The Kabusecha Crisis

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On a sleepy street in the heart of Edinburgh, there lies a tea house that has been in business for over 100 years, despite the sign on the door always proclaiming it closed. It provides a haven for a specific type of traveler: one who journeys, not from place to place, but through time.

The current owner of this peculiar establishment was an older gentleman named Imlach. No one knew exactly how old Imlach was, or what time he originally came from, though his three-piece suit and impressive grey beard implied that he was originally from the turn of the twentieth century. Then again, with time travelers one could never be sure.

The tea house was already packed by the time Aoto and Shoma Aihara arrived. The shopkeeper bell rang as the bespectacled man and his younger brother entered the shop, grateful to find refuge from the merciless rain outside. After hanging up their soaking raincoats, the two made their way to an almost empty table near a window.

Both brothers were neatly dressed and had thick black hair, but that was where the resemblance ended. Aoto was handsome in an Old-Hollywood sort of way, with a full face, shiny hair, broad shoulders, and athletic build. He was shorter than Shoma by a few inches, despite being eight years older. The younger of the two brothers was far more solemn in appearance. Shoma's face was lean and fair, and his nose long and narrow. His eyebrows were perpetually furrowed, giving him the appearance of a young man in a constant state of worry and concern, and his slicked back hair made him look much older than twenty. Upon seeing the brothers, Imlach started towards the kitchen to prepare their usual orders.

"Just a minute, Imlach, sir," Aoto called out, bowing quickly. "At the risk of sounding rude, I implore you not to make kabusecha today. Please, anything else. Same goes for my brother." Shoma said nothing, instead choosing to glance around the tea house and take in the familiar bookshelf-lined walls that filled the air with a thick, musty smell. He fidgeted his hands. Aoto nudged his brother to stay still.

"No kabusecha?" A sharp-featured woman sitting at the foot of the table remarked. "I'm utterly shocked!"

"Believe me, Lills, I've been around enough kabusecha in the last twenty-four hours to put me off the stuff for at least a month," Aoto said.

Shoma looked at the window. "Did Imlach get new curtains?" he remarked.

Lillian Holbright pushed her glasses up her nose and closed her book. "I picked them up for him in the 17th century." She turned her attention back to Aoto. "Sounds like you've got a story," she remarked, hoping to draw out the more talkative of the two brothers.

"The Aihara brothers have a new story?" A bearded Indian man said, turning his attention away from the dart board.

"Veer, how are you?" Aoto asked, shaking his hand.

"I've been better," he said, pushing back his shoulder length hair with his cybernetic hand. "I was just telling the others my own story, but I have a feeling yours is far more exciting."

"Well, I don't know about it being more exciting, but it certainly is bizarre," Aoto replied.

"Bizarre?" Lills said. "Okay, now you have to tell us. Where were you? The 1800s? Oh, or did you go back even farther?"

"Actually, we went to 1934," Aoto said.

By this point, the light chatter in the tea house had dissipated as all eyes went to him. Other than Aoto's voice, the only sound was the crackle of the fire and the clinking of fine china. Almost instantly, all the empty chairs at his table were filled. Those who could not fit crowded around Aoto and Shoma. Silently, Imlach placed two cups of tea in front of Aoto and Shoma before pulling up a chair for himself. Aoto waited until Imlach gave a slight nod before beginning.

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