Skip-Beat: The Morning After

Her Melodic Melody

Kyoko had never been so exhausted. Kanae and her spent over eight hours going over the intricate dance routine, only stopping for further coaching. She was a fierce teacher, that Kanae. A wrong move, even a lethargic one and they had to start over.

Kyoko complained, asking why they couldn't do a simpler one. Kanae simply said that 'Flower garden' was one of their most known songs, and most difficult in terms of dance. So, if she managed to learn it, they would surely praise her.

Thankfully though, the training hadn't all been in vain.

"I've got this" Kyoko chanted to herself a final time. " I won't mess up this time."

Kanae smiled her entire face lightening. "That's right. So, if you get it this time, we are good to go." She glanced at the clock. 3:02 a.m. "and you may still get some sleep." She nodded at her. "Ready?"

"Yes!"

Kanae hit the play button.

The techno beats immediately came blasting out of the CD player, making Kyoko very nervous.

No, you got this.

The song continued, speeding up, and coming to a complete stop. Only to resume with a catchy hip-hop beat.

1, 2, 3,…


Kanae watched, overly satisfied with herself. Kyoko had mastered the moves completely, only showing her amateur experience on certain combinations. Nevertheless, she learned much more than she and the girls learn in days. She watched her closely.

She's only missing one thing…


"Emote." Kanae stopped the song.

Perplexed, Kyoko straightened up. "Huh?"

"This song is about a beautiful person falling in love with their rival. A singer, as well as an actor, needs to emote those feelings through voice and dance."

"But I am not even singing!" she protested. Then added silently: and the topic hits a little close to home.

"Well," Kanae paced around with her, "That is all you need. I can't teach you to gain that emotion."

Kyoko looked down at the floor. She couldn't even try to relate to the lyrics. Not only did she refuse to be a beautiful person, but she wasn't in love. The sudden image of Ren made her blush intensely.

Kyaa! Why. Why am I blushing?

She touched her face, genuinely surprised. She didn't have those feeling for him. And if she did, she needed to repress them. He loves a high school girl. He likes someone else.

Even though she chanted these things in her head, it didn't help. No matter how much she denied it, it was in vain. She had realized her feelings long ago, but only a few days ago had they began to insidiously taunt her.

"Are you okay?" Kanae looked over at her from one of the Daruyama stools. "You look red."

Kyoko nodded, keeping her gaze to the floor.

Kanae shrugged. "Okay. Fine, don't tell me. But go to sleep, you need it.

Nodding, Kyoko went upstairs and sat on the edge of her bed.

Kanae was such a big help. I should thank her properly…her thoughts began to drift in all directions. She blamed it on the lack of sleep, or the exhaustion, but nevertheless she liked where they led.

She grabbed her phone.

After a few rings, an agitated familiar voice picked up.

"Hello?"

"MOKO-SAN!" Kyoko stood and bounced on her feet. "You answered!"

Moko grunted. "It's like what, 4 o'clock in the morning? Go to sleep!"

"No! I have a reason for calling you."

There was a moment of silence.

"What is it? Are you O.K.?"

Kyoko smiled "Yea, but I have a new friend, and her name is Kanae too, and well it made me think of you…so I just wanted to hear how my best friend is doing!"

Moko scuffed, but you could almost hear the smile. " Don't call me that. And I'm okay. OH! And I heard about the band deal."

Kyoko's heart sunk. "You did?"

"Everyone in the agency did. We are all going later to watch you kick their assess."

"I barely learned the dance. And I am not good at it." Kyoko stopped. "Wait who is 'we.'"

"Well, me, of course. I got permission to be offset for a few days. And the president, obviously. And I think Ren might be there…"

"NO!"

"What? Why? Come on, I wanna see you danc-"

"You- You aren't the problem..." Kyoko struggled to grasp the proper words. Any misunderstandings and people would think she hates Ren. Again.

"Well then what…." Moko paused. "Are you and Tsugura Ren still… you know, having problems?"

"We don't ….have problems… uh..." Kyoko swallowed the lump in her throat. Even if she tried or wanted to, she couldn't' explain what was going on.

"Spill it!"

"I -"

"Forget it. Where are you?"

Kyoko looked around. "At my house."

" I am going over. STAY!" she heard ruffling, then the phone shut off.

But… its 4 am…

And she needed to get some sleep. She smiled regardless. A chance to hang with Moko-san beats any sleep.

Kyoko insisted that Kanae should go home and get some rest herself, and that she would meet her at LME at around 2 p.m. for the 'Dance off.' Kanae agreed, and left after giving her a final tip: "Just think of you not being able to be with the one you love, while you dance. That will help."

Moko-san arrived about 30 minutes after Kanae left. She wore loose slacks and an unsaturated graphic tee. Even in the middle of the morning though, her blue-black hair still hung loose and stylish around her shoulders. She gave Kyoko a questioning smile. "Spill it."

"You really didn't have to come all the way over here to ask me the same question."

She sat down on the foot of the bed. "But seeing you in person means I can pressure you more."

Kyoko sighed and sat down on the floor next to her.

I guess I should try to explain myself.


Kyoko told Moko-san everything. Or tried really hard to. She didn't really have to say much. Moko-san guessed as much. About her feelings and confusion…that was all obvious to her.

"I'll be honest," she began "You like him. He likes you-"

"No he doesn't!" she interrupted. "He told me, Bo, that he liked a high school girl..."

"And aren't you a high school girl?"

They stayed silent.

"No… no it can't be..."

Moko-san simply smiled knowingly.


Ren unintentionally stared and the floor, a thing he found himself doing quite often now-a-days. Usually when that happened, it was because his thoughts had drifted towards her. Her smile and childish attitude, her determination and innocence.

It all puzzled and amazed him beyond belief.

During the past few days, especially the few hours after he dropped Kyoko off at Daruyama, he had come to realize how much he really did want to be with her, and how much he loves getting even slim glances of her through the day.

"Ren!" Yashiro snapped, bringing him back to reality. "Are you going to come see Kyoko-chan?"

Ren sighed. He wanted to go. Never once had he seen her dance, and well… Curiosity isn't a sin. Then, also, he had to find excuses to see her, since filming for 'Tragic Marker,' is taking a small break for screen play revision.

"Ren?"

He looked up. "Yea, I'm coming. I just need to..um…go to the bathroom real quick. Meet you in the car?"

Yashiro nodded and proceeded out the front door.

Ren lethargically dragged himself into the bathroom and splashed fresh water on his face.

Kuon:We need sleep.

I know.

He shook the excess water and looked at his reflection the foggy mirror.

Yep, sleep would be nice. The light purple hue under his eyes hinted to that. The light de-colouration of his under eyes suddenly reminded him of something.

He tilted his head to the right.

It was still quite visible. Violet and pink, a clear remembrance of that night. You could even see the her soft teeth marks if examined closely.

Ren smiled and put his hand to his neck.

Oh, Setsu.


"I can't do it. I rather my pride be ruined. I cannot do this. No."

Kyoko chanted and whined those lines over and over as she stood in the studio with Kanae.

The other band members were outside, in the dancing area, while Kyoko and Kanae where in the dressing rooms.

"Come on! The costume isn't so bad. And the wig is pretty cool too!" Kanae hit her shoulder lightly.

Kyoko had arrived a little after the band had gotten there, which naturally got Hana and Mioko (Blonde girl) very agitated. Then, after they got after Kanae for even trying to help her, they came up with a brilliant new idea: Dance with the most provocative outfit and difficult wig they could possibly find in such short notice.

It really wasn't too bad. Nothing Setsu wouldn't wear.

The outfit consisted of a cropped breezy tee, stopping a little above her navel. It had a camo jacket that hovered to around her mid-thigh, and tight leather pants. The wig was about chest length, and was a golden blonde, wavy bother.

"I can't wear this in front of the president and the others!" she continued to protest.

Kanae frowned.

True, both the president and Ren had seen her in worse outfits, but right now, she wasn't Setsu.

She was Kyoko.

"Listen, Kyoko-chan," Kanae looked at her, atmosphere suddenly turning more serious. "Hana-chan needs this surgery. She might be really mean sometimes, but I have known her since kindergarten. She is the type of person that doesn't give up without a rough fight. And if you don't do this, nobody else even has the guts to fight her. Please. Do it for her sake. And for her sake, please win this. Please prove to them you can do it."

Kyoko stayed silent, intertwining her shaky fingers together. "I just don't understand why I have to go through all this. I thought I was just filling in for Hana-san while she recovered."

Kanae's face saddened a bit, her dark eyes darkening a shade. "I'll be honest,"

They sat down.

"The surgery Hana-chan needs takes at least a month for recovery. And our concert is in a few weeks. Yes, you are a backup, but more than likely you will have to fill in for the concert as well. We just don't tell her that."

"But won't your fans be upset?" Kyoko asked.

She shook her head "We will try not to make a scandal. We don't have many interviews scheduled, so they wouldn't get a close up on your face. And on the concert, they wouldn't put you on the big screen." She eyed Kyoko. "You kind of look alike, anyway."

"So," Kyoko asked, making her way back toward the costumes. " I'd be posing as Hana-san?"

Kanae nodded.

Well, there was her escape. She wouldn't be Kyoko; she would be posing as Hana. Therefore, making this a great method acting exercise.

"Fine," she sighed. "For Hana-san."


Ren really couldn't make himself go into the studio. Instead, he sent Yashiro in there and he stayed outside.

He sat against the wall, head in his hands.

Kuon: I want to see Kyoko-chan dance. GO IN THERE.

No.

Kuon: WHY!?

Ren didn't quite know the answer to that. Was it because he didn't want to make her uncomfortable? Was he afraid? And if he was, why? It wasn't him that had to dance in front of most of LME. Ren could only come up with this conclusion:

I will fall for her even more.

Kuon: That's a really dumb justification.

It really wasn't. Ren knew that Kyoko would be an great dancer, if not by talent, by determination. He didn't know if he could control himself in front of her; she was already too amazing in his eyes.

Kuon: That's so corny. Sounds like something out of an 80s movie, really.


Moko-san. President Takarada. Maria-chan. Sawara-san. Yashiro.

Those were the only people that knew, besides the band and band manager, about this whole arrangement. And they were also the people that would be judging them.

There were also some other people form the band's agency, friends of the manager, Kyoko supposed.

That made her really nervous. Really very nervous.

After a few minutes of internal battles, Kyoko finally got into the outfit and wig. She really didn't look bad. Her fair skin went perfectly with the golden wig, and the curls made her look more petite. Even the outfit complemented her small figure.

She smiled at her reflection.

I feel like a princess. A modern, totally cool princess.

She touched her face lightly, admiring the carefully applied make up.

I hope I can stay like this a little longer than before…

"Kyoko-chan?" Kanae pocked her head through the half open door. "Ready?"

Kyoko nodded, her heart speeding up.

Hana obviously didn't smile, and Mioko only gave her a side glance. They were also wearing the same style of costumes, and now, so was Kanae. It made Kyoko feel at least a little better about herself.

Everyone who was watching became silent at the sight of her. Kyoko examined everyone's expression for approval. Maria- smiled at her, settling into the seat next to President, whom gave her thumbs up. Moko-san gave her a reassuring wink, and Sawara-san smiled.


Kyoko looked absolutely breath taking. And Ren was missing every second of it.

Yashiro looked around furiously, wondering where he had gone to.

"I'll be in in a while." He had said. "You should go first."

Yashiro sobbed silently into his hands.

Why. Why can't they just….Kyaa!

He smiled radiantly while the possibilities projected in his mind.

I'll text him!

He took out his phone and quickly texted Ren, hoping, praying, he would make it.


Ren. Come here. Please? You have to!

Ren sighed.

Kuon: Do it!

He stood up and hovered his hand on the knob.

Go inside.

Do it.

His hand closed into a hesitant fist.


"Are you ready?" Hana's tone was arrogant, a clear challenge. Kyoko stood tall. "Yes."

"Great." She said, facing the crowd. Kyoko noticed she had heels on. Big mistake. She turned to Kanae and whispered: "She is going to hurt herself even more."

Kanae nodded. "We told her. She hates wearing flats."

"This is how this is going to work." Hana began, flipping her caramel hair "Both me and Kyoko will be dancing with one of the other band members. Rules are simple," she turned to face Kyoko. " Whoever doesn't mess up wins."

"This isn't a competition, Hana-san" Kyoko reminded, tone wary. "We just want you to get better."

"I don't need anyone's pity. And certainly not yours."

Kyoko stayed silent.

Mioko stepped between them. "Let's start already, Hana-chan." She said "I want to go home."

Hana held up her hand. "You are going to be with her." She pointed at Kyoko. "Kanae is with me."

Kanae and Mioko were both stunned at the sudden change in teams. Kyoko wasn't. Of course she wouldn't let Kanae be with her, not when they practiced together.

Getting into a triangular position, Hana simply demanded: "Turn on the music!"

1, 2,3,4,5,6,7,8…


Loud, vibrating beats began flowing their way out of the closed studio door. Ren turned the knob and silently drifted into the room. He didn't dare go all the way to the benches where everyone else sat, so instead he stayed by the door.

As the music became more upbeat, he began to examine the room, and as soon as his eyes landed on Kyoko, his breath caught.

He could vaguely recognize her with that golden-blonde wig, but he could clearly see her fragile, determined face. Her focused, honey-comb eyes that watched her every move.

She..she's such a natural.

He watched her as she produced complicated combos and turns, never even missing a single beat. Even the others struggled to keep up, especially the one with orange hair. She seemed to be in pain with every move, making her dance robotic and forced. Kyoko's in the other hand, was delicate and beautiful.


2, 3, 4, 5…

The dance flowed out of her naturally, and for that, she was grateful. Mioko also was being quite helpful, following all the moves Kanae and Kyoko had practiced, instead of trying for sabotage.

Once in a while, she would sneak glances at Hana, flinching along with her. Kyoko couldn't even imagine the pain this dance must be causing her; it made her want to stop all together. She didn't even have a chance to suggest stopping, because about half way into the song, Hana gave a painful shriek, and fell to the floor.

"Hana-chan!" Mioko lunged herself toward her, catching her from the full fall.

Kyoko and Kanae kneeled down as well, and offered their hands.

"Hana-san are you okay? Please go to a doc—"

"SING!" Hana interrupted. They looked at her, perplexed.

"Sing! You can obviously dance." Hana stood up, her right foot limp over the floor. "Now sing."

Did she just admit defeat?

"I..uh.."

"You have 5 seconds."

"I.."

"5."

What to do?! I can't think of any songs all of a sudden.

"4."

"Kyoko-chan!" Kanae tugged at her.

"3."

"2."

"1."

"She was just a girl,

In a troubled world,

No one else could see,

The troubles in between…"

It took Kyoko a moment to realize who was singing. It wasn't her, obviously. She looked around the room.

Mioko?

They were the lyrics to 'Flower Garden,' only slower, almost an acoustic version.

Kyoko blinked.

Inner demons: Sing! Follow her!

"He was just a boy,

Always drowned with scorn,

Never ever praised,

Never even fazed…"

Their voices merged together, creating a melodic lullaby. Mioko, soon after Kyoko began, stopped, giving her the floor.

Oh god.


"Never had they met before,

Only distant memories subside,

Never hinting in their love,

Avoiding every turn and creek and pass…"

It was like a lullaby. Her alto toned voice echoed through the room, making the song a sweet, calm lullaby.

"'The thunderstorm will go away,

Only smiles will remain,

He told her that with troubled tears,

Comforting all her fears,

'Don't lie to me, please just stay for a while more,

I know this won't last anymore,

Our worlds are too apart."

Her voice hit every note perfectly, especially the high ones. Ren repressed and wiped at his tearing eyes, making any trace of them quickly disappear.

He went and sat down next to Yashiro, whom was making no effort in masking his tears. She even brought the President to tears.

Wow.


Kyoko stopped, noticing Ren for the first time. And how almost everyone was crying.

"So..Sorry!"

'Onnanoko no Kaikaku's' manager, Aki stood up. "No, no. that… you are very talented."

Hana scoffed, and without another word, left the room.

Kyoko was overjoyed. Not only had she proved those stingy girls wrong, but she had the awesome opportunity to feel life in the music industry for a while.

"Just wait, Hana will come to her senses soon. Come back in a few days for more practice." Manager Aki had told her. "Oh, and remember…no one except those who were in this room can know you are Hana-chan's double. O.K.?"

Kyoko had agreed, and insisted that everyone could go home and rest. She stayed behind to get her make- up and outfit off.

It was rather tragic, really. She wished she could keep the make-up, and she did protest. But, they gave her the usual speech about how her skin will get wrinkles, blah, blah, blah.

A knock at the door made her jump up from her dressing room chair.


She was back to normal, auburn, shoulder length hair and smooth, baby-like face. The only thing that stood out to Ren was the intense fatigue her eyes showed; even her posture was slightly slouched.

She avoided his gaze.

"Congratulations on making it." He said, bowing politely.

"Thank you!" she smiled.

"Oh, and President is calling you downstairs." He added, remembering why he was there. " Something about a new manager?"

She nodded.

Ren had been rather furious at the news. A male manager? A guy was going to be with her nearly 24/7? Both he and Kuon nearly killed something.

But, the president assured him that Haruo was hardly a threat. Unless, of course, Kyoko was into nerdy, and common sense lacking men.

Ren doubted it.

Kyoko hopped out of her seat, landing a little harshly.

Ren blinked at her.

"Hey, are you o-"he stopped mid-sentence.


Kyoko felt herself falling. It felt endless, timeless…motionless. She felt herself wobble and eyes close, all against her will.

She mentally prepared herself to hit the harsh wooden floor, but the impact never came. She never felt the harsh cold ground, but she did stop falling.

Hesitantly, she opened her eyes.


It was so sudden, he almost didn't catch her. Thankfully though, he managed to embrace her, cradling her in his arms.

"Mogami-san? What's wrong? Please wake up!"

He moved the hair away from her face and looked at her.

Kyoko's eyes fluttered open a few seconds after, making Ren sigh with relief. She sat up and put her hand to her head. "Ow."

"What's wrong? What happened? We should go to the hospit-"

"No, no I'm fine." She cut him off, "I am just really tired. I haven't really slept at all."

He stood up and extended his hand. "Are you sure?"

Kyoko eyes his hand before taking it, a light blush sprinkling across her cheeks.

Kuon: yeah, she's okay.

Ren hid a smile.

" Well, I want to make sure. I am taking you home."

Her eyes widened. "No, no it's already late and I still might have to stay longer-"

"That's O.K.," he assured. "Yashiro-san is getting a ride from Sawara-san, so there's no need to rush." He finished off with a radiant smile, only to smile wider when her blush returned.


Kyoko stared at the gigantic flight of stairs that awaited them. Even looking at them made her want to faint. Again.

She made a face and held on to the railing, taking each step slowly and cautiously.


Ren could obviously notice her struggle. It hurt even him to see her battle with each stair as if it were moving.

Sighing, he slipped his arm under her arms and the other behind her knees.

"What are you doing!" she protested against him. "I can walk."

"You were going to pass out from exhaustion if I had let that go any longer."

She frowned, but stopped fighting.

He had longed to hold her. Even like this, going down 5 flights of stairs, he held on to her as tightly as possible, hoping he never had to let go. He wished he could always smell her flowery scent, and feel her silky soft hair. To have her laugh and be at his side. That would make him so happy.

And it might be selfish of him to say that. But, in reality, it didn't matter what it was.

All Ren knew is that he needed her.

No matter what.


He finally put her down a few steps before reaching the bottom, only to be greeted by the most disgusting, vile creature either of them could possibly see at the moment.

Sho Fuwa.

"I am not in the mood," she said and stepped over him. He grabbed her arm.

"I am not here for games." He looked at her, completely serious.

"I am here to warn you."

Ren stepped next to her protectively.

Sho released her arm before saying:

"Your mother is in town."


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