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 sixty-sixth evening at the convenience store.
“Please, you’ve gotta hide us!!”
“We’re dead meat!!”
Two young men come bursting into the convenience store, shouting over each other. The one with red hair is wearing a red tracksuit, and the one with long black hair is in a similar getup, but in blue. Even though the baggy fabric, you can tell that the red one’s ripped.
They kind of remind me of a slapstick duo, what with their out-of-breath dramatic entrance and all.
“So, uh, who’s hot on your trail?”
“...*huff* *huff*... This really terrifying titan of a man. That monster locked us in a tiny room and forced us to work for him. *huff*... Selinuntius, we can’t go back. The second we do, he’ll spot us.”
The man in the red track suit turns back to make sure they’re not being followed, wiping the sweat from his face as he does.
“You’re right, Melos. We never should have come here. That slavedriver’s going to work us into an early grave.”
Blue track suit guy is trembling, his brow deeply furrowed in worry.
The details are still a little vague, but in short — these guys are on the run from their despotic employer, I guess.
“Melos. Selin. Do you have any idea how long I’ve been looking for you two?”
A serious-looking man in glasses approaches them, dressed in an equally serious suit. His mouth is curved up in an odd grin that, I guess, is supposed to be disarming.
“I don’t care! I’m never going back to that pit of Tartarus! I’m through with this!”
The young man called Melos — the one in the red track suit — shakes his head in fervent refusal.
“Just how long are you planning on dragging your feet over this, hm? You’re well past your deadline, and I only have until 6 AM to get that manuscript in. So, stop all this racing around and hand it over.”
He holds out his hands to the two young men with an expectant smile, as they cower in a quivering huddle.
“You aren’t going to tell me that it’s not ready yet, are you? You promised you could finish by the 2 AM extension that I so generously gave you, after all.”
“What other choice did we have?!”
This time, it’s Selinuntius’ turn to offer a timid reply.
Ah, I think I know which literary classic these two guys are from.
“This is the best-selling comedy manga of the year we’re talking about here! Your fans — both young and old — are eagerly awaiting the next installment of ‘Gotta Go Fast, Melos!’ You’re not about to let down the adoring public, are you? ...Well? Where is my manuscript?”
Heck, even I know the series. It’s super popular. I hear they’re even going to be turning it into an anime.
“B-But I don’t want to draw it anymore!”
The man in the suit pushes his glasses up a little higher as Melos whines.
“I don’t care about what you want to do. You promised to deliver the product. And since Selin here has already submitted the script, all that’s left is for you to illustrate the panels. That’s it. ...It IS finished, isn’t it?”
“...You can’t fool us with your nice guy act! Taniguchi, you sadistic satyr! Sure, you only asked for a couple of gag strips in exchange for food and board after you found us passed out on the street. But, you’ve demanded the same scrupulous quality, week after week without pause! Even with all of the extra meet and greets, the interviews, and book signings, our deadlines haven’t changed! And now we’re getting an anime? We’ll be swamped!”
“Such is the price of fame.”
Taniguchi grins, every inch the stereotypical no-nonsense manga editor.
“We’re going to expire from being driven to exhaustion! How many times have we begged you for a little time off?! And what have we gotten? Nothing!”
After Melos spits out the string of complaints, his editor comes storming up to him.
“...What was that?”
He grabs Melos firmly by his muscular shoulder.
“Y-You let go of him, right now!”
In a sudden show of courage, Selinuntius rushes up and tries to pull Taniguchi away by his arm. He doesn’t seem to be all that strong, though.
Sure enough, Selinuntius ends up landing flat on his ass.
“Melos, you’re certainly skilled at running from me. Your drawing skills and loyalty to your friends is equally commendable.”
“Ha! That came out of nowhere. Thanks, Taniguchi!!”
“Let’s consider your faults, though. You can’t keep a deadline to save your life.”
Taniguchi dispenses with the sentimentality, and Melos’ expression fades. Now he kind of looks more like a guy whose girlfriend dumped him the day after they started going out.
Taking advantage of the sudden lull, Taniguchi lunges at Selinuntius, pinning his arms behind his back.
“If you value your friend’s life, then deliver that manuscript by 6 AM. Or else.”
“Noooo!! Taniguchi, you tyrant! You’re not even human! You’re just some awful chimera!”
This is shaping up to be a pretty epic showdown.
“I-I’ll be fine. Save yourself, Melos. Get as far away from here, as fast as you can.”
“Selinuntius! Come on, I’m not the kind of guy who could just abandon his friends like that! I know how worried you were when I ran off to see my sister’s wedding. ...And I swear, I’ll never let you feel like that again.”
“You’d better get going, Melos. ...Or your friend will suffer the consequences.”
“Shut up, you short-sighted cyclops! We all know you’re only bluffing!”
The bold accusation has everyone but the editor holding their breath.
“...Unlike you, Selin submits all his scripts and storyboards on time. I’ve been thinking that I ought to set him up with a new artist. There’s this adorable young lady who has the most amus-...”
“Y-You mean, you’d split us up?!”
“I certainly have the power to.”
Melos is furious.
For our hero, that would be completely unforgivable.
The bond between Melos and Selinuntius goes beyond mortal comprehension. It’s more dazzling than the sun. More solid than the ground beneath our feet.
“Don’t you worry, Selinuntius. I swear, I’ll make it back in time!!”
With that, Melos dashes out into the night.
Run, Melos!! Save your friendship (and your series) from the brink of destruction!!
...Since I don’t have anything better to do, I’ve been keeping myself occupied by narrating the whole scene, shonen manga-style, as I watch it all unfold.
“Good, he’s gone. Well done, Selin.”
“Nah, it was nothing.”
Taniguchi releases his hold on Selinuntius, who stands back up. He’s got a fiercely determined look on his face that could rival that of any anime hero.
It’s one heck of a switch, that’s for sure. So, that whole “helpless victim” thing was all an act?
“I mean, I understand that this is a business. ‘GoMel’ is popular, sure — but we’re still a long way from landing a movie contract. Sure, it’s a pain to have to pull these stunts to keep him motivated, but... I used to be a lowly stonemason. This is my chance to be a king. I’m not going to throw that away. So, Melos is just going to have to suck it up and keep drawing.”
“Mm, I’ve been thinking that a movie would be perfect. I’m so glad that you and I see eye to eye on these things. Selin, you’re a lifesaver. I know you’re only pretending to agree with Melos, when the truth is...you have the drive that he doesn’t. You don’t leap at the first chance to run from your problems.”
“Sure, everything worked out this time, but what about the next? What if he puts his foot down and refuses to cough up a finished piece?”
“That’s quite likely. Well, what if we...”
The co-conspirators keep talking, but the details aren’t worth outlining here.
Basically, neither one of them has all that much faith in Melos’ ability to see anything through to the end. ...Wait, wasn’t the original story all about the importance of having faith in your fellow man? ...Oh, well. Good luck, Melos.