Have A Go
Four Days Later
Afternoon sunlight shone in through the long windows of the second-floor dance studio and the familiar sound of practice shoes clipping off the hardwood flooring stagnated in the humid air. In the beginning, Tatara wasn't sure how he would feel about having a previous international champion around to spot his mistakes, but it turned out Valentina wasn't quite the snobby elitist he had expected. Kicking his shoes off in the foyer and replacing them with his practice shoes, the short boy put his sneakers on the rack and shrugged his bag onto his shoulder. Venturing into the open space, he saw a couple of the regulars learning the basics he had tortured himself with several months prior. Overseeing the elderly pair of ladies giggling like schoolgirls, a young couple clearly in the early stage of their relationship, and the eight others who came along to make friends with the same hobby paired-up and going through the motions, Valentina weaved through the group giving pointers and correcting posture with an uncharacteristically light hand. God, how he wished he was on the receiving end of that tender touch rather than the ragging and strikes to his joints that he was subjected to by her. The woman could make a temple guardian spirit quake with the power that came from those stubby arms. Maybe even more than the physical abuse dished out in the name of 'professional advice', her flips in temperament gave him emotional whiplash.
"Good afternoon." He bowed his head to the receptionist and scribbled his name down on the sign-in sheet before showing the same polite acknowledgement to a few of the others he had conversed with since his admission. "It's busy today."
The woman behind the desk nodded with a smile. "With the amateur competitions coming up, lots of people are upping their practice time." Flicking through the magazine in front of her, she looked up at the boy. "Hiyama Chan called ahead to say she'll be late."
Twiddling the pen in his hand, Tatara hummed. "She has to look after her younger siblings for a couple of hours." Gesturing to the changing rooms, he held up his bag. "I'll just do some shadow drills while I wait."
"Haah?" The voice of a thug vibrated behind the small brunet as hot breath brushed his ear. "Is that what you'll do?"
Spinning around with his hands up in premature submission, Tatara looked up with wide eyes. "Is there something wrong with that?" He really wanted to know, he wasn't trying to pick a fight.
"How about we have a go?"
"A go?" The brunet's expression constricted at the slang which could easily be misconstrued.
The blonde loomed over him, her teeth bared in a wide grin as narrowed crescent eyes encircled in black liner peered down. "Will you show me how you dance, Tata-Cchin?"
Jesus Christ, he didn't understand how such a pleasant-looking person could morph into a demon from a Seinen manga in 0.3 seconds while still using such an alluring tone. She was definitely not human. A Harpy, that's it. She was actually a demon in a woman's skin.
Tatara backed up until he was against the desk. The way she asked him made him feel as though he didn't have much choice in the matter – like a lion cornering a mouse. She was just like Sengoku: All blonde, and tall, and persuasive with that expression which made her seem like she knew something he didn't. And when the Hell did she make up that nickname?
Holding his breath due to the woman inching in every time he forced himself back, the brunet could only nod. "I'll get changed and warm-up."
Turning around, she flapped her hand over her shoulder. "Don't take too long. You have until break begins, which is..." checking the clock on the wall, she calculated the simple math. "three minutes." Without waiting for a compromise, she went back to circling the small cluster of dancers going through the motions.
Scrambling off, the boy scampered down the dimly lit hallway. He had barely gotten into the changing cubicle and shut the curtain behind him when a realization hit. She wanted to test him, and she was planning to do it in front of everyone. Apprehension grew and he felt his knees lose their strength. He thought she was going to be the big sister type, but she was clearly intending to humiliate him.
"Hyōdō San, you can't possibly intend to go through with this." A stranger's voice - a man's - sounded angry from the other side of the curtain. Tatara knew he shouldn't eavesdrop, but it was kind of unavoidable from his position; the corridor which led to Marisa's office was shared with the one for the changing rooms.
"I said I would help her, so I will." There was his teacher's voice, her sweet drawl hardened by the stubbornness Kiyoharu had mentioned on more than one occasion. The same kind of stubbornness the boy in question refused to acknowledge had been passed onto him.
"If Marisol Belova comes here and starts kicking up a fuss, it's going to get messy."
"Valentina is an adult, she can go where she pleases."
"But she didn't go just anywhere. She came here." The man grunted. "What are you planning to do with her?"
"I hardly think that has anything to do with the Board of Directors."
"If it comes down to a public catfight between you and Belova, it will have something to do with us."
"I don't intend to fight her myself. Not physically, at least." There was a brief pause after the man gasped. "Don't go having an aneurysm. Everything will be done forthright and within the rules."
"You have a canny way of twisting the rules, Hyōdō San."
The woman laughed and two sets of shoes walked past the boy's cubical, causing the curtain to waver in their haste. Their words quieted as they walked away and Tatara felt his heart in his throat. What did he just hear? Whatever it was, he was damn certain it wasn't meant for his ears. Unbuttoning his pants with one hand and pulling his shirt over his head with the other, the brunet fought to change his clothes. Swapping one item for the correlating article of his practice-wear, he blustered out of the changing room, shoved his bag in one of the empty lockers, and raced for the main section of the second-floor.
Staggering out into the studio, the stench of sweat and the body-heat filling up the air felt a lot less comforting than at his arrival. It was nerve gas. Bistre eyes shot between the adult pair at the desk. Tatara made a note of the grey-haired man. He was short and round, and he wore an ill-fitting grey suit. Perspiration was clinging to his pallid, putty features, and the expression of his face made him look like he'd been caught in the act of something awful. Tatara's eyes slid from the greyed man and to his teacher. Marisa merely looked over her shoulder and gave a charming eye-smile.
"Ah, you're already here, Tatara Kun." The owner cooed and a cold sweat ran down his spine.
He opened his mouth to speak but his jaw flapped under the pressure. A hand slapped down on his shoulder and the woman he'd run away from earlier was stood behind him. "That was a whole ninety seconds, Tata-Cchin. 'you have much experience is speed-undressing?"
What little air there was left in Tatara's lung expelled with a high-pitched 'hiiiiiih', at the implication. Ignoring, or moreover, not even intending to listen to the answer in the first place, Valentina slapped rubbed the muscles which connected his neck to his shoulders with more force than necessary as she kept her eyes on the older pair by the desk. "Hiyama is going to be late, so I'm gonna run through his choreo with him."
The round official looked the younger blonde up and down and then tutted unabashedly. Returning his attention to the owner, he handed over an envelope. Watching the man make for the door in a waddle, Marisa followed her guest to see him off. Waiting until the partial glass front door had closed behind the older pair, Tatara's breath expelled from his lungs and he melted back into the scent of mildly spiced perfume and the grip of hot palms on the tops of his shoulders.
"I'm not your hanger." The husk of the blonde's voice rumbled against the brunet's back through the plush cushion supporting him. Shifting around his left, a weight rested on his head, causing Tatara to look up. He was eye-level with her neck and the scarlet glow cast down her chest was giving off heat.
Turning around and backing up, he waved his hands madly in realization at what hed been leaning against. "I'm sorry!"
Glancing down with minimal change to her neutral expression, Valentina quirked her left brow. "You heard their conversation, didn't you?" Tatara's eyes spun as he tried to think up a good lie. Any lie. His mouth betrayed him with a stutter and the older woman held her hand up between them lazily. "Don't panic, I'm not going to ask you what it was about. You weren't supposed to hear it and I'm not looking to get you into trouble." She closed her eyes and smiled at the flapping boy.
"He tutted right at you."
"It's one of the more polite forms of face-to-face dislike I've had."
"It was plain rude. Even after he saw you, the look he gave you..." Tatara turned around to face the female properly. "Are you not angry?"
Shrugging, the blonde pinched the corners of her lips in thought as she glanced up at the ceiling. "I can't say I give much thought to the options of those I don't care about."
Staring at the dopey expression of the newcomer, the awestruck brunet couldn't grasp what was going on. It wasn't like she had any qualms about chewing people out from what he'd seen, so why she brushed off the blatantly snide gesture, he couldn't understand. "You make it sound like you're used to it."
Keeping her chin up at a weird angle, verdant irises slid to the side to meet brown ones. "That's because I am. If I can teach you anything, even if it's nothing to do with dancing specifically, Tata-Cchin, I hope it's that you shouldn't take anyone's opinion at a hundred percent no matter how much you loathe, love, or respect, or envy them. You don't know them, and they certainly don't know you as well as they think they do, so don't take anything into your heart or brain - no matter how small a space it may be - without that consideration." Grin stretching, she flung her arm out and draped it over the younger male's shoulders, her right breast almost burying his left bicep. "Go and warm up. And Tata Cchin...Don't worry so much about someone like me: be more concerned with your own self." Patting him over his ear with her flopping forearm, the blonde bumped her hip into his, sending him off toward the dancefloor.
Feeling her phone vibrate in the pocket of the hoodie tied around her hips, she headed for the main door. Exchanging her heels for a pair of ballet-style pumps off the shoe rack, the woman grabbed her purse off the coat hook in the foyer and went out of the front door.
Fifteen minutes later
Shizuka and Kiyoharu entered the studio as a waltz was in mid-swing. They signed in at the desk, got changed and reappeared in record time. In the midst of stretching, they were interrupted by a shadow. "Excuse me..."
"What's wrong, Fujita Kun?" Shizuku frowned at the pensive expression she was greeted with.
"Was Len San out there when you came in?"
Kiyoharu continued his warm-up. Without taking his eyes off the tip of his toes, his hand over the knee of his injured leg for support, his free hand brought his bottle to his lips. Pausing to inform the newcomer, he told, "She was on the phone," before going against his instincts to down half of the bottle. He was dying and he'd only walked from the train station.
"Oh." His eyes were downcast as he turned away.
"Why are you bothered by it?"
"She," Tatara halted himself and changed to a polite way of speaking. "Len San said she wanted to have a go."
Water sprayed from Kiyoharu's mouth and Shizuku choked on her own spit. "Excuse me?"
"Len San said she wanted to see how I danced."
"Please say that from the beginning." Shizuku took a breath upon finishing the remark meant for Tatara. Sharply turning to her partner, ocean eyes narrowed into a pointed look meant for the heir. "Kiyoharu, stop teaching Len San that kind of slang."
Holding his hands up, Kiyoharu continued to jitter as he laughed at the phrase which could easily be miscommunicated as something sordid. "It wasn't me-"
"-This time..." The ebony-haired female glowered at the back of her partner's head. Turning her attention to Tatara, her expression softened. "Are you sure you want to dance with her?"
The boy avoided eye contact. It was the woman before him, the soft-spoken one with limpid eyes and a refrained smile, who had tempted him into dance and although her tone held no ultimatums nor judgement, Tatara felt weird about it. It pierced his heart that his muse had asked such a thing. He thought about the question more than most would. Any normal teen boy would give up a limb to be pressed against that kind of natural porn-body without the follow up of Sexual Harassment charges. But after what he'd heard said about her between his teacher and that slimy man, Tatara wanted to know what was going on and he didn't think he could understand even if he was told without taking the floor with her at least once. Narrowing his brows, the short brunet nodded.
"I want to see why people talk about her the way they do."
Kiyoharu's brow creased. Looking back over his shoulder, he glared at the boy. "What is that supposed to mean?" Tatara still had his eyes down and completely missed the dangerous look. Shizuku noticed it. She would have felt it like a blade even if she wasn't looking.
"I accidentally overheard a conversation between Marisa Sensei and an official from the Board of-" Before Tatara could finish, Kiyoharu got up and walked down the corridor which led to his mother's office. Looking to the girl who had drawn him into the world of dance, Tatara gawked. "Did I just say something terrible?"
Shizuku wanted to ease her year mate's apprehension. She wanted to tell him everything was going to be fine, and that there was nothing to worry about. She wanted to smooth the whole situation over before it reared its ugly head to light, but she didn't want to lie, either. "It's not your fault, Fujita Kun."
The office door slamming shut cut above the music and the boy looked to his muse. Horror salient on Tatara's face, Shizuku held her hand up to halt the guilty plea she knew was coming. Looking to the receptionist, she gestured her hand. "Could you please turn the music up?" The woman behind the desk gave a knowing look as the shouting from down the hallway was muffled by a change in song.
"Did I cause that?"
"If you knew and didn't say anything, it would be worse."
The door opened and in stepped the blonde catalyst. Scouring the unease masking each dancer like a poncho three sizes too big, the woman sniffed her nose clear. Changing her shoes, she pulled the band of her sports bra digging under her bust as she headed for the desk. Eyes on the group of pairs which had been milling through the basics of the standard waltz now stood hesitant, she fingered the waistband of the chiffon skirt which stopped just below her knees. "Stop standing around, gawking. Either practice, or take your break outside." Without a word for the brunet, she held her hand out as she looked at Tatara.
His pulse thumped in his head louder than before. His knees were jelly and every time he raised his arms forty five degrees away from his sides, they trembled. The blonde walked out into the circle which was made automatically by those in wait. It was like they were expecting something. Tatara felt sick. This was bad. He didn't want-
Clicking her fingers, the blonde stretched her frame. Her back arched, her feet were set in a T-shape, and her head was high as she stared across the space. "Stop fretting, and hurry over here." As if his tail had been stood on, Tatara rushed over as he was told. Rushing into open arms, hot fingers curled around his right palm. "Hips have to touch, lower torso to just above the bellybutton - right foot forward with a lowered pelvis into a swing." The raspy voice fixed his hold and quickly used the outer parts of her body to guide him. "Turn-"
Brow raised and condescending gaze fixed on the shorter boy, Valentina sighed. "Then show me."
Tatara tightened his grip and turned left to manoeuvre the woman. He was mid-step when he found himself falling back on himself. She had completed the step, but she was nowhere near where he wanted her. She was messing with him.
"Are you trying to-"
"I'm not trying anything." She hummed a tune before locking her gaze on him. "If you want me somewhere, lead me there." Those sharp eyes which reminded him of a snake always startled him.
Expression tightening at the blunt play at his weakness, Tatara's torso tightened. Pulling her around, the blonde ran through the steps as he lost his due to the throw of weight. "Shit."
"I said lead me there, not throw me aside. It isn't garbage day, Tata-Cchin." Her mouth opened and a husky laugh rattled his frame. "Are you even trying?" She swung her leg around and tightened her grip with her left arm. The pair spun around foot-to-foot on counterbalance. Kicking her leg up, she dipped her head back as he barely clung to her constricting waist. Waiting until he put his leg out, the blonde straightened up. "'Good job I can hold myself, isn't it?" Knocking the side of his temple with her knuckles, the woman sucked in a deep breath. "-Lest I want an assault to my cranium." Holding his left arm up, she spun under it and pirouetted across the floor in jest.
Breathing heavier than usual, the brunet's chest rose and fell as he tried to suck oxygen into his shaking form. "I wasn't expecting you to dip that far."
"That's what we do." Flicking stray strands of hair off her face, she walked towards the window. "The men keep the hold and take the points, but if we feel our partner slipping, we save them and cover for them." Tatara watched the woman's back as she called the amateurs onto the floor and began fixing their posture. "No matter how hard the woman fights, that's the best we can do." She pulled a tuft of loose hair hanging over his forehead as she walked backwards with a senior couple.
The door opened and a pair of child twins entered followed by their mother. "Oh, we're early." She turned to the desk and signed her children in.
Pointing at the devil brats, Valentina nodded to herself although she was clearly taking a dig at Tatara. "Those boy can lead better than you, and they're less than half my age...and height."
"Leh-Nee Chan!" A pair of climbing monkeys clung around her waist and neck.
"See?" Valentina gave a perfectly straight face as the two eleven-year-olds pulled strands of her hair and plucked the strap of her sports bra. It had only been a couple of sessions, but the young twins had taken to tormenting the woman who let them get away with it.
Tatara frowned at the scene of the buxom woman being ragged about by the devil children, her obvious short-fuse dampened enough to stop her from throwing them out of the second-floor window. "This image isn't working." The short brunet frowned, shaking his head.
The blonde stood like a statue as Tatara and a couple of the younger members gawped at the situation. At the desk, the twins' mother talked to the receptionist. "I was concerned about leaving them here after hearing Hyōdō San would be going away but the new tutor seems very...Patient."
The receptionist wondered about how to explain the new employee's disposition. Her better judgement opened her mouth but before she could say anything, the missing student came through the door. "Chinatsu Chan, good afternoon."
The redhead bowed to the employee and the mother she had seen on occasion. "I'm sorry, I have to change. I'm already late."
Glancing to the clock, the blonde clicked her fingers and tongue like she was rounding livestock. "It's five to five." Running her hands down her body, she unstuck the kids fooling around. "You have two minutes to change. Go." The rabble let go and ran for the changing room with their peers. "Hurry it," she raised her foot in mock anger."
The previous class collected their belongings and said thank you for the lesson. Signing out, several pairs passed another wave entering the studio.
"My tights are broke!" A little girl's cry rang out and a couple of boys laughed.
"Hold on." Valentina spoke back and advanced for the hallway. Bowing her head to the three parents, the foreigner disappeared into the back.
Waiting until the blonde was out of sight, one mother sneered. "I heard that she would be expelled from dancing if not for her injury."
Another mother avoided eye contact and covered her mouth as she whispered. "Saito San..."
"What, our children practice here. Are you not bothered by the facts?"
"She stopped dancing because she was seriously injured." Kiyoharu had returned from the office and leaned over the desk. Plucking up an apple from the fruit bowl and taking a bite, he looked to the wary mother. "Her conduct had nothing to do with it."
"She's known for being violent with her partners."
The heir locked his gaze on the woman. "I'm not sure of what you're trying to say. Do we employ criminals, or are you trying to slander an international champion?"
The woman huffed and shook her head. "If anything happens-"
Taking a bite from the red fruit, the owner's on held his line of sight on the woman. "The only thing which will happen is your daughter advancing her dance skill." The mother rolled her eyes and left without another word shortly followed by two of the other parents.
Coming from the changing room with a swarm of kids between the ages of six and thirteen, Valentina stopped behind Kiyoharu. Bending her legs, she jut her knees out into the back of his. Watching the lad jolt and almost fall over, the blonde pushed against his lower back with her foot when he saved himself by grabbing the counter. "Don't go staring out parents on my behalf, you dimwit." Scoffing at his compressed form, she turned around and looked over the group of nine children.
Clambering up to a standing position, Kiyoharu glowered at the back of the woman's head. "Have you forgotten I was recently injured?"
"Nope," the woman sang and advanced for the children. Puckering his lips, the teen wobbled his head behind her back and the kids laughed at the silly face he was making. The blonde's left eyebrow twitched. "Shall I bust your good leg?"
Updated: 24th December 2019 - 21:43
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