Acknowledgments: Runadaemon for beta-reading and additional stuff I can't get myself to do. :D
I don't own Skip Beat.
Who the hell is this? Reino thought as his eyes trailed the image for any sign of his dark angel.
"What is it, Reino?" his best friend, Miroku, sat beside him. He peered over his shoulder and he exclaimed, "Ah, Kyoko." Then he let out a small laugh. "She really cleans up nicely, doesn't she? I mean, compared to how she usually looks like from that angel from Prisoner and this-"
"That's not Kyoko," Reino said.
She lost her edge, he angrily thought. The only thing that made her a worthwhile person in his eyes was losing it. She's starting to be just like anyone else.
He needed to see her and whip her back into shape.
Ren watched in amusement as Mogami-san's eyes began to sparkle before she forced herself to look away from the display case of charms. They were adorned with crystals, sparkling beads, lacy ribbons and everything else that could conjure up a whimsical girly theme.
This was bad, he thought. They were supposed to be in character... and they were out in public too.
Since the shoot ended early, they decided to go out to eat in a department store because they still had appointments to go to. As Tsuruga Ren, he had to go to a fitting for AR Mandy's summer shows; and as Mogami-san, she was meeting up with Ishibashi Hikaru-san so they could talk about the surprise party for Sawara-san.
The hotel was too far out of the way, but they couldn't get around as themselves without attracting attention and possibly blowing their cover as the Heel siblings when they had to explain why they were spending time together.
Anyway, they had just finished eating an early dinner and were walking around a nearby department store. It was the most convenient place to meet up with Miss Jelly Woods and her mobile van so they could change. She will ring them when she got there.
"See anything you like?" he asked teasingly.
"Hmph!" She flipped her hair as she straightened from her crouch. "I wouldn't want anything too girly and frilly."
"Not all of them are girly or frilly," he answered, looking at the glass display case. Then he understood why she had the faraway look in her eye.
The display has an assortment of designs. Most had crystals cut in a similar way to the Corn stone or the Princess Rosa; some silver charms were shaped like stars, crowns and one looked like a shoe; and there were others in fairytale themes, but others in themes that would probably appeal to any kind of girl.
"This one," he said in a clumsy accent and pointed at one with a silver princess crown with little gems at the tips that had a large teardrop-shaped Swarovski crystal at the tip.
"That's a very good choice, sir," the saleslady smiled as she took the charm out of the display case and laid it in front of him. She was obviously looking intimidated and a little scared of him, but she was stuck at the post and had to do her job."The charm is made of sterling silver and the Swarovski gem was imported from-"
"We're not interested," Setsu suddenly said as she reached up to touch his shoulder, obviously wanting to get him away from the counter.
"Are you sure?" he lifted the charm to make her look at it.
Her face froze and stared at it.
Cain grinned as he gave it a little swing and watched her eyes follow the charm. He let out a chuckle. "I thought so..." He turned to the saleslady and stated with deliberate, clumsy Japanese. "We'll take it."
"Tha-Thank you, sir," the saleslady replied and bowed. She took the charm and headed to the counter.
He turned to her and saw an expected, unpleasant face. "What?" he asked dryly.
"Nii-san, you promised not to buy me anything else," she pointedly complained.
"I didn't promise you anything of the sort," he huffed. It really wasn't like her to accept a present without reason. But he really didn't want to get her anything for a specific reason, he just wanted to get something for her. No reason necessary.
"Hmph!" She flipped her hair over her shoulder again and marched back to the clothes display racks.
The Japonet Scoop was tomorrow afternoon. She intended to pick up clothes from her home this evening while he went to his fitting for the upcoming AR Mandy's fall collection. However, Ishibashi Hikaru-san called her as they left the Tragic Marker set and wanted to meet with her. Because of the sudden schedule change, she wouldn't have time to go home and tomorrow's schedule was too tight.
Hence, why they passed by the department store. Balancing the roles of Cain and Setsu with the purpose of Ren and Kyoko was precarious, but it was the only way they could get around without rousing recognition.
Without taking his eyes off her, he moved to the cashier to make the purchase. Once done, he went to her - scaring off early evening shoppers of the ladies' department.
"See anything you like?" he asked she pulled out a pale yellow dress from the racks.
"Not that I'm gonna let you know," she retorted. "It's my fault I didn't pack up a decent dress for a polite event when you told me to bring everything I'll need."
Ah, that was her scenario for the dress dilemma, Ren realized. He picked up the cue and answered, "Well, you hardly packed anything for the trip. You came when I asked you to come with me so at least let me buy the dress-"
"No!" she retorted vehemently. "Nii-san, you already bought me a store full of clothes. I was the irresponsible one when it came to the packing, so I should buy this for myself."
"Still," he argued, "I'm the one who forgot to buy clothes suited for every occasion and just bought you casual wear. I should-"
"No!" she exclaimed. Then she looked around and started towards the direction of the fitting rooms. "Please Nii-san, wait for me here."
Ren smiled as she disappeared behind the door. She's really good at separating things between her and Setsu. This was one of those times when he could have gotten her something for a specific reason: Setsu wanted it; Cain would buy it for her. It was a simple logic that worked perfectly between brother and sister.
She even provided him with the excuse to buy it for her by integrating it into their act, but he knew her better than that. She'd never accept it, especially since he gave her a terrible dressing down for accepting a dress from Kijima.
Cain obediently waited where he was left because going around would be creepy considering that he was in the ladies' department when she came back with the dress in her hand. He placed the little package into his left pocket.
"No?" he asked.
"Too tight-" She stopped, realizing that Setsu had clothes tight to the point of indecency. "I mean," she continued, "It's not something I can wear in the presence of polite company when I'm on my best behavior."
She caught the attention of a passing saleslady and asked if there was a size bigger available.
"I'm sorry, ma'am," the saleslady bowed. "We have run out of that size. This is the most popular design we have this month. Every fashionable girl has been buying it off the racks and..."
Cain's phone rang and he discreetly took it out. It was a message from Miss Woods', informing him that she has arrived at the department store's parking lot. He stuffed it back into his pocket and stepped forward. "Then we're not interested anymore," he declared. He took Setsu's hand and said, "Let's go."
"Hey!" Setsuka protested as they made their way out of the area. "Nii-san!" she protested. "I don't have a dress yet!"
"You're not getting anything from there anyway," her stupid older brother declared.
"How would you know?" she argued. "If I don't get something, I'll end up going wearing a rice sack!"
"Since you like getting attention anyway, you might as well go in a rice sack," he said firmly. "Don't be such an idiot," he finished in a soft, frustrated tone that can only be heard by the two of them.
"Who the heck are you calling an idiot?" she retorted as she followed him into an empty elevator. "And I don't like getting atte-"
Then she stopped, remembering something important as the elevator descended to the basement. Something that happened months ago - a piece of advice given to her by Tsuruga-san about catching people's attention. It wasn't that she wanted to get attention, but she needed to as an actress.
She was invited back to Japonet Scoop, most likely because of the popularity she got in the polls which was triggered by how she looked during the Dark Moon part. Tsuruga-san already mentioned something about how she should take advantage of the attention she got and use it to steer the attention to her acting.
She got to where she was right now because she stood out. Not to mention, she was also intending to promote Box "R", which excited Director Anna. She certainly couldn't show up in a dress that everyone already has... that would be too common and she will just blend in rather than stand out. Now that she thought about it, none of her regular clothes would be good enough anymore!
"Are you getting what I'm saying?" he asked when she turned silent while the elevator descended.
"A little bit," she answered softly as they stepped out of the elevator and she followed him to the parking space where Ten-san's trailer was waiting for them.
"There's nothing wrong with your current style," he added. "You're fine just the way you are and the simplicity really suits you. But when you are in front of the public, you need to get yourself noticed without doing something outrageous and scandalous."
Actually, the problem now was that she really had nothing to wear and no idea what to get. "Maybe I could just borrow something from the LME Costume Department again," she thought out loud as they entered the trailer.
"You could do that," Tsuruga-san answered. "It's constantly being updated because designers and costumers want celebrities to wear their clothes."
She looked hopefully at him., "If... If I talk to President Takarada, he might let me come in later tonight or early tomorrow morning before work starts." She bit her lower lip and asked, "Would you mind going with me, Tsuruga-san? It'd be out of the way and all, but it's be weird if I left the hotel without you."
Tsuruga-san let out smile and answered, "Of course, I don't mind." Then he started towards the corner of the make-up table where his dark brown, Tsuruga Ren wig sat. "Anyway, we need to hurry. My appointment will be in 45 minutes."
He took off his long coat and pulled something out of the pocket. "What about this?"
Kyoko was in the act of taking off her blond wig and turned to the package he held out. Then she gave him an exasperated look. "You really bought that?"
"Why not?" he asked, opening the little package and holding out the charm to her. "You obviously like it. Why wouldn't I have bought it?"
What the hell? He really was an idiot brother! She couldn't point out anything she liked without getting him to buy it? He had no sense when it came to her - Setsuka, she corrected. While this was obviously the Cain character, Kyoko wanted the practical and sensible Tsuruga-san she knew. Where the hell did he pick up such a doting attitude anyway?
She let out a sigh and reached for it. She really did like it when she saw it on the display case. While it appealed to her personally because of the crown and the teardrop gem was shaped just like the Princess Rosa, she was playing Setsuka so she gravitated toward the darker color.
She let out an exasperated sigh. "I don't see why you had to get the one with the princess theme," she complained. Setsuka Heel was nothing like a princess.
"Because," Tsuruga san answered matter-of-factly, "you are my princess."
Kyoko almost had the charm in her hand when he said that. The impact of his words hit her so hard she was rendered immobile. Again, the clicking of opening locks filled her ears.
His princess. What the hell? No way. Not her and not in a million years. Tsuruga-san had a girl he was in love with so she should be his princess. She looked up at him quizzically and he looked quite surprised as well.
"I mean," he smoothly clarified. "Of course you are." Then he reached his hands to her face and squeezed both cheeks. "Who else would be my little princess if not Setsu?" he childishly answered, clumping his cheeks like clay as the charm tapped on her cheek.
Ah, Kyoko thought behind the sounds of protest she made at the intensity of his mushing up her cheeks. She didn't realize they were still acting. Of course the princess - his princess, would be Setsuka Heel. Not her.
Now that she thought about it, Setsuka would be kinda like a princess... in a different sense of the word. The Heels were obviously very wealthy - they had to be to have children as lacking in common sense as these two. She had a dark prince-type of older brother who doted on her at the price of his well-being (not having proper shoes), safety (Seaweed Head and his goons) and pride (standing in the ladies department while she went shopping) just to accompany her. Now that she thought that far, she let go of her imagination and visualized Setsuka Heel's room at home. It's got to have a princess bed! With black silk sheets instead of pink satin, with hard rock music blaring, shopping bags strewn all over the place with her big brother chained in a corner for her own personal enjo-
"Do you want it or not?" Cain-nii-san broke into her thoughts, withdrawing his hands from her cheeks and holding out the charm again.
"Of course I do," she huffingly answered, grabbing the charm.
She smiled wistfully at it as she held it in her hands. It was slightly heavy. The sterling silver crown was well-crafted - it reminded her of the kind of crown a princess wore in a picture book she read as a child. Happy, she took a small step forward and wrapped her arms around his waist for a quick hug. "Thank you, nii-san!"
Ten-san suddenly appeared, opening the partition that separated the work area and the driver's seat, just as Kyoko stepped back.
"Hi, you two!" the muse greeted perkily, then went right to business. "Ren-chan, your clothes are hanging in the changing room." Then she turned to Kyoko and said, "Let's fix that hair, Kyoko-chan."
"Thank you, Miss Woods," Tsuruga-san smiled at her then went off to disappear behind the door.
"Jeez," Ten-san shook her head. "Ren-chan's always so formal. Five years of being his hairdresser and I'm still 'Miss Woods' to him."
"Tsuruga-san is always very polite," Kyoko good-naturedly answered, sitting on the chair as she pulled her wig off. She was still holding the charm and smiling down at it when she suddenly felt Ten-san's fingers through her hair. "Ah, Ten-san," she looked up at her and looked at her through the small mirror. "It's alright. I can fix my hair myself. I don't really have an important appointment or anything."
"No!" She shook her head firmly. "Your hair's been under that wig all day and is plastered to your head." She reached out for a hairbrush and some mousse. "I'll teach you how to volumize your hair, OK?"
"OK," Kyoko smiled and nodded briefly. "Thank you very much."
As Ten-san treated her hair and gave her instructions in between, Kyoko looked down at the charm and smiled again.
She carefully took the tag off. What a shame it would be, giving everything up at the end of the shoot. Everything that Cain-nii-san bought for her - the clothes, the make-up, and even the pretty charm was going to be returned to Tsuruga Ren at the end of this all. If not him, likely the LME Costume Department.
Still, she thought resignedly. It was going to be hers in the meantime, so she quickly stuck the charm onto her phone. Then she looked at it and smiled. Other than the dark color, it looked a little like Princess Rosa but much lighter in comparison.
Somewhere at the back of her head, she wondered why that was.
Sho pouted in his seat as he lamented his lack of progress in finding Kyoko.
Things were much easier when she was still working on Dark Moon. His producer, Asami Haruki, was very good friends with the drama's director, Ogata Hiroaki, which made him and Sho acquaintances.
With his connection with Director Ogata, he could waltz in and out of the Dark Moon set without anyone bothering him. Now Dark Moon is over and she was now working on another drama called Box "R" and he didn't know anyone from there. Well, he once worked with Maruyama Rumi so they were kind of acquaintances.
Either way, he shook his head. She won't be coming to work there until the day after tomorrow. That was just too late for him. Short of charging her agency to check if she was there, he had to wait. And he couldn't let that happen. He can't let Kyoko see just how eager he was to see her.
"Shoko-san," he turned his manager. "Are you sure that's all you know about Kyoko right now?"
"That's it," Shoko-san firmly answered. "You have to wait until the day after tomorrow." Then she stretched. "It's just as well. You have a full schedule tomorrow. You don't really want to cut your reunion with Kyoko-chan short, do you?"
Sho gave her an annoyed look.
She didn't have to make it sound so poetic and stupid. Anyway, she was right, Kyoko would never approve of blowing off work. He really did have to wait until the day after tomorrow and use the muscle of his influence to get inside the Box "R" set.
With a slight sound of annoyance, he looked at his manager and asked, "What am I doing again tomorrow?"
Shoko-san itemized his schedule for tomorrow. It starts off with a meeting with the president of Akatoki then off to a planning meeting for a tour, then a short meeting with Asami-san for next month's single, then a shoot for...
"What am I doing in Japonet Scoop again?"
"Isn't that supposed to be good?" Shoko-san shrugged. "They listened to your single and think it's going to be the next big thing."
"Thank you for the ride, Tsuruga-san," Mogami-san bowed as the car Miss Woods took with her - supplied by LME - drove them out of the parking lot for a five minute drive in front of the AR Mandy work studio at the second floor of their main store.
"Sure," he nodded. "Where are you meeting Ishibashi-san anyway?"
She looked around and smiled as she spotted and pointed at a coffee shop across the street and a little down the road. "There. In an hour."
"Then, while you're waiting, why don't you come inside with me," Ren pointed behind him at the AR Mandy store.
"Can I?" She tilted her head to the side.
"It's not a matter if you can or can't," he laughed. "It depends if you want to or not." She looked hesitant so he said, "It'll be much better than sitting alone in a cafe for an hour." When she still hesitated, he took the initiative and gently led her inside by the hand. "Let's go then. We can't stay out here for very long."
Inside, they were greeted by the sales staff and escorted towards the stairs that led to the designer's studio. Ren discreetly let go as she moved to follow the staff.
As they walked to the second floor work area, Mogami-san slowly came to a stop. Ren looked across the boutique in the direction she was looking and caught sight of a dress on a mannequin. It was a white lacy dress with a built-in belt of the same material. The neckline was V-shaped, but not low-cut, and the sleeves were long, but made of thin, gauzy lace, so the wearer wouldn't get too hot wearing it. The dress bunched at the front of the dress where the belt made a unique design, and then fell gracefully to a little lower than mid-thigh. She had a good eye, Ren thought. He visualized her in the dress and thought that it would look good on her.
He smiled and bent down. "Do you like that dress?"
Surprised, she turned to him and let out an uneasy laugh. "It's very pretty."
"Excuse me," he asked the design staff member who was sitting next to the mannequin. He pointed at the dress and asked, "Is that dress done? It looks pretty cute."
"Yes, Tsuruga-kun," the staff member smiled. "It's not going to be part of the show or any shoots though. It's just a prototype of one we'll be selling in the stores starting next month."
"Then," he gave his best charming smile. "Can she try it on?" he asked, pointing at her.
"Eh?" Mogami-san let out an exclaim in surprise.
"Sure," the designer nodded. "We'll have to ask the head designer though. And she'll have to try the stock we have in the supply room, not that."
"Ren-chan!" the head designer greet him. "On time as always. If all my other models were like you..."
"It is part of my schedule so I have to show up," he answered good-naturedly. "Um..." he pointed at the dress Mogami-san was admiring. "That dress. Can she try it on? Kyoko-san has an interview tomorrow and has been worrying about not having something wear yet."
"Kyoko-san?" the head designer turned to her and Mogami-san jumped, looking like a cornered rabbit. A smile spread across the designer's face and he said, "Of course! I think it would look very good on her. Anyone with her figure who could pull off a complicated dress like the one she wore in the Dark Moon party would look nice in it." He called for his assistant and gave him instructions for the size.
Ren felt Mogami-san's small hand tug at his shirt. "N...no, Tsuruga-san. It's fine."
"You still don't have a dress for tomorrow, do you?" he asked.
"No," she shook her head. "But I already called President Takarada and he's going to meet us at LME later tonight to give me access to the Costume Departme-"
"That dress is not going to be in the Costume Department," he reasoned.
"I was just admiring it!" she reasoned back. "Just because I think it's pretty doesn't mean I want to get it."
"Because you admire it means you like it," he answered. "What's wrong with getting it for yourself if you like it?"
"I can't afford something like it even if I wanted it," she hissed in a hushed tone only he could hear.
Oh yeah, he thought. Mogami-san was on a budget. "Then let me get it for you."
"No," she answered shortly. "May I remind you that you were the one who told me that when a man who buys a girl clothes, he has an ulterior motive?"
Oh that, he thought in exasperation. He did tell her that. As Setsu, she accepted everything happily all because it came from her older brother. As Mogami-san, she was haunted by what he angrily told her about accepting Kijima-san's kindness. "I'm not going to use money," he argued. "I have a lot of store credit left from working on shows."
Then her face turned demonic, a dark cloud hovered over her and she said in a low, ominous voice, "As long as it has monetary value, it's still the same thing."
Da-damn it, he thought. She really remembers everything he tells her. "Mogami-san, can't a guy do something for a girl out of the kindness of his heart?"
"No," she shook her head sharply. "He can't. Especially it being you, you weirdo playboy."
"What's that supposed to mean?" he raised an eyebrow. Playboy again? Then he shook his head. "Anyway, I did tell you that if you encountered problems like this, you should go to me. Don't think of it as anything else other than a senpai trying to help out a kohai and the dress is a congratulations on making it to number 10."
Mogami-san shifted uncomfortably. "I'm sorry," she said. "You're being kind and I'm being difficult, am I?"
Ren sighed. "No need to apologize. It's fine."
"Thank you," she suddenly said.
Ren turned to her and smiled. "You're welcome."
"Here you go, Kyoko-san!" the head designer interrupted their conversation as the assistant walked behind him with the dress, wrapped in plastic, hanging on a hanger.
"Um, sir..." Mogami-san said, raising her hands, flustered. "I really thank you for the consideration, but I really don't need the dress."
"Why?" he looked confused. "Didn't you say you have a thing for tomorrow and you didn't have an outfit?"
"Yes... well..." she meekly reasoned. "That dress is really, really pretty but I'm afraid it's out of my price range..."
"Oh," the designer said. "Well, we can't sell you this dress anyway."
Mogami-san looked surprised. "Eh? Yo.. you can't?"
"No," he laughed. "This is something we are going to sell to stores next month. I thought you meant that you needed to loan the dress."
"Can I... do that?" Kyoko asked slowly.
"That depends," the designer teased. "Where are you going anyway?"
"Well, it's going to be a short interview for Japonet Scoop..." she answered.
"A trends show about the up-and-coming, I like it." He took out the dress from the plastic wrapping and held it out to her. "Won't you try it on?"
Ren watched as Mogami-san's stance relaxed. "Sure," she answered.
She was led to the dressing room the models used.
"Oh my!" the head designer looked at his watch. "We're now late and running on model time!" He gave Ren a small push towards the racks which was labeled with his name on it and said, "Here you go, Ren-chan!"
Ren quickly went to work. He took a pair of pants and the shirt to match it and went into the fitting room beside Mogami-san's. He stepped out the same time she did. He smiled down at her and evaluated her dress. "It looks really nice on you," he said.
"Tha-thank you," she answered shyly.
Being in the middle of work, he turned around, but then he felt her hand on his arm. "Tsuruga-san."
Ren's heart skipped. Mogami-san was never the touchy-feely type - unless she was acting like Setsu. "Y-yes?" he asked, turning back to her.
She lifted herself on her toes and stretched to touch his face with her hand. Ren felt his heart slamming against his chest while he held his breath as Mogami-san touched his hair.
"You really need to be conscious about your wig when changing clothes," she whispered, tucking a piece of dark hair under his dark brown wig.
Kyoko crossed the street with a paper bag from AR Mandy with her loaned dress in hand.
She ended up staying much longer than she intended. She wanted to arrived to meet up with Hikaru-san at least five minutes earlier and now she was five minutes late. The on-site designers had to baste the dress a little because it looked a little loose just under her breasts - she had to return it. She said that she was OK with it, but the head designer looked like he was twisting in agony until they worked on it. After, they made her fit it again and again until the head designer was satisfied.
She was still a little touched by the gesture from Tsuruga-san. He never got to buy her the dress but he paved the way for getting her a dress for Japonet Scoop. If it wasn't for him, she would be crunching her time with Hikaru-san just so she doesn't keep President Takarada waiting at LME.
She entered the coffee shop and easily spotted Hikaru-san in a cap sitting in a corner.
"I'm sorry I'm late," she huffed.
"It's alright," Hikaru-san smiled. "It was only five minutes. Out shopping?" He eyed the paper bags she was carrying.
She nodded. "I needed a dress for my Japonet Scoop appearance tomorrow." Then she started rummaging through her purse for her notebook and pen. "So about the party..."
Hikaru-san laughed. "Are you in some kind of hurry, Kyoko-chan?"
"Uh, no..." Tsuruga-san said he'll be along in about an hour and a half, but she can take her time since they didn't need to pass by the office anymore. "Not really."
"Then let's get something first," he said. "I've been up since five in the morning so I really need some coffee." He stood up and smiled down at her. "You want anything?"
"Ah, let me come with you," Kyoko stood up from her chair as well. The last episode of Kimagure Rock was only a couple of days ago and they will be seeing each other again in a couple more, but since she has been living as Setsuka Heel, it felt as though she hadn't seen him in a long time. She really missed walking around with him to get food and drinks.
"Sure," Hikaru-san nodded and they got in line at the cashier. "Anyway, while we're waiting, let's start talking about the party." Then he let out a thoughtful pause. "Um... It's going to be after work on the 10th of March. One of the talents managed to talk to the manager of L.A. Hearts and we're gonna have it there. You may want to talk to him..."
As Hikaru-san talked, Kyoko felt herself relax. The moment Hikaru-san came into sight, she felt totally at ease. It was the first time she felt like she can be totally herself. Whenever she was with Cain heel or Tsuruga-san, she felt like she was walking on eggshells - her consciously working to keep up with Tsuruga-san's acting, her feelings that were making themselves more aware to her and the annoying fact that he can easily open the locks she has fortified with just a simple gesture.
Kyoko tuned back into Hikaru-san's chatter and let herself smile.
I apologize for the delay, if you were waiting for an update. I was busy the whole week so there. This was supposed to be Japonet Scoop chapter, but I realized I made a mistake in the timing of the previous chapter so I had to adjust the story as needed. This chapter sets up for something in a future chapter. If I don't put it up, this story may fall apart.
Next chapter: the Japonet Scoop chapter.