World“s First Demon Lord Chapter 12: The Hunch and The Deal

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March 1, 6:51 am, London, England

The sun was shining brightly over the city, its people already awake and about. There was a slight chill, a sharpness in the air that made it just uncomfortable enough for people to realize it might get colder later.

I didn't care about any of that. The sun was shining bright through the window into my office, which was kept at a nice warm temperature. I had spent the night in this room, watching the events unfold slowly. I felt terrible; my eyes were strained, I was hungry, and I needed a shower, but I just couldn't stop watching.

Things went much better than expected! Sure, it was a little boring in the middle there, when she just went to school, but the whole bullying scene? The jumping off the building?

This protagonist was more dramatic than I expected! How exciting!

She hadn't even opened her Daily Task yet! I wonder how she would go through everything.

"This is going rather well, isn't it?" I said, turning to Ms. Kang.

I found her watching intently, not taking her eyes off the screen. She had gone to rest for the night, but had arrived again about an hour ago. I think. I hadn't been paying much attention. She blinked as she noticed me look at her, and scrambled to compose herself again.

"Y-yes," she said, straightening herself up. "It is."

All of a sudden, her phone began ringing a very familiar theme. A theme that made me think of a certain hunched genius, sitting improperly in a chair as he balanced sugar cubes. Ms. Kang glanced at her phone, then opened the message.

"Oh, it looks like the thriller storyline is moving!" she said, voice flat. I could tell she was excited though; her eyes were shining.

"Oh?"

I cast a spell to show what was going on in front of us. The both of us watched as the thriller storyline also finally started to unfold.

***

Sakura

March 1, 3:00 pm, Tokyo, Japan

It had been seven days since Sakura had found the body.

Funnily enough, it had been in a graveyard. She had gone there to pay respects to her friend Ai, who had passed a year earlier. Sakura had seen the body from a distance at first, and thought it was someone kneeling at her grave, paying their respects. It was only when she came closer that she realized that the man's shirt was dripping with blood, and that his face had been cleanly ripped off.

After throwing up in a nearby flowerbed, Sakura had called the police. They spoke with her, took her statement, referred her to a psychiatrist, and reassured her that they would take care of everything.

And yet, here she was, seven days later, scouring the internet for any sort of report of a dead body on any news site, and coming up with...nothing.

She leaned back in her cubicle, fiddling with a pen in her hand. Today she had worn a professional white blouse and black pencil skirt, with approptiate black heels. Honestly, she could've done without the heels, but they were requiered. She could get written up without them.


Around her, the office bustled with people moving about. Phone calls were coming in and out, and people moved from cubible to cubicle, delivering papers, talking about news, trying to get the latest scoop. Sakura loved the feeling of the office, but she held a certain distance from it. Or at least, that was what it felt like.

Not that it mattered. She had a potential story now. Sakura mulled over the details, spinning around in her chair.

She had called the police station yesterday, asking about the situation. She called as a reporter, saying that she heard about a body being found about a week ago.

"We've reported all deaths for the past week already," was all they had said. "Go check your relevant department."

Sakura's reporter senses were tingling.

A knock against her cubicle. Sakura looked up to see a man with glasses and bad teeth looking down his nose at her.

"Watanabe, the boss is calling for you."

As soon as he was done, Nakamura, her co-worker, already leaving. Back when she interned here, she had been told that the people she got hired with would become her comrades-in-arms, forming a bond that could last a lifetime. That was the kind of company the Yomiuri Shimbun was supposed to be.

Reality turned out to be Nakamura doing absolutely everything to avoid her at every possible moment. She had even forgotten his first name. If she remembered right, it had been something like Hideo, or Hideki, probably.

Whatever.

Sakura rolled her eyes and picked up her things. She had a general idea of what this little chat would be about.

The boss' cubicle was at the far side of the floor, in a large, glass cubicle. Sakura could see him waiting impatiently as she walked over to him. She resisted the urge to raise an eyebrow at him as he watched her walk into his office.

Mr. Yamamoto wasted no time on pleasantries.

"Ms. Watanabe, do you actually know what your job is here?" he asked.

"Of course," she said, not taking a seat yet. "I'm here to write news."

"You are here to offer insight into the female mind," he corrected her. "Someone like you is a valuable asset to us at the Yorimuri Shimbun. We don't need another beat journalist."

It was all Sakura could do to stop herself from punching her boss in the face. She did her best to keep her expression calm, but her grip tightened on her papers.

"Wasn't that the job I was hired for?" she asked innocently. "I believe that was what is written in my contract."

"Your contract states that you are hired to write stories we approve of," said Mr. Yamamoto dangerously, picking up a cigar. "And this is not something we approve of."

He slapped down the paper he had been holding. Sakura recognized it as her latest piece: "25 Make Up Tips to Make You Feel Superior to Your Man."

She raised an eyebrow.

"You asked for a piece that spoke to women, and that I didn't need to concern myself with the thoughts of men," said Sakura. "Isn't this exactly what you asked for?"

"What kind of women do you think read our paper? Crazed feminists lesbians?" said Mr. Yamamoto, practically choking his unlit cigar. "We need something that caters to the average Japanese woman. Surely you can do something like that."

Sakura did not like the implication hidden in his words.

"I did write something for the average Japanese woman," she replied. "After all, we live in the 21st Century, Mr. Yamamoto. Women are just as hardworking and studious as men, sometimes even better. Isn't it a good thing to promote healthy self-esteem among 50% of our population?"

"This isn't promoting a healthy self-esteem, it's blatant sexism against men!"

"The title is a joke. Did you even read the article?"

That struck a sore spot. Sakura could see his face twitch in embarrassment.

Perfect.

"Even so, the fact that you handed in an article with such a title shows that you have no regard for the type of paper the Yomiuri Shimbun is supposed to be," said Mr. Yamamoto. "We aren't some Millennial, listicle-spouting, vanity paper. We offer serious insight into serious issues."

"Which is exactly what this article is," said Sakura. "I'll admit, maybe the title was a bit too far. My sincerest apologies."

She gave a small bow.

"However, the content of the article is real news, and real insight," Sakura continued. "Surely you can at least admit that."

She watched for a moment as Mr. Yamamoto's face twitched. She could've watched him struggle for hours...but she had a job to do.

"But, if the higher ups don't wish to report it, I'll withdraw it," she said, sighing. "On one condition."

Mr. Yamamoto glowered at her, but nodded.

"I have a story on a dead body," she said. "It was discovered at the graveyard a week ago. Police were present, and the body was taken to the morgue...but there is no police report, no official statement, nothing."

"Rumors," said Mr. Yamamoto, waving it away. "You can't believe everything-"

"I was the one who discovered the body," Sakura interrupted. "It was kneeling at my friend's grave."

That got him to stop. Mr. Yamamoto looked shocked for a moment, before quickly composing himself.

"...A story like this takes time," he said. "Time and experience. You've only been with us for a year."

"One month is all I need," she said. "One month for this story."

"You are overestimating yourself," Mr. Yamamoto snorted.

"You weren't saying that when I was here as an intern," said Sakura, frustration evident.

"Things were different then," said Mr. Yamamoto pointedly, looking at Sakura up and down.

Sakura curled a fist. She mentally counted to ten, to stop herself from actually punching her boss in the face.

"However...you bring up an interesting point," said Mr. Yamamoto slowly.

He picked up his lighter, placing the cigar in his mouth. Sakura watched, impatience building as he slowly lit up the cigar. She managed to keep her body language calm; a perk from learning to deal with men that wanted to exert power over her.

"Are you sure you can do this in one month?"

"Of course!"

"Coincidentally, one month is when your contract gets renewed," Mr. Yamamoto continued, taking an expert puff of his cigar. "How about this; you write the story you want. You get one month. But if the story isn't good enough, we will not renew your contract. No questions asked."

Sakura bit her lip. On the one hand, she was confident she could do this story justice in one month. She had leads ready, all she needed to do was chase them down.

On the other hand...getting fired from one of the biggest print papers in Japan? Sure, everything was digital these days, but ever since she was little, Sakura always dreamed of working for Yamamoto News...from the moment she decided to be journalist, it was all she ever wanted...for that all to be gone with just one mistake…

No. That thinking would mean that she wasn't confident enough in herself. She knew she was right about this. So what did she have to lose?

"Deal," said Sakura, holding out a hand.

Mr. Yamamoto took a moment to look at the hand, as if he couldn't believe she was actually accepting to it.

Then he shook it.

"I hope you don't regret this, Ms. Watanabe," he said, smirking.


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