Chapter 2: Open It Up (2)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
“—And that’s the end of our show for tonight. We’ll see you again tomorrow.”
Asou gave his closing statement as the presenters at the table bowed their heads at the camera, and the broadcast ended on this full shot of everyone in a row. When Sakae checked that the monitors had gone to commercial, he stayed in his kneeling position on the floor and looked up at the ceiling. He squeezed his eyes shut at the blinding brightness of the lights as a bead of sweat rolled down his face by the outer corner of his eye. When he looked around the studio and noticed the gazes from the staff, he realized that he had screwed up. His head cooled down with the atmosphere of the broadcast.
“…There’s no point to the cue sheets or rundowns like this.”
Sakae heard someone hiss this whisper aloud, but he felt no desire to identify the owner of the voice. Everyone probably shared the same sentiment anyway.
The broadcast itself had gone well in Sakae’s personal estimation. It had been riveting. He hadn’t thrown his weight around for the hell of it; it had been a consequence of him doing his job and making what he thought was good TV, but apparently he had gone too far. That stuff’s boring; I want to hear more of this—all they had to do was to follow what he said. Naturally they would be upset. Some guy just suddenly appeared and disrupted the way that they had always done things. The members from the control room that gathered out in the studio didn’t look happy either. It had been an emergency when Sakae assumed the role of broadcast director for the show before, and his unilateral decisions had been an asset in that particular situation, but during times of peace, it was now a seed for dissension—
What the hell am I? A weapon or something?
“Wow, this entire day was a crazy thrill from start to finish~!”
Only Minagawa maintained his good spirits as he talked with that excessively loud voice of his. Shin looked like he needed something to do as he came up to Sakae to collect the cue cards and said, “I’ll take care of those for you, sir.”
What are you looking so awkward for?
Sakae slowly got up to his feet, but he became a little dizzy. There hadn’t been any pain in his legs or his back until now, and it all came down on him at once to collect on his tab.
“Thanks again as always, everyone, for your hard work tonight.”
Shitara hadn’t said a single word during the broadcast as it progressed, but right now he stood in the middle of the studio to address the staff.
“There was a pretty intense back and forth over the segments, but well, please take a look at the recording when you get some time later to sit down and watch it. …And so, due to some changes in personnel, today we have added Souma-kun to our team as our new chief producer. Last year, he came to help us out on the show for a day, so I’m sure that many of you already know him, but please give him a warm welcome.”
Shitara had pretty much explained the general gist of everything, so Sakae kept silent with nothing more to add, but Shitara prompted him to say a few words. He had no choice but to open his mouth.
“I’ll rein things in starting tomorrow.”
Sakae headed for the door to leave the studio, and after a delay, he heard some sporadic clapping.
“You had to rush home like that, hmm?”
Sakae received another phone call when he got back to his apartment.
“What call is it this time?”
“A good night call?”
“Got it. I’m sleeping. I’m asleep now.”
“You’re not that well-behaved a child.” Shitara lightly sidestepped Sakae’s cold reception and said, “Thanks for your hard work tonight.”
“I already heard that earlier.”
“Let me say it as many times that I want. So, what did you think?”
Shitara probably knew that Sakae had no intentions of answering him, so he gave him this very broad question instead.
Sakae replied curtly, “My legs hurt.”
“Should I come loosen them up for you?”
“Quit it, or I’ll report you.”
“…And what about you?”
“Hmm? It was a great show. There was a freshness to it.”
When Sakae stayed silent, Shitara pressed him and said, “Say something.”
“That’s not the reaction that I was expecting. Well, good night then. Get plenty of rest tonight, and we’ll be back at it again tomorrow.”
It was weird. Sakae had been the one to cut the call off, but he felt like he had been left behind somehow. If he were to vent at him, “That part of you really pisses me off,” Shitara would probably give a wry laugh and say, “Huh? It’s my fault?” Just imagining the expression made him angry.
Shitara had said that he loved him. Sakae more or less understood that it encompassed Souma Sakae as a whole, including his talent for making videos and TV shows, but maybe in Shitara’s head, it was broken down into components like a nutritional label—some percentage for his camera skills, some percentage for his editing, some percentage for his production direction, some percentage for his personality…
I don’t ever want to know what that breakdown is.
In Sakae’s opinion, Shitara was—well, to put it bluntly—the type of person that he hated. He always maintained a smile on his face, never made mistakes, and Sakae could never let his guard down around him. It irritated him again and again that his thorny behavior and words never seemed to faze him. But Shitara hadn’t told Sakae, Say that you love me. Or even Fall in love with me. His request, Make me your man, didn’t seem like a bad thing to Sakae, so Sakae had accepted it, and here they were, half a year later, and still together. It didn’t bother him either to be pulled onto The News. Rather than his body or his heart, it made him much more reassured to have his talent desired. He had the skills and the talent. When it came to certain skill sets, he much better than most people. However, he had already experienced the failure of pushing through his work with power alone, and today he had gotten another taste of that experience.
His cell phone had lost the slight heat that it had generated during the call, and as he stared at the darkened screen, somehow it felt awfully heavy to him.
He hadn’t expected things to go smoothly, and he was sure that Shitara had expected it too. And they had another show to do tomorrow. Sakae sank into his bed. He had said, I’ll rein things in, but Shitara hadn’t questioned the meaning and veracity of his words. But it wasn’t like Sakae could answer those questions anyway. That was what he would say if he were Shitara. Lying face down, a buzzing rang through the back of his head.
—It’s because you’re like this that everyone quits!
The buzzing was accompanied by a criticism that he had heard sometime or another. He knew this. And he knew that he would only repeat the same mistakes if he didn’t change. But what and how should he change exactly?
He was in a cramped editing suite previewing a video that would air tomorrow. It was a 7-minute clip that gave an in-depth look at non-profit organizations and the work that they did to support the poor. The director who had worked the story was older than Sakae, but Sakae could sense from him a nervousness that ran through his skin like a thin film that cloaked his entire body. The guy wasn’t an amateur. He was probably more relaxed than this usually. After the video finished, Sakae turned his head a little for no particular reason, and that was enough to cause the film on the guy to grow even thicker.
“What do you think, Sakae?” Shitara asked.
Sakae answered in an extremely even voice.
“About a minute and a half in, there was a poster for a political party that was prominently displayed during the montage that showed a range of shots and impressions. We’re not in the middle of an election, but if you can change it out for something different, it would probably be safer. About 2 minutes in, it’s hard to read the yellow captions against the orange background. And during the scene with the rain, I know that the phrase ‘signs of rain’ is written in the script for the narrator, but it’s often misused, so ‘impending rain conditions’ would be better—that’s all that I have.”
Sakae got to his feet, and he could sense the film quietly fading away.
“Okay, then I’ll go over the areas that I have some questions about. Could you go back to the beginning? Let’s see…”
Sakae left the editing suite without listening to Shitara’s review. As he walked down the hallway, he came across Shin.
“How are you doing, sir?”
Sakae planned to walk past him, but Shin stopped his feet and changed course to follow him.
“Did you finish previewing Araki-san’s clip?”
“That was quite fast.”
“There wasn’t much for me to say.”
“…Oh, I see.”
It was an awkward reaction, like he had something stuck in the back of his teeth. He didn’t care to look back to see Shin’s expression and told him, “I need to go to a meeting,” and headed for the elevators, but Shin still trailed behind him with something to say.
“Um, after the review meeting of your first day, everyone went over to the TV and watched the recording of the broadcast together.”
“Well, the general producer did tell them to do so.”
“They would have done so even if he hadn’t. I had been at my limit doing the best that I could during the broadcast, but I wanted to see the show for myself as a viewer. …There was a liveliness to the discussion that was different from usual, and then all of a sudden the show just seemed so much sharper… And I thought all over again just how amazing you are, Souma-san.”
Sakae turned to face Shin, and Shin was a little startled, but he didn’t pull his gaze away.
“I think that everyone thought that the show that day was particularly riveting. That they never knew that it could change the show so much depending on the floor manager’s decisions. We all learned a lot from it. And I want to try more new things and learn from them as much as I can.”
Sakae thought to himself, He’ll be fine. Shin had gone through some painful experiences when their previous show had to end, but he was no longer a mere underling who only worshipped the ground that Sakae walked on.
“Well, that’s good to hear.”
Sakae knew that Shin had more to say, but he turned his back to him again. He got into an empty elevator and gave a yawn even though he wasn’t particularly sleep deprived. Maybe the sluggishness that pervaded his whole body was from a boredom where he restrained himself from throwing everything he had into his work. It had been a week since his transfer, and the show had been blocked up a little after swallowing a new and unusual object that was Souma Sakae, but now it moved peacefully again.
Just as he had declared, Sakae asserted none of his own opinions if he wasn’t asked for them. When it came to videos and scripts, he only identified the issues that could be a problem from a broadcast standpoint. Even in the special internal project meetings, he only gave his opinions related to standards and compliance. By no means did he say anything about the shots or the directorial choices. Plus he didn’t skip any of these boring meetings, and he performed the various administrative duties and stayed for each of the broadcasts every night. He should have fulfilled his responsibilities as the chief producer who supervised the production of the show. No one came to say anything about it to him. There had been no complaints, nor had there been any bootlicking either—everything was peaceful and calm. There had been one time when Minagawa came up to him and asked, “Are you not going to direct the floor or the broadcasts anymore?” but Sakae had ignored him. When he arrived at the conference room floor, he gave another slight yawn before the elevator doors opened.
After the broadcast, Sakae had been busy with paperwork when unexpectedly he found himself all alone with Shitara. The work was regular managerial tasks, and as he looked through the vast amounts of interview memos and business emails and drew up some documents, the tasks quickly ate up his time.
“Oku-sama will be in town next weekend and wants to go out for drinks together. Keep your Saturday free.”
Past 1 am, there weren’t many people left on the news floor, and the lights were turned off depending on the area. There were reporters on overnight duty snoozing in chairs or watching a late-night show on TV. Maybe because it was such a lax time of night that Sakae let out a bit of a laugh without meaning to. He sat far away from Shitara as usual, but Shitara still happened to hear it.
“What are you laughing at?”
“I was wondering if there was anyone beside you who still calls him Oku-sama.”
Oku-sama did not refer to anyone’s wife, but to their mutual acquaintance, Oku Mutsuto. It was his nickname from a long time ago when he had used to work here. But it had been over 10 years since the three of them hung out together for a drink or a movie.
“Well, it’s weird to change it after all this time. Mind if I pick the place? It’ll be somewhere not around here.”
Mutsuto had left Asahi TV on extremely bad terms. It had also happened a long time ago, but Shitara probably didn’t want to remind him of any bad memories. Sakae shutdown his laptop and got to his feet to put it away in his locker.
“Are you heading home? I drove here today, so I’ll give you a ride.”
“It’s a bigger hassle to get a ride when I live in the neighborhood.”
“Awww, don’t say that… Oh, I have a phone call. At this time of night? Hold on for a bit.”
Sakae decided to leave while Shitara was busy on his cell phone. There were only a few elevators in operation this late at night to save electricity or whatever, but surprisingly he didn’t have to wait very long for one. He pressed the button to close the doors before pressing the floor that he wanted, and when the elevator started to descend, this time he let out a sigh. It frustrated him to admit that it made him nervous to be alone with Shitara. Just as no one from The News had said anything to him, Shitara had also said nothing to Sakae. Viewed from the outside, Shitara put together the show so calmly that his laxness could seen as a point of concern. His personality wasn’t the type to nag and micromanage things in the first place. When Shitara decided to say something in full seriousness, it was evidence that things were teetering on thin ice—and that scared Sakae. He was scared to admit that he was scared, and he hated that Shitara made him feel this way.
—Take a little break, and let’s find something new that’s fun for you again.
Shitara had said this to him before. As things were at the present, it wasn’t fun for Sakae, and obviously it was the same for Shitara as well.
You’re the one who decided this all on your own. I’m under no obligation to meet your damn expectations.
When he grumbled this in his chest, the man in his brain played dumb and went “Hmm?” It was a virtual version of him, but Sakae was confident that it was as close to the real thing as possible.
“That’s right. My expectations are my own expectations, so you’re free to do whatever you want as well, Sakae.”
He felt like this imaginary Shitara became more and more complete while he was here. Even though it was nothing but useless.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.