Grimgal Of Ashes And Illusion / Grimgal of Ashes and Illusion Vol 1 Chapter 3

VOLUME 1: A Whisper, an Aria, a Prayer, an Awakening

Chapter 3: Yorozu

Yorozu’s Bank. Or at least that’s what the sign said, outside of the thick-walled, warehouse-like stone building. The letters were written in gold relief, grand yet at the same time a bit garish. Haruhiro had reached Yorozu’s without losing his way, which made him feel a little better about the whole situation. Now the only problem was his empty stomach.

He was going to starve to death if he didn’t hurry and get his money changed, return to Dory’s, and scarf down one of those kebabs.

The main entranceway led into a hallway and above a series of stone steps was a counter. Haruhiro stepped into the end of the short line. Before long, his turn was called with a “Next!” Across the counter sat a little girl, quiet and dignified, in an enormous leather chair. She looked no more than ten years old.

Her clothes were a flashy red and white with gold highlights. She wore a golden monocle and held a golden tobacco pipe in one hand. Her attitude also seemed as grand as her appearance.

“Hm.” The girl took a puff on the pipe as she scrutinized Haruhiro. “I’ve never seen you before. First time?”

“…Yes,” Haruhiro replied, suddenly timid. What was up with this little girl? He cleared his throat and continued. “Yes, first time.”

“From your appearance, you’re a Crimson Moon trainee. I see. Just arrived, have you?” The girl stood up on the chair and slapped her knee. “I’m Yorozu. Fourth generation. I flawlessly memorize the first and last names, facial appearance, deposits and balances, and all transaction records of all clients. However, I also keep paper records for the sake of those whose memories aren’t as perfect as mine. Enough of the introductions; let’s open your account. Your name?”

“Um… It’s… It’s Haruhiro.”

“I see,” Yorozu leaned forward, opened an account book that had been lying on the counter, and began to scribble something into it with a feather pen. “Done. Now you may begin to do business with Yorozu’s Bank.”

Haruhiro stole a quick glance at the book and indeed, on a brand new page “Haruhiro” was written in elegant handwriting. When Haruhiro looked up again, Yorozu’s face was right in front of his own. She may have had a small stature, but ten years old she was not. Probably significantly older than ten.

Ignoring her height and looking more closely, he noticed she had very distinct features. Blue eyes as delicate as finely crafted glass, soft pink lips—she was quite a beauty, actually.

“What?” Yorozu puckered her lips and suddenly turned her head to the side with a huff. “My face isn’t something you need to be staring at, Mr. Lack-of-Manners.”

“S-sorry.”

“Let’s make something clear.” Yorozu thrust her pipe right in front of Haruhiro’s nose. “This fourth generation Yorozu might be young, but she is a flawless Yorozu. Engrave it on your skull and don’t make the mistake of underestimating me. Also, Haruhiro, I have you perfectly memorized as rude and impolite.”

“…Can you please forget about that?”

“Not possible. A Yorozu is a Yorozu, so she doesn’t forget. If a Yorozu forgets, she must resign her position to the next Yorozu. That is the law governing all Yorozus.”

“That’s pretty harsh…” Haruhiro glanced around the room. He was the only customer at the moment. No other bank employees were to be seen either. “Would you happen to be the only employee at Yorozu’s Bank?”

“Inconceivable. I’m the bank’s representative President and CEO. Transportation of money and goods, various areas of specialty, warehouse maintenance, and the like are handled by a large number of clerks, workers, and apprentices who work here. Do you know what kind of business we run?”

“Err, money deposits, changing money, and stuff like that.”

“Not just money. Goods as well. In the case of cash, we charge a deposit fee of 1% of the total amount. In the case of goods, the fee is 2% the value of the object as determined by our professional appraisers.”

“One percent…” So for every one hundred capas deposited, one would be taken as a fee. “Isn’t that just plain expensive?”

“If that’s your opinion”—Yorozu drew on her pipe—“then don’t deposit your money here. It’s no skin off my nose. But allow me to say that a reserve force soldier like you will eventually see the value of our services. So then, Mr. Lack-of-Manners, what business brings you here today?”

“Mr. Lack-of-Manners…” Haruhiro repeated. Was he going to be called that from now on?

He took out one—no, he had better make it two—silver coins from the leather pouch. “I wanted to get these changed to capas.”

“Hmph. Amazingly, we offer money changing services at no charge. Two silvers is two hundred capas, but you do realize how cumbersome that is to carry, Mr. Lack-of-Manners?”

“Ah,” Haruhiro recalled the bronze coins shown to him by Dory Kebab’s potbellied man. They were pretty small, but two hundred coins probably added up to a pretty hefty weight. “I see. And walking around with this much money is probably rather dangerous. So that’s why people pay the fee to store their money here.”

“Indeed. I can instantly calculate amounts down to one hundredth of a capa, so the fee for depositing one capa is one hundredth of a capa. I memorize that and record it in your account book. When the total reaches one capa, we deduct it from your account. So don’t even try to get away with things like depositing 99 capa, one capa at a time.”

“In other words, don’t try to cheat the system. Fine, I get it,” Haruhiro said, and placed one silver coin on the counter. “Can you just change this into capas then?”

“Certainly.” Yorozu struck a bell that was on the counter using her tobacco pipe.

A young boy dressed in silver-lined clothing emerged from a door in the back of the room. Yorozu didn’t say a word, just signaled something with her hand. The boy bowed silently once then disappeared through the door again. In a few moments, he emerged again carrying a black tray. On the tray were bronze coins. He placed them on the counter, then withdrew once more.

“One hundred capas. You may take them now, Mr. Lack-of-Manners.”

“Can you stop calling me that?” Haruhiro muttered, taking the coins and stuffing them inside the leather pouch. The bronze coins were only about the size of the tip of one’s pinky, but a hundred of them filled the pouch to nearly bursting. “Pretty heavy considering the size; this might not fit in my pocket.”

Yorozu snorted. “You may deposit any amount right away if you wish. You may lack manners, but our motto is to value each and every customer.”

“I’m fine for now. Kind of inconvenient, but I’ll just hold on to it.”

“I see,” Yorozu took another puff from her pipe. “Please feel free to come back whenever you need our services, Mr. Lack-of-Manners. Our business hours are from seven in the morning to seven in the evening and we are open all year round. Whatever you need, whenever you need it, this fourth-generation Yorozu is ready to process your requests at the service counter.”

“Whenever? What about lunch breaks?”

“No such thing. I’m here from seven o’clock to seven o’clock. That’s the law governing Yorozus.”

“…Have a good day then.”

It was a tough job, Haruhiro thought as he left Yorozu’s Bank, but taking into consideration her small size, she was a very hard working person. His stomach growled again. Meat. Meat kebabs were waiting for him. Haruhiro rushed back to Dory’s Kebabs in the marketplace. He inhaled, filling his lungs with the smell of freshly grilled meat before buying a kebab. Not able to suppress his hunger a moment longer, he took a bite right there and then. The explosion of flavor and juiciness hit him immediately.

“DELICIOUS!”

He devoured the first kebab and was seriously tempted to buy a second. After a long period of indecision, he finally decided to restrain himself. When he got back he could bring Shihoru and Yume, and the three of them could come again together. As for Ranta, Haruhiro didn’t really care either way.

Feeling much better, he left the marketplace only to be jolted as he remembered. “Damn it. This isn’t the time to be eating kebabs. Need to see what information I can find…”

Looking around, he noticed a street that had ‘Kaen Road’ written on an arched signboard. A young looking man clothed in a white surcoat was walking a little ways down beyond the sign. Under the surcoat he was dressed in metal armor, and a shield was slung over his back. Some sort of sword was fastened to his belt. However, he didn’t look like one of the guards from Tenbourou. In fact, he might have been a Crimson Moon member.

Haruhiro placed a hand over his chest and exhaled. Summoning up his courage, he yelled, “Excuse me!”

The man stopped and turned to face Haruhiro. “Yes?”

“Sorry if I’m mistaken, but are you a Crimson Moon member?”

“I am, but…” The man blinked once or twice, then smiled broadly. “I see. I’m guessing you must be a trainee?”

“Um, y-yes! Though I just became one. But I don’t know anyone or anything or anywhere, and…”

“It’s the same for everyone at the beginning. Though lost and confused, we move forward one step at a time. Advancing steadily, our paths become clear.”

“I thought… I figured it was something like that. But I’m not sure what to do or where to go next…”

“I understand,” the man nodded sympathetically. “But the knowledge you gain from this experience will be invaluable to you later on. No matter which road you take, those who don’t find their own way out of the darkness will never reach their destinations.”

“Really? I mean, I get what you’re saying. Kind of. Will everything really be okay though? You see…”

“My name is Shinohara, of Orion.”

“I’m Haruhiro.”

“Haruhiro, myself and other members of Orion frequent Sherry’s Tavern quite often. If you need anything, come find us there.”

“Eh? Oh, I mean, right. Orion. Sherry’s Tavern.”

“That’s right. I wish you the best of luck, Haruhiro. Until we meet again then.”

Shinohara left, leaving Haruhiro with only the impression of person with a friendly smile and elegant manner.

“Question asking… failed?” Haruhiro hung his head low. He should have stopped Shinohara and kept at it. But Haruhiro also had a feeling that Shinohara would have politely but firmly refused to answer. Shinohara didn’t seem like it, but maybe he was unfriendly after all. Or maybe it was just Shinohara’s way of giving guidance to newcomers. “Find him at a tavern?”

Haruhiro looked up at the sky and squinted at the brightness of the sun. He couldn’t be sure, but he had a feeling that the tavern wasn’t open this time of day. Having nowhere else in particular to go, he continued down Kaen Road, eyes peeled for anyone else who looked like a Crimson Moon member. He passed by a few that might have been, but they were either rather shady looking, seemed unapproachable, or returned his gaze glaring disdainfully. He didn’t have the guts to stop any of them to ask.

He didn’t want to do this anymore. Haruhiro squatted down at the end of the street, past the flowerbeds and a big building that looked something like an inn, and stayed that way for a while. If he just remained like that, maybe someone would eventually get worried and ask him what was the matter. Not that he had any such ulterior motives. Okay, maybe he did. Just a little.

But they were just wishful thinking.

What other alternatives did he have? He had no idea where he was, he didn’t remember anything but his own name, and he didn’t have the slightest idea what any of this all meant. On top of all that, he had abruptly been made into a reserve force soldier. While he was busy being confused and indecisive, everyone who was worth anything had went about their own ways and the only ones left were the losers who couldn’t get anything right. Such as himself.

And now, for some reason, he had ended up being the only person out running around trying to find out something, anything, about this place. And even that wasn’t going well.

Because I’m too cowardly to approach anyone, Haruhiro thought. And what was wrong with that? Nothing. It wouldn’t be wrong if he were to wallow in self-pity either.

Fine then. He would eat kebabs. He would return to the marketplace by himself and eat as many kebabs as he could. And not just kebabs. There was plenty of other tasty looking food too. He would eat all the food the market had to offer. When evening came, he would head to Sherry’s Tavern. Maybe there was even one of those places were women would pour him drinks and keep him company. He would eat, drink, and enjoy himself until all his money was gone.

“No.” Haruhiro got to his feet. While he couldn’t bring himself to feel entirely optimistic, it wasn’t like him to despair either. He turned around and headed back towards the marketplace.

What to do now. Maybe he should head back to the Crimson Moon headquarters. Although he didn’t have any useful information to take back, a good amount of time must have passed already. Everyone else must be hungry as well. But if he was going to take them to get something to eat, they would have to make a trip to Yorozu’s Bank to get their money changed first.

When Haruhiro thought about it though, knowing about Yorozu counted as useful information. He had also met Shinohara. After they all got some food, they had the option of searching for Sherry’s Tavern. It wasn’t like he had to do everything alone. That’s right. That was absolutely right. They were a team after all.

So it was decided then. He started back to headquarters, in a more cheerful mood than he had been. But something was wrong. Using Tenbourou as a landmark, he was sure he was headed in the right direction, but no matter how much he searched, he couldn’t find the headquarters building again.

“Am I… lost?”

He didn’t want to admit it, but it seemed that way. It didn’t seem like he had any other options, so he headed towards Tenbourou’s public square again. From there he would carefully retrace his steps. He found the path he had used to get from headquarters to the square. So it has to be that way. If I go this way, it should lead me back, he thought. Probably.

“Or maybe it was that path over there? Or over there? No. Or yes. Which way was it again? Damn it. Can’t remember…”

“Haruhiro!”

Haruhiro never imagined anyone would call him by name here, so he was startled hearing it called out now. It was like hearing the voice of an angel descended from the heavens. Of course it must have been some trick of the light, but it was no joke; the smile of the person who was running towards him, one hand raised in the air, seemed to radiate like a beam of sunshine.

“…Manato!” Haruhiro began running towards him as well. “Manato! I’ve been trying to find my way back to the headquarters, but I can’t. So this is what it feels like to find a saint in hell!”

“You’re exaggerating,” Manato said. He glanced around. “Haruhiro, you’re alone? Where are the others?”

“Ranta, Shihoru, and Yume are supposed to have stayed behind at headquarters. What basically happened was that Shihoru got upset and started crying, so I left to see what information I could gather while the others waited.”

“I see. And after getting the information, you’re on your way back?”

“Well…” Haruhiro rubbed the back of his neck. He was tempted to exaggerate his accomplishments, but it would be obvious that he was lying so there was no point. “I didn’t really find out much. There’s Yorozu’s Bank and that’s about it.”

“Yoruzu’s Bank? Never heard of it.”

“Really? You can deposit your money, get money changed, and stuff like that. It seems like it’s pretty important for Crimson Moon members. Then there’s a food stall in the marketplace that sells delicious kebabs… but I guess that’s not really important…”

“I also passed by the marketplace, but didn’t realize kebabs were sold there. If it’s that good, I want to try some too…”

“I’ll show you the place. I remember it perfectly… even though I can’t remember the way back to the headquarters.”

“We should head back together then,” Manato said, tone casual, as if it were only natural to do so. “I was planning to head back there anyway.”

Haruhiro didn’t know what to say. He never expected to hear those words from Manato. Of course, Manato had said ‘see you guys later’ as he left the headquarters, but Haruhiro assumed that had been just an offhanded statement and hadn’t taken it seriously. Had he been wrong? Had Manato been intending to return to the headquarters from the start?

It warmed Haruhiro’s heart a little to think so.

Manato tilted his head slightly to one side. “Something wrong?”

“N-nothing!” Haruhiro slapped Manato on the back in a friendly manner. “Let’s go. Back to headquarters. I don’t care about Ranta, but Shihoru and Yume are probably missing us.”

“Let’s go then,” Manato nodded and started off.

Haruhiro followed, and privately thought to himself once more how glad he was to have bumped into Manato again.

Manato led the way at a brisk pace, not giving even the slightest indication that he didn’t know the way. However, the path that Manato chose was decidedly different than that which Haruhiro had thought was the correct way.

That was because Haruhiro didn’t properly remember the way back.

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