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Chapter 17: We Had a Dispute
“Vice-Director Kondoh, I found some delicious sweets in town and bought a lot of them, would you like one?”
As Seiichirou went about his work as usual, he was approached by a colleague from the accounting department. He looked over to see a plump young man with a tight-fitting government uniform offering him a round light brown pastry in a paper box. It looked too flat and hard to be called bread and resembled something like a sweet bun. At least, that was Seiichirou’s impression.
He was not particularly fond of sweets, but as he reached out to take one, thinking that it might be okay once in a while to try something other than the food Aresh approved, Norbert stopped him.
“No! Don’t you remember that Knight Commander Indrak told us not to give Mr. Sei any kind of food or drinks?”
“What do you mean?” Seiichirou turned to Norbert, confused.
The first thing that came to mind was the piece of paper that had been pasted to a doghouse Seiichirou had often passed by on his way to elementary school saying, “Do not feed please.”
Am I some kind of dog now, too?
“What’s with that look?”
After work that day, Seiichirou was dragged to the same restaurant he had been frequenting lately. Aresh, who ate across from him, was furrowing his eyebrows and scowling.
“No, it’s nothing…”
Although he had said as much, Seiichirou could not help but wonder about Aresh’s influence, or rather, how widespread it was and just how far Aresh was willing to go to keep him safe.
While Seiichirou appreciated being under Aresh’s protection, it also made him the subject of envy within the palace because of the knight holding such a high position. All of the unwarranted attention was affecting his work. And without being able to grasp Aresh’s true intentions, Seiichirou was having trouble responding to it.
“…well, okay then. More importantly, how are you feeling?” Aresh asked as he was cutting up some white fish poêlé. Watching Aresh do that made Seiichirou realize the commander was more overly considerate than he had first appeared. He wanted to be annoyed but found he couldn’t be.
“Thanks to you, my working hours have been shortened, and I’m doing very well.”
“You seem to have enough energy for sarcasm…”
Though it was helpful that Seiichirou, someone who couldn’t use medicine or magic easily, had a person to manage his mana poisoning and addiction symptoms for him, it was difficult to get any real work done. This was especially true now with his eight-hour work restriction, which included a two-hour break, six hours for actual work, and no overtime whatsoever.
Not only was Seiichirou dealing with a lot of tasks that he still needed to complete, but he was also experiencing severe disruptions in his work caused by other departments… most notably from the one the man in front of him belonged to.
“I didn’t mean to be sarcastic. However, in addition to being a newcomer to this executive position that was bestowed upon me, I still don’t understand all of the things that are considered commonplace in this country. Even if I wanted to acquire such knowledge, I would still be unable to do so during my working hours because there are many documents that I’m not allowed to take home with me.”
While denying Aresh’s comment, Seiichirou tried to divert the conversation by politely asking if Aresh would be willing to loosen up on his restrictions a bit. Aresh just frowned again.
“Why do you try to do everything by yourself? You’re the one with the higher position, so why don’t you just assign those more complex tasks to your subordinates?”
Seiichirou tilted his head at Aresh’s words.
“Shouldn’t I know everything precisely because I have such a high position?”
It was Seiichirou’s belief that the person who stood at the top of a hierarchy should not only be capable of doing his own job but everything else beneath him as well. Moreover, most of what Seiichirou did was really saving this country’s finances substantially. Despite it being outside of his normal duties, he didn’t think it was a good idea to entrust someone else to do it. Besides, it was faster to do everything himself rather than take the time and explain it to one of his accounting colleagues.
Aresh set his fork down with a clink.
“I let the vice-commander do all of the routine tasks related to the Knights’ Order, and there’s been no problem.”
Hearing this, Seiichirou figured that was probably why the budget request had not been discussed even though they had been seeing each other a lot recently.
“Then what do you usually do, Knight Commander Indrak?”
“I have to deal with paperwork that only a Commander can approve and attend top brass meetings. Lately, I’ve also been tasked with tutoring the Saint.”
That’s not a job you have to do every day, and it really is just the bare minimum, Seiichirou thought. This time, his eyebrows were the ones twitching.
“…Is that enough to keep the Knights’ Order going?”
“I haven’t heard of any issues. The reason I was appointed the Third Knight Commander in the first place was because people around me demanded it. I don’t need any more work than I already have,” Aresh stated firmly. The words reminded Seiichirou of the commander’s position once again, recalling that Aresh was indeed a genius young master from a marquis’ family.
I see. He is best suited to serve as a symbol. On the other hand, it‘s no exaggeration to say that the Third Knight Order’s superiority might be shaken if he were to transfer to another department.
“…I see,” was all Seiichirou said.
“Wait, don’t just go and say you understand when you don’t. What is that supposed to mean?”
“No, I just realized the differences in our positions and values once again.”
From the beginning, there were differences in this world’s monarchy system. There is no way we can ever understand each other, Seiichirou concluded. Instead, he tried to change the subject, but Aresh was not satisfied with such an answer.
“Apart from our positions, what’s so different about our values?”
“No, I don’t think someone like the noble Knight Commander Indrak could understand the values of a lowly otherworlder.”
Seiichirou tried to gloss over their previous conversation by saying that, but Aresh was persistent.
“Speak. Tell me what your obsession is with work?”
“Obsession, you say…?”
Seiichirou thought it a bit of an exaggeration calling it that when working was simply ingrained into the spirit of a corporate slave, but Aresh kept right on going.
“It is an obsession. Taking drugs and working all alone when you know your life is in danger; your behaviour is already that of a fanatic.”
In Seiichirou’s world, it was commonplace to ingest nutritional drinks to get through a workday or to visit an urgent care clinic for an IV drip during breaks and immediately return to work even if one had a fever. It was true, however, that the supplements in this world were almost like poison to Seiichirou in his current condition. Still, the effects had been so wonderful that he couldn’t help but want them again…
“I’m not a religious person though?”
“No matter how you look at it, this is the behaviour of a zealot. Why do you bother working so hard? If it’s about money, you already have it.”
Even if you keep asking me why, I’ll still be at a loss to answer, Seiichirou thought. Working was considered a citizen’s duty in his world. Furthermore, it was already common practice for Seiichirou and gave him peace of mind.
“Because… there’s work to be done.”1 Seiichirou did his best imitation of a certain famous mountaineer, but Aresh only got angrier.
“No, there isn’t! I’m told you’re the one who’s always creating work that doesn’t even exist and working your fingers to the bone!”
For a moment, Seiichirou wondered why information from the accounting department was being leaked to the Third Knight Commander. Suddenly, the image of a certain playboy flashed through his mind.
Regardless, this so-called “non-existent work” could not be overlooked.
“Even if that’s so, this country’s finances are in serious trouble. The existing system needs to be completely revised if it has any hope of improving.”
“We’re in financial trouble…? I’ve never heard such a thing.”
That’s because the Third Knights’ Order has a privileged budget comparable to that of the royal family. On top of that, the finer details are likely dumped onto your subordinates. There‘s no way you could have known anything was amiss, Seiichirou thought.
“Isn’t that because Knight Commander Indrak has no interest in finance?”
“What did you just say…?”
That snide remark had spilled out of Seiichrou’s mouth involuntarily because of Aresh’s uncalled for fanatic comment. Upon realising his mistake, Seiichirou immediately apologized.
Aresh’s eyebrows remained deeply furrowed even as Seiichirou smiled throughout his apology. The knight’s commander just snorted once and opened his mouth to speak.
“…I’m just going to be blunt with you. You should be aware that your ‘work’ attitude has a negative impact on your surroundings.”
“…Negative impact, is it?”
Well, I would think that my “work attitude” has had a positive impact on this country, at the very least. Since it was discovered that the Saint’s budget was being embezzled, I’ve made it possible to rework it for the future, Seiichirou thought to himself.
“If a vice-director takes the initiative to work overtime, it will confuse his lower staff and worsen the department’s atmosphere for everyone else.”
Certainly, since Seiichirou had been given his higher ranking position, he had felt a few perplexed stares directed his way when he became the first to arrive at work and always the last to leave. But Seiichirou had not wanted to be promoted in the first place.
“Anyway, you’re the one who took it upon yourself to set-up this new system. And if you neither want aid nor to raise a successor, what are we going to do after you’re gone?”
“Ugh,” Seiichirou groaned. In his original world, everyone worked overtime just like him, no exceptions. That system was already put into place long before Seiichirou began working. The how and why of those expectations were like an unspoken agreement to all adult workers. Thus, there was no issue with his behavior back then.
But this was a different world. Perhaps the numeric values were the same, but the foundation of the kingdom’s work ethics was not. It was true that Seiichirou had spared himself the hassle of worrying about such things.
That being said, it was hard to explain why Aresh, who rarely did any work of his own, had felt the need to point it out. Nevertheless, the person in front of Seiichirou was his lifesaver, a superior, and an aristocrat.
Forcing himself to swallow down all of his frustration, Seiichirou smiled with every ounce of strength he could muster.
“I’ll deal with it.”
“You’re not going to.”
This time, it was Seiichirou who almost clicked his tongue in annoyance at his ever insistent opponent.
This chapter was short, but I just had to include the differences in values discussion. And thus, it turned into a very tense dinner.
The story will develop rapidly from the next chapter onwards!