Characters: Zaiden Mallory, Kohaku Pardis
Purpose: A questionable first meeting between the characters in question.
The plane ride to Japan had been far too long. Even with modern aeronautic technology, or whatever it was – Zaiden was a political science student, not a scientist – being in a tiny box at thirty thousand feet for that many hours was horrid. And once he was back on solid ground, it was still disorienting. Not jet lag exactly, nothing distinctly physical, just a mild prickling in the back of his brain that was growing progressively more and more irritating. Zaiden's father had arranged for a five star hotel suite for his one and only son; Zaiden didn't even know if the man had paid for it himself. He had learned not to ask those questions long ago. He no longer even wanted to know the answers.
Zaiden didn't want to stay in the hotel. He had left all of his textbooks back in California, bowing down to the suggested wisdom that he travel light. And he did not wish to read in the first place. Looking at text on a page – or on a screen – only made his head throb perversely. The common areas of the hotel were filled with wealthy businessmen from other parts of the country who only wanted to speak in Japanese, and who Zaiden was certain he did not want to converse with in the first place. Their company was excruciating.
In his somewhat addled state, Zaiden decided that visiting a Japanese red light district would be a productive way to pass his time. Oh sure, he should be brushing up on the culture and the political climate in preparation for his upcoming diplomatic meeting. He considered himself to be a responsible man. Straight-laced, despite the negative connotations to the term. He had his shady dealings, sure, but he also had his morals. Principles. Principles that were flitting away happily at the chance to spend a few hours in the company of people whose morals were more than suspect, who also hadn't bothered to properly learn the only language he was fluent in.
Perhaps he would pick up a few more language courses when he got back to California. It couldn't hurt.
It was dark by then, and the trip to that part of town was more than just a bit of a hassle. Zaiden wondered to himself if it would even be worth it. He had no plan. He had no desire to pay for the privilege to sleep with a prostitute. And he had no desire to get completely smashed. It wasn't for the scintillating conversation, seeing as that would be in a mash of Japanese and broken English.
He selected the bar based on its creative combination of lurid fluorescents. The interior decorations fit the stereotype of Japanese, and Zaiden suspected that the establishment was geared towards foreigners. Zaiden didn't know what he was drinking. The bartender spoke English well enough, but Zaiden didn't know the brands and didn't have a preference even when he knew what the options were, so he just pointed to a bottle on the wall that looked interesting. He sampled exactly two sips of the beverage. It seared his throat all the way down, and he entertained the thought that it was still burning merrily in his stomach. He remembered why he drank like a girl when societal norms demanded it.
He ended up in the most convoluted debate in his recent memory with a woman he was unable to shake off, mostly because her make-up fascinated and horrified him to the point where he didn't want to make an excuse. The spectacle, combined with the necessity of working out the meanings of the Japanese words peppering her speech based on context, was enough to occupy the functioning portions of his mind.