CHAPTER THREE

I'm back! Welcome, everyone who is so fabulous, to the return of OnnaMurcielago666 (who shall soon be known as something else)! After much recovery time and so many wonderful, warm-hearted readers' comments, I have written my first P.A. (post-accident) fanfiction! From here on, I will be using a few kendo terms for their movements and positioning, but I'll try and keep it as simple as possible. As always, there will be a glossary at the bottom and you can always look it up if you're confused. I'm basing all my kendo research off of Norwalk's practices, which seem very accurate and reliable.

~OHSHC belongs to Bisco Hatori~

"Again." Mori said shortly, his voice as rhythmic and monotonous as a bell. The wooden practice sword came down and tapped her calves: "Stay tight."

"I'm-." "Sh." Mori pressed the sword down into the tatami before her face and Haruhi bit her lip. "If you're speaking, you're not focused." Grinding her teeth subtly, Haruhi resigned herself to strained silence, her blood rushing through her ears like a waterfall, and she fumbled for something –anything!- to focus on other than her trembling muscles and burning lungs. When Kyoya had said that training would be difficult, Haruhi hadn't doubted the demon king, but this was insane even on Ouran standards!

Since last week, Haruhi had been poked and prodded and patted by that pliable bamboo practice sword so many times that it had started to haunt her dreams. Now, feeling the tip touch her quivering shoulders, Haruhi wanted to scream!

"Stop." Mori's order was a blessing and, released from her internal hell, Haruhi collapsed with a gasp and a heavy 'thump'. However, just as suddenly, Mori prodded her sharply in the side with a different sword and forced her up onto her knees and into seiza*. Her calves wailed brokenly as she forced them beneath her, jaw clenched, and reluctantly lowered her weight onto her aching legs; the sharp jab was retracted. Haruhi looked up at Mori to speak and took the practice sword's tip in her cheek as he made her face forward.

"Mori-s-" "You will address me as sensei." Mori spoke slowly and deeply, his voice ringing in the silence, and Haruhi's guts clenched as his harsh tone drove into her insensitively. She just wanted to ask him a question and he was abusing the power he had: "Mokuso*."

Grumbling under her breath, Haruhi sighed and went to shift her hands. Unfortunately, the sharp sting of a blow from the practice sword in Mori's right hand set her fingers afire. Gasping, Haruhi clutched her own hands to her chest and stared up at her teacher in outrage and distress; he HIT her!

"That-" She managed, dry-mouthed from Mori's strange behaviour. Since they had started, he had been different, but this was the first change that made Haruhi uncomfortable. What was he DOING?

Mori, who had been looking at the far wall, looked down at her silently and Haruhi bit her tongue at the gleam in his dark eyes. She suddenly realized how disrespectful she had been, perusing through her scant knowledge of kendo and its intensely formal procedures, and felt foolish. She had volunteered herself as the representative for the Host Club when Mori or Honey could easily have won and now she was acting like a spoiled brat with their club on the line. Squaring her shoulders, Haruhi grudgingly admitted she could take a few swats if it meant keeping her word.

"I apologize, Morinozuka-sensei," Haruhi said clearly, swallowing and bending herself into a seated bow despite her aching hands. "for my rudeness."

"Nn." To her surprise, Mori didn't respond and, when she peeked up, he wasn't facing her at all. She stiffened indignantly, reining in her response, and returned her eyes to the ground to wait for him to notice her bow and reply that he'd forgiven her. She waited, and waited, and soon her back was aching from the bow and she regretted speaking up all over again.

"'Kendo begins and ends with rei*.'" Haruhi frowned at her little piece of floor, not daring to look up now that Mori's voice was floating so close, and listened intently. "'While the character is usually translated as bowing, more literally it means courtesy. It also encompasses the related concepts of rei-gi* and rei-ho*. Rei-gi means manners or etiquette, referring to the techniques or actions of showing courtesy and respect, while rei-ho is a term that expresses the rules or concepts of courtesy and respect.'" As Haruhi listened, she realized more and more that, in his own passive way, Mori was scolding her for her disrespect and she blushed with embarrassment.

"Sensei-" "'Rei-gi is an extremely important part of kendo. The basic rules come from the formal, highly stylized social system of Japan. Simply stated, rei-gi is based on respect - for one's sensei, fellow kenshi, equipment, etcetera.'" Mori didn't stop when Haruhi spoke up, touching her head from above to silence her as he continued, and Haruhi sweated anxiously as his hand lifted away. She looked up tentatively, always waiting for the hand to return and force her to look down, but Mori didn't touch her again. Instead, she looked right at him and saw, with shock, that he was reciting a passage from memory, his eyes focus on her intently. "'In practice, it is not that simple. There is a prescribed method for virtually every action, and failure to adhere to proper behavior may taken as a sign of poor instruction or, in some cases, as a severe insult.'" Now Haruhi winced, unable to look away even as he finished and fell silent.

"Senp-Sensei," Haruhi mumbled, swallowing when Mori was silent. "I apologize for my rudeness. Please teach me."

"No, we're done for today." Mori said softly, putting the bamboo practice sword away and wielding his wooden blade expertly as he moved about. "Wakare*, Haruhi. Now we bow." Breathing a silent sigh of relief, Haruhi got up and followed his lead as he made a smooth, respectful bow and held it for a breath before straightening. Haruhi knew that her bow had been nowhere near as graceful, but that didn't stop her from trying to replicate his actions.

"Goodbye*, Mori-senp-" Haruhi stopped herself this time, noting how his grip changed on the wooden sword as she nearly slipped up again. She quickly bowed. "Sorry. Goodbye*, Mori-senpai, see you tomorrow." Haruhi was quick to bow again, finding that it was suitable for almost everything, and Mori returned the gesture naturally.

"Good night*, Haruhi." He said, his deep voice rumbling through the air. He turned his back, already packing away the equipment he'd brought out and not used, and Haruhi felt the tension in the air suddenly as if she could cut it with a knife and eat it. Her apologies had not, as she'd thought, smoothed over the mistake she'd made and Haruhi couldn't leave with the gentle senior student still upset at her.

"Ano…" She said quietly, "Mori-sensei?"

"Hm?" Mori didn't even glance at her. Haruhi paused, her mouth open and ready to ask if he was still mad, and realized how childish she would sound. It was then that Mori turned to look at her, his tall frame towering over hers, and saw the thoughtful but inattentive gleam in her eyes. "Yes, Haruhi?"

The girl snapped to attention. "Nothing," she said quickly, hurrying to the door. "good night, Mori-sensei." Soon, Haruhi was on her way home, her bag clutched under one arm, and regretting leaving.

~OHSHC belongs to Bisco Hatori~

Chapter Three: Kendo Glossary
Seiza – formal sitting position (sit on your heels with your back straight and chin tucked)
Kenshikendoist (practitioner of kendo, beginner or experienced)
Mokusocommand to meditate
Rei – bow (literally courtesy)
Rei-gi
manners/etiquette
Rei-ho
– the rules/concepts of courtesy & respect
Wakare – during keiko: "dismissed" (signals the end of a session)
Goodbyelit. Sayonara, said when taking leave from practice
Good nightlit. Oyasumi nasai, said when taking leave from practice

What do you think, everyone? Have I lost my touch? Did that van throw off my groove? Let me know in the comments below and have a fantastic rest of your day! Thanks for reading and sticking around!