Chapter 1:

I: The End of Life as He Knew It (Part 1)

Marry X Princess

“Please, Shinsuke. It’s just one little delivery across the city. Do it for your father, okay?”

Mom loomed over me as I sat slouched on the couch, gawking up at her.

Here I was at eleven in the evening on a Friday night, nestled cozily in my pajamas, about to crack the seal on a brand-new chocolate pudding cup. I really didn’t want to hear about doing anything right now, much less running halfway across the city. But that wasn’t about to stop my mother, of course.

“Come on, he’s been out all day and he’s exhausted,” mom continued. “I would do it, but I have to finish this painting by Sunday for my client. Please, just do it.”

One could tell immediately by the paint splotches all over her apron, forehead, and cheeks that my mother was an artist, but it’s the expression on her face that made it clear exactly what art Hina Watanabe was a master of: guilt tripping.

The evening had been so quiet up to that point, too. But then the front door of the apartment opened, and in the doorway was my dad, wearing a weary, regretful expression, and pressing a cardboard box between his forearm and his torso.

If one were to describe my father, he would be called hardworking, loving, encouraging… I could go on. But if there’s one word that most befit the man sat at the table, rubbing his head with an embarrassed, tired smile, it would have to be forgetful. In fact, it’s a good thing that my dad was liked by so many people in the city. Otherwise, the man who had come to be playfully known as RuRu (how they got this nickname from Ryunosuke, I’ll never know) would be the most hated mail carrier in all of Valport. Maybe even in the whole province of Fabrea. Actually, make that the entire kingdom of Steylia. That, truly, is how often this man had forgotten to deliver people’s mail.

I understood that lugging mail around the city was more than a hassle of a job, but I never understood how my father hadn’t been canned sooner over how many times he’d made similar mistakes. Hell, as his son I’d have fired him myself long ago. Though, he and mom possessed a knack for socialization and a natural charm they neglected to pass down to me. He could talk his way out of the consequences of his clumsiness with frightening ease, while I, on the other hand, had no such luck.

Must be nice.

“It rolled under my seat in the truck,” dad said, poking the brown box sitting on the dining table. “I didn’t see it until I got back to the post office. I’m so sorry…”

My first instinct was to transform into a giant lizard and hiss as unpleasantly as I could. Needless to say, that isn’t possible. Instead, I shook my head in annoyance. I hate being out any longer than necessary, but especially this late at night? Yeah, no. Unfortunately, however, the look my mother gave me in response to my very apparent scowl said, “you don’t have a choice in this matter, worm.”

I set the pudding cup aside and groaned. “Fine, I’ll do it. Just let me go change.”

“Thank you, Shinsuke,” mom said.

“Yes, thank you, son,” my father added.

I grumbled in response on the way to my room. The bed across from my dresser mocked me with its inviting, maroon sheets, and thick, plentiful blankets. I’d have given anything to submit to its siren song in the moment, but if I did that, my mother’s next painting might just have been a depiction of the unholy violence she would unleash upon me with her slipper.

Another groan escaped me as I slipped out of my pajamas. Opening my standing dresser, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror on the back of the door. My long, dark hair couldn’t hide the utter disdain in my expression. I looked every bit of what I felt. That was a pointless observation, though, since regardless of my mood, I’d always been told I have an “unpleasant” stare—whatever the hell that means. I can’t help that I was cursed with natural, dark circles under my eyes, but there wasn’t much I could do to improve my image when “demon eyes” had already caught on throughout the wonderful halls of St. Cirelia High School.

I threw on a red t-shirt, black overshirt, black jeans, and sneakers, then headed back out to the living room. Some kind of commotion was playing out on the television that had my parents utterly entranced.

“All right,” I said, grabbing the box off the dining table. “I’m going to get this over with.”

“Wait, come look at this!” mom urged.

I joined my parents in front of the television. On the screen, an aerial shot filmed from a news airship revealed a fleet of police cars pursuing a single vehicle in a high-speed chase. The scene was unfolding through the streets of Valport—streets I was about to traverse to make dad’s delivery. Evidently, two perpetrators robbed the largest bank in the city and were now trying to make off with an obscene amount of cash.

“Can you believe these guys?” mom growled. “They have some nerve doing something like this while the princess is visiting the city!”

My eyes nearly rolled straight out of their sockets hearing those words from my mom.

I never understood my parents’ obsession with the royal family. Honestly, who cares about any of that crap? Barring any major political situations, whatever that stuck up family did made no difference in our lives. At the end of the day, the three of us would remain crammed in a tiny apartment, struggling week to week while they lived it up in their oversized castle, acting holier than thou because they were born with the right surname.
In any case, I didn’t care to stand there watching the discount action movie playing out on the screen. I had yet to step out and I was already missing home.

“Well,” I said, securing the box in my grasp. “As riveting as this is, I’m going to go get this over with so I can get back already.”

Mom redirected her gaze at me and said, “please be careful, those maniacs are going to get someone hurt out there!”
“Take the subway just to be safe, okay, son?” dad contributed.

“I was going to do that anyway.”

Did he really think I was going to an address so far away entirely on foot? He didn’t even feel like taking his mail-mobile that far out so late at night and he thought I was going to hoof it? Not on your life, sport.

Mom sped ahead of me to the front door and opened it for me. “Good. Keep in touch with us so we know you’re okay!”

“Will do,” I assured her and waved them both off.

As soon as the door shut behind me, the door to the neighboring apartment slowly pulled open. A series of pale fingers gripped the doorframe, anchoring a figure in place and ensuring their body wouldn’t cross the threshold. A mess of wavy black hair was the first thing to enter my crosshairs before a pair of equally dark eyes followed, slowly peeking around the doorway.

“Let me guess, you were listening through the wall again?”

“Maybe…” a dry, feminine voice replied.

I took a step forward and gently grabbed hold of the girl’s wrist, pulling her out into the outdoor corridor with me. To the surprise of no one, the world’s worst pajama-clad spy was none other than my neighbor and childhood friend, Mizuki Wada.

Her mop of waves danced when she stumbled out into the hall. “Really?” she whined.

“Sorry, but I don’t have time to play peek-a-boo or whatever this is. What is it, Mizuki?”

She snickered and eyed the box squeezed inside my arm with a tired gaze. “I just had to see how big the delivery was this time. Not as bad as I thought it would be.”

“Maybe not in size, but the distance is a real pain at this time of night.”

“Dealing with people is a pain no matter what time it is,” she quipped, glancing at the address on the shipping label. “Wow, that’s across the city.”

“You’re telling me.”

It didn’t take much to make her grasp my situation. After all, Mizuki was the only person in the world who understood my approach to life. People by and far are all one giant headache best avoided. No one would get that more than her.

She leaned over the railing, gazing into the parking lot below and mused, “what if I toss it? Can’t we call it lost so you can just go get in bed?”

“My mom will send me over the railing next.” The image played in my mind a bit too vividly for my liking.

“You’re probably right,” she chuckled. “Hey, before you go, there’s something I want to give you.”

I raised a brow as she stepped back inside her apartment. She returned after a few seconds with something hidden behind her back.

“Come on, eyes shut, Shinsuke.”

I obeyed her command. The tapping of her slippers on the floor told me that she made her way behind me. Something unknown to me wrapped around my neck, clasping shut with an audible click.

I heard her step back in front of me before she said, “okay, open them.”

My eyes opened to find my own reflection staring back at me via Mizuki’s phone in selfie mode. On the screen, a black choker clung to my neck with a little loop dangling from it.

“What’s this?” I asked, giving the loop a flick.

“The anniversary of our friendship is coming up soon,” she replied, twirling one of her waves in front of her eye. “I saw this when I was out with my dad and thought it suited a dog like you. Happy early anniversary.”

“A dog like me?”

She nudged the box under my arm and said, “yeah, a good little loyal delivery dog.”

“Don’t make me send you over the railing…”

“Quit running your mouth and get going already.”

“You were the one who…never mind. Thanks for the choker, I love it.”

“Of course you do, I chose it for you. Now, get a move on.”

We exchanged smiles before I headed for the stairs. I heard her shout behind me to be careful due to the ongoing police chase and I acknowledged her warning with a thumbs up.

And, with that, off into the night I went.


The walk from my apartment building to the subway station was uneventful, and by that, I mean there’s no point in making a mental note of all of the loud, amateur entrepreneurs that tried to peddle their garbage to me when I clearly had no interest.

Wait, did I just make a note of it, anyway?

Gods damn it.

After a mercifully short wait, the train arrived, and I boarded the car quickly. I seated myself in the furthest corner I could find and placed the box on the chair beside me to keep anyone from sitting next to me. Of course, some socially inept derelict sat next to the box anyway, immediately eyeballing it and then me. He pinched his chapped lips between pointy teeth and curved his brows in a fearful manner.

My gaze locked with the man’s for maximum awkwardness as I calmly said, “it’s not a bomb, I promise.”

He immediately rose and speed walked to the opposite side of the car.

Demon eyes does it again. And that, everyone, is why it is pointless to try with people.

I don’t know precisely when it began for me. I had to be three or four years old. I have this clear memory in my mind of playing with some stupid toy, giggling like an idiot, when suddenly, my smile fades and the toy slips from my hand, breaking apart on the floor. Something had hit me in that moment—a realization. Life isn’t fun, it never was, and it never will be. The toy in my hand, video games, a good book, a great meal… all of those things were nothing more than a distraction from the simple truth that life is a series of unfortunate events waiting to make us miserable time and time again.

It was about that same time that I met Mizuki. We were the same age and she had just moved in next door with her parents. She was different at that time, vibrant and energetic. I remember how awkward our playdates were. We’d sit in the middle of the floor, debating as I reluctantly played with her toys. I would try to tell her how awful life was, and she would say otherwise. She couldn’t understand why I never smiled and would lecture me endlessly about how if I don’t use my smile, I’d lose it. Ironically, it wasn’t long before she lost hers.

One day soon after they moved in next door, Mizuki’s mother walked out on her and her father. I’ll never forget the change in her demeanor the very next time I saw her. “You were right,” was the first thing she said to me, her voice devoid of any of the jovial expressions she had used against me in our debates. From that day on, we grew closer through our shared disdain for life and other people.

Looking back at those memories as I sat in the overcrowded train car, I felt more justified than ever in my belief that the best way to get through life was to minimize social interactions and avoid responsibility. Give me a pudding cup, a warm bed, and a quiet space and I’m all set.


(Continued in part 2)