Chapter 10:

Can I get through one day without a Confrontation?

The Aftermath of the Magic Apocalypse

“Hello grandpa. You look like you made a breakthrough.” I say as I return the smile.

“Seeing that you are healthy is better than making a breakthrough after I read the report of yesterday’s incident.” His smiles turns into a sheepish look and he scratches the back of his head “It made me question if I made a huge mistake when I allowed you to live off the premises.”

“It’s not your fault Grandpa. Hans did a wonderful job to shield me from harm. It’s because of him I had almost no injuries. If you are going to entertain that notion, the consequences are equally my fault. I didn’t realize that raiders had a code-”

“What the hell gramps? You interrupt OUR discussion for her.”

I turn around to the source of the agitated voice. Standing there is a young man with a blue suit, glasses and one very angry look.

“Now, now Takeo, considering we were talking about the incident yesterday, I would think it would benefit us to have the observations of someone who directly witnessed what transpired, wouldn’t you agree?” as Grandpa smiles to him

“Yes, but why do you allow her to call you grandpa? I’m your grandson, she is just a stray you took pity on.” the young man gives a displeased look.

“Now look here Mr. Reyes. I can’t argue the professor may not be my biological grandfather like you have. However, I don’t see how it’s a problem if he allows me to treat him and address him as if he were my grandfather. It’s not like I call him that in public. It’s only when we talk 1 on 1 that I address him this way.” I put my hands to my waist and stare him down.

“I have a problem because you are just a parasite taking advantage of his kindness. If you were smart, you would suck up to me because soon enough I will be running the research bureau of compound 77.” Takeo’s look of disgust turns into a smirk.

“Hah. I’ll be an accomplished researcher by the time you become head of the research bureau. If anything, you will want to get on my good side if you hope to benefit. You business types are good at schmoozing.” I give him a spiteful smirk.

Takeo clicks his tongue and returns to giving me a spiteful look. “This is why I hate parasites. You think that because we indulge you as apprentices, you are just as good as those who compete for credentials and accomplish results without the supportof a powerful company’s investments backing them.”

“I don’t know about other parasites and frankly I don’t give a shit. I’m going to be the best damn parasite you have ever had the pleasure to work with in the research bureau. I’ll prove to you and anyone else who doubts the apprentice program is worth far more than its cost to maintain it.” I stare him dead in the eyes “That includes those who earn their credentials outside.”

“Big talk from a little girl. If you aren’t a half-decent researcher by the time I’m head of the bureau, I’ll make sure you can never work again anywhere as a researcher, not just Kaiba.” Takeo walks up to me and gives me a menacing look “Sure you want to stick to your claims, little parasite?”

“Hey Takeo, that’s going too far.” says Grandpa in an admonishing tone.

“She shouldn’t talk the talk if she isn’t willing to walk the walk, or am I wrong?” Takeo turns his to grandpa with a smug look.

I close my eyes and take a deep breath. “Merryweather Super Soldier Project.”

“Wha?” Takeo smug face turns into one of genuine confusion. Grandpa also seems perplexed but Takeo’s smug look turning into confusion is a priceless reaction that brings a smirk to my face. I do a victory pose in my head.

I turn my smirk into a professional smile. “I suspect the creature that suddenly appeared is probably an asset of Merryweather or a similar research group. It’s also possible it’s a non-sanctioned research group’s asset, actually I’m more inclined to think it is.

“Interesting” says Grandpa as he scratches his goatee. “Why do you think so?”

“The creature was able to fight on even ground against a fusion user, and it was in an injured state when it first appeared. While I didn’t observe the battle closely to see everything that transpired, it has natural magic diffusion capability. That’s the first I’ve ever seen or heard of a beast-warrior without any sort of technological assistance. Given Merryweather has been obsessed with warriors who are immune to magic, it stands to reason they may have succeeded.”

“Well, that is interesting.” Takeo shifts his glasses using his index and middle fingers. “Except for one flaw in your theory. Merryweather’s closest research branch is hundreds of kilometers from here. If anything, Compound 69 of Kaiba would have probably reported something about this.”

“Well Mr. Reyes, isn’t that why you should look into this and verify? I trust this lead means I didn’t intrude on your meeting with the professor.”

“Tsk. Why wasn’t this in your report to Kaiba’s security and recovery teams? It would have saved us a lot of time.” Takeo gives me a dirty look

I give him look of disbelief. “If I were that good at analyzing information when my life and that of my colleague was in danger, I’m pretty sure I’d be more than a mere analyst. Or are you telling me you can be that rationale when your life is in mortal danger?”

Takeo’s look falters for a moment, but he keeps his scowling look.

“Takeo, please look into it for now. Let me talk with Mana for now and we can resume our discussion with your findings. As things are going, you giving Mana a hard time on every little detail just wastes time and brainpower we can dedicate to tackling bigger issues.” Grandpa says to dissolve the conflict.

Takeo releases his scowl and lets out a sigh. “Fine. If she is in the right ballpark with her guesswork, this would be very interesting and certainly something we need to be mindful of for our own research. I’ll be back in an hour. I trust you will not need that much time to settle things with her.”

“No, I should be done in 10 minutes tops.” I say.

Takeo gives me a dirty look. “I wasn’t talking to you.”

“Considering I’m the one with topics to discuss and interrupted your meeting, I thought I would be courteous to give you an idea along with the professor of how much more time I would take.”

“Alright Takeo, see you in an hour.” Grandpa waves off Takeo and he leaves through the door that slides open for him to pass and slides back after he steps out.

After a moment of pause.
“Sorry grandpa, I know he’s your grandson, but I won’t tolerate shit from anyone without proper justification.”

“Haha, gosh no, Mana, I should be the one apologizing to you. I should be thanking you for standing up to him. Takeo is very competent in what he sets his mind to, but he is very abrasive. If he doesn’t see you as someone he can utilize to achieve his goals, he tends to dismiss the person as garbage. From a business standpoint, there may be logic to it, but my life experience has taught me that people can make anything happen when nurtured under the right conditions. Like plants, the conditions vary from person to person.” Grandpa looks at me with a big smile

“He’s not really going to be the next head of the research bureau is he? Someone like him running the bureau is going to create all kinds of morale issues unless he has a counter-balance.”

Grandpa looks at me with a melancholic look. “Well, there are those in the company who question if my approach is too soft. Oftentimes, what people crave in leaders are values contrary to what they are experiencing. There are those who feel someone like Takeo is what the company needs to address some of the challenges we have right now. When you consider some of Takeo’s achievements, he’s a strong contender to be my successor and while he would never be ideal for more than the head of a bureau as he is now, he too might benefit from being a leader at a level that I enjoy.”

Grandpa pats my head, but since the me that is there is a just a realistic illusion, his hand passes through me and gives me a wink “So I’m counting on you to fulfill your bet with him to become a prominent researcher. Then you can be his counterbalance. You may not be as talented as he is in business strategy, but you do have a knack for looking at the bigger picture.”

“You were the one who told me science doesn’t thrive in a vacuum. If I want whatever I create to benefit mankind, I need to make sure it solves more problems than it creates.”

“I’m glad that you listen to most of the things I’ve shared with you. No matter what anyone says, I will never regret having chosen you as my apprentice. Now then, what did you want to discuss?”

“I have 3 questions, one more observation to add, and one consultation request.”

“Okay, fire away”

“Can the cop who used to be part of Kaiba really be trusted?”

“Oh, I’m surprised she shared those details with you. I was the one who personally asked her to talk with you. I figured her ability would make it easier to get us info to look into the ordeal since you might not have been in the ideal mental state to share what happened.”

“I see. This next question is probably difficult to answer, but please tell me everything you can. The witch who lead the attack said something I found disturbing. She said that we harvest witches and discard them. Is there any basis for her accusation? I didn’t see her face, but the way she said it, it didn’t feel that was a lie from how she said it.”

Grandpa crosses his arms and closes his eyes “Hmmm, this is just a guess, but there was an incident that could match up to what the witch said that I remember.” He opens his eyes and looks at me. “Currently, the energy needed to perform magic or power equipment like barriers can’t be generated or gathered except from magic wielders. We can store the energy, but generation by machine of any kind is not yet doable.”

“Yes we rely on the witch’s union membership to supply us with as much energy as they can spare and pay them generously based on how many crystals they fill with it.”

“Correct, but in our early days of using this method, we didn’t have a reliable way to know if someone was going overboard with donating energy. A person suffering from a deficiency of energy doesn’t show symptoms until hours later. Only the person themselves would know based on their body telling them. Like when someone exercises vigorously, the body’s pain and fatigue receptors alert them to stop. However, given how much demand there is from every prominent organization, some suppliers would indulge in boosters in order to game the system. There were cases of those who ultimately died because their body couldn’t keep up. Kaiba and other companies worked with the Witches Union to ensure anyone who donates to Kaiba Corporation isn’t in any mortal danger. We even developed a food bar that is safer for replenishment than the old boosters many would rely on, though it's not as fast as the boosters. However, the last incident where someone died from a deficiency was over a decade ago. We’ve been very careful to avoid a situation where someone could die or have an adverse reaction since the overall population of people who can provide magic energy is scarce relative to the demand. Still, I’ll consult with the witch’s union and other compounds to make sure we aren’t having a relapse. If this witch genuinely believes Kaiba is doing something unethical, it’s likely she is going to attack again so I’ll also have to inform security to be more vigilant. It’s going to take me some time to have this matter properly investigated, so let’s revisit this after the big expo next week.”

“Thanks Grandpa. My 3rd question, from the image data we have of the creature, do you or anyone have any guesses on what kind of creature it is?”

Grandpa crosses his arms and “No, we haven’t ruled out any of your guesses in your report as of yet. As preposterous as some may have felt when you presented your observations, others also concluded similar or the same answers when going over the data. It’s going to be difficult without a genetic sample of the creature to deduce what it is, or at least a much closer look.”

“I might be able to help with getting you a closer look. That’s the other observation I wanted to add.”

Grandpa’s eyes go wide in excitement. “Have you found where the creature is hiding? We’ve sent out a search team but haven’t found any indication of the creature’s location.”

“Umm, he’s in my house”

Grandpa reels back from my revelation “Wait, what?”

“In the middle of the night...he came through my 2nd floor window. After we fed him, he fell asleep and I believe he is still asleep. I’d like to seek permission to do a behavioral analysis to figure out a way to bring him to Kaiba Corporation with minimal collateral damage.”

“Hmm, I really want to say no, but given it’s been at least a few hours since he has been with you, it may not be a bad idea. If we can bring him in without any incident, it would answer all kinds of questions. That said, I will leave the final decision to your boss. If she decides Kaiba should take the risk and use force, we will do just that.”

I smile. “I had a feeling you would say that. And that leads to my consultation request.”

Grandpa smiles. “I guess you have me figured out pretty well. Alright, I’ll give you one helpful tidbit. She is also going to disagree and for very good reason. I believe you will come up with a way to convince her, because if you can’t convince her, you won’t win your long term bet with Takeo. Switch host to Analyst Mana Viotto’s terminal, light visual”

The scenery of the windowside office with the bright sunlight pouring in instantly cuts off from view and I’m back to my room. The gentle blue column of light recedes and the circular pattern returns to a compact sphere. Upon picking it up, a small hole appears on the sphere’s surface and a translucent blue image of Grandpa’s head projects.

“Mana, can you take me as close as you feel comfortable to get a look at the creature?”

“Sure can.”

I walk downstairs with the image of grandpa in hand.

“Mahad, are you helping your sister monitor him?”

Mahad salutes the image “Yes sir. He’s still asleep but I think he’ll wake up pretty soon.”

I step to about 3 meters from the sleeping ‘Beast’

Grandpa looks at it with intensity. “Hmm, interesting. Mana, can you hold the terminal with your thumb and ring finger and squeeze it for 3 seconds? That will send a signal to do a quick scan.”

“Umm, is it possible she can do it later?” asks Mahad. His face clearly looks anxious.

“Are your instincts saying this is a bad idea?” asks Grandpa who notices the anxious look and contemplates.

“Well, it may interpret the scan waves as an attack or threat. I think it would be best for Mana to wait for him to wake up naturally and explain it to him so he doesn’t freak out. She seems to have tamed him somewhat from how she handled him yesterday when he came unexpectedly. I’m not sure if that was from the guy kissing her or if something else.”

“What, it kissed you? Did it form a pact with you? When did it kiss you” Grandpa’s mouth is in shock.

“You didn’t tell him?” Mahad looks at me confused.

Shit, I forgot. Fucking Takeo.

“Nothing happened, at least as far as I can tell. Though it’s part of the reason I want to study him further before bringing him in, to see if there is anything related to the binding pact. Either he has a partner already or because I can’t use magic, I was not able to bond with him. The kiss happened right when the fusion wielder was forming the meteor and he obliterated it with his breath attack.”

“Hmm, I see. Make sure to share that with your boss. I will still leave it to her to decide to approve your request. Mahad, please help your sister today. I’ll notify your master to overlook your absence. Terminate meeting.”

The image disappears and the sphere reverts to its standard metallic luster.

Alright, one last meeting and then you are off the hook.

“Well, you did get my absence excused so I can handle it. Thanks sis.”

“Grandpa is the real hero. As much as it pains me to admit it, thanks for sharing about the kiss. It completely slipped my mind. I’ll be back downstairs once I finish talking with my boss.”

“Just looking out for you sis. Have fun.”

I return back to my room. While holding the sphere, I tap it twice with my free hand and the blue glow returns. A hole opens up. Connect me to Sandra Bellum, manager of research team 3 of the Research Bureau of Compound 77.”

[Connection request approved]

An image of my manager is projected from the opening.

“Mana, good to hear from you. After some deliberation, we’ve decided you will be moving to Kaiba’s employee dormitory until we settle the issue with the raider attack and the expo next week. I need you to pack your personal things by today.”