Saturday, November 27, 2021

Have a Cup of Coffee after School in the Fantasy World Café V4 (4 of 6)

 Chapter 7: The Usual Time, The Usual Her

Translator: Skythewood

Editor: Hiiro

[So, what happened after that?]

Linaria asked with her palm supporting her cheek, not hiding her exasperated face at all.

[The contents of the request aside, his passion and drive were really moving. In the end, Celine-san and Tize agreed to help him.]

[That sounds tough. Good luck.]

Linaria waved her hands, then returned her gaze back to the book on the counter. There were papers filled with words and drawings by her hands, and she would write new things onto it from time to time. I couldn’t read nor understand it, but it must be something very deep and difficult.

I looked out the window, and the night was almost over. The sun was rising on its predetermined path, and the sky was turning bright. At this time when people were just getting up to work in the morning, Linaria was already in her uniform and studying in my shop.

[How is it? Can you pass the test?]

[I’m not sure. I might not have enough time.]

Linaria’s goal was to be a Healing Mage. To do so, she needed to enrol in a specialist school, and the difficulty was really high. Even Linaria, who had the top grades amongst the first years in the Arialu School of Wizardry, said she wasn’t sure.

Linaria’s goal was to search for her parents who left when she was young, and becoming a Healing Mage was the quickest method. She came here to self-study early in the morning, and must be working hard in other areas that I didn’t know about.

[You’ll definitely pass, yup.]

[What are you saying out of the blue?]

Linaria looked up in surprise.

[Our Linaria is a hard worker. No matter how hard the test is, it will be a breeze for you.]

[Do you know how difficult the enrolment test is? The academy’s entrance exams is bad enough, and the enrolment test is more difficult.]

[…… Definitely, probably, will work out.]

[It’s good that you somewhat understand the difficulty.]

She said with a smile, then hit the books again.

It was amazing how hard Linaria worked after deciding on her goal. She always had her books, papers and pens with her, and I had never seen her rest. Even though she had to deal with the lessons and work from school too. I wanted to support her, but I was worried at the same time.

I thought about saying something, but decided against it.

I didn’t want to disturb her while she was concentrating. The sight of her focusing on her books made her feel so far away. As if she was forging ahead, and leaving me behind.

I smiled at what I just imagined, then inspected the utensils. The utensils in this world were delicate and cracked easily. I had to inspect it periodically to avoid giving customers utensils that would cut them.

[Renting the shop out,] Linaria suddenly said without lifting her head. [You agreed to do that?]

[If he had to go that far, I think it would be easier for him to clarify everything.]

[But it sounds interesting, right? You also like such things, and did something similar before, didn’t you?]

I didn’t—— I wanted to refute, but there was that one time. To support the love of a certain clumsy man, I turned the shop into a restaurant.

[You can just do the same thing again.]

[Don’t make it sound so simple, Corleone-san helped get the ingredients and chefs back then. It can’t be done on a whim.]

[Be it the Corleone family or the Monte company, use whatever you can. Isn’t there a saying that you can even exploit your parents if necessary.]

<TL: 立っている者は親でも使え>

Linaria was writing something while she was reading, and talking about something unrelated. I wondered whether that would confuse her.

But that advice sounded great. Monte Company was owned by Momon, who visited this shop because of the Maid Cafe. He mentioned that dispatching workers was part of his job scope. He might be able to help and hire people to pretend to be nobles and fill the seats. As for the chef and ingredients, Corleone-san would be the person to speak to. But top quality food and workers would be expensive too, could Pleek-san afford it?

[See, you say it can’t be done, and now you are considering it seriously.]

Linaria said after glancing my way. Now that she mentioned it, I realized I was seriously thinking up a plan. Even though Pleek-san should be responsible for that, I was just lending him the shop.

[You probably have a knack for enacting such nefarious schemes.]

[…… What an unpleasant compliment.]

[That’s a good thing though. A nefarious scheme others couldn’t pull off. And it depends on how you use that talent, right?]

[You have a point.]

I was an upright citizen and had never hatched any heinous plans. But occasionally, I would use methods that were a little unorthodox. I had never thought of doing anything bad.

After sorting out my thoughts, I wanted to explain to Linaria, but she had returned to her book, brushing me off with an [Sure, you’re right. I get it.] Since she said so, I let her off the hook.

The concentration of a human was limited, and it was difficult to keep doing something for an entire day. For example, you would get hungry, or the temperature in the room might be off, or it might be noisy outside. All these trivial matters could easily break your concentration.

Thinking about it seriously, was there a time when I focused properly on something? I never joined any club that required focus, and never took lessons after coming to this world. I needed to focus when roasting Coffee beans and using the Coffee Maker, but only for a short moment.

Compared to me, Linaria’s focus was amazing.

My hand slipped and I broke a plate while I was tidying the cutlery. There was a sharp cracking noise. I hurriedly apologized to Linaria, but she didn’t even look over. She didn’t hear my apology nor the cracking of the plate.

I was amazed by Linaria’s concentration while I cleaned up the pieces. I couldn’t get good grades because I didn’t have this kind of focus. This was probably impossible for me.

And I didn’t have a goal either. Even if I had the focus to block out all external noise, it would be useless if I didn’t have something I wanted to do. Just how seriously was Linaria challenging the enrollment test? Her seriousness drifted over along with the heat. I was stimulated at the same time, feeling that I should work harder too. Although I wasn’t sure what I should work towards.

When Linaria looked out and exhaled, the sky was completely bright, and morning came once again.

Seeing her stop for the moment, I prepared a Café au lait. I turned on the heater to boil the water. After a rigorous mental exercise, drinking Café au lait with lots of sugar would probably help relieve her fatigue.

Linaria was raising her hands in a stretch, and I served a mug of Café au lait to her.

[Hmm, thank you.]

[You are really focused, the sun is already up.]

[The thing I was reading is difficult, but really interesting.] Linaria said with a smile, then took a sip from her mug.

[It’s sweet and tasty.]

[So, what’s the trick to focusing on something?]

Linaria raised a brow.

[What are you saying all of a sudden?]

[I had been wondering since just now. This is just for reference, for the time when I need to concentrate.]

[So, why do you want to concentrate?]

[Probably to work towards a goal in the future.]

Linaria showed a dumbstruck face. She then got what I meant, set her mug aside, then put her fingers to her lips with an [I see.]

[Get some proper rest, then get started on what you want to do after getting up early.]

[…… That’s a little different from what I imagined.]

[What did you expect?]

[What I wanted is, do this and you can focus immediately! Something like that.]

[I don’t know anything that convenient. I rely on force of habit and endurance.]

So there wasn’t any trick to increase your focus immediately. I already knew that though. In the end, you had to build up your focus by working on it everyday. I couldn’t say easily that I would work hard on it.

[The world is really harsh…]

[I still don’t really get what you’re thinking.]

We talked about inconsequential things like usual. Sunlight that made me squint my eyes shone in from the windows. The fragrance of Coffee and milk lingered in the air. This moment was more important to me than anything else.

How many times could I still enjoy such a pleasant time? Linaria would definitely pass the enrollment test. She would then leave this city and go to a place far away. The closer she got to her goal of becoming a Healing Mage, the more she would show her amazing focus, and forge ahead steadily.

I would watch over this shop, which was a place for her to rest. I had no qualms about that. However, it felt a little lonely seeing her soar into the distance.

We didn’t talk anymore, and listened to the streets that were slowly getting crowded.

I brewed a cup of Coffee for myself. Without this, my day wouldn’t be starting properly. The Coffee was more bitter than I imagined, and seeped into my body after pulling an all nighter.

It was almost time for Linaria to go to school. She would be doing self training to warm up before classes, which surprised me. She was proficient in both physical and mental abilities.

I would be closing up after seeing Linaria off. After cleaning up, I would catch some sleep before the day was over.

At this moment, the door was pushed open hard. I looked over in the midst of cleaning, and was shocked.

[I-Impossible… I don’t believe it…]

[What is it?]

Linaria followed my gaze. A small figure was standing there. The hunched back and lethargic atmosphere, the child who didn’t suit the morning at all, Nortri.

[There is no way Nortri can get up so early…… Is she a fake?]

[That’s too mean.]

[No, Linaria, you are only saying that because you don’t know Nortri.]

[It’s true that I don’t know her well.]

Nortri always came here after skipping classes, so she didn’t have many chances of meeting Linaria who had perfect attendance.

Nortri dragged her body that was heavier than usual, and made it to the bar stool. She looked up at me, but didn’t say anything. After a long silence, she finally said:

[……… So sleepy.]

[It’s really early after all. What’s wrong?]

Nortri was wobbling already. She looked at me with her eyes almost shut.

[Too many people… I can’t come…]

[You’re talking about the full house because of the tourists, right? That’s during summer vacation.]

Nortri nodded lazily.

[And at night… Mom…]

[You want to come at night, but your mother stopped you, huh.]

[…… Morning…… Too sleepy…… I worked hard…… So tired…… So sleepy……]

[So you wanted to come in the morning, but you are too sleepy in the morning. You worked hard and came today, but you almost missed it because you are too sleepy?]

Nortri laid onto the counter and breathed steadily in her sleep. I was moved by her sleeping figure.

Well, you know!?! Nortri actually did it! She wouldn’t want to do it if that was possible, and even her thinking was lethargic! That Nortri actually got up early and came to my shop! Could there be anything more exhilarating than that!?

[…… She’s asleep.]

[Getting up early is a big burden for Nortri, so it can’t be helped.]

[…… You actually understood what she said.]

[I can get the gist of anything Nortri says. She often stop mid sentence.]

Linaria looked at me with her face supported by her palm.

[I think your ability is much more amazing than my concentration.]

[Really? That’s embarrassing.]

[It’s a little creepy though.]

Linaria’s words stabbed me in the heart. But I recovered after looking at Nortri sleeping comfortably under the morning sun.

Chapter 8: The Sound of Angels Knocking on the Door

I lived in a different world which had a Labyrinth, adventurers, food and sights I had never seen before. However, the most important thing to me was my daily chores. If I didn’t clean, the floor would get dirty and the dirty dishes would pile up. For me, a day with good weather was a cleaning day.

There were times when I felt in awe about living in a charming different world, but quickly realized the things I needed to do didn’t change. It didn’t matter where I was, after building a habit, things would become a routine.

I wasn’t especially fazed by the varied appearances of the people walking on the streets anymore. Be it the faces of animals, or beautiful elves or dwarves, all that were just a natural part of the scenery.

After making short work of the cleaning, I started tidying the storeroom.

For example, cooking ingredients near expiry for my own consumption, and purchasing things I was short on.

For some reason, I wanted to do something different today.

Like going out shopping and having fun.

When I thought about it, I realized something horrifying. I had never thought about having fun outside, and couldn’t imagine how to do that.

[I don’t have any friends I can hang out with?]

I was shocked after saying it out loud. No, I should have some. Like Linaria and Aina. There’s also Jir and Giadi. But they were having lessons in school right now, but not me. Which meant, the timing when we could hang out didn’t match. So I couldn’t invite anyone to hang out with on a normal weekday.

I pulled out a chair and sat down, then covered my face with both hands.

How could this be? To think I didn’t even have a single friend to hang out with. When my shop was open that day, Gramps Goru, Arbel-san and many familiar faces would show up. It was a little crowded, but those were happy times. That was why I never thought about friends back then.

What about now? It was still bright outside, and I was just sitting here in a daze. I couldn’t stand it, maybe I should open up now… But I would get overwhelmed by the tourists though…

I was seriously considering that when the door was knocked. It was locked when the shop was closed. The knocking was soft, but urgent.

Wondering what it could be, I unlocked the door, and a white figure squeezed in when it was half opened, and then closed the door. She then quickly locked it.

I was shocked because it happened so suddenly, then I realized who it was.

[Why are you panicking so much?]

Tize’s shoulders were heaving, and her breathing was ragged. She looked like she was sprinting just now. She was wearing a white gown that exposed her shoulders, the one she wore on that rainy day when I first met her. Her pale cheeks and shoulders were flushed right now.

Tize wanted to say something, but couldn’t because of her ragged breathing. She rested her hands on her knees.

[I understand, just calm down first. Have a seat.]

I ushered her to a seat, but she just shook her head.

She then took a deep breath and looked up at me. Sweat was forming on her forehead, and slid down to her jaw.

[I’m…… very sorry…… Can you, let me hide……]

[Someone is chasing you?]

I asked quickly, and Tize shook her head. Someone chasing a young girl dressed like this sounded like a crime. I was filled with righteous rage. There was no way I could overlook this plea for help.

Anyway, I reached out my hand to calm Tize down. Tize held it timidly, then slowly walked to a chair.

There was intense rapping on the door. Tize’s shoulders trembled with fear, and the blood was drained from her face, and looked up at me as if she was frozen. She wasn’t asking for help, that was a face of fear and resignation.

From the way the door was knocked, the other party wasn’t fazed at all. Why was Tize’s pursuer so bold, were they so sure that someone was in? That was how the knocking sounded to me. Worst of all, they knew Tize was here. In that case, it was pointless to pretend to be away.

I smiled at Tize. No matter what happens, a smile was calming. And I couldn’t waver in front of a young girl like her.

I brought Tize to the furthest reaches of the storeroom. I shoved the things at the corner aside, and let Tize squat there.

[Wait here first, I will handle them.]


[It’s fine, leave it to big brother.]

I covered Tize with some goods, then walked to the door.

The knocking was getting louder, and the door was shaking with each knock. A voice behind the door cried [Hurry and open up.] I took a deep breath and opened the door with my back straight.

[Jeez, what is it? I already said that I hear you.]

A man in dark clothes was standing there. He was so tall that I had to look up at him, and he had an imposing buff body.

[A girl came here, right? She has a white gown and small wings on her back.]

[Shouldn’t you introduce yourself first?]

I looked up at the man’s face and replied. He looked younger than 30. He looked at me and furrowed his brows.

[Got it. I will start. Nice to meet you, I’m Yu.]

[…… I know she’s here.]

The man ignored me and repeated. I understood something and nodded.

[Thank you for your visit, but nobody is here. My shop only opens late at night.]

[Then let me in to check.]

The man wanted to ignore me and enter the shop.

What should I do?

No, I already decided.

What should I do?

I had to act first. If that didn’t work, I would yell for help.

My heart was pounding. My throat was dry, and my temperature was rising. That heat made me move, and I stretched out my hand to block the man’s path. The man stood still, then slowly looked down at me.

[Can you move your hand? I don’t want to be too rough.]

[Are you threatening me? This is a membership only shop. People without any referrals may not enter.]

I said something I made up to cool my head.

[This is my advise. Hand over the girl. I’m here to pick her up.]

[I have no reason to believe you, and there is no girl.]

The man narrowed his eyes at that. He then raised his shoulders and widened his chest, intimidating me like a predator.

[…… So it’s fine for me to barge in by force?]

No one could stay calm after a buffed, vicious looking adult glared at you. However, if you had met something more horrifying, it was possible.

Compared to the unpredictable Gramps Goru, Corleone-san’s sharp eyes and Momon evaluating smiles, this was nothing.

Was the man before me more terrifying? I shook my head.

The dragon Falluba-san was bigger and more intimidating than him. And Linaria was scarier than anything in existence when she got mad.

After thinking about all that, I couldn’t help laughing. I was calmer than I imagined.

[…… What’s so funny?]

The man was baffled.

[As a Café Master, I interacted with all sorts of people. There really is a lot of people every day. And I gradually gain the insight to see through people.]

I said to the man looking down at me with a smile.

[You ignored my greetings. That’s the proof of you being very serious about your goal. You said you’re going to barge in, but didn’t do so. You just need to push me. You intimidated me with your body, but didn’t clench your fists. You just made a show of it, but there wasn’t a hint of violence at all. So aside from threats and intimidation, you can’t barge in without my permission.]

[…… Ughh.]

The man grounded his teeth vexingly.

[You didn’t act rashly, deny anything or make any rebuttal. You can’t barge in because you can’t make a scene, right? You, no, the one who hired you will be troubled by that. That’s why you can’t barge in. You need to take responsibility.]

[…… I don’t get what you’re saying.]

[Tize came here by herself, probably judging that this is a safe place. Go back for now, and come again after reporting to your employer.]

The man clenched his fists. The air turned tense, and I felt a chill down my back. But the tension was eased immediately, and the man relaxed his fists.

[You’ll regret this. Are you really sure?]

He looked down at me with cold eyes.

Was I really sure?

I wanted to ask myself too. I could tell from his eyes that he wasn’t saying this to intimidate me, or out of a grudge.

But there would be times when a man had to do something even if he would regret it later. And protecting the girl hiding in my shop was one such time.

So I exhaled and looked back with a smile.

[Yes, it’s fine. Please go back.]

I then closed the door. The shop was silent again. I locked the door, and leaned against it. I looked up at the ceiling and sighed in relief.

I waited like that for a while, and there was no further knocking. Looked like I managed to make it through.

I slid onto the ground with my back on the door.

[Oh… That was scary…]

After my field of vision was lowered, I saw a girl in white poking her face out of the storeroom. We locked gazes, and Tize charged to my side with stumbling steps. Her brows were furrowed, and the tears in her eyes were brimming like the stars. She timidly put her hands on my right hand with that expression.

[Erm… It’s all my fault. I’m, very…]

Her words stopped midway, and Tize pursed her lips tightly. She closed her eyes as if she was enduring something, and the tears flowed out.

I stretched my left hand out to Tize’s eyes, and wiped her tears with my thumb.

[It’s fine, don’t cry. Well, he will probably be back soon. But it will be fine for now.]

If possible, I wanted to hide under my blanket, but I couldn’t do that now.

I needed to listen to what the crying girl before me wanted to say. Depending on the situation, I might have to flee together with her.

[Tize, can you tell me what’s going on?]

Tize thought about it, then nodded.

She then looked up at me and moved her small lips. Her voice reached my ears like a sweet melody. If I had to describe it, the tune was like the sound of knocking on the door of destiny.

[Actually, I’m a ——Songstress]

I couldn’t react immediately.



But Tize was just 13…… Ehh?

I looked at Tize again. Her pure white hair and gown, slender limbs and porcelain skin. Only her lips and eyes added a tint of colour, giving off a fantasy-like atmosphere to the shop.

And the small wings on her back, how should I put this...

[Instead of a Songstress, you look more like an angel.]

[…… What?]

I didn’t say anything to Tize who had cocked her head, and closed my eyes. Things were more troublesome then I imagined. No, maybe it would become a big issue. Never mind. I felt like trying something new today anyway. That’s right, this wasn’t a big deal.

[Be it a Songstress or an angel, I will take on anything.]

I stood up with firm resolve.

Chapter 9: That Dress Doesn’t Suit You At All

Tize and I sat opposite each other. Both of us had a cup of Coffee, which was still steaming since I just brewed it. Tize was silent. I took a sip of the strong Coffee, perking myself up.

[Well, where do we start? Tize, you are a Songstress, right?]

Tize nodded gently.

A Songstress. That was the talk of the town. I thought she would be a mature lady around 40 years old. That was just my imagination. I was shocked to find that Tize was that very Songstress.

What did Songstress usually do? And who decides the title? Was it just a title?

I had many things I wanted to ask, but the first thing that came to mind was.

[That gown……]

Tize peeked up at me, and blushed. She shirked away to avoid my gaze. She must feel uneasy about the low cut gown that bared her shoulders.

[Erm, this is… stage clothes. It’s still being tailored…]

[I see. You escaped in that getup.]

Tize nodded.

[Did you escape on that rainy day I first met you?]

She was wearing a white gown on that day too. The fitting was a little different, but it wasn’t suitable for street wear. Tize confirmed my suspicion with a nod.

[… I’m very grateful for what you did back then.]

[No, I should be grateful for getting such a nice handkerchief.]

I responded. No, that wasn’t what I wanted to talk about. The demonstration on social niceties was not important right now.

[May I know why you escaped in the first place? If you are comfortable with sharing with me.]

I asked while looking at Tize. The reason couldn’t be simple. It should be complicated, and wasn’t something she would want to tell others. Contradictory to my expectations, Tize shook her head and took a deep breath.

[Well, actually… I, can’t sing.]

Her gaze was wavering. After meeting my eyes, she averted her gaze.

[That’s...] I said, then stopped to think about the right words to say. [What happened?]

Tize stammered, as if she was gathering the words that had been scattered.

[In the capital… During the performance where I would officially become a Songstress… That was the first time, I stood by myself, on the stage. But, I couldn’t make a sound. I couldn’t, sing anything. Since then, I became afraid, of singing.]

When I was walking in the rain, I remember hearing a voice in the crowd mentioning that. That the Songstress couldn’t sing. So that wasn’t a rumour, but a fact.

[Do the people around you know that?]

[…… Grandmother, and the few people who takes care of me, knows.]

The audience on that day all knew she didn’t sing on stage. But few knew that Tize still couldn’t sing as of now.

That was only natural. If not, there wouldn’t be so many people, and the tickets wouldn’t be sold out. That showed how much they looked forward to it. A Songstress that couldn’t sing wouldn’t be made public. That would be avoided at all costs.

I pressed my hand against my temple. I had a ominous feeling. And it was getting stronger and closer.

So that guy from earlier was connected to the Songstress, and he must have a powerful backer. And now, I also learned that Tize couldn’t sing. So how would those in power treat me? I didn’t want to think further, and if possible, I wanted to run away.

I sipped on my Coffee and suppressed my heart that was threatening to jump out of my mouth. This was urgent. I set aside my worries for now. It wouldn’t help right now anyway.

[Tize couldn’t sing. But the customers still didn’t know. The date of the performance is looming, and the preparations are done. You felt helpless, and that’s why you escaped, right?]

[…… I’m very sorry.]

[It’s fine, I’m not blaming you, you don’t have to apologize. If it was me, I probably would have ran away too.]

Instead of all that, I should think of a way to help the gloomy Tize before me.

[Do you know why you can’t sing?]

My words made Tize freeze on the spot. She opened her mouth a few times with trembling lips, but she couldn’t say anything. She then bit her lips and shook her head.

I suddenly thought of something.

Maybe Tize didn’t know the reason either. She couldn’t solve the problem or tell others either. She couldn’t discuss this problem with others. She was all alone, and slowly forced into a corner.

It would be great if I could sooth her unease. If I was a magician, I could solve Tize’s problems in a blink of an eye, and make her smile.

But I was a mere mortal, and lacked the speech skills to coax Tize to say what she really thought. No matter what I asked, Tize’s armour—— her lies, couldn’t be undone easily. We weren’t close enough, and Tize didn’t have the resolve to face her own feelings. Once you averted your eyes, it wasn’t easy to face the issue again.

[What kind of person was Tize’s grandmother?]

[……? Grandmother?]

Unable to keep up with the sudden change of topic, Tize looked at me with a dumbstruck face. I tilted my head a little, and explained slowly.

[…… She is very strict. Especially with regards to singing. I had never seen grandmother smiling. When my mother was still alive, she felt like a gentle person. I wasn’t sure, because I was too young.]

Tize’s eyes turned dark as she spoke.

[It can’t be helped. I’m useless. I can’t even sing… Compared to me, my mother is…]

Her voice grew quiet, and her gaze fell on her Coffee cup.

Unsure about what to say, I exhaled hollowedly. It didn’t matter what I said. I didn’t really know about Tize, and I had never met her grandmother. I was a complete outsider.

Should I just tell Tize [I see, I understand, it must be hard.] And just act like I empathize with her?

Besides, what could I do for Tize?

I didn’t know anything about singing, and wasn’t a psychotherapist. All I could do was brew Coffee. I wasn’t an amazing person who could save others through words and actions.

Why did I need to be dragged in so deep? This question kept spinning in my head— until a steady knocking pulled my attention away. It felt like something was in my grasp, but I couldn’t grab anything when I closed my hand.

I shook my head, and drained the rest of my Coffee.

[Tize, they are here to pick you up.]

[…… W-What should I do? Big brother, what do I do?]

Tize turned to me with unease flashing across her eyes. I was the only one who was calm, since I knew this was coming.

[It’s alright, there would be a way.]

I stood up from my seat, then tidied my clothes and collar. I went to unlock the door without any tension nor urgency. I was surprised by how calm I was.

I quietly opened the door. A woman was standing there, with two men behind her.

The woman was in a butler attire. Her collar was uptight without any gaps, and even her dark hair tied behind her felt tight. She looked down at me with an icy gaze.

[Is Tize-sama here?]

I nodded, then stepped aside to show her the inside of the shop.

[Claire…… Erm! T-This person is...]

Tize’s voice came from inside the shop, along with her frantic footsteps.

I didn’t turn back, keeping my eyes on Claire. After confirming that Tize was here, she turned to me again. She then said with an even tone:

[You know who she is?]

[Do you mean the Songstress? Or the reckless girl who ran out in that gown?]

[So you are aware.]

A faint smile appeared on her lips, which disappeared immediately. She then reached into her jacket and pulled out a silver stamp with a ribbon. I didn’t know what that was, but it was clearly meant to intimidate me.

[You are under arrest for abducting and confining the Songstress. We have the stamp of authority to use magic and draw swords, if you resist. Also—]

Claire said complicated things while staring right at me. I stopped listening midway. This reminded me of the lines the cops would say when they arrested people in movies.

[So, stick your hands out.]

I followed her instructions. A man behind her stepped forward and took out the metal rings hanging on his waist. That looked like handcuffs.

I looked at the man’s face, and saw that he was the one who visited the shop earlier. He cuffed my hands and said quietly..

[I told you, you will regret it.]

I shrugged.

[I got to have a leisure cup of Coffee with Tize, and had a good time. Want to join us next time?]

He didn’t say anything, and checked that the cuffs were locked properly. He then moved to my side and urged me to walk. The metal cuffs were large and heavy, making me feel like a criminal. No, that was probably the truth.

[Big brother!]

She wasn’t yelling, but her voice echoed out loud, as if all the buildings were reverberating. I turned back and saw Claire stopping Tize who wanted to rush to me. Seeing her crying face, I smiled at her.

[I never told you,] I said [But you shouldn’t wear that gown. It’s too revealing. Demured clothes would suit Tize better.]

[…… What?]

Tize looked at me in a daze. I was satisfied by that reaction, and walked forward. This was the first time I was walking while held by buffed men on either side. It didn’t feel good. I couldn’t move because of the cuffs, and the pedestrians were gawking, wondering what happened. The two men moved in closer to block their view. I then heard a quiet voice.

[Well said. I feel the same way.]

I looked up, and a brown haired man, who had animal ears, was smiling at me.

Chapter 10: The Oldest Songstress

It was easy to imagine where a cuffed person would be brought to. It definitely wouldn’t be the playground, or the theatre. It should be a room in the police station, prison, or something similar. This was the first time I was taken away in cuffs, and didn’t know how I would be treated in this world.

I boarded a plain carriage. Whenever we passed through an uneven road, the carriage would shake intensely. My shoulder would hit the man beside me, then hit the wall on the other side. Looking up, I could see two well trained and burly men, it was squeezy to share a ride with them.

The windows were covered by black cloth, so I couldn’t see outside. The hanging lamp wasn’t lit either. Sunlight would shine in as the black cloth swayed, and illuminated my knees.

I closed my eyes.

Claire’s charges of abduction and confinement was unjustified. They were obviously picking a bone with me, even Tize denied the charges. So I wasn’t worried about being charged at all.

Instead of that, the problem I had to face right now was…

While I was thinking of that, the carriage slowed down, then stopped with a violent shaking. A while later, I heard three knocks. The serious man opposite me unhatched the lock and opened the door. The light shone in, and I couldn’t help narrowing my eyes.

[Alright, get down.]

The brown haired man said casually.

I raised my cuffed hands to grab the door frame, supporting myself as I alighted the carriage slowly. My eyes had gotten used to the dim carriage, and couldn’t adjust to the light immediately. My vision was white and blurry. I couldn’t tell whether this was a playground, theatre, prison or police station.

[…… That looks tall.]

I said softly, and the brown haired man scoffed:

[Yeah, it’s incredibly tall. I will blow all my salary if I stay one night here.]

The serious man urged me to walk.

The two of them grabbed me from both sides and we started walking again. In front of me was a courtyard and a fountain made from white stones. Further in was a building erected from white stones. It looked weathered, but there wasn’t any trace of black stains anywhere. It had a dream-like atmosphere about it.

Colourful sculptures surrounded the building, art pieces that couldn’t be found in normal mansions. The windows were spread out evenly, with a few balconies protruding out. This four story building had an extraordinary aura, and perfectly matches the term ‘hotel’.

After going through the plaza with the fountain, we slowly approached the hotel. There weren’t many people around. I could see men in dark clothes spread out sparsely in the distance, but they probably weren’t ordinary guests.

Why was I brought here? I felt really out of place here.

There was no way I could turn back now, so I climbed up a stairwell, and went through a wide open door.

The wide lobby had an open concept, with curved stairs at either sides. The sunlight shone in through the windows, and the white-based lobby looked like it was glimmering. There were many comfortable couches, but no one was there.

I was urged to take the stairs on the right, then turned right at the second story. I walked along the passageway with the soft carpet under my shoes. The corridor had rows of doors on either side, and was a little dim. Halfway through the passageway, the men stopped. The serious man opened the door. After leaning in to check, he entered. I followed after him.

It was a big room. There was a large pane of glass right before the entrance. High quality glass in this world was shockingly expensive, and I couldn’t imagine how much money was spent on this room alone. I could see the fountain and courtyard I saw earlier.

A round table made from black wood was placed at the centre of the room, and two chairs that looked really fluffy. To my right was a coffee table, and a couch big enough for 4 people. Vibrant flowers decorated the table.

To my left was a large bed. The pure white sheets didn’t have any crease, and four down pillows were placed at the corners like artistic pieces. I could clearly see the style of a high class hotel.

The brown haired man ushered me to the chair. I sat down carefully, and the fluffiness almost sucked me in. That was how soft it was.

[Please wait a moment, we will attend to you shortly.]

After saying that, the brown haired man stood by the wall. The serious man surveyed the room, then stood by the door.

I just sat at the door without doing anything, or chatting to the two silent men. So I looked out the window.

Who would be coming shortly? I could tell from his tone that it would be someone with a high standing.

I wasn’t bold enough to relax in such a situation, even sitting in this fluffy chair felt unbearable. Time passed really slowly, as if my body was stuck in glue. How long had I stayed like this. Both men stood still without moving a muscle, and I couldn’t help feeling nervous about any moves I made.

I finally felt at ease when the door was knocked, as if I almost died from holding my breath. The men opened the door, and the woman in butler attire at the Café walked in. Behind her was a slightly elderly woman with white hair. Her back was ramrod straight, showing her long years of self-discipline. She wore a green dress without any decorations, and had a pair of large white wings behind her.

The way her dress moved as she walked was eye catching, and she seemed used to being the center of attention. Her attitude made it clear she had a prominent status. I stood up on reflex.

That woman looked at me with sharp eyes, as if she was observing something inside a display cabinet.

[It seems Tize has been in your care.]

That voice made me hold my breath, as if a hand had entered through my ears to grip my heart. It was just one sentence, but it drew my attention completely.

I could identify the person before me just with that.

[I didn’t do much. You must be Tize’s grandmother, the other Songstress, correct?]

[Yes, you’re right on both accounts.]

She said disinterestedly as she took a seat.

[Claire, undo his cuffs.]

[Yes, Mdm.]

Claire walked to me and placed her hands on the cuffs. She muttered something softly, and the cuffs were opened.

Was this magic? I didn’t really get it, but my hands were freed. Claire walked away without a word.

[This isn’t the place to detain suspects, and we don’t have the authority to search the property of a normal citizen. That must have surprised you.]

The woman said, her casual voice sounding like the tune of a song.

[Please don’t mind it. I have something to say to you too.]

She seemed confident that I wouldn’t reject her. She was probably used to other people listening to her demands. I had no reason to object, so I sat back down.

[I know that Tize had been slipping out at night. And went to your shop.]

[…… As expected.]

I had been bothered by that serious man’s firm tone. So he knew it was my shop from the very start. Furthermore, Tize was the Songstress, so she would be discovered if she slipped out at night, and they would naturally know where she went. Tize was careful not to get spotted, but probably failed.

[She seems to enjoying her night tour, and can relax that way. Claire, bring that over.]

[Yes, Mdm.]

Claire-san who was called took out a small pouch. She placed it before me. I could hear the quiet sound of metal clinking.

[This is a gift for taking care of Tize all this while, and compensation for arresting you. And also...]

[Hush money, huh.]

[It’s great that you understand so quickly.]

I picked up the pouch and opened it. It was filled with gold coins, a very large amount of money. I put it aside, then leaned forward.

[So, what did you want to talk about?]

I finally felt warmth in the woman’s eyes. She raised her brow, as if she was reevaluating me.

[Tell me your name.]

[I’m Yu. What about you?]

I asked, and Claire’s eyes turned harsh immediately. She was about to speak when the woman raised a hand to stop her.

[It has been a long time since I last introduce myself. There aren’t many people who don’t know my name.] The woman laughed gently. [I’m Phyllis, Tize’s grandmother, and the oldest Songstress.]

The oldest Songstress, and the youngest Songstress. I remembered Gramps Goru’s description of them. She and Tize were the two Songstresses visiting the city, and they were grandparent and grandchild. They were a family of Songstress. Maybe the title was hereditary.

[It’s an important matter, but not difficult for you. Forget about Tize. That’s all.]

Phyllis-san said.

[…… What is this about?]

[You get it, right? Tize’s night tour is over. I have let her be all this while, but there is no time left. That girl has to return to the shining stage. That’s all. So she won’t meet you again.]

She looked straight at me. Her eyes were calm, without any emotions.

[Please forget everything about Tize, and don’t speak about it to anyone. And we won’t do anything to you. However, if you spill Tize’s problem.]

Her words were like an icy melody. Like a barren plain where not a single blade of grass could grow, a stormy world without a shred of warmth.

[It won’t end with just an arrest next time. You won’t come to a house like this, but an icy cold prison.]

I gasped. I knew that Phyllis-san wasn’t kidding, she was telling the truth.

[…… What about Tize? She can’t sing, right?]

I squeezed out with a trembling voice.

Phyllis-san stared at me, and moved her lips.

[That is none of your business. If she can’t sing, I just need to make her sing. That’s what I will do. A Songstress doesn’t sing because she wants to. Her voice and her song doesn’t belong to her. She has to sing because others expect her to.]

This must be their unique perspective. Songstress was an existence that wasn’t free and subjected to harsh demands. I had no idea about that.

However, she definitely didn’t understand why Tize couldn’t sing. That was the only thing I was sure of.

[What do you plan to do? Can you solve the issue by confining Tize?]

[Are you trying to be Tize’s guardian?]

Her icy gaze threatened to pierce my heart.

[Tize has her circumstances, but you are an outsider. Regrettably, you have no right to interfere.]

Phyllis-san stood up after saying that, declaring that the conversation was over.

[You have no value to us. No one would accept the words of someone without value. If no one accepts you, then your song and you are as good as being non-existent. That is how it is in this world.]

Phyllis-san then left without sparing me another glance. Only the silence, a pouch of money and the dumbstruck me were left behind. A beautiful courtyard was before me. The sky was adorned by a red light, and the sunlight cast a shadow on the clouds. It was almost evening.

[Allow me to send you back.]

Claire said. I couldn’t even nod, and just sat there quietly.

Chapter 11: One Matchstick

Oh, at times like this, I should drink my sorrows away. I had always been puzzled by why adults drink alcohol. My grandfather let me try some Toso during new year, and I didn’t find it nice or bad, and just taste weird. Back then, I felt weird that people were enjoying that beverage.


And now, I realized some of them treated this like a hobby. There was a charm that I didn’t understand. At the same time, I realized some people weren’t in it for the taste, but to get drunk. As the alcohol flowed down their throats, their troubles would fade away, and they could sleep soundly. If my shop served alcohol, I would definitely be drinking some right now. Oh right, I had alcohol meant for cooking. Maybe that would work.

I thought about such trivial matters as I sat at the counter. I wouldn’t drink it anyway, so I thought that was really stupid of me.

There was a pouch of gold coins before me. I forgot to take it with me, but when I came back, Claire-san handed it to me. I didn’t have the strength to turn her down.

Even though I heard a strange sound from the storeroom, I didn’t care. If it was a thief, they could do what they want. I just happen to have so many gold coins, so I could just give them all to him.

[So you are in here after all.]

I raised my head after hearing a familiar voice. Granny Bonnie walked out from the dark storeroom.

[The front entrance was locked, so I came in from the backdoor.]

She said as she walked around the counter and sat down beside me.

[…… I remember that the backdoor is locked too.]

[That’s not a lock, it’s just a decoration. I opened it in 5 seconds.]

[There is meaning to locking a door. It means don’t come in.]

[Then put up a notice properly next time.]

Granny Bonnie took out her pipe and stuff in tobacco. I could hear a match being struck, and a small light lit up the dark world.

[Let there be light.]

After lighting the tobacco, Granny Bonnie enjoyed her first puff. Just like alcohol, smoking was something I didn’t understand. But after seeing how Granny Bonnie acted, maybe I just haven’t tried it yet, and smoking was really enjoyable.

[Are you sure?]

When I reach out to her, Granny Bonnie looked at me with one brow raised. She then quietly handed me the pipe.

With the pipe in my mouth, I mimicked Granny Bonnie and took a puff. Midway through, my tongue was burnt by the hot smoke. My body started resisting the intake of a foreign substance, and I started coughing. I bent over and kept coughing. My throat, tongue and lungs all felt really terrible.

Granny Bonnie laughed. She had taken back the pipe without me realizing.

[It’s still too early for you, kid.]

[…… That was a terrible experience.]

How could she enjoy sucking on this? I couldn’t understand. I could feel the blood vessels in my brain expanding, and my head started to thump.

Granny Bonnie sucked on the pipe as if she was showing it to me intentionally. The red hot tobacco started to glow, which dyed the smoke she exhaled too.

[It seems that girl had been taken back.]

Granny Bonnie suddenly said.

[… How do you know?]

[Indecent people are sensitive to news. Lots of people saw you being taken away, so news will naturally spread. The others will drop by later too.]

I lowered my head. I didn’t feel like meeting other people right now. I couldn’t even force out a smile right now.

[Well, just think of it as the Songstress’ break time being over.]

[You already knew that Tize is a Songstress?]

Granny Bonnie shrugged.

Did she knew from the start? Speaking of which, Granny Bonnie did seem to know about Tize’s circumstances.

[Tize said she is useless. Do you know what she means?]

Granny Bonnie puffed out smoke, then glanced at me sideways.

[You remember that girl’s wings?]

[Yes, they are small and cute, right?]

Granny Bonnie smiled at my answer.

[If everyone in the world is like you, maybe there would be world peace.]

[You are trying to say that I’m a peaceful idiot without any worries?]

[Anyway, she meant that literally. Her wings were a symbol of uselessness.]

The smoke she puffed out obscured my view.

[She is from the Bird Tribe. At her age, her wings would normally be bigger, and she could fly in the sky. For the women of the Bird Tribe, their wings and voice are the most important parts of them. Appearance and personality are secondary. If they can’t even fly with their wings, they will be treated like a bum in human society.]

I never knew that Tize’s wings had such a meaning behind them. I didn’t know about that set of values either.

[Normally, such a child will be abandoned right after birth.]


I asked reflexibly when I heard that fact.

[If they couldn’t fly properly, they wouldn’t live long anyway. That was their custom in the past. In modern times, Bird Tribe with immature wings can only live while being discriminated against. So there are people who chose to kill their child for the child’s sake.]

[Then, Tize...]

[That was how it normally is. However, that child is born to a long line of Songstress. Even if her wings aren’t mature, there is a possibility that her voice will be beautiful. So she lived. Her wings aren’t good, but it will be fine if she can sing.]

Oh, I see.

I finally understood what Phyllis-san meant. In the end, an outsider who didn’t know anything had no rights to butt in.

She didn’t have the wings everyone else had, and she could only look up at the sky where everyone else was soaring in. Her existence could only be acknowledged through her voice, but she had lost that too.

If she failed on stage again and lose her voice, her value for existing would be gone. Just how horrifying would that be?

Those thoughts would flash across her mind at night when she stared at the ceiling. How could she fall asleep then? How could she endure such depressing thoughts in her room?

That was why Tize came to my place every night.

To escape from the fear, and forget about her loneliness. To endure the looming footsteps of the day when her reason for existence would vanish.

[To that child, staying in this shop must be really comfortable. All the Indecents have their own worries, we might be from different races, but we are like comrades.]

I suddenly remembered Tize’s smiling face.

—— I want to join the Indecents too.

Tize probably found a place she belonged to.

Not as a Bird Tribe, nor a Songstress, but as Tize. There weren't any burdens to bear, and was a place for a normal girl to rest in.

My shop had become such a place for her.

I gritted my teeth hard, as if I was trying to break my teeth. I barely managed to stop my lips from twitching, suppressing my emotions and even abating my breathing.

Tize asked me for help. She didn’t say it out loud, and even concealed it with a smile. She fled here, believing this place could harbour her. But I didn’t realize that. I didn’t understand Tize’s feelings at all. I thought she was just from a rich family, seeking out thrills. That was all I thought.

I looked at the ceiling, then closed my eyes tightly.

I kept wondering why.

Why did I misunderstand something so important. There were more important things I should have told her, and things I should have done for her.

All that was beyond my reach now.

[What a disaster.]

My voice was trembling.

[I couldn’t live up to my title of Café Master.]

I wanted to use this place to provide people with a brief respite. However, I let Tize go before she had recovered enough to take flight.

It couldn’t be helped since there were circumstances I didn’t know about. A voice inside me argued. However, I wasn’t mature enough to accept this result. These vexed feelings couldn’t be soothed by alcohol and tobacco.

I grabbed the pouched before me, feeling the hard texture of this breakup fee. The money that cut me off from Tize’s life. And I accepted it.

[That’s life too, kid.]

Granny Bonnie put her hand on my head, and ruffled my hair.

[The bitterness that couldn’t be compared to Coffee would happen to you some times. You still had to force yourself to swallow the bitter pill and let yourself mature.]

Her words and warning were deep. And it was true.

I would get used to this bitter feeling one day. A few months later, and it would just be a memory buried deep within my heart. That was how people were. After all, my strong feelings of homesickness was now as small as the fire on a matchstick.


Back then, a melody flashed across my mind. Something that ties me, Tize and Phyllis-san together. Even now, it still ties us together.

[…… She told me that I was just an outsider.]

I looked right at Granny Bonnie. Granny Bonnie looked at me in surprise, with her hand still on my head.

[However, I’m not an outsider. There is a little— probably, just a little thing that connect me with her. Maybe just something as long as a matchstick.]

It might just be my delusion. Maybe I was just overthinking things to escape from my pain and regrets. I wasn’t mature enough to just swallow all that quietly.

[I’m a Café Master. And a part of the Indecent Alliance. So, I…]

I couldn’t say anything more. I hadn’t thought about what I wanted to do, or how to do it. I just wanted to do something. I still had things I wanted to convey to Tize.

Granny Bonnie looked at me, who couldn’t say anything, and narrowed her eyes.

[I see.]

That’s all Granny Bonnie said before she took out her matchbox. She took out a matchstick, and gave it to me.

[Even one small matchstick can cause a strong explosion. If you have the will to ignite it, kid.]

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