Yes, yes, I am a terrible person. Duly noted. But I still love all of you! And I hope ya'll still love me too! By that, I mean, please, pretty please, do review. I like favorites and story alerts and all, but reviews make my world go round :3
I slammed the sliding door shut, my face sporting a fair shade of bright red. Must he have said that in such an easily misinterpreted manner?
Akemi-san probably thinks he means…oh, God… In sheer embarrassment, I shielded my face with my hand. If curses hadn't been a very real thing, I would have cursed that man hundreds of times over by then—it wasn't as if he didn't deserve it either. It was like he was trying to be misunderstood, like he was trying to embarrass me to death.
"Um…Mai-san…" Akemi started shyly. "It's okay…I mean, it's normal for a man and a woman to…" her eyes dropped to the ground as her cheeks turned redder than my own, "to have…um…urges…" she said quietly and so bashfully. I reeled backwards as if electrocuted, almost falling back on my hindquarters.
"Urges? No! We weren't—it wasn't—he was…huge misunderstanding!" I spluttered almost unintelligibly. She had really believed him…my life was over. Officially. "Really, I promise!"
"Mai-san, it's okay," she assured me, trying to soothe my reaction by holding out her hands. Of course it wasn't okay at all, however, if I wasn't willing to drop the subject then, then it would most likely carry on all throughout the day—something I most certainly didn't want to happen. Silently, I followed directly behind the older woman, passing more portraits—many of which I avoided gazing at. It was still spine chilling for me. "Do you need help changing? Your arm must still hurt."
"Eh?" I looked down at my injured forearm startled. In all of the confusion I had forgotten about the injured limb that dangled at my side. "Oh, no, I can manage. Thank you, though." I smiled, though she couldn't see, and shifted my damaged arm behind my back discreetly. The rest of the walk was eerily silent, but I hadn't minded—it gave me a chance to reign in my thoughts that were bursting through the floodgates of my mind. The point of leakage obviously being Naru; my narcissistic, egoistical, bi-polar boss.
What was with him recently? I wasn't blind nor was I deaf, something totally reeked fishy. Naru was supposed to be the cool and silent type but I had noticed his actions towards me had…well, changed. Was it because of the case? No, I quickly dismissed the thought and shook my head. Naru had always been what Bou-san would have referred to as a 'hard-ass'.
I looked up, startled, at the sound of Akemi's voice; she was looking at me strangely. It wasn't her normal curious look that I had become accustomed to; rather, it was one that I couldn't quite peg.
"Yes?" I answered. She moved her hand from behind her to open a sliding door; we had arrived at the indoor baths.
"Are you alright? You were so deep in thought that you didn't hear me say that we were here." Akemi's odd gaze quickly melted into small laughs that shook her petite frame and didn't seem to fit her prim and proper image. Embarrassed for the second time in a ten-minute span, I flushed and looked down as I followed her into the steamy room. "You can go over there to change." She pointed to a row of lockers shrouded in foggy steam that made my clothes stick to my skin uncomfortably.
I complied wordlessly and padded blindly over to the direction in which she pointed, feeling along the wall for support. My fingers skimmed the cool, metal cubbies not long after and I leaned forward to remove my shoes.
After I had stripped myself of my clothes as well, I grabbed a towel off of a nearby metal rack and enclosed myself within it. By then, the steam had become so thick I could barely see—I had to inch around with only my outstretched toes as my guide.
"Do be careful, the edges can get to be very slippery."
"Yeah…" I mumbled in agreement, finally locating the edge of the spring and dipping the tip of my big toe in. As soon as I had lowered myself into the relaxing water and propped my arm on the side, Akemi began with the questions.
"Please, tell me, are Shibuya-san and yourself comfortable here?"
I blinked. It wasn't the type of question I had been expecting at all.
"What do you mean by 'comfortable'?"
"I know that being in a place where you could be attacked at any second just because you're in love must be awful for the both of you." Through the haze, I could see Akemi look down at the hot water guiltily. "I feel terrible knowing that something could happen to you or your husband because of me. The both of you are so in love, I can see it in the way you look and interact with each other, and it just makes me feel even worse." The look of guilt shifted to that of despair and she suddenly splashed hot water onto her face in an effort to wipe it off.
"Akemi-san, you shouldn't feel responsible if something happens," I soothed. Partially because Naru and I aren't even in love. The thought soured my mood drastically. "Kazuya," the name still felt foreign on my tongue, "and I came here on our own accord and we are prepared for any and all situations."
Everyone in SPR was always ready for whatever awaited them in the future—be it pain, anguish or death, we were always prepared. Though the thought saddened me, it was the truth.
"If something should happen to him or me, we are prepared." I held up my bandaged arm as evidence. "Things like this," I gave the limb a light shake, "won't create a dent in our relationship; Kazuya is the strongest man I know and he certainly won't let it stop him."
Naru was indeed the strongest man I knew, and though we weren't in love or actually married, I still felt that he would try his best to keep me safe—or if he couldn't, at least he wouldn't let my unfortunate accident hinder him.
"You're incredible…" Akemi murmured with wide, speculating eyes. "Do you really trust him that much?"
This time it was I who looked down at the foggy water, but I did so with a small smile. "Yes," I answered and used my hand to create small ripples distractedly. "Actually, I think it's nearly impossible not to trust him."
He had such a powerful yet calming aura about him that I couldn't help but be drawn to him like a fly to honey—everyone else felt the same. He made me feel safe when I needed it most on numerous occasions.
"It must be nice…to have someone like that in your life…" the older woman sighed sadly.
Oh…that's right…Akemi-san isn't married… Impulsively, I used my good arm to reach out across the hot spring and clutch her hand. She looked up at me in confusion. "Don't worry Akemi-san. Once Kazuya and I solve this case, you'll be free to find someone you love."
However, she merely smiled sardonically and looked back down.
"What's the point? All men are the same; they become bored once their toy becomes predictable." Her tone had a sudden hint of bitter resentment—the second thing that I had found odd about her in the past hour.
I blinked in astonishment. Where had that come from? And using the word 'toy'… I found myself frowning. "You can't really mean that, right?"
She looked up at me with clouded eyes. "Well, yes, of course I do."
"That's absurd!" I exclaimed, sloshing around in the hot water a bit too suddenly. "Not all men are like that! Not at all," I repeated for good measure before settling back down.
Akemi covered her mouth and gave what I assumed was a pained smile. "It's somewhat nice to hear another opinion on the subject."
I smiled awkwardly and leaned back so my hair soaked up the refreshing water to the fullest.
Just what exactly had brought on that weird statement of hers? My brow furrowed and a small amount of hot water trickled into my ears. And what man would get 'bored' with his so called 'toy' and just toss it away? Well, there was Naru who was completely unpredictable in my book, but Naru was a faithful, trustworthy person.
No, I corrected myself quickly with a roll of my eyes; he's just immune to feminine seduction. I paused in thought. At least, he better be… I grumbled, frowning, before sinking down into the water. Maybe he wasn't immune to seduction at all though…perhaps it was because women weren't seductive enough for him. Of course, that didn't seem right either.
Naru just had his own little category.
"Narcissistic jerk…" I muttered lowly, blowing bubbles in the water.
"Oh," I gasped in surprise. I hadn't expected Akemi to hear my comment—my cheeks flushed. "Nothing, just thinking out loud."
There was silence for a few moments before Akemi started yet another random conversation.
"You and your husband have a nice relationship."
"Eh? You think so?" I stumbled, completely unprepared for the sudden compliment. It was hard not to scoff. Just what exactly was so 'nice' about the relationship between Naru and I? We fought, and fought, and fought – all day.
"We used to fight all the time," I almost laughed sarcastically—even after all of our years working together, we still fought over nearly everything—some things would never change. "Of course, he was always the one who started it."
Akemi smiled and sunk deeper into the steaming water with a much more relaxed expression.
"I was always the innocent one, always being bullied by him, always being glared at by him…" I droned on and on, rambling about Naru and myself for what seemed like forever. And that was how the rest of our bath went, I talked Akemi to death but she looked as if she enjoyed listening to my rants—almost like she was relieved that she didn't have to speak anymore. It hadn't occurred to me as strange though, Akemi was an extremely reserved person.
Day 7, 1:00 pm
The two words were spat with irritation.
"You said you would be cautious, and yet," steely sapphire eyes met my brown ones with a disapproving glare, "this happened." Naru sent a pointed look at my arm, which had accidentally gotten wet.
"I told you it was an accident!" I yowled as he peeled away the soaked bandages none too gently.
When I had gotten out of the bath, I slipped and banged my bad arm on the side of the hot spring that was drenched in steamy water. It was ironic, really, because Akemi had specifically told me to be careful of the slippery sides right before I had gotten in. Perhaps it was just my rotten luck.
"Ouch! Naru, that hurts!"
"Good. It will teach you not to do stupid things like this again."
I sniffled. How could he be such a jerk? Oh, right. He was Naru, the insensitive, uncaring, narcissistic maniac. "I feel bad for the woman you'll marry," I muttered sourly, my lips pursed.
"You're married to me," he said bluntly.
"Only on paper," I reminded him with a snap. He knew we weren't really married, so why bring it up now, of all times? My brow furrowed. He was such a jerk.
I winced as Naru slathered my reddened and bright pink forearm in salve; it was so cold that it was nearly shocking. Not to mention it stung.
"Ouch, that looks painful," Bou-san commented out of nowhere, popping his head through a crack in our sliding door that he opened.
"Well duh it's painful, stupid," the fiery priestess hissed from behind him. Roughly, she shoved him aside, ignoring his protest, and opened the door fully. "This idiot insists on having a party." Ayako thrust her thumb backwards to point at Bou-san who was nodding fervently in a childlike manner.
"Party?" I echoed.
"No," Naru growled fiercely with an unrestrained scowl. "We're here for work, not play time." As he began redressing my wound, Bou-san nosed his way into the room and dropped to his knees next to me with a pout.
"C'mon Naru-bou, Akemi-san said it herself, everything is free to use!" The Monk wiggled his eyebrows suggestively. "Even the alcohol."
The glare intensified with an enforced mutter of, "No means no."
"Please? We should all relax; take it easy, you know? We've been working so hard, I think we could use a nice break!"
Seeing a grown man beg on his knees to a younger man was a strange sight, or at least for me it was. Naru continued with bandaging my arm, finishing it with a tight tug that made me wince again. He sighed and left his hands to linger on my arm.
"You aren't going to leave me alone until I say yes, are you?"
The only reply Naru received was a grin and a thumb up from Bou-san.
"Fine, go inform Lin before I change my mind."
Naru? The partier? Who woulda thunk? Anyway, yes, as stated above, I am a terrible, terrible person. Sue me. SAT's and AP exams are my life right now (sadly, I have needed to study my brains out. And yes, it is as painful as it sounds...) so no guarantee on when the next chapter will be...just know that it IS coming! I will not leave you hanging! That said...clicky de button, yeah, that one, right below this sentence...it beckons you...