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Mystia pretty much had to drag me back into the kitchen so that I wouldn't freeze to death, and I was too depressed to take note that she was trying to say something to me. Something about doing a good job and it being my last day tommorrow. I just sort of nodded without really hearing the words. After she stopped talking and left, I went to sleep just so I wouldn't have to think about tonight any longer. Unfortunately, though I wanted to sleep, I couldn't get my mind to settle down. I kept thinking about how close I was to seeing someone who could have sent me home in an instant. Finally, after what must have been at least an hour of brooding, I went into a fitful slumber.
The next morning, I was awakened by a sharp pain in my side.
"Wake up! You overslept! Is this the way to start your last day here? Don't make me add another day if you slack today."
I looked up, one hand rubbing my eyes while the other rubbed the ribs that Mystia had apparently kicked to wake me up. When my vision cleared, she was still looking intently at me, looking like she might kick me again if I didn't hurry up and start working already. I yawned before getting up and running through my head the list of things to do before I could take a break until nighttime. Except there didn't seem to be anything to do.
"Huh, that's a first."
"What do you mean 'huh'? Are you getting to work or do I have to add another day?"
"Well that's the thing. I don't have anything to do until some customers come."
"I really doubt that. Don't you need to wash the..." Mystia pointed at the sink, but noticed that it was empty. Unfazed in her belief that I definately had something to do, she declared, "Okay, no dishes, but you need to wipe the tables."
I looked at her for about three seconds before she realized that she was the one who had done that last night. As I expected, she tried to make me mop the floor as well, but when we both walked outside, it was a clean as ever. I had done that last night as well. She looked as confused as I was.
"You're right, this is a first... Just go back in the kitchen and wait then."
I did, and she walked off upstairs, humming like always. Without the night sparrow in my face anymore, my mind started wandering. As one might expect, I remembered what had happened last night, but it was all in perspective now. Just like the time I had tried to get Keine to help me, it was only chance that I had found such a person who could help me. I had completely forgotten that I was really on my way to see Reimu again and hopefully receive some good news. Ran was just a quicker way to acheive the same result, and definately less safe as I didn't quite know if she would try to protect me like Reimu would if Yukari decided to "have fun" with me. Still, I couldn't help but grumble a bit at the fact that I was that close.
Oh, well. No use crying over spilled milk.
In contrast to my abnormally laidback morning, the night time rush was abnormally busy. It was so busy, Mystia actually abandoned her singing to keep her business running smoothly. Not used to seeing all the tables full all at once, this was the first time that I'd seen people wait for a table. Somehow, Rumia was able to cook the food quickly enough, although I had a suspicion that Mystia had told her just to throw the lamprey on the grill even before the orders came. I myself was trying my best to clean the tables and clear the dishes quickly enough to keep a steady flow of customers going in and out. Mystia was seating and taking orders. Several times, I had to wash the dishes and leave her to seat customers, take orders, clear dishes, AND clean tables. It was the most hectic night of work for me and it seemed like it would never end.
After business finally slowed down, as I was carrying some dirty dishes back to the kitchen, Mystia walked up and said to me, "There's someone who wants to talk to you out there. She's at the table second closest to the entrance on the right."
After dropping off the dishes, I exited the kitchen and scanned the tables for someone I recognized. Mystia's ambiguous statement on the location of this person wasn't any help as I didn't know whether she meant the right as seen from the kitchen or the right as seen as entering the restaurant. But that didn't matter much. Someone waved at me as I was searching. Someone who had nine bushy yellow tails and a white cap that covered her two pointy fox ears.
"You... What are you doing back here again tonight?"
I wasn't really in the mood to be nice to try to persuade her again. Of course, I hadn't really expected to see her again so soon in the first place. Ran scratched the back of her head as she started to explain, "Well, you see..."
22 hours earlier
As she expected, light snoring could still be heard from Yukari's chamber when Ran returned with Chen from the restaurant where that human had stupidly made the impossible request to see her master. Didn't he know that that would mean waking Yukari - something that no one but the insolent red-white shrine maiden would dare to do? It was a good thing that precious few knew exactly where they lived or else the world would have ended already from the disturbances that could potentially disturb her sleep.
Chen yawned as she alighted behind Ran and trudged wearily into her room where she curled up on a mat and fell asleep. Ran always found it strange that her shikigami slept like that. Once, when Ran offered her something to sleep in, she refused it, saying that her little mat was enough. Ran herself slept in a futon. She looked at it and sighed. There was still a lot to do before she could sleep. For some reason, though she was almost never awake to see it, Yukari liked to see her mansion clean and orderly. Since Ran never knew when she would awake, she spent everyday making sure everything was clean almost to the point of obsession. Besides the usual furniture to clean, there were also strange machines that had long tail-like things that led to the other side of many gaps. Yukari's explanation for those tails was that they needed "electricity" to run correctly, whatever that was.
Deciding to clean at this time was probably the luckiest thing Ran had done in a while because when she finished, she noticed that the snoring from the only room she hadn't entered to clean couldn't be heard. Tentatively, she opened to door a crack and peered in. There was her master, sitting up and yawning and still looking like she had been up for several days straight. Seldom was that look ever gone from her appearance. Opening the door fully, Ran stepped in softly.
"Did you sleep well, Yukari-sama?"
Yukari mumbled a short but unintelligible reply that Ran interpreted as a "not really," judging from the look on Yukari's face. She yawned again before getting out of her futon and putting some clothes on. Over her nightgown. In a slightly more audible voice, she said, "I'm hungry... Ran, what's for breakfast?"
Thinking quickly, Ran remembered the leftovers from just a while ago. Yukari said to "microwave" them, which, in and of itself, didn't mean much to Ran. What it meant to her was to put the leftovers in one of the strange machines shaped like a box and push some of the buttons on the side. The box lit up and made a somewhat annoying droning noise as the food rotated around it. She stared at the bright light boredly and in about a minute, it beeped at her and stopped its mysterious glowing. She took out the food which was now somehow hot. Truly a mystery of life.
As her master ate, Ran said offhandedly, "I suppose I could have brought that human here tonight if I knew you would wake up so soon."
Yukari swallowed her mouthful and asked, "What human?"
"There was this waiter at Mystia's lamprey place that said some pretty strange things and that wanted to see you. He even started yelling at me when I flew off after telling him that he couldn't."
Yukari already had another mouthful of food and Ran waited patiently and thought about that human again. He had yelled for her to come back and even called her by her full name.
Wait, did I even tell him my name?
As far as she could remember, he might have learned her first name when she told him to tell Mystia that she and Chen were there. But how did he know the name of Yakumo? She thought and thought and was smacked on the head by chopsticks.
"Did you hear me?"
"I said that you can take him here tommorrow. What were you thinking about?"
Yukari put down the bowl and yawned loudly.
"I'm going back to sleep."
"So... I can see Yukari?'
Ran nodded at me. She had just told me that during one of her waking periods, Yukari had said to bring me to her residence tonight. I couldn't believe my luck. Or was it misfortune? I wondered why Yukari had allowed me to go and decided that it was definately not for my benefit.
"I'm off work for good in about another hour. Can we wait that long?"
"We have a lot of time before Yukari-sama wakes again. And I haven't eaten yet. So one order of real lamprey please."
I sighed with relief as the last customer left the building and Mystia closed the place down. Ran was supposedly waiting for me outside, waiting for me to be officially released from my debt that I had stupidly incurred. With renewed spirits, I trotted over to the night sparrow to take my leave and say goodbye. She turned to me as I approached and smiled at me for the first time since I had started working here, which took me by surprise. The look I usually received was a glare followed by an order in a bossy voice. This drastic opposite that was now on her face seemed so out of place now.
"So you're going to leave right away?"
"Yup. It's a relief to be able to finally get back to whatever I was doing before."
She laughed - another thing that seemed uncharacteristic from my point of view - and asked smugly, "You hate working here that much? Hey, what were you doing before anyway?"
"Well... I was trying to find a way back home, but I wasn't getting anywhere close."
"Oh, really? You know, I was going to let you go after only four days since you were doing such a good job, but decided against it. If I'd known..."
"Don't worry about it. In fact, if you hadn't make me work here, I wouldn't have found this person who may be able to help me."
"Hmm... funny how the world works, huh?"
By now, the Mystia's strangeness was really freaking me out. I was trying to find some sort of reason for her to be acting this way, but all the things I came up with didn't make much sense.
Maybe she really is this nice and just acts all bossy to her employees. I mean it did make me think that something bad would happen if I didn't work hard...
"Yeah. Well, I should go now. Someone's waiting for me outside... I think."
Mystia ran behind the counter and rummaged around for something somewhere and ran back. She pushed something into my hands. Looking down, I saw a few bills of money.
"Huh? What's this for?"
"It's your wage. Minus the cost of what you owed me and the cost of the food that you ate while working here. Now, then. Since you are no longer an employee here, get out, we're closed."
She pushed me towards and the door as I stumbled across the hardwood floor. At the entrance, a final big push caused me to fall onto the dirt of the path that I had tried to follow so long ago.
"Thank you, come again!"
The door slammed shut and the lock clicked. From behind I heard Ran ask, "What just happened there?"
I stood up, dusted myself off, and replied, "I have no idea."
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