Chapter 9 – Emblem (Part 3)
While everything was taking place, just as the pain in my nose gradually subsided, someone rushed into the restaurant with a gasping breath. He was the guy from before — Guzuya.
He might be living quite far from here.
“You didn’t have to be in such a hurry.” (Yashiro)
“If I don’t pay today…. I won’t be able to do my job properly tomorrow…. because I will be too worried….” (Guzuya)
Having regained his composure to some degree after returning to his home, Guzuya stopped using polite language when he was talking to me. His expression was also firmer than before.
“By the way, what’s your job?” (Yashiro)
“Does it matter!?” (Guzuya)
“It’s just a small talk. I want to know about our regular customer better.” (Yashiro)
“…….. I’m a carpenter! Got a problem with that!?” (Guzuya)
He completely hates me now.
Ginette was listening to our conversation with an uneasy expression. I didn’t explain what exactly happened before, so she had no idea what was going on.
On the other hand, Estella narrowed her eyes as though she had guessed something, but decided to not interfere. Without uttering any words, she took a mouthful of river fish stew and hard black bread.
“Here, 20 Rb! We’re done, right!? Get rid of the paper now!” (Guzuya)
I received the money that Guzuya pushed to me. Then, while looking straight at displeased face of Guzuya, I said with a calm and clear voice:
“It’s not enough.” (Yashiro)
Guzuya raised his voice. The blood veins on his neck and forehead were bulging as though about to burst.
“The price of stir-fried vegetable scraps is 20 Rb!! It’s clearly written on the menu!! Are you trying to rip me off!?” (Guzuya)
Guzuya said while slamming his fist against the table with all his might.
I will charge you with the reparation fee if the table breaks….
“Indeed, the price of stir-fried vegetable scraps is only 20 Rb. You aren’t wrong.” (Yashiro)
Guzuya choked on his words when I took out a piece of paper from my chest pocket. He focused his attention to that paper.
“What does it say here?” (Yashiro)
I put the paper on the table for Guzuya to read. Ginette and Estella also peered into the paper.
“This is….” (Estella)
Estella glared at me with very cold eyes. She swallowed back the words she was about to say and returned to her seat instead. Her expression was clearly saying: “We need to talk later!”.
While I and Estella were exchanging glances, Guzuya finished re-reading his writing and declared full of confidence.
“It says ‘I will pay for all the foods and drinks I’ve consumed at Hidamari-tei’. I’ve fulfilled the contract by paying 20 Rb!” (Guzuya)
Believing in his legitimacy, Guzuya tried to take control of the conversation.
“Who’s going to believe it was your first offense?” (Yashiro)
I said with a calm and clear voice.
He knows that Ginette’s always taking her time in the kitchen, and he also seems to be familiar with this place. I’m sure it was not his first time eating here.
“H-Hey, don’t just go accusing me without evidence….” (Guzuya)
He’s really bad at lying. Maybe it’s because he needs to avoid the blatant lies since there’s the Judgement of Spirit.
“You asked this question to Ginette after you sat down; ‘Did you fix the chair?’ am I right?” (Yashiro)
“S-So what!?” (Guzuya)
“This means you have come here before, when the chair was still making a squeaking sound.” (Yashiro)
“Did you pay the bill properly at that time?” (Yashiro)
“You also knew the location of toilet. How strange…. when I first came here, I had to ask a direction from Ginette. You have used it before, haven’t you? Did you pay the bill properly at that time?” (Yashiro)
“B-But…. the contract… says….” (Guzuya)
“Okay, let’s read it once again.” (Yashiro)
I pointed to a piece of paper spread out on the desk.
“‘I will pay for all the foods and drinks I’ve consumed at Hidamari-tei’ — You wrote this yourself, am I right?” (Yashiro)
“N-No, wait, I didn’t mean….” (Guzuya)
“Then, shall we let the Spirit God to judge it?” (Yashiro)
I pointed my index finger at Guzuya’s face.
“Do you have the courage to face the judgment?” (Yashiro)
I stared straight into Guzuya’s eyes until he finally sank to the floor and slumped his shoulders, admitting his defeat.
“…. I understand. I will pay the full amount. This is my fault, I won’t do it anymore, so please…. I beg you… anything but the Judgement of Spirit…. ” (Guzuya)
I don’t know how many times he dine-and-dashed. I have no choice but to make him confess. It’s very unlikely that he will tell lies after this. But if I still have doubts, I can just ask: ‘How many time you dine-and-dashed?’ and use the Judgement of Spirit to confirm it.
When I questioned Guzuya, he said he had dine-and dashed 18 times, and the total damage amounted to 640 Rb.
Did he order white bread or something?
Guzuya didn’t have enough money to pay the full amount, so before he went home, I asked him to write a new written pledge.
I could imagine that he was not the only one who did this. If this information reaches them, I’m sure they will never come here ever again. I will not be able to collect the payment from them, but it’s more important to prevent the future loss. That being said, I will squeeze them dry if I happen to find them in the future.
Even after Guzuya went home, Ginette still had a deep sinking expression on her face.
“I wonder if that customer will come to eat here again….” (Ginette)
“If he is just going to dine-and-dash, it would be better if he doesn’t come here again.” (Yashiro)
“But…. that customer said that the food here is delicious….” (Ginette)
I guess I need to state the fact in plain and clear words for her to understand.
“What you are thinking right now is not an act of kindness. You are just being stupid.” (Yashiro)
“I am being stupid…?” (Ginette)
“Yes, and it’s so outrageous.” (Yashiro)
I beckoned Ginette to change her sitting position so that we sat face-to-face without being separated by the table, at the distance where our knees almost touching. Then, I spoke as I stared into her eyes.
“Let’s say you are self-sacrificing and overlook Guzuya’s misdeeds. But if you do that, what will become of Mumu Granny who always properly paid for the tea she ordered?” (Yashiro)
From her reaction, this thought must have never crossed her mind.
Lost for words, Ginette stared into my eyes, as though exposing her insecurities, as though begging for an answer.
“Mumu Granny is not particularly well-off, is she? Even so, small as it may be, she contributes to the sales to help you — to help your business.” (Yashiro)
“Yes…. Mumu Granny runs a laundry service at a reasonable price…. and she works hard every day….” (Ginette)
“Yet here you are trampling the good intentions of Mumu Granny who spends her hard-earned money on you.” (Yashiro)
“….am I doing such a thing?” (Ginette)
“That’s right.” (Yashiro)
Mumu Granny who was cutting back on her living expense to pay for her tea, and Guzuya was enjoying something more expensive without paying. To brand them together as ‘customers’, it would be disrespecting Mumu Granny. Moreover, even after knowing that, Ginette was thinking of letting Guzuya off the hook.
“Or are you saying that the other customers can eat and drink at this place for free while Mumu Granny has to pay?” (Yashiro)
“No, I….” (Ginette)
“Then are you saying Mumu Granny can eat and drink at this place for free as well?” (Yashiro)
“In that case, this place is no longer a restaurant. Your grandfather’s restaurant is as good as closed.” (Yashiro)
“N-No way….” (Ginette)
Ginette casted her gaze downward. Her body quivered as she tightened the grips on her skirt.
“Before you act, think twice about what’s important and what you need to protect.” (Yashiro)
“I…. understand….” (Ginette)
“Also, dine-and-dash is a crime. Don’t just let it go unpunished.” (Yashiro)
“It was just a sudden impulse and he was actually a good person deep inside —- is that what you are trying to say?” (Yashiro)
“If that’s the case, you should tell him that what he did was wrong.” (Yashiro)
When I softened my tone, Ginette slowly raised her face.
“Tell him…?” (Ginette)
“Yeah. Tell him this: ‘Doing bad deeds will lower your value as a person.’ and then ‘Please repent.’. It’s no different from what you usually do, right?” (Yashiro)
“I see….” (Ginette)
Ginette brought her hands together in front of her chest as if praying.
“Will he be saved?” (Ginette)
“If he repents, his sins will be forgiven at the very least. I’m also not going to pursue this matter any further as long as he pays the bills properly.” (Yashiro)
“I see….” (Ginette)
Still holding her hands together in front of her chest, Ginette loosened her tense cheeks and smiles softly.
“Then, I will also do my best!” (Ginette)
Ginette, who has never denounced anyone, seemed about to change.
This will improve the management of this restaurant to some extent…. But setting all the big talk aside, I have also dine-and-dashed at this place and haven’t paid the bill. Ginette doesn’t seem to have noticed it yet, though. If she were to say: ‘You are one to talk.’ to me here and now, that would be a great achievement.
“That was a wonderful lecture!” (Estella)
When the smile returned to Ginette’s face, Estella rose from her seat and then stood in front of me. Her eyes were cold.
“Now then, I am also going denounce a sin…. a sin of yours!” (Estella)
Having said that, Estella tapped a piece of paper — the new written pledge, spread out on her desk with a bang.
“Didn’t I already tell you that abusing the lord’s emblem is a felony!?” (Estella)
“Oh, yeah, you sure did.” (Yashiro)
“So, what is the meaning of this!?” (Estella)
“But I’m not abusing the lord’s emblem.” (Yashiro)
“Oh, ‘It’s not an abuse because I used it for good deeds’ — is that what you are trying to say? That’s a naive thought! The unauthorized use of the lord’s emblem itself is considered an abuse!!” (Estella)
“I agree. For whatever purpose, using the lord’s emblem without permission is a crime.” (Yashiro)
“Then, why!?” (Estella)
Estella grabbed my collar. She put so much strength that I had difficulty breathing.
“Now, now, let’s calm down a little.” (Yashiro)
“Do you think I can be calm in this situation?” (Estella)
“Just take a closer look at this!” (Yashiro)
Having said that, I presented my handmade stamp. Estella released her hands from my collar and accepted it. Then, while making a serious expression, she stared at the image of double-headed eagle and a snake and leaked out a long sigh.
“I can’t believe you made something like this. Do you know that counterfeiting the emblem of lord will send you straight to the guillotine?” (Estella)
“Like I said, take a closer look!” (Yashiro)
I pointed at a certain part near the eagle’s face. The two eagle’s heads on the emblem winked at each other.
“What the hell is this!?” (Estella)
“Cute, isn’t it?” (Yashiro)
“It’s not cute! What’s with this joke of an emblem?” (Estella)
“It’s my emblem.” (Yashiro)
I don’t have my personal emblem. Thus I decided to make one. Then, when I was looking for something that could serve as a reference, I happened to have an expired permit with the lord of 42nd District’s emblem on it.
“….and so I created my personal emblem using the lord of 42nd District’s emblem as a reference.” (Yashiro)
“Isn’t this just a cheap imitation?” (Estella)
“Yeah, I admit I imitated it, but I have never called this the lord of 42nd District’s emblem.” (Yashiro)
“Do you think that kind excuse will fly!?” (Estella)
“You don’t think it will?” (Yashiro)
Estella crossed her arms and lost in thought.
It’s a very gray area, but I should be still safe.
“In addition, it’s clearly written here. Look carefully!” (Yashiro)
I pointed at the body of snake entwined around the two-headed eagle’s neck. Estella and Ginette focused their attention on it. Over there, two words: [OBA] and [YASHIRO], were written in a way that looked like scales pattern.
“See? This makes it clear that this is my personal emblem.” (Yashiro)
“I’m stunned to be honest….” (Estella)
“Yashiro-san is really amazing. You can carve such fine letters precisely.” (Ginette)
The letters are as fine as the tip of a toothpick. It takes a great deal of skill to write letters of this size in a reversed style. I’m proud of myself for pulling it off!
I guess Chief’s teachings are still living inside me even now. ‘You should not compromise about details. That’s what makes our products works of art.’ — I remember Chief often told me that.
“I got it. I will pretend I have never seen this emblem.” (Estella)
Estella raised her hands with a look of exhaustion.
“However, if you keep doing this, you will catch the lord’s attention eventually, and the guards will make a move.” (Estella)
Apparently, the lords of each district have their own vigilante groups to protect the safety of the district they rule. The 42nd District is no exception. They play a role similar to the police in Japan.
“If that happen, an excuse such as it’s just similar but a different emblem won’t help you at all. The words of nobles hold more weight than some trivial facts.” (Estella)
“They should be judged by the Spirit God.” (Yashiro)
“I’m trying to warn you that you won’t be able to stay here if you keep making such statements…. are you even listening!?” (Estella)
“I got it, I got it. I will keep it in mind.” (Yashiro)
Apparently, I’d better to seal off “The Operation: My Emblem”. Even though I did my best to carve the stamp.
“At any rate, your behavior is too outlandish. You need to pull yourself together a bit more.” (Estella)
I put the stamp back into my pocket as Estella continued talking.
“Ginette will be sad if you are gone, after all.” (Estella)
Hearing that, I shifted my line of sight at Ginette. She nodded at me with a soft smile on her face.
Even though it’s only been three days since we met. I’m sure she’d give the same reaction to anyone.
Ginette is the type of person who easily gets attached to people after spending some time together and will get lonely when they are gone. Because of that, I don’t need to think it too deeply. But, well, I will stay with her for the time being. I have nowhere else to go and there are still many things I don’t know about this city.
“I understand.” (Yashiro)
That’s my answer, at least for now.