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.
“Welcome, irassha-... Hey! If it isn’t our local shinigami!”
“Long time, no see.”
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.
“So, what brings you here today?”
“I wanted to see if you were maintaining appropriate levels of cleanliness.”
Crossing his arms, the death god surveys the convenience store with a critical eye.
“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.”
“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.”
Snapping his gloves, he heads off to do just that.
...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.
No, seriously — it’s just crows, crows and even more crows.
“...Maaan, I hope those guys don’t relieve themselves all over our parking lot.”
“My crows are not like their feral brethren. They have been trained to behave better than that.”
Kind of like how you’d housetrain a dog or a cat, I guess?
The shinigami disappears into the washroom for a while before finally reappearing.
“The situation there is quite satisfactory. Still, there is some room for improvement. The handles collect germs so easily, you see. That, and...”
“Halt, you fiend!!”
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.
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?
“...Um, can I help you?”
The shinigami and I exchange a confused glance.
“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.”
He narrows his eyes, his voice a threatening rumble.
This guy’s looking for some kind of troublemaker? ...Well, it can’t be me.
Sure enough, I’m staring at the same culprit as the tengu.
“Who? Me? What could I have possibly done?”
The shinigami gestures to himself, and I shake my head.
I mean, when we first met, he DID say that he liked to shave years off the lives of the slovenly.
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.
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.
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.
But, I’ll bet that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Who knows what he gets up to around town?
“I have no idea what you are referring to.”
The shinigami props his hands on his hips, asserting his innocence. The tengu, however, arches a doubtful eyebrow.
“...You truly have no recollection of your transgressions?”
“Of course not. I keep my actions every bit as unsullied as my surroundings. I would never do anything to tarnish my reputation.”
The tengu crosses his arms, clearly unimpressed.
“Hmph! The very thought is laughable. Allow me to enlighten you.”
He takes out a black flute from the sash around his waist, blowing into it.
As he does, the musical instrument instantly extends into a very serious-looking spear.
...Which he points straight at the shinigami.
“Hey! No bloodshed in the convenience store!”
It’s almost scary how often I have to say this.
“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!”
“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.”
“The evidence of your theft is as plain as the nose on my face.”
“Really. What did I take, then?”
“Why, you need only look outside.”
The shinigami and I both turn to peer through the window.
That eerie murder of crows is still staring at us, but that’s normal enough when this guy’s around.
“...I dare say there is nothing out of the ordinary.”
The shinigami smirks, brimming with confidence.
“Those crows used to be OUR envoys.”
Now it all makes sense.
Well. To me, at least. The shinigami scratches the back of his neck, looking like he still hasn’t put two and two together.
“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!”
“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.”
“...Using OUR fellows for your personal affairs?! We cannot ignore that slight. Especially not now that our usual operations have been affected.”
“...Could you elaborate?”
“Was I not clear? We tengu are charged with keeping the peace among the yokai community.”
“I presume you run some manner of business, as well.”
“Hm? Oh, I do odd jobs for anyone who is unable to pass as a human.”
“You see?! Therein lies the problem!!”
The tengu jabs an accusatory finger in the shinigami’s face.
“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!”
Right up until now, the tengu had been playing it pretty cool, but now he’s flapping about in barely repressed rage.
“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.”
Yet another supernatural creature who’s got it rough, huh...
“That is rather... Heh heh! That does sound quite unfortunate.”
“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.”
“...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.”
The shinigami holds out his wrists, ready to be hauled off to the slammer.
...Like THAT’S not suspicious. I wonder what he’s up to?
“I appreciate your cooperation, good sir. If you’ll just give me a moment to find my manacles...”
“Well, I have all night. However...”
I can see the shinigami’s eyes twinkling behind his gas mask. He leans in close to the tengu, speaking in a whisper.
“Don’t you realize just WHO you are dealing with?”
“I-I don’t see how that...”
“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.”
“...Y-You wouldn’t dream of it.”
“Oh, but... How could you know what I would or would not do? Go on, cuff me. See what that earns you.”
“D-Do you honestly think that threat is enough to make me t-turn tail?”
“Heh. Heh heh...”
“Wh-What’s so funny?!”
“AHA HA HA HA HA HA!”
“Have you not heard tales of what horrors befall those unfortunate enough to hear a death god’s laughter?”
“Nooooo!! All right, I yield!! ...But, mark my words — you shall be brought to justice one day!!”
The tengu shoots off one last warning before beating a hasty retreat.
“Ha ha...! What a delightful tengu. I rather enjoyed his tenacity.”
The shinigami turns back towards me, adjusting his tie.
“...Now, where were we? Right, the washrooms.”
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.