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The False Mirror

Chapter Text

It was one of those cold winter nights in the middle of December. Couples were flooding the streets of Tokyo as Christmas season was slowly approaching. There was a man walking slowly between them and trying not to bump into the couples that were almost aggressively trying to show off to the others that yes, we are together!

Keep your hands in your pockets, the man thought and turned left, soon reaching his destination. His black jacket was covered in many snowflakes, which he began to brush off as he walked downstairs. Despite being the perfect time for partying, the sign at the entrance of this bar said ‘closed’ yet he didn’t pay attention to it. After all, it was his doing that bar was unavailable to others – it was a special day for him and his guest, who was probably already waiting for him. As he approached the door, quiet music reached his ears and a smile appeared on his face. The man twisted the door knob to open the door and entered the bar, the music becoming louder before finally, his eyes landed upon a small stage with a person standing on it.

It was an old song that the man knew by heart, but it’s been ages since he had last heard it. The person on the stage moved along with the music, carefully taking each step, each twirl, finally stopping as they noticed a sudden observer in the audience. The music abruptly stopped and the man wiped his forehead with a sleeve, his bangs still sticking to it.

“Took you a while, Ryo-san.” the dancer spoke as he walked off the stage, approaching the guest, “At some point I thought you wouldn’t show up.”

“I wouldn’t show up? I wouldn’t let you down like this. Who do you think I am?”

The man laughed and began to take off his jacket and scarf. The snowflakes had already melted when he hung his coat on the wall and went to sit by the bar counter.

“Hmm, let me think… Tsukumo Ryo, president of Tsukumo Productions and a bully, that’s it!”  That made him laugh once again. The younger man sat by the bar counter and sighed.

“Now, that’s an interesting description. I have never bullied anyone in my very dear life you know! I’m as pure as snow.” 

Ryo earned a snort as an answer. Of course. 

“If I hadn't known you for almost 5 years, maybe I would take your words as true. You may not be the person that you were when I met you back then, but still, your ways didn’t change that much,” he said, playing with a glass that he brought for himself beforehand.

“Only you know my true self, don’t you?”

“Of course. Only I can know what kind of person you are, Ryo-san.”

Ryo hummed in response, giving him a nod.

“This is why I have chosen you, Nanase Riku. No one else would be able to work so perfectly with me, but you. Also, what was that before? Missing your old profession?” Ryo asked, a grin appearing on his face. Riku looked behind himself and pouted.

“Not really,” he answered “I just thought it would be nice to do some exercise. I was getting cold here without-”

“Me? Come on, say you missed me!”

“Never!”

“How rude. You usually say something different when we are in private… just like now.” Ryo put down a bottle of champagne and juice next to it. Riku turned his face to him and scanned carton of a juice.

“Apple juice makes my stomach turn. Choose something different, Mr. Big Boss” 

“Let me see what do they have here~ You sure that you don't want to drink champagne with me?” the man asked, not really expecting any other answer than no, but it wouldn’t hurt to try, right?

“… Maybe I can…” he said after a while, earning a surprised expression on his very own former boss' face. “What, surprised? Today is a special day after all, Ryo-san. I may suffer the consequences afterwards, but I have a day off tomorrow.”

“R---Rikuu!! You agreed to drink with me! How long has it been? Definitely too long, I cannot remember-” His voice died in his throat when Riku put a finger on his lips with a grin.

“I will make an exception for you today. Look how nice I am. Now…” 

Soon, both fine glasses were filled with fizzy drink. They sat side by side, next to each other, looking at the empty seats and stage.

“You sure had a lot of audacity to rent this specific place, haven’t you, Ryo-san?” Riku asked, looking at his partner “It’s a holy ground for “those people” after all.”

“It was a holy ground for them, Riku. We came here to trample them even more… I would say, we came here to put an ultimate end to the place where they were born. Ah, how awful it is!” Ryo laughs, looking at the stage through his glass and smiling .

“Now, it is but a relic of the past, the sacred grounds that lost their so called reverence long time ago. We just arrived at the very graveyard of your former enemies, Riku. Rejoice.”

“I don’t think I could rejoice in such a moment, Ryo-san.” he answered, looking lazily at his former boss “There is nothing to be happy about this situation.”

Ryo didn’t like this voice filled with strange sorrow. He put down his glass and looked at redhead’s face closely.

“Do you regret what you had done, out of a sudden? That’s unlike you, little duckling. I do not like how your words sound.”

Riku closed his eyes, feeling Ryo’s fingers tickle his cheek and play with his hair. It took him a while to answer, but it was something that older man was willing to wait for.

“It is not regret that I speak about, Ryo-san. What saddens me is how easily they were shot down by us.” His expression changed slowly “I wish I could play more with them, you know. What fun is it when a cat cannot play with its prey for more than 10 minutes before it dies?” 

Riku’s voice was as sweet as honey yet so poisonous at the same time. Even after so many years, he couldn’t get rid of that trait of his, developed when he had entered Tsukumo Productions. “Keep your face smiling, but curse your enemies under the mask that you are wearing.” It was something that he was taught. Tsukumo Ryo couldn't be happier to hear those words.

“You are still a naughty, little child, Riku.”

“I am not a child already, I am 25 years old, you know? I have only 5 years of life left now.” 

“As I recall, cats have 9 lives, but in your case it’s over 9000.”

The man earned a smack at his shoulder for that comment and laughed. Riku backed away and grabbed his glass.

“Enough of useless talk, Ryo-san. We came here for a reason and now, it is time to do what has to be done” 

“Right…” Both males looked at each other, their expressions gentle, despite words that soon poured out of their mouths.

“On this unholy ground, we will drink for our victory, Nanase Riku, former Tsukumo Super Idol and my partner.”

“Right. Let us celebrate, Tsukumo Ryo-san, Tsukumo Production’s president and my partner as well.”

The glasses clinked as they raised a toast.

“For the day when Trigger was disbanded by us”

“Cheers“.

A moment later they set down the glasses, already emptied of their drinks. Ryo watched fondly as Riku grimaced a bit, still not used to alcohol. Fortunately, he chose a weak drink, so even his weak headed fiancé should be fine.

“Ah… It still feels unreal. But at the same time, realer than ever. It’s over, truly over.”

“It sure was a long road. Well, for me it felt like a few days, because I got the best company~”

Riku sent him a half smile. As always, Ryo was the master of compliments. His head already began to fill with pleasant buzzing, there were merits to being weak against alcohol. Moving his glass aside, Riku laid his head on the bar counter.

“To think that it all began in such a silly way… Had I known that karaoke can change your entire life, I would join people from the university every day.”

“It was destiny, my dear! Since we were meant for each other, we would’ve met one way or another~”

“Ahaha… Yes. It absolutely was destiny. For once, I’m glad it exists. I wouldn’t have exchanged my life with you for anything else.”

Ryo giggled happily. Oh, they were in permanent pre-honeymoon phase and he hoped it would never change.

“Do you think of that time sometimes? When we met.”

“Hmm… Sometimes, perhaps? I’m too busy thinking of how beautiful you are to drown in the past. But oh, I know! We have equipment here, want to sing? Just like then.”

Riku”s eyes sparkled and he nodded, forcing his head to leave the counter.

“Let’s sing then. Just like then.”

Chapter Text

- 5 years ago -

They were everywhere

At some point Riku was sure that once he opens the fridge, it will start playing Diamond Fusion with their lewd poses in the water and open catering to foot fetish. On the way to the university, he had to pass by countless billboards and holograms with their faces and listen to the people squeaking with excitement. Riku himself was conflicted about this. A part of him was probably happy? After all, his twin brother was amazing.

Still, these people didn’t know the truth, and while it was better this way, deep inside, he wanted them to know that Kujo Tenn was not an angel. That his pure white wings were stained with colorless blood of his own family… He kept absentmindedly playing with a pen, his eyes not really focused on the stuff he had written in his notepad.

“Hey Nanase-saaan, are you listening? Will you come or not?” a voice suddenly reached his ears.

“Eh? What?” he jumped a bit and looked at the girl sitting to the left behind him. She was one of the students in his group on the university, and one of Trigger’s fans. They shared notes sometimes, but never spoke on friendly terms.

“I’m organizing a small karaoke party, to commemorate everyone passing the first exams… Since you’re in the group too, wanna come?”

Riku exhaled softly. It was kind of impressive that after so many refusals, they still tried to invite him from time to time. He probably should make some effort to mingle with his groupmates. They would be stuck together for a while and they weren’t bad people. Besides, everyone was going, so being the only one to say no would look cheap. He didn’t have anything else to do anyway…

“I will.”

“Alright, so everyone is coming. Let’s meet at the uni’s gate after all the lectures.”

Riku’s eyes returned to the notes in front of him, but he had no mind to repeat the material at the moment. It’s been a long time since he went to karaoke. Small excitement arose in his gut and he hid a smile behind a sleeve of his oversized jacket. It could be fun.

It could be fun.

He would quickly regret this command, as of course it wasn’t. After they gathered by the gate, all invited students went to a small karaoke place in a popular district. Riku was a bit bothered by the pricing of karaoke booth and drinks, it seemed that it wasn’t as cheap as he expected it to be, but to his relief the person that invited him was covering all expenses. It must be good to be daddy’s girl and have all of his money, right? Catching himself complain about money again, he sighed inaudibly.

Riku really disliked that trait of his that he had developed recently, but his living conditions and state of things didn’t let him experience much of happiness. His flat was very small, basically one room with a bathroom and a bit too low ceiling. The money from his part-time job were barely enough to cover expenses of living (with a pretty restricted diet), rent and of course, university fees. Good thing that he still maintained the level necessary for a scholarship... Even so, it was a problem for another time, so he decided to push those thoughts to back of his head and enjoy the fun-

If only he could.

They all began with Secret Night, song that was playing everywhere. Girls were particularly loud and obnoxious, more screaming names of Trigger members than actual singing. Riku was just awkwardly sitting here, squeezed between remaining students who were cheering on singers. He even got smacked in the face by accident and oh, it seemed one of the guys got so excited at his female friend’s sexy dance that earned Riku an elbow between ribs. 

Socializing, huh… The male part of the group couldn’t catch the microphone as the girls kept snatching it away from each other's hands, fighting over who had the best cover of their favorite song. Not that the guys minded, as long as the girls danced and alcohol was served, everything was alright for them. Riku sipped on his juice; he excused himself from drinking using his asthma, but as the party progressed he regretted not getting completely smashed. Maybe then he would kind of enjoy this situation… His mind slowly backed off from that place and Riku became lost in his thoughts, ignoring his surroundings.

“Alright, now all the girls have sung! So it's time for the guuuuuysss!”

The drunk voice of the girl that organized the party brought his attention back to the room. He blinked rapidly and moved away as something was shoved right in front of his face. It was the microphone.

“Come on! You gotta!” slurred voices cheered on him, so he had no choice. Catching the microphone in an uncertain grip, Riku moved to pick up the remote to choose the song. He had a lot of songs he liked, both mainstream and indie, but at the time his mind was blank and he couldn’t remember any title. So far the only songs that were played belonged to Trigger, but Riku didn’t want to sing any of them. It would feel too weird, singing his brother’s songs… Not sure what was the right choice, he decided to leave it to the lady luck and pressed “random” button. Taiyou no Esperanza, Re;vale. Not bad, he knew the song, very energetic and from popular idols, so it was perfect. He liked singing. As the first notes of the song filled the noisy room, he brought the microphone to his mouth and took a deep breath.

***

The person that came up with an idea that “business meetings should happen in fun places” never had to run away from drunk old bastards singing some imperialistic ballads about the magnificence of the past. Ryo’s world was spinning; he drank too much in order to bear with their terrible humor and even worse ideas. Did they have any idea how business worked or just jumped on the promotion ladder like little grasshoppers, unaware that the higher you get, the more crows can see you?

“Fufu, they will get tangled in the spider’s web before they know…~” His bad habit of speaking his mind aloud reappeared, earning him a confused stare from the kids that emerged from the karaoke booth next to theirs. Before the door had closed, Ryo’s ears caught a familiar melody, piquing his interest. It was Re:vale’s song. Momo was truly cute, thinking he could write a callout song for him! It wouldn’t hurt him at all! Ryo set it on a loop in the office and listened to it constantly for two weeks! Ha, what now, Momo! The alcohol dulled the shallow pain in his chest and clouded his judgement.

Ryo held the door only slightly open, barely enough to see inside, and decided to listen to the person singing. Just a whim, nothing else. The redhead with the microphone sat perfectly in front of him, giving him a good view. Before he knew it, he began staring into those fiery eyes, admiring how they filled with a flame when the boy’s mouth had opened. Ryo let out a surprised gasp as the boy’s voice filled the air with heavenly sounds. There was nothing unusual about him, just a casual boy probably in his twenties and poor… But at the time, he looked like a true angel, his voice overwhelming like a summer sun shining straight on your face. Taiyou no Esperanza is a forceful, powerful song, latin rhythms making you think of the fire. The song and the boy matched each other and even though he still liked the original better, Ryo was so drawn in that he automatically started getting closer to the redhead. He realized he had walked right into strangers’ booth as he sat next to the singer and threw his jacket on his lap. The kids, probably university students but kids, stared at him with confused expressions. 

Well, he did it now so there was no point in going back yet.

“Drinks on me!” he shouted, awarded with the group cheering and immediately ordering more alcohol. The boy on his right sent him a questioning gaze, so Ryo flashed him a big smile.

“You just sounded so heavenly I absolutely needed to hit on you~” his own slurred voice was barely audible over the music. The boy raised his brow, making a dubious expression.

“And who exactly are you?” Ryo didn’t have enough patience to be more eloquent and explain, so he snatched the remote control from the couch and started scrolling down the song list. The redhead”s protest were drowned in the joy of his friends, who set a few glasses of drinks in front of them.

“Come on, you’re so lovely, sing for me?” Ryo raised the glass and saluted to the boy. His entire body went stiff; poor kid, so stressed. Tsukumo pushed one glass towards him, signaling with a nod for the boy to drink it. There must’ve been some internal struggle, but in the end the boy sighed, took the glass and downed it. Ryo laughed as he grimaced like a cat, but endured it and swallowed. It took him a few seconds to come back to reality and grip the microphone once again. Ryo already chose the next song.
 
“But like, don’t sing Trigger? I haaa-ate them.” On his words, the boy's eyes shone for a second before going back to normal. He opened his mouth, then closed it back and opened it again.

“Don’t worry. I-I hate them too” Those words were a mere whisper, so he might’ve got it wrong, but Ryo's interest was sparked. He clapped his hands, gathering the attention of the people around.

“Then let's sing! Woooo!”

He wasn’t even that drunk, but somehow, the atmosphere got to him and Ryo sang together with the redhead, going over entire discography of Re:vale and some other famous pop songs. Together with the students, he drank more and more until his last memory became of his colleague dragging him away. Then, there was only darkness.

***

Riku woke up with a splitting headache. His memories were generally vague, and he needed a moment to recognize he was in his own flat. Even though he collapsed on the ground, still fully clothed and wearing shoes, at least he reached his place so it was good. Moving was too painful, his body went sore and even though he was uncomfortable, he didn’t have enough willpower to get up. Instead, he tried searching for his phone to check the time. In the process, something slid off his shoulders, touching the ground with a weirdly loud thud. For time being Riku ignored it, concentrating on the screen of the phone he finally found.

“Oh thank gods, I’m not late to anything…” Relief washed over him and Riku tried to stretch, groaning in pain. Medical books said it’s unhealthy to stay like this, so as a doctor he should give example. Convincing himself this way, Nanase Riku gritted his teeth and with great effort, sat up. A 20-year-old man shouldn’t feel like an elderly person yet there he was. His attention went back to the thing that fell on the ground. It was black and unfamiliar, Riku was sure he never got anything like this at a clothes shop. He sat facing it and lifted it off the floor. With some trials, he discovered it was… a jacket. Soft in touch, probably something expensive… A jacket? Why did he have a jacket? He didn’t own a single suit- 

Oh. 

A vague memory resurfaced his mind and Riku stopped moving. There was someone with a jacket at the karaoke place. But… Right. Riku must’ve taken it with him. He gulped audibly, the vision of being accused of stealing vividly playing in his brain. The jacket was weirdly heavy, so he started frantically searching the pockets, hoping the owner left something to be identified by- Yes, there it was! A wallet! And there were documents inside!

“Tsukumo Ryo… There is a business card too... It read “Tsukumo Productions”. Riku looked at it, puzzled. Probably something to do with entertainment…? Forcing his legs to move, he slowly walked over to the old laptop on the table and started it up. As he waited for the machine to kick in, he looked over the rest of the wallet’s insides. Four credit cards, some business cards, personal ID, cash… A lot of cash. Riku inhaled deeply, putting the money back where it was. This Tsukumo person lost more than Riku’s salary from half of a year. 

The laptop finally came to life and Riku clicked on the web icon to look up those Tsukumo Productions. His internet worked slowly so in the time the page was loading, Riku tried to do some basic stretches and remember what happened the night before. There was their little party. He sang a song and… there was some stranger that came into their booth and wanted him to sing more. After he drank a glass or two, his world went black, so he couldn’t tell if he had fun or not, but at least he wasn’t sleeping in a ditch by a road. The jacket in his hand was worrying him though. Rich people are eccentric and unpredictable, so who knows if Tsukumo Ryo wouldn’t flip his entire world upside down over this piece of fabric? The official page of Tsukumo Productions had loaded so Riku looked at it. He guessed it right, entertainment business. From idols, singers and composers to even film stars, it was quite big. Unease settling in his gut, Riku closed the web and laid down on his cheap futon. His shift at work was starting soon so he needed to prepare… He could leave the thinking for later, right?

Yeah, right. 

Later. 

Except three days had passed and Riku still haven’t done anything about the jacket and its contents. After his shift ended, he was too tired, then there were tons of excuses… Also, he kind of remembered the man tried to hit on him while drunk so it was obvious Riku was hesitant, right? It couldn’t go on like this though. No one in his group remembered much from that night, too much alcohol and fun, but apparently the man was taken away by someone at some point. He still paid for their alcohol so for them, the case was closed. They weren’t close enough to advise Riku on what to do with the wallet… That’s why he finally gathered courage and called the number on the business card. After stating his name and explaining the situation, some nice woman made him an appointment with the president. The president! He could’ve guessed that since it was Tsukumo Productions, Tsukumo Ryo would be someone important. Then again, what were the chances of meeting a president of a big company in a karaoke booth, drunk and willing to sing with a bunch of university students? 

That’s why Riku spent some of his hard earned salary to dry clean the jacket and put everything back how it was. He really hoped that the man would pity him and let him go without taking responsibility for this mess. The building of the company was way too big, Riku felt nervous just looking at it. Going inside wasn’t better. The security lady behind the counter looked scary but he had to ask someone for directions.

“Um… Hello, I'm Nanase Riku and-”

Her expression changed from neutral to a curious one.

“Yes, the president is already waiting for you. This way.”

She exchanged places with a colleague and led his way. If asked to recreate the road they walked, Riku would be at a loss. The halls and rooms were all so big and complicated he just wanted it all to be already over. He still had material to go over, a mountain of books waiting for him at home, so the faster the better-

“President. Nanase Riku is here.”

“Oh, great! Come in, come in~”

His chest and throat were constricted in a familiar way, but Riku prayed silently there would be no issues and his asthma wouldn’t disturb the meeting. He walked into the office, his eyes immediately drawn to the big aquarium on the wall. It shone gently, the fishes inside colorful and lively. Then he looked around the room. There were multiple gaming devices, playstation, VR set, even a dart board… Was it really how a president’s office should look like? Some of the tension left his body and Riku unknowingly relaxed. Finally, his eyes laid on the man sitting behind the desk. His bright gold eyes were watching him with amusement and he didn’t attempt to stop Riku from looking around.

“Enjoying the view? You should try out the balcony, seeing the people so small below makes you feel sooo superior~”

Riku bit his lip, trying to hide embarassment. He came into the man’s office and started staring at everything, ignoring him. Tsukumo laughed and invited him to sit with a wave of a hand. Riku sat on the soft chair, enjoying how it sank beneath him.

“Comfortable, right? I like them too~ I got similar ones at home, though the ones here have nicer colors! Do you like pink? I do, it’s a cute color~”

Riku couldn’t follow the man but nodded, which made him smile again. His eyes and mouth when he smiled reminded Nanase of a fox. As his mind registered this thought, it appeared to Riku he most probably was a very… fake person. He no longer felt safe in his company. His body tensed and he shifted in his seat. Without much delay he put the jacket with its contents on the desk and slid it towards the man. Tsukumo looked at it, then slowly moved it to the side and flashed another smile at Nanase.

“Thank you for bringing it to me. The jacket itself isn’t that important, but losing my documents could be troubling~”

Then you should pay more attention to where you leave them, Riku thought. A sharp flash of Tsukumo’s eyes made him feel as if the man could hear his thoughts. Riku cleared his throat; it was getting uncomfortable to breathe. 

“I’m sorry it took so long, I was busy. Since my job here is done, I have other place to be so I will be-” 

“Oh, please, my dear. Your tea hasn’t arrived yet. Sit comfortably and let’s have a chat, shall we?” 

Riku really hoped it wouldn’t come to this. As much as he wanted to immediately get up and go home, he knew that the man wouldn’t let him. 

“If you are worried about the contents of the wallet, I didn’t even touch it.” 

“Eh? Ah, right, the money. Oh, that’s completely irrelevant.” The man waved his hand in a dismissive way “Ah, here is the tea. Thank you~” 

Riku didn’t plan to drink it, but under the man’s intensive gaze, he felt he had no other choice. He gave the drink an experimental sip, discovering with a surprise that it tasted of lemon and honey. It was pleasantly warm and delicious, just perfect for his strained throat. Satisfied, Tsukumo hummed a little and leant back in his chair. 

“You see, Riku-kun, as you probably already know, this is an entertainment company. We create an artificial reality in which dreams come true and everyone can shine~ As a president of said company, I admit I was surprised. By you”

“...Me?” Riku automatically answered before he could bite his tongue. 

“Yes, you~ Our first meeting might not have been the most fortunate, but I do believe it was destiny that let us come across each other in such an impossible place! You see, I was mesmerized, simply stunned by your singing voice~ Like a fiery angel descending in front of me, you took my breath away.”

“...Uh, okay?” This man was way too intense. Riku had no idea what to say not to sound rude, but also gently suggest him he needed his head checked.

“As someone responsible for the rise of stars that illuminate our boring, dull lives, I simply cannot allow for a talent like you to wither in darkness, unknown to the world~ To put it simple, I’m offering you a job. Become an idol in Tsukumo Productions, Nanase Riku~!”

The silence that filled the room was so sharp one could cut their finger on it. Thousands conflicting thoughts circled inside Riku's mind, but after a long while he looked at Tsukumo with a resolve in his eyes. The man shifted in his chair, the intensity of those red eyes was burning him.

“I’m studying to become a doctor, someone who can save lives. I’ve struggled a lot and made a lot of compromises to get where I am. If you asked me two, three years ago… I might’ve dropped everything to pursue this career, for my own reasons. Right now though?”

Riku paused and sighed.

“I’m not interested in dancing on a stage like a performing monkey, trying to be someone I’m not. Search for your angel somewhere else, Tsukumo-san. Now, if you will excuse me.”

Riku stood up. Ryo's bright eyes followed every his movement as the boy made his way out of the office. His mouth curled up in a sly smile.

“As if I would let you go after this… Riku-kun~”

Walked to the entrance by the same lady, Riku sighed with relief as soon as he left the unfamiliar walls. His heart was still racing like crazy, his mind in disarray and unable to process everything. He expected yelling, blaming, threats, even blackmailing… Instead he got a job offer, a one that despite being tempting, was absolutely impossible for him.

Besides… He couldn’t really imagine himself as an idol, smiling to his fans and telling them how much he loves them. They were complete strangers after all, wouldn’t it be just lying? His rare day off was basically wasted on this errand and he had to go home and catch up with a pile of material awaiting him. Even so, that man’s words echoed in his head. Becoming a star meant being closer to Tenn. If they talked, if they explained everything… Maybe Riku could fix this whole mess? Maybe they would both come back home? Home… Standing in front of his rundown apartment, Riku pulled the key out of his bag and after a few tries, he managed to unlock the resistant lock. However, the door didn’t want to budge.

“Don’t tell me it got stuck again…” his voice was exhausted. It happened at least twice per week. Slowly, slowly, he managed to pry it open, panting and huffing from the amount of strength he had to put into it. He reported his door to the landlord but who knew if anyone even remembered about it… A surge of anger made him slam the door shut and Riku heard something heavy falling down to the ground.

“Great, fixing the floor is exactly what I need right now…”

***

It’s been a few days. Riku almost managed to forget all about Tsukumo president and concentrate on his studies. That’s the path he had chosen. Saving people, helping them as much as he could, he had no doubts about it. His life was expected to go back to normal; he quite enjoyed the days filled with work and studying. What he didn’t expect was someone knocking on his door, late in the evening. After opening doors only for a bit, he saw a familiar fox-like smile and golden eyes.

“What the he-… are you doing here, mister?”

“Brrr, it’s cold out here, you know! It took me a while to find this place so lemme- Don’t close the door, kid!”

Riku wanted to go back to studying, but before he could, Tsukumo Ryo put his foot between the frame and the door.

“Come on, Riku, we should discuss things properly~” Ryo didn’t give up, even if his foot could already end up being crushed by the doors. Where did that kid get so much strength from to begin with?

Riku glared at him, trying to kick the man’s leg so he would stop blocking the doorway and leave him alone.

“I already told you I don't want to have anything to do with show business though?”

“You didn’t hear out the entire proposal though, and I’m sure it could make you reconsider.”

“I don’t want to reconsider it, good-bye!”

“Oh Riku, Riku, Riku, good boys don’t lie! Especially if they want their wish to be granted.”

Riku watched the man as he pulled a Santa act. Once Tsukumo was done with a deep laugh and “ho-ho-hoeing” his shiny eyes met Riku's tired ones.

“I can make you meet with your brother. Maybe even come home with you? You would like that, wouldn’t you~”

Riku's body went stiff. As if he was able to read his mind, Tsukumo sent another smile his way and took his foot from the doorframe.

“Well then, can I come in?”

Riku was tempted to slam the door right away, but in the end he didn’t. Instead, he moved away, letting Ryo step into the apartment.

“Sorry for the intrusion~”

Chapter Text

Ryo could say one thing about this place – it was smaller than his wardrobe. Riku’s so called “flat” was probably one of the worst places he ever was in. He couldn’t expect better, right? Considering all the data he had managed to gather about the boy, Riku wasn’t someone who could make money appear out of his ass, and finding this place was also quite challenging.

The boy placed a small steaming cup of a tea on the table and sat down in front of him with his own.

“I’m sorry, I don’t have anything luxurious fitting your taste, probably,” Riku said “This is my favorite green tea from conbini so I hope you will like it… Tsukumo-san.”

Ryo looked at his cup. It’s actually.. pretty cute. It had a rabbit design on it. He gave Riku a quick look, saw his sour expression and looked back at cup.

“What. Too cute for you, Tsukumo-san?”

“Do you think I only drink from finest crystal glasses and mugs made out of gold?”

“Considering how spacious and rich your company’s building looks like, I wouldn’t be surprised.” A snort escaped from Riku’s lips, though he wasn’t looking at Ryo, staring into his cup instead. He took a sip from it and finally turned his gaze back at Ryo.

“How much do you know?”

Ryo took a sip from his cup as well (it wasn’t half bad, that tea. Maybe he should try it instead of those that his secretary usually makes him) and smirked.

“Enough to know the reason why you are in a place like this and why your heart is screaming in anguish. Let me explain everything from the very beginning.” Ryo took out some papers out of his bag and started reading them.

“Nanase Riku, born 9th July 1997… same as Kujo Tenn who was also born at 9th July 1997. However, he was born under different surname, isn’t that right?” Ryo gave Riku a quick look, noticing obvious uneasiness that appeared at his face. There it is.

“…So you think such mere coincidence means we are brothers?” Riku asked quietly, making Ryo laugh a bit.

“That’s not a coincidence, I know about it, no need to play a fool. Nanase Tenn, because that was previously his surname, is your twin brother, born from Nanase Kasumi. You two were growing up in a quite happy family that had a small live house. It was operating quite well until a strange chain of events began to take place…” Ryo looked at next paper “It seems that your parents got a bit into debts, isn’t that right? According to those invoices-”

Riku smashed his hand against table, his tea almost spilling.

“Did you literally… look into everything we had? You…have no shame?” He asked, his voice a bit shaky but Ryo didn't stop there. Instead, he continued his speech.

“With my connections I can find anything and anyone if I truly desire~. Do not underestimate my information nets. I know quite a lot about you, Riku. Not only about your parents’ debt but also the reason why their debt began to increase, causing their livehouse to shut down immediately.” Ryo places one of the papers in front of Riku. Boy opened his mouth and closed it, like a fish.

“Your hospital bills began to increase as your condition got worse out of sudden. Your case is quite baad, as far as I could see. What do we have here...” Ryo paused and turned the page “A really awful case of asthma that made you physically weaker, some medical blabbering and names that I can’t even pronounce, but that’s not important right now. As much as the debt increased, your parents got worried how they will survive month by month, having both you and Tenn to feed. I would say that’s an awful situation but..!”

Ryo took out a photograph and placed it in front of Riku. He could see an instant shift in Riku”s expression, surprise turning into anger.

“That man appeared out of nowhere, offering to help the Nanases. While their livehouse couldn’t be saved anymore and had to be sold, Kujo Takamasa decided to give your parents a chance to pay off all the debts… but for a great price.” His finger gently traced the photo “He will pay off all debts using his funds but in return… he wanted nothing else but your brother. Strange, right?”

Riku”s stern expression was slowly breaking. He could see those little flames in his eyes turn into bigger ones. Ryo liked this, he liked to see how people got so easily affected by his words.

“I don’t know what your parents have thought when they actually agreed to this! How awful it is! Giving your own child into hands of an old man so he could pay off debts that they got themselves due to their incompetent management? What if he was into that kind of thing and he just had to buy a child off someone in need?” Ryo”s voice was almost a whisper, working even more on Riku. The boy looked straight into his eyes, Ryo braced himself in case if he would try to attack him for even mentioning such disgusting details. Riku couldn’t move, he just bit his lip, so Ryo continued.

“The debt was paid off, your own life was secured but was it truly saved? This is only a question that only you can answer yourself, Riku.” Ryo leant back “Despite everything, you left your home out of the sudden and now you are struggling even more… However, fear not. Just like Kujo Takamasa, I intend on helping you out but for lesser price than leaving your family behind like a rotting limb. There…”

Ryo placed a nice looking file in front of Riku and motioned with his hand to open it. Riku”s shaking hands took it, staring at the cover that said “Contract”.

“…What do you plan to do...?” Boy asked but Ryo shook his head.

“Everything is inside, Riku. You are 20 years old, I’m sure you know how to read.”

I want you to learn yourself what I have prepared for you, Ryo thought and waited for Riku to finally open the file and see its first page.

He expected all kinds of curses and bad words thrown at him for what he had just said, expected Riku to just throw the file away and tell him to get out but-

“….will..” Riku said after looking through all pages of the document “Will that let me meet Tenn-n.. Kujo Tenn, personally? Not as a fan, but as a fellow… person on the stage?”

He hoped Riku would take the bait like a good boy he was. Despite the words that he had said during their meeting in the office, Ryo knew that Riku actually wanted to stand on the same stage as this rotten Kujo Tenn. Deep inside, Riku was still under the illusion that Kujo Jr. was an angel, just like everyone thought, but Ryo was here to make him fully understand that it wasn’t true. Kujo Tenn was as fake as all the idols that stood on the same, shining stage, and even more dangerous because he grew up under no one else but Zero’s own manager - the man who orchestrated the rise of the liar idols that gave everyone useless, meaningless hope.

“That’s right, Riku. If you started from a small agency, your chances of meeting Kujo Tenn would be pretty small, Trigger is a big thing right now. However, it is not a problem if you start from Tsukumo Productions.” The man smiles and takes out a pen, placing it in front of Riku “Yaotome Production is affiliated with Tsukumo Productions, so I can try to negotiate…” or just plain force them, old Yaotome and fishes have no voice, after all “…and make you two meet on the stage. All you need is to sign the contract and let me take care of you.”

Ryo was carefully observing Riku’s actions. Firstly, he had looked a few times at the contract, flipping the pages and thinking (the man could almost see those gears moving inside Riku’s head). Then, he took the pen, looking at it and opening carefully.

“Sign it, Riku. Right there.” Ryo pointed his finger at the place where after a short pause, Riku finally placed his signature. He had to do it twice and after he was done, Ryo shut the file in Riku's hands and took it, quickly hiding it in his bag.

“There you go! I’m so glad you have chosen well, Riku” the man said, almost chirping, yet Riku didn't look convinced. More like, it slowly began to reach him that he had signed this document. Ryo couldn’t lose more time, he had to make all the preparations. Riku’s signature on the paper was the last thing he needed to make this happen.

“Wait!” Riku said as he noticed that Ryo stood up, taking his bag “Before you go, I want to know. Why do you want to help me?”

Ryo would tell him the truth later. Right now, he couldn’t break the same fake illusion that idols show to their fans yet. He had to play fair and let Riku slowly drown in this sea of tragedy that he just signed up for.

“Let’s say… This is a payback for you being so kind and bringing me back my stuff~” he said but Riku didn’t look convinced at all. Of course.

“If we are supposed to work together, I want you to be honest with me… Don’t lie to me like my parents or Tenn-n… Kujo-san did. No matter what your goal may be, as long as you let me meet with him and understand why he had done this, I will do anything. So please-” Riku lowered his head, Ryo could swear he almost felt soft. He knew that Riku would be an interesting individual, just like his brother but-

Riku at least wears his heart on his sleeve.

“After I am done with all the preparations, I will inform you about everything you need to know, dear Riku. But for now…” Ryo reached out his hand towards the redhead “Welcome to Tsukumo Productions, Nanase Riku. As your boss, I promise to make the greatest idol out of you, worth enough to meet with Kujo Tenn on the stage”

And make him fall down into the abyss, along with Trigger and other fake idols who lie to people day by day.

Riku looked at his new boss and reached his hand towards him as well, confirming the deal with a handshake. 

When Ryo left Riku's flat, the boy just laid down on the floor and kept staring at the ceiling in silence. Many thoughts crossed his head when he picked up the pen and looked at this so called “Contract”. He wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to begin with but if that man is going to let him see Tenn on the stage… maybe even sing with him, talk to him, ask him why did he agree so easily to leave their family?

He had to admit, it would make Riku so, so happy.

But at that time, boy, how wrong he was.

 ***

“LET. GO. OF. ME!!” A startling scream ripped through the air of this calm neighborhood. Some people have turned their heads in its direction, soon returning to their own matters. Nanase Riku really regretted opening his flat’s door this fine morning. First thing that he heard wasn’t “good morning” but-

“Pack your bags, Riku. You are moving out” spoken by no one else but this weird, eccentric man who offered to help him reunite with Tenn a few days ago. Things didn’t go as well as planned, because Riku obviously refused leaving this place, resulting in Ryo literally dragging him out of his flat by sheer force. The boy cursed mentally, he really hoped that maybe it would alarm his neighbors or something, this idiot was literally kidnapping him? Yet they left the two to their own business.

“Riku, Riku, Riku~ Come on, be a good boy and lemme--- Stop thrashing you brat, I want to help you!”

“Help me by pulling on my hair?! Let me go, I agreed to sign a contract with you but it said nothing about moving out!” Riku continued to thrash around, stopping in the middle when they reached the stairs. Ah, maybe if he fell down from them and somehow survived, he could get an insurance money? (Did he even have an insurance in the first place?).

“It said nothing about moving but my heart is crying when I see you in such a place! Japan's next super idol cannot live in a cardboard box, Riku!”

“Leave me and my—CARDBOARD BOX ALONE, WEIRDO!”

This seemed to lead to nowhere, Ryo slowly considered calling for reinforcements but what would he tell them? “Oh listen, my new idol is a bit too stubborn and I need you to tie him up and bring to his new flat because I am a weak noodle who cannot do it himself”? No, Tsukumo Ryo, you aren’t gonna make a fool out of yourself today.

Finally, a sound of very quick steps have reached their ears, both of them staring at the newcomer. A man probably in his late 60' came to them, the amount of wrinkles at his forehead suggesting that Riku wasn’t the only problematic person living in this prison camp or whatever it was.

“THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING HERE, CAUSING SO MUCH NOISE? Do I need to call the police or something?!” He yelled straight into Riku's face, making the boy regret his existence as the odor of beer mixed with fish hit his nostrils. The man looked at Riku and sighed deeply. “Ah, it’s you again. The poor student from flat 7, wasn’t it?” he asked and then glances at Ryo. His expression immediately had darkened. Ryo didn’t seem to be much impressed. Of course this place couldn’t be normal and have normal people running it.

“We are just talking with each other, sir. Riku is about to move out.” Ryo waved his hand, internally hoping that the old man would just go away, but how disappointed he was when it didn’t happen.

“Move out?! He didn’t pay the rent for the last two months!” He turned to Riku “You promised that you would do it and until this day I still haven’t received any payments. If I won’t receive the money until the end of this week, we will talk in a different manner, understood that, brat?”

Riku bit his lip. Gods, why did that old fart had to appear now?

“I had to pay university fees last month, but I promise to give you-”

“University fees? Didn’t you just come back drunk like a log few days ago?!” the man didn’t even let Riku finish and soon began a full on lecture about how to deal with money and how youngsters these days keep spending their salaries on useless things instead of investing them into something good. Ryo could see Riku’s exhausted gaze as he was forced to listen to this typical old man's blabbering. Finally having enough, Ryo stood between them, putting hands on their shoulders.

“Gentlemen, how about we solve this problem for once?” He asked and gave both of them a nod. “I will get rid of your problems in less than 2 minutes. All I need to know is—” His head turned to the landlord. “How much Riku has to pay?”

“Uh… soon it will be around 90 000 yen. That brat is never paying on time, you know!” The man seemed to prepare for another lecture so Ryo quickly pulled out his wallet and handed him a pile of banknotes. The old man's eyes suddenly sparkled, so did Riku's.

“Alright, sir! I will pay you those uhh-- 100 000 yen to leave Riku alone, how about that?” You don’t deserve any of those yens, but I will gladly pay for you to fuck off, Ryo thought with a smile on his face. Of course, it worked like a magic spell. With almost inhuman speed and shaking hands, the landlord hid the banknotes and bowed his head to Ryo a few times. “YES, RIKU CAN ABSOLUTELY MOVE OUT! I WILL EVEN HELP WITH PACKING HIS STUFF, DEAR SIR!! I WILL DO IT VERY QUICK!!”

Goddamn cockroach, Ryo thought.

When the landlord left, Ryo looked at Riku who was- oh. Incredibly pissed.

“You… did it on purpose, didn’t you?” He asked, his eyes filled with nothing but anger. “You paid off my debt so I would be indebted to you instead?”

Ryo crossed arms on his chest and shook his head.

“I do not treat it as another debt. After all, we have signed a contract, remember? You are already part of Tsukumo Productions. I won’t take those money from your salary either. Let”s say… a welcome gift, it is~”

Riku didn’t look satisfied with his words. The president didn’t bother to wait for his answer and began to walk down the stairs.

“Take your medicine and other important things. That idiot said he will pack your stuff right? He can send it to this address.” Ryo gave Riku a small piece of paper with an address written on it. Riku's eyes became big as he saw what district it was. “We will go to your new flat, one that suits someone who is working directly under me. Hurry up.”

Riku kept staring at the paper until his mouth slowly began to form words. Ryo was waiting for it, Riku is such a good child after all!

“…thank…you… Tsukumo-san.”

Ryo stopped in the middle of movement and turned back to Riku.

“First and the most important rule, Riku. We are not “Tsukumo-san” and “Nanase-san” anymore. Call me by my name, just as I call you.”

He smirked.

“My name is Ryo, as you know. Remember it, as you won’t call me anything else but that. It is an order from your boss.

Chapter Text

Riku had lost a clue how long they have been in this traffic. He used to travel by a car with his parents but it was mostly during calmer traffic periods. He gave his phone a lazy look, checking the time and his usual social media. Riku didn’t post anything, he just used it to keep up with some novel releases and music updates. There were no new notifications so he put phone back to his pocket and gave his boss a side look.

Ryo on the other hand was happily typing with someone and wasn’t bothered by the traffic at all. Right, it’s still quite an early hour, shouldn’t that man be at work or something? Can big CEOs like him choose when they want to work or not?

Ryo suddenly looked back at Riku, the boy quickly turning his gaze away. The view outside was more interesting than those golden eyes that could literally burn him alive.

‘You’ve been so quiet since we got into the car. Are you still angry about that?’ 

Riku regretted that the person Ryo was talking with didn’t respond faster, instead leaving him on READ status.

‘I’m… not angry. It’s just weird’ Riku answered him ‘Who is good enough to suddenly pull out 100 000 yen out of his pocket and force the old bas-… old man to literally lick your shoes?’

Ryo gave him a sincere laugh. Right. Riku forgot that this man probably sleeps on cash and such money is like nothing to him. He scolded himself internally for getting all sour about the money again, but it’s not a habit he can actually get rid of in a matter of seconds. This year wasn’t particulary merciful for Riku’s pocket and he couldn’t count on his parents help, especially not after what he had told them before taking his bag and leaving Nanase house out of sudden at 1 am. It somehow made him relieved that he managed to leave this rundown place that he found on the bulletin board. He was getting desperate, trying to find a place different than "outside" for sleeping. It wasn’t good for his body and his sickness at all – he was still wondering how the hell did he manage to survive the year without going to a hospital like every time he had an attack before. When he was a kid, any sign of an attack or his body giving up caused his parents and Tenn to panic. Now, there was no one to fret over his health, he could count only on himself. It had it's positives though. Back then, he wasn’t even allowed to eat chocolate or any good food, what kind of excuse of a life it was?

Right now, it was a thing of past. Riku didn’t plan on returning to Nanase house even if he ended up sleeping under the newspaper in the park. It would only make his mother’s words true, which he didn’t want to admit were partially truth – he was barely making a living, struggling to live month by month while maintaining both student and part-timer life. It was tiring, but he made it work sacrificing everything to reach his goal. 

But now, everything was about to change. The man who sat next to him was his new boss and he was going to be an idol, just like Tenn. After their small fight in front of his old place, Ryo promised to take him to a new flat that ‘fits someone who works directly under him’.

Riku didn’t expect those words being almost literal.

‘…are you making fun of me?’ the boy asked with a serious voice when they finally reached their destination in Ginza district. A building that Riku was about to live in was also a building in which his new boss was living.

‘Me? Oh never! You know, someone JUST moved out and the flat next to me is vacant! Isn’t that wonderful, Riku!’ Ryo chirped happily and lead the way to the entrance.

Yeah, right. Someone just moved out exactly when Riku was about to move in. Boy made a mental note to check on every possible reasons why this thing could be treated as a harassment from his boss' side.

After showing him how to use the chip key and giving him a password, both of them entered a corridor and an elevator. Their way didn’t last too long, as they stopped on the first floor. Riku wondered why someone as pretentious as Ryo wasn’t living on the top floor of this building. Maybe he had his own reasons, surely being afraid of heights wasn’t one of them though, as his office was on the top floor of Tsukumo Productions. Finally, they stood in front of a mahogany door, Ryo giving key to Riku.

‘Here you go. It’s all yours!’

With an uneasy expression, Riku slid the card into the slot, unlocking them and entering the flat. First impression was surely something because Riku could swear, it looked like those expensive flats from magazines that his mother used to read. 

‘Why are you standing here? Go inside, it’s yours’ Ryo gave him a light push and the boy had no other option but to start exploring his new living space. First thing that made him already love it was the amount of sunlight he could get. The whole flat had a light brown and reddish colors, reminding Riku a bit of autumn. It wasn’t the most spacious flat he had ever seen, but it looked like straight out of rich people's catalogue. Ryo sat down on a couch. He really matched the interior with his expensive clothes.

‘This is… really mine?’ Walking around and admiring the furniture, Riku sent a quick glance at the man sitting on the sofa. When he nodded, the boy continued exploring with new energy.

‘You know, all Tsukumo talents live within their own properties. However, since you have no broken yen left, I need to make sure you won’t live in a rundown place again or it will tarnish our reputation. Those magazines and SNS talking about everyone’s living spaces can be quite annoying and we need to keep an image’ Ryo said, lazily observing Riku’s exploration ‘You will have a plenty time to look around, just leave your stuff and-‘

‘WAIT!’ Riku suddenly yelled from the bathroom making Ryo jump ‘No way…’

‘What?’ Ryo stood up and looked inside ‘Is the shower broken?’

‘No… it… works. It actually works’

What the hell. Ryo's expression turned blank.

‘It is supposed to work, Riku’

‘It even has warm water, I can’t believe this.’

Ryo almost forgot Riku had lived in a place that probably didn’t have warm water for few months by now, he didn’t even want to question what else was missing from this prison camp they left today. Yet he had to admit Riku was quite cute, getting excited over such small things like working shower, as simple as it was. 

‘Now that you have a working shower and a proper bathroom, leave your stuff and-‘

THUD!

Ryo just stood in front of the bathroom door in complete silence, until it was broken by the sound of said shower. Riku completely ignored the man, resulting in him sighing and going back onto the sofa.

‘I feel like I brought a lost puppy from under the bridge, honestly…’ the man said to himself and checked his phone. It seemed that the person he was previously talking with would soon join them. All they needed was with them, so they had to wait for them. In the meantime, he left Riku’s flat and went to his own, to retrieve a thing that he had to show to Riku before he started his work as a Tsukumo idol.

After 15 minutes, the door had opened and Riku came out of the bathroom. His hair were still wet and his face a bit reddish.

‘… I’m sorry. I just haven’t had a good, warm shower since a while.’ He said and laughed quietly. Ryo shrugged and told him to sit down.

‘Now that you won’t try to close the door in front of me for a second time, I have a lecture material for you.’

Riku rolled his eyes.

‘I have a day off from my university, why do I need to get lectured even today?’

‘Because this one will be the most important one! You need to learn what you will be fighting against as an idol, my dear Riku!’

And so, Ryo pulled out…

A notebook.

***

 

'This land was once a peaceful place. A man named Zero, whose face was covered by a mask, lead the humans to the golden age of idols. His songs were like anthems, making human hearts rejoice, but in truth, the man was a corrupted little fellow. His eyes were never cast at the audience, the people who wanted him to look at them, but at his own goals. Ultimately, they broke from his spell and their grief had been so huge it overtook him. During the peak of his career, he disappeared into the void, leaving behind a legend, his legacy.

Then, many years later, two people decided to make a miracle! Their songs brought once again the happiness to human hearts that were closed off because of Zero's betrayal. Their name was Re;vale, two fellows that forged a pact with a powerful magician, asking for his blessing. Their glory was supposed to last for 5 years before they would rest, their task finished. However, when their time was approaching, a new threat had appeared in the idol land...' 

'Um...'

'The evil had entered this peaceful land and created a revolution. Their name was Trigger, a group of 3 witches that under their angelic smiles hid the same selfish heart as Zero. The fake smiles, fake promises and wishes that couldn't be fulfilled by their own personal agend-'

'OKAY OKAY ENOUGH!' Riku stood up, earning a suprised stare from his boss, followed by a pout.

'Riku, why are you telling me to stop! We are just entering the most interesting arc!' the man pat the book a few times. Riku made the deepest sigh ever and shaked his head.

'Let me ask, how old are you? 5 and half?'

'How rude!' Ryo closed the notebook with loud thud 'I am at the blooming stage of my life, Riku! I'm a proud 32 years old man!'

'With very sophisticated hobbies, I see.' The younger boy sent him a stare 'Did you really sit overnight and drew this fantasy book that basically says 'Waa, Trigger is evil, we have to defeat them!'

Ryo smiled, puffing his chest with pride.

'I wanted to explain it in the best possible way, my dear Riku! We would reach your very own appearance in this tale, but you stopped me from doing so.'

Riku didn't want to know how his boss portrayed him in this children’s book.

‘Your lecture was ridiculous, but at least it’s enough for me to understand the gist of it. You want to change idol industry which is filled with fake idols by… making me an idol?’

Ryo put down the book, clasped his hands and sat in front of his so called student.

'Amazing idea, right! You will completely revolutionize this rotten industry with your glorious singing voice. I can assure you of that'

‘But that doesn’t make sense at all!’

‘It would, if you would let me finish my story!’

Riku was afraid what was the climax of this wonderful tale. In the end, he had to listen to all of it or his new boss wouldn’t let him live through the rest of his existence.

 

***

 

Hisakawa Eris once more checked all invoices and documents before putting them carefully into the prepared folder again. Her boss was supposed to sign some of those before they send them to the clients, but why did he ask her to come to this address instead of his office? He seemed to be in a good mood since a few days ago and it made her wonder - what happened? What could make Tsukumo Ryo smile out of the sudden? Her boss was an eccentric man, she clearly knew that after dealing with him almost every day. She had been working for Tsukumo company for a long time and observing how situation had changed after all. 

Before Tsukumo Ryo overtook the office, his father and older brother Hajime were in charge of Tsukumo Productions after Tsukumo senior had stepped down. She couldn't complain about their personalities, after all they were the ones who accepted her into this job. However, she often witnessed younger Tsukumo's having problems with dealing with internal issues and the clients. She was there when the company suffered a major loss and started losing its old shine, slowly fading into nothingness. 

Eris wondered what her future would become if the company ended up shutting down due to incompetent management and bad financial decisions. That's when Ryo had entered the stage. Like a spring breeze, he brought the company from its knees and returned it to the former glory... Even if he had to pull some strings behind the scenes, certainly not legal, as visible in the files and documents that she was trusted with. She was aware that losing them would cost her not only a job but also her very own life, and yet the president wanted her to carry it around the city.

She didn’t mind things being like this in the end. As long as it meant that her salary can guarantee her a good life, who was she to say no? She was certainly earning more than a typical secretary could earn, so that was one of the good sides.

Eris stopped in front of a dark door and smiled to herself. Her boss may be an eccentric man but he was still one of the best men she had known in her entire life. Maybe you could say she had a small crush on him – after all, he had all a typical woman could desire. Handsome, rich and the most important - a single! She did wonder a bit why a man in his thirties didn’t have a wife or at least a lover, but that only worked in her favor, and now he asked her to come to such a place? Did he prepare any surprise for her, by a chance? 

Ah, wasn’t she a lucky woman!

Fixing her uniform and hair, the secretary knocked to the door twice, waited a few seconds and pressed the door knob, entering the flat. The text message said it would be open so she could come in without problems. From the corridor she could hear a familiar voice, getting louder as she approached the living room.

Her boss, Tsukumo Ryo-sama is--

Actually a huge fucking idiot.

'THAT'S NOT HOW YOU DRAW A HORSE! What is this?!' Reached her ears and she almost dropped all the files on the floor. 

Ah.

Her eyes soon noticed her very own boss and a boy, arguing over… a drawing?

‘It looks more like a horse than that thing you drew in the first place! Look, it has eyes here and-‘

‘Riku, Riku, as much as I appreciate you, this isn’t a horse.’

The men continued their heated argument over a picture that Eris soon could see and oh- it looked like a 5 years old had drawn it, but considering what kind of man her boss was, it was probably his masterpiece... However, the boy caught her attention.

He seemed to know her boss from more personal side, considering how carefree their talk was. However, she had never seen him before in Tsukumo Productions.

‘You are so rude, you know! I put so much into- Oh, Eri-chan is here! Hello!’ Ryo turned his gaze to the secretary with his usual smile ‘You came on time as expected. A golden woman that you are!’ 

Eris bowed lightly, her face showing a bit of uneasiness.

‘Y..yes… I tried to get here as fast as I could, president. I got the documents for you, just like you asked’ She laid down the file on the table and noticed a light distaste on his face. 

Obviously, no one liked the amount of Japanese paperwork, especially the man who had to look through all those papers. Then, her gaze returned to the boy who was also staring at her.

Eris had to admit he had something that could charm people. The redhead had big, bright eyes that looked a bit lost. His clothing wasn’t something sophisticated, just plain black shirt and jeans but what got her attention was that his hair was wet. Suspicious. 

‘Riku, this is my secretary, Eri-chan. You will be seeing her a lot, so be nice to her. I would die without her help in the office, you know!’

‘President, I don’t think I deserve such praise for simply doing my job’ She quickly put a smile on her face ‘Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Hisakawa Eris, the president’s personal secretary and assistant. I take care of all documentation and meeting organization’ Riku stood up from his seat and quickly bowed in return.

‘I-I am pleased to meet you, Hisakawa-san. I’m Nanase Riku and-‘ 

‘He is our new member on the board! Isn’t that great, Eri-chan!’ Before he could finish speaking, Ryo smacked the boy's shoulder, making Riku almost jump. He sent him a glare, but got a sneaky grin in return ‘Riku will be our new idol, I had personally chosen him!’ 

Now, that was something new. The president never took matters in his hands personally, he had people to organize auditions and choose new stars carefully. Tsukumo Productions was known to be a ‘talent factory’, so the president’s personal pick… Nanase Riku had to be a very significant individual to catch the attention of very Tsukumo Ryo, that was for sure. If he could capture the heart of someone with a big prejudice towards the idol industry, he had to be special. 

Of course, she could also expect Riku to be one of those cute boys that did nothing but sexual favors for rich people in exchange for money or fame, but she wanted to believe that it wasn’t the case and Riku was actually going to be an idol because of his own skills.

‘Eri-chan, thank you for the documents but we are in the middle of something… Or maybe you can help us choose!’ Ryo said, letting go of Riku’s arm and ah, Eris could already see Riku rolling his eyes.

‘Ryo-san, please do not involve random people in this stupidity’

‘Riku, do not slander my art!’ The man said and pulled out two…. Extraordinary drawings, that surely were supposed to depict something, but Eris herself wasn’t sure what exactly. 

‘Now, Eri-chan, is your time to shine! Which of those drawings looks more like a horse?’

Hisakawa Eris should change her job and get better taste in men. Immediately.

 

Chapter Text

Laying on the new bed, Riku kept staring at the ceiling. So much had happened that it still felt unreal. One day he was squeezed in his small flat on the suburbs, the other he was in an expensive apartment in Ginza, resting on silky sheets… He slid a hand down the duvet, enjoying the softness of the material. His thoughts were circling around the events of the day, repeating the scenes over and over again. He half expected someone to come and yell “We got you!”. It was too good, too favorable to be true. Ever since that day he had never had this much luck. Despite that, the numbers to Hisakawa Eris and Tsukumo Ryo had appeared in his phone, a proof that it really happened. 

Speaking of Eris, Riku already felt deep respect for this woman. There was so much raw power in her small figure that even Riku straightened his back when she smiled and very politely asked Ryo whether he remembered about the meeting. Nanase chuckled as he thought of the man’s white face as he rushed out of the flat to at least try make it in time. As soon as the door closed behind him she laughed a bit though and sent a warm smile towards him. Without Ryo around, her intimidating aura dissipated and left behind a short, but very elegant and warm woman. Her dark hair were pinned in a tasteful way, probably for comfort during work, but a stray strand of it adored the right side of her face. Her violet eyes looked beautiful, decorated by a simple make-up. She was wearing a typical office outfit, a skirt, a shirt and a jacket on it, but it was immaculate and suited her. Riku noticed as well that she was wearing high heels… She probably was even smaller without them. 

“I suppose you wish to make yourself comfortable in here, so I will leave shortly. However, please save my number, in case you needed something. Now I have to go and give that idiot the documents he left behind, please excuse me.”

The door slid ajar and Ryo’s face peeked through the gap.

“I forgot…”

“Yes, yes, they are here. Let’s go, president”

After that, he was left alone. His things hadn’t been delivered yet, so he had nothing to do beside trying out the items in the flat. A part of him regretted taking a shower earlier, it would be a perfect time to relax but he felt bad wasting water. Instead, he walked around the apartment once again, this time poking everything and checking whether it did something or not. This way he discovered that the fridge was connected to the internet. Apparently there was wifi inside but of course Ryo forgot to give him password. He made a mental list of things he had to supply as the cupboards were completely empty, not even a single mug or plate present. 

That’s how the day had passed, and once the outside went dark, he decided to try and rest, yet sleep wasn’t coming. Probably too much excitement, he felt so tired yet so awake at the same time. As he laid, reminiscing the day, the room was darker and darker until he could no longer see beside the outlines of furniture. He must’ve finally dozed off a bit because he jumped awake as a message notification rang. “Rest well, tommorow we start the work! Fufu~” Riku cursed Ryo internally, he was getting to that rest but the man woke him up? 

Nanase groaned and sat up on the bed. He didn’t take any pajamas from the previous flat and honestly, he didn’t feel like changing his clothes anyway, so he laid back and wrapped himself in the duvet. Sleep finally enveloped him, rendering him deaf to the next message that reached his phone.

 

***

 

“Rise and shine! You have exactly 47 seconds to be ready!”

Riku groaned and turned to the other side, trying to move away from the source of the noise. Unfortunately, the noise had no intention of being ignored and pulled his duvet away from him.

“Only 28 seconds left, move it or it will cut into your meal time~”

“What the hell… What time is it…?”

“It’s 6.29, soon 6.30, and you already are 30 minutes behind your schedule! Even if you look adorable with bedhead, I need you clean and proper for the doctor’s appointment.”

At Ryo’s words Riku sat on the bed and rubbed his eyes. Did they even discuss any schedule? He couldn’t remember anything like that.

“...What doctor?”

“I have a general idea of your condition, but I need an expert to judge your capability before we meet with vocal and dance teachers~ Ahh, so busy, so busy~”

Done with speaking his mind, Ryo left him alone. Judging from the voices in the living room, Eris was there as well. Appointments, schedule… His mind was a bit sluggish but the whole situation felt off. Was this really something the president was responsible for? Riku couldn’t shake off the feeling that he was getting scammed in some way. After all, there was no possibility that he was /this/ special. You are only getting in our way. If only he took you, not Tenn. He froze as his mother’s voice echoed in his head. Right. He always only got in people’s way. Everyone wanted him gone. Why would this man go to such lenghts to obtain him?

“Nanase-kun? Are you alright?” Eris was standing in the doorframe with a change of clothes neatly folded in her arms. 

“Ah- Yes, I’m fine. I’m sorry, I don’t have any other outfit, my things haven’t-”

“Don’t worry about that. The president had a fashion designer pick an outfit for today. You haven’t been measured yet, so it might be a bit too big, but I believe it should suffice.”

She left the clothes on the brink of the bed, bowed and left him alone as well. It didn’t truly register the day before but he was starting a new job today. A job that could bring Tenn back… That could bring everything back. He jolted out of the bed.

“Our princess is finally up, I am honored.”

“I’m sorry, I will be ready in a minute!”

 

***

 

Riku was familiar with the procedure, but his previous doctors had never been this thorough with the examination. He hadn’t been in a hospital for at least two years. He stubbornly refused to with things he deemed “minor inconveniences” and thankfully his asthma didn’t try to end his life. Of course, he had attacks when he overworked himself, but there was no one to fret over him so he waited them out. He probably shouldn’t be proud of that but he felt stronger thinking that he could do that and stay alive. When the personnel saw his medical record they scolded him for not doing proper check-ups, then the doctor and his helpers took samples of almost everything, made him run, stretch, lift, basically they pushed him as hard as they could to see if that would trigger his breathing to become constricted. After they were done, Riku was told to wait in the waiting room while Ryo discussed something with the doctors. He felt nervous. To be honest, he completely forgot that asthma absolutely would disturb him during performances, he only thought about meeting Tenn. Finally Ryo came back.

“Hmm, you aren’t half bad for a slacker, I expected it to be much worse~”

Riku breathed a sigh of relief. If all this effort went into bringing him here, yet he proved to be unable to work… He didn’t want to imagine that.

“So my results are… good?”

“For someone with a difficult case of asthma they look quite alright, but you will get a new set of medicine and a medical supervisor.”

Ryo waved his hand dismissively and started walking ahead. At least that was secured… Riku didn’t want to think how much the new medicine would cost but if this whole ordeal worked out… He might be able to cover it. His brain was occupied with calculations as he followed the other two to their next destination.

Their next goal was a studio. As expected of Tsukumo Productions, it was bright and splendid. Riku’s heart still had to get used to the impact it left on him every time. As Ryo and Eris told him to wait in the hall, Riku’s eyes scanned everything in his sight. He could only guess that the other people were also Tsukumo talents. They carried this specific air, the aura of confidence that was making Riku feel small.

“You. Straighten your back, what is this posture supposed to mean?” an unfamiliar voice reached his ears.

Riku blinked, surprised that the person was speaking to him. Under their harsh gaze he automatically straightened up.

“Too much. You are a man, not a peacock. Don’t puff out your chest, you have to balance your whole body to look elegant.”

“Um…”

The other talents started whispering, but they were too quiet for Riku. He only caught stray words that didn’t make sense together. “This person”, “a newbie”, “poor kid”. Thankfully, Ryo chose this moment to come back.

“Oh, it seems you two already get along~”

Riku sent him a questioning stare. Eris cleared her throat and explained.

“Meet Hanami-san. They will be your dance trainer.”

“I personally chose them! After all, my Riku has to be raised by the best, isn’t that right~”

Did “the best” mean “the most strict”? Riku inaudibly gulped and tried adjusting his posture to the previous instructions.

“...At least you can listen. Move it, I have to see what you can do”

“Well then, I will be leaving you in Eri-chan’s care~” Ryo chirped cheerfully, fixing his coat “I’m so~ooo busy I absolutely have to go back to the office.”

He was gone before Riku managed to even open his mouth. Eris smiled like a proud mother.

“I’m glad he is finally taking his job seriously.”

“Is that so…” Riku honestly doubted that was the case but as long as it made her happy…

 

***

 

He caught himself yawning yet another time. Trying to stay awake he munched on the cookies he got from a workmate as a parting gift. Although he was reluctant to quit his part-time job, the vision of being financially dependent on Ryo scaring him, after two weeks he had no other choice. Sitting in the lecture hall he stared at the notes in front of him, unable to read a single word. If he kept it up, he would collapse and that certainly wouldn’t help his grades. Riku was utterly exhausted. He clearly underestimated the amount of work he had to put into becoming an idol before he was allowed to sing even a single note. Both his dance and vocal instructors were drilling him mercilessly, showing him on every step how much he lacked. 

“There are thousands of young men that can sing. The key lies in making the people believe that you are worth investing in, that you are better” his teacher’s words echoed in his head “Your voice must be powerful, so powerful it overwrites their thoughts. You have to sound confident and control your tone when you speak. You might be able to sing, but an idol is much, much more. The idol paints the scenery with their voice.”

Hanami-san was even more rough, pushing his physical limits to the point where he barely could move. Even so, Riku was relentless, doing his best to fulfill the expectations put on him. Partly because of the deal between him and Tsukumo. He didn’t plan to quit his studies, Riku worked too hard to get admitted to just drop it. Once he said that, Ryo suggested that if he could manage both his work and the university, he could keep studying. The man promised to keep his private life a secret from the press as well. “It would be troubling if they started to bother you at school, right?” Riku still had no idea why Ryo was so set on making him an idol. Although he did his best, his abilities were far behind the stars that had already debuted under Tsukumo brand. It was too illogical.

People getting up from their seats made him realize that the lecture had ended. Thankfully, he could record them and listen at home later. The people from the group passed by him, not even noting his existence. Well, he earned that himself so no point in complaining. Once he got out of the building he was surprised to see Eris waiting for him. She was standing next to one of the company cars and checking her tablet. He could hear people whispering about her, but he ignored them.

“Hisakawa-san? Why are you here?”

She lifted her eyes from the screen and sent him a warm smile. Graceful as always, she accompanied him a lot. On the paper Ryo was his manager, but expecting the president of a company to stay by his side all the time was a bit too hopeful so Riku didn’t mind. Even so, he had two hours until the next lesson so he planned to nap… 

“Your vocal instructor was forced to change the hour of the lesson, so I came to pick you up.”

He swallowed a disappointed groan. There goes his nap. Surprisingly, she must’ve noticed something was amiss as her violet eyes scanned him. She looked worried.

“Nanase-kun… I don’t mean to pry, but aren’t you… overworking yourself?”

He probably was. For someone who didn’t want to become an idol in the first place, he worked hard to reach the level demanded of him. He could make up tons of excuses for that but the truth was quite simple. The day he had been born was a tragedy for their family. If only he never came into life, Tenn-nii and their parents would be happy. Ever since the day Tenn left them, his parents blamed him and his hospital bills for all their problems. He was a hindrance that rid them of their happiness and took their talented, healthy son away. If he could bring Tenn back… Maybe they would forgive him. Maybe he could forgive himself.

Besides, even though he couldn’t understand it, Tsukumo Ryo was giving him a chance. After all the effort and money that the man put into him, he couldn’t just slack off and end up disappointing him. He had already disappointed enough people in his life. Riku sighed and walked up to the car.

“...I will do anything to achieve my goal.”

Eris had a complicated face. For someone who accompanied such a weirdo, she was a clever, sensitive person. He hadn’t had anyone like her by his side in years.

“I see.” was her response, followed by a short silence “However, if you end up exhausting yourself, no one will profit from it. Please pay attention to yourself.”

Riku didn’t want to admit how his heart reacted to the concern in her voice. It’s been… a long time since anyone cared about his well being.

“...I will. Thank you, Hisakawa-san.” 

Even though the topic was difficult, the atmosphere in the car was comfortable. He didn’t dwelve on her words for too long. He had to mentally brace himself for the lesson awaiting him.

 

***

 

Once Riku went into the studio with his teacher, Eris heaved a sigh and sat down in the watching room. One could watch the lesson from there without disturbing the participants. She planned to wait for Riku to end and then drive him home, but the gnawing worry was wearing her out. What was the president thinking? This boy certainly had natural predisposition, his voice was beautiful, but… His charm wasn’t big enough to make him this special?

“Hee~re, a coffee for the best secretary~”

“Thank yo- President?!”

Ryo was standing next to her with a big smile on his face. He held a cup of coffee in front of her, so she dutifully took it from his hand.

“Why are you here? Did you finish everything?”

“Oh? Don’t worry about the papers too much, you will get all wrinkly~ I have to see how my little Riku is doing.”

Eris’ heart skipped a beat. In moments like this, when he looked at the window, sipping his own coffee with a serious expression, he looked the most handsome. If only he would stay so quiet…

“President… Can I have a question?”

“Oh, I won’t forbid you from being curious! Can’t guarantee I will answer though~”

“...Why are you so interested in him?”

Ryo smiled uncharacteristically.

“Who knows.”

“Eh?”

That’s certainly not the answer she expected. There had to be a reason, right? Right?!

“Don’t make such a scary face~ Hmm, let’s see… Gut feeling?

“That’s… all?”

“I’m a genius, you know? I have a good sense of business and know what to invest in~ Nanase Riku… You could say he made my Ryo senses tingle~”

“Please don’t joke like this…”

Ryo took another sip, carefully watching Riku follow instructions of his teacher.

“...You know, I don’t like idols. They are fake thieves that steal your heart, not giving anything in return. The happiness they claim to spread is illusory and serves only to make money. I’ve been thinking for a loo~ng time how to kill them all, shoot them like ducks. Oh, and you would be my loyal dog of course, bringing me their corpses! Fufu~”

Eris sighed again, this man was incorrigible.

“But let’s say, if you had a little birdie that would mix with the ducks and bring them down, one by one? A little ugly duckling that would claim you as their parent and follow your every step on it’s short, crooked legs. With enough love and care it will become a weapon that will destroy them from the inside~ That’s my little Riku. His fluffy gray feathers will make the ducks drop their guards, and once he grows up into a wonderful swan, he will bite them to death.”

Although it was difficult to decipher, she understood what he meant. So Riku was supposed to be a weapon…? But he was just a child…

“I think I know what you’re thinking, but worry not, for I know what I’m doing~ After all, I borrowed a book about birds from Momo!”

Ah, to smack him with a notebook… Eris shook her head before her thoughts became visible on her face.

“From what I’ve heard from his teachers, my duckling is progressing steadily, so I think it’s the time for the next step. I’ve already arranged a dance group for him, I think it’s time they meet and practise together~”

“Do you have plans for his debut already?”

“Hmm, I think so. But not yet, he has to mature a bit more. I won’t send a duckling fresh out of the shell between wolves~”

Eris looked at the boy on the other side of the window. Blissfully unaware of the responsibility placed on him, he did his best to achieve his personal goal. She just hoped he wouldn’t get crushed before that.

 

***

 

Ryo finally arrived at home after a long, long day at work. His first thought was to bother Momo a bit with sending him a lot of messages but the sounds on the other side of the wall picked his interest instead. Riku must’ve been moving furniture because it was terribly loud. Eris’ words resurfaced in his mind. To be honest, Ryo himself wasn’t sure why he chose Riku. The whole duckling theory was something that came later. Maybe… what Riku said? “I hate them too”. People who disliked idols were rare after all. What’s more, it was his own beloved brother, so to hate him instead of supporting him was enough to pick Ryo’s interest. 

Or maybe he was just cute. That was possible too. No one tells the president what to do after all, right? All this thinking was too bothersome for his tired brain so he poured himself a glass of wine and decided to relax. Somehow, the need to talk to Momo had disappeared.

 

***

 

His days became a blur. In a span of few months he moved on from lessons and started group practise with the people Ryo provided for him. Although he still had things to improve, he no longer needed to be scolded on every step and gained some confidence in his movements and voice. Once the part-time job was out of the picture, he gained additional free time to spend on studying, so his grades didn’t suffer too much. Every day was busy, he was getting up early and going to sleep late at night. Eris drove him to different places, sometimes even Ryo appeared and commented on his progress. 

Before he knew it, he was invited to Tsukumo’s office. He couldn’t truly feel that it’s been months since the last time he was there. Nothing had changed inside, maybe the placements of gaming pads, but that was it. He looked at the man behind the desk in confusion. He had never been called into the office before, if Ryo wanted to tell him something he would either text or come personally. They lived next to each other as well so it was not like he had a long distance to cross. Eris stood next to him, wearing her usual warm smile.

“Um… Did something happen?”

Ryo leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms.

“Of course. It’s not everyday I call you here after all.”

Riku gulped. All this time he avoided mistakes as much as he could. Did he blunder? Did he offend someone important?

“...Congratulations, my little duckling. You are getting your very own debut single~”

Riku froze for a second, then exhaled in relief and relaxed. It was just debut… Debut? He didn’t register it at first, but joy soon bloomed in his chest. Did his hard work finally pay off? Before he erupted into laughter he stopped though. Wait a second. What duckling.

“...Duckling?”

“Yes, yes, you are my cutest Ahiru-chan~ Now jump in joy and let’s raise a toast for your official graduation from “fresh out of the shell birdie” to “gray feathered birdie”~”

Eris sent him a tired gaze but didn’t comment. Even if he was a bit conflicted about being called that, the happiness from debuting was bigger. Finally… Finally, he was approaching Tenn-nii.

 

Wait for me, Tenn-nii. Just a little bit more.

 

Chapter Text

‘Hey hey, did you see this week’s Oricon chart? That new guy completely made his way through and ended up being first on the list!’

‘Yes! But you know, that song is FREAKING amazing!’

‘Totally!! What was his name again…the singer I mean!’

‘Nanase Riku! He is quite cute, even though he is supposed to have an ‘adult-like charm’?’

 

***

 

‘Now, let’s take a look at the music charts all over Japan… but what’s this! All of them are completely dominated by the new Tsukumo talent! Let’s take a closer look at this newcomer who absolutely overtook all possible rankings!’

The lady made a waving motion towards a monitor that displayed a cover of said single, the music soon following it.

“A world without love” is the newest addition to this week’s rankings. It’s amazing that a single song could center so much attention around itself, don’t you think Tanaka-san?’

The man with thick glasses gave her a nod.

‘Indeed! It reminds me of the thing that happened when Trigger debuted with their ‘Diamond Fusion’! With only a few singles they managed to conquer all Japanese rankings and made their way to the Black&White 2014! However, if such pace is going to continue, I’m afraid our new artist may actually beat the current champions in terms of debut single’s sales!’

Both of them laughed.

‘Impossible! Trigger is such a hot topic right now, it feels like soon they will reach Re:vale’s level of popularity! But who knows, maybe young Nanase Riku will create a miracle and reach the top!’

‘We need to remember that no matter what, there won’t be an idol more popular than Zero, whose singles are still present in the charts until this day! Speak of a legend!’

‘Ahaha! Now, let’s go to the next corner-’

Ryo turned off the TV and gave Riku a knowing look.

‘It’s going as good as I expected, Riku! How does it feel to be suddenly famous?’

‘I.. don’t know?’ Riku was still staring at the blank screen of the huge TV on the wall, looking at his own reflection ‘Just a few months ago, no one knew about my existence, and now it’s like-’

‘A miracle! You just became a Cinderella. Like with a touch of my magic wand, I made you a bright star of this party and-’

‘Ryo-san, I don’t want to lose my shoes’

‘But then you will meet your prince-charming, right? Kujo Tenn, that is~’

‘He is not my-’ Riku was about to protest but technically, Ryo was right. He was doing all of this so he could meet Tenn-nii on the stage. If he was going to ‘lose his shoe at the party’ for Tenn to find him later…

‘Speaking of turning into Cinderella, I like how Hisako stylized your hair. It looks more refined than what you usually have on your head when you wake up’ Tsukumo said while playing with the TV remote ‘You got quite a lot of hair cosmetics from our sponsors but do you even use them?’

‘A shampoo and a conditioner, that’s all…’

‘Ah right, you can’t use any sprays or anything. I will tell Eri-chan to include that in the list…’

Today’s meeting was about Riku’s progress in dominating the music industry. His debut single created quite a chaos, completely overtaking rankings and resulting in his official instagram account following list increasing. While he had to admit, he was an awful model (“But it’s alright Riku-kun, we can photoshop that!”), he felt much better when he could actually sing. He got quite a lot of praise from producers who were surprised that ‘someone with a voice like this haven’t debuted yet!’. They probably had no clue about training and lessons that Riku had to go through so he could bring out his ‘true potential. His life became so busy, all the magazines and TV programs wanted to have an interview with the newest talent from a big production label. 

Many would say this is like a dream - he recalled Ryo’s words when he came to his office for the first time, about creating artificial reality. Of course, it wasn’t true and life of an idol AND student at the same time wasn’t that easy. It seemed that his boss had negotiated quite good conditions with the principal so Riku wouldn’t drop out of the university because of attendance, but he still had to come to lectures and take exams whenever possible. Everything was fair and square, no bribing or threatening anyone. What began to be a bit bothersome were the stares of fellow male classmates and girls suddenly starting to approach him. Ah yes, they suddenly wanted to be his friends, wanted to exchange numbers, go out and eat - all because his face was now being recognized due to the modeling campaigns. Riku politely refused all the requests like he did previously, it just annoyed him that no one paid attention to him before and now he was like a trendy pair of shoes. His boss told him that if things got bad, he would need to have a bodyguard or someone to keep an eye at him at the university. Riku hoped that would never happen, it would be awkward to walk around with a big guy in a black suit.

Yet, he couldn’t say that he didn’t enjoy peaks of the idol life. There were difficulties, but life already taught him that nothing comes easily, especially for him. Sacrificing some of his free time to study or sleep became something normal and while others would complain, he was content with it. He wouldn’t let his mother’s words get into his head. He wasn’t ‘incapable of doing anything on his own’.

‘That’s all for today I think. Want to play something or-’

‘Sorry, I’m off. I have a date’


‘A what?’ Ryo raised his brow ‘I don’t think I allowed you to date anyone-’

‘With humans, yes. But not with delicious hot chocolate with whipped cream and sweet cinnamon buns that I finally got allowed to eat. See you later, Ryo-san!’ Before the man could say something, Riku left in a hurry. Ryo sent him off with a blank expression. The door opened again, this time Eris entered the room and saw her boss fake crying on his desk.

‘Did Nanase-kun dump you again, president?’

‘He is so rude to me, Eri-chan! He dumped me for cinnamon buns!’

Eris smiled in her usual way and put a huge amount of papers in front of Ryo, almost pressing his face.

‘There, you won’t have time to think about your heart being broken. This has to be signed by tommorow, president’

‘Ah.’ Maybe he also should go on a date with cinnamon buns.

 

***

 

‘Thank you so much!’ Mitsuki gave a person in front of him a paper bag filled with melon bread and bid a farewell to them. The shop became empty, so he could take care of the display and clean up the plates from the tables.

‘Hm… I should check on that cake again… even though I did that 20 minutes ago…’

The door to Fonte Chocolat opened again. The man automatically said his usual ‘Welcome!’, but after noticing who entered the shop, he just laughed.

‘Mitsuki-san, hello!’

‘There you are, Mr. Big Shot. I wondered if you are going to appear at our shop again after you became Oricon’s number 1!’

Riku slid off his face mask and laughed nervously.

‘I would never leave those cinnamon buns unattended, no matter what!’

‘Of course! So, your usual set, I assume?’

‘Absolutely!’

Soon both men sat in front of each other, Riku having two steamy cinnamon buns and a huge mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream. They talked about everything and nothing, sometimes stopping when Mitsuki had to serve the other clients or check on his oven.

Before Riku became Tsukumo idol, he used to visit this place when he had enough allowance not only to drown his sadness in sweet nothingness but also to study. He became friends with owner’s son, Izumi Mitsuki, and they would spend a lot of time simply talking. When Riku moved out to another district, coming here was taking him a bit time but he was ready to sacrifice it to meet one of his few friends.

‘So you want to beat Trigger and Re;vale? That’s quite a challenge, you know.’ Mitsuki said while chewing on his food ‘Just because you got lucky with your debut single, don’t think you may be lucky next time too.’

‘Mmm.. I like that you don’t praise me mindlessly like others. You know how weird it is to hear “Oh, you will definitely become Japan’s greatest idol!” as if I wanted that.’

‘You don’t? Then why did you become an idol in the first place?’

Riku went quiet for a while, taking a bite of his bun.

‘...I want to show certain people that I am… capable of doing things on my own.’

‘Ooh.. so you want to prove them wrong? I like that!’ Mitsuki smiled at him ‘Go beat their asses and show them who is the boss! I will cheer on you.’

‘Thank you! I don’t really intend on beating anyone’s ass.. I just want people to understand that I can become someone and I won’t need anyone to look down at me.’

Riku noticed a strange hint of melancholy in Mitsuki’s eyes when he said that.

‘Someone... huh...’

‘Mitsuki…?’

‘No, no. It’s fine. I just thought of something.’ The man quickly put a huge smile on his face ‘I will support you as much as I can, either with my baking or just cheering!’

‘Your baking saved my life countless times!’

‘Haha! That’s my job after all!’

 

***

 

‘Don’t eat them on your way home, keep them for later.’ Mitsuki gave Riku a bag and waved him off. It was soon the time to close the shop for the day. After counting the money in cash register and cleaning, Mitsuki turned off the lights and returned home, where his father was already waiting.

‘I’m home.’

‘Ah, Mitsuki. Sorry for leaving you alone at the shop today.’ The man gave him a gentle smile, which mostly thanks to his features looked quite tired ‘Tommorow you can have a day off, I will take care of everything.’

‘I won’t leave you alone at the shop, dad. It’s fine. I will probably die of boredom if I stay at home.’

His father already seemed to be done preparing a late dinner for them. A simple curry for two was quick to make, so after they finished, they just sat in front of TV watching the same program that aired in the morning.

‘Riku came to the shop today.’

‘Oh, that’s a surprise. I thought after he became a some sort of celebrity he wouldn’t visit us again.’

‘I thought so too, but apparently he would die for our cinnamon buns. It’s still our best selling product and there is a huge demand for them.’

‘Ah, those… I’m glad he likes them.’ The man’s expression became blank. Mitsuki knew why.

‘...I’m sorry’

‘There is no need. I’m glad people like them. It’s just that-’

‘No need to say it. I know.’

Both of them became quiet, mindlessly observing the colorful commercials displayed on the TV.

‘Mitsuki.. you know’ the man said quietly ‘I wonder if he would like them too.’

Mitsuki didn’t say anything, his eyes looking sadly at his father. He put a hand on his shoulder and then hugged him.

‘I don’t think any of them deserves them, honestly. People like them shouldn’t even step into our shop.’

‘...Right.’

Later that night, Mitsuki was staring at his own ceiling. Gentle breeze kept flowing into his room, a single chime at his window frame making quiet noise. His room felt quite empty, but he wasn’t in mood to put any posters on the walls. It was better like this, he wanted it to stay this way.

‘... Those people have no right to step into our world ever again.’

 

***

 

Drr… drr…

‘Hello, this is Iori.’

‘Hello. Did you see the news?’ A deep voice resounded in the boy’s ear.

‘I haven’t looked at the TV yet, however social media and SNS are on fire. Are you concerned?’

A period of silence on the other side was longer than usual.

‘...This child is a danger not only for Trigger but for everyone else. His very being makes me uneasy, he has an aura that disturbs the flow of the world. I cannot allow that Tsukumo to carelessly stroll into and trample the carefully prepared garden of Eden that you and me have set for Tenn. Do you understand?’

‘Of course. I won’t let a newcomer on this level do anything that could tarnish Trigger’s reputation or their fame. After all, this is your wish and I intend on protecting it no matter how much it will cost.’

A quiet laugh answered him.

‘You are such a good child, Iori. I’m glad that you know what your purpose is.’

‘Of course I know. I wish for my brother to become an eternal idol, just like Zero was. I won’t let anyone get in my way.’

‘I am pleased. I have great expectations of you, Iori-kun.’

‘Thank you so much, father. I promise not to let you down.’

The phone call ended. Iori put down his phone and clicked on the first page of SNS that displayed Riku’s picture.

‘...An amateur like you won’t be a problem for us. I swear on my, Kujo Iori’s name.’

Chapter Text

Tenn couldn’t look at this. His eyes couldn’t bear that sight.

It all began with a simple billboard. He thought that maybe his eyes were playing pranks on him, it was not possible that this person is Riku. But unfortunately, it wasn’t a prank and person that was in this advertisement was indeed Nanase Riku, his twin brother.

Ever since he left Nanase family register he didn’t hear anything from them, he didn’t ask Kujo-san for information as well. Being sent abroad had helped him, the distance made forgetting about them easier. He no longer had a place there. With a promise that Kujo-san will support Nanase family in return for Tenn’s obedience, he had been living day by day, hoping that Riku was doing well now. He grew up like this, enjoying his time abroad and away from that place. 

Returning to Japan was an overwhelming experience every time. While Tenn could stand Kujo-san alone, Iori was another thing to deal with. Both of them created a terrifying combination that sent chills down Tenn’s spine. Ever since the day one, when Kujo-san introduced Tenn to his real son, Tenn knew that they wouldn’t get along at all. 

His ‘little brother’ seemed creepy not only for him but for the whole Trigger since the very first meeting. Tenn wished that he could forget that day. While he hoped that Kujo-san wouldn’t be directly involved with Trigger’s management, it was only a sweet little lie that he had told himself. It made his stomach churn. Gaku and Ryuu shouldn’t be involved in this sick game.

While Tenn thought that bearing with Iori’s presence during his daily activities was too much, Riku suddenly stepping into show business was another thing. He disliked it, no, he hated it. Each time he recalled Riku’s crying face, him losing his breath from yelling his name - he couldn’t imagine Riku stepping into this world. Especially when he was about to debut under no one else but Tsukumo Productions, a major label that was known for exploiting their stars until they couldn’t be of any use and replacing them with new faces. It was the worst thing that Riku could ever get involved with.

He had to stop Riku from doing this before it escalated further. However, as much as he didn’t want to admit it, it would be very challenging to accomplish. 

That wish to protect Riku would cause Kujo Tenn’s demise.

 

***

 

‘A-A JOB WITH RE;VALE?! Y-you mean…’

Eris giggled and put her hands on the hips.

‘That’s right. President just informed me that proposal was already in work and is soon to be fully approved. It seems that he and Momo-san managed to negotiate it peacefully.’

‘Huh… Does Ryo-san know Momo-san?’

‘Does he know him? Of course. Momo-san was quite frequently visiting the president before you became a part of our company. It seems that they have known each other for a long time.’

‘Is that so…’ Riku plopped onto the sofa in his changing room ‘I like Re;vale a lot, their songs are great but I don’t know how to act in their company… Are they scary?’ 

‘I wouldn’t say so. Momo-san always greets me with a huge smile on his face, sometimes bringing small presents as well. He is truly a gentleman!’ Eris looked into her tablet, clicking on it a few times ‘Anyway, you should get ready. We have an interview soon and then-’

‘Can I eat something before we go?’

‘...Then, I planned to take you to a restaurant. I know one very good Coco Curry place in Ikebukuro-’

‘But can I eat that? You know that-’ Eris put a finger up to her lips and smiled. Riku already knew her answer and nodded energetically.

‘Yes…!’

 

***

 

Ryo had never seen Riku literally shaking like a jelly before. The boy was so stressed his face seemed green.

‘Riku, are you… perhaps, nervous?’
‘Nervous? Me? No. At all’

Oh boy, he was. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to sell him stories about Re;vale being scary and strict senpais. Riku believed Ryo’s every word at this point, so he would probably trust him if he said ‘Momo eats small children like you for breakfast!’. 

Okay, he wouldn’t believe that, but it’s a fun thing to consider. He was so cute.

The man decided to be with Riku as mental support, letting Eris stay in the office for the day. While he said that he was Riku’s manager, Eris was doing most of the work and he was just ‘there’. Thankfully, Riku appreciated both of them and their efforts, trying to not make problems.

Ryo smacked Riku’s shoulder, making him yelp in response.

‘You will be alright. Remember that you are the winner here!’

‘B--but this isn’t a contest?’

Ryo didn’t answer him, instead he turned his gaze at the two people who were walking towards them. There they were, the reason for Riku’s nervousness and a sleepless night that he spent playing a mobile game on his smart fridge.

Re;vale. The idols that managed to revolutionize the industry after Zero had left. Their popularity was overwhelming, many other artists were hopelessly trying to reach them, with no result. Trigger was doing fairly well on this field, but even they had never had a chance to be featured in their program called ‘Next Re;vale’. Thanks to Ryo’s personal connection with Momo, a deal was forged and today, Riku would get interviewed by those two in front of cameras.

‘Momo~ Good to see you!’ Ryo said cheerfully ‘..and you, Yuki’ added quietly, making the man roll his eyes.

‘Hey now, Ryo-san! Why won’t you greet my darling with the same amount of fake happiness as you do with me?!’ Momo spoke to him with a fake pout.

‘It’s fine, Momo. We are here just to greet each other after all…’ Yuki’s cold stare turned to Riku, making him freeze even further. Is this what they call ice-cold queen? Riku could swear the temperature in the room just fell below zero.

‘...Uh-!’ Riku looked at both of them, then at Ryo who gave him a stare called /Do not embarrass me in front of them/. Easier said than done, idiot!

‘So this is your new talent, huh? Riku-kun, was it?’ Momo saw through Riku’s nerves and decided to speak first ‘Relax, relax! I won’t bite! Yuki won’t either, he is such a darling!’

‘I… can tell! I’m sorry-’ Momo pushed Ryo out of the way and gently embraced Riku with his arm ‘How about we have a nice chat in our changing room, what do you think, Riku?’

‘Momo, what do you-’

‘You are making him nervous, Ryo-san! I will be a good Momo-chan, I won’t eat him raw!’ Momo laughed but Riku looked like he was about to kick the bucket.

‘Yuki, let’s have a nice chat with our guest before the program, shall we?’

‘Yes. I prefer talking face to face without spectators’ Yuki put more pressure on word SPECTATORS, making Ryo frown a bit. 

‘Is that so… ahaha~’ He quickly changed his expression ‘I will let you take care of my Riku then, be gentle with him! He is Tsukumo’s new pride and I would like to get him back in ONE piece… Do we understand each other, Re;vale?’

‘Of course, Ryo-san! Let’s go, Riku!’

Soon the only person left in the corridor was Ryo, who made a sour face. Momo agreed to that deal a bit too easily, which made him suspicious - but deep inside, he hoped that Momo wouldn’t purposefully disturb him when for once he was trying to play fair.

He had to count that as naive as Riku was, he wouldn’t get influenced by those powerful senpais. 

Unless…

Ryo’s mouth twisted in a wicked smile.

‘My little duckling may reach his growing phase faster than I expected…’

 

***

 

‘Riku, it will be quick from our side but… leave Tsukumo while you can.’

‘...Huh?’

Re;vale looked at Riku with their expressions as serious as their words. He had no idea how to reply to such a statement, so he just opened and closed his mouth like a fish out of water.

‘Aah, sorry. Let me say it differently.’ Momo took a deep breath ‘I don’t know what Ryo-san offered you in return, but it’s not something worth joining this company. They will use you until you have nothing left and then throw you away.’

‘Being affiliated with them always means things may turn either bad or worse. There is no in between’ Yuki followed Momo’s speech ‘I have heard your debut song and saw your profile. You are quite a talented person and I would be sad if someone like you ended up exploited by… him’

‘Right, right! We do acknowledge your talent, but... Trust me, Riku. I have known Ryo-san for a while and I know he isn’t a good person. He may promise you mountains of gold, anything you desire but he will suck you dry and ruin your life the second something doesn’t go his way. That’s why-’

‘Why do you speak like you know me?’ Riku suddenly cut in and looked at Momo angrily ‘Just because I am an idol working under Tsukumo Productions, it doesn’t mean I am oblivious to what is happening around me. I don’t need you two to tell me that.’

His response made them go quiet. They probably expected Riku to fight back, but somehow they couldn’t speak a word against him.

‘Listen, Momo-san, Yuki-san. I am glad that you are concerned about me, but I want you to know that it is nothing you should stick your noses into. If it gets me to my goal, I don’t mind being pushed to my limits. It is my life and my choice… Also-’

Riku’s gaze stops at Momo.

‘I don’t want people like you to order me around. I want to do things my way and decide for myself. Even if it means I may end up in a wrong place… the only person that I will be able to blame is myself. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to prepare for your program.’

Riku bowed lightly and left the changing room, leaving both males completely flabbergasted. Yuki was the first one to speak.

‘I don’t think I will ever get along with anyone from Tsukumo... This boy just made me understand it.’

‘...He sounded... pretty serious about it. I don’t know, Yuki.’

The silver haired man put a hand on his shoulder.

‘We agreed that we would try just once. There is no need to feel bad about being unable to rescue a sinking ship’

‘Indeed… You are right, Yuki’

Momo didn’t look convinced at all.

 

***

 

Knock knock.

‘Riku, Riku~ You left Re;vale’s changing room and didn’t return to me’ Ryo swung the door open and sat next to Riku, who was staring intensely into mirror.

‘Ryo-san.’ the boy said sternly. Ryo sent him a questioning look.

‘Did they try to convince you that we are bad people and you should leave?’

Riku sent him an uninterested stare. Ryo beamed at him in return.

‘... You are a bad person, I know that even without them.’

‘What’s that, a praise? I don’t think I deserve it, little duckling’ Ryo said happily ‘Praise me more!’

‘...I don’t intend to go back to what was before I joined Tsukumo Productions’ Riku ignored Ryo’s plea for praise, instead he put his hand on the mirror. 

‘I don’t want to be Nanase Riku who can’t do anything on his own. I want to be Nanase Riku who knows what he is capable of and-’

‘Who is strong and beautiful. Shining the brightest on the stage that was made especially for him. That’s you, Riku’ Ryo’s hand made it to Riku’s cheek, slowly turning his head so the boy was facing him. His thumb slowly caressed the skin, finally stopping at his lips ‘...You are you, a person who is capable of changing the reality to suit your taste and I will be the one who will make it come true. After all, it’s not you who is wrong…’ He looked deep into Riku’s eyes.

‘It is world that is wrong. It was never your fault.’

 

***

 

The program went well. Riku didn’t show any sign of his previous nervous self, instead he was answering all questions and going with the flow well. They even ended up laughing a few times, yet Yuki couldn’t completely forget about their earlier discussion.

That kid was as dangerous as his owner and he had to pay attention to him. He would never forgive himself if anything happened to Momo because of Tsukumo, considering their backstory. He intended on talking with his partner about this matter later and coming up with a solution for this.

 

***

 

‘Nii-san, we should leave soon. We may encounter traffic on our way to the venue-’

Iori noticed that Tenn was staring at the TV program. It was Next Re;vale, a show hosted by fellow idols where they invited other stars and talked about everything. However, Iori quickly noticed the reason why Tenn was so much into this particular program.

‘I’m very happy to be here today!’ Nanase Riku’s voice played through the speakers, making Iori frown. He ended up taking the remote control from Tenn’s hands and turning off the device.

‘Nii-san?’

‘...Sorry. I just got a bit carried away’ the man stood up and straightened up his shirt ‘I will just take something from my room and we can go. Wait here’ He left Iori in the living room and went upstairs. After retrieving some stuff, Tenn was ready to go. However, when he stood in front of a mirror, he put a hand onto the surface and looked at his own reflection.

‘...You are wrong, Riku. This isn’t the happiness that you want. I will prove it to you.’

 

Chapter Text

Riku finished eating his hospital meal. It was as plain as it could be, nothing extraordinary and nothing that could hurt his stomach. His chest still did hurt a bit, but he was used to that kind of pain. After putting his plate down on the nightstand, he laid back on the bed, looking at the dripping IV above him. Closing his eyes brought back the events from the past 2 days and made him remember about the resolve that he had made.

‘This time it will be Kujo Tenn who is going to regret his own existence.’

 

***

 

It’s been nearly a month since Next Re;vale in which Riku was starring was aired. The amount of work had doubled, making him understand that yes, indeed, he had got more famous in a short amount of time. Tsukumo did a very good job at promoting Riku’s face everywhere yet making sure nothing could hurt Riku’s image. Despite many appearances in the TV, interviews etc., his private life was still something that no one could get info on. Riku was instructed what he can talk about and what is an absolute NG for him, so he tried to stick to that list and avoid spilling too many beans. He would rather not have Eris or Ryo-san lecture him so he had to keep his mind focused and answer with professionalism written all over his face. Soon, it became his second nature and came habitually to him

Yet the boy couldn’t keep his face straight when ‘those’ news finally reached his ears.

‘This is…!’ He spoke while holding a list in front of him ‘It’s the program that Mr. Shimooka will host, right? The one with the top stars performing...’

‘That’s right~ He had been working under our label for a while, but that’s not what I want you to see. Look below, on the list of the invited performers.’

As instructed, Riku looked lower, slowly reading all the names until he stopped at 3 particular names, his eyes going wide. 

‘N..no way…!’

‘Da da dann~ Riku, it is finally your time! You will have an outstanding chance for meeting your brother, Kujo Tenn, on a stage… as a fellow performer of course.’ Ryo smiled in his usual way ‘There will be a short interview before performance too. How does it feel? I managed to squeeze you two into that program so it would-’

Before the man finished, Riku stood up and hugged his boss, making him go completely quiet. He could feel how Riku was shaking, probably from happiness.

Ah, Riku smells so nice, he just noticed.

‘Thank you so much, Ryo-san! I… I’m very happy, you know!’ Riku said when he finally let Ryo go, leaving him a bit dazed. His embrace was a bit too strong, as expected from Riku.

‘A..ahaha. Well, it was one of our conditions, right? I would let you meet Kujo Tenn on a stage, so you two could talk, isn’t that right?’

Looking at Riku’s bright and almost sparkly eyes, Ryo could tell how excited he was for that meeting. They haven’t seen each other for a few years and Riku probably treated it as a chance for them to talk and explain things. The boy was so cute when so happy, and…

So freaking naive Ryo wanted to laugh.

That meeting stood absolutely NO chance of succeeding, Tsukumo knew that for sure. That’s why he was ‘raising’ Riku for that specific day when his hidden emotions would finally burst and make him understand how awful that industry is, especially when you are related by blood. He had made many scenarios for that specific meeting and not a single one of them was successful. Each of them ended with the same result, which Ryo was slowly anticipating.

/An ultimate lose of hope and thirst for revenge shall overtake this little duckling. His resolve will be something that can move mountains... or better. Throw whole mountains at poor Trigger, crushing them like cockroaches! But that’s not enough, Re;vale may receive the same treatment if they go against me. Worry not… I have also planned something for them, in case Momo was a meanie~/

Ryo was counting days until the apocalypse, but he knew one thing - Riku will end up horribly disappointed because of the ‘idol’s promise’. After all, this is all they do, right? Fool people with pretty lies.

Finally, the day had come. Both Ryo and Eris attended the studio so they could witness this charming reunion…

Or more like, this awful catastrophe.

 

***

 

‘Let’s do our best today, I will be in your care!’ Riku bowed lightly after greeting a few artists on their way. It seems that the program would be quite a big thing. Ryo told him that it would be in the evening slot, when there is the most people watching TV. Not to mention, all the artists would perform as well. His turn would be right after Trigger so Riku was a bit worried if it would be alright. Tenn-nii might be in the same building as him soon…

Riku couldn’t get enough sleep that night, he was too excited. His old resentment towards Tenn suddenly flew out the window, replaced by a pure want to finally speak to him. He had so many questions for Tenn - starting from reasons why he had to leave so badly and why he refused to contact him after so many years. Riku had to admit that without Ryo, he wouldn’t make it there today. Rigorous training, diets, lessons - it was all for sake of this very day when he would finally receive the answers that he needed. He swore to himself that he will bring Tenn back and make his parents finally understand that they were mistaken about him. It wasn’t Riku’s fault that Tenn left, right? They would forgive him, right?

Finally, Riku heard footsteps behind him and turned around.

After so many years, he finally saw Tenn again. Not inside the TV or smartphone - but the real one. Kujo Tenn was standing in front of him, alive and breathing. 

Riku wanted to call him by the name that he knew. But it wouldn’t be appropriate in that situation, so he had to keep up with the act.

‘I am pleased to meet you, Trigger! I’ve been wanting to meet you for a while.’ He spoke each word carefully and finished the sentence with a smile on his face. There, Ryo-san would be proud of him! How many times had he lectured him on /Aah, just don’t blast out of sudden that you are Kujo’s younger brother or something~ You know, I don’t intend to have a scandal involving you when things are going so smoothly!/

Tsunashi Ryuunosuke answered with the same kind of smile and bowed lightly.

‘Pleased to meet you, Nanase-san! You just debuted but you are quite a hot topic recently.’

‘So hot he managed to beat our debut single sales, that’s surely something.’ Gaku added, his face twisted in a small scowl ‘...Nice to meet you, Nanase. We will be in your care today.’

‘Yes! Let’s do our best today-’

‘Gaku, Ryuu. Do you mind to go to the changing room first? I want to… speak with Nanase-san about something.’ Tenn’s voice was quite quiet, but there was an obvious message hidden in it - ‘Do not argue with me, just go’. Gaku and Ryuu looked at each other in confusion but in the end agreed to leave them alone.

Tenn could hear those two say something like ‘I had no clue they knew each other?’ but soon their voices died as they entered the changing room.

Riku and Tenn stood in front of each other, two different agencies sharing the same world. Riku was happy to finally say those words without holding back.

‘...Tenn-nii. It’s been a while.’ He said, his voice barely above a whisper. He couldn’t risk that anyone would hear their talk, even if the corridor was completely empty, everyone getting ready for the program.

‘..Yes. It’s been a while indeed.’ Tenn spoke with a gentle voice, but judging from his look, his thoughts weren’t that calm.

Somehow, Riku began to feel incredibly awkward when that was all they said, so to keep conversation going, he began to speak.

‘Tenn-nii, you know. I did my best to get here and meet you today. Since we were small it was my dream to sing alongside you and-’

He was talking and talking, but Tenn wasn’t listening to him. Instead, he lowered his head in complete silence, until a single word left his mouth.

‘Who…’

‘Huh? Did you say something, Tenn-nii? I didn’t hear-’

‘Who are you?’ Those words alone made Riku step back. What did he just say? Was he just joking right now?

‘H….ahaha. Tenn-nii, come on. It’s me, Riku! Your twin broth-’ Riku attempted to speak but Tenn cut him off, this time rising his gaze which… completely paralyzed Riku from head to toe.

Those weren’t the gentle, shiny eyes that Riku had remembered from when they were playing together, when Tenn was visiting him at the hospital or they looked at their mother’s delicious omurice. Tenn’s eyes held so much anger, so much negative energy that it made Riku’s blood freeze.

‘I do have a twin brother… However, my twin brother is not you. I don’t recall my twin brother becoming someone else and lying to everyone about his so called happiness.’

‘...T...Te..nn-nii…?’ Riku’s mouth slowly formed a word, but he couldn’t force his throat to produce sounds. Tenn continued to stare at him for a bit, then turned around.

‘...Do not call me that. This name is reserved only for one person… that isn’t you.’ With those words he began to walk off, the clicking of his heels echoing in the corridor. His figure disappeared in Trigger’s changing room.

Those were probably the longest seconds in Riku’s life. He just stood there, completely frozen in place, the sound of Tenn’s shoes still replaying itself in his head, each time louder and louder until it became unbearable and made his head hurt.

‘...se-kun? Nanase-kun? Hey, what’s wrong?’ Someone’s voice woke him up from this strange trance he was in. Riku turned his head slowly, now facing Eris who looked quite concerned. 

‘My god, you are incredibly pale. Are you alright?’

‘....’ Riku didn’t speak a word, but his eyes were still wide open. He wore an expression that Eris couldn’t name but it definitely gave her shivers. She nearly could see her own reflection in his irises.

‘Can you… attend the program today? Do you want me to call off your appearance?’

‘...no’ Riku’s mouth finally managed to move, his voice as quiet as a whisper. He turned his gaze back to Trigger’s changing room door that wouldn’t open until their part of the program started. 

‘Nanase-kun, I’m-’

‘I said I’m fine!’ Riku raised his voice, causing Eris to flinch. Without further words, Riku began to walk towards his own changing room, leaving Eris far behind. His footsteps were heavy and fast until he was basically running towards that place. The boy had slammed the door with full force and flopped onto sofa, pressing his face into the pillow.

The woman still stood there, not knowing what to do. Her first thought was to go after him, but then she was stopped by no one else but her own boss who had a pleased look on his face.

‘President..?’

‘Eri-chan. This is the day that both me and you have worked for. Sit back and observe.’

‘W-what are you talking about? Did you see Nanase-kun’s face-’

‘Yes, yes, I saw! Just as I imagined it would look when he finally speaks with that fake Trigger’s center. A look of absolute disbelief and frustration, this is exactly what I expected to happen.’

Eris had no idea what bullshit that man was spouting. While she knew that his eccentric behaviours could affect others, she couldn’t believe that he would let Riku perform when he wasn’t feeling well. Wouldn’t that be bad for his image if he collapsed on the stage or…!

‘Eris.’ The sound of her full name made her freeze ‘Turn off that gears in your brain and listen to what I’m saying.’

With an obvious distaste on her face, she turned back and faced her boss, who had a wide grin on his lips.

‘When Riku came to our agency, he was like a duckling with crooked legs. He couldn’t dance, his voice was beautiful but raw, almost like a squeak. We managed to get rid of those defects with a huge amount of work and money put into him… However, there was also the last piece of puzzle that had to be put into this picture to make it whole. Do you know what it was?’

‘..I.. do not, president. My apologies’

‘It’s fine, you have the right to not know… Let me enlighten you then!’ Ryo pointed at Trigger’s changing room ‘It’s the resolve to change something. While I’ve been feeding him with a promise that he would meet his beloved brother on the stage as a fellow idol… How unfortunate. His own brother rejected him. Can you believe this?’

‘Did you… plan all of it in advance?’

‘Oh, absolutely. Maybe not planned, I simply knew it would happen. That’s why I’ve been waiting for the day when Riku will finally get rid of his fluffy, but ugly gray feathers. They will burn in the rage and sadness that will flow straight from his heart and turn into nothingness, leaving only beautiful, black feathers. He will be reborn like the most beautiful swan that graces lakes and ponds during moonlight nights.’ Ryo laughed under his breath ‘Riku finally reached his adulthood. Now, he just has to present it to the whole world and to that ungrateful brat that Kujo raised under his rooftop along with uh, what was his name. I don’t know!’

‘Tsukumo-sama, we are starting the show in 10 minutes. May we ask you to go this way?’ Someone from the staff called to Ryo, the man waving to them dismissively.

‘I’m coming~ I know the location, so I will be there in a moment.’ Before Ryo began to walk towards the entrance to the studio, he bent a little towards Eris’ ear and whispered.

‘Observe how our Riku is going to absolutely destroy the competition today. I can guarantee you that, dear Eri-chan…’ With that said, Ryo soon disappeared behind the door, leaving Eris alone once again. 

While everything sounded like a complete, utter bullshit taken out of a novel, she had to admit that it fit president’s overall agenda towards Riku. Everything he had done, everything that had been planned for Riku… including this very day, was already prepared in advance. Riku’s heart was broken from the very beginning but now… it was completely trampled and stepped on by the very person that Riku had believed in. How many times had he told Eris that he wants to be good, he wants to feel needed so he could finally show his twin brother and parents that he isn’t useless, that he isn’t someone weak who needs people to take care of him 24/7?

Eris bit her lip until it actually began to bleed. Aah, she understood now. She understood what president meant by the ‘little duckling turning into a swan’. It frustrated her but now, she felt a deep resentment not towards Ryo, who obviously deceived Riku with a fake promise of reunion…

But towards Kujo Tenn, who betrayed Riku’s expectations. Expectations that Riku had been hard working for. Riku who was suffering everyday, dealing with idol work, student life and his own disease. 

‘... I will make you regret the day you hurt Nanase-kun… All of you…’ Her fingers clenched on the file she used to carry with her around. She turned around and left the corridor, a new resolve born in her heart.

 

***

 

Riku sat in front of a mirror once again. His eyes seemed empty and his reflection looked strangely blurred. Was it his imagination or was it because he couldn’t concentrate his gaze on a single target?

For a while, he thought his own reflection began to laugh. It must’ve been his imagination.

A single knock on the door made him look in that direction.

‘Nanase-san, you are on in 10 minutes. Please be on stand-by!’

‘Understood.’ He said dryly and looked back at the mirror. His reflection was now completely normal. Nothing unusual, so it must’ve truly been his imagination. His thoughts were all over the place and he had to collect them before going live. The idea of having to face Tenn now made his mouth go dry. Rejected. He never expected to be rejected before he could even say anything.

It was the worst turn of the events and little this boy knew-

It would be the most breaking point of his life.

 

***

 

He had no idea how he reached the backstage. The corridors were a blur and voices of the staff members seemed distant. All he could hear were the same words, spoken in that cold, rough voice. “Who are you?” Who was he? Nanase Riku. A 20 years old man, an university student and an idol. Kujo Tenn’s twin brother. Even so, the other man had rejected him. He couldn’t wrap his head around this at all. What did he do? What happened that day that caused his beloved brother, his caring parents, everyone, to suddenly hate him? Was it his fault? But he only got born. If he could, he would be healthy. Why? Why why why why?

Why was he born? What for did he come so far? 

Before he knew it, the music started playing and three familiar faces went on the stage. Meticulously dressed and dripping with professionally created eroticism, they were truly the real idols.

“Good evening, everyone! I hope you have had fun so far!” Tenn’s voice echoed in the studio, making the crowd go wild.

“We are Trigger! You better have energy left, we plan to make you enjoy this night even more!” Gaku’s words made them giggle and cheer.

“Let’s go wild together!” As usual, Ryuunosuke was closing their greeting part.

For a few heartbeats, they stood in silence, probably taking in the view in front of them. Riku could only imagine how nice it must have been. Tenn’s bright, wide smile made his heart ache.

“I’m so happy to see so many smiling faces. Our fans are the most important for me. I love you, everyone.”

“Kyaaaaa!!” 

They were truly the most popular of the performers invited to the program. Riku felt his throat constrict. The voice of Tenn from the stage and from before mixed in his head, giving him a splitting headache. Which one was true? Trigger took their dancing positions and the performance started. Every step was perfectly in synch, their dance inviting and making imagination of the fans go wild. The big smile from before never left Tenn’s face. His eyes seemed to sparkle under the stage lights, he looked mesmerizing. Ever since that day he never, not even for a second, looked at Riku this way. Something hot and unpleasant curled in his stomach. Who are you? I’m your brother. I love all my fans! But you don’t love me. Liar. As soon as that word echoed in his head, Riku understood. He understood everything. Ryo was right all along. Kujo Tenn, the modern angel, was nothing but a liar. His bright smile, cheerful voice, all of his promises were lies. He must’ve hated Riku all along. He must’ve escaped from home to run away from him. Everyone, everyone had hated him all along for nothing. It was never his fault. He did his best and got rejected. No one wanted to even give him a chance. No one deemed him deserving of forgiveness.

It was the world’s fault. 

“So, what will you do?” A silent voice in his head sounded awfully like his own.

“...It wasn’t my fault. I was wronged. It’s unfair. This world that doesn’t want me… should burn.”

 

Chapter Text

He hated it.

He hated it with intensity he wasn't aware he was capable of.

Tenn had spent a great amount of time imagining how this meeting would go. He created scenarios in which he carefully and patiently explained everything to Riku. His cute little brother was always obedient, he would understand and go back home, to their parents who must be worried sick… 

Yet Riku threw him off balance with a simple glance. No matter how many times he thought of it, he always saw Riku mindlessly clinging to him, unaware of the fact they were at work and no one knew the truth about them. That one fact was certain, he expected Riku to be that pure child he had left behind over 7 years ago. But Riku had changed. Instead of throwing himself on Tenn's neck and crying, he wore a polite smile and nodded his head as a greeting. What a professional thing to do. Even so, Tenn's heart was in a turmoil. Who was this person? The Riku he knew had no idea how to smile in a polite, professional way.

He said too much. He said the wrong things. That's not what he meant. Even so, the difference between his memories and the reality was too big. Before he knew it, he was facing Riku who was deadly pale, with betrayal written over his familiar face.

There was no time left. He had to change, he had to go on the stage, he had to fulfill his duty as a performer. But even though he smiled, his heart was still in a chaos. The performance ended in a blink and his head was dizzy with the lights and voices. He secretly glanced at the backstage. Riku stood there. He was next. But... Cold shivers went down Tenn's spine. Those big, red eyes were glowing, his pupils sharp and thin. Hatred. He could feel it in the air, taste it like a copper coin on his tongue. Gaku had to pull him off the stage.

Tenn distantly heard the voices of his teammates asking him whether he was alright. Unable to answer, he simply walked as they pulled him along. Soon, the audience fell silent as the next performer took place on the stage. Tenn sat uncomfortably in the seat prepared for him. He couldn't shake off the feeling that the blood would be spilled that night.

 

***

 

Trigger’s show as usual ended with a bang! Countless screams filled the studio, all cameras pointing at trio's tired faces. Their smiles still wide, their eyes bright-

Perfect, an example of an idol straight out of a book. Too bad, in the next 10 minutes they are about to be completely annihilated, Ryo thought to himself, already awaiting Riku’s appearance in the studio. While Ryo expected that the glorious victory awaited him, there was a silent voice at the back of head, saying that it still could go wrong.

He had told Eris that none of the scenarios he thought of predicted them to lose, but if somehow Riku ended up doing a bad job or losing his face in front of the others... Ryo would need to discard him. After all the training and money put into him, there was no way for Riku to recover at least a part of it. For Tsukumo it wasn’t a problem to 'help someone disappear' but he hoped that it wouldn’t come to this. 

Thankfully, Riku’s performance left him even more speechless than he could’ve ever expected.

 

***

 

'Thank you, Trigger! As usual, you did an outstanding job! Now, let’s move to our next star! Fresh like a spring breeze, warm like the sun itself, he had stepped into the world of idols and caused rankings to shake from the bottom to the top! Let me present you, Tsukumo Productions’ newest talent - Nanase Riku!'

The boy had stepped into the stage and stood next to Mr. Shimooka. His face didn’t betray any sign of the previous overbearing sadness, instead it had a beautiful but mischievous smile.

'There you are! As everyone knows, Nanase-kun managed to outsell Trigger's debut single sales in a matter of months! How do you feel about your sudden fame?' Mr. Shimooka smiled at Riku, even if the boy's stare was giving him shivers. It felt strangely... inhuman. What the hell was wrong with him?

'I'm happy that my abilities got recognized. After all, I've been working so hard in the past few months to achieve this success. It would be unfortunate if all my work was rendered worthless.' 

Riku tried to keep his voice under control but as calm as he pretended to be, there was a huge volcano inside him that was about to burst. No one but Ryo and Tenn knew about it, both of them watching their Riku carefully. The small talk came to an end and soon Riku along with his dancers stood at the center of the stage. Darkness overlapped everyone, Mr. Shimooka’s voice resounding around the studio.

'Now, it’s the moment of truth! Let us present, Nanase-kun's new single... 'Famous' !

Overwrite their thoughts. Paint them a scenery they will drown in. They shall never come back. Then, the music began to play, but Riku heard none of it. There was a voice like his own inside his head, embracing his very being like the finest velvet.

/Now, it is MY time to shine./

 

***

 

Everyone in the studio was completely breathless through the whole performance. No one knew why, but they simply couldn’t take their eyes off Riku, no matter how die-hard Trigger fans they were. Almost like with a magic wand, Riku casted a spell on the audience and made them fall into the world that his performance had painted. His voice was magical, strong and playing loudly inside everyone’s heads. It seemed that no one noticed it, but after the last notes of the song had played, everyone wore the same, wild expression as Riku. Everyone but Tenn.

A loud applause filled the studio, some people standing up from their seats and yelling Nanase's name. When the euphoria slowly went down, Riku gave the audience a last look before waving his hand and disappearing in the backstage where no one beside Ryo was waiting for him.

Ryo, who was still in deep state of shock when Riku approached him, looking into his eyes.

'Riku... you...'

'...Haha... Ryo-san... you know?' Riku laughed quietly, but there was something devilish in those eyes of his. They shone more brightly than Ryo had even seen, making him question what exactly had happened. 

'I'm... really angry, right now. That's why... I had to do it.' He continued and passed by his manager, his legs slowly moving towards the changing room where he could finally rest. It took Tsukumo a while to understand what happened, but as soon as he wanted to go after Riku, someone stopped him - a business talk, damn it. Ryo cursed internally, but had to keep his usual face and pretend that he was interested in a sudden sponsorship offer for his idol. He hoped that Eris would go and check on Riku because he had a strange gut feeling that he couldn’t explain. Riku might’ve… overdone it.

 

***

 

‘Ha…..haa…’ Riku barely managed to close the door behind him, his breath was already too shallow. Each time the air went in and out of his lungs it felt like they were set on fire. The air in the room was cold, yet Riku felt like he was breathing in smoke. Soon his vision began to blur, his legs slowly giving up on him. He probably looked into the mirror, but his reflection looked like a single dot. Finally, a loud thud echoed in the room due to the boy collapsing onto the floor.

‘...my.. head…’ Not only his lungs caused him an incredible pain, soon an awful headache joined it. At this point it felt like he would get split apart. Maybe it would give him some relief though, he thought.

/Aren’t you weak? Becoming like this after a single performance./  

It was his own voice scolding him and yet it felt like it was a completely different person. He couldn’t explain why it felt like this.

‘...’ Riku’s hands tried to clutch onto his head but in the end they didn’t move an inch, laying on the floor in front of Riku’s face. It was scary, almost like a sleep paralysis, where you are aware that there is something happening around you, but your body cannot move. However, Riku wasn’t asleep and he didn’t feel sleepy at all. Was he about to die? While he had felt a similar pain a few times in his life, now it was a completely different thing. It almost felt like his soul was about to leave his body and disappear into nothingness. In the end, darkness took over him, his own voice echoing in his head until it became quiet. 

/It is time for rest, Riku./

Rest… yes. Maybe it will be good.

Soon after that, the silence of the room was broken by a woman’s scream, yet Riku couldn’t hear it at all.

 

***

 

The boy opened his eyes in a room that he couldn’t name. It probably wasn’t a room that Riku had ever seen in his life either. It was entirely covered in black and dark red. He could feel silk caressing his cheek. When his limbs proved to be able to move, he sat up and looked around.

It definitely wasn’t a place he had ever seen, but a strange sense of deja vu lingered in his mind. There was a single japanese lantern in the center of the room, providing the weak light that illuminated the walls. The boy crawled towards it slowly, noticing that the lamp was shining but… there was no light bulb or even a flame inside. Strange. Taking a closer look, he had noticed that something was creeping behind the lamp, making him back away instantly. 

A dark shadow with no face slowly embraced the lamp.

‘Each step you take brings you closer to your demise… and yet you still want to go. Aren’t you an idiot?’ A voice echoed inside his head. The shadow seemed not to have lips or anything that could produce sounds but he could hear it inside himself. Riku shook his head, trying to recall what happened before he found himself in this place.

‘You performed in front of the crowd and then collapsed, taking a careful step towards meikai. A bit closer and you would absolutely turn into ash.’

‘I… I did perform. In Mr. Shimooka’s program... But before that-’

‘You met your brother, Kujo Tenn. How foolish, he didn’t even let you speak. Who does he think he is?’ Even though the shadow had no eyes, Riku could feel its gaze, stabbing like the finest dagger.

‘Tenn-nii… he…’

‘He told you to not call him like this! He thinks he can order you around, just because he is ‘older’?’

Riku wanted to deny, to convince himself that /It must be a mistake, Tenn-nii remembers me..!/

But when he was about to say that, he felt like he just swallowed a piece of a burning coal. It made him remember the same kind of pain he had experienced before he collapsed in his changing room.

‘You don’t have to lie to yourself. You have lived in denial for too long, so it is your time to finally move on… or fight it. Actually no, you want to fight it. You are angry, filled with sadness that makes your heart scream. But you are still too soft to admit it…’

The shadow finally moved towards Riku, its ‘hands’ touching Riku’s cheeks. The pain suddenly left his throat, the cold touch giving him a sense of relief. 

‘That man told you the truth and you know it. You BELIEVE him. He gave you a chance for this reunion but in the end it was Kujo Tenn’s fault that your meeting didn’t work out. With no hope left in your heart, you almost made it and left this world behind... but worry not.’

The shadow got closer to Riku. It was almost like a black cloud engulfing him. The boy suddenly felt at ease. It was a familiar touch, a gentle caress that he had craved for for a while.

‘You were born with a gift that no one else has… And now, it is time for you to make use of it, Riku’

‘...What.. gift..?’

‘Your resolve to fight back with the unfair world that treated you badly… and of course ‘that thing’.’

Riku didn’t understand any of it, but the embrace was so calming he had closed his eyes again.

‘...Who are you...?’

You. I am you, Riku’

With that said, Riku fell into complete darkness once again, just to wake up in the hospital bed, a day after the performance.

 

***

 

‘You finally woke up, sleeping princess!’ Ryo’s voice made Riku look away from the book he was reading. The man closed the door behind him, took a chair and sat down in front of Riku, his expression changing from happy to absolutely enraged in matter of seconds.

‘You absolute IDIOT! You almost gave me and Eris a heart attack when she found you collapsed in the changing room, hell, you looked like you were already on the another side! I was told that fatigue overtook you and with that single performance you just… uh!’

Ryo expected Riku to start apologizing or at least look a bit remorseful for what happened the day before but… Riku’s expression didn’t change at all. It made Ryo uneasy all of the sudden. Finally, Riku closed the book and put it down onto the nightstand next to his bed.

‘I did my job correctly. Don’t try to put me down just because I almost died.’

‘That’s the problem, you ALMOST died. Do you think that I want you dead?’

Riku went quiet, his hands clenching on the bed sheets. There was something on his mind since he woke up and recalled all past events.

‘No. You need me. There is a condition that you gave me and that I have to fulfill… Which I already proved to be capable of doing, right?’

Ryo knew what Riku was talking about, so he took out his phone and opened one of the main music related sites in Japan…

All the news involved Riku’s outstanding performance and how he absolutely outshined others, leaving them in his shadow. Ryo had been reading the news since this very morning and even he was surprised at how Riku managed to conquer almost every information, gossip and music related site there was. It was beyond his own capacity of understanding - not even Trigger had this much power to move everyone with a single performance. It was almost like… Riku truly casted a spell on them.

‘Ryo-san. I have a condition for you as well. Do you mind?’ Nanase spoke and finally turned his gaze towards the man, who nodded slowly.

‘I will destroy Trigger to the pieces. However, I need you to promise me one thing, which is very important to me’ Riku looked at Ryo’s face, his eyes almost laughing at him ‘I need you to stay away from how I will do it. No scandals, no pulling out dirt or doing anything illegal. I want to do it myself and prove to the world… that there can be only one, true idol in this mess...’

Riku’s face had a gentle smile, but something told Ryo that this was a smile that someone could see a few minutes before their demise. 


‘Only me.’

Chapter Text

Trigger’s changing room was quiet. None of them knew how to begin talking about the performance they had witnessed. It was surreal, before Tenn could wrap his head around the events of the evening the crowd was literally roaring, Riku’s song making them go crazy. Even staff members seemed to forget about the world, screaming and cheering Riku’s name. Tenn half expected Gaku to comment on it, but the man was silently sitting with damp hair and a towel on his shoulders. This strained atmosphere was getting on his nerves, yet before he could start the usual catfight, Ryuu came out of the shower.

 

“You should dry your head, Gaku… We would be troubled if you got sick.” His kind and caring voice finally broke the silence. Yaotome blinked as if he got woken up, then looked at the man.

 

“...Mhm. Sorry, I kind of spaced out.” He dutifully started wiping his hair. Tenn felt that he held back from a remark long enough.

 

“It’s surprising you have enough brain cells for that.”

 

“Oi kid, you’re asking for an ass kicking.”

 

“Come on, you two…”

 

Bickering like this was more natural than the awkward silence. The atmosphere got lighter and Tenn exhaled softly. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long.

 

“But man, this Nanase guy was amazing. I still can feel the song thrumming in my ears.” Gaku’s comment brought his mind back to Riku. Tenn frowned and crossed his arms.

 

“Yeah, I never expected a newbie to be on such a level! Every note was so powerful, it was a splendid performance.”

 

Tenn’s frown deepened. Every person seemed to say the same thing - the song filled them with emotions and swept off their feet. However, he didn’t feel it at all. The music and dance were dizzying but if he was to judge it from a professional standpoint, it wasn’t something on a high level. Despite that, Riku stole everyone’s attention, including Tenn’s teammates. It was worrying. Why couldn’t he feel that song? We are supposed to be twins. Why can’t I understand you anymore? 

 

The door opened and Iori walked into their changing room. As always, he looked unpleasant. His deadly pale face and shadows under eyes were even more prominent than usual. They went quiet again, waiting for the boy to either scold them or blatantly ignore the mood. Instead, Iori pulled a tablet out of his bag and clicked on it a few times.

 

“I see you are already dressed. Very well, for I want to discuss holding a special meeting in regard to the new danger that appeared.” Gaku raised his eyebrow and Ryuu looked conflicted. Tenn took it on himself to interact with the boy.

 

“What “danger” are you speaking of? You couldn’t be talking about Nanase-san, could you?”

 

Iori scanned him with his sharp, yet empty eyes. Another few clicks on the tablet.

 

“Who else? I am surprised you three are not angry. Are you going to let an amateur trample on your pride?” Tenn barely stopped himself from laughing. As usual, Iori got mad about the wrong things.

 

“Aren’t you kind of harsh? It’s not like he did it especially to fight us…” Ryuu tried to reason with him, only to be shut by his glare.

 

“Purposeful or not, social media and news sites are on fire. It had been an hour since the program ended yet everyone seems to proclaim your lose in this battle. As your manager, I cannot let it slide-”

 

“Assistant manager, Iori-kun.” A voice interrupted him. Anesagi walked into the room as well, her expression sour. “I saw the changes you proposed to the schedule. However, I don’t think it’s necessary to make such a big deal out of it. It wasn’t a competition after all.”

 

If he got offended by the correction, Iori didn’t show it at all. He faced Anesagi and bowed his head slightly. The woman mirrored his gesture, although reluctantly.

 

“Anesagi-san. I believe it is better to deal with a flame while it is still small, before it burns down your entire house.”

 

Kaoru sighed heavily and rubbed the bridge of her nose. Tenn could no longer hold back. He walked up to Iori and looked into his eyes provocatively.

 

“See, that’s why we will never get along, little brother. The stage is a place where many people can stand at the same time. There is no need to destroy Nanase-san just because he exists. Not everyone is your enemy.”

 

Iori opened his mouth to say something back, yet stopped and closed it again. After a short period of silence, he clicked on the tablet again and faced Gaku and Ryuu.

 

“Since you two have one more job, I will be leaving you with Anesagi-san. Let us go home together, Nii-san.”

 

...It seemed that Iori wanted to talk about something. Slightly irritated about the way he got ignored, Tenn remained in the same spot. They looked at each other for a longer while, then Iori sighed and walked to the door.

 

“...I will call a taxi. Please get ready.”

 

“I will.”

 

Everyone watched as the door closed behind him. As soon as he was gone, Anesagi sighed heavily.

 

“I wanted to talk with you but thanks to him, I no longer know what to say. Even so, don’t look so down! Nanase Riku is just a talented newbie and you are veterans with three years backing you up, there is no need to pick up a fight with him! Trigger is a strong group, there is no way you will lose to him!” The woman’s words were reassuring, yet even though they already knew all that, Iori made everyone unnecessarily gloomy. 

 

Tenn picked up his bag and wished good luck to his friends, then made way to the building’s entrance. He walked slowly, checking his social media in the meantime. Iori was right about one thing - Riku’s performance took over every single source of news in Japan. Clips with it circled even in the international side of rabitter, everyone was wondering who he was. Iori’s words came back to him. There was no way he would agree to start an open war with Riku, and that was what the boy seemed to propose. 

 

Unfortunately, at some point he reached the destination. The cab was already waiting and Kujo junior was standing next to it. As soon as he saw him, Iori held the door open for him. Tenn got inside, soon joined by the other boy. He suspected that Iori instructed the driver beforehand as they started the ride without a single word spoken. He decided to stubbornly look outside the window while Iori kept writing something in his trusted notebook. As expected, they got stuck in a traffic due to the hour. He could see Iori open his mouth a few times to start a conversation, but in the end he stayed silent. It was getting on his nerves. For someone who ruthlessly spoke his mind in regard to Trigger, he was awfully shy in all the wrong moments. They weren’t moving and Tenn had enough.

 

“What is it?”

 

Iori stopped writing and looked at him. 

 

“...I recognize you are irritated, however, I would like you to share knowledge about Nanase Riku.”

 

Tenn had to force his body to relax, otherwise he would clench his fists. Out of all the topics it had to be the one he still couldn’t calmly think, leave alone talk about. Unaware of the turmoil in Tenn’s heart, Iori continued.

 

“Things about his private life, tendencies and habits would be helpful for my analysis. I will gladly accept your cooperation.”

 

“...Who told you I will help you? What do you even need it for?”

 

Iori closed the notebook and put it into the bag.

 

“Although you seem not to agree with me, I am certain that your twin brother will cause trouble for Trigger. I avoid talking about this matter with the other members being present, as you wished, but you should take countermeasures.”

 

“Riku isn’t like that. You have the wrong idea of him.” Tenn shook his head, but a silent question appeared in his mind. Do I really know this Riku? Can I say that it was certainly wrong? 

 

“How will you explain the events that occurred during the program then? I have been following his progress so far per father’s request. He does have talent, that is true, but his skill have not caught up with it yet. On his current level, he should not be able to give a performance on this scale. What is more, there was undeniable fury in his song. Listening to it I could feel pure rage filling me like a wave.”

 

Again, someone mentioned the feelings drowning people’s minds. Tenn couldn’t understand it at all. Why was he the only one who didn’t feel anything? Was this because the anger was directed at him? He felt guilty even without that. Irritation arose in him again. The cab finally passed by the traffic and they were approaching their house.

 

“What are you trying to say? We had a small argument before the performance. I had to leave before we could solve it, so he had a reason to be mad at me. Riku has always been an emotional child, it’s possible that-”

 

Iori shook his head.

 

“A simple argument would not be enough. I suspect he might hold a personal grudge towards you, that could be the reason he picked up an idol’s career. If my suspicion turns out to be true, we will need to stay cautious as there is a big company backing him up.”

 

Tenn clenched his fists on the coat and faced the window again. Everything was getting mixed in his head and he didn’t know what to think anymore. Did he even know anything about Riku? He thought he knew his twin brother but everything seemed to be wrong. What happened?

 

“Will you cooperate then?” Obviously, the more agitated he was, the more Iori couldn’t read his mood and tried to pry until Tenn snapped.

 

“Can you just… shut up.”

 

Even as he growled, Iori remained calm.

 

“I need this information for analysis-”

 

“Then ask Kujo-san. He is omnipotent, isn’t that right?”

 

They arrived in front of the house. Before Iori could answer, Tenn jumped out of the car and walked inside without looking back. He surely could pay by himself, right? He didn’t mean to slam the door to his room yet he did, the sound making him flinch. He needed time and space to properly think about everything that happened. Riku wasn’t his enemy, he couldn’t imagine his little brother venturing for revenge. It was just a misunderstanding he would clear and everything would be alright.

 

***

 

Standing on the other side of the door, Iori held his hand ready to knock. He was ready to be ignored again, but father trusted him with Tenn’s wellbeing. In the end, he gave up and walked to his own room.

 

“I hope you won’t regret believing in him, Nii-san.”

Chapter Text

Riku closed his notebook and put it into his bag. He finally finished studying material for the next big exam and now he could have a well deserved rest for his braincells. Medical exams were surely something not to be taken lightly, one simple mistake and your whole thought process suddenly stops, causing you to forget various stuff. He had to be careful and not distract himself too much during it. Riku stood up and began to undress, put clothes in the basket and turned on the shower.

 

It’s been 2 weeks since he got discharged from the hospital, doctors telling him to put his idol activities on a short hiatus and not overwork himself. Even after such time without any activity, the news about his performance were still making it to the music sites’ headlines. Tsukumo had no other choice but to post an official notice that Riku will be preparing his first cd debut and will abstain from public appearances until the work is done. It suddenly felt strange to not attend daily vocal lessons or have any interviews for the magazine, instead after he had finished his classes, he was going straight home where he ended up reviewing the material and simply resting. 

 

After he was done with showering and dressed up into pajamas, Nanase laid down in his bed and looked through his rabitter feed, encouraging messages pouring in.

 

'Do your best, Riku-kun!'

 

'Can't wait to see your new album!'

 

'Money prepared, my heart - not really!!'

 

It made him smile. Fans. He really... had fans. Of course, Ryo told him that fans are as fake as idols can be but Riku let himself drown in this. It made him happy that someone finally began to cheer on him, support him - not out of pity, because he was weak and sick, but because he proved himself to be capable of doing something. He recalled the stage experience from mr. Shimooka’s program, how everyone’s eyes were on him, how everyone were watching him dance and sing while being breathless - it was his doing, it was his power!!

 

Before he could stop it, an unpleasant feeling filled his chest again when he recalled Tenn’s words towards his fans. He said he loved all of them, right? A liar. If he truly treasured all of his fans, he wouldn’t talk to Riku like this. 

 

***

 

'He sees you as a threat, Riku, that’s why!' Ryo said while sipping his coffee. Riku was laying down on his sofa, staring at the ceiling mindlessly.

 

‘Yet, I can’t believe, he just plain ignored you like this. Maybe he should pull that stick out of his ass and chill a bit? ‘Who are you’, how dares he!'

 

'...I don’t know. It was just... bad.' 

 

Riku finally had the courage to tell Ryo what exactly had happened that day. The man didn’t want to ask Riku directly, he wanted to make sure Riku trusted him enough to tell him all by himself. He was such a good and obedient boy, but ever since that day, Ryo had decided to pay more attention to Riku’s actions. Watching that stage performance over and over, he had a strange gut feeling that Riku did something that cannot be explained in simple terms. There was nothing unusual in the choreography but- ah. Right.

 

The voice. Riku's voice kept vibrating in Ryo’s ears. Each time he played that particular stage, it felt like his head was slowly filled with clouds, as if he was flying... but once the song reached the main chorus, he was suddenly pulled out, his heart filling with irrational anger. No matter how many times he had replayed it, it didn’t change at all.

 

Tsukumo had no idea how to explain this, but in the end it was an advantage for him. Riku completely overtook media’s attention without Ryo even lifting his finger. It got him in a marvelous mood, especially when the other idol groups were briefly mentioned or there was no word of them at all. Trigger made an appearance but it was Riku who ended up being the main star - it pleased him.

 

His little duckling finally grew some teeth.

 

Looking at Riku who was rolling on his sofa, he smiled to himself. There was so much potential hidden inside this boy and he was about to bring it out to the world. His previous concerns regarding investing into Riku flew out the window, his chest filling with confidence. Right, with Riku’s help he would surely change the industry, show everyone how easily they can be deceived and-

 

THUD

 

‘Ouch’

...But first, he will help Riku stand up, this little duckling still has no idea how to fly and fell down from the couch.

 

***

 

She was running a bit late, but Tsukumo never paid much attention to time as long as the requested job was done. With president’s favorite donuts in a hand, Eris greeted the security person and approached the lift. The meeting went smoothly, she was pleased with the outcome and herself. A casual secretary wouldn’t be given this much freedom, what a lucky woman she was! One of the workers held the door open for her, she thanked her and soon she was in the corridor leading to the president’s office. She opened the door with her elbow.

 

‘I’m back, presi-’

 

‘Oh, welcome back, Hisakawa-san.’

 

She blinked, surprised, as her eyes met the red ones. Riku was sitting on a couch, every free space occupied by countless books and practice scores. Even without glasses she could see they were all medical materials. Ryo was sitting opposite of Riku, holding one of the books and reading it with curiosity sparkling in his eyes.

 

‘Oh, Eri-chan, you’re back!’

 

Eris put the donuts on the desk and pulled Ryo aside.

 

‘P-President, why is Nanase-kun here…’

 

‘Ah, I wanted to observe him, and where can I do it better than in my own office?’

 

He did talk about wanting to keep a close eye on him but was that the only solution? She already could tell that with Nanase here, Ryo wouldn’t finish any work, too distracted by the boy. Eris sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose. 

 

‘Please work.’

 

‘Eeeh, but I promised Riku to help him with a quiz-’

 

‘Work.’

 

“Yeee-s…’

 

***

 

‘The fuck you just said-!’

 

‘Hey guys, stop it already! We are in the middle of practice…’

 

‘Did you hear what did he just call me? An amateur?!’

 

Riku sighed deeply, wiping his forehead with a towel. His dancers were arguing again, slowly getting on his nerves. They just received a new choreography and none of them could do a good job (as Riku noticed) but each kept arguing that they were doing it better than the second person. Today’s practice was 80% arguing and 20% actually dancing. He was getting impatient, after weeks of staying put he was eager to dance, but they were useless.

 

However, when a water bottle flew past his head and hit the wall behind him, he stood up and put the towel on his neck.

 

‘Everyone, quiet!’ He raised his voice and strangely everyone suddenly straightened their backs. They had no idea why, Riku’s voice was so loud it literally vibrated through practice room. ‘We cannot work like this! We still can’t move to the chorus part because you keep arguing with each other over the smallest details! We won’t learn any of those steps at this point if you won’t put your personal-’

 

They didn’t even let him finish and soon their quarrel erupted into even worse mess. Why no one wanted to listen to him? Suddenly irritated, he threw his towel onto the chair. Ah, fine. If they wouldn’t listen, then he had to do it in the “typical boss” way. 

 

‘ENOUGH, GODDAMNIT! ALL OF YOU, GET OUT!’ Riku yelled and pointed his hand at the door. ‘If you cannot work in a group or learn the easiest choreography, I don’t need you here! I didn’t come here to slack off, so get out!’

 

Everyone’s eyes were looking at Riku with a complete disbelief. Silence filled the room until the person who was making the most noise cursed under their breath, took their stuff and left, soon everyone following their example. Riku was left alone in the practice room, realization hitting him a few minutes later.

 

‘...What the hell did I just do. Oh no, no…’

 

The boy laid down on the ground and kept staring at the ceiling. What should he do now? Without back up dancers, his show wouldn’t be as good as it should be. At this point he could perform solo, like a jester wearing red shoes and dancing on the stage until he lost his breath, but Ryo would probably strangle him with bare hands. He reached for the towel again and put it on his forehead. Laying like this, separated from the world by a thin material, Riku drowned in his thoughts again. He was definitely missing something more than just back-up dancers. He had recalled his performance in Mr. Shimooka’s program and then Trigger’s…

 

He didn’t even hear that someone had entered the room, steps slowly approaching him.

 

The key that he was missing… he knew what it was. It was something he should have done since very beginning... and that was...!

 

Suddenly, the pleasant darkness disappeared and his eyes got blinded by the lights of the studio. There was a dark figure looming above him. Riku quickly covered his eyes.

 

‘I hope you like roasted peking duck, Riku, because today you are definitely going to become one.’ Ryo’s voice sounded pretty threatening, but Riku was already immune to it. His eyes finally got used to the light again, so he could see his boss’ displeased face. Ryo was crouching next to him.

 

‘...I know what I have to do. I’m such an idiot!’ Riku sat up, his head almost hitting Ryo’s. The man gave him a confused stare and stood up.

 

‘I won’t deny that you are an idiot, but I hope you know what you are about to do, Riku! Even I am not that stupid to literally fire all the people that support-’

 

‘Ryo-san, I need to get in touch with your audition team. Also, I need a place with a scene. It’s important!’ The boy stood up quickly and stretched, turning back to Ryo. Despite the thing that had happened few minutes ago, Riku already had eyes filled with a new resolve.

 

‘Audition? What for?’

 

‘Back-up dancers. I appreciate that you have chosen them for me, but I couldn’t work well with them. To reach my goal, I need to have the same kind of stability and synchronisation as my opponents…’

 

‘Trigger, you mean?’

 

‘Not only Trigger. Re;vale too. I need people that will become something like ‘my second body’, responding to the signals that I’m sending them. In other words…’ Riku took the towel from Ryo’s hand and put it onto his right shoulder ‘I need to see who will be the most compatible with me by choosing the dancers myself. That’s why, allow me to organize an audition, Ryo-san.’ 

 

Riku became quite confident since the day they spoke at the hospital. Ryo could remember how nervous Riku was before his interview with Re;vale as if it was yesterday. The same during his first campaigns and before the performance. Now, the boy- no. The man who stood in front of him was someone who learned what he needed to achieve an absolute victory. The smile that Riku gave Ryo made his heart race, even if only a bit.

 

Tsukumo laughed and nodded.

 

‘There, I was about to lecture you but it seems you already have a plan B prepared. Alright then! I will ask Eri-chan to prepare everything for you. However, as a punishment for firing all dancers…’ Ryo handed Riku his mobile phone, the boy sending him a questioning look ‘You will play my mobage for a whole day for me. You know, those materials won’t drop itself when drop rate is only 0,0005% ~’

 

Ryo waved Riku off and closed the door behind him. Riku’s expression was blank.

 

‘...What… kind of punishment is that…?’ With that being said, Riku took his stuff and left the room, a day full of grinding awaiting him. As if it was something new for him, did Ryo-san even see his 40 boxes in Guild Wars?

 

***

 

‘Yotsuba, stop screwing around and help me with that box!’

 

Yotsuba Tamaki sighed heavily and stood up from his chair, going to help his co-worker. The box was much lighter than he expected, he lifted it with one hand and put it into the right place.

 

‘Isumin, you weak ass, dis’ ain’t that heavy’

 

‘Shut up, you know I don’t have that much strength. Since you already moved your ass, can you take those boxes from the truck? I will put down the rest of display…’

 

‘Yea… lemme just finish playing that game’ Tamaki sat back on the chair and looked at his phone. Soon he would get the desired score and reach that SS rank. Only a few notes and then he would-

 

‘YOTSUBA, MOVE YOUR ASS AND HELP HARUKA WITH THOSE BOXES!’ His boss voice completely threw Tamaki out of focus, causing him to miss few notes and his score drop drastically. Tamaki ended up standing up and…

 

***

 

‘I can’t believe you got fired AGAIN. For fuck’s sake, how do you want to keep up with the facade that you are a good citizen, Yotsuba?’ Late in the evening both Tamaki and Haruka sat in their apartment, the smell of tobacco filling the air. Tamaki was laying on the table face down. Haruka put down a cigarette and poked his head with a finger.

 

‘Leave me alone to die.’

 

‘I can’t be paying rent only by myself. You better try and search for another job so we can pretend that we are not actually beating people up for money.’

 

‘...Speakin’ of which, did Aniki call or something?’

 

‘No, right now no one asked for beating, I guess.’ Haruka laid down on tatami mat, sighing deeply. ‘Recently, we got even less work, did you notice? It also means less cash, which is bad. That’s why you can’t get fired from jobs so easily!’

 

Tamaki wasn’t listening to Haruka, browsing his phone instead. Rabitter didn’t show anything interesting, mostly photos of pudding or other dairy related products that Tamaki had a weird obsession with. However, one of promoted ads got his attention pretty fast.

 

‘Isumin.’

 

‘What?’


‘How about I dance?’


‘Dance? Where? In the city center for money, like a monkey?’

 

‘No, you idiot.’ Tamaki shoved his phone towards Haruka, letting him read the ad. Haruka scratched his head.

 

‘Well, you can dance, that’s for sure but… do you think you stand a chance? Shit’s probably rigged as hell and idols are... nothing but marionettes with fake smiles.’ 

 

Tamaki gave the ad another, longer look, big letters once more displaying in front of him.

 

‘We are searching for new talents who can unleash their true potential with their dance! Do you think you can show others the world with your moves? Come to the Tsukumo Productions Casting!’

 

‘... I won’t know til I try, Isumin. If I get there, I won’t need to search for another shitty job, right?’

 

Haruka gave him a long sigh and put the cigarette back to his mouth.

 

‘If you really want to try, you better make it or I will personally beat your ass.’

 

‘You can’t even lift a box, watchu’ gonna do? Tickle me to the death?’

 

‘You little…!’

 

‘I’m taller than you!’

 

Neither of them slept that night.

Chapter Text

The day of the audition came quite soon, Riku didn’t even notice time passing by like a storm. When he came to the place where it was supposed to take place, he was surprised by the amount of contestants actually wanting to compete. He was afraid he may spend a whole day or even two here. In the end though, it was his own choice and he had to give everyone equal chance. Walking towards the entrance, he managed to bump into someone tall, quickly apologizing.

 

Once their eyes met, Riku felt a threatening aura coming from that man.

 

‘A...s...sorry…’

 

‘...Uh. Sure. Watch your step or somethin’ The man walked away, soon joining another one. Riku stood there for a while until he got pulled aside by no one else but Eris who looked angry.

 

‘There you are, I was searching for you everywhere! You were supposed to enter through an another entrance, not the main one.’

 

‘...I was?’

 

The woman rolled her eyes and pulled Riku by his jacket. He did have mask on but Eris got so good at recognizing him he could wear Zero’s costume and she probably would be like ‘Yeah, it’s you Nanase-kun’. Women sure are scary.

 

Meanwhile, Tamaki and Haruka were waiting for the main door to open. Looking around, Tamaki was probably one of the tallest guys there but that didn’t made him feel uneasy or anything.

 

‘I hate crowds. Goddammit, why did you have to choose an audition like this?’

 

‘Because they will pay a lot of money and I can dance. What else do you need?’

 

‘A cig, probably.’

 

Tamaki nodded, as much as he had that specific hunger for nicotine, he preferred to stay ‘clean’ for today. He already felt stares of the other guys on him, probably because he didn’t have any outstanding clothes - wearing just a simple track suit was enough for him. It wasn’t about showing off how much money you have but rather what you can do. He HAD to get this job, even if his life depended on it. After all Tamaki had a goal in his mind when he read a full notice on Tsukumo Productions’ site and filled in the questionnaire.

 

‘You think this will help you find your sister?’ Haruka made big eyes when Tamaki told him about the true reason for auditioning.

 

‘Yeah. If I’m gonna be a dancer, that means I will be in TV and music videos, right? Surely, Aya will see one of those and contact me.’

 

‘But back-up dancer... I don’t think your face will be that visible?’

 

‘It’s still better than nothing, okay! I can sit here, curse my life and beat the shit out of some random dudes for money or try to get in contact with her. She is the only family that I have, besides my shitty dad.’

 

Haruka gave him a long sigh and shook his head.

 

‘If it wasn’t for her and a bit of cash, I would tell you to not even try to step into this shit… But now you don’t have much choice, right? Go for it.’

 

‘Yeah… also, Isumin.’

 

‘What?’

‘Why do you hate idols and show business so much? Somethin’ happened or...?’

 

Haruka in the end didn’t tell him anything. With simple ‘Let’s not talk about it’, they had changed topic and forgot about the whole issue.

 

That’s why, Tamaki had to participate in this audition and secure a place for himself in Tsukumo Productions. 

 

Wait for me, Aya. I will surely find you.

 

***

 

All participants went to get their number stickers. After everyone who registered was ready, they were greeted by the judges. Whispers filled the corridor as soon as Riku showed up and greeted them.

 

‘Welcome everyone! We are pleased so many people have responded to our casting advertisement!’ Riku smiled to all the contestants ‘While it wasn’t specified in the ad, person that is searching for backup dancers is me. I’m sure you heard my name at least once in the media… Even if you didn’t, that’s fine, haha.’

 

Tamaki looked at him in silence. It was the same person he bumped into, right? He had the same bright, red eyes. So it was him, that singer?

 

‘I am searching for people who are passionate in what they are doing and enjoy dancing to various kinds of music. In today’s audition, besides dance teachers, I will be one of the judges. I have high hopes for all of you and I can’t wait to see what you can do. As for the ‘prize’ for getting in…’ Riku raised his hands ‘There are 6 slots. The most talented people who get chosen will receive a contract with Tsukumo Productions and begin to work with me as soon as I’m done with preparation for my debut CD. With that said… I wish all of you good luck at the audition!’ A loud round of applause filled the room, everyone preparing themselves mentally for audition. Tamaki somehow didn’t feel nervous. The only thing that he wondered besides getting in touch with Aya was…

 

‘...I wonder how many Ousama puddings will I be able to buy with that salary...’

 

***

 

Riku had high hopes for that audition. After all, he was to choose new dancers who would support him not only in music videos but also in his performances AND possible live tours.

 

That’s the key word, he HAD high hopes.

 

After 3 hours of auditions, he truly appreciated the patience of contest judges who had to watch EVERY single participant. The formula was simple - they had to dance to a one, chosen by themselves song and everything was about 5 minutes long. The problem appeared when after almost 35 candidates, maybe 2 of them were enough to be called good . Some people who came there couldn’t be called dancers, they probably came thinking that they may can score some points or…

 

Riku honestly had no idea, he was tired of it already. He had to take a break, drink water and forget about some contestants that gave him second-hand embarrassment. He had told himself that he must find any dancers today, he didn’t want to go back to the old crew - they wouldn’t move with any project for at least 3 weeks and Ryo-san would yell at him for being slow and not making progress.

 

Calm down Riku, Paracetamol won’t save you in this case but taking more than one pill would surely give you a nice sense of relief.

 

‘Uh… Thank you so much! It was very nice. Can you ask for the next contestant?’ When the person left the stage, Riku’s head hit the table. He had no idea how many contestants were still left, but if he was going to see another person doing a freestyle dance by waving their arms and legs, he was going to kill something. Probably himself.

 

‘Nanase-san, this is how it usually is. Finding a diamond is incredibly hard and you have to stick your hands into mud. Anyway, next contestant is about to enter and... oh.’

 

‘Hm? What? Is he another so-called winner of America’s Got Talent or person who crossed the world on their bike?’

 

‘No… Let’s see. Contestant number 44, Yotsuba Tamaki. He actually made a mistake with that one kanji…’ The judges looked carefully into Yotsuba’s information. Riku was already too tired, he will let them judge.

 

‘Alright, let him in.’

 

Soon, the door opened and a man walked onto the stage. All eyes were on him, even previously bored Riku raised his gaze. It was that man…!

 

‘Uh… So I’m Yotsuba Tamaki. Number 44’

 

Riku could hear whispers amongst judges, saying that Tamaki looks like some thug? Is this surely a good place for him? Somehow, it made him feel uneasy. 

 

‘Yotsuba-san, hello. I’m Nanase Riku as you already know…’ Riku suddenly spoke, making everyone go quiet. They kept eye contact with each other ‘Before we start, tell us something about you’

 

‘Like what?’

 

‘What do you like?’

 

‘Pudding.’


‘Huh?’

 

‘Ousama Pudding.’

 

Ah, another eccentric, Riku thought. Well, couldn’t be helped, so he went with his next question.

 

‘Why did you decide to partake in this audition? Do you have any specific goal in mind?’

 

‘I do.’ Tamaki said after a short pause ‘I want my dance to like… reach someone.’

 

That was the moment that sparked Riku’s interest instantly. It seemed that the judges noticed this, because they let Riku take the lead with this, still looking at Tamaki’s papers.

 

‘Do you perhaps… want them to see that you are capable of doing things on your own?’

 

‘Uh… Not really? I just want them to see me and I think I can reach them if I dance. It sometimes speaks better than words’ There, Tamaki nailed it. He would never get an idea like this, so he made a mental note to thank Isumin.

 

Riku smiled. It seemed that this specific contestant actually had a better resolve than the others. Of course, it could be all a lie to make his heart weak but his gut told him that it was a real thing.

 

‘Alright then. Show us what you got, Yotsuba-san.’

 

Tamaki nodded and soon music began to play.

 

***

 

Tamaki left the room, still quite surprised. It seemed that he managed to catch their attention?

 

Riku sat down, a smile not getting off his face, and quickly scribbled something in Tamaki’s papers. Other judges passed stares between each other.

 

‘We will take a short break. How many contestants are still left?’

 

‘Around 15.’

 

‘...I guess I will manage… but I definitely have my own pick already.’ Riku was about to stand up when one of judges stopped him.

 

‘Nanase-kun, a word.’

 

‘Yes?’

 

‘Why that boy? His dance was good but-’

 

Riku took a sip of his water and looked at the stage, replaying all of Tamaki’s dance in his mind.

 

‘Yotsuba-san may lack some technical basics, but he is exactly what I’ve been searching for. He told me a story with his dance in those 5 minutes and it was more than those 43 people before him did. His dance comes from his soul and you can see it. With more training and discipline, he will make a great dancer and this is a person that I definitely want to work with. Now, if you excuse me…’ Riku quickly left the room, leaving people in silence.

 

‘Hmm… Well, personally I wasn’t moved but it seems Nanase-kun was completely into it.’

 

‘I mean, he was the only one who actually received an ovation from him? Nanase-kun stood up and clapped.’

 

‘That’s good, I guess. He is the main person who decides here, so we need to abide to his wish.’

 

One of the main judges scribbled quickly something in audition protocol and put a stamp next to Tamaki’s name, bright, red letters saying “Passed”.

 

***

 

The rest of the casting passed peacefully, Riku paid more attention to the attendees but none of them made his heart race as much as Tamaki did. None of the candidates could do what Riku expected them to do. Finally, the casting was put to an end, people gathered and waited for the results. Nervous atmosphere was finally starting to get to Tamaki which wasn't good for him. He was a person with short temper, that's why he couldn't keep any 'suitable' job for more than few weeks before getting fired.

 

The only job that he could say he was 'good' at was beating bad guys. He didn't think of himself as someone heroic, even if the people that he was supposed to fight with were mostly low lives or any other thugs. It didn't make him happy, actually it made him feel disgusted by himself. Hell, because of this mess he also began to smoke, adding to his disgust. Smoking helped him calm down and having a roommate who also smokes didn't help his case. Yet still, he refused to take even a sip of an alcohol to his lips. 

 

Deep inside he felt that he was falling down into darkness. A silent voice in the back of his head was whispering that he wasn’t any different from his shitty father who used to beat their mother over smallest things. Tamaki always told himself that he wouldn't end up like this but… he became even worse than his father. That's why he wanted to quit this shady deal, but he simply couldn't. As much as he wanted, it wasn't something easy to achieve.

 

Searching for his sister was another thing. She surely… wouldn't want a brother who is basically a gangster. He had to end this before they reunited, no matter what. He needed to leave this shithole before it was too late.

 

'Everyone, may I have your attention please!' Riku's voice resounded in the hall, causing everyone to look in his direction. Tamaki stood up from his place, his and Riku's eyes meeting for a brief second.

 

'We are pleased to announce the results for this casting! I could feel the spirit of competitiveness in all of you, that's why it was so hard to choose. However, few of you displayed more than just dance so let me present you a list of candidates who were the most significant…'

 

Riku began to read the names from the list, number of contestant slowly reaching its limit. Tamaki put his hands together in a praying gesture, begging fate to smile to him at least once in his shitty existence.

 

'And the last one.. I want to say something before I will announce the last name.' Riku looked at everyone 'Idols exist for sole purpose of pleasing human hearts. Our songs, our dances and performances, everything is a product of hard work, long practice hours and tears. Because of that, we are able to give people a wonderful time during concerts. However, our performances wouldn't be complete without everyone who work behind us - staff, producents, teachers… and you.' Tamaki could swear Riku was staring at him, or was it truly his imagination because he was nervous?

 

'Those who didn't make it today, I am sure you will become someone in the future. Don't let it end here, try to reach for the top again instead. There is… always a second chance. Someone I know taught me that and i am grateful to them until this day. Anyway, allow me to announce the last contestant who will join our agency as a new talent and will work alongside me…'

 

This time, Tamaki was sure Riku was looking at him. His bright, red eyes like two rubies were staring at him, smile on his face was gentle and calming.

 

'Number 44, Yotsuba Tamaki. Welcome aboard Tsukumo Productions.'