Tsurube sat down in front of me, tapping her nails on the tablet. A paper cup was placed on the table, with four seats laid around it. After carefully pouring the tea from the bottle, Tsutsujigaoka, looking satisfied, breathed deeply and sat in her seat.
“Well then, let’s begin,” Tsurube said as she reached out and took a sip. “I have a lot of things I want to ask regarding the evaluation.” She tapped on her tablet a bit, and the screen showed something similar to a paper document. Then she started writing something with the stylus.
Tsutsujigaoka sat beside me. “I-I’ll do my best to answer,” she said nervously.
“Me too,” I said as I bowed my head.
Tsutsujigaoka and I transferred from the military branch. As such, our big boss was Tsurube, so our end-of-term reviews were handled by her. Damn, I’m a little nervous… In the military branch, all that mattered was how many enemies we took down. There was nothing even remotely similar to an interview, so doing this was a first for me. Well, it’s expected, I suppose. In the military, we spoke using our fists, not our words.
Tsurube laughed bitterly. “Don’t be that stiff, come on,” she said, noticing our nervousness. “I already received your reports, and nothing was really that significant.”
“… So you’re saying you make decisions based solely on the reports?” I asked. If that was true, it’d be really troublesome. Since I was suddenly transferred this term, I wasn’t doing anything important. At most, I would meet with clients and hear their complaints about our branch. I really didn’t do a lot, so it’s inevitable that my review would go badly.
Tsurube looked puzzled.
“Chigusa… why are you even talking like that?” said Urushibara. He was sitting next to Tsurube. “Show some respect! Straighten up your behavior! Your evaluation’s going down, you know.”
“Ah, I should speak more respectfully too… Sorry, Asagao,” Tsutsujigaoka said. “No wait, Asagao-senpai? Or should I say Tsurube-senpai?”
Tsurube fidgeted with her front bangs. “Don’t call me Tsurube…” she vehemently replied. In an instant, her smooth forehead was hidden behind the bangs. “You really don’t have to be so formal with me. I’m the same year as Chigusa, and Renge is a friend. In the first place, this department is results orientated, so if you can bring back some good results, there will absolutely be no problem with anything else.”
“Exactly!” said Urushibara. “You see, Chigusa? In this world, results are everything. Unlike the military branch, it is not based on seniority here. This is an open workplace, after all.”
The moment Tsurube said something, Urushibara would nod nonchalantly and agree with her. He flip-flops on things so much… But, even if this place was results orientated, whenever I went home earlier than Urushibara, he’d keep pestering me on why I was leaving so early… This place might also be too open, I think… Also, Tsurube just nonchalantly implied that I wasn’t her friend… Well, that wasn’t wrong, so I guess it’s okay.
“Well, results are everything, but for this term I really didn’t take that into account,” said Tsurube. “Renge and Chigusa, it seems you both were still training for this past half year. That’s why I’m only here to ask you a few questions.”
“I-I see. Thank goodness…” said Tsutsujigaoka, who grasped both her hands together, relieved. In return, Tsurube gave her a slight smile.
Tsurube continued asking her questions. “How’s the work environment? Gotten used to everything?”
“Yup! All the upperclassmen are nice, not to mention it’s pretty fun too,” replied Tsutsujigaoka.
“I see, that’s great then. Chigusa how about you? Your old branch ranked based on order of enrollment, but isn’t this system much more comfortable for you?” she asked teasingly.
Without thinking, I laughed sarcastically. “Hahaha, sure…” I said softly. Was this forehead girl serious? It’s true that when I was in the military branch, I was ashamed for not having achieved anything significant, but I felt exactly the same here. At any rate, this manufacturing branch was different than the military one since I had to work with other branches and cities. Thanks to that, I had to deal with troublesome things no matter where I went.
In these past few years, due to this forehead girl actively participating in the branch, the number of requests that they were able to take on greatly increased. They no longer just supplied food and other things to the military, but now they were in charge of manufacturing brand name vegetables, high quality fruits, and other luxury items. They were able to sell more and more things to more and more clients. As a result, their profits skyrocketed, but the amount of complaints also increased. While there were complaints about the product and the distribution of said product, there were also complaints about problems regarding the other branches and cities trying to cut into the profits.
It felt a bit weird to have the department in a state of constantly developing new things while advancing the old things. It was certainly fast paced.
“Well, I don’t know about comfortable,” I said with a slight tint of dissatisfaction. “There’s a lot of work to be done on the outside, but not a lot of workplaces. Well, compared to the military branch, I do feel like I’m working more, I think…” In fact, I only feel like I’m working here. I’m definitely working too much here actually— it was tough working every day until dark.
Tsurube grinned smugly. She seemed to be making fun of me as she said, “That’s right. That’s right. This is work actually worth doing, right?”
“You sure are blunt, huh…” I replied. It’s irrational to think that you don’t need a salary, but just some thanks, if the work was something you enjoyed doing. Occasionally, however, there were people who respected that belief. Thankfully though, that belief was only mostly held by the old and depressing companies of the past.
“Well, as for me, I really wasn’t that useful in the military branch,” said Tsutsujigaoka, embarrassingly. “But here, I’m happy to be useful to everyone!”
“That’s right! You are useful!” Tsurube said as she nodded. “Our work here contributes the most to this world! You could even say that we are the foundation for this company! With us gone, technological developments are gone as well.” With a clank, she stood straight up and made a fist.
“She’s really getting fired up…” I said.
“Asagao is very diligent, after all,” responded Tsutsujigaoka. Her response threw me off a little bit. She says it’s diligence, but isn’t it more like religious fanaticism? It should be fine though, I think…
Tsurube swung her arms out to give her speech more impact. “Chiba’s way of producing food is the best! Chiba itself is the foundation for this world! The food storage in this city is not only the lifeline for us in the South Kanto region’s third city, but for everyone in the country as well! We have awesome biotech research! Our branch is the best that Chiba has to offer! Kanagawa only has muscle-heads that only produce weapons. The central parliament in Tokyo only has brainless and cocky members. Neither are on the same level as us!” she stated. She exhaled deeply, and her forehead gave off a flash of light.
Tsutsujigaoka applauded with a smile. Urushibara was moved to tears by her words. He wiped the corners of his eyes. However, for me, listening to all that didn’t really make me think, “Wow, Chiba is that amazing? As expected of Chiba!” Though being really into your hometown isn’t such a bad thing. Hmm, yeah. I will applaud to that.
Tsurube cleared her throat a few times and continued. “In any case, I hope all of us have this passion and spirit for the work we do. Hmm, is there anything else we need to discuss?” She was probably embarrassed from our applause. In an effort to hide it, Tsurube fidgeted with the tablet a little bit and changed the screen. I glanced at the screen and saw something that resembled a checklist.
“Compliance check, huh,” whispered Tsurube. She was talking to herself.
Tsutsujigaoka twisted her ahead a little bit. “Com- what?” she asked. It was clear she had not heard the word before.
Tsurube used the tablet as she explained. “Basically it’s just to make sure you didn’t break any school rules. Also there are things like whether the work environment is normal, or whether management is adequate. We also have to check up on you a bit, and make sure you aren’t being harassed or something like that. These are the checks mandated by the school, and we have to comply with it.”
She looked down at the tablet. “Okay, okay, okay, umm. Man, some of these things ask for too much… How are we supposed to work with this?” She was reading the list and checking off items.
“Aren’t we supposed to fill that out ourselves and turn it in?” I asked, feeling a bit uneasy about what she just said.
She looked at me blankly and tilted her head. “Huh? Well in the end you have to get it checked by me, so isn’t it the same thing?” she said. She was cute, but doing it this way had to have violated some rules.
This is my boss, huh… I shivered at the thought.
“Alright I’ll ask this just in case…” Tsurube cleared her throat and read the final items out loud. Perhaps she got a bit uncomfortable doing it herself after what I’ve said. “Is there any sort of power harassment in the workplace?”
“None, right? There is none,” Urushibara said as he turned towards me and Tsutsujigaoka.
“Why did Urushibara answer that…” I quickly interjected. “Wait, if you are trying to force an answer out… isn’t that power harassment?” I showed my displeasure. Besides, I don’t think asking “just in case” would change anything.
With a stroke of her finger, Tsurube checked the box. “Nice that there is no power harassment, right?” she said, ignoring me.
“It sure is, right?” added Urushibara.
I’m getting pressured by Urushibara again. “That’s… um.. that’s power harassment…” I timidly said in the face of Urushibara, the educated gangster. Off to the side, Tsurube was nonchalantly hitting the sides of her lips with a pen.
“No, I want you to just confirm it,” she said.
Urushibara responded almost immediately. “Confirmed.”
Oh? So it was going to be like that? Somehow I couldn’t agree to this.
Tsurube tilted her head in an effort to convince me again. She raised her brow and said, “Chigusa. For a boy you sure are attentive to things.”
“Saying stuff like that is sexual harassment, right?” I asked.
“It really isn’t,” she replied. “I’m just pointing out things that people have brought; everything I say links to my thought.”
“That’s some nice rhyming,” noted Urushibara.
There’s really nothing more I could say— everything seemed futile. You had to just go with what the boss said. Even if something was black, if the boss said that it was white, then you had to accept that it was white. If the boss said that power harassment and sexual harassment were accepted avenues of communication, then they were accepted avenues of communication.
Tsurube let out another sigh. “Alright… It’s finished. Sign here please,” she said with her head down. She handed me the pen and tablet; it seemed she really wanted to get this over with. I reluctantly signed it, and passed it off to Tsutsujigaoka. She too started to sign it.
“Afterwards, I need a signature from Natsume too,” she added.
I was a bit surprised to hear such an unexpected name. “Natsume… Natsume from the military branch?” I asked.
“There can only be one person with that name, right? The city’s subhead, Natsume Megu,” Urushibara said as he frowned and nodded. Tsurube had the same expression as well. They both seemed to be in a bad mood from hearing that name.
“Yeah, I guess so…” I replied. Urushibara’s right. Right now, there was only one person that’s named Natsume, Natsume Megu. She was the strongest person in Chiba at the moment… truly the best of the best. The previous head had moved inland, so right now Natsume was technically the head of the Chiba military.
“Since you guys transferred from the military branch, Natsume is technically your supervisor for now,” said Tsurube. “These documents I’m holding also need to be signed by her.”
Tsutsujigaoka raised her head. “I see~ Asagao, you sure are diligent about this,” she said. She finally finished signing.
“Not really,” said Tsurube, shaking her head. “That’s not the real reason.”
Tsutsujigaoka was confused. “Eh?” she asked.
“… Natsume isn’t too bright, so I need to make her do this and show her how troublesome this is,” Tsurube explained. “Otherwise we’ll keep getting more and more people transferring in. Since Natsume isn’t too bright.”
“You said that twice…” I piped in. Tsutsujigaoka laughed nervously.
It seemed Tsurube was no stranger to Natsume. I’m guessing they weren’t too close to each other. She seemed to know her enough to say all those bad things, though.
“After this, you guys have a meeting in the military branch right?” said Tsurube. She pushed her chair and stood up. “I’ll go with you guys to get this signed.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to just send it as an email?” I asked. “You don’t have to go in person, and everything here is computerized anyway.”
“You think those military brutes can do that?” said Tsurube wearily. “Besides, those people probably don’t read emails anyway.”
Urushibara nodded in agreement. I actually agreed. Even Urushibara doesn’t read his emails, and he’s not in the military branch. The world always converged on the lowest denominator— people have all these great technology and yet they only use what’s familiar to them.
Urushibara stood up from his seat and said, “Then, let’s go soon, yeah? It’s a pretty good time to.” He glanced at his watch— it was close to 5 pm. It was almost time for the meeting.
Urushibara walked out of the room. The rest of us followed him out one by one.
After returning to my desk, I quickly made preparations to go out for the meeting. Before leaving the office, I stood in front of the whiteboard on the wall. I took a pen that had a sponge tip on the cap and wrote, “Meeting with military; not returning” on the whiteboard. As I did, someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was Tsurube with her hand out.
“Let me borrow the pen too,” she said.
“Sure,” I replied, passing the pen to her. She took the sponge cap off, and erased my “not returning” portion.
“Wait a second. What are you doing, Tsurube?” I said. For real though, what was she doing? Tsurube put both hands behind her and turned around.
“Don’t call me Tsurube,” she said, grinning. She then winked at me. “Even if you go home, you still have work to do, right?”
I lost my train of thought. “U-Uhh…” I muttered as I stood in front of that cute and wonderful smile. I didn’t know what to say.
After a few moments of silence, she whispered in my ear. “Once the next term settles in, there’ll the city head elections. This is no time to slack off.”
“But we don’t have anything to do with the elections, though…” I said, dejected.
The city head elections were just that- there would be elections to decide the next head for the City of Defense, Chiba. Since the main focus of the city was defense, all past city heads have been from the military branch. In addition to that, everyone expected Natsume Megu, the current subhead, to become the next head. After all, the military branch usually converged on one candidate. The other branches in the city then always followed that candidate as well. All in all, that’s pretty much how we did elections.
“We do! We have lots and lots and lots to do with the election!” shouted Tsurube, snickering with her chest puffed up.
“Yeah, just like we have lots and lots of work to do…” I murmured in response. Even though she was speaking with such conviction, I sort of tuned her out.
“Huh? What are you saying?” she said. That’s what I wanted to know…
“In any case, our futures depend on this election,” she continued. “We have to give it our 100%, get more results, and show them what’s up!” she said as she turned around to everyone in the office. “Listen up everyone! Those who fall behind get overtime! Those who succeed are promoted! You get to do bigger and better things once you get promoted!”
“So you mean my workload increased, huh…” I said dishearteningly, looking depressed. But, my voice was quickly drowned out by my coworkers going, “Hell yeah!”
I gazed at them. They were so pumped up. Their fiery eyes were lit, and they were even tearing up as they smiled.
This was indeed where I worked.
This place, where everyone had the spirit and drive to work towards their dream, made for a cozy atmosphere where people couldn’t resist smiling. It was the South Kanto’s City of Defense -Chiba’s- manufacturing branch’s research and development team.
This was indeed where I fought.