The next day started as most days did in the world. And let’s be honest you all know what happens, so let’s skip the sunrise bit. Slowly shifting into first gear, Sagara’s body woke up with the sun glaring through his window like a peeping tom, who had just realized that it wasn’t a girl’s room it was looking into, but then realized that it didn’t actually mind.
Sitting up, his first thoughts were to tumble out of his mouth as a line of drool, emptying his brain and knocking him straight back out. Acting on its own, his body proceeded to crawl over to the door as it completely refused to let him stand up, insisting that it was okay thst he have a lie in as his arms did their morning exercises. Crawling up to and leaning against the door, they slowly pushed themselves up it in order to pull down the door handle.
Which didn’t actually exist of course. The doors at the Heavenly Springs slid open, but his body wasn’t to know that. They had enjoyed a peaceful, uncomplicated life of using little brass knobs to make their way through rooms and they weren’t going to switch just because a different culture insisted upon it. It wasn’t until convenience struck and he lent on the edge of the door that it finally opened enough to slide the unconscious body through before completely falling back on the floor. The hands began sliding the body across the wooden floors of the Heavenly Springs youth dormitory, which had been expertly polished by its landlord.
It may have been a normal enough scene for anyone that knew the boy, but it caused Aki to stare at the mass of limbs in front of her with the same mixed expression of amusement and bewilderment that one usually reserved for car accidents. Letting her toothbrush remain hanging out of her mouth as the boy’s body crawled to the toilet, the young girl took a moment to examine the water she had just gotten from the tap for anything suspicious in it that could cause Sagara to do snake impressions, or at the very least, to cause her to hallucinate that Sagara was doing snake impressions.
His shadow flickering back and forth as it appeared to try and edge his body to wake up, Sagara chose to lay there, his limbs feeling as heavy as mountains and just as immobile, yet still moving all the same. Aki didn’t understand this, and turned round to find another bathroom to spit into.
This time his legs, which had also begun to wake up, began to push the mass of the teenager’s body across the shiny floor in the direction of the bathroom, which, luckily enough, was a few feet away and did have a door handle. The left hand made an attempt to grab hold of the metal object and let gravity take effect as it fell upon it, opening the wooden door with a loud creak that clearly didn’t come from the hand. The crawling continued over to the sink and to a trained scientist in the field of astronomy it would seem strange if not impossible how a body would have any knowledge of a sink in a room it has never been in before without the aid of any senses. This was only relevant to the astronomer however and thus ignored, especially by the hand, which had now gained enough leverage to push its body up enough to allow the head to rest in the sink. The hand started to turn the tap on as the water started to pour on its owners face. It had no instant effect, but as the bowl filled, water began to enter those holes in which Sagara used for breathing 95% of the time. It was only when his lungs began to drown did Sagara finally woke himself up.
Jumping up and coughing profusely, Sagara thought of nothing, mainly due to desperation caused by nearly drowning in an embarrassing three inches of water. When he finally had stopped choking, he found himself wondering where he was, having never been in one of the many bathrooms of this dormitory before (which made last night suspicious). A quick look outside the door to the corridor beyond revealed his answer to him. With that sorted, he promptly fell back to sleep, no reason left to stay awake, landing with a thud onto the hall floor.
Half an hour later, the body of Sagara was guided into the main dining room of the hotel with the assistance of a now fully roused mind, ready to start a fresh new day with more of the exercise stuff that would soon end him up with the same problems as he faced half an hour ago. Gen had told him they all ate together here, and he had experienced a delicious meal of some strange things that he didn’t quite understand in a soup bowl just last night, enjoying it with just the company of his cousin, Otsune and an intoxicated Fujiko who didn’t seem to care too much for her clothing.
As with all Japanese buildings, the room was rather large and yet relatively simple, similar to a rhinoceros or dinner lady. It was split into three areas, the first section consisted of the three piece, black leather suite that Gen had been proud about buying for the dormitory girls. There was also a coffee table, a TV, which underneath held a vast quantity of electronic goodies including a karaoke machine, a girl whose name escaped him like a convict jumping out the corridors of his memory and into a blue ocean of forgetfulness, and a rather large DVD collection. The next part was a dining table with six seats. The table had been partly set and it looked like it was being prepared for breakfast. It seemed the breakfast was being made up in the next part of the room, split off by a set of empty doors and window frames. Inside it was the entrance to the kitchen, where there was another girl.
The girl whose head was currently hidden under the television, a scene which could have only been made more alarming if there were a pool of blood spreading out from under the electronics tower, didn’t respond to his presence as he passed her. It looked like she was trying to fix something, whistling a happy, completely out of tune melody that encroached on his tone deaf ears with unwelcome cacophony. He moved on to the kitchen, where another girl was cooking peacefully to herself, stirring around soup in the pot of the stove.
Being unable to remember this girl’s name, Sagara was completely unsure if he had even met her. She looked to be about twelve years old, making her possibly the youngest member of the hotel he had met so far. Even so, it was hard to remember if he had seen her. There had been a lot of girls meeting him last night, and they were all starting to blur together, forming the ultimate female monster that could destroy the world, allowing the great Black queen to rule over its remains unless he called upon his giant robot Nikuzoid to save the day. Not wanting to offend the girl if he had forgotten, he figured an open approach would be the best way to get food.
The scream that emitted from her mouth was about as welcome as a triple heart bypass to his left leg, and Sagara immediately feared for his safety, wondering whether or not he should call upon his robot weapon now, and fight her off with his meaty blade of justice before she transformed into her giant form.
“What do you want?” she replied, shuddering in the corner of the room she had jumped to. He decided against summoning, knowing that to do so would only accelerate the monster’s growth. Instead, he spoke to her.
“I just came to say hello,” he told her, holding his hands up to signify he was harmless, despite being able to kill her at least fifty two and a half different ways with each hands. “Mom always said to introduce myself to people who feed me food, except in restaurants.”
“Er, hello,” she said, her voice still full of worry. It was like she was an Iuga, he probably thought, which sucked intelligence out of people by vibrating violently near them. Sticking his hand out to her like a suicide expert would do to a rabid dog, he smiled as she took his hand, and helped the girl back up. Looking embarrassed at her actions, it took her a moment to speak again. Sagara took this moment to try and remember if he knew her or not.
“I’m Sakura Tamburo,” she said timidly, bowing slightly. “Pleased to meet you.”
Excellent. He hadn’t met her, nor had he bothered to remember her name as she said it.
“Sagara Futabatei,” he replied, bowing along with her. Mom had also warned him of the bowing thing. They only used it in the village during important rituals, but they apparently used it all the time here. The lower the better was the general rule.
“Would you like some breakfast?” she asked him, now smiling a little as she calmed down.
“Yes please,” he answered quickly, relishing the smell that could kill off most violent bad smells in mere instants with its super powerful energy ball attack. He couldn’t see what was cooking, as it was covered by the lid, but it smelled really, really yummy. Seeing his reaction, Sakura giggled lightly.
“I meant cereal,” she said, pointing over to one of the cupboards and coming closer to her death than she had ever been in that one, brief moment.
“I can’t have this?” he whimpered, looking over the metal pots on the stove.
“It isn’t for breakfast. This is just me practicing.”
“You practice cooking?”
“Yeah, when I grow up it’s my dream to be a chef and open up an Italian Restaurant, so I do it when I can.”
“Italian?” Now that he looked, it looked to be spaghetti bubbling away in the pot. In another, tomatoes bubbled away in a pan laden with mince, the onions eliciting a smell which made his tongue want to kill her and take it all for himself.
“This isn’t exactly practice I guess. It’s for the service we’re holding at my church this evening. Ah, you should come.”
“I should?” Sagara replied, his mind trying to jump away from the conversation and into the pan of boiling spaghetti.
“Yeah, you don’t know anyone here, do you? You’ll meet plenty of people there.”
“What type of church is it?” he asked tentatively. Noticing this, Sakura seemed hesitant.
“It’s for Catholics. But that doesn’t matter, you can still come.”
“No. I can’t. Thank you.”
“No,” he replied sternly, hoping he wouldn’t have to explain. Pulling back dejectedly, Sakura stared down to the floor.
“S-s-sorry,” she whimpered, sniffing louder than she had spoken so far. Sagara watched with mild bewilderment as the girl inhaled quickly, looking like she was about to cry. “I…I didn’t…”
She was crying, her sniffs quickly turning to rejected sobbing and finally a hand covering her face as she went to get away, trapped in the dead end side of the kitchen. With little to no idea of what to do, Sagara looked towards the sofa, to find Aki no longer there. He then looked towards the pot, which was bubbling. With no other idea in his mind, he moved up beside her and grabbed her in his arms, trying his best not to imagine turning her upside down and thrusting her head into the pot, instantly scalding her head and doing severe brain damage as scorching water came in through her eyes, thus solving the tears problem.
He held her tightly, feeling her struggle for a second, before giving up and embedding her eyes onto his chest, letting herself blubber away in front of a total stranger. He had no idea how he made her cry, and it didn’t look like he’d be able to stop it. “Sorry about this,” she huffed on his stomach. “Sorry. I’m so silly.” Hearing her apologies, he didn’t answer, instead looking desperately around the room for someone to magically appear and help him get this problem off his chest.
The creaking of the floor indicated a newcomer to the room. There, standing by the door frame, stood the sword girl that had attacked him the day before, now even wetter than she had been then. Entering the room, clutching her sword as if someone was pulling on the other end and she didn’t want them to have it, she stared firmly at the new guy, with a look of disgust plainly written on her face, although not in biro.
“What the blazes do you think you are doing?” she shouted at him. Her voice booming through the small kitchen, causing the girl in his arms to shift to see who it was. Both saw Natoko look even more horrified as she witnessed the girl’s tear stricken face.
“Monster!” she declared. “You come in here and you…”
“…seemed to have calmed down a little, haven’t they?”
“I’m glad. At least the place won’t get burned down by crazy old people… for now” Gen’s voice turned to a mutter, seeing an angry Natoko clutching her sword at its hilt, threatening to pull it and decapitate Sagara in the same moment. What had they just missed?
“No, Natoko,” Sakura screamed out, her cheeks sore with tears. “It’s okay. I just got a little silly again and…”
“It’s okay, Sakura. You’re not the one at fault here,” Natoko said, interrupting the younger girl through seething teeth and a finger pointed directly at Sagara. “This cowardly freak is. I see your sickness for what it is now. I was ready to look past yesterday as an accident, but twice in a row is just too much of a coincidence.”
“Well, coincidence changes on how you look at it-”
“Silence!” she voice boomed, growling at the so called ninja as her hand fell back to her sword. “I can’t stand people like you, going about and trampling over people like they were objects. It’s things like this that’s getting the whole village alienating us.”
“No really,” Sakura piped up again, looking around frantically as everyone stood back, all too shocked to do anything. She barely noticed her own shivering as she defended the newcomer. “He really, really was just being nice. I…”
“Don’t be fooled, Sakura!” Natoko said sternly. “That’s how these jackals work. “Trying to be nice to you just to lull you into false security. All so they can have their way with you, just for their sick needs…”
“Natoko, calm down,” Gen insisted, not wanting a misunderstanding leading to a full on firefight with such expensive furniture around the room. He fell back as Natoko turned her gaze on him, but continued despite his bladder insisting it give up on him. “If Sagara’s done something wrong, or if there’s been a little misunderstanding, then I’m sure we can settle it peacefully- without destroying the room I spent last week decorating.” There was a general murmur of agreement around the room, with the exception of Aki, who had left to dispose of a banana peel.
“Very well,” the sword wielding teenager confirmed, brushing her short black hair back, the sweat matting it into place. “Is there anything you would like to say in order to redeem yourself, ninja?”
All eyes turned to Sagara, the traditional wave of silence entering the room. Even if Sagara had wanted to say something straight away, the wave wouldn’t have allowed him to, since it was dedicated to the art of soap drama.
“Erm… No, not really. I just grabbed her. It was kind of instinctive.”
“Die!” Natoko replied unsurprisingly, her blade leaving the sheath during the few milliseconds Sagara said ‘was’, the metal swinging towards him at great speed. Barely giving Sakura enough time to get out of the way, Sagara swung to the side, letting the sword travel back his nose before recoiling back to its owner, where it immediately shot out again to remove the exact amount of chest flesh required to kill a man from the side. Sagara only just had enough time to jump out of the way, landing next to the dinner table, a distraught Gen and Otsune quickly jumping out of the way.
“Stand still,” Natoko grumbled, losing him for a second as she turned around to meet a fist heading for her face. Fortunately, her own movement was enough for her to get out of the way just in time, and Sagara was too busy skidding to show her a follow up.
“Why should I?” Sagara asked politely. “You’re not even fighting properly.” She verbally growled, detesting the cocky attitude that seemed to mock everything she was fighting for in that moment. Raising her katana above her head, she took a step forward and swung it down at him, releasing all her energy in a cry.
He caught it, finger and thumb lodging the blade between them as if he were holding a penny. Despite herself, she looked up to his face, and realized that, technically he didn’t even had to have caught it off her. His arm was stretched so far out that his body wouldn’t have been touched by the sword.
“You won’t beat me like this.”
“Let go of Iziz!” she muttered breathlessly, seeing him touch her pride.
“That its name?” he asked, as if taken aback by curiosity all of a sudden. “How do you pronounce that again?”
“Let go!” A shout this time, surprising him enough to slip slightly, and allowing her to slip the blade past his fingers with little force. She watched as, in a blur, Iziz thudded to the floor, his fingers barely getting out the way in time.
“Ow!” he screamed out, like he had stubbed his toe, his hand shrinking back with the same speed he had caught it. “Ow, ow, ow,” he continued to whine, inching back and clutching the hand in his armpit as if it could contain the leakage of crimson now seeping out. Natoko wasn’t calm enough to let this opportunity pass her by, and pushed her right leg into the so called ninja, knocking him into one of the dinner chairs and rolling him next to the crouch, where he leaned back, looking as if he had barely noticed being attacked.
The sword landed with a sharp thud, as it embedded into the leather sofa, around three inches from where Sagara’s face was. His eyes darted over to it, and she smiled as she reclaimed her victory.
“I have won,” she stated simply. “Leave this place. This is not your home.”
The air was broken as she removed her sword, going to leave him sitting there, the others looking around disturbed by all that had just happened in the pace of thirty seconds. It wasn’t until Sagara kicked her legs out from under her that he replied.
“What are you talking about? You didn’t win? The sword completely missed me.” He grabbed hold of her shoulder tightly. “And from such close range too.”
“You…” She wanted to say coward, but the words were held back as more air was released, his fist reaching her stomach and slamming into it. She lurched over, but quickly recovered. Her sword still outside its holster, she swung the hilt into his face, the sword’s end cracking into her opponent’s jaw and knocking him straight back down.
“What a pathetic creature you are,” she said, quickly recomposing herself. “A villain who takes advantage of an opponent’s mercy like that deserves nothing.”
“What mer-” but the confused sentence was cut short, as he saw the sword coming to meet with his neck, and not for a discussion about the demeanor of French politics either, but something only slightly worse. There was no time to avoid it, and he could only watch as a small bundle of cotton shot in front of him, causing the blade to stop in its path, just an half an inch in front of a little girl’s nose.
“Stop it please,” Sakura shouted, her hands stretched wide as if they could defend the man behind them and not just get mutilated in the same stroke required to kill him, knees trembling as she saw the blade now hovering inches from her face.
“Get out of the way, Sakura,” Natoko said, doing her best to remain calm, despite her confusion as to why this resident was protecting him. The sword came closer to the girl’s face, and Natoko had to steady herself to make sure it didn’t touch her.
Sagara only waited a moment before acting. Pushing the child in front of him into his opponent, he watched as Natoko’s eyes went wide with shock, and quickly slipped her large knife to its back, the young resident falling on its blunt side harmlessly, before the ninja quickly jumped back up and went to punch the swords woman. Knuckles connected to her face as Natoko felt her jaw go loose under her nose. It felt like her entire body went numb from the one shock, and she fell backwards two steps, only being able to keep up by falling on her ankle and rocking back.
Sakura had quickly got off the sword, bouncing aside in fright as she realized what happened, and backing away from the both of them. Natoko dove forwards, her hands raised.
“Stop this now!” Otsune shouted, stepping in between the two fighters. “What the hell is wrong with the two of you?” She turned to Sagara, her face scrunched up with anger. “How could you even do that? Pushing a child towards a sword like that?”
“I want you out of here, creature,” Natoko said sternly.
“I suppose I should be wanting you out too,” he replied, getting up and walking over to Sakura, his hand resting on her head.
“What?” the swordgirl gasped, before her face curled in anger, her hand clutching the hilt so hard it might draw blood. “You dare…”
Otsune quickly stepped in again, despite a vision telling her that she might be about to spend the rest of her life in two pieces. “Stop! No fighting,” she cried out, letting her hands hover over both participants faces. “Settle this like rational human beings!”
“Very well,” Natoko said, a few seconds of silence filling the room with factory standard anticipation. “Sagara Futabatei, I challenge you to a duel.”
“That’s not rational!” Otsune shouted back, before the ninja could reply. “It’s just stupidity planned out in advance.”
“I accept,” Sagara replied without hesitation.
“No. No accepting!” Otsune called out, slowly beginning to realize that she might no longer be part of the conversation.
“At midday today. In the dry area by the hot springs. Your cousin can show you if you don’t know where that is. If you win, you will be allowed to remain at Heavenly Springs and do as you wish with me. If you lose however, I will be allowed to do what I want with you- and I don’t intend to just toss you out.”
“Are you crazy?” Otsune piped in. “You plan to kill him? You can’t do that.” Even though Otsune felt a little compelled to allow that course of action herself. “He’s a guest, just like us. He hasn’t even done anything to you.” Natoko turned to face her elder, anger and confusion warping on her face at the girl’s words. “Besides, it should be up to Gen who stays and who goes.”
Gen sprung to attention at this, mumbling to himself, pressing his forefingers together as he thought of something to say.
“Well, er….. I guess,” he stammered.
“Ah, don’t worry about it, guys,” Sagara called out calmly, as all eyes turned to him. He hadn’t stopped staring at Natoko the entire time. “I’ll fight. Sounds like fun.”
“Fun?” Otsune. “She just…”
“Well, I guess there are other reasons,” he interrupted her.
“And what would they be?” Natoko spoke back, anger in her voice this time.
“You know more than me,” Sagara turned and walked out the room, making a beeline for his bedroom. “See you at midday.” Natoko watched with the others, until he was out of earshot, slowly replacing her weapon into its sheath, the slow movement creating a screeching sound.
“I will be up on the roof. Please do not disturb me until it is time,” she said, exiting to the left, leaving the people in the room motionless like an evil villain had frozen them all with freeze spray. All except for Aki, who had moved to the window to continue eating, happily muttering to herself.
“Dammit!” Otsune growled, her frustration caught in her hair as her hands threatened to pull it out. “Freaks. Both of them freaks! What kind of morons schedule a fight to the death? Everyone’s a freak, even you. Especially you.”
“Er… sorry,” Gen apologised.
“I mean, am I missing something here?” she complained, heading for the door. “Even if demons do exist, it’s not like our laws have changed or anything. What isn’t there to understand? They’re going to kill each other. It’s illegal.”
Her voice drowned off into the distance, Gen quickly accompanying the two girls, and leaving Sakura alone again. She shuddered at the thoughts surrounding her, barely noticing that her spaghetti was overflowing.