Chapter 51

V 1.0

A/N 1: For info regarding the music in the last third of this chapter go to the end of the update for the usual details.

Hinata Inn Dormitory
Hinata City, Kanagawa Prefecture
Metro Tokyo, Japan
January 20, early morning

Sarah was not someone that liked waking up early in the morning, but it was not something that she had a lot of choice about, especially since she had to do so to get ready to go to school. But what really irked her were the days that she did not have to wake up early and she did so anyway out of habit. It almost always happened Saturday morning, although she was able to go back to sleep a few minutes later. Sundays were usually okay, since she no longer had to go to church services early in the morning in order to beat the rush; the only thing worse than waking up early was sitting in a hard wooden pew that was packed cheek to jowl with people.

Laying on her side in her Western bed, Sarah watched as Nyamo got ready for the day. Normally the two girls would be moving about getting dressed, but since the blonde was still feeling the effects of her chi usage, she was staying home from school for a few days. Not that she was enjoying her respite from the Japanese school system; the hangover symptoms she had felt the first day had changed to those similar to the flu, with body aches, chills and the occasional shakes. The only thing different was her appetite; she was now eating double to triple what she had before and was always feeling hungry now. Sarah was still feeling weak, and the few times she got up from bed she walked with the aid of a carved wooden walking stick that Keitaro had given her, or as she called it, her pimp cane.

Nyamo usually was the one to wake first and then rouse her roommate. Sarah would then go take a quick shower and come back to the room to get dressed while the islander girl would take her own shower. In this case however Sarah had been awakened by the sounds of her roomie moving around, so the blonde was able to watch without interruption what the other girl's morning routine was. Which to her surprise included calisthenics, although of the slow isometric kind. Nyamo would take ten seconds to do a sit up that another person could do in two seconds, but Sarah could just imagine the burn she would get from doing them that slow. Locked leg pushups were done the same way, with a total of twenty reps each.

"You going to be doing this too. Need to build up strength and core." With a start, Sarah's eyes moved over to her roommate's face. She had not been perving on her roomie's tank top and panty clad body as her muscles flexed under her tan skin. No siree Bob.

Nyamo moved up to her feet and started to remove her undergarments, tossing them in her hamper before walking into the bathroom carrying only a fresh pair of panties, totally unconscious of being nude in front of her roommate. Sarah was used to the dusky girl walking in and out of the shower naked, but it was one thing to be aware of the other girl being unclothed while rushing around to get ready herself, but it was another to watch Nyamo's heart shaped butt as she walked away from her. Paraphrasing what a wise man once said, she hated to see her go but loved to watch her leave.

Sarah shook her head to clear it of pervy thoughts while she considered what her roommate had said. With her permission Keitaro had told Nyamo about her chi usage and his plans to help train her to use it safely, since her roomie would be closest to her and would see if anything would be going awry as a result of the training. Nyamo herself would not undergo the chi training but she would be helping with some of the conditioning and core building exercises. Apparently some of the training included hand-to-hand fighting, and since Nyamo had shown her some Escrima moves back on Koh Tao, she was going to build on that.

Rolling onto her back, Sarah thought back to her initial knife training at the hands of the islander girl. When the American teen asked why they were starting with armed training when almost all other of the other martial arts she knew about (not that she knew much about them, mind you) started bare handed and then went to armed techniques, Nyamo had taught her a basic block of a Angle One overhead stab from above and right (i.e. the slasher movie stab a la the Scream movies) and made her practice for five minutes straight (which was a lot of reps – one every five seconds totaling sixty reps overall), with the islander girl using a rolled up piece of paper as a fake knife. Once she got the move down, Nyamo had tossed the paper 'knife' aside and then executed an overhand right hand roundhouse punch aimed at her face. Without thinking Sarah did the Angle One block with her left arm, her outer wrist slamming up against Nyamo's inside arm while her right hand started to punch toward the islander girl's face. Sarah halted her punch before it had traveled halfway, only for her friend to give her one of her rare shy smiles at the accomplishment. Nyamo had gone on to teach her some more blocks and responses before she got grabbed by the pirates, but she had not really practiced them since then: she guessed it was time to start that up again.

Hearing a drawer slide open, Sarah rolled her head over to see that a panty-clad Nyamo had apparently exited the bathroom and was currently pulling out a clean bra from her dresser. Watching as the girl pulled on the undergarment and hook the cups together in front of her, she then took out some white knee high stockings and carefully pulled them on.

Unable to resist temptation Sarah gave a low wolf whistle. "Hey Nyamo, how much do you think I would get from the pervs at school for a picture of you dressed like that?"

"Not much. Think only get 2000 yen." Nyamo had a slight blush as she spoke. "Picture of you start at 5000 yen."

"What." Sarah's voice was flat at the statement.

"People don't notice me, sometimes talk about things would not say in front of other people. Some students take pictures with cellphone, try to get risqué photos of pretty girls. Heard boy offer money to girl to try and take pictures of you in locker room, give her percentage of sales to other boys. Girl say no, but I think boy may ask other girls if they will do it," explained Nyamo.

"Crap! Do you think some girl did it?" Sarah was seriously pissed, and concerned that some jealous flat-chested girl would do something like that – five thousand yen was the equivalent to fifty American dollars, not an insubstantial sum to a high school student.

"Don't think so, heard talk just during lunch day you got hurt, we had PE after, I stayed facing out when changing, didn't see anyone try." Now that Sarah though about it, Nyamo had stayed at her side when she had been changing that day even though she had already put on her PE clothes. Evidently she had been on the lookout for someone trying to covertly take pictures.

"Thanks, Nyamo-chan. I owe you one." Sarah usually did not use honorifics with Nyamo, so this was her way of showing how much she meant what she was saying; a reverse of the Japanese custom and a way to show her affection to her friend.

Blushing slightly again, Nyamo merely nodded before turning to her wardrobe and pulling out the long sleeve white blouse, navy blue jumper and skirt she was to wear that day. But to Sarah's surprise she lay the garments aside and instead picked up a rolled up bandage sitting on top of her dresser. Using a skill that apparently came from practice, she started winding the bandage around her left forearm from her wrist to her elbow, which to the American girl's eyes did not have any injury, the tan fabric almost matching the color of her tanned skin. Tucking in the end of the wrapping, the islander girl repeated the process with another bandage on her right forearm, before opening a drawer and taking out -

"Whoa! Are those knives you have there?!" Sarah blinked at the sight of two medium sized sheathed knives in her friend's hands.

"Yes. Always carry with me." Tossing one of the knives atop of her uniform, Nyamo took the other one and slid it under the bandage on the inside of her left arm, the wooden sheath keeping her from being cut. The knife and sheath was almost entirely covered except for about half of the handle, with a loop of fabric around the butt end to ensure the knife would not slip free.

"Mind if I look at one?" Sarah asked, surprised that her friend was apparently carrying concealed weapons.

Nyamo handed over the other knife, and Sarah studied it for a moment. The sheath and handle were a medium tan color, made of what looked to be cherry wood. Holding the sheath with her off hand, the blonde girl slowly pulled the blade out, revealing a sharpened steel blade with a shape that looked somewhat familiar. After a couple of seconds thought she recognized it; it was the same style knife that Shinobu used to prepare food when she was cooking, only this blade was about half the size, "Where the hell did you get this?"

"Bought in supermarket, called bento knife. Used for bento lunches, made to fit inside lunch box." All of the Hinata girls would take packed homemade lunches to school, the food usually leftovers from Shinobu's meals but still much better than the prepackaged food sold at mealtime.

"You know that carrying this as a weapon is as illegal as hell, right?" Sarah had only been in Japan for a few months, but even she knew about the draconian weapon laws in place. The gun laws were enough to give the anti-gun activists back home wet dreams, with permits needed to even possess guns, after extensive background, medical and mental health examinations, with renewals and inspections every year. Only police and yakuza commonly had guns, and the fines and prison sentences were such that even the yakuza was getting away from using them, except when they were trying to kill each other; at that point the police would just stand back and keep score, stepping in only when civilians were endangered. The knife and sword laws were almost as bad, as anything over 15 cm (six inches) needed a permit to even possess. The one she was holding looked to have a blade length of 10 cm (four inches).

"But only lunchbox knife, no mean to hurt no one." To Sarah's surprise Nyamo's eyes appeared to get larger and she bit her lip, making her look like a shy scared schoolgirl instead of her usual somber self.

"You know, the cops might try to charge you for using kawaii-ness as a lethal weapon." Sarah used the Japanese term for overwhelming cuteness.

"Use everything you have at hand. I don't want to use these for real, only had to pull once in Japan, man ran off." Nyamo took back the knife and tucked it under her right arm bandage.

"What!? When!?" Sarah was shocked, as this was the first she heard of this.

"On trolley last week, went to store to get something for Shinobu-chan. Man tried to touch me, no move away when I push back, try to put hand under skirt. Put knife against his little man, he nearly jump out of car, run away at next stop." Nyamo dressed as she spoke, putting on her blouse and jumper. As close as Sarah looked she could not see the knives under her sleeves, even when she was buttoning the sleeve cuffs, leaving them a little loose. Finally smoothing her clothing, Nyamo looked like a properly dressed student.

"What do you do when you can't wear long sleeves?" Sarah asked curiously.

"Tape knife to upper arm under sleeve or tuck in waistband. Cannot do that with this skirt, too loose." Picking up a brush, Nyamo gave her long black hair a few quick strokes to put it in order before tucking the strands near her face behind her ears.

"And what will you do when you have to wear your swimsuit at school?" It was too cold to swim in the outdoor pool this time of year, but that would change in a few months.

Raising her index finger to her lips, Nyamo gave a faint smile. "Is secret."

"Urrgg." Sarah flopped onto her back before a loud grumble sounded from her stomach. "Ug, time to feed the beast again." Sitting up, the blonde girl tossed the covers back and swung her legs over the side of the bed, revealing that she had been wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants as sleepwear. Grabbing her walking stick, the teen slowly stood up and after putting on her slippers, started walking toward the door, her friend behind her and within arms' reach as they left the room and headed toward the kitchen and breakfast.

Deparment of Sciences East Building,
University of Tokyo,
Hongo Campus
Metro Tokyo, Japan
late morning, January 20

Moving slowly through the crowds, Miyuki and Natsumi walked with their heads swiveling back and forth as they took in the sights. The University of Tokyo was notable for not having sustained major damage during the American firebombing raids of the Pacific War, so many of the older buildings were of the prewar years, ironically built after the Great Kanto Earthquake and Fire of 1923, which did result in large-scale damage. While there were many structures and buildings from the imperial era that were designated national cultural treasures like the Aka Mon (Red Gate), there were some notable buildings that were built in the European inspired style called Uchida Gothic, named after the Todai graduate and later president who developed it. Most of the other buildings were built in the modern styles seen everywhere in Japan today.

Today the two young women entered through the Main Gate at the south of the campus and were gradually making their way north, skirting the edge of Sanjuro Pond, where they had their reunion with Keitaro not so long ago. Given that this time they were not moving at a near run to get to their erstwhile boyfriend, they were walking at a slow pace this cool sunny morning, looking at the various buildings and people, having a few minutes before their agreed upon time at Seta's office to meet Keitaro to take him to lunch…and maybe drag him off to a love hotel to spend some quality time with their lover. And if they couldn't get him off campus, well there were always utility closets that could be used, or they would throw Seta out of his office and lock the door.

The couple was a short distance from the staircase leading to the front door of the building when Miyuki realized that her partner was no longer beside her but had in fact slowed down to almost a halt. The black haired girl was about to ask why her friend had stopped when she recognized the look on her face; Natsumi's eyes, hidden behind sunglasses, were apparently fixed on something in front of her, and she was biting her lower lip as she was staring at something or someone. Turning her head, Miyuki traced the line of slight and saw what she was staring at. To her annoyance, it turned out to be a who.

A girl with long brown wavy hair was walking a few meters in front of them. Wearing what looked to be a snug tan button-up sweater over a long brown calf length skirt, the girl looked to be headed into the same building they were. But even though the skirt was loose around the legs, it fit rather closely around her hips, showcasing her large rounded shapely rear below her narrow waist.

Biting back the spark of jealousy that sprang up - she was happy with her body, even if it did not look like it should be on a gravure magazine cover - Miyuki waited until her partner eventually caught up with her before reaching over and lightly slapping Natsumi on the back of the head.

"Huh!? What was that for?!" The brown-haired girl looked sideways at her partner.

"You were staring at that girl. You were practically drooling." Miyuki was standing with her arms crossed under her chest, looking more stern than she really felt; she knew that Natsumi was not going to cheat on her or anything like that, but she did feel it was rude to be staring at pretty girls like some hormonal teen boy.

"I wasn't drooling!" Natsumi exclaimed, even as her hand absently went up to her chin to make sure that was indeed the case. It was not like she could deny the staring part though. "She was ahead of us, I needed to see where I was going."

"Hn." Miyuki stared at her lover for a long moment. "How would you take it if someone was staring at you like that?"

"Um… probably not as well as she is." Natsumi was gazing past Miyuki toward the building they had been walking toward, and the black-haired girl turned to see what she was looking at.

The long brown-haired girl had stopped at the head of the stairs and was now looking down at them. Now that they could see the front of her, one thing was immediately apparent – the girl's bust was at least time and a half bigger than Natsumi's and almost twice as big as Miyuki's. But what was more striking than her figure was the look on her face; instead of looking angry or upset, the girl looked amused. Seeing that they were looking at her the brunette raised her hand and while smiling at them wiggled her fingers in a 'bye-bye' gesture before turning and walking into the building.

"See? No harm done." Natsumi glanced at Miyuki with a puppy dog look on her face, who returned it with a minor glare.

"And what would you say if you ran into her somewhere after this?" Given her partner's tendencies, Miyuki was not surprised by her response.

"Nice ass, wanna screw?" Natsumi's hopeful expression was knocked off her face when Miyuki dope-slapped the back of her head before trying again. "Nice boots, where did you get them? And would you mind modeling them for me some more?" The black-haired girl snorted, turned away from her lover and walked toward the building, the brown-haired girl following behind her with a grin on her face. "You gotta admit, they were very nice boots!" Miyuki kept silent while she marched on; she was not about to admit it out loud, but the calf-height brown leather low heeled boots had been very nice to look at, although nothing compared to the butt above them.

After a silent ride up the elevator (broken up by some chaste make-up kisses, plus a quick mirror check to make sure their lipstick had not smeared) the two girls approached Seta's faculty office. Although it was only slightly larger than a broom closet, it was assigned to him alone, even if he split it with his assistant. Once they got close they could see that the door was slightly open, and voices could be heard speaking from inside the office.

"It's not like I don't want to go to lunch with you Mutsumi-chan, but I was going to meet up with a couple of friends right now. I don't think they will mind if you come along." Keitaro's voice was immediately recognizable, even as the two girls frowned at his words; their lunch plans had included a digestif of steamy three-way sex, preferably in a love hotel bed.

A contralto voice spoke up next. "Usually, most boys don't mind my coming along with their friends; in fact they ask me to do it all the time." The female voice sounded more than a little like an airhead, even though she sounded like a nice person otherwise.

"It's not that, Mutsumi-chan." Here Keitaro's voice paused for a noticeable moment before resuming to speak. "The friends I'm meeting with are Miyuki-san and Natsumi-san."

The two girls being spoken about had barely enough time to scowl at the use of the formal honorific before the girl in the office responded. "Ara, your two girlfriends are coming over for a nooner, Keitaro-kun? How naughty, didn't you think that maybe I want to join in as well?"

Even as Miyuki's eyes grew large at the (truthful) implications, Natsumi pushed open the door to the office a little harder than needed causing it to bang against the wall. Stepping in, she came to a halt, her eyes widening as well as she saw who was in the office.

Sitting behind his desk was a broadly grinning Noriyasu Seta leaning back in his chair. Standing next to his own desk was Keitaro Urashima, a pained expression on his face. But the biggest surprise was the third person; it was the long brown-haired girl from the stairs outside.

"Hi there, Natsumi-chan, Miyuki-chan. It's good to see you." Keitaro was the first to speak, his nervous tone of voice contrasting with what he was saying.

"Hello Keitaro-kun, Seta-kun, Miss." Miyuki was the first to respond as she stepped into the office, as Natsumi was visibly surprised to see the girl she had been ogling before in front of her.

"Oh, hello," The busty brunette smiled widely at the two other girls, "My name is Mutsumi Otohime, it's good to finally met you," she said causing Natsumi to twitch slightly.

"You all have met before?" Seta asked, his smile still apparent on his face.

"Oh yes, but we did not have the chance to talk." This time both Miyuki and Natsumi twitched as Mutsumi continued to speak. "It's not often that I meet girls that are happy to see me, I think they get a little jealous, I don't know why." Here the brunette pouted a little, now causing Keitaro to twitch as well.

"Keitaro-kun, is this a friend of yours?" Miyuki was the only one of the duo speaking, as Natsumi still appeared to be in shock.

"Yes, Mutsumi-chan is a tenant at the Hinata-sou, she's also a Todai ronin. We met here at the campus, as a matter of fact." Keitaro's eyes were going back and forth between his two girlfriends, trying to determine if either of them was upset, so he was surprised when Mutsumi stepped right in front of Natsumi, took her right hand in both of hers and pressed it against her large soft chest.

"I'm so happy to meet you both, I hope we can be good friends." The sunny smile on Mutsumi's face almost became blinding.

"N- Ni- Ni-" Natsumi was having some trouble trying to speak, a thin trickle of blood leaking from one side of her nose. It was not until Miyuki reached over and tapped her on the back of the head that the words came out.

"Nice boots!" Natsumi's face darkened in a blush before she spoke again. "I mean, nice to meet you, Mutsumi-chan." Behind her Miyuki rolled her eyes at her partner's one track mind.

"They are nice boots, I got them on sale." Mutsumi released Natsumi's hand, took a step back and spun in place, her skirt floating around her until the younger girl came to a halt with her back toward her and looking back over her shoulder, a leg extending out and back. "They make my legs look slimmer, don't you think?" Natsumi merely nodded in agreement, now unable to speak, her eyes fixed on the leg leading up under the loose skirt to her rounded bottom.

"Um, ladies, we have to get going, I don't have that long a meal period." Keitaro was standing off to the side watching this, his expression the same as someone who's watching a train approaching a stalled car full of puppies and kittens.

"Don't worry about that, Keitaro-kun. In fact take the afternoon off, there isn't anything that can't wait until Monday." The look on Seta's face showed that he knew he was throwing his protégé under the bus and found it hugely amusing.

"Goody! This way we can all talk about how we met Keitaro-kun, I'm sure it will be a good story." Mutsumi reached over and taking Keitaro's hand almost pulled him out of the office, the two older girls scrambling to keep up. Seta kept grinning but could not help but laugh when he heard a fading voice from the hallway say, "And maybe we can still squeeze in that nooner after lunch!"

Hinata Inn Dormitory
Hinata City, Kanagawa Prefecture
Metro Tokyo, Japan
January 20, mid afternoon

Hikari Horaki did not know what to think of the Urashima family. Having lived in Kanazawa-ku for all of her life, there was no way *not* to know of them. But it was one thing to hear the talk of the family that owned interests in what was rumored to be almost half of the commercial properties of Kanagawa Prefecture and various others in Metro Tokyo. A family that kept to the shadows, but would fall on those that hurt those they cared about like an avalanche. A family that had been in the area for almost four hundred years, that had been the feudal lords for the land there under the Tokugawa until the Meiji restoration, yet managed to keep their influence even after they lost most of their official status. A family that was led by an old woman that some called the Demon of Hinata, or the Smiling Death. But it was another thing entirely to be standing at the foot of the hill that the Hinata Inn was situated on.

As she trudged up the multitude of steps, Hikari reflected on what she personally knew about the Urashima. She had known that Shinobu and Kaolla lived at the Hinata Dormitory, but it did not occur to her that the Dormitory and the Inn were the same thing. Whereas the teachers and class reps at school would deal with the parents of the students on educational and disciplinary matters, in Shinobu and Kaolla's case they were dealt with directly by the school administration. When Hikari had first heard that, she had presumed it was because in Shinobu's case there was nothing to discuss since she did well with her grades and her interactions at school, and in Kaolla's case because when she did act up her actions were such that they immediately went up to the top of the school food chain.

Getting to the top of the stairs, Hikari paused for a moment to catch her breath. Looking at the Western influenced house, she thought back to the time she had met Hina Urashima five years ago. Her family had been shopping in Hinata City when they had come across a short elderly woman with iron grey hair tied in a small bun on the top of her head, a large handbag slung across her chest and wearing a casual blouse, slacks and sneakers, a small grin permanently affixed to her face. She looked like any oba-sama one would encounter on the street, but the reaction of her parents put the lie to that; for a moment Hikari had thought that they were going to throw themselves to the ground, they were bowing so deeply. After a couple moments of this the old woman ordered them to stop, patted her baby sister Nozomi on the head, gave her and her older sister Kodama a piece of candy, asked her parents how they were doing, and after talking for a couple minutes then walked off. When Hikari had asked who the elderly lady was, her father had told her that Hina-sama was probably the most important person they would ever meet, that she was a friend of the family, and that there could be no better friend or no worst enemy than Hina and the Urashima. Those words had stuck in her head ever since, and she had immediately thought of them when she had met her grandson.

There was only one word that could describe Keitaro Urashima when she had first met him in the infirmary at school after Sarah had been knocked out in the race: pissed. She had answered his questions after he talked to Shinobu, Kaolla and Aki, and his face looked like a thunderstorm in human form. Even the older lady that had come with him, his cousin Haruka with her emotionless demeanor, did not make the teen as nervous as the young man who was only a few years her senior.

This afternoon after class had been dismissed, Hikari had asked Sensei Wada if she knew how long Sarah McDougal was going to be out of school, since she had been absent that day. The teacher's face had visibly twitched at the American girl's name before tersely answering that she was to be out for a week. When Hikari asked if she should assemble a work packet of the assignments that Sarah would otherwise miss to take to her home, the teacher waved her off in a faint acknowledgment before abruptly leaving the classroom. While she was assembling the various assignments (as Class Rep she had access to the teachers' lesson plans) she recalled the gossip about Sensei Wada having arrived to her first class of the day with an ashen look on her face, apparently having be summoned to the administration offices before school started, and it had something to do with the American girl and a visit by her guardian. When one of the boys in class asked where Sarah was, not having come in with the other Hinata girls, Wada's face had twitched before calling the class to order rather than waiting for the class rep to do it.

After assembling the required paperwork Hikari had realized that all three of the Hinata girls had already left. Shinobu was part of the Cooking Club, but they did not meet on that day, Su was a member of the Science Club but came and left as she pleased (she would occasionally drop off some gadget that somehow violated the laws of physics for the other members to marvel at) and Nyamo had not joined a club, since she was a part of the non-university basic education track the extracurricular club activity was not a requirement. So, silently cursing her dedication to duty, Hikari called home to tell them she was going to drop off some paperwork at a sick student's home and made her way to the Hinata Inn, first by trolley, then a five minute walk, then the long slog up the stairs. And now staring at the house in front of her, she finally walked up to the front door and pushed the door bell. After a few moments, the door opened and the last person she expected was standing before her.

Keitaro was still shaking his head as he walked toward the front door. He had just arrived home and dropped off his knapsack on his study table when he heard the door bell ring. Given that he was probably the only person currently on the ground floor at the Hinata-sou it was up to him to answer the bell. He had not seen anyone on his way up but that did not mean much, as he and Mutsumi had come in the back way, having arrived in an electric cart taxi he had an arrangement with for when the brunette had to go up the hill from school; the last thing he wanted was to have the sickly resident have one of her fainting spells when she was walking up or down the hill alone.

The manager was happy he had survived the luncheon with Miyuki, Natsumi, and Mutsumi somewhat intact. He did not know if it was deliberate on her part, but the busty brunette's innocently-risqué personality was such that half the time he either wanted to face-palm or just start banging his head against the table. It had started with Mutsumi telling his two incredulous girlfriends how she had met him, including the French kissing, and it had only gone downhill from there. But for now the Okinawan native had gone to her room for a nap, and Keitaro had been planning to check up on Sarah when he heard the doorbell.

Opening the door, he saw a girl wearing the same school uniform as the younger residents. After a moment's thought he recognized her; it was Hikari Horaki, the Class Representive from the Hinata girls' homeroom. What gave him pause was the nervous look on her face; thinking about it he realized why that would be.

"Good afternoon, Horaki-san. How can I help you?" Keitaro smiled slightly to try and put the girl at ease.

"Good day, Urashima-san. I am here to give Sarah-san her assignments for the time she is going to be out of school." Hikari tried to smile, but she was still visibly nervous.

"I don't think Sarah-kun will be happy to hear that." The smile on Keitaro's face widened. "Not that I mind you being here, but why didn't you just give the paperwork to the other girls? They could have brought it over."

"I was going to, but the other girls had already left class by the time I had assembled the assignments. I did not want the weekend to pass in case Sarah-san is going to come back to school sooner and not have the work done," explained Hikari.

"Well, you are a credit to your position for doing that, Horaki-san. If you want to see her I can take you to her room." Keitaro took a step back and opened the door wide.

"Thank you, Urashima-san." Hikari stepped inside and quickly replaced her outdoor shoes with the visitor slippers that were provided.

"Do me a favor, Horaki-san, please call me Keitaro. Calling me Urashima-san makes me sound too old, I'm not that much older than you." Keitaro turned and started walking toward the stairs, Hikari following behind him.

"But you're from a noble clan, I have to be respectful." It was more than that; anyone that could put the fear of the gods into the apathetic staff and administration at school was someone she did *not* want to offended. The look on his face the other day when she told him what had happened at the track when Sarah got hurt was the other, unspoken reason.

Keitaro stopped at the foot of the stairs before turning and looking at her. "Actually I think what happened is I gave a bad first impression when we last spoke. I must apologize," Hikari was surprised to see him give her a quick head bow, "I am normally not like that. Sarah-kun and the other girls are like family to me, and that was the first day I had heard about what had been happening to her at school."

Looking at the young man's solemn face right now, Hikari could believe what he was saying to her that he had regretted how he had acted the other day. But she also remembered what her father had told her so many years ago about the Urashima; no better friend, no worse enemy.

"There is no need to apologize, you did not do anything wrong. And if you insist, I will do as you say, Keitaro-san." Hikari smiled to show there were no hard feelings. "You can call me by my first name as well if you like."

"Thank you, Hikari-san, I'm happy to hear that." Keitaro eyed her expression for a moment. "Is your family the descendants of a samurai clan from this area?"

Hikari blinked in surprise at the question. "Yes we are, my family has been living around here for the last three hundred years or so, retainers to the local lord. After the Meiji restoration they put away the sword and went into the civil service. We never really achieved high rank but we did well for ourselves. My grandfather retired a few years ago at mid-level rank, and a couple of my uncles are still there. My father got an engineering degree and is a designer at Mitsubishi."

The slight smile on Keitaro's face formed again. "You don't know who the lord is they served?"

"Not off hand, I was rather young when my grandfather told me about it." Seeing the slight smile on Keitaro's face Hikari came to a quick realization. "My family served the Urashima?"

"Not only the Urashima. My ancestor Taro Urashima and your ancestor Hideo Horaki served together during the Sengoku Wars, with your ancestor as a hatamoto bodyguard to the daimyo and my ancestor as a scribe and later adjutant to the General Staff. They saved each other's lives during the war and became good friends. When Taro-sama was made hatamoto and daimyo of this area, Hideo-sama asked to be released by his lord so he could serve his friend, and Lord Tokugawa granted his request," Keitaro finished saying.

"Just a moment. Lord Tokugawa released him?" Hikari asked incredulously. "My family served the Tokugawa?!"

"Not just the Tokugawa. They served under Ieyasu Tokugawa up to and during the Battle of Sekigahara." Keitaro stopped speaking when he saw figurative swirls appear in Hikari's eyes at that piece of information. To give some context, it was the same as saying that a Westerner's ancestor had served with Washington at the Battle of Yorktown ending the American Revolutionary War or with Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. "But enough of that. If you want to speak some more about this we can talk over tea once you give those papers to Sarah-kun," nodding toward the packet in her hand.

After a quick shake of her head, Hikari's eyes cleared. "Yes, of course. I don't want to take up your time, Keitaro-san."

"It's not a problem, Hikari-san. I'm always happy to help." She watched as the young man was about to start walking up the stairs when they both heard faint sounds that made them stop and turn in place.

Sarah was sitting on the bench, slowly tinkling the piano keys before her. It was not something that the other residents of the Inn knew about, but the young girl occasionally had undergone bouts of melancholy in her life, starting when her mother had passed away. If she sat and thought too much about her life Sarah would start to become listless and tired; it was one of the reasons she tried to keep herself busy, even if it was making trouble. Of course, it did not compare to the time she spent in that humid spot-lit room in Roanapur, which had affected her badly even if she kept it fairly well hidden. But there were not really anyone she could talk to about it, especially here in Japan. It was not because she felt ashamed of herself or something, it was because Seta, Gaz, and Keitaro had done some spectacularly illegal things to get her out of that literal hellhole, and she did not want to get them in trouble. But now that she was feeling sickly and tired from her chi usage, she was having trouble finding something to keep her mind occupied, and her mood had taken a downturn with it.

After eating breakfast and being surprised again by how much food she was putting away now, Sarah had returned to her room and tried to keep busy by reading, but her attention kept wandering. Her fiction novels, her Japanese school books, even Su's massive stockpile of manga and doujinshi she had access to via a tablet the mad scientist girl had given her to access her main computer did little to keep her interested for long, until it was finally time to eat again at midday.

After eating her now normal triple portion of food alone (Kitsune was working a shift at the Teahouse at the bottom of the hill), Sarah had napped for a while on the living room couch instead of going back to her room. When she woke, she began to slowly explore the ground floor of the Inn. There was not that much to look at, given that one wing of rooms were closed and not in use, the other wing contained Keitaro and Kanako's rooms along with the guest room that her father occasionally stayed in when he was visiting, and the main access to the hot springs bath area and laundry. The center house area contained the front entryway, the living room, the formal dining room, the kitchen and pantry, various storage areas and oddly enough an empty room with straw mats on the ground and rice paper screens in front of the walls. The screens could be slid back and forth on tracks, and it was this feature that lead to her discovery; behind one of the panels was a door, one that was unlocked.

For a moment Sarah paused. It was understood among the tenants that if a room was locked and it was not your personal room, you had no business going in there. Even Kitsune followed that rule, since there was no way that she wanted to endanger her tenancy at the Inn, and she knew that Keitaro would not hesitate to swing the hammer if she messed up bad enough. But since this looked to be a non-resident room, and it was not locked, even if it was hidden, she would not get in too much trouble by looking in. Fumbling around the inside of the doorframe, Sarah finally found the light switch and flipped it on, illuminating the room.

At first it looked like the room was some kind of formal parlor, since she could see upholstered chairs and sofas scattered about the polished wooden floor, as well as some small tables with lamps on top of them and some small throw rugs. In fact, it looked more than a little like a funeral parlor, something she did not have fond memories of. Taking a step inside, she noticed another door to the left leading out of the room, one that according to her mental map of the Inn was located on the main hallway, and one that to her memory and chagrin certainly was locked. It was only when she turned to leave that she saw what was to the right of the room; a grand piano.

Moving slowly, Sarah walked over and sat down at the bench in front of the keyboard. Opening the cover, she could see that the keys had the yellowed patina of genuine ivory which made her cringe, but that was nothing compared to what she felt when she saw the words embossed above the keys: Steinway & Sons, Hamburg, Germany.

Almost afraid to do so, Sarah reached out and pressed a key; even with the lid down the resulting note was clearer and sharper than any she had heard in person. The pieces she had heard the teacher play during the few lessons she had received when she was elementary school was nothing compared to that single note.

After slowly picking her way down the keyboard to get a feel for the notes (something that she knew was a result of her newly discovered perfect pitch abilities) Sarah stared at the keys under her fingers for a long moment. She was in no mood to try and replicate some bouncy pop song, and even with her inherent skills there was no way she could give a piece of classical music it's due. But there was a song she had recently heard through Su's tablet (which had access to damn near every piece of music ever recorded) that should be simple enough. Slowly, she began to play a slow song with a heavy base line, and after about a minute she began to softly sing.

Oh father tell me, do we get what we deserve?
Do we get what we deserve?

And way down we go
Go, go, go
And way down we go,
Go, go, go, go
Our way down we go
Say way down we go, oh, oh
Way down we go.

Wo, you let your feet run wild
Time has come as we all, oh, go down

Yeah but for the fall oh, my
Do you dare look at him right in the eye?

Cause they will run you down, down to the dark,
Yes and run you down, down till you fall
And they will run you down, down till you go,
Yeah so you can't crawl no more, oh

And way down we go,
go, go, go, go
And way down we go…

Sarah continued playing the base line for a few moments before she felt the hair on the back of her neck start to rise. She had learned to recognize that feeling, the feeling of being watched.

Going still, she slowly turned around. Her instincts had been correct; standing in the open doorway was Hikari Horaki and behind her and slightly to the side was Keitaro Urashima. Her guardian had a solemn look on his face, but it was her classmate that surprised her; Hikari actually had tears in her eyes.

"You didn't have to stop playing, you know." Keitaro's statement caused Sarah to give him a sardonic look that silently replied, yeah right.

"That was so pretty and so sad, Sarah-san. I didn't know you knew how to play piano." Hikari was wiping at her eyes, but stilled when she heard her reply.

"I don't play piano." Hikari stared at Sarah incredulously before she continued. "I have perfect pitch. I can replicate music I've heard before, but then again a monkey could do the same if you gave them enough bananas."

"Sarah-san!" Hikari's cry of indignation was nothing compared to what the blonde felt when Keitaro frowned at her.

"Sarah-chan." She almost gave her automatic reply to the hated honorific but the look on his face stopped her. "There is magic in music, magic and power. You of all people should know this."

She swallowed the lump that formed in her throat at those words. As much as did not want to admit it, her singing had saved her life in Roanapur. Staring into Keitaro's dark brown eyes, she knew that she could not deny that fact, but that did not mean she had wanted to admit it out loud.

"Move over." At his words Sarah scooted down on the bench so that Keitaro could sit down beside her. Looking over at Hikari he said, "You can sit if you like, but this won't take long." Once the twin-tailed girl perched on a nearby chair, Keitaro reached out to the piano and began to play a classical piece, one that Sarah was sure she heard before but did not recognize. It was a dual melody song, with one hand playing at a different tempo than the other, sometimes together, sometimes alternating. The song only lasted a couple of minutes, but the two girls could feel the haunting sorrow in the piece of music.

"What was that song, Keitaro-san?" Hikari asked after a few moments of silence.

"Chopin, Nocturne in C-sharp minor. That song saved someone's life." Seeing the puzzlement on the two girls' faces Keitaro continued to speak. "During World War II a Polish girl named Natalia Hubler and her sister were sent to a concentration camp, and they were asked what skills they had on arrival, to decide if they were useful enough to be kept alive. She said she could play the piano, so she performed that song for Amon Goeth, the camp commandant, and impressed him so much that he spared her life and that of her sister. They survived the war and later she became a famous concert pianist, and lived until her nineties. So yes, there is power in music." Looking at the two girls he could see tears again in Hikari's eyes, and acknowledgment in Sarah's. She recognized the name of the commandant; Amon Goeth had been portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in the film Schindler's List, and was the closest thing to a monster in human skin she had ever seen until Roanapur.

Closing the lid to the keyboard, Keitaro stood and offered his hand to the blonde girl, who came to her feet as well. "How is it that you play piano, Keitaro-san? I never knew that you could play." Sarah asked as she began to move toward the open door.

"Because I was that monkey with the bananas." Hearing the two girls stop walking, he turned to see them staring at him, so he continued talking. "Every summer when I was growing up until I entered high school I stayed here at the Inn for family training. Mostly it was in learning the family and other martial arts, but one year I had broken my leg and I couldn't do the physical training. Granny Hina didn't believe in wasting learning time, so for that summer I had to learn to play piano. Eight hours a day, six days a week. Plus exercise that didn't involve my leg, like push ups." Seeing the horror on their faces, he smiled thinly. "At the end of the summer normally I had to fight a master of the style I was studying in order to advance to dan rank in that style. That year I had to play in a recital with dedicated music students and not give away that I was a beginner."

"And did you?" Sarah's eyes were wide open at that little tidbit.

"Yes. Not only did I pass, I got a ribbon for best technical performance. Just because I could play the music doesn't mean I could make them feel it in their hearts. That's the ability that you have Sarah-chan, so please don't denigrate it." Keitaro gave his ward a half-smile.

Sarah nodded her head. She had heard of some harsh training regimens but that one took the cake. Suddenly the blonde was happy that she had not had to interact with Granny Hina yet, and she hoped she would not have to for a long while.

Keitaro looked down at his wristwatch. "It's getting close to dinner time, so after Hikari-san gives you your assignments go and wash up. Hikari-san, please join us for dinner as well."

"Oh no!" Hikari was shocked; someone of a higher status inviting someone to dinner in their home was a major occasion, and she was not prepared for it. She was still wearing her school uniform, for goodness sake!

"I insist. In fact, I can call your parents to let them know where you are, and if need be escort you home. You went out of your way to help Sarah-kun, it is only fair that you join us for dinner. Besides, you will thank me once you eat Shinobu-chan's food." Keitaro smiled encouragingly.

Hikari hesitated. When it was put that way, it would be rude to refuse the invitation, and her parents would not be happy to hear it. Plus she had once eaten Shinobu's onigiri (stuffed rice balls) in Home Economics class and it was some of the best she had. "When you put it that way, I can only accept, Keitaro-san."

"I'm happy to hear that. I have to go wash up myself. Sarah-kun, if you can show her to your room and then the dining room, I'll see you there." Keitaro waited for the girls to leave the parlor before he closed the door and left for his own room.

A/N 2: Another chapter posted, having taken twice as long as I planned to do so. *sigh* Slowly working my way through current times in Tokyo until it is time to go back to Roanapur. To be honest this is not my favorite part of the story since it does not have the action that was the main draw to this story idea way back in 2011 when I started writing this fic (that long…!) Even the romances I am planning for Keitaro and Sarah don't have the same amount of draw, for lack of a better word, than the action that is going to take place back in Thailand. Part of this is due to the trauma the duo underwent overseas and how they are dealing with it back home. To cheer up the fans of this story that are eagerly awaiting the action part of the story, there are going to be more expys hooking up with Akira/Ronin/Keitaro in Roanapur; at least two from Full Metal Panic, one from Fate Stay/Night, and one canon character from Black Lagoon itself (not Revy! – she is going to hate his ass).

Later this week I am going to Anime Expo 2016 here in Los Angeles, and I extend my traditional invitation to meet any reader that is also attending (no one has ever accepted…pity). What I will do while there is try and get some more art commissioned that I can use in the story, since that is going to come up when Sarah finally finds a club at school she can join. Longtime readers will recall that I commissioned a drawing of Motoko and a drawing of Natsumi, Miyuki, and Keitaro for the story, and I have an idea or two of what to ask for next. Also, since I am on vacation this week and next, I am going to start work on the next chapter of the story posthaste, and maybe even produce an AU lemon involving someone you would never expect. I owe it to my beta AZ, since he finished a lemon of his that had been incomplete for a while, and one with a semi-happy ending to boot.

Virtual walnut chocolate chip cookies to whoever identifies the meme when Natsumi was staring at Mutsumi.

Winner of the last chapter's Most Unusual Place Reading My Story is Poland, with the Runner Up being Ecuador.

As always, thanks to my beta readers AZ MII and PCH, and my new beta WalkerofDarkness for going over this chapter.

As of 0000 PDT 27Jun16 this story has approximately 295K words, 724K Views, 808 Reviews, 61 C2 Listings, 1299 Favorite Listings, and 1200 Story Alerts. Thanks to everyone for reading. *gives victory sign*

A/N 3: Music in this chapter - If you want to hear it while reading the story, open a new tab to YouTube and plug in the details in the parenthesis in the search field to get the correct video. The Chopin clip is selected because that is how I see Keitaro playing that song – very sadly.

Kaleo, Way Down We Go. ( Kaleo Music, Way Down We Go, Official Video)

Frederic Chopin, Nocturne in C-sharp minor, Op. pos. (profslump20078, chopin nocturne, Wladyslaw Szpilman, the pianist)