Chapter 27:

The Melancholy of Princess Kaguya

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

It’s my twenty-seventh shift at the convenience store.Bookmark here

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

“Welcome, irasshaima-...”Bookmark here

In rushes Princess Kaguya, dressed in another short kimono trimmed in frilly red and black lace that flutters just like her pigtails — and compliments her puffy red eyes.Bookmark here

Very obviously in an awful mood, she plunks herself down at a table in the seating area...Bookmark here

“...*sniff*...*hic*...*sniffle*...”Bookmark here

And promptly starts to bawl her eyes out.Bookmark here

“...What’s wrong?”Bookmark here

I get as close to the seating area as I dare, calling out to the figure curled up on the table in a gentle tone.Bookmark here

“...*hic*... E-Even if I told you, it...wouldn’t help, so...*sniff*...”Bookmark here

This might be one of those issues that are unique to uh, young girls, so...yeah. I’d be pretty useless there.Bookmark here

Maybe my manager would know what to do? ...Ah, but he scared her pretty bad last time... Still, I can’t just leave her like that...Bookmark here

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

“Hey, mister! I’m baaaack!”Bookmark here

Hammuel, the ever-bubbly angel, comes trotting into the store with a smile so bright it could even outshine the sun.Bookmark here

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Seriously, he’s the cutest of the cute.Bookmark here

“Whoa! What’s up, buddy?”Bookmark here

“Shhh, I’m not really supposed to be here. Manisha told me that I wasn’t supposed to leave the house, since I might get spirited away by strangers. But, she’s out buying some more milk tea, so I slipped out to go see you!”Bookmark here

So basically, the first thing he did after his jailbreak was run straight here just to meet me? I can’t say that I’m not worried about the trouble he’s going to get into for that stunt, but...he’s just too freaking adorable.Bookmark here

“So, you’ve gotta hang out with me until Manisha gets home!”Bookmark here

“Well, as much as I’d like to...”Bookmark here

While I was talking to Hammuel, Princess Kaguya has lifted her head high enough to give me a look that just screams “Why are you ignoring me and talking to that other kid?”  Bookmark here

Ah, yeah. I suppose I deserve that one. My bad.Bookmark here

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“Something wrong, mister?”Bookmark here

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When Princess Kaguya catches me staring at her, she quickly buries her face in her arms again.Bookmark here

“It’s not me, exactly, but that girl over there. I think she needs someone to talk to.”Bookmark here

“What about? Is it anything I can help with? I’m a good listener.”Bookmark here

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Hammuel sidles up as close to the prone princess as he can, taking care to speak softly to her.Bookmark here

“Hi there! I’m Hammuel. Are you feeling okay? Is everything alright?”Bookmark here

“...Buzz off.”Bookmark here

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Princess Kaguya mutters icily in reply.Bookmark here

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“Hey! Is that any way to speak to someone who’s worried about you? Hammuel’s just trying to be nice.”Bookmark here

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“Shut up, you...pervert! Quit being so accommodating to cute girls, dumbass! Asshole! Asshat!”Bookmark here

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...What’d I do to deserve an outburst like that?Bookmark here

Hammuel and I exchange a look, when...Bookmark here

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

“I foooound yoooou...”Bookmark here

“Yeeeek!!”Bookmark here

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I’ve heard that low, threatening rumble before. Hammuel has, too. He’s shaking like a leaf.Bookmark here

“...*huff*...*wheeze*... Haaah... So, you’re the one who...kidnapped...Hammuel... I’ll murder you on the spot, you sleazy son of a...”Bookmark here

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The little devil doubles over, struggling to catch her breath. ...Not that it stops her from inching towards me as she hisses her threats.Bookmark here

I’m sure she’d make good on them too — if it wasn’t for Hammuel stepping in front of me, flinging his arms out wide.Bookmark here

“Manisha, wait! It’s all my fault! I only left because I reeeally wanted to see him again!”Bookmark here

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“Hammuel, you’re walking bait for perverts who like their prey a little on the young side. That’s right, you heard me — the WORST kind of perverts possible! It doesn’t matter that you’re a guy, they don’t care! As soon as they sink their claws into you, you’re a goner. Come on, we’re going home.”Bookmark here

“No way...”Bookmark here

Princess Kaguya glances back up, mumbling quietly to herself. Huh. Something in that rant seems to have caught her attention.Bookmark here

Manisha takes Hammuel by the hand, ready to lead him back out. Hammuel, however, won’t have any of it.Bookmark here

“I can’t go! Not yet. There’s something I need to finish up here, first.”Bookmark here

“...Like what?”Bookmark here

“That girl over there isn’t doing so great. I’m worried. I can’t just abandon her!”Bookmark here

He points at Princess Kaguya, his shoulders slumping in distress. Manisha stares at the lump at the tabletop (since the object of concern has gone back to her moping).Bookmark here

“Why should you care about some stranger? I’M the only one you need, Hammuel.”Bookmark here

“Oh, you can’t do that, Manisha. If someone’s in trouble, I’ve got to help them! Just like the nice mister did for me.”Bookmark here

Hammuel really is the greatest. My soul feels cleaner just listening to him. Well, that’s an angel’s power for you.Bookmark here

“Ngh...fine. When you put it that way, I guess I can’t say no. Alright, I’ll stick with you until we sort out whatever that girl’s issue is.”Bookmark here

“Thanks, Manisha! Hey, um, miss? The two of us’re here to talk about, well... Whatever you’d like, really. Oh! I suppose mister makes three.”Bookmark here

Princess Kaguya jumps in her seat, startled by Hammuel resting his hand gently on her shoulder.Bookmark here

“...Doesn’t matter. None of you guys can fix anything.”Bookmark here

Yep. Still as charming as ever.Bookmark here

Can’t she see that her stubbornness isn’t getting her anywhere?  Bookmark here

“Ugh, what is your problem? Hammuel just offered to listen to you whine! Seriously, that’s no way to make friends.”Bookmark here

Manisha’s retort has Princess Kaguya on her feet, bristling with anger.Bookmark here

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“S-Shut up!! Who asked YOU?! You don’t know anything about me! Who needs friends, idiot!”Bookmark here

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“Who’re you calling an idiot?! Don’t you know who you’re talking to?!”Bookmark here

Princess Kaguya stomps around the table to stare Manisha down.Bookmark here

“Who even goes around asking people if they know how to make friends, anyways?! That’s just stupid!! So, what? I should just copy you? You don’t even know how I feel!”Bookmark here

“Oh, so that’s it. You don’t have any friends, so you’re taking it out on everyone else. Not like that’s going to make anything worse, or anything.”Bookmark here

“All my teachers...*sniff*... Have already told me that... I’ve been worried about that... *hic* Ever since I started going to school... But everyone just calls me a weirdo. No one believed me when I said that my parents live on the m-moon... I-I’m a princess, so of course I’m not like everyone else... But I don’t know what makes me so different, either...”Bookmark here

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I blink back tears, sniffling audibly.Bookmark here

“I own friends. But I don’t...know how to make any. I’ve been living with my grandparents this whole time, so I don’t really know anyone who’s even my own age.”Bookmark here

Okay, now I’m full-on crying.Bookmark here

While I’m trying to figure out what advice I could possibly give her, Princess Kaguya still has more of her tragic tale left to tell.Bookmark here

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“I’ve got five suitors, and they came — in secret — to check up on me at school. ...We were playing catch in my gym class, but...I was the only one who didn’t have a partner. Now, whenever I get home, the first thing they ask me is whether or not I’ve made any friends. But today, I-I...burst into tears and ran off.”Bookmark here

“Well, that’s just stupid.”Bookmark here

“...Don’t say that... I’m trying, I really am...  I’m so worried, but I c-can’t...”Bookmark here

Princess Kaguya trails off, glancing back down at the table, and Hammuel puts his hand on her shoulder in reassurance.Bookmark here

“No, I mean, why would you want to be friends with a bunch of people who call you mean names? That’s dumb.”Bookmark here

Hammuel wraps his arms around Princess Kaguya, pulling her into a gentle hug before he pipes up.Bookmark here

“I know how hard that must’ve been for you. And sad. But, don’t you worry. I’ve already decided that I’LL be your friend!”Bookmark here

“Wh-...! Hammuel!”Bookmark here

“Manisha, you will too, right?”Bookmark here

He gives her a surprisingly sharp look, as if to say “You’re gonna be friends and like it.” For a split second, Manisha seems almost startled, but she just shakes her head with a wry smile.Bookmark here

“Not this again! Geez, you just keep raking in the charity cases. Yeah, okay, sure. Any friend of Hammuel’s is a friend of mine.”Bookmark here

“You’ll my friends?”Bookmark here

Princess Kaguya looks back up to see both Hammuel and Manisha smiling at her, as they each reach out to take one of her hands. Bookmark here

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“’Course we will! We’re pretty much the same age, so we’ll have plenty to chat about!”Bookmark here

“Sounds good to me. ...As long as you don’t get any ideas about getting too close to Hammuel.”Bookmark here

“Y-You...really mean it?”Bookmark here

“You bet! Here, why don’t we start over? I’m Hammuel! But you can call me Hammy. And this here’s Manisha. What’s your name?”Bookmark here

“I... I’m Kaguya.”Bookmark here

Princess Kaguya stutters, nervously stumbling through her re-introduction.Bookmark here

“Great! Mind if I call you Kags?”Bookmark here

Hammuel flashes a smile so angelic that it makes Princess Kaguya finally break out into a bright grin.Bookmark here

“K-Kags...? Um, sure, why not? O-Okay! From now on, we’re gonna hang out a bunch!”Bookmark here

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“You betcha!”Bookmark here

“You’re one of us now.”Bookmark here

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Seeing the three of them sitting hand in hand, grinning and giggling makes my heart swell with a kind of older-sibling pride. I quietly brush away my own tears, when I spot some movement outside.Bookmark here

Huh. Just past the windows that look on to the seating area, I can see five guys huddled together, sobbing and gesturing ecstatically.Bookmark here

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Man, pure friendship between youngsters is just so...heartwarming.Bookmark here

...Except I feel like saying that out loud could put me in the same category as those “worst possible kinds of perverts.” Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.