Chapter 4: Love Rivals and Irises (4)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
Kotarou was a capable guy, but he was still new at the job, and yes, he would make mistakes here and there. There was one mistake in particular that Shin felt a little bad about pinning on Kotarou. It had happened during the flash news segment for the sports corner.
“And now for a summary of the other sports news from today.”
The video reel rolled, and Tatsuki read aloud from the script. The second and third stories proceeded without any problems, but in the middle of the fourth story, he started rummaging for something on the table.
Crap, is he missin’ a part o’ the script?
As the floor manager giving out directions and cues from the middle of the studio, Shin issued the instructions Story #5 script! to Kotarou who was standing nearby, but each story went by quickly, and it looked to be impossible to deliver the script in time. However, Tatsuki never panicked. He just raised a hand to signal to Shin that he was okay and spoke off the top of his head while watching the on-air monitor.
“Men’s golf—Sugiyama Hideki led the top of the scoreboard at 4 under entering the final day of the You Are Navi Open today. He continues to dazzle the spectators with magnificent shots, pulling off a spectacular chip-in birdie at the 16th hole! He conquers the difficult course with ease, winning his first championship title at 6 under.”
The highlight reel edits had been running late, and Tatsuki hadn’t even had time to do a readthrough. This should have been the first time he had seen this material, but he delivered the story relying on the video and on-screen captions and there were no issues from a broadcast standpoint. Although Tatsuki was used to ad-libbing on air, Shin was always amazed at the sheer nerve and improvisational ability that Tatsuki possessed.
“Sorry, was the script missin’?”
Shin approached Tatsuki during the commercial break, and he answered casually, “I think I forgot the pages in the green room.”
“Megumi, I told ya to double-check the pages just before the segment.”
“Yes, sir, I’m very sorry for the mistake.”
Kotarou had quietly lowered his head in apology at the time, but after the broadcast during a review meeting in the studio for only staff members, Kotarou made his objections known.
“I had checked with Minagawa beforehand. I asked him if he had all the pages for the flash news, and he told me ‘Yeah, yeah, it’s all there’….”
“He can be pretty careless, so ya can’t trust what he says. That’s why we always hafta check the scripts right there ourselves.”
“Do we have to do every little thing for him? He’s the one reading the script, so isn’t it natural that he should be the one responsible for it? Asou-san and Kunieda-san don’t require you to do this for them, correct?”
Kotarou had brought up the names for Asou Keiichi, the main host of the show, and Kunieda Kei, the anchor for the news. The two of them were consummate professionals in the full sense of the phrase, and it was useless to compare Tatsuki to them.
“Every little thing? It’s ain’t all that much work.”
“Correct. That is why he should take responsibility for it. ADs aren’t servants to be ordered around, are they?”
“Save that line after ya can do the job of an AD!” Shin raised his voice harshly. “Our jobs are to support the performers an’ to make the broadcast a success. In the end, we were missin’ a script, so ya can’t say that ya did ya job. Yeah, there are some very organized performers, but there are plenty of ’em who ain’t so careful. An’ if it’s their job to fix their carelessness, then it’s our job to support them so that they can fix it. An’ I dun think that doin’ that makes us their servants. Most importantly, dun make the performers ya enemies. Ya always, always have their backs.”
Shin of course understood Kotarou’s point. Tatsuki was at fault here too. But if people started to espouse the idea of self-responsibility, it could have a chilling effect on the show as a whole. In the future, if Kotarou were to handle outside talent, there were plenty of more unreasonable situations that he would face.
“Yes, I understand,” Kotarou answered in a small voice, hanging his head.
“Also, durin’ the news segment, ya talked over the intercom while Kunieda-san was readin’ the lead-in. Ya can’t do that. When the control room can’t hear the presenter’s voice, they can’t get the right timin’ to switch the video.”
On the way to the staff room from the studio, another AD playfully poked fun at Shin.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen you get angry, Nacchan.”
“Well, I was always the one gettin’ yelled at before… But yeah, it’s not easy either, havin’ to get angry. It’s easier to be yelled at, I think. I was at the end of my fuse too, an’ I prolly criticized ’im more than I needed to.”
Shin regretted that he hadn’t saved the final criticism that he had added at the end for after he had given Kotarou some time to himself, taking him aside for a quiet chat. Shin hadn’t said anything wrong, but he felt guilty when he recalled Kotarou’s face with his lips pressed into a grim line, just like the picture Shin had first seen of him in the network newsletter.
“He’s smart, so I’m pretty sure he understood the feelings behind the lecture that you gave him. For better or for worse, this is just how our industry works. Maybe in the U.S., he was used to having very defined roles for everyone’s jobs.”
“In the end, it’s more an issue of compatibility than talent or skill when it comes to this job,” the AD said in a low voice, almost to herself. “A long time ago, I had a junior who suddenly stopped coming to work and quit. I had looked after her the best that I could, but she said that she couldn’t do it anymore, that the work just wasn’t for her… I thought she had a pretty good sense for the work, and I still wonder sometimes if I couldn’t have done something to make it work out for her.”
“—Oh, right. Hatanaka-sensei will be on the show tomorrow.”
Maybe the gloomy atmosphere was too much for her, so the AD brightened up her voice and brought up the name of a news commentator who often appeared on the show.
“It’s his birthday, and I’m thinking of letting Kota-kun take care of the flowers and cake. What do you think?”
“It should be fine.”
“And if he complains and says, ‘Are birthday celebrations part of the job?’”
“I’ll smack ’im.”
“Well, I don’t think he’ll say anything.”
When Shin arrived at the staff room, Tatsuki had already left for the night. He didn’t get a chance to talk to him, but there was a LINE message waiting for him from Tatsuki.
“Nacchan, did you seriously yell at Kota for something that was my fault?”
“Did Megumi say anythin’ to you?”
“He would never say anything like that to me. I heard the rumors floating around.”
“That’s way too quick for rumors to spread. Anyway, it’s not ya fault.”
“I should have stayed behind in the studio. I’ve never seen you get seriously angry before.”
Shin went through his memory, and maybe Tatsuki was right. Every day Shin would grumble at Tatsuki out of exasperation or impatience, but there was never a time he had seriously become angry with him. There was nothing Shin could berate Tatsuki for as an announcer, and in private…
No, wait, dun think ’bout that now, I’m still at work.
Wicked thoughts would well up in his head.
Shin replied with a message, “I ain’t a show to entertain ya,” and Tatsuki sent a reply in return.
“That’s not what I meant~ I was just thinking that you really look after Kota well, Nacchan~”
“Shitara-san personally asked me to look after ’im, of course I gotta do it right. Oh yeah, did ya get the order form from ’im for the uniform?”
“He sent me a picture of it over LINE. With a weird message that said that he burned the original.”
Yeah, see, I knew it.
Kotarou didn’t have any questions about the flowers and cake, and Shin didn’t see the need to go and check up on him. It was a simple task. Kotarou had the budget and the minimum requirements. If he checked the ADs’ shared folder, he would find the information for the flower shop and bakery the show would always use. And if he didn’t know, he could ask someone. Shin thought that Kotarou could handle it just fine.
But a glimmer of uneasiness flickered somewhere deep inside his heart, wondering if Kotarou would really be okay. Shin wondered if this was what the staff of the show My First Errand felt like.1 Yes, Kotarou was a fully-grown adult with plenty of work experience, and he could think just fine on his own, but within a mere 10 or so days, it was strange but Shin felt like he had sort of become Kotarou’s guardian.
But Shin had no need for worries. The next day in the evening, Kotarou had received the flower bouquet and cake box that he had ordered, and after the broadcast, they held a little ceremony for the commentator.
“Oh, I can’t believe it, but what a delight it is to celebrate like this even past my 60th birthday.”
In front of the cameras he was a brazen professor who would push through his comments with force and conviction, but seeing him smile broadly with a hint of embarrassment, Shin was glad that he had Kotarou make the arrangements. Not that he wanted Kotarou to view his work from the perspective of plying others with things to curry their favor—no, he wanted Kotarou see how much fun it was to work together with everyone, because somehow or another they had come here to work on this show together and he should know that he could rely on these people. Whether he had the disposition to work behind the scenes in TV, it basically came down to if he could feel these thoughts on his own from within.
Hatanaka-sensei spoke happily with Shitara as he carried the bouquet of flowers.
“My wife loves pink roses. She’ll be so happy when she sees them. Thank you.”
“How perfect. I’m glad.”
“Hmm, should I tell her that I bought them myself? Eh, she’ll find out the truth immediately anyway…”
Listening to their conversation, Shin called out to Kotarou from behind him.
“Yes?” Kotarou turned around, still looking a little uncomfortable.
“So you went with pink roses for the bouquet?”
“Yes. I had read on the professor’s blog that pink roses are his wife’s favorite flowers. I thought that it would be best to go with her preferences in this case.”
To be honest, Shin thought that it was a little too sappy for a man in his 60s, but it all worked out. Shin had only given Kotarou the budget and the person’s age and gender. Everything else, he had left up to Kotarou. And Kotarou had taken the extra step to research the person.
A smile gradually broke out on Shin’s face. He felt better than the times he had done something right at work.
“Ya did a great job.” Shin gave Kotarou a hard smack on the back.
“Ya really thought ’bout it more than I’ve ever had.”
“No, not at all. Um… Nawada-san.”
“I really apologize for yesterday. …I panicked when I thought that maybe you believed that I didn’t hand over the script pages on purpose, and I didn’t know what to do. Because it was something that involved Minagawa… That was why I was so worked up yesterday.”
Shin had just praised Kotarou for a job well done, but he was confessing how dejected he was.
“What’s that about? I dun think that, ya dummy.”
Shin laughed off Kotarou’s needless anxiety.
“I already told ya from the beginnin’, dun bring ya personal issues with ya on the job. An’ ya gave me a clear answer, that ya never intend to, right? So ya dun have to worry ’bout it.”
“I’m so glad.”
Kotarou finally relaxed, as if he had found some consolation. But Tatsuki came up to them, and Kotarou wrinkled up his brows again. It was almost like an art form at this point.
“Did you two make up?”
“Huh? Shut up, it has nothing to do with you.”
“Wha? But Kota, it was my fault that you were yelled at, right? I’m so sorry~”
“I said it has nothing to do with you, dammit!”
Kotarou could have blamed Tatsuki here and said, Yeah, because you didn’t check your own script, but it appeared that he refused to bend on this point. Tatsuki had declared, He would never say anything like that to me, and even though Tatsuki refused to engage with Kotarou, he had been watching Kotarou closely. Shin wondered if it was the result of having such an old relationship that they couldn’t seem to escape from.
“Oh, yeah, I heard that your welcome party is tomorrow? Good for you~ Maybe I should go~ Nacchan, give me the name of the place~”
“Sure, I guess.”
“Don’t you dare come!!”
While they cleaned up the studio together, Kotarou repeatedly asked Shin, “He won’t be coming, right?”
“Yeah, despite what he said, he prolly ain’t comin’.”
“It’s a party hosted by the ADs, so people are bound to complain ’bout work, right? He’s a presenter, an’ him bein’ there will make it hard for people to talk ’bout stuff, an’ Minagawa knows how to read a situation.”
There was also the possibility that it was the weekend and he simply wanted to make other plans.
“Is that… so…?”
“Are ya disappointed?”
“No! Not in the least! …Anyway.”
“You seem to really understand him, Nawada-san.”
Shin dodged the comment by not saying anything about it.
“Apparently we can share the rest o’ the cake with everybody. Cut it up, an’ save it for tomorrow, ’kay?”
Saturday’s welcome party was scheduled for a late 10 pm start to accommodate everyone’s work schedules. Sure enough, Tatsuki did not show up to the party. He hadn’t mentioned any plans to Shin, so maybe it was a rare occasion where he felt like staying in for the night.
“Have you been here for 2 weeks already? You have a pretty good handle on the work, Kota-kun.”
“Thank you, I would have to say it’s all thanks to Nawada-san’s very kind mentoring,” Kotarou answered with a beer mug in hand.
“He’s now the Nawada Children~”2
“We’ve witnessed the birth of the Nawada faction.”
“He’s just the one person, ya know.”
“So next week you’ll be training as the floor manager? Moving so fast~”
“‘Cause Shitara-san wants him to experience as many roles as possible… The week after that he’ll prolly train as the broadcast director.”
“Will you also be the one teaching me that, Nawada-san?”
“I ain’t ever been a broadcast director before.”
“Oh, then we should train for it together.”
“Why? The broadcast director is usually somebody from the network. They direct the entire show as a whole, so if they let ya do it, ya gonna hafta work harder than ya do now.”
“All right, if you say so, Nawada-san…”
Kotarou nodded, looking somewhat dissatisfied, and the group started laughing.
“Oh my god, it’s like a cat that has raised a large-breed dog from a puppy. You’ve seen it on TV before, right? When the puppy grows up, he still follows around the cat wanting to be spoiled.”
“I totally see it~”
“Please gimme a break,” Shin complained.
Shin couldn’t deny that he had a bit of those feelings when it came to Kotarou, so he deliberately made a face at their comment. Anyway, it wasn’t like their heights were that different. Kotarou made no reaction at all.
“Kota-kun, do you have a girlfriend?”
The girls in the group all looked at him full of interest, and Kotarou gave a slightly troubled look and admitted, “I used to.”
“Back in the U.S.? Was she Japanese?”
“Yes. But I made the decision to return to Japan, and well, that was all there was to it. She wanted to stay permanently in the U.S.”
“So you didn’t want that, Kota-kun?”
“I wouldn’t say that I’m adverse to the idea, but…”
“Then why did you abandon your girlfriend to come here?”
Alcohol flowed freely at this party for lower-rung staff members, and with no bosses or senior members present, the conversation became no holds barred.
“Abandoned…? Please don’t put it like that.”
“Well, you decided to change your plans for the future, right? Oh, you mentioned before that you have a goal that you want to achieve. That was on the first day you arrived. Can you tell us what it is?”
“Yeah, it’s already been two weeks now, we can start poking our noses in~”
“Uh, ya guys, that’s still not a lotta time…”
Kotarou faltered as he was attacked from all sides and looked to Shin for help. Shin pretended to be a spectator, drinking chuhai, when his cell phone started ringing. It was from a director for The News.
“Oh, I got a phone call.”
Shin left the table and tried to find a quieter place to take the call.
“Hey, are you home right now, Nacchan?”
“No, I’m out drinking near the office.”
“Oh, sorry! Can I ask you for a favor? I need some video materials from the library. Can you get them for me? I’m in Chiba for another thing right now, but I want to start on the editing work when I get back first thing in the morning.”
“All right. So I’ll check out a number of tapes and copy them for you?”
“Yeah, if you could, thanks. I want footage of Shibuya Crossing. And if possible, I’d like to have the seasons and the different times of day all together, and it should be shot within the past five years. You can leave the tape on my desk.”
“All right, understood.”
Shin ended the call, and when he returned to the table, he excused himself from the party.
“Sorry, I hafta go do some work. Is 5,000 yen3 enough? Okay, see ya, guys.”
“Yeah, don’t work too hard~”
Shin left the pub and arrived at the network after a five-minute walk. He stopped in front of the after-hours entrance to search for his entry badge that he had in his bag. That was when a voice called out to him.
Shin turned around and saw Kotarou, who was slightly out of breath.
“What’s wrong, Megumi? Did ya forget somethin’ here?”
“I’ll help you.”
“Huh? Is that why ya left the party? Ya can’t do that, ya the guest of honor today. It ain’t like it’s anythin’ hard.”
“I made sure to receive everyone’s permission to leave.”
“And I’m the Nawada Children.”
Kotarou had to have known that it was only a joke, but strangely enough, he smiled at Shin a little proudly. Shin couldn’t send him away after seeing such a smile.
“…Guess there ain’t helping it.”
Shin sighed and let Kotarou tag along. They headed to the staff room together, where they searched the database for the footage they needed, made their selections, and printed out the request form for checking out the materials.
“Go to the library on the 13th floor, an’ borrow the tapes on the list, ’kay?”
Shin held out the form to Kotarou, and Kotarou’s face immediately fell. It was as abrupt as the storm clouds, blowing in to block out the sun.
“I taught ya before how to borrow video materials from the library, right? There ain’t a receptionist there after 7 pm, so ya hafta borrow the repository key from the security office an’ pull the tapes yaself. The ID numbers are all written here, so I want ya to get the tapes for me. There’s a total o’ ten of ’em.”
“What? What’s wrong?”
It wasn’t a hard or taxing job that Shin had asked Kotarou to do, but Kotarou’s eyes were darting around unnaturally, not looking at him.
“D’ya wanna go back to the party? Ya can if ya want.”
“No, I don’t want to go back!!”
And now he was shaking his head furiously, refuting the question.
“Um… well… you know what they say about… television stations…”
Kotarou was whispering so quietly that Shin had to ask him to repeat what he said twice. He eventually caught the word “haunt.” As in haunting television stations.
“Oh, you mean ghosts?”
Kotarou had been hesitating to talk up until a moment ago, and he abruptly raised his voice, making Shin jump.
“You can’t just say that out loud! It’ll draw them over to us!”
“Wha~ …Hnn? That reminds me…”
Shin remembered the incident that had happened in the editing suite last weekend. When Kotarou had jumped and clung to him, that was…
“Dun tell me that was ya reactin’ when I said ‘ghost cut’?”
“I thought that there was something in the video.”
“An’ what ’bout ya first day, when ya didna wanna go to the nap rooms?”
“I didn’t want to spend the night in the dark somewhere I had never been before.”
“How dumb are ya?” Shin snapped with a smile.
“Why do you say that for!?”
“I can’t believe ya could live in a foreign country like that.”
“Only zombies appear in the U.S. It’s an issue specific to each county.”
Dun say that with such a serious face.
“I think zombies are far worse.”
“But with zombies, they’re vulnerable to physical attacks. You only need to barricade yourself in a shopping mall with a hatchet.”
“Forget ’bout the zombies.”
The library floor would be completely empty, which meant that it was pitch dark. It was the the height of summer, but there was a chill on the skin from the air-conditioned building. Kotarou’s mission was to go to the library, unlock the doors, turn on the lights, walk through the silent towering stacks—which might be hiding something behind them—search for the tapes, and bring them back to Shin. Kotarou seemed to be too scared, and he didn’t think that he could do it by himself. He even insisted, “Thirteen is an unlucky number.”
“They ain’t gonna appear,” Shin said. It was true that TV stations were known to be haunted—this building wasn’t even ten years old and yet it had already racked up some pretty shady stories, but whether any of it was true was extremely dubious.
“I ain’t ever seen any here. Actually, I’d want ’em to appear. They could help us look for the tapes.”
“How can you say something so terrifying!?”
“The look on ya face is what’s terrifyin’. Why dun ya carry a protection charm or a talisman on ya?”
“It carries a bigger risk if an amateur tries to dabble in those things.”
They were making no progress, so Shin decided to accompany Kotarou to the thirteenth floor. To put it bluntly, it would be faster if he did everything himself. Once they left the elevator, Shin stopped walking.
“I’ll wait for ya here, so go find the tapes an’ bring ’em to me.”
Shin pushed the key to the repository into Kotarou’s hand, and Kotarou shrieked, “This is different from what you had said!”
“I ain’t said anythin’ ’bout supervisin’ ya the whole time. There’ll be times ya gonna hafta do this on ya own, so ya better get used to it now.”
Kotarou was rendered speechless, and Shin lightly patted his arm to try to reassure him.
“I’ll be right here. If anythin’ happens, just yell an’ I’ll come get ya.”
“I think Minagawa would be perfectly fine~”
It was a little mean, but when Shin said the name, Kotarou took a deep breath and declared with a miserable-looking face (seriously), “I’ll be right back.”
He repeatedly followed up with “Please stay right there, okay? Please don’t go and hide from me, even as a joke.” Every three steps Kotarou would turn around to look back at Shin as he made his way down the hallway. This seriously reminds me of My First Errand… Shin thought as he watched Kotarou go. It was past 1 am, and they were in the general administration and accounting area of the building, so there really was no one else around. The faint lights barely lighting up the hallway looked rather desolate, and it was a little creepy even to Shin. Normally he would never notice this, but the little green pictogram for the emergency exit now looked like a person desperately running away from something chasing him. It was strange how his impression of the sign could change just like that.
Kotarou slowly turned the corner, and Shin could no longer see him. Shin wasn’t really worried, but he did feel a little sorry for Kotarou, but there was no other way around it.
I gotta harden my heart, Shin warned himself, but at the same time, the corner of his lips curled into a smile.
He’s afraid o’ ghosts. Seriously?
If Kotarou could keep a composed look on his face, he gave off the impression of a handsome man who was a little hard to approach, but a human touch overflowed from him in a much different sense from Tatsuki. Maybe that was why regardless of how Kotarou came up against Tatsuki, Shin could never hate him. Kotarou could also be described as oblivious.
Shin listened carefully on the off chance that Kotarou did scream, and in front of the deathly silent elevators, his cell phone went off. The sound had taken him by surprise, startling him a little. Shin saw that the call was from Tatsuki, and he breathed a sigh of relief.
“Is the welcome party over?”
“I left in the middle o’ it. I’m at the office runnin’ an errand.”
“Okay. I forgot to tell you, but today, I’ll be going to a high school friend’s wedding in the afternoon.”
He wasn’t emceeing it. Apparently he was attending as a regular guest.
“If you finish your work early, come over.”
“‘Kay. But it might take a lil’ more time, so go ahead an’ sleep first.”
Shin put his cell phone back into his jeans pocket, and this time he heard footsteps rushing towards him. The hallway was carpeted, and Shin didn’t see Kotarou appear yet, but he knew.
Kotarou was carrying tapes in both arms as he turned the corner and made a mad dash towards Shin. The moment when Kotarou saw Shin, even at a distance, Shin could clearly see his eyes change to look full of relief. Kotarou sharply applied the brakes once he got to the elevators, stopping to gasp for air.
“I-I’ve brought the tapes…!”
“Welcome back, that was fast. Thanks for gettin’ ’em for me.” Shin took half of the tapes from Kotarou. “Ya can do it if ya put ya mind to it. Nothin’ appeared, right?”
“If one had appeared, I would have broken a window and jumped out.”
Whatta ya doin’ turnin’ yaself into a ghost for?
“An’ now ya conquered one of ya fears, right? I gotta reward kids who do such a good job. Here, hold ya hand out.”
Shin pulled out a piece of candy from his hoodie and dropped it into Kotarou’s hand.
“Huh? What’s this?”
“I got it with a flyer from some real estate agent when I was walkin’ to the pub.”
Shin hadn’t spent any of his own money on it, but Kotarou squeezed it tightly in his fist and said, “Thank you very much.”
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.