Chapter 31:

An Engagement With the Demon Lord’s Entourage

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

Ding-a-ling-a-ling...  Bookmark here

“...I’d know that silhouette anywhere. Hey! Long time, no see.”Bookmark here

“Lad, I have arrived.”Bookmark here

The demon lord raises his hand in friendly greeting, and I return the gesture.Bookmark here

“You haven’t stopped by at all, lately.”Bookmark here

“True, I have been rather busy.”Bookmark here

He crosses his arms as he nods to himself. Has he really? Doing what?Bookmark here

“So, what brings you here today?”Bookmark here

“I wished to see you, lad. It has been some time since we last met.”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

He did? ...What for? He’s already earning his own money (more or less), so he doesn’t need me to buy things for him anymore, right?Bookmark here

“But why?”Bookmark here

“I simply missed seeing your face. And I wished to purchase some pork cutlet sandwiches.”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

Wait, that’s it? Seriously? Huh. That reasoning makes that huge, hulking demon sound more like the heroine of a romance novel.Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

The sandwiches aren’t so surprising, though. Still, what’s really shocking about this exchange is the genuine currency that he pulls from the purple fabric wrapped around his waist to pay for them. It’s been folded to death, but it’s the real deal.Bookmark here

“Is that a th-th-thousand?! You’ve got a thousand-yen bill?!”Bookmark here

I look between the money and the demon lord in disbelief, and he frowns slightly.Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“Wh-... But how?! When did you get your hands on this?”Bookmark here

“At the beginning of June, Sheri received her ‘paycheck.’ From that, I have obtained an allowance.”Bookmark here

“That’s great news! I mean, now you guys don’t have to be homeless anymore!”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

I’m grinning like crazy, but the demon lord doesn’t seem all that thrilled.Bookmark here

He takes one look at my expression and shakes his head with a heavy sigh. What’s got him so down in the dumps?  Bookmark here

“I preferred our previous situation.”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“What do you mean by that?”Bookmark here

“Recently, Sheri and I moved to a nearby apartment. That is why I was unable to visit for such an extended period of time.”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“Seriously?! Why wouldn’t you lead off with news like that?!”Bookmark here

“Ever since then, Sheri has requested that I remain indoors. There was no longer a need for me to collect cans, she said. However, Sheri now works during the afternoons as well. It would be a waste to use any of the precious electricity, so I spend my days gazing up at the ceiling. It indescribably dull existence.”Bookmark here

“Ah, I get it. You got so used to your old habits that without them, you’ve got nothing to do.”Bookmark here

“Today, I expressed my desire to Sheri to return to our previous location. She was furious. She demanded to know why I would say something so horrible after all the sweat, blood and tears she had put into ensuring that we were provided for.”Bookmark here

“Oooh, boy...”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“The next thing I knew, I found myself walking towards this location.”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

Wait, why the convenience store?Bookmark here

“Normally, I would go speak with Yamada, Ito and Matsumoto. However, last time... They shoved me away, tears in their eyes as they told me to never come back again. I had even offered them a place in our apartment, and a share of Sheri’s earnings.”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

Well, I can see why they would’ve done that.Bookmark here

I mean, I’m pretty sure that Sheri hasn’t been working long hours at a hostess club so that she could pay for everyone. And I know that the demon lord’s just trying to be nice, but... Yeah, there’s no way this wasn’t going to turn into a fight.Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

They’re definitely at cross-purposes.Bookmark here

All the demon lord wants to do is go back to his previous homelessness.Bookmark here

Meanwhile, Sheri’s been working her butt off to make sure that he ISN’T homeless. Really, it was only a matter of time before this blew up in their faces.Bookmark here

And I’m sure his homeless friends just want him to live the best life that he can.Bookmark here

“Lad, I am unsure of how to proceed. I would rather spend my days collecting cans among my fellows — but they no longer wish to see me again. Still, neither can I sit at home and do nothing.”Bookmark here

“I guess you could...try doing something about that massive armor of yours? And your overall...look?”Bookmark here

“No, my armor must remain equipped at all times.”Bookmark here

“It’s that important, huh?”Bookmark here

“It happens to be keeping my ultimate, unlimited and utterly unstoppable power contained. If I was to carelessly remove it, this realm would be in grave danger.”Bookmark here

Okay, yeah. Staying at home and quietly staring at the ceiling would be MUCH safer for everyone involved.Bookmark here

Ding-a-ling-a-ling...  Bookmark here

“Figures you’d be here!”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

And now the elf-maid has made it over too.Bookmark here

“Sheri...”Bookmark here

“C’mon, we’re goin’ home.”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

She tugs at his cape, but the demon lord flicks it out of her hands.Bookmark here

“I desire a return to our previous vagrancy.”Bookmark here

“You’re STILL goin’ on about that?! I told you, we ain’t goin’ back!”Bookmark here

“Then I shan’t go home! I cannot waste another day staring at nothing! It’s dull! Drab! Desolate!”Bookmark here

The demon lord is throwing a tantrum that would make any toddler proud. But, Sheri counters with:Bookmark here

“Y’already know you can’t go anywhere lookin’ like THAT!”Bookmark here

Yep. No arguments there.Bookmark here

“When we resided in the park, I...”Bookmark here

Ding-a-ling-a-ling...  Bookmark here

All three of us freeze.Bookmark here

A woman with eyes as dark as the shadows rushes over to the demon lord as soon as she spots him. She latches onto his arm, her chest pressing up against him as she smiles broadly.Bookmark here

“Demon Lord, sir, is that you? I’ve finally managed to get a hold of you.”Bookmark here

That expressionlessness, that perfectly flat tone of voice...Bookmark here

Those tapered elven ears that poke out of her black hair...Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

The classically styled maid outfit with the long skirt...Bookmark here

And those obsidian eyes that keep her thoughts locked in the dark. This can’t be anyone other than Chronoa.Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“Chronoa, is that you?! Where have you been all this time?”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“Wh-...?! But what’re you doin’ here?!”Bookmark here

Sheri takes a step back, her eyes widening in shock.Bookmark here

“So glad to see that you remember me, the dark elf you so callously abandoned. Are you still shuffling around in the shadow of our great Demon Lord? No matter, I’ll look after him from here on out. Go on, run along back to your proper realm.”Bookmark here

“I didn’t go through all that hell for nothin’! Y’can’t have him! You’re just gonna spoil him into uselessness again!!”Bookmark here

Aaaaand they’re fighting.Bookmark here

“C’mon, Demon Lord! Let’s head on back t’our place!”Bookmark here

Not one to lose to Chronoa, Sheri wraps her arms around the demon lord’s free one, creating some kind of sexy elf sandwich.Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“Sir, you mustn’t do that. If you come live with me, you’ll be able to spend your days lazing away in the most fabulous penthouse Tokyo has to offer, drinking nothing but the finest sake as I brush your hair.”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

...He’s got HAIR?!Bookmark here

Okay, wait. That’s not what’s important here.Bookmark here

“I desire neither scenario! I wish to be homeless once more!”Bookmark here

Dude. That’s all well and good, but don’t you realize you’re wasting two decidedly more appealing options?Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“My dear, did you just say ‘homeless’? Sheri, how could you? You forced the Demon Lord to sleep outdoors?”Bookmark here

Chronoa’s dark eyes narrow to thin slits, her hair standing on end as she glares at Sheri with an intensity that would suggest that her father had been murdered.Bookmark here

“Yeah, and?”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“What a disgrace...! How dare you debase him so!”Bookmark here

“Pft, like I care what you think. Where’ve YOU been all this time, huh? I’m a hundred times better for him than your neglectful ass.”Bookmark here

Don’t I know it. I’ve heard all the stories, so Sheri’s got my full support.Bookmark here

“Sir, surely you see that you can’t be left with Sheri any longer. You’ll be returning under my wing.”Bookmark here

“Chronoa, I—”Bookmark here

“Now, now. Big sister knows best, doesn’t she?”  Bookmark here

Chronoa stares up at the demon lord, gazing unblinkingly into his eyes.Bookmark here

“Hey, stop that! Hypnotism ain’t fair!”Bookmark here

Seriously, what is WITH all these badass women walking in here who have literal powers of persuasion?Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

Well, aside from Ayame. She doesn’t have any extra abilities, but she can hold her own just fine.Bookmark here

...Wait, where IS she? The second Chronoa walked in, Ayame should have been right behind her.  Bookmark here

I mean, isn’t she out there watching me from the bushes, like usual?Bookmark here

Something doesn’t seem right, so I decide to take a quick look outside.Bookmark here

“Helloooo...? Ayame?”Bookmark here

Huh. That’s odd.Bookmark here

She’s not here. I don’t think she’s ever skipped one of my shifts.Bookmark here

...Did something happen to her?Bookmark here

Now considerably more worried than I was before, I step back into the growing chaos that is the convenience store.Bookmark here

The demon lord is down on the floor, his head resting in Chronoa’s lap. Sheri has sunk to her knees, covering her face with her hands.Bookmark here

“What’re you doin’ to him?!”Bookmark here

“Why, Chronoa, I feel like a child again...”Bookmark here

“Hmmm? I didn’t think infants could speak.”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“Goo goo, gaa gaa...”Bookmark here

“You turn him back!! You’re ruining everything!!”Bookmark here

“Now, doesn’t this feel nice? You’re back to being my darling baby boy.”Bookmark here

“Bllb, brrrgl...”Bookmark here

“Demon Lord, don’tcha dare start babblin’ like that! You listen t’me! Y’can’t go back to bein’ a kid now! Not after you’d finally grown into a decent person!”Bookmark here

“Gurgle and coo as much as you’d like, sir. Your big sister will take care of everything. Bid farewell to your previous homeless — you won’t ever experience that again.”Bookmark here

“That is absolutely unacceptable.”Bookmark here

“Yeeek!”Bookmark here

The demon lord is back up in a flash, reaffirming his previous statement.Bookmark here

“Above all else, I wish to be homeless again!”Bookmark here

“I already told ya, we ain’t gonna do that!”Bookmark here

“That’s right, he’ll be living with me!”Bookmark here

The demon lord is back in the game, turning this into a three-way showdown.Bookmark here

Most of their shrieking goes in one ear and out the other, though. I’m too worried about Ayame to focus on anything else.Bookmark here

You know what? Maybe I should go take another look.Bookmark here

But, when I step outside...Bookmark here

“Whoa! How long have you been there?!”Bookmark here

I spot the shinigami sitting on the bench.Bookmark here

“Good evening. It is nice to see you again.”Bookmark here

“What brought you out here?”Bookmark here

“This and that. The day’s investigations have worn me out, so I thought I would take a break. By the way, were you aware that the store’s lighting is a tad dim? As you know, your customers are always light.”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

“...You guys do that kind of thing?”Bookmark here

I ignore the god-awful pun with every fiber of my being.Bookmark here

“Oh, yes. There have been reports around town of a ‘Jack the Ripper’ roaming the streets.”Bookmark here

“Uh, did you just say... ‘Jack the Ripper’?”Bookmark here

“Indeed. And the fearsome fellow has made a point of targeting women of considerable strength.”Bookmark here

“Like who?!”Bookmark here

My mind is reeling from all the possible worst-case scenarios. Does he mean that these women are being attacked...?! That’s not... That’s just... Oh, but maybe...Bookmark here

“His first victim was a judo champion. The next, a karate master; then a boxing prodigy. Even more mysteriously, he has since started branching out to the supernatural. His latest mark was a kuchisake-onna, but...”Bookmark here

And the blood rushes out of my face.Bookmark here

“What... When...?”Bookmark here

“All too recently. Thankfully, she walked away with only a few scratches, but we were concerned that she may still be a target, so we have been keeping her at our office. However, she would not stop asking to go see you. She kept saying that it was her duty to watch over you.”Bookmark here

“...You have to let me go see her!”Bookmark here

“I am afraid I cannot. We currently have her under our protection, but she refuses to listen to reason. Which is why I came t—”Bookmark here

He’s interrupted by an ominous rattling, scraping sound.Bookmark here

And it keeps getting closer.Bookmark here

That’s not...Jack the Ripper, is it?! Wait, no. A mask-less Ayame steps out of the shadows, dragging her sickle behind her.Bookmark here

“Ayame?!”Bookmark here

“I came to see you, Haru...”Bookmark here

 Bookmark here

She’s grinning, her face covered in some kind of red liquid.Bookmark here

There’s a strangely metallic scent wafting from her red dress, too.Bookmark here

“...Oh thank god, you’re alright. I’ve got like, six different questions I need to ask you, though.”Bookmark here

“But how did you...get out?”Bookmark here

The shinigami mutters the question, clearly in shock. Ayame’s reply is a simple:Bookmark here

“Anyone who gets between Haru and I...will be terminated.”Bookmark here

She swings her sickle at the shinigami with a bright smile, to emphasize her point and he quickly scuttles back against the wall.Bookmark here

“How dare you! You have some nerve to raise your weapon against a god of death!”Bookmark here

“Whoa, wait! Hold on, Ayame!”Bookmark here

“Hm? What’s the matter, Haru?”Bookmark here

“Isn’t it obvious?! What’s all this about you becoming Jack the Ripper’s latest victim?! Aren’t you hurt, or...?!”Bookmark here

“Well, no? He didn’t seem at all interested in harming me.”Bookmark here

“Ah. I see your confusion. True, while ‘Jack the Ripper’ is the name he currently goes by, it is not because he tears his victims to shreds.”Bookmark here

“What do you mean by that?”Bookmark here

“While it has gotten muddled over time, his original name was Jack the Stripper. I should know — I was the first to give it to him. He is a world-renowned scoundrel who enjoys...divesting his female victims of their clothing. While their pride might be injured, they themselves are not.”Bookmark here

“...How is that any different from like, every other pervert out there?!!”  Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.