Hello again faithful and supportive readers. Enjoy, and there's some additional notes at the end of this.
Without further, ado. Here is:
Afterword: Interlude Part II
"Hey Kurosaki, have you ever had the pleasure of seeing a woman all riled up in a true righteous fury?"
Ushio blinked, startled by the seemingly random question from a Shin-kun absentmindedly staring at his gin. He'd almost not even heard the question with the noisy bar buzzing around them.
But then Shingai continued, "I'm not talking little tantrums from childish talents or anything like that either, I'm talking true, righteous fury."
Kurosaki stared at the other Director, wondering if he'd had a little too much. He shot a suspicious glance towards the bartender, but the man continued to just clean his glasses and gave no indication of having poured Shingai one too many drinks. Kurosaki harrumphed to himself a little and resettled himself on his bar-stool as he thought over the question.
After a moment he replied, "I'm not too sure if it counts, but one of my ex-girlfriends set fire to some of my short film scripts I was working on when I forgot our anniversary. It was such a scary thing to walk in on that I just booked it. Wound up copying my work from an assistant of mine at the time."
Shingai snickered a little. "That's pretty good, but not exactly what I meant."
Kurosaki shook his head, "Alright, give it up, what happened?"
Shingai took a sip of his gin and then gently placed it back down on the bar with a soft clink.
"Kyoko and Ren-kun got into it a couple weeks ago. It was after the last audition for Oguso."
Kurosaki couldn't help but show the surprise he was feeling on his face, "No way, really? What did he do?"
A smirk crossed Shingai's face, "You accurately guessed who was at fault. I must say, I'm quite curious how your commercial with them panned out if you could guess that."
Kurosaki scoffed, "There's no way Kyoko could piss off Tsuruga. He treats her like she's hung all the stars in the sky."
"Hah, yeah, I guess he does."
"So, tell me! What'd he do?" Kurosaki asked, eager for the gossip. This was way more interesting than watching the game on the bar's tv, which was the original reason for why they went out for drinks.
Shingai hummed thoughtfully and tapped a finger on the bar, "I can only guess really. There was something about Tsuruga lying about something. She was angry at him for 'playing her like a fiddle'. Her words."
Kurosaki frowned. "That doesn't quite jive with what I know of Tsuruga's nature."
"Yeah, same here. I know he can be strict on a professional level, but something must have happened between them. There's no other explanation for Kyoko's fury."
Unease whispered through Kurosaki's mind, "She's not of age yet, surely the LME president wouldn't allow…"
Shingai shot him a telling look and Kurosaki trailed off. Shingai spoke again, "I know we're curious about the two of them, and truly, Tsuruga is at his most entertaining when around her. But... as much as I'm a fan of how they are around each other, I'm not a fan of him hurting her like that."
"Can't say I am either." Kurosaki agreed. They had truly phenomenal chemistry together, and he'd noticed that Tsuruga often gave Kyoko preferential treatment. In a professional setting, it seemed almost like he treated her like his protege. But how they were outside of that type of setting proved that something more was going on. He silently cursed how tight-lipped and professional those two were.
"How long exactly have they known each other?" He asked Shingai.
"Couldn't say for sure. Kyoko's been in the business for, I think, about a year and a half now. But I know they knew each other before they even met on my Ring-Doh set. It was obvious then that Tsuruga treated her different from how he treated everyone else."
Kurosaki felt a faint surprise at how closely Shingai's thoughts aligned with his. He knew Shingai doing Ring-Doh had at least been a year and a half ago. Curious, curious indeed, he thought to himself.
"So was this, ah, fight, something you've never seen before?"
Shingai shrugged, "I actually didn't see much of it, Yashiro hurried me away and was exceptional at smoothing everything over. And she and Tsuruga were back to being as close as ever at the next table-read. I'm guessing Tsuruga had to grovel something fierce to get that to happen though."
"Huh," Kurosaki muttered. That did mesh with Tsuruga's behavior at the commercial shoot. He'd been excessively considerate then, and the same was true of when he and Shingai had spied on those two youngsters at Narisawa's a few months ago too.
Shingai dragged him from his thoughts again by draining the rest of his gin in one go. Kurosaki's eyebrows twitched up, amused as Shingai called for a refill.
"Planning on letting loose like you used to in college?" He teased.
Shingai bumped his shoulder a little roughly, "Hush. I'm going on location next week, let me have my vices before I have to be one hundred percent professional."
Kurosaki snickered, "And this is why I stick to commercials these days."
Shingai shot him a deadpan stare, "And yet, I'm still ahead of you in awards."
Kurosaki huffed a little sulkily. But, it was true. The two fell into an easy silence as they returned their attention to the game on the television.
"Kurosaki," Shingai murmured a little later and Ushio glanced over at him, curious at the tone of voice.
Shingai appeared absorbed in his gin again and spoke after a moment, "I can't seem to wrap my head around this, and I know you know how good she's gotten."
Kurosaki readily agreed, knowing Shingai was still talking of Kyoko. Shingai continued.
"We had been so impressed with her auditions, and have remained impressed too, but there's just something about that moment…"
A faint memory of a supremely confident Kyoko crossing her legs as she leveled an even stare at a hopelessly enraptured Tsuruga Ren on Kurosaki's set surfaced in Kurosaki's brain. He couldn't help but smile.
"Oh I get it, believe me, I do."
Shingai sighed, staring off into space, "She was magnificent."
Kurosaki shook his head, chuckled a little, and gave his friend a comforting pat on the shoulder, "That she is, that she is."
He then studied Shingai a bit more, who seemed to still be deep in thought. It made Kurosaki wonder, "Has this never happened to you before?"
Shingai blinked and shot him a confused look. Kurosaki elaborated.
"Getting distracted by your talent. Has it never happened to you before?"
Shingai scoffed and waved his hand, near knocking Kurosaki in the face before Kurosaki dodged the unwieldy limb by leaning back in his stool, "I'm not distracted. I'm simply impressed that someone so young could express their anger so well."
Kurosaki rolled his eyes and took a sip of his drink. "Whatever you say man."
Shingai's gaze narrowed on him, "I'm telling the truth!"
Kurosaki held his hands up in surrender, "Hey man, I'm not judging."
Shingai scowled, "I've been just as impressed at times with other talent."
Kurosaki couldn't help but stare him down, challenging that, "Oh yeah, who? Can you name them?"
Shingai opened his mouth, likely about to rattle off some names before he realized Kurosaki's challenging stare, and he shut his mouth again, looking away and muttering to himself about upstart kouhais.
Kurosaki let out a loud laugh before he nudged Shingai's shoulder with his own, "Like I said man, I'm not judging. It happens."
"Bet ya Kyoko's gonna win some recognition this year though. Wanna take me up on that?" Kurosaki shot Shingai a wicked smirk that had Shingai's gaze narrowing on him in suspicion.
"Not on your life. You've won one too many bets from me recently."
"Heh. Yeah, alright, you got me." Kurosaki snickered a little as Shingai shoved his shoulder again.
This is simply an interlude because I've been frustrated with how the rest of this story is flowing. I'm officially ending 'Of Strength and Grace' here. How I've structured what I've been writing recently is not meshing well with how this story flows. I'm not sure if it's because of how Spring at Mt. Oguso scenes have been included or what, but trying to keep it within the framework of this story has been stumping me.
I've mentioned this before, but, a lot of what was written here was thought up back in April, and flowed really well together, so I went ahead and pulled it together. That means that what was written in 'Of Strength and Grace' feels very transitional to me, and a bit experimental since this and 'Five Times...'were the very first things I'd written in years. As it stands now, I'd go back and change several mistakes I made early on so it'd be less funky. But I digress.
The sequel to this is Whichever Way the River Flows. What I've written for it feels more philosophical than what the two previous stories have felt like to me. It feels like the drama goes a little deeper, and it's also not as comedic. But, take that with a grain of salt because I am by no means a writer by trade and even it felt that way to me, it might feel different to others.
The sequel to this will be posted right after this is, so do look for it.
As always, I seriously appreciate all my reviewers, Lennie, Michiyo, Kalmaegi and other guest reviewers I can't respond to, thank you so much for the reviews you've left, they're seriously appreciated. I hope you like Whichever Way the River Flows as much as you do this work.
Vaeneri hope this answers your questions. :)