Last Story – A Bouquet For Your Smile – Prologue
“Come in, come in, and sorry I had you come all the way here. I’d normally pop by myself instead of asking you to come, but we always have that simpleton staring daggers at me in the office. Today, I wanted to talk to you alone, so I had invited you to come all the way here. It’s rather dirty here but do make yourself comfortable.” Mr. Sasamine chattered as soon as I arrived at our meeting place. It was a family-style restaurant in the human world, not far from the office.
However, wasn’t it too rude to say the place was “dirty” out loud? Sure enough, I heard one of the staff coughed and looked at me with contempt, and I stiffened in guilt much more than Mr. Sasamine, who didn’t look the least bit bothered.
As soon as I sat down facing him, I asked, “We meet a lot lately. Are you doing well with work?”
“All good! All good! Really, it couldn’t be better. My motto is to be efficient at work, so I do what I can, and pass those I can’t to my subordinates or Shindo. I’m trying to be something like a discount store in the agent world that offers good service to everyone at a reasonable price. It’s a low profit venture, but the market is huge anyway. But I’m not so incompetent as to let it ruin my private life. Does this sound like I’m bragging? It does, doesn’t it?” He chuckled.
There was something in Mr. Sasamine’s words that struck hard with me, but I decided to ignore it.
“So, what can I do for you today? It’s something you don’t want Senpai to hear, isn’t it?”
I decided to cut to the chase and asked for the reason why he invited me here. I knew he was a blabbermouth and he would talk for hours on end, so I had to get straight to the point.
He scooped a spoonful of the large fruit parfait he ordered (I got milk tea by the way) and said, “Yeah,” before swallowing it with delight.
“I’ve been thinking of how you solved that case I entrusted to you guys last time, and I must say that you, Yuma, are no doubt an outstanding agent. So, I wonder if you could work with me after you graduate from the training institute. In other words, I’m here to recruit you.”
My eyes widened in surprise. “You’re recruiting me?”
—I had talked so much before and yet he didn’t listen to any of it? I’m “Yuma the Failure” after all.
“Yeah, you resolved the case I couldn’t resolve after all. What’s his name again…”
“Right, right. You were able to send Shuto to heaven safely, albeit in a rather orthodox method. I want to buy those skills. But it’s not good enough as it is now, though. It’s actually in the negative because you’ve been learning under Shindo. After graduation, I want you to work for me, and I’m going to train and teach you what it means to be an agent from scratch—no, I’m not saying I have no other reasons, but I plan to teach you in a very gentlemanly way. I, too, am a first-class agent, even though I had passed on the case to you last time. I’m often told I’m invisible though. But I think I can help you develop your skills. It’s your dream to be an excellent agent, right? I think you have what it takes to be a first-class agent. You can give all those people who have been looking down on you a run for their money. That doesn’t sound bad, does it?”
It took me a few seconds to feel the impact of his rather light-hearted words. Just what is this person talking about—?
When the meaning behind what he said finally dawned on me, something trembled inside me.
Being an agent was a job I’ve always dreamed of. And to think that I could be a first-class agent? I felt a shiver run down my spine as my expectations were higher than I had hoped for when I first walked through the office.
—Me, a first-class agent?
However, I calmed my racing heart, which was running full speed like a horse with a carrot dangling in front of it, and tried my best to stay level-headed.
If I didn’t cherish what I’ve learned so far in my internship, I would have jumped at such an opportunity without any hesitation. I wasn’t sure if my feelings for Senpai were more than just admiration, but in any case, I certainly had deep affections for him. He was important to me, after all.
However, even if Mr. Sasamine considered Senpai’s way of doing things negatively, this offer was far too tempting for me. Feeling my heart swaying, I tried to mask my feelings by asking an irrelevant question.
“But if I become your partner.. I mean, isn’t being an agent a one-man job in the first place?”
Mr. Sasamine explained carefully with a smile. “Oh, I guess they haven’t explained the particulars of the job at the training institute. It’s not uncommon for us agents to work as a team to solve the so-called lingering regrets. If you can’t handle it, the case would be assigned to someone else. Even agents have their own strengths and weaknesses. Thanks to that, I can leave the work to other agents and spend my time in comfort. Well, if I can’t resolve the case, I’d usually send them over somewhere else. It’s much more efficient and effective that way, don’t you think? Speaking of which, the previous consignment was highly irregular. If you’re interested, I’ll give you my card and you can come visit my office. It’s much more modern and cleaner than that stuffy office where that simpleton lives.” He handed me his business card.
“It’s the so-called elite course, you know. And you’re highly qualified.” He winked at me with a smile.
—Me, in the elite course?
I felt flattered by the sudden, unsolicited compliment, but tried to hide it by voicing out my worries.
“But I’m ‘Yuma the Failure’.”
“It doesn’t matter. It’s part of who you are, and I think you’re great.”
“I’m just a little chick who has accomplished nothing…”
“No one is good at anything right off the bat. From here on out, I’m gonna teach you everything.”
“What about Senpai—”
“It has nothing to do with Shindo. This is about you and your future.”
Mr. Sasamine let out a sigh and said, “Well, well. It seems like you can’t make up your mind. How about you try talking to your professor or someone at the training institute? I’m sure you’ll be able to find the best course of action. They’d also be more than happy to tell you all about the rumors concerning me. There’s no need to rush. Just take your sweet time deciding.”
I took a sip of milk tea to moisten my parched yet excited throat.
“Then, I’ll talk to Senpai…”
“No, you shouldn’t.” Mr. Sasamine spread his hands wide in a disapproving gesture and shook his head dramatically.
“Huh? Why?” When I asked, he took another spoonful of cream in his mouth.
“As I’m sure you’ve noticed, Shindo is a special kind of agent. In a nutshell, he’s the kind of agent who wouldn’t hesitate to cross dangerous bridges. His methods are always the same. In order to resolve the dead’s lingering regrets, he tries to get ‘involved with the living’ to settle things amicably. No, amicable isn’t quite the word, but you understand what I mean, right? Anyway, he’s clearly in a different league from other ordinary agents. His track record is indeed impressive, but if you think you can emulate that… you’ll just fail trying. It’s like a clown trying to imitate a tightrope walker just because they’re in the same circus, only to end up falling headfirst to the ground. And what’s worse, Shindo—” He took another big bite of his parfait.
“Shindo has a grudge against me. Almost like hatred even. If you ask me though, it’s a false accusation.” He said impassively.
But his remarkable pause was enough to confuse me. I couldn’t fully grasp the relationship between Senpai and Mr. Sasamine. What could have happened between them? Senpai hated Mr. Sasamine, but the latter seemed unperturbed about it and even exuded a good-natured aura. So then why—?
“But well, Shindo has never said anything, so I don’t know how he really feels about it. In any case, let me give you a piece of advice. Choosing Shindo as your mentor is not the right thing to do at this time. Again, you don’t have to give me your answer so soon. Just take it slow and think it over carefully.”
I was still full of questions for Mr. Sasamine, but his indifference, which was a little different from Senpai’s, seemed to cover me with a veil, preventing me from asking anymore, so I just let the matter rest.