Chapter 13:

The Kappa Returns (With Company)

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

This is my eighteenth graveyard shift at the convenience store.Bookmark here

Thunder rumbles overhead as rain strikes the pavement, falling in a never-ending sheet.Bookmark here

On rainy days, my manager’s mood goes from generally neutral to downright negative.Bookmark here

“This weather just sucks it right out of you...”Bookmark here

Scratching his head, my manager starts to settle in for his usual break room nap...until he’s interrupted by a huge crack of thunder. He snaps upright, sitting stock still.Bookmark here

“...Hey, Manager?”Bookmark here

“Earplugs.”Bookmark here

That mechanical, one-word answer is all I get as he pulls open one of the desk drawers, rummaging around for the earplugs in question. He stuffs them into his ears, then plunks on a pair of headphones. The volume’s up so high that even I can hear his music. ...That can’t be easy to sleep through.  Bookmark here

Okay, I get that some people want to block out harsh noises, but listening to music with earplugs? No, seriously — what’s the point of that? I’m not sure if that means my manager’s an airhead, or ahead of his time.Bookmark here

“...Music’s too loud.” Bookmark here

Mumbling that to no one in particular, he goes back to sleep. ...He’s afraid of thunder, isn’t he? That’s adorable.Bookmark here

With that charming start to my shift, I swear — I’m going to do my best to hold down the fort without having to run crying to my manager for help.Bookmark here

Today, there won’t be anything I can’t handle on my own! ...I hope. Please, may we not have any weirdos drop by tonight.Bookmark here

Ding-a-ling-a-ling... Bookmark here

“Welcome, irasshaimaseeeeeek!” Bookmark here

What comes slop-slopping into the store is absolutely dripping wet, rainwater running off of its yellow beak. The creature glances around with impossibly large eyes set in an equally big head.  Bookmark here

When I see the tell-tale plate perched on top, though, I know exactly who this is. Bookmark here

“Oh. You’re back, huh? And you brought...friends.”Bookmark here

Today there isn’t just one kappa. There’s a grand total of five.Bookmark here

Aw, hell. One was trouble enough. What’re they here for? To get out of the rain? Or are you guys afraid of thunder, too?Bookmark here

Each one of them has a beat-up knapsack slung across their shoulders — and I can’t tell which kappa was the one who paid in cucumbers the last time he was here.Bookmark here

I mean, they all look the same. And how would I even get his attention? He didn’t say one word through that whole awkward transaction!Bookmark here

Looking a little more closely, though, I realize that you can kind of tell them apart by the “plates” on the tops of their heads.Bookmark here

Each one is just a little different from the others. Like, that kid in the middle. He’s got “Masaru” written in permanent marker on his. ...Huh, so his name’s Masaru, I guess? I squint. Below that, in much smaller letters is “4586-88 Riverside Lane, Streamsville, MZ”. ...Isn’t that an address? Kid, you should know better than to go around flashing your personal info to the world like that.Bookmark here

Oooh, wait. Don’t kids here usually have a tag or something that has their home address on it, in case they get lost? I guess that’s a thing where the kappa come from, too.Bookmark here

Masaru...someone’s really looking out for you, buddy.Bookmark here

The kappa collective convenes in a loose circle at the entrance, shaking the rain off their bodies just like a dog would. ...Guys. Please don’t. I’m the one who’s going to have to mop that up later.Bookmark here

Masaru, on the other hand, gasps as he catches the cloud hanging over my head and is the only kappa to show some restraint, brushing the water off instead. He makes for a quirky sight, standing serenely in the middle of all his water-slinging pals. that I’m really thinking about it, instead of having a giant pool that’s limited to just one spot — he’s going to march his sopping wet self all around the store, so now I’m going to have to clean the whole damn floor.Bookmark here

Masaruuu!! Why have you forsaken meeee?!Bookmark here

The still-dripping Masaru starts to waddle through the store, when he’s stopped by his brethren who all wordlessly point at the automatic doors, signaling that he’d better go back, shake himself dry, and didn’t we just tell you that? Masaru quickly glances back at me, as if to confirm that doing so would earn him an earful, and he shakes his head.Bookmark here

Whoa, hang on there, kid. Your friends have actually got the right of it. Go ahead and make your way back to the entrance before you reach the point of no return. Bookmark here

But, as much as I’d like to tell him that, I haven’t a clue how to speak kappa-ese.Bookmark here

Anyways, it’s about time for them to start bringing stuff up to the register.Bookmark here

Please let it be nothing too expensive. Because I just know I’m the one who’s going to be paying for it.Bookmark here

Either way, with five of them all together, the change sitting in my pockets probably isn’t going to cut it.Bookmark here

...Hold on a second. Haven’t I been paying for people’s purchases ever since I started working here?Bookmark here

First there was the demon lord, then the kappa...maybe I’ve been going too easy on our clientele.Bookmark here

I mean, normally, I’m supposed to be collecting money from the customers. I’m a cashier, that’s my job.Bookmark here

But now it feels more like I’m running a one-man charity shop.Bookmark here

Then again, the demon lord seems to have learnt how to fend for himself, now that he’s buying pork cutlet sandwiches with his own hard-earned money. ...Sure, I covered the amount he was short by, but still.Bookmark here

So, it’s up to me to teach this group of misfits how to follow the rules and regulations of the human realm.Bookmark here

I glance back over at the kappa, to see that each one of them is cradling a bottle of coke, and I have to bite back a laugh. Bookmark here

Once the not-quite-tall-enough creatures have all stretched up to place their purchases on the counter... Bookmark here

“Will you be paying together, or separately?” Bookmark here

I ask, on the off chance that maybe, just maybe, that got through to one of them.Bookmark here

Without any indication that any of them understood that, they slip off their knapsacks and start to rifle through them. Ooooh boy. This is turning into a total repeat of last time.Bookmark here

The kappa in the center — who seems to be the leader — pulls out three cucumbers.Bookmark here

The rest of them follow suit, taking out a set of three here, another set of three there, until they’re all holding a trio of the green vegetables. Bookmark here

...Yeah, I don’t know what else I expected.Bookmark here

Whatever Masaru sees in my expression makes him shudder. He frantically dives back into his knapsack, pulling more cucumber.Bookmark here

I’m telling you, that’s not the problem! How many times do we have to go through this?!Bookmark here

And that’s when it hits me. Maybe...Bookmark here

He’s the same kappa as last time?Bookmark here

What if...he hadn’t gotten permission to go wandering off that day (let alone to a human convenience store), and he got an earful from his parents when he got back? ...Along with his address written on the top of his plate. Wait, maybe that’s to let other kappa know to keep an eye on him if they catch him out on his own...?Bookmark here

Yeah, that all seems pretty plausible.Bookmark here

So, from the five kappa assembled, I’ve been given fifteen cucumbers — plus one.Bookmark here

I really don’t need that many.Bookmark here

No, wait. It’s time for me to take a stand and stop paying for our customers’ purchases. So help me, I’m going to do it. I’m going to firmly, properly, turn these guys down.Bookmark here

Alright man, you’ve got this. Just. Say. No.Bookmark here

I mean, they don’t seem to have understood any of what I’ve said. When they put the bottles of coke up on the counter, I held out hope that this time, I was actually going to be paid in cash. Then, when they pulled out the cucumbers, I knew there was no chance that I’d be getting any legitimate form of currency.  Bookmark here

Very regretfully, I pass each bottle back to each kappa. ...Hold on, there’s nothing regrettable about this. I’m not doing anything wrong, it’s just... Oh, no. Nope. Dooon’t you guys give me those sweet puppy-dog eyes! Seriously, knock it off. It’ll just make me want to foot your bill.Bookmark here

Then, I take the cucumbers that those guys so carefully took out of their knapsacks, and hand those back as well. They tilt their heads, further amplifying their adorable confusion. I’m not going to fall for that, though. I’ve already dedicated myself to looking anywhere but into the big, round eyes of those cute creatures.Bookmark here

The kappa take a few steps back, reconvening in their little circle.Bookmark here

I keep a watchful eye on them from the register — and after a little while, I’m glad I did. It looks like his buddies are blaming Masaru for something.Bookmark here

The other kappa jab their fingers angrily at Masaru, then at the automatic doors, then over at me. Bookmark here

...Wait, don’t tell me...Bookmark here

Do they think I won’t sell them their beverages because I’m mad at Masaru for not shaking himself dry? Aw, the poor kid.Bookmark here

That’s not true at all! ...Okay, maybe it’s half true. I still haven’t quite forgiven him for slap-slapping around and leaving puddles practically everywhere.Bookmark here

Their discussion results in Masaru tottering back up to the register on his own, with everyone’s cucumbers bundled up in his arms.Bookmark here

Yeah, he sure doesn’t look like he’s having a good time.Bookmark here

Then, he waddles back to the group, where he’s given three of the bottles of coke to haul over to the register by piggyback.Bookmark here

I’m guessing that, as punishment, he has to apologize to me and complete the transaction — all on his own.Bookmark here

Huh. Kappa culture’s pretty damn petty.Bookmark here

Masaru brings over the last two bottles, glancing up at me with tears shimmering in his eyes. The second he does, I sigh.Bookmark here

...Before hurrying off to the break room, to get my wallet. Bookmark here

“...Thanks for your patronage...I guess.” Bookmark here

Ah, hell. I did it again...Bookmark here

I glance down at the counter, which is now completely covered in green cucumbers, and hang my head in defeat.Bookmark here

Staggering over to the supply closet, I drag out the mop and bucket. As I start to clean the floor, I consider if it’d be worth it to try and send the bill over to the address written on that kid’s plate. Mulling that over, it isn’t long before Masato’s flipper-prints are all wiped up.Bookmark here

With the floor all clean, I decide to snack on one of my many cucumbers. And, honestly? It’s surprisingly tasty.Bookmark here

You know, I think I’ll split the rest with my manager.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.