Chapter 3:

The Kuchisake-onna Cuts In

It’s My First Time Working Late Nights at a Convenience Store, and If I Keep Getting Demon Lords, Kappa and Other Oddballs as Customers, I’m Giving My Two-Weeks’ Notice

I stand behind the register on my third night on the graveyard shift, staring out at the convenience store with glassy eyes.Bookmark here

This place has issues.Bookmark here

The only customers I’ve seen so far are demon lords and kappa.Bookmark here

And then there’s the...offering of cucumbers that I got from last night’s kappa.Bookmark here

I thought about eating them, until I started to wonder if that would turn my skin kappa­-green, which sent non-stop chills down my spine. So, I decided to re-gift them to the store’s miniature shrine.Bookmark here

There’s one thing about this place that’s been consistent, though.Bookmark here

I let my eyes fall shut at the memory, as my mouth pulls into a grimace.Bookmark here

“...I can’t believe how many people haven’t paid for their stuff.”Bookmark here

Yep, that’s pretty much it.Bookmark here

Ding-a-ling-a-ling...Bookmark here

“Welcome, irassh-...”Bookmark here

When I open my eyes...Bookmark here

“Irasshaimase!!”Bookmark here

I can’t help but call out a second, more emphatic greeting.Bookmark here

In walks a customer wearing a white hat, sunglasses and a large face mask that covers just about everything the sunglasses don’t. She’s dressed in a long, flowing dress that’s a vibrant shade of red.Bookmark here

Clutching a large, black tote bag, tonight’s new arrival shuffles into the store, scanning her surroundings all the while.Bookmark here

Going by appearances alone, this is one sketchy customer.Bookmark here

But, honestly? I couldn’t care less.Bookmark here

I’m just so freaking happy that I’ve finally seen a human being walk through those automatic doors.Bookmark here

Clamping both hands to my mouth to smother a grin, I think back over the past two days.Bookmark here

It took until the start of my third late-night shift to get a normal customer.Bookmark here

I’m over the moon.Bookmark here

The woman in the red dress glances around the store again, before taking a basket and milling over to the sweets section.Bookmark here

Go ahead, take all the time you need!!Bookmark here

What I couldn’t have known at the time...was that this customer would end up being the most dangerous one of the bunch.Bookmark here

The woman in the red dress has stuffed her basket with nothing but bags of hard candies.Bookmark here

Huh, she must really love the stuff.Bookmark here

I scan through the pile with a rhythmic beep-beep-beep­.Bookmark here

“That’ll be two thousand one hundred fifty yen.”Bookmark here

“...-ty?”Bookmark here

The lady on the other side of the counter murmurs something.Bookmark here

Focused on ringing her up, I missed it completely. I lean in, to try and hear her a little better.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. Could you say it again, please?”Bookmark here

“Am I pretty?”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

I slowly pull back from the counter, to take a good, long look at this woman.Bookmark here

Why would she ask me something like that? Still, I guess it’d be rude to ignore a customer’s question, no matter how weird it is.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry miss, but with your hat, mask and sunglasses, I can barely see your face. I really couldn’t say.”Bookmark here

There, I’d say that was pretty diplomatic.Bookmark here

No, wait. At times like this, shouldn’t I have just gone ahead and complimented her? Bookmark here

...How should I know?! There wasn’t a section in the training manual about how to answer customers who ask you if they’re pretty! Heeeey, Manager! Come do your job for once!Bookmark here

Without another word, she takes off her white hat and places it on the counter, shaking her long, luxurious black hair down in a shimmering cascade.Bookmark here

“...Whoa.”Bookmark here

I’d call her beautiful for those locks alone.Bookmark here

I can’t help but gasp. I mean, damn.Bookmark here

Next, she carefully takes off her sunglasses...Bookmark here

Uncovering elegant eyebrows and round, wide, scarlet eyes. She’s even got a beauty mark under her right eye, and I feel like I finally get why people call them that.Bookmark here

“...Whoa!”Bookmark here

Never mind the hair, those eyes!Bookmark here

They’re the most gorgeous pair I’ve ever seen!Bookmark here

“Am I pretty?”Bookmark here

She asks the question again.Bookmark here

“Well, judging by what I’ve seen so far, I’d say you’re beautiful. But...since your mask is still covering half your face, I guess I’m only giving you half an answer.”Bookmark here

She blinks, offering no comment.Bookmark here

Did I...say something to offend her?Bookmark here

Without a word, she dips her head down and carefully takes off her mask.Bookmark here

Her face completely uncovered, she glances up at me, giving me a bright, broad smile.  Bookmark here

Her mouth is terrifying.Bookmark here

Her grin literally stretches from ear to ear, her lips stained with a blood red lipstick.Bookmark here

“Am I pretty?”Bookmark here

“...Ooh.”Bookmark here

Well, one thing’s for sure.Bookmark here

This is no ordinary customer!!Bookmark here

“Am I pretty? Well? What do you think? Don’t just stand there slack jawed. Would you call someone like me pretty or not?”Bookmark here

I can feel her warm breath brush against my skin as she leans in to whisper in my ear. She runs her hand along my cheek, and I just freeze up.Bookmark here

“Why haven’t you said anything yet? Perhaps you find me repulsive? A face like this would be, wouldn’t it? Come on, out with it.”Bookmark here

There’s a pause, as she rustles around in the tote bag hanging from her shoulder. She pulls out a sickle, the razor-sharp edge glinting under the store’s stark lighting.Bookmark here

“If you don’t tell me I’m pretty, I’ll kill you.”Bookmark here

I take a few deep breaths, to try and calm myself.Bookmark here

There’s a panic button underneath the counter. If I push that, it should call the cops.Bookmark here

For, you know, times when people whip out dangerous objects that have no place in civilized settings.Bookmark here

And this would definitely be arrest-worthy. My life is very clearly in danger!Bookmark here

I try to casually reach under the register to push the panic button, but the kuchisake-onna scrambles up onto the counter and grabs my wrist.Bookmark here

She’s strong. She might not look it, but she’s got me pinned easily.Bookmark here

“No, none of that. And I’m going to keep ahold of you until you answer me.”Bookmark here

“Ngh! Alright, I’m sorry! You might be pretty, but your attitude sure isn’t! There, I said it! Now can I call the cops?!”Bookmark here

“I don’t believe you. ...Which part, specifically, has caught your eye?” Bookmark here

“Uh, like that super-silky hair of yours that smells really nice, or those wide eyes that make my heart skip a beat, or how my knees go weak when you whisper in my ear? ...I guess that makes your mouth cute, too, in a roundabout way... Uh, yeah! All of that! That’s good enough, right?! ...Please let me call for help.”Bookmark here

“I...what? Oh, my. You...that’”Bookmark here

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that this kuchisake-onna, who’s only inches away from my face, looked...embarrassed.Bookmark here

The sickle in her hand falls to the counter with a clatter, as she grabs my arms with both hands, gazing silently into my eyes at point-blank range.Bookmark here

“Uh...something wrong?”Bookmark here

“Now that I’ve gotten a good look at you, you’re not so bad yourself.”Bookmark here

She sounds like she means it, too. I think I might actually blush.Bookmark here

Staring strongly enough to burn a hole through my skull, the kuchisake-onna’s gaze drifts down to my nametag.Bookmark here

“So...‘Muramatsu,’ is it? What’s your first name?”Bookmark here

I get the feeling she’d kill me for not answering that question too, so I reluctantly offer it to her.Bookmark here

“It’s Haru.”Bookmark here

“Which kanji would you write it with?”Bookmark here

“Um, the same character as the one for ‘clear skies’.”Bookmark here

“Hmm...what a lovely name. I rather like it. ‘Haru.’ Hee. Heh heh!”Bookmark here

“...What’s so funny about that?”Bookmark here

Really, this isn’t any time to be laughing. Yeesh, she gives me the creeps.Bookmark here

The kuchisake-onna lets go of my arms and slides off the counter. After she puts her mask back on, she pulls out a fairly expensive-looking wallet from her tote bag, and takes out a bill worth five-thousand yen.Bookmark here

I turn it over in my hands, inspecting it.Bookmark here

...Thank god, it’s not a cucumber! It’s cold, hard cash!Bookmark here

“Um...thank you very much.”Bookmark here

While I count out her change in mild shock, the kuchisake-onna packs up her sickle. Then, she takes her change and puts it into her wallet, tossing it into the same black tote bag as the pointy weapon.Bookmark here

With her sunglasses back on, she tugs her hat firmly down on her head before finally glancing back up at me.Bookmark here

“I’ll see you again, Haru.”Bookmark here

“S-sure.”Bookmark here

Leave the sharp objects at home next time, okay?Bookmark here

“If you so much as blink at another woman before then, I’ll kill you.”Bookmark here

Please stop.Bookmark here

It’s only my third day on the job, and I’ve never feared more for my life than I did tonight. Bookmark here

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