Okay. I just have one thing to say from yesterday that I forgot.
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!
Oh man! You have no idea how much I enjoyed cutting it off there!
Best. Cliff. Hanger. Ever.
I'm getting the feeling that this year's Advent was a lot more confusing than last year's?
Better plot line maybe?
If you're going to listen to music whilst reading this – start with 'Fairy Tales of New York' – it's what I'm listening to when I'm writing this chapter.
The first scene was a request from my editor WriterofShadow. I wasn't planning on having it in but she asked me to as a Christmas present and she's been so good to me this past month that I though...why not?
Dedication: For everyone who has reviewed or will review. You guys are the best and kept me going when I started to flag halfway through the month. Too numerous to list but you are AWESOME!
December 25th – Happy Christmas!
Kyoko stood frozen in place as Sho's lips pressed into hers. She could feel his heartbeat speed up under her palm. The palm she had held up to ward off this moment.
Oh dear Lord.
Sho also seemed to be frozen at what had happened. Or at least that's what she thought until his eyes slid slowly closed.
Horror closed off her throat. What was he doing?!
She tried to push him off but her arms either weren't listening to her or she had no strength left. She was panicking when, suddenly, Sho was yanked backwards violently, his eyes springing open. Kyoko thought she saw a flash of fear pass through them.
The next thing she saw was Ren holding Sho by the front of his shirt and lifting him until he was standing on his tiptoes. Sho had his palms up, trying to beg for mercy.
"It was an accident! I swear! I didn't mean to! I was PUSHED!"
Ren didn't seem to be listening. He looked furious. Kyoko had never ever seen him like this before. He was more than scary, he was downright terrifying and Kyoko and the group of celebrities scrambled backwards away from him.
"You dare to kiss Kyoko?"
Ren whispered the words but everyone heard them clearly.
Sho died a little inside.
"What? No! No, no, no, no. That isn't..."
He grew more and more panicked as Ren's face grew more and more dark. Kyoko was eight feet away and she was choking from the death vibes Ren was exuding.
She had no idea how bad Sho had it.
The music had been cut off and everyone had turned to face the scene playing out in front of them.
Kyoko felt sorry for Sho. And that was a forgotten feeling.
There was a tense stand-off. Ren still had Sho in the air and Sho was breathing heavily and sweating in fear, trying to keep Ren from killing him.
One small thing could spark the whole thing off and everyone seemed to realise this. They kept as quiet and still as they could.
Unfortunately, Sho didn't get the memo. Either that, or Ren was becoming too much for him. He looked frantically over to Kyoko and held out his hand, begging her with his eyes.
"Kyoko, tell him! Tell him it was an accid-"
"DON'T CALL HER BY HER NAME!"
Something in Ren snapped and in one fluid motion he dropped Sho and drew back his fist.
Sho, who hadn't been prepared to take his own weight so suddenly, staggered a little and looked up...
...just in time for Ren's fist to smash into his jaw.
Sho dropped immediately, blood pouring down his chin, too dazed to bring his hand up to stop the bleeding. His white shirt was slowly staining red.
Kyoko felt sick and clapped her hands over her mouth, her eyes filling with tears. Why did this have to happen? It was Christmas! It was her seventeenth birthday!
She didn't want this. She had thought she had wanted to hurt Sho but she hadn't wanted this.
A sob escaped her fingers, breaking the spell everyone seemed to be under. She spun and ran out of the room.
She just needed to get away!
Yashiro had watched what had just happened, frozen in place like everyone else. When he saw Kyoko pushing her way out of the room something in him came back to reality.
...didn't stop him blinking to see if he was dreaming or not.
When he opened his eyes to see Ren bearing down on a bloodied Sho he decided that he needed to do something to save Ren's career because he certainly didn't seem to be helping himself.
He was too far away to hear what was being said but Sho was saying something to Ren and he seemed angry. Ren just responded with getting angrier. When he started forward again to punch Sho Yashiro rushed forward, dropping his glass of champagne on the floor.
He practically rugby tackled Ren from the side, knocking him out of the way so that, to keep his balance, Ren had to leave of maiming Sho again.
"Ren! Go after Kyoko now."
Ren blinked at the anger in Yashiro's voice. It didn't help calm the fire in his blood but Yashiro lost his temper and flared up himself.
"Ren. If you don't go after Kyoko now, so help me God."
Yashiro had knelt down to Sho, who was still sprawled on the floor, to see what the damage was. He glared up at Ren when he didn't move.
With a strangled cry Yashiro leapt up and shoved Ren in the chest.
"Kyoko. Kyoko! Yes, Kyoko! You remember her don't you? I'm trying to save whatever left of your career you have left so just, do me a favour and go after Kyoko! She doesn't remember anything and she's going to wonder why you went berserk on someone that she's probably just met again and who has only been nice to her!"
Ren's mouth dropped open as Yashiro yelled at him.
"Oh shit. Kyoko!"
He spun around, trying to find her but she was long gone. Yashiro sighed when Ren shoved his way through the startled onlookers to follow Kyoko.
When Ren was safely out of the room, Yashiro turned back to a furious Sho to see what the damage was.
Sho shoved Yashiro's hands off him and stood up, spitting a mouthful of blood on the floor.
"Bastard. I'm going to ruin everything he's ever loved."
"Now, now." Yashiro tried to placate him, brushing down his clothes.
Sho rounded on him furiously, his chin and shirt still cover in blood and his jaw and side of his face already turning a deep purple. Yashiro flinched back.
"Look at me! The man's a madman! I did nothing. It was a simple kiss under the mistletoe, which was an accident by the by."
Yashiro lowered his voice "He really cares for Kyoko."
Sho blew up again. "I don't care if he cares for Kyoko or not. I care for Kyoko but you don't see me going around punching other people's lights out over a kiss under the mistletoe. He made me bleed; the man's going to pay."
Sho stormed out of the room and Yashiro let him go, for once not having any idea how to fix this.
Harumi was smiling. She leant back over to the DJ.
"You can put the music back on now."
The man nodded, still stunned and flipped a switch. Music filtered through the hall and Harumi chuckled to herself. This was going to cost her big time but it had been one of the best Christmases she had ever had.
"Harumi. We need to talk."
She looked up to see Lory, scrunching her face when she recognised the tightly leashed anger.
"Of course Lory-kun. Just let me sort something out first. After all, your prodigy just nearly ruined my party."
With that parting shot she floated past him and walked out of the room, following the path taken by Kyoko, Ren and Sho.
Harumi appeared twenty minutes later, brushing her dress off happily. The smile dropped off her face when she saw that Lory was still waiting for her. Rolling her eyes at what she knew was about to come, she signalled for Lory to follow her over to a secluded corner of the room.
As soon as they were relatively private, Lory rounded on his long time friend.
"What do you think you're playing at? I know what you did."
Harumi blinked in shock before she frowned.
"What did I do?"
"You've messed everything up! You started this all with your bet and then you meddled throughout the month, manipulating Kyoko and Ren both. Then you go and hurt Kyoko and put her in the hospital!"
"Hey! I admit to the bet but I never messed with Kyoko or Ren. They asked questions, I answered. You're the one who meddled! What with your 'Oh Yashiro, do you have a minute? I want to get all the latest from you whilst pretending I'm not doing it'. And you're 'Here you go Kanae-chan. Take the company credit card'."
"That isn't meddling!"
"And I did not put Kyoko in the hospital! That was just an unfortunate accident."
Lory paused, reigning in his temper to try and look at the situation objectively. He wasn't the president for the best agency in Japan because he was known for his rash judgements.
He narrowed his eyes.
"Really. Can you swear on the grave of your mother?"
Harumi's jaw worked for a moment.
"That. Was a low blow. But yes, if it makes you feel any better. I swear on the grave of my mother that I did not cause that accident."
They stared at each other for a moment before Lory broke the silence by breathing in sharply through his nose.
Harumi raised her eyebrow.
"Is that it? You got everything off your chest have you?"
"Yeah. That was the main bulk of it."
"Phew. I thought you were going to say something about the blackmail. Ah well."
Lory stood stunned as she patted him on the arm and went back over to the DJ to get him to play one of her favourite songs by Sho.
Ren finally caught up with Kyoko and grabbed her hand before she could run any further. Tears were streaming down her cheeks and it broke Ren's heart to see how much he had hurt her.
"Kyoko, wait. You don't understand. I only did what was necessary, he really hurt you. He's not a nice person. Don't hate me, please. I couldn't bear it."
Kyoko snatched her hand away.
"No. You don't understand. I remember! I remember everything! And you didn't have to go and do that! It was an accident. Someone really did push him."
Ren looked at her, shocked.
She stomped her foot on the ground.
"Yes! Yes, I remember!"
"When did you get your memories back?"
"A few days ago, the day I left the hospital. Harumi-san showed me a video and they came back then."
Ren clutched at his chest, his heart hurting at the implications.
"That long? Why didn't you say anything? And why then, didn't you stop Sho? You knew what he did to you then and you still let him kiss you."
Seeing the hurt look on his face made Kyoko more upset, both at herself because of the situation she had let herself get into and because she had hurt Ren. Her upset only translated into more anger.
"Well, first off. The kiss was an accident! It didn't give you the right to punch him in the face! I can't believe you did that. Second, I couldn't tell you that I got my memories back because I'm being blackmailed."
She stood there panting, having finished yelling at Ren. When she saw the stricken look on his face and realised what she had just blurted out she clapped her hands back over her mouth and groaned.
Great. She had broken the secret and now everyone's lives were going to be ruined. She needed to get away now before it all became so much worse.
Maybe if she left now she could pretend that she hadn't said anything and Harumi might never find out and spread the video?
Her decision made, Kyoko turned, ready to run away.
She was stopped when Ren wrapped his arms around her from behind.
She sagged against his chest. She couldn't escape now even if she wanted to.
Fresh tears ran down her cheeks and dripped onto his hands. Ren buried his nose into her hair and breathed deeply, tightening his hold.
"You're being blackmailed?" He asked.
Kyoko leant back into him for support which he readily gave before she started her story.
"It was when I was in the hospital. I woke up the night before I was going to be released. Harumi-san was sitting in the chair and she said that she had a plan which involved me.
"She showed me a video that she had recorded of events in your flat."
"Events involving us. Like when we practised for 'Dark Moon' and when you were ill and I had to get you changed..."
Ren felt the muscles in his stomach tighten. This woman had footage of that? How had she managed to get cameras in his flat without him knowing? He had never noticed them before.
"She said that if I didn't go to the awards or if I told you that I didn't have amnesia any more then she would show the world the tape and ruin not only your career but everyone else's too.
"I couldn't let that happen!"
She started to struggle, trying to fight her way out of his arms, as if running away would help their problem any.
Ren kept a tight hold of her so that, after a few moments, she gave up and scrubbed her face with the heel of her hand.
When Ren felt that it was safe to loosen his hold and that she wasn't going to go sprinting off, he did just that and spun her around in his arms. He cocked his head to the side as he tilted her own chin up to him.
Staring deep into her eyes so that she would realise how serious he was, he took a deep breath.
"Kyoko. I don't care about what you did. You had your reasons and yes, I'm a little hurt that you didn't trust me, but I get why you did it. I understand that you were just trying to protect everyone."
He smiled softly at her.
"Of course I do. I love you."
He said it so simple that it took Kyoko a few moments to work out what he had said. When her brain finally caught up her eyes widened and her mouth fell open, speechless.
Ren smiled again when he realised that she wasn't pushing away from him in disgust.
He leant in closer.
"I love you." He whispered against her lips before he kissed her.
Kyoko felt her stomach do flip flops but she was too stunned to do anything but stand there, trying to catch her breath.
When he pulled away she stared at him and he chuckled, a little embarrassed. He turned serious soon enough.
"Do you trust me?"
She opened her mouth to answer but nothing came out. In the end she just nodded, dumbly.
Ren smiled and pressed another kiss to her forehead.
"Go to my flat. I'll sort everything out here, don't worry. Just wait for me. Okay?"
She nodded again and Ren slowly let go of her arms. She didn't run at the first opportunity and Ren took that as a good sign.
"Go. I'll be over in a few hours."
For some reason she felt shy and she nodded at him, taking the keys he offered her.
Ren watched her leave in her dazed state. When she was out of sight his eyes narrowed and his temper flared up once again.
So this Harumi thought that she could mess with what was his, eh?
She was going to have to rethink that if she wanted to live past the dawn.
The celebrities in the hall were just recovering from what had just happened when Ren stormed back into the room and scared half of them witless.
Ignoring the reaction he searched the room for any sign of Harumi. He spotted her just moments later as she walked away from a stricken Lory who turned quickly and ran after her.
His eyes narrowed as he thought of what this woman had done to Kyoko.
Striding across the room he made it over to them in seconds, just in time for him to hear Lory exclaim.
"Blackmail? What blackmail?"
Harumi turned, chuckling at him but she stopped as soon as she saw Ren looming over her.
"Oh dear. I was hoping I would have left by this time. Looks like you and Kyoko sorted everything out quicker than I planned."
Ren gritted his teeth.
"Not that it's any of your business but Kyoko has gone back to my flat and –"
"Really?" she asked, cutting him off. "That's moving a bit fast isn't it?"
"And." He said, ignoring her interruption. "We will be discussing what has happened later. What I wanted to see you about was your blackmailing of my Kyoko!"
Harumi raised her eyebrows at his turn of phrase but sighed when she realised that she wasn't going to be able to get away.
"I guess I'm going to have to explain then. You suck the fun out of everything you know that?"
Rolling her eyes she turned away from them and signalled for both Ren and Lory to follow her. Leading them out of the room she found an empty room and walked in, waiting for them to pass her before she closed the door.
Sighing once more, she turned to face them.
"Ok. Ask me anything then."
Ren and Lory shot each other a look. This wasn't what they had expected.
Harumi looked between the two of them before crossing her arms.
"Well? Come on. I don't have all day."
"Why did you blackmail Kyoko?" Ren asked.
"So that she would come to the awards. That was an easy one. Next?"
"Why did you want her to come to the awards?"
"So that she and Ren would get together. Okay, you have to seriously start asking harder questions here. I'm getting bored."
"So that they would get together?" Lory asked shocked. "But you said...you made the bet that Kyoko wouldn't go with Ren! You bet all that money on her not going!"
Ren stood frozen before he turned a confused look on Lory.
"You bet on me?"
Harumi cut through Lory's answer.
"Yes, yes. Of course I bet on her not going. Don't forget Lory, I've known you since you were six. I know how you operate. If I say don't meddle, you meddle. It's as simple as that.
"And whilst you didn't do anything outright, you certainly made it easier if they did what you planned. Like with the credit card for instance."
"But the money!"
"Lory. I was always going to give you that money back. It was an obscene amount really."
"Then why didn't you just do that? Why bet on me and Kyoko?" Ren asked.
Harumi turned to face him and shrugged.
"I thought it would be more interesting this way."
"Yes. Interesting. Next."
"Why did you meddle?"
"To make it interesting. Again. Anymore?"
"How did you get footage from my apartment of me and Kyoko?"
"Footage? What footage?"
"Don't act like you don't know!" Ren exploded. "The footage that you used to blackmail Kyoko!"
"Ooooh...that. Well. That can be explained easily. Your flat used to be my flat."
Harumi nodded, knowingly.
"Yup. Bet you didn't know that. When you were looking for a flat when you first moved here, Lory came to me and asked if I knew anywhere. I was moving anyway so I said why not? Turns out that I hadn't turned off all the cameras like I thought.
"I saw you completely by accident. I had been flicking through my own security cameras when it switched to those in your flat. I was going to switch them off when I saw what was happening and an idea popped into my head."
Ren stood gobsmacked.
"You mean...you planned all this? From then?"
"You've been watching me in my own flat all this time?"
"What? No. Only when I knew Kyoko was coming over. Don't worry though...the cameras are placed at spots where you get the maximum coverage but doesn't show private places like the bed or the bathroom."
Lory cut across Ren's horror.
"How did you know when Kyoko would be appearing at Ren's?"
"I bugged all the phones at L.M.E.
"Including those that you give out to employees. It's amazing what you learn."
She smiled sweetly at them.
"So...you did all this?"
"Pretty much. I've been taking care of Kyoko for a long time without her knowing and I really did feel sorry about the accident. Not just because she was ruining my plan. So I got them to put her in my private room at the hospital.
"That's bugged too, though it was just to make sure she was getting the best care."
"That was your room?" Ren looked stunned.
"Wait..." Lory started, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Why did you turn the music off just now when Ren hit Fuwa-san?"
Harumi grinned and shrugged. "Didn't want to miss the finale."
Ren's eyes widened.
"The finale?! I could be ruined all because of your games?"
Harumi brushed off his concerns.
"Pah. You're career won't be ruined. There was no press allowed here and no one who witnessed it will talk. I have dirt on all of them. They'll be too scared to say anything."
She frowned at Ren.
"I'm not condoning the violence though. That was a bit harsh. After all, he was only pushed into Kyoko on my command."
"But enough about that."
"What about Fuwa-san?" Lory asked. "Surely he's going to complain to the press?"
"Oh no. I bought him off. He's going to be the main star of everything I put on for the next three years. He's going to be the most popular male singer in Japan and maybe the world."
She grinned at Ren.
"You're going to have to work very hard to keep your top spot. What with your relationship with Kyoko and everything.
"Speaking of Kyoko. She'll have to work hard on her revenge too...if she still has that goal."
Ren and Lory stood staring at Harumi, speechless. Eventually Lory made a move.
"You mean...that all this time...? You've been manipulating me?"
Harumi smiled sadly and patted him on the arm.
"Yes, dear. Yes I have. Why do you think I was all too willing to go along with it when you had that 'brilliant' idea of bringing this awards ceremony back? But look on the bright side! It's your turn next!"
"Willing? With that amount of money you demanded?"
"I was going to give you it back."
Lory just stared at her in bewilderment before he narrowed his eyes.
"I'll be looking forward to it."
She smiled at the two men and looked at her watch.
"Would you look at the time? I have to leave to catch my plane to Paris."
She started to leave when she remembered something and came back handing Ren a small box. He looked at it with confusion.
"It's a birthday present for Kyoko-chan. I know that you've been too busy with everything that's happened over the last few days to go shopping for one."
Ren opened the box and blinked at the silver ring.
"Don't worry. I don't expect that. It's just good luck for a girl to receive a ring from the man she loves before her eighteenth birthday. And seeing as you probably weren't going to be getting her another present this year, and seeing as by next Christmas it would be too late...
"I thought that it would be best if you did it now."
She grinned at him and patted him on the arm.
"Okay. I really have to go now. Ta ta! "
She left and the two men stare after her, blindsided by what had just happened. After a few minutes of silence Lory turned to Ren.
"Well...I didn't expect that." He chuckled. "Harumi-san is always doing things like that. I should have known something was fishy when she agreed to do this in the first place."
He patted Ren on the arm.
"It's okay. I'll explain what has happened to Kanae-chan and Yashiro-san. You just go back to Kyoko-chan and I'll see you when you come back to work."
Ren nodded and walked out of the room in a daze, heading home to Kyoko.
He arrived back to find a worried Kyoko pacing the living room. He was about to pull her into a hug when he remembered the cameras.
Damn. With everything that had happened he had forgotten to ask Harumi to take them down.
He wasn't even sure anymore that she hadn't left early just so she could avoid it.
Taking Kyoko by the hand he dragged her into the bedroom and sat her in the middle of the bed. She blushed as he crawled up next to her.
He only hoped that Harumi hadn't been lying to him when she said that the bed wasn't covered.
"Ren-san. I am so sorry."
He stayed silent for a moment before tracing his fingers down her cheek.
"I preferred it when you called me Ren...or even Ren-kun."
She blushed harder and ducked her head. Ren smiled and tilted her chin up again so that she had to look at him.
"I...I don't think that that would be appropriate."
"I do." He whispered as he leaned closer.
Kyoko jerked away.
"What are you doing? How can you even think of...what happened with Harumi-san? Is everything sorted? What happened?"
Ren smiled at her and stroked her cheek.
"Do you trust me?"
"Do you trust me?"
Kyoko blinked at him before her eyes softened.
"Yes. Yes I do."
"Then trust me when I say that everything is sorted and I'll explain later."
She stared at him and nodded.
He smiled at her and pulled out the box.
"Here. Happy birthday."
She stared at him before taking the box from his hand. She opened the box and her eyes lit up in excitement before dimming into uncertainty.
"A ring? What does this...?"
Ren rubbed the back of his head in embarrassment.
"It's supposed to be good luck for a girl to get a silver ring from the man she...from a man before her eighteenth birthday."
"Oh..." She slipped the ring onto her right ring finger and smiled at Ren. "It's perfect. Thank you."
He smiled at her and suddenly she felt very tired. Yawning widely she rubbed her eyes. He moved over.
"Here. You can sleep here. I'll get you one of my shirts. I'll go through into the living room."
He stood up from the bed to get her something to sleep in and she reached out to him, slightly panicked.
He stared down at her before smiling. Bending over he kissed her again, his fingers threading through her hair.
After a few moments he pulled away slightly so that when he spoke his lips still brushed against hers.
"I'm just going to be in the next room Kyoko.
"I'll be waiting for you."
I feel sorry for Sho in this chapter. I just want to give him a hug. He didn't do anything really and he gets knocked flat on his back?
I don't know if that's precisely the reaction my editor wanted though...
It's been a long hard road and I'm apologising now for those readers who are to the east of me who are ahead in the time zones and may not even get to read this on their Christmas day.
Epic chapter. Longest thing I've ever written in two hours.
Hope you enjoyed it. Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year.
See you next year!