333 – To the Hotsprings! – V
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A paradise within the mountains. Despite being surrounded by snowy peaks on all sides, sakura trees were in full bloom and a warm breeze continuously flowed past, shifting the tree branches and sending petals scattering.

A traditional Japanese gate marked the divide between the mystical realm and the modern realm, standing above the paved road leading into the area.

Shortly past the gate, there was a small parking lot. It was clean, but time had taken its toll on the pavement, cracking it and wearing off the paint.

Connected to that small parking lot, there was a path leading to a sprawling traditional Japanese building. Unlike the parking lot, although the building seemed to be from the distant past due to its style of architecture, it was perfectly in tact. Almost as if it had been plucked from the past and placed in the future. Or as if time itself had stopped in this place.

And then past the traditional Japanese building, if you strained your eyes, you could see a faint mist in the background, the steam from hidden natural hotsprings.

This was the famous Fantasy of Good Health hotsprings. [夢幻健盛].

-----AI|IA-----

After the car was parked, Chihiro got out first and took a look around. As she did, she blinked and then rubbed her eyes before saying, "This place is real?"

Mikata stepped out from the driver's seat and then moved to open the door for the other girls. As he did that, he nodded and said, "Fantasy of Good Health hotsprings... should be this area." He stepped back after opening the door and surveyed the area. "It definitely matches the name, at least."

Yuri stepped out of the car as well and then nodded. "It's definitely a fantasy." She took a look around and said, "I feel like I'm in a fairytale."

Shu got out too and then thoughtfully nodded. "It really gives off a mystical feel... I'd bet it'd be great to train here."

Yuri glanced at Shu and said, "Didn't you give up on training, Shu?"

Shu threw a punch in the air and grinned. "I've got to keep sharp now that I'm making action movies, Yuri."

"...True." Yuri stared at the steam in the distance and said, "I heard that hotsprings could be used to cook eggs as well. Maybe I should see how it's like as an ingredient?"

Suzume got out of the car and laughed. "There will be plenty of time for us to seek out inspiration later. For now... Shall we relax?" After saying that, she started heading up the path to the building.

The Prodigy girls followed after her, with Mikata tailing behind them and taking a look around.

A quiet and peaceful walk through scenic terrain. Almost like a dream.

And then they arrived at the building.

Suzume pushed open the door and then walked in, calling out. "Mother? Father? Are you here?"

Chihiro walked in after Suzume and took a look around. "Can they even hear you in this place?"

It was an understandable thought. Like from how it appeared on the outside, the building was huge.

The doors opened to a wide lobby. Straight ahead, a pair of double doors led to an inside hotspring, judging from the steam coming out from the sides.

A pair of staircases on the left and right led to a second floor. And long hallways with an unseeable end stretched out on the left and right of the main entrance.

It looked like a place you could get lost in easily if you took the wrong turn.

Suzume glanced at Chihiro and let out an uncharacteristically wry smile. "You would think that..."

Chihiro blinked, confused at the response.

And then a high-pitched scream echoed. Not one out of fear, but instead of overexcited joy.

"Meimei! You're home!"

Footsteps echoed from the floor above before someone vaulted off the balcony.

A flutter of pink fabric and lilac hair. Shortly after, there was a soft thud as a beautiful woman appeared in front of the girls and dashed over to Suzume, pulling her into a hug.

"I've missed you so much! Did you make friends? Your letters were nice, but a lot more happened, right? Won't you tell Mommy?"

Suzume sighed and said, "You are as affectionate as ever, Mother."

The woman stepped back and pouted, puffing her cheeks, glaring at Suzume with her purple eyes. "We should never have sent you to go learn at that shrine. Now you're so prim and proper and *boring.*"

Before Suzume could respond, another figure jumped down from the balcony above, landing on the ground.

"Oi. Even if you're excited to see Suzume again, you shouldn't be that reckless. We aren't young whippersnappers anymore."

It was a man with auburn hair turning a bit gray, wearing a traditional white kimono and a blue sash. He walked over to stand next to the woman and pulled her a few steps away from Suzume. Looking out at the Prodigy girls, he smiled and said, "Welcome to our humble abode. Please, make yourself at home."

-----AI|IA-----

As the sun was starting to sink beneath the horizon, Alphy pulled into the parking lot of the Fantasy of Good Health hotsprings. When she did, she noticed a familiar car parked nearby and tilted her head. "Is that a Myth Inc car?"

Asako glanced over and said, "Huh. It looks like it is." She looked to Alphy and said, "Did John take Yue out on another trip or something?"

Alphy parked her BMW and shook her head. "Papa said he's going to stay at home for a while to live a normal family life, so it can't be him. And he doesn't drive a car like that anymore."

Rin lowered her phone and said, "Maybe it's our kouhais? I think Suzu-chan said that her parents lived in the mountains or something, right?"

Alphy unbuckled her seatbelt and hummed. "It seems to be the case." She opened her door to get out and said, "Should we go see?"

Asako got out as well and said, "We've reserved the place either way, haven't we? Although..." She took a look at the surroundings and said, "...How much did it cost to reserve a place like this so close to the holidays, Alphy? Are you sure it's fine for you to pay?"

Alphy walked over and grabbed Asako's hand, smiling. "Don't worry, Asa-chan. I have a lot of money saved up for our future together."

"A-Alphy?!"

Rin got out of the back and thoughtfully tilted her head. "Hm... Alphy really is Mister John's daughter, huh? Turning tough Aneue into putty like that..."

Alphy giggled and said, "Well." She looked at Asako and said, "Like Asa-chan keeps saying, I'm Papa's little girl."

"..." Asako sighed and said, "You're lucky you're cute, Alphy. And you too, Sis. If you were guys, I would've beat the crap out of you by now."

Rin smiled and said, "Love you too, Aneue!"

Asako grabbed their bags from the trunk of the car and said, "Let's go check in then." She looked at the darkening sky line and said, "If we show up too late, we might get locked out or something, you know?"

Alphy walked over to help Asako and said, "That wouldn't happen. But if it does, we can always call Papa for help."

"...I think that's even worse." Asako sighed and said, "Knowing your dad, he might just show up and cause another crazy incident." She handed Rin's bag over.

Rin took her bag and said, "That'd be fun though, wouldn't it?"

"...Let's just get going."

-----AI|IA-----

Rin placed her bag down on the floor in her room and looked around. "This place really is like something out of a story book, isn't it?"

A traditional Japanese style bedroom, like she had stepped back through time. There were outlets and electricity, of course, but it was expertly hidden and blended in with the decor that it was unnoticeable.

'It's nice, I guess?' Rin sat down and started unpacking her things. 'I think I prefer back home though...'

Maybe it was because she was used to it? Rin had never lived in a traditional Japanese house or even visited one, so this was a bit weird.

Onee-chan and Aneue seemed to enjoy it though, and Rin always had been curious about what a proper hotspring was like.

A light tap on the door outside. After that, an elegant female voice called out. "Hibana-san? Are you in there?"

Rin put down the clothes she was unpacking and then called out. "Yes! One moment!" She zipped up her bag, tucking away a blue dragon plushie peeking out, and then stood up.

The door slid open and a beautiful woman with lilac hair and a sakura kimono appeared, smiling. "Dinner is ready. Would you like me to guide you there, or are you fine by yourself?"

"Thank you, Miss, but I think I can find it by myself."

The woman nodded and said, "Then I'll let you go. I have to tell the other girls too... and surprise Meimei, heehee."

"Hm?"

Rin was confused, but the woman was already walking away.

Seeing that, Rin shrugged and headed out of her room.

'Let's see... I think the dining room was on the first floor, right?'

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