Shirai and Mano are coworkers who sit next to each other in the office, and Mano has taken quite a liking to Shirai, eager to make friends with the man–which he attempts by way of inviting Shirai out for lunch at every opportunity.
Mano: “Shirai-san! Would you like to have lunch together? I found a really great place. (It’s Italian!)”
They both work for a fashion house, in the sales department, and Mano is eager for Shirai to show him the ropes, but Shirai is more than a little overwhelmed by the airheaded by eager Mano. His dour attitude never puts off Mano, though, and even when Shirai dumps his lunch invitation by bringing his own (albeit all-rice) bentou, Mano just smiles and offers him a nutrition bar.
Shirai does feel a bit bad about turning Mano down, but he can’t afford it–he’s in debt and needs to pay it off quickly. One day, though, a sempai of his calls him for a favor, and after quickly looking him over, he deems him “just perfect”. For what? A fashion show their company is putting on, of course! The model they’d been planning to use took a tumble during rehearsal, and they need a quick fill-in.
Shirai is reluctant–he’s an amateur with no experience–but his sempai assures him he’s just the right height and build, and plus…it pays well.
Nitta: “How much? Let’s see… About…”
Shirai: “I’LL DO IT.”
But after he gets out of hair and make-up…the end result is not what he’d thought he’d be wearing:
Shirai: “WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?!”
Nitta: “Oooh, you look great, Azusa~”
Shirai: “PLEASE don’t call me by my given name!”
It seems Nitta remembers Shirai crossdressing for a school festival back in their college days, and it really stuck with him, which is why he’s tasked Shirai to help out today. It seems Shirai has no choice but to participate if he wants his pay day. He steps out for some fresh air, wobbling unsteadily on unfamiliar heels (and all the while boasting admiration for women around the world having to put up with the shoes), when a man approaches him asking if he’s feeling all right.
Shirai: [WH-WH-WHY IS MANO…?!]
Thankfully, Mano doesn’t seem to notice that it’s just Shirai in a dress, and just when he thinks he’s been saved by the timely arrival of Nitta, he’s reminded that today’s event was only for industry professionals–and that Shirai will have to do it twice more for the general public before he can collect.
The next morning, Mano doesn’t seem to suspect anything, but when he asks Shirai to accompany him to a storeroom for a sample check, things get a bit awkward when rather platonic actions of Mano’s are misinterpreted severely by Shirai. It seems he can’t handle being touched, or Mano even being close now, just for something as simple as adjusting the tag on a shirt. He’s far too sensitive–and when he shoves Mano away, Mano notices that he’s had a manicure and nail polish applied recently, then cheerfully asks if it was part of a sample from a vendor, as Mano himself tried one similar recently (and then goes on to complain how difficult it is to get the polish off afterward). Shirai begins to have suspicions that maybe Mano does know about the fashion show–but stops himself from asking.
The day of the next fashion show arrives, and when Mano invites him out again for lunch, he apologizes, explaining that he has a bentou and will be bringing one from then on. Being around Mano is kind of exhausting, and Mano at first feigns offense before explaining with a smile that he understands–but he sees his efforts as a service to Shirai, getting him to let loose and relax now and then. When Shirai thinks of it like that, he realizes it’s not so terrible. He suggests that Mano find others to hang out with, as he’s likely been dodging invitations himself, but Mano admits that he doesn’t mind, as surpassing Shirai is his goal.
A work order comes in at the last minute, though, worrying Shirai that he won’t have time to make the show–but Mano saves him with an offer to do the work himself. Shirai apologizes for dumping the work on Mano, but Mano doesn’t seem to mind, explaining that he understands that Shirai has an urgent matter to attend to–and in the end, Shirai can do little more than thank him.
Shirai: “Th…Thank you! Let me make it up to you later.”
Mano requests that he do so by having lunch with him the next day, to which Shirai agrees.
Their conversation at lunch involves discussion of Mano’s position in the office, and he expresses some concern that he’s too nosy and that others may not like his approach to the job, but Shirai reassures him that he sets the mood around him, making others happy just by being near, and that he’s liked by many. Even for Shirai, being around him is strangely…calming, which sets Mano to lightly flushing and expressing his gratitude at the compliment.
As they share a meal, though, Mano comments out of the blue that Shirai has a beautiful face, and when Shirai complains that he ought to tell that to some of their female coworkers, Mano confesses that he’s thought it for a while, and…he looks like someone Mano is curious about. A woman who walked in a recent fashion show, a woman Mano really hopes he might be able to see again someday. Mano comments that he’s heard she’ll be in another show soon, one open to the general public, and he’s hoping to go, just in case he has the opportunity.
Shirai nervously advises him against this, wary of the consequences, by explaining that if he sees the woman again, she might not live up to his expectations.
After the show, Shirai is relieved to have finally finished his duties and happily snatches up the payment from Nitta, promptly turning down any subsequent invitation to appear in other shows. Behind them, Mano walks by–and from his angle, it looks very much like the woman he’s interested in is kissing Nitta.
In his dressing room, Shirai is removing his wig and gown, reflecting on how relieved he is that Mano didn’t show up–if he really was the woman Mano had expressed interest in, then it would be an utter shock for him to realize that it’s just Shirai, and he somehow doesn’t want to break the guy’s heart. A knock at his door draws his attention, and when he invites the knocker to enter, certain it’s his sempai, the door opens–
TO BE CONTINUED