Chapter 9: Side Profiles and Irises (9)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
The next day, when Shin went out to buy a late lunch, he ran into Tatsuki just he was coming into work. Tatsuki noticed Shin, smiled, and raised a hand in greeting.
Until he opened his mouth, Tatsuki didn’t seem any different from usual.
Shin shouted loud enough to attract the attention of the receptionist. His voice. That wasn’t his voice.
“Hey… What’s with ya voice!?”
“Oh, you could tell right away, huh?”
Tatsuki rubbed at his throat. It wasn’t immediately obvious from a single remark, but Tatsuki’s voice was hoarse like it was covered in gravel. There was no other change except for that, but the difference was painful to hear.
He probably shouldn’t let Tatsuki talk, but Shin asked without thinking.
“The doctor says my throat’s inflamed. Maybe I talked too much during the afterparty last night? Maybe I shouldn’t have gone karaoking at the after-afterparty? Maybe it was the tequila shots I drank there? Or maybe the pizza I covered in tabasco sauce?”
It was all of the above.
“Whatta ya gonna do about tonight’s broadcast!? There’s only 7 hours ’til air time! Ya gonna sound like Gian’s recital if ya go on like this!!”1
Shin seemed even more concerned than Tatsuki as he grabbed and shook Tatsuki’s shoulder.
“Hmmm, the hospital gave me some medicine, but I don’t think it will work that fast. I’m going to talk to Shitara-san and see what he thinks.”
“…I’ll go with ya.”
“Huh? It’s fine. You don’t have to.”
“I’m goin’ an’ and that’s that!”
Apparently, Tatsuki had already reported his condition to Shitara over LINE beforehand. When Shitara heard Tatsuki say, “Hey, good afternoon,” he burst out laughing and said, “It’s worse than I expected.” Shin wondered if he should be laughing at a time like this.
“Um… what should we do about tonight’s broadcast?” Shin asked.
“Hmm~ Let’s see~”
Shitara opened up the shift schedule for the announcer department on the network’s intranet as he nodded his head. Shin figured that he was looking for a backup announcer to sub for the corner. The person wouldn’t have done this everyday like Tatsuki, so Shin would have to work extra hard today to back them up. He hoped that the person was easy to work with.
“I’ve made my decision. Oi~! Kunieda~!”
Kei had been reading the evening paper, and he stood up from his seat.
“Can you can cover for Tatsuki today and do the sports corner?”
Tatsuki seemed as shocked by the proposal as Shin was and rasped out a “What!?”
“Don’t talk, don’t talk. You sound too funny.”
“But then, who will read the news?” Shin asked.
“He’ll do both~”
Shitara was so nonchalant in his answer that Shin was at a loss for words. It couldn’t be that simple, especially with the logistics. Tonight there was another baseball game, and they would have to throw together the highlight reel and adlib the segment for the show. Kei would have to watch the game, discuss the highlights for the reel, practice his readthroughs for the news, and have his other meetings… It was really pushing it time-wise.
But Kei readily accepted the additional responsibility despite everything. “All right. I understand.”
“It’s a slow news day today, so I think we’ll end up repeating a lot of the same stories from the evening. We can record the voiceovers ahead of time, and you can focus on sports.”
“All right. I understand that it may be an imposition on the others, but may I have the game playing while we have our news meeting? They just happen to overlap at the same time.”
“Of course. Tatsuki, you’re a temporary AD for today, working as everyone’s errand boy. And you can start by cleaning up the work tables.”
Tatsuk looked clearly unhappy with the arrangements. Like he was thinking, Why Kunieda-san of all people? Shin had the same opinion. There was no need to overwork Kei to this extent. There were plenty of sports announcers with free time to spare. But it was Tatsuki’s fault that he had hurt his voice today, and so he could only keep quiet and do as he was told. Shin made his objections known instead.
“Um, ain’t there other people we can call to help out? There’s no need to overload Kunieda-san with so much work.”
“Well, I don’t really like the members available at the announcer department today~”
“Huh? Is that your reason, sir?”
“That’s right~ I’m the producer for the show. Why should I put someone I don’t like on it?” Shitara said with a friendly smile.
This was the first time that Shin thought that Shitara was scary.
“Besides, I would love to see what Kunieda does with sports. This is a rare opportunity. Don’t you look forward to seeing it too, Nawada?”
“While you’re at it, I’d like to see you do a better job than Tatsuki.”
“That is quite a difficult challenge.”
Kei was not the least bit perturbed by Shitara’s outrageous request—which came as another huge shock to Shin. Shin had expected him to answer modestly, Oh, no, I couldn’t compare to Minagawa-kun, but he only said that it was a “difficult challenge,” not that he couldn’t do it. Huh? Was this person actually scary too, but Shin just hadn’t realized it?
Time passed by the hour. The staff teased and laughed at Tatsuki about his voice as he quietly did the AD work, and all the preparations to have Announcer Kunieda perform double duty tonight moved full steam ahead. With two sets of responsibilities suddenly placed on him, Kei listened to the baseball game with earphones in one ear and the game playing silently in the background, all while holding a meeting for the news. Would he really be okay with all these different things going on at once? He wouldn’t accidentally slip some batting averages in the yen valuation news, would he? But no matter how much Shin worried, there was nothing he could do but perform his duties as normal.
Soon the time approached 10 pm. The show proceeded through normal operations following the opening. The difficulty was with the sports corner in the second half of the show. It was a rare opportunity, just like Shitara had said, but Shin couldn’t visualize Kei reading the sports news. With the tenor of his voice, his appearance and demeanor, Shin thought that Kei was most suitable for regular news. He wondered how Kei would fare with sports. Obviously, if he didn’t change his delivery from the news, it would make the show on the whole feel monotonous and dull. Would he infuse it with an action-packed energy like Tatsuki? Frankly, Shin couldn’t imagine it.
—Don’t you look forward to seeing it too?
Shin felt bad for Tatsuki, but to be honest, he did look forward to seeing it. It absolutely thrilled him as a director that he could see a new side to a presenter. It was like watching a master craftsman in action, and Shin wondered what Kei would show him. The commercial break ended. The sports title screen rolled and went to the highlights.
It started with the sound of a baseball slamming into a bat and ringing in the viewers’ ears. The home run ball arced over the field against the full moon, and cheers erupted through the night sky. The strains of the sound sharpened and faded out into silence. Kei had his eyes and his mouth closed.
Whatta ya doin’? Ain’t ya gonna talk?
Shin panicked at the silence, but then all of a sudden, loud music with heavy riffs started playing. On the monitor, a player strutted towards the batter’s box to the theme music.
Kei quietly opened his eyes and started speaking.
“With the energy of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ in the air, batting fourth, the Dolphins’ Marks steps up to the plate. He has had a spectacular night tonight. Down by one run in the fourth inning, Marks has a chance to tie the game. He breaks past the 5-6 hole with a clutch hit to bring in a crucial run.”
Kei did not have the same energetic rhythm that Tatsuki would use to deliver the highlights, but his delivery was excellent and precise. He didn’t meddle with breaks between commas and full stops, nor did he place dramatic emphasis on words to help draw attention to his speech, and yet somehow mysteriously, the important words with numbers such as “batting fourth,” “one run,” and “fourth inning”—they all flowed smoothly into Shin’s head. Kei sounded like a proper sports announcer. There was no feeling or indication that suggested that he could be unfamiliar with the information that he delivered.
“Then in the fifth, with two outs and a man on first, Marks hits a double to take the lead. It’s a beautiful clean hit. He seals the deal in the seventh with a solo home run into the left-field stands, making it his 20th of the season. There’s not a cloud in the sky as the ball soars like a rocket to greet the full moon.”
First, he had drawn the viewers’ eyes and ears with the footage and sound of the home run. The odd silence that followed made them pause for half a beat as the segment launched into Queen, carrying them through the highlights without them ever feeling swept away. He was good. Really, really good. That was the only reaction that came to Shin’s mind. Of course, Shin had known that Kei was an excellent announcer, but he never expected that he could perform so brilliantly in a field outside of his normal expertise.
—Do a better job than Tatsuki.
Everyone had their own different basis for what had made them good, but in terms of fundamental skills as an announcer and the calculation required to put on a performance, Kei far surpassed Tatsuki.
Shitara had predicted that things would turn out like this. No, he had expected that this would happen when he had initially enlisted Kei for the job.
Shin’s concern was how Tatsuki felt while watching this. He looked around the studio during the next commercial break, but Tatsuki was nowhere to be found. The broadcast continued without any issues, taking Minagawa Tatsuki’s absence into stride.
“Nawada,” Shitara called out from a corner of the hallway.
“Do you have something you want to say to me? That’s the feeling I’ve been getting from you all night.”
Shin hesitated, but since Shitara already saw through him, he decided to speak up. “I think what ya did tonight was a little cruel.”
“You mean to Tatsuki? His throat is fairly robust, so he thinks he can overtax his voice whenever he wants. I think this is a good opportunity for him to re-examine his judgement and overconfidence though?”
Tatsuki had practiced a single line over and over again for his upcoming play-by-play debut, and it made Shin angry to hear Shitara give such a brutal assessment.
“Yes, it is his responsibility for failing to take care of himself, but from what I’ve observed, I don’t see overconfidence in him. He thinks through and does what he needs to do. But if you compare him to someone like Kunieda-san who can do everything effortlessly—”
“I’m afraid you have it backwards,” Shitara interrupted, something he rarely did. “Kunieda is truly a product of tireless dedication and hard work. I would say that Tatsuki is the one who can do most things effortlessly by his intuition alone. And he uses it to his advantage so that people indulge him. There’s no hunger in him—and I mean that in a bad sense. Sometimes it’s a good experience to have your legs knocked out from under you. After tasting the humiliation of having his territory invaded, maybe he’ll grow and evolve from it? Or will he say like always, ‘Senpai, you’re amazing,’ and let it go? Anyway, it’s up to him.”
Maybe Shin was reading too much in Shitara’s words, but it sounded like he would leave Tatsuki behind if he didn’t show any growth from this.
This person is crazy scary. He’s kind of a demon.
Maybe because the position of a producer required a cool-headed composure, but there was something about Shitara that was very similar to Sakae.
Shin returned to the studio and asked around, “Have you seen Minagawa?” but no one seemed to know where he had disappeared to.
“He was in the studio up until the sports corner… Maybe it’s better to leave him alone? He looked so serious watching it, it was hard to go up to him.”
Apparently, it had been a huge shock to him. Sometimes it was kinder to leave people alone. That was certainly true. Maybe Tatsuki didn’t want to see anybody. It wasn’t like Shin could find any words he could say to Tatsuki. It was better to say nothing than something empty and hollow like Cheer up.
However, Shin thought it was wrong to leave Tatsuki alone without asking about his feelings first. If Tatsuki answered that he wanted to be alone, then Shin could disappear from his sight afterwards. Shin decided to walk around the news floor and found Tatsuki standing alone in front of a freight elevator. His head was down, and Shin couldn’t really see his face.
Sure enough, Shin couldn’t say anything but his name. He thought that maybe Tatsuki would smile back at him, but the moment he called his name, Tatsuki raised his leg and kicked the elevator door with everything he had. Shin flinched at the loud bang and the shaking of the doors. However, his heart was more surprised than his body—he couldn’t believe that Tatsuki had physically hit something.
Shin walked closer and saw Tatsuki clenching his teeth and squeezing his eyes shut. The corners of his lips quivered. He was like a wounded animal suffering motionlessly through his pain. The old Shin would have been too scared to approach Tatsuki—he probably would have left, pretending that he hadn’t seen anything.
But Shin softly placed his hand on Tatsuki’s back and gave him a gentle pat. Tatsuki didn’t reject it.
“Minagawa, let’s go somewhere quiet. Wait here just a bit for me, okay?”
Shin spoke like he was giving instructions to a small child. He took the elevator down to the first floor and borrowed the key to a Japanese-style tatami room from the security office. The room was originally used for filming, and Shin made up an excuse to put on the request form. When Shin went back to find Tatsuki, he was still there, just like Shin had asked. Shin was relieved, and he took Tatsuki’s hand, saying, “Let’s go.” This time they got into the elevator together, and Shin squeezed Tatsuki’s limp hand.
He could have showed Tatsuki directly to the tatami room, but Tatsuki would likely only just sit there in silence, so Shin fetched some studio supplies first. He pulled out a sketchbook and a marker from a paper bag.
“…Here ya go.”
Shin placed the sketchbook opened up to a blank page in front of Tatsuki. Tatsuki quietly picked up the marker, uncapped it, and started writing. He filled the A3-sized2 page with large letters and a brief message.
“I’m frustrated and upset.”
The words probably weren’t enough to express his feelings, because he underlined the words multiple times. It seemed like Tatsuki was finally more like himself.
At Shin’s response, Tatsuki scribbled madly like a man possessed.
“I know that Kunieda-san is amazing, but I didn’t think he could beat me in sports.”
Shin pulled out a ballpoint pen that he wore hanging on his lanyard and wrote back to Tatsuki.
“I dun think ya lost, Minagawa.”
“But you were more captivated watching him than me.”
“Ya just imaginin’ it.”
“But you thought that Kunieda-san was very cool, right?”
“Uh, you probably didn’t have to write that out.”
They were the first words out of Tatsuki’s mouth since the broadcast.
“Oh, ya right.”
“Dot dot dot…”
Tatsuki’s voice was still rough, but Shin was relieved to hear it and to see him crack a smile. It didn’t feel right to see Tatsuki be so quiet.
Tatsuki wrote in some slightly neater handwriting.
“I’m a second-rate hack.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“That’s what Souma-san called me before.”
Shin still felt guilty about what had happened, and he could only write back something dull and overused.
“Dun let it bother ya.”
“But he’s right.”
Tatsuki’s marker movements sped up again. Shin could barely make out his writing.
“No, he’s right. He thinks that I run my mouth and do things without much thought. He can see the difference between me and the others clearly. Because he’s a producer.”
The next page.
“That’s what has me the most upset. Even more than watching Kunieda-san.”
“Why?” Shin was fed up with writing and spoke out loud instead. “Souma-san’s an outsider here. What he says dun matter.”
Just focus on ya own producer.
Shin thought about telling Tatsuki what Shitara had said earlier, but he decided against it. It didn’t sit right with him—like he was helping him cheat. Tatsuki could move forward even without anyone telling him to.
This time Tatsuki expressed his speechlessness in writing.
“Ya said ya dun needta—Oh, I got it.”
“Why ya bein’ so stubborn ’bout this? Anyway, this is ’bout ya wantin’ to be on GoGo, right? Ya really enjoyed the comedy show, huh? Yeah, it’s a kinda similar, but I advise ya to give it up.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“That’s enough, okay!?”
Tatsuki laughed out loud hoarsely and tumbled down to lie on the tatami floor. Shin wanted to hear his normal voice as soon as possible. His face, his voice, his personality—everything put together made Tatsuki the person who he was, and if any piece was missing, it made Shin feel lonely and sad.
“I was seriously depressed, but now I feel a little bit better. Thanks.”
“I didna do anythin’.”
Shin couldn’t tell him anything clever, and he had no specific advice he could offer either.
“Dun talk anymore. Ya voice will get worse.”
“I know… Come over here.”
Tatsuki turned his hand over towards Shin as if calling him over, and Shin placed his hand in the upturned palm, lying down next to him. Tatsuki’s eyes were right there as their gazes met. He was watching Shin, his eyelashes sometimes interrupting his gaze when he blinked. There was a light deep in his eyes like a candle that flickered and swayed, and Shin wondered what it was. It was something deep inside the recesses of those jewel-laden irises. Shin didn’t tear his eyes away. Instead of the fright of feeling exposed, Shin wanted to peer more at the thing he saw inside of Tatsuki. He would be okay. Tatsuki wouldn’t reject him, and he wouldn’t hurt him. That was what Shin believed from the bottom of his heart. They held each other’s hands with the same firmness.
Shin’s heart was racing, but it softly diffused through his body like a signal transmitted through water, and it didn’t leave him bewildered or panicked. He could feel the hard fibers of the tatami against his cheek, but somehow he felt so comfortable, like he was floating on a wave above the ground.
He wished that they could stay like this forever.
Shin wondered if what he had murmured inside his heart was the keyphrase—like that old episode of GoGo that he loved. His cell phone rang from the paper bag where he had shoved it in, and he was suddenly brought back to reality. Shin didn’t know what to do. Should he just ignore the call? If it turned out to be from Sakae, he would have to answer it. And no matter what Sakae needed, Shin would go there and take care of it. But Shin sensed that he probably shouldn’t do that right now. Then wouldn’t that make covering his ears as if the phone wasn’t ringing the correct response right now?
However, Tatsuki let go of his hand. “Answer it,” he urged.
Somehow Shin felt a little betrayed as he sought out his ringing cell phone. It was from an associate producer for GoGo.
“Hello, good evening.”
“Nawada, do you have some time to talk?”
The voice sounded really worn out over the phone, and Shin could sense that he probably didn’t have very good news.
“The Tortoise Shell duo had an accident at the filming location today. They’re at the hospital right now.”
“What? What happened?”
“We’ll explain everything tomorrow in an emergency meeting. Make sure to leave your morning open.”
“Which hospital are they at? Do you need me to head over?”
“They’re in Chiba, so it’s pretty far. Souma is on the way. I’ll send a LINE message letting everyone know the place and time for tomorrow.”
“All right, I understand.”
It didn’t seem like a conversation where he could ask for more details, so Shin finished up the call. Tatsuki asked, “Did something happen?”
“Two comedians had an accident at a filming location.”
“Seriously? That’s really concerning news.”
Tatsuki wasn’t just making small talk. He truly meant his words.
“I don’t know how bad it is or what happened though.”
But that they had to go to the local hospital instead of one in Tokyo probably meant that it was very serious.
“We’re supposed to have a meetin’ ’bout it tomorrow mornin’.”
“Oh, then you should hurry home.” Tatsuki quickly gathered all of Shin’s things and handed them over. “Here.”
Shin wondered where the atmosphere between them had gone before his phone rang. Maybe he had fallen asleep and he had dreamed it all?
“What about the key? Do you need me to return it for you?”
“It’s fine. It’s a hassle if somebody else returns it.”
They headed out, and Tatsuki rode the elevator down partway.
“I need to go apologize to Kunieda-san.”
“Will ya be okay?”
Kei didn’t seem to be the type to get angry, but after watching him today, Shin had the feeling that maybe he wasn’t just a simply good person.
“I’m fine. Take care~”
“Make sure ya rest ya throat.”
Tatsuki waved his hand as the heavy elevator door closed and Shin could no longer see him… But before the doors completely shut, a hand squeezed in between them.
The door rattled and opened back up.
“Ya dumb nut! Ya could hurt yaself!”
Tatsuki didn’t sound the least bit sorry as he stepped back into the elevator and softly placed a kiss on Shin’s forehead.
Oh, this is the smell of Minagawa’s home, Shin thought. No wait, Minagawa’s home smells like Minagawa, so this is Minagawa’s scent.
“…I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Tatsuki pushed the button to close the doors and hopped out of the elevator. From the back, he looked like a boy who had just gotten into mischief and was running away—that was the last image he saw of Tatsuki for the day.
“What the heck was with ’im?”
Shin slumped heavily back against a wall, and the cramped little elevator shook a little. What was that just now? Was Tatsuki just a little over-excited from getting back on his feet? Was it a Western-style expression of thanks? I have no idea, Shin murmured alone in the elevator. It carried him farther and farther away from Tatsuki as he leaned there bewildered and confused.
As Tatsuki headed to the announcer department, someone called out, “Oi,” from behind him in a hallway that should have been empty. Just as he turned around, a familiar-looking binder landed at his feet.
“Hey, my baseball notes!”
“Your handwriting is terrible, you worthless idiot! Write it so that it’s actually legible.”
“It’s not like I’m making these notes for other people to read,” Tatsuki argued as he picked up his binder. “You cheated, huh, Senpai? No wonder you could rattle off the stats and records like it was nothing…”
But there were no words except that Kei was as incredible as he thought—at how well he could cram this last-minute information and convey it precisely to the viewers without any hint he had learned it on the fly. Tatsuki bowed his head deeply to Kei.
“I am very sorry for all the trouble that I caused you today. Thank you very much for stepping in for me.”
“I don’t care about your damn apology. Pay up for all the extra work you made me do. I want cold, hard cash. 10,000 for every second. That’s 6 million in total.”
“I’ll treat you to ramen~ With all the works~”
“Screw you. Why the hell are you acting like nothing happened? You should be suffering and wailing after seeing the huge gulf between us. Get down on your knees and cry.”
“Oh~ Thank you for worrying about me.”
“I was really upset and depressed up until a little while ago.”
“Liar. The next time you miss a broadcast, I’m going to seriously crush you.”
Tatsuki was all alone again, and subconsciously he almost said out loud, The pitcher throws the first pitch.
Crap, crap, I have to rest my throat.
He covered his mouth with his hands, and Shin’s face popped up in his mind.
Senpai, I was really depressed up until a little while ago. I had always thought of that place as mine, and seeing someone else standing there, I was so frustrated and upset that I could die. But now I’m okay.
The feelings hadn’t disappeared. The frustration he had felt and his unhappiness with himself—they were still right here. And he would hold onto them, to use as stepping stones to get back up again.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
- This is a Doraemon reference about Gian’s horrendously awful and raspy singing.
- A3 size – 29.7 cm x 42.0 cm, or approximately 11”x17”.