Chapter 30:

(Bonus Story) - A Day in the Life of Kosame Muramatsu

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’m off!”Bookmark here

After finishing my breakfast, I say goodbye to my parents, then I’m out of the house.Bookmark here

There’s five of us in my family — my mom and dad, my big brother, my big sister, and me.Bookmark here

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I’m Kosame Muramatsu, and I’m in my first year of middle school.Bookmark here

My big sister Kumoko’s a high school second-year, so she’s already gone ahead to catch her train.Bookmark here

It’s only the start of June, and my backpack already feels like dead weight.Bookmark here

I had a fever, so I took three days off of school. I think that’s what’s making my backpack feel heavier. And the route I take to get to school looks kinda...different.Bookmark here

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But the kappa who’s always floating in the river is still there. He watches me pass by, so I give him a big smile and a wave.Bookmark here

When I do, the kappa sinks into the water with a sploosh. Every time. I guess he must be a little shy.Bookmark here

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“G’morning, Kosame! Feeling better?”Bookmark here

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Akane, one of my classmates, comes running up to me with a smile.Bookmark here

“Yep, I’m totally fine!”Bookmark here

“That’s great! I was worried about you. Ooooh, right. We got another transfer student while you were out.”Bookmark here

“Already? Sora just started here, too. So? What’re they like?”Bookmark here

“Weeell, she’s...weird. She calls herself Princess Kaguya, and she keeps saying that she was born from bamboo.”Bookmark here

“That’s so cool!”Bookmark here

I mean, that’s pretty rare, right? Being born from like, plants not people.Bookmark here

I can’t wait to meet her.Bookmark here

“Wait, Kosame... You don’t actually believe that, do you?”Bookmark here

Lost in my own thoughts, I miss Akane’s skeptical question completely.Bookmark here

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When we finally get to school, a bunch of my other classmates come rushing over to greet me.Bookmark here

“Hey, Kosame! How’re you doing? Better?”Bookmark here

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“It’s good to see you again! Three days is a long time!”Bookmark here

“You had everyone worried about you!”Bookmark here

You know, those kinds of well-intentioned comments.Bookmark here

My classmates are really nice like that.Bookmark here

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When I take my seat, my neighbor — Sora Amanojaku — won’t stop staring at me.Bookmark here

“Good morning, Sora.”Bookmark here

“...G’afternoon.”Bookmark here

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“Got something you wanna say?”Bookmark here

“...I was just thinking it’s too bad you’re feeling better.”Bookmark here

Sora’s a kind of ogre called an “amanojaku.”Bookmark here

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I know ‘cause he told me so himself. He sits next to me in class.Bookmark here

He’s not the least bit scary, though.Bookmark here

His horns are pretty tiny, and his face is more cute than creepy.Bookmark here

Sora says that amanojaku’ll say one thing when they really mean the opposite.Bookmark here

So, he doesn’t talk too much. But he’s caring. Like, he’ll split his dessert with me at lunch, or help me with my homework.Bookmark here

“Thanks, Sora. You’re a nice guy.”Bookmark here

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“I’m not...that...”  Bookmark here

He glances away as his cheeks turn pink.Bookmark here

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Well, whatever. He’s always like that.Bookmark here

I scan the room, looking for the new transfer student. I finally spot her, sitting by herself in the furthest corner, scribbling something in her notebook. She’s got her hair up in higher pigtails than anyone else, and she’s wearing an eyepatch with a heart on it.Bookmark here

Huh. She’s not exactly what I was expecting. But, I made up my mind to try and talk to her during recess. Bookmark here

So, when a few of my classmates asked if I wanted to go to the washroom with them, I lied and said...Bookmark here

“Eh, I already went.”Bookmark here

So I could go have a chat with Princess Kaguya instead.Bookmark here

She hasn’t left either — she’s just drawing or doodling or whatever in her notebook.Bookmark here

I sit down in the empty chair in front of her desk, swiveling around to face her.Bookmark here

“What’cha drawing?”Bookmark here

“Yeeeek!!”Bookmark here

The poor girl practically jumps out of her skin, hiding her notebook behind her back.Bookmark here

“Don’t bother with her, Kosame. She’s a weirdo.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, she keeps claiming that she was born from a stalk of bamboo, and that her parents live up on the moon.”Bookmark here

“She’s always looking down on us, too. I mean, she gets super mad if you don’t call her ‘Princess’.”Bookmark here

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Well, all of my classmates are nice to me, but...Bookmark here

This side of them isn’t so great.Bookmark here

They’re pretty quick to turn on anyone who’s even a little bit different from them.Bookmark here

Sora’s fate was up in the air at first, but he’s got the whole “mysterious hottie” trope working for him, since he spends most of his time reading instead of chatting it up with his classmates.Bookmark here

So, the girls are happy to watch him from afar (‘cause he’s good-looking), and the guys have given up on trying to start fights with him, since he doesn’t respond to their teasing.Bookmark here

I think Sora’d like to be more talkative, but he’d definitely get bullied by the rest of the class if he was.Bookmark here

Princess Kaguya, on the other hand, doesn’t seem like much of a lone wolf.Bookmark here

“Did I miss something?”Bookmark here

“Uh, only her whole self-introduction! She was going on about how she was a princess, and that she was going to make us ALL her servants, so we’d better hurry up and bow down to her! ...C’mon, who does that?”Bookmark here

“...Yeah, and? I mean, she still introduced herself.”Bookmark here

I look over at Princess Kaguya, and she buries her head in her arms.Bookmark here

“So, wait. If your parents are up on the moon, how’d you end up in some bamboo down here?”Bookmark here

“What do YOU care? You’re not going to believe me, either.”Bookmark here

She snaps back at me without moving, her voice muffled by the desk.Bookmark here

“Hey! Don’t you talk to Kosame like that!”Bookmark here

“I DO believe you.”Bookmark here

I don’t even bother acknowledging my other classmate’s outburst.Bookmark here

“I’m all for being different, so I think it’s pretty cool that you weren’t born like most people. What’s the moon like? What kind of things do YOU like? I wanna learn more about you.”Bookmark here

“What, so you can tease me about it?”Bookmark here

“I won’t!”Bookmark here

“You’re lying!”Bookmark here

“I’m not!”Bookmark here

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“You ARE! And then you’ll go laugh about it, just like everyone else!”Bookmark here

Princess Kaguya looks back up, tears shimmering in her eyes.Bookmark here

“I swear I won’t. C’mon, let’s be friends.”Bookmark here

I hold my right hand out to her, and she stares at, then back up at me, then back to my hand like, “Seriously? What d’you want me to do with that?”  Bookmark here

“If anyone laughs at you, I’ll set ‘em straight. You can say whatever crazy stuff you’d like, and I’ll still stick with you.”Bookmark here

“...You really mean it?”Bookmark here

“Yep, totally.” Bookmark here

“You’ll even be my gym partner?”Bookmark here

“Sure, no problem.”Bookmark here

I’ll have WAY more fun with a moon princess than anyone who thinks it’s cool to laugh at people who’re different.Bookmark here

Like, I love that Sora only uses opposites.Bookmark here

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Humans’re boring. They outnumber anything cool on this planet — and most of them don’t have anything unique to bring to the table.Bookmark here

That, and whatever they don’t understand, they don’t accept.Bookmark here

But, ever since I was little, I’ve always gone for the least popular option. I’m all for the weird and unusual!Bookmark here

‘Cause I don’t want to be like everyone else.Bookmark here

So, whenever I meet someone who’s a little different, I go out of my way to get to know them better.Bookmark here

“You really, REALLY mean it? You’ll be my friend?”Bookmark here

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“Pinky promise. If I’m lying, you can kill me ten times over.”Bookmark here

“...You’re sure about that? I really would, you know!”Bookmark here

See? She’s not holding anything back. Bookmark here

Princess Kaguya sloooowly reaches out with her left hand. When she finally grabs mine, I respond with a firm handshake.Bookmark here

“Cool, that’s that, then. So, what were you drawing?”Bookmark here

“Oh...! It’s um...well...”Bookmark here

But the bell rings, and our break time’s up.Bookmark here

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When I get back to my own seat, Sora’s staring at me. That usually means there’s something he wants to say.Bookmark here

“What’s up?”Bookmark here

“Kosame, you’re pretty normal, huh?”Bookmark here

“...Nah, I don’t think so. But thanks, Sora.”Bookmark here

No, really. I’m as basic as they come.Bookmark here

Anyone with special abilities, or who’s a different species, or maybe just kinda quirky — that’s who I admire.Bookmark here

When I’m older, I wanna move to another realm and become a demon lord or something. Heroic adventurers are a dime a dozen, but there’s only ever ONE demon lord.Bookmark here

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I wouldn’t like, beat up a demon lord and take over their territory, though. That’s too obvious. I mean, if someone like ME can come up with a plan like that, then someone even cooler’s definitely already done it.Bookmark here

Anyways, the rumor that ended up going around was that “the fever fried Kosame’s brain.”Bookmark here

And everyone just left it at that.Bookmark here

After school, Princess Kaguya let me see her notebook.Bookmark here

In it, she’s drawn a picture of herself in goth-loli clothes, holding hands with two other girls — a devil with two black wings, and an angel with one black wing, and one white one.Bookmark here

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“Who’re these guys?”Bookmark here

“My new friends! They’re an angel and a devil.”Bookmark here

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Princess Kaguya has the biggest grin on her face as she points at each of the figures on either side of her.  Bookmark here

“Whoa, an angel AND a devil...?”Bookmark here

“Yeah! The angel’s got one black wing and one white one, but they’re still technically an angel. I think. The devil’s one of the Demon Realm’s prodigies. They promised to tell me more about the Celestial Realm next time.”Bookmark here

If anyone normal was listening to this, they’d probably think she’d made all this up just to get some attention.Bookmark here

But I think it’s awesome.Bookmark here

“You have GOT to introduce me.”Bookmark here

“No problem! You’re my friend too, so they won’t mind.”Bookmark here

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When my classmates asked me to walk home with them, I turned them all down so I could leave with Princess Kaguya.Bookmark here

“This is...! The first time I’ll be walking home with a friend!”Bookmark here

She looks really excited about this.Bookmark here

Yeah, I’m glad I reached out to her.Bookmark here

Eventually, our paths split. We wave goodbye, then I’m on my own again.Bookmark here

“Heeeey, little lady.”Bookmark here

“Hey, Pops! How’s it going?”Bookmark here

Along the way, I run into the jinmenken — the scruffy shiba inu with the old man face.Bookmark here

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He tells me all kinds of crazy stories.Bookmark here

We often sit and chat, side by side, on one of the benches at the park.Bookmark here

“So, you were sayin’ that school was boring, but how’re things going now?”Bookmark here

“Good! An amanojaku just transferred in, and he sits next to me now. I had to take a few days off, ‘cause I was sick, but when I got back, there was another new girl. Princess Kaguya. She’s funny. I think middle school’s gonna be pretty interesting after all.” Bookmark here

“Izzat so? I guess you’ll eventually get tired of chattin’ with this old dog...”Bookmark here

The jinmenken’s shoulders slouch as he mumbles in reply.Bookmark here

“No way! I’ve got you and the kappa, plus Sora — he’s the amanojaku — and Princess Kaguya says that she’s from the moon, which is cool. You guys are all WAY more fun. And who knows? There might be a party of like, adventurers, or even a demon lord wandering around somewhere, too! Doesn’t thinking about that kind of thing get you all fired up?”Bookmark here

“Well, whatever floats yer boat, little lady. You’ve got spunk, that’s fer sure.”Bookmark here

“Thanks, Pops.”Bookmark here

Without thinking, I reach out to scratch the top of his head, and he gives me this look of unspeakable embarrassment.Bookmark here

“Eeeh, I’m not usually one fer head pats, but I’ll let’cha have this one.”Bookmark here

Or so he grumbles, but his curled tail is wagging in unrestrained happiness. And I think that’s adorable.Bookmark here

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“See you later!”Bookmark here

“Drop on by and tell me more about’cher school some other time, alright?”Bookmark here

“Sure thing!”Bookmark here

When I finally make it back to my own neighborhood, the sun is starting to set.Bookmark here

Just up ahead, I can see someone else I recognize.Bookmark here

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“Hey! Haru!”Bookmark here

“Huh? Oh, Kosame. You on your way home? Were you okay to go back to school so soon after catching that cold?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, it was fine. How about you, big bro? What’re you up to?”Bookmark here

My big brother Haru’s the best. Dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, he holds up a plastic shopping bag in answer.  Bookmark here

“Just on my way back from some shopping. What’s up? You look like you had a good day.”Bookmark here

Rustling through the bag, Haru pulls out a bottle of apple juice. He twists the lid off and starts gulping it down.Bookmark here

I skip straight over all the boring, normal stuff, and get straight to the day’s big news.Bookmark here

“When I got in today, I found out that we had a new transfer student! Her name’s Princess Kaguya!”Bookmark here

My brother does a spit take, apple juice spraying everywhere. He stares at me in shock, the drink dripping down his chin.Bookmark here

“You okay, Haru?”Bookmark here

“...Yeah, I just... Never mind.”Bookmark here

Wiping his mouth with a handkerchief he pulled from his back pocket, Haru looks at me with, well, serious concern.Bookmark here

“Y’know, we’ve had a lot of new people lately! I’m friends with Sora now — he sits beside me — and I think Princess Kaguya and I are gonna get along great! School’s gotten soooo much more interesting.”Bookmark here

“...Yeesh, I wonder if this runs in the family... Right. So, if any weirdos try...anything tell me, okay? Ugh, like those five stalkers, er, suitors of Princess Kaguya’s, or... Nah, mostly just those guys.”Bookmark here

He shakes his head, but I have no idea what he’s muttering about.  Bookmark here

Besides, if we’re talking about stalkers, then he just has to look behind him. Who’s the woman in the red dress hiding in the shadows, big bro?Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.