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THE KISS THAT NEVER WAS: Part 8
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THE KISS THAT NEVER WAS
Part 8: Chapters 43 to 48
(MF, Mf, humor, rom, fanfic, harem, OM, OF, slow, no sex)
Written by Spacer X (paul_t_22@yahoo.com)

Chapter Forty-Three: The Fox Strikes Back

Oh man! Keitaro groaned with a deep weariness and turned to look at his alarm clock . 9:30. Not terribly bad. Could be worse. Oh man! He staggered off to the shower to fully awaken and reflect.

Wow. What a day! That was like our own little version of Robinson Crusoe, except X rated. I'll never look at those two in the same way again. Wow.

Just on a pure lust level, a carnal level, I am so in lust with both of them! Wow! Mutsumi is so soft and curvy and inviting. But Motoko, even though she's taller than me, and skinny, she's so firm and athletic and yet busty too! And their faces are so cute! Even more shockingly, they both like me! For a while there I thought Motoko was going to kill me for sure, but by the end it seemed like she was as happy and at ease as Mutsumi. Practically, anyways. And they were both checking me out as much as I was them. I hope I passed muster. And the dolphins and the camaraderie and the beautiful nature. Wow. It was all so great!

But I can only choose one of them. How can I possibly choose? They're both like goddesses! I want them both!

What Keitaro wasn't thinking now was as important as what he was thinking. He wasn't thinking about Mitsune. Nor was he thinking at all about Naru.

Before Motoko, Mutsumi, and Keitaro went their separate ways the night before, they worked out a cover story so the others needn't know about their nudity. But Motoko went and told Mitsune the whole truth. She was very bitter about Mitsune's trickery, but she mostly held her tongue because she realized Mitsune was well meaning. She sarcastically noted, "'Flying Turtle Beach?' You could have been a little bit more subtle!"

From Mitsune's point of view, things couldn't have possibly gone any worse.

Motoko wasn't too happy about it, either. Although sheer practicality forced her to grudgingly accept the nudity as the day went on, she was hardly happy about it. And as far as her competition with Mutsumi went, she counted the day a wash at best.

What Motoko didn't realize though was that the day was a huge leap for her in terms of becoming a more sexual being. Previously, she'd had an almost pathological shame of the sexual aspect of her body, and an equally strong aversion to the male body unclothed, especially the penis.

Before, she'd dreamed and fantasized about kissing a man. Beyond that, all was hazy and forbidden, even in dreams. But now, she was very eager and curious to touch Keitaro all over and explore every inch of his body. She realized kissing was just the start. Her desire for him, already sky high, surged even higher.

The same could be said for Mutsumi. She had a much more healthy attitude to nudity, sexuality, and masculinity. But there's a difference between not being ashamed of sex, and actively wanting to have it. Mutsumi was still a virgin, having been trapped in a remote corner of a tiny island near Okinawa for nearly her entire life. Spending the day naked with Keitaro also greatly whetted her desire to go much further than kissing with him.

But they and Keitaro were also a little overwhelmed by the experience. The rest of the day was surprisingly calm and free of conflict. Work on the play kept everyone busy. Keitaro walked around in a near stupor, barely able to focus on reading his lines for the play, because the images of Motoko and Mutsumi naked together and alone crowded his brain.

At one point, Mitsune walked up to him, and he stared right through her. "Helllloooo!" she said as she waved her hand right in front of his face. "Is anyone home?"

"Oh, what? Kitsune? Hi. How are you doing?" He drifted back into his daze, his eyes gazing blankly off into the distance, a stupid smile on his face.

This is bad, Mitsune thought. Real bad. It's like he's had a full-on frontal lobotomy. Remove the personality center of his brain, and insert naked pictures of Motoko and Mutsumi. I have to snap him out of it. But how? More sex with him? I promised not to do that. I really promised. Not to mention, he's so far gone he'd probably just imagine it was Motoko or Mutsumi the whole time and even cry out their names. That would be humiliating. No, I have to get his mind off of sex altogether for a while. But how?

Mitsune paced back and forth. She rubbed her chin in contemplation, like Sherlock Holmes. This is bad. Bad, bad, bad. I'm such a long shot with him, I don't even know why I try. Let me think. ... I need an emotional crisis. Preferably involving someone too young for him. Sara, Suu, or, in a pinch, Shinobu. Hmm. If only it were the full moon and Suu stepped up with some kind of transformation crisis, that would be ideal. But I can't think how to bring that forward, and I don't want a brain dead Keitaro for the next couple of days or more, assuming that Suu makes a move at all.

I think Shinobu is my best bet. Her feelings for Keitaro are like a ticking bomb ready to go off at any minute. What was it Keitaro said to me the other day? Something about how Shinobu was feeling really strange about something that happened the day after he and I had sex for the first time. Hmm. What did he say? She was feeling really guilty about something she did that made something stop happening that day. He wanted my advice about what it might be, but I couldn't figure it out. But if I can crack this, maybe I can break the grip Motoko and Mutsumi has on his mind. Hmm.

It must have something to do with us having sex the night before. The coincidence is just too strong. If she found out, she would have wanted to stop it. But I haven't felt any animosity or obstacles from her since. Although... now that I think about it, the next day Mutsumi phoned and said she was coming back to Hinata Inn sooner rather than later. ... Shinobu must have called Mutsumi and told her to come back right away! The little brat! Why, she's working exactly like me! Trying to counter the effect of one person on Keitaro by bringing in someone else. That's exactly what I've been doing, and not too successfully, I might add. But bringing in Mutsumi was really a masterstroke for her. It's made things twice as hard for my chances. Damn!

On the other hand, Shinobu's not like me at all. She's the complete opposite. She must be really eating up inside with guilt. This is exactly what I need. But am I desperate enough, conniving enough to use it? Am I that mean? ... Actually, it's not a case of being mean. Shinobu has not been herself at all. The idea that she tricked her Sempai must be killing her, and one day it's going to come bursting out. It's just a matter of time. All I would be doing is moving the time up to inadvertently help me out too. I can live with that. She'll feel a lot better once she gets this off her chest. Yes, this is for her own good.

Chapter Forty-Four: Brother, Who Art Thou?

After dinner that evening, Mitsune cornered Keitaro when he was briefly alone. He was getting some dessert from the teahouse kitchen and the two of them stood in the doorway to the main dining hall. They could see all their friends sitting around chatting and having fun. Mitsune said quietly in his ear, "Look at Shinobu. Doesn't she look sad?"

It was true. Shinobu was sad. Everyone was laughing and drinking around her, and she laughed and smiled too, but it was a forced happiness. Looking at her for more than a minute, one could see flashes of sorrow breaking through her façade.

Keitaro sighed. "Yeah. But she won't tell me what it is."

Mitsune commiserated. "It's a real mystery, isn't it? It seems like ever since that day she called Mutsumi to come join us at the beach, she's been acting really strange."

"Yeah," he sighed again. Then, after a pause, "Wait a minute. What did you say? She did what?"

Mitsune feigned cluelessness. "Oh, did I say something? Oops! You didn't hear it from me. That ice cream looks good. I'm going to go get some for myself." She scurried off.

Wait a minute! he thought to himself. Shinobu was the one who called Mutsumi? That was right after Mitsune and I had sex, and the same day I kissed Motoko. She must have called Mutsumi to make sure I didn't get too close to either of them! No wonder she feels so bad - that's so unlike her. I really need to talk to her about this.

Keitaro pushed through the crowd. Haitani grabbed his shirt and held him up. "Hey Keitaro, are we going to play Spin the Bottle tonight? My idea isn't going over so well, but if you're behind it..."

"Some other time," he said, and pushed on.

He reached Shinobu. He scratched the back of his head nervously, wondering how best to handle this. "Howdy, Shinobu. Can I speak to you in private for a minute?"

The two of them headed outside, to the sands in front of the teahouse. They stood out under the stars, just out of range of all the light and noise coming from inside the busy building.

"What is it, Sempai? You look very concerned."

"I have a question to ask you. I've been putting two and two together, and it just came to me that you may have called Mutsumi and asked her to join us here at the beach. Were you the one to do that, and if so, why?"

Shinobu was taken completely off guard. Her mouth opened and closed several times, and her eyes grew big. Finally she burst into Keitaro's arms, crying. "Yes! It was me! I'm so sorry! So sorry!"

Once the tears started to come, they came like a torrent. She cried and bawled so intensely and so passionately, that Keitaro got caught up in it too and began crying as well.

For several minutes they did nothing but cry as they tightly held each other. As Shinobu started to cry herself out, she returned to repeating, "I'm sorry! So sorry!"

"Stop that," he said gently. "No need to keep saying you're sorry. It's okay. But I'd really like to hear why you did it. After all this time, sometimes I think I don't really understand you."

"I don't understand it either!" she said, and buried herself into his chest again, renewing her crying.

She looked up between sobs, and Keitaro found himself starting to cry again, as he saw her big, mournful eyes looking up at him so pained, so regretful. "I... I... I wanted..." She tried to talk, but couldn't for all the crying.

"Please," he said, "I can't talk like this. Let's turn away and stop crying before we go on."

"Okay. Sorry!" She let go and turned around to compose herself.

After a couple minutes, she turned around again. "Sorry."

"Don't apologize so much! It's okay. Just tell me what happened."

"Well, I found out that you were kissing Mitsune-san. And Motoko-san too! And I was hurt. And jealous. I know it's not right for me to feel those emotions, but that's how I felt. I don't want to lose you! I'm afraid you're going to find somebody you really love and leave the Hinata Inn, and leave me all alone. And I don't want you to go!"

She grabbed him again in a tight embrace.

"Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere. Not just yet." He stroked her hair reassuringly. "So you called Mutsumi and invited her, because you thought she could distract me from Motoko and Mitsune, right?"

Shinobu nodded into his chest.

"I hate to say this, but that's really playing with fire, isn't it? You know Mutsumi and I are attracted to each other too, don't you?"

"Yes, of course," she said in a sad tone. But then, more forcefully, she added, "But why? Why are you attracted to them, and Naru too, but you're not, you're not..." Her voice trailed off, and once again she cried without restraint.

"Wait, wait, stop crying." He pulled her away from his chest and looked her lovingly in the eyes. "Shinobu, you have to understand that I love you. I may not love you romantically, but I still love you. You're really important to me. Don't confuse yours feelings for me with romantic love. Maybe it feels like that sometimes, but think about the love of a brother and a sister. Romantic love comes and goes. Yeah, sometimes people get married and have a long, happy time with each other, but often they don't. Often they break up and never want to speak to each other again. But the love between a brother and sister, family love, that goes on no matter what. You're always family, and that never changes. That's a rock you can always rely on. That's how we should be.

"I think of you more as a little sister, it's true. Maybe if our ages were closer together it would be different, but they're not. But that can be a good thing, that we avoid that."

She looked up at him hopefully yet doubtfully. At least, she'd stopped crying.

He continued, "Think about the fact that I'm attracted to all these women right now. I can only end up with one. The others, who knows, I may fall away from them over time. I may not even speak with them again when all is said and done. I don't know. If you were one of that group, maybe things would work out between us romantically, and maybe they wouldn't. Maybe it would be very painful, and we'd never talk again. That happens a lot, like I said. ... But if you and I are like brother and sister, we can get past all that, and stick together for each other. Be there like a rock. Isn't that a lot better?"

Again she grasped him with all her might. "Yes. Yes it is. You know my troubled family situation. I feel kind of like the people at the Hinata Inn are my real family, and I'm so afraid. I'm afraid everyone will leave me, and that you'll leave me! Because we're not a real family, we're just people living in the same house. But I love everyone so much!"

"I know you do. And everyone loves you. Let's not worry about this thing about phoning Mutsumi, okay? I'm not mad at you. In fact, I'm glad you did it. She's making this vacation more fun for everyone. But think about what I've said. About thinking about me like a brother. Okay?"

"Okay." Her eyes were still red, but there was genuine happiness there now, a real smile. It was the first time he'd seen that from her in days.

She thought about his words. I feel so good to hear him say that he loves me. So comforted. And I do love him like a brother. But not just like that! I have romantic feelings too, and I can't just wish them away, no matter what he says. I know he's right and my feelings are improper, but that's the way I feel! ... At least I feel better now. Knowing that he forgives me for phoning Mutsumi is like a huge burden lifted from my shoulders. Tomorrow I may feel bad that he says he doesn't love me romantically, but tonight I just want to revel in the fact that he says he loves me so much. Sempai! Oh, Sempai!

"Let's go back inside," he suggested. "Before people start worrying about us."

They walked back arm in arm, very content to be with each other.

Chapter Forty-Five: The Wrong Thing For The Right Reason

Mitsune was hiding in the shadows. She sniffed, and wiped her eyes with a sleeve. Since she was the one who started this drama, she knew Keitaro would immediately take Shinobu outside. She couldn't help but sate her curiosity over what he'd say and spied on the whole thing. She'd cried nearly as much as they did as she watched.

That was so touching, she thought. What's happened to Keitaro? He's matured so much! He handled that so well, and obviously completely off the cuff. What's causing this? Has having sex changed the way he deals with women that much? Is it the confidence of finally becoming a Toudai student? I wonder if maybe it's that Naru is gone. She loved him so much, but she was also keeping him in a kind of an emotional deep freeze, with their relationship not moving forwards or backwards for so long. Now he's bursting out of his shell and really maturing. Maybe it's a combination of things.

The problem is, seeing him act like that with Shinobu, so noble, so wise, makes me love him even more. And yet the only chance I have to love him is to be tricky and backstabbing. And really, I'm not worthy of his love if I keep going on like this. But it's just like the dilemma Shinobu faced when she phoned Mutsumi. She knew it wasn't right, but it was her desire for love that made her do it.

What a tangled web we weave! I don't know if I can stop my scheming. Maybe that's just part of my nature, anyways. But at least I need to vow that I'm not going to hurt anybody doing it. This manipulation of Shinobu I arranged was a good thing for her and for him. And it helps me. He won't go tonight dreaming of Motoko and Mutsumi, at least. I need to at least do no harm to others. I told Motoko I'm going to help her get Keitaro, and that's what I'm going to do. The things I do and say to her will be to help her. If I do some OTHER things to other people to help them that inadvertently don't help her chances with Keitaro, that's different. But I'm not going to directly stab her in the back. Not when Keitaro is acting this noble.

---

Mitsune's latest scheme was as successful as her previous one was a failure. Up until he spoke to Shinobu, Keitaro had spent nearly all his time the whole day split between Motoko and Mutsumi. But after the talk, his focus shifted to Shinobu. The group stayed in the teahouse until late, playing games like charades and Twister. Keitaro sat next to Shinobu, his arm frequently around her chair, and his presence kind and comforting. She had a wonderful evening, even though pushed to the back of her mind was the new found confirmation that he wasn't romantically interested. He seemed much happier too, as he put his romantic conflicts out of his mind for a spell.

Keitaro went to bed without further incident. But Mitsune's scheming wasn't over. She thought, This thing with Shinobu opened the door for him to think about me again. But I'm still not on his mind. I know I vowed to him that I would give him space and not try to sleep with him again. I was just vowing that again earlier today. But that's not a vow I can keep. That's not a noble vow, like my new vow to do no harm, or my promise with Motoko to run every day and not drink. I've been so good that I even ran all by myself yesterday when she was gone all day. But there's no harm if I break this no sex vow. We get to have fun. It's win-win. He has no girlfriend he'd be cheating on, at least not yet. No one gets hurt.

Mitsune went to sleep like everyone else, but she set her alarm for one o'clock in the morning. All the women shared their rooms. Mitsune had arranged that Sara would be her roommate, knowing that Seta was likely to show up and that when he did, her double would turn into a single. So there was no one to notice when she woke up and slipped herself out of her room.

Keitaro awoke in complete darkness, feeling the skin of Mitsune lying naked next to him. He was actually quite shocked. Not shocked so much that she would try this - ever since they first had sex, just about every night he would go to sleep wondering if and when she would make her next move. But he was amazed that she'd found a way into his locked hotel room.

"Kitsune? What are you doing here? How did you get in?"

"Your first question is easy. What do you think?" She snuggled up to him, and kissed him on the lips. He offered no resistance. On the second kiss, he kissed back, and the kiss went on and on. Satisfied her latest seduction was working, she returned to his questions before things grew too heated.

"As for your second question, you know last night when you and Motoko and Mutsumi all told the hotel you lost your room keys? In the resulting confusion I somehow accidentally on purpose wound up with an extra key too, except to your room, not mine."

"Mitsune! You're so bad!"

"I know. I'm so bad. If you only knew just how bad I've been lately! But I'm also so good. Let me show you what I mean." She dropped her head down into his lap, and soon Keitaro was feeling so much pleasure that he completely failed to recall his vow not to have sex with Mitsune.

He only remembered it after he woke up the next morning. By that time, she was long gone.

Chapter Forty-Six: Calm Before the Storm

The next day was supposed to be another day for relaxation. There was a company on the beach offering windsurfing lessons, so the whole Hinata gang took the class together. Everyone, that is, except Seta and Haruka, who apparently were both quite good at windsurfing already. The two of them sat on the shore talking and watching the others, especially minding Sara.

The classes took all morning, and in the afternoon everybody, including Seta and Haruka, rented their own windsurfing equipment and each person tried it out on their own. Motoko, thanks to her years of physical training and very attuned sense of balance, leaped ahead of everyone in talent at the new sport. But to her chagrin, Seta was once again ahead of her and better than her. He and Haruka cruised around over the water like they owned it.

But everyone had fun. Even Sara was able to stand up and cruise around, and roughly stay within range of Seta and Haruka. The wind conditions were just perfect for the sport.

That evening there was more drinking and games in the teahouse, with an emphasis on drinking. Mutsumi really shined, and Keitaro naturally drew towards her. Motoko and Mitsune were chagrined. Motoko just didn't have the social skills to be bubbly, flirtatious, and charming like Mutsumi. Mitsune did have those skills, but the fact she was still banned from drinking hurt. It was like Mutsumi and Keitaro were sharing a private joke that she couldn't be a part of.

After the camaraderie at the nude beach, tensions between the three women had cooled down, but now the sense of competition was heating up again. Each one knew that it was bad to leave Keitaro alone with either of the other two. Yet Mitsune continued to help Motoko. At that night's party, she even continually tried to draw Motoko out into the conversation and draw attention to her. Afterwards, she coached her on how she could do better next time. But there was nonetheless a certain weariness between even them. From the completely different way Keitaro treated Mitsune since the night before, Motoko sensed that the two of them had slept together again. She didn't like that one bit.

So that evening as the party broke up, all three women carefully followed Keitaro to his room and said goodbye together, assuring that none of them could kiss him goodnight.

The next day was another practice day. A very solid day of hard work and progress on the play pushed romantic tensions to the background. The only interesting thing of note was that Haitani had apparently appointed himself Haruka's assistant in managing the play. Haruka didn't ask for it, but nonetheless she found him always at her beck and call, standing with a clipboard and copies of the script, ready to run errands, pass messages, and the like.

Later that day, when Haitani was finally detached from her, Shirai came up to him and thwacked him with a hat. "What is with you, my friend? Why are you so moony over that old broad?"

"Hey!" He thwacked back with the clipboard. "Don't think of her as old. Think of her as mature, like a fine wine. She's the director of this brilliant movie reenactment, and we have to treat her with respect. Think of her as the female Steven Spielberg. The George Lucas of Japan. The new Akira Kurasawa!" He raised his hand dramatically and looked up, as if she were on a balcony and he was serenading her from below. Shirai thwacked him again and shook his head in bemused puzzlement.

---

Ever since Keitaro had come to the beach teahouse, he had seen surprisingly little of Suu. There were several reasons for this. One was that the production of the Star Wars play was like a dream come true for her in terms of her love of inventing and creating. She had an endless amount of work to do to come up with all the special effects, costumes, backgrounds, and more. Everyone knew she was a genius with those kinds of things and relied on her exclusively. Even on what was supposed to be their off days she worked non-stop on the play, unless Sara and/or Shinobu dragged her away to have fun.

The other reason was that she was still very much after Keitaro, but knew she couldn't compete with him on the same level as the older women. So she didn't even try. For instance, at evening parties in the teahouse, Keitaro, Mutsumi, and Mitsune tended to be the center of activity with a lot of people crowded nearby and drinking copious amounts of alcohol. Suu, by contrast, was inevitably placed on the periphery, at a sort of "kiddie table" with Shinobu and Sara. The adults kept an eye on them to make sure they didn't drink alcohol or get otherwise "corrupted." They found it all a bit insulting, and much worse than the more intimate gatherings back at the Hinata Inn. Even Keitaro, who normally treated her like an equal, was acting more patronizingly towards her lately.

She knew full well that Mitsune, Motoko, and Mutsumi were all in a race for Keitaro's affection, and that she wasn't even at the starting gate in the race. Not to mention, she was merely fifteen years old. But she wasn't bothered by that. In fact, she was utterly confident that she could make Keitaro hers. After all, she had plenty of reasons to be so certain. For one thing, she was an incredible genius, creating inventions in days that teams of scientists had never been able to make after years of research. And no doubt such skill was connected to the strange magical powers she possessed, powers that included the ability to temporarily age during full, red moons. Now, thanks to Mitsune, she also possessed a working aphrodisiac. On top of it all, she was a princess back in her home country, with access to large amounts of money and resources.

Between all these things, she felt sure she could overcome any obstacle, once she was ready to do so. And with Naru gone and the other women so obviously getting closer and closer to Keitaro, she knew she couldn't afford to wait any longer. On this night the full moon she'd been long waiting for would finally arrive. She was ready to strike.

Chapter Forty-Seven: Red Skies at Night

Suu had worked out an extremely simple plan. First, she had to make the moon turn red. It wasn't going to reliably turn red on it's own, especially since this was not the storm season that sometimes created the right conditions. So she'd constructed an elaborate machine that would put out a tremendous amount of red dust over their teahouse and hotel, in essence creating her own stormy sky. For her transformation magic to work, the moon only needed to appear red from her point of view and not actually be seen as red for hundreds of miles around.

Then, she had to get Keitaro alone. There was no shortage of methods and excuses she could use for that. Once alone, she merely had to get him to drink some of the love potion, he would take her, and she expected the rest would follow.

She didn't know exactly what "the rest" was, though. She wasn't a bashful girl, and even at age fifteen, she felt very ready for sex. But she had no actual experience, not even intimate kissing. Her eagerness was only heightened by the fact that the red moon transformation not only made her appear several years older, but also unleashed her hormones. It was as if she saved up all of her sexual energies for the few, brief times when her body changed, and then all that energy came flowing out. The last time that had happened to her, nearly a year ago, she'd been so aroused that she'd openly asked Keitaro to make love to her, even though she was just fourteen. She figured with her hormones in overdrive, and Keitaro under the spell of the aphrodisiac, the two of them making love was a foregone conclusion, and "the rest" would follow naturally.

She had good reason to assume that once she'd seduced him, lust would turn to love. She'd given the turtle Tama-chan the aphrodisiac and saw it become permanently attached to Mecha-Tama. More recently, when Mutsumi gave Keitaro the turtle Taro-chan as a gift, she'd given the new turtle some aphrodisiac too, and it also fell hard for Tama-chan. (Tama-chan was now a bit of a two-timing turtle, dividing her affections between Taro-chan and Mecha-Tama.)

So she felt confident the same thing would happen between her and Keitaro. If it didn't, she figured she could come up with something else - even kidnapping if necessary. She had a lot of inventiveness and resources she could draw upon.

So confident was Suu, that although she hadn't told anyone her scheme, she hadn't tried very hard to hide the fact that she was up to something. Keitaro already had an inkling something would happen with the next moon. But in case he was in any doubt, Mitsune fully clued him in with her suspicions. The last thing Keitaro wanted was a romantic complication with Suu. He just wasn't attracted to her that way, mostly because of the age factor, which was even more extreme than with Shinobu. So he and Mitsune worked out an elaborate scheme of what to do if Suu tried something.

That evening, everybody was in the teahouse, as preparations for the play slowly morphed into yet another party. Suu couldn't prevent or delay her transformation once the moon changed. So, like Dr. Jekyll afraid to expose his Mr. Hyde persona, she left before dinner, before her transformation was complete.

That made everyone completely aware of what she was up to. But hours passed and nothing happened. Finally, the party began to break up, and people headed back to the hotel.

Mitsune, however, was absolutely determined not to leave Keitaro's side for any reason. After all, they had a detailed scheme worked out. The others left Mitsune and Keitaro behind, so the two of them could implement their scheme and defuse the Suu situation.

Keitaro was nervous about what would happen next, and drank a bit too much to calm his nerves. As the two of them sat in the teahouse, they heard a voice calling from outside. It was Mutsumi's voice. "Kei-kun, can you come here?"

It sounded very much like Mutsumi, filled with mirth and love. But Mitsune whispered to Keitaro, "This is it! I'll bet that's not Mutsumi. Remember, one of Suu's inventions allows the mimicking of voices. Be careful!"

Keitaro walked out of the teahouse, and followed the direction of the voice. Mitsune stealthily followed a discreet distance behind.

"Over here!" the voice cried out, leading him down the beach and further from the teahouse. He followed.

Eventually he reached another ramshackle building not unlike the teahouse. On the roof was Suu, dressed in the Indian-styled sari that she always wore during these transformations. She played an enchanting, exotic melody on her lyre, as she had in the past.

She looked up, recognized him, and then waved a friendly hello. Then Keitaro turned furtively to look for Mitsune behind him. When he turned back towards Suu, she was gone.

Within seconds, she appeared right next to him. Her lyre was gone, and she swayed her body with her hands behind her back, filled with anticipation.

"Good evening, Keitaro," she said shyly, as she looked at him demurely.

"Good evening, Suu," he replied evenly.

He took a good look at her, and was astounded, even though he'd known what was coming. Objectively, she was the same Suu. She was the same height, the same hips, the same stomach, the same breasts. But somehow she was different. Certainly it showed in the face. Her cheeks were different, and so were the eyes. It was more than just what one could do with makeup - it really looked like she'd aged a few years. Her cheeks were tighter, her skin all over, darker. It appeared she had less baby fat, and more firmness and tone to her body.

He'd heard that in remote societies where people walk on hot coals, studies show their bodies actually temporarily change. The soles of their feet grow an extra centimeter or two thicker, and become quite hard. This lasts during a trance so they can walk over the coals, and when the trance is over, the body returns to normal. He figured that if that was possible, then what he was seeing with Suu was just on the edge of possible. But still, it was very hard to fathom.

"Suu," he asked, "how do you do it? Honestly. I know about the red moon, but how does it make you change?"

She giggled, and pressed him close. "That's for me to know and you..." He thought she would say "to find out," but instead she said: "...not to know!" That made her laugh.

She grabbed his sleeve and pulled him along. "Here, come with me. I have something to show you."

Chapter Forty-Eight: The Beautiful Cage

He walked with her down the beach. Seemingly conjured out of nowhere, right smack in the middle of a very public beach, was an exotic, open-aired pavilion. It looked like the interior of some fabulous yurt owned by a Mongol khan, or the palace of some wealthy Arab sheikh from ancient times. It was a raised platform with walls, mostly, but no roof. The side facing the ocean was open, and it was practically at the waterline. There were rugs, carpets, draperies, and pillows strewn about everywhere. Keitaro felt like he was on a movie set for something like The Arabian Nights.

"Wh-whaaa? Where? How? ... How did you do this?"

She giggled joyfully. "Don't worry about that. I have my ways. I haven't been working JUST on the play set construction lately. Tonight is a very special night for me, for us. I want it to be perfect."

Keitaro noticed music playing the same strange and alluring sounds she'd been playing on her lyre moments before. She took him by the hand, and led him up the steps and into the center of the pavilion.

"Where's that music coming from?" he asked. It sounded like live music, somehow coming from all around him. "And, for that matter, what if someone comes along? We're right in the middle of a very public beach, even if it is late at night!"

"Don't worry about that," she said with a peaceful serenity. He noticed she looked much calmer, gentler; in every way more mature. He couldn't imagine this Suu kicking him in the face or stuffing her mouth full of bananas. "I've taken care of everything," she said confidently. "Nobody can come near."

With a start, he remembered Mitsune. He looked around frantically, as if she would pop her head in at any second.

"Don't worry, I've taken care of Mitsune, too." It's as if she can read my mind! he thought, but anyone could have read his thoughts because he was so obviously looking around for someone to come to his rescue. "She's fine," Suu continued, "but she won't be disturbing us."

She sat down on some rugs and throw pillows covered with intricate patterns that looked like they came from India or perhaps Persia. She patted some pillows next to where she sat and motioned for him to seat down as well.

All of the sudden Keitaro felt panicky. No Mitsune? There goes my getaway plan! Their plan was to wait until Keitaro was given some of the love potion, and then have Mitsune rush in, say she knew what Suu had done, and then show some evidence they'd invented proving the potion was dangerous and possibly fatal to men in large doses. Keitaro was supposed to feign a seizure and be whisked away to the hospital. They had it all arranged with a doctor in a local hospital to feign a big scene in the operating room and have the doctor appear to barely save his life. One of Mitsune's friends had flown into town to play the doctor and had been waiting for just this very moment. They figured that would be so scary for Suu that's she'd swear off the aphrodisiac specifically and the seduction of Keitaro generally for a long time to come.

Keitaro thought, What about Mitsune's plan? Without her, I don't know how to do it by myself! Faking a seizure is no good without all the backup. What am I going to do? ... We misjudged Suu. She's a force to be reckoned with!

"Here," Suu said, interrupting his thoughts. "Have something to drink. We've got all kinds of things to drink here, anything you want." She pulled out a tray with beer, wine, tea, milk, juice, and more.

Oh no! he thought while trying to mask his emotions. The aphrodisiac! I'm sure every single one is full of it!

Shakily, he replied, "Uh, no thanks. I'm not thirsty. You know how we were all drinking earlier. I drank a LOT. In fact, I'm so very completely the opposite of thirsty. Bloated! That's it! I'm completely bloated with liquids. Almost dangerously so!"

She laughed heartily. "Oh, come on. It's not that bad, is it? Am I that scary? I'll bet you think I'm going to make you drink the aphrodisiac, don't you? I know you know all about that."

Keitaro tried to keep a poker face, but realized she could see right through him. He nodded, a little bit at first, and then vigorously to unleash some of his nervous tension. "Okay, I'll admit it. That's what I'm thinking. I really shouldn't drink any of that. It's not right."

She giggled some more. "Too late. I thought you might say that, so I trained Mecha-Tama to drop some of the potion in your drink back at the teahouse. It should be kicking in right about now."

Keitaro seized up, suddenly intensely aware of his body. He mentally checked his pulse, his sweatiness, his mental state, his arousal level. Is it working? Is the aphrodisiac already flowing through my veins? Or is that the alcohol affecting me from all my drinking earlier? Oh no, what have we done! We shouldn't have let things go this far!

After a quick mental scan he realized everything was pretty much normal, except that he was aroused. But is that the potion, or is it just the fact that I'm here with Suu? This is not the Suu I know. That sari is so alluring; exposing her stomach and letting me see right up the sides of her thighs. Her hair even seems wilder; longer somehow. Brighter in spots, darker in others. So fascinating! ... And this setting! The sound of the crashing waves. The moonlight shimmering on the water. The music. The beauty of this pavilion. The pillows, tapestries, the big bed...

THE BIG BED?!? Oh no! I'm practically leaning up against a bed! His eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets.

Suu watched where his eyes went, and laughed some more. "I see you've noticed the bed," she said calmly. "That's where you're going to take me, tonight. You're going to take my virginity and make me a woman." She scooted in closer and reached out to put an arm around his shoulder.

Chapter Forty-Nine: Lunatic of Love

Keitaro shot up like a rocket and flew about two meters backwards before he came to a stop. Standing there, he tried to act casual, and ran his hand nervously through his hair.

"Uh, what did you say? Wait. I'll just pretend I didn't hear that. You're fifteen years old! That would be illegal, wouldn't it?"

She stood up and walked to him. She put her face close to his. Very close. "I may have been born fifteen years ago - fifteen and a half, actually - but is this the body of a fifteen year old?" That forced him to look at her body again. He dumbly shook his head no, even as he realized her body was fundamentally still fifteen. She's so beautiful. Even her voice sounds deeper, richer! She's truly bewitched by magic!

Keitaro stepped a couple of feet back from her, and leaned up against the wall of the pavilion, trying to act casual. "Wait. Before we go any further, let's talk. Tell me why you're attracted to me."

She looked at him hungrily, and crept closer. But she did answer his question. "I told you that last time, silly. You're funny. And fun. And kind. I just like to be with you, even if it's just to kick you. And you remind me of my brother. You look just like him. It would be so much fun for us to snuggle together at night." She put her arms around him, but he slipped down and away before she could make contact. He backed up a few more feet. He was now at the entrance to the pavilion, and put his hand on the handrail to the steps that he'd taken to walk inside.

"Let's talk about that," he said, hoping a long discussion could spoil the romantic mood, and at least give him time to think. "Let's talk about your brother. I mean, isn't it unhealthy to have those kinds of feelings for a brother?"

She laughed again. There was a magical lilt in her laughter that he hadn't noticed before. It made her even more enticing. "It's not like that, you big dummy! He's my brother, but he's not my BROTHER. We're not related by birth. But according to the customs of my country, he's pledged to marry me."

"Marry you?" He backed up down the stairs and she steadily came at him. "Then what are you doing with me? You should be with him!"

"But that could be years away! I want you to be my first love! I know what you've been doing with Mitsune. I want you to do it to me, too!"

Keitaro's mind reeled. She knows that? How could she know that? We've only done it three times, and in the depths of the night. What am I going to do against that logic?

She caught up to him and pressed up against him. "Keitaro, just this one time. I'm so curious. I've been seeing it in movies and books. I want to know what it's like to make love. The way I am now, this is just temporary. When the moon changes back, so will I. Then everything will be like before. Don't even think of me as Suu. Just think of me as a mysterious stranger you bumped into in the night." She threw her arms around him, and brought her face close to his.

Keitaro was sorely, sorely tempted. She has a good point. Just this once. This is not really Suu... No wait. I can't think like that. I have a feeling that if this happens, somehow things won't be the same at all. My instinct tells me her body won't change back either. Somehow I just know it. I have to get out of this! I'm tempted, but she's not the one for me. If I give in, this will lead to disaster with everyone! I have to get out of this, but how?

He ignored her, even though her lips were practically up to his, and instead he stared off into the distance. "Wait a minute." He put his hands up in the air, making a pause gesture. "Wait. I feel something. ... Something is stirring within me. Something ... rumbling." He pushed her away, and brought a hand tentatively up to his mouth. He closed his eyes and looked to be concentrating intensely.

"Yes. Yes, I feel it. Suu, you're right. You're so right. We should make love. I feel it now. I feel so very ... aroused."

She clapped her hands with glee. "Goody! I knew it would work!"

She moved towards him. They were both now standing on the sand just outside the pavilion. But he opened his eyes, and the look on his face gave her pause.

He looked at her with eyes bugged out, as if a man possessed. "Yes, Suu, I will make love to you. Right now. Watch out, because I'm going to give you everything." His voice was low and menacing, and his eyes still very buggy and wild.

His arms reached out for her, but the arms were strangely ramrod straight and stiff. His hands grasped her shoulders, and squeezed them tight. "Yes! I can feel it now. The love potion is working! It's making me excited. Crazy, even. I feel so ... WILD!" He stepped forward but his arms didn't bend, so he pushed her back a step.

Suu was looking very doubtful now. "I think I may have given you a bit too much of the drug." His eyes opened even wider, which she didn't think was humanly possible, and his mouth opened into a strange, manic, lopsided smile.

"You definitely took much. I didn't have any way to test it on anybody, except the turtles!" She took a step backwards and pushed his hands off of her shoulders.

He took another step forwards. His arms were still out straight, just like Frankenstein. He started walking forwards, as if he was going to walk right into her. She backed away. He took giant, slow, stiff-legged steps, and his arms swayed stiffly in front of him. He was directly inspired by the Frankenstein movie, and tried to model his actions on that monster. Then he remembered how the monster could barely talk.

"Must ... make ... love! ... Woman! ... Me ... want ... WOMAN!" He marched forward down the beach, and she scurried away just in front of him.

She wailed, "You're scaring me, Keitaro! Definitely way too much of the potion! Way too much!" He kept coming forward, step by step.

She squealed, and finally took off like a rabbit. He continued to walk like a slow, ponderous monster, so she quickly outpaced him and disappeared off into the darkness.

He kept up the walk just in case she might come back and see him, but inside he breathed a big sigh of relief. That was too close! I have to admit, I was sorely tempted. ... I don't know where I pulled this Frankenstein imitation from - it just came to me without thinking. But boy am I glad I did! That wasn't right if I would have made love to her there. On the surface, it was perfect: the perfect atmosphere, and she was perfect too. But she's just fifteen, for God's sake! It's not time for her to grow up yet. She should enjoy that age while she can. You're only fifteen once. Why rush to be eighteen? Years later she'll be wishing that she could be that young again.

Keitaro turned around and started doing the Frankenstein walk in the opposite direction . I should head back to the hotel. Back to the teahouse, at least. He continued with his deeper thoughts. I should explain this all to her. I don't know how she does it, but it's not right to have your body skip ahead a few years. She should enjoy each year of her childhood to the fullest! Not only that, but it isn't right for her to want me just because I remind her of her brother. That's insulting, actually, to be a substitute like that. She needs to fall in love with someone her own age, and love them for who they are, not who they resemble. I should tell her that, too. It's too late to explain it now, though, I guess.

He continued to slowly stagger and lurch forwards. Not far from the front of the teahouse, he found Mitsune lying on the sand, sleeping. He looked around, and could see fairly far in the moonlit darkness, but there was no sign of Suu. So he came out of his Frankenstein routine, but hammed it up a bit, shaking like a possession spell was lifting, just in case Suu was watching. He was learning that you could never know when someone was watching, especially when it came to the nosy Hinata Inn gang.

He reached down and shook Mitsune awake. "Kitsune? You okay?"

She opened her eyes, saw him leaning above her, and smiled. She stood up and brushed the sand off, because she'd been planted face down in the sand. "I'm okay. The bigger question is, how are you, and how is Suu?"

"I'm fine. We're fine. It was pretty nip and tuck, but in the end nothing happened. What happened to you?"

"I don't know. Last thing I remember was I was just walking along. Then it's a blank until just now. Sorry I let you down."

"That's okay." He helped her up, and the two of them headed back towards the hotel, walking hand in hand.

"What happened?" she asked, now more awake and excited to find out what exactly happened. "Did you drink the aphrodisiac?"

Keitaro pondered that. Did I? Did I really? Did I feel an effect, or was I just damn horny anyways from everything else? Hmm. I'll have to think about that. But out loud, all he said was, "Now's not the time to talk about it. I'm beginning to think the walls have ears." He recalled how Suu said she knew Mitsune and him were having sex. How did she figure that out? A mecha turtle spy? Perhaps. Or did I just give too much away with my careless behavior? "Let's go back to my room and I can tell you all about it there."

She held him closer. "Okay! I like that idea." I hope he realizes that once I'm in that room alone with him, I'm not coming out until we've had our satisfaction. He's turning into such a man! Heh-heh!

But Keitaro hadn't even considered that possibility - that was just the only private place that sprang to his mind. As they walked on towards the hotel, he thought to himself, I have to clear my mind of all the weirdness. What a strange day. What a strange week! I need a good night's sleep. I think I'm drunk on top of everything else. That wasn't smart.

Tomorrow I should really talk to Suu. If for no other reason, there's going to be another full moon tomorrow night. Plus, she's going to be feeling very crushed. Maybe I overdid it on scaring her, too. And I've gotta be careful with Motoko, Mutsumi, Mitsune here - and who knows who else. There's just no telling what tomorrow might bring!

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

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