Act One – Chapter Three
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The next day started as most days did in the world and letâ€™s be honest you all know what happens so we can just skip the sunrise bit and get to the newest resident of Heavenly Springs. Slowly shifting into first gear, Sagaraâ€™s body woke up with the sun glaring through his window like a peeping tom who had just realized that it wasnâ€™t a girlâ€™s room it was looking into before imediately realising that it didnâ€™t 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 and 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 wasnâ€™t there of course since the doors at the Heavenly Springs were Fusuma, but his body wasnâ€™t to know that. They had enjoyed a peaceful, uncomplicated life of using little brass knobs to make their way through rooms and they werenâ€™t going to switch just because a different culture insisted upon it. It wasnâ€™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 falling back on the floor. The hands began sliding the body across the wooden floor of Heavenly Springs, 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 boyâ€™s body crawled itself 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).
It was unknown why Sagaraâ€™s body was doing this, he was probably too exhausted to use his body properly after the series of grueling exercises he would have put himself through the previous night. Later, people would blame alcohol. But for now, 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 as heavy as mountains and just as immobile, yet still moving all the same. Aki didnâ€™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 teenagerâ€™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 didnâ€™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 by all and especially by the hand, which 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, the water quickly pouring on the boyâ€™s face. It had no instant effect and certainly got nowhere in waking him up, 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 started drowning did Sagara wake up.
Falling back 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). Curious, he reached his head outside the door and a quick look to the corridor beyond answered all questions his hazy mind could think of. With that sorted and no reason left to stay awake, he fell straight back to sleep, landing with a thud on the hard, superbly polished hall floor.
Half an hour later, the body of Sagara was guided into the main dining room of the hotel via. the help of a now fully awake 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 didnâ€™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 didnâ€™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 a large, black leather suite that Gen had been proud about buying for the dormitory girls. There was a coffee table, a TV, which underneath held a vast quantity of electronic goodies including a karaoke machine and 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. The said breakfast was being prepared in the next part of the room, which was split off by a set of empty door 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, didnâ€™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 unwelcomed 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 girlâ€™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 it transformed into its giant form.
â€œWhat do you want?â€? 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 monsterâ€™s growth. Instead, he spoke to her.
â€œTo say hi,â€? he said to her, waving a hand toboth greet and signify he was harmless, despite being able to kill her at least fifty two and a half different ways with each hand.
â€œEr, hello,â€? she said, her voice still full of worry. Ignoring her impression of an Iuga , he stuck his hand out to her like a suicide expert would do to a rabid dog, smiling when she finally took it 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. It lastly roughly thirty seconds ans was mainly full of staring.
â€œIâ€™m Sakura Tamburo,â€? she said timidly, bowing slightly. â€œPlease to meet you.â€?
Excellent. He hadnâ€™t met her, nor had he bothered to remember her name as she said it.
â€œSagara Futabatei,â€? he replied, bowing along with her. â€œMom warned me of the bowing thing. This is a greeting bow, right?â€? Sakura was not quie sure how to answer this and opted for a sort of half nod, half change the ubject head motion. She quickly changed the subject.
â€œWould you like some breakfast?â€? she asked him, now smiling a little as she calmed down.
â€œYes please,â€? he answered quickly, relishing the smell that could kill off most violent bad smells in mere instants with its super powerful energy ball attack. The lid hid what was cooking, but it smelled really, really yummy. Seeing his reaction, Sakura giggled lightly.
â€œI meant cereal,â€? 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.
â€œI canâ€™t have this?â€? he whimpered, looking over the metal pots on the stove.
â€œWell, you can have a bit, but it isnâ€™t for breakfast. This is just me practicing.â€?
â€œYou practice cooking?â€? he asked politely. She froze on this question and looked away.
â€œY-yeah,â€? she muttered. â€œItâ€™sâ€¦I want to be a chef soâ€¦â€? her voice disappeared into mumbles on someone lent on her volume control, quickly realsiing their mistake and switching it back up, â€œitalian restaurant when I grow up.
â€œItalian?â€? Without asking, he lifted up the lid of the pot and took in the 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.
Silently paniking, the girl swiped the lid of the pan away from him and put it back down over the food. â€œdonâ€™t look!â€? she whimpered.â€?Itâ€™s not ready yet.â€?
â€œThis isnâ€™t exactly practice I guess. Itâ€™s for the service weâ€™re holding at my church this evening. Ah, you should come.â€?
â€œI should?â€? Sagara replied, his mind trying to jump away from the conversation and into the pan of boiling spagetti.
â€œYeah, you donâ€™t know anyone here, do you? Youâ€™ll meet plenty of people there.â€?
â€œWhat type of church is it?â€? he asked tentatively. Noticing this, Sakura seemed hesitant.
â€œEr, Catholic. But that doesnâ€™t matter, you can still come.â€?
â€œNo, thank you.â€?
â€œNo,â€? he replied sternly, hoping he wouldnâ€™t have to explain. Pulling back dejectedly, Sakura stared down to the floor.
â€œS-s-sorry,â€? 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. â€œIâ€¦I didnâ€™tâ€¦â€?
Then she was crying, her sniffs quickly turning to rejected sobbing and finally a hand covering her face as she went to get away, trapped between him and 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, curing her of her tears.
Held titghtly, she struggle for a second, before giving up and embedding her eyes onto his chest, letting herself blubber away in front of a total stranger. â€œSorry aboutâ€¦this,â€? she huffed on his stomach. â€œIâ€™m so silly.â€? Hearing her apologies, he didnâ€™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 doorframe, 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 didnâ€™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.
â€œWhat do you think you are doing?â€? 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 girlâ€™s tear stricken face.
â€œMonster!â€? she declared. â€œYou come in here and youâ€¦â€?
â€œâ€¦seemed to have calmed down a little, havenâ€™t they?â€?
â€œIâ€™m glad. At least the place wonâ€™t get burned down by crazy old peopleâ€¦nowâ€? Genâ€™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?
â€œNo, Natoko,â€? Sakura screamed out, her cheeks sore with tears. â€œItâ€™s okay. I just got a little silly again andâ€¦â€?
â€œItâ€™s okay, young lady. Youâ€™re not the one at fault here,â€? Natoko said, interrupting the younger girl through seething teeth and a finger pointed directly at Sagara. â€œThis 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.â€?
â€œWell, mom says nothing Is really coincidence, just an assortment of facts that are all-â€œ
â€œShut up!â€? she boomed, growling at the so called ninja as her hand fell back to her sword. â€œI canâ€™t stand people like you, going about and trampling over others like they were objects. Itâ€™s things like this thatâ€™s getting the whole village alienating us.â€?
â€œNo really,â€? Sakura piped up again, looking around frantically as everyone stood back, all too shocked to do anything. â€œHe really, really was just being nice. Iâ€¦â€?
â€œDonâ€™t be fooled, Sakura!â€? Natoko said sternly. â€œThatâ€™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 needsâ€¦â€?
â€œNatoko, calm down,â€? Gen insisted, not wanting a misunderstanding leading to a full on firefight with such expensive furniture around the room. He nearly fell over when Natoko turned her powerful gaze at him, but continued despite his bladderâ€™s warnings. â€œIf Sagaraâ€™s done something wrong, or if thereâ€™s been a little misunderstanding, then Iâ€™m sure we can settle it peacefully- without destroying the room I spent last week decorating.â€? There was a general murmur of agreement around the room, with the exception of Aki, who had left to dispose of a banana peel.
â€œVery well,â€? the black haired teenager confirmed, closing her eyes as if trying to calm herself. â€œIs there anything you would like to say in order to redeem yourself, ninja?â€?
All eyes turned to Sagara, who was still treating this like a conversation about what to have for dinner that evening.
â€œErmâ€¦No, not really. I just wrapped my arms around her to make her be quiet. It was kind of instinctive.â€?
â€œDie!â€? Natoko shouted unsurprisingly, her blade leaving the sheath during the few milliseconds Sagara said â€˜was,â€™ the metal swinging towards him at speed eyes couldnâ€™t see. Barely giving Sakura enough time to get out of the way, Sagara swung his back round on his hips, letting the sword travel just past his nose before it rejoined its master, where it immediately shot out again aiming to remove the exact amount of chest flesh required to kill a man from the side. Sagara got out of the way just in time to land on the dinner table, a distraught Gen and Otsune quickly jumping out of the way.
â€œStand still!â€? Natoko barked, losing him for a second as she turned around to meet a fist heading for her face. Her own reflexes were enough for her to get out of the way just in time, Sagara too busy skidding to show her a follow up.
â€œWhy should I?â€? Sagara asked, his voice not raised a decible louded than needed. â€œYouâ€™re not even fighting properly.â€? Growling venomously, detesting the cocky attitude that mocked her, taunted her, Natoko raised her katana above her head, 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 like he were holding a penny in the air. Despite herself, she looked up to his face, and realized that, technically he didnâ€™t even had to have caught it off her. His arm was stretched so far out that his body wouldnâ€™t have been touched by the sword.
â€œYou wonâ€™t beat me like this.â€?
â€œLet go of Iziz!â€? she muttered breathlessly, trying to pull back her pride.
â€œThat its name?â€? he asked, taken aback by curiosity all of a sudden. â€œHow do you pronounce that again?â€?
â€œLet go!â€? She shouted this time, rocking 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.
â€œOw!â€? he screamed out, like he had stubbed his toe, his hand shrinking back with the same speed he had caught the blade. â€œOw, ow, ow,â€? he continued to curse, inching back and clutching the hand in his armpit in a loose attempt to contain the leakage of crimson now seeping from between his fingers. Natoko wasnâ€™t calm enough to let this opportunity pass her by and stepped forward to take another strike only to watch as he tripped over his own feet, knocking himself into one of the dinner chairs and into the side of 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 an inches from Sagaraâ€™s right ear. His eyes darted over to it, and she smiled as she reclaimed her victory.
â€œI have won,â€? she stated simply. â€œYou will leave this place. It is not your home.â€?
The air was broken as she removed her sword, leaving him where he fell. The others stayed standing, not daring to move in case something else happened in the thirty seconds since the last minute began. It wasnâ€™t until Sagara kicked her legs out from under her and rested his knee hard on her thigh that he replied.
â€œWhat are you talking about?â€? he asked conversationally. â€œYou didnâ€™t win. The sword completely missed me, and from such close range too.â€?
â€œYouâ€¦â€? 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 swordâ€™s end cracking into her opponentâ€™s jaw and knocking him straight back down.
â€œWhat a pathetic creature you are,â€? she said, quickly recomposing herself with a limp. â€œA villan who takes advantage of an opponentâ€™s mercy like that deserves nothing.â€?
â€œWhat merâ€¦â€? but the confused sentence was cut short, as he saw the sword coming to meet with his neck, 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 girlâ€™s nose.
â€œStop it please,â€? a voice 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. Sakuraâ€™s knees trembled as she looked directly t the edge of the blade, now hovering inches from her face.
â€œGet out of the way, Sakura,â€? Natoko said, doing her best to remain calm. The sword came closer to the girlâ€™s face as it wobbled in mid-air and Natoko had to steady herself to make sure it didnâ€™t touch her dormmate.
Sagara only waited until absolutely nothing had passed. Pushing the child in front of him forwards, he watched as Natokoâ€™s eyes went wide with shock, and quickly twisted her large knife back, the young resident falling on its blunt side harmlessly. The ninja quickly jumped back up and punch the swordswoman, knuckles connecting to her face and knocking her jaw loose from the rest of her face. Her entire body went numb from the shock and she fell backwards two steps, only being able to keep up by falling on her ankle and rocking back.
Sakura hurried to get off the sword, bouncing aside in fright as she realized what happened, backing away from the both of them. Natoko went for another strike, this this between the eyes, until another body pushed itself between them.
â€œStop this now!â€? Otsune shouted, stepping in between the two fighters. â€œWhat the hell is wrong with the two of you?â€? She turned to Sagara, her face scrunched up with anger. â€œHow could you even do that? Pushing a child towards a sword like that?â€?
â€œI want you out of here, creature,â€? Natoko said quietly.
â€œI suppose I should be wanting you out too,â€? he replied, finally getting up and walking past Sakura, his hand planting on her head for the moment he came by her.
â€œWhat?â€? the samurai girl growled, stepping sideways to glare at him, her sword tightening around her hand. â€œYou dareâ€¦â€?
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. â€œStop! No fighting,â€? she cried out, letting her hands hover over both participants faces. â€œWhy canâ€™t we just settle this like rational human beings?â€?
â€œVery well,â€? Natoko said, a few seconds of silence filling the room with factory standard anticipation. â€œSagara Futabatei, I challenge you to a duel.â€?
â€œThatâ€™s not rational!â€? Otsune shouted back, before the ninja could reply. â€œItâ€™s just stupidity planned out in advance.â€?
â€œI accept,â€? Sagara replied without hesitation.
â€œNo, no accepting!â€? Otsune called out, slowly beginning to realize that she might no longer be part of the conversation.
â€œAt midday today. On the grassy area by the hot springs. Your cousin can show you if you donâ€™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 youâ€¦ and I donâ€™t intend to just toss you out.â€?
â€œAre you crazy?â€? Otsune piped in. â€œYou plan to kill him? You canâ€™t do that.â€? Even though Otsune felt a little compelled to allow that course of action herself, she realised killing him was a bit of a no-no. â€œHeâ€™s a guest, just like us. He hasnâ€™t even done anything to you.â€? Natoko turned to face her elder, anger and confusion warping on her face at the girlâ€™s words. â€œBesides, it should be up to Gen who stays and who goes.â€?
Gen sprung to attention at this, mumbling to himself, pressing his forefingers together as he thought of something to say.
â€œWell, erâ€¦.. I guess,â€? he stammered.
â€œAh, donâ€™t worry about it, guys,â€? Sagara called out calmly, as all eyes turned to him. He hadnâ€™t stopped staring at Natoko the entire time. â€œIâ€™ll fight. Sounds like fun.â€?
â€œFun?â€? Otsune. â€œShe justâ€¦â€?
â€œWell, I guess there are other reasons,â€? he interrupted her.
â€œAnd what would they be?â€? Natoko spoke back, an angry curiousity in her voice.
â€œYou know more than me,â€? Sagara turned and walked out the room, making a beeline for his bedroom. â€œSee you at midday.â€? 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.
â€œI will be up on the roof. Please do not disturb me until it is time,â€? 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.
â€œDammit!â€? Otsune growled, her frustration caught in her hair as her hands threatened to pull it out. â€œFreaks. Both of them freaks! What kind of morons schedule a fight to the death? Everyoneâ€™s a freak, even you. Especially.â€?
â€œErâ€¦sorry,â€? Gen apologised.
â€œI mean, am I missing something here?â€? she complained, heading for the door. â€œEven if demons do exist, itâ€™s not like our laws have changed or anything. What isnâ€™t there to understand? Theyâ€™re going to kill each other. Itâ€™s illegal.â€?
Her voice drowned off into the distance, Gen quickly accompanying the two girls, leaving Sakura alone again. She shuddered at the thoughts surrounding her, failing to notice her spaghetti overflowing.
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