(A.N./ Hey, readers! Who's ready for a cheesy love triangle romance? Hehe…that's a pretty accurate summary of the beginning of this story from a critical eye. Don't worry, what might seem like a cliché story with no plot develops farther as it goes along.

Don't kill me if it's not very good to begin with! It's my first time working with 1st person, so it may not be that good. I'm trying to improve my writing style, though, and make my description a little…fluffier. Know what I mean?

Also, the story may have some small similarities at the beginning to Disney's Aladdin. The story behind that is that, around when I was writing PcB, I was sidetracked watching Aladdin over my little sister's shoulder. I thought, I wonder if anyone has made a Tokyo Mew Mew crossover with this? I considered it briefly, but waved it off. I guess it came back to haunt me, though, because the Arabian setting sprung to mind once more when I just began LO! PAMM.

Anyway, I'm keeping you from the story (I tend to ramble on a lot...), so go ahead and begin reading my latest work! I hope you enjoy it!)

--Extra Notes:

1. This story is set in the area of southern Europe or the Middle east along the time when a lot of countries were simply "city-countries". There were extremely small countries with a primary city as a central,(or simply a city) which was ruled and protected by a King, or in this case, a Sultan. The country in here is MADE UP and may not be completely accurate with the culture at the time, since I couldn't seem to find a whole lot of info on the culture when I did some research.

2. This story ends up in KxI, with some nice shovelfuls of RxI and MxI in-between. Sorry, RxI fans, but you might not enjoy the whole of this one. I'm still very attached to KxI…

3. This entire story is in Ichigo's POV…just because I like it that way, and I think it provides a lot more depth on her part as you follow along the story.

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'"Tis said of love that it sometimes goes, sometimes flies; runs with one, walks gravely with another; turns a third into ice, and sets a fourth in a flame: it wounds one, another it kills: like lightning it begins and ends in the same moment: it makes that fort yield at night which it besieged but in the morning; for there is no force able to resist it."

- Miguel de Cervantes

x

Well, I can't say I saw it coming.

For one, I never thought that I would become so desperate for a life of comfort… at least, to go as far as to steal. Yes, try. Furthermore, I never thought that I would try to steal from the Sultan himself. Sure, he's a dirty, rich tyrant whom everyone hates, but that gives me no reason to go and steal from him-- especially since I knew in the back of my mind that I was going to get caught. It was throwing my life away, really. My life seemed practically useless anyway. I mean, living as a nomad on the streets isn't exactly the ideal career.

That makes it sound worse than it actually was. I had connections to a few people, and would occasionally make stops at them for food and whatnot when I got the chance. So, in reality, I was getting along.

Apparently, not well enough to satisfy my inner consciousness.

So here I was, running as fast as my skinny legs could carry me, clutching the small chest of gold that had previously been sitting on the top of the Sultan's desk in his office. How I had gotten to it I didn't know. I had just snuck in from the back, slipped around a few corners, avoided some guards, and marched right in. Granted, I had to pick a few doors, but it was too simple all the same. It goes to show how idiotic the palace guards really were. Rumors were that the Sultan would just hire anyone from anywhere as guard. I hate him with a passion, and I haven't even met him in person before.

Of course, the inner palace guards had nothing to do that day (like any day) and so an alarm of a thief running through the palace brought them to their feet-- all twenty-some of them. Soon I had a whole army of them charging behind me, gaining fast. Like I could do anything about it, though. I couldn't run any faster than I was when I was wearing the big, clunky boots I always wore around. I probably should have taken them off before I came, but it was too late now. They were the only pair of shoes for my feet, and I liked them anyway.

My breath easily grew short after sprinting as fast as I was, and I gave out to a slow jog, the guards overpowering me. They crawled all over me like a pack of excited dogs over a cat, tugging at my arms, yelling up a storm, and yanking the box out of my arms. Soon, I felt myself being dragged off by my arms. I heard one of them yell,

"Take her to the Sultan! He'll have something to say about this!"

It was at that moment that it really struck me: I could die. I could be executed that very day. Then my life would be gone. Over. Nothing more left. The very thought made me squirm, and I thrashed in the grip of the two guards with the hold on my arms, one to each arm.

"Let…me…GO!" I yelled in a futile attempt to struggle out.

One of them laughed, "Yeah, right! Just shut up and suck it up, lady!" I narrowed my eyes and sneered at the guard's foul attitude. Raising one of my chunky boots, I brought it down in a powerful swing to the back of his leg. He gave off a short howl of pain before jostling me in his grip.

"The hell was that? Try that again and I'll slit your throat!" he yelled. I growled in reply, but made no words of protest against his threat.

Within a minute or so, we had arrived at a large set of double doors. One of the guards, the one that I had kicked, threw me over to the second, who now gripped both of my arms. He smelled of rotting fish and sweat, much to my displeasure. The first guard opened one of the doors and went in.

I spied him getting on one knee, and heard, "Your Excellence, I beg your pardon, but we have caught a thief in the act of trying to rob the gold from your office. We hope that you can bring a proper judgment-"

"Yes, yes, bring him in," the Sultan spoke. His voice was as sharp and cold as ice. It sent shivers down my spine, and I was afraid.

As soon as the first guard had stood up from his kneel, I felt myself being pushed into the throne room. I fell forward onto my knees on the red, velvety carpet. I groaned wearily and lifted my head hesitantly.

The Sultan smirked down at me with narrowed, crystal-blue eyes. His long, black hair trailed to the bottom of his throne, where the hem of his blue, regal robe also ended. Despite his majestic appearance, he was still a stupid, cheating, dictator who couldn't run a city to save his life. That was my soild belief.

"So," he said to me in a mocking, indifferent sort of tone, "Why'd you do it?" I got up from the floor and stood to full height. I certainly wasn't bowing to him any time soon.

"I had no chance at life, that's why!" I yelled, "And it's all your fault! You're the one who set up this terrible economic system!" He laughed icily, and I was getting more and more angry by the second.

"That's too bad," he said, "but you should try working harder in life instead of stealing from those who are better than you are." His words went right to my heart, and the angry pressure was building up inside me.

He continued, "You know what? You're interesting, though. Do you know what else? I am bored. You may be just my source of amusement." I groaned inwardly at all of the possibilities that sprang to my head. What was he going to do to me? Torture me slowly? Make me his slave? His personal dancer? Hell, I hope I don't have to dance, whatever it is. I can't dance for the life of me.

"What is your name?" he asked, leaning forward in his throne.

"Ichigo," I replied bluntly. He nodded, as if in thought, and raised his arms in the air. Soon, a small, white light shot across between his hands, and a pole grew out of the thin air. It curled into a small tip at the end, encrusted with a large gemstone.

Right, I forgot to mention that the only reason he's the Sultan in the first place is because he's a sorcerer-- the only one around for miles and miles. One day, about ten years ago, he marched into the city, and, with a tremendous display of power, declared himself Sultan. The city, who was previously ruled by an old, wrinkled man from the East, was quickly taken over. Within a year, he had built up his own army out of citizens from the city. That's the story on how his rule came to be. It's been that way for ten long years, and the city has only gotten more and more bitter about their ruler over the years.

The Sultan brought his staff into his hands. Examining the stone at the end, he said to me, "Brace yourself, Ichigo, this may hurt a bit." I gulped…hard. Clenching the palms of my hands, I bit my lip and waited. The Sultan extended his rod to me and called,

"Mask of passion, arise from the dark

Assume the purpose for whom you were created

Curse your host for a mere seven days

And let no one know your secrets!"

Once the words had been said, I felt an awful choking in my throat, like someone was trying to force their fist down it. I gagged and coughed, dropping to my knees on the floor. My hands felt my throat relentlessly as I continued to gag. I gathered all of the strength that I could and tried to force the pressure down my throat. It worked, and the object (whatever it was) seemed to dissolve right into my throat. I gasped for air once it was down. Breathing heavily, I tried to get a grip on myself as my head whirled.

Mask of Passion? What was he talking about? It has to be some sort of spell… I thought anxiously.

"Excellent," the Sultan said, "It worked. This should be interesting, hm?"

Between breaths, I panted, "…what…did you…do…to me?"

"Stupid girl," the Sultan said with a small sigh, "You're talking already. How about you just shut your mouth so I may explain?"

I really felt like arguing. Actually, I really felt like slamming my fist into his face, but I shut my mouth and waited for the answers I was seeking. I wouldn't get anywhere by going against him. Besides, I knew he was just trying to get a reaction out of me anyway, kind of like an animal in a zoo. You coax it to come to the edge of the cage and then poke it to see what will happen.

He sat in thought for a moment or two, while I breathed slow, deep breaths. The soreness in my throat had worn off, and I finally felt able to talk.

I opened my mouth to speak, but he cut me off, "The spell I just cast was one I found in an old sorcerer's spell book I acquired the other day. The title caught my interest, and I quickly learned it. Think of yourself as my…guinea pig for this spell."

I rolled my eyes, "Get to the point, already! What'd you do?"

The Sultan laughed coldly.

"Impatient, hm? Alright, I'll explain. Basically, I just cast a love spell. Somewhere in this city are three men of your age, randomly chosen. All three are now affectionately attached to you whether they like it or not-- and you to them."

It took me a moment or two to register his words. A love spell? Not only was that unbearably cliché-sounding, I wasn't the kind of person to run after love and grab it by the heels. In fact, I wasn't planning on falling in love at all.

I picture life as a dark road on a foggy night. Scary, but doable with careful steps and patience. Lots of people go with a companion or two down that path. But, as for me, I could do it alone. I didn't need a guide or someone to drag me down. I was a perfectly independent, strong person who could stick up for herself. So you can imagine how this came as a shock to me.

"Ah, I can see the shock on your face now. Never fear, I only set it for a week. It'll be over before you know it. You can also break it manually, you know. All you have to do is profess your love to the three, and it will all be over," the Sultan said.

I narrowed my eyes. It was too simple. There had to be some kind of catch.

As if on cue, the Sultan answered my mental question, "Another thing: the curse's basic properties state that you cannot tell anyone at all about the curse. Convenient, hm? Such a well-manufactured spell…" I straightened myself up from where I was standing. Turning on my heel, I was about to march out of the palace. I was done with this place, and sick of the Sultan's attitude and insulting remarks.

"Come back here," the Sultan called impatiently. I let out a sigh and turned around.

"What now?" I asked. I seemed to be very amusing to him, because he laughed…again. Again, with the analogy of the animal in the zoo…

"I want to show you something before you leave," he said. I crossed my arms and waited.

He outstretched his staff between his two hands and, muttering a few inaudible words, he drew it back to himself in a swift, sharp motion. Where his staff had once been, there was a line of words. He picked them up like some sort of fabric or cloth and held them in front of me.

"Can you read?" he asked. I rolled my eyes and read the words.

They were names of people. Three names…they must have been the names of the three men that were cursed along with me.

I read, "Masaya Aoyama…isn't that the prince?" the Sultan's eyebrows shot up, and he examined the words for himself before nodding.

"Yes…quite a coincidence…er, read the next one," he said awkwardly with a wave of his hand. Pleased that I had produced some kind of discomfort to him, I read the next name.

"Ryou Shiro-- oh, no, not him! I know him!"

The Sultan laughed, "Brilliant! That's wonderful!"

Ryou Shirogane, the marketplace chef, was one of my childhood friends, so to speak. We grew up together kind of like brother and sister in more ways then one. We fought with each other often and shared a lot of the same stuff. When I got lost from my parents one day, I stayed over with him and his parents for a while. After that, I pretty much fed off his food and lived by myself-- even at the young age I was. Sure, it sucked, but enough about my sap stories, Ryou was back then (and still was) a jerk, and suddenly loving him was no cakewalk.

I read the third name aloud, "Kisshu Takahiro…never heard of him."

"He's a wealthy nobleman that lives on the south side of the city. I've never met him myself," the Sultan explained slowly, tapping his chin, "but he's only famous because he inherited his dad's fame and fortune: the spoiled brat type." I had to agree with him; he did sound like he would be hard to get along with, even though I hadn't met him. I'd have to avoid that one.

Pulling back the line of names from me, he smashed them between his palms, where they disappeared instantly.

"You are dismissed," he said with a wry, amused smile. I gladly marched out of the throne room, thankful to have my dignity still intact…sort of.

It was only for a week, right? I could get through this stupid spell. Even better, I could just march up to the first one I run into and go, "I love you!" and they would be off the list. Somehow, I knew it wasn't going to be as easy as that, but it was worth a try.

A few moments later, I glanced behind me to see that two of the guards were still following me. I figured that the Sultan must have sent them, and only rolled my eyes and quickened my pace.

Soon, though, I realized that they had quickened theirs also. Panic began to rise inside me as I broke into a run. I turned my head to look behind me, and saw that I was losing them. They seemed to be giving up. Smiling in satisfaction, I turned back to the front just in time to crash into something…or someone.

Whatever it was, it gave a cry of, "Ah!" as a waterfall of various scrolls fell on top of us. A powerful, bubbly feeling overcame me when I breathed in his scent. It resembled lavender and fresh basil.

Little did I know that this was my first encounter. The story had been set into motion, and there was no stopping it now. It would change my life forever and for good.

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(A.N./ Crappy? Good? Say something! Go ahead and hit the little white-and-green button, because I appreciate and often reply to reviews, whether good or bad!)