A.N. This fic was intended to be a humor fic...I don't think its working as that, but I do hope it will lighten up after a while. This fic is also one I will probably not update as often as I do "Discoveries" or "A Mystery". For those of you who've been asking. I'm working on Discoveries now, and chapter 11 should be up sometime this week. -- Merrow
The first inkling of trouble they got was the magazine photo.
"Honda-san! Honda-san! Why didn't you tell us?"
Tooru looked up in surprise at her schoolmates. A group of girls from her class surrounded her desk. She blinked, they weren't girls she was a close friend with but they often chatted in school. But...tell them about what? She gave a little gasp in her thoughts, had they discovered she was living with the Soumas? It was okay for Hana-chan and Uo-chan to know...but if the others found out! She thought of the "Princess" club, and shuddered. "Ano..."
"If Chisa hadn't noticed it, we wouldn't have known to go out and buy copies!" The girls nodded to a girl with thick braids.
"Will you sign it for me? I've never known anyone who's had their picture in a magazine before!" Chisa laid out a magazine in front of Tooru. She tapped her pen on a picture of Tooru, Hanajima and Uotani chatting in the shopping district. They held ice creams and were smiling at each other. Uotani was dangerous looking in a long white over-coat, hair pulled back and pinned in an aggressive style. She was laughing as the picture had been taken and held her ice cream like she'd just taken a lick. Hanajima was at her gothic best in a black mantle and dress. With a small smile around her lips just barely touching her cone, she held out a black lace hanky to Tooru. Tooru was dressed in a simple sundress, her school bag slung over an arm. She had a surprised smile on her face, her hand just barely at her nose where there was a smudge of ice cream.
"EH!?" Tooru jumped up, holding the magazine out in front of her. She remembered that day! She'd been out with Uo-chan and Hana-chan on one of her rare days off from her part time job. But she didn't remember getting her picture taken! She looked at the front of the magazine. It was called "Spotted!" and had the tagline, "Cool, Hip, and New!" The cover was full of candid shots of people dressed in outrageous and fashionable clothes all over Japan.
"You didn't know?" The girls all looked at each other in surprise and delight. "Here, here, Pai bought an extra one! You should have a copy!" A girl with short hair and glasses handed Tooru a copy of the magazine.
Chisa nodded, "I thought you knew. No wonder you didn't say anything. Here, listen I'll read the caption." She held up her copy of the magazine, "Spotted shopping on Sunday, this mysterious trio disappeared before their names could be found out." She paused and grinned at Tooru, "Guess they didn't have a chance to ask your permission to print the photo..." She was oblivious to Tooru's continued shock. Finding her place, Chisa continued, "Each girl is distinctive, memorable and attracted many appreciative stares."
"Did you? Did you?" Pai asked excitedly, "Did boys ask you to tea?"
"EH?!" Tooru felt her face heat. People had been staring?
Chisa glared at Pai, and the girl calmed herself. She huffed, flicked a braid over her shoulder, and continued, "They exhibited a wild new fashion sense, each different from the other. The trio seemed inseparable- could this be a new idol group in the making?"
Two of the girls put their hands together and squealed, "An Idol Group!"
Pai got starry-eyed, "That's so cool! You're practically *famous*."
"Sign my magazine, Honda-san! Sign mine!" All the girls crowded around holding out their magazines.
* * *
At lunch Tooru showed the magazine to her friends. Uo-chan and Hana-chan had already discovered it much the way Tooru had. Uotani had been approached by some of the gang girls who still idolized her. Hanajima's poker friends had been similarly impressed. Yuki and Kyou had heard the uproar, but had been afraid to push through the girls to find out what was going on. They now stared down at the photo as they played cards, both secretly planning to find a copy of the issue themselves after school.
"To be in a magazine...." Saki murmured examining her cards, "A complete surprise. Denpa told me nothing." Little jolts of electricity sparked about her. "It's quite a flattering photo, don't you think?" She laid out a card.
"A-ha! I think they got my good side!" Arisa crowed. "REVOLUTION!"
"You don't have a good side, Yankee!" Kyou bristled, throwing down his cards.
"Ha, you're just jealous, Orange Atma!" Uo-chan sneered, "You've never been in a magazine!" She smacked him lightly with a rolled up copy of the magazine. "And you lose again, you're doing my yard work." She unfurled the battered issue and opened it up to the photo. "I'm going to get this framed. Tooru is too cute in this one."
Tooru blushed, hiding her face behind her cards, "Uo-chan and Hana-chan are much cuter!"
Yuki smiled, "Honda-san doesn't give herself enough credit."
Tooru's flush deepened and Kyou frowned. Tooru turned to him and handed him her cards to be shuffled, "Do you think it's really ok? To be in a magazine? Its not allowed at school."
Kyou closed his eyes, "As long as the teachers don't find out, it should be fine. And even if they do, you didn't give your permission to have the photo published so you shouldn't get scolded."
"Kyou would know." Yuki picked a carrot out of the lunch Tooru had made, "He's gotten in trouble often enough." He nibbled on the vegetable, ignoring Kyou's outraged glare.
"You're too much of a teacher's pet to ever have to worry about that, I suppose." Kyou sneered, dealing out the cards.
Kyou and Yuki fell to bickering, trading jibes back and forth as the game advanced. Hana-chan sighed examining her cards, "Tom and Jerry returned." She looked up, and glints sparked from her eyes, "Reverse Revolution."
"A~aah!" They all gaped, magazine completely forgotten.
* * *
Several days later, it resurfaced.
"Excuse me, do you know this girl?"
"This girl, does she go here?"
"This bag, isn't it from your school?"
"This one here, in the middle, do you know her?"
Hatsuharu paused and looked over to the gate of the school. There was a young man holding up a magazine and stopping students as the came in and out of school. While he asked him questions, a young woman with a camera stood by his side looking impatient. This looked interesting.
"Hey, that's that girl from 1-D, the class with the cute boys in it. Isn't it?" A girl had just barely finished whispering it to the girl next to her when the man was on her.
"You know her? This girl? Who is she?" He loomed over her thrusting the magazine in her face.
"I don't know!" The girl cried and ran away with her friend.
"1-D, 1-D!" the man muttered, then looked over his shoulder, "Mika, write that down! It could help us find her."
"This is a lost cause." The woman sighed, but pulled a mini-notepad out of her pocket and wrote it down anyway. "We're never going to find her."
"I know that, and you know that, but the boss doesn't seem to know that." The man ran an impatient hand through is hair. He glanced around; the students were beginning to thin. It had taken all day just to figure out that this was the school the girl most likely went to. Thank god she'd been carrying her schoolbag in the photo or they'd never have known. He looked around again, trying to spot someone likely to know the girls in the picture. He spotted a gaggle of girls peering around the corner, looking like they we laying a trap. He came up silently behind him, trying not to scare them away. For some reason all the girls at this school seemed to be afraid of him.
"Do you see him?"
"I don't see him."
"Is he coming?"
"I told you, I don't see him."
"Did he have a council meeting after school today?"
"No, I checked the club schedule...he doesn't have any activities today. He should be going straight home."
"Do you see him?"
"I told you, NO!"
"HEL-lo there!" He said enthusiastically. The girls started and whirled around. "Hello girls! I'm Yakumo Sawatari from Rising Stars, inc." He held out a business card. The trio of girls stared at him like deer in headlights. Perfect. "You girls look like you're in 'the know'...I was wondering if you could help me out with something."
The girls looked back and forth between themselves then huddled in quick conversation.
"Should we help him?"
"Not as cute as Souma-kun."
"Where is Souma-kun?"
"I don't know. Do you see him?"
The girls looked around the corner. Sawatari sensed he was losing their interest. "Girls?"
A girl with pig-tails blew out an exasperated breath, "Mou...We'll never get anywhere with this guy around." She crossed her arms, "What do you want?"
"Glad you asked! Glad you asked!" Sawatari whipped out a magazine and leaned in close, "This girl, here in the middle, do you know her? I think she may be in..." he looked over his shoulder, "Mika, what class was that?"
"1-D!" Mika called back fiddling with her camera.
"1-D, we think she may be in class 1-D." Sawatari tried to be patient as the girls looked among themselves again.
"We're in class 1-D."
"GREAT!" The girls jumped back from the man. Sawatari took a deep breath, put on his most charming smile, and deepened his voice a bit. "Great! Then you'll be able to tell me who this girl is...right?" Enraptured, the girls leaned in to study the picture.
"Eeeeh! That's Honda Tooru!"
"In a magazine?"
"Honda Tooru? That's her name? What can you tell me about her, where does she live, can you get me in touch with her? Does she have a cell? Do you know the number? These other two girls do you know them too?" The girls bunched up and began backing away from the onslaught.
"Ah, Yuki." It was said softly, but the girls had been trained well.
"YUKI?! Ah, formation!"
The girls scrambled into place and began their routine. "L-O-V-E-Ahhhh!"
"That's not Souma-kun!"
"Who said his name?"
"It wasn't me."
"Did we miss him?"
"I didn't see him pass."
"He didn't go by?"
"I said I didn't see him..."
Sawatari sighed. He wasn't going to get anything else out of these girls. Damn whoever had caught their attention. But at least now he had a name. He looked around in exasperation. A tall youth was walking by whistling with a pleased look on his face. Sawatari hesitated to approach him. He looked tough, with bi-colored hair, tattoos, dressed all in black. But if he was going to this school he might know that gang-girl. He looked the type. If he knew her he might know her friend in the photo. Pulling out the magazine, he gamely approached the tall young man in black.
"Excuse me. Do you know this girl?" Sawatari pointed to the photograph.
"Mmmm?" Hatsuharu turned his head to look at the man, his eyes placid. He slung his book bag over his shoulder.
"This girl, do you know her? I think her name is 'Honda Tooru.' She's in class 1-D?" Sawatari tried to stand up straight, damned if this kid wasn't as tall as he was.
Hatsuharu leaned in close to look at the photograph. He studied it a moment. "Cute picture." He commented.
The man face-faulted. He looked at his photographer for help. Mika looked starry eyed back at him. As he watched she brought the camera up and snapped a picture of the boy. He looked back at the youth...he'd have to remember this place, there were definitely a lot of possibilities here.
"Yes, it's a cute picture." Sawatari spoke slowly, "but do you know the girl in the picture?"
"Hahhh?" The noise the boy made could have meant, "Maybe, let me think about it a moment" or "I do, but I don't know if I should tell you" or even "I don't know, but let me look cool for another minute and leave you in suspense." Whatever it meant, he could tell he wasn't getting anywhere with this kid.
"Listen, I'm not trying to pull anything..." "Big" he qualified in his thoughts, he tried to make his voice sincere, "I work for Rising Stars, Inc. We own the magazine this picture was printed in. We've gotten just a ton of letters about this picture. They all want to know about the girls in this photo, especially this one in the middle."
"Mm." Hatsuharu blinked at man. He didn't trust him. And he worked in the media, and that was never a good thing where the Souma's were concerned. But Honda wasn't technically a Souma...but he was pretty sure Yuki would be upset if he let this person near her. But, if this guy did try something, then Yuki could rush to her rescue. That would be a good thing. But what did this man really want? "A mystery." He murmured.
"Eh-heh-heh, yes it is." Sawatari was having a hard time not losing his temper. He felt his eyebrow start to twitch and hoped his facial tic wouldn't kick in. "So, do you know her?"
"A~ah! That's To-ru!" Momiji popped up between the two. He snatched the magazine out of Sawatari's hands and held it up to Hatsuharu, "Look, its To-ru in a magazine! She looks so cute! I want one! KAH!" He jumped around excitedly. Mika snapped a picture.
"Momiji." Hatsuharu said. The word was a name, a greeting, and an explanation all in one.
Momiji looked up at his taller cousin, "Did Yuki and Kyou see this? I bet Kyou was burning!" He couldn't help but wriggle in place. This would be so much fun to tease Kyou about. And it really was cute picture of Tooru.
"Would you like a piece of candy?"
The little blonde looked up to see a little wrapped piece of candy inches from his nose. He followed the offered hand up to see a woman with a complicated camera bending down to make herself level with him. She was blushing and had a dreamy look on her face. He smiled, he was used to the effect he had on people, "No, thank you!" He also wasn't stupid.
Breakthrough! They *did* know who the girl was! Sawatari kneeled down so that he was eyelevel with the boy. He wondered briefly why the kid was wearing a girl's uniform. "The rules at this school must be really lax," he thought then focused back on his task. "So, you know Tooru Honda-san?" He gave his biggest, most sincere smile. He made note of the names the kid had dropped: Yuki, Kyou. Yuki had been the name that distracted those girls...maybe if he looked for him he'd be able to find this girl. There seemed to be a lot of boys around this girl. That was a good sign. Perhaps the boss had been right to be so insistent.
"Ja!" Momiji smiled. "Its this girl right here." He pointed to the picture in the magazine. He beamed at the man, giving his biggest, most sincere smile. No, Momiji wasn't stupid. This man was strange, and he didn't like the thought of him getting near Tooru. But if they didn't find out what he wanted they couldn't keep him from finding her forever.
Sawatari's smile faltered from the force of Momiji's. There really wasn't anyway to compete. He settled for companionable grin, "So, can you tell me where to find her?"
"Momiji," Hatsuharu warned, "Hatori will be waiting for us."
Momiji nodded at Hatsuharu but continued anyway, "To-ru will be at her part time job right now. She'll get in trouble if we bother her."
Sawatari felt his spirits lift. A working girl, hmn? It meant that money would be important to her. This was looking better and better. Now he just had to get in touch with her. "I'd really like to meet her." He pulled out a card, "But I don't want her to get in trouble." He handed the card to Momiji. "Could you give this to her and tell her to contact me? My cell is on the card, its always on she can contact me at any time." He tried to look gentle and understanding.
Momiji read the card aloud. "Yakumo Sawatari, Rising Stars, Inc. Manager - Trainer -Scout. Scout?"
"That's right. The group I work for owns not only this magazine," He tapped the magazine in Momiji's hands, "But a talent agency too. Models, singers, actors...we handle them all." He smiled at the boy, and took a longer look. He'd have to get copies of Mika's pictures, both these boys had possibilities. Finding a blonde in Japan was like finding gold, one as cute as this one...priceless. This wild goose chase was rapidly becoming more and more profitable. But he couldn't afford to get sidetracked. "Will you please tell her to call? I'd really like to talk to her. It could be a good opportunity for her."
"Ja! I'll let her know! Come on, Haru, Hari will be waiting. Bye-bye!" he waved and ran off trailing Hatsuharu behind him. Mika took a picture and waved back, scrunching her fingers open and closed.
"Write this down, Mika." Sawatari dropped the smile as soon as the boys turned away. "Yuki, Kyou, Momiji, Haru, and Hatori." Mika scribbled down the names.
"So are we calling it a day? We just have to wait for her to call right?" Mika flipped the pad shut.
"Are you kidding? We're not done yet. Excuse me," he stopped a girl walking by, "Those two boys over there, Momiji and..." he trailed off suggestively.
"Hatsuharu?" She filled in, blushing as she followed the two with her eyes.
"Hatsuharu, right." He made a "write it down" motion to Mika. "Could you tell me their last names?"
"Souma." The girl smiled tentatively, "They're cousins."
"Really?" Sawatari gave the girl his complete interest, "You don't say."
"Their older cousins are in my year," She smiled with a dreamy look on her face. "Their family must be really large."
"That would be..." He held his hand back, and Mika dropped the pad into it, "Yuki and Kyou?" He barely glanced at it; discreet he could pull off very well.
"Uh-huh." The girl's dreamy look deepened, "Kyou...and Yuki.... what a family." She wandered off blush heating her cheeks. Sawatari watched her go, taking a moment to appreciate her short skirt. This was getting more interesting all the time.
"Mika, get me a phone book." He cracked his knuckles, tossed his head from side to side with several loud pops and shook out his arms. It was time to do some business.