It wasn't long until the car pulled up front of their hotel. Faith paused the song on her iPhone and got a good look at the place. It looked tall enough to be a skyscraper with a white coloring, a ton of windows and a black lettering that said TAKAHASHI INN. Surrounding the building were fields and trees, like something out of a nature resort, save for the cement parking lot and sidewalks.
Faith put her iPhone and earphones in her backpack and left the car.
"We're staying at a hotel?" Faith asked as Isabella opened the trunk.
"It's only temporary," Isabella said, getting her suitcase out of the car. "Just until we can get a house and some furniture to put in it."
"Why go through all that?" Faith asked, taking her suitcase out of the car that felt like carrying a ton of bricks.
"Because it's too expensive to take all of our furniture with us and we need to see the houses in person before we buy anything," Will answered as he took his suitcase out of the trunk. "I thought we already explained this to you."
Faith dropped the bag on the ground and took a large gasp of air. "Guess I wasn't listening," she said as she stretched the handle of the bag out and clasped it.
"Faith, would you be careful with that?" Isabella asked, slightly firm.
"Yes, Mom," Faith said irritably as she watched her parents retrieve their bags.
Faith followed them to the front door, ready to see what hotel she'd be staying at for the next few weeks, or months. The minute Will opened the door, Faith found herself greeted to the sight of a beautiful room filled with couches and fir trees that surrounded the walkway to the front desk with many people checking in with the hotel staff and the Concierge's desk on the right with a girl who looked no older than Faith cleaning her glasses.
"I'll go check us in," Will informed them.
"That's fine," Isabella said. "Faith and I will go check with the Concierge."
Faith and Isabella went to see the young girl behind the counter putting her large circular glasses back on.
"Greetings," the girl stated politely. "Welcome to the Takahashi Inn. My name is Noriko Takahashi. How may I be of service to you?"
Isabella and Faith glanced at each other for a second, taken back by the girl's polite tone that sounded almost robotic. Isabella was the first to regain her senses, turning back to Noriko.
"I'm Isabella and this is my daughter, Faith," Isabella said, gesturing to Faith.
"Nice to meet you," Faith said in a pleasant yet awkward tone. "So, Takahashi. I guess that makes you the owner's daughter."
"Yes, that would be accurate," Noriko said and Faith could've sworn she detected a slight disapproving tone in her voice.
"Like Yukiko," Faith said with a smile.
"I was not aware that you were acquainted with Yukiko," Noriko responded with an interest that waned.
"Yeah, Yukiko Amagi from Persona 4!" Faith said excitedly.
"Persona 4?" Noriko asked, looking at Faith as if she was from another planet.
"It's a video game," Faith explained, gesturing excitedly with her right hand. "Basically, you play this high school kid who moves to a small town, solves a mystery and makes friends while living a day to day school life." Faith said, her brain disappearing from the hotel and taking up residence in the world of Persona 4. "One of the characters, Yukiko, is the daughter of a hotel owner. Like you."
"I am afraid that I do not indulge in video games," Noriko informed her.
Faith felt her whole face turn red as she turned her head away from Noriko, only managing to mutter a small, "sorry."
"Is there anything I can help you with?" Noriko asked, directing her question to Isabella.
"Well, my daughter's starting school in a few weeks and she needs to get some new clothes," Isabella explained, trying to brush this whole situation off. "So, I was wondering where I can find the nearest boutique."
"The nearest boutique would be three blocks away from this hotel," Noriko explained in a matter of fact tone. "What school will your daughter be attending?"
"Kamata High," Isabella answered.
"I attend the same school," Noriko told her. "If you wish, I could assist your daughter in her studies."
"That would be great," Isabella said, brushing her hair back with her fingers. "Thank you."
"My pleasure," Noriko said. "Is there anything else I can assist you with?"
"Well, my husband and I need to find a real estate agent," Isabella told her as Faith stood to the side, sliding her foot nervously. "And anything you can tell us about the nearest restaurants would be great."
Noriko went into detail about all of the restaurants and a real estate agency near the hotel.
"Okay, thank you," Isabella said, leaving the stand.
"That was embarrassing," Faith said quietly to Isabella.
"How?" Isabella asked.
"I just made a reference to a video game and she doesn't even play them," Faith said in a melancholy tone.
"Well, she doesn't hate you for it," Isabella pointed out. "If she did, she wouldn't have agreed to help you study."
"Well, just got us checked in," Will said, approaching from the desk. "And, since my advertising company works with this hotel, we can stay at a discount!"
"I suppose something good came out of all this," Isabella said bitterly.
Before Will could respond, the bellboy approached them and bowed.
"May I–" he started before getting a look at Isabella.
"May you, what?" Will asked a bit too sharply.
"May I take your bags?" the bell boy finished, taking Isabella's bags and then putting them on a luggage cart.
Then he took Will and Faith's bags and added them to his luggage cart. It wasn't long until they reached their room, a simple one with two Queen sized beds, a dining table and a decent sized television with a connecting bathroom.
"This is your room, sir and madam," the bellhop told them. "I hope you enjoy your stay."
"Thank you," Isabella said, reaching into her purse and taking some money from her wallet. "For your trouble."
The bellboy hesitated before taking the money and then left, saying one last good-bye to Isabella.
"You do realize that you don't tip people in Japan," Will said sardonically.
"Well, he didn't seem to mind," Isabella defended.
"I wonder why," Will asked sarcastically.
"Seriously, Will?" Isabella said in disbelief. "You have to bring this up now?"
"I'm going to get some candy," Faith said, heading for the door.
Faith rushed out of the room, hearing her parents' angry voices as she shut the door. Once again, they were arguing and, since Faith had no room to herself, her only option was to explore the hotel on her own. Even if she wasn't shocked about the cause of it. Isabella's chocolate brown hair with matching eyes, taupe complexion and voluptuous figure drew a great amount of attention from the opposite sex and, occasionally, the same sex. Though it wasn't like Will didn't draw his own fair share with his golden blond hair, sky blue eyes and athletic physique. Isabella's jealousy issues just weren't on the same level as Will's.
It wasn't long until Faith made her way downstairs, seeing Noriko talk to a customer.
Guess I'll have to find the candy stand on my own, Faith thought to herself as she walked through the lobby until seeing the candy stand being looked over by a teenage girl with long straight black hair streaked in red with brown eyes and an olive complexion, wearing a white crop top that emphasized her tiny breasts and a pair of black leather pants emphasizing her curves who was in the process of filing her nails.
"Hello," Faith said nervously as she approached the stand. "My name is Faith Summers."
"Faith?" the girl said, looking up from her nails and gazing at her with interest. "So, you're American?"
"Yes," Faith said, struggling with the formal dialect. "I'm from– I mean, my birthplace is San Antonio."
"Where's that?" the girl asked.
"South Texas," Faith said casually.
She knew it was rude in Japan but, if this girl could talk casually to her, why not do the same?
"So, not New York?" the girl asked, her interest disappearing a little. "Or California?"
"No, afraid not," Faith said, feeling a little insulted. "But San Antonio's not boring."
"Never said it was," the girl told her. "I'm Asuka. Need anything?"
"I just wanted to get a snack," Faith told her. "Though, I'm not really sure what."
Asuka grabbed a bag of apple flavored gummy candies and handed them to her.
"You've got to try these," Asuka told her. "They're the best."
"If you don't mind," Faith said hesitantly. "I'd rather not."
"Don't like gummies?" Asuka asked, putting them back.
"I can take them or leave them," Faith said honestly. "But I don't like apples or anything apple flavored."
"All right, I can respect that," Asuka told her nonchalantly. "How about watermelon?"
"Actually, I was hoping to get something chocolate," Faith said nervously.
"Oh, then you'll love this," Asuka said, taking a small box of chocolate Pocky's from the counter and ringing them up. "So, how'd you end up here?"
"My dad got promoted," Faith answered, feeling a little more comfortable as she took some money for her purse. "So, we had to move here."
"What school are you going to?" Asuka asked, taking the money from her and putting it in the cash register.
"Kamata High," Faith told her, taking the change.
Asuka looked into her eyes excitedly.
"Get out!" Asuka exclaimed. "That's the exact same school I go to!"
"Really?" Faith asked, not sure what to make of it.
"Yeah!" Asuka told her excitedly. "You've got anyone to take you shopping?"
"Well, Noriko Takahashi offered to help me study," Faith answered. "Do you know her?"
"Yeah, she's the class representative," Asuka told her. "Is she also taking you clothes shopping?"
"No, I don't think so," Faith answered. "Though I could ask her."
"Just leave that part to me," Asuka said confidently. "Don't get me wrong, I love Noriko but let her stick to the boring stuff, like studying and homework. When it comes to shopping and style, I'm your girl."
"Okay, thank you," Faith said, grabbing the Pocky box on the counter. "I guess I'll see you then."
"Looking forward to it," Asuka said as Faith left.
Faith went back to her room to see Isabella unpacking and hearing shower noises from the bathroom.
"Hey, mom," Faith said, putting the Pockys in the fridge. "Everything okay now?"
"Just fine," Isabella said sincerely. "Your father and I talked it out and maybe this move won't be so bad."
"Why's that?" Faith asked, sitting on her bed.
"You know how I always wanted to write but never had the time?" Isabella asked her. "Well, if your father's job makes him as much money as he says, I can spend more time working on my writing."
"Sounds like a good deal," Faith said, "And the bellboy?"
"He admitted that he might have overreacted about that," Isabella explained.
"You're lucky," Faith stated. "Guys never notice me like that."
"Actually, they do," Isabella told her.
"Really?" Faith asked in disbelief. "Name one."
"There's the waiter at IHOP who always looked for excuses to come to our booth and that time you were alone in the bookstore and a guy asked you for help," Isabella pointed out.
"Yeah, but they were just doing their jobs," Faith rationalized.
"Faith, those guys were interested in you," Isabella told her. "You're just too off in your own little world to notice."
"Then how come I never get any attention at school?" Faith asked.
"Because, in high school, it's not about how you look, it's about the pecking order," Isabella explained. "I didn't get noticed very much at your age either."
"Seriously, you were a wallflower?" Faith said shocked.
"Yep," Isabella told her. "I didn't get noticed until I graduated and took a job in the real world."
Faith looked out the clear balcony door and smiled at Isabella's words, watching the crow land on the bar. Oddly enough, the crow seemed to be staring right back at her. A loud cry from the bathroom distracted Faith from the crow.
"Will?" Isabella said worriedly, running to the bathroom. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," Will told her from the bathroom.
"What happened?" Faith asked, turning to the bathroom door.
"I don't know, I was showering and the water turned ice cold!" Will explained.
"Must be a problem with the water heater," Isabella rationalized. "I'll go talk to the manager."
"Maybe the hotel doesn't have enough hot water for guests," Will mused from the shower. "Or they might have turned off the water heater because of a gas leak. I'm sure they'll fix it tomorrow."
"All right," Isabella agreed. "But if they haven't, I'm talking to the manager."
Faith hoped Will was right. Otherwise, she'd have to take a freezing cold shower tomorrow and just the mere thought made her body quiver.
* * *
The crow flew to the nearby hotel, feeling a vibe of great evil, one it hadn't felt since the days of cottages and traveling merchants. It could also feel another conflicting vibe, one as pure as the driven snow. The crow followed that vibe, landing on the balcony bars at it peered into the room. The only two people inside were a middle-aged woman of dark hair and dark skin and a teenage girl with the same skin tone as her mother, yet hair of gold. Neither one of them bearing any physical resemblance to her. The blonde haired girl turned to reveal the same sky blue eyes as the one who previously carried the vibe.