"I have a new author for you. He's new to manga and Marukawa," the chief editor of the Emerald department told his co-worker.
"It's a man?" Onodera asked.
A man openly writing shojo manga? Who could be that brave or careless?
"Yes, we're going to meet him later today. He lives in West Tokyo."
"He's supposed to meet us here at the subway station," Takano informed.
"Onodera! Is that you?" came a new voice across the station. A red head man hurried across toward them. He wore a dark dust coat and comfortable work shoes.
"Kais! What are you doing here?" Onodera called to his old friend.
"I could ask you the same thing. How are you? It's been, like, forever! You still working for your dad?"
"No, I'm working in shojo manga now at Marukawa," Onodera answered. "This is my boss, Takano-san."
The dark haired taller man by Onodera nodded a tight acknowledgement. "Good, you two seem to know each other already. Onodera, this is your new author."
What? Kais, I never pictured him writing manga. Sure he liked it, but…wow.
"No way! Really?" Kais bubbled over. "Looks like we'll be working in close vicinity again, Ritsu." He threw a careless arm around Onodera's shoulders.
Takano cleared his throat. His dark eyes fell on the red head he'd developed an immediate distaste toward. He didn't like hearing anyone call Onodera by his first name but himself, not to mention touching him. "So how is it you know each other so uh...well?"
"This guy was my roommate in college for a year and a half," Kais announced. He sounded like he meant to brag.
"That was not as you saw! It was over between Kais and I long before we even graduated!" Onodera stormed after a very agitated Takano the next morning before work.
"Apparently he doesn't think so!" Takano barked. "Make that stick in his thick head!"
"I did! Six years ago!" Onodera returned.
"Then that was half assed too!" Takano shot back.
"He's the one who ended it! Said he thought I still had feelings for someone else!"
Suddenly Takano whirled, trapping Onodera against the wall.
"What?" he questioned. His dark eyes were surprised now, but a bit calmer at least.
"You heard me."
Takano leaned forward until his breath tickled Onodera's ear. The words he breathed made Onodera's heart start pounding like a jack hammer in his chest.
"I alone can touch you, Ritsu. I alone can hold you. Don't let anyone else come so close to you. Remember that."
What the hell? He was raving mad a minute ago.
"I need to get to work." Onodera fled out the door of the apartment.
Why can't I focus on work? Oh yeah, because of him.
Onodera sent a glare Takano's way.
God help me.
A pair of arms circled Onodera's shoulders, attracting the attention of most of the office, especially Takano.
"Kais, why are you here?"
"Aw, Rit-kun, I couldn't wait to see you!" he whined.
"You didn't have to come here, did you?"
"Well, I was in the area, so…"
Takano stood. "Ah, Kais, while you're here. I thought I'd tell you, I'm assigning you a new editor. I don't think Onodera is ready for newbies yet."
"What?" Onodera startled.
"Aw, but can I still see him sometimes?" Kais, almost pleaded.
Takano glared. "No."
"Got yourself a boyfriend there, Ricchan?" Kisa teased.
"No!" both Onodera and Takano shouted at once.
They glared at each other, then Onodera snapped.
"Just because we were in college together you don't think I can handle him, eh? Well I can!"
Takano's glare would pierce brick.
"Conduct in this office will be strictly professional!"
"I cannot let you work with someone with whom you have history!"
By now the whole room watched the spectacle. Kais seemed to enjoy the attention.
"So then you and Yokozawa are fine? You knew each other in college!"
I should not have said that.
"We don't work in the same department!"
The words were out before he could stop his anger flared tongue. "You're jealous!"
Shit! Did I really just shout that?
Each glared fire tipped daggers at the other.
"And?" Takano pressed.
Isaka-san, the company director, stepped in the doorway.
"Dammit, listen for once!" Takano yelled, realizing to late his audience.
"Takano-san, could you please come with us for a moment."
"Suspended!" Onodera exclaimed the next morning. Takano's desk sat empty and it was all Onodera's fault.
"Yeah, it's a week suspension while the higher ups decide if he's worth keeping on the company," Tori explained.
What? No! If anyone should be fired it's me! I gotta fix this.
"When are they meeting about it?"
"How should we know? Besides what can you do about it?"
Onodera sat down determinedly at his computer.
"I'm gonna save Takano's job, that's what I'm gonna do."
Two hours later, he rushed from the elevator to the meeting room. Not knowing what to expect, Onodera had written a speech with backup information. He'd also gotten some of Takano's authors to admit freely in writing that Takano was one of the best editors in the business.
He came into a room of arguing business men.
"Sorry I'm late," he stammered.
Everyone stopped talking at once and looked at Onodera. While they all wore suits and ties, he wore his work clothes, khakis and a sweater.
"Who is this kid? What's he doing here?" one man questioned.
Thankfully, Isaka-san stepped in on Onodera's behalf.
"Gentlemen, this is Onodera Ritsu from the Emerald editing department. He wants to put forth argument on Takano-san's behalf. Sit please, Onodera-san." He motioned to an empty chair across the table by Yokozawa, not someone, he was entirely delighted to see.
Onodera walked stiffly and nervously over and sat down rigidly.
He's gonna yell at me the first chance he gets.
Yokozawa glared and said nothing, not to Onodera at least.
"As one who votes in favor of keeping Takano-san here at Marukawa's Emerald department, I'd be most interested to hear what defense Onodera-san's come up with," Yokozawa declared.
Oh, Lord help me…
"Well, okay, then…" Onodera stammered.
Should I stand, or just sit? Should I start right off or say something interesting first? Should I take the blame for the argument?
"I realize that argument must have looked bad yesterday. In truth, it was not Takano-san out of line. I disagreed with him on a touchy subject and it kind of got out of hand. So please, if you must fire someone, let it be me."
Yokozawa hung his head in his hands. "Is that all you have?"
"No! – I mean, yes, there's more." Onodera fumbled nervously with the papers.
"Sales may back me up in this. But if you look at these annual charts, the years after Takano-san was hired here, not only did he revitalize the Emerald into the top ten of Tokyo's magazines, but also general sales of manga increased quite dramatically, and still climbs." Onodera paused for a moment as the men around the conference table looked over the chart he held up.
"Also, since Takano-san has been here, several of our manga authors have received high ranking awards for their and their editor's work," Yokozawa added. "Concerning, the Emerald magazine, we were nearly run into the ground and about to be written off before Takano-san came in."
Onodera allowed himself a small breath of relief. He'd thought Yokozawa would completely abandon him.
How could I have forgotten about that part?
"While these charts do show the change quite plainly. Takano-san's conduct yesterday suggested he possibly doesn't have the social class skills for this field of work," one of the men countered.
"Um, I also have written compliments and confessions from several of Takano's authors complimenting his work. Some are also from other editors in the department." Onodera pushed the papers toward the others.
After a long five minutes of hushed discussion which Onodera caught very little of, Isaka-san turned to him.
"Very well, as one who believes hiring Takano Masamune was one of my best decisions regarding this company. We have decided he keep his position as chief editor of the Emerald department. With this final, I call this meeting adjourned."
As people left, Onodera slumped back against the chair with a long sigh, trying to let his mind recover from the mental torture it had just endured.
"Do the world a favor and never become a lawyer." Yokozawa mentioned. "You suck at persuasion."
From someone who hates me, even that's a compliment.
Now he just had to clear things up with Kais.
As expected, the energetic man waited outside the office.
"Got a minute? We need to talk," Onodera told him. They walked out into the deserted hall.
"Kais, I can't be your editor. Not because of policy, just –"
"Don't say it, I know. He's the one, huh? The person you loved ten years ago? You still love him."
Face flushed with cherry, Onodera nodded tightly.
"And you're sure he's not just yanking your chain again?" Kais asked cautiously.
"That incident was a misunderstanding. He loved me then, he loves me now. I'm sorry Kais."
Kais clapped Onodera's shoulder. "Don't worry. If you're happy, then I'm happy for you."
"You should tell him his job is safe. You saved it after all."
"Yeah, thanks, Kais." Onodera started for the door.
"Onodera, if you do get hurt again, I'll be here for you."
Onodera rang Takano's doorbell for the third time.
Could he be gone, but where? He shouldn't be much longer. I'll just wait here.
Onodera sank down against the wall. Before he knew it, he'd slipped into an exhausted sleep.
"I never thought he'd have the courage, but he did all the research and made most of the argument. I wouldn't recommend he ever become a lawyer though," came Yokozawa's voice.
"I knew he had it in him. Just needed the right motivation," came Takano's smooth voice, though fuzzy.
"He really is – uh, Onodera!" Takano hurried to Onodera's slumped figure.
"Takanoo…" Onodera mumbled.
"What do you think you're doing sleeping in the cold? You'll make yourself sick, baka!" Takano scolded.
"I-I wanted to be t-the fir-first to tell you, I-I – you're job is saved. Kais won't c-come again."
"So you stayed out here all night? Oh you idiot." Yet even Yokozawa noted a hint of a smile in his tone.
Takano pulled Onodera to his feet, keeping an arm around his shoulders. "Let's get in before you freeze to death."
Yokozawa left them in each others' capable hands. Today proved to him that Onodera could be trusted with Takano.