Extra 1: Forgive Me (+ Afterword)
The first time he saw one of Sakae’s video pieces, it wasn’t an exaggeration to say how shocked and gobsmacked that he was by it. There was no part of the video that hadn’t been deliberately thought through—not any of the shots that were taken, nor any of the edits—nothing was done for the sake of some allotted time slot. He watched the 5-minute video finding himself holding his breath over and over again. He had no particular interest in shrines, temples, or Buddha statues, but he couldn’t pull his eyes away. Even if he took into consideration the excellent skill of the camera operator, there was the video direction that had made use of the operator at the location, the editing that didn’t kill the shots that were filmed, and the playfulness that toed up right to the line that kept it under the purview of “news.”
Who was it? Was there someone at the network who could make something like this?
He immediately pulled open the rundown on his computer to look for the director of the segment and found the name Souma Sakae. The section for the editor was blank, which meant that this Souma person had completed the work himself. There was the possibility that the person was an outsourced director from a production company, but he tried asking someone on the staff about it.
“Oh, Souma,” they immediately replied. “He’s a full-time employee. Just hired this year. Right now he’s in charge of covering the Metro Police.”
A new employee? He was surprised again.
“It’s pretty good work for a first debut piece, but maybe it’s a little too original.”
There was no favorable tone when they muttered, “But it’s very much like him,” and he had to ask, “What’s he like?”
The answer was accompanied by a fed-up wave of their hand. “He’s talented alright, but he’s a huge pain to handle. He’s straight-up rude and arrogant.”
He didn’t really care what his personality was like. If the work wasn’t evaluated on its own merits just because the person was a little difficult to handle, he basically thought that it was a waste. When he searched the employee directory on the company intranet, he did find a man named Souma Sakae who had been hired this year. Just from the portrait photo, the expression was sharply eye-catching in its apathy—as if he had discounted everything around him beforehand, that there was nothing in this world that was interesting. However, this guy had made such a fascinating video. He had no memory of the guy during the training for new employees, but he had seen him as a reporter. The voice and manner of speech were just as brusque as his face. He was extremely intrigued, and he thought that the guy was not fit to be a reporter. The guy had none of the social graces that were indispensable to a reporter who needed to dig out stories from people. Rather than perceptiveness, willpower, stamina, or luck, it was more important to have charm and charisma in this line of work—a charmingly voiced Oh, I’m so sorry would let people forgive small transgressions of rule breaking and working around loopholes. This guy was without a doubt the very definition of the opposite.
The guy should be a director. He should make the guy a director—let him play with all the material available, see what he decided to make, take him under his wing. It would be too much of a loss if the guy didn’t get the opportunity. Not for Asahi TV, but for Shitara Sousuke himself.
“Huh? You’re not drinking today, Shitara-san?”
Mutsuto saw him order an Oolong tea and questioned him with curiosity.
“I’m praying for a wish to be granted, so I’ve been laying off the alcohol. I have a guy I want to recruit, but I don’t know if he’ll come and work for me.”
“You’re a producer though. If you ask, won’t people pull some strings for you?”
“Hmm~ I could ask, but it’s something that I like to leave for my last resort.”
“Ah, that has the smell of something unsavory.”
“No, no, I just mean that I can’t use my ‘ask for a favor’ card all that easily. I have to save it for something bigger. That’s why for now I’m pressing my hands together and praying that I get him.”
“I don’t know if the guy you’re trying to recruit will be happy about it, but if you happen to get him, let’s raise a toast to success together.”
In the end, he wasn’t able to get the guy during the fall personnel reassignments, but when he got the unofficial announcement for the following spring, Shitara sent an email to Mutsuto that said, A toast to success.
Shitara was remembering such things from the past. Next to him in the backseat of a taxi, Sakae said nothing, leaning limply against the window. Thanks to an AD who had been in the smoking area and had rushed find him to tell him that a fight was breaking out, he was able to prevent an act of violence by the skin of his teeth, but it had been a while since he had laid eyes on Sakae properly, and Sakae’s eyelids, cheeks, and lips had been so pale, it felt as if the scenery could show through behind him. That was how little life Shitara felt from Sakae.
—I don’t know if the guy you’re trying to recruit will be happy about it…
Mutsuto’s words were from a time when they knew nothing, and nothing had happened yet, but they weighed on Shitara now. He was somehow able to bear it at work, and he heaved a deep sigh. That was when the taxi approached a turn, and Sakae’s head shifted from the window to Shitara’s shoulder.
The body nestled against him was tragically light.
Shitara tried to talk to him, but Sakae was completely unresponsive. Shitara gently reached out with his other hand to stroke Sakae’s hair, but Sakae didn’t even bat it away. When he touched the pale cheek, just a single word slipped out from his lips and disappeared.
He had said “Oku.”
Shitara clenched his fist in the air. Well, damn, he thought. I’m jealous right now. Of Oku who had been such a large existence inside of you that you’ve completely broken down when you lost him.
But this was not the time for that. Even though Sakae was riddled with wounds, Shitara had words that he needed to tell him, even if once again he didn’t know if his wishes would make Sakae happy. Sakae had been weakened to the point that Shitara couldn’t bear to look at him, and there was the high possibility that his words would drive him further into a corner, but for Shitara, there was no other option— He didn’t want to choose. It probably wasn’t for Sakae’s sake. It was for his own sake, and it made him want to laugh. He was trying to impose his own ego on Sakae, but here he had fallen for him. The things that Sakae made, his wickedly sharp wit, the cold glint in his eye like a knife—Sakae was unfriendly and stubborn and sarcastic, his personality was rash and uncooperative, but once he let his guard down, he could be surprisingly vulnerable—Shitara loved everything about him that he could hardly stand it.
The taxi driver helped Shitara hold Sakae up. He had already removed the apartment keys from Sakae’s jeans earlier, and he let them into the apartment building. If Sakae happened to wake up, Shitara decided to tell him that he had made it home with minimal help. Somehow he managed to carry Sakae to the bed, and he took off his shoes for him. He found a chair to pull over next to the bed and plopped himself down in it. He was exhausted. But this wasn’t the time to be tired. He had to wind down the show that he had. He had to start up a new show. And then he had to leave for some place far away. If he pictured all the individual steps that he had to prepare and execute, it was enough to make his head spin.
I want to stop. I want to rest. I want to sleep. I want to forget. But more than anything, I want to be forgiven. By you.
So forgive me for what I’m about to do. Forgive me for wanting to see your work even into the future. Forgive me if that wish of mine is granted. Sakae, please forgive me. I wasn’t able to do anything for you, and I’m still unable to do anything for you, but in exchange, I’ll turn the words that I want you to hear the most into a prayer.
I love you.
The phrase “fill me in” on the cover has two meanings: the request to plug up the emptiness, as in fusaide, and the request for a more detailed account of matters. I liked it because it sounded a little sexy and a little deep, and so I asked to have it included. Speaking of sexy, Takemiya-sensei’s illustrations are teeming with sexiness. The illustrations have a sense of unity with the series while depicting a conflict and a mood that has been different from the other characters up until now. It probably made it more difficult to draw, but she did a great job. Thank you very much! What do you think of this scheming face of ShitaP? He totally has tricks up his sleeve behind a kind smile. Sakae’s variety show days are described in “Side Profiles and Irises,” (so if anyone hasn’t read it yet) I would love it if you could pick it up.
Thank you very much.