Disclaimer- If you all still think I own Get Backers you need to get your heads examined.
Notes- I cannot stress this enough: I DO NOT READ THE MANGA AND I PROBABLY NEVER WILL. I am following ANIME continuity. As much as I appreciate the manga info, as a review to point out "mistakes" in an ANIME centered fic it's not appreciated. If people really want to fill me in on every detail of the manga, they can get on AIM with me.
Chapter Three: Employees Only! The Secrets of the Goshoku Sisters and Amaya Hajime
By A Girl Named Goo
Kusakiko sighed longingly as she looked at one of the many monitors lining the wall. Although there was no color, she could hear everything that was being said. The whirring sound of a tape making a copy of the actions on the monitor was the only other sound in the dark room before the door opened. Kozeniko looked at her sister quizzically, before noticing what was happening on the monitor, sighing, and giving the other woman a light smack on the shoulder.
"Kozeniko!" Kusakiko gasped, spinning around in the chair. "What are you doing in here?"
"I needed to get some more chlorine for the pool. What are you doing here? Never mind, that's obvious." Kozeniko pointed at the monitor she had been staring at, which displayed goings-on in the baths. "I am supposed to watch them," she said sternly. She pointed at two monitors in succession as she said, "you watch her and her." In the first monitor Himiko and Shido were in some kind of library. It was full of books, but there were also several glass display cases, which contained rare coins, exotic plants, and a collection of insects from around the world. Shido was examining a case full of insects from Africa, dead and pinned down, curiously as Himiko stared at some beautiful flowers from the South American rain forest, perfectly preserved in their case. In the other monitor was the room Hevn and Himiko were sharing. Hevn had Himiko's small travel bag laid on her own bed and had removed one of Himiko's shirts, examining it distastefully before pausing a moment and walking over to the mirror, laying it over her own red tube-top for a moment and admiring herself. She finally looked at the garment again, as if considering it, and then threw it back into the bag, moving it back over to Himiko's side of the room.
"Can't we trade?" Kusakiko asked hopefully. "You don't even like them very much, and you get along better with women than men."
"Oh, yes, wonderful idea. Why don't you go to Amaya-san right now and tell him he's had a lapse of judgment and you want to trade."
Kusakiko gasped, then looked back at the monitor where the baths were located. "All right. It's almost lunchtime, anyway. I'll be along in a few moments."
"Good," Kozeniko said with an approving nod, picking up the jug of chlorine and leaving the room once more.
But Kusakiko didn't move. Instead, she reached out and ran her fingers longingly over the monochromatic figures of Jubei and Kadsuki.
Ginji and Kaneko stood in the dining room, looking around for signs of life. The girl had been leading Ginji from one place to another all morning, showing him everything from the game room to the pool shed. Once in a while she would tell him to wait and duck into one of the ominous "Employees Only" rooms, but when she came back out she'd be just as cheerful as ever.
"It's almost lunch time!" she announced excitedly. She continued looking around the dining room. Ginji, not sure what she was looking for, joined in her search. After about five minutes they managed to bump heads under the table, which hurt more than Ginji would have imagined it could.
"What are we looking for?" he asked, rubbing the top of his aching head.
"My sister," Kaneko explained. "Kusakiko makes lunch. She usually has it out by now." She crossed the room to the "Employees Only" door where they had all appeared the first time Ginji had seen them and held up her hand in a stopping gesture. "Wait right here," she told him firmly, but it was the sound of a child pretending to be an adult in some game. She disappeared into the room. It didn't take long for crashing and banging to be heard from within as metal objects fell to the floor and collided with each other. After a few moments of silence, Kaneko appeared once more. "Nope. She's not in there. Let's go find her."
Kaneko lead the way into one of the hallways, sticking her head into every "Employees Only" door on the way and shouting "Kusakiko!". They rounded a corner to the darkened "top" of the square hotel, which she flicked the lights on to. There were fewer of the mysterious "Employees Only" rooms here, so they didn't stay here long. There was one room at the end of the hall, which Kaneko hesitantly reached for before apparently deciding against it and turning to an unmarked door, which lead to the other side of the hotel. She resumed checking the rooms one by one.
"You missed one," Ginji pointed out, finding odd she would throw open all of these other doors with little regard for what could be behind them but skip one after taking a moment to decide.
"No I didn't," she said, her voice cheerful but eerily firm. Ginji decided to wisely drop the subject as Kaneko threw open another door, starting to say "Kuskakiko" again before stopping herself, saying "there you are!", and disappearing behind the ominous door. Ginji wasn't sure why these doors were so spooky. They were the same gray color as every other door. But something about those signs.... the way they looked (apparently it had been Kaneko's idea to add "please!" to each one of them), the sheer number of them...it just wasn't normal.
When Kaneko finally left the room, she was grinning broadly. "Kusakiko said she's busy working but while we wait for lunch we can have a snack."
Ginji followed her as she skipped off to the dining room excitedly, disappearing into the kitchen (more crashing and banging could be heard) and leaving him waiting in the dining room.
Ban was passing through the dining room at that moment. He noticed Ginji sitting at the table, backwards in a chair, staring hard at the door to the kitchen.
"What are you doing?" he asked, also looking at the door.
"Kaneko is getting us a snack," he explained, still staring at the door intently, like it would make her hurry.
Ban listened to the loud noises coming from the kitchen. "Does she have to kill it first?" he joked.
"I don't think so," Ginji said, apparently missing the joke. At that moment the door opened. It was dark in the kitchen so they couldn't see what was in it, but Kaneko all but skipped out, carrying two bowls of strawberry ice cream.
"Here you go!" she said cheerfully. Ginji looked at the treat excitedly and began digging in, and Kaneko quickly followed suit.
Ban looked at them both oddly. "How much does ice cream cost?" he asked at last.
Kaneko shrugged. "I don't know. But Ginji-kun is my friend, so he can have some. Would you like some?"
Ban looked at her warily. There was still something odd about her that he didn't trust, which was reaffirmed when she looked him in the eye, smiling. Her eyes were...shimmering. Little silver specs were dotting the crimson irises, and although the pupils were black, they had a silvery shine to them, like the mineral hematite.
"No thanks," he said slowly, turning around and leaving the room again.
Ginji looked at Ban as he retreated. He'd been cold to Kaneko since they had showed up, no matter how nice Kaneko tried to be to him. What was wrong with him?
"Is it good, Ginji-kun?" Kaneko asked. She had finished her ice cream already and was trying to scoop out the last of the melted mess on the bottom of the bowl.
"It's great, Kaneko-chan," Ginji said with a smile. Then he finished his ice cream in silence.
Kikaiko was alone in the game room, picking up the horrible mess Kaneko and Ginji had left during their "tour" of the hotel. Her face was a stony mask as she placed the equipment back where it went. Although this was technically Kuroko's job, both her and the person she was supposed to be attending to had been absent most of the day.
"Boo!" a loud voice said from behind Kikaiko. She didn't flinch. Her glasses didn't even move out of place. Emishi stepped out in front of her, looking her in the eye. "Nothing? Not even a little jump? You always used to humor me when I did that." Kikaiko didn't respond. In fact, she seemed to be taking great pains to ignore he was there, which was impressive considering no matter where she stepped Emishi was right in front of her.
"Remember that time you had a drink in your hand and I did that? You threw it all over Shido-kun, and then we both laughed so hard. I always wondered how you could always see me coming, though. I never could surprise you."
"Is there anything you need?" Kikaiko asked, neither confirming nor denying the story he was talking about had happened.
"Come on! It's me, Emishi, your old pal!" Emishi said desperately. "People would see us coming and they'd say 'there's Emishi and Etsuko. Someone's gonna be in trouble'. Remember? And I loved how you'd keep putting bugs in people's food. It was hilarious. Don't you remember?"
Kikaiko shifted a little upon hearing her old name, but otherwise didn't comment. She had to use every bit of her iron-strong will to keep from turning to Emishi and telling him to get lost.
"You're not still pissed about that, are you?" Emishi continued. "Look, I said I was sorry! I didn't know you would get hurt when I did it! But you didn't have to stay in Jyoukamachi afterwards. I mean, it's been years. Can't you forgive me now?"
Kikaiko finally stopped working and turned to face him, readjusting her glasses. "Kikaiko and Etsuko are different people. Please stop talking to me like we are the same person."
"You know, you always said you'd sooner kill yourself than end up like Shido-kun," Emishi pointed out. "You act just like him now. All cold with this lone-wolf 'I don't need anyone but myself' attitude. It's a real drag. Come on, smile a little. For old time's sake."
Kikaiko stood up straight and faced him, midnight blue eyes meeting his sunglasses-covered ones. She wanted to say something to him, something about how it was his fault she was here, that she was like this. Instead she said, in her most even, robotic voice, "If you need anything, don't hesitate to let me know." With that, she turned and left the room, leaving Emishi standing stunned in the game room.
Emishi stood in the room for a long moment, remembering Etsuko. They had been teenagers, Etsuko not being much older than he was, with her short royal-blue hair, dark blue eyes (although no glasses), and sweet smile. No matter how many times people told her not to humor Emishi, she would always laugh at his childish pranks and stupid jokes, even helping in a few of his tricks. Occasionally she was the mastermind, using her insects to frighten the unsuspecting.
And then he went too far. They were used to playing pranks on each other, and Emishi had overheard some people talking about an alleyway where kids usually played with fireworks that they weren't supposed to have to keep from getting in trouble. He thought it would be funny to send her in and let the sounds of the fireworks going off frighten her, but when he told her he had lost something there and sent her down the alleyway she didn't come back out. Emishi had waited for her for a long time, but he'd heard nothing. No fireworks. No people. And no Etsuko. Finally, he'd gone into the alleyway. She was a bloody mess on the ground, not moving and barely breathing. He panicked, looked for help. Someone told him to take her to Jyoukamachi.
He never found out what happened to her that day. When she woke up she was very quiet and didn't want to see him. When she finally well she saw him just one more time...
"I'm staying here," she'd told him firmly, eyes pointed at the ground. "I've talked it over with the woman who protects this place and she said that I could stay and help them protect Jyoukamachi."
"You can't stay here!" Emishi had cried out. "What about me? What about us? Who is going to help me play tricks on people?"
She'd finally looked him in the eye, her eyes darker, clouded over with hurt and anger. "It seems like you'd rather play tricks on me than with me," she'd said simply, before disappearing into Jyoukamachi once again. Emishi had tried to follow, but the blonde woman standing at the opening that separated this area from the rest of Mugenjyou wouldn't let him. He was too old, a man, and not injured. He knew that she was really turning him away because of what he'd done to Etsuko, though.
Emishi looked around the game room one last time, sighed, and then left, closing the door behind him.
Ban leaned next to the door to the baths for a moment. Across the hall was yet another peculiar "Employees Only" door, which there seemed to be no end of in this place. Just what were they doing in this place? Letting his curiosity get the best of him, he walked across the hall and gripped the doorknob of the door, about to turn it when...
"Can I help you?" a low, breathy voice said from behind him. Ban swung around to see Kuroko standing behind him, eyes concealed by her hair. Somehow Ban felt colder with her in such close proximity.
"Oh, um...I needed some aspirin. I thought this was the kitchen," he lied quickly. Then he remembered the kitchen was also "Employees Only".
Instead of commenting on this, Kuroko just nodded slowly. "Come with me," she said softly, leading him out into the dining room. Ginji was sitting at the table, watching Kaneko take the many dirty dishes and remnants of their lunch into the kitchen. Kaneko looked over at Kuroko and Ban.
"Kuroko-chan! I'm supposed to help him!" she pouted from behind the dishes, before disappearing into the kitchen. Kuroko followed her. Ban watched the door as they disappeared behind it. There seemed to be no light on in the kitchen. Every time he had seen someone go in or out of it, it had been completely dark.
"Wasn't lunch good, Ban-chan?" Ginji asked, breaking the silence that had descended over the dining room. Before Ban could answer, the tell-tale crashes that meant Kaneko was in the kitchen were heard. Finally she marched out triumphantly, holding a glass of water and two peculiar green pills.
"Here you go! I hope your headache feels better, Midou-san," she said cheerfully, handing them all to him. Then she thought about the statement for a moment. "I mean, I hope you feel better and your headache goes away."
Ban ignored this correction as he examined the pills. "What are these?"
Kaneko shrugged. "Some kind of plant stuff. Kusakiko-chan doesn't like aspirin or other medicines so she makes stuff like that."
Ban looked at the pills suspiciously, but Ginji and Kaneko were both looking at him expectantly. Mentally making a note to haunt this place if this killed him, he put both of the pills in his mouth and swallowed the water. Kaneko grinned broadly, then grabbed Ginji's hand. "Come on! Let's go to the game room and play a game!"
Ginji seemed taken off guard by the force of Kaneko dragging him out of the room, but he soon regained his footing and was able to follow her on his own. Ban watched her through narrowed eyes, then turned and went back toward the baths. He needed to relax. This place was really starting to fray his nerves.
Himiko opened one of the books from one of the many bookshelves lining the library walls, leaning against a case of rare coins. She compared the coins in the case with the ones in the book. "These are worth a fortune," she concluded. "They belong in a museum. Not in a hotel."
"Maybe they're not real," Shido suggested, not looking at the case. He was finished staring at the insects and had moved on to the case containing the plants. He didn't sound like he believed what he was saying.
"Maybe they're stolen," Himiko suggested back, voicing her original suspicion. She shelved the book and picked out another, this one containing myths and legends of Europe. She tossed a glance to the corner, where Akabane was standing in the shadows, also looking through a book. In fact, it was the same book he had been reading when Himiko first entered the library. She wondered what was so fascinating about it if it could keep him interested for so long. He seemed to be reading it cover to cover.
"No, I don't think they are. I can't remember any rare coins being stolen recently," Shido told her. "Maybe they're private collectors or one of them inherited them." Shido had almost said one of them did collect them, because he knew who each of the rare collections they were looking at belonged to, but he managed to change his statement in time. Himiko didn't know three of the sisters were from Mugenjyou. In fact, only he, Emishi, and (from what he'd heard them discussing on their way to the baths) Kadsuki and Jubei knew that. Not even Ginji seemed to remember the Sanshoku Sisters of Jyoukamachi.
"This place is very strange," Himiko commented at last. "The one who is supposed to wait on me and Hevn-san, Kusakiko, is very peculiar. She kept asking us what we knew about Kadsuki-san and Jubei-san, if I had a boyfriend or if I'd ever been in love...and then she started asking us about our health. She was standing right outside the door when I woke up from my nap to ask me if I was feeling all right. It was creepy."
"She's a doctor," Shido said absently.
Himiko shelved the book she had been leafing through and looked over at him. "How do you know that?"
Shido didn't turn to face her, instead staring intently at the case of insects. "Goshoku Kusakiko is a world famous herbologist and Eastern medicine specialist." It was the truth, although that wasn't how he knew she was a doctor. He didn't even know how long she'd been practicing medicine, or what name was on her Ph.D.
There was a sudden sound of a book snapping shut that startled both Shido and Himiko. They turned to face Akabane, who gave the cover one last look, simply said "Interesting" (although the others in the room weren't sure if he was talking about the book or the conversation), and then re-shelved the book, leaving the room quickly and quietly. After he was gone for a few moments, Himiko walked to the end of the shelf to see the title of the book he had been reading.
It was a crimson-colored tome, and as she pulled it out she had to admit she wasn't at all surprised by the title.
The Life and Crimes of Jack the Ripper
Ban pushed open the door to the baths. There was a divider that he almost walked into, about 10 centimeters wide, with two metal signs screwed into it. The first said "Please return all towels when finished bathing." Below it was a sign with two arrows. The one that pointed left had a blue silhouette of a generic-looking man used on most signs. The one pointing right had a pink generic-looking woman. Turning left, he found himself in a small square room. Eight lockers were lining the wall: four on top, four on bottom. He opened one to find a towel resting in it and a small card lying on the towel. He picked it up and read it.
"'For the convenience of our honored guest'," he read out loud. He removed the towel and stripped off his clothes, placing them in the locker and closing it. He noted idly as he walked toward a door (with yet another sign that read "please leave all clothing in the lockers and remember your locker number") that there was yet another "Employees Only" door when he looked down the corridor that lead to the locker section of the women's bath, with a slight turn that prevented him from seeing anyone on that side of the partition. Well, the hotel was run by women...
Readjusting his sunglasses and making sure the towel was around his waist, he pushed open the door that lead to the baths. Inside the water smelled strange...sweet...the unmistakable scent of herbs. He had no doubt that had been the idea of the friendly (though peculiar) woman who had asked him about his luck with love during lunch and had made those pills he had been foolish enough to take. The steam had already fogged up his sunglasses as he dropped his towel and settled into the hot water.
Ban leaned back and closed his eyes, breathing in the sweet smell of the herbs. He was so caught up in his reverie he almost missed the pair of figures on the other end of the bath. He suddenly sat up very straight, on the alert now, before relaxing again. It was Jubei and Kadsuki, and this time he wasn't spying on them so they had no reason to attack. In fact, they didn't seem to be awake. Kadsuki was leaning against Jubei comfortably, the water coming up to his bare shoulders and his long hair tied up to keep it from dragging in the water. Jubei had his head titled back slightly, his arm apparently loosely wrapped around Kadsuki in a protective gesture from what Ban could see of it above the water.
Ban decided to leave them alone as he dunked his head under the water. He still hadn't gelled his hair from after his swim, as he planned to bathe first and get the chlorine out. When he emerged he wiped his glasses with the corner of his towel.
"Hello?" Jubei asked, jumping Ban almost enough to drop his sunglasses.
"It's me," he said, not bothering to clarify. He replaced his sunglasses on his face. "You were asleep, so I thought I'd just get in and get out."
"I wasn't asleep. I just wanted to know who was in here," Jubei corrected. "That is you, isn't it Midou?"
For a moment Ban considered saying it wasn't him, but decided that would be cruel. "Yeah, it's me."
"Is he asleep?" he asked, gesturing at Kadsuki with his head.
Ban nodded, before catching himself and answering verbally. "Yeah, he is. I think he is, anyway."
Jubei nodded and moved his hand up to Kadsuki's shoulder to hold him tighter, again protectively. "He's been so tired lately. I don't think he slept well in the car last night and he hasn't slept at all today. He thinks I can't tell when he's tired. He just pretends he's fine."
Ban didn't say anything. It sounded more like Jubei was talking to himself than him. They were quiet for a long moment, before Jubei spoke again.
"We had a strange conversation with one of the sisters that run this place," Jubei started, not loosening his grip on Kadsuki.
Ban sat up straighter. He wanted to know anything about these peculiar sisters and what they were up to. Fortunately, without verbal prompting, Jubei continued.
"The one named Kusakiko is a doctor. She's why we came in here in the first place. She told us to mind all the rules, stay out of the Employees Only rooms, and that we were always being watched."
"What?" Ban cried, suddenly leaping out of the water and grabbing a towel, searching for a camera. At that, Kadsuki began to stir. He opened his brown eyes blearily, blinking at Ban before gasping and grabbing his own towel, shaking off Jubei's hand and jumping out of the bath so he could cover himself.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, sounding vaguely panicked. Ban wasn't sure he was entirely awake yet, or if he fully recognized him.
"I was taking a bath until I found out we're being watched," Ban answered honestly.
Kadsuki sighed and leaned over to take Jubei's hand and pull him out of the bath. "I didn't mean to fall asleep there," he muttered, handing Jubei his towel. Ban wasn't sure which of them Kadsuki was talking to, or if he was really talking to either of them. Apparently he wasn't exactly in top form when he woke up. Jubei seemed to already know this, as he steered the still-muttering Kadsuki out of the baths. Ban used the time they took to change to search for a camera, but could find none as he went into the locker room to change his clothes.
The entire time Ban was changing he was forming paranoid thoughts in his head, of the sisters alone in a dark room, watching them all...
Himiko was once again feeling worn as she made her way back to the room she shared with Hevn. Part of her wanted another nap, but the part that won out was the one that wanted to take a dip in the pool. She groaned when she opened the door and noticed Hevn sleeping on the bed she had won fair and square, and was even more upset when she realized her bag had been gone through. Muttering unpleasant things about her roommate, she fished down to the bottom of her bag and withdrew her violet two-piece swimsuit. She probably wouldn't attract the kind of attention Hevn had, but at the moment she really didn't care.
After changing into her bathing suit in the bathroom, she grabbed a towel and opened the door to the courtyard, walking toward the edge of the pool. In the bright afternoon sun she didn't notice anyone was out there until she was almost at the side of the pool. Kozeniko was fishing leaves off the surface with the pool skimmer, cigarette dangling from her mouth.
"I thought you weren't allowed to smoke here," Himiko said, putting down her towel and sitting on the edge of the pool. She didn't want to get in until Kozeniko was finished.
The blonde woman took her cigarette out of her mouth, examined it, shrugged, and put it back. "Do as I say, not as I do. Besides, it's Kusakiko's rule. Not mine. She lectures guests about it. All she does is ask me to stop smoking and drops the subject. She never could speak against me."
"Why not?" Himiko asked, finding herself interested. These sisters were all pretty weird, but so far Kozeniko seemed to be the most stable of the bunch, and the one most likely to give her information.
"Because I'm her older sister," was the simple reply. She took the pool skimmer out of the water and checked the temperature. "There. That should do it."
Himiko looked at the water. "You five really are sisters?"
Kozeniko shook her head and dropped her cigarette, stepping it out. "Just me and Kusakiko. I was always more like her mother, though. Our parents never liked her very much, which was part of the reason we left home. Bet they were some pissed off, too. I was the oldest and the only one trained in the family technique."
Kozeniko held up her left hand. A gold coin shined between her index and middle fingers, engraved on both sides though Himiko couldn't read it from where she was sitting. Kozeniko flipped her hand back, and the coin fell down to her knuckles. With another snap of her wrist it was standing upright, and she rolled it back and forth over her knuckles before making it disappear with a flourish of her hand.
"That's not really the technique," Kozeniko explained. "But I am trained in a kind of fighting style that uses coins. It's supposed to be taught only to left-handed males. My father was the last male to learn it, though. After my last sister was born- I really do have four younger sisters- my mother couldn't have any more children. I was the oldest and I was left-handed, so my father cut off my hair, told me to be a boy, and then started training me."
Well, that solved one mystery. Himiko was still curious, though. "So you just let him raise you as a boy?"
Kozeniko shrugged. "It was bound to happen, anyway. I was always a tomboy. I didn't much like how he pushed around Kusakiko, though. She was weird, but she was a pretty good person. She's the one who is waiting on you so you probably know what I mean."
Himiko wasn't sure if she could agree with this woman or not. Sure, she had admitted that Kusakiko was peculiar, but she also seemed to be highly protective of her. "She's....different," she finally said, more out of fear of what incurring this woman's wrath might cause than to be polite.
"Go ahead. You can say it. She's completely nuts," Kozeniko encouraged. "Don't get me wrong. She's a good person and a great doctor, but she's never played with a full deck, if you get my meaning. Has she asked you about your love interests yet?" When Himiko nodded, Kozeniko sighed and lit another cigarette. "Figures. She's obsessed with lovers, and she has the stupidest reason. When she was about eight we went to a carnival and they had a fortune teller there. She was obviously a fake, mostly because I heard her talking about how she couldn't wait to quit her job while she was on her smoke break later, but she told Kusakiko that lovers would set her free. It made no sense then, it makes no sense now, but it just snapped something in her head and she's been all but stalking anyone who happen to be lovers or have had lovers or want lovers since then." Kozeniko looked at Himiko, who was giving her a peculiar look. She shrugged and took another drag off of her cigarette. "She hasn't even been with a man since college, though, so I think most of it is just her living vicariously through our guests. She was a romantic even before then. But still, she can creep some people out. Just remember she's pretty much harmless. She does a hell of a lot more help than harm."
Himiko stood up to test the water with her foot. She wasn't sure she wanted to hear any more. The sisters all made her feel uneasy as it was without confirmation that at least one of them was completely unstable. The one that was supposed to serve her, no less.
"That's a cute bathing suit, by the way," Kozeniko noted, taking a last drag off of her cigarette before throwing it down and stepping it out like her last one. "I never swim, even though one of my little jobs as manager is pool maintenance. But you carry that look well. Your roommate....is a bit much, if you get my meaning."
Himiko ignored the strange and random comment about her attire and laughed at the joke about Hevn. "She is a bit on the flashy side," she confirmed, purposely downplaying what she really thought about Hevn. She didn't hate her, exactly. She did find her employment, after all. She just couldn't stand to be alone in the same room as her for more than five minutes.
"Yeah, but you....you don't like to show off, do you?" Kozeniko continued, her voice suddenly getting husky. She stepped closer to Himiko. "Don't you think you try a little too hard to downplay how attractive you are?"
"Wh-what?" Himiko asked, instinctively reaching for her perfumes and remembering she'd left them with her clothes.
Kozeniko reached out and ran a finger down her cheek, down her neck, trying to go lower...
Himiko batted her hand away. "Stop that. I'm warning you-" she was cut off as she got into a battle stance.
"You're still pretty young, aren't you?" Kozeniko asked suddenly. "Figures. Such a pretty little thing, too. You've never been curious?"
"If you don't get away from me-"
"Fine, fine, I'm going," Kozeniko said, holding up her hands in a gesture of surrender. "But....just think about it. If you change your mind, just give me a holler." She winked, then turned and walked back into the main portion of the hotel through a door marked "Employees Only".
Himiko blinked twice, wondering what had just happened. She'd never been hit on by a woman before, let alone a woman who had to be at least twice her age. She looked down at her swimsuit, then picked up her towel and covered herself. She suddenly didn't want to swim any more.
It was almost dark out before Ginji finally made his way back to the room he was sharing with Ban, throwing himself down onto his bed. Ban, who had been smoking a cigarette, threw it in the toilet and flushed it before coming out to meet his partner.
"Where have you been all night?" he asked, more out of curiosity than anger.
"With Kaneko-chan," Ginji said weakly. "She doesn't wear out very easily. I'm so tired."
Ban looked at the clock. "It's only eight thirty."
Ginji nodded, pulling the blanket up over him. The TV was on, but it had been muted so Ban could listen for people in the hall. "It's lights out at nine," Ginji informed Ban.
Ban raised an eyebrow. "Who said?"
"Kaneko-chan and Kusakiko-chan. Just in the halls, though. But the lights have to be off in our rooms if we're going to open the doors."
"Why?" Ban asked, confused by this rule.
Ginji shrugged. "Their boss doesn't like light. They don't even have lights in the Employees Only rooms. I guess he comes out at night."
Ban, who had just sat on his own bed, looked over at Ginji upon hearing this. He'd heard very little about the employer of the sisters, and the knowledge that he came out after dark interested him. "Which room is his room, anyway?"
There was no answer from Ginji.
"Ginji, which room is he in?"
Again, no answer. This time, Ban picked up one of the pillows on his bed and threw it at Ginji.
"Hey, what was that for?" Ginji cried out, taking the pillow and putting it on top of his own.
"Answer me. Do you know which room their employer is in?"
Ginji shook his head, then seemed to be deep in thought. "On the other side of the hotel, at the end of the hall, there's a room Kaneko-chan won't go in. We saw Kusakiko-chan coming in and out of there a few times."
"Did Kaneko say anything about that being her boss's room?"
Once again, Ginji was lost to his slumber. Ban picked up his other pillow and prepared to heave it at Ginji, but changed his mind. Chances were that Ginji didn't know anything more than what he had just told him, therefore waking him up would be a waste of time. Resigning to this fact, he laid back on the bed, lighting another cigarette. A mysterious employer that only came out at night. Far more Employees Only rooms than what one of the sisters (he couldn't remember which) had detailed for him when he'd asked. And supposedly they were always being watched, although he had yet to find a camera in any room, and he had searched thoroughly. Once he'd caught Kadsuki trying to slip a string under one of the Employees Only doors, only to see the door open to reveal a very unamused Kozeniko, who asked if she could help them before noticing Kadsuki was holding something. Knowing he was caught, he retracted the string. Ban wondered how many other doors he had tried this with, and with what results.
As if he wasn't worried enough about having to search the sea for a manuscript, he now had a hotel of crazy sisters to contend with...
Akabane was standing alone in the dining room. All of the lights had been long since shut off, but despite this fact he always seemed to be caught by the rather troublesome and ever-present Kuroko whenever he tried to open a door marked "Employees Only". Never the less, he was always up for a challenge.
He had found that during the day the best way to get rid of the cold girl was to stay around other people, so he had taken to following Himiko, whether she knew it or not. When he'd heard Himiko asking Kusakiko where the library was, he'd made his way there first. When he'd seen her stepping out to the pool, he had been in the shadows on the other side of the courtyard. It was only when she retreated to her room that he was forced to find somewhere else to hide himself. He wished now he had requested a room, but he'd thought getting to explore every inch of this place would be far less of a challenge.
"Do you need any help, sir?" a low voice said from the general vicinity of the kitchen. If Akabane was startled, he managed to hide it well.
"I'm fine," he said with a smile, when in actuality he was getting ready to give Kuroko the old "J" treatment and end his pain. If he thought it would accomplish anything, he probably would have.
"It is not too late for me to find you a room. I am sure your employer will be willing to cover it, and we do have a vacancy."
Akabane thought about this for a minute. He was about to decline the offer when an idea struck him. "Actually, I am interested in one room..."
Kadsuki yawned as he curled up against Jubei, feeling exhausted. Jubei immediately wrapped an arm around Kadsuki, holding him against him. Most of his hair, which he hadn't bothered to tie back up after the incident at the baths, was now draped over them both, making Jubei feel a bit itchy. But he didn't make any attempt to remove it, deciding it could be ignored.
"Should we have done that here?" Kadsuki asked softly, his voice sounding faraway as he teetered on the edge of sleep.
"I don't think we are being watched. Midou's been searching every room for cameras and has come up empty, and he told me he was familiar with bugs and where and how they are usually placed. Besides, they're women. Even if they want to spy on us, they'd know better to look away when someone's doing....that."
Kadsuki smiled. "We don't know that. They're all pretty....different."
"Fine. Let them get an eyeful, then."
Meanwhile, in the "Employees Only" room at the end of the hall, Kusakiko was staring at the screen that displayed what was going on in room two, the room Kadsuki and Jubei were in. She could hear their conversation and felt a bit insulted by it, but didn't object. The sounds of a tape being copied and the conversation in the room were the only things she could hear right now.
"Kusakiko," a voice said suddenly. Kusakiko jumped and whirled around before realizing it was coming from her left earring.
"Yes, Amaya-san?" she asked seemingly no one. Through her left earring she could hear whatever Amaya said. In her right her sisters could communicate with her. This was helpful as only one was ever watching the monitors.
"I don't think they all trust you."
"Is that bad?"
"We need them to become paranoid. If they are paranoid and if they trust you, then they'll be easier to manipulate." There was a long break in the connection, which Kusakiko was sure he was using to have a coughing fit. The connection flickered to life again. "The one called Midou Ban said they are leaving tomorrow to go to the bay. We need to distract them before they can. Tell your sisters that after-" He didn't have time to sever the connection this time, as he coughed long and loudly into the mouthpiece of his own communication device. When he stopped Kusakiko could hear him making a wet crackling noise as he breathed. "After breakfast we are going through with the plan, with a slight change."
Kusakiko knew better than to make him talk more than he had to, but she had to know. "What change?"
"Midou Ban will be sent to me."
Ban had a rather rude awakening the next morning, as Ginji shook him awake at seven AM. "What the hell...?" he muttered, grabbing his pillow and attempting to fight Ginji off with it. "Go away. I'm sleeping."
"Kaneko-chan said it's time to wake up," Ginji said firmly.
"Tell Kaneko she can go-"
"I was going to say away! Honest!"
Ginji sat down on the edge of the bed, making it clear he wouldn't move unless Ban got up. "Kaneko-chan said it's a rule. And breakfast is ready. And didn't you say you wanted to get out early to look for the manuscript?"
Ban finally sat up, grabbing his sunglasses off the nightstand. "I didn't ask for a wake-up call..." he muttered, putting them on and retreating to the bathroom. He was going to have to hurt Hevn later for making them stay here. As he opened the door that lead to the hallway, both he and Ginji froze. Akabane was standing in front of the door across the hall.
"Good morning," he said simply, smiling at them in that infuriating way he always smiled.
Ban chose to ignore him and walked toward the dining room, Ginji casting Akabane one last nervous look before following Ban, checking every few seconds behind him to make sure Akabane wasn't about to try anything.
No one seemed exactly thrilled as they all sat around the dining room table. In fact, very few of them seemed to be awake. Only Ginji, Shido, and Akabane were wide awake, and it was arguable that Akabane ever slept. Jubei was falling over into his miso soup, Kadsuki was sitting next to him, muttering things under his breath and once again not seeming to register where he was or why. Himiko was slumped tiredly over the table, her food pushed out of the way, occasionally giving angry glares at Hevn, whose face kept falling forward before the threat of suffocation caused her to jerk her head back up. Emishi appeared to be sitting bolt upright, but as Ban walked by him to his seat he fell onto the floor with a resounding thud and didn't get back up. Shido looked down onto the floor, tapped Emishi lightly with his foot, and then began to eat his breakfast. Ban managed to keep his eyes open, but every time he tried to pick anything up with his chopsticks he seemed to miss.
"Oh, come on. You act like you've never been up at seven before," Kozeniko said angrily. "Up. Get up. Eat. You'll miss the whole day." She put a hand on Himiko's back, causing her to sit bolt upright and glare at Kozeniko angrily. No one seemed to notice this little exchange. No one, that is, except Akabane. But when he smiled knowingly it was really no different from any other time he smiled.
"Check out time better be ridiculously early," Ban all but growled, finally managing to pick up a piece of egg only to be so stunned by this accomplishment he dropped it again.
"I am afraid seven AM wake-up calls are a rule here," Kusakiko explained. "It makes things easier on me, as I am the only cook here and I have work elsewhere as well."
"I'd like to complain to the manager," Kadsuki finally said, the first coherent thing he'd said since he first arrived in the dining room.
"I'm the manager," Kozeniko told him, leaning forward on the table (right next to Himiko, making her cringe back in disgust). "Complain away."
"Fine. I want to see your boss," Kadsuki demanded, not intimidated in the least.
Kozeniko straightened up. "You can't," she said simply but firmly. "I'm the manager. If you have a complaint for him, you speak through me. If you don't want to lodge a complaint with me then it must not be that important."
There was a tense moment as the pair just glared at each other, everyone waiting to see if they would lash out at each other. Finally, Kadsuki put his head down and began to pick at his food. A few people audibly let out their breath, which they had been holding.
"Don't we get to meet this elusive boss of yours before we go?" Hevn asked. "I should at least get to. I made the arrangements to stay here and everything."
Emishi had finally climbed back to the table and was now eating with gusto. "Yeah, what gives?"
Kikaiko readjusted her glasses and glared at Emishi. "Our employer does not wish to be bothered."
"He's ill," Kusakiko added, giving Kikaiko a sharp look.
"That's sad," Ginji said around a mouthful of food.
However, as Ban finished his meal he couldn't help but think about this mysterious employer....
Amaya smiled as he watched the monitor of the actions in the dining room. Everything was on schedule. As he coughed hard into a tissue, he couldn't help but feel better. Lighter. With this favor, his debt would be repaid. He would be able to live his final days in peace with his girls.
"One hour," he choked out. On the monitor, all five girls nodded. He couldn't help but notice the uneasy expressions on Kusakiko and Kaneko's faces, however. Well, that was unsettling. Before he could reassure the girls another coughing fit came up on him, so hard it knocked him back into his chair. As unsettling as the actions on the monitor were, they would have to wait.
Breakfast was over by eight. The sisters had requested that they stay put as they cleared away the dishes, something most of them did obligingly as they weren't awake enough to want to move. After the dishes were cleared the sisters remained in the kitchen for a very long time.
"What do you think they're doing?" Ginji whispered to Ban.
Ban gave the door a troubled look. "Not much. I can't hear anything coming from in there. It's usually noisy."
Kadsuki stood up and detached his bell, getting read to put a string under the door when it suddenly burst open, nearly hitting Kadsuki in the face, He quickly reattached his bell and pretended he had been pacing, though from the glare he got from Kozeniko they didn't buy it.
"Come on, Ginji-kun!" Kaneko said excitedly, grabbing Ginji's hand and leading him out of the room.
Kusakiko gave Kozeniko a pleading look, but she just nodded, causing Kusakiko to sigh. "Hevn-san, Kudo-san, if you would please...?"
The two women looked at each other before hesitantly standing and following the green-haired women from the and out of the room.
"Where are they going?" Ban demanded, standing up.
"None of your business," Kozeniko said, pushing him back down into his seat.
Kadsuki stood up this time. "Answer him," he said in a warning tone.
Kozeniko narrowed her eyes. "You want to know so badly? Fine, come with me. And bring the blind guy with you," she ordered, pushing open the door that lead to the hallway. Kadsuki hesitated before standing, Jubei following him as he heard his bells leaving the room.
Ban looked at the remaining two girls. "What do you have to say for yourselves?" he demanded.
Emishi stood up this time. "Come on, Etsu-er, Kikaiko. You can tell me."
Kikaiko's eyes briefly narrowed, before she nodded slowly. "I can show you," she said slowly. "You and him." She pointed at Shido.
"Why him?" Emishi asked.
"If you want to know you will both come with me," she said simply. Emishi almost knocked his chair over hurrying to follow her. Shido looked like he didn't want to follow, but did anyway.
Now only Ban, Akabane, and Kuroko were in the room. Ban was about to open his mouth to speak again when Akabane cut him off.
"I suppose you want me to go with you," he said coolly. When Kuroko nodded he laughed softly. "This should be fun."
And suddenly Ban was alone. And he couldn't take it any longer. He pushed the door open and looked for them...but there was no sign of anyone.
They all followed each of the sisters to doors marked "Employees Only". They had known this was a bad sign. They had known they were probably going to be in trouble. And yet they still followed, and almost simultaneously the sisters all pushed open the doors to their respective rooms, leading whoever was behind them into the darkness beyond, the doors locking with audible clicking noises behind them.
Kadsuki and Jubei now stood in a room that was pitch black. several lamps suspended from the ceiling suddenly turned on to reveal several display cases filled with coins. Kozeniko stood in the center of the room, and as she spread all of her fingers gold coins glittered between each of them.
In the next room Hevn and Himiko gasped as the sunlamps in the room they were standing in switched on one by one. The room looked like a jungle, the walls covered in thick vines and leaves, some sprouting large, colorful flowers. Only the floor was bare concrete. Standing in the center of the room, Kusakiko looked up at them with sad eyes and whispered "I'm sorry."
In the next room several candles suddenly lit themselves. Akabane smiled as he took in the scene. It looked like a funeral, a casket laying surrounded by candles at the head of the room, before a statue of Buddha. Flowers surrounded the casket, and standing in front of it was Kuroko, who reached up to move the hair from her eyes...
In the next room, Emishi already had his whip in his hand as the lamps above several lidless glass tanks switched on. Inside each of the tanks were large, unpleasant looking insects, crawling all over each other, clicking and buzzing and hissing. Kikaiko stood in the center of the center of the room, her eyes hidden as the light shined sinisterly off of her glasses.
And in the final room fluorescent lights switched on to reveal a solid metal room. The floor, the ceiling, and the walls were all pure steel. And the room was completely empty except for the lone figure of Kaneko standing in the center of the room, smiling in a way that made Ginji back up against the door, trying to open it to find it was locked.
"What's the matter, Ginji-kun? Don't you like my room?" she asked him sweetly.
Ban ran through the hotel, trying to open every door he saw. All of them, even the doors that weren't marked "Employees Only", were locked. The only one he had found that opened so far lead to a darkened hall, and as he tried all of the doors he finally reached one at the very end of the hall, marked "Employees Only". The knob turned smoothly, and opened. He threw it open and ran into the room, immediately overtaken by it's sterile smell and how dark it was. Only a wall of black and white monitors illuminated the room, and in front of the monitors was a desk with several gadgets and a box of tissues. Sitting at the desk was a dark figure in a chair, who didn't turn to face him. Only spoke in a hoarse voice, barely above a whisper, his breath wet and rasping.
End of Chapter Three
Quick Notes on Certain Scenes:
1.) I did the Jubei and Kadsuki in bed one as a favor to someone. It was going to be long, but I decided to make it segue into something else. If I didn't owe this person a lot I would have cut it out entirely.
2.) The pool scene might be a bit gratuitous, but I did it to be funny.
3.) The breakfast scene is because I have a trademark of always showing which characters are morning people and which aren't.
4.) While I would hope everyone would get the joke of Akabane reading a book on Jack the Ripper, there are some who don't. Akabane was very obviously based on Jack the Ripper. Hell, it's likely he is Jack the Ripper. Observe:
Jack the Ripper: Was believed to have been a medical doctor (surgeon, actually).
Akabane: His nickname is "Dr. JACKel".
Jack the Ripper: Dissected his victims (while they were still alive, albeit drugged) with scalpels.
Akabane: Weapons of choice are scalpels.
Jack the Ripper: Was never caught. Someone believed to have been him died in Britain, but modern science has since proven he was not Jack the Ripper.
Akabane: Nothing is known of his past, including his age.
*Cue Goo's Stupidity*
Next Chapter of Get Backers: "Get Backers vs. the Goshoku Sisters". Look forward to it!
Any similarity between anyone living or dead is purely coincidental unless other wise noted.