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Chapter 23

Four boys could be seen sitting and hydrating themselves within a large room, a huge mirror before them. They had been practising not too long ago but decided to take a break from the rigorous activity. These four young men made up the pop idol group "Yume".

"I can't believe that we'll be the main dish at a concert from now." The tallest with bright red hair drawled as he chugged down his water. He had sparkling black eyes and was called "Hoshi" ―the Main Vocalist of the group.

"I know right?" another spoke up. He had a pale purple hair colour (which of course was the product of hair bleach and colouring) and vibrant brown eyes. He was just a head shorter than Hoshi and was the Main Dancer ―"Sai".

"And ~" the third said, dragging out the word far too much. He was "Kin", their rapper. He had coloured blue hair and dull eyes. "Two groups called "Catal Rhythm" and "N.O.T.E" will be opening."

"Oh." The fourth said, unlocking his phone screen. "Who are they? Where'd they come from?" He was their leader ― "Eiji" who had curly black hair and mischievous grey eyes. There was an irritable tone to his voice, but his eyes said otherwise.

"Why would I know that?" Kin asked with an eye roll.

"Catal Rhythm débuted last year with a MV titled "Hello" which wasn't too bad. But their first live was at Ai-Fest this year." Sai replied. The other three looked at him questioningly.

"Dude, we were touring last year up until late January. How'd you know all this?"

"Because…" he started for dramatic effect, "…apparently, they caused quite a stir and my Twitter kept blowing up with them and other groups."

"Hmm? How so?" At this, Kin seemed interested. Meanwhile, Eiji had turned his back and went onto his phone. He plugged in his earphones, seeming to tune out the others in the room.

"One, they don't show all of their faces. They wear cool laser-cut masks, designed by Kise Ruiko ―may I add―making it hard to see their eyes. And on one episode of Idol Trend, in the Random Dance Section, they were supposed to dance to Starz's "Shy Boy" and refused to do it."

"Oh!" Kin said with a momentary look of surprise. "Feisty, much."

"And what about the other one?" Hoshi asked.

"N.O.T.E is from Cinq and they débuted a year before Catal Rhythm. They're pretty…" Sai trailed off with a worried look, "…perfect."

Eiji scoffed. "Anything from Cinq is like that. In front of the camera, they're like perfect angels that descended from heaven but off it, they're nothing but little demons that crawled up out of hell just to terrorize us all." He rolled his eyes with utter disgust. "I mean, look at "Guardian". I'm sure as hell you haven't forgotten what they did to us." The raven-haired young man seemed extremely pissed. When he caught the look of shock from everyone, he quickly changed the subject, "Catal Rhythm are from Aihara, right? Since you say they débuted at Ai-Fest."

"Yeah."

There was a sudden silence that made all four look at each other in horrific realization.

"Oh shit."

xxxx

The bell sounded throughout the entire school, signalling the end of the school day. Most students quickly packed their bags and darted out of their classrooms, glad to be free until the next day. Takao, on the other hand, he slowly packed his things, seeming a bit absentminded. When he was done, he found himself sitting back in his chair and taking out his phone. He had taken pictures of their packages so that he wouldn't need to walk around with the papers at school. While he was happy with the radio guesting this weekend, he had a bad feeling about the concert. Although he was glad that he'll get to see "Yume" up close (yes, he was a Yume fanboy), when Kiyotaka told them that they'd be opening for the concert, followed by another group called "N.O.T.E" from Cinq, his spirit sank.

Takao knew he was probably judging the boys too quickly, but any group from Cinq Productions always brought trouble for everyone else. In a sense, they reminded him of Kirisaki Daiichi, anyone who performs with groups from Cinq are always left grumbling and miserable.

But, that could just be his paranoid self talking.

"Kazunari-kun what's wrong?"

He was jolted out of his thoughts by a feminine voice. He looked up to see Aika, who tilted her head upon seeing how he looked.

"Ah Ai-chan…I'm fine, I suppose." He replied.

She sighed and pulled up a chair beside him. "Seriously? What's up?"

"Well…" he started, averting his eyes from her piercing gaze. "We'll be performing in Kyoto a month from now."

"And…?"

"I have a terribly bad feeling about it." He sighed and shrunk in his seat. "N.O.T.E is from Cinq and I'm worried…"

"Oh…the "Cinq Curse". It's pretty infamous." Aika nodded in understanding. "I can see why you're having that feeling. I would be on my guard as well."

"See!"

"However," she continued, her tone not the least moved. "You may be paranoid. It could all be a really sad coincidence that everywhere groups from Cinq performs, something bad happens to another group there." She shrugged her shoulders. "You can't be too sure until it happens to you and you have evidence that they're evil or something."

Takao laughed. "That's a pretty terrible coincidence though."

"Really." She nodded. "But, it wouldn't kill you to be on your guard, okay?"

"Yeah, I know." Takao sighed as he got up and stretched. "I was just surprised that Kiyotaka-san nor anyone for that matter believed in the "Cinq Curse"."

"They're adults." Aika gave out. "Add to that, it never happened to any of Aihara's idols, so…" she purposely trailed off as she knew Takao knew how the sentence would end.

"Really?" Takao asked.

"Yeah, because President Aihara can't stand Cinq's president so he makes sure to keep his idols far from the "madman" as Ai-Prez would call him."

Takao blanched. "Then why are we…?"

Aika shrugged. "N.O.T.E could have been a late addition to the line-up after you were added." She said. "Think about it, Sato-san wouldn't even think about getting you on that stage knowing full well that N.O.T.E or anyone from Cinq was going to be there."

"Hmm…that makes sense." He nodded in agreement. He then sighed in distress, "And we had to end up in that trap, huh? How terrible is our luck?"

Aika laughed at Takao's expression. "Don't worry too much! Just go out there and do your best! I'll be cheering you on!"

"Haa…" Takao grinned as both he and Aika stood up and motioned for the door. "Thanks Ai-chan!" he chirped as he slung an arm over her shoulder, the two walking down the hallway.

"You're going to perform in Kyoto!?" a unified shriek echoed throughout the whole gym.

"Plus, performing at the same concert as "Yume"!? That's good stuff! How'd you manage to pull that off?!" Izuki added, his grey eyes wide with surprise. At the moment, it was after school and the Seirin basketball club was taking a break from their intense training. The Light and Shadow duo decided that they could tell their supportive friends about their upcoming live.

Kuroko and Kagami answered, "We were told yesterday."

Furihata then asked, "Who are "Yume" anyway? Are they that good?"

"Apparently." Kuroko replied in his usual deadpan. "Kise-kun and Takao-kun went into hysterics yesterday."

Izuki, Koganei and Tsuchida let out shocked gasps at Kuroko's lacklustre response. Although it's a usual thing for the light-blue haired teen to lack expression, whenever something is serious, there was always something in his voice. But as an idol, they were surprised that he didn't know who Yume were.

"They are one of the top-ranked idol groups in the country!" Koganei said with too much enthusiasm. "How could you not know them!?"

Kuroko stared at his Senpai with blank eyes like normal. "I'm not so bad." He shrugged. "When it comes onto anything in pop music, Kasamatsu-senpai is clueless."

"Seriously?"

Kuroko nodded. "He's a rock fan."

"No…" they (except Kagami) gasped out. Images were running through their heads as to what Kasamatsu would look like at a rock concert and soon, everyone was bursting out laughing. They just couldn't see it.

"On another topic, who're "N.O.T.E"?" Hyuuga asked. "They're performing after you guys, right?"

"Yeah." Kagami answered. "I have no idea who N.O.T.E are, nor do I care." He shrugged. "I'm prepared to go, perform and leave." Kuroko nodded in agreement beside him.

"Well, rest assured, we'll be there." Hyuuga grinned. "And we'll video for Kiyoshi to see as well."

"Thanks Senpai."

Over by Kaijou, Kise seemed a bit absentminded.

As he dribbled the ball across the court, he had a look of aimlessness and was constantly missing his passes and shots. Everyone around him wondered if the blond was silently ailing, but Kasamatsu knew better. He knew the blond wasn't tired, and he wasn't sick either but there was something terribly off about the small forward. Seeing his odd behaviour, Coach Takeuchi took him off the court, thinking that he may need a break or something.

So, now, Kise sat on the stage and stared at the players scampering about on the court. His mind travelled to their first radio guesting this weekend and to say that the blond was happy would be an understatement. Still, that wasn't the reason for him to be zoning out. It was the live performance.

Sure, Kise wanted to perform all over Japan (and the world) on numerous stages, but this is one stage he didn't want to be on. Like Takao, he may be judging the boys from N.O.T.E too quickly, but as the saying goes "the chip doesn't fall too far from the block".

N.O.T.E was from Cinq, and that is a reason in of itself for him to be so uneasy. He remembered when he tagged along with Ruiko to a concert because he didn't get tickets and she was the designer for "Guardian", one of the groups that were headlining. And being herself, Ruiko dressed all the young men (with Kise "claiming" to be assisting). But the shocking part was that "Yume", who were also asked to perform by the organizers, didn't even step foot on the stage just because the assholes from Guardian felt "upset" and "dissatisfied" that Yume was going to perform before them. So, being from a rich and powerful company such as Cinq, Yume were told that they weren't going to be performing.

Of course, the boys were livid, seeing that they were already at the venue and were in their dressing room preparing to go out. A nasty fight nearly broke out, but luckily, the personnel and staff quelled it before it actually got physical.

But at that moment, Kise had never felt so pissed before in his life.

He accompanied his sister just so that he could see Yume perform and that happened? He was tempted to use his Martial Arts on the Guardian boys that time, but Ruiko would have killed him if he even moved a muscle.

It was later that day that he also found out about the so-called "Cinq Curse" which wasn't a curse but sabotage. Ruiko told him all about the dark side of the idols from that company. One relief Kise got from it was that not all other idols were sabotaged by Cinq groups. Ruiko explained that it'll be your awful bad luck to end up on their hate list.

"Maa, I guess I should focus on practice." He mumbled as he got up and brushed off what little dust that was on his shorts. He realized that seething over this won't make the situation better. But as soon as he was ready to head back in, he saw the players head off the court to take a break. "Mou~" he whined.

"Kise." Kasamatsu called out to him as he walked over to him. "What's wrong with you today?"

"Nothing ―" he broke off as he saw the look Kasamatsu gave him. "―I was just thinking on the concert that's all."

"Hmm…" Kasamatsu said as he took a seat beside him. "…and what else?"

"Eh?"

"If you were thinking only about the concert, you wouldn't be looking like you're seriously mulling over something." He looked up from his water bottle to the blond ace, "You're an open book to me, you know?"

Kise sighed and gave up. Leave it to Leader-sama to be so damn perceptive. Plus, he lived with Kasamatsu so he wouldn't be able to escape. "It's just that N.O.T.E will be performing as well."

"And…?"

"They're from Cinq, Senpai. And the idols from that company have a tendency to sabotage others." Kise had to explain for the captain, given how the older male was basically ignorant when it came onto anything related to "idols" and pop music.

Kasamatsu did a spit-take and promptly choked on his water while Kise pat his back in hopes of getting the water out. When Kasamatsu recovered all he could say was, "Seriously?!"

"Yes." Kise drawled. "I saw it happen with my own two eyes and Onee-chan told me about the rest that she's seen."

"Damn." The captain said as he raked a hand through his hair. He took two more mouthfuls of water before speaking, "So, you're saying that you're worried that we'll be sabotaged, right?"

"Yeah."

Kasamatsu sighed deeply for the umpteenth time. "But, there's a chance that we won't be. I mean, they've never met us and vice-versa. For what reason could they possibly want to ruin us?"

"Well…" Kise trailed off because he knew that Kasamatsu was right.

"Plus, we aren't worth ruining because we don't have a huge fanbase. We just started."

Kise blanched. "Senpai, did you just…?"

Kasamatsu laughed and ruffled the blond's hair and said, "Isn't it the truth?" before sauntering off to Moriyama and the others who were busying harassing Hayakawa.

xxxx

When basketball practice was over, Kise and Kasamatsu made their way to the Complex while the other three boys were picked up by Kenji. By the time the Kaijou boys made it to the Complex, they spotted the other débuted groups as well; however, they looked like they were run over by a truck.

A chuckle escaped their lips, as more than likely; it was due to them having to join a sports team. With the new school year meant that tournaments are coming up, which means intensive training. And as the weeks go by, it's only going to get worse.

The captain and ace nearly laughed out loud at their misfortune.

The two made their way to the practice room and when settled, they only took off their blazers and shirts, staying in their uniform pants and a t-shirt. Luckily, they didn't have any homework, so all the two did was listen to music until the others arrived.

"So Senpai, how's it going with Reiko-nee?" Kise asked, his tone was serious, but his face had a playful look to it and poor Kasamatsu was wondering how the hell he was pulling that off.

"We're friends and we text each other. What more do you want?" the captain replied.

Kise grinned. "I'm just here waiting on the day you'll announce that you're dating her."

Kasamatsu laughed. He found that denying and countering the blond will probably sink him deeper. "You sure are adamant about this."

"You're made for each other." Kise winked at him. "And hurry up before someone snatches her away."

This time, Kasamatsu howled with laughter. "Someone will snatch her!? What?!" he hugged his stomach and doubled over. "With such a family like yours, who ―who will snatch her away?!" he rolled onto his back and continued with his laughing fit. But unbeknownst to him, Kise was videoing his every smile.

"You're right about that. But you may never know." Kise shrugged when he was satisfied. "You know, your smiles are beautiful, Senpai." He then mumbled. "Maybe I should send this to Reiko-nee."

Kasamatsu stopped. "Kise, you're creeping me out. Stop."

"Mah, it's the truth." The ace nodded while fiddling with his phone. He was actually sending the video to his sister. "You should smile more often." He then added, "Can you smile again so that I can get a picture?"

Kasamatsu inched away from Kise in fear. Seeing how his captain was seemingly avoiding him, Kise made a lunge for the older male, while screeching, "Senpai! It's just one picture! Come on!"

"Stay back!" Kasamatsu added his own screech. "Stay the hell away from me!"

At this moment, the others had finally arrived but what they stumbled upon left them confused. Kise was motioning towards Kasamatsu, who was standing atop the table with a mop stick, trying his best to repel the blond. Usually, the captain would kick the blond into oblivion, so this was totally shocking.

"Uh, Yu-chan, Ryou-chan," Takao started. "What's happening?"

"Kise is a creep!"

"I'm not!" the blond countered. "I just told Senpai to smile more often and I wanted to take a picture of his smiles and he's backing from me like I'm a disease!"

The other three looked at each other.

"Well, a male hounding another male just for his smiles is considered a bit creepy." Kagami said in-a-matter-of-factly. "Hell, anyone hounding another person for their smiles is creepy."

"Whose side are you on Kagamicchi!?" Kise whined, almost throwing his phone at the redhead to shut him up.

"Logic." He deadpanned.

"You…" Kise snarled. "And ―"

"Boys~!" Came a sing-song voice from the door. "Are you ready~!?"

Immediately, the five froze and stared at the grinning light-blue haired man standing in the door jam. "Let's get down to business, ne?"

"Hai…" they groaned out.

xxxx

"Man, I'm so exhausted." Amari said as he leaned on Hirose for support, nearly causing the two to tumble over.

"Joining a sports team will be the death of me." Another member said. He was Yukari, a vocalist of their group. He was as tall as Nakajima but had curly black hair and bright eyes.

"I don't think I can survive any longer." Another sighed. As they walked down the hallway, they heard the booming vibrations of music.

"Who're practicing still?" Amari asked as he walked towards the little window. When he peered through and saw Catal Rhythm going through their routine, he let out a gasp. "How are they still moving?!"

Nakajima pushed him away from the window to see inside and he too, was left in shock.

"I can't even walk properly and yet…" Hirose groaned out. "Now I believe Mars-san, they really have superpowers or something."

The seven boys ended up cracking open the door a little to see better inside and watched the five boys danced to the best of their abilities. Hikaru stood in front of them with focused eyes, ensuring that they were matching the beat with their movements, and dancing in-sync.

D:FI were appalled at their energy, and couldn't do anything but gape. Soon, the music stopped and the five collapsed onto the floor, panting for air.

"Their routine is amazing." Hirose breathed out. "Isn't that going to be awful to perform live? They look like they're dying!"

"I know right?" Amari agreed. "But they do have Kuroko-san as their choreographer. If even Diverse is brought to tears by that man, I don't see why they won't die after a session."

Just then, the door swung open and all seven tumbled to the floor before Catal Rhythm. There was a momentary silence before the five boys only briefly greeted them and dashed out, bolting down the hall with their school bags slung across their shoulders.

"Boys! No running in the hallway! Walk!" Hikaru barked after them, but his words fell on deaf ears. Their figures disappeared down the hall and the older Kuroko could only heave a sigh. "Teenagers."

"Uh, Kuroko-san, what's going on?" Amari asked as the group got up onto their feet.

"Oh. Amari-kun," Hikaru greeted, he totally didn't see them sprawled out on the floor earlier. "Apparently, Kenji phoned and told them that he'll treat them to dinner."

"Why can't Yamacchan treat us to dinner too?" Nakajima grumbled.

Hikaru chuckled, "Kenji just feels sorry for them and thinks that they deserve to be treated."

"Man, I'd be excited too." Hirose smiled and rubbed his tummy. "Now I'm getting hungry." He mumbled. "I wonder if I can tag along."

Hikaru laughed. "Oh hell no. Kise-kun and Kagami-kun can eat for the entire world; Kenji-kun will surely chase you away."

"Seriously?"

Hikaru nodded. "Those boys are monsters in more ways than one."

xxxx

"Hoo!" Takao said as he collapsed into the sofa. "I'm beat!"

"Aren't we all?" Kagami droned lazily as he took off his blazer jacket. Since Kenji had treated them to dinner, the boys had just arrived back home.

"Haa…" Kise sighed, throwing his head back and looking up at the ceiling. "…Kenji should treat us more often."

"I know right?" Takao agreed. "I could eat like that on a daily basis."

"That's not going to happen." Kuroko sighed. "Kenji-san will want us to follow the diet he gave us. Which of course, we're not following."

The four paused and exchanged glances. "He gave us a diet?!"

"Yes. It was posted on the fridge."

"Oh, that." Kagami said, "I thought it was just some scribbling and threw it out."

Kasamatsu shrugged. "What Kenji-san doesn't know won't hurt us. All we have to do is keep him out of our kitchen and we're safe."

"Well, enough of that," Takao perked with a grin. "Yu-chan, it's time you start our next guitar lesson!"

"Oh, right." Kasamatsu nodded. "Remind me to tell Dad to drop off the guitars tomorrow."

"I will!"

Kise groaned out. "I need a drum set too." His face then took on a look of horror which stunned the others present. "Shit! I forgot that Makicchi gave me some drum notations to transcribe! He's going to kill me if I don't do it!" With that, the blond sprang up and bolted towards their bedroom.

Kuroko nodded to himself and messaged his father. He shared the same sentiment as Kise, realizing that he'll need a keyboard to practice with.

Focusing back to the issue at hand, Kasamatsu turned to Takao and Kagami and said, "Let's begin."


Thank you for reading!