Off Air – Vol. 2 Story 3.1

Story 3: sugar me

Author’s Note: It was really fun to write something with a touch of Halloween spookiness! I had written this before “Where Home Is,” so I don’t think I had thought much about anything yet while I hinted at a bunch of things laden with meaning.

Illustrator’s Note: On the original cover, there is a mouse pointer cursor slightly above and to the left of Tsuzuki-san (small), and it actually points to Kunieda-san’s tail. In the end, he could be a devil or a vampire. Hang in there, Tsuzuki-san. Anyway, that mouse pointer was something stupid that I had fixated on a lot.

First published in 2015 in the doujinshi sugar me.

Translator Note: This story takes place after Volume 2 of “Yes, No, or Maybe Half?” during Halloween. The mouse pointer is removed on the color reprint of the doujinshi cover, but it really does appear on the original.


Part 1: sugar me




—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.

If Kei had to choose if he would rather emcee a wedding or attend as a guest, he would have a hard time coming up with an answer. Participating as the emcee meant that he could bypass the tradition of gifting cash to the newly-wedded couple, plus he received a handsome fee for his services—however, there were also a lot of meetings and preparations he needed to do beforehand, and on the day of the reception, he couldn’t let his guard down as he was constrained for hours on end, and he couldn’t even drink or eat very much the entire time. Attending as a guest (as long as they didn’t ask him to give a speech) involved no work, but he had part with his money.

He would probably have to go with the latter. But it would be much less stressful if he could completely separate his work from his private life. That way he wouldn’t have to have people coming up to him and asking for an autograph or a handshake in between scheduled events.

“Excuse me, are you Kunieda-san? I always watch you on the news!”

“Thank you very much. Oh, it looks like the bouquet toss will be starting.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is now time for the bouquet toss. All the single ladies, please head over this way!”

Kei gave a little nod with one hand holding a champagne glass filled with sparkling water and casually distanced himself before she could ask anything else. Today was the wedding ceremony for a junior announcer whom Kei had worked with during his evening news days. He married someone outside of the industry, which meant the guests on the bride’s side were really irritating.

“I have a younger cousin who wants to become a TV announcer. Could I ask you for some advice I could give her?”

Oi, quit following me. Let me cut to the chase— You need looks, connections, and a good personality. Done.

“Networks look for different things that they want in announcers every year, so it is hard to say… Oh, there’s still space in the front over there for the bouquet toss.”

“Oh, it’s fine, I’m not interested in it~”

Yeah, the bouquet’s not interested in you either.

But Kei had to make some kind of comment otherwise she would probably never go away.

“And the bride turns her back to the crowd and tosses the bouquet behind her!”

Kei gave a slightly baffled smile as he said, “I believe he could probably help you,” preparing to guide her over towards Tatsuki. That was when a shadow appeared over his head. Kei raised both hands in reflex, and something fit right into his palm.

“…Hmm?”

Cheers and laughter exploded at the same time. A pink and white wedding bouquet had found its way into his hand.

“Oh, would this happen to be a friend of the groom? Apparently, a gentleman has caught the bride’s bouquet!”

Just how terrible can her aim be? Don’t throw it over here.

“I’m very sorry.”

Thinking this was the most ridiculous thing in the world, Kei tried to return the bouquet, but the bride declared with effusive sparkles in her eyes, “It’s totally fine!”

“I think the bouquet is incredibly happy to have you catch it, Kunieda-san, so please, I would love to see you keep it.”

What’s with this bride with mush for brains? Ugh, she seems a little too interested in me. It would be one thing if it were a fried chicken toss, but I couldn’t care less about a bouquet.

Kei firmly refused, saying, “Oh, no, I just couldn’t,” but the emcee settled the argument when he said, “There’s no problem as long as you’re single.” He was probably running behind schedule.

“Please take this auspicious bouquet and confess your love to a woman you hold dear in your heart!”

And now the emcee just eliminated the option of giving the bouquet away to a random woman at the ceremony. On the way to the reception hall, Tatsuki came up to Kei with a grin and asked, “Want me to take the bouquet for you?” Kei just mouthed the word “Die” at him.

“Fine, you say?” Tatsuki asked.

No, you idiot.

Anyway, Kei was starving. The only thing he looked forward to at a wedding reception was the food. He had a taping for a radio show later, so he had to leave the reception early. He couldn’t drink of course, but Kei was always more reserved outside, and it was a convenient excuse to skip out on the stupid theatrics and speeches.

Kei sat fairly close to the bride and groom’s sweetheart table, and he was able to casually check the menu for the reception. Bite-sized seasonal hor d’oeuvres… Who cared about that? But there were also salmon and scallops with red caviar, magret de canard with a vegetable terrine, French potage, red sea bream with paradise prawns, filet mignon grilled on granite… Okay, not bad. Kei decided to make the filet mignon his sole purpose for coming to the reception today. Servers poured drinks for the guests and brought over the hor d’oeuvres and appetizers. After a while, the lights dimmed.

“Ladies and gentleman, please give a warm welcome to the bride and groom.”

Hurry up and move it, Kei thought as he clapped his hands. In his mind, his precious filet mignon was holding a rally and Kei was cheering it on—a rally where Kei filled every single seat himself inside the Tokyo Dome.

F! I! L! E! T! Filet!

Louder, I can’t hear you!

F! I! L! E! T! Filet!

This time in English!

F! I! L! L! E! T! Fillet!

How about a Kansai accent~?

Faylet!

“The bride and groom have taken their seats at the sweetheart table. First, a representative from the groom’s employer will offer his greetings and remarks. Please welcome Asahi TV’s Announcer Department Manager, Hayashida Shouichi-sama.”

The manager stood up from a nearby table full of big shots and took to the mic. The guests from the bride’s side buzzed with excitement and delighted-looking faces as if saying, I think I’ve seen him on TV before.

Stooges, all of them.

“Thank you for the kind introduction. I am Hayashida from Asahi TV. I would like to offer my heart-felt congratulations to the bride and groom and their families.”

How would you like your steak~?

Halfway between medium-rare and medium~!

That’s pretty hard to meet~!

That’s because it’s meat~!

“Well, I am sure that all the guests here today know this, but the groom is a TV announcer for our network and appears on our evening news show. Everyone inside and outside the network highly praises his hard work and dedication…”

Everyone~! Are you chewing your cud~?

Sometimes~!

It’s just upchuck, you know~!

“I remember it like it was yesterday—when the groom applied become an announcer and came to take the employment exam. You might ask if there is a reason for that…”

Hey!

What’s taking forever!?

“…The manager sure is taking his time.”

The one who spoke out loud was Tatsuki, who was sitting at Kei’s table.

“Shhh!”

“Hey, he’s already droned on for twenty minutes. Shouldn’t someone signal him to wrap it up? Just wave a hand around in circles.”

“Tatsuki, go cut him off.”

“I would if I could.”

“Don’t you dare say that I told you to do it.”

“Well, he did down a bunch of champagne in the garden earlier~”

“He went on and on at Takaoka-chan’s reception last month too, but today he’s like turbo-charged.”

If you can’t manage your time properly, you’re worse than an amateur, you worthless idiot. Someone get me the CUT button. Let me go to commercial.

“He met the bride Midori-san when he was a volunteer in his free time. That is such a beautiful way to meet the love of your life…”

Everyone! Thank you for coming! Good night!

Thirty minutes had elapsed. In Kei’s mind, his filet mignon had already left the stage. It didn’t even throw towels, guitar picks, or streamers for souvenirs. In short, if he counted backwards from the time he had to leave, there was no way his filet mignon would make it on time. He was going to kill his manager. Kill him and grind him to dust.

“—Thank you, it is with the deepest honor that I offer my congratulations to the newlyweds.”

The entire venue, including the sweetheart table, breathed a sigh of relief. Kei felt like the concentration of carbon dioxide went up a little. He had no choice but to settle for at least enjoying the red sea bream and paradise prawns, the course that was before the filet mignon. The speech had lasted longer than expected; the caterers would probably rush the courses out. Sea bream and prawns, sea bream and prawns, sea bream and prawns.

“Thank you very much, Hayashida-sama. Next we have a mentor of the groom, Asahi TV announcer Matsuura Hisao-sama, here to lead a toast to the newlyweds.”

“Geh, there’s more.”

“Well, he can read the room, right?”

“Our image will probably go down the drain if they keep it up.”

After offering the standard congratulatory greetings, the mentor launched proudly into his speech.

“Fresh recruits for announcers are assigned a senior colleague to act as a mentor. We are their teachers, and we personally train them on everything from enunciation, intonation, and the proper usage of polite speech. I just happened to be assigned to the groom when he was hired, and my first impression of him…”

Fifteen minutes elapsed, and Kei caught sight of people quietly putting down the glasses that they had been holding up.

“I am also very happily married, but I would say that my wife does struggle with some difficulties that come with being married to an announcer…”

“…This is hopeless.”

Twenty minutes had elapsed. This was probably the first time Kei had ever agreed whole-heartedly with a statement coming from Tatsuki.

“This is the same energy he has when he’s talking on the radio.”

“AM radio even.”

“That a taxi driver plays in the background.”

“Is he competing against the manager or what?”

“He could have taken a crushing victory if he had finished in 30 seconds…”

“—Ladies and gentleman, please rise. Does everyone have a glass in hand? Let us toast to this spectacular day! Cheers!”

In the end, 30 minutes in total had elapsed for the toast. Kei clinked his glass of sparkling water with the glasses on either side of him and pulled out a large gift bag from under the table.

“I have a work commitment I need to attend, so I will have to excuse myself.”

“Oh, really? Can I have your share of the food, Kunieda-san?”

How about I grill you up, you damn brat? Kei cursed in his head as he smiled and said, “Yes, it is better that it doesn’t go to waste.” He stopped by the sweetheart table and the managers’ table to say a few words before leaving. As he left the venue, the smell of freshly baked bread wafted over to his nose. His stomach felt like it might run away from home out of hunger and anger. What the hell? What was with this horrible treatment? He had given up a part of his precious Saturday, paid 30,000 yen,1 and all he got was water, a baumkuchen, a gift they probably picked out of a catalog, some candies, oh, and a wedding bouquet.

Kei wanted to face the bay outside of the marina’s banquet hall and yell at the top of his lungs, Filet!!




It was evening when Kei finished his taping for the radio, and he hadn’t eaten anything. His hunger had passed its peak, but now he was fighting off drowsiness. The rush of new fall TV specials had reached a fever pitch, and this week had been especially busy, leaving Kei to operate on 3 hours of sleep on the weekdays. Numerically speaking, the network had plenty of announcers, but strangely enough, there were only a handful of people whom the directors wanted to use, and so all the work mainly fell on to them. Was it because of this same structure that most worker ants never actually worked?

Kei walked through the halls of the network carrying the gift bag that felt heavier and heavier as time passed. There was nothing that Kei could really eat at home—maybe he should drop over at the house since it had been a while? But then again, didn’t he mention something about an upcoming deadline? Maybe? Possibly? Uhh… Kei couldn’t remember. He stopped to search around for his private cell phone, but he couldn’t find it. Huh? Did he leave it at home?

Kei briefly set the gift bag down, but then a hard impact slammed into his head.




Man, I see stars. No, wait, it’s the moon. 

A giant full moon. Ushio was standing underneath it.

Perfect. Meat. Feed me meat. Then I’ll pass out until tomorrow morning.

When Kei called out at Ushio’s back, Ushio turned around to smile back very gently.




“…Owwww…”

“Are you okay!?”

When Kei came to his senses, he was crouching down and clutching his head in pain. A number of staff people crowded around him.

The first thought that came to his mind was—I didn’t lose my memory again, did I? Major life events? Check. Work? Check. Private life… He even remembered the unnecessary details (like the parts where he was unclothed), so check.

There was a metal door leading to the emergency staircase on one side of the hallway. Normally, Kei would give it a wide berth when he walked past here, but it had completely slipped his mind today. The door probably swung open just when he bent down, and it hit him directly in the head.

Hey, you shouldn’t swing the damn door open like that, you worthless idiot!

“I’m very sorry. Should I call an ambulance? It’s Saturday, and the medical office is closed today…”

“…No, thank you, I’m fine. I should have been watching where I was.”

Kei couldn’t bear to have it turned into a commotion. His head still hurt a little, but the dizziness he experienced when standing up was far worse. However, he wasn’t in the best condition to begin with, so it probably wasn’t all due to the blow to his head.

“May I ask how long I had been sitting here?”

“I think less than a minute…”

So he had only blanked out for a moment and saw something like a waking dream.

“Thank you. I’m so sorry for the trouble.”

“Since you hit your head, you should really go to a hospital, just in case.”

I know that very, very well, thanks.

“Thank you very much.”

Kei smiled, gave a bow, and tried to leave, but he was stopped with an “Excuse me.”

“You forgot your flowers. They fell out of your bag.”

“Oh, thank you very much.”

Tch.

It was already dark when he stepped outside. He had been cooped up inside a recording booth without any windows, and it felt like he had undergone a bit of a time slip, similar to the feeling of leaving a movie theatre. But more important than that.

Damn, it’s huge.

A reddish full moon peeked out from between the buildings.

Hmm, it’s probably not a supermoon. So just a regular full moon? It’s really kinda huge.

He had heard that the moon looked bigger closer to the horizon though.

Kei had no interest in the moon. He didn’t care if it was huge, or tiny, if rabbits lived there, if two of them existed, or if a kamehameha destroyed it. But for some reason, the moon tonight made his heart uneasy, and he was completely taken aback. Maybe it was because of the brief dream he saw earlier. But it wasn’t like it was a nightmare. He was just thinking about going to see Ushio, and he happened to bring him unconsciously into his head. That was all there was to it.

Kei caught a taxi and rode it to the front of Ushio’s house. He used his spare key to get in, and the first floor was completely dark. There were no signs of life upstairs either. Maybe he was sleeping after he met his deadline. Jerk. Kei put his ridiculously huge gift bag down and carried the bouquet in one hand as he climbed the stairs. If he could find a vase or a beer mug or whatever, he just wanted to get the flowers into some water. It was just the natural lifespan of flowers when they withered while watered, but he felt bad if he neglected them, to leave them to wilt, like he had forced them to starve.

There was only a dim light coming from a lamp by the bed. Yeah, he was sleeping. But Kei was starving, so he flipped on the lights anyway. He looked in on the bed, and Ushio was frowning at the brightness, slowly opening his eyes.

Kei expected Ushio to complain, What are you doing? But Ushio just met his eyes and smiled sweetly at him. This was the exact same Ushio from that momentary dream earlier.

Kei felt something between a shock and a chill as his heart roared. Or perhaps he felt both at the same time.

Ushio opened his mouth.

“…Kunieda-san.”




“Um?”

What did he just call me? 

It wasn’t just a simple issue of his name. Ushio yawned, not noticing how stiff Kei had become. He sat up and smiled generously at Kei again. It was almost as if he skimped on the smiles when Kei was his usual self.

“What are the flowers for?”

“…I got them at the wedding.”

“Isn’t a woman supposed to get them?”

Normally Kei would complain unhappily, It’s not my fault, but Ushio’s voice was exceedingly gentle. All of his thorns fell off, and he answered strangely reasonably, “…They flew in my direction, and I couldn’t refuse them.”

“Seriously? Well, it’s very Kunieda-san of that to happen.”

It happened again. He called him Kunieda-san again. And his mood and his attitude were completely in this Announcer Kunieda reception mode—extremely kind and gentle.

“Oh, could it be that you brought them for me?”

Yeah, you can have them. Look after them yourself. That was what he would have answered as Kei. But Ushio softly brought his face towards Kei’s, and for some reason Kei looked down at the floor.

Oi, oi, Kei jeered at himself. What are you getting all shy for, stupid?

“You don’t have to get all shy.”

Yeah, seriously.

Kei couldn’t bring himself to lift his head up, and Ushio softly touched his lips to Kei’s temple.

“…But it is really cute of you though.”

Whaaa? What the heck is wrong with him? Did he hit his head somewhere? Or is he just pretending because the idea amused him?

But I came here without even calling him. He was probably really asleep. Can he even put on an act like this right after waking up?

How would Ushio respond if he were to grill him, Are you fucking around? Obviously, Ushio would immediately go back to normal, saying something like, I just felt like trying it out—but would he really?

Could he really be sure that Ushio wouldn’t get all surprised and say, I didn’t know you could get so cranky. Or recoil and say, Kunieda-san, that foul language doesn’t suit you.

It was that red, crimson moon. Almost like it wasn’t something from this world.

“A flower vase,” Kei whispered.

“Hmm?”

“I thought that perhaps you could lend me a flower vase. Just like you did before… But that one is probably too deep for these flowers.”

Shit, Kei thought. He had answered completely in Kunieda-san’s voice. It felt like he had sealed some kind of deal or shut the lid to something he shouldn’t have touched, and he was overcome with a sense of unease.

“A flower vase?” Ushio tilted his head. “Did I really lend you one? I don’t have anything like that here though…”

“You had said that a friend gave it to you.”

“Hmmm… Well, nevermind. Let’s arrange them in a couple of larger cups.”

It sounded like Ushio wasn’t completely satisfied with the explanation.

Seriously? Did moths get to his memory during the time I hadn’t seen him?

It was a pretty tense situation, but maybe that was why Kei’s stomach suddenly let out a loud rumble.

“Oh—”

If it had been any normal time, he would have complained that he was starving so much that his innards were shrinking, but he only became flustered, covering his stomach with his hands.

“Hmm? You didn’t eat at the reception?”

“I had a work commitment, so I needed to leave early.”

“I see, you must have had a rough day.”

Ushio gathered Kei into his arms for a hug and patted him gently on the back. It wasn’t like Kei was unhappy about it, but Ushio would normally give him more of a jab like, Everyone must have had a nice feast after you left, then Kei would get angry and tell him to shut up, and Ushio would eventually bring out the carrot that he wanted. But it wasn’t like he needed to jump through some hoops first before getting Ushio to pamper him, he wasn’t a masochist… As the thoughts ran through his head, Ushio suggested, “Want to go out somewhere to eat? The fridge is empty anyway… I know, how about we make it a date somewhere nice? What do you feel like eating?”

“Cow.”

Kei floated his answer as a bit of a test. Ushio immediately widened his eyes and laughed.

“That’s unusual. It’s rare that you feel like eating meat, Kunieda-san.”

Oh, no, I loooove meat, don’t you know?

“Cow, huh? Got it. I’ll go get ready, so give me a few minutes.”

“…All right.”

It’s a date, you say?

Kei sat on the bed, and it was still warm from Ushio’s body heat. He could see the window peeking out from behind the curtains. He was sure that the moon was peeking out through the sky beyond the window.




When Ushio had said “somewhere nice,” Kei hadn’t expected him to dress up in a suit too. The last time was when they had dinner together with Shitara, before Ushio had discovered his double personas. Ushio quickly called for a taxi and gave the driver the name of a hotel. And not the kind where the word “love” preceded it, but a luxury one from a famous foreign management group. It was strange. Ushio hated stuffy places as much as Kei, and he wasn’t the type of person who would seek out a place like this in his own free time.

Kei could see the moon hanging a little higher in the sky from the taxi window. He didn’t think that it looked so huge anymore, but it still had an odd and creepy presence about it, like it was following him everywhere he went.

“What are you looking at?” Ushio asked.

“The moon.”

“Oh, it’s a full moon. …‘Month by month the moon moons over head, but this month’s moon we moon up at the moon.’ Is that how it goes?”

Kei turned to look at Ushio. It was a classic Japanese poem about viewing the harvest moon—Every month, we would always see the moon, but it was only this moon that we ever really thought about seeing

“You seem very familiar with it.”

“Huh? But you’re the one who told me about it, Kunieda-san.”

“Um?”

“You told me that you use it as a vocal exercise as an announcer. Did you forget?”

It was true that he used it, but Kei was sure that he hadn’t ever told Ushio about it. 

“You also told me that celebrating and viewing the moon was a cultural tradition passed on from China during the Tang Dynasty. Before that time, people believed that staring at the moon for too long would steal away their souls, so they had avoided it.”

“Is that… so?”

This was the first that Kei had ever heard of it.

“You seem a little different from normal today, Kunieda-san. Are you maybe feeling tired?”

That’s my line. But Kei couldn’t say it, and he looked at Ushio. He looked at the man who looked like Ushio.

“Or maybe you’ve looked at the moon for too long?”

“…Perhaps I have.”

“You should be more careful then.”

Fingers tangled with his own on top of the seat between them.




Kei had hit his head, briefly lost consciousness, and when he came to, Ushio was a little different. No, wait, maybe he seemed a little different to Ushio? Or maybe he was dreaming? Or like in a coma or something? Or a parallel universe? Maybe he had slipped into a world slightly out of phase with his own, one where his hidden persona hadn’t been discovered yet, or maybe it had never existed in the first place, and a 100 percent genuine Kunieda-san had somehow started dating Ushio—if that was the case, then where was that Kunieda-san now? Had they been switched, and that Kunieda-san was now with Ushio in the dimension Kei had come from? Maybe Ushio would accept that Kunieda-san pretty easily, thinking that he had lost his memory again. This had turned freaking complicated.

The one thing that Kei could definitively say right now: regardless if he was in a parallel world or a perpendicular one, the deliciousness of beef undeniably transcended all worlds. The roasted beef tenderloin with chaliapin sauce was absolutely fantastic. This was practically a law of the universe.

The restaurant was located on top of a high-rise building, and the elevated ceilings were covered entirely in glass. It was the perfect location for viewing the moon outside.

“Is it good?” Kei asked.

“Yeah, very.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

“Want some more wine?”

“Oh, yes, please.”

“How about we get a bottle?”

Ushio was like a gentleman the entire time—similar to when Kei had lost his memory. Kei remembered everything about that time, of course, but it had all become a memory in an instant, like shuffling cards, and it still felt like to him an all too realistic dream that he had seen. And now that dream mode was unfolding before his very eyes—it was closer to a dreamlike reality than a pure dream. That was how it felt.

But things here and there did feel different from the reality that Kei had thought that he knew. For example, his boyfriend who normally hated wearing ties was wearing one today without fiddling with it.

“Does it not bother you?”

“Hmm?”

“Because you don’t normally wear neckties.”

“Oh, it’s okay. I’m fine.” Ushio nodded like it was nothing and said in a low voice, “It doesn’t bother me that much to wear one. It’s not like it’s an item only for businessmen. I still don’t really like the word ‘creator,’ but it’s what the job is. A rough, or more casual appearance is the formal dress code that’s expected out of us. If I go to a meeting wearing a tie, the clients will probably have their expectations broken… We’re really not all that free when we’re expected to maintain an appearance that makes it look like we have all the freedom in the world.”

“I see.”

Did the other Ushio think this too? The other Ushio? The one who’s mine? How do I refer to them? 

Kei was getting more and more confused. He sipped his freshly poured wine and took a breath. Maybe it was the alcohol, or the blow to the head, or his sleep deprivation, but his head wasn’t really thinking straight.

And accordingly, words that he would never say sober came out of his mouth instead.

“…Do you often come to places like this?”

“Of course not. You should know that, Kunieda-san. It doesn’t fit my personality or my income. It’s just an occasional splurge.”

“But you don’t seem to be flustered by this at all. Like nothing scares you.”

It was the same as the time with Shitara. He didn’t seem out of place at the restaurant for how out of character it was for him.

“I’m probably just shameless?”

“I wonder about that.”

Kei would never pry this much with the other Ushio. Ushio avoided talking about himself as much as possible. When Kei was assigned to interview Ushio for a special segment, he never talked about the details about how he had grown up. He had only given a simple statement saying that he hated studying and that he doodled all the time, and that was how he had gotten into his line of work. Kei had no means to confirm if it was even true.

There was a part of Kei that was unhappy about it. That it was unfair, especially since he had taken Ushio to meet his parents. But if Ushio had something that he really didn’t want to talk about, Kei felt ashamed about it, but he didn’t have the confidence that he could fully face and accept it. Not that Kei would stop loving him, he didn’t mean that, but he didn’t want to force Ushio to talk about things that he hated or to remember the things that had caused him pain. Kei couldn’t do anything about the past, and digging up Ushio’s scars (if he had them) would surely be a price that he couldn’t pay.

But maybe he could say something today. Today would probably be okay. In any case, Ushio was himself but yet not himself.

“…I only ask because you never talk about yourself, Tsuzuki-san.”

A heat circulated through his veins other than alcohol. But Ushio laughed playfully and sidestepped the comment.

“That’s because I’m a fairly shallow person. When I have to announce something I’ve made, it’s like exposing myself to countless numbers of people when I don’t even truly understand myself to begin with.”

“Is that how it is?”

“Yeah.”

As Kei swirled the wine glass that was now empty, Ushio turned his eyes towards the view outside the window.

“I don’t mean to hide things about myself. And I’m not putting on airs either… But I don’t know. Right now I’m just happy, and I’m enjoying myself. I have my work, and there’s a real sense that I’m earning a living and supporting myself with it, and I have you, Kunieda-san…”

More than the pounding of his heart at hearing those words, Kei felt more uneasy about the distant gaze that seemed stolen away by the faroff moon.

You were the one who said not to look at the moon so much. No, wait, maybe it was me.




After taking the time to enjoy their two-hour dinner to the fullest, Kei was a little unsteady on his feet. He had probably drank too much. His internal organs felt like they were floating as the elevator sped down to the first floor. Ushio told Kei, “Wait just a sec,” and left him in the lobby.

Kei sank down into a nearby sofa, but he immediately felt sleepy, so he stood right back up. It was too dangerous. He had to control himself until Ushio returned. He would think about the troublesome questions tomorrow—like if he would be in this world when he woke up. Kei wandered around on his feet for now, trying not to lose consciousness, and beyond the bank of elevators, he could hear music coming from an open lounge.

Kei walked over towards it, and men and women of all ages dressed in costumes were dancing and taking pictures together.

Oh, right, today’s Halloween.

There was a lineup of various costumes all around the room with ghosts, Frankensteins, and some that were just plain old cosplay. It was an event that Kei had zero interest in, but for some reason, he stepped into the lounge jam-packed with guests.

“Please accept a free welcome drink on the house.”

“…Thank you.”

Kei accepted a bright red cocktail from a waiter dressed up like Dracula. It was extremely sweet and probably non-alcoholic. He felt like someone’s eyes were on him, but it was just a mountain of jack o’ lanterns of all different sizes sitting on a table. Light leaked out from the crescent-moon eyes and the eerie, jagged smiles carved into the orange shells.

Kei started feeling dizzy. Today was a day when such things happened—a night when otherly worlds connected with their world.

Did the moon smile too?

“—…Found you.”

Someone tapped him from behind on the shoulder. Kei was taken by surprise, and the cocktail spilled from the shot glass onto his dress shirt and tie.

“Sorry.”

When Kei turned around, Ushio was there.

“I didn’t realize that you were holding a drink.”

“No, it’s all right.”

“If we ask the laundry service to rush it, we should have it back by tomorrow morning.”

“Um?”

“I got us a room.” 

Ushio held up a card key the air like it was the most natural thing in the world.

“Let’s go.”




Kei showered in the hotel room, and it refreshed him a little. He exited the bathroom wearing a bathrobe, and Ushio told him, “I’ve sent your clothes out for cleaning.”

“Thank you very much.”

“Well, it’s my fault that it happened.”

Kei stood by the window, and before his eyes was the clear night sky with the full moon remaining a constant fixture. Behind his back, he could feel Ushio’s presence.

“Don’t catch a cold.”

“Tsuzuki-san.”

Kei directed his question at the Ushio inside the glass, housing the lights from the buildings across the way.

“Could it be that you’re deceiving me?”

“I could be.”

Ushio smiled with his eyes crinkling into crescent moons.

“What would you do if I was?”

“Nothing. I’m fine with it,” Kei answered. “I would say that I tend to deceive others too.”

“How scary.”

“I’m exhausted and drunk. Honestly, I’m not quite sure what’s happening—”

Kei turned around. The moon and Kei were probably reflected in Ushio’s eyes.

“No matter who you are, Tsuzuki-san, as long as you don’t lead your life deceiving yourself, then it is all right with me.”

If Kei was his normal self, or if he was facing the other Ushio, he probably couldn’t have said this. Hmm, maybe this alternate universe thing wasn’t so bad.

“…Thank you.”

Ushio pulled him into his arms, and their lips melted into a kiss. Kei could only describe it as abnormal just how much his heart raced. They held each other’s hands locked together like lovers for the brief distance that it took them to reach the bed.

They sat side by side, turning to kiss each other again. Ushio pushed Kei down onto the bed as they kissed, and with perfect timing, the lights dimmed inside the room. The bedside controls for the lights were very quite convenient. And he didn’t even have to yell at Ushio to turn them off.

See? You can do it if you put your mind to it, you bastard.

But strictly speaking, wasn’t he a different person? So would this be an affair in a psychological sense then? Would it be okay to allow himself do it with him? Shit, now Kei understood why Ushio was so enamored with the idea of Kunieda-san. What should he do about this situation?

Kei caught Ushio’s upper arm, hesitant in his movements. It seemed like there was a sadness in Ushio’s eyes when he gazed down at Kei.

“…Are you saying no?”

“Oh, it’s completely fine.”

Kei easily succumbed and gave his consent. Kei was already weak when it came to Ushio’s demands—how was Kei supposed to resist when Ushio pulled out his poor puppy-dog face? Like he was denied a treat that was taken from him. Of course Kei would cave. He had utterly and completely fallen for him. His heart was in a damn freefall.

This is a dream. This has to be a dream. Anyway, it should be fine if he never finds out.

“I’m glad.”

Look. He’s smiling. And so damn cute too.

“…Ah.”

His smile was easygoing, but his fingers were clever and certain. They were both the same in this aspect, Kei thought. He felt guilty for comparing the two of them, and yet it thrilled him at the same time.

“What’s the matter?” Ushio whispered, licking every nook and cranny of his ear. “Is it because it’s been a while? And all the alcohol? …You’re responding nicely.”

“No—”

Ushio was comparing him too—the Kunieda-san who might be Kei with the Kunieda-san who might not be Kei. Jealousy, but arousal even more so, coursed through his body. Like he was stealing someone else’s lover. Like someone was stealing his.

“Is it… bad?” Kei asked.

“No. It makes me happy.”

But contrary to Ushio’s words, his fingertips seized Kei’s nipples with a chastening strength.

“Aaah…!”

Kei writhed with his feet planted on the bed, knees in air, his legs rubbing together desperate and impatient. His bathrobe was held together with just a thin belt, and it fell open completely disheveled. Ushio placed his hands on bare skin like it all belonged to him.

“Ah, ahhh.”

Kei didn’t hold his voice back. If it made Ushio happy, then he was fine with it, even though he found it embarrassing. His entire body was burning, it was pointless to even hold back. He was aroused just feeling Ushio’s breath against him. Ushio sucked at a nipple, all pert and erect, and Kei couldn’t stand it anymore, running his fingers through Ushio’s hair.

“Nnhh!”

Ushio gently licked the skin, intending to soothe Kei’s lust, but only it further kindled the seed inside of him. Nimble lips worked at the little swollen nub, teeth softly biting the wet skin, and the pleasure hit his nerves.

When Ushio’s wandering hands brushed across his hips, Kei lost his patience and pulled down his underwear himself. Ushio smiled fondly back at Kei, not saying a word, and pulled the piece of fabric, gathered by his knees, down the rest of the way.

“Ahh…”

His erection strained up from between his legs spread fully open. There was no place to hide, completely exposed under Ushio’s gaze, and a fierce wave of shame threatened to overwhelm him, but Kei didn’t look away. Not from his own desire, nor from Ushio’s.

“…I love you.”

The words seemed to pierce Kei through his ears to somewhere deep inside his body—somewhere fingers, tongue, nor Ushio’s cock could ever reach, creating a wave of pleasure that made him shiver and tremble. Ushio sucked little kisses where his legs joined, on the delicate area of his inner thigh, teasing the edges of his core. When Ushio finally reached his cock that was overloaded with heat, Kei cried out, almost on the verge of tears.

“Aaaahh!”

Ushio ran his tongue all around the base of his cock as he pressed a fingertip to the tiny slit of the head. Translucent fluid immediately welled and spilled over.

“Nh, ah, ahhh…”

“You’re so cute.”

He wanted to release more as pleasure circulated through his hardness. The pre-come made Ushio’s touch smoother and wetter. Just when Kei thought Ushio would trace the tip of his tongue up the side of his shaft, saliva and loud obscene noises smothered the head of his cock.

“Ah— Ah, no, don’t… ngh.”

“Hmm?”

Ushio used his mouth to guide the welling desire that wracked through Kei’s body and asked, “What you mean don’t?”

“I said don’t, so don’t.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Liar…”

“That makes two of us, right?”

Ushio fisted Kei’s cock and stripped it more mercilessly than Kei would himself.

“No! Aaah, ah, noo— I’m going to come…”

“Don’t you want to come?”

Kei crumpled the cuffs of his bathrobe as he nodded again and again.

“I want to come…”

“Go ahead.”

Ushio swallowed Kei down greedily, taking him deep, squeezing and sucking. Just after the mouth tightened on his cock, pleasure ripped through his body, surging to meet his release. His body bent back, curling down to his toes, as he held still through his climax.

“Aaah…! Ah, aah…!”

Ushio cleaned up the mess of come that covered the head of his cock, and Kei twisted and turned at his further ministrations.

“No, I can’t come anymore…”

“You can— Here.”

Belated drops of come spilled at Ushio’s urging, just like he said he could.

“Ahhh…”

Kei shuddered through the remnants of his release, and his limbs went limp.

The same could be said for his consciousness.

“…Kunieda-san?”

Ushio patted his cheeks, but it was useless. Even a slap from Hakuho, the sumo wrestling champion, probably couldn’t wake him.

“…Are you falling asleep?”

“I’m not sleepy.” The sound of his voice was considerably slurred.

“I’m pretty sure you are.”

“No, I’m not. I just have a 6-ton weight on top of my eyelids…”

“You’re totally falling asleep.”

His desire to continue was at full gauge, but his remaining HP wouldn’t allow him to do so. As Kei sluggishly blinked his eyes, Ushio chuckled wryly at him.

“Sleep. You don’t have to push yourself. You’re exhausted, right? …Did it feel good?”

“Yes…”

“Good. Good night.”

Ushio ruffled his hair, and Kei fell into the depths of slumber in this otherly world, free of all dreams and illusions.




The doorbell for the room rang. The space next to him on the bed vacated, and he heard the sound of slippers walking further away.

“Thank you very much for using our laundry service. We are delivering one tie and one dress shirt. Can you please confirm your items? Please sign your name on the sales slip.”

“All right, thank you.”

The footsteps returned to the bed, tossing the clothing covered in plastic bags over by the pillows.

“Oi~ What do you want to do about breakfast? Do you want to go downstairs for the buffet?”

“…Too much trouble.”

“Ok, I’ll order room service. Go hide in the closet.”

“The bathroom works just fine!”

Kei was about to complain, Why do I have to act like an illicit lover, when he finally realized something.

“…Hey…”

Ushio was back to his normal self, in both his tone and his words, and he looked down at Kei.

“You sure enjoyed yourself with the Kunieda-san roleplay.”

“—I’m gonna kill you!!”  




“I wasn’t pretending when I first woke up,” Ushio explained. “You showed up without an appointment, all dressed up and with flowers to boot. I woke up thinking, ‘Oh, Kunieda-san’s here to propose to me,’ and it got my heart all racing— Man, you’ve really deceived me over and over again just because I’ve fallen for you.”

So freaking shameless.

“And then you looked so upset after what I said, so I wondered what would happen if I just went with it. But the world has its own strange ideas for how it wants the story to play out, and then I couldn’t really bail myself out of it.”

“You can sure think of some evil ideas the moment you wake up!”

“Because I’m always watching for an opportunity to play you, I mean, play with you.”

You corrected yourself on purpose, didn’t you?

“I had left it up to chance when I first went with it. I didn’t think you would actually play along.”

“…What was that story about the moon?”

“There was an article about it in one of the newspapers you had left. I just happened to remember it.”

Kei let out a deep sigh into a pillow. Okay, yes, now that he thought about it normally, transporting to an alternate universe was completely impossible. There were multiple compounding factors that had impaired his thinking and judgement. It was all the full moon and the wedding’s fault. And the damn managers’ fault for their long-winded speeches. It was endless.

“Why did you play along so easily anyway? Even if you’re stupid, you are pretty stupid, and really very stupid, but still.”

You’re just repeating yourself.

“Shut up. A lot of things happened, okay?”

“What things?”

“Not telling.”

“You’re so secretive.”

“I don’t wanna hear that from you!”

Whatever. He was going to sulk until it was time to checkout. Kei rolled up into a ball, and something found its way in front of his mouth.

“It’s Halloween candy. I found it on the table.”

It was a white marshmallow candy in the shape of a ghost. Kei took a savage bite out of it to vent his anger, but it was too soft and fluffy to be anywhere satisfying enough. It tasted faintly sweet. Maybe the fact that he couldn’t identify the taste made it a secret mystery flavor. The night had ended, and the moon had set. The party was over. Left behind was a promise that they wouldn’t pry into which words were real or not.

Ushio’s whisper, It was fun, tasted the same as the candy.




—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.

Please leave a comment if you enjoyed the story!❤



Novels List

Translation Notes

  1. 30,000 yen – Approx. $300 USD.

5 thoughts on “Off Air – Vol. 2 Story 3.1”

  1. So Ushio sort of got his sexy times with Kunieda-san that he wanted? 😅

    Omigod, I laughed so hard at Kei’s spiraling thought processes through the wedding reception. Poor baby—sleep deprived, denied food all day, and the additional head trauma. 😅😅😅

    I do kind of wonder about Kei’s brain, and how he can singularly entertain himself… It must be fun in his head, but I wonder if he developed it to entertain himself since he hates people so much…? That thought makes me a little sad.

    I never got the impression before that Ushio would leave Kei if he became to suffocating or pressed too much into his past, not until Ichiho-sensei alluded to it in the Ushio-cat story. But I think you can feel that fear from Kei in this story.

    This story had a lot of funny, sweet, sexy with a touch of sadness. It really makes me really appreciate Where Home Is. And I love seeing Kei admitting to himself how so in love he is with Ushio.

    1. Yeah, apparently that’s average from a friend or colleague. It’s higher if you’re the person’s boss or relative. It’s supposed to cover your dinner, drinks, and share of the wedding costs.

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