As expected, girl,” Fujiko said from the other end of the phone. “I didn’t think you’d go so fast. Was he good?”
“What?” Natoko said from the hotel payphone, honestly confused at to what the woman was implying. “No. No!” she exclaimed, quickly realising. “He slept on the floor. We did nothing like that. You sick, crazy freak.”
It was early morning. Sagara had decided not to wake up when she stood on him by accident getting out of bed. Though part of him had, but it was more just his hand that woke up rather than the rest of his body. There was something strangely amusing about seeing the hand drag the 175lb deadweight off the small rug, round the bed and into the balcony window, which it tried to get through for five minutes whilst Natoko got herself a glass of water. Seeing that he was not going to get up anytime soon, she opened the balcony window to see where the hand would go next, before getting bored and going to shower.
She had left it on the other side of the railings, still trying to walk on the surfaceless air while the rest of the body stayed attached to the hotel behind the railings. A splash of water to her face later and she decided that it might be a good idea to ring Heavenly Springs to inform everyone where they were. She was hoping to speak to Otsune or Sakura and tell them everything that had happened that night. Unfortunately, she had ended up with Fujiko, with someone singing in the background.
“Really?” she heard a dopey sounding voice shouting in the background. “Congratulations, Natoko!”
“Shut up!” the tired samurai shouted down the receiver, fruitlessly hoping that the girl would hear and managing to gain the attention of everyone in the lobby at the same time. Feeling herself blushing, she quickly tried to hide her presence in the corner of the phone booth. “Anyway, we’ll be staying at the new hotel for the rest of the trip.”
“Er? Why not stay with everyone else?” Fujiko asked. “Unless you’re planning on going for round two…or is it thr…”
“Be-cause,” Natoko exclaimed, “all registrants have to be at the tournament at nine to help with the arrangements, their match line ups and other things. The matches themselves start at midday. This is closer to the location from what i’ve been told, and if we stay here we have a contact from the tournament nearby. You should just try and get everyone here before then. I know you’ve got seats booked but there’s still probably going to be a rush.”
“Hhhhmmm, maybe we should come in today and stay the night too, to make sure you two don’t get up to anything.” Fujiko giggled a little as she continued her stupid irrational assumptions. Natoko could swear she could smell the alcohol-coated breath of the freelance writer emitting itself through the phone just to annoy her and tried to calm her mind with a soothing image of Fujiko being destroyed by liver failure.
“Fine, do as you wish,” she said sighing. “At least tell everyone where we are. Got that?” Hearing nothing but intoxicated laughter, she left the news up to fate, but as she went to hang up, she heard another voice down the phone.
“…still there, Natoko?”
“Oh, Otsune, thank god. Someone with intelligence.”
“Did you and Sagara really spend the night together?”
“Otsune!” She screamed down the phone this time, and everyone in the hotel backed away from the girl with the suspiciously long bag tied round her back.
“Just kidding, girl. Listen, er…” Otsune paused for a moment. “We should be getting the tram that shows up in an hour’s time, but where is it?”
“The place where the tournament’s at?”
“It says on the ticket, doesn’t it?” She pulled hers out. “Three blocks north, two blocks south, right?
“Right, but Junko walks through that area to work and she says it’s just a bunch of restaurants on that street. It may be there, but I’m sure Sagara mentioned it was a stadium.” He had, Natoko recalled, but now she thought about it, the only stadium in the city she know of was the National and she knew that place. “Plus, if he came from abroad, I figured it would be… well, flashier.” Natoko thought hard about it for a moment. Sagara had told her the address, and she had checked it online this morning on the hotel’s free internet. The location definitely existed, but her senior was right, it didn’t feel right for some reason.
“I’ll try and find someone else in the tournament today, and check with them. We shouldn’t take any chances if we’re relying on Sagara.”
“If you say so,” Otsune replied. “Anything you want us to bring?”
“Just my toothpaste if you would. I had to use the hotel’s today.”
“Yeah, I hear you,” the student replied. “What about your sword?”
“What about it?”
“You forgot it yesterday.”
“No I didn’t,” the samurai felt round her back to her long thin backpack. Judging by the weight, the blade was in there as well.
“What? I’m sure I saw it by the table after you left.”
“And I’m sure I have it.” It was like being asked if both her lungs were still working. It felt stupid to check.
“I’ll go check.”
“That’s not necessary, Otsune. I’m holding it as we speak.”
“Well, if you insist…” The woman still sounded unsure herself.
“Why would I have left it behind?” Natoko cleared her throat loudly. “Anyway, I don’t need anything else.”
“Okay. We’ll get there and check into a hotel as soon as possible. You have my mobile?”
She did, and soon she found herself hanging the phone up, sighing to herself deeply, wondering when she would get round to buying a mobile phone for herself. People mingling round the hotel were still giving her funny looks, but they were easy to ignore. Looking at the clock, she felt hunger trying to rip itself out of her stomach and eat a passing tourist, and decided that it was probably time for some food.
The restaurant seemed rather sophisticated, the type that she would usually find herself getting thrown out of if she entered with any of the others from the dorm. In fact, the entire hotel was of a high class and didn’t feel right in this part of the city. How did Sagara get them into it? He really was a Lord. The place was empty at the moment save for a white haired girl eating some pancakes slowly in the corner and a young man arguing with the waitress at the bar. Her stomach suggested that it might be a good idea to head over there and ask one of them for some food. As she got closer, she picked up their conversation.
“Aw come on,” the man begged to her. “It’s only just gone ten.”
“Sorry,” the waitress said, trying to ignore him as much as he would allow. “But the sign says, we stop breakfast at ten. We stopped making fifteen minutes ago.”
Natoko rubbed her eyes. They still felt irritated from the saliva they had received last night.
“But I got up late,” the boy continued to argue.
“That’s not my fault.”
“No it’s mine, that’s not the point.”
“Oh, and what is?” The boy stopped at this, not exactly sure where he was going with this, as his stomach rumbled loudly, threatening the waitress with physical violence. The woman just exhaled loudly. “Look, if there was one more person, we could open it up quickly for you, but you’re alone.”
“No I’m not,” the man pointed out, noticing Natoko reading the menu next to him. “She wants breakfast too, don’t you?” Natoko didn’t register him at first, she was just annoyed at how expensive everything seemed.
“Excuse me,” the man repeated, catching her attention this time. “Are you getting breakfast?”
“No, I’m just looking for a snack. It’s a bit late for breakfast,” Natoko replied, causing a sneer of triumph to appear on the waitresses face.
“Aw, come on,” the man whined. “Breakfast is healthy, and important if you wish to be strong. Eat breakfast like I do and you’ll be strong fighter like me.” Natoko had stopped paying attention for a moment to stare at the menu again, thinking that the conversation had ended. From her point of view, the idea about being strong and healthly seemed a little hypocritical from this man. From what she could tell by just looking at him it looked like the doctors had got carried away when he was born and thought it would be a brilliant idea to remove all of his muscles and anything else they figured would slow him down in order to make him as light as possible. Even as a bad judge of body size, Natoko could tell he weighed a lot less than she did. It was amazing he ate at all. Natoko’s ears told her that she had a message, and after hearing it she grinned, turned to the skinny fighter again.
“I am stronger than you,” she replied, letting herself grin a Sagara grin. The man scowled at this, not expecting it.
“Yeah right, lady,” he said, patting her on the shoulder. “You just go on believing that and…” He didn’t get time to finish the sentence. Natoko decided that touching her wasn’t allowed; grabbing the man’s first two fingers and applying pressure to the fore knuckles. The pain forced him to a knee and one leg, which he was allowed to stand for one second longer as she swept it off the ground, taking a chair along with him.
“Don’t touch me,” Natoko threatened smoothly. The man looked on in shock, both as to how he was on the floor.
“Damn you, bitch,” he muttered to himself. Natoko ignored him to look back to the menu, with the waitress looking on, wondering what to do. As he stood back up, he saw one of the sharper knives lying on the side of the counter. Without hesitating, he grabbed it and swung it towards her.
“Look out,” the waitress screamed, her voice feeling like it turned the air around them into water. Natoko noticed the boy’s attack the second he grabbed the knife, her arm moving up to block it easily. What was with people this week? Seeing her defense, the man changed the position of the knife so that it would run along his arm. Natoko saw this too, and despite how slow time felt it was moving for her, it was still too late to move her forearm out of the way of being sliced. Dropping her leg down to evade, her body ground to a halt, realising that the waitress would be in the line of attack were she to move. She was too late.
Feeling the man’s forearm hit against her own, Natoko found confusion without a scream of pain coming out of her mouth or a crimson tide from her arm. The knife was gone, all three sets of eyes failing to find it as they scanned the room. Instinctively looking to the floor to see if he had dropped it, the boy did the same, clearly having nothing to do with the disappearance of the blade.
“I told you not to do stuff like this,” a voice said to Natoko’s right. Connected to the voice was another young man. He looked similar to her attacker. They both had black hair and brown eyes, but were both clearly Caucasian. The only real difference between the two was that the new man was a lot fatter than the other one, obscenely so.
Despite his weight, he had foreboding grace as he stared her attacker down, like his excess bulk didn’t bother his spine at all. Examining him, her brain catching up to meet the daze of events that had occurred, she recoiled in shock as she saw the knife resting in his hand, broken halfway from the tip. “When did you-” she started, as the newcomer turned away from the both of them to face the waitress.
“Please forgive the actions of my cousin. He tends to be a little- well idiotic.” The cousin’s head fell in shame. Natoko’s mind only just registering that he had put the knife down moments before he had started speaking. “As for you,” he said, turning to Natoko once again. “My cousin will apologise to you by paying for your meal.”
“But she…” the cousin shouted out, his humiliation fading. “But she attacked…” he stopped talking as his cousin turned back to him. Natoko couldn’t see the larger boy’s face, but the thin boy became sheet white as their eyes met. “Fine” he snorted, doing his best to hide it. “What do you want?”
Natoko wasn’t expecting this, something felt horribly wrong with her heart just looking at this guy and she hadn’t even decided on what she wanted anyway yet, not having planned on anything fancy. Though the sudden temptation of money not being a factor appealed to her and figured she could abuse it if this was a rest day. She looked back to the menu to quickly decide, feeling the offer was for a limited time only. During all this, the waitress just smiled and said to Natoko.
“May I suggest something, madam?” She grinned as she looked over to the thinner brother. He gulped slightly at her gaze. “Today’s special offer, or as I like to call it, something obscenely expensive that I just made up, The Grando Salm Supremeo Super Ice Cream Sundae, it’s our tastiest and most expensive item.” Natoko found herself grinning along with the girl, as waves of pure evil flushed over the both of them, seducing them with dairy products.
“Very well,” she said closing her eyes. “I believe a treat is appropriate once in a while, and I am supposed to rest today. Yes, one Grando Slam- whatever it was.” The other girl turned her evil grin into a pleasant ‘thank you for your service, you little moron’ smile, which she promptly directed at the thinner of the two cousins.
“Coming right up,” she said sweetly, preparing to go over to the kitchen when she was stopped.
“Hold it,” the fatter, quicker cousin ordered, before turning to his relative. “Pay her now. We are to leave immediately.”
“Right. Er… how much is it?”
“Ten thousand yen,” the waitress replied without missing a beat.
“Te-“ the boy began before catching his cousin’s gaze. He soon descended into a mumbling of profanities as he started fishing into his pocket, slamming a wad of bills on the table before walking off in front of his cousin. The other one followed, but stopped at the door.
“By the way,” he said to Natoko. “If you really are in the tournament, I suggest you retire.”
“What?” Natoko growled at him.
“I heard your telephone conversation. If you had to look around to see where the knife had gone, then you are not ready for any of what will happen next,” he said bluntly, as if stepping into her life was like stepping in mud. “My cousin is only in it because of father. If you’re at his level, then you are only going to get hurt.”
“Oh,” she said, looking away for a moment, intending to show him nothing but contempt for his attitude. “And what would you know?” she said back to an empty doorframe. They were gone, she muttered, her feet already lifting up and heading for the doorway. The samurai looked through the finely crafted arcade that counted as the exit to the restaurant. From it, she could see the whole hallway, even the blind spots were shown through mirrors on the other side. He wasn’t there. His cousin had plenty of time to leave and she saw him do so, but this one had just gone. A ‘ching’ noise behind her broke her out of her trance.
“Thank you very much, suckers,” the waitress shouted to the empty doorframe, instantly becoming polite again to Natoko. “I’ll get your order. I warn you, your stomach better be empty at this point.
“Thanks,” replied Natoko, feeling worse for wear as the waitress wandered out of sight again. “He was fast,” she muttered to herself in the now empty restaurant. “Perhaps faster than Sagara. And he’s in the tournament?”
“Huh? Did you say something?” the waitress asked, coming back. “Your order will be here in a minute.”
“Toffees for you, toffees for me. We all like the toffees, so let’s all have three.”
Sagara awoke as he did every morning, with his body getting up three hours before his brain. The body was unsure of its current location. Without the brain to guide it, it could not be told that it had already partially woken up an hour earlier and began to crawl to the window. It could also not be told that the balcony window had been opened by Yamanaka Natoko and allowed to further crawl to the railings before passing out again because of the gentle, cool breeze that it felt.
Now, without the brain to guide it, it could not be aware that instead of being on the ground floor of Heavenly Springs that it had gotten used to over the past few weeks, it was instead on the fourteenth floor balcony of a hotel in the city of Fuugosuki. This as quite unfortunate for, were the brain active, it could inform the body that it had already woken up earlier and had dragged itself to the balcony thanks to the help of Yamanaka Natoko, and be able to warn the brain of the forty foot drop that its legs had just walked onto. Unfortunately, one could not, and so the other did so.
As it fell to its doom, Sagara’s brain slowly rose due to the refreshing gush of air that was slicing across the screaming body. His first thoughts that morning were of food, his stomach felt tight for some reason, possibly since he had not ate that lunchtime the day before, the crushing lift from all the air he was falling on or his own naturally fast metabolism.
As he began to wake up a little more, he became aware that his mouth was screaming for some reason, as if its life were at risk. He opened his eyes sleepily and realized that his life was indeed at risk. From what he could gather of the situation at first glance apparently, sometime last night, he had fallen off of the balcony and into thin air, which he was still currently falling through. His first thought after this was that it might be a ingeniously good idea to stop his descent before he could have a face-to-face conversation with the ground that would end in one of them dying in a huff. Sagara did what he viewed as perhaps the smartest thing to do in this situation, and grabbed the rocky edge of the seventh floor balcony. His right shoulder informed him that it did not like being dislocated like that, and forced him to let go and continue his descent.
In a fortunate display of both luck and basic physics, his trajectory had now been changed in a direction that to some people might not be considered luck more than instantaneous death. The balcony of room 6F2 came towards Sagara’s feet and literally shuddered at the pain it anticipated. As his feet slammed into the denser-than-his-feet concrete that made up the balcony of room 6F2, he felt his entire body continue to follow. His legs buckled and fell forwards, his knees went into revolt and his chest prepared to crack itself open. Luckily, his arms were still on his side and allowed the vast amount of force to enter them as he pushed himself into a forward handspring. However in doing so they were also made to feel the appalling conditions that the feet and knees were put under they also became part of the revolution, collapsing and letting the body fall onto the floor with an echoing thud. Sagara found himself lying on the floor of the room that consisted of 6F2 and wondering what Australia was currently doing in the room with him.
“Can’t say I was expecting that,” Australia said in front of him, sitting on the bed and looking at him out of the corner of its Opera House. “Are…are you all right?” Sagara stared at the country for a moment, wondering what to make of the situation. He had not spoken to an entire country before.
“Aren’t you… suppose to be with New Zealand?” he asked, dazed at his new found experience of getting up off the wrong side of bed. The country turned its head as it watched him black out for a few seconds.
When Sagara came too, he would first find himself on a bed that was badly made and had a strange odour to it. To the side of him, there appeared to be a girl, tending to his body in a series of pokes.
“Tell me when it hurts,” she informed him, spending the next minute or so poking around his arms and chest, stopping when he started to giggle. “Looks like you’re fine,” she stated, praising her ability to completely cure a patient without doing anything. Sitting up on the bed, Sagara found himself looking around. It looked just like his room from last night, except he was allowed on this bed without being attacked. The girl who wasn’t attacking him appeared to be Japanese, with short hair that gave the impression that each strand was coloured black and eyes that were currently blue. Wrapped lightly around her neck was a long white headband, which he saw trailed off into one of the pockets of her dressing gown. It seemed pointlessly wrong to have something that long, especially around her neck. Despite her reassurance, Sagara appeared a little concussed, possibly from the fall, and held his head carefully in case in increased exponentially in weight.
“What happened to Australia?” he asked her. The country was indeed not in the room, and it would not have been able to fit through the door if it had tried to sneak out.
“Hhhhm you’re still a little out of it I see,” the girl replied, failing to answer his most inquisitive question. “I guess it’s understandable. Most people tend to die when they fall to their doom.” She began to check his forehead, finding it nice and cold, putting the other side of her hand on it before replacing it with her other hand. Sagara just sat there drooling slightly, taking what warmth he could. Realizing what she was doing, she pulled her hand away and smiled at him. “I’m Raiko,” she said, informing him of the noise people made when they wish to speak to her.
“Sagara,” the boy replied, yawning slightly and forgetting her name without even noticing.
“Sagara?” she said, rolling his name across her lips. “Futabatei Sagara?”
“Uh huh,” he confirmed.
“The Heir of the Futabatei clan, and future holder of the position of Enforcer?”
“Uh huh,” he repeated.
“So you’re here for the tournament then?”
“Oh, are you…”
“Yup. Me as well. I’m not entering though. Did that last time.” His eyes drooping as she spoke, Sagara tried to get out of bed. In doing so, he suffered the wrath of a mildly complaining shoulder, winced at the pain it gave him and then incessantly apologised.
“Ah, you kind of dislocated that back there. I fixed it for you,” the girl told him, as if she was telling him that she turned off the television. He looked at the joint, circling it a few times.
“Thanks,” he replied, not wondering why the thumb didn’t look like it was in the right place. It was then when he realized that his Draynor had appeared, having been there since the fall, covering the hand that should have shattered all over the girl’s stone balcony.
“I don’t know why you were wearing that demon when asleep, but it’s a good thing you were. You would have shattered your fingers when you grabbed the balcony,” The girl informed him before getting up. “I’ll go get us a drink. Would you like orange, coke or tea?”
“Orange please,” he said, forgetting all about nearly dying when liquid was mentioned. He watched as the girl wandered to the other side of the room, which looked like it was meant to be a kitchen that had been painted onto the apartment room and then had a sink stuck to it.
The girl returned from the other side of the room with two glasses of orange liquid. Taking her word for it that it was orange juice he began to drink, consuming the contents of the glass in one fell swoop, the girl jumping onto the other end of the bed.
“So what were you doing falling through the air like that?” she said curiously.
“Waking up,” Sagara yawned. Since getting to Heavenly Springs, he had been told by many that he always woke up in the strangest of places for reasons that he never told anyone, but this was the first time it had been outside the thirteenth and twelve floor of a building since doing so.
“So not flying then?”
“No, just falling.” The girl let out an exaggerated whine, sipping her juice slowly.
“Well, it’s quite an event to have you here anyway. Actually if you hadn’t woke me up, I probably wouldn’t have.” Sagara looked at the girl at this, and realized she was only wearing a dressing gown. The bed was poorly made too, as if someone had just got up after hearing a loud noise just to the side of the bed.
“Yeah, I guess I should get going. Natoko’s probably wondering where I disappeared to.” The girl had probably gotten up before he had, but he should check the room to see if she left him a note.
“Oh, is Natoko your girlfriend?” Raiko asked, in typical girl curiosity style.
“No,” he said, with little change of the tone in his voice.
“Ah, I see” the girl said, not thinking about it for too long. “Hey, can I follow you around today?” she asked suddenly.
“What?” Sagara replied, not expecting such a question.
“Well, I got back into Japan last night, and I don’t really know anyone here. Well, there’s my boss, but I don’t get on with her. So I was thinking I could hang out with you, since you’re my age, and people of the same age always have a tendency to hang out together, possibly because they’re the same age, but it may be because of the smell.” Sagara laughed.
“Okay, I don’t see why not.” That was the plan Natoko had suggested to occur on this day. There was also the finding demons things that they should get started on but something was telling him that could wait.
“Cool, I’ll go get dressed,” she said, standing and going to her closest, getting changed in front of him.
Sagara lifted the glass up again, trying to rescue the rest of the entrapped juice from its terrorist captor glass.
“Okay, let’s go,” the girl said, now wearing what looked like a white sports shirt and black combat trousers, of which the large, white headband was draping into. She looked more like she was about to start training than go sightseeing. “You should probably go back to your place and put a shirt on first. People in this country aren’t as casual about these things. You probably want to aim to look like the eccentric Englishman than the stupid pig American.”
“But I am American.”
“And I’m a famous singer, but that doesn’t mean we should show what we are all the time, should we?”