Hayashi-san and Hiro walked into the hotel lobby. The entire room was empty except for an older man behind the check in counter and the three other participants with their handlers. Hiro immediately recognizing William Putnim. He was the younger brother of his sister’s rival, Charlotte Putnim.
“I see the Trash has arrived.”
William turning his head from the group to look at him. The two other participants looking at him with interest. If Hiro’s guess was right they should be the Chinese Representative Yun Lili and the Russian Representative Vladimir Tchaikovsky. Hiro casually rolled his luggage over to them.
“And here I thought you were over your crushing defeat in San Fancisco, Will…”
He sighed. Before William could respond Hiro put his hand up, right in front of his face.
“I know. I know. The place brings back memories. But it will be fine. You will lose like your sister and no one will die. A happy ending for everyone.”
He needed William to hate him. It was the fastest way for him to know what he needed to know. Lili and Vladimir looked over at him with a sudden pique of interest. Hiro was more blunt then the rumors had said. William took a step forward.
“Watch your mouth, Tatsumiya. The only one losing is you.”
Vladimir put his hand on his luggage and sighed loudly.
“One plans simply and the other takes the bait simply. Is this even going to be a challenge.”
Lili by his side hooked her arm through his and laughed.
“Now, now, V. Be nice. It really is one taking the bait simply and one planning for other things. This can be interesting.”
Hiro ignored the look from Vladimir to reappraise Lili. Although, she was smiling and seemingly energetic, Yun Lili may have the most dangerous mind out of the four monsters standing in the hotel lobby. He stuck his hand out towards her.
“Hiro Tatsumiya. You are Yun Lili?”
She used her free hand to shake his.
Vladimir sighed again.
“Both so simple.”
Vladimir’s handler put his hand on the Russian boy’s shoulder.
“Why don’t we all try to get along.”
William turned his head from the group.
“I will never get along with that Trash.”
Hiro rolled his luggage to the check in counter and grabbed his key. Before heading to the elevators he turned around to smile at William.
“You will never win this way. Your sister was a much better player.”
Hiro laughed as he walked to the elevator by himself. He didn’t want any of them as friends. It would get in the way of why he was really here. He would never be the type of person to care about chess. Hayashi-san started to panic and bow non stop.
“I am sorry. So sorry. Hiro-san seems to be a little stand offish, but he kind at heart.”
Lili’s smile got even bigger.
“No, he’s not.”
She grabbed Vladimir’s hand and pulled him towards the elevators. They managed to slide in with Hiro. William stuck in the lobby with all the other handlers. In the elevator Lili turned to look at Hiro.
“So. Why are you really here?”
Will turned away from the buttons unwillingly. Not only was she as sly as she was in chess, but she seemed to be just as aggressive.
Lili looped her free arm through his, tugging the two boys forward.
“Boys. I think it is time we tell each other the truth. After all, none of us here seem to really like chess.”
Vladimir stared at Hiro.
“I don’t understand what you see in him, Lili.”
She just laughed. The elevator passing the sixth floor.
“What do you want, Lili?”
Hiro said narrowing his eyes. She was known to be a deep and accurate thinker. Every action came with not just a few, but hundreds of potential traps to fall into. The girl was a shark.
“I want to solve the mystery.”
His whole demeanor changed. Hiro yanked her against the wall, using his hooked arm for leverage.
“This is not a game.”
Vladimir pulled him away from her by his shirt. He stepped in front of the girl. Yun Lili was the one who managed to get that maniac to show up. Not any other person. No wonder he was this loyal to her.
“Do not touch.”
Lili stepped back in front of Vladimir, patting him on the shoulder as she moved. His body sagged with relief.
“Hiro. Five years ago our siblings all competed here. They all died. Now, five years later they hold the very same competition in what was the burnt down hotel.”
Exactly. This was the very fact that draw him to this competition. It was also the fact that drove him to work alone.
“Sounds like a public relations problem.”
“Idiot. Lili is already talking in such simple terms.”
Hiro swallowed down his anger. He had promised himself the moment he landed in Japan everything would be about finding his sister. Nothing else. It was the only reason he would swallow his pride. Lili walked forward and put her hand on his shoulder. She leaned forward to whisper in his ear.
“Hiro. I’ve seen you play. Nothing about chess you like. Your goal is to find your sister’s body. Mine is to find my brother, Chuanli. Vladimir’s sister, Antonina, is gone too. Everyone got out except those four. Everyone was found except those four bodies.”
He knew. He knew all of this. Nothing about this conversation seemed to change his mind. Alone. All he wanted was to work through it alone.
“Lili, I will not help you. It doesn’t help the end goal.”
Vladimir pulled a card out from his pant’s pocket. It had a series of numbers on it.
“On behalf of Lili I will tell you this. My sister mailed me this before she disappeared. Take it.”
Hiro took the card from his hand.
…..He had ideas…. Hiro decided to test the two. He began to tap his reply on the elevator code in morse code. Even if whoever was spying on them could understand he would still be able to to test them.
“Fine. I will agree to an exchange of information.”
The elevator doors opened on the nineteenth floor. Hiro stopped tapping and spoke out loud.
“But never be this stupid again.”
Hiro handed the card back to Vladimir and rolled his luggage out of the elevator. Everything here was watched with cameras. He even suspected his room was bugged. Every attempt to gather information about who ran the national chess tournament resulted in nothing, but government agencies and phony companies built on untouched accounts. The fact that this hotel was rebuilt for them to compete in front of the world was the biggest clue he ever received. Yun Lili, Vladimir Tchaikovsky and William Putnim would never get in his way. He opened the door to his hotel room, pushing his luggage to the side wall by the front entrance.
“Such a gaudy room.”
Hiro walked over to the bed and collapsed. He threw one arm over his face. All he had to do was get through dinner. Then he can explore. If nothing came up he had all of tomorrow, between press conferences and first matches, to look around some more. Hiro pulled out his phone.
“Hi mom. Hi dad. I know you guys aren’t awake anymore, but I just wanted to let you know I am here at the hotel. Everyone seems really friendly and nice. They even invited me over to play video games. And yes, I checked for multiple fire extinguishers. I love you.”
The message went to his mom’s voicemail. Hiro tossed his phone on the bed and sighed.
In frustration he turned on the television. An image of an animated woman appeared on the screen. She was dressed like an odd mix of a stewardess and office honey pot. Her pink hair rested above a shirt that revealed large breasts. Hiro had always preferred smaller chests. They should of done their research better.
“Welcome to Chateau Yume. My name is Joi. I am your assigned caretaker, Tatsumiya Hiro-san. Your options for this Tv are streaming our in house channels, internet access, a list of services provided for order and the option to play popular local video games. Is there anything you desire currently?”
Awful. This was just awful. He desired her to not be so creepy. Selected channels, controlled internet access, a bizarre and random list of services and a list of three video games to choose form, it was clear how much they were controlling the situation. Nothing about this was a large international chess final. It was all too strange. That’s when Hiro noticed the design detail on the animated Ai’s uniform. The stitching on the collar was not lines, but a chain link of Ds.
“Joi. Pull up the video game list again.”
The Ai smiled at him and lifted one of her hands. A black rectangle with a picture image of all three games popped up.
“Joi. More information on each game please.”
The Ai nodded and half the screen became a list of information. That’s when Hiro saw it. In tiny grey letters, right below all the pictures, was the name Dream Corp. His sister had said the night she arrived that Dream Corp was releasing the launch of a huge game project they were working on.
“Maybe I will just watch a movie. Please select a thriller for me, Joi.”
The Ai pinched her fingers together and the black rectangle disappeared. It was replaced by the start of an older Yakuza film. They must have preprogrammed each of the participant’s interests. Hiro leaned back in bed and put the card in front of his face.
Dxpe….That part may be associated with Dream Corp.