A Love Hina story
by Brian Randall
Disclaimer: Love Hina belongs to Ken Akamatsu, Kodansha Comics, Shonen Magazine Comics, TV Tokyo and Pioneer Entertainment.
Foreword: This draws some elements from Greek mythology, abused as always. Additionally, while it is not in continuity (at all!) with Sky and Shore or Compass Points, reading Sky and Shore first may help.
Ivory pillars and golden sunlight.
That was how he thought of it, after the fact.
While he was there, though, he knew what it was. He could experience the fullness of what it was, and what it should be the apple before him on a gilded altar.
It always faded, after the fact.
A dim memory traces of gilt shadowing the corners of his eyes, the sound of .
But it was faint. Far too faint to be remembered. Whatever it had been.
A dream, a thought, a passing fancy, and then a forgotten memory.
"What was I trying to remember?" he mused, staring up at the sky.
He contemplated this for a moment, then declared that it was a mystery beyond him, and rose, glancing around him in curiosity. Pine trees his clothes and hair full of pine needles and the scent of evergreen. "That's pretty good distance," he mused.
[The younger sister]
"Softly, gently," she whispered, hands brushing across the threads. Behind her and ahead of her the Three continued their work, ceaseless and untiring. The thread frayed, threatening to snap.
A disapproving clucking noise from the eldest of the Three, ahead of her, caused her to wince, and she drew her hands back, kissing her fingertips gently. "Softly, gently," she murmured again, caressing the string with care.
As her fingertips touched the thread, a thrill ran through the thread, carefully weaving its pattern deeper into the threads about it. Bound firmly in place, the thread seemed already less frayed, more more a part of the whole.
She heard an approving noise from the middle of the Three, in front of her.
"Softly so softly," she hummed quietly, the lyrical tone making the thread sing, reverberations spreading through the pattern as the once-straight cord became hopelessly intertwined. The other threads were hopelessly dependant on that one single thread to maintain their pattern a single keystone in the structure.
Without that piece, the entire pattern would crumble, becoming two separate patterns . But with it, it was more solid than stone, and would weather the winds of time, only mercy to .
The youngest of the Three giggled her approval. Smiling, she closed her eyes, humming.
"You must go back," the eldest of the Three warned. "My ward does as she must but you cannot stay here overlong. Even we are subject to rules."
She nodded, opening her eyes, and waking up.
Morning again. And morning meant motion, dancing through the world to the music between the spheres that was her right, and more than that, her duty.
Her quiet song greeted the morning, and the morning returned the gentle music joyously. There hung in the air the scent of that which was forbidden to reach her kind, and she regarded it curiously for a moment before dismissing it.
Friends were friends, and her right and duty protected her from the danger.
And that one was not interested in any of those who dwelt within the sun's old home.
Smiling brightly, she continued that dance that most people couldn't see as the endless celebration that it truly was.
The dragon greeted her dance, joining in the chase briefly before going back to perform the duty she lay aside upon waking.
[The younger sister]
"My, you are doing well, aren't you?" she asked quietly, smiling, and feeling the quiet pride fill her as it always did.
Her older sister watched quietly, looking between him and her.
"I do my best," he chuckled, ducking his head modestly. "This time this time, maybe."
She nodded, seeing the threads bind ever tighter with his determination. "Softly, gently," she whispered, tracing a finger across his cheek.
His eyes glazed for a heartbeat, and then he shook his head as her hand lowered, smiling at her brightly.
Behind him, her older sister bowed her head and turned away.
She giggled, watching the sight below in the dim evening light. "Ah, how slowly you learn, Daughter of Troy," she murmured. "But what will you do when he crosses that river, never to return?"
Beneath her, below the balcony she watched from, the young man had been propelled into the trees again, far from the sun's old home. "Such irony."
"And you think you know everything?" someone asked from behind her.
She turned slowly, regarding the other woman with a raised eyebrow. "It is not your domain, is it?" she asked with feigned innocence. "You rule the bow and the hunt, but it seems to me that you have no power over the western gates."
"But she does and she ." The huntress fell silent, looking away for a moment, studying the stars that emerged in the sky as the sun faded. "She would not ferry him across that river, for herself and for her sister," she finally said.
"But she would," the muse countered, waggling a finger authoritatively. "Launching a thousand ships is no mean feat, but how can a Daughter of Troy truly hope to win a man who courts death, however unknowingly?"
"You will learn," the huntress answered simply, turning away.
[The near shore]
Sunlight flowed like rivulets of thickened honey through the afternoon sky. A blazing strand of amber light spread a kindly glow across the area, stopping somewhere before it reached the great white stone pillars. Those same pillars rose around him like a comfortingly protective circle of guardians, wrapped with thin creepers of ivy as they were. The purity of it all made his eyes water.
Shaking his head, he sat up and beheld his surroundings. A circle of pillars surrounded him, while almost endless fields of golden grass waved in an enticing sea about him, as though to draw him into. But in the distance, he spied a glimmer of water, the flowing sunlight gleaming brightly from it in the distance.
"Where is this place?" he asked himself, turning about and beholding a low golden tray, hanging in the air invitingly, bearing a single fruit.
His hand rose of its own accord, but halted before taking the golden apple. "No," he said slowly, as though trying the word out for the first time. "That's not it."
He turned about, and forged through the shining grasses, towards the banks of the river, leaving the fruit untouched.
His eyes opened blearily, jarred from some half-remembered and idyllic dream of what was it? There was golden something golden. "What?" he mumbled, disoriented. "What happened?"
"You mustn't wander so far into my older sister's realm," a gentle voice warned him. "You must take care."
"Of course," he said, closing his eyes. "Sorry, Mutsumi-chan."
She smiled at him endearingly as the memories faded, and he looked about the trees he had landed among. "Huh, she's getting good distance. Sometimes I wonder how I live through it all."
The girl smiled sadly, and shook her head. "Let's go back," she urged. "Away from that golden shore."
She hushed him, pressing her fingertips to his lips and whispering, "Softly, gently ."
He was silenced, and nodded obediently, turning about. "I guess I don't belong there," he mused, the memories fading again.
She lowered her head, wordlessly.
[The younger sister]
She shook her head, feeling the weave of the strand once again tighten, at the same time wearing once more towards the frail and breaking thread that it couldn't be. "Oh," she sighed, shaking her head. "You can't you mustn't as hard as it is ."
Her older sister was before her, head bowed and sobbing. "It's so hard," she wept. "So very hard. I want him!"
"Hush, now," she soothed, embracing her sister gently. "Hush now ."
"But how does it go?" her older sister asked in anguish. "I know how it must be, but I don't want it that way! I want ." She fell silent, tears trickling down her face.
"There is a way," she mused quietly, feeling along the threads. "Even they must enter my domain at some point and when they do, we shall see ."
He knew it was a dream as he entered.
The sensation to him was not like that of walking among the golden fields, as he knew he did occasionally, but only remembered in dreams.
It was as though he had walked through a doorway from a room called waking, into a room called dream. "You're here," he observed quietly, seeing a feminine form standing before him. The room was indistinct, but he ignored it. In the manner of dreams it would change to suit his thoughts. It was merely a room, after all.
She was the stuff of dreams, though. Even as in the waking world, moreso here.
"I am," she whispered, bowing her head slightly. "Do you ever seek wisdom? The answer to questions?"
"I Yes," he decided. "There's so little I understand, but so much I want to!"
"Then come to my banquet," she insisted, sweeping across the space between them. For an instant he was aware of her. Of her presence, of her being. Her curves, her scent the idea of something filmy and diaphanous between them, and nothing else . Then her lips touched his, and his world fell away.
He sat at a table, stretching from before him off into the distance, laden and groaning under the burden of the feast set before him. All manner of foods he knew, and a great many more he had never thought of were before him, waiting.
Bowing his head politely before he began, he partook of the offered feast.
[A dream within a dream]
He was in two places at once.
He understood this; the instant the first sip of the sweet nectar passed through his lips. He was at the banquet, feasting to his heart's content, and too, he was standing upon the stone dais in the golden field.
The sun glowed ember-bright, beckoning him, urging him onward. And, too, he knew that the feast before him was knowledge, and as much as he dined, he would never become overfull.
Knowing this, he stepped forward, towards the water and the near shore.
The grasses whispered around him, soothing and comforting, telling him of the allure and freedom that awaited the reward he deserved. Before him, just past the edge of the water, a shape began to form. A silhouette of a building.
Across the table, as he worked his way through endless dishes, a glimmer of something caught his attention. He picked up his pace, ignoring the grass, feeling the wind from his run urging him onwards. Entire dishes were left only sampled, tasted of, then pushed aside as his curiosity drew him onwards, closer to the elusive glimmer and vague outline.
The nearer he drew, the clearer it became. A white building a golden flash.
His heart pounded painfully, and he raced onward, marveling at the freedom he felt the further he continued across the field and the table.
Finally he drew to a halt, not tired, but oddly refreshed. Before him was the rippling black water which reflected the golden light of the sun brighter, and shining even though it should have been behind the building. The golden glimmer was clear to him, another apple. He regarded it and the building curiously, his hunger returned. He reached for the fruit, strode towards the water.
His fingers caressed the fruit, his toes entered the hungrily lapping waters.
And then, he paused. Why were there two fruits? What about the apple on the dais he had awoken upon?
[It was/It wasn't]
"Here," she whispered to her older sister. "Here we shall see, and choose."
"Here," her sister agreed fearfully. "But I am afraid ."
But why turn back now? His goal was before him, wasn't it?
Making his decision, he took the fruit into his hand, and raised it to his mouth. His teeth pierced the soft flesh, and he partook of it, and all the foods and knowledge he had sampled turned to ash in his belly, as he realized how it paled to the absolute purity of what he partook of.
It flowed through him, consuming him as much as he consumed it.
The dark waters closed over his head.
But why go on ahead? His goal was there and would still be there.
The promises of even more joy and beauty before him tantalized him but he had time. All the time in the world. He stepped back from the waters, and his hand drew away. There was another fruit waiting for him more of his life to live before meeting his goals. Turning away, he strode away.
[The far shore]
His eyes opened, and he knew at once that this was where he had belonged this was as it was meant to be. "Don't cry," he soothed her. "Don't be sad."
"I was a fool," she breathed, tears falling from her eyes to stain the golden grasses. "I was a fool."
"But we are together," he said, reaching towards her.
"And my greed has made you something I cannot desire," she mourned, turning away. "A fool!"
He shook his head, watching her depart. "You will understand, too," he assured her before she vanished. "This place is perfect for you and me to be together."
[The fruit of the second tree]
The taste was bitter, full of pain, iron, and ancient memories. It was a jumble of all of the horrible things that had ever happened to him . And behind that, granting the fruit the texture that compelled him to continue, was the taste of all the joys he had ever experienced, and the knowledge that there was more to come.
"This is what it means," he realized.
"I can't have him," she whispered, closing her eyes. "Not now."
"No " her younger sister mourned. "But it is what was meant to be."
"Will you not cry?"
"Morning again," he mused aloud, opening his eyes. He felt awake. Aware.
He felt alive. "How weird." Climbing to his feet, he stretched, then opened the door, and strode into the house. "Oh, Shinobu, you look upset. Is something wrong?"
The girl smiled sadly, and shook her head. "I'm all right now," she said. "I came as close as I could to what I truly wanted, sempai."
"I see," he said, nodding gravely, even though he didn't.
"You will," she promised him, suddenly breaking into a smile as Suu ran into the room with her odd step, dancing. "You'll have a lot of time to learn, now."
Author's notes: I believe that this one is more obvious, but I will still release an annotated version later, just to let myself hash this one out. This was a result of Druid asking me how I'd cope with the fact that (apparently) Ken Akamatsu said that he felt Shinobu would have been the best for Keitaro.
And now you know.
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