Chapter 49:

A Troubled Tengu Demands Retribution

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 seventy-sixth time working the register.Bookmark here

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

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“Welcome, irassha-... Hey! If it isn’t our local shinigami!”Bookmark here

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“Long time, no see.”Bookmark here

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It really has been a while. His style hasn’t changed in the least, though. He’s dressed in his usual black suit plus gas mask and gloves combo.Bookmark here

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

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“I wanted to see if you were maintaining appropriate levels of cleanliness.”Bookmark here

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Crossing his arms, the death god surveys the convenience store with a critical eye.Bookmark here

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“Well, you’ll be happy to hear that my manager and I have been keeping this place pretty clean. Not that we weren’t already.”Bookmark here

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“True, that is the ideal. If anything, the store seems tidier than it was before. Even the windowsills are pristine. Still, I should reserve my judgement until I have checked the washroom.”Bookmark here

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Snapping his gloves, he heads off to do just that.Bookmark here

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...I wonder if his crow entourage is with him tonight? I peer out the window, and I can see glowing red eyes sitting in a sea of black feathers. Yep. That’s a ridiculous murder of crows.Bookmark here

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No, seriously — it’s just crows, crows and even more crows.Bookmark here

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“...Maaan, I hope those guys don’t relieve themselves all over our parking lot.”Bookmark here

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“My crows are not like their feral brethren. They have been trained to behave better than that.”Bookmark here

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Kind of like how you’d housetrain a dog or a cat, I guess?Bookmark here

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The shinigami disappears into the washroom for a while before finally reappearing.Bookmark here

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“The situation there is quite satisfactory. Still, there is some room for improvement. The handles collect germs so easily, you see. That, and...”Bookmark here

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

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“Halt, you fiend!!”Bookmark here

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A man wearing a blue kimono tucked into those traditional puffy pants rushes into the store. Well, I say “man,” but he’s got a big, black beak where his nose should be.Bookmark here

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He brandishes the traditional lacquer pouch at his side, the bird-in-flight motif prominently displayed as he shouts in greeting. ...Has he seen too many period dramas, or what?Bookmark here

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“...Um, can I help you?”Bookmark here

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The shinigami and I exchange a confused glance.Bookmark here

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“I am one of the noble crow tengu. I have come seeking a certain...miscreant. I’m sure you are well aware of the charges, sir.”Bookmark here

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He narrows his eyes, his voice a threatening rumble.Bookmark here

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This guy’s looking for some kind of troublemaker? ...Well, it can’t be me.Bookmark here

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...Hold up.Bookmark here

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Sure enough, I’m staring at the same culprit as the tengu.Bookmark here

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“Who? Me? What could I have possibly done?”Bookmark here

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The shinigami gestures to himself, and I shake my head.Bookmark here

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I mean, when we first met, he DID say that he liked to shave years off the lives of the slovenly.Bookmark here

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That’s got to be a pretty blatant abuse of his powers, right? I could see death gods being called on the carpet for that one.Bookmark here

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Then there was the grenade he set off in the middle of the store. I know they’re for cleaning, but he just walks around with those things strapped to his back! That’s got to be another fairly serious offence.Bookmark here

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And that’s not all! I feel like most convenience stores would take offense to some stranger in a gas mask proclaiming that the place needs to be cleaned from top to bottom, all so that he could sit back and sip some coffee in a place that met with his stringent standards. ...Then again, that’s still not the weirdest thing that’s happened on one of my graveyard shifts.Bookmark here

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But, I’ll bet that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Who knows what he gets up to around town?Bookmark here

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“I have no idea what you are referring to.”Bookmark here

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The shinigami props his hands on his hips, asserting his innocence. The tengu, however, arches a doubtful eyebrow. Bookmark here

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“...You truly have no recollection of your transgressions?”Bookmark here

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“Of course not. I keep my actions every bit as unsullied as my surroundings. I would never do anything to tarnish my reputation.”Bookmark here

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The tengu crosses his arms, clearly unimpressed.Bookmark here

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“Hmph! The very thought is laughable. Allow me to enlighten you.”Bookmark here

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He takes out a black flute from the sash around his waist, blowing into it.Bookmark here

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*PHWEEEEEE*Bookmark here

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As he does, the musical instrument instantly extends into a very serious-looking spear.Bookmark here

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...Which he points straight at the shinigami.Bookmark here

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“Hey! No bloodshed in the convenience store!”Bookmark here

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It’s almost scary how often I have to say this.Bookmark here

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“Fear not, human child. I simply wish to keep this dishonest cur from fleeing. Hear me, you charlatan! I formally charge you with theft and the obstruction of lawful business affairs!”Bookmark here

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“Ha ha! Haru, are you listening to this fellow? How could I steal from you when this is the first time we have ever met? You must be joking.”Bookmark here

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“The evidence of your theft is as plain as the nose on my face.”Bookmark here

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“Really. What did I take, then?”Bookmark here

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“Why, you need only look outside.”Bookmark here

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The shinigami and I both turn to peer through the window.Bookmark here

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That eerie murder of crows is still staring at us, but that’s normal enough when this guy’s around.Bookmark here

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“...I dare say there is nothing out of the ordinary.”Bookmark here

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The shinigami smirks, brimming with confidence.Bookmark here

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“Those crows used to be OUR envoys.”Bookmark here

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“Oooh.”Bookmark here

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Now it all makes sense.Bookmark here

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Well. To me, at least. The shinigami scratches the back of his neck, looking like he still hasn’t put two and two together.Bookmark here

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“It should go without saying that crow tengu would rely on crows to aid them in maintaining law and order throughout the city. However, we began to notice a decline in attendance. We simply were not getting the numbers we used to for the evening watch. Then, we heard rumors of a gentleman luring away crows, bending them to his will. Though you, sir, are no gentleman. We demand that you return that which is rightfully ours!”Bookmark here

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“Ah, is that where they came from? While I can sympathize, I must refuse. Those crows joined me of their own volition. Clearly, nothing has been stolen, so there is nothing to return. Besides, they are rather useful creatures. It would be impossible for me to simply...give them up.”Bookmark here

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“...Using OUR fellows for your personal affairs?! We cannot ignore that slight. Especially not now that our usual operations have been affected.”Bookmark here

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“...Could you elaborate?”Bookmark here

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“Was I not clear? We tengu are charged with keeping the peace among the yokai community.”Bookmark here

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“Right, right.”Bookmark here

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“I presume you run some manner of business, as well.”Bookmark here

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“Hm? Oh, I do odd jobs for anyone who is unable to pass as a human.”Bookmark here

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“You see?! Therein lies the problem!!”Bookmark here

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The tengu jabs an accusatory finger in the shinigami’s face.Bookmark here

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“That was OUR duty! OUR reason for being! Ever since you lot opened up shop, our business has dwindled down to nothing! Then, when you somehow managed to capture Jack the Stripper, the last of our clientele completely defected to your side! “Stubborn old birdbrains,” they called us! You’ve stolen our employees, you’ve stolen our livelihood, and you’ve all but stolen our pride!”Bookmark here

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Right up until now, the tengu had been playing it pretty cool, but now he’s flapping about in barely repressed rage.Bookmark here

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“And by some ragtag group of misfits, at that!! We could have met as equals, perhaps, but it’s far too late now! I’ve come to reclaim the crows that are rightfully ours. It’s either that, or your head.”Bookmark here

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Yet another supernatural creature who’s got it rough, huh...Bookmark here

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“That is rather... Heh heh! That does sound quite unfortunate.”Bookmark here

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“How DARE you mock us! I’ll drag you with me, and see you answer for your crimes! I can’t imagine that the other tengu will be particularly merciful, either.”Bookmark here

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“...Tell you what. Why not take some crows home with you? Not that I am all that certain they would prefer your company to mine, given how attached they seem to be. Hm. Perhaps you should just arrest me and be done with it.”Bookmark here

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The shinigami holds out his wrists, ready to be hauled off to the slammer.Bookmark here

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...Like THAT’S not suspicious. I wonder what he’s up to?Bookmark here

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“I appreciate your cooperation, good sir. If you’ll just give me a moment to find my manacles...”Bookmark here

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“Well, I have all night. However...”Bookmark here

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I can see the shinigami’s eyes twinkling behind his gas mask. He leans in close to the tengu, speaking in a whisper.Bookmark here

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“Don’t you realize just WHO you are dealing with?”Bookmark here

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“I-I don’t see how that...”Bookmark here

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“We shinigami have complete command over the life cycles of ALL living things. That includes you, those crows outside, and whoever sent you on this ill-fated mission.”Bookmark here

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“...Y-You wouldn’t dream of it.”Bookmark here

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“Oh, but... How could you know what I would or would not do? Go on, cuff me. See what that earns you.”Bookmark here

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“D-Do you honestly think that threat is enough to make me t-turn tail?”Bookmark here

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“Heh. Heh heh...”Bookmark here

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“Wh-What’s so funny?!”Bookmark here

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“AHA HA HA HA HA HA!”Bookmark here

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“Stop that!”Bookmark here

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“Have you not heard tales of what horrors befall those unfortunate enough to hear a death god’s laughter?”Bookmark here

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“Nooooo!! All right, I yield!! ...But, mark my words — you shall be brought to justice one day!!”Bookmark here

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The tengu shoots off one last warning before beating a hasty retreat.Bookmark here

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“Ha ha...! What a delightful tengu. I rather enjoyed his tenacity.”Bookmark here

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The shinigami turns back towards me, adjusting his tie.Bookmark here

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“...Now, where were we? Right, the washrooms.”Bookmark here

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His voice is gentle, but it cuts through the stillness like a knife. I’m thinking it’s best to just shut up and do whatever he says, for tonight. Bookmark here

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