Chapter 5: Rebirth
"So that's the boy you used to play with back then? The boy that would always send you home crying because he beat you in another game?" Juro asked, peering out of his office window at the business across the street.
"That's him. Seems he's grown up. Physically anyway, since he still has an obsession with beating me. I guess that'll mean he'll drag this competition into his little scheme, trying to make it just another game." Junko tried to make Akio seem like the bad guy here. Of course, her father believed her words.
"I see then. I suppose that means we're truly at war now. No matter. I suppose it'll be a short lived battle. Though that boy could indeed play a factor, I'm not sure that they'd be able to save that restaurant. It's only a matter of time before their doors close for good. I'll buy that place out and make that apart of my empire as well. I give them to the end of the Summer." Juro was more than confident in this. He turned around to smile at his daughter. "But I ask that you get close to that boy. Make it obvious, or keep it a secret. It won't matter either way."
Junko was obviously surprised by her father's request. "Wouldn't you need my help here? Like you said, Aki- I mean, Nishimura could play a factor here. I should stay here and help as much as I can."
"That won't be necessary. We have quite enough hands on deck as we speak. There's no need to use resources when they're not needed." Juro didn't mean it to sound as bad as it did. But he wouldn't correct himself. "Please Junko. It's a simple favor. Help me here and you will beat him once and for all."
His daughter had to think this over. Sure, she wanted to help her father and his business as best she could, but she actually wanted to be in the restaurant when doing so. "I guess I can do it. I'll go over once the lunchtime crowd starts to die down…" Junko agreed, earning her another smile from her father. "I knew I could trust you." Juro gave his young daughter a kiss on the forehead.
"Hinata! Hinata! You're pulling that way too tight!" Akane tried to scream at her friend, but the small girl refused to listen. "Give me a minute to catch my breath!" The redhead was being forced into the maid outfit she hated once again, and now, since it'd be her official uniform, it needed to be fitted just perfectly.
"Trust me, Akane~ I make my own cosplay all the time. There's no reason to freak out now. You'll look great in the end. Just put up with the pain for now~" With another tug of the ties of the apron that Akane would now be wearing, Hinata began her adjustments. A purple tint appeared on Akane's forehead. Hopefully, this was the worst of things.
Akio and Isamu could hear Akane's yelling all the way by the front counter. There was a faint blush worn on Akio's face. His teenage mind couldn't help but imagine whatever situations were taking place behind the break room door. "You must be happy." Isamu spoke, bringing Akio back to reality. "Akane hasn't forgotten you. Not even for a moment. Once you and your mother moved away, she made me promise that she could work here the moment she was old enough. Since then, I've practically watched that girl grow up. You have no idea how refreshing it is to know she has remained just as innocent as she was back then."
Akio didn't expect his grandfather to bring up the subject. His grandfather wasn't the kind of person to suddenly become serious. "I am pretty happy. She's just as I remember her. Though she does have a much more mature appearance, but I think that just makes her all the better. I'm really glad she remembers me."
"Make sure you take good care of that girl. I know she'll be relying on you for that soon enough." Isamu was grinning as he took a sip of his drink. "What do you mean by that?" Akio asked, but just before Isamu could give him an answer, they were interrupted by the girls bursting out of the break room.
"Ta-da~! Behold your newest maids, Masters!" Hinata was all too chipper about this. The two girls stood in their recently modified maid uniforms, and it was quite evident by the deep red blush on Akane's face that she wouldn't be enjoying this. Akio was trying to calm himself down from the sight before him.
"W-Wipe that expression off of your face." Akane whispered out, but Akio was in too much of a trance to even realize that she was talking.
"Akane, you need to accept the fact that you look adorable in that~!" Hinata complimented her friend, but Akane just wasn't having it. "Enough already… I get it." Akane muttered out, but that didn't stop Hinata pestering her or Akio's staring.
"Well isn't this cute?" A voice broke the scene up. In the doorway was none other than Junko, resulting in the mood crashing right into the ground. The blush that once rested upon Akane's cheeks was long gone. Her expression was changed to one of annoyance and anger. "I came over to see what kind of competition I was dealing with, but it doesn't seem like anything is really happening here. It doesn't seem like anything more than an attempt at copying my father's work. A really bad attempt at that." Normally, Junko wouldn't be so hostile. But her father's orders really pushed this side out of her.
Akane's hands balled into fists. The redhead took several angry steps towards the competition's daughter. Even a light hearted girl like Akane could easily be sent over the edge by such words. Especially if those words came from someone who brought such negative feelings. "You know, when we went into your dad's restaurant, we didn't criticize anything! What gives you the right to do that?" Akane raised her voice for the very first time. It was obvious that she and Junko would not be getting along.
"Criticize? I'm pointing out the obvious. And you should be begging me to be critiquing you, since it appears you don't know how to pick out a maid outfit that isn't meant to be worn by an elementary school student. Maybe if you actually knew what kind of outfit to put on, this place wouldn't be in trouble." Junko was really getting under Akane's skin.
"You're one to talk! Maybe you should try wearing something that doesn't make you look like a-" Akio was quick to cover Akane's mouth. The girl was so enraged at that point that she was tempted to bite Akio's hand just so she could finish her sentence. That was until Akio pointed outwards towards the entrance of the building. There was a small crowd of teens who seemed to be having a rather serious conversation.
"They keep looking in this direction. Do you think they're considering coming in here?" Hinata asked, taking a seat on one of the chairs set before the counter. "Don't be stupid~ Like they'd ever even consider-" Before Junko could further insult the company, the group of teenagers did indeed walk into the restaurant, surprising even Isamu.
"C-Can we help you?" Akio asked, his hand still covering Akane's mouth.
"Yeah. We saw you guys in those outfits… Is this one of those cosplay cafes?" One of the members asked, resulting in a bright reaction from Isamu's employees. Junko looked almost disgusted. "You know there's an even bigger Cosplay cafe right across the street, right?" No one could cover Junko's mouth in time, but it didn't seem like that'd play an issue.
"We know. We've been there a lot, but the food hasn't been the best since it's been getting more popular. Plus, the maids aren't as cute anymore. We figured we'd give the smaller place a chance." Before they could be convinced otherwise, Akane had escaped from Akio's hand and grabbed an armful of menus. With a wide smile, she formally greeted the customers. "Right this way~ I'll lead you to a table~" Just like that, the outfits seemed to work like a charm. Things were falling into place for them.
"This is impossible…" Junko muttered, being pushed aside by Hinata as she was motioned to join Isamu behind the counter. "How did you get customers so easily? That's not even remotely fair…"
"It's really not about how fair things are. Things just seem to be turning our way for now. I guess it's all up to who's the better business." Akio informed his renewed rival. The pinkette seemed like she wanted to hit him right then and there. Akio made the first move, but it was just his hand extending to hers. "May the best man win~"