Food For Thought

Hotel Roku-Jyuu-Kyu: Chapter 7

Tatsu pushed the big cardboard box through the door, followed by Touji holding onto the long flashlight that flickered with his every step.

“Ugh, thank god.” Kyouka moaned and pushed the blanket off her legs. She stood up and grabbed at one of the flaps on the box, trying to pull it away from Tatsu. The box began to bend, and the larger man pushed her off.

“Babe, slow down.” He warned. “I can’t protect you from these hungry people if you decided to try and hoard it all for yourself.” He cajoled.

Kyouka sat back with a ‘hmph.’ Tatsu slid the lit candle on the table to the side and sat the box down with a loud, dull sound.

“Keep it down.” Ibaraki muttered loudly, still half asleep. He shifted under the blanket uneasily while Tatsu looked down upon him heatedly.

“We’ve got food, big guy.” Tatsu said, hiding the threatening tone of his voice. “If you don’t want any, that’s fine with me.”

“He hasn’t done crap for us, don’t let him have any.” Akiko called him out.

Ibaraki grunted loudly and sat up with an equal clamor. His head wavered back and forth as he forced his eyes open. “Food, huh? Can’t complain there.”

“Sure you have space after all that beer?” Akiko scowled across the table at him.

“Kasumi- Akiko-san.” Karen corrected herself. “Let’s just worry about getting food in our stomachs.”

Ibaraki smirked across the table at the woman. “Akiko, huh? Well, never mind.” He said, pulling the box close to his side of the kotatsu. “Let’s see what we have here.”

“I have to wonder what you were able to find too.” Sachiko leaned in and looked into the box as well. “That storage closet holds a lot of stuff we haven’t touched for probably some time.”

Ibaraki’s meaty hand danced around inside the box, crinkling loud plastic wrappers. “If they are what I think they are…” Tatsu shined the light down in the box as Ibaraki grabbed at one of the sealed wrappers. “I think you might enjoy.”

Sachiko pulled at the side of the box, urging Ibaraki to finally decide on an item to retrieve. He quickly extracted one of the thin packages and held it up to his face to get a better look in the dim light. The flashlight in Tatsu’s hand shined back up at the hungover man as he tore into the wrapper. “Smells like fruit.” He said, crumpling the outside and bringing the content close to his face.

Touji sat down beside Karen. He attempted to hide his teeth shining in a grin in the dim light. “What?” Karen interrogated him, prodding at him with an elbow.

“Oh.” Sachiko said with a flat tone, knowingly. “Here.” She offered, pushing the box to the center of the table away from her. The glass cup holding the flickering candle was knocked, sending the already dimming light flickering wildly around the walls of the room. Ibaraki loudly breathed in from his mouth as he smacked away.

“Tastes like… fruit leather.” The large man muttered before ripping another chunk away from the sticky sheet still wedged slightly in the packaging. “Maybe like… a gummy snack. Like you’d find in a kid’s snack box.” Akiko snorted loudly and leaned back away from the table silently.

Karen sat up and leaned against the kotatsu to reach into the box. Without being able to see over inside, her fingers grabbed at one of the equally noisy packages. She pulled it close to her face to examine the small writing. Touji leaned away and covered his mouth. He quickly disguised a bout of snickering with a loud, fake sounding cough.

“Ma’am…” Karen looked up over the table to the housekeeper. “Are these for real?”

Sachiko nodded slowly, an annoyed smile forming on her face. “Well, they are food. Edible panties.”

Kyouka snorted loudly and let out a loud laugh. Ibaraki yanked another bite off with his teeth, unfazed by the news. “There is some other candy in there, and some deep-fried peanuts at the bottom.” Tatsu mentioned. “I guess trying to judge what your client base like is a little difficult, huh, miss housekeeper?”

Sachiko grumbled something unintelligible and scooted back to her corner under her blanket. “There’s a reason all those are in there, you know.”

Karen looked up quickly from her halfway open package. “They’re not bad, right?” She asked hesitantly, looking over at Ibaraki who had begun licking his fingers and looking at the box for another treat.

“Didn’t taste bad.” He grunted and finally leaned to grab at the edge of the box.

Sachiko sighed. “We used to stock those in the room, with the likes of condoms and lube an such. We eventually had to take them away when we kept discovering the messes they caused.” She complained. “Nobody ever finishes one! The guest eats half of it, it falls off, then they get to boning. It gets all over the sheets and comforters. We already have sticky messes on our hands, and we didn’t need anymore.”

“Ugh.” Karen leaned back and gulped in disgust. She looked down at the open package in her hands with pursed lips.

“I don’t doubt it.” Kyouka spoke up. “They do smell good, though. These fruit panties, that is.” She concluded and leaned forward to pick out one of the packages.

“I would never try one myself.” Sachiko spoke up again. “Imagine having your privates all sticky!”

“That’s the best part!” Tatsu laughed loudly and turned to Touji in hopes he would reciprocate. The young man dodged the foot as Tatsu kicked at him playfully. “You’re already connected with your girl, the extra funk makes it better.”

“Sticking to skin is one thing.” Sachiko pointed an accusing finger at the tall man. “Sticking to the fabric is another. Believe me, once it touches any of the sheets, it picks up every little bit of lint on them! If you put them on, there’s no place you can sit!”

“You sit on your boyfriend’s face, then!” Tatsu shouted, causing his voice to echo through the room. “How else is he going to eat you out of your undies anyway?”

“Woo!” Kyouka clapped her hands and cooed in agreement with her man. Touji looked on, cracking a half smile on his face.

Sachiko let out an exasperated sigh. The atmosphere in the room slowly died down, save the quiet munching and intermittent crinkling of the packages holding the edible underwear.

A sudden, loud burp cut through the air, interrupting the peaceful sound of rain outside. The group turned to Ibaraki as the thick smell of beer and sugary fruit filled the air.

“Uh… excuse me.” Ibaraki mouthed at them. With a grunt, the heavy man pushed himself up off the ground. He wavered for a second before looking about the room for the door. “I have to… uhm… take a piss.” He mumbled out.

Sachiko looked over to Tatsu, who had placed the flashlight off to his side. “Well, I guess hurry up to one of the bathrooms. Your room is still open on the second floor.”

“Would you like someone to come with you, sir?” Touji sat up, watching as Ibaraki swayed back and forth slightly.

“No… no.” He mumbled. Tatsu passed the flashlight up to him, and he shuffled around the low table to the door.

“Please don’t get yourself hurt.” Sachiko warned. “My boss will kill me if the insurance goes up because of something happened on my watch.”

The heavy man let out a ‘humph’ as he clicked on the light and shined it on the floor outside the door. He hobbled out the door, leaving the room quiet.

Touji sighed and pulled the blanket up closer around his neck. He had shifted ever so slightly, leaving a sizable gap between himself and Karen. Kyouka and Tatsu sat bordering one of the corners of the kotatsu table, sitting with their knelt legs under the blanket, loosely holding each other’s hand.s Behind them, Akiko had curled up in the corner leaning against the wall. On the opposite wall of the room, Sachiko had taken a semblance of a poised stance, hands folded up neatly in her lap. Ibaraki’s messy blanket lay crumpled on the floor a few meters away from the housekeeper. Behind him, the wall held shelves running floor to ceiling, laden with boxes of toiletries and rolls of toilet paper.

The heavy falling of the rain outside seemed to ebb and grow, leaving the duration of the storm unpredictable. Deeper inside the depths of the building, the sound of a toilet flushing could be heard faintly.

Karen snickered suddenly, covering her mouth quickly with he hand and faking an itchy nose to deflect the action. Kyouka and Tatsu turned their heads at her uninterestedly.  “Sorry, just thinking about something you said, Ma’am.” She awkwardly smiled at Sachiko. “Tell me, how bad is doing the laundry here, actually. You mentioned… sticky messes.”

“Do you really have to ask that?” Touji shook his head violently and tugged at Karen’s sleeve. His voice dropped to a whisper as he talked into her ear. “Especially since you were the one who wanted to stay here.”

Sachiko sighed and shifted to a more comfortable kneeling position, sticking her calves out to the side. “It’s hard to say. We try to get to the rooms quickly after a guest checks out. That’s why things mostly stay sticky.”

Kyouka made a sarcastic gagging sound and Tatsu jabbed at her side with his elbow.

“Sometimes if we have a lot of rooms to clean… or someone calls out like today…” Sachiko continued, staring off into the dark ceiling in thought. “Things tend to dry out… become crusty. Honestly, I can’t judge which is worse.”

Kyouka fought back more giggling. Karen’s face puckered up, and Touji rolled his head back against the wall in mental anguish.

“We wash everything thoroughly.” Sachiko said with a shrug. “You’re not going to get anyone else’s nasties on you. Actually, in fact, the worst thing I come across is the lube smothered into the fabrics.”

“Lube, huh?” Tatsu nodded knowingly.

“Yes!” Sachiko became more emphatic as she continued. “There’s even flavored ones, too. They’re almost as bad as the panties. But… they’re good sellers, so we keep them stocked in the vending machine on the ground floor. You must have seen it, right?”

“But, like…” Karen began to ask. “Isn’t lube just for… you know…” She fumbled, and made a vague pumping motion towards her groin.

The handle of the door opened after a loud jostling. Ibaraki swung it open as Karen was mid-motion. “Looks like I came back at a good time?” He said, looking around the room at the others. “Lube, you said?”

“Oh, you’ll understand when you’re older.” Kyouka assured her.

Karen blushed and returned her hands to the top of her knees. Tatsu sat up on one knee and nodded over at Karen to get her attention. “Not just that. You know, when you’re in a couple… it’s not just about feeling good yourself… but making the other person feel good. If that means getting… hands on, then you’ll want some lube.” He nodded emphatically before looking over at Kyouka for approval.

“Yeah, like she said, at your age, you’re good to go.” Ibaraki spoke up. His voice grew unnecessarily loud as the alcohol still hung on his breath. “It’s the old hags that have trouble getting moist enough for action. That’s where lube comes in, isn’t it Kasumi- excuse me, Akiko.”

“Shut up!” Akiko shrieked. She had turned her head away from the wall for a moment to yell out at Ibaraki, before returning to sulk in her corner. “I don’t want to hear you voice any more, you pig!”

“Oh come on, don’t be that way.” Ibaraki pleaded halfheartedly. “We’re just bullshitting, having fun here.”

“I don’t care about that, any of this.” She mumbled as tears began to collect at the corners of her eyes. As her mascara began to become saturated with the salty liquid of her tears, she scrunched deeper into the crevice of the wall. “I just want this night to be over with.”

The rain roared outside. The wick of the candle floated around on its metal holder in the wax that had turned almost completely to a dull beige liquid. Ibaraki grunted loudly and laid back down, supporting his head atop his intertwined fingers.

Kyouka scooted out from under the kotatsu and moved closer to the wall that Akiko had pressed herself against. “What’s the matter, my dear?” She spoke softly. “Besides that oaf, of course.”

“Doesn’t matter.” Akiko sniffed.

“Is it cramps?” Kyouka leaned in and quietly tried to ask. “I think I have some medication in my purse somewhere.”

“It’s not!” Akiko cried out and nudged Kyouka away with her elbow. “It’s too late to do anything now about it.” She sniffed loudly and shoved her face into the blanket.

Kyouka sat back on the ground. Tatsu grabbed her shoulder and gently pulled her back beside the blanket of the kotatsu.

“I think I recognize you, Akiko-san.” Touji spoke up. Karen turned to him with a puzzled look on her face.

The woman looked up briefly before plopping her had back down. “Never seen you before, kid.” She said, her voice muffled by the thick fabric.

“I saw you at the culture festival last semester.” Touji insisted. “You’re the parent of one of the girls in my class I think. I think… it was your voice… your yelling just now that I remember.”

“You go to… Shiba High?” Akiko muttered, still hiding her face.

“Yeah.” Touji said with a nod. “You were mad at her for some reason if I remember correctly… your daughter, Maeda-san.”

“So what?” Akiko complained. “I’m her mother. I can be mad at her. You her friend or something?”

Touji hunched himself down and shook his head in reply. “Nah. We’re hardly in the same clique, or whatever you want to call it.”

“So what clique do you think she’s in?” Akiko finally turned her eyes up to the young man from across the table.

“Huh?” Touji shrugged. “I don’t put any name on them.”

“Ok, but you’re definitely with the cool kids, right?” Kyouka entered into the conversation. “I mean, how else are you gonna get a college girlfriend?”

Karen pursed her lips to hide a smile. She looked over at Touji who glanced at her weakly. “He’s cool enough for me, and that’s all I care about!” She said candidly, flopping her head side to side and grabbing her hands at her boyfriend’s waist.

“Ugh!” Touji grunted frustratedly before separating himself from Karen’s grasp. “I don’t need to be made fun of. I’m just the guy in the back of the classroom trying to not to stand out and head home at the end of the day.”

“The go-home club.” Tatsu noted. “I think people called me that a few times. Little did they know, I was out messing around on the streets instead of being at home playing games and jerking off.”

Kyouka grabbed his shoulder and shook her head as he turned to face her. “I think they probably knew pretty well what you would be up to, you punk.”

“Heh.” Tatsu shrugged. “Maybe so.”

“Can you all stop stroking your egos for a moment?” Akiko cried out, her voice overtaking all of the others. “You, kid. If you’re willing to call yourself a loser, then you must have some group you look up to.”

“Well…” Tatsu mumbled, stroking the back of his head.

“Come on, is my daughter one of those cool kids you idolize?”

Touji bit at his lip and pondered for a moment while the frown on his face grew deeper. “I think you’re out of touch with what we actually do in school these days. Nobody idolizes anybody. Save that for those girls on TV dancing around to some crappy pop music.”

“Good, because you shouldn’t!” Akiko spat out and turned partially away from the wall. “That girl is a trouble maker and a dunce. Can you believe that she invited me to your dumb festival just to shove some mediocre tea my way at your class’s cafe and shove me out of the room to wander around the school all alone? I came back to hopefully catch her getting some free time, but all I saw was her messing around in the back area and letting your classmates pick up the slack.”

Touji looked down at his lap. “That’s Maeda, I guess.” He said, downtrodden.

“Tonight… tonight…” Akiko sobbed and held her hand up to her forehead. “I had finally convinced her to spend some proper time with her mother, and go out, just the two of us, so I could just bond with her, if just a little bit, and figure out where she had been having trouble. I needed just that little bit of extra money from work today so I could make it special. As much as she thinks it, paying the bills isn’t as easy as it seems. Not like it matters anyways, being cooped up here.”

Ibaraki grunted loudly but held back any comment he might have had. The others turned their eyes away from Akiko, as the silence turned to the sound of rain outside.

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