As Makunouchi Hiroko looked out over the harbour, she felt a sense of contentment at a good day’s work completed. The boat had returned with a good catch from the latest trip, and there had been no complications in the other trivial matters that are part of running the family fishing firm.
The one thing that concerned her was her son – he had taken part in his latest fight last night, and it had by all accounts been a brutal affair. Even when he returned with his trainer, and collapsed into his bed, she knew from the bruises and cuts he had given as well as he had taken – and in a strange way she was proud of him for that.
She took off the heavy apron she was wearing, hanging it on the wall, and rubbed the back of her neck under her long brown hair. What she really needed now was a long soak in a hot bath and a relaxing quiet evening at her home. She looked down at her red jumper, stained work trousers and boots, and let out a long sigh.
“Yes, a nice quiet night,” she said to herself as she set off to walk back from the harbour to her apartment – but as she got closer, she could see the lights in her window, and she let another sigh – this one more of frustration than of tiredness.
“Here we go again,” she said as she walked up to the apartment and opened the door. She could hear the three female voices as soon as she came in, and wondered if Ippo was awake as well.
“Quiet,” one of the voices said as she walked up to the door to the main room and looked in. Ippo was not there, but the three girls she expected to see were, bowing and saying “Good evening, Makunouchi-san” as they did so.
Hiroko looked at each of them in turn. Standing in the door that she knew led to Ippo’s room was Mashiba Kumi, still dressed in her nurse’s uniform of a short sleeved blue dress with puffed sleeves and a knee length skirt, the white collar and cuffs matched by her apron, white tights and shoes. Her brown hair was cut in a fringe around her expressive face.
Then, next to the bookcase, there stood Limua Mari, looking at Hiroko through her wire rimmed glasses. Her long dark hair fell down the back of her purple jacket, which was fastened over her red blouse. The matching skirt was down to her knees, and she wore dark stockings and low heeled shoes. It was her who had said to be quiet as Hiroko had come in, and she was smiling in that strange way she had.
And there was Itakagi Nanako, her unkempt brown hair framing her angular face as she sat on the low seat. She was Ippo’s self styled greatest fan, and was still in her school uniform – a white blouse with a red bow tie, a sleeveless tan pullover and skirt, white socks and Mary Jane shoes.
For weeks now the girls had been arguing over who was Ippo’s true love, and for weeks Hiroko had borne the discussions, arguments and raised voices with good grace. Tonight, however, she was not sure if she was in the mood as she looked round the room.
“Good evening, girls,” she finally said with a smile. “If you will allow me a few minutes, I will prepare some drinks for you, but I really need to wash up first.”
“Thank you,” all three said as they bowed their heads in respect. Hiroko walked past and looked in on her son, asleep on his bed, before she went to the kitchen to wash her hands and find some glasses. As she did so, she retrieved a small bottle from a cupboard, and smiled broadly.
“Here we are,” Hiroko said as she brought in a tray and laid it on the table. “Please, sit down and help yourselves.” She sat on the mat, crossing her legs as she selected a glass, and watched as the others did likewise.
“This is most kind of you, Makunouchi-San,” Mari said as she took a drink.
“Please, let us not stand on formality – you may call me Hiroko,” Ippo’s mother said as the other two took their drinks and sipped them. “I suppose Ippo must be so glad to have so many adoring fans clamouring to look after him.”
“It is my pleasure, Maku... Hiroko,” Kumi said as she sipped her drink, her legs crossed under her skirt. Of the three, Hiroko knew that Kumi had been by the side of Ippo the longest, and tended his wounds while trying not to lose her temper. In some ways, she regretted what she had done to her, but only in some.
As for Nanako, she was talking constantly of the fight the previous night, and the way the blows had rained down upon Ippo, but he had stood his ground. Hiroko quietly sipped her tea and watched, as the three girls drained their glasses and put them back on the tray.
“Forgive me,” Kumi said as she put her hand to her mouth and yawned, “but suddenly I feel very, very...” She did not finish her sentence, as her head fell to the side and she slumped to the floor, her eyes closed. Mari and Nanako looked at each other before they too fell asleep, Hiroko watching the whole time.
“I am sorry, girls,” she said as she stood up, and picked up the tray, “but all three of you are not giving my son the chance to recover properly.” She took the tray to the kitchen, washing the glasses carefully before she picked up the small brown bottle and closed it tight.
“Now then,” she said as she went to a store cupboard, and retrieved several lengths of rope, “I need to make my guests comfortable before I finally have that bath...”
Returning to the front room, she knelt next to Kumi, and brushed her hair away from her face. “My apologies, little one,” she said as she rolled Kumi onto her stomach, and crossed her wrists behind her back, “but if I treat you all the same, then there is no reason to think any one of you has led me to this.” Taking the first of the lengths of rope, she tied her wrists tightly together, using the skills of a fisherman to make sure they were well secured, and then rolled her back over onto her back.
Heading to the bathroom, she returned with a first aid kit, and opened it before removing a pack of bandages and some medical tape. Opening Kumi’s mouth, she packed some bandage into it, before closing it again and sealing her lips with several strips of the tape. Hiroko then picked her up and laid her gently on the long seat Nanako had been sitting on, and bound her ankles tightly together.
“Now,” she said as she looked at the other two women, “What to do about you...”
Nanako slowly opened her eyes, wondering why she had suddenly felt so sleepy, but as she tried to move she realised that something was restricting her movements. Looking down, she saw that her legs were crossed in front of her, and bands of brown rope were holding her sock covered ankles tightly together.
There was a length of rope running up from her ankles, curled round itself, and as she sat back against the wall she saw the second band of rope around her waist, the length running from it to her ankles. That band of rope also held her wrists firmly against her back, and as she felt with her fingers she could feel the rough ropes around her own wrists.
As she tried to wriggle her arms, she realised that yet more rope was holding them to her sides, and a further glance down showed her the band sitting on top of her chest. From the tightness and the feelings she had, she guessed a second band was sitting under her chest as well.
Her mouth felt funny as well, as if it was stuffed with cotton wool, and something was pressing against her cheeks that felt similar. “Whstggngg,” she moaned, and with a sinking feeling she realised that she was gagged with some sort of cloth.
Looking round the room, she first saw Kumi lying on the recliner. She too had bands of rope around her arms and legs, but her mouth was covered in white tape, with something underneath judging from the way her cheeks were puffed out. Her eyes were still closed, and she stirred a little as she breathed out through her nose.
“Whtthhppnd,” she heard Mari say, and as she looked to her left she saw the dark haired woman lying on the floor, a knotted scarf sitting between her lips as she tried to move her head. Whoever had done this had removed her glasses, the band of silk holding her hair to the back of her head, but they had also bound her with ropes around her arms and chest, over her red blouse, her arms arranged behind her in a box and tied wrist to elbow. Her ankles had been crossed and lashed together, and then pulled back before they were tied to her chest ropes.
Mari turned her head and looked at Nanako, then to Kumi, before she started to struggle and callout “HHLPPPPP!!! HLLPSSSSS!”
“Quiet,” Hiroko said as she stood in the doorway, dressed in a floor length dressing gown with her hair wrapped in a towel, “I do not wish you to wake Ippo.”
Kumi slowly opened her eyes, looked at the other two and then at Hiroko, before saying “Uddths? Wh?”
“I will explain when I am dressed,” Hiroko said as she looked at them, “until then, be patient.”
The three girls stared wide eyed at the older woman, as she walked off, and then looked at each other.
“Shhddths? Y?” Nanako said as she looked at the other two girls.
“Dntkknn – bthtths,” Mari said as she tried to struggle free again, finding the knots and ropes too tight.
“Dnttrr – shssvrgd,” Kumi said as she sighed under her tape gag. “Jstrlxnddntft.” She closed her eyes – in a way, she had figured out why Hiroko had taken such drastic action – the question now was what she had planned next.
“That’s better,” Hiroko finally said as she came back in, dressed in a purple double breasted jacket and matching leather skirt. She had a black cravat tied round her neck, and a pair of black knee length leather boots on. Standing in the centre of the room, she looked at her three captives, and smiled.
“Now then, all three of you clearly have feelings for my son, but you are unable to stop arguing with each other about which is the right one for him. Well, I think the time has come to let him decide – but he must choose from one of you. Accordingly, you will do exactly what I say – or I will take more drastic action. Do you understand?”
“Lkkwht,” Nanako said as she looked at Ippo’s mother, but as she produced a riding crop from behind her back she stayed quiet, nodding meekly as she realised what could happen.
“Excellent – I will untie you, one by one, allow you to bathe and change into clothes I have laid out for you, and then when Ippo wakes he will decide. Who wishes to go first?”
“Ewwl,” Kumi said as she looked at Hiroko. “As you wish,” the older woman said as she untied her legs, then helped her to stand up, “Come with me.” The other two watched as she was led out, and the sound of running water came into the silent room.
After some time, Hiroko returned, and released Mari from her hogtie, then helped her to stand up. Nanako watched as she too was led out, and then the water started running again.
Finally, she was released from her leg binding by Hiroko, who led her to the bathroom before untying her and removing her gag. “Shower,” was all she said as she opened the cubicle, and allowed the young girl to let the warm water flow over her hair and body.
Eventually, she came out with a towel wrapped around her body. “What will you tell our parents,” she said as she saw Hiroko standing there, a pile of clothing folded in her hands.
“I called them and told them Ippo had invited you to stay the night,” was all she said as she laid the clothes on the laundry box. “You have ten minutes to dry and change.”
Nanako looked at the clothes, then at Hiroko and saw the stern look in her face, before nodding and saying “Yes, Makunouchi-San” and bowing with deference.
“Good – be quick, your friends are waiting,” Hiroko said as she left the bathroom....
Ippo opened his eyes, stretched and yawned, then groaned as the events of the day before yesterday came back to mind. Slowly, he got off the cot and stood up, then pulled on a dressing gown and went to the kitchen.
“Ah, good morning,” his mother said as she looked at him, then returned to preparing the breakfast.
“Good morning,” he said as he sat down and accepted the meal, “How long this time?”
“Most of yesterday – are you feeling better?”
“A bit yes – I thought I heard the girls here.”
Hiroko stopped for a moment, then sat and looked at her son. “Ippo,” she said as she looked at him, “It is unfair to them and to you to have all three chasing you. You must decide which is the right one for you.”
“How? They all support me in their own ways – even Nanako. How am I expected to choose between them?”
“Come with me,” Hiroko said as she took Ippo by the hand, and led him to the spare bedroom. As she slid the door open, he looked in and gasped.
Kumi, Mari and Nanako were lying side by side on the bed, dressed in silk vests and boxing shorts, with white socks on their hands and ankles. Each girl had their wrists crossed and tied together, then secured above their heads to the top of the bed, while their ankles were secured together and to the bottom. Strips of white tape covered their mouths, as they twisted and mewled at Ippo.
“You must decide in the way you see fit,” Hiroko said as she clapped her hand on her son’s shoulder, making him wince. “I must go to work – enjoy deciding.”
The three girls looked at Ippo, and saw the smile spread on his face as he closed the door to...