"We can negotiate the terms. Let me know your answer by Tuesday and we can set up a meeting."
“Alright. I will have my assistant send you a message. I don’t like using this number to talk about business.”
“Sounds good. I’ll be waiting.”
With that the conversation between the two men ended and the only thing left was the beeping sound coming from the other end of the call.
Normally, this kind of phone call shouldn't have come as a big shock. However, for Kota Subaru, Chief Editor at Suzumori publishing, it was a huge surprise.
That morning, the Director of Nozomu Financial, Asakura Ryuu, called him on his personal number in order to discuss an important business matter. It was about the rights for a certain book written by author Masato Keita.
This rather overbearing Director expressed his interest in investing in a future movie adaptation of that book. He stated that his company was willing to negotiate the terms and conditions with the publisher, if the author agreed to several conditions.
That in itself wouldn't have been anything too surprising. Things like these happened very often in this industry, especially with well-received books. But what made Kota Subaru hesitate momentarily, was Director Asakura's explicit interest in working closely with the writer. He even wanted to have Masato Keita join the initial planning team.
Who on earth has heard of something like this before?!
Never, in all his years in this industry, has Kota ever met with such a strange demand from an investor. In fact, most of the financial big shots wanted the initial authors to have nothing to do with the production of the movie.
Nevertheless, things went according to Asakura Ryuu’s plan and Masato Keita agreed to all his conditions.
Thus, Kota and Asakura had a face-to-face meeting to discuss the details of their new business partnership.
The two hit it off immediately and afterwards became very close friends. Kota even supported Asakura in regards to his personal interest, which was winning Masato Keita’s heart.
Unfortunately, though, the result was a total defeat.
Instead of the dashing, handsome and powerful Director Asakura Ryuu, Masato Keita chose Kurosawa Rintarou, his editor.
This outcome dealt a huge blow to Asakura’s previously undefeated ego. And who did he reach out to afterwards? Of course, it was his friend and business partner, Kota Subaru.
That evening they were meeting at a bar for a drink.
"Yo!" Kota raised a hand and greeted Asakura.
"I see you're here early. Skipping work again?" the other man replied with a teasing smile.
He took a seat at the bar and ordered a glass of whiskey. Then, he turned around to look at his friend, only to be met with Kota's intense stare.
"How are you faring, my friend?" Kota asked, leaning forward slightly and adding in a teasing whisper. "Still heartbroken after Keita-chan's cruel rejection?"
"Of course. My heart is bleeding, my mind is in shambles and I am in desperate need of comfort." Asakura replied seriously. A second later his lips curved into a mischievous grin. "Therefore, I'll be keeping you here to drink with me the entire night."
"Haa? No, no, it shouldn't be this way." Kota said hastily, waving his hands and leaning back quickly as if he was bitten by something. "You should be fine by now. After all, you're a grown man. Who keeps mopping after their first love like this? Aren't you ashamed to be called a man?!"
"It's precisely because I am a man that I cannot forget so easily. Besides, Keita is one of a kind. I doubt I will meet someone who can fascinate me like he does."
"Well then... I wish you happy moping. But, I’m warning you, I'll head home at midnight." Kota stated firmly.
"What are you, Cinderella?!" Asakura snorted.
"No, I'm a grown-up man who has work tomorrow. Not to mention a superior who will grind me alive if I am late for the morning meeting." Kota replied with a weary sigh.
"Don't try to fool me. I know your father won't say a thing about you missing that meeting. Besies, won’t it be about boring reports and monthly sales analysis?" Asakura countered, sipping casually from his glass.
"Asakura-san, I've been meaning to ask you this for a while now. Are you perhaps a spy? How come you know more about what is going on in Suzumori publishing than even I do?" Kota asked with a strange, hesitant smile plastered on his face. "My father clearly said it was going to be a very important conference. One I shouldn't miss."
"Hmmm, maybe he was afraid you'd play hooky if you knew it would be boring." Asakura replied with a simple shrug.
"Agh, enough about this! I'm getting all annoyed here."
"Alright, fair enough." Asakura nodded his head.
He gave Kota a small smile, then both of them continued to drink in silence for a while.
With time, the chattering around them dwindled, until only soft whispers and occasional laughter remained.
"How is Kurosawa doing?" Asakura asked suddenly. He was looking straight ahead, avoiding Kota's surprised eyes.
"Oh? Asking about him?” Kota smirked. “Why not ask about Keita-chan instead? Isn't he the one you're interested in?"
"No. It's too painful to talk about Keita."
"Then, you mean to say it’s easier to ask about your rival instead?" Kota inquired, raising an eyebrow in disbelief. He shot Asakura a strange look, as if he was looking at an alien. "Are you normal in the head, Ryuu?"
"Perhaps I'm not." The other man replied, smiling dejectedly while playing with his glass. His eyes were staring fixedly at the amber-colored liquid. "Just tell me, Subaru. Is he..."
Asakura stopped speaking suddenly, seeming unable to continue his sentence.
Nevertheless, with his keen intuition, Kota understood what his friend was trying to ask about. As he leaned back slightly and looked at his own glass, a smile formed on his lips.
"Well, you know him. He's just about the same. Treating Keita-chan like a dragon treats his treasure." Kota finished pointedly.
"Hmm, is that so?"
Asakura spoke in a low voice, looking almost absentminded. But his downcast eyes betrayed his emotions. A look of pain and regret settled on his handsome face, giving him a rather gloomy air.
In the meantime, Kota continued to talk like he had seen nothing.
"Yes, and it's getting rather annoying too. Just the other day I got told off by him for pushing Keita-chan to finish his new book by the end of the month. He acted all righteous when accusing me of pressuring the author. When I tried to use my position as leverage, he even told me that I should mind my own business and leave the Editor's job to him."
Kota finished his tirade with an annoyed huff, taking a big gulp from his glass.
With that, Asakura was immediately pulled back from his unhappy thoughts. After listening to his friend’s venting speech, he couldn't help but let out a chuckle.
"It must be difficult for you. Feeling like a parent who just got scolded by his daughter’s husband couldn’t have been fun” Asakura snickered. “You know, I really admire that fellow. If we hadn't been rivals, I would have wanted to make friends with him. A transparent personality such as his isn't easy to find nowadays. After all, who else dares to treat their boss like that, and even feel justified to do so by giving proper arguments."
"It's not too late, you know. You can still be friends with him... With both of them." Kota stated seriously, glancing sideways at Asakura's profile.
"I can't, Subaru. It's too early for that." Asakura shook his head slowly, taking another sip of whiskey. "Just let me drink my own sorrows for a little while longer."
"Alright, alright. Suit yourself then!" Kota sighed.
He raised his own glass and bumped it against Asakura's half empty one. A crisp clink reverberated in the space between them.
"I guess I can accompany you for a little while longer."