R.A.M. | Prologue | Chapter 22 – A New Start For Everyone
Mandrake's scribblings: Haha! This mandrake avoid April Fools! This chapter is not a prank!
The waves break upon the rock beach, spreading their thin foam across its surface. A slight tinge of orange emerges from the horizon signifying the start of dawn.
A black figure carried by the waves lands against the rocks and slowly pulls itself on to the rocky beach. Barely visible in the darkness of night, it drags a huge pile of tangled seaweed on to the rocky shores where the waves don’t reach.
“Here again. Japan.”
The black figure’s voice. It is no doubt Rosetta. Yet his appearance has drastically changed. Instead of a large body made of black mass wearing a ram’s skull, Rosetta’s body is much smaller. With the size of an average man, his featureless black body is horrifying, a kin to a dark spirit that wanders in the dead of night.
A jolt of electricity jumps from his body to the tangled seaweed. The seaweed puffs up in size and slowly disintegrates. Fibers emerge from the disintegrating mass. They weave around Rosetta’s body, slowly forming a fabric covering it.
Rosetta unsteadily walks over the rocks as black polished shoes form on his feet. A brand new suit, white gloves and a formal hat. He brushes his newly formed suit and checks its size before feeling satisfied.
A buzzing sound is head overhead. Rosetta looks up and sees a small drone flying towards him. Sensing the presence lingering on the drone, he relaxes his guard.
The drone slows down to hover near him and Anne’s voice is heard speaking Japanese from its speakers.
Anne: “Yes. It’s me. Good morning~ And welcome to Japan.”
Rosetta: “Huh.. You’re able to find me pretty quickly.”
Anne: “’Pretty quickly’ is undercutting it. I’ve scattered over two thousand of these drones to scan the beaches around this region. Been doing so for a few hours. Great to see you, albeit through a camera.”
Rosetta: “Good work, Center. Diligent as always.”
Anne: “.. You can call me by my name. There's no need for us to use aliases now. Coiner's magic is now obsolete. He can't find us using satellites anymore. Since I flood the atmosphere with mana, I can use it to channel all of our communication channels. Sifting through all that mana for information is impossible.”
Rosetta: “Right.. Is this how we will be talking from now on? No more magic and through technology you make?”
Anne: “Yes. Though we still have to use aliases when we talk to the others.”
Rosetta: “Yes. It is for their sake. Their safety..”
Their conversation stumbles near a very uncomfortable topic. One regarding the incident twenty three years ago. None of them utters a word after that. The fact that the anniversary of that incident is approaching sours the topic even more. Rosetta, eager to change the subject, peers deeply at the sky.
Rosetta: “The ozone layer, is it? That’s where you flood the mana?”
Anne: “Yes. I've changed the mana to an inert state and have it spread throughout the ozone layer. They can't remove the mana without stripping the ozone layer away.”
Rosetta: “So Coiner’s magic is now deadweight. Everyone will be safe from now on..”
Anne: “So long as they don't cause a ruckus. How will you be faring? This body is just a proxy, isn’t it? What about your main body?”
Rosetta: “There's no need for worry. My main body could never be hidden due to my mana but I am safe on the ocean floor. They cannot reach me there. Even if they created magic to reach me, they will be too encumbered to challenge me. So, how is this proxy?]
Anne: “Your mana level is low enough to evade detection. But is this enough for you to defend yourself?”
Rosetta: “This body is physically enhanced for defense and evasion. I'll refrain from using magic unless it is absolutely necessary.”
Anne: “Looks like you are foregoing illusion magic for your appearance this time. You changed your look. You don’t have your skull hat and your body is much smaller.”
Rosetta: “I could not help being big. That is as far as mana compression can go. With this proxy body, I can fashion a look that I want. I'm going for a more sociable look. Have to watch my appearance from now on. I can’t let my appearance mess up Jiang-san’s impression of me.”
Rosetta picks up a nearby white rock and with a tap of his finger..
The rock explodes into little pieces. As the rock shards fall away from his hand, a white mask with ornate markings sits on his palm. The mask flies onto Rosetta’s face and adheres to it. Tapping the mask, he turns to the drone’s camera.
Rosetta: “So, how do I look?”
Anne: “Spiffy. You look abnormal but you are at least presentable to the Japanese public. You fit right in the cosplay community. The mask is a good addition. Better than a black blob for a head. That was a terrifying look.”
Rosetta: “Oh, sorry. When I made this body, I merely separate a part of myself. So like the main body, the head will have no features at all.”
Anne: “... Well keep yourself scarce. Even if you blend in with the people, if you make a scene, someone is going to record it, and 'those people' will find it.”
Rosetta: “I know. There is plenty of work for me in Japan. Old friends to meet, more people to send off to the other world, and Jiang-san. Anne, I need your help as always.”
Anne: “Alright... Catch.”
Short flashes of light shine over Rosetta. As he looks up, he sees a black briefcase tumbling towards him. As he catches it in his arms, he feels a jolt from the static stored on its surface. Most likely residual energy from the briefcase’s creation. He wonders if this briefcase is made from the other drones Anne mentioned earlier.
Anne: “It’s communication equipment. I’ve included a manual if you are unsure of how to use it.”
Rosetta: “Thank you, Anne. You’re too kind.”
Anne heaves a sigh.
Anne: “To think that the final stretch begins here. We’ve finally reach this point.”
Rosetta: “Yes.. It has been a journey. I can’t mess this up after all this. Those wisps that surround Jiang-san, I’m afraid I can’t approach her without causing a fight.”
Anne: “I’m aware. I am guiding Nila in approaching her. But if anything happens, Nila will be a poor match against those wisps. Is that okay, Rosetta? Nila is your only counter against ‘him’.”
There is a slight tinge of hatred as she utters ‘him’. Rosetta knows that ‘him’ is none other than the traitor Jeroth Gibson.
Rosetta: “Nila will be fine. She is a tough child after all. However, I am not letting only her approach Jiang-san. I’ll be moving a lot. Reconnect with old acquaintances. We need their help.”
Anne: “Old allies like Chun Xin Yi? I don’t think they will be just as willing as her.”
Rosetta: “I’m fine with them being unwilling. They had already done their fair share. I’m just hoping some are wishing to relive their role once more.”
Rosetta tugs his hat firmly onto his head. He turns around to face the thick forest that starts past the rocky beach.
Rosetta: “Goodbye. I will be in touch.”
In one leap, Rosetta soars to the top of the tree and begins traversing the forest through the treetops.
Nila sits on a bench at the train station. It provide a nice view of the boarding platform; perfect for spotting her target.
Nila: [Oh? There she is..]
Nila's target, Jiang Shuu Ren walks through the station entrance at a brisk pace. Comparing her watch's time with the station's clock, she sighs, relieved that she is on time.
Shuu Ren: "Hmm.."
She looks around, realizing another pressing matter.
Shuu Ren: "Chihiro is not here. There is a company meeting at the beginning of work hours so everyone has to be present and on time."
She checks her phone before irritably tapping her watch.
Shuu Ren: "Well, a station bento will be fine if there is no time for a proper breakfast. Let's see if it come to that.."
Shuu Ren heads over to the station shop to check the bento meals on display. Nila sees an opportunity to force an encounter with her.
Nila: [I can start a conversation with her at the shop. Get acquainted-]
Nila had just stand up from the bench when her watch releases a fateful tick. Her eyes flicker for a moment and her body starts to fall forward. Someone catches Nila's shoulder and pushes her up straight. She sees before her a beautiful woman with brown wavy hair.
Nila: [This is Jiang's coworker?!]
Chihiro: Don’t move.
Nila realizes that Chihiro has pressed a metal pen against the side of her chest. She sensing that the tip of the pen is packed with mana, she realized Chihiro’s true nature.
Nila: [She is a wisp!]
Chihiro presses her pen on Nila even harder. The pen’s tip turns hot, searing Nila’s protective coat.
Chihiro: We can burn this pen into you and vaporize it inside your body. You will die a painful death. Your watch can attest to that.
Nila: I'm not your enemy.
Chihiro: You are after my most precious person. You ARE my enemy.
The pen burns against Nila’s coat. The runes sewn into the coat hover and flicker around the pen, desperate to mitigate the damage.
Chihiro: What we want is very simple. Leave Jiang Shuu Ren alone. We want you, your employer, your friends and enemies, everyone, to leave her alone. She has found peace after all this time. For you to just barge in now and upset her life again..
Nila: P-Please listen. We mean no harm. We just want to talk to her.
Chihiro: We don’t care about your war or your cause. Go kill each other where you won’t be a bother.
The defense runes have failed and the pen sears through the coat. Nila winces in pain as the heat finally burns her.
Chihiro: We will not let anything get to her. So take our mercy and LEAVE.
Chihiro retracts her pen and shoves Nila away. Nila stumbles and clutches her burned side.
Chihiro: Count your luck in the short time we had. Be gone, unsightly pest.
Giving Nila a venomous look, Chihiro strolls past her towards Shuu Ren. Seeing her manager looking over the boxed lunches, her furious march turns into a joyful prance. Her cheek flushed with joy, she embraces Shuu Ren from behind.
Shuu Ren: “Urk! Chihiro, not this early in the morning, please.”
Chihiro: "Hehe~ Hey, Shuu-chan! Did you know about what happen in China?"
Shuu Ren: "Ah, yes, I did. I watched the morning news. That was really crazy.. "
As the two women walk away, the third woman hides from their sight behind a pillar. Breathing heavily from the encounter, Nila checks the burnt hole in her coat and the burn injury on her side.
Casting a scornful glance at the wisp she encountered, Nila spits in her direction.
Nila: Accursed wisp..
In the company office, the employees are lined up in rows, starting with the high ranking staff at the front to the general staff at the back. Facing the staff is a perky young woman, Aoi Maki, the president of the company. Accompanying her in the vice president who is a white haired old man, Tanahashi Waru. The president cheerfully skips forward and addresses the staff before her.
Maki: “It is my great pleasure to announce that this company has successfully negotiated a collaboration campaign with ZeroAlpha studio in promoting their spring anime project 'Food Wars In Another World'.”
-Clap Clap Clap-
She claps her hands on the side. Vice president Waru quietly gestures to clap. The staff quickly obeys and gives an applause, much to the glee of President Maki who beams proudly.
Maki: “Because of the anime's theme centering around food, the studio and the series author himself will work with us to feature Japanese cuisine using agricultural products of the Aomori prefecture!”
Waru steps aside, revealing a presentation easel covered by a white cloth. He pulls off the white cloth revealing a promotional poster of the anime 'Food Wars In Another World'.
Maki: “This a big step up for our company! Since we caught on to the trend of food themed animes in its rise, this company can land more collaborations if this campaign becomes successful. So let's give this one our all!”
The president throws her arms up in the air, putting a gleaming smile on her face. The staff gives another applause in compliance to Waru’s silent gesture.
The company meeting just ended and the staff is given a short break to plan their work ahead. Away from the bustling staff, Shuu Ren reasons with her pouting subordinate, Chihiro.
Shuu Ren: See, Chihiro? President Maki is not out to get me. She just rushed the last project to start this collaboration project. That's all..
Chihiro: "Bu-But that is so selfish! If Ame Apple caught wind of the reason why she rushed the schedule, they will scrap the contract immediately! How can this company president be such a selfish otaku?!"
Waru: "Now, now. Calm down. She is still excited about her own freedom to run a company."
Vice president Waru approaches the group carrying a box, his tired blue eyes giving him a gentle look. Waru is a close friend to Shuu Ren as they are among the few employees who are experienced with age. Despite joining the company a few years ago, everyone respects his authority as the vice president.
Shuu Ren: "Vice president Waru-san."
Shuu Ren and Chihiro bows in respect as Waru sets the box down on a nearby table. Shuu Ren then pinches Chihiro’s cheek. A warning for her loud outburst that might reach unwanted ears who may pass it on to the president.
Chihiro: Still being excited after a few years is too much.
Shuu Ren: Stop it, Chihiro. Even though she is free to do anything as the company president, she is still part of the Aoi family. She's not totally free.
Waru: Jiang-san is right. To this day, President Maki still has to report the company’s performance to the Aoi family head on a monthly basis.
Shuu Ren: Ugh.. The main branch is still the same isn’t it? A black company..
This company has its own dark history. Once run by the head of the Aoi family, the company was a black company that overworked their employees with unpaid overtime and encouraged malicious competition. Fortunately, the business expanded and the company was stripped down of useful staff and assets for the main company. The shell of the previous company was labeled a branch company and designated a president. A daughter of the Aoi family, Aoi Maki. With a young president at the helm, the bad practices stopped overnight and since then the company has slowly recovered to its current state today.
Shuu Ren: [Waru-san and Chihiro came into the company a few months after President Maki took over, so they never experienced the hell of a black company.]
With nothing left to add, Chihiro pouts. She is familiar with the horrific history of the company as told by Shuu Ren and several ex-employees that has since retired.
Shuu Ren: Still, vice president, I hope you can keep President Maki from the Aoi family's bad habit of overworking employees.
Waru: Soon to be ex-vice president, actually.
Shuu Ren: Eh?! You got removed from your position?
Waru: I’m stepping down voluntarily. I am nearing my retirement age. I can't sit on a post better suited for younger and more exceptional veterans. But don't worry. Before I left my position, I've trained President Maki's personal aides to temper her enthusiasm if it gets out of hand.
Waru places his hands on the shoulders of Shuu Ren and Chihiro.
Waru: “I hope you two will keep a look out for greener pastures. There is bound to be a better life beyond here.”
Shuu Ren: “Right..”
Shuu Ren ‘s thoughts wander towards the new life that is growing in her while Waru chuckles lightly. Unbeknownst to Shuu Ren, Chihiro gives him a begrudging look.
Shuu Ren: “Ah! Waru-san! Your eye! Your eye!”
Shuu Ren gestures towards Waru’s left eye. The iris that was once blue has been dyed blood red. Waru quickly reacts, rummaging his pockets and taking out an eye drop bottle.
Waru: “Ah.. A blood vessel popped again. Excuse me.”
Wazu turns around and leaves to tend to his eyes.
Shuu Ren: “Are you okay? Your eye has been doing this more frequently lately. Have you seen a doctor?”
Waru: “I’m fine. I’m fine. This will clear up by tomorrow. It’s usually like that.”
Despite being an uncommon occurrence, there are many incidents of Waru’s left eye turning red. He explained that it is a condition of his that has become an insignificant part of his life since he was born.
Incensed with the situation, Chihiro proceeds to open the box, tearing of the sealing tape in a rough manner. Waru shoos Shuu Ren to help Chihiro unpack the box. As Shuu Ren approaches Chihiro, her demeanor brightens.
Shuu Ren: "Now, let's have a look at the anime we are working with. Waru-san, thank you for procuring copies of the source materials."
Waru returns to the group smiling. His red eye remains the same, though considerably wet from the eye drop medication.
Waru: "You're welcome. These are complimentary from the author, but all of these are forbidden to be distributed or leaked. Each senior staff gets one copy of each and two sets of copied are to be shared in each work group for the normal staff."
Shuu Ren opens the box Waru brought in, revealing books and documents related to the current project. Stacks of books and manuscripts are taken out and arranged on the table.
Waru: “Jiang-san, sort these ones here. I have to confirm the inventory.”
Waru begins flipping through the list forms. Shuu Ren sorts the materials for the staff groups. Chihiro sees an opportunity and snatches a book from the stack. The light novel titled 'Food Wars In Another World'.
Chihiro: "Oh~ This is the light novel the anime is based on. Apparently the anime covers the whole of first volume and parts from the second volume will be squeezed in as well.."
Shuu Ren: "... What is this print out?"
Shuu Ren holds up a stack of papers held together by staples.
Waru: "That is the manga version published by a magazine. They have not compiled the chapters into a proper volume yet."
Shuu Ren: "Hmm... !! Ugh!"
Shuu Ren flips through the pages and suddenly recoils backwards in disgust and disdain. Holding the printout at arm's length, she looks angrily at Waru.
Shuu Ren: "Why is this girl naked?!"
Waru takes his eyes of his forms and stares at the page she holds up. A curious Chihiro leans in to steal a peek from below. Waru creases his brow and answers.
Waru: "... I believe that's fan service."
Shuu Ren: "Fan service?! For fans?! I understand nudity in movies but this manga puts the girl's naked body as the centerpiece! Isn't this a food themed anime?! Since when has anime sunk to this level?!"
Waru: "Right.. Calm down, Jiang-san. You are clearly upset about this."
Shuu Ren: "Upset is putting it lightly! Why are we promoting an anime that features girls in such a deplorable way? And this girl.."
Shuu Ren hold up the offending page in question and stabs the center panel with her finger.
Shuu Ren: "She is clearly a child!! This should be illegal!"
Waru puts his forms under his arms and begin rummaging through the manuscripts. Finding the information he is looking for, he sighs in relief and shows the page to her.
Waru: "Apparently she is a thousand year old dragon with a form of a human, so she's technically-"
Shuu Ren: "THAT'S NOT THE POINT!"
With Waru slowly retreating, Chihiro steps in to diffuse the situation.
Chihiro: "Manager, please calm down."
Chihiro grabs Shuu Ren’s wrist and shakes it like a child yearning for a mother’s attention. She then presents a printout showing the details of the anime series.
Chihiro: "Look, this anime is made for teenagers and adults. Ages seventeen and up. The movies that Manager watches are made for a more general audience, so nudity is scarce and featured on the side. Since anime is a much more niche product, it panders to its demographic to attract more people."
She gently yanks the manga manuscript from Shuu Ren’s hand while she is distracted.
Chihiro: "If the anime has a seventeen plus age rating, the studio is going to take every advantage and feature its nude scenes front and center."
Shuu Ren: “Hmph..”
Waru: "It's business sense for media entertainment. It is much more different from ours. So please reserve your judgement."
Seeing how the situation has deescalated, Waru gains confidence and chimes in.
Waru: "Our job is to only promote agricultural products as Japanese cuisine in the anime. We won't be working on anything else.”
Shuu Ren: “But how can-“
Shuu Ren is interrupted as she felt Chihiro pat her back. She turns to her subordinate putting on a wide smile and pushing her cheek with her finger to turn the corners of her smile a little bit higher.
Chihiro: "Don't mind."
Shuu Ren gives Chihiro a little pinch on the cheek.
Shuu Ren: "Hmph. I hate that phrase.."
She looks at the materials of the anime series. Thinking about the happiness that President Maki displayed during her announcement, she gives a relenting sigh.
Shuu Ren: "Alright.. I'll hold back my judgement. Let's get started on getting familiar with the source material."
Waru: “Yes.. I suppose everything has to start from reading the light-“
Chihiro: "I've already finished reading."
Both Waru and Shuu Ren turn to Chihiro holding a volume of the light novel. Her cheerful attitude is gone; replaced with a cold blank expression. Chihiro raises the book in her hand.
And tosses it into the empty box without care.
Shuu Ren: “Chihiro?!”
Chihiro: "It's utter trash. The story is unbearably bad. It's no surprise that the author is dependant on fan service to gain popularity."
Shuu Ren: "Chihiro.. That is surprisingly harsh of you. You read the book already?"
Chihiro nods in response.
Chihiro: "The romantic aspect is really bad too. The protagonist makes love to his childhood friend after a full course dinner in the few days they went to the other world."
Now it is Shuu Ren’s turn to don the cold blank expression. Looking at the two, Waru feels suffocated by the heavy mood.
Waru: "... We-Well, it is fanservice.."
Chihiro: "It looks like forced romance. The protagonist is seventeen years old while the childhood friend is three years his junior and-"
Shuu Ren: "What?"
Shuu Ren's cold and sharp voice interrupts Chihiro. Waru and Chihiro turns to see Shuu Ren's blank face turned livid with a vein throbbing on her cheek. She picks up the manuscript and flips through the character sheets.
Shuu Ren: “Fourteen years is still underage, isn’t it?”
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