Hello fanfiction aficionados,
It has been quite a few years since I've posted anything on this site. I'm certain I've gone through at least 4-5 other fandoms in the meantime without the obsession-driven obligation to project my own desires onto the characters and universe. But Skip Beat is too amazing of a story to pass up!
That, and I really need a constructive way to procrastinate from grad school.
Hope this fanfic tickles your fancy! I've already written a little under half of it, and it's 14 chapters already. I'll be posting one chapter every Monday from now on!
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players
- William Shakespeare, As You Like It
The string quartet's music blended with the melody of female laughter as it drifted upstairs. Male voices joined in on the joke with raucous baritone, and champagne flutes clinked together. The engagement party seemed to be in full swing.
A slender hand cloaked in a black lace glove came to rest on the balcony railing. The hand's owner glanced down from the gloom upstairs to the brightly lit hallway below. The young woman would have been beautiful in her dark, lace-trimmed organza dress had her expression not been one of such cold imperiousness.
She took the marble stairs slowly, hand gliding down the bannister.
She had chosen to wear all black because it was meant as a mockery of her mother and sister – to wear the color of death and mourning on what ought to be a joyous occasion. She had also chosen to arrive late, blatantly disrespectful to infuriate them both.
Continuing her languid pace, she approached the doorway of the dining room, which spilled its bright light into the empty hall. The music and laughter grew louder as she drew closer. Just before entering, she raised one hand to tuck her short black hair behind her right ear.
'Let them see the scar. Let her see the scar.'
One step into the room. Two steps… Head held high and back perfectly straight, the young woman walked the length of the table, and in her wake, the lively conversation and laughter slowly died and decayed into outright dismay and repulsed, gossiping murmurs. Off to one side of the room, even the string quartet fizzled out.
She could scarcely suppress her malicious grin. Perfect.
As she took her seat near the head of the table with the rest of her family, she ignored the infuriated glares from her mother and sister. A servant set a plate of food in front of her, and after settling her napkin on her lap, she began to eat her meal in small, elegant bites. A chill had permeated the room with her mere presence, and she relished it.
Perfect… Ruin her happiness. Ruin everything that she holds dear—
"May I propose a toast?" A deep, confident voice cut through the oppressive atmosphere like a ray of sunshine in a stormy sky.
Annoyed, the young woman didn't bother glancing up but instead continued eating. She knew it was her sister's meddling fiancé. He was always ruining her plans to taint her sister's perfect life.
Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the tall, handsome young man who stood with a champagne glass in one hand. "A toast to my future parents' health and long life! May fate return to them the… kindness they have dealt to others in the past."
The rest of the guests, eager to shed the unbearable dread that had settled over the dinner party, heartily agreed and raised their glasses.
The fools. That was a thinly veiled threat if she'd ever heard one. Though, she was thoroughly amused. Her suspicions of Tachibana-sensei were increasing by the week.
Amidst the commotion and return to conversation, she felt a sharp elbow jab her side.
"What the hell do you think you are doing?"
The young woman stopped eating and turned to address her sister.
"What ever could you mean, dear Onee-sama? I'm enjoying the celebration of your engagement so much." She made a point to tilt her head ever so slightly so her sister could catch a glimpse of the ugly scar that marred the right side of her face. The barest hints of a vindictive smirk graced the younger woman's lips as she watched Misao recoil.
Before her older sister could gather herself and retort, the deep voice interrupted again. "So nice of you to finally join us… Mio-san."
Hongo Mio pointedly broke eye contact with her sister to stare icily at her future brother-in-law and current homeroom teacher, Tachibana Katsuki. The scarred woman half-heartedly feigned offense.
"I would not have missed this occasion for the world, Tachibana-sensei," Mio said as she slowly picked up her dinner knife. Languidly, she ran a black-gloved thumb up the sharp blade. "With a sister who is so exquisitely perfect, how could you possibly doubt my steadfast love for her?"
Katsuki, refusing to be intimidated, leaned forward across the table. His handsome face tilted to the side, and his broad shoulders seemed even more so in his navy suit jacket. A slow smile, a shade darker than usual, slid across his masculine features.
"Is that so?"
"Of course." Mio turned to meet Misao's glare with a cold smile, but her words were directed pointedly at her sister's fiancé. "That is why I too believe that fate will return to her the kindness she has dealt to others in the past."
Whether at her implication, Katsuki became flustered or retained his composure would remain to be seen. At that moment, a loud outburst turned Katsuki and Misao's attention to the middle of the dining table. Mio spared the interruption a glance.
"Mimori has had it, Sho-chan! Stop looking at her! Mimori is your fiancé!" A shrill young woman threw her dinner napkin onto her plate and ran from the dining room with tears in her eyes. Her long black hair trailed behind her like a cloak. The string quartet once again stuttered to a halt, unsure if they ought to fill the awkward silence.
"Looks like there's trouble in paradise for the Fuwa's," Misao mused with a quirked eyebrow.
No one but Katsuki caught the annoyed tic that crossed Mio's face before she hastily smoothed her expression into one of apathy.
The offending fiancé, a tall rakish man with bleached blonde hair and too many ear piercings to be entirely proper, grumbled and crossed his arms over his chest before sneaking another glance in Mio's direction. This time it was Misao who caught Katsuki frown uncharacteristically before reacting properly with polite indifference.
Icily, Mio glared back at the man farther down the table.
That idiot was going to ruin everything.
Hearing her mother call her name, the young woman snapped out of her thoughts and turned, but did not respond. She saw a flash of indignation pass over her mother's face.
The Hongo matron narrowed her eyes and said pointedly, "Mio, why don't you go show Nanokura Mimori-san to a private room."
It was not a suggestion.
Mio returned her mother's steely gaze with her own. It was such an obvious punishment for her earlier behavior, to force her to do a servant's job. Mio looked away and for a beat, didn't move, just to further infuriate her mother. Then she gracefully stood and walked silently from the room, head held high.
Nanokura Mimori had been born into a wealthy family. If a teenage girl were to walk into any bookstore in any train station in Japan and perused any fashion or entertainment magazine, there was an 85% chance that her father owned its publishing company.
Mimori was also famous in her own right. She had been a fashion idol since middle school, and a gravure idol since her figure had finished developing in high school. Girls her age would fall over themselves to get her autograph – and boys too.
Well, mostly boys. But not one boy…
Crouching in the dark bedroom and facing the corner, Mimori sniffled. In a moment of weakness, she almost regretted getting engaged to Fuwa Sho… with his strong arms and manly hands and rough personality that made her heart swoon… until better judgment overcame her, and her self-pity boiled over into angry resentment at that worthless peasant.
Grimacing in distaste, Mimori mentally railed against the stupid beggar-girl— who must be a monster or an alien because she had basically transformed into another person at a moment's notice, Mimori was so shocked, and honestly, that girl wasn't pretty at all, well maybe a little, in a scary kind of way, but Mimori would never admit that…
Lost in her own thoughts, the preoccupied heiress didn't notice the shadowy figure approaching her from behind. Soundless steps padded expertly along the glossy hardwood floor. A black-gloved hand stretched out.
The door to the room burst open, and Mimori whirled around. Speak of the devil, the worthless peasant stood in the doorway, breathless, and… Who was this man wearing a ski mask? Oh Kami-sama! Everyone was right! She was going to get kidnapped!
Before Mimori could scream, an iron grip clamped over her mouth. Mimori struggled against the masked man, who mere moments before, had intently been creeping up behind her. Desperate, she tried clawing his hand away and biting his black-gloved fingers.
No! If she got kidnapped, then who would save Sho-chan from the wiles of this stupid peasant?
"Nanokura-san. Don't move."
At the steely tone, Mimori froze on instinct and looked up to see the barrel of a silenced pistol. The young woman who had been the proud, aloof Hongo Mio only minutes before was now a determined and well-trained professional. She kept her gun fixed on Mimori's attacker.
"You. Don't move either," she commanded, her golden-brown eyes glinting with an unbreakable fierceness. She inched her way toward them, keeping the gun aimed at the kidnapper's body.
The masked man simply chuckled and pulled Mimori to shield more of himself. Mimori looked up, frightened, and caught sight of the man's night vision goggles that glinted in the scarce light.
"Agent M, I presume," he said mockingly. "Though, I am shocked that Agent T would let his precious kouhai this close to danger without him."
Mimori noticed her assailant's other hand sliding slowly behind his back. She shook her head vigorously to warn the peasant and let out a muffled scream.
Before Mimori could comprehend, several things happened, seemingly at once.
Her attacker pulled a gun out, the female agent loosed two shots, and the man dropped his gun to the floor with a loud clatter and a slew of obscenities. His hold on Mimori slackened. Taking advantage of her opponent's distraction, Agent M, organza dress and all, crossed the room in an instant and with a flying leap, spun and kicked the man in the jaw. Mimori dropped to the ground.
In horrified awe, Mimori watched the woman approach the attempted kidnapper. Goggles somehow still attached to his face, he was groaning and trying to rise shakily to his knees. The young agent gave him a cold glance, then raised her pistol.
In one fluid movement, she brought the butt of the gun down on the base of his skull with a sharp crack.
"Hmph," the woman scoffed as the kidnapper crumpled to the ground. "T-san shouldn't have to waste his time on low-level guys like you."
Dusting off the hem of her dress, Agent M was about to check the perpetrator for weapons and secure him when she noticed Mimori still lying shocked on the floor. With a heavy sigh, the undercover agent offered the poor girl a reluctant hand.
Coming to her senses, Mimori batted away the hand angrily.
"What are you doing here, peasant?" the magazine heiress sniped, trying to smooth her hair and rumpled dress.
The "peasant" in question gave her an exasperated, bitter frown. Before she had a chance to retort, the heiress had shoved past her with a gasp and an elated shout of "Sho-chan!"
Fuwa Sho was still trying to pry Mimori off of his arm and address Agent M when 'Katsuki' strode past them both and into the dark bedroom.
The young woman gave a brief salute and stated briskly, "Agent M reporting. One assailant subdued. Fractured mandible and possible concussion. Target is secure and -"
"Sho-chan must have been so worried! Mimori almost died!" Mimori's shrill voice faded as their backup ushered the two civilians downstairs.
"…and lively," Agent M ended with a grimace of distaste.
The tall, dark-haired man suppressed a laugh. His eyes twinkled with pride at her handiwork. "Good job, M-san. Let's wrap this up and get back to HQ."
"Not …so fast…"
Both agents whirled around. The masked man was rising shakily to his feet, gun in hand. The partners raised their hands slowly and backed away.
Agent T muttered to M, "You didn't search him for weapons and tie him up?"
M mumbled back, "I was about to, but then Nanokura-san and that stupid Sho–"
Their backs hit the wall of the bedroom. Agent M was closest to the door, and she felt something small and plastic digging into her back. She made brief eye contact with Agent T, and he gave her a nearly imperceptible nod.
The failed kidnapper was continuing forward unsteadily, his gun shifting between the two agents.
"Now! You are going to give me the Nanokura girl and let us leave, and I won't have to kill anyone…"
Agent T waited until the man's gun was pointed at him, then tapped his foot on the ground. At his cue, Agent M flicked on the room's light switch as she dove to the floor.
Blinded by the sudden light, especially with the night vision goggles still affixed to his face, the assailant yelled and shot twice in the taller operative's direction. Distracted by his burning retinas, the masked man failed to see the fist that made hard contact with his nose, adding to his facial fracture count and knocking him out cold.
Again, I'll be updating every Monday (unless studies, work, or life events take precedence). Please leave a fave and review! It would mean the world to me. :)