Konoe watched the bedroom scene recording several times; with each viewing he found something different to think on and one question raised itself above the others.
Was this the direction he'd envisioned?
It was easily answered:
This was more graphic than anything he'd imagined yet compared to other things on television, the shows his own would be up against for viewership, it was on par, perhaps even a bit tamer in terms of physical content.
People read magazines of more explicit nature. They were on sale wherever one looked. The current generation was comfortable with sexualized material, expected it even.
The issue was the fact that these characters were related and closely. The shock value of a relationship between siblings might be enough to retain viewers for a second episode, but he feared that unless those watching were able to sympathize with the situation of the family it would be too much to stomach. If he wanted the show to be successful he would have to demand perfection from his actors. He was the director and it was his job to keep everyone on track. If this fell through it would be on his conscience.
In all of his musings he never for a moment considered asking for a change in character portrayal, not from the Heels at any rate. However, if this was the direction that they would be taking he would have to have words with Tada and Arai. It was imperative that their character depiction match the intensity of the other two, that the family work as a unit and that the depths of their dysfunctional relationships be explored.
Konoe suspected that there would be a need for increased introspection among the cast. It wouldn't do to have the reoccurring background characters simply occupying space. Even if their time didn't call for lines it was important that they exhibit presence. They could not be allowed to fade into the scene, they would have to call an appropriate amount of attention to themselves. A server re-filling a glass was nothing special, but if she happened to blush after accidentally brushing hands with her employer it could led to a path of speculation. Was Ryuu having an affair with this girl? Why didn't Ami seem concerned? Was their marriage really that empty? Did the glance exchanged by Tatsuya and Sakura mean they knew of the infidelity too?
This would require explanation. His expectations for The Twist had risen a hundredfold and that meant everyone would be expected to take their roles that much more seriously.
He began scribbling in the notebook he kept on his person at all times. He formed radical connections between characters, thought better of it, and had a novel idea.
Konoe spoke to each of his cast members individually, listened to their concerns. He met with them in a side room, asked them to give their honest opinion and promised to keep everything confidential. They were all of the same tone; their thoughts lay with the Heels and the characters they had portrayed. There was a marked difference however.
"Surely director," Aria-san said. "Surely you can't think of using that footage? You'll tell them, of course? It isn't decent!"
Tada-san felt the same. "It wasn't what I'd hoped to see and frankly I wish I hadn't, though I did have a worry that something of this ilk might come about. They must be told that it isn't acceptable."
"Wow director," said one of the girls who'd been chosen to play a maid. "That was intense, but weird. They're siblings right? I mean in real life."
"It was like a normal thing, but... Not."
The difference in opinion lie within the age gap. Younger actors were reluctant to place their stamp of approval on the scene because of the relationship, the older generation had no reservations in speaking their disapproval of the entirety.
He took their words into consideration, ultimately they had little impact on his decision, and after an hour break everyone reconvened in the conference room.
"I have re-watched each scene several times and come to a conclusion that I think will shock most of you. I felt that each was strongly done and well portrayed, especially the second."
'Shock' wasn't the word for it. The older actors were scandalized, the youngers astonished and the Heels triumphant, especially Setsuka who was open to expressing her pleasure in a not so quiet conversation with her brother.
"I knew the director couldn't be stupid. I'm so glad he sees it our way!"
Ren made no effort to answer because he couldn't agree with Setsu's assessment. He wasn't glad. Far from it. He was half hysterical. This had the potential to become the worst thing to have happened to him in a very long time.
He'd been hoping for a NG by the director. He had wanted to be told that their portrayal of the Kobayashi siblings had been too racy for the show. He'd prayed that Konoe would ask them to scale back the scope of the relationship.
However he'd prepared for this, the dreaded outcome as well, though only in a vague way because too much thought on this subject was dangerous.
His face gave away none of the inner turmoil and the subtle change in atmosphere was attributed to Cain, but Ren found it almost impossible to keep his true feelings from showing.
He focused on the director in an effort to halt the growing apprehension. It wasn't safe to fall into a pit of despair here.
It was necessary for Konoe to raise his voice, the actors were clamoring to be heard over one another. "I realize that this is not agreeable to most of you, but I must put my foot down on this. Not only was the scene in line with the character description, but it heightens the bar for the rest of you."
"In what way," Arai began with a tinge of sarcasm and a twitching eye. "Could this possibly affect the rest of us?"
Konoe had only a placid smile for her. "I was hoping someone would ask. It has led me to a wonderful plan to help each and every one of you become more closely involved with the story. I want each of our background, reoccurring home-life characters to choose a slip of paper." He reached beneath the table and placed an upturned hat in front the actress to his right, one of the maids. "Pass the hat along until each of the people playing hired help has one. Do not unfold the paper until I tell you to do so." As his direction was followed he continued to explain his reasoning. "Our show is to be weighed against others competing for the time slot we hope to get. We've been lucky to have already been picked up by a highly rated network, but if we're not on at the right time on the right day we're sunk. The spot I'm hoping for is Saturday at eleven. Our target audience is female, teenagers onward, but I hope to cross demographics.
"This is a tall order. There are many different choices for the consumers to browse through. Our goal is to make them stop and keep watching instead of breezing past the channel. We'll have a little edge due to the good reception of my, and Heel-san's, recent movie, but we can't hope to stand on that alone. We need to give the network a reason to put The Twist on at eleven. They need to know that you, the actors, have more talent than the others, that this plot is more interesting and better developed." He considered the eyes that watched him. Tada and Arai seemed grudgingly interested, the junior actors entranced and the Heels more concerned with each other than his speech.
In the brief moment that he paused he took in the way Setsuka leaned on Cain's arm, wrapping both of her's around his, and the manner in which she stared at his face. He inclined his head as she stretched to whisper something.
He found it hard to believe that the girl who played both Natsu and Mio was underneath the wig, piercings and leather. It was just as difficult to comprehend Tsuruga Ren playing Cain. Putting them together in this way, encased in two layers of character, and watching them work was a sight to behold.
Konoe wasn't sure that the others had any chance of rising to their level, but he was going to do his best to motivate them into trying.
"The network wants regular viewers and the chance to gain fresh sources of income, that is to say varied advertisers. If we can make this show into something the audience feels invested in the network will be begging us for a second season. For the moment we have a tentative agreement for ten shows and I need everyone to agree that they will be doing their best with this. I don't want The Twist to fail, not only for myself, but it would reflect poorly on you as well. To have been in a failed drama is never something you want to put on a resume.
"I know that the scene the Heels did has called out strong reactions, but that is what we need. I have thought it over and realized that the problem will be the fact that the characters are siblings. I know a little about the shows we are against and though I'm not at liberty to discuss specifics I can say that, by looking only at the physical aspects, we are well within the same league."
"The same!" Arai was skeptical. "You don't mean to say that that is what passes for television these days? I can't say I've seen that!"
"No, he's right." One of the girls who would play a classmate of Sakura, a newcomer Oota Etsu, spoke. "A lot of shows have that kind of thing as the main focus now because it's what the younger people are reading and watching. But still," she hesitated. "This is different."
"Why is it different?" Setsu came into the conversation, indignant. "They're all each other have. Who else could they turn too? Who would understand? It's obvious that their parents never cared about them. Sakura has always been chased by boys who only want her body and the girls all hate her for it! I think it makes perfect sense for her to want to be with Tatsuya. They have more reason to want to be together than most. At least this isn't some stupid high school drama with everyone going after everyone else for no good reason." Her disdain for Oota's judgment was evident.
Etsu eyed the blond and said, with a slight smirk, "You would feel that way, wouldn't you?"
Setsuka's eyes narrowed. "And what is that supposed to mean?"
Cain felt that this was the time to step in before his sister launched herself across the table to claw at the ignorant girl. Rather than speak, as he was loath to do in front of others, he placed a hand on hers, successfully distracting her long enough for the director to begin again.
"Speaking of other relationships," Konoe broke in to end the war of words before it began a fight. "I would like those with papers to open and silently read what is written. You are to find a way to communicate with the person who is named on your slip and decide upon an interesting side-story. It could be a short, played out in one episode, or it could go on for the full season. I would like you to keep this between yourselves. Once you have agreed on a story line please submit it to me for approval and I will submit them as part of my evidence to the committee that will review our proposition for Saturday nights. I would like to more fully develop the background characters and feel certain that this will give us an edge on the competition. This will show the network that we are all serious in creating a striking drama rather than simply polishing a regurgitated plot line."
Konoe chuckled at the proposal he'd received from Kokawa-san, a close friend of Oota-san and a member of the staff of the Kobayashi family. The name on her paper had been Cain Heel and, rather than cower in fear and beg to be allowed to abstain from the exercise, she had faced the challenge head on. It seemed that she had a very low of opinion of Setsuka and was prepared to use acting as a means of helping to avenge her friend.
She'd created a multiple episode flashback of Tatsuya's initial horror at discovering the fact that not only did he love his sister in a romantic way, but that she felt the same. In an attempt to change her feelings he would use Kokawa's character to cause emotional damage to Sakura. The maid, who has harbored unrequited feelings for Tatsuya, is a willing participant and hopes that he will learn to love her though her plans are soon dashed.
Kokawa had received the approval of Heel-san and Konoe was interested to see where this would lead. He had slight concerns about the response it might evoke from Setsuka, but trusted that her brother would be able to handle any outbursts.
He had yet to receive propositions from the other three, but was prepared to wait. He would rather a well-thought plan than a hastily concocted design.
He had high hopes for his cast and had no doubt that if they could overcome preconceived notions about the way things should be done their drama would be receiving rave reviews and setting unprecedented industry standards. He hoped that his confidence would be enough to convince his more conservative actors to take the risk.
The Heel's returned to their hotel room that evening, Setsu in high spirits and Cain as taciturn as ever.
"Do you know what nii-san? I think I might like this director more than I did before. He really is very creative and obviously knows a lot about the industry. I've never thought about things like when a show aired or the commercial interruptions and what it meant to the networks."
A grunt was all she received in response.
She paid him no mind. Perhaps he'd already known of the intricacies of the television industry, but it was all revolutionary to her.
She gave him a sideways glace. If she hadn't known better she'd have thought he was sleeping, stretched out in the chair as he was.
Had the day been hard on him? Boring maybe? Had he not been impressed with her acting? She knew that he'd participated in love scenes before, in older work; there hadn't been one in a long time, but his experiences were far greater than her's.
Her face burned as she thought of it, her heart quickened and a sudden urge to slap him overtook her.
Without conscience consent her feet moved across the room. She found herself standing before him, hand raised, poised to strike, when his eyes snapped open. His attention would not have stopped her, she had no fear of retribution, but he didn't allow her swing to make contact.
"You-!" Her anger was irrational, but it didn't make it any less real. The fact that he'd been with others before her, knowing that he would be again, was enough to set her mind on fire. "How could you?"
Another attempt at violence was thwarted; he held her by each wrist as she struggled.
"And what have I done to deserve this hostility?"
"You don't know!" She huffed in annoyance. He was being purposely obtuse. Of course he knew, he had to. Had he thought she wouldn't care, that she had never been bothered by roles that included romantic interests? He knew how she felt.
His eyes narrowed. "No and I never will if you won't tell me." He stood, using their height difference to his advantage. Setsu was forced to meet his gaze, fury evident in her stare.
He took in her expression, it was obvious that she had no intention of giving a straight answer. He had long ago accepted that there was no way to deal with her when she lost her temper. Though she deserved to be punished for her blatant disrespect he would never do it and never had. It wasn't often that he was on the receiving end of her ire, but each time it happened he found himself regretting his inability to be firm with her.
"I won't say sorry if I don't know what I'm apologizing for."
"Who said I wanted you to? I don't want an apology."
"Clearly you do," he snapped. He didn't have the patience to hold a guessing game about her feelings and the ways in which he'd harmed them. "I don't know why you're upset with me and I am in no mood to play your game. Either you tell me what bug crawled up your ass or I'll leave you here alone."
Setsu was rendered speechless. Leave her? He would never. He wouldn't dare.
"What a ridiculous threat! You won't leave. You can't."
"Says who?" His voice held a warning, one she didn't heed.
"If you leave I'll get someone else to keep me company. It won't be hard. There's a nightclub not far from here. I'm sure someone would take me home to play," she taunted, ignoring the dark look that had come to his face. "Maybe I will. Maybe I'll go right now. You never want me, but other guys do. You don't have to leave because I will and I'll-"
He released her wrists, throwing his hands to the air in surrender. "Do whatever you want, you damn brat! I have no idea what goes on in that pretty little head of yours and I'm tired of it. Go on! Go find someone to run around with!"
It was with great difficulty that Setsuka stomped away from him and into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. Cain had called her bluff; she wouldn't leave the hotel room and he knew it.
She buried her face in a towel and let out a muffled scream. He'd made her furious! Ignoring her, remaining unaffected by her despite her efforts and then he had the audacity to get mad at her when she tried to tell him how she felt.
He deserved whatever she could think to do to him and it would be something awful. Cain would regret what he'd said to her, she would make sure of that.
He heard the water running and sighed in relief. A small part of him had worried that she would actually leave the building. Of course he would have followed her.
The point was that he'd won the argument and a victorious battle was a rare treasure meant to be cherished. It wasn't often that he declared victory in a verbal engagement with his sister; in fact, it wasn't often that he came out triumphant in any sort of conflict with her.
She had always known which buttons to push, how to turn his stomach and poison his mind with terrible ideas. She made him want to hurt, maim and kill men toward whom he would have otherwise felt nothing. She made him want to lock her in chains and force her to remain hidden from the world. She made him want to give her anything and everything, to do whatever she asked of him, to shackle himself to her side.
But she made him so angry and did it so easily. Her indiscretions were many and she was never sorry for what she did. He loved her, deeply and more than anyone else, but he sometimes wished he could slap her without concern for the regret that was sure to come afterward.
The shower had been turned off and he tensed as the knob of the bathroom door turned. He didn't know how to receive her. He was still aggravated with her behavior and unwilling to forgive the careless accusations she'd flung at him
Coherent thought abandoned him as the door opened and she stepped into the room wearing nothing but a towel.
His eyes followed her as she moved toward the dresser, kneeling to open a drawer.
"It's silly for us to argue, isn't it nii-san?" she asked softly. "So stupid. I was so upset that I even forgot to bring my clothes with me!" She turned her head to look at him, shaking her hair out of her eyes, and smiled seductively. "Nii-san, what should I wear to bed? Do you have a preference or, hey!"
He grabbed her upper arm, forcing her to her feet.
"Hey! Watch what you're doing! You'll leave a bruise!"
"You, you-" he didn't know what to say. "Do you think this is a game?" His voice was deadly, it sliced through her heart. "Is this fun for you, Setsu?"
She inhaled sharply.
"Do you enjoy it so much, torturing me? Flaunting yourself this way, why? Why do you do this to me?"
"To you? To you? I don't do anything to you! You never so much as touch me, you ignore me!"
"And why do you think I do that? Do you think I don't want to? Has it ever occurred to you that I may have good reason to keep my hands to myself? You seem to forget that we are not only ourselves."
"Who cares about them? They don't matter! It's just us here!"
"It isn't and it does matter!"
"It's not fair! It's not fair! I just want to be with you always! I love you!" She widened her eyes, staring at him in a way that she hoped would convey her adoration.
"Don't you dare look at me that way!" he shouted, shaking her. "Don't you dare tell me you love me! You wouldn't behave this way if you did! You wouldn't torture me like this if you loved me!"
"But, but nii-" Her eyes watered.
"No! Tears will do you no good. That is enough Setsuka. Take your clothes, change and go to bed." He released her, pushing her away, ignoring the streams that cascaded down her cheeks.
Gasping she did as she was told, closing herself within the bathroom once more and dressing in a black nightie.
She rubbed her eyes quickly, but the tears refused to be stopped. Was he right? Did she not really love him? She hadn't thought he would react with such force and yet he'd seemed so sad. Had she hurt him?
She sank to the floor, a hand covering her mouth in the horror. The thought was foul. To have hurt the one she loved, the one she needed more than anyone else and who needed her in return was evil itself.
As the tears subsided her hands slowly curled into fists.
No. This wasn't because of her, this was the other. This was Kyoko's fault. That stupid, stupid girl. So afraid of feeling. So afraid to love.
She ruined everything.
There had to be a way to fix her; if Kyoko could get over her absurd aversion to love Cain would have nothing to hold him back. They could be together in every possible way.
Her threats, her disrespect and the attempts to push past the barriers he'd so carefully set between them were too much. He had failed her as a brother. He had failed her as a caretaker. He had done her no good.
She was headstrong and had no concept of the effort he made to stem the flow of his feelings for her; neither did Kyoko know what lengths Ren went to in his quest to keep himself in check.
Even so he couldn't take himself away from her. He was nothing without her and the thought of leaving her to fend for herself was repulsive.
He could not be with her the way he wanted to or allow her to cloud his judgment. The boundaries were for her good. His sanity was on the line.
Ren pulled the blankets around himself in a cocoon characteristic of Cain, hoping his actions would dissuade Setsu from confronting him. He had things to think about.
This drama would stretch him to the breaking point. The characters they played were intense, filled with emotions and longings that he claimed as his own; under the circumstances he was obligated to express them, but he knew that it was merely a matter of time before it would get to be overwhelming. He could make no predictions about where this would lead or how long he would be able to hold onto the thread of mental stability. Everything was dependent on Kyoko and she had yet to surface, leading him to worry that she had gone into some type of shock while hoping that she was simply too in character to have issue with what had happened.
The bedroom scene might have been acting, she may have resolved that she was prepared to follow through, but participating in a love scene was far different from thinking about one. Especially for her.
He could hardly introduce it into conversation. Setsuka had no reason to speak of it and neither did Cain, so until Kyoko made herself known he had no choice but to continue forward.
The next day would be a break. Tsuruga had appointments to keep and Kyoko would presumably go to school. In the late afternoon they would return to LME, in costume, for a meeting with the president.
There was not a doubt in Ren's mind that he would mention the incident. Takarada was in cahoots with Konoe after all. It was likely that he would have inside access to the development of the story line, if not a hand in it.
Takarada Lory had not been seen by his laymen in several days. This was cause for both celebration and concern, though if they had known exactly what the president of LME was doing they would have found neither tears nor a party suitable and would have been hard pressed to adequately express their feelings.
Lory was not acting as a lover in a role-playing game, he was not watching his favorite romantic drama, he wasn't planning an indulgent party or deciding on an extraordinary theme for his entourage.
Takarada Lory was listening to a song. Over and over again he played it, listening to the lyrics, paying special attention to the beat.
The Twist. By Metric.
It was the inspiration behind Konoe's ambitious project.
He had become obsessed with it, driven to listen to it so many times that he heard it in his dreams. The song was everything. It meant everything. The plot was based on it, the structure of the script had evolved out of it and it would be the opening credits theme.
Lory had dictated that he be given the task of selecting the closing song and had determined to fulfill it only after careful consideration was given to all aspects of the opening.
This he had done.
The perfect companion was cautiously selected.
Smokescreen. By Willis.