Chapter six: The job
I’m gasping, out of breath as I enter the restaurant.
Himowa is already in, which surprises me.
What surprises me, even more, is that she and Yobu sound like they’re arguing over something.
Which is none of my business so I take off my coat and head to the kitchen to start the cleanup.
Yet I can’t help but overhear as I sneak my way past them.
“Look if it can safe the restaurant it’s worth it.” Himowa urges while making frantic hand gestures, the old man just shakes his head.
“You haven’t touched those swords since-”
“Yes I know, which is why no one comes to this place anymore!”
“Are you sure you can do it alone?”
“Yes, maybe, probably, look we don’t have many options now do we?” The girl lets out a grunt filled with frustration.
I have no idea what they’re talking about, but I figure if they want me to know they can tell me themselves.
I open the door, grab a wooden bucket and open the hot water valve. The water clatters loudly down on the bottom of the bucket. A sound that doesn’t go unnoticed as the voices in the background their volume at once.
I smile and start the daily clean-up.
An hour later Himowa comes to the kitchen, her eyes are pink from crying, her arms folded close to her body.
“Morning, are you okay?”
She smiles a watery smile for me “I think I know a way to save the restaurant.”
“That’s great,” I tell her with a gentle smile but my tone is measured and careful.
“But first I think it’s best if I tell you something.” She pushes a stray lock behind her ear “Will you sit down please?”
Surprised and more than a bit curious I follow her to the back and sit down at the uneven table we use for eating dinner.
She then takes a deep breath and says “You know back in the day this place used to be pretty popular.”
“Really?” I try to not sound surprised but that’s kind of hard when you look at the state of it now.
“Yes, when my parents used to work here.” There’s a melancholy in her voice and I can guess where this is going.“Back when they were alive.”
“Robbery gone bad, not even in our own shop, it was a pure case of wrong place, wrong time. I wasn’t with them and the police didn’t share much of the details with me but all I know is they went shopping and never came back.”
She nods, sniffs and before I know it I’ve gotten up from my chair and have my arms around her.
She cries for a while, I hold her tight and after she’s done she awkwardly chuckles “I’m sorry, that wasn’t what I came to talk about at all. You see back in the day my parents and I used to perform in the evenings, but I haven’t really done so since their death and grandpa thinks I’m not ready yet.”
I stare at her tear-stained eyes and can’t help but agree, but I don’t have the heart to tell her so I try to shift the subject a bit. “What did you perform?”
“I’m a sword dancer.”
“Oooooh, so that’s why you like swords!” I exclaim remembering that strange little piece of trivia from back when we met.
“Yes!” She chuckles gratefully before deflating again “Yeah, my mother taught me how and my father played the housha.”
“That sounds very nice.”
“It was and I want to set up an event of sorts, like our usual performance but bigger we can get a lot of customers and sell a lot of food and earn a lot of money.”
“And then we can pay the Kashuya and get them off our backs. And that’s why I need your help.”
“Well, you see if I’m on the stage, I’ll need you to play the host.”
“Oh but that’s not a good idea. What about Yobu?”
“He’ll be in the kitchen of course.”
“Of course but…” I feel childish, a shitty situation has a shitty solution, who would have thought? But there’s hope and that’s what matters most. I sigh “I’ll try.”
She smiles, then gets up and says, “Well then, I’ll tell grandpa you’ll be shadowing me today.”
She smiles kindly at me “Don’t worry, you’ll do fine.”
I shield myself behind Himowa as we pass the threshold into the guest area.
The restaurant is loud, a family of eight has decided to come over which is great for business but it makes it hard to hear everyone’s order when they all talk over one another. Was that wuwu for the first course? I look at Himowa writing down the words with seemingly no effort at all. She bows to them kindly, then looks at me expectantly.
All the eyes at the table gravitate toward me. I quickly dip my body down in a bow that could only be described as ‘panicky’.
“I see the old man has hired a new waiter.”
“Yes ma’am, but he’ll be shadowing me for now.”
“Well, what’s his name?”
“Hui, ma’am, just Hui.”
The woman lets out a surprised “oh” at my cutting in.
There is silence at the table at last.
I can feel the sweat break out in my palms.
Should I say something?
Should I do something?
Himowa looks at me with a strange expression before collecting herself again and saying “We’ll be right back with your order.” And heading to the kitchen.
I almost jump after her.
I pass the threshold gratefully, I never wanna go back out there again.
Just a shame I have to.
“Are you okay?” Himowa asks carefully.
“Yeah, sorry about cutting in like that.”
“You don’t want people to know your family name?”
“Can I ask-?”
“It’s a long story. We should focus on the task at hand for now.” I hope that wasn’t too harsh but the last thing I need right now is to recount my past with her. Especially not when I’m already this strung up.
Her eyebrows knit together, eyes cast to the floor. Is she angry now? I wonder.
But then she looks up again looking normal as ever “You’re right, let’s get this order to yaye then get back out there again.”
I nod in agreement and we get back to work.
Ten hours later I managed to murder half the restaurant…only in my mind of course
“See that wasn’t that hard was it?” Himowa asks as she helps me drag the trash to the street.
“I hated every minute of it.” I toss the box I’m carrying down on the cobbles as if it has personally insulted me.
“But you can do it, I expected you to blow up when that guy called you shorty.”
“I stabbed him seven times in the spine,” I whisper while making stabbing motions with my finger.
“Nice. I tend to imagine I poisoned their food. And they die a painful death on the way home.”
“Wow, brutal.” I’m not quite sure whether to be impressed or disturbed so I settle for both.
“It depends on the offence, of course, some of them just feel sick for the night.”
“Remind me to never cross you.”
“Don’t worry I don’t think I have the guts to actually hurt someone.” She puts the last box down, stretches and then says “Let’s go back inside, it’s freezing.”
Over the following days, she teaches me to be calm and collected. She teaches me it’s easier to catch flies with honey than vinegar.
She also teaches me which of the customers are secretly zombies in her mind.