Author's Note: Skip BEAT isn't mine. I know that. You would too, since we both like this manga. Now I know that chapter 154 is out. But I created this before I saw the chapter. And while it took me a time to work out the kinks, I am going on ahead with this despite knowing the true contents of the chapter. This is my vision of what a protective charm could be like for Cain. After all, someone that dark needs something equally you like it.
STEEL AND SILK
I watch her. I have always watched her. For a glorious moment, underneath the mask and armor that was Cain Hill, I was free to let my eyes feast upon her with as naked wanting as I was willing to show. Granted I hid behind the façade of disdain that was as natural as breathing to my character but the heat that fueled that glare hides the true nature of my own passionate need.
Even after my unplanned revelation I am well aware of the reserve emitted by her all-too clear aura. There's a wall between us—a slight fissure in the physical space that we normally share. Not that it was ever something people would take note of nor is it any closer than good manners and civility would allow but at the moment the distance she is scrupulously maintaining between us feels more like a huge gaping chasm as far as I'm concerned.
It was taking all of my control not to vent and hit something. It was either that or kiss her senseless. The urge almost made e smile. And much as I desire the latter, I know that doing the former would only scare her a tiny bit less. And I am, as yet, unwilling to watch fear taint her gaze once more. Especially a gaze directed my way. I would sooner kill any chance of me playing the role that so compelled me than instill fear and uncertainty in the heart of my wary little kouhai. Granted my hesitation over this matter cannot be equated with the intent to reveal who I truly am—there still exists some part of me I keep private—even from her. But I am well aware that each day spent with the engaging little miss is wearing away the barriers I have instilled since I began life as Tsuruga Ren.
A glance made under the cover of my lashes revealed that she's slowly recovering her calm; her body readjusting to mine, her mind reminding itself of the familiar lines and feel of my body language—doing minute adjustments to ram home the fact that despite the impressive make up and outrageous outfit—I am still her beloved mentor—her respected sempai. It amused me to note how she struggled to realign her wayward imaginings to that of the man she has shared so much with, her own body and mind doing all that it could to reacquaint herself to the familiar coils of our odd relationship.
"Mogami-san? Are you alright?"
"Ah! Yes! Yes, of course! I am fine Tsuruga-san."
Again the same polite response. I have asked her the same question twice now and twice she has responded with the same words she has just uttered. At times like these I wonder which one of us is a better master of the noncommittal politeness I have been known to employ. But there is something that distinguishes our reasons for using such an effective shield—she—unlike me—is genuinely kind and polite, her courteousness a natural by-product of her gracious nature.
The same thing could not be said about me. Whatever civility I display is a matter of carefully studied and mastered routine. I have already burned off a lifetime ago whatever politeness I had in me. What little genuine warmth I have left I am certain I use only on her. The rest of the world would just have to make do with the Tsuruga-brand of courtesy.
"About that incident in town today--!" I began, knowing that the inevitable words would soon follow. I could almost count it off…ten…nine…eight….
"It wasn't your fault! I'm sorry you had to go through the inconvenience of revealing your identify while under the President's orders. I really did not intend to put you through such trouble--!"
Onl my quick reflex and long limbs allowed me to forestall yet another attempt on her part to prostate herself on the floor before me. The blush staining her cheeks should be considered a dangerous weapon with clear-cut labels and appropriate warning signs. I could feel the now-familiar and expected rush of awareness throughout my body, ending in the near-irresistible tingle surging through my fingertips—the ache to brush the unworthy pads of my fingers through soft looking skin covering smooth cheeks stained with the most tempting shade of rose. I hastily dropped my hand from the soft flesh of her arms and buried them inside the deep pockets of my black trench.
"If you apologize to me one more time I will consider it a slight on my good intentions. Are you implying that you found out about my identity merely by accident and not, in fact, as I assumed—due to your observational skills?'
I know I should resist teasing her but the truth of the matter is that I am a selfish bastard where she is concerned. I have learned over the course of the months we've spent together that my words have a decidedly different impact of my clueless little ingénue. Whereas people around me become all too willing to agree with whatever I say or counter it if only to tease and prove that they are immune to my charm, she on the other hand always reacted in ways that endlessly surprise me.
My unfailing politeness and charm makes her wary, my smile—usually so powerful against women of all ages—freezes her blood and makes her aware—much to my dismay—of the few times I allow myself to feel. It never fails to surprise me how intuitive she could be regarding my untruths but be dumber than a brick and more oblivious than a blind monkey where my affections are concerned.
"Ah, well, no matter. Shall we go in and discuss this properly with President Takarada?"
The relieved smile that painted her lips almost made me forget my vow not to get her involved. The shining earnestness of her gaze seared me and I was thankful for the distraction provided by opening the door for her. Had I been robbed of that diversion, one oblivious miss would have probably found herself being ravaged in the carpeted halls of one of Japan's top talent company. Now that, would probably be a better definition of entertainment.
The words delivered in the Presidents distinctive drawling voice shouldn't have sounded so ominous. The order was not the weirdest he has given, not by a long shot and definitely not one of the more horrific ones but it's definitely one of the more obscure.
I want you to be his protective charm.
SI sat there, hidden away into one of the many rooms in the President's apartment with the order that she think up a new character for this role she is tasked with. But five minutes has come and gone and still she is clueless as when she first arrived. She wandered all over the room, pacing from one corner to the next, trying desperately to unravel the mysterious meaning behind the president's words.
What does he mean by protective charm? Am I supposed to be something that would ward off bad luck? Am I particularly lucky?
The sheer idea of her being lucky seemed more like a cruel joke reminding her of how often she had allowed people to use her in the past. The memories only managed to depress her more and she found herself sinking into the thick Persian carpet in a goo of unwanted memories.
Certainly my luck didn't extend to my relationships, what with Shotaro and my mother. Who am I kidding—I'm so far off being lucky I might as well carry a placard around my neck declaring that I am cursed for all eternity.
Creating a character, believing in it and making others believe—no matter how impossible—isn't that what being a true actor is all about?
The words came as if from a voice inside her head. Father. The words, familiar and comforting, making her smile and remember her vow. She is an actress. There shouldn't be any role she couldn't do, no task she couldn't accomplish with the talents god gave her and the inspiration her father instilled in her heart. It was time to stop bemoaning her fate. Time to simply wipe clean the canvas that was her actor's palette and start anew.
With her resolve and drive restored by the bracing memory of her mentors words. Kyoko started cataloguing the characteristics of the man she would be playing opposite with. The dark, angry assassin that goes by the name Cain Hill.
Quietly and patiently, she pieced together the visual information being around the man has provided her. Each fact dropping into her awareness like the clear, ringing echo of water droplets falling into a still, quiet pool.
Tall, well-built physique that lent itself well to the task assassination demands. Long limbs adept in the use of weapons, no doubt and able, when necessary, to function as weapons by themselves. Long fingers that caressed blades and confidently held the trigger of a gun.
A menacing aura, reflected so clearly in those dark, deep set eyes. Their color was obscured by the fall of messy black hair that blended so well with the black trench and biker boots. A color that lent itself so well to the darkness and shadows lurking in every corner, allowing him to fade in and out like some breathing, living incarnation of Death.
Eyes. Yes…she couldn't tell their color but then again she didn't have to. One look was enough to convince you that it was sheer folly to try and sneak another peek. She could remember the way he thoroughly controlled his environment—his mannerisms and his gaze was all that was needed to ensure that bubble of privacy all around him at the station. Others smoke and sat as well, but none had that distinctive aroma of danger and death clinging to them like some pungent perfume.
That gaze…it cut through everything, stripping her bare of all pretensions of bravado. When he stood, he did it with a snake like fluidity he dared to display before attacking—and while he didn't touch her—brushing near her was fatal enough…like a coiled spring that triggers an shot to the heart. Yes, that's what he's like. A fearsome drawn blade…
The words snapped her back to awareness. That's it…That's what Cain Hill was like. A bloodied blade in the hands of an avenging demon. There was no hesitation in him, no questioning of morals. There was simply the sharp bite of the cold icy steel.
But a sword isn't a sword without a…
It was then that a smile of genuine pleasure found itself blooming on her lips. Kyoko has found her answer. As if on cue, the president's manservant, Sebastian came and asked her to accompany him. Kyouko beamed a smile. The man was perfect.
Following the efficient, silent shadow of a man, Kyouko noted how the man managed to both fade intot the background whenever the President was around and yet remain a distinct presence in the mind of all the guests he came in contact with. It was as if Sebastian was a living breathing corporeal shadow.
The idea so fascinated Kyouko that she failed to notice that they have arrived in what looked like a well appointed salon in the middle of the apartment decorated in gilt and gold brocade walls. A petite woman with a riot of curls emerged from one side of the room. Kyoko, now back to her normal—if all too involved with her creation of a new character—self hastily made a bow and waited for the woman to speak.
"You are Kyouko-chan?
"Hello! It's nice to finally meet you. Darling talks about you all the time and so I was thoroughly intrigued of course."
"Yes! And as always he is making me to impossible things with impossible deadlines. But don't you worry. My name is Jelly Woods."
"Nice to meet you Woods-san."
"Ah! Dame! No one calls me that. Everyone calls me Jelly-chan and I insist you do the same."
"Good. Now tell me what your character is like and I'll do your make up. I just need a few things regarding what you think you ought to be."
"Jelly-chan is a make-up artist?"
The question must've amused the woman in front of her because she suddenly pinned Kyouko with a piercing look from her deep eyes that seemed all at once playful and intense. When she spoke, the words caused a shiver to run up Kyouko's spine.
"Honey, I am Jelly Woods. In the world of cosmetics and make-up artists, I am known as 'The Witch'."
"Uh-huh. So take a deep breath honey and tell me what you got. Cause in five minutes, I will change your life and your fate forever."
"Jelly-chan...do you know much about swords?"
"Hai. A katana is a beautiful weapon isn't it? And a bit frightening. It's sharp and unfeeling...deadly efficient in the hands of a master."
"Is that what you ought to be Kyouko-chan?"
"Iie. I think I'm supposed to be the saya*."
President Takarada, Yashiro and Ren eagerly gathered into the main room of the apartment. This is one of the few rooms the public never gets to see. Only family and close friends are ever invited here.
"They should be done by now."
As if cued, a gong sounded and the double doors leading into the room burst open. Jelly, smiling like a Cheshire cat that stole the queen's crown greeted the assembled male with her customary cheer.
"How was it Jelly-chan?"
"Ah Darling she is magnificent! Such an exquisite creature. I didn't think such a creature existed—she is magic Darling! Just magic! I almost want her to do another character just so I can do another look for her."
"I'm glad she made you happy. But where is the little miss?"
"Why she was just here a moment ago. Let me see if--!"
A sound caught their attention and they saw that the door has been closed. Frowning Lory turned to look at Sebastian who only lifted a dark, shrouded hand and pointed. Following the direction of the manservant's hand, they faced the huge picture windows that stretched from the carpeted floors all the way to the topmost part of one wall, creating a seamless picture of the view below. A passing cloud moved allowing the brilliant light of the sun to temporarily blind the gathered few before their gaze adjusted and a new figure joined them.
In the space of a single breath that's when she appeared-- emerging as if from the mist. The billowing cloud of the room's silken curtains rose as if some mischievous wind passed and when they fell, there she stood, still as a statue and just as compelling. The woman that stood before them appeared like a life-sized, carefully scaled porcelain doll—fragile—as if a single phrase uttered unintentionally could shatter her—destroying the delicate air that surrounded her like a palpable haze. After a dozen heartbeats, the spectre-like presence has been replaced by something more substantial and resolute.
She's here. Finally.
The figure kept a polite distance between them, never once forgetting the rules of etiquette and decorum...ever mindful of what is proper. She stood there, silent and unmoving—as if hesitant to cause alarm to her hastily gathered audience. Ren found Cain Heel fighting back a smile at the intriguing turn of events. The Figure came up to them, smelling like winter itself…cool and faintly sweet…faintly shimmering with the subtle alluring grace and power that only his inner Cain Heel could fully recognize...appreciate...and properly desire.
It was the shock of pale snow white hair that first drew one's eyes. Each strand seemed to gleam like burnished silver in the light of the descending sun. It cascaded into a waterfall of silken strands that reached nearly to the hips. Styled in such a way that the elaborate coils and braids on the top half of her head, kept in place by an exquisite black and red lacquered hair pick in the shape of a butterfly, was brought to brilliant relief by the unfettered other half, the hairstyle—commonly termed a half-ponytail became so much more. . The contrast between the shadowy clothes that seek to conceal and the hair that demanded attention was just one of the many contradictions this unexpected character brought.
A silvery white kimono featuring huge black and purple butterflies rising from the hem up to the middle of her thigh all the way to a single butterfly perched jauntily as if by chance on her left shoulder, in a colorful, hypnotic wave hugged the trim fit lines of her physique. Hands, frail as ivory carved for holy icons peeked from beneath the immaculate wide sleeves, nails that topped long tapered fingers gleamed like polished glass.
Her smooth carven features were awash the palest shade of alabaster, her high cheeks seemingly brushed the barest trace of rose. Lips, stained by a dewy shimmer was closed firmly—intriguing one with the tantalizing realization that one is waiting to hear her speak if only to match her voice with the movement of those compelling thin slivers of flesh.
Thick, midnight-hued lashes lifted to unveil eyes as uncanny and as arresting as those possessed by the demented Cain Heel. Pale, liquid gold—candlelit from within and gleaming with fire, her pupils appeared like intricately designed shards of cinnamon diamonds, topaz, onyx and citrine. Filled with depths that fairly dripped with arcane knowledge from the ages, her eyes say that they have witnessed much...eyes that could pierce the heart with a single look and see to the blackened soul deep within...And yet those eyes resonated with a deep-welled darkness that even their crystalline depths could not belie...and a sadness that could not completely vanish. For all their unearthly beauty...they were eyes that told a story all their own.
She knows me…she sees me…
And he knew all too well that he is the only one that could unravel the mystery of her eyes. Whereas his eyes fairly burned with barely leashed fury burning just beneath the surface, the woman that stood before them possessed eyes that were aimed to startle and haunt. There was a remote quality to her gaze, as if she sees right through the person that stands before her…her eyes looking into the depths of a person's soul and quietly, instinctively passing judgment.
Slowly, languidly, the figure bowed, hair of muted gilt falling into waves to frame a face that would rival any created by man's immense imagination. Every move was poised, each gesture bearing an ethereal grace that could not be matched nor imitated...she glided towards her spell-bound audience, each tread measured...executed with such uncanny precision...it was as if between one breath and the other, she managed to breach the distance between them. When she spoke, her voice, like her eyes, was cool, polite and remote. It was as if all her emotions were tightly--exquisitely leashed and what little she allowed to remain and show was as intriguing as an improbable puzzle.
"Greetings, fair ones. I am Setsuka.
*SAYA-- the japanese term for the scabbard that houses the blade. I figured someone like Cain is much like the sharp edge of a drawn sword. He needs someone who could contain him.