Disclaimer: I do not own SkipBeat!, nor am I associated with any of it's affiliates, such as Hana to Yume magazine, or ShojoBeat publishers. All characters within are created and presumably owned by Nakamura Yoshiki-sensei. I humbly beg pardon for any mistakes that may be made by me.

Sorry for the delay, and you guys gave me such nice reviews too! I got behind because I had finals for college, and got out of the groove, you could say, and couldn't write anything more for a while. I only have a light class load during the summer, though, so I'll try to be more up-to date!


Crescendo

By PhoenixTorte

Sho angrily kicked a trash can, sending it flying almost halfway down the hallway. Crossing his arms, he plopped onto a nearby bench. The hall only had a few people passing through it, being in an area of LME that got less traffic.

"Damn, damn, damn!!" he exclaimed out loud. Fuming, he muttered under his breath so that nearby onlookers were afraid to even glance his way. "Kyouko…with him…all night…what are you jerks looking at?!" The innocent onlookers quickly scattered.

"Aren't you being a little harsh?" Shoko asked as she handed Sho's coffee to him. "Your popularity is based on you being cool, after all, not highly emotional and crazy."

"I knoooow…" Sho moaned. "But when I think of that slimy jerk…and I have to see him today for the filming…"

Shoko chuckled a little to herself. 'I can't believe he's still so childish, acting all jealous over a girl that he threw away…' She cleared her throat a little. "Anyway, Sho, if you don't hurry, you'll be late for that interview, and after that's the filming for Garden of Tears. Try to be a little professional about it, okay?"

Sho sighed. "I guess there's no help for it. I have a reputation to uphold, after all." Getting up from the bench he had flung himself huffily upon earlier, he headed for the exit of LME. If Kyouko thought she was going to take up with that prissy actor Tsuruga, she had another thing coming. It was alright though. He would set her straight tomorrow.


Kyouko stared at herself in the mirror. The last day of filming was tomorrow, and the day after filming they were going to do interviews on TV with a well known personality. A lot of people were going to watch, and Kyouko didn't want to be shown at her worst. However, for the life of her, she couldn't figure out how to put on her makeup.

She picked up a tube of lipstick. It read, "Blushing Virgin", and was a pale pink in color. Her face twisted in concentration, she began to apply the glossy color.

Since she was so absorbed in applying her lipstick, she jumped when she heard the pounding on the door. Quickly wiping the lipstick that got on her cheek when her hand jerked, she rose to answer the door to her small room in the Darumaya household. She was rather surprised at the sight that greeted her.

Sho, panting with anger, was glaring at her. Behind him, the okami-san of the darumaya was wringing her hands in worry. "I told him not to disturb you, but this young man has no manners," the middle aged woman explained, her concern etched on her face.

"Don't worry, okami-san," Kyouko assured her. "This guy just lacks all human virtues, that's all."

"And I suppose that Tsuruga Ren has the virtues that I lack," Sho said, his voice low and dangerous. The okami-san decided to leave the two alone, but didn't go too far. She and her husband waited just out of earshot so that they could come to Kyouko's aid if the insolent pup tried to hurt her.

"Oh," Kyouko said. "Are you jealous of Tsuruga-san, Sho?" Sho calmed a little, hearing her address him more familiarly than her rival.

"Of course not. How can I be, when there's no way that a guy like him would go after such a woman lacking in sexiness?" Sho taunted, trying to make her angry. It worked. Kyouko's chest heaved as she tried to think up an appropriate comeback.

"I may be lacking in sexiness, but Tsuruga-san's a better man than you'll ever be, and way cooler too." She replied, realizing last second that somehow she still put herself down with that comment. Her face flushed becomingly with that realization.

"Apparently," Sho retorted. "I know that you spent the night with him only a few days ago. Are you that easy then? If I had known…" he reached forward, stroking a lock of hair that had fallen over her face. He leered lecherously at her, making her want to sock him. She had to fight not to give into the urge. Instead, she was able to restrain herself, and merely slapped his hand away. However, he grabbed her wrist, and pinned her to the wall. His lips came dangerously close to hers.

"You still miss me, don't you?" he asked.

"What makes you think that?" she replied, wrinkling her nose at his close proximity.

"Becaauuse…you always think about me." Kyouko flushed with indignation, spluttering her protests. "You do, don't deny it. You always are plotting your revenge against me…because you were so in love with me…heh. You even got my poster on your wall."

"So?" Kyouko spat out. "I have Tsuruga-san's poster there too."

"Yeah," Sho taunted. "But mine's bigger."

"Only 'cause I hat-" she was cut off when Sho's lips covered hers. She was so stunned that she couldn't move. She had never been kissed before, not even by Sho. Petrified, she only stood against the wall, frozen, when Sho moved away from her.

"Think about it," he smirked, leaving. The Darumaya couple looked anxiously up the stairs to Kyouko's room. The cat had left looking as though he had got to the cream, after all. Kyouko was stunned, not moving from where Sho had left her, only one thought running through her mind.

'What the hell??"


"Are you sure that this is alright, Tsuruga-san?"

The man in question only gave her a heavenly smile, one that seemed less blinding the more time she spent with him. "Of course. We must seem to be a couple, after all. Arriving together is a perfect way to make it seem that way."

Kyouko blushed. "Ye-es…but is it really necessary for me to hold on to your arm like this?" She glanced down to where Ren and she were joined. Smiling, Ren only patted her arm. Clearly not in the mood to argue any more, she merely looked troubled, the faint flush still on her face. Speaking of which, she seemed to be wearing a new lip color, and Ren remarked upon it.

She perked up a little. "Oh, yes! It's called 'Blushing Virgin'," she trailed off, thinking of the last time she had worn the color. Ren chuckled.

"Somehow, the title suits you." Kyouko blushed even harder.

"Don't tease me like that, Tsuruga-san!" she scolded, the tongue-lashing softened by her becoming blush. "Today's the last day of filming, what are people going to think?"

"That I care for you, very deeply," he murmured, bowing his head closer to hers. "And please, call me Ren. We're supposed to be lovers." Kyouko flushed, looking a little guilty. "What's wrong?"

"I'll tell you later, after filming," she said. Ren was a kind man; surely he'd listen to her troubles about Sho. Putting her worries to rest, she tried to think about how she would portray the character of Kuroko. She wanted her performance to be perfect today.

Tears ran down Kuroko's face. She had just arrived at her fiancé's household. The sight that greeted her made her stomach clench in fear. Unnoticed, she watched the proceedings from the doorway of the courtyard.

Straining men sought to keep Akira away from the Otome heir, who was rather rumpled and bruised-and livid. "Really," the young man baited his enemy. "Did you think that by coming here you could free the girl? She'll only suffer for what you have tried to do for her."

"No," Akira shouted, angrily. "You won't punish an innocent girl because of me!"

"Won't I?" the other man said, his face set in marble. Though handsome, he was chilling in the waves of malice that radiated from him. Gesturing to another, he signaled that his katana, his long sword, be brought to him. The metal gleamed as he unsheathed it. "Now, I can't have you stealing away my bride. That would be rather troublesome."

Bracing himself, he prepared to drive the cold steel into the helpless man held captive by his men.

"No!!" A scream rent the air. Undeterred, Otome kept his sword arcing towards Akira's flesh. It was not a man's flesh that the sword entered.

Ashen, Otome dropped his sword. "I-I didn't mean to," he said to no one in particular. The men holding Akira released him in shock, and Akira stumbled forward to catch the fainting Kuroko. The wound was deep. She would not live.

"Kuroko…" Tears wet her cheeks, but it was not she that shed them. The anguish in her lovers' voice broke her heart.

"Do not grieve for me so, my love," she whispered. "I could not bear it, for you are so precious to me." She managed to gather a smile for him, a smile that would have been lovely had it not been haunted by the specter of death.

"I love you; I always did, even since we were children. You mean so much to me…" Kuroko hushed him, knowing that she did not have long now.

"There will always be other loves, my darling. Live well for me, be a good, strong man, and live on for…" she whispered, her voice softening, fading.

Otome looked on, his own grief evident on his face. Though the marriage had been arranged, it had been through his request. He had loving the kind laughing-beauty that had been Yamaguchi Kuroko. When Akira began to moan, he stayed back, allowing privacy for the man she had chosen to give her heart to. When Akira gently laid her body down, Otome stepped forward.

"I know that there is nothing that I can say," he began. "I can't bring her back; I never meant to hurt her. I give orders now that Kuroko's body is to be honorably buried."

"What will you do to make up for the blood that you have spilled here, in anger?" Akira's eyes were raging a silent fire in his face. Yuki responded by kneeling, placing his dagger in front of him

"I will atone with my life if I must."

Akira looked at Yuki long and hard. Finally, he came to a decision. "Put your blade away. K-Kuroko would not have wanted such a thing to come to pass."

Turning, he picked up his love. He would take her and tend to herself, and try to live up the promises that he had made to her as she lay dying. He would be a man that she could be proud of.

He swore it.

Kyouko walked out to the car with Ren. After such a difficult day of filming, she was grateful that Ren had offered her a ride home. "What was it that was bothering you earlier?" Ren asked Kyouko.

"Hmm," she started, trying to get a handle on her thoughts. "Well, Sho came to visit me yesterday."

"So," Ren asked. "Did he do something to make you upset?" He was a little annoyed that Sho had visited her, but he was sure that Kyouko wouldn't do anything like go back to the little twerp.

"Weeeeellll," she dragged the word out. "Sorta."

Ren watched her. Kyouko would tell him when she was ready, but she looked rather nervous. He decided to be patient, and hear her out. When he heard about the kiss, all thought fled his mind. The Demon Lord was seriously pissed that Sho had dared to touch his Kyouko. Kyouko froze when she saw the look on Ren's face. 'Oh, craaap!!' she thought. 'He's really mad at me now.'

"Gomen!" She burst out. "I didn't want him too, I wouldn't have let me…" she lost track of what she was babbling when Ren leaned forward, pressing his mouth to hers.

'Oh, my,' she thought. 'Why is my heart beating so fast?' Kyouko's breath sped up. Kissing Ren was nothing at all like kissing Sho. She had been shocked at Sho, but compared to the way Ren was making her feel, she might as well have been Sho's big sister. Warmth spread through her body, and her heart beat so fast that it threatened to jump out of her body. When Ren finally released, she could only stand there in a languid daze.

Ren had to gently prod her to get in the car, and she was still affected on the whole drive home. When he opened the door for her in front of her place, she seemed to revive a little. Standing in front of the Darumaya, she asked, "What was that about, Ren-chan?"

She didn't seem to notice what she had called him, but Ren's heart warmed at hearing the familiarity. Rather than answer, he merely stroked her cheek softly with his fingers, and leaned down for another kiss. This one was gentle, sweet, unlike the fierce kiss he had given her earlier, and he nudged her to the door when it was over, watching to be sure that she got inside alright. His heart was full of the love that he hoped she would return someday.

Kyouko stood just in front of the door, listening as Ren got his car and drove away. Her face flushed, she raised a hand to her reddened lips.

What the heck was going on with Ren? This was so unusual…surely her sempai didn't like her in that way…

Right?


Phew! That was a little bit of a juicy one! I actually wrote this one pretty quick, so please let me know if there were any errors. I hope you enjoyed!!