Chapter 35:

Ms. Nightingale Marches On

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 thirty-fifth night behind the register.Bookmark here

“...*cough* *cough* *hack*...”Bookmark here

My head is throbbing, and I’m wheezing. I can’t stop coughing, either. I had a bit of a cold before I left for work, but it’s gotten so much worse.Bookmark here

I figured I’d be fine to head in today, since I’ve got tomorrow off. I just have to get through this shift, then I can take it easy.Bookmark here

Except that it’s only 2 AM, and I already feel like I’m about to drop dead.Bookmark here

Please, please, today, of all days, may we not get any oddballs. Ugh, maybe I really should have just called in sick...Bookmark here

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

“Welcome, irassha-ah-atchoo...! *sniff*...”Bookmark here

My chest hurts from coughing so much. I squint, trying to make out the blurry figure who’s just walked in. She’s wearing a white uniform and a pair of round glasses, her black hair tied back in a neat bun.Bookmark here

“...Well, you don’t look so good.”Bookmark here

I’m gripping the counter with both hands, struggling to keep myself upright. The customer leans in, gently pressing the back of her hand against my forehead.Bookmark here

“You’ve got a fever, too. You really ought to take the day off and rest up.”Bookmark here

“I know, but... *huff* *huff* I have tomorrow off, I’ll manage somehow...”Bookmark here

“I’d say you’re much worse off than you think. You’re not doing yourself any favors by trying to work in that condition.”Bookmark here

The woman in white turns back towards the automatic doors.Bookmark here

“You’re worried about him too, aren’t you? Would you mind lending a hand?”Bookmark here

Of course, Ayame is standing in the entrance, watching over the proceedings. I hadn’t noticed until she turned around, but the concerned customer is also carrying a massive backpack. She sets it down on the floor with an audible thud, then proceeds to pull out a fluffy while pillow.Bookmark here

Digging around even deeper in her bag, she slowly drags out a single-size futon.Bookmark here

“Could you help bring the patient over to the mattress while I get everything set up?”Bookmark here

Did that woman really say “set up”? ...Really? A futon? In a convenience store?Bookmark here

Ayame hurries over to the register, taking care not to step on the mattress that’s been laid out in front of the counter. I wobble, and she wraps an arm around my waist, helping to keep me steady.Bookmark here

“...I’m sorry you had to see me like this.”Bookmark here

“Oh, that’s nothing. It’s only natural that I’d want to help my boyfriend when he’s not feeling well. Come on, you can lean on me if you have to.”Bookmark here

“Thanks, Ayame....”Bookmark here

“...Oooh, but maybe that’s a little t-too close...”Bookmark here

I’m near enough that I can hear her nervous stuttering. Ah, she’s adorable.Bookmark here

“Heh. ...Ha ha... *snerk* Ahaha....”Bookmark here

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“...Haru, are you alright?! Speak to me! ...Hey! This isn’t any time to be laughing, you know! Should we take you to the hospital instead?!”  Bookmark here

“That would be the fever’s fault. Well, at this hour, it would be quicker for me to treat him than it would be to drag him anywhere else.”Bookmark here

With that decisive statement, the woman in white puts on a pair of black gloves — also from the backpack.Bookmark here

“...You can? Are you a nurse or something?”  Bookmark here

“Yes, that’s right. To start, we’ll lay him down and check his temperature.”  Bookmark here

She whips out a thermometer from her bag of tricks, then promptly starts to undo the buttons on my shirt.Bookmark here

“Wha-...! Just what do you think you’re doing?! You’re e-exposing him!”Bookmark here

Ayame grabs the other woman’s arm, tugging it away from my shirt.Bookmark here

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“How else am I supposed to get the thermometer under his armpit? Besides, an invalid’s emaciated body isn’t anything to get excited about. If you’d seen half as many naked men as I have, you’d understand.”Bookmark here

Well, excuse me for being disappointingly scrawny. When I lift up my hand to try see how bad the fever is for myself...Bookmark here

“See! Haru’s reaching out to me in a desperate cry for help!”Bookmark here

“Fine, I’ll check the other side. Go on, take his hand. The poor boy must be watching his life flash before his eyes.”Bookmark here

...Uh, no. I was just trying to check my own temperature. But I can’t get the words out.Bookmark here

“His mouth is moving! He’s trying to tell us something!”Bookmark here

“Mm, probably some words of comfort for the loved ones that he’s about to leave behind.”Bookmark here

“Oh, Haru... I love you too.”Bookmark here

As happy as I am to hear that, I’m really NOT on my deathbed! And I get the feeling this mysterious nurse knows that all too well.Bookmark here

Don’t you toy with Ayame’s sympathies, you harpy.Bookmark here

“Hm... 101.3. That’s quite a high fever.”Bookmark here

Her crisp proclamation has Ayame’s hands fly up to her face in shock.Bookmark here

“Then he really IS dying. Please, if there’s anything I can do to help, just tell me. Anything at all!”Bookmark here

“Well, in that case... Why don’t you use this towel to wipe the sweat off this skinny rake of a man?”Bookmark here

...Anything but that.Bookmark here

“I’m sure his physique is perfect. Even if I’ve never actually seen it myself.”Bookmark here

Ayame kneels down beside the thin mattress and sets to work. Which, of course, only makes me feel even more uncomfortable.Bookmark here

Is this real? What’s even happening to me right now? Okay. Time to think through this logically. Um... Right. I wasn’t feeling well, this woman dressed in white appeared out of nowhere, noticed that I wasn’t feeling well, called Ayame in, set up an entire bed... Which I’m now lying in, half-naked, being wiped down by my girlfriend.Bookmark here

Has anyone else ever found themselves in this particular situation? Anyone at all? Because there’s a LOT that I’d like to compare notes on right about now.Bookmark here

Ayame shyly dabs at my forehead with the towel, soaking up the sweat.Bookmark here

Awkward though this may be...if I died today, I’d be a happy man.Bookmark here

Seriously, though, who’s ever heard of anyone getting bundled up in the middle of their shift and nursed back to health?Bookmark here

Then again, being pampered like this makes my worst memories of this job just drift away. I could write a whole book on how wonderful it is to have someone who cares enough to devote themselves to your well-being.Bookmark here

“...Thanks, Ayame.”Bookmark here

“There, there. I love you, too.”Bookmark here

...She can’t hear me, can she? Still, having anything I try to say get answered with “I love you” is pure bliss.Bookmark here

“Much better. So, while you were busy wiping him down, I warmed up some rice porridge in the microwave. Here, go ahead and shovel it down that filthy mouth of his.”Bookmark here

“It’s not filthy. It’s lovely.”Bookmark here

“So, then...”Bookmark here

The no-nonsense nurse jabs a spoon into the rice porridge, passing it to my increasingly flustered-looking girlfriend.Bookmark here

“He has to eat it, even if he doesn’t want to. Otherwise his fever won’t go down. Here, I’ll hold him up for you.”Bookmark here

She smacks me on the back, and I jerk upright, sitting eye-level with Ayame and the spoon.Bookmark here

“Um... Okay, Haru. Open wide...”Bookmark here

Wait, hold on a second. Why does this suddenly feel like a retirement home? ...This is mortifying.Bookmark here

“Aaah...”Bookmark here

I open my mouth as wide as I can, and she slips in a spoonful of the porridge.Bookmark here

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“There! Look at all that munching and slobbering. It’s disgusting.”Bookmark here

Or so says the voice behind me.Bookmark here

It doesn’t seem to bother Ayame, though, who chuckles softly.Bookmark here

“Oh, Haru. I think you eat like an angel.”Bookmark here

I take it back. I could spend the rest of my days like this...Bookmark here

“Well done, you’ve gotten him to polish it off. Right, all that’s left is for him to down this super potent remedy of my own devising.”Bookmark here

With a cheerful grin, the woman in white holds up a round, black pill. It reeks.  Bookmark here

Yeah, there’s no way anything that nasty is actually going to work. I’ll bet it tastes awful, too.Bookmark here

“Once you take this, you’ll be right as rain. And you want to hurry up and get better, don’t you?”Bookmark here

I mean, it smells like...cheese, pineapple and natto all mixed together. So...what? It’s so horrible that it just shocks you into health?Bookmark here

“Right. Down the hatch with it.”Bookmark here

“Here, Haru. This will make you all better. Go on, say ‘aaah’...”Bookmark here

“Aaah...”Bookmark here

With Ayame asking, I don’t even think twice about it — I just open my mouth.Bookmark here

And that’s the last thing I remember.Bookmark here

When I come to, the first thing I see is her smiling in relief.Bookmark here

“...Ayame?”Bookmark here

Wait, I can talk again?!Bookmark here

“Oh, thank goodness... You’re not as pale anymore, either.”Bookmark here

Still smiling, Ayame looks over at the woman in the white uniform, who’s over in the nearby seating area, sipping on a cup of coffee.Bookmark here

“Thank you for helping Haru.”Bookmark here

Ayame offers her appreciation with a proper bow, which the nurse waves off with a serene smile.  Bookmark here

“It’s nothing. After all, it’s what I do for a living.”Bookmark here

When she spots me sitting up, feeling completely fine, she gives me a wink.Bookmark here

“If you get sick again, just call for Nurse Nightingale.”Bookmark here

“Thank you very much.”Bookmark here

I glance over at the clock. It’s only 3:30 AM.Bookmark here

You’re kidding me. It’s only been an hour and a half since I started my shift, and I’m already back to normal?Bookmark here

What was IN that medicine?Bookmark here

“Anyways, sometimes the best cure is just love and care from someone who thinks the world of you.”Bookmark here

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She bundles up her futon and pillow, since I don’t need them anymore, and stuffs them back into her backpack. Shouldering the bulging burden, she turns and starts to head towards the exit.Bookmark here

“Well, I said I’d come when you call, but try not to run your health so far into the ground that you actually need me, okay?”Bookmark here

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Without looking back, she waves and is out the door. Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.