Love Hina: Once Again
Interlude: Unexpected Gifts
Shinobu Maehara hummed to herself happily as she worked away in the kitchen of the Hinata Inn, the scent of chocolate wafting on the air. The black haired young woman worked away with cheerful efficiency, finishing up breakfast even as she made up the chocolate she intended to give away with the meal.
"What're you doing?" Koalla Su asked curiously, the dusky skinned blonde looking over her shoulder curiously.
"Breakfast," Shinobu smiled at her friend and said, "and I'm making up some chocolate for everyone, too."
"It's Valentine's Day," Su remembered the occasion, "but with Keitaro gone, it's going to be kind of boring."
Shinobu smiled a little sadly as she said, "It is going to be different this year, yes."
"Good morning," Mutsumi Otohime smiled cheerfully, the busty graduate student entering the kitchen and smoothly heading to the fridge. "Shinobu, should I set the table?" she asked, twin antenna like strands of hair sticking up sweetly.
"Thank you," Shinobu beamed, checking the rice then beginning to fill plates as one by one the residents came down.
Kitsune yawned as she sat at the table, smiling a bit sleepily at the others. While no longer a resident, she often got her meals here and paid for her share of food. Once a notorious gambler and drinker she had settled down allot, in part from running the Cafe Hinata next door. She grinned, "I see that Motoko had chocolate left at her door again."
"That happens every year?" Ema asked, the thin young woman looking curious. She had her laptop open by her seat, scrolling through documents as she absentmindedly pursued her hobby of studying the supernatural.
"Pretty much," Kitsune agreed, "Motoko is popular."
"Kitsune," Motoko scolded, the tall black haired young woman giving her a frown. She carefully set her bird Shippu on a stand nearby before sitting down, then looked around worriedly. "Where is that damned turtle?" she asked coldly.
"Safely in my room," Mutsumi smiled reassuringly as she and Shinobu set the plates of food out for everyone.
"Thank you," Anthy smiled up at Shinobu, her eyes faintly amused as violet hair fell into her face. Beside her Kanako nodded her agreement, the rest of the table repeating similar sentiments. "So what's wrong with the turtle?" Anthy asked.
"Motoko has a phobia about 'em," Su explained cheerfully. "I keep offering to eat her," she added, "but nobody will let me,"
"Su!" Shinobu scolded.
"See what I mean?" Su smiled impishly.
Shinobu ignored that, setting out little packets of chocolate beside everyone's meal. "Happy Valentine's day, everyone," she beamed at them.
"Homemade chocolate from Shinobu?" Kitsune smiled slightly as she said, "then I know it's going to be delicious. Thank you."
Shinobu blushed charmingly at the compliment. "I thought we could all exchange chocolate today," she explained, "since we don't have any boys here this year."
"What a good idea," Mutsumi clapped her hands happily.
Kanako frowned just slightly as she briskly said, "None for me, thanks." A faint smile, "Considering my family, I've had enough candy to last a life time."
"Eh?" Ema blinked.
"Kanako and Keitaro's parents ran a candy store," Su explained to her calmly, eating away at her meal happily.
"Then I'll be hittin' the stores later," Kitsune excused herself, "I'm not that good of a cook. But I do plan on giving everybody chocolate."
Everyone left not long after, each with jobs to do today not to mention plans to hand out chocolate to each other, too. From up in Su's rooms a loud clanging was soon heard, then a sudden explosion. Thankfully that was pretty much normal, so everyone just left that alone.
"Oh me oh my," Mutsumi murmured to herself as she walked to her room, thinking about what to make for her many friends. Chocolate hearts seemed to be a good bet, but she didn't really know about Ema or Anthy's tastes just yet. 'I could always ask them,' she thought, detouring to walk towards Anthy's room. Moving to open the door she noticed it was open a crack, and slightly guiltily she peeked it... only to freeze.
Anthy looked completely different than the casually dressed girl who had been sitting at the breakfast table only minutes ago. Instead she wore a lovely gown in red and white, almost like that a princess might wear and a simple crown on her brow. She held a single rose in her hand, her expression oddly sad.
"Power of Dios that sleeps within me," she murmured over the rose, "heed your mistress." As Anthy spoke the rose shimmered, petals falling free only to thump softly on the table as pieces of fine chocolate. She continued until she had enough to give two to each of the residents, then stopped with a weary sigh.
'The others aren't going to believe this,' Mutsumi thought in awe.
Anthy looked down at the red rose as the gown and ornaments simply faded away, finally murmuring sadly, "Utena..."
Mutsumi turned away, firmly deciding that it would be better to ask her later. 'Besides,' she thought, 'now I know the name of who she was looking for.'
Meanwhile, Motoko went back to her room, releasing Shippu to fly freely over the Hinata Inn. She bowed to the small altar in her room then hesitated in front of her katana waiting in it's stand. Part of her wanted to take up the blade and practice, but she also knew she was badly distracted.
The chocolates were sitting on her desk, the ones that Motoko had found that morning waiting for her. No note, nothing to indicate where they were from, and home made so she couldn't identify the store. 'Just like the last year,' Motoko mused as she took a piece of chocolate, savoring it as it melted in her mouth.
There was a soft knock then Kanako called out, "Can I come in?"
'At least I know it wasn't her, she wasn't here last year,' Motoko thought. "Come in," she answered stiffly.
Kanako moved gracefully, almost like the cat she usually carried, and she was dressed in her usual dark colors. "Good morning," she said softly, "how are you?"
"Fine," Motoko said flatly. She still didn't much like Kanako for what she had pulled back when she first arrived at the Hinata Inn, and she was determined not to change her mind. Oddly, over the past few months the woman had seemed almost saint-like by comparison, running the dorm with smooth efficiency, but that didn't change anything.
"I was thinking of bringing you something," Kanako softly admitted, surprising Motoko a little, "but I couldn't figure out what you'd like."
"But why?" Motoko blinked, feeling faintly surprised. The idea of Kanako giving Valentine's chocolate out was shocking, especially considering her usually dour personality.
Kanako made a face, "I've been considering what you said, Motoko. I'm beginning to think you might have a point."
"And what did you intend to do about it?" Motoko sounded decidedly wary. Considering that Kanako had nearly ravished her disguised as Naru, it was just a little worrisome.
"It's all right," Kanako smiled faintly, "I don't have dishonorable designs on you." She looked almost amused, "I just wanted to thank you for your help, I suppose."
"You're welcome," common courtesy made Motoko answer. Before the conversation could limp forward some more a knock sounded on the door, "Come in."
A small, turtle designed robot soared in, making both women jump. From it's belly chocolate dropped out, floating to the top of Motoko's desk via a little parachute, then it swept out in a burst of jet-propelled power.
"Su?" Kanako asked as Motoko looked at the card attached to the candy.
"Su," Motoko agreed wryly.
To be continued...