Chapter 2:

A new assignment

Guarded Love

The ringing of my alarm got me up. Still a bit drowsy, I turned it off, and shuffled out off bed, into the bath. Throwing some cold water into my face did the trick as usual. Now, it was time for the usual morning routine: Bathroom, grab a bite, check messages, brush teeth, get dressed. Normally, I aimed to have some time in between for lenience, but not today. While the shifts at my workplace usually were nice, changes like these could occur from time to time, so it wasn’t that out of the norm.

My commute to the office was short, but pleasant. The spring breeze was coming in and warming up the winter’s frosty grasp. Though it wouldn’t take long until we wished the cold back, when the summer sun shined down on us with its blinding rays. The floral scent in the air was mild now, but would soon reach a point for the allergists to curse.
At the front, I took a moment to reassess my view of the offices. Bragidion Crop owned a luxurious 30 story building, housing most of its branches, like music, modeling, accounting, and security. It’s all glass facade was reflective on the outside, while the inside permits an unhindered view. What was of note to me was it was all bulletproof glass. ‘Just how much money did they have invested for this?’

I made my way across the parking lot, and entered through a back entrance. Greeting the people having a smoke out front, I entered the door behind them. Walking along the hallway, I came to a stop in front of the elevator doors. There, I used my key-card to open the door. Many things were controlled here with those: not only doors and lockers, but they could also be used on the internal vending machines or in the cafeteria to buy lunch. While a restaurant was close by, choosing to eat lunch here saved a bit of money. Pondering on the advance of technology employed in this building, I quickly reached my destined floor. Leaving the elevator behind me, I walked to the reception in front of me.
“Good morning, how may I help you?” The receptionist behind the desk greeted me.
“Good morning. My name is Moriya Shuuichi, from security. I have an appointment with Mr. Goldberg.”
“Please give me a moment.” She reached for a phone, and called someone. A short moment later she hung up. “We have confirmed your appointment. Would you like someone to lead you there?”
“I know the way.”
“Alright. Then, please proceed and take a seat outside the office. You will be called in.”

Being here reminded me of the day I got interviewed. The boss had certainly left an impression on me that day. While he did behave in a way unfitting of someone of his position, it was not without reason. It took me a while, but I had managed to realize that it was a test, and it was his judgment during it that would decide whether or not one got a job. I had passed, obviously, but still wondered about his methods. These must work though, for the security devision had no problems during his long reign as the head of it.
Shortly after arriving, the door opened, and Miss Minekawa called me in. She was the boss’ secretary. Mentally preparing myself for the worst, I walked in.

The boss sat in his chair, as usual. He appeared to be a fifty year old man, though this assessment might betrayed his true age of near sixty, due to his rather fit, muscular build. Still, the whitening hair started giving it away, which also contrasted his tan skin.
A neatly trimmed full beard adorned his pronounced jaw. Upon his nose rested a pair of sunglasses, so dark they obscured his eyes. A large white cowboy head obscured a part of his head, only revealing patches of hair that were tied together in his neck. The thick leather jacked adding to his image, made him look more like a retired cowboy than a high ranking office worker.
His head was resting on his folded hands, with the elbows resting on a large, expensive looking wooden desk, with various documents strewn about. That was the only piece of furniture visible upon entry in the rather large office. To the sides, slightly sectioned off, were files cabinets on one end. The other had a seating arrangement of several chairs and couches around low tables, for properly receiving guests. The panorama glass wall the his back gave a good overview of the city. The secretary stood diagonally behind him.

“Good morning boss.” Calling him boss, and not by his name, was obligatory.
“Good morning Mister Moriya. You are here surprisingly early today, in spite of the party yesterday.”
“Yes. Himura relayed to me that you wished to speak to me in the morning, so I came at an acceptable time.”
“Did she? I do not recall asking her to send you here this early.” ‘Seiko, I will get you for this one. Or was this your way of getting back to me for not letting you tease me?’ “Not that it matters much. Anyway, there is something I would like to discuss with you.”
“Is it regarding the captured trespasser yesterday?”
“No. I have not been informed about any of that, so there should be no follow up necessary. Rather, it concerns the matter of a coworker of yours, Imai Takeshi. He had an accident and broke one of his arms. We need someone to fill in for his work. He has a long term position serving a group directly.”
‘So, like VIPs? How come-’

“You may ask yourself, why you were chosen. Well…” Boss adjusted his posture. “Mister Imai is an older employee in his late sixties. Anything flashy would be too much at this age, so we assigned him a role that has less action. He is working alongside an idol group from the music devision. While their following is relatively small, our presence is there to dissuade anyone from doing anything stupid. Any questions so far?”
The outline of the work was explained well, so there was no lack in understanding. However, despite mentioning it, he still hadn't answered that question. “Why me?”
“Well, you have been working well for this past year. To get you adjusted to this work field, you spend time on different positions at different venues. But, that is not all that we do. At times, you have to stay with assigned charges for long periods of time. Weeks, months, or even years. Therefore, we want you to see this side of business.
To be frank, in this first year, the people mentoring you were not doing only that, they were also seeing if there are any specializations that you might fit into. You were noted to be able to strike up conversations with the people you were guarding, and serving as a deterrent with a grim appearance.”
I wasn’t happy to hear the last part, as I never did it intentionally. It was my normal appearance. Still, so that is what Smith meant yesterday, when she told Hanami to move her to another post.

“While it is unfortunate that Mister Imai got injured, we should do the most out of the situation. Until he has recovered, you will be taking over his job. After he is healed up, we will evaluate your performance, and then see where you would be able to use your abilities to their best.”
“Good. Miss Minekawa, would you please call him in.” The woman next to him left, leaving him and me alone. This just made me more nervous.
“Now, in a more private setting, how do you feel about our company? Speak freely, this is all of the record.”
I thought I could trust him on this one. “Well, I can only speak about my experience In this department, but the employees are really well taken care of. There are many bonuses that come with working here: help with housing, easy access to food, extra pay, people properly looking after the new recruits. It feels almost too much at some points”
“Well, it is more than our rivals offer for sure. And it has its associated costs. Still, we believe it to be worth it. Being the second best is not an option. We want everyone to know, not only our customers, but also our employees, just how good we are. There are often enough testimonies about black companies in the news. Not once has there been a claim about us. That is something we take pride in. Furthermore, when your staff is satisfied, they are more productive. Which is the philosophy we go with. So, as long as you keep working properly, you are welcome to stay.”
“Is that part of the reason why you can only get in with a recommendation?”
“Hmm. That is something specific to our devision, a rule I enforced. It ensures that only qualified people make it in here. As the person recommending someone is liable if they screw up, it also discourages introducing acquaintances only for them to get a workplace. I know that you and Miss Himura knew each other before you started working here. That is perfectly fine, as long as you deliver on our expectations. And that you did. Otherwise, you would be leaving about now.”

I learned a bit more about the inner workings in the company. Not only that, but his last remark eased some of the concerns I had. Then, as if the entrance had been timed, the door behind me opened. The secretary came back in, followed by an older man. His graying hair was starting to match his light gray suit. He still filled it out very well for his age, which made me acknowledge that he could still be on active duty. But the most obvious detail was the white cast on his right arm, immobilizing it, and impeding him.
“Let me introduce you. Mister Imai, this is Moriya Shuuichi, he will be assisting you for the time being. Mister Moriya, this is Imai Takeshi, the person whose job you will be assuming until his recovery.”
“Pleased to make your acquaintance.” I managed to overcome my confusion and bow politely. ‘Why is he here? Shouldn’t he be resting in a hospital?’
Imai reciprocated the gesture, bowing too. “Pleased to meet you.”
“He will guide you around the building, to where you need to be.”
“Good. I take it there are no more questions?”
“No, sir.”
“None from me either.” The new arrival confirmed.
“Good. Then, you are dismissed.”
The two of us left the office.

“Follow me.” Despite his curt words, he still gave of the air of a nice older man. We went to the elevator, and then down. He led me all the way to a main hall. There, we actually had signs that showed which way would lead where. Not halting, Imai moved along with a quick pace, and I followed behind. What I could make out was that we were headed to part of the musical section.
As things should be soundproof here, as to not disturb anyone, I asked him something.
“Excuse me, but… wouldn’t it be better to be resting?” I tried asking him carefully.
He looked me over, judging me. “Moriya, was it? Don’t worry, I will be resting. I expect you to do all the manual labor. Shouldn’t be a problem for a young lad like you, no?”
“Naturally, I will be doing that, but-”
“Now, listen up. Someone has to show you how things are done, right? And who would be better for it than me, who has done it for the last two years. I will make sure to cram everything necessary into that head of yours.” ‘I guess there is no convincing him.’

He scratched his head. “Look boy, even the boss tried to dissuade me from working, but gave up and saw reason. As long as it does not hinder my recovery, I am allowed on the premise. Besides…” His eyes looked into the distance, his voice tinged with a hint of sadness. “My wife has passed on, my children live on their own, far away. If I were to stay home, I would just lie around and deteriorate on my own. Do you really want to do this to this old man?” He showed me a bitter smile.
“No! Of course not. …Sorry, I didn’t know about-”
“It’s fine, as long as you see reason. Now, move along, we can’t keep the young ladies waiting anymore.”
‘Maybe… I was told it is an idol band. Perhaps they act as something like surrogate grandchildren for him? Anyway, as long as they have a positive mental influence on him, being here might be better for him than staying home. It might be why the boss allowed him to continue working despite his injury.’

Working through these thoughts, we would soon reach a hallway with many short passages leading of. They ended in a small open room with a table, some chairs and a small counter. Near them would always be a door, leading to a different, closed off rooms. It was a part of the company I hadn’t been to before, maybe passed through once or twice, but definitely not regularly.
Noticing me looking around curiously, I got an explanation. “These are all recording rooms, each with a break room next to them. You should familiarize yourself with them, you will be spending a lot of time here. Here, and the training rooms.”
Without knocking, he opened the door to the side slightly, and peered through. Then he closed it again.
“They are still recording. Let’s take a seat. Once they take their break, we can do the introductions.”
We both sat down. To prevent silence, Imai offered a topic of conversation.
“Look Moriya, I know you are new. If there is anything you don’t know, or any questions you might have, do not hesitate to ask. Better you ask too much, and annoy me, than asking too little, and something bad happens. Good?”
“Yes, Mr. Imai.”
“Also, you can call me Takeshi. I had spend enough years on formality. Plus, we will be working together closely.”
“Alright, Takeshi. Then, please call me Shuuichi as well.”
“Will do.” He gave a few small nods. To pass time, he told me a few things that were different from working as security in concerts, and gave me a rough layout of the parts of the building I hadn’t been to.
We didn’t get very far though, as soon enough, time had passed, and it was time for the girls’ break…