[Setting] Unmarked Building, Neon District Border

| >On the outskirts of the Neon District lies an unmarked building: looming concrete, with flickering lights set in evenly spaced pockmarks along the base. There are no windows, and no easily visible entry, yet residents of the district have observed the comings and goings of people to and from the prison-like structure for over a year. Sounds of construction would echo from within and on occasion escape the boundaries of the towering walls along with hardhat-sporting men.

| >Now, there is only silence. Silence, and a thick air of mystery that some might find inviting rather than stifling. No longer do half open boxes of tile lay scattered about the building's edge. Gone are the bags of cement; the industrial sized buckets of "part A" and "part B" to God-knows-what... Nothing.


>Do you dare enter?

| >>890090

>A limousine pulls up outside of the unmarked building and a tall lilim with sharp features rises from the passenger side. His white suit looks absolutely pristine. He makes his way to the back of the limo and opens the door.

"Are you positive this is the place, father?"

>He scans the building up and down with his eyes and unbuttons the collar on his shirt, paying no attention as a large hand smacks him in the back causing him to flinch.

| >>890090

"AHHH HA HA! Taiga, my boy!"

>Loud gravely laughter fills the air as a mammoth old man dressed in a gaudy leopard print suit seemingly teleports out of the limousine and is now gripping the lilim on the shoulder.

"You really need to learn to lighten up, y'know!"

>The old man strolls leisurely to the suspicious building's doorway. The lilim swiftly cuts in front of him, opening the door and busting in first without saying a word.

| >You are greeted by the sight of... more drab stone, and the faint smell of chlorine. The soft echo of dripping water tickles the very periphery of your hearing, infrequent enough that your ears cling to one drop, anxiously expecting the next. Shifting, ambient tones surround, and soothe.

>The lighting is dim. The walls are foot-lit in a weak wash of halogen. Only the reflection of light off the concrete's polished surface allows anything in this... lobby(?) to be visible, at all.

| >>890156
>There is a desk in the center of your vision, molded in the same material as the rest of your surroundings; a sleek slab, devoid of decoration. It is backlit, it's glow the only thing behind.

>Yes. This space is empty, save for you.

>Large lettering above the desk reads, in italic: FLOW (フロー).

>To your left is a corridor with a turnstile barring easy entry. To your right, a wall of screens. Some are lit, while others remain dark. There are buttons beneath.

| >>890159

>The smell of chlorine hits Taiga's nose causing him to pause in the doorway, keeping the old man behind him at bay. This scent is painfully familiar and usually signals a danger that was but no longer *is*, but it's enough to make him alert.

>He slowly walks in reading the plaque and looking at the screens.

"A 'bath' huh? Got to give them credit for keeping things discrete."

| >>890159

>The old man budges around the lilim; his booming laughter still continuing as he makes his way towards the turn-style.

"Of course! Wouldn't you want absolute privacy during a bath?"

>Taiga follows behind, still puzzled and examining his surroundings

"I don't understand why we need a 'bath', while we're still clean."

| >>890167
>The screens Taiga examines show static images of rooms with various themes, all tied into the tub at their center. A deep crystal basin fit for four nests among clusters of salt lamps, flecks of mica in the floor tile glinting in the soft light. A tall cylinder of cedar plank, embraced by an arc of shapely stone, is pictured in another tranquil scene. This one could hold more; maybe eight.

| >>890168
>The turnstile bears a raised panel for one to tap a credstick or card against, as well as a slot into which one could insert physical currency, should they (for whatever reason) have that on their person.

>You don't see any obvious pricing displayed anywhere. There are some buttons above the panel, but you aren't sure what they do.

>You also don't see anything (or anyone) who might stop you should you decide to forego payment and hop the turnstile.

| >>890170

>Taiga is lost in thought as his 'father' stands waiting at the turnstile.

"You could probably squeeze half a dozen people into this bath alone... talk about professional, all I can smell is the chlorine."

>The old man reaches into his pocket handing what appears to be a coin with a string attached over to Taiga.

"Heehee we can get in for free with this! How about you give it a try?"

| >>890174

>Taiga wraps the string around his middle finger throws the coin into the socket. The turnstile opens, and his father steps through. Taiga attempts to retrieve the coin but he's met with immediate resistance as now the coin and by extension, his finger is permanently attached to the turnstile.

"Ah..! Father, wait...!"

>The old man continues into the bathhouse proper laughing twice as loud.

| >>890176
>Not much further down the corridor, Shimohara finds himself standing before a fork in the road: each tine leading to the entrance of a different locker room. A stick figure in swim trunks perches on the arch of the left room. Another figure in a one piece swimsuit stands over the room on the right.

>Taiga's cries for help are met with silence. Will someone come to his aid? What if he has to chew his finger off like some trapped animal, desperate for escape?


| >>890178

>Old man Shimohira's rowdy laughter continues as he purposefully walks into the locker room labeled with the one piece swimsuit.

>Taiga continues to pull on the string to no avail, the string is now pulled so taught that the thought of untying his finger to end this nightmare is but a distant memory.

"...I feel that I now understand why legal tender is so rarely used. At any rate, I'm sure I can free myself from this predicament!"


| >>890582
>The locker room is totally barren, yet shows obvious signs of past use: there are keys missing from the complimentary cubbies one may use to store their personal effects (should they choose to), small puddles of water surrounding the lip of each shower stall floor... A neat stack of tightly rolled towels sits upon an island towards the middle of the room. A basket full of used ones is to it's right. It's not overflowing, so... someone must be emptying it.

| >>890582
>Such a cruel fate Taiga has been left to suffer. Neither host nor guest graces the lobby to set him free.

| >>891149

>Shimohira rips off his suit with a swiftness rarely seen displaying a mass of tattoos in motion. Dragons coil around his back while cherry blossoms blow across his shoulders. Down below he wears nothing but a fundoshi, seemingly comfortable in just the butt floss he's currently wearing. He haphazardly folds his suit and stuffs it in the cubby and makes for the exit while ignoring the towels entirely.

| >>891151

>The doom is beginning to set in, will Taiga be stuck here forever? His internal processes begin to speed up. His artificial pupils dilate and suddenly he forgets where was, he sees nothing but himself attached to a turnstile in an empty void. The burning sensation in his nose has disappeared completely. If Taiga is not freed soon... he may have to free himself.

| >>891158
>Upon exiting the locker room, Shimohara finds himself at the center of yet another forking path. Two sets of double doors sit parallel to one another.

>Upon the left doors, the words "DAY SWIM" are etched. Those on the right say "NIGHT SWIM". There's no further explanation offered as to what this signage means.

| >>891159
>Taiga's growing internal turmoil nearly drowns out the sound of what could possibly be a faint, reedy voice coming from the branch of the lobby area leading to the hot tubs.

>Is someone speaking, or is it a trick of the building's acoustics?

| >>891169

>Taiga's odd state of mind has paradoxically closed him from the outside world while also allowing him a heightened level of alertness. His eyes begin to dart around the room which quickly begins to involve his neck and shoulders, throwing his gaze in random directions.

"What?! Is anyone there?"

>The reality begins to set in, was he brought here to be melted? or perhaps corroded would be a more appropriate term.

>Taiga grits his teeth and balls his fists tight.

| >>891165

>Shimohira's eyes scan the signage, his only answer is a shrug. He bursts through the double doors labeled "NIGHT SWIM", causing the doors to recoil and swing multiple times in his wake.

| >>891172
>Taiga hears the sound once again, louder this time-- then, all falls silent for a moment.


>The owner of the voice, after some hesitation, shows herself. Cautiously she hunches forward, allowing her to glimpse Taiga from her hiding spot against the corridor wall.

>She steps out slowly. In her right hand she holds a sopping washcloth, which she has pressed firmly against the lower half of her face. Her left hand secures the towel she has wrapped around her body.

| >>891175
"... What are you doing?"

| >>891176

>Taiga's finger attached to the turnstile begins to creak as he pulls against it. The figure takes him as a pleasant surprise as he begins to relax, slowly.

"What *was* I doing?"

>He stops to ponder, coming out of his fog.

"I'm here on business, with my father. It appears that he's 'pranked' me. So, I'm stuck here to this infernal thing."

>He taps the turnstile with his toe three times rhythmically.

| >>891180
"... Business."

>She repeats, appearing somewhat doubtful. She wanders over to Taiga. Each movement made in his direction is made as though there is some force she's pulling against. From what Taiga can see of her guarded expression, her stiffness is not a product of her physiology-- rather, one of her psyche. She is very careful; ready to bolt at the slightest evidence of aggression.

| >>891182
>Who is the wild one, here? Is it Taiga, chained to the turnstile? Or, is it this visitor-- this girl with a decidedly feral quality to her, growing more obvious by the second?

| >>891182

"Yes, business."

>Taiga reaches with his free hand to straighten a tie that he realizes isn't present, causing him to awkwardly float his hand at chest level.

"I'll avoid discussing business outside of closed doors, I like to believe there's still honor among thieves."

>He reaches into his jacket pocket, revealing a business card that he attempts to offer the woman.

"Taiga Shimohira. Pleased to make your acquaintance, miss?"

>He pauses expectantly, waiting for a name

| >>891338

>She eyes the business card curiously, but allows it to remain in Taiga's grasp: paper and water do not mix. It would only disintegrate if held in the hand with the washcloth, or in the one cinching her towel around her body.


>Sakana edges closer to Taiga, stooping beside him and reaching behind his back towards the panel of the turnstile closest to the wall. She appears to depress something.

| >>891369
>Taiga can feel the tension of the string grow tighter for a moment, before it goes slack.


>She withdraws, quickly returning the washcloth to her face. Sakana inhales deeply, and clears her throat.

"... Your father is not the first to try such a trick."

>The girl stands, then taps the back of her hand against the panel on the turnstile meant for digital payment. A soft "click" is heard.


| >>891370

>Taiga recoils his hand and begins stretching his fingers.

"Sakana, huh?"

>He pauses in front of the turnstile thinking of something snappy or suave to say, but the pause becomes uncomfortably long so he abandons the thought.

"Well, I've got a job to do... Mind if I wait here while you get dressed? If possible, I'd like for you to show me around."








| >>892036
"...Yes, that is what I am called."

>Some may think this to be strange, and perhaps it is-- sure, names of nature's non-human creatures often become terms of endearment: dog, tiger, kitten-- but, they tend to belong to animals of the... warm and cuddly variety. Where does "fish" fit, among those (if at all)?

>Despite it's peculiarity, the name does suit her. Sakana raises an eyebrow when Taiga unwittingly asks to see why and how that is.

>Get... /dressed/?

| >>897415
"Yes, that is... possible. Please wait here while I... get dressed."

>She parrots Taiga's words carefully, as if dutifully making sure she addresses each of his inquiries, in order. The impression this gives is one overly formal, and stiff-- is she uncomfortable, or just staggeringly polite? With that washcloth still firmly clamped to the lower half of her face, it's difficult to say. With a slight bow, she then nearly slinks into the women's locker room.

| >>897416
>Sakana emerges mere seconds later. Nothing about her appears to have changed, at all.

"You said you would like me to show you around, correct? If that is the case, you should also 'get dressed'."

>She glances downward at her outfit... or lack thereof?

"I will wait for you on the other side of these rooms, just outside of the pool area."

| >>891173
>The sight that greets Shimohara as he ventures boldly into the night swim section of the building is… one that’s difficult to describe, if only because of the sudden shift in the lighting of his surroundings. As his eyes adjust, all becomes clear– and yet, also hazy. A light mist fills the air, scattering colorful hues of plentiful neon signage across gleaming tile; swirling in the rippling mirror that is the enormous pool in front of him. A fluorescent, flowing nebula…

| >>897422
>No overhead lights pierce this dusky atmosphere. There is more footlighting, more backlighting, as seen before in the lobby. The searing glass squiggles, taking the form of geometric shapes or patterns, buzz softly from their perches along the perimeter of the lofty ceiling. This room is awash in the white noise of water, and of electricity. It feels odd, that they should mesh so well.




| >>897419

>Taiga looks to Sakana with a somewhat blank yet vaguely puzzled expression and follows behind her.

"Ah Please, lead the way Miss Sakana."

>His eyes scan around, attempting to peer into the women's locker room as he passes by, just what was she doing in there when she was supposed to be getting dressed?

| >>897423

>Shimohira's bellowing laughter continues as he muses to himself about his murky yet colorful surroundings.

"BAWWHAHAHA. Indeed a place that's the very visual depiction of my youth."

>He struts down to the pool, his feet making loud *plaps* and splashes as he stomps towards the water.

Total number of posts: 51, last modified on: Tue Jan 1 00:00:00 1664172346