>> Monday, September 12, 2011
If you are interested in reading this, start here or, even if you're a fan, you'll get confused. Note that the disclaimer and introduction still apply. And I'm really almost done with this.
Disclaimer: these characters and scenarios are based on the work of Nakamura Yoshiki and I'm just speculating on what might happen later in the story. Nothing more, nothing less. It is not an original work and I will never try to market or profit by it in any way. The manga is rated "Teen" but this is probably closer to "older Teen" 'cause, unlike the manga, there's actual sex, though not in this chapter.
Ren felt surprisingly nervous. Normally, he had no worries meeting new people, winning them over, but these were the people who had looked out for Kyoko when she would have otherwise been alone, who employed and housed her, who supported her outrageous dreams. However they saw him, Ren knew he was very grateful to them, even if they hated him. Given her history with Fuwa, he could hardly blame them.
They'd parked a block or so away, because the restaurant was apparently popular. Kyoko walked beside him, her ring back on her finger. He wanted to hold her hand, put his arm around her, but he could see she was nervous, too. She didn't want to lose the approval of people who meant something to her, and who could blame her? He'd take it as slowly as she needed. Just before they went in, she turned on him suddenly.
"You haven't eaten anything since lunch so I want you to have a good meal."
He smiled at her and let himself touch her face. "Yes, Kyoko. Will you choose it for me? I'll eat anything you give me."
She caught his hand. "I love you, Ren. I'm going to ease into telling them, but it's not because I don't want to be with you. They're very down-to-earth people." She turned, straightened her shoulders, and pushed through the door, still holding his hand.
Apparently, it had not occurred to Kyoko that the proprietors of Daruyuma might listen to the news. Or that the patrons watch television or saw notices from the internet. The instant Ren and Kyoko came into the boisterous and bright environment, redolent with delectable scents, the sound turned off like a switch, leaving just some cooking sounds and a pronounced silence.
Ren fought the urge to laugh. "I think they already know," he whispered to Kyoko as the plump proprietress came 'round a counter and rushed forward to take Kyoko's free hand.
"Kyoko! You came!"
"I said I would. I'll go get changed so I can help. Okami-san, you—you met Tsuruga Ren, didn't you, at Maria's party?" Kyoko shook off both hands and flit into the back, leaving Ren to face a room of curious, if not hostile, strangers.
Ren bowed with respect and gave Okami-san his best smile. "I remember you quite well, Okami-san. It's a pleasure to meet you again."
She bowed in return, blushing quite charmingly. "We are honored to see you here. Would you care for a meal?"
Ren let her lead him to the counter (where he had wanted to sit anyway), exchanging pleasantries. His seat faced a stone-faced man he remembered as the mate for the personable proprietress. The man grunted and nodded at Ren, his face forbidding. The customers began to murmur amongst themselves. Ren knew it was only a matter of time before the customers started asking questions.
When they did, Ren was surprised to note that the customers seemed as fond and protective of Kyoko as the Daruyuma's owners. At first, they were pugnacious, "Are you really planning to marry Kyoko?" "You're not playing with her, are you?" "She's not like some of your heartless show-biz trash, you know. She's a fine young lady and needs to be handled with care."
Rather than be offended, Ren felt reassured to see how well Kyoko was treasured. Using his carefully honed patience and courtesy, he fielded questions and accusations alike, doing his best to showcase is sincere devotion to Kyoko. A tiny man, bent and wrinkled with age, confronted him with a bony finger, "Do you expect me to believe someone like you really loves Kyoko?"
Ren smiled over him, his eyes on Kyoko, now dressed in a white kimono, taking her place behind the counter. "Absolutely." His expression must have been persuasive because the old man backed off, nodding his approval. As Ren ate the food Kyoko gave him with obvious relish and responded with unshakable friendliness, the environment in the restaurant became boisterous again, and more and more approving. Everyone but the stone-faced Taicho.
Kyoko was flitting from table to table, her face friendly and charming. Ren couldn't keep his eyes off her. When the door opened, the tiny bell going off, she turned, words of welcome on her lips, before her face shattered into a look of shock.
Ren didn't have to look to know who was at the door. Fuwa. That prick. The Taicho had taken one look and snatched up a nasty looking cleaver, his face murderous. "Out!" he barked without preamble. "Get out of my restaurant!"
Fuwa smirked, not the least bit concerned about the deadly sharp knife and the hand that obviously knew how to wield it. "I didn't come to fight you, old man, or even you, Tsuraga-san," he sneered, making Ren's name an insult. "I just want a word with Kyoko."
"I don't have anything to say to you," Kyoko said, gathering her calm about her and wearing it like a jacket. "I guess you heard the news and, yes, it's true. We're getting married."
"Bull! You know and I know you're only saying that to force my hand."
"What? You idiot! Force your hand to what?"
Ren shook his head, but had to consciously calm himself, force himself not to leap from his stool and pound that smirking face into the dusty. Fuwa actually thought Kyoko still loved him, still wanted him. And if the fear that Fuwa might be even a tiny bit right still bounced around the back of Ren's brain, he restrained himself from acting on it. After all, this was Kyoko's decision.
But if Fuwa tried to get physical again against Kyoko's will, things would not go well for the little prick.
Fuwa's smirk became more pronounced. "You're boyfriend knows what I'm talking about. He knows you only got engaged to him to force me to marry you."
Ren did find the look of horror and shock on Kyoko's face reassuring. He doubted Fuwa felt the same.
"C'mon, Kyoko, come talk with me outside."
"I'm working, Shotaro. And I have nothing to say. There is no power on heaven or on earth that could convince me to pat you on the head, let alone marry you. The thought of you touching me that way completely creeps me out, like that kiss your forced on me before. Please leave. We really have nothing more we can say to each other."
"And I thought you were going to teach me a lesson." His voice was snide, insulting. Ren's hands clenched.
"I...I started out wanting to do that, wanting to do that more than anything I'd ever wanted in my life. Instead, I taught myself a lesson, that I was capable of more than I'd ever expected, that I could make for myself, all those wonderful boons I thought I'd get from marrying you. And I taught myself that, just because your first love turns out to be a false love, doesn't mean you can't find real love with someone else. I don't need to beat you any more, Shotaro, because I've already undone everything you've done to me. And I did it on my own. You have no more power over me."
Fuwa's smirk was long since gone and he'd taken two steps into the shop. With quickness, Ren had to admire, he snagged, Kyoko by the arm and dragged her through the front door. Ren was behind them in a flash and paused only when he all but ran into the Taicho at the door. "Please, sir," Ren offered. "It's my duty to protect her now. Believe me when I say I can. I will bring her back here so we can talk like civilized people."
The Taicho weighed him for what seemed a long time and Ren desperately wanted to catch up with Kyoko. "I'll concede that," the Taicho said, "if you get her back and take care of that little bastard."
Ren was out the door, walking silently so he could listen for the sound of arguing. For a second, he thought he'd lost them, when he heard Kyoko speaking in a low menacing tone in the alleyway beside the store."Look, Shotaro, I'm not going anywhere with you. I'm here with my fiancé."
Ren crept to the corner, where he could see them both, but he was shadowed. It was Kyoko's show, he knew that, but she had backup.
"Have you let him kiss you yet?"
"None of your business," she said, but her face entirely gave her away. Ren could not have been more pleased.
"Well, I never would have figured you for that kind of tramp," Fuwa sneered. "Guess I should have."
Kyoko visibly calmed herself. "I don't care what you think, Shotaro. I don't have to answer to you for my personal life." She raised her head and spoke with finality that was far more powerful than anger. "And I'm not going to be dragged away from my work, time after time, because you have some bug up your butt. Stop showing up at my shoots or here and disrupting my work."
"I need to talk to you." Fuwa sneered.
"Too bad," Kyoko retorted, stomping her foot. "I'm not at your disposal. I don't have to answer to you. Once I gave you that power over me, but you threw it away. I don't belong to you any more."
"That's what you think."
"Damn right, it's what I think. Look, Shotaro, if you have some professional issue you want to take up in the future, call LME and set up an appointment. Otherwise, leave me alone."
He made a lunge for her arm, but she avoided him, using a move Ren had used himself as Cain. Ren couldn't help smiling, even as he stood poised to deal with Fuwa physically if required.
"Don't you dare touch me," Kyoko hissed, eyes slitted into golden beams of light. "Don't ever touch me again. I only came out here with you this last time to say one thing."
"And what is that?"
"Goodbye, Shotaro." She turned and opened the side door on Duruyuma. Fuwa had apparently not expected it because it took him a second before he lunged again. Kyoko left the door open, but dodge him again, maneuvered away from the door. Fuwa pursued, trying to grab her hand, her arm, snatch her into his arms, but she was too quick, too slick to catch. Ren would have gone in already, but he was fascinated by how well she had absorbed Cain's moves just by watching him.
Fuwa was shouting as he chased her. "Don't you tell me goodbye! I've never given you permission! You're still mine!"
"Bullshit!" Kyoko snarled, slipping underneath his lunge. "I'm not your adoring slave any more."
"Is this about that kiss?"
"Are you stupid? This isn't about you at all! It's about me and what I want. I don't need to waste any more of my life worrying about you. My success will be satisfying enough no matter what, because I'll have done it for me."
"You mean for Tsuraga Ren!"
"Ren will be pleased, too. He's always worked for my future, but because it mattered to me, not for his own gratification. Stop trying to grab me! Leave me alone."
"I can't!" Fuwa shouted, stopping. "I can't! I need you to straighten me out when I need it, to spur me on. I didn't know it before, but I know it now. I can't let you be with someone else, not when I need you."
Kyoko looked up at him, tenderness in her eyes. Ren felt his breath catch in his throat. She lifted a hand and gently touched his face. "Too bad. I'm sorry, Shotaro. It's too late. You'll have to make it on your own because I just don't need you any more. And I won't be yours to control ever again."
Fuwa grabbed her by the hips and yanked her toward him. "I won't allow it!"
Ren was moving, but so was Kyoko, who boxed Fuwa's ears, then kicked him away. "Never again, Shotaro. Never." Behind Kyoko, Taicho came storming out, swinging his cleaver, but Ren had already grabbed Fuwa and pinned his arms behind his back before he could touch Kyoko again.
"That's it," Ren breathed in Fuwa's ear, letting menace flavor his tone. "You had your chance. You blew it. You won't get another, ever again."
Fuwa shook himself, trying to wrench his arms free. "Let go, you bastard, or I'll beat you like I beat that Beagle."
"Be grateful you're pinned, though if you keep moving that way, you'll wrench your own muscles. Because a scandal involving you at this time would upset Kyoko, I'm going to let you walk away unharmed."
"Ha! Let me go and fight me like a man."
"If I did, you'd be lucky if you came out of the hospital before your next single comes out. I'm not exaggerating. I could kill you five different ways if I wanted to."
"Like hell! You couldn't hurt anyone."
Ren pulled up just slightly on the arms, a move he knew to be excruciating, "Test me, you piece of shit. I'd love it. I'll shield Kyoko's reputation with mine. Yours, on the other hand, will take a beating. So much for being 'cool.'"
Fuwa tried to wrench himself away again and Ren let him go, prepared to defend himself or Kyoko if required, but not really expecting it. Sure enough, Fuwa pulled himself back, studying Ren's stance and face in the half-dark, then glancing at Kyoko's sneer and the pugnacious Taicho. Ren suspected others from the restaurant were out there, watching. Fuwa might guess as that as well. "Have it your way! Damn, here you are, beloved by millions, throwing yourself away on a nobody like Kyoko, even when you know she'll never love you like she loved me."
Ren took a step forward, he couldn't help it. "Kyoko was never a nobody, which is why she was always too good for you. Someday, you'll be stunned by what she's accomplished but I won't. I already know how incredible she is. As for loving, I hope she doesn't love me like she loved you, because that love is over and I want ours to last the rest of our lives." He took another step forward and smiled, BJ's smile, when Fuwa took a step back. "Last chance to make your escape unscathed."
"Fine!" Fuwa said, with a pathetic attempt at cool. "You'll both regret this. In five years, no one will remember either of you and I'll still be top of the charts, with a beautiful woman on either arm."
Kyoko came to stand next to Ren, "And we'll still be happy and you, who knows? Go home, Shotaro. There's nothing for you here any more."
Fuwa did a credible job of gathering up his shattered dignity, considering the number of unfriendly eyes on him, and walked away with surprising nonchalance. The little prick would probably bounce back just fine and take out his frustrations with another series of top hits. Too bad it would never fill the void he wouldn't even admit he had.
Ren wrapped an arm around Kyoko, then kissed her on the forehead. "You are incredible, you know that. You cut him down to size just by letting him go."
"Yeah. I can't even enjoy it because he's just so pitiful. I mean, he deserves it, but still, it means nothing. You were right about that."
Ren felt a heavy hand on his shoulder and turned to face the Taicho who was nearly, but not quite, smiling. "I like you," he said. "You handled that selfish jerk very well. I will trust you with Kyoko, but," and he brandished his cleaver menacingly. "If you ever treat her like that boy, I will come find you."
Ren bowed his head. "She'll be moving in with me tomorrow. Will that be a problem?"
He nodded. "I'll help you both pack after we close. She was a good employee, like a daughter to me. You take care of her."
Kyoko wrapped her arms around Ren's arms and answered for both of them. "We'll take care of each other."
All in all, Ren thought, it had been a very busy and very satisfying day.
And tomorrow was looking up as well.