Chapter 8: Love Rivals and Irises (8)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
“Everyone has experienced an unrequited love at least once in their life,” Kotarou said. “It’s heartbreaking when it never works out, but there will be happiness in the end.”
“No, ya can’t put that here,” Shin interjected.
“I mean, it’s a spoiler.”
Kotarou compared the notes in his hand to the footage playing on the monitor in front of him.
“It says to use that line here.”
“Oh, okay then.”
“I think that there’s room to interpret the line differently, whether they find happiness by themselves or with another person. Don’t you think?”
It was footage from an interview for a romance movie. The scenes were already edited together, and in order to create the onscreen captions that would overlay the video, they were noting down the conversation in the interview. Why of all times did Shin have to be stuck with Kotarou working on such a theme? Sure, it was work, but the timing couldn’t be worse.
“Should we change the typeface for the actress’s remark?”
“Yeah, let’s make it the Skip font. Have ’em make it pink, a white outline, an’ a gradient.”
They typed up the captions and each of the specifications and sent out their request electronically. Before long, the CG department sent back a message that Kotarou read out loud.
“Oh, it seems that they’re not very busy now and can get it done in about 2 hours.”
“Really? That’s unusual. They’re usually nappin’ around this time. Wanna stay an’ finish layin’ out the captions then?”
“Okay, may I go organize our tripods until the captions are ready? Apparently we will be getting new tripods in, and I thought that we should get rid of the really old ones.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s right. Go ahead an’ take care o’ it.”
Kotarou no longer needed Shin to tell him what to do anymore and could find plenty of tasks that needed to be done on his own (and there were plenty of them). He finished the tasks off, sometimes completing things before Shin even needed them. And it hadn’t been that long ago since Kotarou had arrived. Shin wished that he could simply smile and be happy with Kotarou’s growth.
However, if Shin let his guard down, Kotarou would come facing him head on.
“Nawada-san, won’t you confess to Minagawa about your feelings?”
Kotarou made the remark as they returned to the editing suite, having finished up random tasks and errands in the meantime, ready to get back to work on the captions. It was the “golden hour” of 2 am, and Shin thought about threatening him with a joke about ghosts, but he decided it was too risky with the two of them stuck in a cramped room together and brushed him off with a “Are ya dumb?” Oddly enough, on the monitor was a scene from the movie with the heroine shouting “I love you” in the rain.
“Even if you don’t love me back.”
“Why do you say that?”
“There ain’t no way I can tell ’im. It’ll never work out.”
“Do you really think so?”
“Are ya purposely tellin’ me this so that I get rejected?”
“Of course not! …But I see, so that’s a possible strategy that could work.”
“Yes, you’re right.”
Kotarou smoothly moved the mouse around, inserting the captions and their corresponding data. He had completely mastered these operations too.
“I know very well that I still wouldn’t have a chance even if Minagawa rejected you. But from what I’ve seen, I feel like things might possibly work out, so why not tell him?”
“There ain’t any way it’ll work out. Yeah, he’s nice to me, but he’s like that to everybody.”
“I know that, but I feel like he’s different with you, more than anyone else.”
It made Shin nervous at how frighteningly close Kotarou had come to the truth. And even though Shin was lying, all these denials and protests made him feel like he was discrediting Tatsuki, and he lost all confidence in himself.
That’s right. Normally, he wouldna ever look my way.
Words had a mysterious way of altering reality.
“Minagawa has a surprisingly low bar when it comes to dating. Did you know that?”
“If he’s single, and there’s someone he gets along with, he’ll just say ‘Let’s try dating,’ and that’s kind of all there is to it. …Oh, but he did mention something about getting rejected.”
Shin was trying his best to ignore the conversation, ignore the conversation, but he reacted without thinking.
“It came up at an afterparty for a friend’s wedding that we went to recently. He mentioned that he had his heart broken and didn’t feel like going to singles meetups.”
That was the story that Tatsuki had told Shin before. Shin wondered how Kotarou would react if he knew that it was from two years ago and that the person who had broken his heart was a man.
“I can’t believe the words ‘heart broken’ came out of his mouth…” Kotarou muttered as he stubbornly clicked the mouse.
“What? Is it that unbelievable that someone would reject Minagawa? How big a fan of ’im are ya?”
Kotarou immediately flew off the handle and argued back. “I’m not his stupid fan! I’m just saying that he’s the type to say ‘Okay, next!’ if it doesn’t work out!”
But it didn’t appear to be the case for Tatsuki, and Shin knew that already. At the very least, until Tatsuki had met Shin, that broken heart of his hadn’t been just a convenient excuse he would tell people. A horrible feeling started sprouting in Shin’s chest. His own lies, Tatsuki’s lies, jealousy, a past that Shin didn’t know about—they weren’t anything more than individual fine threads, but somehow his pent-up feelings had become a tangled lump of a mess. Like a marimo moss ball. A pitch black one.
“…Anyway, it’s not like any of his relationships last for very long.”
Ahhh, I can’t take this anymore.
Shin kicked one of the legs of Kotarou’s chair.
“Move ya hands instead o’ ya mouth!”
“…But I am moving them.”
“Okay, then I leave all the work to ya. Make sure ya finish everythin’ so we can hand it off to the sound editor in the mornin’. An’ if it turns out borin’ after all ya yappin’, I’m gonna smack ya.”
“I’m not the one who decided which scenes to include here!”
Shin ignored him and left the editing suite. He put on his windbreaker and curled into a ball on the sofa in the staff room. Shin already knew all those things without needing Kotarou to tell him. Tatsuki would always look on the bright side of everything, maybe even to an excess, and it was all thanks to that personality of his that they had started dating. That was the truth—there was no way Shin could have ever confessed his feelings to him. Regardless of how aware of his feelings he was, or how much he wanted it, Shin would have been too scared to say anything. Tatsuki loved to have fun, and he was always moving forward in life. Even if Shin obsessed over what Tatsuki had done in the past before he had met Shin, it was pointless. But what would happen from now on, he didn’t know, and he couldn’t pull himself together to get excited over it. Because he had no idea how the course of love went—how people could fall in love just to fall back out of it. Or how to sustain it and protect it. It wasn’t Kotarou’s fault that Shin thought this way when their relationship had only just begun. It was his own fault because he was weak.
Kotarou had chased after Shin in a panic.
“Um, what’s wrong? You just ran out so suddenly. Did I do or say something wrong?”
A few days ago, Shin had listened to Kotarou talk about girl bars and hadn’t paid any attention to it, so it made sense that he didn’t understand Shin’s reaction. But nevertheless, Shin had zero desire to carefully explain to Kotarou what did or didn’t trigger him.
“I’m sleepin’ ’til 5, so dun talk to me ’til then.”
“Are you angry?”
“Shuddup, I told ya dun talk to me.”
Shin faced the back of the sofa and huddled in on himself.
“Ugh, I just… really hate ya now…”
Shin refused to say anything more, and he sensed Kotarou quietly leaving. However, as soon as he relaxed his body, he heard footsteps walking back, and then something soft spread out to cover him.
“I’m sorry, I went into your locker without asking and brought out your blanket.”
Shin stayed silent as he wondered, Why’m I holdin’ my breath?
Kotarou continued in a whisper. “I wonder why you still look so cute to me even as you tell me that you hate me.”
“Are ya friggin’ dumb!?”
Shin shouted at the sofa, and his voice bounced back towards him.
“Yes, I’m dumb.”
Shin could hear the quiet reply.
“I’m probably far dumber than I ever thought I was.”
Shin said nothing. He closed his eyes tightly and told himself, Ignore ’im an’ sleep, ignore ’im an’ sleep, ignore ’im an’ sleep… But he felt like everything but his sense of sight had grown sharper instead.
“Please sleep until 8. I will finish all the work, so please do the final checks when I’m done.”
Somehow everything felt so clear to Shin that it sickened him—the sound of Kotarou’s voice, the movement of the air as Kotarou reached a hand out toward his back.
“…And you’re sleeping so defenselessly again.”
Or the hand moving away just before it reached the blanket.
“Good night,” Kotarou said, leaving to return to the editing suite.
A little after 9 o’clock, they passed the finished tape to the lead sound editor. Kotarou had done a good job on the transitions of the cuts, the onscreen captions, and the visual effects, and there were very few touch-ups that Shin needed to make. Perhaps he should say it simply matched his tastes and preferences. There were hidden little touches everywhere that said, It won’t matter in the big scheme of things, but I prefer to put in the time to do it this way, or The viewers won’t ever notice this, but I want to do it properly for my own self-satisfaction—and Shin loved to see that. Shin was the one who had taught Kotarou, so maybe it was a given, but even at the lower skills levels that Kotarou showed, Shin knew painfully just how much effort Kotarou had put into his work. The finished video didn’t lie. Unlike humans.
He didn’t know what to call this time—a late morning or an early noon—but Shin stopped by a bakery near the network to buy some bread and pastries and headed over to Tatsuki’s apartment. His cell phone had run out of battery while he was napping, so he was going to pop in without any notice. That was why he rang the intercom at the entrance of the building.
“Huh? Nacchan? What’s wrong? Did you forget your key?”
“No, I just couldna call you beforehand, so if I’m botherin’ ya, I can go home.”
“Why would you be? Come on up.”
Shin was a little nervous that maybe he was too presumptuous, and he was relieved to see Tatsuki’s mellow response. But at the same time, Shin thought that maybe he wanted to test Tatsuki to see how he would react. Could Tatsuki accept him if he were to suddenly barge in?
Ahh, crappp, why’m I so suffocatin’?
When Shin entered the apartment, Tatsuki called out “Morning~” from the bathroom. Shin peeked in and saw that he was getting dressed. Normally he would wear casual clothes into the office and change into a suit from Wardrobe before the broadcast, but today he was wearing a properly pressed dress shirt as he styled his hair.
“Sorry, are ya ’bout to head out?”
“Yeah, I have an assignment to go to today. But I still have time.”
“I bought stuff from the bakery. Should I put ’em in the fridge?”
“Oh, I’ll eat them at the office.”
“Okay, I’ll leave ’em on the table.”
Tatsuki had been facing the mirror, and when he finished with his hair, he turned around. All that was left was to put on a tie and his suit jacket to complete the run-of-the-mill businessman look… Which was complete nonsense. There was nothing run-of-the-mill about him.
“Nacchan, are you heading into the office too?”
“No, I came here straight after finishin’ edits.”
“And you pull another all-nighter.”
“Most of it was waitin’ for people to finish things, so I caught some sleep.”
“Hnnn. Oh, right, did you have something urgent you needed?”
They were going to see each other later in the evening, so it was a reasonable question to ask.
“No… Nothin’ urgent really…”
Shin tugged on a crisply ironed shirt cuff as he looked down at the floor. When he was feeling anxious, he wanted to touch Tatsuki a little.
“I-I just wanted to see ya face, that’s all…”
“Oh, can you wait just a second?”
For some reason, Tatsuki interrupted the moment with a serious look on his face. He left Shin behind in the bathroom and immediately returned with his cell phone in hand.
“All right, one more time please, from the top! Three, two, one…”
And cue—Tatsuki prompted him with a hand signal, but there was no way Shin could say it again.
“…Why ya tryin’ to record me?”
“It’s just the sound, it’s just the sound~ If I set the words you just said as my alarm, I feel like I can wake up without any problems. So please say it again~”
“No way. Dun wanna.”
“Okay then, next time tell me ahead of time when you’re going to say something cute again~”
“Dun ask for the impossible.”
“Whaa? Well, whatever. More importantly, over here, over here~”
“Huh? What do ya want?”
“Hurry, hurry, come this way~”
Tatsuki had circled his arm tightly around Shin’s waist, effectively capturing him, and Shin panicked when he saw that Tatsuki was leading him over to the bed.
“Hey, hey, hey! Whatta ya think ya doin’!?”
“Don’t worry, I have about 20 minutes to eek it out on time.”
Shin smacked and pinched the back of the hand that clutched the side of his body, but his attempts to free himself were wholly ineffective, and Tatsuki pushed him down on top of the sheets, his intent clear in each of his movements.
“Ya can’t! Ya have work, right?”
“Like I said, I have plenty of time. Especially if you cooperate, Nacchan.”
“Like holding on to my shirt so that it doesn’t wrinkle. Or refraining from making cute faces, since I definitely won’t make it on time if I get the urge for a second round.”
“Why ya so dumb!? Waaah!”
Tatsuki pulled open the loose khaki jacket that Shin had left unzipped. Shin was only wearing a long-sleeved tee underneath, and Tatsuki rolled it up to his collarbone in what seemed like an instant.
“Ya too fast, too fast!”
“Huh? No way, don’t I always do my best to last as long as possible~?”
“I wasna talkin’ ’bout that! Well, in a way, I guess I am.”
Red warning lights flashed in his head at the deftness of Tatsuki’s hands as Shin desperately pushed back at Tatsuki’s shoulders.
“I’m tellin’ ya stop!”
“Anyone would be turned on in this situation after showing up at the door and hearing those words. It’s all your fault, Nacchan.”
It was strange. He felt like Kotarou had made a similar and yet not so similar claim about him, and so Shin should be yelling at Tatsuki for it. However, he couldn’t think of any words to say to hold Tatsuki back.
“…You don’t like it?”
Tatsuki looked down at Shin with such an indulgent-looking expression that it could melt everything, and the inside of Shin’s head filled up with the sound of his racing heart.
“Ya so unfair…”
“I think that about you all the time too.”
“That’s a groundless accusation.”
Shin had quickly surrendered, and Tatsuki had no doubt of his victory—the distance between their gazes closed steadily. Just when each of their eyelids were about to drift closed, Shin saw himself reflected in Tatsuki’s eyes, encircled by the glittering of those irises, and for some reason, Kotarou’s words came back to haunt his ears.
—I can’t believe the words ‘heart broken’ came out of his mouth…
Shin understood how people could think that Tatsuki’s behavior was “unbelievable,” but he still didn’t know what that unbelievable thing entailed exactly.
Shin used the hand that had been propping himself up to grab Tatsuki’s shoulder.
“I have somethin’ urgent I need from ya.”
Shin looked up directly into Tatsuki’s eyes to speak. “I wanna know ’bout the person ya used to like, Minagawa. The one who turned ya down a long time ago.”
The room fell still in an instant, and at almost the same moment, the cell phone Tatsuki had thrown next to the pillow started ringing.
“Sorry, I have to answer that. Hello?”
“Don’t ‘hello’ me, Tatsuki!”
The call wasn’t even on speakerphone, and Shin could hear the furious voice.
“Where are you? You’re late! We’re supposed to meet here at 9:30!”
“What? Wasn’t it supposed to be 10:30?”
“No, you idiot! Hurry up and get here!”
“Yes, yes, yes!”
Tatsuki ended the call and exclaimed, “I’m sorry!” as he raised a hand in apology. He scrambled off the bed to grab his tie, jacket, and work bag, then shrewdly nabbed the baked goods that Shin had brought over and headed out the door. The shout “I’m off to work” was truncated as the door closed shut, and it sounded unnatural as it dropped off.
Shin stared at the ceiling in a daze.
He didn’t want to think that Tatsuki had made a convenient getaway, but when Tatsuki heard the words that he said, Shin felt like Tatsuki’s irises slightly trembled for a moment. Like it was shock or confusion—in any case, it was a reaction that was “unbelievable” for Tatsuki.
Why’d ya react like that? Was it so wrong for me to ask ya that question? But didna ya tell me that he turned ya down? Was it okay to tell me when we werena datin’ but not now? Why? Wait, I was nervous too, maybe I just imagined it… Ahhh, I dunno anythin’ anymore.
Shin was confident in his feelings for Tatsuki, and he trusted Tatsuki’s feelings for him. So why was everything so murky right now?
The one thing that Shin could say for certain was that it was pretty wretched fixing his disheveled clothing all by himself.
“Ya coulda at least fixed my clothes first before ya left, ya dumb nut…”
Shin sat up and squirmed as he straightened his clothes. Maybe he had grown cold in the meantime because he let out a sneeze.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.