Lonely Sunsets: Chapter 1

Nikki was walking down the road head down and covered in a kasa as she moved through the stiff winds that seemed to be prevalent along this part of the coast. ~Thank the Lord and Lady I decided to by this hat a few months back, for more than one reason. Itís hot enough to fry an egg on the nearest rock.~ The mere thought of food sent her stomach into protests that she hadnít eaten in a couple days. Looking about her to get her bearings again she saw that there was the shadow of a small town on the horizon. Calculating quickly she noted that if she kept her current pace she would reach the village middle evening. Nodding to herself she wrapped her traveling cloak about her again and continued on her way.

Cye was in the harbor teaching some of the young kids how to swim in the ocean and teaching basic safety rules. Almost everyone knew who he was so they did not mind that he was out there alone. The after noon was hot and as he made sure that the kids had sunscreen for the water he felt glad that he was able to be in the water today instead of balancing the books for the family pottery. He loved his sister and Brother in law and He loved his mother even more, but even he had to admit that he was better at the business end of the business rather than the artistry that came naturally to most of the family in the craft.

He was no slouch at the wheel though and he could turn out decent pieces, but nothing that were as captivating as his mother and sisters pieces which sold for thousands over seas. So he voluntarily stayed in the books and management area where his skills were considerably more refined from his time working with the other Ronins.

Day moved into evening and as the darkness fell on the area Nikki was pleased that with the heat waves over the land had not thrown off her calculations. Walking into the town she found that it was considerably larger than she had originally estimated. All the better to her, there would have to be a restaurant in this town that would let her work for a meal. She was so hungry.

Moving through the streets quietly she stumbled on some of the cracked pavement and saved herself from a nasty fall by catching herself with the staff she carried. Looking like a carved wooden pole, the top of the staff was adorned with a design of the dragon of the sea and the dragon of the skies battling. The design intertwined down the length of the staff where the tails of the two serpents ended.

She looked through the streets and found only one restaurant that was open for business. Entering there she walked up to one of the waiters, and asked to speak to the manager. Cloak, staff and kasa she was a mildly odd site and as she never looked up to reveal her features she managed to get the man to take her to the manager. The Managers office was clean and well ordered as she walked in to speak to him. Not knowing if she could trust him she left her travel garb on as she asked about working in exchange for food.

The manager needed someone who knew their way about the kitchen tonight as the main cook had been caught with some virus that was a food hazard and had to stay home. Nikki nodded in appreciation of the clean business that the man ran and offered her services.

The manager showed her where she could place her cloak but was surprised when she refused to take the kasa off. Not caring one way or another about this strangerís habits he just knew that he had a kitchen that was way behind tonight and she looked like she would at least have a clue.

Once shown the kitchen she washed up and set to work and with in two hours the kitchen was caught up on orders and staying paced. Nikki was just glad to be working again and it felt good to be in familiar settings like a kitchen. She would never admit it, but the last person who taught her in the kitchen was good and he taught her a lot about how to prepare food properly.

Moving with decisive grace she put out the orders for the waiters and kept them hopping for the better part of the two hours with the catch up on the back orders. While the in house orders were cooking she prepared the to go orders for the delivery boy. Fortunately there werenít many for the night so she ran everything out to the main area for the boy.

All in all it was a busy night and when the restaurant closed, the manager motioned for her to cook herself a meal. She had more than earned her meal in his eyes, but if that was what she wanted then she was free and clear of any debt of him. She ate precisely and held back even though her stomach demanded of her to hurry up and fill it.

She cleaned up the kitchen and ran the dishes afterwards through the dishwasher, and as she walked to the back room to get her cloak and staff she was halted by the restaurant manager.

"Listen, Iím kinda in a bind. The cook that you took over for tonight is in the hospital with some kind of virus. I realize that you are traveling, but could you please stay for a few days and help us out here. If it is lodging you need, there is a spare room above the restaurant that you can have for the time. Not the greatest, but itís a roof and a place to stay. Every shift you work you will get a meal and if there is anything else, we will work out the details later. But we really need the help."

Nikki listened from under her kasa and thought. She knew what the man was offering was a good deal, and from her experience they did not take people on like this unless it was absolutely vital. Nodding her agreement she bowed to the man. "I will be in need of a shower come morning. Is there a public bath nearby?" Her light alto voice made her sound younger than she really was as she spoke to the Manager. He nodded and gave her the directions to the bath and then to the room upstairs. She agreed to use the outside door and they locked up.

Once upstairs she took her cloak and kasa off and laid the staff next to her bed. Curling up with the cloak as a pillow she knew that the residual heat from the kitchen below would keep her warm through the night. Setting her internal alarm to wake her early she fell asleep quickly.

Sometime in the middle of the night she was awakened from sound sleep by the sounds of footsteps and soft voices in the large room/attic area. Incensed that she again was not going to get enough sleep she calmed her breathing to silence and silently grabbed her staff and kasa. It was completely dark in the room so she still had the advantage of being used to the darkness. Hearing the people she realized that they were young and planning on dropping through the drop door of the attic area to the restaurant to rob the place.

Moving silently she was glad for everything she learned in situations like this. One by one the four figures stopped responding to each other as she used her staff to knock them unconscious. There was no phone up in the attic area but she knew where it was downstairs and decided to drop into the restaurant.

Opening the hatch door and then moving the ceiling tile that covered the fact that it was there she dropped them each feet first into the restaurant and dropped in after them still wielding her staff. Reaching for the phone she called the local police. When she let them into the restaurant area they were suspicious of her possibly being in league with the thieves and got greedy.

She had to admit that with her staff and kasa she looked rather suspicious. Instead of getting upset as she would have just a few short years ago she simply asked them to call the manager at home to verify her story as to why she was in the attic area. Once that was taken care of and her statement was taken she let everyone out and then locked the door. Jumping up to the hole in the ceiling she moved back over to her corner of the world and fell asleep again.