Twenty Facts About Mizuki Bakery
1. The bakery is small but exquisitely made, with simple living quarters for the staff set over a comfortable customer salon and a baking area. They've recently changed the windows to stained glass and now the patrons can sit in comfortable chairs in the filtered light of wisteria flowers and fringed pinks twining around each other, or there is a tiny garden in the back where staff and the special customers may spend time.
The staff consists of two teenagers, a pair of adults, and cats. In general, the teenage girl waits tables, her long cinnamon-coloured hair flying as she breathlessly recites the specials and randomly glomps pretty male customers. The teenage boy looks a little frail, though perhaps that's only the silvery sheen to his mop of hair and his silver-rimmed glasses making his eyes look too big. He's good with the customers, nursing endless good cheer and a hidden streak of impish humour, but he's also a wonderful cook, so he spends a lot of time behind the kitchen hatch, never breaking a sweat under the heat of the ovens. The adults, a man and a woman, do a little baking, a little customer service, repair work, and all the purchasing and accounts. The man is tall and dark and handsome, though perhaps a little gruff to serve customers, and the woman hides an endless sorrow behind her smiling eyes. But some customers like the way quiet rings through them like a bell, and for the rest, well, that's what genki teenagers are for, ne?
Of the two shop cats: one is a tawny golden colour with a round pot-belly, the other looks a little like a Russian Blue, though his coat is much darker, almost purple in some lights. They sleep most of the day, curled up together on a satin cushion in the sun like a furry breathing yin-yang sign.
2. The staff are kind of weird, thinks Watanuki. There is something in the way that they look at him, a little intent, a little unfocused, that makes him think they might See the kinds of thing that he Sees.
3. This is incorrect. No resident of the bakery can do even such simple things as, for example, see a spirit, light a candle without using hands, anticipate a phonecall, or fly. But they do remember what that was like.
4. The boy explained the shop's name to him once as he poured iced tea with cheerful verve. It's because there's three of us, he said. Tsukishiro 'Moon Castle', pointing at himself with a thumb, Akizuki 'Autumn Moon', nodding to the cinnamon haired girl, and Mizuki 'Beautiful Moon' is upstairs taking a nap. So, three moons: Mizuki. Watanuki had smiled, then, and said, That's beautiful. He glanced at the fourth staff-member, a gruff older man, and Tsukishiro-kun had lit up and ruffled his short, dark hair. Oh, To-ya's special. The older man had grunted, but didn't seem overly perturbed at a junior invading his personal space. Watanuki was starting to suspect it was one of those relationships. He never did find out the older guy's family name. He stuck with Bakery-san, because cutesy nicknames and that guy just didn't mesh in his head.
5. After the Bad Year, Kaho had intimated that it might be nice to run a shop. The Yellow Plushy had insisted that the shop sell food because he was hungry all the time anyway and Yuki had looked thin-faced and hopeful behind his silver-rimmed glasses. Then Akizuki had run around the room warbling Love! Is! A! Candy! and Spinel Sun had shuddered delicately, said As you think best, and turned a page. So Touya went scouting locations and learned the Way of the Patisserie (because if he cooked the food, he could make sure there was something other than sugar in there).
6. Watanuki hasn't noticed because he always dives for the bill when they eat there together, but Himawari's money isn't good at Mizuki Bakery. They are more than happy to feed her, but it doesn't take Sight to know the girl's a dangerous Influence. Himawari smiles and smiles and marvels at her luck as the hundredth-customer-of-the-day or gracious-taste-tester-of-Akizuki's-baking-no-seriously-none-of-us-dare-try-it. She goes to Mizuki Bakery on her own very rarely.
7. The cats love Himawari. All she has to do is perch on the low stone wall of the back garden and the pair of them will slowly ooze towards her from wherever they were sleeping. The golden one, Kero-chan, likes to sprawl on her lap, splaying his limbs out, and vibrating his exposed belly with a trilling purr. Suppi-chan is a little more standoffish - he sits a breath away with his feet all tucked under him and very slowly his head droops until his chin rests on the warm stone. When Himawari's little yellow bird peeps out from under her hair and flits around them, Akizuki's fingers twitch for a camera. But the one time she tried, the film was over-exposed and the camera fell and cracked the lens.
8. There was that time Watanuki was trying to do his physics homework with his books spread out on the table and the dark purply cat, awake for once, jumped up beside him. The cat looked at the textbooks consideringly. Then he looked over Watanuki's working and back up at him, sighed as if to say, You have got to be kidding me, and walked away, tail gently waving in the air.
9. He found Yuki perched on the slanting roof, almost invisible with only the stars to light him. Touya picked his way carefully over the tiles and sat down next to Yuki. The boy was twisting a white feather absently in his fingers. He's not gone, Yuki said suddenly. Yue was very tired for a long time and now he is sleeping. This, all of this, it's like a dream to him. Touya looked at him cautiously. Is it a good dream? Yuki leaned into Touya's shoulder, his eyes glowing in the dark like a cat's. Yes. A very good dream.
10. There is something very peaceful about the back garden. The tiny trickle of water and careful-artless arrangement of pebbles remind Watanuki of the precincts of an old and holy place. But it's not until he sees Doumeki and Mizuki-san who built the garden talking gently together that he realises she actually was a shrine-maiden once, and in fact knew Doumeki's grandfather quite well.
11. This is not the first location for the Mizuki Bakery. They used to move every three to six months, but recently Kaho raised her head, twinkled, and said, The location is propitious. Akizuki is already plotting extensions to her walk-in wardrobe.
12. So Himawari and Watanuki were talking about clothing construction - in a totally professional and non-effeminate way - and she mentioned the additional use of frothy lace at throat and wrists to hide masculine bumpy bits. Like Akizuki-chan! she added brightly. After the twisting in his head and the irresistible urge to flail his limbs went away, Watanuki decided to keep referring to Akizuki as 'she', because his life was confusing enough. Idiot, said Doumeki.
13. Touya doesn't see much of Kaho these days: one or the other of them is usually asleep under the punishing drain of maintaining four high-grade magical Guardians. Sometimes on summer nights when the moon is very full he will wander outside and find her in the garden, turning rocks and tending plants by moonlight.
She is very serene in the garden, kneeling wrapped in a cotton summer yukata and her hair pulled back with a paper ribbon. Unlike Touya, she lets the few gray strands threading her hair stay as they are.
Touya has learned much of the ways of spirits in the last two decades. He knows that Yuki and the others could survive without him and Kaho if they really wanted: cut their ties with humanity, fold themselves into the light of sun or moon, and just go. He is selfish enough to want the people he loves close by, though, and he trusts. He trusts that Yuki will know his own heart, whether the boy's happiness lies in transforming into something rich and strange, or with a man already walking into age and death.
14. Once Akizuki-san leaned over the table so her cinnamon hair fell wild over her shoulders, fixed Watanuki with a smoldering glare, and huskily asked him, Will you be my boy-toy? At which point Bakery-san dumped a glass of water over her and dragged her away by the lacy collar. He didn't hear much of the discussion that followed, just her raised voice from the kitchen: I have needs TOO, I'm HUNGRY, I WANT A POWER-UP. Then Tsukishiro-kun peeked out from behind the door, his wide eyes frightened and hungry, and then that idiot Doumeki was dragging him away by the collar and was everybody around here crazy but him? And Himawari-chan, of course.
15. There are names never referred to, at Mizuki Bakery, and phrases which are not spoken. Yuuko Ichihara is one. It will definitely be alright is another.
16. Watanuki doesn't know how the shop keeps in business with all its sales and promotional give-aways. He stopped by there on his birthday, to pick up a little cake for himself, and they were throwing a party with streamers, tacky hats, and free food, just because April 1st is a good day to celebrate, you know?
17. In truth, Touya's life is not so different from his early years. He has, after all, had a lot of practice at holding together a family after loss. A few more people missing; a few more people to look after: business as usual. Endurance is another word they don't say at Mizuki Bakery, but only because fish don't speak of water.
18. Doumeki and Bakery-san once stared at each other for thirty-four minutes and twenty-seven seconds, slouched against their respective walls with their arms folded across their chests. Watanuki and Himawari keep a notebook recording times and who looks away first. They have a small bet riding on the breaking of the forty-minute mark. Tsukishiro-kun and Akizuki-san want in, and are offering baby pictures as a stake. Watanuki is considering this, but thinks Doumeki-in-a-girl's-kimono and the effort to obtain said incriminating picture are worth more than what they're offering. He is quite, quite wrong.
19. They filled the shop with tasty food and beautiful things to catch the eye. There has been no arrangement to forbid the running of an ordinary business, and if... certain persons might wend their way there for the goodies and stay for the ambience, that isn't hitsuzen, it is only a coincidence, yes?
20. That shop is so damned weird, thinks Watanuki. But the food is good. That idiot Doumeki drags him there at least once a week and gorges himself on maple custard candy, the pig. And it's a nice place to be, and they remember his name. He can live with weird.