Chapter 9: Love Rivals and Irises (9)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
The incident at Tatsuki’s apartment had happened on a Thursday morning, and before Shin knew it, it was already Saturday night and they would be meeting Tatsuki’s friends for drinks again. He hadn’t had another opportunity to really question Tatsuki about the mysterious person he had been in love with. Had Shin been determined to ask about it, he could have made time to talk to Tatsuki, but it was hard to bring it up again once he had let the sudden impulse and timing slip by. And Tatsuki hadn’t brought the topic back up himself, which probably meant that he didn’t want to proactively talk about it. Could it be that Tatsuki still had feelings for the person…? But even without this lingering doubt, there must have been more troubles and difficulties that Tatsuki hadn’t revealed to Shin. Maybe it was “unbelievable” of Tatsuki, but it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. If Tatsuki was hiding something, then the more Shin wanted to know what it was—and the more that he wanted to know, then the harder it became for Shin to ask Tatsuki about it.
The past was the past, and dragging it up was likely a faux pas in itself, one that might make Tatsuki experience painful memories again. He might think that Shin was a headache, and that was a thought that made Shin feel sad.
Maybe I shouldna said anythin’. Why’d I hafta blurt that out that day?
Someone suddenly called his name right by his ear, and Shin turned his head and found Kotarou standing next to him close enough to touch his shoulder.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I called your name several times, but it seemed like you hadn’t heard me.”
“…It’s ya fault.”
“Pardon me? I didn’t catch that.”
“…Nevermind. It’s nothin’.”
Around them were restaurant and izakaya greeters making noise and soliciting pedestrians to walk inside, and fortunately it seemed that Kotarou hadn’t heard the rash and unreasonable criticism that he had let out (and he fully knew it was too), so Shin started walking again and said, “I think the place is this way.”
“I didn’t think that you would come today, Nawada-san.”
“Dun worry, I dun plan on interruptin’ ya guys while ya catchin’ up on ol’ times.”
“Oh, no, it makes me incredibly happy that you’re here,” Kotarou said, speaking plainly with no pretense in his words.
“Dun say that so loud. An’ dun ya dare say stuff like that in front of everybody!”
“By everybody, you mean Minagawa, correct?”
No matter how much Shin quickened his pace, Kotarou was like a compass that would quickly come and catch up to him, which pissed him off.
“Did you think that I might say something to him unless you come keep an eye on me?”
Kotarou was right on the mark, so Shin strongly denied it.
“No way, dun think that everythin’ revolves around ya. Ya bein’ overly self-conscious.”
Shin was the one giving Kotarou the cold shoulder, so what was this frustration that he was feeling? And Shin had lied again. He no longer separated the white lies that were necessary from the ones that weren’t.
But maybe Tatsuki had lied to Shin too. Shin leaned forward as if to break into a run when he heard Tatsuki’s voice from between the buildings.
Shin rushed to put on the brakes.
“The entrance to the place is deeper in the back. I thought it would be hard for you to find, so I stood out here.”
“No probs~ So Kota’s with you? Perfect.”
“We just happened to run into each other.” Although Kotarou was snippy as always, he did state the truth.
“Hnnn… Anyway, follow me.”
Tatsuki’s friends, whom Shin had met before, were waiting for them in the izakaya. They took one look at Kota and cried, “You’re here!”
“Ya sure popular,” Shin commented.
“I’m pretty sure they just want to mess with me.”
“Kotarou-kun, come sit at the head of the table~”
“When we’re done here, we’ll leave you alone with Tatsuki for the afterparty~”
“What, no way, I’m going home at that point,” Tatsuki said, making a quick refusal, and Kotarou retorted immediately, “Hey! I’m disgusted by the thought!”
“Ahhh, this really takes me back! This is exactly what I missed…”
“Kota, you haven’t lost your boyish spirit.”
Everyone was wholly absorbed with teasing Kotarou, and Shin’s worries were completely needless. He could definitely feel how everyone loved him—in a much different way that everyone loved Tatsuki. He wondered if it was because Kotarou was handsome and smart, but it was hilarious how he responded so seriously to everything.
When they headed to the second location for the night, no, they did not leave the two of them alone as proposed. Someone had suggested, “Hey, there’s a ping pong bar nearby, let’s go there,” so everyone decided to head over. The place was pretty self-explanatory—there were four ping pong tables and people could play in between drinks. The balls and paddles were even free to use. There really were all sorts of drinking establishments that people could find.
“Tatsuki, you should play a game against Kota while you’re here!”
“Huh? We’re not playing doubles?”
“It’s not like we can keep up with you two and your athletic abilities anyway~”
“I’ve had a lot to drink already tonight… But okay, I’m up for a quick game with you, Kota.”
“Why the hell do I have to be your opponent!?”
“But ain’t ya been testin’ out paddles so that ya can play?”
Thus, a single-game match of ping pong between Tatsuki and Kotarou was decided.
“Nacchan, hold my coat for me. …All right, let’s go, Kota.”
They headed to opposing ends of the table, and the moment they took their ready positions, the looks in their eyes had changed. The match opened with Tatsuki’s serve.
The gallery, which included Shin, leaned back against the bar counter as they watched the rallies back and forth. Shin immediately agreed with the words that no one could keep with them.
“…Uh, have they both played before?”
“No, I’m pretty sure that they haven’t.”
“They just have good athletic sense~”
They attacked and defended a tiny ball that didn’t sound as cute as the name “ping pong” suggested. The ricochet of the returns sounded much sharper than any of the other tables, and the quick tempo of the ball slamming back and forth echoed throughout the bar. Shin immediately felt a little nauseated as he turned his face left and right to try to follow the action. They didn’t look like amateurs at all—well, all the spectators were amateurs too—but there was a fierce speed and intensity as the game went on.
“Watching them like this, it’s really hard to tell who is better.”
“Totally. And Kota has this desperation about him.”
“Probably because of his one-sided feelings.”
Maybe Shin had a bad habit of looking at things from a TV perspective because he would always follow whatever scene drew his eye for a “good shot.” Which shots would he want to include if he were to film and edit this one-game match into a video? The answer was clear. Even if he disregarded his own personal bias, his eyes would always come back to Tatsuki. Kotarou was the superior player here; he built his score by paring down wasteful actions, doggedly returning the ball, and never missing a chance for an easy point. However, Shin had the most fun watching Tatsuki with his serves that were absolute flukes, the do-or-die smashes that pumped the crowd up, and the feints that he pulled off grinning mischievously. Tatsuki jumped and shouted “Yay!” whenever he scored a point and stared up at the ceiling with a “Damn it!” whenever he lost one. All of his actions were striking and expressive, and Shin almost regretted that he didn’t have a camera with him. The friend who had said, If Kota is someone who makes a clutch hit to bring in some runs, Tatsuki’s the one who hits a home run—he was right on the mark with his comment.
Tatsuki did have a competitive streak in him, but between Kotarou who was taking this game incredibly seriously and Tatsuki who was playing all out for fun, the difference was stark. Kotarou was about to snatch a win by the rules, but he was so desperate that he didn’t look like he was having any fun at all.
Oi, are ya really okay with this? Shin wanted to say to him. Even if ya win like this, ya ain’t gettin’ the spotlight. Ya gotta relax ya shoulders more, even if ya takin’ this seriously.
Shin felt like he had met Kotarou’s eyes for a moment. And he felt like he had heard his voice.
“I know that. But still, this is the only way for me to chase him. The only way I know how to do things.”
Kotarou slammed the ping pong ball to the very edge of the table, skimming just past the reach of Tatsuki’s paddle. The hollow bounces of the ball faded into a roll behind him.
“That’s game, set, and match! Kota wins!”
The score was 15-13. The referee directed his hands towards Kotarou to present him as the winner, and the entire bar broke into applause.
“Ahhh, dammit!! I lost!!” Tatsuki wiped the sweat off his forehead and smiled at Kotarou like the loss was already the furthest thing from his mind. “Kota, great game!”
Kotarou scrunched his eyebrows, not happy in the least, and snatched Tatsuki’s paddle away from him before turning his back.
“I’ll go return these.”
Shin felt somewhat worked up just watching Kotarou.
Megumi has the same feelin’s too. Even when he wins against Minagawa, he realizes that he’s still lost—that he’s no match for ’im, an’ he feels so upset and frustrated with ’imself that it’s almost unbearable. But ya know, Minagawa dun think that ’bout ya. Ya not his opponent. But he prolly already knows this. That’s what makes ’em unrequited feelin’s—he knows this, an’ yet he can’t help his feelin’s for what they are.
“Nacchan, thanks for holding my coat.”
“Oh, um, yeah.”
Tatsuki appeared right in front of Shin while he was lost in his thoughts. Shin told him, “Good game,” and handed him a beer bottle from a brewery that he wasn’t very familiar with. Tatsuki took a light swig and wiped his mouth with a loud and satisfied “Aaah~!” Then he leaned over and whispered next to Shin’s ear.
“…So who were you watching during the match?”
Shin answered normally, “Both,” but he felt like there was something strangely pointed in Tatsuki’s gaze. From the point of view of a director, Tatsuki was the one whom Shin would closely monitor, but on a personal level, Kotarou and his inability to smile was what Shin had thought about…
“Oi~ Let’s go sit over there and talk~?”
“Yeah, I’m tired of standing~”
Shin felt like it was wrong of him to feel relieved at the interruption from Tatsuki’s friends. They went to sit down at a table to resume drinking, but this time other patrons at the bar started gathering around Tatsuki.
“Oh, are you Minagawa-san from Asahi TV?”
“I always watch you on TV!”
“Oh, thanks a lot~”
When Announcer Minagawa separated himself from Shin and the others to engage with his viewers, someone decided to speak up.
“He seems normal and happy again. I’m glad.”
Shin looked up from the menu, and Kotaro, who was sitting across from him, cut in with a strained look and said, “Oi, drop it.” However, the other members of the group snapped at the bait and wouldn’t let go.
“Huh? What happened? What happened?”
“Oh, right, you guys didn’t come to the afterparty for Satoken’s wedding.”1
“Yeah, it kinda got a little ugly.”
“Seriously~? Did Tatsuki do something?”
“Well, I’d say that we were pretty much responsible for it too.”
“I said to drop it.”
They ignored Kotarou’s protest and continued talking.
“We were all excited to set up a singles meetup for the people there, but Tatsuki said he had his heart broken and didn’t feel like going, and then, um, do you know the bride?”
“Gucchan, right? We went to the same junior high with Tatsuki.”
“Oh, right, you did, didn’t you? So Gucchan overheard him and came over all huffy, going ‘What’s that about?’ And then she said, ‘If you’re single right now, then I might have finally had a chance with you!’”
“Whoaa… Yeah, that doesn’t sound good at all.”
“I know, right? But she had a lot to drink that night, and we were able to calm her down and distract her.”
“Apparently Gucchan had been in love with Tatsuki forever, but he always had a girlfriend and so she could never say anything to him.”
“She probably thought she had gotten over him, but some of those lingering feelings just spilled out.”
“Did Tatsuki ever know about her feelings?”
“Hmmm, I haven’t asked him about it, but it felt like he was vaguely aware of them? Anyway, it’s not like he could do anything but pretend like he didn’t notice. But yeah, it sure became loud and clear that night, and he—”
Kotarou abruptly stood up from his seat and brute-forced himself into the conversation.
“What’s up, Kota? Gotta go to the restroom?”
“No.” Kotarou pulled out his cell phone. “There’s trouble at work.”
He then circled around the table and took Shin by the hand.
“Excuse me, Nawada-san, could you please help me with it?”
Kotarou essentially pulled Shin to his feet and shoved their coats that had been hanging up on the wall at him.
“I’ll pay you back later,” Kotarou said to the group.
“Sure~ It must be tough working in the TV business~”
“Are you really fine with not saying goodbye to Tatsuki before you leave~?”
Kotarou didn’t respond to their teasing as he left the bar still holding onto Shin’s hand. All the ping pong tables were in use, but there weren’t any of the intense sounds like that of Kotarou and Tatsuki’s game.
Kotarou pulled Shin along, his back towards him as he pushed his way through the crowds. Tatsuki had pulled Shin through a crowded street just like this before—back when they were merely an announcer and a staff member working on the same show. They didn’t resemble each other in the least—not their backs, not their personalities. So why did Shin remember such a thing now?
Maybe because the strengths of their hands were the same.
Shin suddenly became afraid of the figure of the back that would not turn around, of the quick steps that hadn’t considered the differences between their strides. He wondered, Where is he gonna take me like this? That was why he desperately dug his heels in and shouted to make himself be heard above the noise.
Kotarou came to a halt as he came to his senses at last and released Shin’s hand.
His face looked the same as usual when Kotarou turned around, and Shin felt completely spent before working up a rage.
“Dammit! What the hell ya doin’!? My hand hurts! An’ it’s freezin’ outside, an’ I wanna put on my coat! Ya big ol’ dummy!”
“Why the hell do ya look a lil’ happy for!? Dumbass!”
Shin didn’t want to hold up the crowds of people on the street, so he ducked in front of a nearby convenience store to pull his coat on. His left wrist still stung from the grip that Kotarou had used on him, like it was a low-temperature burn. Shin stuffed both hands into his pockets and questioned him. “Ya were lyin’, right? About work…”
“I was,” Kotarou readily admitted.
Shin didn’t feel like making an excuse like, Oh, it got fixed already, in order to go back to the bar. He wondered if the gossip about Tatsuki was over yet.
“I thought that you wouldn’t want to listen to them talking about Minagawa. Because last time I had been insensitive and talked about him in front of you.”
“Ya dummy,” Shin whispered quietly. There was a group of businessmen huddled around a public ashtray nearby, and he could hear the chatter of Where do we go next? and smelled the cigarette smoke drift over.
“None o’ it… matters. I dun care whoever it is who likes ’im.”
Tatsuki hadn’t mentioned anything about it. All that he had said about the afterparty was that Kotarou was feeling down—which was fine. Shin wouldn’t know how to react even if he confessed, The bride was in love with me, and he didn’t count something like that as hiding things from him. The concern for Shin was the people whom Tatsuki had been in love with.
“I’m sorry for doing something unnecessary.”
The lights from the convenience store at his back seemed to feel as bright as the set lights for TV. He could hear the announcement over the speakers suggesting that patrons make their reservations for Christmas cakes. Shin thought, Oh, it’s already winter. He had first met Tatsuki in the summer, and he had enjoyed the days with the scorching afternoons and nights together with the freezing conditions inside the studio. Shin clenched his hands into fists inside his pockets. For some reason, he felt guiltier thinking about Tatsuki when he was with Kotarou than when he was with Tatsuki thinking about Kotarou.
“…Ya good friends with the groom, right?”
“Huh? Oh, you mean Satoken? Yes, I am.”
“What happened to ’em afterwards? Dun tell me they’re gonna divorce ’cause o’ Minagawa.”
“It doesn’t look to be the case,” Kotarou answered. “Apparently a lot of things sort of came to a head for the bride that night, such as marriage blues and all the alcohol. I heard that she feels terrible about what had happened and she’s not quite sure why she made such an outburst. He’ll accept her apology and let it go.”
“He sounds like an adult.”
“Yes. Because I love them… Is what he said.”2
“Dun make such a weird pause.”
“He said that no one but the bride can truly know her feelings, but they have their whole life ahead of them. And over that time, if she comes to appreciate her decision to marry him over Tatsuki, then he’s fine with it.”
I wish I could have such a positive outlook.
“What do you think about all of this, Nawada-san?”
“What do I think? Not much… If the people involved are fine with it, then that’s their decision. That’s all I can say.”
“Personally, I wouldn’t have tolerated it to be honest.”
In order to avoid Kotarou’s face, Shin had let his gaze drift around the drunkards, the neon signs, and the heads of the people passing by, but he unexpectedly met Kotarou’s eyes. But what was so wrong with it?
“Probably because I had thought that it was pitiful to obtain someone who still had feelings for someone else. That it was more difficult to be with them if they still had these half-hearted unrequited feelings… That was before I came back to Japan.”
Kotarou had also placed his hands inside his coat pockets. The pockets bulged out a little, probably because he was clenching his fists trying to endure something that he was feeling.
“But now I’m sort of wistful. Maybe he’s not number one in her heart right now, but he has the future to change that. At the very least, he’s afforded the opportunity to try, and I very much envy that position that he has.”
“I ain’t askin’ ’bout ya.”
Shin didn’t want to say this. His heart twisted with pain. Even more so because Kotarou wouldn’t show him even a hint of how much hurt that he was feeling. Shin hadn’t wanted to treat Kotarou so coldly; he only wanted to treat him kindly. But maybe these feelings were a further betrayal of Tatsuki’s trust. Maybe Shin was only being a coward, not wanting to be the bad guy here.
Ya can be dumb sometimes, but ya really a good guy. I’ve come to trust ya a lot after workin’ together, an’ that’s why I do wish I could hang with ya normally outside o’ work, but when I’m with ya, I feel like I’m turnin’ more an’ more into this horrible person.
Why’d ya hafta confess that ya like me, ya dumb nut?
“…I’m goin’ home.”
After making his declaration, Shin tried to disappear into the faceless crowd, but one word from Kotarou made him stop in his tracks.
“D’ya have somethin’ more to say?”
“When I was playing ping pong, it was only for a moment, but I felt like we communicated without saying anything.”
“Ya totally imaginin’ things.”
“I wonder about that… Didn’t you give me a look that said, ‘Ya such a dummy’?”
“I pretty much always do that.”
Shin thought to himself, Ya can’t turn around right now. He didn’t want to see what kind of face Kotarou was making. He was afraid that the image might burn itself into his memory.
“…It makes me happy.”
“Ya big dummy,” Shin said as a parting shot, tearing his sneakers away from the pavement to leave the place. He wanted to stalk off quickly, but the dense, bustling crowd made it hard for him to do so. Shin bit his lip as he suppressed the urge to stamp his feet right there and yell, What the hell?
For all that Kotarou had said that he didn’t think that Shin was an easy lure, he would keep trying to soften him up. What the heck was that about?
I keep turnin’ ’im down, but am I somehow sendin’ ’im different signals? Am I really that oblivious? Maybe it is my fault.
Shin had never confessed his feelings to someone before, and so he hadn’t ever experienced that type of rejection either. But he also understood that just because someone rejected a person, it didn’t mean that their feelings would up and disappear.
Kotarou didn’t come chasing after him. When Shin returned home, he went straight to bed, only removing his coat before crawling in it, curling up into a ball under the covers. He was exhausted. He felt like he had been exhausted all week this week. He wanted to sleep and not think about anything. If a black screen aired on TV due to an editing or control room mistake, industry people would say that a black stain had visited. It was a broadcasting mistake that everyone abhorred, but right now he wanted that black stain to visit him in his sleep. He didn’t want to see any dreams—not the good ones or the bad ones.
…What, Megumi? What’s wrong?
“I heard that a black stain visited. I’m scared, so would you please accompany me to the restroom?”
Are ya dumb? A black stain ain’t a ghost.
“Oh, really? I thought that they were something like soot gremlins…”
Uh, soot gremlins ain’t scary at all. Ya a real dumb nut.3
Shin let out a chuckle without thinking. In response, he felt a warm breath on his ear, and he froze at the sudden raw sensation there. It was hard for him to move his arms and legs, but still, he desperately flung his arms up and raised his voice. This feeling was still fresh in his mind.
“—Megumi, ya dumbass! Not again…”
However, at the end of his raised arm was Tatsuki.
“…Nacchan, what did you just say?”
Ahh, ya say the same things, Shin thought as he woke up in an instant only to rebound back to the edge of consciousness.
Shin wanted to at least avoid the tense silence that had descended like the time with Kotarou, and he immediately opened his mouth as he sat up. He didn’t know if it was a good thing or not that he had left the lights on. Tatsuki’s face was curiously quiet, as if he had failed to come up with his next reaction after this surprise. On the contrary, this disturbance in his behavior was probably his full reaction on display.
Shin had barely managed to squeeze out an apology, and Tatsuki immediately retorted with a question.
“‘Cause I mistook ya two.”
“I just happened to have a dream ’bout Megumi just now.”
“But you said ‘again.’ What does that mean?”
Just as Shin tried to get off the bed, Tatsuki climbed onto it instead, propping his arms up against the wall to trap Shin against it. The backlighting cast a shadow over his entire face.
“—Because last time, when he was afraid that he had saw a ghost, he had jumped and clung to me before.”
Shin didn’t know how much of the truth that Tatsuki had suspected. There was the possibility that he was just bluffing, but Shin immediately raised a white flag upon hearing the dull tone in Tatsuki’s voice.
“I’m really sorry.”
“Like I said. For what?”
“…There was one time when Megumi was fallin’ asleep durin’ breakfast, so I brought ’im here. An’ I also went to sleep—not together, okay?—and when I started wakin’ up, on my neck…”
Shin placed a hand on the back of his neck as he hesitated, but Tatsuki refused to let go and prompted, “On your neck?”
“Uh, h-he put… his lips there.”
“So he kissed you.”
“It’s ain’t really a kiss.”
“It’s a kiss. How is it different?”
“…I’m sorry. But I promise that nothin’ more than that happened—”
For the first time there was a clear glint of danger in Tatsuki’s voice.
“More than that? What are you even saying? I can’t believe that this is happening right now.”
Tatsuki wrenched Shin’s hand away from the back of his neck and gripped it tightly. Shin grimaced slightly, but either Tatsuki didn’t notice or he didn’t care, and he continued his interrogation.
“So what did he say? That he was half asleep? Or like you, he mistook you for someone?”
“…He said that he likes me.”
Tatsuki didn’t seem particularly surprised by the confession. He looked like he had suspected it and finally had his confirmation.
“Then how did you answer, Nacchan?”
“I turned ’im down, of course.”
“Did you tell him about me?”
“I didna!” Shin shook his head hard in denial. “I’d never say anythin’ ’bout ya.”
“So what did Kota say?”
“That he understood.”
“Did he say he’d give up?”
Tatsuki let out a deep sigh. It was mixed with exasperation and anger, and it wasn’t like him at all. Shin wanted to run away when he realized that he was the one who had caused Tatsuki to react like this.
“…When did this happen? It hasn’t been very long since he was first hired here.”
Tatsuki hit the wall with the side of his fist. Shin had experienced two kinds of wall slams in a very short time, but neither were the types to inspire thrill or anticipation.
“You’re saying that it’s only been a week!? So you didn’t think to put some distance between you two? You just eat together like good friends, meet up together to show up for drinks, and disappear on your own together?”
“It ain’t like that.”
“What do you mean it’s not? This week, I saw you searching for Kota in the studio. Your eyes were wandering and looking for him.”
Crap, he figured it out— No, wait, I didna do anythin’ wrong there.
“When ya workin’ together, there are times when ya rely on others, right? It’s the same for eatin’ together too. I dun think it’s any different from all the times ya hafta go out with people to those girls bars!”
“Then what was that today?”
“We just happened to run into each other on the way…”
“I heard that Kota left to take care of some trouble at work, and he took you with him, but was it really work?”
“…It was a lie.”
All at once, his tone dropped about two octaves.
“What the hell? You can’t be serious.”
Maybe Shin looked suspicious to Tatsuki’s eyes, losing his cool as he argued heatedly, “I dun wanna hear ya sound like this. I dun wanna see ya so unlike yaself.” But he was too upset to worry about it.
“I’m sorry for usin’ work as an excuse to leave the bar, but in the end we just talked a little an’ went our separate ways—…Hey, please dun get mad at Megumi. He really dun know anythin’ ’bout us. I shoulda been clearer with ’im ’bout keepin’ our relationship strictly professional, but we work together an’ I can’t do anythin’ ’bout it.”
“Are you saying that you want me to smile and watch as he goes, ‘Nawada-san, Nawada-san,’ and wags his tail at you?”
Shin didn’t see Kotarou as wagging his tail at him, and Kotarou’s earnestness wasn’t something that he did just to win him over. Even if Kotarou did have some ulterior motives in his interactions, he promised Shin in all seriousness that he would try to give himself a chance to like the job. Was it wrong for Shin to value this promise? He wondered if there was a hint of defiance in his expression or voice, because Tatsuki frowned unhappily and declared, “I can’t trust you.”
“Nacchan, you kept such an important thing from me. If you hadn’t let it slip out and I hadn’t pressed you about it, were you planning to hide it from me forever? You turned him down, so it’s fine? Don’t you think that’s cruel?”
“Whatta ’bout ya!?” Shin retorted without thinking.
I’ve been worryin’ all this time on my own. I’ve been stressin’ so long that I couldna think of any other solutions.
“…Y-Ya brushed off my question ’bout the person ya used to like, an’ ya never answered me either…”
Tatsuki sighed again in response. This time it was full of weariness.
“Is this really now the time to be bringing that up?”
It was true. Shin said it because he couldn’t stand the pressure from Tatsuki’s questioning anymore, but it was unfair and dirty of him. Shin thought to apologize, but the words wouldn’t come out. Tatsuki quietly released Shin’s hand and brought his face over to examine Shin’s expression. Tatsuki’s eyes were like colored fragments of glass submerged under darkness, and Shin couldn’t see the irises that he adored.
“Can you not believe me?”
Shin weakly shook his head.
“Do you think I’m scary?”
Shin gave the same response once more, and then Tatsuki gently stoked Shin’s cheek.
Shin didn’t know which of his responses that Tatsuki was referring to. His body was sluggish, like it had been buried in mud, and when Tatsuki left the apartment, Shin couldn’t move or open his mouth to stop him.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
- Satoken is a nickname for their friend. The last name is probably Satou, and the first name starts with Ken or is Ken.
- The I love them sentence is a lot more vague in Japanese. The ‘I’ could refer to Kotarou or the groom prior to the clarification, and without the clarification, whom or what he loves isn’t specified either.
- Soot gremlins are the black soots from the movie Spirited Away.