I went for a long jog in the morning, did some exercises in the park, returned, ate, rested, did sets in the room, and ate again before I went to the Mansion. I felt better after having done this routine, even though the Sato thing was still lingering on my mind. I was constantly on alert for any suspicious individuals, while jogging in the park. It all seemed ordinary, though, and with the prospect of seeing Asami tonight, I managed to push aside the fact that I beat up a man for no good reason.
With Sato not showing up, Emil took charge. He seemed very proud during the line-up and conducted the whole thing in a very confident manner as if he had been doing this for a while. He was more helpful and kind to me than usual. As soon as Asami arrived, he assigned her table to me.
I was surprised to see Asami dressed in a different garment than a business suit. She wore a knee-length, black dress with high neck, which suited her perfectly. Her face had a radiant glow and her loose hair was shiny and neat as if she had just come from a hair salon.
“You look very nice tonight, Yamamoto san. I take it you had a pleasant weekend?” I was hoping my anxiousness about Sato didn’t show and that the bruises on my face were not noticeable in the dim light.
“Thank you, Nik san. Yes, I did have a very nice weekend. I went to a spa with some of my work colleagues, just outside Tokyo. It was lovely.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
I didn’t know what else to say. I kept staring at her, feeling my lust growing. If it was up to me I’d escort her to the hotel room right now, but she already began looking through the menu.
Exhausted, mentally and physically, from everything that happened over the weekend, as well as from my first day of exercising, I ate more than usual. She finished her first plate, while I was already at my second portion, and then the third. She was observing me quietly, sipping the wine.
“Nik san, you seem a bit different tonight. Are you waiting for somebody? You keep looking around.”
“I’m sorry. It’s just that the usual manager didn’t come to work today, and Emile, my friend, took over, so I’m a bit nervous for him.” The truth was I was on a lookout in case Sato suddenly appeared.
Asami nodded and said nothing.
“Would you like to tell me about the spa weekend?”
“No,” she replied with such decisiveness I stopped eating. “Tonight I would like to hear your story. Why did you come to Japan, Nik san?”
I put down the knife and fork and wiped my mouth with the napkin. Her question redirected my anxious thoughts.
“Okay. I’ll tell you. I’m an MMA fighter. I came here with the hope to get signed with Yamato Damashi. I thought the whole thing would be easier, but things didn’t go exactly according to my expectations. Soon I was running out of money and had to take this job. It’s a temporary solution.” I kept it short and simple, blurted it all out in one breath. I was in no mood for a full heartfelt confession, which I wasn’t sure she would have understood anyway. Nobody would.
“Yup. It’s the most prestigious fighting organization in the world.”
“I’ve heard of them. But all I know is that they are a powerful and very exclusive organization.”
I nodded already aware of these facts.
“How do you plan to approach them?”
“I don’t know yet. I guess I’m hoping to get a contact...one day,” I muttered and resumed with cutting my steak. It was embarrassing how naïve and foolish I sounded.
“Do your bruises have to do with any of that?”
I turned all my attention to the food on my plate, so that I wouldn’t have to look her in the eyes.
Asami poured more wine.
“In this village, where we went for a spa, there was also a small Shinto shrine. Are you religious, Nik san?”
I shook my head. “Not at all.”
“Well, I’m a rather modern woman myself when it comes to religion, but I have great respect for the belief system of my ancestors.”
“Nik san, how old do you think I am?”
She smiled. “Very kind of you. I’m fifty-six years old. I would say considerably older than you.”
“Well,” I shrugged it off, although admittedly I was a bit surprised; “as long as we get along.”
She smiled again, keeping her stare on me. “I notice a certain maturity about you or perhaps, better to say, an inner energy, which surpasses your young age. Usually, when this is the case, something happened in a person’s past, something that broke him down completely and forced him to pick himself up again. Could be an unexpected death, illness, some other kind of loss. Another reason for that might be that such a person has a sense of his destiny from a very early age.”
I thought of the pain after my last fight, I thought of the death of my grandmother, with whom I was very close, the sudden death of my father...I downed more than half a glass. The way this conversation was going was quite unexpected.
“Perhaps with me, it’s both. I always wanted to be a fighter, although it certainly feels the universe doesn’t agree with me on that. I mean,” I chuckled and spread my hands out, pointing at the dining hall; “just look at where I am now.”
I put my elbows on the table and leaned slightly forward. “But maybe I was wrong and my destiny was to meet you?”
Asami was looking at me very seriously. “Our paths crossed indeed, but to what purpose - that is the question I’m still asking myself.”
“Yamamoto san, you’re very spiritual tonight.” I winked at her, trying to lighten up the conversation.
After work, we ended up in her hotel room. When I took my shirt off, the bruises on my body, which were darker than the ones on the face, provoked a visible reaction on Asami’s face. She traced her fingers over them gently, barely touching my skin, but she didn’t say or asked anything. And I didn’t explain. Her caring touch excited me. I took her hand and led it downwards. It was an intense night, and by the time we fell asleep, the sun began to rise.
Another two days passed before Asami came to the Mansion again. I noticed she was somehow different, more quiet and reserved in her conversation than usual. She gave me a quick recount of her day and asked me about mine. She listened with interest when I was explaining to her my new training routine.
“Do you miss your family?” she asked out of the blue.
I took time to answer.
“No.” As blunt as it sounded, it was the truth.
“I will be leaving tomorrow. Back to Osaka.”
I always knew this was about to happen. “So soon? Aren’t you staying till Friday? Two weeks, you said.”
“Yes, usually, but I need to return home earlier this time.”
I didn’t ask why. She didn’t offer to elaborate.
“Will you accompany me to the hotel tonight?”