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At least you'll never be a vegetable

Even artichokes have hearts.

Chapter 11 - 鬼王 The Demon King
Tego
9kinds
Since visiting Inarikio shrine, Kouta has been fascinated by the notion of the demon king. He envisions a ferociously roaring red demon (赤鬼) whose image sometimes overlaps with the image of Mizutani in his mind, and he feels empowered by him.

Kouta’s sales in December come in at ¥470,000, far surpassing the ¥120,000 from November, most of that being due to Mitsuko but Kouta’s also gotten requests from quite a few other clients as well. This brings him up to 12th place, the same ranking that Amu once had. Since there are a lot of days off in January and the thing with Mitsuko happened he hadn’t been expecting much. But, as soon as the club opened Mitsuko came and bought lots of champaign despite the awkward atmosphere.

She asks Kouta again to apply for the internship, urging him to hurry since it starts the next month and there isn’t much time. Seeing her fret over it makes it feel like it was someone else's problem, not something that had a great effect on his future. When she asks him if he plans on applying elsewhere he says he hasn’t decided anything. The feeling of unsettledness still clings to him. He tells Mitsuko that he’ll do it.

The red demon that he pictured the night he visited Inarikio Shrine has also appeared in his dreams. In his dream he clings to the demon’s leg that is as wide as a tree thousands of years old, and cries asking him for advice about the future. The demon king picks him up and brings him closer to his face staring him in the eyes and Kouta is paralyzed with fear. The demon tells him to rethink things from the start.

With that Kouta woke up and found that he had wet the bed which made him think that he can’t ignore what the demon said to him. He also didn’t want to make it out to be his family and Meme’s fault that he’s afraid of job searching. He wanted to stop thinking that he can’t quit because he has to work as a host for his family. He’s not certain of what the demon meant by the start, but he decides to take it as the decision to work as a host until finding a job.

Mitsuko tells him that she’s glad that he’ll do it. Kouta adds that there are conditions, she has to keep coming to Tuberose and requesting him. He thinks back to Misaki’s advice that he can only think of the clients as clients-money not people. Showing half hearted kindness will only hurt him. He will wring as much money out of Mitsuko that he can and use it for job searching, without thinking of her as a person.

Mitsuko tells him that that’s what she had always intended to do. After work they go to a private karaoke room and Mitsuko explains the process to him. By that weekend Kouta must gather the necessary paperwork and apply for the internship. Starting on February 25th, there is a two day work experience workshop where participants are broken up into groups based on division of work, programming, marketing, etc, and they will simulate actually making a game. However only 30 people will be picked for the internship, and when Kouta says that it’s impossible for him to get in, Mitsuko tells him he’ll definitely be picked so it’s fine.

Two weeks later, just as Mitsuko said, Kouta is one of the 30 people picked. Whether the application he wrote using her advice was good or whether she pulled some strings, he’s not sure. He continues to prepare for the internship in February while also increasing his sales at Tuberose.

His sales in January have continued to grow reaching ¥730,000 and he’s now in 5th place. On the day that the sales figures are announced, he has a missed call from Misaki and he knows that she wants to know how Shizuku did. Though Shizuku becoming independent of the club was put on hold after the Amu incident, Misaki still believes both in Shizuku and Mizutani. Kouta however does not.

After work, Kouta heads to Inarikio Shrine and calls Misaki, telling her that Shizuku was number 6. Kouta had surpassed Shizuku. Or rather, Shizuku had decreased his own sales. Since the beginning of the year, Shizuku has been late and skipping out on work, or showing up still drunk and unable to talk coherently, breaking glasses and vases. However no one is able to say anything to him about it, not even Mizutani. They just pretend not to see the once top performer self destruct.

Misaki doesn’t know about any of that as she is currently back at home with her family since her morning sickness has gotten bad. This leaves Shizuku at home alone. Kouta can tell that Misaki is at a loss, and offers to go check on him the next day. She thanks him and says that she’ll send him the address. She’s planning on coming back to Tokyo sometime this month, so she just needs him to do something until then.

The next day Kouta goes to Shizuku’s apartment in Shinjuku, and has to ring the bell 19 times before Shizuku answers the door. From his appearance it’s clear that Shizuku has just woken up and his t-shirt is covered in red wine that he either spilled or threw up on himself. His face is swollen and he looks displeased with Kouta. When he asks Kouta what he wants Kouta asks him if he’s ok and tells him that Misaki is worried too.

Shizuku tells him to go away but when he tries to close the door Kouta sticks his foot out to block it. Shizuku pushes him away so hard that he falls out into the hallway and shuts the door. Kouta calls Misaki and tells her what happened and she thanks him. She says that it can’t be helped and she’ll figure something out when she gets back.

That night Shizuku doesn’t show up at Tuberose again. Mitsuko shows up as usual, and they don’t talk about finding a job at all. When they have things to say they talk, but when they don’t they simply spend the time silently, though Kouta doesn’t find it uncomfortable. Once work is over however, they do something like a job searching seminar where she talks and he takes notes though there have been quite a few times he’s fallen asleep due to the alcohol. Two weeks before the start of the internship, Mitsuko invites Kouta to her house.

It takes Kouta close to 30 minutes by taxi to get to her place and it’s not as he envisioned it. It’s not in a high-end area or what you would call the suburbs, and the nearest station isn’t an express stop. Mitsuko is dressed differently than how she does when she comes to the club, in casual clothes and when he arrives she pays for his taxi.

Her apartment isn’t luxurious, it’s just like any other regular building. She lives on the 3rd floor across from a park. She seems embarrassed as she lets him in, but in the living room all there is are a table and chairs, a tv, and a bookcase. From all the big spending she did at Tuberose Kouta had expected her to live much more extravagantly.

Most of the books on her bookcase are business related, but one sticks out to Kouta, ‘The Prince’ (君主論) by Machiavelli. It catches his eye because the words in the title 君主 makes him think of the word for demon king 鬼王. He picks it up off the bookshelf and flips through it but since it’ll take time for him to understand it he asks if he can borrow it. Mitsuko thinks for a moment before agreeing, and as Kouta slips it into his pocket he feels as if he’s somehow gotten a bit stronger.