Chapter 18: Center of the World (5)
His cell phone rang just as he arrived at the office. The caller was Shitara, and Kei needed to steel himself a little to answer the call.
“Good morning. This is Kunieda.”
“I just stopped by the announcer department and didn’t see you there. Are you outside?”
“I’m about to get on the elevator.”
“Okay, can I see you for a minute? Let’s get coffee together. I’ll be in the cafe on the 10th floor.”
What does he want to talk about? Does he want me to resign? It can’t be that, he hasn’t treated me that coldly.
Kei thought about the possibility that Ushio might have said something. …The possibility wasn’t zero, but he probably wouldn’t take such an extreme action.
Kei arrived at the two-person table where Shitara was sitting, and just as the coffee was set on the table, Shitara started chuckling to himself.
“Sorry, Tatsuki was pretty funny yesterday.”
Did he make an incredibly creative reading error?
“He came over to complain to me, asking why Kunieda-san’s appearances have dried up lately.”
So that’s what he was laughing at? I haven’t dried up yet, dammit. I’m on TV more times a day than before. From good morning to good night, I’m on the damn TV.
It pissed Kei off at how Tatsuki could say whatever was on his mind.
“He was angry and said that he had a right to an explanation as a co-presenter on the show. Apparently, he went to Asou about it too. He’s absolutely fearless. Oh, would you like milk or sugar?”
“No, thank you.”
“And then I remembered that you hadn’t come to speak about it with me at all.”
What the hell do you mean that then you remembered? Kei criticized scathingly in his head. You going senile on me?
“Obviously you would have questions as to why you’ve been sent to cover stories out on the scene, but you didn’t say a thing.”
“I believed that you had your reasons for doing so. If you decided that it was the best for the show, then I will follow your directives.”
“I see, so you had placed your trust in me.”
It wasn’t a lie. Shitara had been thinking about all aspects of the show, and that was why it had scared Kei so much to ask. It was why it had angered him when Ushio asked him why he didn’t ask. It wasn’t that easy for Kei.
“I see…” Shitara rested his chin in his hands. His gestures were laid-back, but his eyes were shrewd like he was weighing everything that Kei had said. It felt like Kei was at an audition.
“Kunieda, what do you think is the worst thing a show can do on TV?”
“I believe it would be to have poor ratings.”
Shitara’s gaze turned cold at his answer, and Kei thought that the steam rising from the coffee cups would disappear.
“Wrong. Is that your only answer?”
Making a mistake on the air? Having a scandal involving the staff or the presenters? Spreading misinformation? Having romantic relations with someone on staff? All of the answers that Kei could think of, he didn’t need to vocalize because he knew he would get the same answer back. Wrong. He clenched his fingers under the table. It was a short silence, but it made his stomach churn.
“…It’s when you make your show without looking at your viewers,” Shitara said quietly. It felt like Shitara’s quiet gaze was attacking him and saying, How could you not know that?
“Whatever happens, whether it’s directives from upper management, managing the moods of the presenters, whatever it may be, I have to steer the ship through all sorts of challenges. I can’t rely on naive thinking alone to do my job, but this is the one thing that I won’t bend on. If we start looking at other shows, thinking, oh they’re doing that better, or oh we should do that too, then that’s the beginning of the end for us.”
See? And the thing that I don’t want to hear the most, just comes stabbing me in the heart.
“I really like your delivery of the news, Kunieda. And I don’t mean just your technical skills. For example, I could be working on something with the TV playing in the background, and I’ll be pulled away in a good way by the sound of your voice. You’d be saying something on TV and I’d want to know what. It’s not a talent; I just think you understand exactly what needs to be conveyed, and you face the viewers directly to deliver it. There is this power you have in your voice.”
Shitara took a sip of coffee before continuing. “However…”
This was the part that Kei didn’t want to hear. He could cover his ears if Ushio was the one talking.
“I wonder what happened. As far as I can tell, you’ve been working as hard as ever, still humble and serious about your work. But ever since spring, your voice started to slowly change. …Can you think of anything that might have caused it?”
Kei looked directly at Shitara and answered, “No, I’m afraid I don’t. I’m very sorry.”
The Ushio inside of his head argued, Why don’t you say something here? But it was impossible for Kei. Utterly and hopelessly impossible.
“I see. But I can’t hear your voice as you are right now. It’s not your fault that our ratings are in a bit of a slump, but I can see it having an effect on us in the long run. That’s why I decided to do something about it now. Though I say that, I can’t give you any specific advice to help, which makes me a rather pathetic producer…but in the meantime, I thought that placing you closer to the viewers could help shake things free for you.”
It hadn’t had the intended effect—Kei knew that better than anyone. “I’m very sorry,” he said, standing up without taking his coffee. “But it’s about time I make my preparations to leave for an assignment.”
“Sure, sorry to pull you out when you’re so busy. Oh, one more thing.”
“I know that people might be saying all sorts of things about the situation, but the News Department has the highest praise for your work. There are some announcers who leave the hard work of gathering information to the directors, only speaking to the camera and taking the spotlight, but people have told me that you’ve been doing all the background work without ever complaining about it. You’ve probably faced a lot of unpleasant situations, but you haven’t once backed down or whined about it. You do your job as Kunieda Kei wherever you are…And I know that there may be times when you might not want to hear that, but I think you are amazing. You have my utmost respect.”
“Thank you very much.”
Oh, no, not at all. I recently erupted at home and had a complete meltdown. My work and my private life are in shambles, and I don’t know what to do with myself… Would Shitara take pity on him if he confessed this? Kei knew exactly what the source of his problem was, but even if Kizaki dropped off the face of the earth, would he be able to recover like nothing had happened? If Newsment was cancelled, would everything be solved? No, of course not.
Hello, we are broadcasting live on the scene where we have a talking gorilla.
“Hey! You’re still shaking around, you lousy brat! Can’t you hold a damn fork for a shot, you numbskull!?”
Loud, isn’t he? Ugly, isn’t he? I would love to see him return home to his mountain. Well, that’s all the time we have for today. Goodbye, and we’ll see you next week.
As Kei reported live inside of his head, he watched yet once again a scene of Nishikido berating a poor AD at the top of his lungs. He was completely worked up at an inconsequential assignment—Kei could probably hook up a cable to the old man and charge up his cell phone. But Kei didn’t want the schedule being delayed as he watched from the sidelines, and so he said, “Excuse me,” as he went up to the AD. For a gourmet tasting assignment, lifting the food up from the plate with a pair of chopsticks, a fork, or a spoon was an indispensable part of the footage, and if the AD wasn’t used to it, it could be quite difficult to perform.
“It should help stabilize your arm if you use your left hand to support your right elbow.”
“Oh, you’re right! Thank you very much!”
“Hey, kid. Once I’m done with this, we’re shooting your tasting report. Go get ready.”
“My name is Kunieda.”
They were filming footage as part of a press preview for an American roast beef specialty restaurant and the grand opening of their first location in Japan. The restaurant had their own ideas of what they wanted to film, and so the advertising department took charge of managing the project. All the filming was done indoors, and Kei could eat meat for free. By all accounts, it should have been a tasty assignment, but lately his stomach had been bothering him because of his stress, and he couldn’t work up much of an appetite. The slice of roast beef was larger than his face, served with a thick, rich sauce and a side of fluffy mashed potatoes. It was a shock to himself even, that he couldn’t muster up the excitement to eat this. If he didn’t eat, he wouldn’t have the energy to do his job; it affected his skin and overall complexion for the cameras, but any solid food hurt his stomach so much that it was like being squished by several sets of rollers.
“When I give the signal, please cut into the beef as you say, ‘Let’s go ahead and try a piece.’ Then when you bring the fork up to your mouth, please briefly look into the camera. And after you finish the bite, please give us a few words.”
I don’t wanna eat this, I don’t wanna eat this, I don’t wanna eat this.
Kei didn’t even want to look at the piece of meat, shining brightly under the overhead lights. However, if he didn’t get an okay on this first take, he’d have to keep eating until they got it right. Kei desperately put on his camera face as he worked up the strength to put the thing in his mouth.
“Let’s go ahead and try a piece. Wow, look at how large a portion this is. Just a single slice might be enough to fill me up—…Oh, yes, the sauce packs quite a punch with the red wine and garlic, but it doesn’t overpower the rich, beautiful taste of the beef. Very delicious.”
“…And cut! Give us a few to check the take.”
Don’t act up on me, Kei warned his stomach as he went to watch the take from behind the director on the small camera monitor. Before even watching it, he was depressed. Even though there was no problem putting his current appearance on the air, Kei knew that it would be entirely obvious on camera that he was far from his normally perfect condition.
“—Let’s go ahead and try a piece.”
Contrary to his expectations, he looked as brilliant as ever over the monitor. There was a vitality to his smile, to the gesture of his nod, everything. It was absolutely the face of a beautiful prince.
Was I always so beautiful that even stressed I looked like this? Was there an aura correction feature added to the latest camera technology? If I was an amateur who went on TV looking like this, the network would be flooded with messages asking who I was, crashing all the servers. No, maybe I’m so tired that my normal standards have fallen.
“Looks good. Let’s look at the fork shot while we’re at it.”
It was a 10-second shot (that took 30 minutes to film) of a fork slicing through a piece of roast beef covered in sauce and lifting it off the plate. While he watched it, Kei’s stomach started to rumble lightly. Fortunately, no one seemed to have heard it, and Kei kept silent, pretending nothing had happened, but it surprised him deeply to hear his appetite roaring back to life. He had absolutely no interest when the real thing was in front of his eyes, and it had been tasteless, like chewing a piece of old gum.
But Kei’s stomach did indeed react to the image taken through the lens of a camera, and it said, That looks amazing. I wanna eat it.
“Man, no wonder Nishikido-san is always called to film everything food-related. My mouth is watering under all that Nishikido magic. I could eat this shot for lunch.”
Nishikido ignored the director’s glowing praise as he impatiently prepared for the next scene. “We’re filming the interview with the owner next. Quit jabbering and move your asses!”
So the correction feature wasn’t installed in the camera but in Nishikido instead. They had only teamed together on serious news stories up until now—was that why he hadn’t pulled out that mode yet? A camera was simply a tool, and Kei had always thought that a camera operator’s skill lay in their sense of composition and ability to sniff out memorable moments. The rest was left to good luck to get a good shot. It was a simple fork shot that didn’t require any imagination, something that Kei could probably do if it only required a press of a button, but he found it incredible that it could turn out so differently.
They returned to the network by van, and after everyone thanked each other in the parking garage for their hard work, Nishikido called out to Kei.
“My name is Kunieda.”
“We’re heading out for a bit.”
“May I ask where to?”
“Not far from here. It won’t take long.”
The two of us?
Kei could think of 10 things for his next assignment that he could use an excuse to say no, but he decided to follow him quietly because he had a few questions for the old man he wanted to ask. He wanted to know why his eyes were drawn to such a simple-looking shot. Though he’d probably give everyone’s bulletproof answer: Because he loves it.
If he says something like it’s out of love for the subject, I’m gonna arrest him. For making my stomach queasy.
Nishikido led Kei through a familiar alleyway—they arrived at the soba shop where he ate with Asou before.
“A pork cutlet curry on rice and a mushroom rice porridge. Make it with less rice so it’s on the thinner side.”
“Yes, yes, sure.”
What? Did he just order for me too?
Nishikido offered no explanation and closed the menu. “Remember to eat up before you come to film.”
“I’m sorry, I had heard that it was a tasting report.”
“Don’t lie. That’s not the face of someone who’s skipped a meal or two.” Nishikido crossed his arms sullenly and didn’t say another word.
Kei decided to ask him a question. “Um, Nishikido-san, why did you decide to become a camera operator?”
“I never thought about it. They stuck me in the camera crew for the news when I first joined and been doing it ever since. The equipment’s damn heavy; it’s a rough job—go anywhere overseas a little sketchy, and you get targeted by gangs thinking you’re packing assault weapons. There’s nothing good about this job.”
“But you’re already at retirement age, and yet you still—”
“Obviously it’s for the money. My youngest is still in college. She’s not that bright, but she’s yammering about going to grad school.”
Kei was taken aback by the incredibly practical answer. He had been expecting some pretentious art talk.
“What? You dissatisfied by the answer? If I had to say something good, I guess going to the training courses at the different affiliate stations was pretty fun. ‘Cause I got a couple of free trips out of it.”
“Oh, I wasn’t dissatisfied. I was just… a little surprised.”
“Want to hear something more surprising?”
“I originally applied to be an announcer.”
Kei was really glad that he wasn’t eating at the moment. He would have done a spit take. An announcer? With a face that looked more like a rock than a homo sapien? Maybe he had a sliver of hope if he went back 7 generations to marry Triendl Reina1 into his family and laundered his DNA.
Nishikido saw that Kei was rendered speechless and clicked his tongue. “What? You’re probably thinking I couldn’t tell what was outta my league, but you should know that things weren’t all about appearances back then!”
But even so, there’s no way… Kei thought as he decided to follow up further. “Why did you apply to become an announcer?”
“I loved baseball and I wanted to do the play-by-plays. It’s fun saying things like, ‘And it’s a hit! It’s going, going, and it’s gone!’ But forget about doing play-by-plays, I couldn’t even get transferred to the sports department.”
“Knocked over an idiot who got into the frame while we were filming at an accident site. He got up in the ranks and denied all my requests.”
Kei could see this pattern repeating itself for 100 other people he had probably offended.
After letting out a sigh, the tone in Nishikido’s voice changed—from about a rock to a tree in softness. “…There was an announcer who was hired the year when I applied. Well, I suppose he was a lady killer. Had a real nice voice too. During the group interviews, one look and I could tell he was different from everyone. Everyone there could see it. He got popular, but then things went downhill from there. He got so much attention that it went to his head. Went out with women every night to get smashed. In the end, he missed two of his live broadcasts and his assignments dried up. Obvious, right? Doesn’t matter how good or popular you are, no one wants to use an announcer like that.”
“What is he doing now?”
“He quit, but I don’t know what happened to him after. With everything he did, he couldn’t go independent even if he wanted to.”
It was a small industry where rumors spread like wildfire. Just like how the story of Kei’s hiring had spread.
“Everyone said he got what he deserved.”
Nishikido’s voice hardened once again. He was angry about it—no, he was sad about it.
“It went to his head and he self-destructed. …It was true, yeah, but what about the leeches who put him up on that pedestal and let things get to his head until he lost it? Don’t they have any responsibility for their own? Couldn’t things have been different if they had cared to bring him up right? It’s all a bunch of crock, if you ask me.”
His voice dropped to barely a whisper, like something that was long forgotten.
“…I liked his on-air broadcasts. He was so good that it was no wonder that I wasn’t hired. It made me proud and happy to think of it like that.”
Their orders arrived, and it was like their serious conversation had never happened as Nishikido took a mere minute to scarf down his cutlet curry rice bowl, yelled at Kei for being slow, and stomped out of the shop. He had paid for their lunches. The rice porridge was almost like soup, and it was delicious. Kei’s stomach was happy to have some food in it after not eating for several days.
Kei had several hours to kill until he had to go out at night for his next assignment. He watched the evening news in the announcer department and saw himself on the TV from just a few hours ago. Even on air, the Nishikido magic was in effect—as if Kunieda Kei was an actual prince—and it made Kei extremely happy. He had become so depressed because of his work, but it was his work that also saved him.
—That’s what you call the pain of an artist, you can never dispel it unless you’re constantly working on something different.
Ushio had said that to him once before. Back when he could never imagine that he would fall in love with him.
Kei felt like he now finally understood the meaning of those words.
“Oh, there you are, Kunieda-kun~!”
However, at the sound of the nasally high-pitched voice, Kei lost the motivation that he had painstakingly regained.
What the hell do you want, you worthless idiot!?
“I’m so glad I finally found you. The interview that we talked about will be next week Thursday.”
Oh, right, Cinenight. Kei had completely forgotten about it.
“You’ve been busy lately, so I bet it’s hard for you to go to the press screening. I brought a copy of the DVD for you, so take a look at it with the other materials before the interview.”
“Thank you very much.”
“Don’t forget about the wall slam!”
“Y-Yes, I won’t forget.”
That was when the manager of the department spoke up. “Thursday? Can you move it to another day?”
“Of course not. The guests have their own schedules we need to accommodate. Why, what’s wrong?”
“Just that Kunieda’s been working too much, and HR has been making a fuss about it.” The manager smiled wryly. “Last year, you didn’t take any days off during the summer either. I know it’s sudden notice, but starting next week Thursday until the end of the following week, you’ll have to take your vacation days.”
“The taping will be in the morning. Couldn’t he just take off from Thursday afternoon?”
“Sounds all right. What do you think, Kunieda?”
“It will be fine, thank you very much.”
Why the hell are you asking me when I don’t even have a say in the matter? I hate people giving me work I don’t want, just as much as I hate people forcing me to take vacation.
“I’ll talk to Shitara and Asou about it. When they get together, they tend to do whatever they want. You should go on a trip to get a change of pace.”
The farther the better. That way you can’t be called back if something big happens, the manager had ominously advised him, but trips were too much of a hassle. At most, he would go back to his parents’ house where everything was taken care of for him.
He returned directly home from the nighttime assignment location, watched the DVD he was given once through, and picked up a book from the mountain of manga that was piled on the coffee table in his living room.
…What the hell? Why are the panels in all sorts of crazy shapes? What order am I supposed to read this?
It was the first time that he really sat down to read a shoujo manga, and Kei didn’t know what to expect. After some confusion for 2 to 3 volumes, he finally got the hang of reading it, and he could properly follow the story. To help with his wall slam assignment, he tried saying some of the boy’s lines as he flipped through the pages.
“Hey, try being more honest with your feelings.”
“You’re not being very cute, you know.”
“But I don’t hate it when you’re like that.”
“…Shut the hell up, you damn moron!! Who the hell are you, telling someone’s daughter how they can or can’t act!? You can’t even contribute to your retirement fund yet, so back off on your fucking advances on the girl!”
Kei couldn’t help unleashing his wrath towards the pile of paper and ink.
Of course, she can’t be honest with her feelings, just because you think it, doesn’t mean you can do it. If she could will herself to be honest with her feelings, she probably had an honest personality to begin with and there wouldn’t even be a need to tell her to be more honest with her feelings to begin with— Uh, I don’t even know what I’m saying anymore. Anyway, when did I get over the weird gigantic eyes of the characters and slip into the heroine’s position? The power of shoujo manga is scary.
And 95% of the story was all romance, and he couldn’t help but look back on his own personal life.
Kei sprawled onto the sofa and thrashed his feet in a tantrum, agonizing over why he couldn’t be a little more rational when Ushio came over to see him. He felt even worse about it because however horribly Kei took his anger out on Ushio, Ushio would always forgive him in the end. When Kei thought about how damn forgiving Ushio was about almost anything, it made him all the more aware of how petty and small he was. But at the same time, maybe he wouldn’t mind surrendering his pride and his stubbornness, as long as it was to Ushio.
Just a little longer, Kei thought as he turned his attention back to the manga. After I finish taping this interview and start my summer vacation, I’ll come see you and apologize.
So wait for me, just a little longer.
“That was an amazing job~!! Thank you, Kunieda-kun!”
The taping of the interview had finished, and the ringleader in charge of the wall slam was somewhere on cloud nine.
“It’s no problem at all.”
“The management was happy that you had watched the movie and read the manga too. Just between the two of us, the interview they had right before us didn’t go very well and they were angry that the interviewer hadn’t prepared beforehand, so I was a little worried, but it went perfectly~!”
“I’m glad that I could be of service.”
“Oh, and then that wall slam!! The makeup artists and essentially everyone on staff were raving about it!! I’m going to record it and memorialize it forever~!”
It was so embarrassing I could die. Don’t you dare bring another project to me out of your personal self-interest ever again.
At any rate, Kei was free to leave work now. He took a secret way out of the building just in case someone might catch him and try to rope him into an assignment. And since it had been a while, he did a top-down cleaning of his entire apartment, even laundering his linens and straightening up his bed.
Uh, you know, because I have 10 days off, and we might spend a number of days together here. I wasn’t thinking of anything in particular… Kei said to the air Ushio in his head as he took a long and relaxing soak in the tub. He planned to go see the real Ushio later that night.
Because it had been a while, Kei felt a sense of relief at just the fact that his spare key still fit into the lock of the front door. Not that Ushio would change the lock on him. He prepared himself to open the door: not too soft, not too over-the-top, but just normally. He turned the doorknob to go inside, but the house was dark and Ushio’s shoes were gone.
Kei turned on the lights, checked around the studio, and even went upstairs, but no one was home. What the hell? he thought disappointedly. I just whiffed the ball all prepared to face him. No wait, maybe it’s better for me this way? This time I can tell him “Welcome home.” But what if he asks me, “What do you want?”…But he won’t. Because it’s Ushio and he would never ask that.
Maybe he was out shopping? Or out eating dinner? Kei decided to watch TV upstairs and wait for him. It was a little past 8 pm at the time, but then 9 pm and 10 pm came around and Ushio still hadn’t come home.
Uh, what’s taking him so long? I’m starving here, dammit. Come on.
Kei checked this cell phone, but he hadn’t said anything before coming over, so of course he wouldn’t have any messages. He was afraid that if he texted him, he might make the situation worse again before getting to see Ushio’s face. The TV just happened to be on Jipangu, and Newsment came on to the screen, but Kei didn’t pay much attention to it. His head was in full vacation mode, and he was busy worrying that Ushio wasn’t home yet.
Eventually, Newsment started wrapping up their show.
“Just a reminder to our viewers, but tomorrow at this time, Newsment will be taking a short break in order to air Team Japan’s soccer match at the International Goodwill Games. …Kizaki-kun, weren’t you planning to take a trip?”
“That’s right. I’m taking a trip to the hot springs until Sunday with staff members from another show that I’m on. Everyone’s already arrived, and I’ll be catching up with them after this.”
“And what show would that be?”
It was a voice from the guest gallery.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t say.”
“Oh, from another station, I see.”
“Please don’t say anymore.”
Hmph, a trip to the hot springs? It’s already so hot out, but whatever. A trip, huh? A trip… with another show…
…Wait a minute.
Kei turned off the TV, went over to the closet, and slowly pulled open the doors. Ushio didn’t have that many clothes in the first place, and it was mainly used for other storage. He didn’t have that many bags either, and Kei immediately noticed that the canvas Boston bag that Ushio used for short trips was gone. Next, Kei checked the refrigerator; there were bottled drinks and water, but no perishable food in sight.
Oi, oi, oi, oi, oi. You can’t be serious.
He wandered through the first and second floors, but he couldn’t find any additional evidence that would lead to Ushio’s whereabouts. Kei decided to try a different approach.
He searched for Persons’ official Twitter account and browsed through a number of followers until he found an account that seemed to belong to a staff member.
“We’re already in full celebration mode!”
The tweet was from 7 hours ago, and there was a picture of a hand holding a can of beer next to a train window. Kei looked through several other accounts that seemed to be connected to the show, and there were enough hints and signs about being on a trip that Kei was convinced that the show had to be Persons. Kei had held out some hope for Ushio’s return while he was rummaging for information, but there was no sound from the front entrance.
So what was he going to do? It would be too weird and suspicious to make an account and ask, Would there happen to be a Tsuzuki Ushio with you? It wouldn’t work.
And so goes The Internet Detective and the Case of the Immediate Dead End—…No wait.
I could just ask.
Kei closed his browser and opened up his phone book.
“Hey there, Kunieda-san~! Oh, right! The business department brought us some cake today, but you already went home, so I ate your portion. That’s okay, right?”
Kei almost replied without thinking, I don’t give a damn and never will, but he adjusted to his formal voice and asked, “Minagawa-kun, are you alone right now?”
“Oh, I’m alone, but I’m still at work. Hold on, I’ll move to a better location.”
Tatsuki’s excellent intuition could be a pain in the ass, but it also came in handy at times, like it did now.
“…All right, it should be good now. I’m at Studio D, the place where they keep the props. No one will come here at this hour. Is there something you wanted to talk about?”
“Okay then. …With that shady personal network of yours, can you connect with someone on the staff of Persons?”
“Huh? You mean the show on OrientTV? And what do you mean by shady?”
“So can you or can’t you?”
Tatsuki replied, “Yeah, I probably can,” sounding fairly suspicious of Kei.
“I don’t think it involves the entire staff, but some of the members should have gone on a trip to the hot springs today. I want to know if he’s there with them.”
“Who are you talking about? …Don’t tell me you mean Kizaki-san? He’s one of their presenters, right? Senpai, I don’t think it’s a good idea to be stalking him.”
“Not him! I mean h-i-m.”
What the hell is wrong with your brain today?
Kei yelled impatiently, “There could only be one person I mean, dammit! Use your head!”
“Huh? Oh, you mean Tsuzuki-san?”
“Can’t you say his name normally? Are you really that shy about it? What are you, a bossy, old-fashioned husband from the Showa era who can only call his wife by saying ‘Oi’?”2
“I’m curious, what do you call him when you’re alone together? Uttan maybe?”
“I said shut up. You can drop dead.”
“Anyway, why don’t you just ask Tsuzuki-san directly? Want me to ask for you?”
“No! You can’t. I forbid you. You ate my cake, so you have to listen to what I say.”
“All right then~ Oh, I know! Are you checking to see if he’s cheating on you?”
Kei needed to make sacrifices to get what he wanted, but arghh, must suppress the urge to kill.
“He would never do that, dammit.”
Kei didn’t say it to inflate his own ego; he said it with his full trust in Ushio as a person.
“I suppose that’s true. Tsuzuki-san would never cheat, unlike you, Kunieda-san.”
“Shut up! I don’t wanna hear that from the scoundrel who tried to lure me into it!”
Why did he have to exhaust himself just to ask for a little favor? Anyway, Kei had given him the details, and all he could do was go to bed and wait. But it hadn’t even an hour when Tatsuki called him back. It was great to have such a useful junior colleague, if only his personality wasn’t so annoying.
“It looks like Tsuzuki-san is there with them. They’re over in Nagano. I also asked for the name of the inn where they’re staying. It’s called…”
Kei quickly wrote the name down. He ignored Tatsuki’s “I’ll be waiting for my souvenirs!” and hung up the phone.
After entering the name into the search engine, he quickly found the website.
No, I’m not going to go. I was just trying to find out what had happened. Wouldn’t it make me a crazy stalker if I went chasing after him? Anyway, he’ll be back Sunday. I don’t even like going on trips, and there’s nothing great about the hot springs.
But now that Kei confirmed that Ushio was on a trip at the hot springs, he started to get angry.
Why the hell did he have to pick this day to go on a trip? And with Kizaki Ryou going along? Really? How horrible is that? Anyway, I told you to wait for me! No wait, maybe I didn’t. No, I did, to the air version of you. Why didn’t you get it over the air waves? Do you have time to be soaking in the hot springs?
He should have satisfied his curiosity after learning where Ushio was, but now he was even more restless. If I open this, it means I’ve completely given into him, Kei thought, and yet he still reached out to tap the link that read, Directions to the Inn.