Hotel Roku-Jyuu-Kyu: Chapter 9
Some time in the middle of the night, the storm had finally died out, and the sound of rain punishing the side of the building was replaced by the intertwining rhythms of even breaths and snoring.
In one sudden moment, the building came back to life with a low hum, which included the ceiling light above flashing on in a blinding glow.
“Oh god, shut that off.” Ibaraki growled loudly and turned his face back into the short pile of the carpet below him. Touji sat up quickly in surprise and banged his palms into the low kotatsu in front of him.
“Ouch…” He whined. He turned quickly to get a glimpse of Karen shielding her eyes from the light and attempting to cuddle back under the covers. He noticed that she had come closer and closer to him over the past couple of hours.
Tatsu and Kyouka had fallen over each other in a pile, still seemingly dead to the world. Behind them in the corner, Akiko had crumpled herself up in an uncomfortable position propped up in the crutch of the room. She had stirred, but only to shove her face into the blanket to shield her eyes.
Touji looked up at Sachiko, who had sat up quickly after having fallen asleep with her head atop the kotatsu table. “Miss housekeeper, do you think… we’re saved, now?”
“Yeah, please let us get out of here.” Karen groaned and attempted to adjust her eyes to the light. “What time is it anyways?”
Sachiko looked around sleepily. She noticed a small pool of her drool atop the lacquered wooden table top and quickly wiped it down with the corner of her blanket. After inspecting the freshly stained linen, she turned her attention to her watch. “Ugh. Barely even 5 in the morning.”
Karen plopped her head down on the pile of blankets in her lap. “Ugh, I’ve never even woken up this early, not even for the most ridiculous days of school.”
A loud click echoed through the room, and the light turned off again, turning the room back into the pitch blackness unlike they had seen before. “Thank god,” came the mumbling of Tatsu from his side of the table. Unnoticed to the others, he had stirred and tried to shield his face from the light.
“Well, a few more hours of sleep can’t hurt.” Touji sighed and readjusted himself against the wall behind him.
Karen hummed quietly, while twirling her hair in the dark with low brushing sounds. Tatsu let out a long, low sigh before shifting the blankets around him noisily. After a few long minutes, he finally spoke back up.
“Ugh, can’t get back to sleep now.”
Touji sat himself up straight and opened his eyes wide to try and see any of the others in the murky blackness. “Nah, me neither.”
“Same.” Karen said. Her hands traveled around underneath the blanket searching for Touji’s hands, which met with hers midway between them.
“You two better not be trying to stealthily trying to give each other handies over there, I hope.” Tatsu accused them. He had pulled the unconscious Kyouka across his lap for her to lay her head.
Karen quickly pulled back her hands, causing the blankets to ruffle loudly. “No, of course not.” She whispered hoarsely.
Tatsu let out a quick laugh. “I’m just kidding. So if you are actually a college girl… dating a high schooler… How’d you meet, then?”
Karen pondered quietly in the dark for a moment before turning to Touji with a shrug. “Should you tell it, or me?”
“You go ahead.” Touji said shyly.
Karen snickered and took a deep breath to prepare telling her story. “Well, I caught him trying to take an up-skirt of me and my friends.”
“Whoa, like some perv?” Tatsu spat.
“Don’t just leave it at that.” Touji complained.
Karen sighed sadistically. “Yeah, yeah. Well, his high school and my school’s campus aren’t too far away. My friends and I actually walk past their front entrance on the way home. The boys are always tying to steal glances.”
“Heh, so humble, aren’t you?” Tatsu began to play along.
“Meh, well we don’t have uniforms like the high school kids. Who would have thought that some old breezy skirt draws more attention than the cute pleated tartan ones the girls wear these days.”
“You make me feel old, Karen.” Kyouka spoke up sleepily, her head laying across Tatsu’s lap. “In my day, our uniforms had skirts that were always long, bulky, and very monotone.”
“And yet you still got laid.” She responded. “Well, anyways, it turns out Touji and his friends began to keep track of us passing every day. After a while, well… how does it go again?”
Touji sighed and shifted his head back and forth in thought. “It was a dare. Tanaka in my class. He had gotten a new fancy phone that was imported from China, and the shutter sound was able to be turned off.”
“Hey, I remember when they started that movement, all the phone companies.” Tatsu said, elated. “Pissed me off, not being able to take some quick shots unnoticed.”
“That’s right.” Karen smirked. “I’ve heard a good share of those noises directed my way over the years. Ever since I started… developing.”
“So, what, then?” Tatsu urged her on.
“Well, I guess they finally decided to follow after us; Touji and his group. We didn’t say anything, thinking they were going to try an’ ask us out, rather than… you know… be creepy.”
“I think this is enough.” Touji begged.
“No, this sounds like a good part.” Tatsu insisted.
“Heh, well…” Karen spoke up slightly. “Touji here got really brave for a moment, and came in for the kill, if you will. Instead, he tripped and fell, grabbing onto my skirt on the way down. I turned to this idiot, face flat on the ground, with a lit up phone in his hand, ready to take a shot of my goods. Luckily, I was lazy that day and hadn’t bothered changing out of some bike shorts I had worn earlier. No luck.”
Touji shrugged, at a loss for words.
Tatsu let out a loud laugh that he stifled quickly. “Wow…” He said with a whisper. “What did you do to him and his comrades?”
“Well, his friends had bailed, leaving him with a smashed up face, and after I was done with it, a smashed up phone as well. I could have torn him a new one, but he just kept apologizing profusely, trying to shove the skirt back to me.”
“What a lady’s man.”
“Yeah, well, that obviously wasn’t the last I saw of him. We kept passing by the school, and we never failed to see him and his posse, constantly giving him crap and nudging at him whenever our eyes met. It was like… a month later, you finally came an introduced yourself, in a thousand words a minute.”
“Don’t remind me.” Touji shifted uneasily.
“Oh shut it.” Karen shoved at him playfully. “I finally got a name to go with that stupid face of yours, and not too long after that, a number.”
“So that’s it.” Tatsu hummed. “All boys have to do these days is to do something just horrible enough to catch your attention, but have a scapegoat for when they want to place nice and make it up to you.”
“You’re one to speak.” Kyouka blurted out, halfway through pushing herself up to a sitting position besides her boyfriend. “The way you went off earlier… and when the power first went off… I’m surprised any of these folks would feel safe being in the same room as you.”
“Those are bold words for someone who smashed a bottle against my back.” Tatsu returned.
“Say what?” Touji interjected.
Kyouka grit her teeth. “Uhh, long story.”
“Say…” Karen muttered just loud enough for the others across the table to hear. “It’s strange even having to ask this at this point, but are you actually, like, yakuza?”
Kyouka snickered and prodded at Tatsu.
“That’s the word people use, but we’re just a family that uses our investments to help the community.” Tatsu said plainly.
“Oh please.” Kyouka rolled her eyes.
“And you?” Touji asked hesitantly, trying to catch Kyouka’s eye in the dark.
“Me, I’ve been around all sorts, but I’m not in with any group- at least while he still wants to hold back on proposing.” She said.
“It’ll happen when you act like a proper lady, less crass and all that.” Tatsu replied without missing a beat.
“I know you’re just biding your time.” Kyouka contested.
Touji sat wide-eyed looking at the two across the table. “So… have you ever… killed anyone?” Karen jabbed him with a sharp elbow and let out a shushing sound.
“No.” Tatsu let out a quick laugh before answering straight-faced. “I don’t think you understand that our motivation is money, not running around killing people.”
Touji swallowed hard before looking to Karen for reassurance. The girl looked equally perturbed.
“Seriously, though.” Tatsu laughed again, more sincerely. “I put a guy in the hospital once. Just a broken arm. He was harassing a girl on the street, come on.”
Touji let out a sigh and slumped back against the wall.
Sachiko yawned loudly from the side of the room, alerting the others to her conscious state.
“Well, good mornin’” Kyouka greeted the housekeeper.
“Morning.” Sachiko rubbed her eyes. “You know, yesterday afternoon, I caught sight of you two coming in.” She said, pointing at Tatsu and Kyouka. “Got a glimpse of your tattoos as you went into the room too.”
“I thought these places were meant to be discreet.” Tatsu joked.
Sachiko continued without responding. “Actually, I felt rather reassured. Even if you folks talk big, it’s never you starting the conflicts. I have to thank… your father, probably. He sent some guys our way after a guest trashed the room and he refused to pay.”
“I kinda remember that.” Tatsu bragged. “If I remember right, you got enough to fix up the room real nice.”
“Yes.” Sachiko nodded. “I believe it was the room you stayed in earlier.”
“All of forty minutes, auntie.” Tatsu joked loudly. “Mostly in the dark.”
“Ah, well… yes.”
“It sounds like they should get another free stay on the house.” Karen butted in. “After all, Kyouka looks like she’s waiting on the big guy to pop the question.”
“At a love hotel?” Kyouka feigned gagging. “I think it would be the end right there.”
“Honeymoon, then?” Sachiko joked dryly.
“Ugh, I guess if there were nowhere else…”