By Lord Raa
Disclaim-me-do: It doesn't even cover me owl-boobs.
Life seemed to be going well for Keitaro; he had finally entered Toudai and his tenants had warmed up to him to the point where they didn't want to slice him into tiny pieces. But life never seemed to go smoothly for him for very long...
Having completed his latest homework assignment, the young man decided to take a refreshment break and made his way to the kitchen. As he passed the telephone, it started to ring, surprising him.
"¬Ah, Keitaro, I wanted to speak to you.¬"
"What's up, Dad?" Keitaro replied, not expecting his father to call him.
"¬It seems that Kanako-chan has caused a little bother.¬"
"Kanako-chan's in trouble? But she was always a good girl. What do you need me to do?"
"¬She's not in danger, Keitaro, it's more that, how can I put it? She's said something she shouldn't have.¬"
"Dad, we all say things we shouldn't – it's part of being human. Did she say something to upset somebody?" Keitaro asked. "Because that doesn't sound like Kanako-chan at all."
"¬Think less insulting, more stirring up the ghosts of the past,¬" the older man said. "¬Kanako-chan told people about your past as a legendary martial artist.¬"
Keitaro's head shot up. "She what? Well … actually, that's not a huge problem. No-one will believe her when they meet -"
"¬She's showed people the photos, Keitaro.¬"
Keitaro's face fell. "Which photos?"
"¬All of them. Some of them didn't return.¬"
"Now what do we do?" the bespectacled youth whined. He started to pace back and forth as he tried to figure out a plan of action.
"¬We tell people that what Kanako told people is a lie.¬"
"Does the name Kenta Kobayashi ring any bells?"
"¬…You may have a point there, son.¬"
"Kanako-chan has signed my death warrant," Keitaro sighed. "If Kobayashi finds me so much as breathing normally, I'm going to die."
"¬I suppose that there is something we can do,¬" the elder Urashima said. "¬But it is risky. How do you feel about having your limiter removed?¬"
"Things could get messy, Dad. I'll need to think it over. I'll call you back later today, ok?"
At dinner, Keitaro asked for everyone's attention.
"Everybody, there's something I need to talk to you all about."
"Oh?" Kitsune asked. "What's up? You're not raising the rent, are you?"
"No, it's nothing to do with money, Kitsune," Keitaro said with a smile. He took a deep breath. "It is however to do with me and my past. I…, how should I put it?"
"You can tell us, Sempai," Shinobu smiled. "No matter what it is, we'll support you."
"You say that now. Ok, here's the thing: I used to be a martial artist. Yes, I know, I'm horrendously clumsy and uncoordinated. But back in the day, I used to be quite good."
"That does explain certain physical traits," Motoko nodded. "What happened? Why did you let your skills wither?"
"It's an awkward and embarrassing story. Looking back, I understand why they had to do what they did. 'They' in this case includes my family. I was arrogant because I was damned near invincible and because I was so good, people would come from far and wide to challenge me."
"Then what happened?" the kendoist asked.
"You would skin me alive if I told you the details, Motoko. I thought what I was doing was normal, but with hindsight, I would have taken the same course of action," Keitaro smiled. "But the upshot is that I had a limiter put on me and I became the bumbling fool you standing before you. I was enjoying the quiet life when my Dad called me up earlier today with some bad news."
"What kind of bad news?" Naru asked.
"Apparently, my sister told some people about my past."
"That doesn't seem so bad, Keitaro," Kitsune replied. "I mean, it's hard to believe that you were ever a martial artist."
"I agree. However, there are some photographs of me in action that have been made public," the bespectacled man added. "Photos where I'm punching holes in cars."
"This is a joke, right, Keitaro?" Naru scoffed.
"I wish it was, Naru-chan. Oh, how I wish it was."
"Wait a minute, I think I remember hearing something about a martial artist prodigy that had to retire," Motoko spoke up. "Something about him having burned himself out?"
"That's what we told people, Motoko-chan. I had nearly ten years of relatively peaceful nights. You know, the kind where people don't try to kill you in your sleep for touching their sis… err, never mind that last bit," Keitaro coughed into his fist. "Anyway, I know this all sounds crazy and I really hope that nothing happens, but I had to say something."
"We'll let you know if we see something out of the ordinary, Keitaro," Kitsune smiled. "Now, let's eat up before dinner gets cold."
The girls were enjoying a soak in the outdoor bath as they discussed Keitaro's dinnertime bombshell.
"Do you really think that Keitaro is telling us the truth?" Kitsune asked, positioning herself against a rock.
"I don't know," Naru answered.
"But Sempai wouldn't lie about something like that," Shinobu insisted.
"May I remind you about his arrival?" Motoko asked. "We were led to believe that he was a Toudai student, not a ronin."
"I think we had something to do with that, Motoko-sempai," the chef countered. "We didn't give him a chance to explain his situation to us."
'Trust Shinobu-chan to defend Keitaro,' the ash-blonde mused. "Still, it's not like it's something Keitaro could make up on his own."
The kendoist allowed her body to sink under the hot water. When she was up to her chin, she closed her eyes to aid her relaxation.
Three seconds later, they snapped open again and Motoko scanned the area for the interruption.
"Shh!" the raven-haired girl cut off Kitsune's comment. She moved to the edge of the bath and grabbed a bucket. "Something is not quite right…"
"There!" Motoko yelled, throwing the wooden bucket to the partition.
The girls were all surprised when it was caught, with Shinobu screaming loudly.
"Not bad, not bad at all," a male voice commented. "As to be expected from the women of Type K."
"Just who the hell do you think you are?" Naru demanded, wrapping her modesty towel about her person. She clenched her right fist and was ready to punch out the lights of this intruder.
"Me? I'm just someone who wants to see if the legends were true: Has Keitaro Urashima retired and been put out to stud."
"P-p-put out to stud?!" Motoko spluttered in outrage.
"Yes," the intruder said stepping out of the shadow to reveal a muscular frame. "The last I heard, he was being offered stupid amounts of money for the right to have his children with no strings attached."
"P-people are willing to pay to… you know… with Sempai?" Shinobu asked, before fainting backwards into Kitsune.
"I think you should leave," the kendoist threatened. "Now."
"Or what? You'll flash me in the attempt to make me lower my guard? Sorry love, but you're not that hot," the increasingly rude man snorted in derision.
Motoko growled. She stepped closer to the edge of the bath, preparing herself for some unarmed combat.
"That said, you do have nice legs. I bet Type K likes having them wrapped around his face."
Motoko was not only red-faced at the implication that she was having that kind of relationship with Keitaro, but with the rage she felt at being talked to like she was some sort of common street whore.
She was saved from risking her modesty further by the arrival of Keitaro.
"I'm not sure if I should be surprised that you're the first to find me, Toshiro," the bespectacled youth commented as he walked around the bath, deliberately averting his gaze from his naked tenants. "You were quite the tracker ten years ago, but you never were the sharpest tool in the shed."
Toshiro smirked. "Maybe, but I'm not the one who burned out when he was just a kid. What kind of idiot doesn't learn to pace himself?"
"The same kind of idiot that kicked your ass without breaking a sweat," Keitaro answered. "Several times too, if I recall correctly. So what are you here for tonight? Have you come to catch up on old times and you need some training or what?"
"Definitely 'or what', Type K," the intruder said, falling into a stance.
"I see, well, I'm not in the mood to kick your ass today." Keitaro started stretching to loosen up his muscles. "But as a great man once said: you've got to do what you've got to do, even if it's a double bagger."
"You still look like a twig, Type K. How the hell do you expect to beat me?"
"Skill, redirection of force and the fact that two minutes into the fight, Motoko will be dressed and wielding a steel blade. You upset her a lot, you know."
"Such confidence in your student," Toshiro noted. "But I also heard a rumour that you've been neglecting your training. I bet you couldn't even bench-press 50 kilos."
"I never could," the Toudai student answered. "But as I will soon demonstrate, raw strength won't win every battle. Naru, get everyone inside. Motoko, you've got two minutes. Toshiro, don't stare at the ladies."
"When did you become the defender of women's rights? You loved falling on top of girls."
Keitaro shook his head. "What makes you think that I stopped enjoying 'accidents'?"
"I knew it!" Naru shouted from the doorway.
"Yeah, yeah, Naru, I liked it when I landed with my hands on your butt, I'm a huge pervert. Tell me something I don't know."
"Hurry, Naru-sempai, we need to get Haruka-san here," Shinobu insisted, her cheeks flushed with blood.
"Wait, Haruka's here?" Toshiro asked, suddenly looking nervous.
"Yes, she owns the teashop on the hill. Don't tell me you didn't do a proper recce before trying to kick my ass? I'm shocked and/or appalled," Keitaro said, his face neutral. "No, wait, I'm neither, because I remembered who I'm dealing with."
The intruder took a step closer to his prey. His growling hid the near silent footsteps of Haruka Urashima entering the bathing area.
"Keitaro, are you fighting again?"
"No, but that depends on Toshiro here. I mean, is he going to leave now, or are we going to have to kick his ass for bothering the girls? That reminds me," the bespectacled youth said, turning his head slightly to look at his cousin. "When was the last time you beat a man unconscious with his own shoes?"
"I think it was the last time I saw Toshiro-chan here," the smoker answered. She clenched her fists, cracking her knuckles. "So what's it going to be, Toshiro-chan?"
"…" Toshiro's gaze flicked between the two Urashimas. "I'm leaving, but only because you've got backup, Type K. Next time we meet, I won't be so generous."
The muscular man leapt backwards to the wall and disappeared into the night.
"I thought you put that life behind you, Keitaro," Haruka said.
"So did I, Haruka-san, so did I."
Upon his return inside with Haruka, Keitaro was bombarded with questions. The one that made the former martial arts prodigy pause was Kaolla's.
"What's a stud? Is it tasty?"
"All in good time, Su-chan," Haruka said with a nervous smile. "Anyway, Keitaro is going to give us a brief run down on why we had a visitor."
"Right, as I explained at dinner, I used to study martial arts when I was younger. However, I had to stop about five years ago. During that time, I made myself a few enemies. Like Toshiro from earlier."
"But if you were good enough to have rivals to the point where they'd seek a rematch after five years, how come you're so clumsy?" Motoko asked. "Even if you lack your former strength, you shouldn't lose all your poise."
"There's a reason for that," Haruka added, pulling out a cigarette. "In order to make sure things didn't get out of hand, we had a limiter put on Keitaro. He's barely five percent of former glory."
"But if Keitaro is a mere shadow of his former self and still so resilient, then what sort of man was he?" asked the kendoist.
"Think Ranma Saotome, minus the ki blasts and the gender-bending," the former ronin answered with a smirk. "Unfortunately, this limiter has meant that I pretty much had to learn how to walk from scratch. We told everyone that I had some sort of auto-immune condition that wiped everything out and that's why I couldn't do it anymore. But that leaves with the all important question: what are we going to do now?"
"What do you mean 'we'?" Kitsune asked. "Isn't your problem going to go away with you if you leave?"
"It might," Haruka conceded. "But then again, Toshiro isn't the brightest star in the sky and if he managed to track Keitaro down, then smarter, more dangerous opponents won't be far behind. As you're all my friends, I'd hate to see you used as hostages."
"What? Hostages?" Naru demanded.
"Yep, hostages," Keitaro nodded. "Some of the people who want me dead wouldn't hesitate to use girls I know as hostages if they thought it would lure me out in the open."
"Oh," the Japanese girls replied in unison.
"I see we have two options, Keitaro," the smoker opined. "One) a very real, very public death where people see and can prove with a full autopsy that you're not going to get up and start walking around. That might upset people though. Two) we remove the limiter. That will upset people."
"Hmm, that's a tough one. I'll let you lot decide if you want me dead or not. I'm going to the toilet."
"Haruka-san, do you really mean that S-sempai might have to k-kill himself?" Shinobu asked, tears threatening to leak from her eyes.
Haruka sighed. "Keitaro is too easy going when it comes to his life. Yes, he'd sacrifice himself for any one of you, but before the rest of you start babbling about 'the greater good' and all that, think about what Keitaro has done for you. Also, Motoko, phone up your sister and ask her what she knows about Keitaro; you should get some more answers."
"Aneue?" the kendoist blinked. "If you insist; please excuse me."
In the Aoyama house, Tsuruko was called to the telephone.
"Hello, Motoko-han, what's up?"
"¬Aneue, I err…¬"
"What is it, Motoko-han? Is something matter? Do you need me to come up there?"
"¬N-no, it's just, well, I'm not sure how to word this,¬" Motoko paused. She took a deep breath. "¬You remember when you nearly made me marry Keitaro?¬"
"Yes, go on," the elder sister replied.
"¬Is there any reason in particular why you were so… enthusiastic about me marrying Keitaro?¬"
"I was hoping that he was THE Keitaro Urashima, but even if he wasn't, he was going to inherit the Hinata Sou, so you would have been taken care of," Tsuruko answered. "Why? Have you changed your mind about him?"
"¬… No, it's, well, someone from his past arrived at the Inn earlier this evening. He recognised Keitaro.¬"
"I take it he wasn't looking to reminisce about the good old days? I see, well, it seems that he is the same Keitaro Urashima I originally thought; and it does explain how he managed to avoid death during our duel. That means the good news is that does mean you still have a chance at happiness with him. The bad news is you've suddenly got a lot more competition for him."
"¬W-what do you mean, Aneue?¬"
Tsuruko smiled as she leaned back against the wall. "Keitaro's skills are legendary, Motoko-han, and not just when it comes to fighting."
"¬So the stories about him...¬"
"Motoko-han, had things been different, Keitaro Urashima could have been your stepfather."
"¬WHAT? Mother would never tolerate someone like Keitaro!¬" Motoko shouted in outrage.
"Perhaps you would have preferred him as your brother-in-law?" the elder sister teased. "But don't worry about that, Motoko-han, I'm sure that there'll be plenty of time for you to find out what a great lover Keitaro is firsthand."
"Oh hush, Motoko-han, you know I'm teasing you. The last I heard, Keitaro had to give up martial arts for good."
"¬That is part of what I wanted to talk to you about, Aneue. Keitaro said that he's got some sort of limiter on him and he's barely at five percent of his powers.¬"
"Five percent? That's terrible, still I would have done the same thing in his place."
"Drop out of the public eye immediately, rather than have a slow decline into mediocrity like so many old boxers," Tsuruko answered.
"¬So, what should I do, Aneue?¬"
After a moment's pause, the elder sister answered. "I'm going to be taking the train there in the morning, Motoko-han."
"¬What? Why are you coming here?¬"
"I want to see if he is actually limited or just acting, and what better way than to test myself against Keitaro? I've got to go pack now, Motoko-han; I'll see you in the morning."
"Haruka-san," Kitsune said, looking up from her beer. "What was Keitaro like before he had that limiter put on him?"
"Well, I suppose you should know." Haruka took a deep breath as Motoko re-entered the room. "Keitaro used to be surprisingly badass when he was younger. There is at least one photo where he was trying to get out of fighting someone and to prove his point, he punched a hole in a car. It wasn't the engine block, but it was still through a steel panel."
"…" The ash-blonde blinked. "You're joking, Haruka-san, right? I mean, Keitaro would break every bone in his hand if he did that."
Motoko sat down silently. After taking a moment to compose herself, she turned to Haruka. "What sort of person was Keitaro like?"
"He was probably the most skilled fighter I saw who wasn't a grandmaster," Haruka replied with a tone of respect.
"He must have been special if Aneue wants to test her skills against him," the kendoist mused.
"Your sister isn't the first person to want to 'put their skills to the test' against him."
"What do you mean, Haruka-san," Kitsune asked. "You make it sound like Keitaro was some sort of benchmark when it came to fighting."
The smoker smiled. "The old Keitaro would pick a fight with a crowd yakuza if he thought it would impress a girl. Of course, he rarely put a foot wrong when it came to impressing girls."
The residents were dumbfounded as they tried to reconcile their kind-hearted, though extremely clumsy landlord with the shounen manga character that was being described to them.
"You are joking, right, Haruka-san?" the alcohol-loving girl asked. "I mean, Keitaro couldn't ever have been this famous, womanising fighter in his teenage years."
"After the limiter was put on, his parents told me they were glad he'd changed, since now they didn't have to replace his bed every six months."
"Now I know you're joking, Haruka-san," Kitsune countered. "There's no way Keitaro got enough action to break a bed."
"You say that now, Kitsune," Haruka smirked. She turned to the still mildly confused Motoko. "Motoko, I don't suppose you've heard of the Yandere Terror Troops?"
"The… the ECCHI's most infamous warrior women?"
"The what?" the ash-blonde asked, barely believing what she was hearing.
"The Erotic Combat Corps of the Hot and Insane – also abbreviated to ECCHI. They sent a four-woman team to defeat Keitaro once. All of them crazy, all of them hot, all of them left the following morning walking funny."
"That's impossible," Kitsune insisted. "I know that Keitaro has his… urges, but four women? I don't think so; and certainly not in one night."
"Again," Haruka shrugged, "that was the old Keitaro: someone who wasn't limited."
"But even still," the kendoist countered, "while a non-limited martial artist might be able to fend off one member of the Yandere Terror Troops with their skin intact, four in one night is an impossibility."
"Hey, you asked what Keitaro was like back then, I told you. If you don't believe me, then perhaps you should consider asking Keitaro yourself? He was the one in the room that night, not me."
"Very well, I shall ask him myself."
To be continued…?
This was pre-read by Chi Vayne, who, like me is well aware of the characterisation issues in this story.
It's just a bit of fun, and mixes in elements of AIKI. If you smiled, then I guess it's worth what you paid to read it.