Work, Please! ~From World's Greatest Sweeper to the Far Future's Salaryman~
The sweeper sat on a cheap plastic chair, surrounded by rows and columns of washing machines and dryers, all rotating in unison as if they were individual cogs in a machine. Monotonous whirrs flooded these dimly lit laundromat halls, with an occasional beeping noise coming out of the digital display timers projecting outward from each washer and dryer. The displays were esoteric in nature, with all sorts of interfaces that made no sense to Kuroiwa, no matter how simple they looked. It was minimalism at its absolute worst. And to top it all off, this laundromat billed itself as a ‘coin laundromat’, yet there were no coin slots to be found. Every payment done here could only be done through a cyberbrain transaction.
Kuroiwa hunched over and twiddled his thumbs.
He was in quite a predicament.
Inside the laundromat were only two living entities. No physical owner stood by the front desk, unless you counted a single, supposedly omniscient loudspeaker sitting on the table as the ‘owner’. One could almost expect it to greet visitors with a “Good morning, Angels.”, and the only good reply would be “Good morning, Charlie!”.
This left only Kuroiwa and one other.
That one other was the mysterious wish girl from the pond earlier tonight.
She spent an inordinate amount of time in the washroom. This made Kuroiwa sweat; not just from the heat of the dryers, but from tension of the unknown. Who was she? Why did she act like she’d wanted to see Kuroiwa? And what was taking her so long? Do showers and baths come installed in every laundromat now?
Just a quarter of an hour ago, this woman had the audacity to take her top off in front of Kuroiwa and tossed them carelessly into one of the washers. Fortunately(or unfortunately), her long red hair obscured any naughty bits from the poor man, almost as if she had practiced this song and dance for a while now. It played out as though it were convenient censorship, but invoked willfully and in real life. Her shamelessness in the face of a stranger was exceptional, and most of all, disturbing for Kuroiwa. Or any human with a brain. Or cyberbrain.
A door creaked from behind the row of machines beside Kuroiwa. Damp, dainty footsteps pitter-pattered towards his direction. It could only be that girl.
She emerged from the sides, the girl still moist from a quick wash-up. She wore an oversized white t-shirt while wiping herself down with a clean, beige towel. She then glanced at Kuroiwa, smiling naughtily at him and her tongue sticking out just a little. “Like what you see, sensei?” she asked in a sultry, womanly voice.
Kuroiwa never gave her a t-shirt, nor did she have anything but the clothes on her back when they met. “Where’d you get the shirt?”
“That’s a weird question. I acquisitioned it, of course.”
“So you stole it.”
“Stolen goods are never stolen unless somebody complains. Until then, it’s charity,” she said while stretching her shirt down to emphasize the size of her chest. “Besides, don’t you like it? I chose the ‘boyfriend shirt’ for you, sensei.”
Kuroiwa crossed his arms and clammed his lips. He furrowed his brow and fired back, “I need you to start talking. If this is your attempt at seduction, then you’re awful at it.”
“Are you sure?” said the lady, still stretching her shirt. “You’re a little red, and I’m sure you’re aroused right now.”
“I am, I won’t deny that,” retorted Kuroiwa, shifting his legs and crossing them. “But rule number one of seduction is to not let your victim suspect a thing. And yet ‘ulterior motive’ is written all over you in big bold letters laden with strobe lights.”
The girl ran her finger over her lips, and flicked it at Kuroiwa.
“And you’d know the first thing about seduction? Have you done so before?”
“No. It’s not my style. I’m not James Bond.”
“And you’ve not succumbed to the charms of a lady before?”
“...No, never.” denied Kuroiwa vehemently.
“So does that mean…?,” curiously asked the girl, smiling at him smugly. “Does that mean you’re a spring chicken?”
“Spring chicken? Wait… Hey—!”
The realization hit him hard. Kuroiwa’s eyes widened, and his cheeks flushed a bright red. He jumped to his feet and plodded towards the girl. “Excuse you! I used to be a ladies’ man back in the day! I was quite the party animal, you know.”
“Geez. You take such offense to it. Did I hit the mark?”
The girl tilted her head and moved it dangerously close to Kuroiwa’s. Her eyes narrowed, and her cheeks glowed with a vibrant red. She then sneered and stuck her tongue out at him. Kuroiwa responded with a step back and a tight lip.
She giggled and taunted, “Well, did I? Che—rry—Boy?”
Kuroiwa darted backwards and almost tripped over an empty clothes basket. He reached for the revolver holstered on his belt, but relented when he realized something: He had a code he would never break no matter what, man or machine.
Kuroiwa couldn’t bring himself to harm a woman. And that aside, shooting someone for implying his chastity was beyond petty.
The girl ambled in his direction, fresh bathwater still dripping from her feet and legs, and her loose shirt swaying with each step. “You can do anything you want with me, you know?” she said in a hushed voice.
Kuroiwa’s legs weakened and his arms felt like noodles cooking in a boiling pot. He’d denied ever giving in to womanly charm, but he had always been vulnerable to such… seduction. It was especially bad now that the woman had taken the form of his dream girl, and literally emerged from a wishing pond. He was conflicted between entering a combative state to defend against this unknown threat, or letting himself give in just this once. Though, getting a ride in a laundromat was not the first location he’d thought of having such a ravishing encounter in.
“Wait, wait!” he said in a daze. “We are not doing this! Hell, we don’t even know each other’s names yet!”
“Shiyuri. Shiyuri Akasaka,” said the girl. “If you know my name, then we’re good, yeah?”
Kuroiwa’s dropped his guard. Shiyuri Akasaka.
The girl had a last name? Every citizen in Neo Shibuya had no surname, and any second names people did have were titles related to their job or social standing. Even Nanami, the laziest idol, didn’t have a real surname, despite her full name and title being ‘Moonlight Nanami’. Shiyuri Akasaka. The name kept ringing like a bell in his head. Shiyuri Akasaka. Akasaka.
Could she be human?
Shiyuri cornered Kuroiwa and slammed her hand on the wall. A strange reversal, considering how much smaller she was than the sweeper. Kuroiwa could only offer a morsel of resistance against this red-haired temptress, as his body froze in place against the chilly, concrete wall.
“Stay away. I’m armed and will defend myself.”
“No, you won’t,” she said while licking her lips. “You’re dead curious about me. Why I have a surname. And why I’m doing this for you. You’re itching to know everything about me. Right, sensei?”
She inched her lips closer to Kuroiwa. He could smell that same citrusy fragrance from her, even more intensely this time. Her sizable chest pushed against his toned abdomen, and Kuroiwa broke sweat like the heater had just turned to max. Her body heat merged with his, and he couldn’t even tell where his body started or hers ended. He closed his eyes, and…
He could no longer resist. It was as if his base, unfulfilled instincts were taking over. Kuroiwa, the world’s greatest sweeper, was no longer a sweeper at this juncture. He was not even a professional or a worker in a small bar named Nirvana.
Kuroiwa was simply a man.
Shiyuri closed the distance. With each second passing, her lips grew closer and closer to his. All Kuroiwa could hear was her name echoing in his mind. That she could be human, like him. Resistance was futile.
Ah, I don’t care anymore.
I’m… gonna graduate.
Then Shiyuri stopped just a centimeter short. And there she stayed.
Kuroiwa waited and waited for that sweet peach to reach his smacker. But that release was nowhere to be found. He opened his eyes and gazed upon the girl who would take him to the Garden of Eden, supposedly.
Shiyuri had retreated, her eyes widened with shock, and her lips shut as if sealed tight with two layers of tape. She held her cheeks like an embarrassed schoolgirl who had just confessed to her crush, and failed. Her demeanor had changed completely, as if the Shiyuri that had just been tempting him vanished into thin air.
“Nooo! I can’t do it!”
Shiyuri backed away and tripped on the empty basket. Kuroiwa bolted towards her and tried to catch her just in time—but to no avail. It was too late. Kuroiwa tumbled over the basket as well and crashed into the washing machine, tumbling another basket of clothes—filled this time, showering them in a pile of girls’ lingerie.
Kuroiwa ended up on top of Shiyuri, only him holding up his own weight with his arms. He kept a calm, cool face while Shiyuri’s expression was… ignoble. She was surprised, stupefied, and shocked. It was as if she had been struck by lightning, but without the burns, wounds, or possible death. She looked as cartoony as could be.
“Gah… wah…” Shiyuri stammered. “No, no, no…”
What’s wrong with her?, thought Kuroiwa while he observed this normally seductive lady crumble into a hot mess. He regained his composure and said to her in a serious tone, “Looks like the tables have turned. Start talking.”
“You were supposed to resist me!” said Shiyuri as she covered her eyes with her palms. “This isn’t the image I wanted. Now it’s all ruined!”
“Image? What does that mean?” asked Kuroiwa.
“Sensei,” pleaded the girl with a pitiful voice. “I was only trying to get us in a compromising position…”
“Well, you definitely got me there.”
A small device beeped from Shiyuri. It was quiet and sounded like a watch’s alarm. What exactly that meant and why she wanted to get in a troublesome situation, Kuroiwa wouldn’t know. But he couldn’t fully process the complete tonal shift Shiyuri had undergone in such a short time.
“No!” shouted Shiyuri as she flailed her legs up and down like a child throwing a tantrum. “I can’t let her see me like this! This isn’t going according to plan!”
“Who’s ‘she’? What were you trying to achieve here?!” exclaimed Kuroiwa.
The answer to that question had just walked into the laundromat.
A young woman with brown hair and dog-like ears, donning a black mouth mask and a plain white polo and a short pencil skirt, marched into the room carrying a tiny basket filled with neatly folded clothes. And when she did, did she also see Kuroiwa on top of Shiyuri while a plethora of women’s underwear enveloped them.
She dropped her laundry basket, spilling its contents. She blushed and shielded her eyes from the scene of indecency happening right before her very eyes. A true crime scene if she ever saw one.
Kuroiwa turned in her direction and immediately saw his familiar friend looking at him with accusing eyes. “Chigusa?! What’re you—”
“I’m sorry!” Chigusa said, “I know that we just repealed NS.NE. Act 0069 about Public Indecency last month, but I didn’t expect you to be so brazen!”
“Wait, Chigusa, I can explain—”
“There’s no need, Kuroiwa…” Chigusa said solemnly. “It’s alright. I know it is a base human instinct you must fulfill. I know of it, you know? I’ve studied old humanity before. They said their method of copulation was different from today, so…”
Shiyuri remained stunned on the floor. She stared at Chigusa intently but her face still frozen in that expression of abject horror and despair.
Kuroiwa shook and reached out to Chigusa, while a piece of brassiere hung from his arm. “Hold on, really, this is just—”
“If you must perform such indecent acts in this humble laundromat,” said Chigusa, showing her embarrassment, then immediately shifting to total determination, fists clenched and gaze aimed straight at both of them.
“Then allow me to watch! For the sake of science!”