"Miss Aoyama, you wanted to see me?"
Motoko turned to look at Keitaro, who gestured for her to go on. She turned back to face her coach.
"Ahem", she coughed, "Thanks to the support of Keitaro, I have found new ways to restrain my physique -- er, I mean technique."
The coach did not move from behind his desk. He picked up a pile of class rosters, and flipped through them disinterestedly.
"Urashima?" He said from behind them. "You're Motoko's --"
"Sparring partner", Motoko said hastily.
The coach lowered his stack of papers, and raised an eyebrow as he looked at Keitaro.
"Sparring partner?" he repeated. "You're a brave man . . ."
He raised the papers again, and went back to reading. Motoko and Keitaro exchanged a nervous look. Just when it seemed he wouldn't say anything else, his voice came from behind the papers again.
"You can work out with the rest of the girls this week. And if there are no more incidents, I'll put you back on the team."
Motoko beamed. But she still managed to keep her composure. She bowed to the coach very formally.
"Thank you, sir."
She turned, and after stopping at the door to bow again, made her way out into the hall.
"So how did it go?", Kitsune asked, after they had closed the door.
"We did it!" Keitaro exclaimed. "Motoko, I just knew you could find a way!"
"Oh man!", Motoko said.
"A whole week -- I should have bought more than one pair of panties!"
* * * * * * * *
"Point Aoyama -- Aoyama wins! She's done it, folks! Miss Aoyama has done it! Miss Motoko Aoyama is the next Kendo Champion for Nakahara Prefecture!"
The crowd roared to its feet.
"Way to go Motoko!"
"We knew you could do it!"
"Woohoo! The drinks are on me!"
"We should get something to eat!"
"Better yet, I'll MAKE us something special to eat!"
Motoko smiled as she walked over. She was carrying her helmet in one hand. Her wooden sword was in the other, with it's blade resting over her shoulder. Her hair was still up in the bandana she wore inside of her face mask.
"What are you guys doing way up there?", she asked.
"But we're in the first row", Su said.
"Yeah, the floor is only for participants", Keitaro noted.
"Get down here", Motoko said, gesturing with her shinai.
Keitaro and Naru exchanged glances.
"Oh why the heck not", Naru said, and she made her way down the stairs, and onto the arena floor. Everyone else followed her.
"Um, are you sure it's okay for us to be down here?", Shinobu asked nervously.
"Of course", Motoko said. "No one's going to mind. The tournament's over. And besides, if it wasn't for you guys, I wouldn't even BE here in the FIRST place."
"Well that IS true", Kitsune noted. "You can pay us back by drinking with us tonight!"
"Wow, Motoko", Shinobu gasped as she looked at the player's benches. "This is so cool!"
"Ugh. This armor is heavy on me. You guys wait here while I go get changed."
An announcement went over the intercom,
"And now, we'll have a brief intermission, before the presentation of the awards ceremony --"
Naru made her way over to Keitaro
"What's that look for?"
She glared at him.
"I'm not cold", she announced, before taking hold of his arm, and pressing herself against him.
"Whoa", Keitaro thought to himself. "What is this all about?"
"Can it, you big dork", she said, reading his thoughts, "Before I change my mind."
Keitaro turned to look out at the field. Naru sighed.
"You may be a hopeless loser, but I have to admit, it was pretty cool, the way you helped Motoko, and stuck with it all the way through. I guess sometimes you're not so bad", she said, winking and sticking her tongue out at him.
"I'm just glad Motoko was able to participate in the tournament. And the fact that she won -- it really is amazing -- then again, I guess it's not all THAT surprising -- I mean, it IS Motoko we're talking about . . ."
He and Naru shared a chuckle together. Meanwhile, the coach's assistants were busy running all over the field, gathering up the bouquets of roses that had been thrown by the fans.
"Wow", Naru said. "Look at all of those flowers! Motoko certainly is getting to be popular. "
"Yeah, I know. I never thought people would throw roses at a Kendo tournament --"
"Well now, Motoko is a very beautiful young lady", Kitsune said mischievously, as she leaned heavily on both of them. "Keitaro, you better make your move on her now, before she gets to be completely out of your league!"
Naru and Shinobu shouted in unison.
"No one's going to take my sempai away from me!"
Keitaro and Naru stared. Kitsune backed away.
"Um, Shinobu, put the sword down honey --"
Just then, an announcement went over the PA system.
"All right folks, in just one moment, we'll begin with the presentation of the awards --"
"Oh no!", Shinobu said, letting the shinai fall harmlessly. "Where's Motoko?"
"She's not on the stage!", Naru said. "If she doesn't get up there quick, she'll miss getting her trophy!"
"Keitaro, quick, find her!" Kitsune said.
"Huh -- wha -- me?"
"Hurry up", she said, pushing him along, "Before it's too late!"
"In third place this evening, we have a young lady from Fukuoka. Everyone give a big hand to Miss Seki Nakahara!"
"Oh no!" Keitaro said, his voice getting lost against the background of cheers, "I better get a move on! Motoko!" he called, as he made his way back and forth along the sidelines. He checked every one of the benches, but she wasn't there.
"And in second place, coming all the way from Hokkaido, from the town of Sapporo . . ."
The voice on the loudspeaker grew faint behind him as he made his way into the dugout.
"That was second place", he said, "Motoko's up next -- where could she be? Motoko!", he called, his voice echoing off of the concrete walls. "MOTOKO! You're going to be late for --"
He rounded the corner of the locker room just in time to see Motoko slip off her gi top. Her armor was in a duffel bag on the floor. Her hakama were neatly folded on the bench. Her kimono was in her hands. That left only her underwear.
"Motoko, I can explain --"
Keitaro ran for his life.
"And now, ladies and gentlemen --"
He could hear the voice on the speaker getting louder as he got closer and closer to the door.
"Urashima, I'm going to KILL YOU!"
" -- the winner of Raika High's 128th annual fencing championship --"
"Help! I'm too young to die!" Keitaro screamed.
"Miss Kendo herself -- Motoko Aoyama!"
Keitaro burst on stage, followed closely by Motoko. As they burst out of the locker room, with the muffled noise of the announcer and the crowd exploding all around them, Motoko suddenly realized she was still wearing her bra and panties. And nothing else.
The crowd cheered.
A thousand flash bulbs went off at once.
Someone handed her the giant trophy, along with a bouquet of two dozen rozes. A pink banner printed with the words, "Miss Kendo 20xx", was draped over her shoulder. The dazzle of flashes continued.
"We love you Motoko!"
"Marry me, Motoko!"
"Are those 36 C's?"
Motoko shivered. And not from the cold.
"U - R - A - S - H - I - M - A ! ! ! !"
* * * * * * * *
"I still can't believe you turned down the money", Kitsune said. They were back at Hinata House. Haruka was sitting on the couch, reading a newspaper with the headline, "Kendo Champion Turns Down Multi-Million Dollar Lingerie Endorsement Deal" Motoko was lying in a futon on the floor, with a cloth on her forehead.
"So sick . . ." she mumbled around the thermometer in her mouth.
Kitsune shook her head.
"Well that's what you get for parading around in your underwear in the rain."
"Motoko", Shinobu called. "Your hot soup is ready."
"Here", Kitsune said, "Have Keitaro bring it to her."
"Why me!?" Keitaro said, trying to run away, but Kitsune grabbed him by the back of his shirt collar.
"Because you're almost impossible to kill. So out of all of us, you have the best possible chance of surviving this mission."
"I'll get you, Urashima . . ."