Part 2: Imitation Gold
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
Translator Note: This side story takes place around the end of Volume 2.
Nishikido headed to the lounge area for news cameramen and checked the memo from the camera desk. There were two camera crews covering an emergency bomb squad response. The bomb squad would finish their work rendering safe an explosive device that day, but one of the crews would remain on site for continuing news coverage. People could take a taxi over if there was no room in the news van. A location was chosen for tomorrow night’s interview about an expiration date scandal with K Seafoods, and a crew would head over to Araki at 1 pm for an overnight stay… As for his own schedule, Nishikido was assigned to cover an incident for the daytime news. Someone had strung fishing line between some trees at a park, and an elderly man had come across it on his bicycle in the early morning, fell, and hurt himself. The reporter would be… Minagawa from the announcer department. Shit, it was that loud, annoying brat, wasn’t he? They would be teaming up for the first time, and Nishikido wasn’t looking forward to it. It was gonna be a real pain in the ass, he could tell.
Just as Nishikido started to head to the smoking room for a cigarette, he ran into Kunieda walking towards him in the hallway.
“Nishikido-san, good morning.”
Kunieda held up a paper gift bag. “Um, I received a box of sweets from Narayama-kun from Nagano Asahi as a thank-you for the live report that we did together. I was thinking of bringing them to the camera desk.”
“You can leave them on a table somewhere. People will help themselves to it.”
“I will do that. It seems that he is able to do his TV job normally now.”
“Heh. Well, it doesn’t change that he’s still useless.”
“He has his whole career in front of him.”
Kunieda gently covered for him, but who knew what he actually thought. There was too much of a difference between the two of them even after accounting for their ages—Narayama could never compare to him no matter how hard he tried or how many chances he was given. Anyway, there was no rule saying he couldn’t do his job if he wasn’t spectacular at it. Nishikido had seen plenty of lackluster announcers over the course of his career, and Narayama was another drop in the bucket.
“Hey, what’s that Minagawa kid like, Kunieda?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Gonna cover a live report with him today. He’s on The News with you, right?”
“…I believe it would be better to see for yourself rather than asking me. You’ll understand in about 30 seconds once you meet him,” Kunieda replied with a vague smile. He wasn’t the type to put on airs, so why was he dancing around the question?
Nishikido was smoking a cigarette in the smoking room when the door opened and he saw a face that would never usually show itself in this place.
“Nishikido-san, long time no see.”
There were 3 or 4 other people smoking in the room, but when they saw Asou, they immediately put out their cigarettes and excused themselves. Asou hadn’t said a word to them, but it was ridiculous to yield their right to smoke in the few places where it was allowed. Nishikido blew a puff of smoke at him, clearly declaring that he didn’t give a damn about the guy’s throat.
“What do you want?”
“It looked like Kunieda was in your care in Nagano, and I wanted to say thank you very much.”
“What the hell are you saying when you were obviously toying with the kid?”
“If he had folded at that little objection, then the smart thing to do would be to call off the report. The public airwaves aren’t for after-school playtime.”
“Heh.” Nishikido lit up another cigarette.
“Besides, I got to see Kunieda push back for the first time since he’s been here. That honors student who completes all his assignments with nothing short of A+’s. It was all worth it.”
“And I hate how you look down at everyone like they’re pawns for your own amusement,” Nishikido spat out along with a lungful of smoke. “You and Shitara both—you trying to crush him until he flames out from all the work you pushed on him? His workload’s been crazy. You think you’re giving him an endurance test or something?”
“Now this is a rare sight,” Asou laughed, not afraid in the least. “I could never imagine you caring enough to step in for one of our youngsters here.”
“It’s not like that. I could say the same for you. You go around like no announcers are worth a damn except you, but here you are playing mentor. So you finally feel like shaping a successor for yourself, huh?”
“Why do you think it’s even necessary to have a successor for me?”
Nishikido could see a shimmer of heat rising off of Asou’s shoulders, but the temperature in the narrow, closed room plummeted between them. Well, maybe both things were just him imagining things. In any case, he realized all over again how he hated the guy.
“Probably ‘cause there’s only one genius in a generation,” Nishikido answered.
“I’ve never thought of it like that. Talent is largely unfair, bestowed by chance on people who never wanted it in the first place.”
“Just like it did for you.”
Nishikido’s eyes widened at the surprising response to his halfhearted reply. “The hell?”
“You might think of yourself as a dried-up cameraman who can only get work in the news, but what you think is far from the truth. To put it very simply, your camera skills are so far beyond genius that nothing else compares. Now matter how mundane a subject is, once you train your camera on it, you transform it into something special, Nishikido-san.”
“You’re creeping me out.”
“Speaking of which, I clearly remember said person rejecting all the prizes he was awarded, saying that he didn’t want any of that ‘crap’ in his words and skipping out on the award ceremonies…”
“Shut the hell up!”
Nishikido supported himself and his family on other people’s misfortunes, and it didn’t sit well with him to get showered with praise for sticking his nose into those misfortunes. However, he didn’t feel the need to disclose any of those mushy details to this damn bastard. Irritated, he raised his voice so loud that he scared a number of staff people who were walking by beyond the glass door. But Asou just gave a cool and calm “Sorry for bothering you on your break” and turned around to leave.
“Um, Asou-san, are you all right? What just happened…?”
“It’s fine, it’s nothing.”
Great, now there’ll be rumors going around saying that I threatened the treasure of Asahi TV. Heh.
Kunieda was spot on with his words when he said he’d understand in about 30 seconds.
“Nishikido-san, were you really with a foreign mercenary force?”
Were there really idiots who would ask a question like this after introducing himself? Nishikido ignored him and climbed into the news van.
“Is it true that you have 7 bullet hole wounds in your chest?”
“Do you really have the names of all your fallen comrades tattooed all over your body?”
“Do you really know a hundred different ways to kill someone with your bare hands?”
“Shut the hell up, will you!? I don’t even know 10!”
“Awww, man, but I wanted you to teach me all 100 of them.” Minagawa looked sincerely disappointed.
“Who the hell’s spreading this stupid shit!?”
“Huh? I feel like everyone’s saying it at the network.”
“You’re the only one who ridiculous enough to ask the guy to his face…” the director mumbled from the front passenger seat. What the hell was the announcer department teaching their staff?
“Hey, I gotta get to the bottom of things. I’m part of the news department too, you know?”
“Hey, brat, yammer all you want, but you better have all the materials for today’s report in your head. I’m gonna deck you if you drag your feet at the site.”
“Oh, didn’t I just give my name? It’s Minagawa, remember~?”
Nishikido ignored him, crossed his arms, and hardened his eyes. He didn’t know why, but apparently it made his face was so stern-looking that most people were too scared to talk to him any longer.
“Nishikido-san, are you listening? Hello, I’m Minagawa Tatsuki.”
…But there were exceptions sometimes.
“Good evening, I’m Takigawa Christel. Good evening, I’m Kouda Charmine.”1
That’s a pretty old name. How does he know of her?
“Hi, I’m Goku!”2
“Oh, was that a laugh I detected? You laughed, didn’t you? Da-dun! Nishikido, you’re out~! Want a bat to the butt? How about a Thai kick? Or how about you just treat me to some ramen when we finish the report?”3
“Oi! Someone shove this brat out the window! I haven’t done any work yet and I’m exhausted!”
“That’s just the way he is. Please get used to him, okay?”
However, once they got to the site and Nishikido focused his camera on the idiot, he transformed in an instant into a professional announcer. Damn infuriating brat, Nishikido thought to himself.
When Nishikido got home at night, his wife told him, “You have a package.”
“Let’s see… From a Tsuzuki-san. There’s a thank-you note attached to it. Sorry, but Yuka opened it already.”
“Oi, you stupid girl, don’t open my stuff!”
“The Kyoho grapes were delish~!” the idiot daughter answered fearlessly. “It’s not like you’re gonna eat them anyway, Dad.”
“That’s not the point.”
He didn’t press the issue since it wasn’t like she cared, so he went to call the sender.
“Hello, thanks for calling.”
“Oi, whatcha sending unnecessary stuff for?”
Tsuzuki was an acquaintance of Kunieda’s, and Nishikido met him when they were in Nagano covering a live report. He was kinda an odd fellow, but he seemed to earn part of his living using the camera too, so Nishikido introduced him to a shop that would sell him equipment far cheaper than the retail stores if he gave them his name .
“Thanks to your help I was able to buy the tripod that I wanted. I was really surprised at how big of a discount they gave me.”
It probably wasn’t so cheap that it made up for the expense of the Kyoho grapes.
“Now I’m feeling a little greedy and thinking a GoPro would be nice. What do you think?”
“You’ll get your money’s worth with a GoPro. The sound and picture quality are decent enough, and it’s great on location. All the waterproof cases up until now interfered with the sound and fogged up the lens under any sort of heat.”
It crossed his mind that if he had a son, maybe their conversations would go like this. Not that he would want him to follow in his footsteps, but they could have fun and talk like this. They could talk about baseball and stuff. But there was also the possibility of getting a son as loud as Minagawa, and it almost sent chills down his spine.
Nishikido hung up the phone, and idiot daughter #2 came home.
“I’m home~! …Hey, turn on The News!!”
“I’m watching baseball!”
“Go watch it in your room.”
She grabbed the remote and changed the channel. It switched to a shot of Kunieda on the screen.
“Yay, he’s on! It’s Kunieda Kei!”
“Oh! I wanna watch too!”
“He hasn’t been on the show a lot lately~ It really bums me out when he’s not on. He’s as cool today as ever~ Just looking at him heals my soul~ The best thing after a long day is soaking up a beautiful man~”
“I like Minagawa-kun~ He’s so cheerful and cute!”
“Don’t be fooled, he’s gotta be a player. Innocent-looking guys like him play around the most.”
“Who cares if he plays around, he’ll never be yours in a million years.” Nishikido was so fed up with this stupid conversation that he couldn’t help but put a word in, but then he was attacked all at once.
“So what!? I’m saying it knowing full well that it’s the case!”
“If you’re gonna say that, then set up a singles party with Kunieda Kei for us!”
“Dammit, you two are loud! I can’t relax here!”
“Yuka, Ami, it’s already late so keep it down. Dear, Mai called me this afternoon, asking if you could film the kindergarten’s school play.”
“Didn’t she ban me from ever going there again?”
The kindergarten where their oldest daughter’s daughter (yeah, more girls) attended had a system where they hired professionals to film and photograph their big school events. Parents could order photos and DVDs from the events, but in return, they were prohibited from filming any point of the events themselves. It avoided battles between parents who tried to stake out the best positions for filming, and it protected the children from predators who might try to target them…at least that was the explanation from the kindergarten.
It was back in June when the kindergarten had held its sports festival. He thought it was a crazy world this day and age as he watched the games and races, but then the damn camera operator who they had doing the filming kept irritating him. Like really, he wanted to film that position? That was the angle he wanted to use? And when his irritation finally spiked, he had grabbed the guy’s camera. After a quick check through the shots, it horrified him how terrible the guy was. He had roared, Who the hell would be happy with these crooked, out-of-focus shots!? scaring the guy, and he took it upon himself to film the remainder of the event. His granddaughter was ecstatic, but his daughter was furious and ordered him, Never show your face here again! Anyway, he only went because she had asked, so it wasn’t like it was any chip off his shoulder.
“It seems like the DVD that they made using your footage was a huge hit with the parents. They were saying how stupid they were for spending money on the DVDs before…”
“What did I say, heh?”
“She said it’ll be in October. Do you think you can do it?”
Now things had turned into a huge pain in the ass. He was about to take a bath and head to bed, but then his cell phone rang—just once—as he got up. The first thing he thought when he checked the caller was whether he had any cash in his wallet.
“…I’m gonna head out for a drink.”
“All right, take care and come back safely.”
“It’s gotta be another woman.”
His wife saw him off quietly as his daughters jeered in the background. In all the years they had been together, he never remembered her ever once asking who he was seeing or where he was going this late at night. She was really too good for him. He never lifted a finger to help out with the housework or to look after the children; his work schedule was always erratic; and if a major emergency or disaster happened, he would be called away for a week or two at a time. She never complained once, accepting everything with a “I understand, please be careful.” She even gave him 3 energetic daughters and kept up her own health.
She’s really wasted on me, he said deep down in his heart as he climbed into a vacant taxicab.
Nishikido arrived at a tiny, stuffy bar squeezed under an overpass, and the bastard was sitting at the counter in the very back. He raised his hand at Nishikido and called out, “Kido-chan,” a nickname that he hadn’t heard from anyone at the network in a long time. “Long time no see.”
“Yeah,” Nishikido replied gruffly.
The bastard’s voice was bright and glossy, like a coating of varnish. It had grown deeper as he aged, but even with the alcohol and his deadbeat life, it never lost any of its spark. He was always naturally handsome, and his good-for-nothing lifestyle only made him more alluring—he never had any trouble getting women.
“You doing well?” the bastard asked.
“I guess. Hey, boss, gimme a beer.”
“I see you still haven’t quit.”
“How would you know?”
The bastard had already started without him, and he raised his glass of cold sake and chuckled. “I can always tell which shots are yours, Kido-chan. It could be a 20-second clip for a flash news segment or a 5-second transition cut—I can always tell.”
Nishikido recalled Asou using the word “talent.” What a joke. He never had anything like that. The bastard sitting next to him could be considered talented once upon a time. He had long abandoned his vocalization training, and yet his voice was still as strong as ever. There was no better proof of his talent than this.
“You’re such a workaholic.”
If this oversized burden that could devour someone’s life was what people called “talent,” then Nishikido wanted none of it.
“…You know, I worked with a pretty interesting announcer recently,” Nishikido said in a low voice, pouring his bottle of beer into a glass. “He’s on the nightly news. Name’s Kunieda Kei. You ever watch him? He looks like pampered rich kid from the outside, and I thought he was another rotting bean sprout that you find everywhere nowadays. You know: no guts, only knows how to get good grades. But then he really surprised me—”
Nishikido shut his mouth at the sound of the lazy-sounding voice. Sometimes he felt like he devolved into a dumb dog when he was with this bastard.
“I don’t give a shit about your story.”
There was nothing else to say after that. It happened all the time, but it didn’t anger him.
It’s weird, but the alcohol’s always terrible and makes me sick when I drink next to you.
They stayed at the bar for about an hour, and the bastard got up to leave without paying his bill. This happened all the time too. He waited for Nishikido outside the bar and repeated his usual line.
“Kido-chan, lend me some money, will you?”
Nishikido silently handed over all the bills in his wallet. There was never a time that he paid him back, and Nishikido couldn’t recall how much money he had forked over in total over the years. The bastard shoved the bills into his pocket without counting them, breezily giving him a “Thanks” like he was asking for a light for a cigarette, and left to go back somewhere—probably some woman’s place.
It was a miserable life. The bastard had no job, no home, no savings, no wife, no children, no grandchildren. There was nothing to envy about his life.
But the bastard still blinded him—shining so brightly after all these years. Even if it was just a trick of the light reflecting through the red rusted metal, long after all of the plating had peeled off, Nishikido couldn’t take his eyes off of this imitation’s radiance.
Shit, he really hated announcers.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
- Takigawa Christel is a freelance TV announcer and news presenter, most active in the 2000s. Kouda Charmine is a Japanese journalist and news presenter active in the 1980s.
- Tatsuki is repeating Goku’s famous line from Dragonball: Ossu, ora Goku!
- Tatsuki is reprising the punishment game gag from Gaki no Tsukai.