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Chapter 7: Grapes
“Hey, you,” the man said out of the blue.
He was talking to a human drinking tea at an open-air cafe. She was in her mid-teens with short black hair, large eyes, and fair features. She wore a black jacket and a thick belt, and had a holstered hand persuader strapped to her right thigh.
The man was about 30 years of age. He was an ordinary man in ordinary clothes.
The man nodded. And he pointed at the motorrad propped up by the roadside, with compartments hanging form either side of its rear wheel.
“Is the motorrad yours? Are you a traveler?”
“Yes. We arrived here yesterday,” the traveler replied, and introduced herself. “My name is Kino. This is my partner, Hermes.”
“I see. So how long are you going to go on with this foolishness?” the man demanded, standing over the traveler.
“What do you mean?” Kino replied emotionlessly.
“Traveling on a motorrad. You’re young. Shouldn’t you be in school? Or working, if your country doesn’t have higher education?”
“Well…it’s hard to explain,” Kino replied, shrinking slightly.
“Excuse me,” the man said, and took a seat across from Kino. He glared. “You enjoy traveling?”
“Even though it’s a waste of time?”
Kino was silent. The man sounded like a teacher scolding a misbehaving student.
“You may enjoy it now. But traveling won’t help you in the future. All you get are bragging rights. ‘I’ve been here. I’ve been there.’ And it might make you look free, but all I see is someone abandoning all responsibility. You’re just a vagrant.”
Kino sipped her tea in silence. The man continued.
“People have responsibilities. One is to work. To get a job and work in service of other people and the country, like a proper member of society. The second one’s more like a human duty: to marry and have children. To make your spouse happy, and raise kids who’ll go into the society you shape. Not something you could do on the road, am I wrong?”
“No,” Kino said, smiling.
The man sped up. “Which is why, like I said, traveling is a waste of time. It sounds harsh, I know, but I have the right to say this stuff because I’m a working man with a family to support. So I want you to take your life more seriously. That’s the whole reason I’m talking to you. For your own good.”
“Of course. I’ll keep that it mind.”
“And one more thing,” said the man.
“Get rid of that motorrad, too.”
“Really?” Kino asked.
“Yes, really. It’s dangerous, and only seats two. Outdated and barbaric, I say. A real adult doesn’t ride around something that worries his family. It would be self-centered. Switch to a car that actually fits all your loved ones. Traveling on a motorrad is a waste of time and energy.”
Kino glanced at Hermes. “Thank you for your concern. But I’d like to continue traveling.”
The man’s face seemed to stiffen. He pointed a finger at Kino, his tone growing firm. “You didn’t listen to a word of what I said. No respect for your elders, I see. But I guarantee, if you keep wasting your youth like this…” Suddenly, the man looked at his watch. He paled in an instant. “Then you’re going to regret this!” he cried, not even bothering to finish the sentence properly, and disappeared.
“What a weirdo. What’s got him so angry?” Hermes wondered.
“You were awake?” Kino said. “I don’t know. Maybe he’s got something against travelers and motorrads?” She picked up her tea with one hand and opened up a map with the other. “Anyway, let’s go visit the temple in the south once I’m done with this. Someone told me that the view was worth selling your parents for.”
“Okay. Lots of stuff to see here, huh.”
“Yeah. I wonder if I’ll be able to fit it all in three days. I want to look at the huge prehistoric animal bones in the north, and the view from the road on the rocky mountains in this area. Then I want to try the grilled groundfish and check out the outdoor concert in the evening. And—”
The man rushed to the entrance of a shopping district. Waiting for him there was an old woman, a woman about 30 years of age, and two children. They all cast him chilling looks.
“What took you? Parking the car shouldn’t take this long!” hissed the woman, who seemed to be his wife.
The man apologized over and over again and bowed his head.
“Tch. I don’t know what I was expecting,” the woman spat.
That was when a traveler on a motorrad passed by with a roar of the engine. The traveler waved to the man and disappeared.
“Who was that?” asked the woman.
The man quickly explained that the passerby was a traveler he spoke briefly with earlier. His wife’s eyes turned to dinner plates.
“A traveler! Honey, are you still dreaming about going off to travel alone?”
The man shook his head in denial.
“You mean it, right?”
He flinched at her frigid gaze. “I mean it. How could I leave my job and my family to travel?”
“I’m glad to hear that,” the woman said, turning, but she turned right back around. “Wait! You didn’t try riding the motorrad, did you? You promised me you wouldn’t! I swear, if you so much as touch a motorrad, we are getting a divorce!”
The man floundered. “O-of course not. I sold off my old one, remember? Who’d ride something that dangerous, anyway? I’m a family man. I have people to support.”
“Hmph. You had better keep that promise. Without you, our family would be ruined. All I need you to do is work hard and bring home a bigger paycheck. We can barely afford good clothes for the kids on your salary.”
The old woman chimed in as well. “She’s right, you know. I didn’t marry my daughter to you so she could live in poverty. If you can’t climb the corporate ladder, the least you could do is work two or three times as hard to make your family happy. It’s your responsibility as a member of society, and as a human being.”
“Yes, ma’am,” the man replied.
The woman handed her things to the man. “Now hurry up! And carry these. You should be making time to serve your family on the weekends, at the very least. Now move!”
The woman shepherded the children into the shopping district.
“But I’m tired from work, too…” the man whispered.
“Did you say something?” his wife asked without even turning. The man shook his head quickly.
He looked up and turned his gaze to the road. The traveler was long gone, but he watched her depart. The motorrad was long gone, but he listened to the roar of its engine.
And he hurried after his family.