Miira stepped out into the Tokyo HUB and stopped, stunned by the sheer volume of people crowding the vast, circular concourse. There must have been thousands of them.
Shaking her head in bemusement, she was scanning the crowd for her next guide when she caught sight of a young man with shoulder-length blond hair and wild blue eyes. His long black coat reminded her of dark wings as he pushed his way through the crowd.
Stopping to watch the bright angel run past, she was caught off guard when he suddenly changed direction and barreled towards her. She managed to step out of the way, but her bags were not quite quick enough.
The young man tripped over the bags and grabbed at Miira on the way down. For one timeless moment, they teetered together, then momentum sent them both crashing to the ground.
“Oouw!” Miira yelped as her head hit the tiles. The yelp was followed by an ouff as an elbow knocked the breath from her body.
“Shit, shit, shit!” the young man muttered as he pushed himself to his knees and tried to help Miira sit up. “Just my fucking luck…are you okay?”
“I…think so,” Miira wheezed, one hand going to the back of her head where a small but uncomfortable bump was growing beneath her fingers. “Sometimes reality could be a little less real.”
“Yeah,” the young man said with a frown. “Look. I’m really sorry. I thought you were just a, you know, NRA.”
“Because I look Asian?” Miira snapped, shock giving way to anger.
“I didn’t mean it that way!” the young man protested. “I just… Ah, crap.”
Bending from the waist, he bowed in a very Asian way and murmured, “Gomenasai…”
Maybe he wasn’t being racist after all, Miira thought, impressed despite herself. She probably had looked like all the other NRAs milling around.
“So what did that mean?” she asked, her tone marginally less hostile.
“It means ‘I’m sorry’.”
“Okay. But is your Japanese good enough to get me a taxi?”
The young man’s lip curled in a sneer, as if offended by the very thought that his Japanese might not be fluent.
“Of course. Where do you want to go?”
That’s a good question, Miira thought. After being dwarfed by the Hilton in Aqaba, she had no desire to go to one of the big international hotels. Unfortunately, they were likely to be the only places where her own lack of Japanese would not matter.
“Do you know of any traditional hotels here in Tokyo where the staff still speak some English?”
“Hmmm… You’re not going to get traditional anything in Tokyo,” the young man said with a frown. “But I know a great ryokan in Kyoto where you can do the whole traditional shi-thing, and the staff all speak English.”
“Rio-kan? What’s that?”
“Boy, you really don’t know anything do you?” he retorted, his tone superior.
Miira just raised an eyebrow at him. Her head still hurt, and she was in no mood to be talked down to.
“Okay, okay!” he cried, throwing up his hands. “A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn dating back to the time when this place was still called Edo. Happy now?”
“Yes, thank you,” Miira said. Kyoto was where she intended to go the next day anyway, so it was not out of the question. “Would I have to go through the HUB again to get there?”
“No, Kyoto is part of Tokyo HUB.”
“Fine, in that case, you get me a taxi to this ryo-kan of yours, and I promise not to sue for grievous bodily harm.”
“Har de hah hah,” he replied, but his lips quirked as if he were trying to restrain a real smile. “C’mon then.”
“Wait!” Miira said to his retreating back. “I can’t keep calling you ‘hey you’. What’s your name?”
“Jaimie. Now c’mon, I haven’t got all day.”
Jaimie? As in Jaimie Watson? Miira wondered as she started after her bad-tempered young guide.
Now that she thought about it, he was certainly rude enough to be eighteen. But there was also a vitality about him she had not seen in many other Residents.
Maybe Nour was right? Maybe young Jaimie Watson had discovered the way to live a good life in Innerscape?
“Let’s go, bags,” Miira said with a shrug. “Our guide is definitely not going to wait.”