The Only Constant is Change

It's Haruhi, Kaoru, and Hikaru's final year at Ouran. Dynamics are changing and evolving... What will happen to the Host Club Members?

Author's Note: This story takes place about 8 months after the events in A Faire Shot at Mythology. It can be read as a stand alone, but it references events and items from that piece as well. If you are reading my work for the 1st time, I would humbly suggest reading my other stories The Game and A Faire Shot at Mythology before reading this to completely understand some of the relationship dynamics that I use. I promise that if you like this style of writing you will like those too. =)


42. Preliminaries

Haruhi pushed open the doors to the Event Center and marveled at the sheer number of people milling about in the lobby. A group of sports photographers caught her eye. There was a media booth off to her left. Here’s hoping that this group of paparazzi doesn’t recognize me. Fashion Week and Martial Arts are distinct enough entities that there shouldn’t be crossover… I hope. So far we have been able to avoid having to talk to the press. I would like to keep it that way. She turned quickly and looked for any signs pointing to the locker room area.

“Is that Haruhi Fujioka? The girl who is dating Hikaru Hitachiin and Kyouya Ootori? What is she doing here at the Masters Competition?”

The question was just loud enough for Haruhi to shrink inside. Damn! They recognized me. She started walking as quickly as possible without running toward the locker area, hoping to make it before the reporter who had recognized her caught up with her.

“IT IS!!! This is going to be the scoop of the year! Quick! Catch her! Haruhi!! Haruhi Fujioka!! A word with you!!” the reporter yelled as he rushed toward her, a cameraman hot on his heels.

Haruhi glanced desperately out the glass windows and saw Takashi and Hani approaching, but they were far enough away that they wouldn’t catch up with her before the reporter caught her. She could see the concern on their faces as they immediately took in the situation. Both threw decorum to the wind and started running towards her.

“Miss Fujioka! How wonderful to see you again. Please, let me escort you to the preparation area.” A muscular man of average height, in his early thirties, with short black hair, rugged features, wearing a black gi with a tiger embroidered on it, stopped and bowed in front of her. He looked up at her with eyes full of good humor.

Haruhi was surprised not only by his words and his deference since she had never met him before, but his willingness to distract the paparazzi. But it was the humor in his eyes and the Tiger on his sleeve that clued her in and made her relax. She dropped her bag and bowed as well. “Master Fujimia. It is my honor and privilege to accept your escort. My Masters were momentarily delayed... Ah, here they are.”

Takashi and Hani skidded to a stop next to them, slightly out of breath. Takashi glared at the cameraman who was recording every moment of the exchange, the reporter eagerly waiting to jump in.

“Master Mitskuni, Master Takashi, it is a pleasure to see you and your student again,” a warning look crossed Zhi Fujimia’s eyes letting them know not to contradict his familiarity. “I am looking forward to seeing her skill at testing. I was just about to escort her to the preparation area, would you both care to join me?”

“It would be our pleasure, Master Fujimia,” Takashi answered gracefully and gestured for him to lead the way.

“Wait!!,” the reporter cried, “What is this about testing? Is Haruhi Fujioka a student of Takashi Morinozuka? Is that why they drove off together to a retreat yesterday without either of her boyfriends? Are you seeing Takashi Morinozuka as well? How does Hikaru Hitachiin or Kyouya Ootori feel about the situation?”

The last two questions caused the group to pause and Haruhi could see the anger burning on Takashi’s and Hani’s faces at the implication.

Takashi was livid. He was about to turn and give the impudent reporter a piece of his mind when a hand on his arm stopped him.

“Let me,” Zhi said quietly. He turned back to the reporter with a glare. “Mister…” he deliberately glanced down at the reporter’s badge to get his name, hinting that the reporter wasn’t worth remembering, “Charles Blake. Your questions are out of line at this event. This is Masters Tournament not a Tea Party. You will respect our art, the masters, and the students who have earned the right to test before the Masters Council.” He glanced at Hani who gave him a nod, “To answer some of your not so subtle questions. Yes, Miss Fujioka is a student of both Mitskuni Haninozuka and Takashi Morinozuka. She will be testing for her first level Master rank as well as participating in a demonstration with her Senseis. Both of whom are Masters, in their own right as you well know. She has earned the right to test by her skill and a by a majority vote of the Council. I do not know what sordid fantasies you are imagining, but neither she nor her senseis would let their personal life interfere or influence her training. Now please excuse us, we need to prepare for the Testing.”

“What about her staying with Takashi Morinozuka overnight at an exclusive retreat in the French Alps just a day after publically coming out with Hikaru Hitachiin and Kyouya Ootori?” Blake pressed.

A small attractive red-haired woman in a black gi that matched Master Zhi’s stepped up. “It is tradition in the Morinozuka family to spend the night before testing for all Master’s ranks in retreat and reflection. The retreat you keep referring to was inside a converted Monastery, used by several different disciplines for reflection, study, and meditation. It’s not exactly a lover’s retreat.” She gave the reporter a winning smile, before continuing in a much more friendly and slightly cajoling voice, “Charles… you know I trained with the Morinozuka family for years before switching to my husband’s school, so I know about this. Please stop fishing. There is far more here than a silly gossip piece. If Haruhi succeeds in achieving her first level master rank today in front of the Council, she will be the first woman to achieve that rank. If you want a scoop – focus on that. You know what that will mean for females in the Arts.”

Charles Blake melted under Sakura Fujimia’s brilliant smile. “Really?!? Now THAT is a scoop!”

“Thank you, Charles. Now if you will excuse us, we really do need to escort Miss Fujioka and her Sensei’s to the preparation area.” She linked her arm with her Haruhi’s and gave the girl a mischievous smile.

“Of Course! Good Luck Miss Fujioka!!” Charles Blake yelled.

Haruhi graciously nodded her head in return and responded, “Thank You.”

With that final word, Haruhi held her breath until they were out of the public areas and into the preparation area. Once they crossed the barrier and were out of the public eye, she let it out in a sigh of relief.

“Hi, I’m Sakura Fujimia,” the young red-headed woman said with a huge grin, before thrusting out her hand.

Laughing, Haruhi responded, “Haruhi, Fujioka. Pleased to meet you both.” She bowed to Zhi. “And my eternal thanks for saving me from that reporter. I guess it was too much to ask that I wouldn’t be recognized.”

Zhi smiled back, “It was our pleasure. Glad we could help. I knew after the story hit of you, Hikaru Hitachiin, and Kyouya Ootori on Sunday, there was a chance that it could cross over to here, since I know they are great friends of Mitskuni and Takashi. We were on the look-out for the three of you, just in case.” His voice went serious as he turned to Hani and Takashi. “I also wanted to warn you. The old guard is whispering and politicking behind the scenes. The Testing Council for the first level Mastery has been changed. Your uncles were originally supposed to be two of the five judges for the First Ranks. They have been replaced by members of the Nakashimi and Kazimera families.”

Hani hissed through his teeth, “Both of those families have grudges against our families.”

“I know,” Zhi sounded apologetic, “The good news is the remaining three judges are from the Shingoji, Hanikino, and Sushagi Families. While they aren’t aligned with either of your families, they are respected as neutral and will judge the testing fairly.”

“It was to be expected.” Takashi responded.

“Yes,” Zhi answered, “But that is not all. There was enough debate on the Council about your protégé that the full testing routines are going to be required, rather than just the first level mastery one.”

“What do you mean?” Haruhi asked.

“As you know, for testing you usually only have to perform the next level routine to show your skill. For this testing, the Council is requiring all the students to start at the first belt routine and complete them all before demonstrating the first level Master. It’s an endurance and memory test that many here haven’t prepared for. It will likely knock out half the students. ”

“But I have had to do that every time I tested,” Haruhi responded, her voice still puzzled. “How is this time different?”

Zhi whipped his head around to stare at the widely grinning Takashi and Hani. “You have had her working through ALL the routines?”

“Every day and at every belt testing,” Hani answered still grinning. “When Takashi and I first decided that we were going to teach her and what the future impact could be, we started thinking. We had a feeling that if this day ever came, they would throw everything that they could at us to see us fail. So we planned for it. Best case, it wouldn’t happen and Haruhi would sail through the routine, barely breaking a sweat. Worst case, she would have the endurance to perform each move flawlessly.”

Sakura started laughing at the stunned look on her husband’s face. “I TOLD you they were crafty.”

Zhi grinned as the implications sunk in. “The look on the judges’ faces is going to be priceless.”

Haruhi turned to her senseis and said with mock-seriousness, “You mean to tell me that for years I have been doing more than I needed to earn the belts?”

“Naturally, Haru-chan,” Hani smirked, “We know you love a challenge. Couldn’t have you taking the easy way out, now could we?”

Her mock seriousness broke, and she threw her arms around both Hani and Takashi, “You, my friends are devious beyond measure.” She would have kissed them both, but even though they were away from the general public, they were still in full view of all the other students and masters, many of whom were looking their way with extreme curiosity. A loud tone echoed through the room.

“Crap – that’s the 30 minute warning,” Sakura said. “Let me help get Haruhi changed and then she needs to prepare.” She looked at Haruhi and Takashi. “Your sister has been talking about the partner yoga you do together and how it helps you prepare. I have secured a curtained area, where you can get a quick session in and no one will see you. I would hate for the rumors to start flying again.”

“Thank you,” Haruhi responded gratefully, “Takashi and I were able to do quite a bit last night so I am pretty centered. I didn’t expect the opportunity to occur today, so I was prepared to go without. All it can do will help.” She grinned at Sakura. “If you could show me where I could change, I would appreciate it. I am ready to kick butt, make my senseis proud and shake up the world.”

“Ooo… I LIKE you!!” Sakura laughed.



Five minutes later, Haruhi walked out of the bathroom dressed in the new gi that Takashi and Hani had given her. I can do this. I WILL succeed. She and Sakura met back up with Hani, Takashi, and Zhi. Hani and Taka having taken a moment to change into their gis. She spared a moment to really look at them. Damn they look good. She gave them a brilliant smile with they answered with a wink. “Ok, where can we stretch?”

“This way,” Sakura replied. “And if I may say so, the three of you look gorgeous. Gi’s are not usually something that is considered stylish, but the cut of yours is different while still being traditional.”

“It helps that Haru-chan is both best friends with half and dating the other half of an haute couture design team,” Hani grinned. “Kao-chan was more than willing to come up with the design. We just approved the results.”

“It doesn’t surprise me you let Kao talk you into this.” Haruhi shook her head.

“It was the other way around, ashke,” Takashi said. “Kaoru wouldn’t let it go until we relented. I for one am glad we did".

Sakura and Zhi swiftly looked at each other at Takashi’s slip of the word ashke. Neither knew what it meant, but neither had heard that tone from the normally stoic Takashi Morinozuka.

Hani saw the exchange between them. I will have to explain. He sighed quietly. I know they will understand, but it is going to be a bit of a shock, since they think that Takashi and I are exclusive. Out loud, he said looking at his watch, “You have twenty minutes before Haruhi needs to line up to take her place on the mat. You may want to hurry.”

“Yes Sensei,” Haruhi said formally, as she pushed back the curtain Sakura had led her to. She removed the jacket portion of her gi and stepped into the center of the area in just her sports bra and pants.

Takashi followed suit immediately and removed his jacket as well. Stepping up to her, they immediately placed their palms together and started breathing.

Sakura and Zhi started to turn away and leave the three alone, but Hani’s hand on her arm stopped them. “You will want to watch this,” Hani said quietly.

“Are you sure?” Zhi asked.

“Absolutely.” Hani dropped into a seated position and gestured for them to join him.

Haruhi had felt everything else drop away the moment that she looked up into Takashi’s eyes. Their palms connected, their heartbeats synchronized and they slipped into a routine that had become so familiar they closed their eyes and let their bodies naturally flow into each movement.

“Wow…” Sakura breathed as she watched them.

“They are completely connected aren’t they?” Zhi asked quietly. At Hani’s nod of assent he continued, “But you don’t appear jealous in any way. I know that you and Takashi are together, or at least I thought you were, even if it still must be kept from the Council, but how does she fit in? I thought she was dating Hikaru Hitachiin and Kyouya Ootori?”

“Takashi and I are still together… and you are right. I am not jealous of Haru-chan and my lover.” Hani turned and smiled, so Zhi could see the honesty in his eyes. “If it was anyone else but Haruhi, it would be different… she is different. It’s hard to describe, but it is one of her gifts. She is fierce, passionate, steadfast, honest, intelligent, determined, and a truer friend than many will ever find. She also loves unconditionally without prejudice. It’s the reason all of her friends, myself included, are at least a little in love with her… and she loves us back as well. She is able to find the part of us that needs nurturing and fills it and we do the same for her. I don’t have the patience for yoga – never have, but Takashi loves it. She can give that to him when I can’t.” he waved a hand at them, “You see the results. She gets his calm strength and focus and he gets her passion without prejudice.” He spoke to Sakura, “Thank you for setting up this little space. Haru-chan would have done fine without this chance to connect. With it, she is going to be unstoppable.”

“My pleasure,” Sakura replied. “Both you and Takashi are as close to brothers as I will ever get. I care about both of you and getting the chance to help you makes me happy. I already liked Haruhi from what both of you and Yakini have said about her. Now that I have actually met her and just heard what you said about her, I like her even more… and it has absolutely nothing to do with showing those stubborn, prejudiced, old goats, that a woman is just as capable as a man.” She had a wolfish grin that made Hani laugh.

“Don’t ever let them hear you say that, my love, or no power on earth will be able to convince them to let you test,” Zhi warned before adding with a grin. “Not that I don’t agree with you 100%.”

“You are an incredible Aikido Master and deserve the chance to test, Sakura. I hope this will convince the Council to rethink the petition,” Hani said as another loud tone echoed through the area. Looking up, he saw Haruhi and Takashi shift into their final tree pose with one hand pressed together and the other on the other’s heart.

“It’s time.” Haruhi said looking into Takashi’s eyes.

“Change the World, ashke,” Takashi responded and bent down to kiss her softly on the lips.

“Let’s do this, Haru-chan,” Hani said, walking up to them. Grinning he kissed her just as softly before smacking her on the ass. “It’s time Fujioka. Make us proud.”

“Yes Sensei.” Haruhi grinned and put on the jacket he held out to her.

“Good Luck,” Zhi said, bowing.

“Give ‘em Hell and knock ‘em down with a feather!” Sakura grinned before kissing her cheek.

“Thank you. All of you.” Haruhi replied and taking a deep breath took her place in the line preparing to enter the arena.

I can DO this.

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