The rooster's crow rang loudly in Eirinn's ears. She slowly opened her eyes to greet the morning. She was greeted by the same cramped storage shed as yesterday, the before, and the before that, going back several years. Surprisingly, however, it was incredibly clean inside. The storage shed served as Eirinn's quarters as well, so she cleaned it attentively every day. Summers dawns were really comfortable. Eirinn stretched herself lazily like a cat would and washed up. She filled a basin with cool water. Leaning over it, she stared at her nightmarish reflection.
It's a brand new day! Let's work hard as usual! Go, me! thought she joyfully as she looked at her ugly face.
The weather was great and bolstered her mood. Though her appearance was displeasing and she lived in a wooden shed, she cleaned herself as well as she could. Her apron had some oil stains, but it was still the cleanest mong all the servants.
"You're up early again?" The tavern owner, a pudgy middle-aged woman with a friendly smile asked.
Eirinn knew her otherwise, however. The woman was incredibly cruel to those who made even the slightest mistake, Eirinn had suffered her ire a few times. So, she replied carefully in spite of her jolly mood.
"Madam is up early as well."
You're grooming yourself as though you're some noble lady? thought the woman silently.
Truth be told, the girl her husband had bought was decent; cheerful, honest, and hard-working. A little too hard-working, in fact. She didn't just wash a thousand of dishes every day, she actually had energy left to clean her room and wash her clothes. Seeing her sparkling attire always made her uncomfortable. She wasn't the only one either. The other servers felt the same. So, though Eirinn was bright and cheerful, she didn't get along with her owner and fellow slaves. Many would happily mock or tease her at every chance they got.
"Go wipe the tables when you're done grooming. The weather is good today, so we should get a lot of customers. A cleaner shop won't hurt."
"As you wish, madam."
Eirinn was the dishwasher, cleaning the shop wasn't her responsibility, but she agreed without hesitation.
"Alright, go do your own thing,"
The owner appreciated this about Eirinn more than any other quality. She never had any complaints and always did what she was told obediently. Finished her morning routine by tying her long silver hair into a ponytail before beginning the day's work. Though the other servers had wiped the tables the night before, their haphazard cleaning didn't make much difference. She clasped her cloth tightly, slightly annoyed, and carefully wiped every table until each practically shone.
"I'm finished, Madam." she reported at ten.
The owner had just returned to the tavern with the day's supplies.
"Not bad!" the woman commented, gazing her the tables, "I heard Kensen is sick today. Fill in for him, but make sure you wash the dishes as well."
"Ah?! About that..." Eirinn hesitated.
The last time she took someone else's place as a server, the customers chased her away.
"I'll add ten coppers to your salary if you do this." She waved and considered the matter settled.
Eirinn sighed helplessly. She undid her hair and let it cascade over her face.
Noon eventually came and Eirinn started work as a server. She was scrupulous when she carried the dishes around, mindful not to attract any attention to herself. She made sure her hair was always covering her face. Unfortunately, that was exactly her downfall. Her was could not be more eye-catching, and hanging it over her face made things only worse. Everyone stared at her as she passed them by. The gods must have had a great party the previous evening, as they were uncharacteristically kind today; no one harassed her. She could not wait for the afternoon to come around so her work in front would be done. Most of the customers were locals, so they came in in the morning and went home in the afternoon. But poor Eirinn had to tackle the mountain of dishes.
The owner sat by the entrance where it was coolest, watching over the tavern. A group of men approached. They looked around before pointing at the tavern. Five burly men, the leader sporting a large scar on the corner of his mouth, all clad in worn-out leather, their exposed skin criss-crossed by scars.
"Esteemed guests, please come in!"
Though it was three in the afternoon, the owner called out warmly. Those who had been there for years knew what these men did for a living. In a chaotic and disorderly town like this, bandits were a common sight. Fortunately, all they asked was that locals pay a 'protection fee'. Though they were a scary bunch, they didn't act too wildly. She would not get a dime out of them for whatever they took and used today, but she was used to it and she considered the loss part of the fee. The men bumbled towards the tavern and demanded food and drink in a quick ramble. The owner quickly agreed and had the cook make them something decent.
"Damnit, I didn't think they would be mid-ranked warriors. We suffered badly," complained one in a dejected tone.
The operation was supposed to have been completely usual and uneventful. They would go up to the travelers and demand their usual protection fee. This time, however, their customers had three mid-ranked warriors. The three had no respect for their business and beat them up. They didn't just walk away without their dignity, but without the money they had taken with them.
"Hmph, I remember their faces. I doubt they can stick it out for much longer now. i wonder how long they'll last once Bloodhand makes a move," a second grunted.
"Here are our signature dishes: beef with sauce, honeyed-sausages, and some red wine. Please enjoy!" Eirinn offered fearfully. One look was enough to know they weren't friendly. If she accidentally offended them, she would suffer. She lowered her head the best she could and placed the dishes on the table gently.
She worked year round, but, thanks to her dark-elf bloodline, her hands stayed fair and fine. One of the bandits saw her cute hands and was a little moved. He grabbed one and whispered huskily.
"I'm interest in some... special services. Have a drink!"
"N-no... I'm sorry, we don't serve anything of that sort..." Eirinn drew her hand back. Unfortunately, the motion parted her hair enough to reveal her face.
The five stared at her blankly for a moment before they screamed.
"Motherfucker... Why are we so unlucky? Every time we think we will get our hands on something good, that thing takes a bite out of us! I thought we'd finally met a beauty, but nooooo... she's a monster! The gods must hate us!" roared one as he slammed the table and stood up.
"S-sorry... for being so ugly..." muttered Eirinn, lowering her head frantically.
Things had been bad enough these last two days already, but not he had to see this wench... Watching the pitiful beast, the man felt a dark idea crawl into his mind. He lunched forward and slammed his palm into the girl's face.
"Since you know how ugly you are, why are you out here terrifying people?! What's going on in that fucking head, huh?!"
"Oh my, what's wrong?!" the owner yelped as she ran over.
"Are you the owner?" barked the bandit.
"Yes. What have we done to upset our guests?"
"Upset?" The bandit smirked and pointed at the little monster in front of him, sprawled on the ground. "Is that thing the one you had serve us?! Are you trying to upset our appetites?!"
"She... She's only a dishwasher. Our usual server is absent today, so we had her help out--"
"I don't give a shit. She's stolen our appetites. What you're going to do about it?"
"Whom do you serve, sir?"
If they were just a bunch of hooligans, she wouldn't bother with them. She'd just have the local gangsters kick them out; but if they were part of a huge gang, she couldn't offend them.
"Aren't you a smart one?" One of the bandits waved his thick arm around. Near his wrist was a tattoo of a red devilish hand.
"Bloodhand!" yelped the owner.
She couldn't afford to offend them no matter what. Everyone knew the local gang was part of Bloodhand. Even the boss couldn't compare to these five.
"At least you know your stuff!" the bandit said gleefully, "How you plan to make it up to us, hmm?"
A trembling smile instantly covered the owner's face.
"Ah, I didn't think Bloodhand would patronize my humble establishment. It is a great honor. To celebrate, everything is on the house. Eat as much as you like."
"That's better." The bandits knew there were rules when it came to turfs. Since their goal was to get a free meal to begin with, they didn't really want to stir up too big a commotion.
However, the fallen Eirinn still caught their attention. One bandit turned to the owner.
"This wench spoiled our appetite. What are you going to do about her?"
The owner glanced at the collapsed girl.
"I leave that up to you fine gentlemen. She's a slave, since she offended you, we leave her to you gentlemen to make it up as you see fit. Please just don't kill her. We would have to buy and train a new one if you did."
"Since you know how to do things, I will consider how her death will affect you and not kill her." the bandit drew his dagger and approached Eirinn with a sinister smile. "So, she's a dishwasher, huh? I'd like to see how dishes are washed without fingers!"
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