icha icha -tactics

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CHAPTER I A gust of warm, tropical wind rushed softly through my hair and fingers as I gazed up at the row of palm trees lining the walkway of the hotel. The sun had already begun to set, and the bright, vivid colors of the evening sky were slowly fading in favor of a calm violet hue. With a wearied expression, and three bags of luggage holding me down, I made my way towards the revolving glass doors, passing from scorched concrete onto cool marble tiling. My first steps onto the floor of the grand hotel lobby were met with subtle echoes from the soles of my runners, breaking the apparent silence within and rousing the attention of a single onlooker. Making my way to the front desk, I was greeted by a very cheerful attendant, whose lively eyes and bright smile seemed fixed on my expression. "Hello there. How may I help you?" "Hi," I replied, taking a moment to set down my luggage against the tall counter between us. "My name is Hachi, and I have a reservation for one of your rooms." The attendant continued to smile, nodding politely. She had on a pair of rather thick reading glasses, connected by a long red string which matched the color of her frames. The torrent of the summer heat weighed heavily on her long reddish hair, and her skin seemed to glow with a light perspiration. Still, she seemed a great deal more accustomed to the sultry temperatures of the resort than I was. "Here we are," she stated, pulling up a file on her computer. "Hachi Komatsu: seven evenings in room 105, with a nice view of the main gardens. Sounds quite nice." I blushed slightly, looking down at the counter. "I hope so." "Are you travelling alone, Miss Komatsu?" I hesitated to answer, hoping to use my uncomfortable silence as a response. "Well, I..." "It's quite all right, of course," the attendant stated. "It's not very often that we receive reservations from guests so young... who are alone, for that matter. Are your parents going to be checking into a different room later today perhaps?" "No," I replied, uneasily. The attendant nodded.

"I understand, Hachi. So, does this mean you'll be meeting someone else here at the resort today? I'd be happy to see if he's checked in already." "That's okay," I answered, more than a little embarrassed. "I really am here alone. This is my first real vacation." The attendant's smile wavered for a brief moment. "Oh, well I'm sure someone as sweet as yourself shouldn't have any trouble meeting someone during your stay." My slight blushing quickly filled out my cheeks in a red hue. "Thank you, Miss..." Reaching for the lapel of her blazer, the attendant quickly fixed her small name tag, which had been partially concealed. "I'm Molly. Pleased to meet you." "Hello Molly," I replied, smiling for the first time since my arrival. "Hmm, 105," she began, tapping her fingers on the desk. "That's a single occupant room, if I'm not mistaken." "I believe so." "Well, I think we can do better than that," she smiled, opening up a few files on her computer. "How does two king sized beds and a nice view of the main pool area and ocean sound instead?" I gulped, almost unable to speak. "Well, I..." "Is that adequate for you, Miss Komatsu?" she asked, happily. "Yes, definitely, I..." "Well, then I'll set you up in room 316 then, at no extra charge, of course. A special vacation deserves a special view to go with it." "Thank you, Molly," I answered. "I don't really know how to thank you." "Just promise to have a wonderful time, Hachi," she grinned. "Of course, I know I will."

Molly nodded cheerfully, standing from her seat and peering over the counter at my three bags. "Can I get you some assistance with your luggage?" After a short pause, I peered down at my bags and then back up at Molly, nervously. "I'll be all right now, I think." "Of course," Molly replied, fixing her glasses. "If there's anything you should need at all while you're here, don't hesitate to dial me here downstairs. I should be working at the front desk for the better part of your stay the next few days." "Thank you, Molly, for everything," I smiled. Nodding, Molly stood from her chair and quickly returned with my room key card, setting it on the countertop. With a nervous smile and a slight blush, I leaned down to retrieve my luggage, grasping the key with my partially free hand at the same time. Just before I reached the open elevator doors, I looked back to see Molly's cheerful smile as she uttered a final phrase that seemed to echo throughout the lush lobby interior. "Welcome to Konohakagure, Miss Komatsu. Enjoy your stay." ... Stepping off the elevator onto the third floor, my shoes met with a plush violet carpet, strikingly similar to the rich colors of the evening sky. A continuous string of long, blue fluorescent lighting adorned each side of the hall, both at ankle height as well as just below the ceiling. Other than that, the hallway was rather dim, mimicking the beauty of the outdoors with various tropical plants placed strategically in open corners. If there hadn't been two small exit signs and a few soda machines on either end of the hallway, it could have almost been mistaken for a jungle path. The sweltering heat of the early evening accentuated the hall's resemblance to a genuine rainforest. Sighing, I made my way down the darkened hallway, stopping in front of room 316 and dropping all three pieces of my luggage onto the floor with a loud thud. Then, as I reached into the back pocket of my jeans for the key, I let my other hand pass through my tangled, brunette curls. After only a few hours in tropical temperatures, it was clear my hair was already crying out for a mercy, which I knew my half empty bottle of conditioner was neither willing nor able to provide. With a quick wipe of my wet palm down the side of my jeans, I set the small card key into the electronic lock, not entirely sure how it was supposed to work. Sure enough, a quiet click sounded in my ears as the small light near the slot flashed green, unlocking the door instantly. As the door inched open, my jaw nearly dropped to the floor as I caught my first glimpse of the room's indescribable beauty.

Peering inside, my eyes widened as I stared at the meticulous layout, dropping my key onto the carpet with a silent gasp. Inside, two king sized beds rested side by side before a huge television set; and in the far corner, a clear glass table was set with tropical flowers and two unopened room service menus. Finally, at the far end of the room, drapes of long, silken material flowed back and forth in the warm breeze of the open window, which showcased the most incredible view I had ever seen. Just beyond the railing of the small balcony, the vast waves of the ocean were mounted by the light of the setting sun as it sat on the horizon, partially hidden by the clouds and mirrored across the radiant surface of the sea. Stumbling inside, I set my three bags on the nearest bed and turned back towards the window, still captivated by the sparkling waves and deep violet sky. At that moment, I knew that all the money spent on my trip was well worth it, whether or not my parents had the time or inclination to spend it with me. Taking one final lingering moment over the breathtaking view, I turned back towards the second bed and sat down, running my fingers across the smooth, lavender sheets as I watched the sun's light fade over the calm ocean horizon. Within moments of resting my head on the pillows, I drifted away into a comfortable sleep. This was the beginning of my first night. ... It was just passing midnight by the time I rose from the soft sheets of my bed, roused back to consciousness by the nearby rustling of palm trees and the sound of water splashing outside. Curious, I made my way over to the window, stepping onto the small balcony and peering over the edge of the railing. Just below, at the base of the hotel, a large pool was lit up by bright blue lighting and filled with a great number of people. Along the sides, various chairs and tables were occupied with conversing guests and other night people out to experience the tropical atmosphere. Looking back up towards the horizon, I noticed the yellow reflection of the sun across the waters had been replaced by the delicate glow of a full moon. The air outside had become slightly cooler, but the lingering heat of the resort could still be felt in the fresh breeze. Taking a deep breath, I turned back towards the other bed and opened up one of my bags, laying out a more appropriate outfit for the famed night life of Konohakagure. Slowly, I slid out of the wrinkled pair of jeans I had been wearing and made my way to the bathroom for a quick shower. Soon afterwards, I trudged back into the bedroom with wet feet, digging into my bags for a suitable outfit in the humid evening weather. After a quick process of elimination, I settled with a nice pair of dark blue soccer shorts and a white tank top. Then, after dressing, I made my way back into the bathroom for one final attempt at making my hair seem at least presentable. Within ten minutes, I gave up altogether. Finally, pulling off my socks and settling into a new pair of beach sandals, I made one final look out the window before turning towards the door and grabbing the key from my bed. "This is my life," I whispered to myself, softly. "And I'm here to live it."

CHAPTER II Outside, the night air seemed more intense than the winds I had felt from my room's balcony; and without interior air conditioning to combat the heat, the temperature seemed to double instantly. I stayed near the pool for the first few minutes, sitting alone at a table as a crowd of guests continued to yell and laugh above the splashing sounds of the water. I lowered my head, resting my cheek on my folded arms as I listened in to the voices, hoping to hear the muses of a few cheerful couples and their families. Instead, I found myself listening to the sounds of the water and the