Top Star Revolution

Chapter 4: Demons and Mentors

Tsubaki's face was bright red with rage. You could almost see the steam coming from her ears as poor Yuri coughed and sputtered on the floor. Her eyes filled with involuntary tears as she struggled for breath through the hacking coughs. The tearoom was deadly quiet, but for Yuri, as the two remaining members of the Wind Division used their exceptional glaring powers on the egomaniacs they'd been stuck with.

"What did you do?" Tsubaki hissed, pointing at the teacup that lay on the carpet where Yuri had dropped it. Nagi and Eiichi met her eyes with innocent looks, regretting nothing, and fully aware that it would take more than a harmless prank to end this little charade.

Kasumi bent down and picked up the discarded cup, sniffing it.

"Pepper," she declared. "And some other interesting spices, from the smell." She directed her burning gaze at Eiichi. He didn't even flinch, his calm and concerned expression stayed firmly in place. Nagi, however, couldn't keep the slight joy he felt from leaking into his expression as he observed poor Yuri. She had just barely managed to stop coughing, but when she met his eyes, she couldn't help but gasp.

"Demon child," she whispered vengefully. Tsubaki looked like she was ready to put both of them through the roof, but Kasumi held out a hand to stop any further commentary.

"As it so happens, we've met demon children before," she said coolly, "And unfortunately, they tend to be a bit more sinister than putting pepper in the tea." She calmly collected the tea tray and its contents, then headed for the kitchen without another word.

As soon as Kasumi disappeared, Eiichi and Nagi resumed their places proofreading programs, as if nothing had happened.


Masa knew it could only be one person the moment he heard the knock at his door.

"Come in," he called, and was not entirely unhappy to see Otoya's flaming red hair as he poked his head in.

What warm feelings he had evaporated the minute he heard Otoya's whine.

"Masaaaaaa..."

"No."

Otoya blinked. "I didn't even ask yet!"

Masato sighed, and closed the book he had been reading.

"You want to know one of two things, Otoya," he said calmly. "You either want to help Miss Shinguji become more comfortable onstage, or you want help with your own acting. If the first, there is simply nothing you can do. It is her problem, let her solve it herself. If the second, I am busy."

Exasperated, Otoya fell dramatically to the floor as if his life were ending.

"You never do anything I ask," he whined pathetically, causing Masa to raise his brow in response.

"I was unaware that it was responsibility to do so," he commented, returning to his book as the door opened to admit a third person. Masa suddenly became very, very involved in his book, knowing that only one person would enter here besides himself unannounced.

Ren never broke stride as he stepped calmly over Otoya, crossing to his own 'side' of the room.

"Masa, why is Otoya cosplaying as a pancake?" he asked dryly.

Masato shrugged, but gave no other answer. Otoya, however, had more to say.

"Ren!" he complained. "Masa won't help me! I can't act on stage, I'm not serious enough!"

Ren gave an uncharacteristic snort. "Did you really expect he would?"

Otoya repeated his overly dramatic 'death scene' in response to Ren's commentary.

"I'm going to be the worst actor in existence, and I'm going to blame you two," he declared, looking like he was about to cry. While Masato cared nothing for Otoya's puppy dog pout, Ren took the opportunity to once again feed his own ego.

"Really, Otoya, you're hopeless when it comes to anything involving women," he drawled, which immediately sent Otoya into panic mode. He shot up, his eyes darting in every direction, face red.

"When did we start talking about girls?!" he asked frantically. "I was talking about acting!" He implored Masato for help once again. "Masaaaa!"

"I said no."

Ren turned what he thought was a jestingly stern eye on his friend.

"Masa, come on," he said smoothly. "We're a team, the seven of us. It would be cruel just to let the poor boy hang himself. You're the best stage actor among us, surely you can help him."

The stare Masa gave him could have withered flowers.

"I never said I couldn't," he said icily. "I said I am busy. Now if you're going to make this much noise, I'm going somewhere else."

He stood and collected his book, headed for the door. Ren cast a dark gaze at the ground, his thoughts bitter. He was running away again, running from everything that bothered him. Sometimes Ren wondered how Masa was ever a competent idol, with the way he refused everything he didn't approve of.

His hand on the doorknob, Masa paused.

"You might consider calling your senpai, if it's that much trouble for you," he said quietly. "That is why you have him, after all."

With that, he left, disappearing to go find his solitude elsewhere, as usual.

Otoya and Ren exchanged glances. Was that...advice...?


Brrr...brrr...brrr...

"Nnh. Phone."

The gruff voice was even more gravelly and rude in the morning. Ranmaru was never much of a morning person. Unfortunately for him, neither was Reiji. The bastard was sleeping through that irritating ringtone of his like it was a damn lullaby.

BRRR...BRRR...BRRR...

"GODDAMMIT REIJI!"

Grabbing the phone with a grip that may or may not have crushed the poor device, Ranmaru hurled it across the bed, aiming for Reiji's head.

"OW!" Reiji sat up, a confused look on his face. "What the hell, Ran-ran?"

Sighing, Ranmaru fell back to his pillow and curled up under the blanket, muttering something about a phone and someone hanging up.

Realizing, Reiji looked to see who it was, then answered.

"Otoya!" he said gleefully. "My darling baby kouhai needs me, this is an auspicious moment. What is it? Tell me tell me tell me!"

Ranmaru groaned from under the blankets, and Reiji felt his sometimes-lover kick him in the shin. He covered the phone with his hand and hissed, "Alright, alright! I'm going! Killjoy."

Reiji stepped out into the main room of the hotel suite, pulling on his robe, and returned the phone to its proper place.

"Sorry about that," he apologized. "Ran-ran isn't particularly fond of being woken up."

"Oh! Did I wake you up? I'm sorry, I- wait, I woke you up? You mean you're still on tour?"

Reiji busied himself making coffee as he talked.

"Yes. We're finishing up in Europe this week, and then home. But it's okay, we slept too late anyway. But you're avoiding the question! What's going on, Otoyan?"

As Otoya launched into the story of the insane theatrical adventure they were on, Reiji poured himself a cup of coffee and curled up on the couch. He listened intently, only pausing to interject when it was necessary. Reiji truly cared about the members of STARISH, and he wanted them to succeed. He was particularly fond of Otoya and Tokiya, as they were his kouhai specifically.

"But I don't know what's wrong, we just- something's not going the way it's supposed to. She's supposed to be this great actress, but she looks like she's never been on stage before! Like I wasn't already confused enough trying to be serious instead of comedic, now I have to worry about her too! Reiji, what do I do?"

Reiji chuckled silently to himself. Otoya was such a caring person, of course he would sacrifice his own performance in the interest of his leading lady. This wasn't unusual, but for the fact that his lady had changed.

"Otoyan," Reiji said, smiling as he noticed the bedroom door open. "Did you ever consider why she of all people might be having trouble? I can tell you, Shinguji Sakura has all the skills of an extremely accomplished actress. She's no slouch."

"You know her?!"

Reiji laughed outright as Ranmaru, clad only in a pair of grey jeans, joined him on the couch, coffee in hand, looking as if he had given up on sleep entirely.

"No, silly," Reiji said to Otoya. "But I've seen her work, Camus and I go at least twice a year. He's a big fan of classic theater. Flower Division shows are no joke, and Shinguji-san is one of their best. So whatever it is, it's not just the stage."

What does he want? Ranmaru mouthed, and Reiji covered the phone again.

"Girl trouble," he said, rolling his eyes.

"Reijiiiiii..."

"If you whine like that, I won't help you," Reiji said with a giggle. Otoya sighed in exasperation.

"You sound just like Masa!" he said.

Ranmaru's arms snaked around Reiji's chest. He clearly wanted for Otoya to call back later, but Reiji was too nice of a person to peel him off.

"Listen, Otoyan," he said, "It sounds to me like she's just nervous. From what I hear, the Flower Division's pretty tight. I've never heard of them performing with anyone else before, she probably just doesn't know what to do with you."

"What's that supposed to mean? Is she supposed to do something with me?!"

Sighing, Reiji clapped his palm to his forehead. He shoved the phone into Ranmaru's hand.

"I give up. You try, I'm getting more coffee."

Completely caught off-guard, Ranmaru started to protest, but Reiji was already up. He had no choice but to put the phone to his ear.

"You must have real talent if you've managed to make a starring actress nervous," he grumbled.

"Ran-ra- I mean, Ranmaru! Uh. What are you...? I mean-"

Ranmaru groaned.

"Don't tell me he's made that nickname permanent," he muttered to himself. "You are never to call me that again," he said firmly to Otoya.

"S-sorry."

"Anyway," Ranmaru continued as Reiji returned to the couch with fresh coffee. "To be performers with someone, you have to actually know them. You- you can't just jump in with anyone."

His voice went quiet at the end, but Reiji's face lit up nonetheless. To think, his Ran-ran had actually learned something from this experience! Reiji was so proud he could have burst.

Otoya's end of the phone went quiet. He was as surprised as anyone to hear that Ranmaru actually understood anything about group performance. It was common knowledge that Reiji was the real mastermind behind Quartet Night, and that Ranmaru had taken the most convincing to join at all. He was notorious for being a disgruntled loner. If even he had a better grasp on this situation than Otoya, the redhead felt he was doomed.

"Try actually getting to know her," Ranmaru advised sagely. "She won't be comfortable with you until she knows who you are. Find something to do together, hang out. Do something."

Reiji reached out, and Ranmaru gratefully returned the phone to him.

"Ran-ran's right, Otoyan," Reiji said confidently. "Get to know the lady, and she'll be much easier to act with."

"That's easy for you to say. How do I get to know her?"

Reiji clucked, getting up to put his coffee cup in the sink.

"Goodness, Otoya, have you never met someone new before?" he asked, chuckling. "I'm not a fairy godmother you know! You've got to do some things for yourself."

"I guess so..."

A smile crossed Reiji's face as his eyes softened.

"You'll be just fine, Otoyan. I believe in you," he said sincerely. "If you mess it up completely, we'll be home in a week. Now go get started!"

Grinning like an idiot, Reiji held out the phone toward his companion.

"Say goodbye, Ranmaru," he said in a singsong voice.

"Goodbye Ranmaru," the silver-haired man said darkly.

"You're such a smart-ass," Reiji said as he hung up the phone. When he turned back around, Ranmaru had stretched out on his back, eyes closed, his height taking up the entire length of the couch, leaving Reiji with nowhere to sit.

"You knew that already," he said. "Consider it payback. The little twerp woke me up."

Reiji retaliated by sitting on his chest and refusing to move until Ranmaru had conceded to spend the rest of the day referring to him as "Your Supreme Majesty".


When Syo agreed to let Kanna teach him a few tricks to increase his stage combat ability, he hadn't expected a full martial arts workout. He almost regretted his decision as he stood face-to-face with the karate champion of Okinawa, sweat pouring down his face.

"Tired yet?" Kanna taunted, fists raised.

"Not a chance!" Syo barked, his eyes gleaming with excitement. He threw a couple wild punches, which Kanna easily blocked. On the last one, she grabbed hold if his hand and threw him over her shoulder.

When she used that move against most of her enemies, they went crashing to the floor and didn't get up. Syo was a bit better. He knew to tuck and roll as he hit the ground, coming up on his feet in seconds with his hands raised, ready for another attack.

Kanna lashed out with one foot, aiming for his chest, but Syo ducked just in time. He came up immediately, his fist meeting the palm of her hand as she blocked him again. This continued solidly for five minutes.

He's good, Kanna realized triumphantly. He hasn't got a great offensive strategy, but he's wicked fast. He can anticipate where I'm going to be, best reflexes I've seen in an amateur in a while. Come to think of it, he could probably wear out an opponent, run them ragged dodging until they had no energy and then take home the gold on three moves.

Grinning, Kanna pulled out all the stops on her last few moves. She spun like a tornado, throwing punches right and left, forcing Syo to do a complicated dance just to avoid her. She was moving so fast that he could barely keep up. Eventually, one of his steps didn't take him quite far enough, and he found himself with a bruised shoulder to end the match.

Kanna collapsed, laughing like a maniac.

"Gods, you're fast!" she said, a smile spreading across her face. Syo fell to the ground next to her, a faltering smile on his face.

"Yeah," he said, coughing lightly. "I've always b-been like that." He closed his eyes, and Kanna could see that he was focusing on breathing slowly and deeply.

"You okay?" she asked, concerned. Without opening his eyes, Syo just flapped a dismissive hand at her.

"Nah it's cool, don't worry," he said calmly. "Just gotta be careful with my heart rate, that's all. It gets too fast and I could get stuck in the hospital again." He seemed more annoyed at the prospect of a hospital than worried about his heart.

Kanna was a bit taken aback, but she tried not to show it.

"If you got some kind of heart condition, you shoulda told me," she berated him.

Syo cracked one eyelid and grinned.

"But you would've gone easy on me," he said matter-of-factly. "Takes out all the fun."

Forced to reconsider, Kanna found that she liked Syo all the more than she already had. Getting to know him in person changed her whole perspective on him.

"That's pretty cool, though," she said, laying back with her hands behind her head to stare at the ceiling. "Doing what you want, what'll make you happy, even if you know it might not end well. Most people might've run scared. You turned defying limitations into a career."

Syo sat up, raking his blonde hair out of his eyes.

"There's no cure to sit around and wait for, so I'm not losing anything by not laying around being an invalid. I figured being happy was more important than being healthy," he said simply. "Plus I've got the best team on my side. My brother's training to be the best doctor in the country, and if anything happens in the meantime, well...I'd like to think STARISH would be able to handle it."

Kanna nodded.

"They would," she said confidently. "You guys seem like a pretty close team, just like us. Somethin' happens to you, I think your whole team's gonna do whatever it takes."

Desiring to change the subject, Syo turned it back on Kanna.

"Speaking of defying limitations, I've never met a girl like you before," he said. "You could put most of the martial artists I know to shame. And I've met quite a few." The sets of all of his action movies had many martial artists and stunt men, and Syo honestly felt that Kanna was better.

"Well, I'm the same as you, I guess," Kanna said. "I wanted to be happy, even if it meant I had to face a lot of challenges. It's just something people like us do."

Nodding again, Syo turned his gaze to the ceiling as well.

"Do you ever regret it?" he asked.

"Never," Kanna answered easily. "Every day I get up and do what I love. Who could regret that?"

Syo agreed.

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