My story is not an easy one to relate. But I will tell it here. Read it at your own discretion, but know that I have not sugarcoated any of it. It will be told in its full, unadulterated form. Think what you will.
I guess I’ll start on the day a new face appeared…
It was a day like any other. We hadn’t opened yet and my fellow hosts were preparing for the night ahead. Being a weeknight it wouldn’t be a busy one by our standards, but the fact that we could be open during the week at all said some about our reputation.
The Shirokuma was known for going above and beyond to satisfy customers of all tastes and knew when to keep quiet.
Finding employees that fit the bill was never an easy task which is why we regularly interviewed potentials. Most never stuck around for long after learning first-hand the demands of the job, but there was ever the influx of new hopefuls; young, eager to please, and stupid. I wasn’t feeling optimistic about the ones we had lined up and was thinking of ways to avoid participating when the first stepped through the door.
Instinctively, I didn’t trust him. He stepped inside and with him came the stench of stale beer. When he introduced himself I detected a lingering buzz he must have had from the night before, but that comes with the territory. What I didn’t like was the innocence that still shone in his eyes. What was he doing trying to work here? I shrugged and carried the case of empty bottles I was holding out the back door. “Not my concern,” I told myself. I couldn’t save everyone. I couldn’t even save myself.
The interviews went more or less as expected.
Young. Eager to please. Stupid.
That’s Polar Bear aka Big Shiro on the left. He owns this place. He’s better than a lot of bosses I’ve had and he had sort of taken me under his wing when I was first starting out, but for my own reasons I have come to loathe him. On the right is that reason; my fellow host, who has been around almost as long as I have, Penny-chan. He’ll kill anyone else who calls him that. I only get to out of seniority. To anyone else he’s Penguin-sama. He’s the prince of our little café if I had to name one. He does swimmingly with the customers, helps settle disputes, and can be trusted as far as he could be thrown. Which is pretty far.
He first came to the Shirokuma as a customer. Probably just another curious face that wandered in, but to the Shirokuma staff he was easy pickings. I’m not going to paint myself in a favorable light here, but I promised I would tell the story truthfully and I will do so. I hung back and let it happen. Not that I could have stopped it, but I even didn’t try. Before long the conversation drifted to the inevitable topic, and after the complimentary drinks he had been given, Penny-chan didn’t stand a chance.
He was baited by the most skilled of us all.
He pondered over it, but it was already too late. It had all been over the moment he accepted the first round of drinks. He was the only one who didn’t know it. Anyway…
Under the cheery façade that he wears with the customers is something more substantial. Something worthy of a better place than this. I knew it when I first saw him. As if he has sensed it as well, Big Shiro took it upon himself to show Penny-chan “the ropes” after he was hired. Something changed in him after that. That something that I sensed beneath his surface was still there, but now there was a darkness in his heart.
Despite that, Big Shiro continued to favor him.
No cost was too great to keep Penny-chan. Though I suspect he knew deep down that although he may have stolen something from him, Penny-chan would never be truly his no matter what he did.
I consoled myself with that thought as we opened shop that night and the customers began arriving. Never letting myself dwell on the fact that it didn’t mean Penny-chan would necessarily ever be mine either.
Do you know who I am yet? I will make my 'official' appearance in Episode 2.