Kuchiki Byakuya was tired. Sitting at his desk, staring at the papers in his hands, it was yet another monotonous day in the life of the CEO of Senbonzakura Spas & Resorts, a luxury hotel group. He was twenty-eight and yet here he was, feeling older than he should be feeling.
Having been born into the rich Kuchiki family, Byakuya had it all. With pale skin, silky black hair, cool gray eyes, and a toned figure, Byakuya was perhaps the definition of “beautiful elite”. He lived in a beautiful house, had a loving younger sister, and was the head of the biggest hotel and resort group in all of Japan. However, in spite of it all, his life was boring.
For once, he wanted to be able to relax. His shoulders felt stiff, his back absolutely sore, and his eyes felt heavy from recent lack of sleep. Not even the strong black coffee that he always drank could energize him today.
His thoughts were interrupted when the door to his office opened, revealing his sister: Kuchiki Rukia, the manager of Sode no Shirayuki, one of the hotels under Senbonzakura Spas & Resorts. She was petite, had short black hair, and wore a purple blouse with gray dress pants. In her hands, she held several files.
“Nii-sama, I was told to bring these to you today,” she informed, approaching his desk. That was when she got a look at him. “Are you okay?” she asked, concerned.
Byakuya sighed. “My shoulders are feeling stiff, and so is my back,” he said. “I also haven’t slept at all last night.”
Rukia smiled slightly. “Well, I keep telling you to take a break every now and then,” she said. “Maybe then, you’ll be able to sleep better.”
She placed the files upon his desk when an idea came to her. “Ah! You should go get a massage!” she suggested.
“A massage?” Byakuya looked a little surprised.
Rukia nodded, a small smile upon her face. “There’s a new massage clinic that’s getting great reviews,” she told him. “I actually know the owner, we both go way back.”
“What is this place called?” Byakuya asked.
“Zabimaru Spa & Therapy,” Rukia said. “It’s a little small, but believe me when I say it’s got great service. The owner’s also really friendly, so he can help you out. Ah, here’s the number.” She handed him a small business card.
“I’ll… see,” Byakuya conceded, taking the card. “Thank you, Rukia.”
Rukia nodded, smiling. “You’re welcome, Nii-sama,” she said. “I’ll see you a little later!”
Once she left the office, closing the door behind her, Byakuya examined the business card. Upon the card was an elegant design of a nue demon, the words ‘Zabimaru Spa & Therapy’ spelt out next to it in red. Below was the name ‘Abarai Renji’, with ‘Registered Massage Therapist’ beneath it. Below that was the number and the link for the website.
Byakuya had to admit, it looked professional. First, he opened his laptop and entered the website link, taking a look at the services offered. From shiatsu to hydrotherapy, it appeared that this place was definitely well-regarded. To his pleasant surprise, the clinic wasn’t too far away from the main Senbonzakura building. In fact, it seemed to be a short walk.
Looking at the services, Byakuya opted for the classic massage, as it was recommended for newcomers. Having made up his mind, he picked up his phone and dialed the number for the clinic. Seeing as lunchtime was nearly over, it was best to make the call now.
It took only two rings before someone picked up. “Zabimaru Spa & Therapy, this is Abarai Renji speaking,” a rough, yet friendly voice spoke. For some reason, it sent a small thrill down Byakuya’s spine. “How can I help you?”
“I would like to book an appointment for Friday, if possible,” Byakuya said.
“Sure thing, let’s see here…” He heard the sound of a few papers shuffling. “I have a few slots open on Friday night. We’ve got 6:15 and 7:15.”
“6:15 should work,” Byakuya conceded. “I would like for it to be a classic massage as well.”
“No problem,” Renji agreed. “How long? You can have from an hour up to two hours.”
“An hour and a half.”
“And can I have a name?”
There was a pause on the other end. “Wait… are you, by any chance, Rukia’s brother?” Renji asked.
Byakuya raised an eyebrow. “Is that a problem?” he asked.
“Ah, no! No, not at all!” Renji insisted, laughing slightly. “Okay, I got you down for an hour-and-a-half-long classic massage at 6:15 on Friday. I’ll see you then.”
“Have a good day.” With that, Byakuya hung up.
Unconsciously rubbing his shoulder, Byakuya glanced at the clock and sighed. He could only hope that he’d be able to make it till Friday for his appointment.
“Ah, thank you so much, Renji! The deep-tissue massage was wonderful!” Momo said, giving Renji a smile. “I feel so much more relaxed now, and just in time for the weekend!”
Renji smiled. “The pleasure’s all mine, Hinamori,” he said, handing her card back to her. “I hope you have a good weekend.”
“You too!” With that, Momo left for the day.
It had been two years since Renji had opened up Zabimaru Spa & Therapy, and already it had received great reviews from various critics. Having trained under Ukitake Jushiro, a very well-regarded professional massage therapist and owner of Sogyo no Kotowari, a famous spa and massage clinic, Renji had learned all the various techniques and tricks of the trade.
Abarai Renji did not look like a typical masseuse. With long red hair tied in a ponytail, tanned skin, black tribal-like tattoos all over his well-toned and muscular body, Renji had a classic bad boy appearance. In fact, were it not for the black spa tunic and pants he wore, most people would’ve seen him as some sort of a punk. But at the same time, there was a sort of rebellious appeal to him.
Once upon a time, no one trusted him as a masseuse. But now that he had his own spa and massage clinic, Renji couldn’t be any happier. Zabimaru Spa & Therapy, named after the nue demon he’d always been fascinated with as a child, was his baby, and he was so damn proud to be running it.
The walls were painted a deep brown, and the floor was made of teak. Illuminated by soft sconce lights, the lobby was meant to evoke a sense of ease and comfort in visitors. Connected to the lobby was a small store that sold massage oils, makeup, nail polish, and other care products. Decorating the walls were some paintings from Hinamori Momo, a good friend and local artist who owned her own little shop and restaurant called Tobiume, which provided food for the spa as well. In addition, there was a whirlpool installed as part of the hydrotherapy service.
Relaxing spa music played over the speakers. The receptionist’s desk was sleek and black, with a computer, a small bamboo plant, and a vase of flowers seated upon it. Sitting behind the desk was Rikichi, a young kinesiology student who worked part time as a receptionist in the clinic.
The other employees were Kotetsu Isane, a licensed massage therapist who specialized in the bridal package services; Ayasegawa Yumichika, an esthetician and nail tech; and Kira Izuru, a licensed massage therapist and esthetician who recently joined two months ago. While they weren’t a very big team, there was no denying just how skilled they all were in their jobs. Renji couldn’t have asked for anyone better, as everyone was talented in their own way.
One of the doors opened and out stepped Hisagi Shuuhei, one of Renji’s close friends and a mechanic who was also a guitarist in a garage band. “Yo, Hisagi,” Renji greeted. “How was the massage?”
Hisagi smiled. “I really needed it,” he said. “My neck and shoulders were too stiff from last night.”
“I keep telling you, take it easy with the headbanging,” Renji told him while shaking his head. “Your neck and shoulders might just actually thank you for once.”
“Sorry, man,” Hisagi said, not sounding sorry while handing his card over to Rikichi to make the payment. “You know how it is. Once you start, you just can’t stop!”
Kira stepped out of the room, laughing lightly. “But you can’t keep blowing your money on massages,” he pointed out.
“Yeah, yeah, thanks for reminding me, Mom,” Hisagi teased, taking the card and receipt back. “Wish me luck, we got a show tonight.”
Renji rolled his eyes but smiled. “Anyways, hope your show goes well tonight,” he said sincerely. “Sorry I can’t make it. I would, but I got a customer at 6:15.”
“And remember, take it easy on the headbanging!” Rikichi added.
“Yes, Mom!” Hisagi called back jokingly as the door closed behind him.
Renji shook his head. “Who wants to bet that he’s gonna overdo it again?” he asked.
Rikichi laughed. “He’s definitely gonna overdo it!” he agreed as Renji and Kira got back to work.
Nothing too exciting happened until four o’clock, as all the appointments went on as usual. From athletes to salarymen and women, and from bridal parties to new mothers, Zabimaru Spa & Therapy always received a variety of customers. Today’s customers included professional boxer Sado Yasutora, who received a sports massage from Renji, a businesswoman named Soi Fon, who got a manicure from Yumichika and a massage from Kira, and a journalist named Kuna Mashiro, who received a deep-tissue massage from Isane.
At four o’clock, a group of young women entered the door, an air of excitement hanging over them. Rikichi gave them a smile. “Welcome to Zabimaru Spa & Therapy,” he greeted, looking through the computer. “Ah, you must be the four o'clock bridal party!”
A voluptuous woman with strawberry-blonde hair and a friendly smile nodded. “Yep! It should be under ‘Inoue Orihime’, for the Water Therapy package at four-fifteen,” she said. “The bridal party members are Kurotsuchi Nemu, Matsumoto Rangiku, Ise Nanao, Arisawa Tatsuki, and Shihouin Yoruichi!”
“Yep, they’re all here,” Rikichi said, giving her a smile. “Congratulations, by the way!”
Rangiku giggled. “Oh, it’s not me who’s getting married!” she said before pointing to a young woman with orange hair. “Orihime-chan’s the lucky girl! I’m just the maid-of-honour!”
“Oh! Congrats!” he said to Orihime.
Orihime blushed slightly. “Thank you…” she said, smiling.
“You can definitely trust these guys, Orihime chan,” Tatsuki reassured. “By the time they’re finished, Ichigo will be blown away by how gorgeous you look!”
Right then, Renji, Yumichika, Isane, and Kira entered the lobby, giving the bridal party a smile.
“Afternoon, ladies,” Renji greeted. “So you’re all here for the Water Therapy package?”
“That’s us!” Rangiku said cheerily.
Isane smiled. “If you ladies could follow me to the change rooms?” she asked.
“You ladies can enjoy your soak in the whirlpool,” Yumichika told them as they followed Isane. “Meanwhile, we’ll get everything ready for your manicures, pedicures, and massages.”
“And don’t forget to give us your drink orders,” Kira added.
“Oooh, drinks?” Yoruichi asked gleefully. “Think we should get something fancy for ya, Orihime-chan?”
Once the bridal party had gone to change, Renji clapped his hands. “Come on now, we don’t have all day!” he said, getting their attention. “Let’s get things ready for them.”
“Yes sir!” Yumichika and Kira said teasingly.