Disclaimer: I'm going to take you on a journey. A journey into sight and, well, just sight really. -SHRUGS- The owner of this journey, however, is not me. It's Ken Akamatsu. He and his affiliates own Love Hina. I'm just taking you on a journey.
Notes: I'm planning for this to be a four- or five-parter about when Keitaro decides he's had enough. It's been done before, I know. Often quite well. It's not going to be pretty. Um, set about six months after the final anime special. Obviously, Keitaro will be Out Of Character here. And expect a lemon in later chapters. Do not expect it to be updated regularly.
Haruka was wiping the outside tables in preparation for opening the teahouse that morning when she stopped and took an impromptu break. 'It's good to be the boss, sometimes.' She grinned to herself as she lit up. Kentaro Sakata looked longingly at what she held in her hand for a moment, before a scowl from her sent him scurrying off to complete his duties.
Leaning on a table, she breathed out a cloud of smoke and took in the crispness of the winter's morning. A light snow had fallen the night before, dusting the ground as far as she could see. The bare branches of the nearby trees hung heavy with snow and ice. A vague dot could be seen in the sky, heading in her direction.
'Huh?' She grunted as the dot grew larger. A faint screaming sound could be heard and arms and legs could be discerned flailing about. Very quickly, the flying person came into sharp focus then disappeared in a spray of white as they impacted on the ground near her.
Haruka walked over and peered down the side of the shallow crater. 'I wonder what he did this time?' She asked herself quietly. Seeing movement, she waited until the person dragged themselves upright.
"Dare I ask?" She almost smirked, having long ago become used to sights like this.
The man stared at her for a moment, as if not entirely sure who she was.
"Keitaro?" Haruka raised an eyebrow, wondering if the girls had actually managed to damage him this time. "You alright?"
"In answer to your question, I did nothing." He shivered. Haruka realised that he was still in his nightclothes, and that they were thoroughly soaked after his landing in the snow.
"…right." Now she was curious. He normally springs up from a hit like this and runs back up there to apologise straight away to whoever nailed him. For him to just stand there like that and do nothing was new. "Well, come on inside and we'll get you warmed up. We'll talk after." She invited, gesturing for him to follow her indoors.
"No." She stopped and stared at him after that flat declaration. "I will come back down in a couple of hours, Haruka. We'll talk then." Ignoring her surprised expression, he crawled out of the impact zone and made his way back up the stairs. His shoulders were slumped and he was limping slightly.
She watched him go with a look of shock still adorning her face. "Oh shit! I think the camels back just broke." She murmured to herself softly. Haruka was now officially worried.
Entering the Hinata-Sou once again, Keitaro managed to return to his room without bumping into any of the other residents. Walking in and shutting the door, he looked around the bare quarters that been his for the last few years as if committing every crack, repaired patch and worn surface to memory. Very slowly, he fell to his knees and began to weep into his hands. "I can't do this any more." He sobbed quietly, desperate not to draw any attention to himself. He received enough scorn from the others without adding this to the list of his perceived weaknesses.
After a few minutes, he pulled himself together and wiped his tears away. He then looked at his reflection in the mirror. He did not leave the room until all traces of his minor breakdown were gone from his face.
Making his way downstairs, he entered the kitchen to find everyone waiting for him.
"'Bout damn time you turned up! Breakfast's getting cold." Naru growled as he took his seat.
"Sorry." He replied without inflection, not looking at her accusing eyes. "I had to get changed after I came back. I fell in the snow."
"Whatever." She dismissed his defence as easily as she dismisses his explanations for the situations he ends up in.
With that, they all tucked into the meal before them.
A few minutes passed before Keitaro could no longer contain himself. "Naru?"
"Why did you hit me?"
Naru stopped eating and stared at him as if he was an idiot. "Wasn't it obvious?"
She rolled her eyes. "Fine! For those of us who are in denial, you were in Motoko's room first thing in the morning, doing something perverted." She said in a tone that suggested that it was obvious to anyone who had not failed to get into Toudai more than once. Watching him to see if he was going to say anything, she huffed disgustedly and started eating again when nothing was immediately forthcoming.
Keitaro stared at her incredulously for a long minute. He knew that his girlfriend had a hair-trigger, but this was bordering on insane. "I was in Motoko's room at her request!" He finally managed to squeeze the words out. "She grabbed me as I was on my way to the bathroom and dragged me upstairs to show me a part of the wall that needed fixing."
"Yeah, right." Naru contradicted him. "So how come I didn't see her, huh?"
"I don't know?" He retorted, starting to become angry. "She was standing right there next to me when you punched me. Maybe you should get your eyes checked." The whole table fell silent.
"What did you say!" Naru snarled.
He ignored her growing fury. "And if you didn't see her then, surely you would have spotted her as she followed me back into her room after you decked me to blast me out the window when I fell into her laundry basket." He continued, casting a dirty look across the table at Motoko. "THAT was not my fault, either. Did you really need to do that to me?" He demanded.
"Yes. And do not use that tone of voice against me, or you will taste my wrath again." She countered.
"Like you need an excuse." He muttered.
"What was that?"
"I SAID; like you need an excuse to hit me. Either of you." He stared from one to the other.
Everyone looked at him, stunned. Naru was the first to react.
"BAKA!" She yelled as she backhanded him off his chair onto the floor. "Maybe if YOU could control your perverted urges around us, we wouldn't have to punish you so much!" She shouted as she stood over him.
Motoko joined her in standing over him, drawing her sword and pointing it at his throat. "Be careful of whom you accuse, Urashima. You might not like how they choose to defend themselves." She hissed.
"Whatever." He said dismissively and got back on his feet, ignoring the cut he received to his chin from Motoko's blade when she did not move it out of the way fast enough. "Are you finished yet?" He looked at them. When all they did was stare at him with confusion, he shrugged and sat back on his chair. Picking up his chopsticks, he continued eating as if the last five minutes had not happened.
"Um, Kei?" Kitsune spoke for the first time. "Are you gonna see to that?"
"What?" He enquired around a mouthful of food.
She pointed at her own chin, then at his. "You're um… bleeding."
"Am I?" He felt his own chin. Looking at the blood for a second, he shrugged again and wiped his fingers on a napkin. "Huh! How about that? I never even felt it." Noticing the queasy looks from the other girls, he reassured them. "Don't worry, it'll stop in a minute. Besides, I've had much worse." Patting the napkin against his wound until it stopped flowing, he wadded it up and placed it on a side plate. "See! All healed up."
"Uh-huh." Kitsune agreed uneasily. This was not the Keitaro they knew. "Are you feeling alright?"
"No worse than usual." He replied in an eerily calm voice just as he popped the last morsel of his food through his lips. Wiping his mouth, he turned to the cook. "Shinobu, once again you have excelled yourself. It was delicious!" He enthused. Getting to his feet, he looked around the table. "Ladies." He nodded before exiting the room on a wave of silence.
Going upstairs to his room again, he pulled a mobile phone out of his bag and punched in a number. Eventually, a bleary voice answered.
"Yo, who be ringin' this early?"
"Hiatani? It's me, man. Sorry for getting you up."
"I need a favour."
"Can I bunk down with you guys for a bit? Just 'till I get myself organised."
"…finally hit the wall, huh?"
"Dude, me an' Shirai always thought living with a house full of hot chicks would be a dream come true, y'know!" Hiatani said in a slightly envious tone. Despite knowing how Keitaro was treated by his tenants, it was a hard thought for those two to let go of.
"More like a bloody nightmare." He countered. "So, how about it?"
"As long as you don't mind sleeping on the couch, not a prob!"
"Great! I'll be there some time this afternoon." He gushed with relief.
"Anything for a friend. You know that." Hiatani replied easily. "I've got a shift after lunch, so I'll let Shirai know when he wakes up to expect you." He yawned. "Later!"
Keitaro got in a heartfelt, "Thanks." before the line went dead. Sighing, he felt the first of many weights falling from his shoulders. "Part one done. Now to pack and tell Haruka what's going on." Shaking off a chill, he set about gathering his possessions.
Downstairs, the girls stared at the doorway he had walked out through.
"Damn! Just how hard did you two nail him this morning?" Kitsune asked in awe.
"No harder than usual." Naru replied softly, wondering to herself if indeed she had finally done something permanent to him this time.
"Yes. He took a little longer in returning, but that was the only difference from the norm." Motoko added, thinking along the same lines as Naru.
"Does this mean he's going to flip out and come after us with a machete, like in those slasher movies Kitsune lets us watch when you guys are out?" Sarah asked excitedly. Naru and Motoko both turned to glare at Kitsune, who was doing her level best to disappear down under the table.
"I can't believe you let them watch that crap Kitsune. And no, he's not Sarah." Naru replied through clenched teeth to a thoroughly disappointed Sarah.
"Poop! That would've been funny to watch." The young girl pouted, imagining Keitaro running around the Hinata frothing at the mouth, before tripping over something and impaling himself on his weapon of choice.
"That explains Su's recent nightmares." Motoko stalked after Kitsune as she back-pedalled away from them across the floor. "Do you know how hard she can grip when she is scared? I think next time you consider letting them watch one of those…movies, I will insist that she spend the night with you." She threatened.
"Okay! Okay! It won't happen again." Kitsune agreed hastily. Before Motoko had moved in, she was the one Su came to at night. "No more slasher-flicks!" With a last worried glance behind her, she bolted from the room.
Watching her go, Naru commented, "Still, she has a point. We better keep an eye on the little pervert for a few days. Just until he goes back to normal."
"Very well." Motoko agreed. "We shall watch to see if he is truly unhurt."
Nodding to each other, they left the dining room.
Keitaro searched his room one more time to make sure he had not left anything behind, then dragged his suitcase out into the hallway. Shutting the door behind him, he made his way outside as quietly as possible. Being a weekend, most of the tenants were out. However, he knew that the ones still here would be in the hot springs until mid-morning.
Exiting the Hinata-Sou for what he hoped would be the last time, he heaved his meagre belongings down the stairs towards his aunt's teahouse. Rolling it all inside, (and once more giving silent praise to the genius who thought to put little wheels on suitcases.) he plopped his butt on a seat near the bar and waited for Haruka to notice his presence.
Haruka had actually known he was there as soon as he appeared at the doorway. She was grateful for the fact that she had a few customers to serve, as it gave her precious moments to gather her thoughts for what was most likely to be a painful conversation. Unfortunately, it also gave her unwilling employee a chance to reach her nephew first.
"Well, well. Look at what the cat dragged in." Kentaro drawled as he sauntered over. "Come down to cry into your Aunt's tea again?"
Keitaro looked back at him blandly.
Kentaro continued, unperturbed by the lack of response. "What's the matter, Naru reject you again? How many dates have you tried to take her out on now? Six? Seven? Some girlfriend she is! Honestly, I wonder why you bother. Any sane person would have dropped her by now and moved on." He sneered.
"Fuck off. I'm not in the mood."
Kentaro was outraged. "WHAT DID YOU SAY TO ME!!" He demanded, reaching for the front of Keitaro's shirt with the full intention of dragging him to his feet and punching his lights out. No one spoke to him like that!
Unfortunately, a heavy blow to the back of the head interrupted his plans. "Ouch! Who-"
"I believe my nephew asked you politely to walk away and leave him alone." Haruka stated, giving him a stare that promised great pain if he did not comply.
"...yeah. Right." Kentaro slunk away, giving Keitaro a sullen look that guaranteed retribution at some future point.
Haruka waited until her reluctant employee was on the other side of the teahouse before returning her attention to her nephew. "Have you finished creating a disturbance now, or is there something else I have to look forward to?" She enquired as she sat down.
"Not really. I just came down to give these to you before I head out." He replied as he dug out a thick leather folder from his shoulder bag. Dropping it onto the table between them, he waited for her to say something.
Haruka looked at it with an almost imperceptible twitch. "And that is?"
"The papers for Hinata-Sou, as you well know." He retorted. "It's all there, as far as I can tell. It's…they are all yours again."
"Like hell! The old bat left you in charge, remember." The twitch was becoming more obvious.
"I am giving it to you." He said simply. "Do with it what you want."
Haruka reached into her pocket and drew out a cigarette. Lighting it quickly so Keitaro would not notice her hands shaking, she took a deep drag. "You can't just walk away from your responsibilities like that, you know. That place is yours!" She pointed up the hill with the burning cancer-stick.
"I-don't-care." He said in a detached voice.
"What about your tenants? What about Naru? You gonna walk away from them without a word?"
Keitaro nodded, having expecting his Aunt to try that gambit. Reaching into his bag again, he withdrew two letters. "The small one is for Shinobu. The larger one is for Naru. When…IF they come looking for me, hand them over." He slid the envelopes across the table. "I would suggest giving Shinobu's to her away from the others. It will give her a chance to read it in private before the rest of them get a hold of it."
Haruka looked at the letters as if they contained explosives. "Keitaro, can we talk about this? I'm sure that-"
"That WHAT?" He shouted, exhibiting some emotion for the first time since he walked in. "Give it some time? Let it blow over? Apologise? Let things go back to normal?" He sobbed. "Gods Haruka, 'normal' is the reason I'm leaving." He wailed, dropping his head into his hands.
Haruka found that she was unable to say anything in the face of her nephews' obvious distress. Platitudes were not going to cut it this time.
"I just…I can't take it anymore. I am so tired of dealing with all the crap they put me through up there. Of putting on a brave face and not letting them see how much they hurt me." He choked. "I thought once she admitted that she loved me, things would get better. But they haven't. If anything, it's worse than before. We don't kiss. We don't hug. We barely touch. We don't talk about anything other than Toudai. Every time I try to get her out on a date, she begs off to go study and then gives me grief about slacking off and trying to drag her down with me. And she still refuses to listen to my side of anything."
"Okay, so things aren't working out with Naru. What about the others?" Haruka grasped at the few straws Keitaro was leaving her to work with.
"HAH!" He snorted. "Motoko still thinks that a female dorm is no place for a man, despite all the things I have done for her. Su is determined to work out why I can survive everything that gets thrown at me, and won't be satisfied until I break. Kitsune is becoming more daring in her efforts to drain my bank account. As you can imagine, that does wonders for my life expectancy when Naru or Motoko finds her draped over me. As does Mutsumi's fainting spells. No matter where I am, she manages to somehow find me and swoon onto me at exactly the wrong time. Sarah still likes to use me as a way to break things. And Shinobu…" His diatribe falters when he reaches the young cook. "When Shinobu reads her letter, she will understand my reasons for leaving." He finishes quietly.
"So what? You're just throwing away everything to run off into the fog?"
"NO!" Keitaro looked as if she had just slapped him. "I will complete my studies at Toudai. The only thing that is going to change is my home address." He chuckled without humour as a thought occurred to him. "Mum and Dad will be happy when they hear about this. I am finally leaving the nest completely. No more help from any of my family. Sink or swim, I'm finally standing on my own two feet." He gave Haruka a tired grin. "The most ironic bit about all this is that without coming here and going through all the crap that I have, I wouldn't have had the guts to do it."
Watching her nephew as he talked, Haruka realised that the girls had finally driven him away for good, and that no amount of cajoling from her would change that. "You really are going to walk away from here, aren't you." She stated in a sad tone.
"Can you honestly tell me that any of them apart from Shinobu will miss me for long?" He challenged her.
"One or two of them, yes." She answered sarcastically.
"And how long will it be before I stop healing, do you think?" He continued pushing her. "I have already been seriously injured once, despite my 'abilities'. How long before one of them gets lucky and does something permanent."
"…I don't know." Haruka replied reluctantly.
"And neither do I. That's why I am leaving." He concluded sadly. "Before one of them does something permanent."
"That's not all of it." Haruka mused after a moment. "Not by a long shot."
"No." He agreed amicably. "But that's all I am going to tell you for now. The rest, I'll talk with you about when it doesn't hurt as much." He looked at her miserably.
Haruka, recognising a lost battle when she saw it, decided to let him go without further argument. 'Maybe after he's had some time to himself, he'll be more amenable to returning.' She reasoned. "Got a place to go?" She asked.
When he heard that, Keitaro breathed a sigh of relief. His Aunt had accepted his decision after all. "Yeah. Hiatani and Shirai are willing to put me up for a bit. Just until I find my own place."
Haruka frowned at that. 'Uh-oh. How long has he been planning this?' "Got an address for me? In case of emergencies."
"Here." He handed over a piece of paper. "This is my mobile number."
She glanced at it before slipping it into her apron pocket. "Don't trust me, or something?" She asked in a slightly hurt tone.
He winced at hearing that. "You, I trust. Kitsune or Su however…" He let the sentence dangle as his Aunt nodded belatedly.
"You're right. Those little sneaks would not be adverse to tossing my room for it, despite the risks involved." Haruka said, planning to set booby-traps about her private quarters anyway. Despite the fact that it will be the truth, none of them will believe her when she tells them that she honestly does not know where their now former Kanrinin is.
"Well, that's it." He stood up. "Thanks for always being willing to let me bend your ear from time to time, Haruka. I'll come by in a few days to pick up any personal mail that may arrive." Gathering his belongings, he started for the door. Haruka followed him. "Remember; big envelope for Naru. Smaller one for Shinobu."
Haruka pulled them out and looked at them. "Why is Naru's all stiff?" She asked curiously.
Keitaro scratched the back of his head. "Well, I figure her first reaction will most likely be to try and tear it to shreds before looking at it, so I laminated it."
Haruka could not help herself. She burst out laughing. Looking at her oddly for a moment, Keitaro joined her in a small chuckle before sobering. "See you in a week, Haruka."
She watched him turn away before impulsively giving him a word of advice. "Be careful kiddo. It's not all hugs and puppies out there." She whispered.
"I know. Thank you." He whispered back. "Bye."
Watching him walk towards the station, Haruka finally realised that at no point during the morning had he called her 'Aunt'. For no reason that she could put her finger on, this made her sad. "Stay safe Keitaro. Don't become a stranger." Wiping away some dust that had gotten in her eyes, she returned to her days work a little more depressed than when she started. 'Mum's gonna kill me when she hears about this.'
About lunch time Shinobu was walking around the Inn, searching for the other tenants. It was time for the midday meal. Having found the others, she finally ended up outside Keitaro's room. "S-sempai?" She said through the door as she knocked lightly. Hearing nothing, she repeated herself a little louder. When there was still no reply, she bounced from foot to foot with indecision. She could not invade his privacy without a reason. However, she wanted to check if he was okay after this mornings escapades.
Her conundrum was solved when Kitsune sauntered past. "What's up, kiddo?"
"Um, it's time for lunch, but Sempai isn't answering." She replied.
"Uh-huh." The Fox drawled. Testing the door, she found that it was unlocked and slid open easily. Ignoring Shinobu's protests, she peeked inside. "Yo Kei! You in here?" Stepping into the room, she glanced about and noticed all of his things were missing. "What the-?"
"What is it? What's happened to Sempai?" Shinobu pushed passed her and froze as she realised the same thing Kitsune did. "Sempai's…gone!" She whimpered.
Five minutes later, all the residents were gathered in the dining room.
"What do you mean, HE'S GONE!" Naru shouted in Kitsune's face.
Kitsune weathered this without difficulty. She had survived her best friend's outbursts before. "Just that. His room is empty. Everything that was his is gone. And he's not on the grounds anywhere. Shinobu checked while she was gathering the rest of us."
"So the coward once again shows his true colours." Motoko intoned.
Shinobu suddenly turned away and headed outside.
"Where you goin'?" Kitsune asked.
"To see Haruka. She might know where Sempai is!" Shinobu replied over her shoulder.
Everyone looked at each other, shrugged, and then followed her down to the teahouse.
As the small group entered, Haruka spared them a tight glare while directing them to an out of the way table large enough to seat all of them. Returning momentarily, she didn't give them a chance to speak before unloading on them. "What the hell did you lot do to my nephew!"
"W-what do you mean?" Naru stuttered. When Haruka gets angry, everyone walks on eggshells. "We just came down to see if-"
"He's gone." Haruka interrupted sharply. "And as far as I can tell, he's not coming back!"
Silence greeted that statement. Motoko was the first to speak up.
"Finally! The purity of Hinata-Sou is restored!" She crowed. Her good feelings lasted approximately two seconds. "Ack!"
Haruka had grabbed her by the throat and dragged her across the table. "If I ever hear that crap out of your mouth again, little girl, your precious school will need a new heir. Got it!" The older woman whispered menacingly into her face before shoving the wannabe samurai back in her seat. "You selfish brats have no idea what you've just set in motion." She growled.
"What do you mean?" Naru asked, wanting information while trying not to set the woman off. "And why are you worried, anyway? Keitaro has done this before. He'll be back inside a week." Her smug look fell away as she noticed Haruka's cold expression. "Won't he?"
"Not this time." She snorted. "You didn't see his face or hear his voice. Whatever you lot did, it pushed him over the brink." To prove her point, Haruka withdrew the ownership papers for the Hinata from her apron and showed them. "He handed these to me right before he left."
As they all leant in to get a better look at them, the chill of knowing you may have made a BIG mistake began to wrap itself lovingly around their chests. "Uh-oh…"
All of a sudden, Su got a funny look on her face. "Stay here guys. I've got something that might help." She requested as she sprinted up the hill.
"If that girl brings back a bunch of bananas to eat, Mol-Mol will need a new princess." Kitsune commented.
Returning in record time, Su plopped a large laptop in the centre of the table. The rest of them crowded around as she opened it. "What'cha got there, kiddo?"
"When Keitaro first arrived, I could never work out how he managed to come back so quickly after being smacked around by Naru and Motoko." She replied absently while she typed. "So I tagged him!"
Su rolled her eyes. "I tagged him. I put little electronic bugs on his clothes and stuff, so I could track his movement and figure out how he did it."
"Did it work?" Naru asked. Having punched him pretty hard in the past, (completely justified, of course) she was curious as to how he returned in record time herself.
"Not really. The G-forces involved always fritzed the bugs. The best I could do was locate him wherever he landed." She frowned for a second, before brightening again. "But, it came in handy if he tried to hide from me." Onscreen, a map of Tokyo appeared with a tight cluster of randomly blinking green dots at its centre. As Su tapped an icon repeatedly, it zoomed in on the dots, finally resolving on a moving train. "And there our Keitaro is!" She frowned suddenly. "Hmmm…"
The others noticed. "What is it?"
Su scratched her head. "He's on a train heading for Tokyo Airport."
Kitsune voiced the question on all of their minds. "Why?"
Keitaro entered the international wing of the airport and made a beeline for the nearest metal detector. He'd always had a nagging suspicion about how Su constantly managed to find him whenever she wanted him for something, and figured that now was the time to put his pet theory to the test. Dragging his suitcase through the scanner, he was unpleasantly surprised to hear it go off and confirm his hypothesis. Following the direction to stand off to the side, he allowed the security guard to wave the wand over his body, while another did the same to his bags. (They had tripped the alarms as well.)
The guard was curious as to why the young man in front of him seemed to be infested with electronic bugs, and said so.
Keitaro offered a reasonably accurate version of the truth. "A friend of my ex loves her gadgets. She bugged me to keep an eye on me for her." He replied as he set about destroying every bug as they were uncovered.
"You too, huh." The guard offered. "My ex-wife hired a private detective to follow me around behind my back. Dozy bitch thought I was sleeping around on her." He complained bitterly.
"But you were cheating on her." His partner put in.
The first guard scowled. "That's not the point. She shouldn't have done that." He answered indignantly. Keitaro and the second guard exchanged unsympathetic glances as he continued destroying the bugs as they were removed from his belongings. One last wave of the wand indicated that there was another bug just above his hairline, underneath his skin. The rest of his stuff was clear. Offering a polite bow in thanks for their help, Keitaro exited the airport.
Su was muttering Mol-Mollian curses under her breath as one by one, the tracking bugs she had planted on Keitaro's clothes winked out of existence.
"What's happening?" Shinobu asked. While she didn't know what her friend was saying, she recognised the tone. Su was extremely annoyed.
"Keitaro's figured out that I tagged him. So I'm guessing he went to the airport to find them with a scanner and remove them." She smacked a fist into her other palm. "Very clever, Keitaro. But not clever enough!" She cackled.
"How so?" Mitsune asked.
"He missed one." She pointed at the lone blip still on the screen. "I figured that since he gets smacked sometimes when he's only wearing a towel, I would plant one where it couldn't fall out."
"Which was?" Naru enquired.
She winced. "You mean-"
"Yup! I spiked him in the head one morning." Su supplied gleefully.
"I know that Urashima is a bit thick, but wouldn't he have noticed you doing something like that?" Motoko queried.
Su beamed. "Nah! I just held the injector between my toes when I kicked him in the face once. Worked like a charm."
Arriving back in the city, Keitaro found an appropriate store and bought himself a small penknife. He then entered a restroom and began gently probing his scalp in front of a mirror. Finding a small hard lump about where the metal detector went off, he cleared the hair away to get a better look at it. Then, taking a deep breath, he opened the penknife and made a small incision over the lump. Wincing slightly, he squeezed the electronic bug out like a zit. Putting a tissue to the wound, he waited for his strange ability to kick in and heal him up. 'Hunh? That hurt less than I thought it would.' He shrugged. 'Guess I'm used to being in pain by now.' Wiping the blade, he folded it away and stared at the little bug with the three eyes of Mol-Mol peeking back at him. 'Bye girls.' He thought as he crushed it into powder.
"Son of a-" Su shouted as the last blip winked out of existence. "I don't believe it!"
"What?" The girls crowded around again.
"Keitaro took out the last bug." She said, defeat thick in her voice.
"But that would mean…" Motoko faded out, before continuing with a very slight note of admiration in her voice. "He cut it out of himself."
"Ew, gross! I so didn't need to hear that." Kitsune put forth as she and Shinobu went a little green in the face.
Even Naru was surprised at the lengths Keitaro was willing to go to cut off all ties with them. "Um, Haruka? Did he…leave a note or anything with you?" She asked as the thought occurred to her. "For all of us, I mean." She clarified, still unwilling to publicly admit to the possibility having any feelings for him.
Haruka eyed her speculatively as she withdrew the large envelope from her apron. "Something like this, you mean?" She sneered as she held it up.
Despite herself, Naru grabbed it quickly before any of the others could react. Ripping it open, she withdrew an A4 sized sheet of paper. She gasped and began to tear up as the others crowded around, curious about her reaction.
On it was a drawing of such extraordinary detail and beauty that it took their collective breath away. It showed Naru sitting under one of the trees out the back of the Hinata-Sou near the stream that ran through the property. She was leaning back in the shade with Keitaro lying down and resting his head on her lap. Every feature, from the individual strands of his hair twirled around her fingers to the way he held his glasses folded up in his hands on his chest, was clearly apparent. And upon their faces was an expression of complete contentment as they faced each other with their eyes closed. It was a scene of closeness and harmony between them that had never existed, except in Keitaro's fantasies it seems. Underneath it all was the title:
By Keitaro Urashima.
Naru wanted to punch him for daring to draw them both like that without her permission. But all she could feel right at that moment was an intense desire to be in that position with him for real. Keitaro had finally managed to find a way past her defences and touch her heart in a manner she could not ignore.
The others offered their own opinions:
"That's so beautiful."
"Sempai has so much talent!"
"When did that happen?"
Naru looked up at Kitsune's question. "It-it didn't. We…we never sat like that." She began to sniffle. "He…Keitaro must have drawn it from his imagination." She touched the picture with a fingertip, gently stroking the image. "Was…was there a letter or anything else?"
"No. That's all he gave me." Haruka replied, impressed with her nephews talent.
"But…" Naru was confused and becoming angry again. Had he broken up with her? Was this his way of twisting the knife? What did it mean?
"Hey look! There's writing on the back." Su said.
Naru flipped it over. On the other side was a note: -Tuesday, 1:00pm. Meet me at the café across the road from the main entrance of Toudai. We'll talk then. K-
She frowned. 'What's that baka up to? He knows I'll be in the middle of a lecture then.' Frowning, she rolled it up and began heading up the hill.
"Where ya goin', Naru?" Mitsune asked.
"I've got study to do. No need to waste any more time on that baka." She replied. "Besides, he'll be back. Most likely before sundown." She sniffed and continued making her way back to the Hinata-Sou.
The others stared after her with shock at her blasé attitude over the whole situation. However, deep inside most of them thought that she might just be right in the end. One by one, they stood and followed her.
Except Shinobu. She stayed seated in the teahouse, looking very young and in need of reassurance. Haruka was not surprised that the emotionally fragile girl had stayed behind. Out of all of them, she had hurt him the least and cared for him the most. The older Urashima had decided long ago that Shinobu's feelings for her nephew had changed from schoolgirl crush to something deeper. Either way, it made delivering her letter from Keitaro privately a lot easier.
"It's not your fault, kiddo." She said as she sat beside the teary teen. Shinobu looked at her, the confusion coming through her red-rimmed eyes clearly. "It was always only going to be a matter of time until something like this happened. The others were just too blind to see the danger signs."
"But he left without saying goodbye." Shinobu sniffled miserably. 'He left without saying goodbye to me!'
Making sure that the other tenants were gone, Haruka took out the smaller envelope. "Not entirely." She winked.
The young teen looked at it, wiping her eyes. "Is that…?" She asked hesitantly, not wishing to raise her hopes unnecessarily.
Haruka nodded. "He knew that you would take his leaving the hardest. So he told me to give you this when you were alone, to give you a chance to read it before they got their hands on it."
Shinobu grabbed the letter out of the older woman's hands in much the same manner that Naru had earlier. Opening it carefully, she unfolded the pages and read:-
If you are reading this, then I have decided that I can no longer live at the Hinata-Sou.
First of all, let there be no misunderstanding. YOU are not the reason I am gone. So put that thought out of your mind right now!
Part of it is to do with Naru and I, and the fact that our relationship is crumbling between us. Another part is the near constant abuse I suffer at the hands of the others. I can no longer stand it. But I also can not change it, for that would require the others to admit that I am not always at fault, and deserve some basic respect.
(It's okay to chuckle at the odds of that happening. I do too when I think about it!)
So I am leaving before something worse happens to me than cuts, scrapes or a broken leg. Because as much as it hurts me to do this, it would grieve me more to have one of you girls fall apart if something really bad happened to me.
My leaving does not mean that your promise to me is dissolved, however. I still expect to see you at Toudai someday, if that's where you choose to further your academic career. I still expect you to do your best. I am only leaving the Hinata behind, not my dreams. I am still pursuing them. I hope that you do, too.
So, that's it. Don't be too hard on the others. They can't help being who they are. And don't be too hard on yourself, either. You are way too young and pretty to have frown lines. (Feels weird to write about how cute you are, without being pummelled. I could get used to it!)
I will see you again. Be sure of that.
I have been, and hope I always will be,
Your friend, Keitaro Urashima.
Shinobu read it through twice, before folding it up and tucking it securely into a pocket. 'Sempai thinks I'm cute!' She beamed internally, fighting not to blush.
"Well?" Haruka enquired.
The young girl sniffled and cleared her throat. "I don't like that he's gone. I can understand why, but I don't have to like it." She admitted reluctantly.
As they both stood, Shinobu impulsively hugged Haruka. "Wha-"
"Thank you for giving me this away from the others. And thank you for always being there for him." The teen said.
Haruka's eyes widened with surprise, before grimacing with regret. "Not as much as I should have been. Not enough to prevent this from happening." She sighed.
"But you could be there for him openly. Which was more than I could do when he was here." Shinobu complained as she released the older Urashima and stepped back.
"Yeah. But he's not here anymore, is he." Haruka said enigmatically.
Shinobu looked up at her, getting a little cross at the older woman for pointing that out again. But when she saw how Haruka was looking at her with an eyebrow raised and a sneaky expression on her face, she closed her mouth and began to think about ALL the implications contained within that statement. "…right. He isn't, is he?" She said slowly. "Um, you don't happen to know where he's staying, do you?"
"Unfortunately, all he gave me was a mobile number." Haruka shrugged. Seeing the girls face fall, she decided to throw her a sweetener. "Buuuut, he will be back here occasionally to pick up his mail."
Shinobu brightened at that. Getting a sly look on her face, she wondered if it would be possible for Haruka to maybe let her know when Keitaro shows up from time to time. Purely in the interest of making sure that he's taking care of himself and eating right, of course.
"Of course." Haruka smirked. "When he comes in, I'll phone the Inn."
"Thanks, Haruka!" Shinobu gushed as she bounced out of the teahouse, happier than she had been in ages.
Keitaro climbed the stairs towards Hiatani and Shirai's apartment. It was now early afternoon, and he was ready to collapse for a nap. Knocking heavily on their door, he waited.
Banging on the door again, a bit heavier this time, he shouted, "Come on, Shirai! Let me in."
Finally, the door opened wide and his shorter friend stood there dressed in only a towel looking extremely pissed off. "What the fuck, man! What're you doing here? I'm busy!" He scowled, sweating profusely.
"What do you mean? I rang Hiatani this morning. He said he left you a note." Keitaro explained.
Shirai was about to say that he didn't have the slightest idea of what his friend was talking about, when a slender feminine arm extended from behind the door and waved said note in his face. "Oh!"
"Hi, Sayuri." Keitaro mumbled as he looked away. "Sorry about this." 'I think I understand why Shirai's annoyed with me now.' He thought, slightly embarrassed at having interrupted them.
"Hi, Keitaro!" The hand belonging to one Sayuri Ishiguro waved before withdrawing.
"Where'd the baka leave it?" Shirai demanded.
"Inside the fridge." Sayuri answered. "Isn't that where you usually head first when you wake up?"
"Usually." He snorted in annoyance. "Unfortunately, I got distracted today." He leers behind the door, getting a giggle out of her for his efforts.
"Tell you what, I'll just go for a walk and come back in twenty minutes." Keitaro says uncomfortably. "Plenty of time for you to do…whatever! Bye!" Not waiting for an answer, he bolted. There's nothing worse than watching a couple get all cosy in front of you. Especially when you know they'll be naked and going for it as soon as you're gone. Most especially when your own relationship is hurtling down the toilet at full speed.
Shirai leant out and watched Keitaro's rapidly retreating back. "Damn, he really needs to get laid. He'll explode soon, otherwise." Shaking his head, he turned back inside. "Now, where were we?" He wonders aloud, before slamming the door and chasing his giggling girlfriend back to the bedroom.
Keitaro found a bench under a tree nearby and reflected on the scene he had just scurried away from. 'I can't believe Shirai was the first one of the Ronin Trio to actually find himself a normal girlfriend.' He did not count himself in that thought. No one could call what he and Naru had anything remotely close to normal. Or a relationship, for that matter.
Shirai and Sayuri had met at a Neverland staff Christmas party. He was proud that he had just made assistant shift manager the week before. She was one of the on-site safety officers. The details are still a bit fuzzy as to how, but he had somehow managed to persuade her into taking a chance on him that night. Considering she was recently divorced with a six year old daughter, it was quite a feat.
Eight months later, they are still going strong. Shirai has even hinted that he had recently dropped the 'L' word. And there were signs of them perhaps moving in together in the not too distant future.
Keitaro had at first been highly sceptical. A divorced twenty-eight year old woman with a child to look after on her own just happened to become interested in his twenty-one year old friend for no apparent reason? While he did not wish for his friend to remain single forever, Keitaro had lived with one of the most manipulative women in Tokyo, possibly the Pacific Rim, for over two years. He had learned as a matter of survival to smell bullshit when it was being directed at him. So Keitaro asked if he could be introduced to her to find out if she was legit, or just using Shirai.
To both Hiatani and Shirai's shock, Keitaro had been borderline rude to her that first time. Shirai had been almost ready to throw a punch at him for his intrusive line of questioning when Sayuri had suddenly asked the other two men to take her daughter for a walk while she and Keitaro cleared the air between them. When they had gone, she poured him some tea and asked some questions of her own. She then surprised him by saying she completely understood why he had interrogated her the way he had, having been a part of an abusive relationship herself.
Keitaro sputtered indignantly that that was not the case with him and Naru at all. She had looked at him in a knowing manner before telling him about her marriage. The lies. The distrust. The punishments whenever she 'got out of line'. The pain of finding out he was cheating on her when she could not give him the son he and his mother had wanted. The fear of what he would do to her after she left with their daughter. All of that, and more.
When she was done, Keitaro looked at her with tear-filled eyes. So much of what she described resonated strongly within him. Haltingly, he began to talk about his own relationships with Naru and the other girls at the Hinata-Sou. Soon, the words were spilling out of him faster and faster as he poured his heart out to someone who could listen, but not judge. He had never let everything inside him out like that before, not even to Haruka. Because Sayuri had been there herself, and understood.
By the end of the encounter, they were crying onto each other's shoulders trying to bleed the painful emotions out before they were overwhelmed anew.
From that point onwards, Keitaro never had another doubt about her intentions towards his friend. When they returned, Keitaro apologised to her and Shirai for acting like he did. When Hiatani asked what they had talked about to cause such a shift in his attitude, all he would say was that they had a lot more in common than he first thought. He added that he sincerely hoped Shirai never let such a wonderful woman like her go or he'd beat the crap out of him for being such a baka!
'I think that was when I was finally able to stand back and start looking at what I had with Naru objectively.' He frowned. He had become so used to the constant mistreatment at his tenant's hands that he had long ago begun to consider it normal. 'Thank God Sayuri was willing to help me see the truth. I shudder to think how long it would have gone on for before I snapped or broke.' He thinks of all the conversations he had with her, occasionally feeling guilty for taking up time she could be spending with her daughter or her boyfriend. When he mentioned this one time, she shushed him and said she was just paying forward the same good deed someone else had done for her when she was in the same situation.
Looking at his watch, he realised that half an hour had passed. More than enough time for them to have finished up and had a shower, he decided with a bit of envy. He felt that it was okay for him to be a bit jealous of the physical aspects of their relationship. Lord knows, he'd give anything to be that way with Naru himself. 'Put it away, Urashima! You may not even be with her anymore after Tuesday.' He frowned, thinking of the coming confrontation.
Arriving back at the unit, he knocked softly on the door. This time, Sayuri greeted him. "Hi, Keitaro. Come on in." She stood back and gestured for him to enter.
He walked in, noting the scent of jasmine in the air. "Thanks, Sayuri. And um sorry about before." He offered belatedly.
"That's okay. It was funny more than anything." She replied graciously. "Oh. We dragged your stuff inside for you. It's in the corner." She pointed out a small pile next to the couch.
"Thank you." He looked around. "Hikari not around?"
"No, silly! This is our time. She's with her grandparents for the weekend, being spoilt rotten." She said as Shirai walked into the room with a handful of blankets.
"Hey, Kei! Sorry about chasing you off, before." Shirai offered with a helpless shrug.
"It's alright. No harm done." Keitaro replied.
"You sure you're gonna be alright on the couch?"
"Yeah. It'll only be for a week or so." Keitaro responded, taking the blankets. "I actually have a couple of places lined up already. I just…" He sighed deeply. "I couldn't stand to be there another second. Naru punched me again, this morning. I'd done nothing wrong, and she decked me without a second thought." He turned away from them, his emotions overwhelming him again for the second time that day.
"It's okay Keitaro. Let it out." Sayuri came up behind him and put her arms around his lean frame lightly.
"Yeah man. It's nothing to be ashamed of. We're here for you, whatever you need." Shirai put a hand on his shoulder sympathetically. Sayuri had told him only small pieces about her married life, but it was still enough to make him want to hunt the bastard down and punch his lights out repeatedly. Knowing that one of his best friends was going through something similar was more than enough to reign in any smart-arse comments he might have considered making about men crying and offer what support he could.
Keitaro regained control of himself eventually. Wiping his nose on a sleeve, he looked at them both with red eyes. "Thanks guys. For everything."
Sayuri smiled warmly. "Come on. Let's get you settled in."
The next couple of days passed quickly, Keitaro having made himself at home on the couch. Hiatani had wanted to drag them all out for a night on the town to celebrate his friends' escape, but Sayuri had put her foot down and read him the riot act for being so insensitive.
Sunday and Monday was spent looking for accommodation. Keitaro also cleaned up the unit in his spare time, out of habit more than anything. His friends had thought they had walked into someone else's place by mistake the first time they returned from work.
Tuesday rolled around finally. Keitaro spent the morning at a tutorial, making sure to avoid both Narusegawa and Otohime around the campus. When it ended, he casually made his way over to the café he had picked for the meeting. Ordering a Mocha, he sipped it slowly while going over what he was going to say to Naru in his head.
At five to one, he was not surprised to see Motoko, Su, Kitsune, Sarah, Shinobu and Mutsumi winding their way through the tables towards where he was seated. And while disappointed, he was ALSO not surprised to see that Naru was nowhere in sight. "Ladies. Take a seat." He gestured. As they grabbed chairs from the surrounding tables, he noticed that they all looked a bit haggard. "How have you all been?" He asked when they were all sitting down.
"Fine." Kitsune answered tersely, looking around. "Where's Naru?"
"I am guessing that she will be here about a quarter to two."
"How do you know that?" Motoko asked sharply.
"Because her studies are more important to her than I could ever be." He answered sadly. "And that is a part of why I am breaking up with her."
"WHAT!!" Came a six-fold shout.
He continued talking over the top of them, "And before you all try and convince me to rethink my decision, consider this: if she had shown up, we might have been able to work things out. However, by not skipping a lecture that was only a revision of things she knows forwards and backwards, she has shown exactly how much she cares about our 'relationship'." He finished.
"Is-is this about what happened Saturday morning?" Shinobu asked timidly.
"No Shinobu. Or rather, that was the last in a long line of things that have been wrong with us from the start. I'm only sorry that it's taken this long for me to see it clearly." He smiled sadly to himself. 'And I'm glad Sayuri was able to show me how wrong my relationship with Narusegawa had become.'
"Who's Sayuri?" Kitsune pounced immediately on his slip.
'Oh crap! I said that out loud.' He panicked. "Sayuri is-"
"Have you been cheating on Naru?!" Motoko demanded, getting to her feet with her hand on her sword. "You disgusting swine! Blaming your problems on her, when you have been seeing some slut behind her back!"
"If you pull that sword out, Motoko, I will have you charged with assault!" Keitaro threatened in a cold voice. "And if you EVER call Sayuri that word again, I will call your sister and tell her EVERYTHING that you have done to me these past few years." He watched her expression change from outrage to outright fear as she crumpled into her seat again. "That's right." He nodded as he saw the consequences of what he had threatened her with fully sink in. "An assault charge will follow you for the rest of your life, as will the disgrace of everyone in your family knowing that you like to attack innocents using Shinmei-Ryu techniques."
Motoko was almost in tears by now. Keitaro knew exactly where her weak points were, and how to exploit them fully. And the only way she knew how to defend herself would result in him fulfilling his threat. 'I am…defeated.' She admitted weakly. 'By a male. By…him!' She could taste the bile in her throat at such an admission.
"Fuck me, Keitaro! When did you get so cold?" Kitsune asked. Like the others, she was completely shocked at how cruelly he had shut Motoko down.
"Sayuri Ishiguro is the most wonderful and understanding woman I have ever met. She has helped me through some rough times lately. Better than Haruka could, for reasons I will not explain here. And I will NOT have her honour dragged through the mud by your vile insinuations!" He stared at them, daring someone to interrupt before he has finished. "She is also in a relationship with Shirai, one of my best friends. So in answer to your revolting implication Motoko, I have not been cheating on Narusegawa. The reasons we have fallen apart are a lot closer to home than that." With that statement, he ignored their attempts to draw him into further conversation and returned to his drink. Soon, they gave up trying and waited.
As he predicted, Naru arrived at the table at almost exactly one forty-five. Taking a seat directly opposite Keitaro, she looked at her friends and wondered why they weren't meeting her eye. "So, what do you want to talk about?" She asked Keitaro briskly when she was settled.
"Us." He replied simply.
Naru shrugged. "What about us?"
"Exactly." He said in a neutral tone.
She rubbed her fingertips over her temples to try and tame the growing headache she felt coming on. "Are you going to come to some sort of point soon, or is this an attempt to make me annoyed before you cave in and come home."
He ignored her patronizing tone and asked a question of his own. "Why weren't you here when I asked you to show up?"
"Oh please!" She gave him a condescending look. "Because I knew you'd wait." Seeing him snort, she continued angrily, "You always do this! Whenever you think our relationship isn't going the way you want it too, you sulk for a day or so, then come crawling back to me." She rolled her eyes.
A couple of the others moaned, and Kitsune said "oh Naru, what are you doing?" softly.
Naru turned to her. "What! What are you getting so worked up about for? He's done this so many times before, my déjà vu has déjà vu!" She huffed and pointed at him.
"Naru?" She refocused her attention back on him. "Do you care about me?"
"What the hell kind of question is that!"She demanded.
"A valid one." He held up her hand when she tried to speak. She was so shocked that he would do that to her, she complied. "I'm not asking if you love me, because I know that you would never admit to that. Even amongst people that have lived with us so closely." Ignoring the surprised look on her face, he swept a hand around, indicating the assembled tenants of the Hinata-Sou. "I am merely asking if you feel anything for me other than contempt."
"What? You…" Naru sputtered. "You know how I feel about you." She retorted sulkily, angry again that he was embarrassing her like this in front of their friends. Personal questions should not be spoken in company. Even if said company has been following their stormy relationship since before it officially started.
Keitaro looked at her sadly. "No, I don't. I thought I did, but not any more."
Now she was getting really annoyed. "Well if you don't know, why should I tell you?" Naru demanded petulantly.
"Because right now, I am ready to end our relationship. I want to know if you can give me any reason not to." He stated, praying that she could give him just one reason not to do this. It would be enough. It would be a start.
Naru felt like the air had been sucked out of her. "what?" She asked softly, unwilling to comprehend the threat he had just uttered.
Keitaro just looked at her, waiting.
Looking to the others seated around the table for support, she was stunned to find them also awaiting her answer curiously. Familiar emotions began to stir within her. 'How dare he put me on the spot like this in front of everyone!' She fumed, ignoring the inner voice telling her to calm down or she will lose more than her temper this day. "How dare you! The amount of perverted crap you pull on everyone, running off to who knows where for days without warning, and all of a sudden it's MY fault!"
"I am staying at Hiatani and Shirai's place. If you had seen fit to be interested in anything other than studying with me and accepted the invitation I extended to you months ago, you'd know where to find me right now." Seeing her open her mouth, he continued quickly. "And I'm not saying it's all your fault, either. Some of the blame for why we are falling apart lies at my feet as well. What I am saying is, is that we are not really suited for each other." A collective gasp came from all of the girls. "It took me a long time to see it, but I finally realised that all we are doing to each other is causing pain. The fact that you are so unwilling to admit to any positive feelings about me with only our closest friends present just reinforces to me the fact that whatever brought us together at the start is no longer there." Ignoring the sick feeling in his stomach, he pressed ahead. "I am breaking up with you, Narusegawa. We're finished." Wiping a tear from his eye, he stood up and began to walk away without another word.
Naru was completely numb. 'He…he broke up with me? HE broke up with ME!' As she repeated this sentence over and over, her righteous inner fire was stoked once again. 'HOW DARE HE!'
Kitsune was reaching out to comfort her frozen friend when Naru snarled suddenly and raced off in the direction Keitaro had gone. The group watched her for a moment, before rising as one and persueing them.
Naru caught up with him quickly in a park next to the university. Grabbing his shoulder, she spun him around and slammed him against a tree. "What do you mean, we're finished! How dare you pull something like this on me!" She cried as the others gathered around, unwilling to intervene and wanting to know Keitaro's reasons for doing this. "After all I've done for you. Helping you study. Giving you chance after chance when you screw up. Practically dragging your sorry arse into Toudai behind me!"
"The beatings over non-existent reasons. The snide comments. The condescending attitude whenever I ask for help. The complete lack of trust in me. You're willingness to take anyone elses side over mine in an arguement. The fact that you have not touched me in any way in the last few months, unles it was to punch me." He retorted, letting his frustration show. "Need I go on? I have plenty more where that came from."
"You mean that when you said you two were studying all alone in your room late at night, you were just studying. Not 'studying'." Mitsune commented from the sidelines. 'Bloody hell, Naru!' She was starting to get an idea why Keitaro looked so frustrated sometimes.
Naru rounded on her. "Give it a rest, Kitsune! As if anyone would want to make out with a pathetic wimp like him!" As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she wished with all her heart she could pull them back. Once again, her temper had consumed her and her unwillingness to admit anything in front of others had betrayed her. Turning her head to face Keitaro again, she flinched when instead of the expected betrayal or hurt at her words, all she saw in his eyes was resignation. Releasing him, she stumbled backwards.
"Like I said, all we do is hurt each other." He repeated desolately. With shoulders slumped, he shuffled away from them without a backwards glance, leaving Naru to the care of her friends.
Notes: I was thinking the other day about why I tend to use the Anime as a starting point for pretty much all of my Love Hina stories. I guess it's because from what I have read of the Manga, the girls are not quite the unrelenting Uber-bitches to Keitaro that they are in the Anime. Or rather, in the manga Keitaro is more willing to show a bit of backbone and talk back to them. Although it rarely does him any good, it's nice to see him stand up for himself instead of just taking it on the chin (And head. And torso. And wherever else they can reach.)
I freely admit I could be wrong. (I have the entire manga series, but never the time to sit down and read it in order.) But it seems that if you want the extreme emotions, you gotta go with the Anime. And, for the lazy writer who's not talented enough to really dive into the emotional whyfors of the characters (Like me!!), its an easy out.
Just a random thought. Later! T