Hotel Roku-Kyuu-Kyu: Chapter 10
The bright rectangle of Karen’s phone lit up her face and the wall behind her. Touji studied the dark bags under her eyes and her messy, matted hair before looking down at the screen of her phone. The signal indicator remained flat and unresponsive.
“My dad is going to kill me.” She groaned and muttered under her breath.
Touji bit at his lip and attempted to wrap his arm around hers. “Have you told him about us?”
“I’ve hinted at it.” Karen sighed and jostled his arm away stealthily. “I think if he checks out my credit card statement with a love hotel charge on it, with the knowledge of me dating a boy, you’ll be the one he’ll kill.”
Touji gritted his teeth and pulled away from her slightly.
“Don’t worry.” Sachiko assured them sleepily. “Charges don’t get filed until the day after you leave your deposit. With the power out, it’s possible the computers won’t get around to talking to the banks for a while. No way we could make you pay after a night like this, anyways.”
Touji and Karen let out almost identical sighs. Ibaraki began jostling with low laughter under his blanket on the far side of the room. “You kids really are a hoot.” He said, rolling over to look up at the ceiling.
Karen ignored him and fiddled with her phone some more. “Does this place just suck up all the cell signal?”
“Unfortunately.” Sachiko shrugged. “Just the nature of the building, no windows and all.”
“Ugh…” Karen complained and shoved the phone face down in her lap. “Even if I did call my dad now… this early in the morning… he’d just be more pissed.”
“Should he be worried about you?” Ibaraki spoke up once again.
“Hey, that’s none of your business.” Tatsu growled at him.
“Relax.” The hefty man said nasally. “All I’m saying is that if she were a trouble maker- like you, apparently- or just generally good at getting herself into crappy situations, her dad would have a reason to want to make sure she was checking in. So, is that the case, missy?”
“No!” Karen shot back without a second thought. “It’s just with the storm and all, I bet he’s concerned that I didn’t get caught out in it.”
“Touji.” Kyouka sat up slowly from Tatsu’s side and looked over. “You must still be living under your parent’s roof too. You gonna’ be okay?”
“Eh, I’m always sleeping over at friend’s houses or just generally coming home late after the arcade, or karaoke.” He shrugged. “I have a friend who lives closer to the school than me. As long as I come home safe eventually, and keep up my grades, I won’t hear another word.”
“See, it’s the lax parents who don’t have to worry about their kids goofing off the second they’re free to make their own decisions.” Ibaraki said in an unnecessarily loud voice. He sat up and looked around the dark room. “Isn’t that right, you, whatever your name was. Kasumi-chan, Akiko.”
Sachiko clicked on the light beside her and shined it over at the lump that was the woman lying still against the wall. Her body rose and fell heavily with her breaths, but she gave no sigh of wanting to respond.
Sachiko plopped the flashlight down on the floor, beam facing up at the ceiling. She played with the thick metal cylinder in her hands. “I suppose if you wanted to head down to the lobby, you might try for some cell service. Can’t promise it isn’t still soaked down there, though.”
Karen looked up at the ceiling and the strange wavy concentric circles the light cast on the ceiling. “I’ll give it a bit. Let me… figure out some sort of convincing lie, first.”
“If that’s the case…” Ibaraki said as he stood up, pausing to grunt and hold his stiff back. “…I’ve got to go for another piss.”
Sachiko sighed and grasp the flashlight in her hand. “Fine. Anyone else? Now is a good time.”
Ibaraki looked down at the housekeeper and waited for her to offer up the object. With the light in his hand, he waddled out of the room, allowing the door to shut hard behind him.
The group waited in silence for a few moments as the heavy footsteps drifted off farther upstairs.
“Akiko-san.” Kyouka scooted down the wall slightly to the figure in the corner. “I’m sorry.”
“What are you apologizing for?” The woman said stuffily. She lifted her head out of the nest of blanket and pushed the long hair out of her face.
“Mrs. Maeda…” Touji spoke up.
“Now you too?” Akiko sighed. “Also, addressing me like that makes me feel old.”
“Sorry… well.” He stuttered. “I just want you to know that I don’t think badly of your daughter. She has plenty of friends, and she uhm… doesn’t cause trouble in class.”
“Thanks.” She said, trying to hold back her sarcasm. “You know, I bet she fared just fine, getting a night to herself without her mother wanting to dote on her, trying to impress her with some gaudy outing.”
Outside, a low police siren began making its way in the direction of the building, slowly approaching. “Looking for anyone who might have got caught out in the storm, huh?” Tatsu remarked.
“You know, I bet they could call someone for us. Even pick one of us up, don’t you think, Tatsu?” Kyouka suggested.
Karen crawled over Touji to push the door open. Down the stairs, the dim light of the sunrise had begun to eat away at the darkness. The sound of the siren grew louder and nearer. “I bet they could. Akiko… you could say you have a daughter at home. You don’t have to say how old she is.”
“I couldn’t.” She said with a quick shake of her head. “What about all you guys?”
Touji shrugged and lounged back against the wall. “School is probably canceled today. I can wait.”
“You guys…” Akiko said, trying to hold back her emotions.
“Hurry, before that oaf gets back.” Kyouka urged.
Akiko quickly threw the blanket off her and dragged her shoes across the carpet besides her. Slipping them on, she stood up shakily and carefully stepped close to the door.
“Tatsu, lead her down there.” Kyouka ordered, and made room for him to pass by her besides the kotatsu.
“Fine.” He said with a grunt and pushed himself to his feet.
Akiko stepped out of the room, followed by Tatsu, who grabbed at the woman’s hand to guide her down the stairs. As they descended, the dim light from outside began to shine up at them.
“Hold on, where you goin’?” Ibaraki’s coarse voice called down the them. The bright light of the flashlight cascaded down the stairs to Tatsu’s back.
“She’s headed home. Got a ride.” Tatsu lied. “You can go back to the room.”
“Wait!” Ibaraki ordered. Akiko stopped in fear. Tatsu stood between them, ready to pounce up the stairs at the large man.
From his back pocket, the hefty man extracted his wallet and folded it open to examine the stack of bills inside. “Pass her this, just for the inconvenience. Also, cause I got a good view back there.”
Tatsu wrapped his fist around the wad of bills passed to him as Ibaraki wandered back up the stairs to the room. Akiko sighed a breath of relief. The siren sounded as close as it ever had been. Tatsu quickly shoved the money over the woman’s shoulders and into her waiting hand.
She peered at the yellowed wad of Yen and the tears began to well up in her eyes. With a wavering breath, she quickly descended the last flight of stairs as she shoved the money into her purse. The tiled floor of the entranceway held a still puddle of water that was interrupted by her pointy heels.
“Good luck out there.” Tatsu reassured her. Outside, the flashing red and blue lights shown through the frosted glass door as the vehicle meandered by slowly.
“Thanks. For everything.” Akiko whispered breathily before leaning up towards the door. With a push and a gust of wind, the door flew open. She quickly trotted outside, waving her arms. Tatsu got one final look at her staggering towards the emergency vehicle as he pulled the door shut forcefully.
Ibaraki returned to the room without a word and scooted past the others to retake his spot on the ground. Tatsu returned a half minute later, and hunched down besides Kyouka.
“The water’s descended quite a bit.” He commented. “I bet when it gets to be more light out, we should have no issue leaving.
“Thank god.” Ibaraki huffed. “I could go for a big beef bowl or something right about now.”