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Yoshino Chiaki was in a tight corner.
Usually, he did not pay attention to the ringing of the alarm clock, but now he was
pressed for time as he had irritated many people.
He began drawing manga as a child, debuted as a manga artist – by the pen name
Yoshikawa Chiharu – during the time he was in university, and now the 28-year old has
become popular. Even though he got faster at drawing the manuscript, it did not mean it
had gotten any easier.
Ugh......I was doing so well until recently......
He had not delayed the storyboards or the manuscripts for many months and was
able to finish everything on time with the deadline. But now he had fallen into such a
huge slump that everything before seemed like a dream. The best explanation for this
current delay was the fact that he had been having a hard time finishing up the
storyboard. He had hit rock bottom ever since he came back from the hot springs trip
which he had went to for 2 days and 1 night after finishing his previous work; and
consequently, he lost all of his ideas. He was in such a deep slump that he could not
remember what he had been working on up until now.
The schedule had slowly dragged on due to all sorts of things and somehow he
had completed the storyboard the day before the deadline. Yoshino did not have a quick
hand from the start, so it was impossible for him to finish the manuscript in one night. In
the end, he asked if the deadline could be extended for him and it came to be so.
I should probably apologize to the printers now......
Before manga appears in magazines and catches the eyes of the readers, it passes
many people such as the editor, the printer, and the workers at the agency and the
bookstore. When he was behind in his work, those people were also behind in theirs.
However, it didn't mean they would postpone the release date and he had to force them to
do it. Anyway, as he wholeheartedly moved his hand across the paper thinking of
finishing the manuscript as fast as possible, a soft voice called out to him:
“Um, sir. I finished applying the tones on this manuscript. Do you have any other
inking for me to do?”
“Hmm......let's see. Can you please do this one here? But ink only this scene. And
then can you bring it to me when you're done?”
After he handed over the manuscript where the ink was in the process of drying
and told her a few more instructions, he turned back to the blank manuscript again. Then
he nervously counted how many sheets of the manuscript he still had to do and gave out a
big sigh. Half of the manuscript was still unfinished even though he was way past the
Now that Tori guy is pretty angry......
Hatori Yoshiyuki, Yoshino's childhood friend and editor in charge of him, had
given him the OK on the storyboard, but after that, not only had they not met up, but they
also had not talked on the phone at all and only communicated business related matters
through e-mail. In the past, Hatori gave him the silent treatment when he was actually
angry with him. Even though there was a few times they had exchanged a small amount
of necessary conversation, his tone of voice was always cold and blunt. This kind of
Hatori was so scary that Yoshino seemed to prefer best the Hatori who would yell at him.
But of course he'd be angry with me right now.
Being unable to keep up with the deadlines was not the only reason Hatori was
angry with him. Yoshino promised that he would finish the storyboard before he left for
the hot springs trip, but he broke that promise, because it wasn’t like he was doing bad
and falling behind with the storyboard. And ever after he returned from the trip, he
decided he would make it in time and spent a few days in idleness.
Yoshino had been reading all the manga he had missed that had accumulated in
his home, while Hatori warned him many times to 'finish ahead of time'. But smoothtongued
Yoshino got brave and disregarded Hatori's warnings by telling him: 'chill out,
it's fine', and did not let go of the manga he had begun reading. If he were to go at his
usual pace, this time he would also have met the deadline with time to spare. He had been
cruising along, and he didn’t suspect for there to be a reason that things would not go
Just because I didn't invite him on the trip he's got some kind of grudge against
Yoshino had invited his assistant and friend from middle school, Yanase Yuu, on
the hot springs trip. He had won the tickets for this trip in a lottery at the shopping
district, but since the expiration date for the tickets was approaching, he thought that if he
invited the busy Hatori it would be a nuisance for Hatori, so he had called Yanase
instead. He had felt bad that he had not invited Hatori but wasn't it childish of him to
become so sulky? Besides that, it looked like he was displeased that Yoshino had gone
with Yanase. For some reason Hatori was not happy that Yoshino was involved with
Yanase. Yanase also talked bad about Hatori and it seemed like they disliked one another.
They've known each other for such a long time so they should get along......
How on earth could he make those two get along?
As he sighed, for he could not think of a good solution to this, a female assistant
immediately called out a warning to him:
“Sir, don’t stop moving your hand!”
That's right. He was in a middle of a crisis right now, this was not the time to be
thinking of things that had nothing to do with the manuscript. He quickly adjusted his
grip on his mechanical pencil and began to move his hand over the paper again. Right
now, the scene he was drawing was of the protagonist being stubborn and not honest in
front of the guy she liked. Saying only the opposite things from what she was actually
thinking and then regretting her words when she was alone. The more you like someone
the more you feel frustrated at yourself for not being honest. This protagonist will have
sympathy from many readers.
Yoshio's hand suddenly stopped as he was drawing the protagonist's facial
expression, which was full of disgust with herself, and recalled the previous time he had
gone to the editorial department to deliver the manuscript. After he had given the
manuscript to the editor in charge, he had been struck by sudden rain and then witnessed
Hatori and Yanase arguing next to the office building where he had been taking shelter
from the rain. At that time, it looked like Hatori was kissing Yanase, but that had been a
serious misunderstanding. Because of what he had seen, Yoshino had been under the
impression that Hatori liked Yanase, but then Hatori told Yoshino 'I love you'.
......That means Yuu kissed Hatori at that time?
Yanase did things his own way and did not have good social skills, but the only
person he treated so cruelly was Hatori. Perhaps Yanase was not being honest when he
attacked Hatori with insulting remarks. Surely he was hiding his embarrassment by being
rude and displaying opposite feelings of love. And there was no need to worry about the
constant bickering between these two, right? Yanase was what you would call 'hates what
he really loves' type of guy.
Oh, so YUU likes Tori. I see, I see..........but how is THAT not that bad!?
Yanase liked Hatori and Hatori liked Yoshino. This was obviously a love triangle.
But, he didn't understand his own feelings.
What do I......think about all of this......? I don't hate it but...
He seriously didn't understand it yet. In order to prevent Hatori from leaving –
who had tried to leave him feeling all confused – the fact that Yoshino now had an
intimate relationship with him was irreversible.
The first time had been against his will but the second time they both had
certainly agreed on it; then this meant that it was he who had stolen Yanase's crush?
“..........” He was seized with guilt and bewilderedness.
For a split second Yoshino thought that he should tell Yanase about what was
going on with him and Hatori, but if he did that, their relationship as a trio might become
even more complicated. He definitely had to make sure that Yanase did not find out about
this. He also had to warn Hatori not to say strange things in front of Yanase.
First things first, I'll tell Tori everything......no, that'll be bad too...
Although the status of their relationship was mutual, Hatori will be furious if
Yoshino told him, 'Yuu likes you, you know?'. Anyone would be shocked to have your
partner tell you that someone else likes you.
But, was Yanase really not suspicious of Yoshino and Hatori? There was only one
time he had acted strange. It seemed like he did not care about the things going on around
him but he did have a sharp intuition. It was possible that he had realized that something
had changed but pretended not to know and said nothing about it......
If he had realized this, it would be impossible for him to continue being his
assistant the way he had been before. Yanase was Yoshino's dear friend and an
In order for things to be back to the way they were before, he had no choice but to
take this secret – his relationship with Hatori – to the grave, at all costs. Besides, his
relationship with Hatori was far from moving on to the next level; they weren't even
kissing. They were both so busy that intimacy was out of the question at the moment and
even when they met up, they only discussed work. If he didn't mess up, he would be able
to carry their secret to the grave.
But, carelessness is unacceptable.
No matter how much he thought that everything would work out, it was
reasonable to think that Hatori would carelessly let it all slip out. Just to be on the safe
side, he should think ahead about the worst possible scenario. If he did not think ahead
about when Yanase supposedly was to find out about everything, his on the spur of the
moment solution would be to act confused. However, it wasn't easy to think up good
ideas and no matter how much he played out different scenarios in his head, he only
envisioned bad things.
I'm a shoujo manga artist and yet why can't I think of anything?! I should
compare this with the story from a manga and take it as an example, as an example!
He tried to admonish himself but it was hopeless. Besides, even if he decided to
use characters from a manga, he didn't know what to do when all three characters were
......Well, this IS a different genre.......
He read manga of all sorts of genre as long as they were interesting, but thinking
up a story was a different matter.
He was at his wit's end, when an assistant stood up from her seat and came over to
show him the finished manuscript.
“I'm done with this. Can you please check it over?”
“I know that you don't have the next page, but isn't there anything I can do?”
“Huh? I didn't finish? What should I do...?”
All the assistants that came exclusively to Yoshino had excellent fast hands.
Yoshino almost always finished inking before the assistants came up to him, but this
time, they had caught up to him just like that, while he was still drawing. On top of that,
he only made small progress because he was pondering.
“I only have this beta almost done but here...”
He nervously told her while handing over one sheet of the inked manuscript, and
sure enough, he was scolded.
“Wait a minute, sir! You didn't make any progress?! Please hurry up and draw
“I'm - I'm not slacking! I'm just thinking about the plot of the manga......”
He quietly tried to make an excuse but the skilled assistants did not listen to him.
“Yeah, yeah. Please don't escape from reality, okay? This manuscript is due
He dejectedly slumped his shoulders since they did not take him seriously. In
truth, he could not afford to ponder but he felt annoyed at them even though he allowed
them to help him out.
Oh, that's right!
Just then, he suddenly came up with a good idea. If he consulted with his
assistants about his situation from a story's point of view, he might hear an objective
If I were a girl, I would probably look at my guy from a different perspective......
Yoshino boldly began to talk, harboring faint hope.
“Um...say, do you guys mind giving me some tips for the story's plot......?”
“Only if you continue drawing!”
“Okay, okay!” He seriously could not talk back to the girls.
“Is this for the upcoming scene? Or a new story?”
“A new story, I suppose.”
Yoshino recollected himself and began to explain. Naturally, he knew that a story
with all three characters being men would arouse suspicion, so he kept Hatori a man and
decided to replace himself and Yanase as girl characters.
“A, B, and C have a good inseparable relationship, but A loves B and C loves A.
B knows about both A and C's feelings but doesn't want to get separated from A, so B
somehow accepts A's confession, but can't tell this to C. What would happen, in this case,
if C finds out about A?”
When he told them the gist of it, the assistants exchanged their thoughts with one
“Wow, that's a mess......”
“That's a typical plot, but if it were me, I would keep the friendship.”
His heart was pounding as he observed their reactions, and then one assistant
“Weell...is B the protagonist?”
“Um, yeah, I......guess......?” He was like this for a while, because it meant that
this was directed at Yoshino himself. However, he did not want it to appear as if he was
seeking advice for himself, so he beat around the bush.
“If that's the case, then I think the most important thing is for B to do what she
“But if B is the protagonist, I can't empathize with her. Being so indecisive
annoys me. Somehow this story doesn't seem like you, sir.”
“Uh......ye- yeah......” He was shocked to have it told to him so bluntly.
Surely, everything he told them about the protagonist had been positive, so he was
confused, but was definitely not about to shrink away from it. He became miserable,
realizing that he needed to receive advice from the readers.
......I am indecisive after all......
Being in a relationship was not his forte from the start, but he was still
embarrassed at himself that he was so indecisive when it came down to his own matters.
He had a girlfriend for a while when he was in university. But that too had been through
an introduction by a friend. They hit it off well at a college joint party, became friends,
and then somehow started dating. It was not a romance like those portrayed in manga.
Hatori had been the first person to come out and confess to him. The girls continued
talking, not having noticed that Yoshino was sighing at the incisive comment.
“Even though she decides to go out with A, keeping this a secret and saying that
she wants to continue being friends with C is selfish. Besides, I feel sorry for A for being
in a relationship that has half-assed feelings.”
“It's probably more realistic like this, but girls don't want to see you drawing this
kind of story. You shouldn't go down such an adult-ish path, sir.”
“Haha......That's true......” He had no choice but to laugh now.
He was getting depressed more and more and as his shoulders drooped dejectedly,
one girl hit the bull's eye: “Oh? Perhaps this is about you, sir?”
“N- no, no! I said it's the plot of the story!” He quickly denied it, but it seemed
like it was not a good idea to be this unnecessarily flustered. The girls pestered him
“So is A you, sir?”
“Wow, I feel sorry for you, sir.......”
“I told you it's not me!”
They did not have a manuscript to work with so it seemed like the girls, with
nothing to do, had too much spare time, and they began to make fun of the restless
Suddenly Yanase showed up, disturbing the atmosphere.
“......What are you all so worked up about?”
Because he had given Yanase – his friend from high school – a duplicate key, it
had recently become common for him to enter without ringing the doorbell. He had been
at another artist's place until this morning, so because of lack of sleep, he was exhausted
and had dark circles beneath his eyes. He had a fair complexion from the start, so now his
pale face stood out way too much.
Actually, he planned on coming to Yoshino's place yesterday but was weighed
down by his previous work. Yanase was going to refuse to do the work and come help
Yoshino out, but Yoshino prohibited this because Yoshino had never wanted to make
Yanase abandon his work and because it seemed like Yanase had more time to help him
than help out other authors. Yoshino told him it was all right for him not to come because
he was probably tired from staying up all night, but Yanase exerted himself and came to
Yoshino's place right after he was done with his previous work.
The riled up girls informed Yanase, who stepped in: “Yanase, please listen to this,
it seems like sir is worried about his current love affair.”
“I told you it's the plot of the story!” Yoshino corrected her, although he was
panicking inside. He would never reveal that Yanase was one of the characters. When he
observed Yanase's face, while praying that he was not suspicious of anything, he saw that
Yanase had a cold stare as if he were saying 'I don't give a damn'.
“Oh, really. I don't care, but before you talk about the plot of the next story, why
don't you hurry up and do the work in front of you? The deadline passed a long time ago,
They received a proper 'tsukkomu' 1 and thought better about their actions.
Yanase pushed himself to come over even after having such a tough night. No
matter how easygoing Yanase was, he was not happy that they were getting all worked up
over a matter that had nothing to do with the manuscript. The girls stopped talking,
having lost interest since Yanase's reaction disappointed them.
“You guys won't get finished if you run your mouths and not your hands.”
“But we can't do anything if sir hasn't finished inking. We finished everything
else and were about to cut and paste the scene but......”
Yanase frowned when he heard that and heaved a sigh. Yoshino shrank back from
the cat-like almond shaped eyes that glared at him.
“Sir, being forced to wait is the worst, you know?”
“I- I get it already!”
I'm worrying about you!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! " Note: A tsukkomi is the 'logical guy' in manzai – a traditional Japanese stand up
comedy of two performers: boke (funny man) and tsukkomi. When boke says or does
something ridiculous, the tsukkomi criticizes the boke. Tsukkomu is the action of
scolding the boke.
He thought that, but didn't say it. If he told this to him, the situation would just get
more and more complicated. In any case, right now his top priority was to finish the
material before him. He could worry later. He told himself this and decided to
concentrate on the manuscript.
* * * *
“Good......I'm done..,” tired Yoshino muttered quietly as he collapsed to the floor.
He was relieved at being able to escape from the fear of not being done with the work,
once and for all.
“Good job. I'm going to clean up over here so why don't you either sleep or take a
“It's okay. I'll clean up later.”
“It's troublesome if I leave it up to you, Chiaki.”
“......Thank you, then......”
Even the girls, who usually commuted to and fro his home, stayed up all night to
help him and somehow the manuscript was completed. The original deadline had been
extended for him to be on the morning of today. But even then, he was unable to finish on
time, so they gave him another extension until the evening, and he called the motorbike
delivery service in advance to come pick it up for him. However, even the motorbike
delivery service had to wait for one hour and Yoshino paid them a good amount in extra
fees. Nevertheless, he brought all of this upon himself. There wasn't much to be done
about the great deal of trouble he had caused Yanase, Hatori, his assistants, and the
He was in the room with Yanase, as the girls had already left, and now it was just
the two of them. Yoshino felt like a corpse, so he didn't care about this fact, and Yanase
was putting away the tones that were all over the place due to the chaos of trying to finish
on time. Not only was he organizing them to be in the numerical order, but he was also
writing down the number of tones that Yoshino was short of.
What a nice guy......
While deeply reflecting about how grateful he was that Yanase was his friend, he
remembered the events from the previous day. Wasn't Yanase bothered at all about what
the assistants had told him? From the time he was a student, Yanase was not the type to
get involved with gossip, but wouldn't he be even a little bit interested if the talk was
about the love life of his close friend? Even if Yanase were interested, he probably
wouldn't suspect that anything had happened with Hatori, but Yoshino could not erase the
uneasiness. Yoshino watched Yanase, who was moving around through the chaos, but he
completely did not have a clue what Yanase, who usually did not change his facial
expression much, was thinking about.
It's good that he's not bothered by it but......
Just like the girl assistants had said, it was probably a selfish wish to want to have
the same relationship with them as it was now. But Yoshino was unable to choose
between either of the two. As he heaved a sigh to himself for not being manly, the
“......Who could it be at this hour......?”
When Yoshino did not move, as he had no energy to stand up, Yanase went over
to the intercom instead.
“It's me. Open up, I forgot my key.”
The familiar voice coming out from the speaker was one he had not heard for
about 3 days.
“Is it Tori? Sorry Yuu, let him in......”
Yoshino asked Yanase to unlock the door, and as he lay on the spot he had
collapsed in, a voice called down to him with dismay: “What's with that appearance?
......You look tired.”
“I have no energy to move anymore.”
He had been drawing the manuscript, not taking any rest, even while obtaining
permission from his assistants to take a nap. Although he had brought this upon himself,
he was at the limit of his physical ability.
“You haven't eaten yet, have you?”
The moment Hatori said that, Yoshino's stomach grumbled loudly.
“That would be you. You haven't eaten decent food the whole time you were
working on the manuscript. I'm going to make you something nice to fill your stomach
with, so wait,” said Hatori, as he placed the supermarket bag on the table and took off his
jacket. He unbuttoned the collar on his white shirt, rolled up his sleeves, and put on an
apron in an experienced manner. Yoshino figured it would be rude to stay collapsed on
the floor so he crawled up on the dinning chair and sat down.
When he absentmindedly watched Hatori setting up the meal, he noticed that he
also had dark circles underneath his eyes.
Aah......a good-looking man has been ruined.....
To be tired from work was admirable, but having to exert yourself to such an
extent just looked pitiful. His chest ached with apology thinking that it had been he
himself who had forced Hatori to have such an appearance. Surely, Hatori must have
come straight to him today after finishing with work. Hatori, who was tired, had even
gone shopping in order to prepare a meal for him.
“You have something to say?”
“Huh? Ah, no......” It looked like Hatori noticed that he was staring at him. In
order to fix the situation, he asked him a reasonable question: “Say, umm......did you
deliver the material to the printers?”
“I wouldn't be here if I didn't. The people at the printing room sure kept glaring at
He chose the wrong question. He had brought up the topic that was better off not
being touched right now. However, even if he had been belittled, he would be unable to
defend himself because this matter had been completely his fault.
“Instead of apologizing, stick to the assigned deadline. If you can't do that, it
shows you're lacking self-awareness.”
“......I'll be careful from now on.”
What Hatori said was very reasonable, so he didn't have any words to say back to
“You're a professional, aren't you? You're different from a newbie who has just
debuted. At least be aware of your own pace.”
Pretending he wasn't listening in on them, Yanase quietly muttered as he
organized the tones. It appeared that what Yanase had said to himself had reached
Hatori's ears, causing him to make a sour face.
Don't say something that's going to make the situation worse......!
Even though Hatori was already angry, after being further irritated, he became
“How much longer are you going to be here? Are you planning on eating?”
“When I'm done cleaning up, I'm heading over to an assistant's place, so no.
Besides, the seasoning you use is too strong.”
“......Mine is the common one. It doesn't agree with you since you just eat
“Looks like you just don't know how it really tastes like.”
Yoshino couldn't interrupt the awkward atmosphere between Yanase – who was
wearing a cold expression – and Hatori – who had a stiffened expression.
Please make peace......
Why couldn't these two get along? Just like with Yoshino, both Hatori and
Yanase had known each other since middle school, but Yoshino felt like the
awkwardness between them was increasing year after year.
If Yuu is in love with Tori, he should just be honest about it.
Yoshino understood the feeling of being stubborn, but he thought it would
probably be better for Yuu to stop putting on the show at some point. If anything, it
seemed like Hatori was suspecting some rivalry. As he was at a loss of what to do about
this, Hatori, who had recollected himself, brought a matter up to Yoshino: “Yoshino, I
heard that you wrote 'I won't be attending' again to our company’s end of the year party.
Is that true?”
The sudden interrogation startled him. It had been mentioned to him before, but
he didn't need to remember it at this particular time. Every year, at the time of the year-
end gathering around December 20th, Marukawa Shoten Publishing Company sponsored
a party that was open to every department. The authors, who wrote for Marukawa Shoten
Publishing Company, and the staff, were invited, but Yoshino had never participated
even once up till now.
“You have to come just this once. Your work is being made into a drama this
time. Even the staff will be there and yet the only author who is thoughtless enough to not
greet people will be you. I'll make sure that other people won't find out that Yoshikawa
Chiharu is a man, so come.”
Even though he was lightly admonished, he was reluctant to go regardless. As a
member of society, it is very important to be social, and he figured that he should at least
greet the people concerned with his work. Though he knew this, Yoshino could not help
being shy in front of strangers. Not only was he naturally an indoor-type person, he had
chosen to be a manga artist, so he really did not feel like going to a place full of strangers.
“......No way. I don't even have anything to wear, and besides, don't you know that
I don't do well in such fancy places? They can go ahead and make a drama out of it; it
doesn't matter. I'm not complaining at all so...... OWW!!”
Before he had finished speaking, Hatori swung his fist into Yoshino's head with a
“That's not the problem. Just how old are you?!”
Just because you become an adult, doesn't mean you can happily cope with
Speaking of greetings......
He hadn't faked a smile in front of people since he was a high school student,
working part time, so he didn't know if he could do it well now. He would have a hard
time at the party if he were to be thrown into a place where he didn't know a single
Tori can't be with me the whole time.
As an editor, he certainly had to greet other authors he was in charge of, and
besides, it was also his duty to move the party along. At times like these, it is lonely if
one doesn't have a friend in the same profession. Even if he went to this lively place, he
was sure to be bored if he didn't have anyone to enjoy it with. He should at least bring
......Oh? I'm pretty sure it'll be okay if I bring a staff member, right?
“......I'll go if Yuu goes with me.”
“What?” Hatori openly frowned at that and urged him for an answer.
“Because, even if I go, you're not going to be with me the whole time, and I'll be
bored if I'm there all by myself. The party isn't only for author's right?
“......Well, yeah.......if it’s your assistant......”
“Then there's no problem, right? ......So, Yuu, can you come? Umm...let's see, it's
going to be on December 20th. Are you going to be working then?”
“The other authors are going to go to the party too, so I'm free that day.”
This was decided on impulse and it solved one problem.
“Yes! I'll feel safer with Yuu.”
Unlike Yoshino, who was pleased, Hatori looked sullen. Meanwhile, Yanase had
finished organizing the tones and just now put the remaining ones on the shelves.
“Ah, but I seriously don't have anything to wear.” Yoshino frowned when he
remembered what was inside his own closet. He didn't have any formal attire for the
party because he pretty much owned only casual clothes. If he remembered correctly, he
had a suit back at his parent's house, but even years ago he had been forced by his parents
to wear it to the coming-of-age2 ceremony. He had better buy himself a new suit no
“In that case – ” Hatori began to say something but was interrupted by Yanase,
who made a suggestion:
“I'll go shopping with you. I have one free day after I finish working with an
“Are you sure? You've finally got a day off, though.”
Manga artists from all sorts of genres needed Yanase, who was famous for being
a skilled assistant. He had fewer holidays than Yoshino.
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! # $%&'(!A Japanese holiday held annually to congratulate all those who have turned 20
years old over the past year in order to help them realize they have become adults.
“You idiot. What are you worrying for? Of course it's okay since it's you, Chiaki.
Besides, I want to go shopping too so I might as well go with you since it'll be more fun
“I'll go then. It's been a while since we hung out.”
“I have a store that I really like so I'll choose something for you there. Chiaki,
you're about the same size as me, so there won't be a problem. The clothes will definitely
“Really? Awesome!! You're a life saver!”
He had a slight hunch that Hatori had started to say something, but he could ask
him about it later. He decided on the time to meet with Yanase and marked the calendar
on the wall.
Yuu really is reliable.
Although Yanase was also a manga otaku, he was composed and different from
Yoshino's naivety. When they were students, Yanase had let him copy his homework,
since Yoshino often forgot to do his own, and stayed behind with him after school in
detention. He was rude and cold but always supported him. Although he was probably
tired now from meeting with the assistants every day, he told Yoshino 'I'll help you' even
in this situation and came running straight to him. If Yanase were not around right now,
the manuscript definitely would have been dropped. He was so grateful for Yanase's
friendship that he could not thank him enough.
“I don't think I can survive without you, Yuu.”
When he said that, Yanase widened his eyes a little and then gave out a small
laugh saying 'No duh!'.
“Well then, I'm gonna go. I'll get in touch with you after I finish work.”
“All right. Good luck!”
When he returned to the dining room after seeing Yanase off to the door, he saw
that Hatori had just finished the preparations for the meal. The pot was over the stove so
he must be waiting for it to boil. The good smell, that stimulated his appetite, did not
match with Hatori, who was emitting an angrier aura than before as he was rolling down
S- scary......Did I say something bad?
He tried to think if he had any idea as to what it was, but could not remember
anything. If he dared to broach the subject, could it be the fact that he had invited Yanase
to the party? But he did not expect that it was necessary to be this angry because of that.
Somehow, he felt that the situation was irreversible, so this time he opted for an
inoffensive topic and began to speak.
“Tha- that reminds me. You were going to say something a while ago, right?”
“..........Not really,” Hatori hissed, after shooting a glance in his direction and
frowning even more.
What was that? Did I step on a land mine just now?
He was perplexed, not understanding the reason as to why Hatori was swelling up
with anger. Even when he was often in a bad mood due to lack of sleep, to be so upfront
about it was unusual. He didn't get it, so he gave up on trying to please him and casually
turned on the TV.
“What's the party like? Do celebrities show up?”
“Several cast members from the movie are going to come but there will mostly be
“I see. I can't imagine being surrounded by all these manga artists.”
“You know you're not the only author,” Hatori said, sounding appalled and
causing Yoshino to pout.
“Yeah, but it's just that I have never met other manga artists before. I meant to say
that I'm nervous......”
“That's so like you....... You're not an elementary kid so you can at least come to a
party by yourself.”
“You don't get it. When you're working away from people for a very long time,
you sometimes get nervous meeting large groups of people, you know?”
That was no excuse, but it was the truth. Sometimes when he went downtown to
buy drawing materials, he was overwhelmed by the large amount of people there. While
he was walking around he became used to it, but when he came back home, he was often
suddenly tired. At such times, he appreciated his secluded lifestyle.
“But I am a little relieved. I don't think I'll be as nervous if Yuu is with me,” he
announced, without giving it too much thought, and then suddenly he had his arm
grabbed from behind him. “WAH---!?”
The moment he turned around in surprise, his hips were pulled forward and his
lips were locked. His mind blanked out from the soft feel of the lips. He began to
understand what was happening, and the instant he realized that he was being kissed, his
whole body flared up. He was confused about being kissed for the first time in several
Wha- what did I do in this type of situation before......?
While Yoshino was at a loss of what to do, Hatori was not about to stop kissing
him. The arm strength pulling his hips forward was strong and it appeared it would not be
easy to escape.
His lips were being devoured, and a tongue was thrust inside his mouth at the time
he had gasped for air. The tongue explored the inside of his mouth and sent a chill down
his spine whenever it caught his. Little by little, he came to find that his body was
reacting submissively. The moment his nether-region tingled, shame welled up in him.
I'm telling him to wait and yet......
While Yoshino’s mind was spinning in confusion, Hatori pushed his clothes up.
When he felt the touch directly on his body, Yoshino immediately thrust Hatori away.
C- crap...... That was stupid......
He regretted having acted on reflex but could not do anything about this awkward
He was going to say that he was just embarrassed since he hadn't done this in
awhile, not because he disliked it, but he could not get the words to come out smoothly.
Had he made Hatori angry by not saying anything to him? Yoshino could not see Hatori's
facial expression, for Hatori had his head down, and it stirred up Yoshino's anxiety.
Unable to withstand the heavy silence, the moment he decided to change the
atmosphere by saying something anyway, Hatori spoke ahead of him.
“I'm leaving,” said Hatori, with a heavy sigh, and quickly began getting ready to
“Huh? You're leaving......? But, what about the food......?”
“I have disturbed you. Get some rest today. The food will be done soon, so eat it,”
he uttered the words out indifferently, without any emotion.
“Wai- Tori? Hey......!”
There was no time to call out for him to stop and so Yoshino was left behind,
surprised, as Hatori quickly left the room. All by himself, Yoshino was simply stunned.
Should I have stopped him just now?
Even though he was thinking that, he did not have a clue as to what he should
have said. The kiss was not particularly unpleasant and it was not like he resisted the
action that happened just now. To be honest, it was not like he completely did not resist
it, but the resistance was different from disgust. He was hopelessly embarrassed. After
Hatori had done that, Yoshino felt like he would not be able to stay in the same room as
Hatori and eat and have to look at him, so he was glad that Hatori had left. The distance
between them as work partners had not changed so their work was not obstructed, but
that was not the case when it came down to their private affairs. He had no intention of
being prejudiced against love between two men, but he had not expected that he himself
would be thrown into this maelstrom, so it was not unusual for him to be bewildered. On
top of that, his partner was his childhood friend. For 20 years they had grown up together,
but even now, if he were told to take a step forward and become 'lovers' it wouldn't be
easy for him to make this change so quickly. They should at the very least take this slow,
but since work was their first point of contact, this would not work out, right?
They knew everything about each other, good or bad. Even though Hatori’s
existence to him was like air, Yoshino had trouble seeing Hatori in this new light. But
when it came to intimate circumstances, it was strange, because his heart would pound at
seeing Hatori's naked body that he was supposed to be used to. Above all else, he felt
How can anyone do x-rated things with their childhood friend so easily? He just
casually kissed me without thinking how I would feel about it!
Yoshino only now became angry as he recalled what had just happened. He could
not settle down in this quiet room so he turned the TV on even though there was nothing
he wanted to watch.
“I'm trying hard enough as it is to make this work.”
As he violently hurled the remote control, his muttered words echoed gloomily
throughout the room. He wanted to take the relationship at a reasonable pace because he
did not hate Hatori, however, it would just take quite a long time to change the
relationship that they had molded in the course of 20 years.
Besides, what should I do about Yuu......?
All of a sudden, he remembered one more problem. Yuu loved Hatori and Hatori
loved Yoshino. But Yoshino loved both of them.
Yoshino interrupted his own thoughts for he had caught on to something. He
certainly did love both of them but was it the same kind of 'love'? His kiss with Hatori
was not exactly unpleasant. He did not want to admit it much but he thought it felt good.
Even throughout his past experiences, not one kiss had felt this good.
But...... it's not like I'm gay......
As an experiment, he tried to picture whether he would be able to kiss the young
actor on TV.
“---No way!! Definitely NO WAY!”
He shook his head from side to side and threw away this fantasy. He could not
express it well with words but it was a matter of instinct and impossible for him,
regardless. Then how about if Yanase was his partner?
Now he tried to think of doing these kinds of things with Yanase but also could
not picture it. Yanase was a dear friend to him and he was, so to speak, like family.
......I knew it, this means Tori is 'special'......?
He thought of Hatori in the same way Hatori thought of him, but he couldn't deny
this caused him shame. It would be embarrassing to do these things with someone else.
He could kiss Hatori, have sex with him, and allow him to enter him; things he
couldn't see himself doing with Yanase. Therefore, Yanase was not the same as Hatori in
Yoshino's eyes. In other words, Hatori had become his object of interest before he even
Yoshino exclaimed in surprise at the fact that he only now just realized. His heart
started to beat violently and his body temperature rose. He noticed that he hadn't realized
he had been clenching his fists and his palms were sweating.
Wha- what should I do......?
Not knowing what to do, the only thing left for Yoshino to do was to be perplexed
and he aimlessly looked around the room while clutching his flushed face in his hands.
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