Again Love Hina does not belong to me.
A/N: Sorry about the long time between updates on this story. I'm still one of the 8.5 percent who are on the unemployment line. Also due to budget cuts (and the fact that she voted for Obama) I had to let my Muse go, but, with the current economic situation, she couldn't get a job either. Now she came crawling back and is working on a volunteer basis.
The Quiet Man
Chapter 12 The Fox the Hound and the Samurai
About a week after the incident with Keitaro, Motoko was getting ready to do the one thing she dreaded. Call her sister Tsuruko. Ever since she helped him that night, her curiosity was starting to get the better of her. Now she was going to call her sister to figure out how Keitaro knew of her. Now with the last digit dialed she waited in trepidation for her sister to answer the phone.
"Hello, Aoyama residence. Batou speaking." a masculine voice answered.
"Brother-in-law. This is Motoko. I would like to speak to my sister please." Motoko replied coolly. Her brother-in-law. 'Why did he have to answer the phone.' She thought to herself. Batou Kurasagi, a low level maintenance worker for the city of Kyoto. He wasn't much to look at, 5' 8" tall, thin and willowy, but it was the scar that was the worst in Motoko's mind. It gave him a sinister appearance. Starting at the middle of his forehead and running down past his nose and to the right cheek, it was a scar that he wore proudly. While inspecting a faulty gas line, a pressure relief valve had failed as he was walking past. The valve had blown apart and a chunk had caught him square in the face. Barely conscious and bleeding profusely, he had managed to shut off the gas flow before it could be ignited by a pilot light from a nearby boiler. How he had manged to woo her and let alone marry Tsuruko, Motoko could never understand. As far as Motoko was concerned, he was just a commoner not worthy of sister.
"Well hello Motoko." Came the cheery response. "Your sister is out back right now. Would you like to wait while I get her or would you rather her call you back?" Batou asked with good humor. He knew his sister-in-law did not care for him but didn't let it bother him overly much. As far as he was concerned, he was a working stiff. He had a decent job, a loving wife, and as long as no one bothered him unduly, he didn't care who liked him or not. It was just part of his make-up, laid back and mellow.
"If you could get her for me I would appreciate it brother-in-law." Motoko replied. While she would never call him by name, she was not disrespectful to her brother-in-law, at least not out loud.
"All right then, I'll get her for you." He replied cordially.
While Motoko was waiting she thought about her sister and he husband. She remembered how her sister had gone on about a man she had met. Tsuruko made him out to be the best thing since the wheel, but upon meeting him for the first time, all she saw was the scar. It also didn't help that when she had first met him, it was at his work site when Tsuruko had brought him lunch. He had just climbed out of a manhole, he had been inspecting a sewer line and the smell was a bit overwhelming. He had been nice enough and polite, but Motoko could not for the life of her figure out what her sister saw in him.
Within a short time she heard her sister pick up the phone. She sounded a little out of breath from the trip from the back to the phone and Motoko figured she had been in the dojo with her class.
"Motoko dear, are you all right?" Tsuruko asked with a bit of concern.
"Yes sister, I am doing well." Motoko replied slightly exasperated at her sisters tone. Every time she called, Tsuruko always asked if there was a problem. This probably was due to the fact that Motoko called so infrequently.
"Well if you would call more often I wouldn't worry so." Tsuruko replied with a hurt tone. "I figure it must be important for you to call out of the blue like this. After all my birthday was months ago and it's not quite Christmas yet. I know! You met someone. So when do I get to meet him?.... or her if that is the case. It isn't that Narusagawa is it? I mean both of you have a dislike of men. If it is, I won't judge you." she rambled on with glee.
"SISTER!!" Motoko yelled out with embarrassment. "I am not like that.
"Oh pooh. I was so hoping for you to meet someone like my Batou. You need to get out more Motoko. After all, going through life alone is so incomplete." Tsuruko started only to be cut off by Motoko.
"Please sister don't start. I would like some information please. Do you know a Keitaro Urashima?" Motoko asked.
There was a pause before Tsuruko answered. "Where did you hear that name from Motoko?" She asked hesitantly.
"I...I heard granny Hina mention him." She answered evasively, confused by her sisters response. "She said he was her grandson."
"I see. This is important Motoko. Have you met him yet?" Tsuruko asked.
"Yes sister. He arrived here a few months ago. He works as the assistant manager and handyman." Motoko replied after a minute.
"Tell me sister, what is your impression of him? Is he still brash and arrogant?" Tsuruko asked curiously.
"No sister. I would describe him as quiet and withdrawn. He keeps to himself mostly. He is sociable enough to be considered polite but he does not go out of his way to make friends. He is also a very powerful ki user as well as a martial artist. Granny Hina tasked him to help me with my training but I do not really socialize with him. Out of all the dorm residents Kitsune is the one he most socializes with. She would probably know more about him than I." Motoko explained. "Do you know him sister?"
"I see." Tsuruko replied thoughtfully. After a short pause she continued. "Very well then. Motoko please inform granny Hina that I will be coming to visit in 2 days time. I must confer with the counsel of elders about this and I will be there the day after tomorrow. Good-bye sister." and with those final words she hung up the phone leaving a bewildered Motoko on the other end.
Motoko stared dumbly at the phone as her sister hung up on her. Wondering what Tsuruko was up to, she had no choice but to resign herself to wait and see.
Later that evening in a darkened room, Tsuruko knelt before the counsel of elders awaiting permission to speak. When it was granted, she gathered her thoughts and started.
"Honorable elders, I thank you for this audience. It has come to my attention that Keitaro Urashima has been released from his incarceration and is currently residing on the grounds of the Hinata Su. As you are aware my sister resides there as well. She has informed me that Hina Urashima has employed him as the handyman/co-manager. Motoko has also told me that she has started sparring sessions with him at the Elder Hina's insistence. I do not seek to guide the counsels decisions in this matter but to inform them of this development. I have also told my sister that I will be visiting in two days time. I did not give a reason to her for my visit since I needed the counsels input on how to proceed with this matter."
The counsel of seven deliberated in hushed tones for a minute. Finally they looked to the fourth indicating that she should speak. Chiharu Aoyama looked at her daughter kneeling before them.
"Tsuruko. The counsel is aware of the events at the Hinata Su. Hina Urashima informed us of her plans prior to her grandsons release. As you know, prior to the events that lead to his imprisonment, the Aoyama clan petitioned the Urashima clan for a betrothal between Keitaro Urashima and Motoko Aoyama. It was felt that this joining would strengthen both clans and ensure the growth and prosperity of the Aoyama line with the female offspring and the Urashima line with the male offspring. After his incarceration, the counsel withdrew this petition when he was expelled from the Urashima clan." Chiharu explained in a solemn voice.
Tsuruko looked at her mother in shock. "But mother, if the counsel was aware of this, why was I not informed? I was aware of the petition and should have been told."
"KNOW YOUR PLACE TSURUKO!" Chiharu retorted sharply at her daughter. "Master of the Aoyama style you may be, but a counsel member you are not. It is the counsel that guides and rules the clan."
"My apologies honored members. It was presumptuous of me to act like this." Tsuruko humbly replied bowing low before the assembled members. "I had thought since I was aware of this situation I would have been informed of this development."
"Your apologies are accepted." Chiharu replied kindly. "The reason you were not informed is because the counsel is deliberating the proposal again. The counsel is divided on this issue due to the arrogance and pride displayed by Keitaro when he was younger. We do not know what he is like at this point and time. We were to make you aware of this situation and send you to the Hinata Su to evaluate him. Since you now know, you are to go and do the bidding of the counsel in this matter. You are also not to inform Motoko or Keitaro of any of this. Since the young man has been declared a ronin by his clan he can not be brought into the fold by family obligations. If he has changed, it will be requested that Motoko pursue a relationship with him, with the end result being clan membership by marriage." She finished thoughtfully.
"Yes Mother. I will leave tommorrow. Do you have any messages for Motoko?" Tsuruko replied, rising and getting ready to take her leave.
"Yes please tell her that I and her father miss her so. Also a word of warning. Be very careful around Hina Urashima. She is very crafty. Going against her clan as she did, we do not know how she will view this visit from you. If asked, you may inform her of the counsel's views in this matter. Also inform her it will not be a forced decision on her grandsons part. If he has changed, tell her we would welcome the addition of her grandson into the Aoyama clan. Fair journey, Tsuruko." Chiharu finished signaling an end to the meeting.
Ever since Keitaro had given her the gift of sight as she liked to think of it, Kitsune had tried learning more about Hina's grandson. Engaging him in little chats as he worked around the dorm, she hadn't got more than he was quiet guy and liked to keep to himself. He was polite enough but he never really talked about his past unless it was something she already knew about. As far as she was concerned she had already made up her mind. She liked him and wanted to know more about him. Aside from the chat about his parents and newly discovered sister all she knew was he seemed like a nice guy that had some past problems. Kitsune reflected on some of the other guys she had met. There were a few that liked her but most guys she met put her off. They seemed nice at the start but after a bit they seemed to equate blind with dumb and easy.
Keitaro never gave her that impression. He treated her like a regular person. Sure he made mistakes but they were honest ones. In the course of getting to know him better, she had kept him company when he was doing his chores around the dorm. She had also accompanied him and Shinobu when they went grocery shopping on Saturdays. By far the best time she had was when he helped her pick out something nice to wear, as well as showed her what she looked like for a dinner engagement with Sato Iwakawi and his wife. The dinner was at the small restaurant where they had first gone to when she had taken Keitaro out to buy clothes. After she had published her review, she had contacted the owner and set up dinner reservations with the man and his wife as a thank-you from them. She had not wanted to go by herself so she had asked Keitaro if he would like to escort her to the restaurant. He had accepted her invitation and seemed to enjoy a very pleasant evening.
After that evening though, he had seemed to keep his distance. He treated her cordially enough, but not in a forward manner to indicate he was interested in her that way. She had tried subtly numerous times to find how he felt about her, but Keitaro had skillfully eluded her by changing the subject and using his chores as an excuse to slip away from the amorous girl. Kitsune being the type of girl she was, went to the next best source on Keitaro. Granny Hina. Slipping into the tea house, she ordered a drink and asked if Granny had a few moments to talk with her.
"Hello Kitsune. You're looking a little miffed today. What's up?" Hina asked her young charge with amusement.
Fixing a hard stare at the elderly matriarch she asked Hina point blank. "Granny, is Keitaro gay?"
"Excuse me?" Hina asked in suprise. "What brought this on?"
"Look, I like Keitaro. I've tried being subtle, I've tried talking to him but he slips away on some pretext or another. I've done everything except jump his bones. I know he likes me, but he doesn't do anything about it. So the only thing I can figure is, either he's gay or there is someone else. Since I haven't seen him with anyone, he must be gay." Kitsune explained in a huff.
Granny Hina looked at the women across from her with a bewildered expression for a moment then burst out with a loud brassy laugh.
"You might have something there, Kitsune. After all, he was in jail for a long time, so he might be like that." Hina replied with a smirk and a gleam in her eyes.
"Well that sucks!" The fox exclaimed with exasaperation. "Come on Granny, you gotta help me out. I mean, come on, he can't really be gay can he?"
"Well, I don't really know Kitsune. Maybe that's why his weapon of choice is the bo staff, you know, long round and firm." Hina cackled out leading the young girl on. Kitsune's face reddened at the descriptive terms Hina was using. Deciding she had led her on enough, Hina let her off the hook. "Kitsune, I can honestly tell you, my grandson is not gay. He's a normal healthy young man. I think maybe he's just cautious. You know how Naru is and while Motoko isn't as bad, just think what might happen if he takes you up on your offer. Plus your one of our tenants. He might see it as taking advantage of you."
"You really think so?" Kitsune asked hopefully.
"Pretty sure. But if you really want to know, corner him with no one else around and ask him point blank. Don't be coy or subtle, don't flirt, just be up front and honest." Hina replied sagely.
Keitaro had just returned from another hospital visit with Mutsume. Every Sunday at about 2:00pm she would come for him and they would go to the children's ward of the hospital. There he would listen to her stories and after she had put the children to sleep he would use his ki to help them with their illness. The doctors and nurses would watch the young priestess and the quiet man as she ministered to the children. The young man would sit quietly until she was finished, then watch as she led him to the sickest of the children, where he would take their hand and sit with a concentrated look on his face. After a while, the priestess would break his concentration and then help him out of the hospital.
This had been going on for a few months and while most of the staff were curious, they assumed he was a priest offering prayers. Priest or not, whatever he was doing was working wonders on the children. They noticed that every child he spent time with was improving. The first child he spent time with had improved so much that he was scheduled for outpatient treatment next month. The staff had tried to talk to him to find out more about him, but he politely rebuffed their inquiries saying he was just helping out Mutsume.
The only change in this routine was Kanako. He had been told by his grandmother he was not to interfere with her and she wouldn't interfere with him. She was just to follow and observe him. So on Sunday's she would follow him to the hospital and sit quietly while he and Mutsume would care for the children. Afterwards when they were finished she would follow them back to the dorms were she would go to the tea house and tell of the happenings at the children's ward. After her first night at the tea house, Hina had put her to work after school helping around the tea house. Depressed and listless, Kanako did as she was told.
The events with her mother had left the young girl shaken. She felt like she had been cast adrift. Thankfully her grandmother had stepped in to fill the role as her anchor. While her Aunt Haruka didn't show her a lot of support, she had taken to having small talks with her. Haruka didn't do soft and cuddly, however she did do the protector. Keeping the guys with roving eyes and hands at bay while she worked. Her grandmother would talk with her about all sorts of things from boys (much to her embarrassment) to life in general and where it might take her. Slowly over the course of time she seemed to come out of her depression. Most notably was on Sundays after she came back from the hospital. Unknown to Kanako, Mutsume's powers when told with her stories were giving her hope.
Between working in the dorms during the week and at the hospital on Sunday, Keitaro's social life was limited. His free time in the evenings was taken up by his art and meditation. It was during one such evening that Keitaro realized that even though his days and evenings were keeping him busy, he was missing something. In short he was lonely. While he was aware of Kitsune's amorous feelings towards him, he wasn't sure if he should follow up on them. She was a tenant of his grandmothers, therefore due to his position at the dorm, his responsibility as well. It almost felt like he would be taking advantage of her. Then there was Motoko. The incident that made him aware she might like him more than a friend happened just a few days before his illness. It was during their morning sparring match. He had woken up in a fine and playful mood. With the onset of winter, they had moved the morning sparring matches to a nearby dojo with whom Hina was friends with the owner.
"Ready for the final match, you two?" Granny Hina asked with a smirk. So far this mornings events were tied. One for Motoko with a weapon and Keitaro in hand-to-hand. It was always a three round match. First with weapons, second was hand-to-hand, and third was combatants choice with no holds barred. The matches were getting longer as each participant was getting to know their opponents moves better. Keitaro's bo staff was a great defensive weapon and kept Motoko's bokken at bay. Motoko was no slouch in the hand to hand department, but she was also no where near Keitaro's level of competence. As such he would not normally use a weapon during the third no holds barred match.
"Ready." Keitaro replied taking a mantis style stance.
"Hai." came the response from Motoko as she held her bokken parallel to her body, one hand gripping the haft and the other flat against the back of the blade.
"BEGIN." Hina shouted out.
Motoko stared fast and first. Swinging her blade to the right, she let go a ki blast and moved to quickly follow it. Keitaro rushed forward to met it head on. Nearing the blast Keitaro slid down and under it. Motoko right behind it, slashed down with her weapon. Keitaro waited just long enough so that she was extended just a bit to far and lashed out at her bokken, knocking it away to his left; at the same time he swept his leg at her foot that was planted on the ground, knocking it to the right. With the top of her body going one way and her bottom half going the other, she had no choice but to roll away from him and onto her back. Keitaro followed his leg and rolled onto his stomach and pushed up off the floor and onto his feet, moving in for the telling blow to end the match.
Motoko was at an extreme disadvantage. On her back and with Keitaro moving in fast, she rolled onto her stomach and kicked out at him to give her time to get back on her feet. Unfortunately for her, Keitaro grabbed her ankle and held it fast. She tried to kick with her other foot, but he would just step to one side or the other pulling on her foot and nullifying her attack. Dropping that tactic, she tried to brace herself with her free hand and attack with her bokken. But as with her kicks, he would pull just a little on her foot and she would lose her balance making her attack ineffective. With only one thing left to try she gathered her ki for an attack. But it was not to be, Keitaro seeing what she was up to, used his dirtiest trick. Applying a little ki, he tickled the bottom of her bare captive foot. The resulting giggle/squeal from her led Keitaro to keep it up until his grandmother called an end to the match.
Red faced from embarrassment, Motoko wanted to call fowl, but with the smiling face of Keitaro and the light snickers of Hina, she realised a loss was a loss. She didn't mind the loss, that was part of the learning experience. What she did mind was the way she felt when he tickled her foot. In her mind, looking up a him glistening in sweat, dressed in his hamaka and gi, he looked...manly. While he didn't really dominate her, she felt flushed and excited at the way he handled her. Combined with the way he protected Shinobu and played with Kaolla, she felt something she hadn't felt before. She had never known lust or love for a man before, but she imagined it might feel like what she felt now. With a renewed flush on her face she stammered her congratulations on the match and hastily retreated to the dorms to ponder this new feeling.
After she had left, his grandmother had sat down to talk to him about how his adjustment to life as a free man was coming along. How the dorms were looking better under his constant care. When she talked about the girls in his care, granny Hina had commented about how Motoko looked and acted after the match, going as far as to say she might even have a small crush on him. Thinking back on it he realised she might be right. But what to do about it, that was the question. First Kitsune and now maybe Motoko, it almost seemed like being in prison was easier.