Setting: Almost a full year after the Happy Grateful Party. After the release of the Cain Heel movie, and Tsuruga Ren's involvement in it. Not much else has changed.
Chapter 162: Ero = Erotic & Kawa = Kawaii/Cute
Thank you Runa for gently scolding me over my grasp of the English language T.T and I hope this is balm for Toyoko's exam and cliffhanger wounds
"Well if I had to pick, I would want Santa to bring me…" Kanae paused thoughtfully, taking a moment to really reflect over her co-worker's question, "…a full acting contract." The other two nodded in agreement as the tallest actress continued to unwrap the neon pink Christmas lights. "I'd be too busy to do something as stupid as this, and I would never have to wear this horrible shade of pink again." She threw the cords around the fake evergreen haphazardly, lighting its plastic pines in the classic LoveMe(tm) shade. What about you Amamiya?"
Sitting on the wooden bench in their personal locker room, Chiori lazily fished out the decorations from the "Merry Mission" box and tossed them onto the tree with a soft, continuous underhand. "I'd want all those stupid holiday variety shows to get cancelled." The chubby cherubs and glitter pink ornament balls landed crookedly upon the branches, expressing just how much she cared for the President's task. As long as they stayed stuck, it was good enough.
"I can't stand the cheesy American Christmas songs and all those stupid idols wearing Santa and elf outfits..." Chiori quickly recanted, spotting out of the corner of her eye the light frown the other girl had gained. She sputtered in her haste. "E-Except Bo! Bo was a really great Santa this week!"
Amamiya sighed in relief as rushed praise banished Kyoko's pout. It was easy to forget that her considered senpai also worked as a giant costumed chicken as well as a femme fatale high school bully. The mystical butterfly actress always came into mind as she watched her senpai.
Now that everything was set up, the plot could start. She looked towards Kotonami. Seeing Kanae's inconspicuous nod, Chiori launched into the plan. "And you, Kyoko-san! What would you want for Christmas? It's your birthday too, isn't it?"
"Me?" Bringing her finger to her chin in reflection, Kyoko carefully avoided pricking herself with the holiday needle. A long trail of cotton candy colored popcorn spun around her, neatly threaded and ready to be wound around the tannenbaum. "It is my birthday, but I don't want anything…"
"You have to want something," Kanae admonished, looking frustrated. "Every time we go out, you always look at things for me. You never say you want anything for yourself."
"That's because I love spending time with you Moko-san. It's fun to shop for you!" Kyoko piped childishly, causing the other to blush.
"What about plans then?" Chiori asked quickly. After spending months together, she knew it was better to divert the topic before Kyoko got into the pattern of fawning over her best friend.
"I don't have any plans, except school work, Amamiya-san." Kyoko paused again, "Well…I may help out at the restaurant. It tends to get busy around the holidays."
Amamiya lobbed the last ornament on the tree, and began brushing the pink glitter off her hands. It fell like candy snowflakes onto her matching lap. "How about we all go out for Christmas then?" She invited casually. "We can all celebrate your birthday together."
"Really?" Kyoko's eyes became wide and excited, as she looked from Chiori to Kanae and back again. "You wouldn't mind coming out? Would you really do that for me?"
"Of course we would," Moko replied with an indignant huff. She and Chiori gave each other knowing sideways glances, both secretly pleased. "I may have to go in for a shoot in the afternoon, but we can do something at lunc-SIT!" Kyoko froze in mid-step as Kanae pointed to her with her brows furrowed. A bone-crushing hug was quickly averted as Kyoko obediently returned to her original spot, imaginary tail wagging in barely contained pleasure. "We'll just have to deal with all those lovey-dovey couples walking around, but if…"
As if the piece of the string served as a conductor, the dyed popcorn pieces shriveled into burnt black ash, one by one falling to the invisible electricity of hate. Malevolent smoke began to swirl above the girl, as black Kyoko demons began to erupt from her body. The newest LoveMe member slightly recoiled, as Kanae simply watched as the murky storm collected.
"Onee-san!" A wavy blond child collided into the violet-black mass, evaporating the heavy cloud before it could really manifest itself around the room. The young girl wrapped her small arms around her honorary sister's neck, grinning brightly all the while. "I knew I'd find you here. Guess what!" Kyoko barely had time to breathe before Maria continued, unaware and too excited to wait. "I've come here to tell you to pack up your things! You're going with me for Christmas!"
Kyoko contorted her body, trying to kindly free herself of the near ten year-old's firm hug around her neck. Maria held on tight, like a golden hair boa squeezing around its prey with love.
"I didn't hear anything about the President wanting us to work this Christmas."
Kanae looked at Chiori for confirmation, who nodded her head in agreement. "We don't have any jobs the rest of this week."
"Not you," Maria coolly rebutted, looking at the new LoveMe member with little interest. Without being properly vetted, the young girl held all women with suspicion, especially those around her future husband or older sibling. "Nee-san is coming to America with me!"
"What?" "Huh!" "You're taking her to America!" The three voices overlapped, mixing into each other but all expressing the same emotion.
"Of course! Dad said I could take you to Disney World with me on Christmas. We can celebrate your birthday at Cinderella's castle!"
Finally free of her "younger sister's" vice lock, Kyoko went from mildly asphyxiated to heavenly euphoric in the same time it took for the dark cloud to dissipate.
"Cinderella's castle? The Cinderella? We can go into her castle…and actually meet her?"
Maria clapped her small hands to Kyoko's own, smiling at her sister's twinkling eyes. Chiori overtly glared at the President's daughter, as Kanae could feel the self-confident bubble burst within her, knowing that her best friend's present this year would never reach the approval of an international trip to see a Princess's life-sized castle. She had lost even before the two girls revealed their joint gift – a ticket to the smaller, closer, less elaborate Tokyo Disney.
"Dad's booked us to have dinner with her that night, where we can see the fireworks and have dessert at the round table."
Kanae watched the sparkles in Kyoko's eyes erupt in ecstasy.
"Don't you have schoolwork to make up Kyoko?" Amamiya quipped. A mini Chiori floated over to the daydream; promptly popping the dream bubble over Kyoko's head, and spilling a rush of tears. "Plus," the actress added, giving the tiny intruder a piercing look, "we just made plans for that day. I don't know who you are, but you just can't barge in and take our senpai."
Kanae and Kyoko looked at Chiori with a surprised glance. Maria usually visited the LoveMe locker room, but apparently Chiori – only a part-time LME actress and rarely in the building, hadn't seen the young girl with her President Grandfather.
Maria took Kyoko's arm and squeezed it possessively. "Onee-chan is Onee-chan. I'm more important to her than some kohai." Maria snapped back. "In America, Christmas is about family. So our plans are more important than your lame idea." Chiori's eyes erupted at the insult as Maria looked up at Kyoko, putting up her most adorable pleading face. "You'd rather be with me Nee-chan, right?"
"No, she wouldn't." Chiori marched over to Kyoko's left side and pulled her up by her other arm. "Kyoko would prefer to be with her friends. Not some brat…and the sight of some stupid bugs won't scare me."
Maria put away her set of South American tarantulas, obviously annoyed at the lack of screaming her two favourite pets usually brought. "I'm not a brat, you no talent hag."
"No talent hag? I knew how to act at half your age!" Chiori tugged at Kyoko again, but Maria remained firmly attached to her other arm.
"So you're old, too." Maria said snippety, looking away with a triumphant smile.
"Old?" Amamiya's face morphed, twisting into the dangerous Yumika character she embodied so well at the side of Natsu. "Go find your own friends you little…"
"Chiori, you might want to calm down." Kotonami said quickly, cutting into the argument and pulling the Soft Hat actress to her. "Takaradas are always passionate."
"Wait… Takarada…her?" Chiori asked quickly, looking from her fellow LoveMe member to the erratic President's granddaughter. Maria returned her look with narrowed eyes.
"Maria-chan…" Kyoko said softly, brushing away the animosity in the room and bringing the attention onto herself, "...as much as I'd love to go, I can't. I do have to go to school to make up all the time I've missed, and I can't get a passport."
"But Onee-chan…I don't want to go away without you." Eyes filling up with tears, Maria buried herself into Kyoko's chest.
"You don't have to…. I heard from a little birdie that you were going to be with your Dad this Christmas, so I brought you some gifts early. This is your going-away present."
Pulling out a tiny hand-made key chain out of her breast pocket, she laid a miniature voodoo doll of herself into Maria's small palm.
"I put some of my hair into it." Kyoko carefully placed the tiny voodoo doll into Maria's hand, and looked straight into her hazel eyes. "When you're lonely or need me, you can tell me and I'll hear it."
"Oh Nee-chan…" Maria's voice shook, including the doll in a hug. "I love her!"
"And," Kyoko said suddenly, pulling back from the hug, "I've more..."
Positioning herself in front of her locker so that she wouldn't show more of its contents than was necessary, Kyoko pulled out several relatively flat boxes, one stacked upon another, almost as tall as she was. Wrapped in festive glittery paper, she set them in front of the excited child. Kyoko handed one to Maria, who looked too pleased to return to the previous matter.
"This is for Christmas. I know your grandfather won't let you see the film, but I think you might still like this."
Tearing away the wrapping paper eagerly, Maria squealed as she caught sight of the tell-tale black trench coat and scarf of the nefarious Eclipse Killer, the most talked about horror film in the last decade. The entire outfit, from the miniature hair gel to the worn out boots rested neatly inside the box, including the predatory face mask.
"It's Ren-sama's Actor X outfit! You're amazing Nee-chan!"
"Open this one next."
As Maria poured over the multitude of new masks and wardrobes in each of the boxes, she careful stacked the outfits in a neat tiny pile. Picking up the original box, Chiori held the miniature ensemble up to the light, taking in the mastery of the perfect stitching, and her senpai's amazing attention to detail. Even the trench coat's scent seemed genuine: a blend of cigarette smoke and fear.
Kanae held the dangerously aloof Tsuruga mask in one hand and its scaled matching cigarette in another. She muttered about her friend's craziness as she rested the toy smoke against the doll's mask, letting it dangle between his lips.
"And this is for your birthday…"
The mask and cigarette clattered to the floor, followed by the miniature scarf and black wrapped jacket. Luckily none of the pieces were damaged, but the three stunned girls paid no attention.
Kyoko became unsure of her workmanship as she took in the shocked faces. Still, she took the newest doll in her hand and nervously edged it closer to Maria.
"He was a bit of a rush job, but I wanted to give you this before you left. This is Ren-sama version 2.0. He's five inches taller to match the height you've grown this year Maria-chan. All those clothes you have are fit to this version of Ren-sama, plus I've made new versions of your previous outfits as well. Everything is in extra durable material, and I think he's closer than Ren-sama version 1.0."
Kyoko took the nearest mask from the bench, a pouty puppy expression, and placed it over Ren-sama's face. The attached puppy ears fit perfectly over his scaled head. Maria scooted closer to the doll, holding her hands out to hold it, and Kyoko adjusted the Ren arms so that their hands would almost touch each other.
Clearing her throat, Kyoko positioned the doll between her and Maria, clearing her throat as she tilted the doll over. Though her impression of Ren was impeccable, none of the girls could have ever imagined the famous actor of saying such a line. If it hadn't been to Maria, the line would have sounded too romantic for Tsuruga Ren.
"Oh Maria-chan, would you deny me the small pleasure of spoiling you?"
Maria's face went from lightly pink to a tomato red, as she stared at the doll. Her lips moved, but nothing came out but a high pitched squeak.
"Kyoko, don't you think you should have dressed him?" Kanae rebuked, looking at the doll's bare pectoral muscles and long bare legs. "I don't think he'd let anyone see him like…um...that."
"Well Moko-san, right now he's in swimsuit-mode."
Kyoko turned back to Maria, who was still staring at the doll, star-struck. "Although he's not perfect, he's waterproof. Meaning you can get him wet if you want to bring him into a pool while on vacation."
"Really Nee-san? Won't it damage him?"
"Nope. Here, let me show you."
Blindly fishing for another mask with one hand, she reached into her locker for a bottle of water. Opening the drink with a few quick twists, Kyoko carefully positioned the miniature Ren over a magically appearing towel. She slowly began to pour the mineral water onto his well styled hair and broad shoulders, as if under a relaxing spring waterfall. Each girl watched transfixed as the rivulets ran down his face and well-developed bare chest, contouring to the muscular build that defined his unforgettable physique.
Bringing the Emperor of the Night smile close to Maria's face, Kyoko strained her voice to sound like Setsuka's overly-charming brother, the night she assumed he drowned in the shower.
"Would you like to join me?... Maria!"
Realizing what was about to happen, Kyoko made a dive for the red-faced girl, letting the doll clatter to the floor. Kanae, catching on just in time as well, caught the overheated pre-teen as she collapsed, making sure to carefully lower her to the ground.
"Maria! Maria!" Kyoko fanned the unconscious girl with a nearby script, unsure why her eyes spun.
"What were you thinking? She's only 10!"
"What do you mean Moko-san? He was just teasing her, like brothers and sisters do."
"That's not the way siblings tease! What would make you think of that as brotherly?"
"What else would it be Moko-san?"
Curiosity striking the cat, feline ears popped into existence. "Kyoko…" Chiori asked curiously, making her way to the fallen toy and putting it back to his feet. She stared at his amazingly chiseled chin, and ran a finger over the remaining wet spot. "How realistic is this doll?"
"As realistic as I could make him. Why?" Kyoko responded half-heartedly, lightly tapping the young heiress's unconscious face.
"Oh…just interested." Chiori dragged her hand lower and lower, until it tapped the very elastic that kept the doll clothed. Peering back to see whether the other girls remained distracted, Chiori gently tugged at the elastic band.
Noticing that the band wasn't giving way, the actress pulled harder and harder at the cloth, which stayed stubbornly pinned to the doll's figure.
"What's wrong with this thing?"
"In such company, don't you really think I should keep my trunks on, Amamiya-san?"
The sudden apparition of the number one actor in Japan made Chiori jump to her feet, and take a few steps away from the doll and its inspiration. His infamous smile was on full force, and Kyoko's warnings rang in the actress's head.
"Ah, sorry Tsuruga-san." Amamiya blushed. "I was just amazed at Kyoko's workmanship and wanted to take a better look."
"It is quite amazing." Ren said calmly, looking from the half-naked scaled model, to its creator. All too aware of the smile, Kyoko the terrified chipmunk went from concern from Maria, to concern over herself. Ren's gaze became much more pointed as he spotted the tiny animal hiding behind pink overalls. "Ogling me again, Mogami-san?"
"Chip chip chip chip chip (Please call it observation.)" The furry faced forest creature spoke, fur puffed up in instinctual fear.
His manager, also appearing as if in mid-air, caught sight of the discarded masks. Capturing his attention immediately, Yashiro quickly spotted and picked up one of the more interesting masks. He stared at the loving Ren facade with apt attention, taking in the warmth and tranquility the small actress-artist managed to capture and paint. The fuzzy image that Yashiro attempted to imagine his charge with, the one where Ren accepted Kyoko's confession of love, finally depixilated. Fireworks went off at his success.
Maria sluggishly woke from her shock, taking in the twin Ren's in front of her. Making the connection from the tiny toy to the full sized actor, she promptly went limp again, fainting into Kanae's expectant arms.
"I'll take her." Ren said smoothly, standing up to his full height and carefully scooping the tiny girl off the floor. Maria limply rested against him, cheeks still burning embarrassment. "We were just about to see the President anyway. I'll come back to pick you up Mogami-san. Let's go, Yashiro."
The manager reluctantly piled all of the Ren-sama's outfits and face masks, making sure to take the time to quickly file each expression away in his memory bank. Amazed at the sudden increase of facial expressions his mental library had just experienced, he picked up the doll last and made his way behind his charge. The door slammed with finality, and the three listened as their footsteps died away.
"That smile is scary." Chiori said with a relieved sigh, once the two men had departed with the tiny girl. "I never understood what you meant until now Kyoko-san."
"Chip chiiip chip. (I told you!)" Kyoko chirped, clinging onto Moko's pants leg like a security blanket.
"Why were you trying to look anyways?" Kanae asked with a calculating look to Chiori, trying to shoo Kyoko away in the meanwhile. "I didn't think you were the ecchi type."
"I'm not ecchi." Chiroi rebutted, slightly annoyed. "I was just curious. If Kyoko-san could act in such a way, and buy such ero-kawa underwear unabashedly…"
"Wait? ero-kawa underwear?" Kanae's brows arched up in bewilderment. " Like those stupid lingerie sets you see at the mall?"
"Well of course." Chiori looked confusedly from the furry mass to the person obscuring it. "Kyoko said she was buying them for a friend."
"But I'd never wear something like that... Was she buying it for you Amamiya?"
"Of course not! I'd never wear such lewd, indecent underwear! "
"Then if it's not for me…or for you…what is she talking about Kyoko?" Moko's eyes glinted like angry stars, as she looked down at the wildly quivering chipmunk. Kyoko's tiny squeaks grew louder, as she scampered to the door, just dodging Kotonami's grab. "You're supposed to be my best friend. What aren't you tell me?"
"Chip chip chip chip chip chiiiiiiip!"(I'm sorry Moko-san! I couldn't tell anyone!)
"Do you have a new best friend I don't know about? Have we been replaced? " Kanae's stomp shook the room, making the paralyzed pet jump with each step.
"Chiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip chip chip! Chip chip chiiiip chip chip chiiiiiiip!" (Of course not! Moko & Amamiya are my only friends!)
"Then those man-eating panties were for you, Kyoko-san!" Chiori gasped.
"Tell us who you've been hiding." Kanae said darkly, peering at Kyoko's watery golden eyes, wet with terrified tears.
Knocking lightly, a calm masculine voice floated in that halted all three girls in their tracks."Mogami-san, are you ready?" The door opened a crack, just enough to allow the ground-dwelling squirrel to make her quick escape.
"Chip chip chiiiip chip!" (Bye Moko-san, Amamiya-san!)
Gathering her courage, Kyoko stepped out of the elevator, following Ren into one of the lower LME employee garages. Swallowing hard to wet her throat, she spoke for the first time in his presence. The sound came out soft and unsure, as if testing the atmosphere around her.
"Thank you for the ride, Tsuruga-san."
Walking a few steps behind, Kyoko eyes rested on his designer shoes that glided in front of her. She welcomed the quick escape, but the fact that her senpai remained silent didn't escape her. None of her demons were going off, but there was always the potential for danger.
"Where is Yashiro-san? I thought we were going to dinner tonight."
Ren's feet stopped, and in response, so did she. The silence hung for only a moment, before the actor responded in an enigmatic voice. He didn't turn to face her, which was worrying, but his tone was casual, almost relaxed.
"He decided to take a taxi tonight Mogami-san."
"Oh no! It's too cold tonight! Was it because of me? I'm sorry for taking his ride!" She imagined the poor manager standing at the taxi line, tinted blue, shivering like an icicle in the winter breeze while all the city's taxis passed him without a second glace. Turning about face, Kyoko just missed the glint in his eyes as he turned to her. "Let me see if I can go catch him!"
"Don't worry Mogami-san. I already called him a taxi, so he didn't have to wait. He already left."
Before she could take a step, a strong arm swept her back, pulling her into his warm chest. His breath fell hot over her ear, as the voice she imitated so well came back to haunt her.
"So will I be your dinner?"
"That's not the way siblings tease" Really Kanae, who're you to give advice about banter between siblings?
What do you wish Ren said to her at the end? His last line was hard to write.
Wow this got long. Longer than I meant. I've been working on an angst second chapter on Checkmate, and BFTOT is kinda on hiatus, probably until after the holiday season. Or Kyoko does something in the canon that really inspires me.