December 24th had rolled around again, and another Grateful Party was in full swing, but, instead of the fairytale land which had hosted the party before, Lory had rented a ballroom at an upscale hotel in Tokyo, remaking the otherwise bland room into a wintry wonderland. And this time, Kyouko was banned from the kitchen. She was going to enjoy the celebration with everyone else, whether she liked it or not. He had a few enforcers too, who would make sure she didn't sneak off to help the kitchen staff. Currently, Kuu and Julie were keeping her busy while some of Lory's other little helpers prepared for the second half of the party and the surprises that went with it.

Kyouko chatted animatedly with her honorary parents about all of the LME happenings and her roles. It came out of the blue, for the birthday-girl-to-be at least, when Julie asked, "And what about things with your senpai, Tsuruga Ren-kun?"

Kyouko cocked her head to the side, not really understanding the question. "Just fine. We've been talking occasionally like friends do. Why?"

"Oh, just wondering," was the ex-model's breezy response.

Kuu wasn't fooled; he knew exactly why his wife had asked. He'd have to wait until Kyouko was out of sight before he high-fived Julie though. His honorary daughter was very perceptive despite her obliviousness about matters of the heart. She'd figure it out eventually and Kuu wasn't sure what the outcome would be. Knowing Kuon, they weren't likely to be forgiven. Now, if he could pin it on Lory…ooh, that would teach the man a lesson for the sin he committed on Halloween. The thought must've had him grinning since Julie hit his arm and lectured him about scaring poor, unsuspecting souls.

Ren was on the far side of room, watching his parents interact with his beloved. It made him overjoyed that Kyouko had found a niche within his family, even though it was a little disheartening to know that he hadn't played a major role in it by, say, marrying the brunette. Not to mention he would likely be disowned if he didn't end up marrying the broken-hearted woman. Ren let out a soft sigh, his hands tucked in his pockets. He just couldn't seem to win, could he?

Kanae was speaking with Hiou near the buffet. He'd hit a growth spurt recently and was up to her shoulder already. She was wearing three inch heels too. In six more months, or sooner, he'd probably be taller than she was. He probably be breaking a few hearts too if that strong jaw line was anything to go by. Kanae wouldn't be surprised if Hiou was working on a six pack too. He was from a long line of no-stunt-double action stars after all.

Maria fluttered from one group of people to the next, making sure everyone was comfortable and having fun. She paused briefly to be introduced to the Hizuris by her Onee-sama before hunting down Ren-sama to make sure no ugly, stupid harpies had swarmed him. If any had, they'd just bought a one way ticket to Hell.

Yashiro handed Ren a glass of champagne, commenting, "It's an hour 'til midnight."

"I see that."

"Are you trying to tell me you have nothing prepared?"

"Oh, I have something. The president refused to let me hold onto it though. Well, most of it."

"Most of what?"

"That is for everyone to find out on the stroke of midnight, my good gentleman."

"You're starting to scare me, Ren."

The tall actor didn't respond, preferring to look pointedly at the host. Who, in turn, rolled his eyes and gestured towards the balcony subtly. How he managed that in a suit of armor, Ren would never know and he wasn't sure he wanted to. He excused himself from Yashiro's company and made his way to the balcony, employing a few crafty evasion techniques to lose his manager in the masses of people. Ren's slightly ruffled hair was the only thing that gave away his brief exertion, choosing to lounge with his back against the cool, black iron railing. Lory had his back to the ballroom, glancing at his actor briefly before looking back to the stars.

"Is it ready?"

"Look for yourself."

Ren did, and was pleased with what he saw. "Will you be able to get the target into place?"

"That is up to you, Julie, and Kuu, but I have no doubt you'll be able to pull it off."

The younger man let out an exasperated huff, muttering, "I didn't want to be the one to push."

"Oh, suck it up, lover boy. It's your gift."

"I wanted to present it to her, but no, you had make up this elaborate plan. What if she hates me for this?"

"Ren, look down again. What do you see?" Lory asked, giving the younger man a knowing look.

He obediently glanced down, winced slightly, and turned his head back towards the ballroom. "You're right."

"Aren't I always?"

It was a quarter 'til midnight now and all those in the know were all but bouncing with anticipation. The target was going to be so excited and very shocked about what was to happen in just 15 minutes.

Yashiro dogged Ren, trying to find out exactly what he had prepared for Kyouko-chan's eighteenth birthday and what had he been talking about with the president. But the actor ignored him, engaging in conversation with the other guests whenever possible, effectively making Yashiro even more curious and giving him no insight into his charge's thoughts.

The hands on the grandfather clock against the east wall moved slowly, showing only three minutes 'til Christmas day. A light snow had started and Ren had exchanged a worried glance with Lory, who immediately went off in search of his behind-the-scenes helpers. Snow could either ruin the grandeur of the impending surprise or make it that much more magical. Leather traditional did not mix well with cold and wet, and they couldn't exactly put the cover up. That would cause an unpleasant bone breakage if they continued with their present plan.

The hands seemed to move faster and faster until there were mere seconds until midnight. The target, dressed sophisticatedly in a long sleeved, dark red dress, talked softly with her two companions; all of three of them smiling.

Thirty seconds, they were only feet from the balcony. Fifteen seconds, she was within a meter of the railing. Ten seconds, her back rested against the cool iron rail, preventing her from falling backwards. Five seconds, her companions—one male, one female—crowded closer, waiting for the signal to be given. Three seconds, the signal was given and the blonde woman winced ever-so-slightly as she set the brunette over the railing. One second, the target couldn't believe it. They wouldn't have betrayed her; purposely send her over the fourth story balcony. Her scream was caught in her throat, held down by disbelief and pain. They had been closet things she had to parents in twelve years!

The grandfather clock on the east wall chimed, announcing the arrival of midnight—a witching hour known for miracles. The target wished she would be the receiver of one such occurrence as she drew closer to the ground. To a deadly impact.