Koi no Yokan wa Amaku Kaoru

 
 
 
 

Koi no Yokan wa Amaku Kaoru Chapter 1


Chapter 1 - Page 1

"Sarasa" is the name of an old café famed for its delicious coffee.

The previous master was really interested in India and gave the café an oriental atmosphere.  And the current master, Yanase Kaoru, makes sure to keep all of the souvenirs carefully clean.

The customers don't feel any discomfort with all of the antiques about and it simply adds to the impression of the café being old.  Even the tables and chairs that are used are shined every day until they sparkle.

And yet...

(It's dirty...)

There is a little bit of dried mud on the chair leg Kaoru is staring at.

That's right, it rained two days ago.

That day, a customer came in with mud on his shoes.  It probably rubbed off at that time.

(It's in a place I don't usually look so that's why I didn't notice.  I have to be sure to clean it later...)

That was how Kaoru always thought, so it wasn't unusual for him... but he snaps himself back into reality.

Rather than falling into the trap of focusing on the mess on the chair's leg... there is a far more important problem.

Right now, Kaoru is currently trying to get up from the wooden flooring of Sarasa.

Chapter 1 - Page 2

It's not like he fell on his own.  A man by the name of Sakata who is a regular customer suddenly knocked him down while obviously drunk...

"...Um~ please, wait just a minute."

Sakata forcefully tries to kiss Kaoru while Kaoru uses both of his hands to try to push him away with all of his strength.

"Please stop being violent~!  Being on a wooden floor is painful for my back."

Pushing against the other man was only making Kaoru's entire back hurt even more.

"Th-then should we move to a bed?  I'm pretty sure there's a living space in the middle of this building, right?"

The man's earnest face staring at him from right above him is frightening.  In order to try and deter him, Kaoru forces a false smile.

"Ummm~ that's also a bit of a problem.  ...Wouldn't it be troublesome if we were doing it there and other customers came in?  After all, you wouldn't want to see something like this when you walk in either, right?"

"That's all right.  I already put the closed sign up."

Sakata must have planned this in advance to trick other customers into not coming in.  And he waited for all of the other regular customers to leave first as well.

(How terrible.  This will damage business.)

Although, he can't help but think that there usually aren't many customers at this time of night anyway.  But in that case...

"Ah~!  In that case, how about you calm down and we talk first~?"

"We've already done all the talking we need to before now.    I won't wait any longer.  Please don't lead me on any longer."

He lead him on?  Kaoru has obviously already refused him and can't let this go on any longer!  But he's already putting all of his weight against him and nothing's happening.


Chapter 1 - Page 3

"Wah!  Hey!  Do something about that!  Please, hold out a while longer!"

He struggles violently, but pushing against a man who's a full size bigger than you are is hard.

(This is troublesome.  I didn't think he was serious...)

The apron Kaoru wears really suits his slim waist, and so does the chestnut-hair that is tied at the back of his neck in a casual ponytail.  He's beautiful.

He has constantly downcast, earth-colored almond-shaped eyes, and always wears a calm smile which adds to the romantic air around him.  The number of customers increased as they came to admire Kaoru.

In the eyes of the customers Kaoru is a beautiful man, mature and graceful.

Because of that, as if like the constancy of the changing of the seasons every day the customers would compliment Kaoru on his beauty and casually ask if he would be willing to go on a date with them.

Because Kaoru doesn't care much about his looks, he would be shocked to hear that the men truly did think he is beautiful.  But because it is troublesome to excessively reject them, he would elude them with vague responses.

When Sakata became a regular customer about half a year ago he also flooded him with compliments.  But since it was a common occurence, even when he became serious he was ignored with the usual vagueness.

Afterwards, he started to regret that he hadn't been more forceful.

Having said that, attacking someone in this way is definitely bad.

Kaoru grits his teeth as he is kissed deeply in rejection.  He needs to think of something, and looks around the store.

Chapter 1 - Page 4

And soon he spots a brass elephant close by on the floor which had fallen down.

Normally it would be decorating the counter, but it must have gotten knocked off during their struggle.

He reaches out his hand, and the tips of his fingers reach the elephant's leg.

Just a little bit more...  Little by little he extends his hand and guides it towards himself.  He's able to grab the trunk, but it's heavier than he had expected and his hand stops.

(If I hit him with this... it would probably really hurt.)

But even as he thought that, he also knew that it would be possible to drive the man off by hitting him.

But, if he did so he would hurt Sakata.

He doesn't want to be raped, but hurting another person would be even worse.

In that case, he needs to look around the store for something else.

(If I throw it over there, I might be able to manage something.)

What Kaoru is looking at is the simple colored-glass window pane in the door.

"Sarasa" looks out on a shopping distance down the street from the train station so even at night there's always people passing by.

If he throws the elephant through the window and shatters the glass someone who's walking by outside or a nearby shopkeeper could notice and come peek inside to see what's going on.

(But I wonder how much that frosted glass costs.)

It's definitely more expensive than ordinary glass.  And it could have been custom-made which means that they might not be able to make another one just like it.
 

Chapter 1 - Page 5

While he is worrying about how troublesome the expense would be, Sakata rolls up Kaoru's shirt causing goosebumps to erupt wherever his hand touches Kaoru's chest and stomach.  Next his hand goes to open Kaoru's slacks.

It looks like there isn't any time left for thought.

(--I guess I don't have a choice in this situation.)

Having given up, Kaoru lifts the elephant and throws it at the door with all of his strength.

The elephant flies through the air with a whoosh and appears to hit at about exactly where he aimed for.

The frosted glass which had been a single piece, shatters into six pieces with a loud crashing noise as it's broken.

"Wh-what was that?!"

Sakata stops mid-motion, surprised by the sudden noise.

(Please, let someone notice...)

At the exact same time Kaoru is thinking that...

"Hey!  What the hell are you doing?!!  That's dangerous!!!"

The door is forced open with a 'Bang!' and a rough-looking young man in jeans barges in.

The angry-looking man is holding the elephant that Kaoru had thrown in one hand.

(I'm saved!)

On first glance, the newcomer definitely appears younger than the one who sent the object flying, and Kaoru feels relieved.

Chapter 1 - Page 6

Rather than someone gentle-looking, the man in front of him is aggressive-looking with a frightening expression and short black hair.

He's glaring at them with pitch black eyes that hold an inner light.  He definitely looks strong.

This guy will definitely be able to save him.

"Ah, I'm the one who threw that~!  I'm sorry~!"

In order to win over the angry man so that he will save him, Kaoru smiles at him even though he's being shoved down.

When the man meets Kaoru's gaze he appears startled and quickly averts his eyes.

"--Excuse me."

He suddenly turns around and acts as though he's about to exit the store.

"Eh?!  Hey!  Hey, wait!  Won't you save me before you go~?!"

Kaoru yells out in a panic.

"...Aren't I interrupting you?"

With those words the man pauses at the door and turns just his head back with a suspicious look on his face.

"Not at all.  In fact, you're a very welcome sight."

"Could it be that this situation isn't mutual?"

"No, not in the slightest."

As Kaoru nods his head, the man replies with an "All right leave it to me."  He sets the elephant down where he is and rolls up his sleeves as he steps into the café.


Chapter 1 - Page 7

Chapter 1 - Page 8

He looks like he's having fun.

"Wh-what?  This has nothing to do with you!"

Sakata loses his composure as he approaches the newcomer, trying to look courageous and triumphant.  I doing so he's no longer above Kaoru and steps away from him.

"Sorry, but I simply can't allow a crime to take place right in front of me without doing anything, since I'm not a heartless human being.  --So, what do you want me to do?  I can tie this guy up and hold him until the police get here?"

The man approaches Kaoru until he's next to him and cheerfully asks his question.

Kaoru is flustered and shakes his head.

"Ah~ Well, he was a regular customer so getting the police involved seems a little excessive..."

As he stood up it felt like the pain in the back of his head got even worse.

It definitely hurt, but thankfully it didn't seem like it was bleeding.

"It seems like he just lost control, so kicking him out should be enough."

At that very moment Kaoru thought he heard the young man make a 'tch' sound with his tongue, but it was probably just his imagination.

"...I understand."

The young man nods obediently, and glares at Sakata with sharp menacing eyes while taking a single step toward him.

He makes as if he's going to violently shove him, and Sakata quickly backs away.

"Um~ excuse me, but..."

"What?!"

"If you threaten him from there, he won't be able to get out..."

Chapter 1 - Page 9

The cafe isn't very big in the first place, and the idea of having more than one entrance is a joke.

There's only one door you can get in and out of.  To the right of it is the counter, and to the left are five two-person tables.

Kaoru and the others are in the aisle between the tables and the young man is standing right in the middle which makes Sakata who is furthest from the door seem like a trapped rat.

He could climb over the tables and escape that way, but that would get the tables dirty and he might hurt himself which would be troublesome for Kaoru...

"...Then do you want me to get out?"

The man asks in bewilderment at Kaoru's words, raising his eyebrow.

"That would also be bad."

If the young man left now then they would end up right back where they started.

"That's why, um~ maybe if you came over here?"

Kaoru moves to stand over by the counter on the other side of the aisle to the door and motions for the young man to come over to where he is.

"And here I thought I'd finally be able to have a real fight after so long... Jeez!  How boring."

Even though the young man is blunt and clicks his tongue in disgust he still does exactly what Kaoru asked him to do.

"Sakata-san~!  Please feel free to leave any time."

As if to protect him, the young man stands in front of Kaoru to make sure that Sakata does as Kaoru said while Sakata lowers himself and nervously flees to the exit of the cafe.

Chapter 1 - Page 10

"...Ah, um... I'll come again."

Sakata turns at the exit to the cafe, and Kaoru doesn't know what he's thinking.

"No, that's quite all right."

Kaoru refuses him in an instant.

Although for a moment Sakata looks like he's going to cry, he quickly runs away.

"A~ah... how disappointing.  He was such a good customer too..."

Although it's bad to be attacked like that, to be honest losing even one regular customer is painful.

Kaoru spoke the words aloud without realizing it and the young man in front of him turns to face him.

"Was it wrong of me to save you?"

He seems a bit bewildered as he asks the question and Kaoru starts to panic, shaking his head.

"Not at all!  You were a huge help.  I never would have been able to run away on my own."

"Is that why you gazed at me so amorously?"

"Amorously?"

He didn't have any memory of using such a high-class technique.

Kaoru tilts his head to the side and the man makes a small frown.

"You smiled at me when I first came barging in here, right?"

"A~ah!  That... I wasn't gazing amorously at you.  It was just a courtesy smile."

Chapter 1 - Page 11

"You smile at someone courteously in a situation like that?!"

"Yes.  That's because when you first came flying in you looked really angry.  For the time being I thought that it might win your favor or something..."

See, just like this.  A common smile.

"...It doesn't look like just some courtesy smile to me."

"But, that's all it is.  It wasn't anything as high class as an amorous smile."

"...You're not just pretending to be naïve, are you?"

"I'm not using any sort of fancy technique like that.  All I can do is smile courteously."

"In that case you need to look at yourself carefully in the mirror when you smile like that.  Then you'll be able to understand what I mean."

"Really?"

He usually looks at himself in the mirror, but it just isn't clicking for him.

Kaoru tilts his head to the side and the man frowns again.

"That's it!  --This is the first time I've ever seen someone who could be so carefree and smile courteously at someone while they're being raped!"

"Is that so...?  It must be the end of the world then."

"What is?"

Kaoru sighs, and the man's eyebrow twitches.


Chapter 1 - Page 12

"Well, you must have seen lots of people getting raped to say that, right?  I haven't, but... it must be an everyday occurrence in that case."

"There's no way in hell that would be!!!"

"Wah!"

At the man's outburst, Kaoru is shocked and unconsciously covers his ears.

"Don't yell so loud~  Don't you remember how loud your voice can get?"

"I do!  I can control the volume of my voice!  Unlike you!"

Recognizing that he's angry again, the man takes a deep breath in order to calm down.

"I'm sorry for getting angry.  ...For now, could you just do something about those clothes?"

"Ah... I'm sorry."

The front of his shirt and slacks are still open from before.

Looking down at the front of himself, Kaoru fixes his clothes in a panic.

He isn't sure if it happened when he was pushed down or what, but it seems as though the buttons of his shirt were sent flying since there's not a single one left.

Kaoru picks up the apron he'd been wearing which had been torn off first from the floor and starts searching around that area saying "Where are the buttons?" to himself.

"...Have you ever been told that you're a little... odd by other people?"

The young man spoke, having taken a seat at the counter.

"No, they haven't~  Although I have been told that I'm rather carefree.  ...Ah, that's right.  I'm being carefree again.  This isn't the time to be searching for my buttons.  --I haven't done anything to thank you yet, but would you like a cup of coffee?"

Chapter 1 - Page 13

"I would appreciate it, but... shouldn't you do something about that first?"

The man is referring to the danger of the broken glass scattered about the walkway.

Kaoru is thinking the same thing, and puts the apron back on as he grabs the broom and dustpan and starts sweeping outside.

"...Ah~ there are lots of small pieces.  It's hard to gather all of them up like this."

He crouches down and starts gathering up the tiny pieces in his hand.  "That's impossible!" comes a determined announcement from right above his head.

"Ah, please wait inside.  I'll finish soon and get some coffee for you."

"No, I'll help.  That way you'll be able to finish sooner. --I'll collect the glass so you find something to cover this up with."

The man is referring to the door frame where the glass had been broken off of.

Kaoru is grateful and accepts the man's kindness.

After closing up the store, he closes the shutters and uses some cardboard to cover the gap in a way that wouldn't look unsightly.

Inside the store, the young man who had been using a tool to pick up the rest of the glass, stops so that they can talk.

"That guy earlier was a regular customer?"
 

Chapter 1 - Page 14

"Yes.  He was a wonderful customer who came every day, but..."

"So, did you give him the courtesy smile you gave me every single day too?"

"Well, this is a business...  So I always smile at the customers like this."

He points to himself as he smiles and the man whispers 'I see now'.

"Even though you're a man, if you smile that way all the time it's to be expected that someone might misunderstand and get turned on by it."

"Is that true?  ...I see~ I guess it was my fault."

His way of thinking hasn't changed, but Kaoru does recognize that sometimes he has a hard time understanding what other people are feeling.

Kaoru's feelings of being ordinary are striking.  So if he had known that Sakata was seriously trying to approach him he would have used a different manner of dealing with him than what he did.

Then maybe Sakata wouldn't have reached the point that he had.

In other words, he might have been able to avoid losing a regular customer...

(A~ah, what a waste.)

Taking a moment to reflect, the man inhales sharply as if shocked.

"Listen, even if that may have been the cause for this one instance that doesn't mean that you were at fault.  It's obvious that the person who resorts to violence is the one in the wrong."

"But, it was wrong of me to create the misunderstanding, right?"

Chapter 1 - Page 15

"Normally there are plenty of other things you can do without resorting to violence.  Like actually talking with that person.  --Did he ever confess to you?"

"Never... I think.  There were times when he would ask me out on a date, but he said it in a joking manner so I also treated it like a joke when I turned him down..."

He'd tell Kaoru that he was pretty today as well, and he'd respond by telling him to cut out the flattery.  And when he told Kaoru that he liked people with straight hair down to their waist, Kaoru had responded by mentioning how girls lately had taken a liking to short hairstyles so it must be difficult for him.

Those times Sakata would just smile vaguely, and never confirmed or denied anything he said.

The young man, who had resumed cleaning while Kaoru spoke, confirms "Then you weren't at fault."

"Lately, there's been a lot of that.  People who won't accept hearing any responses that don't go along with what they want to hear.  Those types think that the other person is just tsundere and shy and think everything is good with their attempts at winning them over."

"What's 'tsundere'?"

"Viewing someone as tsundere means that while you are certain they love you, the 'dere' part, they're too embarrassed to show it and out of stubbornness they act 'tsun' or as though they don't like you."

"Heeeh, that's certainly a high class technique.  ...I think that's impossible for me."

If Kaoru were to fall in love he'd recklessly approach it head-on.

Chapter 1 - Page 16

Because he is rather thick when it comes to the subtleties of human emotions, the results tend to be terrible...

"You should try to be less carefree.  Those persistent types are annoying."

"Really?"

"Yeah.  Like the way that guy earlier looked like he still has lingering affections for you, if you're not careful he could become a stalker.  If he comes by again, don't use that courtesy smile with him."

"...Ye~s."

"You're an adult, don't stretch out your answer!"

"Yes!"

"And also, it might be best to ask the nearest police box to come and do periodic checks by here.  --There, it's all clean!"

The young man nods as he looks around in satisfaction, then he heads to the entrance and picks up the elephant statue from earlier.

"Eh~ you're being excessive.  It's not like I'm a woman, I'm a man."

"Being excessive is just as well.  With that type of violence it doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman.  You were scared, weren't you?"

He could feel the heaviness of the man's hand as he handed over the elephant.

It felt like he was feeling the weight of the man's words, and he obediently nods his head while agreeing to his demands.

"I... suppose so."

It's true that he was very scared.

Chapter 1 - Page 17

Although, while he was being attacked he had felt like he was in a dream and kept thinking that he needed to do something to get away and so he didn't feel any fear.

And after the terrifying part, the man had angrily stormed in and he realized that he then had someone he could rely on...

Carefree Kaoru suddenly begins feeling the fear long after it's over and starts trembling softly.

Before he realizes it, the hand holding the elephant starts to shake.

Shocked, the young man starts to pat Kaoru's arm as though he's trying to comfort him.

"You should close the store for tonight.  Drink some alcohol or something and then go to bed."

"Yes.  --Ah, but what about your coffee...?"

"You can make it for me some other time.  I'll see you later."

Then, after telling him he should get the door fixed, the man makes a gallant exit.



"--You're in love."

Comes an absent murmur from an old man named Roku-san who is sitting at one of the four chairs at the counter next to the entrance with an unlit cigar in his mouth.

'Sarasa' is a non-smoking establishment, plus Roku-san has been ordered to quit smoking by his doctor.

"So, your preference is for young men too."
 

Chapter 1 - Page 18

In the chair next to the one Roku-san is sitting in sits an old man named Ryuu-san who is smirking at him.

On the counter above his lap is the elephant statue.  Without even being asked to he has wiped it off and polished it until it sparkled.

"Jeez~ Please don't take this and that and turn it into a romantic affair~!"

These two old men are 'Sarasa's oldest regular customers.

They are usually the first ones to show up in the morning, and they always chat casually at the cafe until they finally head home.

Today as well, when he opened the shutters that morning at the usual time they immediately noticed that one of the colored glass panes on the door is missing and inquired about what had happened.

Since it couldn't be helped, he didn't bother trying to hide what had happened last night and told them everything, but their interest was now running wild in an unexpected direction.

"Don't be so shy.  He seemed like the kind of guy you could rely on, right?"

"That's true, but..."

But he's a man, is something obvious that he's lost the will to point out to these two.

More importantly, these two know that Kaoru has recklessly pursued a romance with a man in the past.

(But, it's not like I'm gay in particular.)

Before he'd met that person, Kaoru had only been interested in girls.

He'd simply unexpectedly fallen in love at first sight with a man younger than him.
 

Chapter 1 - Page 19

He really was normal in the past, but no matter how many times he explained it to these two they didn't comprehend it.

Normally, because they're starving for entertainment they tend to intentionally misunderstand things to make them more interesting and there have been times when they've ignored all attempts to persuade them otherwise.  However, after so many years Kaoru has lost the strength to try and persuade them...

"Although, when I first laid eyes on him I thought he would be violent.  But after talking with him he seems unexpectedly kind and dependable.  He even helped out with the clean up...  I'm really grateful that I met such a good person."

If he hadn't, who knows what would have happened...

As Kaoru imagined it, his body started to tremble.

"That's very high praise."

Roku-san murmurs.

"It's good timing.  It was about time for you to find a new love anyway."

Ryuu-san says with a grin.

Although the two of them are teasing him, beneath their words is a lot of thought.  Kaoru knows that they've been dating each other for a very long time.

"Although, I think falling in love with a man will bring me nothing but trouble."

"If it's you, you'll be fine."

"That's right!  A beauty like you and a hard-worker...  As long as they can attack your heart for a long time you'll do fine."

Chapter 2 - Page 20

"Yes, yes.  In the case I do fall in love with him, I'll make sure to let him attack my heart for a long time."

Although he isn't even sure if he'll ever meet that man again...

He wishes he'd thanked him properly, or found out his name or where he lived.

He's a little disappointed in how careless he can be.

"But still, that was a disaster for Mr. Elephant as well.  I feel so bad for him, getting thrown like that..."

Ryuu-san grumbles as he polishes a scratch on the elephant's ornament.

Although it's an antique that doesn't have much monetary value, since Ryuu-san loves antiques so much it seems to really bother him.

"I'm very sorry."

"It isn't your fault.  After all, I'm sure Mr. Elephant is happy he was able to help you."

"The one at fault was Sakata."

Roku-san murmurs softly.

"That's right.  If he comes back here again we'll beat him up and kick him out for you."

To have these two frail old men want to be his knights in shining armor makes Kaoru happy.

"I'll leave it to you then."

As Kaoru affectionately smiles at them, the bell attached to the door chimes and the two old men glance toward it out of the corner of their eyes as a conservative-looking customer enters the cafe.

"Hm?  ...Never seen him before."

Chapter 1 - Page 21

They had been planning on greeting the person if it was a regular customer that they knew.  The two old men glance at the face of the man in the doorway, but quickly lose interest.

But Kaoru had leaped over the counter over the counter without thinking.

Since this man is the same one from last night.

(Huh?  The atmosphere around him seems different from last night...)

Last night he was constantly using slang and talking about beating people up and was cloaked in a belligerent atmosphere, but today he is standing there calmly.

He's wearing a high-quality suit in subdued colors very neatly, but the same strong light in his eyes from last night is still there and is amplified by the intellectual-appearing glasses that he is wearing.

Kaoru never would have imagined that he could look like a proper salary man, overflowing with such calm self-confidence, when last night he would have guessed the man was a restless freeter.
           T/N: A freeter is a young person in Japan who lives off of part-time work.

Although he still has a vitality about him that makes him seem unsuited for his profession.

"Welcome.  --And thank you very much for last night."

Kaoru bows his head deeply and raises it again and the man responds with a wordless affirmation before turning his gaze to the door.

"Have you made arrangements to fix the door?"

"I called the glass shop first thing this morning, but it seems that they're currently working on some big project...  They said they'd come fix it in about a week."

Chapter 1 - Page 22

"You're willing to leave it in this unsightly condition for a full week?  If they're in the neighborhood, why don't you ask them to come at night?"

"No, there's no way I could ask them to go that far..."

"The front door is the store's face.  Going that far is to be expected for it.  You really are carefree, aren't you?  --All right!  I'll call them for you so give me their phone number."

"No.  ...Um~ you really don't have to do that."

Kaoru becomes flustered as he refuses him.

"Don't be so reserved.  --If you called them first thing this morning, then I should be able to just hit redial..."

The man steps further into the store, and with his long arm he's able to reach across the counter and pick up the store phone's receiver.

"Eh?  Ah!  Wait..."

But Kaoru has no time to stop him as the man presses the button and on his own starts the conversation with "This is the cafe 'Sarasa'."

He talks for a while before returning the phone to its original spot looking satisfied.

"They said they'd come repair it tonight.  They said it is a big favor so they're asking for an extra fee, but that shouldn't be a problem, right?"

Although the man says it triumphantly, Kaoru gloomily replies "It is a problem."

"Why?  They said it would only be an extra charge of a thousand yen, that's all."
              T/N: 1,000 yen is around 10USD

"That thousand yen is painful."

The truth is, when he'd called this morning he was told that if he waited a week he could get a discount and had been exceptionally pleased about that.
 

Chapter 1 - Page 23

To have to pay an extra fee instead of getting a discount couldn't help but leave him disappointed.

"That's right, last night you were talking about how it was a wast too.  --Is this store really that unprofitable?"

"It's embarrassing, but..."

Just paying for the store's maintenance and the owner's salary was all he could do, it had gotten to the point where Kaoru barely collected any sort of salary.

So that he wouldn't have to pay rent for an apartment, Kaoru slept in the small space in the store, and he was letting his hair grow out so that he wouldn't need to use a barbershop.  Even the few pairs of white shirts and black slacks that he owned which served as his uniform were able to serve multiple purposes.

Even the apron he always wore was something that he'd been given by the store that sells the wholesale coffee beans that he buys.

"In that case, how about charging these old guys for their reserved seats?"

"Eh?"

At the sudden idea suggestion, Kaoru could do nothing but stare blankly at the man, but the two old men appeared to get annoyed.

"What a rude youngster."

"That's right.  Who are you calling 'old guys'?  You should respect your elders!"

"If you want respect, then how about you guys cooperate with your favorite cafe?"

"We do!"

"Liar.  Anyway, you're the ones taking your time leisurely drinking coffee here every day without change for ten years.  If you don't like the idea of a charge for reserved seats, then how about you order more than a single cup of coffee in an hour!"

All of a sudden, the three of them were caught up in an argument.

"Jeez~ please don't say such unnecessary things."

Kaoru, in order to defend the two old men, steps in during a lull in the argument.

"Don't defend them.  It's because you're so sweet to them that they're acting spoiled."

"They're not spoiled.  It's for health reasons that they can't have more than one cup of coffee a day, so they're family asked me to make sure that I don't serve them more than that."

Although, it seems like it isn't the coffee that is the problem for their health but rather all of the milk and sugar they like to add to it.

That's why after serving their one cup of coffee, their family had asked that he put tea or black tea into any subsequent cups to have them drink that instead.

After listening to his story, the young man murmurs 'heehh' and looks at the two old men curiously.

"Even though it looks like your outward appearance hasn't changed, it seems like you've finally accepted your aging on the inside.  --I'm sorry for saying too much."

"W-well, as long as you understand."

"That's right."

"Do you three know each other?"

Kaoru asks, and the young man murmurs 'yeah' while the two old men declare 'we don't know him' together.

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"You old guys don't remember me?  --Have you gone senile?"

The words the man says are like the strongest curse, and the two old men obviously become flustered.

"W-we're not senile!  We just forgot a bit!"

Ryuu-san yells, while right next to him Roku-san silently knits his eyebrows together before solemnly pointing to the innermost table in the cafe with his unlit cigar.

"...That seat?"

"Yeah, that's right.  How's the old man that sat over there?  Do you remember me?"

Ryuu-san replies with an 'uh' in obvious confusion, but Roku-san stealthily whispers into his ear causing him to exclaim "Aah, that guy!" and nods his head in agreement.

"You're that author who failed."

"Author that failed...?  I didn't fail!  Right now I'm writing history."

"Liar."

"It's not a lie.  Right now I'm a best-selling author.  Haven't you ever heard the name 'Andou Seiji'?"

"Ah, I have!"

Kaoru's hand shoots up.

A regular customer who liked to read would lend him books and that name was one that appeared often.

'Andou Seiji' has had almost all of his books turned into movies or television dramas by the media, and everything that he's done become hits making him the ultimate best-selling author.
 

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With Kaoru's explanation, this time the two old men look at Seiji with curiosity.

"So, you became an author."

"Yeah.  And as a result I got so busy I didn't have time to come to this shop or anywhere near here anymore."

"So, unexpectedly you were a regular customer here?"

As Kaoru tilts his head, not really understanding the conversation, Ryuu-san explains "It was about a year before you started working part-time here."

"There used to be this really poor student who would sit at the innermost table in the cafe with a bunch of manuscript papers all day, every day.  ...Which reminds me, that student would sit there and only drink one cup of coffee the entire time."

"That's right."

The two old men smirk while Seiji mutters "Sorry" with a sour look on his face.

"Anyway, now money isn't an issue anymore so I'll pay for multiple cups of coffee properly."

"Ah, no.  Let me treat you today.  As thanks for last night."

Kaoru returns to the counter and asks "What would you like?" to which Seiji answers "Mandelic" before sitting at the innermost seat at the counter.

"...Ah."

All three of the others freeze the moment they see that.

"What?  Am I not supposed to sit in this seat?"
 

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"No~  ...It's nothing like that~"

Kaoru shows him his courtesy smile.

It's just that, that was Kaoru's seat back when he worked part-time with the owner.

The counter at 'Sarasa' was too small to have both the owner and him standing behind it at the same time...

Of course, now that he's the one running the cafe his position is behind the counter.

But that seat had become rather nostalgic for Kaoru and he had ended up not wanting other people to sit in it.

That's why he tended to accumulate items, like the ornamental elephant, in front of that seat to ward off any customers from sitting there.  But the elephant that performs that duty is currently sitting in Ryuu-san's lap.

(...This might be for the best.)

Before Kaoru came here to work part-time that seat had been for customers.

He needed to stop such strange obsessions, and open every precious seat to his customers.

(If I don't do that then the number of seats gets smaller...)

As he speaks inwardly to himself about this, he carefully makes the coffee.

He uses a cup he had heated up beforehand and siphons the coffee into it before handing it to Seiji with a "Here you are."

"The cups are the same as they used to be."

The Noritake bone china cup is nostalgic for Seiji as he gazes at it.

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He inhales the fragrance and slowly brings the cup to his lips.

"Yeah.  It's delicious.  There's no way you'd lose to the owner."

At the words of praise Kaoru smiles naturally and says thank you.

"So, what time is the owner scheduled to come in?"

"--Eh?"

The other three immediately stop moving at Seiji's question.

"What?  Did I say something strange?"

"Ah~ no.  ...It's been a long time for you, hasn't it?  Of course you wouldn't know."

"What do you mean?"

"The owner passed away."

"Passed away...  --When?"

"It was, um..."

As Kaoru starts counting on his fingers, Roku-san rescues him by saying "Seven years."

"That long ago...  Was he sick?"

"No, he got injured while traveling."

"You know that for a long time his dream was to travel to India, right?  While he was there he got caught in an accident.  If he had been in Japan he might have survived his injuries, but..."

Ryuu-san sniffles.

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"I see.  ...That's unfortunate."

When he was a student, Seiji received a lot of kindness here and hadn't done anything to give his thanks or repay him which cases him to feel pained.

It was the same way when the owner died.

When he passed countless people came to the shop to pay their respects.

For Kaoru, who at that time had just become the owner from being a mere part-timer, the number of people who appeared was very hard for him.

"So, now you're the owner?"

"Yes.  Although I don't believe that I've been able to reach the level of the previous owner... at the very least, I'd be happy if you come again."

He lowers his head, and Seiji responds with a "Yeah" while looking happy for some reason.

"Well, it seems like you have some serious problems.  So, just like last night, I'll be sure to keep coming around for the time being."

(Serious problems... huh?)

Perhaps there are some serious problems, but Kaoru still feels off-put by his arrogance since last night.

Still, after losing one regular customer last night he's extremely grateful to be getting another one so quickly.

That's why he lowers his head again and says "That's very reassuring" instead.

"Leave it to me.  I'll be a way better customer than these old men.  --So, what's your name?"

"It's Yanase."

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"How about you give me your first name instead?"

"Aah, yes.  It's Kaoru."

He asks him how to write it, and Kaoru draws the characters on the counter with his finger to show him.

"Why do you use two characters?  It should be fine with just the first character."

"It's because I'm the youngest of five boys."

He'd heard that the second character in his name was considered a good character for parents to use with the child they planned on stopping with in families with lots of children.

Since the one who had given him his name was his grandfather, that was probably the meaning it had been given with.

Since they appear around the same age, Seiji seems to have heard a similar story and doesn't need any further explanation as he murmurs "I see" in understanding.

"My name is written with..."

"Ah, I know."

Kaoru remembers seeing it in the book the regular customer had lent to him, and shows Seiji the characters for 'Andou Seiji' with his finger, writing Seiji with the characters for 'blue' and 'mercy'.

"That's my pen name.  It's actually spelled this way."

Seiji writes out 'Seiji' with his finger using the characters for 'holy' and 'plan'.

"So you pronounce them the same way, only the spelling is different?"

(Do they have different meanings?)

As Kaoru thinks he asks "Do you believe in divination?" to which Seiji responds with a blunt "Not really..."

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"More importantly, call me by my name."

"Name?  ...Um~...  Is it all right if I call you Seiji-san?"

"Yeah.  Good job."

Seiji looks very happy.

"Well, since starting today I'm going to be a regular customer be sure to give me your courtesy smile too."

"...Haa."

While he is speaking, Kaoru decides that for now it's best to just smile and nod his head in confirmation.

"Such arrogance."

"Attaching '-san' to the name of someone like that is really unnecessary, calling him 'Seij' would be plenty."

The two old men huddle together and announce their complaints with boos.

"Don't be so unreasonable~!  There's no way I could refer to a customer with a nickname like that."

As Kaoru becomes troubled, Seiji speaks up with "I wouldn't mind if you gave me a nickname."

"...Eh?"

"That's right, that's right.  You should give him a nickname and use him as your servant."

"Shut up, old man.  Just be quiet for a while."

"What did you say?!"

"Excuse me, um~..."

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"Arrogant brat!"

"Who are you calling a brat?!"

Kaoru tries to tell them to calm down, but unfortunately he didn't get involved in time and the three of them have already gotten into a verbal fight.

"Excuse me~ I would appreciate it if my customers didn't fight."

Even though just yesterday 'Sarasa' had a nice atmosphere with the smell of coffee and the sound of jazz filling it, how did it become like this...?

"--Ah, welcome!"

The usual appearance of the regular customers who come in the afternoon suddenly turns shocked as they open the door.

"Excuse us.  You seem busy..."

Kaoru quickly heads over to the usual table where they sit and apologizes to them as he wipes it down.

"But it's nice to be busy every now and then.  Besides, the old men look like they're having fun."

The regular customers forgive him with wry smiles.

(...Huh?  Does it really look like they're having fun?)

They're so angry that their blood vessels are standing out so it seems like they might have high blood pressure.

Although, he has to admit that it seems more stimulating than the old men's usual conversation about the good weather that day or how poor the condition of their health is...

(For now, I need to get them to quiet down...)

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While Seiji initially had the upper hand, when the old men brought up stories about Seiji's destitute state back when he was a student the tables were turned.

As the two old men talk down to Seiji, he makes a mortified expression.

(It looks like he's going to lose.  Those old men sure are giving it all they've got.)

Even though that guy had been so excited at the prospect of getting into a physical fight just last night...

Even if at first glance he comes across as rude, he still felt sorry for him.

His impression of Seiji is growing deeper.

(...Yeah.  I guess this is all right every now and then.)

Since becoming the owner of 'Sarasa', Kaoru had tried his hardest to make sure the atmosphere didn't change since the previous owner had been here.

In order to not erase the memories of the owner, and to allow him to continue existing in this place...

The old men sympathized with Kaoru's feelings, and did their best to cooperate with him.  Yet as soon as an old face showed up they completely forgot about that and lost themselves in having fun.

For some reason, Seiji's presence has caused a wind to blow through the cafe, which had been frozen in place for such a long time.

(Maybe it's the blowing of the seasonal winds?)

He wondered when this wind would blow Seiji far away from 'Sarasa' again this time.

Still, being busy like this is fun.


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However, if there are disturbances like this all day every day from now on it would be bad for business.

For now, he needed to get the three worked-up people to calm down.  Perhaps he should switch out their coffee for some calming tea...

This is the start of Kaoru's exciting new days.