Last Story – A Bouquet For Your Smile – Part 1
It’s been a few days since I had that secret meeting with Mr. Sasamine.
I cleaned up the office as usual, and after preparing strong black coffee for Senpai, I looked around the familiar office for no reason. There was Senpai’s desk made of oak wood, the sofa at the back, and an old ticking clock.
“Apprentice.” I was absentminded when Senpai called out to me.
“Apprentice, your training is almost over. Or did I remember wrong?”
“No, you’re right. There’s only two weeks left.”
Soon, I’d have to say goodbye to the sight of this place that has grown on me. My attachment ran deep with a hint of loneliness—no, it’s more like a heap of loneliness, making me feel like crying when I think it’s about time to bid my farewell.
Senpai muttered, “I see,” before saying, “Apprentice, do you still want to be an agent?”
“Huh…? Of course, why are you asking?” I couldn’t surmise the meaning behind his sudden question, so I asked while looking at him blankly.
“I see. That’s good then. I thought you might have changed your mind after getting a feel of how agents work in the field. Well, I knew it already, but I just wanted confirmation.” Senpai narrowed his eyes as he took a sip of his coffee. As usual, it was instant coffee.
“I gotta say though, time flies so fast. I’ve been guiding you through quite a number of cases, but of all the trainees I’ve had so far, you’ve shown the most considerable growth. But well, your grade is still ‘Excellent’, but what about your self-assessment? What’s your grade for yourself?”
—Huh? Suddenly asking me that… I’ve always done my best in everything, but when it comes to grading myself, I’ve a tendency to err on the pessimistic side. To say that I wasn’t egoistic was a lie, but what kind of answer did Senpai expect? Was he just lightening up the mood because my life’s about to get more tough?
“Um, well, I think it’s kinda cheeky of me to say it…”
“Oh? It’s the kind of grade that’s cheeky of you to say?” Senpai teased with a chuckle.
My face burned red till the tips of my ears. Gosh! He’s so mean!
“Well, in any case,” Senpai didn’t pay attention to me anymore and took another sip of his coffee, “From now on, you’ll be earnestly heading towards the path of an agent. It’d be great if there’s more you could learn, but what kind of agent are you specifically aiming for?”
‘What kind?’ How was I supposed to know? After all, an agent would always be an agent no matter what kind. That was what I thought but I wasn’t ready to answer his question.
“Well… um… I’m still thinking about it…”
As I pondered over it, one possibility came to mind. Mr. Sasamine coming to scout me was still fresh in my mind. That tempting idea that I could be a first-class agent. But he asked me not to tell Senpai, so I decided to do as he asked. But what could be the relationship between Mr. Sasamine and Senpai? Was it better not to press further? My curiosity was killing me, but there were things I should and shouldn’t ask about.
“To be honest, I’m still not sure.” I dropped my shoulders, dejected.
“I see.” Senpai said before bringing the cup of coffee to his mouth. I couldn’t tell if he knew how I felt, but he acted like it wasn’t a big deal.
“Well, you’ve got two more weeks. Until then, you can do whatever you want, take whatever you want, from what’s here and anything I have. If it’s for your future, I’m more than happy to help, okay? But on one condition.” There was a sharp look in Senpai’s eyes as the tone of voice dropped.
“Condition? What is it?” I tried to swallow the spit that was welling up in my throat but failed, seeing Senpai look so serious. My throat made a faint sound.
“Well…” Senpai handed me the cup with a heavy expression, “I want another cup of coffee. The delicious instant one, of course.”
“Sure thing!” I’ve been played again. I took the cup, feeling weak.
—Am I only as good as a housekeeper in Senpai’s eyes after all?
Just as this self-deprecating thought crossed my mind, the phone on the desk rang.
Senpai clicked his tongue lightly, “Damn, why does work have to take away my coffee-drinking time? It’s good that business is booming though. I guess I still have time to drink coffee while hearing about it. Apprentice, go make some coffee.”
He emphasized on the word “coffee”, urging me to hurry.
—Two weeks left until the end of my training.
The senior answered the call, looking as though it was the most troublesome thing to do. This could possibly be the last case I’d work on before my training ended.