So, I have finally started another story after a long time. There is not much going on in this first chapter except introduction of new characters and I guess it can get a bit boring. Bear with me though. I'm still an amateur and there is much I have to still learn. For now, I hope you enjoy the following story. :)

We Are On A Holiday!

I must say, we guys are pretty lucky. We five (me, Antei, Adrian, Charlie and Phil) had casually applied for a lottery where one of the prize was a trip to Japan for a week of travelling with all expenses paid for by the company that had hosted the lottery. That prize was allocated for five people and ... well ... We had won. Exactly us five. We couldn't believe it when the news was delivered to us. It was too good to be true. (On a side note, the lottery appeared to have been rigged - to outsiders anyways.)

So here we were, in a resort situated at the outskirts of Kyoto. it was quite a big resort; it had more than 20 two-storied villas in the are that it covered. Peter in particular had chosen this resort (he had argued with the organisers that a hotel was too fancy and five suites would be costlier for them to book for us). And so, a villa had been booked for us at this resort instead. Did we feel like millionares! On top of that, the five of us were best of friends. I reckon, if only one of us had won, the trip wouldn't have been all that fun with strangers.

At the reception, Adrian was talking with the receptionist.

"Here are your keys sir," the receptionist said as he handed over five silver keys to Adrian.

"Thank you Mr. Ichinshu," Adrian replied with a courteous nod as he took the key and distributed it among us. "You speak good english."

"Well, good english is a must for this job," Ichinshu replied.

"I assume it is," Phil said.

Phil is a lawyer. Lately, he has been doing well. He mostly handles cases that have been solved by Adrian. Adrian? He's a detective though I don't quite understand why he chose that line of job. He has a Ph.D in psychology and theoretical physics after all! Peter is an astronomer and a writer (he writes science fiction, fantasy and mystery stuffs). His books have been doing good lately. Charlie is a retired marine. While in action in some country, his lungs were punctured by a bullet. He was in coma for seven months after that. The doctor said it was a miracle he had survived. After that, due to the trauma, Charlie had retired at the early age of 27. He now worked as a fitness instructor in a gym. I, meanwhile, am an architect. I have designed some buildings for rich guys which I'm extremely proud of.

"Damn it's chilly," I said.

"I did tell you to pack warmer clothes didn't I?" Peter remarked. "You had to be a hero and pack summer clothes. Jeez."

"You didn't exactly tell me it was going to snow like this," I retorted. snow covered the ground everywhere. The resort management had done an excellent job of maintaining the pathways around the area.

We had strategically chosen our villa. It was near the end of the area owned by the resort, overlooking the glorious crountryside, now covered in snow. However, our hope of having a party (not literally) all night was dashed when we discovered that there was another villa opposite our very own not very far away.

"Well that's a bummer," Charlie said.

"No shit Sherlock," Phil remarked.

I turned to Peter. "Why is there another villa in front of ours?"

"How the heck am I supposed to know?"

"You're the one who picked it! We would have been better off in the hotel. I'm not doing the dishes."

"Yeah, whatever."

"I guess we can't sing and dance all night like wild animals eh?" Charlie asked.

"We can, if that villa is-" Adrian began when right at that moment, the door of the other villa opened. He paused for a moment. "It's not empty." We all sighed.

But then the person to exit the villa was a woman - a western woman. She was young and slim, I could tell. Her hair, cut short to her shoulders, were dyed red - nothing unusual in this day and age. Her face was angular which perfectly suited her slim body. Noticing us, she waved and smiled. Then she turned inside the villa and exclaimed, "Hey ya guys! Looks like we have neighbours!" Then she looked back at us. "You people here on vacation?"

Charlie walked forward. When it came to girls, he was the one to always make the first move. I and Adrian had a girlfriend each. Peter was single but not interested in indulging in any kind of relationship at the moment. Phil was married. Charlie ... well ... what can I say about him?

"Kinda on a vacation, yeah," Charlie said. "We won it in a lottery."

"Well. It's good to have you folks here as neighbours. We thought we were gonna have some Japanese neighbours. Looks like we can finally party hard all night long." She looked at us. "That is if you don't mind us making a ruckus-"

"Are you serious?" Charlie exclaimed. "We were having the same thoughts!"

"If that's the case," came a voice from inside the house. A man, about the same age as the woman and with blond hair appeared from the door. He was lean rather like Peter. "We could party together if you don't mind. After all, looks like we're all fellow citizens of the same country, eh?" he said.

"Of course! Why not?" I chimed in. "The more the merrier, isn't it?"

"Oh, I absolutely forgot to ontroduce ourselves," the woman said. "My name is Arian. And this here is my friend, Erick."

"I am Charlie," the ex-marine said before I could say anything. "These are my friends, Antei, Peter, Adrian and Phil."

We all shook hands with Erick and Arian. "Come on in," Arian said, "I will introduce to the rest of my friends. You can also freshen up here before you go to your villa." We all entered the house. The heater was on inside and it was warm and cozy. "There are eight of us here," she continued. "You already know Erick and me. Hey Irene!"

A tall woman, with thick black wavy hair stepped out of a room, a kitchen, paused and looked at us. "And who do we have here?" she asked in a slightly shrill but cheerful voice.

"They are our neighbours," Erick said. He introduced us to her and her to us.

"Well isn't that lovely!" she said. "We should introduce you to the rest of the guys. Hmm... Where are they?"

"Osmond is out to get the groceries. Ursa went with him. Xalo-"

"I'm here," a man, coming down the stairs at the cirner said. His eyes were deep reddish brown. He was a brunette and his hair had an army cut to it. It took me mere moments to realize who he was.

"Xalo?" Peter said in a confused tone. "The heck are you doing here?"

Xalo stood at the bottom of the stair, staring at us with a surprised expression. "I am on a holiday. What about you guys?"

"Wait, so you know these guys Xalo?" Irene asked.

"Why didn't you tell me you were on a holiday?" Peter asked, ignoring Irene's question.

"I tried to call you but your cell was switched off. I called your home but you didn't pick up, so I left a message," Xalo said.

"Let me guess: yesterday?" Peter asked. Xalo nodded.

"Hey, a girl with a question over here! You know them Xalo?" Irene asked again, irritated.

"Of course! Peter's my brother. Well, my cousin actually. But we're as close as any normal sibling pair. And these are his friends. I've met you-" he turned towards me "-before. He's Antei. And that must be Adrian, the detective, from what I've heard. By your build, I'm guessing you are Charlie. And he's?"

"That' Phil," I said. "Guys, this is Xalo, Peter's brother. He's in the Singapore army, aren't you?"

"So you're Phil. Where's Michael, your other friend?"

"He's busy touring Korea right now. He is a gamer after all."

"Arian, won't you introduce us to your remaining two friends?" Adrian asked.

"Zareen is in the toilet," Xalo answered for Arian, "And Pristina's sleeping. She's tired as hell."

"Oh you're spoiling her Xalo," Erick said.

"Oh, she's here too? It's been quite a while since I last met her," Peter said.

"I'll wake her up if you want to meet her," Xalo offered.

"Oh no, that's okay. Let her sleep. I can talk to her later."

We spent the next hour unpacking our bags in our villa. Arian, Irene, Erick and Xalo helped us. From their looks, it was quite plain that Erick and Arian were dating. The fact weighed heavily on Charlie who had taken a liking to the red-haired girl. We met Zareen a little later. Quite a fat fellow, his stomach was upset and he blamed the oysters he had had that morning for it. It was almost dusk when Osmond and Ursa, non-identical twins, arrived with their groceies. The nearest grocery shop was miles away and the snow had made travelling harder. At about the same time, Pristina woke up and she was introduced to all of us (except Peter who knew her already).

Turns out they were a part of a movie production house (except Xalo) and had come here to ask for the Japanese government's permission to shoot certain scenes of their planned film in Japan. They had recieved the permission and, to celebrate that, decided to spend a week in Kyoto sight-seeing and touring before they returned. They had invited their friend and Pristina's boyfriend Xalo, who had been given two week's holiday, to join them.

We were having the time of our lives, us five and they eight together in our villa when the clock struck eleven that night. We had been drinking beer and vodka and what not (except Peter and Xalo, who never touched alcohols - those two were like peas in a pod, same in every way except their physique). Arian had put on some disco music in the villa's preinstalled music system. We all danced while Peter took photographs and videos.

At around midnight, when we were exhausted, Adrian proposed playing cards to spend the rest of the night.

"You guys may play all you want but I'm tired," Arian said. "I'm going to sleep back in our villa."

"Oh come on Arian," Erick complained, his voice slurred. "What's so fun in sleeping?"

"I want to be fresh when I wake up tomorrow morning unlike you guys who will have a terrible headache."

"It's not like you aren't drunk," Osmond chimed in.

"Who said I wasn't? But at least I will be sober much earlier than you guys. Except for you and your brother Xalo." She stood up from where she was sitting, staggered and would have almost fallen if Xalo had not caught her in time.

"Thanks for catching me," she said as she struggled to her feet.

"You sure you can walk back to the villa?" Erick asked her. "Xalo can take you there."

"I can go. The air will freshen me up." Arian was adamant.

Xalo watched from the door until Arian had made it to their villa. Then he returned and joined us.

"You know what," Ursa began suddenly. "This is getting boring. Why don't we put on the music and dance again?"

"But won't that disturb Arian?" Peter asked.

"Nah," Xalo commented. "She's a heavy sleeper. Exactly like you Peter. You could blow a vuvuzela right next to her ear and she wouldn't wake up."

"I'm turning on the stereo," Ursa said.

And so the dancing commenced again. Peter sat quietly. He did not like to dance. He was the most anti-social person I'd ever met. Always so nervous around strangers. Even after spending the evening and half of the night with them, I could still see that Peter was feeling uncomfortable.

"Boy am I tired," Erick exclaimed after a while. "I'm gonna go join Arian."

He left while we kept on jumping around senselessly to the music playing. About ten minutes after Erick had left, I felt the need to go to the toilet. While I was at it, I thought I might as well step out to the balcony upstairs to have a smoke.

As I stepped outside to the veranda, I noticed that it had started snowing. The villa across was dark; I surmised Erick had gone to sleep as well. I was desperately trying to light my cigarette (the wind was the perpetrator) when I noticed a figure walking between the houses. It was carrying something large on it's back. For a second I thought I was hallucinating (I was drunk after all, evidenced by the fact that lighting my cigarette inside mever occured to me; I kept trying against the wind). It was when the figure suddenly paused as soon as I tried my lighter again that I realized that it was a person.

"Hey!" I shouted. "Who are you?"

The figure threw what it was carrying and took off immediately.

Knowing something was wrong, I raced down the stairs. I was jumping when I landed down in the main room where everyone was.

"Whoa Antei, what-"

"Outside! I saw someone! Quick!" I exclaimed, cutting off Charlie and racing through the door.

Outside, the snow had already covered the previously shoveled pathway to about an inch. I ran in the direction where I'd seen the figure. I could hear footsteps behind me. The intensity with which it was snowing was increasing with each passing moment.

"Antei, wait up!" It was Peter. I figured the others were too drunk to effectively run like me, who was having an adrenaline rush, and Peter and Xalo who were sober. As I neared the place where I'd seen the figure throw whatever it was carrying, I felt a deep sense of foreboding. I could snow see the outline of that object. A human outline.

It was lying prone on the snow that had become red around it with ... blood. I rushed forward and pushed the body sideways. Someone screamed behind me as the face was revealed. Erick.