Ren sat poised every inch a model. He had a slight smile of happy contentment on his face which was enough to cause some of the newbie actresses in the audition hall to become flustered and check their makeup. Underneath the façade, however, was a nervous Kuon.
"This is a huge affair; I can't believe Director Hielberg is going to audition all these people." Yashiro exclaimed, awed as he gazed around the massive hall.
Ren had to agree but couldn't bring himself to vocalise it. Damn what good are stage nerves? Get a grip. You're not the 13 year old boy he fired, you're an experienced actor. You managed Katsuki, Cain and BJ; you can manage this.
"I still can't believe the director who gave Hizuri Kuu his American debut is planning on producing a film with an entirely Japanese cast for International release," Yashiro continued reverently, and he was not the only one who whispered to a colleague about the incredible nature of the film and the possibilities to which being cast might lead.
Like acknowledgment that I am Hizuri Kuu's equal and can return to my real name. Ren desperately hoped he'd get cast in this film and if he did, by using all the skills he'd honed over the past six years and his acceptance of some of the darker elements of his previous being, he could proudly announce himself to the world. But he struggled when he remembered the director's face when he'd given him the boot with his aviator sunglasses, goatee and sneer - all those years ago.
"When's he going to arrive?" Yashiro was practically jumping up and down trying to look for any movement at the door to indicate the famous director's entrance. The mental image of a chibi Yashiro jumping up and down in excitement was amusing enough to draw Ren out of his thoughts enough to tease Yashiro
"Do you even know what he looks like?" he asked.
"Oh course I do. I'm your manager I make a point of researching anyone you may have contact with in a professional or even social setting. You have no idea how hard I work, you just think I'm a baka manager who's always making unnecessary alterations to your schedule so you can have a pathetically small amount of time with the woman you love." Ren couldn't argue that there had been many occasions recently when he had thought that but his train of thought was interrupted once more by Yashiro.
"…Speak of the devil."
Ren snapped his head at Yashiro and then the direction he was looking. He spotted her easily as she walked slowly with perfect poise chatting happily with her friend Kotonami-san. He noticed that Kyoko was absent-mindedly pushing some stray hair, which was getting longer and even more tempting to reach out and touch, behind her ear.
"You face is slipping," came the smug sardonic comment, Yashiro tried and failed to contain his glee at Kyoko's presence and the effect it had on his talent who two years earlier hadn't been anywhere near as fun. He had great hopes for this film for Ren's personal as well as professional future now, it was obvious that sooner or later Kyoko would figure out his feelings and if they were able to spend more time together so much the better. All I have to do is gently give Kyoko encouragement and make sure Ren doesn't miss any opportunities. True to his purpose, Yashiro called out straight away, half hoping Ren wouldn't be able to fix his face in time. After everything he'd been put through recently he had to get his own back on Ren in some small way.
"Kyoko-chan, Kotonami-san you're auditioning as well, that's brilliant." Yashiro said beaming at them
Struggling to straighten his face into something that wouldn't have the love of his life running away from him, as if he'd just told her she'd been requested to single-handedly rearrange Lory's wardrobe, took longer than it used to. Their time together as siblings and his breakdown caused by Kuon and BJ meant he relaxed too much around her. The result of this prolonged gaze of adoration was several women fainting and a few guys questioning their own sexual orientation. But more worryingly, for Ren at least, was the look Kotonami-san returned and the protective arm she placed on Kyoko.
Kanae shielded her first best friend and rival from her main competitor for her Kyoko's affections but dutifully followed Kyoko to meet the two men.
"Hello Yukihito-san, Tsuruga-san," was Kyoko's enthusiastic response. She was glad she was able to see Tsuruga-san so soon after the conclusion of her Dangerous Mission. She'd been worried at the aura around him when she'd first entered, he'd seemed down and his smile was most definitely fake. But by the time she reached him he was in a better mood, like he'd had a nice thought or seen something to make him happy and that simple fact made her happy. Although I really wish I didn't have to audition for Sarah-hime (use of princess title again to reduce dislike and improve creative ability) I'm glad it meant I got to see Re…Tsuruga-san today.
"Who are you auditioning for Mogami-san?" Ren asked gently, curious and for the simple joy of hearing her voice. The response to this question was curious even by Kyoko's standard. Those who have the sight and are finely attuned to the ethereal level would have firstly seen Demon Kyokos emerge from her aura which had turned dark and swirl around their host menacingly then attach their host with looks of pure self-disgust. Then gradually fading under a faint but resolute light from Kyoko's heart, which had a similar quality to the light emitted by Ren's true smile, soothing the aura's colour until pink. Then suddenly her aura turned off and the process had reached an end. Visible to those present was Kyoko depressed, angry and bitter turning slowly into ecstatic then immediately becoming mature and business-like.
"I'm audition for Sarah" was her calm, dispassionate response, "and Moko-san is auditioning for Cara's manager Yana." The opportunity to praise her beloved Moko-san meant the loss of the calm tone; Kyoko was immediately excited and continued brightly "Who are you going to play Tsuruga-san? Ben?" She smiled happily, interested in the opportunity to learn more from her respected sempai.
Ren, concerned over Kyoko's attitude to her character merely gave a slight nod of acknowledgment to her question before remembering what he could about Sarah. The plot of Jump Note was long and complex. It was based on the story of Ben, who is used and betrayed by his childhood love and consequently loses his sense of identity and belief in love or loyalty. He then finds all his missing emotions in the music business where he gains popularity and a true love. There was also a slowly developing love story between him and Cara a prominent musician who guides him professionally and personally. Jump Note had a large worldwide following, obvious from the internet with forums and fan fiction stories where the main characters were brought together in various ways due to reader frustration at the length of time and number of chapters required for development. Especially for the love story as both characters have to overcome their many insecurities before they can become a couple. It had taken 75 chapters before Ben realised Cara didn't truly hate him and then a further 70 chapters before there was a kiss. Then the kiss didn't even occur between Ben and Cara, but Sarah the childhood friend who'd thrown him away and broken Ben's heart returned to lay claim to him through a kiss…
Kyoko knew the moment Ren realised the similarities between her character and a certain jointly disliked spiky, blonde-haired musician. Her anger grudge flew happily over to Ren revelling in his malevolence that it hadn't enjoyed in such a long time. She felt uncomfortable, honestly she didn't want to play Sarah but she knew better than to be picky about characters; hadn't Hizuri Kuu, who had allowed her to call him Otou-san, told her she should make the best out of every character and not have favourites. Also, despite how much she hated Sarah, it was an incredibly easy character for Kyoko because she had spent almost her whole life with the perfect model albeit he was the wrong gender. She knew why Ren was angry (well not completely but she thought she knew because he knew what Sho had done) but right now she needed his encouragement more than his anger. I know I probably don't deserve it but if he could just smile or say "Gambatte" *sigh* then it wouldn't seem so bad.
Ren's mood dropped even further, not only was he uncomfortable with his own audition but now he didn't even want Kyoko to be anywhere near it, especially if she had to play him. Why are the gods so determined to keep him in her thoughts and bond them together? He received no answer to his question, not that he was expecting one, and tried to keep from becoming so depressed that Kyoko would notice. He didn't want her to become upset or worried although it would be nice to know she cared.
Yashiro aware that something, he wasn't quite sure what, was causing the mood to be somewhat strained, plunged into conversation with Kyoko to try and improve Ren's relationship with her even if his efforts weren't always appreciated.
"Isn't it great you'll be able to work together with Ren again publically so soon Kyoko-chan?" Kanae suddenly looked at Yashiro piercingly making him falter and add
"Also you'll be able to work with Kotonami-san and the famous Director Hielberg." He quickly glanced to see if he'd manage to appease Kanae; he hadn't.
Kanae had, out of a deep concern for her friend and a reasonable distrust of Lory, demanded Kyoko say what her Dangerous Mission was. Kyoko sworn to secrecy hadn't said anything but assured Kanae she was perfectly safe. Still with misgivings she'd gone to Lory, he hadn't said explicitly but had hinted that a certain sempai was keeping Kyoko safe. Kanae frowned deeply that not only Ren had recently possibly been spending more time with Kyoko than she had, but that Yashiro seemed to know more than her. Alright, that's it I will get Kyoko to tell me, I'll just threaten to cut all ties with her she's never been able to refuse that one. How can a manager know more than a first best friend? Of course Kanae would never truly break her ties with Kyoko or end their friendship, unless Kyoko decided to end her career to become a plain boring housewife, but Kyoko took unusual and sometimes extreme handling.
"Of course it would be great if I could work with Tsuruga-san and Moko-san again. I respect them both so much and I can learn so much from watching them perform. But I may not pass the audition, after all it is Director Hielberg and I'm only a lowly newcomer." Yashiro and Kanae immediately told her not to be silly and gave her encouragement. Yashiro expected Ren to comfort her, he did not expect:
"You're right to be nervous Mogami-san, despite your success in Dark Moon and Box-R Director Hielberg is not a man to be easily impressed or swayed by public opinion. Before now he's fired many big name actors who he didn't think were up to scratch even though their presence in the movie would have guaranteed box office sales. He'll expect a lot from the company Hizuri Kuu came from before he went to America." Ren's own nerves, or Kuon's he couldn't separate them so definitively anymore, caused him to be unnaturally harsh in his appraisal of the situation. He caught sight of Kyoko's frightened face and cursing himself tried to come up with some comforting words, but he had none.
As soon as he'd started speaking Kyoko recognised the aura that surrounded him, it was like the one surrounding him after all the NGs in Dark Moon, like when he'd first met Bo and tried to recall all the times he was fired. For some reason his mood upset her even more now. She feared he might break under his own pressure, it made her desperate to speak comforting words to him, words she thought she'd lost the ability to say when Sho threw her away.
"You aren't just a famous name with which tickets can be sold for some third rate film or tv show to boost ratings. You're Tsuruga Ren, you're the best actor in Japan and one of the best in the world. You can play any character you put your mind to, any problem you face you overcome, your portrayal of Katsuki is one of the reasons Dark Moon overcame the original. I may only be your lowly kohai but I know that I want to emulate your ability and professionalism as do most people in this room. You're incredible Tsuruga-san, you fly high above the rest of us, if you can't pass this audition none of us stand a chance and Director Hielberg isn't as good as everyone thinks he is."
He had to ask, her praise almost made him believe he could fly like Corn but he was still tied down, caught in his father's hands
"Who do you thinks is better Kyoko?" his desperation for the answer made him forget that Tsuruga Ren would never use her name so informally, especially not in front of Kanae and Yashiro as an audience but Kuon had to know before he faced the Director of his nightmares.
"Who's the better actor Kyoko, me or Otou-san?"
She stared at him. Why is he calling Otou-san Otou-san? He called him Hizuri Kuu when they met. Oh but he was there when I shouted Outo-san in the airport. She was surprised at the question and trying very hard not to blush at his use of her name without honorifics - twice in the space of a minute - replied
"Why do you need to be better or worse than him? After all you're not him; you're different from Otou-san. You're yourself and no amount of comparison between the two Katsuki's is going to change that. You're your own person."
Hi, this is my first fan fiction and I'm not a 100% confident about my work, so any comments and reviews would be greatly appreciated. Especially given Skip Beat is one of my favourite mangas and I want to do it justice. I don't own anything in regard to the manga although I really wish I could. Thanks for reading :)
P.S My thanks go out to Iris Anthe who has helped edit this and vastly improve its readability given despite having an A level in English I'm still appalling at grammar and punctuation.