Mr. Watabiki greeted me with a smile when I opened the door to the Exospecies Division office. He had graduated from Sage Academy forty years ago and worked at the Department of Health ever since. His last job before retirement was to train me to take his place as the manager of the division. He was a soft-spoken man and a good boss, but I wondered what he was like outside of this easy job.
“So you and Asahina were in the same year?”
Satoru stood before Mr. Watabiki.
“…yes, that’s right,” I said, a little confused.
“I see. Well, it’s a little early, but why don’t you take your lunch break? There’s not much work today anyway.”
“No, I-” I started to protest.
“Um…Mr. Watabiki. I’m here on business today,” Satoru said hurriedly.
What business was he talking about?
“I see, I see. Well, I’ll head out for lunch then. You guys can talk here.”
He gave us a knowing look and left. Before I even had time to reply, we were alone in the room.
“Your boss has quite the imagination,” Satoru said, trying to break the awkward silence.
We hadn’t talked to each other in over a month after having an argument about something I could no longer remember.
“Well? How can I help you?” I said coolly.
I wasn’t trying to continue giving him the cold shoulder, I was just focused on what he was here for.
“Uh, yeah. I have a couple questions about the queerats.” His voice was a pleasant baritone.
As a kid, he had always given me the impression of a playful little puppy, but once adolescence hit, he had transformed into a tall, slender young man. Even though I was taller than most girls, I still had to look up to talk to him.
“Are there any colonies at war right now?”
His question caught me so off guard I forgot I was trying to be formal with him.
“War? …no, there shouldn’t be.”
“Are you sure? Not even skirmishes between small colonies?”
I pulled open a desk drawer and took out a couple of ledgers. I gestured for Satoru to sit down at the reception table.
“Look. They have to fill out this application before going to war. They risk annihilation of their colony as punishment if they don’t, so it’s unthinkable that they would fail to do so.”
He looked curiously at the papers I handed him.
“‘Exospecies A. Form ①: Application for Intercolonial War’…? Do they have to fill this out even if they want to launch a surprise attack?”
“It’s not like we’d leak information to the other side.”
“‘Exospecies A. Form ②: Intercolonial Reorganization Notice’ and ‘Exospecies B. Form ①: Application for Whelp Transfer’. I see, I guess that’s why they need a literate member in each colony,” he said.