Hello everyone and happy 2011! I'm really sorry for such a late update. Things in school have been pretty hectic so time was definitely crunched. Thankfully though, I managed to find some time in writing this chapter and once again, I hope you all enjoy it as much as the others. Thanks for all the great reviews before! And Please review this one! :D
Disclaimer: I do not own Skip Beat or any of its characters.
Kyoko walked through LME in a mood that was almost electric. Every person she passed couldn't deny the feeling of joy that she emanated since the smile on her face seemed to be permanent. It was practically an understatement to say that people were surprised. In fact, they couldn't tear their eyes off of her. Many of them—mostly the men—suddenly came to the realization of just how beautiful Kyoko was. The way her lips were curved into a bright smile and the twinkle in her eyes were just too mesmerizing to ignore.
But she didn't pay them the slightest bit of attention. Kyoko had other important things in mind; so in a brisk walk, she quickly made her way to the highest floor in hopes that she wasn't late for the meeting with President Lory. As soon as the elevator door opened to the familiar floor covered with red carpet, Kyoko froze to a standstill when she finally saw a familiar face.
The girl was standing in front of the president's office with her usual stance of having her arms crossed over her chest as if she was angry at someone. Her dark black hair naturally fell over her shoulder and her eyes were glued on the double oak doors.
Kyoko smiled widely as she approached her infuriated-looking friend. Even though it was only for 24 hours, Kyoko had to admit the fact that she missed seeing her face. Yesterday was such a long day, filled with high-strung emotions and unbelievable miracles. But now that she was back at work and seeing familiar people again, Kyoko could finally take a breather and appreciate her somewhat ordinary life.
Once she was about a couple of steps away, Kyoko watched her friend turn her head and look at her with an almost surprised expression. Kyoko stopped right in her tracks as she stared back into her dark eyes. Not understanding why she was so nervous in the first place, Kyoko nibbled on her lower lip and managed to whisper, "Moko-san?"
Kanae continued to stare at her with a blank expression. She didn't move or say anything.
Kyoko, on the other hand, was nearly having a heart attack. Even though she knew that the assignment was over, she suddenly had a fleeting fear that her best friend's temporary state of muteness had strangely become permanent over the course of the previous day. Feeling her heart fall to the pit of her stomach, Kyoko tentatively took a step forward and was going to call out her name again when she saw Kanae shake her head and say—
In an instant, an overwhelming wave of relief washed over her as the beautiful sound of her best friend's voice rang in her ears like bells. Kyoko smiled tearfully and rushed at her with open arms as she wailed, "MOKO-SAN!"
And in one twirl, Kyoko had her arms wrapped around Kanae's neck and squeezed her tightly as if she never wanted to let her go.
"MO! Enough already!" Kanae said irritably, trying to break free from Kyoko's bear-like grip. But she couldn't remove her best friend's embrace even with the jaws of life. Kyoko always became oddly strong when her emotions ran high.
But all in all, Kanae was happy to see her too. Even though she would never say it out loud, Kanae had to admit that she missed seeing her perky face all day yesterday. No matter how annoying Kyoko could get, Kanae truly treasured Kyoko as a friend and was glad to be reunited with her in the end.
Satisfied, Kyoko released her grip slightly and leaned back to stare at Kanae's wonderfully aggravated face. She smiled widely. "I'm so happy to see you!"
Kanae scoffed. "As you should be."
Kyoko laughed and gave her another hug. "I missed this."
"Missed what?" Kanae mumbled as she let her arms hang limply at her sides in defeat.
"Missed you! And hearing your voice again," Kyoko replied with a wide smile.
"I missed hearing her voice too," said another amused voice down the hall.
Instinctively, Kyoko quickly whipped her head towards the familiar sound and felt a huge smile curve at the corner of her lips as she met Chiori's gleeful gaze. She was walking towards them from the other end with both of her hands on her hips as she said, "Or maybe it's just good to hear anything again."
Laughing, Kyoko released Kanae and jumped to Chiori as she gave her friend a big hug. "You can hear!"
Chiori giggled and hugged Kyoko back. "You can see!" she replied in the same joyful voice.
Kanae sighed. "It's good that things are normal again," she added in a voice filled with relief.
Kyoko nodded as Chiori said, "I don't think normal has ever been more appealing to me."
"Was yesterday difficult?" Kyoko asked worriedly.
Kanae shrugged as Chiori replied, "At the beginning, but we got the hang of it."
Kyoko smiled. It was clear that this assignment really brought her two friends closer together. Before, they seemed to be more like mere acquaintances who only met by chance, but now it was entirely different. Just by looking at their stance beside each other, Kyoko could tell that they shared some sort of bond and oddly enough, it made Kyoko extremely happy.
"But you know," Chiori began in a devil-ish tone, "I think we are far more interested in how your day went."
Kyoko blushed profusely and lowered her head as she mumbled, "It's a long story."
"We have time," Kanae answered simply as she leaned against the wall behind her. "That's not an issue."
Kyoko raised her gaze and saw both of her friends staring intently at her face. Chiori was practically beaming in anticipation while Kanae looked at her with an intensity that nearly burned her eyes out. It was kind of scary. Kyoko laughed nervously and ran a hand through her hair.
"Well, I really don't know where to start," Kyoko replied.
"Then how about in here?"
All three girls turned around and saw President Lory standing next to the open oak doors. He had a giant smile of welcome plastered upon his face as he watched their eyes widen in surprise. Gesturing his hand towards his office, he said, "I can't wait to hear all about your day, each and every one of you."
Caught by surprise, all three LoveMe members bowed politely and slowly made their way into the large office. They took their usual seat on the red, plushy couch as the president sat cross from them on his own throne-like chair. He crossed his legs and leaned back with the same grin on his face. He cleared his throat.
"Well, it seems you all completed the task successfully. I must say I'm proud."
They nodded in gratitude.
"But I have to admit I am much more curious about your experiences than just the completion of the assignment. Tell me what you thought about it now that the task is over."
The girls looked at each other, asking silently who should begin. At first, no one said a word, but suddenly, Kanae sighed heavily and leaned forward.
"It would be a lie if I said this assignment was easy," she said in a slightly irritated voice. "Frustration seemed to be the only emotion I felt during the whole day. I thought it was nearly impossible to do."
She moved her head from side to side, almost in wariness. Then, in a blink of an eye, Kanae's expression changed dramatically. It suddenly became softer as she met the president's surprised gaze and gave him a serene smile. Shaking her head in what seemed to be disbelief, she said, "But not being able to speak taught me something important."
"Oh?" President Lory said in curiosity. "And what might that be, Kotonami-san?"
She looked at him directly. "That it's okay to rely on others. That I don't necessarily have to do everything alone. That receiving help is nothing to be ashamed about."
He chuckled and uncrossed his legs. "You got all that just from yesterday?"
Kanae nodded, but quickly averted her gaze. She almost felt like she was admitting defeat by staring into his more-than-pleased face.
"And," Chiori piped in eagerly, "that working with someone makes the task seem that much more fun."
President Lory turned to Chiori with a beaming smile, who was suddenly sitting forward in excitement with her eyes glistening. "Please continue, Amimaya-san," he said in a deep, amused voice.
"I have never been so appreciative of my ears since yesterday. Believe me, I'll treasure hearing forever."
They all laughed.
"But," Choiri said gently, "I found something else quite valuable too."
She turned to Kanae and smiled. "A friend."
Kanae stared back at her, blinking in surprise.
"A really good friend."
Kanae didn't know what to say at all. It's true that she acknowledged Chiori as someone close to her now, especially since yesterday, but to hear her actually say it out loud was nothing short of a shock. But seeing Chiori's serene smile, Kanae couldn't help but smile back at her in return.
President Lory laughed. "It appears that this task did more than I imagined."
All three girls turned their attention back to his gleeful expression.
"But there's one person I haven't heard from yet," he continued slowly as his eyes trailed down the line.
And eventually, President Lory looked at Kyoko out of the corner of his eye, prompting her to speak. She naturally straightened up and placed both of her hands in her lap as she tried to find the words that would explain everything she felt in the last 24 hours. Kyoko looked down at her lap, feeling the words slowly bubble up inside of her.
"By not being able to see, I don't think I have never seen myself more clearly," she murmured softly.
Everyone remained still.
"In such a short time, I learned so much about myself that it's almost kind of scary. I never realized how unaware I've been."
Kyoko raised her head to see their astonished gaze and smiled.
"I feel like I finally found me."
Kanae and Chiori couldn't take their eyes off of Kyoko. Her words didn't make any sense to them at all. They were undeniably vague and spun up more questions than answered any. And even though they wanted her to explain herself more thoroughly, they just didn't have the voice to say anything. The expression Kyoko had on her face had completely caught them off guard. She was practically glowing.
President Lory, on the other hand, didn't seem the least bit surprised or confused. In fact, he stared at Kyoko with an understanding gleam in his eye as he leaned his head into the palm of his hand and said, "Looks like you all benefited from this task."
He smiled widely. "So all those complaints at the start of this assignment, are you willing to take them back?"
Kanae crossed her arms and shook her head defiantly. "It was a ridiculously hard task to begin with."
"And it's not like we didn't suffer," Chiori added haughtily.
The president narrowed his eyes.
"But," Kyoko said with a laugh, "I guess we're glad that we did."
And to the president's surprise, all three girls looked up at him with a smile upon their faces that made his heart swell with emotion. Teary eyed, President Lory nodded and cleared his throat.
"Well, I'm glad to hear that. It appears that you all understood the purpose of the assignment in the end. Once again, I'm very proud."
And intuitively understanding that it was time to go, all three girls stood up from their seat and nodded in farewell to the president. They bowed politely and was about to leave to start their workday when the president suddenly called Kyoko's name.
She turned around. "Yes sir?"
"A quick word please, before you go."
Curious, Kyoko gave a simple wave to her surprised friends and took her seat back on the couch. Once the double oak doors closed, President Lory broke out into a sunny smile and leaned forward. Kyoko blinked in surprise.
"Are you going to make me ask what happened last night or are you just going to inform me of it willingly?" he asked a cheerful voice.
Kyoko shook her head warily, exhaling deeply. "I would assume you know everything, President Lory sir."
He chuckled and replied, "Well, I do have quite a good hunch, but I would much rather hear it from you. After all, I wasn't able to see him at all this morning, so you're my next best hope."
She sighed heavily. "You know what happened."
"I assure you that I can only guess what had happened."
She stared down at the wooden coffee table. "Before I say anything sir, can I ask you something?" Kyoko asked tentatively.
Slightly taken-aback, President Lory sat up straighter and said, "By all means."
"Did you have all of this planned? Everything that happened last night…did you know it was going to happen?"
He chuckled heartily. "I'm not a psychic, Mogami-san. There was no way I could have planned all of it."
Kyoko bit on her lower lip in uncertainty.
"But I did have a feeling that something might happen," he continued as he realized that she was completely unconvinced.
She sighed and shook her head. "You knew all along, didn't you?" she murmured quietly.
"About him, yes. About you, no. You were much harder to figure out, Mogami-san."
Kyoko smiled gently. "I have to agree with that. Even I couldn't figure myself out."
President Lory laughed and fluidly stood up from his chair. He walked over to the large glass window and stared down at the busy streets where he saw cars neatly lined up and people littered on the sidewalks. "Do you love him, Mogami-san?" he asked with his back turned to her.
Kyoko blushed profusely and raised her head a fraction of an inch. She was surprised that he had asked her that flat out. Even though it was common knowledge to know that President Lory had no fear when it came to being forward, to have him challenge her head-on still made her extremely nervous. Kyoko just got her ability to love back so it was difficult for her to voice exactly how she felt outwardly.
But at the same time, as soon as those words left his mouth, the first word that came to her mind was yes. It wasn't hard for her to answer that question at all. It was almost accurate to say to that it was intuitive.
So with a new-found confidence, Kyoko raised her gaze and saw that he was now facing her with his eyes burning in anticipation. She nodded.
President Lory chuckled. "Then that's all I need to know."
Standing fluidly, Kyoko clasped her two hands in front of her and gave him a low bow. She raised her head once more and smiled as she said, "Thank you, President Lory sir. For everything."
And with one last nod and smile from the president, she gracefully made her way out of the office and closed the heavy double doors behind her. Kyoko tiredly leaned against the wall, breathing in deeply in order to relax her shoulders. She had no idea why she became so tense. It seemed like her whole body was suddenly tied up into knots. Wanting to relieve the tension in her muscles, she swiveled her arm around her shoulder as she slowly walked towards the elevator.
But just as soon as she reached it, an elevator had already come up before she had even pushed the button. She watched the doors slide open and reveal a tall silhouette of a man who stared back at her with wide eyes. His stance was relaxed as he leaned against the railing while his arms hung leisurely at his sides. But his face said it all: blatant surprise.
Kyoko was about to open her mouth in greeting when his arm shot out from out of nowhere and grabbed her wrist, pulling her slender body to his as the elevator doors closed behind her. Her blushing face was placed over his heart and his arms naturally encircled her. He lowered his head upon her smooth hair.
"I've been looking all over for you."
She smiled with ease. "You found me."
Chuckling, he brought a hand under her chin and raised her face to his. "What are you doing up here?"
"President Lory called for a meeting for all the LoveMe girls. He wanted to discuss the assignment."
Ren narrowed his eyes in suspicion as soon as he heard the president's name. "Just the assignment? That's all he wanted to talk about?"
"Was there suppose to be something else?" Kyoko asked innocently.
Ren shook his head in disbelief and said, "He didn't say a word about us?"
Kyoko felt her heart lurch as butterflies fluttered all through her stomach. Even though he probably didn't mean much by it, Kyoko couldn't help but swoon over the fact that he used the word "us." Just that one word alone made her feel like she was walking on air.
She flushed scarlet. "He did ask one question," she managed to murmur as she tried her best to hide the whirlpool of emotions that were swirling inside her.
Kyoko closed her eyes and laid her head on his chest. She smiled as she felt his arms tighten around her. "He asked me if I loved you."
Ren turned his head towards her in surprise. He didn't know what to say. A part of him was upset at the fact that President Lory asked her flat out, but the larger part of him longed to hear her answer. Although he heard her say it before, every time the topic was brought up, Ren couldn't deny the obvious fear he felt that somehow she had changed her mind and realized that she never really loved him at all.
So swallowing the heavy lump in his throat, he asked, "How did you—respond?"
Kyoko raised her head. In one fluid motion, she tenderly held his face within her warm hands and stood upon her tip-toes. Pressing a gentle kiss against his lips, she replied, "I love you."
And without another word, Ren kissed her back with every bit of strength he had. Even now, when he could feel her warm body in his arms, Ren couldn't help but think that one day he was going to wake up and realize that this was nothing more but a mere fantasy, a spell that was conjured by his own imagination. Yet tasting the sweet taste of her mouth and hearing the soft sounds from her throat made him realize that he didn't care if it was a dream. If he was ever going to wake up, Ren wouldn't mind. Just being with her right now was more than he ever needed.
And when they finally released each other, Kyoko found herself drowning in his dark brown eyes that seemed to be an endless pool of mystery she wanted to figure out. Everything about him was new and exciting to her, and to know that from then on, she would get to know him better and better made her all the more thrilled. He was no longer just her mentor, but someone she loved with all her heart. Ren was practically her world and to know that he felt the same way made her heart swell with emotion.
As soon as the elevator doors slid open on the first floor, Ren laced his hand through hers and fluidly led her out into the lobby. He looked down at her with the same breath-taking smile he had shown her countless times before, causing Kyoko's breath to catch in her throat. She just couldn't get used to looking at him. But the warmth of his hand oddly made her feel at ease just knowing that they were together.
However, as soon as they were a couple of feet away from the elevator, it seemed like a bright spotlight was suddenly flashed upon the both of them since everyone in the lobby had turned their head in their direction. Kyoko instantly felt her body freeze up as she stared into everyone's shocked expression at their intertwined hands. But before she could even utter a single sound, Ren gave her arm a gentle tug, pulling her attention back to his face.
"Are you okay?" he asked softly.
Kyoko stared helplessly back, not finding the voice to speak. At that moment, she knew her heart was beating sporadically because of the fear of what other people would say. Ren was the most sought-after man in Japan and for him to choose her as a partner over everyone else was nothing short of a miracle. It was an understatement to say that Kyoko was worried about their judgments. But looking into his concerned face, Kyoko slowly came to realize that it didn't really matter to her at all. Even if the universe opposed their feelings for each other, it would never change the fact that she loved him. Ren was just too important for her to let go.
So feeling a smile at the corner of her lips, Kyoko easily nodded and replied, "I'm more than okay."
He chuckled and continued to walk alongside her, gently rubbing small circles in the palm of her hand with his thumb.
But while Kyoko was trying to give herself time to slow her rapid heartbeat, she suddenly felt Ren come to a complete stop as his gaze was instantly directed to something in front of him.
Kyoko quickly followed his gaze and saw no other than Yashiro standing before them with an open jaw and wide eyes that looked like they were bugging out of their sockets. Immediately, she felt her lungs constrict as she clearly watched a giant grin slowly creep upon his changing, gleeful face.
Then in one swift movement that completely caught her off guard, Kyoko felt Ren pull her back to his chest and his smooth hand move across her face until her vision was completely covered.
"You don't have to see this," he whispered huskily into her ear.
And before she could even say a single word, Yashiro's thunderous voice echoed throughout the lobby as he screamed in the utmost delight:
Thank you everyone for reading this story. I'm so happy that many of you took an interest and even enjoyed reading this story as well. I know I had a great time writing the storyline and reading all of your reviews. Thanks again for all the feedback and comments. As always, they were extremely helpful and I truly appreciate the time you took out of your schedule to both read and review. You guys are the greatest! Thank you all!