Dedication: To my long suffering beta-reader, Bloody_Rose021, for putting up with me.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of this. I just run away with my imagination.
"This one, this one… and this one."
"That's quite a lot," Yashiro Yukihito observantly said, going through the offers that Tsuruga Ren would be accepting. "And very diverse."
"Well, they're all very good offers," Ren shrugged. "BJ's taken quite a bite of my time for the last couple of months and I can't even use that in my filmography."
Simple. To the point. Rational. That's how Ren's always been when it comes to justifying things. Yashiro didn't really have any choice but to agree. "I guess."
"Oh, and this one too," he said as he handed him another one.
Yashiro glanced at the last title that Ren would be accepting and his eyes widened at it. "Ren, this is a cutesy light-hearted romance!"
"Is there anything wrong with that?"
"Not really." Well, yeah, Ren became popular with dramas and movies with themes that had light romance in them. He was really good at them and had increased his fanbase because of them. But… "You've already done a super deep romance as Katsuki and played a sinister villain as BJ. As your manager, I have my concerns. Ren… isn't this like… taking a step back?"
"Don't think about it like that," Ren smiled. "It's nice to think that I'll get to do something familiar, I'm not stepping back. Just because I've diversified my genres doesn't mean I'm giving up the ones I've worked on. I mean, compared to the other offers that I accepted, it is lighter but that's the point. I want to work on something that will be less stressful." He took a sip of water and added, "Besides, this is directed by Shingai Seiji, so no matter how light-hearted it is, it's not."
"That's true…" Yukihito thought back to how exacting the young director was when he was working on Ring Doh. He and Ren may have been accomplices for the leading actress, but he was just as hard on Ren about what he wanted when shooting finally started. "But this thing doesn't even have a female lead yet. From what Matsushima-san told me when this was handed to me, the producers didn't even have a clue who to choose as female lead and are waiting for Director Shingai's recommendation. It could be a troublesome co-star for you."
"Tsch," Ren smirked. "If it were the producers who are going to choose the girl then I would be wondering who the female lead is. But you know how Director Shingai is when it comes to choosing people to work with. This movie will be my sanity saver so worrying about those kinds of things will be the last thing on my mind."
No matter how many times they'd been in this place, commoners like her and Kotonami Kanae couldn't quite past awe whenever they were called into Takarada Lory's office.
'Maybe it has something to do with this…' she thought, as she stared hard at an elaborate miniature marble statue of a Greek Goddess. Maybe it's because the décor kept changing all the time, becoming more elaborate and more ostentatious than the previous one?
"Ladies!" The President's booming voice startled the two girls onto their feet as the double doors of his office flew open.
"Goood afternoon, President," she and Moko-san bowed to greet him.
"Please… have a seat!" He said, as he settled on the chair across them. He smiled. "I'm sorry to keep you girls waiting. But that damn Seiichi had me caught in another deadlock!"
Seiichi? As in Seiichi-san, the nice fatherly man in Accounting who has a receding hairline and a shy way of interacting with women?
"I mean, really!" The President cried out in frustration. "How can a man leave another very cute girl after she declares her love for him? That darn, indecisive playboy!" He grumbled as he reached out and sipped on the wine prepared for him on the table.
Ah so… Seiichi-san from Accounting is some kind of perverted playboy… Kyoko concluded. Somehow, even though the image didn't fit, she was now seeing the man in a different light.
"So anyway," the President's mood shifted back. "Are you girls having fun with your work? You've been with us for more than a year now."
"Of course we are!" the two replied in unison.
"That's good then," he smiled, reaching out for his glass. "But you know… the two of you can't stay in the Love Me Section forever."
Does this mean…?
"It's been a year for you girls. If you stay there, you'll get left behind by everyone in the same batch who went through the same audition as you two who already made their debut. Also, a new set of auditions will be coming around soon enough." He looked at them each in the eye. "We need to start evaluating your futures here in LME."
Is he… letting them go? Kyoko's lower lip quivered. Well, maybe not Kanae who received great reviews in the drama she was cast in. But she's been stuck in the same place playing bully role after bully role. She didn't want to go! There was still so much she could learn. So much she wanted to learn!
"…So, I'm thinking, that it's about time you girls graduate from the Love Me Section."
"Huh?" the two of the looked up at him.
"What does this mean, sir?"
"What I mean is," He smiled. "You'll be out of the Love Me Section and the Talent Department. You'll be moving to the Acting Department under Matsushima-san. With all the benefits of an actress under LME that go with it."
Kyoko let out a breath of relief. That would mean… she could stay!
"You mean…" Moko-san exclaimed. "No more pink uniforms? No more weird errands? No more special requests from anyone?"
"Well," the President grinned. "About the last part, maybe from time to time."
And then it finally hit Kyoko. She was going to be in the Acting Department! The smile that was forming on her face was suddenly put to a stop when the President said, "However…"
However? There's a however? Why is there a however?
"You have to accomplish one final assignment. Well, a test of some sort."
"You both have progressed really fast for newbies. You've met different kinds of people and have experienced many different things with working on different projects," the President stated. "But you still have shortcomings. You know what they are. They're the ones that placed you in the Love Me Section in the first place. I want to see how your experience can overcome those shortcomings. Ah, Sawara-kun!" The President smiled as he glanced over their shoulders as the double doors opened again. "Just in time, I was just telling the girls about their last Love Me assignments…"
Kotonami Kanae laid her palm against the glass-paned windows just outside the President's lobby and turned to Kyoko, whose back was against the wall as she slowly slid down onto the floor. Somehow… what she was doing didn't seem like such a bad idea. She walked up to her and sat down beside her.
"President…" Kyoko murmured. "You're asking the impossible."
"You said it," she breathed out as she rested her chin on her knees.
Their last assignments would be to appear in two different movies in different genres that they were particularly weak in. She would be working in a family-oriented movie, while Kyoko was going to be working on a romance.
"But Moko-san!" Kyoko tearily said. "Hiou-kun was the one who specifically requested for you to work with him on the film. The two of you already get along. You're basically a shoo-in for this assignment."
"Stop joking around with me!" Kanae turned and glared at her. "After that little brat came over to pick me up, he was as demonic as hell once he got on set. That little 12-year old shouted at everyone for everything that dissatisfied him even in the slightest way." She sighed and studied the tips of her shoes. "And what about you? You have a director that specifically requested for you. Looks like you impressed the guy very much."
"T-that's impossible!" Kyoko stammered. "I failed on the acting test for the lead for Ring Doh! I couldn't even finish the test because I fainted and had to be brought to the hospital. Plus, at the time, I had literally zero experience in acting! What could I have possibly done to impress Director Shingai Seiji?"
"Who knows?" Kanae moped.
Ring Doh was a movie with no traces of Kyoko in it. She remembered that the cast included Matsunai Ruriko and Tsuruga Ren – Wait a minute! That guy knew Kyoko even back then? Once she was in LME, she had heard rumors that Tsuruga Ren specifically requested the lead actress to co-star with him there! Could it be… that he requested for Kyoko? Matsunai Ruriko was an idol who was a very good singer but a mediocre to moderately good actress. He's not the type to work with people like her! She barely passed Kanae's own estimation when she watched Ring Doh one boring afternoon in the reference library. But Kyoko… On the other hand, Kyoko is one of the most talented actresses she's ever encountered. The thought that Tsuruga Ren knew her longer – meaning better, really pisses her off!
"Anyway… how can I act out 'love' when all I've worked on are a soda CM, a deranged angel and two bullies?" Kyoko whined. "What am I going to do?"
"I'm doing it!" Kanae stood up. Angrily, she turned to her partner in that cursed division. "You…"
"Do it too," she crossed her arms over her chest and looked down on her. "I don't know about you, but my goal is to become an actress to represent all of Japan. When that finally happens, the two of us can't be friends anymore!"
"Mo! Don't you get it?" She flashed her best friend a challenging smile. "Because, stupid, we're rivals. When I succeed, I refuse to acknowledge someone who is not at my level as my rival."
With that, Kyoko straightened up.
"Besides," She grinned evilly. "If you fail, you don't only lose to me. You'll lose to him too." Kyoko's eyes narrowed. "To Fuwa Sho."
And then she saw it, the glint of determination of an unbreakable spirit who refused to be beaten by that jerk who broke her heart. Kanae lifted and chin and stared at her. Like hell she'd admit that when she succeeds and Kyoko stays in the Love Me Section that she'd miss her because she'd be too busy and Kyoko would continue to be hanging around him as his kouhai. The two of them would be the best of friends and the worst of rivals on the same stage. "So? What do you plan to do, Kyoko?"
"Matsushima-san?" Sawara Takenori said as he picked up his mobile phone. "I'm at the President's office." He walked to the windows to get a better reception. "Really? He accepted the role? … I was actually expecting that he was going to reject it… Eh, why? He's already played all those big roles, I thought cutesy romances were no longer in his league… He did? … Well, Mogami-kun accepted after the President made an offer he couldn't refuse… Ah, OK! I'll talk to you when I get back down there."
He hung up and turned to the President. "Looks like Mogami-kun finally has a leading man."
"Ah, wonderful!" the President smiled, slouched in his chair and took a puff off his cigar. "Who is it?"
The president choked on the tobacco he just inhaled. "He did?" he coughed. "Out of all the top actors here in Japan who were offered this role, he was the one who accepted?"
"So it seems," Sawara nodded.
"The part about this being Mogami-kun's grand debut film hasn't been leaked to him, wouldn't it?"
"Of course not," Sawara nodded. "Only you, me and Matsushima-san know about the girls' grand debut plans. Like you said, the less people who know about it, the less the girls will find out about it."
The President smiled grimly. "So Ren accepted the role on his own?
"It's just an unofficial, verbal OK. Yashiro-kun said that they'll pass by tomorrow afternoon to pass the paperwork before we contact the production. The usual. Matsushima-san was kinda surprised too. But Yashiro-kun said Ren mentioned looking for something more rooted to what he's used to other than the more complex roles that he's been offered and accepted. 'Less stressful' I think was what Ren said."
Then the President let out what Sawara would describe as an ugly laugh. "That's a very interesting way to word it."
"What do you mean by that, sir?" Sawara asked. Sure, he knew that Mogami-kun was quite volatile and unpredictable. But she wouldn't be getting all sorts of offers if she was difficult to work with. News like that has a way of getting around this industry. And besides, Ren took on Mogami-kun as his kouhai so they would get along with each other well. And anyway, aren't most actresses volatile anyways?
"I think," the President smirked, taking another puff. "Mogami-kun's assignment has just gotten ten times more interesting."
Interesting? How could it be interesting when she was just cut an easy break for her final 'assignment' since she won't have that much difficulty since her co-star is someone she gets along with. "Just because Ren took the offer? Why?"
The President looked at him with a frown on his face. "Remember what I told you during those two's audition? See the possibilities. You're still a bore incapable of imagination, aren't you, Sawara-kun?"
"Eh?" Maybe he's just not the type to get carried away by an overactive imagination like him… Sawara glanced at the man's overly amused face. After all, this was a man who was plotting a hostile takeover of a gaming software company to make more sensible otome games themed on deep romance.
- Well, there's nothing in this chapter yet. Just something to establish the premise. I know this is a typical Ren and Kyoko star in a movie together, but I promise to keep this as different as possible. I think things will pick up in the next chapter since Ren-sama will be there. That'll be up in a couple of days when it's passes muster with my beta reader.
- As I said, I still don't know what's going to happen. YET. I only thought up of this fanfic about halfway through - No. I'm lying. I just haven't figured out what kind of ending to give them. But I already know that this is going to one loooooooong fanfic so... good luck to me.