At the end of the world, to the left
The world tree.
It gives its power to a third of the ~7 billion people on earth, allowed them to do things many consider magical, such as creating fire out of thin air or pulling a wall of earth from the ground.
The ones that received power from the world tree usually put it to good work at the world tree’s quest board.
On there, people post quests they want done. It could be anything from getting some herbs from the nearby forest (which can be done by normal people but is better left to those who can actually defend themselves should a monster show up) to slaying a massive serpent to prevent it from destroying a village.
I (unfortunately?) was not born with that blessing. I didn’t mind it though, I never really wanted to fight. The only thing I’ve ever wanted to do, ever since I was a child, was to own a coffee shop.
You may think that’s a weird dream, that’s because it is.
I love hearing people’s stories more than make my own, I find it way better to hear about people’s dangerous experiences than live ones my own. I may be called a coward for that, but I prefer to call it “preserving my life span”.
That made me think, what better place is there to hear other people’s stories than a coffee shop?
People from all over the world, including travelers and adventurers, come in for a hot drink while they tell the stories of their exploits, taking a break from them.
I’ve been struggling to get my dream realized for the past couple of years, but a couple of months ago I bought a small, pretty worn-out building close to the world tree, where the adventurers gather there to find quests and assemble a party if needed.
I was just getting started with setting up shop, I worked hard to get enough money to buy all the necessary equipment, and a couple days later I had the shop looking at least half decent, and most importantly functional enough to serve people.
But of course, just when I was about to realize my, fate had to interfere.
It came out of nowhere. A massive, humanoid face creature flew down from the sky, and stopped just above the adventurers that were looking for work near the world tree quest board.
“Those who now occupy the world that was once ours, your actions have destroyed nature’s balance. Your kind has overstepped its boundaries, and trampled over everything that was in your way in order to make yourselves more comfortable. You will now pay.”
He was gone as quickly and suddenly as he appeared.
No one knew what to think, not that they had too much time to.
In the hour coming after the creature’s appearance, the ground began to shake. It trembled so much that any building that was over 2 stories high was nearly instantly and completely demolished.
The shaking lasted 10 full minutes, and after that the oceans began to rise. Anything that was remotely close to the coastline was devoured by the water’s mighty strength.
It is estimated that about 90% of the world’s population, and most large cities and buildings were reclaimed by nature, and taken by the monsters that occupied them before us.
Fortunately, even though my shop’s building is a little worn out, it’s still standing. As dark as the situation may be, that doesn’t mean I’ll stop pursuing my dream.
Now, a couple months after the disaster that has gotten the very unoriginal name “The end of the world”, after at least some part of society has been rebuilt, I decided that I won’t let anything prevent me from realizing my dream.
I got a sheet of paper, and wrote on it:
“If you want a place to have a warm drink and relax after your adventure, or you need a place to relax after the disaster, or even someone to listen to your troubles and give you advice, you’re always welcome at my new Café. If you look at the world tree from the direction of the quest board, walk towards its left until you find a slightly worn-down building labeled: “At the end of the world, to the left” “.
I went to the world tree and bought an advertising spot near the quest board with the rest of my money, and put my paper there.
…I thought it was clever.
After only a couple of hours, my first customer arrived.
My first customer…
I imagined it being a battle-hardened warrior, or a beautiful woman, or a helpful guy that just happens to need a job.
Or anything that’s not… that.
“Show me the money!”
“So you’re really going for that cliché?”
“The fuck you on about? Just give me your money or it won’t be pretty!”
It seems that my first “customer” is not going to order anything, let alone actually pay me…
“Ahh, well believe me I would’ve liked to do that, but you’re my first customer. I don’t have any money, the most you’d get is a cup of coffee.”
“Not that I would’ve given you anything, let alone my money or even a cup of coffee, after you talked like that.”
“Uhh… I’m not sure…”
“Why are you still here? Leave. Go. Scram. Before I get the broom.”
He left the store, quietly.
“Well that was not really the best first customer…”
I ignored that entire interaction and kept on waiting, let’s just say thieves don’t count as customers.
A whole day, and nothing but thieves…
This is way harder than I thought… but then again, it’s only the first day, I shouldn’t be let down so easily.
I decided to close up for the day. There was not much cleaning to speak of, as the entire day was just hanging around, and trying to convince the people outside to come in.
The next day, I got an actual customer. Three of them, at that.
‘Perfect! They looks nice enough, and also not like thieves.’
“AAAAA!!! Could you have healed any slower back then??!?! I seriously almost died!!” The first one shouted.
“Well, you wouldn’t have needed so much healing if you actually fell back and acted like I told you!” A second one retorted.
“Could you both just shut up!” The third one barged.
They were a group of 3 female adventurers, the first one carried a sword, the second a wand, and the third a shield and heavy armor.
They didn’t look like they were really getting along, though. Especially for an adventuring party.
They sat down, and after waiting for them to finish their business, I approached them.
The one carrying a shield apologized to me about the noise, saying they are a newly formed party so they haven’t really figured out how to work together yet.
I untruthfully told her I didn’t mind and took their order. Their constant fighting did annoy me, but not enough to say anything.
I asked for their names before taking the order, the one carrying a sword was called Alice, the supposed healer’s name was Sarah and the one carrying a shield and armor was named Hina.
Alice ordered an excessive amount of sweet pastries, Sarah ordered a cup of tea and Hina ordered a cup of coffee.
While making their order I noticed they just sat quietly, making jabs at each other every once in a while.
After I served them their order, Alice started talking while eating what she ordered.
They were from an orphanage in Meroham, but had to leave to the world tree city after the great disaster wiped the place out, figuring adventuring was the only way they could survive. Though after three months of trying, they were tired of failing, so after seeing the poster near the world tree they came here.
“So, what do you think we should do?” Sarah asked.
“Well… it doesn’t seem like you three have any teamwork at all, so unless you think you can figure that out I’d recommend you just split. From what I saw since you entered the store, you didn’t stop fighting for a moment.”
“HUH?!?” Alice said angrily.
“Well, that does make the most sense after trying for so long…” Hina agreed dejectedly.
It seems like they used to be good friends, but adventuring together just didn’t fit them.
So they split. Alice said she’d go find a different party to adventure with, Sarah said she would start chasing her dream of opening a clinic, and Hina… Well, Hina said she had no idea where to go from here, so after her former party members left, I offered her a spot at the café.
Even if it’s just until she figures stuff out, having someone be here and help making orders would be way easier. Up until now, I didn’t give too much thought to the service part of owning a café, but even after making just a single order for 3 customers I felt completely exhausted, so I really needed the help.
“I also have an extra room upstairs, so you could just sleep there if you need to.” I offered, since they slept at a inn they could barely afford until now.”
I was surprised at her quick response, I’d thought she would at least hesitate living in the same house alone with a man.
Upon the night’s arrival, I showed her to her room, showed her where the bath and toilet is, and went to my room.
I went to the bath and put up the “using” sign just in case.
That didn’t stop her from barging in while I was in the bath.
“Hey! Do you mind if we just go together? I want to sleep as soon as I can after today”
I kept my composure, using a bit of effort, and answered.
“I wouldn’t mind, you can come in if you want to.”
The bath was large enough for the both of us to be sitting in front of each other, with some space in between.
After enough time I decided to get up, initially thinking about her seeing me without clothes but then deciding it would just be fair, as she was the one to rudely barge in while I was in there.
I got up.
“Oh, you’re getting up? I’ll help you wash u-“ she stopped mid sentence and froze.
“Wait, is that a…”
“Why are you so shocked? Do I have a tumor or a scar I didn’t know about somewhere?”
“YOU’RE A MAN?!?”
Now, any other man probably would’ve been angry or in the very least annoyed in this situation. But to be honest, I never thought about my physical appearance too much, let alone my masculinity. I couldn’t imagine that I’d be confused for a woman, but I honestly don’t care enough to be angry. At least that solves the question of why she didn’t hesitate living with a man.
After that short but lovely interaction we had, she turned around and waited for me to finish. I decided it would be best to let her be until tomorrow.
And so tomorrow came.
After an awkward re-introduction, this time including genders, we talked a little and she decided she would still stay, saying it was her fault for assuming in the first place.
I showed her around, and half the day went by with me instructing her on serving the customers and using the equipment. Unsurprisingly, no customers arrived at that time.
After a few hours of nothing, a golden hair young woman entered the shop.
“H-hello.” She stuttered.
“Hi! Please come in, you’re our first customer for the day, so please feel free to sit anywhere.” Hina quickly came to her.
She sat down at the bar, and started ordering.
For such a little lady, she really ate a lot.
At first she ordered some chocolate cake, and while eating it she started talking.
She said she came from Meroham City. From what I’ve heard, that place was hit the hardest by the disaster. That’s probably why she left.
“I was separated from my family after the disaster, and I’ve been looking for them ever since.”
…That’s not really the kind of stories I wanted to hear from my customers, but I went along with it.
She ordered another slice of chocolate cake, and a coffee to go with it.
“I searched all over, I even got to Diaz city after I couldn’t find them anywhere in our home town.”
“Can you tell me how they look, so if I ever see them I’ll tell them you passed through?”
“Sure I can. My mother was blonde as well, way taller than me and her hair was a little shorter, although it may have changed by now. My father was a head higher than, with brown hair and he liked to make self-deprecating jokes, almost as much as I hated him making them.”
“Got it. I’ll keep my eyes peeled.”
She paid, and left to continue her search…
Although it was not the kind of first client I was expecting, her story was interesting enough…
‘Damn, I guess I should’ve asked for a name.’ I thought to myself, wondering how I could tell them about her without even knowing her name.
“Hey Hina, did you catch her name?”
“I think it was something like Mia?”
“Sure, lets go with that…”
We could only serve a single customer and the day was already over.
Image: Mr. Main Character
Made by @trailmixtape1 on twitter