Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Preview of Book 1: A Fox's Love: Chapter 1

Chapter 1: Paper Route
The Swift residence was one of the many apartments inside the Le Monte apartment complex located in Phoenix, Arizona. More specifically, it was located on the crossroads of 16th Street and McDonald Road.
Just why anyone would name a street after a fast food restaurant shall remain forever unknown. Someone probably just thought it would be funny.
Le Monte apartment complex was a very nice place to live, all things considered. The grass around the various apartment blocks was well maintained. There were two swimming pools, among other amenities, and all of the apartment buildings were clean, modern-looking structures with red roofing and white stucco walls. There were definitely worse places to live.
The apartment belonging to the Swifts was a modest sized two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment, with a moderately sized kitchen connected to a living room, and possessing an office near the master bedroom. Despite not being very large, the apartment had all the comforts one would expect to find in a well-loved home.
Lining the walls were pictures within various sized and styled frames. The images were of a very pretty young woman who didn't look a day over twenty and a boy who grew throughout various pictures. In one, he was a small baby that looked like a tiny ball of fat and pudge, as all babies do. In another, he was a young boy no older than one with a head full of peach fuzz hair, taking his first steps. In another, he was a preteen with short spiky hair and a large grin as he held a soccer ball in his hands. All of the pictures showed the boy as he grew up, and the young-looking woman, who could easily be presumed to be the boy's mother.
The apartment was mostly empty of its inhabitants at the moment, save for one bedroom where the boy in the pictures was currently sleeping peacefully―
BEEP!
BEEP!
BEEP!
BE- CRUNCH!
Or at least, he was sleeping, until the alarm clock went off, ruining a wonderful dream. Couldn't it have beeped just ten seconds later? He had been just about to share a romantic kiss with his crush!
Sometimes, he really hated that infernal piece of racket making machinery.
Blearily sitting up in his bed as he pulled his hand off the now somewhat abused alarm clock, Kevin Swift blinked his weary blue eyes, striving to come to terms with the fact that he was now awake thanks to that dang alarm. He ran a hand through his tousled, medium-length, light blond hair, brushing several stray bangs out of his eyes. As his mind became more alert, the young teen found himself absently staring around his room.
It was about what you might expect from the room of a fifteen year old boy. Lining the walls were posters of all his favorite bands, and his favorite sports teams, along with a number of posters showcasing his favorite movies, anime and manga.
Surprisingly, there were no pictures of bikini models, hot actresses or half naked women. Why was this a surprise? Because Kevin was a fifteen year old boy. Large posters of half-naked super models were something people simply expect to see in the bedroom of a young man going through puberty.
That they weren't sharing Kevin's bedroom may have had something to do with his innate shyness when it came to dealing with women.
To put it simply, he could not talk to girls to save his life. Any time a girl came up to him, he would freeze, his mouth unable to move and his mind unable to think. It was an affliction that affected him in more ways than one, and was the main reason he still couldn't ask Lindsay Diane on even a simple date despite the years they had known each other.
Yeah, he was pretty pathetic like that. Laugh it up. Have a joke at his expense. Not like he'll ever know.
Another key factor of Kevin's room that most would likely notice upon entering was the large book shelf. It didn't have any books. At least, not reading books. Filling the shelf from top to bottom was a large collection of all his favorite Japanese Pop Culture items. Like a good number of boys his age, Kevin had a thing for it, or at least, he had a thing for Japanese animation and manga.
And now that his room has been aptly described, why don't we move this along? We're wasting word count!
Grumbling a bit irritably about having to get up so early in the morning (the sun hadn't even come up yet!), Kevin Swift proceeded to complete his daily ritual for waking up and getting ready.
In other words, he spent a long time in the shower, staring blankly at the wall as steam rose all around him, made a breakfast of eggs, toast and a glass of milk after getting dressed, and brushed his teeth. Once all this was finished, he was awake and raring to go.
Not really. He was actually only marginally more alert than before he got ready, but it wasn't like he had much of a choice in the matter. There were things that needed to get done, things that unfortunately couldn't wait.
Stepping out of the apartment he shared with his mother (who in case you didn't realize was not home)(and who, just in case you didn't realize, really was the other person in the pictures), Kevin locked the door and walked over to the bike that was padlocked to the railing. He undid the lock, grabbed the bike, rolled it down the set of stairs a few feet from his apartment, and took off, pedaling his way out of Le Monte apartment complex and onto the main street.
As he rode in the bike lane on the left side of the road, Kevin mused that even in the wee hours of the morning, it was still hot as hell in this state. Seriously, Arizona had to be the hottest fricken' state in the United States, especially during the summer.
Well, technically summer was nearing its end. Just a little less than two weeks and it would be September, but Kevin had never been one to bother with such semantics.
This didn't stop him from complaining, despite there being no one around to hear it, or the fact that no one would hear his complaints anyways since they were being done in his head. And so, mentally complaining about the heat, the teenager continued to ride his bike along the side of the road all the way to his job.
Yeah, he had a job. Kevin wasn't like other kids who had things handed to him on a silver-platter. He was responsible!
Well, that, and the fact that Kevin didn't really like relying on his mom for money or anything else. This may have had something to do with how she was rarely ever home, but again, semantics, he didn't bother himself with them.
Kevin's job was delivering the morning newspapers on bike to people's houses. He had started doing this two summers ago when he was in 8th grade and decided to continue doing so after he had started going to high school to earn more cash.
Since it almost wasn't summer anymore, he would only be delivering the Sunday morning newspaper. He just didn't have time on weekdays now that he had school, homework, and after school activities. It would mean he made less money, but at least he was still making something, so he couldn't complain too much.
He actually enjoyed his job. Sure, the pay wasn't great, but it was enough spending money to go out on weekends and still have a bit saved up. As long as he finished delivering papers by 5:00 am, he was pretty much free to do as he pleased.
Of course, he hated the fact that his job required him to get up at 2:00 am in the morning. That sucked. It wasn't like people were actually awake at 2:30 am to read the newspapers when he started delivering them. Why would they be? How many people actually had to wake up and go to their job that early in the morning?
Not many, Kevin would wager.
After somewhere around fifteen minutes, a hot and sweaty Kevin arrived at the Newspaper Distribution Center, which was really just a fancy name for the place that received the newspapers he delivered.
The newspaper building wasn't much to look at. Really, it was just a moderately sized, one story rectangular building made out of drab gray bricks and possessing a flat roof. It looked boring, and the manager there wasn't much better than the building. Actually, Kevin preferred looking at the building as opposed to the manager.
Thankfully, the manager would not be there this early in the morning. Kevin supposed there was some kind of silver lining to that, but he couldn't really see it in the early morning darkness.
Kevin didn't bother locking up his bike as he set it against next to the front door, which he then unlocked with the key he had been given.
When Kevin first started this job, the manager had actually woken up every morning to unlock the door. He would then proceed to watch Kevin like a hawk while the young man loaded the newspapers onto his bike. That had actually been pretty creepy, being watched like that. It had only been after six months when he had proven himself trustworthy, or something like that, that the manager had decided he didn't need to show up every morning and gave him a key to get in.
Kevin found his papers ready as usual. The box was pretty heavy, but Kevin was able to take it to his bike in a single haul, which was much better than what he used to be capable of. He had grown pretty strong since the first year he had started. Back then, he'd been forced to make six trips.
Which, by the way, totally sucked.
Once he had gotten all of the rolled up newspapers in the carrier on his bike, it was off to do his newspaper run.
The paper route he took had him traveling through two different neighborhoods near his apartment complex. All the houses there were large and nice and pretty imposing. They were mostly two story homes with off-white plaster walls and red tiled roofs. The front lawns were all manicured to perfection with neatly trimmed hedges, perfectly cut trees and a large variety of cacti. From time to time Kevin would see expensive cars parked in front of the garages.
Kevin had to shake his head at the wasteful use of money. Who needs to buy a $145,000.00 convertible Gran Turismo when a $19,975.00 Honda CR-Z worked just as well, had better gas mileage and didn't look too bad either? Maybe it was his mom's influence, but he just couldn't see the point in buying such extravagant vehicles. They might look nice, but they cost more than they were worth, especially considering how most of them were likely custom models that required constant maintenance in order to keep them at peak performance.
On that note, it should be stated that Kevin was not a car maniac, but he did know a few people on his track team who talked about cars a lot. When you're forced to listen to people who are so obsessive over something that they can yammer on without any end in sight, you tend to pick up a thing or two, whether you want to or not. Thus, he knew a lot about high performance sports cars like the ones in these driveways, such as the fact that they all cost far more than they were worth.
And that's not even getting into the cost of those houses. Those probably had a price range of at least several hundred thousand dollars, if not somewhere around a couple million. Why would anyone want to buy such a large, expensive house when something a little smaller and more affordable would be perfectly acceptable and could probably fit their entire family comfortably without all that excess space?
What would they even do with all that extra space anyways? Make their own bowling alley? Dedicate a large room of the house to store various paraphernalia?
Actually, that last one sounded kind of cool. Maybe he should think of getting an entire room to dedicate one or more of his favorite hobbies? A room for just video games and anime would be awesome.
Thinking of all the people who lived in those houses, Kevin was sure they were just trying to show off how rich they were by living in large, expensive looking houses and driving their fancy cars so everyone could see it. That wouldn't surprise him in the least. While he didn't know everyone in this neighborhood personally, he knew that a good few of the children he went to school with lived in these houses. If they were reflective in any way of their parents, he could imagine them being some of the most obnoxious and snobbish people around.
Maybe he was just being biased. He and his mom were pretty well off, even if as a single mom she was always away on business. They could probably afford to live in a nice house like these, but when he once commented on it, she had simply told him there was no point in spending so much money on something as unimportant as a large house that had more rooms then they would ever use. It was even less important because not only was it just the two of them, but when he graduated from high school and moved away to college, she would have that “large ass house” (her words, not his) to herself, with no clue of what to do with all that excess space.
Yeah, his mom was frugal like that. This wasn't to say she didn't spend money on other things like those new Android mobile phones that came out a while ago. Those were awesome! Or, on things that were fun, like going on vacation.
At least once a year she and Kevin would take a vacation somewhere nice, usually out of the country. He had been to France, Italy, England, Ireland, Spain, and Germany. And then last year she had blown it out and had taken him to Japan.
Now that had been awesome. He used to think the Comicon that he went to annually in Arizona was the height of cool, but the anime conventions in Japan were just incredible. The one he had been to when he and his mom had visited must have had at least a couple hundred thousand people on that day alone! And almost all of them had been dressed up in some kind of costume! He'd seen everything from Sozo Ku from Dragon Warriors X to Natsumo Uzukami from Shinobi Natsumo, and upwards of 100 Ichika Kurohimes from White Out.
He had also seen a good number of Satsuki's, which was not cool because Satsuki was an emo jerk who needed someone to pull her head out of her rear end.
With a shake of his head, Kevin dispelled his rather superfluous thoughts and focused on delivering newspapers. The trip through both neighborhoods took him a little over two hours. By the time he got back to the newspaper distribution building, it was about 4:30 am. He probably could have finished much sooner, but Kevin had decided to make a game of trying to smack the cars with a newspaper. More often than not, he failed. Kevin wasn't a basketball or baseball player. He had no talent in throwing anything unless it was a Frisbee, and even then, not very well.
At least he got a few good laughs when he actually did manage to toss a newspaper against the hood of all those ridiculously priced cars. Too bad it wouldn't even scratch the paint.
After he finished his newspaper route, Kevin re-parked his bike by the front door, went in and headed down the first hall on the left. He didn't have to walk far, not only was the hall short, the room he needed to get to was the first door on the right.
The room was a standard office. It had all the things that were expected of an office. You know, desk, chair, file maintenance cabinet, things like that. This particular office was very spartan, possessing only the bare necessities and nothing else, not even a single picture. There was nothing in this room to indicate it was being used other than the stack of papers that were sitting on the desk.
Well, that, and the very large man sitting behind the desk, like Sumo Wrestler were large. Kevin wouldn't be surprised to learn that this man had been a Sumo Wrestler at one point in his life, or perhaps he was the reincarnation of a Sumo Wrestler.
The man in question was his boss, Davin Monstrang. He was a big, beefy man with a head of short brown hair and small brown eyes and looked like he could eat two entire cows and still be hungry. He had no neck, somewhere around ten chins, and fat that practically rolled out of his ugly, khaki colored shirt.
"I finished my newspaper route," Kevin informed the man.
Davin grunted, still not looking up from whatever paper he was working on. "And I suppose you'll be wanting your pay?"
"Yes."
Another grunt was the answer he received. Davin wasn't one for words. The chair creaked ominously as he rolled it away from his desk and Kevin actually wondered how long the chair had before it broke under the strain of keeping that man seated.
"Here," Davin slapped Kevin's paycheck on the desk. "Try not to spend it in all one place, brat."
Kevin resisted the urge to roll his eyes at the man. Even after all this time, his boss still seemed to think the worst of him. He wasn't like those spoiled rich kids who spent their money so frivolously.
...
Okay, so maybe he was. But at least he spent it on fun activities like going to the arcade and not on drugs like a lot of kids at his school did. That had to count for something, right?
Grabbing his paycheck off the desk, Kevin thanked his boss and hurriedly left. He didn't enjoy being in his boss' presence anymore than necessary.
It was all that fat, you see. Whenever the man moved, it looked alive and made Kevin feel like he was staring at some kind of eldritch horror that might eat him if he stayed too long.
HP Lovecraft had nothing on those fat rolls.
Grabbing his bike, Kevin was just about to leave when a noise caught his attention. It was very muffled and difficult to make out, but it sounded like a whimper from some kind of animal. A cat or a dog maybe.
Kevin had two weaknesses, one well known, one not so much. The first was a weakness towards women (everybody knew about this one). He could never talk to them without feeling supremely embarrassed. All any pretty girl had to do was smile at him or bat her eyelashes, and he would turn into a stuttering mass of reddened flesh within seconds.
His second weakness, one known only to his best friend and crush, was for animals. Kevin had loved animals ever since his mom had first taken him to the zoo when he was five. He had gone into the petting pen and played with all the animals there. They seemed to like him, unlike some of the other kids who had been bitten, and he'd a great time. Ever since then, he had a small obsession with animals.
Back when he was younger, he would occasionally bring stray animals or wild animals home with him. It had caused a lot of problems with the people in charge of their apartment complex because of their no pet policy. His mom had put her foot down and made him promise to stop bringing in every animal he found. Since then, he hadn't brought animals into the apartment.
Naturally, with the noise possibly falling into the second category of his list of weaknesses, Kevin quickly made his way towards the source of the whimper. It sounded like it was coming from around the corner of the building.
He turned the corner and stopped.
His eyes widened.
Ohmygoshit'safox!” Kevin squee'd in a manner that was eerily reminiscent of a fangirl who had just bumped into her favorite pop idol.
You know what a fangirl is, right? They're those pre-teen and teenage girls that go “SQUEE!” when they're excited. Squeeing, by the way, is a very shrill noise that pierces the eardrums and can cause them to occasionally burst. In severe cases, it can also induce brain hemorrhaging, in which blood and liquified brain matter ooze out of the ears.
According to Mythbusters, being near someone who is “squeeing” has a ten percent fatality rating.
If you ever decide to become a pop idol be prepared to buy ear plugs.
But you are probably wondering why Kevin was 'squeeing' like one of these fangirls, yes?
Because lying near the dumpster was an honest to god fox.
Less then a second after letting loose with his “inner fangirl,” Kevin slapped a hand over his mouth. Idiot! What was wrong with him? Squeeing like some kind of prepubescent little girl?
Worse still, he had “squee'd” in front of a fox! It was a well established fact that foxes didn't like humans! They shied away from human contact and when frightened, would bite!
If he wanted to have any hope of even getting near it, much less petting it, he would need to be quiet. As in, quieter than Elmer Fudge when he was “hunting wabbits” quiet.
Luckily, the fox didn't seem to have heard him. It hadn't even moved from its spot. Now all he had to do was sneak in close.
He would become one with his surroundings. He would blend in with the shadows. He would be like a shinobi.
Nin nin.
Making a weird sign that looked like a cross with his fingers for no apparent reason, Kevin began slowly creeping towards the fox. As he did, he began to wonder how it got into the city. There were fox's in Arizona, of course, but they all lived out in the desert and were usually as far away from any human habitat as possible.
Though, with the recent expansion of city limits, the fox's natural habitat was getting smaller. Maybe it was forced to come here because it had nowhere else to go. Kevin scowled at the thought. No one seemed to care for how people were destroying the natural habitat of animals like this fox anymore.
As he neared the creature, he observed its appearance. The fox was very small, nothing more than a tiny kit that could easily fit in the crook of his arms. It had a flattened skull, upright triangular ears, a pointed, slightly upturned snout, and deep red, almost crimson colored fur.
He recognized the species, a red fox, the most common type of fox among its species. Strange, he didn't think red fox's lived near Phoenix. Their habitat was supposed to be the northeastern portion of the state, like up in Flagstaff.
Perhaps the most unusual thing about this fox was its tails. Yes, tails. Lying limply behind the tiny critter were two, bushy red fox tails with white tips.
How unusual. Kevin had never seen a fox with two tails before, and he was pretty sure that fox's normally didn't have more than one tail.
Maybe it was some kind of government experiment? He couldn't see why the government would experiment on a fox to give it two tails, but there was always a conspiracy theory about various world governments doing inhumane experiments on humans. Why couldn't they do one on a fox as well?
Another whimper escaped from the tiny red animal and Kevin realized that it was injured. He had not noticed it before because its fur was so red (and because he was so excited about seeing a fox), but the fox was bleeding from its torso. It was only after taking a more in depth observation of the fox and noting that there was a portion where the thick red fur was slick and shiny like someone had splashed some kind of liquid on it that he was able to notice the injury.
Of course, now that he had noticed it was injured, he also noticed the expanding pool of blood underneath it, as well as the carnelian trail that showed it had dragged itself to this spot before collapsing.
Fearing for its safety, Kevin dropped all sense of subtlety and sneakiness (and his ninja hand sign) and rushed towards the fox.
It must have really been out of it not to notice his approach. Foxes were supposed to possess very keen senses. Even injured, he would have expected it to run away as soon as he started making too much noise.
It was only after he got in close enough to kneel right next to it that Kevin realized the reason it had not noticed him; the small kit was unconscious.
Growing even more concerned, Kevin scooped the small fox into his arms as gently as he could and stood up. A small whimper managed to escape from the tiny animal as its wound was jostled.
"Sorry," Kevin whispered, even though he knew the fox couldn't hear him. He moved as quickly as he could back to his bike and, after a moments thought, decided to divest himself of his shirt and use it as a makeshift pillow for the fox. Sure, it would likely have a blood stain that was going to be impossible to get out later, but that was a small price to pay to keep the small thing from getting injured further by jostling it as he rode back home.
Placing the fox into the basket on top of the waded up shirt, Kevin took off toward his apartment. His thoughts were focused solely on helping the small creature suffering in front of him.

A Fox's Love can be found by clicking on this link.

Preview of Book 2: A Fox's Tail: Chapter 1


Chapter 1
The Girl in the Lolita Dress

It was the weekend after Kevin's and Lilian's close encounter of the big, ugly and hairy kind; not much had happened in that time, comparatively at least. Very few things could top nearly getting killed by an inu yōkai, except for maybe finding out that the fox you saved was also a yōkai and wanted to jump your bones. Odd how both had already happened within a two week period.

Aside from a week passing since the fox-girl and the human she had chosen as her mate were almost killed, it was also the first weekend off from school that Lilian had ever had. Having been home-schooled all her life she was, naturally, quite excited about the concept of weekends off—excited being a mild euphemism that did no justice to truly describe how ecstatic she was. The redhead had been practically bouncing off the walls for almost two days straight at the thought of having a weekend off like a regular high school student.

Kevin felt the term regular could hardly be applied to someone like Lilian.

Kevin's wounds had healed entirely; not just the physical damage that had been wreaked upon him when Chris cut him open via several claws to the chest―which had not even scarred thanks to Lilian's Deus Ex Machina healing technique―but also the mental scarring caused by the realization that someone from his school had been a yōkai. Given his association with Lilian, it shouldn't have come as a shock that there were other yōkai out there, or that one might have hidden amongst the students of Desert Cactus High School; yet it had, and the event had psychologically damaged him, for a time.

The entire debacle and near -death experience at the hands of Chris had really made the young man rethink everything he thought he knew about the people around him. Several times he caught himself looking at people he associated with suspiciously, wondering if perhaps they were also yōkai in disguise. Even his best friend, Eric, and not-so-secret crush, Lindsay, were subject to this scrutiny. Lilian had assured him that both were human, but that did very little to placate him. Chris had been an inu, a species that was an enemy to kitsune everywhere, and she had not even realized what he was until the boy nearly killed them.

Kevin knew it wasn't fair to blame Lilian. She wasn't omniscient. Still, for a time, a part of him did blame her for not realizing that Chris was a big, ugly dog that wanted to cause them grievous bodily harm. He felt ashamed about how he'd blamed her for what happened, even though there was no way she could have known about Chris beforehand.

He blamed it on existential trauma.

In either event, he had eventually gotten over his paranoia―at least to the point where he wasn't doing his best impersonation of a groundhog on Groundhog's Day.

Surprisingly, Lilian's reassurances had helped him move past the traumatic experience of last week.

According to her, most yōkai just wanted to live in peace with humans. That was the whole point of disguising themselves and living amongst humans in the first place.

Lilian's village was the perfect example of this peaceful coexistence. While her village was an all-kitsune village, meaning only kitsune lived there, they allowed humans to visit―or at least visit the resort situated several miles away. Most of the kitsune living in the village also worked at the resort, so it amounted to the same thing.

According to her, the village she lived in was a very popular tourist attraction for the elite of human society. Nearly fifty percent of her village's income came from the stupidly rich humans who spent exorbitant amounts of cash for the extravagant services the kitsune resort offered.

Those few yōkai who did not want to live with humanity for whatever reason tended to live so far away from civilization that they simply weren't a threat. After nearly a week of jumping at his own shadow, Kevin had come to accept the information she'd given him as fact, and life had returned to the status quo―sort of. With someone like Lilian taking up residence with him, the status quo had been all but obliterated from his life.

Saturday morning found Kevin waking up to a big surprise: no Lilian. This shocked him because Lilian always slept with him. Always. These days she didn't even wait for him to fall asleep before sneaking into his bed. She would just straight up crawl into his bed at the same time he did and cuddle up to him, which she had done again last night.

After the incident with Chris, Kevin had decided to stop sleeping on the couch, instead choosing to once again use his actual bed. Since Lilian was so adamant about sleeping with him regardless of where he was, Kevin felt he should at least be as comfortable as possible, especially since dealing with a fox-girl who wanted to sex him up was decidedly uncomfortable.

For a time he had tried convincing her that they could not share a bed, but he gave up after two nights of arguing. No matter how logical his words were (sleeping together is for married couples, we're not dating, or the ever-infamous “get out of my bed!”), all Lilian had to do was give him that adorable pout no female with the kind of supermodel body she possessed should be capable of producing, and he caved faster than a badass male protagonist from a popular manga that's been derailed by wimpification in a fan fiction. He just couldn't win against her.

He wondered where she had gone off to. It wasn't like he missed her warmth, or the feel of her incredible body pressing into his side. Of course not. He was simply curious. This was the first time since they'd started living together that she'd woken up before him.

Shaking his head, Kevin decided not to worry about the red-haired vixen's whereabouts. Lilian was probably just making breakfast or something. That's what she usually did when she woke up. He would always find her in the kitchen cooking breakfast after he finished taking a shower.

At least when she wasn't trying to take a shower with him.

Since he was awake, at least partially so, Kevin decided that he might as well get a start on his day. It was still kind of early, like, six a.m. early. Most people would have just gone back to bed, but Kevin actually had a few chores that he needed to get done. The sooner he got started, the more time he would have later that day to do what he wanted.

His chores for the day involved cleaning the apartment. It wasn't really something he wanted to do, but he didn't really have a choice in the matter. It was an unfortunate side effect of having a parent who was almost never home and not having a maid.

Maybe he should think about getting a maid?

Somewhere in the United States, a kitsune clad in a kimono and carrying a katana and a wakizashi sneezed.

After getting out of bed, Kevin stumbled to the bathroom, his feet dragging along the floor as he tried to wake himself up. A wide yawn escaped his lips and he ran a hand through his messy blond hair, pushing several bangs out of his eyes. He absently took note that his hair had gotten a little longer. He needed a hair cut, and soon.

Kevin had only just closed the bathroom door when he realized that something was wrong. Several somethings. One: the air was very warm. Hot even. Two: there was a lot of steam wafting around, clinging to his skin, fogging up the mirrors, and coalescing along the walls and ceiling. Three: someone was humming. Four: they had a beautiful voice. And five: someone was already in the shower and she was very familiar to him.

“L-Lilian?!” Kevin squeaked. Why was she in here? Wasn't she making breakfast? That's what she usually did in the morning.

The curtain was pulled back for reasons beyond Kevin's ability to comprehend (it was almost as if Lilian had known that he would come in here, thinking that she was making breakfast), so he could see far more of the girl than was appropriate.

Far, far more than was appropriate.

Her long red hair lay flat against her head and traveled down her body, sticking erotically to her fair skin and stopping at her magnificently shaped rear. She wasn't facing him, but rather, her body was turned slightly to the side, so that she presented him with a three-quarter profile of herself. With her arms raised above her head to massage shampoo into her hair, Kevin was given a perfect view of her generously sized and well-formed sideboob.

“Oh, Beloved,” Lilian chirped when she finally noticed him standing in front of the door, gaping at her with wide eyes and a face so red that lobsters everywhere were probably crying out in jealousy. She turned around to present him with a full-frontal view of her nude, wet body, giving him a dazzling smile full of perfect ivory teeth to let him know how pleased she was to see him.

Not that he really saw it―her smile, that is―because the moment she turned around his eyes found themselves gazing upon the two large, round things on her chest, which bounced and swayed every time she moved. Her breasts were very perky despite their size, and Kevin found himself mesmerized.

Such is the power of a woman with large tits. There is a general consensus among men, not all, but most, that women with big boobies were more beautiful than women with itty bitty titties. Buxom is Better, as it were. Or, big breasts equals hot chick. Eric Corrompere put it best when he said, “Boobs weigh heavier than a man's life.”

And was it just Kevin, or did Lilian's boobs actually make a boing sound when they bounced? How weird was that?

“I'm glad you're awake. I was going to wake you up myself after I finished taking a shower, but I think this works out better.”

No, it doesn't, Kevin wanted to shout, but found himself incapable of even opening his mouth.

“Since you're up now, would you like to help me wash my back?” After saying this, she presented her back to him, moving her long hair out of the way. With a strangely innocent grin that looked completely out of place given the context of the situation, she wiggled her marvelously-crafted derrière at him to emphasize exactly where she wanted him to wash.

Unprepared for such a lethal move, Kevin was nearly felled right then and there. His head began to swim as all the blood rushed to his face. This was far too much sexy for his teenage mind to handle.

Kevin didn't pass out, but he had to lean back against the door frame to keep upright. His legs buckled and shook erratically, showing clearly that if he didn't do something soon, he may very well have fallen into that blissful state otherwise known as unconsciousness.

“Ugh… uuuuu… ha…?” Kevin said, having been reduced to random monosyllables.

“What are you doing just standing there, Beloved? Come on. The water's perfect.”

Lilian stepped out of the shower, her body dripping wet. Kevin's eyes practically bulged out of their sockets as he watched several droplets of water travel down her awe-inspiring curves. It was an arousing sight; hundreds of tiny liquid pebbles that glittered like jewels in the light as they blazed an adventurous path across her glorious body, leaving a wet trail along her skin. Her long, luxurious red hair flung water into the air as she swished it over her shoulder, creating a sparkle effect that made her look like some kind of otherworldly creature; like an angel who'd descended from heaven to grant a mortal like him a taste of what awaited in the afterlife.

Or it could just be due to how Everything is Better with Sparkles. No, seriously, if you want to show that something is valuable, magical or just plain special, shove an inordinate amount of sparkles on or around it and voila! Instant specialness.

On a side note, when a bishounen sparkles, it’s known as the Bishie Sparkle.

On another side note, Mahou Shoujo also tend to sparkle a lot, but that has more to do with censorship than magical girl-ness.

Moon Prism Power.

Right.

***

“H-hey! Wh-what are you―!? Q-quit dragging me!”

“Muu,” Lilian made an oddly pouty sound, “Stop struggling and get in the shower with me, Beloved. The water's perfect.”

“I don't want to take a shower! I'm still dressed!”

“If you don't want to take a shower, then why did you come in here?”

“…”

“I thought so. Now come on, let's get those clothes off, ufufufu…”

“Okay, that laugh is really beginning to freak me out―Eep! What are you―s-stop!”

“Ufufufu, and now to get rid of those pants!”

Cue the sound of clothing being ripped.

“You could have at least let me take those off! Those were my favorite pajamas! And stop staring at me like that!”

“Ufufufu, why? You have nothing to be ashamed of. You're quite… well endowed, ufufufu… and you still have room to grow. Oh, we are going to have so much fun together!”

“We're not going to be having any fun you―wait! No! Stop it! I don't―! Oh god! What are you―!? Iyahn!”

***

Not even fifteen minutes later, Kevin sat at the kitchen table, his head laying on the hard wooden surface. His face felt like someone had stuck it in an Easy-Bake-Oven for six hours. He could probably boil eggs on his face.

He could no longer even look at Lilian, who was currently humming a beautiful tune as she made some kind of homemade yogurt parfait with something she called Greek yogurt. He didn't know what the difference was between normal yogurt and Greek yogurt, but apparently there was one. Something about the pasteurization making the yogurt thicker… or something… he hadn't caught the explanation because he'd been too busy trying not to pay attention to the girl doing the explaining.

On a side note, he wondered where she got the Greek yogurt from. He knew for a fact that there was no Greek anything in his fridge.

In either event, Kevin really didn't care to know the difference between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt. He was still too busy trying to keep his heart rate under control and the blood from rushing to his face… along with another part of his body that he had adequately dubbed “Kevin Junior.”

“Here you go,” Lilian's happy voice reached his ears. Kevin looked up, instinctively reacting to someone addressing him. Yet, the moment he found himself gazing upon the girl most teenage boys would gladly have wet dreams about, his face flushed an even deeper shade of atomic red.

Lilian had leaned over to present his food to him. This might not have been a problem in most cases, but she was currently wearing a white, low cut sleeveless tank that showed off a good portion of her creamy, unblemished cleavage—of which the young kitsune had a plentiful amount of, which explained why his vision was practically filled with her bountiful bosom.

“T-t-thanks,” he stuttered before quickly shoving his face into his food. So long as he was eating, he wouldn't have to look at her.

“You're welcome.” Lilian couldn't quite contain her sigh of disappointment. Kotohime had always said that men were simple creatures; flash a little skin and they were yours for the taking. But that didn't seem to be working with Kevin―he hardly even looked at her cleavage, and she had presented the perfect opportunity for him.

It seemed Lilian would still need to work hard before Kevin was willing to bend her over this table and claim her as she wanted to be claimed.

That was okay, though. She was a kitsune. All kitsune knew that if you wanted to capture your prey―um, mate―you had to be patient. Rome wasn't built in a day and going from “we just met” to “let's make babies” took time as well.

So while she was plotting more ways to break Kevin of his resolve and get him to ravish her, Kevin was trying to deal with his mind sending him constant visions of Lilian's breasts.

Kevin didn't know why he still wasn't used to moments like this. He had seen Lilian nude plenty of times. Their very first meeting she had been completely exposed to him, for God's sake! The incident in the shower really shouldn't have affected him so much―especially because it had already happened before, several times! He'd faced much worse since the vixen entered his life.

I'm really beginning to think I shouldn't have rescued Lilian back then, he thought sullenly. It would have certainly made my life a whole lot less complicated. But, she had been so cute! I couldn't not rescue her, right? Right?!

He thought about how he'd rescued Lilian all of two weeks ago, back when he thought she was just a fox. His sullen mood worsened.

Even if I had known what sort of trouble this would cause in advance, I don't know if I would have done anything different. How could I not save someone when they're hurt? What kind of person would I be if I just left her to die?

Sometimes, Kevin really hated being of the Hapless Hero variety. Why couldn't he have been born with a cooler personality?

It must be genetics, he grumbled to himself, My dad's probably some wimp who lets women walk roughshod over him. That's why I act like this.

“Beloved?” Lilian's voice shook Kevin from his increasingly depressing thoughts. By now, he had managed to get his blush under control, and raised his head to look at her. “Since it's Saturday and we don't have school, are we going to do something fun?”

“Something fun?” Kevin blinked once, twice, then adopted a thoughtful expression as he rubbed his chin. “Well, sometimes my friends and I will go to the arcade on the weekend…” he trailed off when he saw the look in his housemate/pseudo-girlfriend/kitsune mate's eyes. The expression her face possessed could only be described as unadulterated hope.

And was it just him, or were those stars in her eyes?

After taking another glance, Kevin realized that, indeed, they were stars. Spanning the entire iris of her eyes were two bright, yellow, five-pointed stars that had somehow replaced her normal pupils.

What. The. Heck?

“I've never been to a real arcade before,” Lilian's voice snapped him out of his incredulity. He looked up…

… And then leaned back as Lilian's stare seemed to intensify. He nearly fell off his chair when she leaned over and got nose to nose with him.

“Do you think we can go there? Please?”

“I… I don't see why not,” Kevin hedged. The look in her eyes was almost as creepy as that laugh of hers. “But the arcade doesn't open until ten, so we'll have to wait for a while before leaving. There's no point in going to the arcade if it's not even open.”

“Oh,” Lilian's shoulders slumped. “I was hoping we could go now. What are we going to do for―” she glanced up at the clock, “―three more hours?”

“I have to clean the apartment, anyways. That's going to take a good hour and a half at the very least.”

“Oh! I'll help clean!” Lilian smiled at him while Kevin just arched an eyebrow. “Then we can get it done in half the time, right? Two people are better than one and all that.”

When Kevin saw how enthusiastic the girl was about helping, he agreed.

It would be one of the biggest mistakes of his life… at least until he made the next biggest mistake of his life. Kevin could already tell there would be a lot of those. Mistakes, that is.

***

Not even ten minutes later, Kevin was cleaning the windows and dusting the windowsills as he lip-synced to a song playing on his MP3 player. Lilian was washing their clothes.

Kevin had been cleaning this apartment for so long that he actually picked up the habit of zoning out while he tidied the place up. Everything was pretty routine anyway: clean the windows, clean the windowsills, vacuum the floor—the usual stuff. It was boring, mundane work in every way possible and required very little thought.

When all the windows in the living room and kitchen were clean, Kevin walked into the hallway, which led to the washing room, laundry room and his bedroom. He stepped foot into the hall… and promptly stopped dead in his tracks, the cleaning supplies falling from his nerveless fingers.

His eyes widened in horror.

“What the heck is going on here?!”

“Wah! Beloved!” Lilian ran over to him, tears in her eyes and a pitiful look on her face. Her clothes and body were soaking wet and covered in white, foamy suds that looked nothing like soap. They caked to her clothes and skin, including her face. She almost looked like a snowman―erm, woman. “I don't know what happened! The washing machine just started shaking, and soap and water kept shooting out of it and I don't know what's going on!”

Kevin tried to keep calm while observing the situation as unbiasedly as possible. He looked down the hall to the washing room, which had foamy water running out of it, soaking the tile and carpet. A little further in the washing machine was going berserk, shaking and jumping like someone had decided to crank it into overdrive.

He rubbed a hand over his face. For some reason, he felt ridiculously exhausted right now―it probably had something to do with the girl in front of him.

“I'll handle this.” He didn't look at Lilian as he walked past her. “You just… dry yourself off with a towel and get changed into a dry set of clothes.”

“Okay,” she sniffled, “I'm sorry.”

Kevin just grunted as he stepped onto the ever expanding area of the now soaking-wet floor. His feet made wet, squelching noises each time he took a foot off the carpet. By the time he made it to the utility room, his socks were soaked all the way through and covered in the same foam-like substance that made Lilian resemble a snow-woman.

He entered the washing room, determined to put a stop to this insanity... only to end up getting far more than he bargained for.

“What the heck?! Woah! That was too―holy crap!”

The machine bucked and rumbled like a bull seeing red. Kevin's toes were nearly squished.

“Oh, dear sweet god! It's going crazy!”

“B-Beloved, do you want me to help? I could―”

“What the―! You're still here?! Go and get―Jesus Christ!”

The washing machine almost ran right over him, forcing him to dodge and causing his head to hit the wall when he slipped on the wet surface.

“B-but I―”

“Dang it, Lilian! I need to concentrate! Go and get―EEK!” Kevin screamed like a little girl.

“Beloved!”

Despite the difficulties he faced, he managed to shut the machine off. The intense reverberating stopped, the machine ceased jumping like a speed addict on a pogo stick, and Kevin could not keep the sigh of relief from escaping his mouth when his toes were no longer in danger of becoming pancakes. There had been several calls that were far too close for comfort. Had he been a hair slower, his poor phalanges may have actually been crushed.

Now he just had to find out why the machine had turned into some kind of raging berserker. It was a fairly new, state-of-the-art piece of equipment. It was so easy to use that even people completely lacking in intelligence and common sense should have been able to figure out how to make it work properly.

That begged the question of how Lilian managed to make the washing machine act like that. She wasn't stupid; a bit of an airhead maybe, but certainly not dumb. She should know how to use a washing machine, right?

Lilian was sitting on his bed when he entered his room. She was now dry and free of foam, and her outfit had been changed as well. While before she was wearing a pair of tight jean shorts that showed off more leg than Kevin thought was appropriate, now she had donned a red skirt that looked like it would expose her panties if she bent over. Her white, low-cut shirt had been replaced with a black tube top that left the top of her cleavage exposed and showed her wonderfully flat stomach. Settled on her feet were a pair of simple red flip flops. Her crimson-colored hair was worn in its usual style, falling freely about her face and body like a curtain of shimmering silk.

Kevin noticed right away that she was nervous as he approached; the way her fists tightly clenched the skirt and her eyes refused to meet his told him as much. Even her stiff posture and body language seemed to convey a sense of anxiety, as if she was waiting for the hammer to fall.

“Are you mad at me?” Lilian asked in a small voice.

Kevin ran a hand through his hair, inhaled deeply, then released it all in one breath.

“No, I'm not mad.” Lilian looked up, her glance hopeful. “But I would like to know what happened.”

Lilian's shoulders slumped as she recalled the event of a few minutes ago. It was not one of her best moments.

“I don't know. I did everything just like I was supposed to. I put the clothes in, then I put the laundry detergent in, and then I turned it on and started it.”

“Um, we don't have any laundry detergent,” Kevin told her. “We use those detergent pods now.”

“Pods?”

“Yeah. In the left cabinet of the washing room, in a big orange bag. You can't miss them.”

“I didn't see those,” Lilian admitted, “But I didn't really look. When I didn't see any detergent, I just thought you might have run out and decided to use my own.”

Kevin had a bad feeling, trepidation settling in the pit of his stomach. He didn't want to, but he asked anyway. “And what detergent was this?”

As Lilian reached in between her breasts, Kevin looked away. Even then, he still ended up peeking at her out peripheral. When he turned back, the fox-girl had pulled a box out of her Extra Dimensional Storage Space and showed it to Kevin who, upon reading the label on the box, gained several veins that visibly throbbed on his forehead.

“Lilian, that's not laundry detergent.”

“It isn't?”

“No.” Another throb. “It isn't.”

Lilian blinked. She looked honestly confused. “Then what is it?”

“I'm not sure.” Kevin pointed at the symbol on the box. “But I don't think laundry detergent would have a biohazard symbol on it. Just saying.”

“Biohazard?” Lilian looked at the symbol on the box, noting that, yes, there really was a biohazard symbol on it. “Oh, um, whoops?” She looked at Kevin with a sheepish smile. “I guess I pulled out the wrong box, tee-hee.”

As Lilian knocked the knuckles of her right hand against her noggin, one eye winking closed and her tongue poking out in an expression that he knew she picked up from the anime they'd been watching, Kevin felt like bashing his face against a wall.

“And what exactly is in this box?” He probably shouldn't have asked, but he did anyway.

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“Yep. Nothing.”

Kevin stared at the girl for several more seconds, then sighed.

“Right. Nothing.”

He decided right then and there that he was better off not knowing. He looked out of the door and into the hallway.

“This is just great. How am I going to clean all that up?”

It would take a high powered steam cleaner to get all that foam out of the carpet. Which he didn't have. Plus, the cost of renting one was expensive. Not to mention, he had no idea how he would get one home when he didn't have a car.

“I can help!”

Kevin was very reluctant to let this girl help him again after what had just happened. However, upon seeing the pleading look on her face, he gave in. Hopefully, it wouldn't come back to bite him in the ass.

***

Not very long after their conversation, the two of them stood in the hallway once again. Kevin stood off to the side, watching as Lilian dried the floor in a way he would not have thought up in a million years. Then again, he also didn't possess any Deus Ex Machina kitsune Powers, so he felt his lack of imagination could be excused, just this once.

“So what's this technique called?”

“It's a basic kitsune technique called kitsune-bi, or Fox Fire,” Lilian told him as she continued drying the floor. She had made this mess and she was determined to make amends to the best of her abilities.

“Huh.” Kevin scratched the back of his head. “Isn't kitsune-bi Japanese? I'm kind of surprised you use Japanese names for your techniques. You've been pretty adamant on saying you're from England. And you don't live in Japan either, you live in Greece. Is your dad Japanese or something?” Lilian didn't look like she had any Japanese blood in her, but maybe she just took more after her mom than her dad.

“I doubt it,” she shrugged daintily. “But then, I couldn't really say, since I don't know all that much about my father. Remember what I told you at the mall?”

Kevin winced. He did, indeed, remember their conversation now that she'd brought it up. A part of him had forgotten because, well, seeing a sexy girl in equally sexy lingerie for the first time will do that to a guy.

“That's right. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have brought it up.”

“No, no, don't worry about it.” Lilian smiled. “It's just as I told you before, I never really knew him, so I don't have any great attachment to him or anything.”

At her words and smile, Kevin gave a tentative one of his own. He still wasn't too keen on this mating business, but he appreciated her honesty and how open she was with him.

Had he been paying more attention, he may have noticed the way her eyes darkened at the mention of her father.

“Anyway, the reason the names of our techniques are all Japanese is because The Author is an Otaku.”

“The what? Otaku?”

“Nothing. Don't worry about it, Beloved.”

“Whenever you say that, I can't help but think you're hiding something from me.”

“Ufufufu, don't think that way. I'm not really hiding anything. There are just some things that you aren't ready to know, but give it time and I'm sure you'll discover what I'm talking about eventually.”

“I'm not sure whether I should be excited or terrified,” Kevin replied dryly. He shook his head and changed the subject. “So, is this kitsune-bi something all kitsune can do?”

“Yes, it's the most basic of all kitsune techniques that we learn sometime after gaining our second tail. kitsune-bi is made from compressing our youki through our tails and using them to generate heat. It isn't actual fire,” she added upon seeing his expression, “But it acts like fire. It can be used to warm things up, boil water, and even hurt others.” She paused. “We can't use it to cook for some reason, though. No one knows why that is, but it's an accepted fact. I remember the first time I tried to cook using it―” she grimaced, “―it wasn't pretty.”

“I see,” Kevin mused, “So it requires two tails?” He eyed the tails sticking out of Lilian's tailbone. He was sure he should be blushing by now, but most of his attention was focused on the two bright yellow flames hovering over the tips of her tails instead of the deliciously tight derriere just below them.

“It only requires two tails because a kitsune doesn't become a supernatural creature until they gain their second tail,” Lilian explained. “Before that, we're just ordinary foxes.”

“Oh,” Kevin blinked. “I didn't know that.”

“Well of course not. It's not like you could have known that unless you met another kitsune before me and they told you.” Lilian smiled as the flames hovering above the tips of her tails were extinguished. “There! All done.”

“Now we just need to clean up and dry the washing room.”

Lilian's shoulders slumped. “Don't remind me.”

“Don't worry too much.” Kevin knelt down and ran a hand through the carpet. Whatever that biohazard stuff Lilian used was, it had caked to the floor, and it was going to take a lot more than a day's effort to get the strange substance out. Forget renting out a high-powered steam cleaner; he might just have to get it professionally cleaned. “It shouldn't take as long to dry the washing room, and I can clean it just fine since we're dealing with tile. After that, you can help me clean the rest of the house.” There was no way he was ever going to let her wash clothes again, and he wanted to keep a close eye on her to avoid her creating another mess. “Then we can go to the arcade.”

“Really?!”

Kevin chuckled. Her enthusiasm was actually kind of infectious. “Really. So the faster we work the sooner we can leave.”

“All right!” Lilian held a fist up to her face, which had gained an expression of determination. Kevin thought he could actually see flames igniting behind her irises. “Just you wait, Beloved! I'll have this room dry in no time!”

Kevin felt a lead weight drop into the pit of his stomach as he stared at the gorgeous, emerald-eyed girl with a look of mild trepidation. Despite the sudden misgivings he felt at seeing her expression, the young man decided not to let it get to him.

“I'm sure you will.”

***

After cleaning the majority of the apartment, Kevin and Lilian left for the arcade. They rode on Kevin's bike, speeding down the bike lane. Trees, light posts and shrubbery passed by in a blur as they rocketed down Dunlap Road.

Being a major roadway and a Saturday, there were a lot of cars on the road that day. At every stoplight they passed, cars were packed bumper to bumper, jostling and honking and revving their engines impatiently.

It was definitely a good thing they were riding Kevin's bike and not driving. Not that they could drive anyway. He didn't have a license. Neither did Lilian, but she was a kitsune, which explained her lack of a permit. She'd probably never even seen an automated vehicle until she ended up living amongst humans.

While Kevin peddled the bike, Lilian sat behind him, arms wrapped around his torso and her right cheek resting against his back. It was a very distracting position for Kevin, who could feel her―well, her, pressing into him. It didn't help that her hands were shamelessly groping him as they wound around his body.

“See? I told you I would finish drying that room in no time,” Lilian said, shouting to be heard over the sounds of traffic, before rubbing her cheek against the muscles in his back. He really wished she would stop. “Isn't the kitsune-bi an amazing technique?”

“It is pretty convenient,” Kevin admitted with a shout of his own, glad for the conversation. It took his mind off those two large, round mountains pressing into him. “I mean really convenient. Even more so than those Power Ups that manga characters get during training arcs. It's almost Hyperbolic Time Chamber convenient.”

The Hyperbolic Time Chamber: a room where someone can get a year's worth of training done in a single day.

“It is, isn't it?” A pause. “Say, how long does it take to get to the arcade?”

Kevin actually had to think about that for a second. “It's not that far. I'd say about… fifteen minutes, twenty tops. Something like that. We'll be there pretty soon.”

“I can't wait to finally see a real arcade. Are the games anything like the ones we've played at home?”

“Some of them are, but they're also different than console games. For one thing, they don't use standard controllers. There are a few shooter games there, too―zombie shooters like Dead Rising and House of Haunted Horrors. But there are other games as well: dancing games and racing games and games where you have to shoot basketballs into hoops. The arcade has a lot more variety than what I have at home.”

“I want to play the shooting ones.”

“You know, most girls don't like those kinds of games,” Kevin said, though he didn't about the accuracy of his words, since he had very little experience when it came to women. For all he knew, every female loved blowing the heads off of zombies and popping a cap in some jabroni's ass.

“Then I guess I'm not like most girls.” Lilian sounded very proud of this fact. “Besides, aren't those your favorite kinds of games? It's only right that they would be my favorite as well.”

“I hope you're not saying those are your favorite for my sake.”

“It's not just that,” Lilian said in a voice so soft that Kevin almost missed it, especially over the wind and thrum of traffic. “They weren't just the first video games I've played.” Her arms tightened around his waist. She also stopped groping him, which he was thankful for. “They were the first games I played with you. That makes them special to me.”

Kevin's cheeks reddened as blood rushed to his face, and not because of Lilian's twins. That had to be one of the most heartfelt statements anyone had ever said to him. His heart, which had been beating steadily against his chest, was now hammering away like a war drum. For just a second, he thought that maybe being Lilian's mate wasn't so bad.

“Plus, seeing how cute you look when you're concentrating on something difficult makes me so hot and bothered that I just want you to ravish me, ufufufu!”

And just like that, all the feelings of warmth disappeared as Lilian butchered the moment with a rusty spork.

“Ugh, there you go with that laugh again.” Kevin wondered if she knew how her words had affected him. Given her last comment, probably not. “Anyway, we're here.”

A large two-story square building loomed before them. Above a set of sliding doors hung a sign with the words, Gamer's Paradise, in giant, neon-orange lettering. In the center was the image of a small island with a claymore embedded into the ground. If that didn't say video games, nothing did.

“Wow!” Lilian looked at the building in awe as she hopped off the back of the bike. “This place is amazing! It's so much bigger than the other buildings around here!”

Kevin dismounted as well and wheeled the bike over to the bike stand, where several others were already locked up.

“Wait until you see the inside.” Kevin grinned. Seeing Lilian acting so enthusiastic about something he enjoyed doing felt nice. He didn't know of any other girl who would be so excited to play arcade games.

With the efficiency of someone who had done this a million times, he wrapped the cable around the bike and bike stand, then closed the combination padlock with a deft click. Standing up, he looked over to where Lilian was standing.

“Let's go in… side… eh?” Kevin trailed off when he noticed that the redhead was no longer there. The high school sophomore blinked, then scratched the back of his head, a perplexed expression overtaking his features. “Where did she go now?”

“Beloved!” He turned his head to see Lilian standing just outside the entrance to the arcade, a dazzling smile on her face as she waved him over. “Come on! Let's go!”

Kevin sighed as he walked over to the fox-girl. “Coming!” Couldn't she show at least a modicum of patience? It wasn't like rushing around with the feverish eagerness of a child on a sugar high would allow her to play arcade games any faster.

Once he caught up to her they walked inside. Lilian's entranced eyes went wide as she found herself in what could only be described as a veritable gamer's paradise. Everywhere she looked there were large machines featuring a variety of different arcade-style games―everything from games where people shot things with large plastic guns, to games with stages that people danced on, to basketball games and casino-type games where people earned tickets that could be exchanged for prizes. Every type of game she could think of―and then some―was there, just waiting for her to play them.

In the center of the room, a set of stairs led up to a second floor. Kevin told her there was a bowling alley up there. In the back of the arcade, she could see a small bar-style restaurant that served strange foods that she had never seen before.

“Come on, Beloved!” An excited Lilian grabbed Kevin's hand, eager to go out and explore this world of arcadium that her mate was so fond of. “Let's go!”

“Hold up, Laura Croft.” Kevin dug his figurative heels in, stopping the girl before she could begin dragging him off. “I need to put some credits on my card before we can begin playing any games.”

“Oh,” Lilian pressed a finger to her lips, her delicate eyebrows furrowing cutely in an expression of inquisitiveness. “How do we do that?”

In response to her question, Kevin pointed over to the wall near the entrance. “With that machine over there.”

“That machine,” as Kevin so eloquently called it, was a large, boxy contraption with a touch screen. It allowed people to select the amount of credits they wanted to put on their cards. Since they were in an age where everything was paid for with plastic, the arcade games were no longer coin-operated, but ran based on the same principle as a gift card.

Kevin put twenty dollars' worth of credits on his card. It would be enough for him and Lilian to play for at least two or three hours. At least it should be, provided Lilian didn't go crazy trying to play every game there.

They were supposed to eventually meet up with Eric, who he had sent a text message to, and received an emoticon smiley face back. However, since his pervy friend enjoyed sleeping until noon, Kevin allowed Lilian to pull him into the arcade and play some games. They of them played several different games, the first being House of Haunted Horrors.

“Ha! Take that evil mutant zombies!”

“I don't really think they're mutants,” Kevin mumbled as he shot at the zombies on the screen in a far more conservative manner than Lilian, who blew them away like some kind of machine-gun wielding psychopath.

“Hmm? Did you say something, Beloved?”

“I said you're really getting into this.”

“You think so? I guess it's because I've never done this before. I heard that my clan's resort has arcade games and tons of other cool stuff, but the matriarch never let me go there before. And our village doesn't have any of the new inventions that you humans have come up with, except for washing machines and ovens. Things like arcades and movie theaters are non-existent.”

“That must really suck,” was the only thing he could think to say.

“Yeah, it's pretty boring over there. Even when we went on vacation to the other villas my clan owns, they never let me leave them. That's why I'm so grateful to you for taking me to places like this.”

When Kevin looked over at the redhead, he caught a glimpse of her honest smile. It was beautiful.

“Ah…” His throat constricted. He opened his mouth, but no words came out. All he could do was croak. “Ah…”

“Are you okay, Beloved?” Lilian asked, concerned when she saw his weird behavior. “Your face is all red.”

She leaned over and pressed her forehead against his, which really just made his face turn an even deeper shade of red, making it take on the general coloration of a billboard in Las Vegas.

“You don't seem to have a fever.” She looked confused. Kevin wondered how a girl so set on jumping his bones could be so oblivious.

“I-I'm fine.” Kevin shook his head, trying to rid himself of the strange feelings that being so close to Lilian generated within him. Having had two weeks' worth of practice doing just that, he was marginally successful. “And you're welcome. Now why don't we continue playing?” He looked back at the screen, only to blink when he realized that they had both died sometime in the past few seconds when neither of them was looking.

“Eh?!” Lilian glared at the screen as the words, Game Over, appeared in dark crimson, leaving trails down the screen like blood. “I can't believe we lost!”

“We did get distracted talking.”

“But I was sure I paused it!”

“… Lilian, arcade games don't have a pause button.”

“They don't?”

“No, they don't.”
“Oh… my bad.”

They then played the arcade basketball game.

“Yay! I scored 40 baskets! How many did you score, Beloved?”

“…”

“Beloved?”

“… five.”

“Oh, wow. You really suck at basketball, Beloved.”

It should be noted that this guy, Kevin, sucked at basketball.

“Shut up.”

They played many other games as well, including Dance Dance Revolution and Crazy Taxi. Lilian enjoyed herself immensely, and though Kevin wouldn't admit it out loud, he had a good time as well.

“This place is so much fun,” Lilian squealed as they finished a racing game. She had lost because she kept crashing into various walls and objects―not to mention people, but she didn't seem to care. It wasn't about winning or losing with her. It was about having a good time with her mate.

“I'm glad you're enjoying yourself,” Kevin said, his voice earnest and matching the grin on his face. “Are there any other games you'd like to try out?”

“I want to try all of them!”

Kevin chuckled and blushed at Lilian's declaration. He would never tell her this, but she looked really cute standing there, her fists planted on her hips, eyes alight with excitement and determination. She looked ready to embark on some kind of epic quest or something.

It was the ultimate Dungeons and Dragons pose.

He wondered if she got that pose from the Dungeon Master's Guide or the Player's Handbook.

“Ah, but first, I really need to use the restroom.” Lilian suddenly looked sheepish, and it took Kevin a second to realize why―she didn't know where the restrooms were.

“I'll show you where they are.” Kevin grabbed Lilian's and led her through the various arcade games and groups of people that had shown up in the past hour. He really hated how crowded it became once lunch time rolled around.

Lilian stared at their conjoined hands with a large, nearly luminescent blush and an even larger smile. It wasn't much, but the fact that Kevin had been the one to initiate contact between them brought a sense of gratification and pleasure to the kitsune. It swept through her like a storm. Her body literally shivered at the rush of emotions flowing through her.

They eventually stopped in front of two doors with signs hanging over them, labeling them as the restrooms. Turning to his companion, Kevin was about to speak up when he noticed the redness on Lilian's cheeks. “Hey, Lilian, are you okay? You look a little flushed.”

“I-I'm fine,” Lilian stuttered in a totally Out of Character way.

Kevin stared at her for a little longer, making Lilian squirm under his gaze, but he eventually shrugged off her strange behavior. “Alright, I'll wait here for you.”

“Okay. Be right back.”

Lilian was quick to make her exit after that. Kevin watched her go with a curious expression. He wondered if something was wrong. Lilian wasn't the blushing type—unless she was trying to rip his pants off or something, but that was a completely different kind of blush. In the end, he decided that this was one of those things that was just not worth knowing.

As he waited for Lilian's return, Kevin leaned against the wall and scanned the room, taking in all the people bustling around the arcade. It was almost noon, so the place was jam-packed with teenagers looking to kill time. Eric was probably in there somewhere by now.

As his gaze roamed across the many arcade games and people using them, he eventually singled out a girl with long black hair and snow white-skin. She was pressing her hands and face against the glass case to one of the claw-grabber games, admiring the many prizes inside.

The girl in question was pretty cute, but what really got Kevin's attention wasn't her looks, but her clothes. She wore an all black, gothic lolita dress complete with frills, ruffles, v-shaped piping on the bodice, a puffy skirt, elbow-length gloves, black stockings and slipper-like shoes.

Just what a girl was doing wearing something like that in this heat was beyond Kevin. She must have been sweating up a storm in that thing, air-conditioned building or not.

The girl frowned as she pressed her face further against the glass. Kevin's curiosity finally got the better of him and he walked up to her. He stopped directly behind her, waiting for the girl to notice him. When it became clear that she wasn't going to notice his presence anytime soon, he cleared his throat and asked, “Do you want one of those prizes?”

“Kya!”

Kevin took a step back at the loud, keening wail of surprise. The girl spun around, her hair almost smacking him in the face. Her eyes widened when she saw him standing there, her right hand going to her chest, grabbing the fabric of her bodice. Her shoulders heaved as she took in deep breaths of air.

A second after she caught sight of him, her eyes widened. Then she blushed. Before Kevin could ask if something was wrong, the blush darkened and she started scowling. “You shouldn't sneak up on people like that, you jerk!”

“Sorry.” Kevin had the decency to look abashed. “I didn't mean to sneak up on you or anything. I just saw you standing there, and wondered if you wanted to get something from that machine.”

The girl's cheeks darkened in hue. “O-of course not! Don't be stupid!” She turned away. “Why would I want one of those stupid felines?”

“Felines?”

Kevin looked into the glass. There were several different stuffed toys that could be classified as feline, but the one that stood out to him was a creature reminiscent of a black cat with red sclera, black irises and off-white accents around the ears and tail.

“Do you mean the Umbreon?”

Umbreon was one of several hundred types of animals from an anime he used to watch back when he was a brat. Seeing that thing brought back some nostalgic memories.

The girl's face flushed as she looked at the game again, her eyes straying to the stuffed Umbreon before looking away just as quickly.

“N-no! Don't be stupid! W-w-w-what could I possibly want with such a cute―I mean, dumb stuffed animal!”

“I can get it for you.” Kevin was positive the girl did, in fact, want the Umbreon, but was too embarrassed about liking something so childish to admit it. Deciding that he would get the girl her stuffed toy regardless, the young man walked straight past her and stood in front of the game.

After swiping his card through the slot, Kevin grabbed onto the joy stick and started moving it around. In response, the crane inside of the machine also began to move.

“I used to play these games a lot when I was younger,” he told the girl, almost all of his concentration focused on the claw he was now controlling. “Back then I was so good at this game that I always managed to get something. Let's see if I still―ah-ha! Got it!”

Indeed, the crane managed to grab the stuffed Umbreon by the torso―a perfect catch―and pull it out of the pool of toys. As the item dropped into the small chute, Kevin reached in, pulled it out, and presented it to the girl.

“Here you go.”

The girl, who Kevin noticed had the most stunning ice blue eyes, grabbed the stuffed toy with shaky hands. She held it at arm's-length, regarding the prize like it was some kind of alien entity. It was only was only after giving the girl her prize that he noticed her face was... blue? Yes, her entire face had turned an icy shade of blue.


At that moment, Kevin shivered. Maybe it was just him, but it felt like the temperature had suddenly plummeted several dozen degrees. He could feel goosebumps breaking out on his skin!

“Hey, are you okay?” he ignored the chill in favor of worrying over the girl. “Your face is, well, um, kind of, ah, blue.”

“I-I-I'm f-f-f-fine! Idiot!” The girl snapped, making Kevin almost stumble back. “I didn't ask you to get this for me! I could have gotten it myself! Hmph!” With one last huff, the girl whirled around and stalked off, the Umbreon clutched tightly to her chest.

Kevin ran a hand through his hair. “What was that all about?”

“I think I should be the one asking that.” A voice said from behind.

Kevin spun around to see Lilian standing before him, hands on her hips. She looked displeased. Kevin didn't know why, but he felt extraordinarily uneasy at seeing such an unpleasant expression on a face that normally appeared so cheerful.

“Who was that?” Lilian asked in a, “you'd better have a good explanation for why you were talking to another girl while I was otherwise preoccupied” kind of voice.

“Huh? You mean that girl?” Kevin shook off his uneasiness and shrugged. There wasn't any reason for him to feel so uneasy, right? “I dunno.”

“You don't know?” Lilian's frown deepened as she stared at her mate. “Then why were you talking to her?”

“I just saw her staring at one of those stuffed toys in the prize machine.” Kevin gestured to the arcade game next to him. “I thought I'd be nice and get it for her, since she seemed to be having some kind of trouble.”

Though he didn't know what kind of trouble she'd been having. Not enough credits to play? Already played several times and couldn't get her prize? He didn't know; he hadn't thought to ask her.

“And that's it?” Lilian leaned forward, forcing Kevin to lean back as she invaded his personal space, her green eyes narrowing as they pierced his own blue orbs. “There was nothing else going on?”

“Going on?” Kevin scratched his left cheek with his index finger. “What do you mean? What would be going on?”

“Never mind,” Lilian sighed. Her mate was clueless. Though at least she now knew this was just a simple act of kindness, and not because he knew that girl in the weird getup. “Since it looks like you were just being nice, I'll let it go… this time.”

For some reason, Kevin felt a strange sense of relief wash over him, like he had just avoided some kind of disaster that would have ended in a horrifyingly erotic, yet strangely funny way. How odd.

“But I want you to get me something from that grabby game, too.”

“Alright.” Kevin shrugged. He could do that easily enough. “What do you want?”

“I want that!”

“The fox plushie?” It was kind of clichè'd to get a kitsune a fox plushie, wasn't it? But if that's what she wanted. “Sure.”

Kevin grabbed ahold of the joystick, and a new game began.

***

Eric sat on the ground in the middle of the arcade, crying manly, waterfall-like tears as he waited for Kevin and Lilian to show up.

“Where are they?!” He wailed like a child having a tantrum. “Where are they, where are they, where are they?!”

Everyone in the general vicinity gave the perverted boy a wide berth, staying at least several meters away as they watched him warily. They didn't want to get wet from his tears, or the raincloud that had randomly appeared over his head and seemed to have a tumultuous storm brewing within.

“Where is my Tit Maiden?! I want my Tit Maiden!”

Many of the girls present were so disgusted that even if they had been inclined to go near him―which they weren't―those words would have sent them running away screaming. Some of them actually did run away screaming.

“Waaah!”