Chapter 5: Love Rivals and Irises (5)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
They finished copying the tapes in the editing suite and carried everything back to the staff room. Shin spoke up and said, “An’ now the tapes gotta go back to the library.”
Please dun give me a look every time like the world’s gonna end.
“Well, it’s fine, I can go return ’em for ya. Just this once, okay?”
Shin stood up and tossed his wallet over to Kotarou.
“Buy me a coffee from the vendin’ machines while ya waitin’. Get me a black, okay? Ya must be thirsty from all the runnin’, so buy somethin’ for yaself too.”
“No, but I couldn’t…”
“This is just for today too—a reward for workin’ so hard. Ya gonna make it far in this business, so pay me back after ya get ya promotions.”
“…Understood, I promise I will.”
As usual, Kotarou gave a serious response to something that was just a joke. After Shin finished returning the tapes and the key, apparently the people at the party decided to call it a night and sent a LINE message to the AD group that said, “We’ve wrapped up the party.”
“They said, ‘Tell us the rest of the story next time, Kota-kun!’”
Kotarou had received the same message, but Shin read it aloud anyway with a coffee in his hand.
“Why ya decided to come work here.”
“At any rate, it prolly has somethin’ to do with Minagawa, I bet.”
“How did you know that?”
“Uh, I’m pretty sure everybody could guess that. I mean, ya really do love Minagawa a lot.”
Whoops, I didna mean to say that.
Kotarou shouted desperately to deny it. “That’s not funny!! I hate his guts!! I can’t freaking stand him!! I want to humiliate him!! What do you even mean that I love him? The sound of that makes me sick.”
“Yeah, it’s just that to me, ya look like a huge fan of his with very complicated feelin’s.”
“Wait… Please don’t go inverting my personal identity here.”
“Listen to yaself. That just makes ya sound like everythin’ ’bout ya stems from Minagawa.”
Kotarou looked seriously shocked, and Shin was astounded that he had absolutely no awareness of it, but there was no actual need to go out of his way to point it out to him, and Shin regretted his teasing. What if Kotarou’s obsession with Tatsuki actually turned into love…? When Shin tried imagining it, he really, truly, absolutely hated it. If he wasn’t careful, then Shin could be the one liable to bring his personal issues into work.
Kotarou finished drinking his bottle of green tea and shot it from the sofa into the trash. He sighed deeply.
“…The first time we were in the same class was in first grade.”
“On the first day of school, we had to introduce ourselves in the order of our student numbers. After ‘Minagawa’ was ‘Megumi.’”
Dun this sound like a prime situation for love to bloom? Shin thought, but he remained silent and listened.
“It was his turn… And he just proudly stood up and declared, ‘I’m Takkun!’”
“Oh, his name’s Tatsuki, so Takkun.”
He had probably blurted out the nickname that his friends and parents called him, and it should have been a cute, heart-warming story, but Kotarou sat there clenching his fists between his knees.
“Huh? Uh, what was so bad ’bout it?”
“Well, for as long as I remembered, everyone had called me Takkun.”
“That’s the reason!?” Shin cried. There was such a huge contrast between the ridiculousness of the story and the solemn tone in his voice that Shin couldn’t help himself from bursting out. “Uh, I can leave now, right?”
Shin started to get up, but Kotarou hurried to grab his arm.
“There’s still more to the story!”
“Ya can cut it all, it’s fine.”
“Why!? To a 6-year-old, it’s an earth-shattering ordeal! We had the same nicknames, and I didn’t know what to think, and after I said my name and introduced myself, Minagawa just turned around and exclaimed, ‘You’re Kotarou, so I’ll call you Kota!’ That essentially cast our names into stone for the whole class. There was no discussion or anything. And to top it all off, even my family switched to calling me Kota. How does that even happen?”
“Dun ask me, I wouldna know… Anyway, between ‘Tatsuki’ and ‘Kotarou,’ I think ‘Tatsuki’ feels more like a ‘Takkun.’”
“See? Ya think so too, dun ya?”
“I-I don’t at all!”
“Hmm, then how ’bout I be the one to call ya Takkun?”
There was (probably) no one who called Tatsuki “Takkun” any longer, and if Kotarou felt like his nickname had been stolen from him, Shin thought that it might be nice to try to revive it, even if he was the only one who ended up using it. But Kotarou immediately turned red and said, “No, thank you,” sounding angry. Shin didn’t say it to make fun of him though.
“It was nothing more than an inciting incident. He made me think, ‘What the heck’s with him,’ and once it started bothering me, everything he did irritated me, I guess… But I know that I shouldn’t let him affect me.”
Kotarou seemed to have guessed what Shin wanted to say from the look on his face, and he honestly admitted, “I’m just being stupid, doing nothing but spinning my wheels.”
Good, at least he had that much awareness about himself.
“And I know that I don’t even appear in his thoughts. He doesn’t force other people to do things. He’s accepting and doesn’t wade in too deep—he pretty much gets along with anyone… That’s why I went to the U.S. after high school. I just wanted to cut him out of my life completely. I didn’t even use any social media. I isolated myself from all news that had to do with Japan, and I got on with my life never hearing a single peep about him or what he did. I had truly forgotten about him.”
If that statement was taken out of its context, someone would absolutely think that he was talking about a heartbreak.
“And I did have a pretty good life over there… Until one day I turned on the TV and saw him on the screen.”
“Huh? Was it a BS channel or somethin’?”
Kotarou still had a hold on his arm, and Shin could feel Kotarou’s fingers clench up. For some reason, he couldn’t tell him to let go.
“It was a TV special following a major leaguer, and a TV network from Japan had even come to interview him. And there Minagawa was, standing next to the player I had desperately bought tickets to see—games where I was all excited to cheer the guy who was just the size of a speck from my fourth level seat at Yankee Stadium—and Minagawa just proudly exclaimed to him, ‘I’m Japanese famous sportscaster!’”
Shin could picture it in his mind.
“He couldn’t even speak any English, but somehow he strangely hit it off with the player. The guy was all, ‘I’ll go visit Japan next time,’ and, ‘You should come to my vacation house in Florida.’ He didn’t even understand what incredible things the player was saying—just grinning and saying ‘yes’ to everything… As I stood there in front of the TV, I felt like something inside me had snapped.”
Kotarou’s eyes seemed to slowly glaze over, and Shin was a little scared of him. However, Kotarou continued on, his grip on Shin’s arm growing stronger.
“Wherever I run, news about him always finds me. If it’s all a useless struggle, then I should give up and crash whatever he does myself.”
“…So that’s why ya at Asahi TV?”
“But why ain’t ya an announcer?”
“Because I have learned over the years to stop competing with him directly. But if I work my way up and become a producer here, I’ll have control over the casting, and he’ll effectively answer to me. Announcers can’t choose the work that they’re assigned to, and whether I use him or not is all up to me.”
“Can ya really say ya learned tho? Ain’t ya just playin’ it safe?”
“I’m fine with it. Anyway, just once, I want to get the ultimate upper hand on him! I’ll make it so that he can only get on the radio news or the late-night shopping shows.”
At that moment, Shin tore his arm away from Kotarou, stood up, and swung his fist down on Kotarou’s head.
“Ya gotta be fuckin’ kiddin’ me!!”
Shin’s hands were clenched into fists and shaking. He tried to think of a time he was ever this angry and he couldn’t.
“Can ya write the script for a radio news show? Can ya direct an’ supervise a shoppin’ show? Have ya thought ’bout the people who’ve taken the time to teach ya, to throw this welcome party for ya—that they work on these kinds of shows too? Dun say somethin’ so pathetic, ya dumb ass. It takes tons o’ people an’ their hard work to make any show happen, an’ there’s an audience watchin’ and listenin’ to ’em. Dun treat ’em like they’re a place of exile where ya send ya unwanted employees!”
Kotarou clutched his head in complete shock at Shin’s angry outburst.
“Ya free come here for whatever reason ya have. The network did hire ya after all. But dun work at a broadcastin’ network if ya gonna disrespect the work!!”
There were major hit shows, and there were the ones that aired quietly in the shadows of those shows. Things like the time slot, budget, and roster of presenters were heavily scrutinized. It was a given: the shows were not all equal. And that was why it was wrong to look up or down on other shows within the same network.
Shin had plenty of other things that he wanted to say, but he didn’t feel like saying them anymore—mostly because he felt like he couldn’t construct any coherent arguments and that he would end up spewing a string of “ya dumb nut, dumb nut, dumb nut” about a hundred times. Shin turned around to leave, and a frantic voice called after him.
Shin paused in his steps, just for a moment, and said, “…Minagawa never looks down on other people’s work, no matter what they do.”
Shin could tell without looking that Kotarou was at a loss for words. Inside the elevator heading down to the ground floor, Shin rolled up his sleeve and saw white impressions in the shape of fingers on his arm. “Damn brute,” Shin muttered as he rubbed at his arm, trying to erase the awful-looking prints.
Shin jumped into a taxi outside of the building and headed straight for Tatsuki’s apartment. Before climbing into Tatsuki’s bed, he changed into more comfortable clothing that he had left at the apartment, and Tatsuki slowly woke up and noticed him.
“Ahh, Nacchan… You’re here.”
“I’m back. Sorry for gettin’ in so late.”
“No worries. Did you run into trouble or something?”
Tatsuki sounded half-asleep, nodding in and out of consciousness, and Shin was relieved to hear it because he still hadn’t gotten a hold of his emotions. It was like a brake or a check on himself—even though Shin was angry, he would feel bad if he went spilling all of Kotarou’s faults to Tatsuki.
Shin squeezed his arms around Tatsuki and buried his face, not caring how hard it was to breathe.
“Nacchan, your breath is overheated.”
There had been some amusement in Tatsuki’s voice at first, but he seemed to have detected something wrong with Shin, who had become motionless.
“What’s wrong?” Tatsuki asked.
“Nothin’,” Shin said in a muffled voice into Tatsuki’s T-shirt. “It’s nothin’… Just let me sleep here like this.”
Tatsuki didn’t pry any further, gently patting his head and stroking his back.
When Shin woke up, the sun was already high in the sky and Tatsuki was nowhere to be found. Maybe it was a side effect of the drama and furor from the night before, but apparently he had slept like the dead. Shin stopped by his own apartment to clean and do his laundry, and then he returned to Tatsuki’s place, where he, yes, cleaned and did the laundry. Tatsuki hadn’t asked Shin to do this, but Tatsuki almost always paid when they went out to eat together, and this was Shin’s way of balancing the things that they did for each other.
Before Shin realized it, the sun had started to set as he watched TV, not really watching it for anything in particular. That was when he received a phone call from his production company.
“Hey, Nawada, sorry to bother you, but Akiyama, who’s working at OrientTV, got into a motorcycle accident and sprained both of his arms. Could I ask you to help out with his work? Mainly it’s editing and going out on shoots. It should only last about two weeks.”
“Sure, it’s no problem.”
“Thanks, I know you’re busy with a regular weekday show. I’ll contact Shitara-san and ask if he can accommodate us.”
He was going to be busier starting tomorrow, but Shin was relieved that he now had an excuse to avoid working directly with Kotarou. But nevertheless, there was still the floor manager training that they had to do, and Shin would do all of his work properly.
Tatsuki came home just before midnight.
“I’m home~ Oh, did you clean for me? Thank you~”
Tatsuki set down a gift bag, which probably contained wedding favors, and after loosening his necktie, he sat down on the sofa next to Shin and immediately started talking.
“You know, today.”
“I went to the wedding as a friend of the groom, but he was more Kota’s friend than mine really. That’s why I sent Kota a LINE message, telling him that the groom wanted to see him at the afterparty.”
“…Okay,” Shin nodded, trying to suppress the anger that boiled up from hearing the name.
“Kota ended up coming, but he was acting strangely down, like his heart wasn’t in it. I kept prodding and prodding him, but he didn’t really react.”
“Nacchan, were you with Kota at the office last night?”
Shin seriously weighed his acting and improvisation skills, but he immediately came to the conclusion that there was no way he could play it off in front of Tatsuki. “Yeah, I was,” he admitted.
“I guess ya could say we got into kinda an argument. That might be why he seemed so down… I dunno if ya can call it an argument though. I got angry, hit ’im, an’ chewed ’im out.”
Shin hesitated to answer, foolishly unable to lie, and Tatsuki asked, “Does it have something to do with me?” as he got right to the heart of the matter.
“Was Kota insulting me? It’s not like I really care.”
“No, it ain’t that.”
Rather, it could be called a passionate love confession. It wasn’t any of Tatsuki’s fault, but in a way he was cruel.
“Then what was it?”
Shin hadn’t closed the blinds yet. He shifted his eyes to look outside the window, and Tatsuki trapped Shin’s face between his hands and asked, “What?” pressing Shin for an answer. Maybe because Tatsuki had been drinking, but his eyes shone glossy and bright, like the underside of a seashell. His irises were like colored mosaics wavering deep within that pair of eyes. The gaze was warm and sweet, but also unforgiving when Shin tried evading it.
“…I think I dun want to say it yet.”
It was like there were strings that connected their eyeballs, and Shin couldn’t escape.
“If I tell ya, it might sound like I’m badmouthin’ Megumi— No, well, he did say somethin’ wrong, an’ I dun think it was wrong of me to get upset.”
“Then it should be fine to tell me.”
“…I feel like ya might try to defend ’im if ya hear it.”
Shin desperately tried to collect his feelings and thoughts so that he could put them into words.
“I don’t think that I’m that nice.”
“Well, maybe not defend, but ya might try to smooth things over. ‘Cause ya try see the better sides o’ people, Minagawa.”
Shin was sure that Tatsuki would say something like, That’s pretty silly of Kota. It was probably just bluster. You already smacked him one, so why don’t you call it even? And Shin would probably accept it and calm his anger. It was probably a slip of the tongue, said in the heat of the moment, and Kotarou was still new to the industry. Saying that he wanted to stick Tatsuki in a do-nothing job—that was probably the only way that he knew how to express his motivations. Kotarou was probably feeling terrible right now, not because he made Shin angry, but because he hadn’t given any consideration for the people and the work here. Shin understood all this in his head.
“But I still wanna stay angry.”
“Huh? But isn’t it exhausting?”
“It is, but… I dun wanna brush it under the rug for ’im.”
Tatsuki released his hands and gave Shin a smile that seemed to say, Okay, if you insist.
“Man, Kota’s a lucky guy~ He gets so much of your attention~”
“I don’t know what happened, but it probably had something to do with work, right? That’s why you’re so mad, because you had taken him under your wing and taught him everything.”
“Takin’ ’im under my wing? Ya exaggeratin’, I ain’t done anythin’ like that.”
Tatsuki was right though. Shin did have an emotional attachment that went beyond a sense of duty to his work. This was the first time he ever had to seriously teach someone about his job, and Kotarou was a quick learner, taking all of Shin’s advice and doing a great job. It was incredibly fulfilling, like Shin was doing something right. Kotarou had told him that it was fun working the editing stations. It felt like maybe everything had been a lie, and Shin realized that it was this that had made him so furiously upset.
Shin held onto Tatsuki’s arm and rested his head on his shoulder.
“Maybe I’m the stupid one spinnin’ my wheels.”
“What? Did your anger calm down?”
“No, it still pisses me off when I remember it.”
“You’re so complicated~ So did you spend the entire day pissed off thinking about Kota?”
“It ain’t like that…”
But it was true that no matter what he did or didn’t do, he felt like his entire body was under a hazy filter.
“Apparently, he joined Asahi TV, ’cause he wanted to make ya obsolete… That was the gist o’ it anyway.”
“What? Is that really why he decided to switch careers? Oh my god, idiots are crazy, but it’s hilarious too.”
See? That was Tatsuki’s generous nature through and through. However, if Tatsuki were someone who could angry at something like this, then maybe Kotarou wouldn’t have had to struggle with his twisted, unrequited feelings.
There were all sorts of unrequited feelings. Shin had once had unrequited feelings for his old boss, whom Shin had been an “underling” for. He realized that maybe there had been a component of romantic love to his feelings, though in the end, it wasn’t—but still, his feelings were unrequited. It was a cliched expression to say that Shin fell for that boss’s talent, but Shin had truly wished to become like him—and he had yearned for it with all of his heart. It had only been pure reverence, but Shin wondered if things might have turned out differently if he were to have the guts that Kotarou had. Even though Tatsuki never engaged Kotarou, even though Kotarou saw time and time again how he could never measure up to Tatsuki, Kotarou refused to back down, and Shin couldn’t hate that foolishness of his. He could never. That was probably why Shin had gotten so angry.
“Nacchan, was that what made you so upset?”
“‘Cause I know that ya ain’t ever gonna lose ya jobs. Even if Megumi becomes a super important executive, I dun think he can bring himself to take away ya jobs. ‘Cause he—”
Really loves ya a lot.
Shin wondered how Tatsuki would react if he said those words directly to him. Would he go Huh? or No way! If he were to smile and say Yeah, I know, Shin would be incredibly upset. Even if there was no trace of any feelings for Kotarou inside of Tatsuki, Shin still hated it.
“—’s a coward.”
Tatsuki finished off Shin’s sentence for him. Shin wanted to see if Tatsuki had guessed what Shin had planned to say but was playing dumb—or if this was what he truly thought. When Shin raised his head to look up, Tatsuki dropped a kiss on him.
“…I’ve had enough about Kota for now,” Tatsuki said, pressing a fingertip against Shin’s lips, as if testing its elasticity, so soft and supple whenever they kissed. “Let’s have sex, Nacchan.”
“Don’t look so surprised.”
“I’m not, just that, um, well startin’ tomorrow for two weeks, I’m gonna be buried in work.”
“So we can’t?”
“No, we can…”
When Shin shook his head, the pad of Tatsuki’s finger lightly dragged across his lips. It was enough to send a thrill through his body, down to the ends of his hair.
“If ya can go easy on me…”
Shin’s eyes were cast downward, and Tatsuki said, “Okay,” placing a kiss above his ear.
“I won’t put it in, so take off your clothes and come here.”
Shin closed the blinds. Then he removed his clothes and straddled Tatsuki’s legs.
“Um, ain’t it weird that I’m the only one with my clothes off?”
“I don’t think I can restrain myself if I take off my clothes too.”
Shin folded his knees on the sofa and lowered himself into Tatsuki’s lap. Shin’s gaze was a little higher than Tatsuki’s in this position. As Shin looked down, he could see how thick and long Tatsuki’s lashes were and how straight the bridge of his nose was. Shin placed his arms on Tatsuki’s shoulders to stabilize himself, and then he kissed Tatsuki, the kiss feeling very different from when they kissed at their usual heights. Tatsuki gently nipped at Shin’s bottom lip before running the tip of his tongue along Shin’s teeth.
Tatsuki’s tongue proceeded to stroke the palate of his mouth, sometimes strong, sometimes weak, as hands found their way to Shin’s chest. The stimulation from the outside and the arousal poured into his inside caused two little sprouts to take root inside of him. Tatsuki swirled his tongue lavishly inside of Shin’s mouth, churning his breath and body heat, all while his nipples hardened underneath Tatsuki’s fingertips.
“Nnh… Ahh, ngh.”
As Tatsuki pushed his tongue in deeper, Shin’s body filled with arousal, building that supple elasticity that begged for more of Tatsuki’s caresses.
“…Touch me too.”
Shin was still in a trance as their lips parted and Tatsuki whispered to him, but he reached down with a hand and touched Tatsuki’s belt. He undid the buckle impatiently and opened up the front of the trousers. Maybe his inexperience was amusing or something because Tatsuki let out a faint chuckle from the back of his throat and it made Shin’s lip quiver.
“…What are ya laughin’ at?”
“I’m not laughing.”
His nipples swelled up even more than ever (but they still remained tiny) as Tatsuki played with them, plucking them with his fingers. Tatsuki then brought up one of his hands and inserted a finger into Shin’s mouth.
With saliva sticky and heated with need, the finger explored the soft flesh of his mouth, inviting his tongue to come out and play. Shin licked it, nibbled it, sucked it—all while he awkwardly stroked something covered in underwear growing larger and larger in his hand. Tatsuki also reached for Shin’s dick, sitting right across his own. When Tatsuki rubbed the sensitive spots, Shin couldn’t help but bite down softly on the finger in his mouth, sucking hard on it with his lips, and Tatsuki gave him even more intense stimulation in return.
“Ahh— Ahh… nhhh…”
Shin was completely distracted by the sensations of Tatsuki’s touches, and he couldn’t move his hand very well. Shin peeked at Tatsuki’s face, feeling terrible that he couldn’t do much of anything, and Tatsuki seemed to say, I know, as he traced the seam on the underside of the head.
The finger in his mouth pulled out, having had its full share of fun there, and it slipped behind Shin’s hips, saliva brushing against skin as it sought some place deeper inside.
“No! Why ya goin’ there?”
“I won’t put it in. I’ll only just touch. If you come faster, it’s less tiring, right?”
Shin didn’t think that he could ever get used to the shame that he felt—with his body, with the words informing him that he could get aroused back there. It was a normal male physiological response, but most men would never experience it during normal sex. Not that Shin could define what “normal sex” was anyway. Exactly what made it normal and what made it not so normal? Shin felt like maybe the excessive pleasure fueled the excessive shame that he felt—that there was no way that his body could ever part from this.
Tatsuki stroked the front and pushed into the back. He used the same rhythm—but maybe there was a slight difference in timing or tempo between the two. The arousal born from the dual stimulation didn’t seem to gather in his cock or his inner walls; it was somewhere else entirely different.
“Noo… Ah, nhh, ahhh…”
The finger thrust into Shin shallowly, and it frustrated him to no end how it wouldn’t force its way deeper. But in order to distract himself, Shin clutched at Tatsuki’s cock, moving his hand with shaky, unsteady strokes. He couldn’t let himself start thinking now that he wanted Tatsuki to put it inside him. He couldn’t let himself yearn for the heat, hardness, or palpitations that he knew and missed.
“Mina…gawa… Ahh, aaah!”
In the end, the crisply pressed dress shirt became a damp mess as Shin released his voice and his breath—along with his spunk.
“…H-Hurry an’ take out ya finger.”
His hole quivered at the slight emptiness. He realized that he had sounded like he was rejecting Tatsuki’s touch, and he felt bad.
“Um, that ain’t what I meant. I didna hate havin’ ya finger there. J-Just that if ya had kept it there, I wouldna hold back…”
“I know. It’s okay,” Tatsuki said, sucking at Shin’s collarbone. “Anyway, if you confess everything to me like that, I’m the one who won’t be able to hold back…”
Tatsuki sent chills through his still sensitive, naked body as he whispered, “Continue, okay?”
Shin wrapped his hand around Tatsuki’s swollen cock and fisted it up and down. He had already had his orgasm, and he had more composure over himself than normal to study the expressions and reactions in front of him. Tatsuki had closed his eyes, exposing the thin stretch of eyelid that hugged the curve of his eyeballs. Shin thought that the two lines that ran along his eyelashes were beautiful.
Shin pressed his lips to one of the eyelids, and hot fluid shot out from the cock in his hand. Shin felt like he had killed an amorphous blob creature covered in a sticky, wet film. Debauchery mixed with a sense of accomplishment welled up inside of him, and Shin leaned over to kiss Tatsuki’s other eyelid.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.