

"The thought never crossed my mind." Tsuruko snorted lightly. She had been about to mention the latest young man of her acquaintance that she had been trying to introduce to her sister this past month. However, the only reason she had been attempting this was to get Motoko out of the house and into a more social environment. Because while Motoko has been making great strides towards mastering herself, she needed to interact with her peers of both genders. Otherwise, she would end up back where she started from. And Tsuruko did not want to have to go through this whole mess more than once!

"How about we drop this whole discussion, hmm?" Satoru wondered from across the aisle. "I'm sure the owners of this fine example of our nation's technological brilliance would appreciate you two not destroying it during the course of one of your little disagreements."

Both Aoyama women ducked their heads down.

"It only happened that one time." Motoko defended herself in a small voice.

"And the Council was happy to pay for damages as long as we promised never to do it again." Tsuruko agreed with only the slightest of blushes.

"Be that as it may…" Satisfied that he had made his point, he left the sentence hanging there and went back to reading his paper.

Both women fell silent to sulk about the memory of 'the incident' and its aftermath, quite happy to let the previous topic drop.

For now.


Upon reaching Tokyo, the Aoyama's caught a train towards the outskirts of the city, then a tram into the Hinata district. Motoko's breathing developed a slight hitch as they arrived at their last stop before reaching their ultimate destination.

The Teahouse at the base of the stairway that led to the Hinata-Sou girl's dormitory.

And just inside the entrance stood Haruka Urashima, leaning against the door frame. When she noticed them, she flipped her tea towel over her shoulder and removed the cigarette from her mouth. "'Bout damn time you slackers showed up." She drawled. "I've been waiting for almost an hour."

"My apologies for our tardiness, Haru-chan." Tsuruko smiled in response. "As I did not wish to disrupt Motoko's schooling, we had to wait until she finished for the week. We also had a slight case of nerves to deal with before we left the house."

"And after we left. And when we got on the train. And all during the trip. And-" What ever else Satoru was going to add to the conversation was lost when his wife politely smacked him behind the ear.

"Yes dear, I believe Haruka gets the point now."

Taking a deep breath, Motoko steeled herself and strode towards Haruka. Stopping in front of the woman, she bowed low and started talking quickly. "Haruka-san. I did not have the chance to apologise to you for my actions towards your nephew before I left, so I wish to do so now. I-" Which was as far as she got before Haruka swatted her bowed head with the tea towel. While not really painful, it hit her hard enough to bob her head almost down to her knees, before springing her back upright. "Hey!"

"I hate it when Aoyama's try to apologise for anything. It always feels like reality is being violated somehow." Haruka drawled as Motoko rubbed the back of her head. "An' you never hurt me. Kei an' Kit're the ones you needed to talk to. Which you did. So as long as you aren't going to start your old habits again while you're here, we're good."

"I have no intention of doing anything of the sort." Motoko quickly agreed, not wishing to provoke the Urashima woman any further.

"An' now that that's out of the way…" Haruka locked the teahouse door behind her and stepped off the small porch on to the steps leading up the hill. "Time to head up the hill for a soak in the hot springs. I'm sure Shinobu will have a few leftovers, if you don't wish to join me for a soak. Or, you could wait until afterwards. And I've got the feeling that its gonna be an interesting weekend."

"What do you mean by that?" Motoko asked when neither of the other Aoyama's looked like doing so.

"You'll see." She smirked mysteriously.

Reaching the top of the steps as the sun finally fell below the horizon, Motoko paused to take in her first sight of the Inn in several months.

The Hinata seemed to be almost glowing softly from a combination of leftover sunlight and the various lights situated at regular intervals reflecting off the polished wood of the front of the Hinata. Blinking, she allowed her other sight to come forth and allow her to read the aura flowing from the building. "It's Chi has changed more than I thought it would. New shades of emotion, along with a taint of conflict. And yet…" She muttered softly.

"Sister?"

"It is nothing important, Ane-ue." Motoko looked to her sister briefly. "Life is change, no matter how much we desire it to be otherwise. Shall we?" She said as she squared her shoulders for the coming reunion.

Haruka took the lead and quickly strode in the main doors, thumping one with a fist as she passed through. "Hey kids! Front and centre. We've got guests." She shouted.

"Haruka? Please don't dent the door again. I've only just finished repairing it…after…" The Kanrinin of the Hinata Sou trailed off as he saw who had accompanied his Aunt inside. "Motoko?"

"U-Urashima-san." Motoko stuttered, before bowing. "How are you. A-And Kitsune, of course."

"Um… we're good. We're all good. And please, call me Keitaro. Remember?" He stammered out, still surprised to see her. "When did YoULPH!"

"MOTOKOOOO!" A well-tanned, sandy-blonde blur ploughed through Keitaro and rammed full speed into Motoko. "YOU CAME BACK!"

"Hello Su." The youngest Aoyama finally greeted the Mol-Mollian princess after they had both stopped sliding along the floor. "Did you really miss me?" She asked, almost moved to tears by Su's 'traditional' greeting.

"Lots an' lots an' lots! Are you back to stay?" Su asked eagerly.

Seeing the look of panic beginning to form on her sister-in-law's face, Satoru decided to provide a distraction by asking if they had missed dinner.

"Uh, yeah. By about an hour. Sorry about that. We were just about to head for the hot springs actually. Would you care to join us? Or would you like me to go and heat some leftovers up?"

"No thank you Ura… Keitaro." Motoko replied. "While the meal we had at the train station before we left was nowhere near the standard of dear Shinobu's cooking, it will suffice until later." Standing up, she made sure that Su was comfortable on her back before grabbing her bags. "May we put our luggage away first? And is my old room still available?"

"Ah, no actually." Keitaro looked a bit sheepish as he answered. "I, uh, had to take on some more tenants after, well…" He shrugged apologetically.

"…oh."

"Do you have any other rooms available?" Tsuruko joined the conversation for the first time. She and Satoru had been quietly chatting with Haruka until now.

"Um…" Keitaro ran a quick mental assessment of the habitable rooms. "Yeah. On the third floor, away from the others." He nodded to himself. "Come on, I'll show you." He gestured them to follow. "Haruka, would you mind-"

"Go on, I'll lock up here an' give your excuses as to why you'll be late to Kitsune." Haruka nodded and shooed him away.

After making sure that the two rooms were indeed clean and ready to be inhabited, Keitaro led them back down to the hot springs.

"Will you and Satoru be joining us, Keitaro?" Tsuruko inquired with a smirk.

"Sister!" Motoko huffed. "These hot springs are for girls only."

"Oh, really?" Satoru grinned as he glanced ahead. Keitaro seemed to be looking a bit uncomfortable again.

"Um, Motoko, there's been a few changes since you were last here…" He pointed to the entrance of the showering area as he spoke.

Motoko looked, and saw that the entrance was now cut in half and widened. On the right side was the familiar 'WOMEN' sign. However, on the left was a new sign that declared 'MEN'. "What the…"

"Apparently, when Granny Hina was having the damage to the hot springs repaired, she had the workers rebuild the old bamboo walls that used to be present when this place was a proper Inn. So now I can use them too."

"I'll bet." Motoko felt that old, familiar feeling building in the pit of her stomach. "I do hope that you have been staying on your side… OUCH!"

"We've talked about jumping to conclusions without any facts to support them before, dear sister." Tsuruko stated sweetly as she returned her hand to her side.

Motoko rubbed the back of her head and blinked. 'Perhaps I have not made as much progress as I thought.' She thought as she realised belatedly that she had fallen back into her old ways of thinking with disturbing ease. "I know that you would not do anything inappropriate. I apologise for my lapse, Keitaro."

"That's okay." Keitaro accepted, obviously glad that the situation had not turned violent.

"Besides, Kitsune spends most of her time on his side anyway, so he doesn't have to come over our side." Su put in cheerfully.

"Really?" Tsuruko and Satoru both raised an eyebrow at the Kanrinin.

"Yeah. She decided that he needed some company on his side so he wouldn't be lonely." Su answered enthusiastically while Keitaro's blush went down far below his collar.

"I'll bet." The married couple replied together with a smirk.

"Would that…privilege…extend to other couples as well?" Tsuruko inquired.

"Um…check with Kitsune when you go in." He answered before fleeing into the men's side.

"Still so easy to fluster. Some thing's never change." Tsuruko laughed softly. "As it should be, I guess. I will see you in a while, my husband." She gave her husband a light peck on the lips before dragging a highly flustered Motoko behind her into the ladies section. Su bounced in merrily behind them.

"Oh yeah, it's going to be an interesting weekend alright." Satoru chuckled to himself as he went to follow Keitaro.


After washing away the day's grime, Tsuruko wrapped a towel around herself and pushed a prevaricating Motoko through the entrance to the hot springs and into the water. Su immediately thought that was a fun idea, and jumped in on top of the sputtering teen, submerging her again. "YAY! MOTOKO'S BACK!"

"Hey, Ruko-chan. 'Bout damn time you showed up." Mitsune threw a greeting to Tsuruko as she stepped out of the steam cloud that perpetually enshrouded the area, before exchanging embraces with the master kendoist. Stepping back, she turned to get a look at the other Aoyama.

"Motoko." She said evenly.

"Kitsune." Motoko replied after spitting out a gallon of water and glaring at Su.

Mitsune looked her up and down, before smirking. "Y'know, you'd be able to pull off the drowned rat look a bit better if you had more hair."

Motoko stiffened, before registering both the joking tone and the testing quality behind it. "So I have been told by my swimming instructor. Unfortunately, these things take time." She retorted with a grunt.

"Yeah, they do." She responded ruefully, giving a tug at her own growing hair. "The commiseration-commission is parked over in that corner if you want to talk to Naru. Tsuruko, I have a bottle or two of Japan's finest Sake with me. Care for a libation before Haruka drinks the lot?"

"I heard that, you cheeky imp! Don't tempt me." Came a warning from the mist in the far back corner.

"Lead on." Tsuruko followed Mitsune, leaving Motoko feeling slightly lost, as well as a little confused over her description of whomever Naru was sitting with in the far corner.

Su solved her dilemma. "Come ON, Motoko! Come say hello to Shinobu and Sarah." Su grabbed her hand and dragged her forcefully over to the youngest members of the Hinata Honies.

After reassuring Su and the others that she had no forgotten them since she left, as well as catching up on what they had all been up to since they had seen each other last, she decided to go over and see Naru. Actually, she was surprised that the girl had not sought her out immediately after she had arrived. 'I guess I will find out why soon enough.'

Wading over to the corner Mitsune had indicated earlier, she found not only Naru, but Mutsumi as well, and a girl she did not recognise. They were sitting around a floating basket full of Sake, looking thoroughly miserable.

"Narusegawa. How do you do? And you too, Otohime. Are you living here now, or just visiting?" She said as she eyed the empty Sake bottles bobbing in the water around the two with distaste. 'Kitsune at her worst was never this messy. What's been going on here?'

"Motoko? When did you show up?" Naru asked blearily. Her bloodshot eyes were more than a little unfocussed, and the redness of her face and upper chest did not seem to be caused entirely by the temperature of the water.

"Um, I've been here for about an hour. Didn't you hear Su shouting a little while ago?"

"Nuh-uh." She shook her head and waved a cup at her. "Drink?"

"No, thank you." Motoko was in a slight state of shock. What had been going on here lately? "…are you okay, Naru?"

"She's just having an off night." Mutsumi answered, earning her a snort from the girl in question. "And yes, I live here now. My other place burnt down while everyone was in Kyoto with you." She answered the earlier query off-handedly. "How have you been?"

"Honestly? I feel better about myself than I have in ages." Motoko answered truthfully. "As much as I dislike admitting it openly, living with my sister and Satoru has been good for me."

"Ah. That's good then." Mutsumi said with a slight tinge of melancholy.

"Um, hello." The new girl spoke for the first time. "My name is Akeme Momoki. I moved in to the Hinata about three months ago." The newly introduced Akeme said as she stood and bowed.

Motoko automatically returned the gesture. "Hello. I am Motoko Aoyama. I was a resident here until just over four months ago, when I had to move home with my sister."

"Yeah, abandoning us to the mercies of that pervert an' his sl-umph!" Naru was abruptly cut off by Mutsumi clamping a hand over her mouth.

"Naru! Remember what happened the last time Haruka and Kitsune caught you talking like that." She whispered, glancing nervously towards the opposite side of the bathing area.

Naru brushed her hand away. "Don' care." She grumbled.

Mutsumi persisted. "And what about Keitaro?"

Seeing Naru slump at that as she agreed to be quiet, Motoko asked what the heck has been going on since she was last here.

When neither of her friends seemed willing to answer her, she turned to the new girl.

"Well, I don't really know that much." Akeme started nervously. "Nobody really likes to talk about some of the stuff that went on before I arrived. Although, I gather it was bad."

Motoko winced, before nodding in understanding. "In parts. Just tell me what you can, please."

"Well, I guess I should start with how I came to be here. I had just come out of a relationship, and I was feeling sorry for myself." Akeme shuddered slightly. "I was just sitting in the park a couple of blocks from my apar…my former apartment, when this incredible old woman just sat down beside me and started chatting away."

"Granny Hina." Motoko grinned fleetingly.

Akeme blinked. "Why, yes. Yes it was. How'd you-"

"Granny has a thing for finding and collecting wounded people." Motoko's grin broadened, remembering. "Let me guess; she got your entire life story out of you before you realised you'd even started talking, then she offered you a room here at the Hinata."

Akeme's jaw fell open. "Are you reading my mind?"

Now the girl just chuckled. "Both Kitsune and Naru ended up here the same way, and Keitaro found Shinobu under similar circumstances. It's a Urashima thing, apparently."

"oh" Akeme blinked again, before continuing, "Well, I had only been here a few days when I overheard something."

Motoko waited a few seconds, before prompting the girl gently. "What, exactly?" 'Though I can guess easily enough. Probably Keitaro doing something, and Naru punching him through a wall for it.' She thought to herself.

"Um, I was just coming down the stairs towards the kitchen to get myself a snack before bed, when I heard voices. It was the Kanrinin and Mutsumi here, and they seemed to be having some sort of a polite argument." She gestured to the Okinawan who was slumped up against Naru. Both of them had passed out leaning against each other sometime in the last sixty seconds.

Motoko looked nonplussed. "Tell me exactly what you heard, please."

"Well…"


FLASHBACK

Mutsumi approached Keitaro in the kitchen from behind. Mitsune was out of the room for the moment, and it was time for her to find out if Keitaro was truly happy with the fox. It was a moment she had been eagerly waiting for, ever since she had shown up at the Hinata-Sou to live about a month ago. "Hi, Kei-kun!" She said brightly.

Keitaro jumped slightly and spun around. "Oh, hi Mutsumi." He smiled uneasily. "Um, could you call me Keitaro please? Kitsune's the only one who calls me Kei-kun now."

Mutsumi pouted. This was not starting well. "But why? I've always called you Kei-kun, Kei-kun."

"Um, yeah. But it's not appropriate now that I'm in a relationship. I wouldn't want Kitsune, or one of the other girls, to get the idea that I might be cheating on her or something."

Now Mutsumi was frowning. It was not an expression she was used to forming. "But-"

"Please, Mutsumi. Naru's still giving us both grief over our relationship. I'd rather not lose another friendship over this." Keitaro's tone was apologetic, but surprisingly firm.

"…oh." He was willing to stop being her friend over such a small thing? Mutsumi was so shocked by even the idea of this, she did what she usually does in times of high stress. She fainted.

Straight into Keitaro's arms.

Naturally, this was when Naru decided to put an appearance.

"Mutsumi? What's going on? I thought I heard you raise your voice…" She petered out as she took in the scene in front of her.

And of course, seeing Keitaro crouching down with Mutsumi in his arms blew away all the thoughts Naru had been having recently about trying to control her temper. "KEITARO YOU CHEATING BASTARD. GET YOUR FILTHY PERVERTED PAWS OFF MY FRIEND!" She shouted as she launched a punch at his head.

-FWAP!-

Oh damn, girl. I thought you were working on your whole 'punch first, question later' issue.' Naru's inner voice commented in a panicky tone as for the second time in the Hinata kitchen, Keitaro caught her punch easily. She gulped as she tried to retrieve her fist, only to find that she couldn't. And she nearly swallowed her tongue when she got a look at his expression.

"I'm very disappointed in you, Naru. I thought you were moving past this childish behaviour." Keitaro glared sternly at his former crush over the fist he had caught effortlessly while still supporting Mutsumi in his other arm.

"But…you…she…" Naru sputtered desperately.

"She fainted. You know, that thing she does sometimes." He said sarcastically. "Usually when she wants to deny something has happened and isn't ready to deal with it yet."

Naru looked from Mutsumi to Keitaro, trying to form words.

"As to what caused this episode, I'm guessing it was because I asked her to stop calling me Kei-kun in front of everyone. Only Kitsu-chan gets to do that, these days."

"But…but…" Naru flailed about mentally. "She's a promise girl!"

Keitaro sighed. "And…what's your point?"

'Woah! WTF?' Even Naru's inner voice was blown out of the water by that bland response.

At that moment, Mutsumi came back from la-la-land with a groan. "Oooh, that wasn't a pleasant dream at all." She muttered.

"What was it about?" Keitaro asked politely.

"I dreamed that Kei-kun asked me not to call him that any more."

"Actually, I did."

"Huh?" Mutsumi finally registered that she was sitting on the ground with Keitaro supporting her by the shoulders. She also realised that he was gripping Naru's hand rather tightly, while the girl was looking at him with an expression of confused horror while tugging her arm weakly, trying to retrieve her fist. "What did I miss?"

"Can you stand yet?" The Kanrinin asked. When the girl nodded, he turned to the other person in the room. "And can you behave yourself long enough to have a civilised conversation with me?" Naru nodded, still in a state of mild shock. "Good. Both of you have a seat at the table, and we'll have a talk that's been a while coming."

After fixing a pot of green tea for the three of them, Keitaro returned to the table to find both girls looking very nervous. Pouring them all a cup, he stared at his for moment. "What do you two want from me?" He asked softly.

"What do you mean, Kei-ku… I mean Keitaro?" Mutsumi corrected herself when she received a dark look from him.

"Both of you seem to think that you both have some sort of ownership over me, because of a promise I made a long time ago when we were all kids." He held up a hand to forestall any comments. "Yes, I held myself to that promise for most of my life so far. And maybe its partly my fault we are where we are now, because of my whole-hearted pursuit of that promise. After all, I've chased both of you in my own way, never really making a decision between the two of you. Or wanting to."

"However," He continued, interrupting Naru before she could speak. "Since I've started dating Kitsune, you have been trying to make our lives a misery, Naru." Turning to the other girl, he continued, "And you, Mutsumi, haven't been helping either, fainting on me and glomping me randomly. Usually when I'm trying to get some alone time with Kitsu-chan." He frowned. "I get that you like me. I like you too." Mutsumi smiled uncertainly. "But only as a friend."

FLASHBACK END (INTERRUPTED)


Motoko blindly groped behind herself until she felt the edge of a sitting rock, and collapsed heavily onto it. 'Oh Kami! It's not what I thought at all!' She stammered mentally. 'It's much, much worse.'

Shaking her head to clear some of her shock away, she looked at Akeme. "What happened then?"

"Well, I didn't hear any more actually." She replied, causing Motoko to face-fault into the water. "Granny Hina appeared beside me with a sad look on her face and dragged me away, muttering something about 'It's about time he grew a pair,' and 'I hope he's gentle with those girl's hearts.'"

"Uh-huh." Motoko nodded, slightly irritated that she hadn't found out all the details. 'At least this explains why the younger girls were a little twitchy, and avoided certain subjects while I was talking with them earlier. It might also explain why Keitaro and Kitsune seem slightly melancholy.'

Looking down at the still sleeping promise girls, Motoko realised that no details were coming from that direction. And a quick glance around the hot spring revealed that both her sister and Mitsune had disappeared, most likely to the other side of the bamboo wall. "Damnit." She growled softly.

"Is…is something wrong?" Akeme asked timidly.

"What? No, not at all." Motoko softened her tone. "I am simply annoyed that the people who could tell me what happened next aren't available."

"Why do you want to know?"

Motoko looked at the other girl, and decided that it wouldn't hurt to tell her. 'Potential allies should never be discouraged, after all.' She paraphrased a line from her Shinmei-Ryu teachings to herself.

"Keitaro…was in love with both of those girls at different times. And they him, from what I understand. Its why him starting to date Kitsune was such a shock to us all, here at the Hinata." She sighed. "I just…I wish to know if he managed to let them both down with a minimum if pain." She looked at her unconscious friends again, "Although, it seems that they are still reeling from whatever was said."

"Actually, I think the reason their like this is because Kitsune and Haruka got stuck into them soon after. They'd taken to drinking together in Naru's room instead of coming down for dinner. Kitsune went up to bring them down one night, and the shouting started. Haruka went to find out what was going on, and it only got louder. So Keitaro and Granny Hina bundled the rest of us down to Haruka's shop. We ordered takeout that night, and we didn't go back up until Haruka came and told us it was okay." Akeme glanced over at the younger girls with a sorrowful expression. "Shinobu spent the entire time shaking while Keitaro held her and stroked her back. Did her parents fight a lot before she came here?"

"…yes, I believe so." Motoko's heart went out to the girl. Shinobu never liked it when people shouted and fought in her presence. Having so many of her adopted family fighting with each other at once would have been torturous.

"Ah." Akeme nodded, finally understanding something that had puzzled her.

"Motoko. Are you finished visiting with the drunks yet?" Su asked as she pounced on her favourite person.

"I believe so. For now." She answered, shaking off the melancholy that had overtaken her suddenly.

"YAY! Your mine now." The diminutive Mol-Mollian declared, dragging Motoko away towards the others.

"Don't worry about these two. I'll keep an eye on them." Akeme answered Motoko's unspoken question.

Motoko nodded her thanks, before focusing her attention on the three youngest residents of the Hinata for the rest of the evening in the hot springs.


Motoko was looking at the door to what was going to be her room for the next two nights, wondering why she was feeling a little disassociated. 'Maybe its because while I am once again sleeping in the Hinata, it is in a different room to the one I consider to be my own.' Pushing the feeling away, she smiled at Keitaro, who had been waiting to see if the current accommodations were acceptable. "Thank you Keitaro. This will do wonderfully, and I thank you again for doing this for us on such short notice."

"You welcome. Su should be here any minute." Keitaro nodded. "Also, our other new tenant works the night shift at the local hospital on weekends, so she will be home around five in the morning. If you're going to do any training up on the roof, could you please make as little noise as possible, especially before midday. She really needs her sleep after her shift."

"Of course. We would be happy to oblige." Tsuruko answered before Motoko could open her mouth. She settled for nodding her agreement instead.

"Sleepy time!" Su yawned excitedly. Motoko wasn't quite sure how the young teen managed that feat, but she did. Motoko was also surprised to notice that Su's head was now just above her shoulders. 'Kami, she is growing up fast!'

"Goodnight Keitaro." The Aoyama's bowed slightly. Su just waved as she bounced past Motoko into the room.

"Goodnight Su. Motoko. Tsuruko. Satoru." Keitaro returned the bows. He then waited until the doors slid shut before making his way to the room he and Mitsune shared most nights.

"Crazy Kendoists and even crazier genius inventors all tucked in?" Mitsune asked from the futon.

"Yeah." He replied as he slid under the sheets with her. "I hope this weekend goes well for everyone." He sighed.

"It will. You'll see." She stated, pulling her boyfriend towards her. "Now, you have just a few duties to perform before I can let you, in good conscience, go to sleep tonight." She grinned.

"Yes dear." Keitaro smirked as the distance between them disappeared.

"But no hickey's this time."

"Pooh!"


Motoko awoke the next morning feeling more at peace than she had for some time. 'About four months, if I had to guess.' She mused to herself. 'What is it about the Hinata that it can replenish the spirit in such a short time?'

Untangling herself from Su's iron grip with more difficulty than she previously remembered, Motoko quickly visited the toilet before getting changed into a Hakama and tee-shirt. She then headed for the roof for some morning exercise. Su managed to attach herself to Motoko's back as she walked past the futon without waking up.

She reached the upper tier of the Hinata, where a clothes line shared space with a large balcony, and stopped. To her great surprise, not only was Keitaro up here at this early hour, but Mitsune and another woman as well. They were at a ninety degree angle to the rising sun, moving in complete synchronicity as they performed a Kata she was not familiar with.

"…Huh?"

"Oh, they're up here every morning, doing that." Su mumbled sleepily over Motoko's shoulder. "Kei n' Kit use it to wake up, an' Yohko does it to wind down after a shift."

"Yohko?" 'She must be the other tenant Keitaro mentioned, last night.' Motoko thought to herself, still trying to get her head around the idea of Mitsune willingly getting out of bed before breakfast. Or lunch, for that matter.

"Yeah. Yohko Sagisawa. I think she's here training Keitaro."

That caught Motoko's attention. "Training? For what?"

"The Elders of the Shinmei-Ryu sent me here to see if Keitaro-san would be willing to learn from me a little about what's involved in the art of healing. He possesses great potential for it." The newly identified Yohko answered as she appeared in front of Motoko.

"Gaah!" Motoko jumped. She had been so focused on listening to Su, that she had not seen the older woman make her way over.

"She does that to everyone." Mitsune said as she and Keitaro walked over to join them. "Well, everyone except for Kei-kun. He always seems to know when she's around. Good morning, Motoko." Mitsune was about to continue teasing the teen when she got a good look at Motoko's tee-shirt.

It was a light pink, with a 'Hello Kitty' kitten on the front, wearing a polka-dot dress with a yellow bow attached to its ears, looking incredibly cute and innocent. It was also hiding a large, bloody sword behind its back. Underneath, the caption in flowing English said;

Extreme cuteness is merely ONE of the weapons in my arsenal.

"Where on bloody earth did you get a shirt like that?" The Fox asked, laughing.

"Huh?" Motoko looked down at the shirt she had put on without much thought, and blushed slightly. "Oh. Satoru found it somewhere, and got it for me as a gift. He thought it was appropriate." She groused good naturedly. In fact, she quite liked it. However, she normally only ever wore it around the house.

"I'll say. It's brilliant! What did Ruko-chan think of it?" Mitsune asked, grinning.

"She quite liked it, too." Motoko replied. "After she finished laughing when she saw it for the first time. She also thought it was appropriate."

"Would you like to join us, Motoko?" Keitaro asked, attempting to drag the conversation away from Motoko's attire. He didn't want her getting twitchy if she started feeling self-conscious from the attention. While she seemed to be a lot calmer now, from what little he saw of her last night, he didn't want to push it. "We're just running through some basic Kata's."

"I…" Motoko was honestly torn. She was strictly forbidden from practicing her family's art, in any way.

"If it helps, this is something from the Urashima family." Mitsune interjected, quickly understanding where Motoko's reticence was coming from. "Nothing to do with the Aoyama's at all."

"…Very well." She accepted their offer. 'After all, it is not of the Shinmei-Ryu, so I am not disobeying the ruling over me. I did not recognise any of the movements Keitaro was using.' Motoko rationalised. 'And, it has been such a long time since I enjoyed myself this way…' Placing Su on a cushion in the shade, (Left there regularly by Keitaro. Su liked to watch them in the morning sometimes, so he always left one there, in case she showed up randomly.) Motoko took a place behind Keitaro, and began performing the movements only slightly behind him.

Soon enough, she was using only a portion of her mind to follow his movements. The rest of her had fallen in to a meditative state. It was almost a relief to be doing something like this again. A Kata had always been her preferred way of relaxing. Even an open-handed style like this, without a sword or a bokken in her hand, was incredibly soothing for her. At least, until Keitaro moved his right arm upwards, fully extending it towards the sky.

Motoko attempted to copy the movement automatically. "Aaaah!" She cried as her shoulder blossomed with pain. She quickly brought it back down and tucked it against her chest protectively.

"What! What happened?" Keitaro was by her side in an instant, Mitsune, Su and Yohko a second later.

"It…it is not your fault, Keitaro." She reassured him. "If you remember, during the fight I had with my sister that day, she imbedded a throwing knife in my right shoulder." He nodded. "Well, it never really fully healed." She grimaced as a spasm shuddered through the damaged musculature. "I have lost about ten to fifteen percent total movement in that area. If I overuse it, or extend it certain ways, it lets me know. Painfully."

"Hm." Keitaro looked at her thoughtfully. "I see."

Mitsune caught the contemplative look her boyfriend was giving the former kendo-girl. "Think he's up for it?" She asked Yohko.

"At this stage of his training? Yes."

"What are you talking about?" Motoko looked from Keitaro to Mitsune, to Yohko in confusion. "Who's up for what?"

"I think I can help you with your problem, Motoko." Keitaro said confidently.

"H-How?"

"The same way he helped fix my little blemish." Mitsune put in as she leant down and pulled her hair away, to give the teen a clear view of the side of her head.

"What am I-?" Motoko blinked as she realised what she was supposed to be looking at. "It-It's gone! Your scar!"

"Uh-huh." The Fox grinned cheekily. "My Keitaro's got magic fingers."

"Kitsune." Keitaro groaned at the double-entendre.

"What? It's true!" She retorted impishly.

"Can he really heal me?" Motoko asked the Shinmei-Ryu healer cautiously.

Yohko nodded. "Most healers would not be able to give you much more movement that you already possess." She pointed a thumb at Keitaro and grinned. "He ain't most healers. Heck, he's got more healing potential in his big toe than most of us have in our whole body." She emphasised without a shred of jealousy. "It's an incredible honour to be given the chance to help him find his potential, actually."

Keitaro, glowing bright red at the praise being heaped on him, gulped and tried to get down to business. "Um, unfortunately, Motoko, I uh, I have to be touching you for this to work." He winced as he spoke the next words. "Touching your bare skin, that is."

"Oh." Motoko started to blush herself at that. It was only recently that she had stopped reacting when Satoru accidentally brushed against her. And she was still not comfortable with having members of the opposite sex in close proximity to her.

But, it was Keitaro. He would be touching her. Her bare skin. Even if it was only her shoulder. But she would have to remove her shirt for him to do that. Kitsune would kill her. She might faint if he touched her. Actually, she was feeling a little giddy right then at the thought of Keitaro being so close to her. While she had her top off. And he would be touching her.

She was babbling inside her head. And Kitsune was looking at her as if she knew exactly what was running through her mind right then.

She was soooo dead.

What the heck, she should have been dead four months ago. This just makes it worth it.

"Um, sure."


In the end, they had moved back inside to Yohko's room for more privacy. Which was in fact Motoko's old room.

In the time that it took for them all to get there, Motoko's natural modesty had reclaimed some territory. She now just had her right arm poking through the neck of the shirt, which meant that she was only somewhat exposed.

To her own surprise, Motoko was not nearly as nervous about Keitaro touching her bare skin as she thought she might be. Although, that might have to do with the fact that she was more nervous about the way Mitsune was watching her face like a hawk, looking for any sign that she might try to take advantage of the situation somehow. Clearly, the Fox had been having troubles with the other residents of the Hinata-Sou on this very subject.

"Kitsune." Keitaro's voice made both her and his girlfriend jump slightly, taking their focus off each other. "Motoko's not like the others. For a start, she has more than a little self-control." He said, grinning at the understatement.

"She still likes you." Mitsune stated flatly. "She'd like a chance with you, if she could."

"Maybe." The Kanrinin allowed. "But you have my heart."

Mitsune blinked, startling her out of the territorial mindset she had fallen into.

"You okay now?" He looked into her eyes steadily.

"…yah." Mitsune exhaled. "Sorry for that, Motoko. It's been a bit rough here at times, the last few months. Some people haven't been respecting the fact that we're together."

"I understand. You have nothing to fear from me. I respect the feelings you two have for each other, and would not dream of trying to get between you." Motoko assured firmly.

"Yay, that's settled. Now fix Motoko!" Su demanded, having somehow restrained herself during all this.

"OW! Alright. Alright. I'm doin' it." Keitaro grumbled as he rubbed the back of his head where the diminutive foreigner had smacked him. "Ready, Motoko?"

"Yes." She replied simply. Nodding, Keitaro knelt beside her and placed his hands on both sides of her damaged shoulder over the scars, his face a picture of intense concentration. Letting out a deep breath, she tried to relax herself for what was ahead. She had heard that getting healed like this was often painful, so she was going to run through some pain-management exercises to cope with-

"Done."

She opened her eyes, and saw him getting to his feet again as he wiped a few beads of sweat from his brow.

"You were right, Yohko. Older wounds do heal faster." He said, surprised.

"It's because the person's Ki has had a chance to calm down around the wound, therefore your not trying to put recently traumatised flesh through even more trauma so soon after the injury occurred." Yohko reiterated.

"I'm fixed?" Motoko drew the room's attention as she poked gingerly at her shoulder. Where there was once an ugly thin scar, and a dull constant pain, was now just a slightly pink, and fading, mark. "That was it?"

"Yup! Cool, huh." Keitaro grinned down at her.

Motoko rotated her shoulder, cautiously at first, then with more vigour, as the expected pain failed to materialise. "I can move my arm again!" She shouted as she jumped to her feet and did a back flip in one smooth move. She then did a hand stand and walked across to the far end of the room on her palms. "I CAN MOVE AGAIN!" She yelled gleefully.

Keitaro, Mitsune and Yohko watched in surprise as the teen cartwheeled around the room in a way fairly reminiscent of Su's usual delight. "How long has Motoko been able to do that?"

"She took up gymnastics at her new school about three months ago, along with swimming." Su answered. "She told me last night, before we fell asleep. Apparently she needed a way to burn off her excess energy, now that she couldn't practice with her swords anymore. Even though she couldn't do some of the more fun moves because of her shoulder." She shrugged. "Dunno why, she looks relaxed to me." She added pointing.

They turned around to see Motoko looking at her newly healed shoulder, happier than any of could remember ever seeing her.

She then looked up at Keitaro, eyes bright with tears. "Thank you for this." And before anyone could react, she flew across the room, grabbed Keitaro's head with both hands, and kissed him deeply. Keitaro put steadying hands on her hips out of pure reflex.

Motoko continued to kiss Keitaro until she heard an exasperated Mitsune. "How did I know something like this was going to happen. HANDS AND LIPS OFF MY BOYFRIEND, MOTOKO!" While saying that, Mitsune reached over and grabbed a handful of Motoko's arm and pinched it.

The sudden pain served to reboot Motoko's brain, and make her aware of exactly what she was doing with someone else's boyfriend. Looking from a stunned Keitaro to a frowning Mitsune, Motoko burst into tears at her own thoughtlessness. "I-I-" She stammered fearfully. "I'm sorry." She whispered, before twirling about and sprinting from the room.


"Are you sure she's up here?"

Motoko lifted her head from where it had been resting on her knees, and looked around franticly.

"Yeah. Kei-kun says he spotted her Ki-signature up here somewhere. And it is about the last place anyone would expect her to be."

A year ago, she would have had no hesitation about jumping over the railing and using her training to survive the three storey drop to the ground to escape. Now, she'd most likely just break both legs, for a start.

"And what do you plan to do to her if she is indeed up here?"

Motoko started to sweat.

"Talk to her. I get why she did it, after all. I'm not angry with her."

She relaxed slightly.

"Really?"

She tensed again.

"…Okay, I'm a little pissed."

Another wave of sweat erupted.

"But I'm not going to hurt her, beyond the fact that Kei is mine, and none of the silly girls under this roof are getting him until I'm done with him. Which won't be for a lifetime or two."

Motoko's shoulders slumped dramatically.

"Yes, I imagine that that would be more damaging than anything else you could cook up."

She had to agree wholeheartedly with that statement. She had not found many males that could remotely measure up to Keitaro.

"And there she is."

Motoko looked up, and saw Mitsune and Tsuruko peeking over the rim of the old wooden bath that Keitaro used to use. It had been empty when she had found it, and looking like it had not been used in about four months. Which suited her. She had quickly climbed in and made herself at home in the bottom of it, out of sight of everyone. No-one would expect her to hide there, which is why she had chosen it.

Unfortunately, she had forgotten that there were at least three Ki-users residing in the Hinata at that moment, not including herself. The chaotic emotions she had to have been emanating would be like a beacon to those with the ability to sense it.

"Are you going to come out?" Mitsune asked softly.

Motoko pulled her arms tighter around herself.

"Right then, bunch up." With that, Mitsune threw a leg up and over the side of the tub, and hauled herself in. Tsuruko shrugged, and followed suit.

It was a little snug with three of them sitting on the bottom. Mitsune had the idle thought of getting her boyfriend to fill it again. It really was a nice view from up here. First things first, though.

"I'm not angry with you, Motoko. Really." Mitsune offered earnestly. "I really think I understand what actually happened back there in Yohko's room."

Motoko just looked at her warily.

"Damn, Ruko-chan. What did you do to her, these past few months." Mitsune shook her head. "It's really weird seeing you looking scared, Motoko. And of me of all people."

"I know how sharp your tongue can be, Kitsune-san." Motoko whispered. "I have enough to atone for in my past, without you drawing even more to the surface."

"Let her speak." Tsuruko asked kindly. "I think I understand where she is coming from."

"…very well." Motoko took a deep breath and tried her best to unclench her body. "I am sorry that I-" She paused. "Well, um, actually," Motoko blushed deeply. "I, ah, I'm sorry that I put Keitaro in such an uncomfortable position. And that I did something that I had no business doing."

"But not that you actually kissed him." Mitsune added with a raised eyebrow.

Motoko couldn't meet her eyes. "no" She whispered.

The Fox rolled her eyes, having been expecting that. "When I was being healed, your sister told me something about the process of focusing that got me worried."

Motoko blinked, wondering where this was going.

"Apparently, Keitaro was pushing so much of his Ki towards me, that it would affect me for a while. I would want him. Desperately." She sighed. "It actually led me to doubt the truth of my feelings about him for a little while." With a small shiver, she continued, "When Kei-kun heals you, he puts his all into it. He can not stand the thought that he might fail the person he's helping if he doesn't."

"And…when he does this, his Ki imprints on the person he's healing." Motoko continued the conversation slowly. "The person he's healing would feel overwhelmingly attracted to him for a short time, wouldn't they."

Mitsune nodded. "Yohko is working with him to try and rein in that part of the process. He's actually managing it quite well. But…he considers you to be a close friend. So, when he healed you…" She looked at the other teen sympathetically. "He pulled out all the stops."

"He put everything he could in to healing me." Motoko clarified.

"Yeah."

"Is he blaming himself for what happened?"

"Oh yeah."

"…I should speak to him. Tell him it was as much my fault as his." Motoko's expression grew determined. "He has given me back something I thought gone forever. I will not have him berating himself for such a gift." With that, Motoko abruptly stood up and began clambering out of the wooden tub.

"Attagirl!" Mitsune smiled, glad to see some of the old Motoko back. "Oh, and Motoko?"

The teen stopped in the doorway and looked back.

"That was your first, last and only kiss. Got it?"

Motoko nodded her head slowly. "I understand, Kitsune-san. And thank you."


After a bit of mutual appologising between Motoko, (for taking such a liberty with another woman's man) Keitaro, (for putting a little too much of his Ki in to the healing) and Yohko, (for not anticipating both Keitaro's actions and Motoko's likely response) things settled down for the rest of the day. Motoko wandered around the Hinata-Sou, taking in the atmosphere, making conversation with the other tenants, reaffirming friendships and creating new ones with Akeme and Yohko.

However, there were two residents that she hadn't managed to talk with in any meaningful way yet. Naru simply stayed in her room and drank and brooded, while Mutsumi seemed to be intent on keeping her friend company, both in her emotional state as well as her physical location. It was more than a little perplexing. Motoko couldn't understand what had happened to change the two women so dramatically in the last four months. Surely Keitaro and Kitsune had not been that harsh with them.

That evening after dinner, during their soak in the hot springs and before the older woman wandered over to the 'mixed' side, Motoko cornered Mitsune.

"Kitsune-san? May I ask a question?"

Mitsune looked at the teen with a raised eyebrow. "Lemme guess? You wanna know why those two," She gestured over her shoulder in the general direction of Naru and Mutsumi's rooms. Neither woman had deigned to come to the hot springs this night, "are in a perpetual sulk, these days."

"If it would not be too invasive." Motoko nodded.

"Why not. You were here for most of the lead up." Mitsune shrugged. "Pull up a rock, an' I'll tell you what I know." The other girl found a seat and leaned in.

"Basically, about a month after you shifted back to Kyoto, Kei-kun sat them down for a good talking to. From what he told me later, he was trying to put the whole 'Promise Girl' thing to bed for good. He'd gotten sick of Naru glaring and sniping at us all the time, like we'd killed her beloved pet or something. And Mutsumi seemed to be fainting into his arms a lot more than she had in the past, as well as making comments about the two of us."

Motoko found that a little hard to believe, especially the bit about Mutsumi, and said so.

"Oh, it was nothing overt, or in your face. Just little comments about whether I was really sutiable for him. Whether someone with my history would really make a good partner for Keitaro. Subtle crap like that. And she was smart enough to try and make sure that Keitaro wasn't present for most of it."

Motoko was surprised, and more than a little shocked. "They were trying to interfere in your relationship?"

"In their own ways." Mitsune sighed. "And while it wasn't going to break us up, it was affecting the rest of the tenants. Yohko wouldn't arrive for another three weeks, so she was luckily clear of the worst of it. Akeme had not been here long, and it was making her jumpy. Su was still in a bit of a funk about you, as was Sarah. Shinobu was getting twitchy from all the tension. I think it was starting to remind her a bit of the bad times, when she was caught in the middle of her parent's divorce." She took a sip of juice from a bottle that was resting on a nearby floating basket. "I think it was finding out that, that got Kei moving on the whole issue. We could handle those two being snippy against us without too much trouble. But when it was starting to bleed over into the younger girls, well… Keitaro drew a line in the sand over that."

"What did he say to them?"

"Dunno, really." Mitsune answered. "All I could get out of him was that he had finally resolved the issue of the promise girl, and that it would never be a factor in his life again." She sighed. "I think… I think he had to hurt them badly. At least in their hearts. 'Cause all three of them had been tied up by that promise almost their entire lives. You can't cut a connection like that without drawing blood." Mitsune looked at Motoko evenly. "He spent the next week crying himself to sleep in my arms."

Motoko gasped. "He really… It hurt him that much to do that?"

"Yeah." The other women nodded sadly. "He cares." Her voice hitched slightly as she spoke. "So very deeply. About all of us. An' those bitches knew it, an' used it to lead him around for so long. We all did. For so long. And it nearly broke his heart to be so harsh with them. But he couldn't let it go on, 'cause it was only gonna get worse."

Mitsune finally ran out of words. Motoko could clearly see the tears that were falling down her cheeks from the memory of that time. It was distressing to watch someone whom she felt was normally so strong break down silently like that. So Motoko attempted something that she had only recently allowed her sister to start doing with her.

He shifted over to Mitsune, and hesitantly put her arms around her.

Mitsune stiffened for a moment, and then relaxed into the hug. A sniffle every now and again was the only sound between them for a long while.

"Goodness, its so quiet out here." Came a voice from the entrance to the springs that made them both jump slightly. "Kitsune? Motoko? What's-" Tsuruko was surprised into silence by the hard glare her younger sister sent her from over Mitsune's shoulder.

Dropping her basket of toiletries, she rushed over. "Whats wrong?" She asked in a worried tone.

Mitsune mumbled something unintelligible from her position on Motoko's shoulder. Tsuruko then looked at her sister.

"The last few months have not been pleasant for Mitsune and Keitaro, mostly due to the disharmony wrought by Mutsumi and Naru's unhappiness at their relationship. I believe it is catching up with her."

Tsuruko nodded in understanding. "Kitsune?" She reachd out and gently began stroking the woman's hair.

Mitsune leant back and tried to dry her eyes. "It's nothing. I just needed to vent."

"Try again." The older woman insisted.

"I…"

"Keitaro had to disabuse Naru and Mutsumi of the notion that they had any sort of control over him, because of a promise the three of them made when they were small children. It hurt him greatly to do so. And Kitsune had to help him keep it together afterwards." Motoko interjected.

Tsuruko nodded to herself. "May I assume that you haven't had a chance to talk with anyone about this since then."

Mitsune nodded, a little embarrassed that she had lost it like that.

Tsuruko sighed. "Why didn't you say anything during one of our conversations on the phone? Or to Haruka. Or Elder Hina."

Mitsune shrugged. "Ah dunno. I just… I guess I thought I should be able to shoulder this. I mean, with the amount of pain Kei's had to handle since he came here to the Sou, I figured it was so small compared to that."

Tsuruko cuffed the woman on the back of the head lightly. "Silly girl."

"Where is Granny Hina, anyway? I haven't seen her this weekend so far." Motoko asked.

"After about the first month, she started coming and going a lot more." Mitsune explained. "She still lives here, back in her old room in fact, but can be gone for weeks at a time." She laughed bitterly. "I think after how we treated Kei-kun before, she's not as willing to stay as far away as she used to."

"That would explain why she has started showing up regularly at the Shinmei-Ryu council meetings again." Tsuruko mused to herself. "I have seen more than one elder knocking their heads against the walls outside the great hall out of frustration, after meetings."

"Are you feeling better, Kitsune?" Motoko asked.

"Yah. Thanks for the hug." She replied as she shifted away slightly.

"Any time."


The rest of the their time in the hot springs had been spent talking softly about a variety of things. While Motoko had never been one for 'girl talk', as it were, she found it… fun. Her sister and Mitsune conversed about a wide variety of subjects, slipping from topic to topic with ease. Although she did turn some funny colours when they discussed their respective men in such blatant detail.

When she tried to get them to tone it down, she was firmly invited to either put her fingers in her ears, or get her own man so she could join in the conversation.

It was the most unusual and engaging exchange she had ever been a part of, even if she did spend most of it listening. Very different to the giggling, superficial ones the girls at her school got in to. And she could see that her sister enjoyed it every bit as much as Mitsune did.

Eventually, her sister and Mitsune look their leave and went to their men on the other side of the bamboo wall.

Once Motoko was sure they were gone, she got out herself, toweled off, and changed into her night clothes, with a robe over the top.

A few mintues later, she was knocking insistently on Naru's door.

"Wuzzat? Go'way, 'm studyin'." A slurred voice came from inside the door. Wrinkling her nose with disgust, Motoko kept knocking.

"What!" Naru shouted as the door flew open.

"Good evening, Narusegawa." Motoko said firmly as she slipped through the doorway, and further into the room. "Hello Otohime. What a surprise to see you here." She stated as she made her way over to the table the busty Okinawan was sitting at.

"Oh. Hello Motoko." Mutsumi waved half-heartedly.

"What do you want, Motoko?" Naru said from the doorway. "Come to poke fun at me? Look down your nose at the failure I've become?"

"…actually, I've come here to hear your side of whats been happening these past few months, since I've been gone."

"Yeah right." Naru drawled as she shut the door and came back to the table. "Like you've ever cared about doing that before."

Motoko closed her eyes and took a calming breath. "We have both been guilty of not wanting to see both sides of a situation in the past, Naru. I, at least, have been attempting to correct that behaviour in myself."

Naru huffed as she sat down and reached for the open bottle of sake in the middle of the table. It was not alone in its position.

"What do you want to know, Motoko?" Mutsumi asked after a long silence.

Motoko took a moment to order her thoughts. "Why are you two seemingly spending all you time either alone or together, and a good amount of that time apparently drunk and bitter? Why are the little ones reluctant to spend any time in your presence? Either of you. Why are Keitaro and Kitsune also reluctant to spend time around you? What happened?"

"I am sure that you have heard at least some of what has been going on." Mutsumi replied with a sigh.

Naru snorted.

"Yes, I have. However, as I said before, I want to hear your side of it."

Mutsumi's shoulders slumped. "Where do you want to start?"

"Start with… the conversation you two had with Keitaro in the kitchen." Both girls flinched noticeably. "Everything I've heard seems to have its genesis at that point in time."

"You really wanna hear how that perverted mrfle." Mutsumi quickly placed a hand firmly over Naru's mouth before the teen could begin a good, long, profanity-laden rant.

"Well, it went something like this…"


FLASHBACK (COMPLETE)

Mutsumi approached Keitaro in the kitchen from behind. Mitsune was out of the room for the moment, and it was time for her to find out if Keitaro was truly happy with the fox. It was a moment she had been eagerly waiting for, ever since she had shown up at the Hinata-Sou to live about a month ago. "Hi, Kei-kun!" She said brightly.

Keitaro jumped slightly and spun around. "Oh, hi Mutsumi." He smiled uneasily. "Um, could you call me Keitaro please? Kitsune's the only one who calls me Kei-kun now."

Mutsumi pouted. This was not starting well. "But why? I've always called you Kei-kun, Kei-kun."

"Um, yeah. But it's not appropriate now that I'm in a relationship. I wouldn't want Kitsune, or one of the other girls, to get the idea that I might be cheating on her or something."

Now Mutsumi was frowning. It was not an expression she was used to forming. "But-"

"Please, Mutsumi. Naru's still giving us both grief over our relationship. I'd rather not lose another friendship over this." Keitaro's tone was apologetic, but surprisingly firm.

"…oh." He was willing to stop being her friend over such a small thing? Mutsumi was so shocked by even the idea of this, she did what she usually does in times of high stress. She fainted.

Straight into Keitaro's arms.

Naturally, this was when Naru decided to put an appearance.

"Mutsumi? What's going on? I thought I heard you raise your voice…" She petered out as she took in the scene in front of her.

And of course, seeing Keitaro crouching down with Mutsumi in his arms blew away all the thoughts Naru had been having recently about trying to control her temper. "KEITARO YOU CHEATING BASTARD. GET YOUR FILTHY PERVERTED PAWS OFF MY FRIEND!" She shouted as she launched a punch at his head.

-FWAP!-

'Oh damn, girl. I thought you were working on your whole 'punch first, question later' issue.' Naru's inner voice commented in a panicky tone as for the second time in the Hinata kitchen, Keitaro caught her punch easily. She gulped as she tried to retrieve her fist, only to find that she couldn't. And she nearly swallowed her tongue when she got a look at his expression.

"I'm very disappointed in you, Naru. I thought you were moving past this childish behaviour." Keitaro glared sternly at his former crush over the fist he had caught effortlessly while still supporting Mutsumi in his other arm.

"But…you…she…" Naru sputtered desperately.

"She fainted. You know, that thing she does sometimes." He said sarcastically. "Usually when she wants to deny something has happened and isn't ready to deal with it yet."

Naru looked from Mutsumi to Keitaro, trying to form words.

"As to what caused this episode, I'm guessing it was because I asked her to stop calling me Kei-kun in front of everyone. Only Kitsu-chan gets to do that, these days."

"But…but…" Naru flailed about mentally. "She's a promise girl!"

Keitaro sighed. "And…what's your point?"

'Woah! WTF?' Even Naru's inner voice was blown out of the water by that bland response.

At that moment, Mutsumi came back from la-la-land with a groan. "Oooh, that wasn't a pleasant dream at all." She muttered.

"What was it about?" Keitaro asked politely.

"I dreamed that Kei-kun asked me not to call him that any more."

"Actually, I did."

"Huh?" Mutsumi finally registered that she was sitting on the ground with Keitaro supporting her by the shoulders. She also realised that he was gripping Naru's hand rather tightly, while the girl was looking at him with an expression of confused horror while tugging her arm weakly, trying to retrieve her fist. "What did I miss?"

"Can you stand yet?" The Kanrinin asked. When the girl nodded, he turned to the other person in the room. "And can you behave yourself long enough to have a civilised conversation with me?" Naru nodded, still in a state of mild shock. "Good. Both of you have a seat at the table, and we'll have a talk that's been a while coming."

After fixing a pot of green tea for the three of them, Keitaro returned to the table to find both girls looking very nervous. Pouring them all a cup, he stared at his for moment. "What do you two want from me?" He asked softly.

"What do you mean, Kei-ku… I mean Keitaro?" Mutsumi corrected herself when she received a dark look from him.

"Both of you seem to think that you both have some sort of ownership over me, because of a promise I made a long time ago when we were all kids." He held up a hand to forestall any comments. "Yes, I held myself to that promise for most of my life so far. And maybe its partly my fault we are where we are now, because of my whole-hearted pursuit of that promise. After all, I've chased both of you in my own way, never really making a decision between the two of you. Or wanting to."

"However," He continued, interrupting Naru before she could speak. "Since I've started dating Kitsune, you have been trying to make our lives a misery, Naru." Turning to the other girl, he continued, "And you, Mutsumi, haven't been helping either, fainting on me and glomping me randomly. Usually when I'm trying to get some alone time with Kitsu-chan." He frowned. "I get that you like me. I like you too." Mutsumi smiled uncertainly. "But only as a friend."

"But…but…but…" Naru sputtered while Mutsumi looked like she was going to slump to the floor again. "What about your promise?"

"Which promise was that, Naru?" Keitaro knew which promise, of course. He just wanted to see what the girls in front of him would admit to.

The girls blinked at him in shock.

"The promise you made when you were four years old, you idiot. The promise that you would go to Toudai with the person you love." Naru shouted.

"Who did I make it to?"

"Um…"

And that was a stumper of a question, for both of them. She couldn't remember making it, since she was about two years old at the time, and he didn't remember the girl's face or name.

"You made it to me."

Naru and Keitaro both turned to look at Mutsumi incredulously.

"The three of us spent a summer together here at the Hinata-Sou when we were kids." She said with authority as she reached out and gently patted Naru's hand. "You were so sick as a little girl, Naru. So, Kei and I tried to include you in all our play time. But, one day Kei and I went out to a playground that had a sandpit nearby. The three of usually went together, but you couldn't join us because you were having a bad day. And there, Kei and I made a promise to each other to go to university together." Mutsumi turned her tear-filled eyes to Keitaro. "We were best friends, and we promised to always be best friends. I knew that my family was leaving soon, so I wanted you to promise me that you'd see me again, someday."

She sniffled into her sleeve. "Everybody knew where Toudai was, and we were the same age, so I guess in my childish way I thought that if we both worked hard enough, we'd see each other again when we were older. And I'd get my best childhood friend back, one day."

Keitaro was the first to recover. "And…was there any particular reason why you couldn't tell me that before now?" He was actually a little annoyed with the Okinawan now. "I spent fifteen years wondering about you. Another couple since I got here and met you two, wondering whether it was one of you. Putting up with her abuse, in the vain hope that she might feel something for me other than contempt." He pointed a thumb at Naru.

"Well if you weren't such a stupid pervert, maybe-"

"SHUT UP! JUST SHUT UP NARU." Mutsumi screamed. "I am so sick of watching you denegrate the man I love all the time. Of sitting back and listening to you tearing him down, all because he simply wanted to be your boyfriend."

"And why did you sit back, Mutsumi?" Keitaro asked, fighting to keep his own temper under control. It had been a stressful couple of months, and finding out that the girl he made his promise to has just been sitting back and letting him smash his head against the impenetrable wall that is Naru's anger was dangerously close to fraying his last nerve.

"Oh Keitaro." Mutsumi sobbed. "I thought you were happy persuing her."

Keitaro blinked.

"You never seemed to mind when she'd hit you, or curse you. You put up with everything she dished out to you with a smile. I thought you really liked her, and I wasn't going to get in the way of that. So, I stood aside."

Keitaro huffed and shook his head. "And the times I tried to take you out on a date?"

"I…I don't know." She stammered. "You never seemed to look at me like you did her. I didn't feel like I had the right to get in between you and her." She looked at Naru. "Besides, she and I were becoming such good friends again, and I'd seen the way she would look at you and talk about you sometimes. It felt to me that you both stood a chance of working out." She finished with a helpless shrug.

"And now?"

"I just wanted to find out if you were happy with Kitsune, I swear." She sniffled again. "That's all I ever wanted for you, Keitaro. For my best friend to be happy."

Keitaro looked into her eyes, and he could see the truth of what she was saying to him. She really did want him to be happy, even at the expense of her own happiness. In fact, he realised suddenly, she always had. Ever since she had come back into his life.

"Why couldn't you have said something, Mutsumi?" He almost felt like crying himself at the lost opportunity. "At any time up 'til the last few months, you could have told me the truth, and I would have been yours in a heartbeat."

Mutsumi just shook her head, unable to speak anymore as the enormity of her decision to stay silent caught up to her. Being so firmly passive had finally cost her something that she would regret for the rest of her life.

"What about me?" Naru finally spoke up.

"What about you?"

Naru looked at Keitaro, aghast at his tone.

"Naru, we've never been in a relationship. In fact, you've gone so far as to wish that I'd never existed on occasion. Any time you've shown me even the slightest kindness, you have immediately taken it back, just in case I somehow took it as an invitation to act 'perverted' towards you." Keitaro snorted. "There is no you and me. Especially after the way you've been acting since Kitsune and I got together."

"But…but…"

"It stops here and now, for both of you." He stated. "Kitsune and I may only be together for five months. We may end up together for a life time. However long it lasts, we are together! And I will no longer tolerate any interference from you two."

Naru took exception to his tone. "Oh yeah! Or what?" She had pretty much ruled the roost at the Hinata over the years with her iron punch. Even with everything that had been going on lately, Keitaro couldn't have changed that much.

Could he?

"Or I kick you out."

Naru snorted. "You'll try. One word to Granny Hina, and-"

"And it wouldn't change a thing." Keitaro interrupted firmly. "I have talked with Granny about this, and she agrees with me. If it comes down to it, for the good of the Hinata I will remove anyone who becomes a problem."

"That's a bit selfish, don't you think." Naru was slightly worried now. Keitaro wasn't backing down like he usually would. "Tossing someone out of their home simply because you don't like them."

"This isn't about myself or Kitsune." Keitaro ignored Naru's disbelieving snort. "Su is still depressed over Motoko's departure. Sarah has complained loudly to me over your attitude, Naru. Shinobu is getting stressed from all the tension in the air. Its reminding her of when her mother and father were going through their divorce."

That little tidbit shook Naru hard. She knew how conflict at the Hinata affected little Shinobu. The had all seen it many times over the years. She had sworn many a time to stamp out anything or anyone who might cause any anguish for the teen.

And now she was the cause.

"On top of all that, our new tenant, Akeme, has just come from her own relationship breakdown, and really doesn't need to be near even more emotional turmoil. It stops now! If you can't be polite and restrained while your in our company, either stay in your room or leave the Hinata. Those are you only options now. Your hostility is hurting the other tenants, and I will not allow that to continue."

Naru tried again. "Granny Hina-"

"Agrees with me. Besides, the Hinata is mine to run. I make the rules, and I will enforce them. The final decision in these matters is mine. And she will tell you that herself."

The teen huffed and opened her mouth to argue further.

"Naru? Just be quiet will you. And try growing up while you at it. You can't have everything go you way, every time. And you certainly can't stamp you feet and pout until it does, either. Just suck it up and deal with it."

"You bastard." She growled as she launched herself across the table at him, throwing a punch at his head as she did so.

Keitaro, as he had done the last two times she had swung a fist at him, grabbed her clenched hand firmly and held it against the table top in front of him. Naru, frustrated at once again being denied the justice she felt she was due, then tried to slap him with her free hand. He grabbed that one too, pulling her forward at the same time, so that her body was dragged forward.

With her hips wedged against the table edge and her hands held firmly down underneath his own, Keitaro had neatly immobilised Naru for the moment. Leaning over her secured hands, he continued talking to her in the same tone he had before she attacked him.

"Congratulations, Naru. This is you final warning. Try that again, and your out."

Naru wriggled frantically, trying to get out of his grip without any success. "Let go of me, you bastard."

"I no longer fear you, Naru. And I will no longer allow you to hit me, just because you feel like it." He then leant down and whispered in her ear. "And if I ever hear of you trying to punch or hit any of the other tenants the way you used to do to me, I will throw you out of the Hinata so far and fast, that you will land past Haruka's front step. Then, I will call the police. I am done putting up with your abusive ways."

Something about his tone got through to Naru, because she froze. She had finally pushed him too far.

He was utterly serious.

"Are you finished?" He asked. When she mumbled an affirmative, he released her and stood back up. Naru nearly fell backwards over her upturned chair as she scrambled away from him towards the other side of the kitchen.

Still standing, Keitaro looked from Naru to Mutsumi. "Are you both clear about the level of good behaviour I expect from the both of you from now on?" They nodded their understanding. "Good. Then we're done here. Have a pleasant evening." With that, he walked out of the kitchen.

END FLASHBACK


Motoko sat back, stunned. 'To think that such a gentle soul like Keitaro has been driven to such behaviour.' She thought to herself. It explained why he had been such an emotional mess in the week or so afterwards, according to Mitsune. He would have spent the whole time tearing himself apart, wondering whether there could have been a better way to get his point across. 'Sadly, Naru is so stubborn, and so reluctant to consider opinions outside her own, that it would take such action to get through to her.' Motoko was also smart enough to realise that she had been just as bad, up until recently.

"Do you see?" Naru interrupted her thoughts. "Do you see why its so bad here now?"

"Yes." Motoko answered. "You couldn't get you own way, so your sulking. Can I assume that Granny Hina is in fact backing Keitaro all the way on this?" Mutsumi nodded. "This fills in the blanks nicely with what I already know." Motoko closed her eyes and let out a deep sigh. "I am disappointed in you, Naru."

"What!"

"As I have said to you before, you have never made a public claim for Keitaro's affections. And now that he is completely beyond your reach, you are trying to spoil it for Kitsune out of some misplaced need for revenge, with no regard as to who gets harmed in the crossfire." Motoko's face scrunched up in an expression of disgust. "And drinking yourself insensate on a daily basis is no way to cope with the situation, either."

"As for you, Mutsumi," She turned her gaze to the other promise girl, "why are you joining Narusegawa in this destructive behaviour?"

"I guess… I'm still feeling a bit sorry for myself at letting Keitaro slip through my fingers." She shrugged.

"Your punishing yourself?"

Mutsumi shrugged. "Maybe?"

"Your fools, both of you." Motoko sighed. These girls were… are friends of hers. She came through her own epiphany about her behaviour mostly intact. Could she somehow manage to do the same for them? And in the time she has left.

Something Mitsune had said earlier in the hot springs came back to her. She just hoped that it worked, and that Keitaro and Kitsune would forgive her for this slight betrayal.

"Do you two know how much you are hurting them with this behaviour?"

"Who?" Mutsumi asked. Naru also looked slightly curious.

"Keitaro and Kitsune."

"Bullshit!" Naru blurted.

"I have been reliably informed that Keitaro spent the week after his conversation with you, weeping and tearing himself apart over what he had to do. Kitsune is randomly bursting into tears from the stress of it all. They were your best friends. They care for you still. And how do you reward them? You make their lives miserable, simply because you can't stand the fact that they are happier with each other than they ever could be with either of you."

Motoko stood and drew herself up to her full height. Projecting the considerable amount of scorn she was feeling towards the two of them at that moment, she spoke, "You both disgust me. I am sorry I ever gave either of you my friendship. You should both leave the Hinata-Sou, and stop polluting this wonderful place with your spiteful ways."

With that, she stormed out of the room, leaving two thoroughly shocked women behind.


In the hallway, she stopped and leant against the far wall. Running a hand through her spiky hair, she closed her eyes and attempted to find her centre again. "Gods, those two used to be so wonderful. How could they fall so far into spite?"

"Happens to the best of us, hun." Motoko looked up and saw both Keitaro and Mitsune standing there. "Sometimes we need a swift kick in the pants to get us motivated back to the right path."

"You heard?" Motoko blushed bright red.

"Most of it, yeah." Keitaro confirmed. "Come on, lets take this conversation somewhere else."

Minutes later, they were up on the roof, staring at the stars.

"Thank you, Motoko. For what you said to those two. It can't have been easy."

"Actually, Kitsune, it was surprisingly easy to say." She countered. "You two should not be being punished for finding each other."

"Thank you anyway." Keitaro reiterated.

"And… I'm sorry for mentioning how you have been reacting to their behaviour in private." She added, slightly nervous.

"That's fine, Motoko." Keitaro reassured her. "It will either help shock them out of their current mood, or they will become so bad that I will be able to kick them out." He sighed at the possibility.

"Same here, Motoko." Mitsune added.

The teen nodded, relieved that they had accepted her doing it, and for correctly guessing her reasons why.

A comfortable silence descended for a time.

"Why were you there?" Motoko asked after a while.

"We, ah, figured that you might confront them both tonight." Keitaro said. "Kitsu-chan guessed it would be straight away, for some reason."

Mitsune shrugged. "I know it must have been hard saying those things, to Naru especially."

"Again, seeing the way she was carrying on, it was not as hard as it would have once been. I just hope that they can pull themselves together. Being like that for any length of time is not healthy. I spent enough time in a similar state to know that for myself."

"To be fair, I think Mutsumi is doing it mostly just to keep Naru from hurting herself too badly." Keitaro sighed. "Neither of them have been to cram school in weeks. I've tried to get Naru's parents to come visit her, without any luck. And Granny Hina is of the opinion that Naru has to come to her first before she can begin to heal." He shook his head. "Unfortunately, I think Granny is massively underestimating Naru's capacity for stubbornness. Pointing out just how much she is hurting the people she used to care about might be the only way to shock her out of this self-destructive pattern."

"I hope so too." Motoko agreed.

They spent the rest of the night until it was time to turn in, chatting and catching up with each other.

They weren't the only tenants to have a conversation that lasted well into the night.


The next morning was brimming with surprises for the tenants of the Hinata.

The first one was pleasant. Granny Hina arrived in the middle of breakfast, to much fanfare. After a quick round of hugs and kisses on cheeks for those who sought them, Hina found herself with two slightly nervous Aoyama women standing in front of her. Tsuruko, naturally, hid it better than Motoko.

"Well, aren't you a sight for sore eyes." Hina said after looking Motoko over thoroughly. "And don't you look better for your time spent with your sister and brother-in-law." She grinned at Motoko with obvious approval. "Come here and give us a hug, Mo-chan." The teen gleefully complied with the older woman's request. Not much beat a Granny Hina hug, in Motoko's opinion.

"And you, Tsuruko? How are you and Satoru?"

"Happy to be a family again." Tsuruko replied simply, before receiving her own hug. Satoru had tried to get clear, but the iron grip of Granny Hina soon strongarmed him into joining what had become an Aoyama group hug.

Breakfast continued with a much happier atmosphere after that interruption. While the plates were being washed and put away, the second surprise of the morning happened.

"Granny Hina?"

Hina turned from her conversation with Motoko, about how her schooling was going in Kyoto, to find Mutsumi standing there. And behind her, was Naru, looking exceptionally nervous.

"Yes dear?"

"Uhm, may we have some of you time, later today?" Mutsumi asked in a small voice.

"Regarding?"

"Its…private." The Okinawian supplied meekly, her eyes shifting briefly from Hina's to the doorway to the kitchen, where Keitaro and Kitsune were helping Shinobu put the plates away.

Hina looked from one girl to the other, seemingly weighing their souls with her glance. "Both of you?" She asked finally.

"Yes." Mutsumi answered.

When Hina's stare slid to Naru, the girl squirmed for a long moment, before whispering, "Yes, Granny."

"…fine. I'll see both of you in my room about eleven. Don't be late, or waste my time. I will get Shinobu to bring us some lunch."

"Yes, Granny. Thank you, Granny." They both mumbled.


Finally, the time arrived that afternoon when the Aoyama's had to depart for Kyoto.

The whole house turned out to see them off, even Naru and Mutsumi. Once again, promises were exchanged to keep in touch, this time followed by half-meant threats to come and find her if she didn't.

Motoko managed to get a moment with Keitaro and Kitsune.

"Keep each other close and happy, okay."

"That's the plan." Mitsune answered. Keitaro smiled and put an arm around his girlfriend in agreement.

Motoko hugged one, then the other. "It's a good plan. I just hope…" She trailed off.

"Don't worry, Motoko. He's not the only good man out there." Mitsune said, correctly guessing what Motoko had not said.

"I understand that, now." She smiled at them warmly. "I will try and talk my sister into returning for a visit once school is out for the year."

"Sound's good." Keitaro agreed.

Eventually, with time pressing on them, the Aoyama's made their way down the Hinata steps, and on to a tram to take them to the train station. As Motoko watched the Hinata fade into the fog that sometimes sprung up around the district, she thought back on the weekend.

'Naru and Mutsumi are finally talking about their issues with Granny Hina. That alone should help settle the emotional turmoil that I noticed was choking the Hinata when we arrived. And those two-,' She sighed as she thought of Keitaro and Mitsune, 'Are closer together than ever.'

Taking a deep breath, she smiled slightly. 'I am happy for them. And…I think I can finally let him go, in my heart. For I have seen what happens when someone tries to hold on to another's heart when it is already lost. I just hope Naru and Mutsumi can do the same.' Her smile widened momentarily. 'Through his healing of my shoulder, I know how much Keitaro feels for me, even as a friend. How much more must he feel for Kitsune? I wouldn't dare look at him with my ability to view Ki while she was present. I would go blind, I'm sure.'

"Are you okay, Motoko?" Tsuruko asked from beside her. She had seen the odd emotions flowing across her sister's face.

"I am fine, Tsuruko. I was just letting go of my crush on Keitaro." She gave her surprised-looking sister a wan smile. "He is happy with Kitsune. And I am happy that he is happy. That they are happy. To want anything else would be selfish of me, and I will not allow myself to become like Naru in this."

"That is… a very welcome and mature decision, Motoko."

"Thank you." She nodded at the compliment. "I am glad you made me come back to the Hinata for this weekend."

Tsuruko reached out and brushed a hand over her sister's hair affectionately, "Me too."


Back at the top of the Hinata-Sou steps, Keitaro and Mitsune watched as the tram carrying their friends finally shifted from their sight. Everyone else had gone back inside.

"Was this a good weekend, Kitsu-chan?" He asked.

Mitsune thought, as Motoko was doing at that same moment, about Naru and Mutsumi's decision to talk with Granny Hina. That, with that one step, so much of the tension that had been choking the Hinata these past few months might finally begin to disperse.

She also thought about how much Motoko herself had changed in so few months, all for the better. And that now she knew that her place amongst them was still waiting for her, no matter how long it might take for her to return.

All in all, things were finally beginning to look up, after so much disharmony.

"No, Kei-kun." She said, putting her arms around his neck and kissing him soundly. "This was a great weekend."

-:THE END:-


Notes: With regards to the whole promise girl thing, it's always been my understanding that Keitaro and Mutsumi made it to each other when they were both about four or five years old, and that Mutsumi 'switched' it to Naru at some point after that moment.

I freely admit that I might be wrong. I haven't read the Manga, or watched the Anime, in years. But, the version I've gone with here in my fic works the best for the emotional beats I wanted to hit with my story.

Also, a very belated explanation. I named the Ki-attack Motoko used in the story 'Endless Light', because I've heard what being kept awake and exposed to light continuously does to the mind. Paranoia, hallucinations, violent emotional shifts, and more. It fit. And I forgot to put that in somewhere.

Anyway, that's it. No more. I hope you all enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. (More actually. 'Cause this was a pain in the arse to get done sometimes!)

Later! Tezza1502