THE BALLAD OF JILTED JOHN by Moon71
Chapter 3: The Revelation of Eiri So Eiri has read the review. But what will he make of it?
Note: Well here we are at the end! I want to thank everyone who has posted supportive and friendly reviews – I wasn't sure what you would all make of this, especially the review itself, but no complaints so far!
If it isn't already obvious, most info on Mizuki comes from Vols 1 and 3 of the manga, as she only made a fleeting appearance in the anime.
Last of all, I want to wish EVERYONE a very, very happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year!
Eiri stared at the review for a long moment before scrolling back to the beginning and reading it all over again. Then he did something he had not done with any real conviction since he had returned from the USA at the age of sixteen. He began to laugh out loud.
Only the clicking of a passkey in the hotel room door brought his merriment to a sudden halt. "Yuki…?" came a soft, tentative voice. "Yuki, are you all right? I thought I heard…" Shuichi glanced uncertainly about the room. "I thought I heard someone laughing!"
"I… was watching a video on the YouTube," Eiri mumbled, rubbing his cramping belly muscles. Laughing like that after so long was a painful experience.
"Oh… okay…" Shuichi continued to eye him doubtfully, but then he brightened, strolling over to plant a kiss on Eiri's lips. "It's time for me to go over to the venue; do you want to come with me?"
"No, I'll walk over in a little while," Eiri answered, absently reaching down a hand to stroke Shuichi's bottom. "Break a leg."
"Huh - ?"
"Good luck, moron."
"Oh right!" Shuichi giggled. That bright light was shining in his violet eyes, that rosy flush was on his smooth cheeks. He was already getting fired up for his performance. It was an odd thing to watch – it increased Eiri's respect for his lover every time he saw it, but it also gave him a strange little pang; at times like this, Shuichi could seem surprisingly remote as he began making a transition into a world which Tohma or Sakuma could enter freely but Eiri could only view from a distance. "Don't be late, now…"
With another kiss, he was gone.
Reluctantly, Eiri pulled himself to his feet and headed in the direction of the bathroom. Probably not enough time for a shower – he couldn't be bothered to watch the supporting band open for Bad Luck yet again, and he hated hanging around the dressing rooms like a groupie getting under people's feet, but there was a nice park nearby and he needed the exercise.
But as he switched on the bathroom light and reached for his toothbrush, he found a wry smile tugging at his lips.
Get over yourself and get a bloody life.
Fine advice for Miss Yuki Eiri the 300lb virgin…
Fine advice, indeed, for Yuki Eiri-san, the 22 year old womanising bimbo model with suspect blonde hair…
Fine advice for…
Once again it was the click of the door lock activating that awoke him, followed by Shuichi's voice, this time heaving a huge sigh of relief as he rushed over and threw himself into Eiri's arms, showering him with kisses. "Oh Yuki, thank goodness – when I – I was so worried I…"
Eiri sniffed. Not only was Shuichi feverishly hot, and wearing what looked like K's raincoat, but he reeked of perspiration, damp leather and greasepaint. "What the hell…"
Shuichi buried his face in Eiri's neck, staining his shirt collar with stage make-up. "When I didn't see you in the audience I began to worry, I thought maybe you'd been mugged on your way over, I wanted to get off stage and go and look for you but K said he'd shoot me if I…"
"Stage…?" Eiri rubbed his eyes blearily, looking at the digital display on his laptop. "Shit!" Had he really been working for five solid hours? Once the words had finally, finally begun to flow again, once he knew exactly how to solve the problems plaguing the story, he had completely lost track of time. "Shuichi, I…"
But Shuichi seemed remarkably unruffled by his lover's failure to show up. He was staring at the computer screen too. "Yuki! Have you started writing again? But that's great!" A slow smile spread across his face. "Was it my advice that did it?"
Eiri opened his mouth, and then closed it. Even if he could find a way to explain it, there was certainly no way to do it without making himself sound like a complete idiot. He pushed Shuichi off his lap and pulled himself up. "You stink," he declared, wrinkling his nose, "did your mother never teach you to wash?"
"Yuki!" Shuichi wailed, "That's not fair, I was so worried about you I rushed all the way over here! I didn't even get time to change!"
Eiri grabbed his hand and began hauling him in the direction of the shower.
Mizuki was frowning heavily. Eiri could almost feel her mind working, considering how to play him now that he was digging his heels in. Even he had to admit this was not his usual style – he had always tended to treat his finished drafts with an air of vague contempt, to affect an air of dispassionate boredom, as if they meant nothing. That was never really true; he was more than just a hack romance novelist, pouring out drivel to order – he knew it, Mizuki knew it and so did his readers. But he had never felt quite as passionate about any of his novels before.
There was no way to explain it to Mizuki, even though he thought he now understood. From the very beginning the story and its characters had tapped into his subconscious; a by-product, perhaps not unexpected in the brain of a writer, of the memories Shindou Shuichi had begun to awaken in him from the moment he had entered his life. The first draft had perhaps acted as some sort of catharsis, some release of the building pressure.
But as he had begun the rewrites he had worked so hard to drive out the autobiographical undertones that the characters had developed whole new dimensions, had become more real to him then any characters he had ever created before. Maiko now suggested a soul trapped in darkness, longing for the light but afraid to step out of the shadows. Her own misery had become the focus, the very meaning of her life. If Omi had grown from Shuichi, then at least he could be given Shuichi's newer, more mature aspects – he became more assertive, more attractive, able to see through Maiko's coldness but unwilling to tolerate her spite. But the character Eiri was most pleased with was Mayu, who had grown from a hideous melding of his sister and brother-in-law to a totally original figure, harder, less sentimental, less tolerant. Instead of hovering ready to pick up the pieces when Maiko crashed, she became a figure Maiko was attracted to, like a moth to a flame, but one who had clear limits, only ready to put her fragile friend back together a limited amount of times.
For him, the scene that Mizuki hated was the crucial one. Maiko had gone to see Mayu on the eve of her wedding. They had gone for a drink, during which Maiko poured her heart out, listing all the reasons she could not possibly marry Omi. But half way through the conversation, Mayu had exploded. Maiko, she said, needed to grow up. She needed to get over the past. She had been deceived by a worthless fortune hunter who had known exactly what she was – a naïve, lonely, fanciful girl. So what? Since then she had made a life for herself beyond anything she would probably have achieved had she not been forced to stand alone. She had shaken herself loose of her dictatorial mother and her suffocating family. She had turned a terrible negative into a positive. Now she had a near perfect young man ready to marry her not for her money or her name but for herself. What was she complaining about? Why was she clinging like a fool to something that had never been real in the first place? If Maiko turned Omi down now, it would prove that she was beyond help and Mayu would wash her hands of her. Maiko, she stated bluntly, needed to get over herself and get a life.
Mizuki could change anything she liked, but not that sentence. It meant too much to him. Perhaps, if Mika and Tohma had said that to him years ago, instead of constantly coddling him and moving sharp objects out of his way, he might have shaken off the shadow of New York a lot sooner. Or perhaps he was still blaming them, as he always had done, so he did not have to carry all the blame himself. That was one for the psychiatrist. In Maiko's universe, it worked.
Then again, if things had remained the same, would life have imitated art? Would the pair of them finally have written him off as a bad lot and cut him out of their lives? Now there was a sobering thought.
"I'm not changing the ending and that's final," Eiri declared, crushing out his cigarette with a finality he thought Mizuki should recognise by now. "If you're not happy you can wait for my next novel… but seeing as I haven't started on it yet, that could be several months away…"
Mizuki eyed him shrewdly for a moment, before giving him her sweetest smile. "Oh, I'm sure there's no need for that, Yuki-san," she said cheerfully, "It's a truly excellent novel – and it boasts some of the finest writing I think you've ever done. The modern setting is vital and exciting and it makes a refreshing change. And the characters are… different. They're…" she smiled politely. "A little more human? Now, how about this instead? We keep the scene but soften it a little. A heart to heart between two friends. A gradual realisation on Maiko's part that she has…" She gradually trailed off, her eyes fixing upon something over Eiri's shoulder. "… Yuki-san, there's a young man waving to us, do you… oh! Is that …" Suddenly Mizuki's expression cleared and she waved her hand cheerfully.
Reluctantly Eiri turned and caught sight of a young man in an orange fleece and a baseball cap jogging over to their table. Eiri suppressed a groan. This was all he needed.
As Shuichi's face lit up at the sight of him, his violet eyes sparkling dangerously, Eiri thought for one horrible moment that his lover might actually lean forward and kiss him, or at least throw his arms about him, right in front of Mizuki and half of Tokyo. But Shuichi just smiled happily at him, then bowed gracefully to Mizuki. Strangely disappointed, Eiri sank morosely back into his chair.
"It's nice to see you again, Kanna-san," Shuichi said with an unmistakable little blush colouring his cheeks.
Kanna-san? Eiri blinked. Since when had those two got on such intimate terms? He frowned as Shuichi accepted Mizuki's invitation to join them, the two of them giggling like idiots as they studied the café menu. He had noticed that Shuichi had a boyish little crush on Eiri's editor ever since she had fished him drunk out of a fountain after a row with Eiri and then called Eiri to let him know Shuichi had fallen ill. But it had probably been exacerbated by a moment of post-coital imbecility when Eiri had admitted that Mizuki had been one of the first of his acquaintances to not only acknowledge them as a couple but actually speak supportively of the relationship.
Finally Mizuki ordered Shuichi coffee with some ghastly flavoured syrup in it, along with plain black coffee for Eiri and tea for herself, while Shuichi began chattering about plans for Bad Luck's second album.
"Shuichi-san!" Mizuki gasped, as the vocalist removed his cap, revealing short ebony locks. "I thought something was different about you! Have you decided on a new image?"
"Oh no," Shuichi laughed, "I just did it for Yuki! He said just once he'd like to see me completely natural for once – "
"I only said it would make him less conspicuous during his month's break," Eiri snapped quickly, glaring at Shuichi across the table.
"Yuki!" Shuichi cried, "that's not what you said that night in Kyushu when we – owww!" He let out a yelp as Eiri stamped on his foot under the table, but another damning look from his lover finally brought the message home. "Well, anyway, I wanted to go orange next – orange is my favourite colour, and Hiro said that orange and blue are complimentary, which means they sort of set each other off, and I thought that way orange would set off my eyes, but then again my eyes are kind of purple too, so maybe I should go blonde? Purple and yellow are complimentary too, you see! But then people would think I was trying to look like my boyfriend!" Shuichi shrieked with laughter. "But anyway my manager K said that the pink hair's become a sort of trademark…"
As their order arrived, Shuichi talked, Mizuki listened with apparently genuine pleasure and Eiri sipped his strong black coffee and brooded. Only when the conversation changed to Eiri's manuscript did he start paying serious attention. "…I really think this could be the most successful of Yuki-san's novels," he heard Mizuki saying.
"Yeah, I think so too!" Shuichi said with unwarranted self-assurance, "he's been reading bits of it to me since we got back from our tour – well, actually he started on the tour bus – did you know he came with us? Isn't that so cool of him? And did you know he named the main character after my sister? Man, you could have heard the shrieks all the way to the moon when I told her! And he even asked my advice…"
Eiri choked on his coffee.
"Well, I always thought you were a good influence on Yuki-san," Mizuki answered, beaming at the pair of them with infuriating maternal warmth as Shuichi slapped Eiri hard on the back. "I do hope you'll come with him to the book-launch, Shuichi-san…"
Eiri could barely suppress a groan as his head filled with visions of the future. He could almost see the society columns laid out before him in full colour. Yuki Eiri was accompanied to the book launch by vibrant, pink-haired vocalist Shindou Shuichi of the popular band "Bad Luck"… or, far worse, At this year's MTV awards, Asian pop sensation Shuichi Shindou, lead singer of Bad Luck, arrived at the award ceremony with his partner, successful Japanese romance author and super-cool heartthrob Eiri Yuki…
Feeling a little dizzy, Eiri instinctively reached for his cigarettes. Shuichi's eyes caught the movement at once and flickered unhappily before quickly shifting away. Cursing under his breath, Eiri stuffed the chosen cigarette back into the packet and dumped it back on the table.
This "happily ever after" thing was going to be a real bugger to get used to.