“Damn, it’s starting to come down huh…”
On his way back to the office from his lunch break, rain had started falling in little droplets—likely a forewarning of the typhoon bearing down on the region. It was apparently a pretty big storm, and all of the news outlets were delivering warnings to their viewers, with the weather forecast announcing that the storm would reach its peak late that evening.
This, coupled with the strong gusts he’d been battling since that morning, made it feel well and truly like a storm was approaching. Yokozawa was starting to regret leaving without an umbrella that morning, but it probably wouldn’t have done him much good with all this wind anyway.
Breaking into a jog as he approached the office, hoping to beat the rain, he nearly bumped into someone who’d been exiting the building at the same time. “Oh, I’m so sorry, please ex—ah…”
“Yokozawa?” His unfortunate victim, standing there in the open automatic doors, was Kirishima—who’d only avoided a collision by smoothly slipping out of the way just before they ran into one another. “Watch it; didn’t they teach you not to run in the halls?”
“This isn’t a hall, and—where are you going?”
“Lunch break. Thought I’d pick something up before the weather got nasty.”
“It’s already coming down,” he reminded, bursting Kirishima’s bubble. The only reason he’d been running here in the first place had been because of the rain.
“Seriously? Shit—and me without an umbrella…” The glass of the automatic doors at the front entry way was peppered with droplets blown about by the wind, giving off an irregular sound. The storm hadn’t begun in earnest yet, but in another hour or so, it would really start pouring.
“The wind’s too strong for an umbrella anyway; you might be able to get off easy if you head out now, though?” It’d probably be easier to just make a break for it than to walk slowly being buffeted about by the wind anyway.
“Nah, it’s too much of a pain to go outside now…”
“Huh? Then what’re you gonna do about lunch?”
“I’m full to bursting just from seeing your lovely face.”
“Yeah yeah, enough with the sleeptalk, get going.” There was no reason for him to babble that sort of crap here of all places; he just could not keep his mouth shut, it seemed.
“Man, what am I gonna do… I don’t wanna get wet…” Kirishima mused, his arms crossed, and Yokozawa reflected silently that he should just go now instead of wasting time thinking about going.
“If you’re gonna whine so much about not wanting to get wet, then hail a cab.”
“Even if I tried that, it’s not like one’s just gonna appear out of thin air in this weath—ooh, there’s one now!”
Yokozawa turned to follow Kirishima’s gaze, only to see a taxi had pulled up to the front entrance with almost eerie timing. The passenger paid his fare and exited the cab—then headed right for them.
Yokozawa opened his mouth to ask Kirishima if he shouldn’t take the now-empty taxi himself—but Kirishima had turned his attentions instead to the man who’d just stepped through the automatic doors. “Yasuda?!”
“Damn, it feels like it’s been ages! How many months since we last met?”
“Hey there, Kirishima. Guess it’s been three, four months? What’re you doing around here?” the man returned, expression relatively even throughout the exchange. He seemed friendly with Kirishima, and the employee badge he held in his hand seemed to suggest he was a Marukawa Shoten employee, but Yokozawa had never seen him before.
“I could ask you the same thing. I figured wild horses couldn’t drag you into the office.”
“Hey, it’s not like I want to be here, but the president himself called me up and said if I didn’t show my face around these parts now and then, he’d can me.”
“So you finally got told, did ya? But even so, surely you didn’t have to come in on the day of a typhoon, right?”
“Just my bad luck that the day I said I’d be here happened to be today. I’ve been really off my game lately…” the man named Yasuda reflected glumly, shoulders slumping slightly. Yet Yokozawa still found himself captivated less by the clearly affected gesture—and more by the exquisite good looks of the man doing it.
His glossy black hair was so skillfully set it looked like a wig, and the frameless glasses perched atop a slender nose—far from hiding the graceful shape of his face—actually accentuated it. He seemed about as tall as Yokozawa but gave off the complete opposite impression from the rather intimidating Yokozawa. In fact, he seemed to have an air about him that more closely resembled Kirishima.
If such an attractive man were to hang around the office, there was no doubt he’d instantly become the focus of gossip among the women of the building. And yet Yokozawa still had absolutely no recollection of meeting the man before.
“Well we’ll be done with our work on the anime soon, which means the next project will start up shortly after, so I’m planning on pounding out the budget while I’m here.”
“Next project? When did that get the green light?”
“When was it… Quite a while back—I’ve honestly forgotten now! Oh—right, the first volume will be done soon.”
“About time! How’s it looking?” It seemed they’d shifted now from discussion of the present state of affairs to more general work topics. Yokozawa could see no visible end to the conversation, the atmosphere between the two clearly that of old friends.
“Heh, who do you think you’re talking to? I’m the one who made it, so it’s perfect, of course! Oh, but…who do we have here? One of your lackeys?”
Yokozawa had been sitting there gaping stupidly at the pair as they spoke, having no opportunity to get a word in edgewise even if he’d wanted to, and grew flustered when the conversation was suddenly turned his way. “Oh—no, I’m not a subordinate…”
He always panicked when asked to describe his relationship with Kirishima; in the workplace, Kirishima was technically a superior, but because they were in different divisions, he wasn’t really Yokozawa’s boss. If the person asking had been someone uninvolved in their work, he could’ve probably explained their relationship as that of friendly sempai-kouhai, but even that didn’t quite cover it.
“Oh right—you two haven’t met, have you? This is Yokozawa from Sales; he’s known as the ‘Wild Bear’—so surely you’ve heard of him?”
Yokozawa didn’t quite approve of being introduced like that to someone who’d never met him before—especially when he’d lately been working on not having such a sharp, gruff attitude.
“Ah, yeah, I’ve heard of you. Everyone says you’ve got some great sales instincts. So that’s you, huh? I’m Yasuda—I make anime.” He delivered his introduction with a smile, the corners of his lips lifting, and when he offered Yokozawa a business card, Yokozawa took it out of habit—and then his eyes widened when he took one look at the name on the card.
Yasuda Gou, the greatest, most sought-after anime producer in the entire company. Yokozawa was more than familiar with both the man’s name as well as his work, but it was the first time he’d ever spoken with the man. He seemed more phantom than human, cloistering himself away on projects and rarely showing his face in the office. He hated being around other people, and since he rarely showed up at official functions, Yokozawa had never even seen a picture of the man.
“Surely you’ve heard of this guy, right? He’s the producer of the Za Kan series. We joined up about the same time, but he hardly ever comes into the office. You know, you’re kind of an urban legend around here.”
“How rude! I’m working myself to the bone for the good of this company, I’ll have you know.” Being a contemporary of Kirishima’s would put the man in his mid 30s, then—but while their business was full of people who didn’t really look their age, Yasuda seemed particularly younger than what Yokozawa assumed his age to be.
With his looks, he could easily pass for early 20s, but he carried himself with an air that none of the newbie recruits could have pulled off. Perhaps this was what people meant when they said someone was ‘charismatic’.
Kirishima’s comment about Yasuda being little more than an urban legend hadn’t been overstatement, though. Indeed, everything Yokozawa had ever heard about Yasuda had been so far-fetched he’d been hard-pressed to believe it.
“Yeah, but your ‘for the good of the company’ just translates to ‘for the good of yourself’, right? You refuse to take on any projects you don’t find interesting!”
“Hey, the company still winds up making a profit in the end, so it’s fine! And it’s not that I only take on projects I find interesting, it’s that I only take on those that I find worthy of doing.”
“Still as brimming with confidence as ever, I see. Though I guess that’s what makes you you.”
“You’re the last person I want to hear that from.” They laughed as they sniped at one another, each clearly acknowledging the other’s talents, and while Yokozawa wouldn’t go so far as to say it made him feel left out, it still felt a bit like he had no place here.
“That reminds me—is it true there’s gonna be a new character appearing in Za Kan? You’ve gotta tell me these things in advance! We’ve still got the TV anime to do after the movie comes out—and now I’ll have to rethink the flow of things.”
“Hell no, there’s no new characters. Who told you that?”
“The company president.”
“I guess I mentioned in a meeting at one point that there might be an opportunity for new characters to crop up in the future, but when the hell did it become a done deal?” He’d probably just let his imagination run wild when Kirishima had brought up talk of future happenings. Isaka—the president of Marukawa Shoten—was a rather creative sort, and bold as well, and Yokozawa looked up to him, but his way of getting carried away with things was one of his few flaws. Those around him very often got caught up in his hare-brained schemes, and the company-wide fair they were preparing for at the moment had been all Isaka’s idea.
Plans were proceeding nicely, but they could do little more than simply pray that no wrenches were thrown into the works. The more people involved in a project, the more likely it became that someone would screw up somewhere. Even something as simple as a missed call could lead to a huge cock-up, so Yokozawa couldn’t rest for even a moment, seeing as he was in charge of everything.
The literature division which had been their only major bottleneck so far finally seemed to be easing up, so it might be best to just stick with the plan he’d started with, but if Yokozawa didn’t work to keep everyone in line, they’d never be able to pull this off. Counting off in his head the issues he still needed to get taken care of, he felt a sharp pain forming in the pit of his stomach.
“…Huh? Oh, sorry—I wasn’t listening.” His thoughts dispersed as he was drawn unwittingly into the conversation.
Kirishima started to repeat his question—before his brows drew together. “Hey, are you feeling okay? What’d you have for lunch?”
At the concerned gaze directed his way, Yokozawa realized he’d been massaging his midsection. “It’s just a bit of a stomachache.” Which wasn’t entirely a lie, though the source of the unease wasn’t his lunch. He’d been able to wolf down pretty much anything in his younger years without experiencing any ill effects, but it seemed he was no match for stress.
“I thought the Wild Bear was being unusually quiet today—but I see it’s just an upset stomach.”
“As I said, I’m not that.”
“Well, so long as you’re not just being shy. Which reminds me—why are you and Kirishima here so close?”
“Huh?” The question came utterly out of the blue, and Yokozawa blinked stupidly. What had made him ask that?
“Ah—let me rephrase, I was just wondering what brought you two together. You’re in different divisions, and there’s an age gap as well—and yet you seem really close.”
Yokozawa felt a shudder ripple through him at the rather innocent question. It was true enough that, initially, people had found it strange for them to be around each other, but most seemed to have grown accustomed to it by now, such that no one really noticed nowadays.
“Oh, well—I mean, I’m in charge of comics sales, so…” And that was, truthfully, the only point of connection he’d had with Kirishima before. They’d only ever interacted in meetings and briefings, never going out drinking or anything like that.
Perhaps his unease had shown on his face, for Yasuda pressed even further, “And…that’s all?”
“Wh—what are you trying to say? There’s really no particular reason…”
“I’d certainly like to know why you’re being so persistent in asking!”
“Because I’m curious.”
“I’m afraid I don’t follow.” Yokozawa felt his hackles rising at Yasuda’s poor manners, and despite knowing he needed to do something about the way his temper flared so easily, he didn’t see that happening today.
“Well, I mean—you two are an item, right?”
“………?!” The color immediately fled his face at Yasuda’s comment. It hadn’t been a question—more a confirmation of something he clearly already understood to be true.
Yokozawa’s mind went blank at the suddenness, and Kirishima confirmed smoothly, “Ooh, so you realized, did you?”
“I knew it! Looks like I’ve still got it. Oh—sorry, I’ve gotta run. If I’m late today, they’ll toss me out on my ass for sure.”
“Well hang in there and try not to let the nit-picking get to you.”
“Leave it to me—I’m used to it!” And with a wave of his hand, Yasuda headed for the elevator.
“Oh yeah, Yasuda—let’s get drinks sometime soon. I should have some time after we get a working print of Volume 1 rolling.”
“Sure, if I feel like it.”
Blankly watching as Yasuda left, Yokozawa made an effort to organize his thoughts before breaking out into a full-fledged panic. It seemed he was the only one taking this seriously. “Oi, what the hell do you think you were doing, admitting to it?!” Even though Yasuda twigging to their relationship had been seemingly unavoidable, Yokozawa couldn’t fathom what on earth had made Kirishima so casually acknowledge it.
“Nah, it’s fine. Don’t sweat it. He’s not the type to go blabbing about it. You can trust him.”
But whether the man was trustworthy or not was not the issue here. “That’s not what I was—”
“Ah, looks like the rain’s letting up a little. I’m gonna head out to try and make a dash for some lunch. Good luck with work!”
“Hey—wait!” But the hand he reached out grabbed onto nothing, hanging sadly in mid-air. Kirishima darted out the front doors, leaving Yokozawa standing alone in the entryway.
“Are you not going home yet, Yokozawa-san?” Henmi called out a bit worriedly, having just finished his own preparations to leave.
“I’ll go after I’ve finished with this. You go on.”
“All right then, I’ll be taking my leave first! You should try not to stay too late.”
“Yeah yeah, I know. Take care heading home.” He didn’t bother looking up from the computer screen, sending Henmi off with words alone.
He released a quiet sigh, the sales floor now silent. The reason he hadn’t made much progress today was because he was still hung up on what Yasuda had mentioned earlier that afternoon.
”You two are an item, right?”
It hadn’t sounded like teasing, just pointing out the obvious—yet his heart had felt like it was going to stop in his chest, all the same.
Given how confident Kirishima had seemed about the matter, he supposed the man could be trusted, but most normal people wouldn’t just blurt out a comment on so delicate a matter. Still—that wasn’t what he was worried about, really.
What concerned him most…was himself.
Only a short while ago, Iokawa had also twigged to his relationship with Kirishima, and that compounded with this now made him worry…if perhaps he was just that easy to read. That two people in a row, now, had picked up on their relationship…strongly suggested there was some deeper reason at play. Perhaps Yasuda had noted a change in Kirishima after seeing him for the first time in a while, or maybe there had been something in the atmosphere between himself and Kirishima.
He likely wouldn’t be able to solve this mystery without speaking to the man himself, as Yokozawa was clearly not going to get anywhere stewing over this himself. And yet, when might he possibly run into Yasuda again? This was the first time he’d met the man since he’d started working at Marukawa, after all, which meant it might be years before they met again.
“What the hell am I gonna do…” he muttered to himself.
He saved the files he’d just finished working on and glanced up, realizing that he was now completely alone on the sales floor. He’d thought it had gotten quiet, but it seemed this was merely a product of everyone else going home for the day. All of the lights aside from that on his own workspace had already been doused. It was here that he recalled that all employees had been urged to head home early in advance of the incoming typhoon.
A glance at the clock showed that a fair amount of time had passed since Henmi had left. He’d probably wasted more time lost in his thoughts than actually doing any work, when he thought about it.
He looked out the window, seeing that the weather had grown quite a bit fouler than he’d expected it to, and the rain slapping against the window panes blurred the form of the buildings across the way. The wind howled like the cry of some wild animal from far away.
He opened an internet browser to check the status, only to find that several train lines and roads had already been closed down. His own train line that would take him home had been one of the first to go, apparently. He doubted he’d be able to easily hail a taxi in this weather, and even if he tried to take the long way home tonight, it would be no easy trip. He’d completely lost his chance to make it home this evening.
“Guess there’s no helping it. I’ll have to stay the night here.” He’d suffer no damage from not being able to take a bath for one evening, and it wouldn’t be his first time spending the night at the office. When he’d first started out, he’d burned the midnight oil on several occasions in preparation for events. In fact, he was sure he still had a blanket tucked away somewhere here, and as he stood to go and search for it, his phone began ringing.
He glanced at the caller ID, then answered. “Yes, this is Yokozawa.”
”I heard you stayed at the office pretty late—did you manage to make it home okay?”
It seemed Kirishima had called him up out of worry; his overattentiveness had initially been uncomfortable, rendering Yokozawa unable to accept it without protest, but now he actually felt relatively at ease in dealing with this side of the man.
“No, I’m still at the office.”
”You mean you haven’t left yet?!” Kirishima was clearly not happy with Yokozawa’s response, probably not having expected it. Truthfully though, Yokozawa hadn’t intended on staying this late himself.
“Sorry—I kind of missed my chance to make a break for it.” It was all he could really say, and while he knew it made him sound like an idiot, it was the truth.
If Sorata had still been in his apartment, he probably would have gone to great lengths in order to make it home, but at least with the Kirishimas watching over Sorata now, he didn’t have to worry about that.
”So what’re you gonna do? The trains are all stopped now, you realize.”
“I’d probably wind up having to cool my heels somewhere, even if I left now, so I’m just going to stay here. One night won’t hurt anything.” Here inside the office, he wouldn’t have chance to meet with any unfortunate accidents, and while it wasn’t the ideal location for resting, it was enough to be out of the rain.
”…Good grief, guess there’s no helping it then. Just be a good boy and wait patiently, then.”
And with that, Kirishima cut the line, leaving only an artificial digital buzz. “…What the heck was that?” ‘Be a good boy and wait’? What did that mean? He wasn’t some unruly child, so there was no chance of him rushing out into the storm or anything like that.
Stretching his neck, he returned his focus to the rest of his work. If he could just finish up the documents he had before him, then everything else would come together smoothly, and reminding himself not to waste time thinking about things that didn’t matter at the moment, he forced himself to focus on his computer before him.
His concentration snapped next because of the gurgling of his stomach, reminding him loudly that he hadn’t eaten in some time—not since lunch.
It would be cruel to order take-out in this weather. He’d often ordered delivery curry in the past; the shop he and his coworkers had often patronized used large portions of ingredients and was quick to deliver, so it had easily become a favorite.
“Yeah, I figured you would be—which is why I brought you a snack.”
“—?!” He’d meant the comment to be directed to himself and nearly leapt from his chair when someone actually responded—turning to find Kirishima standing before him. “Wh—what the hell are you doing here?!” His clothing was rather casual, given that he’d already headed home for the day.
An umbrella glistening with drops of water hung from one hand, and the fabric of his clothes had changed colors where the rain had soaked through. His hair, damp and ruffled, must have been annoying him, for he shook his head lightly as he complained, “Ugh, I hate getting wet…”
He slipped the umbrella he held into a stand by the door, pulling from a picnic bag a towel he must have brought from home and wiping his head vigorously with it.
“Then why the hell did you come all the way back to the office? If you forgot something, I’m sure it could’ve waited til tomorrow.”
“Idiot, I came to get you, since you said you couldn’t make it home.” Which meant his earlier admonition to ‘be a good boy and wait patiently’ had been code for ‘I’m coming to get you, so wait for me.’
“…I told you I was going to stay the night here!”
“But won’t you be lonely, all by yourself?”
“I’m not a child. And what about Hiyo?”
“She’s at home.”
“You mean you asked your mother to watch her again?” Hiyori understood well enough that her father had to work, but didn’t they need some father-daughter time together now and then? And on top of that, there was the evening’s weather; she might be feeling lonely without her father around on such a stormy night.
“She was going to come over tonight anyway. Said something about discussing Hiyori’s costume.”
“There’s something going on for Halloween, I think.” Which reminded Yokozawa—Halloween was coming up at the end of the month, an event that had somehow become rather common in Japan of late. While it was mostly used for commercial benefits by businesses, there were some places where parades were held, and theme parks and such often allowed visitors to wear costumes on that day alone.
Japanese people seemed to love taking all sorts of things and turning them around into fun events, and there was no mistaking the fact that children would love the opportunity to dress up in costumes and receive candy. He wondered what sort of costume Hiyori planned on wearing.
“And you don’t need to be involved in those discussions?”
“Hey, the sponsor shouldn’t stick his nose in where it doesn’t belong.”
“See, you say those kinds of things, but really you just don’t want to be around when girls are gabbing, right?”
“Well I guess you could put it like that, if you wanted to. I really don’t want them asking me for advice, after all. But damn—this rain’s not letting up, is it…”
“Not like we can help it; it’s a typhoon. It’ll probably keep up like this until morning.” The weather report he’d checked earlier had said it was slowing down since making landfall in the Kantou region where they were situated, and while sunny skies were supposed to return by the next morning, the report had urged viewers not to go outside that night.
“Wonder if it’d be a bad idea trying to head home in the car…”
“Well, we should probably at least wait a bit and see how things pan out.” It wasn’t like they couldn’t make it home now, but heavy rain would make it difficult to see the road, and the gusts might bring debris their way as well.
“Guess we might have to make an all-nighter of it then…”
“Which is why you shouldn’t have come.”
“…Well I was kind of worried about you.”
“You’re hung up on Yasuda finding out about us, aren’t you?”
“!!” Yokozawa fell silent, words fleeing him at having Kirishima hit his worries right on the nose. Their conversation earlier had barely lasted three minutes—which meant Kirishima had realized something was off about him in that small span of time.
Kirishima slowly settled into a seat at Yokozawa’s side. “…I knew it. I thought it was weird of you to space out for so long you actually forgot to head home.”
“No one said I was spacing out.”
“Well, you were, weren’t you? Otherwise there’s no way you wouldn’t able to finish your work and not be able to make it home on a day like this.”
“………” Yokozawa had nothing to say in the face of such sharp logic, frustrated that he could never manage to put on a cool face in front of someone like Kirishima.
“Seriously, though, you don’t have to worry about him; he mentioned it because he noticed, that’s all, I’m sure he had no other ulterior motive. But—if it’ll make you feel better, I’ll make it a point to remind him not to spread it around. So just—think of it as nothing more than an inconsiderate comment?”
“…You really must be close with him.” He seemed to have the utmost faith in Yasuda. Coworkers of the same age in a company were often like fellow soldiers on the battlefield, so it wasn’t like Yokozawa couldn’t understand their bond, but…he somehow didn’t feel right about it.
“I—I said no such thing!”
“Aah, I see how it is now, yup. You’re jealous, got it.”
“I said that’s not the deal!” But try as he might to deny it, he had to admit in a tiny corner of his mind that that wasn’t entirely true. Still, it wasn’t his way to just own up to the accusation.
“You really ought to try being more honest with yourself.”
“Shut up… The thing that was bugging me…was me.” They’d never get through this conversation sniping back and forth like this, so Yokozawa took the initiative in confessing what he’d spent the entire day worrying over. He hadn’t wanted to do it—feeling it was pitiful to be the first to break in this instance—but it was better than keeping his mouth shut and having Kirishima grill him on all manner of points.
“…What are you talking about?”
“It wasn’t just Yasuda-san today; just recently Iokawa-san also realized that we were dating, remember? It just…made me worried that maybe I’m doing something, or acting in some way…that makes it really obvious.”
“Ah…” Kirishima made a sour face, as if he’d been considering precisely the same thing.
“So—what do you think made him realize?”
“Not really sure… I’ve never really understood it myself, but he can be damn sharp sometimes. You can’t keep anything from him.”
“But—on that note, I do honestly feel like it’s something I need to work on. I’ll try and be more careful.”
“I’d appreciate it.” While they hadn’t exactly solved the problem per se, it was still progress for Kirishima to say that he would reflect on his actions. He’d been going too far lately, so Yokozawa was relieved to hear that he’d pay more attention to their surroundings from now on.
“Oh right—let’s dig in. Here, I brought food.” In the cute little lunch bag that Kirishima handed him were four small onigiri, with a tamagoyaki and a weiner shaped like an octopus with notched-out eyes stuffed into a little box.
“…You’re not gonna try and tell me that you made—”
“Hell no. Hiyo made these, saying she felt bad for you since you were probably hungry. She made the tamagoyaki too, by the way.”
“Hiyo…made this for me?” His chest warmed with emotion at the thought of her consideration for him. The small size of the onigiri must have been because of the tiny hands that made them, and just imagining her making them filled him with fond emotion. As he took up one of the onigiri, encased in wrapping, he could feel that they were still slightly warm.
“You’d better be grateful to me too, coming all the way in this hellish weather to bring you something to snack on while I picked you up.
“…I am. Grateful, that is. Thank you.” He’d been shocked, yes, but not unappreciative by a long shot, and he suspected experiencing this mishmash of emotions had been what prompted him to deliver such curt responses.
“You’re quite welcome. But man, those look tasty. Gimme one.”
“You haven’t eaten yet?”
“I did, but seeing these onigiri has me hungry again.”
He passed one to Kirishima—who finished it off in two quick bites. They were all so tiny that the remaining three soon disappeared into Yokozawa’s stomach. They attacked the tamagoyaki and weiner together, and in just five short minutes, their evening snack time had ended. Still, it had been enough to ease Yokozawa’s hunger pangs for now.
“That was delicious; tell Hiyo I loved the meal.”
“Tell her yourself; you’re coming by tomorrow after all, aren’t you? Ah—you have a grain of rice on you…”
“Where?” He must’ve really been famished and attacked his meal.
“The right side of your mouth—no, not there, from where I’m looking. Ugh, forget it, I’ll get it for you.”
“I can do it mysel—?!” But rather than reaching out to remove the rice with his hand, he slipped forward, so close he could have stolen a kiss, and before Yokozawa could scramble away, he brushed his lips softly against the side of Yokozawa’s mouth.
“…Did I seriously have anything on my face?”
“You did, you did! What, am I really that hard to trust, Yokozawa?”
“Yes.” His flighty defense certainly wasn’t helping matters, either. Why did this man always have to adopt such a frivolous attitude when it came to important matters? But then, he thought back.
Yokozawa was the type where, if he were seriously seduced, with no chance to object or make snide remarks, he would find the situation unbearable—so perhaps that had been Kirishima’s aim after all. Either way, he still wound up on the defensive.
“Y’know, I was just thinking…now would be a good opportunity to do it…but I guess it’s not happening.”
“Do it yourself…!” He released a loud sigh at yet another of Kirishima’s hare-brained suggestions.
“It’d be kind of hard to do it by myself, though. C’mon, there’s no one around, and it’s just dim enough to really set the mood. How about it?”
“No chance. Besides, what if the security cameras caught us?”
“Nah, it’s fine; they only record the entrances and exits. So long as we don’t get frisky in the doorway, we won’t get caught.”
“Well there’s not gonna be any ‘getting frisky’.”
“Oh I think there might be.”
“That’s not something to go around boasting.”
“Just think about it—we’re the only two people left in this whole building, on the night of a huge typhoon. Our conversation distracts us from the weather, and little by little we get closer and closer… It’s a waste of the situation for nothing to happen!”
Yokozawa groped for a response in the face of such emphatic pleading. “You’ve been reading too much manga.”
“What’s wrong with a manga editor reading too much manga?”
“I never said there was anything wrong with it, I’m just saying I want no part in it!” It was nice how Kirishima was so positive-thinking, trying to make the most of any situation he found himself in, but he could be so single-minded in his efforts that it exhausted anyone dragged along for the ride.
“I at least deserve a reward for coming all the way out here in the middle of a storm to bring you a snack, don’t I?”
“Huh?” Yokozawa’s brows furrowed at the unexpected word.
“You know, a reward. But fine, have it your way—I’ll settle for a peck on the cheek.” And with that, he presented his cheek, tapping it insistently as if to say pucker up. At Yokozawa’s reflexive sour expression, Kirishima slumped his shoulders for show. “Aww, and here I am, charging to your rescue, risking life and limb. My lover sure can play it cool. What I wouldn’t give just once to enjoy some sweet reward…”
“Quit your whining; all I have to do is do it, right?” With that, he kicked at the carpet to slide himself, chair and all, closer, Kirishima froze in shock at the sudden movement.
Yokozawa reached out and buried his fingers in Kirishima’s hair—and then proceeded to plunder his lips with a violent kiss. A kiss on the cheek would’ve been even more embarrassing than a normal one, after all, and this way, he could ensure that Kirishima offered no needless backtalk. “…Satisfied?” he mumbled, finally releasing the lips he’d forcibly stolen—but he wasn’t about to get off scot-free, it seemed.
“…Not by far.”
“Ngh—?!” Two hands came up to brace his head, returning the passionate kiss, and after he’d had his way with Yokozawa’s lips, Kirishima slipped a tongue inside, where it writhed and wriggled like a living creature with its own agenda. It sought out his own tongue within his mouth, and Yokozawa felt his mind freeze up, going numb. “Hnn…nnm…!”
Not just his tongue, but his whole mouth felt on fire, and a flush ran through him from head to toe, making him feel as if he were coming down with a fever. In Yokozawa’s hesitation over whether to mount further protest or not, Kirishima had taken the inch he’d been given and proceeded to run with it.
His hips were starting to shudder with need, but he knew if he let himself get swept away now, he’d just be playing right into Kirishima’s hand. Going any further than this would not be a good idea.
“That…that’s enough…” He pried Kirishima off of himself and sliced him through with a glare—but received in return a playful response delivered with the most serious of expressions.
“…Yeah, we definitely need to do it now. Office sex.”
“No way in hell. You great idiot.” His growled shout echoed lifelessly throughout the empty office. It was clear now that he was going to be fending off Kirishima for the rest of the night.
“This is some fine weather.”
“…It is, at that…” As usual, the sunny skies following a typhoon were a sight to behold. The sky was endlessly serene today, and it looked like perfect laundry weather. While the air had a bit of chill to it, that only made the weather feel all the more pleasant.
Just like my heart now—he might have liked to say, but that wasn’t happening. While he’d made impressive strides toward resolving his issues regarding his future with Kirishima, it didn’t mean he no longer cared what others thought about him now.
Dropping by Kirishima’s apartment like this was starting to become an everyday occurrence, and yet he couldn’t help thinking in a small, secret corner of his mind…that he really ought to cut down on how often he came by. But Kirishima had been firm in his intentions to see Yokozawa home, which left him with little choice but to go along.
“…I said I was going home…”
“Yeah, but my place counts as one of your homes, right?”
“……” While he appreciated the thought, he wasn’t naive enough to accept it happily. Granted, even though they couldn’t broadcast their relationship publicly, they weren’t doing anything wrong, and being overly secretive about things would only draw even more unwanted attention.
Still, the more he tried to affect a neutral attitude, the more awkward things became, and it was times like this that he hated how inept he was in such matters.
“Ah, good morning!”
“Kitagawa-san, good morning.” The woman who offered the pair a bright greeting as they stepped out of the car was the mother of Yuki, Hiyori’s friend. Yokozawa was immediately on guard, being faced with a neighbor so soon upon arriving, and he ducked a head in her direction from behind Kirishima, given that they’d met before on several occasions.
Yuki’s mother was a warm woman who seemed rather adept at cooking and making sweets, which had Hiyori taking advantage of her kindness rather often.
“That typhoon yesterday was quite something!”
“Indeed; we couldn’t make it home from the office, so here we are dragging ourselves back the morning after!” While Yokozawa knew this was only idle chitchat, he couldn’t help being overly sensitive to the way Kirishima phrased things, worried that they might be inviting undue suspicion.
“I see! That must have been quite a trial. Was Hiyori-chan all right, then?”
“My mother was visiting yesterday, so she just wound up spending the night. I’m always managing to find myself indebted to my parents!”
“It must be nice, having them live so nearby. I even find myself doing the same with my own parents! Oh, but—if ever you need anything, please feel free to ask!”
“Thanks always for your help. I must apologize for always relying on you so much this way. I do hope Hiyori isn’t causing any problems with the way she drops by from time to time?”
“Not at all, far from it! We’re both of us in the same boat, after all. Hiyori-chan is so well-mannered, and Yuki’s more proactive with getting her homework done when Hiyori-chan is around.”
“I’m glad to hear that, then. I hear that father of hers is quite a lazy slob, so I hope she isn’t setting a bad example.”
“Come now! You’re a fantastic father, Kirishima-san! Though I will admit that lately she’s been all about her Oniichan.”
“Eh?” Yokozawa couldn’t help the stupid sound that slipped from his lips when he found the conversation had unexpectedly turned to himself.
“Those madeleines we received the other day—you made those with Hiyori-chan, didn’t you?”
“Oh—well, yes.” He nodded stiffly at her question.
“They were absolutely delicious! I adored them!”
“O—oh, it was…nothing, really. I’m glad you enjoyed them.” He bowed his head in return as she dipped a bow his way. He knew all he needed to do was be as open and confident as he was on the job, but the unexpected nature of the conversation had his unease showing clearly his face.
“I must say I’m quite jealous of Hiyori-chan, being able to prepare sweets with such a cool oniisan!”
“Hardly, ma’am!” He knew it was nothing more than flattery, but such straightforward compliments still left him feeling embarrassed.
“Oh my, look at the time! I’m so sorry to have kept you this long.”
“Not at all, it’s our fault as well for keeping you from your errands.”
They exchanged farewells, and after parting ways, Kirishima whispered a reprimand. “You’re too damn uptight!”
“Not like I can help it! I didn’t think she’d want to talk to me…” He’d hoped to sink silently into the background, but with his build, he supposed that just wasn’t possible.
“Well hey, at least you got called a ‘cool oniisan‘.”
“That was clearly just idle flattery.”
“Even so, it means she’s fond of you, right? You’ll garner more suspicion being all uptight like that; try having a little confidence!”
“I know, it’s just…” Maybe he’d been more nervous and sensitive than usual lately. Being confessed to out of the blue when he’d least expected it, having his relationship with Kirishima pointed out—it seemed like a never-ending parade of situations designed to unsettle, provoking his cowardly worrywart side.
But his coming to Kirishima’s place was no longer all that strange—dropping by for dinner, to play with Sorata, to look over Hiyori’s homework. And while Yokozawa himself saw each and every one of these mundane things as something special, something he couldn’t help but enjoy, it was far from something he should feel ashamed of.
“…You know, if it’s bugging you so much, why not just ask him?”
“You’re worried about how you come off, right? If you hear from Yasuda what made him realize we were together, then don’t you think that might go a ways toward easing your concerns?”
Indeed, if he could just figure out what had prompted Yasuda to question the depth of their relationship, it might resolve this whole affair—but it would certainly be no easy task tracking down someone who hardly ever showed his face at the office.
“W—wait, how am I supposed to ask him?”
“Guess you’ll have to trust in fate.”
“Oi!” He felt his irritation with Kirishima rise as the man proceeded to shirk any responsibility in the matter, leaving Yokozawa feeling like he was spinning his wheels in fruitless effort.
“You know, you’re gonna go bald if you keep worrying over crap like this.”
“I’ll have you know neither my father nor my grandfather have gone bald!” Granted, the fact that he felt compelled to respond to comments like this kind of suggested he was worried about it, and heaving a sigh at how easily he’d been played yet again, he craned his neck back to stare up at the sunny skies above.
“Sorry, I’m boarding!” Yokozawa called out, rushing to enter the elevator which had just released some passengers onto the floor of the literature division, where Yokozawa had only moments ago finished his own business. He moved to thank the person who’d kindly held the door for him—when his eyes widened as he took in his fellow passenger. “Ah…”
“Hey there; so we meet again!” Yasuda grinned when he met Yokozawa’s eyes. It was the second time they’d met, and the first in a week or so. Truthfully, Yokozawa hadn’t expected to meet the man again so soon, given that he seemed more like a ghost than a man.
Maybe this was finally his chance.
“Just came from a meeting?”
“Yes; we’re just finalizing the details for the upcoming campaign.” When a smile graced Yasuda’s gorgeous features, it granted him even greater intensity than before, and despite his reputation for strong-arming others, Yokozawa suspected there weren’t many around who could possibly turn down any request in the face of a smile like that. It wasn’t a matter of him being anyone’s type, more that he was just so graceful it came off intimidating.
“Which floor? Sales is on 2, right?”
“Oh—yes, thank you.” Yasuda pressed the panel at Yokozawa’s low-key request, and a silence settled over them. It was times like this that made the trip in the elevator feel interminable, and in an effort to be rid of the awkward tension, he forced himself to speak. “May I…ask you a question?”
“Ask as many as you like,” Yasuda responded easily to the hesitant Yokozawa. Kirishima had mentioned that he’d speak to Yasuda himself, so perhaps it wasn’t his place to ask this kind of thing, but he might not get a chance to talk to Yasuda again after this, so he couldn’t help it.
“…How did you know?”
“Know what? Oh—about you and Kirishima? Sorry about that; we’d only just met and I went and stuck my foot in my mouth, huh? Guess anyone’d freak out if some total stranger said something like that to them.”
“Oh, no that’s…” It wasn’t that he’d wanted Yasuda to apologize; he simply wanted to know how the man had realized what their relationship was. If he could just figure that out, then he’d know what steps to take to ensure it didn’t happen again, and while he didn’t like relying on others, it was inescapable in this situation.
“I’m pretty sharp about those kinds of things. I guess I just realized. Maybe because I’m bi myself, I felt a sense of camaraderie?”
“Huh?” He sensed that Yasuda had just dropped a huge bomb, and unsure of how best to respond to Yasuda’s unexpected reply, Yokozawa just sat there blinking stupidly.
“I guess if I had to pick one over the other, I’d say I prefer guys; oh—but don’t worry, Kirishima is so not my type. Though you’re not so bad yourself… But I’m not so desperate I’d go after someone who’s already taken.”
“Uh…okay…?” He’d lost any hope of following the thread of conversation now, mind swirling at being bombarded with information he really hadn’t wanted to know. At least he’d managed to figure out that Yasuda viewed neither him nor Kirishima as potential romantic conquests. This man probably had a different idea of what constituted ‘common sense’ from Yokozawa.
“Well, here’s the 2nd floor. You’re getting off here, right?”
“Oh—yes.” At Yasuda’s prompting, he wandered off the elevator in a daze. But as he turned back to the elevator, he caught Yasuda flashing him a merry smile as the doors closed.
“See ya later! Looks like you got hooked by a real pain in the ass, but hang in there!” This strange cheer of encouragement merely left Yokozawa feeling all the more confused. Yasuda was even more inexplicable a person than Yokozawa had heard.
“What’s wrong, Yokozawa-san? Standing there lost in thought,” Henmi called out as he passed by, voice tinged with curiosity.
“Huh? Oh, no, it’s nothing. Just spaced out there for a moment.”
“Are you all right? You’ve been rather busy lately, so are you sure you aren’t overworking yourself? We’d be quite stuck if we lost you, after all! Be sure to rest up well when you can and take care of yourself.”
“…So in other words, you’re not worried about me so much as your workload?”
At the shocked retort, Henmi grew a bit flustered. “Oh, wait, I mean—of course I’m worried for your own good?!”
“Your true feelings leaked out there for a minute, idiot.” But he couldn’t bring himself to be truly angry with the ever-straightforward Henmi. In fact, he mused that it would be nice if everyone were as open and honest as Henmi—but he’d never be that lucky.
“Good grief, you’re lucky to be able to be so honest…”
“Indeed! It’s my trademark, after all!” Yokozawa couldn’t help the smile that tugged at his lips in response to Henmi’s own broad, unabashed grin. There was no point in beleaguering over things he couldn’t change with mere worries. Things were what they were.
“I’m feeling better now that I’ve seen you.”
“Uh…well, I don’t…really get it, but that’s great!”
“C’mon, let’s get to work.”
“Yes, sir!” And at Henmi’s energetic response, Yokozawa followed him onto the sales floor.