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Chapter Twenty: Puzzle Pieces:

Once I got dressed, I walked into the living room. To my surprise, I found Isaac, Cassius, Yusuke, and Sunao sitting around, eyeing me. I looked at them rather confused.

“Yes?” I asked. The smirking doesn’t look good. “What?” I asked, looking back and forth at them. They all leaned in close to my face.

“Guys?” I asked, backing away. “What is this?” They began snickering at me.

“She got you, didn’t she?” Isaac asked. I looked at him in a panic.

“What are you talking about?!” I asked. “Who got me?!” My eyes moved back and forth at the guys staring me down. Suddenly, they broke into hard laughter.

“What?” I asked, still not getting what was happening. Isaac patted me on the shoulder.

“My man,” he said. “Welcome to this house!” I blinked at him with big eyes.

“Huh?” I asked. Before I could grasp it, we all sat in the living room, talking. Isaac gave me a huge grin.

“You’re not the only one she asked to post naked for her art projects,” he said. A puzzled look came onto my face.

“I’m not?” I asked.

“No,” all the guys answered.

“She’s done it to us all,” Sunao added. My jaw dropped.

“Seriously?” I asked.

“Miki asked me to model for her, twice,” Isaac added.

“Damn,” I muttered to myself. Another thought crossed my mind while I envisioned all these guys posing nude for Miki as she worked on her art. “How did you all end up here?” I asked. I happened to look up and notice traces of nostalgia coming over their faces.

“It’s a funny story really,” Isaac began. “I had just dropped out of college in Kobe and was really bored. I had my art, but not much else going on for me. One day, one of my former professors gave me a pass to an art exhibit in Hiroshima. He told me that I could make easy money if I entered into the contest.” I made an odd face at him.

“That’s sounds rather shady,” I told him. Isaac put up his hands in a shrug.

“Hey, what could I say?” he asked. “I really needed the money at the time. Anyway, my artwork didn’t even place in the contest, but I noticed the woman who placed third. I had seen her name before in the campus newspaper, but I didn’t pay too much attention to it during my college days. However, that day I found myself rather curious.”

“This is where it gets good,” Sunao whispered in my ear.

“I heard there was going to be a party afterwards,” Isaac picked up with his story. So I snuck right into the hotel where it was held.” He shook his head. “Too fancy for my taste, I mean didn’t even dress up for it. I spent the night at the bar, drinking. I was about to leave when this sweet little miss sat next to me.

“‘I’m getting bored with that party,’ she complained. She happened to turn and face me. ‘Let me guess,’ she said. ‘You got bored too?’ I told her yeah. This sweet little miss took her glass she had in her hand and drank up. ‘Want to get out of here?’ she asked. I asked her if she was serious and she said yeah.” He stared dead-on at me. “And do you know who that artist was who won third place and talked to me at the bar that night?” he asked. I shook my head at him.

“No,” I answered. Isaac sat back in his chair, smiling.

“None other than Miki herself,” he answered. My jaw dropped as my eyes grew big.

“No way!” I said.

“Yes, way,” he said back.

“Then… how did you get this house?” I asked.

“Miki’s grandmother owned this house,” Isaac added. “When she died, Miki inherited it. I had nowhere else to go at the time, so I asked her if I could stay for a while. She said yes.” A sweat drop formed on my head. Why does that not surprise me?

“So how about the rest of you guys?” I asked.

“We all just came here one by one,” Cassius asked. “I came here after my boyfriend dumped me. I met Miki and Isaac at a coffee shop downtown.”

“We loved his photos,” Isaac said. “So, we invited him to stay with us.”

“I came here when I needed a place to stay while I went to school here,” Sunao told us.

“I was struggling with my music career,” Yusuke added.

“And they let you stay here?” I asked.

“That’s right,” he replied. I thought about all of their stories as I looked at them one by one.

“So that’s it?” I asked.

“Yeah,” the guys answered. I thought about all of their stories as I put them together in my head.

“Uh-huh…” I said. “What about the girls?”

“What about us?” someone asked behind us. We looked up to see Akemi, Sakura-hime, Miki, Yumi, and Romi staring back at us. Isaac put up his hands in a shrug.

“We were just giving Kichiro here a little back story here,” he said. “Care to join us? He was just asking about you.” Romi put up her hands in a shrug.

“Why not?” she asked. “We don’t have much to do right now anyway.” The girls joined us in the living room. Isaac looked at each one as they took their seats.

“So, who’s going first?” he asked.

“I will,” Miki answered. Isaac bowed his head with grace.

“Go ahead, malady,” he told her.

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