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[Setting] Caramel Anne

| > Through the endless passing of cars — and hovercars — the quiet lane where Caramel Anne resides stayed too much of the same. In Uptown, this isn't unheard of, especially when running besides much busier bars.

"We're dead set at 8 now."

> A waitress inside spoke, looking at the watch on her wrist and the recently vacant café.

"All for one applicant."

> Another staff, a waiter too, replied with a long, exhausted tone.

| >As the clock struck exactly 8:04, an unusually tall, bespectacled, lilim, black hair tied back into a tight bun and wearing the quintessential interview outfit – a well-starched white dress shirt with black slacks and dress shoes – half-jogged-half-skipped in off the street, his round sunglasses automatically shifting into translucency as he ducked through the entrance to the cafe.

| “I’m so sorry I’m late! There was some kind of festival, or street concert, or protest, or riot, or something going on down in Glitz, and I had to climb some construction scaffolding to get around in an efficient manner, which added an additional three minutes to the trip here.
>His voice had a pleasantly falsetto though noticeably artificial quality to it, characteristic of older CH1A models. His eyes, now unobscured, were a slightly iridescent gold.
“At least I didn’t get shot!”

| >>618840
"… W-welcome."

> The first to greet the lilim is a black-haired man. He looks well in his early 20s, with a stature that couldn't even reach the relative 5'11. His hair is messy, yet subtly maintained from the prim shine it poses. His body is clothed with the café's uniform: a white Oxford shirt paired with a light chocolate trousers.

> His reply indicates he hadn't much time to think of any proper response.

| "That is such a wee greeting, you're going to disappoint them as a senior."

> The other, current occupant of the café replied. This time, it's a lady — older than the man, but not much so. She has the same jet black hair and height, with the same uniform too; though with a tie neck shirt and a skirt.

> The professionally applied make-up, the perfume that pairs with the café's own dairy smell, the lively smile; everything that resonates from her points to extreme care.

| “Oh, you must be, umm, ‘Horace’, right? I can’t thank you enough for giving me this chance!”
> He offered his hand and bowed slightly so as to meet his prospective coworker at eye level. The intensity of his gaze and his smile was just ever so slightly short of intimidating.
“I know I technically don’t meet the criteria you listed in your post, but I swear I’ll do whatever it takes to make up for it!”

| >>618861
> The waitress only chuckled at this. She pushes her co-worker ahead so as to accept the greeting. Slowly, their hands meet.

"I—I'm not Horace. He's out and about."

> The waiter made his very embarrassed reply even more embrassing through his cracking voice that he further fails to notice.

"It's Sora."

> He tries to reintroduce himself, which only gave the waitress more material to pull up a mischievous smile.

| >The lilim’s handshake was viselike, though not so tight as to be painful.
“Oooh, I see! Well in that case, it’s nice to meet you, Sora! I’m looking forward to working with you! And you as well, miss...”
>Without letting go of Sora’s hand or changing his expression, he turned to the waitress expectantly.

| >>619258
"Alice. A pleasure."

> There isn't a nametag that can be used to identify Sora, but for the case of Alice — there is one, right beside her collar. It spells 'Hello, I'm [Alice]!'.

> She looks at the lilim with a smile that showcases a different aura; professionally or not, it's still an endearing expression from her. Unlike Sora's visibly tepid expression, Alice's were gleeful.

"Horace said you were promising. I do too."

> She adds.

| “I’m so glad you think so! You have no idea what a relief it is to get this interview, I – oh right, speaking of which, when do you think we’ll begin? I know you two must be tired, I don’t want to keep you any longer than I have to.”

| >>619323
"Oh, we're already interviewing you. Isn't that correct, Horace?"

> Alice mentions 'Horace', but there is naught of his presence. Instead, throughout the café, a short burst of scratching can be heard before a voice emanates.

"That, it is. Let me elaborate."

> The voice is robotic. Too much, in fact. It almost sound synthesised from an old voice modulator.

"We currently have the night shift staffs coming as a customer. Do your best to treat them."

> He says.

| “Understood, sir! I’ll do my best!”
>Finally releasing Sora’s hand, the lilim gave a jaunty mock salute towards the nothing in particular from which Horace’s voice came.
“Is there anything else I should know? I tried to practice with simulations of as many different models and configurations of coffee-making appliances as possible, but I should probably get to know your individual setup before anything else.”

| >>619689
"Sora, if you may."

> As soon Horace uttered Sora's name, he instinctively moved to show the countertop, extending from one end of the room to the other — or rather the machines behind the countertop. A sizeable rectangular machine with levers, sliders, and knobs, plus a grinder on the top — but one can easily tell its use.

"We have a 3-in-1 here; this makes the drip, it does espresso and grinding."

> The man says, rubbing his eye to account for his drowsiness.

| "Anyway, name?"

> Sora points his chin to the lilim, gesturing his intent. It's strange for others to not ask for his name, at least that's what's drawn in Sora's expression.

"Feels strange having an employee without a name, ain't it, boss?"

> Alice scoffed, maybe she forgot? More importantly, she gave Sora's question a nod.

"I thought you aren't the buddy-buddy type."

"Says you."

> Sora retorts Alice's claim with a thick tone of sarcasm.


| >The lilim intently peered over the machine as Sora explained its functionality, the gold apertures of his artificial eyes rapidly opening and contracting like an an old analogue camera. An audible, though faint so that only Sora could hear it, clicking accompanied each opening.

“Oh – oh I’m so sorry, how could I forget!”

>His investigative trance broken, the lilim’s usual smile returned.

“Ashton Lal Summersong. It really is a pleasure to meet all of you.”

| >>620561
"Pleasure, Ashton."

> Alice is the first to reply, again with the heartfelt smile. She turns to the door of the café, then to the windows next to it. She makes an 'Oh!' with her mouth, then turns to signal Sora something with her fingers. They were pointing to a door behind the countertop. Sora, having noticed her earlier, nods then continues to face Ashton.

"Yeah, nice to met ya."

> Sora answers.

"So, the machine—"

| > He goes to point the few knobs and sliders, explaining them in detail, save for a few sparse sentences he chose to ignore continuing — such as the bare mention of, 'cyber-roach' or 'floating hands that sometimes touches Ray'. Other than that, nothing of utter disingenuous truth were of note.

"Basically, last slider does the heating; next to it grinds and blends. Knob here does latte and such. Everything else is labelled."

> He sumrises.

| “Got it, thanks! I don’t think I’ve practiced with this exact model, but out of the hundreds of machines I simulated a lot of them worked more or less the same as this one, minus a few little details. I think I should be good!”

| >>620571
"Good good."

> Sora says. He then passes the attention to the door, motioning Ashton to do much of the same. As he does, the sound of footsteps collide with Alice checking her phone.

"And pal, those staffs — treat them as a proper customer, yeah? They'll be having those little notes to… gauge your service."

> He says, again mentioning the upcoming 'customers'.

"Bonus score from me if you learn their names."

> It's unknown whether he said that as a joke, however.


| >A man walks in to the Caramel Anne, with a mild stupor in his step... It seems that pub crawling is on his agenda today. His outfit screams avoid, with his plate carrier having holes, and his holster gripping a handgun, but his tread is of a uneven, playful, as he makes his way and sits down at the bar.

"Can I get a Beer, porfavor?"

| >>621822
> Alice saw the man coming in at first, but wasn't sure what to make out of him. She tries her best not to kick a potential customer out — regardless of her shift.

"Welcome! Need I remind you this isn't a BTC-certified bar?"

> Her best was apparently a sarcastic tone. She glares at the handgun, exercising her caution.

"We don't have beer here, sorry to disappoint."

| >>621827
>The guy grumbles, slumping on the table, he takes a menu, and fiddles with it.
"So uhh... no booze?"

| >>621834
> The menu is that of digital form; a small, 7 inch tablet. Fiddling through its screen shows various bright imageries depicting cakes, bakeries, milk, and tea. No signs of karmotrine to see.


> Before Alice was able to confront the man, Sora waves the newcomer then signals Alice to take his place instead.

"You do him, boss. This is mine."

> He says. Gone was his exhaustion. He dons a new persona now.

| >>621834
"Hey, uh… pal. How about you go behind the back and I'll treat ya' something good. Promise. It's on me."

> He tries to convince the man, pointing to a sort of backroom right behind the countertop.

| >>621835

>The man squints at the menu through the haze of the karmotrine, and sluggishly slides through the cake menu, putting it down, already bored with it.


"Behind the back, ey?"

>The guy shoots a wink, before poking at the cake menu.

"I'll have a... this. What ever this is, I'll have 2 slices."

>The guy points to a cake on the menu, his finger swaying mildly.

| >>621849
> The short-statured waiter nodded, appreciating the wink somewhat. He sees where the man is pointing and is mildly off-put by his choice.

"Who'd thought someone will take an Mock-Eton at this late in the PM?"

> He chuckles then waves his hand lightly in front of his face, dissipating his recent laughter.

"I'll take your order then. Anything else."

| "Yeah, an americano, leave space in the cup."

>The guy keeps supporting his head with his elbow on the table, looking lazily at the guy.

| >>621854
> The man's black hair fades into the darkness, as the cafe's only light is a warm, orange bulb. It's barely bright to support a candlelight, and not enough to catch attention nor to expose highlights and details of an object.

> This waiter is surely a short one, if the girl behind him is taller.

"Americano. God, I wish I can handle this to the greenhorn. Well, I guess that's all?"

| >>621860

>He looks between the staff, shrugging it off.

"Yeah, thanks."

| >>621861
> He nods again, walking off and signalling both Alice and Ashton that he has the situation under control. He seems composed, all to well showing his experience in the field.

| >>622132
>The man, quickly bored, looses focus, and begins to play around with something on his phone... If one where to come behind him, all they'd see is someone shitposting on /u/.

| >>622520
> Come behind him they did. Someone steps into the cafe, spotting the nearest occupied seat. Immediately discernable with the newcomer is the short height, mischievous smile, and an auburn hair tied to a noble chignon.

> Wearing a white lab coat, hiding a same-coloured dress shirt behind, alongside a navy blue long skirt, the figure sneaks behind the man, then taps on his shoulder.

"Rich of you to get drunk here, mister."

> She says, with a voice unmistakably childish.

| >John jolts a little, being surprised by the voice, and turns his head to see who is.

"Rick of you to assume that I am."

| >>622853
"I didn't assume, I KNOW."

> John looks to find a lady there. Young one, if not too young to walk around unmonitored.

"Hey, Alice! A bit of karmotrine wouldn't hurt, would it?"

> She speaks to the waitress, getting her to nod and shout the order at the busy waiter.

"Whiskey. On me."

> The lady faces John, smiling.

| >>622879
"Oh, so she gets served..."

>John mutters under his breath. So that's how the staff wanna play...

"So what dragged you in here?"

| >>622882
"Congratulations. How did it feel like? Dying and all."

> The lady hops over to the seat in front of John. She has drawn a smile wider than before.

"Just so you know, I—"

> Before even a flinch of a second, two pints were served to the table. It's even faster than John's order. The waitress nodded again, reaffirming the order and she was soon after dismissed by the lady.

"—Very much appreciate you meddling."

| "Like another Sunday. Don't take that too metaphorically."

>He takes a flask out of his jacket, shaking it to check if it's still got anything... it's got nothing...

"I'm not sure what I was meddling, I put my hand in many cakes these days."

| >>622909
"Help yourself."

> She points to the two pints, instinctively pushing them towards John.

"Gods and goddesses. One layer on top of that cake. What, did you forget about it already?"

| >>622910
"It's been a busy week. Is that americano coming or not?"

>John looks agitated, he's just come out of dealing with narcissistic stuck up pretend gods. Another is not exceedingly good... he calls out, wanting to sober up more.

| >>622911
"Oh, you actually ordered something decent?"

> The lady looks behind, seeing Sora — the waiter — still with the machine. How long these machines blend their coffee is beyond their pertinent knowledge.

"Guess it's coming, ain't it? I own the place, but I don't own the knowledge. Books don't grow money."

| "Oh shut it. You're the one getting drunk at work."

>John leaves the pint standin...

| >>622916
"Kettle's calling."

> The lady says. The coffee was soon taken to the table, in a rush as Sora tries his best not to disappoint… someone. It's certainly not John he's eyeing to.

"Sorry, but I don't work here, pal. I don't do waitress cosplay even if I wanted to. You know me, I like being the top. Could've guessed from the 'Master' thing, y'know."

| >>622918
"I'll have you know, I'm off the shift as off 15 minutes ago."

>He sips on the coffee checking the temperature, before drinking it with a deep gulp.

| >>622919
> Despite the aforementioned mediocre price, the coffee tasted more so than decent. Its flavour could not match genuine coffee, but even in the artificial nature it poses, one can confidently say it's 'coffee' and not 'condensed flavoured soy'.

"And I'll have to let you know I'm still doing my best with Uni. Gotta have one or four sips, you hear? I can't work every damn time."

| "Well do better."

>He takes a sip of the coffee, contemplating what the girl is on about...

"I've had plenty to drink, but plenty more people to find... once I'm on shift."

| >>622924
"The name's not Lucetta for nothing, ya hear?"

> She smiles then have the pint by her hand. She slowly draws her lips close, in a kissing distance, before she has its contents sipped even more slowly. Once done the shadow casts on her face shows her previous activity — with the lack of sleep throughout.

"Find more then, champ."

| "Speaking of more, get in touch with your bos or benefactor, I need to talk to them. Just a coffee chat."

>John looks at the second pint, thinking about it... he sticks to his coffee, sipping on it.

| >>622926
"We don't do anymore."

> Lucetta turns stern by question.

"I've got someone burning my house, and for what? I lost everything there. Do you think I care for some shitty boss that way? No way in hell."

| "And what, you're gonna sit there and be pitiful, or help me find him?"

>The coffee clearly has started to take effect, but John's comment doesn't seem as impressive as it did, considering his arm's been ripped off.

| >>622930
"The hell do you think I've been doing, champ?"

> Lucetta places the glass down, noticeably sounding less childish and more forlorn as an adult now. She unskirts her fake persona, showing her true self in every bits of her word.

"Shit is wild. And I don't have as much pocket money as I did before. Swords don't bring money either if I can't fucking move the shit fast enough."

| "What have you in stock? Depending on what you say, you might just get some windfall."

>John smiles, perking himself up. He can smell the deal coming in to view.

| >>622934
"Boy, the businessman as ever. What do you want me to answer?"

> Lucetta counters the smile with her own. Seeing John noticeably more sober has given her more chance to talk in a serious tone.

"You're talking to a damn good asset in front of you."

| >John responds to the smile with a frown, she's not getting it. She's not an asset, she's a tool.

"I get to decide if you're an asset, not you... But, you do make it sound like you know something."


| >>622941
"Fair play. Use me what you want."

> Lucetta has realised her lacks. Without anything to show, she's willing to bet her inability protrudes more than her advantages.

"As you know, I'm well-versed in the language that governs how you… your entire self got transported to that place. Only second to that man. As it happens, that's the shit they use to communicate behind the Matrix."

| >>622942
"Well well, you're value is rising."
>John returns to his smile, that buisness smile...

"So what's your price now?"

| >>622945
"Let me add value to myself then. I'm one good engineer. You saw Uni's body. She's my magnum opus."

> She closes in, finishing her shot.

"—I also make guns, just not the bang-bang kind."

> Her last remark was said in a short voice.

| "You're talking to the guy who makes them. thankfully for you, I focus on the bang-bang."

>He turns back to the bar, patting down his left arm.

"Say, how do you communicate then? You know, with the language?

| >>622947
"Like Lilith, Deities speak in gibberish until you write an interpreter. I did that. English to… whatever fuck they call it. Aethers? Thaumaturgy? These old geezers are senile at naming shit."

> Lucetta says. She eyes John momentarily, hoping he would remember something from his trip to the other side of the world.

"And it would've helped lots if you remember how it felt like to speak one though."

| "That's the funny part, we didn't. it was all english anyway. So who's this Lilith?"

>John's smile turns wicked, as the talk turns from skills to information.

| >>622949
"The head honcho of Lilims? Kinda obvious. Intelligence as advanced as Lilims don't just get their intelligence part outta nowhere."

> Lucetta can sense information being squeezed from her. The pressure is tolerated by her, keeping the café's cozy nature to its own.

"How the fuck do you speak English there? All the logs I read are all written in THAT language."

| >>622950
"Maybe it's something in the air, maybe the 'gods' are just frogs in a well."

>John lets ease of the conversation, leaning on the bar, give and take, give and take, John.

| >>622952
> Lucetta chuckles. The empty cafe made her chuckle louder than it actually is. Noticing this lack of audio, she takes a small controller and taps on it — producing music inside the cafe.

"Listen. I'm willing to cooperate. If not for me, then for Uni. If not for her, then for whoever fuck you care about. I want to drive my sword to that fucking man. Capiche?"

| >>622956
>John raises an eyebrow, as this is the first time he's seen Lucetta be in anything but a negative mood. The music is soothing, but distracts from the conversation.

"It's not the question of will, it's the question of trust. But... I do like your murderous intent."

| >>622962
"What, are you scared I'll backstab you? Bitch please, I have dignity."

> Lucetta says with an irksome note to her voice. She clearly tries to prove her best, but isn't the most talkative in this mood she has.

| >>622975
>John simply gives her a blank stare, finishing the rest of his coffee.

| >>622979
> The bottom of the coffee felt more acidic, strangely. Perhaps the flavouring have worn off, leaving the depressing bitterness elsewhere.

"Alice, his tab's on me."

> Lucetta motions to the waitress after seeing John finish the coffee. She goes back to him after digging through her coat.

"Now. Y'know, there's no one else that can decipher that language. Uni's not here anymore, and the other deities have shit to do."

| "Even if you can summon them here, I can one HELL assure you, you won't get far."

> Less of her words start to sound like offer and more like a hard selling threat.

"But if that's what you want - separating from my turf - I'll help you draw a summoning circle. Hope you call a damn good deity with it."

| >>623021 >>623020
"I think I can just call one normally."
>John scrolls though his phone to find a way to get in touch with Jay.

"The other deities are closer than you think, and have more free time than you think."

| >>623082
> Jay's contact is listed in the call logs of John's phone. It doesn't seem to be a local number, but neither does it appear to be unreachable.

"I'm surprised you made friends there."

> John's reply surprised much of Lucetta. For whatever reason, it took her a long minute to respond back to John.

"Fine then. You know you have your way around. Doesn't stop me from giving you my interpreter now, does it?"

| >>623082
"I knew him from before. Sorta. He owes me a burger."

>John calls the number, putting it on speaker.

| >>623132
> The other line connects eerily quick. Coming from this side is a buzzing that resonates rapidly, creating a chorus of static noises.

"Hello, how can I serve you today—"

> The voice is barely recognisable in tone, partly due to the faults in the connection, but it's obvious who is on the other side.

"Mr. John?"

| >>623235
(*Mr. Doe. Late correction is late.)

| > The hum of a motorcycle can be heard outside, revving a bit before shutting off. Shortly after, what looks like a young woman walks in, wearing a floral dress and stiletto heels. Her makeup looks like she’s ready for a date, even if her short hair looks like it was stuck inside a helmet. She takes a seat and gets comfortable, starting around at the others in the cafe.

| >>623235

"Hey Jay, how's it going? You got some free time?"

>John is quick to respond back, keeping an eye on Lucetta's response.

| >>623239
> The cafe's interior is flush with what imitates the appearance of an old-fashioned coffee shop. Nanocamo of wooden tiles and such have been placed neatly to further impress a certain immersion into the customers.

> Around the cafe, two patrons can be seen, whilst the other three remaining occupants are staffs. One of the staff approaches, a man with black hair wearing the signature white and chocolate finish uniform.

"Welcome there! Late to the night?"

> He smiles.

| >>623282
"Kinda… kinda hard moving about without an arm and a leg, but it's been fantastic, Mr. Doe. You're with someone, I assume?"

> Jay quickly assesses the situation. The sound of explosions and debris flying about can be heard interrupting a few of his speeches.

"Is that… is that from the other side?"

> Lucetta is more so shocked than surprised. Her eyes widen slightly, turning them from cutesy to anxious.

| >>623288
"Sounds like you need a hand. I'm with a Lucetta... What was your last name again?"

>He turns fully to Lucetta, expecting an answer.

| >>623295
> Before Lucetta could even voice a word, Jay interrupted with 'Oh!'

"No, no. I know her."

> There's a sly note to Jay's voice. Knowing Lucetta being in close proximity to John, he continues.

"So, Ms… Lucetta? Fancy name for someone who bargained with Ea, eh? Eh?"

> Shocked yet again, Lucetta is doing her best to hold any semblance of composure. If anything, she is budged close, not answering at all.

| >>623297
"She's going freelance, Jay. And what's the big deal with Ea? Anyway, you need back up, or will you be free in a few hours?"

>John covers the mic of the phone, clearly, Lucetta seems to be struggling.

"Hey, keep it cool. What happened to the cocky shit Lucetta?"

| >>623305
"Yeah, Ea does things. Like any deity really—… whoa, shit."

> Quick blasts of wind clearly hit Jay's end. The communication was dropped to a mere crackling before it was picked back up again.

"Cocky what? Shove that to my fucking face, John. You can't trust anyone on that end to be anything BUT a shifty liar."

> Lucetta's steam could figuratively radiate from her head. She vents about issue unrelated to this, or their conversation.

| >John smiles, as if he's achieved what he wanted. At least she's no longer shying away.

"You're not wrong, Jay still owes me a burger."

>He uncovers the mic, talking back to Jay.

"So you need a hand?"

| >>623321
> What Jay said next is gibberish. It's more so obvious knowing that he's fighting something, and what he would have used is nothing short of a throne. John can hear the chant of a throne being summoned, and Lucetta perks up to this noise.

> At least before the noise became an indescribable loud ping, disturbing the cafe shortly, then disconnecting the call.

"That got my ears. Fuck."

| "Well, looks like I'll call him another time. What where we talking about?"

>John puts his phone away, putting his attention back to Lucceta.

| >>623342
"Summoning deities. Thaumaturgy. All sorts of crazy shit not covered by my Master's degree if I say it out loud."

> Lucetta's expression turned to normal again. It's unknown what part of Jay made Lucetta turn pale to begin with, but his voice alone shook her for all she know.

"You've heard my pitch. If you're deaf you can hear me do it again like them Proto-Mormon."

| "No I've heard enough of your voice..."

>John says playfully with a smirk. He's not really in tune with Lucetta's fluctuating mood, but he makes a mental note of Jay and Lucetta's relationship.

"So that interpreter, can you show me how it works?"

| >>623351
> Lucetta tries to get into the pockets of her lab coat, she digs deep before taking out a single fingerless glove and a pair of nondescript goggles.

"Put the goggles on. You won't see the scripts if you aren't jacked in."

> She slides the goggles to John as she fits the glove into her left hand.

"And do it quick. It doesn't got a whole lot of hours in. Graphene's expensive."

| >Three new visitors- two young women and a towering young man -enter the Caramel Anne, seating themselves at a table. They don't seem connected at first glance, but the way they converse as they wait for someone to take their order suggests otherwise.

| >>623375
> The only staff left to handle the new patrons start to move about, letting the newcomer to see the work firsthand. The black-haired waitress, easily identifiable by name as 'Alice' from her name tag, takes a position close to the table.

"Welcome welcome! Anything I can get for everyone here?"

> She gives a polite and professional smile. Despite working late, not a sign of exhaustion displays in her demeanour.

| >>623287

> Dusty looks around and spots the person, waving.

“Umm... what? Oh, yeah I guess. Can i just sit wherever?”

> She scans the room, trying to get a better read of the situation. Being in a dress Really didn’t do much to help her ease her worries

| >>623378

"I'll--" The lad and one of the lasses speak at the same time, and shut up at the same time. They trade glances, and then the man starts up again.
"I'll take a look at the menu, please."

| >>623386
> The room is now slightly less empty, with several new patrons several tiles away from Dusty. The waitress stands next to the table of these patrons, facing away from Dusty.

> The other two patrons seems to be busy chattering about, talking what may be nonsense to some. If the use of profanity can tell anything, it's that the conversation isn't so much formal.

> By the far right of the cafe, a tall jukebox sits. It currently plays an unknown composition of jazzy tunes

| > North of her, a long countertop fills much of the horizontal space — spanning from one end of the room to another. Behind the countertop is a single door with a sign reading 'Staff'.

> Glass windows line much of the empty space in the walls. If not for the area, these windows would've shown Uptown's busy night.

> The waiter next to Dusty nods.

| "Wherever is fine. The cafe is mostly vacant."

> The waiter points to the centre of the table. A white, rectangular device sits lonesome in there. Its screen covers the entirety of the device, with only a handle for the user's hands by its edges.

"That's the menu, feel free to browse."

| >>623390
> Noticing the lack of menu to browse, Alice excuses herself before going to walk over and takes two from the empty tables. She gently places it on the patrons' table, exclaiming "Here it is" with only a smile and a hand gesture.

"I'll let everyone pick then. Please don't hesitate to call me over once you're done!"

> She says. Assuming she doesn't want to disturb the customer, she left them to be as she goes back to the coffee machine behind the countertop.

| >Hearing the noise from the establishment. What seems to be a blond haired lilim walks into the café carrying a cane, you can hear the sound of metal hitting the floor with each step as she hobbles around, muffled only by a thick layer of winter wear.

| >>623484

> Dusty nods, taking a seat at the closest table. She sits awkwardly at first, as she forgets she's in a dress. She soon settles and scrolls around, trying to figure out what would be good to drink.

"Umm... there's a lot here that I have no idea what it could be..."

> She continues to take glances at everyone around her. She's so not used to dressing in a feminine way that she figures everyone's staring at her

| >>623352

"Alright, let's see..."
>John puts the goggles on cautiously, who knows what might the goggles do...

"So how is this supposed to work?"

| >>623535
"Welcome! Please have a seat, we are currently understaffed. Sorry!"

> Alice gives her holler to the new patron as she manages the coffee machine behind. The cafe sprung back to life as business overcomes the previous hollow atmosphere. Warmth of dairies overpower the cold outside.

| >>623555
> The few highlighted in the menu are strangely named, yet easily describable items. One item in particular is lined as 'Popular Pick'; a drink named 'Mocksaicin'. A bright red drink, with steam coming off of it.

> Several cakes and cookies are also in place. 'Nevermelt Ice' is the one in the 'Popular Pick' section this time. It looks to be cake with white ice cream as its icing.

> The waiter fails to notice Dusty's anxiousness. He keeps by her side instead.

| >>623571
> The goggle gave him every possible sense of nausea. It overloaded him with sights, burning his eyes with glows of rainbow and halos. The sensation not too dissimilar from when he first possesses Uni's eye. His sight is bombarded with both nothing and everything.

"Give it time to calibrate. If you wanna vomit, do it outside."

> Lucetta calmly says, perhaps aware of what John is going through.

| >>623598
>John closes his eyes, taking off the goggles calmly, glancing a dirty look at Lucetta. He then stands up, and heads outside, hand over mouth.

| >>623598
>John closes his eyes, taking off the goggles calmly, glancing a dirty look at Lucetta. He then stands up, and heads outside, hand over mouth.

| >>623605
"I swear that wasn't what I meant to do!"

> Lucetta grabs the goggles John dropped back at the table. She had a look at the device, opening a small set of DIP switches and tweaking them to a different position.

| >>623587
"Sure thing darling!"
>She waves at Alice and takes a seat at the nearest table. Now that she spoke, you might have noticed that she has an apparatus in her jaw where her mouth would be that she speaks through.

>She takes a look around the café surprised to see some familiar faces, and starts flipping through the menu, even if at her own pace with unsteady hands.

| >>623642
> The tablet used to display the menu briefly flashes before showing the exact list of menu. However, this display was soon interrupted too, with a voice audible from the tablet itself.

"Hello, please don't let my presence disturb you. I'm Horace, a virtual waiter for Caramel Anne. You can speak your orders to me — and I will let Alice know."

> What spoke is a robotic, yet expressive voice. After the voice ends its speech, the menu continues to show itself.

| >>623607
>John is already out of ear shot, as he's already in a nearby alleyway, throwing up.
"Every *hup* fucking time."

| >>623651
> Having adjusted the goggles, Lucetta jumps to find John where she expects him to be. For a moment, she enters the cafe again — rushing past the countertop whilst the other staff ignores her presence — and comes back out with a warm cup of water with a laboured breath.

"God. You're such a fucking mess. I thought you survived the whole mindfuck in the other side."

> She comes close to John, offering the water.

| >>623652
(*jumps and walks outside)

| >>623643
>The girl stays quiet for a moment, she seemed startled by something.
"Alice... That's a lovely name... But in any case."

>She fiddles around with the menu skipping to the drink sections and finally finds something of her interest.

"This should do! One of this iced coffee- looking thing, mister Horace."
>There was an odd amount of satisfaction in the way she said "mister Horace."

| >>623754
"Wonderful. Anything else in your mind, madam?"

> Horace, as with any waiter, spared little gaps of time when it comes to serving. Although he seems to have alerted Alice, as she began to glance at the customer in this table, he keeps quiet with how he does it.

"I do wholly recommend the menu I have curated for our food, if that is within your interest."

| >>623652
"It's *hup* the katromine, damn it."
>John grabs the Water, spilling it a little as he drinks it momentarily.

| >>623591

> Dusty scams the menu, feeling even more unsure of herself. What was it that Pete liked? Soykafe? They wouldn’t have that in such a nice place. Think girl, think.

“Umm... do I order with you? Because I think I’ll just get Mocksaicin? And can I get like... something chocolaty to eat with that? I think that’s good for now.”

> for someone who prides herself on how tough she is, she certainly isn’t the same when not in her usual leathers

| >Outside of the cafe, on the lane a suspiciously anassuming Vindertech vending machine maintenance van pulls to a stop. Its rear doors open, seemingly on their own, and stay open for a couple dozen seconds, before they close again and the van drives off.
>John's phone starts vibrating.

| >>623814
>John feels the phone vibrate, checking the caller.
"Hold up, there's something wrong."

| >>623819
>The number keeps crawling from one side of the screen to another. It doesn't seem like the string of digits actually ever ends.

| >>623820
>John picks up the phone, angling away from Lucetta.

| >>623821
"Oi, what was that fucking van?"

> Lucetta caught sight of the van, giving it more attention than the call John is receiving.

"And get your porn elsewhere. I don't care. I'll be inside. Take the glass inside too, it's my favourite."

> She waves John off before entering the cafe with a long, exasperated sigh.

| >>623821
>That movement causes a slight change in John's perception of surrounding light and a tiny glint catches his attention just as he is about to pick up the phone. Higher up one of the alleyway's walls he notices a security camera. Its lense is directed exactly at the two.
>From the phone's speaker comes a monotonous, text-to-speech voice:

| "Mʏ ᴀᴜᴛᴏᴍᴀᴛᴇᴅ ᴏʙsᴇʀᴠᴀᴛɪᴏɴ sʏsᴛᴇᴍ ʜᴀs ᴏʙsᴇʀᴠᴇᴅ ᴀɴ ᴜɴɪᴅᴇɴᴛɪғɪᴇᴅ ᴏʙᴊᴇᴄᴛ ɪɴ ʏᴏᴜʀ ᴘᴏsᴇssɪᴏɴ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴀᴘᴘᴇᴀʀs ᴛᴏ ᴘᴏsᴇss ᴄᴏɢɴɪᴛᴏ-, ɪɴғᴏ- ᴀɴᴅ ᴏʀ ᴍᴇᴍᴇᴛɪᴄᴀʟʟʏ ᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀᴏᴜs ᴘʀᴏᴘᴇʀᴛɪᴇs. As ᴘᴇʀ ᴍʏ Pʀɪᴍᴀʀʏ Dɪʀᴇᴄᴛɪᴠᴇ Oɴᴇ, I ʜᴀᴠᴇ ᴀɴᴀʟʏsᴇᴅ ᴛʜᴇ ᴄᴜʀʀᴇɴᴛ ʟᴏᴄᴀᴛɪᴏɴ ᴀɴᴅ ᴄᴏɴᴛᴀɪɴɪɴɢ ᴘʀᴏᴄᴇᴅᴜʀᴇs ᴏғ ᴛʜᴇ ᴀғᴏʀᴇᴍᴇɴᴛɪᴏɴᴇᴅ ᴏʙᴊᴇᴄᴛ ᴀɴᴅ ᴅᴇᴇᴍᴇᴅ ᴛʜᴇᴍ ɪɴsᴜғғɪᴄɪᴇɴᴛ ᴀɴᴅ ᴏʀ ɪɴᴇғғɪᴄɪᴇɴᴛ, ᴀɴᴅ ᴛʜᴇʀᴇғᴏʀᴇ ᴄʀᴇᴀᴛɪɴɢ ᴀ ᴘᴏssɪʙɪʟɪᴛʏ ᴏғ ᴄɪᴠɪʟɪᴀɴ ʜᴀᴢᴀʀᴅ ᴀɴᴅ ᴏʀ Cʟᴀss-2 Cᴏɢɴɪᴛᴏʜᴀᴢᴀʀᴅ ᴏᴜᴛʙʀᴇᴀᴋ.

| "As sᴜᴄʜ, ᴀs ᴘᴇʀ ᴍʏ Pʀɪᴍᴀʀʏ Dɪʀᴇᴄᴛɪᴠᴇ Tᴡᴏ, I ᴡɪʟʟ ʙᴇ ᴘᴇʀғᴏʀᴍɪɴɢ ʀᴇᴄᴏɴᴛᴀɪɴᴍᴇɴᴛ ᴘʀᴏᴄᴇᴅᴜʀᴇ ᴏғ ᴛʜᴇ ᴀғᴏʀᴇᴍᴇɴᴛɪᴏɴᴇᴅ ᴏʙᴊᴇᴄᴛ. Fᴏʀ ʏᴏᴜʀ ᴏᴡɴ sᴀғᴇᴛʏ, ᴀɴᴅ ᴛʜᴇ sᴀғᴇᴛʏ ᴏғ ᴛʜᴇ ɢᴇɴᴇʀᴀʟ ᴘᴏᴘᴜʟᴀᴄᴇ ɪɴ ʏᴏᴜʀ ᴀʀᴇᴀ, ʏᴏᴜ ᴀʀᴇ ᴛᴏ ᴄᴏᴍᴘʟʏ ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴀғғɪʟɪᴀᴛᴇᴅ ᴘᴀʀᴛɪᴇs' ᴀᴄᴛɪᴏɴs ᴛᴏ ʀᴇᴄᴏɴᴛᴀɪɴ ᴛʜᴇ ᴏʙᴊᴇᴄᴛs, ɪɴᴄʟᴜᴅɪɴɢ ʙᴜᴛ ᴍɪɢʜᴛ ɴᴏᴛ ʙᴇ ʟɪᴍɪᴛᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ: ʀᴇᴍᴏᴠɪɴɢ ᴛʜᴇ ᴀғᴏʀᴇᴍᴇɴᴛɪᴏɴᴇᴅ ᴏʙᴊᴇᴄᴛ ғʀᴏᴍ ʏᴏᴜʀ ᴘᴏsᴇssɪᴏɴ. Rᴇsɪsᴛᴀɴᴄᴇ ᴡɪʟʟ ʙᴇ ᴍᴇᴛ ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴀᴘᴘʀᴏᴘʀɪᴀᴛᴇ ғᴏʀᴄᴇ, ᴜᴘ ᴛᴏ ʟᴇᴛʜᴀʟ, ᴀs ᴘᴇʀ Pʀɪᴍᴀʀʏ Dɪʀᴇᴄᴛɪᴠᴇ Tʜʀᴇᴇ. Rᴇᴘᴇᴀᴛɪɴɢ ᴛʜᴇ ᴍᴇssᴀɢᴇ:..."

| >Voice begins anew.

| >>623813
"Mocksaicin and… Valentine's Delight. Is that all?"

> The waiter replies, he didn't write down the order — but lest he missed it, there isn't that many customer to pay memory to.

| >John hangs up the phone, following Lucetta back inside.
"Lucetta, Lets go. Grab the goggles."
>John grabs her by the hand taking her to the back area of the cafe.

| >>623768
>She giggles
"I'm afraid I'll have to refuse for similar reasons as to why i can't ask you out on a date. In other words, that is all for now, darling."

>She then turns her attention to the mild fuss going on at the other side of the cafe.

| >>623831

> Lucetta's strength wasn't enough to resist John's. She snarls as she looks out for the goggles on the table.

| >>623832
>On his way through the Cafe, John leaves his phone at Dusty's table, turned off.
"It's your lucky day, you get a free phone, code's 5523."

"Shut up, we're going. Someone's out for your goggles."
>He keeps taking her arm, while his left is already on his side arm, ready to go.

| >>623831 >>623833
>This is when a new guest enters the cafe through its main doors. Dressed in a fairly simple, classic grey suit, a rather short, grumpy looking man. Both his stern, deeply wrinkled face and his greyed hair suggest a fair bit of lived age. A long, thin scar running through his forehead above his steely grey eyes is the more notable feature of his face.
>Immediately upon entry, he scans the room, and, noticing John and Lucette, starts walking straight towards them.

| >>623834

> Lucetta's voice cracks as she shouts. She takes a breath again, and stares at the black-haired waiter by Dusty's side.


> Both names she mentioned began to do as they were commanded. Nodding and saying 'Good luck, boss!' before they put their best fighting spirit — as a worker of the cafe, that is.

| >>623830

“I guess so?? Thanks and whatever..”


> Dusty eyes the dude and is about to say something before he walks away. She doesn’t feel confident enough to say anything, but she does grab the phone. Why was it turned off? Anyway. She scribbles the code on her palm using a marker from her clutch bag before stowing it in her bra for safe keeping

| >>623842
"I will… take a moment to prepare your order then."

> Sora saw the events transpiring. He didn't put much thought aside from his higher up being away. Sure, more freedom to him.

> With this he nods to Dusty and takes his steps towards the area behind the countertop, preparing the order as quick as he can.

| >>623836 >>623835
"Where's the back exit?"
>John keeps rambling as he leads her in to the back

| >>623849 >>623836
>The man was closing the distance at the speed that should have, by all means, been quite shocking — considering his height and his apparent age. But his completely offsetting manner of movement made it difficult to realise, just how far into the cafe did he actually get by then. If anything, he seemed to walk at a leisurely pace, deliberately slow — so much so, that his movement had an unnatural, fluid-like feel behind them.

| >>623849
> Lucetta points to the door behind the countertop. She tries to keep up, but saw the man only moving about closer to them.

"John, WOW I didn't know suck at this damned walkathon!"

> The mix of composure and panic in her voice is exemplified as she keeps a close eye of the man behind them.

| >>623832

> Horace shows a more human emotion from there. He notifies the waitress by the countertop there, as she too begin to utilise the coffee machine. It makes several noises, which can hardly be ignored.

"Chaotic, isn't it?"

> He says again, taking note of the situation.

"I advise you to be cautious, madam."

| >>623859
"Fine, have you used a gun before?"
>John changes from pulling to pushing Lucetta, forcing her to go faster, as he looks back.
"Shit the old fucker is fast!"

| >>623863
"Does my answer range on a sliding scale of Yes? Of course I have! The fuck do you think am I, an Elven Amish?!"

> Lucetta had to regain her balance after John pushes her. This gives her a chance to gaze at the terror approaching them. Not good.

| >>623864
>John puts his gun in Lucetta's hands, and picks her up completely.
"So where are we going?!"

| >>623865
"Alice, get your ass and open the door for me!"

> Lucetta's command surprised Alice. She picked the pace and forced the door open, whether through force or by a simple push, it's not apparent just from sound alone.


> Alice shouts to the two. Unknown what kind of mouse-cat scenario they're experiencing, she leaves it to her boss to handle the best.

| > As John picks up Lucetta, he can feel the weight of her augmentations. The metals were heavy, more so than her lithe body. In this, the clanking that once unheard become audible.

"God, fuck. This is embarassing-"

> She holds the gun in proper form, but not aiming at anything. If criticism were applied, she isn't that much experienced with guns than your average citizen.

| >>623867
>John runs through the door, not thinking about the minute details.

"Well, what's behind us?"

| >>623869
"What, the door or us? Because all I'm seeing behind us is one senile guy. GO RETIRE YOU DUSTY FUCK!"

> Lucetta shouts to the man behind them, without once seeing what's in front of them.

> As they enter the door, they're met with the staff room. Bathrooms and changing rooms are all here, along with lockers and such. The only door to lead them outside is visible straight ahead.

| >>623860
"Pardon me, that might have come from a place of frustration."

>She let's out an exasperated sigh as she sees the situation worsen.

"...And something tells me being careful is not really an option... But hey, that's what i'm here for anyway."

| >>623873
"Being careful is always an option. Always."

> Horace says. The last 'always' is said with an emphasis that becomes apparent even through his robotic voice.

"Pray tell, what leads you to the cafe at such hours, madam? I am running a questionnaire to further improve the cafe's working hours. Please be assured, your answer is anonymous."

| >>623871
"Check my breast pocket, there's a phone, speed dial 1!"
>John makes pace through the hallway in no time, now that he's carrying the dead weight, rather than dragging it. He kicks the back door down, keeping his pace up!

| >>623876
> Immediately outside, there were several… private noises. To their left is an even bigger alleyway, while right leads back to the road outside the cafe.

"Okay, now we go RIGHT."

> Lucetta holds herself to grab the phone John mentions of. Using the barest minimum dexterity, she manages to almost fumble the action, only saved by the swiftness of her hand.


> She did as told.


> Then complains some more.

| >>623876 >>623880
>She doesn't get to finish last sentence, as both John and Lucette hear a loud electronic screech, rapidly growing in volume. Split second later, and the world explodes in white and fills with deafening ringing as two stun grenades go off right next to you from both left and right.

| >>623882
>John screams, as he can't hear and see, and takes a pre-emptive right, and runs in to the fucking wall. the only saving grace for Lucetta is that John's shoulder takes most of the force.
"Mother fuck!"

>While neither can hear what the phone has to say, it was probably along the lines of..
"30, 4, 10."

| >>623871

> Dusty swears she hears someone call out to her and quickly scans around, trying to get a read on where it could have come from. No dice, however, so she merely ducks down and tries to hide herself some more. Maybe she should give the phone a look? She at least powers it on, hoping it doesn’t ring.

| >>623885
>Neither John nor Lucette get much of a reaction time afterwards, as both feel a multitude of sharp stings throughout their bodies, followed by paralizing shock spreading throughout the body.

| >>623875
>She mumbles as if to say something about Horace's response but stops herself short.

"Well... For this, these types of places are a shelter to all kinds of troubled souls, and sometimes trouble itse- But the point is! Here i can understand them better and maybe even help them."

>A passion that differs from her usual serene tone sparkles as she says that.

"Your job isn't too different from mine, we are all here to do something to help someone, to show our worth."

| >>623886
>The phone starts up quickly, abit too quickly... It's completely default... apart from a ping.

>HQ: 50000z, supplies marked with '#', extract provider.

| >>623888
>the shocks flow through out his body, but over 2 seconds all of the flow is diverted to his left arm, while it reboots.
"AUghghghghgggggg... fuck you..."
>John tries to get up on one arm, struggling with the after effects of the shock.

>Wheel tires screech on the road connecting to the alleyway.

| >>623894
>John feels the through the ground as multiple pair of legs swarm around him, but the vibrations stop and then appear to spread out and fade away.
>It's that moment that he would realise, that most of the rumbling in his ears is not the effect of the stun grenades, but in fact the sound of a hovercraft engine overhead — and said engine is rapidly going away.
>The googles are nowhere to be found.

| >>623897
"All I wanted to do, was get a fucking cup of coffee."

>His ears still ringing, his eyes still burnt from the flash. He manages to crawl back up, leaning on the wall.

"Fuck this town."

>He slowly begins to makes his way, hand on the wall, down the alleyway.

| >>623897 >>623904
"Going away now, old geezer?"

> Lucetta wakes up, hand on her head, scratching the stinging pain away. She looks at that hand, surprised at the glove's presence.


> She waves her hand to the dark sky, trying to mock the birds that got her goggles.

| > Inside the cafe, the situation is somewhat contained. With the walls proofing the sounds, if not for the loud screeching earlier penetrating them.

> 'Clang!' a few cracked cups fell when Alice lost her balance. She curses a few times, calling quit to her exhaustion.

> She signals something on the roof after she does a second attempt on the order she fails to deliver.

| >>623890
"I see. Profound. We share similarities, you say? That is a first for me."

> Horace says. He pauses as Alice takes his attention briefly, and seldom has he ever paused this long to analyse the situation.

"Pardon. It seems the streets aren't exactly in the safest situation. Alice has also told me she needs to take a do-over for your order. I apologise for the extended wait on her behalf."

| >>623906
"It's called walking it off. Now come on, there should be someone waiting to get us out of here."
>John gestures her the bird as he does, walk it off, and slowly gets off the wall.

| >>623922
"You're so—"

> Lucetta walks forward and attempts to support John standing up. Despite her small body, she is capable enough supporting John's weight by her own, even if she ends up having to put an effort over it.

"—No fucking wonder Uni got with you. It's like you two always manage to make even a damn cafe into a walking plane crash."

| >>623941
"I'm not a damn cripple, get off me."
>John shrugs her off, clearly pissed off with her.
"And for the record, you came to me, I was having a quite cup, after a shitty week, so don't give me this fucking attitude."

| >>623908
>After getting riled up for that answer, she tries to tone it down a notch.

"Take your time... My only rush is to get this done before I'm tempted into going out there myself."


"As if I could make a difference."

| >>623942
"Hey, fuck you too. What, do you think I would know a corpo is out on getting a prototype?"

> Lucetta didn't mind being pushed. Instead, it's John's words that made her react in less-than-polite manners.

"Shit happens, fuckface. You should know that better."

| >>623951
"With shit like that, obviously. thank fuck they're as dense as the rest of the corpos."
>John keeps limping on in to the sidewalk, stopping at the entrance of the cafe.

| (Accedental Submits...)
"Either way, we can make another, that's why priority was you, not the goggles."

| >>623954
"That's why I wanna say my big wholehearted thanks to you. All of it."

> Lucetta sees the cafe's entrance. Calm as ever. Different from what it is outside. That said, the way Lucetta phrases her 'thank you' made it came out sarcastic.

"Usually I don't show what I make outside. Never in my life have I got ratted like that. Shit."

| >>623957
"Well next time, let's be a bit more discrete."
>John looks to the cafe, and the nearby taxi rank, should ke stay or should he go...

| "Lesson learnt?"

> Lucetta was only part-way to finishing her sentence when she spots the working staffs inside. She gave them a smile they didn't see.

"Well, I've got no plans for today. You in for an extra cash? We kinda need more staff inside. I look like shit but I'll be damned if I don't make a good waitress."

| >>623987
"Lesson learnt."
>John takes his jacket off, rolling up the sleeves of his shirt.
"Sure, but only as a bartender."

| > Outside of the cafe, snow has begun dripping fast. Lucetta makes note of this, pulling John inside as she notices the event.

"If you can serve drinks, you can serve coffee and cakes. I'll do the hard work, you do the talking. Sounds good, partner?"

> She smiles as she opens the cafe door for him. This almost made Alice say, "Welcome!" if she hadn't seen her boss coming in instead of a patron.

| >>623948
> With Horace taking a moment to pause, Alice — who is in the midst of managing the cafe, looking after Sora's mess, and greeting any soul entering the cafe — manages to just barely serve the order in due time. She takes a refined walk, something unfound of before, and gently places the drink.

"Weird choice for a cold night, miss. I'm not one to judge, enjoy!"

> She gives a warm smile before going back to her place behind the countertop.

| > Sora, who had only came out from the staff room with… some packaging in his hand, starts to recite the orders given to him.

"Where the hell have you been, mister?"

> Alice prompts Sora to answer, forcing a death glare upon him.

"We ran out of cocoa."

"How's that an excuse?!"

> The ridiculousness of the answer made Alice flinch, if not stupefied.

"Someone must've snorted it. Should ask Ray next time, yeah?"

> Sora says in a calm monotone.

| > Once he has gotten what he needed, he instead stuffs the packaging in an area beneath the countertop. He slides a cake, only finished by melted chocolate and decorated with a single strawberry to boot.

"And when did you exactly prepare that?"

> Alice's question turns to wonder. She hadn't exactly seen Sora do much, aside from manning the blending machine.

"When I made the Mocksaicin!"

> Having enough of the retaliation, Sora replies.

"I'm not blind, you never prepared it!"

| > From beneath the blending machine, only a stray away from the coffee machine, a red, burning liquid can be seen taken out. Sora holds it in his hand with pride, as if it's his magnum opus — but indeed; this is his magnum opus.

"Listen, I've got the cake. And the drink. No complaints, eh?"

> He walks over to the right of the countertop, taking a serving tray and putting the drink as well as the cake on top. Alice, meanwhile, is more or less shaking her head.

| >>623886
> As Sora walks over to Dusty, there is dignity he places with how he serves the drink and the cake. Mismatched as it may be, the red liquid couldn't accentuate enough of the chocolate cake; yet, despite that, Sora made sure to sell the two together.

"I hope this is to your liking!"

> Like Alice, he gives off the same smile, radiating an ounce less warmth due to his appearance.

| >>624077
> She eyes it up. Just looking at it made her feel a little warmer. She should have really brought at least a coat or something. All she has are handwarmers, but there's not much those can do for a whole body.

"Thank you very much. I think it'll do the job."

> How very unlike her usual self. She's also noticeably shivering, so maybe this is why she's so nice right now?


> She eyes the phone up more. What could that message mean? Who knows

| >>624103
"Give me a call when you need anything more, eh? Ah, and we have handkerchiefs in case the Mocksaicin gets… too much."

> The phrasing and pronunciation of 'too much' would only lead to clues as to why the drink is named that way — or why Sora is proud of it.

> Regardless, Sora steps back to his place. This time helping Alice clean up bits and pieces behind the countertop, going to and fro the staff room every once in awhile.

| >>624068
"Got it home slice."
>John heads back inside, and stands behind the counter, as if he's always worked there.


>The message disappears, the only trace of it is that you've seen it... but it's not like anyone's gonna believe you, is it?

| >>624069
>The girl gives Alice a silent stare as she delivers the order, it's hard to tell what it means with an expressionless face uncommon to lilims like that.

"...Why thank you, it looks great... Same for you Horace, and it's just that i don't take hot drinks all too well."

>She starts unscrewing some type of cylinder from her neck. presumably to answer the question of how does one drink without a mouth.

>She drops it in the cup and all the liquid slowly starts draining.

| >>624119
> Lucetta passes by John to walk over to the back room. She takes a few minutes to prepare herself — once done, she dons the cafe's uniform, dropping the stressed and tired face painted on her before. The cafe's uniform accentuates her petite figure, with how short it becomes compared to Alice's.

"We've got a spare if you wanna the uniform."

> She stretches her hand, yawning.

"God, I'm a fucking mess. Let's do this one good."

| >>624168
"It is understandable. I cannot take any drinks nor food, but I sure hope everything I have made here is within the boundaries of good taste."

> Horace, with no eyes directly at the Lilim, could only assume what's happening. He wasn't interested in peeking, sure, but he respects someone's privacy the most. Especially if he is right in front of them.

"I hope you have a lovely night, madam. Don't hesitate to ask my coworkers should you need anything."

| >>624297
>The girl fishes out the object from the bottom of the now dried up cup, and screws it back into her neck.

"Thank you... And don't worry about it, it's as awkward to me as it is to you. Hope you have just as wonderful of a night darling."

>She enjoys a moment of silence until something makes her shoot up, she picks up her cane, gets up and walks over to the tall jukebox. The way clumsily darts over to it is similar to a little girl making her way to an ice-cream truck.

| >>624382
> The jukebox is decrepit, but not dysfunctional. Parts of it are made of wood, a neon light colour the center. A taped wooden sticker decorates the rest of its plastic body.

> It houses several great hits of various genres, though all of them are either labelled as 'Instrumental' or 'Instrumental Cover'.

> Currently playing is "Neon Glow Lights The Way - Gl/i/tch Jazz" — it seems that this piece is a cover.

| >>624296
"If you guys got an apron, that be great, this shirts one of the few that's not stained."
>John points to his shirt, as he slouches on the serving side of of the bar.

| >>624108 >>624119

> The steam coming from the drink excites Dusty. She shivers even more intensely as the drink comes up to her face. She sips it, feeling some warmth shoot through her. She lets out a large sigh of relief, a little louder than perhaps would seem appropriate. Oh well.p

"Well, little Kitty I guess has a point of making time..."

> She then focuses back on the phone, unlocking it. Doesn't look like anything special, so she flicks through the pictures just to be nosy

| >>624544
> The warmth felt raises up top. It's a taste not dissimilar to a wasabi; with the heat rising to the nasal area. Enjoyable or not, it's clearly nothing a cafe should make — and with this spicy taste to a drink, while fitting for winter, is still yet a strange creation for a cafe.

| >>624487
"Apron? What are you, a new couple?"

> Lucetta chuckles at this. It somehow took Alice and Sora this long to realise that: (a) there's a new face behind the counter, and (b) the owner of the cafe is literally with them, working side-by-side.

"What's next, are you going to say 'What do you want for dinner?' — God, John."

> She waves to dismiss the conversation, still laughing as she enters the backroom again, presumably looking for said apron.

| >>624693

> The spiciness helps Dusty feel a little more like herself. Whether it was her fondness for both kinds of heat or her inner fire getting augmented slightly, that's for someone else to determine. She sits up a little straighter and scans around, tying to remember who made her drink.

"HEY! This really good. Thanks!"

> She even raises her glass as a form of praise. What's gotten into her?

| >>624385
>She hovers over and around the machine, listen too closely and you could even hear some gasps and a bit of chuckling. She even pulls out her phone and takes a few photos.

"This is a real beauty you have here!"

>The girl doesn't even take her eyes off it or stop to think about who she's saying that to. She just stands there hypnotized by the neon colors.

| >>624732
"Someone gave that to us."

> Alice sees the girl's fascination. She didn't help identify nor tell more details, assuming that she is clueless as to the machine's age and minute details.

"Could ask boss over there. She's the one that brought it here."

> She was going to point to her boss, before realising that she had already went inside, chuckling to a joke she didn't even hear.

| >>624708
> Sora raises a glass of his own, with a smile as wide as he can make, recognising Dusty's praise to his creation. His creation, and no one else's — who would've thought that someone would like a burning, tea-like drink?

| >>624736
>Upon hearing Alice, she reluctantly stops staring at the jukebox and moves closer to the counter.

"Oh! I should talk with her about it later then... It's not the most well conserved one but that's what makes it endearing right? O-oh and i think it has one of those old school valve amplifiers! That's what gives it that authentic warmth you know?..."

>She stutters and stumbles in her words, but the excitement is of someone that will go on about it all day if allowed to.

| >>624694
"So what is it gonna be for dinner, Curry or hot pot, honey?"

>John doubles down, trying to embarrass Lucetta.

| >>623488

>A while passes, the three guests discussing something in mutters, and then the young man- Ichiro -lowers his menu and raises his hand.
"...Excuse me, waitress?"

| >>624828
"You should definitely have a convo with my boss!"

> Alice walks out of the countertop area, noticing the call for her. Her gaze turns from affixing to the Lilim towards the customers, staying by the table.

"So, what can I get for everyone here?"

> She politely smiles. Not too much, nor too cold; just enough to signal her professionalism.

| >>625007
> Lucetta slowly creeps out from the backroom. With one apron clenched on her hand tightly, she didn't see John in the face. Instead, she faces away from him; face visibly reddening — and offers the apron.

"H-how about… me?"

> She says. Her voice is different from before, and from how she normally talks. It's brighter, yet stuttering at the same time. It's cuter, with warmth radiating in each breath she gives when speaking.

| >>625053

"We'll take two hot chocolates, if you don't mind, and one green tea." >As he places the orders, Ichiro glances at his tablemates just in case either of them has changed her mind. Their decisions stay the way they are, so he nods to signify that he's done talking.

| >>625062
"We have about everything but the green tea. Sorry, the stock has been hard."

> Alice says. She would have given a more vocal apology, but the slight drop in smile she draws puts an even clearer picture.

"The only tea we have at the moment is… Darjeeling. We reserve those for booked meals, but since no one has ever properly booked—"

> She didn't finish her sentence, leaving it in a long 'so—' instead.

| >>625070

"Hmm..." >Chiron, the woman in the gold dress, nods. The green tea was evidently her order.
"If possible, I'll have the Darjeeling. If not, then, well..." >She shrugs, leaning back in her chair.
"Surprise me, I suppose."

| >>625072
"Right on it."

> Alice gave one last smile before she goes back to the counter. She swiftly moves from one point to another, making precise actions that bore no resemblance to her lacking energy.

"Got anything you need, boss?"

> The idle Sora steps behind, taking his own action: helping his other boss. His question surprised Alice, though she didn't mind interrupted by it.

"Can you do oolongs?"

"…Alright, I'll do the chocolate."

> He replies, already defeated.

| >>625053
>She nods and casually walks over to Lucetta, having heard her referred to as "boss" by Alice before, but noticing she's busy the lilim keeps her distance. Partially to be polite... And partially to admire her embarrassment.

>Good thing her head is structured a bit like a motorcycle helmet. So the looks she gives to Lucetta are hidden behind an opaque visor, and the smirk she would definitely have is never to be seen.

| >>625055
"You realise I'm probably old enough to be your dad, right?"

>John smirks, taking the apron out of her hands, and putting it on, setting his mindset to work.

"One oolong tea, on the way."
>John starts the kettle, and prepares a pot of oolong.

| >>625158
"Wait, how OLD are you, geezer?"

> Lucetta discards her cutesy act. Indeed, it was faster than one could see — the red in her cheeks stayed, but they weren't accompanied by a prudent act.

"Why am I surrounded by walking fossils?"

> She then hurries over to help Sora and the chocolate, tapping on his shoulder while he sets up the water. He understood much of this gesture as, "Watch me" instead of "Let me help you".

| >>625152
"Oh, ma'am! Pardon me, I forgot to tell my boss of the inquiry."

> Alice, finishing her cup of hot chocolate, is as quick to notice the lilim as one can possibly imagine. Regardless of whether it is intentional or not, she notifies Lucetta — but she shrugs off the invitation to chat with a "Yeah, a sec".

"Don't worry, she'll be with you once we're done. Shouldn't be that long until it's done!"

> She says to the lilim, afterwards donning a polite smile.

| >>625184
"And yet you're still blushing."
>John laughs, still making the pot of tea.

| >>625250
"That's because I have A+ in my acting school. Comes with my Scientiae Magister, you see."

> Although having gotten the hot chocolate complete, Sora stops her from serving it right away. He extends his hand while shaking his head.

"Needs a little more extra."

> He says. This wording gave rise to Lucetta's mischievous smirk.

"Don't put your wang inside it, 'kay?"

> She says in a low whisper, only to be heard by the employees.

"What the hell, boss?!"

> Sora exclaims.

| "Are you two… err, three… done there?"

> Alice turns to her co-workers, seeing how they far. Sora and Lucetta doesn't make for the best team composition, but Alice understood them well enough. John, on the other hand, is given a mixture of suspicion and disbelief.

"Hey, new employee. Don't reckon I've your name?"

> Hearing John being talked about, Lucetta stops her joking matter and steps into the conversation with Alice.

"Alice, he's with me. Give him a day."

| >>625185
"Sure thing darling. And you can call me Molly, it's a pleasure to meet you."

>Molly turns away from the counter and leans on it as she waits. A bit of a disconcerting noise comes from it when she does that. Just how heavy is her?

| >>625184
"And yet you're still blushing."
>John laughs as he keeps steeping the pot of oolong tea.

| >>62542(Bad post)
"I'm just covering for Lucetta's lack of skill."
>John keeps going with the juvenile behaviour, making him sound younger than he is.

| >>625429
"Hey, I'm doing the same th—"

> Sora would've said something if he didn't get elbowed by Lucetta. The sharp, instantaneous attack Lucetta did struck the waiter by his left side, disabling him for a few seconds.

"Anyway, Alice. The chocolate."

> Stealing Sora's work, she hands over the chocolate to Alice, which accepts the cup with much dismay after seeing Sora's state, squatting with his hand tucked to the hit point whilst he chants a long ancient curse words magic.

| >>625358
> Lucetta was the first to hear this creaking from the wooden furniture. She walks over to the customer, recalling something to do with them.

"Sorry for making you wait!"

> Different from what she is to her co-workers, Lucetta is timid and controlled. Nothing sort of impulsive, nor foul-mouthed — even her mannerisms reflected this change.

"Alice said you needed something, Molly?"

> Having heard the lilim's name, she couldn't help but phrase it into her question.

| >>625433
"Poor sod, say it once she's out of range..."
>John places the pot of oolong tea, along with a tea cup.
"One oolong tea, ready."

| >>625442
> Alice steps closer to John, fetching the tea he had prepared. Once she is near him, however, she moves a single step nearer in a position that guards her voice from being heard further.

"So, work experience with boss? Got any?"

> The way she phrased 'work experience' makes it seem that she expects strange, unrelated answer. Despite saying this, her eyes are all set on prepping the order.

| >>625444
"This and that."
>John grabs some synthsugar packet, putting them near the tea cup.

| >>625445
"I see. In any case, don't screw up, you hear?"

> Alice finishes the preparations, giving John a slight smile before she puts everything in a tray, ready to be taken to the customer.

"Two chocolates, and—"

> She puts a second to check the order. The chocolate being served looks different in colour, one being noticeably darker than the other. Whatever 'extra' Sora added must have altered the water… or the taste, even.

| >>625446
>John smiles, muttering to himself.
"Still got it."

| >>625434
"Ah yes, so... I heard you were the one that brought that jukebox over here, i would like to know more about it. I guess you could consider me an enthusiast, in the end they're sort of like me!"

>She taps on the radio-like apparatus in her jaw.

| >>624738

> She gives a rare smiles and goes back to her drink and food. Odd combo, but it helped her feel a little warmer. She doesn't know it, but she's shivering even more than she used to be. Dusty doesn't seem to be aware of this, but anyone even glancing in her direction would have to be very blind to not notice her

| >>625447
"Hm? Did you say anything?"

> Alice, while not hearing upon what John said to himself, still managed to catch the bare voice of his.

"Well anyway… all's done."

> She finishes checking the order, walking through to the table ordering it.

"I apologise for the delay!"

> She places the order as carefully as possible, transferring them from the tray to the table with refined ease.

| >>625480
"I may be the one who brought it. And I'm happy you show enthusiasm for it, but in the end, I'm as clueless as most people."

> Lucetta tilts her head and gave a smile. She toys with her hair, trying to memorise something with the looks of it.

"My maid… I think. She gave it to me."

| >>625603

"It's fine, it's fine." >The third woman, Sharla, waves her hand dismissively.

"Thank you." >Once Sharla gives her thanks, Ichiro and Chiron follow suit- though Chiron attempts to rise, likely to bow, and has to be stopped by Ichiro.

| >>625603

"It's fine, it's fine." >The third woman, Sharla, waves her hand dismissively.

"Thank you." >Once Sharla gives her thanks, Ichiro and Chiron follow suit- though Chiron attempts to rise, likely to bow, and has to be stopped by Ichiro.

| >>625604
>Molly lowers her head, she seems visibly disappointed.

"Aww, that's a shame. It's hard to find them these days... But that is a nice gift even if a bit odd, take good care of it, and of that maid of yours."

>She offers a handshake that hints of raised spirits.

"I should ask before something comes up for either of us. You know my name, may i have yours darling?"

| >>625844

> Lucetta accepts the handshake wholeheartedly. Her petite, gloved hand meets directly with the lilim's, affirming her introduction.

"For this place, owner; elsewhere, your average citizen."

> She smiles again, even chuckling at what she said.

| >>625652
"I'll be over by the counter. Give me a holler if you need anything."

> Alice sends herself off with a smile, walking back with the tray at her hand again. She instant she sees the counter, the first to see her is the pained Sora, still rubbing his side.

"You look miserable."

"I just want to go home."

> He replies to her remark with a groan, already showing his destroyed spirit.

| >>625514
"Hey, isn't that the girl you served before?"

> Alice points to Dusty, helping Sora's thickheadedness to parse the signal Alice is giving out.

"Y-yeah, what about it?"

"What about HER. She's shivering, you asinine!"

> However, Sora's less than appreciable response gave rise to Alice's blood pressure. Her anger boiled in that instant, and receded to a more controllable level afterwards.

"Is she? Oh, damn. You're right."

"Bring her something, doofus!"

| > This prompts Sora to move to the backroom, stat. His steps were louder than before, maybe because his failing social aptitude is giving way now.

> Shortly, he came out with a jacket — a duffle coat dyed black, precisely — and put a stride back to Dusty. He takes a deep breath, as more of his breath is laboured, and it ends with him handing over the jacket.

"Sorry. I saw you… I saw you not looking well in this weather."

| >>625603
"What did you hear something?"
>John smirks at Alice, and stands idly at the bar of the cafe.

| >>625887
"It's a pleasure to meet you.... And really there's only one more thing i would like to ask."

>She leans a bit closer to Lucetta. Her tone change is similar to Lucetta's current one, Molly is speaking as a professional.

"What was that situation earlier about? Not that it concerns me, i just like to stay informed... Well it might concern me a little, depending on your answer.

| >>626083
"Nothing much."

> Lucetta's brief answer is shrouded in obvious suspiciousness, but she smirks at this, as though mocking it.

"Did it disturb your experience here? If so, I'm sorry. Things happen when I'm around."

| >>625976
"In fact, I did."

> Alice, who was just seeing the utter failure that is Sora, turns to John. She sees a spot right beside him — a position that is neither too far nor too close from him, whilst allowing her to idly relax. She rubs her eyes, trying to make the last ounce of their use.

"Mind if I stay here? I kinda need a shut-eye now. But this oughta' do."

| >>625925

> Dusty bolts upright, not expecting a jacket out of nowhere. She blushes and finally notices that she had been shivering for some time. She takes another sip of her drink before doing anything else.

"Oh... Umm... thank you very much. I didn't think it was that cold when I left my apartment. It's really weird for it to get like this all of a sudden, right? Is this normal?"

| >>626087
>Molly's guard lowers back down. She seems more relieved than disappointed or surprised.

"No, no, don't worry about it, really... I just had a bad feeling about it. I'm glad everything went relatively fine, you are here after all, and that you won't need me. That is all."

| >>626406
"Not a mete… metero… meteorologist. That. Not that. I'm not sure why we're having this much snow all of the sudden."

> Sora sees the window outside. Aside from the snow that have begun piling into a thin layer, he can only spot a few hovercars, some passing by and some pausing to enter the slightly crowded bar blocks away.

"Shame. That dress is great."

> His intent was definitely a complement, but with how he worded his speech, it made it sound flirtatious.

| >>626505
"Thing is, it's not the everyday rollercoaster for some fuckos—…"

> Lucetta's slip of tongue stopped her dead on her sentence. Was it her poor choice of word? Either way, she backsteps and made her reply after clearing her throat.

"It's not a common occurrence for someone to storm in like that. It's only when I'm here."

| >>626088
"Sure kiddo, get some rest."
>John returns to slouching on the bar, waiting for a command.

| >>626618
"Thanks… uh—"

> Alice's focus dwindles slowly. As she slouches, she puts her palms on her face, letting her eyes rest on the darkness made by them.

"You know—"

> Her voice was still muffled by her palms, she didn't open them until her eyes came opening again, revealing their bloodshot appearance.

"You can just… make a coffee or two if you want to. If boss said you're in it, then you can have a cup."

| >>626631
"Yeah, coffee is great an all, but you look like you need some proper rest."
>He brings two mugs out, getting ready to make some coffee.
"You ever had a Merc's Coffee?"

| >>626634
"Never had any. My liver doesn't tolerate it good. It gets gunky and cleanup is expensive."

> Alice notices John's action, but didn't proceed with stopping him, hoping her words would reach before her act.

| >>626558

>Dusty laughs a little nervously at the compliment. It didn't sound like the normal attempts to get in her pants that she'd hear around, so she was taken by surprise. She brushes her hair slightly to make it look better, but there's only so much that can be done for her mop hair.

"Oh! Thank you very much. A friend got this for me as a present. I was hoping to see them but, oh well."

> She gives a noncommittal shrug, before taking another sip of her drink.

| >>626649
"Fine, just for me then."
>John puts one of the mugs away, and begins making his coffee.

>Boiled water, a packet of pre-mix "Coffee", and a spoon later, John looks at the pale liquid, content with how it came out.

"Hey, don't I know you from somewhere?"
>John squints in her directon, sipping on the coffee.

| >>626664
"Neither of us are fortune-teller. Guess today's just not the right day to show it off, huh?"

> Sora scratches his short hair, then heard John's voice coming from behind the counter. He didn't recognise the voice by hand at first, but his memory jogs to call the hours in the past.

"You two know each other?"

> He looks at them both, interested with the situation.

| >>626768 >>626758

"Yeah, I guess no—"

> Dusty is cut off as she hears John say something to her. She shoots a look and tries to think about who this person might be. She studies his face but comes up blank.

"No, I don't think we've ever met. I would recognize you if I did know. Who are you?"

| "Huh, I guess you look like my friend, I was gonna pay her back today. Well, anyway..."

>John takes a sip of his coffee, taking his damn time.

"I'm nobody important, just a Barista."

| >>626780

"If you know me, or think you know me, then I think we should know each other, right?"

> Dusty looks him over, trying to decide if he's worth the trouble or not. But she has been bored lately, so maybe he'll be some kind of entertainment.

"I'm Dusty. Former bounty hunter, current freelance... whatever. Who are you?"

> She's now feeling more like herself now with as she warms up more.

| >>626787
"Depends, I guess."

>John keeps sipping on his coffee, buying him time. Not paying attention to her eyes going over him.

"I'm James, freelancer for the culinary minded."

>He bullshits on the spot, because from the look of it, getting to a name basis with Dusty can't be good...

| >>626790

> Dusty frowns, attempting to stab John with just a stare. She’s generally good at catching a liar, but he can’t be read that well which also puts her off some. She’ll have to take him at face value

“Well, that’s boring. Here I thought you were more interesting.”

> She takes a bite of the cake and washes it down with her drink. Why, HOW, could it taste so good to her?

| > The cafe atmosphere brims with the now-playing slow jazz cover of "Every Day is Night", as the warmth continues to radiate against the white blanketing outside.

> With only the chatters of the patrons and staffs, there isn't much to dismay the casual situation.

> Slowly, the night crawls deeper.

Total number of posts: 250, last modified on: Fri Jan 1 00:00:00 1581653543

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