"Welcome", the familiar tired voice from behind the counter greets Daichi as soon as she walks into the shop. The old guy seems to have realized her right away, proof that he instantly becomes chirpier than seconds before, "Hey Kubota, you came huh? What's up?"
She smiles, pulling back a lock of hair as she smells the air around. So today it's pizza dumpling huh? Her favorite.
"Hey, think you can hook me up some pizza dumpling today? I'm starving", she says
"It's not for sale, kiddo. You know that", the man sassily answers.
Sounds of newspaper pages turning, of body moving about an old chair. The old broken radio rigs of static noise. The clinking of wind bell outside whenever the slightest gust of wind travels by.
Nothing seems to have changed much.
Last time she was here, this guy, Keishin Ukai was blabbering about being retired or something similar. He didn't sound that much like someone who was retiring so she persisted. Ain't the first time she had to convince someone, sure it ain't gonna be the last either was what she thought so she pushed on.
Wouldn't be nonsense if any normal person refuses to take her in. A girl, new in town, completely clueless to how she should carry the life ahead of her. He didn't manage to change much of her view on life but, that talk can wait for another day. Daichi didn't come here to do what she thought she would be doing right now, but the doctor said it would be a good way to lessen the stress on her, maybe even help with her condition.
She was just simply looking for something to pass away the time. Some kind of thrill that would free her from the weight of being half blind in a place where no one is. She checked. Small town, happy folks. No disability, just old age weighing these people down.
Of course, Ukai said no to her at first, like any person would. She wasn't sure it was out of pity or guilt. Maybe both? Dad being on the same class as him when they were young didn't do much to help her reputation. Not a freaking bit.
Now that she thinks about it, Daichi can still remember the hunch she had before she even step one damn foot into this store. The feeling that this man would be the one, that her intuition was right when she comes to this man. So she decided not to let it go and hold on to what she believes.
Good thing he's a softie, because she was right. A few probing, constant bugging and he gave in.
Too bad, none of them ladies around here know that about his kind heart and go for it. Could have been a popular guy, this man. And here he sits, in a convenience store that ain't exactly getting many customer.
In a town that doesn't have many convenience store. That says a lot.
But hey, that's how life is sometimes huh?
Daichi fumbling about the space before she feels her leg trips on something and causes her to lose balance. She plants her hands ahead to keep herself from digging her whole face onto the ground.
"Shit, you okay, kid?", the blond guy asks, almost jumping out of his seat, "that's some loud impact"
He seems shock more than worried. "Fine, fine!", trying not to have her face any hotter than it should be, Daichi waves the shop keeper off. Gosh, been a while since she has one of this accident. And hell, her shin just burns from the impact. Hope there ain't no cut there.
Reaching for the chair close by, the girl sits down before she can upgrade her level of destruction any higher, "So, does your customers know that those dumpling are ate mostly by you, Keishin? In fact do you sell anything to anyone at all?", Daichi asks, cheekily looking at the man.
"That's mister Ukai for you, brat. Show some respect wouldcha?", he huffs pretending to be angry. And fails miserably since she can still hear that distinct smile in his voice.
Can't hide his emotions from her anymore. Nope.
She has known Ukai for how long now? Eight years? Yeah, probably that much. Enough to make the way they refer to each other completely off the respect chart mark folks here would call acceptable. Japanese are relentless with the manner they use refer to each other. To the point of what she would often imagine the custom as a leech on one's leg. It's adamant that it's almost too hard to bare. Someone born like one year or something older than you and that automatically make him or her the superior?! Bulls!... is what she would like to say.
But the cold hard fact is she is Japanese, and so she has to follow traditions. Though sometimes, the five years spent living in New Zealand part of her kicks in and she starts forgetting all about the courtesy and manners. Most likely those "sometimes" is when Ukai is in the story. Hell, make that "sometimes" "all the time". He's the only one in her picture right now.
She had quite a laugh with how much Ukai hated the way she calls him. Shocking how he's mostly used to it by now.
Now, he just retorts it tenaciously with fixing her words every second he can. The blond man is gonna give up soon. About time he does.
Eight years of knowing him gave her quite enough the data to read the thought out of this simpleton. Though they seems long - the number eight - compare to those five years in New Zealand, they feel so much shorter. 'Like' yesterday if she would have to describe it.
Maybe it's because she had fun with this grumpy guy around? With the late practice, and late dinner and how he took care of her pretty much like a dad here in Miyagi.
Either way, she's grateful for his being here.
It helps, knowing that there is someone around who can tell her about the world when all she can see is splashes of colors.
Sometimes she wonders if he feels lonely being alone in the store. She tries to drop by as often as possible, regardless of the "you're hindering the business", or the "don't you have better things to do?" coming from the guy.
Sometimes Daichi goes home after spending a whole Saturday 'hindering business' and wonders if Ukai really remembers all the faces of the people he saw.
Even when he sees them all day but mostly they aren't anyone he knows real well so were to be asked, would he be able to identify someone he sold oden to last week, or orange to just a day ago?
Yeah, definitely an impossible task for this guy.
Daichi finds in this man something that she has in common. The way they look at life as it goes by passively. The fact that they can't remember half the faces of the people they met. Ironically, Ukai's face is one of those very special ones (that consists of pretty much just his and her dad's) she could remember. Obviously, she can't exactly tell everyone that crossed path with her to let her touch their faces to her heart content now, can she? It takes a while to warm up to a person like her and a hell lot longer to let someone you know touch you. For this man to allow her such privilege, she could tell, to him, she is somewhat special. Especially considering how strict the society they are living in is.
"So, you coming to practice today?", Suddenly he asks, the crumpling sound of paper dies down as a sign of him no longer reading whatever written on it so intently anymore, "No part-time job?"
Daichi hums, mentally checking her agenda.
"Hm? I thought you have to look after the store today", cheekily she says, "Planning to skip the job now, aren't we?"
"Nah", Ukai replies, partly excited, "Pops 's gonna come back earlier today so I can spare a few hours. 'sides, it's about time you practice with everyone else as well. I'm not the only spiker in the team you know. Gotta start getting used to others too, alright?"
'Not the only spiker'. Yeah right, I'm sure there are a lot more people more talented than you, kind old man. You're the freaking grand kid of the legendary coach this whole prefecture knows... correction: this entire nation knows.
"I don't like being look down by the others", she shrugs, "They always go easy on me just because-"
"They don't mean to, you know that right?", he says, "It's hard for them. That's how it is here"
"Not everyone is as villainous as you eh?"
"Watch your mouth, kiddo. You'll gonna get in trouble for that one day I say"
"Eh, don't push your luck, brat. I ain't looking down on you don't mean I'm letting you look down on me. Not gonna go easy on the spikes today you got me?", the shop keeper laughs loudly and Daichi feels a rush through her vein as soon as her mind registers the words Ukai said. Seems like it's gonna be a blast.
"That's inviting", she smirks, "I'll go home for now and get changed. Meet you at six"