"I'm just a normal member," Manela said.
"Oh," Nick answered.
"Is that surprising to you?" she asked.
"Oh, no! Sorry if it came across like I was disappointed," Nick said hastily.
"It didn't," Manela added emotionlessly. "I was simply asking a question."
"Oh, ok," Nick said.
He didn't say anything for three seconds.
"Well, I was a bit surprised," Nick said. "You seem like someone who knows how to take charge of a situation."
Manela glanced at Nick. "I can see how I can give off that impression. In fact, I used to be a team leader in Ghosty's Lab before I switched to Kugelblitz."
"You were in Ghosty's Lab before?" Nick asked in surprise.
Manela nodded. "Over half of the staff come from other Manufacturers. Kugelblitz rarely hires Newbies and Johns since everyone else wants to join us anyways."
Nick nodded. "That makes sense."
Manela didn't answer.
"Hey, Manela?" Nick asked.
Manela looked at Nick.
"Do you want to be a team leader again?"
Manela snorted. "No."
This surprised Nick. "Why not?"
"It's not as cracked up as it seems to be," she said. "In a big corporation, power and hierarchy work very differently."
"You can probably just tell Wyntor that you want an Extractor removed, and they get fired."
"That's not how it works in big corporations."
"If an Extractor makes trouble, I have to file several complaints with upper management, who will then tell me to handle the issue."
"When I show that it hasn't improved, they will talk a bit with the Extractor, which might make things even worse since the Extractor will now hate me even more than before."
"After several times of this exact thing, I can finally get rid of the person that has made trouble in my team for so long."
"The power from both sides looks very different."
"Employees believe that their superior is completely in control at all times and that they almost can't resist."
"Meanwhile, the superior almost feels like the employee is in control."
"If an employee is rude to me, the only thing I can do to them is reprimand them, and if that doesn't work, I need to put in a lot of effort to convince upper management to reprimand them."
"However, if I am rude to an employee, upper management will immediately pull me out and tear into me and tell me that I can't possibly talk like that to my team. Even if they were rude first."
"Additionally, whenever I give an order, there is nothing I can do really if they just say no."
"What if they say no? If I give the order again, they will just say no again. I also can't attack them or force them. In the end, I have to talk to my superior and get them to do something about it, which might take several days or weeks, and on top of that, they will believe that I am the incompetent one because I can't control my team."
Nick just listened to Manela's rant in stunned silence.
"Being a team leader is filled with stress and annoyance, which is why I am not interested in that position anymore," Manela said.
"What about becoming an Expert?" Nick asked. "Wouldn't becoming a team leader give you some sort of advantage?"
"Who says I want to be an Expert?" Manela asked.
lightsnοvεlNow, this took Nick by surprise. "You don't?"
"I am already in enough danger by working with the Adult Specters. I finally managed to work with them without being in too much danger, and I'm not about to go through the same thing again with Elders."
"Is it that bad?" Nick asked.
"Nick," Manela said. "What is a Zephyx Extractor?"
Nick blinked a couple of times. "I'm not sure," he said.
"It's not a philosophical question," Manela said.
"It's a job," she added.
"A Zephyx Extractor is a job."
"Why do you do a job?" she asked.
"Money?" Nick answered with a question.
"Correct, money," Manela said, evenly looking at Nick. "If none of us were getting paid, almost nobody would show up to work."
"That's the undeniable truth."
"We do work so that we can live. We don't live so that we can work," Manela said.
"I'm earning more than enough."
"I'm strong enough."
"I am secure enough."
"I have enough free time."
"Why would I sacrifice all of my security and free time for more money and strength?"
"My goal is not to become the strongest person in the world. My goal is to lead a happy life."
"Work is work. Life is life."
"That's it," Manela explained.
Nick understood what Manela was saying, but in a way, it felt strange.
Yes, being a Zephyx Extractor is a job, but it also allowed someone to unlock incredible powers.
Wasn't Manela interested in being able to do things that she could only dream of right now?
Didn't she want to become stronger?
Nick also remembered what Reynold had said about Manela.
He had said that Manela wasn't interested in training as much as Reynold due to her appearance.
Back then, Nick hadn't fully believed Reynold, but now, he did.
Right, if Manela only viewed this as a job, why would she sacrifice her appearance for it?
Nick knew that this was Manela's choice and her opinion, but it just felt so strange to him.
"You don't want to become more powerful?" he asked.
"Of course I do," Manela answered, "but in this world, power comes with responsibility and work."
"The Experts dedicate their entire life to work, and half of them don't even have a partner."
"That's not a life I want to live."
"While I am interested in becoming more powerful, I am not willing to put in the time and work required to become more powerful."
"Becoming stronger just isn't as attractive as it used to be."
Manela looked at the horizon.
"Many people dream of becoming the most powerful in this world."
"However, being the most powerful probably also means being the busiest."
"And that's not something that is appealing to me."