9. Let’s Make a Deal (5)

The hours in the car with ill-smelling Clément did not make Ryu feel any better. He was still nauseated when the limo pulled up to the inn and parked. Before them, the ryokan rose, a towering, multi-tiered structure. Its various floors floated, or seemed to, like the staggered branches of a red maple or an elaborately sculpted pine from the forested grounds.

Two maids in fancy green- and gold-threaded kimono and white tabi socks minced up to the doorway, bowed, and helped them out of their shoes. If they noticed Clément’s unpleasant smell, they gave no indication, their faces as serenely set as a pair of Noh theater masks.

“Irasshaimase. Welcome,” they chanted in unison. “Dozo. Please, come in.”

They offered slippers and indicated the way, shepherding the men across the broad lobby, down a winding flagstone path, through a series of softly lit corridors to stop at the pair of frosted glass doors that led to Hagi Spa.

“Dozo,” the two women smiled, their open palms drifting doorward in invitation.

Ryu and Clément stepped inside.

They entered a large foyer walled in white pine and floored in granite-colored tile. Dark gray carpet, pale walls—beyond the entrance to the spa was a maze of halls and doors. The receptionist greeted them, handed them each a yukata or summer kimono, and guided them through the maze to another pair of frosted glass doors.

“Dozo, kochira-desu. This way please,” she said, indicating the door, and left them.

On the other side of the door was a dressing room. Long wooden lockers rose along two of the walls. One wall consisted of six panel doors of frosted glass made to look like shoji screens. The fourth wall was all mirror. Clément was already shedding his clothes, not bothering to pick them up from the floor where he dropped them: the navy blue blazer, the white shirt, the dark pants, and an outlandishly bright pair of red, cotton briefs. Naked, he walked over to the mirrored wall and posed, flexing and relaxing the muscles in his skinny arms, thighs, and calves, sliding a hand slowly and affectionately down his torso from his chest to his belly. Ryu noted that his café au lait complexion had turned sallow. The wound that Ryu had inflicted was a purple dot on his abdomen. It radiated out in concentric bruises like a target. Clément saw Ryu’s assessment in the mirror. He looked over his shoulder, down in the direction of his abdomen and winked. Then, disregarding the yukata, he sauntered into the bath. The thought of Clément stepping into a yakuza gathering without him gave Ryu speed. Doffing his clothes quickly, he, too, ignored the yukata, grabbed a small washcloth, and followed the clerk into the bath, dressed only in the tenugui and his  tattoos.

—DEAD LOVE/Chapter 9.5/Let’s Make a Deal

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  • boldlow

    One of the benefits you afford us with these snippets is … cutting the distraction of the next page so we can enjoy the writer's craft. Descriptive yet concise, prose yet poetic. The rhythm and pacing are delicious, layered with rich imagery and surprising imagination. Thanks!

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