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Part 5: Chapters 23 to 29
(MF, Mf, humor, rom, fanfic, harem, OM, OF, slow, no sex)
Written by Spacer X (paul_t_22@yahoo.com)

Chapter Twenty-Three: Things That Go Bump in the Night

<Click.> The lightly sleeping Keitaro suddenly woke up. He heard the sound of something quietly scraping across the floor, as if a sliding door was sliding along its tracks. He opened his eyes, but it did him no good, as his room was completely pitch black.

<Click.> That must be the sound of a door closing, thought Keitaro with growing panic. A very, very nearby door. My door? Is there a thief in my room?!? Keitaro bolted up in his bed and frantically tried to think of what he could grab to use as a weapon against his assailant.

"Shhh.... It's me, Mitsune." The whispered voice was coming from somewhere very close.

"Mitsune, is that you? You scared the hell out of me! Where are you? What are you doing? It's the middle of the night!"

"Shhh... Be quiet. Nothing to panic about. I was just having trouble sleeping, and thought I would stop by and say 'hi.'"

"Say 'hi'?!? What? Mitsune, you can't be here!" said Keitaro in frantic but hushed tones.

His eyes were slowly adjusting to the dim light of the stars, and he scanned the room to see where her voice was coming from.

Ah, there she is, he thought. Oh no, it looks like she's only wearing a white terra cloth bathrobe. And wait - the robe - it's falling from her shoulders!

"Mitsune, what are you doing?!?"

"I was having such trouble sleeping; I was hoping you could comfort me." She reached out in the darkness and began stroking his hair. "You know how Suu has trouble sleeping so she sleeps in Motoko's bed? I was thinking that was a very capital idea." Mitsune slid herself under Keitaro's comforter, and cuddled her naked body up next to his.

"But, but, no!" stuttered Keitaro. "That's different! They're both women!"

"Are you saying I should go sleep in someone else's room?" Mitsune began kissing her way towards Keitaro's face, and roaming her hands over his body. "After allÖ" <kiss> "It's so convenient that your room is right next to mine..." <kiss> "and the other's rooms are so far away..." <kiss> "You're so kind..." <kiss> "To help a friend in need..."

Her face reached his, and they began a lengthy face-to-face kiss. But even as his body was acting one way, his mind was racing in the other. No! This is wrong! he yelled inside his own head. As soon as this kiss ends, I have to put my foot down. Send Mitsune back to her room. Think about willpower. Think about Motoko, Mutsumi... Naru...

The kiss finally came to an end, and Keitaro blurted out, "Mitsune, this is wrong! I have to be firm!"

"I can see you're doing very well in that department," Mitsune giggled quietly. Her hands were still roaming his body, and found a different confirmation of his statement than he was intending.

"Do you really want me to go?" asked Mitsune in a more understanding tone. "Just say the word and I'll go." She drew away from him, so he could have a chance to seriously think. She didn't want this if it wasn't something he really wanted as well.

Conflicting emotions battled in Keitaro's head. When he finally opened his mouth, he didn't know what would come out: "Ye-ye-yes... No... No. Please stay." They kissed again, and Keitaro rolled on top of Mitsune.


<Beep, beep, beep!> Keitaro reached out and slammed his hand onto his alarm clock. He opened his eyes and looked around. The sun was already up in the sky and pouring through his windows.

It suddenly came to him, what he and Mitsune had done the night before. He looked all around, but she was gone, and there was absolutely no hint remaining that she had been there. He reflexively put on his nerdy glasses.

This was the second time they had made love. His reaction was far different from how he felt after waking up the first time. He wasn't having a panicky attack of shock and confusion. Instead, he just sat up in his bed and looked glum.

One reason for his calm demeanor was that he was waking up in his own familiar bed this time. But mostly it was because he was too aware and a deliberate participant of what happened to fool himself now that he didn't know what was happening.

And he was glum not because he didn't enjoy what happened the night before, but rather, because he enjoyed and wanted it so much. This is so strange - I've never yet had a girlfriend, officially, but I already feel like I'm cheating.

The night before last, I had a date with Motoko. Well, sort of a date, anyways. I should be thinking about her! And I have to get up and go practice with her right now! How can I face her? And tomorrow Mutsumi will be coming here. I should be excited about that. And I am, I guess. But now I'm going to be spending all day wondering if Mitsune is going to sneak into my bedroom tonight, and hoping that she will. Damn!

There's no way this sneaking around with Mitsune can last. We'll all be going to the beach the day after tomorrow, and all sleeping in close proximity there, so no chance for fooling around. And I really need to use that time at the beach to make my choice between Motoko and Mutsumi, the two women I really love, given that Narusegawa hates me. I really have to make my choice before we leave the beach. It's not fair to anyone to draw this out, like I've done before, when I wasn't willing to let go of the hands of Mutsumi or Naru.

So what happened last night has to be a last time. Unless she does it again tonight! I hope she doesn't force me to make that choice again, with so much in flux. If nothing else, we'll be caught before too long. I can't lead her on and give her reason to think she means the most to me. I can't believe how weak I am. I never make the tough decisions, and I let other people decide for me.

So why is that all I can think about right now is Mitsune?

Chapter Twenty-Four: Princesses and Trolls

Keitaro's morning kendo practice with Motoko went by agonizingly slowly. He felt terrible from too little sleep. He had considered lying and telling her that he hadn't slept well the night before, so he could beg off the practice. But he decided that silence was slightly better than telling a lie. Besides, the lie was disturbingly close to the truth. Given all that had happened in the last few days, an observant person would wonder just WHY he didn't get much sleep.

What made things worse was that the moodier he got as the practice went on, the more encouraging Motoko behaved, in an attempt to cheer him up. That would just depress him even more, which would make her try to act upbeat even more, in a vicious cycle of attempted kindness. It's going to be a really long day , groaned Keitaro.


But the day wasn't all bad. On his last movie date with Motoko, he'd promised Sara that next time he'd take her to the movies as well, and he'd also offended Mitsune by leaving her out of previous movie plans. So, that night, all the Hinata Inn residents - Keitaro, Motoko, Mitsune, Shinobu, Suu, and Sara - went to see a movie together. To his chagrin, Keitaro found that he had to pay for everyone's tickets.

They saw the sci-fi classic "Star Wars," which was in the theaters again for yet another remastering and revival. Most everyone had seen it already, but they all enjoyed it just the same.

Afterwards, they ate ice cream at a cafe near the movie theater, and talked about how much they all liked the film. Someone said it was a great film for all ages, and that put an idea into Keitaro's head.

"Hey, you know what," he said to everyone, excitedly. "The day after tomorrow we're all leaving for the beach. After our infamous play we put on last year, you know there's no way Haruka is going to let us get away without putting on another one this year. Last year we did a traditional play. Maybe this year we could do a modern one."

"What, you mean Star Wars?" queried Mitsune.

"Yeah, why not? Everyone knows it, and it's got sword fights, which is one of our strong points, good costumes, a pretty princess to be saved..."

"I'll bet I know who thinks he's going to be the one to save the princess," said Mitsune with a wry smile.

Suu jumped up and began shouting, "Yes! Action! Adventure! Guns! Light sabers!" She punctuated each word with a high kick or punch into the air.

"I take it Suu likes the idea," said Keitaro. "What does everyone else think?"

Sara also started jumping around, firing imaginary weapons towards Suu and yelling, "It's great! Take that, Darth Vader!" Clearly she was in.

Shinobu said, "Yeah, I suppose so, Sempai. Any choice is fine with me." Alone of the group, she seemed to not be enjoying herself that evening. She'd been very subdued all day.

Motoko, trying to appear unenthusiastic about the whole play idea, said, "We besmirch our traditions, but judging from last year, we besmirch them more by trying for a traditional performance. Plus, I guess anything is better than having to be a water troll."

That left Mitsune. She asked, "Do I get to play Princess Leia?"

"Hey, no fair!" Motoko butted in. "Last time, I had to be a TROLL!"

That led to a spirited discussion over who should play what that lasted the rest of the evening. Nothing was immediately resolved, but as soon as they returned to the inn, Suu immediately began creating all the backgrounds, weapons and other scene props that would be needed. She had a lot of help from everyone else. They all would have a lot to keep busy with in the next week.


Keitaro was a bit surprised and disappointed that he didn't have a visitor to his bedroom that night.

Chapter Twenty-Five: Dangerous Escalators

Keitaro, Mitsune, Motoko, Suu, Sara, and Shinobu all sat waiting at the Tokyo airport. They were bored. Thanks to Shinobu's call, this was the day Mutsumi would finally come back from Okinawa. She'd called the Hinata Inn with her arrival time the day after Shinobu called her. However, her plane was very late, which caused them all to miss lunch.

Tama the turtle was also there, since Mutsumi originally owned her before she had been given as a gift to the Hinata Inn. Mecha-Tama also tagged along. Even since the day Tama had been given Suu's aphrodisiac and began chasing Mecha-Tama, the turtle and mechanical turtle appeared to be inseparable from each other. No one, not even Suu, could quite explain why. Mecha-Tama had no gender or sex organs, and wasn't programmed to understand love. But somehow none of that seemed to matter.

Keitaro was very pensive, thinking about Mutsumi's imminent arrival. This could be it. When I see Muts u mi's face, this could be the moment when I realize my true feelings for her, and her for me. When I see her face, and look into her eyes, then I'll know... We'll both know... But how can she really know her true feelings for me, if I haven't told her about what's been happening between me and Motoko and Mitsune? Will she still want to talk to me? How can I explain that stuff to her?

All this sitting around waiting and thinking was making him stir-crazy. Keitaro stood up and said to the others, "I think this may be the wrong gate. She may have been bumped to the other flight coming from Okinawa. I'm going to go take a look."

Before he was even 100 meters from the group, as Keitaro neared an escalator coming up from a lower level, he spotted Mutsumi's face through the crowd. First he saw her head, with a lovely green hat on it, and then the rest of her body was slowly revealed as she rose to the top of the escalator. "Mutsumi!" he shouted, and he pressed his way forward faster through the crowd.

Mutsumi now saw him too. "Urashima-kun!" she shouted in return. Keitaro ran towards her with arms outstretched, while still holding a present in one of his hands. Mutsumi, now reaching the top of the escalator, also stretched out her arms and prepared to greet him with a big hug. She appeared to be holding a small watermelon like a basketball, in the palm of one of her hands.

But right as the two reached each other, Mutsumi also came to the end of the escalator, and, not paying attention to it, found herself falling forward. The running Keitaro found himself hugging air where he thought she would be. He flew right past Mutsumi and went crashing down the steps of the up escalator. He finally came to a stop half way down, thanks to all of the people coming up the escalator that he plowed into and knocked down. "Mutsumi!" he cried again, as he stood up and then fell back down the escalator again. He fumbled around for his gift.

The escalator kept sending him up, and he finally managed to find his feet. Meanwhile, Mutsumi picked herself up and turned back towards the escalator. "Urashima-kun!" she yelled.

Again, they met at the top of the escalator with open arms, this time with their positions reversed. But Keitaro misjudged the timing of the escalator and was propelled forward faster than anticipated. His head and Mutsumi's bonked together, making a loud thud like the sound of two coconuts hitting. Both were propelled away from the escalator (luckily!) and fell sprawled out on the ground.

When Keitaro came to his senses a few seconds later, he realized he still had his present in one hand, and a.... breast... in the other! He pulled his hand away, and sat up to see a smiling, and very cheerful Mutsumi also getting up next to him.

"I'm so sorry, Mutsumi!" He made a quick series of embarrassed bows from his seated position.

She laughed, "It's good to see you, Urashima!" Both rubbed their sore heads, blushed for their clumsiness, and then laughed some more.

Mitsune walked up to Mutsumi and handed Mutsumi's watermelon back, because it had rolled away during her second fall. "I think you lost this, Turtle Lady," she said good-naturedly. All the others from Hinata stood beside Mitsune and were all laughing too. Clearly, they had seen the whole embarrassing episode.

"I forgot how it is when you two are together," said Mitsune. "I don't know if you two are made to be with each other, or if you two should stay as far apart as possible! Together, you two might be a public danger for Tokyo, like Godzilla and Mecha Godzilla."

Made to be with each other? thought Keitaro. Oh yeah, whatever happened to that important first look we were going to share? He looked over at Mutsumi, now surrounded by the others. They were giving her affectionate hugs and gentle punches as they helped her up from the ground. Tama-chan also flew around excitedly in the air, buzzing as close to Mutsumi's head as she could get. Mutsumi was wearing a green floral dress in a pattern that matched her hat, which somehow still rakishly clung to her head. His breath caught in his throat as he realized all over again how beautiful she was. But clearly any chance for a serious moment had passed. He'd messed things up again with his clumsiness.

Motoko found Keitaro's hand, and pulled him up from the ground. Their group was still making it hard for others coming up the escalators to get by. Realizing this, they moved to an open space away from the busy through fares.

"Welcome back!" said Keitaro to Mutsumi, who was making one of her endearing close-eyed smiles.

"Thank you so much!" she responded enthusiastically.

Chapter Twenty-Six: Surprises Inside

Mutsumi still clung to her one, small watermelon.

Sara then asked her, "Mutsumi, is that all the luggage you brought with you, that one watermelon?"

"What? My luggage?" Mutsumi wore her puzzled face. "Oh, yes, this is all I have."

The mouths of everyone else dropped in surprise.

"No wait!" she continued. "Silly me, no, there's more. I still have to get my baggage from the baggage carousel. But all those bags contain nothing but more watermelons!"

Everyone's mouths dropped a little more.

What a crazy, amazing woman, thought Keitaro.

"Speaking of watermelons," said Mutsumi, "I have a very special gift for you, Urashima-kun. I wanted to give it to you in person as soon as we'd meet today." She handed him the small and undistinguished looking watermelon. She looked at him with great excitement and anticipation in her eyes.

"Uhhh... Thanks," he replied. He held the watermelon on top of his gift box for her he was still holding, and stared at it dumbly, trying to figure out what made this watermelon different from any other.

"Oh! Forgetful me!" smiled Mutsumi. "You must be wondering what's special about that watermelon. It's not special on the outside, it's special on the inside! That's why I had to carry it separately. Go ahead and open it up!"

Keitaro continued to stare at the watermelon like he expected it to do something, and finally managed to ask, "Does anyone here have a knife?"

All eyes naturally turned towards Motoko. She was dressed only in ordinary street clothes, but much to everyone's surprise, including seemingly her own, she already had a long knife held in her hands in front of her, as if in offering.

How and why did she get that knife past airport security? wondered Keitaro briefly. It was as if she had a way to make bladed weapons materialize out of thin air whenever she needed them.

Mutsumi gratefully took the knife from Motoko, then the watermelon from Keitaro, and began cutting. She made a shallow cut completely around the circumference of the watermelon. Everyone eagerly waited to see what was inside.

She handed the watermelon to Keitaro. He then pulled the two new halves apart. Inside was the same fleshy red pulp found in any watermelon, but in the middle there was a red box. He handed off the watermelon (to the always starving Suu, who immediately began gobbling at it), and lifted up the box. Keitaro opened the box, and inside, amidst all the packing material, was a small 35mm camera. He pulled it out and held it up in wonder.

"Thank you so much, Mutsumi-san! This is such a nice and thoughtful gift! And the packaging! How on earth did you get the box inside the watermelon? It's like putting one of those ships inside of a bottle, but even more impossible!"

"Ancient Okinawa secret. I'm afraid I can't tell!"

Mutsumi's smile was very contagious. She was very pleased her gift had gone over well, and everyone else was as amazed as Keitaro to find a box inside an uncut watermelon.

"Now it's your turn to give a present," Mutsumi said while pointing at the box in Keitaro's hands. "What's that?"

Keitaro suddenly felt bashful. "Oh this? Sorry, I feel bad, 'cos it's not nearly as nice as your gift. Yours must have cost more, and certainly my packaging is so ordinary! But I tried to think of something you didn't have that you really needed..." He handed her the box.

She tore the wrapping paper open, and inside was a beautiful and expensive photo album. "It's wonderful! Just what I needed!" She gave him a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. Keitaro blushed, and marveled at how good her body felt on his.

Mutsumi looked at her gift again, and said, "Wait a minute. I gave you a camera, and you gave me a photo album. How perfect is that? We can take pictures with your camera, and put them in my photo album!" She gave him another hug.

Everyone seemed pleased as can be with the remarkably matching gifts, except for a rather stone-faced Motoko, who appeared preoccupied with cleaning the watermelon juices off of her knife.

Mitsune thought about Mutsumi and Keitaro Can anyone explain those two? They're just too weirdly perfect for each other. How can Motoko or I compete against that?


Those weren't the only gifts given that day. The other notable gift was given when everyone reached Mutsumi's bags at the baggage carousel. Mutsumi had a couple of duffel bags waiting for her, and sure enough, the others peeked inside and saw nothing but watermelons.

"Actually, I do have a couple of other things with me beside watermelons," said Mutsumi. "Here comes one now." Coming down the carousel was a container with caged sides, specifically designed to hold pets.

She grabbed it as it came by, and opened it up. "This is a gift for Tama-chan specifically, and everyone at the Hinata Inn generally. I thought Tama might be getting lonely."

Another turtle just like Tama-chan flew out of the container and began soaring through the air around them.

"His name is Taro," added Mutsumi. "I named him that because he looks cute, just like his namesake, Keitaro," she said with a wink. "I thought Tama could use a mate."

Keitaro blushed. "You may be too late," he said. "It looks like Tama-chan has already found one. She and Mecha-Tama have been inseparable lately." Tama and Mecha-Tama were still side-by-side, seemingly paying little attention to Taro.

Suu piped up, "Yeah, but since Mecha-Tama is mechanical, they can't have babies. With Tama and Taro, they can! Soon we'll have baby turtles everywhere. And then we fatten them up, and... turtle soup every night!" Suu was literally drooling at the prospect.

"What a nightmare," said Motoko out loud, without thinking. Everyone turned her way. "Sorry!" she added, in sudden embarrassment. "I don't mean to belittle your thoughtful gift, Mutsumi-san. But there's just... too many turtles!" She drew back in horror as Taro-chan happened to fly near her.

"I'm sorry, Motoko-chan," smiled Mutsumi. "I forgot about your feelings for turtles. I'll make it up to you somehow."

But at that moment, Motoko wasn't thinking just of turtles. With the attention off of her, she continued to think, What a nightmare is right! Unlucky day, for me. Keitaro and Mutsumi acting like two peas in a pod, their perfect gifts for each other, Mutsumi looking so beautiful, turtles breeding and flying everywhere... I'm never going to win Keitaro's heart!

The conversation amongst the others continued, and only served to rub in Motoko's feelings.

Keitaro said, "Suu, I'm not saying that we'd let you eat baby turtles, because we won't. But before you get your baby factory up and running, you'll have to get Taro-chan to fall in love with Tama-chan, and that doesn't look likely."

"No problem!" Suu proclaimed. "Operation: Turtle Love is now commencing!"

Mitsune couldn't resist making a joke. She looked straight at Keitaro and said with a bemused but pained facial expression, "One overly active flying turtle* with too many suitors, all trying to fall in love. Whose situation around here does that remind me of?"

Ouch, thought Motoko. That hits too close to home.

* Note: The girls have used "flying turtle" as a nickname for Keitaro's privates.

Chapter Twenty-Seven: Gym Teacher and Barfly

Mutsumi placed most of her things (basically, her giant collection of watermelons) in her room. She was continuing to live across the street from the Hinata Inn, in a room above Haruka's tea house, and one floor above from the room where Haruka was living.

Mutsumi then went over to the Hinata Inn for dinner, and soon after dinner everyone took part in a great big party to celebrate her arrival. Mutsumi liked drinking alcohol almost as much as she liked watermelons, so she and most everyone else began getting rip-roaring drunk. Everyone had lots to drink; that is, except for Mitsune.

The problem was, Motoko absolutely refused to allow Mitsune to drink a single drop of alcohol, and she watched her like a hawk.

Nothing Mitsune could say or do would change Motoko's mind. "Motoko, you already made me run ten kilometers today, and every day for the past five days! My body is crying surrender. You've taken every single bottle containing alcohol from my room, and put them in yours." Mitsune added in an aside within her own thoughts, And the ones that you've missed I've been drinking up, and now I really am all out!

"Come on!" she begged Motoko. "Just one glass of sake. It's a special occasion! Just this once!"

Everyone around joined in egging Motoko on. "Come on, Motoko!" "Just one glass," they said.

Motoko sternly replied, "Sorry, but you know my answer. It's for her own good!" There was a big collective groan.

"Well, if that's the way you're going to be," said Mitsune, "I'm going to go to bed. Better that then sit around and watch everyone drink when I can't."

The others encouraged Mitsune to stay, saying things like: "Oh come on!" "Don't be a spoilsport!" "It's only 9:00; you've never gone to bed that early in your life!" But she walked off.

Back in her room, she said to herself in a frustrated grumble, So mean! She's so heartless! But I'm not going to take this lying down. With all of them busy having fun, no one will notice if I slip off to a bar and have just one drink!

That's exactly what she did. Down at her favorite nearby bar, she did have her one drink. But then it occurred to her that she couldn't go back like that, feeling tipsy and with alcohol on her breath. If Motoko finds me out, I'll be in big trouble. I'd better sit here and wait until the effects of the drink wear off, first.

But there was no one around her to talk to, and nothing to do, so to relieve her boredom she had another drink. That meant she had to wait that one out too, which meant waiting a really long time, and of course she couldn't wait that long without having another. And another.

A couple hours later, who should walk into the bar but Motoko. Mitsune was totally plastered.

Mitsune took one look at Motoko pushing her way towards her like some kind of relentless bounty hunter, and said, "Ooooohhhh shit!" She took a look at the nearly full glass in front of her, and finished it off in one gulp while thinking, Gotta destroy the evidence!

Motoko stood next to her, arms folded, and said, "Mitsune-san! I'm very disappointed in you! Not terribly surprised, but still disappointed!"

"How did you know I was here? Aaah, never mind. I was stupid. I should have picked a different bar. I guess I should ask, what's my punishment going to be?" She used her arms, propped up on the counter, to keep her head from sliding down into the same.

"First off, I'm going to take you back. Secondly, your terms of running and no drinking will be extended another month. Any more violations, and I'll extend it even further!"

"Motoko! You sound like a high-school gym coach or something! You should be a gym coach, did you know that? Can't you be mean, I mean, can't you be kind? What's the deal anyways? Since when did you become such a stern taskmaster?" She rubbed her hands roughly into her own face, in an attempt to revive more consciousness into it.

"Since I started looking after you." said Motoko "I feel it's my duty, for some stupid reason. Come on, let's go," Motoko got up as if to leave.

"What's the hurry? You got me, already. Here, have a seat." Mitsune attempted, and mostly succeeded, to pat the seat of the barstool next to her.

"Come on, take a load off," she continued. "Here, let's have a drink. Oops! Or maybe don't have a drink. Although I can see you've been drinking some at the Hinata Inn, you meanie. If there's anyone I can talk to about this, it's you."

Motoko reluctantly took the seat.

Mitsune went on: "It's not just the alcohol ban that made me want to come here tonight. I mean, come on. You were there too. You saw them too. Keitaro and Mutsumi, carrying on and having fun up there, like she hadn't been away a day. You expect me to sit there and see those two together, and see everyone drinking, without being able to drink a bit and dull my senses to it all? I mean, what do you think? I don't know why, but I'd rather see him end up with you, than her. She's just so... I don't know. But she's so..." Mitsune leaned towards Motoko to make a point, and found herself falling towards her.

Motoko had to brace her up and push her back into her seat. "Come on, Mitsune, time to get you home. As for what I think, I like Mutsumi. I don't want to be her enemy. I don't want to get jealous about her, and I'm not going to get jealous about her if I can help it. That won't help me. My problem is when I become victim of my petty emotions and lose control. Sure, I'm frustrated, but I'm not a quitter. It looks to me like you're quitting."

"I wish I could be strong like you," said Mitsune in a very tiny voice.

"We're going to make you strong, Mitsune-san. The running and the drinking ban, for instance. Strength comes through discipline and practice."

"Alright, you're right. You're always right. Not like some floozy barfly like me." <Sigh> "Let's get back there already. The more we talk here, the more Keitaro and Mutsumi are up there together doing who-knows-what without proper supervision. I'm going to bed, for real this time. You gotta keep an eye on those two. You're good at that. She's liable to up and kiss him at any moment, and he's only too happy to kiss back. Believe me! I know that one for sure, ha-ha." She laughed sadly.

Motoko paid Mitsune's bill, and held her up as they walked back. Motoko wanted to say something encouraging, especially to counter Mitsune's despairing "floozy barfly" comment, but Motoko didn't know what to say in these kind of situations. She got Mitsune to bed eventually, and went back to join to party.

Chapter Twenty-Eight: He Tries to Explain

It was noon the next day, and Keitaro was fretting. Everyone was packing and loading up the car they would all be using to make the several-hour drive to the beach. But since Mutsumi had arrived about 24 hours earlier, Keitaro still hadn't had the guts to talk to her one and one, and explain what had happened between him and both Mitsune and Motoko. Everything has gone well so far - we had a really good time at the party - but that's only because I haven't told her anything yet! She may not want to go to the beach at all, if she knows. I have to screw up my courage and tell her now, before we leave!

Mutsumi had been shopping in town (and in fact her purchases included a stylish dress for Motoko, to make up for her turtle gift of the day before). Keitaro waited outside the Hinata Inn and finally saw her coming back. "Mutsumi!" he yelled, and chased her down. They stopped to talk in a garden near the road leading up towards Haruka's teahouse.

"Mutsumi, do you have a minute?" he asked rather breathlessly.

"Of course, Urashima-kun! What is it?" She put down her bags. She wore a shawl and hat to cover up on a windy day.

"Um, I don't know how to say this, but I feel like I have to say this to you, before this trip... I guess I'll just launch straight in... You know that, at the start of summer, Narusegawa and I had a falling out. I told her that I had feelings for her, romantic feelings, but that last night she was here, she told me that she wanted to be just friends, and nothing more. I haven't spoken to her since, and I don't know what's going to happen with her in the future, but I was pretty crushed." His head hung down.

Mutsumi reached out and held his shoulder consolingly. "I'm so sorry, Keitaro."

"Yeah, it's just that, well, the last couple of months were pretty rough, and I finally think I'm over my romantic feelings for her. And you and I were very close to dating even before then, and it would make sense if we started dating now."

Mutsumi brought her hands together over her chest, as if in prayerful expectation. "I would like that very much!" she said enthusiastically.

"So would I, so would I." Keitaro still held his head down sadly, in a manner totally inappropriate for someone about to ask someone out on a date. "But you see... The thing is... While you were in Okinawa, some ... things ... happened. I started to grow closer to everyone here, and doing lots of things with them as they helped cheer me up. I especially grew close to Motoko-chan. She told me she had feelings for me, and then we kissed - Just once, briefly! But we've kissed, rather intimately."

Keitaro finally turned his face up and look at Mutsumi. She now had a very troubled look on her face.

"So I have feelings for her. And it goes back to when I almost was forced to marry her. But! I also have feelings for you! Motoko and I are not going out. We've just recognized that we have feelings. And... and... it's not fair, for me to go out with her, when I turned you away, and never really gave you a chance. So right now, I'm very confused, but I want to make up for that. Would you still be interested, in going out with me?"

Mutsumi looked unusually serious for a second, and then put on her smiling face. "Of course, Keitaro! I've tried hard to get you before, and I'm not going to stop now." She put her hand to her mouth, and gave an expression as if she'd just lost or forgot about something. "But the one thing I don't understand, is why does this always happen to me? First Naru-chan, and now Motoko-chan. Am I always fated to be 'the other woman?'"

"No! No! No!" cried Keitaro, gesticulating wildly. "It's not like that! You're not 'the other woman'! You're not second place in my heart. Even before, with Narusegawa, I admit my feelings for her were strong, but that's because I knew her so much better than you. Do you remember when I couldn't choose between letting go of her hands or yours?"

Mutsumi flicked her wrist at Keitaro in a "that's okay" gesture, smiled, and said, "I understand how it is. I should have known something like this would happen. I could guess that some of the others had feelings for you. But as long you still have feelings for me, and are willing to give me a chance, I'm happy."

They grabbed each other's hands, and smiled.

"In fact," continued Mutsumi, "this isn't a surprise for me. I already knew you and Motoko-chan had kissed. In fact, that's why I came back early, to make sure I wouldn't lose you."

"Whaaaat? You knew already? You sure haven't let on! How could you, who told you?"

"I spoke to Tama-chan. She told me everything."

Keitaro was blown away. "Tama-chan? The turtle? You spoke to the turtle? A turtle talked to you on the telephone? How it is that you can speak turtle?"

"Don't be silly, speaking turtle!" replied Mutsumi. "The truth is, one of the other residents told me, though I probably shouldn't say who."

"So. You knew, and you still came back," said Keitaro with a pondering expression. "That means you must already know about the other thing I was going to tell you, about Mitsune. And that doesn't bother you?!?"

"What? What thing with Mitsune?"

"You know, that I had sex with her?"

Mutsumi stood in shock, her mouth hanging open. She placed her hand over her mouth, "Tama-chan didn't say anything about THAT!"

Keitaro thought for a brief second, Tama-chan? Does she talk turtle after all? And why did I just blurt that out? Then he yelled, "It was an accident! I'm sorry! Mutsumi!" Again, he flapped his arms in agitation, flapping so quickly that it looked as if he was trying to fly off.

Mutsumi had already begun running across the street, towards her apartment. While running, she called over her shoulder, "I have to pack! I'll see you later!"

Keitaro began running after her. "Mutsumi! I can explain!" But then something made him stop in the middle of street (luckily free of cars) and turn around. Her bags! She left her bags on the curb. He went back to fetch them.

By the time he had Mutsumi's bags in hand, he realized there was no way to catch up with her. She must be in her room by now. Oh man, you really screwed it up this time. He held the bags and tried to figure out what to do.

She's going to hate me now, for sure... She did say though that's she's packing, so hopefully she's still going on the trip, at least. I'll have to say something or do something to make it up to her. Do something, I guess. I wonder what it could be...

"It was an accident," I said. That's not really true. It's not like we both fell down the stairs or something. And the aphrodisiac doesn't really hold water, because we've made love a second time. I did that completely knowingly, and probably would again. I must be a really twisted... evil... perverted... Arrggh! He shuddered, as if he could shake off all of his base desires.

Alright, first things first. Can't just stand here like an idiot. I have to go give her these bags so she actually can pack, and we can all leave. We're starting to run late. Then I have to explain things to her better, and be honest. Everything will be okay. I hope!

Chapter Twenty-Nine: Not Really Honest

Keitaro knocked on Mutsumi's door. "Mutsumi? I'd like to explain things some more, and I have your shopping bags, too. Can I come in?"

"Sure, just a minute!"

Keitaro waited a very long minute, or minutes. When she finally opened the door, there stood the usual smiling Mutsumi, only slightly subdued. I wonder if she had been crying, but hides it well , thought Keitaro.

"Mutsumi, I feel so bad, can I please explain?" Her face grew more serious, and she gave a slight nod. He put the bags down on the floor, and they both sat around Mutsumi's table. "I don't know what it is, maybe the fact that I'm the only guy in a building full of women. But somehow it seems like most of the Hinata Inn women have a crush on me, or at least that's what Mitsune says. I guess since Narusegawa left, those feelings started showing up more openly, and everyone began acting weirdly. I've been acting weirdly, too."

"The thing is, Mitsune is very beautiful, and she's very flirtatious. She's half-jokingly tried to seduce me before, many times actually, but nothing ever happened. But since Narusegawa left, there was nothing to stop her this time. I don't ... LOVE her, I'm not IN love with her, and I don't think she's in love with me. I don't want to be her boyfriend. I've told her all that, too! But she doesn't seem to mind. She just wants to have sex with me for some reason, and when that happened, I just had to say yes. Maybe everyone is right, and I'm some kind of weird sexual pervert or something." He hung his head, again.

He went on, picking up his head with a new burst of emotion. "But that's not what I want, just sex. I want a real girlfriend. I want someone to love, and someone who loves me. Mitsune doesn't matter with that."

Mutsumi smiled at him wanly, and said, "I understand how it is. I should have never left you alone with so many beautiful women all summer! But tell me, would you sleep with her again in the future?"

Keitaro nervously held his glasses with one hand, and scratched his hair with the other. He paused. "Yes, it's true. If I found myself in a situation where my hormones could take over, then they're going to take over. She has me wrapped around her finger, I guess. And I'm not the same person when you left. All these years of no love, no girlfriend... I'm going off with crazy enthusiasm in the other direction!"

"I don't really mind about the sex," responded Mutsumi. She seemed very serious now. "I think physical love and togetherness is a beautiful thing. And I'll just have to make sure you and Mitsune don't get in the wrong situation. I think I know of a certain swordswoman who would be willing to help me with that!" She smiled again at that, but very briefly. "I'm just afraid that I'm going to lose you again. I would be so sad if that were to happen, but I feel like I'm always fated to lose out."

"You're not! You really are not!" said Keitaro firmly. "My feelings for you are strong. I feel so comfortable around you! I feel like we have a special bond!"

"I feel it too. I'm just happy to be near you." She turned her head down, and it looked like she was trying to stifle the urge to cry. "And that's why what you say makes me ... makes me so sad." She was losing the attempt to not cry, and tears began to roll down her face.

"The thing is," she continued, now crying with abandon, "I'm not lucky in things like this. I never have been. People say I'm good looking, and nice, but I've never really found someone I could love." <sob> "I just know..." <sob> "I just know... Between Motoko and Mitsune... I'm going to lose again!" <sob>

Keitaro tentatively put his hands on her shoulders, and then, finally, embraced her. They hugged tightly, as she continued to cry.

Finally, she pulled back a bit while remaining in his arms, so she could look at him in the face. "I'm so sorry, Urashima-kun. I didn't want you to see me cry." She was no longer sobbing, but tears still rolled from her eyes.

Keitaro gazed intently into her face. He'd never seen Mutsumi cry before, or even really imagined her sad. Her face, with her big brown eyes looking sad like a lost puppy dog and tears rolling down her cheeks, was more than he could bear. He felt like he had to say something, anything, to make her feel better, and put a smile back on her face.

"Mutsumi, please! What can I say? You mean so much to me. What I said before, about wanting a real girlfriend, I want it to be you! I want you, Mutsumi. If you'll have me..."

"Of course I'll have you, Keitaro!" There was a new excitement in Mutsumi's eyes. She smiled, and squeezed Keitaro again.

"But what about... What about the others?" she asked.

Keitaro scratched his head and tried to think. He felt like his brain couldn't really function, that he was acting and speaking impulsively, and not thinking things through. What am I saying here?!? I'm really getting myself in hot water. I'm agreeing to go out with Mutsumi, but that will spell disaster, especially with Motoko. She'll never want to talk to me again! What can I say? How can I make everyone happy?

"Mutsumi, this is all happening so fast. All of this has happened in the last few days. It would be great if we could become a couple, now, but I have to work some things out, first. Motoko's feelings would be very hurt if I just walked out of here and said I was going out with you. I need... I need to figure this out. I need some time to just absorb this, and work everything out, so no one will be hurt."

"But what if Motoko won't take no for an answer?" pressed Mutsumi, now looking very concerned. "What if she tries to kiss you again? And what about Mitsune? We're going to be at the beach - all kinds of things could happen. You've said you lack control to resist their advances!"

"That's true. I've really been messing up. During this beach trip, we're all going to be close to each other, and we're supposed to have fun. It would be better if you and I just wait until the trip is over. I'll just be completely pure, and stay totally clear of all romance and kissing for the next week. You and I will have time, plenty of time, when the trip is over. So much time! We'll be studying together, taking classes together, doing all kinds of things together. Let's not rush things, please? Nothing will happen between either of those two and me, in the meantime."

"Okay," she said, growing increasingly happy, but still worried. "I've waited this long, I can wait a little longer. But I'm still concerned. I can't be around you all the time. And I can tell your feelings are still very conflicted. I know you have feelings for both of them."

He replied, "To keep everyone happy during this trip, I can't be with you all of the time, or even most of the time. But..." he said with increasing determination, "I will do all I can to be strong, and avoid temptation! Is that okay?"

"Yes. Very okay." Mutsumi smiled, finally. She almost seemed her old self again. "But I want you to make me a promise. When we get back to Tokyo, you and I will start to date. And not like before, where we were followed, and interrupted, and never given a chance. This time, we will have a real chance."

"Yes! A real chance," Keitaro agreed enthusiastically. His feelings for Motoko and Mitsune were far off and out of focus, at the moment.

"At the beach, we'll all behave, and put romance out of our minds. You'll talk to Mitsune and Motoko about this, yes?"

"Of course."

"I feel a lot better. I'm so sorry to have cried. It's just the thought of losing you, again." She began to grow sad, but a new idea perked her up. "Since we're not at the beach yet, and the others have kissed you and I haven't, don't you think it's only fair that we even things up?" she asked coyly. "Let's seal our promise with a kiss!"

Keitaro suddenly realized that Mutsumi's wide-eyed face was extremely near his own, and getting steadily nearer. "I've been wanting to do this since I saw you at the airport!" she said at the last second. Their mouths touched, and then openly parted into a languid kiss.

When the kiss ended, Keitaro seemed suddenly shy and nervous. Things were nagging in the back of his mind, and he wanted to get away. "Mutsumi, enough about us. We shouldn't be so selfish. Everyone must be waiting in the car already! I'll go tell them that you'll be along."

"Okay. I'll be fast." She blew him a kiss.

Keitaro walked out the door, and started walking back to the Hinata Inn. He was in a kind of love fog, intoxicated by the presence of Mutsumi and her strong feelings for him. By the time he stepped outside, the fog in his head started to clear, and he began to realize what he had just done. Suddenly, it all came to him, and hit him like a truck. He slouched against the wall of Haruka's teahouse.

Oh no! I've completely committed myself! I've made a promise, a promise I'm completely unready to make! I still don't know what I want!

Yes, when I said those things, I meant them. I DO love Mutsumi. He began pacing back and forth. The way she looked at me, her sad eyes, I would have promised her anything! I'm such a romantic fool, I probably would have promised to marry her! But if I had the same conversation, except it was Motoko in her place, I would have said the same things! I feel it deep in my heart; I'm not trying to trick Mutsumi, but I wasn't completely honest. What did I say to myself before I went in there? "I have to be honest." He pounded his fist into his hand to emphasize his point. If Mitsune creeps into my bed, even tonight, would I have the willpower to turn her away?

One way or another, this is going to end bad. Very bad. If I keep my promise to Mutsumi, I'm going to break not only Motoko's heart, but also probably Mitsune's. It IS only right that I give Mutsumi a chance, but when I think about Motoko, that's all I can think about. But then when I think about Mutsumi, that's all I can think about, too! I'm really going to hurt somebody, no matter what. There has to be some other way. I can't let Mutsumi make my choice for me, because I didn't want to see her cry and lost my head. He continued to pace, and pound his fist, and get more and more panicky.

And I'm not even thinking about Narusegawa! I've put her out of my mind lately with so much happening, but I still probably have deeper feelings for her than anyone. What if she comes back and says "I was wrong, I don't want to be just friends?" What would I do? If I agreed to that, that would be too cruel to Mutsumi, to lose to Narusegawa again!

I'll just have to never see Narusegawa again! I can't face her. I can't face any of this, at all. I just want everyone to be happy. I want this to be over. I want to make the right choice, and have everything in harmony again.

The energy drained out of him, and he leaned against the wall again. Ugggghh... That's not going to happen. If only Narusegawa HAD wanted to be my girlfriend, everyone would have accepted that. All this wouldn't have happened. I never would have even known...

Just then, Mutsumi walked out of the door of her building, and saw Keitaro leaning against the wall next to the door. "Urashima-kun!" she said in surprise.

"Mutsumi! Uh, hi! Let me help you with your bags, there. I was just waiting here for you. They still don't know we're coming. Let's go catch up."


Mutsumi and Keitaro hurried towards the Hinata Inn. "Where have you guys been?" shouted Mitsune as they came closer.

"Are you all ready to go? We were just about to leave without you," said Haruka, sitting in the driver's seat. Everyone else quickly found their seats.

"If you leave without me, then who will you get to play Luke Skywalker?" said Keitaro with a somewhat self-mocking puffed up chest.

"Don't think you're the only candidate," replied Haruka out of the side of her mouth that wasn't holding up a cigarette. "I've invited a few other surprise guests. But if you two kept dawdling around, then we would have lost our Princess Leia." she said with a grin and a sidelong glance at Mutsumi.

"Me? Princes Leia?" said Mutsumi. "You're doing a play again this year, of Star Wars? Oh my! Doesn't she and Luke kiss a couple of times in that?" she asked innocently with her hand to her mouth.

"You?" said Mitsune in surprise, already sitting in the back seat of the car. "I think my hair color is much closer to hers. Much closer! I'm a good damsel in distress, too!" she said as she faked a swoon.

Motoko, sitting with her arms crossed next to Mitsune and acting disinterested, said, "I have no desire for a starring role in your play, but since Leia defends herself with a light saber on occasion, I think you have to have someone with sword-fighting skills to play her."

"Forgive me for being impertinent, Motoko-sempai," responded Shinobu quietly, "But isn't Princess Leia rather short? Don't you think we need to find someone much shorter for the role?"

"You wouldn't be thinking about yourself, now, would you Shinobu?" asked Mitsune.

"No! It's not like that!" Shinobu's face turned red.

"Anyways," said Mitsune, "I'm good runner now, and we need someone like that for all of Leia's running scenes."

"You've been running for less than a WEEK!" responded Motoko. "We need a Princess Leia who's really in shape!"

Haruka started the car, and began to drive off. The argument over who should play what character (and not just Princess Leia) continued and grew more heated, and in fact lasted the whole way to beach without resolution. The car was practically exploding with bags, supplies, missiles, giant mecha-turtles, and other contraptions made by Suu. Even more were strapped on the top, back and even sides. The people were all crammed in like sardines, but everyone had a great time on the journey.

NOTE: Thanks to the reformatting of Sam.I.am.

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