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THE KISS THAT NEVER WAS: Part 4
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THE KISS THAT NEVER WAS
Part 4: Chapters 16 to 22
(MF, Mf, humor, rom, fanfic, harem, OM, OF, slow, no sex)
Written by Spacer X (paul_t_22@yahoo.com)

Chapter Sixteen: Crazy Like a Fox

Keitaro bubbled on down the hallway towards his room, high on life. But then, a voice seemingly from out of nowhere said to him, "That was really moving, Keitaro. I'm touched!" He looked around to see who said that, and a figure stepped out from the shadows. It was Mitsune, with a big smile on her face and a few tears in her almost-closed eyes.

"WHAAA??? Mitsune! What are you doing here? Were you just listening when..."

"Yes I was. This place is far too small. No privacy at all. I just was at the top of the hill to find you, and when I got up there I could see you walking back towards the inn, so I hurried back down. I'm in a desperate hurry to talk to you about something, in private." They hurried on to his room.

"What is it?" asked Keitaro just after sliding his door shut.

"First, before we get to that, I have to say, I really was touched regarding your discussion with Motoko. So romantic, so moving! I think I missed much of it, and I caught a mention about kissing again, so I guess I missed the juicy kissing part. But it was a blast just the same."

"Mitsuuunneee!" Keitaro whined. "That was private!"

"Like I said, no privacy here. You even conveniently made a hole in the door so I could peek in. I'm just disappointed I didn't have my video camera!"

"You saw us!?! Mitsuuunneee! Did you hear the part where I talked about you?" To himself he nervously thought, She's really going to hate me know, hearing me say I'm not in love with her.

"Damn, I think I missed that. But right as I came in, you were talking about how the women you truly loved were Motoko, Mutsumi, and Naru, and since I wasn't on that list, I can draw the logical conclusion. You don't want me as a girlfriend. I understand and respect that."

"Mitsune! Just this morning you were so moving in asking me if I wanted to be your boyfriend, and now you don't seem to mind at all when I said no to that idea. In fact, you seem positively happy about it. It's crazy. I can't understand you at all!"

"I like excitement, and I like making people happy. So let's just say I work at cross-purposes sometimes. Your words to Motoko were so romantic that I wish they were said to me. But since they weren't, I can only cheer you and Motoko on. Seriously. You two would make a good pair."

She added, "Not to mention, I liked the part where you said you desired me physically. I see a lot of potential for fun mischief there." Mitsune reached out and began lightly stroking Keitaro's chest with her fingers.

"You DID hear that part! Mitsune! Please have mercy! If anything else happened today, I don't think I could handle it!"

She withdrew her fingers, pouting. "Okay, since you asked so nice."

Continuing, she said, "I understand you don't want me as your girlfriend per se, but I'm still going to hold you to that physical desire promise. No reason we can't have a little fun here and there, by and by." She winked with one of her almost-closed eyes.

"Promise? What promise? I didn't make any promise!" He groped desperately for some way to change the subject. "Ah, you said you came here to tell me a secret. What is it?"

"Oh yes, that. Have you spoken to anyone else about what happened, aside from Motoko?"

"No."

"Phew. I'm glad to hear that. We need to coordinate our stories. You see, I talked to both Motoko and Suu about it already, and well, I didn't exactly tell them the same story, and what I told both of them wasn't exactly the same as what we did." Mitsune then added, but only in her thoughts to herself, "And what I got you to believe what happened was yet another story."

Keitaro groaned. "Mitsune, you're killing me. I don't know how much more of this I can take!"

"Well, it's not a big deal, really. I wasn't far off with Motoko. It's just that I stressed the role of the aphrodisiac. Whereas I think your enthusiasm kept going long after the effect of the aphrodisiac wore off, am I right?" Mitsune began playfully rubbing her hand against his chest again.

"Mitsune, please! Stop that with your hands already!" He flapped his hands up and down in the air. "And don't make me answer that question about the aphrodisiac!" Again, trying to change the subject, he asked, "What about Suu?"

"That's a bit more tricky. Since it was her love potion, I didn't want her to think I used it on purpose, when I had just kinda promised her that I wouldn't. So I strongly emphasized the accidental aspect there."

"But you poured it in my drink on purpose, to seduce me!"

"Does she really need to know that? And I didn't think it was really necessary that she knew we had sex. So I told her that it caused us to kiss passionately and then pass out. Then the next day, you had no interest in kissing me any more. I hope to prove myself wrong on that second point, but she doesn't need to know that either, heh-heh." Mitsune drew closer, and both of her hands began caressing his back. She pressed her chest into his, putting her face inches from his own.

"Mitsune, please have mercy on me! I have no willpower!"

"That's what I'm counting on. But I understand you and Motoko need a chance to sort your feelings out for each other, so I'll give you two some space for a while, and try to keep my wandering hands from wandering too far. But I can't control them completely."

Her hands continued to roam over his back and shoulders. She giggled to herself, I'm actually gently caressing his body, and he's okay with it! I would never have believed it possible, even twenty-four hours ago! But then the fact that he said he wasn't in love with her came back into her brain and stole away her enthusiasm.

She focused again on the conversation. "Anyways, can we get our stories straight with Suu? She's probably going to quiz you intensively about it later, so she can better calibrate the strength of the drug."

"Okay, okay, please, if you'll just go."

Mitsune drew back a bit and took one, but just one, of her hands off of him. "Goodie! One other thing though. I think Shinobu suspects something. She fled the inn right before lunch, and hasn't been seen since. Motoko said she said something about having an urgent appointment, but the whole thing sounds so unlike her. I think you'll have to go find her, and when you do, break the news gently. Whether you believe she has a crush on you or not, she worships you. And she's the most innocent of anyone. The idea of you having sex with anyone, I don't think she could handle that. Even sisters can have trouble imagining that happening to their brothers. Do you remember what happened that time when everyone thought you had sex with Mutsumi and made her pregnant? Shinobu was completely crushed. So I think telling her what I told Suu would be an act of kindness. She's just too young. But I leave it up to you."

"Okay, I'll do my best."

"Thanks." Mitsune walked towards the door, then paused. "You know, one other thing. You've changed so much since last night. Just now, if I had been touching the old Keitaro, he would have had a panic attack, a nosebleed, and then fallen all over the room. You had such an obvious hang-up about sex, we had to get you over the hump, so to speak." She laughed at her own pun. "The new Keitaro is so much more mature. I think I'm going to have a lot more fun with the new Keitaro." She winked again, and walked out of his room.

It's true, I've changed, thought Keitaro, once he was alone. I guess the difference is that I'm not afraid of women anymore. The idea of kissing and especially sex seemed to be so scary and impossible. Now I know I can handle it. But now I've got a new set of worries. Speaking of which, I'd better go find Shinobu.

Chapter Seventeen: More White Lies

Keitaro finally found Shinobu around four o'clock in the afternoon. She was sitting on a park bench not far from the inn. She wasn't crying, but she looked very downÖ She was furiously drawing something on a notepad she must have just purchased, but she wouldn't show Keitaro what the picture was.

He explained what happened the night before, but didn't tell her the full truth. Much as Mitsune explained it to Suu, his story involved lots of kissing, but no sex. Shinobu didn't act too surprised, but just seemed resigned. The one thing that surprised Keitaro was that when he finished his explanation, she asked him, "Did you kiss Motoko too?"

"Why do you ask that? This story has nothing to do with Motoko."

"Well, did you?" Shinobu could think of little else but how she overheard Mitsune tell Motoko, "Right now, he's trying to figure out whom he really loves, and who loves him. It may be that he decides that it's you that he really loves, over everyone else."

"Shinobu, that kind of thing is pretty private, don't you think? Do I have to tell you every time I kiss somebody? Anyways, what makes you think I kissed her?"

"So sorry, Sempai." Shinobu looked very apologetic, as well as downcast. "It's just that... You've been spending so much time with Motoko lately, and I want you to be happy..."

"Motoko is not my girlfriend, if that's what you mean. But it could be that I will have a girlfriend before very long. I've been at the Hinata Inn for two years without any girlfriend; that's not very usual for someone my age. If I had a girlfriend, would that upset you?"

"Who me? No. No!" She shook her hands in front of her frantically, to emphasize her "no." "I only want whatever makes Sempai happy. If having Motoko or some other woman as a girlfriend makes you happy, nothing could make me happier." She tried to put on a brave face and smile, but didn't succeed very well.

But she couldn't resist adding: "But why Sempai, why do you tell me about the one thing, but you don't tell me about the other?"

"The other? What do you mean?" Keitaro blinked as he continued to play dumb.

How could she possibly know that I kissed Motoko? he asked himself internally. She'd fled the inn long before that happened, and Mitsune was just outside the door, which means Shinobu couldn't have been. And no way could Mitsune have talked to her since.

He then said, "Shinobu, I don't want my whole life to be on public display for everyone to dissect. I need some privacy, okay? I told you about what happened with Mitsune because it affects everyone in the inn. For one thing, the aphrodisiac. Will you promise me that you will not try to use the aphrodisiac in any way?"

"Yes, Sempai, of course not."

"Good. When you're a little older, I'll feel more comfortable telling you more about my private life. But you're so impressionable now. I'm just trying to protect you."

"Thank you, Sempai, I appreciate it. You're so kind to worry about me."

The two of them walked back. Shinobu could at least console herself that he cared enough for her to spend several hours trying to find her, and that he said he was protecting her.

When she was finally alone back at the inn, Shinobu said to herself, Sorry Sempai! I wish when I said I would be happy to see you with a girlfriend, I wish it was true. But it just isn't! If you had a girlfriend, I would just die. No one loves you more than me! I can't let that happen!

...

Everyone gathered for dinner, which passed surprisingly incident-free. All the people there were in reasonably good spirits, with the exception of Shinobu. But as she so often did, she tried her best to put on a brave face. Motoko seemed brooding and determined, but at least not depressed.

Keitaro retired to his room right after dinner. He'd had more than enough excitement for one day, and didn't want to see or talk to anyone. He still had a lot to think about. He continued to ruminate over his situation, and eventually tossed and turned most of the night away.

The only other incident of note that day occurred between Motoko and Mitsune. After dinner, Mitsune still hadn't run her 10 kilometers, so Motoko dragged her outside and forced her to do it. Mitsune's body was beautiful, not because she took care of it, but in fact despite the way she treated it. She could hardly run one kilometer without pausing, much less ten, but Motoko ran beside her, and pushed her on relentlessly.

Mitsune also surreptitiously replaced the label on the pitcher of aphrodisiac, since everyone now obviously knew it wasn't poison. That label wasn't one of my better ideas. Instead, she drew the three eye symbol that represented Suu's homeland, and wrote beneath it: "WARNING: Do not drink me, on pain of death!" A touch of the dramatic won't hurt, she thought, but I can see more trouble coming from this pitcher, regardless. This will sit here like a tempting forbidden fruit every time someone opens the refrigerator, and I have nowhere else to put it! I didn't think the aphrodisiac idea through enough.

It looks like it's going to be a very long month ahead, and Motoko has taken all the sake I need to help me through it!

Chapter Eighteen: A Desperate Deal

Keitaro dragged himself out of bed bright and early the next day. It wouldn't do to blow off Motoko's kendo practice again.

Motoko was in high spirits when Keitaro got up to the roof balcony for their daily practice session. "Good morning, sleepy head," she beamed. "Did you find any strange person in your bed this morning?"

Keitaro laughed out loud, and thought to himself, A joke? A joke from Motoko? That's practically a first. But then he nervously thought about what she said. Damn, that won't be a joke if there is someone there one of these days! What am I going to do about Mitsune?

Overall, the practice passed more good-heartedly than ever before. Motoko's skills were also exceptionally sharp. She was literally running circles around the admittedly bleary Keitaro while they fenced.

But when the practice was over, Motoko was upset with herself. Her plan was to immediately change her persona and start flirting with Keitaro, in order to win him over. She'd deliberately put her worries aside so she could appear happy. But good spirits was not the same as flirting, she mused. What happened to my plan to kiss him good morning? I lost my nerve!

This will not do, not at all! she brooded. At this rate, I'm going to lose him for sure. 'Act decisively,' Mitsune said! But what can I do? I can only bend who I am so much. I'm not like MitsuneÖ

...

There was a knock at Mitsune's door. "Come in!"

"Oh hi, Motoko-chan, come in. You're not still mad at me, are you? This running torture is really too much."

"Of course I'm still mad at you, and don't think you're getting out of running, today or any other day. But that's not why I'm here."

"So what can I do for you, then?" asked Mitsune. Motoko was now dressed in her traditional clothes, and her sword hung by her side. That's not good, Mitsune thought worriedly.

Motoko hung her head down so she didn't have to look Mitsune in the eyes. "It's kind of embarrassing, especially talking to you of all people about it. I'm in the lair of the enemy, as it were. But I remembered what you said before, that you would give me a fair chance before you tried to win Keitaro for you own."

Motoko pressed on, suppressing her fierce pride. "I'm here," - she found this next part very agonizing to say - "I'm here to beg of you. I beg you for your help! You've said that you know you're a long shot with Keitaro, at best. But my main worry is that I will lose him to Mutsumi or Naru. I know that if I don't do something drastic, I'll lose him for sure! You're my only hope!"

"Me? What can I do?"

Motoko turned up towards Mitsune, and had an imploring look on her face. "You have to teach me how to flirt. How to be sexy. How to be smooth and refined. How to be everything that you are and I'm not. I'm hopeless! Mutsumi is so forward and beautiful and fun and funny - I'll never stand a chance against her! And he loves Naru so much, that if she ever just realized it and acted on it, both Mutsumi and I wouldn't stand a chance. I've realized that my only hope is you. I'm just so... I can't even tell the others how I feel about him, still. With your help, I stand a chance. Without it, I might as well give up now."

Motoko was literally down on her knees, in a posture of subjugation. She dropped her head again. Mitsune looked down at her skeptically.

Her response was brutally honest. "Why should I help you? As you put it, we're in competition about him. I said I would give you and him so space, but that only goes so far. What would I get in return?"

"Anything I can give you!" Motoko squirmed on the inside, to be in such a position of weakness.

"Anything, huh?" Mitsune put a hand on her chin and pondered. A sparkle came to her eyes. "Well, for starters, no more forcing me to run and banning me from drinking!"

"Sorry, that's the one thing I can't change," stated Motoko in a heavy but forceful voice. "A promise like that once made cannot be broken, if it's for my own selfish reasons."

"You would rather keep such a silly promise than win Keitaro?"

"I have my code of ethics. Without it, my life has no form or meaning. I'm sorry."

"Hmm. I gotta say, I admire your spunk. And it also appeals to my sense of fun and challenge to even up the odds a bit, against Mutsumi and Naru. But that's not enough for me to help you, when I'd be working against myself. I need something in return. Hmm. How about this. You know I said earlier that I would give you and Keitaro some space. But under our deal, starting now and until the time Keitaro formally has a girlfriend, I can do anything I like with him, and you won't say or do anything about it!"

"Anything? What do you mean?"

"I mean, I'm hoping for a repeat performance or two of what happened the other night. I know that I have little hope of become his formal girlfriend, but until he chooses one, I'd like to have him and hold him, and pretend that he's mine forever. He has no resistance against my charms. He needs a teacher in this phase where he's just discovering sex, and I fit the bill perfectly. In return, I will do everything I can to make him yours. Not only will I make you irresistibly sexy, but you know I make a lot of things happen around here. I just might be able to manipulate events to fall into your favor."

Motoko sighed. Thinking out loud, she replied, "I feel very dirty doing this, but I vowed to myself that I would do anything it takes to win him. Anything. There is no other option!" Her fists were clenched and her words strained. "And I have to make a calculated bet that you ultimately are not my main competitor. Doubtless you're going to seduce that weak-willed idiot again eventually, anyways, and I won't be able to stop it now or later unless I somehow learn your tricks and fight fire with fire. That weakling is just too perverted. Why the hell I have feelings for him, I can't figure out. Your bargain is contemptible, but I see no alternative. So I will accept your offer, but only on one condition."

"What's that?"

"Once he does choose a girlfriend, I can and will do anything in my power, and I do mean anything" - she pulled her sword part way out of her scabbard to emphasize the point- "to prevent you from ever getting physical with him again. Nothing but the most chaste kiss! If something were to happen between you two then, you will not blame it on Keitaro, or aphrodisiac, or anything else. You must be responsible for your own behavior! Even if he doesn't choose me, I will not have you interfere with whomever he does choose!"

"Fair enough. I don't want to be a home breaker, so that would just help put some needed backbone in my shaky morality. And what if he does choose me, in the end? What will you do then? You can't stop me from cheating on myself! I like it! You have yourself a deal."

"Alright then, Mitsune," nodded Motoko, with a resolute but heavy heart. "Where do we begin?"

Chapter Nineteen: Listening In

Motoko and Mitsune continued to sit and talk in Mitsune's room. "We can get started right now," began Mitsune. "First, we have to get you some real clothes. But even before that, it's necessary to tell you what exactly happened between us the night before last."

"Why? Do you delight in torturing me, and rubbing your sexual exploits in my face?"

"Well, yeah," grinned Mitsune in a joking tone. Motoko didn't see a joke. "That's a joke, Motoko! But the real reason is that you don't know sex from a hole in the ground. You're afraid of it. You're a beautiful woman, and normally a relationship between you two would slowly grow, just as you are. But there's the competition and lack of time to think about. If you're going to win him, you have to think differently, and make radical changes. For instance, look at what you're wearing compared to what I'm wearing."

Mitsune was wearing a tank top and shorts, revealing much of her lovely body. Motoko was wearing her traditional robes that hid all of her charms.

"Look at you!" pointed Mitsune. "You've got your breasts bundled up like you're afraid they'll leap off your chest and wreak havoc all over the countryside! My first command for you is to stop bundling up your breasts, even during your kendo practice, since you're with Keitaro there."

With no response but a stony stare, Mitsune continued, "But you have to not just look differently, but think differently. The problem with Keitaro is that, horny as he is, he's too polite to be the initiator. He has all the backbone of Hamlet, if you know who that is. So the only way you'll guarantee him for your own is if you seduce him. But you have too many mental hang-ups to be the initiator either.

"We have to get rid of those hang ups. For instance, take my idea just now to tell you the details of what happened last night. I'm sure you find the idea of hearing such details gross and demeaning. But women talk about these kinds of things with their friends all the time. How else will you learn? How did I initiate romantic contact with Keitaro? What kind of kissing did he like? What are the little tricks that gave him pleasure? You have no interest in any of that?"

Motoko's face was very red. The idea of being told the details of that night made sense, she realized, but it was too wildly at odds with her traditional upbringing. "Mitsune, you go too far!" she cried. She closed her eyes, turning her head away from Mitsune and throwing her hands up, as though the very idea were so repellent that she felt the need to physically ward it off.

Partly insulted and partly amused at Motoko's visceral reaction, Mitsune let her own antic humor get the better of her. Jumping to her feat, she pointed at Motoko, and cried out dramatically, "Nay Motoko! It is you who does not go far enough!"

Motoko turned her head back around to give Mitsune a slightly incredulous look, and Mitsune sank back into her chair, giggling a bit before composing herself. "Look, do you want my help or not?"

"Yes."

"And didn't you just say you were ready to try anything?"

"Yes. But that? Why can't we work up to that? This is happening too fast for me."

"I thought Motoko-chan was tougher than that," chastised Mitsune.

"Well, maybe you don't know me then," said Motoko in a huff. She folded her arms.

"Maybe I don't!"

"Maybe you don't then!"

The two had reached an impasse. Both stood with folded arms and closed eyes, facing slightly away from each other. Motoko wasn't certain if she should leave the room. Suddenly, an idea came to Mitsune.

"Okay, that's fine, I'll tell you about what happened later. It's just that I haven't told anyone what happened yet, and I kind of wanted to tell someone. Since you're not interested, I think I'll call up my friend Harue in Kyoto and tell her all about it." She reached for the phone. "Come back later, and we'll talk about clothes."

Motoko bowed, and walked out of the room, closing the door behind her. Mitsune listened for the sound of Motoko walking away, but it seemed the sound of feet quickly slowed and then stopped altogether.

Mitsune thought to herself as she dialed her friend's number, Heh -heh, if I know Motoko, she really wants to hear what I have to say, but can't bear the embarrassment of listening while standing face to face. This way, we can avoid that, if she's start enough to stay standing outside the door.

Mitsune's friend wasn't home, but she realized that didn't really matter. She spoke into the phone as if she was speaking to someone. "Hi Harue? Long time no hear. Hey, guess what? I've got something I'm just dying to tell someone, and I can't tell anyone here. You won't believe what happened the night before last...."

Mitsune went on to describe what happened in graphic detail. She even stood near her door and spoke in a loud voice, to make sure Motoko could hear, confidently assuming she was still there.

In actual fact, Keitaro was no great Don Juan in his first sexual experience. Not only was he all enthusiasm and no expertise, but an initial nosebleed, several panic attacks, and most disturbingly, a tendency to cry out "Narusegawa, forgive me!" at the most unsettling times were all a bit trying. Not to mention, both he and her were fairly drunk before she finally seduced him. Mitsune didn't mind - she looked forward to the opportunity and challenge of making him an impressive lover. But for Motoko's sake, she glossed over all of those things, and instead tried to describe what happened in terms that would appeal to Motoko, with an emphasis on Keitaro's charms.

Finally, Mitsune reached near the end of her "phone call." She continued, into the phone "...So then, he reached out and touched me there again. He kissed me on the shoulder and ears, and then I began..." Suddenly, Mitsune heard a voice. That sounds like Keitaro, of all people! It sounds like he's walking right up to Motoko!

"Motoko-chan, what are you..." Mitsune heard a scream and the sounds of hitting and crashing.

Outside her door, Motoko had been listening intently with eyes closed, gripping the wall near Mitsune's door. She was so carried away that she completely failed to notice Keitaro, who casually walked up to her and tapped her on the shoulder. Suddenly realizing who was standing behind her, Motoko jumped so high into the air that even a professional basketball player would have been envious. But in an impressive display of her lightning reflexes, she instinctively turned around and punched Keitaro in the face while she flew up into the air, sending him flying fall down the hallway.

Mitsune dropped the phone and hurriedly opened her door. Keitaro was sitting on the ground and putting his glasses back on. "What did I do?" he cried out.

"Uh, you just startled me, is all!" replied an embarrassed Motoko, also flat on her ass. "Sorry!" Her face was beet-red. Damn, she thought. What did he hear? If he heard, I'll have to leave Hinata Inn! The shame! My shameful act - listening in to Mitsune's private and intimate conversation!

Mitsune smiled and waved at Keitaro. "We're just playing girly games over here!" she shouted to him, then grabbed Motoko by the sleeve, and pulled her into her room. She poked her head out again and watched him walk away befuddled, and then shut the door.

She frowned at Motoko. "Don't worry about your eavesdropping on me. I figured you were there, and was speaking up for your benefit. And don't worry; he didn't overhear anything. Lucky for you, he's not exactly quick on the uptake. But punching Keitaro for walking up to you? My first command was don't bind up your breasts. My second is, if you're seducing someone, don't try to kill them first! No more punching of Keitaro!"

Motoko hung her head sheepishly. "Sorry! Reflexes..." she grimaced. She thought to herself, This woman is too clever. That phone call trick! I'm glad she's on my side, for now at least, it seems.

'Don't worry about it," said Mitsune breezily. "We're going to make a lady of you yet. Now you're going to have to do something to make up for your assassination attempt just now. And apologies are not your strong suit. Let's see... Do you have another study session with him this afternoon?"

"No. He said he was going somewhere. But we have one tomorrow, at about 2 o'clock in the afternoon, and training tomorrow morning."

"Alright, that gives us plenty of time. We'll be able to get a dress for you in time for your study session that will completely knock him out. His won't even notice his books! Not only that, but we'll have to get you a whole new wardrobe. I hope you have some money. Are you ready? Let's go!"

Chapter Twenty: Who's The Sex Maniac?

Keitaro found himself in front of Toudai, the university of his dreams. The fact was, he just didn't want to be around Hinata Inn, but he couldn't think of any good excuse to get away. So he just wandered around and wound up there.

He was afraid of running into either of two people. First, Mitsune. He thought, I realize I don't love her. But at the same time, now, whenever I see her, I only want to rip her clothes off and make passionate love to her! I'm sorry, but they must all be right - maybe I am a hopeless pervert. I just can't get the night we spent together out of my head. I can't even think what would happen if I were to find myself alone with her again!

He realized too that he didn't really know or understand her. Would I love her if I only knew her better? On the outside she's so friendly, but she's so secretive about her inner self. Maybe if I really knew her, maybe she's the one for meÖ

At the same time, he thought about how much he loved Motoko, but he couldn't imagine making love to her. Every time he tried, in his imagination, Motoko would grow angry at his forwardness, launch one of her patented secret technique attacks on him, and leave him imbedded in a rock.

So he played hooky for the afternoon, and tried to push both of them out of his mind. Instead, he focused on thinking about his future. I guess that's why I ended up here. To think of what will happen here, in the next month and for the next few years.

He went looking around Toudai for the archeology department, and peered into its windows. Everyone was gone on vacation, it seemed. So ironic, he thought. I tried so hard to get here, first because of a childhood promise, and then because of Narusegawa. Without those two lures, and especially the help of Naru, I never could have made it. Yet, now I've had sex with her best friend, and kissed another one of her good friends. I seem to have sex on the brain, all of the sudden. After what happened with Mitsune, I'd probably have sex with a rock, if it asked nicely! Who knows to what kind of moral low I'll fall before she gets back. When she does get back, I'm sure she'll think I'm a totally perverted sex maniac, and will never want to speak to me again. And yet, I owe everything to her. This is how I repay her!

She'll be right! I probably am a perverted sex maniac, too. In all honesty, even if I didn't drink the aphrodisiac, I would have gladly slept with Mitsune anyway. In fact, now that I think about it, I don't remember feeling anything special from the aphrodisiac. I wonder if it even worked. I'm the one to blame!

I've been so starved for love. No girl would even talk to me, much less want to kiss me, until I was nineteen years old. I still have never had a girlfriend. How can I resist if a beautiful girl throws herself at me? I'm only human!... Or am I really perverted and despicable?

I'm not making a lot of progress thinking about my future, am I? I need to forget about women altogether, and just focus on this place. No doubt, come September I'll be beginning a whole new life. I'll be having new experiences, and new friends. In fact, since Narusegawa will want to see me dead, the only classmate I'll know here is Mutsumi. What will she think about what I've done? I'd hate to lose her from my life. She's so kind and beautiful...

He began to daydream about Mutsumi, less about how kind she was, and more about her beauty.

Get a grip, Keitaro! he chided himself. Is that all you can think about, beautiful women? You really are a hopeless case!

...

Keitaro returned to the inn no more at ease than when he left. He was quiet during dinner, and immediately headed towards his room. On his way there, he saw Tama and Mecha-Tama crawling along the floor. They looked to be traveling hand in hand (or perhaps one should say flipper in flipper), as much as a turtle and mechanical turtle could look that way. That's odd. I wonder what happened to those two.

Back in his room, Keitaro tried reading a book. But he wasn't enjoying it. He got out his album containing his collection of photo booth stickers. As he'd done so many times before, he stared at the picture of him and Naru.

But that only made him depressed. It was like willfully cutting himself with a knife. So he went to his private hot tub to forget his worries.

Not long after, Mitsune tracked him down. "Can I come in?" she asked.

"Yeah, sure." Keitaro quickly grabbed a towel, dunked it into the water and wrapped it around his loins.

Keitaro watched her walk onto his balcony, and he immediately regretted allowing her in. She was wearing nothing but a towel, and one that just barely covered all that it should. Ooooohhhh man, groaned Keitaro in frustrated thoughts. Willpower. Remember: willpower!

"Looks like you had the same idea as me: taking a dip," Mitsune said playfully. She kneeled in front of his hot tub and grabbed the rim, so she could look closely into his face. His hot tub was literally a tub or barrel, so there was no place for him to hide.

"I just came by to see if you were doing okay. The last day or two must have been hard on you."

"Yeah, you could say that. I can't get my thoughts together. I'm so indecisive! I spent all afternoon wandering around Toudai, but no matter where I go, or what I do, all I can think about are the women of Hinata Inn."

"Are you sorry that we had sex?"

"No, I'm not sorry. Any man would kill to be in my shoes. But that doesn't make my problems any easier. I think that love and lust must cause more pain than it gives pleasure, overall."

"Keitaro, I think you're wiser than you look. I've been wounded in love too, and maybe that's why I act so blaze about it."

They were both quiet for a while. Mitsune put her hand in the water and began stirring it. "The water feels nice. Is there room enough for two?"

He shook his head no, and tried to make a joke about it. "I don't think your breasts would fit, anyways."

"Oh you mean these?" She placed her breasts on the top of the rim of the hot tub, causing her towel to fall away.

"Mitsune, are you trying to turn me into a sex maniac? Because you're succeeding! I think I'm going to have to join a monastery or lose my mind. There's no way someone like me should be a manager of a girl's dormitory!"

"I think you're doing very well. The reason we all love you so much is because you're such a kind-hearted person. For two years, you could have taken advantage of any of us, but you never did."

"If you love me so much, will you remove your hand, before I lose all self-control?"

Mitsune's hand had gone from deeply stirring the water to finding its way between Keitaro's legs. She reluctantly pulled her hand out of the water. "Oh! Is that what I was holding?" she asked innocently with a sly grin on her face. "I was wondering what that was."

Keitaro was fighting a losing battle to keep his lust-addled brain on an even keel. "Mitsune, Suu told me you helped Motoko buy some sexy new clothes today. How could you do that, and do this," he grabbed her hand and held it. He figured that would at least stop it from getting into more mischief.

"I don't really understand why I do what I do, myself. I just live from minute to minute, and I do what gives me pleasure. It's been a long time since I've been sexually active, and now you give me pleasure."

"And yet you're helping Motoko?"

"Seeing her happy gives me pleasure. Plus, we made a deal. I'll help her get you as a boyfriend, and she will ignore all my affections towards you, for the time being. She's so in love, she'll do anything to get you."

"Mitsune, why did you have to tell me that? You're just destroying my willpower even further! After all, I'm a red-blooded male!"

'That's my plan, heh-heh. I actually was going to give you a breather so you could absorb all that's happened to you. But now I've got the make the most of my deal!"

"You're too much. I'm not hearing this!" Keitaro submerged his head underwater, and held his breath for a long time, until Mitsune was gone. That was too close, he thought. No willpower.

...

Back in her room, Mitsune sat up naked on her futon, tears slowly rolling down her face. What am I doing? I'm just playing a role again. The problem is, I play it too well. She clutched her breasts briefly, and continued thinking: Ever since these breasts showed up, men have only seen me as a sex object. I could never love any of them because I knew they didn't really love me, just my body. So since I can't find true love myself, nothing pleases me more than seeing true love fulfilled in others. I keeping trying to set Keitaro up with others and then drive him away from me in the process. How many times did I try to push him and Naru together, even though it pained me to do so?

And now since I can't express my real feelings for him, I'm trying to please him with my body and find mutual pleasure that way. But that's not what I really want! That's not all that I want. Despite my careless exterior, I want to be someone's wife, and deeply in love. Mutual love. HIS wife!

Am I willing to step aside if he chooses someone else? I don't really know. Why did I make that deal with Motoko? But even with the self-awareness of my problems, I can't change. I do one thing one day, the opposite the next, and gamble and drink to forget. This is so fucked up!

I need someone to tutor ME on love! How can I turn his desire for my body into real romantic feelings for me, the Mitsune that's on the inside?

Chapter Twenty-One: The First Dividends

The next afternoon, Keitaro sat in the lobby of the Hinata Inn, bent over the low table and reading a textbook. He heard someone approaching. "Keitaro!"

He looked up and saw Motoko standing there, a vision of loveliness. She was wearing a low-cut yellow dress that also left her arms and much of her back exposed. She had a small amount of make up on her face - not enough so that Keitaro consciously noticed she was wearing it, but enough to slightly accent her beautiful facial features. She had her hair done up in a bun, something she'd never done before. It suited her perfectly.

Keitaro was wowed. Obviously, Mitsune was behind this. "Motoko-chan! What's the special occasion?"

"No special occasion. Actually, you're the occasion. I did this to please you. Do you like it?" Mitsune had coached her to say that.

"Yes, very much!" There was a bit of an awkward silence. Keitaro tried to think of more to say.

"You know what though, you're dressed up too nice just to study. That's more like something someone would wear for a night out on the town. Would you like, uh, umm, would you like to go to the movies with me, just you and me?"

Motoko wasn't expecting that. On the outside she was cool as a cucumber, for once. But on the inside, she mentally jumped flips in joy, thinking, Yes! Mitsune, you just made yourself one very satisfied student! Maybe I have a chance with him, after all!

Before she had a chance to answer, Sara came in from the kitchen to see what the commotion was about. "Wow, you look pretty," Sara said to Motoko. "What's the special occasion?"

Motoko was confused. She had kissed Keitaro in private yesterday, but in public she didn't know how to handle their relationship, or what she should say.

Finally, she said, "No special occasion. Except that Keitaro is taking me to the movies tonight." She turned towards Keitaro and gave him a warm smile.

"A movie? Goody! Can I come too?" said Sara.

"Next time," answered Keitaro. "This time, I have plans with Motoko-chan. Just me and her."

...

Motoko at least, didn't get much studying done that day. She stared at her book, but spent most of her time daydreaming about Keitaro and their upcoming date. It's disconcerting to dream of someone sitting right next to you, she realized, but that didn't slow her down much. In her mind, Keitaro and her were dancing and singing up and down the streets of the town, as if they were in some Fred Astaire movie. But back in the real world, every now and then, someone would walk up and disturb her thoughts by asking her, "What's the special occasion?" Soon, everyone, even Haruka, knew about the movie date plans.

One person in particular was not happy at all. Shinobu. In her mind, this completely confirmed her fears that something intensely romantic was happening between Keitaro and Motoko.

...

When Motoko's study session ended, she ran straight to Mitsune's room. As soon as she closed the door, she cried out, "Mitsune, thank you so much! He asked me out on a date! We're going to the movies, just the two of us!" She clutched her books to her chest and jumped up and down, just like a little schoolgirl.

Mitsune smiled, a bit chagrined. She thought to herself, I'm good. Dang, maybe I'm too good. Ah well, they're in love, what can you expect. We have to make them happy. Helping Motoko out is worth it just to see her that unusually joyous.

Her self-introspective mood briefly shown the night before was nowhere in sight, in the bright of day. But she tried to calm Motoko down. "Congratulations. But don't just stand there, pirouetting about. We've got our work cut out for us. He's taking you to dinner too, yes?" Motoko nodded enthusiastically. "Okay, so that means we've got a couple of hours to train you on dating etiquette."

Motoko gave Mitsune a surprisingly wicked grin. "We have less time than that. You still haven't run your ten kilometers yet!"

"That? You're still thinking of that? I still need to recover from your torture run yesterday! How can you do this to me even as I'm helping you so much?"

Motoko grew serious. "Mitsune, when I make a vow or promise, I keep it. I'll admit that when I made you agree to that, I was angry with you and wanted to see you suffer a bit. I'd be lying, too, if I didn't say that I'm getting a certain perverse pleasure in watching you huff and puff as you run. You are after all, still trying to get Keitaro in bed. And I don't even want to know if you're succeeding.

"But this thought also occurred to me when we ran yesterday: the promise you made is really not for me, it's for yourself. I have been seriously concerned for you, and just never said anything because we haven't been the closest of friends. I have trouble expressing myself, sometimes... But you drink so much, you could eventually really become an alcoholic. I don't want to see that happen to you. Every night, and sometimes even in the morning! It's too much! And you take your figure for granted, but it won't last for long unless you take care of it. If you get more in shape, you'll be even more beautiful, and no man will be able to resist you."

Mitsune replied mischievously, "Hmm, then maybe next month it'll be me going on a date with Keitaro instead of you! All right, I'll let you drag me outside, since you're such a fanatic. But just keep in mind that you're creating a monster." The two of them sincerely smiled at other.

Chapter Twenty-Two: The Date Is A Hit

Motoko was as excited as a girl on her first date, which of course was exactly what she was. Haruka and all the residents of Hinata Inn stood at the front door of the inn and saw them off. Motoko again wore the dress she was wearing earlier, and Keitaro wore a formal but stylish jacket.

Unfortunately the date didn't go that well, at first. Motoko was so flustered, that she didn't know whether she was coming or going. Walking to the restaurant, she literally walked straight into a light pole and fell flat onto her back. It seemed as if everyone they passed on the street stared at her, which just rattled her further. Mitsune had given her a lot of specific, good advice, but Motoko forgot it all, and pretty much grinned like an idiot through dinner, to hide her other emotions. Not a lot was said.

They saw a Jackie Chan film, which was hardly the most romantic thing in the world, but then again, Keitaro didn't have someone to give him romantic advice. Normally, Motoko would have loved that kind of film, but she was too busy wondering if Keitaro would try to make any moves on her to pay much attention to the film. Now that she was actually there, she didn't know what she wanted him to do. She had visions of him groping at her like an octopus that were alternately alarming and appealing. But when the movie ended and Keitaro still hadn't even tried to put his arm around her shoulder, that made her pissed off.

Keitaro had no plans to get romantic, as he was still holding true to his earlier comment that he wanted to wait until he saw Mutsumi and Narusegawa again before he made serious decisions about having a girlfriend. As the movie played, he reflected that he really shouldn't have suggested this date idea in the first place, but he was the kind of person who tended to act before thinking things through. He guiltily thought about his presence on this date even as he was recently showing an inability to resist Mitsune. He didn't know what Motoko expected, or what he wanted. He wasn't enjoying himself, either.

Walking back to the inn, Motoko was even more distracted, thinking about all the mistakes she had made earlier in the evening, and also gloomily doubting that Keitaro would try to kiss her before the evening was over. She was so distracted, that at one street corner where she and Keitaro stopped for a traffic light, she kept right on walking straight into the traffic.

Luckily, Keitaro acted quickly, and pulled her back to the curb before a car could hit her. But Keitaro being Keitaro, he found himself with one hand on her shoulder, and the other accidentally holding one of her breasts. Letting out all of her pent up frustration, Motoko shouted, "NOW you make a move!" and proceeded to punch him in the face. Keitaro flew back, knocking into several bystanders, and then fell on top of them.

Motoko realized in horror what her reflexes had done, and ran away from him. Keitaro got up, and ran after her. As he shouted, "Motoko! Motoko!" he thought to himself ruefully, This is exactly like a date with Narusegawa! Are all dates like this?

One difference with Naru though, is that the long-legged Motoko could outrun him. She eventually reached the bottom of the long series of stairs leading to the Hinata Inn, and paused. She was afraid to go on. She thought about how ridiculous it would look for the others at the inn to see her running back into the inn, with Keitaro chasing her. Damn, I've really blown it this time. Why did I run this way?

Keitaro was close behind, and soon caught up with her. He also stopped. Both bent over, next to each other, too winded to speak. Keitaro could only manage to get out "Mo" "to" "ko" between labored breaths. Finally they both stood up. Keitaro put his hands on her shoulders and prepared to speak.

But before he could, Motoko said, "Don't speak. I know what you're going to say. You're sorry for grabbing me."

"Yeah."

"Don't be! It's my fault. You may have saved my life back at the intersection. I'm the one who's sorry! I ruined our date." A few tears flowed down her face. "I'm sorry, I've just never been on this kind of date before..."

Keitaro cut in. "Forget it! We'll have another date, and we'll get it right next time, okay?"

A glimmer of a smile appeared on Motoko's face. The two were still winded, and covered with sweat. It seemed all that the makeup, piled up hair, and other changes to Motoko fell away during the chase. The warrior Motoko was peeking through.

"I had a fun evening," he continued. "Getting punched only once in an evening is much better than average for me." That made Motoko smiled a bit more. "Look... As I said before, I'm not ready to choose a girlfriend. We're just seeing a movie, right? I'd like to do it again, if you would. I really don't want to be romantic at this moment, I just wanted to get to know you better, get closer to you. So I had no plans to do this, but I think this will be okay..."

He leaned forward and kissed Motoko on the lips, but kept his mouth closed, and pulled back before the stunned Motoko had a chance to react.

"I didn't just do that," he said, and smiled. Motoko recovered, and broke into a smile too. This wasn't really exactly the same Keitaro or Motoko of even a few days ago. Keitaro wiped away Motoko's few tears. Both of them looked up at the daunting number of steps towering up in front of them. They were still winded from all the running.

Motoko looked around her - something nagged her mind about where they were standing. And then she remembered. "You know, this is exactly where you pulled off my..." She blushed and couldn't go on, but Keitaro immediately knew what she was talking about. Some months ago, in trying to stop Motoko from falling, Keitaro somehow grabbed her panties and pulled them off, and then gawked at her ass after she fell to the ground. Now it was his turn to blush.

Motoko added, "I think about that every time I pass here. I no longer find your actions so...." - there was a long pause as she looked for the right word - "objectionable. But you're still too perverted." They both had a bit of a laugh over that, and started walking up the stairs.

When they reached the inn, both of them put on their best poker faces, in a mutually unspoken attempt to frustrate the other residents, who were all still up and waiting to find out how the date had gone. In the lobby, with everyone else standing around, Keitaro said to Motoko, "Well, we already said our good nights earlier, didn't we?"

"Yes we did."

"So how is everyone else doing, then?" He was surprised to see that even Haruka was there, cigarette hanging out of her mouth as usual. "Shouldn't an old woman like you be in bed already?"

A karate chop to his head quickly followed, as he knew it would. He loved to tease her like that just the same.

He began talking to the others about the movie. After saying a few things, he spied Motoko out of the corner of his eye, and the two of them shared a private, knowing smile. Both of them were enjoying this attempt to keep the others frustrated. Poker faces, but talk of a private good night. That'll keep them guessing, thought Keitaro with amusement.

The crowd broke up, and everyone, including Motoko and Keitaro, made their way towards their respective beds. But after a few minutes, Motoko thought the coast was clear and headed to Mitsune's room. Mitsune was waiting for her there. The pupil just couldn't resist reporting to her new teacher.

Motoko slid the door closed, and the two spoke in hushed tones.

"Well, how did it go?" asked Mitsune.

"At first, not too good. I forgot all your advice, all of it. And I punched him in the face again. It was a total disaster, actually. I'm not cut out for this kind of thing! I appreciate your help, but I'm a hopeless case. In the movie, I kept wondering if he would put him arm around me, but he behaved like a strict gentleman. And then I almost got killed on the way back. It's a long, horrible story."

"But none of that matters, because when we said goodnight, he kissed me. He kissed me! Only for a second, but it was on the lips! I'm not ashamed to say it any more: I'm in love!"

The two of them were not alone. Shinobu had been fully alert since Keitaro returned from the date, trying desperately to figure out every last clue and learn what happened. At the sound of Mitsune's door creaking open, she quickly covered the distance from the kitchen to Mitsune's room to see if she could learn something more. She recklessly pressed her ear to Mitsune's door in an attempt to hear their quiet voices.

She only heard a few sentences, and then didn't want to hear any more. Shinobu ran back to the kitchen, and began to cry. In her mind, she replayed what she'd just heard from Motoko: "He kissed me!" "On the lips!" "I'm in love!" She thought to herself, This can't be happening! It's no fair! If I were a few years older, that would be me he would be kissing, not Motoko-san! She's not much older than me. And he's kissing Mitsune-san too? He's kissing everyone but me! He loves everyone but me!

This never happened when Naru was here. Having the two of them together wasn't so bad, because it seemed like every time something mushy was about to happen to them, something else would prevent it. Especially Mutsumi. She always seemed to be getting in the way just in the nick of time.

I need to do something! Mutsumi loves him too, but if she were here, maybe she and Motoko could keep each other from getting too close to Keitaro, like what happened with Mutsumi and Naru before. She's not due here for another week and a half, I think. The way things are going, by then Keitaro will have Motoko as a girlfriend already! I have to act now!

Shinobu rushed to her room, found a phone card and Mutsumi's phone number, and then rushed to the telephone in the lobby. It was almost eleven o'clock at night.

"Hello? Yes, so sorry for calling so late at night, but it's urgent. I'm calling from the Hinata Inn in Tokyo. Can I please speak to Mutsumi-san?"

As she held the phone and waited for Mutsumi to be fetched, Shinobu thought to herself, I hope I'm doing the right thing! This is like putting out a fire with gasoline, but what else can I do? Sorry Sempai, but if I can just keep you from having a girlfriend longer, eventually I'll grow older and...

Her train of thought was interrupted as Mutsumi reached the phone. For once, no one was eavesdropping in the Hinata Inn, but if anybody had been, they would have heard Shinobu say the following:

"Good evening, Mutsumi-san! Sorry for calling at this late hour!"

"No, there's no emergency. Everyone here is fine." She struggled to keep her voice from trembling.

"That's good. Um, the reason I'm calling is just because I wanted to ask you an important question. So sorry, please forgive me for my bluntness, but let me just ask you directly." She paused, and finally blurted it out: "Are you in love with Keitaro?"

"I see. He is wonderful, I can't argue with that. But do you want to be his girlfriend?"

"Well then, you'd better act fast. He just got back home from a movie date with Motoko-sempai. They've grown very close in the last few weeks. If you wait to get back, you'll be too late! We're all planning on going on a trip to the beach teahouse in three days. You must get back by then. Please return immediately!"

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

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