We were sitting on the back porch. Yumeko was seated at the small card table set up on the right side of the porch, shuffling a deck of cards over and over. The seat across from her was empty. I was sitting on the other side of the porch, in a paint-chipped rocking chair. We both overlooked the secluded beach. Yumeko enjoyed listening to the waves, and I enjoyed listening to the rhythm of her deck shuffling, perfectly in time with the ocean waves.
It would be a lie if I said I only came out here to watch the waves. Really, I loved watching Yumeko. In comparison to how she was at Hyakkaou Private Academy, she seemed content and serene. During the morning, we spent our days just like this, basking in each other’s company. At night, though, I had to take her around to the various gambling halls nearby. It didn’t matter what it was: bingo, blackjack, checkers, or otherwise. It was there I got to see hints of the old Yumeko.
That otherwordly shine in her eyes would appear, a sinister red glow. Unfortunately, most of her opponents were elderly, poor, or young people just there for a night of debauchery. Very rarely were the bets enough to satisfy her itch. Yumeko couldn’t help herself. Inevitably, she’d bet large sums, much larger than the average person would have at any point in their lives. Everyone she challenged in this way would fold and leave her with an unsatisfying victory. At that point, I would step in and bet every dime I didn’t have. This would usually sate her for the night, but even that was beginning to grow dull.
At this point, I was somewhere in the billions in how much I owed her. She would never ask me to pay up, and instead offered me the chance to work off my ever-growing debt. ‘Work,’ though, was not something Yumeko seemed to know the definition of. She moved me into her beach house and declared me the property manager. My days were spent ensuring Yumeko ate every day and that the grounds around the home were kept up. Even that was not much work, as nameless maids and groundskeepers came and went from the property every day. Yet, every day, I made her breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and took her out to the gambling halls. Yumeko seemed satisfied.
Her voice gradually crept into our shared silence, much like the waves on the shore. I turned my head to meet her gaze, but her eyes were closed, a gentle smile on her lips.
Even as she spoke, she continued shuffling the deck of cards in her hands, cutting them and tapping the stack on the table to straighten them.
“Let’s stay in tonight. No gambling.”
I let those words hang in the air between us for a while. They didn’t make sense to me for a moment. Rather, I didn’t believe them. Once their meaning did register, I couldn’t stop myself from spluttering.
“What? Why? Are you okay?”
It was then, she finally opened her eyes. They were their familiar rosewood brown eyes. Even so, their natural shimmer had faded. She looked empty. Yumeko didn’t respond right away, taking her time to look out at the ocean first before finally looking into my eyes.
“I just don’t feel like it. It’s lost its…” Yumeko’s gaze trailed off back to the shoreline, “it’s lost its pleasurable effect.”
I couldn’t help watching her lips part, tongue flicking against the bottom lip as she purred ‘pleasurable.’ My face warmed in response. I had to admit, the way she spoke had a pleasurable effect. I did my best to clear my throat and speak evenly.
“I understand. It doesn’t have the same risk as Hyakkaou, but it’s better than nothing, right?”
Yumeko sighed, setting her stack of cards at the center of the table.
“Better than nothing, huh?” Holding her arms above her head, she stretched, eyes cinching shut once more. “I don’t know that I agree with that. I think I’d rather do nothing. Gambling without passion just isn’t worth it.”
Her ample breasts moved in perfect cadence with her sighs as she stretched. Even Yumeko’s joints popped with a beat to them. Her whole body seemed to have its own symphony. As corny as it sounded, it was my favorite song.
“We can stay in if you want, but we can still gamble.”
These few words were enough to cause Yumeko to pause. Her eyes opened wide, the red shades beginning to take over the dull brown. Like daggers, her gaze darted to my direction, piercing me. A grin was playing across her lips despite the words that tumbled from her mouth.
“No offense Ryota, but I am not sure you have much to offer to make a gamble interesting.”
I couldn’t help smirking in return. Sweat was beginning to run down the side of my face, and my face was warm enough that I knew I had to be blushing. Even so, I didn’t break my gaze with Yumeko.
“There’s one thing I haven’t gambled with, at least not in a while.”
Yumeko dropped her arms and tucked her hands in her lap, out of my sight. She leaned forward, resting her breasts on the table, and let a panting breath escape before she questioned me further.
“Oh? Ryota? What would that be?”
I tugged at the collar of my shirt. It suddenly felt too tight.
“What about my life?”
Yumeko paused, cinching her eyes into a glittering ruby glare.
“Don’t tease me, Ryota.”
I shook my head and stood up, making my way over to the card table. All the while, Yumeko’s gaze followed me.
“I promise. If you win, my life is forfeit to you, but if I win? Your life is forfeit to me.” With that, I pulled out the chair across from her and sat down. “What do you think?”
Yumeko was grinning from ear to ear, her breathing labored.
“I think that sounds like a wonderful gamble. What kind of game will we play?”
I plucked the cards from the center of the table and began shuffling through them, picking out all of the spades and setting them to the side. As I picked out the cards, I began to explain.
“Do you remember the first game you ever played at Hyakkaou? Against Mary?”
Yumeko blinked, the sexual tension dissipating as she tried to recall a gamble from so long ago. I didn’t let her linger in confusion for long. After I made sure all the spades were gone, I shuffled the deck once, then passed it back over to Yumeko.
“Will you cut the deck? We’re going to play rock, paper, scissors.”
At the mention of the game, Yumeko’s face brightened, and she sat up straight. Even her hands jumped from her lap as she clapped her hands together.
“Yes! I remember! Ryota, I didn’t realize you were so nostalgic.”
I bobbed my head in response. She then cut the deck once before passing it back over.
“Unfortunately, we aren’t going to be able to play it exactly like you did back then. I mean, I won’t be behind you helping Mary cheat, for one.” Yumeko giggled, covering her mouth as if she were embarrassed. “Mainly, we don’t have those cards. Instead, we’ll use the suits. I took out all of the spades, so hearts, diamonds, and clubs will be our rock, paper, and scissors cards.”
As I spoke, I began dealing the cards, back and forth until we each had three. Then, I set the remainder of the deck at the center of the card table. As soon as Yumeko’s third card was dealt, she had them in her hand, eyeing her hand. Her conservative smile never shifted. As far as I could tell, Yumeko had no tell. She was always pleased with a gamble, no matter if she was winning or losing. That was one of her major strengths, one I knew I couldn’t combat.
Even so, I picked up my own hand and smiled at the cards. It didn’t really matter what cards I had in my hand. Looking at Yumeko, who already had her first choice pinched between her fingers, smiling wildly, this gamble was worth the risk.
“Well, Ryota, are you ready?”
I peered at my cards: two rocks and one paper. There were thirteen of each type, I had two of the rocks and only one of the paper. Chances were higher that she had more scissors than any other card. As such, I picked one of the rocks.
“Ready when you are.”
With that, we set down the cards. The gamble had begun.