Kind to Be Cruel
Chapter One: The Darkest Hour is Just Before the Dawn
The moment I shook hands and 'sealed the deal', I knew I had made a huge mistake. All this just to avoid sparkling pink goop. Now, all I can think of is what the fuck was I thinking. My, my, better not let my precious fan-girls hear me swear. They might just cry themselves to sleep. And now I need them more than ever.
I digress, but what the hell was I thinking of when I made the deal with my mom… I mean the president of our company?
You see… I'm more of the calculative type. The type that weighs out all the pros and cons by drawing up a list. And yes I know, us youths are meant to be spontaneous so we can broaden our intellectual horizons.
Well, look where that got me.
Perhaps I should start off at a place so that it would all make sense. Let me begin at the cause of this whole incident…
Syaoran struggled not to flinch as the light burnt his retinas. His face was caked in make-up… and dare he say it? Syaoran was wearing lip gloss. Not lip balm, lip gloss. Stuff that girls wore. Sure, the entertainment industry demanded their stars to be attractive and picture perfect all the time... especially on the cover of the magazine teenage girls would spend their precious pocket money on, but to Syaoran, they had stepped over the line. This was hurting his masculinity. Last time they made him wear clips in his hair he cried himself to sleep.
Shut up, real men cry.
Fundamentally, if he wasn't nit-picky about the details, Syaoran liked modelling. He didn't mind girls buying life-sized posters of him and hanging them on their bedroom walls. He didn't mind that girls screamed his name. And of course, he didn't mind the free gift packages that would arrive on his doorstep each day from some creepy, but obviously caring fan. It bolstered his ego and he made a mint out of it too. But dear Syaoran was a sucker for minor details. Details such as how his stylist and manager booked him in for manicures and made him wear excessive amounts of make-up during photo-shoots. Last week he had a photo-shoot with several female models. The three girls did not finish the tube of lip-gloss the make-up artist shared between them. Somehow, the make-up artist ensured that he would finish his own tube by himself. Okay, maybe he was overreacting but Syaoran saw the make-up artist squeeze so much more product on his lips than on theirs.
That was when Syaoran started feeling something was really, really wrong. Not only was he forced to wear things designed made for the fairer sex, it was also documented, printed onto billboards, magazines, posters… and to his eternal dismay immortalized on the internet.
"Right, Syaoran, we're done for the day. Good work!" the cameraman shouted to him.
Syaoran dropped his cheery smile and ripped the clips out of his silky chestnut hair, messing up his lovely 'Elvis puff'. He attempted to comb his hair so his fringe would stop standing up. It failed. Syaoran quickly fled to the changing room and locked himself in. He had an image to uphold! The piece that was currently giving him an aneurysm was a jaded colored pant-skirt that complimented his eye color. He was forced to admit—it did make his eyes "pop". But that was beside the point. Syaoran checked himself out in the mirror. His outfit had a very, very horrifying similarity to the skirt he saw his sister, Feimei, wear as she left for work yesterday morning. He glanced over his shoulder to see what he looked like from the back.
Heh, at least my legs are nicer than Feimei's.
Syaoran frowned. Should he be proud of that? Should he? Though Syaoran was by no means muscle-less, he could not call himself muscular. Lean and toned were the more frequent words to describe his physique. Syaoran duly noted that was how he complimented girls' legs too. Our hero(ine) with his current gender crisis sighed heavily as though the world was upon his shoulders. He quickly switched back to his 'normal' clothes (a white T-shirt, black jeans and Chucks) and left the room. He accepted a wet-tissue from the make-up artist waiting outside and began scrubbing his face with it. He ignored her pleas to be gentle with his skin and made use of two more wet tissues before he stopped. Satisfied that he had rid himself of all traces of product from his face, he stormed over to the set and interrupted the conversation between his manager and the company president.
"I want to quit modelling." Syaoran scowled at his company president.
"What are you talking about, my dear?" Yelan, a woman in her mid-fities who was an icon for her charisma and elegance. She had aged beautifully and was renowned for being the head of one of the most affluent agencies in Japan. She raised a manicured eyebrow, but inwardly cackled at seeing her son's distress. Though most of his features had come from her, she could clearly his old man in his scowl.
They were both soooo cute when they were angry!
"I don't want to ever wear lip-gloss ever again. And no more clips…" Syaoran pointed to the skirt-like pants he was donning. "And no more skirts. Ever."
Yelan gave a slight laugh that to the less fairer sex, was often described as the sound of tinkling bells in the light summer breeze. "But those things are inevitable as a model!"
With this statement, Syaoran discovered what was epically wrong with what he was doing with his life. It had a fair bit of him turning into a she-man. But the main thing was that he had lost the real purpose which had ultimately led him to begin modelling in the first place.
"Mom! I'm a singer, not a model!" Syaoran protested.
"Dearie, please don't call me 'Mom' during your work hours! It's quite embarrassing!" Yelan cradled her delicate cheeks with her delicate hands. "I don't see what's wrong with modelling and singing. I mean, the publicity you're getting on those fashion magazines! I don't think we even need to advertise your future singles! Your crazy rabid fan-girls would know about them before the marketing team does."
"Yes, that's not the problem. The problem is—"
Yelan folded her arms together, clearly losing interest in his 'problem'.
Syaoran scowled. "I'm a singer. Singers sing."
There was a small caterpillar that had rested on his heart when the director of his second album noted and admired how his cheekbones were so accentuated he could cut his hand slapping Syaoran on his face. That had led to one photo shoot for a magazine. Then another… now, half a year later, Syaoran had done nothing but pose for photos, lose hair and his masculinity. That small caterpillar in his heart had formed a chrysalis and any moment now, a huge butterfly will unfurl its pink wings, be unleashed and flutter gaily with no worries in the world. Syaoran mentally slapped, no punched himself. Even his similes and ways to correct his thinking were turning effeminate.
"If you think about it, you're having so much more success at modelling than in singing. I'd be crazy to let you do what you want."
This was when Syaoran had a spontaneous idea.
"What if one of my songs hit number one on the music charts?"
"The time limit will be two months." Yelan bartered as though she was in the free-markets of Hong Kong, trying to get a discount on a belt.
Syaoran deliberated for a whole minute before responding. "How about this, when I get my song in first place, I can take control of my schedule. But before that, I will accept all the work set out for me without any complain."
"That sounds fair with me. But I got another condition." Yelan smiled as though she had just spent the whole day shopping with someone else's credit card. "If one of your songs place number one on the music charts and you get a full house in your next concert, I'll let you do what you want."
The president gave a sly smirk. It was as though she was expecting Syaoran to fail.
Syaoran curled his fingers into a tight fist, determined to win at whatever the cost. "Deal."
They both shook hands and wrote everything down clearly on paper with his manager as a witness.
If he could get full house in his concert and one of his songs as number one, he could immediately take (artistic) control of his schedule and Yelan would have no say in it. If he failed, then Yelan had full control over his schedule and jobs, and he would have to do all them with no right to complain. It sounded fair when Syaoran made the deal. He wasn't too worried, he was a good singer by his own right, his first single peaked at number three on the weekly music charts and though his concerts were never sold out, he was sure he could fill his concerts if he advertised personally. Syaroran thought he was doing quite well as a newcomer. In his first concert, he needed riot police on a stand-by… delirious fan-girls with the object of their fantasies and affections in their sight and almost immediate grasp was truly a force to be reckoned with. But the more he thought about, the clearer it came to him… every other song he released would start off at the top five-to- ten placing and dropped off the top ten list before the week was over.
Syaoran groaned, he was officially on the losing side of the bet. If he was a rat, he would have dived overboard and abandoned the sinking ship.
Too bad he was the ship.
After he had literally written off the remainder of his life to his machinating mother—no doubt filling his calendar with a series of delightful jobs, the day got considerably worse when he bumped into his distant relative, Eriol. Syaoran liked to emphasize on the word 'distant'. In fact, if it was up to Syaoran, he would like to have no relation what-so-ever to him. A way to describe how Syaoran felt about Eriol was how one would feel about their family friend's son. The family friend who liked to point out how your naked baby photos were hanging in the entrance of their home, and how they used to bathe together. How they should do it again sometime. However, that wasn't the only thing that Syaoran was uncomfortable with about Eriol. He wasn't that shallow! To Syaoran, the outside counted just as much as the inside. To millions of fans, mainly aged from thirteen to forty-three; he was the 'golden boy' with soft looks that was contrary to his strong vocals. But to Syaoran, Eriol looked really plain; the only feature that stuck out to him (and stopped him from denying he was distantly related to said male) was his blue hair that bore a striking resemblance to his mother's. Syaoran's stomach disagreed with his large, thinly framed, square glasses and his weak appearance that so contrasted his eccentric personality. Like a cherry on top of an ice-cream sunade, Syaoran was repulsed by Eriol's sudden burst into stardom. Although he had debuted only three months ago, every teenage girl knew his name. This was due to the huge and sudden craze for young and pale men that so reminded the teenage girls of supernatural creatures that did not burn, but sparkled in the sun.
It wasn't Syaoran's fault he was the epitome of health with his sunny complexion!
Eriol had made full use of this image and turned into a major star overnight. Syaoran thought it was cheap and very unmanly of Eriol to deceive his female fans by calling to their nurturing and maternal sides. His first music video caused a tsunami of tears. Every girl and even some boys cried as they watched his frail hand drop off the side of a hospital bed. To Syaoran it made absolutely no sense. If he was a supernatural immortal being; then why would he die from a strange disease? And wouldn't the doctors realize he was not human when they checked up on him? Nevertheless, when Eriol's normally pale skin looked like a sheet of white paper against the blue hospital gown, many fans expressed their concerns, stupidly believing that Eriol really did have a terminal disease. They had even sent flowers and get-well cards to his house. A week later, Eriol had made a 'dramatic recovery' and on his blog he posted that this was due to his fans' eternal love and support. The title of that post was "Love Cures All."
Syaoran shuddered at the thought of it.
The black lining to the rain cloud Eriol always brought onto Syaoran when he caught the sight of him was the fact that he was still so damn popular! After the supernatural craze had calmed and died over, Eriol continued to top the charts. In fact, he had never gotten off the charts since he first debuted! Syaoran for the life of him could not understand why. Sure, he had 'colorful' vocals, but compared to his own, it was like comparing a box of grade-school crayons to an artiste's set of oil paints. Anyone with a musical sense should be able to distinguish the quality of their songs! And if it was about talent, Syaoran knew he had more. While Eriol's worked lacked creative control over his works as he relied heavily on composers, Syaoran wrote and composed all the lyrics and melodies to his songs.
Yet Eriol still came out on top! Syaoran could not comprehend why Eriol was so much more successful than he was. Syaoran snuck a peel at his distant relative and tried to view him objectively.
Nope, still nothing.
It was a mistake to look over at Eriol. The pale boy immediately caught Syaoran's eyes and waved to him. Syaoran gritted his teeth as Eriol nonchalantly strolled over to him. "Yo! Syaoran, how's it going?"
This really was horrible.
"Good morning." Syaoran attempted to sound as civil as possible. He was a good boy! Good boys greeted each other politely and did not try to stomp on another boy's feet.
"Do you have any plans for today?" Eriol inquired, seemingly bubbling with excitement. Oh, if his fans could see him now. Who did they think was sick and about to die? What a fraud! For love and justice, by the power of the moon; Syaoran really ought to give Eriol a good beating!
"Tonight, I'm going to appear on a music program to accept the newcomer's award! I'm so excited!"
Syaoran wondered why Eriol was talking to him… or why he came to the agency at all. He had no work today. (Syaoran checked specifically so he would not have to run into him during working hours.) Goodness, was it to brag about his accomplishments? What a horrid, horrid man!
"Good for you." Syaoran clapped Eriol on his shoulder a bit harder than what was deemed appropriate.
Eriol winced and rubbed his shoulder, "Will you be attending?"
As if he needed to ask. Syaoran had not released a song for a very long time due to all his modelling commitments. His latest song was currently something like one-hundred and sixteenth on the charts. And that was last week. Syaoran could not bear to look at the rankings this week.
It was unbelievable that Eriol's songs would all reach number one on the charts. However, there must be something that Syaoran was missing. Syaoran did not believe the ranking systems were rigged. Eriol was getting number one on the charts for some reason.
Syaoran left the agency incredibly frustrated but resolved to ask his sisters their honest opinion on the difference between Eriol and himself.
That night, Syaoran turned his television in his bedroom on and watched Eriol sing his new hit single. He thanked everyone who had helped him achieve the award of Most Successful Artist of the Year. Syaoran clutched angrily at his tub of ice-cream and shoved a large spoonful of the glorious goop into his mouth. He glared at the smiling Eriol, who was given the privilege to close the program.
"Lastly, I want to thank again those who gave me the opportunity to come out on top."
It was as if Eriol was sending him a secret message.
Syaoran, you failed, I'm better than you. Now you'll have to wear lip-gloss forever. Muhahaha.
Syaoran pulled the spoon out of his mouth sulkily. He was a man… men do not sulk, and they do not get jealous over such petty things. Yes, he was definitely a bigger man than Eriol…
"SYAORAN! HAS THE MUSIC PROGRAM FINISHED? I'M COMING IN TO WATCH THE SATURDAY NIGHT MOVIE!"
Syaoran sighed, and shrilled across the hall to his sister. "YES, IT HAS. COME QUICKLY OR YOU'LL MISS THE OPENING!"
He heard hurried footsteps and was instantly squished between two of his siblings. "Oh, good, we haven't missed the part where the main guy meets the girl in the rain…"
That night, after three boxes of tissues, when the couple had finally met under the rain again after the trial of ten years in separation, Syaoran was alone in his bedroom again. He was so engrossed with the plot of the movie, he forgot to talk to his sisters about his problems. Syaoran pulled the covers over his shoulders and snuggled into his bed, thinking about the past day.
He wore copious amounts of lip-gloss, donned a pant-skirt which really was actually a skirt in his humble opinion, got jealous, sulked while eating ice-cream, watched a chick flick on a Saturday night, cried when the main couple ended up together… By jove, if he heard that as a recount of someone's day, he would have automatically assumed that person was female!
No, this was no good at all. He needed to do something drastic.
A change in the air… Syaoran rolled over to face the ceiling. He channelled all his manliness and suddenly it was clear to him.
The mountains… he would go the mountains. Syaoran made a decision to go hiking early next morning, it was the manly thing to do.
This was a crucial turning point in Syaoran's. Little did he know, that up in the mountains; stereotypically devoid of human civilization, he would find an extra factor to his equation. Something that would tip the scales of the bet completely to one side. Something that would drive him completely crazy for the next few months to come.
Just what was that extra factor? She, (not it) went by the name of Kinomoto Sakura.
Syaoran decided to wake up early, a few hours before sun rise to avoid bumping into his sisters and mother who would bother him with pesky questions. Somehow he felt secretive and wanted to keep this little adventure all to himself. Besides, how was he supposed to explain to them that the mountains were calling for him? It was a man thing. He didn't expect his female family members to understand. Syaoran dressed himself in a light jacket and proper hiking boots before grabbing the keys to his car.
"Yes. I'm going to take a hike. Good sounds dwell in a sound mind, sound soul and sound body."
With those pearls of wisdom spat out to himself, Syaoran departed his house and drove off to the country-side. To be perfectly honest, Syaoran had no idea where he would go. He naturally assumed the calling of the mountains would be a total organic process and thus drove with no particular destination in mind. Luckily, the perimeter of Tomoeda was surrounded by mountains.
After a full half hour on the motorway, a grand set of mountains came into Syaoran's view. Satisfied that the mountains were of a formidable height, Syaoran chose them to be his hiking destination.
As Syaoran drove onto a gravel road, he realized that this was the most remote place he had ever been in his whole entire life. Syaoran had spent most of his years in the busy and overpopulated streets of Hong Kong before moving to the centre of Tomoeda which too, was crowded and full of skyscrapers. Syaoran inspected the scenery outside of his car window. There was a meadow and a stream. His eyes bulged, he thought those things only existed in history books or fairy tales!
Syaoran alighted his vehicle and advanced at a leisurely pace. He inhaled the nice, clean country air, admiring the natural world around him. Nearby, he spotted a brown bird flying from one large shrub to another.
Crickets hummed to an incomprehensible tune.
The stream gurgled merrily and the edges of the bank was rich with moss of an immodest green. Syaoran briefly wondered if it was safe to drink the water flowing from the streams. He spotted a floating diaper and quickly decided not to. Soon, the path Syaoran was trekking on blurred as ferns leaped across its boundaries. He carefully pushed the vegetation back, not wanting to disturb the natural order. It was still dark but Syaoran could see his path marked by the silver under-sides of fallen ferns. Syaoran felt like he was walking on a moonbeam. Judging from the gradient of his hiking route, he wouldn't be surprised if he did reach the moon. Syaoran took a tentative sniff at his surroundings and was surprised to find that the smell of the sweet, flowery undergrowth smell which seemed to cling to the air was very appealing to him. Taking a walk into nature was the correct decision. He would be revitalized and he would work his ass off to compose an awesome song which will number one...
Two hours later, Syaoran's mood had deflated like a neglected birthday balloon. The terrain was so steep! His calves ached and he was beginning to feel the effects of waking up at four in the morning without drinking coffee. It was as if someone had ran him over with a supermarket trolley. And then proceeded to drop bags of flour onto his head.
Just as his legs were about to explode in punishment for defying gravity, Syaoran reached the top. The ground was level and he was sure he was looking over a large part of Tomoeda. It was still dark, the sun had not yet risen and everything was at peace. There was a comfortable hush of nature around him, he walked past large tree trunks, a small house and followed a dirt path. It lead him to a wooden bench that faced the glorious view of Tomoeda. Syaoran gave his feet a rest on the bench. From his position, he could descry the skyscraper of his agency. His legs cried with relief. Syaoran loosened the laces of his hiking boots and wiggled his feet slightly out of them. He looked up at the now lightening sky. On his left, the dark shadows of the night ever-so-slowly eroded away by a faint tint of beige. The stars winked at him and whispered good-bye as the sun peeked over the horizon.
"How insignificant am I." He mused. "Said the stars." He added immediately afterwards with an evil grin on his face. Syaoran gave a small chuckle, laughing at his own joke. Just as his mood was increasing again, it immediately died when he felt the familiar vibration of his phone against his jacket pocket. Syaoran face snapped into a scowl. How was it that he was unable to get reception in his room but he could get three bars full on top of a mountain which was seemingly away from everything?! Angrily, he checked the message on his phone.
10am today. Editorial shoot for Tomoeda's leading brand of cosmetics.
Syaoran wanted to jump off a cliff. Now that was a spontaneous idea!
Maybe it was fate, in a split second, Syaoran next to the guard railing which, might he add, was fairly easy to climb over. Syaoran flipped one leg over. Suddenly his foot was dangling off the edge of a precipice.
"If I am to die, let me die as a man!" he cried out to the large chasm. "My only regret would be that I won't live to see the day when I become extremely famous."
Suddenly Syaoran was crying. "This really sucks!" He kicked his boot free from his foot and followed its path down the mountain-side. If he fell asleep right here, right now; he would perchance to dream. A dream where he was truly recognized for what he was and not forced to wear lip-gloss or make-up. Where he didn't have to get his eyebrows plucked on a monthly basis. Maybe he would wake up from this nightmare.
"Good-bye, bitter world!"
Our dear Syaoran always had a flair for the dramatique!
Just as he was about to swing his other leg over and make another spontaneous decision to jump off the face of a cliff, golden notes that transcended the heavens with vibrato so strong it resembled roaring thunder, assaulted his ear.
Syaoran froze, completely paralyzed. How could he describe the timbre? If for example, his heart was a black cloud, her voice was like lightning. An ephemeral streak of light in a dark abyss, a glint of hope in a world of despair.
Syaoran swivelled his head around to see where the source of this magical sound was coming from. He gripped the railing tightly, and swung his legs back to touch solid ground. He had to find out where-who that sound was coming from. He swung his other leg and safely got off the railing. The sun had fully risen.
Syaoran took one step forward.
Looking for a beta-reader. If you read until the end of this chapter and you're interested in helping me out, please give me a PM. I need someone with incredibly strong grammar skills to balance out my horrible ones.