Maya really thought that once home, she would have all the time she needed to think through this situation. But she was barely inside that the caring and worrying look of her friend was trapping her. She started by asking about the details of her performance after the premiere of Isadora. When Maya told her about her complicity with Masumi Hayami, her friend's lips parted lightly, as if she wanted to say something, but she didn't do so. Maya knew exactly what this was all about: the very fact that Masumi Hayami, vice-president of the biggest Japanese entertainment company, would actually endanger his own image only to publicize her; was indeed very surprising. But Maya knew the reason of this strange kindness. Kind of, like a farewell gift.

Rei talked during the rest of the evening about this boy she met at the coffee shop she waitressed at. The funny part was that, like most the Petit Prince's customers, Kei, twenty-four years old, firstly thought the waitress was truly a waiter. Moreover, Rei's behaviour didn't help, for using impersonal or masculine ways of talking at work in order to get generous and hopeful tips from the female customers. Anyway, the two of them talked and after a moment, they became friends. It was only this evening, after two entire weeks of friendly chat, that Kei finally opened his eyes. And this discovery, so it seemed, only get them closer. Maya laughed to the sight of her friend blushing while telling her all about the moment when the handsome young man took her hand. Half-joking, Maya made her bet she would take him to the Forgotten Wilderness, so she could get to meet him.

When at last, Rei said and yawn that it was getting late and that she should go to sleep if she wanted not to be late next day morning, Maya's seeming cheerfulness vanished and she put her forehead on her crossed arms.

"Come on Maya, wake up: He killed your mother!"

A tear fell on the table wood. Knowing that Mr Purple Rose was responsible of her mother's death turned her stomach. She was rejecting this thought with her soul. But it was a fact. Acknowledging Masumi Hayami as Mr Purple Rose, her beloved fan, was putting her benefactor as the culprit of the accident. He locked her up. If he hadn't done it, she might still be alive by now. She knew that for some times already, yet now this fact took a complete other kind of significance. A brand new horror.

Yet, as strange as it might seem, she couldn't bring herself to hate him. How many times did she try already? How many times did she swear she would despise him for ever? And how long did it take before he would eventually fill her heart with warmth, energy and curiosity again?

"Hayami-san..."she whispered.

Even now, even knowing he lied to her about so many things, just speaking his name out loud was making her longing to see him again, to hear his voice. She smiled at her own simplicity.


She blushed in spite of herself. Silly, to call his first name so casually, even alone, was making her feel she was giving her an impression of privacy with him. She sighed. Her heart was forgiving him everything, all the crimes, all the lies, all the deceptions. Of all the wounding things he told her once, none mattered now. If she could see him again, talk to him, like before, she would certainly be happy. She bitterly desired to go back. Please, that someone take her back! Take her back to this rowing boat on the lake with him, or at the planetarium, or at this table of restaurant in front of him! Take her back to this blessed moment when he held her hand! She had been so often in his company, so often alone with him, she hadn't even realized how precious those privileged moments were; and that she should have used them to get to know him better. She should have treasured those moments with him! Now she wanted to see him again, she wanted it so badly! But now nothing would ever be the same.

"You should answer that"

He showed himself very clear in his way of saying that. He knew the man on the phone was Kirino Takumi, and yet he looked into her eyes and asked her to pick it up. This moment made everything crystal clear. He staged this farce to get rid of her. He didn't want to be Mr Purple Rose anymore. He had enough of this. All those years he took care of her, but now he had enough. He wanted to move on. He had fallen in love with this beautiful woman he was about to marry, and couldn't afford to send roses to a petty actress like her anymore. This marriage was going to make him happy.

That was why he chose to entrust her to Takumi. This man swearing to love her, and that she liked. Kirino-san was a good person; she was feeling safe with him. He was a friend to her, and for a while, she was happy that Mr Purple Rose was someone like him.

This marriage between Shiori and Masumi was also an alliance between two great groups. This was a huge benefit for Daito, and that might also be why Masumi left her. A horrifying doubt took her. Maybe all those years meant nothing to him. She was just an actress, a product he could use and throw away anytime. And this time just came. This thought tightened her heart even more.

He didn't love her. She had every reason in the world to hate him. Yet, she knew she would never feel hatred toward this man ever again. This enmity had long hidden her true feelings, and now they were revealed there was no going back: She loved him.

And because she loved him, because she always did, she would agree to act along this role play. He made her happy all those years, and it would be selfish not to do the same now. She would let Hayami-san marry the woman he loved. And she would let Kirino-san pretend to admire her since the very first day. Yes, things were better this way. This was what her sense was telling her to do, but her moaning heart was begging her not to give up.

The worst part was that she liked Kirino-san a lot! Hayami-san entrusted her to him, certainly because he was trustworthy. This was a charming, sweet, friendly man! She was feeling safe with him, like with a good friend. Things might be tensed since he confessed his love to her, but she could vividly remember the moments of joy and complicity they exchanged the evenings in his apartment. If his feeling toward her were sincere, and if it was what Masumi wanted, she would make two beloved persons happy by doing it. Why wouldn't she then?

While Maya was resigned herself to ever confess her love, Shiori Takamiya, for other reasons, couldn't manage to find sleep as well. Back home, after having slammed the front door, demanded a cup of tea to her household, yelled it was too hot, then too cold, fired one of her housemaids, throw with all her strength a vase on the floor, which shattered with a loud noise of broken china, and yelled some more; she isolated herself in her bedroom. Yet, while she was pacing around her magnificent canopied bed, she wasn't feeling the slightest better. No, she would only find peace when she would have make sure Maya Kitajima would never make a step closer to her husband-to-be. After long and painful thoughts, she decided the best way was to prevent her from winning the Award that was supposed to fling her up at the top of the competition and give her access to the part of the Crimson Goddess. She was convinced that, Maya away from the object of Masumi's obsession, she would certainly loose a lot of interest in his eyes.

She needed a plan. Something that would help her getting Maya off the course. Shiori got an idea.

The next day, during the afternoon, Shiori went to the gym where the students of Ondine were usually practicing. There she found Ayumi Himekawa, in the dance room, doing barre training. Her body was covered with sweat, and Shiori asked herself how long the beautiful young lady was there. She rapidly noticed her presence, in this room full of mirrors. The young woman first seemed stunned to see her, and then bowed respectfully, although a bit too lightly for a formal greeting.

"Takamiya-san" She said while grabbing a towel to dry her neck. "Why do we have the honour to have you here?"

Shiori slowly and silently walked toward the young lady to make her feel the weight of her superiority, but Ayumi seemed not the slightest impressed and was still wearing the same smile of polite interest when Shiori finally said:

"I just came to see how nervous you were"

"Nervous?" Ayumi repeated while frowning with perplexity.

"Indeed: nervous." Shiori went on, calm. "I've heard that the play that would start tomorrow evening would be quite decisive for you career."

"Are you referring to the Forgotten Wilderness?"

"Indeed I am." Shiori smiled knowingly "If the play is a success, and that Kitajima-san get an Award for her performance, you would have to fight for months. That's why I came to see how nervous you were. "

And, ending her last sentence, she intensely and intelligently gazed at Ayumi who felt her hair on her neck stand. She swallowed.

"You think I hope she'll fail?"

"It's," Shiori answered "what every person in your situation would hope. Her failure would get you the great part of the Crimson Goddess on a silver plate."

Ayumi didn't answer to that. Indeed, she knew all that. But she also knew that she would be incapable to act the Crimson Goddess correctly of the competition of Maya doesn't push her far enough. She wanted Maya to win this Festival. Many were the outsiders who thought like Takamiya-san. Yet, there was something in the tone of her voice; that she didn't like. Shiori went on.

"However," she smiled at her "I like to think women as important as us don't base their success on vain hopes."

"What do you mean?" Ayumi asked, with the feeling that she already knew the answer.

"In the current state of the situation, if Maya get to act as she planed to, she will be rewarded at the Festival. It's a fact that no naïve hope will change. But, like I said, women like us don't hope for victory: they simply get victory."

Ayumi couldn't believe her ears. Shiori Takamiya finally revealed her true face. This viper meant she would be capable of anything to get Maya down. Why? The answer was crystal clear: she was at the Premiere of Isadora too; she saw the complicity between Maya and Hayami-san. Ayumi chinned up.

"Absolutely. I will definitely win."

Believing she got her on her side, Shiori widened her cold grin. But Ayumi hurried to add:

"When Maya will officially be a candidate for the part of the Crimson Goddess, I'll win, thanks to my acting talent."

The venomous smile of Shiori froze. She realized her mistake. Ayumi was more loyal that she thought she would be. She took a deep breathe and tried to covered it.

"Absolutely." She said. "Of course, that's what I meant."

"Of course." Ayumi said with a mocking smile.

"You understood me well."

"Then it's perfect!" Ayumi laughed.

"Yes, isn't it?" Shiori laughed back nervously.

"Well, if you have nothing else to say." Ayumi said cheerfully "I'm going to get back on my training."

"Sure! Be my guest!"

"It was surely delightful, Miss."

"Indeed. Goodbye."

And Shiori hurried to leave with the little of dignity she had left. Once the door was closed, Ayumi sat on the floor, distraught. It was bad. She would never get over it if her one and only rival was evinced because of a stupid jealousy issue. She would not allow it. She had to do something! Outside, the night was already on the street, and Ayumi thought sighing that if she didn't react now, twenty four hours from now, Maya might not be in the right disposition to act out the miracle everybody was expecting.

Big day. Everybody had to be inside the walls of the theatre by seven in the morning to rehearse all day. They had worked without a break all morning, and now Maya was throwing herself on her sandwich. Sakurakoji was looking at her tenderly.

He had spent the entire day before trying to understand what Ayumi told him during the reception for the Premiere of Isadora. She told him that Maya was more that just an actress to the Vice-President Hayami. At first he thought he was betting everything on her future performance of the Crimson Goddess, but that would have been forgetting Ayumi. Finally, a frightening doubt took his mind: that the Vice-President, this man told cold and stranger to all forms of empathy, could have weaved emotional bonds with Maya, to actually fall in love with her. Ever how absurd this idea seemed to him, Ayumi seemed to believe it to be true. He knew Masumi Hayami was a desired and coveted man, and that he had an irrefutable charisma that got him to set his authority in the entertainment world despite his very young age. He also knew that Hayami-san was dating the beautiful Shiori Takamiya, but that their engagement, even announced, didn't happen yet. If it was true that he had feelings for Maya, and if he succeeded in charming her with his natural presence, it would not be difficult to him to end his relationship with the heiress and to date Maya officially and that, that was what Yuu feared most.

So, he decided to gather his courage and tell Maya:

"It's amazing how many phone calls from journalists we've got since your performance. Thanks to you, it's going to be a full house every night!"

"Thanks to Hayami-san, actually." She said. "He decided to make that show for me."

"I see..."

Here were his doubts confirmed. Maya was already feeling grateful to the Vice-President. He was going to eat her alive very soon. He should warn her. But when he was about to say something, her phone rang. Now expert in the handling of a touch screen, Maya had no problem answering it. She started speaking with a cheerful a loud voice when she recognized her friend Rei that promised to call to check on her. When she finally ended the discussion, it was time to get back to work, and Maya just told him "Rei told me they say a storm is coming tonight."

Bad news over bad news.

On the stroke of one, Masumi's lunch time was over and he headed to his office like he used to. However, before he could open the door, Mizuki, who had been briefing him about this afternoon schedule, warned him that someone was waiting for him in there. To his stunned eyes she only responded by a sceptical pout telling the guest didn't wish to pronounce herself about the reason of her visit. So, it was with circumspection that Masumi came into his own office.

Ayumi Himekawa stood to his arrival and bow as she should before sitting on the sofa when invited by Masumi that sat in front of her.

"It's always a pleasure to receive you, Miss. What can I do for you?"

Ayumi smiled. She hadn't got so many occasion to talk with the young producer in private, but he had often be invited to her home by her parents, so that he knew her since childhood. Yet, he always showed a cold politeness to her, calling her "Miss" even when she was a little girl. It was hard to her imagining him being friendly to anyone. The only exception was whenever he was in a certain young actress company; then he could loose his cold and condescension manners to a warmer behaviour, anger or laughter. Being a fine observer, this detail didn't escape Ayumi, who quickly did the right parallels.

Her speech was ready.

"Hayami Sama" she said slowly "I'm afraid the subject that brings me here is one of the most delicate. It deals with your privacy, which I couldn't interfere in if it wasn't for a professional matter, concerning the career of someone I respect very much, and my own."

She had now his all his attention, and when Hayami-san, who wasn't hiding his surprise, encouraged her to go on, she tried to stay calm and still.

"Are you sure you know Takamiya-san?"

"Excuse me?" He exclaimed, widening his eyes.

"I wanted to know if you were sure you knew the person you are keeping company to."

"And how, exactly, could it matter for your career?"

The producer's voice was now icy and abrupt, as anyone's that asked a report of his privacy. Ayumi took a deep breathe, to be sure she was calm, before going on.

"It matters if Takamiya-san a doubts about your...implication in Maya's life."

There was a silent moment. Ayumi took advantage of it and asked.

"Does she know you are the one sending her roses regularly? Or does she just know your attachment to her is beyond professional interest?"

"I don't know what you are talking about." Hayami-san said and he crossed his arm on his chest. "I had been Kitajima-san employer for some times, but it doesn't go any further."

"No offense, sir, but I think that what happened during the reception for the premiere of Isadora doesn't show us that. It actually shows that you care for her success enough to use your own image to publicize her. You wanted to help her."

Ayumi breathed again. He had to stay calm if she wanted her speech to have power. But she was feeling the Vice-President gaze on her and dared look in his eyes. That's when he said:

"Is that jealousy, Himekawa-san? Are you jealous I wanted to help her?"

"Sir, I'm begging you: do not insult me." She answered firmly.

He raised his eyebrows to this direct answer to his guess. He was about to say something but Ayumi spoke first.

"Having said that, you do well going on that subject, because it's actually what brings me here."

Masumi leaned forward, feeling they were now going somewhere. He saw the young lady straighten herself, swallow and look into his eyes.

"I'm acting since I'm a child, and the past ten years my celebrity kept growing. Many were the young actress that wished they would be my rivals, and all were jealous of me. Then I was protected by my connections and my family, but I still got to see what a jealous girl is capable of. I also know that when this jealousy is motivated by love, some people can be really cruel. So, I'm asking you again: Takamiya-san does she know you are in love with Maya?"

"Now I see where this is going to."

An entire minute ran off without another word. Ayumi felt she has to stay quiet and wait for him to talk. And he finally did.

"What brings you to believe Takamiya-san could ever want to hurt Maya? Aside from the fact that you are imagining I have views of her?"

"Being given that you just called her by her fist name, I seriously doubt I'm imagining anything, sir."

He bit his lips. He gave himself. Just for a moment, he was distracted by the memory of his conversation in the parking lot with his fiancée, and neglected his words. Ayumi gazed at him knowingly and went on.

"Your fiancée came to see me yesterday evening, during my dance training at the gym. She was vague, but I have the clear feeling she wanted me to make Maya fail during the premiere of her show, tonight."

"What do you mean?"

"She might have kept her speech vague, but I'm no stupid girl."

Hayami-san sighed.

"Look, I admire the loyalty you have to your rival – I really do," he added gazing intensely at her with warm and honest eyes and Ayumi realized the enchanting charisma this man under an icy coat could have. "But I think this is a misunderstanding. I don't think a woman as delicate as Shiori Takamiya could be capable of this sort of things."

"Many are the rich girls that are being taught since childhood how to behave like the ideal spouse: obliging, docile, seemingly fragile. Delicate, like you said, sir. But in this education of traditional Japanese women, those girls are also being taught how to hide their true feelings." She added tensing her gaze.

Between them the silent was deep and tensed, and Ayumi feared to have offended her employer not purposely. She smiled with honesty and said:

"This being said, I'm sure you already know all that."

They gazed at each other for a moment, then, as Ayumi was about to look down by respect, Mizuki came inside to warn Hayami-san his one thirty rendezvous was there. Relieved, Ayumi stood up and bowed deeply.

"Thank you for letting me come in your office."

"That's nothing! Beside, I didn't."

Ayumi glanced at Hayami-san just one second and bowed again even deeper to apologize; and left.

Maya couldn't stop staring at the theatre's first floor window. It was five o'clock and the storm started fifteen minutes ago. Since then, the rain couldn't stop pouring like a waterfall. The show started four hours from now and the media were already advising the locals to stay home tonight. A premiere without audience: that surely wasn't a good sign. She was about to go join the other when something caught her eye. The lights of a car lightened the flooded street. She immediately recognized that car and her heart skipped a beat when she saw Takumi going out of there, his coat above his head to keep himself dry.

She ran down the stairs and announced his arrival to the others, and everyone hurried to the entrance hall. The translator was welcomed by a wave of rain and applause. An actress got over-zealous and took and hung his drenched coat. Kirino-san was wearing a cocktail suit, which made him look particularly classy. Maya's stomach tightened. This outfit wasn't without reminding her someone. The only difference was that Takumi mixed elegance with warmth. Kuronuma was over the moon and he said humorously.

"Welcome Kirino-san! At least now, we know we have an audience!"

The team laughed joyfully, even Maya who for a second had forgotten her worries. However, when she met the eyes she was searching, Maya blushed and her seriousness was back.

They isolated themselves in her dressing room. Her heart was beating so hard and loud she was convinced he could hear them. She feared she had offended him the last couple of days. Since they fought in his car, they never saw or talked to each other. Maya never answered his calls, too troubled by the events. Now she feared he would not talk to her. She turn round and stared at him. He looked strange, even a bit afraid.

"I'm so sorry." She stammered, and Takumi widen his eye with surprise. "I didn't answer your calls, it was rude. It's just—you see, I—I was busy with my rehearsals and, to be honest—I—"

"Maya," he interrupted her. "You don't have to be sorry. I should be the one apologizing."

"No, not at all! Kirino-san, you didn't do..."

"Please, Maya, let me finish."

He sat with her on a couch and his eyes full of intense emotion looked into hers. Maya swallowed.

"The other behaviour was everything but correct. You were upset, and I didn't listened. Instead, I got angry, that was so immature! Please, forgive me."

Hypnotized, Maya just nodded slowly. Takumi sighed with relief and the smile he gave her relaxed the atmosphere like magic.

"I know that in the theatre world wishing good luck is actually bad luck, but..."

From his jacket's inside pocket, he pulled a magnificent white rose, and gave it to her. Maya took it very carefully and breathe its scent with pleasure.

"A white rose?" She said without hiding her surprise.

She knew well that the man in front of her wasn't her admirer, but giving her a rose of a different colour before the premiere of her show had to mean something. Takumi looked down, shameful, and the glances he gave her feverishly now and then clearly showed his helplessness and doubt.

"What happened the other night, disconcerted me, you know. I've been thinking...about the last couple of months, about the things I told you, and the moment we spent together and I realized that...I have no idea of how you feel about me!"

He was almost on the verge of tears now, and Maya could see how hard this confession was to him. He sighed to calm down and went on with a little bit evener voice.

"Maya, can I ask you something?"

Speechless, Maya just nodded again.

"If...if we had met a different way, if I had never seen Little Women, if...if I had never sent you roses" he said, breathless. "Do you think you would like me still?"

His angst was palpable. Maya stared wide-eyed, her heart burning with empathy. Was he about to tell her the truth? Why would he do that? Anyway, his honesty was obvious; he would never be capable of pretending such an emotion; and this moved her way more that she imagined.

"What I really want to know is," Takumi went on while flooding her eyes with his unbearable distress. "It's whether you like me because you feel obligated to me, or...if there is really something, between us."

Then, Maya knew she had her answer. Since she knew the true identity of Mr Purple Rose, she hadn't stop asking herself if the feelings Takumi confessed to her were real, or if it was nothing but a part of the role Hayami-san asked him to act. Now that she knew, there could be no doubt. He loved her, it wasn't all an act. It was a true love that was making him suffer for weeks, or months. And this thought was touching her deeply. Overwhelmed by tenderness, she took his hand.

"Kirino-san...I like you very much! I like you, because you are...kind and funny and...because you play violin!" She added laughing. "Not because you are Mr Purple Rose. Well, I mean," she stammered, trying not to uncover her knowledge, "It matter, of course, but it's not..."

But she didn't get to end her sentence. Two sweet, warm lips had shut hers and she didn't dare breathing.

Everything seemed to be completely out of her control. Her veins brutally responded to this attack and a fiery, ardent desire was terrifying her. She wished she could escape but her febrile body wasn't obeying her, and Takumi's hand on her back trapped her and squeezed her dangerously tight against his body. Her hand on his was also trapped, and their fingers entwined together. She raised her free hand, with the intention of rejecting him, too scared by all those new sensations that loaded her body with electricity, but she caught herself grabbing his neck to kiss him back. Her fingers rummaged through Takumi's hair and her befuddled mind was forbidding any thought.


They parted in a fraction of second. Maya opened her eyes, asking herself when she closed them and look up to Sakurakoji who just came in the dressing room.

"Kuronuma Sensei...sent me to tell you need the start focusing on Jane." He stammered, extremely embarrassed.

But Maya was just half-listening. She was feeling dizzy and was not realizing what just happened yet. Kirino-san stood almost immediately, and after a last smile toward her, he left. As soon as he was out, Yuu said, without coming any closer.

"Maya, you have to promise me something."

The young woman raised her heard, intrigued by the grave tone of her partner. He sighed.

"Promise me that this is going to be forgotten once you'll be on stage. "

"I promise. » She lied.

Barely relieved, Yuu stepped back and was about to leave when he remembered something and added "Kuronuma Sensei think you should try to sleep for an hour or two. It's barely five thirty, and the show start at eight o'clock. You'll be up in time, so try to rest, okay?"

Maya nodded.

Once Yuu out, Maya had plenty of time to relive what just happened. By the way, what, exactly, did happen? He kissed her. And she kissed him back. At first, Maya had felt exalted by the brusque change in her relationship with Takumi but then, she felt overwhelmed by a wave of consternation and shame that put her at the verge of tears. She just kissed Takumi. No, it was way worse than that, she desired that kiss. Yet, she wasn't in love with him! If that kiss has happened a month sooner, she might have believed to be in love, but now that she knew what real love felt like, she couldn't lie.

She had the feeling she had done soothing terrible and shameful. As if she had betrayed Masumi. But she also felt an attraction toward Takumi that prevented her from rejecting him. Those opposing feelings were rushing inside her. She thought she accepted to be with Kirino-san! It was what Hayami-san wanted, it was what would make his friend happy, and she even felt pleasure doing it. Yet, now that she was alone, she was feeling unclean and unhappy.

This was beyond betraying Hayami-san. Truly if he happened to hear about that kiss, he would certainly not feel betrayed. No, she just kissed someone though her heart was someone else's, and by doing that, she betrayed herself.

She was feeling exhausted. This intensive rehearsal day and the emotions she felt drained her strength. She lied on the couch and closed her eyes.

The clock was showing six thirty. Hijiri was feeling everyone's tense backstage, and was listening to the actor's feverish whisper with a remarkable peace of mind from his seat, in the middle of the empty stage room. He had still his head in his little cloud since he kissed Maya. The way she reassured him had completely freed him. One day, he kept telling himself, one day he would tell her the truth; when she would be ready. Maybe she would stay with him. His hopeful heart was making him imagine the best scenarios. Was she thinking of him, right now? He was eager to see her again, but he knew he had to wait until the end of the show. The shadow of her kiss was still drifting on his lips, and he seemed that her hand was actually tattooed on his neck. He longed to kiss her again.

Suddenly the door creaked open and Hijiri sighed before turning his head to see who could possibly go and defy a storm to see Maya's play. Of course, here Masumi came. He had hung his coat in the entrance hall, but his hair was drenched with rain. Hijiri couldn't help but laugh.

"Sir, no offence, but you are actually reminding me of Sneezy."

"I don't see how I could possibly be mistaken for a dwarf."

"No" Hijiri laughed "Not the dwarf, my puppy! He had this same look and hair when I found him."

"Hopefully, this poor creature died years ago."

"Don't rub salt on it" he said cheerfully "That's just cruel."

"What are you doing here this soon? It's not even seven o'clock."

Hijiri gave him a wide triumphing grin.

"Keeping an eye on my girlfriend. What are you doing here?"

"Surprisingly," he answered pensively, "quite the same thing..."

Hijiri was about to ask for more details, but Masumi was already going backstage, pretending to have some unfinished conversation with Kuronuma. Masumi strode through the actors that were revising their line a last time and stared at him with shock. In the dressing rooms corridor, he stopped in front of a door marked with the name "Jane".


The young girl opened her eyes immediately, perfectly awake and sat on the couch. Her teacher was before her, smiling. Maya felt something warm and thick sliding from her back to the floor and noticed a blanket had been put on her.

"Did you do that?"

"No, it was already there when I came in." He said before adding laughing "Kitajima: I like you, but taking care that the lady would not catch a cold isn't my first business tonight. We are trying to see if the generating set would be capable of taking over if the storm cut the power."

"I see."

"Come on, I let you and Sakurakoji sleep the more I could, but now you've got to get ready, the show start half and hour from now."

Maya was already on her feet. She was feeling right and on form. Kuronuma left to let her get dressed and Maya put her skin-like coloured leotard that will be her first costume. Then she tied her hair and trapped them in an old-pantyhose-made hat and started to put her make up. Once ready, she fixed her long, tangled up, dirty wig on her head. Then, she closed her eyes

She focused on her breathe, calm, even. Slowly, she relaxed one by one every muscles of her body. Her mind unwound, and opened. She remembered the forest, the hunger, the wandering, the cave, the hunt, the mother wolf, and her wide eyes hypnotizing her. She remembered everything the felt then. Her face in the water came up. Everything, all the details of her days and nights alone in the wild, she brought them all back to the surface, as if they happened the day before.

Then she remembered the training, the scenes. She remembered Jane. She pictured her, running naked with her sisters, playing in the plains, watched by their caring mother. She absorbed her feelings, they became her own. She made her chained heart vanish to let Jane's exist, free. Then, only then, she was ready. When she opened her eyes: Maya was gone.

Jane came backstage. In the audience room, the darkness was waiting for the curtain to rise. The few noises we could only hear backstage were overexcited whispers. Yuu put his hand on her shoulder, but Jane went on stage to place herself on the top of the hill, and when silence was complete and that the curtain began to rise, she started howling.