Chapter 2: Love Rivals and Irises (2)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
The next day just past noon, Shitara, the producer, walked into the staff room. Behind him was Megumi Kotarou, whose photo Shin had seen yesterday. He was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt—he must have come expecting to be put to work. Even without a necktie, it didn’t change the hard-nosed impression that he gave off.
“He’s a new employee at the network, and he’ll be doing his training here at The News… It looks like you’ve already heard about it, I take it.”
“I happened to hear about it yesterday. He’s Megumi-kun, right?”
“Word sure spreads fast around here.” Shitara smiled wryly. “Nawada, I’d like to ask you to take on an additional responsibility. Could you look after Megumi and take charge of his training?”
“The goal is to finish his training by the end of next month. I don’t know if he will stay with us after that, but we can start him off as a studio AD first and move him through the different roles.”
“You’re asking me, sir?”
It was such an unexpected request that Shin couldn’t help but ask Shitara to repeat himself.
“Normally a network employee would be tasked with the training, but there’s no one here now who is close to him in age. It is still too early to put him on the news desk or as the broadcast director, and I think that you’re more than suitable for the job. Will you do it?”
“Yes, sir, um, of course.”
“Thank you. So that settles it. Megumi, you’re Nawada-kun’s underling starting today. Make sure you listen to all his orders.”
Shitara knew very well that Shin was formerly a devoted “underling” for a talented but incredibly controversial producer, and he had to make such an exasperating joke. Kotarou frowned with clear misgivings written on his face.
“Please stop it, sir. Look, he’s takin’ you seriously.”
Kotarou shook his head at Shin’s objection and answered, “No, I was just surprised. The other members of the staff had mentioned a Nacchan who would be good for the job, so I had expected a woman to be my supervisor.”
“Oh, sorry for disappointin’ ya. Shitara-san, looks like we already sunk his enthusiasm for the job.”
“Yeahhh, but remember, we forbid romantic relationships between members working on the show~”
As someone currently in a hot new romance with an announcer of said show, the words made Shin feel a sudden chill, but Shitara was most likely just teasing (at least he should be).
However, Kotaro made a serious face as he denied it and said, “I have no intentions of any of that. I came here to learn about the work I’ll be doing, and I believe it has nothing to do with the gender of the people I’m working with.”
It was a reaction that Shin didn’t know how to react to. Shin didn’t know if he was an airhead or just honest to a fault, but he seemed like a good guy. With such a serious personality, this line of work might be stressful for him though.
“All right, I’ll leave you to it then.”
Shitara gave Shin a pat on the shoulder and left. Kotarou didn’t reach for a handshake like an American would—he bowed his head very respectfully and said, “I look forward to working with you.” Shin was a little bewildered at this treatment. He had no experience training anyone below him in status. He did have junior colleagues below him at the production company, but they didn’t have many opportunities to work on the same show together, and so his relationships with them were fairly shallow.
“Umm… Do ya have any experience workin’ in the broadcastin’ industry? Even part-time or anythin’?”
“I have zero experience.”
It was only five or six years ago when Shin had been a novice and knew nothing about the industry. Even now, he was still learning and required supervision, and he had no idea where to start or what to do with this new trainee in front of him.
“First off, ya dun need to use polite language with me. We’re the same age anyway.”
This time Shin understood without asking what had surprised him. Especially since Tatsuki had thought Shin was a student working part-time the first time they met.
“…Oh, no, I couldn’t. It wouldn’t be proper. I am a trainee assigned to learn from you after all.”
“Well, I won’t force ya if ya dun wanna. Oh, right, have ya had lunch yet?”
“No, not yet.”
“Okay, let’s go eat then.”
Shin invited the other staff who were around to go with them to lunch, and they all headed to the cafeteria. The conversation of course centered around Kotarou.
“What? Did you really change careers to start over from scratch? That takes a lot of guts~”
“Did you get tired of living in the U.S.?”
“No, it’s very nice living there, and I led a fulfilling life.”
“Then why’d you come here to start over again?”
“I suppose I have a goal I want to achieve.”
There was a neat and beautiful form to the way that Kotarou held his chopsticks as he ate the special daily lunch set that he had chosen. Once they had started talking, his face and voice weren’t as gruff as Shin had first thought. He was surprisingly very approachable.
“Perhaps I should call it more of an aspiration.”
The table let out a “Whoa” at such an overambitious word.
“What is it? What is it?”
“Don’t tell me you’re an assassin sent by foreign interests who want to take over Asahi TV?”
However, Kotarou didn’t answer the question. “Nacchan,” he suddenly uttered out of the blue.
“—is a nickname, correct? Your name is Nawada, so Nacchan.”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“Did you give yourself the nickname?”
“Who would do that?”
Someone chimed in, “Hey, you call yourself it too~”
“Yeah, yeah, when you introduce yourself you say, ‘I’m Nacchan, also known as Nawada Shin.’”
“I dun do that! An’ why ya givin’ the nickname like my real name!?”
“Oh, speak of the devil, here comes the one who gave him the nickname~”
Shin looked over at the entrance of the cafeteria and saw Tatsuki walking in. Tatsuki noticed Shin and headed over without taking a tray, but for some reason, his gaze gradually slid over from Shin to someone next to him.
“Huh?” Tatsuki stared at Kotarou, and his eyes widened. “Wow, hey, Kota! It’s been forever! Don’t tell me you’re the new employee here?”
In contrast to Tatsuki’s reaction, Kotarou narrowed the corner of his eyes and replied, “Don’t talk to me like we’re friends.”
…Huh? What did he just say?
The mood around the table dampened with awkwardness and surprise, but Tatsuki, the target of the harsh remark, stirred it back up with a brightness.
“Aww, you never change, do you~? You’re always so combative~”
“And you always have that stupidly loud voice of yours.”
“I’ve been with the company for much longer than you, so watch your language with me~”
Tatsuki was lighthearted as usual, but Kotarou’s face and voice were sharp and dangerous. There was too huge a gulf between their attitudes for this to be just regular banter. It was downright uncomfortable.
“Huh…? Do the two of ya know each other…?” Shin asked nervously, and Tatsuki answered easily back.
“We went to the same school for elementary, junior high, and high school.”
“What!? So you’re childhood friends!”
“Hmm, it’s not really that vibe though. We lived on other sides of the school district, so our houses were pretty far away. ”
“It’s incredible for you two to meet up like this.”
“Anyway, Kota, I thought you found a job in the U.S.? Did you screw things up over there? Don’t tell me that they deported you?”
“Of course not!”
“Well, we have a ton of stuff to catch up on, but let’s save it for later. I have to eat lunch with the section manager of my department today.”
Kotarou shouted as Tatsuki left their table, “I have nothing to say to you!” He was like a completely different person from before.
“Um, Megumi-kun, did something happen between you and Tatsuki?”
“It’s a long history.”
“I can’t sum it up into a single statement, so I’ll just say that there’s a long history between us.”
“But he didn’t seem bothered by any of it.”
“That’s just the guy he is.”
There was an unspoken persuasiveness to his comment. It was true—Tatsuki was just that kind of guy. As generous as he could be to other people, he could also be oblivious to things he had done to them, or maybe he had just thought, Whatever, it’s not a big deal—it was very possible something like that had happened between the two of them. Everyone was adults here, and they refrained from poking too deeply into the friction that (potentially) existed between Tatsuki and the new guy they had just met. Lunch ended peacefully, and as Shin went about his day showing Kotarou different parts of his job—like where the equipment was stored and which desks to put the newspapers out on—and running about with his own work, the 10 pm broadcast came and went in a blink of an eye.
“Good work, everyone!”
“Let’s put on another great show tomorrow!”
I’m super exhausted—that was how Shin truly felt afterwards. It wore him out to have someone stick behind him non-stop watching his every action. It wasn’t Kotarou’s fault, of course, and he had worked hard, which Shin appreciated. Kotarou had suddenly been thrust into the battlefield of a TV production—it was only natural to shrink back from the action on his first day, but he didn’t hesitate when it came to his lack of experience, in a good way, and he sank his teeth into the work and asked plenty of questions. It was likely a skill he had acquired from his experience as a working adult.
But on the other hand, Shin had no confidence in himself right now to march ahead and tell Kotarou to follow his example.
Whatta I do if he copies me but it ain’t only good for anythin’?
Shin immediately became worried about the end results of the training period. The pressure that came with training and teaching other people was a different kind of ordeal from the exhausting work at the bottom of the totem pole.
However, whenever Shin felt his thoughts turning negative, that was when he needed to put himself into his work. Even if he couldn’t become the perfect teacher, Shin could only do his best at the task that he was given. He was sure that it was what Shitara had expected out of him. Shin carried his laptop to an empty lounge and started writing a manual for AD work. All the necessary information would be written in the rundown and production schedule, but they could be hard to comprehend without any experience. Shin recalled the points that he had once found confusing or hard to understand and wrote out the little details regarding the time schedule starting from broadcast preparations, the requisite operations, and important do’s and don’ts inside the studio during a broadcast.
He added notes and comments where possible and ordered the document with the most important points first. It was actually pretty fun putting the manual together, and Shin learned a lot too during the process. Before he knew it, Shin had gotten used to the work here, and he managed everything without thinking too much about it. Now he could look at the sequence of operations again from an objective perspective and find improvements that could make the process smoother. Teaching was essentially a form of learning.
It was 3 am when Shin finished his handmade manual. Although he was now exhausted to the bone, he also felt the deep senses of fulfillment and accomplishment. When he returned to the staff room, for some reason, Kotarou was still there.
“Thank you for your help and your training today.”
“Whatta ya doin’ here so late?”
It had been around 11:30 when Shin told Kotarou that he could go home after they had finished their review meeting and cleaned up the studio.
“A video editor was working on some footage, and he kindly let me watch him do his work,” Kotarou answered. “I couldn’t quite grasp the concepts just reading about it at home.”
“Yeah, the editin’ station is somethin’ best taught by experience. Which video editor did ya watch?”
“Oh, Shimada-san. He ain’t too friendly, but he’s a good guy. I used to stick to ’im like glue, stalkin’ ’im an’ askin’ ’im to teach me this an’ that. He musta gotten real tired o’ me.”
“When I told him that Nawada-san was training me, he told me that I was in good hands,” Kotarou reported with a smile.
“He said that you were honest and a hard worker and that I couldn’t go wrong by following you.”
The video editor was pretty old-fashioned, and Shin had no memory of the guy ever complimenting him to his face. He probably wasn’t saying it out of flattery. It made Shin incredibly happy to hear the compliments, but he said, “He’s exaggeratin’,” as he pretended to be calm in front of the new trainee.
“Anyway, I’m glad ya eager to learn, but more importantly, ya need to go on home an’ get yaself some proper rest.”
“Doesn’t that apply to you too, Nawada-san?”
“I take my breaks when I can, but ya just got here, so ya dun really understand the pace here yet. Oh, but I am glad to see ya. Here, I’ll give ya this.”
Shin held out the manual he had just completed and printed out, and Kotarou reacted in surprise.
“Ya dun need to remember everythin’ right away. Let’s see, I’d like ya to grasp the commercial placements, the different segments, an’ the arrangements for the set piece changes as soon as possible. Removin’ an’ placin’ the tables an’ chairs can be pretty complicated, ya know?”
“I should send ya the file too. Lemme know ya email address or LINE ID.”
“Did you take the time to make this just for me?”
“It ain’t that big a deal. I just thought it might be useful if ya had it.”
“Thank you very much.”
Kotarou bowed his head sincerely, and Shin waved his hands at him to downplay his actions.
“Dun worry ’bout it. It’s my job anyway, and it’ll help out a lot if ya can learn it all an’ start contributin’.”
“I will do my best.”
“Okay, okay, thanks.”
“What are your plans after this, Nawada-san?”
“I’m gonna nap here ’til the first trains start runnin’.” Shin pointed at the sofa nearby.
“You’re not going to get a nap room?”
“It’s a hassle to request one, an’ it’s only for two hours anyway.”
“Then may I also nap here with you?”
Well, it was a pretty big sofa with two sections in an L shape, so there was space for two. It wasn’t so bad for Shin, who was fairly small, but it would probably be cramped for a man with a bit of height to sleep there.
“There ain’t any need to worry ’bout me. Ya should go to the nap rooms.”
“I’m fine here,” Kotarou insisted.
Since he wouldn’t listen, Shin accepted it with half exasperation and said, “Okay, do what ya like.” He headed to his locker and pulled out a half-sized blanket and a windbreaker. Shin handed Kotarou the blanket and told him, “Ya can borrow this.”
“I’ll put this on an’ sleep. Ya dun have anythin’ for stayin’ the night, right? Well, it ain’t like I have everythin’ here either.”
Kotarou thanked Shin properly again. “Thank you very much.”
They lay down with their feet pointed towards each other. Shin called out, “Good night,” and remembered the incident from lunch.
“—Oh, right. Sorry, Megumi, but um…”
“What is it?”
“Ya dun need to sit up, just lie down an’ listen. I think ya gonna follow me on an outside assignment on Thursday. It’s a simple shoot, just me, ya, an’ the field director for the production side.”
“Ya know what street interviews are? We interview normal people on the street. The reporter will be Minagawa.”
Shin wondered if it was just his imagination that he heard a slight restlessness in Kotarou’s voice.
“I understand. Are there any preparations that I need to make beforehand?”
“I’ll tell ya ’bout the equipment setup later. I just wanna warn ya, just to be sure, but dun bring ya personal issues with ya on the job.”
From what Shin had seen from today’s broadcast, Kotarou didn’t seem like he would sabotage Tatsuki in any way just because he hated him, but Shin wanted to make sure that Kotarou was clear about this point.
“That was never my intention.”
“Good. Okay then, good night for real this time.”
Shin pulled the hood of the windbreaker down over his eyes in place of a sleep mask and closed his eyes to sleep. Shin was used to sleeping here on the sofa and fell asleep right away, but he didn’t know how Kotarou would fare. When Shin woke up at his alarm, the other side of the sofa was already empty and the blanket he had loaned out was laid out on top of him.
“Nawada-san, I finished all the preparations. Can you take a look at my work?”
“Sure. What number is the pin mic?”
“Oh, wait, that one had a bit o’ cracklin’ when I used it on our last assignment. Let’s use a different one.”
“All right. How about this one?”
“Yeah, let’s do the sound check.”
Shin placed the wireless earpiece for the pin mic in one ear and went to hand the fingertip-sized mic to Kotarou, but Tatsuki cut in between them.
“Oh, I’ll do it, I’ll do it~”
“Why!? Get away from us!”
Kotarou’s anger switch flipped on in an instant. If he were a dog, he would be barking and howling, but the situation between them never got so serious that he would bare his fangs and growl. They had known each other for a long time, and Tatsuki didn’t seem to care about Kotarou’s attitude. By the fourth day of working together, everyone pretty much stopped paying attention to them.
“You’re doing the mic test, right? So all I have to do is talk into the mic from a distance?”
“Ah, hey! Dammit, you bastard!”
Tatsuki ran off with the mic until he was about 3 meters away. It was a simple test—it didn’t matter who did it, so Shin turned on the mic and said, “Go ahead.”
“Uh, there ain’t any point if ya talk at ya normal volume. Use a low voice to talk into it.”
“Stupid,” Kotarou mocked, but Tatsuki ignored him and held the mic up in front of his lips. He whispered, “Hello?” and only Shin, who was wearing the earpiece, could hear him.
“Nacchan, do you hear me?”
Shin nodded and raised one hand to give the signal that it was okay, but Tatsuki continued to whisper into the mic. It was the low, seductive voice that he only used when they were alone.
“…Nacchan, I want to kiss you.”
Even though Shin knew that the sound wasn’t loud enough for others to hear, he couldn’t help but cover the earpiece. Even though no one would find out, how could Tatsuki say something like that while everyone was working?
“Nacchan, I want to grind into you so good~ Nacchan, I love you.”
“…Ya dumb nut!!”
Shin wasn’t thinking when he raised his voice by mistake, and the people all around them turned their eyes to stare at him. Shin turned red in embarrassment, marched up to Tatsuki, and grabbed the mic out of his hand.
“Hey, you’re always saying we should handle the mics carefully.”
“Shuddup! Ya really only do stupid things!”
“What? But I’m trying so hard to help you~”
Tatsuki grinned happily as his eyes sparkled with life, delighted at the success of his prank. The light of those irises, whenever Shin looked into them, always felt like they would suck him in—a light so bright and strong, he felt like he could transform under it like a magical girl with superpowers. Shin wanted to keep looking at them forever, but his heart sang whenever they stopped to blink too. And of course Shin wanted to kiss Tatsuki forever, all the time, if it was possible.
“Oi, Tatsuki. Don’t bother Nacchan while he’s doing his work.”
The field director had shown up, and Shin hurried to look away.
“Are all the preparations done? Should we get going then?”
“Oh, I have to stop by the announcer department first. I’ll meet you at the parking garage. B1, right?”
Shin headed to the elevators with Kotarou, carrying camera bags on each shoulder.
“Nawada-san,” Kotarou said in a low voice. “You seem to get along really well with Minagawa.”
Shin’s pulse had just settled down with what had happened a little while ago, but it raced out of control again. But he was able to pretend to be calm and sidestep the comment.
“He gets along with pretty much anybody. Ya should know that better than me.”
“Yes, but, how should I put it…”
Oi, what’s with the silence? It’s scarin’ me.
“…Minagawa looks happier than usual when he’s with you, Nawada-san.”
But Shin had to rein his happiness back from showing on his face.
“Ya prolly just imaginin’ it. What? Are ya gonna hate me if I get along with him?”
“No, that would never happen.”
Shin only made a joke to change the flow of the conversation, but Kotarou took his words seriously and vehemently refuted it.
“I would never.”
It’s kinda weird to say Thanks here. I ain’t figured out the distance between us yet.
But Kotarou’s role on the assignment today was extremely important, essential even, so Shin gave him a pat on the shoulder and said, “I’m countin’ on ya.” The topic for today was asking foreign tourists about what they thought were the pros and cons of Japan. Kotarou was needed more as an interpreter than an AD. Furthermore, he would be needed in the editing suite to make decisions on which sound bites to keep and what captions to display. Skills that people had brought with them could be valuable in unexpected ways in this industry.
They went to the areas around Kaminarimon and Skytree to conduct the street interviews, and in large thanks to Kotarou’s foreign language skills, the shoot went extremely smoothly.
“You were really amazing, Kota~ That martial arts training quest of yours sure paid off~ I had no clue what anyone was saying.”
Kotarou glared at Tatsuki, who was honestly impressed with him.
“It wasn’t a martial arts training quest! Anyway, it was all conversations anyone with high-school level English should understand.”
“Ah, I didna understand any of it either,” Shin interjected.
Kotarou immediately replied, “Nawada-san, you’re fine.”
“Oi~ Don’t discriminate~”
“In Minagawa’s case, I think it’s pretty impressive ya can carry somethin’ that feels like a conversation even though ya didna understand anythin’.”
“Two years ago when I had an assignment in the U.S., I pretty much got by just saying ‘Yes’ and ‘Okay.’”
“Uh, they have the same meanin’ though.”
So ya didna need to say “No”?
“So you’re at the level of a preschooler.”
As usual, Kotarou looked like he had eaten a bitter-tasting bug when it came to Tatsuki, but he never caused trouble that would interfere with their work—maybe because Shin had talked to him about it from the beginning. They returned to the network, and the conversation turned to Kotarou when Shin was left with the field director.
“He’s really working hard.”
“Oh, yeah, he is. He already knows all the operations happenin’ around the studio. It’s prolly ’cause he’s such a smart guy.”
The manual Shin had written for Kotarou was over 10 pages of A4-sized1 paper, but that same day after the broadcast, Kotarou had faithfully given him his feedback. Shin hoped that he hadn’t stayed up all night trying to learn it.
“Apparently when people tell him what a good job he’s done, he says, ‘It’s all because Nawada-san is such a good teacher.’”
“He sure knows howta move up in the world with all that previous work experience~”
Kotarou had no need to flatter Shin, of course. He was a full employee, and Shin was a subcontractor. In about 5 years, Shin would have to look to Kotarou for instructions. That was why even though he knew that Kotarou truly meant his words, Shin was embarrassed and he made a joke about it instead.
“When I see Megumi, I see how slow an’ stupid I was at learnin’ stuff.”
“That’s how all new grads are.”
“Even after accountin’ for it, I still think so. But thanks to all the stumblin’ around I did, I understand now that the people who come in behind me might stumble too—an’ the feelin’s they might be feelin’ when they stumble… I feel like I can finally accept all the failures I had made in the past. And that it was okay to fail.”
“I understand that. There are a lot of difficulties that only get rewarded when you see new guys join below you.”
If Shin had been given a trainee even a little while earlier, he probably would have hated it on top of having no confidence in himself. He would have thought, why should he have to look after other people’s training when he had so much he still needed to learn? It was rare to have the opportunity to see his own progress, but if this was proof that his horizons had broadened even just a little bit, then Shin was happy.
“Oh, you’re here. And the number one disciple shows up,” the field director commented.
“I’m his underling, apparently. Shitara-san made it official.”
The underling walked over carrying documents in a plastic sleeve in one of his hands.
“This is a list of the people who gave the most interesting responses in the street interviews we just shot. I’ve included the English, a Japanese translation, the rough timecode, and the length of the clip.”
“What? Already? That’s fast.”
“I was thinking about transcribing everything, but I also need to prepare for the broadcast tonight, so I made this for now. When the broadcast is over, I’ll work on it properly.”
He ain’t gonna surpass me in a blink of an eye, is he? Shin thought privately, feeling uneasy. Not with their positions, but in skill. Obviously, Kotarou hadn’t experienced enough of the job to perfect everything just by throwing himself at the work, but Shin wasn’t a child, and he wouldn’t let his feelings show on his face, and so he thanked Kotarou for his work.
“Good job, ya musta worked hard.”
Shin showed Kotarou’s memo to the field director and checked in with him.
“This is enough for selectin’ the answers for the cut, right?”
“Yeah, we’re looking to use about 4 people for the clip. It’s for a broadcast next week, and we have plenty of time.”
“So now ya dun hafta transcribe it. Oh, right, the video footage. Ya can use it for editin’ practice if ya want. I made a folder for ya, so copy everythin’ there.”
“Dun push yaself too much okay? When ya have some free time, try editin’ somethin’ together, however ya feel like. I can look at it any time ya want.”
“Really? I will do my best.”
Kotarou’s entire face lit up. He was a full-grown man, but he looked so innocent and sweet, and Shin felt bad for having such petty thoughts earlier. At the very least, right now Shin was the reference for all of Kotarou’s training from here on out, and Kotarou believed in him. That meant that Shin was the one who had to work even harder. Shin had a boss who he had revered and idolized so much that he only followed him blindly, and in the end, it only drove that boss into a corner. From time to time, he would remember it and bitter feelings would well up inside of him, but Shin probably had a moment when he had first started and experienced a new-found thrill just like Kotarou did now. It was all his own guess, but maybe this was one of the rewards after having someone new to look after.
“Yeah, do ya best.”
Shin gave Kotarou a smile, gave himself a smile, as he encouraged him.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.