Chapter 22:

For The Sake Of Dignity

Corruptions Are Best Exposed In The Autumn!

I hurried down the crosswalk, hopping over a small puddle in the process. The bottom half of my legs were already soaked by the splashes I received from nearby cars.

“Why do we have this much rain in August?” I muttered to myself. “I guess it’s almost autumn again soon.”

When Lily and I left for the hospital earlier today, the sun was like a ball of rage, shining its blaze all over the city and causing everyone to seek shade. But within just a few hours…


Another puddle wave - this time from a bus - had splashed all over me; unlike the other incidents, this one was like an ocean wave wiping out a surfer, eating me up from head to bottom. By the time I reached the last block when I was back at Muller’s Blend, there was not a single dry patch on my body.

I should’ve just told the taxi driver to pull up closer… I thought, and thought back to the way I departed Mila’s hospital room an hour ago when Lily reminded me that the café wasn’t locked yet:

“If you never received my letter, then who could’ve taken it?” I asked. “I made sure the address was correct and shipped it with the most expensive service I could find!”

“Then perhaps someone stole it before it got to me,” Mila suggested while lying back down on her pillow. Before I could reply, Lily burst into the room with her phone against her ear.

“Kai! Bad news!” she announced. Her voice was coated in a layer of fear. “The security went off at our café, someone broke in! We forgot to lock the door!”

“Shit!” I glanced at Mila, who nodded for me to go. “Okay, I’ll head back right now!”

My eyes caught sight of the Muller’s Blend sign on top of our door and made one last dash across the crosswalk. I peeked into the window, breathing a sigh of relief to find no one inside.

Not yet… I thought as I swung open the door. They could be hiding!

But instead of burglars who I imagined would’ve kicked down the tables and chairs, the opposite had happened instead.

Huh? I scratched my head.

Similar to how Lily and I usually left the café when we closed shop, every table was left sparkly clean, and the chairs were stowed away at each one. The cash register and espresso machines were in the same place as before, but had become somewhat shinier as if someone had wiped it down.

“W-Were these always that clean?” I walked behind the counter and into the kitchen, where a ruffling sound popped out from within the storage room.

Shit, the burglars really are in there!

I grabbed a nearby broom and bent my knees, readying an attack while the sound persisted. These fools will regret breaking into our-


Out jumped Sesame from a cardboard box, which he knocked over, spilling out something red in the process.

It was just you, Sesame…

I placed the broom back against the wall. Perhaps no one broke into the café in the first place.

Sesame jumped up to the counter and looked me in the eyes, as if trying to tell me something.

“Sorry I left you all alone here, buddy…” I petted his head while glancing around the rest of the kitchen. Every item was still there in the same spot I had left them in before. I then opened the fridge and the freezer, and sure enough, all the food was still untouched, wrapped tightly in saran wrap or packed in an airtight container.

Could it have just been a false alarm?

The last stop for inspection was the storage room, where the cat had popped out from. I poked my head inside, fearful of any jump scare. When only pure silence greeted me back, I stepped inside and wandered around.

“Holy shit…”

From the corner of my eye, I caught a red flap of cotton sticking out from the inside of a stack of cardboard boxes on the shelf, where Sesame had popped out of. Reaching my hand in, I pulled out what I couldn’t believe was my old red scarf.

I lowered my eyebrows and glanced back out at the kitchen. Someone definitely snuck in while Lily and I were away. I brought the scarf to my nose and took a big whiff, breathing out a moan from the coconut fragrance.

It sure smells nice… I thought. Someone must’ve washed it recently.

“Meow!” Sesame stretched out his front legs while watching me restack the old cardboard boxes on the shelf.

“That doesn’t help, Sesame,” I replied. “You gotta tell me who came in!”

I kneeled down to pet his back, which made the cat purr and rub his cheek against my ankle.

Ring ring!

My phone began buzzing and ringing on the counter in the kitchen, causing a vibration against the marble counter. I reached back to answer it while continuing my petting.


“Kai, hope I didn’t catch you at a bad time.”

It was Mr. Meyer who phoned me. Usually, he’d do so to ask for my availability for the week, so I could help with his academy games. This time, however, he came out from left field with something that almost threw me off my feet.

“So, are you going to visit your father or what?”

I gulped and stopped caressing Sesame’s head.

Part of me wanted to go, but part of me was still scared. Within just a year, I had changed and grew a lot. Perhaps it was finally time to face my past.

“I…” I just couldn’t answer properly through the phone.

“You know,” Mr. Meyer continued, noticing the words dragging away from my mouth. “When I first signed his jersey near the stands, he said something quite memorable to me.”

“W-What did he say?”

“He said: ‘I don’t know what’s better - getting a signed jersey from you, or taking my son to watch you play!’”

My body quivered, with goosebumps popping everywhere.

“It’s quite poetic to have that son of his be the one to help recover my academy, just fifteen years later,” Mr. Meyer grinned. “Go and let your old man know what you managed to do for me. I’m sure it’ll bring a smile to his face.”

“But wasn’t he the one that ruined your-”

“Those were allegations, right? The state press can say anything these days. How about you hear it from the man himself and make your own conclusion?”

“I… I guess you’re right.”

I closed the call without saying goodbye to him and checked the time. If I still wanted to go today, I had to leave right now.

“Ugh…” I groaned, grabbing my coat and beanie while wrapping the red scarf around my neck. “I guess I’ll have to deal with this mystery person infiltrating our café later when I get back.”

I glanced at Sesame’s food and water to ensure he had plenty, and then waved at him. “I’ll be back.”

Once I took a step out and heard the café door close behind me, I turned around and inserted my key to ensure that it was locked this time.

Man, it’s still pouring.

While it wasn’t exactly stormy, the wind was strong enough to flap my scarf like wings, and the rain continued overflowing the potholes in every road around Muller’s Blend.

“Hello Kai.”

A familiar voice introduced herself behind me, and I turned back around. Walking across the crosswalk to me was Eleanor, who dressed way too light for the weather.

“It’s been a while, hasn’t it?” she greeted, waving her hand gently while the other held the umbrella.

“It… it sure has.”

Because of the extended roof above our café entrance, the spot where I stood outside was protected from the rain. Eleanor stopped at the edge of the crosswalk. Her fancy white jacket looked thinner than my T-shirt, and her pink skirt was no better in protecting her from the storm.

“What are you doing wearing only that in this weather?!” I shouted. “Jeez, put this on!”

I took off my black coat and flapped it over her shoulders. The coat was long enough to cover her skirt and thighs, but the bottom half of her legs were still shivering.

Was she the one who came and returned my scarf in the storage room?

Before I could ask, Eleanor’s face glimmered at me, pretending she wasn’t cold at all.

“I came here to ask if you’re going to reconsider our request,” she explained, ignoring my comments.

“What request?” I tilted my head sideways in confusion. What is she talking about?

“Almost a year ago, my father gave you an offer on a silver platter, quite frankly,” she continued with a simper. “We will cover your thirty million don debt if you marry into our family and renounce your family name on live television.”

Oh right.

I tucked my hands into my trouser pockets and sighed. I had almost forgotten about that ridiculous offer. I directed my gaze past her head and at the Febai Park entrance behind her, where I first encountered her father, Dally. It was there when he first proposed that offer as well, and when I turned it down, I went and got a job at this coffee shop instead. Looking back, that day truly seemed like a fever dream.

With the fresh rain-filled air cleaning my throat, I took a deep breath, and gave her my answer: “Sorry, Eleanor. Like I said before, I can’t accept that proposal. If it's alright with you, I must skedaddle! I need to go-”

“Aren’t you looking for this letter?” she asked, holding out an envelope with a wide but gentle grin. I stopped in my tracks just as I began running past her, almost tripping over a dent in the sidewalk.

“What did you just say?”

Now she had my full attention. My feet were planted firmly on the wet floor, and my eyes could only stare back at her in desperation for an answer.

“This was written by you 5 years ago for Mila, correct?”

The bangs of my hair had glued down to my face thanks to the rain, and the rest of my body began shivering under the cold drizzle. Yet not a single piece of me cared about freezing in the storm with just a shirt on - the letter she held out still had my writing on it:

“To Mila

From Kai”

“W-Why do you have that?!”

- was the first of many questions I had for Eleanor Tren. How she got her hands on my letter to Mila from that long ago is beyond me. Thankfully, she held the letter under the umbrella to prevent it from getting wet but avoided my question.

“I’ll give this to you if you promise to marry into our family,” she answered while waving it around like a flag.

This little…!

Her offer was ridiculous, but knowing how insane her family was altogether, every opportunity to take their proposal had me walking closer and closer to it. Besides, I would have my thirty million don debt cleared out, marry into a rich family, and finally be able to give the letter to Mila. Additionally, didn’t Eleanor mention that her family ran the supply chain of all our coffee-making material?

Should I just do it? I thought, gazing back at her on the street while my body was now drenched in rain. All I had to do was say “yes.”