This was the first time Katie had a respectable job and it was hectic enough that she felt dizzy.
In the morning, she woke up before the sun rose. She took a shower and dressed herself while fighting her drowsiness.
Walking from the inn she was lodging at with unsteady feet, she walked in from the staff entrance. The office appeared in front of her.
“Ah, morning Katie.”
“Morning-san~… you look sleepy. Don’t fall asleep while standing and drop the dishes okay?”
“I’m alright… I think.”
Coming out of the office, Katie headed into the dressing room beyond it.
Though she was confident in her endurance, she wasn’t accustomed to living a normal life among a group of people and was more exhausted than she’d expected.
There was also a mental source for her fatigue as well.
For instance, that interaction with Desiree and Claude from a moment before.
She wondered if they knew what she did.
She felt guilty from deceiving them if they didn’t know, and she couldn’t understand their accepting behaviors if they did.
She couldn’t deal with her own feelings and couldn’t figure out a solution.
Even so, the reason she was reporting to work without running away was because of the order Ilya gave her.
Arriving at the locker with her name written on it in the changing room, Katie started changing into her uniform.
“Ah, Katie. Morning~”
Her change of clothes laying limply next to her, Ria promptly put on her uniform.
Katie was troubled by being unable to get the string on the lower back through that well when it suddenly disappeared from her hold.
As she was trying to somehow turn around to see her back, Ria bent forward to help.
“Hold still a second.”
Probably due to her lack of sleep, her ability to concentrate had fallen so low that she didn’t notice that Ria had moved behind her.
“Alright, it’s done.”
Katie bowed to Ria, who was wearing a gleeful smile.
“Huh? It’s fine it’s fine. The uniform is cute, but I had trouble at first too. You don’t have to say thanks.”
“That… so? Got it.”
Next to Katie who was blinking her eyes, Ria closed her locker and headed to the office.
“Nee-chan, my order?”
“Katie-chan, can you get the next one?”
“Katie, take empty plates away if you see them while taking orders.”
“Katie—! Take this to table three—“
Going this way and that, she was kept busy.
So busy that she felt dizzy, she couldn’t find room to doze off.
If there was something close to relief for her, that would probably be her lunch and two breaks.
Fatigue dampens appetite if it’s in excess, but you would need the power of magic to forget about eating the branch’s cooking after eating it once.
“But you know Jimmy-san? Looks like he’s looking to woo Ninonne.”
“Aaa~h. My condolences…”
“He’s looking at Ninonne-san even though it’d make his wife cry.”
There was gossip being exchanged during their break in the office, but the only one who was uninterested was Katie.
Even she didn’t know what kinds of conversations she would be interested in to begin with. Though she was struggling serving tables, it didn’t look like the office staff had it any easier.
“Katie, good work today. Elizah’s already arrived, you can finish up.”
The branch’s waiters worked in three time slots, morning to evening, noon to night, and evening to night. Katie still wasn’t entrusted with the busiest time slot of evening to night.
When she changed her clothes in the dressing room, a voice called out to Katie from the office.
“Good work today. Ilya said she would prepare a meal for you, do you want to eat?”
“Un. I’ll eat.”
Unhesitatingly agreeing, she would eat anything made by Ilya with relish.
Katie had returned to her inn after forgetting about her fatigue due to the satisfaction of her full stomach, but it surged back again as soon as she entered her room. She rushed to bed without showering.
Then, she realized it was the next day.
After that, she repeated a similar day again.
In an unchanging daily life, she worked without being able to calm her mind.
She wasn’t dissatisfied. She even felt she was lucky.
Waking up early to shower.
Heading to the branch and changing into her uniform.
Waiting on tables and taking her breaks.
She finished her work and slept like a log.
But with every day like that, dregs accumulated in her heart and mind.
“Well, with today, your training is finished. You did well.”
As for what the end of her training period entailed, she would lose Ria’s assistance. Seeing Katie’s pale face, Ria smiled wryly.
“It’ll be fine even if you don’t worry about it. I’ll be in the dining hall too, just do what you’ve been doing.”
What she’d been doing.
Guide guests to their seats as they arrive, give their table order menus, pass the order on to the kitchen… Katie repeated it in her head to memorize it.
Coming to her senses from Ria’s voice, her body panicked in response.
“Katie, what’s today’s set menu?”
(What I’ve been doing.)
“Sorry, could you take these plates?”
(What I’ve been doing.)
“Another helping sounds good.”
(What I’ve been doing.)
“Ah, you, a moment?”
“I’d like to ooorder.”
There was the sound of something cracking. Katie looked down, glass had shattered directly below her.
“—ie! Katie! Are you alright!?”
In front of Katie, whose consciousness returned by being shaken, was Ria looking at her in worry. Then, she realized everyone around her was focusing on her as well.
“Alright? I’m not… injured.”
Ria exhaled in relief while Katie looked at her in a daze.
However, Ria frowned in the next moment as Katie’s body stiffened.
Although the atmosphere was quite different, Katie recognized their expressions.
They wore the expression of an adult just before they fired off angry shouts.
What they said if she disobeyed just a little.
What they said if she couldn’t diligently do something.
When adults raised their voices, she would be beaten.
If she let out a voice she would be beaten all the more.
They would beat her if she begged them to stop.
She didn’t want to be beaten, she didn’t want pain, so she would frantically do as she was told.
Even if she was no longer beaten, she recalled the pain just by seeing others being beaten and would freeze from just hearing the sound. After she realized there weren’t any children that couldn’t do things they were told, she struggled in desperation.
As for how she had managed to live thus far, that was because of Bard.
While hiding it from the adults, only her companion would come to cheer her up. It saved her.
Even that was something very small, like a spider’s thread.
Even though she survived and became an outstanding assassin, she wasn’t able to easily dispel her past trauma.
She made a mistake.
She was beaten.
She didn’t want the pain.
She did what she was told.
So please, don’t beat her.
Don’t kill her—
However, the words put to her made her tremble.
“Come on! If you aren’t well, take a rest!”
She didn’t expect it.
Katie was unable to understand what she was told and was forcibly pulled by Ria.
As for where she was taken, it was the break room next to the assessment room. She was made to sit on the leather sofa, still in a daze.
“That’s enough for today. The dining hall will be alright. Ilya arrived.”
Though it would have been hard to deal with if two people left, there was no problem with Ilya there.
To be followed up by the person she didn’t want to know of her mistake the most, Katie’s expression darkened.
“Are you tired?”
Hearing Ria’s question, Katie raised her head that was hanging in shame, but immediately lowered to gaze.
Sensing Katie’s inner thoughts, Ria spoke cheerfully in a panic.
“You’ve been taking quite a few consecutive shifts after all. I’m sorry for not noticing even though you’re so tired.”
Katie grew flustered by Ria’s apology.
“I’m not helpful, sorry…”
“It’s nothing like that!”
With her strong denial, Katie was at a loss from her unexpected reaction. She didn’t understand why Ria would assert it so strongly.
“We’ve been helped so much by Katie coming here you know? Bard too of course.”
Katie returned with an expression that seemed to say she didn’t know. Ria smiled back.
“There’s been more people, and because it’s come to the point where we’re exchanging our breaks for shifts, you’ve been a huge help… Though even if I said that, it seems Katie’s been unreasonably overworked huh?”
“My endurance… there’s no problem.”
When she nodded while looking straight at her, Ria nodded in assent.
“At any rate, Katie coming here has saved us.”
She would remember that.
Ria spent the rest of the break changing the topic to gossip.
Then, when Katie decided to return to the dining hall after her break, Ilya came in after being swapped with.
There was a porcelain cup on a saucer in her hand, a vivid red transparent glass teapot in the other.
Although Katie tried to apologize—
“How are you feeling?”
“… … I’m fine.”
She wasn’t able to speak that well. In the end, Ilya spoke first.
Despite scarcely having an expression, Katie seemed uncomfortable.
“Your schedule originally had a rest day tomorrow, but how about one for the following day as well?”
“I’ve worked consecutive shifts before. Though being able to only give you two consecutive rest days is shameful.”
Although Ilya was smiling bitterly as though she were trying to cover up embarrassment, Katie on the other hand was surprised. Two consecutive rest days. Guessing what those words meant, she was puzzled.
“… I’m not fired…?”
“Just that much isn’t enough to fire someone.”
She interrupted her pessimistic thought.
“Everyone fails. Even Ria, even Cynthia, even Elizah, we’ve all failed.”
“… … Ilya too?”
Ilya answered without changing her expression.
“It might have been different before you were in the guild, but you just need to try again if you fail.”
She just needed to try again.
Those words were said easily, but they were hard to take in.
Ilya somehow felt that Katie’s blank gaze stirred. She was staring straight at the teapot and cup placed on the table.
“If you fail, what did you fail doing… if you don’t think about it, won’t you be setting yourself up for it happening again in the future?”
That certainly might be true. She had no confidence that she could do it, and though she didn’t agree to it, she didn’t deny it either.
Taking her smile as though it said plenty enough, Ilya continued speaking.
“If failure was the end, your chances of growing up would just be wasted. Even if you’re fired to teach you a lesson, it would just have the opposite effect from what was intended by making you be nervous about failing.”
Even if she failed, that wasn’t the end. Katie’s chest tightened.
Seeing her expression, Ilya changed the subject.
“This is the problem.”
She was perplexed by her somewhat cheerful voice.
“This time, why did Katie fail?”
“Let me hear it.”
Her tone and expression were both gentle. However, Katie felt as though her path of retreat was cut off.
While she thought, it felt like her back was crawling.
She wanted to stop thinking, but then she wouldn’t be able to answer her.
Katie was rushing.
(If I don’t answer…)
But unable to respond. Rushing more and more.
Just as she’d fallen into a vicious cycle—
“Alright, stop there.”
She calmed down by hearing Ilya’s voice right in front of her.
She was directly in front of her nose. Close enough that she could see her own reflection in Ilya’s blue eyes.
“How about I change the question? What work did you do today?”
It seemed as though her question was answered. Moving away, Ilya continued with her questions.
“Was today’s work tough?”
Hesitating a slight bit, Katie nodded.
“I see. Were you tired?”
“That’s… a little, maybe…”
“From the continuous shifts? Consider taking less shifts then.”
“… Can I?”
While meager, Katie didn’t hide her surprise. Ilya laughed, “Of course.”
“Think about that later… For now, wasn’t there another cause that made you a bit tired?”
“… As usual, I couldn’t do it…”
Katie could usually do something if it was pointed out to her.
That much was clear from Ria and the others’ help. However, she wouldn’t be able to adapt unless she learned to do it on her own.
If you couldn’t figure something out by yourself, you wouldn’t be able to handle unexpected situations. But there was a way to fix the problem.
“… What do you mean by that?”
“That’s… when I get told to do so many things all at once, I don’t know which to do…”
By working while being confused after that happening, she’d suddenly just lose control.
Katie’s voice was small, like she were confessing a crime.
Still, that much was enough. She properly answered.
“At times like that, what did Ria and the others do?”
“Come to me, and ask… me.”
While she answered, Katie hung her head even further.
“Well then, do that next time.”
Ilya smiled at Katie, who looked up.
“If you don’t know what to do, it’s not that hard to find it out. Take a deep breath, then try to think of how other people handled it. If you still don’t know, ask for them to wait a moment and ask someone else.”
She clasped Katie’s hands.
“To avoid failing, try again.”
“Right, failure isn’t the end. Just make use of the mistake and try again.”
Ilya looked straight at her. Seeing Katie look back at her, she slowly let go of her hands.
“But you know, it’s better to not fail right?”
“Try and look to see what the other staff do when they don’t have any hands free for guests.”
“Right, look to them. Watch and study what they do at those times.”
This wasn’t written in the manual, and Ria had forgotten to teach her this as well.
At any rate, what Ilya was saying right now was something not unlike what parents told their children. To someone who hadn’t learned it… or rather, to Katie who had been made to forget, expecting for her to learn so quickly would be unfair.
Could she do it?
Towards Katie’s uneasy expression, Ilya smiled.
“It’s alright. Bard-san isn’t your only friend. Everyone here will help you.”
Her consent was rushed, but Katie didn’t take it back.
The next day, and the day after that as well, Katie visited the branch despite them being her vacation days.
Of course, her purpose was to watch how the staff worked.
Katie watched them, trying to learn. She discovered various things.
For instance, the day’s break times.
Claude and Desiree spoke to each other casually.
She’d often seen the two chatting with each other while working.
However, now that she took a closer look, their hands didn’t stop working at all despite them chatting.
When she understood, she felt ashamed for thinking the office work was easy.
To her, it was a world she hadn’t seen.
Katie, who changed her perception of them, started to see the others more positively after seeing their great efforts.
Their industrious appearances were pleasant, too. Not only the spontaneity of the staff, but the people that came in as guests and cooperated with them too.
Then she noticed. When she looked around, her surroundings were brimming with smiling faces.
Smiles containing lust. Smiles stemming from an appeased greed. Smiles of those who tease the weak. All of the smiles she’d seen up to now had brought shivers to her mind and body.
But the smiles here were different.
She didn’t feel a chill from them, they were smiles that calmed her mind.
The voices that hung in the air from leaving patrons, their smiling faces, Katie didn’t know how to reciprocate them.
“Thank you, very much.”
So she bowed as she usually would to leave.
But this time, just barely, the corners of her mouth… had lifted a little.
Let alone her bustling surroundings, it was such a small change that she herself hadn’t even noticed.
Before long, the bustling branch, as well as her bewilderment from some time before, were gone.
In an unchanging daily life, she worked without being able to calm her mind.
But now, the steps of the woman leaving the inn she used as lodgings as she walked towards an awfully imposing building… were happy ones.