Here's the next chapter! Sorry for the late update, as I was busy getting my stuff ready for a Saturday cosplay. I had to cut this short so all of you can finally read the next installment.
Monday morning, and Carly Nagisa felt thoroughly drained. Despite feeling very tired from what had happened during the weekend, a lot of thoughts kept running through her head after Jack had wordlessly accompanied her back to her apartment that Saturday night. She tried to sleep during the night, but failed to do so. Instead, she worked on her pending articles, as well as the questions she will be asking the team for Monday's interview. Sunday came and gone, yet she was still unable to get a good night's sleep.
Sometimes, she hated her goody-two-shoes side.
Dark Signer Carly wouldn't have batted an eyelash at the blatant lie she gave Jack Atlas that Saturday night while the old Carly would have started shaking in fear and had a high possibility of bursting into tears and confessing everything.
As she had incorporated both sides of her, what had happened was this…
Can she bluff her way through this one…?
Carly mentally kicked herself for saying things without thinking it through.
Now he knew… or did he…?
"R-repeat what you just said!" Jack Atlas' voice was shaking, and she was not sure whether it was from shock or from anger.
After a moment's pause, she swallowed before finding her voice again. "To be honest… I didn't know what I just said… somehow, it just came out naturally."
"Did you finally regain your memories?" her heart soared when she heard his hopeful tone, but the reporter knew that it was not yet time to tell him everything.
'When all of this is over, I'll have to come clean with everything.' "Sorry, but no… I'm trying my best to remember."
A sharp intake of breath followed after and then, a heavy sigh. "I… see." Was he… disappointed?
Wordlessly, he removed her arms around him and proceeded to walk. "It's getting late. You need to be home soon."
Carly followed suit, but couldn't help but feel frustrated with what she had just done. She never was the type to lie, and to lie to him was quite difficult to do. Her conscience was bothering her, and she willed it away, at least for the meantime. It really is a necessity, and not because she wanted to lie; rather, it was for the best.
Their parting was a bit awkward, because right after she had unlocked the door to her apartment, he lingered for a bit, and she could've sworn he was getting red in the face. "Is something bothering you?" she asked.
"… It's nothing." And with that, he walked away.
'I'm sorry, Jack. We're both busy. You don't need distractions; the WRGP is so near, and you need to concentrate. I'll just be a distraction to your practices and D-Wheel building. When this is all over, I promise, I'll tell you everything…'
Sighing once more to herself, she picked up her mobile phone and dialed Fudou Yuusei's number.
"Aki, can you answer my phone?" Yuusei was too engrossed in his work to bother with his phone. Besides, his hands were quite dirty from all the grease.
The red head did what she was told, and she answered it. "Oh, Carly, hey." Aki greeted.
"Hello, Aki. Is Yuusei busy?" at the confirmation, Carly replied, "I see. Well, I just want to confirm if you all are alright with three in the afternoon?"
Aki thought about it for a while: Crow had deliveries until 3 in the afternoon, Jack was usually idle until he got told off by Crow or Yuusei to start working while the twins ended their school at 4. "Three is a bit early… the twins get here around four-thirty, but if you want to hang out with us before forty-thirty, just go to the garage!" she really hoped that Carly would agree, since she was totally bored out of her mind, and Yuusei was too busy with work right now.
"Let me think about it. I still have some work to do, and I have no idea if I'll be able to leave early or not." Carly suddenly glanced at her clock, which read nine in the morning. "I'll just drop by, huh?"
"Yes. Yuusei and I are just here."
Suddenly, Carly gave out a little cough, as if she knew something. "Ah, I see. I'll just go there around five or so. Have fun with Yuusei." Before Aki could speak up, Carly had pressed the end button.
Izayoi could feel her cheeks burning.
Just what did she mean by that!
The door to the garage swung open, and in came Jack. "Yuusei, Izayoi." He greeted the two.
Yuusei stopped what he was doing to greet his friend. "Where have you been?"
"Kaiba Corporation." At Aki's raised eyebrow, he scowled. "Yes, I went there. Don't give me that look."
"Why were you even there?"
"They paid me for the rights to use my Wheel of Fortune for advertising purposes." He shrugged. "Easiest way to get money, and I don't have to work."
Aki snorted. "You sold them the rights?"
"They asked for it. They approached me, then asked if I was willing to lend the old D-Wheel to them." He explained. "Besides, I get some million yen in return—" before he could even finish his statement, Aki gave out an unlady-like shriek.
"I'm famous." He stated arrogantly. "Of course they will pay me tons of money for the exclusive use of my D-Wheel."
"Does that mean you'll be 'donating' at least an eight of what you got for the team?" Yuusei asked, amusement evident in his tone.
"Maybe. I need to pay off my debt to the café across the street."
At this, both Yuusei and Aki exchanged exasperated looks, though it was the latter who did so, while the former looked very amused at the typical reply of his childhood friend.
"Well, just inform us if you're willing to share your wealth." Yuusei said, going back to his work on the D-Wheels.
She was late.
Frickin' late for an interview, no less, and all because she had enjoyed herself too much during the press conference.
Dressed in a business suit that she normally does not wear for daily use, Carly Nagisa had been assigned by the newspaper company she was working for to cover the press conference of the Kaiba Corporation, which was held around the hour of noon. Despite it being a Monday, and not the usual day for press conferences because it was a major news day, they held it anyway because it was the most powerful corporation in the world, and one had to be totally stupid not to attend the press conference if they had gotten an invitation for it.
Unlike most members of the media, Carly already had an inkling about what the press conference was all about, and not only the minute details, but the whole of it. After all, she was the model of the campaign that the press con had centered on.
She'd seen the teaser ads early this morning on the paper, as well as the huge electronic billboards all over the city. Even the bus stops had the ads running, and it made her think that the Kaiba Corporation had, indeed, spared no expense for their campaign.
One of the teaser ads that the creative team had agreed upon was this: with the Wheel of Fortune that served as the background, she was on the foreground, the shot being from the waist up to her shoulders. During this shoot, they had asked her to tie up her hair in a bun as not to reveal her identity immediately, and when they took the photo, it gave the impression that the model was looking at the D-Wheel on the background. As if to tease the audience further, the words, "Are you ready for me…?" was placed as the tagline.
When she had asked as to what had happened to her butt shots, she was told that those shots were to be printed exclusively for men's magazines, as well as the D-Wheel enthusiasts' magazines.
My goodness, in men's magazines…! She wondered if the risqué magazines would have her butt shots, but then again, nearly a hundred percent of the magazines distributed in Japan were under the Kaiba Corporation, so there really was a huge chance of her butt shots getting either the center fold, the right side page opposite the editorial or even the back cover. And if that wasn't enough, they'd get even the women's magazines and spend billions of yen for it.
The conference started precisely at noon, and when all of the media had been handed out their press kits, the creative director of the Kaiba Corporation gave the barest details about the campaign they will be having. Carly knew what the whole campaign was about, but acted as if she had no idea what it was all about, and even went on to ask the director a few questions of her own for 'clarification purposes'.
When a reporter from the television station asked for the identity of the model, she could've sworn that the director had discreetly looked at her, then back to the male reporter. "I'm afraid I cannot reveal the identity of, err, K."
"K? Is that spelled as K-E-I or simply the letter K?" at once, all of them, Carly included, began to furiously type the information down their high-tech tablets PCs.
"Simply the letter K." the director said. "For now, we cannot release any information about it, but we will call for another press conference when we are ready." At the groan of the media, the director gave out a cheeky grin. "Hey, you know, since you're all here, you can have a sneak peek at the newest commercial we'll be airing later at prime time!"
Two hours later, the press conference was done, and the media was treated to a scrumptious banquet for a late lunch. While most of the members of the media dined and chatted with one another, Carly had balanced both eating and typing away on her tablet PC. The newspaper company was waiting for her front page story, which was this press conference, for the evening edition of the newspaper. As soon as she was done, she had saved the file and had sent the story twice to her email, as well as her boss' email, just to be sure.
Around half past three, she had received a text message from Izayoi:
"Where are you?"
At this, she swore softly to herself, disappointed with the fact that she nearly forgot that she had an interview scheduled for the team. Finishing up the food on her plate, she excused herself from her fellow reporters and made a mad dash for her car. The old one that she had been driving ever since she got her license had been sold recently. The new one she had right now was brand new, and was given to her when she entered the newspaper company she was currently working for because she was a field reporter. She had to go around the city to get her news, after all.
Unfortunately for her, the plan to go back to her apartment to have a change of clothes did not push through because of the heavy traffic, and she was forced to go straight to Poppo Time. When she got there, it was already quarter to five. Parking in the designated area, she hastily opened the door of the car, locked it and ran as fast as she could in her pumps. Knocking three times on the door, she opened it and yelled, "I'm so sorry I'm late!"
"No prob… woah." Suddenly, Rua was gaping at her.
"Carly-neechan, is that you?" the male twin suddenly ran up towards her, looking up. His eyes were filled with confusion and excitement.
At this, he suddenly threw his arms around her waist. "You look different! I hardly recognized you!"
"Err, is that a bad thing…?"
"No, no! You look so pretty!"
She smiled. "Team 5D's! Are you all complete right now?"
"Jack went out for a bit. He should be back—" before Aki could complete her sentence, the door swung open and in came the blond duelist. Luckily, he did not hit the two, for it missed them by a few inches. "Oh, there he is."
At once, Rua flung himself at his idol, grinning madly. "How was the Kaiba Corporation?"
"It hasn't moved one bit from its current location." He answered sarcastically.
Carly turned to look at him. "You were at the Kaiba Corporation press conference? I didn't notice you." She said.
At once, he glared at her. "Who the hell are you?" he did not like the fact that this woman was way too friendly with him and addressed him like they were close.
In response, she could only blink back at him and stare in horror at what he had just uttered. "Uhh… did he just hit his head against a blunt object and had amnesia…?" she asked no one in particular.
"Why you…!" just before he could yell at her, Rua poked him in the arm. "What now?"
"Uhh… you do know that you're yelling at Carly-neesan…?"
"… Wait, what?" at once, he scrutinized her with his gaze, taking in both what Rua said and what made her… not Carly. The tacky vest and the striped shirt was gone, as well as her jeans and running shoes. The woman who stood in front of him was wearing a khaki safari shirt dress and had rather thick belt on her waist, the same color as her dress. On her feet were dark brown pumps, though despite the height boost, she only reached up to his shoulders. On the bridge of her nose were dark green-rimmed eyeglasses and her hair was tied up in a high bun.
She did not look like the old Carly; not one bit.
Personally, Carly felt as if he was slowly undressing her with his gaze, which made her blush. Why was he looking at her so intently anyway? "Err, is everyone ready now…?" at Yuusei's nod, she clapped her hands. "Great! I'll get my stuff first from my car, then we can start!" she disappeared once more, only to return several minutes later with a huge bag on her hands. Wasting no more time, she hopped down the huge gap between the door and the garage instead of using the stone stairs, earning a gasp from Aki and Ruka when she landed perfectly in her pumps and did not wobble for a second.
"I'll first interview you all for ten minutes, then I'll do an individual interview of each member for five minutes or less. Is that alright with you all?" at their nod, she grinned. "Let's begin!"
A little over an hour had passed, and she was done with her work, ending the interview with the twins. After thanking all of them profusely for their time, she said, "Okay, I'd better get going now—"
"You're not staying?" Yuusei asked, a little concerned that their friend was leaving immediately after the interview. Usually, Carly stayed to hang out with them until around nine in the evening. It was only five-thirty.
"Sorry, I promised Kyou that I'll meet up with him along with the kids by six and—" suddenly, her mobile phone rang. "Excuse me." She pressed the green button. "Kyou?"
"Hey, little sister." He said. "Uh, sorry, we can't meet up tonight."
"Did something happen?"
"Well… you could say that."
She blinked. "The kids came down with something?"
"Err, Misty wants to take them out to dinner, and I need to go as well, since those two haven't warmed up to her yet."
To everyone's surprise, Carly Nagisa burst out laughing, clutching her tummy in the process while struggling to holding on to her phone. "Oh my…" in between laughter, she struggled to form the words. "K-Kyou… I… s-sorry, I can't stop laughing…!"
"What now?" she could detect him frowning.
"Mommy, daddy and the kids, out for dinner, leaving me, the aunt, all alone to fend off for herself." She faked a sigh just to emphasize her point.
"Oh, shut up!" he snapped.
"Joking, Kyou." She cleared her throat. "No go for tonight, then? I'll be alone?"
"We'll try to catch up." He promised her.
"Okay. I'll see you and Misty if you two will go. Later, then." As soon as she hung up, Aki gave her a funny look.
"Ah, well… Kyou will be going out tonight with the kids and… Misty, so I'll be going solo flight, unless they'll decide to drop by later." She informed them, taking a glance at her watch as well. "Time's a wasting. I need to go now. See you all some other time!"
Without waiting for their replies, she made a mad dash back to her car. Jack tried to chase after her, and despite her handicap because of the heels, she had managed to outrun him. When he did catch up to her, she was already in her car and driving away, oblivious to everything around her. He watched as her car sped past him, wondering if she was still uncomfortable with what had happened to them last Saturday night.
Truth to be told, he had always been wishing for her to finally regain her memories so that everything would at least have a semblance of normalcy. Unfortunately, it had already been a year, and no such luck. She was still the same old Carly, though under close scrutiny, she was also different. He couldn't seem to pinpoint it, but he knew that something in her changed.
Whatever it was, he somehow liked it, but at the same time feared it.
A spunky and bold Carly Nagisa only reminded him of her Dark Signer self, which reminded him of that duel and… that vision.
'Why am I thinking of the past?' that was the last thing he wanted to remember, which only made him feel worse since it spoke volumes of how he was unable to save her, as well as his stupidity for brushing her off.
Just let it go, damn it.
Thus began Carly's hectic photoshoot schedule.
For the whole month, she would go to work on mornings, then in the evenings, or as soon as she was done with her work, she would head over to either the Kaiba Corporation building or to a shoot location in Neo Domino City. Kiryuu Kyousuke and Misty Lola would accompany her at times, but more often than not, they've left her alone, since both were busy with their jobs (Misty was still doing some modeling shoots while Kiryuu had been collaborating with the Kaiba Corporation R&D with her final D-Wheel designs). Shoots ended usually around six in the morning, and she only had two hours to go back to her apartment and freshen up. On weekends, she slept like a log and lingered on her bed until noon or until she was hungry. Ever since her flighty departure from Poppo Time, Team 5D's had been asking her if she wanted to hang out with them, which she declined. She was totally exhausted and stressed out, and she needed every free time of hers to get some sleep. At the same time, she needed to show that she was able to balance both her main career and her modeling stint, and that there was nothing out of the ordinary in Carly Nagisa's life.
No one had to know about it until after the press conference.
When the final shoot was done three days before the scheduled end, the advertising and public relations employees, as well as the creative director, threw her a huge party which got them all drinking from 10 in the evening until 7 in the morning. Still smashed from the party, she filed a one day leave of absence the next day to nurse her hangover.
The next day, however, was a different story.
As soon as she got up, her whole world started spinning like mad. Try as she might to get back to bed and get up a few minutes later, the spinning did not cease. She felt like throwing up, but decided against it, as getting up to go to the bathroom would have been a huge struggle, and she did not want to mess up the sheets. Sending Aki a quick SMS, she waited for a few seconds before receiving a reply. Immediately, she called the number that Aki gave her.
"Hi… can you come over to my place right now? I think I need to go to the hospital, but I can't move without seeing my whole world spin literally so…"
"I'll be there in five minutes."
As soon as Jack Atlas received the call, he did not just run. He pushed Crow when he got in the way of his running as he headed for the garage, hopped on to his D-Wheel and made a mad dash for Carly's apartment, speeding up his D-Wheel to some 90 kilometers per hour. He got there in two minutes flat, rushed up the stairs, fumbled for the keys inside his pocket and unlocked the door, nearly unhinging it when he pushed it open. "Carly!"
"I-In here!" he went for her room and saw her looking quite pale, lying on her bed. "Y-you got here early."
"What the hell happened to you?" he demanded.
"Overworked myself… then… went out drinking…" at this, she felt a wave of nausea so she shut her mouth.
"Idiot. Alcohol and fatigue do not mix!" he nearly barked at her, startling her. He had never shouted at her before, nor had she seen him so angry, except during their riding duel a year ago. "What the hell were you thinking?"
"I… I'm sorry…" she said lamely, then wondering suddenly why she had to apologize to him.
"Let's get going. Do you have an emergency bag of sorts?" when she shook her head, he sighed. "… I can't believe I'll be doing this." Without warning, he opened her closet. "Now, can you tell me where you're hiding your… underwear?"
Honestly, she wanted her bed to swallow her alive, but it wasn't the time for such. He looked way too serious, and if she showed any hint of embarrassment or the like, he might just scream at her again. Carly chose to reply carefully. "First drawer. Just get whatever's in there."
Jack took one from the pile and… it turned out to be a rather skimpy pair wherein the waistband looked like it was only a piece of string, though it covered the front and the back parts. At this, he turned as red as his Crimson Dragon birthmark and tried hard not to get too flustered. "I-is this fine?" he showed her the pair of bright orange tanga-style underwear.
"Y-yeah, that's… fine." She replied lamely.
'This is embarrassing.' Both thought simultaneously.
"My backpack is located in the third drawer." She told him. "You can stuff my clothes there."
He did what he was told, and he neatly folded her clothes inside the backpack. Jack walked over to her bathroom to retrieve a toothbrush, as well as her toothpaste, and placed it inside the bag. He took another towel from her cabinet and stuffed it there. "Let's go."
"You're using your D-Wheel? Please don't. I think I'll throw up." She told him.
"Fine. I'll use the car."
"You have a license for it?" she asked, surprised.
"Obviously. I drove one way back, but I concentrated on D-Wheels when I became King." He said, giving her a look that said, 'what, you don't believe me?'
It was almost cute, seeing Jack Atlas pouting.
"Use my car." She told him the license plate of her car. "C-can you help me—" within seconds, he was by her side, helping her out of bed. Taking her by her arm, he led her down to the steps of her apartment and into the parking area. He made her lie on the backseat while he drove. As much as he wanted to zip past all the cars to get to the hospital immediately, he had to take it easy while driving, lest he wanted her to throw up inside her car and he'll get blamed for it by her when she gets better.
"Well, there's nothing wrong with her. It's just fatigue." The on-call doctor said after examining Carly in the emergency room of the hospital. "She just needs strict bed rest so she can recover."
While Carly was relieved to hear that it wasn't that serious, Jack wasn't. "Are you sure? Look, she suddenly felt dizzy and couldn't get up from her bed. She had to call me to get her here, and all you say is that she just needs bed rest? You're not even going to confine her to monitor if her condition worsens?"
"It's just another case of fatigue, I assure you." The doctor said, but it fell on deaf ears.
"Confine her. I insist on it."
"What?" Carly sat up quickly, ignoring the wave of nausea that was coming over her. "I don't want to be confined here!"
"You need it, or you'll go off and do stupid things again to make yourself sick." He shot back.
"I don't want to file another leave of absence just for this!"
"Use your sick leave!"
"I don't want to! I need to go to work!" suddenly, she doubled over and moaned in pain. "Ugh."
A triumphant smirk made its way to Jack Atlas' handsome face, as if to say, 'I win.'. "Confine her. Two days, at least."
"Overnight only!" she shot back.
"Two days." He told the doctor, ignoring her outburst.
"I. Demand. An. Overnight. Stay." She emphasized every word.
"Fine." He huffed. "Overnight it is."
After Jack filled in all of the forms on her behalf, they got her a room which was, coincidentally, the room where he had also stayed in after his accident during the Fortune Cup finals. Carly noticed this and made a comment. "Ironically, we've switched places this time around."
"Too bad you can't fit into the pink nurse uniform while you're here." The image of Jack wearing the small and form-fitting outfit made her snort and laugh so much that she nearly fell off her bed. "That'll be both disturbing and creepy." She shuddered.
"Ha, ha. Funny." He scowled, glaring his amethyst eyes at her.
"Kidding." Not! Out loud, she continued. "You can leave now. I'll be fine." She told him.
"No." he took a chair and sat down beside her bed. "I'll keep an eye on you, in case you try to escape."
"Like what you did before too?" she said, remembering the time wherein he had asked her to get him out of the hospital in a discreet manner, which involved her pushing him out on a stretcher and draped with a white sheet over him. "I can't even walk a few steps without having the urge to throw up. How can I even escape?"
"You'll have other means. If you're desperate enough, you'll manage." He pointed out to her.
"Good point." She nodded. "Fine, then take care of me. But don't say I didn't warn you. I'm a terrible patient."
"Thanks for the warning." He said flatly. "But I'll manage."
Chapter 6 will probably be a bit of the hospital interlude (fluffy moments, perhaps?) and (hopefully!) more Yuusei x Aki. It's a bit hard for me to write them as a pair, but I'll manage (somehow!).
Thanks for reading!