Greetings everyone! So, I want to apologize for the later than usual update...just got back from vacation. XD Anyway, I want to thank you all again for the reviews. I'm really glad you liked how the "confession" played out. As always, I hope you'll enjoy this next installment too! Please Read and Review
Disclaimer: I do not own Skip Beat or any of its characters.
"He'll be out in a minute, Kyoko-chan."
Kyoko raised her head to the sound of approaching footsteps and saw the young woman close the golden door behind her. Oddly speechless, she could only nod in response. The clinking sounds of bangles and rings filled the large room as the cosmetician walked over to Kyoko whose hands were clasped tightly in her lap.
She raised an eyebrow at the sight of it. "Nervous?"
Kyoko turned to the friendly voice and smiled. "A little bit," she whispered, stretching her stiff fingers.
The artist laughed. "Then take this," she offered while handing her a warm cup of herbal tea on the coffee table. "It should help with the nerves."
Taking the ceramic cup with both hands, Kyoko murmured in a grateful tone, "Thank you, Woods-san."
"Kyoko-chan, how many times do I have to tell you?" she chided impatiently with her hands on her hips. "It's Jelly. We've known each other well enough to drop the formalities, don't you think?"
Kyoko smiled sheepishly. "I'm sorry…Jelly."
She nodded in encouragement. "There you go," Jelly said as she casually sat upon the arm of Kyoko's seat—or more like President Lory's extravagant chair since they were currently using one of his rooms in his mansion. It was the only place where they could do this privately, away from unwanted eyes and ears. The last thing they needed was for another event to be leaked to the tabloids.
Kyoko suddenly stiffened. Just the thought about what would happen if someone knew was enough to make her hair stand on end.
Then in a completely unexpected motion, Kyoko felt a slender hand upon her shoulder. She turned around and saw Jelly smiling at her with kind eyes. Then squeezing her shoulder reassuringly, she said, "Don't be so anxious, Kyoko-chan. Everything will be just fine."
She exhaled deeply. Kyoko was well aware that the anxiety she felt was truly irrational. It really had nothing to do with her. If anything, she should be excited to see him, but her heart quivered like a leaf.
"I don't know why I feel so pent-up," she confessed in a slightly ashamed voice. "It's not like he didn't tell me about this before, but I can't get myself to relax."
Jelly smiled sympathetically. "Well, it's understandable. You are going to be the first person who sees after all."
Kyoko's breath shook dangerously as she placed the teacup onto the table beside her. It was like all the air had been sucked out of the room.
Laughing at her reaction, the artist replied, "You should be happy, Kyoko-chan. I don't think he would do this for anyone he didn't trust."
She gave a tiny nod, not having the voice to say anything else. The nervousness had finally reached her throat and another sound just might be enough to release everything that was building up inside of her. Kyoko had to keep it together. This wasn't the time to lose the composure she had worked so hard to maintain all week. Besides, wasn't she the one who asked him to do this? Kyoko couldn't possibly back out now.
"You know what I can't believe?" Jelly asked nonchalantly as she linked her hands behind her head, hoping to steer the conversation to a more casual subject.
Kyoko turned to look at her with curious eyes.
And with a warm smile, she answered, "It's already been four years."
Even when the words were spoken out loud, Kyoko couldn't get herself to believe them. So much has happened in the last few years that it almost seemed surreal. It truly did feel like a never-ending dream. But whenever she caught a look at herself in the mirror, there was undeniable evidence that time really did pass. The round contours of her face had disappeared and the tips of her golden hair were now past her shoulder. Her skin appeared silkier than before and her body was no longer in the shape of a teenager's, but now a full-fledged woman.
Yet even though it was obvious that Kyoko underwent a "butterfly" transformation, there was one feature that remained. Her amber eyes were still as fiery as ever. Just one glance was more than enough for anyone to know exactly who she was. Many of her fans would say it was her signature feature. Some would go even so far to say she had the best gaze in the industry, but no one would deny that within those fiery depths there existed a certain sparkle that separated her from other actresses.
Step by step, Kyoko had patiently climbed the industry ladder until she was one of the most distinguished celebrities in Japan. Her growth in fame was nothing like anyone could have ever predicted. In just a few short years, Kyoko landed roles in award-nominated movies and starred in dramas that instantly became world favorites. There were even rumors that she was going to pursue a modeling career.
But even with all the fame and glory, Kyoko never once let them get to her head. Her great humility was what made it so easy for everyone to adore her, not to mention her talent for morphing into nearly any character. Kyoko's talent was improving by the day.
Yet if she had to pick one achievement out of them all, there would be no doubt of what it would be. No change was as great as what had happened within her heart. Kyoko would be lying if she said it was natural for her to love again. It certainly took her quite some time, but now that she openly embraced her new self, there were absolutely no regrets. Kyoko had never been more in love.
So with a softened expression, she eventually murmured, "I can't believe it either. It's been amazing."
"And speaking of amazing," Jelly began with a wide smile, "congratulations on your award last week, Kyoko-chan! Female role of the year is quite a feat!"
Kyoko blushed profusely, still not used to such sincere praise. Although she was incredibly honored and proud of her achievement, she couldn't help but wonder if there was some sort of mistake. Female role of the year was one of the most prestigious awards that every actress strived for and to think she actually won it was nothing less than a surprise. But this new triumph only increased Kyoko's motivation to work even harder as she realized how much people appreciated the effort she put into her career.
"You both seem practically unstoppable," Jelly added as she shook her head in wonder.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, not only did you win female role of the year," she explained, "but he also won best actor! Isn't that the third year in a row for him?"
Kyoko smiled, feeling intense pride swell within her heart. Out of all people who helped her to grow as an actress there was no one with greater influence than him. And even while her career soared to new heights, his fame grew right alongside hers as he quickly gained recognition overseas.
"He's worked really hard," Kyoko replied. "I don't even think he's turned down any roles yet."
Jelly leaned back with a laugh. "Well, I don't know how you two do it. You guys are certainly a power couple."
Shaking her head, Kyoko said, "I would never say it's easy. In fact whenever we go weeks without seeing each other, I get this really empty feeling inside. Those moments are difficult to handle, but once I do see him, everything falls back into place as if it never happened."
And in a movement that caught her completely off guard, Jelly suddenly threw her arms around Kyoko from behind and squealed, "YOU'RE TOO CUTE, KYOKO-CHAN! I COULD JUST EAT YOU UP!"
Red like a beet, she could only vehemently shake her head and whine in disagreement. Kyoko was so humiliated!
But Jelly didn't seem to care. She just continued to laugh as she rocked a clearly embarrassed Kyoko back in forth. It was very rare to see her so vulnerable and the make-up artist had every intention to milk it for all it was worth. Kyoko was just too sweet to give up.
Thankfully for the young actress though, her humiliation was at an end when a gentle voice called, "Kyoko?"
Both girls whipped their heads up in an instant, staring at the golden door that was now opened barely just a crack.
"Sounds like he's ready," Jelly said under her breath as she got to her feet. "I'll give you two some privacy, Kyoko-chan."
Then without another word, the cosmetician exited the room, leaving Japan's number one couple by themselves. Kyoko's hands were now tightly clasped in her lap once more, but when she was just about to get to her feet, he suddenly said, "Hold on."
"Is something wrong?" she murmured in alarm.
"No, nothing's wrong," his deep voice answered, "I just think it'll be better if you sit. This might be harder than you think."
Kyoko's eyes widen. She couldn't put her finger on it, but it felt as if he was hinting at something she didn't catch—a hidden meaning of some sorts. But even though the curiosity was burning like a hot flame, the need to see him was stronger. She wanted nothing else, but to stare into his face once more.
The door creaked.
"Please let me see you," she confessed in a tiny voice.
And as if the magic words were spoken, the heavy door smoothly swung open. But instead of seeing the most important man in her life, all she could make out was shadow. His silhouette was completely covered in darkness.
"Kyoko, can I ask for one favor?" Ren suddenly asked.
"Anything," she said with surprise.
He smiled. "Can you close your eyes?"
Laughing, she replied in a playful tone, "We're playing this game again? Aren't we a little too old for this?"
Ren chuckled at the sound of her beautiful voice and answered, "I know, but it will help with my nerves."
She blinked in astonishment. Kyoko was so wrapped up in her own emotions that she completely forgot how he would feel. Of course, Ren would be nervous. This was probably ten times scarier for him than it was for her. And here she was, only thinking about herself once again. Kyoko sighed heavily in shame. Then feeling more compassion for him than ever, she patiently closed her eyes and murmured, "Whenever you're ready, Ren."
At first, she couldn't hear anything. All that filled the room was intense silence. Then with a barely audible footstep, she heard him make his way across the carpeted floor. Kyoko's heart throbbed, but she tried with all her might to remain calm. She didn't want to stress him out even more. And before she could even take in another breath, she suddenly felt his familiar lips pressed against her own.
Naturally, she kissed him back, reaching for his face. Even with her eyes closed, she could tell that this was the man she fell in love with. The texture of his face, the smell of his skin, and the sounds of his breathing were all tailored to him. There wasn't anyone in this world who could match. Ren was just one of a kind.
And with her breathing slightly heavier than before, Kyoko leaned back until her spine was flat against the chair. She could sense that he was kneeling before her as she held one of his hands between hers—taking his silence as a sign that it was up to her now.
She inhaled deeply.
And without any hesitation, Kyoko opened her eyes.
Nothing could have prepared her for what happened next. So many things happened at once that Kyoko couldn't even remember what was going on. The first thought that flitted across her mind was that he was beautiful—more beautiful than she could have ever envisioned. His smooth brown hair was now replaced with bright blond locks that draped over a pair of icy-blue eyes. He didn't even look human.
But surprisingly enough, that wasn't what strangled her for breath. It wasn't just how he looked. It wasn't the fact that he changed. In fact, it was so much more…because as soon as she laid her eyes on him, Kyoko knew.
This wasn't Ren.
This wasn't the actor she loved.
This wasn't even Kuon.
It was …
His expression didn't flicker. He knew this would happen. Ever since she asked him to reveal his true self, Ren knew that she would know. It couldn't be helped. Kyoko would figure it out without any help from him whatsoever. So as soon as the fated name escaped her lips, there was no way he could deny it. He could only soften his now sapphire eyes and nod.
Her breath came out in a gasp as she covered her mouth with trembling hands. Unexplained tears streamed down her face while her whole world was turned upside down. Kyoko could feel her conscious trying to reason its way through what felt like a lie, but nothing worked. No explanation was enough to satisfy her doubts except for the fact that this was really Corn. She could never forget his face even if she tried. Although he had clearly grown, Kyoko knew in an instant it was him.
The fairy prince that she had longed to see for so long was now sitting in front of her. But it was more than the fact that her wish was now heard. In reality, that didn't even come to mind. All Kyoko could think about was that Corn and the man she thought she knew through and through was actually one person. Corn wasn't simply a childhood friend who helped her when no one could. He was no longer just a person who lent her the strength she never had.
Kyoko's heart trembled as she lowered her hands away from her face. She had no idea what to say or do. She could only stare into those nostalgic blue eyes ridden with concern and guilt. Kyoko wanted to speak, but not a single sound came from her lips. In a flash, everything she thought she understood was obliterated into pieces.
"I know there's nothing I can say that will make this right," he spoke softly, turning his gaze downward.
Kyoko remained silent.
"But please give me a chance to explain."
And with his lips pressed together, he murmured, "Yes, I'm Corn. I've always been Corn."
"Why didn't you tell me?" she asked, unable to keep her voice steady. "Why didn't you say anything?"
"I had every intention of telling you, Kyoko," he insisted with raised eyes, "but I didn't have the courage to. I was so concerned about how you would react that I couldn't get myself to tell you the truth. But I should have told you as soon as you found out I was Kuon. That would have been the perfect moment to tell you that Kuon and Corn is in fact the same person."
Kyoko's eyes widen. "Kuon? You mean—? All this time—? I've been calling you—?"
He smiled sadly, answering, "I didn't bother to correct you at the time because I never thought in a million years we would meet again. So you could probably imagine my surprise when you came running down the steps of LME that day screaming my name as you searched for your missing blue stone."
"You knew then?" Kyoko whispered, her knees trembling violently.
He nodded. "Ever since that day, I knew that there was no doubt you were that same girl I met in the meadow. The same girl who came to me in tears yet had the sweetest smile I had ever seen."
Kyoko's eyes began to well up again. Everything was spiraling out of control and she couldn't catch up. It was as if life was just whizzing past her without a second glance. Kyoko felt like a nervous wreck.
Ren lowered his head and murmured, "I should have never kept this from you. You deserved to know from the beginning, but I let my own fears get in the way and for that I'm sorry."
He closed his eyes. "You have every reason to hate me, Kyoko. I wouldn't blame you if you did."
And just as he was about to apologize again, he suddenly felt her slender hands cup his face and in a swift motion pull his forehead to hers. Ren almost flinched at the forceful impact, but he was rendered completely speechless when he focused on her eyes. To his surprise, Kyoko looked…frustrated.
Her expression hardened. "Is that what you think? That my love for you is so fragile that just one little bump in the road was going to make me turn my back on you?"
Ren froze, unable to say anything at all.
She rolled her eyes. "Well, I hate to break it to you, but it's going to take a little more than a secret to push me away."
Kyoko suddenly smiled, murmuring in the kindest voice, "I love you more than that."
It happened before his thoughts could catch up to his actions. Ren acted merely on impulse. He smoothly reached for her hand and pulled her body to his. He cradled Kyoko within his arms, feeling her nestle her head into his shoulder as he sat flat upon the carpeted floor. The relief that flowed through his body was nothing he had ever experienced. To hear her say those words so confidently made his heart swell to such a large extent that Ren was sure it was going to burst.
Kyoko gently leaned back and saw the sheepish look in his eyes. So touching her nose to his, she whispered, "I'm not angry with you. I'm not angry that you lied."
He smiled skeptically.
"I'm serious," she urged with a small nudge. "I won't hold you to that double standard because I haven't been completely honest with you either. This just came as a shock to me is all. I don't hate the fact that you're Corn."
Kyoko shook her head slowly. "How could I? The fact that the man I love is also my childhood prince…how could I possibly be angry?"
Ren ran a thumb over her delicate cheek, watching her eyes glisten with sincerity. He could tell that she spoke the truth. And even though he in no way deserved her warmth, Ren couldn't help but drown in the feelings that swirled within him. Kyoko was more than he could ever ask for.
"However," she began with a raised eyebrow, "any more secrets like that and I'm certain I will have a heart attack next time."
He chuckled, pressing his lips to her forehead. "I promise that that's the last of them. No more surprises."
"So I guess we have just one last matter to settle then," Kyoko said with a teasing smile.
"And what would that be?"
She giggled. "What should I call you now? Are you Ren? Kuon? Maybe Corn? If none of those, fairy prince is an option too."
He chuckled deeply, murmuring into her ear, "I got a better one. How about 'hubby' instead?"
Kyoko's ears burned flaming red as she dug her face into his chest. Absolute embarrassment colored her anxious voice as she exclaimed, "That's not until another three weeks!"
"A very long three weeks," Ren sighed against her hair. "I can hardly wait to make you Mrs.—"
Laughing in amusement, Kyoko linked her hands behind his neck and said, "I guess I'm not the only one who's confused about names. Maybe we should let Father figure this one out too."
Ren sighed heavily. "He already decided on the location and the date. Any more decisions and people are going to think this is his day. You spoil him more than you should, Kyoko."
"He's excited," she said in an earnest tone. "Of course, he would want some input. Besides, it's because of him we got such a great place, right?"
"To be honest, it doesn't really concern me where it is, as long as it's just you and me in the end," Ren replied sweetly.
Kyoko smiled and just as she was about to lean in for a kiss, the cell phone in her front pocket suddenly vibrated. Reaching for the device, she flipped it open and saw that she had received a text.
"It's from Moko-san," she explained at Ren's curious expression. "She said that she and Yashiro-san are already at the airport and are waiting for us to come."
Rising to his feet without letting go of Kyoko's hand, he replied, "Then we should probably get going. We wouldn't want to miss our flight."
She smiled and stood on her tiptoes, brushing her lips against his cheek. "Are you nervous?"
"A little," he admitted as his heart fluttered at her touch. "I haven't been home in a while so it'll be quite a change."
"True, but this time you won't be alone."
His blue eyes softened as he stared into her determined expression. Only Kyoko had the power to make him feel like he could do practically anything. Ren always felt invincible around her. So allowing his body to be pulled by her earnest tugs, they walked towards the exit until his trouser-pocket vibrated.
Coming to a fluid stop, Ren reached for his cell with his free hand and saw that he had received a text as well.
He sighed heavily, mumbling, "That's probably Yashiro scolding me for being late."
But when he flipped his phone open, the number that flashed wasn't his friend's. In fact, the number was blocked. Ren furrowed his eyebrows as he scanned the glowing screen. He rarely ever got calls or messages like these. It was very hard to get his number so to think that someone random called him was very unlikely.
And just as he was about to dismiss the strange text, Ren's body suddenly froze at the sight of the message. It was nothing wordy or long. There were only two simple words that meant more than anyone could ever understand:
Recognition slowly trickled through his frozen veins. Ren didn't need a hint to know who sent him this. It was all too clear now.
"What did Yashiro-san say?"
He nearly jumped in alarm as he turned to Kyoko. Ren had almost forgotten that she was standing right beside him. Then feeling his breath slow at her kind expression, Ren shook his head and said, "It wasn't Yashiro."
"Then who was it?" she asked.
Ren's eyes softened. "An old competitor."
Kyoko's eyes widen as she asked, "You had a competitor?"
Chuckling, he replied, "Everyone has competition."
"And what did you both compete over?"
He smiled and answered in a low voice, "Something we both desperately wanted."
Kyoko tilted her head in confusion at the sound of his oddly gentle tone. "So…did you win?"
"You see, that's the thing," he began in a thoughtful voice. "It was never a matter of winning or losing because it wasn't up to us at all."
"Then who?" she asked in surprise.
Smoothly, he brought her slender hand to his lips and murmured, "What we wanted."
Kyoko furrowed her eyebrows and frowned. "I don't get it," she confessed bluntly.
Ren laughed as he brought their hands to the side, linking his fingers through hers. "It's okay if you don't understand because none of that matters anymore. All I want from now until forever is just this," he whispered, leaning down and kissing her lips.
Kyoko smiled tenderly. "Me too."
Then with their hands, hearts, and lives eternally intertwined, the young couple walked out of the brightly-lit room, more than ready to start their futures together.
Well, that's the end of it! After a good four months of writing, this story has finally come to an end. I sincerely want to thank everyone who reviewed, favorited, and read. It was always encouraging to see how much people took an interest and the fact that you guys stuck with this story until the end. Your support meant the world. Thank you again so much for everything. You guys are the best!