Kei is faced with a whole new problem which is brought to his attention by the energetic Aoe and rather frantic Tonoin. However try as he might there is no way he can possibly avoid assisting these two as they attempt to create a high class bar at the Scion Hotel.
I hope you enjoy,
Glass 3: The Oldest Liquor
There are many different spirits in a bar; each of them is just as important as the other and ever so delicate. When treated with respect the spirits will act the way in which they should, however when abused they spoil and become toxic. Kei caressed a green bottle of liquor with a soft rag and smiled, he could see his reflection perfectly in the bottle. It amused him how clear it was. "It's always nice to see how well you can shine," he said happily as he gently replaced the bottle on the shelf. The words of his sempai still hung in his mind; they were the ones in which spelt one of the most sacred laws of a bartender. The chime on the door sang and he called, "Welcome!" He slowly turned around to see the familiar sighed of a ragged Tonoin and a frustrated Aoe. He could tell this wasn't going to be an easy evening. He smiled and looked at the pair as they perched on the stools at the bar. "So frustrating, that meeting went so poorly," she commented. Tonoin nodded and looked at Kei, "He was beyond difficult, and to think we asked him to design our bar." Kei looked at him and realized that they were asking him for advice. He sighed and placed the bottle he was cradling in his hands on the shelf. "What happened exactly and who was the designer?" asked Kei curiously.
Aoe looked at him and smiled, "Well we invited Sebastian Livingston to design the new bar for the Scion. We felt he would be perfect to design it," she said with a note of confidence. Kei's brown eyes widened and he asked enthusiastically, "Livingston, the wine collector?" Aoe nodded as she tucked a strand of her long brown hair behind her ear and continued, "We took him out to dinner, however," she paused and glanced at Tonoin. He sighed and continued, "Things didn't go as well as we had hoped." Kei looked at them and began to wonder what happened, this seemed to be much more serious than he thought. "We took him to a number of bars and finally a tea house. The Sakura House, we called for a Mieko and served him sake. However he stated he simply wanted to return to the hotel. Naturally we convinced him to continue with us through Ginza, we showed him all of the best bars. However," Tonoin paused and rubbed the back of his neck. "He went ballistic and stated that we were wasting his time," he said sheepishly. Kei rubbed the side of his nose; there could have been a number of things which had set off Mr. Livingston. One of them could have been how pushy Tonoin was and another could have been the number of bars he had been dragged to. It was as though they were telling the designer what they desired. The final fact was that he could just dislike sake; "Did he dislike sake?" asked Kei, he was well aware most foreigners didn't care for the taste of it. Aoe shook her head and shrugged, "I really have no idea." Kei smiled and lifted his hand to his chin, "Was the Mieko a bad cook? She wasn't pretty enough?" he asked and Aoe turned several shades red. She glared at Kei and snapped, "That has nothing to do with it. Don't interrupt my work if you're only going to say stupid things." Kei held up his hands and sighed and glanced at Tonoin, "Then Tonoin should do a belly dance," he murmured. Tonoin turned white as a sheet, he remembered the comment he had made at the Tea House. He had gotten rather drunk and was joking about belly dancing for Mr. Livingston. He looked at Kei and commented, "I don't think forging exotic dancers are in the budget." Kei sighed and picked up a glass, he slowly began polishing it, "Did I get too carried away with this? I could get fired for this" he moaned. Kei sighed and nodded, "That's rough."
Kei held the glass in the light and noticed Aoe's face reflected in it. She seemed crestfallen and he realized that this evening had been difficult for her. "Are you happy with the bar?" asked Kei slowly; perhaps they had intended to show this designer what they felt a bar should be like. Aoe sat up and looked at her hands which rested on the bar counter, "That's the thing," she murmured, "I don't particularly care for it, it feels wrong." Kei looked at her and gave a sympathetic smile, he was well aware that every bar was different however he hadn't expected this. He placed the glass down and asked, "Can I get you anything to drink?" Tonoin nodded and replied, "Old Par on the rocks." Kei nodded and turned to grab the bottle. He poured the warm amber colored liquid over a perfectly chiseled piece of ice in a glass and placed it in front of Tonoin. Aoe whispered, "So if you get a god of liquor to make you something then your prayers have to be answered." Kei looked over at her and asked, "Sorry?" his eyebrows peaked. Aoe slammed her hand on the counter causing Tonoin's glass to rattle violently, "I've decided to ask you anyway," she declared. Kei jumped back and looked at her in confusion. "What?" he asked in a panic, he had no idea what she meant. "Please you're the only one who can help us fix this," she begged and Kei's eyes widened as he looked at her dumbfounded. "Whoa hold on," he said as he held up his hands. Once again he felt like he was under gunpoint with her. "This is my last chance to bring about a miracle," said Tonoin as he bowed, his forehead touched the bar counter. "Please all I need you to do is distract him," she said enthusiastically. Kei sighed and shook his head, "With what?" he asked. Aoe glared at him and shouted, "Your cocktails!" Kei stood there like a deer at the headlights and sighed, this was perhaps the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard. He sighed and noticed the desperation in her eyes, it was the same as when she had asked him to serve a cocktail to Tonoin. He sighed and his brow furrowed, "Alright," he responded.
Several days later Kei found himself back in the Sky Lounge, only this time the bar was fully installed. He looked around, it was as bright and windy as it had been before however the bar threw everything off. Aoe turned to an assistant, "He's here to help us out," she said to the woman. Kei stepped behind the counter and looked at the shelves which were lined with bottles. They were lined with glass and had fluorescents illuminating them. He sighed inwardly and shook his head, this was defiantly wrong, he picked up a bottle of Cassius and asked, "This," he paused and looked around the bar. "Did a world famous wine collector really design this?" Aoe looked at him and watched as he placed the bottle of Cassius on the shelf. Aoe nodded and replied, "Yup, it's a stunning design too, in fact he designed the whole lounge. You can see Mt. Fuji from all faces," she was cearly proud of this. Kei scowled and looked at her, "He's here, I'll introduce you," she said quickly. Kei looked at the tall middle aged man, he had silver hair and a pair of transparent blue eyes, his skin was creased with wrinkles like a sheet in the wind and his beard was trimmed closely. "I can't believe it," he commented as he looked at the man's long strides, he was wearing an expensive suite and his watch winked when the light hit it. "Yup, he's the real deal," she commented. Kei asked quickly, "Is he a fake?" Aoe's mouth popped open in shock and she looked over at him, "No, and watch it he speaks Japanese," she commented. Kei looked at him suspiciously, "He knows Japanese? All the more suspicious," he said loudly.
Mr. Livingston looked in Kei's direction and Kei continued, "The carpenter must have made a mistake." Mr. Livingston's blue eyes narrowed violently and he strode over to meet the loud bartender. Kei looked up at Livingston, who towered over him at 193 cm, "This is the worlds worst bar," said Kei as he looked into a pair of stormy gray eyes. Livingston looked at Kei and asked, "Who are you?" Kei smiled and pointed to himself as he replied, "I'm what they call a bartender in Japan, as you can see." He gestured to the vest and tie he was wearing, as always Kei looked the part. All that was missing was his black apron. Livingston murmured, "Bartender, are you the one who made me that cheap tasting mixed drink the other day?" Kei glanced over at Aoe who shook her head and called over her assistant. It was obvious she wasn't aware that he had ordered a cocktail. "The taste was rancid, the worst mix drink I have ever had," he raved. Kei looked at him and answered honestly, "No, I did not make your drink." He watched as Livingston turned several shades red and exploded, "Then what are you doing here?" Kei noticed Tonoin cowering in the corner and he replied, "I was asked here to look at the design." His voice was sincere and it was clear Kei refused to weaver from his original statement. Livingston glared at him and roared, "You were asked to look at my design! You're kidding, you must be. This is one of my designs, a Sebastian Livingston design!"
Kei understood immediately what made Aoe so upset, "Yes I understand this bar's design better than you do," he replied. Livingston looked as though he were going to explode, "What?" he roared with irritation. Kei stood silently and Tonoin interjected, "I apologize we only asked him to look at the bar." Livingston turned to Tonoin, his eyes narrowed dangerously and he clenched his fists. "When I took this job, I questioned whether Japanese could appreciate real design. Then you bring this in to question my work," he snarled and looked at Tonoin, "I'm getting on a plane tomorrow and contacting my lawyer!" Tonoin stared in shock and it finally occurred to him what had happened, "No wait, please," he called anxiously as he attempted to stop Livingston from leaving. "What is wrong with you?" shouted Aoe, "You cost us both our jobs!" Kei looked over at her, she was furious and he sighed, "There is no way I can forgive him for a design like this, especially as a professional," he replied sternly. Aoe pointed at him and murmured, "Can't forgive him," her voice faded as she watched Tonoin attempt to stop him, "But." She looked at Kei who clearly had no issue with what he had just done. "That's not what you call being a professional! You are always so concerned about the face of the bar and yet when you are outside of it you do this! How can you freely call your self a pro?" she shouted and pointed at him. Kei stared at her in shock, and she frowned, it looked as though she was on the verge of tears. She was truly disappointed with him, "This doesn't suite you at all," she whispered. Kei tilted his head to the side, she had managed to snag him with his own wisdom, "Man," he groaned. He looked at Livingston who was speaking with Tonoin. It was apparent they were discussing legal matters, "Win collector huh?" mumbled Kei. Aoe looked over at him in confusion and Kei grinned.
"Livingston-san, I actually have an aged liquor I would like you to try," said Kei brightly, his eyes glistened with the same mischievous spark Aoe had seen the first time she had seen him mix a cocktail. Livingston paused and looked over his shoulder, "An aged liquor?" Kei nodded confidently, he had him, "It's an aged liquor from my collection," he replied. Livingston looked at him and laughed, "I have a rare bottle of Chateau d'Yquem from 1784 valued at over ten thousand pounds sterling at auction and a bottle of 1945 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild Jeroboam valued at 70,518.67 pounds sterling. An aged liquor he says," he mused. Kei responded firmly, "Yes it's an aged liquor, one of the oldest in fact." Livingston stared at him and asked in shock, "What?" Kei nodded and continued, "If I bring the bottle in tomorrow will you continue the design?" he asked as he gestured to the bar. Livingston's laughter boomed through the room, however Kei didn't budge, he stood there and waited for an answer. Livingston's laughter subsided and he looked at the determined Japanese bartender. "Interesting, I'll respond to you in all seriousness. I will uphold your conditions and indulge you," Livingston replied. The corners of Kei's lips quirked up and the giant continued, "However, if I find that you do not actually own this rare bottle, you'll not only have insulted me as a designer but as a wine collector as well." Kei nodded, his black bangs swayed as he lifted his head. "Naturally," said Kei with a grin on his face. Livingston glared and said confidently, "Bring this bottle here at nine tomorrow night, are you ready?" Kei simply looked up at Livingston and nodded. The foreign blue eyed giant turned on his heel and walked out of the bar.
Aoe sagged as she leaned against the bar and Tonoin looked at the counter, the pair looked as though they had danced several rounds with the man. Kei relaxed and walked over to the pair, he smiled and lightly said, "I thought I tease Livingston's design," he chuckled like a school boy. Tonoin looked at Kei and asked, "Do you really own a bottle of wine valued over 300,000 yen?" It was clear he was nervous and he looked at Kei, there was a hint of fear in his eyes. "Nope," said Kei flatly and Tonoin stared at him in shock. "I'm finished if this doesn't work out," he mumbled, "I'll never be taken seriously again." Kei was grinning confidently and Aoe noticed a certain air about him, it was clear he had something up his sleeve again.
Livingston sat at his table in his room in a Yukata, his legs crossed and a glass of red wine resting in his fingers. The bottle reset on the table, it was tucked away in a cloth. "An aged liquor," he murmured. He looked at the dark red color of the liquid in the red wine glass and gave it a swirl. "The oldest liquor," he mused, he licked his lower lip and placed the red wine glass on the table. He crossed his arms and looked at the bottle on the table, "There's no way a Japanese bartender could come across a bottle with that kind of value. He must be lying," he said confidently before picking the glass up again. He took a sip and continued, "He doesn't even have the pallet to appreciate something of such high quality, I'm getting hyped up like an idiot." He took another sip and paused, the bartender was young and naïve to think that he knew better than Livingston about his bar. "Unless," he paused and looked at the glass, "he bought it regardless of the coast for the look of the bottle." He placed the glass back on the table and closed his eyes; he could imagine the rich bouquet as he took a whiff, the velvety texture on his tongue, the sheer thought drove him mad. "Oh," he moaned he was lost in the thought of a bottle being that old. He sighed and then began to wonder what the bottle looked like. He got up and slowly paced the length of the room, "If it was a port wine it would only be a little over 200 years old, Mariners on the sea could have brought the bottle, even the Dutch," he turned on his heel. "No, how would the bottle get to Japan?" he asked in irritation. He looked at the glass on the table and began to wonder how it would be served, "Something that old can't possibly be served normally," he mused. There must have been a way to enjoy such a rare opportunity, he glanced across the room and looked at the bottle, "Even the bottle's appearance would be different, it would be stout with a wide round base and made of clay like other 17th century wines. The bid accepted would be close to 200,000 yen in previous markets, but with this economy it would be worth much more," he commented as he made his way back across the room.
Livingston paused in the front of the desk, "The wine would have to be over 300 years old, oh 300 years of maturity. I would die for just a lick of it. A lick of 300 years of flavor," he murmured. He paused and realized he was licking the tips of his fingers which were dripping with his own saliva and he shook his head, "That brat, if this is a lie there is no way I'll forgive him," he responded angrily before sending the hotel stationary to the floor which had been sitting on the desk with the sweep of his hand.
Kei looked at his watch as he stepped out of the lift with the brown bag in his arms. He sauntered over to the bar and noticed Livingston sitting eagerly at the bar. Aoe and Tonoin were sitting on either side of him, and looked anxious. Kei smiled as he slipped behind the counter. He reached in the bag and pulled out his black apron, "You look tired Livingston-san," he commented as he swiftly tied the black fabric around his waste. Livingston glared at him and shouted, "Quit talking and serve the world's oldest wine." Aoe and Tonoin jumped in shock and Kei looked at Livingston, there was a ghost of a smile on his lips as he pulled the bottle which was tucked in a white linen from the bag. "Well?" he asked with a smile. Livingston stared all he could see was the clear neck of the bottle, "Trying to secretly test me with this brand?" he asked sharply. Kei closed his eyes and replied, "No, but I think you will understand the recent precautions." Kei pulled a wine glass and slowly uncapped the bottle. Livingston watched curiously as golden liquid fell from the bottle and cascaded as it hit the walls of the red wine glass. "White?" asked Livingston in confusion. Kei lifted the bottle slowly and placed the glass before Livingston. "Would you two like a glass?" he asked cautiously, Aoe and Tonoin simply shook their heads. He picked up the glass and slowly sniffed it's contents. The scent was still there, however it didn't smell like a typical white wine. He slowly lifted the glass to his lips and took a sip. The texture was smooth and the taste was light and slightly sweet. "Chateau d' Yequem? No it's too heavy for that. No it must be Dutch," he mused. He held the glass in his fingers and continued, "The flavor is defiantly one of a white wine, however, the feeling was entirely different than a traditional white." He took another whiff of the bottle and whispered, "This smell."
Kei placed the wine on the shelf behind the bar and Livingston nearly dropped the glass. "Don't put that there!" he shouted as he practically leapt over the bar. "If you put it in direct sunlight the wine will," he paused and stared at the bar, his eyes wide and Kei looked at him curiously. He slowly settled on the stool and looked as though he had just condemned himself. "Such a grievous mistake," he murmured. Aoe and Tonoin looked at one another confused and then to Kei. There was silence and Kei looked at Livingston, "Correct if I place the wine on that shelf the degradation process will begin," he stated coldly and Aoe stared at Livingston in shock. "The florescent lights will triggered this process and untimely destroy the liquor." He looked at the shelves behind him and continued, "You're exposing liquor and distilled liquor to direct sun, rather than the interior. You thought that these were beneath wine." Kei gestured to the hundred of bottles in every color, with a number of different labels and ranging in age and continued, "But you're very wrong. They aren't cheap or expensive in a bar, they're all Sprits. All of them are needed."
Aoe looked at Tonoin and whispered, "So that's why he was furious yesterday." Livingston looked at Kei and stammered, "I see it now! I understand what I've done! Just take the wine off the shelf!" Kei looked at him and the corners of his lips quirked up again in a playful smirk. "Wine?" he asked as he picked up the bottle. He closed his eyes and held it up for all three of them to see, "I told you it was merely an aged liquor." His eyes flickered open as he removed the linen cloth from around the bottle, "I never said it was wine." The linen cloth fell to the counter of the bar and the three stared in shock at the bottle. "This taste and that aroma was?" asked Livingston in shock. Kei nodded and replied simply, "Yes, it's Mead." Kei placed the bottle on the table and Livingston stared at the bottle. "Wine was said to be made pre-fifth millennia, however Mead's lineage is far longer. It has been made for centuries and has been said to be the origin of liquor," Kei said politely. Aoe stared at him and said, "So the world's oldest liquor is Mead." Kei nodded and Tonoin interjected, "Is it expensive?" Kei grinned and shook his head, "No, I can make it myself with water and honey or purchase a bottle for 3,000 yen," he replied smoothly. Tonoin stared at the bottle and murmured, "So 3,000 yen," he looked nervous and his hands shook, "so that's," he paused and laughed nervously. He was unsure of how Livingston was going to respond, he had been sitting silently staring at the bottle. His expression was blank and it was obvious that he hadn't expected this of the bartender before him. "Hey brat," he grumbled and everyone turned their attention to Livingston who was trembling. Aoe slowly backed away in fear as he continued, "This kept me awake all night. For Mead!" He looked up at Kei, he smiled and the room was filled with the giant's laughed again, only this time it was light hearted and warm. Aoe looked at him in confusion and Kei replied, "That would be correct."
Kei looked at Livingston and asked kindly, "Would you like another glass?" Livingston paused and stared as Kei pulled a silver shaker from behind the bar. "A cocktail?" he asked curiously. He heard a piece of ice hit the bottom of the shaker with a tap. Kei had a glistening silver jigger between his fingers and measured two ounces of Mead and poured them into the shaker. He slowly pulled a bottle of Benedictine and poured ¼ of an ounce into the Jigger and transferred it into the shaker. Livingston watched as Kei opened a bottle of Cointeru and measure ½ and ounce. He was mesmerized as he watched Kei work. Kei's number fingers slowly squeezed a lemon, he was gentle as he gently pressed it against the Citrus squeezer. In moments he had measured ¾ an ounce of the juice and added it to the shaker. Kei attached the lid and lifted the shaker effortlessly, he began to shake the silver canister and said, "As for wine, it the traditional and most prominent cultural practice. Which is the reason why Mead isn't as popular as it once was." He continued to shake the cocktail and Livingston listened in awe to the young bartender. "It's not the most prominent liquor," he said calmly, "There are approximately 10,000 different kinds of liquor in the world." Livingston stared in shock, "What?" Kei hummed and continued, "10,000 different flavors, but with the cocktails flavor the possibilities are endless." He ceased shaking and popped the top off and began to pour the cocktail through the strainer. "The customer's thoughts and memories come together with taste and history," he said as he poured the dark golden liquid into a chilled cocktail glass. Kei slid the glass across the table and said, "Here." Livingston's gray eyes fell on the cocktail glass and he asked curiously, "What is this?" Kei smiled and replied, "It's a Honeymoon, with a twist." He looked at Livingston with a smile and said, "Instead of traditional Calvados I mixed this one with Mead." A pair of gray eyes lit with joy and Livingston repeated with a sweet smile, "A Honeymoon?" Kei nodded and he watched Livingston's large fingers wrap around the glass. "I heard from Tonoin that you had been remarried recently." Livingston gingerly took a sip and smiled, "Wonderful, the sweet taste is like a floral bouquet inside the honey," he purred with delight, "the taste compares to high brow white wines."
Kei scratched the side of his nose, "I believe that the name of the cocktail, Honeymoon, comes from the fact that the couple would drink Mead as they procreated," he said and Tonoin looked up at him curiously. "There's also an analeptic effect in the honey," he commented. Livingston's gaze softened, he had been floored by Kei, "Tonoin, it was a wonderful idea," he boomed with joy. Tonoin jumped and looked at him in confusion, "Huh?" he asked. Livingston smiled brightly and continued, "Did you go as far as asking a bartender to make a special cocktail for me?" his harsh façade melted into a warm and inviting one. "To go this far for me," he said with a smile as he looked at the contents of the glass. "So you will continue with the design?" asked Aoe in confusion. Livingston shook his head and then looked at Kei. "No," he sated flatly, "This bar needs to be redesigned first!" he exclaimed. Tonoin stared in shock at Livingston and Aoe's mouth dropped open. "It's going to be a heavy schedule for myself and you guys as well," he continued. A wave of joy washed over Aoe's face and she commented, "Wonderful."
Tonoin jumped out of his seat and said, "Misaki-kun, we've been blessed. It's a miracle." There was a note of joy in his voice and Livingston looked confused. "Blessed?" he asked curiously. Aoe turned to him and realized he had no idea who had just served him that cocktail, "Yup, you were just served a glass by the man nicknamed, "God of Glass" a true blessing," she commented with a smile. He looked at the glass and murmured, "God's glass? I see now." He looked up to see Kei cleaning up his mess and slowly packing the mead gently back into the brown bag. He was gently as he finished tucking the linen back around the bottle. His thick lips curved into a smile and he chuckled, a young bartender had managed to floor him. "I want to start redesigning as soon as possible, excuse me," he said as he turned on his heel. Tonoin and Aoe jumped out of there seats and were about to run after him until Livingston came to a halt. He looked over his shoulder and asked, "By the way, when is your birthday?" Kei looked at him slightly confused and replied, "October 10th 1987." Livingston smiled and looked at him, "1987," he said softly. "Livingston-san?" asked Kei curiously, his eyebrows peaked. "Sebastian please, I look forward to seeing you more in the future," said Livingston, "Mister?" Aoe and Tonoin looked shocked; Kei was given permission to address this man by his first name. "Kei, Uzuki Kei," replied Kei with a nod. Sebastian smiled, his eyes seemed to sparkle and he sighed, "Well Kei, it seems god is certainly pleased with you," he commented before leaving. Kei stood at the bar in confusion and watched the three scurry off, with a new heading. This time they were going to design a bar which everyone would enjoy. He sighed and leaned against the counter, "Even exhausted foreign giants need a sweet cocktail to relax them," he said happily. He finished cleaning the citrus press and placed it back in the drawer he had found it in. His eyes glistened as he took a soft rag and began to wipe down the counter.
"Uzuki Kei?" asked a soft voice, Kei looked up to see the woman who was working as Aoe's assistant standing there. She had short black hair and dark brown eyes, "Yes?" asked Kei as he stopped whipping the counter. "This is for you," said the young woman as she held out a folded piece of paper. Kei nodded and took it, in moments he opened it and smiled, "It seems I've been invited to drinks to celebrate the renegotiation this Thursday," he said happily. The woman nodded and waited patiently for his reply. "Of course I'll go," he said happily. He stared as she bowed and trotted off to see Aoe. He sighed and shook his head, everyone at Scion was so diligent, it was somewhat frightening.
The bar was warm and everyone's spirits were high as Kei ordered another Gin Fizz. Kei sighed and asked, "So why did Livingston leave for England again?" He looked at Tonoin curiously, he had been informed that the contract had been renegotiated and Livingston had every intention of redesigning the Scion's Sky Lounge. "His knew wife is 25 years younger than him, and oddly she got jealous of Aoe," said Tonoin and he shrugged. Aoe shook her head and took a sip of her Cassius Orange. "But after that he'll drink the Honeymoon cocktail every day," said Tonoin in amusement. Kei lifted his hand to his mouth and said, "I expect its that analeptic effect," he mused. Aoe was quick to spit her drink back into her glass and began to cough. Kei usually said things which were unconventional, however this was defiantly something she didn't see coming. Kei laughed and looked at Aoe who looked very embarrassed. "I was shocked, he didn't seem like a lewd man at all," she commented. Kei chuckled and looked at her and Tonoin gripped his sides as he laughed. "Very cute you guys," she pouted and looked down at her bag. "Ah, Kei this is for you," she said as she reached into it and pulled a bottle wrapped in brown paper. Kei looked at the package and asked, "From?" Aoe sighed and replied, "Mr. Livingston." Kei looked even more confused as he slowly untied the piece of twine which held the top of the package together. He opened the brown paper to find a bottle of 1987 Bourgogne Romanne-Conti. His brown eyes widened and he spotted a note which had been tucked in the paper, "To the God of Glass, may you guide others to happiness," read the card.