Plus there's that whole bumping up the post count thing.
Donâ€™t Mind if I Do!
By Lord Raa
Disclaim-me-do: I canâ€™t believe itâ€™s not Love Hina.
â€œA-aneue, what are you doing here?â€ Motoko Aoyama asked, the blood draining from her face.
â€œIâ€™m here to see you, Motoko-han. Now, what is it that keeps you here away from your family?â€ Tsuruko asked, a teasing smile on her face.
â€œâ€¦â€ As the younger sister started to panic, her brown eyes caught sight of Keitaro returning some of the cleaning supplies to the cupboard and she latched on to the first thing that popped into her head. â€œKeitaro!â€
â€œPardon?â€ Tsuruko asked in confusion as the bespectacled young man looked up in confusion.
â€œIs that so?â€ the visitor asked, eying the approaching man.
â€œErr, yeah,â€ Keitaro nodded. â€œSo Motoko-chan, are you going to introduce us?â€
â€œI am Motokoâ€™s sister, Tsuruko,â€ the taller of the two girls said with a bow. â€œI must say that itâ€™s nice to meet the man who has finally convinced my sister that men arenâ€™t the inhuman monsters, incapable of controlling their primal urges.â€
â€œAneue!â€ Motoko blushed. â€œDo you have to embarrass me like that?â€
â€œI donâ€™t _have_ to, Motoko-han. I just choose to, they are your words, after all. So then, Keitaro-san, what is it about my sister that attracted you to her?â€
â€œErrâ€¦ I guess it was a lot of things. I mean, sheâ€™s cute, sheâ€™s strong, she stands up for what she believes in,â€ the ronin answered, his own cheeks filling with blood as he thought about the question.
â€œYes, she is all those things, isnâ€™t she?â€ Tsuruko asked rhetorically. â€œI donâ€™t mean to be rude, but could we discuss this engagement inside? Itâ€™s not the sort of thing one discusses on the doorstep, after all.â€
â€œYouâ€™re absolutely right, Iâ€™m so sorry, Aoyama-san,â€ Keitaro bowed. â€œWould you like any refreshments? Tea, coffee, juice?â€
â€œTea would be nice, Keitaro-san,â€ the older sister answered. When Keitaro had left them, she turned to her sister. â€œMotoko-han, could you please show me where the toilet is?â€
â€œItâ€™s this way, Aneue.â€
When Keitaro entered the common room, he was a little surprised to see that Kitsune was chatting with the Aoyama sisters.
â€œSo then, Mitsune-san, how did Keitaro-san and Motoko-han meet? Was it love at first sight? Did it take them long before they decided to get engaged?â€
â€œErrâ€¦ it wasnâ€™t the best of circumstances, to be honest,â€ the short haired girl replied with a wince. â€˜Crap! Motoko, why did you have to say that you and Keitaro were engaged? Couldnâ€™t you have said that you were just going out?â€™
â€œI see,â€ Tsuruko mused. â€œWhat happened?â€
â€œErr, well, the thing is,â€ Kitsune stalled.
â€œThere was a misunderstanding when I first arrived, Aoyama-san,â€ Keitaro replied as he set the tray down. â€œMy grandmother owns this building and I was asked to manage it. However, I thought that it was still an inn and not the all girlsâ€™ dormitory that it is now.â€
â€œHow awkward for you.â€
â€œYes,â€ the ronin nodded. â€œWell, when we calmed down, we managed to sort things out and weâ€™ve been happy with the arrangement. Well, barring a few accidents, that is.â€
â€œIâ€™m glad that things worked out for you, Keitaro-san. I was afraid that your presence here would unsettle Motoko-han. She never really socialised with the male species when she was younger,â€ Tsuruko explained. â€œIt has left herâ€¦ how should I put this? Unprepared for life in the wider world.â€
Motoko was mortified by the way her sister was revealing all her quirks to Keitaro. â€œAn-eue~~!â€
The older sister laughed. â€œIâ€™m sorry, Motoko-han. I didnâ€™t mean to embarrass you like that. I just want to make sure that the man youâ€™ve chosen understands what makes you â€˜youâ€™.â€
â€œOh,â€ the younger sister replied. It wasnâ€™t that she was unfamiliar with the compassionate side of her sister; it was just that she thought Tsuruko was here â€œon businessâ€ and that she was going to take her back to Kyoto with her.
â€œNow, please donâ€™t think that I intend to cause offence, Mitsune-san, but I want to speak with Keitaro-san and Motoko-han in private. There are things that we need to discuss,â€ Tsuruko replied in a business-like tone.
â€œOh, ok. Iâ€™ll be in my room if you need me for anything,â€ the short haired girl replied with a shrug. â€œTry not to be too hard on them â€“ theyâ€™re still kids in love.â€
â€œI will be as fair as I can, Mitsune-san.â€
When they were left alone, Keitaro poured three cups of tea and handed them out. â€œWhat was it that you wanted to talk to us about, Aoyama-san?â€
â€œPlease, call me â€˜Tsurukoâ€™,â€ the older kendoist smiled. â€œI want to know why it took Motoko-han so long to tell anyone about your relationship. Mitsune-san seemed rather surprised when I asked her about it.â€
â€œWeâ€™re a private couple,â€ the ronin replied evasively.
â€œYes,â€ Motoko agreed. â€œWeâ€™re taking things slowly because well, weâ€™ve seen what happens when you rush into a relationship.â€
â€œKouji and I were married soon after we were engaged, and our marriage is a happy one,â€ Tsuruko countered before sipping her tea. â€œBut yes, I can understand why you would want to proceed carefully.â€
The younger sister let out a small sigh of relief. â€˜I was worried that Aneue might make me kiss Keitaroâ€¦â€™
â€œThough, I must admit that Iâ€™m troubled by the clandestine nature of this relationship. It doesnâ€™t seem quite right, if you know what I mean.â€
Keitaro coughed as some of his tea went down his windpipe by accident.
â€œYes, you seem know what I mean, Keitaro-san. But surely, you wouldnâ€™t agree to deceive me like this, just to allow Motoko-han to avoid her responsibilities to her clan, would you?â€ Tsuruko asked, hiding her small smirk behind her cup of tea. â€œYou donâ€™t seem like the sort of person that would bring that sort of dishonour upon our family.â€
â€œI would never do something like that!â€ the bespectacled youth insisted reflexively.
â€œThatâ€™s good to hear. I suppose that your attempts to shield my sister from gossiping tongues is the primary reason why you kept this engagement a secret.â€
â€œYes it is, Aneue,â€ Motoko nodded vigorously. â€œYou know how reputations can be made or broken by the company a young woman keeps.â€
â€œThat I do, Motoko-han. Well, Iâ€™m happy that youâ€™ve found love, but I must say that I would have appreciated you telling me that you had found a man,â€ the elder sister chided. â€œStill, at least Mother and Father will be happy.â€
â€œThey were concerned that yourâ€¦dislike of men was a sign that your tastes were, how should I put it?â€ Tsuruko mused. â€œOf the more feminine.â€
Motokoâ€™s eyes widened as she realised just what her sister was trying to say. â€œIâ€™m not like that, Aneue!â€
â€œLike what, Motoko-chan?â€ Keitaro asked with a clueless expression on his face.
The sisters turned to face the ronin, each of them unsure of what to make of that comment.
Tsuruko had decided that it meant that Keitaro was incredibly inexperienced, most likely a virgin.
Motoko thought that Keitaro was trying to embarrass her because of the way she had sprung this â€œengagementâ€ on him.
It was the older sister that was correct, though if asked, Keitaro would have been reluctant to give that answer.
â€œWell, thatâ€™s not important right now,â€ Tsuruko smiled. â€œIf itâ€™s not too much trouble, may I stay for a few days? I would like to catch up with you, Motoko-han.â€
â€œOf course, Tsuruko-san,â€ Keitaro nodded. â€œIâ€™ll prepare a room for you now. Would you like to use the bath while you talk with Motoko-chan?â€
â€œThat would be perfect, Keitaro-san.â€
The Aoyama sisters let out contented sighs as she leant back into the hot water.
â€œI can see why you want stay here, Motoko-han.â€
â€œReally?â€ Motoko asked, hoping that her ruse had worked.
â€œYes,â€ Tsuruko replied, her eyes closed. â€œKeitaro-san seems to be a nice, polite young man and there is a chance that he could inherit this property. He would be able to support you and your children with ease.â€
â€œYes, children,â€ the older sister nodded. â€œMother and Father donâ€™t want your children with Keitaro to be born out of wedlock.â€
â€œC-c-children with Keitaro?â€ Motoko repeated, her face red with embarrassment.
â€œIâ€™m sorry to break it to you, Motoko, but some people think that the primary reason for sex between married couples is to have children. You do plan to have children, right?â€
â€œWhat about you, Aneue? You donâ€™t have any children,â€ the younger kendoist countered.
â€œItâ€™s not like we havenâ€™t been trying, Motoko-han. But this makes me suspiciousâ€¦â€ Tsuruko replied, finally opening her eyes to observe her sister. â€œHow far have you progressed your relationship with Keitaro-san?â€
â€œW-what do you mean, Aneue?â€
â€œI mean, Motoko-chan, what have you and Keitaro-san done together? Have you gone on many dates?â€
â€œNo,â€ Motoko shook her head.
â€œHave you been to any love hotels?â€
â€œNO!â€ the resident Aoyama shouted.
â€œSo youâ€™re able to find privacy here? I can see how youâ€™d be able to do so, this is a large building after all.â€
â€œKeitaro and I are not having sex, Aneue.â€
â€œOh,â€ the now deflated Tsuruko said.
Realising that things werenâ€™t going her way, Motoko clutched at the only straw she could think of. â€œWeâ€™re saving ourselves for marriage!â€
Tsuruko breathed a sigh of relief. â€œYou know, thatâ€™s actually quite sweet, Motoko-han.â€
â€œYes, you see you donâ€™t think youâ€™re ready for sex and Keitaro-san respects that, and you, enough to not push things.â€
Motoko allowed herself a small mental cheer for her quick thinking until her sister followed up with something that she didnâ€™t expect her sister of all people to say.
â€œSo what are you doing for him in the meantime?â€
â€œKeitaro-san, like most adults, has needs,â€ Tsuruko explained. â€œWhile I understand why you donâ€™t want to have sex just yet, I would be surprised if he doesnâ€™t have sexual thoughts about you. You are a rather attractive young woman, Motoko-han. Keitaro-san should be able to find some sort of release, donâ€™t you think?â€
â€œI guess,â€ Motoko shrugged, not really having considered that.
The teenagerâ€™s face turned scarlet with embarrassment. â€œAneue~~~~!â€
â€œIâ€™m serious, Motoko-han. If you donâ€™t help him with these things, then how can he focus on his duties to the dormitory?â€
When Motoko started to do a credible impersonation of a koi, Tsuruko realised what the truth of the situation was.
â€œI see. So you were lying to me. Iâ€™m extremely disappointed with you, Motoko. I should ask you to give me a good reason why I shouldnâ€™t take you back to Kyoto with me.â€ Tsuruko stood up to leave the bath.
â€œB-b-but you said that you knew that I was lyingâ€¦â€ Motoko panicked.
â€œYou were lying to me, Motoko-han. But itâ€™s not a lie anymore,â€ Tsuruko smiled.
â€œW-w-w-w-w-what? What do you mean, Aneue?â€
â€œGet dressed, Motoko-han, youâ€™re going to an omiai.â€
â€œKeitaro-san,â€ Tsuruko said as she approached the ronin. â€œI need to talk to you.â€
â€œA-about what, Tsuruko-san?â€
â€œAbout you and my sister.â€
Keitaro gulped nervously. â€œW-what about us?â€
â€œMotoko and I are from a traditionally minded family, and our parents would not consider the engagement to be valid if proper ceremonies were not observed,â€ Tsuruko explained. â€œAnd as such, there needs to be an omiai between our families. I will act on behalf of Motoko-han, but is there anyone that could represent you? A relative or someone who acted as a guardian for you?â€
â€œâ€¦ My Aunt Haruka, I guess.â€
â€œDo you know when she will be able to get here? I would like to make this official as soon as I can.â€
â€œIâ€™ll go ask her now,â€ Keitaro smiled weakly.
â€œI shall await your return, Keitaro-san.â€
â€œYou want me to do what?â€
â€œRepresent me in an omiai, Aunt Haruka.â€
Keitaro winced as he was smacked on the top of his head. â€œSorry, Haruka-san.â€
â€œThatâ€™s better. Now who is it that youâ€™re planning to marry?â€
Haruka blinked. â€œCare to run that by me again? I thought you liked Naru-chan, so why are you getting married to Motoko-chan?â€
â€œErr, Iâ€™m not really sure whatâ€™s going on myself, but I think that if Motoko-chanâ€™s sister thinks that weâ€™re engaged, she wonâ€™t have to leave the inn.â€
â€œWhat are you, some kind of beard? Keitaro, you really know how to get into awkward situations, donâ€™t you?â€ the smoker sighed. â€œStill, I suppose that it could be worse.â€
â€œH-how?â€ the ronin asked hesitantly. â€œOn second thoughts, I donâ€™t want to know.â€
â€œNow youâ€™re learning, Keitaro,â€ Haruka smirked. â€œSo then, when Motokoâ€™s sister leaves, how are you going to explain the return of the dowry?â€
â€œIâ€¦I donâ€™t know,â€ Keitaro admitted.
â€œThis is another lesson for you and Motoko-chan to learn: think things through properly before you start shooting your mouth off. Now, Iâ€™ll help you as much as I can because youâ€™re family and I like you, Keitaro. But,â€ Haruka said, her tone becoming stern, â€œI donâ€™t know what I can do. I mean, if Motoko-chanâ€™s sister decides to hold a shotgun wedding, then youâ€™re in serious trouble.â€
â€œD-do you really think that sheâ€™d do that?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know what sheâ€™s capable of, Keitaro.â€
That evening, the Aoyama sisters sat opposite the Urashimas as part of the omiai.
â€œNow, I realise that things arenâ€™t as quite as they were for myself and Kouji, but seeing as we are all responsible adults, I donâ€™t think that we require the services of a nakÅdo,â€ Tsuruko said with a smile.
â€œWe shall see,â€ Haruka smiled back. â€œAre you sure that this would be good match? I mean no disrespect to Keitaro, but he is a struggling student. Hopefully, he will be able to attend Toudai in the near future, but for the next few years at least, he wonâ€™t be able to provide much for his family.â€
â€œAlas, that is true,â€ the elder Aoyama agreed, â€œI think that it would be a case of â€˜short term loss for long term gainâ€™ that would enable them to forge the bonds of their marriage. If all they have is each other, then perhaps they will not fall into the trap of believing that material goods are the route to happiness when they are financially secure.â€
â€˜Sheâ€™s good,â€™ the teashop proprietor thought. â€˜Sheâ€™s very good.â€™ â€œI hope that is the case, but, you seem unusually enthusiastic about this marriage, Tsuruko-san. Is there any particular reason for it?â€
â€œDo I really give that impression? Well, I will admit that we were concerned that Motoko-han wasnâ€™t ever going to get married, given her dislike of men in general. Iâ€™m honestly glad that we were mistaken,â€ Tsuruko said, a relieved smile on her face.
â€œThat makes sense, we were getting a little worried about Keitaro.â€
When she saw that Keitaro and Motoko felt humiliated at the exchange between herself and Haruka, Tsurukoâ€™s face turned serious.
â€œUrashima-san, did you know that Motoko-han lied to me when she told me that she and Keitaro-san were engaged?â€
â€œI will admit that it was a possibility,â€ Haruka replied in an even tone. â€œWhy? What are you going to do to them?â€
â€œKeitaro-san, were you coerced into helping my sister in this deception?â€ Tsuruko asked, her tone more in line with that of a police interrogator.
â€œN-no,â€ the ronin lied. â€œI like Motoko-chan.â€
â€œYes,â€ Keitaro replied, his voice finding strength from somewhere. â€œI told you earlier, I think that sheâ€™s cute, sheâ€™s strong and she stands up for what she believes in.â€
The senior Aoyama leaned forward. â€œDo you like her enough to be married to her? Think carefully about your answer, as there is a lot riding on it.â€
â€œW-what do you mean, Aneue?â€ Motoko asked, a sense of panic rising inside her gut.
â€œMotoko-han, I told you that while this engagement with Keitaro-san was fake, it is no longer the case. There are three options,â€ Tsuruko said. â€œOption one is that you get married as soon as possible â€“ as in within the next 48 hours. Our parents would be sad if they missed the wedding, but they would understand if you two were in love. Option two is that you are in fact officially engaged, complete with a dowry changing hands. I realised that circumstances are not ideal for a marriage between Motoko-han and Keitaro-san, so I understand if you would prefer to wait a while.â€
â€œA-and option three?â€ Keitaro asked, his whole body shaking nervously.
â€œOne or both of you commit seppuku to atone for your deception with Motoko-han, if she does not take responsibility, returning with me to Kyoto.â€
â€œY-youâ€™d force Motoko-chan to kill herself?â€ the ronin asked, not trusting his hearing.
â€œOur clan takes honour very seriously, Keitaro-san. Please, I beg you, do not force my sister to take such a drastic course of action,â€ Tsuruko pleaded as she bowed with her head touching the floor.
â€œNo! I would never make Motoko-chan do something like that! Iâ€™d kill myself first!â€
â€œAnd condemn her to a life of unhappiness in Kyoto?â€ the elder sister asked, her head rising enough for her to look the Urashimas in the eyes. â€œBecause our parents would not let her have a fraction of the freedoms she has here.â€
â€œI apologise for giving you in such an unpleasant choice,â€ Tsuruko replied, her head once more touching the floor. â€œI thank you, Keitaro-san, for making what I would consider the right decision. I see that while my sisterâ€™s actions were less than honourable, her ability to judge character is excellent. I would be proud to call you my brother.â€
â€œT-thank you,â€ Keitaro bowed back in response.
Motoko gulped nervously. â€œA-aneue, w-were you serious about this?â€
â€œYes, Motoko-han, I am serious. You are now engaged to Keitaro-san, however we still need to discuss the dowry.â€
â€œWhat did you have in mind? Considering that you have caused us both a great deal or trouble with your actions,â€ Haruka commented, her arms folded across her chest.
â€œI would have to discuss things with our parents in order to find something suitable, but is there anything that you had in mind?â€ Tsuruko asked. â€œIs there anything that you feel would be appropriate restitution?â€
â€œItâ€™s something that would need to be discussed with family.â€
â€œI understand entirely. We will meet again to work out the details. Thank you for your time, Urashima-san.â€
Tsuruko silently accompanied Motoko on the walk back to her room. Eventually, the elder sister decided that she needed to say something.
â€œMotoko-han, I know that you are upset with me, but did you really think that you were going to succeed with your plan?â€
â€œIâ€¦ errâ€¦ I donâ€™t know, Aneue. I didnâ€™t want to lie to you, but I donâ€™t want to go back with you to Kyoto just yet.â€
â€œMotoko-han, I know that you were jealous of him, but Kouji hasnâ€™t taken me away from you. I havenâ€™t taken Kouji away from his friends and family, either. Far from it.â€
â€œI realise that now, Aneue,â€ Motoko sighed. â€œBut itâ€™s just that, well, I saw something soon after you got married that made me feel uncomfortable.â€
â€œWhat was that?â€ Tsuruko asked as she placed a reassuring hand on her sisterâ€™s shoulder.
â€œIâ€¦I thought that I saw you and Kouji with other people. You know, in your bedroom.â€
â€œAh, I see. And you thought that Kouji was up to something? Well, I can assure you that what happened on that night has happened several times since.â€
Motoko looked shocked. â€œB-b-b-but he was with another woman!â€
Looking around for witnesses, the elder sister pushed open the door to Motokoâ€™s room. â€œInside, Iâ€™ll explain it to you.â€
Locking the door behind her, Motoko gave her sister the signal to continue.
â€œMotoko-han, your brother-in-law and I are swingers. We like to have sex with other people,â€ Tsuruko explained.
â€œWhat? But what about your marriage vows?â€
â€œWhat about them? I love Kouji and he loves me, but there were times that have meant that we needed to find others for physical comfort.â€
â€œY-you mean that y-you were w-with o-other m-men?â€
Tsuruko nodded. â€œYes, Motoko-han. We did. And on several occasions, we took part in orgies.â€
Motoko sank to her knees when she realised her sister had just confessed to adultery. â€œB-b-but why? Why would you do that?â€
â€œItâ€™s complicated, Motoko-han. Itâ€™s not something that I expected you to understand, but when you told me that you were engaged, I hoped that it meant that you were old enough to know about sexual relationships,â€ the older sister answered. â€œIâ€™m sorry you had to find out like this.â€
â€œWhy did you insist that I get married to Keitaro!?â€
â€œLook, Motoko-han,â€ Tsuruko sighed. â€œI love you dearly, but I needed to show you that your words and actions have consequences. If you had given me a legitimate reason not to return to Kyoto, I would have talked with our parents.â€
â€œSo I didnâ€™t need to lie about Keitaro?â€ Motoko asked with a wince.
â€œNo, you didnâ€™t.â€
The teenager started to sob softly, she was surprised to feel her sister embrace her. â€œA-aenue?â€
â€œKeitaro-san is a good person and I think that heâ€™ll do what he can to make you happy. Now, why donâ€™t you get some rest? Weâ€™ll talk in the morning.â€
Haruka sighed as she pulled out her cigarettes. â€œYou really know how to get yourself in odd situations, donâ€™t you, Keitaro.â€
â€œSorry, Au-, Haruka-san. I didnâ€™t mean for this to happen,â€ Keitaro insisted.
â€œI know, Keitaro, I know. But what now? What of your promise girl? What are you going to tell her when you finally get into to Toudai? â€˜Oh, Iâ€™m sorry, we canâ€™t go out because Iâ€™m already engaged to someone elseâ€™ isnâ€™t going to cut it.â€
â€œIâ€™m an idiot,â€ the ronin said as he rapped his knuckles on his head.
â€œYou know,â€ Haruka said as she sidled up to her nephew. â€œYou donâ€™t have to break your promise.â€
â€œNo,â€ the now smoking woman smiled. â€œIf you think about it, you only promised that youâ€™d meet her when youâ€™re attending Toudai, not that youâ€™d be lovers.â€
â€œâ€¦â€ Keitaro sat still as he digested that piece of information.
â€œSee,â€ Haruka said as she place a reassuring hand one her nephewâ€™s shoulder, â€œthings will work out if you let them. Ok, so they donâ€™t always work out like you planned, but thatâ€™s life.â€
â€œThanks, Haruka-san. So now what do I do?â€ the ronin asked as he looked towards the heavens for inspiration. â€œHow do I tell the others that I got engaged to Motoko-chan?â€
â€œTell them the truth â€“ that it was the only way to allow Motoko to stay here,â€ the smoker replied. â€œNow come on, help me clear up.â€
As Motoko lay on her futon, she pondered her situation. While she didnâ€™t want to leave her friends here in Hinata, she didnâ€™t exactly want to marry Keitaro.
â€œHeâ€™s not worthy of you, is he, Motoko?â€ she asked herself. â€œYou know what a weakling he is and a pervert!â€
â€œYet, he was willing to offer his life for yoursâ€¦â€
â€œHe just thinks that heâ€™ll be able to make use of that later!â€
â€œPfft, you donâ€™t really believe that, do you? Plus Aneue approves of him.â€
â€œAneue sleeps around, she told me herself!â€
â€œThat just means that she knows what men are like! Remember, you donâ€™t have to invite him into to your bed right away, he said that he would marry you after he graduates from Toudai, so youâ€™ve got some time to warm up to him.â€
â€œI donâ€™t knowâ€¦â€
â€œReally? Well, whose hand is that on your right breast, Motoko?â€
â€œDamn it! Damn it! Damn it!â€ Motoko berated herself as she slapped her cheeks in an attempt to purge her head from the thoughts of sharing her bed with Keitaro. â€œWhy did Aneue have to start talking about that sort of thing?â€
Sighing, she decided that she needed to talk a walk. As she pulled on her dressing gown, a thought occurred to her.
â€œAneue wouldnâ€™t try toâ€¦ with Keitaro, would she?â€
She had taken to writing a log of her more intimate thoughts soon after she started puberty, and some of her more interesting fantasies and ideas often came to her when she was away from home.
â€œSure, she might not understand why itâ€™s best if at least one of the newlyweds actually knows what theyâ€™re doing on the wedding night, but perhaps she will appreciate it if Keitaro-san knows that he must be gentle during their first encounter?â€
Settling back in the chair, the first born Aoyama sister started to ponder the best way to get Keitaro alone for some hands on education.
Elsewhere in the Hinata Sou, Keitaro Urashima was studying. While this was not an unusual occurrence given his lofty goals in life, his current field of research was not one of his normal subjects.
No, rather than English, maths, science, or Japanese literature, Keitaro was studying the rules governing arranged marriages.
â€œDamn it! Is there anyway out of this mess?â€ the ronin cursed as he flipped through book. Then he saw something that fanned the faint spark of hope in his heart.
â€œIf the groom rejects the dowry, then the brideâ€™s family may have to withdraw the offer of marriage in order to save faceâ€¦ Thatâ€™s it! All I have to do to help Motoko-chan get out of this mess is to demand an outrageous dowry!â€
Feeling pleased with himself, Keitaro allowed himself a celebratory arm pump. â€œNow to tell Motoko-chan the good news.â€
Opening his door, he heard that someone else was still awake.
â€œHello?â€ the ronin asked. â€œWhoâ€™s there?â€
â€œItâ€™s Motoko,â€ the voice answered.
â€œMotoko-chan! I need to speak with you, Iâ€™ve got some good news.â€
â€œYou have?â€ the kendoist replied.
â€œYeah, if youâ€™ll come wi-â€ Keitaro started.
â€œPerhaps we shouldnâ€™t discuss things in your room, Keitaro-san?â€ Motoko winced. â€œI wouldnâ€™t want Aneue to get the wrong idea.â€
â€œWhat? Oh, yeah.â€ The Toudai aspirant slapped his forehead with the palm of his right hand. â€œSorry about that, but I was just excited about finding a way out of this for you.â€
â€œYou can show me in the kitchen, I need a drink.â€
When they were seated in the kitchen, Keitaro explained his plan.
â€œNow, I know that itâ€™s going to sound insulting to you and your family, but if I say that the dowry your sister offers me and my family isnâ€™t enough for me, then you should be able to withdraw the marriage offer.â€
The kendoist managed to keep her first reaction under control â€“ that of punishing Keitaro for his slight against her family â€“ for long enough for her to consider the merits of his plan.
â€œItâ€¦ could actually work. We just need to come up with some demands that she couldnâ€™t possibly agree to.â€
â€œDo you have any ideas, Motoko-chan?â€ the ronin asked as he sipped his drink.
â€œNot at the moment, but perhaps Kitsune can help us, seeing as sheâ€™s been listening in on our conversation,â€ Motoko replied dryly.
â€œHeheh, I guess that I need to work on my ninja skills, eh, Motoko-chan,â€ the ash blonde replied as she scratched the back of her head. â€œSo, you two are trying to get out of this engagement? Why not tell her the truth â€“ that you made it up?â€
â€œI did. Unfortunately, Aneue decided to make it an official engagement earlier. We even had an omiai.â€
â€œOh,â€ Kitsune replied, her eyes open to their fullest extent. â€œSo you guys are actually...?â€
â€œYes,â€ Keitaro nodded with a sigh. â€œSo, what sort of thing should I demand as a dowry to let Motoko-chan out of the engagement?â€
The ash blonde took a seat next to her friends. â€œI thought that youâ€™d be jumping at the chance to be engaged to Motoko-chan, Keitaro. I mean you do like her and everything, right? So whatâ€™s brought this change of heart on?â€
â€œYou seem rather sure of this, Keitaro,â€ Kitsune mused. â€œWhat makes you say that?â€
â€œItâ€™s obvious isnâ€™t it?â€ Keitaro asked rhetorically. â€œI mean, I was only chosen because I was the only available man. If it had someone else she knew, sheâ€™d have picked them. I donâ€™t blame her not wanting to be engaged to me.â€
The two girls looked at each other in disbelief. While it was true that he hadnâ€™t made the best of impressions when he first arrived at the Hinata Sou, Keitaro had won the girls over with his â€œnever say dieâ€ attitude and irrepressible nature. They all knew that if there was a task he put his mind to, it was only a matter of time before he completed it, regardless of how impossible it seemed.
â€œWhile I will admit that I had no intention of getting engaged to you, Keitaro-sempai, I would not consider it to be a disservice or dishonour to either of our families,â€ Motoko replied.
â€œYeah, Keitaro,â€ Kitsune nodded. â€œSure, youâ€™re not exactly Japanâ€™s most eligible bachelor, but youâ€™re a good person. If things were different, Iâ€™m sure that we could have at least gone out on a few dates.â€
â€œY-you really think so? You both would consider being my girlfriends?â€ Keitaro asked.
â€œYouâ€™re a presumptuous one, arenâ€™t you Keitaro,â€ the ash blonde winked saucily. â€œI didnâ€™t think you had it in you to suggest a threesome with Motoko-chan.â€
The roninâ€™s face turned scarlet, with some of his blood trying to escape from his nostrils. â€œT-t-t-t-thatâ€™s n-not what I m-meant!â€
â€œI should hope not,â€ Motoko replied icily. She turned to her friend. â€œDo you have any ideas for unacceptable dowry demands?â€
â€œI canâ€™t think of anything off the top of my head, but if I do come up with anything, Iâ€™ll let you know as soon as I can,â€ Kitsune replied. â€œActually, Iâ€™ve just thought of something. You could demand that I get a high paying job that requires nothing in the way of work on my part.â€
â€œNo, I donâ€™t think thatâ€™s going to help us,â€ the kendoist replied with a tired sigh. â€œAnyway, Iâ€™m going back to bed. Iâ€™ll see you two in the morning.â€
â€œGood night, Motoko-chan,â€ Keitaro smiled.
â€œYeah, sweet dreams,â€ the drunkard winked. She turned to face the young man. â€œSo, what are you going to do about this?â€
â€œIâ€™ve got no idea, Kitsune. Maybe something will come to me during the night? Iâ€™ll see you in the morning.â€
Disclaim-me-do: Thereâ€™s a world of difference between throwing your food on the floor and stabbing a duke in the heart.
Keitaro had not had a good nightâ€™s sleep. His mind had been filled with thoughts of Motoko. Even so, it wasnâ€™t the first time that heâ€™d spent a lot of time thinking about her. Sometimes it was being married to her and the duties that entailed, some of which would have earned him a beating from the kendoist.
Other times, he thought about the ways to get out of the engagement for Motokoâ€™s sake; but the only way he could see to get out of the engagement was to make an outrageous dowry demand.
It wasnâ€™t in Keitaroâ€™s nature to think about large sums of money. He had always been able to appreciate it when he had some in his pocket, but it was just that money didnâ€™t mean that much to him. It didnâ€™t control him or his actions.
The alarm blared and Keitaro sighed as he turned it off.
â€œI have no idea how to deal with this engagement,â€ he muttered as he idly pondered the merits of staying in bed until the situation resolved itself.
There was a knock on the door.
â€œKeitaro, unless youâ€™re sick or dying, get out of bed now,â€ the stern female voice instructed.
â€œWhat? Haruka? What are you doing here?â€
â€œSorting out your mess, Keitaro. Now get out of bed now!â€ Haruka demanded.
Keitaro stumbled through the Inn in his semi-coherent manner looking for Haruka. As he walked past the TV room, he noticed that the two Aoyama sisters were sitting upright and listening intently to someone.
Upon entering the room, he saw that Haruka was the person the sisters were conversing with.
â€œAh, so youâ€™ve finally decided to join us,â€ the smoker drawled. â€œSit down and listen to what Tsuruko-san has to say.â€
â€œWhat? OK,â€ Keitaro nodded and took a seat next to his cousin.
â€œIâ€™ve got some important news for you and Motoko-han,â€ the older sister said. â€œIt seems that our parents have decided that Motoko-han is to be married, but not you, Keitaro-san.â€
â€œWhat?â€ the ronin asked.
â€œI... Iâ€™m being courted by someone else,â€ Motoko answered, still clearly shocked by this latest development.
â€œNot only that, but he seems to be more suited to Motoko than you, Keitaro,â€ Haruka added. â€œApparently, heâ€™s some kind of rising star in the kendo world. Not only that, but heâ€™s rich.â€
â€œOh,â€ was all Keitaro could say in reply.
â€œHeâ€™s not bad looking, either,â€ Tsuruko said. â€œAll in all, heâ€™s quite the catch.â€
â€œSo whatâ€™s the problem?â€ Haruka asked, sensing Keitaroâ€™s question.
â€œHeâ€™s an idiot who lives in some sort of deranged samurai fantasy world,â€ Tsuruko answered. â€œHe learned of Motokoâ€™s coming of age and petitioned our parents for an arranged marriage. He offered quite the incentive to make it happen.â€
â€œThatâ€™s a good question, Keitaro-san. Do we count your fictitious engagement or not? Or does this second engagement not count because it happened after your engagement? One canâ€™t be engaged to two people at the same time,â€ the married Aoyama commented.
â€œSo what now?â€ Motoko asked in a quiet voice. Sheâ€™d met this other suitor once before, and he was most definitely not her type.
â€œYou could marry Keitaro in the next few hours, that would solve the issue, though our parents would be upset that you hid this relationship from them. Or you could dump Keitaro and go with Makoto Koizumi. Your life would be comfortable, but probably unfulfilling. Or you-â€
The doorbell rang, interrupting Tsurukoâ€™s listing of Motokoâ€™s options.
â€œIâ€™ll get that,â€ Keitaro said, unsure of what say or do to help the situation. Upon opening the door, the ronin was greeted by the sight of a young man with lustrous black hair.
â€œYou must be Makoto Koizumi,â€ the smoker commented.
â€œOnce again my fame precedes me,â€ Makoto smiled arrogantly. He gave a small bow. â€œYes, I am Makoto Koizumi.â€
â€œYouâ€™re quite rude for a guest,â€ Haruka said, the young manâ€™s charm having no effect on her. â€œInsulting Keitaro on his own doorstep like this is bad form. Iâ€™m not sure that Motoko would be impressed with this lack of manners...â€
From the doorway of the TV room, the Aoyama sisters observed the exchange between the Urashimas and Makoto.
â€œI canâ€™t say that I like this Koizumi fellow, Motoko-han. Given the choice between the two, I think Iâ€™d go for Keitaro-san.â€
Motoko nodded. Keitaro might not be as urbane, but he certainly wasnâ€™t acting like some idiotic blowhard.
â€œIâ€™ll see if I can sort something out, Motoko-han,â€ Tsuruko said as she straightened her gi before approaching the entrance to the Hinata Sou. â€œAh, good morning, Koizumi-san, how can we help you today?â€
â€œBut my family arranged this with your parents.â€
â€œI only found out about her engagement to Keitaro-san late last night,â€ the married Aoyama explained. â€œI believe that itâ€™s an engagement that was just made. Otherwise, our families would not have made other arrangements.â€
Makoto was unconvinced. After all, this Urashima fellow hardly looked like the sort that could attract the likes of the beauteous Motoko Aoyama. What could Motoko see in such a pathetic looking man?
In Makotoâ€™s opinion, Keitaro was untidy and looked barely capable of walking without tripping over his own feet.
No, in his mind, there must have been some coercion. But what could it be?
Koizumi caught a glimpse of Motoko hiding shyly and realised in horror what it was that had caused this â€œengagementâ€â€“ Keitaro had sullied the poor girl.
â€œYou inhuman monster! I cannot allow you to go unpunished for your crimes!â€
â€œWhat are you talking about?â€ Haruka asked, rapidly growing tired of the obnoxious young man.
â€œHe sullied the pure Motoko Aoyama with his sordid behaviour and with his unchecked lusts!â€
Tsuruko blinked. â€˜Unchecked lusts, eh? Well, perhaps I had better... no, now is not the time for such things.â€™
Makoto gripped his bokken tightly. â€œI will avenge you, Motoko Aoyama, you have my word. This cur will taste the justice of the he-â€
â€œOh shut up, you idiot,â€ Haruka said, interrupting the tiresome tirade. â€œYou turn up unannounced and insult your host, accusing him of sex crimes and threatening him with physical violence. And you really think that youâ€™re the kind of man that Motoko would be interested in?
â€œGo away before I feed you that stupid wooden sword.â€
The smoker slammed the door shut and turned to face Keitaro and the Aoyamas. â€œI think we all know which of the two suitors Motoko should pick.â€
â€œY-yes,â€ Motoko nodded. â€˜Perhaps Iâ€™ve been a bit too harsh on Keitaro... He was willing to risk everything for me.â€™
The doorbell rang again and Haruka opened the door.
â€œHow dare you slam your door in my face!?!â€ Koizumi demanded, his face like thunder.
â€œYou are so very right, Koizumi-sama, how could I make such a faux-pas?â€ the smoker asked with a voice thick with sarcasm. â€œI clearly should have slammed my fist into your face.â€
One right hook later and the would-be suitor was knocked out cold.
Motoko stood open mouthed. Sheâ€™d seen Haruka annoyed with people before â€“ she often hit Keitaro for calling her â€œAunt Harukaâ€, but this was completely different league.
It had been a while since Keitaro had seen his cousin unleash her fury like that. He thought back to the last time it had happened and wondered if that molester on the train would ever eat solid food again.
Tsuruko, however, was thinking of something else. â€˜Haruka-sama is an intimidating woman... Perhaps with the aid of some toys we could try a new scenario with Kouji?â€™
â€œNow then, shall we continue our discussion?â€ Haruka asked with a strained tone.
â€œYes,â€ Keitaro insisted. â€œIâ€™ll make some tea.â€
A few minutes later, Keitaro returned to the TV room with some tea. He was about to ask where Haruka was when she strolled in, looking considerably calmer than before.
â€œRight, now that weâ€™ve all had a moment to collect our thoughts, shall we continue where we left off?â€ Haruka asked as she took her seat.
Tsuruko was the first to speak. â€œI do not think that we need to force the engagement between Keitaro-san and Motoko-han.â€
â€œNor do I,â€ Haruka agreed. She gestured for Keitaro to pour the tea.
â€œThat said,â€ the married Aoyama added, â€œI have considered the potential suitors and I think that Keitaro-san is the best choice for Motoko-han. If they wish to be married, I would give the union my blessing.â€
â€œT-thank you, Tsuruko-san,â€ Keitaro smiled nervously as he handed out the cups of tea.
Motoko had spent much of the last few minutes wondering if she could make a marriage with Keitaro work. He certainly wasnâ€™t the inhuman monster everyone thought he was upon his arrival, and his selfless nature had caused him to go along with the lie about the engagement.
Even if the marriage eventually broke down, it would keep idiots like that Koizumi oaf off her back.
â€œI...â€ the younger sister started, â€œI think that I would like to be engaged to Keitaro.â€
â€œYou would?â€ the ronin asked, more than a little surprised by the admission. â€œAre you sure?â€