“This season is definitely one of my favorites. The Falcons, otherwise known as everyone’s favorite Cinderella story, came from being the rookie team nobody believed in to a promising dark horse and finally to champions!”
“I’ve always been more of a basketball kind of guy but I followed this season because of that team. I got to tell you, man, that setter of theirs is a genius.”
“Oh, are you guys talking about the recent V Premier League?”
“Yeah, we were just talking about the Falcons’ setter. It’s like he came out of nowhere. The guy’s a monster.”
“He was definitely great. Considering this is his first time playing in the professional league, that performance was nothing short of awe-inspiring.”
Tsukishima hiked his headphones over his head and cranked the volume up. Two weeks since Kageyama’s team won the V Premier League championship and it seemed it was still the only thing everyone wanted to talk about. Yes, the guy was a genius who carried a newly-established team to become champions of the professional volleyball league. Everyone with even the slightest iota of interest in volleyball knew that. It was really about time that Tsukishima’s co-workers got over it.
With the sound of his co-workers' chatter sufficiently drowned, Tsukishima turned back to his computer for some last minute touch-ups on the cover photo of their next issue but his view was obstructed by an obnoxious hand being waved in front of his face.
Tsukishima yanked his headphones off and glared at the culprit – the new intern whose name he couldn’t remember. “What do you want?”
“I’ve been calling your name for, like, three times now. Chief said she has a special assignment for you and wants you to report to her office.”
Tsukishima made a face. “That sounds ominous.”
“Should I report back to Chief and tell her that?” The intern gave Tsukishima a mischievous smile. Tsukishima made a mental note to ask who was in charge of training the interns; they couldn’t be doing a decent job if the interns were turning out like this.
“No, thanks.” Tsukishima stood up. “I rather enjoy having all my limbs attached to my body. I’ll go see her now.”
Tsukishima was immediately assaulted with a question the moment he stepped into their Editor-in-Chief’s office.
“Do you know what this is?” Chief waved a folder in front of Tsukishima’s face (which was really rude, by the way). “This is your personal file. I remembered that you went to Karasuno High School but I wasn’t sure so I had it checked and, according to this, not only did you go to Karasuno, you were also a part of the volleyball team.”
“…Yeah, that’s about right,” Tsukishima said, despite having absolutely no idea how all of this information was relevant to whatever ‘special assignment’ the chief had in mind.
Chief walked over to Tsukishima and squeezed his shoulders in delight. “That’s perfect!”
Tsukishima tried not to wince. Chief had a vice-like grip and it didn’t really help that she kept her nails long and pointed. “Sorry, Chief, I don’t follow – and that kind of hurts.”
“Ah, I apologize.” Chief, thankfully, let go of Tsukishima. “I may have gotten a bit excited once I discovered that you played in the same high school team as him.”
“Kageyama Tobio! The Falcons’ genius setter! Professional volleyball’s newest rising star!” Chief prattled on with accompanying grand hand gestures, “We’re planning to do a profile story on him in our next issue but the guy has a reputation of shunning the media. Of course, we still tried getting in touch with his agent but, alas, the rumors are true. The guy refuses to do any kind of interview with anyone, but–”
The words ‘special assignment’ echoed in Tsukishima’s head.
“–we figured we have a better chance of convincing him if one of his former teammates were to ask him. So, I’ve decided that you’ll be photographer for this project and I want you to personally book this interview since we’re banking on your association with Kageyama to get him to agree to it. Are you listening?”
Tsukishima suppressed a groan. “Yes, I am, though I’m sorry to break this to you, Chief, but there’s a bit of a problem with that plan.”
“And what would that problem be?”
“Kageyama and I didn’t get along back in high school. If anything, my involvement in this will only ensure that he never agrees to any interview with our magazine ever.”
“Come on, don’t be melodramatic. Your relationship couldn’t be all that bad if you were able to play together for three years on the same team.”
“Funny you should say that because I’m pretty sure the guy hates me.”
“I’m not asking you for a favor, Tsukishima.” There was a glint of something scary and unpleasant in the Chief’s eye which reminded Tsukishima exactly why he made the effort to stay on the Chief’s good side. “I want you to get an interview with Kageyama Tobio for our magazine. This is a job I’m assigning to you as your superior. Do you think you can do it?”
Tsukishima got the message loud and clear. He never had a choice in this matter to begin with. “Yes, Chief,” he forced out.
Chief gave Tsukishima a smile that sent a chill up the latter’s spine. “See, I knew there’s a reason why you’re my favorite.”
Word got around in the magazine publishing industry, and although Tsukishima hadn’t tried asking Kageyama for an interview before (as if he would), he knew the story well enough, heard it many times before from several other reporters.
The story went like this: Kageyama Tobio was an extremely private individual who considered himself strictly as an athlete and made no attempts at all to take advantage of his increasing popularity and growing status as a celebrity. In fact, he seemed to be particularly disgusted at the thought of being seen as anything resembling a celebrity. Kageyama’s gatekeeper, otherwise known as his agent, was as dedicated as Kageyama in making sure that this privacy and non-celebrity status was maintained, which meant that requesting an interview with Kageyama through his agent was always met with a short, straight-to-the-point refusal.
The reporters Tsukishima spoke to already had it memorized.
‘Sorry, but Kageyama Tobio isn’t interested in doing interviews of any sort. He’s an athlete, not a celebrity, and he would appreciate it if the media just left him alone and let him play the sport he loves in peace. His stance on interviews is non-negotiable. Please stop calling.’
The information Tsukishima got from the reporters he talked to should have been enough proof that going through Kageyama’s agent was useless, but Tsukishima called the agent anyway; he had the smallest inkling of hope that if he could get through Kageyama’s agent, he wouldn’t have to speak to Kageyama. Unfortunately, the agent really was a dead end and Tsukishima was met with the same rehearsed response.
Tsukishima kind of expected the agent’s refusal; the thought of getting the agent to agree to the interview was mostly wishful thinking on his part. If he really wanted to get this interview, he would have to do exactly as the Chief said and call Kageyama personally, asking for the interview in his capacity as Kageyama’s former teammate, an endeavor that was very likely going to end in failure, anyway, and would result in the Chief making his life a living hell.
I could probably just hand over my resignation right now to get it over with, Tsukishima thought. This ‘special assignment’ was nothing but a problem of epic proportions. He didn’t even know Kageyama’s phone number. Plus, they had that whole sordid history from high school between the two of them.
Kageyama would definitely reject Tsukishima’s request for an interview and have fun doing it. He might even gloat about it, if Tsukishima was particularly unlucky.
If this was what being the Chief’s favorite was like, then Tsukishima would rather that she hated him.