Hard at Work
I worked furiously in the office of the Ezov, chipping away at the veritable mountain of paperwork on my desk. My eyes rapidly scanned each sheet of paper, my hand signing off when required and seperating them into two piles, one for filing and one for those documents that required further action. Next to me, Eliza – one of our employees – sat next to me, sorting the pile meant for filing into further subcategories, storing them in different folders depending on whether they were expediture reports, manpower requests, progress reports, job applications, revenue reports or miscellanous documents. On the other side of the room, Elysium was sitting in a similar position, poring over paperwork, assisted by Jasmine.
A knock on the door heralded the entry of Marisa – recently appointed Branch Manager for this branch of the Ezov. On this day, the Ezov was technically closed for business, and we were using it as a central administration office to deal with the logistics involved in setting up the next concert. Due to her competence, Marisa was left to oversee the counter and receive any new documents or address any new contingencies that might prove necessary. People had been coming in and out of the Ezov all day long, bearing important documents that required the perusal of either myself or Elysium. Marisa’s job was therefore to collate these and sort them according to importance, with the more urgent ones being passed to Elysium, while the rest were left to me.
Marisa entered the room with a large stack of paper in her hands, placing a portion of it on Elysium’s desk, then resting the remainder on mine. Just before she turned to leave, I took my pile of documents that required further action and seperated them into two. One pile was for documents that needed Elysium’s attention, the other was a pile that had some sort of error. I passed the second pile to Marisa.
“These reports are suspicious – the numbers don’t tally up for some of the revenue reports from the ticket sales, and for the expenditure reports, the numbers or quantities don’t make sense. Help me go through these and see if you can find an explanation for the discrepancy, and if you can’t, contact the contractor that filed the report. Oh, and also make a note of everyone who filed these, I’ll need it later, thanks.”
“Got it. Is there anything else you need me to handle?”
“Not for now. Ask Elysium if she has anything on her part she needs you to do.”
She hurried off, while I turned my attention back to the job application I was currently examining. Due to the sudden increase in the amount of security required for the event due to the confirmed attendance of the Emperor, we had spent the last few days sending out recruitment notices for it, and as a result of our efforts, we had mostly filled out the necessary personnel requirements – in addition to the usual ten men we employed for security and crowd control, we had filled out an additional nineteen slots with individuals possessed of good character, with numerous achievements that stood testament to their strength and skill. However, filling in that last spot was proving to be rather difficult.
I looked over the application, paying attention to the applicant’s name, qualifications, past employment history, and asking salary. The first step was to check the given name against the list of wanted criminals, though we didn’t expect much to come out of this step – anybody on such a list was likely to avoid submitting an application under their real name. Still, it was always possible that the criminal in question was unaware of their notoriety, so doing this quick check would save us some potential trouble later on. Having ascertained that the name of the applicant was not on the wanted list, I moved on to the next check – the achievements.
Since this was the capital, fighting tournaments and the like were frequently held, some official, many unofficial. Such tournaments were completely legal, though gambling on the outcomes in unofficial tournaments was strictly against the law. Of course, it happened anyway, but for the purposes of our application process, the legality of the matches in which our applicants participated was irrelevant – we just wanted to know if they had achieved anything of note. Many of the applicants had at least participated in such tournaments before, with several of them emerging victorious. One applicant in particular had won ten of such tournaments – an impressive feat. However, seven out of ten of these had been unofficial tournaments, which was a concerning number, to say the least. My suspicions had turned out to be correct: when I checked his name against our dossiers, it had emerged an alarming number of times, usually in relation to acts of violence – he had apparently initiated a tavern brawl with four other men and walked out unscathed. While that was proof of his ability, it also showed an undesirable character – we wanted guards, not thugs. As a result, we had rejected that application.
The applicant I was currently considering had won two official tournaments, and had not listed any unofficial tournaments, so that was a promising sign. Feeling hopeful, I turned to his past employment history. He had joined the army for several years, before leaving to become a hired escort for a merchant’s caravan. He held this position for five years, but had recently left it due to undisclosed reasons. I furrowed my brow and opened the cabinet holding the rumours we had managed to collect from various information merchants and other regulars in the Ezov. It was a large folder, containing numerous sheets of paper that recorded various pieces of information. Each sheet of paper was a single report, holding all the details we had managed to gather about a given rumour, as well as notes on their credibility. These sheets were then organised alphabetically according to the individuals involved, with all the rumours on an individual forming their dossier, following which they were filed into the cabinet. I scanned the titles of the dossier, finding one that bore the applicant’s name. I opened it and flipped through briefly, then sighed as I read what we had collected about this man.
Apparently, the “undisclosed reason” was that he had stolen from his employer’s caravan while guarding it. The information had come from several of the other guards and assistants who had accompanied the caravan, and had been verified with the merchant in question. Apparently, the merchant had demanded the money back, and because the applicant had returned it, the merchant had chosen not to press charges. As a former thief myself, the man did have my sympathies, but if he had been caught in the act by so many people, it meant that either his ability or his judgment was lacking. I stamped a rejection across the application and slid it into the pile meant for filing, whereupon it was quickly processed by Jasmine. I stretched my arms out, feeling the soreness in my muscles, and decided to take a short break. Seeing that I had stopped working, Eliza followed suit, and immediately got up.
“Let me get you some tea.”
“Yeah, I appreciate it.”
I glanced over at Elysium, who was still bent over her desk, furiously scribbling. She had been working herself to the bone for the entire week. She didn’t take breaks, except to eat, and even then she only ate with one hand while continuing to peruse her documents. It demonstrated a level of tenacity and stamina that was inhuman, though that was hardly a surprise, given that she so often did things that were beyond the abilities of regular humans. Poor Jasmine, performing for Elysium the same job that Eliza was doing for me, was clearly struggling to keep up with Elysium. I walked up to her and patted her on the shoulder.
“Jasmine, it’s okay if you need to take a break.”
Jasmine looked up to meet my eyes briefly, on the verge of tearing up, but she wiped her eyes and quickly turned back to her work, shaking her head vigorously.
“No, It’s not right to take a break when Miss Elysium is still working so hard…!”
“Elysium’s a special case. You’re not. It’s plain to see that you’re on the verge of collapse. Take a break. That’s an order. Just take a fifteen minute break to refresh yourself, so you can work more effectively.”
At that moment, Eliza re-entered the room, holding a tray with two cups of tea.
“Excellent timing, Eliza.”
I took one of the cups and held it out to Jasmine.
“Here. Drink this, rest up, and let’s get through this together.”
Jasmine looked at me, uncertain, then received the cup from me with both hands. I flashed her a smile, upon which her face coloured a little red. Deciding to spare her from any more embarrassment, I quickly turned my back on her and returned to my chair. Eliza sat down next to me and pouted.
“Aww, I was looking forward to that.”
“Is that any way to talk to your boss?”
“Eep! I, uh, I meant…!”
I laughed at her honesty. Eliza was a very earnest, straightforward girl. It made her very popular with the guests, though that was also why she had been passed over for a managerial position. We were about the same age, but despite being an orphan, she had grown up in much better circumstances than I, so perhaps it was only natural that I saw her as childish or immature. I took the remaining cup of tea and handed it to Eliza.
“Here you go. I never said that the cup I gave Jasmine was yours.”
“E-eh? But then you’d have nothing to drink. You drink it.”
“Well, I suddenly find myself not in the mood for tea. Yet you’ve already gone to the trouble of bringing it up for me. It would be a waste to leave this hot tea untouched. Therefore, you would be doing me a great favour by drinking it on my behalf, to avoid wastage.”
“Right. Even if you put it that way…”
“Well, think of it as thanks for coming in to work today, even though the shop being closed means you had the option not to. Although you’re the one who prepared the tea and brought it up, the tea leaves were technically paid for by Elysium and I, so I suppose it does work as a show of gratitude.”
Realising that I was not going to back down on the matter, Eliza meekly accepted the cup and began sipping from it. We sat in comfortable silence for a while, but then she spoke up.
“You know, you really don’t need to thank us. We can all see how much you and Miss Elysium are working, and we’re all fans of Miss Rosalind, too – we want to do all we can to make her next concert a success. So all three of us being here today was a natural conclusion. We want to help you, to make everything work.”
I watched her drinking her tea for a while, then decided to speak to her about what I had intentionally intended for Marisa only.
“I’m sure you’ve guessed from our suddenly increased workload that something has happened.”
Eliza seemed to recognise that I was about to speak about something serious. She put down the cup and nodded.
“Well, I’m not going to share the details of it, but after this concert, it’s entirely possible something bad will happen. We’re all working as hard as we can to make sure it doesn’t, but there’s still a chance that something will occur. When that happens, things might get a bit hectic, and a bit messy. I hope that if or when that time comes, the three of you will continue to place your trust in us – in Elysium and I – and continue supporting us.”
Eliza’s brow creased with worry, but she recognised that I wasn’t intending to say more than I had, so she simply nodded and gave me her answer.
“I can’t speak for Miss Jasmine or Miss Marisa, but I can assure you that I’ll stand with you. I owe you and Miss Elysium a lot for this job. As long as whatever you’re doing doesn’t put the orphanage in danger, you’ll have my support.”
At this moment, Elysium stood up and walked towards us, holding a job application in her hand. She waved it at me, letting me see the blue stamp of approval that she had placed on the bottom of the document. She glanced at Eliza, then back to me. Her mouth curled into a smirk.
“That’s number thirty. Add this to the rest, and we can go meet with Julio. If you’re done flirting, that is.”
Eliza instantly coloured red and looked down, staring into her teacup. I ignored the jab and took the application, slotting it into a brown envelope with the other 29 approved applications. Standing up, I collected the jacket draped across the back of my chair and threw it on, grabbing my gloves from the drawer built into the desk. I buttoned up the suit and straightened my tie. I tucked the envelope of applications under my arm.
“We’ll be back in a while. Take a break until then, Eliza, Jasmine.”
The two girls nodded their assent, but said nothing. Eliza was still staring into her tea. Leaving them in such a state, Elysium and I left the Ezov. After we had walked some distance, Elysium suddenly spoke, ruffling my hair.
“First Anneliese, then those girls back in Jorgenvale and Heltshire, and now our three helpers. You’ve grown up into quite the heartbreaker, haven’t you, Glint?”
I extricated myself from her hand and sighed.
“I’m not interested. Never have been. I don’t get why this happens to me every time. It’s not like I’m treating them any differently than I do with other women.”
“It’s probably just because you’re so nice to women in general. Anneliese raised you well. It also helps that you’re pretty good-looking.”
I lapsed in silence, unaware of how to respond. Then, suddenly, something that Elysium had said earlier suddenly came to mind.
“Wait, just now, did you say ‘our three helpers’? Not just Eliza and Jasmine?”
Elysium glanced at me and burst out laughing, but gave no reply – there was no chance to reply. We had arrived at our destination: Julio Kronschild’s residence.