- Transformation of 많다: many, a lot
(in Polynesian, Melanesian, and Maori belief) an impersonal supernatural power which can be transmitted or inherited; commonly used in computer games in reference to magical power
- Please (give)
There's a shop in the quaint, ridiculously hipster part of Samcheongdong, just at the edge of the Bukchon Hanok Village. Its walls are painted white and its windows stained pretty with different shades of pink. It's an entirely hipster looking joint, serving a hipster-seeking crowd, selling probably some of the most hipster items in existence: health drinks, healing stones and curiosities.
The name of this shop is MANA 주(스)세요.
MANA 주(스)세요 sells three things; and the first, is a variety of healthy juices and concoctions packed in some of the prettiest potion bottles known to mankind.
At least, that had been what the review had said. Some ulzzang had discovered this cozy little shop in the quiet corner it’s situated in, posted a whole bunch of gorgeous photos on all of her social media, and now, the small shop is one of the hottest ‘must-visit’ places if you're anybody worth anything.
And so, come every early afternoon, the shop is flooded with young people toting their latest Samsung Galaxies and iPhones chasing after that next Instagram worthy moment. And fresh-pressed juices and health drinks that were poured into pretty drink bottles shaped like potion vials? Definitely Insta-worthy: especially since you get to appear all health conscious at the same time too.
To be honest, the entire shop is perfectly instagrammable. From the decor, to the shimmering of the healing crystals displayed, to the beautiful cats that appear once in a while, lounging lazily on the counter tops (it's a little weird that a different cat appears every other day but only ever one and never more, but well).
Hell, even the owner is instagrammable. He's good looking in every way of the word, with soft dark hair, pretty brown eyes, plush lips and the widest shoulders that anyone on this side of the Pacific could boast, especially with such a fit, tiny waist. He'll decline to have his photo taken, unfortunately, but that hasn't stopped anyone from sneaking a few.
And it's a really great place overall. But there's only one problem about this:
“Can I get one apple juice?”
“Ahhh… which one? There's two with apple; one is ‘Work it to the Core’, which is apple, blueberries and cranberries which helps with muscle recovery. The other is ‘You're the Apple of my Eye’ and—” and the beautiful man pauses for a moment to snort and giggle at his own joke, “ahh… yes. Sorry. It's a carrot and apple juice, and carrots have beta-carotene which is good for eyesight. So, yes. Which would you prefer?”
The girl tries to uncurl her toes, her voice stiff, “er the… one with the berries. Please.”
“Oh? Do you exercise a lot? We're having a promo now, ten bottles for 20% off!”
“No, er. One is enough, I don't need so much. And I don't exercise.”
“Oh then, why get ‘Work it to the Core’? ‘ You're the Apple of my Eye’ would be more useful to you youngsters always looking at your phones, yeah?”
“Er. I just… like… berries better?”
“Oh then, how about getting ‘I Like it Berry Much’? It has lots of berries in it as the name implies, and it's pretty popular.”
“No uh. Just… the apple and berries one please.” The girl's voice is faint by now, and the other customer waiting to the side is rubbing her temple, looking slightly pained.
“Ahhh… I understand. One ‘Work it to the Core’ coming right up!”
Yeah. The puns.
Most people should have guessed from the shop name, exactly what sort of person the owner is. But, it's one thing to note to yourself that the shop name is a pun and hey, it's actually a pretty clever one, game reference and all; it's another thing entirely to come into the shop, and realize all the juice names handwritten on the chalk sign boards are all puns. And then an entirely different thing to have those puns shoved into your face while trying to purchase one of those famed juice bottles which the reputation of just has been tainted a little by the ordeal.
But oh well, at least the juice bottle had been obtained. And a cat had been there today, preening it's beautiful gray fur on one of the window sills, and many decent SNS worthy photos had been snapped, and later when people try the juice, they are usually both simultaneously pleased and yet annoyed, because the juice is really good — almost addictive, but that means that to get the juice, one would have to go back to that shop and…
...deal with all the puns once again.
At least, there's a 50% discount if you bring back the bottle from a previous purchase, or your own 500ml bottle.
“Right, so.” The owner turns his beatific smile towards the next customer, the girl still holding onto her temple. “What about you? I highly recommend our ‘What-a-melon’ which has watermelon mixed with winter-melon tea or we have a new item on our menu called ‘You Hold the Kiwi to my Heart’, which is obviously kiwi, but also cherries. So what will it be—”
“I'll have ‘Grape Expeartations’ please. No I don't need a gallon, just one bottle, I brought my own bottle, thank you.”
The regulars are already used to it. Or they actually enjoy the puns and so are regulars. It's mostly of the former, less of the latter.
The cat lying lazily on the counter almost seems to snort when the owner gives an almighty pout despite this having happened a couple of times in the past hour already.
When the girl leaves, and the shop is finally quiet for a while, a slight mid-afternoon lull, the owner turns to the cat, his pout having only grown more severe. “Why do people always react like that to my jokes? My jokes are great!”
The cat doesn't seem to answer, just rolling over a little so it can stare at the owner, tail waving languidly in the air. But the owner sniffles, throwing a strawberry at the cat as if it had answered, “you're so fucking mean, you demon fluffball.”
And the cat only snorts, turning around to play with the strawberry (which had totally missed, by a fair distance).
The second thing the shop sells, is healing crystals.
They line the shop walls and displays stands, categorized and arranged according to colour, use and description; glittering like a shimmering rainbow across the store. And the people who buy these stones are more varied. And depending on who they are, they buy different things.
Of course, the first type of customer would be the self-same millennials who come into the store for the juices. And similar to these millennials would be the tourists who had somehow manage to wander off the beaten path and find themselves in the quieter section of Samcheongdong (or they followed the hoards of millennials who were making their way down the road, like a human breadcrumb trail).
Anyway, these two sorts of customers tend to buy the healing crystals (and stones too really) on whim. For the millennials, they buy them mostly because the stones are pretty, and shiny, and even if a tiny bit pricey, it's not too expensive to feel that big a pinch for the impulse buy of a pretty piece of rose quartz or jade; which the description card declares would help someone to be loved or to attract more love. And if the owner is free enough, he might just weave a little cord bracelet or necklace to nestle the stone into for the customer to wear. But even if not, the cute little crocheted bags he puts the stones into are a boon enough.
The tourists are pretty much the same. Just that they buy more varied stones for varied uses: citrine to boost concentration, opals to inspire creativity, topaz to combat aging, agate to ease anxiety; and the list goes on. And some of them might dabble a little in feng shui ; usually the ones for China, or Hong Kong, or even Singapore. And they might even buy some of the bigger pieces, the geode crystals or crystal formations, and someone has even bought the jade vulva sculpture that the owner had brought in as somewhat of a joke.
But of course, they are nothing compared to the rabid pungsu-jiri practitioners:
“Eyyyy! Master! What shiny new things have you gotten for me today?”
The owner turns around after depositing the cash he’d just received from another satisfied (and groaning) customer into the register. “Oh, hey Jackson-sshi. You’re… right on time as usual; 7.34 pm.”
“Ahhh… master, master. You never listen when I say we don't need to stick to formalities. Well, I mean, You close at 8.30 pm, which is 4 minutes too early, since I need to come in the the thirty four mark. So, 7.34 pm is the only time I can arrive.” Jackson lifts up both of his fingers, waving them into the air, nearly blinding one of the other customers with the reflection off the many rings he has on them. “So, master. I’m sure that you’ve gotten some new stuff in?”
“First of all, I'm really not a master. I just buy the stones. Secondly, who do you take me for? Of course I have new stuff in. So what's the thing you wanted to improve in your house?”
"Oh don't be so humble. Everyone in the community knows you truly know how to pick your stones. I mean, I'm a testament to that. Was down in the dumps, followed your suggestion to put ammonite in my office. And boom! Now I'm opening a new office. Someone else tried the same thing with another stone he bought somewhere else and it didn't work. And I'm just one of the few of your glowing testimonials.” Jackson laughs,smiling at the other stunned customers in the shop. “Hey, you should all buy stones and crystals from him. It will change your life.”
“Nothing as dramatic as that,” the owner chuckles as he wipes his hands down, having come back from washing them. “So what was it you wanted?”
“Ahhh… I said didn't I? New office.” Jackson grins as he rubs his hands together. “Just the usual things. Need good vibes for a good business and that sort!”
“Ahh… I see? Where is it going to be placed? Your office room?”
“Oh yeah. I want one for my office room yes, but I also want big, big one for the front entrance. You got anything like that?”
“Not for the entrance. I'll have to order that in. Perhaps a sculpture of tiger eye? Maybe a dragon. You'd like that wouldn't you?”
“Ahhh… You know me too well, Master!” Jackson claps his hands in delight. “But what about my office room?”
“Mmm… I think I have just the thing.” The owner bows to the rest of the customers. “Sorry about this. Just please wait a while. I'll be right with you.”
And almost like some kind of black market dealer, he reaches underneath the table what at first, looks like a brownish egg, with somewhat pretty swirls of colour, but otherwise, it's not particularly eye-catching.
But then, he turns it around, revealing a green chasm, out of which, a gorgeous image of several dragons dancing within tumultuous waves is carved in with such detail and life, you can almost see the dragons moving.
“Oh...ho ho ho…” Jackson lets out a joyous sound, bending his knees a little so he can look at the sculpture close up. “Celadon jade. A beautiful colour.”
“Mhmm… The carver slept hugging this piece for ten years so that it would mature and have this gorgeous colour.” Seokjin chuckled, “when I saw it, I knew it was a good piece.”
“Ahhh… And you think it'll be good for me?”
The owner tilts his head, and the single earring with a blood red stone dangling from his left lobe seems to quiver a little. “I mean… it won't add anything… probably. But it won't do you any harm. Besides, jade is good for healing and protection anyway.”
“Mmm… I'll take it anyway. Maintaining what I have is good too.” Jackson rubs his palms together again.
“Are you sure, this piece isn't that cheap— er actually an amethyst geode might do the same th—”
“No, no. I can afford it now. So why not?” Jackson opens out his wallet. “Cash as usual, yeah? Ahhh… I told you I can help you set up a cashless terminal. I have connections, so you don't need to worry about the admin fees. It's the 21st century. Even tiny mom and pop shop are accepting Samsung Pay nowadays.”
“I accept bank transfers now too?” The owner chuckles. “And nah, I have enough to do already. I can't afford to have more admin work to do.”
“Well, you've expanded enough to hire a few helpers, but I understand, man. Sometimes, it's even more tiring ordering people around. And they might mess up and all so,” Jackson puts his hand over his heart, the other reaching over the counter to squeeze the owner's arm. “I understand. Anyway, unfortunately, I have somewhere to go so, how much for the little beauty?”
The owner keys in a number into the register that makes the eyes of all the other customers in the shop go wide. And they grow even wider when Jackson casually pulls out a stack of yellow notes from his wallet and hands it over. “Keep the change.”
“Ahh… no. I can't do that.”
“Yes, you can.”
A pause, “do you want me to receive bad karma?”
And Jackson freezes before immediately bowing. “Oh, no, no, no, master. If that's the case then give me the change. Give me back all the change.”
The owner chuckles. “That will be 200,435 won in change.”
“Yeah. It'll be 190,435 won in change, because I would like two bottles of juices please. Any of your work-out ones will do. Gonna go down to the gym later.”
“Ahhh… but of course. Here's your change. Just give me a moment to pack it all up.”
“Great. I love your packaging to be honest.” Jackson smiles, clapping as the owner pulls out an ornate box of black wooden lacquer to place the jade sculpture in. “I have a whole display cabinet just for your boxes.”
“You flatter me. But I don't even work on them from scratch. Just enhance the boxes the pieces come with here and there.” And the owner turns around, looking below the counter again, before pulling out a small bag with two bottles of juice inside. “There you go. One sculpture of carved aged celadon jade, one bottle of ‘You Make my Heart Beet’ and one bottle of ‘You must Ketchup’. Have a nice day~”
“You too master! See you next week!” Jackson easily lifts the box with one hand, taking the bag in the other. “Remember to choose a good tiger eye sculpture for me!”
Jackson leaves before the owner can reply, and the man just laughs, shaking his head. “Ahhh… it only works because of his hard work. The stones just clear his energy, give him a boost. The rest is all him.”
Then he pauses, turning to wrinkle his nose at the amber furred cat that's been lying on the counter, watching the whole exchange take place. “Yah. Don't be rude. He's a good kid. And he can believe whatever he wants to believe.”
He turns back to the other still rather shell-shocked customers standing in line. “Sorry about that. Welcome to MANA 주(스)세요! What can I help you with today?”
And the third and final thing that the shop sells, is curiosities.
They occupy the odd corners of the shop, almost hidden away, sitting upon shelves shoved into the alcoves where the sun streams in and shows the dust notes dancing in the rays. And they can range anything from plastic ouija boards, to a beginners kit on Wicca herbs, or even a proper crystal dowsing kit.
The owner dusts all the items once a day, but they rarely move, save for the one or two curious tourists who come in and buy that magic eight ball or crystal skull just for the giggles. And they definitely ignore the stranger things: a glass jar filled with buttons, a couple of butterfly specimens, a book of pressed flowers, and a bag of old knuckle bones.
Except for the days when the nutjobs come in.
“Hyung! Hyu— ahhhh… aish. It's hard to run with a camera. Hyung! Don't close yet!”
The owner pauses at the yelling while he's in the middle of arranging empty potion bottles for the next day’s stock of juice, before looking up as he hears a pair of familiar footsteps running up to the shop. “Hyung! Hyung! Ah… Good. You didn’t close the shop yet.”
“Now why would I close the shop?” The owner chuckles, “I still have another twenty minutes before closing.”
The young man who'd just run up to the shop panting, blinks at the owner in confusion before he groans, “I totally forgot I set my clock twenty minutes earlier because I didn't want to miss the witching hour to try out the ghost summoning technique in the magazine I bought last week. But I only managed to summon Namjoon. Sadly. But I guess it worked in a sense? Namjoon is a ghost and it did summon him.”
The owner’s smile never leaves, and at the young man’s words, his eyes seem to twinkle all the more. “Is that so? That's nice.”
“Mmm… I guess. But I've gotten my hands on something more ‘suspish'— ah! Is the demon-cat around, hyung? I wanted him to see this as well.”
The owner tilts his head, gaze far away for but a moment. “Mmmm… I wonder…”
And then, there's a grumpy-sounded hiss from one of the corners, and the young man barely turns last minute, avoiding the potential scratch on his arm. “Ah. And the devil cat appears. How are you doing today, Beelzebub?”
The owner’s lips curl as the tiny black domestic shorthair that had appeared out of the shadows almost like an actual demon, lashing its tail out even as it jumps up a small stack of books in a corner to vault onto the countertop in an easy show of grace. Once atop, it fixes the young man with a leveling stare. And then a few moments later, the owner lets out a laugh. “He wants to tell you that the devil and Beelzebub are two very different people and you should get your facts straight. Oh. And he called you a brat.”
The young man shrugs.
The owner pauses, before shaking his head disapprovingly at the cat. “I'm not relaying that. In any case, as long as he doesn't call out the wrong name during a summoning ritual, it's fine.”
“Eh? Well, if it doesn't matter if I summon one or the other, just the fact I managed to summon a demon would be so cool.” The young man says carelessly, causing the owner to snort.
“I was thinking along the lines of accidentally summoning them both. But, trust me, you'd very much prefer to summon Beelzebub if you had a choice.”
The young man shrugs again, “maybe the devil is actually super chill and just wants to hang out.”
“Ahh… nah. He always makes it seem that way, but he's actually a stewing ball of negative emotions ready to explode. He's one salty guy and he lost big time after all.” But before the young man can continue on that topic more, the owner changes the subject. “So, what was it you wanted to show us?”
“Ah! Right!” And there's a rustling sound as the young man turns his backpack around to search through it. The owner waits patiently, but the cat less so. “Now, where did I put it… ah! Here it is.”
And he pulled out a piece of paper, turning it so that the owner and the cat can see the faded printing on it, the uneven lines indicative of a printer running out of ink. The young man must have printed it out of the public library. The owner leans forward, squinting at the paper to try to read the tiny words that were the title of what seems to be a news article. “Body found in Dapsimni-dong… neck slit?”
“Uhuh.” the young man nods, “but that's not really what's most interesting. Most interesting is this—! Uh. Hang on. Maybe I should pull it off the internet. The printer quality isn't that great…”
The owner waits patiently as the young man searches through his phone, and then after a while, he holds it up triumphantly. “There! Look at this! See the necks are slit, but there's something missing—”
“There's no blood pools.” The owner says, almost absently. “That's interesting.”
“Ah! Hyung! You see it too?” The young man’s eyes light up, even as the owner's eyes turn from contemplative into something more playful.
“Yep.” The owner nods, “do you think some OCD ghost might have vacuumed up all the blood?”
A pause, and then. “Hyung… don't be silly. It's not ghosts! It's definitely the work of a vampire here!”
“Ah? Is that so?” The owner’s eyes widen almost comically, “a vampire you say?”
The young man rolls his eyes. “Don't patronize me hyung. You don't think this looks like a vampire attack?”
“Mmm… I don't know. Could be that the murder didn't happen at that location, and the body was moved.” The owner chuckles, “but you could be right. It could also be a vampire attack.”
“Right? So I came here to restock on my protection kit. Namjoon broke my last batch of wooden stakes, and my mom threw my garlic wreath out so— oh!”
While the young man had been talking, the owner had taken out a small box filled with the very things the young man had been talking about and more.
“Man, I love you so much, hyung. Did you see the future or something? So you knew what I needed?”
The owner laughs, even as the young man shifts through the box excitedly, “something like that.”
“Oh?” The young man pauses as he pulls out something that looks unfamiliar: a silver beaded bracelet with a cross hanging in the middle. “Is this a rosary? It's a little short to be a rosary.”
“It's a silver rosary.” The owner confirms, “but in a bracelet form, so that it can pass off as fashion. Otherwise, you might have to deal with questions from your family about why you picked up Catholicism. But, wear it and it should ward you from vampires for a little while at least.”
“Ah. Well, my mother has seen worse.” The young man waves a hand in the air, but is smiling nevertheless. “This is pretty cool, hyung. How much is it all?”
And the owner keys in a number in the register that makes the young man frown, “hyung. I might be bad at maths, but I'm pretty sure you charged me too little. That's about the price you charge me just for the regular things. Did you forget about the rosary?”
The owner blinks before shaking his head, “it's on the house, for being such a loyal customer.”
“Ah… hyung…” The young man whines, “don't put me into a spot. It's not good to take advantage, but I probably will if you insist; I'm a poor, poor student after all. But I will lie in bed and have sleepless nights filled with guilt because hyung was too nice to me.”
The owner laughs, slapping his knees at the puppy face the young man is giving him. “Ahhh… you're too funny. Anyway, if you're really worried about it, you could buy this off me?”
And the owner pulls from under the table, a palm sized crystal ball set on a simple plastic stand. “I've been having trouble selling it. It's a little too hard to work with unfortunately, so it's just been sitting here. So I'm willing to let it go at a quarter of the price.”
“What do you use this for though? Telling the future?”
“Ah no. This isn't powerful enough for that. And telling the future is an inaccurate art, no matter how good you are at it.” The owner taps the crystal. “No, this is a scrying ball.”
“A scrying ball?”
“Yes. You use it to look far away, farther you can walk. Sometimes to places your physical body can't go to.”
“Oh… like the spirit plane?”
The owner pauses, before nodding. “For some people, yeah. It reacts to your heart’s desires and will show you someone that you long to see. But… This one is a bit temperamental. So, it reacts depending on whether it feels like it.”
The young man's eyes have widened, “so… if I wanted to see a vampire, would it show me a vampire?”
The owner laughs, “maybe? No harm trying.”
“Cool. I'll take it then!” the young man grins, “how do I use it though? Do I move my hands above it in mystical movements?”
“Some people do,” the owner admits, “it makes them feel more… mystical I guess. And helps focus their powers. And I guess they do it like you'd try to find a needle in a haystack. But I find it more effective to just be comfortable and stare into the ball until your mind starts to drift and then, when there's a sudden spike or a sudden need… the ball might just react.”
The young man looks like he doesn't quite understand. “So… no mystical waving hands?”
“No… I mean if you find that it helps you can. But—” the owner pauses before he nods, “you just need to go into a trance.”
“A trance! I think that other magazine I bought two weeks ago talked about that. I guess I'll go read that and revise.”
The owner pauses again, eyes darting. “As long as it doesn't involve any drugs.”
“Nah. It just said to download some kind of trance music? They had links and everything.” And the young man is beginning to dig his wallet out, “could you ring me up and pack it all? I just remembered I still need to go to the grocery store to buy flour.”
“Flour?” the owner’s fingers pause as they key in a new amount into the register, although the difference is negligible really. “Planning on baking something?”
“As if my mom would ever let me into the kitchen.” The young man rolls his eyes, “no! Vampires, hyung!”
“Yeah. Did you forget, hyung? You're the one who told me that when covered with flour, vampires will freeze for a couple of minutes so I can get away.”
“Ah.” The confusion in the owner’s eyes clear. “I did tell you that, didn't I? The total will be 14,000 won.”
“Okay. Thanks, hyung!” And the young man watches the owner deftly keep away the cash before pulling out a brown paper bag to put away all of the young man’s purchases. “Ah, anyway hyung. I won't be here for maybe about the next two weeks? It's holiday break, so I'll be going back to Daegu.”
“Oh… Daegu. That's a nice place. That's where I picked him up actually.”
And the cat, who had curled itself around the register, having starting to doze off, blinks and meows when the owner’s hand cards into its fur.
“Oh, demon-cat is from Daegu too? I find that hard to believe. All animals from Daegu tend to like me.”
“It's been a while since he's been back there. He's more a Seoul cat than anything now.” The owner teases before yelping when the car suddenly bites down on his finger. “Hey!”
“See, demon-cat.” The young man snorts, “anyway, do you have any advice on finding the supernatural out in the countryside, hyung? I realized I've never asked you.”
“As opposed to the city?” The owner blinks, “not much difference I guess. But maybe, it'll be easier out there.”
“Really? Why? Is it because there more of them hiding there?”
“No, not really,” the owner shrugs, “I suppose there is a tiny bit more, but not that much. It's just that out in the countryside, they're less on their guard, and are more likely to show their true natures.”
“Eh, ok. Same difference and no difference to me. It just means it's more likely that I can see something cool in the countryside. Maybe I'll be able to scry out a vampire and go hunt them down.”
For a second, the owner’s eyes turn a little worried, even if his posture and tone betrays none of it. “I wish you the best of luck in that. Just remember to bring your tools… and remember to wear the bracelet I gave you.”
“Mmm…” the young man replies, uncommitted, distracted by his phone vibrating, a text message having come in.
And the young man jerks a little, looking up at the owner almost as if compelled, eyes slightly glazed as they lock with the owner's.
“Wear your rosary. Okay?” The owner says quietly. There is an odd tone in his voice that seems to travel, ringing between the vibrations of the air.
A pause. And then Taehyung smiles. “Yeah, of course, hyung. I will.”
The owner stares at Taehyung a little longer before nodding. “Good. Have a safe trip, Taehyung-yah.”
“Thanks, hyung! Don't miss me too much!”
The owner stands at the doorway, watching the young man till he disappears down the street. And then he turns, huffing at the cat. “Oh stop nagging. It's not like the boy can use it, even it's a legitimate scrying ball. The most is he'll get one vision and then that's it. He'd probably get it when he's half asleep even.”
The cat seems to roll its eyes, tail thumping onto the counter. And the owner gasps in indignation.
“I am not undercharging him! He buys so much of the junk we can't get rid of. I feel bad after a while, so it's just a way balancing the scales.”
The cat meows, patting a paw to its own nose.
“I did not! ...Okay, fine, so what if I did put some charms on his camera? They're just small favours, making it sturdier, improving his luck just a little— no. I didn't use my strongest charms. I— no! I used the amortentia for something else! You— ugh you're so annoying!”
The cat meows again, the tone almost smug, even as the owner huffs, pulling out his phone. “I'm just going to ignore you now.”
The cat seems to tilt its head at that, getting to its feet to pad up to the owner's side, standing on its hind legs as it tries to peer at the phone screen.
The owner jerks, letting out a hiss, “so what if I'm texting Hoseok about the news of the Dapsimni-dong killing? I'm just being a good citizen and you know, contributing to giving the peace.”
The cat’s tail lashes even as it falls back onto all fours again.
“Why not Daniel? He's busy enough. Hoseok is a little freer, and he looks at his phone more!”
The cat sniffs, still staring up at the owner with its glowing yellow eyes, and the owner pauses in his typing to glare at the cat. “Okay. What I type to Hoseok is none of your business. I don't need you right now, so you can stay here and mind your own fucking business. Demon-cat.”
And the owner storms away to the back, to also do some stock-taking, but mostly to get away from the cat, even as the cat lets out a noise that sounds far too much like a laugh.
“Oh… Oh no. You're closed.”
The owner pauses from where he’s sweeping the entrance of the shop, a pile of dead leaves and twigs gathered at the doorstep. And he straightens, looking over at the girl who’d just appear with curious eyes. “Mmmm… yes. I just closed a while ago.”
“Oh!” The girl’s face falls even further, “I should have walked a bit faster. Stupid legs…”
The owner can't help but look down at the girl’s legs at the comment. And he notices the way her legs are bent, twisting inwards before she notices his stare and straightens them. “Ah. It's alright. It's my own fault for not being able to walk faster. I'll just come another day.”
And the girl tries to turn around as naturally as she can, but there's no mistaking the uneasy twist of her bones, the slightly lurch in her step, even though she's moving so, so carefully.
“Hey! Wait!” The owner steps forward, the end of his broom dragging lightly on the ground. “The shop isn't closed!”
The girl pauses, turning around with a frown. “Please don't take pity on me like this. I don't need your charity.”
But the owner shakes his head, “no it isn't charity. The shop is closed now to most people, yes. But to certain… special people, my shop never closes.”
The girl wrinkles her nose. “And how is that not charity?”
“Because you're thinking that I'm referring to your legs when I call you special. I'm not, even though, I will admit, your legs are what cued me in about your… ‘specialness’.” And the owner smiles, before leaning his broom against the wall. It is big and gnarly, an ancient thing, the bristles thick and stiff, and not much good other than for the sweeping of leaves. “You can choose not to believe me and keep to your pride, or you can follow me in and have a nice cup of tea.”
The girl stares at the owner’s retreating back and hesitates but for a moment. Then slowly, she turns before starting to hobble forward. Her legs completely turn in as she picks up speed, movements becoming large and sweeping to keep her balance. And yet, there is a practiced grace in her movements, a strength to her bowed legs even as she catches up to the owner at the door.
“Please.” The owner holds the door open, gesturing for her to enter, his face guileless even as she eyes him suspiciously for a moment. But she finally steps in, walking forward to disappear further in, even as the owner follows after, closing the door behind him.
The inside of the shop looks different now at closing time, the windows all closed, blinds drawn. And the girl stares for a bit, almost feeling as if she's on the inside of a pet shop instead, and the stones and various goods feel like living breathing creatures instead, but fast asleep, and so you hold your breath and lighten your step in fear of waking them.
“Come on,” the owner says in a soft voice, and a smile that almost seems like it's saying he understands. “This way.”
And he leads her behind the counter, past what seems like a storeroom and into what seems like a small pantry, and he pulls out a seat for the girl to seat before moving to start the kettle. “Rose or pineapple?”
The girl jumps a little, “sorry… What?”
“Tea.” The owner smiles as he opens one of the cupboards, revealing neat rows if labelled jars. “Rose or pineapple?”
“Pineapple tea?” The girl wrinkles her nose. “That's weird.”
“Hey. Don't diss it before you try it!” The owner shakes his head before taking down the jar labelled ‘pineapple' in neat block letters. “I guess it's pineapple tea then.”
“If you were going to choose it yourself, why ask me?” The girl mutters under her breath before jumping when the owner speaks again. “So, what's your name?”
“Me?” The girl stutters, before wrinkling her nose. “That's kind of rude, asking for my name before even giving your own.”
“Oh. That's right. It is, isn't it?” The owner hums apologetically as he dumps a teaspoon of tea leaves into the strainer. “I'm sorry. It's just been a while. Most people aren't too interested in my name. They're just interested in what I can give them.”
“That's kind of sad,” the girl notes, “but you haven't told me your name yet.”
“It is. And you're right.” The owner sets the teapot down and turns around with a smile. “You can call me ‘Jin' if you'd like.”
There's something about the way the owner says it that makes the girl suspect that it isn't the man's real name. “Is that so? Then I guess you can call me… Hanna.”
“Is that so?” Jin’s smile only widens, and he chuckles to himself. “Nice to meet you then, Hanna.”
Hanna sighs, “same here I guess. But… actually, why are you making me tea? I just wanted to buy a bottle of juice and then I have to go home.”
Jin tilts his head at that, a contemplative look on his face before he shrugs, “well. It is because of that. I'd love to sell you a bottle of juice, but the problem is that I make a set amount of each flavour after the fruits delivery comes at 5 a.m. every morning. And right now, I've completely run out.”
“What?” Hanna stands at that, her mouth curling down, indignant. “Then what did you invite me in for?”
Jin puts a hand on her shoulder as he brings a porcelain jar filled with sugar cubes to the table. “For tea.”
“And to perhaps suggest another thing you might purchase instead of juice of course.”
Hanna pauses at this, her face furrowing into a frown. “What do you mean?”
“Sit.” Jin gently pushes her down again, and she obeys after a moment of hesitation. “I will answer once I finish making the tea. The kettle has boiled.”
Hanna finally sits. But the silence is too much to bear, and after a beat or two, she asks, “but what could I buy? I only have enough for a bottle of juice, and I know even your cheapest healing crystal is more than what I can afford.” Then she scowls, “and don't try to sell me some random thing that you can't get rid of and so try to offload it on me. That will just get me into a worse mood.”
“Mmm…” Jin carefully pours the boiling hot water into the kettle, letting the tea leaves steep inside. “I suppose. But I wasn't thinking about either.”
Then Jin picks up the teapot and brings it over, placing it down onto the marble surface of the small table with a soft click. He looks at the girl and smiles, “how about instead, I grant you one of your wishes?”