Skip Beat! and its characters, locations, terms, etc, do not belong to me.
Juli may not have been a Hollywood star, but neither was Kuu, once upon a time. That didn't stop him from falling in love with her.
Over thirty-five years ago, in the flourishing town of Tokyo, Japan, there were many prominent families that had taken up residence in the bustling town. Some of the families had gained their status through the wealth they inherited from previous generations, others were 'new money', and were rather looked down upon by the older, more dignified families. The Hizuri family was one of those who were looked down upon.
Senri Hizuri was a young man in his late thirties, who had made it big with a manufacturing company he started when he was in his early twenties, living in Kyoto. By the time he turned thirty, he was no longer working the factories himself, he was accomplished enough to do nothing but sit behind a large desk all day, and watch the employees come and go from his top-level office overlooking Tokyo.
His wife was Tara Hizuri, a quiet woman, who was a few years older than himself. She had been sickly ever since her family moved to Japan when she was a child, and was held back two years in school because of her frequent absences. Because she was held back, she had spent most of her high school life isolated, away from the gossip and teasing of the other classmates, which was made even worse by her foreign looks. She and Senri were both second-years when they happened to meet one day, in an abandoned music room. An instant attraction was there, and a relationship was started in the following days.
Their courtship was long, as Tara was from a prominent American family; much wealthier than the one Senri had grown up under, and they weren't given permission to marry. His own family was, to be honest, poor, while hers was flourishing despite the changing times. Because of their different social position, their relationship was looked down upon by many of their family members. The two young lovers endured the intolerance, and were married as soon as Senri turned twenty.
The young newlyweds had a rough life in their first years of marriage, Senri's newly founded factories had little work, and they began spiraling deeper and deeper in debt. Tara was physically unable to work a job, but they believed that as long as they held fast to each other, times were sure to get better. And times did get better. Eventually Senri's hard work paid off, and his company was given a long-term contract with a company from Tokyo.
When Senri was twenty eight, and Tara thirty, the Hizuri couple moved to Tokyo. They were given a large estate, and there was very little they could possibly have want of. The only thing they did still want was on the way – Tara had become pregnant.
Because of her weak constitution, she was confined to a bed for most of her pregnancy. For various reasons, which he repeated to Tara with growing annoyance, Senri began spending most of his time on business trips to various parts of the country while she was limited to staying indoors. After Tara gave birth to a son, Kuu Hizuri, the time Senri spent away from home only seemed to grow more and more.
As Kuu was growing up, he never thought of himself as being different from other children. Sure, he had all of the latest toys and games. He was driven to grade school every day in a gleaming, frighteningly expensive vehicle, but he was used to it. When he was asked about his father, whether by teachers or other children, he could tell them anything they wanted to know – his mother had taught him everything about the man he rarely saw.
It wasn't until Kuu was in his second year of grade school that he noticed exactly how different his family was. He spent the night with a close friend from his class, and was amazed by what he learned during that one night. His friend's father arrived home shortly after he did, and was met by the boy's mother. They embraced and kissed – something Kuu had seen only in movies. After that, they whole family sat around a large table and ate supper together, Kuu included. He had never felt such feelings of warmth and happiness before, except where his mother was concerned.
When he arrived home the next day, Kuu worked up the courage to ask his mother why his father was never home. Her answer was a tearful response of uncertainty, and Kuu vowed to never mention the man again in her presence. Little did he know that his life would take a drastic change a few short years later, and it would prove to him just how strong, and weak, familial bonds could be.
One day, during Kuu's second year of middle school, he received a call to go to the office. When he arrived there, he found a chauffeur from his house waiting for him. With little explanation, Kuu was rushed home, to where he found his mother waiting with a large white van parked in front of their estate. It wasn't until he had joined her in the van, and the estate was out of sight, that his mother finally spoke. Senri had filed for a divorce, and would be moving his new fiancé into the house within a week. Tara and Kuu were to go back to Kyoto, where their humble roots had begun.
They moved into a tiny apartment on the edge of Kyoto. Kuu was thrown into a new school, and his mother began working to try and support them both. Senri had given them money to live off of, but Tara wouldn't spend it. She told Kuu that if he wanted the money, it would be his when he became an adult, but she wanted nothing to do with it. Her own resentment and anger at the man who had given her his name was soon transferred to young Kuu.
He grew up rather angry at the man who had abandoned his mother, forcing her to work with an un-well body. Kuu himself began working small side jobs when he entered high school, lying about his age to the employers who wanted no one under eighteen. He worked to the point where his grades began falling, but he refused the help of the many girls who were willing to tutor him. After he began filling out to the point where he was no longer all arms and legs, many of the girls in his school had begun noticing him. He had decided, upon becoming a first year high school student, that he wouldn't give himself the chance to turn into a person like his father. He accepted the idea that relationships were a waste of time, and had grown accustomed to rejecting the many girls who confessed their love to him.
But the day came in his third year of high school that he discovered something he could love. He had to stay late to take a makeup test in one of his failing classes, and when he finished, he found himself walking by the drama club that was practicing for the end-of-year school festival play. He watched them, unable to tear himself away from that spot, and an hour had passed before he knew it. Before the week was up, he had made up his mind to try out for a role in the play.
The other students, ones who had been practicing for months, had very little hope that Kuu could play anything other than an extra, or even work as a stage hand. Kuu heard their discussions about him, and he decided that he was going to prove them all wrong. In the two weeks he had before the public try-outs, he spent every spare moment after work and school studying acting, and everything that went along with it. When he had four days of practice left, he obtained a copy of the script from a friend of his who was on the student council.
Kuu read through the parts, trying to decide which one he was going to set his sights on. His eyes kept travelling to one part, and that was the one he chose – the male lead. He memorized the lines, finding it surprisingly easy to remember them. While he was memorizing the lines, he got into the habit of speaking them out loud, and working with them until they felt natural, like he was the actual character on the paper.
When the auditions came around, Kuu was put at the end of the list. Others were given a copy of the script on the spot, and were told which part to try out for. When it was Kuu's turn, he was given his own copy, and told to read the lines of a very minute character, one that spoke barely five minutes in the whole play. When he stepped onto the stage, there wasn't a doubt in his mind of what he had to do. He began, from the beginning, and weaved a story with the main character's lines, for the better part of ten minutes.
When he finally stopped, it was only because a scene change broke up the flow of the story. There were a few teary eyes in the audience from the emotion that Kuu had portrayed. The rest of the auditorium erupted into applause, including the drama club members that had doubted his ability from the very beginning. Kuu was given a spot on the drama team, and the lead role of the play was his.
For a few months, Kuu's school life was the best it had ever been. He had friends, who encouraged his acting, and there were more girls following him than he had before. He still wasn't interested in the girls, but they didn't mind. Everyone who had seen Kuu's tryout was sure of one thing – Kuu Hizuri was going to be famous one day.
At the end of his third year in high school, the festival came around, as it had every year. When all of the other drama members were fainting with anxiety and nervousness, Kuu was busy eating his fill, or as close as he could get, backstage at the snack table. That was something else that had changed in Kuu's later teenage years; he found that he could never get full. Accepting the meals the many girls offered him often helped, but it usually took about fifty box lunches to satisfy him.
The play was scheduled for the last night of the festival, and Kuu took the chance to peek through the stage curtain before it opened. There, in the second row, was his mother. She was as pale and weak as ever, but she had made it to come see what her boy had been spending so much time on. She saw him spying, and waved a small hand. Kuu returned her wave with a smile that set the girls in the front row to squealing, and let the curtain close in front of him. It was time to show the world what he could do.
Kuu's acting was top-notch, even more than it had been during the last practice session. When he took the stage, the crowd was in awe. They held their breath during the suspenseful parts, cried during the tender scenes, and laughed at Kuu's convincing slap-stick antics when the script called for humor. When his acting caused a few of the other actors and actresses to forget their lines, Kuu covered for them, ad-libbing where it was needed.
When the curtain closed, every single audience member was on their feet. There was a mix of tears, laughter, and screaming, especially when the curtain opened again with Kuu on center stage. As the others came out, they were met with the same applause, though not as loud as it had been for the leading man himself. Kuu was exhilarated, to the point that he actually forgot his hunger… for a moment.
The response didn't go to his head, as it did to most of the other members. He felt such a sense of sadness that it was over, that he stayed backstage while the others were being mobbed onstage. He remained back stage until his mother came to the dressing rooms, looking for him. Any of the other words of praise he had heard were nothing when compared to the words that came from his mother, when she told him she was proud of him.
They only had a few moments in peace, before there came a knock on the door. When it opened, there was a tall man, who didn't look much older than Kuu himself. He had jet black hair, which was hanging in his calculating eyes. Kuu stepped in front of his mother, a little worried that he might have to protect her from the man who was standing before them, dressed as an Egyptian Pharaoh, complete with a golden staff. The man bowed low, before addressing Kuu.
He introduced himself as Lory Takarada, the president of a new talent agency in Tokyo, called LME. He spoke few words, but his intent was obvious. He wanted Kuu to come to Tokyo, and work as an actor under LME. Kuu would receive all of the instruction needed to improve his abilities free of charge, and in turn, he would stay with the agency for a minimum of five years. LME was still new, but Lory told him that he was just the actor they needed to be put on the map.
After he made his proposal, he left a business card with Kuu, asking him to please let him know his decision soon. The door at LME would be open to Kuu Hizuri, and his amazing acting abilities, as soon as he graduated.
The next few days went by in a blur, and Kuu couldn't exactly remember how he got through them on his own. He spent all of his waking, and even some sleeping, time thinking about the offer. He was being given the chance to act all he wanted, and not just in a school play, but for the entire country to see. True, before he tried out for the play he had never given a single thought to becoming an actor. But in that short amount of time, he had found just how much he loved it.
His jobs were offering him full-time positions, and his mother expressed her wishes that he would use some of the money from his father to go to a university. Kuu explored those options, he even went so far as to take the entrance exams that he would need to get into a university. But, his mind repeatedly went back to the card that was tucked away in his wallet, behind a folded copy of a review that was made of his performance in the play.
And so, with his mother's approval, Kuu left for Tokyo, less than three weeks after he had met the strange man named Lory Takarada. He had taken out some of the money that had been put up for him, in order to rent a hotel room while he discussed a contract with Lory. He also had a small amount with him for other provisions he might need while he was in the large city. But nothing could have prepared the eighteen year old boy for the step he was about to take.
When he arrived at LME early one morning, he was greeted by a procession of dancing girls, scantily clad in garish jewels and silk clothing. He would have turned around to leave out, if he hadn't spotted Lory walking-slash-dancing his way towards him, in the midst of the group of girls. The young men greeted each other and they retreated to Lory's office, where they could have a conversation in private.
After three short hours, they had come to an agreement. Kuu would go through various training programs while he began acting in small-time commercials and variety shows. He would be endorsed by LME during his training, but the real promotions would begin once he was ready to step into the world of dramas and movies. His contract was for five years, and once it was up, he was to be given the freedom to act for whatever agency he wished.
When asked if he would go by his real name, Kuu insisted that he would not. He knew that his father was somewhere in Tokyo, and he wanted no connection to be made to the man. Neither did he want the man to try and have any contact with him, if for some reason he wanted to. After much discussion and brain storming, Kuu and Lory created the name 'Shuuhei Hozu'. From that moment on, for the better part of five years, Kuu no longer considered himself a Hizuri.
Lory encouraged him to begin LME's training right away, and Kuu was more than willing to do so. He let his mother know that he would be coming home to see her as soon as he could, and she simply told him to go for his dream. Kuu clung to those words, and threw himself into building his life as Shuuhei. He made sure to call home every week, but before he knew it, a year had passed, and he hadn't gone back to Kyoto a single time.
After being with LME for a year and a half, Kuu's first big-time commercial aired. It was for a new famous brand of cologne, and after the commercial ran for a few days, LME was flooded with requests for 'Shuuhei Hozu' to act in other commercials. He had a few talk show appearances, along with several small roles in dramas, and it was becoming more and more obvious that his popularity was rising faster than he could keep up with.
Right after Kuu celebrated his two year anniversary of working under LME, along with his twentieth birthday, Lory's wife passed away. They had been married for less than five years, and had a young son. Lory was distraught at the passing, and Kuu took a week off of work to try and keep his boss, who had also become his best friend, sane through the grief. Lory took two months off from the company, during which time Kuu received the offer he had been waiting for – his first leading role in a drama, he was to play Katsuki Tachibana in Tsukigomori.
He took the drama without consulting Lory; he knew the man had much more important things to deal with during that time. He worked hard on the filming, especially to make the 'love' aspects of the drama seem convincing, and a few short months later, the first episode aired during the prime slot of Japanese television.
It was met with even more praise than had been expected. Shuuhei Hozu became a household name within the first three episodes, and Kuu was sky-rocketed to the top place in the Japanese entertainment industry. By the second half of Tsukigomori, Kuu was declared the number one actor in all of Japan. The end of Tsukigomori's airing coincided with his third anniversary at LME. Both events were celebrated by the company, because Kuu's involvement had shot the ratings of the drama up to 46.4%, the highest Japan had ever seen.
Kuu was given a huge bonus from the producers, with which he bought his mother a nicer house in Kyoto, and supplied her with a live-in maid to help her with the upkeep. He also was now able to provide for her, so she wouldn't have to work. She thanked him for it all, but told him that the only thing she really wanted was for Kuu to come visit her when he could. He promised he would, but as the following weeks and months were filled with dramas and films, another year and a half passed without him ever going back home to Kyoto.
A few months before his twenty-third birthday, Kuu received a phone call from his mother's live-in maid. He was in the middle of filming, but as she had called his phone, and not his manager's, he stopped the filming to answer the call. Tara Hizuri had fallen ill, and wasn't expected to make it through the night.
Kuu was on a plane to Kyoto within the hour, and made it to his mother's bedside before dusk had fallen. Tara had been ill since birth, but had become weaker and weaker over the last two years, to the point where she could no longer walk without help. She had recently caught a cold, and was unable to get rid of it. Instead of telling Kuu, she had ordered her maid to keep it quiet. The maid only broke her promise because the woman had fallen unconscious, and wasn't expected to recover.
Two days later, after regaining consciousness for a few precious moments in which Kuu tearfully gave his goodbyes and apologies, Tara Hizuri passed away, at the young age of fifty-three.
The funeral was held, and Lory was there to support his friend as Kuu had done for him, not that long before. Tara was buried in a quiet Kyoto cemetery, and Kuu bid his beautiful mother goodbye for the last time. He returned to Tokyo and resumed filming, pressing down the pain and hurt every day until he arrived at home, where he could let them flow freely from his eyes.
When Kuu turned twenty three, and his contract with LME was up, he knew what he had to do. His popularity was at an all-time high in Japan, and LME had become a famous talent agency, one that was believed to produce only the best of stars. But, in Kuu's heart, there was still something driving him to want more. His mother had told him, all those years ago, to go for his dream. He wasn't sure at the time what that was, but now he had a little better of an idea. He was going to go to America, the country his mother had been born in, and make a name for himself there.
Lory helped him with the planning, and a funeral for Shuuhei Hozu was planned. It marked the end of his career in Japan, and he tried his best to express to the fifty thousand people in attendance how much he thanked them for their reception and help during the five years he had been an actor. The funeral was met with much grief and sorrow, as if he really had died.
After the 'funeral' was over, Lory, along with his six year old son, Kuoki, helped Kuu pack up the large apartment that he had been living in for the last few years. He didn't have many possessions, but most of the things that he did have, he instructed Lory to give them away. The only belongings he wanted to bring to America were the ones that had some kind of special meaning to him. The rest would be bought when he made his own name, Kuu Hizuri, as famous in America as Shuuhei Hozu had been in Japan.
And so, on one cool autumn day, Kuu Hizuri boarded a plane for America under the cover of darkness, and left the country he had called home for all of his twenty-three years to make a new life for himself in the United States.
There will be dialogue, please don't worry. I'm merely setting the stage for the rest of the story, which hasn't really started yet. I thought this would be the best way to do it, along with working on my writing abilities.
For those who are wondering, this is completely speculation, from my own mind. Almost nothing from Kuu's past is given to us, so don't go looking for this in Skip Beat!, as it's not there.