Chapter 4:

Do You Like Salty Lattes?

Corruptions Are Best Exposed In The Autumn!

I grabbed my lower back in pain as it endured bump after bump against the side of the bus door. There wasn’t a spec of room for me to even pivot my body; all I could do was wait anxiously for my stop to finally jump out of this hellfire.

Has public transit always been this shitty?!

It had been a month since I started working as a barista at Muller’s Blend. I looked down into the inside pocket of my black trench coat, which was already torn and full of rips and stains on the outside. Thankfully, my wallet was still there. Looking out of the bus window, my eyes goggled every street sign I could find to ensure I was getting off at the right stop.

There was an endless smile on my face despite the taxing ride. Yesterday, I was finally able to move into a small bedroom apartment after having suffered the cold tent life for almost three weeks. Even though the place was rundown and old, it was much better than the tents near Febai Park. Then, with the leftover money, I purchased some new clothes for myself and even a cheap watch. After all - I still lacked most necessities others had - including a smartphone.

“Ugh!” I wailed as the bus hit another pothole, causing a few others to slam into my shoulder. With so many people inside one vehicle, it was as scorching hot as a sauna, and I constantly had to wipe the built up sweat off my forehead. Not only had I been standing for almost an hour thanks to the traffic, but I had to wear a face mask along with my red scarf just so people wouldn’t notice who I was.

I lifted my mask outwards, grasping for breath. Ever since that girl and her boyfriend - Rin and Elias - came in only to have their poopy drinks knocked out of their hands by yours truly, they haven’t showed up at the shop since. It’s been weeks since it happened, but the thought still irked my very core.

Well, at least I tried making it up for them… I thought and sighed. Living as a normal citizen wasn’t easy - especially if one had lived 99% of their prior life sheltered under money and prestige. When such protection gets torn away, they’re out to fend for themselves on the streets for the first time - it becomes a literal nightmare.

For the first few weeks, working under Lora and Julian also felt torturous. Not only did I get yelled at and had my job security threatened a few times, but I had also began attracting negative publicity into the shop rather quickly.

I recalled the conversation I had with Julian the other week:

“Hey, we’re starting to get a lot of stares and cameras lately…”

Julian paused his work at the cash register and turned his head slightly back, eyeing me while I poured frothed milk into someone’s latte order. It had been a few weeks since I started, and the flow of customers who wanted to come in only to snap a picture of the former heir to the Darak Organization was like an endless river stream without a dam. I was attracting unwanted attention, and I had to explain to Julian and Lora about my family history as a result.

“I can’t help it. The news of my father is all people talk about these days, so…”

“Well, I can’t say I would’ve agreed to hire you if I had already known about your circumstances.”

Julian turned his head back towards the front, leaving me in a gloomy state as I carefully placed the lid on the cappuccino I made. All I could do was stare down and continue working in silence.


“Huh?” I looked back up at him while he faced away. Did he say something?

“I guess you’ve been working pretty hard, so we’ve no choice but to keep ya.”

I pressed the button on the side of the wall to signal for my stop. Now that Julian acknowledged my hard work, I couldn’t help but smile as I finally squeezed out of the crowd of bus riders and onto the cold street where the coffee shop was.

“Ah…” I moaned, feeling the chilly breezes brush against my sweat-filled back.

The sky was so gray that even the nearby factory smoke blended in, and the autumn leaves which decorated the grounds before were now withered and tainted with mud and rain. November was as depressing as could be. Winds from all sides blasted against my thin clothing, and before long, I found myself shivering nonstop. If it was going to be this cold, at least let it snow already.

As I trudged down the fainted crosswalk to the shop, my eyes widened in surprise as they caught sight of a familiar, burgundy-colored hair through the window. It didn’t take long before I found myself dashing to the door and swinging it open.

“You’re back?” I asked, sniffling in-between words thanks to the cold.

In front of me at the table closest to the door sat Rin, sporting the cutest outfit I’ve ever seen: brown Chelsea boots, cute black leggings, and a black T-shirt under a gray knitted cardigan on top, which matched the weather. One would say it looked plain and normal, but…

“Well, you said you’d buy us the priciest meal and drinks here, didn’t you?”

I blinked and froze for a second, still staring at her.

“Um, hello?”

Her eyes grew slightly irritated as she crossed both her arms and legs. Her amber hair was let down over her shoulders, and behind her was a large beige coat resting over her chair.

Yet one thing seemed odd.

“Wait, where’s your boyfriend?” I asked.

“He said he had something to do today, so he canceled at the last minute,” she responded, albeit her voice near the end dragged into a tint of bitterness. Her face suggested the same: it bore the eyes of a dead fish, and the way she held her head up with her elbow against the table appeared sluggish. Just seeing her state somewhat annoyed me.

“W-Well, everyone gets busy I guess, you guys make a great pair!”

God, what the fuck am I saying…

“T-Thank you,” she muttered with her hands now against her knees which were brought together in embarrassment. Her appreciation left me surprised.

“Well, wait a bit while I prepare the meal for you.”

Just as I began approaching the front counter -

“Ah, wait a minute!!”

I halted and turned my head back.


“Make my latte extra sweet, I love sweet drinks,” she explained with a wide grin while holding a thumbs up.

“Sure thing…”

God, she’s cute…

The return of Rin wasn’t the only difference at work today. The café also embraced a makeover - rather than having clean and naked walls, new shelves were added all around the shop instead, and each hosted a set of hanging plants and succulents. In between each shelf was a line of new colorful art pieces I had never seen before, all about the size of my head.

“Hey, what gives?” My eyes continued admiring the decorations as I walked in behind the counter and into the back door to find my apron.

“Ah, Kai, do you like it?” Lora was the first to greet me; her hands were already full of used cups which she was bringing to the sink. I smiled back in response to her cheerful mood.

“Yeah… I think it goes well with the Christmas lights and the plants that were already against the window.”

“It’s based on the ancient Hanging Gardens of Babylon,” Julian explained, appearing from the bathroom. “I thought I’d be cool to have more plants here, and I brought some old art pieces from my parents’ home in Dosa.”

Dosa was the western country Lora and Julian originated from. Dosa and Febai were two nations who used to be in constant cold war with each other until half a century ago, when a peace pact was officially made. I smiled back at him while tying my apron and glanced immediately at our shiny steel fridge.

No matter how pleasant the changes to the café were, only one thing was on my mind.

“Hey, Julian, I promised that girl over there I’d treat her to a meal. Mind if I go make it? I’ll pay obviously.”

Julian squinted his eyes in confusion and glanced at Rin, who I was referring to. He then brought a hand to his mouth and chuckled, turning my face red in embarrassment.

“It only takes you a month on the job to begin hitting on girls, eh?”

“I-I’m not!” I scorned, seeing this joke from a mile away. “She already has a boyfriend, I’m just making up for last time when I knocked the drink out of her hand.”

“Ah…” Julian remembered but didn’t stop laughing. He ruffled my hair and flicked my forehead.


“You’re a pretty good guy. Just make sure the cat doesn’t get shit in your food this time,” he smirked.

“Shut up!” I retaliated, swiping away his arm. I pouted but wasted no time getting to work. The first step was poking my head into the refrigerator for the right ingredients. I’ve created this dish - eggs benedict on smoked salmon and toast - plenty of times already, so it wouldn’t take long to finish. However, I paid extra attention to all the details this time, as my hand movements were slower, and I kept my eye level parallel to the height of the counter. Lora paced over with a wide grin with hands behind her back.

“You know, you’re usually not that meticulous,” she said, while leaning in to watch me more closely.

“I just feel bad about what happened last time…” I quickly responded without looking back up.

While the poached eggs were boiling in the pot, I decorated one side of the plate with our usual house salad: mixed greens with feta cheese, croutons, and a special ranch sauce. The eggs soon finished poaching, and I carefully scooped them out and placed them on top of the salmon and bread. Finally, I garnished the plate with some pepper and parmesan cheese as the finishing touches and wiped my forehead. Taking a step back, nothing but a sigh of relief left my mouth; it certainly looked like the best dish I’ve ever created.

“Why don’t you just join her?”


“Go take your break early. We got the back handled,” she winked, and glanced over at Julian who also nodded in approval.


Wait wait wait, I can’t just replace her boyfriend like that…!

It had probably been almost ten minutes already since I talked to her. Goosebumps popped up on my arms, but before I could think twice, my arms reached behind my back to untie my apron.

“Shit,” I muttered to myself, realizing I still had to make her latte.


Lora secured the cup’s lid and sat the drink next to my food. Her smile was as everlasting as the goosebumps on my arm.

“T-Thanks, I owe you one.”

“You still have to add the sugar.”

“Okay…” I reached for the glass container where all the condiments sat, which was filled up to the brim. Next step was to measure two tablespoons of sugar and dump them in while mixing the drink with the same spoon. If Rin said she wanted extra sweet, I’ll give her extra sweet.

Lora walked away to attend to another customer who walked up to the counter. Taking a deep breath, I picked up both the plate and the cup with my two hands and strolled slowly away from the kitchen. The moment my feet left the counter, Rin, who sat patiently with her head back against her seat and her hands playing with her phone, caught my sight, and I caught hers.

“Took you long enough,” she remarked while setting her phone down on the table.

“Mind if I sit with you for a bit?”

My face was as straight as the sidewalks outside, and the gentle smile I bore was about to break any second. For someone who used to be so wealthy and famous, why was I so nervous just to talk to someone at a coffee shop in which I worked at?

Surprisingly, her answer was calm and fast.

“Sure, but don’t you have to work?”

She kept an even straighter face than I could.

“They said I can have an extra break, they’re not that busy at the moment.”

As I sat down while placing the food and drink in front of her, Rin squinted her eyes and stared at my face briefly; her head resting against her palm while her legs were crossed, as if examining my every inch of being.

“Hey, aren’t you…”

Shit, she knows who I am!