A/N: Where this fits in my grand scheme (ha, I say that like I plan these things) of Tamers fic is really up to you. You can consider it a standalone or apocryphal background to any of my continuities.
The closest brush with fame I've had is signing autographs for small children in a food court after a few shows of a...let's call it 'moderately' successful (by which I mean Disney) musical (I wish I could say I was joking), so apologies for the likely glaring inaccuracies in the fame game my Tamers are playing.
He can only get out the words when Ryo's practically through the gate.
"What comes next?"
Now that they've saved the world and Takato the hero has gotten his girl, he means. Ryo of all people should know, right?
The older Tamer turns, lifts those stupid reflective sunglasses that somehow kept away the press and the fan girls. "If you're smart, you'll change your phone number and get a damn good lawyer."
"What?" He wasn't expecting that.
Ryo grins at him. "You might need a new cellphone number as well."
"What do you mean—"
"You know, I have a plane to catch." Ryo lowers the sunglasses. "See you 'round, Jen."
Jenrya is left wondering what he means and where Ryo pulled the right to call him 'Jen' from.
When the people start trickling back into Shinjuku, so does the media, and Jenrya wakes up one morning to pounding on the door.
"Jiangyu's out doing a TV interview and Jenrya and Shuichon are still asleep," he can hear his mother saying firmly, "goodbye."
The phone calls start the next day. Their dad unplugs the phone, and once they've run out of minutes on their cellphones Jaarin and Rinchei want to use Jenrya's computer more often.
"Go away!" he attempts.
"It's the only way I can talk to my friends since the phone line's tied up with people wanting to interview you and Shuichon!" Jaarin retorts.
Conversely, Shuichon seems far too keen to see her face on TV, and keeps plugging the phone back in while no one's looking. Jenrya supposes it's because she wasn't the one who was naked on national television.
Then there's the fan mail. Shuichon doesn't get a lot, but the letters for Jenrya stack up until one day he decides he has nothing better to do and reads them.
Girls from all over the country think he's hot (what?) or a hero (he was just doing what he had to do). People of both genders want his autograph (he obliges) or a signed photo (Mom refuses to pay for prints so he photocopies his school ID). Some girls want to go out with him (he doesn't know these girls) or in three very special cases to marry him (he's fourteen!). Some people send him artwork of him and Terriermon, or Saint Galgomon (the better ones go on his wall) or booster packs of Digimon cards. A few people – and these are his favorites – send him Terriermon cards to sign for them.
Ruki's private school starts up again sooner than any other school in Shinjuku, if not Tokyo. Until then he calls her often, and they spend many terse hours on the phone either in awkward silence or comparing situations. She says it's worse than when she won D-1 earlier this year.
So he e-mails the other D-1 winner he knows (while he has his cellphone number apparently Ryo's phone is almost always on silent). He replies every other day or so.
Takato still doesn't have a cellphone and he doesn't go on the computer a lot, but he never did get around to returning that Palm Pilot Yamaki gave him, so he e-mails a lot more often. Once Jenrya works through his horrendous typos (apparently Takato isn't as talented with a stylus as he is with a pencil), it's like hearing his voice anyway.
'Business has really picked up for the bakery,' Takato writes (and Jenrya translates), 'people keep coming in to see me and Mom won't let them talk to me without buying something, so now I'm working the till and that gives Mom and Dad more time to bake. I don't know what we'll do when school starts again.'
Neither does Jenrya.
On the first day back, he is veritably mobbed on his way. In an effort to lose them, he winds through the park and ends up with his first tardy at Shinjuku High.
He never really had friends in his class to begin with, but today he can hear the whispers: He thinks he's so cool just because he and his Digimon were stupid enough to go into the red blob. He thinks he's so cool he can get away with being late.
It's not like that, he wants to reply, I got attacked by fans, but he says nothing.
At least at lunch he can attach himself to Takato, Juri, Hirokazu, and Kenta. At least they all look as shell-shocked as he feels. "How many autographs have you had to sign?" Jenrya attempts as a conversation starter.
"I've lost count," sighs Takato.
"He's done more than us," mutters Hirokazu, and Kenta makes a noise of assent.
Juri looks down. "Two."
Jenrya feels a sudden wave of sympathy for her, one that turns into a tsunami when Takato's eyes flash and he says, "She's been getting hate mail, from idiots who blame the whole mess on her."
"It wasn't your fault," Jenrya says automatically.
Juri smiles a little, but says nothing. Abruptly, he realizes that the puppet usually present on her hand is gone. He wishes he could make her feel better. Takato seems to be doing a decent job at it, or at least distracting her, but she still doesn't seem convinced.
That night, both his parents are working late (Dad has to catch up on everything he missed during the D-Reaper thing) and Jaarin's babysitting when there's a knock on the door.
"Don't," Rinchei says automatically.
Jaarin peers through the peephole. "There's only a couple of people, and they don't look like reporters..."
"Hide," Rinchei suggests to Jenrya and Shuichon.
It seems a stupid suggestion, so they ignore it. Jaarin opens the door. "Hello?"
Two men in suits. "Sorry," calls Rinchei, "we're atheist."
The strangers ignore this blatant lie (they were raised Buddhist), focusing instead on Jaarin. "Mrs. Lee?"
"Mom's at work," Jaarin replies tersely.
One of the men in black (as Jenrya calls them in his head) smiles. "We're representatives of Bandai. We'd like to talk to Jenrya and Shuichon. May we come in?"
Jenrya stands, revealing his presence. "Jaarin, call Aunt Kyo."
His older sister starts. "But she lives in Osa—"
"Can you think of any other lawyers off the top of your head?" Jenrya interrupts.
In his vest pocket, his phone goes off. Takato's calling: "Can you think of any lawyers off the top of your head?"
So this was what Ryo meant.
"I must say," says Aunt Kyo the next day, "this wasn't what I envisioned when I said I should come up and visit more often."
"This wasn't what I envisioned when I started playing the Digimon MMORPG," mutters Jenrya, and she laughs.
"I'll try to wrangle the best deal for you and your friends, though."
"How much?" asks Dad. It's what he's seemed the most nervous about.
Aunt Kyo smiles. "You're family, I'll represent you for free."
"Takato's parents are bakers, they're not exactly loaded," Jenrya points out. "Juri's dad owns a tavern, I don't know what Hirokazu and Kenta's parents do for a living..." Ryo's a video game star and Ruki's the daughter of a model; they can fend for themselves.
"They're friends of family, I'll give them a discount."
That's what Jenrya was waiting for. "Thanks."
"Don't mention it," she smirks. "Now, I'm meeting with Bandai tomorrow; is there anything in particular you want? A game, a CD, a TV show...?"
Jenrya shudders. "Honestly, I'd just be happy if any royalties get me through my first year of college."
Mom and Dad look rather impressed with this. Aunt Kyo just looks a little put out. "Are you sure?"
"My friend Ryo's in the Wonder Swan Color games," Jenrya shrugs, "it doesn't look like it's all that fun."
"Can we have free toys?" asks Shuichon.
Ruki seems a little bored with the whole thing. "Mom hired me an agent straight away."
"Well, aren't we the daughter of a supermodel," Hirokazu snaps.
She glares at him, and tosses her head. "I just hope that this 'New Face of Digimon' deal won't involve any photo shoots."
Juri blinks. "But wouldn't you be used to photo shoots by now?"
For her efforts, Juri only gets stared at for a moment before Ruki turns away.
"Where's Takato, anyway?" Jenrya tries to distract them.
"Oh," says Juri, "after we told them about Kurumon, they wanted to hear about Guilmon."
"It's funny, you know," Kenta points out, "he always used to enter all those Original Digimon Contests, but he never won anything."
Hirokazu grins at Jenrya. "I hope your aunt pwns Bandai for that."
Jenrya rolls his eyes and doesn't bother replying.
Not easily deterred, Hirokazu turns to Kenta. "What are you going to spend your royalties on?"
"Do you goggleheads even get royalties?" Ruki scoffs, but Kenta ignores her.
"I dunno. Probably not more cards. I mean, that's just giving the money back to them."
"You shouldn't count your digieggs before they hatch," advises Juri.
Jenrya blinks. "You know, Juri, I think that's the nerdiest thing you've ever said."
Juri blushes furiously.
'You can't keep on hiding from the media forever. Though now that I think about it,' writes Ryo, 'I'm surprised we haven't done a press conference yet.'
"That's actually a good idea," says Aunt Kyo, when Jenrya brings it up.
"It was Ryo's," Jenrya replies. "He's the one in the games."
His aunt toys with a pen, looking thoughtful. "When's the earliest he could come to Tokyo? You'd better have someone with experience around."
Maybe the goal of a press conference is to hit all the media at once, but still, Jenrya hadn't expected it would be so widely advertised that there would be a crowd lining the sidewalk to Tokyo Opera City Tower.
"Smile," mutters Ryo, doing so at the head of their party. "Wave. Be polite but assertive. Put your public face on. This means you, Ruki."
Ignoring him, Ruki slips on her sunglasses and stares straight ahead. Shuichon, on the other hand, doesn't need any advice: She's beaming at everyone, waving at anyone she makes eye contact with, and eating up the attention. Just like at home, really. Hirokazu's much the same. Kenta looks a little awkward and then gets a scream when he gives a shy little wave. Encouraged, he smiles a little wider and holds his head a little higher. Takato, just behind Ryo, interrupts his waving once in a while to glance back at Juri, who seems to be trying to hide behind him half the time.
Towards the back of the group, Jenrya just follows Ryo's lead. His dad and Yamaki behind him seem to be imitating Ruki.
They get inside without any major incidents, and Yamaki looks around with a smirk. "Nice place for it."
"Aunt Kyo was suggesting a hotel, but I thought this was more appropriate," offers Jenrya, and he gets a raised eyebrow for his efforts, then, to his surprise, a genuine smile, before Yamaki goes all businesslike again.
"Let's get this show on the road."
The conference goes by like a blur. They take turns narrating their 'adventures' (as the reporters like to call them) and sharing their stories of how they met their Digimon. Jenrya's dad and Yamaki explain Digimon and the D-Reaper for the nth time. Shuichon fidgets a lot. Ryo hijacks the conference for a moment when the reporters suddenly realize who he is and demand to know where he'd disappeared to that made him miss D-1 this year. (Ruki glares at the wall at the very mention of the tournament.) They're all a little silent when someone asks what it's like being the New Face of Digimon, considering it hasn't started yet, until Ryo saves them all with a comment that they're under oath...sorry, he means contractual obligations (he earns a few laughs for that one) not to say. After a while, Jenrya doesn't even blink at the camera flashes any more.
Then there's the photos. Ryo had warned that they'd probably hit all the major newspapers and magazines, but still, this is a little ridiculous, isn't it? At least those two kids, Impmon's Tamers, what were their names, aren't here. They're so young they'd probably be completely overwhelmed. Ruki tries to hide in the back behind Hirokazu but the photographers keep pulling her forward, wanting a shot of her, Jenrya, Takato, and Ryo, the 'Matrix Four' – the Tamers who could matrix evolve. Then they want a group photo with the girls in front. Then they want photos of Dad and Yamaki (who never does take the sunglasses off). Then a photo of him and Shuichon, then with their Dad. Then a cute shot for the teenage magazines of Takato and Juri (Takato blushes at the suggestion).
Ruki gets this look in her eyes like she's going to run. Ryo catches it before Jenrya does and grabs her hands to prevent her from leaving, and naturally everyone wants a photo of that too. Jenrya doesn't want to know why he feels vaguely irritated watching this.
They only leave when Shuichon starts asking Dad about dinner, but the fans are still there (Jenrya doesn't remember even Jaarin being this persistent at conventions) and Ryo points out that they shouldn't just ignore them. So they sign autographs here and there (again Jenrya is most impressed by the people who shove Terriermon cards at him) and take some photos on people's camera phones. While Ruki signs cards ('Atashi wa Digimon Queen! Makino Ruki') with an almost clinical efficiency, Ryo seems completely at ease with the attention, cheerfully chatting to ("as opposed to up," he insists later) the fans and even going as far as allowing one girl to kiss him on the cheek. Jenrya looks pointedly away from this, only to have his gaze fall on Ruki's glare in Ryo's direction.
Hirokazu looks like he's found heaven. Kenta trails behind him looking overwhelmed instead. Takato and Juri, bless them, appear to be acting completely normally.
Lucky for some. Jenrya finds himself facing a lot of questions he doesn't like answering.
"Lee-san, are you single?"
"Er," says Jenrya. "Yes."
Some of the girls shriek delightedly. "You can go out with me!"
"Alas," interjects Ryo, sweeping in behind him, "his heart belongs to another. Now, ladies, what can I do ya for?"
"Thanks," mutters Jenrya, trying to escape.
Ryo turns away from the fans for a moment to grin at him. "You owe me. Now, go help out Shuichon."
He'd completely forgotten! When he reaches his little sister, barely taller than the fences erected by Hypnos security, he has to smile at her large, looping handwriting covering any size of paper thrust at her. He tasks himself with passing items back and forth, but ends up signing them too.
Eventually Yamaki says it's time to go, and they all pile into a limousine for a couple of blocks before swapping into a couple of Hypnos vans. Yamaki, Takato, Juri, Hirokazu, and Kenta take one van while Ryo and Ruki join Jenrya's Digimon-involved family in the other. Frankly, Jenrya's glad to avoid Hirokazu's no doubt imminent raving about how 'cool' the whole thing was.
"That was...claustrophobic," Ryo mutters, closing his eyes.
Startled, Jenrya looks at him oddly. "But you seemed so..."
"In love with the attention?" Ruki supplies.
Ryo's eyes open again. "You're confusing me with 'kazu." He earns a snort from Ruki for that. Then his eyes go a little unfocused. "I had this friend..." he starts by way of explanation, then abruptly he smiles at them and changes the subject. "I'm starving. Let's eat out, the whole gang plus families, Yamaki can bring Reika; my treat. The kids, anyway. I know this great Okinawan place, Yanbaru—"
"How do you plan on paying for all eight of us?" Ruki points out.
"Well," replies Ryo, "there's this really obscure series of games for the Wonder Swan Color..."
"Royalties," Ruki realizes. "Say no more."
At the restaurant, Takato seems a bit quiet. "Are you alright?" Jenrya asks him.
The younger Tamer pushes his fishcakes around his plate. "Guilmon loved Okinawan food."
So does Terriermon, actually. Maybe it's denial but Jenrya hates using the past tense for the Digimon.
"Of course he loves it," Jenrya replies, "it's food."
Takato manages a weak smile.
Even more grueling than the press conference is the Bandai deal. They seem to have taken Ryo's little quip as a personal reminder to get moving with the 'New Face of Digimon' thing. According to Ryo, they're probably just trying to rush out merchandise by Christmas.
Naturally the first thing they find themselves doing is rehashing the digital world experience. Again. In excruciating detail.
"Can they not read the press conference transcript or something?" Ruki complains, when they're finally let out for lunch.
"Defensive maneuver," says Ryo, and they all blink at him. "What? Just putting it into terms you'll understand. It's a preemptory strike. They're trying to get a handle on you guys so when the manga or whatever comes out, you won't go running to your Aunt Kyo, or to Junichi-san," he nods to Ruki's agent, sitting at another table, "complaining that you've been misrepresented."
They fall silent at that. Then Hirokazu wonders aloud, "Do you think we'll get a TV show?"
"That would be so cool!" enthuses Takato, at the same time as Ruki blanches and Jenrya mutters, "I hope not."
Ryo rests his chin on his hands. "If we do, I hope they get the guy who played me in Our War Game. I liked him. They were going to do a TV movie sequel about me and Ken, but the kid who played Ken was a real brat and it fell through, so they made the plot into a video game instead."
"Tag Tamers, right?" asks Jenrya, and Ryo nods. "After Brave Tamer, that was my favorite."
"Nerd," mutters Ruki.
Ignoring her, Ryo regards Jenrya with a thoughtful look. "You know, I'm trying to get them to re-release Brave Tamer, with you guys written in."
Takato makes incomprehensible happy noises.
"I've always thought it seemed a bit short," admits Jenrya.
Unfortunately for Ruki, this 'New Face of Digimon' deal does involve a photo shoot, and all the makeup and hairspray that goes with it. Jenrya feels stupid in all these poses, missing the comfortable weight of Terriermon on his shoulder. After the group shots, Ruki tries to make a run for it. Ryo catches her before her agent does, but this only prompts the smaller group photos: Friends, family, and love interests (Jenrya is rather surprised to find himself dragged into photos with Ryo and Ruki when the photographer thinks a love triangle is a good idea).
Juri, Hirokazu, Kenta, and Shuichon are shooed off for profile photos. After yelling pointlessly at Juri to look after Shuichon, Jenrya stands awkwardly with Takato, Ruki, and Ryo as the 'Matrix Four' (one of Jenrya's least favorite terms to come out of the press conference). Then the photographer looks at their D-Arcs and Takato mentions his old one was red, and the photographer gets the brilliant idea to take pictures of the 'Three Primary Tamers'.
"But mine's green," Jenrya says blankly, watching Ryo leave for his solo photos.
"Weren't you listening in science when we did light?" asks Takato. "The three primary colors of light are red, blue, and green."
Ignoring the photographer for a moment, Jenrya and Ruki stare at him.
Ruki voices Jenrya's thoughts. "You just didn't strike me as the science type."
"It sounded like art, okay?" Takato defends himself. "It's the only thing I remembered from physics."
"Can we please get back to what we were doing?" demands the photographer.
After one test shot, the photographer for the single shots (he'd introduced himself as Ash. weird name) excuses himself to replace a light bulb, muttering something about his skin tone with an accent Jenrya can't place. Left alone, Jenrya settles into a solo taolu before he has time to get nervous.
"What style?" Ash asks, suddenly reappearing. Startled, Jenrya stops Playing the Lute. "No, don't stop, it looks great. I know it's not karate..."
"Tai chi," replies Jenrya. "Most people just assume..."
"I did my Year 12 photography portfolio on karate," explains Ash, changing the light bulb with the ease of experience, "this looks different. Can I take photos of your kata?"
"Taolu," Jenrya corrects him. "Tai chi's Chinese so it uses the Chinese word. Sure."
The photographer snaps away as Jenrya performs a Left, then Right Grasp Sparrow's Tail. This isn't so bad.
"We probably won't end up using these," Ash admits, "but if you ever go into acting or something, they could come in useful for you."
"Heaven forbid I become an actor," mutters Jenrya, and Ash laughs.
"I'll send copies to your agent—"
"Lawyer," Jenrya corrects him. "My aunt, actually."
Ash grins. "I'll send copies to your aunt in case you ever change your mind. Now, if we could do your profile photos?"
The eight of them arrive at the department store to launch the 'New Face of Digimon' products to several fans and cameras. Jenrya isn't sure what's weirder; posing with a cardboard cutout of himself or being surrounded by clothes, linen, stickers, stationery, toys, posters, almost everything he can think of with his and his friends' faces on them.
Fortunately Ryo takes control of the situation once again, giving away the freebies with terrible impromptu quizzes. "Okay, everyone, whoever answers this question gets this amazing Digimon backpack with the Matrix Four on it! This bag's got a poster of all eight of us and our partners plus Grani and Beelzebumon, a super cool digivolving Guilmon toy, a Kurumon plushie, and your very own set of trading cards for you aspiring Tamers out there! Now, to win this bag, you just have to answer one question: Who won the last D-1 Tournament? No, Shuichon, you're ineligible for this prize..."
"I wonder what would happen if we asked them a harder question," murmurs Kenta.
"We should try it," suggests Ruki, then she leans over to whisper in Ryo's ear, to the flashes of cameras.
"I can see the fanfiction now," Jenrya groans.
Ryo only grins and throws the bag out to the lucky kid he happens to pick first, before picking up a better prize pack. "This bag's pretty cool as well. Not only does it have an awesome picture of the Three Primary Tamers on the front..."
Takato covers his mic to whisper to the rest of them. "He's really enjoying those stupid titles, isn't he?"
"He knows Digimon pays off," Ruki replies darkly.
"...but it also has the newest version of the Digimon V-Pet! Modeled after our D-Arcs, this new digivice has Monodramon, Renamon, aaaaand Guilmon—"
The crowds cheer. Takato blinks. Jenrya realizes something: "You're getting a lot more royalties than the rest of us because of Guilmon, aren't you?"
"Yeah, I am," mutters Takato, trying to hide behind his water bottle. "It feels weird."
"What do you mean?"
The younger Tamer looks at him askance. "I copyrighted my best friend. You tell me that doesn't sound weird to you."
"—available for you to raise and Tame and battle against other people's Digimon!" continues Ryo. "This new model's fully compatible with the Digimon trading card starter deck included, and any other cards you fancy using! If Taming's not your cup of tea, this backpack also contains a deluxe talking Kurumon plushie and a signed poster of the Matrix Four..."
"Did he get an information sheet on those prize packs beforehand?" Ruki wonders.
"Well, they know Ryo-san has the most experience at this sort of thing," points out Hirokazu. "Otherwise I bet it would've been Takato doing it."
Takato blanches. "Why me?"
"It's the goggles," Hirokazu replies knowingly.
"A sign of leadership," Kenta maintains.
"You must have known when you put them on," says Jenrya.
"I really only put them on to show Guilmon the difference between humans and Digimon," Takato explains, perplexed.
"Folks, because this prize pack's so cool, I'm going to ask a harder question: What's the name of the Ark that brought us home, Takato's sweet ride, and eventually, a Digimon in his own right?"
"He might as well have asked what Takato's favorite card is," Ruki groans, "no one's going to get that."
"White Wings?" asks Shuichon, drawing stares. "What? I was listening during the press conference."
Jenrya looks out into the crowd. "Someone might just have a chance..."
"Grani!" someone yells.
"Whoever that was, you were correct!" Ryo beams. "Come on up and collect your prize!"
Then come more autographs. At least this time the fans come to them instead of the other way around, queuing past their table with autograph books, trading cards and the new collectable cards (they ended up using one of Jenrya's taolu photos on the back of his card after all), T-shirts, cellphone faceplates ("that's going to wear off, you know," Jenrya overhears Ruki pointing out), and some of the new merchandise. Takato is so flattered he almost splutters when a little ten-year-old kid comes up to him with a sketchbook full of Digimon designs and informs him that he's inspired him to keep going with his artwork even though his parents want him to study.
"Yeah, you show 'em, just keep on dreaming, okay?" Takato says fiercely, scrawling over the cover of the book. "Although, you should study once in a while too."
Ruki has her own idol moment when a little girl who must be, what, Shuichon's age silently, blushingly walks up to her with her brown hair in the same spiky ponytail and a heart on her raglan T-shirt.
Jenrya's favorite fan is a girl just younger than him who must have only moved to Japan in the last couple of months (what a time to move to Tokyo). With the other Tamers, her Japanese is halting and accented, but when she reaches Jenrya and Shuichon, she smiles widely and greets them with "Nei hou! Ngo kiu tso Jiang Meiling."
"You know, we have a cousin in Hong Kong named Meiling," Jenrya informs her in Cantonese, and her smile grows even wider. They have a decent conversation before Ryo pokes him in the arm and tells him to send her on.
Maybe Jenrya's getting used to this fame thing. It's certainly not as bad as the press conference was, or the photo shoots.
Now that they've let the world in, the world won't go away. The Matrix Four (as they've taken to calling themselves with a bit of irony) in particular end up doing myriad radio or newspaper interviews or filling in little 'Five Minutes With...' profiles for magazines (Jenrya finds these things take far longer than five minutes). Takato and Juri land a cover with minimal airbrushing, while Ruki somehow gets into women's fashion magazines with her mom (with maximum complaints about the whole thing).
In a bid to save money, Ryo sleeps over at Jenrya's every time he's in Tokyo, and this works out rather well when they end up doing an interview for some teenage girls' magazine Jenrya used to see Jaarin reading (before she moved on to tabloids and doujinshi).
"I'm fourteen, what do they want me for?" Jenrya asks him on the way there.
"You're the oldest of the Three Primaries, you give a fairly intelligent interview, you're a good visual contrast with me but we still complement each other..." Ryo rattles off, amazingly off the top of his head. Then, as an afterthought: "And you're hot."
Jenrya doesn't quite know how to react to that.
"Judging by the fact that they wanted you, I mean," Ryo amends quickly. "Think about it: If they got me and Takato, he'd look like my kid brother."
The mental image is certainly interesting. Jenrya cracks up laughing. "It's funny because it's true!"
Takato's the best person to do radio interviews with because he rambles, and the one interview he's done with Ruki was just about made of awkwardness, but he and Ryo work well together in print media interviews. While Ryo fields a lot of the questions, he does allow Jenrya his fair share, and one way or another Jenrya draws on Ryo's confidence to come up with nice long answers.
It doesn't work like that all the time, though. "Do you miss your Digimon?" the interviewer asks them.
Jenrya swallows the sudden misery in his throat. "Every day."
Christmas vacation couldn't have come quickly enough. Jenrya was getting a little sick of the stares and awkward silence around him in class. His first royalty check is a nice bonus, too, and rather convenient considering his gift list has more than doubled since last year, and Ryo's birthday is coming up soon as well. Juri's planning a surprise party for him that involves them all going down to Kitakyushu and staying there overnight, and that's going to cost money. Ah, the joys of friends.
Of course, his happy little bubble is popped a few days after the check comes, when he, Ruki, and Takato are suddenly called up to the Bandai office again.
Tsubasa, the Bandai rep they usually deal with, smiles across the table at them. "Considering the season, we'd like to do a Christmas song with you three."
"I hate singing," says Ruki.
"I can't sing," adds Takato. "I mean, I'm not as bad as Kenta, but..."
"You're asking the wrong Tamers," finishes Jenrya, "Ryo's the only one of us who can sing."
Ruki and Takato stare at him. "What? He sings in the shower or in the Hypnos cars, when he can bug the drivers to put the radio on. He's good, too. And his impersonations are—"
"Ahem." Aunt Kyo coughs.
"Thank you, Kurohashi-san," smiles Tsubasa. "We've planned around that, actually. If we could get you guys to just record a conversation, we'll get voice actors in to do the singing."
"Do we get to hear the finished product before it's released?" asks Jenrya, ignoring his doubts over allowing someone to sing for him on something released under his name.
"Sure, and we'll have you guys meet the voice actors too."
"Team huddle," orders Takato.
They've been getting used to these huddled, hushed conversations in empty offices with Ruki's agent, who has only ever been seen talking to Bandai people or Ruki or her family, and Aunt Kyo. "What do you think?" she asks. "If your voices are in the end product you'll still be able to get money out of it."
"I'm having moral conflict about this one," Jenrya admits.
"It's better than actually singing," retorts Ruki. "And some of those voice actors are fantastic at impersonations, even when they're singing."
"It could be fun?" ventures Takato.
"I take it they want all three of you," Aunt Kyo reminds them, "so you'd better agree on this."
Takato looks at them, then sticks out a hand. "I'm in."
Junichi, Ruki's agent, nods at her. Ruki puts her hand on top of Takato's. "Me too."
Jenrya thinks a little more.
"Okay, me three."
They return to Tsubasa, Aunt Kyo and Junichi in the lead. "They'll do it."
"Great!" enthuses the representative. "We could take you to a studio right now."
"But I haven't warmed up yet," Ruki says on reflex, then looks away blushing when Jenrya gives her an odd look.
The in-house studio isn't as high-tech as Jenrya imagined, but the soundboard still looks interesting. He doesn't get much time to ogle it before they're ushered into the studio proper. It doesn't look much like they do on TV, for some reason there's a table with three chairs (Jenrya presumes for them to sit on), and the microphone's on the table instead of attached to a music stand. They seat themselves, each putting on a pair of headphones, and Tsubasa retreats into the sound room.
"What do we talk about?" asks Takato.
Tsubasa grins, putting on his own mic. "Santamon."
"What?" Ruki demands.
"And we're rolling!"
Time to improvise. "Hey..." Jenrya starts.
"Huh?" says Ruki, looking at him like he's insane.
"I wonder what kind of Digimon Santamon is?"
Ruki rolls her eyes. "I've never seen one."
"I'll draw him!" declares Takato, getting out the tiny sketchpad he carries around and a pencil. "He's red, and about this big..."
"Ohhhhh, I see," Jenrya encourages him.
Takato seems to be getting more and more enthusiastic. "And his mouth's here, and he's got a shining tail!"
"Huh?" Ruki repeats, incredulous.
"And then sort of...like..." Takato concentrates, pencil apparently not drawing what his mind's eye sees. "Like...like this..."
Jenrya can't work out what he's trying to draw. "Ummm, Takato, I don't think that's quite it."
"That looks weird," Ruki corrects him, ever blunt.
It doesn't look like Takato can work out what he tried to draw either. "Huh?"
The red recording light goes off. "That was perfect!" Tsubasa gushes. "I wouldn't be surprised if that makes it into the final cut! You kids are naturals!"
"Except at drawing," mutters Ruki.
"Have you ever considered going into audio dramas?" Tsubasa continues, oblivious.
It's not even a week before Bandai calls them in again to meet their voice actors. Takato has just one question: "Why are me and Jenrya's voice actors...voice actresses?"
"Your voices are still a bit high for the male voice actors to be able to sing with a good range," Tsubasa points out. "Besides, they're good."
"Hi," says Jenrya, feeling enlightened by this exchange, "I'm Lee Jenrya, but you probably knew that already"
"Nei hou, I'm Lee Jenrya too," replies one of the actresses, in his voice and accent, and the right pronunciation of the Cantonese to boot. Jenrya's eyes widen. She giggles, sounding like herself again. "Actually, I'm Yamaguchi Mayumi."
"My mom's name is Mayumi," Jenrya blinks.
Another actress glances at Ruki. "You've got to be Ruki, you're the only girl." Then her voice changes. "I'm you." Suddenly she's back to normal. "I'm Orikasa Fumiko, but you can call me Fumi-chan!"
Ruki looks a little revolted at the nickname, but has to admit: "You are good."
"If that's Jenrya, you're Takato," says the last actress. "The name's Tsumura Makoto."
"I like the goggles," replies Takato, pointing.
"Really? Thanks!" Makoto beams, using Takato's voice, before returning to her own. "They're actually just ski goggles, but I felt they helped me get into character. Have I got the pronunciation of Guilmon right? Guilmon."
"Flawless," Takato grins.
"Can they sit in on the recording session?" Junichi asks Tsubasa.
"I don't see why not. Here's some copies of the lyrics..."
As soon as Tsubasa's back is turned, Ruki whispers to Jenrya, "This song is stupid."
"What did you expect," Jenrya sighs, "they told us to talk about Santamon."
But it sounds okay in the end, and Jenrya has to admit, those three actresses are perfect for them. All the same, he's surprised when the song debuts at number five on the charts a week before Christmas, rising to number one by Christmas Day.
He hears all this in Osaka, where they're spending a quiet Christmas with Mom's family, if 'quiet' means 'no media or fans' as opposed to actually 'quiet'. The Kurohashi clan seems rather bemused by his and Shuichon's fame, if anything. Aunt Kyo just says it's good to be home.
After checking the progress of "Santamon o Sagase" in the charts, Jenrya watches Jaarin idly Google 'Lee Jenrya'.
"...oh my god."
"A fan site?" Jaarin stammers.
"Fanfiction?" Jenrya counters, even more disbelieving.
"You and self-inserts?" Jaarin adds.
Jenrya's voice suddenly leaps up an octave. What is this, puberty? "They're slashing me with Takato?"
"They're slashing my baby brother?" Jaarin squeals.
"Fame is scary."
A/N, Part Deux: The photographer Jen encounters is a bit of an RPG in-joke. Meiling is an extremely obscure theatre in-joke, and unless I've stuffed up my Cantonese (this is admittedly likely) is pretty much saying hello and introducing herself. Er, my endless apologies to the voice actresses.