This is a translation of a Japanese novel. You can read the Raw here.
This is a work of fiction, with depictions of violence such as death of many people at a time. It is not suitable for readers under 15.
Chapter 7 is here! I know, I said I’d try to do a double release, but the paperwork has just been getting worse. Well, I’ll be done with that by Wednesday, so there is that. Trying to get into a pretty great uni right now, wish me luck!
Anyway, here is chapter 7 of population control, I hope you’ll enjoy it!
Chapter 7: Pushed to escape
“Kageyama, do you understand the situation you’re in?”
A week after my lunch meeting with Ichikawa and Aida, I was called by Ichikawa to the conference room.
“Hmm, sorry to interrupt, but… isn’t this a one-on-one meeting between two employees of the opposite sex? Is that okay now?”
“I’m the one who called this meeting, Kageyama. Besides, you’re not going to do anything, are you? Or are you saying that you’re planning to do something to me? Because if you are, I’m going to scream for help right here and now. But if you’re not, I’d like to proceed with what I was about to say.”
“Aha, yes, I have absolutely no bad intentions towards you. Please don’t scream. I’m listening.”
I wonder what’s up. Ichikawa’s tone sounds pretty stern right now. Her face looks as clean and pretty as ever, but I can tell she’s being kinda serious.
“Well then… First, I’ll start with what you did this weekend. I heard you took Nakayama and Aida out for some Yakiniku. It was apparently some fine meat, at that.”
“Yeah, if I didn’t, they’d have kept pestering me forever.”
“I thought Aida would have been pacified already after last week’s ‘care review’, but I guess that didn’t do it… So, how much did the meat end up costing you?”
“Why does that matter?”
The bill actually came out as 104,800 yen for us three. That’s the equivalent of 1000 dollars. I ate quite a bit this time around to put my stomach’s new youth to the test.
“I wouldn’t be asking if it didn’t matter. Look, to be honest with you, the higher-ups have their eyes on you right now.”
“Why would they have their eyes on me? I was careful to invite Nakayama so that I wouldn’t be alone with Aida, that shouldn’t be an issue.
Look, I got some money from horse racing, so I treated my juniors to some slightly fancy food, that’s all this was. Or have the big wigs decided that simple employees are forbidden from eating good meat?”
Ichikawa let out a long sigh and started speaking again.
“Kageyama, what is your job here?”
“You should know that. I’m an engineer. Until very recently, I was working on building an artificial intelligence system… But what does that have to do with anything?”
“Kageyama, how did you get the money to pay for that extravagant meat?”
“Like I said, I got it by betting at the horses. It was a trifecta bet, at the Takarazuka Kinen race. Anything wrong with that?”
“Not really. Well, I guess there could be a problem with the taxes and whatnot, but I don’t know about that. The problem I’m thinking of right now is something else… The higher-ups have been talking to me about you, asking if you made some kind of horse racing prediction system with amazing accuracy using artificial intelligence.
The stock prices prediction system that you finished testing the other day got amazing results, didn’t it? It still needs some polishing before we can make it public, but it reached the highest score in the whole industry. It’s so good that when the people at the investment department of a parent company’s bank heard about this system, they asked us not to sell it to our main client and to send it to them instead.”
My head went completely blank.
Oh… So that’s what it was….
I didn’t think of that…
I screwed up…
I was too careless…
What do I do…
I froze up for about three seconds but my strengthened mind pulled me back to reality.
Because Hattori got carried away and kept advertising the thickness of my wallet to anyone who was willing to listen, there isn’t a single person in the department who hasn’t heard about it. Somehow, the Hida beef I bought became the much fancier Yonezawa beef in people’s eyes, and the price that I allegedly paid just keeps increasing and increasing. At this point the rumors have taken a life of their own.
When a guy who doesn’t have much money suddenly becomes well-off, there are always plenty of people who just have to know how that happened. Those types of people don’t care about the truth, they just make conjectures and jump to conclusions based on whatever information they’re presented.
There is enough of a connection between my job and my supposed prediction of a horse race’s results for people to think there is a correlation between the two. At this point, the fact that I made a horse racing prediction system must basically be an established fact in almost everyone’s minds…
“Assuming I really made such a system, why would that catch the eyes of the higher-ups?”
“I don’t know, all I can do is make some wild guesses… For example, they may exploit the information that they have an AI engineer who can build an exceptionally accurate horse racing prediction system. That kind of rumor could be used as a business tool.”
“Oh boy. If they exploit that well, everyone and their mother would want to give the system a try.”
“That’s right. They could maybe also use your predictions to give a winning horse racing ticket to the person in charge of an order we placed in order to get preferential treatment.”
“What? Wouldn’t that be bribery?”
“Until the results of the race come out, it’ll just be a piece of paper. It wouldn’t be any different than giving them simple lottery tickets, right? Besides, to begin with, bribes are only a crime when you give them to a civil servant and the like… Well, I’m not informed enough about the law to guarantee anything, but I’ve heard something along those lines from other people.”
“Some people have already assumed that you’ve made a horse racing prediction system based on the horses’ lineage, and have been suggesting that you start a pedigree consulting business for racehorse breeding.”
“That explains what’s been happening around me lately. I’ve been starting to see some shady guys with half-popped collars, who keep going on and on about investments, starting a business, valuation and whatnot.”
“Yes, the kind of guys who take tons of pictures at drinking parties and put them up on social media. They’ve already locked onto you. To be honest, you’re a moving target now.”
“So, you’ve been told to check if I really built that system? Is that why you called me here, Ichikawa?”
“The higher-ups weren’t so direct about it, but yes, I’ve been asked to confirm the rumors. However, I personally don’t think you made any such system. I’ve never seen you read a horse racing newspaper, nor have I ever heard you boast about a betting ticket or anything like that. If, say, you were developing the system in secret, then why would you be so showy with your money the second you got a winning ticket? That doesn’t make sense to me. But most importantly, when would you have had time to build any of that during the 20 consecutive days of work that you were going through?”
“You’re right. I didn’t make a horse racing prediction system. I just casually bought a ticket at a betting office in Asakusa. That’s why I only bet 500 yen. If I really had such an amazing system, don’t you think I’d have bet at least 50,000 yen?”
“I personally know you pretty well, so it’s not hard for me to believe you, Kageyama, but… Look, let me just ask you this, are you door lock and your PC’s password secure?”
“What do you mean?”
“The rumors haven’t quite taken off yet, but sooner or later, there will probably be people who’ll try to break into your house, or to steal the contents of your PC, or to get you completely drunk just to get the slightest hint out of you, or to steal your whole PC while you’re away from home. There is no knowing how far they’ll go… especially if someone who’s up to his neck in debt because of gambling losses comes to hear about this.”
“Jeez, this is getting too real. It’s actually scary.”
“I lost a huge sum of money due to bad bitcoin investments once, and I have to admit even I couldn’t help myself from going crazy. Money can change people from the ground up. You better be very careful. At worst, they might tie you up and do this and that to you.”
Alright, that’s about enough, I can feel my blood pressure going down already. She’s saying that while I was worrying about the fate of the earth and mankind, all the people around me were rubbing their hands, ready to eat me up?
“So, what can I do about it, specifically?”
“If you had really made a horse racing prediction system, your best course would have been to sell it to the JRA, the Japan Racing Association. Even if you asked for ten billion yen (100M$), they’d probably still buy it from you. After all, if such a system were to leak, the whole horse racing industry would collapse.”
“Oh man. I wish I had that system now.”
“If you really don’t have the system, then from now on, you’ll have to somehow accomplish the impossible mission of finding proof that the system doesn’t exist, even though that’s Probatio diabolica. On top of that, you’ll have to stay wary of your surroundings, and to be as careful as you possibly can of cyber attacks and other criminal activities aimed at you.”
“Sounds like a pain. Maybe I’ll just resign from the company…”
“You probably shouldn’t. Leaving the company would be like openly saying that you can live off of your prediction system alone. You might as well beg to be kidnapped.”
What the hell am I supposed to do then?
“And that’s why… I have some information exclusively for you… Or rather, it’s a more of a proposal.”
“What is it?”
“I’ll tell you, but keep in mind that I’m just repeating what I heard from the director. So, you know that there is a trading company in the group that our company belongs to, right? Well, the higher-ups apparently want to pick two or three people who know their way around computers and can do some work overseas for said company. Kageyama, your TOEIC score was over 900, right?
Why not escape overseas until the whole situation blows over? They’ll be recruiting starting from next week, you should apply for it.”
“I see. I’d definitely be in less danger that way. But I feel like if I escape overseas, that simple rumor will turn into something much bigger. Will the company be okay?”
“Well, what can you do… Who’d have thought that the great results of the stock prices prediction system would backfire like that? It gave too much credibility to the rumors. Plus your lucky win at the horses came at an awful timing.
Still, what a strange situation. It’s like the better your work and reputation become, the more danger you expose yourself to. It really blows my mind.”
“Yeah, tell me about it… By the way, Ichikawa, all you were told to do was to confirm whether the system exists or not, but you ended up telling me about an in-house recruitment project that hasn’t even been announced yet. Why are you being so kind to me?”
Ichikawa looked a little bit embarassed.
“Who knows? Maybe I was blinded by how bright your skin has been lately?”
“…Should I consider that sexual harassement?”
“You can take it as you will.”
…As I will, huh…
The week that followed, I was invited times and times again to drinking parties by some colleagues and seniors who usually didn’t talk all that much with me. Then, those shady guys who just don’t know how to stop talking started inviting me to special meetings between people who want to become entrepreneurs. Around that point in time, I started finding more and more tiny scratches on my house door’s lock, so I got my landlord to change it for me.
I also started spotting traces of people trying to log in to my PC at the company whenever I left my seat, so I had to be careful and look around me whenever I typed my password.
I don’t get it, this company is supposed to be a direct bank subsidiary. Normally you’d expect the employees to play nice, right? Why are there so many weirdos here?
Despite the strange occurrences in my surroundings, I still went ahead and consulted with the director, and decided to apply for a transfer to that affiliated trading company in order to get the job overseas. I managed convince the director to let me go by telling him that the artificial intelligence department won’t suffer too much from my absence since they have Aida now.
And so, thanks to his recommendation, it was decided that I’d be transferred to the affiliated trading company after summer, on the 9th of September.
Translator’s note: Next chapter, we’ll get a bigger focus on the population control aspect of the story, as well as a glimpse into Aida’s