Ryo had always been a morning person. Never had he felt as awful as he opened his eyes this particular morning, greeting the still-dark room. It wouldn't be dawn for several more hours, but he had always been an early riser.
He cleared his scratchy throat before closing his eyes again.
Just a few more minutes of sleep…
He scrunched his nose in dissatisfaction.
His normally flawless apartment reeked. Terribly. The stench of vomit and liquor hung over him, reminding him of the night before.
He smashed a pillow over his head, wanting to call in sick and spend the day sleeping.
The soft sheets and fluffy pillow weren't helping his situation of trying to get up and out of bed either. He grasped his pillow, threw it to his side, and kicked the covers off of him.
"Get up, Akiyama," he muttered to himself.
He gazed at the dark, blank ceiling.
He wanted to go back to sleep.
He needed to go back to sleep.
His alarm clock went off.
He let it ring incessantly.
He closed his eyes again, his mind flashing to the scenes of the night before. The girl vomiting on him, he cleaning her vomit, he carrying her—
He opened his eyes, leaned over and turned his alarm clock off.
It had been the single most nauseating night of his life.
He sat up and stared at the bathroom into which he would soon step. The last thing he wanted to think about was the night before—and Rika… Rika… whatever her name was.
Rika awoke, head pounding. She groaned and turned to her side, only to fall to the floor.
Tangled in a mass of very soft sheets, she quickly scrambled to her feet to see if anybody had seen. She scanned the room to see that Kazu wasn't there. Then she realised this wasn't his room.
Nor was this her room.
Nor anybody's room she had ever been in.
It was fancy and elegant, almost as if it was taken from a Victorian palace.
Suspicious, she called, "Hello?"
There was no response.
She let the sheets fall off her body, revealing a nightgown she didn't remember she owned. Her eyes inspected the room again, and they fell onto a chair. Clothes—she presumed they were her clothes—were neatly folded on top of it.
"All right, where the hell are you?" she shouted loudly, seizing the sheets and wrapping it protectively around her body.
Still, there was no response. Nor were there any signs of movement. The room was empty.
She couldn't remember a thing.
Her eyes widened with realisation, and she screamed.
To look at this situation from a positive light, the girl had gotten his mind out of Mayuko. And accordingly, his hunger finally set in.
Unfortunately, the only thing he had managed to get were some crisps from a stand at the corner of the street. As he munched on those, he felt refreshingly better. Perhaps it was because he had starved himself the past couple of days.
"Mr Akiyama?" came Arisa's voice on the intercom.
"There's a Miss Rika Nonaka downstairs who wishes to see you. She claims she has an appointment, but I don't have her scheduled. Would you like me to send her away?"
It had to be the crazy girl.
He contemplated kicking her out but after some thought realised he did owe her at least an explanation.
"No, allow her in."
He tapped his pen against his desk, anticipating the moment she would burst through his door. He hardly knew her, but from what he could tell, she'd start a riot. Just in case, he slipped one hand under his desk to where the security button was.
He could hear sounds of loud shuffling in the other room and a woman's voice. It was obviously not Arisa's meek one.
The door flew open.
"You rapist!" The redheaded girl stormed into his office, her expression even more intimidating than he had imagined. "I'm suing you for every pence you're worth own, you—"
He refused to let her control him the way she had embarrassingly done so the night before.
"Perhaps you would like to hear the correct story before you start screaming such accusations?" he suggested, motioning for a very bewildered Arisa to shut the door.
Despite his calm exterior, she petrified him. He could see her seething with anger, and for a brief moment, he was positive she would lunge at him and kill him. It wouldn't even surprise him if she had a knife stowed away under her jacket, just waiting to get close enough to stab him. She even seemed scary enough to take it out and throw it directly at his face.
"What the hell was I doing with this on—" She threw a nightgown on his desk, "in a hotel room?"
"Do you even remember anything from last night?"
"I remember you taking advantage of me when I was drunk!"
He suddenly grew angry. She had no reason to yell at him. It was he who should be screaming at her.
"Advantage of you?" he said loudly. "You think I took advantage of you?"
She was unbelievable. She thought… she thought he… that he would even consider… no. It was too inconceivable to even think about.
"What would you think if you were in my place?" she snarled. "No wonder why you were so eager to follow me around, you sick-minded, perverted—"
He interrupted, unable to take such accusations. "You drank too much, which I specifically told you not to do, and passed out. I tried calling your mum as you told me to do, but she wasn't saved in your speed dial like you said. When I called your boyfriend, your mobile died. I don't know anything about you, so what was I supposed to do? Leave you there on the sidewalk? I certainly wasn't going to take you home with me, so I let you stay here. I assumed it would be the polite thing."
She simply glared now. This made him feel slightly better.
"Did I mention that you threw up? Several times?" He picked up the nightgown. "A maid changed you because that was the only way to relieve the room of your vomit odour. Which, now that you've come here personally, you can pay for. That will be ¥150,000."
"You asshole, you have no right to be mad at me."
"I have every right to be mad at you." He stood up, giving her a hard glare. "Thanks for dropping by, and I'm terribly sorry about any misunderstandings. Talk to Arisa on the way out; she'll give you your bill."
She didn't budge. "You're charging me ¥150,000 for a hotel room I never wanted?"
"That's the amount it costs for a night, yes."
"You're robbing me."
"Oh, that's not all. I paid ¥6500 for your drinks last night too."
He had always hated when people got angry with him, but for some reason, the fact that this girl glared at him with her cold eyes made him feel better. Perhaps it was because he was winning the argument.
She marched closer to him, threw her bag on his desk, and opened it.
He sat patiently, watching as she rummaged through it.
She took out a chequebook. "How much is it for all of it then? ¥156,500?"
"Better round it to ¥157,000. I paid for your McDonald's too."
She scribbled, pressing down hard with her pen. He could feel the hate seeping from her, but he ignored it. Out of paranoia, he glanced quickly into her handbag to make sure there wasn't any sort of weapon she'd pull out.
The sound of her ripping the cheque startled him.
"Here." She slammed the paper on his desk.
She seized the nightgown from the chair and stormed off, making sure to close the door as hard and as loudly as she could. For a minute, he sat there, smiling. It felt good to know he had made her morning terrible.
And then he felt terrible.
What on Earth was he doing, taking this money from her? She hadn't asked to stay in a ¥150,000 suite. She had insisted on paying her ¥6500 bill yesterday; he simply had paid to hurry things along. He had even given up the ¥500 voluntarily upon her asking. None of it was her fault; he was a crook.
He took the cheque from his desk and ran out the door.
"I'll be back," he promised Arisa as he ran out her door. Deciding the elevator wouldn't be fast enough, he opened the door that led to the stairway and began to run down.
It was a stupid idea.
His legs were killing him, and he couldn't tell if he was breathing anymore. His lungs were probably failing him, yet he kept jumping down the stairs.
He had always watched people in the movies who decided stairs were faster than the elevator, and he had criticised them for even thinking that. Obviously, the elevator was much faster.
So why was he still racing down the stairs as if his life depended on it?
It wasn't like it was that important of a task.
He was practically stealing from her, that was why. And even though she wasn't the most likeable character, he couldn't take her money. Especially when she had been right.
Then again, she didn't have to be so stupid as to get so pissed drunk.
From his office to the entrance of the hotel, he argued with himself until he finally opened the door to the lobby.
She wasn't anywhere to be seen, but he rushed outside, ignoring the stares from his staff members.
He saw her at a newspaper stand, skimming a magazine.
Relieved, he stopped to catch his breath before walking up to her. She didn't appear to see him approach her, despite his panting.
"Rika," he called out, approaching her.
She turned to him, gave him a foul look and returned to her magazine. She was ignoring him.
He outstretched his arm, revealing her cheque. "I'm sorry."
"I don't want it," she muttered, turning to the kiosk owner. "I'll have this."
"Please take it."
"I don't want it," she repeated again, not turning her attention from the confused owner.
"I can't accept it."
"And yet you were the one who forced me to write it," she pointed out, turning around for a brief moment to give him a devilish glare. "If you don't want it, rip it up. I'm not stopping you. Don't bother me though. You've wasted enough of my time."
He folded it in half and tore it. "I'm sorry."
She eyed him from head to toe before her lips curled up into a belittling smirk. "Have a nice day, Motou."
The way she said it was mocking.
She turned her heel and walked away, and despite that she had made him feel extremely uncomfortable, he felt better. Smiling contently to himself, he too turned to walk away. He then turned back around, tempted by another bag of crisps.
"Er…" He rummaged through his pockets for any loose change. Somehow, luck decided to be on his side, and he pulled out a note. "Could I have one of those?"
Arisa leaned towards his ear and whispered, "Mr Akiyama, I think your, er, chewing is distracting people."
He looked down at the bag of Doritos in his hand. "Is it?"
Embarrassed, he put the bag away.
He was starving.
And not paying attention.
Realising this, he decided to listen to the discussion.
"97% of the people say they're fine with the conditions in the rooms already, but 19% say it could be a bit colder. Yet 92% of those people say they wouldn't mind it was the same anyway… And 4% of that 97% from earlier also claim it could be a bit warmer. The other 77% of the original 97% say they can't really tell and would either not mind if it changed or were indecisive…"
Ryo looked down at his notes, scribbling down whatever he had heard along with some doodles. So far, he had managed to scribble a drawing of a pig alongside percentages with no labels.
"President Akiyama, what is your view on this?"
He looked up. "Pardon?"
"The temperature issue?"
What temperature issue? They were discussing temperature? He thought they were discussing marketing… No, research. Wait, it was definitely—
"I don't think it's of any importance," he answered honestly.
"Oh, yes, of course. Nix the temperature idea." The Head of Research pointed at his charts again. "Next we have food research. Mostly, about 94% of the people enjoy the food, but 16% think it could be a little bit more traditionally Japanese…"
Ryo sighed softly, scribbling his "notes" once again.
As he approached Arisa's office, he saw a familiar somebody waiting outside.
He wanted to dash to the nearest exit, but she made eye contact with him first.
"Hello," he greeted politely.
She smirked. "I left my jacket in your office."
"Oh." He took his keys out and unlocked the door. "Sorry."
"Why are you sorry?" she muttered, taking the liberty to barge in the second he opened the door.
"Could you hurry?" she asked, now standing by his office door. She crossed her arms to show her impatience.
He unlocked the door for her again.
She walked in and took a jacket from the couch. She searched the pockets and took out her mobile. Looking pleased, she turned around to face him.
She wasn't leaving.
"Sorry about earlier," he tried.
"Don't worry about it."
She still wasn't leaving.
"Could I help you with anything else?"
She smirked again. "Actually, I was wondering if you could do me a favour."
A favour? Since when did he owe her a favour? Of any kind?
"You're still looking for a spokesperson, right?"
She smirked, conscious of his uneasiness.
"Yes," he finally managed to say. "Don't worry, I've taken care of that contract so—"
"Hire you?" he repeated slowly.
She smiled. "Problem?"
"I thought you didn't want the job," he rephrased.
"It's a ¥200 million endorsement. Why would anybody not want that?"
Taxes? he thought bitterly. "I'm not quite sure I have the ability to hire you. You'll have to check with whoever is in charge of—"
Arisa's voice came from the speaker. "Mr Akiyama, your father is on line one."
Perfect, he thought sarcastically.
Rika turned her head to examine her jacket, still smirking. He pretended not to notice her, instead walking to his desk, confirming with Arisa, and picking up the telephone to hear his father's daunting voice.
"I should fire you."
Typical father-son greeting.
"Hi Dad," Ryo greeted. "I've been well. How have you been?"
"Don't try to be funny, Ryo."
"Hello Mr Motou!" Rika hollered, suddenly beside him.
Ryo let out a gasp of surprise.
"Ryo, who is that?"
"She's er… she's nobody."
"I'm Rika Nonaka," she replied. "I'm the new spokesperson for your company. It's an absolute pleasure to meet—er, talk to you."
There was a pause.
Ryo stared at Rika.
Rika smiled at him, as if what she had done was perfectly acceptable.
"Splendid!" his father exclaimed. "I was calling to lecture you for not meeting your deadline, but apparently you have. Arisa told me you hadn't."
Ryo still stared at Rika. She continued to smile prettily, reaching her hand out over his and lowering the phone towards her mouth.
"I hope to be an asset to your company!" Rika replied.
"Thank you, Miss Nonaka. Ryo, I'm sorry for disrupting your work and taking up your time. Both of you, have an excellent day."
Ryo continued to stare blankly at Rika, despite the dial tone buzzing in his ear.
"Thanks for hiring me, Mr—" Rika's eye caught his nameplate and picked it up. "Akiyama."