Hi! It's me again, once again off my medications and ignoring the very sound advice about fools rushing in. As I wondered about Keitaro's durability, I began to ask myself about his lady love and promise girl, Naru. I began to wonder how she came to move into the Hinata Sou as well as why she had such conflicting reactions toward Keitaro, quick to lash out at him even as she clearly deeply cared about him. I've seen other people behave that way in the past and what I've written here is often the reason why. Mr. Borgnine, if you happen to read this, please accept my apologies for any insult my comments on your appearance may have given. I'm actually a fan of yours, but I have seen paintings of Oni from Japanese scrolls and could see where somebody from that part of the world would have made the comparison. I don't own 'Love Hina', 'McHale's Navy' or the characters therein, though the late Chiune Sugihara was a real person whom I have much respect and gratitude for. The funeral and the late arrival depicted here did happen, but the events described here are otherwise conjecture on my part. As always, I hope you enjoy my efforts and I welcome constructive criticism, but flames will be used to chase my English teachers through the countryside with the rest of the mob.
A funeral was the last place Naru wanted to be, especially on a too-warm autumn afternoon, but she had gone at the insistence of her mother and the man her mother had married. She couldn't bring herself to call him her father, even though he insisted on it. Her father had been a diplomat, a man with smiling brown eyes behind his glasses, a warm loving smile that lit up his face and hair that never stayed in place, her fondest memories of him picking her up and catching her in his arms. Naru had been very sick as a child and her father, anxious to find a cure for her, had taken her to an inn managed by a friend of the family, Hinata Urashima. The inn had a hot springs that was believed to be good for the ill and her father had hoped it would help her get well. It did, and she completely recovered from her illness, her father near her the whole time.
Nothing could be done for her father, however, when he became sick a few years later. He had come back from a diplomatic mission for the Japanese government with a case of the sniffles. 'The sniffles' turned out to be much worse, her father developing a fever that claimed his life a few days later, his smiling eyes closed in death, leaving her to mourn him while her mother collapsed in her grief. Her father had been her mother's anchor and without him, her mother couldn't cope with life alone. Eventually her mother married a cousin of her late husband, another member of the Japanese Diplomatic Corps. Her mother's new husband may have had the same name as her father, but that was where the similarities ended, her mother's husband seeming to be more ominous. Like her father, he wore glasses but his glasses lent his face a more sinister air. He smiled easily, but his smile lacked the warmth of her father's, the kindness she had seen in her father's eyes nowhere to be found in her mother's husband's face, and his smile left her afraid of the man her mother had married.
Naru's father had been an honorable and ethical man, traits missing in the man her mother married. After her mother married him, she found that unlike her father, her mother's husband was very obsessive and had a need to control everything down to the very last detail, and there was no room in his ordered world for another man's child. He was interested in girls, however. He kept it hidden from her mother, but he was an Otaku obsessed with schoolgirl uniforms and often presented her friends with his thoughts on the matter. Naru objected which was, sadly, when she learned that he also had a vicious temper just beneath that well-controlled surface that could erupt in an instant. He never hit her but he tore her to shreds daily his remarks cutting and demeaning to her… though he gave her the endearing pet name of 'little monster'. She lived in fear of the day that he would strike at her or worse. To make matters worse, her mother, needing his support, would always side with him, believing anything he told her, leaving her to face the monster her mother had married alone.
He had forced Naru to go with him and her mother to the funeral for Chiune Sugihara, a friend of her late father's who had been a diplomat and the Japanese government felt there should be a delegation at his funeral. Sugihara San had been a believer in the Christian faith so the funeral was held in the Rising Son Chapel. Her mother's husband felt the whole thing was laughable, but he had been the one the Japanese Diplomatic Corps had sent, the three of them arriving fairly early, her mother's husband forcing her to remain close to him. Fearfully she obeyed him even as she wanted nothing more than to be as far from her mother's husband as she could be while the chapel filled with people who had come to say a last good-bye. She was so intent on that at first she didn't notice the elderly men in the uniforms of the US Navy or the frown on the minister's face as he looked toward her mother's husband.
As the chapel filled however, something happened that caught her attention. She recognized one of the last arrivals as Hinata Urashima, the friend of her late father's who had owned the inn she had stayed at when she was sick. She had arrived with a bespectacled teenaged boy a couple of years older than she was, who had promptly tripped over a potted plant that had somehow been misplaced, falling head over heels to land flat on his back with a resounding thud, shattering the plant in the process. Her mother's husband laughed as the young man got to his feet, his laughter harsh and grating as the younger man tried to recover while brushing away the remnants of the potted plant from his clothes, his dark hair an untamed mess that hung over his forehead as he joined Hinata. She couldn't explain it but she felt a wave of sympathy wash through her for him as her mother's husband made her turn to the front once more.
Pastor Kobiaji climbed to the podium a moment later and opened his Bible. "Dearly beloved", he began, looking over the assembled mourners, "we have gathered here today not to mourn the passing, but to celebrate the life, of Chiune Sugihara. In the scriptures, Jesus Christ, the Kami Sama, our Savior, promised us that, if we would place our faith in Him, we would live forever in His paradise. By becoming Born Again, Chiune did that and, even though his body no longer lives, he is more alive now than he could ever have hoped to be because of what Christ has given us. In His word, the Kami Sama, Jesus, tells us 'I am the way, the truth, and the life.' Our friend Chiune chose to follow the way Christ guides us, embrace the truth Christ presents to us, and live the life He offers us all. As a result, Chiune has lived a life that was better than he would have had and he has shrugged off the chains of this life to escape to a better life and freedom with our Lord in His Paradise."
Naru listened as he went on, thinking of the monster by her side that controlled her life. He had taken every opportunity to belittle her, abusing her emotionally if not physically, verbally tearing her apart every chance he had, her mother always taking his side. Naru could feel the pastor's words speak to her heart, however, and she found herself wanting to believe what he said, but to believe that anybody, much less the divine, would care for her seemed impossible.
"The apostle Paul wrote that it is the Kami Sama's will for us to live and that for us to die is our gain, as we gain our reward and our place in His kingdom. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Kami Sama, gave His life for us to escape the bonds of this life, it being our Lord's will that we have the liberty that only He can give us by our being Born Again", Pastor Kobiaji continued. "I have had the pleasure of knowing Sugihara-San for many years. I know the will of God was done in his life and I am proud to call him my friend. Our Lord told us that he has prepared us a place in His kingdom, a place He gave His life to give us." The minister gestured to the woman he had been speaking to earlier, an older Japanese woman who was now seated on the front row of the chapel, the widow of the man who rested in the coffin before him as his eyes fell once more. "Mrs. Sugihara… Yukiko… I know it hurts now, but I know the promise of our Lord. You'll join him once more, and you'll be together in the presence of our Savior forever."
Suddenly the minister's eulogy was interrupted by a crowd of men and women in dark clothes, a large number of them in the prayer shawls and the yarmulkes of the Jewish faith, Pastor Kobiaji falling silent as the others in the chapel turned to see who had joined them. "Gentlemen", Pastor Kobiaji began as he addressed the newcomers, "May I help you?" "We apologize, Rabbi. We didn't mean to disrupt your service", an elderly man whose face was framed with the curls of a Hasidic Jew and who seemed to be the leader of the new arrivals, replied. "We wished to pay our respects to Mr. Sugihara." "Of course", Pastor Kobiaji replied, puzzled, as were many of those in the congregation. "You don't know", the older man realized as he turned to look at the mourners. "As a young man, Mr. Sugihara helped close to 10,000 Jews escape the Holocaust while working as a diplomat for your government, defying his superiors and losing his position for our sake." Gesturing with his hands to those with him, the elderly Jew went on. "Many of us here, myself included, owe him our lives, as do those with us who are waiting outside", he finished, smiling as he gestured to the chapel doors, everybody turning and seeing what was easily over a hundred more Jews outside, all attired in the same way as those who come into the chapel. "Then, by all means", Pastor Kobiaji replied, "Please, join us."
The Jewish mourners made their way into the chapel and she almost giggled at the sight of the new arrivals lining the walls and filling the chapel to capacity, all but sitting on the laps of those already there. It was an interesting sight to see the elderly sailors trying to move to accommodate the new arrivals, all of them finally standing shoulder to shoulder once more in an unintentional honor guard as Pastor Kobiaji resumed his eulogy. "As our friend helped so many escape in his youth, our Lord has helped Chiune escape from death to life everlasting, depriving Death of its final victory and the Grave of its sting. It's an escape He offers to all of us as well", Pastor Kobiaji explained. "Like Chiune, our Lord gave up His position for our sake, setting aside His own godhood to become our Savior, that we would be able to escape the bonds of this life and join Him in His kingdom, to know an even greater freedom than our friend sacrificed for our new friends", he went on, indicating the newcomers before turning to Mrs. Sugihara and her children. "It will hurt", he told her, "but the pain you feel at losing your husband... your father... will be swallowed up in the victory of our Savior keeping His promise, that Chiune's death is not a 'goodbye' but rather a promise that we'll see each other again in our Lord's kingdom, and for that, we do not weep for his death but rejoice for his life as we bid Chiune Sugihara farewell."
Naru couldn't help but wonder if it were true, that not just a Kami, but a god even to the Kami would care for her that much, to become a human being and die for her. A part of her, the scars of her mother's husband's contempt jagged and deep on her soul, believed it a lie, but another part of her longed for it to be true, her heart yearning for what this 'Kami Sama' the Christian minister spoke of offered to her. "Sir", Pastor Kobiaji concluded as he addressed the leader of the new arrivals, "would you like to add anything?" "We traditionally offer the Kaddish and the Yizkor Prayer for the departed", he explained as he rose to his feet once more. "May we do so?" "That sounds like an excellent idea", Pastor Kobiaji told him, turning to Mrs. Sugihara, "but it's up to Mrs. Sugihara." "I think he would be honored", she told him, the older man bowing in response and gratitude as he stepped to the foot of the lectern and the casket that rested there.
The old man began to chant the Kaddish, the man's aged voice seeming to take on a power of its own as his words reverberated within the chapel, and she found herself awestruck at his words, that a god would make a place for anybody, much less somebody like her, in paradise. She looked up at the man beside her seeing the arrogant smirk on the lips of her mother's husband at odds with the gratitude in the old man's demeanor as he went on, and found herself wishing… praying it were true as the old man began the Yizkor prayer, his second chant for Sugihara-San an unwitting response to her mother's husband's arrogance. As the old man finished, she made up her mind to ask about the god that would die for her.
A moment later, Pastor Kobiaji said the final benediction and several men came to take the coffin, carrying Sugihara san to the cemetery nearby. A short time later, Chiune Sugihara was lowered into his final resting place, Naru forced to remain with her mother and her mother's husband as Pastor Kobiaji said a final prayer for Sugihara's loved ones, Chiune Sugihara's escape from the bonds of mortality to the freedom the Kami Sama had promised him and died to give him finally complete. As the mourners began to leave, she tried to make her way to the pastor to learn more of the Savior that Sugihara San had served only to have her mother's husband call her away. "Let's go", he demanded, apparently having grown weary of humoring the superstitions of those around him. "Please", she began hesitantly, "I would like to speak to the pastor…" "No", he refused, grabbing her by the arm and beginning to drag her away. "Please…" Naru began, only to draw away in terror as her mother's husband raised his hand to strike her as his temper flared. "You brat!" he roared, his face twisted into a snarl of anger, "I said let's go!" She recoiled in abject terror; her eyes closed against the blow, crying out in her fright to the Kami Sama the minister had spoken of for His help, hoping the pastor's words were true as she waited for the blow to fall.
Suddenly, Naru felt his grasp loosen as her wrist fell from his hand as her mother's husband gasped in pain. Hesitantly opening her eyes, what she saw caused her mouth to fall open in surprise even as she backed away from her mother's husband: Her mother's husband's arm had been caught in mid-swing and held by a hand the size of a canned ham that tightly squeezed his mother's husband's wrist. Bewildered, she looked from the hand along the arm and found it was attached to an elderly gaijin dressed in the uniform of a US naval commander who for all the world looked like the most fearsome of Oni, one of the demons of Japanese legends. "I'd rather you didn't do that", her rescuer stated calmly, the calmness of his voice betrayed by the look of anger on his face as another elderly navy man approached the other side of her mother's husband, leaning on a cane but looking no less determined or any less angry as several other older men in naval uniforms seemed to rise from the ground around her as if the Kami Sama had raised them to defend her. "For what it's worth", the other man spoke up as he put his glasses away, clearly as displeased with her mother's husband as the first sailor, "these pirates and I are on the same side for a change", he explained as the others formed a phalanx around her in response to her unspoken prayer, Naru finding a small navy had come to her aid.
"Perhaps now would be a good time to make an offer I had in mind", another voice spoke up as, of all people, Hinata Urashima made her way through the crowd of military men to Naru's side. "HinataUrashima!" the navy man holding her mother's husband's wrist began in recognition, a broad smile spreading over his face. "What did you have in mind?" he asked her as Naru found herself clinging to the older woman's side for refuge as the older woman continued. "I'm an old friend of her family's and I've heard that there were some problems in her home", Hinata began as Naru saw fear go from a mere flicker in the eyes of her mother's husband to a roaring flame. "I've been serving as a foster parent for quite some time and I would be glad for her to stay in my inn until things could be worked out", Hinata stated calmly as Naru's mother's husband's fear grew to an inferno. "That is an excellent idea, Hinata san", the navy man with the glasses told her. "In fact I'm sure her stepfather wouldn't mind paying for her to stay there, either", he went on as her mother's husband's fear grew from inferno to firestorm. "No", her mother's husband conceded reluctantly, "I wouldn't" he agreed, backing away from Naru's protectors and all but running from them.
"Are you all right, Miss?" the sailor who had first come to her aid asked her, speaking to her in fluent if American-accented Japanese. "I am unhurt", she told him, bowing to him, "Domo Arigato." "We are the US Navy, miss", he explained as he returned the bow, the fearsome look on his face disappearing as he smiled at her. "'Semper Regulus': We're always ready… and you're welcome." "I'll confess, when the government asked us to serve as a delegation to Chiune's funeral, I just saw it as a chance to catch up with my friends" he went on, indicating the other navy men who had come to her aid, "and see how Fuji's doing", he went on, pointing to the minister, who was talking to the young man who had tripped earlier "I didn't think we'd be coming to the rescue of geishas in distress", he told her with a smile that instantly changed his face from demonic to angelic.
"San?" Naru began hesitantly, "how do you know the minister?" "We captured him in World War II", her rescuer told her. "You… captured him?" she repeated, bewildered as her rescuer was unable to hide his amusement at her reaction as Hinata had gone to explain what was happening to her mother, who nodded her head in reluctant agreement, her mother's husband keeping his distance from the older woman. "We had been on patrol when we encountered what we thought was an enemy vessel", he explained. "We were about to open fire when we realized that they were refugees and stopped. Fuji… Pastor Kobiaji… had been trying to get them to safety and surrendered to us." "I see", she replied. "Did you run a POW camp?" "Oh, Good Lord, no", he laughed, "but it seemed kind of mean to send Fuji to a POW camp since he was trying to protect people from the war, so we misfiled some papers and Fuji stayed with us. One of our mechanics, a guy named Cross, was a deacon in his church before the war and served as our chaplain. He and Fuji got to talking one day and Fuji became a Christian", he finished as Hinata rejoined them with another woman, who had just lit a cigarette. "So, what your friend said... about the Kami Sama and how He loves us… Is it true?" "I like to think so", he told her. "A savior that can calm the sea can have a lot of appeal for a sailor." "I would like to think so, too", Naru told him, her mother's husband's abuse coming to the fore again, "but it's hard to believe that a god could care about somebody like me." "Hey, don't you ever say that", he gently scolded her. "No matter what you think, no matter what you've done, no matter what that idiot told you, God loves you. That's why He died for you."
"You know, he's not going to take that well", one of the other sailors who, even in his advanced years was almost solid muscle, decided, indicating Naru's mother's husband. "You're right, Tink", another sailor agreed ruefully. "Would you like us to go with you to gather your things, Miss?" "That would be a good idea, Christy", Hinata told him before turning to the woman with her. "Haruka, would you make sure my grandson gets home okay?" "Sure thing, Hinata", the other woman agreed as yet another sailor spoke up. "I brought my car, skipper", he offered them. "We can go whenever you're ready." "It sounds good, Parker", he told him. "Then, let's set sail", the other sailor suggested, pushing off on his cane, Hinata and the others following Parker to his car. "By the way", her rescuer realized, bowing to her, "I didn't introduce myself. I'm Quentin McHale." "I am Naru Narusegawa", she replied, returning his bow before going with him to the refuge offered by her father's friend at her home, the Hinata Sou.