Disclaimer for all chapters of the story: I do not own Skip Beat nor any of its characters. The story, however, is my own work.


For whatever reason the office was devoid of the usual many workers of LME's vast talent agency; that suited him just fine. For two weeks now he'd had to listen to not only his ever nosy manager, but seemingly the rest of the showbiz world, rave about the only two episodes of Box R that had been released.

It was an instant sensation.

Maruyama Rumi, who was playing the lead role, was a popular new idol who drew in many fans to the show. However, she wasn't the only cast member everyone was talking about. The show centered around Chitose's character ,who was the frequent victim of a group of female bullies led by Kitazawa Natsu – a character everyone loves to hate. The actresses playing the bullies were alight on everyone's tongue, but none so much as Mogami Kyoko.

Now that many people were familiar with her name, after the success of Dark Moon, they were excited to see the new role she played. While her role as Mio had been a dark one, it seemed almost completely different from the character she'd brought to life. Natsu was conniving, manipulative, and would do anything to amuse herself, but especially if it came from the pain of another. Though she was a high school student, she carried herself as a woman of the world – afraid of no one and nothing.

Ren hadn't watched the episodes when they aired. Kyoko showed up at a Dark Moon shoot one day in her 'Natsu' appearance so he was familiar with how she would look in the role. Between his acting jobs and modeling work he had to do, he simply had not had enough time to watch Box R. Truth be known, on some level he was afraid to watch it. He'd been there with her as she acted out her Mio and was truly blown away by her talent. The Mio she created was utterly terrifying while being captivating at the same time. He believed in her but even he was astonished at how well she embodied her character.

The only reason he'd seen the Prisoner PV she stared in with that bastard Fuwa was because of the constant pestering by his manager. The moment he'd watched it he wished he didn't. Knowing she was working with Fuwa was what kept him from watching the video to begin with. He didn't want her in his presence; that bastard had hurt her enough and she shouldn't have to be subjected to his filth any longer than necessary. Yashiro said she played an angel but even with his high praise he failed to give her the compliments she deserved.

The transformation she underwent as the angel was breath taking. It wasn't simply the wig or the makeup she wore, but the look in her eyes and the expressions she gave made his heart skip a beat. Such loveliness as he had never seen before was wasted in Fuwa Sho's PV. The look the singer wore when she faced him sent his blood boiling in anger.

The scene on the small TV in the general manager's office of LME changed again and Natsu came strolling into view, smiling seductively and running the sharp tip of her nail down some poor victim's face. Once again, Ren had to employ all of his self control not to make a traitorous sound or his manager, who was standing beside him, would never let him hear the end of it. While he had always thought she was beautiful, Natsu's look was closer to the expressions she wore as Setsu's character.

Kami, the day she'd walked out of Jelly Wood's dressing room in that damn near scandalous outfit he'd almost lost every bit of control he'd built up over the past five years. Her innocent beauty had been wiped away by the teasing smirk she wore. Many, many times he'd gazed at her long, pale legs that simply ate the ground as she walked in that sinful way he'd had no choice but to teach to her. Her small, but adequate, chest gently bouncing under the dangerously low shirt she wore. Cain Heel was nearly the end of him before he could even begin his role as BJ.

Now, as he watched her saunter around her victim, laughing softly at the pain she was about to inflict, he felt his blood heating at the pure sex appeal dripping off her. Her thin waist bent elegantly when she leaned down to say something and he couldn't help but to remember the time he held her so closely in his apartment. Ren could clearly recall every dip and curve her body had. His fingers twitched at the memory.

"She's done an amazing job on creating Natsu's character hasn't she?" Yashiro asked from his side.

Ren didn't look away from the screen as he answered the shorter man. "Yes she has. After seeing Mio's character did you doubt her?"

"Of course not." the blond chuckled as he pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose before turning a knowing glance to his charge. "But really, did you think Natsu would turn out like this?"

Ren heard the sly tone to his manager's voice but continued to pretend he didn't understand the question. "How do you mean?"

"How beautiful she looks of course! There's something about the way she moves as this character that draws you in. I can't help but to keep my eyes on her!"

Ren turned his obsidian eyes onto his manager and for a moment, his displeasure was evident in his gaze. He quickly covered it with his bright smile before turning back to the screen. Either way, Yashiro understood the message and was afraid his teasing might have stepped out of bounds. He cleared his throat before gripping the handle of his briefcase even tighter.

"Yes, well, we should get going Ren. You have that photo shoot in 20 minutes." Yashiro said before heading for the elevator.

Ren stood there for a moment more, watching the scene end with Natsu walking away with her fellow bullies. "It really doesn't matter what she does, she's always beautiful." he said to himself before turning and following his manager.

()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()

Her hands clenched tightly in the soft cotton shirt she wore as the loud pounding in her chest reverberated in her ears. Time seemed to stop completely as one by one, deep within the recesses of her soul, she heard the locks she'd so carefully place be blown off the box to her heart.

She tried, oh the heavens knew she tried to replace them, but with that one fatal sentence she'd done everything in her power not to hear, they'd disappeared entirely. No amount of searching or wishing would close the lid one again. Tears began trickling down her face as the gravity of the situation began sinking in. She couldn't avoid it now; there wasn't a lie she could tell herself that would diminish the importance of that man in her life.

Her head sunk to rest on her raised knees as she desperately tried to think of a solution to this problem. Why was she so stupid? When she'd walked into the office she should have greeted the two of them as she normally would. However, she saw they were watching the newest episode of Box R that was released only days ago and she thought a golden opportunity had been placed in her lap. What better way to find out what her sempai truly thought about her acting that to secretly hear it from the man himself? That line of thinking is what caused her to crouch behind the wall just next to them and listen intently for any word of her performance.

She only wanted to better herself. One day, she truly wished to be good enough that she could co-star with Tsuruga Ren, her amazing sempai, and act on par with him. Being in Dark Moon with him only fueled that desire even further. He was amazing. His ability to draw the other actors into the world he created with his characterization was something she desperately wanted to be able to do. While she acknowledged her own small achievements, she knew she had a very long way to go before she could be good enough to be his equal.

And while Tsuruga-san would normally scold her appropriately or give her hints and encouragements when she asked him, she wanted to hear his honest, unbiased opinion of Natsu.

What a fool she'd been.

When the conversation turned to how she looked, she should have walked away or alerted them to her presence. Yet, something inside her made her stay still and listen to them talk. By eavesdropping on their conversation, she just put herself in the worst possible situation.

She knew something like this would happen the moment she heard those fateful words come from him. Though she could be naive sometimes, she whole heartedly admitted that point, the warning signs had already been triggered. Whenever she thought that word was going to fall from his mouth, she effectively turned the conversation to something else or she interrupted him.

Now it was over. The long battle had been lost and she truly had no idea how to go on from here. She didn't want to be that useless girl once more; that pathetic girl who only did things that pleased other people, that girl who spent her entire life living only to help and please Shotarou no matter what it cost her...she refused to be reduced to that. While a small part of her argued that Tsuruga-san would never treat her like that, the larger part reminded her that this was the number one bachelor in Japan who had millions of women after him. The caliber of women he could have were far, very far above her meager standing.

No matter if he called her beautiful or not she wouldn't allow herself to be tricked once more.

There wasn't any other option; she would just have to go on as if nothing had happened. Nothing had happened in his world, but her mind and heart were in utter chaos, bucking against the unwanted torrent of emotion threatening to flood her being. Love was nothing more than an illusion; a fleeting fancy that turned women into simpering beings bent on pleasing un-deserving men who would eventually betray them. She knew this first hand and would not return to that place in her life.

She already had to exact revenge against one such bastard; she had no desire to place herself in a position to do so again.

The purple reflecting stone was clenched tightly within her grasp as she curled onto herself in the deserted hallway.

It's okay. I'm okay. I'm gonna be okay.

I'm a strong woman, an undefeatable woman.

I'm okay. I'm okay. I'm okay.

She never paused in her mantra as she willed her turbulent feelings into her cherished Corn stone.

She would make it out of this just fine. Somehow, she would endure the glittering radiance that was Tsuruga Ren. His gentle hands that had the incredible ability to touch her deeply locked away heart were her new enemy. It wasn't his fault, necessarily, that his beautiful eyes and warm smile had defeated her barriers – though she did feel she would be making a new doll to torture later.

What was most important was that he could never find out about this. She would have to meet with him through work as the filming for his Black Jack movie was not yet completed. There was also no way to avoid him forever since they worked in the same company; besides, she didn't want to cut ties with Tsuruga-san. He was her sempai and was always teaching her something important about the acting world. When he wasn't angry about something, he was warm and friendly and a joy to be around. More than anything she wanted to maintain that relationship with him. That's why it was so important she never let him discover her feelings.

She knew he could never return them but he would probably be so disgusted with her that he would renounce his position as her sempai and ask her to never come near him again. After all the progress they'd made and the trust they'd built up with each other, to have that happen would be devastating to her. It would be difficult, but she would have to force herself to act normal around him. No matter what, she couldn't fail at this.

Finally standing up, she pocketed her corn stone and made her way to the elevator. She'd already finished her assignments for the day and had no other work awaiting her. Normally, she would be sure to check in with Sawara-san before leaving, but it seemed that most everyone had left for the day. That was fine with her, for once. She felt as if she would need the extra rest tonight after the emotional battle she'd waged with herself. Besides, she had to meet with him early in the morning anyway.

It would be okay, she would just have to make sure of that. This would simply be another hurdle for the new Mogami Kyoko to overcome.


A/N:

I don't know why I'm beginning another story when I'm already in the process of writing two others but I simply can't ignore this any longer. Random plot bunnies for this work will pop in my head while I'm trying to work on my other fics reminding me that it isn't going away until I do something about it.

Well, here it is. Just a prologue here and I realize it doesn't really give away a great deal about the story but this will be a canon work and I always strive to keep the characters IC. Also, I tend to have a habit of writing long stories so I hope you will stick around with me for this one as well.

Please let me know what you think about the first chapter and I truly hope you enjoy it.

Until next time!