Chapter 5:

Praline's First Barista


Eventually, I make up my mind. Running on the pavement, I am soon reaching up to the bat girl. Her ears twitch, probably detecting a strange pattern through the ultrasonic waves. As if by instinct, she turns towards me, her crimson eyes locking on my face. Because of the two-story buildings around us, the sunlight lacks its lively warmth, and shadows and washed-up colors are all that defines our visual environment. Even the other passersby feel a world away.

"Is anything the matter?"

Her voice, of the clear kind, pierces me. And yet, they carry the feeling of honesty, as if the girl herself is demure.

"It's not... Well... How to say? You seemed... sad?"

Struggling to find my words, I burn her appearance in my mind. She wears a dark blue dress embroidered with black lace motives. In my home country, we would have called it in the 'gothic lolita' style... Crimson eyes are framed by blue hair, and her features hold so much harmony that it could steal my heart. Her face conveys surprise.

"Is it so obvious? I... sorry to have worried a stranger like this. This is something personal, so. You don't have to bother..."

If her voice carries the same kind modesty, this time around she appears to hesitate. Whether this impulse comes from my own consciousness or Pawn's personality, I believe it is my duty to assist her.

"It isn't a bother by any means! If you require help, or just want to soothe your spirit over a warm cup of coffee, you have but to ask! For you face Pawn, the best barista in all of Praline Kingdom!"

... Embarrassing! Thinking about the line I just spouted, my cheeks turn red. Pawn even has a gesture for such a moment, it appears, as my muscular memory acted by itself. Thus, my right hand now has retracted fingers, with the exception of the middle and index fingers. My eyes see through the pose as if a glorious heroine...

After a silence that feels like forever, the bat girl finally chuckles. This response brings me some relief, and yet I feel shameful.

"Thanks for making me laugh... The truth is, I could help a coffee right now. Can I count on the best barista in all of the Kingdom?"