Saturday, December 18, 2021

Have a Cup of Coffee after School in the Fantasy World Café V5 (1 of 5)


Translator: Skythewood

Editor: Hiiro

There was a breeze. It probably came from the other end of the street, a wind blown down from the mountain range.

The windows facing the road started to creak, as if it was the footsteps of the wind rushing through the city. The people outside the window pulled their heads close and narrowed their eyes in the cold.

It was the middle of autumn, the mornings and evenings were icy cold. The air was chilly and clear, giving off an aloof vibe. It must be the weather that was making me lonely as I looked out the window. The hordes of tourists having left probably played a part too.

[It’s cold.]

In her usual seat at the counter, Nortri, who was lying down, shifted her body. She pulled her shoulders in, and she hugged her body with her slender arms as she dozed off. I couldn’t help relaxing when I saw her cute movements.

[It’s cold.]

In his usual counter seat, Gramps Goru who was lying down twisted his body. He wrapped his thin arms around his body and tucked in his chin while slumbering. He was here skipping work so early in the morning, which made me speechless.

After both of them said that quietly, the shop did seem to be cold. Most of the pedestrians were wearing coats, some even had scarves or wooly hats. The ones without any change in their fashion were beastmen with thick furs.

The season was changing at a steady pace. Autumn was short in this city. When you thought it was starting to get cold, it would be winter in no time. Snow would start falling, and the world would turn white. It was almost time for people to make their winter preparations.

After wiping the glasses and putting them on the shelves, I folded and stacked the towels. I walked out of the counter and went to the wall at the deepest end of the shop. Most of the shop was built from wood, and only this wall was erected with bricks. The brownish red bricks had turned black from its use as a heater.

I unhooked the metallic lock, pulled up the wooden board with a heave, and exposed the fireplace. It was big enough for me to crawl in.

[Oh, how nostalgic.]

[Hmm, so you are up.]

I thought Gramps Goru had dozed off, but he was supporting his head with his hand and staring this way.

[What are you saying? I just need three hours of sleep everyday. I spent the rest of the time doing mental work.]

[You were snoring just now and complaining how cold it was.]

[That fireplace looks elegant. You didn’t use it last year, right?]

[I’m impressed by how you ignored the parts disadvantageous to you.] I went into the storeroom with the wooden board. [I couldn’t spare the effort last year, and didn’t know how to use it. But I want to give it a try.]

I put the board against the wall in the storeroom, then picked up a bundle of firewood in the corner. It had dried, but still weighed a lot. I had to put my back into it when I carried it.

[With the advent of mana stone fuel, fireplaces had more or less disappeared. I have a couple at home, but they were basically cast aside.]

[What a waste. Huff. Isn’t a fireplace great? I have never used it before, so I’m looking forward to this.]

That was the reason why I quietly prepared the firewood, and hired professionals to clean the chimneys. It was all for this day, and I was feeling excited about using the fireplace for the first time.

I squatted before the fireplace, and spread the wire netting. The pattern was either a bird or a deer. In the center of the fireplace was a short metal rack, to hold the burning wood. I picked up three pieces of wood slightly bigger than my arm, and arranged them on top.

What should I do next?

I wondered with a box of matches in my hand. I had no experience camping outdoors. I did something similar in school, but my memory about starting a fire had grown hazy. I couldn’t light such a big piece of wood directly. Was there smaller branches, or something flammable like leaves?

[What, you didn’t check up on how to use it?]

Gramps Goru said with a smile.

[I didn’t consider how to light the fire.]

The kitchen stove and lighting could be lit very easily. All thanks to the incredible technology of mana stones. I had never tried burning wood without it.

[Young kids aren’t familiar with these things after all. Alright, let me have a go.]

Gramps Goru stood up and came to my side. He sat down cross legged, and took out the wood I placed in the fireplace.

[Noorook, huh, how nostalgic. That’s the stuff for a fireplace. It lasts long, is cheap, and has a nice fragrance. Yu-kun, you have a machete?]

[I have a small one.]

I stood up, and brought it to him from the storeroom. The firewood seller recommended it to me.

Gramps Goru took the machete, and tried out the grip before nodding.

[Watch carefully, Yu-kun.]

With that, Gramps Goru stood a wood on its end as a demonstration, and lined up the machete along its end.

[First, cut off the bark of the Noorook.]

With the machete slightly cut in, he knocked gently, and the bark was sliced off before the blade touched the ground. Gramps Goru showed me the bark. It had been cut off perfectly. Compared to the black and grey bark, the inside was white and looked nice.

[Use this bark as kindling, and you can slowly light a fire. You just need five pieces of wood.]

Gramps Goru said as he aligned the blade on the wood and knocked again, peeling off more bark.

[Okay, Yu-kun, give it a go.]

He handed the machete to me, hilt first, and I took it without a second thought. I picked up a piece of wood, and mimicked him by aligning the machete against the bark.

[Like this?]

[Move it closer to the bottom of the blade. Yes, then straighten the blade more, more. Then gently knock it down the wood.]

I followed his instructions, picked up the heavy wood with some difficulty, then knocked it against the floor. I didn’t use much force, but the blade slid quickly and cut off half of the bark.

[Uwah, that surprised me.]

Gramps Goru was smirking.

[Oh, you are a quick learner. If you use too much force, you will cut into the floor. You need to be gentle, gentle.]

After taking his advice and trying it out three times, I learned the technique and sliced off the bark.

Gramps Goru picked up one of the bark and snapped it in half. The dried wood made a clear cracking sound. We didn’t split the firewood inside. We laid it in the center of the metal rack in an equilateral triangle.

[There are several factions on how to arrange it, and they are still arguing about it. Such as the horizontal faction, arc faction, and box faction. It’s a deep topic and the research is endless.]

[How much of that is a joke?]

[All of it. Just arrange it however you like.]

[How whimsical.]

Gramps Goru snapped the barks and tossed them in. He placed the last piece on the floor, and rested the blade of the machete on it.

[You’re getting the hang of it.]

He then slowly slid the machete across the bark, carving up a thin slice of wood that curled up. Gramps Goru repeated the movement a few times, and the thin slices of wood all curled up while still attached at the end.


[What is that for?]

[This is preparation to start a fire. It will burn better this way.]

He prompted me to try, and passed the thing to me. But it seemed really difficult. If I cut too deep, the entire thing would fall apart.


[Ohoho, is it too difficult for Yu-kun? Take your time to get used to it.]

I could ground my teeth at his cocky face. I repeated a few times, but it was obvious when compared to Gramps Goru that my cuts were slanted.

Gramps Goru put that piece of wood in the center of the fireplace, took the matches from me and started a fire.

[You just need to light a fire here. Since Noorook contains oil, it burns easily when dried.]

Just like he said, the wood piece with splinters caught fire after getting lit. Gramps Goru threw in the match too. He then placed two big pieces of wood on either side of the wood rack. The bark was ablaze, and slowly burning the wood pieces, making crackling sounds.

[Alright, this will do. Oh, how warm.]


[What’s the matter, you sound unhappy.]

[I’m reluctant about this, but I see you in a new light, Gramps Goru.]

[Ehh, is your evaluation of me so low?]

[I thought you were a useless and lazy old man.]


We chatted while watching the wood burn. For some reason, watching the fire had a calming effect. I wouldn’t get tired of watching the swaying flames.

[The fireplace isn’t bad.]

When I said that, Gramps Goru showed a wrinkled smile.

[Fireplaces are great, right?]

Gramps Goru and I watched the fire in a daze with our legs crossed. A gust of wind blew outside the window. I could hear the sound of wind coming from a gap somewhere, but we didn’t feel cold with the warm fire before us.

The fire wasn’t strong, but it was warm and burning steadily. I exhaled as I felt the warmth, and my feelings became relaxed.

I heard the sound of a chair being pulled, and turned back. Nortri stood up from her chair. Her eyes were almost closed as she wandered over.



Her response sounded like sleep talking.

She walked before me, lowered her body and curled up her upper body against my leg. She adjusted her position a little, then made a satisfied grunt.

[It’s so warm.]

[Hoho, she found a nice spot.]

[It’s right before the fireplace, of course it’s warm.]

She actually noticed the fire while she was asleep, as expected of Nortri. She rested her head on my stomach and started snoring. Nortri’s body was warm and comfortable.

[I can’t move.]

I complained, and Gramps Goru laughed happily.

[It’s fine, you are free anyway.]

[Yes, that’s true.]

The song performance that made the city so crowded ended successfully. They even held a post event festival to close things off, and the tourists all left after that. There was no reason for them to stay since the song performance was over. However, I was still surprised by how fast they left.

The crowded streets were a distant memory. The roads weren’t chaotic anymore, and the noises at night were gone. It felt as if all the people in the city had disappeared. But this was just the city returning to how it was. Which was why I reverted my operation hours back to normal.

Even so, it wasn’t possible to revert everything back to how it was. The adventurers were glad it was finally over, and worked hard to challenge the labyrinth. The merchants stocked up on their sold out merchandise, or took inventory of their unexpended stock, it would be a while before they got busy again. There were some who made a tidy profit and left to visit other cities, thinking it was their turn to rest.

Thanks to the Songstresses, the population in this city grew explosively, and my shop was crowded; but now that the Songstresses were gone, the city reverted back to normal. I felt happy about this, but also felt a little lonely. Before they adapted to the change in environment, the regulars wouldn’t be visiting too frequently.

I patted Nortri’s head. Her hair felt really soft and slipped right through my fingers.

The sound of the wood crackling came from the fireplace.

Gramps Goru besides me was crossing his arms and dozing off.

It was a warm, peaceful and relaxing time. I felt like sleeping too. I started yawning, and thought about lying down to sleep.

My eyelids were getting heavy, and when I was about to close my eyes, a cold breeze came in through the shop’s opened door. The chime rang as if to express their displeasure.

[Is this Yuu-san’s residence?]

I turned to the firm voice, and a man from the Bird’s Tribe walked in. His grey wings were folded, and he looked very fierce. He was probably the predator-type.

[Yes, that’s me.]

I was about to get up when Nortri grabbed my waist. Because of the cold wind from outside, she didn’t want to let go of my body’s warmth.

[Nortri, get up.]

I said and shook her shoulders.

Nortri furrowed her brows, and buried her head in my stomach with a shake of her head. She was grabbing my waist even more strongly now. Nortri would show her stubbornness at times.

I had to give up on standing, and gestured at the Birdman.

[Sorry, can you come over.]

The man approached silently, and his eyes turned gentle when he saw me and Nortri.

[My apologies for letting the cold wind in.]

[No, it’s fine. So, you have some business with me?]

At my question, the man opened the metallic button on his waist pouch. He took out an envelope, then handed it over to me.

[Safe, sure and swift, we will accept any courier request. I’m a courier from the Eagle Wind Courier company. Labyrinth City Arialu, corner of 3rd Labyrinth street, a shop with a beautiful signboard. Representative of the Indecent Alliance, Yuu-san, I have a letter for you. May I confirm that person is you?]

I realized who posted the letter just from that. I felt happy and complicated after receiving this letter.

[Yes, that’s me.]

I took the letter while answering. I could feel the texture of the beige envelope on my fingers. The words written in this world’s language glimmered in the light. I could see a green wax stamp on it, and was moved by how formal it was.

[Well then, can you sign to acknowledge your receipt?]

The man opened a small notebook and handed it to me. There was a small piece of wrapped charcoal on it. I took the notebook, and felt troubled. How do I write my name in this world’s language? I already forgot.

I never had the chance to sign my name before.

[Drawing a face is fine too, or you can write something. Anything goes.]

Sensing that I was troubled, he answered cheerfully. There must be people who were illiterate like me. I felt more relaxed after this, and held the charcoal. While pondering what to do, my eyes fell on Nortri who was sleeping on my lap. So I drew Nortri’s sleepy face.

[Hmm.] The man compared the drawing with Nortri, and nodded. [This is a nice signature. Well then, how would you like to reply?]


[Yes, this is a two way courier. If you can prepare a return letter, I can send it for you right away. If you want me to collect your letter on a specific date, I can do that too.]

Hmm, that was troubling.

I couldn’t read nor write. I couldn’t reply immediately, and it would be difficult to decide on a specific date. What should I do?

[I will visit in a few days, you can then tell me your decision. What do you think?]

[Oh, let’s do that then.]

The man nodded, bowed again, then left. He quietly opened the door, then slid outside, paying attention to his closed wings. His actions to not make Nortri cold brought a smile to my face.

[A two way delivery from the Eagle Wind Courier company, huh. How extravagant.]

[Oh, you’re awake.]

[I’m not trying to brag, but I only sleep for two hours a day.]

[That’s amazing. Is the Eagle Wind Courier company that expensive?]

[The way Yu-kun has been treating me feels as cold as the autumn wind.] Gramps Goru said with a shrug, then supported his cheek with his palm while cross legged. [Nobles use the  Eagle Wind Courier company exclusively. No matter the weather or the place, they are the swiftest and surest courier.]

[That’s incredible.]

After hearing that, the envelope in my hand suddenly felt more important. What was written inside? Was it something very urgent?

[Gramps Goru, can you help me read this letter? I can’t read.]

[Oh, is that really fine?]

[It’s sent with such an amazing courier, so it might be urgent.]

Gramps Goru nodded with a grunt, and took the letter I proffered. He raised an eyebrow when he saw the front, then frowned when he flipped the envelope.

[I hadn’t visited for a while, and Yu-kun is moving up in the world. It’s from the Songstress.]

[Oh, so it really is from Tize.]

As expected, Tize posted this. I thought it might be so when the birdman courier came in. And only Tize would refer to me as the representative of the Indecent Alliance. I recalled Tize asking several times when we bid farewell, [Can I write you letters?]

[The Heavenly Tigress signed off too.]

[Phyllis-san too?]

[How envious, receiving a letter from the Heavenly Tigress. I had never received a letter she wrote on a personal basis. If those guys learned about this, their blood vessels would burst from jealousy.]

Gramps Goru said quietly as he placed his thumb on the wax seal. A light shone for an instant, then a small orb appeared.

[It’s customary to use this wax seal when sending a reply.]

[Oh, I see.]

That must be magic. Or rather, could I do that? How did you use a wax seal? I didn’t get all that.

Gramps Goru took the letter out of the envelope with practiced movements. There were four pieces of beige paper stacked on top of each other.

With his hand supporting his cheek, Gramps Goru browsed the letter quickly with his eyes. A while later, he closed his eyes and exhaled.

He then read the other three papers, right to the end. After finishing, he put them back in the envelope, and handed it to me.

[How is it?]

I asked as I took the envelope. Gramps Goru said while raising his eyebrows.

[It’s nothing urgent, just a normal letter. But the part written by the Heavenly Tigress is bordering on a threat.]

[Am I being threatened?]

I thought about Phyllis-san’s intense gaze, and felt a chill down my spine. One misstep, and I would be sent to prison.

[She’s just an overprotective grandma, pay it no mind.]

[Sigh, what about Tize?]

Gramps Goru smirked at my question. His eyes narrowed like a lecherous old man.

[Yu-kun sure has it good, I’m so envious.]

[The way you’re complimenting me is infuriating. What did she write?]

Gramps Goru shook his head while maintaining the same expression.

[As for the content, I will be doing a disservice to the Songstress if I read it out here. It’s a letter written for Yu-kun after all. So work hard to understand it.]

[No, even if you ask me to read it...]

I wanted to tell him that it was too troubling, but Gramps Goru stopped me with a hand on my shoulder.

[Listen up, Yu-kun. There are three important things for men. Face, money, and guts.]

[Even if you tell me that with a serious face, I will just feel troubled. And you are too close.]

Gramps Goru leaned in closer. And I couldn’t escape because of Nortri.

[A girl wrote a letter to a boy, so you must show the guts of a man and reply. Don’t grumble with a sour face, and work hard.]

[I get it, so move your face away!]

After I wailed, Gramps Goru finally nodded and moved away. I was breaking out in cold sweat. Why did I have to be intimidated by an old man like this?

But Gramps Goru did have a point.

Since Tize wrote me a letter, I should read it and write a reply. I should at least give it a try before giving up.

I opened the letter in my hand.

I had lived in this world for quite some time now, and had gotten used to these words that I couldn’t decipher. They were arranged tidily on the letter.

I had been putting off learning the written language. I never thought about staying in this world for long in the past. It felt like learning words meant giving up on returning, and resolving to stay here, so I had been avoiding it.

This was a good chance.

It was about time to forget.

Forget about going back, and the idea of rejecting this world.

With time, these thoughts had grown faint. They might have been very important in the past, but looking back, their importance has faded away. Maybe I just felt that this world wasn’t too bad, and had sorted my thoughts about it.

Well, that wasn’t bad either.

Even if I couldn’t go back, I could still live in this world, in this place.

I arrived at this conclusion by myself, and understood this point.

[You’re right.] I nodded. I looked at the letter in my hand. [I will learn to read and write.]

Was this good, or bad? Maybe it wasn’t either, and it was just a matter of how I felt. Taking a step forward might be a better idea than remaining stagnant.

[That’s a good decision.]

Gramps Goru’s hand patting my shoulder and his voice felt really gentle.

Nortri, who was lying on my thigh, turned her body.

Chapter 1: The Whereabouts of That Knight

It had been so long since I opened the shop at the break of dawn. The period of late night operation wasn’t long, but the frequency was tight. That time was a unique and charming world, and a valuable experience for me. I enjoyed that atmosphere a lot, and even thought about continuing with late night operations like this.

But reverting to normal hours and opening up shop in the morning still felt very nostalgic.

I arranged the chairs as always, wiped the tables, and opened the windows to ventilate. The cold morning wind came in, sweeping away the sleepy air inside. I shivered a little. Winter is coming.

I rubbed my hands for heat and opened the door to step outside. There were merchants and adventurers walking around already. Everyone was dressed warmer than they did for summer.

I looked at the mountain range in the distance, and bright lights were illuminating its silhouette. The warm morning sun shining on my face covered the entire street, contrasting nicely with the bluish orange shadow.

The cold morning air in the city felt really clear. I had gotten used to the streets, but this was a very different scene from summer. The shadows moved as the sun gradually rose, changing the scene again. The faces of the pedestrians were getting clearer too.

Being able to see the lives of the people in the city was the good thing about mornings. I couldn’t see this at night, and I like this timing a lot too.

[Ughh, it’s cold.]

I would never get tired of this scene, but it was too cold outside. I flipped the sign at the door to [We Are Open], and hurried back in. I couldn’t feel the cold wind anymore, but I still felt cold. I jogged to the fireplace and sat there.

Ohh…… how warm. The fireplace…… What a wonderful culture……

There was just one thick wood burning right now, but my body and soul were both warming up. Fire was really mysterious. If it gets really cold, I would use mana stone and the heater. However, I was determined to use the fireplace as much as possible. Because I really liked this feeling. Fireplaces were the best.

The wood crackled softly. I could hear muffled voices in the distance. The sound of the wood crackling and the fire swaying. The heat that could be felt in this cold air. All this made me sleepy.

I exhaled, and the door chime made me open my eyes. It seemed I had dozed off.

【Oh, a fireplace. How exquisite.】

The voice came before I could turn my head. My urge to stand waned immediately.

【It’s Aina, huh. That spooked me.】

【What’s that supposed to mean? You don’t have to receive the guest if it’s me? I’m a customer, a customer. Hurry up and welcome me.】

She approached me without any reservation, and stood before me. Her beret and uniform were the same as always, with a high quality coat on her shoulders. Her hands were on her hips as she looked down on me with exasperated eyes.

【Sleeping before the fireplace, huh?】

【Not really. I just lose consciousness for a moment.】

【That’s exactly what sleeping is.】

【What a surprise. I’m awake and speaking properly with you, though.】

【I’m not talking about now, you were sleeping when I just came in.】

【I can’t remember something that long ago.】

【You’re still arguing, what a pain.】 She said with a sigh.

【How long are you going to sit there? What about my Coffee and breakfast?】

Aina said as she observed my unmoving figure.

【Can you wait 15 minutes? We are still getting ready.】

【Plebeian-san, you just need to get ready mentally, right?】

【Yes, I’m still getting ready.】

【Is that so. Then can you hurry it up? I still need to go to school, and don’t have much time.】

【Ask me again in 15 minutes.】

I turned and looked.

Aina moved her right leg, pressing her feet against my waist viciously.

【Sorry, I didn’t catch that. Can you say it again?】

Grind, grind.

【… I will get it right away, Miss.】

【Yes, that’s great!】

She sounded very cheerful.

【So this is how nobles coerce people……】

【Did you say something?】

She pressed her right feet again, and I stood up in a hurry, then fled to the counter. She wouldn’t hold back at all. But it had been a while since I had such an interaction in the morning.

I looked at Aina while I prepared the Coffee. She had taken off her coat, and sat in the seat closest to the fireplace.

She took out a small box containing spectacles inside.

I never knew, but Aina’s eyesight wasn’t good. She put on her glasses and read a scroll softly. Occasionally, she would frown and cock her head, then write something down. After that, she would start reading again with a serious face.

After reverting my opening hours to normal, Aina started visiting again, and doing something similar. Not just before classes in the morning, she would stay here after school in the evening, and also on non-school days.

After brewing the Coffee, I served it to Aina. I then approached her seat, and she didn’t block my view of her paper. She probably knew I couldn’t read.

【You are working hard today too.】

【I guess so.】

Her eyes under her spectacles made her smile seem unnatural. Aina picked up her cup.

It was obvious that she was acting weird. She must have something on her mind, but since Aina didn’t bring it up, I wouldn’t probe either. I would just be satisfying my own curiosity if I did. If Aina was really troubled, I would butt in even if it would be a stretch, but now wasn’t the time.

I looked at the papers laid out on the table, they were all filled with words. Some had been blacked out, some had lines crossed over them. Small words were added between some of the lines. There were circles and triangles drawn in some places, with words I couldn’t recognize arranged in specific ways, it looked just like a bible for dark magic written in code.

【…This is too difficult for me.】

I said unconsciously, and Aina’s shoulders quivered.


【Actually, I want to learn to read. But I can’t understand anything at a glance.】

I raised both hands in surrender. Aina relaxed with a sigh, and looked at me in relief.

【It might feel that way, but it’s not that hard after you learn it. It’s much simpler than magic language or ancient god tongue.】

【Even if you say that...】

I didn’t know about magic language or ancient god tongue. I only knew that I needed to learn the words written on the paper before me, and I couldn’t understand them at all.

【Erm, if I want to write a letter, how long do I need to learn?】

【Letter writing, huh?】 Aina blinked. 【If you want to write freely, it would take several years. Normal people will ask someone to write for them.】

【As expected, it’s like this.】

【Reading and writing both takes time, and there are many occupations that do not require these skills.】

Aina was right. In fact, after I came to this world, I had never been inconvenienced because I couldn’t read or write. There was something like a city hall to handle bureaucratic issues, so you didn’t even need to give any verbal explanation. In the rare chance you needed to write, you could ask someone who could read and write. That was how it works in this society.

【You have to write this letter personally?】



Aina looked at me puzzledly.

【Actually, I received a letter. I asked a grandpa I knew to help me read it, but he said I should read it myself and then write a reply.】

【But it might take years for you to respond?】

【That will be troubling.】

I should ask someone to write on my behalf after all. But Tize wrote me a letter, so it would be great if I could read and write a reply myself. But realistically, I couldn’t read nor write in this world’s language. When Tize asked if she could write to me, I was planning to get someone to read and write on my behalf. Even if Gramps Goru asked me to work on it, it would still take time.

【Is there any magic to make someone literate?】

【There is.】

【There really is one…】 I was just joking.

Aina looked at me with a mischievous smile after saying that.

【Do you want to use it? The mana will be pumped right into your brain, and the success will be dependent on luck. If it fails, you will become an invalid for life.】

【Okay! I will work seriously to learn to read!】

I clenched my fist with renewed resolve. What a terrifying spell. No good would come from taking shortcuts.

【Even if you want to learn, it will take quite a lot of money】 Aina said with a sip of Coffee. 【Normally, you will need to hire a personal home tutor.】

【… I see, I haven’t thought about how I should learn. Are home tutors expensive?】

【Of course, since you will be tying down a literate knowledge worker, so it would take a lot of money.】

I crossed my arms and nodded. That made sense. Reading and writing was an exceptional skill here, so you would need to pay an adequate price to learn the skill. I need to run the shop, so my time wasn’t too flexible either.

【… Working and studying at the same time sounds tough.】

I reached a plain conclusion.

【If it’s just people who can read, the number is on the rise.】

【Is that so?】

【Yup. After magic publishing has been established, cheap books are easily available. Not just nobles, even commoners can enjoy reading now.】

Now that she mentioned it, there was a bookshop at the street corner. The stalls were selling something like drawing books too.

【Then I should start from reading then. Should I buy picture books from the stalls too?】

【Is that letter so important that you need to go so far?】

【Well, Tize wrote it for me after all.】

Aina frowned at that, and puffed her lower lip. She was very expressive.

【The performance was a huge success. The Royal said that Songstress has the voice of an angel, and she wrote you a letter?】 Aina facepalmed. 【If the other nobles learn of this, they will scream from agitation.】

【That’s an amazing description.】

【I feel like an idiot being the one getting a headache.】

She took a deep breath, and looked tired. I was sorry that Aina feel so tired, but it couldn’t be helped. I didn’t really understand why other people would get that agitated. No matter what others think, Tize was just Tize. It was great that the performances were a success, and I was happy for her.

【Anyway, since it’s a letter from the Songstress, you have to reply properly. Even if you want to seek help, you have to choose carefully. If a ghostwriter or tutor you don’t trust saw the letter, the contents might get leaked.】

She informed me of all that, and I nodded in agreement.

My first choice was the ghostwriter Celine-san. She knew Tize, and was trustworthy. However, she was now the assistant of a certain bureaucrat, and had gone out of town for work.

There weren’t many other candidates aside from her. One of them was drinking Coffee before me.

I stared at her for a while, and Aina looked back at me. She then slowly pointed at herself with her index finger, and cocked her head. I nodded with a smile.

【… It might be strange for me to say this, but I’m a good fit.】

【I think so too. I will be in your care.】

Aina covered her eyes with her right hand, then shook her head with a sigh.

【Instead of asking me, shouldn’t you ask Linaria-san?】

I couldn’t say anything in respond to her question.

Well, I actually thought of Linaria first. But I stopped that thought immediately.

【Even if I asked her… you know, right?】

Aina understood even though I didn’t finish my sentence, and her brows soothened.

【That’s right. She can’t afford to do so right now.】

【She seldom visits. Is she well?】

Linaria has been visiting the shop less frequently now. She didn’t visit daily in the past, but I would see her once every three days during breakfast or after school. However, she had only visited a few times in the last few weeks.

【The enrollment test is coming soon. She has been waived from normal lectures, and often visits the professor’s lab for personal lessons. She also stays in the special self study room at night too.】

【That sounds amazing.】

【It’s a great honour for the academy if a student passes the Horton enrolment test. It’s good advertisement for nobles who value reputation and posturing. Linaria-san had to shoulder the academy’s expectations whether she likes it or not.】

In that case, it was easy to understand her infrequent visit. I think occasional rest was important, but maybe she even had to make full use of that time now.

【How worrying……】

I couldn’t do anything to help, and gritted my teeth vexingly. People unrelated to the academy were prohibited from entering, so I couldn’t even visit her. If Linaria didn’t come, it was hard for us to meet.

【Linaria-san will definitely be fine.】

Aina’s words were filled with solid trust. I didn’t think Linaria was so strong that she could say that confidently, but I didn’t say anything.

【Anyway, that’s how it is. Aina, can I count on you for this?】

I said in a cheerful voice to suppress my heavy emotions. Aina smiled wryly with a nod. She pushed up the frame of her glasses, and said with a teasing tone.

【But my classes will be strict, you know?】

【Yes, I will work hard.】

【Very well.】

Aina chuckled.


Morning had past, and the sunlight warmed the streets. It wasn’t the blinding sun that threatened to burn one’s eyes out. The sun rays caressed me warmly just like spring, but the air hinted at the looming cold.

The occasional customers visiting were dressed for autumn. I would see lightly dressed people from time to time though, the Elf big sister being one such patron.

I asked her whether she was cold, and she answered with a straight face that her hometown was a snowy country.

In contrast, the Dwarf craftsman was dressed very warmly, as if he had taken her share of clothes. He was wrapped in layers like a snowman to stave off the cold.

Nortri was as afraid of the cold as him, hogging the position closest to the fireplace and curled up in a ball. She would frown when she turned and touched the cold floor, so I put a large and round cushion there. She seemed to like it a lot, and it was now Nortri’s special seat.

Everyone had their own way of passing the cold autumn afternoon.

Nortri was sleeping. The Elf big sister read her book, while the Dwarf Craftsman was chiseling at a rock with a small hammer. Two elderly men sat at one of the tables, facing each other with a chessboard between them. It was a portable chess set, and looked really well made.

【Move this Knight, huh… This Knight…】

The round-faced old man started muttering.

[No takebacks. This is already your second time.]

The narrow-faced old man grinned as he blew on his Coffee.

【You have always been like this. Your Knight is too cunning.】


They conversed as they enjoyed their chess peacefully. I felt envious looking at them, and couldn’t help listening in.

【Here, like this… No, the bishop should move forward…】

【Hmm? Fufu】

【What are you laughing at… Ah, this square won’t do. Damn it, it’s this Knight. This Knight.】

The old men said every move they made out loud, so I could visualize the board in my mind. The narrow-faced man’s Knight in the center of the board was suppressing the opponent’s offence. At a glance, the situation was dire. Even so, the round-faced man still had a way to counter.

I thought about what move I would have made, and spectated the match. It was an interesting way to pass the time.

This reminded me of the times when my grandfather kept playing chess with his friends. When two rivals who had been competing since childhood got matched up, it would get really noisy. They would look really happy, so the young me became curious and started playing chess.

I got hooked and became completely immersed in the world of chess. My grandfather was happy to teach me, and I used the computer my father bought for me to play against people from all around the world. I was really engrossed back then, that was a memorable time.

There weren’t any chess books in this world, nor any internet matches. It was difficult to find an opponent to play against. Gramps Goru was the only one who could play against me.

I was envious of people enjoying chess, and felt a warmth in my chest.

【Okay, the Knight then! I will use my Knight too!】

The round-faced old man pulled at his sleeves determinedly.

Oh, he wanted to push his Knight, huh. That move seemed fine at a glance, but he would get in trouble three moves later. The Knight should stay put to keep the opposing Bishop at bay.

That was my thoughts, but going by the rules, I shouldn’t butt in. The match was between the two of them, and I was just a spectator.

At this moment, the door chimed, and a cold and heavy breeze blew in.


I could tell at a glance that he was rich. He might be a noble, and slightly older than me. The youth entered the shop with his speckless white coat swaying, swept his gaze around the shop and approached me.

【Are you the Shopkeeper?】

His tone was rude, and his eyes were disinterested. His facial features were delicate, and I couldn’t help finding him suspicious.

【Yes, that’s right. How can I help you?】

I showed a business smile, but that youth ignored me and reached into his pocket. He took out a pouch and placed it on the counter.

【You have a Knight, right? I want to buy it.】


【Don’t play dumb. I’m talking about Alekhin’s Black Knight】

The two old men playing chess reacted to that. They stopped their conversation and looked at each other. It was clear that they could hear us.

I looked at the youth again. He was staring right at me. His bangs hung loosely before his eyes, and he was so tall that I needed to look up at him. He was like a prince in fairy tales.

【Sorry, but I have never heard of that before. What is Alekhin’s Knight?】

I asked him, and the youth furrowed his brows.

【… I see. I get it. If someone already made you an offer, I’m willing to pay twice that amount.】

【No, that’s not it. I don’t really know about this Alekhin.】

The two old men at the table were whispering. They seemed to be more informed about Alekhin than me.

The youth shot a condescending glare my way, as if he had seen through my lies. It wasn’t comfortable being stared at. And for some reason, I felt irritated by his gaze. How strange.

Even so, my business smile honed through years of practice remained perfect, and I stared back at him nonchalantly. Finally, he closed his eyes and took the pouch back.

【Holding on to that Knight will just bring you trouble. It will be wiser for you to give it to me.】

【I already said so many times】 I tilted my head. 【Who is Alekhin?】

The youth nodded, as if he arrived at an answer.

【I will come again when you change your mind. You will understand that Knight is wasted on you.】 He turned and looked over his shoulder at me. 【So you know that Alekhin is the name of a person.】

I clicked my tongue on the inside as I watched him go. That was a mistake.

The youth passed by the old men when he left. He muttered something quietly before leaving.

【… What’s with that guy.】

He didn’t give his name, seemed like a big shot, has an arrogant attitude, and didn’t even place an order. That was annoying.

The happy atmosphere around the old men was gone, and the two of them were staring at the board with their arms crossed.

【Erm, did that guy say something when he left?】

I asked them, and the round-faced old man answered.

【Oh, it’s nothing, I try as much as possible to not meet the eyes of someone with his status. But he glanced at the board and said ‘f4’.】

【Shopkeeper, you are good at chess, right? What does f4 mean?】

<TL: in chess notations, f4 means moving a pawn in the f column to the 4th row.>

The narrow faced old man said as he stroked his jaw. He should be visiting for the first time, so why did he know I could play chess? Maybe he heard a strange rumour from somewhere. For example, Gramps Goru.

I smiled and said I didn’t get it either. But in my mind, I was in awe of the youth who left the shop.

I was thinking the same thing. If the round faced old man wanted to turn the tide, F4 would be the best move. And that youth could tell that with a glance.

I didn’t know who he was, only that he was looking for Alekhin’s Black Knight

I picked up the second coffee mug from the innermost corner. Inside was a chess piece that looked like a majestic horse. It was glimmering like a dark polished gem, as if it was alive.

Alekhin’s Black Knight

I didn’t know it’s true value, but there really were people searching for it. And that youth told me that it would be a waste for me to hold on to it, which left a deep impression on me.

No comments:

Post a Comment