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File 157265609040.png - (309.84KB, 660x775, faetress.png) [iqdb]
31380No. 31380
Big menus of cheap food with cheery service — that was the basic pitch of every family restaurant. And it was often a successful one, at that. The tengu-heavy ends of Gensokyo had seemingly become mushroomed with them, luring in people of all stripes and even species.

One of those famires chains was Freshtaste, an established chain with a new location in an equally recent commercial area. Rumor had it that the latest shop was struggling in its first year, but no one would know by looking: the lighting was as warm, the benches as soft, and the soft drinks as endless as any other location.

A crow tengu woman walked in through the sliding glass doors, the cool breeze of the air conditioning making soft waves in her wings. Her black hair was parted neatly down the middle, straight as a ruler, making her wide forehead protrude and gleam underneath the lights. She instinctively pat the satchel over her shoulder as she strode up to the counter, next to a blackboard listing the day’s specials and a small sign asking politely to wait for service. She glanced into the restaurant proper to get a feel for the room. This evening’s crowd looked like the usual assortment of half-awake salarymen, gossiping mothers, and teenagers filling the booths of the restaurant.

“Good afternoon! Sorry for the wait. Welcome to Freshtaste! How many tonight?”

The tengu turned to the waitress that had just grabbed her attention. She was a little on the short side, with her slender arms holding a small stack of menus against her chest. She was flashing a bright, beaming smile, and the bangs of her grass-colored hair were almost but not quite long enough to cover her eyes. The waitress’s wings flitted behind her. They were thin, almost translucent, with a trail of yellow along the edges that was so thin and golden that they looked gilded. Definitely not crow tengu’s wings; that much was clear.

“No trouble at all! Just me, please,” the crow tengu chirped.

Her smile widened, pleased with her luck as she followed the waitress to a quiet-looking booth. The waitress whisked herself away, returning moments later with a glass of water and a small basket of utensils, including a packaged oshibori — a hand towel with hot water for customers to clean their hands.

“Please enjoy yourself,” the waitress said as she placed a menu in front of her, bowed, and then vanished again.

The tengu flipped through the menu, pretending to look for something to order. The morning set with pancakes actually looked quite tempting, but she reminded herself why she really came here. When she saw the green-haired waitress waiting primly, albeit a bit listlessly, by the drink bar, she pressed the button on her table — a technological convenience of the famires that made shouting for the staff unnecessary. She nodded to herself as the same waitress headed towards her.

“I’d like a coffee, and if it’s not too much to ask—” the crow woman set the menu aside with a flourish and turned to face the waitress directly, “—an interview with you, ma’am. The name’s Teru, and I work with the Amaden Rapid.” She reached into her satchel and brandished a pen and notepad, suddenly wearing a wide smirk that showed how pleased she felt with herself.

The waitress froze, her smile suddenly looking painted on. She bowed slightly, then blinked. Her wings buzzed nervously. Without a word, she turned and scooted off towards the employees-only door.

“Miss Manager?” she called, her voice loud enough to hear through the door and across the room.

The waitress returned after an awkward silence, accompanied by the manager, a wolf tengu with sleepy eyes and brown hair with white roots, even along her tail, though her ears were still mostly white. A name-tag on her collar listed her name as Iroha.

“She said you wanted to interview her?” Iroha asked in a soft voice, equal parts gentle and tired.

Teru nodded, flashing a business card. “Fumii Teru, at your service. I cover local stories for the Amaden Rapid. I came by here around lunch, and when I saw her, I thought she’d make a nice story. No offense, but I’d never seen a faerie bus a table before. Especially not with such a serious, hard-working expression!”

The faerie waitress glanced up at her manager, trying to figure out if that was a compliment.

“So, I was hoping to just get a quick profile of her. It shouldn’t take long, and it could make for good publicity, if I say so myself,” Teru finished.

Iroha scratched her ear in thought, unmoved by Teru’s hopeful expression. She took Teru’s card, looked at it with only minor interest, and shrugged her shoulder.

“Alright, but I’ll be holding you to the ‘quick’ part. And I’ll be keeping an eye on you in case you’re up to anything.”

Teru nodded, her wings jostling with excitement. “Of course, ma’am. And, um, I was serious about the coffee order.”

“Oh!”

The waitress perked up, her wings buzzing again, and hurried towards the drink bar. She returned half a minute later with a fresh cup of coffee and placed it gingerly in front of Teru. She scooted into the other side of the booth facing Teru, needing to look up to make eye contact.

“Thank you very much for agreeing on such short notice,” Teru said, clicking her pen. “First things first: Could I get your name?”

The faerie nodded, though she struggled to come up with an answer. “It’s… not exactly a name, but everyone calls me Daiyousei.”
Expand all images
>>No. 31391
File 15727392604.png - (142.03KB, 782x664, cannot resist doting.png) [iqdb]
31391
Even trying to explain her own name — or what counted for one — felt awkward to the faerie called Daiyousei, as did talking about herself in general. As soon as the words had left her mouth, she wanted to excuse herself and go bus a table. Anything to get out of having to talk with this strange tengu woman.

The journalist, Teru, gave a long hum of interest as she scribbled in her notebook. “Daiyousei, eh? That’s got a nice ring to it. Maybe a little long to pronounce, but…” She looked back up at Daiyousei, pushing her half-moon glasses up. The faerie could swear her forehead almost had a glow now. “Anyway, how long have you been working here? From what I’ve seen, you already look like a natural.”

Daiyousei scrunched her face in thought; despite being part of her job, numbers had a way of not working well for her. How long had it been? One, two… She resorted to counting out on her fingers after losing count for the second time.

“Ffffffour months?” she concluded, holding up as many digits.

Teru seemed to acknowledge the figure, dubious as it was, and jotted it down anyway. “And how’d you land your job here? Did anything draw you to it?”

Daiyousei winced. Of all questions to come out with. She fiddled with the bow on her collar. “I don’t like to talk about that.”

Hoping for some help, she looked to Miss Manager, whose ears jumped to attention right away. She immediately raised her hands in front of her, making a clear ‘X’ with them — an oft employed signal when she was around.

Either ignoring the signal or not seeing it, Teru went on. “Aw, come on. I’m not a scary person. If there’s any big, juicy secrets, your big sis’ll keep—”

Miss Manager cleared her throat loudly, causing Teru’s pointed ears to twitch. Finally, the crow woman couldn’t ignore the call to stop her prodding. With a quiet click of her tongue, Teru crossed out a few lines in her notes and carried on, her smirk noticeably lessened.

“Right, moving on. Mind telling me where you came from? I mean, I’m guessing you’re not from around here, right?”

“The, um… big lake. With all the fog. Out by the huge red house. I lived around there.” Still not a real nice question, but she’d been away long enough that thinking about it didn’t make her stomach all queasy like it used to.

Teru nodded as she continued writing, the edges of her mouth curling back up. “How interesting! That’s an awful long way from Amaden. Surely, you could tell me just a little about how you got here. Pretty please?”

Daiyousei didn’t even have to look at her manager this time. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Miss Manager’s hands going up in an even more emphatic signal. About the same time, a third pair of eyes drew her attention: her coworker Oboro, the short girl who could have either been a tiny, stocky human or a pudgy kappa; she’d never told either way. Ever the curious one, Oboro had hoisted herself over the booth back to watch what was going on, sending a cheery smile and a wave at Daiyousei.

Fight the growing urge to crawl under the table, Daiyousei tried to block out Oboro and flicked between Iroha and Teru. It looked like the latter was ignoring the signal to stop again. Well, maybe it didn’t hurt to answer this time.

“I… erm, walked. I mean, I could have f-flown, but—”

“Alright, enough, Dai.” Miss Manager interrupted, then gave Teru a look, her ears lying flat to show she was coming to the end of her patience. “If you’re going to keep bothering her with personal questions, maybe we should just end this here.”

Teru and Miss Manager locked onto each other, neither one showing any willingness to back down now. Just as Miss Manager was looking about to get up from her seat and escort Teru out, there was an airy laugh from the next booth.

“That’s our dear Miss Iroha, sticking up for Dai when she’s in trouble,” Oboro said, now hanging over the back of the bench, looking on in total interest.

A look of inspiration flashed across Teru’s face, and she jabbed her pen in the air toward Miss Manager. “Alright! I’ve got one that isn’t personal, I swear. So, you’ll be kind enough to let me ask it, right?”

“I will throw you out if you keep screwing around, just so you know,” Miss Manager answered after a pause.

“How are you getting along with your coworkers?” Teru asked Daiyousei immediately, ignoring the obvious threat.

“Oh! If I can chime in, I’d just like to say that Little Dai here is just the sweetest. She’s so considerate!” Oboro piped.

A wave of dread struck Daiyousei, sending heat coursing through her face and all the way to the end of her pointy ears. Once Oboro got onto one of her little doting streaks, there’d probably be no end. She opened her mouth to speak, but all that came out was an embarrassed squeak.

Just when she’d thought things had got their worse, a hand descended from above, tousling her hair roughly. She looked up to see another one of her coworkers perched over the seat back of the booth behind her, another crow tengu with short, scruffy mauve hair, wearing the stoic look of someone who works all through the night without rest.

“Really, Iroha? That’s not like you to do others’ work for them. You know protecting Dai is part of my job description, right?” her crow coworker remarked dryly.

“K-K-Kiki!” protested Daiyousei.

Miss Manager cleared her throat again, louder this time. “I don’t believe I ever said you two could join in. In fact, I’m sure there’s someone who needs—”

Um!” Daiyousei squeaked even more loudly. She hadn’t exactly been optimistic about the interview, but everyone’s attempt at helping was, well, unhelpful.


[ ] So she pouted and harrumphed until her coworkers gave her some space.
[ ] So she just let her coworkers answer questions for her.
[ ] So she panicked.
>>No. 31392
[x] So she panicked.
It's in the moe handbook.
>>No. 31393
[X]So she panicked.

Can’t even
>>No. 31395
[x] So she panicked.

cute
>>No. 31396
[x] So she pouted and harrumphed until her coworkers gave her some space.
>>No. 31397
[x] So she pouted and harrumphed until her coworkers gave her some space.
>>No. 31398
[x] So she pouted and harrumphed until her coworkers gave her some space.

You're going to like her when she gets angry.
>>No. 31399
[X]So she panicked.
>>No. 31400
Alright, folks, that's a vote done. Apologies to any latecomers.

[x] So she panicked. is the winner.
>>No. 31401
File 15728306082.jpg - (185.09KB, 850x1030, she cry every time.jpg) [iqdb]
31401
[x] So she panicked.

It was obvious enough that they were overwhelming her. The smell of fear had been wafting from Dai for the past couple of minutes, and it was getting to be about unbearable for Iroha.

“Give her some space,” she snapped, swatting Kiki’s hand off of Dai’s head. Her ears fell flat against her head as she looked between Kiki and Oboro. “Now, clear off. If you can’t find work to do, then… just go look busy.”

There was some grumbling from Kiki and a murmur of indignation from Oboro, but they knew better than to question Iroha in that state. The two hopped out of their booths, grabbed some loose menus, and made for other corners of the store, leaving a silent table. Looking nonplussed at the whole exchange between the manager and employees, Teru adjusted her glasses and smoothed out her part.

“Well, erm… that’s quite nice, isn’t it? It really looks like all of you make good, um, friends.” She was putting on the sugar tone used when talking to children, but only halfheartedly. Despite not liking the reporter very much, even Iroha had to feel a bit bad about ruining her flow.

Dai’s head drooped in a slow, trembling nod like she was a little mechanical toy. Then, her mouth opened.

What came out was not answer to the question. In fact, it wasn’t anything resembling speech at all. Iroha’s ears clamped down just in time as a shrill, piercing cry emanated from somewhere deep down in the little faerie. A pained Teru frantically sealed her hands around her ears as well, a moment too late. The noise was long, loud, and beyond anything Iroha had ever witnessed from anyone in all her days in restaurants.

Silence returned.

In spite of the unearthly noise she’d just made, Dai merely sat there in the booth, wearing the same tight smile as when dealing with any other difficulty. However, her eyes were dewy now. It was only a matter of time before the tears started. Iroha grimaced.

Teru unplugged her ears at last, a look of undisguised shock replacing the irritating smirk she’d worn the rest of the time. She looked at Iroha with an unspoken question in her eyes. Iroha glanced over her shoulder at the back office, then nodded to Teru, who nodded back vigorously. They both slowly rose from the booth and stepped away, all too aware of the looks of the various patrons left in the place. Another couple of complaints, another couple of complementary drink bar tickets, and another tongue-clicking from the district manager, for sure.

Before they retreated fully into the back office, Iroha gave one last look at poor Dai. Oboro was already sitting across from her, frantically offering a handkerchief. Iroha smiled sadly and shook her head.

“Good thing I’m the manager here.”





All in all, the rest of the business with the reporter didn’t take much time. More than fifteen or twenty minutes couldn’t have passed before they emerged from the back office. Back to what counted as buzzing for a half-empty shop, Iroha noted.

“I appreciate all of your help,” said Teru, giving a deep bow that almost ruined her part. Rising quickly, she smiled sheepishly, looking around the restaurant. “And, erm… I’m terribly sorry about the…”

“Make it the last time and we’ll call it good,” Iroha replied with as much false cheer as she could inject into her voice — which wasn’t much given how close to exhaustion she was tipping.

With one last good-will token of a free drink bar voucher changing hands, the two parted ways there. Iroha heaved a heavy sigh as soon as the reporter disappeared through the sliding glass doors. Her ears and tail could barely remain upright. If paying off a reporter was the last bit of trouble she had to deal with before the night was done, she might just drink a little less. Maybe.

Wondering about the state of her star employee, Iroha made her way back to the booth where she’d left the teary-eyed Dai, a vague dread making the trip a plodding one. Luckily, it was empty now. Only a few used tissued dotted the tabletop. She reached for them without thinking, eager to occupy herself with something that wasn’t managing for once.

“Sorry, I’ll get those,” piped a familiar voice from behind.

Iroha barely had to turn around to know who it was. Back to her usual form, Dai was there with an empty tray in hand, wearing a determined face that was neither a smile nor a frown. Hovering nearby, almost keeping watch in case she had to intercept anyone, was Kiki; it was the most active she’d been in a couple of weeks, Iroha thought.

Catching Kiki’s eye with a smile, Iroha leaned in close to whisper. “How many vouchers are we down?”

Kiki’s normally blase expression lit up with a slight quirk in her mouth. “None, actually. Our little Dai-D— ahem, Dai went and apologised to all the tables,” she said, loud enough to ruin Iroha’s attempt at discretion.

“It was the right thing to do,” Daiyousei said with a stern face as she carried the tissues away.

Iroha and Kiki exchanged a look. For once, there was a perfect understanding between them: They didn’t have to worry about their Dai.
>>No. 31402
This story is a collaborative effort between Fluffy Mask and Mask of Gold. Unfortunately, the two of us also have conflicting work schedules, which means that during the week, we don’t have too much overlapping free time. Because of that, while we’d love to put out (tee hee) daily updates, it’ll probably be more like updates every 2-3 days. Sorry about that.

We’ll still be aiming for that 30k, so don’t give up on us just yet!
>>No. 31404
dai-dai a cute-cute
>>No. 31406
File 157308409338.png - (465.71KB, 941x1000, PANIC.png) [iqdb]
31406
—and the customer was visibly touched when she got it back. Despite numerous gestures from the grateful woman, Daiyousei refused to take any compliment for it. This reporter couldn’t have been more charmed by her humbleness.” Kiki read the article clipping aloud slowly, exaggerating her intonation perhaps a bit too much in an attempt to sound dramatic. Despite being for Daiyousei’s benefit, she sounded like she was reading off an imperial decree.

The faerie pursed her lips, feeling embarrassed being complimented in print but still eager to hear more. “What else?”

“Hold your horses, I’m getting there.” Kiki cleared her throat. “All in all, she looks right at home in her waitress uniform, and it looks like she’s here to stay at Freshtaste’s newest branch. It looks like they’ve got bright days ahead of them. And that’s it. Lot of words to not say much,” she finished with a dry chuckle, pinning the article back up on Miss Manager’s corkboard wall.

“Still, I think it’s a nice article,” Oboro said.

“It'd better be. Only I can badmouth Dai!” Kiki retorted, nudging Daiyousei with her elbow and laughing when she nearly fell over. Oboro shared in the laugh, earning an annoyed buzz of the little faerie’s wings. The things she put up with around here.

There was an annoyed grunting and the handle of a door jiggling, followed by a thud. What had been a dull roar of conversation for the past few minutes lowered to mutters all of a sudden. Daiyousei looked around. All of the waiters and waitresses gathered wore sober expressions now, including Kiki and Oboro. Daiyousei swallowed in anticipation of what came next.

Struggling to navigate with stacks of files under one arm and a monstrosity of a drink — it looked like a coffee, except there was a mountain of whipped cream, chocolate, and powdered sugar camped atop — in the other hand, Miss Manager forced her way backwards through the door, the force of a single shoulder blow enough to nearly send it off the hinge.

“Right, I’m here,” she huffed, setting the coffee and documents down on her desk and almost falling into her chair. That was the signal for everyone to quiet down completely. “I know it’s early. Oh, Tenma, do I know it’s early. And I’m sure you’re all dying to know why I called you in.”

Around the room, people glanced at each other nervously. Daiyousei didn’t like the sound of the word ‘dying’.

“To make things short: we’re getting audited. Apparently, the sales aren’t quite what the suits hoped.”

Whispers and gasps of shock rose up around the room for a second and then died down. Miss Manager took the opportunity to lap at her monstrous sugar drink.

“Oh no!” Daiyousei cried as soon as the pronouncement was made. However, realising she might have jumped the gun, she turned to Kiki and Oboro. “What’s an ‘aw-dit’?” she asked in a whisper.

Kiki’s wings were ruffled, her face frozen into one like she’d bit a lemon. Oboro’s already narrow eyes had become lines against her furrowed brow. Neither looked prepared to explain.

Miss Manager’s ears flopped over as she sighed and wiped her mouth. “You can just ask, Dai.”

“S-Sorry.” The faerie blushed.

“It’s fine. Like I said, the suits aren’t happy with our performance. Some guys are coming from corporate to make sure we’re doing everything right. Y’know, the way we’re supposed to.”

Shoving down the notion that she was about to ask a dumb question, Daiyousei raised her hand. “So, why’s that bad?”

“Because we aren’t,” Kiki muttered faintly.

Because,” Miss Manager said sharply, glaring at Kiki, “my boss’ boss’ bosses can decide our branch is done if things aren’t going to their liking.” Seeing a hand going up at one side of the room, she sighed again. “Yes?”

“What do we do?” someone asked.

“Our best, that’s what. You all know the drill by now. Just take extra care not to skip steps or cut corners today. I’ll probably be sticking to the office until they get here.” She thwacked the papers stacked up next to her. “Gotta get this mess at least halfway organized, but I’m here if you need me.”

Daiyousei snapped out of her nervous trance and nodded hard enough to make the ribbon in her hair bounce. There were stakes now. She was nervous, but also kind of excited. This could be a chance to prove herself.

The next hour was a rush of activity as they opened up. There was the usual slow trickle of people in the wee hours of the morning, mostly half-awake third-shifters grabbing some food before collapsing. Daiyousei still made sure to check every box with them, giving them her beamingest smile and hurrying over as soon as she was called for something.

Just as she got back from serving another stack of pancakes, she suddenly felt the air in the room go cold. Two well-dressed wolf tengu — one a reedy-looking woman, the other a man with a bit of a belly — stood in the waiting area, looking judgmentally over the place. She scuttled forward to greet them while her coworkers exchanged looks.

“Good morning, sir and ma’am! Welcome to Freshtaste! Will this be a party of two today?” she asked, punctuating each sentence with a crisp bow.

“Do you… work here, ma’am?” the fuller-figured wolf said after a pause, adjusting his glasses.

“Yes, sir! I can get you seated as soon as you’re ready,” she replied with another bow.

“Dai!” came a shout from behind.

The two wolves’ ears leapt up at the sound. Daiyousei turned around in time to see Miss Manager hurrying along as fast as she could without breaking into a sprint.

“Good morning! You must be the auditors. My apologies, we’re all a bit excited today!” Miss Manager said with a strained laugh as she skidded to a stop.

“Miss Iroha, I presume,” the paunchy one said with a nod.

“Wonderful! Now, if you’d just follow me, I can show you to the office.”

The pair followed her into the restaurant proper, then away from the booths and tables. Daiyousei felt her wings buzz involuntarily from the nerves as she turned and went back to her normal waitressing duties. The rounded auditor had gone into the back office with Miss Manager, but the slim one was standing by the wall, holding a clipboard and asking Oboro a few questions. She must have been checking to make sure everyone did their job, she realised.

A surge of energy made her wings buzz even harder. If that was the case, then she was going to show her how hard she could do her job.

[ ] The friendliest service! She’d make them see nothing but happy customers.
[ ] The properest service! She wouldn’t let a single napkin be out of place.
[ ] The unrelentingest service! Nothing would break her stride.
>>No. 31407
[X] The properest service! She wouldn’t let a single napkin be out of place.

Just don't bug the customers, and everything's good.
>>No. 31408
[X] The unrelentingest service! Nothing would break her stride.

Determined Dai sounds cool.
>>No. 31409
[x] The unrelentingest service! Nothing would break her stride.

That's a word, I think
>>No. 31410
[x] The friendliest service! She’d make them see nothing but happy customers.
>>No. 31411
[X] The unrelentingest service! Nothing would break her stride.
>>No. 31412
[x] The unrelentingest service! Nothing would break her stride.
>>No. 31413
[X] The properest service! She wouldn’t let a single napkin be out of place.
>>No. 31414
[x] The unrelentingest service! wins.
>>No. 31416
Personal life events on one side have made for extraordinary coordination difficulties. As this is a collaborative effort, these circumstances have led to further continuing delays. We appreciate your understanding and do apologise for any inconvenience. Thank you and have a good NaNoWriMo.
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