15 Chapter 15 Shoujo Effec

    The sun's spring-like glory had waned into early evening by the time they reached the ramen house.

    Kou and Saski were standing beside an outdoor dining table, near a fiery red awning displaying the name Matsu Ramen House in free flowing calligraphy. Duran couldn't see any obvious damage. He hoped the trouble he and Kou had caused ended up trivial.

    'Tsubaki-kun you're here.' Duran squealed with surprise. He blushed and averted his eyes from the others.

    Himeko chuckled.

    'I guess we need to make good on our reputation.' Kou sighed. He felt tense at the situation.

    'Especially for the school's reputation.' Saski added to the reason's for Kou's nervous tension.

    The restaurant's door swung aside to reveal a burly worker whose head was covered with a labourer's handkerchief. His body donned in a white t-shirt, jeans and waiter's apron tied around his waist. Although, his features were predominately manly, his face held a softness to the edges.   It was almost as if someone decided to mix the body of a construction worker to the face of a part-time rock star.  Garnish his chin with a goatee patch and set a stern expression in his eyes.

    'You kids that caused trouble earlier eh?!'

    'J-ju-just me and him,' Duran stammered and pointed to Kou.

    The worker towered over Duran and Kou.  He peered at them with a stern expression.

    'Yeah. I recognize the uniform and both of you. So where's that cat?' he asked them.

    'Es-escaped,' Duran timidly answered.

    He bowed low before the worker and politely asked to speak with the manager, so he could apologize to him.

    'Well you can talk to me. I co-own this place.'

    Duran frowned when he noticed Kou still standing upright next to him. He prodded him into a low bow.

    He explained on their reasons for chasing the cat and causing the ruckus.

    'Huh? Good grief. Come in. Better to retell with my bro.' The worker sighed.

    They stepped into a set-up that was far from fancy. The mould stained plasterboard walls were softened with a few faded pictures of the country side, which was probably somewhere in the Kansai area. The tables themselves were lacklustre with their butcher paper table cloths and condiments centrepiece.  Duran counted three dining sets (able to seat four people per set). And a long front counter with a row of stools where people could watch meals being made in the kitchen area beyond.

    The place had enough space to be cosy. He envisioned the place cramp on busy days.

    'Jiro-san. I've finished setting the tables. Do you need me to stack the shelves?' A young worker said as he entered the restaurant through the staff's entrance behind the counter.

    'Yeah. That'll be good.' Jiro-san confirmed.

    The worker was about to leave when he spotted Duran and Himeko standing near a table.

    'Kita-kun!' The worker called out excitedly.

    'Izuki-senpai. You work here?' Duran said when he recognized the quiet boy he had met earlier.

    'Yes. Just started my shift. You've come to eat?'

    'Er, well, not really,' Duran mumbled.  'I and Hayashi sort of caused problems today.'

    'Bwahaha!  You're the culprits with the cat. Jiro-san was complaining to me when I got here and started drilling me on the school's complaint person,' Isao laughed.

    'It sounded funny.' He added but changed his tone upon noticing Jiro-san's curt glare. 'But terrible at the same time.'

    'Yeah. We copped a lot of complaints from our regulars as well. Had to kiss butt to keep their patronage.' Another person entered the conversation through the staff entrance and stood before Duran and the others.

    Duran's eyes sized up another worker with an uncanny resemblance to the man Isao called Jiro-san.

    Unlike Jiro-san, his face was goatee free and much manlier.

    'So you came to kiss butt and beg forgiveness.'

    No beating around the bush with this guy.

    On cue, Kou and Duran bowed low and profusely asked for forgiveness.

    'Hmm well how about this. You and jade-eye kawaii-kun here work for us for a month to pay off the damages.  You'll work Wednesday and Friday afternoons, Saturday mornings. Do this and forgiveness be yours.'

    'Huh? What damages? There was only mes-' Isao blurted and was cut short by Jiro-san's death stare.

    'Er, um, yeah. I-I've gotta load stuff in the back,' he muttered and disappeared through the staff exit.

    'You'd like our labour as compensation?' Duran rephrased.

    'Yeah. Give me your body. Let me make you sweat for a month.' The man chuckled at Duran's flushed cheeks and nervous expression.

    'I g-guess th-that is reasonable compensation.'

    'Like we have a choice.' Kou groaned.

    'You dare complain!' Jiro-san hissed through gritted teeth.

    Everyone took a step back.

    'Hayashi-kun. See this as an opportunity huh? I mean, it's as Kita-kun has said. A reasonable compensation,' Saski said to soothe the atmosphere.

    'Hah! Sensible boy. It's settled,' the other man said as he drew his hands together in one loud clap.

    'You kids call me Shiro-san.  You two fools who'll be my slaves can call me Shiro-sama,' Shiro-san beamed with a cocky grin.

    Duran felt he had been played at some level. He sighed away the feeling. As Saski had alluded, maybe it was a blessing in disguise. Especially, since he would get to work with Senpai. Either way, he was going to have to suck it up and do the time.

    'Geez Nii-san. You fall right into it,' Himeko joked as she slapped his back.

    Duran grimaced at the sting he felt.

    'No fear. Don't think dad will be mad. Mum might go Judge Judy on them though.'

    He pictured his mother's slight frame confronting the almighty Shiro-sama. Her feminine voice yelling out terms for rights violation and other legal references coupled with adult ways of saying idiot.

    'Like a David slinging legal stones at Goliath.' He shivered at the thought and decide it was better for everyone that he did his compensation without complaints.

    If his mother saw his humility by the experience, maybe she would receive it positively.

    'Thank you Jiro-sama, Shiro-sama. Yes, compensation is fair and I'll work as you have said.' Duran agreed with a formal bow.

    'You too?' Shiro-san said to Kou.

    Kou bowed in response.

    'Okay. Both of you. After school this Wednesday.'

    The group left the shop shortly afterwards. Tired and aching for home.
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