Chapter 16: Secrets and Irises (3)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
There weren’t many facilities in the area of the shrine, and so they stayed at a hotel near Koushien for their lodgings—well, no, it was more a rest stop and a place to store their luggage. It was a nice expense; they would get ready to head out again at night, and after they finished their shoot the next morning, they would return to Tokyo.
“Dinner will be on our own. If you eat at the hotel restaurant or use room service, please bill it to the room. If you go outside to eat, please remember to get a receipt.”
“Roger, okay, we’ll see you two later,” Ushio said.
They went their separate ways, split into two double rooms, and Shin sat at the desk completely absorbed with work on his laptop.
“Nacchan, you’re not going to nap?”
“I gotta work on edits. What about ya? Ya should take a nap yaself.”
“I’m thinking of going out to eat before that~”
“Okay, take care.”
Tatsuki waited for Shin to put on his headphones first before leaving the room. This was probably his chance. Shin probably wouldn’t hear anything even if it got a little loud. Tatsuki pressed the doorbell to the room next door, and Ushio opened the door.
“Hey, sorry to bother you, but may I please come in?”
“Sure, come on in.”
At the same time, he heard a voice yell from inside the room, “Don’t let him in,” but Tatsuki didn’t let it bother him.
“Ahhh, I’m glad that I hurried on over. I don’t know what I’d do if you two had already started~”
“We were about to do rock-paper-scissors to decide who was top and bottom.”
“Woww, so you can go both ways~ So vers~”
Kei threw the remote control at him, but thanks to his natural reflexes, somehow Tatsuki was able to catch it. Man, that was close, he was totally aiming for the face.
“Oi, don’t throw the hotel furnishings around.”
“Hey, please object to the fact that it would have really, really hurt if it had hit me.”
“It’s your fault for saying something so stupid!”
Crap, he wanted to bring up a serious subject here, but he got caught up in their usual banter without thinking. Tatsuki pulled himself together and walked over to where Kei was sitting in an armchair. First he needed to move the small table out of the way.
“…What are you doing?” His senior colleague recoiled a little, not used to this unexpected behavior from him.
Tatsuki ignored it. He got down on his knees in front of Kei and lowered his head to the floor.
“Seriously, what the hell are you doing!?”
“Please, I implore you! I must beg a favor of you, milord!!”
The image Tatsuki had in his head was that of a peasant begging mercy from an Edo-era magistrate, but Magistrate Kunieda only stated coolly, “Are you fucking around?”
“I’m completely serious.”
“What’s this all of a sudden?” Ushio asked.
“May I have leave to speak?”
“Okay, Senpai, please say ‘you may raise your head.’”
“Keep it down there forever,” Kei said. “Keep it there until the day Hunter x Hunter resumes again.”
“But I don’t have the slightest idea when that will happen!”
Tatsuki repeated to himself, Act serious, act serious here, and changed his prostrate position to one where he sat up on his knees. “To tell you the truth…” he said, finally getting to the point of this whole charade, “I’ve been dating Nacchan since this summer.”
Kei was so surprised that he almost pushed himself out of his armchair, but Ushio accepted the news easily with an “Oh, really?” and sat down on a bed.
“I had a feeling that it might’ve been the case.”
“Do you have ESP, Tsuzuki-san?”
“Nah, just when I was looking through the shots from today, you looked so much brighter in the ones that Nacchan shot than mine.”
“Oh, I see~”
“Don’t give me that ‘Oh, I see,’ dammit! You just have to fish in your own waters, huh!?” Kei taunted. “Wait, maybe it’s more coastal? Or something like clamming? Anyway, you started in the summer? Wasn’t it summer when Kitarou first came to work on our show!?”1
“I think that time is irrelevant when it comes to love.”
“That snappy answer of yours pisses me off. Lower your head, you damn clown. …Hmmm? What the hell does that have to do with me!? Don’t bring your stupid information to me, you worthless idiot. Scram, go back to the GeGeGe Forest with Kitarou.”
“No, no, what I’m about to say involves both you and Tsuzuki-san.”
“Huh? It involves me also?”
“Yes.” Tatsuki straightened his posture and took a deep breath. “Before we started dating, I was talking to Nacchan about our lives and things… And I went with the flow and told him that I liked a man before but got rejected. So I came to report that to you.”
“Don’t you dare tell me that you went with the flow and said my name while you were at!!”
“You sure are sharp~”
“Okay, you’re dead. I’ll kill you now and throw you into the ocean from Naruohama.”2
“No, no, I didn’t tell him! I really didn’t tell him!”
Tatsuki felt the seriousness in Kei’s eyes and hurried to clear up the joke.
“I didn’t tell him your name, but even now, Nacchan is really, really bothered by who the person is. I’m really open with him about my ex-girlfriends and stuff, so it’s pretty unnatural that this is the one subject where I tell him not to ask me about it. Don’t you think? Like he might think that I’m still hung up on the person. So that’s why—”
Tatsuki pressed his head back to the floor and at long last revealed his request.
“Please allow me to explain to him about you and Tsuzuki-san, Senpai.”
Silence descended the room. Tatsuki glanced up nervously to look at Kei, and found a very pleasant smile from Kunieda-san, who then said:
“Ohhhh, I got a major sense of dejavu just now.”
“Shut up! Don’t fuck with me!!” Kei erupted as he got to his feet. “Why the hell should I sacrifice my privacy for you and Kitarou, huh!?”
“Please, I beg of you! I really need to explain it to him!”
“I don’t care if your balloon for brains says ‘Konnichiwa’ to everyone in Brazil, but the answer is obviously fucking no!!”3
“Get away from me.”
“Oi, calm down, you two.”
Tsuzuki-san would intervene whenever there was trouble.
“Minagawa, can’t you explain it to him without giving him specifics? I’m sure that Nacchan doesn’t need the exact names of the people involved.”
“I suppose, but I told him that I still speak to the person and that I like his boyfriend too. Unless I clarify it, Nacchan will end up suspecting all the men around me…”
“But more importantly, I don’t like lying and hiding things from him. He’s different from all the others I dated before, and I want to have a proper talk with him and let him know that he has nothing to worry about— Senpai, please, I’ll never ask you for anything again, but please give me your permission to explain it to him! Nacchan would never say a word about it to anyone!”
Kei’s reply was curt and to the point regardless of Tatsuki’s pleas.
“What the hell do I care about your problems? It’s got nothing to do with me.”
“Don’t say it like that,” Ushio warned him, but Kei retorted uncooperatively.
“What other way is there to say it?”
“Hasn’t Minagawa helped you out a lot of times despite you having nothing to do with him?”
“What help? And even if he did, it has nothing to do with what we’re talking about right now!”
Ushio seemed to have wanted to say more, but he abruptly cut himself off. He crossed his arms and breathed a heavy sigh.
“What if shutting Nacchan out like this only aggravates his suspicions, and things sour between him and Minagawa? He might spill it to Nacchan anyway without thinking of the consequences.”
“What!? Please don’t say something so unlucky!”
“Then I should kill him now.”
“Look at the reality. Whether you get exposed or not depends on Minagawa’s generosity. You can’t just go in and ignore the cards that he’s holding.”
Ushio uncrossed his arms and clapped his hands together like he was smushing something invisible.
“I have a proposal: how about we try leaving things to Ebisu-sama’s hands?”
“What do you mean?”
“If you take first place in the Lucky Man race tomorrow, he’ll have to grant you your wish, but you get nothing for anything less than that… It’s an overwhelming advantage for you, is it not, Kunieda-san?”
“Yes! I’ll accept the terms!” Tatsuki raised his hand to show his agreement, but Kei stayed silent with a disgruntled look of hesitation.
“You were the one who said that Minagawa will never take the Number 1 Lucky Man title. Are you still worried despite the conditions?”
With Ushio’s prodding, Kei reluctantly answered, “Don’t ask me to bend the terms for you afterwards. And if you don’t get first place, you can never bring this up to me ever again! If that’s clear to you, then get out!!”
Somehow events had developed in an unexpected direction, but thanks to Ushio, he still had a chance left. Tatsuki went down to the first floor wondering if he should eat at the Japanese-Chinese-Western restaurant there when someone tapped his shoulder from behind.
“Oh, hey, Tsuzuki-san.”
“Are you about to eat now?”
“Yes. How’s Kunieda-san?”
“Raging in the room.”
“I’m sorry, it’s all my fault. But thank you for stepping in.”
There was also an expensive teppanyaki place, but they decided to get something quick and went to the cafe lounge to order curry.
“I wanted to tell him that there was no need for that attitude when you were being respectful and asking him directly, but if you try to use logic on him like that, he snaps and digs his heels in. That’s why I changed my approach the way that I did. I don’t think that you would expose him without his permission.”
“I see, you’re indeed a kind and fair justice!”
“I’m not the one judging you. The gods are.”
Their orders, vegetable curry (Ushio) and beef curry (Tatsuki) arrived, and they ate together in silence for a while. When their plates were cleared, Ushio murmured, “I think he’s probably scared.”
“Huh? Scared of what?”
“Of Nacchan. Nacchan seems to watch him pretty closely. He notices that he only drinks room-temperature water at work, or that he works really, really hard to get things done despite his calm and unaffected demeanor. Nacchan doesn’t do it out of ulterior motives or curiosity, he just works hard at his job to accommodate Kunieda-san as a presenter. But to Kunieda-san, it feels like he’s encroaching on who he is on the inside, and that’s a source of his fear.”
“Hmmm, so does he hate Nacchan then?”
“I wouldn’t say that. He can’t hate people who work hard at their jobs, but that can also be a part of his fear.”
“Ohhh, I see. He does cave pretty easily if you poke him enough.”
“Hey, I don’t want to hear that from you.”
They arrived in front of their rooms to disband when Ushio spoke up.
“Hey, if you don’t get first place tomorrow…”
“I’m fine with it,” Tatsuki said, interrupting him. “You were going to say you’d find another opportunity to persuade him, right? Thank you, I appreciate it, but you don’t need to. A promise is a promise. I want to get first place for myself, and if I do that, it makes everything okay. I won’t think about stopgaps if I mess up.”
“I see.” Ushio smiled. “You’re very cool, Announcer Minagawa.”
“Did it make your heart skip a beat?”
“It did, it did.”
While they were joking around, something hit the door to Ushio’s room with a bang from the inside.
“Senpai’s like a poltergeist, huh~”
“I’m pretty sure he heard that too.”
“The time is just past 9 pm. We are at the parking lot of a temple near Nishinomiya Shrine. Please take a look at the line of people waiting to participate in the lottery for a starting position in the Lucky Man race. Announcer Minagawa has joined the line just now. Only the first 1,500 people can receive an official ticket to participate in the lottery, but if we estimate roughly by sight, already there appears to be over 1,000 people waiting under this wintry sky. Will Minagawa-san be able to secure his official ticket to participate?”
They were told not to film the participants up-close before the race, so they filmed farther away with the line of people in the background. At any rate, it was really a strange sight to see hordes of men in running gear waiting outside in the middle of winter this late at night. There were also glimpses of baseball and track uniforms among them, happi coats, and even a few girls here and there. There are all sorts o’ odd people out there, Shin thought, getting a similar feeling to the lines of people waiting outside the Apple stores. At 10 pm, the line slowly started to move. They waited for Tatsuki to send them a LINE and prepared to shoot again.
“It is now 11 pm. We just got word from Minagawa-san, and he is registered as the 1,351st participant. That is quite a slim margin from the cutoff. Upon his registration, the officials also checked his shoes. Apparently people have been turned away for wearing anything besides running shoes. He also signed a participation consent form. We were given a copy of the form from the Shrine, and it details a list of precautions for the participants. They will wait here until midnight when the lottery will be held. No one is allowed to leave the line, and that, of course, includes Minagawa-san.”
And then it was midnight. They started pulling numbers at the head of the line. There were three Blocks of starting positions. At the very front of the Red Gate was Block A, limited to 108 runners. Behind that was Block B, limited to 150 runners. Everyone else was assigned to Block C, all the way in the back sandwiched between the footpaths. If a runner wanted to place in the Top 3, they would need to get the lowest number as possible in Block A. Plus, the lottery was conducted in the order of their registration numbers, and there was a high possibility that by time it was Tatsuki’s turn to draw, there would be no good positions left.
It would still be awhile before Tatsuki’s turn, so they returned to the minibus parked nearby. Shin checked the plans for the live broadcast once again and waited for about an hour until he received a message from Tatsuki that said, “I got my lottery number.”
“It appears he’s done.”
“Oh, how’d he do?”
“He didn’t say anything yet.”
“I wonder if it means it’s super good or super bad.”
They returned to their meeting area as Shin prepared himself to cheer Tatsuki up if it happened to be a bad starting position. He saw Tatsuki waving his hands excitedly at them. He held one wooden chopstick in his hand, and the tip was painted red. It was the mark for Block A.
“I did it!”
Tatsuki proudly stuck out the chopstick that had the number 13 written on it.
“…That’s pretty lucky, but dun ya get a bad feelin’ ’bout it?”
“What? No way, no way~ It’s a sign of good things to come!”
Shin wanted to film him right now, but the officials were convening the participants to explain the precautions and finalize the starting positions for the race. Tatsuki only returned after about two and half hours later.
“Yo, I’m right in the first row! Wow, I’m lucky! I can only think that Ebessan really wants me to embrace him.”4
“Ya gonna see divine retribution if ya keep sayin’ things like that, so quit it…”
Apparently, the starting positions were divided into rows of 12 runners each, but there were people who wanted to move down to the second row, so Tatsuki was able to move up.
“Then wouldn’t it be better to stay in the second row?” Ushio asked.
“You mean the strategy where it’s better to start from the center of the second row than the end of the first? Yeah, I think that it’s probably the smarter decision.”
The heavy Red Gate would open up from the center. There would probably be a decent delay on either side before the rest of runners could start running. However, Tatsuki said, “But it’s fine,” and didn’t worry about it.
“Since I’m leaving everything to the hands of a god, I’ll take what I’m given.”
Shin wondered if this utter confidence of his was something that could be trusted or not.
“Next we’re supposed to gather at the Red Gate at 4.”
“Two hours before the start time?”
“Yeah, the Head Priest is supposed to give his greetings, and each block has warmups, and there are prayers for the safety of the runners. So wake me up 10 minutes ahead of time, okay? Good night~”
Tatsuki fell asleep right away and did not move until it was time to wake up. It was only natural; he had been in full operation since yesterday morning without much sleep. I wish I could let him sleep more, Shin thought, feeling sad as he shook Tatsuki’s shoulder. Maybe Tatsuki had fully prepared himself for battle while he was unconscious because he was surprisingly wide awake when he woke up.
“Good morning~ Minagawa Tatsuki, heading out! Good luck with the broadcast, everyone!”
Shin stepped outside with Tatsuki to the applause from the crew. It was dark as night out, and Shin felt like it had grown even colder. According to the weather forecast last night, even though they were away from the mountains, there was a chance of snowfall.
“Do ya have hand warmers with ya?” Shin asked.
“I stuck some on before I slept. On my stomach and the tops of my feet.”
“What ’bout the non-stick kinds?”
“I don’t want to be bogged down with them, so I’m fine. Plus I’ve got gloves, and that’s enough. Oh, can you hold on to my cell phone?”
Tatsuki was challenging this race with his body, and Shin wouldn’t see him until after the race was over. The next time they would talk was after the results were out. What kind of sendoff should he say to him? While Shin hesitated, Tatsuki called out his name.
“I’m going to try my hardest today. I’ll absolutely take first place.”
Shin slowly shook his head. “…Ya dun have to try so hard. Actually, dun try at all.”
“Whaaat? That’s what you have to say~?” Tatsuki pouted unhappily as he jogged away.
When Shin could no longer see him, Ushio, who was watching next to the minibus, asked, “You’re not going to tell him to try his best?”
“No. He seemed to be in good condition, so I said the opposite.”
Watching the broadcast from the floor, there were times when Shin would think, He’s on a roll today. On those days, the words would roll off his tongue and resonate powerfully through the air, and the irises that Shin loved would glitter more brightly than the spotlight. But today, Tatsuki would be doing much more than speaking.
“As the director, it’s prolly my job to keep his spirits up, but if he gets too excited an’ hurts himself in the process, then it would be awful… I’m responsible for everybody finishin’ the shoot safe and sound, an’ I can’t tell him, ‘Try ya best,’ the way he is now.”
Shin had watched a number of broadcasts from past years as reference for their live coverage, and he fully felt the sense of speed and danger that could occur with a single misstep. And to complicate things, Tatsuki enjoyed that rush of tension and urgency. However, there was absolutely no tolerance for injuring a presenter for a story. No matter how good a shot, no matter how dramatic the story—it would be a failure. Shin knew very well the bitterness and the price that would have to be paid. That was probably why Shitara had picked him to handle this responsibility.
“If he’s gonna get overheated from excitement an’ injure himself, then I dun care if he comes in last, or if there’s no usable footage, I just want him to come back safe an’ sound.”
“Yeah, that’s true. I’m sorry, I said something pretty thoughtless.”
“It’s all right.”
“But we should work our hardest, huh? —Right, Kunieda-san?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
Kei nodded. He hadn’t complained once about the long waits or the freezing cold. When he was in front of the cameras and when he wasn’t, there was no difference that Shin could discern in Kei, and it made him worried. Kunieda Kei’s behavior went on without pause, maintaining a smooth flat line. Even having spent more time together than normal like this, Shin couldn’t catch sight of even the slightest of errors. Privately, the first person on his list to whom he’d say, You dun hafta try so hard, was Kei.
But he was sure that to Kei, it was none of his business.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
- Kitarou refers to GeGeGe no Kitarou because of the similarity with Shin’s hair.
- Naruohama is very close to Koshien, where they’re staying.
- This refers to a gag by the comedian Savanna Yagi, who gets down on the floor and yells, “Brazilians, can you hear me!?” because Brazil is on the opposite side of the Earth for Japan.
- The condition for winning the Lucky Man race is to catch/be caught by one of three priests at the finish line.