Chapter 26:

An Angel and a Devil Walk Into a Store...

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 twelfth late-night on the till.Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

Even at this hour, it doesn’t take long for the store’s garbage bins to fill up.Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

My manager was telling me that it’s thanks to people going out of their way to toss their household trash out here.Bookmark here

Once there’s no room in the bins, then it just starts to pile up in little bags on the pavement.Bookmark here

So, I’ve got no choice but to abandon the register during the slowest parts of my shift to duck outside and check on the trash.Bookmark here

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

“Oh...”Bookmark here

I step out through the automatic doors to see a young woman wearing a white dress crouched down in front of the store. A golden ring of light hovers above her head, illuminating a pair of feathery wings — one white, one black.Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“Wh-... But... Are those wings...real?”Bookmark here

“Mister, could me? Pretty please?”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

The winged woman’s soft, pink hair flutters as she stands up... Then flies straight into my arms.Bookmark here

“No matter what I do... I always end up being abandoned. I know... *sniff* It’s because I’m a hopeless klutz who... *sniffle* Can’t do anything right... *hic* I didn’t have anywhere else to go, but... *sniff* I was drawn to these lights...”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

I guess I’ll be taking in a stray today, instead of the usual plastic bags.Bookmark here

The young woman glances up at me, the tears shimmering in her eyes only making her look even lovelier. And her eyelashes are so long...Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

I hold my hands up, so that I don’t inadvertently touch this damsel in distress, desperately trying to seem more composed than I actually am.Bookmark here

“W-Whoa, okay, just... You’re okay. Um, why don’t you come on in and you can tell me all about it, once you’ve had a chance to settle down.”Bookmark here

“Thank you, mister... You’re too kind...”Bookmark here

She clenches the back of my shirt in her hands, which is just too precious.Bookmark here

She must angel.Bookmark here

Her wings won’t fit through the automatic doors straight on, though, so she has to sidle through them sideways. I guess she can’t really fold them up or anything.Bookmark here

I set her up at one of the tables in the seating area, for now.Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

I’ve got some change sitting in my pocket, so I use it to buy her a bottle of milk tea. I mean, I feel like I always see young women drinking the stuff, so it seems like a safe choice. Bookmark here

“...Oh, my. You didn’t have to do that.” Bookmark here

She gives me a brilliant smile and I watch as she delicately sips her beverage, resting my chin in my hand.Bookmark here

Yep. She’s GOT to be an angel.Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“Mm, I feel so much calmer now. Thank you very much, mister.”Bookmark here

“...Definitely an angel...”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“Oh! Why, yes. I am an ang-... No, wait. I’m not so sure. I might not be. Not anymore...”Bookmark here

She flashes me another bright smile, her figure framed by very obvious wings.Bookmark here

Seriously, how is she NOT an angel?Bookmark here

“W-Well, I would understand if that all sounds a little crazy...”Bookmark here

“No, trust me. I believe you. I mean, I figured you had to be.”Bookmark here

After getting demon lords and kappa and the like, having an angel stop by isn’t all that shocking.  Bookmark here

“You really do, don’t you...? Gosh, you’re being so super nice to me...”Bookmark here

Whoa, geez. I don’t know how many more of these direct compliments my heart can take. I think I might drop dead from a happiness overload.Bookmark here

“So, um, why were you sitting in front of the store? You said something about being abandoned, but...”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

A shadow flits across her radiant face.Bookmark here

“Oh! But, um, you don’t have to tell me anything if you don’t want to! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you!”Bookmark here

“...No, that’s alright. It was my own fault, really... It’s only fair that I should pay the price...”Bookmark here

“I’m sure that’s not true at all! Why don’t you try telling me what happened?”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

I mean, how could anyone THIS adorable possibly do anything wrong?Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

The angel glances away, fidgeting in her seat as she struggles to find the right words.Bookmark here

...Is there any part of her that isn’t absolutely charming?Bookmark here

“...Well, you see... I’ve always had the most awful luck. I was supposed to take my final exam today — to finally become a full-fledged angel. We only start with one wing, you know. We get the other once we pass our last test. I studied my heart out...only to sleep through my alarm this morning. That might not have been so bad, though...if I hadn’t gotten lost. Then, to make matters worse, I stumbled right into the devils’ exams instead. There were so many people there that I just got swept into the thick of it. But, since the written test was multiple choice, and I was already there, I figured...why not?”  Bookmark here

Yep. It sounds like this angel’s day has been nothing but chaotic. Still, she’s such a sweet storyteller.Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“Since I’d passed the devils’ exam, they just went ahead and slapped another black wing on my back, but... When they actually took a look at my paperwork and saw that I was an angel, they kicked me out of the test site. Then, when I finally made it to the angels’ exams... They turned me away!  They said that having the devil wing made me a traitor! The next thing I knew, they’d banished me to this realm.”Bookmark here

You’d think that someone would have noticed when they were doling out the wings. She’s clearly too cuddly to be anything but an angel!Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“Then, while I was trying to get my bearings, some strange man calls me over and starts rambling on about how I was the spitting image of his boss’ dead daughter. And that ever since she’d passed away, the boss just hadn’t been himself, and wouldn’t I please consider filling in for the deceased woman? Then he gave me a veeeery deep bow.”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

Yeah, that guy definitely sounds like trouble.Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

...Wait, did she say “boss”? That just makes the whole thing sound even sketchier.Bookmark here

“I already have a family, so I turned him down but... He kept pestering me, so I ran off.”Bookmark here

Hold up. Is she on the run from the mob?  Bookmark here

“And then this other woman started following me. She was saying that I’d make the most wonderful dress-up doll, and something else about being her ‘body pillow’...? I shouted at her to leave me alone, then dashed off as fast as I could. I was terrified! I went racing through the streets, getting more and more lost... Until I ended up here.”Bookmark here

Yeesh, that was almost a kidnapping.Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

The poor girl has spent her evening dodging all kinds of trouble.Bookmark here

Just trying to picture what she’s been through makes a shudder run down my spine. And if my own imagination is scaring me, she must have been terrified.Bookmark here

But, if she’s just been going up to all these people just because they called out to her, well... There’s such a thing as being too trusting.Bookmark here

Either way, she really does have the most horrendous luck. Everything that could possibly go wrong has. Bookmark here

I feel myself break out into an eerily cold sweat.Bookmark here

What am I going to do if the yakuza turn up looking for her? That pervy woman sounded pretty problematic, too.Bookmark here

“Now that I’m half angel and half devil, I can’t go back home. But... I don’t really belong here, either... Well, I’ll manage. Somehow. It was nice of you to offer your assistance, but... I couldn’t possibly accept your help. If I did, I’d only put you in danger, too.”Bookmark here

Her bright, shining aura suddenly fades to a dark, sullen depression.  Bookmark here

“Don’t worry, just leave it to me. I’ll think of something.”Bookmark here

There’s no way I could possibly abandon her now.Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

I mean, how callous would you have to be to hear a story that heart-wrenching and do nothing?Bookmark here

She’s been cast out of TWO realms, and gotten sent to this strange one, where she’s had to run from all kinds of weirdos, only to end up collapsing in front of a convenience store. I know she said she was unlucky, but that’s more hardship than anyone should have to bear in one day.Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“Thank you so much, mister... I can’t believe you’d go out of your way for a wishy-washy scatterbrain like me...”Bookmark here

“Oh, don’t cry. I’m sure you’re not all that scatterbrained.”Bookmark here

I wipe away her tears with a handkerchief, letting my hand linger on her cheek. She smiles, and I’m convinced that everything in my life has led up to this one, specific moment.Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

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

 Bookmark here

“Hammuel! There you are! I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”Bookmark here

In rushes a much shorter girl, her tightly curled pigtails bouncing with each quick step. She’s wearing a black tube top, and what I guess counts as a mini skirt — but it’s so short, it barely covers anything. She’s also got a black cape that doesn’t go past her waist...and a proper pair of black wings. Bookmark here

“...Manisha?! What are you doing here?!”Bookmark here

Startled, the angel leaps from her seat with a shout.Bookmark here

“I-It’s not like I raced over here from the demon realm because I was worried about you getting kicked out of yours, or anything!”Bookmark here

Did she just say “demon realm”? Does that make her a devil?Bookmark here

I mean, she’s got one of those traditional (?) pointy tails that she keeps flicking back and forth.Bookmark here

“You were...worried about me?”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“O-Of course not, dummy! I just happened to spot you in a crystal ball I was using. Don’t worry, I’ve already erased the memories of the humans you were fleeing. Honestly, Hammuel, if you could do that much yourself, then I wouldn’t have to keep an eye on you all the time. Really, what would you do without me?”  Bookmark here

Her tail curls in what, to me, looks like satisfaction.Bookmark here

For all that she’s claiming this was a coincidence... I’m pretty sure that last half was basically a confession.Bookmark here

“Oh, um... This is Manisha — the demon realm’s star pupil, and my childhood friend. She’s always been there to save me whenever I’m in trouble.”Bookmark here

Ever courteous, the angel introduces our newest arrival. The pint-sized devil stares me down with an adorable glare.Bookmark here

“Uh... Can I help you?”Bookmark here

“Hmph! You’ve got the same derpy look as everyone else who’s fallen for Hammuel’s charms.”Bookmark here

“...What’s that supposed to mean?”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t asked.Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“Hammuel’s a boy, you know.”Bookmark here

“...Come again?”Bookmark here

“...Ehe, sorry. I thought you already knew.”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“...Wait, you are?!”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

It takes me a little while to process this startling bit of information.Bookmark here

This pure and precious angel is actually a dude...?Bookmark here

So, naturally... My gaze shifts over to the devil’s equally non-existent chest.Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“Q-Quit staring, you sleazy pervert! Yes, I’m a girl!”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

Her tail is standing on end, just like an angry cat’s. Oh, no. They’re both adorable.Bookmark here

...Well, now I’m not too sure what to believe.Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“He’s not a pervert! He’s my savior!”Bookmark here

I watch as Hammuel tugs emphatically on Manisha’s cloak, which is just even more endearing.Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“So cute...”Bookmark here

The little devil’s gone and said what we both were thinking. ...Yeah, I get you, girl.Bookmark here

“A-Ahem! Anyways, I’ll go ahead and take my Hammuel off your hands. Don’t worry, I’ll take good care of him.”Bookmark here

The way that Manisha casually — but pointedly — calls Hammuel “hers” just goes to show how much she loves him.Bookmark here

“I’m...sorry for being such a bother, mister. Thank you again for all of your help.”Bookmark here

The angel gives me a polite bow, before picking up the empty milk tea bottle from the table.Bookmark here

“Would you mind if I took this home with me? I promise I’ll pay you back later.”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“What, that? Sure, but it’s just trash at this point.”Bookmark here

“Oh, Hammuel. I’ll buy you a new one later, so just give that to me and I’ll take care of it. Okay?”Bookmark here

Huh. Manisha’s awfully interested in that bit of used plastic. She wouldn’t want it because... Nah. ...Would she?   Bookmark here

“...No, I can’t do that. What if I forgot about the nice mister who gave it to me?”Bookmark here

Seriously, this angel is just the sweetest...Bookmark here

“Hammuel, all you need is ME. Come on, let’s go.”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

With that, Manisha takes Hammuel by the hand and starts to lead him out of the store.Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

Just before she drags him through the automatic doors, he turns back and calls out:Bookmark here

“Thanks, mister! You’re the nicest person I’ve met so far, so I’ll be sure to visit you again!”Bookmark here

“Hey, feel free to come back whenever you’d like. I’ll treat you to something nice!”Bookmark here

Oh my god, he’s so cute I could die.Bookmark here

But, if Manisha’s going around erasing people’s memories... There’s a couple of things I could stand to forget.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.