In another world, Hasegawa might have a more stable job than working as a manager in a boring, rental DVD shop smack in the middle of Shibuya.
In another world, she might have chosen to try out the entrance exams for that one elite private university in the Fukuoka prefecture despite the lack of her family's financial stability. Heck, in another world, she could have been a model, to hell's sake. She could look cute if she wanted. Her senpai from the blind-date group chat said her profile pic was soo adorable, Hasegawa! Ah, music to her ears. If only she were surrounded by men with exquisite taste everyda—
"A-Ah! Sorry, Hasegawa!"
Music to her ears her ass.
"Hanagaki-san," she says, barely holding in her sigh. In another world, she would have chastised him more; would have fired him, even, if she had the authority. Which she did, by the way. She was the manager for crying out loud. She was right on top of the food chain in this sorry excuse of a business, right next to that sorry excuse of an owner who never paid her for her overtime shifts.
In another world, in another timeline, she really would have fired him.
"I'm so sorry, Hasegawa! I didn't mean to..."
But sadly, in this one, she can't. And the reason for that is—
"I can't really feel my legs yet. My, um, butt's kinda sore — oh! B-Because of the exercise, that is! No other reason!"
Internal groooooan. There it is, ladies and gentlemen. The bane of her existence. The reason why she can't even whine even if she wanted to, no matter how much she had the right as the manager, no matter how much Takemichi screwed up all the careful and neat arrangements she did in the CD shelves or tripped over the stacks of album covers they had back in the storage room.
"You know what, you should take a break, Hanagaki-san," Hasegawa offers, doing her best not to drawl, "I can take care of all this by myself, you know. Technically, you don't even work here anymore. Not after—"
"No. No! I insist. I just," Takemichi looks this way and that as if checking for hidden security cameras or suspicious people, and a proverbial lightbulb ignites above Hasegawa's head.
If Hasegawa wasn't dead on the inside, she would have felt pity for Takemichi.
"You... you do realize he's gonna come find you either way, right?"
Takemichi blinks and looks at her, eyes already wide and wet. He looks like a stray pup, which is cute, but again, Hasegawa is sick of life and additionally depressed. Enough said.
Just when Takemichi is about to open his mouth and defend himself, he freezes, whole body tensing up like a spiral ready to bounce, or more accurately like a deer caught in the headlights — a prey who has sensed the predator and is ready to bolt.
And that is exactly what he does, less than a millisecond before the entrance door chimes open, and bam, there pops in the very reason why Hasegawa can't do anything but bear Takemichi's fidgety, anxious, crybaby existence.
When Manjirou (Mikey) Sano enters the room, he sucks the air all around him; automatically, all eyes are on him; immediately, there is the irresistible pull enticing people into his orbit. Be it the voidness of his eyes or the indescribable, raw power resting lightly on his shoulders as if it didn't weigh anything, people either tended to flock to him and beg for his attention or avoid him altogether.
Takemichi is obviously the latter, but that all barely mattered in the face of the cold-hard truth that while everyone was busy sabotaging each other to earn even a drop of Mikey's approval, Mikey was hellbent on earning (forcing? stealing?) one person's, and one person's only.
Said person was currently shaking like a leaf on a windy day by Hasegawa's legs, hidden underneath the table by the cashier.
God, Hasegawa needs to get promoted for this.
She puts on her best "may I help you" smile, which is the least effort for some, but hey, at least she's trying.
"Excuse me, may I—"
"Ta-ke-mi-tchyyyyy," Mikey sings instead, lazily sauntering through the aisles of DVDs, hands loosely hanging from his pockets, "what are you hiding for this time, hmmm? I woke up only to find your side of the bed empty. It was warm, though. Meaning if only I woke up a bit earlier, then me and the gang would've caught you for sure. Hah!" Mikey barks out a laugh, stopping at a random aisle and pulling a DVD, but his eyes are sharp and lidded and staring straight at the spot beside Hasegawa's legs, and Hasegawa feels like her soul could leave her body any minute now (if she had one).
"You're getting too good at running away from me... Now we can't have that, can we?"
Then he lightly places his hand against one shelf at the very end of the row, and pushes.
A domino reaction happens, wherein racks and racks of DVDs tumble one after another, falling and leading another to fall, and Hasegawa can do nothing but gape, utterly in disbelief and shit-scared out of her mind, as one seven-feet, 100-something-pound shelf quavers and shakes... descending... slowly... down to her.
Hasegawa's mind races with the thoughts of whether or not she left the kettle boiling in her apartment before her untimely death when Takemichi shoots up from under the cashier to grip her apron and pull — sending them both tumbling into a heap of broken cassette tapes and cheap thriller paperbacks.
"Hasegawa-san! Are you alri—" Takemichi starts to ask, but chokes in his own spit when a shadow falls over them. They both look up.
It's Mikey. Who else could it be. There's a stillness to him that causes a blaring sound of run run run to echo in Hasegawa's head, and she dimly thinks that she would have preferred being quashed into a pile of human meat by a bunch of third-rated porno films than being the receiving end of Mikey's stare, in particular this one.
But the moment passes when Takemichi stands up on wobbly legs, one hand reaching out to palm Mikey's face. Immediately, Mikey melts, the deadliness in the bottom pits of his eyes disappearing, and instead, giving way to the light of Takemichi's eyes, clear and blue and a sparkling sapphire against the dingy fluorescent lights of the rental shop.
"This is why, Manjirou. You can't keep on throwing tantrums that risk other people's lives! You did that to Matsuda yesterday just because, what, he ran out of your favorite supply for manju filling?"
"You think I'm that low?" Mikey whines — whines!
Takemichi gives him a look. Mikey slightly deflates.
"That's not the only reason... he was looking at you funny, Takemitchy! And nobody gets to look at you like that except me!" Mikey declares, pressing his lips against the hand Takemichi has on his cheek, "in fact, I'll make sure someday that no one will ever get to look at you at all."
"What was that?"
Hasegawa can only look at them in pure disbelief, still traumatized down the floor.
"Oh!" Takemichi turns to her, with Mikey right behind him clutching his arm in a deadly grip, "and don't worry about the mess nor about the expenses, Hasegawa! I'm sure Manjirou is gonna send some of his guys to clean up soon, right Manjirou?"
"Yeah, yeah, now hurry up, Takemitchy! You left in such a hurry in the morning that I couldn't get my daily dose of 'ya."
"Wha — what! Manjirou, you can't stay stuff like that in public!" Takemichi squeaks, red to his roots, as the couple leaves hand in hand, the cheerful bell jingling atop the main doors to signify their exit.
She better get a bonus for this.