Chapter 45:

Run (Away), Melos

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.Bookmark here

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Ding-a-ling-a-ling...  Bookmark here

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“Please, you’ve gotta hide us!!”Bookmark here

“We’re dead meat!!”Bookmark here

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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.Bookmark here

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They kind of remind me of a slapstick duo, what with their out-of-breath dramatic entrance and all.Bookmark here

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“So, uh, who’s hot on your trail?”Bookmark here

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“...*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.”Bookmark here

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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.Bookmark here

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“You’re right, Melos. We never should have come here. That slavedriver’s going to work us into an early grave.”Bookmark here

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Blue track suit guy is trembling, his brow deeply furrowed in worry.Bookmark here

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The details are still a little vague, but in short — these guys are on the run from their despotic employer, I guess.Bookmark here

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Ding-a-ling-a-ling...  Bookmark here

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“Yeeeek!!”Bookmark here

“Eep!”Bookmark here

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“Melos. Selin. Do you have any idea how long I’ve been looking for you two?”Bookmark here

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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.  Bookmark here

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“I don’t care! I’m never going back to that pit of Tartarus! I’m through with this!”Bookmark here

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The young man called Melos — the one in the red track suit — shakes his head in fervent refusal.Bookmark here

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“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.”Bookmark here

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He holds out his hands to the two young men with an expectant smile, as they cower in a quivering huddle.Bookmark here

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“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.”Bookmark here

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“What other choice did we have?!”Bookmark here

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This time, it’s Selinuntius’ turn to offer a timid reply.Bookmark here

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Ah, I think I know which literary classic these two guys are from.Bookmark here

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“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?”Bookmark here

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Heck, even I know the series. It’s super popular. I hear they’re even going to be turning it into an anime.Bookmark here

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“B-But I don’t want to draw it anymore!”Bookmark here

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The man in the suit pushes his glasses up a little higher as Melos whines.Bookmark here

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“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?”Bookmark here

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“...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!”Bookmark here

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“Such is the price of fame.”Bookmark here

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Taniguchi grins, every inch the stereotypical no-nonsense manga editor.Bookmark here

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“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!”Bookmark here

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After Melos spits out the string of complaints, his editor comes storming up to him.Bookmark here

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“...What was that?”  Bookmark here

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He grabs Melos firmly by his muscular shoulder.Bookmark here

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“Y-You let go of him, right now!”Bookmark here

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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.Bookmark here

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“Whoa!”Bookmark here

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Sure enough, Selinuntius ends up landing flat on his ass.Bookmark here

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“Melos, you’re certainly skilled at running from me. Your drawing skills and loyalty to your friends is equally commendable.”Bookmark here

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“Ha! That came out of nowhere. Thanks, Taniguchi!!”Bookmark here

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“Let’s consider your faults, though. You can’t keep a deadline to save your life.”Bookmark here

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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.Bookmark here

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Taking advantage of the sudden lull, Taniguchi lunges at Selinuntius, pinning his arms behind his back.Bookmark here

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“Ngh! Hrngh...!”Bookmark here

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“If you value your friend’s life, then deliver that manuscript by 6 AM. Or else.”Bookmark here

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“Noooo!! Taniguchi, you tyrant! You’re not even human! You’re just some awful chimera!”Bookmark here

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This is shaping up to be a pretty epic showdown.Bookmark here

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“I-I’ll be fine. Save yourself, Melos. Get as far away from here, as fast as you can.”Bookmark here

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“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.”Bookmark here

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“You’d better get going, Melos. ...Or your friend will suffer the consequences.”Bookmark here

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“Shut up, you short-sighted cyclops! We all know you’re only bluffing!”Bookmark here

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The bold accusation has everyone but the editor holding their breath.Bookmark here

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“...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-...”Bookmark here

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“Y-You mean, you’d split us up?!”Bookmark here

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“I certainly have the power to.”Bookmark here

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Melos is furious.  Bookmark here

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For our hero, that would be completely unforgivable.Bookmark here

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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.  Bookmark here

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“Don’t you worry, Selinuntius. I swear, I’ll make it back in time!!”Bookmark here

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With that, Melos dashes out into the night.Bookmark here

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Run, Melos!! Save your friendship (and your series) from the brink of destruction!!Bookmark here

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...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.Bookmark here

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“Good, he’s gone. Well done, Selin.”Bookmark here

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“Nah, it was nothing.”Bookmark here

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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.Bookmark here

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It’s one heck of a switch, that’s for sure. So, that whole “helpless victim” thing was all an act?Bookmark here

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“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.”Bookmark here

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...Wait, what?Bookmark here

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“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.”Bookmark here

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“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?”Bookmark here

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“That’s quite likely. Well, what if we...”Bookmark here

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The co-conspirators keep talking, but the details aren’t worth outlining here.Bookmark here

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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.
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