Chapter 1: Block It Out (1)
Translator’s Note: The Japanese title Fusaide has many, many meanings. It is used to describe the act of blocking things out; sealing things off; covering things up; closing things off; filling, plugging, or jamming things; or securing them. I initially wanted to title this book Cover My Eyes (fill me in) because the image is so strong at the end of Side Profiles and Irises where Shitara covers Sakae’s eyes at the hospital. The fill me in is the English tagline that’s printed on the cover of the book, and Ichiho-sensei explains in the afterword why she chose the phrase for the tagline. This book essentially fills in the details of Shitara’s history at Asahi TV and of his relationship with Sakae, and this act of filling things in is another meaning of Fusaide. Also, the theme of blocking out the senses is strong in this book, and Sensei specifically uses 🙈🙉🙊 to refer to this story. In the end, I decided to go with the translation Block It Out to mirror the title of the sequel, Hiraite, which was recently published in Shousetsu Dear Plus.
He dozed off for a short while, and he felt like he had been dreaming—one of those colorless dreams that he always had. In the monochromatic world, he felt like he had been saying something. Something incredibly important—but it couldn’t be.
There’s no way that anything that he gave out would be important to me.
That was why he didn’t want it, didn’t want to hear it, didn’t want to see it.
He had to block it out.
He muttered “Fuck…” to himself, irritated at the effect of the fuzzy, vague dream and at his own reverie of thoughts that had crossed his mind for a moment. And as he opened his eyes, next to the bed in full color, he was there. As he softly stirred awake, the mattress of the reclining bed, raised at a 60-degree angle, made a faint creak.
“Morning.” Shitara raised his hand in greeting. The tone of his voice seemed to indicate that it was only natural for him to be here.
“…What the hell are you doing here?”
“That’s what I’d like to ask,” Shitara returned. “What the hell have you been doing?”
He probably deserved that. The variety show that he ran as the producer had been in crisis, and he even needed an ambulance when he had collapsed from exhaustion, overwork, and neglect of his own health. But that didn’t bother him. Because he wasn’t the type to think, I don’t have to keep working, even when he reached the point of exhaustion where he physically couldn’t do any more, and now he could finally get some rest because his body suddenly engaged the brakes for him. What bothered him was that this man here had been present for the commotion that had led to his hospitalization. He didn’t want Shitara to see him weak and vulnerable—that was true—but he was also tired of the flickers of anger and exasperation in Shitara’s eyes.
“Don’t use that attitude with Nawada,” Shitara warned him with a severe look. “He was really worried about you.”
Bringing up Nawada Shin’s name like that, it put him at a disadvantage because the problem did not only involve himself. Shitara had probably seen through everything that he had done. He had favored Shin in his own way, even as he ordered him around like a servant, verbally abused him, and toyed with him for his own amusement depending on his mood. Shitara had also seen that in the end he wasn’t able to properly develop Shin’s talent.
“He came here earlier, and we talked.”
“Oh? What did you talk about?”
“That sounds serious. You should get your head checked out. Open it with a can opener.”
Uh, yeah, he’s mad as hell.
Prickly thorns flew straight at him from the bright and cheerful voice. Shitara could stab someone with a large, friendly smile emblazoned on his face—a skill of his that Sakae utterly lacked. Shitara was angry at Sakae’s recklessness. In other words, he was worried about him, but so what? Sakae didn’t know how to accept the worries that Shitara had for him, or if he should even accept them at all. That was why he purposefully diverted the conversation.
“If Shin says he wants to quit, you better stop him. He’s a staff member on your show too, so make sure you look after him properly.”
“Did he say that?”
“He didn’t say those exact words, no, but I’m telling you just in case that he does. It would be a waste if he leaves, so don’t let him quit.”
Shin had admired Sakae from the time he was a director, and that was the reason he wanted to work in the industry (or more accurately, work for the show that Sakae was in charge of). Sakae had thought that Shin had made a mistake from the start, but no matter how arrogantly he treated him, Shin’s admiration for him never wavered. Only Shin’s gaze never changed, always watching and chasing Sakae’s back from behind him. And because of that, Shin had completely missed his time to become independent and leave the nest, but he could still make it. This was his chance to come into his own as a director, and not an inferior copy of Souma Sakae. Though it irritated Sakae, Shitara was leaps and bounds better at identifying talent and developing people. However, maybe Shitara had seen through this state of mind of his and refused to humor him, because he calmly retorted, “That’s up to him to decide.”
“Anyway, I don’t think he’ll say it. Want to bet on it? What should we wager?”
“Go buy them for me.”
“Why should I?” Shitara stood up and pulled open the curtains. “The weather’s great out.”
“Ugh, quit it, stupid.” The brightness blinded him. “Close them up.”
“You should get some natural light in the morning~ I biked here today, you know.”
“It’s fucking hot out, what’s wrong with you.”
“Oh, but I’ve got electric assist on it.”
While Sakae blinked at the sudden attack to his eyes, Shitara reached his hand out to shade them from the brightness. Before Sakae could bat it away, the hand covered up his eyes.
“I’m glad that your ears seem to be working fine.”
“…I told you to shut up.”
What was he bringing that old subject up for? For the time being, it felt nice to have the light blocked out, so Sakae postponed his resistance, but then something softer than the hand over his eyes had sealed his lips.
Sakae made a tight fist and swung it as hard as he could, but Shitara just barely managed to dodge it. His vision filled up with a sudden brightness again, having lost its cover, and black spots flickered in his eyes.
“What are you doing!? You’re disgusting!”
“Oh, since I know that I’ll win the bet anyway, I thought I’d collect my winnings ahead of time.” Shitara wagged his fingers on both hands next to his face and laughed. “You should hurry up and quit smoking.”
“What?” Sakae said in disbelief.
“Because it tastes bitter.”
“What do I care?”
Sakae scowled and went to throw his pillow at Shitara, but a nurse called out, “Good morning,” and came in.
“Souma-san, it’s time for your tests.”
“Oh, thank you. Please take care of him.” Shitara stood up politely. “If possible, please bombard him for at least three months,” the idiot babbled before leaving.
Sakae punched the pillow that he held in his lap. The light of the late summer sun filled the hospital room, and he was overwhelmed with the urge to close his eyes.
“You think you’re better than everyone!? Who the hell do you think you are!?”
A surprisingly shrill sound cut through the air as glass from the smoking area door cracked. A distorted hole formed in the glass panel set inside a steel frame supported by a lattice of reinforced wire. And the most pathetic thing about the situation? That the person in question who had kicked and broke the door—in his panic at the unexpected development turned tail and scampered away from the area.
Heh, he probably wanted to scare me with a loud kick to the door. Did he really think I’d bob my head, apologize and say, “I’m so sorry, I promise to behave”? How stupid is he? What a loser.
Sakae rattled off a string of jeers inside his head as he smoked a cigarette.
Anyway, what’s he going to do about this? He better not try to pin the blame on me.
“Um, excuse me.”
An AD, who had the misfortune of being present in the area at the time, nervously asked, “What should we do about this?”
“What do I care? Probably contact security or the facilities department. The perpetrator might even do it himself.”
“Oh, that’s true. I’ll go get a broom and dustpan to clean this up for now.”
With that cleared up, he was thankfully left alone, and Sakae gazed out the window as he had a smoke. The smoking area no longer functioned to keep the smoke out of the other areas with the hole in the door, but Sakae didn’t care. He finished his break and stepped out of the room, and in the corner of the hallway, the angry senior colleague of his (more or less, technically speaking) was meekly hanging his head, the loud bluster from earlier gone. He was facing the producer of the evening news, so apparently he had turned himself in. Most likely he wanted to consult with the direct supervisor first to try to manage a quiet resolution of the incident.
“I didn’t think that it would break… I’m very sorry.”
In contrast to the offender who was huddled in on himself, the producer scratched at his chin, his bearing at ease and his voice breezy as he said, “Well, glass is something that breaks.” Sakae snorted with laughter at the sight. And alerted them to his eavesdropping.
“Souma, you bastard…”
Oh, great, he hasn’t learned his lesson, and he’s going to erupt again.
“Now, now, calm down. I’ll report to management that it was an accident. Ochiai, you can go now, but I might need you to submit some paperwork later.”
“And next is your turn. Let’s have a little chat.”
The producer beckoned at him, and Sakae pulled a face that said, Ugh, what pain in the ass, but the guy ignored it and said, “Don’t worry, it won’t take long.”
He continued, “Come to think of it, this might be the first time that we’ve met face to face.”
“I guess so. Up until yesterday, I was busy transferring responsibilities at the press corps offices.”
Everyone had kept telling him to make time to introduce himself, but if he couldn’t make time, then he couldn’t make time.
“All right, here you are.”
A business card was held out in front of Sakae.
On it was written Asahi TV “Day’s Edge” Executive Producer Shitara Sousuke. Even Sakae understood that he was standing in front of the showrunner for the television show that he had been newly assigned to, so he replied, “Right,” accepted the business card, and placed it right into his suit pocket.
“My new business cards aren’t ready yet, but if you want, I could give you my old one with the Metro Police Department liaison title.”
“Nah, it’s fine. You’re Souma Sakae-kun, right? Anyway, I wanted to ask, why were you laughing earlier?”
“Because it’s funny. That’s how you try to make him feel better? By saying that everything eventually breaks? You were like pretending to be nice but sounded completely out of it. Well, it’s not like the repair costs will come out of your pocket. You can afford to act generous since it doesn’t really involve you.”
Shitara was probably ten years older than him, but he didn’t get angry and instead asked another question. “Do you get along with Ochiai?”
“Of course not.”
“You know, Ochiai has had his eye on you, Souma. Ever since he heard you were coming to the evening news, he’s been busy coming up with story ideas for you to consider, but you haven’t taken any of them on. Apparently that’s why he suddenly had that outburst.”
“Give me a break,” Sakae snapped. “He’s the one pushing stories on me that I never wanted to work on and bombarding my email with reminders about appointments and proposals. I’m busy enough as it is. I can find my own damn stories for the videos I’m supposed to make.”
“Well, it’s only your second year here. This is the first time you’ve been assigned to a program, right? He’s just worried about you in his own way.”
“I don’t need it. If there’s a kid who refuses to go to school, he’s probably the type to bring letters to the house every day that say, ‘Please come back to school, as soon as possible, okay?’ and be all pleased with himself afterwards. Anyway, he’s only three years older than me; I don’t get why he’s even putting on this good Senpai act. If he has the time to worry about other people, he’s better off using it to fix his own boring videos. The material was pretty decent for the recent stories on maternity taxi services and the blind pianist, but he ruined them with the senseless edits and narration. His skills are goddamn awful.”
“You’re like an endless stream of insults, huh?”
“Did I say anything that was wrong?”
Sakae figured that as a person in a position of power Shitara would say Now, now or That’s uncalled for as a warning to him. He had heard it plenty of times before; however, Shitara said, “No,” and shook his head.
“You’re right, Souma. Even if you account for his age, yeah, Ochiai does lack skills and finesse. That’s probably why he wants to win a newcomer like you over, with all this drive and brilliance. Well, it’s true that when it comes to making videos, I do wonder where his sense and taste lie, but it’s an aspect of the job where I don’t really expect that much from him. However, he’s a great and helpful asset for all sorts of other tasks. He’s never afraid to take on hard shooting schedules or tedious stakeouts.”
Sakae was a little taken aback by the frank and open comments. What the hell was with this guy?
“You insulted him worse than me.”
“No, I think you have me beat.”
“Anyway, should you be making comments so carelessly in front of the new guy at the bottom of the pack?”
“What? Are you going to run to Ochiai and tell him what I said?”
“I couldn’t care less about him.”
“I figured you’d say that. Besides, I feel like you’ll immediately see through my attempts to bluff and smooth things over.”
Shitara was smiling, but Sakae thought that the man was impossible to read. He also had no conclusive evidence that what Shitara had said to him were his true thoughts. Sakae had covered the Metropolitan Police Department for a year as a reporter; he was pretty accustomed to dealing with tricksters, but they could be found in all corners of the world. As far as he had heard, Shitara Sousuke had an excellent reputation at the News Department. He never lost his temper over anything unreasonable, never forced people to perform stupid tricks at staff parties. His instructions and policies were consistent, and he would explain to people anything that they didn’t understand. But it wasn’t like they were merits worth praising. It just meant that most people couldn’t even manage those simple things.
“I watched the piece that you made last year. The one that aired during the Saturday specials,” Shitara said. “The special feature about the country’s national treasures.”
“Oh, that one. It was so boring I wanted to die.”
It was the first video piece that he had made where he was given more than five minutes of air time, but he had been extremely irritated during the filming of the temples and shrines. The people weren’t even famous, but they were arrogant and rude (even more so than Sakae). Not only did they try to screw him over and overcharge on the location fees, but they kept making unreasonable demands like don’t use any lights or it’ll damage the art, or don’t put up tripods or it’ll make tracks in the tatami. The project hadn’t even been his to begin with. The original director had been recruited onto something else, and Sakae just happened to be free, so the producers had pushed it on to him in a rush. The script and the technical crew were already in place, and they asked Sakae to step in as a pinch hitter, but in the end he ignored the script and filmed and edited the piece however he felt like.
“I never thought there’d be someone who’d shoot such crass footage of a Buddha statue known as a national treasure.”
“Nishikido-san was the one behind the camera.”
“And Nishikido-san was the one who said that he was instructed to film it that offensively. He said that the huge fights that you two had about every little detail, like the lighting or composition, were exhausting to deal with.”
“Talkative old fart.”
“Well, it’s pretty unheard-of for a new hire to fight with Nishikido-san. Plus you set the music to Blade Runner.”
“But Buddha statues look pretty freaky, you know? They can have 10 or 20 arms, have heads growing out from their head. Before you get to the reverence and sanctity, just look at it as a statue. It’s insane. Seriously, forget all the preconceptions that it’s old, that’s unusual, that it’s a gift, and just look at it. I can only think that some lunatic made it.”
That was why Sakae had wanted the video to reflect those exact impressions that he felt. When he previewed it to the producers, they had pretty much disapproved of it, but Sakae told them he was busy and wouldn’t redo it, ignoring all their requests afterwards, and before he knew it, it had aired on TV. They probably had no other ideas.
Apparently the conservators had been furious about the piece, saying that it was sacrilegious and that they would never work with them anymore, but Sakae didn’t care.
“They told me that I was free to make it whatever I liked.”
“When new hires are given what is called ‘freedom’ to make what you like, they mean you can take an egg and make it sunny-side up, an omelet, or whatever. But you gave them this avant-garde cuisine that contains maybe some egg extract in it.”
He didn’t care about that either.
“That night after I watched the piece, I dreamed about seeing the Buddha in full, vibrant color. It made me wonder if all those old statues covered in patina had once looked like that when they were first made. I thought that it was amazing, that it must have been the magic of your video… You’re not going to act all humble about it?”
“Do you want me to?” He added a yawn to his question while he was at it. “Anyway, I only dream in black and white.”
“Oh, maybe it’s because you pour everything you have into your work. Did you study filmmaking or editing when you were in school?”
“Not really… But I’ve watched a lot of movies.”
“I see. I love movies too. I go with someone from the Design team to see them pretty often. Want to come with us next time?”
“Don’t think so.”
“I don’t understand the point of spending time with people from work outside of our job responsibilities.”
As he said this, Sakae found it pretty odd that he could hold a conversation this long with someone he had just met—someone who was his boss, even. Either they would lose their temper with him, or Sakae would get fed up and ignore them. He had never been able to volley with most people. Shitara had a light-hearted craftiness about him. At the very least, Sakae knew that Shitara wasn’t as nice of a person that everyone said that he was. Maybe that instinct of his was what prevented Sakae from moving his feet away.
“You say that as if you had people to spend time with outside of work. I bet you don’t even have any friends.”
See? And he says something like that without batting an eye.
Sakae was used to people threatening him back for his insults and arrogance, but somehow this person was different. He didn’t feel any weird bluster from him.
“Well anyway, from now on we’ll be working on the same show together, so I hope to count on you. I’ve been wanting to work with you for a long time now, so I’m very happy to have you here.”
Sakae didn’t have any of those feelings, and he held his tongue, but Shitara looked at him like he was testing him.
“Did you want to follow the cops forever?”
“I figured. You’re not cut out for it. To be frank, it was a huge mistake to send you there.”
True, it wasn’t a fun place to cover, but Sakae felt like Shitara was criticizing his abilities and it irked him.
“You’re not the type who can follow them around all night, bobbing your head as you beg for information, right?”
“I can handle it if it’s my job. It’s not like I have a choice.”
“Yeah, you might think that you’re doing your job seriously, but all the lower managers criticize you for being a smug, cocky brat.”
It made Sakae ill and pissed off that Shitara was right on the money.
“What were they thinking putting someone as sharp and perceptive as you to work with the police? Someone who’s easygoing and looks a little dumb can surprisingly get a lot more stories out of people. The officers will only raise their guards up if they think that the person they’re working with might publish a scandal about them.”
“What about the dumb, easygoing guys who say whatever they think?”
“The ones like you.”
The smile didn’t fade even with the rudeness directed at him. Shitara just said, “We’re having a meeting and introductions at 10 o’clock. It’s at Conference Room A,” and left. Sakae felt a sudden urge to smoke another cigarette, but when he went back to the smoking area, there was a piece of cardboard that covered the hole and a message that said DO NOT USE! in giant red letters.
What pain in the ass.
He took out the business card that he just received and crushed it in his hand. The corners dug into his skin, prickling him.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.