Tuesday – 13:45
Theodore and I walked out of the TRUCK-KUN building and headed towards the east gate, which was the barrier between them and one of the other divisions, but I didn't know which. It wasn't the one I was previously a member of. A few security guards stood at the gate, some lounging in chairs and others standing at attention. As Theodore passed by them, the seated ones stood up and joined their fellow guardsmen in a practiced solute.
"At ease, gentlemen," Theodore said. "This is Tobias by the way. He is with me." He took out a different key card and swiped a sensor at the gate, which then began to slide open, and they continued on their way.
This section of the campus looked a lot different than TRUCK-KUN. It wasn't just one large building surrounded by a few dormitories, but rather dozens of large quality-grade tents. The few people he saw outside the tents had lab coats and blue gloves and appeared to be in a hurry.
I looked to the left and could see the main ISEKAI building a lot clearer from this vantage point. It was a goliath structure, stretching towards the sky. From what I could tell, the ISEKAI building was at the very center of the complex, surrounded by four sections. Very few people knew what all the sectors contained, but I knew already of two, TRUCK-KUN and the division he was in before called STEALTH. This section looked like it had something to do with research and development, so perhaps this was where they developed new ideas for the Isekai treatment.
"The ISEKAI meetings change locations each time," Theodore explained to me. "It cycles between the four sections and the main building. You see that larger tent over there? That is where the meeting is taking place."
A larger tent was an understatement. It was easily the largest tent that I had ever seen and it dwarfed the surrounding tents. Theodore led me inside and guided me to a large room where nine people sat around a large table.
"Here we are," Theodore stated. "Now let's get this meeting started."
* * *
Tuesday – 14:00
The man at the head of the table stood up. "We are glad that you could join us, Theodore, and I see that you brought a guest. Would this be the infamous Tobias that I have heard so much about?"
"It is indeed," Theodore confirmed and brought me forward. "Tobias, meet Isaac. He is the current director of ISEKAI and will be your boss should you choose to accept this position."
I raised my hand to shake Isaac's hand. "It is an honor, sir."
"The honor is all mine," Isaac said. "If you are curious to what it is I do, I run things in the main ISEKAI building outside, which includes the construction of the Isekai devices, as well as coordinating matters between the other departments and the external business partners. Please feel free to sit next to Theodore. We had an extra seat brought up just in case you showed up. Now, down to business. Who wants to start today?"
"I will," said a woman on my immediate left. She looked to be in her late forties and had straight black hair, matching her pitch-black dress.
"Then proceed, Simone," Isaac said. "Any recent developments at STEALTH?"
My eyes widened as I suddenly realized that I knew Simone. She was my senior when I was a part of STEALTH and was known as one of the best agents. Very few people had ever seen her, though I had the privilege once. It was after I disposed of the detective brat. She had even congratulated me in person. However, the passing years had done a number on her features, and while she was still fit and attractive, she clearly had lost her biggest asset for her missions.
"Nothing productive has happened since the last time, though we have considered redeveloping the long-lasting Isekai drugs. While they may be pricy and out of fashion, they may still be useful in some areas. Unfortunately, there hasn't been any in stock for years and the formula appears to have been misplaced. So we are still investigating how to go about recreating them."
A man with nerdy glasses sitting across from her laughed. "There is no need for those pills. The long-running format has pretty much gone extinct. Everybody has adapted to the seasonal method. The result isn't worth all of the effort."
"Well, I am sorry then that we can't all be as successfully lazy as you, Giovani," spat Simone. "The games that GAMER develops don't even have any distinction anymore. They are all the same. But people are so addicted that they keep falling for the same flashy effects and advertising. All you need to do is fart out a game and people will go through the effort of getting Isekai'd themselves. the rest of us need to actually put in effort in our jobs."
"Think what you want," Giovani retorted. "Shouting louder doesn't make your point any more valid."
"Giovani has a point," said an older man at the other end of the table across from Isaac. He was clearly the oldest in the room by at least a decade and had wild white hair. "Those pills do seem like a waste of time if there isn't a market for it."
"Who are you to mock her efforts, Raphael?" Theodore butted in. "I seem to recall your "brilliant" idea of developing an Isekai toilet of all things. How often did RANDOM end up using that piece of trash? On the subject, how about that Isekai goose of yours. The one you dubbed as ‘Geesekai’. How many times was that used?"
Raphael didn't respond to either of those two questions, so it must have been an unimpressive amount. I myself had trouble imagining how effective an Isekai toilet and goose would be.
The four division heads argued back and forth for a while, though trash-talking might have been a more accurate description of what they were doing.
Eventually, Isaac couldn't listen to any more of it. "Silence!" The bickering died down instantly. "If that is all on that subject, then I suggest we move on. Let me know if you end up finding the formula, Simone."
"Great. Then who wants to volunteer next?' asked Isaac.
Giovani raised his hand lazily. "There isn't much to report. Our numbers have never been better and we have by far the largest amount of success over the last few years as the gaming industry has sky-rocketed. Soon, the other departments will become obsolete."
"That isn't true," Theodore said, butting in once more. "There will always be clients who don't play the games that you release. In addition, once people catch on, you wouldn't be able to do anything to adapt to it other than holding out for the hope that people keep forgetting about the ‘side effects’. With our departments, we can adapt even if people found out. That's what makes us so valuable. The Isekai market from gaming is just a fad that will die down once the next big thing comes along."
"I guess time will tell then," responded Giovani with an unworried look. He seemed confident that his games would outlast the other departments.
"I will go next," said Raphael, stroking his short beard. "The men are busy developing new and inventive ideas to utilize in the field and we have resurrected our idea from long ago to use books as a viable method since they still appear to have a market. Most recently, we experimented with just making a button, that when pressed by the target, gets the job done. The trials have gone well, but we haven't yet made it a standard item. That's all that's worth mentioning at the moment."
"That means that Theodore is next," stated Isaac. "How goes things by TRUCK-KUN?"
Theodore yawned loudly. "Well, I plan on retiring soon, as some of you already knew. My planned successor here, Tobias, just failed his first mission since he joined, but hopefully, he can finish the job before striking out. Other than that, there isn't anything new going on with us. Though now that I think of it, there was a fight earlier today between some of the top-ranked agents. Tobias was involved and easily disarmed the other two combatants. It was really impressive."
"Did he now?" asked Simone rhetorically. "I am surprised that you retained some of your skills, Tobias. Care to spar for a minute?" It was clear that it was more of a demand than a request.
"Sure," I replied. "But go easy on me."
They both stood up walked to the side of the room, where there was enough open space for a proper bout. I got into a stance and approached warily, but Simone just stood there casually as if she was waiting in a line at the store. My reach was longer than hers, though I knew that didn't mean much against her. She was no doubt still an expert fighter. I feinted a couple of times, both of which failed to provoke a reaction. So mind decided, I faked a jab and then delivered a powerful sidekick. She effortlessly dodged it and whacked my leg with a paper fan that just appeared in her hand.
My leg stung a little, but it was easy to ignore. I tried again to attack from outside her range, but it was pointless. She dodged everything. I stepped closer to make her dodge time shorter but knew it was a mistake immediately. Her leg shot straight up, and she landed a clean kick to my chin, causing me to stumble backward. I knew I was outmatched, which meant that I needed to be unpredictable to have a chance. She was expecting me to keep my distance; therefore, I would do the opposite.
I continued forward carefully and jabbed a couple of times to give the illusion that I wanted to keep out of her range. While jabbing for the fourth time, I ducked and ran in arms forward. My only chance was to grapple her to the ground and use my superior size and weight to my advantage. Surprisingly, I managed to get my arms around her and pull her to the ground in a headlock. That was too easy, I thought as I maneuvered into a better position to hold the lock.
The assumption turned out to be correct, as she somehow managed to get a hold of a few of my fingers and calmly started twisting them. The pain was unbearable, and I was only able to hold out for a couple of seconds before being forced to undo the lock.
"Okay, that is enough," Simone said, letting go of my aching fingers. "I see that you are still skilled and a quick thinker, but it's apparent that you are rusty. If things would have turned out differently, you could have ended up as the manager of STEALTH instead of me. I wish you luck."
"Thanks," I said, wiggling my fingers and sighing in relief that she didn't break any of them.
"Perfect timing," said Isaac as a chef walked in the room with wine and shot glasses. "The wine has arrived. Gather around for the toast." The butler proceeded to pour wine into the shot glasses and handed one to each of the eleven people around the table.
"I'm okay," I told him. "I don't drink." The butler shrugged and poured a shot either way, and set it down in front of me.
"Here is a toast for another great month," declared Isaac. "May we all continue to be prosperous. Now let us drink to our future."
"Here! Here!" the rest responded before they all started drinking. I was glad that they didn't push me to drink as well. I was expecting to be cajoled or peer-pressured into drinking it, and the absence of such tactics was quite a relief.
I hoped that marked the end of the meeting, but that faded when Isaac again addressed the group. "Now that the toast is done, we can start getting down to the nitty-gritty details." Isaac then turned towards one of the five unknown members sitting at the table closest to me. "What are the latest numbers, Dante?"
"Well, for the next season alone," the guy named Dante began while chewing on a strand of his overly long black hair, "there are currently over one hundred Isekai requests in the queue from various fantasy worlds. We are in the process of determining what type of targets they are so that we can classify which departments each will be assigned to. I will let you know when the data on that is available, Isaac."
"Perfect," said Isaac. "Diane?"
The blonde woman next to Dante stood up and spoke. "There are twenty-five fantasy worlds that are willing and able to allow us to broadcast their world on television for the next season once we Isekai their targets. While some will no doubt get delayed, I have reserved twenty-five spots throughout various broadcasting channels just in case so that we can air all of them. There is also a limit to how many channels we can reserve at once and a limit to how many shows can air per season. As for the other mediums, as long as they agree to it, there isn't any other reason why ISEKAI can't publish them."
"Outstanding," Isaac said joyfully. "Dean?"
The brown-haired man across from Dante spoke with a raspy voice. "I have informed the assigned animation studios to be on standby for emergency animation just in case there is a need to animate filler episodes, put together a hashed recap, or draw original content."
"Excellent," cheered Isaac. "Danny?"
The short mustached man next to Dean sighed. "The Isekai light novel fad is getting out of hand. They are a dime a dozen nowadays. There are even contests for regular people to write their own Isekai. With all of the variety, it's hard for the true Isekai to stand out and sell as much as they would otherwise. While we are still making a large profit, it's only a matter of time before the money we would get from that market stops flooding in. But that is a future issue that we can focus on later.
"Well, that's a bummer," Isaac responded with a heavy sigh. "Dillan?"
The man next to Danny grunted. "I have assigned the manga publishing companies to credit the Isekai manga to various people who will be granted the title of mangaka. We are stable, and there are no issues with content. In fact, we often have people competing to be given a spot. So we are all good there.
"Amazing," remarked Isaac. The meeting continued for a little while longer, but most of it was either arguing or repeating previously said information. As the meeting winded down, Isaac wrapped everything up. "And that's everything for this meeting. Have a great month, everybody." He then looked at me and said, "I hope you were intrigued enough to be swayed in joining our number. I look forward to working with you.”
"Thanks!" I got up with Theodore, and they exited the tent.
* * *
Tuesday – 15:00
Once they were alone, I asked Theodore one of the questions that I had during the meeting, "Is anime harder for the fantasy worlds to send to our world than it is for manga or something?"
"That is precisely the problem," Theodore confirmed. "They send over the raw data of their world's story to our receptors, but not only is sending larger data more expensive, but the data quality of their signal also leaves an impact on the quality. That's why most choose cheap methods like manga or light novels over anime's huge expense. In addition, that is why some shows look better than others. The more expense they put on sending the raw data and the clearer the signal, the better the anime will look.
I was about to ask another question when I got a phone call, and after seeing who was calling, I answered. "Hello, Terry. What's up?"
"Thaddeus has woken up," Terry answered. "It just happened a minute ago, and he says that he is feeling fine. Thought you might want to know. I need to return to work, so the sooner you return, the better. "
"That's great news. I am on my way," I said and waved to Theodore. "Gotta run, Theo. I will let you know my decision before the deadline." I started jogging toward the emergency room, glad to hear that Thaddeus didn't have a more serious issue. It was a major relief.