It took a day or two for the lines in front of the building near the train station being rented out for applications to dwindle enough for Ritsuka to feel it was worth getting in line for. Even though the line of people moved pretty fast, it was still long enough for Ritsuka to finish the Daily Quests in his cell phone game before he got in the door and was handed a clipboard with a question sheet to be filled out. After completing that and turning it in, he was given a number ticket and told to wait in a large room full of chairs.
Ritsuka had enough time to go over the reading for his classic literature class before getting called into a cubicle and sat down in a chair facing a work desk. The guy behind it seemed like someone who’d given up on there being a reason for his presence beyond a paycheck as he pushed the thick rimmed glasses back up his nose. The guy’s glasses seemed like the cheap kind. His suit as well. And his haircut. His demeanor also seemed cheap, and petty, as he asked Ritsuka to confirm his personal details from the info sheet before saying, “Now stick your hand in that thing.”
No explanations of what the thing was were given. It looked like a thick black plate, with another thick black plate suspended above it with clear pillars at the four corners, and an indentation for a palm on the lower plate. At first glance, it looked like a stiff breeze would break the clear pillars, causing the thick metallic plates to crush the hand stuck between them. Well, Ritsuka recognized the clear material as being some kind of reinforced crystal, probably for mana conduction, thanks to his own father’s job, so it was most likely safe.
“Yes, it’s safe. Put your hand in, kid, I don’t have all day,” said the interviewer listlessly.
Shaking off his annoyance, Ritsuka decided he also didn’t have all day, and put his right hand into the palm print. There was a small hum, and a dancing of light in the air above Ritsuka’s hand. Some of the particles of light seemed to pass through Ritsuka’s hand, leaving a slight tingling sensation behind. After about half a minute, the lights and sound faded, and while checking a stand alone screen on the desk the interviewer said, “Alright, thanks for playing, the exit is-” and then stopped speaking abruptly as the red marker he’d been about to swipe across Ritsuka’s application dropped from the man’s hand.
“Stay right there,” shouted the interviewer as he dashed out of the cubicle. The guy didn’t say whether or not it was okay for Ritsuka to pull his hand out from the testing device, so he ended up just staying in that position until the interviewer came back with a supervisor.
* * * * *
“They came on real strong after that,” said Ritsuka at the dinner table, in between bites of the cut up cucumber that was the side dish for the evening.
“How strong,” asked Ritsuka’s father, who had a gentle face under his messy, unmanageable hair. It gave him the impression of someone who wasn’t dependable in the slightest, but he was still a magic tool artisan of some respect in the Japanese practitioner community. He wasn’t a mage by any means, but was a source for quality mage equipment, even if it was the mundane sort.
“Well, the way they were going, I think they wanted to have me on a plane out of the country tonight.”
“A plane,” asked the father, his eyebrows lifting before he turned to his wife. “Nora, you never said this facility was outside of Japan. I don’t think I want my son traveling so far at such an age.”
“Don’t be a worry wart, Daichi. Our boy is more mature that we were at his age, and you were doing just fine in London yourself.”
Ritsuka’s father bristled a bit and said, “I don’t know if we should be using ourselves as a standard here…”
Ritsuka once again found himself simultaneously wondering just what the heck his parents had been doing in their youths, and glad he had no idea at the same time. Instead of reacting, he gave a nervous laugh.
“Anyway, Ritsuka, ignore your father and get back to the story.”
“Oh, well, the supervisor started talking numbers and contracts. He and the interviewer were really forceful. From some of the things they muttered I think they were expecting big bonuses for finding a Chaldea candidate. But I was able to hold them off, promising to review the contracts and have them signed in a few weeks.
“A few weeks,” asked Fujimaru Nora, perplexed.
“Ah, your finals,” stated Fujimaru Daichi.
“Yeah. Even if these guys are offering enough money to pay for the whole of my college tuition, I don’t want to tank my grades before the summer vacations start. I mean, having a summer job is fine and all, but not if I have to retake a year.”
“You’re sure the job will only last through the summer,” inquired Daichi.
“It’s what they said. A few months with the option to continue longer.”
“Well, I think that’s wonderful,” exclaimed Nora. “My darling boy is finally going to see the world, and get some recognition. And who knows, maybe you’ll find a girl that’ll draw your interest. Summer is the season of passion you know.”
“Aww, moooom,” said Ritsuka in the voice a teen can only use when their parents succeed in completely embarrassing them.
“Don’t ‘Aw mom,’ Ritsuka. You deserve to have a great girl in your life. I know you’ve had to keep your classmates at arm’s length because of our careers, but Chaldea will be different. Young mages and mage hopefuls from around the globe will be there. And you wouldn’t be the first Fujimaru to find their soulmate while traveling abroad. Isn’t that right, darling.”
The word ‘darling’ spoken in English seemed to have an effect outside it’s obvious importance on Daichi, as he turned red faced and sipped on some tea as a cover after saying, “Well, it’s not like he’d be the first one.”
“Just remember, Ritsuka,” said Nora as she doggedly pursued the subject of her son’s imaginary romance. “As a man you don’t have to be the greatest at anything. You just have to be yourself, and when a girl needs some support, be there for her. And when it comes time… you need to be the one to ask her out on the first date.”
Daichi choked on a lump of rice and hurriedly sipped some tea to dislodge it while Nora smiled like a satisfied cat. After clearing his throat, Daichi said, “Do you really have to keep reminding me about that?”
“Of course I do. Do you have any idea how long I waited for you to make a move on me? There’s a difference between being a nice guy and being indecisive, after all, Daichi. Let that be a lesson to you, Ritsuka. If a girl shows her affection to you, you have to reciprocate. Don’t go making girls cry, you hear me?”
Ritsuka once again decided it’s best he not know what his parents did in their youths.