Chapter 18:

One day, the bard lost his music.

Witch Cafe Wisteria

It was a quiet morning at Witch Cafe Wisteria and much to Pecan and Doe’s dismay, Barley was still sleeping in the window.

After a few attempts at waking him, Pecan gave Derry a call. The apprentice explained the situation to her teacher. There was a long pause, then an even longer sigh.

“Y’all…” Derry said over the phone, clearly disappointed. “How… and why is Doe using magic?”

“Uh… I was teaching him,” Pecan said while not attempting to hide her guilt at all. “Sorry. What should we do?”

Derry was silent as she thought. “I’ll be back tomorrow… just make sure he’s chill. Also... I need to call you tonight for a favor, okay?”

Pecan looked over at the lightly snoring Barley. He seemed fine enough. “Okay, sorry again, Derry.”

Once their phone call ended, Pecan groaned. It went better than she thought it would, but she still felt pretty guilty. She took a seat behind the counter and thought for a while.

Doe rushed up as he saw her, broom in hand. “What’d she say?!”

“She’ll be back tomorrow and wake him up,” Pecan answered.

The newer employee bit his lip as he swayed back and forth. “Got it… okay okay…! But what did she say about me?! Was she surprised?! I know I messed up, but can I still practice?!”

Pecan scoffed at Doe as she pulled a sandwich out of her bag. “Really, Doe?”

However, Doe was quite serious as he nodded. He gripped the broom tight and said, “Um! I just… I was thinking if I can put someone to sleep then wow! What else can I do?! Right?! Derry could use the help, right?!”

“Uh… right…?” Pecan was a bit wary of where Doe was going with his line of thinking. He seemed so serious and sometimes when people are serious it’s hard not to become serious right along with them!

“Right!! And you know, working here is pretty cool and it looks like I’m pretty strong when it comes to this stuff, so I actually made a decision earlier today!”

“What decision?” Pecan asked suspiciously.

Doe proudly smiled and laughed happily. “I decided I’m going to stay here and learn more and more about witchcraft!”

“What the-- no!” Pecan growled out as her gut reaction, but as she realized that was rude, she added, “Why? I mean, what about your uh… your trip thing?”

“Eh heh! Well,” Doe began, “I left the person a message saying I wasn’t going anymore!”

Pecan sighed before she bit into her sandwich. She was disappointed, but eventually huffed and shrugged it off. “You know what? Fine. I just have to uh… make sure you don’t get ahead of me.”

“Yay! We’ll be rivals then!” Doe cheered as he clapped. “I’m so glad you’re okay with it!”

“I mean uh... in the end it’s Derry’s choice anyway. And though it feels like your being here is draining my life force day by day, I guess you’re not awful. Just annoying,” Pecan explained. Not that Doe was actually draining Pecan’s life force. That would be a whole other reason for the apprentice to be annoyed by her high-volume coworker.

Doe hummed in thought, tilting his head back and forth. “Well! I’m not draining anything I don’t think! But do you think Derry would say no to me being her apprentice?!”

“It’s possible--” Pecan quickly stopped thinking the way she’d rather have the situation turn out and began putting herself in Derry’s shoes. “Actually, Derry really wants to teach people about witchcraft, so uh… she’d probably be okay with it.”

At the genuine response, Doe smiled with a bashful chuckle. “Thank you, Pecan! You’ve started to become so much nicer to me! Thank you!”

“No. No no no. I just set my feelings aside so we can be productive,” Pecan elaborated.

“You say that, but I know we’re actually friends!” Doe joked, going back to sweeping. “Or we’re going to be!”

Pecan didn’t respond and finished her sandwich.

The time to open the cafe came quickly, and almost as soon as the time came, the first visitor of the day arrived. It was Millan, much to Pecan’s surprise.

“Morning, Millan,” Pecan greeted the boy, “What’s up?”

“I have this...” Millan trailed off as he looked back at Barley, sleeping in the window seating. He stared at Barley for a while and then turned to Pecan dubiously. “Didn’t you just open?”

Doe had a mini panic attack and hid for a moment as Pecan laughed nervously. “He came before we opened to get a uh… a head start”.

Millan raised a brow and twisted his lips, not exactly buying the story. However, he seemingly dropped the subject and shrugged.

“Whatever-- oh yeah. I have this,” Millan said as he handed Pecan a few stacks of paper. “For the History Day thing.”

“Oh, okay. Thanks,” Pecan said appreciatively. “I’ll give them to Derry tomorrow.”

Millan nodded and stared Barley down again. Doe breathed in shakily and started humming a song to calm his nerves.

The boy made his way over to Barley and placed his hands on his hips. As he bent over to get a better look at the fisherman, Pecan defensively shouted, “Hey, don’t bother our guests.”

“I’M NOT!” Millan yelled out as he poked the fisherman. Both Pecan and Doe wordlessly squinted at Millan in confusion, but he only shrugged. “Shouldn’t he have woken up to that?”

“Look, I see your game. Unless you’re going to wake the sleeping prince then pretend you know nothing,” Pecan said.

“I’m not strong enough for that yet, so I guess I’ll pretend,” Millan said before swiftly dipping out of the cafe.

Pecan grumbled as she placed the papers she received in a safe cache by the register as Doe sighed in relief.

They tried to get comfortable and practice, but quite a few people decided to come in on that day which is, of course, exactly what a budding business would want. Judging by their appearances, it seemed that the visitors were a part of the college crowd. Thankfully for Witch Cafe Wisteria, the college students were bringing in steady sales even if it seemed like there were different faces almost every time with a few loyal regulars.

As per usual, their conversations were rather lively.

“No you gotta try it cold with seed milk. Pretty heckin’ legit.”

“Wait, THIS building is hosting History Day? What’s this year’s theme? Dark Arts?”

“So, when are we doing the human sacrifice?”

“What’s with the sleeping guy?”

“The new employee’s kinda loud, but he’s kinda cute.”

Ah, yes. All completely normal conversations. Nothing out of the ordinary there at all. It wasn’t like Pecan and Doe had the time to eavesdrop much. Derry was a lot faster with her brewing than Pecan and Doe combined, so the line was going quite slow. Still, they were able to get through their queue in a good amount of time as Pecan whipped up the drinks and Doe rang everyone up.

Before they could relax too much, Jade made her way into the cafe, much to Pecan’s surprise. “Hey, Jade. Not in Seabirche?”

Jade shook her head and grabbed her wallet. “Direction Tea, please. I encountered an acquaintance. We spoke at great lengths on the topic of Reingale History Day and updating historical records for the sake of lyrical accuracy.”

“You really have to talk like that, huh?” Pecan asked as she prepared Jade’s tea as fast as she could. She wasn’t sure if any other rushes would come in.

“To conclude in simple words, night approached rather fast, and it was no longer safe to travel alone to Seabirche. Unfortunately, I had business to attend to earlier and have a meeting much later. I will wait here until then.”

Soon, Pecan infused Jade’s Direction Tea with magic, causing the air to shift slightly as the contents glittered its usual bold hue of blue. Pecan huffed, starting to feel a little fatigued after having made so many drinks for the day.

“It’s not Derry’s, but uh… it’s still good,” the witch apprentice said with a tired exhale.

“Yeah! Pecan’s drinks are always good!” Doe exclaimed. “It must be her foodie expertise!”

Jade covered one of her ears and winced with a grimace. “I have consumed Pecan’s concoctions. I’m aware of her skills. Derry’s beverages are simply my preference at any and every hour.”

“Ouch? Thank you?” Pecan muttered. It was a compliment, which made Pecan happy, but she was confused since the drinks really shouldn’t have differed in taste too much.

After paying for the drink, Jade went to sit in her usual chair, but one of the college students had claimed it long before her arrival. The green-haired woman looked around almost dejectedly before she found a seat near the counter. However, the college crowd began to slowly disperse as a new hour rolled in.

“We survived!” Doe cheered out, going off to wipe the tables.

“Yes!” Pecan drawled out in relief as she swept. “Good work, Doe. Good flow.”

Pecan regretted the praise almost immediately as Doe nearly squealed with delight over such encouraging words. “Ahhhh! I have such support here! It’s so nice!”

“Okay, quiet down. It’s not that big of a deal,” Pecan said, raising a hand apologetically at Jade.

“Ahahaha! Sorry! I’m just not used to it!” Doe shouted.

“Okay, uh you didn’t do the quieting down part though?”

The giddy Doe closed the invisible zipper over his lips and hummed a laugh to himself. With that, Pecan and Doe continued to clean until the cafe was in tip top shape again. After finishing, they rested behind the counter. Pecan was quick to grab another sandwich from her bag and devour it in only a few bites.

It wasn’t long before someone else joined the cafe’s guest list of the day.

“Hey, Ha--” before Pecan could finish her greeting, Hao rushed to the counter as Doe backed away slowly and nervously.

“Doooooooooeeee!” Hao shouted angrily.

“Waah! Sorry!” Doe shouted back.

On seeing Jade jump slightly, Pecan firmly asserted that there would be “No shouting today. Stop it.” Yet, it didn’t seem like Jade was exactly irritated, but instead interested in Hao’s arrival.

The two apologized, but Hao leaned over the counter, glaring daggers at Doe as the employee backed himself against the back wall. After a while, Hao pitifully smacked his own head on the cafe’s counter.

“Dooooeeee, why such a betrayal? You hate me, don’t you?” Hao sulked on the counter, whining with his head down. “Hmhm but wait that’s impossible since I have so much charm! So charming! Irresistible! But that’s not the point!”

Suddenly, Hao jolted up and frowned as Doe continuously laughed nervously. The bard asked, “What did you mean with the message? Why? Explain yourself. You really should.”

Doe sheepishly scratched his cheek. “Well! I don’t know if I’d be too good at traveling and performing… but I found out I’m pretty good at witchcraft! I kinda feel like it’s my calling! So I decided to stay here! Sorry about that!”

Hao stared at Doe mumbling loud hums of displeasure. However, he soon stopped and exhaled as if he had been holding his breath. “Alrighty. If that’s how you feel, then I won’t mess with your destiny. If it’s written in the stars, then follow your dreams! Chase those stars! You have to!”

“Thank you for understanding!” Doe exclaimed, still nervous.

However, Hao still seemed a bit distressed as he folded his arms. “But now I wonder. I can’t have a two-man traveling bard group with only one man. Hmm. Hmhmhm.”

“You’re making a two-man traveling bard group?” Pecan asked dubiously.

“Yes! Pecan I’m sure you would understand as a woman, the beauty of two nice-looking men traveling as a two-man traveling bard group!” Hao dramatically described his idea as Pecan furrowed her brow.

“Uh… I actually don’t understand. Not really my thing, just so you know,” Pecan pointed out.

Hao paused and then nodded. “Ah, I see. I see. Well, for many others, imagine it! Two nice-looking men! Singing the history of the lands! Instant hit!”

The bard twirled around in the middle of his theatrics with his arms outstretched. Seeing Jade, he stopped and excitedly smiled. “Oh, Jade! I didn’t see you! How did your first appointment go? I can’t believe I missed you when I came in!”

“It seems you truly possess tunnel vision. Intriguing,” Jade began. “The appointment went well.”

The two chattered as Doe quietly hid himself behind the register. Meanwhile, Pecan wondered how the bard could go through so many emotions so quickly. The conversation continued until another familiar guest popped in. This time it was Seigan. As Hao was still taking up the space in front of the counter, Seigan slowly made his way over as the bard stared at him. The closer he came, the more hesitant he became.

“Ah, one minute, Jade,” Hao started. “You!”

The bard was clearly looking Seigan dead in the eyes, but the bespectacled man looked behind him anyway.

“Yes, you! Seigan, wasn’t it?” Hao asked almost menacingly. He smiled, switching his expression almost at the drop of a dime. “I have an offer for you! I need a nice-looking man to start a two-man traveling bard group! Will you join me?”

“Nice-looking...? I… I am not a bard…?” Seigan blinked, averting his eyes away from Hao’s unwavering eye contact.

Pecan smacked the counter. “Hey hey, let him order. Don’t bother him.”

Doe gave a thumbs up in agreement from his hiding spot, trying not to make a sound.

“His drink is on me! I’d like to have Hao’s Drink and whatever he wants!” Hao decided as he placed twenty godas on the counter. “Keep the change!”

Ignoring that Hao was still calling the drink Hao’s Drink instead of Positivi-Tea, Pecan politely asked Seigan, “Is that okay with you?”

Seigan nodded cautiously. “I… suppose it is fine...?”

Pecan kept a close watch on Seigan as she prepared their drinks. One never knows when someone will flash a cue for help, after all.

“So you’re in, right? Right?” Hao asked Seigan as they waited.

The wise man hopeful hummed a few sounds of hesitation before mumbling, “Perhaps Barley would be a better choice? Surely he sings sea shanties and such.”

Doe hid himself even more as the men looked over to Barley sleeping in the window.

Hao started to walk over to the fisherman. “Hmmm, maybe I should wake him up--”

“BARLEY… is out of commission right now! Eh heh!” Doe shouted from his hiding spot before Pecan could say anything.

Hao shrugged and grinned at Seigan. “So it’s just you! See Doe back there abandoned me. So, I’m depending on you!”

Seigan whimpered almost inaudibly. “I… I have classes to attend.”

“Lucky you! We’ll be gone during break-- and be back in time for Reingale History Day, heh heh!”

“I do not sing…”

“Hmmhmmhmm is it that so? I’ve heard you singing in the library bathroom before. It sounded pretty good to me.” Hao stated a little too casually.

Becoming rather embarrassed, Seigan stuttered as he covered his face. “D-Do not tell people about such things!”

“Wow, Hao. You ever heard of personal space?” Pecan asked over Doe’s laughter.

Hao frowned at Pecan before turning back to Seigan. “I hear a good voice and I take note, okay? Anyway, you’ll be fine! Didn’t you want to be a traveler or something?!”

“Traveling teacher,” Seigan corrected him.

“Well perfect! Travelling experience!”

Seigan shook his head. “I need to learn everything I can before I go anywhere. I spend my breaks attaining as much knowledge and wisdom as I can as well. I am sorry, but perhaps it would be best for you to find someone else.”

Before Hao could say anything, Jade interjected.

“If I may, the unfortunate reality is that knowledge without experience may not frequently produce successful results,” the bespectacled woman mused as she took another sip of her tea. “Studying while traveling is a viable option which utilises your knowledge and increases wisdom in ways one might never encounter in a scholarly institute. It would be wise to consider these travels as a worthwhile supplement to your goals.”

There was a long pause between the guests and employees as Seigan thought about the situation. Pecan reluctantly cut through it by infusing the men’s drinks with magic then saying, “Uh… these are all done?”

With thanks, the men sipped their drinks. “So, what do you say? Even Jade’s rooting for you!”

“Well… what exactly would you have me do?” Seigan asked, looking down into his cup.

“Hmmm... We travel, meet people, hear what’s going on in their neck of the woods, and then we sing about it! And look handsome, of course!”

“Ah, like historians. I see… w-well, not the handsome part...”

And so, after a bit more convincing and a better explanation once they sat at the table with Jade, Hao had successfully convinced Seigan to join him on his summer travels as a bard.

“Thanks for having us!” Hao shouted as he left behind Jade and Seigan.

Pecan narrowed her eyes at the bard. “Uh… I feel like I let him rope Seigan in. I hope he was actually okay with that.”

“Seemed like it!” Doe happily yelled as he popped up from his hiding spot, startling Pecan. “Phew, Hao really brings a lot of tension!”

“It sounded like you were just guilty. What did you even say on the message?” Pecan asked.

Doe scratched his head. “Ummm, just that I wasn’t going on the trip anymore! And yeah! That was it!”

“Really, Doe?! That’s awful!” Pecan yelled, trying her best not to smack Doe in the back of his head. Thankfully, she succeeded in holding back, so the day at Witch Cafe Wisteria ended non-violently.

MyAnimeList iconMyAnimeList icon