A simple story - their story (04)

(DATE: beginning of YEAR 2002 - the rumor – part two)

“Alright, that’s about all for today. Dismissed. Oh Sakimoto-san, can you stay? Need a word with you.”

Soon, the meeting room was vacated except for two stoic-looking men seated opposite each other around an elongated oak table.

The older of the men cleared his throat. “I received this fax from corporate comms this morning.” He retrieved a piece of paper from his folder and handed it over to Sakimoto.

Sakimoto accepted the paper and began to read it.

“I see,” he said after reading. “And you want me to?”

“I want to hear your opinion.”

“Then I would say it’s just those normal gossips.”

The senior man waited, hoping to hear more.

“And it’s not that damaging compared to Abe’s…” continued Sakimoto.

The chief still looked skeptical. “That’s true. But actually, I’m not asking for these. I just thought, maybe You, as the girls’ manager know some things I don’t.”

“Well, since you have asked, I’d dare say there’s no truth in this,” Sakimoto assured.

“I see.” Nakamura locked his brows, thinking. His facial expression depicting he wasn’t quite satisfied with what he had heard. “Even so, I still hope some action will be taken.”

Sakimoto paused for a moment. “How does Tsunku see this?” he asked, but when he saw boss looking affronted at him, he knew he had over-stepped his boundaries—he shouldn’t have questioned his superior. He smiled back weakly. The silly grin further agitated the older man as he slammed his fist on the table.

“Tsunku thinks the same as you. But I wanna see things done. You understand?”

Despite his sitting position, Sakimoto quickly bowed his head. “Yes, yes, of course, I’ll get it done. Do wait for my report.”

Acknowledging with a slight guttural grunt from his throat, the angry man stood up and strode out of the room. Sakimoto didn’t look up until he heard the door close. Not wasting any moment himself, he stuffed his papers into his folder and left the room. Thoughts filled his mind: there were things to be done—serious things to be done—if he wanted to keep his job. And most importantly, he had to find a smaller meeting place and get hold of the two girls, and he had to do it quick…

The atmosphere of the room was sombre though not as icy as the one he was in earlier. Sakimoto looked at his girls, trying his best to maintain his smile, his mind contemplating if this was the right approach.

“Read or heard anything recently?” he asked.

The two clueless girls looked at each other and then back at their manager, they shrugged and shook their heads.

Sakimoto was drawn back to his thoughts. Now, it would be difficult to bring up the matter if both girls had no idea what everything was about. And since they knew nothing, which was a blessing, he had no wish to break the bad news to them. To him, the girls are young, innocent and blissfully ignorant, which is why he couldn’t understand how they have become the target of those baleful paparazzi. Why couldn’t they just leave his girls alone?

“Sakimoto-san, did something happen?” Rika asked cautiously after seeing her manager had gone quiet.

All right! Sakimoto slapped his thighs. What was to be done had to be done. But when his eyes met two angelic pairs, his heart softened and he began to stammer:


An inexplicable bad omen rose instantly inside Yossi and Rika. Rika turned to Yossi, and when she saw how Yossi had an equally worried look, she gingerly reached out her hand under the table and held on to Yossi’s. They held each other assuredly and continued to watch Sakimoto quietly, their heartbeat doubling.

Sakimoto straightened his back. He knew he had to do it carefully. “Ok. Nothing much actually,’ he began. “Just a routine get together, to know how my girls are coping.” He smiled. But judging from the look on Rika and Yossi, he knew they didn’t believe him totally. He further explained. “I only called the two of you here because I thought there might be things you won’t say if others were around. You know, like conflicts with other members?”

“Oh,” said Rika, visibly relieved.

“Everything is fine,” Yossi added, and felt a light squeeze on her hand.

“I see. I believe so.” Sakimoto laughed. “Anyway, just a routine reminder again.” He became serious once again. “Okay, I just had a meeting and some points were brought up. Like I said, routine, just routine stuffs and some short reminders. Well, in the meeting, we discussed about the company’s policies.” He observed his girls who appeared to be listening attentively. “We want to know if you girls actually knew the reasons behind your group’s success?”

The girls nodded.

“And so, you will understand that to carry on with this success, you will need the continuing support of your fans but then… sometimes fans do get upset over things. And…” Sakimoto let out a slight sigh when he saw the girls looking lost in his words. “Okay. How about we do a recap of the clauses in your contract?” He uncapped his pen and began to scribble on a piece of paper.

Yossi and Rika nodded subtly, leaning forward to have a clearer view on the white sheet of paper.

“One…” Sakimoto started writing. “You are not allowed to be in a relationship.” He dotted a period at the end of the sentence with his pen and looked up.

Instinctively, the pair of hands under the table let go of each other quickly.

“Now, this is really important.” His pen proceeded to mark a few circles around the word ‘not allowed’. At the same time, Yossi and Rika began to hold their breaths.

“In showbiz, this is really taboo. I am sure you have seen many examples around you: idols falling out of fame when a bad scandal hits them. Get it? No? It is simple: if your fans’ hopes were dashed, they would stop buying your stuffs. You will lose your market value and then your company won’t see any profit grooming you anymore. You are back to square one, and most probably, you’ll end up regretting what you have done. You see, it is this cruel in showbiz and, sadly too, this is how things work.” Sakimoto stopped to take a breather and also to allow his words to sink deeper into the youngsters’ minds. “Although I had never brought this up to you, I did warn your senpai about these. You see, I thought they are more prone to making this mistake. But recently, as I realise both of you are approaching the age when you start thinking about matters of the heart, I feel that, as your manager, it is my duty to ‘inform’ you about these ‘dangers’.” He looked at both girls, expecting some response.

When Yossi nodded, Rika followed so.

“Good.” Sakimoto, too, nodded. However, he suddenly peered over at Yossi and asked an unexpected question. “Could there be, well, someone you like now?”

“No!” Yossi shouted as if she was truly taken aback. She then looked away, feeling greatly uneasy with her outburst. Rika, on the other hand, tried to keep her eyes straight even though she wanted very much to see Yossi’s expression when she had said ‘no’. When she realized her manager’s attention was now on her she softly said ‘no’ too, but suddenly felt sad, and before she knew it, she felt like crying.

Sakimoto lay back in his chair and breathed out loudly, feeling apologetic for his weird behaviour. He knew his girls weren’t lying, the reason was simple: their crazy work schedules simply don’t allow them to indulge in other activities, let alone date. But he had asked, perhaps just to put his mind at ease. He admitted that he had had his reservations when he had noticed how his superior was pressed on the matter, so he thought there would be no harm in asking, at least now, he knew the truth and could report back to his boss. However, as he looked at the girls again, he felt a great sense of guilt; Rika’s face was turning white while Yossi’s eyes were darting. He had, never before, seen such serious expressions on his beloved girls, and he started to regret his decision to call them into this meeting room, and also his cowardliness. It was his duty, as their manager, to protect the girls, what he had just done, was the opposite…

No comments: