Chapter 3: Brother, Sister, and the Rest.
I’m used to waiting, so this was no big deal. Perhaps it was because I was originally a sniper. I would often stay hidden and wait for targets to come. I didn’t even mind that sort of thing. After all, I am of the patient type. From waiting for my clients’ responses to waiting for deliveries, I was always waiting. Well, if I could call it waiting. It might have been more like giving up.
It is often said that no news is good news. That’s just simply not true. There had been many times when late responses often ended up in disastrous results. In contrast, early responses often indicated that there had been no problems. If my clients had liked what was proposed, then it’s natural for them to immediately respond with a, “This looks good! When should we have our next meeting?” Similarly, if the deliveries had been on time, then they would definitely make sure to let everyone know that they had met the deadlines.
However, if their situation was dire, then they would cut all communications. I would then wait a while and call them up, only for them to respond with a, “Huh? That’s still going on?” They would play dumb and avoid any responsibility. Even worse, some would try to shift the blame on me and ask, “Well, why did you think we would make it in time?”
Honestly speaking though, they weren’t bad people. Normally, they would be friendly and easy to talk to. It’s just that work, with all the strict deadlines and quotas, seem to bring out the worst in people.
It was always work that was at fault. Work was everything that’s wrong with this world. If only work didn’t exist, everyone would be able to live peacefully with each other.
Hate the work, not the people.
In business, this sort of thinking was absolutely needed. Actually, it’s not even just limited to business. If people needed to connect with others, then they must be patient and open-minded. They must also be insensitive to even the most trivial things. So that’s why, even if I had to wait ten, twenty minutes, it’s really no big deal for me. In fact, when I was first transferred out of the military, I was assigned to do business with a few retailers, so I was used to waiting like this. Compared to those times, waiting for twenty minutes here was nothing— it was easy for me to stay composed. If I thought about the olden days when people literally died from overworking, then this was like a walk in the park.
However, Asagao was having none of it. “She’s late!” she shouted with her arms crossed. She kept tapping her foot on the floor. “How long does she plan to make us wait here?!”
Renge sighed and looked at the door. “Maybe something happened…” she ended up saying.
“Well, this sort of thing happens often, right?” I asked. “I mean, at least we are treated pretty well here. We get to sit on a sofa and drink some tea and everything.”
“What kind of treatment do you usually get…” replied Asagao as she blew on the tea to cool it down. She was not in a good mood.
“No, it’s just that when I went to some shops, there were a lot of times when I had to wait around the register for up to an hour,” I clarified.
“Ah… Yes, in stores that does indeed happen!” said Renge, nodding. “I pretty much stay in the office all the time, but sometimes I do go outside too!”
Asagao was a bit startled. “That must have been rough, then.”
“I know right?” I added.
“If you wasted an hour, you would suffer some considerable losses in productivity,” continued Asagao as she nodded seriously. She rubbed her chin.
I paused for a moment. “… I don’t think that was the point,” I murmured. How much more does she plan to work us? She was dead serious when she said that too…
Asagao snorted at my response. She still looked dissatisfied. “Besides, why didn’t you just head back instead of waiting?” she asked.
“If I went back, then more problems arise,” I replied. “There are people in the shop that will complain and say, ‘Wow, why did you leave? Now it looks like we drove you out!’ Then, I would have to deal with more stuff…”
Even Renge was a bit drawn back. “Y-You sure visited some troublesome businesses…”
Well, even though Renge and I were in the same unit, we did do different things. I usually handled work outside the office, while Renge stayed inside to help work on development. But, from my experience, a lot of the shops that Urushibara had assigned to me were really annoying…
I continued to speak. “Those places… If you go as a customer, they put on a smile and act nice. But, if you go as a business partner, they become cold and unpleasant.”
Asagao once again responded with, “Yes, yes this is business, it cannot be helped.” She puffed up her cheeks and pouted. “But just make an appointment beforehand then,” she said. “That way, you both won’t waste any time, right?”
“An appointment won’t change anything,” I said, shaking my head. “They have customers too, see, and those get first priority apparently.”
Renge butted in. “Ah, yeah! There are times when shops are packed and things don’t go according to schedule. Sometimes they are really deep in their talks, so things take a long time.”
“Yes, yes. That’s exactly it,” I said. “You can’t talk to them unless they deal with all the other, more important stuff first.”
“Yeah…” agreed Renge as she nodded. We both had to deal with businesses, so she understood me well. It’s nice to have companions, isn’t it? It’s nice to be able to share the hardships together.
That’s why I wanted Renge and Asagao to both know that I considered them my companions… I wanted them both to experience, even just a little bit, the wonderful things that they still didn’t know about. I wanted to show them what working with businesses was really like.
I turned to Renge. “Well then, Tsutsujigaoka Renge, here, I’ll show you.”
“Huh?” said Renge, bewildered.
Asagao was very suspicious of me. “What are you trying to do…” she said, looking at me.
Don’t look at me like that, forehead girl… Companions shared a lot of things together, including profits and passions, right? That’s why I also had to share my unpleasant memories! I had to show that you weren’t the only one that’s having a tough time, everyone was!
“C’mon, I’ll show you what I had to deal with,” I said with a fake smile. “It’ll just be a quick simulation.”
“I-I see…” replied Renge, nodding. She seemed okay with it. “It’ll be good practice for me too…”
She breathed in lightly and began. “I really appreciate this! How are the sales for the new products?” she asked, smiling. “I brought the promotion materials today. If you’d let me, I’d like you to look at the display here…”
I glanced at her smile and quickly averted my eyes. “Ah… I’m busy now, so can we put that for later?” I asked, sighing deeply.
Renge started to panic a little after being flat out refused. “Y-Yes, okay. B-But…” she muttered.
I made an expression that showed I was fed up with it and started to fidget with the papers in my hand. I stared at her intently. “I’m busy. Can’t you see? I’m occupied now, you see? I’m sorry, my apologies, my bad,” I said angrily. To keep it real, I only chose words that indicated I wanted to speak no further.
Renge slouched her shoulders and hid away to the corner of the sofa. “Y-Yes, I see. Sorry,” she said softly. She didn’t know what to do.
I looked at her. “Well, it always goes something like that,” I said, nodding at her.
“M-Must be rough…” she replied as she sniffled. On the other hand, Asagao’s face stiffened.
“It’s real rough…” I said with a big sigh. “But, it doesn’t end there.”
The two groaned with an Ehhhh as I said that and glanced at me with tired expressions.
I stared back at Asagao. “Hey, you. You know that new business guy? What the hell was that? He just left the promotion materials and went home.”
After hearing that, Asagao was shocked and tried to grab me. “That’s because you pretty much turned him away! With that the deal is off! No more!” she yelled angrily.
“Well, that’s what I wanted to say, too,” I said. Without touching her directly, I brought both my hands in between us and tried to calm her down. Though, I’ll admit I was a little happy. Thanks for being angry in my place, Asagao.
“Urushibara would receive that phone call and yell all sorts of crazy things at me,” I explained. “He would even set another meeting time for me to go and apologize.”
“Wow, that sucks,” commented Renge as she laughed bitterly. “I feel like that only happens to you, Kasumi…”
“Well, it probably is a special case, huh,” I thought. That being said, it’s something that had definitely happened to me many times before, so I couldn’t tell at all. I forced a smile in response.
Asagao, now calm after her outburst earlier, looked a bit dejected. “You two have it harder than I thought. I’m sorry, I had no idea…” she said apologetically.
I shook my head. “Nah, it’s okay. I really don’t mind work like that. Asagao, you’ve never had to deal with that before?”
Oops, I may have worded that wrong. I didn’t mean to sound condescending or blame her at all. I tried to follow up with some more positive words, but Asagao suddenly looked away. She seemed to be at a loss for words.
Finally, she spoke. “When I was in middle school, I was mainly dealing with developmental work… That’s why my business was more with suppliers and merchants rather than the retailers… So that’s why…”
Asagao spoke bit by bit; she sounded like she had some regrets. Though, her work was something she should have been proud of. The fact that she couldn’t say it proudly actually hurt me inside a little bit.
It really did.
The developmental work that Asagao was doing dealt with high quality, brand name fruits and vegetables. She also handled the raw materials for those foods. As such, these materials weren’t things that could have been simply be put on a store shelf and sold. Besides, most ordinary consumers couldn’t even tell the difference between the different qualities. That’s why it’s only natural for Asagao to have dealt with other cities and such. By dealing with clients higher up in the management chain, she was able to affect many below as a result. She was the one who created the abundant lifestyle many have today.
At the same time, I wonder if she had anticipated an effect on her products’ publicity as well. Some of her clients were at the top of the military branch. If the general population found out what these people were eating or using, then naturally they would begin to do the same. After all, these people were respected and revered.
Thus, Asagao created the first trend. There wasn’t a lot of demand for specific products before, but that changed as consumers started demanding more and more of her products. She was the one who clearly defined what a trend actually was, something not known to many people before her time. In a time when battles still happened sporadically, the fact that there was a demand for her luxury goods proved that cities were changing for the better. Humanity was beginning to get some of its old glory back.
Consequently, before even graduating, she became head of the manufacturing branch.
“People like me aren’t great like you,” I said genuinely. I was good at stringing words together, but the words I usually strung out weren’t that sincere. No matter what I was feeling, I was unable to accurately convey my thoughts to other people. The moment I use these symbols we call words to speak, there becomes room for misunderstanding. That’s why I tried to make things as understandable as possible.
After hearing that, Asagao’s face tensed up and her lips trembled. She was probably surprised by the unexpected compliment, and her cheeks began to blush a little bit. “That may be so,” she said with a pout. She then looked away quickly.
“Exactly! When I was in middle school, I didn’t do a thing,” said Renge enthusiastically. She went over me to grab her. “You really are great Asagao… from the beginning you were already so high up!”
Asagao smiled. “It’s not that big of a deal. I couldn’t even enter the military, so I had to work hard here,” she added.
Renge looked puzzled at her self-deprecating response. “Asagao, you wanted to enter the military?” she asked.
“Everybody wants to enter the military,” replied Asagao. “They offer a completely different way of life from the rest of the other branches.”
“I guess so…” I muttered as I instinctively nodded in response.
The world was still in a state of war, so it was natural that military-related achievements were highly valued. People could expect great rewards for developing groundbreaking technology that could defeat many <Unknowns>. For example, they could be sent inland and live the rest of their lives in leisure, or they could be granted some high ranks.
Of course, the military branch offered the most chances to obtain these rewards. The administration bureau looked at everyone’s results and contributions, and assigned an appropriate number of reward points for each person. People could gain points even if they weren’t in the military branch, but as expected, the points they could get were magnitudes lower than the points obtained from just participating on the battlefield.
“Me too…” sighed Renge. “I thought if I just got into the military, then everything would work out somehow…”
I sighed as well. “Yeah…” I said, agreeing with her.
Asagao pretended to be angry after hearing us. “Well, my bad that you guys had to transfer here! If you have any complaints, tell them to Natsume directly.”
“Ah, no, I didn’t mean it like that!” replied Renge, flustered. She tried to correct herself. “Don’t take it the wrong way! I’m doing my best for the manufacturing branch as well! I like it here! I really do!”
Asagao jokingly ignored her response— it really was a heartwarming sight to see. I calmly took another sip of tea, and listened pleasantly as they continued to talk with each other. All of a sudden however, I heard footsteps on the other side of the door. A voice echoed from the hallway.
“Seems like she’s finally here…” noted Asagao as she stared intently at the door.
Without even so much a knock, the door was violently swung open, and a single girl appeared in the doorway.