EPISODE 25 – Trading for Services
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I head back to my bed and take the day off.

..

.

May 21, 20XX

10:23 AM

My alarm goes off and wakes me up. Rubbing my eyes and stretching to relax my muscles, I turn to my alarm clock to finally end the continuous tune that’s entering my head. The shining bright sun permeates through my window. Feeling all set for the day, I walk towards the windows and peer down at the walking people below.

“Looks like I’m off to a great day!”

I go away from the windows and dance around.

“No school is great!”

What do I do? Nakatani doesn’t come back until 3:00 PM.

“I have the whole house to myself.”

A nice idea enters my head.

“I’ll spend the day watching anime and lazing about! Nothing else I can do anyways. Don’t wanna work out this brain any more than I have to.”

Finally, a day off! School feels a lot more tiring than it should be.

I go outside my door and walk down the stairs. Out of the corner of my eye, the fridge rests waiting for me to open it. Like the dear I am, I open it to grab the ingredients for the first meal of the day. To my surprise, it was empty, containing only basic condiments such as soy sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise and the like.

Seems that Nakatani used up all the ingredients for yesterday’s meal.

“I’ll go buy a melon pan and perhaps some instant noodles would do.”

I head straight for the door and begin my journey for the convenience store a few blocks to the right.

I’ll think of more things when I actually arrive at the store.

It didn’t take long at all to reach my destination. Though, I did get to enjoy the surroundings for the first time in a while. Bustling and fresh winds, the greenest of plants, picking the slightest of details from the most insignificant of things, I’m in a really good mood today, aren’t I?

That’s enough yapping for now. I actually go into the convenience store. It had bottled cans, tea drinks, to even donuts.

Ahh~ this is heaven… the air conditioning in this place is simply the cherry on top!

Exploring the aisles, one by one I seek the things I need.

Potato chips? Yep.

Ruffle.

Onigiri. Definitely.

Ruffle.

Instant noodles? Hell yeah!

Ruffle.

I stuff them into the plastic bag I held, then all of a sudden, I recognize a peculiar face.

This guy seems familiar… is he…

My eyes finally widen when the pieces start coming together. Unconsciously, as if by instinct, I hide myself behind through aisle of bagged potato chips.

KASE YOSHIO?! WHAT IS HE DOING HERE NEAR THE NEIGHBORHOOD?

He is the person I wanted to see the least. What is that shounen protagonist doing in my turf?

I analyze his actions carefully from a corner.

He doesn’t seem to be in a hurry and is seemingly picking up some chips. Isn’t he way late for school? What’s going on? Was he like transferred to another school before us knowing? In any case, I shouldn’t associate myself with him as Shounen protagonists tend to be a magnet for trouble and the convenience stores always serve as their prime blind space.

Meticulously making my way to the head to the cash register, just as I pick my pocket to grab my wallet...

Huh?

There was nothing. I dig my hand in deeper to check, but it was hollow. To confirm my suspicions, I pull out the bottom and see with my very eyes, an empty pocket.

Darn it. I must have left it at home.

I groan.

Now, I have to go back home and pick up my wallet.

Right as I was about to head back to the sliding glass doors, I see another peculiar person watching the convenience store from a distance. I trace the man’s line of sight, which directed itself to… of course, Yoshio Kase, the Shounen protagonist.

I’ve doomed myself.

As I was about to curse myself for not leaving in the first place despite his presence, I think deeply about the possible perks about the situation that was about to unfold.

If we get ambushed now… what will happen to the convenience store? Surely, they can’t care about the store’s items if it gets assaulted. In other words… if I were to maneuver my way out of the event, then I can take all the food and money I want and the blame would go all on the perpetrator.

I snicker.

My mind truly comes up with frightening ideas.

A few seconds later, this very man fires his gun at the store aimed at Yoshio, unquestionably so, all shots missed.

It was the queue for an ambush and I led the scream.

“AAAAHHHHHH!!!!”

Despite screaming, I stand still and prepare for when they mess up the place. The man behind the counter freezes in fear and Yoshio being the hero he is, rushes in to stop the shooter.

Miraculously, all bullets that he fired then and there miss. Yoshio swiftly takes ahold of the gun and kicks it away. The shots that missed broke the glass cases where the drinks were.

That was the cue for their brawl and also the cue for my plan to be executed. While they go crazy with whatever martial arts over there, perhaps even glimpses of Yoshio’s power, I didn’t really pay any attention to any of those.

I keep on screaming and collect as many plastic bags I could grab. I use some of the plastic bags to store the affected area’s drinks.

Can’t let these props go to waste.

Yoshio and the man wrestle each other and in the process, knock over the cash register. Some of the cash spills on the ground.

“EEP!” the man behind the counter yelps as he faints to the ground.

Ooh, money.

Still screaming, I crawl towards the many spilled bills and carefully dodge their fighting movements. I pick up each bill one by one, carefully garnering the heaping amount of cash I had gotten in an instant.

Afterward, they knock off the aisle of bagged chips, bread, canned goods, and instant noodles respectively. Shortly after I bagged the huge heap of cash, I collect the fallen goods.

Damn, I’m rich!

I see that the anonymous man and Yoshio were still fighting, so I keep on screaming until I excuse myself through the automatic sliding glass doors without a trace.

“Finally, some good luck once in a while!”

I merrily skip like I hadn’t just robbed a convenience store. Wait, robbed? PFT! No, I’m merely taking the food before it gets wasted. Wasting good is a no-no, you know?

“Kufufufu~”

Convenient indeed.

...

..

.

I arrive back home brighter than ever and drop my humongous loot on the table. Becoming slightly conscious, I check out the time hanging on the wall.

“11:30.”

Got some time to burn.

I heat up some water in the kettle. While it did that, I make sure to fill the refrigerator with my goodies.

Once the kettle whistled it clicks automatically, and I pour the boiling hot water onto my instant ramen. I open a bag of potato chips and the aroma enters my nostrils like it’s the second best thing ever, ramen being first obviously. Next, I turn on some TV, and sit comfortably on the couch.

This is the life.

The door abruptly opens. It was only Nakatani and Mieko.

Onii-chan, we’re home!”

Wait. Upon realization, I rise in a panic.

“WHAT?! HOW ARE YOU-”

I look back at the time.

“3:17?! HOW?! I JUST SAT DOWN FOR A SECOND!”

…Time dilation due to lazing about. Amazing logic.

“Hang on… MY NOODLES!”

I turn to my overcooked noodles.

“IT’S SOGGY!!!”

I fall to the ground in such defeat.

“Curses.”

My potato chips are also probably stale…

“Oh, stop being a drama queen, onii-chan, Mieko-chan’s here!” Nakatani cheers.

“That’s right! I’m here!” Mieko replies following a girly pose.

“What’s there to be happy about?” I ask, down in the dumps.

She kicks me at my leg.

“Fine,” I say forcefully.

I stand on my two feet.

“I’m going to sort out my things in my room upstairs. You two have fun!” Nakatani says energetically as ever as she climbs up the stairs.

Step. Step. Step.

“So… what should we do today? Hang out?” Mieko asks.

“We can do that soon, just not now,” I answer.

I don’t feel like working, but she’s here, just the person I need. I need to get my ass moving.

“Mieko-chan, I have another favor to ask of you.”

“Straight to the point, eh? What do you want me to do?”

“Alright, I need you to do the following…”

I explain to her what I needed.

“I understand, you want me to deliver a message to one of your friends, Arata, as well as to the rest,” she repeats.

“Yes,” I respond.

“If that’s the order then this should be a piece of cake! Surely you didn’t ask a favor to do just this, did you?”

“Yes, I would like you to monitor one of the girls in the same classroom as me, Mari Chinen.”

“Stalker?”

“No, it’s not like that. I just want to monitor her so I could tell if her messages are genuine.”

“I feel like I need some context here, because this just sounds like an invasion of privacy.”

“No, just- Are you up to the job or not?”

I know my actions are morally questionable, but this is an anime/manga world. A lot of things that happen are questionable if you dig deep enough, it’s best to project only part of those morals in such a world.

She sighs, “I don’t know, I’m taking far lengths here. I classify myself as a dignified white-hat hacker.”

I honestly doubt that. But I’m not gonna say that.

“Come on now, please.”

“Oh alright, but it’ll cost you for my services. Last time was for a favor from Nakatani, so you have to understand that I run a serious business here.”

“Name your price.”

“Hmm.”

She takes a glance at the plastic bags.

“What’s that bag of money?”

Play dumb. Play dumb. Play dumb. Else she’ll take all your loot… there’s a predator.

“Over there,” she points at it continuously.

I turn away.

“Oh, that? That’s paper money. It’s not real.”

“Why would you buy tons of fake money?”

“School project. School these days know how to empty your pockets.”

“Paper money? In high school? Does your school have a dated learning system that you need to count money at that grade level?

“Yes.”

“Hmmm? Fine, if that is truly paper money, you wouldn’t mind if I borrow a bill or two, no?”

“No,” I force a chuckle, “of course not.”

“Great!”

She approaches the bag menacingly and swipes a 10,000 yen bill. I gulp.

“Must be Grade A paper money… it looks authentic! I wonder how much does it cost?”

It costs 10,000 yen.

“Can I tear it?” she asks permission.

“Excuse me?”

“I can always replace it, after all, it IS fake,” she emphasizes a particular word.

“Uh, I would mind.”

Rip.

“Oops.”

The two halves of the bill fall on the floor. I scream at the top of my lungs.

“MY MONEY!!!”

I rush to the poor innocent bill and try to scrape it together. I face her.

“WHY DID YOU TEAR MY MONEY?!!!”

“You said it was fake.”

“You obviously knew the whole time!”

“You pretended not to know. Besides, where did you get all that money?”

“None of your business!”

“Well, speaking of which, my services would cost a lot and as charity, I’ll take off...”

Your clothes?

“…10,000 yen off your balance.”

Tch.

“Disappointed now, are you? How perverted, I’m 15.”

Ironic, considering someone who just offered erotic pictures.

“Well, I’m also 15!”

“Hold up, we’re getting nowhere with this. How much do you really need?” I ask.

“How much is in your bag?”

“What if I lied about how much is in there?

“Doesn’t matter. I’ll be taking the whole bag, regardless.”

“Since when were you the greedy type?”

“So you want my help or not?”

DON’T YOU TURN MY QUESTION BACK AT ME!

I groan, “All right! The whole stock is yours.”

“Great! The deal is set!”

What a pain.

Note: You ask for a hefty price, Kibe. It’s only natural.

END OF EPISODE 25

 

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