Chapter 17: Center of the World (4)
When Kei went over to Ushio’s house, Ushio commented, “You’ve been coming over late recently.”
“…I’ve been busy.”
The truth was Kei had been watching his recordings of Newsment at home like a hawk before coming over, but he couldn’t bring himself to say it. He had acted high and mighty like he didn’t care, but now he was so concerned that he couldn’t get his mind off of it. He deliberately watched the show by himself because he didn’t know what kind of face he made while he watched it. He didn’t want Ushio to know that he was so bothered by it that he couldn’t even laugh it off.
When Kei collapsed face down onto the bed, Ushio asked, “You’re not going to watch The News?”
“…Because there were a couple of places where I messed up the pronunciation today! And it’ll piss me off if I watch it!”
They weren’t big mistakes, just a little hiccup here and there that Kei had powered through, with most people none the wiser about it. But a professional most likely would have noticed—Kizaki, for example. Kei kept wondering what if he noticed? Would he be able to do a better job? His imagination ran away from him in all sorts of terrible directions, and it took a toll on his mental health.
Kei had never been conscious of any particular person to drive him to study or to do his job. He didn’t care to compete on the level of high-powered cabinet member appointees or world-class athletes. He had followed the most realistic path that made him happy and allowed people to shower praise and attention on him. He was an allrounder, better than average even in his looks, and it didn’t bother him if there were others who surpassed him in a particular category. For better or worse, Kei only focused on himself for all of his life.
Now whenever Kei heard Kizaki’s name or saw his face, his heart would despair. And he searched out more and more information knowing that it would depress him, and he didn’t know how to stop.
“Heeyyy, Kunieda-kunnn.” The bed creaked softly as Ushio sat down on the bed next to him. “Is something bothering you?”
“Not really. I’m just tired.”
Ushio had laid his upper body down onto Kei’s back, making it hard to breath.
“I can’t keep my eyes open, I’m gonna sleep.”
“It’s fine if you’re just tired, but if it’s not, then don’t think too much about it. You’re an idiot, after all.”
Kei didn’t have it in him to react to being called an idiot. He just let out a muffled “Leave me alone.” Ushio was probably staring at the back at Kei’s head right now, confused at his lack of reaction. Kei didn’t want to explain anything, and yet he didn’t want to pretend like nothing was wrong either. He knew that it was selfish of him, but he couldn’t do anything about it.
“Oi, come on, let’s change the topic to something else then. You’re more awkward than you think you are, you know.”
“…I don’t wanna fucking hear that I’m awkward!!!”
Kei braced both arms against the bed and flung Ushio off of his back.
“I fucking hate that word. It’s humiliating. Losers call themselves awkward thinking they can justify their stupidity and shamelessness with a single word, going, ‘Oh, but that’s just who I am,’ and expecting the rest of the world to pick up after them. But they sure are clever enough to babble about how shamelessly awkward they are. I’m not a shameful fuck like them!”
Ushio stared at Kei while he ranted and didn’t offer a single counterargument. “I’m sorry,” he said, stroking Kei’s head. “You must be tired. Go to sleep now, okay? I’ll be downstairs doing some work. Good night.”
Ushio turned off the lights on the second floor and headed downstairs.
I made him worried, and I took my frustration out on him. Err, I do it almost every day, but this was on an entirely different level.
Don’t I always handle myself well? Don’t I always do a good job at everything? That’s why I’ve worked so hard, so don’t refute everything that I’ve worked for all of my life. Not you. Otherwise, I’ll lose all sense of myself—all sense of equilibrium—and I’ll be an empty set of armor about to tip over. I didn’t get here because I wanted this in the first place. I had worked as hard as I could up until now, but can that hard work measure up to the energy that people expend out of their love for what they do or in pursuit of their dreams? How can I ever face up to them?
To love something gave a person a brutal sense of righteousness. If one could wield it, it was a prized sword that could silence the world. Those who didn’t love what they did would always be mere losers in the end to those who never gave up and pursued their dreams. They could keep going because they loved it. If people did what they loved, it was the best thing they could do…It was how the world was constructed, glorifying how the pursuit of a dream could break all barriers. This was the source of Kei’s anxiety and inferiority complex. And it was why he couldn’t bring himself to open up to Ushio, someone who did what he loved and made a career out of it for himself.
The next morning, Kei woke up to a phone call from Shitara.
It’s 6:30 am. What does he want? It’s hard to make my voice sound normal immediately after waking up.
Kei took a few seconds to warm up his voice with a few vocalizations before answering.
“Sorry to call so early in the morning, but I’d like to pass an assignment to you.”
“There was a string of robberies at 3 or so different convenience stores. Since they’re located near your home, I thought it would be best to send you. The crew is already on their way over to the location, so I’d like you meet them there by taxi. The director will have your press band for you.”1
It had been a while since he had to cover a report on the ground that wasn’t normally scheduled for him. They typically had enough reporters in the News Department that they wouldn’t bother someone who was attached to the nightly news, but maybe they were really short of people today? Or maybe something big had happened? Kei checked the news headlines on his phone, but he didn’t see anything that would drastically occupy the network’s resources.
What the hell? Kei grumbled, thinking it was strange as he hurried to put on his facemask and glasses and headed downstairs. Ushio was asleep on the sofa. He probably stayed away to give Kei some space.
Kei knew that he should wake Ushio before leaving, but even if he received a pile of gold nuggets for it, he didn’t have the type of personality who could sweetly say, I’m sorry about last night. Thank you. Anyway, he was in a rush. Those were the excuses that he made to himself as he quietly left the house.
Kei headed to the location, shot a report to be used for the morning shows, then collected information for the afternoon news in case there were more movements on the story. But there were no further developments, and so Kei went to lunch with the crew before leaving the scene. It was past 2 pm when he arrived at the network and realized that he had a message from Ushio.
“Where did you go?”
Kei had planned to text him when he had some free time, but he couldn’t catch a break.
“I was pulled on an assignment. Was on the scene.”
Maybe he could text him a sorry for leaving without saying anything—but he couldn’t.
As soon as he sent his curt explanation, he immediately received a reply.
“Fine, but tell me before you leave.”
Uh, yeah, he’s mad. I’d be mad too.
“But you were asleep,” he texted back.
“I’d rather you not say anything if you’re gonna give me a weak excuse.”
He saw right through that.
While it was true that 80% of him felt too uncomfortable to face Ushio, 20% of him did also feel bad about waking him. Ushio would probably get angrier if he texted this, but leaving the conversation without saying anything would probably be the worst move he could make… And then his internal phone line rang.
“Hello, Kunieda speaking.”
“Hello, it’s Shitara. Sorry about this morning. I know it was really sudden.”
You’re damn right it was.
“It’s no problem.”
“It must have been a while since you’ve been on a scene like that. How was it?”
“How was it? There was nothing out of the ordinary about it. The field director had everything under control, and we were able to wrap up the shoot without any problems.”
“I see. Well, we’ll talk again later. Bye.”
There weren’t any problems with the shoot, but Kei was extra nervous at having to work outside, and it wore him down physically. He wanted to rest until evening in one of the nap rooms, but he hadn’t read the morning papers nor gone through his aircheck of last night’s show yet.
It frightened him to break his routine. One little oversight could trigger a monumental mistake that he could never take back. It wasn’t out of a sense of diligence or earnestness for his work; it was more like he’d always been chased to do everything by the “Kunieda Kei” whom he had created. But he was different now from before; he was no longer alone.
Although he was no longer alone, there were still things that he couldn’t tell him.
They had lost the night with differences of 0.5% in ratings and 1% in shares. He suppressed the urge to release a deep sigh (there were other people around) as he stood up to stretch his back, more conscious of his surroundings than normal, before heading over to the newspaper rack. It wasn’t the time to be overthinking things and poisoning himself with his own thoughts. For now, he had to focus on the work he had in front of him. He chased the text messages from earlier out of his head. There was no way he could come out and apologize honestly, and he wasn’t like Ushio who could say or do a few nice things to fix his mood. Ushio would bitch about it the next time they saw each other, and Kei would snap back at him, but in the end, after enough time passed, things would go back to normal between them.
After finishing his work, it was 7 pm and Kei was about to head to the staff meeting for The News. That was when his internal phone line rang again.
“There were parts of a dead body found in a reservoir in Saitama. Head to the scene immediately. A van is already waiting on B1 in the parking garage.”
Kei questioned his ears when he heard Shitara’s instructions. “You would like me to go?”
“Yes. Oh, don’t forget to get a press band from the news floor. You know how to fill out the form, right?”
“You’ve never filled out the form before?”
“No, I have. But if I head out to Saitama now, then the preparations for the show—”
“Oh, you don’t need to think about that.”
This time Kei questioned Shitara’s head instead.
“I’m thinking of having you report live from the scene during the show. If the investigation is still ongoing, then expect some dialog with the studio. That’s why you don’t have to worry about things here.”
What the hell is this old man saying?
Kei was in half disbelief as he asked, “But who will read the scripts?”
“I’ll find another announcer to provide the voiceovers. The video and everything else are done, so it should be easy. Asou can read the lead-ins for the clips himself. I’m not thinking of replacing you, so don’t worry.”
Was this what Shitara meant when he said, We’ll talk again later, on the phone earlier? There were other announcers at the network, so why the reckless move to take a regular announcer off of his show and make him report outside? What the hell was he thinking? But Kei didn’t have the time to think things over as he rushed to make his preparations to head out.
—Prioritize reporting from the scene over the studio for now.
Those were Shitara’s only instructions. He didn’t give any reason or timeframe, and Kei had no choice but to follow his orders. When he was at the office, he always had to be prepared to go out; it wasn’t like a live studio broadcast where he could be done as soon as it was over. There were long periods of waiting outside, but it wasn’t like he could drag a desk and chair with him so he could leisurely sit around. If the weather acted up, depending on the distance, he could be forced to spend the night before getting back. And then there could be days when nothing happened and he spent the day at the studio. He had to bear with this constant irregularity to his days. There were people who enjoyed the thrill of not knowing what their day would be like until it happened, but it gradually wore Kei out. If only he could see the goal up ahead to measure his progress, it would be easier to whip himself to work.
And then on top of all that—
“My name is Kunieda.”
“Hurry up and tell me what shots you want taken. You’re the director for today, you know!”
There was a strictly limited number of people that could be taken on the scene. Today, they had a camera operator, a camera assistant, a light person, a sound person, and an AD…and each person had more responsibilities than usual. It wasn’t like at a studio where he could read through a script that someone prepared for him, have someone call him when it was time to step onto the set, then read aloud for a clip that someone had filmed and someone had edited for him.
What was the deal with not even having a director? There were announcers who were almost like field reporters and could manage all aspects of a shoot on location, but Kei was principally a studio announcer. He had no choice but to rely on all of his past reporting experience to answer the question.
“I’d like to zoom back from a close-up shot over there—”
“Huh? That’s what you want? It might be a terrible size if you do that.”
What the hell does a terrible size even mean? Explain it in concrete terms, dammit.
“Then what would you suggest, Nishikido-san?”
“You already said you wanted to zoom back from a close-up. Just spit out how far back you want it!”
This was one major source of Kei’s stress: this damn camera operator who was essentially the picture of a stubborn old man. Among the technical staff, there were a few people who would be arrogant and obstinate about their craft, but they would generally never direct their irritation at the presenters from the studio. Anyway, regardless of what verbal abuse the AD could face, Kei could only reply, “Until a typical shot with the background is established.”
They were on the job, and so if Kei angered the guy for not performing to the level that he wanted, then fine. But couldn’t he say it at a normal volume and tone? Did he have to do it after shooting down his suggestion? And why couldn’t he remember Kei’s damn name?
With the irregularity of the shifts, typically crew members who were free at the time would come to the shoots—there should be little chance of seeing the same people—so was it just his damn imagination having been subjected to the guy so often, that he felt that his encounter rate with Nishikido was ridiculously high?
Nishikido had only ever worked in the news business. He was well-past retirement age, and yet he remained at the network as a part-time employee, going wherever he was called with his camera. Forget an elephant, even a Gundam wouldn’t be able to crush this stubborn old man. Whenever they were assigned together, Kei wanted to call in a hit from Golgo 13 at least once every 5 minutes.2
Do something about the damn crease between his eyebrows. I’ll pay up, dammit.
Kei suffered through Nishikido’s yelling as they decided the shots that they wanted, and while running the shots they had planned through his head, a man in a black suit from the brand name store next door came striding directly up to them.
“Excuse me, may I ask what you are doing?”
It was a menacing response equally suited to Nishikido’s arrogance towards all things under the sun. If Kei were to say a positive thing about him, it would be that his personality was straightforward and no nonsense—what you saw was what you got.
If he could act a bit like a civilized person, I could sell him to the circus. As a mountain gorilla who can operate a camera.
“People got food poisoning at the restaurant next door to your place, so we’re filming here. Got a problem with that?”
The man frowned as he complained, “But our store would be shown in the footage and it could hurt our…”
“How? You’re a bag shop. No one’s gonna think you caused the food poisoning.”
“No, but it still might hurt our brand’s image, so I would like to ask that you refrain from filming. But if you must insist on filming, then I must also insist that you leave our store out of the footage and focus only on the…”
“Who the hell do you think you are!?!?”
Nishikido was loud and angry enough that Kei wondered if the equipment could break from the intensity.
“We’re doing our jobs here, so what authority do you have to tell me what to do, you shitty little brat!? Our viewers need to know what area and what street this place is at, and whatever we shoot is all important information for them! If you don’t want to be in the footage so badly, I’ll give you one minute to scram, and you can lower your damn shutters and cover up your shitty little sign!!”
If he wasn’t carrying a camera, the scene would probably look like a yakuza member threatening a regular shop employee. The poor camera assistant who looked like a young part-timer was shaking from the shock. Dammit, what if Kei were to be associated with the guy after this?
The man ran back to his store, and Nishikido turned to Kei. “If you don’t want people to keep bothering us, then hurry up and get the job done, kid.”
“My name is Kunieda,” Kei said, as he patiently introduced himself once more.
Please, someone give me the number to a Swiss bank account.
Kei returned his armband to the News Department and was writing up a memo to share among the reporters about the details of the footage he had collected when someone called his name. It was a colleague of his in the news. Tch, he was running low on his charm for the day.
“Hello. It’s good to see you.”
“Heard you’ve been out on the scene a couple of days in a row. Must be rough. How’ve you been?”
“All right, I suppose.”
“Running around outside is exhausting, huh? Filming like crazy, but getting shot down by the top all the time. It must seem pretty stupid to someone like you who’s used to appearing on TV everyday.”
“It’s always unfortunate when people aren’t afforded airtime for their work, but I don’t think it’s stupid.”
Ushio always teased Kei about being incredibly dense, but he recognized the sarcasm directed at him right now. He also noticed the looks from some of the reporters in the news bureau. Well, yeah. There was no need to get an announcer to beautifully deliver a script that was 2 or 3 sentences long. It was something a reporter or even a camera operator could handle. There were also directors who hated announcer-led reports because of the reporting presence that was lost from it. Kei had showed up out of the blue to make “special appearances” out on the scene, and it didn’t surprise him that there were reporters who felt that he was encroaching on their territory.
What the hell is it to you, losers? I’m not doing this because I want to. If you want airtime so badly, would you go get your teeth replaced for it?
The more irritated Kei got, the more immaculate his smile became. He would rather face Nishikido’s scorn than this.
“Anyway…” It seemed like the guy purposely lowered his voice. “Just between the two of us, did you do something to get in trouble? You’re like the precious prince that the network has nurtured so carefully, but why would they keep sending you outside on all these tough assignments? Even if it was the producer’s instructions, the announcer department hasn’t said a peep about it. It’s weird.”
I would also love to know what the hell I did to deserve this.
That the announcer department hadn’t intervened was proof in itself that Asou agreed with the way that Shitara was handling things, but Kei couldn’t figure out the true motive behind his temporary transfer. Did he offend him or something at the soba shop? But they weren’t the type of people to mix personal emotions with their professional duties, and so this made it all the more mystifying to Kei.
—I’m not thinking of replacing you, so don’t worry.
But it might only be the case for now. There was no telling what might happen in the future.
“I don’t have the faintest idea of what it could be.”
As Kei engaged a quiet bewilderment in his voice, he prayed to the invisible stars above, May this fucking jackass be flamed to hell and back on all of his social media accounts.
Kei wanted to go home as soon as possible, but he was so tired that he didn’t even have the energy to do so. He bought a can of sweetened coffee from the vending machines and headed to the empty cafeteria now that it was past normal business hours. The overhead lights were dimmed inside, with just the wall of screens airing each of the major TV network channels shining brightly. It made him drowsy with just the light of the screens glowing in the darkness.
Shit, he was going to fall asleep. He shook his head a few times, took a large gulp of his coffee, and turned his eyes towards the screens once again. He was attracted to one screen in particular—the one showing Kizaki’s face and the title screen for Persons. Kei hurried to move a chair next to the screen, stepped up onto it, and reached for the volume button, pressing it repeatedly.
“Good evening. People from afar; people right beside you; whoever they are, they certainly live in this era, the same as you and I. We will deliver the close-up drama of a special someone on Persons tonight. I’m your host, Kizaki Ryou, and I’ve had the privilege of meeting a very fascinating creator.”
The green tiled set enhanced Kizaki’s beautiful, clean image, and it only made Kei more miserable to the fact that he was sitting exhausted in a dark and empty cafeteria watching him.
“When I say that this person is a creator, I do not mean a novelist or a painter. Dear viewers, have you ever heard of the terms claymation or stop motion animation? It is a profession in which every second is broken up into little moments, stringing each of those moments with extraordinary amounts of labor to create a single movement, and repeating this effort until a single piece of film is created.”
And as usual, Kizaki spoke with his hatefully beautiful eloquence.
“Just how much time and emotions have been poured into a single moment that cannot be discerned by the naked eye? Please take a look.”
The screen switched to footage of Ushio’s studio. Ushio was smiling in it. Kei was now completely awake. It was Ushio. And he was smiling. But he wasn’t here. Kei’s heart clenched up, and it ached. He hadn’t received any more messages from Ushio since that day, and with his hectic work schedule, he hadn’t been able to go over to his house either. Seeing Ushio’s face on the screen like this took him completely by surprise, and it made Kei want to see Ushio badly.
Ushio smiled at the camera as he said, “Help me with this,” and held out a piece of black cloth. It was the one that Kei had worked on almost 3 months ago—the one with the fireworks embroidery.
“Oh, what is this?”
Kizaki inquired on the screen.
“I’ve been assigning all the guests to my studio an embroidery task. So I’d like to ask everyone to contribute, even the camera operator and the sound person.”
“But I’m not very good at household skills such as sewing. Will I be okay?”
“It gives the piece more individuality, which I would love to see.”
“Oh, but don’t you plan to use it in one of your films? That makes me incredibly nervous…”
When Kei had first worked on the piece of embroidery, the night sky was empty and desolate, but now there were a number of fireworks in full bloom. During the time that Kei hadn’t seen Ushio, Ushio had progressed with his work; and the reason, Because I wanted to, was what drove him forward towards the final vision that only existed inside of his head. But Kei, he couldn’t even answer the simple question, What shots do you want to take? The only thing that came to his mind was that he wanted the normal images that he could normally put on the air. How many people’s hands that weren’t Kei’s had contributed to that piece of embroidery?
Kei stood there watching Ushio on the screen, and it all felt so fresh and so new that he realized for the first time, just how much he never knew about Ushio or how he had lived his life. Ushio basically only listened to Kei talk, smiling or sighing or cracking jokes at Kei, but he didn’t talk about himself. Ushio had explained, My life’s not filled with manzai comedy gag material like yours, but from the video footage, it wasn’t exactly true. There were people coming over to the studio for meetings, Ushio going out to meet people to discuss things, sometimes filming at someone else’s studio, or making a film with design students using puppets.
But there was one particular clip, an off-shot of someone standing in the kitchen, that made Kei’s heart seize up, trickling something that was neither blood nor tears.
The first floor was fine; tolerable. That was where Ushio did his work. But letting the cameras into the kitchen? The dining table? The space farther in where the bed was? It killed him to see Kizaki standing there. If he had known about this beforehand, he would have told Ushio to turn the damn project down. If Kei had told him, Ushio would have respected his wishes, but he never imagined this would have happened—just like how he never imagined himself being in his position right now.
Why the hell are you standing there, smiling at him? That spot belongs to me. I had searched so long to finally find the place where I belong. It doesn’t even matter to you, so don’t barge into my precious space.
Get out. Give it back.
It was hateful— No, he hated Kizaki from the bottom of his heart right now. It was a jealousy that clung to his chest in a black, charred mess. And when Kei imagined Kizaki harboring these exact same feelings towards him, for years on end, it terrified him.
“Why did you decide that you wanted to do this job?”
Kizaki was sitting on the sofa that Kei knew very well. Ushio paused and looked off into the distance.
“…I suppose there’s no reason, just that things happened to turn out this way. To put it simply, probably because this was the only thing that I could do.”
This was something that Kunieda Kei, who could do anything he put his mind to doing, could not comprehend. He could anything better than most people, even if he didn’t like it.
But he didn’t have a single thing that he could say that he loved to do or a single thing that was the only thing that he could do.
Kei was exhausted, but even though he tried to sleep in the taxi on the way home, his eyes were strangely clear and lucid, as images of Ushio and Kizaki’s faces and the words they had said, floated around and around in his head. He had to go out in the afternoon tomorrow on another assignment. Uhhh… there was the ruling for the serial murderer trial in Chiba and one more thing. The murder case, the trial, and the politics around it were all jumbled inside his head, and he couldn’t sort it out at the moment.
His head was killing him. He opened the door to his apartment, and the moment when he saw Ushio’s sneakers at the entrance, for some reason the pain grew even worse.
He wanted to see Ushio, but at the same time, he didn’t. What the hell was this? Kei stood frozen at the entrance way. Eventually the numbness wore off or something, because he noticed a shadow through the frosted glass door approaching him.
“…What do you want?”
He knew he had made a mistake right off the bat. Kei had been in the wrong this entire time, but now that he saw Ushio’s face, his temper welled up inside of him, so nauseating he could vomit. Why was he suddenly sent out on all of these outside assignments? Why did Ushio have to do that damn documentary? Out of all the fucking possible days, why did he have to wait for him in his apartment today? Kei was irritated, angry, and confused.
“Don’t tell me ‘what do you want’ here.” Ushio sounded a little unhappy, but his voice was still gentle. “You always disappear and go silent on me, you know… But I suppose I’ve been busy too.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“Kei,” Ushio called out a little more insistently. “What’s wrong? Why are you so on edge?”
“I’m not. …I’m just tired. I’ll take a bath and sleep.”
So go home was implied as Kei tried to brush past him, but Ushio grabbed his arm.
“What do you want?” Kei asked.
“Why haven’t you been on the news lately?”
It was the question that he didn’t want to hear the most. Kei twisted his face and snapped, “I’ve been on the damn news.”
“I’ve seen you here and there on the different news shows during the day, but I’m asking you what happened with The News.”
“They told me to go get on-the-scenes footage. I only have one body; I can’t be at two places at the same time for god’s sake.”
Why was it that he could only say these things? He felt pathetic and ashamed of himself. Couldn’t he have phrased his words to be less antagonistic, to something a little kinder? If Ushio were to go home without complaining, Kei would only stew alone in his bitterness, upset at himself, so why was he creating all of this extra stress? His resentment towards his own worthlessness ricocheted like a pinball machine, and in the end, it had collided into Ushio.
“Does that mean you’re being transferred? Why would they do something like that?”
“How am I supposed to know?”
“But why?” Ushio pressed. “If you didn’t request it, then someone above you decided it, right? Go ask them for the reason. I know you’re busy, but your exhaustion doesn’t look like you’re happy about it. If you don’t understand why they’re making you do this, you can at least ask them for an explanation.”
“This is my job; it doesn’t matter what the damn reason is, I have to do what I’m told. Unlike you, I’m an employee at a large corporation.”
“So what? Are announcers supposed to be slaves then?”
“If you want to think of it that way, then go ahead.”
“Knowing you, you’re probably overthinking everything in your head. But why don’t you drop the pretense and try opening yourself up to someone? I’m pretty sure Shitara-san would understand.”
“Don’t be fucking stupid, dammit!!”
Kei shook off Ushio’s hand as hard as he could. Could he have suggested anything crueler to him?
“You’re the one who knows damn fucking well that I can’t open myself up to anyone!!”
“Hey, calm down, okay? I’m not saying that you need to go to work in your sweats or even say the things that you tell me in private. But you can give your opinion, express your concerns, and hash things out normally. Shitara-san won’t ignore the concerns of anyone on his team, and if you ask, he’ll give you a serious answer. If you can’t communicate at least this much, then how you can make a good TV show?”
“Are you saying this is my fault!?” Kei didn’t even remember how late it was as he yelled. “That my fucking personaility and inability to talk to people means that our show will never be any good!? That’s why our ratings are down the drain!? That on the inside, I completely lose to Kizaki Ryou!?”
“That’s not what I meant.”
Kei could tell that Ushio was frustrated that he couldn’t get Kei to understand what he was saying.
See? It’s fucking pointless. Talking won’t help anything.
“You’re the one who said that I’m fine the way I am. Even if it’s weird.”
“I don’t care anymore!!” Kei threw his bag on the floor and covered his ears with his hands. “Do this! Do that! How do you want this? How do you want that? I don’t want to hear any more!! Haven’t I done things better than most people!? Haven’t I been doing my job properly!? Why are you, why is everyone unhappy with the work I’ve been doing!?”
“I hate this. My head’s gonna explode. I want to be alone, so please just let me be.”
Kei’s hands were like lids over his ears, and his whispers echoed loudly inside his head. Ushio looked like he wanted to say something, gazing at the floor and walls like he was searching for something to say, but eventually he pressed his lips together, went to put on his shoes, and left. Kei watched the lock turn as the door was locked from the outside.
Kei left his bag on the floor as he stumbled into the living room and sat down on the sofa. He was well-past the breaking point of his emotions, and all that remained was a lethargy for everything around him. He recognized that he was awful to Ushio, but it would take some time for his feelings to recuperate and hit him with the enormity of his actions.
Kei reached for the remote control and pressed the button for his recordings. He must be a masochist for wanting to watch Newsment after everything that had happened. Whether he chased it or ignored it, he still felt like he lost in the end. So which of the two options would be the least strain on his heart?
After the usual news stories, there was a special report on the euthanization of stray cats and dogs. When the clip finished and the screen went back to the studio, there were tears in Kizaki’s eyes.
“I’m sorry, I have a dog at home, and I just couldn’t help it…”
“It is definitely a story that chokes people up.”
He would get 0 points as an announcer. It wasn’t professional to cry on the air. But Kizaki wasn’t an announcer, and he was allowed to have that reaction even if it was fake. There were probably a lot of viewers who had watched this and cried with him. His crying face was beautiful, and if it helped with the ratings, no one could say anything about it. It wasn’t like Kei wanted to imitate him, but he felt like a boring script-reading robot, unable to break out of the restrictions binding him as an announcer. Maybe Pepper-kun3 was better off in his place.
Anyway, Kei was the one who wanted to cry. If anything, he wanted something that could make him cry. He might feel better after letting his emotions and frustrations out. But his eyes were so dry that they almost hurt, and even after closing them, it just felt like there was dust irritating him.
- Japan uses armbands for a lot of official uses. The press band acts like a press badge.
- Golgo 13 is a famous manga series about a professional assassin. It is also the pseudonym for the main character.
- Pepper is a semi-humanoid robot built by Softbank Robotics. It is typically used as a receptionist and is designed to read emotions.