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There was a little girl dancing in the rain. Her knee-length white dress furled around her with every twirl of her body. It was warm like the comfort of a gentle breeze of spring. As though the winter had just ended. She realized that she was on a hill next to a large camphor tree. And that's where she spotted a boy, no older than ten, at best.

He was sitting there in the rain with what appeared to be a pad of paper in his lap. Though he was sitting in the rain and the leaves of the camphor were dipping, his notebook seemed completely dry; it was as it was in an invisible bubble of his own little world. He wore a long coat too big for his thin body, hanging heavily with rainwater that clung to him like a second skin. He was soaking wet, but the paper wasn’t. She walked up to the boy who was staring into the pad of paper. She leaned over to see what he was doing, but all she saw was blaring red lines.

It frightened the girl.

Suddenly scrawled on the once pristine white paper was the word Ares in a deep and angry red marker that bled into the rest of the white pages. Next to the terrifyingly brilliant crimson writing was Queen and Awaken and Swan in the same red ink. She stumbled away from the boy to escape but ended up tripping over a tree root.

She started to fall and shut her eyes tight. But, it felt as though she was falling for longer than it should have to hit the ground. Opening her eyes, she found that she was now surrounded by ginkgo leaves, butterflies, origami swans, broken clocks all set to the same time, and many other random items that she could barely make out. But, she spotted a bag of her favorite flavor potato chips; a bracelet with a tiny ginkgo leaf charm that gave off the feeling of safety; a pocket watch that wouldn’t stop spinning and stopping at the most random times; and then there was a simple black ballpoint pen that felt lucky. Then, all of a sudden, glass shattered all around her and she was surrounded by shards of glass in four colors; orange, red, purple, and blue.

But, every one of these fell slower than she did and sadly, this girl knew that she was going to hit the ground at any time.

And when she did, the girl, now a grown woman with shoulder-length brown hair, woke with a start in a pink bed inside a tiny apartment.

Her phone was ringing on her nightstand. She picked it up and saw the face of her father on the screen. The dream was already fading before she could write it down in the dream journal, even as she habitually reached for it. It was something her father had her start when she was in primary school. When she realized the dream was gone, she sighed and smiled at the caller ID and answered the ringing phone. 

"Good morning Dad, what's up?" she greeted with a yawn.

"I could ask you the same thing, Emme," her father sounded amused for being first thing in the morning. "I thought that you were already in the office, but Anna and Kiki said that you hadn't clocked in yet. Did you forget to set your alarm again?"

Emme groaned and looked at her digital clock. It read 10:32 am. She was struck with discomfort, a flash of several broken clocks that read the same time flashed in her mind before it was gone once again. Was there some sort of significance to that number? Either way, it didn’t matter anymore.

"Shit,” she swore under her breath, jumping out of bed so she can rush to get ready. “Sorry, dad. I will be there as soon as possible, I forgot to set my stupid alarm again!”

She rushed to get whatever she needed for that day ready, shoving papers that she was supposed to look over into a tote bag. “Can you keep Anna distracted until I get there? She's going to rip me a new one when she finds out I overslept again."

They both laughed before hanging up. They both were rather familiar with Anna's rage at this point. Anna started working at Xi Production Company when she was still in college and loved it ever since. One of Emme’s seniors in the company, she joined the team in her junior year of college while Emme was still in her second year of high school. She worked her way up through the ranks after joining the company full time upon her graduation and now worked as her father’s right-hand. Though Anna never told anyone her age, she had two kids and Emme concluded that she had to be approaching her middle-to-late thirties, despite her youthful looks.

Emme quickly showered and dressed in a white dress with blue flowers with a white and blue striped button-up that she tied shut at the bottom. Buttoning up a few of the lower buttons, she put on a white pair of kitten heels and the necklace that her father gave her for her 22nd birthday that was only a few days ago. It was a simple silver droplet with a rather large blue gem in the center that used to belong to her mother before she passed away when Emme was only a child. Quickly curling just the bottom parts of her hair before rushing out of her apartment, she barely noticed the moving company for the once vacant apartment right next door.

As she was approaching the elevator, she realized that she was forgetting something important. With an impatient sigh, Emme turned around to grab her keys, purse, and book bag. Now she was ready to go. After locking up, she was finally able to head to work, and later, school at Loveland University; confident that all will be well while she’s away. 

Swiftly hailing a taxi, she managed to make it to the company building only a "little" late. But, she had a secret weapon. Emme was gleefully smiling that she had the forethought to get coffee and doughnuts for the office.

“You’re late, Emme! Again!” Anna’s scary office mom voice was showing. Bracing herself with a deep breath, Emme knew there was only one way to stop her in a time as dire as this.

Emme quickly turned around after she finished clocking in, revealing a box of donuts in her hand with a flourish that had the coffee precariously balanced on top.

“I know, I know, but I was getting breakfast for everyone! Most of it is already passed out!” Emme said quickly, trying to sound like she hadn’t run at all when she got to the company building. She quickly handed Anna her favorite donut, a glazed maple, and her favorite drink, a caramel macchiato.

While Anna was initially upset and disappointed in Emme's late arrival, she couldn’t be upset with the sprinkled donut in one hand and a coffee in the other. Willow and Kiki both giggled as Anna pouted with a single sprinkle on the corner of her mouth after she indulged in a quick bite. Anna tried for another quick glare, but it was more like an angry kitten, who had a sprinkle on the corner of her mouth. Emme chuckled softly before heading off to find her father.

There, she spotted him in his office, where he was looking over the latest reports from the last quarter. 

"How're our ratings doing?" she asked as she set down her father's coffee.

He sighed. His normally neatly combed back hair was in shambles. Dark brown with only a hint of grey at the temples, he made the look handsome for a man who was in his late forties. He even made wearing glasses look good, though in his case, it was only for reading. They were rectangular and sat only on the tip of his nose.

Looking up at Emme, he pulled them off and set them beside him on the desk to lean back in his seat. He smiled sweetly at his daughter, revealing more of his age. There were laugh lines and crow's feet, but it didn't matter to Emme since he was still her loving father.

"We're doing pretty well, though we lost about a fifth of a percent in our ratings for this past quarter," he stated. "But nothing too major that we need to make any cuts to the budgets  for this quarter.”

Emme sighed. She didn't know if she should believe that. She knew that her father didn't want her to worry about the company. He tends to hide things from her, though she finds out other ways. Emme knew that if things got any worse, but lately, with their declining ratings and bombing shows, the company has been losing several of its investors. 

"Honey, don't worry," he reassured. "Everything is going to be fine. We're shooting a commercial this afternoon for those White Rabbit Creamy Candies, and I'm confident that Fanks will need help with the costumes. I know that you always want to step in and help with the behind the scenes stuff."

“Alright. I’ll go down and see where they need me. So, I'll see you later though okay, dad?" She popped over to his side and pressed a quick kiss on his cheek, leaving him to his paperwork. 

Emme headed down to one of the studio’s to find that they were still doing set-up. There were a lot of bright colors on-stage as well as props that they were going to be using. The actress that they were using in the commercial was in full makeup and costume, so she didn’t think Fanks actually needed her help. She did move around a lot to see where she would be needed, if anywhere, helping the crew make things run smoothly.

‘How long were they working on this because I overslept?’ She thought, guilt and disappointment in herself filling her. ‘They’re almost done now. Did Dad know that they were almost done when he sent me down here?’

Thankfully, the day was uneventful. Emme didn't have any problems with the Candy spokesperson, and she didn't hear of any bugs in the system as Willstrong, one of the company’s tech guru’s, came up with a catchy final edit. While there was a lot of CGI and animation that she knew she never would have been able to do on her own, Willstrong made it look so easy.

She was finally able to leave after several hours of hard work and with the final product completed, she left to catch the train to head to campus, grateful for the company's close proximity to Loveland University. Upon her arrival, the sky darkened, becoming cloudy. With a frown, she could have sworn that the meteorologist said that it was going to be bright and sunny today. Now, she wished that she had brought a collapsible umbrella with her. 

As she neared the building, she saw a young man in a white lab coat standing under a camphor tree. With a clipboard and pen in hand, he was making notes every now and again as he watched students rushing about as it quickly started to sprinkle. She's never seen him on campus before and she's certain she's never met the man, and yet the terrible sense of familiarity struck her. But then again, Emme reasoned, she wasn't a science major, so she wouldn't see anyone dressed in a lab coat. And even then, she's barely taking a basic biology class to get the lab requirement out of the way that specific professor only wore a typical suit and tie.

The man must have felt her eyes on him because he turned and caught her brown eyes with his silver ones. Despite looking like he was sleepy with his eyes half-closed, he was good-looking that catching his eye had her heart skipping a beat. He had a nice angular face with a pointed chin and high cheekbones that when he sent a warm smile her way, her heart thumped again into her throat.

Startled, she quickly turned away and darted towards class. Emme could feel her burning cheeks, knowing full well that she was most likely the color of a ripe tomato. Taking a breath to calm her heart and hope her blush tampered down, she entered the classroom and sat down in her usual seat close to the front of the class.

It was the lecture for that biology class that she needed. The professor was a middle-aged man named John Yang. Surprisingly, Emme's father knew the man when they were both in college together, but lost touch right before Emme's adoption finalized almost 18 years ago. They didn’t rekindle their friendship afterward, but Emme never knew why. Her father still spoke fondly of him, yet even after mentioning that she was taking his class, he didn’t attempt to reach out to him. Her dad seems so lonely nowadays, perhaps she could mention something to her professor about having a cup of coffee with him.

"Good morning, everyone," Professor Yang greeted with a smile. "Now, let's get to it, shall we?" She pulled out her notebook and mechanical pencil, already fighting the boredom of this class. She was a liberal arts major, so someone tell her again why she needed a science credit?

"I'm sure that you remember where we left off last time as we were talking about different genetic traits as well as how the Punnett Square was basically obsolete in this day and age. Most especially now that we know so much more about genetic coding." He moved around the front of the classroom before gesturing with his arm. "And that is why, for today's class, I've brought in my associate, Dr. Xu, to help better explain about humans and their genetics. Everyone, help me welcome Dr. Xu and thank him for taking time out of his busy schedule to help me with the class."

He stepped away from the whiteboard as the class made a weak attempt at an applause as the very same man that she saw in the white lab coat from under the camphor tree walked into the room. He smiled softly, and Emme couldn't help but compare him to a character from Alice in Wonderland. More specifically, the Mouse at the tea party and was perpetually sleepy. Not the groggy, I-crave-murder, five-cups-of-coffee tired, but the cute and sweet, adorable sleepy that Emme couldn't help the small smile.

"Hello, I am Professor Lucien Xu," he said in a tenor voice that was like liquid velvet.

Emme couldn't hold back a blush.

"Human genetics is quite fascinating and I have been honored to be a part of a team that has been researching this area for a long time now." He paused to look around the room.

The room, at least the female portion of it, was attentive to every word that this professor said in his soft, silky voice. While he didn't seem to notice that all the girls' eyes followed his every move, Emme felt their attention was like a cat to a laser pointer.

But then, his gaze stopped when they fell upon Emme, causing her heart to thump heavily against her chest. When he broke his brief pause, his eyes never wavered from hers, as though they shared a secret when she knew nothing. "I do hope that everyone will take just as much interest as I do about our subject matter today." A playful smile played at his lips as he spoke. He knew the influence that he was having on the girl, just from something as simple as eye contact.

But then, she blinked. Nothing but white filled her mind and two words were spoken by what sounded like Professor Lucien: "Silly girl." She could almost feel a large, but gentle hand being placed on the top of her head, filling her with a comforting warmth. Emme resisted the urge to shake her head. She had no idea where that came from, but she tried to pay attention to the lecture.

Thankfully, giving her heart a break, Lucien turned his attention to the board behind him and wrote simple terms for them to remember in a rather nice handwriting.

"Does anyone know what genetics entails?" he asked in that soft voice of his that somehow got everyone to pay attention despite how boring the class usually was. 

When no one answered, he launched into his lecture. "Then, remember this, genetics is the study of heredity and the underlying processes that tell us how traits are passed on from parents to their offspring. It explains how you have your mother's eye color and your father's nose, but your brother would have your father's eyes and mother's nose. But what exactly is being passed on from your parents to you for you to have these traits? What determines who gets what trait and why? And this, class, this is what we will be learning today."

And the rest of class continued like this. Lucien explained the structure of DNA, asked specific and rhetoric questions that no one could answer, so he would do it himself. He made the topic easy to understand when, previously, Emme couldn't make heads or tails of even simple terms Professor Yang went over.

By the end of the lecture, she almost forgot how long he locked eyes with her for the entire duration of his lecture whenever possible. Almost . And with that charmingly soft smile that never failed to make her face burn to kingdom come. 

"Thank you, everyone, for being so attentive and for letting me help Professor Yang teach you about genetics. Now, I believe it is best that I turn the rest of your time back to him,” he said with that disarming charm of his. Lucien gathered whatever materials he brought with him and started to leave the classroom.

"Okay, everyone, if any of you have follow up questions, I am sure that you could find either myself or Professor Yang during our office hours. My office hours are Mondays and Fridays 11 to 2 in the Math and Science building, room 241," he said with one last look at Emme, causing her to blush even more. What was his obsession with her? She hid her eyes beneath her bangs.

"And thank you, Dr. Xu; your lecture was insightful, as always," Professor Yang said as he moved back in front of the whiteboard. Turning to face the class, he clapped his hands together. "Alright, I want everyone to reach chapter 14 before Thursday. We will be discussing DNA packaging and replication, so please be prepared as this will be on the final. That's it, so enjoy the rest of your day."

People packed up around her as she made a quick note of the homework. Emme left the classroom in a hurry to try and catch one last glimpse at Professor Lucien, but he was nowhere to be spotted. How can someone who looked so tired be gone so quickly? With a sigh, she resigned herself to accepting that he was gone. 

Emme huffed as she left the building, groaning when she found that it was still raining. Setting her mouth in a line in determination, she sprinted across campus to catch the train home. Her way back home was filled with images of the professor with quick flashes of a perfectly dry notebook and a strangely familiar camphor tree.

It was so peculiar.

The way he continuously caught her gaze in his own, the puzzling familiarity he held in those languid eyes, and even in the way he moved and talked. Emme was certain that she didn’t know the Professor, and yet, it was like she instinctively did.

So, the question remained, bouncing around her mind: why was he so familiar?

Chapter Text

Emme couldn't catch up to the professor so she gave up the chase in order to get home before the rain got any worse. Thankfully, the rain wasn't as bad as it would be during typhoon season, but it was still enough to soak her through. Even in this rain, hailing a cab was a miracle during rush hour.

There were days that the class ran a little long and she would have to call Anna or her dad to come and pick her up. Sure, living in Loveland had its perks such as the close proximity of her apartment, school, and work, but it also had its disadvantages such as traffic.

It didn't take any longer than if she had gone by train, and it felt nice when she was finally able to step foot into the comforts of her little apartment. Quickly, she took off the wet clothes, had a warm bath, and a hot meal in a pair of her most fluffiest pajamas and slippers.

It was peaceful.

Emme didn't have to worry about homework or any assignment for work. Wait? Did she have any assignments for work?

With a sigh, Emme picked up her binder that contained her schedule for school and work. There was a research paper that was due on the 25th of next month and for work, she was assigned a simple interview for next week with some police officers at the police station.

Her gaze lingered on the interview for next week, hefting another sigh. Her father never gave her difficult tasks since she was still in school. The only time that she did anything remotely stressful was when her father was in a car accident two years ago that nearly took his life.

He still had to walk with a cane to this day because of it.

Emme recalled the time when he was still in the hospital recovering, and she had no choice but to take over the company for a few weeks. It was a good thing that Anna and the others were there to support her because she was a complete mess. That's when she switched her minor from undetermined to business.

Those were the worst few weeks of her life.

She sighed as she made herself an instant ramen for dinner. As Emme stood in the kitchenette waiting for her water to boil, she heard movement coming from the apartment next to hers. Items being moved about and grunts of what sounded like a man or maybe even several men moving heavy items. The sound of scraping along the hardwood floor could also be vaguely heard through the thin walls. It sounded like the moving company was still active, even this late. Emme let her mind wander about what kind of neighbor she was getting as she finished making and eating her noodles.

Was it going to be a young man or a woman? If it was a man, were they handsome? If it's a woman, she hoped that they could be girl-friends, hanging out on the weekends doing each other’s hair and makeup. She never had a female friend before growing up. It was just Anna at work, and now, Willow and Kiki.

She snorted as she placed her container in the trash and her chopsticks in the sink. Either way, it would probably be a good idea for her to put together a "welcome to the building" gift or something. Though, she should wait until later since they might be busy with the movers.

Letting her imagination go as to who the mysterious new neighbor is, she moved back into her tiny living room. Checking her phone once again, she found that she had a few emails from school and a text from her father. Checking her email first since one of them was from her advisor, she quickly read through it to see that it was about internship opportunities.

Skimming through the email, one was for another production company and the other was interesting since it wasn't for her major but instead went along with her minor. It was one of the few places that were still giving financial help to Xi Productions, Loveland Financial Group.

She emailed her advisor back. She wrote saying that while she was thankful for the offer, she was uninterested in taking on an internship simply since she was working a lot already in her father’s company, but still wanted to set up a time to meet with them to discuss this further. With her emails taken care of, she checked her texts from her father. 

(9:45 PM) Dad:
I have a question for you.

(9:45 PM) Me:
Sure, what is it?

(9:46 PM) Dad:
I know that you want more assignments
that are bigger than what I've been
giving you. So how would you feel
about interviewing a popstar?

Wait, her dad hadn’t gotten ahold of her diary again, did he? When was the last time that she had him over? She had a mini panic attack before she answered, slightly worried.

... It depends on who it is.

Her father sent a picture of a familiar face of a young man with bright blue eyes and blonde hair. He had a childish smile and held up his thumb and index finger as a cute little heart. 

Emme knew exactly who he was. Kiro fucking Chow. One of the biggest up and coming idols in all of Asia. Emme made the unholiest of noises when his face had popped up on her phone. She may have flailed a bit, but since no one was there to see her, she didn’t care how much she fan-gasmed in her tiny apartment.

He was the same age as Emme but was already a hit pop star throughout China even though he had only been around for a few years. He even started to act recently, putting a large gap in time since his last album.

But, she took a breath to stop her fangirling so that she could go into producer mode as she texted her father back. Still, that didn’t stop her from having the goofiest smile on her face as she did so. Who cared if her hands shook and she had to rewrite her texts like a dozen times just so that it was legible. 

(9:51) Me:
There's no way that you managed
to convince his agent to get an
interview with Kiro.

(9:52) Dad:
I talked to not only his agent
Savin, but Kiro himself. I would
send Willow or Kiki, but you know
that they would only drool over him.

Why don't you interview him then?

Emme managed to calm down after texting him for a little longer and the shock had worn away. Emme instead started to mentally prepare herself for the interview. She didn’t want to have another meltdown while she was interviewing the pop star. She needed to seem like she was a professional instead of a silly fan that managed to make it past the security.

Her father didn't respond right away, but Emme didn't mind since she could only assume that he must have gotten busy at work.

Emme smiled and shook her head, hoping her father wasn't still there. Her dad had always been like this, a workaholic. He was always the first one to the office and the last one going home. Emme got her work ethic from him. However, knowing that she was going to be interviewing one of the biggest stars of this day and age was a big change from the usual interviews that they do. 

She pulled her laptop onto her lap and did a quick search on Kiro. At the current moment, he was working on a reality show as an occasional host and he had an upcoming international tour throughout Asia. Those were going to be big topics. After a moment, she mused she could also ask him questions about any other upcoming albums that he was hoping to do or was working on any projects that no one yet knew about. 

As she put together a list of potential questions and set her recorder pen to charge, her phone dinged. She checked it to see that her father finally texted her back.

(10:21) Dad:
I would interview him myself, but I
would assume that the interview would
go better if it was done with someone
who was the same age as him.

(10:22) Me:
I suppose that makes sense.
It could allow him to open up more.

Emme decided that she had enough and opted for bed, not even bothering to wait for her dad to read and respond to her text.

However, that night's dream was different than any she had previously. She was in what she could only assume to be an office in her school but it wasn't one she was ever in before. She was sitting in the chair in front of a meticulously kept desk. But the chair behind it was empty.

However, that didn't mean that the room was. Emme couldn't see him, but she knew he was there. But she couldn't move since it was something he hadn't given her permission to do so. Not like she needed it, but it felt that way. And the strange thing was, it didn't frighten her.

Instead, it made her feel warm. She picked at the hem of her skirt in order to distract herself from whatever he was planning. She bit her lip before speaking up.

"I have a small question," she said. "Why did you ask to see me? I'm not even one of your students. I'm a liberal art major with a focus on film production." Her confusion was evident in her voice.

Only a warm chuckle answered her. Long, slender fingers were gently placed on her shoulder before the chair was turned around to face him. Professor Lucien. She stared into his grey eyes... No, they weren't grey. They were like a smoky quartz crystal—light, greyish purple. Their gentle color matched his personality, voice, and smile. His face was composed, but his eyes burned in a way she had never seen in any person she had seen. Not even any of her ex-boyfriends had this look in their eyes before.

"Silly girl," he said, drawing Emme's eyes to his soft-looking lips that formed a small smile. He leaned down and whispered right into her ear. "As if you didn't think I would notice the way your eyes watched me every time we met. Subtlety isn't your strong suit." His warm breath brushed against her ear like a pleasant caress.

She shivered as he chuckled lightly again. A warm blush overtook Emme's face.

"I-I don't know what you're implying, Professor." She ended up stuttering, trying to ignore the way his lean muscles flexed under his white dress shirt with every tiny movement he made. Was it normally so transparent?

"Oh, but I think you do, Butterfly," he said, his face turning to look into her eyes again, causing his nose and lips to brush against her cheeks. The first two buttons of his shirt were undone, revealing his upper chest muscles and the bottom was untucked from his slacks. "You want me, don't you? Even if it's against your better judgment."

The last part wasn’t even a question. It was like he was looking into her mind— her desires. She looked away as a burning heat filled her stomach, unable to deny that he was right. She did want him, but Emme knew, even still, she shouldn’t.

"But don't worry silly girl, I want it too," he whispered before he captured her lips in a kiss. His lips were as soft as they looked but tasted faintly of his coffee. Emme made a noise of surprise but Lucien used that opportunity to mingle his tongue with her own. His hands drifted from her shoulders to her face, gingerly ensnaring his fingers in her hair.

Without realizing it, Emme balled her fists into his shirt. All that mattered at that moment, was each other. Lucien slid the cardigan off Emme's shoulders and arms, allowing the soft fabric to pool around her hips. Underneath was a white spaghetti strap tank top that had a v-neck tied together in a loose crisscross pattern and bow. This too was removed from Emme's body, leaving her in a plain nude bra that made her plain and suddenly wishing she had worn sexier underwear.

It was embarrassing. Not just because she was partially naked but partially naked in front of a professor that initiated a rather scandalous relationship with a student. Even if she had never taken any of his classes and never planned too.

"Now, don't be embarrassed, silly girl—you're very exquisite."

"T-that's not it," she said, mumbling, somehow gaining her sense of reason. "It's just... well, you're a professor and I'm a student." She reached down to grab her discarded shirts, but she was stopped when Lucien grabbed her wrist and crouched down on his hunches in front of her.

"We are two consenting adults, are we not?" He placed a gentle kiss on the inside of her wrist, spreading her blush to the rest of her. "Besides, I am too important of a professor and a scientist to be let go, if that's what you're worried about."

He lifted his gaze up to her, lingering long enough that it only worsened her blush. That look in his eyes was definitely not good for her heart. Lucien kissed her wrist again.

"However, if you wish for me to stop, all you need to do is say so." He stood up to kiss wherever he wished to place an open-mouthed kiss—her eyelids, her cheeks, her mouth, and then her neck. A blooming warmth started to grow in her core. Emme tried to keep quiet since they were still in school and she didn't want either of them caught in such a precarious position. Yet, she still allowed Lucien to continue undressing her.

He placed more kisses on her now bare thighs, ignoring the one place where she wanted him to the most. She ached with a growing want. A hit of shame and the adrenaline of being caught heightened her excitement and it was exhilarating. 

Emme started to moan into her hand, muffling the noises, as Lucien lifted her legs over his shoulders and made his mark into her otherwise blemish-free thighs. Repeatedly, he gently bit down on her left inner thigh with a mischievous look in his smokey purple eyes.

The look he gave her went straight to her core. She was filled with a kind of dark enthusiasm. She glanced at his office door, hoping no one would catch them, her heart racing with excitement. She looked back into his eyes just in time to watch him bite and tease her other thigh, his white teeth flashing that it made her tremble.

At that moment, Emme knew what he was deliberately doing. Lucien was ignoring her want for his own insistent teasing. It was almost as if he was waiting for something. For her to beg for it? Was that what he wanted?

She grew increasingly more wet, filled with need the longer he held off giving her the pleasure she wanted. 

"L-Lucien, please!" she whimpered. He chuckled darkly as he added his finger into the mix, rubbing her through her soaked panties. 

"Look at you—already so desperate for my cock aren't you? I didn't think you would beg so soon, Butterfly," he teased, his usually smooth and soothing voice gruff with want of his own. He finally pulled off her panties and actually sniffed them before throwing them who knows where.

He resumed rubbing her core but entirely avoiding the bundle of nerves that was practically begging for attention. He dipped one of those long fingers inside of her only once before pulling it out and giving it a taste. "My dear little butterfly, you exceed my expectations of how delightful you taste."

That was the only warning she got before he essentially devoured her. His tongue worked hard against her without reprieve, however, he suckled her clit with almost a reverence that it startled her. She couldn't hold back the cry that forced its way from her throat. 

"Lucien! Don't stop, please! I'm going to cum soon." She babbled his name several more times until that's practically all she could remember. Nothing else mattered but his tongue and mouth on her, making her feel so amazing, so beautiful, so wanted. Tears formed in her eyes, but they were only from the pleasure that she was receiving.

Lucien actually moaned as he continued his ministrations on her cunt, lapping up all of her juices. It was like a man in the desert that finally found an oasis. Her pleasure continued to build as he persisted, once again adding his fingers, pushing them into her, and pressing against her hidden spot of pleasure. She cried out again, her hand falling to the straight dark locks on his head, carding it between her fingers. Her toes curled the closer she got to release.

Lucien seemed to realize this and he doubled his efforts to make Emme cum.

He was focused entirely on her. He gave one last intense suck to her clit and she was soaring on cloud nine, crying out in ecstasy. 

Emme woke with a start, covered in sweat and an aching core. She had only seen Lucien twice, but she was already having sexual fantasies about him!? She pulled at her hair as she checked her phone for the time. It was at least an hour before her alarm was set to go off.

But that dream... It was so realistic, so vivid—so erotic. She shuttered at what her own mind could conjure. She was probably just sexually frustrated, she thought as she tried to reason with herself since she hadn't had sex since her last boyfriend broke up with her two years ago.

She sighed and figured that she might as well get started on her day since she was already up. After that sort of dream, there was no way she was going back to sleep. Emme ate a quick breakfast before heading out to get her mail. But when she got there, she stopped dead in her tracks. 

In a plain white polo with a pair of narrow fit jeans that hugged his hips and backside so perfectly that Emme blushed. While she couldn't see his face, it was as if she instinctively knew who he was. His tall, narrow frame held a presence that not many people twice his size could hold and all he was doing was going through his mail slot. How his mail was already delivered to his clearly new address was a mystery, but Emme tried not to let it deter her as she slowly made her way to her own mail slot right next to his, ignoring the way her face burned from remembering her dream with his face between her thighs.

"Oh, hello," his calm, smooth voice greeted when she unlocked her mailslot and grabbed what appeared to be only bills that would be due at the end of the month.

"Hi," she said meekly, not daring to glance his way. It was better to pretend to be shy at the moment.

"I'm Lucien Xu. It appears as though we will be neighbors for a while," he said, not deterred by her embarrassed response.

"Welcome to the building, Lucien," she managed to squeak before she tried to retreat to her apartment. But even as she headed back, she didn't miss two words that nearly stopped her in her tracks.

"Silly girl."

Chapter Text

Trying to get Lucien and that strange dream out of her head, Emme threw herself into her work and homework. She started her paper early, put together more questions for her interview with Kiro, put together a different series of questions for her interview at the Loveland Police Station, and made an appointment with her advisor to talk about that internship that they wanted to set up. It kept her mind busy for at least a few days until she could request more work or she started her internship. If she got an internship.

Emme made an effort to avoid her neighbor for the next several days. Instead of checking her mail before she went to work or school, she picked it up when she got home. Every time that Emme was on campus, too, she made sure that she took a new route to her classes so that she could avoid the science building unless it was for her biology class. She went to grocery stores a few blocks away from the apartment building, just in case that stupidly attractive professor does his shopping there too.

And so far, it's been working. Unless Lucien had been getting up earlier than her. She didn't put much thought into it so far since she didn't want to feel stupid. But things would only get more complicated from there.

It all started with the internship that her school advisor set up. 

"Wait, I thought that you wanted to meet with me first before the internship was set up?" Emme asked, utterly confused as she sat across the desk from her advisor. She sighed as the Advisor, Fran, explained yet again why she thought that it was such a good idea to work at Loveland Financial Group.

"You're a business minor, so this would look great on your resume, Emme, and it's a paid internship." Fran didn't seem to see the conflict of interest that Emme did.

"Yes, I understand that, but my father is getting loans from LFG. So, if I screw up there, I fear that it could be jeopardized! Plus, I, uh, hear that Mr. Li is not an easy man to work with and for."

Fran just seemed to smile at her like she was some sort of naive child. Emme knew that in some ways, yes, she could be very naive, but this wasn't a good idea. What was Fran thinking? Especially to do this without asking her first.

"And besides, shouldn't I be interning with something that would better suit my major?" she asked.

"I feel an internship with LFG will be a good experience for you. For now, the internship is still on, but if you feel like you are not an appropriate fit for it, please get into contact with the company yourself.

Emme sighed as she grabbed her school bag and left the office more frustrated than when she got in there. What was she going to do? She could always ask her dad; he seems to know what he's talking about. At least, most of the time.

"You start tomorrow." Emme heard this as she left the room and this elicited another tired sigh.

That night when she got home, she looked into the LFG company. It was the top company in Loveland City, one of the top companies in all ofChina, and in the top ten in the entire world.

How the hell does one man become so successful because of other people's finances? She decided to call her dad since he had to deal with the CEO on a regular basis.

He answered on the first ring. "Hey sweetheart, what's up?" he greeted.

"What can you tell me about the CEO of Loveland Financial Group?" Emme blurted, not bothering with a greeting. She was too nervous to stall.

Her father laughed. "Not much, why?"

She told him about her upcoming internship with the company. He heavily sighed into the receiver. "Mr. Li is a no-bullshit man. He wants just the facts and nothing else. He doesn't sugar coat anything and he will tell you as it is. I have never seen this man smile even at my funniest joke. His employees may look grumpy if he isn't one hundred percent pleased with the result of something. So, I would watch out for that. His eyes are like daggers. And while he is surprisingly young for a CEO, he can make even the most confident man stumble."

"Yikes, he's that scary?" she chuckled nervously. Now, more than ever, she was adamant that she was not a good fit for the internship. She didn't stay on the line much longer after that. She had homework and dinner to think about.

Starting with dinner, she pulled out the instant ramen, again. Honestly, she really needed to do some more shopping. She can't live off instant ramen the rest of her life. It was so bad for her health! But, as she ate, she worked a bit more on that paper that she needed to finish. There was no harm in getting it out of the way before she was overwhelmed with even more papers.

By the time that she rolled into her bed, it was well past one and she was basically dead to the world around her. She vaguely registered her neighbor, Lucien, finally getting home from doing god knows what at this hour. But she didn't have the brain capacity to think about it too long. Instead, she let herself fall into slumber. Thankfully, she didn't have another sex dream about her neighbor slash school professor. Instead, it started as an ordinary dream.

A little girl once again, she wandered the city of Loveland. It was much bigger now that she was a little girl in that same white dress.

She was lost.

The people around her didn't have any faces, just blank canvases on walking bodies. Almost like walking mannequins. But it didn't scare her at all. 

She continued her aimless wandering in the night, looking up at the sky. There were more clocks, shards of glass, ginkgo leaves, wine bottles and glasses, ties, and other trinkets were floating there as if held in place by string. Emme was so distracted in her attempts to make out what they could mean she didn't realize it was starting to rain again.

However, Emme smiled as the tiny droplets touched her skin.

But the calmness of it all was broken by a car honking. She turned to see that she was in the middle of a crosswalk, and a car was coming right at her.

The bright headlights of the car caught her like a deer that she saw nothing else.

No one moved as the car continued to rush towards her. She squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the inevitable impact and pain.

Only it didn't come.

Emme reopened her eyes to find that everything around her had stopped. There was no longer the sound of rubber skidding across the asphalt, the rain no longer hitting her skin, and the people were no longer talking amongst themselves. It was as if everything around her froze in mid-motion. She looked around, confused.

There was a little boy, who looked, she guessed, a few years older than her. His hands were in the pockets of his shorts. He wore a short-sleeved button-up shirt. The shorts were tan in color and the kind that had a ton of pockets. The shirt, a polo with a tiny stitched horse near the collar, was white. His knees were scuffed, just like any other little boy that tends to rough-house, no matter the clothes they wore. The rain made his black hair stick to his head. She couldn't make out his eyes, but she saw a concerned look etched to the rest of his face. Only then did she realize that she was no longer standing, but sitting in the middle of the street.

"Dummy, get up."

And Emme did but to the sound of her alarm ringing on her nightstand.

What's with all these strange dreams she's been having lately? Should she talk to a counselor about this? She knew that she wouldn't have to pay for it if she went to see the one at her school.

However, she quickly wrote down her dream before getting ready for work. Emme already told her dad that she was interning at LFG, but she needed to check into the office first to see if they needed any help from her. She also wanted to check in about her interview with Kiro, so that she knew if the questions she had prepared were good enough.

By the time that she walked into Xi Productions, there was already a flurry of activity. Anna gave her a look that read "I-crave-the-sweet-relief-of-death."

Emme giggled as she went to find her father. He was not in his office space, but instead was hobbling around with his cane on the set for Miracle Finder. With him was one of their stylists, Joey. They were trying to figure out what to do with the guest for today's show, Sersi, a girl that claimed she was a witch that specialized in augury.

Walter, the man that typically hosts the program sat on his chair on stage while some of our other stylists touched up his makeup. He had long, wavy black hair that went just a bit past his ears. He wore a black undershirt with a white and black V-neck over the top, and a pink sweater over that with the sleeves pushed almost to his elbows and a pair of skinny light blue jeans.

Sersi stood awkwardly to the side, her long straight hair covering most of her face, giving her an air of mystery. She wore a Victorian-style black dress, black tights, and flats. The only thing not black on her was the white lace collar that covered her entire neck, and the white lace trim on her sleeves. She looked like a vintage doll.

"I like the style that she already has, why change it?" Emme asked as she walked up to her father and Joey. Joey was an androgynous-looking person with their green pantsuit and curiously styled blond hair. 

"But she is going to be on TV.  Do we really want this poor girl embarrassing herself in front of a large audience?" Joey asked.

Emme sighed.

"In my opinion, I think that what she's wearing is fine. It goes along with her aesthetic and brand. If she is a witch, then shouldn't she look like one, but simply more modernized? She needs to be able to show as much as tell. Look at her: a modern witch. So, let her go with this look, and make sure that she has the right stage makeup in order to accentuate her style."

Both Joey and her father exchanged looks and then looked impressed by Emme's remarks.

"I think that's perfect," her dad said, kissing her on the top of her head before going to sit in the director's chair.

Joey nodded and got to work, asking a lot of questions to Sersi as to what type of style she wanted for her makeup. They settled on a simple white foundation and a subtle smokey-eyed look that went perfect with her Victorian doll look. They paired it with a dark grey lipstick that not even Emme knew that they had before Sersi was finally invited on stage.

The show went smoothly from there. Sersi showed off her ability to read palms, did tarot card readings, and read Walter's past and present that she knew nothing of prior to her coming on set. And then, she predicted his future that seemed to really fascinate Walter.

Emme smiled. She couldn't wait to be able to do more for this company once she was ready to inherit it. Once the filming of this episode was finished, she told her dad that she needed to head to LFG for her internship interview. Emme needed to know what sort of thing she was going to be doing for the company and she really hoped that it wasn't getting everyone coffee and papers. She was fine with paperwork, but simply being their office dog was not something that she was looking forward to doing. If that were the case, she would not be returning to the internship.

It was a nice day out so she decided to walk to the LFG building. It helped since that meant she could save that for better food later this week. Emme did, however, manage to get an umbrella. She had a sinking feeling that since the last time that she had a dream about rain and the next day it actually rained, she was going to need it.

I wonder what else will come true about that strange dream I had.

Emme didn't let that bother her though as she pressed the button so that she could cross the street. As she waited for the red hand to switch to the green person walking, lo and behold, it actually started to sprinkle. With a sigh, she undid the clasp for her umbrella and opened it up just in time for her to cross. But unlike the dream, there was no car coming to hit her.

She smiled. She was getting worked up for nothing.

Or so she thought because when she was close to her destination, Emme felt as if she was suddenly drenched by a bucket of ice water. It was as if there was some force telling her that something wrong was going to happen. Was it nerves? Or something else? She wanted to call her father, but she knew that she needed to get to her meeting first. Emme swallowed the nerves, determined that she was not going to be late. Especially if the man she was meeting was a stickler for rules.

This was going to be the first time that she was meeting the CEO of such a powerful company, she reasoned. Emme, again, had to wait to cross the street. Her gaze lifted to the LFG building that was a mere 50 feet in front of her.

It towered above her head that she didn't notice the green man finally signaled for her to cross. However, the only problem now was that a car didn't seem to see the change in the light and didn't bother to slow down as Emme finally saw the signal to cross. But, the only thing that caught her attention was the sound of a tire screeching that she finally saw the bright lights of the car barreling towards her.

But just like in her dream, everyone around her did nothing but come to the slow realization that Emme was about to be hit by the car. Like in everything was in slow motion, their horror became evident as they did nothing to stop the inevitable.

She clenched her eyes shut, but nothing came. Instead, a hand wrapped around her wrist pulled her away from the middle of the road, and casually onto the sidewalk. She looked around to see that everything was paused in place.

"What's wrong with you?" An angry baritone voice demanded as time resumed. "Watch where you're going, idiot!" The voice of the man still holding Emme's wrist yelled as the car zoomed past them. Numbly, she looked up and saw a handsome face, even if it was still staring daggers at the car that should have hit her. The man was wearing a clearly expensive suit, black with a black shirt and silver tie under the jacket. The dress shirt, neatly pressed like the rest of his suit, had thin white stripes.

"H-How did you do that?" Emme asked the moment she found her voice. "Pause time, I mean."

The man looked surprised. Curiously, his face tinted pink, and it didn't match the glare he gave her.

"So, you're an evolver?" he asked.

"A what?"

"Never mind. Pretend I never said anything, dummy." He let go of her wrist and walked inside the LFG building, the same place she was heading. 

"Hey, wait up!" she called out, grabbing his wrist this time. The row of four buttons dug into her palm. Hastily, she let go of his hand and uttered a quick, "Sorry," and blushed. "I-I just wanted to say thank you for saving my life back there. Even if you won't tell me how you did it."

The man scoffed as they continued to walk further into the building."Shut up, dummy. If you don't have any business being here, I suggest you leave. I have a meeting to get to."

Emme smiled. "Actually, I have an appointment with Mr. Li," she stated. "It's about an internship my advisor setup. Could you point me in the right direction?" 

The man sighed, clearly fed up with her antics. But instead of just telling her off, he motioned for her to follow. Oddly, he didn't say anything else as he took her to the elevator and pushed one of the buttons. For the top floor. 

There was no stupid elevator music to fill the silence like in the movies, but she was somehow grateful for it. She never understood the trope, even though she worked on stuff like that all the time.

Emme risked a sidelong glance and the man checked his watch. A Rolex. No surprises there if he worked with Mr. Li. 

"Mr. Li's office is right over here. Normally, you would have to check in with the receptionist at the front desk or with his assistant, Goldman. But I'm sure he won't mind." He opened the door to a spacious office room.

It was bright and open and the desk was close to the floor-to-ceiling windows. Out of it, one could see the whole city skyline. There was a spacious seating area that had a black round coffee table, a white couch and chair set, and a zebra print rug under it. There was a flat-screen TV, a black bookshelf, and several potted plants. Overall, it was very modern. Though it was perhaps a bit too expensive looking for Emme's tastes, it was still very nice. 

"So, where is Mr. Li at the moment?" Emme asked to fill the silence as she went to sit on the couch.

The man chuckled once and sat in the large swivel chair behind the desk. This made Emme suddenly feel like an idiot.

The embarrassment was enough to kill her as it burned her face. With as much sarcasm as she could muster into her voice, she said, "You could have just told me that you were Mr. Li."

He smirked and motioned her to sit in front of him. Emme scoffed indigently before doing just that.

"A dummy like you should have realized it by now," he said in that stupid voice of his. His charcoal eyes held a certain level of mischief in them. It was surprising to know that this was the man that ran one of the most successful businesses in Loveland City.

"So, why an internship here at Loveland Financial?" he asked, right off the bat.

She told him that it wasn't her idea and that it was her advisor who thought it would be good for her to intern somewhere like LFG. It would help her to gain more experience in the real world.

"I'm actually a liberal art major and I work at my father's local production company, Xi Productions," she explained. "I only made my minor business since, one day, I'll inherit the company."

Victor didn't seem all that surprised.

"I know your father, Warren Xi. I assume you are aware of your father's financial situation?" Victor asked. 

Emme nodded. "Yes, I am aware that you are one of the few companies still funding our company. I hope that this internship will not affect the relationship that you have with my dad," she said sheepishly.

Victor rolled his eyes at her as if he truly thought that she was the dummy he claimed her to be. What did he know anyway? They've only just met.

"This internship is only for school credit. But, did you truly believe that I would be so cruel as to ruin another persons' business simply because their idiot daughter is doing a college internship at my company?" he asked, huffing with irritation. "Don't answer that," he quickly added before sighing. 

"For now, I feel like this is going to work out, so I will have you work with Goldman. He knows the ropes pretty well. He’s been here for a very long time with my company, close to 7 years. He won’t let you fail. You will help him with filing paperwork and anything else that he may need you to do. And then from there, we'll see you perform before I decide what else I'll have you do for me."

Emme nodded, silently thanking the universe that she won't be some coffee runner. "Thank you, Mr. Li, I look forward to working with you! I have a copy of my work and class schedule so that we can both work around it." She pulled out a little white paper that she prepared for the occasion and handed it to Victor. "I also have my contact information on there for your convenience."

He scanned it over quickly and nodded. "I can work with this. I will have Goldman email you with your schedule and when you will be starting. Most likely, it'll be tomorrow. We will get you set up in our system once you start."

She smiled and stood up. "Alright, I will be waiting to hear from him. Thank you for your time," she said with a professional bow as they both shook hands. 

With the meeting at an end, Emme left the office and managed to catch a taxi home. She quickly checked her emails on her phone the way there to see if Goldman somehow managed to get her schedule figured out since she left the office.

He didn't so she noted that she will check her emails again when she got home. After she quickly grabbed her mail and went to her floor, she managed to do the one thing that she was trying to avoid.

She ran into her neighbor, Professor Lucien.

He was wearing casual clothes again and looked to be leaving his apartment just as she was trying to get into hers.

"Oh, hello, neighbor," he casually greeted. But even so, hearing his sleepy voice again made her face burst into flames.

She squeaked out a hello and tried to squeeze by him.

"Still so shy around me, Miss Emme?" he asked, somehow knowing her name. "There's no need, silly girl I don't bite," he said with a chuckle. He left her standing there dumbfounded as he tucked his hands into his slacks, leaving for the evening.

She quickly ran into her apartment and covered her still burning face with her hands.

"Today was going so well! Why did I have to run into him now!?" It shouldn't have mattered because she didn't have  that  kind of dream again.

Still, she took a quick shower to try and feel less dirty from having such fantasies about a teacher. Again, not that it mattered, because, again, little did, but she knew that it wasn't going to simply end there.

And somehow, she knew that it would only end with him.

Chapter Text

The first thing the little girl saw in her latest dream was a teddy bear, surrounded by a few bags of chips, a guitar, a violin, and surprisingly, a knife. The teddy bear appeared to have a bit of paint on its face and body. Walking up to the teddy bear, Emme was not quite sure what to make of it. It was golden in color with two blue buttons as its eyes. 

The little girl looked around. This dreamworld was familiar by now; dark, yet strangely vivid. The world was too open; a scattering of buildings, no people, no cars, it was just empty, save for the few items in front of her. Looking up, she saw that the shards of broken glass still hung from the sky like they were on invisible strings coming down from heaven. 

This world was still. No breeze, no movement, and nothing but the sound of her own breaths. Within this stillness, she suddenly heard someone crying and couldn't make out where it was coming from. Was it coming from the scattered buildings or another part of the void-like dream world?

She left the pile of trinkets in an attempt to follow the soft sobbing. But no matter where she went, the crying didn’t change in volume. It was frustrating.

So the little girl stopped, hoping that whoever was crying would find her if she stayed in one place. 

But, Emme didn’t know how long she stayed there, but eventually, there was a boy who looked about the same age as her. She didn’t know where he came from or if he had been following her this whole time, but one moment she was alone and the next he was suddenly right in front of her. With bright blond hair and ocean blue eyes, he wore a yellow tee and a pair of blue overalls. Again, a sense of familiarity struck the girl, but it passed just as quickly as it came.  

Tears flowed from the brightly colored eyes. His sobs played like a sad, quiet melody of a recognizable lullaby. Neither of them spoke to each other; they simply stared into each other’s eyes. The dual colored boy gave a wobbly smile and a shy wave, tears subsiding the longer he looked at her. The girl returned it with the same shyness as the other. 

“Who are you?” she asked quietly into the still air. The boy didn’t answer and continued to stare at her.

“Whatever you do, don’t take the last bag of chips.” The last thing she saw before waking up was that the boy's eyes flashed from blue to gold.

Emme woke up to her alarm, confusion settling over her in discomfort. While the dream was still fresh in her mind, she wrote it into her dream journal. The strangest part about it wasn’t the trinkets or the blue-eyed boy, but rather, it was the way he acted and spoke. 

One minute he was crying and then next, he was smiling and telling her, in a strangely adult voice for a child, not to take the last bag of chips. What did those even have to do with anything? And his eyes… the way that they flashed colors like that was so strange.

Emme quickly got ready for her first day at LFG. She didn’t go with her usual style of clothing since it wasn’t as professional enough for LFG, so instead, she went with a simple gray pencil skirt, a white blouse, and a matching gray suit jacket with one button and a shawl lapel. Paired with a black pair of gray velvet platform heels.

Grabbing a small breakfast on her way out, she picked up the rest of her necessities and left her apartment, praying to whatever deity was listening that she wouldn't see Lucien for when she left and when she came home. 

Once she got to the LFG building, she was greeted by a brunette man in glasses and a blue suit who looked like he was about to have a meltdown.

“Please tell me that you are Miss Xi?” he asked, distinctly worried about something that made Emme concerned. 

“Uh, as far as I’m aware, yes,” she said, a little confused.

It seemed to ease his anxious worrying as he sighed a breath of relief. Emme just barely met him, but he already seemed like a worrywart. Leading her away, Emme wasn’t sure about what to make of this mousy man taking the lead of this little excursion. 

“Alright, before we can take a tour of the building, I am going to need to put you into our system. Have you brought all the necessary paperwork with you?” he asked, sounding snooty. Emme would have snorted at that normally, but instead, she just nodded and brought out her little tote bag with her birth certificate and all other necessary identification papers that she even thought that she would need. 

She even brought a copy of her high school transcripts, just in case. After all, she was working for a man who called her Dummy more than her actual name.

The man promptly introduced himself as Goldman and led them to the elevators, heading up to the same floor that held Victor’s office. But instead of going to the office labeled CEO on the door in big, gold letters, Emme was taken to a smaller office that wasn’t even as close to being as nice as Victor’s. While Victor’s was modern and chic, Goldman’s was actually far more welcoming and cozy. 

It was painted in neutral colors; not cramped but not minimalist with a very nice atmosphere.

“You will be working here with me. I'm having a second desk brought in here for you so it should be here by the time we have finished the tour. But for now, let’s get started.”

It didn’t take long for Emme to be placed in the computer system. She was shown how to clock in every time she worked and what she would be working with. Mostly, it’s bank statements and filing paperwork for loans.

“Okay, so for the most part, we work with Windows Excel, checking the company email to sort through the important ones to forward to Victor, and then we file the reports as they have been completed. I tend to keep up with the stock market as well to make sure that we are running as efficiently as possible,” he explained as he put her into the computer system.

Soon enough, she had her own company lanyard with her name and title on it that hung from around her neck. With that taken care of, the two of them left the office space to finally start the tour. The building was very large, so Goldman didn’t bother showing her everything, just the floors that she would be frequenting.

The floor that they were on held the executive office and Goldman’s office. The rest of the spaces were used as storage and filing for more important clients. Several of the floors below here were only conference rooms or were being rented out to other smaller businesses that couldn’t get office spaces elsewhere.

Several floors were strictly for LFG's employees and used as break rooms. One floor was even an entire gym. Other floors were used as spaces for customer service cubicles or set up to meet with some of the financial advisors in smaller meeting rooms. Those are who deal with individuals or small-time businesses. The only reason why Emme’s father deals with Victor himself was because Victor wanted to branch out when it came to his business dealings.

From what her father had told her, their company was the first media group that Victor had funded.

“Alright,” Goldman said as they were finishing up the tour, “I believe that's everything. Most of the floors, as I said earlier, you won’t need to be dealing with. I honestly don’t even know why Victor placed you up here instead of down with our advisors or customer service.”

Emme giggled. “Maybe he thought I was cute,” she said, jokingly.

But Goldman was clearly unamused. “Please, I doubt that he would have someone become an intern simply for their looks.”

She gave him a dry look. Obviously he cared about people’s looks, just yesterday when she was shopping, she found one of those magazines that showed Victor waltzing around with some brunette model on his arm. 

“Anyway,” Goldman said as the two went into the office to see that there were now two desks, computers, and chairs. “I don’t really have anything else for you to do. I got all of my work done before you showed up since I knew that this was going to take a while. So, you're free to go”

“Thanks, Goldman. I will see you tomorrow then,” she said as she grabbed her bag. 

“Yep, tomorrow.”

After that, she didn’t stick around. She clocked out and headed home, finding herself considerably hungry. Looking at the time, she found it was closer to the dinner hour that she sighed. The tour had taken much longer than expected and there was no time for a break. So, she asked the taxi driver to drop her off at a little store that was near her apartment.

Emme paid her cab fee and hopped out. Emme decided that since she didn’t want to eat out as much, that she would grab some groceries to make dinner at home. But once she was inside, she thought that it would be okay to have just a little bit of snacks to bring to work and school in case she had to work late again or if she stayed at the library on campus to study. Perhaps her favorite kind of chips! She heard that they were doing some sort of limited-time promotional event. She only knew since her dad managed to do the commercial for it a while back.

Grabbing a couple of different food items, she made her way to the chip rack. But she couldn’t seem to find any of her preferred flavors. She dug around for a while before finally managing to find a single bag.

“Yes!” she quietly exclaimed as she went to grab the bag, only to have another hand, somewhat larger than hers, reach for it as well. She turned to glare at whoever dared try to take her potato-y goodness. 

Only she was shocked at who was right in front of her.

“Ki—” she whispered, unable to finish when he quickly covered her mouth.

“Shh!” he said, looking up and around to see if someone heard them.

No one else seemed to recognize him. He was wearing a hoodie and a face mask. The only reason why she recognized him in the first place was that he was literally right in front of her. His blue eyes aren’t exactly common either in China. She had seen a lot of people try to use contact lenses to make their eyes look blue, but they weren’t even close to how they looked on Kiro. It had to be natural.

“Sorry,” she tried to say, but it came out heavily muffled through his hand. While she couldn’t see his lips, his eyes crinkled into what she could only tell was a smile. 

“It’s fine,” he said, pulling his hand away. “I just saw that there was only one bag left of this flavor. I wanted to snag it but, I didn’t know you were getting it, too.”

Emme laughed. “Oh no, it’s quite alright! But I did all the hard work to try and find it.” She reached for it again, only to be stopped by a familiar voice. Only it was in her head, not out loud.

‘Don’t take the last bag of chips.’

She picked it up and handed it to the in-disguise pop star. “You can have them if you want,” she said.

He gave the most sincere look of gratitude that she had ever seen from someone famous. He looked like he might cry.

“Thank you, uh… Miss Chips!” He pulled down his facemask to give her a million-watt smile. She giggled.

“No problem,” she said. “My name is Emme. Emme Xi.” 

“Xi… why do I know that name?” He said. “Oh, I know! I was supposed to do an interview for Xi productions. Do you work there?”

Emme smiled. How did he come to that conclusion? There could be millions of Xi’s in the world.

“Actually, I do. My dad, Warren, runs the company.”

She went back and studied the chip rack for a little while longer, trying to decide on another type of chip she wanted to munch on. She sighed and settled for the original flavor and the two of them headed to the checkout counter.

“Really, that’s so cool! I love his work—especially Miracle Finder. It’s my favorite show of all time!”

Well, this was a nice change of pace. Talking to someone who was her age and who didn't have a stick up their butt. For an idol, he was surprisingly easy to talk to.

“Oh!” Emme exclaimed. She dug through her purse for her date booklet. “That reminds me, I have an interview set up with you sometime next week. How weird is that? To run into you right before we were officially supposed to?” She asked with a big bright smile.

Kiro laughed. “That is weird. You’re not stalking me, are you Miss Chips~?” he asked in a light, teasing tone. She blushed and playfully pushed his shoulder. “Kidding, kidding, I promise,” he chuckled, bumping her back with his hip. 

“Yeah, yeah. All I know,” she said with an easy smile. He made it easy to forget that he was a superstar instead of a normal twenty two year old guy that she ran into. So much better than working with small time actors for silly commercials. They think that they are so much better than you, even if all they are filming is a commercial for hemorrhoid cream. The thought made Emme giggle. 

Just like hemorrhoids, those actors are a pain in the ass. She even explained her little joke to Kiro as they continued to walk after paying for the chips. His laugh was so loud it scared off a few birds from a nearby ginkgo tree.

It didn’t matter as the two of them continued to walk and talk about nothing. Whether it be games that he’s played, shared hobbies, silly things like the color of their toothbrushes, it didn’t matter because Kiro made every topic fun to talk about.

Eventually, they found their way to a nearby park and sat down on one of the benches.

“Gosh, this is probably the most fun that I have had in a while outside of work,” Kiro admitted. “Who would have thunk?” He smiled and held out his bag of chips to her, offering one of them. She reached in, only to grab not a chip, but something wrapped in plastic.

“Oh, here, it's the little collectible card. I just like salt and vinegar chips,” Emme said, holding out the plastic-wrapped card for Kiro.

“Thanks, Miss Chips! I completely forgot about that. To be honest, that’s the only reason why I've been getting chips in the first place. My agent doesn’t let me eat snacks very often.”

Emme gave him a knowing look.

“He becomes more strict on my diet if he finds out that I've eaten junk food,” he added with a sad look.

“I’m sorry Kiro. It must be tough to be an idol. Especially one as popular as you.” Emme smiled sympathetically. “Then, why are you eating the chips now then?”He pouted as he stuffed another handful of chips into his mouth.

“Because they're good. Smells bad, but they taste so good,” he confessed between bites.

She giggled. He was quite cute when he pouted. They fell into a comfortable silence after that. The only thing that was heard between the two of them was the crunch of chips.

“Miss Chips, I have a question.”

“Sure, what is it?” Emme asked, popping another chip into her mouth. The pop star blushed, adding to the adorable image that was Kiro Chow. But seeing the blush on the blond made Emme blush in return, only guessing where this was going. She bit her bottom lip. 

“I, uh, was just wondering if you, um,” he started, “would you like to go out sometime?”He looked away and rubbed the back of his neck.

She smiled, turning shy at Kiro’s question. He was super cool to hang out with; how could she not want to see him again?

“Of course,” she replied. “I'll just have to check my schedule.”

His eyes widened.

“No worries! I know I would have to check mine too. Savin is going to hate it when I ask for a personal day, but don’t worry, Miss Chips! Whenever it’s best for you, I will make sure that I have that day free!” he said, clearly excited. 

“Here, gimme your phone so that you have my number!” he added, handing her his cellphone. It was obviously one of the newest models on the market, so it made Emme slightly nervous to hand over her older model.

She did it anyway and took his so she could add herself into the phone, putting herself as “Miss Chips” in his contacts. Surprisingly, he didn’t have many. Only like three others. One of the contacts was his aforementioned manager, Savin. She was a little bewildered that he didn’t have more. Perhaps it was for the best, with him being an idol and whatnot.

“There you go!” she said, happily handing it back to him after adding a quick selfie to it.

“Thanks!” he exclaimed, sounding just as happy. “But I should go before Savin gives me hell for taking too long on my lunch. I’ll just tell him that I had to avoid the fans. While I love my followers, they can get—" he paused, briefly, "—clingy and obsessive.” He shuddered, clearly remembering something. “But I'll make sure to text you later, to let you know that I made it back safe. Make sure that you do the same.”

Emme nodded as they parted ways. She was all smiles as she finally made her way home. She was so lucky that she didn’t have anything else to do that day. When she finally got into her apartment, she damn near squealed in excitement. 

“I have a date with a superstar!”