The Onsen OutingHTMLized and slightly edited by Sikaryan
On a dusty, little sideroad, just on the outskirts of downtown Capow, a minivan sped on by. As the smoky haze from the dirt settled, a sign came into view. "Sakura Onsen - 3 miles ahead" The van drove on to its destination, and voices could be heard from inside.
"If you touch me again, I'm going to smash your head with my laptop!!"
"I feel car-sick."
"Alice, open the window, quick!"
"What the hell are you guys doing back there?!"
"Okay, okay! Don't try pushing me out this time Yugo!"
"Are we there yet?"
The blue minivan turned into the driveway of the Sakura Onsen. Up ahead sat a rustic building, the architecture was very reminiscent of houses decades past. Kimiko pulled the van around the circular driveway that encompassed a large, artistic rock sculpture and a slightly smaller sign that read, in Japanese and English, "Sakura Onsen -- Hotsprings open all year round." The van stopped by the front door and the engine shut off. The doors opened all at once, and everyone came bursting out.
"Ah, fresh air!!" cried Jay Redmond. He carried a small sports bag over his shoulder.
Jinx came next, carrying a small backpack on her back. Silber was perched on her shoulder, for she couldn't fit in the van in wolf form. At least, not with all the others too.
"Quit shoving, Alice!" growled Yugo who had a tied bundle over his shoulder.
"Move it, slowpoke!" Jay Arisugawa said, pushing his fellow dojo classmate out of the van. He carried a similar bundle.
Kimiko slid out of the driver's seat, pocketing the keys to the van. "Geez, you guys are like little kids. Why did you insist we take them, Elyssa?"
Elyssa exited the passenger side, front, slamming the door behind her. "I thought it would be fun to have some friends along too. I didn't know they were the only ones at the Lurker's Retreat."
"What about my bar?!" asked Madoka as she emerged last from the cramped van. "I can't believe you dragged me away from work. What happens if the place falls apart while I'm gone?"
Elyssa smiled. "Relax, boss. Hikaru's taking care of things. You need a break. You're all stressed out from working!"
Madoka gave her a sidelong glance. "You try running the bar from 10am to 3am straight, with nothing but coffee to keep you fueled. Let's see if you're so cheerful all the time."
"Tsk tsk, see what I mean?" Elyssa responded with a waggled finger. "Now, the first thing you could do is put away your laptop. I'm sure your chat group won't miss you for a few days."
"We're going to be here a few days?!" shrieked Madoka. She grabbed Kimiko's arm. "Gimme the keys! I want back! Send me back!! Puleeez!! For the love of Kami-sama!!"
"Hey, let go of my arm!"
The three boys stood off to the side. Jay Redmond was standing a little apart from Yugo, who was leaning towards Jay. "This is perfect! Just look at those girls. Aren't they gorgeous? And just wait til they get undressed into those hotsprings. Oh yeah! Take some notes, earthman! You might learn a few things."
"Yugo! Don't dishonour our dojo's name with all your crazed perversion!"
"Quiet Alice! Now, let's see. Kimiko's got a very fit body, but she's just no fun. Madoka's got this great hidden body, I'm sure of it! Jinx, hmmm.. She looks nice too, a bit young, though..."
Jay shook his head.
The doors to the Sakura Onsen guest house opened and an old couple came out to greet them. "Welcome," the old woman said. "I'm Onaji and this is my husband, Okaru. We run the Sakura Onsen resort all year round. Before we show you to your rooms, we have a special policy we'd ask you to respect. We like to keep things as simple as possible around here." She pulled out a large garbage bag. "So I'd ask you drop off all your digital watches, cellphones, pagers and other devices in this bag. Think of it as a first step from freeing yourselves from a hectic, busy world."
At first, everyone blinked. Elyssa started by removing her watch and pager. Kimiko follwed suit with her cellphone and watch. Jay took off his watch, too. When Onaji turned to Yugo and Jay, neither of them moved. "Sorry, O-baa-san," Yugo replied, shrugging, "but we don't have anything like those."
Onaji turned to Madoka, and held the bag to her. "What?" Madoka asked. She followed Onaji's eyes towards the laptop under her arm. She grabbed it and clutched it to her chest protectively. "No way! I'm not giving up my laptop! It's expensive and I've got a lot of sensitive data on there!"
"I didn't know Madoka-san worked for Chobetsu, too," whispered Elyssa.
"She doesn't," Kimiko responded. "C'mon Madoka, just give her the laptop."
Madoka shook her head. "Nuh-uh! Forget it!"
"It's a 27 mile walk back to the bar," Kimiko threatened.
Madoka glowered at her. "I'll remember that!" she muttered, holding out the laptop from her chest. Onaji placed her hand on it and tugged. She tugged harder. Madoka kept her grip until she decided to surrender and let go. The laptop disappeared into the garbage bag.
"Good, now that wasn't too hard, was it? Don't you feel your worries slipping away?"
Madoka muttered some undecipherable words under her breath. They weren't too ladylike either. Onaji stepped back to her husband's side. "That red-haired one's gonna need the super special ultra-relaxation therapy!" she whispered into his ear. "Maybe we should prepare the chamber!"
Okaru's eyes widened. "Anata! I don't think we've had to use that in over three years!"
"Desperate measures might need to be taken to save that one."
"Hai, Anata." He took the bag from her.
Onaji smiled. "Well, now. I'll show you each to your rooms. We keep our guests seperate. Men sleep in the east wing and women to the west wing." She started towards the inn, when she turned around. "Oh, and I almost forgot. We've been experiencing a bit of trouble with theplumbing lately. Our last guests complained there were some clanking and hissing noises during the night. I assure you, it's nothing to beworried about." She continued but stopped short again. "Oh, and I'd ask you all not to venture into the south wing at night. It's very old, and we haven't gotten around to repairing that section these last few years. They say, before we bought the inn, a young woman was murdered in the piano study. Some of our guests say, that in the dead of night, they can hear the piano softly, the spirit of that poor girl playing out her death melody."
"How tragic!" Jinx sighed.
Elyssa piku'd. "This reminds me of an episode of Tenchi Muyo."
"Bah, the oba-san is trying to scare us with these ghost stories," Yugo grinned at her. He pointed a thumb to himself. "But, I, do not scare easily!"
Onaji popped up in front of his face. Yugo yelped when her wrinkly face appeared right before him as he turned his head back. "Ahh! Don't do that you crazy old woman!"
The old innkeeper chuckled softly. "Ah, the young ones are always the last to believe. After I show you to your rooms, you're free to enjoy the establishment and the hotsprings as you choose! Come along now!"
A small white speck with a trailing dustcloud appeared in the distance. As it pulled closer, the low thrum of a diesel engine made itself known. A big, dirty, bug-spattered, smelly white station wagon pulled up in front of the inn.
"All right y'all!," boomed Diesel as he swung out of the dark leather drivers seat. "We're here!"
Megumi practically leapt from the station wagon, grinning from ear to ear. "Wai! C'mon, Akiko, we're wasting time!"
Akiko rolled her eyes as she got out of the car. "Explain to me again how I was dragged along on this idiotic venture."
"Oh, come on, it'll be fun!", Megumi chirped. "It's not like you've got anything pressing to do now. Besides, you need to relax. You've been really keyed up ever since I got here."
"Put two and two together. Listen, I know very well why you're so eager about this. If you try anything....weird, you'll pay for it.", Akiko vowed.
"Hmmmph, you're just no fun at all....don't worry, my policy as far as you go is 'look but don't touch', so no need for the lecture, ne?"
"Now hurry up!", Megumi urged, grabbing Akiko by the wrist. "The springs might be filling up already, and I want to get a place with a good view!"
Akiko allowed herself to be dragged along towards the inn, knowing that there was nothing she could do to stop Megumi now. "I hope you're going to arrange for us to have separate rooms.", she noted dryly.
It was Megumi's turn to roll her eyes. "You trust me that little?"
"I don't trust you at all. Besides, aren't you pursuing Jinx at the moment?"
"Ah, that's right! Separate rooms it is, then!", Megumi agreed.
'This is going to be a long, long trip', Akiko thought dourly as Megumi yanked her up to the front desk. 'Maybe I should warn Jinx before Megumi attacks her. Actually, on second thought, why the Hell should I care? If Megumi concentrates on Jinx, maybe I'll be able to avoid her....in which case, this might actually approach being tolerable.'
"Oy! Wait for me!" shouted Diesel as he staggered under a pile of the girls's suitcases. "Why do I have to bring these things inside!"
Yugo, Jay Redmond, and 'Alice' were being show to their room by the old woman named Onaji, who kept looking back at the two and smirking as they walked down the hallway.
"...Nice place..!" 'Alice' said cheerfully, glad they finally got there. Stretching his arms he smiled at the old lady as she turned back to look at them.
"Yup, it is!" Jay Redmond answered.
"Ah, and its gonna get nicer soon, Alice! Just imagine! All those gi--"
Jay stepped on Yugo's foot when he noticed the old woman looking back at them again. Yugo's face turned red in pain; gritting his teeth he reached for his back, forgetting he hadn't brought his Umbrella.
"Hmph!" The old woman frowned and continued walking. 'Better keep those two away from the ladies...' she tought.
Jay Redmond smirked and followed the woman. 'Well...They...are kinda weird...ah heck...'
Grinning slyly, Jay followed the old woman, Yugo close behind, wondering what kind of death he should choose for his roommate. "I'll get you for this Alice..." he mumbled, just loud enough for Jay A. to hear. "Shut up Yugo! I have it all worked out..." he answered.
Yugo stopped. So did Jay Redmond, wondering why Yugo had stopped.
"..huh?" Yugo stared at Jay confused. "Mr. No Fun has it all worked out? Wha'cha mean??? WHAT DID HE MEAN??!"
"Don't ask me!" Jay Redmond answered sweatdropping as he walked away from Yugo.
Scratching his head, Yugo looked at the ground. 'He must mean...' Little images of naked women appeared inside Yugo's mind.
"HEY ALICE! WAIT FOR ME!" He said running catching up with the rest.
"DON'T CALL ME ALICE!!!" Jay A. pounced Yugo, and an SD fight started.
"Are they always like this?" The old lady asked as she looked back at the two.
"Don't ask me! I hardly know them!" Jay Redmond answered.
Okaru glanced back at the now noisy inn and sighed. 'Boys these days...' He turned and, with typical dramatic irony, came within three inches of yet another boy's face.
He reacted quite spectacularly.
"EEEEEEEEEEEP!!" he screeched, launching into the air a foot or two.
The stunned teenager staggered back a few feet. "N-na..ni?"
"For Kami-sama's sake," scolded the old man, "Don't stand that CLOSE!"
He blinked. "Gomen nasai, ojiisan ... daijoubu desu ka?"
"I'm fine," grumbled Okaru. "Just don't do it again."
"I'll try," said Kii, scratching the back of his head, "But I don't know how that happened in the first. I mean, I wasn't even here, and I was standing sti-- wait ... did you hear that?"
"That." He turned and glanced around. "Sounded like a man laughing ..."
He shook his head. "Heard nothing of the sort."
"Are you certain? I'm sure that that was laughing ..."
The old man scratched the end of his chin. "Do you ... hear this sort of thing often?"
"Every once in a while, yes."
"Hm ... well, maybe you're in the right place, then."
Kii glanced back at him. "Nani?"
Okaru bowed. "Konnichi wa, and welcome to Sakura Onsen. I'm Okaru, and my wife and I run this resort. Is there anything I can help you with?"
"Well, yes ... can you point the way back to Tokyo?"
He blinked. "Well, I could, but it's 27 miles away ..."
"... along this road?" asked Kii, pointing.
"Yes, but that's quite a long walk," he pointed out. "Why don't you stay a little while and go back on the bus?"
"Arigato, ojiisan. I would, but I haven't anything to pay for the room with ..."
The old man folded his arms. "What's that in your pocket, then?"
"Pocket? I haven't --" Kii paused and glanced down.
His left pocket was crammed with much Japanese monetary paper, usually referred to as yen. And quite a bit of yen this was...
"So will you be staying?" asked the old man eagerly.
"I ... guess so," said Kii, blinking and staring wide-eyed at his pocket.
Okaru clapped his hands together. "Good! I'll show you to your rooms and then you can --"
"W-wait a minute ... rooms?"
He beamed. "Yes, five rooms!"
Kii turned a very interesting shade of red. "Uh ... no, I don't need --"
"Oh, but you do!"
"No, I don't want --"
Okaru grabbed hold of his arm and began to pull him into the Inn. "Nonsense! Only the best for our best visitors!"
Kii held up the pointer finger of his free arm. "One room! One! Ichi! The number before two..."
Around the corner of the building, a cloaked figure watched as the eager innkeeper yanked the blushing boy into the Inn and slammed the door. A few seconds pass before the figure can't stand it anymore and bursts into hysterical laughter. "Oh LORD, he acts too much like his father..!"
Kimiko let out a gratifying sigh as she sank deeper into the bubbling hotspring. The outdoor setting was very nice. They were surrounded by rocks and sparse trees not too far away from guest houses. The onsen, or hotsprings, were set up all over the area so that if different parties were staying at the resort, they could have their privacy. But Kimiko's group, as it turned out, was one of the more larger groups, so they all used the big one. This was the women's side only. The men's side, like their rooms, was separate.
"Ah, isn't this relaxing?" Kimiko asked Madoka.
The red-head bar-owner gave her a frumpy frown.
"I'll take that as a 'yes' because you're obviously not going to gratify me with a verbal response. But, I'll say it anyway. I told you so."
"Okay, okay," conceded Madoka, "I admit, this is very relaxing."
Kimiko was about to say something when some movement caught the corner of her eye. She craned her head. So did Elyssa and Jinx. Jinx nearly fainted.
Megumi stepped out of her towel and revealed herself in a very revealing bikini. Akiko was slightly behind her in a casual one-piece. Megumi dipped her toe in the onsen lithely. "Ooh, it's warm," she giggled and gave Jinx a wink.
Jinx edged a bit closer to Madoka.
"Hey," Kimiko said, "this is an onsen, not spring break at Malibu beach."
"Malibu where?" Megumi repeated.
"God, I feel like I'm on a school trip," Kimiko muttered under her breath. "You girls play nicely now." She smiled sweetly, but she was deadly serious, for some reason.
"Oh, I'm not really accustomed to your onsen," Megumi answered back. "If I had known the fashion was just a bath towel, that would have worked even better." She smiled deliciously and slipped into the onsen. She kept her gaze on Jinx, who was feeling rather uncomfortable at being watched. She looked around nervously. Silber, who was restingabove the onsen (in wolf form), sensed her friend's uneasiness and perked her head up to see what was wrong.
Elyssa edged closer to Kimiko. "Wow," she whispered, "if I didn't know better, I'd say you were jealous of Megumi."
Shocked, Kimiko jilted her head back a little. "I am not jealous! It's just the way she flaunts herself around. She looks so cheap."
Elyssa giggled under her breath. "Awww, and I thought maybe you were jealous she'd take me away from you."
Now it was Kimiko's turn to feel a bit nervous but instead of backing off, she hissed back, "I would have thought, after your recent brain-swap, you'd be all over Megumi. I mean, she'd probably welcome it!"
The smile disappeared from Elyssa's lips. "I dunno. We might feel the same way about those sort of things, but she's... different. Like, she's not a real person. I don't think that makes any sense, but no." She cocked her head slightly. "I wasn't aware you were uncomfortable about all this. I mean, I thought you were just being hard to get."
"No!" Kimiko whispered back a little too loudly.
"What are you two talking about?" Megumi asked inquisitively. "Sounds like a heated discussion." When she saw neither was going to give her a response, she shrugged slightly and turned back to Jinx. Meanwhile, Akiko tried her best to enjoy the hotsprings and ignored anything her fellow weredragon was doing.
"What are you two doing here, anyway?" Kimiko asked.
Akiko decided to speak up, though she later felt she should have stayed quiet. "Megumi dragged me along, said it would be good for me to relax. We found out because we were at the Lurker's Retreat but not many people were around. Chisa-san said you guys had gone here. That young man, Diesel, was there too and we," she nodded to Megumi, "or rather, she convinced him to take us out here."
Megumi pouted at the Chobetsu agent. "You make it sound like we're not wanted."
"I didn't say that," Kimiko replied stiffly, "you girls can go where-ever you want, I don't care." She closed her eyes and pretended to be relaxing.
After a moment, when things were quiet, Kimiko took a look around the onsen. To her farther left sat Madoka and on her left was Jinx, who was looking about nervously. To Kimiko's right was Elyssa and to her right was Akiko. Megumi sat close to Akiko but her attention was focused completely on Jinx. Kimiko suddenly felt very uncomfortable with the entire situation. She just prayed nothing weird would happen.
'That's funny... I don't remember the forecasters saying anything about thunder and lightning,' thought Diesel as he went through his suitcase.
After about half an hour of waffling, Diesel decided to put on a pair of plain grey swim trunks. He made his way down toward the hot springs, nearly tripping over the hem of the complementary kimono. He peered at a sign on a stone that was overgrown with moss and vegitation: "-Male side".
He walked in. Moments later, a piece of moss fell off the sign, revealing an additional "Fe...".
Megumi smiled inwardly as the chaos began.
Alzena spralwed out onto the tatamis. "Ahh! Nothing like a nice long vacation to lift the spirits!" She turned over on her stomach. "Too bad Samui's vacation isn't coming up for a while..." she grinned wickedly. "Maybe I'll send her post card!" She giggled, plotting what she could send to cause the maximum embarrassment. After a while, though, she decided to hit the onsen first, and headed out to see her hostess. "Wonder if they have nice towels here..." she mused, making a mental approximation of how many 'souveniers' she could take home.
Meanwhile, at the male side of the onsen, Diesel, the two Jays, and Yugo relaxed as they immersed themselves deep into the hot water.
"This is the life," Yugo sighed contentedly. "The only thing that could make this even better would be the pretty ladies on the other side of the onsen..." he sighed again, this time in longing.
"Why don't you go over there and say hi?" Diesel asked sarcastically. He gingerly touched the darkening bruise on his eye. "Those ladies have some wicked right hooks," he muttered to himself.
Arisugawa chuckled. "I guess there's no such thing as real peace and quiet no matter where we go, eh?"
Yugo snickered. "And you figured that out just now, Alice?"
Arisugawa ignored him.
Alzena, wearing nothing but a towel around her midsection, stepped through the door. "Oops. Sorry about that."
Four heads swiveled simultaneously.
Alzena scratched the back of her head sheepishly. "I guess I should have read the sign, ne?"
Four mouths opened and closed, once.
Alzena giggled. "Well, I'll be seeing you guys later!" With that, she sauntered out.
Four pairs of eyes blinked.
Arisugawa noticed a steady stream of blood trickling from Yugo's nose. "Hey! That's gross! Stop that!" He threw a handful of water into Yugo's face.
A full-fledged water fight began.
Still just outside the door leading to the male side of the onsen, Alzena took several deep breaths to regain her composure.
'Augh! Why is that guy here, of all places!' she wondered to herself. 'Now my vacation is ruined!'
At first, Yugo's attentions had been rather flattering. But then he made the jump from merely staring and flirting to more physical means of expressing his affection. And, much to Alzena's growing annoyance, Yugo would not take "no" for an answer.
'And now I have to spend the next couple of days in the same place with him...' Alzena shuddered. That thought was enough to make her seriously consider packing up and heading back to Capow. She shook her head. 'No way! I've been looking forward to this vacation all year! I'm not gonna let some lecherous jerk ruin it for me!'
Her mind made up, Alzena walked over to the female side and pushed open the door.
"Ow, my neck," Diesel griped, massaging it gingerly.
"Sorry, did I hurt you during the water fight?" Jay Redmond asked apologetically.
Diesel shook his head. "No. When that woman walked by." Then, he realized shaking his head wasn't such a good idea. "Ow pain! Ow pain!"
"Damn, isn't that babe HOT!?" Yugo exclaimed. "I have NEVER seen a chick like her before!" He bowed his head a little, smiling at himself. "I'm afraid to admit it, but I do believe she's not from this world!"
"And what world would she be from?" Jay Arisugawa asked sarcastically.
Yugo clasped his hands together and looked skyward. "Heaven, naturally."
The three guys sweatdropped.
"I think I'll see if I can get some more 'divine inspiration'!"
Diesel pointed at him. "Go ahead, Mr. Hot-stuff. See if you can impress her with that smell."
A curious look. "What smell?"
"Give yourself a whiff, buddy."
Yugo sniffed around him. His nose crinkled in disgust. "Eww, what is this?!"
"The onsen," they replied in unison.
Yugo started pulling himself out of the hotspring. "And you earth people enjoy wallowing in this putrid stench?! I'm gonna take a hot shower and then I'll unleash my power onto her."
"Forget it, you hentai-otaku!" Jay Arisugawa challenged as he was getting out as well, "I'm showering first!"
"Outta my way, Alice!"
"You're not showering?" Jay Redmond asked with disbelief.
Jay Arisugawa grinned back. "Nah, I just wanted to beat that alien-hentai. Go right ahead." He left the bathroom. Jay Redmond shrugged, and stepped into the shower, closing the doors behind him.
Moments later, the bathroom door creaked open. Yugo peeked his head in, saw the shower was running and someone was inside. He tiptoed quickly to the toilet. "So, you think you beat me, Alice?!" He tapped the handle on the toilet. "Take that, fiend! Ahahhahah!"
A low pitched yell transformed quickly into a high shrill. Yugo laughed triumphantly as the shower doors flew open and his rival bolted out from under the sudden rush of cold water.
Instead, Jay Redmond, in female form, and completely naked, presented herself in front of Yugo.
Yugo blinked. The corners of his mouth was getting moist.
Jay looked down. She looked up, face completely red.
Yugo ignored the drool that was slowing dripping down his mouth.
Diesel beat his head against the door of his clothes locker. An already sizable dent was beginning to form. "I'm not part of any of this... I'm not part of any of this...," he repeated to himself as Redmond gave Yugo the "Thousand-Facial-Slap-Technique-of-the-Violated-Female".
A shrill female voice reverberated off the tiled walls of the locker room, "Take that you... you... alien hentai baka!"
*crack* The sound of a wet towel successfully whipping something echoed from the shower stalls.
"I believe I shall."
"Eeeeeeeeeee! Give me back my towel!"
"Don't whip me with it then."
Jay A. pressed his ear to the door. "Hmm. Sounds kinky..."
"Shut up, Arisugawa!" Diesel barked. "Stay out of this!"
Diesel, Arisugawa and Redmond were sitting on lounge chairs that were set up surrounding the male onsen. Diesel was reading a novel, Arisugawa was trying to doze off, and Redmond was huddled in a overly large complementary kimono, still in girl form.
Arisugawa opened up his eyes halfway and sleepily drawled, "I wonder where the horny hentai boy went off to...?"
Redmond stared at Arisigawa and hissed, "I don't care. I can't believe that he tried to grab me. I'm a guy! He knows it!" She sunk back into her kimono and sulked.
The quiet and serene feeling surounding the onsen was suddenly and rudely dissapated.
A flaming (yes, on fire...) screaming hentai fell into the onsen a few feet in front of Arisugawa, Diesel and Redmond, causing a huge fountain of water to splash up and out. The water boiled and steamed at the point of impact.
"WE'RE NOT DONE WITH YOU YET, HENTAI!!!"
Akiko, Alzena, Jinx, Madoka, and Elyssa stormed into the male onsen, followed by a bemused Megumi and a growling Silber. The combined battle auras of the furious females lit the onsen up, casting stark shadows on the surrounding area. Megumi leaned against a large boulder and watched the proceedings. The various ladies' (except for Megumi's) swimsuits seemed to be slightly awry.
Akiko closed her eyes and waved her hand; Yugo rose out of the water twenty feet and was thrown into a tree, face first. Alzena, Jinx and Elyssa proceeded to stomp on the near-unconsious form after it slid down off the tree trunk while shouting various obscenities. Finally, after the three girls stopped, Madoka stalked up, hauled Yugo up by the neck, slugged him and then kneed him in the groin. Madoka let the somewhat pulped form slump to the ground. Silber padded up; grabbed Yugo by the back of his shirt and chucked Yugo in the pool again. The angry ladies turned about abruptly and left the onsen briskly. Megumi gave an speculative glance at Yugo's prone form before turning around and following the rest of the ladies.
'Hmm... must be careful when copping a feel...,' noted Megumi mentally.
Diesel waited a few seconds before he kneeled down beside the pool. He yanked Yugo's head out from the water by an antenna.
Yugo stared at Diesel with glazed over eyes and gurgled incoherently for a second. His eyes, still dazed, seemed to lock on something in the distance.
"Man, was that great...", whispered the battered alien as a sickly smile spread across his face. "I think that was worth the beating..."
Redmond made a disgusted sound and got up off her chair and stalked out of the onsen area.
"That guy makes me sick..." Jay said to herself as she left the onsen area.
"Sir... er, miss... whatever, I've got your clothes cleaned off and dried," Onaji said coming from the hall, somewhat startling J-chan.
"Huh?" Jay-Chan looked at the old woman. "Oh. Th-thanks..." she said, takeing her clothes.
"You know," Onaji added, "If you're going to stay like that, I'll have to ask you to move to the girls' area. You understand."
"Yea, I know. I'll change after I get my clothes on, I promise."
The old woman nodded her head, then remembering something, she pulled out a letter and handed it to Jay-Chan.
The boy-turned-girl took the letter and asked, "What's this?"
"It's a letter for you."
"But how did it get here?"
"The mailman sent it."
Jay-Chan groaned. "That's not what I meant. How did someone know I was here?"
"How should I know, I didn't send you the letter," Onaji said, walking off.
Jay just blinked a few times before reading the letter. "So what's this all about..." she muttered.
"You're sick, you know that?" Diesel said.
"I don't care, she's too beautiful to ignore," Yugo complained.
"'She', Yugo, is a guy!" Arisigawa yelled.
"Well, nobody's perfect," Yugo countered with a shrug.
From just outside the male onsen, a high-pitched, happy-kid-like voice cried out, "Yay! Grammie's coming to visit!"
"I hear her voice! I'm coming, baby!" Yugo shouted, running towards the hallway where Jay-chan's voice came from. A few punching and slapping sounds later, Yugo was tossed back into the onsen by an angered Jay-chan.
"I don't need you ruining this moment!" Jay-chan said, before continuing to read the letter. "Aa, kuso! Sis is coming too," she mumbled as she stormed off again.
"Wonder what that was all about, Arisugawa."
"Beats me, Diesel."
In the darkened piano study of the onsen, emotions were palpable. In fact, were someone there at that moment, they may have been able to see two distortions in the air.. One small one near the piano, another larger one on the couch facing the piano.
The larger distortion started to move.. Rising above the couch, it floated through the various objects between it and the doorway and headed toward the western side of the inn... Maybe this time, It would be able to leave this place...
The waves of fear emanating from the smaller distortion at the piano faded away as it watched? felt? the larger start to head in a direction away from it.
That emotion was so intense, it nearly filled the room.
The piano started to play, a slow, sad, melancholy tune...
Jinx shivered a little and subconsciously pulled the blanket over her shoulder. She stirred from her brief sleep and opened her eyes. She lifted her head to the rhythmic tick-tock sound of the old clock hanging on the wall. Two o'clock in the morning, the arrows indicated. She briefly thought about the day's events. They spent a lot of time soaking in the onsen. Megumi was always keeping an eye on her although Jinx found it fortuitous to slip away when Yugo crashed into their side of the onsen. At dinner, Jinx was sure some happenstance, evil game of 'footsies' was developing under the dining table.
She wanted to get back to sleep when she noticed a faint sound. Sitting up, she listened carefully. It was a melody, soft and hauntingly sweet. It was a piano! She felt an icy chill down her spine. Could it be? The ghost? Her eyes had already adjusted to the darkness. To her surprise, she found Silber sleeping not too far away, but strangely did not hear the music.
Something drew her from the soft pallet she slept in. Inside her mind, she was telling herself over and over, not to leave the room. But she couldn't help it. The music called to her. She had to see what it was.
"You heard it too?" Elyssa whispered in the dark hallway of the onsen guest house.
Jinx nodded. "I couldn't sleep when I started hearing the piano. Do you think it's the ghost?"
"I don't know."
"Are you scared?" asked Jinx. "Maybe we should wake up Kimiko. She doesn't scare easily."
Elyssa shrugged. "Kimiko's sleeping, and I think after all that's happened today, she doesn't want to be waken up."
The piano music continued to echo its sad melody. The two girls crept slowly down the hallway, towards the forbidden south wing. They stopped at the intersection of hallways. One led to the south wing and the other led to the men's side of the building. They weren't sure whether or not to go on.
A faint silhouette was outlined in the hallway. Elyssa instinctively pushed Jinx back against the wall as it drew closer. When it became distinct, they saw who it was.
"Kii?" Jinx called out in hushed voice. "What are you doing here?"
"Well, I heard this music," he started.
"No! What are you doing at the onsen?"
Kii looked around the hallway nervously. "Well, I'm not sure. I just, sort of, ended up here. I've been inside my room all day, if you're wondering why you didn't see me earlier." He cocked his ear towards the south wing. "You hear it too, don't you?"
"The old woman said that room is haunted by a girl who was murdered and she plays the piano some nights," Elyssa recounted for Kii.
"A ghost?" Kii asked. He seemed more interested than the girls who were frightened at their own curiosity.
The hallway ended quickly at a door. A sign read, "South wing -- do not enter". Jinx gave her two companions a look and getting a simple nod from Elyssa, she opened the door. A sudden blast of wind caught them offguard. Jinx almost slammed the door quickly.
"It's just the window!" breathed Elyssa, who was panting hard too. "I think they left it open in the hallway!"
"Are you sure?"
Jinx looked at her cautiously, her eyes asking Elyssa not to open the door, but Elyssa ignored her. She, as much as they all did, wanted to see the forbidden piano room. She turned the doorknob and cracked the door open. Slowly opening it fully, they found the hallway calm. Shrugging at Jinx and Kii, Elyssa stepped through.
Paintings lined the hallway, portraits actually. Jinx felt eyes watching her. She reminded herself, they're only pictures, but she couldn't ignore the chill running down her back again. The three slowly made their way to a room with a double door. There was no mistaking it--the music was coming from inside.
"Open it," Elyssa said to Kii.
"You're closer!" Elyssa responded, backing off slightly at the same time.
Kii glanced at the two girls, who now took positions behind him. He inhaled deeply and grabbed the doorknob in each hand. Counting to three under his breath, he opened the doors.
The room was completely dark. Faint moonlight shone through a far window in the room, but not enough to see what was inside. Strangely, the music had stopped. The three stood in the doorway, stunned. Was this the right room? they must have asked themselves.
Then, the piano played. Apprehension caught them, eyes shifted to where the piano sat in the centre. They could make out a blurry silhouette. It must have seen the three watching it, for as soon as they stared, the piano stopped again. Suddenly, the silhoutte began to glow and it traced a figure of a woman. It began moving towards the doorway.
Jinx felt her heart beat faster and the air escape from her lungs. Tranfixed and unable to move, the three stood with fear and awe, as the shadowy figure moved towards them. The glow disappeared halfway and they could not see the figure because the room had gone dark again.
There was a brief moment of silence and then a bright light flashed in their eyes. It illuminated the hideous face, presenting itself right before their shocked eyes.
Kii, Jinx, Elyssa screamed and bolted. They raced down the hall, through the door of the south wing and slammed it shut. They turned back, standing silent and listening. There were no sounds. But the doorknob began to turn. Elyssa and Jinx hid behind Kii, who was determined, this time, to protect the girls from the ghost. The doorknob turned fully and opened.
Kimiko stood in the hallway with a large grin on her face. "Oh boy, that was the best!" she laughed. She was wearing a white gown and slippers. She was laughing so hard, tears were coming from her eyes. "I haven't done a prank like that since I was in university!"
Elyssa was the first to approach her, arms folded across her chest. She glared at her roommate. "That was you? Playing the piano? How could you do that? You scared the hell out of us!!"
"Oh, that was too good," Kimiko was still recovering from her hysterical fit. She held out a flashlight. "It's amazing what this can do under a light cloth gown. Pretty cool effect, huh?"
"NO!" Jinx grumped. "That was mean, Kimiko-san!"
Kimiko smiled. "No, that was funny! Admit it, I had you guys. I'm surprised I could play the piano so well. It's been quite a while. Oh boy. heehee."
"I thought you were sleeping!" Elyssa cried back.
Kimiko shook her head. "The old 'stuffed blanket' trick. I'm suprised that worked, too. You know, I'm glad you made me come. Otherwise I would have never pulled something so--"
Her sentence was cut short by the sounds of the piano playing once more. It was a different melody, sad yet different from what Kimiko played.
"Okay, Kimiko," Elyssa said with a straight face, "you can stop with the joke now, it's getting old."
Kimiko held up her hands. "Wait, that's not my doing!"
Elysas smiled patronizingly. "Hai hai, you don't have to keep up the act."
"Say, where's Madoka?" Jinx asked suddenly.
Madoka's muffled yells were unheard so deep in the basement of the onsen guest house. Onaji checked the straps to her recliner.
"What the hell are you crazy people doing?" Madoka barked. She squirmed but the leather restraints kept her a tight prisoner to the padded chair.
"Shh.." Onaji shushed her. "This is the Chamber where we'll put your mind at ease. I've been watching you ever since you came here. The stress levels inside your mind must be brought down! You're overworked to the point where it's damaging your health. Now, we've prepared a special video for you to let your mind rest. Just watch it and relax. You'll feel things much better after a while."
"I don't want to watch no video!"
"Yelling only makes things worse for you. Nobody can hear you." She patted Madoka's cheek. "You'll thank me later. Now, we did a lot of scientific research into this. Don't think we run a simple onsen that we don't know anything about the outside world. We feel that this video will help relax your nerve centres. Anata! Start the tape."
The blank screen in front of Madoka's recliner came to life. At first there was nothing but snow until the picture became clear. Four colourful figures pranced along the screen innocently. They're clothing was strangely infantile and extraterrestrial at the same time.
The title faded onto the screen.
Yugo sat upright from his mattress. "Did you hear something?" he asked as if he was wide awake.
Jay Arisugawa pulled back the blanket covering his face. "What the hell are you talking about?" he answered in a sleepy voice. "Go back to sleep."
"I distinctly heard something. Like a scream."
"You're imagining things."
"Hah! It's only obvious my superior hearing far exceeds your limited capabilities."
Jay sat up too, and so did Jay Redmond. "Actually, I do hear something. Yeah, it sounds like a piano."
"What are you talking about?" Yugo responded. "It's screaming, I know it."
"It's a piano!" Jay Arisugawa repeated.
"IT WAS SCREAMING, ALICE!"
"IT WAS A PIANO, E.T.!"
"THAT'S IT!! SHI-NE!!!!"
Alzena stared at the ceiling.
'Just perfect,' she thought sarcastically. 'Not only do I have Yugo to worry about, but that Megumi woman, too.'
The minute Alzena had stepped into the female side of the Onsen, she swore Megumi had nearly started drooling. Fortunately (for her), though, Megumi's attention was more focused on the young lady named Jinx, but Alzena was certain that that would change in the next few days.
Alzena sighed. 'Well, there goes my so-called ideal vacation...huh?'
She sat up as she heard the sounds of a piano being played.
'Who would be playing the piano at this hour?' she wondered. She listened to the melody. 'And why such a depressing tune?'
Getting out of bed, Alzena quietly slid open the door to her room and tiptoed down the hall in stockinged feet. As she neared the room where the piano was stored, she slowed her breathing so that it was barely audible and cautiously peeked in.
Moonlight spilled into the room, casting it in a pale, eerie glow. A young lady sat at the piano, her long black hair taking a bluish hue under the illumination. For a moment, she almost became the music, her slender fingers flowing smoothly over its keys and her eyes closed as she played. Alzena felt herself getting lost in the music as well, and without realizing it, she had entered into the room.
The lady stopped. "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you."
Alzena jumped a bit, then shook her head. "Oh, I wasn't asleep. I just heard your wonderful music and had to see who was here." she extended her hand. "I don't think I saw you before. My name's Alzena."
"Lorelei," the lady replied, standing and bowing deeply. She began coughing, at first only slightly, then gradually escalating.
Alzena rushed to Lorelei's side and began patting her back. "Are you all right?"
To Alzena's growing panic, Lorelei only continued to cough. Alzena really went into hysterics when, with one particularly violent heave, Lorelei coughed up blood.
"Oh, my God! Um...wait here, Lorelei! I'll call for help!" Running as fast as she could, Alzena dashed towards the proprietor's room, nearly slipping on the smooth wooden floor when she was about to reach her destination. She caught herself, though, and slid open the door with such force that it almost came off its track. "Please wake up! I need to borrow your phone!"
"Huh? What?" The sleepyeyed owners turned on the lights and looked at the clock. "Do you have any idea how late it is?"
"This is an emergency!" Alzena insisted. "Lorelei's going to die unless we get an ambulance!"
"Oh, in that case, then--" Okaru's eyes widened. "Did you just say 'Lorelei'?"
Alzena nodded. "Yes, and--"
"So you've met Lorelei," Onaji interrupted, putting on a robe. "You're the first customer to see her in five years."
Alzena blinked. "Huh?"
Okaru took a flashlight and checked it. "Come with me."
Alzena followed Okaru to a small hill that was a 5-minute walk from the onsen. "What does this have anything to do with Lorelei?"
"You'll see," Okaru answered over his shoulder. Finally, he came to a stop and pointed his flashlight downward. "Over there."
Alzena looked. And gasped.
Set on the hill was a small tombstone with the name "Lorelei" carved in awkward katakana.
"When she came here, she already had less than three months to live," Okaru explained softly. "She scraped together everything she had to come here, because she always wanted to see the mountains." He looked away into the majestic peaks rising in the distance. "One of the other clients bought the piano for her when he heard that she was an exquisite pianist." He sighed. "She passed away in her sleep with a smile on her face."
Alzena took this in silently for a while. Then another thought occurred to her. "So she wasn't murdered?"
Okaru shook his head. "No. That story's been around before we even owned this place, but Lorelei's the only ghost that the guests have reported seeing." He sighed again. "But no one would be interested in something as 'mundane' as a death by tuberculosis. The idea of a murder right in the place where they're staying excites people and brings in tourists. I guess I can't complain, but..."
"...but you don't want Lorelei to be forgotten, either," Alzena finished for Okaru.
"Right." Okaru smiled. "Now then, why don't you go back and get some rest?"
"Just a minute." Alzena turned to Lorelei's tombstone and bowed to it. "Thank you for your lovely piano music, Lorelei. I'll never forget you." Remembering something else, she added in a whisper. "Could you go to that jerk Yugo's room and give him a good scare?"
Light softly illuminated Madoka's face as the tape, having reached its end, automatically turned off and rewound itself. The snow on the screen danced about brightly.
From a distance, there seemed to be nothing wrong with her. But close-up --
Okay, from a distance there definitely seemed to be something wrong with her. Her eyes, for one thing.
Probably the fact that one was looking straight up and the other was looking at the left wall.
Her tongue hung out, lifeless. Anyone would have said she had her brain not only washed, but lathered, rinsed, and repeated.
The room was still, except for the slowly-expanding, smallish puddle of saliva on the floor.
Nothing continued happening for several moments.
And then Madoka came to.
She hadn't moved. She hadn't even tried to struggle or free herself, though her eyes flitted about quickly, rapidly, actively. But there was something different about them. Obliviousness, perhaps.
There was a distant click.
And then a small smile flitted across her face.
Madoka opened her mouth to speak.
Okaru grinned, and tapped the frame of the open door.
Now she was relaxed.
"Anata?" Onaji called to her husband. She opened the door a little. "Anata, come to bed."
"In a moment, dear," Okaru said as he tightened a bolt on a strangely looking device, that resembled a microwave attached to a small, pizza-sized satellite dish.
"Will you stop tinkering with that thing? We should have never bought that '100 Gadgets to build when you're retired' video." She had on her usual, nagging tone.
The old man reluctantly stood up. "Oh, alright. I can't get this relax-o-meter working properly, anyway. Maybe tomorrow."
"Yes, anata, tomorrow." She flicked off the light, clutched her robe and left. Okaru followed, and closed the door. At least, he tried. It was a rather poorly fashioned door and it scraped along the ground. Giving it a tug, he slammed it shut.
Inside, the wrench Okaru was using teetered over the edge of the table. When the door closed, it wobbled up and down, before dropping into the open back of the microwave. As luck would have it (and a bit of forgetfulness due to old age), the power was still on. Sparks flew and electricity crackled. The mini-spanner created a short across two terminals, and something strange, yet wondrous happened. The relax-o-meter began to operate. Although, not quite the way Okaru would have imagined possible.
"How long have they been like this?" Alzena asked Jay Redmond.
Jay shrugged. "I have no clue, but ever since I woke up, they've started going at it."
Yugo adjusted his thick-rimmed glasses (which nobody knew where he got), and smoothly slid up to Kimiko. "Yeah bay-bee, why don't we head back to my pad and do the bad thing? Rowrrr!"
Kimiko was taken aback, flipping a hand at him, she said (strangely), "Like, whatever! Those hippie slangs, are like, just so passe. Get with the picture!"
"Oh behave, bay-bee!" was all Yugo said, in a terrible british accent.
The kitchen door burst open with a screaming Kii Tsutomeru. "Violent, flat-chested tomboy!"
Elyssa followed, waving a mallet over her head, "Come back here you jerk! Kii no BAKA!!"
The door opened again and Madoka bounced in, literally. She twirled around, making ooh and ahh sounds like a little kid. She shuffled over to Kimiko and gave her a hug, giggling.
"This isn't the little excursion I thought it would be," Alzena muttered to herself. "Where's the other Jay guy?"
As if on cue, he popped into view, much to Jay Redmond and Alzena's horror. He was dressed in a sailor fuku and a short skirt. He wore knee-high boots while the rest of legs were bare (yech!).
"For love and justice, I'm the Sailor-suited soldier, Sailor Jay!" he leapt onto the kitchen counter and struck a very bad pose.
Jay Redmond grabbed his stomach. "I'm going to be sick."
"He's got nice legs," Alzena mused, much to her own shock.
Akiko came in from the dining room with hands covering her ears. "Stop it! Stop it!!"
Alzena sweatdropped. "What's wrong?"
"It's Megumi! She's talking crazy talk!"
"Welcome to the club," Jay replied, spreading his hand around the other people in the kitchen.
Megumi walked in after Akiko, slowly. She used a cane, for some odd reason, and was stooped over in an elderly fashion. She had one hand behind her back, too. "Crazy or not. Crazy, there is none."
Yugo spotted the beautiful Megumi, despite her current state of mind. "Oh, shagadelic bay-bee!"
"You men, are like, such pigs, ya'know?" Kimiko retorted to his words.
Kii and Elyssa ran around the table a few times before exiting the kitchen.
"Ah, always two there be," Megumi said sagely, "a violent tomboy, and an insensitive jerk."
[Back at the Lurker's Retreat]
"Is there anything we can do?" Ace asked about the people who had gone bonkers at the Sakura Onsen resort.
Yugo went around to every table, trying to flirt with every girl he could meet. Which wasn't so out of place, except he went about it with a horrible british accent and an overuse of the word "bay-bee". Megumi sat at one table with her arms folded across her chest and every once in a while, she would spout out some wise saying, only the grammar was all wrong.
"I suppose I could call Washuu-san," Samui suggested. "I'm sure she could think of something to help these people."
Talon spotted a tray of food on the table. Picking up a triangular shaped pastry, he asked, "Hey, are these samosas?" He took a bite.
"I think 'Akane' cooked those," Samui said, referring to Elyssa.
Talon's face turned a pale blue and he sprinted to the nearest restroom. Gagging sounds could be heard from within.
Elyssa looked at the tray innocently. "What?!"
Suddenly, a half naked man streaked by, followed by Akiko holding a large towel. "GET BACK HERE!" she yelled. Sailor Jay ran around the room, outrunning the weredragon.
"What on earth are you doing?" Ace asked.
"I'm trying to cover him up! It's horrifying to see him dressed like that!" She continued chasing Sailor Jay around the bar. On the last lap, she stopped and Jay continued running, right back to where she was waiting for him. She tossed the towel around him like a net. "GOTCHA!"
Samui looked around the bar. It was a complete mess without the natural tender, loving care of its bartender, Madoka, who was happily playing with some empty sake bottles like building blocks. "Talon! Let's go see Washuu-san."
Talon stepped out of the restroom. "Okay--erh--" his face cringed and raced back into the washroom.
"Really?" Washuu said. "Very interesting."
"So, can you fix the problem?" Samui asked.
"Can I fix the problem?" Washuu repeated. "Am I not the cutest scientist in the entire galaxy?" Samui repeated the words in unison with Washuu. A little, transparent keyboard flashed above Washuu's lap and she began punching a few buttons. After a moment, the keyboard disappeared and she looked satisfied.
"Uh, so you fixed it?"
"But of course!"
"You said the problem happened at the Sakura Onsen resort outside of town?" Samui nodded. "Well, it was very simple. I shut down the power to the entire block. Whatever was messing with their heads should now become inoperative."
Washuu smiled youthfully. "No problem! Say, is your partner around? I could use some more samples..."
Kimiko grabbed her head. "Ow, I have the worst headache. What the? How did we get back here?!"
Akiko tossed her the keys to the van. "I drove."
"Why? What happened?"
"You don't really want to know," Akiko responded.
Ace watched as Madoka continued playing with the bottles of sake. She stacked them up a little too high and they came crashing down. She started over again. Ace thumbed in her direction and asked Akiko, "Hey, what's with her? how come she's not back to normal?"
Akiko shrugged. "Beats me. Maybe it'll wear off longer for her."
"I wonder why that would be," Kimiko said aloud.
"Without Madoka, who's gonna run the bar?" Ace asked seriously. Then, a little lightbulb appeared over his head. "Yeah, who is gonna run the bar? Nobody!! FREE DRINKS ON THE HOUSE!!!!"
At the Sakura Onsen resort, in one of the rooms, a pounding could be heard from the closet.
"Hey!!" Jinx yelled, hitting the closet door from inside. "Let me outta here! This isn't funny! Silber! Silber, where are you, you lazy bum!"
The door suddenly opened. The room was dark except for an eerie glow. "Hello?" Jinx said softly. "Silber? Is that you?"
A face materialized in the air. It was a girl in a traditional kimono. She looked very transparent. "Konbanwa," the girl said to Jinx.
Jinx flew out of the room, screaming, with a little trail of dust following her.
The ghost-girl blinked. "Sayonara! Mata dozo, o-negai shimasu?" ('Please come back again')