Chapter 5: A Utopia of Swimsuits and Fruits.
Just what were our enemies?
I’m sure the people of this city -no, even this world- would agree that it would be the <Unknowns>. Seeing that they were an alien life form that almost drove us to extinction, there was no doubt that they were the clear answer to the question.
That being said, allow me to ask a different question.
Just what were our enemies?
Ask that again and the majority of the people would just stare back blankly. They would think that perhaps maybe they misheard the question, and in the end, they would give the exact same answer: The <Unknowns>. And of course, it would be a fine answer.
But, let me try throwing out another question to follow up.
Just what were our enemies?
Ask that again and some people would think that they were being made fun of, or maybe there were some ulterior motives for asking the same question three times in a row. They might get angry or just ignore the question altogether. Despite that, I’m sure the majority of people would answer it with the exact same answer once again. But would they really mean it?
The question “Just what were our enemies?” could be interpreted in many different ways. It’s completely up each person to decide on which interpretation to take. So, if the question was repeated four, even five times, the meaning of it would begin to change a little depending on the person as more thought was put into it. People’s answers would then diverge:
“It’s the <Unknowns>… nothing else!”
“It’s the militaries from the other cities that compete with us for rewards.”
“No… The real enemy is from within.”
“Wait a second… the real enemy is time. Time affects us all, and we can’t go against it.”
“It’s literally everyone else. We are always competing for rewards, right?”
“I take my old answer back. Humanity itself is our worst enemy.”
“Errr… I dunno.”
“Sometimes it’s our very own history that we must overcome.”
“Our society can kind of be like an enemy, actually.”
“Everything in this world is the enemy.”
These answers weren’t strange at all. In fact, many were probably right on the mark. Fundamentally, however, nobody realized one important thing.
Just what were our enemies?
I myself had a slightly different answer to that question. It was something so terrible that it would inevitably wipe out humanity one day, as it was easily capable of doing so. It was, without a doubt, much more threatening than any other answer out there. Of all the evils in the world, this one was the worst of them all. In fact, no amount of good could go against it.
I’m talking, of course, about work. Humanity’s mortal enemy was none other than work itself. It’s because of work that we had to fight. It’s because of work that we were given the order to annihilate all the <Unknowns>, and it’s because of work that we had to obey those orders. It’s because of work that we had to compete with each other for points, and it’s because of work that we had to meet our quotas.
If we had not been given this work we called war, then we would have no enemies. Work itself established the enemy and dictated which enemies we needed to fight.
So with all that said, let’s call work the enemy of all mankind. Naturally, the people at the top who allocated all this work weren’t aware of this. I’m sure they thought that the work they assigned would have some impact on the world for better or for worse. There were some within them who strove for love and peace, and others who just simply loved giving out orders.
But, the many workaholics that served under them were different. For them, their very existence and purpose in life was all about work. The people fighting in the front lines and the people working in the very back all participated in this war because they were given a role, a role which ultimately came from work. Under the pretense of work, it even became okay for young students to fight against those that previously almost wiped out all of humanity.
If only work didn’t exist, humanity would exist peacefully, and everything would be different. Perhaps I would run along the hills, chase some rabbits, and maybe go fishing. I would live in a small, but comfortable house, and eat good food all the time. In this utopia, it wouldn’t be the ones who excelled in violence and deception that would be on top. No, the ones at the top would be those who lived life how it was meant to be lived— laid back and chill.
Every fault in this world lied with work. It robbed us of our personalities and was just detestable in general. Absolutely detestable.
With that hatred in mind, I worked overtime everyday trying to do the impossible. It had already been a few days since I tried to come up with a plan for the vague task that Asagao had given me. Somehow I had to “increase the appeal” of the manufacturing branch. Within that time, Urushibara got wind of this and gave me plenty of pep talks and words of “encouragement”.
“It’s almost the deadline, you know.”
“Go home after you finish your work. Not before, after.”
“Still at it?”
“Is it done?”
“If you got time to eat, keep on writing.”
“Chigusa, if you don’t do your work, you’ll become pathetic— a shell of your former self. I do some field work, and my great work ethic positively influences the vegetables, you see.”
“You need to keep writing without breaks… You working for 22 hours and sleeping for 2 would be ideal, you know. This is no time to play around.”
Every. Single. Day. I would be pestered like this. I was good at ignoring things, but even I couldn’t completely shut it all out. Eventually I broke down a little… For three nights I couldn’t sleep at all. Perhaps it was because of the stress I accumulated from working too much, but my sleep quality went down the gutter. I would usually wake up after only sleeping two hours… I guess in the end, I was working all according to Urushibara’s “ideal” schedule. Everything could have been all according to his plan, actually… Was he secretly a master tactician?
Ultimately, my mind was plagued with the idea that if I was going to die from overworking, I was going to take him down with me. When would be a good time to do such a thing? I did feel a bit sorry for him though, because every day he quietly came back with new scars on his forehead, perhaps due to the Sonic Stitches of Blood and Ashes thingy he had to do.
All in all, that’s pretty much how my days went…
Days soon crawled by, and the day when we had to meet once again and discuss our plans finally arrived. It was the early morning, so I got some caffeine pills, energy drinks, and aspirin to help me get through the day. I even put wet sheet of papers on my forehead and neck, and rubbed some ointment beneath my eyes. Only after I finished all that was I able to continue typing on my keyboard.
Suddenly, I heard a weird laugh.
“K-Kasumi, are you alright?” asked Renge, having just came into the office. She handed me a cup of coffee.
I grabbed it and finished it in one gulp with all my remaining energy. I then put the cup back on the table and slammed down on the enter key. “Thanks,” I said, exhausted. “It’s all done now so I’m fine now… I think…”
I turned to Renge and dropped my head down wearily. Looking dejected, I emailed the finished plans to Asagao and Urushibara, and simultaneously printed them out. With all this technology out there, why did I have to print them out too? Why did Urushibara have to get so mad when I didn’t print things out?
At last, I finished my preparations for the meeting. Just in time too, as Asagao and Urushibara walked in soon after.
“Kasumi, are you done with the plans?” said Asagao the moment she walked in.
I silently nodded and handed her the bundle of papers I just printed out.
“Thanks. I can see you’ve been working hard… Well then, let’s start the meeting, shall we?” she said as she smiled and pointed to the meeting room. Her voice was surprisingly soothing to my ears.
It was so soothing in fact that I let out a little chuckle, but quickly stopped as Renge and I followed them into the room. Renge took the papers and cheerfully handed them out, while the rest of us sat down.
“Can’t wait to see your plan!” said Asagao. She hummed as she started reading the papers, but stopped abruptly. “Kasumi… what is this?” she said with a shaky voice, pointing at one of the papers she was holding on to. On it, written in Comic Sans, was the following:
The new era of fruits have arrived! Fruits carefully selected from the manufacturing branch!
All new delicious fruits made exclusively from Chiba— the Chiba Fruit Collection! Find it in the Ryuuguujyou hot spring!
Dance with the sea breeze as you enjoy the new trends! Guaranteed love at first sight! ♪
I nodded in satisfaction. Yes, this was a good hook with a catchy follow up, wasn’t it?
“It’s the title of the plan,” I blurted out without thinking. I couldn’t think straight due to a lack of sleep.
In response, Urushibara just sighed deeply. “You know, Chigusa… You think this is some kind of fair? What the hell is this? You just playing around? You think you’re still in school?”
“Well, we are students, you know,” I thought. However, it just took one look at his very tired face for me to lose all the confidence I had earlier.
“I want an explanation for this too…” said a bewildered Asagao. Renge nodded as well.
Do I really have to explain all this? Somehow I thought they would be able to catch on. Well, I guess there’s no choice. It looked like I was going to have to explain everything.
“Nah, It’s what I thought up when working everyday…”
“Thought what up?”
“How I don’t want to work….”
Asagao scowled. “O-Oh… you’re worse than I thought, you trash…”
“No, you got it all wrong…” I said. “See, I was thinking that maybe the people from the other branches were thinking the same thing. In fact, we should focus on that point and give the people what they really want. Only then can we get their support.”
The people who were not in the military branch worked without glory in this hellhole they called a workplace. I was sure they had enough of this never-ending war in their everyday lives and wanted a little peace for once. The idea of having fun without a care in the world would resonate deeply with them.
According to our ancestors, tired and exhausted people were told to relax at the beach. All the working people did, after all, dream of one thing: To go away from their workplace. It didn’t matter where, as long as it was in the opposite direction. Many would probably enjoy a trip to the hot-springs as they peacefully stared out into the sea.
That’s why I took their dreams and wishes, and packed it into this plan. By doing so, I came up with this Chiba Fruit Collection in Ryuuguujyou idea. When talking about fruits, in many cases, the image of many tropical countries came to people’s mind. In the past, many resort hotels from these tropical countries gave out fruits to welcome the guests, because they gave the tourists a sense of welcome and relaxation. I wanted to bring that to Chiba.
With that being said, the presentation of this new lineup of fruits was crucial. By presenting them in a way that combined their great taste with the feel of a relaxing tropical resort, the people would get a great impression of not only the fruits themselves, but of our manufacturing branch as well. Theoretically speaking, of course.
“I think I’m getting the gist of it…” nodded Asagao as I finished explaining. “But this Ryuuguujyou hot spring… what is it?” She turned to page two of the plan and pointed at a conceptual render of the supposed place.
“Ah— that. I was rummaging through some old documents, and apparently there was a Kisarazu hot spring in the past. You know, the place where we had our battle. Before it became a battlefield, it was supposedly a very popular place to go to. I also read that the people at the top used tax money to host new-year conferences and stuff like that in it.”
“Hot springs huh?” said Renge, gazing happily at the render. “I’ve never been to such a place, though…”
The hot spring shown was indeed marvelous. As a whole, it had stone walls and featured open air baths that had a clear view to Tokyo Bay. On top of that, there were cozy hot tubs made from 18 karat gold. It had to be a truly extravagant place to be in.
Asagao was also mesmerized by the picture. She kept nodding in satisfaction, but soon had a confused look on her face. “Wait a second… new-year conferences were held in hot springs?”
“Yeah… it marked the beginning of work for the higher ups back in the day,” I said.
“Wow, really?” said Renge.
Asagao was not convinced. “I bet it was just an excuse for them to use government money…” she said restlessly. She was pessimistic, but in cases like these, it’s good to have a more objective point of view, right?
In any case, Urushibara was staring just as intently at one of the pictures. “Chigusa, I also have a question,” he said while raising his head. He pointed at the picture. “Is this also a hot spring?”
He was pointing at an image of an ocean spa. There was a garden terrace with an extraordinary view out to the open around it, and an LED water fountain stood tall within. It was truly a great place where guests could enjoy the water in their bathing suits.
I wasn’t surprised that Urushibara would notice this right away. He always went clubbing, and this sort of thing was right up his alley.
“Of course,” I said, nodding. “We will create this as well.” I took out a page from the plans that showed the indoor spa attractions— there was a big pool with an even bigger poolside. The room itself was illuminated, and lasers danced around the glass walls and ceilings. The whole image was almost like a scene out of a dream, as it even featured girls dancing happily dancing around in their swimsuits.
Urushibara took off his glasses and cleanly wiped his eyebrows. “Chigusa…” he said, staring intently at me.
“…Yes?” I said very softly in anticipation. What was he going to say? It worried me more than it should have.
“… Nice job.” He smiled. His white teeth contrasted with his darkish skin, and his scarred forehead twitched uncontrollably.
This was honestly the first time I’ve ever heard him compliment me. Wow, this was great to hear. If Urushibara liked it, then I was sure the other punks in the military would like it as well.
Even Asagao seemed to take notice. She took one look at Urushibara and said, “I guess if we do present all the fruits like this, then the other students would be drawn to it. But is this okay? Creating new facilities and stuff like that is sure to cost a lot just for this…”
She was not wrong. If we were to just present the new lineup normally, then the existing facilities would be more than enough. We had auditoriums that could fit all of the students in Chiba, and if needed, we had large, open plazas. But if we did that, we wouldn’t garner nearly enough attention. We needed to unveil the new products as flashily as possible, and that required something like a resort to do it in.
“Yeah, it’ll cost a lot, but it’s vital to this plan,” I said. “We need a place that can leave a lasting impression.”
“A good impression is something money alone can’t buy!” said Renge. She had on a smug smile and looked like she wanted to say more.
I waited a little bit to see if she really did want to, but in the end she didn’t. So, I continued speaking. “Plus, if you do manage to pull off this feat… It’ll speak volumes to the capabilities of you and the manufacturing branch, right?”
“I know that much, at least,” said Asagao as she stroked her chin.
I did the same. “We do have to keep in mind though that we can’t build this thing alone. We need the help of the trade and engineering branches, for example.”
“Yeah, the more money and resources we get, the more we can profit with the other branches,” said Asagao.
“Exactly. We just have to work with them to make sure everything goes according to plan and kinda guide them a bit,” I added, and paused for a bit. “… But, some branches will be troublesome for us.”
Asagao glanced at me. “The military branch, right?”
“Yeah. We need to make sure they can’t really interfere. If we can do that, we can get on better terms with the other branches.”
“I see,” nodded Asagao. “So I just need to lobby around the military branch…”
I glanced at Urushibara. He just sighed, and I didn’t know if he understood or not.
Renge shouted as she clapped her hands— perhaps she realized something. “I see! So that’s how we build such a big facility.”
“Well, the actual facility doesn’t have to be so big. We don’t even need to invite a lot of people.”
“Huh?” said Renge as she folder her hands together.
Even Urushibara was a bit surprised. “Woah, hold on a second, Chigusa,” he said with a sigh. “We need to show them the power of our branch. Considering that, we… Wait, hold on…”
“We use word of mouth,” interrupted Asagao, not giving a chance for Urushibara to finish his sentence.
“Exactly, it’s the only way that’s effective. We aren’t in the old days when we could just advertise to a bunch of people.”
In the past, advertising was easy. People could use televisions, radios, internet, magazines, and even newspapers to do it. However, barely any of that existed now. Instead, all that’s left was some makeshift SNS service that the students used, and putting ads in that would only irritate the users. It would thus be counterintuitive to advertise through that platform. Of course, there were still other mediums to use like billboards, flyers, and signs, but seeing that the target was the students, they didn’t seem that effective in drawing their attention.
On the other hand, word of mouth was completely different from the rest. We didn’t need to reach out to a lot of people, but rather, just a select few. In turn, their friends would notify more friends, and they would notify even more friends, and so on. Soon, we would have reached out to pretty much everyone.
“Is advertising through word of mouth that easy to do, though?” Renge asked with a blank look on her face. Her worry was warranted, but it was kind of funny to hear her say that, seeing how she had the best social skills out of all of us. That’s why we could use her skills to our advantage.
“Well, let’s see, Renge. What do you usually talk about with your friends?” I asked.
She clasped her hands together and thought about it for a while. “Hmmm… I guess anything that’s been particularly interesting? Like work related troubles? Or maybe people? Oh! Or like any good foods or stuff like that too!”
“I see,” I said. “So in other words, our normal conversations consist of things like pride, complaints, and slander, huh?”
“Wait a second! I never said that!” exclaimed Renge, as she banged on the table repeatedly in protest.
“That’s why, we have to give the people who come something to boast about,” I said, ignoring her. “Not just our new products, but a new experience as well.”
The people in the military were very proud of their powers, but that applied to them and them alone. Other people, who didn’t have the luxury to boast about their powers, needed other things to be proud of. Up until now, no such thing existed— Power was everything. But recently, things had changed as Asagao created products that anyone would be proud to own. Going by this trend, we had reason to believe that people would boast about the new product line and resort experience all described in my plan. We just had to make sure that people took pride in the new products, just like they did with the old ones. By doing so, it was easy for word to spread because people loved to brag about the things they had to those who didn’t have them.
“We want to give the people who couldn’t attend a sense of, ‘damn, I wish I went!’ after hearing about it from the people who did go. To create that, we should limit the number of invitees,” I continued. There wouldn’t be any sense of exclusivity if everyone went. Doing it this way would also mean that there wouldn’t be any negativity directed at us. Instead, there would just be more demand.
However, it was imperative that we didn’t let down our guard. We had to maintain our superiority in this new space since people loved to rank things. In fact, it was more important not drop down in rank than it was to rise up. It’s a nice feeling to look down see all those below, but it’s an even worse feeling being humiliated as others rose up above you.
It seemed everyone had this sort of mentality. If people had a rough time, they expected others to have a rough time as well. Similarly, people simply getting things they didn’t have wasn’t good enough. They also didn’t want other people to have it as well.
“We’ll start off by purposely making the people who didn’t go jealous of the people who did,” I said. “If we do that successfully, rumors, especially the bad ones, will start to spread about the invitees. Rumors spread the fastest, and soon everyone will have heard of us one way or another.”
I finally finished my long-winded explanation. As I did, the three just stood silently. Asagao in particular looked a bit drawn back, and soon Renge raised her hand.
“Umm… If bad rumors start to spread, wouldn’t it negatively affect our branch too?” she asked. “We are in charge of everything.”
“It could. But in that case, we’ll just have to shift the blame to the military branch. They aren’t exactly the nicest of people, and everyone knows what they’re like, right? So, we just give that notion a little push, and soon everyone will think that way.”
People loved to jump to conclusions. They loved to take things that didn’t relate to one another and somehow connect them in improbable ways. To do so, they would pretend to know everything and start spouting some ridiculous nonsense. This nonsense included anything that was convenient for them, and most of the time, this included some pretty slanderous things. We just had to use that slander to our advantage.
“We should make a plan for that just in case. If we could somehow put the military in a bad light, then banding together and getting the majority would be a lot easier.”
With that sentence, my explanation was complete. Hopefully that was everything that Asagao wanted.
She looked a bit fed up. “Hmm… how do I put this… It’s kind of hard to say, but you’re a terrible person…”
“It didn’t seem that hard to say…” my voice slowly turned into a whisper. But, even if she did say such a thing, it seemed she understood my reasoning well.
“But a plan, huh? I got something perfect for it,” whispered Asagao.
Something perfect for it? What was it? Before I could ask such a thing, Asagao turned to Urushibara.
“Very well,” she said. “Let’s go with his plan. Urushibara, contact the engineering branch. Tell them this, and you guys can handle the actual construction part.”
“Got it, leave it to me! I already got their numbers after making them laugh through the you-know-what,” he said as he tapped his forehead.
Looking at his forehead made me think. I’ve heard that some people could only laugh when they were frightened, so I wondered when Urushibara did the blood and ashes and bled, did he have no choice but to laugh then? It was scary just to think about it. At that point, he might as well be threatened.
“Kasumi, you create the list of invitees,” said Asagao. “I’ll give you the data so just select the people. Also get Asuha too, please.”
“S-Sure. Well, we’re gonna have to contact Natsume anyway. When that happens, Asuha will naturally come.”
This was an event to show them what the manufacturing branch was capable of. As such, we absolutely had to invite Natsume, the current subhead, to it. Once Natsume came, Asuha would most definitely be tagging alongside her.
Asagao cleared her throat and glanced at me. “It’s important we have formal invitations for everyone, right?”
“I guess so,” I said. In this world, there were a lot of people who valued formality, especially those in the military branch. Since they loved their rank system, it was important that they greeted those above them with respect.
Asagao then turned to Renge. “Renge, you as well. If you have friends in the engineering branch or the trade branch, let them know of this and try to get them on board.”
“Got it!” said Renge. “But wouldn’t it be faster to just contact the head of the engineering branch?”
“Of course, I do plan to do that. But, there’s an order to everything. We may be able to convince the head, but if we don’t convince all the people ourselves, everything will be for naught. It isn’t easy for them to adopt plans made by other branches…”
“Ah, I see… I think?” Renge showed her confusion. She was a bit air-headed, so it was hard for her to understand anything remotely complicated.
“Well, you see, I’m pretty much broken inside, so I’m used to taking orders from above and just accepting it,” I explained. “However, it could be different for other branches. If they suddenly took a bunch of orders from their superiors, especially orders that kinda came from us, they may not take kindly to it.”
“Don’t call yourself broken…” said Asagao as she glared at me. I really thought I was, though…
“The real driving force behind this plan won’t be the leaders, but the people themselves. That’s why they should be happy with the plan. It’s more effective that way.”
“Oh!! I see now,” said Renge, as she clapped her hands, “if the people themselves are down to do it, rather than just following orders, then they’ll be more invested into it!”
Asagao nodded happily. She raised her fist, and her forehead once again shined in the light. “Exactly, exactly!” she shouted. “That’s why we need to do our best to get all of their support!”
And just like that, my “Ryuuguujyou Fruit Spa Collection” plan began to materialize.