Editors: Yuuki, xyi
Chapter 13: Business Trip
“Are you doing this on purpose again? Cut it out before I kick you out.”
“Well… It was actually an honest mistake this time…”
“Like that makes it any better.”
“No… You have it all wrong. I rented way too many DVDs the day before and ended up watching movies all the way till this morning, so I didn’t get any sleep before I came to work…”
I slammed my desk, causing Mishima’s shoulders to shake in bewilderment. At this sight, Hashimoto, who sat at the neighboring desk, mischievously commented “oh my”.
“I don’t want to hear your excuses, just get it fixed by today, got it?”
“Okay, okay. I’ll fix it.”
“Then get to work already…”
As I raised my head to glare at Mishima, I noticed my superior approaching from behind her.
It was section chief Odagiri.
I immediately had a bad premonition.
Section chief Odagiri’s presence at our particular workstation was often a harbinger of particularly troublesome things to come. Not to mention, his gaze was glued onto me.
“Do you have a moment?”
It seems that my premonition struck bullseye. He called out to me the moment he arrived at my desk.
“Sure, may I ask what this is about.”
I straightened my posture and oriented myself to face section chief Odagiri.
“I’m sorry to tell you on such short notice.”
Section chief paused for a moment whilst stroking his beard, before continuing.
“I want you to come with me on a 2-week long business trip.”
“Huh? A business trip? To where are we headed?”
“We’re going to visit a branch in Gifu Prefecture.”
“G-, Gifu is it…”
To be frank, I didn’t want to leave home for this trip, because Sayu is there.
Not to mention, it would be bad for a guardian to be missing for two whole weeks.
I mustered my best ‘apologetic expression’ before replying.
“I think… it would be a little hard for me to go on this trip…”
At my reply, section chief Odagiri’s eyes grew wide open in surprise.
“I would’ve never thought that you would refuse to go on a business trip. You usually accept them without a second thought.”
“I mean, well… haha…”
I couldn’t tell him that I couldn’t go because I had a high-school girl staying at my place, so I could only laugh awkwardly.
Oh right, if I can get Hashimoto to sub in for me… With that thought, I looked towards my neighboring desk, but my neighbor who was here just a moment ago was suddenly nowhere to be seen.
He… went to the toilet didn’t he…
He’s probably the number one at the company in terms of ability to escape these situations.
Well, Hashimoto has his wife to think about, so I guess he wouldn’t want to leave for a few weeks either.
“Oh, what about Mishima? How about having her go instead?”
I suddenly pointed towards Mishima, to which she responded with a surprised whelp. She was someone who was capable if she puts her mind to it, and it’s not like she had a boyfriend to worry about either. So it would be convenient to have her go.
I turned my gaze back towards the section chief, but he shook his head.
“The branch we’re going to doesn’t have company lodgings, so we have to sort out our own accommodations. That wouldn’t be a problem, but I doubt we’ll be about to get two rooms for a company trip like this, and it would be inappropriate for me to share a room with a woman.”
“What’s wrong with staying in the same room? You have a wife, so I’m sure that nothing strange would happen between the two of you.”
Section chief Odagiri seemed somewhat troubled by my reply, but he mumbled “Well, I wouldn’t deny it.” before falling silent.
“Hey, you’re okay with this right?”
I said as I turned to look at her. Mishima’s expression didn’t hide how startled she was in the slightest.
“Eh, I’d rather not…”
She said as she showed an incredibly grave expression.
I mean, it’s not like I don’t understand how you feel, but you don’t… have to, well, be like that. The weight behind her expression was really something else, honestly.
Section chief Odagiri took one look at Mishima and feverishly waved his head.
“Mishima-kun simply won’t do. It has to be another man. Look Yoshida, think of this as doing me a favor. I simply can’t rely on anyone else for this. Plus, you’re single aren’t you?”
That unnecessary comment struck a thorn in my chest. Well, it’s not like I didn’t understand why it was frowned upon to send married people on such business trips.
“Do you perhaps have a reason why you cannot go? If your reason is well-founded, I wouldn’t force you to go.”
So the toughest question for me to answer has finally come.
I desperately searched for a reasonable answer. This was the only time where I couldn’t explain the matter in honest terms.
As I was carefully scrutinizing my every choice of word, a savior extended a helping hand.
“Odagiri-saan… Just give it up already m~an, he just doesn’t want to go…”
A male coworker trotted over to section chief Odagiri’s side with an astoundingly inappropriate language. That man was Endou, whose desk was a short distance from mine.
“So how about I go in his place? I’m single and hella free. That’ll work, right?”
“Don’t use such a casual tone with your superiors.”
“You don’t want to go with me? I never thought that the boss of all people would be one to mix personal feelings with business matters…”
Endou continued to rattle on in an obstinate manner, to which section chief Odagiri showed no attempt to hide his distaste.
“Can I trust you to do your job for the coming two weeks?”
“Yeah of course, though I’ll be doing whatever I want outside of work hours.” 
Endou skeptically raised his eyebrows and replied. Section chief Odagiri let out a long sigh and nodded.
“Fine. Then I’ll pass the job over to Endou.”
“Cool, let’s leave it at that.”
Endou saw section chief Odagiri off with a frivolous smile, before turning to me with a sneer.
“Hey man, weren’t you part of the Gotou-only club?”
“What are you talking about?”
Endou forcefully put his arm around my neck and whispered into my ear.
“You got yourself a girl?”
“Like, you don’t want to go since you got yourself a girl, am I wrong?”
I was baffled by Endou’s statement. Is that how he interpreted the situation?
That being said, he wasn’t ‘wrong’ per-se. This wasn’t about a girlfriend though, but rather about the girl, my ‘dependant’, who was staying at my place, so the reason I refused to go was unmistakably because of a ‘girl’..
Mishima, who had witnessed the questioning from beginning to end, look at me with a curious gaze.
“You have a girlfriend…?”
“No, that’s not it.”
“Oh come on dude, you don’t need to hide it. What other reason would there be for a guy who would go on business trips like a walk in the park to suddenly refuse them?”
“As if. It’s not like there aren’t other reasons for me to refuse…”
Having said that, I fell silent.
Personally, I couldn’t see any other reason for me to refuse.
Seeing my expression, Endou showed a complacent smile and put his hand on my shoulder.
“Well, let’s not dawdle here too long, let’s go to the cafeteria.”
Saying that, he pointed towards the clock on the wall, which showed that it was 1 past noon, a good time to take an afternoon beak.
“…I’m heading out for lunch.”
I declared with a slightly louder voice to my coworkers after a brief sigh. The nearby coworkers replied with an unenthusiastic ‘have a good one’.
I glanced towards Hashimoto’s desk, but he hasn’t returned yet.
As punishment for running away from the section chief, he can have lunch by himself today.
“Shouldn’t these noodles like, you know, have a little more texture or something? Konjac noodles would at least have some chewiness.”
Endou slurped on his Chinese noodles with a disparaged expression.
“You know, the more I eat this, the more I feel like this is what it feels like to eat animal food, y’know? It’s to the point where I wish that they’d just change the name on the menu already. You know, something like ‘animal food set,’ or something along those lines. They’d probably actually sell more if they changed the name just cause people would be curious about it.”
“Despite saying that, isn’t that all you ever eat?”
Our coworker Koike, who Endou had dragged along for the ride, was eating a bowl of fried rice beside Endou. The two of them got along pretty well. From an outsider’s point of view, it would appear that they would clash due to their polar opposite personalities, but on the contrary, it seems to have helped the two to achieve a fine balance of sorts.
Endou, who had been complaining to Koike, suddenly turned to face me.
“Who’s this girlfriend of yours? Don’t tell me that you finally managed to snag Gotou, did ya?”
“Like I said, you’re misunderstanding.”
I waved my hands in denial, but Endou continued to gaze at me with suspicion.
Feeling a gaze, I took a glance at Mishima who was eating next to me. She seemed to be glaring at me.
“Your noodles are going to thicken if you let it sit like that.”
“Yoshida-senpai’s case is more important than my noodles.”
Despite having barely touched her noodles, Mishima continued to focus her attention on me.
Letting out a short sigh, I finally voiced the conversational tangent that I had desperately prepared whilst ordering food.
“By the way, the package will arrive during the two weeks you’re gone.”
Endou crunched his eyebrows.
“What about this package? Couldn’t I always go grab it later?”
“No, this package is something you want to grab as soon as it comes.”
“Okay man, what is this package you’re talking about?”
After waiting for a brief moment, I made an obvious expression of ‘Its better I don’t say’, to which Endou smiled and nodded.
“I see I see. So that’s what it was. Now that I think about it you have quite a bunch yourself don’t you, Yoshida.”
Endou let out a broad grin that seemed to show that he understood what I meant, but for some reason Koike lightly elbowed him.
“Hey, you bought some DVDs last year, didn’t you?”
Koike’s eyebrows raised up for a brief moment, but he quickly nodded his head.
“Now that I think about it, you were totally into Naruse Kokoa, weren’t you?”
I immediately choked and spit out the kudzu-powdered yakisoba I was eating.
Mishima cast a suspicious glance towards me.
“What does this Naruse mean…? What is it about?”
“Right, what was it again, I think it was an anime character or something.”
In truth, she was an adult-video actress. 
Listening to my attempt to hide the truth, Endou broke out into wild laughter, while Koike bemusedly sighed before taking another mouthful of fried rice. On the other hand, Mishima looked as though a question mark was literally floating above her head.
“Well, if he’d go so far to hide it, I’d say that its better you don’t ask.”
Finally easing his laughter, Endou returned to slurping his noodles. Looking at him, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat apologetic.
“Hey, um, sorry about what happened. You ended up going in my place.”
“Don’t worry about it man. Being single and all, I have all the time in the world. Not to mention, I might get to eat some tasty good while I’m in Gifu.”
“Besides that though, section chief Odagiri doesn’t really like you.”
“Yeah, I’d say he hates me.”
Endou jokingly trembled with a broad grin.
“He hates me so much that I’m actually kinda looking forward to it. So seriously, don’t worry about it.”
“…Sorry, thanks for the help.”
“Man, it seems like you make a big deal out of everything. This must be why you’re not popular with girls.”
“Hey, that has nothing to do with this.”
Endou’s comment was meant as a bit of a low blow, but unexpectedly, I couldn’t help but think that he might not be wrong about that.
“Well, I don’t care what your reason is, but since I’ve already taken your place for this business trip-”
After taking a loud slurp of his Chinese noodles, he looked me straight in the eye and continued.
“Make sure you get your fill of whatever it is you’re skipping out for, be it DVDs or girls.”
Having said that, Endou engrossed himself in his bowl of noodles again. Listening to the sound of him slurping his noodles, I let out a light sigh.
His words clearly contained the meaning of ‘Your answer doesn’t convince me, but I’ll let you off the hook this time’. Despite being a fundamentally rough person with a carefree personality, he was a surprisingly open-minded person when dealing with other people’s problems. He’s helped me numerous times during work.
I probably won’t be able to keep it a secret forever. By the next time I’m forced to go on a business trip, would Sayu have already returned to Hokkaido…? Hm…
Just as I was chewing on the kudzu-powdered yakisoba, Mishima suddenly elbowed me hard on the side, causing me to nearly spit out the food in response. After forcefully gulping down the food, I hit Mishima’s shoulder with the palm of my hand.
“Hey, what’s your deal? Don’t do that when other people are eating.”
Mishima looked at me, then abruptly looked away. After repeating this cycle a few times, she finally spoke up.
“Is it true that you don’t have a girlfriend?”
“Oh come on, didn’t I already say that I didn’t? How many times do I have to say it?”
The wound only gets bigger with each mention, so I wish they’d stop.
Mishima seemed eager to press on for a moment, but then shut her mouth and nodded.
“If that’s true, then it’s okay I guess…”
“What is that supposed to mean? It’s not like I need your permission to date or any-ow!! Hey, cut it out already! Why do you keep elbowing me!? And right in the ribs every time too!”
With a sulky look, Mishima finally settled down and started eating her now-cold bowl of Chinese noodles. As I looked on in puzzlement, Endou, who had witnessed the whole scene unfold, burst out in laughter.
I glared at Endou continuously slapping the table in a fit of laughter. Taking ahold of himself for a brief moment, Endou shook his head with trembling shoulders.
“It’s nothing man, just keep it up!”
Tears began forming in the corners of his eyes as he continued.
“I really ought to believe you now when you say you don’t have a girlfriend!”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means what it means man. Ain’t that right, Mishima?”
Endou turned the spotlight over to Mishima, who gave him a stern glare as she stuffed her cheeks with cold Chinese noodles.
What the heck are they talking about now? I looked at Koike for a bit of guidance, but he just showed me a strained smile and shrugged.
After lunch, Mishima had quickly wrapped up her code correction. Having not much work myself, I started packing up to head home on time.
I put my belongings into my business bag and was about to leave when Mishima called out to me.
I made no attempt to hide my displeasure of being called out to just as I was about to leave, though it didn’t seem like she came with trouble. She walked up to me carrying all her belongings.
“Do you have some time after work?”
“Uh… If it’s possible I’d like to go home for today though.”
“So, do you have any plans?”
“Um… Not really.”
“Okay, then come with me for a little bit.”
The demanding way in which she spoke ticked me off a little, but given the incident at noon, if I try to force my way home, it would probably lead to more misunderstandings instead.
“Alright, I’ll bite. What are we going to do?”
“Let’s go watch a movie together.”
“Huh? A movie?”
“There’s a theater at the train station closest to your home, isn’t there?”
“Then let’s go. The movie starts in an hour.”
Without waiting for my reply, Mishima started walking away at a brisk pace. As I hurriedly chased after her, I felt a gaze on me, to which I turned my head, only to have my gaze meet that of Gotou-san, who was at her work desk. It made my heart skip a beat, but I couldn’t really say anything in this situation. After a slight bow, I hastily left the office.
 Endou’s decision to be free to do as he wants after-hours is actually sort of taboo in Japanese work culture. In traditional Japanese office workplaces workers are expected to accompany their superiors to drink after-hours.
 Reference Naruse Kokomi. Yes, I googled it to figure out who it was referring to, so it is actually research.