It was already evening when the glaring sun set on the horizon, its shadows expanding across the territory. The roads absorbed a lot of heat during the day, but released it back into the air at this time. It was going to be another night too warm to sleep comfortably.
This was K city’s K district, a place where the above scene was commonplace.
The city station was surrounded by skyscrapers, each accommodating a myriad of companies. 'K Softworks', a mid-sized software company, sat on the 4th floor.
In its cool air-conditioned office, several men stared silently at their computer screens. The atmosphere was tense. For a mid-sized company’s employees, their daily workload was always heavy, but today’s load was exceptionally heavy.
"We only have 3 days left to finish it..."
A man sitting at one end of the office mumbled with a hint of despair. He was currently battling with a time bomb ticking towards an explosion, also known as a deadline. Due to the downturn of the nation’s economy, the anxious sales team had grudgingly accepted the contract, even though its demands were unreasonable. Even during the planning phase, the project managed by him had little room for error. Repeated failures made it even more perilous; the situation could only be described as 'hellish'. And there were even more pressing issues.
"Nakai Section Chief, Sato is down! He's not reacting even when we splash him with water!"
"Nakai Section Chief, we won't make it in time if we don't finish the coding today."
"...Nakai-san, Takeda's desk has a resignation letter on it..."
"Ah― Shut up! How can we meet the deadline with things like this―!"
The man with his back against the corner, Section Chief Nakai, finally broke down. He hugged his head and rested it on his table.
There wasn’t any time to waste, but he knew the task was impossible with the lack of manpower... The deadline was looming, but there weren’t any obvious solutions, pushing his psyche to the breaking point.
"What is it now!?"
He raised his head after hearing someone address him, and as he opened his eyes a man with a gentle smile appeared.
"I have finished the case on my side, and I am ready to assist you."
"Oh... Kurata... Are you fine with joining us?"
The pain on Nakai's face was swept away, like a man who saw a ray of light in the midst of despair.
"I have browsed through the specification manual and I’ve gotten the gist of the situation. Can you let me handle the progress management?"
"Of... Of course, I might as well give you my password, you can flip through the management folders too. Take care of all that please."
"Eh, Nakai-san, I can't manage all that... Erm, the coding parts are holding back the progress, let me settle this..."
The man speaking with Nakai, Kurata Tsubasa, sat down on the chair prepared by Nakai and started working immediately. He typed in code in the editor, all-the-while reading the progress reports and the specification manual. As he did this, he gave instructions to the colleagues around him.
"Ensure the testing machine is operational, test analyst-san, take this opportunity to rest. Erm, we will begin intensive testing after 12. For coding... Tatsu-san, can you complete 2 modules? Yes, I will do the other 10. Kiba, there are some weird parts in the specification manual, please fix them and resume testing."
He was 28 years old, and considered a part of the younger generation within the workplace, but no one questioned his instructions. This was due to his track record in the company. Since he started working here, he was commonly an inspiration to his half-dead coworkers. Now that he was on the case, it meant the job’s end was in sight. Humans are realistic creatures, if they can see the ending, they can endure it no matter how tough it is.
"Alright, that should do it. I will start coding."
"Hey, Kurata, will you be fine? 10 modules... That is no laughing matter."
"Nakai-san, did you forget? My actual profession is a programmer."
With his eyes half closed, a fearless smile appeared on Kurata's gentle face. He put his fingers on the keyboard, and all 10 fingers started dancing at a frightening speed. He typed in code on several editors that were open on his screen, processing the data like a torrent. The mature man sitting opposite him, Tatsu, threw himself into his work when he heard the amazing typing sound.
"As expected of the "Last Line of Defense" for the company, he has been handling all the troublesome cases so far... I have to keep up."
Everyone put their heart into their work, and the sluggish battle improved dramatically.
♦ ♦ ♦
The radio broadcast announced the time. The clock on the wall indicated it was 5:15pm ― time to get off work. According to the company policy, working hours had ended, but Kurata simply stretched his back and rotated his tired shoulders.
He had been salvaging this case for three days. Today was the dreaded deadline, but the atmosphere was no longer as desperate as it was three days prior. The case was thought to be hopeless by everyone before, yet it was rescued under his expert hands.
Thanks to him finishing the programming in one day, and the other team members working without rest, they managed to barely finish the product before the deadline. Although Kurata finished so much work in such a short amount of time, he managed each part perfectly, a miraculous talent beyond comprehension. Sadly, his skill was outstanding because he was always handed the troublesome cases.
After the long series of battles, empty cans of coffee and energy drinks were piled up like gravestones on his desk. Looking at his side, he could see the warriors (test analysts) smiling peacefully, collapsed on beds made out of chairs. Kurata had decreased his sleeping hours to the bare minimum, and he too felt that it was time to rest up.
"Alright, the client acknowledged the receipt of the product! We are done! Great news everyone, now we can rest easy!"
Kurata woke and sleepily saw the elated Nakai in a victory pose. He thought about going home to rest, but decided to nap for a while. By the time he woke up to go home, it was already time for the last train.
Several days after the death march, the end of the month was here. Speaking of the end of the month, people were thinking of ― that's right, the gospel of all working adults, payday.
Kurata turned off the computer and prepared to leave in a hurry. He was not alone, as his colleagues also started to leave. Following popular trends, companies had cut down the working hours of office workers. The companies have the obligation to let their staff leave on time, especially on payday. Although it was an obligation, this rule was often overlooked when things got hectic. But compared to the hellish experience of the past few days, it was much more relaxed now.
Today was a happy Friday. Some were rushing to meet their family, others were gathering with their friends, getting ready to splurge. There were others who just wanted to rest at home. Everybody was different, but for those getting their salary, the day they looked forward to which also coincided with the weekend made it a happy occasion.
Kurata was the same. Several colleagues who went through the death march gathered at his side.
"Kurata, want to get a drink? You were a big help, the first one is on me."
Nakai made a drinking gesture, and the others who worked on the project such as Tatsu and Kiba were standing behind him. Kurata was about to join them, but he remembered his schedule and hesitated.
"Ah― Sorry Nakai-san, I have an engagement, maybe next time."
"Nakai-san, today is the day, Kurata's hobby..."
"Oh... That. Can't be helped, don't skip out next time."
Kurata watched the group leave, and headed toward his destination as well. The young, talented man known as the "Last Line of Defense", who was depended on by everyone, had a unique hobby well known within the company.
On this weekend, the streets, humid with the summer heat were crowded with office workers getting off work. The way to the station was packed with people. After walking some distance away, the traffic eased.
"Over. Time. Pay! Get!"
A man― Kurata, yelled in front of the ATM. If he had done that in front of a manned counter, he would probably be reported to the police for acting suspiciously.
His emotion stemmed from the cold figures displayed on the ATM screen. The cases he handled were usually stressful and dangerous, but his efforts paid off in the form of overtime pay, so his savings increased steadily.
Without smiling, Kurata withdrew some cash and hurried towards his destination. His movements had no hesitation, a sign that he had gone through this route many times. A building appeared in front of him shortly. It was a major electronics store in the shopping centre. On the 3rd floor was a huge toys department― his goal.
♦ ♦ ♦
A few hours later, a man left the toys department with the store’s closing music playing in the background..
"As expected of the end of month sales. This is great."
The man carried two full bags in each hand, both double layered to prevent tearing. His backpack was also bulging in a strange shape. His bags were filled with plastic models. He was a 'model nerd'.
"Surfacer, paint and tools have been resupplied... the modeling festival shall begin..."
For his hectic lifestyle, the shopping spree on payday and the modeling festival was his biggest joy. It might have been the dull and normal lifestyle taking a toll on him, but the number of models he purchased increased every year. It finally became a monthly habit, and he was now completely addicted.
He wore his silly smile, walking home with his bags happily. The apartment he stayed in was some distance away from the company. The station sat between his residence and the company. He needed to make a detour whenever he visited the electronics store, but it wasn’t a big deal since he got what he was after. Kurata made his way past the quiet residential zone humming joyfully. The traffic was very light at this hour.
The sound of an engine broke the silence, and the oncoming headlights restricted his vision. With the lights from the distance blinding him, he hurried to the side of the road. The road was relatively wide, but it would be bad if one of his bags broke. Kurata frowned at the usage of high beams in the residential area, but he paid it no mind and continued walking.
The dazzling headlights fatally slowed his reaction. The car came straight at him with no sign of stopping. By the time he realised, it was too late for him to avoid it.
The roar of the engine reverberated in his ears, and his vision was drowned out by the lights. He felt a chill down his back.
He collided with the car while hugging his bags. At the moment of impact, he heard his body make a frightening sound. As his body flew through the air, before he lost consciousness because of the pain, all sorts of emotions flashed through his mind. But he did not see his life flash before his eyes, or curse his luck in being a victim in this accident.
Ah, I can't make the models I just bought and the series of models that will be released next month, such a shame...!
In his mind was the passion he had for the models he wouldn’t be able to assemble anymore.
♦ ♦ ♦
"― This just in.
Around 10pm tonight, a man collided with a car in K city S district. The victim was an office worker residing in the area, Kurata Tsubasa(28). An ambulance was dispatched after a resident made a report, but they failed to resuscitate the victim. According to the police investigation, the suspect was driving under the influence―"
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