Chapter 11: Love Rivals and Irises (11)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
Tatsuki had run down the stairs from the elevated walkway to the beach, breathing heavily as he approached. He planted his feet into a wide stance next to Shin, took a couple of deep breaths and hollered:
“Nacchan, you idiot—!!”
Shin had to hand it to a pro. The voice carried farther into the distance than Shin could ever manage, the insult cutting through the sheets of falling rain. Panting as he tried to catch his breath, Tatsuki declared, “And now we’re even!”
Shin was dumbfounded to see him, but he thought, This is Minagawa. This was the Tatsuki he had longed to see.
“Ahhhh… I’m totally winded~ Geez, the station was farther than I thought~ Melos can’t even compare to my dash to get here~”1
Tatsuki used the sleeve of his suit to casually wipe the moisture dripping from his chin. It could have been rain or it could have been sweat.
“What’s the matter? Uh, why are ya here…?”
Shin hadn’t received any calls or messages from him. He knew because he had been constantly checking his phone.
“Did he say anythin’ to ya, Megumi?”
Kotarou was even more dumbfounded than Shin, and he shook his head no. Even if Tatsuki had learned their location and schedule by asking someone or searching the shared computer in the staff room, the only reason that Shin was here at the beach right now was nothing more than an impulsive decision.
“An’ didna ya have earthquake trainin’ today?”
Since Tatsuki was wearing a suit, he must have had a job or an assignment.
“I went, I went~ And after my turn was over, I went to the control room to watch the junior announcers. I was just killing time, watching how the CGs for the disaster screens went up, and then I saw the monitors for the weather cameras, and what do you know? They had the Yuigahama live weather cam there.”2
Shin and Kotarou started looking around them without thinking. Not that the camera would be installed somewhere where people could easily spot it.
“Yeah, and so I saw the two of you sitting on the beach next to each other~”
“What? But ain’t people like super tiny on the screen?”
It was impossible for the networks to obtain permission from the pedestrians to use their likelessnesses on the air, and naturally the cameras were not set up to record close-ups that would capture distinguishable features. Although it was possible for the cameras to zoom-in on a shot, there was no way Tatsuki could have accessed that function.
“But I could totally tell. When I saw it, I immediately went, ‘Ahh!!’ And then I rushed here as fast as I could. When I got on the train, I realized that I had left my cell phone in my bag, but it was too late. And then there was an accident, which stopped the line and held me up… Geez, it was one thing after another… I’m just glad that you’re still here.”
“We werena here the entire time, ya know. We came from another place we scouted before this.”
“What, really? Then maybe it was lucky that my train got delayed?”
“What were ya gonna do if we werena here after runnin’ all this way?”
“Probably run around searching for you until I had enough?” Tatsuki answered nonchalantly. Apparently, the thought that he might have mistaken other people for them never once crossed his mind.
“…Are ya dumb?”
“Why!? And that reminds me! Why were you dissing me at the top of your lungs earlier!?”
“Hey!! More importantly!!” Kotarou suddenly interrupted. “Why are you even here in the first place!? It’s none of your business where we go or what we do!”
“Shut up, stupid.”
“What did you call me? How about I tell the story about how hard your teeth chattered the time you were left behind at Aoyama Cemetery?”
The threat was all too real. They really were childhood friends who knew all of each other’s weaknesses.
“Hey, cut it out. Dun do that. I feel sorry for ’im.”
Shin scolded Tatsuki without thinking, and Tatsuki made a face of exaggerated distress.
“Hey!! Is that what you’re really going to say here!? Are you taking Kota’s side!?”
“Uh, I ain’t really takin’ a side.”
“Hey, you know.” Tatsuki suddenly turned serious. “I don’t like this moping around and brooding. I’m tired of it, and I don’t want to ignore and bottle up my problems anymore. It’s just not me!”
Shin knew that Tatsuki was being serious, and that was why he was serious when he said, “Ya can’t.”
“…It’s somethin’ important, so I’ll say it myself.”
Shin took Tatsuki’s hand and squeezed it once before letting it go again. He turned to Kotarou, who looked puzzled at what was happening, and he bowed his head deeply.
“I’m sorry, Megumi.”
“To tell ya the truth, Minagawa an’ I are datin’.”
Shin kept his head down and braced himself for the barrage of angry words or even English to come his way, but he was sure a full five seconds had already passed. Kotarou couldn’t have passed out from the shock, right? But no, of course that didn’t happen. Shin nervously lifted his head to peek through his bangs, and Kotarou turned to face the ocean.
“It-… It can’t be true—!!”
Tatsuki was determined not to be out done and shouted, “It’s totally for real—!!”
“Hey, stop yellin’ everythin’ at the ocean!”
“You were the one who started it, Nacchan.”
The rain had started to ease, and Shin was nervous that they would start attracting attention. Kotarou turned to look at Shin and repeated, “It’s not true, right?” Kotarou’s eyes were pained, like he knew the words to be true but he couldn’t help but ask anyway. His heart ached to see this, but he reaped what he sowed, and Shin answered him without turning his eyes away.
“…When did it start?”
“Just a little before ya came to the network.”
Kotarou became speechless, and he looked up at the sky scattering raindrops on them.
“Didn’t you say that your feelings were all one-sided…?”
“I’m really sorry for lyin’ to ya.”
“Huh, did you really say that?” Tatsuki interrupted, completely unfazed. “Why would you say something so half-baked?”
“Uh… A lot o’ things happened… I guess I was talkin’ in my sleep? An’ I called out ya name…”
“Then you should have told him everything, and things wouldn’t have gotten so complicated.”
“Things ain’t that easy.”
Ya dun even know what I went through for ya. But maybe Tatsuki was thinking the same thing.
“‘Cause I didna know what to do, an’ any option would bring ya trouble…”
Shin’s voice became choked up with tears again, and Tatsuki wrapped his arms around Shin’s shoulders and gave him a gentle pat.
“I understand that, but it’s okay if it’s Kota.”
It had been a while since Tatsuki had touched him, and Shin couldn’t resist his warmth. He leaned his head into Tatsuki’s body without thinking, and Kotarou widened his eyes and protested, “Hey! What are you doing flirting right in front of me?”
Crap. Shin hurried to pull himself away from Tatsuki, hastily smoothing down his hair that wasn’t even out of place, and he bowed his head down once again.
“I’m very sorry. I know that an apology ain’t gonna fix things, but I did somethin’ terrible to ya, an’ I’m sorry.”
“Okay, you’re cute. You’re forgiven,” Tatsuki declared.
“Oi! He’s not apologizing to you!”
“Wha? But Kota, you’re not really mad at Nacchan, and it’s not like you want him to apologize, right?”
Kotarou was at a loss for words and couldn’t respond.
“So now your only choices are to withdraw or to hang up…”
“Both of those mean giving up!”
“Whoops, sorry, I meant to say hang on. Well, if you think you can steal him away from me, fine. It’s not like I have the right to stop you. But now that you know that he’s dating me, if you keep making passes at him from now on, I’ll feel free to terminate you, so take care~” Tatsuki declared with a cheerful smile. “The chyron with your name will show: Megumi Kotarou, parenthesis, age of death 27, closed parenthesis.”
Shin didn’t know if the threat was supposed to be scary or not, but he thought that Kotarou would snap something back at him. But contrary to expectations, Kotarou turned his face to the side and gritted out, “Why does this have to happen?”
There was a hint of self-derision in his smile. Shin had never seen such an unhinged expression from Kotarou before, and it made him a little scared. Kotarou wasn’t the type of person to snap or to lose his way, so Shin could take comfort in that fact at least.
“The person I like gets together with you just before I meet him. And thinking that it’s my last chance to confess to him, you just have to show up. Not to mention that you just happened to see the weather cam during your earthquake training, and you just happened to have a train delay so you can show up here with perfect timing— What the hell? Was everything set up from the beginning for you to take everything away from me? Did I come here just to be taught a lesson?”
Shin couldn’t find any words to say to him. Just like how he couldn’t say anything when Kotarou had won at ping pong but didn’t look happy at all.
However, Tatsuki said flatly, “How am I supposed to know?”
“Minagawa, ya dun hafta put it like that…”
“But it’s true. Kota thinks that I’ve taken everything away from him because his point of view is totally warped. It’s like, what are you, a brat? You’re old enough to know better, but you think that I’m your measuring stick for your own self-worth? Are you really okay with that?”
It was rare to see Tatsuki use such harsh words when he would normally handle most problems with a smile. It probably reflected just how seriously concerned for Kotarou that Tatsuki was in his own way.
“I’m not the one who’s making you the loser. You are.”
It was almost painful to look at Kotarou as he bit his lip hard. Shin couldn’t bear it anymore and called out, “Megumi.”
“Minagawa said earlier that it’s okay if it’s Kota. He must really trust ya a lot as a friend. An’ I think that’s really amazin’.”
“That’s right~ I just want to play and hang out normally~!”
“…I know that.” Kotarou finally released his lip and let out a pained whisper. “Even I know that…”
That was when a piercing squeal of brakes and a car horn sounded. It came from the intersection next to the beach. Shin turned towards the sound in reflex, and through the fences lining the embankment he saw a man running as fast as he could in the direction of Zushi City.3
“What happened? Did someone ignore the traffic signals?”
“Maybe it was just random commotion,” Shin said, writing it off, but then police sirens started approaching the area. Police cars sped past with red lights flashing, and suddenly Tatsuki dashed off towards the road.
He had barely any time to say anything before Kotarou tossed aside his backpack and chased after Tatsuki who was making good speed.
“Oi! What are ya two doin’…”
They ran up the staircase from the beach, and once their feet hit the asphalt, they noticeably sped up. It wasn’t long before they disappeared in the direction of the man and the police cars. Shin was left alone by himself, and it took all that he had to whisper, “What the hell.” He had bags to look after, and he didn’t think that he could catch up to them. He picked up the backpack and tried to remember what the man looked like when he ran past. It had only been a few seconds, and he couldn’t recall it very clearly, but the man was pretty suspicious-looking if he wasn’t a celebrity undercover, wearing a black baseball cap and sunglasses. Tatsuki had suspected something was up when he saw the police cars chasing the man, and he didn’t hesitate to run after them— No wait, before that, there was a glance. Tatsuki had glanced at Kotarou, not Shin. He had probably wanted to say, Let’s go, and Kotarou had understood him. Though if Shin were to call it “friendship,” they would both probably hate it (especially Kotarou).
Tatsuki didn’t have his cell phone with him, and there was a high possibility that Kotarou would be filming if there was a story to be had, so giving him a call would probably be an impedance. There was nothing that Shin could do but to wait here for them. He rummaged through the backpack to pour himself the rest of the coffee and filmed whatever was in the area that caught his attention, and little by little the clouds over the ocean cleared up. A golden dusk filtered through the clouds, just like hints of base coat that would peek out under layers and layers of gray paint. Sweet colors dotted the dull and darkened ocean as the white surf of the water’s edge woke up from its long afternoon nap to scatter the rays of light. Maybe no one would ever lay their eyes on these shots, but Shin filmed them anyway, absorbed in the images in front of him.
The time was like a little reward for the day, and it began to paint over the scene with the blue of night. The surroundings turned dark, and when lights started flickering from a group of holiday rentals in the distance, Tatsuki and Kotarou returned to the beach.
They were waving their hands triumphantly, so something must have warranted that reaction.
“I’m sorry for keeping you waiting. I wanted to call you, but my cell phone battery died…”
“It’s fine. Anyway, what happened?”
“Apparently, the guy was a middleman in a cash scam,” Kotarou answered. “The police were supposed to arrest him after he took cash from an old lady who pretended to be scammed, but somehow he gave them the slip. He tried to escape the police cars by running through the narrow roads in the residential areas, but the police eventually caught him.”
“That’s amazin’. Were ya able to film anythin’?”
Shin took Kotarou’s cell phone, plugged it into a portable battery pack, and checked the video that Kotarou filmed. On the screen was Tatsuki’s back as he ran through a street lined with normal, regular houses. A little ways ahead of him was another man in a suit, yelling “Stop!” as he ran. He was probably a plainclothes police officer. Shin could hear Kotarou’s breathing on the video. A cell phone was lighter than a camera, but it still must have been tiring holding it up while pursuing the police chase. The pounding of their footsteps was laced with the sounds of dogs barking and a piano playing from one of the houses, and the domesticity gave the video a sense of realism.
Tatsuki slightly turned his head back towards Kotarou.
“I think I can overtake the officer and catch the guy if I try. Think that’s a bad idea?”
“Of course… it’s a bad idea… stupid!”
Kotarou spoke brokenly as he ran out of breath.
“What if… the guy has a… knife or something.”
Kotarou had a light coughing fit before yelling out almost desperately.
“Even for an idiot like you, if anything happened to you, Nawada-san would cry—!!”
“…Yeah, you’re right.”
“What are you doing agreeing so easily? And don’t let it go to your head!”
“What are you, a teenager? What a pain… Ah, they turned a corner.”
Tatsuki and the camera took a tight corner around a utility pole, and about 10 meters away, there were people on the ground, one on top of the other. It was the officer holding the man down and restraining his arms.
“Why were you running!?”
“Please give me a break, sir.”
The man looked exhausted from all the running and gasped “I don’t know anything” and “I was only told to accept the money” as he lay flattened on the ground.
Tatsuki turned around to look at the camera, composing his face, while at the same time, the rhythmic huffs of his shoulders and chest precisely stopped as if the oxygen had sufficiently diffused through his body. Tatsuki had to be out of breath and tired, but he wouldn’t show it, putting on the face of a pro. Watching him behind the screen, Shin knew exactly what Kotarou had to be thinking at the moment: Dammit. I’m no match for you like this, and it’s so frustrating. But still, the camera frame zoomed out to capture a perfect bust shot of the reporter.
“We are here on the scene where a police officer has apprehended a man who was on the run. The location is a residential area between Kamakura Station and Zushi Station on the JR Yokosuka Line. We do not know yet the charges against the man or the reason why he ran from police. With an arrest in the neighborhood, concerned residents have gathered here outside. Oh, reinforcements have just arrived on the scene, and they are placing the man in handcuffs—”
“It would have been nice if we could have filmed the exact moment when the officer caught the guy,” Kotarou said with regret.
“Nah, this is enough o’ a scoop. It’s a Saturday an’ we ain’t on today, but it can definitely be aired at the top o’ the news. Ya did a great job at keepin’ the frame steady while runnin’.”
The things that Shin could praise him for were great.
“Why’d ya film it in portrait mode?”
“Why? …Um, no real reason. I guess it’s because I’m used to it.”
“Ya dumb nut,” Shin scolded him. “If it’s goin’ on TV, then it’s better filmed in landscape. Ya shoulda rotated ya phone first!”
Kotarou looked like he only now realized it after Shin had pointed it out. Well, it had been a spur-of-the-moment chase, and there would be mistakes that he couldn’t help but make.
“Still an amateur, huh? …Guess there are still a ton o’ things ya still needta learn.”
“Huh? Does that mean that you will allow me to stay here working with you…?”
Kotarou’s eyes lit up in expectation.
“I dun have the power to make that decision, ya know. I’m tellin’ ya to think ’bout ya mistakes an’ how ya didna learn things properly.”
“So that’s all that you meant…”
“Anyway, ya didna send the video to the network yet, right? Ya better cut out the questionable parts before ya send it!”
Kotarou turned despondent in an instant, and it shook Shin’s conscience to see him like that, but he warned himself not to feel pity for him. There was nothing that he could do about HR decisions, and he couldn’t return Kotarou’s feelings, so it would be wrong of him to carelessly show Kotarou any tenderness.
“Should I edit it for ya?”
“No, I can do it… Sorry, it’s a phone call. I need to take this.” Kotarou responded to the call. “Hello, good evening. Yes— Yes… Whaaat!?”
All of a sudden, he raised his voice so loud that it startled them.
“Um, wait, you can’t be serious!? It’s too— Yes, it’s true, but!”
Kotarou tried to argue back about something, but in the end, he dropped his shoulders and answered, “Yes, sir…” He looked so dejected that Shin was nervous to ask him about it after he ended his call.
“Who was it from?”
“Oh, talk ’bout good timin’. Was it ’bout where they’re gonna assign ya?”
Kotarou nodded with a vacant look in his eyes. He should have already prepared himself for this decision, but apparently it was a much larger shock than he had expected. Shin whispered into Tatsuki’s ear, “Could it be that the trainin’ period was just an evaluation, an’ the network decided not to hire ’im?”
“No, I’ve never heard of that ever happening to new hires.”
“Yeah, an’ he ain’t really done anythin’ bad either… Megumi, what’s wrong?”
“…I was assigned to the branch office in New York.”
“Wow, yeah… that’s pretty far.”
That was the only comment that Shin could make. Kotarou tore at his head with both hands. “Why there—!?” he yelled at the sky. “I only just got back to Japan!!”
“They prolly value ya overseas experience.”
Tatsuki watched as Kotarou collapsed into the sand all brokenhearted, and he shouted, “Yesss—!!”
He did a fist pump, and he was so excited that he might have started skipping around the place.
“Awesome!! Have a safe trip! When are you leaving? Why don’t you head over today? Take care of yourself! Thanks for all your hard work!”
“B-Bastard, I’ll kill you, I swear…”
“Stop it, Minagawa!”
Tatsuki was so openly delighted that Shin had to say something to him, but Tasuki smiled back broadly and answered, “I can’t help it~ I’m just happy~! Obviously, it’s way better if my rival is gone.”
Tatsuki had said the words like they were no big deal, but Kotarou was surprised to hear them.
“Oh, but let me stay at your place when I come visit! I want to see Trump Tower!”
“Ahhh, today was such a great day~”
Tatsuki had more than enough of his fill of running today, but he started running around the beach like a dog anyway. Kotarou watched him and whispered all annoyed, “What the heck.” But afterwards, there was a little smile on his lips. “So he was pretty desperate this whole time…”
“I’m glad for ya.”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“Dun ya feel like just a little, that ya got what ya wanted for so long? ’Cause deep down inside, ya pretty sweetly innocent.”
Tatsuki was happy that Kotarou would be gone—that was because Tatsuki now saw Kotarou as a threat. Maybe Tatsuki had finally tasted a little of the complicated feelings that Kotarou had for Tatsuki for over ten years.
“I told you that it’s not like that.”
However, Kotarou still stubbornly denied it.
“Nawada-san, what’s so good about him anyway?”
“I think ya know that answer better than me.”
“I don’t have the faintest idea,” Kotarou said. “And I’d prefer it if I never find out.”
The clouds had cleared up. The sky and the ocean melted together with the arrival of dusk. There were only a limited number of nights like this before Kotarou would have to leave for a faraway place. It was only two months ago before Shin had even learned of his existence—this friend of Tatsuki’s. This love rival of Tatsuki’s.
Shin was incredibly sad that he would no longer see Kotarou or even run into him at the office, but well, it was probably better not to tell him that. Or that Shin believed that Kotarou would keep his promise to him, even all the in New York.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
- This is a reference to the short story Hashire Melos (Run, Melos) by Dazai Osamu. Melos offers up his friend as collateral for his execution in order to see his sister get married, and as he runs back after the wedding, he encounters all sorts of difficulties that impede his return back to his friend.
- Yuigahama is a beach near Kamakura.
- This would be an east-ish direction, which makes it the right-hand direction facing away from the ocean.