The President Who Shouted "Love" at the Center of the World - Part 1/3
Kaneyama Tech is a metallurgical company headquartered in Adachi, Tokyo. It was founded 4 years ago by its young CEO Kaneo Kaneyama (25). This company which only has 280 employees rakes in 600 million yen in gross revenue with 20 million yen in profits annually. Although it was a new player, it is already counted among one of the most influential and innovative companies.
Since a change in management policy was made two years ago, the company’s growth has been on an upswing. It’s the kind of growth that makes you think that one day this company would dominate over all like a dragon.
They manufactured strengthened corrosion-resistant metals, and high precision components. In addition, they extracted rare metals from deep sea rare earth mud and processed methane hydrates for fuel. While the company has been able to cut costs by consolidating every part of the supply chain from securing raw materials to parts production within the company, the number of personnel has not kept up with the rapid growth and expansion of facilities, and the overspending was also noticeable due to unnecessary production lines and maintenance costs.
Moreover, using its own technology, the company also produced large artificial diamonds in small quantity, which was unheard of in the past. This has created a lot of excitement among enthusiasts and has contributed greatly to the sales.
By gradually buying out unprofitable small town factories and the various patents they owned that were related to rare metals, the company was continuously securing highly skilled workers. Add to that the very humane working conditions in the company, high salaries, thorough welfare benefits, and its permanently open door for new recruits throughout the year, and there was much that fueled expectations of the company’s continued growth.
Even so, Kaneyama Tech was both a target of jealousy from its competitors as well as a target of suspicion.
Exactly how was the company procuring the methane hydrate and deep sea rare earth that were the foundation for its abrupt growth? With existent technologies, mining these resources from the bottom of the ocean would cost way too much, to the point it would be impossible to turn a profit doing so. It was a complete mystery where the trucks that regularly carried in shipments of rare earth came from.
One more oddity was the dramatic improvement in their precision machining technology. Originally, Kaneyama Tech had been steadily accumulating processing know-how based on a large number of rare metal samples, but in the past few months, the company has achieved significant quality improvement and increased production.
It was as if their Japanese engineers had learned advanced techniques from Western engineers under some isolated facility built deep inside a mountain range.
For all those reasons, Kaneyama Tech was the hottest topic within the industry. And within its storage warehouse lay the PSI drives that Baba had supposedly smuggled out (she had not actually). Naturally, all of the PSI drives were packaged in such a way that it was impossible to tell what they were.
Today, Kaburagi-san and I were visiting the head office, having been called out by the company president regarding those packages. It was perfect timing, so we intended to retrieve them while we were there. After parking the car, I opened the door of the back seat and escorted Her Excellency like a pro butler. Her clothes today were a navy blue furisode kimono and traditional geta sandals. They were custom-made and undoubtedly expensive.
Regardless, Kaburagi-san looks good no matter what she wears.
Together, we entered the office lobby, with Kaburagi-san all smiles. Upon stepping in, we found the company president himself waiting restlessly to greet her in person. He was a gentle-looking handsome man wearing a suit with fluffy short hair done up in a playful style. The fact that he had graduated from the same alma mater as Kaburagi-san meant that he was also a Tokyo University alumni. Equipped with brains, money, and looks, he was a high specced specimen of a man through and through.
“Hello, Shiori-san. Welcome. You look even more beautiful today. It pales in front of Shiori-san’s beauty, but could you accept this small gift?”
“Hello, Kaneyama-san. Thank you.”
Kaburagi-san only smiled faintly as a response to the lavish bouquet of flowers—what is this supposed to be, a proposal bouquet?— and those lines that would set anyone’s teeth on edge. However, even that tiny smile was enough to send the company president blushing like mad while bringing a hand up to fiddle with his ear. He really likes Kaburagi-san, doesn’t he. I think Kaburagi san once told me that they’ve known each other since high school, right?
And this was something that I learned only afterward, but he was the one with whom Kaburagi-san’s parents had arranged for her to have the marriage interview with the other day. What’s more, apparently he had been the one who laid all the groundwork to make it happen. Talk about being passionate. But is it only cuz I’m a guy that it sounds a bit creepy to me?
“Thank you. Thank you for your hard work.”
He was polite and welcoming, but his greeting to me was simple and straightforward.
No gifts for me!
Am I supposed to be satisfied with the smell of the bouquet?
Although to be fair, I actually don’t want him to give one to me.
“Umm, what is it?”
“……No, it’s nothing. Please pardon me. Shiori-san, I’ve managed to get my hands on some of those tea leaves that we talked about last time.”
That pause where he silently looked at Kaburagi-san and me in turn made me a bit nervous, but then he looked away and returned to his “I heart Kaburagi-san” mode. When I tried to figure out what it was that had set him off, I realized that I had forgotten to put on a tie.
You should have reminded me, Kaburagi-san…I thought it was weirdly breezy around my neck while on the street. Having realized it made me feel a bit self-conscious, so I used psychokinesis to pick up a necktie from Amanoiwato, then started bringing it over through the underground sewage system so as to avoid the public eye. After having planned so many World’s Darkness fights to date, somewhere along the way I had almost completely memorized the whole thing’s entire layout.
After passing the bouquet of flowers to me, Kaburagi-san gently but firmly turned down President Kaneyama’s passionate invitation to tea, instead prompting him to get to the purpose of our visit today. He looked slightly crestfallen, but then quickly took it upon himself to lead us to his reception office.
“Your hand, my lady?”
“Thank you. But I’m good.”
President Kaneyama gracefully offered his hand on the stairs, but Kaburagi-san politely refused.
It was the objective truth that Kaburagi-san’s beauty was such that she would turn the head of every single man she walked past. If she thoughtlessly did anything that could be construed as a hint or invitation toward anyone that she had no interest in, then it might lead to a rain of blood. So she tries not to play along with people’s favor or give them false hopes.
In other words, it meant that President Kaneyama also numbered among those that she had no interest in. Though it seemed to me that he was aware of it even while making his moves.
While we waited for the office lady to bring us a cup of tea, I stepped over to the window and opened it a crack. Then the necktie that had just passed through the sewage system, had kept pace while zipping from underneath one car to the next, and had seemingly been “blown up by the wind” finally reached its destination in my hand. I had to suppress the part of myself that was about to question the necessity of having made the necktie go through a great big adventure while tying it around my neck.
What a waste of my psychokinesis. I mean sure, since elementary school I’ve dreamt of fetching an item with my superpower every time I had forgotten something. But after actually doing it…it kinda feels hollow.
When the woman finished setting the table, she exited the room, leaving the three of us sitting in sofas and facing each other over a tea table. After a short while of enjoying the fragrant aroma of the tea, we finally got down to business. Without touching the A4-sized manila envelope conspicuously left on the table, President Kaneyama started the conversation with a grave look on his face.
“Thing is, once every week we checked in on the packages that were left in our care. There had been no issues so far, at least until our inspection last week, when we noticed that one of them had signs of having been opened and resealed. Thinking it strange, we took the liberty of opening the package for confirmations’ sake, and found only stones inside. Shiori-san, was it stones that you had been keeping with us?”
Kaburagi briefly made eye contact with me, then shook her head.
We had kept the contents of the packages a secret from the president, but it was supposed to be PSI drives—and definitely not stones—inside all of the packages.
The loss and smuggling of PSI drives.
Wait! I’ve heard of that story. Why is this joke repeating itself?
However, we had made no plans whatsoever to swap out the PSI drives stored at Kaneyama Tech with stones. The look of bewilderment on Kaburagi san’s face was real. I started getting a bad feeling. A chill ran down my back, as if someone had just dropped an ice cube down the collar of my shirt.
Don’t say, there was an actual smuggling or a leak?
Nodding at Kaburagi-san’s response, the president continued.
“I figured it would be, so I did some research. On the package, we found fingerprints from only myself, Shiori-san, and Sago-san. No one else. We then checked the security cameras while hoping that we had caught the culprit on tape, but unfortunately the camera installed at the entrance to the storeroom had actually broken down previously and was in the middle of getting fixed, which meant there was no way to confirm the traffic through that door. However, when you entrusted us with your packages, we had installed a key card reader as part of our effort to strengthen our security measures. Discounting the possibility of superpowers, the only way to get inside is through presenting a key card. And the only people who possess a key card are the three of us currently inside this room.”
I don’t know if he said it unwittingly or knowingly, but my heart skipped a beat at the superpower line. So what is he saying? What happened to the PSI drives? I wanted very much to tell him to get straight to his point and stop beating around the bush, but I couldn’t bring myself to interrupt a company president and so just continued listening intently.
“Shiori-san, you are our client. As such, I cannot imagine any reason why you would switch out the contents of your own packages with stones. After all, you could have just taken them back whenever you wanted to. Then as for me, I myself know that I did not do this. That left only one suspect. Accordingly, we hired a private detective to look into this, and this was what they found. Were the contents of your packages the devices shaped like swords and shields and various other weapons being made in our research labs?”
The president took out the contents of the envelope that had been placed on the table. The contents were shocking to say the least.
Account records of million yen deposits, with the payee being “Sago Kinemitsu”.
A picture of the inside of a warehouse taken from the outside through a window, within which a PSI drive could be seen hanging on the wall.
A page from an auction catalogue in English that depicted a drawing of a PSI drive, accompanied by a blurb describing it as some sort of artifact.
A picture of a man who looked like me peering into a window of Kaneyama Tech’s head office during nighttime.
Of course, I had no recollection of this.