Chapter 14: Secrets and Irises (1)
“Nacchan, are you free the second weekend of next month?”
“Next month… Yeah, I dun have any plans yet, pretty sure.”
It was a strange effect of the calendar that when he thought about January of next year, it felt incredibly far into the future, but it was only a mere month away. Shin answered without much thought, thinking that maybe Tatsuki wanted to throw a New Year’s party or something.
“Okay, great~ Then come with me to Osaka! I plan to get back Monday morning, so I think at most we’ll stay over Sunday night.
It was another sudden invitation, this time to go on a trip.
“Why? Do ya wanna go to USJ? It’ll be freezin’ out and super crowded over the long weekend.”1
“Wha? Don’t the locals call it Univer?”
“Is it really that mainstream? Ain’t it just the kids callin’ it that?”
“Well, whatever. It’d be great if we get to go to USJ too, but my real plans aren’t really for Osaka.”
“But ya just said ya goin’ to Osaka.”
“I meant Osaka in the sense where you let me stay over with you at your parents’ house.”
“Uh, I dunno about that… What are ya real plans then?”
“Nishinomiya Shrine in Hyogo,” Tatsuki said.
With that place name and the second week of January, Shin knew immediately what he was planning to do.
“…Dun tell me, ya wanna do the Lucky Man Race?”
Ebisu-sama—or in the Kansai dialect, Ebessan—was the deity of fishing and commerce worshiped at Nishinomiya Shrine, and every year on Coming of Age Day, the shrine would hold a special gate opening ritual. Ebisu-sama was said to be based after Hiruko-no-kami from the literary text Records of Ancient Matters, but this particular god was crippled. And so in order to entertain the god, men would show off their running prowess as a ritual for their coming of age, and that was how this tradition of dashing from the front gates through the grounds of the shrine for a “running shrine visit” had started. The prize was the title of Lucky Man, which promised wealth and longevity to the winners as the ones who had most delighted Ebisu-sama. If Shin were to sum it up roughly, it was nothing but a good luck foot race for the superstitious at a spiritual power spot, but people didn’t have to just turn 20 to participate.2 The race was broadcast live all over the country, and the Lucky Man winners would be talked about all day as part of the Coming of Age Day festivities.
That was the event that Tatsuki wanted to enter. Yeah, it seemed like something that he would like.
“I’ve been meaning to go forever, and now I’m starting to get old~ I better take the chance now before I lose my edge.”
“I think ya plenty a Lucky Man, ya know.”
Tatsuki pretty much lived a life blessed by the gods without needing to go out of his way to earn favor with them.
“Then if I win the race, wouldn’t it prove all over again the power of the Lucky Man? It would make the gods happy.”
“Huh? Really…? But what if it’s the reverse…? That’s possible too.”
“Want to participate too, Nacchan?”
“No way, no how.”
Just watching it on TV was enough for him to feel the tension that permeated the atmosphere—it was beyond just a simple race. Shin had a hunch that if he joined for fun, he would be shoved out of the way or trampled over. But he could tell that Tatsuki really wanted to run the race, so why not let him try it? However…
“Did ya remember to tell Shitara-san or the announcer department ’bout it?”
“I told them that I had plans and asked them not to schedule anything then for me.”
“Uh, I think ya should tell ’em more ’bout the details.”
“What, really? Okay, I’ll tell Shitara-san about it.”
The race was a huge festivity, so of course Asahi TV would be there with their cameras, but so would the other TV networks, and there was the possibility that they would frame-in on Tatsuki. Shin didn’t know if it would be allowed or not, but it seemed like Tatsuki hadn’t given it much thought.
“Isn’t it the same as going to a baseball game? It’s inevitable that the cameras might catch you in the audience.”
“I hope that it’s the case.”
Half a day later after their conversation, Shin entered the staff room and saw the figure of Tatsuki’s back and Shitara standing in front of him with his arms crossed. From his expression, it was clear that Shitara was a little troubled, and Shin quietly approached them.
“You should really consult an adult about these things first.”
“But, but, I’m an adult myself.”
“No adult gets on the Shinkansen just to happily run a race.”
Apparently Tatsuki had told Shitara about his plans like he said he would.
“It’s not a race, it’s a ritual! What? Don’t tell me you’re going to say that I can’t go. It’s not written in any of the work regulations.”
“Obviously. But what I’m worried about is what happens when you show up on the other TV networks’ cameras in full frame.”
“Is it not allowed?” Shin interjected without thinking.
“Well, it’s one thing if he’s captured on a wide shot as part of the background, but for the gate opening ritual, they’ll present the top three runners in person with their names…”
“But it’s a lottery to get the startin’ position in the race. If he starts all the way in the back, maybe he won’t even appear in the background.”
It was the most likely outcome, but Tatsuki turned to Shin and cried, “Do you really think that, Nacchan!?”
“Huh? Well, yeah.”
“No, no, no! I’m seriously aiming for the title here!”
“It’s scary how his baseless confidence can make you think that maybe he can pull it off,” Shitara commented.
“It’s not scary. You should call me dependable.”
“That depends on the situation. Anyway, let’s put the gate opening ritual on hold for now. I need to coordinate some things.”
“This discussion is over. Go on, go on, you’re an adult, so go focus on the work you have in front of you.”
Tatsuki sulked for a while at the decision, but he was the type to quickly get over his disappointments, and soon he was back to as if nothing had happened. Shin was sure that if even in the end the decision was a no, on the day of the race he would probably just grumble in front of the TV with an Ahh, I wanted to run in it~! and that would be the end of it.
With that in mind, Shin thought that the plans were pretty much half-sunk, so he was surprised when a few days later Shitara asked him, “Will you go to the gate opening ritual for us?”
“Huh? Ya mean for a shoot?”
“Yeah. Also a live report. Kansai Asahi will broadcast the event live, so we can piggyback on their coverage.”
Their affiliate station Kansai Asahi TV aired their own local programming during the morning time slot when the gate opening ritual would be held, but under a partnership with Kansai Asahi’s crew to broadcast the ritual live from start to finish, Asahi TV could relay their feed to show the same footage to the Kanto region. In other words, the Kansai broadcast would be shown on the national network for a time, and The News could limit the staff and equipment they would send to a bare minimum.
“And since Tatsuki’s so excited to participate in the race, I thought we could take a gamble on his luck and athleticism to air a short Announcer Minagawa challenge video. Since we air almost half a day after the ritual finishes, it’ll be a bit boring unless we add another element to spice it up more.”
So the nightly news would piggyback on the pre-race interviews and the live race coverage to bring a special story, and Shin would participate in the filming, editing, and live broadcast… He didn’t mind it at all, but the issue at hand was Tatsuki’s luck.
“Okay, but what do we do if we go, an’ the usable footage we get is like zero?”
If the race was a marathon, even if Tatsuki finished last, they could frame the footage as if he had given it his best, but with a sprint, if they only caught a glimpse of him, it would be a huge letdown.
“If that’s the case, we’ll just repeat the earlier coverage on the flash news, and we won’t bring it up~ It’s all up to Tatsuki if the footage we take leading up to the event ever sees the light of day, so make sure you pressure him about it~”
What was supposed to be a trip on their personal time suddenly turned into a huge affair, plus it was a live broadcast where there were no do-overs… Shin immediately became nervous, but after the broadcast when he talked to Tatsuki, Tatsuki just happily said, “We don’t have to pay for our travel expenses~”
“Dun ya feel the heavy pressure on ya?”
“It’s a bit of a hassle that I have to film the race for work, but you’ll be there with me. Oh, we’ll have to save staying at your parents’ for another time! Huh? Your excitement for it seems pretty low?”
“Well, it ain’t high.”
The star would be Tatsuki, that part hadn’t changed, but Shin was completely switched from a bystander to an active party related to the event. At the very least, his earlier excitement about the trip had disappeared.
“I gotta make a ton o’ arrangements, an’ I’ve never worked with the people from Kansai Asahi before, an’ we’re gonna need them for the live coverage. I’m like grindin’ my teeth here. …Hmm? By the way, who’s gonna be the reporter for the coverage?”
It would probably be an announcer from Kansai Asahi. Shin hoped that the person was nice, someone not too new and not too much of a veteran.
“Huh? You didn’t hear about it from Shitara-san?”
“It was right when we were really busy, so I didna hear much ’bout it.”
“Oh, well speak of the devil.”
Tatsuki shifted his gaze past Shin’s shoulder, so Shin turned around and saw Kei walking over towards them.
“Good work on the show tonight. Minagawa-kun, Nawada-kun, I look forward to working with you next month.”
“Oh, Senpai, I look forward to it too~!”
Tatsuki raised his hand all energetically, but Shin was confused as he looked back and forth between Tatsuki and Kei.
“Oh, you didn’t know, Nawada-kun? I’ll be the reporter covering the Lucky Man race.”
Shin was dumbfounded by the unexpected casting, but he hurried to bow his head and said, “I look forward to working with you! I-I will do my best to ensure that nothing goes wrong during coverage…”
“I will be counting on your support. Let’s speak later to discuss the details.”
Kei gave a soft smile as he left, and only when Shin saw that he had walked far enough away did he breathe a deep sigh.
“It’s Kunieda-san? Ya gotta be kiddin’ me… Why put a prince on so early in the morning on a national holiday?”
“Oh, I heard that it was a demand from Kansai Asahi? They’re the ones supplying the crew, equipment, and the relay, so they told us to bring out our ace.”
Their ace—but it wasn’t like announcers employed at a television network received any special pay. At most, the network might compensate for working on a holiday and late at night; the cost performance numbers must have been incredible.
“An’ now I’m super nervous.”
“Why~? You’re making too big a deal of it~ You work with him every day you know.”
“But it’s a first for an outside shoot, plus it’ll be live…”
“You’ll be fine~ And if anything does happen, Kunieda-san can handle it.”
With someone like that, Shin thought that it was all the more reason that he couldn’t let anything happen, but Tatsuki seemed utterly unbothered by it.
“Ain’t ya nervous that such a great senior of yours got roped into somethin’ that started out as ya personal plans?”
“Great senior of mine? He’s only two years older than me.”
“I didna mean ‘great’ in that sense.”
“Anyway, it’s the network that turned my personal plans into something much bigger~”
“After makin’ Kunieda-san come out with us for work, I ain’t gonna tolerate a poor showin’ where ya dun even show up on the cameras!”
“Isn’t it the director’s job to create good scenes for the presenters~? It’ll be fine~ It’ll all work out~!”
Shin was kind of envious of Tatsuki’s unshakeable optimism. But also kind of not.
Shin was off being busy, something about needing to research and plan the shoot for the Lucky Man challenge video that was suddenly assigned to him, and so Tatsuki thought that he might as well do his own preparations in the meantime. Specifically speaking, he stopped by his great senior’s home, whose guts had probably turned into magma from all the boiling and seething inside of him despite greeting them with a smile after the broadcast. Tatsuki needed to report to that great senior’s boyfriend that he was borrowing him for work on an overnight trip. In this industry, step one was to plan, step two was to plan, three and four were to plan, and step five was to execute—it was all about following the proper steps~
“Huh? You’re going to run the Lucky Man race? You’re always out enjoying life, huh?”
“That’s the theme of my life.”
“I don’t give a rat’s ass, just don’t get me involved!!”
The moment he was safely ensconced in his own territory, his great senior did not hesitate to blow his top and rain rage and fury all around him. His boyfriend, Tsuzuki Ushio, ignored him and served Tatsuki a warm bowl of chowder that he had made. Tatsuki scooped up a spoonful of the creamy soup, and there were clams, as well as cut-up pieces of potato, carrots, onions and broccoli that appeared. It hid a lot of different things under a calm white surface—kind of like Kunieda-san, Tatsuki thought. Except that he was tongue-numbingly, tear-inducingly spicy.
“How do you enter the race?” Ushio asked, placing a lightly toasted baguette on the table for them to share.
“If you just want to run, you just show up at the shrine that morning. But if you’re gunning for the Lucky Man title, you need a ticket for your starting position. The first 1500 people who show up at 10 pm the night before the race get to enter a lottery that happens at midnight.”
“1500!? That many people show up?”
“Seems like it. There are a lot of regulars who show up year after year too.”
“So you need to be lucky on top of being fast. Sounds perfect for you, Minagawa.”
“I know, right?”
“What’s your time for the 100 meter, by the way?”
“It was back in high school, so it’s been ages, but my best time was 11.2 seconds, I guess~”
“Wow, that’s incredible~”
“Don’t give the idiot more things to let go to his head,” Kei sneered, his voice boiled down into a thick morass of rancor. “It’s a festival for worthless meatheads who believe that stupid nonsense. There’s nothing special about that time anyway. Plus he’s bragging about a record that happened more than 10 years ago. What good is that supposed to be? Obviously, he’ll cross the finish line with all the other idiots, more impossible to find than Waldo.”
Ushio asked, “Yeah? And what time do you plan on finishing at, Kunieda-san?”
“I’m not running, you moron!!”
“Senpai’s reporting live on the scene.”
“Oh? Then you don’t have to grumble so much.”
“What?” Kei dropped his voice another octave and started counting off his fingers. “It’s an overnight business trip at the beginning year, that’s one grumble. I have to be stuck with people in the middle of winter from the dead of night until morning, that’s two grumbles. When I get back, I have to go straight to work that night, that’s three grumbles. And with this idiot involved, that’s ten thousand freaking grumbles!!”
“You really inflated it there.”
“Senpai, if you keep grumbling like that, you might really turn into a gremlin.”
“Shut up, stupid!!”
“Hmm, so next month, huh?”
Ushio suddenly took out his cell phone and started nodding to himself, and then he announced, “Maybe I’ll go too.”
Kei uttered a “What?” and Tatsuki uttered a “Huh?” simultaneously.
“I happen to have a meeting in Osaka around that time. I had planned to make it a day trip, but… What do you think Shitara-san will say if I ask him to put me on as an AD? I can take care of my own expenses and bring my own lunch.”
“Well, he knows you, so I think he’ll be fine with it. Didn’t you go out for a shoot together in Hokkaido? Wow, Senpai, lucky you! You got a business trip and a date in one out of it. That’s enough to put a million smiles on your face.”
“What smiles!? I want to keep my work and my private life separate!!”
“But you gotta show Tsuzuki-san your dashing side sometimes~ I mean, the only time when you’re a decent person is when you’re at work.”
“Piss off!! You’re the clown who treats work and your private life like a joke!!”
“Awww, but I can be serious too when I—”
When situations became serious, he had to face them seriously. And in order to face his relationship with Shin seriously, he needed to rely on Kei’s and Ushio’s cooperation. Okay, should he just spit it out right now? It wasn’t like he expected them to agree from the get-go. It could be a first round to assess the situation.
“Minagawa, what’s wrong? You suddenly got quiet.”
“Umm, well, I have a very special favor that I would like to ask you.”
“I… —would love to get some noodles in this yummy soup!” Tatsuki held out his bowl of leftover chowder with both hands, and Ushio got to his feet.
“That’s your favor?” he said with a wry smile. “But sure. Give me a few minutes.”
“How freaking shameless are you!?”
“Kunieda-san~ That’s the face that says, ‘Hey, I was going to say that.’ So I guess that makes two portions… Oh, I only have a little bit of pasta left. Anyone prefer udon?”
“Senpai, let’s do rock-paper-scissors for it.”
“What did I just say!? So freaking shameless!! Frigginfreakingshamingshameless!!”
Under the verbal assault of newly made-up insults, the chowder udon that he got (with lots of yuzu kosho3 in it) was incredibly delicious. And apparently now that his stomach was full, his thought processes dampened. He could no longer recover the muster that he had before, so he decided to quietly take his leave.
“Weren’t you trying to say something else earlier?”
The building was old and had no elevator. Walking down the empty staircase, it reminded him of his high school days after school. But Tatsuki was now a grown adult, and just like Kei had said, he couldn’t run the 100 meters in 11.2 seconds anymore, but he now had someone important he wanted to face seriously as an adult.
Ushio probably waited to ask him this question when Kei wasn’t around. Tatsuki was grateful for his sharpness and consideration, but evaded the question by declaring, “It was hard for me to figure out how to ask it.”
“Hnn, it’s unusual for you to be so careful with your words.”
“Well I’ve racked up some years, you know? …For now, the only thing I can say is that your heart’s really generous, Tsuzuki-san.”
“I mean, I made passes at Kunieda-san, but you’re still nice enough to spend time with me like this.”
“You’re saying that now after all this time?”
“Lately I’ve had a lot of things on my mind.”
The sounds of their footfalls and voices echoed up the stairwell as they descended in the opposite direction.
“Hmm, seems like you’re going through a tough time.”
“Nah, it’s not anything too rough.”
“But the reason that I talk and spend time with you doesn’t really have anything to do with the size of my heart, it’s because you’re funny and a good guy. That’s all there is to it.”
“…Whoaaa, you totally just made my heart start racing~ Geez! My heart skipped a beat there!”
Although Ushio had praised him so kindly, Tatsuki quietly thought to himself that the reason why Kunieda-san could manage his daily life was probably because of Ushio and the person that he was. Getting rejected was really the right thing to have happened to Tatsuki. But he was sure that Ushio would probably say this: It’s because of Kei and the way that he is that I can manage my own life as I have.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
- USJ is Universal Studios Japan. Coming of Age Day is a national holiday held every second Monday of January.
- The age of 20 is the coming of age where a person becomes an adult in Japan.
- Yuzu kosho – Citrus chili paste.