Saturday, August 7, 2021

Have a Cup of Coffee after School in the Fantasy World Café V1 (4 of 5)

 Chapter 5: Sleepless Night

Translator: Skythewood

Editor: Hiiro

My Café remained open late into the night.

The people in this world all got up early, so after 9 pm, only the bars would remain open. If you go to the main streets or the red light district, there would be suspicious shops open with beast-kin ladies in sexy clothes. But it took a lot of courage to step in there, so I never tried going near.

My shop wasn’t a bar, but still operated at these hours, so curious people would often visit. From drunkards to adventurers who just returned from the Labyrinth, there were all sorts. There were special residents from a Fantasy World too, and one just happened to be here today.

「Nice aroma.」

Falluba-san said after breathing in the steam.

The giant mug I had to hold with both hands was just the right size for Falluba-san. In the beginning, I was worried that Falluba-san’s mouth wasn’t suitably shaped for drinking with a mug, but I was worried over nothing. He could down the steaming hot Coffee in just one gulp.

Falluba-san looked up at the ceiling and stopped moving, as if he was reminiscing about the Coffee he had just gulped down. His giant body had a commanding presence, and was a bizarre sight in the shop. He was unlike any humans, a race that couldn’t be described with words. The aura from him was completely different. He was a dragon after all, with a dragon-like head and giant wings on his back.

I prepared the next cup of Coffee as I tilted my head in contemplation. Wasn’t this weird?

From what I have heard, dragons were revered as the four Emperors, standing at the top of the numerous races.

I heard they were very powerful, but few in numbers.

I also heard they lived in uninhabited places like volcanoes and the depth of jungles.

And according to my sources, heroes would seek out dragons, and after a grand adventurer, they would obtain legendary weapons and whatnots.

In summary, dragons were an ultra rare species.

The figure on the other side of the bar counter was a huge dark figure.

Falluba-san lowered his head and looked at me with wise eyes as he handed his mug to me.

「Yu, another cup, make it stronger, I want to taste its bitterness.」

That ultra rare species was drinking Coffee before me, and had become a regular here too.

The heroes in stories sought out dragons desperately, but one was drinking Coffee brazenly in this Café. It would save a lot of trouble for the hero, but that wasn’t a good thing for a story.

The hero found a dragon in a Café and obtained a legendary item.

Such a story was devoid of hopes and dreams. Maybe this was how reality was like. I learned another fact about how disappointing reality was.

This must be how people became adults. The changes might be minute, and it might not be clear if it was progress or regress, but I couldn’t return to the world of my childhood. I lost something when I grew up.

I watched the bubbles forming and popping on top of the Coffee powder, the Coffee extract that took their place, and thought about all that. People would think about pointless things during puberty, such as the meaning of life, the irrationality of the world. This was a process everyone went through.

「Have you been well?」

「Still hanging on.」

I poured the next cup of Coffee into his mug and answered. A thunder-like noise came from Falluba-san’s throat. He opened his mouth wide, revealing fangs that could easily tear my arm off. He wasn’t intimidating me, and was just laughing.

「I see, still hanging on, that’s great.」

Falluba-san moved his arm that was glistening like steel and nimbly picked up the mug, and downed it in one go.

I poured another mug, and he picked it up again to enjoy the Coffee’s aroma.

He was laid-back like a cool adult, not ignoring the passage of time completely, but not pressured by it either. Time passed by him slowly. When Falluba-san was in the shop, even time felt more stable.

「I couldn’t visit the shop during day so I don’t know, but is your business good?」

He said as he looked around the shop.

「Barely hanging on too.」

「I see, barely hanging on. It’s unfortunate that there are still people who don’t know about this aroma and taste.」

He shook his long neck. Falluba-san was Coffee’s number one fan.

Everyone had one or two favourite foods, and for Falluba-san, that was Coffee. When he drank Coffee on a whim one day, he put a fist sized gem on the counter and told me to sell him the ingredients and recipe. Speaking of which, he was in human form back then.

「Ahhh…… Simply exquisite, my body will feel weird if I don’t drink Coffee.」

The steaming Coffee flowed down his throat like water, and Falluba-san gasped in satisfaction and his dark wings trembled.

Oh no, he seemed to be addicted, what if he developed withdrawal symptoms? Then this world might have a Coffee prohibition order, instead of prohibiting alcohol. If that really happened, I would have to sell Coffee underground.


「Oh, I almost forgot, I’m here to clear my tab.」

I got a bit excited when I heard that, and Falluba-san drew a circle with his finger in the air. When he completed the circle, a dark hole appeared, and he reached in and groped without hesitation.

I had seen this several times, but still couldn’t get used to it. This was real magic after all, and would make someone like me who grew up in a scientific world scream.

Falluba-san pulled a grey bag out of the hole. It wasn’t empty, and looked like a bag used by housewives for shopping.

「I got some Gosvang meat, so I brought it here too. It must be rare for this place.」

「I have never heard of that before, so I couldn’t tell if it was rare.」

「That’s what rare means, boy.」

Falluba-san said as he placed the heavy bag on the bar counter.

He was right, and I nodded.

After opening the bag, I saw all sorts of things inside, which made me think he really went shopping. This should be the Gosvang meat—— I saw a chunk of blue beef-like meat. There were also dried squarish fruit, bright red herbs, spices that were hard to get in this city, and other miscellaneous items.

「I’m sorry for troubling you, these are all valuable ingredients.」

These were ingredients that were rare even in this abundant city.

「They aren’t that valuable to me, I can get them by searching in the villages nearby. This Coffee is more valuable to me.」

Falluba-san said as he looked impatiently at the Coffee that was being extracted. He could drink a large amount of Coffee in an instant, so it took some time to brew Coffee for him. The sight of him waiting anxiously like a child made me smile.

I wanted to use this time to put the meat into the refrigerator. I looked down to pick up the bag when I saw something shining inside, and tilted my head in confusion. I reached in and opened the blue meat chunk that was covered by something like bamboo leaves.

The glimmer came from a rough stone under the meat chunk, which was one size larger than my fist. The colour was murky like mud water, with a red brilliance shining through like the sun through its gaps. I took it out and was at a loss for words.

「Falluba-san, what’s this?」

I asked unconsciously.

Falluba-san who was staring at the Vacuum Coffee maker turned his gaze my way.

「Oh, that, I found it, but didn’t know what it was. Vivi told me to give it to you, since it’s just a rock to us, but very valuable for humans? Take it. By the way, it’s almost done right, Yu, give me the next cup.」

He was so smooth that I almost fell for it. Right, I should take it.

「No, it must be expensive, take it back.」

I didn’t know the market rate of gems in this world, but that’s not something you can buy with the allowance of a child. A rough stone must be worth a lot.

But, Falluba-san just looked at me with puzzled eyes.

「Is it worthless to you too?」

「No, that isn’t so.」

「So what’s the problem?」

「What I mean is, this is too much as payment for service rendered in my shop.」

「Is it worthless to you?」

「I already said no, I’m telling you to do something more meaningful with it.」

「Then what’s the issue?」

「No good, this dragon don’t understand human words.」

I placed my hands on the bar counter and hung my head. Damn it, the difference in values was so much trouble. I racked my brain for a way to convince him, but Falluba-san showed an expression similar to mine and said:

「I don’t know what’s wrong, but I want to say money isn’t the problem. The Coffee is exquisite, and is even a goal in my life. Because I can work hard at any chores my wife assign me if I can drink a cup of Coffee.」

So females were more dominant in dragons… No, that wasn’t the point.

「Something valuable should be exchanged for another, right? This rock is worthless to me, but Vivi says it is valuable to humans, so I brought it here, but you won’t accept it. So this isn’t valuable?」

Falluba-san looked right at me, making it difficult for me to answer. His logic was sound, and I groaned because my head hurts.

「It is valuable, or rather, it’s too valuable. As Falluba-san said, valuable items should be traded for another, but I had not done enough to deserve the value of this rough stone, so I couldn’t accept it.」

「Hmm, I see.」

Falluba-san nodded and fell into deep thought.

I felt a tinge of regret as I looked at the rough stone on the bar counter. But things might become troublesome if I accepted this lightly, and that was my principle. Accepting things you couldn’t handle would lead to disaster. I would have more freedom without money, titles or status.

「How about we do things this way, treat this as my investment for the future.」

「Future investments?」

I couldn’t help asking. He nodded at me and continued:

「I believe in investing in the future because of what my father said.」

Falluba-san looked up at the ceiling as he thought about the past.

「When I was still a child, five guests came to the village. Back then, the gods separated the language of all races, and we all fought each other. The guests said they were traveling to stop all the fighting, and wanted to borrow the mythical tool passed down since ancient times. My father, the village chief, rejected them once, but one of them said to my father in a tongue I couldn’t comprehend.」

He started talking about the past, which puzzled me. I continued stirring and extracting the Coffee despite my bafflement. We were in the middle of a conversation, but this was still my job.

「My father said that was the true language of the gods that had been taken away by god, and those who understood that language must be an apostle of god, but let’s ignore that for now. After my father spoke with the guests, he saw hope in them, and entrusted our valuable mythical tool to them. Back then, my father said 『this is an investment for the future』, and the languages became one, and the fighting between the races subsided, which showed that his future investment was the right decision.」

「I see.」

I could only answer that way because the scale of this story was too great, but I realized something. This mythical story was based on a true story, and Falluba-san has a very long lifespan. Just how long ago did that happen?

When Falluba-san heard my reaction, he seemed to think I didn’t get the point of his tale. He growled a little, then cleared his throat.

「Which means, I have high expectations in the growth of this shop. For the sake of delicious Coffee, I want to invest in the future. So don’t hold back and accept this.」

I wanted to protest, but gave up when I saw Falluba-san’s eyes that left no room for argument. Dragons were a proud race, so they couldn’t take back a gift, and didn’t fret the small stuff.

I chose to accept with a sigh. I knew this was something I couldn’t handle, but we couldn’t resolve this if I didn’t accept.

「Very well.」

Falluba-san nodded happily at my troubled face.

「By the way, give me the next cup, Yu. I can’t wait any more.」

He said as he flapped his wings.

I poured the extracted Coffee for him, and Falluba-san gulped it down and asked for another. While waiting for the Vacuum Coffee maker to extract the Coffee, he kept flapping his wings while I brewed the Coffee… That was how we always acted.

It was disheartening for the Coffee I worked so hard to brew to be emptied in seconds, I still persevere in brewing the Coffee. I had lost count of how many cups I brewed.

Falluba-san suddenly looked to the entrance, and before I could follow his gaze, his body was shrouded in darkness. It looked like countless dark cloth was binding him, which was an incredible sight to me.

The next moment, a buff man was sitting at the counter. He might have a heavy built, but was undoubtedly human. He had short black hair, and deep features. This was the Falluba-san in human form when I first met him.

While I was astounded by the transformation before me, the door chimed and a guest came in.

「Are you still open?」

A beautiful woman with long silver hair swaying behind her walked in——Arbel-san. Her cool coloured casual wear gave her a gentler air around her than usual.

「Yes, we are.」

I nodded, and Arbel-san entered the shop in relief. Despite her casual wear, she still had a long sword on her waist. Adventurers really kept their weapons handy at all times.

Arbel-san walked to me,looked at Falluba-san who was seated by the bar counter, and the temperature dropped by a few degrees.

「Pardon me.」

She sat a few seats away from Falluba-san, sounding and acting more stiff than usual, as if she was wary of Falluba-san. Falluba-san glanced at Arbel-san, then continued sipping Coffee nonchalantly.

「Would you like some Coffee?」

When I asked in a cheerful tone, Arbel-san snapped out of it and looked my way.

「Yes, please.」

Falluba-san reacted to the term Coffee and raised an eyebrow.

「You drink Coffee too?」

Falluba-san turned his gaze to Arbel-san and asked. Arbel-san met his eyes and nodded:

「Coffee is my blood.」

When he heard Arbel-san’s joke, Falluba-san laughed with a snort. It sounded more malicious than kind though.

「…… Is that so funny?」

「No, I think it sounds really cool. Saying it is your blood is really pushing it.」

I saw Arbel-san’s face twitch for a moment.

「I’m not trying to brag, but no one drinks Coffee as regularly as I do. Isn’t that right, Café Master?」

Arbel-san stared at me, so I could only nod stiffly. Why was the atmosphere so tense? Even though this was the first time they met.

「Judging with such crude values is the reason why humans have such narrow vision, how laughable. What do you think, Café Master? Is there anyone who drinks more Coffee than me?」

Falluba-san looked my way casually, and I shook my head. You drink your Coffee with an extra large mug, the amount you drink was absurd.

But I couldn’t say that, so I kept my peace. I couldn’t tell what Arbel-san thought about my reaction. She clenched her fists on the bar counter and furrowed her brows.

「I visit at least twice a week, and more if I have the time. But this is the first time I saw you, how often do you visit?」

Falluba-san twitched his nose a little.

「…… Let’s see… About once every ten days.」

「Oh, I see, it must be tough. If I can’t drink Coffee for ten days, I won’t be able to take it.」

Arbel-san said slowly and raised her chin, as if she was showing off a new toy.

What were they competing for?

I didn’t have the courage to set off this tense atmosphere, and quietly prepared Coffee for Arbel-san. I poured Coffee out of the flask, and placed it before Arbel-san. She immediately picked up the cup and sipped elegantly.

「Exquisite, this taste is just right.」

「Hmmp, drinking so anxiously before enjoying the fragrance first. What a prudish human.」

「I like the fragrance of the Coffee in that instant when I’m sipping it. I’m not a monster that can be satisfied by the weak fragrance in the air.」

「Hmmp…… You sure talk big.」

「Same to you.」

The two glared at each other with their Coffee in hand. They were smiling, but their eyes were murderous.

Just like oil and water, some people just couldn’t get along, and would hate the other party for no particular reasons. I never thought I would meet such a duo here.

On one side was Falluba-san, a buff man over 2 metres tall, whose true identity was a dragon. On the other corner was Arbel-san, a mature big sister lady with elegant features and a slender, model-like body.

<2m is about 6’6”, which is very tall for the Japanese with an average male height of 1.7m / 5’6”>

After witnessing their grade school level squabble, the urge to sigh outweigh my urge to smile wryly.

「Yu, can I have another cup?」

Falluba-san said after finishing the rest of his Coffee.

「Me too.」

Arbel-san drank the Coffee I served moments ago before asking.

They then locked gazes, invisible sparks clashing between them. I thought about smoothening the mood, but decided against it. As a Café Master, I couldn’t interfere too much between my patrons, and chose not to say anything.

I filled the flask until the brim to brew as much Coffee as I could. I had a feeling they would drink a lot.

「This is a wonderful place, I can relax whenever I visit… But it’s a little different today.」

Arbel-san said offhandedly, and the air turned tense.

「I feel the same way.」

Falluba-san crossed his arms and nodded.

「Visiting the shop in the evening, chatting with the Café Master and drinking delicious Coffee, the time spent here is indescribably pleasant… but it is a little different today.」

Hmm? Why did I feel pain around my abdomen… Did I eat something wrong yesterday?

I focused on the steps to extract Coffee, but I couldn’t shut out the scene before me. They glared at each other with impeccable smiles on their faces. By smile, I meant predatory intimidation.

I tried to ignore the tense atmosphere as much as possible as I poured Coffee into the cups and served it to them. Falluba-san enjoyed the aroma while Arbel-san took a sip first.

「The aroma that penetrates deep into the lungs is just exquisite.」

「The deep aroma after sipping it is just splendid.」

They then looked at each other with a smile. Their smiles were brilliant, but their eyes weren’t smiling at all. How strange, as fellow Coffee lovers, they should be chatting happily with each other.

「Why do you two dislike each other so much?」

I couldn’t help asking, and they turned their piercing gazes my way.

「It’s not that we dislike each other, I’m just soothing an insolent child.」

「It’s not that we have a problem with each other, I’m just playing around with a stubborn baby.」

I got their answers at almost the same time, and nursed my temple. My head was starting to hurt, what was wrong with them?

They continued drinking Coffee heartily and demanded more Coffee, clearly conscious of each other.

「No one loves Coffee more than I do.」

「No one enjoy Coffee than me.」

They kept trying to one up each other and downing their Coffee. Give me a break. They kept demanding refills, so I had to keep brewing Coffee, grinding the beans, boiling the water and wiping water from the flask.

It might be fine if I was using a Drip Coffee Maker, but a Vacuum Coffee maker took a lot of work. I only had one set in the shop, so it would take a lot of time too. I needed to pay attention to things like brewing time and water temperature for every cup I brew, but they didn’t even savour my Coffee and just poured it into their guts.

After brewing tons of Coffee, I was starting to get angry.

But would their relationship become cordial because I got angry? No, that wasn’t possible. As I was thinking of a way to settle their differences, the door chimes, and Linaria came in.

She stared with her eyes wide open at the hulking man and beauty at the bar counter. I waved at her in place of a greeting, and she went to a table.

Her timing was just right. Linaria’s visit gave me an idea, so I waved her over.

But she shook her head at me. Damn it, her instincts were spot on……

But I waved at her persistently, and even placed my hands together to plead with her, before Linaria finally came to me. I felt relieved, then turned to the two glaring at each other.

「Arbel-san, Falluba-san, please keep your hostile attitude in check.」

「We are not……」

「... Quarreling.」

I wanted to ask why their coordination was so good at times like this, but I swallowed it down.

「Let’s assume you two are not fighting then. But I don’t want to brew Coffee for people competing to drink more Coffee instead of savouring the taste.」

Their faces turned awkward when they heard that. They admitted that they were competing with each other.

I crossed my arms and said to them firmly:

「If you want to compete, then let’s have a taste test.」

「Taste test?」

They looked baffled, and I continued explaining:

「I will brew two type of Coffee, please determine which used better beans.」

「I see, it’s to test our understanding of the taste.」

Falluba-san said, and I nodded.

「That’s simple to understand.」

「That’s right, I have no complaints. But I doubt that big guy can tell the taste difference.」

「Empty vessel makes the most sound.」

Hey, why would you two go right at each other’s throats?

Linaria who was bored stiff glared at me and said:

「Don’t drag me into this.」

「Sorry, but can you help me out a little?」

「Help with what? Both of them are hard to deal with, I don’t think I can be of any help.」

Linaria glanced at them with a face of protest.

「Don’t make that face. They aren’t difficult to deal with and are good people. There is just a small problem right now.」

Linaria sighed deeply and slouched her shoulders. Her ponytail that was as bright as the sun flowed down her shoulder smoothly.

「I will just help you a little. I won’t do it if it involves anything weird.」

「Thank you very much.」

What a reliable friend. I asked Linaria to remain seated before it was time, and prepared the drinks.

I needed to focus for now.

I did the same thing as usual, and brewed a delicious cup of Coffee. I poured the first batch of Coffee into three cups without doing anything special. I served them to the three of them.

Arbel-san and Falluba-san drank their Coffee more carefully than earlier. They either smell the aroma or close their eyes, seemingly well versed with taste testing.

And of course Linaria had a troubled face. I found her obviously displeased face funny.

「Why do I get a cup?」

「It’s just a small favour to me. Linaria, please join the taste test.」

Linaria shook her head.

「There’s no way I can tell which Coffee is better.」

「Just share your thoughts with us. As you can see, there’s only a mouthful in that cup.」

I kept my eyes on Linaria. She finally sighed and nodded at me.

Great, I could rest easy and brew the next batch.

While the trio were drinking the Coffee, I started brewing the second batch of Coffee even more carefully than before, and served it to the three people before me. Falluba-san and Arbel-san alternated between the two cups of Coffee, crossed their arms and swayed their heads in deep thought.

「What do you think?」

I observed the three of them, then asked Falluba-san for his feedback.

「The first cup is refreshing and not that bitter, I can feel the sourness. The second cup has an intense bitterness, and a deep aroma… The second cup must have better Coffee beans.」

I nodded at his comment, then turned to Arbel-san.

「What about you, Arbel-san?」

「The second cup is too bitter, and that would interfere with the aroma in my nasal cavity. In contrast, the first cup is less bitter, and has a refreshing fragrance once the bitterness passes through. I think the first cup have better Coffee beans.」

After saying that, their gazes started clashing again. As I thought, they had opposing views. They turned to me at the same time and said:

「But Yu, isn’t the second cup the Coffee I usually drink?」

「Café Master, the first cup is the one I drink regularly, right?」

They then locked gazes again, which made me feel they must have compatible personalities. I didn’t answer them, and asked Linaria:

「What do you think, Linaria?」

Both Arbel-san and Falluba-san stared at Linaria. They weren’t bothered about Linaria joining the discussion, and were interested in her views. I was glad that I could save the explanation, but if the two of them were so adaptable, why couldn’t they get along?

Linaria looked between the two of them and me, and suddenly said after thinking about it:

「Aren’t they the same?」

Arbel-san and Falluba-san both looked exasperated when they heard that, their faces saying 「As expected, an amateur can’t tell such an obvious difference」. I said to Linaria with a smile:

「That’s correct.」

Both Falluba-san and Arbel-san looked so stupefied that I wanted to take a photo. They looked kind of dumb and cute at the same time.

「How can it be? Impossible, the taste is so different… No, then this isn’t a taste test after all, since you are using the same beans.」

When I saw Falluba-san’s troubled face, I smiled and said to him:

「This is a common trap question, but I still hope you two can realize it. After all, someone did give the correct answer.」

I gestured to Linaria, and Falluba-san ground his teeth vexingly.

「I completely fell for it, I never thought they were the same beans.」

Falluba-san crossed his arms, and tucked in his chin.

「But Yu, can you tell me why the taste is so different? I can’t imagine both Coffees to be made from the same beans.」

He asked, and I nodded.

「Both of them are made from the same beans.」

「But they taste different.」

Arbel-san looked at me with serious eyes.

I put my hands on my hips. As a Café Master, I declared a small trade secret of my Café:

「I only changed the water temperature and the brewing time.」

「The water temperature?」

Linaria, who was seated slightly further away, asked on their behalf. In return to her aptly time question, I answered happily:

「Coffee is very delicate. Even with the same beans, the temperature when extracting the Coffee will also change the taste and fragrance.」

「What…… did you say……?」

Falluba-san said with a groan.

「The Coffee I usually drink, is made from the same beans as that guy? They are the same beans, but we are enjoying different flavours?」

Arbel-san asked with a hoarse voice as cold sweat appeared on her brows.

「It is as you say. Arbel-san prefers the refreshing sour taste over the bitter and mellow flavour. So I would extract her Coffee at a lower temperature. The opposite is true for Falluba-san, instead of a sour taste, he prefers a mellow and bitter flavour, so I extract his at a high temperature.」

「You will change the extraction method according to the customer’s taste?」

Linaria asked exasperatedly, and I answered proudly:

「Of course.」

Since all of them were regulars, I had a grasp on their preferred taste. Falluba-san and Arbel-san both looked shocked, having realized how deep the world of Coffee was.

「I have embarrassed myself.」

Said Arbel-san.

「My vision is too narrow, and always thought there is only one type of Coffee which just happen to coincide with my preference, and is a beverage just for me.」

「I feel the same, and thought that way too. But the truth is… it has been adjusted to meet my taste. Thinking back, the Coffee I had in the beginning taste different from the first batch today.」

「We are still lacking.」

「That’s right.」

I nodded as they locked gazes. Yes, absolutely right. We shouldn’t fight about Coffee, Coffee could encompass everything, and could save the world.

At this moment, they turned to Linaria as if they got snapped out of a dream.

「But why can she answer correctly?」

「Eh, well……」

Linaria stammered because Arbel-san was staring hard at her. I sighed in resignation and said as I shook my head:

「You can’t even understand something so simple?」


Falluba-san furrowed his brows.

「Whenever I try to make different Coffee flavour or brewing methods, I will ask her to taste test it. She is a… that’s right, a Coffee Grandmaster.」

Both of them looked shocked with their eyes and mouths wide open.

Linaria looked my way with a face that implied 「the hell are you saying.」

But the two who had stepped into the abyss of Coffee were incredibly adaptable. They tidied their appearance swiftly and lowered their heads respectfully to Linaria.

「Please allow me……」

「... to address you as Grandmaster.」

「Absolutely not.」

I nodded firmly, feeling glad that they all found great comrades.

The answer was simple, I already let Linaria compare different Coffee, and preached about how the same beans could have different tastes. Linaria let it in one ear and out the other, saying she couldn’t really tell the difference at all. And unexpectedly, that proved to be useful here.

A while later, Arbel-san and Falluba-san left the cafe together while discussing Coffee passionately. Arbel-san had work tomorrow, and Falluba-san had a strict curfew, and would get yelled at if he didn’t return on time.

After they left, there were only Linaria and me in the shop, and it was almost time to close for the day.

「No matter what time I visit, I will always find weirdos in this shop.」

Linaria said, supporting her chin on her hand at the bar counter.

「In that case, Linaria is also one of those weirdos.」

「Don’t say that.」

She threatened with a sweet smile, and I raised my hands and yielded.

「By the way, you got something on today? You came really late.」

Linaria lived in the dormitories, and should have a curfew.

「I already applied for an exit pass, so it will be fine.」

Our conversation stopped here, and the shop turned quiet.

I washed the dishes, wiped them dry and returned them to the racks. At this moment, Linaria fidgeted with the Café au lait cup absent mindedly. She poked at it, and brushed her fingers around the rim.


She breathed out heavily, then lifted her head.

「Erm, are you free next week?」

「Next week? The shop will be open.」

「Not that, erm……」

Linaria was hesitant to speak. She usually spoke her mind freely, so this was a surprise. Her right hand covered her forehead, and she stammered to find the right words and looked at me intimidatingly:

「I’m asking whether you are free on Holy Fest!」

Linaria raised the corners of her eyes and stared at me hard with blushed cheeks. It probably took a lot of resolve and courage for her to say that, which made me feel bad.

「Sorry, but what is Holy Fest?」


Linaria went slack jawed at my question, as if she just saw something unbelievable. Could you not look at me as if I was an unidentified flying object?

「You don’t know? It’s Holy Fest, that Holy Fest.」

「I’m not sure how many Holy Fests there are, but I don’t know any.」

「It’s the Holy Festival to celebrate the birth of St. Eminem, you know? The entire city is preparing for the festival, right?」

Even if she said that, I still tilted my head bafflingly.


「Yes! There are lucky strings decoration everywhere, and there are more stalls and visitors than usual.」

Linaria raised many examples, but I didn’t get it.

「Sorry, but I don’t go out often.」

「…… Eehhhh?」

She looked really annoyed. Don’t look at me with those eyes.

「You don't go outside? Out of the shop?」

「Very seldom.」

「Where do the ingredients come from?」

「They are delivered here.」

「You don’t shop outside?」

「When it is necessary.」

「I see……」

Linaria looked at me with eyes observing a pitiful creature. She gently knocked her forehead with her right fist to change her mood.

「What about St. Eminem? You don’t know that too?」

「She must be famous.」

「That is probably the most well known name in the world.」


I laughed, but couldn’t brush it off.

I didn’t grow up in this world, so even if she was famous, or if this was common sense, I still wouldn’t know.

「Never mind. Anyway, next Sunday is the Holy Festival celebrating the birth of St. Eminem. Simply put, it’s a major holiday celebrated in the entire country.」

「I see.」

I nodded.

「And my school is hosting an event to celebrate.」

「It sounds interesting.」

It sounded like a carnival.

「There are martial competitions and spells exhibitions, which are the main events.」

No, it was probably closer to being a sports festival.

「There will be a ball at night though.」


「You are going way off course.」

I tried to play the fool, but she just rolled her eyes.

「Yes, I know, it’s the type where everyone dances together.」

「That’s right, dancing, chatting and eating while standing.」

That was a little like a buffet, and seemed fun. But Linaria’s face suggested otherwise.

「You are not looking forward to it?」

「The attendees are all nobles, bureaucrats and the likes.」

「Nobles? Why?」

「The students will invite their family or friends on Holy Fest, and the students in our academy are all nobles or wealthy.」

I got what she was trying to say, and nodded silently.

It must be a lavish party that only appears in movies. Rather than the students, it was a dinner party to host the nobles.

「Do you need to wear a gown?」

Since this had nothing to do with me, I couldn’t help asking intriguely.

「…… I’m expected to wear one.」

Linaria said with a reluctant face.

Gown! What a sweet term. Back in Japan, how many times did I see a cute girl in a gown?

「Will you need to dance?」

「…… I might need to.」

Dance! An unfathomable activity. How many opportunities would a person get to dance back in Japan? I never tried it before, but Linaria would need to participate in a social dance.

I looked up at the ceiling and thought about gowns, dancing and the dinner party, a ball that I had never participated in before. But it was difficult to imagine a place I had never been to before.

「Eh, if it isn’t too much trouble, would you like to come?」

I turned to Linaria, and she lowered her gaze and stared at her cup.

「You want me to go to the ball in your academy?」

「…… Yes.」

「But I’m an outsider.」

「Like I said, the students can invite friends and families to the Holy Fest, it’s the same for the ball. So, I want to ask, if you are free, erm, do you want to come with me?」

I see, I nodded.

「It does sound interesting.」

A ball. In the academy where students learn magic and combat skills, nobles and the like gather together to dance, chat and dine.

I couldn’t imagine, and also knew that I couldn’t mix in even if I went there.

「Thank you for inviting me, but I will give it a pass this time.」

I smiled, but couldn’t tell whether it was natural.

Linaria was hesitant to speak, and lowered her gaze after trying to speak a few times.

「…… Is that so? I see.」

「I sounds like fun, but I can’t dance and don’t have any formal wear.」

I said jokingly with an exaggerated laugh, but I knew this was just an excuse.

「It’s fine, sorry for the sudden question.」

Linaria stood up and smiled at me. It was a forced smile that I had never seen before.

「Well then, good night.」

I could have stopped Linaria from leaving, but I didn’t carry it out.

The door chimed, and Linaria left the shop. I stood stiff for a moment, and stared blankly at Linaria’s cup.

I then started to close shop. On the door was a sign that said 「Closed for the Day」, locked the windows, swept the floor and wiped the tables and counter with a wet cloth.

I would need to mop the kitchen floor, prepare tomorrow’s ingredients, and…… Hmm.

Suddenly, everything felt like a hassle. I stopped wiping the counter, took off my apron, hung it over a chair before sitting down heavily into it. My body felt like lead.

I felt really bad about refusing Linaria’s invitation.

Why did I refuse? The ball sounded fun.

Nobles, gowns, Holy Fest, these words spun in my head.

Nobles, gowns, Holy Fest, was this the real world?

Everything became confusing.

Where was this place? Why was I here? Why couldn’t I go back? I missed my home, and the faces of grandfather, father and mother. I could only remember a blurred image of them, which made me sad.

I surveyed the shop.

This was my shop, a Café. The only place that could connect me with my home.

If I stay here, I would be safe and continue being myself. But what if I went outside the shop?

There was a vast unknown world that filled me with fear.

My world was just this small Café, which was my everything.

I was powerless when anything else was involved.

Chapter 6: The Café Without Her

The never changing days were the basis of my everyday life.

When things were the same as always, it was an everyday life, and if something different happened, it would be a non-everyday life. I welcome the usual everyday life, since I like the never changing days. No troubles or problems happening.

However, I realized that my everyday life wouldn’t lose its balance just from things being added. If something disappeared, it would also cause a change in my everyday life.

If something that was always there went missing, then my everyday life would be incomplete too. An everyday life like this felt lonely.


「…… Yes?」

I turned towards the bar counter with a start when I heard my name. The relaxed Gramps Goru was sitting there.

「You seem troubled.」

He observed, but I brushed it off with a smile.

「Nothing, I’m just thinking about something.」

「But you have been wiping the same glass for quite some time now.」

When I heard that, I looked at my hands. I was holding a sparkling glass, but there were several wet glasses before me. I realized my cleaning wasn’t progressing at all.

I smiled awkwardly and put the glass into a cupboard.

「It’s about Linaria, right?」

I stopped suddenly at Gramps Goru’s words. My body would always react while I was still thinking. I forced a smile, but couldn’t tell if my usual business smile was working.

「Yes, that’s right.」

I turned to Gramps Goru. He supported his chin with his palm with his body turned towards the windows, as if something outside caught his interest. I felt slightly relieved and picked up another glass.

「Did you two have a fight?」

「No idea, but it’s probably my fault.」

「Then go apologize. A man can’t win a woman even if we throw a tantrum.」

Gramps Goru said with a mischievous smile. I smiled too. But if she didn’t come to the shop, I couldn’t apologize either.

「I thought I could see Linaria. Ahh, how boring.」

Gramps Goru said. As he said, Linaria suddenly stopped visiting for the past few days. She would visit every day, either in the day or in the evening, so I couldn’t get used to her not being around. And she stopped coming after I turned down her Holy Fest invitation, so the problem obviously lies with me.

Linaria became a part of this shop before I realized it, so when she suddenly disappeared, the regulars including Gramps Goru would often ask:

「Where is that kid? That red-haired girl with sharp eyes.」, 「Café Master, where’s the girl you often hit on? The girl who looked like she had a chip on her shoulders, did she finally dump you?」, 「Did you make her mad? That won’t do, you need to apologize as soon as possible. Need me to accompany you?」 And so forth.

They never chat with her, but if they kept seeing her in the shop, they would remember each other’s faces.

「She would always take that seat」, 「I felt worried when I couldn’t see her.」 Their concerns became part of my shop’s atmosphere, and they felt a sense of camaraderie towards her despite never conversing.

When they learned she left because of me, they would pat my shoulders to console me. I was grateful for their concerns, but I felt bad about it.

I sighed, and Gramps Goru started laughing.

「…… What’s wrong?」

「No, I just find it weird for Yu-kun to show a troubled expression that befitted your age.」

「Even if you say that……」

I mimicked Nortri and glared at him. But Gramps Goru started laughing more heartily.

「You always look unfazed, which might seem steady and mature at a glance, but to me, you seem standoffish. No matter what happens, you won’t open your heart to it, or show your emotions, and just treat it as something that didn’t concern you.」

I gasped, because I already knew. I did that intentionally, and felt awkward since someone discovered it.

「It’s fine, it’s fine, don’t make that face. Instead of acting calm, you looked much cuter now, heehee.」

An old man praising me wasn’t something to be happy about, but I still felt relieved.

I relaxed my shoulders, realizing I was too tense. I put my cup down and folded a white cloth.

「What should I do?」

I asked directly. I thought Gramps Goru would teased me, but he rubbed his chin and said:

「You should find someone who can spoil you. It’s tiring to put up a strong front all the time. I suggest finding someone who is accommodating and older than you.」

「No, I’m not asking what I should do about me pushing myself.」

「I’m kidding, you want to make up with Linaria, right?」

Don’t pretend to be retarded if you know—— but I forcefully pushed that thought down.

「Anyway, talk to her and figure out what’s wrong. After that, I can advise you. Despite how I look, I’m a ladies man and know girls really well.」

「That sounds really dubious.」

When I see Gramps Goru winking at me with a smug face, an uneasy feeling welled up within me. Would this be fine? Did I consult with the wrong person?

No, but this was still more constructive than agonizing over it alone, I tried convincing myself. As I thought about where to start, Gramps Goru suddenly stood up, then went around the counter and into the staff area.

「What are you doing, old man!」

「Whose an old man! I’m not here! Got it!?」

After saying that, he went swiftly deep into the shop. I was surprised by his sudden actions and was about to chase Gramps Goru when the shop’s door was opened. It was opened so hard that the chime sounded like a tragic scream.

「Hey, plebeian!」

With her back to the sun and hands on her hips, a breeze swayed her short hair—— her hair was the colour of the dark blue sea, that suited a white sandy beach. She was in school uniforms, and her delicate features were dazzling. It would have been perfect if she didn’t call me a plebeian.

「……Aina? Ehh, Welcome.」

「I’m here!」

She nodded elegantly, softly closed the door, then approached me with large strides. Her back was straight, and her walking motion was as practiced as a model, which was enough to show her great upbringing. She was a noble, an existence I still didn’t understand very well.


A normal noble wouldn’t call others a plebeian, right?

「Yes, yes, what is it?」

Aina walked up to the counter, and stood there with her arms crossed.

「I’m going to tell you off now, do you know why?」

「I don’t know, don’t ask for the impossible.」

What kind of declaration was that?

Aina puffed her cheeks unhappily:

「The nerve! How rude!」

「Scolding people others out of the blue is much ruder.」

「That’s because you are at fault! If not, I don’t want to scold you either!」

She raised both hands and slammed it on the counter.

「Listen up! It’s all your fault that Linaria-san is feeling so down!」

Oh, that was my fault… I really regretted it……

「Why are you so sullen all of a sudden, but it troubles me… Hey?」

「I’m sorry for being alive……」

「That’s too heavy, your depression is too heavy! Don’t be so depressed all of a sudden!」

Seeing how frantic Aina was, I knew she wasn’t a nefarious girl, and had a forthright character. Even though she was Linaria’s stalker.

「I will do as you say then. Please take a seat, I will brew some Coffee for you.」

「…… You were acting just now, right?」

She glared at me, but I pretended not to notice and brewed the Coffee. After feeling a stinging gaze, Aina finally sat down.

「So, what have you done to Linaria-san? Hurry up and tell me, and depending on your answer, I might end you.」

I stopped the Coffee bean grinder.

「E-End who?」


「From where?」

「From this society.」

I concealed the trembling in my hands as I turned the Coffee bean grinder. It’s terrifying because she might be able to do that. It was scary how obsessed she was about Linaria. In conclusion, nobles were scary.

She found this shop by following Linaria, and asked me to make her the same meal as Linaria. I didn’t know what drove her, but she really liked Linaria, and might realize there was something wrong with Linaria.

「How did you know that I’m the reason?」

I asked, and Aina sighed.

「Linaria-san almost never left the academy, and will either go for a stroll or come here when she is out. There’s nothing that could have affected Linaria-san in the academy, so the reason must be here.」

「Maybe something happened in the academy?」

「Impossible, I can say for certain that I know everything about Linaria-san in the academy.」

She said that proudly, and that almost convinced me. Huh? How strange, I’m starting to think she was wrong in the head.

「Like I said, stop finding excuses and confess everything.」

I suppressed the trembling in my hands and brewed the Coffee. The girl before me had crazy eyes, but since outsiders weren’t allowed into the academy, she was a channel for me to understand Linaria’s situation and contact her. The stalking thing aside, she was the best choice to repair the relationships between Linaria and me.

This was a chance, so I told her what happened.

「Are you retarded?」

She said in response to my explanation.

Her unfiltered comment made me depressed, but I couldn’t refute her.

「It’s not that bad, right?」

When she heard me, Aina’s eyes turned cold. She looked at me as if I was walking garbage, and shook her head. Her delicate features made it even more chilly.


Aina said.


「You actually rejected a ladies Holy Fest invitation with such a boring excuse. Even if you want to turn her down, you need to observe etiquettes.」

This was the first time I heard about that.

「And Linaria-san invited you to the academy’s ball. Do you know the meaning behind a girl inviting a man to a ball? She’s asking you to be her dance partner.」

I got the gist of the situation when I heard that.

Aina ignored me as I was nursing my temple, and continued:

「Which means, to Linaria-san who mustered her courage to invite a man, you are telling her 『I don’t want to be your dance partner』, got it?」

I sat down with my hands on my head, hiding in the shadows behind the bar counter. Oh no, this was really bad.

「Are you serious……」

I muttered.

「This is common sense!」

Aina leaned over the counter and admonished me from above.

「How would I know that kind of common sense……」

The terms 「I would never have imagined」 and 「it’s really terrible」 spun in my head.

To think that was common sense here.

I knew that I might make some mistakes because I lacked knowledge in this world, but to think it was that bad.

I never thought being invited to a ball had such a heavy significance.

「You don’t understand at all how much significance there is behind a girl taking the initiative to invite you……」

Aina sounded both sympathetic and resigned at the same time. Just staying there groaning didn’t help things at all, so I stood up.

「I know, it’s all my fault. Apologize, I need to apologize to her.」

I didn’t know if I could still make things right, but I had to do it. I could only guess how big of a blow I dealt to her, but I need to apologize for turning Linaria down without realizing how she felt.

Aina’s face turned serious when she heard me say that.

「…… Is there anything else?」

I had a bad feeling about this. The shop had an awkward atmosphere of someone pointing out a grave mistake that had been made.

「She didn’t say it herself, so I’m hesitant to say it.」

「Please tell me.」

I leaned forward and urged her to speak. I had gone all out, and was determined to accept my mistake and apologize properly. Aina reeled back a little from my pressure.

「I-I get! I get it, so stop leaning in.」

「Pardon me.」

I resumed my posture, and Aina coughed with her cheeks slightly red:

「Listen up.」


「Holy Fest...」

I gulped.

「Is Linaria-san’s birthday.」

—— I messed up.

Seriously? Are you serious? The situation was so serious that I couldn’t keep up with the development.

Birthday? Whose? Linaria’s?—— I covered my mouth.

This felt like the worst screw up of my life.

「The me from back then should just die.」

「Hey, calm down.」

Aina consoled me, but I already suffered an irreversible defeat.

「No, there’s no way back, right? After all, she invited me to a ball on her birthday, and I turned her down immediately. It’s awkward, so of course she won’t visit the shop again!」

The screams in my heart leaked out.

「Ahh, really now, like I said, calm down!」

Aina held my face with her hands, and I stopped moving.

Aina’s face was right before me, her snow white skin and large eyes filled my vision with a gentle scent similar to a spring flower.


I answered reflexibly.

「Why do I have to take care of you?」

I felt guilty pangs when I saw Aina rubbing her temples, but still laughed. Because I knew she was a kind and gentle girl despite being Linaria’s stalker.

I was in a state of panic, so my mind felt clear right now. I took several deep breaths.

「That’s right, no need to panic. I just need to resolve myself and accompany her to the ball.」

「About that……」

I turned to Aina, but she shook her head with a troubled face.

「Linaria-san isn’t going to the ball.」

—— It’s over. I laid onto the counter with my hands on my head.

「It’s my fault that she can’t even attend the ball!」

「It’s hard to scold you if you are that depressed. Really, what’s with you!?」

Aina said exasperatingly.

「Isn’t it too late?」

「I don’t know, it all depends on you. If you give up now, then the match is over.」

She said a little coldly. I straightened my posture. It was true, dallying here wouldn’t help at all.

「I get it, I will try.」

「Very well.」

Aina nodded cheerfully.

「I’m going back to the academy.」

「Huh? Speaking of which, this is a school day.」

It was still bright outside, and today was a weekday, so there should be classes going on in the academy.

Aina was all smiles.

「It’s fun to sneak out of school from time to time.」

I thought she was a perfect noble lady, but she would pull off shady moves according to the situation too.

After Aina finished her Coffee, she took out a fancy purse. It was the same deep blue colour like Aina’s hair, with delicate golden embroidery on it. She took out some coins and placed them on the counter.

「Thank you for your hospitality, I will be back after school. Before that, please think of a plan.」

With that, she swiftly left the shop before I could give her the change. She probably paid a bit more than the Coffee price because she didn’t give enough when she first visited.

When the door chime quieted down, Gramps Goru poked his head out from within the shop.

「Phew, that was close.」

「What was close? Why did you run off to hide? That spooked me.」

「That’s a secret.」

I didn’t know what happened, but it was useless to think about Gramps Goru’s actions seriously, and gave up on that.

I placed Aina’s cup into the wash basin, and Gramps Goru got back to his seat and said to me while stroking his long beard:

「I got the gist of what happened.」

「Oh, yes, right.」

Speaking of which, I was explaining the situation to Gramps Goru when Aina suddenly barged in. I wanted to explain to him right now, but there was an awkward mood of my mistake being uncovered by someone else.

「It’s fine, don’t feel so down! Things will work out when the time comes!」

Gramps Goru said cheerfully.

「Will it work out?」

「It’s not like you got caught red handed in the red light district, or had a child with a side chick. This is trivial.」

「Are you speaking from experience?」

「That’s a secret.」

Gramps Goru looked out the window, which made me a little uneasy. Was this grandpa fine? I stared at him, and he cleared his throat in a forced manner.

「Rather then this!」

He looked serious.

「The problem is with Yu-kun.」

「Oh, what’s the problem?」

Compared to Gramps Goru, my problems were trivial.

「Yu-kun, why did you turn down Linaria’s invitation?」

「Even if you ask me why… Because I had never been to a ball and it feels scary.」

「I see.」

Gramps Goru nodded.

「But is that really all?」

He glanced at me with a rarely seen serious face.

「A ball might sound intimidating, and if you are already used to it, you probably would have gone with Linaria. But it’s strange if that is the only reason you turned her down. Yu-kun, you aren’t someone who can make an immediate decision, but you turned down Linaria straight away, which baffles me.」

I couldn’t avert my gaze from Gramps Goru’s face, because it was as he said, he saw right through me.

「An invitation by a beautiful girl like Linaria will send any boy over the moon. But you rejected her without thinking twice, no man will do that. It’s impossible. If I was in your place, I will go to the ball with Linaria.」

He started sounding creepy in the second half.

「But you still rejected her, which means there is a reason why you made that snap decision.」

「…… Erm, yes, right.」

I admitted it. Gramps Goru saw through me, and I couldn’t find any excuse to refute him.

「Can I ask what the reason is? If you don’t want to talk about it, I will forget about the whole thing. You see, people my age tends to be forgetful.」

He winked at me, and I couldn’t help laughing. He was a weird old man who kept cracking jokes, but I knew he was actually really kind.

I relaxed myself, and stated the complicated feelings rooted deep inside me. It seemed unexpectedly easy to vent my suppressed emotions.

「I want to go home.」

The feelings I believed one sidedly that others shouldn’t see and others wouldn’t understand. But I finally realized that I wanted to vent it out to others too.

「Go home, huh… This place isn’t your home?」

Gramps Goru sounded really gentle.

「It’s very far away, so far that I didn’t know the way home.」

「I see, that’s a problem.」

I nodded.

「But I might be able to return one day, or learn a way tomorrow. I couldn’t help thinking about that.」

「Do you have family?」

「My parents, grandfather, a cousin with poor livelihood skill who lived nearby, and many friends.」

Everyone’s faces flashed across my mind, and surprisingly, they were all smiling.

No one could explain to me why I came to this world. When I came to, I was already inside a Labyrinth. It might be the warped space inside the Labyrinth or the summoning spell of someone. I thought of all possible reasons, but couldn’t think of a way back to my old world, or what I should do.

In the end, a stubborn old man who found me in the Labyrinth took care of me, and I took over this building that used to be a bar, and opened a Café.

I tried to mimic my hometown’s Café, including the decor, equipment and atmosphere, so the shop was the only place that was like home, and wasn’t a different world. I could only feel at ease in this shop, and would keep me from wailing due to loneliness in this absurd other world.

This was a place for me to stay in, and I was just a lost child.

I didn’t know where I should go, nor find the way home. So I decided not to go anywhere and just stay in this place.

What if I went out, and went in the opposite direction of home?

Just the thought filled me with fear from heading forward.

「Yu-kun, you are scared of becoming a part of this city.」

I stared at Gramps Goru’s face. It was as he said.

「You have a place you have to return to, but if you get too used to life in this city, you fear your urge to return will turn faint, and you won’t be able to go back. And that made you very uneasy.」

I couldn’t say anything, the sorrow filled my chest as Gramps Goru soothed me.

「I won’t say that I understand how Yu-kun feels, but I had a time when I felt the same way. Getting old isn’t all bad, we can accumulate experience and empathize with how others feel.」

Gramps Goru smiled warmly.

「Yu-kun, what do you think a home is?」

「A home?」

「Everyone says they want to go home.」

Gramps Goru turned to the window. The pedestrians outside were all heading somewhere, or on their way home.

「The place you grew up in is home, a place where you wait for your loved ones is also home, so is the place you are living in. So Yu-kun, this shop is also your home, right?」

I nodded.

「Then you need to realize one thing. Hey Yu-kun, home isn’t the only place you can return to.」

「Home isn’t the only place……?」

Gramps Goru nodded.

「It’s true for me too. When I visit this shop, I will always feels like I have 『returned』. This shop with Yu-kun feels very comfortable, and I will feel at ease, as if I’m home.」

I minced Gramps Goru’s words in my heart.

「I’m not the only one who feels this shop is a place I can 『return』 to. To Linaria, Yu-kun and this shop is probably a place she can return to, so when she was turned down by Yu-kun, she became crestfallen.」

I asked myself if I was the same, and didn’t get an answer.

「A place to return to will always be built without you realizing it, and just a matter of when you will notice. Linaria probably noticed too. Yu-kun, you must understand how bad it feels when you can’t go back to the place you want to return to, right?」

Gramps Goru knocked my head harshly. If that was true, and Linaria really thought so, then I could empathize with her deeply.

「Yu-kun, let these old bones teach you a life lesson. It might sound like I’m preaching, but just bear with it.」

I looked at Gramps Goru’s face.

「Yu-kun, listen well. When a girl is away from home and waiting all alone, it is the obligation of the man to receive her.」

I felt a bit dumbfounded, then nodded.

「So, you should receive Linaria, and celebrate her birthday.」

「You…… are right, there are many things I need to do.」

「Oh? Any good ideas?」

「Yes, I have the best idea.」

This wasn’t a stroke of inspiration, but something that occurred to me when I spoke with Aina. It was a simple idea, but given the situation, it was now the best solution.

「That’s great.」

Gramps Goru’s wrinkles deepened as he smiled happily.

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