Author's Notes: Welcome to my fic! This was an idea I had bouncing around for a while, and only recently got around to writing it. The lyrics are from Hamasaki Ayumi's song, "glitter".
Another day, another photo shoot, another set of lyrics, another drama to star in... The life of a successful star certainly was taxing, though Rise was prepared and ready to do it. All of those years ago, she remembered those words she exchanged with her precious Senpai, performing to the very best of her ability knowing that he was on the other side of those lenses... sometimes it was simply just that which kept her going through the day. Not that she wasn't enjoying her career, since it was a lot better than becoming an office lady whose only hope was to marry rich and mother children who hated her. Being an idol was the job millions upon millions of girls would kill for, and not a day went by when Rise wasn't reminded of that fact.
"Fan mail, fan mail, hate mail, fan mail, death threat, fan mail... are any of these things necessarily mutually exclusive?" It was nice to have friends visit, especially somebody as busy as Yukiko; years have passed, and she finally inherited the Amagi inn. In any case, while her friends in Inaba have grown up together in her absence, Rise could only smile and be glad that they still had the time to visit her. "Some of these people are worse than the boys in high school, Rise; apparently there are computer programs that allow you to put someone's head atop of someone else's body. Doesn't that bother you?"
"How would you know this if you don't even have a computer, Yukiko?" Rise asked.
"We've been attempting to update things around the inn a bit." Yukiko responded; she was just glad she could be in normal clothes rather than the kimono she usually wore. "I mean, I know the charm of the Amagi inn is its rustic nature, but that doesn't mean that behind the scenes we can't use computers to be a little more organized."
"... you're going to hire a couple of the high-schoolers to help out with getting everything set up, aren't you?"
"Well, computers are complicated!" Yukiko defended herself "Chie came by to try to help me, and... well, turns out that computers are a lot more complicated than baking or cooking I'll tell you that much. We're not like you, who has to update their blog every few days otherwise the masses get rabid."
"Oh, that thing?" Rise shrugged. "I never touch it; the company hires someone to do it for me."
"... that would explain the use of slang and euphemisms I never heard you use before." Yukiko giggled a bit.
"How is everybody else doing?"
"Oh, Kanji's still in charge of Tatsumi Textiles; luckily, even though Yosuke doesn't have too much clout, he managed to talk with his father about Junes and now tunes is working with the local businesses. It's not the most perfect set-up, but we all think it's a step in the right direction. Besides, Junes doesn't make cute plush toys, right?"
"Well, not the way Kanji makes them." Rise smiled, images of all of those memories flowing back into her mind. "It's nice to know Yosuke is trying his best to help out the community, in his own way. He's doing more than me, anyway."
"Rise, we all know you love us. However, the last time you proactively tried to help out Inaba we all got mobbed by people who had no money!"
"Okay, so the charity concert didn't go over so well, but it was a learning experience!" Rise interjected. Oh boy, that was an interesting experience. "Look I'll actually think about the consequences next time I try something, all right?"
These idyllic days weren't always going to be there; Rise knew this in the back of her mind. However, they were always going to be precious to her.
"What the- no way!" Rise's jaw more or less dropped at the sight of the gigantic horde of clamoring people standing between the car she rode in and the hotels where an awards ceremony was to take place. It wasn't her first one, but it was the biggest one she's yet to attend. "How the heck do people get through those crowds?"
"They usually don't."
Rise shot a glare at Naoto. "That's not very funny, you know." Rise sighed, turning back to the giant crowds just on the other side of the window. It was by pure chance and convenience that Naoto happened to be free that night; she was a detective, after all, not a bodyguard. Luckily, the excuse of a panty snatcher seemed to coerce the young detective to come on out and help an old friend.
Naoto simply smirked in a self-pleased manner. "Now, Rise, tell me the details of the case again." Her expression was slightly serious, though she was still capable of having fun.
"I already told you." Rise pouted, crossing her arms. "I go on stage, I come back to the dressing room, and my panties were stolen! I don't have some sort of super special detective kit to check for fingerprints or anything and I don't know if anybody else entered the room who wasn't authorized!"
"I find it ironic that the award you're receiving tonight is for a role you played as a lead in a mystery drama." Naoto sighed. "There are no dressing rooms here, so l doubt that your panty-snatcher is going to find a way to pilfer your panties unless they decide to debrief you sometime during the night. Which is unlikely, hopefully."
"I don't know whether that's encouraging or terrifying." Rise responded.
"Listen, Rise, don't worry. I spoke with the chief of police, and I gave him quite the talking-to about the importance of this job. Your bodyguards are both competent enough to take care of you as well as attractive enough to look good for the paparazzi photos."
"You're so thoughtful." Rise giggled. "Thanks, Naoto; whether or not anything happens, I do feel a lot safer with you around."
The two exchanged a simple, yet important smile.
"I find it almost hilarious how the difference in behavior from rampant fanaticism and aggressive violence aren't so different after all. Sociology is a wonderful and fascinating subject." Naoto nodded, the clamoring crowds just on the other side of the door. Rise finished giving her acceptance speech, and either it was taken very well or very poorly; with this mob, it was difficult to tell the difference. The only thing that didn't seem to be disputable would be the fact that Rise was becoming more and more well-known, and her popularity was growing.
"You have a twisted sense of humor." Rise commented to the side, more preoccupied with how to survive this than what Naoto was saying.
"In any case, I'm going to continue keeping watch on this end, bringing up the rear." Naoto continued. She then coughed. "The... burlier... officers will be leading you through the mob out front." It took a while for Naoto to more or less finally come to terms that there were certain things she certainly was not suited to the task for, such as brute force. She still dressed and acted the part of a man, but no longer was it such a big secret that she wasn't.
Especially since she was now married.
Not that she changed her name or anything, yet the event was a joyous one. Rise fondly remembered that time as the last time, a couple of years ago, that she made contact with Senpai.
"Thanks, Naoto." Rise grinned, now ready to get through this, get back to the hotel and... memorize the lyrics to a new song.
It was worse than she had imagined! The pushing, the shoving, the pulling... under most circumstances, Rise would have gladly gave a few people an autograph, but she was more concerned over her life and if she'd come out of this crowd unscathed! Moving through the halls was akin to trying to wade through frozen molasses, only a lot more painful.
"Ow!" Rise exclaimed for the umpteenth time, as they approached the stairs. Unfortunately, she had lost her footing, and fell forward. "Kyaa!"
"Whoa there!" Luckily, before Rise face-planted on the floor or wall resulting in a couple of weeks of the inability to market herself, a strong arm happened to stop her fall; grasping the arm to help her back up completely, she looked up; looting back at her was a goatee with shades! "You all right, Miss Kujikawa?" He didn't sound like he was too different from her age, though he did seem a year or two older. If it weren't for the suit, glasses, and of course the security badge, she would have thought he might have been one of her fans.
"I... I'm all right. Thank you." Rise smiled. With that, a flash of bright lights heralding a storm of photographs being taken interrupted them.
"Let's get you out of here!" Naoto yelled above the crowds toward Rise. Doing as she was told, Rise and her entourage left the building.
"Rise, is it true?" Yosuke's voice rang out from the other end of the phone. He was loud and boisterous as ever, apparently. Thankfully, after the first few earaches, Rise learned to keep the phone away from her ear whenever she saw an incoming call from him. Pattern recognition indeed. "My poor, sweet, innocent Risette...! You've been deflowered!"
"Yosuke, you are such an idiot...!" Rise rubbed her temples. "Listen, Yosuke; you can't always believe what the tabloids tell you! You know me! We were close friends in high school! Why won't you take my word on something about me, and instead believe whatever the paparazzi tells you?" Rise knew this was an exercise in futility, however, as she's had this conversation with Yosuke before. Several times, in fact.
"Hey, it's not my fault if Teddie keeps on shoving those magazines in my face!" Yosuke defended himself
"Heaven help us if he ever looks old enough to begin buying adult magazines..."
"Okay, okay, moving along... no, I am not dating anybody!" Rise told Yosuke up front. "I was going to tell you, I was on my way out from an awards presentation and I tripped in the hallway! One of my bodyguards caught me and helped me up! That's when they took those photos! I don't even know his name!"
"You don't have to know somebody's name before you're f-"
"Yosuke!" It was Rise's turn to yell. Slapping her forehead wasn't going to help in this situation since he couldn't see it, yet it was apparent from his groan that he clearly heard it. "You're an idiot. I'm not seeing anybody. I know it's weird for a workaholic idol with absolutely no time on her hands to not have a boyfriend, but it's true. Deal with it."
"Oh, you're talking about that watch commercial you were on?" Yosuke laughed. "With the watch on your wrist, smiling, going 'now with this new watch, I can tell time anywhere?' The selling point of that was your low-cut top, Rise."
"At least I make more money wearing a low-cut top than you would." Rise retorted.
"Look, it's nice to know that you called me being concerned for my well being," Rise sighed, obviously a bit sarcastic, "But I'm busy. I'll see if I can take another vacation to Inaba when I get the chance, all right? And next time, I won't be doing an autograph session at Junes, you got it? Some vacation that turned out to be..."
"You really hold a grudge!"
Yosuke wasn't the only one mislead by the tabloids; Rise's professional blog and e-mail were all flooded by hundreds if not thousands of letters asking about her new flame, and it made Rise almost feel guilty about not even knowing his name.
Looking at the photo, Rise wasn't entirely certain if it was manipulated, yet it began to fit the image in her mind more and more; tracing his jaw line with her manicured nail, she began to wonder about him. What was his name? How old was he? How did he get this particular job of being her bodyguard? What did he do on his time off? These questions certainly weren't going to get answered anytime soon just by sitting there. Rise considered asking Naoto to look into it considering she was a detective and all, yet it seemed a bit off considering that Naoto would more or less by interrogating Rise about why exactly she was so interested in this man.
If she was going to do this, she had to do it smart. She wasn't exactly like Senpai, who could get almost anybody and everybody to like him and open up to him. She wasn't like Naoto, who had the brains to put everything together with simple deductions (simple for the amazing detective, anyway). She wasn't like Yukiko, somebody graceful and refined as a traditional Japanese beauty. She wasn't like Chie, who could stomp on somebody's face and get away with it. She wasn't like Kanji, who... could pretty much do the same thing. And make cute stuffed animals and amazing outfits, while at it. And she wasn't like Yosuke or Teddie, who... she wasn't really sure. However, what she was is the great idol Risette, and a smile came to her lips as she began to plan out exactly how she was going to go through with this.
"... if you want to meet him, all you had to do was ask." Naoto's rather unimpressed expression and curt comment surprised the starlet. "Being manipulative really doesn't suit you, and if you had to resort to those tactics, using them against me usually doesn't work Rise."
"... I'm sorry." Rise sighed. Naoto was right, as always. It was almost annoying, if it weren't for the fact that Rise knew that without Naoto's help, neither of them would even be here anymore.
"Anyway, given all of the hubbaloo surrounding this guy, I thought it'd be best to do my own background check on him." Naoto pulled out a couple of notes. "His name is Junpei Iori, and he graduated from Gekkoukan High in the spring of 2011. When he was young, he played baseball. He didn't have exemplary grades, and it's thought that he had some sort of favor from the former student council president, Mitsuru Kirijou; they lived together in one of the mixed student dorms for about a year during the 2009 school year. The extracurricular club they were part of, S.E.E.S., is shrouded in mystery; the staff member overseeing it passed away mysteriously around the last quarter of 2009. The club members were all different ages and genders, with no seeming common ground."
"You're rather thorough." Rise was impressed.
"That's the thing." Naoto shook her head. "It's all shrouded in mystery. In any case, lori's background is that his mother passed away at an early age, and his father was an alcoholic. He passed away from liver failure just shortly after Iori graduated high school, leaving his son to carry all of his debt. That's why he works several jobs, though it seems like Kirijou talked with the loan sharks to try to work out an agreement."
"That's so sad! " Rise exclaimed. "The poor man...!" Being able to figure all of this out would have been a lot easier if Rise had access to her Persona outside of the television's world.
"Not so fast, Rise." Naoto sighed. "I don't have any evidence of this, but don't you see? He has the perfect motive for selling this story to the tabloids."
"... You've got to be kidding." Rise lifted an eyebrow. "I didn't get that vibe from him in that second our eyes met." Rise sighed. "He didn't seem sleazy."
"He has a goatee, Rise." Naoto pressed her palm against her forehead. "Don't all of the antagonists in your dramas have goatees?"
"Ugh, that is so nineties, Naoto."
It seemed that the man called Junpei was going to be stationed as Rise's bodyguard for the next several projects. Not only did his presence fuel rumors, thus increasing Rise's popularity (gee, thanks, management), it also made it difficult for Rise to actually strike up a conversation with him without possible serious repercussions. It was vexing, to say the least.
Donned in a gorgeous feathered gown, Rise was in the middle of shooting a promotional video for her newest song. It was an upbeat piece, and required a lot of sparkling sets. This sort of thing was always kind of fun with the elaborate costumes and make-up and everything, and Rise always appreciated being treated like a princess. In between scenes, she glanced at Junpei, noticing that he wasn't watching her. She wasn't entirely certain what to think of that. Did the rumors not weigh on his mind at all?
Well, pouting wouldn't get her anywhere. Knowing that she had a job to do, she heard the music on the stereo, and began lip-syncing to it as the director shouted orders at her and moved the camera around her. "We will shine more brightly this summer / Just making the most of the present..."
The song continued, and Rise moved along with the beat. "I'm remembering this time last year and this time long ago / What I want hasn't changed at all. Yes! Still believe in love!" These were Iyrics she wrote earlier in the year; the process of a song was amazingly long, it gave Rise am entirely new appreciation for what singers had to go through, writing a song, getting it arranged, shooting a promotional video for it, and finally releasing it only to have sales tank on them.
"You see? I think I know for certain the reason for your smile and the meaning of your words..." On the director's cue, Rise took out a pin in her hair and her locks swayed with her movements. However, looking up, sparks began to fly from one of the lights overhead, and Rise screamed, being unable to move.
A toned arm grabbed her and pulled her out of the way Gasping for breath, Rise turned around to see Junpei's eyes, his sunglasses having fallen off. His baseball cap was still on, however. "Are you all right?" He asked, as most of the set crew ram over to them to make certain Rise was all right, and the rest checking out the fallen light fixture and trying to figure out what went wrong.
In all of this excitement, Rise could only stutter a response. "Um... yes." She nodded. Still locking eyes with him, a crew member pulled her away as she finally broke her eyes free, and saw that Junpei injured his hand from a piece of debris that fell.
It took about an hour to fix up the set, and while Rise was still shaken, she was willing to continue and finish the shoot. After all, they were renting the studio by the day. It was simply another thing Rise had to get used to; luckily, resilience was one of her strong points. "We will shine brighter this summer, we certainly feel our hearts beat in excitement / No matter where we may go in the future, please just make the most of the present."
The shoot went smoothly after that incident, and people were getting ready to close up. Stealing another glance at Junpei, Rise noticed he put his sunglasses back on, still looking around rather than at her. Taking out a small handheld device, Rise opened the lid and typed a message into it. Closing the lid, she approached Junpei.
"Thank you for helping me, earlier." She bowed out of respect.
He shook his head. "Just doing my job, Miss Kujikawa." His hand was bandaged.
Rise discreetly placed the text device into his pocket. "Read it when you're alone. I'll talk to you later." With that, she left, Junpei a bit confused.
For once in a long time, Rise was pretty excited. Nobody would necessarily call her shy, though has been a while since she was actually giddy at the prospect of being able to meet up with somebody. She was at a privately owned hotel, where hopefully the paparazzi wouldn't be able to find her or find out about this.
It was a large suite, but obviously she didn't come here to sleep. Room service already bought the food, as Rise didn't know how to work the kitchen at all, as much as she hated to admit it. First impressions were everything. Well, Junpei probably already had all of the impressions he needed just by seeing those magazine articles.
It than dawned on her, why idols had such trouble handling relationships. Constantly being under a microscope, it reminded Rise why she took that sabbatical from show business and moved back to Inaba in the first place all of those years ago. Those same insecurities would probably always be in the back of her mind. She always knew that... but she knew she just had to make sure that they didn't define her, consume her very being.
Admittedly, that was becoming a bit more and more difficult to do.
Before she could get too lost in her thoughts, the door opened, and Junpei walked in. Seeing him in casual wear was a new sight for Rise, and it set her at ease, though he still wore his baseball cap. "Did you have any trouble finding the place, Junpei?" Rise asked, motioning to the chair
He shook his head. "I'm having trouble thinking of any reasons why you'd want to invite me, though, Miss Kujikawa."
Rise giggled. A serious one, was he? "You've helped me out twice now. And please, here, we're equals. Call me Rise." She said. As he took a seat, so did she. "I just wanted to thank you for what you've done for me, and find out a bit more about you."
After giving thanks for the food, Junpei picked up a pair of chopsticks. He seemed solemn to Rise. Which made him all the more mysterious. "I don't know if there's much to tell." Junpei spoke. "I'm a couple of years older than you, and finished high school and never went to college. Just started working right after that."
"Do you have a girlfriend?" Rise asked, rather bluntly.
After a few seconds, Junpei shook his head. "She's not around here anymore." He answered.
Rise could tell from his tone of voice that it wasn't something he wanted to talk about. Deciding not to push it, she wondered exactly what he meant by that. Did she die? Car accident? Cyborg weapon test? Lost her memory? Apparently Rise was confusing reality with what she was acting in for in her dramas. Still, the wording left her confused. Taking a bite into her food, Rise searched her mind for topics of conversation.
"I'm sorry I'm not very interesting." Junpei apologized. "I appreciate the meal and all, though."
"I just want to make a friend." Rise sighed. "Being in my position, I suppose it's silly of me to just jump out at the first sign of kindness someone shows me, but I just... feel drawn to you, somehow. I don't mean to push anything onto you."
Junpei finally smiled, and chuckled a bit. "It's just that I can't tell anybody about this or they'll rip me apart from jealousy."
Rise giggled in turn.
After a few more encounters, they finally broke the ice. Seasons passed, and a year since they met has already passed. Layer by layer, Rise got to know Junpei bit by bit. Not much more than what Naoto had already told her, but for Rise, her heart got beating again with excitement. Perhaps it was because she associated being with him with the heart-pumping adrenaline of almost being crushed by that light fixture, or it was something else. All Rise knew was that little by little, she was drawn closer and closer to Junpei, and he was becoming less and less broody. To her, that maybe meant he was becoming more and more comfortable around her as well.
Standing beside him on a hotel balcony overlooking Iwatodai on Tatsumi Port Island, Rise held Junpei's arm. "Several years ago, I held a concert here and there was a blackout." She giggled.
"I remember that." Junpei recalled. "That night was a full moon, and..." He fell silent.
"What is it, Junpei?" Rise asked, looking up.
"I'm sorry, I just remembered. That night was a memory with a particular woman." Junpei admitted.
"... Your girlfriend." Rise realized.
"Heh." Junpei chuckled. "I didn't think fondly of it at the time, but now I can sort of laugh about it." He continued. "She's out there, somewhere. But she's not the same person, so... in a sense, no, she's not out there, either."
"What happened?" Rise asked.
"She woke up from a nightmare." Junpei responded.
To Rise, Junpei was holding onto a ghost. She didn't understand what he was going through his mind, but to her, he was chasing a ghost in the past. Or rather, clinging to it.
"I'm really glad you invited me out so many times." Junpei surprised Rise. "The difference between you and her is like night and day. With Chidori, I was holding onto the past, because a future with her wasn't going to be able to happen. I'm a bit scared about the future... but right now? Here with you, I can feel a little bit like my old self I want to make the most of this, the present."
"... My lyrics...!" Rise smiled. He was listening to her lyrics. After a moment of silence, she lifted her heels, her lips meeting his.
"So, perhaps you'll be the next to walk down the aisle?" Naoto teased.
"Well, nobody expected you to be the first of us to get married." Rise giggled. "Kanji really manned up when he proposed to you out of the blue, didn't he?"
"But of course." Naoto simply smiled. "It worked out. But we're talking about you, now, Rise. I certainly hope that you're not using Iori to replace Senpai, are you?"
"I think it might be impossible to not see aspects of someone you've admired for so long in other people, you know?" Rise sighed.
"Are you all right? I mean, with Senpai and all?" Naoto asked, a bit more serious.
"Yeah, I think I am." Rise smiled. "I mean, he'll always be my first love, you know? I know that pretty much all of us had a huge crush on him at some point when we were all together in Inaba, but ever since he moved back with his parents, we... all sort of lost contact with him. Besides, if you were able to find happiness with Kanji, that means I should be able to find happiness with someone as well, right?" Rise giggled. "Our adventure all of those years ago, it made me realize that judging a book by its cover is only going to lead to troubling matters later if you don't bother trying to close the distance between two souls. Yes, those memories with Senpai are precious to me. They're precious to all of us. But sometimes that distance is going to grow. I'm sure he's happy, wherever he is now. That's enough for me."
Naoto simply gave her sagacious, all-knowing smile. "Memories aren't so bad, as long as they don't overpower us. They form who we are presently, yes, but who we are now is what will determine who we'll be in the future. Life is ten percent what happens to you, and ninety percent how you react to it, after all."
"You're beginning to sound like one of my pop songs." Rise teased.
"You must be mistaken. I listen to classical."
"So... would it help if I sampled some classical music in my releases?" Rise tilted her head.
Naoto pressed her palm against her forehead, yet there was a smile on her face.