Thursday – 14:30
"Hello, Tobias," Terry said. "I apologize that you had to find out this way."
"This can't be!" I screamed. "I trusted you."
"Let me explain," said Terry. "It was an accident. I was on my way to Isekai another kid, but you suddenly appeared out of nowhere and I couldn't dodge out of the way in time."
I knew that part was true, but I still couldn't forgive Terry that easily. I recalled everything about that inauspicious day as if it just happened.
* * *
Four Decades Ago
It was late at night when I was playing with my friends a game of cops and robbers, I was the cop, and my job was to catch the robbers. Everything was proceeding as usual at first. I would chase somebody, tag them, and bring them to jail. Again and again, I caught the robbers. There was just one more kid left, and this guy was the oldest and fastest of the lot.
After a couple of minutes chasing him down, I cornered the older boy in a narrow alleyway with a dead end. It would be impossible for the boy to evade now. However, when I stretched out my hand to tag him, the boy pushed me to the floor in anger. Sadly, this boy was known to be a sore loser. However, I didn't give up. I got back up onto my feet and tried tagging the boy again, and once again, the boy pushed me down. This time, however, he didn't stop there. He reached down and plucked one of my shoes off.
"Oh, poor little baby," the boy taunted. "How are you going to catch me without shoes?" He then started walking off with the shoe, laughing to himself.
I got up angrily, and despite being short a shoe, I ran towards the bully on the rough terrain, not feeling the pain of the small jagged rocks scratching up my foot. The bully turned around and saw me catching up, so he ran as fast as he could, confident that he could outrun the smaller boy who was missing a shoe.
However, I ran faster. The adrenaline pumping through my veins pushed me beyond my limits and I was running faster than I ever had before. The bully turned back to see how far ahead he was. That was a big mistake as people lose speed when they look in other directions. He saw that I was about to tag him and panicked, tossing the shoe into the two-lane road.
I broke off of the pursuit of the bully and ran into the street to retrieve my shoe. The next thing I remembered was waking up in the helicopter on the way to the hospital.
They told me that I had been hit by a truck.
* * *
Thursday – 14:20
I snapped out of his memory in anger. "This is too convoluted to be a coincidence anymore," I said in an accusatory tone. "You knew all along who I was, didn't you?!"
"Yes," Terry said. "That's actually why you were transferred to TRUCK-KUN in the first place."
"What are you talking about?" I asked. "I was transferred because of the teenage detective that I Isekai'd."
"Think about it logically, Tobias," Terry said. "Have you ever heard of anybody transferring before?"
"No," I replied.
"That's because it's generally not allowed," Terry said. "However, you were the exception to the rule for a couple of reasons. I only realized who you were after you made big news for successfully targeting the detective. Once I knew who you were, I wanted to apologize in my own way by taking you under my wing and taking care of you. As the top T-ranked agent at the time, it was within my power to do so. Additionally, the late manager of STEALTH was wary of your skill and worried that you would eventually figure out the truth of ISEKAI if you stayed in that department. Thus, an arrangement was made and you were transferred to be my trainee."
"So my entire life has been a lie," I stated. "What's next? Is Tammy actually your daughter sent to spy on me and seduce me?"
"Don't be so melodramatic," Terry said. "Tamari has nothing to do with this, and nor does anybody else. It's just us two and the other members of the ISEKAI board."
"Please, Tobias," Theodore said. "Reconsider. You would be a great manager, and perhaps you would be able to change things to how you envision this could all be run."
The manager didn't make any threats, but I knew that he didn't need to. The company was extremely powerful and going to the police or the press would be pointless. I either had to continue playing the game or forfeit, and I hated admitting defeat.
"Very well," I said. "I will think about your offer as manager, and if I accept, I will change things from the inside. You will see."
"I look forward to it," Theodore said. "You are now excused. I will inform the rest of the board about the recent events. You will need to get back to me by tonight. There will be a celebratory party in this office tomorrow lunch if you accept, where you can discuss your ideas with the board. So spend the rest of the time coming up with ideas to impress them. Oh, and one more thing. It's customary for new members of the board to bring along a wine for the toast. So pick one out before the meeting."
"Yes, sir," I said, turning around to leave. Terry joined me.
"Again, Tobias,” Terry said. "I really am sorry. Is all good between us?"
"Of course," I responded after a little bit of hesitation. "As you said, it was an accident and it was my fault. I can't blame you for that."
"Thanks," Terry said. "Just letting you know; I plan on retiring with the manager. So I wish you luck moving forward."
"Okay," I said. They then split up and walked in different directions.
I spent the time walking back to my dorm room calling the twins and Tamari to apologize for my absence at the restaurant and explaining that I was retiring from the field and would pay for their lunches the next day. I had to pay for Terry's meal as well. I then called Thaddeus and told him that I would speak to him tomorrow at breakfast. For now, I needed to think of what I would decide.
* * *
Thursday – 15:00
However, even once I got to his room, I hadn't yet been able to come up with an answer. I sighed in audible annoyance and rolled around in bed for hours, desperate to come up with a solution. Suddenly, I received a knock on the door. I got up to open it and saw that it was Tamari.
"Yes?" I asked. "How can I help? If it's another initiation, I will pass."
"Hah, you know it's not about that," Tamari said. "I just wanted to check up on you, that's all. Do you mind if I come in?"
"Sure," I said, gesturing for her to enter.
Tamari paused in confusion. "I was expecting a crude remark from you. I pretty much set myself up for a perfect opportunity for your ridicule."
That was true. I had instantly come up with half a dozen comments that would get her angry, but I found that I wasn't in the mood to do so at the moment. My mind was still focused on something else.
Tamari walked across the room and sat on the bed. "You know, I was in here myself for the first time while you were unconscious, and the experience then still feels like a dream."
I wasn't sure where she was heading with this, so I didn't say anything.
"I don't know what happened with you yesterday," Tamari continued, "but I know that you aren't telling me something. I know that you wouldn't normally fail a mission, so if you failed three times, then somebody must have sabotaged you. However, I was watching the twins during your final mission, so it couldn't have been them. I know you well enough by now that you wouldn't give up on anything, so you must have solved the mystery if you are retiring."
"I have indeed," I confirmed, taking a seat on the bed a meter away.
"That's a relief," Tamari said. "I won't pry, so don't worry. If you don't want to tell me, that's your business." While saying that, she slid over and put a hand on my shoulder. "I just want you to know that I care about you, Tobias."
I remained silent, still pondering on what to do about the manager's offer. I couldn't get it off of my mind. I needed to come up with a solution no matter what.
"Come on! Seriously?!" Tamari exclaimed, removing her hand. "I am dangling chances in front of you on a silver platter."
"Sorry to disappoint you," I said, barely focusing on what she was saying.
"Oh for the love of God," Tamari said. She then took her hands and cupped my face, while moving hers toward his. I didn't know how to react. I instantly lost my train of thought and my mind was just panicking incomprehensibly to what was happening at that very moment. Should I move away? Lean in? Stay still? I didn't know. All I could do was clench my eyes shut while she leaned in closer.
My eyes were clenched shut for a solid five suspenseful seconds, unsure of whether I was excited or terrified, or perhaps both, when I felt a sudden familiar pain from my ear. Tamari had flicked him.
“Ouch!” I opened my eyes in shock and saw Tamari cracking up in a ball of laughter. "Haha, Tobias. You should have seen the look on your face. You looked like you were trying not to piss yourself. Now I know why you enjoy messing with people. It's fun and addictive."
I didn't know how to respond to that, but instead of embarrassment, I just felt an overwhelming sense of tranquility. My thoughts were now cleared up and I could focus on everything else. It felt wonderful.
"You don't fight fair, Tammy," I said." You get annoyed when I comment and when I don't comment. One moment you want me to stay silent and another you want me to talk. There is no winning with you."
"Exactly," Tamari said. "Glad I could knock some sense into you."
"You apparently already have experience with that considering how often you knock on my doors."
Tamari flicked my ear again, yet still laughed. "You still aren't fully recovered yet, but that's much better. I was half expecting you to make a crude joke about my knockers?"
"What knockers?" I asked with a grin.
Tamari moved her hand forward to flick my ear again, but this time I caught it before the blow landed. "Thank you very much for coming over, Tammy. It was just what I needed."
"My pleasure," Tamari said while standing up. "Now that my work is done, I will let you get some rest. Have sweet dreams."
"I will," I said, after she closed the door behind her. "I sure will."
I wistfully looked at my target wall of fame to glance at the toy stroller that marked the mission that they had first met one another. How I wished I could relive those days. If only I could turn back time.
All of a sudden, an idea popped into my head. It was a long shot, but it was the best way I could think of for having my ideals recognized and my ideas implemented. While the epiphany might have been abrupt, I knew that I needed to accept the manager position in order to find closure. While I called Theodore to accept the manager position, I was aware of how momentous a revelation my idea had been.