Roasting the coffee beans was one of my most important jobs each morning.
When I stocked them, they were still raw and couldn't be used for coffee like that; to make sure they would brew into tasty coffee, the beans needed to be cooked, or 'roasted' first.
I did it by putting the beans in a lidded wire roaster and putting them over heat, periodically shaking the whole thing to make sure there were no concentrations of heat. It took a long time, was heavy on my wrist, and was actual physical effort. The heat changed the bitterness and flavour of the coffee, so I couldn't take my eyes off them.
Heating the beans for a while saw the colour gradually change to a tawny brown, and the beans finally began to burst open with multiple pops. About five minutes later, they began to smell like actual coffee as they let off faint wisps of smoke.
Once I could hear the beans begin to crackle, I knew they were roasted throughout. They were roasted slightly more than I preferred when I took them away from the heat and fanned them. If the beans weren't cooled quickly, the latent heat that remained when they were stored away could make them roast further, so only when the heat finally faded from my vigorous fanning was I finally done.
I placed the beans aside and cleaned the café while waiting for them to cool fully. I swept the floors, wiped the tables and polished the windows. I hadn't actually realised when it happened, but at some point, the daily work had become routine to me.
After arranging the chairs around the tables, I was ready to start for the day and opened the door to turn the sign outside around to read 'open for business' before returning inside.
I might say I was open for business, but there would be no customers for a while. This wasn't some famous restaurant, there wouldn't be a queue outside waiting for me to open.
As my mind wandered, the bell above the door rang and I startled upright.
"Welcome," I said, hurriedly turning around to see a now-familiar face poking through the door.
"Morning, is now fine?" She asked.
"Yeah, morning, Linaria. We're already open."
At my words, a slight smile made its way on to her face as she entered.
This girl, with her crimson hair sparkling in the morning sun, was one of my regulars and she often came just as I opened up like this.
"You're early today," I said to her as she sat at the counter, making her tilt her head in question as she looked back at me.
"I am? I thought this was normal."
"The sun's barely up, is that normal?"
"It is, isn't it?"
The mornings in this world were generally early, it was the norm to sleep early in the night and rise with the sun. There were few pleasures in this world, there was no TV, no video games, no PCs or an easily accessible internet, nor were there smartphones that made it easy to keep in contact with your friends.
That was why people went to bed early and why they rose similarly early. But even so, for her to arrive just as I was finishing up with opening the café, surely that counted as rather early?
Linaria's hair was long and it looked like it took considerable time and effort to put into place after waking, and surely that wasn't all a girl had to do to get ready in the morning. Besides, she lived in the academy dorms, and they were far from being 'close' to my café.
Through those considerations, I came to the conclusion that she must get up relatively early. While those thoughts percolated slowly through my mind, dulled by the early hour, the kettle came to temperature.
I took a small pot of coffee beans from the shelf and set up the syphon. As I started grinding the coffee Linaria looked at me, still resting her chin on her hands.
"Hey," she started over the quiet rumble.
"What is it?" I asked in kind.
"Something smells really good."
The rumbling continued as I answered, "Ah, I just roasted some beans."
She tilted her head, her soft hair flowing over her shoulder as she did, catching the light streaming in from the window.
"Why are you using the old ones then? Wouldn't the fresh ones taste better?"
The rumbling trailed off.
"Would you stop just staring motionlessly?"
"My apologies," I said as I started again. "Things certainly do normally taste better when they're fresh, but coffee isn't like that. You can't just call fresh beans better."
I looked up at her, not sure she was really interested, but she was looking straight at me, apparently listening as I continued cheerfully.
"Freshly roasted beans have something sort of like a gas inside, it's a sign of their freshness but it's bad for brewing, it interferes with the mixing of the water and beans. If you used those beans you would end up brewing a coffee with an unstable, wandering flavour."
My experience in customer-facing positions meant that I knew how to judge people's feelings from their expression, and that experience was telling me that Linaria wasn't at all interested. As I prepared the syphon, I laughed slightly to move things along.
"Essentially, it tastes nicer if the beans are left to stand for a few days rather than used right after roasting, so I'll be using those a while from now."
"It sounds like drinking coffee takes a fair amount of effort."
"That's part of the fun," I said but it seemed like she didn't quite understand as she looked taken aback at me. Well, women not understanding male hobbies was the same no matter what era you were in.
The water in the flask had reached a boil and inserting the funnel saw it glug upwards and mix with the coffee powder. I gave it a quick stir.
Time seemed to pass at a crawl this early in the morning. I never would have thought I would be up at this time of day in the past, I'd never even tried to and I wasn't a morning person. But now that I was used to it, it wasn't so bad.
The early-morning air was crisp and clear, with nothing mixed in with it. It made me want to take a lungful of it. The passage of time was slow, and it almost felt like you could reach out and scoop up the sands of time as it trickled past.
I looked out of the window.
The morning sun cast the street into shadow as people walked along it. There were those adventurers heading to the labyrinth, people looking to buy things, and people looking to sell things. It was an everyday scene I was already long-familiar with.
The sky above was a pure ultramarine, melting together at the edges of the sky with the bright morning glow. The clouds drifting through the air were lit brightly around their perimeters, encircled in brilliant white.
I made sure the brewing was finished and extinguished the burner, allowing the water to return to the flask. Removing the funnel, the mellow scent of freshly-brewed coffee made its way to my nose.
Ah, how wonderful, what a time of elegance, what luxury.
"That reminds me," Linaria said, suddenly seeming to remember something from where she was absently watching me brew the coffee, "did you hear about the new fruit they found?"
"A new fruit?" I asked as I transferred the coffee to a cup.
"Yes, they found it in the labyrinth."
"A lot of things come out of that labyrinth, don't they?"
For me, brought up on games and manga as I was, a labyrinth mean monsters, treasure, and adventure to me. It was slightly different here though. Of course, there were monsters, treasure, and adventure; more important however was its convenience. Things that could be found included minerals, seasonings, ingredients, monster pelts and bones. In other words, it, in a remarkably easy to understand manner, made us citizens' lives better.
I poured warm milk into the roughly half-full coffee cup, adding a generous helping of sugar and then placing it in front of Linaria.
"What's this? It looks like muddy water."
"Could you think a little more about your descriptions?" I asked.
It was true though, the relatively strong coffee and milk came together to make a rather dark brown colour.
"You said you couldn't drink coffee," I continued, "so I made it easier to drink."
"I honestly can't understand anyone enjoying that."
Since she had come here, I had tried to show her the charms of coffee. I came up with different brewing methods, changing them to make it easier to drink, looking to milk and sugar for aid… and now I had finally arrived at this.
"I'm sure you'll be able to drink this, it's half milk after all."
"You dilute it with milk and drink it? Coffee really is strange."
"It's called a Café au Lait."
"A cafayolay? It's hard to say and a weird name."
Café au Lait was a drink often served in France. They wanted to drink coffee to wake up in the mornings, but a black coffee first thing in the morning caused stomach pain, thus bringing the drink about from the somewhat sloppy idea of 'let's dilute it with milk then'.
She took a sip and then stopped moving, her eyes fluttering and sparkling as she looked at the drink she had called 'muddy water' a few moments ago.
"No way, it's delicious."
"Even though it's muddy water?"
"Stop it, that's rude to the cafayolay."
It was a fascinating change of tone, but I was happy to have had her call it delicious.
"But I'd prefer it if it was sweeter," she said, taking some sugar out of the small pot on the counter and adding it to the Café au Lait.
"I'll keep it in mind," I answered.
I thought I'd made it rather sweet already, but apparently not sweet enough. Or rather, I think the people that live here have a tendency to enjoy sugar.
Linaria's hand stopped abruptly after she added the sugar.
"We use it so freely, but sugar is actually a luxury item in places with no labyrinth."
I see, I thought. I'd been able to get the sugar relatively easily, so I hadn't thought it was valuable.
"That reminds me that sugar, salt, and other seasonings all come out of the labyrinth, it's kind of amazing. Or maybe I should say its lack of consistency is amazing."
"The environment changes with each floor, so so do the products. Our whole lifestyle is supported by the labyrinth."
I nodded in understanding. I'd thought of the labyrinth as something like a magic bag that you could pull anything out of, but perhaps the life created by it was taken as a given by the people here, or maybe even if they thought it was strange, they placed more importance on the benefits and the mysteries were seen as secondary.
"It's really deep, so it causes some problems too," she added.
"Problems?" I asked.
"Yes, things that are produced on the deeper floors are hard to transport, it's a long way after all."
"Ah, I see. Actually, is it really all that big?"
It was a rather obvious issue, I couldn't say to just use a truck or something, they would just have to use manpower.
"The ones that are bothered by it right now are some of the dilettantes, the researchers, and the academy, they need to investigate whether the things produced on the deepest floors are useful first.'
"So was that new fruit you were talking about from the deeper levels?"
Linaria shook her head.
"They're from the forest on the second level."
Ah, from the forest, wait?
"There's a forest in the labyrinth?"
So there is…
"Eh, what about light? If it's dark, things don't grow, right?"
"There's light though?"
So there is…
"What about water and soil?"
So there is…
What was with that labyrinth, was it even natural? Actually, monsters live in there, so of course it wasn't. All the more because this was a fantasy world, I was just bewildered at these things that would be miracles in reality.
"The trees that produce it have always been there, but they look just like Deres Fruits, so no one thought they were a new type."
"You know, those," she said, extending a slender finger, "you often see them in the mountains in red, yellow and green. If you eat them they cause an upset stomach for a while."
"Ah, those," I nodded. Of course, I had no idea what she meant, but judging from her tone, they were well known. Pretending to know what your companion was talking about was sometimes important to keep a conversation flowing smoothly.
"They taste good, but will definitely give you a bad stomach, so they're called Demon Fruits."
"Now I remember, that takes me back," I affirmed, though I'd never seen them. 'Demon Fruit' just gave me an uneasy feeling.
"They look identical to Deres Fruits, but they're a new variety, so the Guild and Coven are investigating them."
I wondered what the Coven was, but of course, didn't show it.
As noon passed, the odd customer looking for lunch arrived. None of them ordered a coffee, but instead, people came in search of my cooking.
There were many unfamiliar ingredients here for me, but when I tried eating them, there were things with flavours and appearances that were the same as those from home. So my cooking was a little odd.
Those became things that people in this world had never seen, and I gained regulars that came because I could give them unusual meals once they heard the rumours from someone.
I was chatting with a greengrocer that frequently came here when the bell rang. I looked in that direction to see a huge person in pitch-black clothing blocking the door. The clothes were straining against the muscles contained within, which gave them an impression all on its own. Then I saw their face was that of a wolf, and amber eyes surveyed the store before fixing themselves menacingly on me.
"This it? The place that does the unusual cooking?" He asked in a low, threatening voice. The greengrocer swiftly moved away from me.
"Ahh, yeah, it is," I answered, terrified, the wolfman nodded once and moved to make way.
"Boss, this is the place."
I shook, reality didn't quite follow.
I had definitely heard a deep, foppish voice, one that rumbled in your chest, but standing behind the wolfman was a familiar, snuggly bunny. It was snow white and fluffy, with drooping ears. His eyes were red, and no matter how I looked, he was definitely a bunny. But he was wearing a sharp, black suit and a red tie, standing on two legs with his hands behind his back.
Utterly mindless of my shaking, the rabbit and wolf approached the counter, the rabbit disappearing from sight behind the counter itself.
The wolf stopped next to a chair and put his hand into his jacket, pulling out a small bright red leather chair. It had gold bordering the seat and back, with fine golden thread embroidering it. He placed it on top of the chair and suddenly, I remembered the high chairs used for children in restaurants.
The rabbit hopped up there and appeared atop the red seat, looking at me with button eyes.
"You are younger than I expected," came the smooth voice that I could feel in the bottom of my stomach, along with the snuffling movements of the rabbit's mouth. Have you ever seen and heard a cute rabbit speak in a voice more suited to a gentleman enjoying bourbon and cigars? I have, just now. "Rumours have, ah, reached my ears recently. Rumours that it is possible to experience new, ah, unfamiliar cooking in this restaurant."
"Well, yes, that's true," I said.
"Currently, this town is one of the places with the most ingredients in the world. Chefs and gourmets from across the lands all gather here and push the boundaries of cooking. Since time began, we have been obsessed with good women, good booze, and good food. Indeed?"
"Correct!" Answered the wolf to the question directed to me.
"And amongst those desires, I am most interested in the good food. If it is something I have not eaten before, then all the better. And so, each time I hear of a new ingredient from the labyrinth, I acquire it as soon as feasible and search for someone that can make something good from it."
I gulped, an unpleasant sheen of sweat no doubt across my forehead. I've always thought I had a good amount of insight. But now, now I regretted my sharp intuition. I could more or less imagine what he would say next.
"I wish for you to use a certain ingredient and cook something. If it is to my liking, I will give you whatever recompense you desire. Money, women, anything. I shall grant your desire to the best of my ability. If it is not to my liking, then I shall simply pay you a minimum fee."
Is that really it? You won't feed me to the wolf behind you?
Ignoring my stiff expression, the rabbit flicked out his ears.
"You will make something tasty, I shall eat it, and you will be paid in accordance with the result. Simple, is it not?"
I put a hand to the back of my neck. What he was saying certainly was simple, but the strange sense of expectation bothered me.
The meals I made were certainly new to this world, but I wasn't an accomplished chef. I just helped in my family's café and had a lot of chance to cook at home. I didn't have the confidence to just take it on.
As the rabbit raised a fluffy right hand, the wolf reached into his jacket and pulled out red fruits, still attached to a vine. At a rough count, there were around ten, each about the size of a clenched fist. I wondered how he fit them inside.
The wolf's expression didn't flicker as he held the vine in one hand and moved his eyes down to me. The rabbit brought his short arms together in front of his face, swivelling to look up at me.
"A few days prior, these fruits were discovered in the labyrinth. I would like you to use these."
I didn't say anything, making the wolf's nostrils flare as his breath made my hair flutter.
"They are rather similar to the fruit known as Demon Fruit, but are not the same. They were not poisonous when I sampled them, and the flavour was not unpleasant."
I remembered what I had heard from Linaria. The things in front of me were definitely the ingredient currently under investigation. I was rather surprised he would try something completely that might be deadly poison.
Damn, this rabbit was hardcore.
There was another thing I was surprised about. Damn, no matter how I looked at them, these Demon Fruits were tomatoes.
They were slightly elongated, and the unripe parts were still a yellow-green. But the fruits were the familiar red forms of tomatoes. It actually brought a tear to my eye. Each time I saw something that reminded me of the feelings from my own home in this incomprehensible world I felt like I would cry. I never before thought the day would come where I would tear up at tomatoes.
"So, how about it, can you do so?"
Of course, I nodded.
The cooking and rabbit didn't matter. I wasn't even paying attention to the wolf, nor was I thinking on what would happen. I just wanted those tomatoes.
I wanted to touch them, chew them, I wanted to eat the cooking that had been consigned to exist solely in my memories, that was all.
Preparation is important for cooking, you could even say that the flavour itself was decided by the preparations.
The ingredients were sliced, and the meat had been minced by the knife in my hand. This preparation took time, so the wolf's glare had been intensifying. These preparations were important, but it didn't seem like the wolf would understand that.
The dish I was making was very simple. It used three vegetables that were sold in the market. Something similar to spring onions, something like carrots, and something akin to celery.
I put the vegetables into a sturdy pot and poured in a generous helping of olive – well, I don't know if it was actually from olives, but at least it was from something of that ilk – oil before putting heat underneath it and then putting the lid on. Along with the thickness of the pot, this would ensure it was evenly heated. Now how would it turn out? It would steadily heat the ingredients, making it taste better.
Occasionally I opened the lid and stirred the contents with a scorched wooden spatula. After about five minutes, the vegetables had softened from the heat and their sweetness had been infused into the oil.
Now I removed the lid and turned the heat up to drive off the excess water. The lid was heavy enough that the steam couldn't escape when it was shut.
After waiting a while longer, the bottom and sides of the pot began to stick to the vegetables, and those vegetables began to get slightly scorched. Each time this happened, I quickly used the spatula to scrape the residue off and mix everything around.
After several repetitions of this, the vegetables finally looked cooked so I turned off the heat and let it cool a little.
As it did, I set about preparing the minced meat.
I took out the usual iron frying pan I used, ladling some of the fat from the pot into the pan so I could cook the meat with the flavours of the vegetables.
When the pan reached the right temperature, I added the meat, enough that I could make a single hamburger the size of the pan itself.
The smell of cooking meat is something that captured the hearts of many, and the wolf was no exception and I learnt what it was to have a gaze stabbing into your back. With the wolf's hungry gaze at my back, I watched the meat cook without doing anything.
It was my Grandpa that taught me how to cook this, and he had just folded his arms and watched the meat. When I asked if he wasn't going to mix it, he answered quietly:
"If you mix it, the juices come out. You keep the temperature low and it won't burn."
That was why I was imitating him. I wished he had taught me more, but of course, he wasn't here. My cooking knowledge would remain incomplete, I felt.
As I silently watched, the meat browned off and I flipped it as one mass with the spatula. What had been the top was already well heated, so it soon browned as well.
I took the meat out and added red wine to the now empty pan. I couldn't waste the flavours released with the meat juices as it cooked. I let it simmer like that, driving off the excess alcohol.
I added the minced meat and the reduced wine and meat flavourings into the pot of vegetables.
And now, finally, it was time for the star of the show.
The Demon Fruits, the tomatoes.
I took a sample as part of my preparations and they had a slightly wilder flavour than the tomatoes I was used to. Perhaps I should say they tasted slightly unripe, but the piercing tomato scent left an impression on me, the moment I bit into it was marked by a rush of sour juices into my mouth and a slightly sweet aftertaste on my tongue. It was surprisingly substantial between my teeth as well.
I nearly groaned aloud at the experience. The flavour was strong and full-bodied. Even as I worried that they might be tastier sliced and with added salt than put through my poor cooking, I set about cooking them.
This was because it wasn't that I wanted to eat the tomatoes themselves, I wanted to use them and eat a modern meal that used them.
Making a silent request to the tomato, I crushed it above the pan, dropping the fruit juice and flesh, with the yellow seeds embedded into it, into the mix. I repeated it for a second time, then a third.
Then I added several herbs from this world.
There had been no selective breeding for meats or vegetables here, so there was a strong stench about them. The people of this world were fine with it, but it was somewhat difficult for me to eat, so I often used herbs like this to remove it.
I took a bottle with a light brown powder inside from out of the cupboard.
I called it 'consomme' for convenience, but it was, of course, slightly different. Strictly speaking, it was an instant soup powder used by adventurers to drink quickly in the labyrinth. Its convenience had seen it become popular with the housewives of the word recently too.
Then, for a subtle flavouring, I added a splash of a sauce called Solge.
It was thick, light brown and had a sharp, salty taste to it. The sauce had a particularly strong stench about it, probably similar to garum at a guess, which was made from salting large amounts of fish.
It was a relatively popular flavouring within the town, and used in nearly everything. This could be used to easily add some saltiness to a dish, and it was common to eat this with bread or pasta. It added the salt content and went well with alcohol, so it fit right in with a town of adventurers you could say.
However, whether it be the flavours of the ingredients, or the dashi so beloved by the Japanese, this completely drowned out the more delicate tastes and I wasn't too fond of it. The cooking in this world all tasted far too strong, so it really was a tiny amount that I added.
Now that I had come this far, all that was left was to allow it to steep.
I washed my hands and put away the things I was finished with, making the wolf question me longingly.
"It'll be finished after steeping for an hour."
"An hour!?" He cried with an expression like that girl he had just confessed to had told him she already had a boyfriend, "Just cooking can take that long!?"
"What exactly do you mean, 'just', that's not even including the labour!" I wanted to yell, but I quickly looked away. Looking right at a wolfman's face was intimidating, I couldn't help it.
"What exactly do you mean, 'just'?"
I thought I might have accidentally thought that out loud, but of course I hadn't, it was the bunny's deep voice that spoke the words.
"B-but boss, your valuable time sh-" he started before the rabbit's fluffy right hand rose into the air, stopping his words.
"It's fine, Scemotta. The arts are timeless."
"Cooking is an art as well."
I shuddered at the refinement. This rabbit was kind of cool.
I was emotionally moved, the wolf was at sea, and the rabbit was sat with his arms calmly folded.
Thus, time passed.
An hour had passed.
Everything inside the pot had all melded together, their individuality condensing. I used a spoon to scoop out a sample.
The acidity of the tomatoes and the strong meat flavours exploded onto my tongue. However, the sweetness of the vegetables coupled with the aftertaste of the consomme, red wine and other components was surprisingly palate cleansing. Bringing it all together was, strangely, the surprisingly sweet scent of tomatoes. I suppose that managing to survive in the labyrinth managed to leave its mark on the flavour. Adding just a little salt and pepper completed the sauce.
Now it was time for the pasta I had prepared while waiting. I would buy it from my local pasta store, but in this world, I obviously had to make it by hand. They were relatively flat, with a firm main body. I'd meant it for my dinner, but alas.
The pasta quickly boiled in plenty of hot water. I mixed it with the piping hot sauce and served it on a plate, grating some golden cheese atop it and adding a herb that was something like parsley to add some colour.
And now, finally, my Another World Style Spaghetti Bolognese was complete.
I placed it in front of the rabbit and his tiny nose began to quiver.
It was here that I worried whether he could use a human-sized fork when the wolf smoothly removed a box from his jacket, placing it softly on the table. He opened it, revealing something wrapped in a black cloth. The wolf used his fingertips to unwrap the contents. Within the cloth was a set of cutlery, a knife, fork, and spoon that could only be called miniature, with delicate engravings along the handles.
The rabbit took a handkerchief from his pocket and laid it across his lap, put his tiny hands together in some kind of prayer, and then selected the fork from the box.
He then wound the pasta around the fork, though because the fork was miniature, it was only a single strand. Even so, that would probably be a mouthful for the rabbit still. The rabbit chewed the pasta. Then he scooped up a portion of the meat and vegetables and ate them, then a single tomato, then some of the sauce and pasta.
It was a stressful time. I was satisfied that I had been able to fulfil my nostalgia by making this, but I now remembered that the important thing was whether the rabbit enjoyed it.
Would this meal be accepted in this world?
Actually, was it fine to make a rabbit eat meat in the first place?
A multitude of things were running through my mind, but these were all thoughts for later. The rabbit said nothing, just chewing his food. There wasn't much of an expression on his face and he was eating rather mechanically, so my worries suddenly intensified.
The rabbit kept eating, his fork un-halting, saying nothing. The wolf was looking at him in puzzlement, and even the other customers kept sneaking glances at us.
"Um, is it… not to your tastes?" I asked, unable to bear the silence, the lack of feedback having made my heart start pounding. The rabbit stopped and looked up at me with his red eyes.
"I can feel the acidity and sweetness. The usual issues with the vegetables are nowhere to be found, it's almost like they are completely different vegetables. And this strange scent and its aftertaste… I do not know whether it is due to using the Demon Fruits, or due to your skill, but it is a strange flavour."
A rabbit has issues with vegetables, at the same time as that passed through my mind, I mentally nodded at his impression that it was a strange flavour. I felt similarly when I ate this world's cooking. The ingredients, the methods, even the environments they were grown in were all different. On top of that, the tastes of this world and my own were wildly different. There might be a big difference between what I found tasted good and what the people here did.
Seeing that it seemed like he didn't enjoy it, my shoulders fell.
"However… it is delicious," the rabbit said softly, "Simply from my lack of understanding as I sample it, this is without a doubt, delicious. Each mouthful sees my tongue, my body, even my very heart overtaken by the flavour, bringing me to this understanding."
He took a short breath.
"This is without a doubt beyond everything I know. Superb."
I let out a breath, my worries fading. The wolf looked at the rabbit with wide eyes and then looked at me, switching between us several times.
The rabbit didn't even leave a single fragment of vegetable, eating everything. It was a huge honour to the chef to eat like this.
As he prepared to leave, the rabbit told me that he would give me whatever I wanted, but allowed me to defer my answer. I didn't know what kind of person he was, so I couldn't be careless.
Besides, I was satisfied with the tomatoes left over from my cooking, they were better than anything.
"In that case," said the rabbit, handing me a small golden badge. It was the shape of a bunch of grapes and had a floppy-eared rabbit on the front. "This is the seal of the Corleone family. You may show it if you have issues in the town or wish to contact me."
"Boss! You can't be giving this brat the golden seal!?"
"I'm in a rather pleasant mood currently, control yourself," said the rabbit – apparently called Corleone – and thumped his hind leg, making the wolf cringe in on himself. The wolf was clearly stronger, so I wondered what exactly the relationship was there, however, I didn't have the courage to ask.
Thus, the rabbit and the wolf left the restaurant.
I started cleaning up and wiping down the counter as I tried to parse what on Earth had just happened when the greengrocer approached from one of the inner tables he had been watching us inconspicuously from.
"Yuu, you made it!"
"What do you mean by that?" I asked, my eyebrows furrowing as he waved a hand in front of his face.
"I mean, that was the Corleone family! D-don't you know?"
Even with that reaction, I couldn't help not knowing. Shaking his head in disbelief, he began speaking fervently.
"They manage all the back-alleys around here! Even the officials don't involve themselves carelessly!"
"Hah," I sighed, "are they bad people?"
Maybe they were a mafia or something. But the man shook his head.
"There're a lot of issues in the back-alleys, there are adventurers confident in their strength causing problems, criminals that run here from other towns, and other things. They're famous for capturing them and dealing with things, making the town safe.
"They're good people then?"
"But, you know the Corleones? They've got the influence that stores have been destroyed and dispersed! They're really scary, huh?" He said earnestly. I still didn't have a clue about that scariness, but that was probably because I wasn't familiar with the town.
"I'd heard Boss Corleone was a gourmet, but to think that was true," he added, "It's amazing he recognised your restaurant! Scary, but amazing!"
He pounded my shoulder, enjoying himself.
The sky outside was dark and I could hear the clamour from the main street. The darker it got, the more people gathered there. The town was always bustling and never seemed to have a day off. It was a little too noisy for me.
We were always lacking customers, but it made the café comfortable for me. I did worry about the lack of customers, but I certainly liked the quiet atmosphere.
Tonight, Linaria was sitting alone at the counter. She came here often before and after school and mostly studied while she was here. I was being quiet to avoid disturbing her, but when she took a break, I explained what had happened earlier today. Everyone would want to talk about things they had been surprised be, things they had found strange, or about unusual events.
"What, Boss Corleone came here?" Was her reaction after my monologue.
"Ah, so you do know him."
"Of course I do, he's famous. Criminals are particularly scared of him, he's merciless."
"What is he, scary? Reliable? Something else?"
I didn't know how to react after seeing him, he was a white, fluffy bunny.
"You can just relax and let him take care of it, right?" Linaria said cheerily as she traced the rim of her cup with her index finger. "If he comes here, then criminals probably won't target you."
"Not that they'd have reason to anyway."
"Well, that's true."
A short time passed before Linaria called out to me, her face looking towards the window as she glanced back at me.
"Is there any of the meal that he like left?"
I couldn't help but laugh.
"Are you sure, they look just like Demon Fruits?"
"He liked them."
"Weren't they poisonous?"
"I'll yell through it."
Would yelling help? I thought, cocking my head before putting that aside.
She had only recently started visiting, but I had come to know many new things about her. For example that she like good food, and hat she ate surprisingly often, among other things.
"So, is there any left?"
"Actually, there is," I said somewhat self-importantly, "I'll get it ready."
Linaria smiled childishly.