Twenty-four year old Athrun Zala slowly climbed out of his sleek black limousine with a tired expression on his face. Of course, the great weariness he was feeling was not something he wasn't used to by now. After all, he'd been shouldering the burden and responsibility of being the chairman of PLANT for two years now. But there was only so much a human being could take before he collapsed from sheer exhaustion, and Athrun was a mere millimeter away from collapsing.
His chauffeur who was standing next to him asked, "Master Athrun, do you wish me to take your suitcase?"
The emerald-eyed chairman shook his head and smiled tightly. "No need. I can handle it. Why don't you take a day off today, Takashi? I think we all deserve a break."
One thing's for sure. I think I deserve a very long break. Right after I get a long hot shower, I'm taking a 48-hour nap. The idea sounded awfully appealing. Athrun sighed wearily, recalling the awaiting heap of paperwork on his desk, the straining press conferences he would have to face, the impending contract with ORB Industries...Ugh! It was enough to drive even the most workaholic of individuals insane!
Unbeknownst to the chairman, a secretly watching figure was waiting patiently from behind the thick bushes in the mansion's compound. It was an amateur paparazzi reporter who was desperate to impress her new boss and find a good story to sell. So far she'd been coming up with nothing and she had a deadline to meet in less than a few hours. It was a stroke of good luck when she'd decided to trail Athrun after a major press conference. It was even better when she'd discovered that there were few bodyguards in the privacy of the chairman's domain. Perhaps, she mused, our beloved chairman has something to hide? Celebrities and businessmen usually do.
As soon as Athrun closed the front door behind him, the paparazzi carefully approached the one open window she could see and placed a video recording bug underneath the windowpane. Then she ducked in the bushes and opened her laptop. Now all she had to do was watch and wait until something juicy came up.
And then it happened.
Her eyes rounded in shock as she stared at the footage being displayed on the laptop screen.
Stunned speechless, all the paparazzi reporter could do was stare and drool. After all, it wasn't everyday anybody could admire and, ahem, further one's knowledge and education about the physical beauty of the opposite gender.
Who'd had known that underneath those stuffy clothes is one of the sexist bodies that ever walked the earth?
It took a total of fifteen minutes for her to finally snap out of it. "I'm going to get an immediate promotion for this..." Still slightly dazed, she saved the valuable picture into her laptop and headed straight for her office.
Thus, begins a tale of love, hate, jealousy, sadism and violence, hormonal-driven fan girls (and some boys), a gorgeous chairman with lots of issues, and a butt-kicking undercover bodyguard with a secret identity and a personal agenda...among other things.
Undercover Fiancé Wanted, Desperately
Note: PLANT and ORB are business corporations in present day Japan
Athrun, chairman of PLANT, was in terrible danger. Since a paparazzi reporter had accidentally taken a picture of him in, err, few clothing article, hormonal-crazed women have begun to stalk him and endanger his life. So it was only logical that he would search for a bodyguard. Enter Cagalli, ex-waitress slash bodyguard extraordinaire. She's hell-bent on doing anything necessary to complete her duty and prove her worth. At least, that's what she keeps telling herself when her gorgeous new boss asks her to go undercover by acting as his fiancé and she says yes...
PLANT Corporations, Japan
"How the heck did I ever get myself into this mess?"
The chairman of PLANT groaned in frustration as he resisted the tempting urge to bang his cranium against his desk and scream. Athrun settled instead for rubbing his aching forehead and wondering what in the world did he do that made him deserve this...this nightmare.
"Oh, cheer up, Zala." That annoyingly cheerful advice belonged to his long-time friend and company administrator Dearka Elthman. The blond was smirking, taking sadistic pleasure at seeing Athrun I-am-so-cool-nothing-ever-bothers-me Zala finally break down for the first time in his life. Then Dearka crossed his arms over his chest and offered more sympathetically, "I'm sure this will all blow over sooner or later---"
"Yeah, sure...a millennium later maybe," a cynical voice cut in. It was Athrun's ever-pessimistic, ever-scowling chief executive officer of the corporation, Yzak Joule, who was leaning against the wall.
"Thank you, Yzak. You've just succeeded in cheering me up," Athrun replied sarcastically.
"Hey, don't get mad at me. I'm not the one who dances around naked in my home and got myself photographed in only my birthday suit nationwide!" Yzak rolled his eyes ceiling-ward as he waved the popular magazine he'd been reading. There, splashed all over the front page, was a picture of a bewildered Athrun wearing only a towel that barely covered his nude form, gawking at the camera in confusion. Underneath the picture, the headline read in big, bolding letters: THE CHAIRMAN OF PLANT, EXPOSED.
'Scandal' was too light a word to describe the situation. Athrun had never felt more embarrassed OR helpless in his entire life!
Dearka smirked as he cast a mocking look in the scar-faced man's direction. "Now, now, Yzak. We all know you're saying that only because you're jealous that Athrun just got picked as one of the fifty most beautiful and sexiest people on earth by People magazine."
Yzak's lips curled wryly. "Trust me. I'm practically green with envy."
Athrun drummed his fingers on his desk with an annoyed expression. He was in the middle of a major crisis here, and instead of helping him all his two companions seemed to be doing was exchanging insults and increasing his headache!
"It's been a week since this incident has occurred and so far there's no sign of this whole pandemonium dying off!" Athrun stood up abruptly and walked up and down his office in agitation. "Somebody, PLEASE, give me a solution! This is the kind of humiliation and embarrassment I can ill afford! Especially with the date of the contract between PLANT Corporations and ORB Industries less than a month away! But I can't even step outside my office without being chased after by some crazy stalker!"
"Well, I think this is the appropriate time to say I TOLD YOU SO! Didn't I warn you, time and time again, to hire more bodyguards to guard your place? But did you listen? Well, this is the result. Somehow the paparazzi sneaks into your home and takes a picture of you in the middle of a strip tease. Now, you have fan clubs." Yzak gazed pointedly at the window. Far below, the three men could make out a large throng of lust-crazed women all intent on breaking down the recently barricaded and locked front door into PLANT Corporations. Policemen were trying to take control of the situation with little effect.
Athrun gave his friends a desperate look that said: SOMEBODY, HELP ME!
Dearka snapped his fingers. "I have a brilliant idea!" he announced.
Yzak responded with a roll of his eyes and a loud snort. Athrun directed an incredulous look at the tanned blond. "I don't know if I can trust you. The last few times I've ever followed your so-called 'brilliant ideas', my problems just seem to multiply!" Athrun paused, remembering the time when Dearka planned to raise stock sales by hiring...No, better not think about it. Even now the memories still had the power to make him literally shudder.
Dearka waved his hand dismissively at the past chaos he'd single-handedly masterminded. "Those lame ideas are nothing compared to this one. I'm telling you, Athrun, this plan will work one hundred and one percent! Trust me!" he insisted with his 'Have I ever steered you wrong?' smile which, of course, didn't fool the other two one bit.
Still...Athrun hesitated for a moment, wrestling between the choices of either (A) facing the threat of hordes of deranged fan girls hell-bent on abducting him for their own personal pleasure, or (B) following whatever 'brilliant' plan Dearka had cooked up in his twisted mind which MIGHT solve his problems or else make the situation even WORSE. One glance outside his 110-storey window and sighting a starry-eyed, middle-aged female window cleaner holding up an 'I-Love-U-Athrun' signboard made his decision much easier.
"Alright, I'm listening."
Cagalli Yula Athha balanced a tray laden with food in one hand while the other was full with drinks. Carefully, she inched her way from table to table, serving the appropriate orders to the café's customers.
"Shift change." Miriallia Haww, her friend and fellow waitress, took the tray from her when Cagalli passed by. "It's time for you to take down the orders. Remember not to do anything foolish and keep your temper in check. You already offended our last two customers. The third time might get you fired," Milly warned.
"I promise, no more acts of violence toward customers," Cagalli vowed solemnly. Although those two customers actually deserved the punches I gave them, she mentally added. After all, who could stand those lecherous idiots who thought they were God's gift to women?
"Okay. There's the first customer. Don't blow it."
Cagalli glanced at the man who was waiting to be served. TROUBLE was written all over his dirty face. She took a deep breath. No, repeat after me, Cagalli. I can do this, I can do this, I can do this...
She walked over to the table. "Alright, what can I get you," she asked with her pencil poised over her pad.
The man smirked lewdly. "How about a little cuddle and a kiss, baby?"
Eye twitching in irritation, she gritted her teeth and asked in an ultra-polite voice, "I repeat, what FOOD can I get you?"
"Well, I always did enjoy feisty women. How about you come to my room tonight? My door is always open for you."
Don't do anything you'll regret, Cagalli. She grounded her teeth together and almost broke the pencil in half. Taking a deep breath, she slowly said, "If you value any of your body parts, you WILL stop your vulgar words or I WILL be forced to act."
The lecherous man pretended to shudder. "Ooooh, so the little girl is making threats now. I'm sooooooo scared. What are you going to do, huh? Punch me?"
With a BIG smile plastered on her face, our blond heroine did exactly that.
An athletically fit woman clad in full military regalia and carrying a whip ambled into the screening room. Her posture was cruise-missile straight, hands clasped behind her back. When she spoke she sounded like a tough as nails drill instructor on a mission. "I am Lolita Fleming, sir! I know I am perfect for the undercover bodyguard job because I know I am capable of carrying out my duty with dignity and skill."
A timid woman shifted her feet in the middle of the room and cleared her throat nervously. "Err...my name Rita Meier and, umm, I think I'm perfect for the, umm, undercover bodyguard job because, err, I think---"
A seven-foot tall Amazon woman with large, rippling biceps and a scowl that could rival even Yzak's walked into the room. She folded her arms over her chest and glared at them over her beaky nose. "My name Serenity Charming and I am an ex-policewoman. I think I am perfect for the undercover bodyguard job because I think I'm competent enough to protect Mr. Zala with my capability and expertise."
Athrun was speechless, staring at the Amazon woman with wide eyes. Yzak took one long at her and arched a silver eyebrow. "We'll notify you if you are chosen, Ms. Charming."
As soon as the intimidating giant left, the green-eyed chairman released the relieved breath he had been holding. "Thank God. I don't think I could have stood a minute longer with her. Dearka, are you sure these are all the best you can find in the undercover bodyguard agency?"
The tanned blond looked mortally offended. "Of course I did! I'm nothing if not a thorough person."
"Well, no matter," Athrun sighed and leaned back against his armchair, "call in the next person on the list, Dearka."
"Err...I'm afraid that's it. Serenity Charming is the last candidate on the list," Dearka answered.
Athrun gave a long-suffering groan and placed his hands over his face. "I'm doomed. Someone take a gun and shoot me."
"I'm playing on the world's smallest violin," Yzak said in his most unsympathetic voice. "Now stop your pathetic self-pitying. Your press conference is only a few hours away and you need to reach a decision by then. So who will it be? If you want my professional opinion, Ms. Charming seems to be your best candidate. If any of your obsessive fan girls take one look at her, it's a safe bet that they'd forget about you and run for their lives."
"Speaking of running," Dearka glanced at his wristwatch and rose from his chair, "I have to leave now. It's almost time for lunch."
Athrun raised an eyebrow. "You can always have lunch here, you know. My secretary can call up for take-outs."
He smiled strangely. "Ah, I'm afraid this is a very important lunch date I can't miss. Just don't make any rash decisions until I come back. See you!"
"Where's HE going in such a hurry?" Athrun shot the rapidly departing blond a questioning look.
Yzak rolled his eyes in reply. "Knowing him, he's probably off brushing up his nonexistent lady-killer skills on some poor, unsuspecting victim. I can only pray whoever that innocent woman is wouldn't take one look at him and die of fright."
"You were fired?"
Cagalli smiled dryly and untied the apron strings around her waist. "Milly, I'm afraid that standing before you is the latest member of Club Unemployed."
Miriallia closed her eyes and shook her head sorrowfully. "Cagalli, you promised!"
"Milly, he was a lewd pervert with a brain size that could rival even an amoeba's," snapped the irate blond. "It was for the sake of every female on the planet that I gave him exactly what he deserved." She sighed regretfully. "Still, I do wish I kept my cool until AFTER my shift was over so that I could legally kick his butt. Now I'll have to begin job hunting again. And this is the what---45th time I got fired for 'harming' the clients?"
"Well, don't worry. I'm sure my father would change his mind if I explain everything to him..."
Milly's father owned the café they were working in. It was actually the auburn-haired girl's idea that Cagalli tried her hand at waitressing and persuaded Mr. Haww to give Cagalli a chance.
"No, don't do that," Cagalli protested. "You've already done enough. I'm not waitress material anyway. Besides, there has to be a job out there somewhere that I can do..."
"Cagalli, you know you don't have to do this, right?" Milly asked. "I mean, what's the point of going from job to job when you already have---"
"This isn't about money! This is about proving to my father that I'm capable of handling a job without screwing it up, and so far I'm not succeeding!" The blond furrowed her eyebrows obstinately. "I'm going to keep trying until there's a job I'm capable of performing. And that is that."
"And the Athha stubbornness rears its ugly head again," Milly said with a sad shake of her head.
Cagalli's eyes softened. "Milly, thanks for everything but this is just something I have to do."
As soon as the tomboyish blond left, Milly sighed and wondered how she could possibly help her friend. Perhaps she could look up the job section in the internet after she got home and---
Suddenly, moving in her line of vision she saw a young man in a business suit with blond hair and bronzed skin walking into the café. There he stood---the creature of her nightmares, the spawn of Satan and sub-human alien life-form from Planet Jupiter. She felt like slamming her head with her tray. It figures. How could her day ever be complete without the presence of his wonderful existence?
"Oh no..." Milly groaned as if she was in deep pain. "It's HIM again!"
She quickly held up the empty tray to cover her face, praying for salvation. Maybe if she tip-toed away ever so quietly, he would not notice her and leave...
"Milly, there you are! I've been looking all over for you!"
Then again, maybe not.
Dearka made a straight beeline to the cringing waitress. There was no room left to run. She was trapped.
"Pity you found me," Milly muttered under her breath, silently cursing her luck. "Look, I'm busy now. Can I ignore you some other time?"
Dearka looked at her pitifully. "Milly, that's very unkind of you. All I wanted to do was have my lunch here in the presence of a beautiful lady such as yourself. Surely a minute of your time spent with someone as harmless as me wouldn't be too much to ask?"
What a Casanova, she thought in disgust. Everyday he comes over here and flirts with me, and everyday I turn him down. You'd think he'd give up by now. But the demented fool just keeps coming back for more abuse!
She turned away from him. "Look, Elthman, you're wasting both your time and mine. So why don't you just go jump off a cliff and let me get on with my life!"
"Milly, I'm hurt. I thought after all the times we'd shared your opinion of me would change. I even remember the first time we met as clearly as ever..."
"Yeah, it was hate at first sight for me. Unfortunately, the horror of the memory still lingers at the back of my mind," she said wryly.
Dearka raised an eyebrow. "Do you express your opinions to everybody you meet so easily?"
Milly snorted. "It's just you. But don't worry. I'm very careful of how I express my humble opinions of you because I want to put as much vituperation in them as possible."
"So may I be so bold as to ask what your opinion of me is?"
She smiled ever so sweetly at him. "Since you asked so nicely, I guess I will. I used to think that you were a big pain in the neck. Now I have a much lower opinion of you."
"Ouch." He flinched as if she'd punched him. "You don't hold back, do you?"
"I see no reason why I should considering the fact that you make it your daily mission in life to get on my nerves." She whipped out a pencil and a pad from her pocket and shot him a look of death. "Now, quit trying to flirt with me and give me your order before I give you a justified cause to put ice on your eyes."
Dearka sighed, deciding to give in to her command...for now. After all, he mused, there was always tomorrow's lunch.
"Well, I'd like a plate of fried chicken, maybe a T-bone steak medium rare and---"
She raised an eyebrow. "Any other cholesterol-loaded food choice to block your heart arteries?"
"Well, you can always give me some of your eggs."
Cagalli was an inch away from throwing her hands up in frustration. She scrunched up the stupid newspaper and dumped it into the nearest recycle bin. Argh! There was absolutely no job vacancy available! Why was fate so cruel to her?
Dejectedly, her shoulders slumped and she was actually beginning to lose hope. After all, she lost more jobs than most in a mere six months! She should be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the girl who was fired the most in just a year! At least I can get SOME recognition for that, she thought wryly.
Wait, she paused, there WAS one job listed in the newspaper. A job for a cleaner or something. She cringed at the thought of CLEANING, her most hated chore in the world. BUT beggars can't be choosers. I think it was for some corporation or other. What was it again? ...Oh yeah! PLANT Corporations! Maybe I should give it a try.
She turned into a corner where the corporation was when she heard someone was screaming. Actually, a lot of 'someones' were screaming.
"ATHRUN, ATHRUN, ATHRUN!"
A rampaging mob of testosterone high women was always a frightening sight to behold. And Cagalli was actually seeing one right across the street. They all seemed to be crowding around a particular building, a lot of them holding up the strangest signs. One said: MARRY ME, ATHRUN! Another wrote: ATHRUN, I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT YOU! And there was one that said: PLEASE GO OUT ON A DATE WITH ME!
My god, she mused, is there a pop icon or some kind of celebrity hiding in that building?
It was at that moment that she noticed a limousine driving out of the car park basement. When the limo drove left into a street, the multitude of screaming hormone-driven fan girls and boys raced after it with alarming speed. She silently pitied whoever that celebrity was and turned to go on her merry way when she saw something that rooted her to the spot.
There was a mustached man dressed in a big jacket and an overly large hat walking out of the building. He looked around as if to make sure it was completely safe before he hurried across the lane. He was about to reach her side of the street when suddenly his moustache fell off.
She blinked. Wait a minute. His moustache FELL OFF?
"Oh God, no..." The fake-moustache man groaned and quickly bent down to pick it up. But he was too late.
"OMIGOD! IT'S ATHRUN!"
Two shrieking banshees suddenly pounced out of nowhere and attached themselves onto him like hungry leeches. The man was attempting to breathe as they held him in their choking claws and pledged their undying love for him at the top of their lungs.
Taking pity on the poor guy, Cagalli marched on over to the simpering idiots and crossed her arms. "Get your tired, bony butts out of my face before you all end up in the hospital in body casts!" she intoned ominously.
The fan girls took one look at her dark face and scattered like pigeons in her wake.
Satisfied, Cagalli bent down and held out her hand. "Hey, mister, are you alright?"
The hapless man groaned in answer. Dazed, he forced a smile and took her hand. "No, I'm fine, Miss...err..."
"Cagalli Yula," she supplied, silently admiring him. It was really no wonder girls were so crazy about him. He was absolutely gorgeous. From those sinfully thick lashes over beautiful green eyes, to his silky dark hair and attractive smile. It was enough to make Cagalli's pulse do a triple summersault.
"Well, thanks for the help, Miss Caga---"
His sentence faded off when MORE of his lovely fans had discovered the ruse he'd pulled on them and hurried back. Like vultures with a target in sight, they quickly homed in on him.
Suddenly, one of the fans noticed Cagalli. "Hey!" she snarled. "Who are you?"
The other Athrun fanatics stopped in mid-attack and turned their curious gazes at the newcomer. Cagalli felt her eye twitched. They were looking at her as if she was a Martian from outer space!
Another fan girl scowled. "Who in blazes are you? Why are you holding MY Athrun's hand?"
"Eh?" Cagalli looked down and her cheeks flamed when she finally realized she still had not let go of his hand. She quickly released him and glowered hotly at the resentful girl. "What's wrong with holding his hand? It's not as if he has some contagious disease! Besides, I have every right in the world to do as I damn well please without your approval!" she snapped.
The man known as Athrun suddenly cleared his throat. "It's all right, err, honey."
What the he---?
"It's high time everybody knew."
She blanched. "What rubbish are you talking ab---"
"There's no need to be so shy, darling." The emerald-eyed chairman picked himself up and dusted his clothes. Then he smiled at the wide-eyed Cagalli. "After all," he continued, "we've kept our relationship a secret for far too long."
"This," Athrun announced to his gawking fan girls with a dazzling smile as he put his arm around the stunned blonde's shoulder, "is my lovely fiancé and future wife, Cagalli."