Chapter twelve: The trouble
I guess it was foolish to think the kashuya would quit tailing me since they’re a bunch of obsessive sickos.
But it’s not like they’re gonna get anywhere with it.
They can’t make me join them.
I’d rather die.
“You okay Hui?” Himowa asks as she passes me on the way to the kitchen. She’s holding a tray filled with empty cups and plates.
My shoulders jump, I cough “I’m fine, just distracted.”
“Anything you wanna talk about?”
She shrugs “All right. I’m getting changed for the show so the floor is yours.”
“Isn’t it a bit early?”
“It’s five pm.”
“What?” my eyes fly to the clock and I groan. I wasted so much time thinking about the kashuya.
“You up for it?” Himowa puts the tray down and looks at me with that worried look that always makes me feel like a massive screwup for some reason.
“I’m fine don’t worry about me,” I tell her picking up the tray for her.
“All right, good luck out there.” She smiles sweetly at me, then heads to the tiny office room to change.
I walk to the kitchen, trying to steel myself for the tedious part…customers.
“You ready for another round?” Yobu asks me and I shrug. I can’t wait for Yobu to hire some extra help or something to help out while Himowa does her thing.
“This one goes to table two, then come straight back I’m almost done with table four,” Yobu tells me as he piles plate after plate onto my arms.
“Yeah yeah, I’ll be right back.”
Sometimes people just have bad vibes. The guy at table two is one of those people. I can’t even articulate why he just reminds me of a weasel.
Smirking and bragging at the pretty lady beside him. Trying very hard not to see me as I put down four plates filled to the brim with food.
The woman smiles at me and says “thank you” the man just grabs a bun without a word.
I keep serving, stealing glances of the show as Himowa flies around the stage.
Guests come and go as the night progresses.
But table two remains stubbornly occupied with this guy. He just hangs around, drinking too much and boasting loudly over other people’s conversations.
Something about working in a bank and earning five figures each month.
The hell are you doing here then? Shouldn’t you be dining in the upper district?
Yet I try to smile and look ‘representative’ as he orders yet another bottle of sefai.
“Certainly sir,” I tell him, then rush to the kitchen trying not to feel annoyed.
I balance the bottle on the tray as I look at the clock. Himowa left the stage and should be down here soon. Even doing dishes sounds more appealing at this point.
“Look the short skirt and flowers are nice but who in their right mind would give a weapon to a girl?” the man practically shouts the line and I set the tray down with a thud (stabbing him in the eyeballs about a dozen times in my mind) while trying to force my grimace into a smile.
The bottle tumbles sideways, sefai splashing over the table.
And dripping down onto the guy’s lap.
“What the hell are you doing you incompetent oaf!” he shouts jumping up from his chair.
“I’m sorry it was an accident,” I respond trying to sound sincere as I quickly pull the bottle upright again. I pull the tea towel from my belt and try to hand it to him.
“I don’t want your filthy rag.” He pushes the gesture away and starts attacking the stain with a handkerchief he pulled from his sleeve and looks about ten times more expensive.
I roll my eyes and get to cleaning the table.
“Where’s you boss little man? I need a word with him on how to handle this ‘situation’.”
Who’s he calling little!?
And what’s he talking about?
I clean the table, get another bottle of booze and then you can go back to embarrassing yourself.
I clench my fists and grit my teeth when suddenly a hand appears on my shoulder. “Hui, go get Yobu.”
It’s Himowa, she’s wearing her normal clothes again. She gently pulls the towel from my hands as if to say ‘I got this.’
I head back to the kitchen.
“You’re needed on the floor,” I growl at Yobu.
“I spilt some sefai.”
“Oh dear, you keep an eye out for the food, the pork is almost done so just pull it off the heat in a minute. I’ll be right back.” At that Yobu hands me his spatula and rushes out.
I take a moment to land and let the anger seep out of my body. That guy is none of my concern anymore.
I listen to the sizzling of the pans and the raging of the flames.
After a minute I pull the pan off the stove. Ten minutes later I put it on again to heat up.
What’s taking so long?
I keep shuffling the meat and vegetables making sure nothing gets burned.
When Yobu finally comes in again. His face is a perfect mask of composure for a minute before he drops the act entirely and sighs “arrogant prick.”
I smile and hand him back the spatula “I pulled it off as you said but then it got cold so I put it back on the fire.”
“Right. Thank you.”
“So…how did it go?”
“He demanded fifty chui to have his ‘ruined handkerchief’ replaced.”
“And you told him to shove it?”
“No, I gave him the money and got him to leave with as little fuss as possible.”
“What!? But I offered him a towel ,he didn’t need to ‘ruin’ his handkerchief at all and why would it be ruined, sefai is colourless!?”
“That’s the risk of owning a restaurant.”
“Yeah but that’s a lot of money, you still got enough to pay the Kashuya this month?”
A painful expression flashes past the old man’s. He tries to hide it by fussing with the pans instead but I know he’s worried. “We’ll manage.” He tells me and then starts preparing plates, I take it that’s my cue to leave but as I turn on my heel he says “Hui?”
“I have a question and I don’t expect an honest answer if you don’t want to tell me but…do you have ties with the Kashuya?”
“What!? No, I’d never work for them!”
He smiles and nods “All right, pretend I didn’t ask anything-”
“Why did you ask?”
“Nothing, it’s not important.” His gaze is glued to the plates as he neatly lays out slices of meat.
“You can’t just ask me that without an explanation?” I cross my arms defiantly.
The old man sighs “Ever since you came to work here the Kashuya has been steadily increasing the protection payments at a higher rate than normal, at first I thought it was just them being them but it turns out the rest of the street is paying a good deal less. I assumed it may have had something to do with you but that was wrong of me and I shouldn’t have doubted you.”
The news hits me like a ton of bricks and just when I thought I’d calmed down again I feel the fumes spouting out my ears. So first they try to keep me from getting a job entirely and then they try to run the business I work at into the ground!? Those shit-eating worms! I grit my teeth and ball my fists “I’m sorry, it is my fault, but not for the reason you think.”
“Yaye, do you have the plates for table three already!?” Himowa shoots into the room, then is presumably hit with three tonnes of tension and asks “Is everything okay?”
“Here are the plates, don’t worry about it,” Yobu says shooing the girl out again.
“Right…” she squints her eyes at Yobu, then takes over the plates and rushes out again.
Yobu closes the door behind her and asks “Do you want to talk about it?”
“I don’t really, but if they’re trying to mess with you I take it it’s only fair.”
The old man keeps working while I talk. I don’t really know how to explain so I just end up rambling and telling him everything I can think of.
He lets me, never interrupting me. It’s nice on one hand but I have no idea what he’s thinking.
I wouldn’t even blame him if he just fired me, that would be a quick way to get rid of all this nastiness.
Every time Himowa comes in I fall silent, ears red. She knows something is wrong, she’s smart, of course, she knows. But she stays out of it for now.
By the time I’m done my eyes are strained onto my shaking hands.
Yobu puts down his knife.
My heart makes a panicky jump, I look up.
“Thank you for telling me.”
“I’m going to make this right I pro-”
He holds his hands up to shush me “You shouldn’t make promises hastily, and you don’t need to pull this upon yourself to fix.”
“I take it Himowa doesn’t know?”
“Tell her, we can look into it together later.”
“How?” it just took all my energy to tell him. I’m not sure I could do it again but this time at a girl that’s…her.
“The two of you are close, you’ll figure something out.”
He smiles, pats me on the head and says “Your biological family may not be all that great, but in this family, we help each other out when needed.”
I chuckle awkwardly at that then smile “Thank you.”
That night I stride home with a fire in my heart. I’m grateful Yobu is such a kind man, but I can’t have him fix everything for me.
“All right, come out you mangy lapdog I know you’re out there!”
Leaning casually against a lantern I find Takeyo clicking his tongue “Language.” He lectures me as the golden headband gleams hypocritically in the firelight.
I cross my arms and face him “Who’s in charge of this district?”
“So first you shoo me out with a gun to my face and now you come to me with questions?”
I scoff “You want me to say sorry about that? You know I won’t mean it.”
“That I do, so I don’t see why I should tell you who’s in charge of district seven.” He shrugs dismissively.
“Look I just need to talk to them.”
He pulls up an eyebrow in disbelief “Talk? Or run in and shoot the place to hell?”
I huff “We both know I wouldn’t survive that.”
“You sure as hell wouldn’t but for some reason that still doesn’t convince me you won’t try it.”
I chuckle dryly “Fine, give them a message then, Hui Go wants to talk to them, face to face, no funny business.”
He waves away the request “You could ask politely you know?”
“I could but I don’t want to.” I sneer.
He shrugs “Then I’m not doing it.”
I grunt as if the entirety of human misery engulfs me “Okay fine, will you please ask the leader of district seven to contact me?”
“Now that wasn’t that hard was it?” Takeyo grins so widely I wanna smack his face in. My fists are shaking but the guy retreats again into darkness before I can completely lose it.
I spit on the ground, trying to get the sour taste from my mouth, and head back home with a huff.