title: Contract Labor
author: Greydon Creed
story type: Drama, Adventure, AU, some romance later. Some minor cross-overs with at least one other anime series. You have been warned, so the Canon Police beware.
rating: M, for language and action-type violence.
summary: What if Keitaro had some steel in his spine when he first showed up at the Hinata Inn? What put it there? And how will the tenants react?
note: I have adjust the ages of some of the tenants of the Hinata Inn. The older ones are still the same - Keitaro (20), Kitsune (19/20), Naru (18). The younger ones are now all in high school - Motoko (17), Shinobu (14), and Su (14).
"Funny how I never remembered this part of the property…"
Standing at the foot of the hill, a young man looked at the stairway leading upwards. Set in a zig-zag pattern, the stairs ended at the base of a large residence set at the top of the hill. Giving an audible sigh, the man resettled the duffle bag on his shoulders before starting the long climb.
"This better be worth it, Granny."
The young man was not out of shape - far from it. In his not so distant past adventures, the man had sprinted through jungles, clawed his way up rocky mountainsides, and swam through ocean currents and riptides. And while he was quietly proud of what he had overcome in his life, it was not something he had enjoyed at the time - especially now, with a bag containing most of his worldly possessions on his back as he made the climb.
Coming up to the crest of the hill, the man stopped for a breather, looking at the house from a closer prospective. While it matched the memories of his youth, the grand old residence was looking a bit worn, with peeling paint showing weathered wood in various locations and overgrown shrubbery surrounding the house.
Hesitating at the front door, the young man finally thumbed the latch on the door and pushed it open. Stepping in, he looked around at the empty living room, seeing the signs of people living in the residence as well as similar signs of benign neglect; sofa cushions askew, books scattered on shelves and tables, dust apparent throughout.
"Granny, are you home? It's Keitaro - is anyone home?" Calling out in a loud voice, he bent down and pulled off his boots, not wanting to track dirt into the house. Straightening up, Keitaro Urashima picked up his boots and looked about, not hearing any response to his call.
"Ok, this is starting to get a little creepy." Searching through his childhood memories, Keitaro turned and located the hallway leading to his Granny's room. But once he found the manager's room, he found that the door was locked and no one answering his knock.
Moving back to the living room, Keitaro dropped his duffle bag and boots beside the sofa. Deciding to look around the old inn, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Catching the faint whiff of sulfur, Keitaro turned in that direction. "The hot springs it is.
Finding the double doors marked with the sign "The Renown Hinata Inn Hot Springs - Mixed Bathing", Keitaro slowly pushed the door open. After calling out and getting no response again, Keitaro walked through the scrub down area and found himself outside next to a large steaming pool edged with large uneven rocks, the vapor rising from the water almost obscuring his vision. Only a faint breeze keep the steam moving.
Sore not only from the long climb, but from the lengthy train and trolley trip from the airport to get to the Hinata-Sou, Keitaro decided he needed to rest some, and soaking in the hot spring sounded like a capital idea. Going back to his duffle to dig out his swim trunks (the sign on the door did say mixed bathing after all), Keitaro promptly scrubbed off the sweat and grime of the trip, and was shortly relaxing in the spring, letting the just short of scalding water soak into his aching muscles and joints.
Keitaro had heard of the dangers of falling asleep in the baths, especially if you were by yourself. He had always thought it was a pretty dumb way to die, at least compared to other methods of accidental domestic mortality - falls, electrocution, carbon monoxide poisoning. That said, Keitaro was getting a little too relaxed in the bath, which explained why he did not hear the sounds of movement in the rest of the house, including the scrub room door opening, until a decidedly young femalevoice spoke up fairly close to him.
"I was looking forward to this all day, Kitsune. Cram school is driving me out of my mind, especially with all the perverts leering at me."
Keitaro came to full consciousness with a slight jerk; moving his wristwatch close to his face, the luminous dial showed he had been in the bath for half an hour. About to speak up to announce himself, the girl's next words brought his greeting to an abrupt halt.
"Those perverts keep staring at my chest even though I'm dressing down for class. What do you think Kitsune, are my boobs getting bigger?"
Out of the mist rising from the spring stepped a girl… a very attractive… very undressed girl, wearing only a towel wrapped around her hips, her long brown hair spilling over her shoulders and partially covering her ample chest. A chest he got up close and personal with when the girl stepped up, and taking hold of his hand, which he still had above the water from when he checked his watch, she pressed against her chest.
In shock Keitaro instinctively squeezed the firm yet soft skinned mound, the girl giving a slight moan when she said, "Kitsune, your hand has gotten bigger…" Pausing for a moment, she squeezed her hand on top of his, which caused his hand to slightly clench as well. "And rougher…" Stepping closer, the girl squinted at Keitaro before somehow producing from somewherea pair of fairly thick lens horn-rimmed eyeglasses and sliding them on. "Just like…" The girl was almost nose to nose with him when she shrieked "… A MAN!"
Throwing himself backwards, Keitaro was able to heave himself from the spring and away the girl when she unleashed a monster haymaker, her fist missing his nose by less than a centimeter. Scrabbling backwards, Keitaro would have started to try and explain himself when the girl kept screaming at him. "PEEPER! LECH! PERVERT! DEGENERATE!"
Deciding that retreat would be a wise idea at this time, Keitaro somehow got his feet under him and launched himself toward the scrub room door, the girl pulling herself out of the pool and giving chase, holding her towel closed with one hand while waving her fist at him. "I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!"
Barely getting the sliding door open without ripping it off it's tracks, Keitaro ran into a younger girl standing on the other side holding a basket of laundry. Angling himself, he was able to keep from falling onto the girl, however, the basket flew up and spilled it's contents on his head, leaving his head and shoulders strewn with… girls undergarments. Wonderful.
Hearing the door he had just through coming crashing off it's tracks, Keitaro looked over his shoulder, the rather nice lacy black bra hanging off part of his glasses not obstructing his view of his pursuer's eyes widening at his current mode of dress before almost literally turning red and having hair strands spring up forming demon horns. "YOU'RE DEAD!"
Launching himself out of the room again, Keitaro started running toward the living room and the front door, pulling the various undies off himself as he ran. Starting to skid as his wet feet slid along the waxed wooded floor, he came to a stop at the hall intersection, carefully pulling the lacy bra off his glasses, which for some reason had gotten tangled on the hinge.
Looking up, Keitaro saw there was another girl standing in the hallway. About the same age as himself and the first girl, she had short ash-blonde hair and partially closed eyes, lending a look of mischief to her features.
Behind him, the angry girl's voice bellowed out, "KITSUNE! THERE'S A PERVERT IN THE HOUSE! HELP ME CATCH HIM!"
With a feeling of dread, Keitaro watched as the mischief on the girl's face turned into a full smirk as she yelled out, "HE'S RIGHT HERE, NARU! AND HE'S GOT YOUR FANCY LACE BRA ON HIS FACE!"
Almost choking at the implication, Keitaro spun around as he heard feet pounding in the hall behind him. Skidding around the corner, the girl came to a stop, now wearing a belted bathing robe but the anger on her face unchanging. Looking around quickly, and seeing that the Kitsune girl (given her fox-like features and demeanor, it was no surprise) was blocking his way to the living room, and the angry Naru girl was blocking the hall back to the springs, Keitaro turned and bolted up the stairs at the end of the hall.
Which turned out to be not such a good idea, as the first thing he saw once he got to the head of the stairs was a turtle… a giant mechanical turtle… with a young tanned blonde girl astride it's back, a wide grin on her face. But what stopped Keitaro dead in his tracks was the question she cried out in a loud voice; "Naru, what's a pervert? Is it good to eat?"
Keitaro cringed when the angry voice from below yelled in reply, "No Su, it's a bad man! Don't let him get near you!"
"OK! I'll use MechaTama's new weapons to stop him!" With a new feeling of dread, Keitaro watched as the grinning girl started rapidly punching the controls before her, resulting in a pair of rocket pods unfolding out the turtle's shell. "Anti-personnel rockets armed and ready!"
Keitaro did not need to hear anything else; spinning around he dove down the stairway he had just come up, knocking over the angry bath girl as she was coming up - which was a good thing, as with twin roars the mecha-turtle launched two mini-rockets which detonated at the end of the hallway at the head of the stairs. There was little damage to the building, but the blasts knocked Keitaro and the girl down the stairs until they wound up in a crumpled heap, with Keitaro on top of the girl, his legs between her open ones, his hands pressing down on her boobs.
Hearing a low growl come from her throat that would not have been out of place from a rabid Rottweiler, Keitaro did not even try to explain or excuse himself. Pushing himself away from her (which resulted in a yelp from the girl as his weight pressed against her chest), Keitaro started to run again, recognizing the hallway as the one leading to the living room, where hopefully he could grab his bag and boots on the way out the door. Alas, that was not to be.
Standing right next to his bag in the middle of the living room was a swordsman… no, a swordswoman. Dressed in a white gi and black hakama, long black hair streaming down her back, a furious expression on her face, she was holding a real live steel katana at the ready in her hands. Seeing him skid to a stop in front of her, her face got even more angry.
"Foul creature! Your days of depravity end here! Rock Splitting Sword!" Wide eyed, Keitaro watched as energy formed on the blade as she swung the sword around to aim it at him. Not taking any chances, he dove for the floor as an energy blast roared over his back, feeling the heat on his bare back.
Seeing that the blast had missed him, the swordswoman snarled in anger. "You won't get away that easily, defiler of women! Evil Splitting Blade!" Seeing a new energy attack forming on her blade, Keitaro frantically rolled to the right, seeing the blast tear up the wooden floor boards he had just been laying on.
Keitaro realized he had gone into tachypsychia as everything had slowed to half speed. He could see that the swordswoman was bringing her weapon around for another attack, and that he would not be able to get around her before she launched it at him. Plus, the angry bath girl was still coming up behind him. Fighting against someone hand to hand was one thing, but going up against an armed opponent changed the rules completely. Spinning around on the floor so he was facing the swordswoman, he planted his feet under him and launched himself at her.
Motoko Aoyama was getting angrier than she had ever been. Dealing with the perverts at school was one thing. Their behavior could be dealt with a light (for her) tap with her boken practice sword. The perverts in public places such as the infamously crowded trains were another; gropers were usually taken care of with a broken finger or wrist. But now they were invading the sanctity of the Hinata Inn to inflict their depravities on the residents of the all-girls dorm. What was even worse was that the half-naked pervert before her had already dodged two of her special attacks.
Bringing her sword around to prepare for another attack, Motoko was surprised to see that the lecherous male was throwing himself at her, and her sword was out of position to strike at him. At most she could use the sword as a high guard, but the man was going low toward her legs.
Spinning around and away from him, Motoko felt the male's shoulder strike her left thigh, knocking her away from him and almost costing her balance. Staggering for a moment, she rapidly turned back to face her opponent when she was shocked to see him holding the sheath of her sword in his hands, gripping it at one end like it was a boken. He must have snatched it from her belt when he collided with her.
Snapping her eyes up to his, Motoko saw his facial expression had changed. Where as before he had confusion and uncertainty in his eyes, now there was a cold confidence, as though he no longer feared the outcome of this battle.
"I don't want to fight you. I can explain myself if you let me talk." The man's flat voice was a perfect compliment to the expression on his face.
"There is nothing to explain here, foul demon. Perhaps the police will be interested in hearing your lies once I am done with you!" Motoko dropped into the standard ready position of the God's Cry School of Swordsmanship, her katana at the ready.
"So be it. It is on your head." The man dropped into his own guard position, one that looked familiar but she could not call to mind. He did not wait for long before Motoko made her first attack.
Instead of attacking her blade dead on, the male instead whipped the wooden sheath at the flat of the blade, knocking it away from it's deadly arc toward his shoulder. Instead of either locking up with the sheath or hitting it's target at shoulder level, the blade went past his arm and toward the floor, leaving her off balance. The male instantly took advantage of this, stepping past the staggering swordswoman and while tripping her leg and throwing her to the floor, swung the sheath at the upper part of her right arm, hitting her funny bone and causing her to drop her sword to her horror.
Landing face-down on the floor, Motoko was barely able to roll over before the male was stepping toward her and bending down. Seeing the look of anger on her face, and that she was not going to give up the fight, the male said something in English that even though she understood what he said, she did not know what he meant by it.
"Say Goodnight, Gracie." Whipping the sheath around with one hand, it hit Motoko above and behind her left ear. Darkness crashed down upon her.
"…I don't care who you are, you don't belong here. This is an all-girls dorm!" The voice sounded like Naru's, but now the piercing quality of it did not help with the throbbing headache she was now feeling.
"And I keep telling you, I'm just here to see my grandmother. I have the letter in my bag if you want to see it." Male voice, medium pitched, but still annoying.
"Who cares if your granny told you to come here, this is an ALL-GIRLS DORMATORY! You can't stay here! Especially if you are going to be hiding in the hot springs to peep on us!" Naru's voice was getting higher and higher.
"The sign on the springs door said MIXED BATHING! I had used it before as a kid, and since there was no one there I decided to take a soak. I even put on shorts. You are the one that came into the spring in only a towel."
"Yeah, and you groped me!"
"Only after you thought I was your friend Kitsune and grabbed my hand and put it on your chest! What's the matter, upset it wasn't your girlfriend with her hand on your boob?"
"It's different for friends, you PERVERT!"
Motoko was finally able to force her eyes open, wincing at the daylight in the living room. Looking around, she saw that she was laying on the couch, while Naru, Kitsune, Shinobu, and Su were standing at one end of the couch in a group by the door, while the young male was standing facing them at the other end of the couch, holding her sword and her sheath in his hands.
It took a moment for Motoko to realize what was wrong with that picture, and it was not the young male or his state of undress. He was holding the sword in his left hand in a reverse grip, the blade come out the bottom of his fist. Unless he was very skilled, it was not a fighting position. It was more to show that the holder was deliberately not ready to fight with the sword. However, the sheath to the sword was held in the male's right hand, and that one wasin a proper fighting grip. While strikes with a sheath were not overly dangerous, they would still take someone out, as Motoko would attest to.
However, while a trained sword fighter could tell that the male was in as unthreatening a position as could be done while holding a sword, most people would only see that the person was armed with a sword. Which explained why Naru had not attacked the male even though they were arguing so vehemently.
"So it would be OK for me grab a male friend's hand, say, 'Oh, I think my pecs are bigger, feel me,' and put it to my chest? I don't think so, lady." The male flicked his eyes over and saw that Motoko was now watching them argue. "By the way, your friend is awake."
The girls rushed over to Motoko and while they fussed over her, the male stepped further from them. After a moment, she was able to sit up on the couch. The other girls circled around her and faced back toward the male, who was standing in a stance that was a little too casual to be real, especially for a person wearing only swim shorts.
"Look Miss, I'm sorry I had to hit you, but you and your friends weren't giving me a chance to explain myself. Once you passed out, the girls were finally willing to talk things out." The male's eyes were flicking between Motoko and Naru, presumably because he thought they were the most dangerous to him.
"Yeah, after you assaulted poor Motoko! You could have cracked her head open!" Naru was standing with her hands on her hips, leaning forward and practically screaming aggressiveness with her stance.
"Poor Motoko," the sarcasm was almost dripping from the male's words, "not only was armed with a real sword, she was launching energy attacks at me with it, something I didn't think was possible anymore! I'm not going to let myself be barbequed because some girls in a blind rage won't listen to me." The male shifted his feet, angling himself into a position where Motoko could see that he could block any attack upon him with the bared sword, either with the flat of the blade, or the razor sharp edge.
Thankfully, while Naru was short-tempered and impulsive, she was not stupid. Even though it was unconscious, the sight of the gleaming sword was enough to keep her from attacking for now.
"What are you doing at this place? As Naru told you, this is a dorm for school aged girls." Motoko was still woozy, but her head was starting to clear. Lightly touching the side of her head, she winced slightly at the tender welt she could feel under her hair.
"I was told to come see my grandmother here. This used to be an inn, so I didn't think there would be a problem." The male's eyes were flicking over all the girls now. "I got here, no one was home, I decided to use the hot spring, and then Ms. 'Are My Boobs Bigger Now?' came in and took exception to the fact I was there. She swung on me, I started running, and the rest I think you know."
"Well, now I know you are lying, because we are the only people living here! This place hasn't been an inn for five years!" Naru had a snarling expression on her face.
"You are not the only people living here, Narusegawa." Hearing a new voice coming from the doorway, everyone turned to see an older female wearing a teahouse apron, looking to be in her thirties, with short dark hair, a bored expression on her face, and a lit cigarette in hand. "Hina and I live here too." Looking over toward the male, her lips moved into a half-smirk. "Looking good there, Kei."
"Yeah, well, my bath got interrupted. Good to see you too, Aunt Haruka."
The smirk on Haruka's face turned into a frown. Moving faster than expected, she stopped in front of him and abruptly flicked him on the nose, causing him to flinch. "I'm your cousin, not your aunt. That makes me sound too old." There was a note of warning in her voice.
If he heard the warning in her voice, the male decided to ignore it. "You were my cousin, then you were adopted by Granny, that makes you my aunt. Unless you prefer another title, like Christmas Cake-san."
The younger girls seemed to stop breathing. Calling a Japanese woman a 'Christmas Cake' was a low blow, coming from the joke that unmarried women were like the traditional cake eaten for Christmas - not much good after the 25th. Haruka was in her early thirties and defiantly single. So even though she was a successful businesswoman in her own right, there were many people that would think there was something wrong if she was unmarried.
Looking back and forth between the scowl on Haruka's face and the semi-innocent look on the male's, the girls did not know what would happen. Which is why they were surprised to see Haruka give a sigh, then have a rueful smile form on her lips. "Still not taking crap from people, huh Keitaro?"
"Learned about that the hard way." Shocking everyone, he leaned forward and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "So where is the old bat, Aunt Haru?"
Rueful smile still on her face, Haruka shook her head. "Took off yesterday, something about a tour of the world's hot springs."
It was now the male's turn to look surprised. "The hell? I know she asked me to be here today, why would she leave a day early?"
"Maybe this has something to do with it." Haruka produced a legal sized manila envelope folded long-ways from her apron and handed it to him. She in turn took Motoko's sword and sheathed it so that he would be able to go through the envelope.
"Haruka-san? Who is this man?" The question came from Naru, who could not keep her silence any longer.
"This is my cousin slash nephew, Kei-kun." The smirk had come back on Haruka's face.
"Oh ha ha." The male looked up from the envelope he was unsealing. "I was last called that when I was 12 years old." Giving an abbreviated bow, he kept his eyes on the girls. "My name is Keitaro Urashima, grandson of Hina Urashima, owner of the Hinata Inn... and I guess dorm now."
"How long has it been since you came here last? You didn't even know this was a dorm." This question came from Kitsune, who had been quiet until now.
"Back when I was fourteen, before I started senior high school. I was too busy studying and practicing to come visit here, and Granny would come to my family's house to visit." Keitaro had broken the seal on the envelope and pulled some legal looking documents out. "All I know is that I got a message from Granny saying to be here by today, that it was important family business. Luckily I just got back to Tokyo, so I was able to make it." Looking over Haruka he asked, "Do you know what this is all about?"
"Yeah, but why ruin the surprise?" Haruka seemed grimly eager for something.
"This is a girl's dorm, Haruka-san, this male can not stay here, even if he is a family member of the owner." Motoko spoke up finally.
"You would be surprised, Motoko." Haruka's eyes were now focused on Keitaro, who was now reading the documents rapidly - and maybe even frantically.
Finally, his eyes snapped up to Haruka. "You have got to be shitting me." Keitaro's words were in English, his voice was flat, with a hint of incredulousness.
"I shit you not, nephew." Haruka was now smirking again as she replied in English before switching back to Japanese. "You are now the proud future owner and current manager of the Hinata Inn and the surrounding lands and properties."
The silence lasted for a few seconds before all Hell broke loose.