Fuuko licked her lip nervously as she fitted in her costume. She was getting edgy and Kaneko, the makeup artist was complaining how her fidgeting was affecting the latter's work. It was premiere night and Kabuki Hall was packed to the rafters with students, mostly female, who were itching to see the play. Mostly to see Mikagami, Fuuko thought with a smile. He never failed to draw an audience, whatever situation he may be in. Tokiya looked absolutely dashing in his royal blue tailcoat when he wore it for dress rehearsal. It enhanced his handsome features, matching the blue of his eyes and the glimmer of his long hair. Although he would wear a mask for the most of the play, he still exuded that charisma he always seemed to have. Cool, confident and always in control...except when it came to the kissing part, Fuuko laughed to herself. She was able to convince Hamaguchi-san to drop the curtains by the time their faces come within an inch of each other. He objected for a while but Fuuko knew how to rub it in, with the director conceeding after a 10-minute debate.
Now as she walked on stage, Fuuko felt her heart palpitating. Though she had always been confident performing in front of an audience, this was no Urabutosatsoujin. No battles, no friends to cheer you on behind the scenes, no madougu to rely on to save you when you fall from grace. She looked at the lighting coordinator who gave her the cue and she entered to perform the first scene.
The play had gone out smoothly, with no major blunders other than some props falling out of place. The actors themselves had performed well, as the audience threw no major objections. Fuuko was too preoccupied with her role to even think about how the others were doing...other than her leading man. Mikagami, as the director had noted from day 1, was a natural. It was though he wasn't acting. Fuuko smiled proudly at her friend who seemed to have captured the heart of his audience. He was all heart, all soul into his performance. Just like in the UBS, she smiled to herself. He was good at this stuff, and not once did he step on her when they danced in the ballroom scene.
"You came back..." he declared in a raspy tone, as Tokiya's character lay dying in the middle of the garden setting. "You came back...but why?"
Fuuko approached him, the summoned tears in her eyes glistening as she cradled his head on her lap. "Because I wanted to..." she cried. "I wanted to be with you..."
"But your father, he is sick...he needs you." The Beast had objected.
"My father is doing well now. He has recovered." she smiled albeit sadly. "You are the one who needs help now...and that's what I came back for, to help you...."
"I'm afraid it's too late..." he choked, his breath coming in slowly and with difficulty.
"It can't be...I wont let it." she declared bravely. "Please...don't die on me...don't die...I wont let you..."
"I wish I could say the same..." he sighed, "But no matter...upon my death you shall be free. Free to be with the man you truly love and to marry him so that you will be happy."
"No..." she denied. The tears flew freely now. "The only place where I will be truly happy is here, with you..."
"Such nice words for a dying man...thank you very much. You have been too kind." he spoke weakly.
She shook her head violently. "I meant what I said, not because you are at your death bed. I want tobe with you, and I know I'm going to be happy with you. Oh, don't you understand? I love you...I truly love you..."
But the Beast had closed his eyes, and Beauty had wept her heart out knowing that death had come upon him. It was at this point that the stage had begun to fill with smoke. Lightning. Thunder. A string ensemble played at the background as the transformation of one Beast to that of a handsome young prince took place. Blossoms fell from above as Tokiya's transformation completed. And the prince awoke to find the beautiful young woman seated beside him, her eyes gleaming with love and happiness.
"Your love has broken the spell, my beloved." he spoke in a somewhat meaningful tone. And for some reason, Fuuko felt that he wasn't just saying that for the play's sake.
She must be imagining things.
"You have given me the spirit to go on, my darling. The will to continue my unhappy life...although now, I can assure you that my days of bliss have arrived. And it was all because of you..." he spoke, looking into her eyes. Fuuko felt her heart skip a beat. It was as though they weren't in a play, and Mikagami was professing something else to her.
"Truly?" she had asked.
"Truly." he declared. "The dark days of my life are over. The shadows that have once cast upon them are no longer there. All I see now is the sunshine. Rays of light you have brought upon my life. You are heaven-sent, my beloved. And I'll never forget that. You saved my soul from condemnation, from the dark abyss that was my past and gave me the strength and the inspiration to move on. The power to discover my true self, and to forget the ugly old chapters of a life gone by."
Hamaguchi was hurriedly rummaging through script. "Tell me, Gendo, is that talk of Mikagami in the script?"
The assistant director shrugged. "Not that I know of. Maybe he thought of it as an ad lib?"
Kaneko clasped her hands together, "Whatever it is, it's soooo romantic." she became all starry-eyed. "And the audience seems to love it too."
"Marry me, my lady."
She nodded enthusiastically, "Most certainly, my prince."
And with that, the dreaded kissing scene had begun. Mikagami drew her closer in their rehearsed embrace. Fuuko closed her eyes, awaiting for the kiss she knew would not come. She had seen Mikagami's face prior to it, and he didn't look the least bit nervous.
You're pretty good at concealing you emotions, aren't you Tokiya? She thought, laughing to herself. And despite her closed eyes, she could feel his face come closer, and closer. She could feel her breath on her cheek, smell his perfume, feel his hands cupping her face. The curtain, from the sound of it, had begun to come down and Fuuko prepared to release herself from his embrace that was beginning to become a little discomforting. She had heard the audience clap enthusiastically and at once she knew that the play had ended.
But Mikagami was still holding her.
Before she could open her eyes and withdraw, Fuuko felt his lips press gently over hers.
Fuuko was nothing less than stunned at his actions. But her reflexes had acted quickly. She parted her lips slightly to acknowledge the fact that his kiss was welcome. More than welcome. Fuuko felt him hold her closer, kiss her deeper. She began to feel heady then, as if her world was in a spin. It was like her feet had been floating and she was walking on air. When Mikagami pulled away, Fuuko felt herself blushing. Looking into his eyes, she saw something there that oddly wasn't there before. Hard to tell what it was, but it was there. It was then she realized that the rest of the cast were surrounding them, oggling them, speechless and apparently as stunned as she had been.
"Curtain call!" the director called happily, and with that, all cast members set the event aside, took each other's hands and proceeded ot the front of the stage. Bowing happily as the audience released a thunderous clap. They began clapping themselves. There were three more curtain calls after that before they had finaly gone down the stage and went their way.
The director had been glad for a successful opening night and decided to treat them out in a bayside restaurant. The cast and crew trekked happily at the place where they had a festivity of seafoods and whatever they could grab their hands on. They laughed merrily, exchanging praises and criticisms. They partied on for hours, and it was at this poitn that Tokiya decided to invite Fuuko out for a stroll by the bay.
The beach had been quiet that night without a soul in sight. The moon was in full bloom and the stars all showed up that night against a backdrop of the ebony sky. Tokiya and Fuuko walked side by side by the bay, not speaking but seemingly understanding the silence that surrounded them. Only the crash of the waves upon the shore made any sort of noise. The two stopped to a halt in a spot by the beach and took a seat on the soft sand.
Fuuko piped up to break the quiet surroundings. "Mikagami...answer me this..."
"Yes?" though he had already an inkling of what she was going to say.
"That dialouge of yours at the end of the play..." she began tentatively, her eyes focusing on his face. "That wasn't in the script...was it?"
"No." he confessed. "I made all that up."
"Why?" she asked. "For the audience?"
He looked at her meaningfully. "No....and don't pretend to me you don't know whom that litany is for."
Fuuko started drawing circles in the sand with her finger, her eyes averting their gaze from him. "Me?" she spoke almost inaudibly.
He nodded. "And even if I said that on stage, you know it's all true."
"Really?" Fuuko said disbeleivingly, although her heart was beginning to skip a little faster and her cheeks began to warm up. "That's nice. I never thought I could mean like that to you....sunshine wasn't it? You flatter me too much." she smiled wrily.
"I meant every word." he confessed. "You brought me back from the dead world I used to live in, Fuuko. What elese can I say? You are the my ray of light. My salvation. My inspiration. That and much more..."
She laughed, "We're not in a play anymore, Mikagami. You don't have to make it up."
He put his hand over hers, "Why is it so hard for you to believe that? I know, I've been a cold, insensitive brute. But that was then, that was the old Mikagami. The Mikagami that died along the sad past he wanted to bury. I've held a funeral for that man ages ago. And I never would have done it without your help and support."
Fuuko was silent after that. She felt her heart swell at the thought of being able to help Tokiya overcome his troubles. She felt wonderful. Especially since she had learned to care for him in a higher level...and she knew in her heart it wasn't just friendship. She experienced an overwhelming emotion enveloping her heart, one that had lain dormant for the past three years. Something she had long thought dead but now realized was alive and well.
"That's awfully sweet of you, Tokiya." she smiled nervously, as if saying anymore would reveal her true feelings, "You better be careful with your words though. I might fall in love with you."
"That's what I aim to do." he smiled thoughtfully. Fuuko's eyes popped wide and she turned to him. He looked serious and this caused her heart to thump violently in her chest. Did she hear hm right?
"Tokiya...I..." but no words were necessary, as he cupped her cheek and once more met her lips with his. Fuuko felt that incredible sensation again. It was as though she had been awakened, reborn. Fuuko's eyes remained closed after he withdrew from her. And when she opened them, Tokiya noted they had stars in them.
Fuuko snuggled closer to Tokiya. No words were necessary as their hearts spoke a universal language. He held her comfortably, with Fuuko basking in the warmth of his embrace. They stayed like that for a while until Tokiya broke the silence.
"Now it's my turn to ask..." he began. Fuuko looked up at him innocently. "About you...and Raiha..."
"It's not important..." she stated, trying to evade the issue, but Tokiya was persistent.
"It is. It's a very improtant matter. Especially since I see that photograph on your table...and I wonder what it is that makes you keep it there. I want to know..."
Fuuko took a deep sigh. "Alright...I'll tell you." She braced herself for the pain that usually followed the memories that this story had brought. "Raiha and I...we had a great relationship going. I loved him with all my heart, all my soul. And he loved me just the same. We spent every possible moment together. We were very happy then, until..." she swallowed, as tears began forming in her eyes. "Until one time, during summer break. I invited him to spend it with me in Okayama. He had previous engagements then, and could not make it. But I was very persistent...finally I got him to come with me. And then..." she paused to wipe the tears that came streaming down her face. "And then the plane we were on began having engine trouble. the pilot panicked, and we were about to crash. There weren't enough parachutes then. Raiha insisted I go take one, but I din't want to. I wanted him to be with me. Even if we both get killed. But he pushed me off the plane, and before he had any chance to get out...the plane exploded and he...he...." Fuuko could no longer continue as she sobbed. Tokiya drew here close, rubbing her back to comfort her. "And since then...I, I keep blaming myself for his early death...I felt so guilty...if I didn't force him to come with me, then he wouldn't have...wouldn't have left me...." she cried her heart out.
"It's not your fault, Fuuko." he whispered in her ear. "If it had been his time to go, then nothing you do could stop it."
"But don't you see? It's my fault. If I hadn't been so selfish...then Raiha would be alive today....it's my fault." she stressed sadly. Fuuko paused before speaking again. "I loved him so much. It was after that I began plunging myself into a lot of activities. I tried to get into every extra-curriuclar activity the school offered. The student council, sports, theater...everything just to keep myself from thinking of the day he had left me. Why do you think I had a sudden makeover? I did not want to be the old Fuuko who bosses and bitches around. I wanted to be someone else, someone new just to keep that old feeling from creeping up on me. That maybe if I looked and behaved differently, things would take a turn for the better."
"Haven't they?" he asked meaningfully. Fuuko looked up at him through a film of tears, searching his eyes for an answer.
"I don't know." she said quietly.
Tokiya drew her closer. "Then I guess you have a ghost to exorcise too, huh?" he asked.
"Apparently." she said, sniffing. Fuuko felt as if a huge load had been taken off her shoulders. She had never spoken about the consquences of Raiha's demise to anyone and had kept it in herself for the past two years. Pouring her heart out to Tokiya had seemingly taken the burden off her chest. She sighed deeply and dried the remaining tears in her eyes.
"Allow me to help you, Fuuko." Mikagami offered. "Just as you had helped me."
"You mean it?" Fuuko sniffed.
"Of course." he said. He took her hand and kissed her fingers one by one. Fuuko sighed in relief. Somehow, his mere words have already eased her tired, guilty soul.
"About that thing in the theatre a while ago...at the ending..."
He smiled playfully, "I assume it you mean my kissing you?"
She blushed to the roots of her hair, "You're pretty good for a beginner..." she laughed a little.
"I think I could use some practice." he joked, tilting her chin slightly. Fuuko brushed his advances aside.
"Are you sure you're the Mikagami I know? All of a sudden you're all mushy and ecchi." she accused.
"There's a new Mikagami in town." he laughed. "A warmer, happier, friendlier one."
"Why do I suddenly wish the old Mikagami was here, with his cynical attitude and his arrogant tongue?" she teased him.
"Then the bossy, tomboyish, hardheaded Fuuko should probably come around and give him a piece of her mind." he retaliated.
From the distance, a burst of laughter could be heard, and with it, two figures sat on the beach seeking solace in each other's arms. Laughing as though it seems, their troubles away and burying with it the dark shadows of yesterday that came with the territory. It was a beginning, for both of them, of a journey to the road of happiness from which they had deviated from once in their lifetime. And they decided they were going to go through it together. For all time.