Erika by Anna Clair
Summary:

Erika... is the story of a woman searching for any information possible on her deceased mother who she never knew her whole life. Along the way she discovers the hidden passions, and betrayals that her mother had to face all the way along her short lived life. From the abandonment of her original husband to run away to China, to the love of her life whirling her up in such a fast pace that she could barely hold on for life...there is so much and more left in this story of a woman Japan hated, and a mother her little girl never knew.
Categories: Japanese Entertainment Characters: Arashi: Matsumoto Jun, Horikita Maki, Inoue Mao, KAT-TUN: Akanishi Jin, Kuroki Meisa, Matsuda Shota, Mukai Osamu, NEWS: Nishikido Ryo, NEWS: Tegoshi Yuya, Oguri Shun, Toda Erika
Genres: Angst, Drama, Romance, Tragedy
Story Type: Multi-Chaptered
Warnings: Character Death, Sexual References
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 33 Completed: No Word count: 89996 Read: 37988 Published: Jun 02, 2010 Updated: Jan 01, 2017
Story Notes:
The celebrities' names/images are merely borrowed and do not represent who the celebrities are in real life. No offense is intended towards them, their families or friends. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this fictional work. No copyright infringement is intended.

1. Here We Go Again by Anna Clair

2. The Words That Mean Too Much by Anna Clair

3. Osaka Leg by Anna Clair

4. The Prince's Allure by Anna Clair

5. The Engagement by Anna Clair

6. Let's Trip Off The Edge Of Reality Together by Anna Clair

7. Fight or Flight? by Anna Clair

8. Angels Swept You Off Your Feet by Anna Clair

9. God Knows...I'm Gone by Anna Clair

10. The Heart Aches For What It Never Had by Anna Clair

11. A Glimpse Of Perfection by Anna Clair

12. Happily Ever Afters Do Exist by Anna Clair

13. The Morning After Isn't Always Ugly by Anna Clair

14. Time To Man Up by Anna Clair

15. Kiss You Quiet by Anna Clair

16. Her Water Broke by Anna Clair

17. The Lines Between Life and Death by Anna Clair

18. One Saturday Morning by Anna Clair

19. Death and the Maiden by Anna Clair

20. You Could Save Me From Myself by Anna Clair

21. Read My Memories, Tear At My Soul, Mend My Heart by Anna Clair

22. Shade and Shelter Me From Their Sunshine by Anna Clair

23. The World Spins But We Stay Still by Anna Clair

24. The Secrets Between Us by Anna Clair

25. Playing Mind Games by Anna Clair

26. Look At Us Now by Anna Clair

27. If We Fight, We Fight Together by Anna Clair

28. If It's Nothing Why Doesn't It Feel That Way? by Anna Clair

29. One Night by Anna Clair

30. Happily Never After by Anna Clair

31. The Tale of Two Idiots by Anna Clair

32. Changing the Rules by Anna Clair

33. Crossing Borders and Bridging Gaps by Anna Clair

Here We Go Again by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
Hope you guys enjoy it . Just to clarify this was also posted on winglin under a different name NotQuiteInsane. I was just seeing how it would gain reactions.
Mao relaxed back into her seat and grumbled as the person beside her rummaged and rummaged.

As bloody usual...or at least what had been usual for the past couple of weeks. They’d been ransacking the video library in NTV studios for a very long time, looking for something she needed to find desperately.

“Shun...” She started now thoroughly annoyed with her ex-boyfriend and his incompetent searching skills. He turned simply to give her a look that told her to shut up and sit there quietly. She rolled her eyes and complied just for the fact that he wasn’t even supposed to be doing this, it was eleven thirty, and it was a favor for her.

“Mao...what did you say the name was again?” He questioned her again as his intellectual fingers grazed along what seemed like millions of movies and finally landed on one which he thought would match the title Mao was looking for.

“Suki Suki Daisuki da yo.”

“Sounds quite unlike the ‘I-hate-everyone-around-me’ person I know to be looking for a fifty year old reel named ‘Suki Suki Daisuki da yo.” He grinned back at her and she shot him a rather fake one right back. Shun shuddered at the utter phony look on her face. As long as he had known Mao, since they’d started school by the way, there had been this odd sort of aura around her. Like she was missing something very important in her life.

After their relationship, they didn’t really speak much. There wasn’t anything they had left in common any more since they’d stopped dating. Still Shun couldn’t help but want to help her out whenever she showed up at his doorstep not so much asking but more like demanding another favor out of him.

The first time it had been an outrageous demand that he pretend to be her boyfriend for some stupid bimbo’s wedding. Of course that one hadn’t worked out cause somehow he’d ended up in the bimbo’s arms and almost had the groom get into a brawl with him.

After that he’d thought he’d never see her again until last month where she called him and asked him if he was still working in NTV studios. He’d proudly shoved in her face that he was now an assistant director on the verge of getting a new show but she’d hung up on him halfway and sent him a message the day after she’d be coming to his work.

And since he’d found himself looking for this odd track. ‘Suki Suki Daisuki da yo’. God knew for what reason this mystifying beauty needed the track but she did. Suddenly his hands stopped as he felt his hands run over an old reel his eyes almost unbelieving of the name. He gasped and in a moment he found Mao by his side staring intently over his shoulder, in difficulty seeing that he was far taller than her.

“No way,” His eyes couldn’t believe the reel on which his hands had landed. Mao snatched it out of his grasp and clutched it to her chest breathing heavily. As for some reason this was the only thing that would give her oxygen to breathe and not the muscles in her chest, which contracted and expanded at an alarmingly quick rate. Shun was just about to ask her why she was so enraptured and possessive of the reel of old film when he heard, or perhaps it had been his imagination, a name she’d never had come out of her mouth.

“Okaa-san,”
End Notes:
Toda Erika as Akanishi Toda Erika the mother
Matsuda Shota as HRH
Akanishi Jin as Akanishi Jin, the father
Horikita Maki as HRH

Kimura Takuya as the grandfather.
Matsushita Nao as the grandmother



ETA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Due to popular demand I'm going to write down a huge cast here: it'll help clear up the past and the future problems as well as give some insight into the characters.



LoC (List of Characters)



Past - Adults



Erika Toda - Protagonist

Kimura Takuya - Father

Akanishi Jin - Husband/Childhood Best Friend

Kuroki Meisa - Best Friend

Matsuda Shota - His Royal Highness

Matsuda Maki (Portrayed by Horikita Maki) - Her Royal Highness

Ikuta Toma - Role Pending to be revealed.



Past - Children



Matsumoto Jun - Crown Prince

Inoue Mao - Toda grand daughter



Present



Inoue Mao - Protagonist

Oguri Shun - Ex-boyfriend/Supporting Character

Matsumoto Jun - Crown Prince/Supporting Character

Akanishi Jin - Father/Supporting Character

Nishikido Ryo - Role Pending/Supporting Character

Sawajiri Erika - Godmother Yui

Matsuda Maki - Role Pending

Ikuta Toma - Role Pending

Tegoshi Yuya - Friend

Toda Nao (portrayed by Matsushita Nao) - Grandmother



There you have it guys =D there'll be more added to the list as they increase in importance to the story line with cameos sprinkled in here and there. ENJOY. And if you'd like me to clarify things just list it on the review section. Or just review anyways. :) You'll make me smile.



The Words That Mean Too Much by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
Hope you guys enjoy it =D
"So where has my darling little idiot problem child been for the past week?"

"Out." Mao answered as she stared at her alarmingly young looking old grandmother. Actually no she didn’t look young, she looked like a good mid-fifties woman. But she sure as hell didn’t look old enough to be her grandmother. Most people just assumed that Nao had been one of those unlucky women who had a child too late in their lives, not be the mother of a young mother.

"Let me tell you where you’ve been then shall I?" Nao dictated back to her.

As she left her bag at the door and sat down in her favourite chair she heard the tinkle of her million and one leather silver outlined bracelets clinking happily. Nao offered Mao an arrogant smirk and it was all Mao could do to not disrespect her authority and roll her eyes.

It wasn’t like their relationship was bad...it was just a little hostile. It was hard to explain. Mao resented the fact that she lived with Nao and Nao just had no choice but to take care of her.

"You’ve been out looking for information for your mother even after I specifically told you not to." Nao’s voice was quiet as she sauntered into her own kitchen and Mao struggled to not show expression to the face peeking out of their half open kitchen.

Of course that didn’t last very long. Nao’s powers were beyond her, and by powers she meant cooking skills.

"Fine I’m sorry. Can I have some lunch now?" She complained trying to change the subject.

Nao turned to raise her eyebrows and shake her head in a disapproving manner. She couldn’t believe that this girl wasn’t going to protest to her quite obvious accusation.

"You know what I’m not." Mao changed her mind just as quickly after receiving the look from her grandmother. Nao nodded approvingly; yes this was more like the girl she knew.

"Why?"

"Because I know nothing about Erika and SHE! Is my thesis!"

"Let’s forget the fact that she’s your mother and technically you’re cheating by doing this thesis. I don’t care what stupid reason you have for researching your mother. You shouldn’t do so and we’ve been through this many a time. You don't want to know who she was Meow."

With each word from her grandmother Mao only grew more determined, and more furious. "I don’t know why I bothered coming home." Mao didn’t bother controlling herself, within moments she was up and darting back towards the door where she’d left her bag lying in a position that almost screamed that she had always had the intention of leaving again. She grabbed it and shut the door with a loud bang that signified she was mad and wouldn’t be coming back for at least another three days.

Nao sighed as she felt the silence echo in their apartment. God knew where she’d go in that time but...what Mao wanted...Mao did.

Like someone else Nao knew so well. Feeling a sort of tug at her belly she lifted her shirt up to glance at the stitches she’d gotten after Erika’s birth. She had never regretted, what the doctors dubbed, the worst natural birth in the history of their hospital.

Not even when she’d betrayed all of them. Because of one reason and one reason only. Nao, no matter how much she had wanted Erika to understand that you couldn't always have what you wanted, had admired her for pushing through for what she wanted all her life.

And just like that Nao fell back into the memories of her departed daughter.

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"Erika!" Nao screamed as she turned the food in the pan while their maid Yui helped by giving her the spices and other ingredients she needed in the correct measures.

"Oh god where did this girl disappear off to again?" Yui muttered quietly for she knew that if Erika didn’t show up in the next minute or two she was about to be sent off yet again to find the little heiress.

Nao didn’t care about Yui’s troubles...she cared about the safety of her daughter and thus gave her a pointed look that told her she had to go out and get Erika back inside before it became too late. She didn’t like seeing her daughter outside the house after six o’clock.

Not to mention that dinner was almost ready.

"I love you," Erika suddenly burst into the room, her tone one more of bewilderment and confusion than true sentiment. Yui took a small step back at the sudden entrance of the girl and her odd choice of words.

The little young girl understood their exact meaning when it was coming from her mother or her father but coming from whom she’d heard it from they seemed to take on an entirely different meaning.

Erika was an eleven-year-old wanderer, unable to ever keep herself from doing something at some point in time. She could never be found sitting there idly; rather she would be the life of whatever she was taking an interest in for the next thirty seconds.

Pour her deepest efforts, and all of her essence into her passions.

But of course being the fifties her extrovert attitude was found stifled by her father. Not that she would let such a tiny thing be a hindrance to her. She’d found a way to get around it and hung out incessantly with all the kids of the people her father was friends with so he wouldn’t mind all that much. So he would approve.

"Okaa-san," She started and immediately Nao's motherly instincts clicked off that this would be another of questions she couldn't answer seriously for another two years at least.

"Nani Erika?" Nao said to her daughter as she watched the peppers sizzle in a final glory and turned off the stove letting the contents of the pan cool in it before she poured it onto a serving plate.

"What does it mean when someone who isn’t related to you tells you he loves you?" Her wide doe eyes quite resembled the confusion she honestly felt. Nao found herself a little taken aback but she tried to think logically even though it was a little hard for her to imagine that this was already happening to her daughter.

She’d always known Erika was beautiful, and was bound to get hordes of young boys after her, but not quite at such a young age.

"Well he might love you for the wrong reasons or the right reasons. Can I know the context please my little flirt?" Nao grinned at the sight of a small blush rising up on Erika’s face as she turned away from her mother slightly embarrassed at the sudden allegation that her mother had thrown onto her.

"I was standing there outside waiting for- well a boy. When out of no where he came out and ran onto the yard and of course I stood there smiling like an idiot thinking we were just going to go play in the back or something. Then I found myself being hugged and he told me he loved me. That was it. I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING! Yakusoku." Nao simply wanted to hug her daughter silly as she saw Erika’s pinky pointing upwards in a pinky promise.

"Well maybe he was afraid you were mad that he kept you waiting." Nao said as she opened up the cupboard to grab the china they used daily.

"That’s never been a problem before with-" She suddenly shut up yet again as if she didn't want to say his name out loud. Like it would shame her in some way. Nao looked at her a little closer for a second and put the plate down and stopped in front of her daughter kneeling only a little to reach her daughter’s height.

"Neh Erika is this-"

Of course her daughter would not let her finish that sentence and she bounded off into her room, her own private haven. Where she could be secure from her father, her problems, and of course now this boy. Nao simply grinned. Her little girl was already getting confessions. It wouldn’t be long before the proposals started dropping by at their doors like flies.

Outside the door she could hear Erika mumble softly. Her eyes shot open at the words that her daughter had uttered and she started towards the exit but stopped halfway. No she had to offer her that little bit of privacy that she never obtained with her father.

Otherwise her little eleven-year-old girl would go mad. Still...those words...so serious at such a young age?

"Aishiteru yo." Erika repeated yet again...as if she just like her mother could not believe the words that had come out of Akanishi Jin's mouth.

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End Notes:
Yayyy!

Okay so as you've guessed it switches between the past and the present as Mao finds out more and more about her mother.

The beginning part of this story moves slowly. It's more about normality than anything else.

So give it time =D I promise it gets really exciting. Or should I say sexciting?

Bad joke. >.<

Review and let me know how you like it
Osaka Leg by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
Mao continues her search for information on her mother that leads her to Osaka and she meets an interesting boy.
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"Miss...Miss this is the last stop. We’re here at Osaka. Miss." The boy looked in vain at the pretty young girl simply lying there. Slumbering leaning against what he knew to be the most uncomfortable window in the world. She looked to be at least three or so years older than himself.

"Oi Yuya we don’t have time for this. Hurry up and kick the onna out of the bus will you? We’re taking people back to Tokyo in fifteen minutes."

"It don’t seem right to do that to her."

"She’s not some sleeping fucking beauty." The driver replied to his conductor with annoyance present in his voice.

"Hai Hai Nishikido-san." With a final push on her shoulders she stirred and her eyes slowly flickered open. Tegoshi stepped backward suddenly shocked by the fact that she was now aware of everything around them.

She looked angry. Her eyes seemed to hold some sort of malice in them. That was odd that wasn’t exactly the look someone would get the moment they woke up.

"When did we arrive?" She asked him accusingly. Tegoshi gulped a little and stood up straighter for reasons unknown. She almost had the air of a queen bossing him around.

He’d never understand those kids from Tokyo.

"Um...around thirty minutes ago Miss." He answered honestly quickly glancing at his watch to re-confirm this time. Her eyes narrowed and her mouth opened in a threatening manner that had the hairs on the back of his neck raised.

"And you’ve let me lie there sleeping for that long have you?" She said somewhat sweetly. Though for some reason Tegoshi couldn’t detect the prettiness she held in her face in her voice. Her soul was contradictory to her vessel.

"Yes Miss. You looked so-"

"Don’t look at me." She said shaking her head obviously and sighed in a frustrated manner as she pushed past him towards the exit of the bus obviously annoyed at the present situation. She turned to look through the luggage section but she didn’t really need to. Her bag was the last one. She lifted it up and started descending. Tegoshi exhaled from relief when she suddenly turned her head at the noise.

"A hint to keep you hired little boy. People aren’t made of time. You should wake them up once you reach your destination no matter how nice they look when they’re sleeping." With that she opened the door to step into the mass waiting to get into the bus. Tegoshi ran to keep them out pleading that it wasn’t time yet and as he finally shut the door he found himself looking at the girl in her tattered jeans who walked on without a second look back.

He found himself believing that this was the type of girl who could only look forward in front of her.

How wrong he was.

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208...208. She muttered continuously in her head her eyes squinting at each number in vain. She refused to take her glasses out of her bag. She hated wearing them.

Finally she paused at an estate that had the number 208 written in large blocks. This is where she rested. The only person she could solely rely on in the world. She thought of the useless reel in her bag. It hadn’t worked. No matter how many times they tried the video would just not play. It was fated not to work. She knew there must have been more than one copy.

But Shun had looked so utterly defeated and tired. He looked like he wanted her out of his life... and so she complied. She’d simply left with no words. As usual he’d accepted it because that was what she did in his eyes. Left people with no reason. No one did that. It was just that it was not important for him to ever know why.

Finally a beautiful woman stumbled out of the house. The light hitting her hair in a way that almost made a halo appear above her head, the beauty of hair product obviously.

Mao hadn’t bothered with asking if they could open the door cause they wouldn’t. Why would they when they didn’t even know if she was someone normal or some crazy rabid fan instead of her niece? She came with her entourage of at least three people.

Mao could recognize some of the most popular faces of today with her. One was another actress, one who collaborated with her in a lot of T.V. shows. The others, a stylist and a hair and make up genius that tagged along with her. No doubt to keep her looking flawless at all hours of the day.

She finally reached the gate and stepped out and stopped for a second as if there was something off about her daily routine. She turned her head towards Mao and Mao smiled cheekily.

"Spare change?" She spouted and the woman’s eyes filled with so many emotions so quickly that Mao almost blushed.

"Mao...what are you doing here?" She asked leaning against the gate as the other actress came out looking somewhat worried and the stylist and make up artist stood at the sides of the two. Like a cavalry ready to defend their clients.

"Yui is everything okay?" The woman asked inquisitively laying a hand on her friend’s shoulder and pausing to barely glance at the filthy cretin Mao looked like at the moment. Mao purposefully grabbed some dirt and rubbed it on her face just to irk and piss of the woman off. She looked like she was going to puke. Good.

"Came to visit my favorite aunt." Mao answered smartly, ignoring the other woman’s question, thankfully so did her aunt. She stood up from the ground her bag swung over her shoulder staring up at her from the long bangs that shaded her eyes.

"Mao. You know not to stop by like this. I bet your grandmother doesn’t even know does she?" Mao stayed silent letting the wind between them do all the talking. Finally her beloved rock relented and pointed towards the house.

"Right now I’m off to a party but when I come back we’ll talk."

"Not taking me along?"

"Would you like to come? I thought all this was a bit of torture for you. That was the reason you haven’t actually come see me in three years isn’t it?" She said pointedly and Mao bit her tongue and looked apologetic. Her aunt looked bored and Mao decided right there that just to prove her aunt wrong that she would go places she didn’t want to. She nodded.

"Fine. Leave your bags inside near the grass and someone will come take care of it. We have to go get you ready. I’m not having you coming to a party looking like that." Her aunt looked wary of her. Almost as if she didn’t want Mao to come to this party. Mao rolled her eyes. Who on earth could be there that she would shame her aunt so much?

She bet absolutely no one.

She had no idea who she was about to meet today.

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End Notes:
>.< I hate how boring I have to make the first chapters due to MASSIVE exposition. Would you guys like these chapters longer? You can tell me via review...or just leave me a message on my profile =D either ways.

I hope you enjoyed it =D a review earns you loveee.
The Prince's Allure by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
Sorry guys it's still a little boring but it's getting more and more interesting I promise.
“Now may we welcome our guests of honor? The wonderful actresses, Yui and Kumi, as well as his Royal Highness Jun-sama! Some applause for our nation’s talent and our own prince!” The horrible completely tiresome MC spoke. Mao looked at her clothes and felt that their light bright colors were about to blind her. She’d been complaining and begging for a black dress but here she was sitting in an absolutely sunny yellow. Her hair was twisted into the most beautiful high pontail with curls twisted on the ends, a flower clipped onto her hair for added lack of prettiness.

Her aunt stood up there, as usual an attention hog. She didn’t blame her aunt though after living as the servant of the Toda family for the most of her childhood and being cast away, of course you would enjoy attention. Yui had taken care of Mao for most of her life and was the second most important person in Mao’s life. The first being her grandmother.

Mao’s gaze shifted from the other actress Kumi to his royal highness.

It would be ridiculous to say that the prince in his twenties wasn't gorgeous. His hair in perfect curls falling around his face. He bore a strong resemblance to his father, the strong features of his face, the long eyelashes, and the seemingly deep eyes that were looking intently at something near her.

Mao looked around for a second and found her pleasantly removed from the crowd.

Oh so she was the object of his attention. Well wasn’t that delightful? The pretty young girl in yellow caught the eye of the prince. She wanted to scoff.

For a moment Yui turned to look at her and Mao immediately broke her eyes away from the prince to look at Yui but it was too late. Yui had managed to see where Mao’s eyes had been directed and her reprimanding gesture was enough for Mao to walk out of the doors and away from the eyes of the Prince for now.

For just a moment she imagined what it would be like. To be the wife of a Prince, or even his lover if it was just a night. The cold wind touched her arms and she gulped. No she could never have loved a person like a prince, it would be far too complicated even if she was with him for a night. Men like him could never ever be with girls like her.

Jun was looking around the room aimlessly displaying to the world the smile two years of braces in his prepubescent years had created. Oricon had named his beam most mouth watering. He was actually rather proud of it.

At the thought of it, for just a second his smile stretched across his face farther and he was sure he could hear some girl almost swooning in the crowd.

His eyes scanned the crowd for the source of the noise to flash the woman a look but instead he found his eyes attracted to a bright yellow dress standing off to the corner, worn by someone who was simply looking at the two actresses.

Oh was he not important enough for this one?

He stared at her until her eyes made their way over to him. She looked pleasantly shocked to find that he was looking at her first. Well it was quite hard for her to hide. He’d imagined she would turn away from him thinking his gaze on her was but a momentary thing but she held on for a couple of moments before heading her eyes back to the actresses and then suddenly walking out of the doors.

As he saw the girl in the yellow dress leave he had no idea why but he was reminded of her. The woman who had ruined the name of the Japanese royal family. A name they were still trying to rebuild even today. A name that had changed everything.

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“So why did you come Mao?” Her aunt finally asked her at the party when they were all seated together. It was her aunt, that other lazy actress who was simply speaking away on the phone with some person who wasn’t important, and the other two groupies of her aunt.

The other seat was left empty for the other guest of honor who at the moment had decided that he didn’t want to sit and wanted to go mingle. Mao didn’t really care. All she cared about was the information.

Besides, she hated all royalty. She found them useless and their allure pointless. Oh oh look at me. I’m rich but I haven’t done a day of work in my life, and I’m a spoilt brat with women all over me all the time so I’m a player. MARRY ME AND BE A QUEEN AND LOCKED UP IN A CASTLE FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!

She did not understand these prince fantasies some girls had. “Why else would I come? I’m done not knowing shit about my mother. So I guess you could say that I'm on a quest.” She spoke with a clear intention in her voice.

"Mao..” Her aunt started clearly displeased at this answer.

“What? Why am I not allowed to know anything about her?”

“Mao you don’t know because it’s best for you.”

“Fine just tell me about her early years then shall I? I can know at least that can’t I? How she was as a child. I doubt she was the spawn of Satan from the beginning of her life!” Mao insisted and finally Yui caved looking around to see if anyone was listening.

“Fine. I guess I could tell you a little bit about how your mother and your father got together."

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“JIN!” Erika ran hard after the car that had left with the boy who had thrown her a most bewildering question. “Do you love me too?”

How on earth was she supposed to answer that being a twelve year old? She wasn’t sure what the hell love was. But being all knowing and sixteen she supposed that Jin knew all about it. Why did she hang out with him so much anyways? He was obviously a loser if he couldn’t find people his own age to be with.

“Erika! Erika!” She could hear him screaming out of the car. Well that was odd that wasn’t how its supposed to be.

“ERIKA!” She felt a slap on her bottom and immediately she shot up out of the bed and looked down at herself. She was sixteen...what she was sixteen?

That’s right. That was just another dream like them all. She rolled her eyes. It would make sense to get the dream of the very first love confession just as she’d had her heart broken for the first time in the world by Matsuyama Ken’ichi, the director of her first and only music video. It hadn’t even touched the waters of popularity. They said she had a beautiful voice that would call out the most shy of creatures.

She would have gotten far popular in a little while but there was one man between that stardom, that fame and her.

“Erika! It’s time for breakfast!” She found herself looking up into Yui’s face. Yui was just a year older than herself but was enslaved into the house of Toda by her own father to earn her keep. She stayed in different quarters as well, the servants quarters.

She got up quietly and sauntered onto the table in her long nightgown seating herself, not daring to look at her parents who ate in silence.

“So the preparations for tonight’s party are going fine then are they?” Her father said finally breaking the silence and Erika rolled her eyes, that stupid party again for Father and all his associates.

“Yes well it’s all moving along pleasantly. The caterers are bringing their best as was ordered by you sir.” Her mother said. Erika had never understood this. If you loved someone, if you married them, lived with them, and even yes bedded them were you supposed to address them as sir? Yet every morning her mother addressed her father as such. Erika found this to be the oddest peculiarity between them in addition to their lack of affection for each other.

“Well you know how special the guests are for this party right.”

“When are the guests not special for any party?” Erika muttered under her breath slicing part of her bread up and placing it in her mouth chewing consciously. She’d hoped to be soft enough but the softer clatter of her father’s fork proved that he had heard her.

“I’ll be home early tonight. Make sure Erika is ready.”

Oh right last time she’d been walking around in her nightgown. That had been embarrassing. “Yes sir!” She joked and found her father’s strange strong glare on her to quiet up her slight humor.

Yui however cracked a small smile of happiness. “I can’t believe that Erika...so young...” With a look from her father however Yui shut up in the middle of her already odd phrase. Erika turned to look at her father with confusion apparent on her face.

“Erika...so young what?”

“It’s nothing darling honestly.” Her mother intervened placing a hand on hers so as to tell her to shut the fuck up. That it wasn’t her business.

But how could it not be? Her name had been spoken!

“Erika so young what dad?” Erika questioned yet again. This time the frustration barely left out of her voice.

“I’m off to work.” He finished sliding off the table and moving towards the exit of their house. Leaving Erika banging her fist on the table.

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End Notes:
Now onto updating the next chapter =D I'm doing a double update! Thank you Shan for reviewing
The Engagement by Anna Clair
"LOVE!" A woman exclaimed proudly as she entered the Toda mansion that same night staring at her beau. Behind the man who she loved dearly stood the woman who was actually married to him.

Well not that that would ever matter. He would never love the likes of that woman.

"Meisa." Kimura Takuya said a bright smile adorning his face as he made his way over to the young feline like actress. Stopping in front of her he enveloped her in his arms burying his face in her long locks, trying to keep some sort of subtlety around the fact that he loved this woman who he was obviously not married to.

Breaking apart from her he grasped her hand and lightly touched it to his lips.

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"Who’s that?" Mao interrupted circling her glass of water with her index finger. They were still sitting at the party. Every now and then either Mao or another person coming to wish her aunt, or one of the three posse kids would interrupt the story.

"That was your grand father’s lover. He used to run the famous Nizaki Television stations but what ended up happening was he sold that corporation after it turned out that the people employed under him were trying to make his little daughter a singer. One of those people was Meisa. That was how he met the free spirit and however attracted he was to Meisa he would be sure to keep her apart from his family and his beliefs. His attraction to her made no sense." Yui said sounding quite annoyed at this point. Mao could understand. There was a fierce loyalty that Yui had to Mao’s own grandmother Nao. It was the same for Mao as well but she’d always kind of known that her grandmother and grandfather hadn’t really loved each other so much as stayed together.

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"And is that my darling Erika?" Meisa said ducking to look behind Takuya who simply nodded looking proud of his little beauty that was sitting in a corner with her mother. Meisa bowed taking her leave and rushed towards Erika who seeing Meisa brightened up.

"Meisa!" Nao’s attempts to hold Erika back from the scarlet woman did nothing.

"My my you look all dolled up today. Is there any grand occasion?" Meisa said looking at Erika who was wearing a traditional kimono. She shrugged.

"Dad said I couldn’t be walking around in a nightgown."

"Well...you can’t be. Showing off those feminine curves and all that. How dare you?" Meisa herself was wearing a practically night gown like dress. For a moment they stood in silence until Meisa sighed in boredom.

"I’m so bored."

"Then why did you come?" Nao said coming up behind her daughter and Erika turned to look sharply at her mother. It was impossible that her mother was being so rude.

Meisa blinked unfazed for a moment before breaking out into her normal smile once more and started speaking to Erika again. "What kind of a party is this anyways? There’s music but no dancing?" She said shaking her head in clear disapproval of the idea.

"I would love to dance!" Erika exclaimed in her child like innocence and immediately Meisa dragged her out onto the empty floor. Nao hit her forehead. She had no idea why Erika was so completely blind to her surroundings. Sometimes she wished that girl would wake up and look around her for once.

"Well this is all good and well I suppose but we really ought to find you a boy to dance with don’t you think?" Meisa said in her typical tone of flighty-ness. Erika looked at her confused. She wasn’t quite sure of what her father would think of that. He’d always been a bit of a prude about these things. She had decided to not piss him off today too.

"It’s okay honestly. I don’t even know what I’m missing so. Dancing with you is fine."

"What do you mean you don’t know what you’re missing?"

"I’ve never danced with a boy Meisa." Erika spoke with no ashamed tone or excited tone. There was just the simple fact stated but Meisa looked as if Erika had told her she had cancer.

"What?" She exclaimed her head automatically starting to shake to protest the minor detail of Erika’s life. Erika immediately started to open her mouth about how it wasn’t a big deal or anything but Meisa opened hers first.

"You...you give me two seconds with your dad all right?" With that Meisa disappeared into the crowd leaving Erika standing on the floor alone. Erika grinned around a little awkwardly and promised to murder Meisa when she returned.

Erika edged away from the dance floor walking backwards but not looking where she was going she tripped on a little crack in the floor and got ready to hit the ground in her clumsy-ness. She shut her eyelids preparing for the shame.

But the impact of the ground never came on her as she realized that someone had wormed their hands around her waist and caught her arms in their hands. She blinked her eyes open to look at her savior.

Him? He had saved her? But...but how? He wasn’t even supposed to be here.

"Jin?"

"Erika." He voice was soft and silky and he pulled her up on her feet grasping her hands in his but of course being the girl she was Erika just as quickly stepped at least a meter apart from him.

"Jin what are you doing here?" She questioned looking not quite that pleased to see his face yet again. He would have thought that at least as a best friend she would have missed him just a bit.

"I- I’m-" But he could never finish it because it was too late and now Jin could see that right behind Erika was his own father and Erika’s father.

It was too late.

"Ladies and Gentlemen! May I be honored to finally tell you the occasion of this party?" Erika’s father started off and Erika turned to see Meisa and him standing side by side.

Meisa looked at him like a woman angry and disappointed. She glared at him in a way that would never let anyone know that they were lovers.

Erika looked at her father in confusion and her eyes flickered back to Jin whose face was starting to line with some sort of shame.

"I’m very pleased to announce the engagement of my best friend’s son Akanishi Jin," At this Erika’s eyes flicked back to him. For a moment Jin thought he could see the slight pain in her eyes at the fact that he was getting married.

If only she knew. "To my own daughter who has now come of age! Erika!" Erika looked to her father in shock as he came up to her and gave her a pointed look. Her face glazed over with no real expression. Her father came around and pushed her into Jin’s side and to keep herself from falling again she found her hands land on his chest. Jin had finally become what he’d promised to be.

A strong, dependable husband. Her husband. She looked up at him but could not find much that seemed to flicker something in her.

She fell to the ground for a moment feeling her legs turning weak at the thought. They betrayed her...they did not offer her the strength she so desperately needed to survive this announcement.

Now what would come of all her dreams of love, romance and most of all passion?

As she looked up to her father’s face and at Jin’s and consequently her mother’s guilty features she laughed slightly.

Of course! She was Toda Takuya’s daughter. Why on earth would her wishes matter?

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End Notes:
So I hope you enjoyed that :) Leave me a comment in the review section and I shall love you forever. This was a harder chapter to write and the ones coming up were even tougher so I'm sorry if you can see my struggles coming up. :(
Let's Trip Off The Edge Of Reality Together by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
This is one of my favourite chapters in this story. So enjoy =D Hope you guys love it as much as I did.
The lights dimmed all around them there was darkness and then a spotlight. One so bright she couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the person it fell on.

He moved closer towards her and her breath hitched in her throat as she reached for the rope that hung from the ceiling. He gulped and shook as he edged towards the chair. The conflict in his mind so vividly present in his body. As if he knew, that this was not what God or he had intended for himself. Yet there was nothing he could do to stop the way his feet slowly climbed up the chair, the way he slowly pulled the rope around his neck and lifted his feet in that ominous motion.

She understood though, and she felt him from across the room. The pain. He wanted it to end. He imagined the way she looked underneath someone else and his resolve only got stronger. How was this in any way right?

He finally sighed deeply and looked straight ahead, right at her.

Then he kicked the chair away.

There in the room full of people…was a doll which had lost the life in its eyes.

That was the end.

Erika was the first person to stand up immediately and clap, she loved the play. The beauty of his thoughts, the way the actor moved, absolutely everything about him she loved. The perfection with which he played the hauntingly beautiful character but most of all she understood the character. She related so deeply to his character.

She’d tried to run away twice, and finally last night she had tried to shoot herself in the head with her father’s gun. They had locked her away in her room.

Anything was better than constantly living under someone else’s orders. You became but a puppet and a shell of what you want to be when you do only what others want you to.

The curtains closed and she knew what was coming next. As the curtains reopened, he stepped out with his fellow actors and took a bow, and the applause only grew. Soon the applause died down and the actors started clapping around the actress who was crying with happy tears. She saw the stage crew come up with a bouquet of flowers for the lead actor and actress, and they shook hands and the girl paused to blow a kiss to the audience.

Erika felt the twang in her heart that reminded her that she could have been loved by people like that. If her dad wasn’t so darn sure that all entertainers were prostitutes. She supposed it said something about his taste seeing as he was almost continually cheating on mother with actresses, but for the past year or so it had only been one, Meisa-chan.

Erika wasn’t dumb. She knew about it. She just shut her mouth and pretended like she didn’t. Meisa was her only friend in this estranged world, her only key to leaving, escaping to where freedom existed. If she ever admitted out loud that she knew about Meisa’s relationship with her father then she would have to break any ties with Meisa. As selfish and hurtful to her mother as she was being she couldn’t cut off the tie because freedom was so appealing.

In fact if Meisa hadn’t been there then Erika would probably have been unable to come out of the house numerous times.

Like tonight, she turned sideways to glance at her company, Meisa and Jin both of whom were yawning and stretching. In her mind she imagined them together quite often, all her problems disappearing if they would simply realize how perfect they were for each other.

Erika wasn't foolish. She knew how much in love Meisa and her father were...Meisa would never leave him for Jin. Still the two of them had quite a lot in common and had funny conversations with each other when Meisa felt bad about Erika refusing to acknowledge Jin's presence in her life.

Like today, her father suggested a ‘date’ atmosphere for them to get closer to one another.

“I didn’t get it,” Jin spoke directly at her and Erika could not stop the way her face contorted snobbily that he didn’t understand the significance of the final scene on the overall effect of the play. She turned to Meisa quickly.

“Chotto neh?” Erika grinned widely.

“Hai Hai, go on I know you’ve been waiting to go speak to the actors and director.” Meisa yawned again stretching and continued babbling on with Jin about something insignificant.

She raced to the front of the stage immediately. Today was the last day the play was being performed in Tokyo and she had to go offer her gratitude for being able to see such a piece of work. Every time she came back it just grew better and better, each performance more powerful, more touching than the last.

As she reached the stage she looked at the lead actor was unbuttoning the top of his shirt leaving the front billowing probably from the high heat that was on stage with all the lighting and he still had his make up on. Just as she reached the stage he started off backstage and she followed him, with all the frenzy around the lead actress no one really noticed her go into the staff only area.

“Ano sa!” She yelled out and he turned around to face her.

“Yes? Can I help you with something?” He questioned now coming closer but Erika simply stayed somewhat afraid as he made his way towards her. She found surprisingly that it was hard to speak in front of people who you looked up to. Someone of his caliber, she found herself intimidated. She didn’t know what it was about him, but the way he was…it just signified his importance.

But she couldn't stand there looking like a fool forever so she attempted speech. “I just wanted to say-“

“I think I remember you.” He interrupted her quickly before she could continue. She smiled and shook her head. That was impossible.

“Muri desu yo.” She told him so and he shook his head smiling. She couldn’t believe that out of all the faces in the audience, he would remember her.

“No no… I do remember you…oh my god you’re first-up-girl!”

“First-up-girl?” She’d never been called that before. She wasn’t sure if it was a good nickname like sweetie pie or more mocking. Like Kaka Erika. (Translation: Poopie Erika)

“We’ve nicknamed you backstage. You’re first-up-girl.”

“Oh…” Erika gulped. Was her over-enthusiasm a bad thing? “Is that a bad thing?”

“Not at all! You know I should be thanking you. The first night I came on stage was my acting debut and when I first kicked the chair out I thought I’d actually choke not hearing applause and when you started clapping I knew I was supposed to have my eyes closed but I couldn’t help but look. I actually struggled to play dead after that. You have no idea the relief I felt when everyone followed your solitary claps.” His eyes held sincerity so great that Erika was a bit staggered, how could someone normal have eyes that were so expressive?

She found herself shocked and a woman of few words in this man’s presence. She was like a star struck teenager.

Thankfully she didn’t have to worry too much about saying something. Meisa chose the right moment to come retrieve her.

“Shota! Baby baby baby!” Meisa shouted from behind her and immediately ran up to him and hugged him tightly. Erika had always felt awkward around such moments. Almost as if she was an intruder. Meisa always hugged men she never knew while they were out together, mostly they’d talk for five minutes then leave each other and Erika would ponder as to how many men exactly Meisa knew?

And how many of them she knew as she knew her father.

“So you’ve met Erika. She’s positively obsessed with your work.” Meisa winked at her and Erika could only try not to let her jealousy through that Meisa could have ever been involved with this man in front of her.

“Well considering that this is my first job I've ever gotten enough time for apart from my duties I gather she’ll have to wait longer to become truly obsessed with my work.” Shota turned to grin at her and Erika gulped once more and just looked away. Where was Jin? She was sure seeing him again would turn her back into her normal loud expressive state of absolute hatred towards him.

Shota looked at his wrist and sighed speaking directly to Meisa only pausing to look at her once, “Well I have to go to the closing party with Mayuko…but I’ll see you again Meisa. I have to go get dressed.”

“All right now. Don’t have too much fun; our nation is depending on you!” Meisa giggled, leaning into Shota’s cheek to give him air kisses on the cheek and then grabbing her hand. Erika wanted to stay rooted to the spot though and look at his articulate pace, and the swing of his symmetrical arms as he walked away from her.

There was something so perfect about the way Shota was formed. There was something in her that craved after that perfection in his body.

No wonder he had fallen from the chair so beautifully.

But in the end she turned around almost sadly and slowly paced her steps back to her mobile prison cell, an awkward car ride with Jin and Meisa.

“Ano sa!” As the words reverberated through the hallway she couldn't help but turn around just as quickly as he started towards her, even if he was addressing Meisa she couldn't stop the eager smile on her face. He came up to her faster than she could blink. He bent downwards and grasped her hand, pausing to kiss it and Erika gulped.
She was going to choke on all the saliva she’d been gulping like this.

He wasn't good for her.

“It was nice to finally meet you first-up-girl." She tried to reply. She really did.

But she'd been knocked breathless and so she could only blush weakly as he winked at her walking away once more.

Her head whirred with fantasies never lived as she wished he would whisk her into his arms and kiss her silly. Erika felt herself pulled away from him by Meisa who was looking warily at him. She could hardly keep up with the pace with which Meisa pulled her out of the theater.

“Are you mad?!” Meisa lectured her and Erika frowned turning away.

“Why would I be mad?”

“You’re engaged! To be married to Jin! And you’re not even wearing your ring! And something like that. In such a shady area.” Erika looked away she agreed that she hadn’t worn her ring but there was nothing shady about the backstage area. It was where magic was created and wasn't that where Meisa herself spent most of her time?

She wanted to say so to Meisa but instead settled for, “You sound like my father.”

“Let’s just get you home before Jin notices-“

“Jin notices what? I’m not in love with him? LET HIM!"

“Why are you so against this? You know it’s not all bad right? Arranged marriages can be romantic! Think of it as a discovery, a mission.” Meisa attempted to calm Erika down but it wasn’t working.

“I’m done. I just…I wish I was on that chair. I wish I could kick it out from underneath my feet so that I could just- end this farce.” Erika stared at the chair; to most people it symbolized disgust and self-hatred. But to her it signified freedom, and choice.

Something she’d longed for her entire life.

“Jin’s in the car, let’s go Rika baby.” Meisa wasn’t sure how to react to her words, Erika could tell in the way she tried to change the topic.

No one ever was. But today she’d found someone to relate to. It wasn’t the actor but the character he had portrayed so beautifully. Every time Erika grew weak she would think of him and his beautiful end. Others may call him weak but Erika saw him as strong. It took guts to end pain that you knew never would unless you resorted to the worst option.

She understood how much strength had coursed through his veins.

"We shouldn't keep him waiting too long. It is cold." So she walked somewhat dejectedly out of the building, turning around just once to look at the actors who had piled onto the stage now.

Shota glanced up at her and for just a second she felt appeased seeing him in her eyes. She smiled and then felt the door shut between their gaze. Neither blinking away until the last possible second.

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"I can’t wait to see the bride!"

"I heard her father got her one of the most expensive wedding garments in all of Japan!"

"Out of the two families the Toda family definitely has more money."

"Well the Akanishi family did just move back from China!"

Gossip. Gossip. Gossip. Was that all the women from her family knew how to do?

"Meisa," She said sighing in exhaustion. Meisa looked at her with an annoyed look in her eyes. She’d been dealing with this version of Erika for about three months now. It was getting on her nerves. She couldn't keep the words from pouring out of her mouth as she reached her best friend and gave her a quick slap. The girl's eyes opened wide and in shock as Meisa began her reign of tyranny.

"Erika enough. There is a man out there, who seems quite nice, I agree this is not the ideal situation for you to get married in but its not the worst. He’s not going to beat you up, he’s not going to hurt you, he may even come to love you but honestly not when you’re as down as you are right now! I know the idea of this marriage isn’t attractive and for heavens sake I don’t want you to suffer so please if not for your sake then mine! Try and be happy!" She finished without taking a breath and Erika looked at her in shock as she placed the veil upon her head and straightened out the back of her long white dress. Meisa was so much like a sister to her.

"You’re beautiful Eri...and you have no idea how lucky you are to have everything prepared for you. Out there when most of our country is suffering from the mistakes made by our stupid government. Americans coming in and out pillaging our culture, destroying our Japan, ruining one of our prettiest sights and you sit here crying about a nice guy who wants to marry you!" Suddenly Erika found things to look a lot more logical and she felt far more guilty about her behaviour. Erika looked like she was throwing a tantrum. It was true. She should have been thankful that her life was relatively undamaged by the rough times Japan had gone through but a mere few years ago. Meisa probably had first hand experience with it and resented Erika for her flighty attitude towards the plights of their nation while she had everything given to her.

"I’m sorry," She said softly and Meisa shook her head.

"That's not what I want from you. Just...try to enjoy getting married...and being married." With that she grabbed her best friend's hand and so they walked with each other hand in hand towards the location of the ceremony. Erika’s father stood waiting for her arm. She offered it and resisted the urge to squirm out of his grasp for being the hateful man he was.

She watched him admire Meisa's figure in the slinky red and blue number that Erika’s mother had picked out as the bridesmaid dresses. Instead of holding flowers they were holding simple fans with elaborate designs. To be honest it made Meisa look more like a goddess than she ever would.

Even on her wedding day Meisa outshone Erika.

As her best friend left them she knew very soon her own steps to her future would be upon her. A future she detested, did not want, but now willingly threw herself into as she followed her father's footsteps.

She could become like her mother.

For the sake of life, and continuity...she could attempt to sacrifice her freedom.
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Mao sat quietly pondering her mother’s situation for a moment. For her it was almost a distanced perspective. She knew she should have felt more at the relay, at her mother’s feelings of being forced into a marriage but all she felt was-

Disgust. Had her mother really been that weak a woman? To pick up a hand gun press it to her forehead and hope for freedom that way rather than fight through the trials and tribulations thrown at her. She couldn’t let go of the idea.

"May I have the pleasure of this dance?" The words brushed past her skin as if they were velvet and Mao immediately without a moment's hesitance replied keenly.

"No," She recognized who it was now. Matsuda Jun-sama. She bowed her head for a moment. "Sorry, ouji-sama." She added realizing she probably didn’t want to piss of royalty.

"I apologize as well because I was not asking you," Mao couldn’t stop the bubble of embarrassment in her chest. "Yui-sama, will you do me the honor?"

"Ouji-sama, I’m an old lady." Mao turned to look at her raising her eyebrows. When on earth did Yui let anyone think she was old and frail? The beauty of the forty-five year old resembled that of a twenty-four year old. Seriously. If anything she was trying to play with Mao.

Mao narrowed her eyes as she realized the next words out of Yui’s mouth. "You really would be better off taking my dear Mao-chan here with you." Yui gave a mean smirk as Kumi came to sit down beside her.

Okay the option of being away from that bitch for three minutes was far too attractive to get away. Kumi seemed to look at her as if she was worse than the dirt under her shoe.

"She’ll have to suffice won’t she? May I ask what relation she is to you?" He sat down easily beside the previously unoccupied seat beside Mao and she turned to glower at him. How dare he speak of her in such undertones while she was still present?

Had he never taken an etiquette class?

"We’ll be off then won’t we?" She grinned brightly as she grabbed the prince’s hand without another word from him and pulling him onto the dance floor where the world was lost within a waltz. Great now she’d have to ballroom dance. How long had it been since she’d even touched her ballroom shoes?

Three years?

"Do you know how to dance?" He asked her breaking her thoughts and she pretended to fake it. It would be fun to step on the prince’s toes. She couldn’t help but feel direct animosity to him, someone who probably knew her mother intimately as a child.

"Not really..." She placed the expression of fear on her face. The one boys would throw themselves in front of fires for to protect her and Jun was no different she saw. He offered her a comforting smile as if trying to reassure her it wasn’t that bad. If only he knew how conniving she was he would never have given her that gorgeous glint in his eyes.

"Don’t worry...as long as you just follow whatever I do it’ll be fine." He held out his hand for her to take it and Mao couldn’t help but feel reluctant even as she knew she was the one who brought him out here. Just as soon she touched her fingers lightly upon his open palm he whipped her into his arms and with one hand safely secured in his and the other lying directly under her arm pushing it up.

For a moment she went back to her thoughts earlier in the evening. With his arms pulling her closer it was easy to fall back into those fantasies that were never going to be realized.

"On the shoulder." He pushed her arm and it landed on his shoulder and Mao felt flooded with embarrassment. He was definitely a better dancer than she’d expected. She felt her own feet struggle to keep up with his until she remembered she wasn’t supposed to be attempting to dance.

Apparently he'd noticed too as he threw her a cheeky grin. "You sure you don’t know this?"

"You’re an easy guy to follow. It’ll help when you become leader of the nation." She replied shortly keeping her movements’ stoic so they wouldn’t look natural.

"I’m not sure that was a compliment."

"Take it for what you will." Honesty flew out of her mouth as he lifted her suddenly and dropped her onto the other side just like all the other men in the room had done with their partners. Mao had to admit. The feel of the air above them and the beauty of all of the women being up at the same moment felt nice, landing into the arms of her partner felt kind of nice too.

She'd missed having a reliable partner. Her old partner Kato Shigeaki had broken his knee and after that she had not bothered to start dancing again.

"You remind me a lot of someone." She hated the velvet sound of his voice as it caused her heart to react in the most particular ways. She reached back in his arms and they glided quickly her feet almost slipping but he kept a quick hold on her, smiling at the fumble. "Toda Erika. Have you heard of her?" Mao froze in his arms. Almost knocking them into another couple until he pulled her along again and Mao had to admit she was right. He was easy to follow, even in situations of stress.

"I’m-" she was what? The daughter of the bitch who had probably ruined this guy’s life? Left him without a father? Made his mother feel inadequate for her husband?

"I’m writing my graduation paper on her, I’m in the process of developing a good thesis. Why do I remind you of her?" She struggled out the question that was stuck on her tongue, trying as hard as possible to make it seem reasonable. Trying not to make it personal however it may be.

"Something about the way you’re so biting, so resourceful. Look you didn’t even know how to dance and now look, it looks like you’ve been doing it for years!" The way he looked at her, like he was happy she reminded him of Erika made Mao's eyes water reflexively and she tried to keep back her hysteria.

"I lied. I do know how to dance!" She attempted to shake it off as a joke but the idea she was like her mother made her movements look faked, and forced. "I’m nothing like her SEE??" She let go off his hands and moved towards the fountain towards the edge of the room. She brought her hands to her heart and attempted to calm her breathing.

God she hated being so affected by his words.

No, she thought in between deep breaths, she was nothing like that woman. She refused to be. She composed herself for a moment feeling Jun come up in front of her.

"Hey- are you feeling okay? Did I say something I shouldn’t have?" Mao could only shake her head in response as she felt Jun’s eyes stare at her in a way she couldn’t describe.

She brought her hardened gaze to meet his eyes. Could that be pity for her? She didn’t need it.

"Say Ouji-sama," It sounded strange but Mao could think of no other way to speak to him. "Do you think I could come to the imperial palace in Tokyo. I think it would be really helpful if I could understand people’s perspectives on her." Jun knew it wasn’t really allowed. Having a visitor like this, she could possibly be media and how would he know? Their family was secretive, they sure as well wouldn't approve of the arbitrary permission left out.

The desperation in her voice left him no choice however. He couldn't bear the thought of hurting a lady. "Sure." The smile that grew on her face left Jun wondering if this was really just a project. There was something about the way she acted that reminded him so much of Erika-san.

"I owe you one prince. I really do." She smiled laying a soft hand on his arm. There was the way her gratefulness seemed to mean so much more Jun thought as he stared her down attempting to release an answer from her. As she attempted to move away from he grasped her arm within his own hand and looked to release forth the pressing knowledge he wanted.

All he got back was the sight of a heart-stopping beauty. Perhaps that was the similarity that she shared with Erika-san. They both seemed unearthly beauties.

Her hand fell back to her own side as he let go of her and she offered him the tiniest of smiles and left his side.

Jun could not explain the urge to pull her fingers into his own and keep her beside him.

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End Notes:
GAHHH

Like father like son neh? They're both causing the Toda girls such trouble. Do you love Shota? =D I know I do. Jun too. I wrote him incredibly hot.

LOVE IT? HATE IT?

Let me know in the review section beloveds
Fight or Flight? by Anna Clair
Erika danced on with Jin as was expected of her. They’d had a formal wedding ceremony. Everything had been perfect from the way the centerpieces looked to the way her new husband looked.

They had spoken a maximum of twenty words to each other since the awkward ceremony.

“Erika-“ He said finally a sigh heaving out. He knew he should have had this conversation with her before their wedding. “I’m sorry. I didn’t really want to marry you.”

“What?” She couldn’t help the reply that formed automatically in her throat. “Do you have any idea how fucked up that is?” She couldn’t keep herself from swearing. Ken’ichi’s face floated to her head. The way he’d always been so dirty, so vulgar, everything about him had repelled her and attracted her.

Just like Jin but in a completely opposite way.

“I thought this might have the slightest chance of working out if you really did love me.”

“Well I don’t. I was forced back here from China too you know? It’s not like I ever wanted to come back here.”

“You said you loved me.” She couldn’t stop herself. The reasons for blaming him all came out tumbling. “You forced your father. You always said that you wanted to be with me. God. No wonder this all happened. You’re lying, you always wanted back.”

“Get over yourself.” He couldn’t stop himself either. “Ever since I’ve shown up here you’ve been nothing but rude and spoilt. Why on earth would anyone want to marry you?!”

“Shut up!” Her anger boiled over as she pushed him off her and ran the other direction, anywhere. She couldn’t bring herself to care for the sounds of alarm that occurred as people ran towards Jin. She knew she’d probably gotten him into trouble but what did she care. She was just seventeen. She should have gotten another year of freedom at the very least. She should have had a career, like Meisa. She should have-

“I’m sorry.” Her mother stood in front of her. Erika stared at her mother who looked as if she were about to crumble before her eyes. In all her years taking incredibly outrageous crap from her husband Erika had never seen her mother crumble in front of her. This was strange. It made her heart ache seeing her mother like this.

“I’m so sorry,” Nao rushed at Erika who was startled by the sudden display. Her mother had been nothing but for this marriage. Forcing Erika to look at it as a happy occurrence in anyway possible.

Erika had to bring her arms around her mother. Even though she was logically reminded that it was supposed to be the other way around. That her mother was supposed to be comforting her she couldn’t stop her mother’s tears and thus held back her own.

She knew only one phrase would stop her mother’s tears. “It’s okay Mom...it’s okay.”

Even though it really wasn’t.

(A Year Later)


Erika walked in behind her husband. He was taking her to the most extravagant jeweler in their province. Both father’s had insisted that Erika’s collection was too bare and so for their very first anniversary it was decided he would get her the most expensive diamonds possible.

“This one.” She heard someone say and immediately recognizing the voice she turned to the owner. Shota. He was nodding to an individual who immediately took away the jewelry to pack it for special order.

“Shota!” She couldn’t help but exclaim and he smiled brightly at her waving her over. Erika was about to run away straight to him before Jin caught her arm and made them walk over, hand in hand. Shota’s features contorted into confusion taking in the sight of Jin and Erika.

“Erika-chan” He said more visibly dampened than when he’d first seen her.

“Shota-kun,” She said softly unable to stop herself. She remembered that he was the youngest prince of Japan but nothing could stop her familiar way of calling to him. There was something about him that struck a chord of familiarity within her. Something that insisted he was just as okay with her words as she was with them.

Jin flicked his eyes between the two before bowing and paying his respects. “Shota-sama, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Erika’s husband. Akanishi Jin. We went to your debut play together.” Shota looked startled but didn’t let the revelation in the least distract from his sunny disposition in front of the newly revealed couple.

“You’re smart snatching this one up before anyone else. She’s quite the sweet one isn’t she?” Jin wasn’t sure what the hell to say.

Was he in the middle of some triangle now? Jin wasn’t sure how he was supposed to think or act. He wasn’t sure what he was thinking either or what he wanted to do to the guy. Punch his face in for dropping a line so obviously on his wife, or throw her into the prince’s arms and be done with the girl. Both options seemed too appealing to cause him to make a decision.

“So when will you be getting married?” Jin asked himself. Erika stepped back from the two, as she often did. All she wanted was to speak to Shota herself but as usual around anyone else Erika couldn’t bring herself to interrupt the conversations the other two would have. All Erika wanted to do was run away as far as possible with Shota, as far from Jin as possible. She hated him.

They slept, actually slept, together in the most uncomfortable manner; they refused to let her have her own bed. Hell! It was just year into their marriage and already her father-in-law was pestering her about grandchildren.

She had to resist the bile that floated up onto her tongue when she thought of making children with Jin.

“Well...if you guys promise not to tell anyone I’ll let you know. I came here to pick out a ring for my bride.” Erika’s breath caught in her throat but she forced a smile. She couldn’t imagine him being married. “I’m marrying Horikita Maki. It was only decided last week.” His eyes glazed past Jin’s fixed stare into Erika’s downward one.

“Who’s she?” Erika couldn’t help but put in. The demand in her voice made Shota laugh and Jin flush in embarrassment.

God couldn’t she keep her emotions to herself, women. Jin tightened his hold on her wrist and she likewise dug her nails into his arm.

They really were a pair.

“She’s the heiress of the Horikita coal and steel industry. My father’s been trying to get into their company for a while.” Jin added the last part in a whisper, solely for her ears. Erika felt the urge to scream. Why did everything in this world seem to revolve around money? It made no sense.

“She’s younger than you, Erika. She’s around fourteen close to fifteen. I’ve known her all her life. To be honest I’m not that comfortable with it but what can you do right? Prince of Japan has to marry someone deemed worthy by his parents. I’ll be honest I think it’s strange getting married to someone that much younger than you. Don’t you think Jin?” Jin wasn’t sure what he was supposed to take this as when the younger man prodded him. From personal knowledge he knew that the prince was only twenty. Jin himself was near twenty-two already.

Jin shrugged. “I wouldn’t know...like Erika would tell you I’ve loved her since she was twelve. For me, age is inconsequential.” Erika couldn’t help but look up at him at this point. He’d told her he was lying about that at their wedding. Seriously she couldn’t keep track of this guy. Annoying bastard.

“Nice answer.” Shota said letting his gaze linger on Jin’s for a moment more before he stood up a smile on his face. “Well I should be leaving. I was on my way when the pair of you,” Erika held back a grimace “came in. It was great meeting you Jin. Until the next play, Erika.”

“Are you working on something new?” She squealed out before she could stop herself. The passion on Shota’s face made her feel envious every time she saw it. The opportunities he had, those she would never get.

“I’ve been cast in Death and the Maiden. I’ll let you know if anything develops through Meisa all right? You better be there on opening night.” He smiled and bid them goodbye quickly leaving the jewelers in his gray suit. Erika couldn’t fight the tears that came to her eyes as the door closed between them once more and she caught him turn back and catch her gaze as the door shut. She couldn’t breathe.

“Can we leave? I’m not in the mood.” The low volume of her voice made Jin realize as he nodded that her emotions for Shota probably ran deeper than that of a fan and actors. As much as it pained him to realize it, he knew he had to be here for her.

“Come on...let’s go home.” He pulled her into his side and Erika couldn’t stop herself from using Jin just like she used to when she was young.

The sobs escaped her mouth and she felt his arms tighten around her as they led her back to the car. Here, in this situation, she could breathe with Jin, no matter how much she hated him she realized at that moment, he was her husband.

And that reassured her for once, that he wouldn't leave her, nor hurt her.

Not like she'd been hurting him for the past year.

And she vowed to become a better wife. So he could rely on her just as she relied on him right now.
End Notes:
This is my way of avoiding the wedding which I couldn't seem to write because when I write of weddings there must be some love involved (like in True Happiness) and well Erika is getting married without love.

Hope you guys liked it! Review please
Angels Swept You Off Your Feet by Anna Clair
“Eri-eri-ka-ka!”

“Mendoksu.”

“Itai.”

“Hanase yo.”

“Muri.”

“Baka.”

“Dhaka.”

“Jin! That’s not even a word!” Erika complained as she cooked away in the kitchen of their family home. Yui was off auditioning with her father for some odd reason or another. Erika herself wasn’t too sure of how it started but it was there. That passion for acting. Of course the girl hadn’t received too many major proposals but she was only just starting. So to help her out, Erika decided that today she would cook a meal for the entire family; only Jin seemed intent on distracting her from it.

“Eri,” He separated himself from their short embrace quickly. She already missed the small amount of warmth he’d surrounded her with. It was stupid wasn’t it? The fact she actually enjoyed her husband’s company, How utterly preposterous a notion.

She sliced quickly and easily all the tomatoes and reached for the onion. “I want to talk to you about something.”

Her knife hit the board with a clack. “Is it something bad?”

“Not quite.” His lips gave off the slightest hint of a smile.

“Something good then?"

“If you would make it so.” He wiggled his eyebrows at that and Erika couldn’t help but laugh along playfully as she hit his arm. A year ago she would have cursed herself for doing this. She was older now, wiser, and Jin really wasn’t so much bad company once she got used to him. Over the past year she’d grown to even be friends again with her husband. Their second year anniversary was coming up soon.

“I’m listening.”

“I want to take you with me. Eniwa, Hokkaido. Game?” The last part of his sentence was uttered so quickly so that all she could really get from it was Hokkaido and game. She reached back against the kitchen counter letting it offer her its silent strong resilient strength.

This time it wouldn’t be so simple as ‘you couch, me bed.’ No it would be far more complicated, far less quiet and awkward, and far more...enjoyable?

“Sure.” She smiled blushing quietly as she realized the implications of her words. They hadn’t even kissed yet and here she was going on trips into unknown areas in Hokkaido with strange men, like her husband. Still at the sight of the broad smile on his face she found it hard to think of it as foolish on her part.

Especially when he grabbed her by the waist lifted her onto the kitchen counter letting her wrap her own legs reflexively around his hips to stay onto his body. He gave her the smallest peck on the cheek and placed his forehead directly onto hers as her hands lung limply from his shoulders. “Thanks.” He was soft in tone, his breath warming her lips slightly as it exited his own and rested on hers.

As he moved away she could only stay on the counter feeling her legs turn to jelly slowly but surely as they had so many times before now for so many different men ranging from directors to princes, but never for someone like Jin. She’d never thought they would. When had he started having this effect on her? And as horrible as it sounded, why didn’t she want to stop the man who had ruined all her aspirations of having a career, a life, completely separate of that of her mother’s?

But her life would never be like that. She knew that for certain, because Jin was nothing like her father. Jin wasn’t like any of the other men she’d ever loved too, they had been harsh, taking advantage of her naivety, using her to get into her father’s good books or something of the type. Jin never seemed that way, no he was earnest and no matter how annoyed he was with her he never showed it. He kept himself in check and hell...even tried to love her. Though recently she could tell she had made his job easier as a husband by finally becoming a more complacent wife than the crazy woman she’d been.

“Eri.”

“Yeah,” She chirped happily seeing him turn back from the door, as he was about to take his exit.

“Something’s burning.” And then the scent, which she had no idea how she’d ignored for so long wafted up into her nose and she immediately flushed in embarrassment at having been caught not paying attention to the true task at hand. Truth be told she’d been admiring every aspect of Jin. It had become a sort of favorite past time of hers. She missed being with someone romantically, and sadly her husband was becoming a great prospect in her heart. Especially with the way his arms were looking recently, and with the way they felt around her, holding her close.

“AGH! JIN! NOW WHAT?” She yelled attempting to cover up her mortification as she opened up the pots and pans looking at the delightful setting she’d planning to make completely ruined.

What was worse...she didn't even care really. All she could think about was- those few delightful seconds of intimacy she’d had moments before.

She really did have a sickness when she fell for someone. It was as if all thoughts of everything else important and her life’s mission disappeared completely.

She felt Jin come back up beside her and hug her from the back as she uselessly attempted to turn the concoction of doom. She relished in the feeling of him against her.

“Forget it. Let’s go out tonight.” He whispered into her ear and Erika refused to shiver even though she felt it in every single bone of her body.

“And what will the others eat?”

“Nothing as delicious as I’m hoping to have.”

Oh no. Oh no. Oh no no no no no! He had to stop stringing her along like this. Saying things like this and then not acting on them each time she went along. It just wasn’t fair to let her think, things that weren’t running through his head. “No.” She smiled so brightly that he could hardly believe this was the same woman in front of him. “You’re going to fix this though. I’m done. This is what you get for interrupting me while I was making the most delicious meal for all of us.”

“Please we all know you’re not the connoisseur in this family. Your mom is.”

“Oh you prefer my mom’s cooking do you?”

Jin silently raised an eyebrow as if asking her ‘Really’? He put his finger in the red sauce that Erika had been on her way to plating and brought it up and stuck it in her mouth quickly and pulled it out just as quickly.

Erika wished she could have reveled more in the gesture but the horrible taste in her mouth made her forget about all else. “Okay...maybe you’re right. Let’s go start this over.”

And so the couple stayed in the kitchen cooking till barely it was time for dinner to come out.

When they finally emerged both of them looked like complete messes. Erika’s pristine apron was dashed with smears of yellow sauce and there was rice in her hair. Jin had splatters of flour all over his and a smear of tomato sauce on his cheek, which Erika wiped off the moment she saw it.

None of them noticed Nao's quiet smile to herself as she observed the couple. They seemed truly happy in a way that she would never have been able to experience.

For that...she was happy.

Kyoto, Honshu.

Mao climbed onto the bus looking at the destination a faint smile on her face. Kyoto was the home of the original parliament, the perfection of art, and even a pretty darn good soccer team.

None of these reasons were why Mao found herself going towards Kyoto today though. No she was going to Kyoto to meet someone who really might have known her mother best out of all females. Kuroki Meisa.

“You again!” She turned around to look at the offensive sounding voice and saw the cute little conductor boy who had dropped her off here yesterday.

“Yes, me again. Work the day shift do you?” He blushed as if she’d predicted just correctly, without waiting for a response she started towards the back of the bus.

The minutes ticked by and one by one she saw the conductor boy going to every passenger but her. When he finally stopped by her he sat down.

“So you came from Tokyo, went to Osaka and now you’re going to Kyoto. Are you on some sort of tour or something?”

“Man they should really evaluate you for your job. Here’s my ticket.” He flushed easily. The boy was quite young and Mao couldn’t help but tease him a little. “I’m from Tokyo, that’s home. If this is a tour...I should be having more fun.”

“So you don’t have anywhere to stay really in Kyoto?”

“Well...I suppose not. I’m kind of relying on an iffy acquaintance. I last saw her when I was a kid so-“ But Mao could hardly get the words out of her mouth before the boy rattled off again.

“Kyoto is my home! You can stay with us, if you’d like! I mean Ryo and me. He’s the bus driver, a little cranky but good-natur-”

“Gee I don’t know I heard a rumor among the block of stranger’s that never talk to a kid you don’t know.” She cracked a smile and saw him return it. He was cute she’d give him that much and he’d obviously taken an interest in her after last time. “Why help me out little tyke?”

“You seem like you need it. You look desolate.” This she did not need to hear.

“Desolate?”

“Sad.” He agreed and Mao wanted to sock his little face in for assuming anything about her. What might have seemed endearing now only proved to be annoying.

“Don’t you have something better to do than sit here beside me asking me about why I’m so ‘desolate’?”

“Not really. My job consists of checking and making sure everyone is safe and I doubt anyone on this bus is a bomb blaster.” He said indicating towards the rest of the bus.

“I don’t know. The old woman there looks like a risky one to me. You should frisk her.”

“I’d much rather frisk you.” He admitted out loud and realized what he’d said and immediately clapped a hand over his mouth. God he hated his hormones. Mao burst into laughter so hard that she was clutching her sides as she rolled over to beside the window slapping it with emphasis on how funny she found this.

“What’s your name?” She puffed out still bursting into laughter at intervals that left the boy looking like he’d like to die, preferably in her arms.

“Tegoshi Yuya, yoroshiku onegaishimasu.”

“What’s your number Tego-chan?”

“Seriously?” He asked his smile a mile wide at the idea that the hot girl on the bus had asked him for his number. She nodded.

“I may need to take you up on that offer. So shoot...I want the whole shebang. No risky business with me though, meaning we won’t be indulging in your favorite activity of frisking. Guaranteed?”

“Absolutely. I’d be happy with just friendship and if you tell my air hostess training friend that conductors have something called the kilometer long club...and it’s better than the mile high club and its stupid turbulence.” He smiled wistfully looking into the air as if there was something he was looking at and Mao snapped her fingers in front of his gaze. He immediately broke out of his daze to look at her. “Deal?”

“Deal.” She held out her hand and so they shook on it. Mao couldn’t help but like the innocence on his face. He was so untainted, Mao would be willing to bet her life savings Tegoshi Yuya had come from a happy family, slightly poor maybe but that was why he was working so hard now at such a young age. With a mother who was really the homey type, kept dinner ready and hot on the table, maybe a sister he was really protective of, and a father who worked hard and came home every night without fail.

She was instantly jealous of the young boy.

“YUYA!” Mao heard a throaty voice yell faintly from the front of the bus stopping her from drowning deeper in the green sea.

“Ah that’s Ryo-chan. He’s not too happy a camper. He must be a little older than you. Wanna come meet him?” Tegoshi asked and Mao shook her head.

“If you don’t mind Tego-chan I’d like to sleep a little.” Tegoshi shook his head just as furiously as he had with his other actions, with emphasis and boy like eagerness. In a second he’d taken off his jacket and covered her upper half with it, knowing well enough not to adjust it in the ‘right’ places. He didn’t want a black eye.

“What was that for?” She asked a smile touching her face as she looked at the boy who was now in his plain white conductor shirt with starched blue pants.

“So you don’t get cold. I’ll remember to wake you up this time Miss-“

“Toda.... Toda Mao.”

---------------
End Notes:
=D Hope you guys enjoyed that. Erika and Jin are going to get closer and closer!

Jin's so perfect in this plot line. I love him. I usually write him pretty douche-y so yeah obv. i love him here.

I WANT A JIN. Do you guys want a Jin?

Anyhoo....here's some previews of stuff that's coming up.

“Kyoto is my home! You can stay with us, if you’d like! I mean Ryo and me. He’s the bus driver, a little cranky."

“You really want to talk about work? Look around! We’re in a beautiful little town by a beautiful little river, just about to reach the most beautiful little restaurant and you want to talk about our home issues? Let them go Eri. Seriously you’re better off.”

“Live for the day, the more I dwell the more time I lose. I can always change my choices can’t I?”

“Thanks Tego-chan. Um...are you...impaired?”

“Yamapi! SHUT THE FUCK UP! God you’ll fuck anything that moves.”

“I’ll do anything MaoMao just tell me the word and I’ll go change if it gets me into bed with you.”

“You have the biggest man boobs I have ever seen!”

Uh yeah....there's going to be some serious partying in the upcoming chapters. I'm posting the next one tonight so =D look forward to that guys =D
God Knows...I'm Gone by Anna Clair
---------------

Mao walked slowly. She’d left the bus the moment they’d reached Kyoto not pausing to wave Yuya a goodbye but she’d seen him stumble out looking for her and turned her head to indicate one.

She pulled out her phone as it’s familiar beeps sounded through the air alerting those around her as well as herself. “MoshiMosh?”

“Mao...don’t do this.” She recognized the voice easily. Obviously her aunt had told her grandma where she was heading. She didn’t blame her grandmother. She wouldn’t have liked Meisa either.

“Obaa-chan. I have to do this. Now I’m sorry you and Meisa have your differences I really-“

“THIS IS NOT ABOUT THAT! Idiot child.” She could hear the labored breathing of her grandmother and immediately felt guilty for worrying her...and not being by her side. Had she been sick? Why had she not told Mao?

“Obaa-chan..are you sick?”

“You don’t worry about that. That’s not your concern. Or your prerogatives at the moment anyways so don’t pay your grandmother mind. She’s just old and you’re just spoiled.” Mao cracked a small smile at the usual complaints and teases but that didn’t erase her worries.

“Obaa-chan I’m coming home straight after this trip. I promise. What did you want to tell me?”

“Meisa’s career was ruined by your father. When she left him all those years ago he could not take it and he banished her and blacklisted her from every company he had connections with. The girl was ruined. All because she left him standing up for Erika. Last I heard of her she was married to some priest and spent all her time with her family and taking care of their temple.” Wow...that really did not sound like the Meisa that she’d heard about till now. “She won’t want any sight of her past, Mao. I beg you don’t go to her. Not for my sake, but for her peace.”

“It’s not like she’s going to run off again and go crazy obaa-chan. I promise I’m coming back to Tokyo right after this. I don’t want you to stay too long without me.”

“Do you have a place to stay?”

“Yeah I think I do. Don’t worry about me.”

“Promise me something.”

“What?”

There was a lengthened pause that seemed to last for decades through the phone before Mao cleared her throat. “Bye.”

“Bye.” Her grandmother's voice was weary and as Mao heard the click of the phone hanging up, her guilt resounded in her mind. What was she doing? Why was she putting her old grandmother through this? Why was she putting herself through this?

The last she knew she didn’t have a mother, she didn’t have a father. Why was she spending every free moment of her time working on a project that had nothing to do with her academics but more to do with herself? This was a selfish thesis. The whole idea of becoming a doctor of history was to contribute to the study and the subject. Be selfless and generate knowledge previously hidden away.

She should be on an excavation site somewhere in the Egypt or Turkey. Looking at the histories of empires past. Here she was though. In a city filled with the most beautiful scenery in the world that covered the secrets not of empires past, but her life past.

She set on foot. She didn’t have enough money, but she had a map she’d picked up from the station and she had the address. That would be enough for this day.

And as her feet clicked on the same paths she was sure her mother's had long ago, she remembered the memories that Yui had left her with.

---------

Erika had to admit. Jin had obviously put thought into this vacation and it was welcome. She bounced onto the bed as the hostess of the hotel showed Jin where everything was, emergency numbers, bathroom soaps and liquids, the complimentary tickets to the town show. They were here for the weekend and Erika was going to take full advantage of it. This was Friday night and they were going to go out as soon as the old woman moved the hell out. She hadn’t done anything fun and adventurous, since...well since her father kicked her off Ken’ichi’s movie set. It was getting stagnant and boring.

Soon enough she saw Jin come down to sit beside her on the one sole bed and reflexively hit his back to the bed. She smiled as she bent down to be on level with his eyes. It was a little embarrassing to be honest. To sleep at home on the same bed was now normal, but understood. This bed...well it was a little different she had no doubt in both their minds. This may actually be their turning point in their relationship. The point where they go from being amicable friends who cook to a couple, a real couple.

The idea made her giddy.

“So...what are we doing tonight?” She shot out unable to hold back her thoughts from voicing themselves. Jin turned to look at her from where he was setting their bags down with a raised eyebrow before answering her.

“We’re dancing.”

“DANCING?” She didn't leave out the surprise. Never in their two years had Jin even seemed so inclined as a dancer.

“Believe it or not there’s a small Argentinean bar here, run by a tourist who got so enamored with its beauty and culture that he decided to open his small restaurant where he tries to fuse Japanese and South American culture together.” Erika smiled brightly. That sounded perfectly good. She couldn’t help but remember for a moment Death and the Maiden the play set in Argentina. When she’d seen Shota a year ago he’d said that would be his next production but she’d heard nothing of it from Meisa. So perhaps it had halted.

The royal family had been making him work hard at his marriage. She'd seen him in the paper the other day with his blushing bride. They'd looked beautiful. Recent gossip had said that she was glowing so much on their wedding because the girl was pregnant.

She wasn’t supposed to be thinking of inconsequential things like that though. “So what should I wear?” She blurted out discarding her thoughts of Shota.

“Something western most probably, you’ll probably have to wear the Yukata you packed later.” He stretched out looking at the clock on his side. “It’s five.”

“I think we can sleep for a little while. I’m tired. Driving down here was the biggest pain I’ve had in a while. I’ve never been in a car for that long.” She added playing with her hair turning it into a big bun on the back of her head.

“I couldn’t afford the train tickets.” Jin shyly rubbed his hair and Erika felt her heartstrings pull. To be honest, she barely remembered at times how much Jin worked to help support them, separate from her father but it really wasn’t necessary. They all knew things would be easier if they all just molded better.

“It’s okay that’s fine. It was an experience. I’m glad I had it.” Jin’s eyebrows rose as if telling to stop trying to convince him and she simply shrugged laying back down on the bed as he grabbed his towel from the rack in the room.

“I’m going to shower.”

“Better. You were smelling up the bed.”

“Shut up.”

“Maaaaake me.” She singsong-ed as she heard the door close.

Yeah. This was the life.
End Notes:
Do you guys love it?

LOVE IT?

LOVE IT?

Or hate it. Wow. That would suck but I hope you loved it =D

Erika's going to have a lot of fun, so is Mao Mao. We're going to kickstart the major portions of this part of the story.

Review Reviewwwww =D it makes me feel all warm and happy inside
The Heart Aches For What It Never Had by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
Enjoy Enjoyyyy the double update =D
And three hours later they were leaving the hotel waving away to their typical aging hostess, who simply bowed and gave Jin a look that made Erika wrap her hand tightly around his wrist and pull him through the door faster. Which of course caused him to yelp at the strain he felt.

Why were old women so grabby anyways? She thought rudely as she saw the way she shook Jin's hand.

She was probably just overreacting.

“Oww...Eri why do you feel the need to damage my wrist movements?”

“That old woman was definitely checking you out.” Jin smiled shaking his head. This girl was definitely going to need some therapy if she thought an old lady wanted in his pants.

“She was not checking me out of that I assure you. I just asked her to have room cleaned tonight.” He assured her but Erika seemed far from appeased.

“Whatever.” She said softly and Jin pulled her quickly to his side and squeezed her shoulders with his arms.

“It really is whatever. Now walk with me! The woman said ten minutes down this way.” Erika simply nodded softly. She was being stupid really she knew it.

“So how are things with work at the Studios?”

“Eri-“

“We never talk about it!” She honestly wished he would just trust her a bit more. She knew working at her father’s studios had to be difficult but it was the only way she could learn to be a real support to Jin. If he could talk to her about things like this.

“You really want to talk about work? Look around! We’re in a beautiful little town by a beautiful little river, just about to reach the most beautiful little restaurant and you want to talk about our home issues? Let them go Eri. Seriously you’re better off.”

“I want to help.” Her tone was so earnest that Jin’s face grew more tired as he leaned his head onto hers as they continued walking.

“To be honest. You can’t. Your father won’t listen to me at all. I feel like I’m not needed really. The only reason I have that job might be because I married you.”

“Is that really how you feel?”

“Right now with you in my arms I don’t feel it but at work where he undermines my every strategic move yeah Eri I feel it.” He suddenly stopped narrowing his eyes. “I think we’re here. Come on, let’s go in and forget all about this okay? I came here to have a good time with my wife, not talk about my father-in-law.”

“Jin.” The very sound of her voice was pleading with him but he shook his head.

“No more Eri please. I beg of you don’t push this.” So she nodded softly vowing to discuss this with him on a later time. She held onto his hand as they stepped inside taking in the look of the small space. It was filled with a vibrancy that hadn’t been present on the empty streets of the tiny town. The bartender gave them a quick wave as if telling them to hold on. Erika was in culture shock as she took in the orange and red walls.

True enough, in a moment or two he had dashed away from the bar, and reached them.

“Hi, welcome to my little palace! I am Alberto Sanchez. True enough to the words of the owner of their little vacation home the man looked like a typical South American, hair slightly frizzed at the top, a moustache so black it was almost comical, and the most happy of smiles that Erika had ever seen. Sure it was stereotypical but she felt instantly comfortable here.

“Table for two please,” Jin said smiling back at the man. Erika doubted anyone could keep themselves from smiling at the guy.

“Are you two honeymooners?” Erika looked up at Jin and saw him nod and felt a little tug in her tummy. Their other honeymoon had been awkward, and horrible, and it had been Italy. Here she was in a dingy little town in Japan and she was having a better time than she could have ever expected.

“Then you have to have the special private room! Come with me! No extra charge don’t worry, you two look like good kids. You deserve a good time and no one ever uses this place anyways. How long have you two been married then?”

“Two years.” Jin replied and Erika chose as usual to stay silent and listen to her husband carry on conversations. She was slightly more okay with it now than she would have been a year ago.

“Ay carumba! A little late for your honeymoon isn’t it? Let me guess? Trouble in paradise with the family.”

“You have no idea.” Jin replied as the man opened an orange curtain leading them out from bustling restaurant. Erika saw a tiny boy rush out of the kitchen with dishes all over his arms. She turned her head in befuddlement, how did people do that. Lift so much on the shoulders, take the strain of all those burdens; she’d never be able to understand it. Part of her was envious.

When she entered the curtain herself and saw the sight that beheld her eyes she felt her breath hitch in her throat. Who would have ever thought a sight like this would be here? There was an entire wooden deck completely empty leaving you to look into the wilderness that stretched around the restaurant. There were lights streaming from one end of the deck to the other and all over the transparent glass that was the ceiling.

“Wow.” She uttered softly, noting the beautiful plants that were strategically positioned at corners. She turned her attention away from them to look at Alberto who was extremely happy at her reaction she could tell. He could barely keep the blush off his face. “This is beautiful did you do all this yourself?”

“Yes, this was just empty rotting space. I took it up as a project and just finished it this past summer. It took a better part of my back to do it too.” He joked and Erika smiled and Jin bowed in gratitude.

“Arigato gozaimashta. I don’t know how to thank you.”

“Tip well.” He said the joking behavior never leaving his eyes and Jin nodded and Erika let out a giggle.

“I’ll be back in a while to take your orders. Feel free to take up this place as your own little dance floor. You can hear the music from inside which is what makes the curtain amazing. I’ll see you two in a little bit.” Alberto made his way out and Jin turned to look at Erika.

“Guess we’re just lucky today.” He said smiling at her and she nodded sitting down.

“I’m famished, all that discussion tired me out. I need some energy in me.”

“You better get some. I’m not letting some bullshit excuse like that stop me tonight.” Jin said honestly as he sat down. Then he realized the connotations of what he said and immediately started blushing as he fumbled and Erika laughed. “I meant dancing. I really did!”

Lightened by the joke they picked up the menu. Jin quickly began turning it and scanning the items with the speed of lightning.

“How do you do that?”

“Do what?” He asked his eyes never leaving the menu as he flipped yet another page. For a tiny restaurant this sure was an intense menu.

“Read so quickly, decide so quickly what you want and what you don’t. I’m going to be honest here. I don’t think I could ever throw away options or accept them as quickly as you do.”

“Carpe diem.” He replied and Erika looked at him her eyebrows fuzzled and he finally set down his menu putting his hands in front of him. “Live for the day, the more I dwell the more time I lose. I can always change my choices can’t I?”

Erika didn’t know why but in this perfect environment, and with the perfect man, suddenly that seemed like the worst thing he could have possibly ever said to her.

She could only struggle to smile in response as they exchanged banters on what to eat.

--------

It was late and she was lost. Mao had to give up. There would be no way she would be able to see Meisa tonight. She would have to resign herself to that fact that she would not be leaving Kyoto as soon as possible to get to her grandmother as she wanted to. She pulled out her cell phone and looked through the listings looking for Tegoshi’s number. She passed by Shun’s for a moment and stopped at it. Shun...she couldn’t understand the sudden urge to call him and thank him for all he had done for her. Without him she would have never had the guts to do this. If in fact he had never found that one lone copy that hadn’t really worked at all of her mother’s acting on camera then she would have never had hope. She would have never done this. She had learned quite a bit about her father as well. Something she hadn’t expected nor set out to do.

Grandmother Nao had told her quite honestly that her father was still alive, unlike her mother. That he was the most cowardly sort of man, and that he deserved the worst sort of damnation possible. Mao had never met him officially of course but she had seen him once. At least it had looked like him from the few pictures she had of her parents’ horrible wedding day.

She remembered the way Jin had looked at her. As if there was something familiar about her face, Mao had returned the look curiously as a child. He’d come up to her and given her the smallest of smiles, asked her where her parents were. She had informed him she lived with her grandparents and did not have parents.

She had seen the most broken expression on his face. She remembered asking him if he was going to cry and seen him quickly change his expression and pick her up in his arms and take her to the information desk at the store. She remembered wanting to ask him so eagerly if he was the man in the picture she kept in her small purse slung over her shoulder.

Of course she never did. Not that it mattered; he had in no way raised her or been a real father, just like Erika. They had never done anything for Mao other than create her very existence from their genes.

A cold wind caressed her face and Mao saw that her eyes were watering and shook her head. What was she doing? This was just hurting her. The more she learned. The more she hurt. Her heart ached, her heart ached for the family she should have had. If perhaps Jin had never been a coward, or Erika had been more opinionated like she had been when she was younger maybe Mao would have finally had the family she had deserved.

It wasn’t fair. Mao couldn’t stop herself from opening the small purse as she wrapped her legs around her larger duffel bag that lay at her feet. She pulled open her wallet and saw the small picture she had been referring put away safely behind the picture of grandmother Nao yelling at her with Yui laughing beside her. Erika looked like a vision as her younger self. Dressed in obviously some of the richest silks, her onyx hair providing a startling contrast. Jin had his arms wrapped around her waist and had his head resting directly beside hers. If their expressions had been more loving perhaps it might be the most romantic of pictures Mao had ever seen. They even looked like pieces of a puzzle meant to fit together.

But they had hated each other at this point. She quickly pushed the picture away. This was too much, too much emotion for her to handle. She was drowning. She needed to distance herself, find a more unbiased perspective of handling this story. She might be using this as an excuse to know more about her birth parents but seriously...she’d thought she would be stronger than this.

It had never been meant to be such a painful journey.
End Notes:
And onto the next one beautifuls =D
A Glimpse Of Perfection by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
Only Meow in this chapter =D Erika gets the next chapter all to herself guys. Cameo from Suzuki Emi! Kato Shigeaki! Koyama Keiichiro? (is that how you spell it?) Yamashita TomohisaUeto Aya and my favourite.

Christine Portelli =D as well as mentions of a certain Ayumu Hamano.
Like she had set out to do finally she called Tegoshi only pausing to smile at the picture of Shun she still had beside his contact. It was of him licking her face when they were teenagers. He looked like he was having way too much fun and she looked like she was going to punch him in ten seconds, which was exactly what she had done.

Mao expected to hear the sounds of a bustling family on the phone as Tegoshi answered but the sounds of blasting pop music were all that reached her ears. “MAO-CHAN?” He yelled into the phone she could tell.

“TEGOSHI WHERE ARE YOU?”

“WELL HOME RIGHT NOW. GUYS TURN IT DOWN! GOD CAN’T YOU GET READY WITHOUT LOUD MUSIC! Sorry is that better? Are you coming? Here?”

“Yeah... but if you’re going out or something it-

“No please! I want you to come. Don’t worry. It’ll be fine. We’re just...come okay? Do you want directions?”

And half an hour later there she was. In front of the mahogany wood door in the small apartment complex and as she opened the door she heard it right away. It was Calle Ocho by Pitbull. Somehow she knew knocking wouldn’t quite work and just as she flipped open her cell phone to call Tegoshi inside the door opened up.

“FUCKING ASSHOLES! GO FUCK YOURSELF RYO I DON’T FUCKING NEED YOU.” A girl exited, her blond hair reaching just beyond her shoulders in waves that made Mao a little jealous. On most people this would look fake, and pretentious and would warrant a huge raucous laughter from Mao’s mouth but on this girl. Phew...was she hot and Mao had to be really comfortable with herself to admit to this.

“WELL GO FUCK YOURSELF TOO EMI.” She heard from inside and flinched slightly. She’d never really been too much of this type of person. The kind who swears and parties and, obviously looking at the way this girl was swaying side to side as she looked at Mao, drinks.

“TEGO I’LL SEE YOU AT THE CLUB LOVAH. Move bitch!” With that she pushed Mao so that Mao hit the back of the slight railing left on the second floor to keep people from falling off. Mao didn’t like pretty Emi...no she didn’t like pretty Emi one bit.

“MA-OH!!!!” Someone screamed from inside and she saw immediately that it was Tegoshi. Completely wasted and completely different looking than when she’d seen him today. No this Tegoshi would not be the one with the happy family. This Tegoshi Yuya had thick layers of eyeliner on his eyes, wrists filled with black bracelets, a white wife beater on underneath his bright blue shirt that was undone and leather pants on. His hair was gelled to perfection.

Mao had to hold herself back from calling this one sex on legs. “Tego-chan?”

“Oh My God. Did I tell you how cute you look sleeping? You’re so totally cute.”

“Thanks Tego-chan. Um...are you...impaired?”

Cackles of laughter came from the room that Mao couldn’t help but hit herself over the head for using that word. Tegoshi smiled and came up to her ear whispering softly. “Onlyyyyy a little.” Smiling he pulled away and then with surprising strength for a drunk pre-pubescent looking skinny boy picked up her duffel and her hand and dragged her in. “EVERYONE SAY HI! THIS IS MAO!”

“HIIII MAO.” Only one boy didn’t say hi. He looked pissed off and at the appearance of Mao looked indeed, if possible, more pissed off. There was a girl with an airplane uniform lying on the ground that waved lazily as she turned around spinning on the ground laughing wildly. Another boy was lying on top of a foriegn looking girl also in the airplane uniform, he lifted his head from the girl’s lap and the moment he saw Mao his eyes widened and seemed to pop from his head. Mao was a little scared to be honest but she had no idea to run from this situation as the boy immediately got up and got in front of her.

“I’m fucking her tonight. Tego she’s amazing. Where’d you find her?”

“Yamapi! SHUT THE FUCK UP! God you’ll fuck anything that moves.” The pissed off boy said.

Mao appreciated the gesture but really she couldn’t help what she said next. “Excuse me...but are you saying I’m unfuckable?” Tegoshi squished her hand in his grasp as if telling her not to argue but it was already too late now. The pissed of boy had been angered.

Pissed off boy seemed even more pissed at her arguing back. “I was trying to help you out. Go get into a room with the guy if you really feel like it. I’m sure you’d be one of the funnest numbers in this guy’s list.”

“List?” The girl rolling around the ground started as pissed off guy rolled his eyes.

Tegoshi answered the inebriated girl’s question. “You know...the list Yama has of how many girls he’s fucked, how many times, where and what number they were on the hot scale.”

“I just found my first ten in a while.” Yamapi winked at her and Mao gulped slowly and couldn’t help feeling the need to cover up, even though honestly her entire body was engulfed entirely in clothing.

“ASSSHOOLLE!” The European-looking girl said and then giggled pointing at Mao. “You don’t know our names do you?” Mao thanked the girl in her head but only shook her head physically. “I’m Christine. I’m the asshole’s...Yama what the hell are we?”

“I’m not too sure.” He answered honestly kissing her softly on the lips and Mao breathed a sigh of relief. Hopefully the girl would help restrain him. They pulled away easily as Yamapi, who to be honest Mao wanted to hear nothing more about, smiled at her beguilingly. Mao had to admit she could tell why girls would sleep with him. “I’m Yamapi...I’m 24 and I think you’re so beautiful.” Here he gulped and rubbed his cheeks foolishly smiling the entire time. “Oh my god I’m blushing!” He said turning to the girl, rolling on the floor. Christine smacked his head on which he just kissed her on the cheek tousling her hair.

Mao didn't get it....were they together or not? How was she okay with him saying things like this?

“I’m Ah-ya. Hamano. Hamano Aya. Aya Hamano. Hamano Aya. BWAHHAA.” She burst and couldn’t keep a conversation obviously in her state and so passed the reins onto pissed off boy who looked as if he couldn’t bother being introduced to Mao.

“I’m Ryo. Hajimemashte.”

“Is he wasted?” Mao asked quitely to Tegoshi trying to keep her voice low.

“Oh yeah. He had the most out of all of us. He just acts serious while he’s drunk. ABSO NO FUN!” Tegoshi sat Mao down as he went to the door again as the doorbell rang and yet another two people entered the room. Mao just hoped to god they were sober.

“omgomgomg.” Aya started breathing so softly that Mao had to lean forward for her to whisper in Mao’s ear why she was freaking out. “It’s Shige and Koyama. Oh my god what am I going to do girl I don’t know? TELL ME!” She screamed a little too loudly so that Mao noticed the black haired boy turn to look with an almost concerned expression. Mao saw his face change to a more hard expression when he realized that the object of his sight was in fact not harmed but just yelling for lack of control over her voice. The red haired boy did not even pause to look at her.

“Just...act normal okay?” She attempted to calm the girl down as Tegoshi called the boys over to sit around Mao.

“MaoMao... oh god I sound chinese like...GuiGui! YiYi! HAHAHA MAOMAO!”

“Um...whatever?” She was going to try to stay sober but the problem usually was when she got even the slightest bit tipsy she kept downing them like she’d just broken up with someone.

“I’m Shigeaki Kato and this is Koyama Keiichiro.” The black haired guy introduced himself to Mao and she nodded.

“I’m Inoue Mao.” Shige barely seemed to pay attention though as Tegoshi offered him the shot of vodka.

Koyama was next to go.

“Don’t mind them. They’re depressed. I don’t even know why they showed up.” Ryo explained as he leaned back in what seemed like a relaxing position but Mao couldn't help but think of it as uncomfortable. She offered him a tight smile for explaining.

“HERE YOU GO MAOOOOO.” Tegoshi was gone so far and somehow he still had the life to pour her a shot. “It’s Peach Schnapps!” Mao was actually happy to hear this...peach schnapps was one of her favourite drinks. At least she could drink something that tasted mildly good. She grabbed it and downed it in a second. She pulled a face soon after.

That was when she felt it. The familiar burning sensation in her throat that felt so freaking right she couldn’t believe she’d stayed away for so long. Without speaking she held out her glass to Tegoshi who poured her another one just as quickly and Mao downed it quickly. Shige looked at her obviously shocked. Yamapi was wolf calling she could hear but she didn’t care. All she needed was that warm sensation and seriously she knew tonight that she was getting drunk.

Her head started buzzing from the alcohol.

“Does Pi look anymore attractive now?” Aya asked giggling to which Yamapi hit her on the top of her head.

“FAACCK U!” He screamed and Ryo edged away from them as Aya ended up on his lap from a harsh push from Yamapi. Koyama pulled another shot as Christine laughed and pulled Yamapi back into her grasp, his back resting against her front.

“She’s right.” Mao said reaching over to pull Yamapi’s cheeks from the sides. “Boy you look so much prettier. There’s just one problem.” She couldn't control her serious voice as she broke into giggles. She wasn’t gone yet but no she was on the verge of being tipsy. She’d hold off the next shot for a while.

“I’ll do anything MaoMao just tell me the word and I’ll go change if it gets me into bed with you.” Mao laughed leaning on Tegoshi as she moved away from Yamapi’s face.

“You have the biggest man boobs I have ever seen!”

At this Ryo really could not hold back. He collapsed onto the floor in the largest fit of laughs any of them had ever seen out of him so far. He grew so emotional. As Mao laughed herself she saw the others had shocked expressions on their face as they broke into laughter slowly as they took in Ryo's new image of expression.

Shige grew so happy that he grabbed Mao by the side and brought her into his own hug rubbing her head.

“IT’S SO TRUE!” Christine shrieked out as she rubbed the so-called moobs of her man who squealed in what could have been pleasure or indignation. They pecked each other on the lips and Mao couldn't help but think they looked good together.

“Tegoshi I like this girl! Where’d you find her?” Shige shouted to his friend who was still pouring shots when he dropped the bottle on the table and ran to Mao’s other side.

“A bus. She’s mineee get away!”

“Guess they do have do-able girls there.” Christine relinquished giving a high-five to Tegoshi who simply laughed along.

It had been a long time since Mao had had friends but with these people she had no idea why. The atmosphere was so utterly accepting that she had no problem holding her hand out to Tegoshi so that he could pour her the next shot. She wouldn’t be open with them or comfortable until she got smashed that much she knew. She never had been good at making friends easily unless she lost her inhibitions and that involved getting very mad...or very drunk. She would rather get drunk. She could see Shun’s face behind her eyes judging her. He never approved of her drinking habits.

“This is girl is going going.... goooooooone!” Koyama sung out in a surprisingly melodic voice that Mao had to hum along with him. It seemed entirely too good an option to miss out on. She could hear the others laughing beside her. It was kinda nice to hear people laughing with her.

Except she was almost sure they were laughing at her.

“Hey Ryo, keep an eye on her eh? It’s her first time with us and I don’t think Tego knows how much she can handle.” She heard Christine say quietly to him, the only other voice of reason. Ryo and she seemed the most sober of them all.

“Yeah yeah. Come here Mao-chan.” He made room-pushing Aya a little farther as Mao gladly got up and sat down in his lap instead of on the spot he’d cleared out for her. She giggled as she looked at his shocked face.

“You don’t mind do you?”

She was vaguely aware of Yamapi’s jealous screams and it was all Mao could do to not make out with Ryo right there to hear him get angrier. Pissing Yamapi off would definitely become one of her favorite activities...and it helped that Ryo was probably the prettiest guy in the room.

Ryo hung his head smiling as he glanced up at her from his eyes shaking his head and positioning her so she was facing the others, as he wrapped his arms around her small waist holding her steady. She realized now that she was swaying everywhere but in his lap she sat quietly. Her only real action other than talking and pushing against him was breathing.

Mao wasn’t sure why but Tegoshi seemed to be giving her one of the most grateful sober smiles she’d ever seen. In fact so did the others.

Mao felt Christine come up to her ear and tell Ryo to move his head away from Mao’s shoulder so she could tell her a secret. Ryo obliged and Mao found herself listening to the sound of Christine’s voice again.

“Mao-chan! Are you hitting on Ryo?!”

“Nope. I do think he’s the cutest one here though.” She admitted even more honestly than she’d honestly like to have normally. Shige smiled as he poured her another shot. He needed to see more of this girl unwound.

“Mao-chan ready go?” He asked her and she nodded as she faced him front on and they competed with each other on who finished the shot first. Of course Shige won.

She wasn’t sure how time was moving. She was seeing things as if she was spinning...oh she was spinning she realized as she set her feet down on the ground and could barely stand up straight. She took advantage of Ryo’s shoulder as Tegoshi took her other side and they started to sway together.

Aya, Mao saw was entirely meshed between the two best friends. All three of them avoided the situation with a skill that almost alarmed Mao. Christine and Pi were holding onto each other tightly and it seemed now that the more fun part of the evening was over, they grew closer together.

She didn't get why they weren't official.

Then the music got louder to Mao’s ears and they started dancing and she couldn’t help but remember Jun for a moment. The prince she’d danced with sober, a white knight it made sense they would do ballroom.

But this music was nothing like the one that night. No...this was Shots by LMFAO. Mao couldn’t help but enact the movement of downing shots as she bent her back backwards until she was touching the floor and Ryo pulled her up.

“Careful eh?” She nodded carelessly wrapping her arms around his shoulders.

“You hate me don’t you? Cause I’m freeloading here.” Her voice was soft as Tegoshi left them to go dance with the others and Mao found herself increasingly close to Ryo’s face. Her head was hurting a little but she could ignore that. Especially with Ryo's pretty eyes staring at her like that.

“I promise Mao-chan. I do not hate you. I disliked you when I first heard of you but now...you remind me of someone. She acted exactly the way you do. Well you do drunk.” He smiled softly reaching to rub her hair a little resting his forehead on hers. His eyes were shut and his every breath seemed to shake her just a little more to her core.

“What happened?” She asked softly wrapping her arms more tightly around his waist and reaching up to let her hands lie comfortingly on his back.

“She died. Her name was Hamano Ayumu. She was Aya’s twin sister.” The honesty, pain and longing she saw in his eyes made her own tear up as she moved her head away from his burying it in his body.

“Hey...hey you don’t have to cry.” His voice sounded so concerned for her as he caressed her hair but Mao couldn’t help it. No she had to cry, the tears were coming out now. She hated being alone, she hated that feeling. She understood without him having to say that the girl she reminded him of was his girlfriend. Obviously who else could it be?

“I have someone who left me behind too. I never knew her. She left when I was a child. I’m trying not to love her. She’s gone but it’s so hard. It’s so hard to love someone who’s gone isn’t it?” Ryo stopped swaying her side to side to I Remember by Kaskade.

“No...it’s just that much easier to love someone whose here.” He admitted honestly and Mao couldn’t help it. Whether it was the way he felt next to her, or the way she looked in his eyes, maybe it was the fact that she was just feeling this way for someone other than Shun after so long. She had no idea why but her next move was to kiss him.

It felt like a supernova had exploded in her heart. She felt light and she didn’t care what was happening around them because why should she? They were the starring attraction, and she couldn’t help but feel the others around her quiet down as they moved slowly in the most calming kiss that Mao had ever experienced. He pushed her into an absolutely beautiful place she’d never been with passion before. It was like clarity and haziness all in one.

A glimpse of perfection not yet complete.

And the last thing she remembered...was the way Ryo's lips were the softest she'd ever felt against her own.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
End Notes:
WOW.

Um. Hard to write, but so proud of it still. I hoped you guys enjoyed the latest chapter of Erika =D And all the mentions. If you can't tell already Nishikido Ryo is now a main character in this story. The others will come and go but YAY for Ryo becoming a starring attraction!

I hope you guys understand Mao and Erika a little more as they grow as characters.

See you guys soon! Read Review and Enjoyyyy that's the motto.

Previews:

“I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable. Are you feeling uncomfortable? We can go sit down. I honestly don’t mind.”

“Well if you’d like a second preview to examine the merchandise all-“

“I did not rile you up"

"I don’t care if you love some prince but this is real, whether you want to admit it or not and I just want to let you know. I’m not letting you go.”

Sexcited? I know I am =D
Happily Ever Afters Do Exist by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
There is music accompaniment today. =D I would love it if you guys listened to it while you read the last part


“Oh my god!! Jin stop it!”

He was twirling her around and any moment now he was going to lift her into his arms so she could curl around him in fear. She couldn’t help but laugh at the strange feeling. It felt exactly like she’d thought it would in his arms, safe and thrilling.

Maybe she’d always loved him.

As she stared up at his face she realized now that wasn't true. She hadn't loved him forever... it was impossible to erase the memories of the lock stock and barrel. It was impossible to forget the pushes against the cage she'd felt she was in when she was married to him first. And it was definitely impossible to forget how much she'd hated him.

But if she had never hated him she may have never loved him...so while she would have to live with those memories in her mind it was okay. It was all okay now that she had finally made it here. To clarity.

This was their third and last night and they had returned to the same Argentinean bar. This time they had barely stopped to down a drink before continuing on the dance floor.

“What were you saying?” He yelled back up to her as she screamed giddily latching onto him wrapping her arms tightly around his neck as he bent downwards so she hang of him. She could hear Alberto’s catcalls and saw him disappear behind the bar again. They’d become acquaintances with almost everyone in the bar. This was so much more fun than their first honeymoon.

Erika had never been one for thought or contemplation. Jin had never been one for change nor spontaneity and together for a moment they were perfect. Here in this bar. So she could not hold her words back in her mouth.

No they insisted, demanded that she let them out of her mind, her mouth, and her entire body.

“Jin...”

“Yeah?” He screamed over the music as he swayed them along and Erika found the rhythm sync into a slower one. She looked to the music booth and saw Alberto there giving her a thumbs up as Jin pulled her by the hips close to him. It was rare Alberto played the sensual ones and usually for them Jin would grab her hand drag her to the bar and they’d laugh at the awkward Japanese couples attempting to salsa.

But she wasn't attempting with Jin. He knew his way around- god this sounded wrong- her.

“You know how to salsa?” She asked as he pushed one of his legs in between hers and so one of hers lay between his.

Jin's eyes suddenly shot up as he realized they weren't at the bar. He looked far more nervous now. “I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable. Are you feeling uncomfortable? We can go sit down. I honestly don’t mind.” He couldn’t be more incorrect. No she was more comfortable than she’d ever been.

“No...this feels right. We can stay.” And again that foolish smile on his face was enough for her. She went to peck his cheek but at another cat call he quickly turned his head and without another moment's notice there they were. Lips pressed against each other. Neither of them moved...waiting to see who would make the first break apart, eyes open and looking into each other.

It was the oddest kiss she had ever experienced. The look in his eyes was clear, he was asking her. Not directly...not obviously to anyone else around them they looked like they were like this since birth. They had no idea how much effort had gone in from both sides, how many fights, cold nights, and tears had been poured into their marriage.

She didn't mind. She pulled away from him and stared down at the floor, repeating her words. “This feels right.” Her words softly went past his ears but she couldn't bring herself to look up at him.

She found she didn’t have to. For in the quickest moment she found herself flushed against him with one hand resting on her waist and the other holding her own so tightly as he pushed his lips onto hers and Erika relished in the feel of it all. Her body thrummed with an excitement she almost didn’t recognize as her own. Her heart went faster, and slower at the same time. Calmed that all she had been anticipating had finally come to be, and excited of the prospect of what all of it meant.

“I love you.” He meshed the words between their kisses but that was all Erika needed to hear. “I didn’t love you when I came back.” He pulled away from her now to look at her directly in the eyes. “but I remember why I loved you before and then it was hard to not fall again. Eri...when you trust, and when you touch. It comes from the heart in a way I’ve never ever seen with anyone else. Akanishi Erika...I don’t care if you want to take my heart out and stomp on it. I don’t care if you love some prince but this is real, whether you want to admit it or not and I just want to let you know. I’m not letting you go.”

She let the smallest of smiles come on her face. Jin had nothing to worry about with Shota. She couldn't believe he was even jealous. “Ever.” She spoke with such conviction that he turned to look at her not hiding his shock. “Don’t let me go...ever.” She felt herself wrap her arms tighter around his neck as she pressed herself to him completely, feeling him freeze only for a moment under the unfamiliar weight.

And she did not need to know the rest because it was true.

All those lines in the fairy tales were true.

Happily Ever Afters Do Exist.

----------

(Bittersweet Symphony - The Verve)

“Mao...Mao wake up.” Mao felt for the first time since Shun the feeling of a warm body by her side waking her up. The sun hit her eyes and she felt blinded. The entire room around her was white. The sheets, the bed, the curtains...the-

She turned around to see a man she barely recognized. His black bangs came over his eyes as he smiled so brilliantly at her that she couldn’t help but smile back. He pecked her lips.

Sure she should have been scared of strange men pecking her lips but was she?

Not really. For that instant all felt right, it felt like waking up to her husband. Now they’d go cook some breakfast, probably walk to work together, something that would leave them entirely in unison for the rest of the day until night when they would-

When he broke apart from her lips, Mao remembered...she was not married. Nor had she been last night and-

And that was when she realized she was naked.

In a stranger’s bed.

Who was also very naked.
End Notes:
LOVE IT?

I HAD TO ADD THE END. I BROKE IT OFF FROM THE NEXT CHAPTER.

LOVE THE CAPS? =D I KNOW I DO.

KYAAAH WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN.

(Read Enjoy Review =D gotta add the motto. I actually really like this motto. RER GUYS! RAWR!)

From your crazy Lillith.
The Morning After Isn't Always Ugly by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
Hehehe...I don't think I need to remind you guys where we left off last chapter.



Let's see Mao's reaction huh? Imma cut the beginning short. =D ENJOY GUYS. Ily.



Song rec: Bittersweet Symphony - The Verve
“WHAT THE FUCK!” She screamed jumping out of the bed pulling all the covers with her to cover herself up and saw the entirety of the man in her...well considering she was visiting it was really his bed. She couldn’t help but turn her head sideways as she examined the fine specimen near her.

Oh she knew how to pick ‘em even when she was drunk. It was almost all she could do to not climb back into bed and pretend to remember who he was. “Well if you’d like a second preview to examine the merchandise all-“ He started teasing her by shifting the scantily covering cloth and she shook her head.

“No I think that’s okay. I just...” and then it came back to her. Coming to stay with Tegoshi. Everyone already smashed, the friendly atmosphere, the completely idiotic way she’d behaved and most of all well...him.

Ryo. His name resounded in her head in a way that made her heart strings pull as she remembered so vividly the sight of his eyes boring into hers. The way he’d held onto her the entire night. The way he’d kissed her, the sensation of his lips pushing just the slightest bit of pressure onto the skin that stretched on her neck-

“Oh god. What have I done?” She collapsed onto the bed putting her hands over her eyes so she couldn’t see any of Ryo’s unexpected parts.

Though really she’d seen all she could.

There was no going back now.

Not that she wanted to go back.

She was pathetic.

How long had it been since she’d slept with a guy anyways? No wonder she felt so clingy towards Ryo even though she was hiding it well. When you ran away freaked out that generally didn't constitute as clingy morning-after behaviour.

“Hey hey...don’t feel bad. I barely remembered you when I woke up too. It’s okay. You know what I did remember about you though?" When she shook her head he ruffled her hair as she buried her face deeper into her hands. "Your ass...seriously, if possible you need to tell me how you got that. You could probably sell your procedure.” She shot her eyes up to his face to see him laughing. At her.

He was laughing at her and her obvious discomfort! Why was this so funny? Was there something funny about her? She glared and ignored his comment, even if her ass was feeling decidedly happy at being complimented.

“You weren’t drunk last night you should have known better!" She judged him as she felt her eyes narrow onto his arms. God they looked muscular.

She couldn't even stay properly angry at this guy...he was too hot for her.

She felt frenzied.

“HEY! I’ll have you know even though I was seriously impaired...I did try. There’s only so much throwing a guy like me can handle when she already has him riled up.” THAT WAS HIS DEFENSE?

“I did not rile you up!” There the anger was again and she was about to kick him where it hurt before she realized they were both kind of naked. That would make the situation more awkward... she let her eyes stick onto his face for now. She threw him half of the sheets. He further covered himself up, and to her pleasure continued smiling at her like a fool.

“Look Mao...I’m not going to apologize for some of the best sex in my life." It was stupid that her heart warmed a little at the compliment. Seriously what was she a hooker? Oh good job last night! Great effort! "I am going to apologize for the fact that we did not practice whatever we did last night safely."

All snarky remarks were lost. “We didn’t- oh my god. OH MY GOD!”

“Well what did you expect? You naked, me naked, under the sheets. Seriously woman. I thought you were smarter than that.”

“YOU’VE KNOWN ME LESS THAN A DAY! HOW CAN YOU EVEN LET YOURSELF INTO THAT SITUATION! I COULD HAVE BEEN THE SLUTTIEST GIRL WITH MILLIONS OF DI-“ But he put a forefinger against her lips and shut her up that quickly.

She was thankful that he didn’t kiss her. Part of her didn’t want the feeling she’d felt with him last night to be tainted by the fact that it had only been her drunk self exaggerating what she’d felt.

An instant connection.

He leaned in closer to her ear and pulled her by the neck slowly, so as not to hurt her, into his words. “I know more about you than your grandmother knows. And I know that you were going through a- let's just call it a dry spell." She hissed quietly as he snickered at her embarrassment. ”So I know you don't have any diseases."

Oh wow. She’d spoken to him about her grandmother.

Okay that was it. Now she remembered why she didn’t get drunk and have sex with strangers.

Then she remembered of course he wasn't a stranger! No, he was her bus driver. He’d driven her a grand total of three times somehow miraculously avoiding contact with her each and every time by mere centimeters and seconds.

It made sense now why they hadn’t quite met yet.

BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY THE MOMENT THEY HAD MET THEY COULD NOT HAVE CONTROLLED THEMSELVES AND SIMPLY JUST JUMPED INTO BED TOGETHER.

And while it sounded fun, it couldn’t be safe while he was driving the bus. No one wanted the crash of a bus to occur, much less because they couldn’t control the reaction of their pheromones to one another.

“Now go...take a shower. You stink. Then we’ll go find your aunt.” His soft tone interrupted her thoughts and he let his fingers off his lips leaving her to collapse silently onto herself again as he got onto the side to pull on his boxers.

“Did I tell you everything?” She asked softly as she let her head fall on the bed so she was looking at him from directly underneath.

His eyes were kind. She gulped. “You’ll remember everything eventually...but if you don’t let’s just treat this as a random stranger doing something nice for you okay? I want to thank you if you hadn’t said what you did last night. This would have never happened...and I would have never realized something that I’ve been holding onto for so long. So don’t think about it Mao...for today you can trust me.” He leaned down against her and it was ridiculous the power emenating from his eyes. No matter how hard she might have wanted to admire his perfectly chiseled body he held her gaze within his own. He let his hand fall on her cheek delicately and her eyes shut at the feel of his fingertips caressing her. It was such a loving gesture but coming from someone so strange it left the most bizarre tingling sensation against her face.

He stopped and within moments he up and left the room only pausing to ask her what she’d like for breakfast. She didn't care so he said he'd get Tego to make her eggs.

Mao stayed on the bed.

She had done something irreparable she knew that.

This was horrible.

She was on the pill so she needn’t have worried too much about the lack of a condom last night but...she’d done something far worse than unprotected sex.

She’d let someone in.

And how was she going to face the consequences of those actions?

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
End Notes:
Lalalove it. This is called procrastination =D It's my favourite activity. Exam period is when you see the most updates from me.



I'm so bad. T.T I'm gonna go back to reading macroeconomics after so enjoy this guys. It's just for you.



I hope you guys RER =D and loved it as much as I loved writing it. (Read Enjoy Review)



Special thank you to all of you guys for getting me to 600 hits. I was pretty shocked seeing that =D it's kind of what motivated this.



Previews:



“DON’T YOU DARE INSULT MY SON! HE IS FAR BETTER THAN YOUR FLIGHTY DAUGHTER. YOU DON’T THINK I KNOW SHE WASN’T A V-“



“You know I wouldn’t ask unless it was important.”



“I’m pregnant.”



Time To Man Up by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
It's Finally Erika's Turn Again

No music cause this has to be updated quick time.
---------------

“YOU AND YOUR FOOLISH SON!”

“DON’T YOU DARE INSULT MY SON! HE IS FAR BETTER THAN YOUR FLIGHTY DAUGHTER. YOU DON’T THINK I KNOW SHE WASN’T A V-“

“DON’T YOU DARE SAY THAT ABOUT MY DAUGHTER.” Toda Takuya could not control himself from banging his fist down on the table and glaring at both his son-in-law and Jin's father. They stared at each other each silent for a second as they took in the expressions on each other's faces.

One was angry, one was smug, and the other completely exhausted.

Erika walked into the room watching her father and her father-in-law fight as they had been these past couple of days since her father-in-law had been turned down for the VP position at Horikita Mining.

Again.

Jin was sitting on the armchair his head in his hands. “Erika- nani?”

“Jin..can you come out with me right now please?” She spoke softly.

He lifted his head slowly and let his eyes float up to hers. “Erika we’re a little busy here.” His face looked so exhausted. Her heart weakened at his appearance. He hadn’t shaved today, the work today was even tougher which was sad considering today was a Saturday. She’d known for a while the studio was in trouble.

But she couldn't help this. “Please?” She pleaded.

“Eri-“

“Jin you know I wouldn’t ask unless it was important.” She spoke with the same frustration in her voice and as she went out to reach him she felt her head start throbbing so massively, she couldn’t see anything. She shut her eyelids closed as she felt her body swaying from side to side and within moments she felt her father grab her one side and Jin rush to her other. She could barely make out the sound of their chairs hitting the wall. Jin pried her away from her father who only glared at Jin as he grabbed her and held onto her shoulders.

“Jin-“ She started and felt her mouth run dry, she went limp in his arms and Jin’s eyes widened in horror.

“ERI! ERI! ERI STAY WITH ME!” He slapped her cheek as hard as he could and shook her shoulders but nothing was happening.

“I’M GETTING THE CAR! YOU COME WITH ME!” Her father rushed out and Jin nodded cradling Erika in his arms and running towards the entrance.

Her mother peeked out of the kitchen to see the two men running.

“WHAT’S HAPPENED?”

“Eri fainted Ma. Come quickly, we have to go first can you call Meisa and bring her?” Nao’s face twisted but Jin didn’t have a chance to see it as he jumped into the Ford T. There was no other option.

Jin couldn't lose her. “ERI. ERI!” She floated in for a moment and as her eyes, in their haze, raked over the worried expression of her own husband and felt a smile stretch onto her face.

“You’ll be a good father.” She whispered softly.

“Are you okay- Eri stay with-“ Jin started as her eyes shut slowly again and a look of calm came upon her face as she grew limp again resting completely against him.

“Jin…” She whispered softly as she wrapped her arms around him feeling the car jolt and she squinted as she held him tighter. She felt nauseous.

“I’m right here Eri.” He held onto her and Toda Takuya glanced back at the couple from his mirror as he sped across the roads and turned into the hospital.

Erika opened her eyes and looked at him from underneath. He looked like an angel under the Saturday sun behind him coming through the back of their car. “I’m pregnant.”

And then she fainted.

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Jin couldn’t stop the smile on his face as he sat beside his unconscious wife. She was “

They were-

He was going to be-

He held her hand tightly. “Come on Eri wake up. I want nothing more than to hug you as tightly as possible and hold onto you and the little guy forever.”

“Who says its going to be a guy?” A woman’s voice flew through the door like silk and Jin turned around to see the ever present Meisa in all her glory. Today she was dressed in a Manchu dress with her hair artfully pulled into a bun tucked with a lily clip.

“I’ve come directly from the set.” She explained and he nodded happily. She hugged him from behind and looked at him from the side as he couldn’t get up or leave Erika’s hand. He didn’t feel right letting it go.

“I hear someone’s going to be a dad.” Her beautiful smile ever-present in her voice and she looked to her best friend who was lying in the bed her body frail.

“You have no idea.” He pressed his clasped fist with Erika’s hand within it to his lips.

Meisa’s smile faltered for a second as she looked from “Jin. You’re ready to be a father right?”

He turned to look at her in shock. “What do you mean?”

She turned to look at the door and ran to shut it. “Jin you can’t stay with your families. You’re making your own now. And I'm no fool. I know the trouble Takuya's been putting you through.” She looked fearfully at the window where she could see Takuya holding onto his wife. Meisa paused for a moment to see if he would turn towards her but of course when he did he didn't let his eyes rest on hers for more than two seconds before turning around to embrace his wife coldly again.

Her hands tightened into fists. “You need to leave Jin. Or I promise you this man will ruin your life just like he almost ruined Erika’s. Takuya is toxic.”


Jin looked at his friend in shock. “Meisa-“

But at that very moment Erika uttered a sound as she opened her eyes and Meisa’s eyes watered seeing her best friend. “Erika.” She ran to her best friend's other side and clasped Erika’s other hand within her own.

“I’m a mommy.” She said happily making a move to sit up but Jin immediately held out his hand.

“Relax. Stay with Meisa for a second. I have to go speak to the doctor. He told me to get him when you woke up.” She nodded strongly as she felt the smile stretch onto her face. It was shocking how good a man Jin was. He was perfect.

“Jin!” She couldn’t stop herself from uttering as he made a move to leave and he turned back to smile at her.

“Yeah Eri?”

“You’re happy right?”

He smiled as he walked back to her bed slowly and bent downwards to press a soft kiss to her forehead and then pausing to go down towards her tummy and kiss it as well before he walked out the door.

And that was when Toda Erika realized.

She was in love with Akanishi Jin.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jin walked up to his father and Erika’s. He stopped in front of them. “If she had never woken up I would have killed the both of you.”

The fathers immediately froze and stared at Jin who gave them such a steely stare that even as they made a move to fight back in their defense he held up a hand. “I am no idiot. I know the stress that you guys have been putting on each other and me have inadvertently affected MY WIFE. Not your daughter or daughter-in-law. Now hear me out. The doctor has said the baby is draining on Erika’s energy and so are you two babies. I will not stand for it. If you two do not grow up and stop your childish fighting then consider this relationship I have with both of you ended. And I am also taking the liberty of speaking on behalf on Erika.” He looked to Erika’s father who laughed.

“My daughter is mine. Not yours.” Takuya spat out even as Nao laid a hand on his shoulder to stop him from arguing with his son-in-law. Jin could only scoff back.

“Correction. By all legal documents she is married to me. So for the past two years and the rest of my life, Erika is mine. Erika will always be mine.”

He paused and turned to his own father before continuing. “And if you do not stop your immature behavior, Erika and I will be moving out. Now if I have made myself understood I need to go be with my wife.” He paused when he saw Nao looking at him with tears in her eyes. Her mouth was stretched into a smile and he gave her a quick nod and heard her break down in sobs as he walked towards his wife’s room.

This was a new era.

And he wasn't going to take their crap anymore.
End Notes:
=D Liked itttt? Zomg. Guys I hope you did. Thank you so much for reading and loving this story guys. I love seeing you guys read this
Kiss You Quiet by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
Finally.

I apologize.

Jin's finally being more co-operative.

And Ryo's being hot as ever for you guys.
“We’re here.” Ryo held onto Mao’s hand as she saw the large house sitting atop the hill they’d been walking on. It was a massive temple and it was empty inside. The stairs were winding downwards and all around them was the green vines she’d always come to associate with her childhood.

“Meisa lives here? It’s odd to imagine it eh?” He spoke softly as he felt her hands squeeze his.

Her eyes were shut as she said her next words. “Ryo- let’s turn back.”

The boy turned to look at the girl who clutched onto his hand just a little bit tighter with the fear set into her features. He smiled as he leaned into her ear. “Why?”

“I don’t want to mess up her life. I can’t do that to her. She’s been through so much because of my grandfather. I can’t drag her past into her life.” She turned to him and Ryo was shocked at how pained she looked. For others it might seem like this journey was virtually painless. Mao had a loving grandmother and a great chance at becoming a history doctorate.

But in the short time Ryo had known her he had gotten to understand her so well it was scary. The childish way she threw herself upon him when she was drunk told him she’d always wanted to be babied. The way she didn’t want to hurt others the way she hurt herself showed how much-

“HI!” Someone screamed out from the top of the hill and Ryo turned to look at the figure that had discovered their presence. It was a little child dressed in a priestess uniform she was waving furiously and telling them to climb up the stairs. He looked to Mao who screamed with her eyes to let it go but he couldn’t.

“Hello there.” He climbed the stairs halfway to meet the little girl who slowly made her way down skipping.

“Are you guys here to pray?” She smiled and Ryo shook his head.

“No we’re here to meet the head priestess of this temple. Can you take us to see her?”

“Obaa-chan?” He nodded and the little girl nodded as well and burst into laughter and he held out his hand to her and she held onto it and they walked to the top together until he turned around to look at Mao who was still standing at the base of the steps looking fearfully up at him. Her eyes wide and shocked as she mouthed for him to get his butt down.

At that moment she looked so much like a child he had to crack a smile. “and whose hand am I supposed to hold?” Mao yelled at him from the bottom and he laughed.

“Come up yourself Meow. I can’t hold your hand all the time can I?” He teased.

She glared at him and stuck her tongue out as she climbed the stairs. Ryo laughed as the little girl tugged on him and they started towards the temple.

That was when Ryo saw her. There was something about the woman’s demeanor as she bent down and touched the flowers. The little girl immediately ran to her and Ryo did not even have to ask if this was Meisa. Her features themselves showed you that once upon a time men used to go crazy for her.

“Hikari…who are these visitors?” She smiled at them and Mao finally caught up to Ryo glaring at him for leaving her alone.

Ryo opened his mouth but a panting Mao stopped his words. “We’re students from Todai.” Mao interrupted as she kicked his shin. “We’re studying the effect of the economic downturn of NTV studios a place we’ve heard you were a very active member of. You were said to star in 4 of their 5 star productions and one they never released.” Mao gulped as she remembered the tape that didn’t work. The whole reason she was doing this.

“Yes. I was a member of that studio. And I was made partner right before it closed down. I’m sorry what is this about-“

“We hear the shut down had a lot to do with Toda Erika the second wife of the late His Royal Highness Matsuda Shota-sama.” Meisa’s eyes hardened at the mention of the Toda family as she took a closer look at her and Mao flinched under the hard woman’s gaze.

And then she suddenly spoke. “You may leave us.” She spoke roughly and towards Ryo who the little girl immediately linked hands with. “Come come I have so much to show you.” She yelled and Mao stood plain now in front of Meisa.

“Did you think I wouldn’t recognize you?” The contempt and disgust in her voice let itself out as Mao gulped and stood her ground.

“Who am I? Who am I really?” She shot back and Meisa glared at her.

“Come inside girl. I would have never thought you were this stupid.” Meisa grabbed her hand and dragged her into the shrine where they walked until they entered the dining area.

She sat down herself on a cushion. “You were three years old when I last saw you. You were the most beautiful little bundle of joy and now you look like someone ran you over and stomped all over you. Your nail polish is all chipped, and your clothes look tattered. Does Nao not take good care of you?”

“It's style and she takes excellent care of me thank you very much.” Meisa cracked a smile as she poured Mao the green tea and gestured for her to sit down.

“Now why don’t you be honest with me? What do you know until now? What do you want to know? I’m not like Nao. I have always thought you should know the story of your mother. She isn’t just the woman who-“ Meisa’s eyes watered for a second and Mao felt her body transported to her eight year old eyes.

“I just- Yui’s told me everything until my conception.” Meisa nodded knowingly.

“I told Jin to leave with you and Erika but he never listened. In his hearts of hearts he always loved his father too much. Do you know he didn’t even-“

“Meisa. If possible I would like to leave my father out of it as much as I can.” Mao quietly and Meisa turned to look at her stunned.

“Mao. Your father was one of the best men I ever knew. He was courageous, fought for his family. Heck even after “but that was my and your grandmother’s fault. Perhaps if we had not intervened in Erika's life as we did they would be here in front of you. However, the rest of what happened involved your father so completely it is almost unavoidable.

After the episode at the hospital, things went even more downhill for the company and the strain on the family was evident.

Jin managed to hide it all from Erika however…which perhaps if he had not done they would be with you right now today.”
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jin sat in between his father and his father-in-law in the office. “The movie did badly that’s okay we can recover.”

Takuya scoffed and shook his head. “Jin are you blind? The reason all of this started was because of your father and his horrible direction to the movie. Who gave him approval for the project anyways?”

“I did and I stand by my decision. It was a good script with horrible actors.” Jin’s father spoke but his voice lacked so much conviction that Jin wanted to kill himself as he knew that Toda Takuya would rip his father apart as he smirked at him.

“Did the woman sleep with him to get made the lead?” He seethed and Jin’s eyes narrowed as he saw his father cowering under Takuya’s words. It depressed him until finally he threw a look at his father-in-law and banged his fist down in front of him.

“Is that the only way you know how to do business Toda-san? Pushing people down?”

“Careful boy. Don’t get out your limits…or I’ll put you in a worse state than your father’s in.” Jin glared at him and sat back down in the chair and groaned. This was going to be a long meeting.
-----------------------------------------------------

When he got back into the room he saw Erika sleeping. He hated this. He hated coming home late. He hated not being beside her when the baby kicked, when she sang to it, he hated not being there for her in the morning because of work.

He crawled into bed beside her and felt her shift and turn towards him. He stared at her in shock. Why was she awake?

“You stayed up?” His voice was reprimanding but he couldn't help but be happy in his heart that he could spend these few precious moments with her awake. He couldn't control himself from leaping to peck her lips. God, he loved her. Way more than she could ever love him.

She bit his lip lightly and he smiled as he looked into the mischievous eyes of his wife. “I needed you for something.”

“It’s not good for the baby’s health you being up so late." He countered but he couldn't stop the grin from stretching wider on his face.

“Well…what I’m not getting isn’t good for my health.” She joked and she wrapped her arms around Jin and hugged him tightly. “We never spend time together anymore. The baby misses you. He kicked when you came in the door.” She smiled into his shirt and Jin felt his heart swell.

“Did he now? Does he kick often?” He pressed a small kiss on his wife’s forehead and felt her breathe on his neck.

“He’s going to be a football star one day.” She joked and then her face changed from a smile to a look of concern so much so that Jin rested a hand on her cheek and grazed his thumb past her cheek.

“Hey…hey what’s wrong?”

“Is everything okay- you’ve been coming home awfully late nowadays and look at the time now. It’s one AM.”

Jin gulped. He’d never attempted to lie to Erika before but he would try now. He let his hands fall from her cheek to her neck and he kneaded the back slowly as he spoke his next words. “Of course everything is fine. You don’t worry your head about it or this little guy here will have trouble becoming the fine soccer star he ought to be.”

“But Jin-“

He pecked her lips shutting her up effectively as she glared at him. “No I said don’t worry about it.” She opened her mouth again to argue but he simply pressed another kiss on her lips.

“You can’t shut me up with kisses you know.” She mumbled faintly through the presses of his lips and he laughed back.

“No I’m not shutting you up with kisses but I am giving you a hint. Let’s not talk about it tonight all right? You’re awake. I’m awake…it’s late. Everyone else’s sleeping-“ He grinned down at her as she pecked him.

“Okay okay…this time I’ll shut you up with the kisses.”

And so as she reached up to kiss him he smiled as he grabbed her and threw the covers over them.
End Notes:
I hope you guys enjoyed that. It's some of the cutest moments in this story that I love.



I'm going to have a lot more being under the wraps so I don't know if Erika will get updated again for a while. I ask that you bear with me while I write Your Love Is My Drug guys. I want to get it well underway. If you guys want you can read that too while you wait but yeah. I apologize in advance to you guys who have stuck with me all the way to here.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN. I never thought I would make it. I'm finally almost halfway into the story-line.



Do we love Mao and Ryo? Honestly they're so cute. I'm kind of in love with this pair if you can't tell the way I write them.



And Jin and Erika. I love them too.



NEXT CHAPTER?



Cause I figure I should leave you guys with something.



“Eri, I need to tell you something.”



That's all I know for sure is going on right now. The rest is variable.



WHAT DOES JIN NEED TO TELL ERI? We'll never know...until the next chapter.



If you feel like taking a guess guys go for it in the reviews section=D



Thank you very much for reading and reviewing last time wanani and Christine.



Remember guys RER (Read Enjoy Review) =D



Her Water Broke by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
I really want you guys to read this chapter looking at symbolism. Especially in the first part of this chapter.



Honestly. I want to see if I'm effective at describing symbols.



I was listening to Just the Way You Are.



BUT I HIGHLY RECOMMEND SONGS AT A CERTAIN POINT IN THE STORY. Requiem for a tower is this video with Toma and Ohno in it from Maou I don't know who composed it sorry. T.T but I love the song.



When he woke up the next morning it was the happiest sight for him to wake up next to his wife who was still wrapped in the covers of their mattress and he looked down at her ever bulging belly and pressed a light kiss to it before he got up to put on his pajamas and make his way to the kitchen.

He liked cooking since the time Erika and he had attempted it. It had the odd sensation of calming his nerves as he mixed and sautéed.

“Hello Jin.” He turned and saw his own father walking out of his guest room.

“Hey Dad…what’s up? I didn’t expect you awake this early.”

“It’s only 5 Jin why are you awake?”

Jin only smiled as he remembered last night and shook his head. “I just couldn’t sleep.”

His father affirmed the statement but the way his eyes drooped, Jin could tell his father wasn’t happy about his own lack of sleep the way Jin was happy with his.

“Jin…I need to tell you something.”

“Speak up father.” Jin flipped the omlette in the pan with his hands and turned around while lowering the heat on the stove.

“You know I’ve always thought you could do more than a bachelor’s degree. You know I’ve believed you could go far.” Jin let out a smile.

“Apparently Erika’s father thinks otherwise but- we can’t help that can we?” Jin muttered as he took the pan of the stove and placed it on the plate passing it to his father as he started on another one.

“Jin,” Jin turned to look at the large package in his father’s hands and felt his world stop as he dropped the egg on the floor of the kitchen.

How could this happen?

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
So This Is Goodbye - William Fitzsimmons (Pink Ganter Remix)

It was five months later, one saturday morning. The package just kept coming back into his head…over and over again. He couldn’t get rid of it. Especially not today. Erika was finally showing. She had been for about three months. They were eight months into the pregnancy.

As usual whenever he thought of his child a smile floated on his face as he stared up at the clouds tucking his hands underneath his head.

Erika’s long hair was flying in the wind as she set up the table around them. She was laughing as hard as ever and his father was laughing along with her like nothing was wrong.

Like his entire world wasn’t about to just change. He knew he should tell her before the baby…but he couldn’t risk stressing her out. Not this late in the pregnancy. He didn’t want to do anything to harm his child…but if he didn’t tell her soon Erika would be the one harmed.

He’d tell her today. That had been his decision. Then they could walk through this together, talk about it, discuss options…see where this was going. He already knew Toda Takuya would not approve of it but if he could make Erika see the light in what he wanted to do-

She turned to look at him for a second as her baby cousin pulled on her skirt; she gave him a huge smile and then turned to look at the little girl who caressed Erika’s tummy gingerly.

This was not going to be fun.

So they ate lunch with the entire family. His father kicked him more than once to make sure he was acting normal…but how could he with the impending news? He couldn’t- no but he had to. There was no way this could go on being a secret. He had to make a choice or the opportunity would leave him.

Then he may never be able to bring her back to him.

When everyone left, his father to play with the children and his in-laws to gossip with their fellow family members, he stayed behind offering to clean up and keeping her with him for company.

At least that was what he told everyone else, who simply laughed at the happy couple leaving them by themselves teasing them that they wouldn't get any alone time once the little one was out.

She sat down on the park bench as he cleared the area of the garbage.

“It’s such a nice day isn’t it?” Jin scoffed…of course she could think so she didn’t have the pressure of what he had to tell her on him. For that he was thankful, he knew his wife well…if there was one thing she wasn’t, it was strong. She wouldn’t be able to take anything. She had been babied most of her life.

“Eri,”

“When this one here is born we’re going to go out like this every weekend.” She caressed her stomach as she smiled down at it and then looked up at him and he set the plastic plate he was holding down on the table as he sat down in front of her and took her hands in his.

“Eri, I need to tell you something.”

“And then when he gets older we can all go on family trips like this. I’m sure father wouldn’t mind buying a cottage if there were even more of us! I mean Meisa couldn’t probably come but-“

“ERI!”

“Yeah? Wow Jin. You really need to talk? No need to get loud.” She teased him as she ran her fingers through his hair. He shut his eyes and relished in the feel of her fingers against his scalp but let out a tired breath from his mouth. He didn’t know how he was going to do this.

“Eri this is important please don’t joke around.” He opened his eyes to see her mockingly nodding along with him.

“Yes seargant! Your soldier here is very loyal!” She mouthed out with a stern expression that so didn’t suit her features that he had no choice but to laugh at his idiot wife.

“You’re so stupid.”

“You’re so smart.” She leaned over and patted his leg. “Now what do you want to tell me? We can’t be sidetracked again can we?” He raised his eyebrows and opened his mouth. “No more smart comments.”

“All right.” He relented. “About five months ago I got a piece of mail I’d like to discuss with you.” She nodded so he continued on. “When I was leaving China to come back here I had just been rejected from my masters. Father had already discussed the move back and then one thing led to another and we got married.”

She looked at him as if she was ready to tell him that she already knew all of that. He held up a hand and finished his thought. “So a couple of months ago my father decided to put through my application again. Except this time it wasn’t rejected Eri.” He risked a look at her and saw the smile stretch upon her face as she leaped on to him the only thing resting between them their child in her stomach.

“Jin I’m so happy for you! You’re finally going to get what you wanted! And- you know maybe we’ll be able to move out. I’ve wanted to talk to you about that. With our family on it’s way. I’m not too sure we should stay with my parents any longer.” She smiled widely, her eyes shutting.

His eyes shut too but only with a grimace. “Eri…it’s expensive.”

“We’ll figure it out.”

“Eri…it’s in China. And you can’t come with me. I've deferred the acceptance for a semester already because I wanted to stay with you throughout your pregnancy. I can't bring you with me. They won't allow that on the campus and how am I going to be able to support you anyways?” That caught her as she moved back and stared at her husband with the confusion evident on her face.

“Where is this going Jin? Are we having a discussion or is this a fact? That you're leaving and I'm staying?” Jin wasn’t too sure about that himself. In his heart, he knew that it was important for him to go…but how could he leave her like this?

So unwillingly he looked into the eyes of his wife and clutched onto her hands as he spoke softly. “It’s a fact.”

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Requiem For A Tower - Maou

“WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?” She grabbed the vase and threw it on the ground as she felt her stomach kick furiously in response to the noise. She ignored the kick and felt the tears in her eyes attempt to push their way out.

“ERIKA CALM DOWN! THIS ISN’T GOOD FOR OUR BABY!” He raced to keep her hands from doing any more damage but she could only push him away hard as she glared up at him from under her hair and through her tears.

“OUR BABY? If you were thinking so much about OUR BABY, you would have already rejected that god forsaken acceptance and JUST TAKEN CARE OF ME. YOU GOT ME PREGNANT JIN FIX THIS! BECAUSE I AM NOT RAISING A BABY ON MY OWN!” She slapped him unable to take the fury as it coursed through her veins. She was boiling and the child in her body felt like an alien.

The idea of Jin leaving her had made her feel disgusted with herself. She felt used, she felt like she’d been hurt beyond anything she’d ever thought.

“ERIKA. I’M GOING FOR US THIS ISN’T A DISCUSSION.” He yelled back. It wasn’t that he wanted to yell at her. If anything he wanted to calm her down but he’d been trying for hours. Their parents had left the house all to them after they'd gotten back from the now tense picnic.

“OH PLEASE. YOU MEN AND YOUR PENISES. DO YOU THINK THAT MAKES ANY DIFFERENCE TO ME? I’M YOUR WIFE. AND YOU’RE LEAVING ME AND YOUR UNBORN CHILD? GOD I WISH I’D NEVER SLEPT WITH YOU!” She crumbled onto the bed shrieking and he rubbed his head into his hands as he felt the headache strike. Why was this so hard? He wished she could just understand why he was doing all of this. The only reason he was so adamant about this was because of them. He didn’t want to be like his father. He didn’t want to live under the grasp of Toda Takuya and his failing network. He wanted to be better, but most of all he wanted to be better for her.

“Eri…please listen to me.” He started as he came closer to his crying wife and tried to put his arms around her but she just pushed him off as she crumbled further into herself letting her hands fall on either side of her grossly huge belly. She hated this. She felt like she had given her heart and soul to someone to have them rip it out of her grasp forever, leave her vulnerable.

He was leaving her, like all of them left…and she couldn’t take that. She had thought he was better than Ken'ichi, better than even Prince Shota, and most of all better than her father.

He was worse. Who made her feel love and took it away from her just like that? At least her father had stuck by her mother no matter what, no matter Meisa or any of the others.

“Erika-“ He started but she stopped as she let out a blubber and attempted to compose herself. Her heart was beating so fast she didn’t know how to feel.

“Jin,” She took a deep breath letting the oxygen fill her lungs before she collapsed back into tears at her next question. “What’s more important to you? Your education…or us?”

The silence of his voice made her cry harder as she let him put his arms around her. “It’s only temporary Eri. It’s only two years. I’ll come back.”

Come back to what? A broken mother, a daughter who didn’t know him, a family that hated him?

She couldn’t take it anymore the pain in her heart had twisted it’s way into her stomach as she shrieked and put her arms around her stomach as she collapsed on the bed lying flat screaming.

“Erika! ERIKA!”

But she couldn’t respond. All she could think about was what a horrible world she was bringing her child into, what a fatherless world. A man who wanted to leave her, perhaps first she had been emotional but now she just didn't get it.

If he really loved her...if he really wanted this. He would have made sure there was a way for it.

Why did all fathers disappoint their children before they even had the opportunity to leave the womb?

At precisely that moment her mother, obviously back from giving their private time barged into the room.

“JIN! WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?” Erika let her yell her heart out at Jin. The pain in her pelvis was so large she could barely breathe. Or it might have been the pain in her chest. She could barely differentiate them anymore. She took in deep breaths of air.

“SHE JUST COLLAPSED. I THINK SHE’S IN LABOUR, HER WATER BROKE.”

Oh. That’s what that feeling was. She let him pick her up in his arms, she tried not to be weak and savour the feel but she knew what she had to do. She would not let him destroy her daughter. She would not let him be a nonchalant dad or a husband that didn’t care. She couldn’t.

For him and her she would do this. She had to. She would have it no other way..

So for the last time she wrapped her arms around her husband and cried into his chest. She hated the way he felt. She hated the way she felt around him, like nothing could go wrong, like she was still in the safest place possible. She hated the fact that she loved him with all her heart, soul and body.

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End Notes:
Last chapter up before I go on hiatus for a while. Erika's really been inspiring me and since there were an INSANE amount of reviews put up I thought I should put this up especially because I teased Chri with her pregnancy earlier.



Now pretend I don't exist for the next like =D eight days or something. I hope you guys enjoyed that. We're going to be twisting our way back to the beginning slowly...try and guess what that means.



OH OH and if you do decide to review if you could tell me what the symbol was in the beginning of the first bit where Jin's talking to his dad that would be awesome. =D I'm experimenting with symbolism.



There's not going to be any Mao Ryo for a while because we have to get through this portion of the story before I can flash back to the 'Present'. Besides...I think you guys want to find out what happens with Erika neh?



Thank you so much for reading and reviewing last time everyone. Specially to my darlings Shan, Chri and wanani. ILY



The Lines Between Life and Death by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
This has a very desperate housewives feeling.



I want to cry when I read this chapter.



So maybe you will too.



The room was a five by four. There was three windows, two seats and one man.

And this man sat with his head crouched between his knees much like his wife had fifteen hours ago. This man had not been able to have a wink of sleep and while the rest of the family had ushered in and out of this waiting area this man had not moved, had not taken so much as a loud annoying breath without the permission of his wife.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

He hated himself for putting her through this. The amount of stress and pressure that he’d given her had pushed her into early labour. An OR nurse had come outside and explained the situation to him quickly before rushing back into the room she was required to be in. He was told that she was probably experiencing some light pain until her water broke and there was multiple complications that were occuring in Erika's delivery.

He hoped to god that his wife and his child were both healthy. He didn’t know what he would do if they weren’t. He could hear the continual screams coming from the room. Meisa was in there with Nao, for once both of them didn’t care at all about the presence of the other. They were not there to look at themselves but look after the most prized possession in both their lives.

The most prized possession in his life. He hated himself for putting her through this, most of all he hated himself for not being able to stand beside her as his daughter struggled to gain life, and not steal it from her own mother.

The OR nurse walked back out and Jin was immediately on his knees looking down at the shorter woman as if she was his salvation.

The woman's face betrayed nothing as she relayed to him the happenings he had missed out in the OR. “She’s having complications. She’s not asking for you…but we’ve discovered that in her case she has had extreme stress on her heart and her body was unable to handle it, her heartbeat has gone up and- I’m sorry to say she might not make it sir. We’re doing our level best sir. Your baby has been delivered and is being taken into th-“

Jin couldn’t hear any more. His mind had blanked out as he let his mouth speak whatever it was it wanted to say. He could barely comprehend what was happening, he was a father…but he was losing his wife. “Can I go see Erika? Can I fucking enter the room?”

The nurse looked at him not questioning his use of profanity and nodded. “You may stand with your companions in the students gallery but if you make any noise sir we are going to have to remove you from the premises. Her condition is incredibly unstable, we’ve put her anesthesia but as of this moment she is being extremely unresponsive to the treatments were administering. We are still not sure if she is going to make it through the bleeding.”

But Jin had heard enough so he grabbed her hand and looked her straight in the eye. “Just take me to where I can see my wife.” The nurse yelped a little as he let go of her hand and she nodded quickly and he followed her.

He was never ever going to forgive himself.

Especially if he lost Erika.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“Administer the blood transfusion!”
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“Her heart’s failing! Her pulmonary arteries are deteriorating in effectivity quickly!”
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“I’m seeing massive amounts of uterine atony here!”
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The sobs that cracked through the gallery were loud and clear as Kuroki Meisa ran out of the gallery unable to take any more of the stress, the pain as she saw her best friend dying in front of her.

Words flew past him but the only words he could remember at the end of the two hours he stared at his wife begging her to come back to him so he could stay by her side forever. He could live in the shadows forever if he had her beside him. Forgive me was all his mind kept repeating as he saw her fight for her life.

He begged the god he didn’t believe in to forgive him and give him his life back. He couldn’t believe that he had been able to push her into early labour and and now push her so far that she was close to death.

He tried his best to ignore the blood he saw on the gloves of the doctors and nurses around Erika but he couldn’t help but stare directly at the way they were so entirely covered with his wife’s life force. His eyes started watering as he collapsed on the chairs up in the gallery and felt Nao’s judging gaze on him as she cried silently to herself.

“I thought you were different.” She uttered softly and it was all Jin could do to defend himself. He was different! He wanted to show his mother-in-law that he would never be Erika’s father. He would never ever be Toda Takuya! He would never hurt his wife beyond repair.

But he had.

“You all want to break us. Make us yours. Claim our life and never let go. Until all that’s left is a wife, not a woman, not a girl, not dreams, not hopes. But duty and misery and a wife. When it comes to your ambitions we mean nothing. When it comes to your work we mean nothing. Even when we’re what you use to escape from the norm we mean nothing, to men we can only be nothing. I WILL NOT LET MY DAUGHTER BE NOTHING.” Nao glared at him with such fury in her eyes that Jin felt himself reduced to a corner as he tried to control the sobs leaving his chest. “What are you going to do if your daughter grows up without a mother? How will you raise her because I will not give you the slightest bit of forgiveness. I will not allow you in my house BUT I will not let you touch my granddaughter and ruin her life the way you’ve affected Eri’s. I will cut you out of this family.” Jin had never seen such passion come forth from the woman who stood quietly by her husband’s side most days. This was the woman who smiled at him every morning as she asked him what he planned to do with his days, the woman who forced Erika into this marriage with him. This woman was strong, she was crying and crumbling in front of him just as he was but she was the strongest woman he had ever seen.

“SHE’S COMING BACK.” They heard someone yell as the screen lit up again.

Nao’s eyes lit up with an emotion that wasn’t wrath as she took in the sight of the doctors racing around her daughter once more before she turned back to her daughter’s husband. “I meant every word I said Akanishi Jin. Remember that.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


No,

this man hated himself.
End Notes:
I can't say anything.



I honestly can say things in front of other chapters



But I can't say anything here.



So yes. thank you for reviewing Shan, wanani and Chri you made my day brighter.



But I'm absolutely positive this didn't make any of my reader's days brighter and I apologize for this profusely...but we are getting into a darker portion of the plotline. This story has always been dark.



But we just got really happy from chapter eight till here huh? I'm sorry.



Fuck it. I'm uploading another one to make you guys happy, if that's even possible.



The next chapter will mark the official commencement of what I like to call Erika pt. 2.



We have a poster for it. That Chri-chan made. If you click next you can see it. =)



One Saturday Morning by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
So as I said.



This is Erika part two.



A lot of you will probably feel like this has been pre-poned a chapter but it makes sense once you start to read it.



Fuck Ryo is hot.



I'm adding a Ryo scene to this story just because of this poster. Can we all say Yay Chri?





“How’s Mao doing?” Nao sat down beside her daughter on the bed that she used to share.

Two months old, the little girl in front of them was giggling up at the two figures that peered over her with the most concerned expressions she’d ever seen. She hadn’t seen much of the world around her but she recognized the look of worry, the younger woman in front of her constantly wore it when she was looking at her.

And she was being dressed in an overall which only happened when something was upsetting her mother.

But the little baby's musings were left unheard as her mother's voice rang out to answer her own mother.

“She’s beautiful isn’t she?” Erika’s voice was soft as she caressed her daughter’s head and pressed a kiss to the overly large forehead that reminded her of Jin as a child and before he’d gotten a fringe.

It was horrible that she knew exactly what Mao would grow up like. She was still weakened from what had been dubbed by her doctors as one of the worst labours the hospital had ever seen. She'd lost so much weight she looked positively unhealthy. Erika walked with a bit of a lilt to her body as she usually clutched the side of her stomach, a lot had changed since her pregnancy. “I’m glad she made it out…without her I wouldn’t have a reason to live today.” Within seconds she had her baby in her arms as she shut her eyes and remembered the man who haunted her dreams at night still.

She was angry with him but she couldn’t say she didn’t want her child here. She hated him with every single fiber of her being as she had before but she thanked god every day she had Mao with her. It was a familiar feeling hating Jin as if it had been lying there in her body, completely dormant knowing that one day it would have to return to her heart.

“Perhaps that’s why God gave you back to me.” Nao pressed the softest of kisses on her own daughter’s temple and Erika found her mind racing back to the hospital even though she didn't want to go back to that moment.

She hated herself for thinking of it every second of every day, even when she should be concentrating solely on her daughter or listening to her mother. Every second she turned to look somewhere else in her home there he’d be in her mind, looking at her smiling. If she closed her eyes and allowed her imagination to fly with the wind he would come up behind her and embrace her. Then he’d come around and grab Mao and hold her so tightly that she would feel like crying at the sight of her family and immediately whip her eyes open. She couldn’t stop herself from returning back to that moment and wondering…would things have ever turned out differently?

She struggled and looked away from her daughter and her mother to look across the room where the dresser lay and gulped when she saw the figure leaning against the dresser.

She wasn't stupid, she knew he wasn't really there.

But the imaginary Jin that was leaning against her dresser still smiled at her and still made her heart beat…even if all she wanted to do was throw something at him.

She hated loving him.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

She lay in bed weakened and looking outside the hospital room.

She didn’t know much.

She knew she’d almost died, she knew she lost a lot of blood, but she didn’t know anything else. She didn’t know how she felt, she didn’t know why she was back here and she didn’t know what to do about the man looking at her guiltily under her eyes.

“Erika. I’m ready. I’m staying. I can’t leave you, I see that now. I’m ready to take responsibility.” His words sounded rehearsed, and sure he may have meant them but for how long?

Considering his past words of never letting her go she doubted he could have meant them for long. She wasn’t sure if it was the hormones or her heart… but could she take the risk with her daughter? She didn’t want another broken household for her daughter…and she would grow up fine without a father. Erika herself would have grown up better without the presence of a Toda Takuya in her life. Mao did not need another Toda Takuya.

“Jin,” It was the first time she’d spoken directly to him in three weeks. He’d been staying in a hotel close to the hospital so he could spend every waking moment with her. Mao was with Nao and Takuya. Jin’s father had gone back to China already. “You don’t belong here.” As she said her words she realized she truly did mean them. For him, it would be best to leave her here and pretend their years together had never happened.

Sure she’d always have Mao as a reminder but- Jin should erase these years from his life.

His eyes shot up from looking at his hands shamefully to looking insistently at her.

“No Erika, this is exactly where I belong. With my wife and my daughter, I need to take care of you two.”

“You don’t need to take care of anyone Jin.” She turned to look at him with the same eyes he remembered from the first days of his marriage. It was as if the Erika he had gotten to know the past two years did not even exist when this one took her place.

“Erika don’t do this. You love me. I love you.” She let the slightest laugh out from her mouth as she flicked her hair with her hand and shook her head.

“I may love you. That may be true. You definitely don’t love me Akanishi Jin. I’m sorry to say that you have to leave me. I am not willing to stay in a relationship where the man is willing, and forcing me to accept that I say he leave me.”

“Don't make me pay so heavily for a couple of words, Erika try and underst-“

“ENOUGH!” The heart-rate monitor spiked up. She was obviously displeased. Each shaky breath that left her got shakier. “Just get the hell out of my life okay? I don’t need you here and Mao sure as hell doesn’t need you here." She looked up at him with glassy eyes. She wished she could stay stronger, she could look like those women who were hard and left unaffected. " Go do whatever it is you need to but don’t you EVER find your way back here.” The smallest of cracks could be heard in her tone.

He gulped as he took in the appearance of his wife, what could he do to make her understand that he saw everything clearly now? That his education could wait longer? That he could take her with him eventually? That it would wait for him if she insisted on leaving him?

He got up slowly and knew that she wouldn’t push him off. Not only because she was fragile and weak but because she’d just admitted how much she still loved him.

He just had to show her that his feelings hadn’t changed either.

He hated seeing her cry.

He brought his lips down to hers and felt her respond within a second. She wasn’t passionate and she sure as hell didn’t look like she was enjoying it. He could feel the tense pressure in the muscles of her mouth and the way her teeth would precariously brush the edge of his mouth as if they were ready to bite down on him. The way the nails of her hand dug into his wrist as if trying to draw blood but he continued kissing her. He wasn’t going to stop until she relaxed, until she understood.

And apparently she learned that. She let her nails off his wrist and used her hands to push him off her with the most pressure she could muster but he didn’t budge. She was still weak, and he was still strong.

He pushed her onto the headboard and she let out a whimper but he didn't let her breathe for long.

He didn’t know what effect he was having on her until he felt a wet tear fall from her long lashes onto his cheek.

At the sensation of her tears, he moved apart from her and his mission to convince her of his feelings without words if she wasn't willing to listen to them.

She was crying with her eyes wide open as she brought her legs up to her chest and sank between her knees.

He gulped. “Eri- I-“

“Just please. Please. Get out.” Her words were broken between sobs. He wanted to tell her he'd never give up, that he'd always love her, that she was the only thing that meant anything to him.

He had to believe that she would understand. That he would come back. He would never leave her here with Takuya, he would never leave Mao with Takuya.

She couldn't understand right now he realized as he took in the image in front of him.

His plane was supposed to leave tomorrow.

And he could not save her if he could not leave.

One Saturday afternoon Toda Erika looked up at the back of her husband.

Who controlled his emotions and walked out.

Never looking back to see that she was staring at him as he left.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
End Notes:
I feel bad.



Jin hates me.



So does Erika.



And so do the rest of you probably.



On the upside. I hope you all love Christine. Her poster is amazing. She's chupa-talented.



By the way if you can't tell the fact her name changed back to Toda...yeah. I know you all are my smart readers and I don't need to tell you guys anything you usually tend to catch my little hints.



Review of course if you would like. Even if this was depressing we must still follow our motto neh ? RER.



Now I know why I stopped writing Time Runs Out.



It would have turned out like this but WAY more depressing. (you can get MORE depressing?)



Yes my dear readers, yes I can. They do call me angsty for a reason.



On the upside. The next chapter gets a little easier on the heart.



So please look forward to that. I'm actually really proud of it.



And it's stupid...but if you want to before the next chapter. Go back and read Let's Trip Off The Edge of Reality Together again. It's kinda what I did to write it so



Preview: "She’s going to be the most beautiful wanted girl. I’m not worried about this little one. The girl I am worried about in this family is you Erika.”
Death and the Maiden by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME.



You guys sing the rest kay =D cause I'm updating XD





One Year Later

“MOM! MOM COME HERE!” Erika screamed as she took in her baby in front of her. Her baby who was smiling at her like absolutely everything was right in the world. Her baby who was two seconds away from jumping up and down and falling flat on her face.

“Your mom isn’t here but I am.” Meisa said from the door smiling at her best friend who immediately seeing her lit up with the smallest of smiles and came over to her and hugged her.

“Meisa, Mao just walked. Mao walked Meisa! Mao took her first steps into getting older and wiser and more mature and-“Erika ran over to her daughter and scooped up the indignant girl in her arms. The moment Mao saw Meisa and recognized the female she held her hands out towards Meisa who smiled at the little baby and took her into her own arms. Erika could hardly control her tears. “I still can’t believe it.”

Meisa scoffed for a second. “Please with this one? You have nothing to worry about!” She played with her god daughter’s hands who was giggling happy. “She’s going to go marching through life without a look behind huh? She’s going to be the most beautiful wanted girl. I’m not worried about this little one. The girl I am worried about in this family is you Erika.” Meisa turned to look at her best-friend at this point who looked back at her with a confused expression evident on her face. “You haven’t been out of the house for a year now. You haven’t done anything to even move on from Jin even if you’ve sent him the divorce papers. Come on Erika…at the very least if you’re separating from him you should get back out there. What happened to the young girl who was as frivoulous as me?”

Erika couldn’t help but take offence to her best friend’s words as she glared at her. “Excuse me Meisa, I’m sorry if you don’t understand because you’re too busy with certain leaders.” She gave her a pointed look on the subject of her father but of course repeated none of it. They had been together for so many years now she was shocked at how pathetic Meisa was being. “I became a mother. My priority is my daughter. Not any stupid party.” She reached out to grab Mao who started crying as soon as she was in her mother’s arms. Though it was probably the way Erika was clutching onto her tightly the way she was to her excuse.

Meisa saw right through it though. She never let comments like that affect her, not after close to five years with Takuya, “Say what you want to say Erika. Even Mao knows you’re ridiculous. Jin’s going to send the papers in soon. He’s not coming back Erika. He left you in that hospital room. You were alone. He made that decision.”

Erika didn’t know how to let Meisa know the details. She hadn’t told any of her family or friends that she had pushed him to leave. She knew that now, she was trying to wait it out as much as she could. She believed in him, she really did. He would come back for her.

What she didn’t believe was that he hadn’t written to her, or even sent a stupid cheque she wouldn’t cash for their daughter. He had not even attempted to restore communication since she’d sent him the papers. She didn’t know if this was a good thing or a bad thing.

“I have tickets…tonight. They’re Death and the Maiden with Shota. It’s the first time he’s done work since his first play as he’s been busy with his own son Jun, politics and his wife. It’s rumored to be a hit.”

Erika’s breath hitched in her throat and she felt Mao’s fingers brush across her arm as if trying to comfort her. Erika gave a small smile to her baby and walked towards the crib to set her down. “I can’t leave Mao alone tonight.”

“You can and you will.” Nao walked upto them and Meisa and her exchanged a quick look before she continued to her daughter. “Erika. You are going to that play. At the very least you’ll get some time away from your daughter which can be a good thing you know,” Her look was so pointed that Erika was forced to wonder if her mother wanted time away from her.

“Mom you can’t possi-“

“No. I think you need to stop this Erika, you need to stop pretending like Mao’s world and yours is going to come crashing down if you don’t spend every waking moment with her. Enough is enough. You’re going out tonight and that’s the end of it.” Nao walked over to her granddaughter’s crib and the baby and her exchanged quick smiles before she turned back to look at her daughter. “Am I understood?”

------------------------------------------------------
“I don’t think I’m dressed appropriately.” Meisa had fashioned her into a beautiful blue pixie dress that reached below her knees. Erika wasn’t too fit anymore since the pregnancy so she didn’t fit into it all that perfectly but it was just a play and it would be dark so she supposed it didn’t matter. It was baggy and loose and the straps fell off her shoulders easily.

It was just the idea of seeing Shota since she’d been through so much. Her entire life had changed. Every time she met him her life changed.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Erika had read the play in school and she was completely engrossed as she watched the last scene get acted out in front of her. Shota had been battered and beat by the actress on stage who was playing Paulina.

“Tell me you sick fuck. TELL ME IT WAS YOU THAT DID THAT TO ME.” She pointed the revolver at Shota who was tied to the chair as Roberto.

“Paulina!” As her husband made the move to stop her she turned the gun on him.

As the room blacked out the sound of a gunshot echoed past the audience and Erika yelped, a hand leaping to jump onto her chest as she felt the tears stain her eyes. Paulina was a woman affected by the trials and tribulations Chile had gone through but recently with the political plight Erika felt herself crying as she felt the hard body of a man slip into the seat beside her.

“I didn’t think you’d actually come when I gave Meisa the tickets.” She jumped as she felt a familiar voice creep up her neck. He was leaning so close to her that when she turned to look at him she was sure she felt his breaths fall directly onto her lips. His voice was low and soft…and while it was probably because of the fact that he was still supposed to be acting her head imagined it was because she’d had that effect on him. “I’m happy to see you here.”

Erika couldn’t respond as the lights turned on and she saw that a mirror had been placed strategically in front of the audience and she flipped to turn to look beside her and the empty seat had been filled by a man that was looking fixedly at the mirror. He was surrounded by a white phantasmagoric light that outlined his face beautifully. His eyes were drifting towards somewhere else and Erika felt her eyes move past his magnetic presence to look at what had captured her favorite actor’s attention.

Paulina was staring back at him while Gerardo spoke slowly to say something or the other but Erika felt her irises water as she watched Shota and the actress stare at each other under their eyes, words unspoken, thoughts not thought, just presences…existence.

Shota looked positively heavenly as if he wasn’t real anymore.

And then the lights turned on again and Erika couldn’t hold the tears back as they flowed down her cheeks.

She was surprised when she felt his hand clasp around hers. “Don’t cry,” His hands were warm and comforting in a way that Erika had to immediately remind herself to pull her hand back. “Come meet me at the back in thirty minutes okay? I want to talk to you. I’ll wait…I won’t leave till you come.”

She gulped. And then within seconds he was back on in front of the stage, the mirror moved as the three aligned themselves proportionally and she couldn’t help but feel like Shota was staring right at her even if the lights behind her were probably blinding him.
End Notes:
KAY OMG. I'M GONNA REVIEW REPLY SOONTIMES. (I'M BEHIND ON REVIEWS)



I PROMISEEEEE.



BUT RIGHT NOW I NEED TO GO GET DRESSED.



THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH FOR READING. I LOVE YOU SHAN, WANANI, DAISY, JESS, AND CHRISTINEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE



YOU GUYS MAKE ME HAPPY.



AND YOU GIVE ME MY CRACK! (reviews...not the actual crack)



As you can tell I am very happy.



AND IF MY SILENT READERS WANT TO MAKE ME HAPPY YOU CAN REVIEW TELLING ME HAPPY BIRTHDAY. (you probably don't want to but it's cool it's cool. AT LEAST MAKE AN ACCOUNT HERE AS A HAPPY BIRTHDAY GIFT TO ME OKAY =D? CAUSE AFF IS AWESOME)



IMMA UPDATE YLIMD IS TONIGHT AS THE END TO MY BIRTHDAY ERIKA'S IN THE BEGINNING BECAUSE...WELL IT'S FINISHED FIRST.



NOW IMMA SHUT UP.



You Could Save Me From Myself by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
He was heavenly beautiful.



She was sinfully gorgeous.



Heartbeat is a decent accompaniment to this chapter in it's latter half when Erika and Meisa are by themselves.



(Heartbeat - Enrique Iglesias)





She wasn’t ready for this. Her heart beat furiously in rejection of the prospect that Shota had presented her with and she wanted to race away from her fears. “Meisa…I need to go home.” Her words were fluid but Meisa wasn’t looking at her or indeed even seeing her. Meisa was enthralled by the person who had sat beside her all evening and this certainly wasn’t changing as the play finished its term on the stage.

However she wasn’t that much of a bitch that she wouldn’t introduce her best friend to the man who had captured her attention entirely this evening. “Ah Erika, this is Mukai Osamu-san. He’s Shota’s religious advisor.” The man in front of Meisa was alarmingly beautiful. So much so that Erika was afraid to look at him directly for fear of her shock seeping through.

“Nice to meet you Erika-san,” He held his hand out to Erika who nodded and bowed.

“Ah that’s true. The Toda’s are a very traditional family.” Osamu bowed low as well. “I am a Shinto practitioner and I’m aiding the royal family with some personal business until I have to go manage my family’s own shrine.” He added to Meisa’s introduction with a sheepish sort of grin on his face as he looked at the exotic beauty in front of him. Sure, he may have been talking to Erika but his eyes couldn't stray away from the face of-

“Ah…where is your shrine located? If I’m ever in the area I’ll stop by. I have a feeling I might have to turn to religion soon.” Osamu’s raised eyebrows were all it took to make Meisa feel like she’d just said something really stupid. She giggled nervously as he curled his lips in to his mouth so that the slightest sheen of saliva was present when they let out as a smile.

“Ano I mean…” Erika decided to save her friend the embarrassment as she smiled at the advisor.

“So how long will you be working with the royal family?” She couldn’t help but nudge her friend lightly to act more logically.

“About a year I think. I perform all the religious ceremonies in the imperial palace for now, this is my temporary post. It was nice meeting you Kuroki-san, Toda-san. I have to go back and do a blessing for our newest addition to the royal family, Jun.” Osamu tilted his head in greeting and made a move to leave them. Erika could barely hold back her laughter. She wished he could just leave so she could make fun of Meisa.

Meisa had no such plans. “Erika has a child too!” Meisa suddenly burst out loud so that Erika turned to look at her with a completely indignant expression. Seriously?

Now she just wanted to punch her best friend. “Is that so?” Osamu inquired but did not judge as he bowed low. It was obvious though that as he raised his head he grazed his eyes past her body analyzing it for signs of birth.

Erika suddenly felt highly conscious of her figure again.

“If you would ever like a blessing done for your child, feel free to contact me Toda-san.” He offered her a simple card with his number scrawled to Erika but it was Meisa who snatched it away.

“Arigato gozaimashta!” She grinned widely and Mukai looked like he could barely hold back his laughter as he brought his hand to Erika’s and lifted it to press a kiss. Meisa looked like she was eagerly awaiting her turn but he simply smiled and walked away from her. “Incorrigible these men of god.” Erika heard her mutter and stifled a chuckle as he smiled with his eyes at both of them leaving the doors of the room.

Within moments Erika grabbed her friend’s shoulder and twisted her around to face her. “What was that about?”

“Nothing.” Meisa tossed the card her way as if she had not a care in the world and Erika rolled her eyes.

“I don’t want that! You keep it. You’re the one interested in a priest.” She pointed out factually and Meisa laughed nodding along with their private joke.

“A hot priest.” She added with the slightest bit of a mischief reaching her eyes.

Erika couldn’t hold herself back from chastising her best friend. She was being ridiculous! Priests did not- well…how did priests get married anyways? “MEISA!”

“ERIKA!” Meisa shot back and the two burst into laughter as they walked down the stairs. Meisa’s shoulders slumped just the slightest bit as she turned back to look at her best friend as they made their way down. “That card is no use to me.” Her admittance was soft as if she didn’t want anyone else to hear as she remembered the man who had sat beside her the entire play. Offered her such insights into the conflicts of the characters she could hardly remember the play itself but really only the movement of his hands as he explained something or the other. He was the most decent man she had ever met. His eyes had never once strayed from her face to look at anything else. He had been so entirely consumed with discovering more about her opinions, her perceptions, her ideas that he had never once let his eyes linger away from hers. She had never met someone like him, someone who she could not make turn around and love her at first sight. It had been the first time her heart fluttered in her chest like a school girl, that she remembered the innocence of it all. She remembered her life before Takuya, before she had turned into the hateful woman she was now.

The purity of the experience with the priest had scarred her more than she'd thought.

She turned to look at her best friend with conflict present in her eyes as Erika's brows furrowed in confusion. "Why ever not?” Her only friend asked of her.

Meisa faltered for a second, the old Meisa wanted to cry and scream and throw things around. The Meisa she showed to the world had come to accept her place in society. Meisa let out a bitter laugh as she let a hand rest on Erika’s wrist. “No priest is going to marry Toda Takuya’s mistr-“Her eyes suddenly widened and she turned to look at her best friend clasping a hand over her mouth at the realization of her almost admittance. What she’d been ready to say in good humor suddenly made their situation grave as quick tears seemed to touch both their eyes for different reasons.

Erika felt her fists tighten as she imagined her father with her best friend and shut her eyes tightly. She gulped as she felt the underlying issue. That had always been there throughout their friendship. Without her father she may have never met her best friend…but god she wished that Meisa would find someone who was worth her, someone better than Toda Takuya. Toda Takuya was a despicable man...and he had never done anything for anyone who's life he had touched.

Erika still couldn’t address their relationship openly of course but she could not stand there watching her friend crumble underneath the strain of her title, the gossip, the looks she got so frequently just for feeling what she did towards her father. So Erika simply laid a hand on her friend’s hand and removed it from her mouth and lightly caressed her hair. “Don’t you dare say a word more…” She started softly and Meisa’s eyes hardened as she felt the meaning of the words differently as how Erika meant them. “Any man, priest or not, would be lucky to have your Kuroki Meisa. You are phenomenal…” She felt Meisa soften under her watchful gaze and the girl looked as if she was going to burst into tears any second now. “And you are worth far more than what you usually settle for.” It was all she could say, but she hoped to god it was enough.

Meisa couldn’t hold it back anymore as she leaped onto her best friend and hugged her. “You’re not so horrible yourself Toda Erika.”

Eri...when you trust, and when you touch. It comes from the heart in a way I’ve never ever seen with anyone else. Akanishi Erika...I don’t care if you want to take my heart out and stomp on it.

Erika felt the words wash over her with such a calm that she had not known she could feel when remembering Jin. He had given her one thing she would never lose, he had given her confidence in herself. For that she could never hate him. “I know,” She was soft as she looked into Meisa’s eyes as they backed off each other. “Can we go home now? I need to see Mao.” She admitted worriedly as she took in her best friend who sniffled as she wiped her tears away with the back of her hand.

“But what about-“

“I don’t think I’m up to much else tonight.” She didn’t want to explain why Jin wasn’t with her, she didn’t want to explain why she couldn’t stay out late, she didn’t want to explain the reason she felt like the most lonely woman in the world. Especially not to a Prince who seemed to make her heart beat as erratically as it had when she was so much younger, so much more foolish. She couldn't take it. Not tonight.

Meisa gave her a small smile and clutched onto her hand. “You don’t have to be. I’m just glad you enjoyed it. Shota was amazing wasn't he?” She pressed a small kiss on Erika’s forehead and Erika acted grossed out as Meisa laughed out loud. “Shut up you love it! Now let’s go. We’ll go grab some food and then get home okay? I’m starving!”

Erika was going to say no but then her stomach growled and betrayed her. So she shrugged and walked along with her best friend relieved that she didn’t have to speak to Shota today. But as she turned around to look at the stage she saw him come dashing out of the wings as he took in his surroundings.

If she wanted to flatter herself and create a romantic fantasy in her head like the old Erika she would have dreamed that he was there because he was racing to find her. His chest heaved with love that was in his heart for the woman he had not seen in so many years. His every thought was occupied solely with the girl who was snatched away from him before he could capture her in his arms and keep her there forever. He would breathe life into her and convince her not to leave him a second time.

Not to leave him. Her thoughts rushed back to the hospital room and the tears tinged her eyes again. She couldn't get away from him, no matter how hard she tried...and alone without Mao it was harder to look away from the memories that sprung up in her heart.

But he left anyways didn’t he?

She shook the thought out of her head as she turned around and shut the door behind her catching Shota’s gaze at last as she offered him a weak tear-filled smile as she stalked out of the play hall, her heels clicking on the marble floors.

Exactly in time with each sob that begged to be released from her chest.

------------------------------
End Notes:
Light? Heavy? Iunno?



Yeah it was kind of a mix neh?



If you look at Erika's fantasy you should be able to notice something. I'll tell you what next chapter. If I forget remind me cause sometimes I'm an idiot.



Thank you so much to everyone who reviewed. I'm addicted to this story. And this is my favourite chapter in a while. The next chapter should have the return of our favourite two-some Ryotan and Mao-chan. YAY!



Erika's really hurt I'm sorry. I wish I could make her get over Jin faster but I don't think it's realistic.



I love this story. GAH. So proud of it. It's so angsty, and sweet, and EVERYTHING I'VE EVER WANTED A STORY TO BE. So to who ever's reading this with me I seriously want to thank you for supporting me. I LOVE YOU MY: CHRIST TINES, LIBRA JEMS, LITTLE DAISYS, AND BINI PUNKISTAS (Christine, Jess, Daisy and Shan =D)



See you soon. Cause I'm in love with the way the second part of this story is turning out.
Read My Memories, Tear At My Soul, Mend My Heart by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
ZOMFG. HAI MAO! WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?



THEY MISSED YOU~!



The Fear - Lily Allen




------------------------------


“Back then I had believed that there was no way I would ever make it out of the cage that Takuya had kept us all in. I had joined late sure but I had suffered most…because I was like the free bird that had come to be trapped. Erika and Nao had always been there.” Meisa's voice was soft as she lifted her hand slowly to open the box in front of her and Mao was sure she saw her godmother’s eyes start watering.

Why had Meisa disappeared from her life anyways?

“I want you to have this Mao.” Meisa lifted a picture from the box. In the picture it was her mother, Shota, her Majesty Maki with a little boy in her arms, Meisa, and two other men she did not quite recognize clearly, one who was quite clearly holding...

Her?

“This was the first moment your mother realized that the world did not end when your father left or you weren't there.” Mao let her fingers slowly graze past the old photo as she felt tears touch her own eyes.

Erika had her arms around Meisa and Mao was struck at how beautiful the two of them looked together.

“Keep it all actually…I used to have these to remember your mother by but if anyone has deserves these photos..you do.” Meisa pushed the box towards her roughly and stalked out of the room as Mao was left alone with all of Meisa’s memories in her hands.

They shook as she tossed aside the other picture in which her mother could not stop looking at his royal highness.

Her fingers found another. It was one of her in her baby crib at the hospital, she frantically looked through more. There was fabric of an old dress attached with a note.

“Mao’s first dress.” Why did Meisa have all of these? Why did Meisa have all of these memories of her?

She gulped as her hands reached an envelope and she quickly flipped it over so all the contents dashed and flew around her as she let her hands search through the information enclosed. Trying her hardest to look at it objectively.

Meisa,

Erika won’t reply to any of my letters. Meisa please. I need to tell her to wait. Please.

Please. I need my family back.

Jin.


She tossed it aside trying to ignore the way her heart beat furiously underneath her chest making her every cell shiver in pain as she grabbed onto other letters that had tumbled out.

Meisa,

Is Mao all right? Please tell me she’s all right. I understand that you have now left Takuya. I hope that you are faring well…he never deserved you in the first place.

Did I ever deserve Erika?

Jin


Then there was one dated after she knew her mother had disappeared from her life completely and she flipped it open quickly as she scanned the contents.

Meisa,

Both Nao and Aya say I cannot take Mao. We have fought and I can’t take it anymore. I want my daughter! I want to raise her! I want to make sure she has everything her heart desires. I want her to know she has a father who loves her beyond measure. Meisa. Please help me.

She has no one now.

No one except me and I need to be a father to-


She couldn't read any more as she crashed her back against the wall as she felt the tears finally roll down her cheek the hot air of the room resting cool against the watery surface of her cheeks.

He had loved her. She had meant something to him.

Akanishi Jin, ambassador to China, her mother’s first true love, and her father.

She couldn’t control it as her memories floated back to her…except this time they were altered with every single fact she found out about her parents she found herself drowning in the idea of a happy childhood.

Instead of a clipped and angry Toda Takuya she had a loving, smiling Jin in her life. Instead of the sarcastic and wittily bitter Toda Nao she had a beautiful and extremely graceful mother teaching her all the little things she had to know to grow up.

Mao had grown up well…but not the way she had perhaps wished she had.

“ManMao!”

“SHUT UP!” She had punched them all out she could remember it easily as she rubbed the back of her hand against her nose and let out the pain in her chest.

“Mao?” She looked up at the voice and saw the man standing in front of her and she didn’t understand the way her heart reacted to him. The way it felt as if it could mend itself just a little with him around.

How long had she known him? Less than 24 hours…and yet with him by her side she had never felt more supported in her life. Within seconds of watching her quiet down at his appearance he walked towards her and enveloped her in his arms.

“He loved me.” Her words were muffled into his sweater as the tears soaked into his strong frame. She tried to ignore the way he smelt absolutely perfect like waffles and butter. She pushed her hands around him and clutched on like a little girl as she felt the tip of his chin land on the crown of her head.

“Your father?” She felt him pull her in closer so that she was practically on his lap as he rocked her from side to side as she sniffled in his grasp.

“All these years,” She hiccupped as she shut her eyes tightly looking onto the piles of information that just lay around. Her eyes finally landing on a photo of Kuroki Meisa and Akanishi Jin at Jin and Erika's wedding.

Both of them looked shockingly meant for each other she couldn’t help but remark with their perfectly structured high features. They looked like they were aristocrats…not Toda Takuya’s personal dolls.

“I always thought he was the coward my grandfather whispered into my ears. I never thought-“ She struggled for her words as Ryo lulled her quiet as he attempted to comfort her as best he could. His mouth let out a gush of air as she sobbed relentlessly and he could only repeat one phrase as he held onto her tighter with every cry from her heart showing itself.

“It’s okay.”

---------------------------------------

It was lunchtime and Meisa had laid out a small spread of rice and greens for them.

“Would you like to know more Mao after lunch?” Her words were sagely even when they were common and Mao could only look at this woman differently as she remembered her fathers letters to her.

For the first time in her life she fought in her heart for her father. “Why didn’t Erika receive any of the letters?” She asked softly as she pushed her bowl onto the table roughly glaring at the woman in front of her whose eyes shot up and Ryo looked between the women who had been so touched by this story that they had come to battle with one another.

“Hikari? Do you want to show onii-chan your room?” Mao may have been intent on striking Meisa down but at this statement she shook out of her reverie to look at him with wide eyes.

“EXCUSE ME?!” This was the kind of guy she was trusting?!

At first Ryo looked like he didn’t quite understand what had happened but then his own eyes widened at the innuendo that she had presented and he gasped whacking her arm as she fell over lightly. “Not like that baka! What kind of childhood did you have that you’re thinking of things like that!”

“At least I’m not a-!” But Ryo quickly clapped a hand on her mouth as he glared at her.

“At least I’m not a cry baby who needs to have her hand held constantly.” At that he lifted his other hand to show that he was still enclosed in her hand tightly and she blushed furiously as she licked his hand so that he yelped and pulled it off her mouth.

That shut her up as she hissed at him. She hated that she relied on him so much in so short a while.

Actually she hated that she relied on him period. She had never allowed herself to become so vulnerable to Shun, or the Prince that had become enamored with her for those three minutes where she was the perfect woman of his dreams.

“Hikari iko.” The little girl looked relieved to leave the tense room as Mao glared back at Ryo who only stuck his tongue out at her and made funny faces behind Meisa’s back as he exited the room.

Meisa could only let out a small tight smile as she watched the exchange between the two but she became so entirely aware that Mao’s eyes were glued to the door even after Ryo had left that she came to a realization.

“You love the boy don’t you?”

That caught her attention as Mao turned back to the actress turned priestess. “Excuse me?”

Meisa grabbed her chopsticks and stirred the greens before she placed it on top of her rice. “You love him…whoever he is to you.”

Mao let out a bitter laugh. “I had sex with him for the first time last night. I don’t think I love him. I’ve known him 24 hours.” There was no need to be censored with Meisa...this was the woman who had been involved in an adulterous relationship for so long people had considered her his concubine.

Meisa smiled as she closed her eyes and let her mind drift back to her golden days. “I fell in love with Takuya within five minutes of meeting him. I fell in love with the man I was with when I first saw him. Love has no time limit on it Mao. You would do well to know that.”

“I’m sorry things aren’t like they were back then Meisa.” At this Meisa let out a loud aah.

“So you are into females then?” Mao spat out her rice. What was with these people saying these things that shocked her today?

“Oh oh. Sorry Bisexuals they’re called right?” Mao slapped her chopsticks onto the table and Meisa laughed, the lines on her face making themselves as apparent as her history in Japan, one of the oldest and brightest sex symbols the country had ever seen. “This old woman has not lost her sense of humor oh heterosexual one.” She laid a hand softly onto Mao’s hand as she answered Mao’s initial question. “You cannot ask me why your mother never got your father’s letters Mao. Those are the letters he sent me. I cannot tell you anything…you must ask your grandmother.”

At this Mao really started laughing. “Nao? Please that woman will tell me nothing. She hates the idea that I want to know more about where I came from. I still don’t understand why I must be kept sheltered like this.”

Meisa sighed. “It is not that you must be kept sheltered. Your life will just be easier to live if you did not know about Erika.”

Mao’s smile faltered as she shook her head determinedly. “That’s where all of you are wrong.” The entire reason she had decided to go into history had been for this reason to be able to uncover the past. That same past that had been kept so limited to her since birth. “Isn’t knowing better than wondering?” She looked at the woman in front of her who had barely been doing any eating since they had started.

“I have been wondering since I was born…who am I? Where did I come from? Why was it my parents seemed so much older than others? Why didn’t I have a mother to teach me lady-like things? Why my father was never able to quiet put me on his back? Why were there pictures of this woman under my mother’s mattress? Until finally when I became a child I was able to understand that it wasn’t even my mother at all. They were my grandparents…why did my parents leave me?” She let out a slow gasp of air as she stared at Meisa who looked back at her as she flicked her hair.

“So no Meisa… my life has not been easier not knowing Erika." She sighed as she tiredly lifted her had to the rice bowl trying to ignore the look of pity that touched her god mother's face.

"At the very least...I want to stop wondering now Meisa."

--------------------------------------
End Notes:
SO YAY! Some Mao and Meisa love! Some more revelation on what's been going on with Jin. I guess when I decided to write him out of this part I didn't really decide well cause he's been mentioned at least once every single chapter XD my bad!



Well I really like his character here XD...I'm addicted gomen nasaii.



Try and guess who the other two guys in the picture were? Especially the one holding Mao? Have we met them yet? Humhum i have no idea XD.



But if you know me well you should be able to guess. HintHint: The character list on the first page can help you!



Last Chapters little hint:



If you notice in Erika's fantasy? It's exactly the way her relationship with Jin had started and turned out. When he'd first saved her from falling on that dance floor, when they first started acting as husband and wife, when they kissed, and the second time is the fantasy Erika has that Jin will come back and make sure she doesn't leave him a SECOND time. (Because she's left him once now =D)



Do you guys see it? Or was I just BSing the entire way through?



Thank you so much to everyone who read and of course reviewed. I love you guys =D Jess, Christine and wanani! super less than three.



Next chapter we're going back to Erika for some time before we come back to Mao WHO WE ALL MISSED SUPER YES?



And of course we missed sexy beast Ryo.



HE SO SEXY.



No I'm joking it's so creepy for me to say that...Blossy's going to freak out. Toma's getting mad and basically it's just bad to say that about a character.



But he is so sexy XD.



ETA! FOR THE MIDNIGHT READERS: OMGOMG guys I'm so sorry you guys thought Jin and Meisa got married. They so didn't. It's just that was a photo of them together at Erika's wedding =DD Jin wouldn't do that to Erika and neither would Meisa!
Shade and Shelter Me From Their Sunshine by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
LOTS OF INTRODUCTIONS.



SOMEONE'S CRAZY FAVOURITE MAN IS MENTIONED. SOME READER IS GOING TO SUPER LOVE THAT.



She walked past their kitchen and saw an envelope on the table…it was large. Like Jin’s acceptance letter.

But when she opened it waiting to see something all she could see was a tiny slip of paper sliced into a half with tear driven words scrawled into it.

Erika,

Are you still Akanishi? Or are you Toda? Were you always Toda? Did I imagine those days when you were someone else? Where we shared a bed together, read to Mao together, and fell in love together?

I don’t know what’s right or real anymore. I don’t know how I’m meant to feel anymore.

I miss you.

When do you think it’ll all be clear? I’m being taken over by the fear.

That you’ll actually leave me.

Erika…come back to me. I want you here…I need you here.


-------------------------------

She woke up. No that couldn’t be real…she raced outside. She had a feeling; she had the strangest feeling that Jin had written her something. She knew it. It had to be there…there would be no other reason she had dreamed of such a thing.

She’d been waiting for this…she had been waiting close to a year now. Mao’s first birthday was here. Her mother had called Mukai to bless her child, Meisa was of course coming as well right after work, and of course Toda Takuya was coming with her.

There was only one person missing from Mao’s blessing and he had-

She reached the door of her house to look down and find the spot where the mail would be uselessly tossed completely empty. She gulped as she felt her heart constrict. Of course not, why would he mail her anything? He hadn’t done so in close to a year. There was no reason-

She’d almost died today, she’d almost left him today.

And he didn’t care. She had to move on with her life at least a little right? She couldn't keep hoping desperately like this right?

She didn't notice that the day's newspaper was already lying clear on the dining table.

--------------------------------------------

“Can I have the child please?” Mukai asked and Erika nodded picking Mao up from her lap and handing him to Mukai who was seated isolated from everyone else. He was focused of course on the materials in front of him that he would use to bless Mao but every so often Erika could see the way he would allow his eyes to pass by the door carelessly.

Still he performed the ceremony to the best of his abilities and when Mao gurgled up spit he even cracked a small smile as he wiped it off with his robes. He tutted her and tickled her lightly so she giggled happily in his arms. Mukai was a good man and that much was clear by the way he handled himself in their house as a guest. He was perfectly gentlemanly even after the ceremony and played with Mao so much that Erika was sure he had a touch when it came to children. When she came to take her daughter away Mao had started crying as she held onto Mukai affectionately.

Erika didn’t want to think about it but she couldn’t help but imagine how Mao would have held onto Jin if he had been here with her. Not that it mattered. She couldn’t keep doing this to herself…even if she was waiting for him she had to stop dwelling on it.

A quick key into the door and all four of them, Mao included as she yelled an incomprehensible hello, heard the door crack open. In entered the most beautiful woman to grace television these past ten years, and Erika's very own restrictive crude and despicable father.

Meisa was laughing wildly at something Takuya had said, clutching onto his arms a little weakly as if she was having the time of her life with him as they walked into the one-year old’s birthday party.

“Mao!” Her father exclaimed and grabbed the little baby from Mukai’s arms and Erika smiled as the little baby spat happily in her father’s arms. At least someone loved Toda Takuya, even if Mao would learn with time that there was no point.

As Erika turned around to greet her best friend she saw Meisa’s mood looked visibly dampened at the sight of the ‘hot’ priest. “Mukai-san.” Meisa bowed low as she greeted the formally dressed Mukai. This time there was no flirtation in her eyes, no mischievousness, no trace of interest that had been present the last time they had seen each other. Just plain and simple greetings, her stance was firm and polite and her posture impeccable. Erika saw the way Mukai fiddled with his hands before loosely shoving them behind his back as he attempted to make conversation.

“Kuroki-san, it is a pleasure to see you again.” He stared at her under his eyes. This time it was Meisa whose breath shook the slightest as she cracked under the pressure of seeing him again. Meisa wasn’t sure why but every single time she saw him she felt unworthy of herself.

She let out a small sound of acknowledgement and walked away to her best friend. Just as quickly she was back to her lively old self as her arms embraced Erika. “Erika! Good you’ve put on some weight darling! Give me a hug! I’m entirely too tired and strung from making that horrible show Takuya wants to produce with me. He- well we decided it’s just going to be something a Japanese audience has never seen before!” Erika’s eyebrows furrowed. She already knew that why did Meisa have to say it again…it had been the talk of the town when Meisa had signed the agreement to do the show. None of them knew the exact details. It was under covers what Takuya was planning but there was no doubt it was necessary, with the network ready to go under. Takuya came home drunk most days and jumped into bed with her mother but Erika ignored it. She didn’t want to imagine her life like this anymore. She had no one to care for but Mao and she was going to make sure she did an excellent job of it. As she leaped apart from Meisa she was sure she smelled the slightest stench of tobacco and alcohol from her.

“Meisa…you didn’t drink did you?” Meisa’s eyes faltered from the fake light in them and she raced away to grab Mao from Takuya not bothering to answer Erika’s inquiry as she gleefully tossed Mao up into the air. Erika’s heart jumped in her throat as she came forward and took Mao away again from the pair of them.

God they were so mutually destructive. When would Meisa realize that there was more to life than being forever linked to Takuya?

She was further shocked when she saw that after for the first time Erika had ever known in her life she saw her mother and Meisa hug, while Meisa loosely hung off Nao’s shoulders. They whispered into each others ears and laughed.

It was a sight truly strange for her to see.
.
Since when had those two gotten friendly with each other? She decided not to question it as the door bell rang once more. So she handed Mao to her mother and she ran to the entrance from her kitchen opening it quickly to see a little boy standing outside her door.

She hadn’t invited any children. So who could he be? Everyone that was supposed to be here was.

“Hello!” He yelled and Erika couldn’t help but laugh at how he yelled it. He had purpose in his voice even at such a young age. He couldn’t have been older than three or four.

“Hi there! Would you like to come in?” She shot back smiling at him as he shook his head furiously.

“No Daddy said to wait out here as he finishes up some work with Mommy.” The little boy flicked his eyes upwards towards her and shyly turned his foot into the ground. “I'm tired of waiting ...and I'm a wittle scared. Can you be with me please? Is that okay?” He asked softly and Erika couldn’t help but want to giggle a little. Would Mao be like this too?

“Of course it is. Here come hold my hand. I’ll wait till your dad comes in.” It was probably one of her father’s co-workers who had come along to the blessing. It wasn’t really meant to be a big affair. The Todas couldn’t afford that sort of lifestyle anymore. Not with all the productions they were pumping out with hopes of them reaching the masses.

“Thank you!” The little boy smiled thoughtfully as he clutched onto Erika’s long fingers with his own little ones and Erika couldn’t help but want to hold him in her arms.

“Where’s your mommy shouldn’t she be looking after you?”

“Mommy and Daddy are arguing about Toma Uncle’s injury. She wants to help take care of him but Daddy is saying no… she wants our other uncle to come home and make medicine for him. Daddy keeps telling her our uncle is needed somewhere else.”

“Ah why did Toma Uncle get hurt? Were you too heavy in his arms?” She tutted him softly and the little boy’s eyes widened.

“No! Jun-sama is not fat! Jun plays a lot of sports!” He pointed to himself and held his head up high as he looked at her with proud eyes. So proud she was shocked to be seeing them in a four year old.

“Jun it’s not good to not introduce yourself to guests.” The voice of the man was low as he smiled at his child and immediately the little boy in front of her broke into the largest grin.

“Daddy!” He yelped as he let go of Erika's hand and ran towards his father. She could hear the oofs of the man as Jun jumped into his arms and that was when she saw him.

He looked as royal as ever. He had on a white button down shirt with brown khaki pants, his hair falling over his face as he played with his child in his arms and when he turned to hold his other hand out to Erika his eyes widened.“Oh. Erika…I didn’t know Mukai was doing the ceremony for your child. I'm sorry I interrupted."

There he was on her property standing nonchalantly like he was someone normal as he played with Jun’s fingers within his own and Erika gulped weakly as she bowed again.

“Ouji-sama-“ She started making sure her bow was extremely low as she felt him come over and pick her up by the arm again.

“Don’t be stupid you can always call me Shota. I hate the idea of you calling me anything else.” He smiled and set Jun down as they walked into her house together and she left the door open. “Hey big man…go find Uncle Mukai okay? We have to leave soon.” Jun nodded happily seeing that he had received an assignment from his father and leaped towards the stairs. “HOLD THE BANISTER PLEASE!” Shota yelled out and Erika couldn’t help but feel her heart stop at the way he was acting. Princes had the time to be fathers? Jun gave his father a toothy smile back as he ran up without holding the banisters and stuck his tongue out. “Little boys huh?” He shot back at her smiling as if she would understand.

“Mao’s only a year old so I wouldn’t really know.” She spoke softly as she lifted a hand to run through her hair and made a move to grab some of the food that was laying uselessly around her kitchen. “I- I have some food if you want you know oui- Shota.” She corrected herself feeling her mind revert to that of a teenage Erika. She was nervous, of course she was nervous! There was a prince in her house! Standing there looking at her as if she was even at the same level as him! Which was kind of him sure but completely untrue?

“Erika I don’t need any food.” He started but she turned around shaking her head.

“No, no I insist.” What else could she talk to him about anyways? "So-"

She didn’t have to wonder for long as another woman’s voice filtered through the kitchen as she stepped through the door that Erika had left open now. “Shota?” Erika couldn’t help but turn around at the sound of the childish tone and she took into her eyes the image of the most regal woman she had ever seen.

“Maki…this is Erika. I told you about her remember?” Shota smiled as he placed an arm around his wife’s waist who turned to look at Erika with surprisingly kind eyes. She didn’t know why but she had automatically expected Maki to be some form of demon. The reality was quite the contrary.

“Matsuda Maki-desu yoroshiku.” Her grin faltered a little as she took in the image of the perfect royal couple as they stood embracing each other smiling at her.

"MAMA!" Jun rushed back down without holding the banister as Shota yelled at him and he leaped into his mother's arms just as he had leaped into Shota's arms before. "Mukai uncle said he'd be down after he finished speaking with the onee-chan."

She hated the way her heart crumbled at the sight of Shota and Maki holding onto each other as they looked lovingly upon Jun. It was heart wrenching as she saw the faces transform before her eyes.

I'm not here...I'm sorry. His voice was soft as it filtered in...and she knew it was her imagination but god she wished he was here with her.

If only to not leave her alone and defenseless against the most perfect family in all of Japan as Shota's eyes turned towards her with a demanding gaze in his eyes as he asked her the inevitable question.

"Where's Jin?"

He probably expected an answer like- upstairs.

Erika couldn't stand the pity in his eyes that came about the moment the words left her mouth. "He's no longer here with me." It was the only answer she could give honestly at the moment as she watched their faces transform. Maki's grew to look increasingly sympathetic as Shota's own features grew into a mixed look she couldn't be bothered to decipher. She bowed low again. "Excuse me. I must go check on my daughter."

So she let her feet make her run away as she crashed into the door of the upstairs bathroom and locked herself in.

She was pathetic.
End Notes:
So not really a cliffhanger but yeah =D an end. I'm sorry if that was choppy you guys. I hope you liked our little Jun and other little details I managed to worm into here.



Lots of exposition we have to get out of the way but we introduced a bunch of new characers here. =D ARE WE HAPPY? we're so happy.



I'm so tired I'm gonna go crash into a little corner now.



I LOVE YOU ALL. Thank you so much for reviewing Shan, wanani, and Christine =D It's 5:42. And I have to now LEGIT be up in two hours so =D I have to get to beds! I will review reply once my life is over apparently because school and work like to leave me no time for AFF properly. T.T



See you next chapter! Read Enjoy Review!



The World Spins But We Stay Still by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
Can I start by saying wow.



Wow guys. 3800 O.O I'm in shock. Thank you so much. I don't think I could ever repay you guys for making me stand here and look at that number and cheer on the inside with happiness.



but I'll try with 5500 words which is the approximate length of this chapter.



Hey Erika,

I can't help but wonder if I should start over? Like we were never childhood bestfriends, like we were never married, like our little girl didn’t exist. Maybe that would finally make you reply to me.

Hi I’m Akanishi Jin. Yoroshiku.

Forgive me?

Heh…I should know better. Pretending to be cute can’t help our matter any can it?


"My papa is the lamest man I know." Mao giggled as she read the letter unable to stop herself from feeling a strange fondness for the man as Meisa laughed.

"He was actually considered quite cool by everyone at the station. Now where were we?"

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Meisa stood beside her car staring at the front door of the house in which lay the man that owned her soul. She couldn’t help but want to stay away from the door…but she knew her friend was waiting inside for her and without her help she could never be free.

Meisa was determined to free Toda Erika if it was the last thing she did. She may not have been her mother...but she sure as hell was her sister.

That is why Meisa did not expect the way Nao came out and stood beside her. “Meisa.”

“Nao.” She acknowledged bowing over to the senior woman. Over the years what had started as a petty rivalry over Takuya had developed into something more when Nao realized that Meisa was here to stay. Meisa still didn’t quite know what to act like around Nao. After all…what did you say to the woman whose husband you were sleeping with? What was the appropriate address for the woman? San, sama, chan?

Understanding their complications they had decided to leave it at their names.

“I heard about what Takuya’s making you do.” Meisa felt her hair shoot over her face reflexively as she turned away from Nao. She couldn’t help but hate that this woman knew. Nao was the epitome of everything Meisa had always wanted to be. Regal, elegant, strong, hell when Jin had left she had recruited Meisa in keeping his letters secret from Erika. They were all stashed away in her own apartment hidden from sight so that Erika could never find them.

She hadn’t opened them only because every time she thought of the way he pushed Erika to let him go she felt anger down to her toes. If anyone knew the type of girl Erika was, it was Jin. She was neither weak nor strong, she was bratty as hell and utterly too dependent upon those who she trusted. She threw her life in their hands and never asked for it back.

“ ‘It’s something Japan has never seen.’ ” She turned to look at Nao with a ghost of a smile on her face that if perhaps she hadn’t been actress would have looked fake but Meisa was no failure. She acted too well but when she felt Nao’s hand touch her own she couldn’t stop the way it fell.

Especially when she saw the way Nao looked at her.

It was the same way the priest looked at her.

“Meisa…you don’t have to do it. I’m not saying this out of love for Takuya because I have never loved him-“

She couldn’t bear to hear more because honestly she tried to avoid the idea of it as much as she could most days. So she cut her off. “But I have. I have loved him.” Meisa felt her eyes glass over as she covered them from the woman shaking her head. No she refused to look so weak in front of Toda Nao. “So whatever you were trying to tell me Nao please don’t…because we all knew he’d end up using me like this.” Nao looked at her with pity and that is the very look Meisa detested because there was nothing to be pitied here. Why should anyone pity her? This was her choice. She had chosen this way. She shut her eyes and heardhis whispers fly past her ears again as if they were still fresh.

‘You’re mine Meisa.’

Almost reflexively her mind came over and placed other words in her head.

‘You’re who you choose to be…is this really what you want to choose?’

These were words that resembled hope, hope another man had given her- falsely probably but hope never the less. He had never offered her explicitly what she had somehow grown to yearn from him...but he had continuously supported her.

Such conflicting words who was she supposed to believe?

“Meisa…you’re better than that.I know you don’t exactly like me but I just want you to know that. Erika should be out any moment now.” Nao turned to look at her but Meisa couldn’t meet eyes with the woman. She was too ashamed. She was ashamed of the choices she’d made so far that had led her all to here.

When she was young and naïve she had thought she could take on the world. When she’d arrived in Tokyo from Okinawa she had been exotic and different and everyone had wanted a piece of the beautiful and master deceiver that Meisa had convinced them she was.

That was when she had met Takuya. An executive in his late forties who smoked entirely too much and made her entirely too aware of herself. The first time he kissed her, the first time he’d taken everything from her without even letting her know, the first time she’d discovered here she was trapped in his cage, the first time she realized that she was living only the way Takuya wanted her to. The first time she realized she had no one else left.

And here she was- trying to free his daughter from the very prison he’d placed her in as well. Could a prisoner really free another prisoner?

Nao didn’t know. Nao didn’t have to know. Meisa would free Erika because she had always felt guilty that she had never let Erika run away all those years ago, she had pushed Jin and Erika together, and she had always listened to Takuya.

She didn’t have to listen any longer.

Not when he refused to listen to her.

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They entered the palace and the moment they drove up towards the entrance a man was at their door taking the car from them and a maid motioned for them to follow her. Erika held on tighter to Mao who was nestled in her arms and Meisa rolled her eyes.

“One of these days Mao’s going to grow up and want you to let go of her Erika.” Erika laughed at her friend’s jab at her and shook her head tickling her giggling daughter.

“Well until her rebellious age I think I’ll stick with being absolutely reliant on this little one.” Mao gurgled happily in her arms staring at every single thing they passed by with a wondorous expression on her face that matched Erika’s identically.

Erika was absolutely floored by how perfectly serene the Imperial Palace was. The wooden paneled hallways, the maids running around in yukatas. Greenery everywhere. Then they were led towards a more modern wing in the palace where the ceilings were high and splattered with all the luxuries one might expect to see within a more western Royal Family. Until finally they were guided into a room where the maid made a prompt knock and the door was turned open.

“Your highness Princess Maki of Hokkaido, Kuroki Meisa-san and Toda Erika-san are here to pay their visit to the family.” The maid bowed after announcing their presence and stepped the side so that Erika finally had a full view of the young royal. Maki looked far younger now than she had earlier when Erika had met her. It might have been because she had barely been paying attention. Honestly she’d concentrated on getting away from them as far as possible but when Maki and Shota had issued the invitation after pausing for tea at their house it was all they could do to not agree as hospitable hosts.

“Kuroki-san! Toda-san! What a pleasure it is to see you two again.” The young girl was dressed in a suit of pure cream that was stitched heavenly and clung to her figure in a way that was both alluringly beautiful and tasteful. Aspects of which Erika was sure applied to her personality and the image she portrayed of Japan to the world at large.

From what little Erika knew of the Royal family she knew Shota was currently second-in-line for the throne with his brother Ryuhei the current Crown Prince. The dispute between everyone was generally larger as it had been proven multiple times that the queen was not exactly fertile and Ryuhei was said to be the son of a concubine who died in childbirth.

Still facts remained facts and as of the current moment Ryuhei was first-in-line for the throne and so far Shota had made no indication of his want for the empire of Japan. So other than his marriage Erika supposed he had the freedom to do whatever on earth he pleased. Jun was however third-in-line because Ryuhei-sama had been unable to conceive with his wife Chiaki.

“I’m so glad you two could make it.” Maki was not alone in the room and this much became apparent when the smile on Meisa’s face grew increasingly plastic and Erika recognized it as a defense mechanism she had gotten far too used to seeing on her friend’s face.

“Hime-sama, Osamu-san.” Meisa bowed her head low and lifted it and Erika followed her lead.

“Toda-sama.” Mukai tilted his head towards Erika and she smiled back noting the way he tucked his closed palms into his side before turning to Meisa and bowing low towards her as well. “Meisa.” His eyes may have stayed on her face for a moment too long but Erika wasn't sure...maybe she was looking for ways to imagine her friend happier than she currently was.

“I’m so excited you two have arrived. I think you’re probably my only event for the day that isn’t entirely boring.” Maki reached over to hug Meisa with open arms and an open heart. “I’ve always enjoyed your work Kuroki-san your portrayal of Haruhi in Anata has probably been one of my favourite performances of all time.” Meisa blushed as she bowed low again and felt her smile relax as she concentrated solely on the princess who was addressing her.

“Arigato gozaimashta.” Maki smiled and shook her head as she took the older girl’s hand in her own and explained.

“It gave me encouragement as a young girl to learn the ways of the world faster. And I did…I was a political science major at Todai until father pulled me out. I figured there’s no better position to learn in than the one I’m in though. So I suppose in the end no harm done.” She turned to look at Mao who was still in Erika’s hands and leaned forward and reached for her. “I hope you don’t mind but I’ve always loved little girls.” Mao immediately leaped forward like the friendly baby she was and as Maki made faces towards her the girl jumped happily in her arms gurgling far too much spit. Like an elegant lady however Maki seemed to have a napkin on hand as she wiped Mao's mouth and turned happily towards Erika. “I hope you don’t mind but Yui will be more than happy to take care of both Jun and Mao today so you can truly relax.” Maki offered her a wide grin and Erika wasn’t quite sure what to say but Meisa was punching her foot with her heel so Erika shook her head in approval.

“Thank you.” She smiled. Maki seemed to positively beam at Erika’s approval but her smile grew interrupted as Mukai tapped her highness on her shoulders.

“Your grace, it would probably be good to ask them to have a seat don’t you think?” Mukai hinted a smile on his face as he observed the youthful princess who seemed to be everywhere at once as she handed over Mao to the maid who seemed already enamored with the little girl in her arms.

Erika couldn't help but wonder how on earth her daughter had gained so much charisma in such a short while?

Maki burst into a small fit of giggles that was as elegant as her up-do as she guided them towards the table. “And I’ve been especially excited to meet you Toda-san.” Mukai sat down directly beside Maki and Meisa sat on his other side so Erika sat on her side a chair between them where Erika could only assume Shota would sit once he arrived.

Erika let out a small smile shaking her head. “I can’t imagine why I’m not much more than ordinary I’m sorry to disappoint.” She bowed her head again and Maki looked stumped as if she hadn’t quite expected a response like that.

“Not at all…I understand we were much in the same situation from what Shota has relayed to me.” She spoke with such conviction but Erika was being truly honest when she said she had no idea what on earth she could have ever had in common with Maki.

But Meisa was the one who jumped in for her friend. “What have you heard of our darling little Erika then?”

Maki tilted her hand forward slightly so that the tea that poured from the pot settled delicately into the cup as she passed them around. “Well… from what I hear we were in quite similar situations. At the top of our games when our fathers decided to pull the plug on us. Erika used to act and she got the principal lead in Matsuyama Ken’ichi’s Hanabi at first didn’t she?” Maki smiled widely as she leaned back into her chair. “Just as your father stopped you, my father wasn’t quite so approving of my interests.” Maki admitted a sad sort of smile coming on her face. “ ‘Women are not fit to be political figures’. Something of the like. So instead of being the first lady Japan has seen to take the prime minister position here I am a princess.”

“This is the story of almost every woman in this country. Men seem to always think that women are incapable in some form or way. If only the Japanese could learn to be as forward as some of the other countries in the world.” Meisa sighed weakly and stirred the tea that Mukai placed in front of her thanking him softly under her breath.

He didn't quite reply but Erika noted again that he did look at her face for a second too long before he started speaking once he realized Maki's attention was on him. “Either of you two could tackle any argument thrown at you in a debate. Our hime-sama has the uncanny ability to turn any insult into flattery and Meisa is the type of woman that one does not cross.” Mukai assured them and Maki rolled her eyes.

“Flattery will give you everywhere but I fear your method of aim is not quite as useful as you had hoped for.” She teased as the priest grew flustered his head shaking.

“I was merely announcing an observation. It was not my intent to flatter anyone.”

Maki laughed as she turned to look at Erika with what seemed to be a little bit of mischief in her eyes. “Maybe it should be.” She teased as the door opened and the maid marched in quickly.

“His grace Matsu-“ She was not able to announce the arrival of the next individual to their quiet party as the man leaped into the room quickly a towel swung over his shoulder. His wet locks of hair swooping down over his face that had a smile plastered on as he approached them. He was wearing brown khaki pants and a white button down shirt.

There was no word that Erika could use to describe him as other than clean. “You didn’t even have time to dry your hair Shota?” Maki teased as she laughed at her husband's towel.

“Why would I have to when your dry remarks seem to do the trick?” He teased his wife and put an arm around her and pressed a kiss to her temple before he turned to the rest of them.

“Meisa! Erika!” He stood up just as quickly again and Erika stood up on her feet quickly as well. She had to remind herself that Shota was not any normal man. “It’s nice to see you in the palace. I’m glad you two decided to accept our invitation.”

“We were looking forward to it.” Meisa bowed low and once again Erika found herself reminded of how in the presence of others she always found herself quieting up.

Shota grinned looking at Erika who was frozen silent as he added. “It doesn’t quite look like it but I’m happy nevertheless.” He settled down between Maki and herself. He had the sunniest grin on his face and he was looking at Maki as if the sun rose and sank with her.

“So why were you late this time?” Maki sighed stirring her spoon. “You were the one who had so desperately wanted to invite Toda-san, and Kuroki-san over so explain please.”

Shota rolled his eyes as he turned towards Meisa. “She might look like the epitome of a saint but she’s a little devil. She takes care of all my work though so I can’t exactly fight against her you see?” Maki jabbed him in the neck as he yelped and laughed at his wife.

“Yes while he’s off making whatever idiot script has interested him this month. I’m stuck here taking care of his true duties as a royal.” Erika couldn’t help but note the tight tone in Maki’s voice and Shota replied with a mimicked tightness that couldn’t help but make everyone else in the room awkward. Erika craved Mao’s uncomplicated sounds of happiness, older people were so much more complicated than they should be.

She was pathetic. She enjoyed spending time with her daughter more than spending time with people her age.

“Have I ever stopped you from doing what interests you hime-sama?” Maki turned to look at him as she shook her head. All of them fell silent as they tried to swerve around the awkwardness of the situation.

Finally it was Meisa who diffused the tension amongst all of them. “So Shota what is this movie you’re working on?”

Shota’s strained demeanor seemed to loosen as he leaned forward and spoke with such passion in his voice that Erika almost grew jealous as she remembered the days she used to feel like that. “It’s Matsuyama-san’s new plot. It’s amazing Meisa the characters are so well developed I had to jump into the role when he offered it to me. I’m the secondary lead but the writing was so phenomenal I couldn’t resist it.” Shota beamed with such pride that Erika couldn’t help but speak up.

“What’s it about?” She spoke softly spinning her tea in her cup and Shota smiled as he turned towards her.

“Her tongue does work." He teased and she couldn't help but feel flushed as she remembered the past two times she had interacted with him she had managed to avoid conversation. "The story is based on the life of a widow after her husband’s death in the first world war.”

“It’s ridiculous and far too soon if you ask me.” Maki immediately spoke up. “It’s almost disrespectful considering what our country has gone through the past two decades.”

“It’s important. The story is not just about the war Maki. It’s far more than that.” Shota shot back but Maki continuously shook her head.

“Mukai don’t you agree with me?” She looked towards her priest for his approval and Mukai looked conflicted as he flicked his eyes between Shota and Maki.

“It might be a little inappropriate Shota. A lot of families were affected by the war too recently and it may still be a little too fresh for them in their minds.” Shota’s jaw dropped as he looked at his wife and priest.

“You two have got to be kidding me?” Then he turned towards Erika. “What do you think?”

Erika leaned back into her chair as she struggled to decipher what she did think and what she should think. "Well as long as you pay your respects to those who have lost in the war and make sure that it doesn’t attack them but rather provides them with some form of closure I don’t see why the movie couldn’t succeed.” When she turned to look back at him after her speech he looked so positively happy that when he turned back to his wife he had an ‘I-told-you-so’ smile on his face.

“There’s only one problem.”

“Oh god he’s starting again.” Maki teased and he stuck his tongue out at his wife and Erika couldn’t quite believe she was getting to be privy to the royal couple acting like a normal couple. It seemed unreal compared to the picture perfect prince and princess she was privy to in the newspapers.

“The lead actress cannot grasp the role of Hina at all. It's pitiful and each time she attempts it Ken'ichi just asks us all to go take a break.”

“Whose playing the widow?” Meisa leaned forward and Shota shrugged as he replied.

“Mayuko…you know with her recent habit she hasn’t quite been very stable. So it’s not quite panning out the way it should.”

“So you see there’s honestly no point to him being in this movie. Not only will it probably end up being international because of his royal status...but if it's a flop it'll look horribly bad!” Maki ended with a bright smile on her face.

Shota ruffled her hair. “You never give up do you akuma-chan?”

“Not in the slightest. Until you become full-time ouji-sama my work as a hime is never complete.” Maki snickered as Mukai shook his head at the antics of his two friends.

“It would be sad though if he ever stopped acting.” Erika interrupted as everyone turned to look at her. “Shota has talent. Forgive me if I sound forward,” She looked to Maki as if to gain her permission but it was Shota who indicated for her to go on so she did. “When I first saw him drop from the hanging rope in his first play I could hardly remember what happened. I had been so engrossed that when I came out of his performance I was struck. I didn’t remember it. It’s kind of like-“ She gulped as she saw them all staring at her. “You know the people who you love the most? You can’t really tell their faces? Their exact features? What exactly you so loved about that person? It was kind of like that for me when I saw him act. I didn’t need to see more to know that he was good at what he did. But he proved me right anyways with Roberto so I think it would be real pity if Shota ever stopped acting.” She finished looking up at them all as she shoved a cookie in her mouth.

She didn’t know why but she had the feeling that she’d said too much as she looked between everyone’s faces at the table. Meisa was looking at her with wide eyes and a wider smile. Mukai looked as if he had never expected something of the like to come out of her mouth. Maki looked still as she smiled and nodded. While Shota looked the most upset out of all of them as he stared at her with a wide open mouth.

“You know Erika used to be an actress so that’s why she feels so powerfully about the profession.” Meisa jumped in to save her friend when she sensed the silence in the room.

Erika laughed “I was no professional.”

“No you wouldn’t be if you got replaced would you?” Maki’s smile fell as she turned towards her husband. “I think we should do a reading. If Erika has so much faith in you I want to see why.”

“Now?”

“Now. Go get your copies of the script and bring it outside.” She assured him. “After all…I’m your wife. I think I deserve to give this occupation you love so much a chance even if I disapprove of it.”

“You won’t be disappointed.” Meisa smiled widely. “Shota’s probably one of the nation’s gems regardless of his birth.” She turned to look at Shota who smiled widely at Meisa but turned to look at Erika with a more careful look as he walked away from the room.

Erika wasn’t sure why she felt as if she had ignited something that could have stayed dormant forever had she not spoken.

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“You don’t understand Hina! I may have seen you three four times in my lifetime but every single night there wasn’t a moment that went by where I didn’t imagine you warming my side. Pretending to be indifferent was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do! To pretend that it wasn’t your name I wanted to scream out every time my soul erupted. That I didn’t love you with every fiber in my being.” Shota yelled out angrily staring at Maki who looked back at him with stricken eyes as she looked back to the page quickly flipping it over.

“Uh- you- wait! Ah that’s the line okay. THEN WHY WHYYYY DID YOU PRETEND?” She wailed on the spot looking at him with what might have been the most pathetic eyes to ever grace the castle. Their audience winced at the sound of her shrill tone.

Shota stared at his wife and shook his head. “You should never act.” He burst into laughter as Maki threw the script at his head.

“MAMA! You’ll hurt papa!” Jun ran and sat in his mother’s lap as Erika burst into laughter with Meisa joining in as baby Mao started running towards Jun laughing along but not at all for the right reasons.

“It’s true we’ll have to send you into royal capture if you harm our beloved prince.” Mukai teased and Maki dropped her jaw.

“Hey! I’m royalty too now you know! People could be a little concerned about me!” She stuck her tongue out at her husband as she huffed. “If you think I’m so horrible why don’t you give it to Meisa? I’m sure she could do a far better job than me.”

Meisa nodded laughing as she leaned on Erika’s shoulder. “I probably could but I try not to get into other characters when I’m already portraying one. It gets confusing for me. So I’m sorry you’re stuck with Maki, Shota.” She was tearing up as she laughed remembering Maki's absolutely dismal performance.

Shota laughed as he brought his son into his lap. “Do you have any idea what we should do Jun? Your mother can’t act to save her life.”

Jun seemed to seriously ponder this as he looked back and forth between everyone who was sitting outside. “What about Erika-san? Erika-san’s just as pretty as mom.” Erika turned to look at Jun who was blushing in his father’s lap as he looked at the older woman with a sheepish sort of smile on his face.

“Is that right Jun-chan?” Mukai teased as Meisa turned to look at him laughing. “And Meisa-chan is not pretty at all is she?”

“No! No! Jun-sama thinks Kuroki-kun is very pretty too!” Jun emphasized suddenly scared that he had caused some sort of misunderstanding. Meisa's eyes widened as she laughed harder the tears seeping out. Mukai laughed along beside her as they sniffled happily and she turned quickly changing her expression to a frightening one as she looked at Jun.

“Kun?! Come here you little boy! I’m going to show you kun!” Meisa ran lifting him up from Shota and putting him down in her lap tickling him as he squealed in her grasp looking up at the others as they all sat in the grass of the royal garden. “That’s not a half bad idea though…Erika could do it.” She admitted as the boy settled down in her grasp and Mukai leaned over and clasped Jun's hand within his so both their hands rested on Meisa's knee together.

Erika laughed shaking her head. “I haven’t acted in ages. I wouldn’t be able to do it.” She looked up towards Shota who stayed silent as he flipped through the pages of the script and saw Mao running towards Jun again with her chubby baby legs from where she’d been in Maki’s hands.

“Erika I swear to god your little Mao might have a crush on our prince.” Maki teased as she pulled the girl back into her arms and Mao struggled wailing as she tried to leave and run again towards where Jun was.

“NO!” Jun yelled out obviously upset that Mao had a crush on him as he turned to look shyly towards Erika again.

“And what’s wrong with my Mao Jun-chan?” Erika leaned on her palm looking at the young boy intent on teasing him completely.

Jun scoffed arrogantly as he looked at the baby who had once more decided to dribble spit all over her chin laughing happily when she realized Jun was looking at her. “She’s too young for me.” He decided turning back to Erika to see if she approved of this reasoning of why he was rejecting her daughter.

And just as Erika was about to reply teasing the little boy again his father spoke up looking straight at the object of Jun's affections. “Erika, read with me.” Needless to say that shocked her as she looked up at him a little struck.

“I don’t think I could.” She assured him shaking her head.

“No you don’t think you would. I think you definitely could.” Shota emphasized as he tossed the script that Maki had thrown at him towards her. “Sit down beside me and read.” Erika felt her jaw drop as she looked towards his wife who nodded.

“You might as well follow crazy-sama’s orders. He doesn’t like it when people ignore what he says.” She agreed and moved aside sitting beside Meisa who still had Jun in her lap and the wailing Mao in her hands immediately quieted down staring at the child who looked extremely disgusted with her.

Erika laughed as she sat down beside Shota and flicked her eyes past the pages that he’d handed to her. “So where are we starting from?”

“Start at the top of page 28?” Shota questioned back and Erika flicked around the pages before and after as the others settled in to watch them.

She looked back up at him smiling. “All right…are you ready?”

Shota looked as arrogant as his son when he leaned back into the grass challenging her with his gaze. “The question is are you? You’re reading lines with your favourite actor aren’t you scared?”

“No. Your talent will only help me.” Erika smiled widely as she settled into the grass confidently as she felt the character from the pages she’d read sink into her as she kept her eyes glued to the words trying to memorize as much of them as she could while they kept bantering.

“Enough of you two! Let’s go! Ganbatte!” Maki cheered and Jun looked appalled at his mother’s habit. She laughed at her son’s expression. “Oh baby you were always too mature for your age.” She pressed a tight kiss to his forehead as Jun blushed and batted her away trying to look more mature in front of his woman (Erika) as she rested in the grass with his father.

Then a silence fell over all of them as Shota finally uttered the first words. “You’re here.” Shota started his eyes glazing over as he looked up at Erika and she immediately understood what he’d meant. He’d started acting already. His line wasn’t over yet though…so why had he paused? A cheeky grin came upon his face as he looked up at her as if he couldn’t quite believe she had made it. “You’re drenched.”

Erika felt herself freeze. She wasn’t drenched in the slightest it was sunny in the palace gardens- she glanced down at the sheet before looking back up. That’s true Hina came in the rain to meet Kisuke. She looked up slowly laughing trying to not let the way Shota was looking at her irk her. “Are you going to invite me inside?” She tried to keep the shaky tone out of her voice out but it only served to help her character. She looked fearful of the man in front of her as Hina might have herself. She couldn’t help herself as she felt a sneeze come on and Shota looked as if for a second he might laugh.

Though whether it was Kisuke or Shota she couldn’t quite tell anymore. The lines between their existence seemed to blur and she wondered

He spoke slowly this time. “If I said no would it matter?” Erika shook her head and took a deep sigh before speaking again. His lines in the script were frozen together were just frozen together on the script she knew in acting now there was the smallest of gaps between Shota’s lines now. “Why did you come Hina?” He leaned forward and grasped her hand under his between the soft green leaves of grass. “Did you want to?” If they had been on a stage somewhere now she would have a towel being soaked into her hair by him, if she was actually Hina.

She stayed quiet as she averted her gaze from him and stared down at her lap gulping slowly her voice barely a whisper as she spoke. “If I said no would it matter Kisuke?”

She couldn’t see but she could tell what he was doing. The silence was deafening as Shota’s breaths grew louder and he only edged closer towards her face attempting to make her turn around and face him. “Hina.”

Then he leaned his head on her shoulder and much like she imagined Hina would have she threw him off her and stared him square in the eyes. “Kisuke! STOP! I can’t let you go…you’ve corrupted me. You’ve taken every part I used to call my own and made it yours and the worst part is it was never mine to give. We could never-” She felt her eyes blink furiously as if she couldn't get a hold on the situation. She looked back at the script quickly memorizing her lines as she felt Shota’s hand leave hers resting alone in the grass. Instead he placed his hands on her face and turned her briskly towards him so he looked her right in her eyes and she couldn't help but feel exposed as if looking at him like this somehow made her vulnerable.

This time he sounded desperate and hurt as Kisuke spoke to Hina, his hands dug flat into her cheeks and his breaths landed softly on top of her bangs separating them so that she felt his hot breath hit her forehead. “You don’t understand Hina…I may have seen you three four times in my lifetime but every single night there wasn’t a moment that went by where I didn’t imagine you warming my side." That smirk was back but this time it was bitter. "Pretending to be indifferent was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.” His hands slid down her neck and tilted her face upwards as she felt her eyes tear automatically…Hina would. Erika felt her own body react automatically to give Hina justice. “To pretend that it wasn’t your name I wanted to scream out every time my soul erupted. That I didn’t love you with every fiber in my being.” His last words hung like veil over all of them as she looked back at him gulping unsure.

She felt herself struck speechless as he stared at her, tears flowing down her cheeks leaving rivulets of water onto his hands. Now she understood Kisuke’s story as well as almost her own. Her voice grew hoarse and she knew this was the line where Kisuke would kiss Hina and part of her grew afraid to say it. She knew Shota wouldn’t do anything...but her mind had her feeling as if he would. She was Hina right now and she felt as if Hina would and Hina knew Kisuke was going to kiss her. She felt breathless as she finished. “Then why did you?”

The sound of a whimper came from the audience and as if a spell had been broken. Shota immediately backed off her and she was stuck looking at him, her mind invigorated by the fact that she had just done something she had not felt in too many years. She gasped letting the air that had been stuck in her chest flow out. This time when Shota looked at her his eyes immediately reverted back as if Kisuke had left his body and Erika could tell now that it wasn’t Kisuke looking at her but Shota as he stared at her struck amazed that she had done such a good job with Hina.

“You never told me you were that good.” His smile was infectious and Erika nodded weakly as he looked at Maki his grin growing more foolish with every second that passed. “Maki! She’s-“

But Maki had let out a hand in front of Shota and turned towards Erika first. “You were right…I suppose it would be a great pity to stop him from acting.” Erika smiled widely as she leaned over the grass to lie flat on her front and play with Mao’s fingers.

“I told you…your husband is a gem when it comes to the craft.” She teased.

“So are you." That was when Erika first noticed him. It was a red-haired man who was crouched down beside Maki and staring at her as if he couldn't quite believe what he had seen. She nodded unsurely as he shook his head again as if he couldn't quite believe what he'd seen.

“Toda-san you blew me away.” Mukai muttered softly as he tapped his cheeks. “You didn’t know anything about the characters or the lines but you managed to make every move look utterly meant.”

“And the feeling behind it…if your father hadn’t know it was you he would have been so proud.” Meisa finished softly praising her best friend, tears reflected in her own eyes. "Oh god I look so much like a girl. I'm crying just watching you." Meisa giggled wiping her eyes as she beamed with pride.

“That was quite a performance.” The red-haired man echoed and Erika noticed the way Maki kept looking frightfully at his arm which was in a sling.

“Thank you.” She inclined her head smiling towards the stranger who Jun immediately sat in the lap of and played with his fingers. "And you would be sir?"

Maki smiled as she turned towards the man fully as if she was happy she was finally able to look at him without having to pretend to not. “Toma this is Toda Erika…Erika this is Ikuta Toma. He used to be my body guard until his display of bravery turned him into Ryuhei-sama’s personal guard. He's resting for now though.” She turned to Erika with a wide smile on her face as she introduced the two.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” She inclined her head towards him and didn’t quite understand why at the sight of his smile directed towards her , her heart skipped a beat. His eyes they looked exactly like Jin's when he'd met Shot--

No. She wouldn't think of it.

Which proved to be an easy enough task as Shota demanded her attention once more. “Erika…you took every challenge I threw towards you and turned it into your favor.” Shota looked completely befuddled as he rested his heads in his hands. “I have never ever been this shocked by a new actress.” He turned to look at her with widened eyes. “Did you study acting?”

Erika shrugged. “Being the daughter of Toda Takuya meant long days on set waiting for your father to pay attention to you…it was just another result of those days.”

Shota shook his head unable to believe that it had all come out of that. “Still…” He pressed but Erika shook her head.

"It is what it is Shota." She felt herself call his name casually and felt her eyes widen but when she turned to him, he was smiling widely again so she assured herself it was okay.

Mukai leaned over the two and tipped his head towards Erika. "You certainly have a couple of fans at your disposal." Maki nodded energetically approving as Erika laughed and grabbed Mao into her arms as she sat up.

But for the rest of their evening Erika couldn't stop herself from looking back at Shota who was every single time she realized looking at her.

----------------------------------------------------------------

Mao scoffed in shock at the story. "No way."

"What?"

She tilted her head in skepticism as she shook her head. "I so did not have a crush on Jun."

"Those are the first words out of your mouth young lady?" Meisa couldn't help the small smile that touched her face as she remembered the baby Mao who had ran everywhere the young prince had been...which a little while later had been everywhere her mother had been. "And you did...as a child."

"I DIDN'T! That man has the fakest smile I've ever seen. No thank you I only like men with real smiles." She assured Meisa laughing as for a second Ryo's face entered her mind.

Ryo had a nice smile...a nice drunken smile. She remembered the way he'd looked at her when she'd asked him if he'd minded if she sat down in his lap. It was a warm look...not even really hot just warm and comforting as she'd stayed there in his arms happy just to finally have someone hugging her again.

Meisa had a smirk on her wise face as she looked at the girl who was day-dreaming in front of her. "Like the man outside? Ryo was it?"

Mao struggled to look like she hadn't been thinking about him and she cleared her throat. Meisa didn't need to know the truth...she thought Ryo was something more than he was which he wasn't. Ryo was just someone kind who was doing something nice for her who she'd happened to sleep with. Nothing more nothing less. "We've already discussed that Meisa." She bit out waving her hand carelessly. Ryo was a booty-call...

WAIT.

How was Ryo a booty call? She'd only met him last night and it wasn't like she was meeting him again. Ryo was a one night stand/friend ! Not a booty call! Shun was a booty-call/ex-boyfriend ! Jun was her...crush/enemy of all time/damn sexy prince?

This made no sense. She needed to learn to classify her boys better. She was using far too many categories here.

"Respect your elders. It's-" Meisa tutted her eyes narrowing at the younger girl who seemed to have no care in the world as she munched on her rice. She couldn't help but be shocked that Erika's daughter was exactly like her in some ways.

In no way did Mao ever take responsibility of herself properly.

"Yeah yeah. We got it." Mao teased loving the way the older woman looked flustered as Mao continuously underminded her every lecture.

Meisa shook her head. "If I had stayed with her that night...none of it would have turned out the way it did Mao. Maybe Jin would have come back at the right time and Erika would have continued waiting for him." Meisa sighed as she leaned forward looking through the pictures that they'd splayed out as Mao had another bite of rice.

"What happened that night?" Mao couldn't help but feel eager as she got ready to listen to the next installment in her mother's life.

"That was the night Shota and Erika kissed."
End Notes:
We all know how much Lilli loves long author's notes cause she talks too much right?



KAY



What is Shota doing O.O? Why is he looking at Erika? WHAT THE HELL? I promise...I have not altered the meaning or direction of this story. Erika is still broken up about Jin. She's just decided not to think of him in the presence of the perfect couple SO FAR. We have a lot coming up guys. A lot. So I hope you're as excited as I am.



Can I start of by saying thank you very much to everyone who reviewed? I remember when I used to get like zero reviews for this story and so seeing so much encouragement really boosted me to do better for you guys.



And working has really freed up my time so I plotted out the next like five chapters of Erika which I'm hoping will be able to come up like soontimes right one after another.



I want to mention quickly that we will start flicking back and forth POVs. Mainly Meisa, Erika's and Jin's in the past. Meisa because her story actually has found its way to relevancy in my head. I know for a while we've basically stuck with Erika's side of the story but I want to try drifting back and forth.



Yeah I was really unsure whether or not to plug in Jin's side of what he's doing right now...but I decided to because it does become relevant =) so please look forward to him as well. We should switch to him very quickly. If you guys want it plugged into the regularly or a chapter on its own you can tell me and I'll try and fix it up that way for you guys =D



Last but never least because these guys are my little bringers of joy thank you so much to everyone who reviewed: Magzhydfan, Wana, Spirit Gambler, Christine and Librajem. =) *bows* I hope you all enjoyed this chapter as well.



thank you so much for reading and i hope you all continue =D



and of course I hope I see you guys in the review section as well =D



The Secrets Between Us by Anna Clair
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“It’s been a while…is Jun coming or not?” Meisa grumbled as she sat behind the bush looking around her for the young prince getting worried.

“He’s probably gone back to his parents already. He’s a smart kid…” Osamu leaned back into the bushes as he looked towards Meisa who awkwardly sat beside him.

“To go back to his parents?”

“To leave you alone with me.” His gaze towards her grew only more so angry as he looked at the wisp of a woman who loved to evade his remarks. He had wanted to talk alone with her all evening.

“I don’t understand why we had to hide together in the first place.” She cursed and shifted away from him and he placed his fingers through his hair attempting to calm his aggravated and aroused heart.

“I wanted to talk to you Meisa.” He bit out unable to disguise the hate he felt when he thought of the secret she had slipped him a week ago, like a drug in his drink that caused him to react in ways that he hadn’t expected. The effects of Meisa did not wear off as easily as any material substance. She was a plague in his thoughts now one he could not escape no matter how many prayers he may say.

She laughed bitterly shaking her long straight hair out of her face. “That’s mighty coming from the man whose been ignoring me for the past week.”

“I- I didn’t mean to react that way when I heard.” He was conflicted as he saw the way Meisa’s eyes grew stormier in their look at him as if they couldn’t quite believe his words. He looked away ashamed and she had to stop herself from hitting him for being with her like this. She should never have let him know. He was afraid with the wrong words he would cause her heart the same amount of irreparable damage that Takuya had already caused it. “Why did you tell me?” His words were a whisper and the plead in them could not be ignored so Meisa answered honestly as she looked up at the stars in the sky.

“I needed to tell someone…and it didn’t matter who. You may not be Christian but confessing to you seemed right.” Meisa turned away shaking her head. “I never should have…I was weak. Takuya had made me drink before showing up at the board anyways. I was foolish. I was out of my head and we’d agreed to it before I realized. When I saw you standing there- it was like you were meant to be my savior. However foolish that sounds I had this strange feeling you could save me.” Meisa laughed leaning back into the bushes. “It’s crazy to imagine right? You couldn’t do anything. Nor do you want to.” Her own plea went softly past Mukai’s ears as he detested for just a second their births and their lives that had inevitably caused him to be unable to answer her as they looked at each other.

Mukai’s silence was all Meisa heard as she stood up to leave and Mukai immediately pulled her back so that she fell down again onto the ground on her knees in front of him. He couldn't let her leave, not like this. He felt every strand of her hair bounce lightly off his chest and couldn’t help the tiny gulp that rose in his throat as he watched the way her eyes expanded. Her look was positively sinful no matter how she really felt even as she looked at him with faith and hope all he could feel was-nothing better than what he supposed Toda Takuya felt when he looked at her.

To hold himself back from such things was one of the hardest things he’d ever had to overcome when he’d decided on being a monk. Meeting Meisa was a challenge that powers higher than him had decided to present to him. To be there for her without ever acting on these realizations he was having. “I- I can’t save you if you won’t save yourself Meisa.” Her eyes flashed with realization at his words and they looked at each other soundlessly breathing. Meisa looked unable to move as the tears finally flew to her eyes and she crumbled into his arms, her arms finding their way around him as he felt her face dig into his neck unable to stop the flood that had finally found its way out.

Now that the anger had dissipated she needed someone to cry on…and so Mukai stayed still with her offering her support the only way he could without ruining his own world.

----------------------------------------

“Where’s Meisa? How am I supposed to get home.” Erika sighed tiredly looking out the door as Shota relaxed his head against Maki’s shoulder blowing the air from his cigarette out. Mao looked eager to inhale whatever the mysterious air was and Erika couldn’t help the way she glared at Shota as she covered Mao’s nose. His eyes lit up when he realized he’d angered her and for some reason Erika found herself hardly believing this was the same man she’d been foolishly infatuated with when she was more foolish herself. He laughed at her look and passed the cigarette to Maki who after taking a puff put it out.

“Gomen. Gomen.” Maki chimed for them as a Shota called one of the servants over to speak with and Erika couldn’t help but keep her eyes glued to Mao who was happily jumping about in her lap.

Toma turned back leaning his back against the large paned window that stretched up to the high ceiling above them staring at them all at their seats. Maki was a little bit drunk already on the whiskey she was constantly sipping. She had sent Jun to bed. “Why don’t we send one of the palace drivers with Erika-san?” Toma suggested as he took a drag of his own cigarette but thankfully the toxic air infected no one’s lungs but his own as he considerately blew it out of the window.

Maki’s face of amazement was exaggerated as she clapped her hands together and looked down to her husband who was still on her shoulder looking up at her lazily. “That’s not a half bad idea Shota.” Maki leaned forward again to take a sip from his glass of scotch and then tilted her head back up to Erika. “Unless of course you’ve changed your mind Erika? We’d love to have you for drink.” She rolled the crystalline glass in her hands with hooded eyes and Erika shook her head and saw the way the Cheshire smile stretched onto Maki’s face as she placed the glass back down on the table and Shota pressed a quick kiss to her shoulder blade and Erika looked away.

The moment she’d seen it, images that she hadn’t wanted to fly back to her mind had.

“No thank you…I don’t drink.” She bowed her head as Shota and Maki exchanged their own little humoring grins ready to look as if they were about to laugh at her for her statement but Erika kept her firm smile straight on her face as Shota examined her before he finally let his eyes drift from her face as he turned to look at Toma whose arm was still in its sling.

“IKUTA!” Shota yelled and Toma turned around bowing his head the look of loquacity never present on his face. “Come keep my wife company as you usually do. She’s been rather lonely without you lately.” Shota stood up as he offered his hand to Erika and she tried to ignore the stench of tobacco and alcohol that surrounded him as she took it and stood up carefully picking up Mao after. “I’ll walk Erika out to the drivers.”

Maki laughed riotously as she took another sip of her drink and Erika found herself glad to be leaving. She’d never been that sort of girl who could drink or be a true ‘boy’ in the sense of the word that Maki epitomized it.

Or should she correct herself, act or think like a boy, because there was nothing masculine about the delicate beauty or the way she looked at Erika when she walked out of the room. Maki placed her head on Toma's shoulder who sat wordlessly beside her downing the glass of scotch that was on the table.

Erika stood directly behind Shota as if she wasn’t his equal but rather a servant following him and he turned around to look at her as he said tiredly. “Is it that scary to walk beside me?”

Erika gulped; her gaze fixed downwards as she shook her head. “No.” When she risked a look at him and saw him shake his head before reaching his hand out to her arm and pulling her forward so that they were side by side. Then he let her go.

Shota and her walked out of the room and Erika felt her eyebrows furrow when she realized Toma's eyes were glued to Shota and herself as they made their way out the door.

“So…where has Jin disappeared off to Erika?” Shota asked shoving his hands into his pockets as he watched Erika from the corner of his eye as they walked the palace’s large halls each step in step with the others.

The question caught her off guard as she froze unable to look at him as she fixed her eyes on the ground and the baby in her arms pulled her arms around her mother as if shielding her from some unseen force. “He’s where he’s always wanted to be.” She chose to answer looking up at Shota who scoffed laughing as he raked his fingers through his hair.

“I suppose I don’t deserve much of a straight answer do I?” He teased at her vague attempt at giving him something that would satisfy his curiosity.

“It wouldn’t make too much sense for you to want a straight answer.” She corrected walking ahead. His words however little they did mean to her, stl caused her heartbeat to quicken.

“Isn’t it funny then how it seems to make perfect sense in my head but none in yours.” His feet clattered and the gusty wind blew so that Erika’s hair blew around her as she looked up at him and he sighed with a smile on his face. “It just doesn’t make sense to me why someone who was so in love with you would have left you. That’s all.”

“Not everything in the world makes sense Shota…especially when you’re the prince of a country in turmoil.” She bowed her head noticing the entrance far off. “So-“

“We’re here.” He bowed his head. “Until the next time we’re never supposed to each other.” He joked and Erika let a small smile touch his face as he walked forward downstairs towards the valet who looked frantic at the arrival of the prince. Erika stood watching him as he spoke with the valet, looking up at her every so often.

He came back upstairs and the look on his face begged that she ask him. “Is everything okay?” She jogged Mao lightly in her hands as she felt the little girl fall asleep enveloping herself closer to her mother’s warmth.

“Our drivers are all at the event with Ryuhei and- well the one who was supposed to take you home just left to take his break with his car.”

Erika grew scared as she looked at him shaking her head. “I’m not going to have to stay here am I?”

“Of course not! We have a spare...and well. I do know how to drive." He looked at her bowing his head. "Will you allow me to drive you home? I had the least amount of alcohol and I promise I will keep you safe.” Here he paused to look for a second as if he’d just remembered the baby in her arms. “And Mao of course.” He added as Erika stood her eyebrows furrowed as she nodded gingerly. It wasn’t the best option but it was the only one she had. She knew her mother was probably worried sick about her anyways.

“Let’s go.”
------

The entire ride over had been tainted with silence as Erika kept her eyes watchfully over Mao, tucking her baby’s head into her lap and Shota kept his eyes glued onto the road looking over once in a while to make sure Erika was comfortable.

When they finally arrived it seemed like a blessing in disguise. “I’ll be right back.” Erika uttered softly as she kept Mao steady in her arms and walked inside her house. Everyone was sleeping already. She laid her baby in the crib before rushing back out the door to bid Shota goodbye.

He was seated staring intently at something on the wheel of the car. “Please be careful when you’re driving back to the palace.” She bowed low outside his car and Shota turned to look at her in shock shaking his head.

“This may sound bold of me-“ He started but then his eyes seemed to grow stronger as he shook his head,. “But I’m afraid if I never ask this of you right now I’ll never get the chance Erika.” He finished looking at her shaking his head. “For some reason someone or something has always come in between our conversations haven’t they? First Meisa that night at the play, then Jin at the store, today Maki.” Erika wasn’t quite sure how to respond as he started ticking off their meetings. “So I have the strangest request to ask of you.”

She was afraid of what he was about to say…of course she was. She could never have answered properly if it was what her heart was telling her. She also didn't want to offend the Prince.

“Would you speak with me?” His plea was so utterly innocent that Erika’s eyes widened in shock and at the look of astonishment on her face he rolled his eyes. “What did you think I was going to ask to sleep with you?”

“Almost yes. Your reputation before Maki doesn’t help your situation too much ou-“

“We decided you were calling me Shota.”

“Shota-sama.” She ended smiling and nodding her head. “I understand what you mean. I’ve always kind of felt some sort of kindred friendship with you but I’ve never really spoken to you enough to discover if it actually exists.”

“Here’s our opportunity.” He joked patting the seat beside him and Erika nodded entering the car once more as silence overtook them. “I thought it would be easier…”

“Well…we could talk about our childhoods?” Erika asked softly and Shota laughed.

“You already know mine.” He teased. “That’s not fair.”

“What’s not fair is that I’m getting bombarded.” She teased back as she settled into her seat watching the laugh come onto his face shaking his head. “Why don’t you tell me about Kisuke and Hina. The play and why you hate your co-actress so much?”

“I didn’t hate her today I can tell you that much.” The comment that didn’t go unheard left Erika blushing and heating up their entire car with her cheeks.

“Mah! Don’t compliment me too much. Or I’ll get a big head.”

“What I wanted out of Hina I got today…almost.” At that he turned to look at her with a teasing smile on his face as Erika blushed and turned away from his placing her head in her hand unable to understand to what he was referring to. Thankfully Shota decided to not make her uncomfortable any longer. “In my head I’m assured Erika you’re the perfect Hina. Why did you leave acting anyways?”

Erika sighed before answering somewhat hesitantly. “My marriage to Jin was actually partially responsible for that.”

Sensing that it would be delicate for him to approach the topic again he shook his head disapprovingly. “That scoundrel.” He looked at her with a foolish sort of joking face and Erika burst into laughter shaking her head.

“He’s actually probably the most perfect man for me. It was my father who decided for me to stop acting once he had set my marriage with Jin.”

“They should have never stopped you.” Erika smiled shaking her head unbelieving that the nation’s prince was being so forthright with her.

She rolled her eyes turning to him with a girlish grin on her. “Would you have liked to act with me?”

“Very much so.” He teased. “To be honest I’m thinking about dropping out of that project. Mayuko will make me look bad and I can’t look bad, not just because of me being an actor but being a failure will affect my family and our standing the public. I can’t allow that to happen. No matter how much I may want to be involved within the project.” Shota confessed as she listened quietly. “I think for the first time I felt like I was completely in tune with an actress and she was in tune with what I wanted out of her with my every action. It was truly an experience.”

Erika bowed her head to the prince as she realized that she had been here longer than her parents would approve and shook her head. “It’s time I should be getting home. Thank you for inviting us into your home today…please be sure to send Meisa off safe as well.”

“She’s probably lying in Mukai’s bed as we speak.” Shota rolled his eyes and Erika felt her mouth drop in shock at the bluntness of the prince as his look completely changed talking about their friends.

“Meisa isn’t so-“ At this Shota gave her a pointed look that shut Erika up even if she was upset with him.

“Okay…then goodbye.” She spoke sourly getting ready to leave feeling the somewhat happy feeling leaving her tummy as she felt Shota’s callous words about Meisa rest on her.

“Hey Erika?” She sighed as she poked her feet out of the car and got ready to leave but Shota grabbed her arm and pulled her back into the seat so that she fell with a thud.

“What was that for?!” She yelled surprising him as he felt his mouth stretch wider at the realization that Erika might not be as docile or sweet as she seemed.

“I wasn’t done.” He spoke in such a factual manner that made her want to walk out even more.

"Well finish by yourself.” Erika grumbled shaking her head. “You insulted my best friend, you can’t think I’m going to sit here and listen to you as you continue to-“ She wasn’t sure what had happened but suddenly her voice had gone silent as she felt Shota’s hands come up on her cheeks and hold her face still. “Shot-“

“Don’t talk.” His words were soft. “Don’t ruin it.” Erika felt her tongue go slack as she realized what he was going to do. She wanted to push him off she did but her entire body froze in shock. She couldn’t believe what was happening.

His lips came upon hers and he pulled her head closer to him and his mouth moved against hers and she felt butterflies flutter in her stomach, he brought his hands down towards her waist and grasped her tightly around her jacket and she felt his hand go under her jacket and immediately the shock that had frozen her in his grasp broke as she slapped him. Effectively shocking him into moving apart from her.

“What was that for?” He asked his eyes confused as he gingerly touched his cheek. “You just slapped a prince!” He didn't really sound upset with her but rather in awe.

“I didn’t slap a prince.” Erika spat out disgusted with herself as she realized what they’d just done. “A prince who loves his wife would not have done what you just did right now, a prince who “ who the world ADMIRES would not have done that. I slapped you Shota. I didn’t slap a prince.” She got up angrily shaking her head this time stalking out of the car and banging the door shut running into her house feeling her blood pump through her veins as she struggled to breathe.

Unable to stop the beating of her heart.
End Notes:
Part of the Anniversary day =D

Thank you guys and I' hope you enjoyed the past couple of updates coming up and as well as this chapter of Erika. Hopefully the next one will be coming up soon =D
Playing Mind Games by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
WTF. ERIKA'S GETTING UPDATED?



I wasn't planning on it actually...but it just seemed sort of right to update it. Since I wrote like 3000 words for it XD. I thought I'd share a couple with you.





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“ERIKA SOMEONE’S AT THE DOOR!” Nao yelled out as she heard the bell ring from where she was playing with Mao and Erika nodded rushing from the kitchen where she was cooking to open the door. Mao laughed happily as she saw who was waiting behind the door reaching out forward towards her mother and undoubtedly the little boy in front of her.

Erika stared at the young male with a wide closed smile as she leaned down to ruffle his hair as he let out a rather foolish giggle. "JUN! What are you doing here?” She hugged the little boy and he returned it happily in the arms of the woman who had no doubt become his idol.

“I brought him.” Shota popped out from the side of the door and Erika felt the smile on her face drop as he continued speaking to her as if nothing had gone horribly wrong between their twisted relationship anyways. "He missed you too much Erika-chan."

But of course what had she expected when she’d seen the innocent boy at the door anyways? Of course his much-less-innocent father was using the boy.

“And what would you like to do with me?” It had been a week and she’d pretty much gotten used to the idea that Shota was three things.

A) Jackass
B) A Prince
C) Someone who was going to make her life completely hell if she didn’t manage to control the situation that just arose around them.

She didn't know how to explain it...but being put in some sort of dramatic situation every time she met him couldn't just mean anything. He was completely responsible for the kiss and she didn't doubt it one bit...but she had obviously said something before to get him to act that way around her right? So she had to be more in control...otherwise she'd just be encouraging his behaviour which was absolutely not permitted!

“I don’t want to say you’re not welcome here but you’re not.” She admitted honestly as she reached for the door to shut it not quite thinking until she saw the way Jun was looking at her as he heard the words pour out of ‘his’ woman’s mouth.

It was as if someone had taken away his favourite candy that he'd waited days to eat. She turned around to look at her mother who simply shrugged and walked inside the play room.

“Erika-san you don’t want Jun-kun to play with you?” She realized how she’d made it sound and then she looked to Shota who was smiling cheekily.

This had been his plan the entire time! To use Jun to get into her house!

What a hateful little-

Jun pouted further, the cheeks on his face dropping lightly and she had to control her heart from going out to him. He had nothing to be that sad about...but god forbid he ask her for anything right now she would have given it to the most adorable little boy she'd ever seen. “Erika-san?”

"Jun go inside and play with Mao, my mother’s in the room with the door open.” She let out sweetly leaning down to tuck the stray ringlets of hair behind his ears. Happy to be let in he walked without much dispute and left her alone with the man who offended her very presence.

Who was smiling widely that his plan had somehow succeeded into getting him inside. All he’d really had to do to get in was charm her mother into letting him in. Obviously Nao would have admonished Erika for even trying to reject the prince entrance into their somewhat humble household...especially without offering him tea or something else equally polite!

“Why are you here ouji-sama?” She bit out angrily still upset from their last encounter.

“Are you still upset? Call me Shota...please.” The grin on his face only proved to fuel her fury with him more but she toned it down. Something about being kissed without permission really made her mad. Even the way he stood now, his body angled towards her just the slightest so only she could be paranoid about what it meant.

“Perceptive.”

“I’m stating what I see, it’s not so much that I’m perceptive. Just that you’re way too obvious.” He walked in past her leaving her leaning by the open door by herself as he examined the entrance to her house. “You have a pretty large welcoming hall from the front door don’t you?”

“Well last time you came through back door so-“ Why was she making small talk when she wasn’t even sure what the guy was doing here? Last time should have been the last time she met him! He had no place in her life this man! She didn’t have any reason to keep running into him so this was just too out of place for him to be standing in her hall, just continuously talking to her as if they had been friends since birth! “What are you doing here Shota?”

“Honestly?” Shota turned back to her a mischevious grin playing on his features as he walked towards her and as she moved further back she felt the door shut and he smiled wider when he saw her flat against the oak door. “I really don’t understand how you become more attractive every single time you try to reject me.”

“Maybe you need your eyes checked out.” She flipped back easily as she felt him come up close to her and as she tried to slide out from underneath him she couldn’t help but notice how good brown looked on him. He didn’t push her though like she thought he would after the incident they had in the car. He simply sighed weakly.

She was glad he didn’t make some other seemingly-fake-yet-undeniably-charming comment that would make her blush like a little girl. “Why do you think I’m here Erika?” He looked like he expected her to know. Seriously what was she a mind reader? “Let me tell you why you think I’m here.”

“I honestly have no idea.”

“You think I’m interested in you.”

“It’s a hypothesis.” She agreed as he walked ahead of her leaving her with her folded arms staring after him as he walked towards the kitchen.

“You cook well do you?” She followed him somewhat unwillingly as she popped her head into the play room before continuing towards the kitchen and saw her mother give her a confused look as she shrugged her shoulders continuing behind the prince.

“You’re not staying for dinner.” Still Shota ducked over to the other side of the kitchen and picked up the spoon she was stirring her mixture with and tucked it into his mouth and she couldn’t help it.

For just a second she saw them again. She saw Jin and herself from the past laughing together in front of her. It was her imagination she knew that but she couldn’t help but feel happy seeing him there smiling laughing with her, his hands over her waist pulling her close to him as she let the sauce burn beside them. The way his hands ran across stroking the sheet of skin on her thigh.

She felt it too clearly, she shook her head the memory flew away with the smoke that was coming outside the pot and Shota smiled at her as he spoke again. “It’s good…but I can’t stay for dinner.”

“Because you’re not invited. Shota why are you here?” She asked yet again as she couldn’t help but feel as if he was avoiding the question completely.

At the sound of frustration coming forth from her tone he sobered up a bit as he turned towards her and “I’m here because I need to ask you something.” For some reason she saw the way the slightest bit of fear rose within his eyes. She couldn’t imagine why he would feel nervous or scared.

“It started today when Mayuko was rushed to the hospital for something I can’t tell you. It’s pretty daunting on all of us and frankly Ken’ichi’s shitting his pants.” Shota leaned back against the counter and folded his arms across his chest. She couldn’t tell where he was going with this but the way his face was starting to scrunch up awkwardly could tell her she would have to decline whatever he was about to proposition her with.

“And-?”

Shota’s eyes widened as he stood up quickly again and walked back beside her. “And? Isn’t it obvious?” When she shook her head, he rolled his eyes shaking his head back mockingly at her. “And I thought of you.”

“I’m not sure what you’re getting at here but if you’re suggesting you and I spend time together alone I rather think not.” She moved past him stirring the mixture in the pot lowering the heat further and placing a lid on top of it as she walked towards the children’s room where her mother was. Needless to say Shota followed her.

“You actually thought I was interested in you?” His words caused her to freeze midway as she whipped her body around to face him.

“Oh I’m sorry- is that not the general impression one receives when they’re assaulted in a car by another person’s lips?” She hissed the last part quietly so she could be sure her mother couldn’t hear her. Shota looked like he was about to burst into laughter and the more time she spent with him, the more she was sure she wanted to hit him. He definitely wasn’t a suitable leader for their country. Someone so immature wouldn’t be able to direct a population much less a cockroach.

“So wait…you thought I came here to ask you out to dinner with me?” As if it was a preposterous notion. Erika shrugged, the look of distaste ruining her youthful features as he laughed at her. She couldn't explain it but she really didn't like it when he laughed at her.

“Didn’t you?”

“YES!” She looked at him pointedly and he held his hands out. “Not the way you’d like to think though.”

“I believe you have my emotions misinterpreted. I think I’d rather hate to think that way.” She cursed silently walking away

“Some say you think what you don’t want to.” Shota shot back smiling in the most annoying manner as she simply growled lightly.

What on earth had ever made her see this boy as a man?

------------------

“I don’t like you very much you know,” Jun blurted out staring at Mao as she looked back at him with wide adoring eyes giggling lightly as she adjusted the small headband that rested on the few hairs on her head.

She was foolish about it as a baby though....and so the headband ended up somewhat lopsided as the cherry on top flopped uselessly on her forehead and Mao giggled laughing upwards reaching for it. Jun couldn't help but grow grumpy. He hadn't come here to spend time with this idiot baby. He'd had enough of her! Every time he wanted to get close to Erika-sama there she was blocking his path.

Baby Mao sidled up closer to him placing one fat large arm on his thigh and he turned to look at her appalled as he shifted away but she shifted closer.

“JUN DOESN’T LIKE THIS GAME!” He shouted at her grabbing her by the shoulders and pushing her back so that she fell on her back. As Nao came back with the big red ball she had been looking for she saw Mao wailing loudly as the young prince flushed red himself of embarrassment or anger she couldn’t quite tell. “I didn’t mean to hurt you- but you wouldn’t listen.” He pouted his overly large lower lip growing more apparent on a face that would break hearts in a few years Nao was sure.

Still a good looking boy didn't mean he could push around her granddaughter. She had half a mind to tell him off but it looked like the boy was already apologetic with the way he kept looking at Mao who wailed louder.

“Please be careful with Mao neh Jun-chan?” It felt odd referring to a child under her as sama and she wasn’t a palace servant so she didn’t see why she had to follow the rules. She lifted Mao in her hands and caressed the girls back slowly as she quieted down and Jun kept his gaze fixed on the little baby who started sucking on her finger. When her eyes landed aimlessly on him, he couldn’t help but notice as she turned away.

He did deserve the anger he got though...so he settled quietly even if an ugly little baby dared to ignore him! He didn’t like hurting her…he just didn’t like the way everyone was starting to notice how much this stupid little baby liked him! He didn’t want to marry something that drooled as much as she did! It really wasn't all that bad when you thought about it. What would he tell their country?

She liked me and drooled on me so I had to listen or else she'd wet the bed?

That didn't seem like a very royal conversation.

He looked up to see his father walk into the room and immediately ran to his side as his father approached the older woman he’d been playing with alongside Mao.

“It’s a pleasure to see you again Toda-san.” Shota bowed his head as he held on to Jun’s hand silently. Nao bowed low in front of the prince who stood in their house as if he belonged just as much as Mao’s crib.

Nao raised her eyebrows towards Erika who had no response for her silent query. How was she supposed to explain Shota’s presence here when he hadn’t even explained it to her? In fact he’d rather avoided the topic with a fervor she hadn’t really expected…he wanted to take her to dinner but not the way she thought? What on earth could that possibly even mean? What was this about him even thinking of her? And what had happened to his co-actress?

“Ouji-sama, how may I be of assistance to you?” Shota laughed shaking his head and bringing his hands forward assuring her there was no real way she could be of assistance to him. Jun left his side and came up beside his heart’s desire holding onto her hands instead…Erika’s hands were slim and delicate. Not at all like fat baby Mao’s…and it wasn’t sticky with drool either. She smelled like cinnamon and honey and Mao…Mao smelled like a mix of powder and bubbles. Alluring in it's own way but not his type.

“If at all possible I would like to take Erika out to a play tonight. I promise to keep her safe and treat her like I would treat any married woman.” At the sound of his words Erika couldn’t help but scoff…so he kissed all married women then? Her mother should be careful. “With respect and honor. Jun will accompany us of course as our chaperone.” He added turning to narrow his eyes playfully at his counterpart for the evening who stood behind him skeptically as Jun played with the edges of her dress.

“I don’t suppose you’ll understand if I did say no?” Nao attempted frowning lightly as she flicked her eyes back and forth unsure of what exactly was conspiring before her.

“Absolutely not. I will be at unrest until you say yes and refuse to leave until you give me your consent.” He demanded with a teasing expression coming across his features and Nao sighed.

She wasn’t a fool…she knew her daughter was beautiful and it was only a matter of time someone else took interest in her, even with a baby. The prince of their country just wasn’t exactly the boy she’d imagined taking Jin’s place.

Erika shook her head furiously to say no but Nao couldn’t help but look at Shota and think.

He couldn’t actually be serious about Erika…he was already married, had a son of his own who Mao was ready to jump on top of right now if she didn’t hold onto her tight within her arms. He couldn't actually care for Erika that way could he? It would be a preposterous claim.

This had to be about something else. “All right then…you will bring her home by a decent hour I presume?”

“She will enter the house no later than 10. I promise you.” He smiled widely turning to look at Nao’s daughter with a look of victory scrawled across his face as she grumbled turning to walk back to her room with Jun holding onto her hands.

"You know Jun..." Erika started looking at the eager little boy by her side who looked absolutely delighted that he got to accompany her to her room.

"Hai Erika-sama?"

"I think you're a way better man than your father." She laughed as Jun looked absolutely stricken at the idea as she entered her room and couldn't help giggle.

Well...she'd only said the truth after all.

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End Notes:
And that's right....we have previews too. Next Chapter: Dinner With The Sinners



"How do you even know what your mother was like? Haven’t you heard the stories? We were alive when it happened Mao…at best your mother was a concu-"



"You get home…you don’t deserve to be here.”



"You think if I believed all those stories about her I'd be here? TRYING to find out where it all went wrong?"



"I don't need you...so please don't think so or pretend with me. I'll crush your hopes and dreams and I won't even think twice."



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Do not be scared...but the next chapter is going to get intense again for a bit.



On the other hand Erika and Shota are going to dinner? Or a play? Or both? What's happening? No one knows what Shota's thinking? Or is it obvious?



Uwah guys....this is going to get fun now I promise.



THANK YOU CHRISTINE FOR THE AWESOME POSTER!



Thank you to all my reviewers as well =D you encourage me to write Magzhydfan, Daisy, Christine and Wana. You all rock my world =)
Look At Us Now by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
When I realize how long it's been since I updated this story I get very guilty.

So this is to appease my guilt even though I'm not totally happy with it.

Please enjoy my guilt =D

P.S. thank you to Christine for making me the poster =D

P.P.S. For those of you who think i've abandoned this story. Don't worry I never will.



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“I don’t understand.” Mao sighed quietly as she looked at Ryo as they sat outside in Meisa’s garden. Meisa had taken Hikari into prepare food for some of the other workers at the temple who had come in while Mao and Meisa were in discussion. Mao hadn’t gotten to ask where Meisa’s husband was but she assumed he was on a trip himself somewhere. Their shrine was one of the most prized and revered in Japan having a lineage almost as long as the country itself.

“What don’t you get Mao?” Ryo pushed his head back as he stared at the sun as it set. Tegoshi had called him to ask if they were going to be coming back for dinner and he had decided soon he would text him back to let him know that they were probably staying.

Mao turned towards him pulling her legs up on the bench and facing him. “Why would my mother follow Shota wordlessly after he’d kissed her? Especially if she didn’t want that kiss in the first place? Why would she let herself go out with him just with Nao’s permission? I just don’t get it. My mother was strong enough to kick my father out of her life so why would she just succumb to Shota like that?”

“What if she liked the attention?” She hated the tone of voice he addressed her with, it made her feel like she was worthless. She couldn’t help but cast her gaze downwards. He was looking at her as if he wasn’t talking about her mother but about someone else who was closer to him.

That wasn’t fair.

“Huh?” She set out quietly playing with her fingers and he couldn’t help but grow tired of the way Mao seemed to like to ignore her own issues. It wasn’t just him, he was sure everyone who met her could tell that Mao craved attention, especially from those she loved herself.

Was this a way for her to get her parents’ attention somehow? He couldn’t help but wonder…everyone knew the story of Princess Erika. It was futile. What was she chasing after? A dream? Something that had long disappeared before it could even exist?

“I said she may have liked the attention.” He grabbed her hands within his and watched her eyes grow larger as she let him continue playing with the lines on her palm. It was a relaxing game between the two of them after he’d been made to run around after Hikari the entire afternoon. This game he could play, chasing emotionally after Mao was far easier than a 12 year old girl.

“My mother wasn’t like that Ryo.”

“How do you even know what your mother was like? Haven’t you heard the stories? We were alive when it happened Mao…at best your mother was a concu-“ Mao immediately smacked his chest as the words tumbled out of his mouth and she looked at him incredulously laughing.

“Are you kidding me? Don’t even say it. Everyone may like to refer to her that way but I know better…if she was just a silly little conquest Shota took a liking to… then why on earth would she have been given the title of Princess? Gifted a million and one royal treasures? Would he have vowed to spend the rest of his life with her in front of the whole country, a ‘concubine’?” She yelled out stunned by the way Ryo had tried to get close again. Like he was lecturing her…did he even have the right?

“Don’t be foolish! Just look at the facts as they are! Stop getting emotionally involved! You’re only hurting yourself!” But she wasn’t listening to him anymore; Mao’s eyes had glassed over as she roughly pulled her hands away from him and stood up on her sneakers to move away from him. He couldn’t help but think he should have somehow kept his mouth shut.

“Why are you here?” She was soft, not accusatory but it was obvious what she meant by her words. Even if her voice was like a siren’s he understood it was meant to hurt like a sword through his heart.

He wasn’t going to let her do this. Not to herself and definitely not to him. It didn’t take long to understand Mao, it just seemed no one was able to stick around her because she liked to push them away. She had another thing coming to her if she thought she could push him away that easily. “Mao-“

“No…why are you here?” Now she was more firm, her gaze transfixed onto him like he was scum that didn’t belong beside her. He stood up in response to her question and came closer to her but she pushed him away roughly at his chest again. “Don’t come closer. Why the hell are you here?” He couldn’t help but be shocked by how much power came packed in the little piece of human that she was.

“Mao- I’m just here to make things easier for you.”

Mao let out a laugh. As usual someone else who tried to convince her that they wanted to come to her aid…when they would realize she didn’t need them or their pity. Especially someone who just wanted to make her see what the whole world had already told her.

That her mother didn’t matter, that she was a blip in history gone wrong. “Who the fuck are you to help me?” At least Shun was her ex-boyfriend, Jun had been someone she’d known vaguely of all her life and someone who was intertwined with her mother’s life in the palace. Who was this man in front of her? The one with the eyes that screamed the color of night at her, whose skin shone like gold even under the setting sun, the one who looked as if he was trying to calm her, make her understand his words when she didn’t want to.

She couldn’t understand him if he was trying to make her give up. She refused to.

At his silence she took her cheap shot at him and continued as he continued staring at her with a look that said his patience was running thin. “Sorry…let me answer that. You’re no one. You’re some guy I slept with last night…you mean nothing.” She wasn’t foolish. She saw the way his eyes hardened as he struggled to keep his mouth from saying something he would regret.

“I’ll be out on the first bus I get Ryo. The only reason I stayed was to meet Meisa…leave my bags outside I’ll come get them. You get home…you don’t deserve to be here.” She laughed sarcastically turning around. At the sound of her last sentence he grabbed her and whipped her around so that she hit against the front of his chest. He held onto her arm so tight that she had to yelp until he loosened up, the skin on it burning from his strong grasp on it.

“Deserve? What the hell does that mean Mao?”

“It means you don’t matter to me!” She couldn’t stop the screech from coming out of her mouth shrilly and as it reached his ears with the high pitch in her voice she saw him stagger backwards nodding weakly.

“If that’s what you feel like you don’t need to come home and sleep tonight.” He was getting angry but he was regretting his words as they came out of his mouth. She wouldn’t give him a chance to apologize. She knew she’d have to apologize back.

“Go home then. I have to stay with Meisa. I already told you I’d pick up my stuff before I left the city.” He made a move to leave and she decided not to stop him as she saw him walk away, even though he was probably expecting it.

After all she had been the one who had decided to think of him as nothing more than another guy right? Why should she stop someone she barely knew? Someone she didn’t care about?

Meisa came out of the side of the house to see Mao staring at a man’s back as he walked down the stairs without a look back at them. She couldn’t help but sigh as she looked on at her goddaughter and brought her arm silently around Mao’s shoulders. As Mao turned to look at the older woman flabbergasted, Meisa simply shook her head. “It never ceases to amaze me how alike Erika and you seem now.”

“We’re nothing alike Meisa.”

“If only that sentence were true we’d all be happier wouldn’t we?” Mao turned to look at the woman who was smiling at her with a look that clearly said she didn’t believe her as she turned back into the house and Mao followed her.

She had to continue right?

Even if it felt like she’d taken her own heart and ripped it into shreds for no reason.

--------------

It turned out Shota had lied to her, and of course why would he have not? Erika thought cruelly as she watched him drive. He'd dropped Jun home shortly after they'd left.

She knew now that he was the type of guy that had no qualms about using someone to get what he wanted. Probably a result of some spoiled childhood. Erika looked at the place they had ended up and gulped. Of course she recognized it, how could she not?

Matsuyama Ken’ichi after being ceremoniously kicked out of Toda studios had fled to Nishizaki studios and proceeded to put out some of the most popular films to date. Including this project which Erika still had no idea what it was called. “Shota what are we doing here?”

“I know you won’t approve-“

“What’s there to approve? Why am I here?” Erika gulped looking at the overly intimidating cement structures and felt her heart constrict. It had been so long since she’d been in this sort of atmosphere that fostered creativity and forced you to imagine a life that at least she could never live right?

“I told Ken’ichi I did a reading with you. The next thing I knew…he asked me if I could get you to come read for him.” Erika’s eyes widened at the prospect of meeting her ex-boyfriend. The first man that had been anything to her, even now when she shut her eyes she could remember the first time he taught her how to use a lighter. The smell of tobacco floated into her thoughts and she shook herself remembering the taste of it upon her tongue.

She’d been a different girl back then curious about everything, passionate and ambitious. “I don’t know about this Shota.” She was different now, no longer willing to try anything, she had responsibilities. She had a child. This was reckless of her to enter this world again by hand of a prince.

“It’s just a reading Erika. I promise I’ll take you out another time. Please. Read for him.”

“What good is that going to do?!” She couldn’t help but yell back at the insistent prince who backed off for a second looking at her as he realized he was pushing the woman to do something she didn’t want to.

He nodded smiling apologetically. “Sorry…I forget sometimes that not everyone bends that easily to my will.” She felt her heart constrict as she glared at him shaking her head. There was no way she could go in there look Ken’ichi square in the eyes and pretend that this was just another reading. “But I’m not lying. You are the best person for this role. You know Hina inside out and it’s not just because you’re a good actress but I think you relate to her Erika. That was why in the garden you were able to bring life into her in a way I didn’t see with Izumi. I want to give Ken’ichi the pleasure of seeing his characters the way he’d always hoped they would be represented.” She knew he was swaying her and she didn’t want to tell him it was working. “I want you to be her and its just an hour. Do you think you could be Hina for an hour?”

She felt her eyes cast downwards at his words. How was she supposed to ever say no with such eloquence and sugary sweetness woven into the words of a Prince? “Let’s go in.” She felt defeated so as she turned to look at him to give him a dirty look she was shocked to find that at the smile on his face, she felt more victorious than defeated.

“You won’t regret it Erika.”

----------------

Shota sat in a chair as he looked at the figure in front of him. All the things that had decidedly made her Toda Erika seemed to have disappeared from the body of this woman. She leaned forward and poured out tea in the cup in front of him.

“Why are we here?” He blurted out fumbling and Hina’s eyes widened.

“Why?” She echoed back whilst smiling foolishly at him. “It would seem to me your mother would like me to marry you. Does it not appear that way? After all, travelling five miles to meet a long lost friend from her youth? While simultaneously ensuring you and I are left without a chaperone in a room?” She let out a small giggle as she picked up her own full cup of tea and sipped it. “Please don’t be shy.” She indicated her head towards the cup and Kisuke nodded as he played around with his fingers before lifting the cup and tilting his head towards the lady in front of him.

“I apologize on behalf of her if those were indeed her intentions.” He bowed his head and looked deep into the cup avoiding the questioning gaze of his companion beside him.

“Do you know why she wants you married?” Hina blew softly onto the hot air rising from the tea and flicked her eyes up to see Kisuke let out a pathetic little smile. “After all, her son isn’t quite of marriageable age is he?”

“Aren’t we born in the same years Hina-chan?” She let him get away with the endearment. “You are quite of marriageable age even if I’d rather not marry you.” Kisuke as if catching his callously spoken words stopped himself and bowed his head low in apology. “I did not mean for that to sound the way it did. I hope you may find it in your graces to forgive my rudeness.” When he lifted his head he was shocked to see Hina laughing as she placed her cup back down on the table and continued laughing with such fervor that he was unable to look away.

“Honesty is what they say makes a good person isn’t it?” Her words came through gasps of chuckles that resounded through his ears constantly and he wasn’t sure if the cause was that of the room or simply that her giggles rang like the most delicate bells clinking together. “I am not offended. I am happy you feel this way. It makes my life much less complicated as you see I’m already engaged to be married within a fortnight. Much to your mother’s disappointment I assume but as my mother and yours are long-lost friends so I doubt that she knew of it or was invited to the wedding.”

Kisuke found himself floored. “You- you’re engaged to be married?” The slight weakness in his words shocked even himself. It wasn’t that he found her particularly appealing but Hina was but a girl of 16 like himself. His breathing sounded slightly irregular but if Hina noticed she ignored it as she crossed her legs over one another.

The idea of marriage was frightful to him, but Hina seemed to embrace it with a calm that irked him.

“I have been for a year now.” Kisuke saw the dreamy expression on her face as she ran her hands through the ends of her hair. “He’s a man that I have grown to love. Older than me by 6 years but nevertheless someone who I now understand wholly. Who comes from a respectable family, and decent income just like my parents wanted.” She brushed her hair behind her ear and Kisuke gulped as he saw a stray strand fall right back across her face.

“Your parents want you to and so you’ll just marry?” He challenged her with his tone and Erika took the challenge as she looked on the Kisuke, Shota portrayed now. They were younger in this scene than they’d been in the last scene they’d done together.

She added a hint of innocence to her words as she put her hands on her cheeks. “It isn’t that bad you know…you’ll never be alone if you marry Kisuke.”

Kisuke scoffed as he leaned back in his chair. “I have all the company a man can ask for.”

“I didn't quite know maids in the house counted as favorable company.” She teased and Kisuke’s eyes shot up at the crude subtle hint that she offered behind her words.

“Aren’t you scared marrying?”

“Not at all. Why is your mother so desperate to get you married?”

“I’m going to the army to fight for the country soon.” He looked down at his legs and arms before letting out a biting laugh. “I don’t know if I’ll come back myself…that’s if I come back at all. Perhaps I'll even come back half a man, lost an arm or a leg...then the maids certainly wouldn't want me.” He teased bitterly and Hina couldn't help but pity the young soldier in front of her.

“Aren’t you more scared of that than marriage?” Her voice was soft but his response was loud.

“No!” He insisted quickly and Hina couldn’t help but laugh harder as Kisuke brought his hands together and looked at her with a glare.

“Stop that!” She would undoubtedly think that he was telling her to stop laughing because she was hurting his feelings. It was quite the contrary…it was because it was making him blush redder in the face as he realized he liked making her laugh.

“That’s enough for now!” A voice boomed past their ears and the image they’d created came crashing as Erika turned her eyes on the man who she’d been avoiding with all her might. He was still as ruggedly handsome as he’d been when she’d first grown to have a crush on him as one of her father’s most promising young directors. “Erika…I have to ask. What does your father have to say for you reading for me?"

Shota jumped in for her. “Ken’ichi you know that was a good reading. She’s doing far better than Mayuko at least isn’t she? You can’t deny it. Erika is Hina in the truest form.”

Erika stepped up for herself and folded her arms. “I just came to do a reading. I have no real interest in this role and even so. My father does not dictate my life now.” Ken’ichi was shocked as she flat out rejected his role and he nodded.

“Fine...but Erika. You know that I'd be a fool not to offer you this role. So I'm saying it. Take it...you are her and you've always deserved to be a star.” The words froze her as she looked straight into Ken'ichi's eyes and gulped feeling her body transported back to when she'd first bumped into Ken’ichi.

Reminding her of the wolf that had caught her...that now invited her back to that place of dreams, making love and so much more that she had found herself lost in before Jin.


She ran across the studios with her balloons that she had prepared for Meisa as congratulations on the completion of her project. She found herself on the floor soon and as she rubbed her head and opened her eyes she realized she had collided with something and was now lying on top if it.

Or rather someone. She was lying on top of a man. The man was tall even as he was flat on the ground. His body was long and his black hair fell into his eyes with a grace that was purposeful. His lips were pink as they came was what Erika first noticed about him as she bit her own in apology. “Gomen nasaii,” She bowed her head in apology and he shook his head.

“It’s okay…who would mind if such a beautiful woman pushed them to the ground?” She blushed and gingerly took the hand he offered her as they stood up together. “Matsuyama Ken’ichi desu…yoroshiku onegaishimasu.”

“Toda Erika desu.” She found her hands getting sweaty as she avoided his deep gaze and he lifted her hand to his mouth. Her eyes flicked towards his as she gulped fearfully looking for her father’s presence somewhere as his lips lightly pressed down on her skin.

“Forgive me if I sound rather forward…” She furrowed her eyebrows in confusion and he grinned cheekily at her and he completed his thought. “but I hope you push me down again sometime soon.”

She had never felt her heart hammer as hard as it had while she laughed while she waved him goodbye. She brought the balloons down to cover herself the rest of the way. She was sure she was so red that she could have been mistaken for a strawberry.


Matsuyama Ken'ichi, this man was her first love. She stared back at him as he stood looking at her with his arms crossed over his chest. He was older now, the constantly there beard on his face seemed darker now, his eyes deeper....did he understand? Did he care why she couldn't jump at this opportunity? "I have a child."

"I'm open to letting her in during rehearsals." He answered back and she blinked back the tears that were unknowingly finding their way to the back of her eyes. It didn't make sense that he would want her to succeed...not when they'd parted the way they had.

Shota seeing her confusion felt a pang of pity for having brought her into this situation. He walked up beside her and leaned down beside her to whisper in her ear. "I'll help you with anything you'll need."

Erika grumbled yet again. How was this prince supposed to help her? He gave her more stress than anyone else she'd known in her life and she'd met him less than 5 times in all her life.

Matsuyama Ken'ichi...could she really work with this man?
End Notes:
I've been DYING to expand on Ken'ichi's role in the story. I don't know if you guys realized but I mention him a lot. So now you know why I didn't expand till now.

Because Ken'ichi is actually a huge part of this story. Now you guys know why.

So I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter. A little bit of Mao, a little bit of Erika. I think that's the first time I blended them into one chapter.

What did you guys think? T.T I'm sorry I've been hoarding this update but it's because I genuinely didn't think it was ready but I've edited it like 800000 times now so T.T yeah. But yeah here it is!

Thank you so much to everyone whose reading Erika btw. I saw that it had like 7000 hits and :O freaked the hell out!!! Thank you so much to all of you follow Erika =) I never thought I could get these many hits like ever so XD.

Thank you to both Christine and maojun who reviewed =D you make my life.

If you're reading please review =D it encourages me. I'm on a mini hiatus right now just until school gets over so consider this Erika update as like a mini good bye for now.

Previews:

"You've always wanted to control my life... well I won't let you anymore. I want this. I can't just- I can't just say no to something I've wanted forever Takuya and I won't let you make me say no. "

“Ahh Okazaki. Meet my wife. Terashima Hina.”

“I will protect and love Mao with all my life, I promise."

"Sometimes you think people will wait for you....but Toda Erika has never been the type of girl to wait for someone. I'm fine Aya. It's just someone I used to know back in Japan."

If We Fight, We Fight Together by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
Haven't abandoned.

Never will!

Thanks for reading :)

and forgiving :)




------------------------

Shota walked through the opened doors of the Toda house with a smile on his face as he glanced at his watch. 10:35, she’d be out in five minutes generally and then they would drive over to the studios together.

The Toda’s couldn’t afford a driver and since he was the one who had inadvertently dragged her back to the world she’d always longed for he had volunteered his car and driver. Today he’d have to drive them himself however as one of the palace’s driver had been given to the older prince who had business in parliament and Chiaki and Maki had taken the other driver to the country side where they were doing a speech to boost the spirits of farmers whose crops were suffering in the Hiroshima prefecture.

His mind couldn’t help but wonder why he didn’t have as avid an interest in the wellbeing of his country as he ought to. The fact he was allowed to film, and even do what he wanted to, was considered a huge allowance by his father the emperor. At the same time it did provide him an easy excuse not to reveal their family’s history to the suspicious public. It allowed him to let Shota do what he wanted, and give the throne to the truly deserving son despite who was its rightful owner.

Shota knew that his brother would be a far better leader than he ever could hope to be, legitimate or not. “Ah Ouji-sama,”

“Nao-sama, I told you I don’t like to be called that.” He turned around smiling as he looked at the woman whose strict features convinced Shota that he should be careful around her. Still so far he should thank her, when Erika’s father had kicked up a fuss she had been the one to calm him, ask him to give Erika a reason to live other than Mao.

Despite her appearance, she understood Erika's pain greater than anyone else in Erika's life because Shota had a feeling that she bore it every day.

“Gomen gomen!” Erika rushed down the entrance hallway cheeks flushed as she quickly patted down her hair quickly as if she was nervous it was still in knots. “Mao woke up crying last night and I had to put her back to bed. I didn’t quite get any sleep.” That was another thing he couldn’t help admiring about the girl before him. When he’d first met her she’d been a free spirit though a quiet one, and now she seemed to trust him enough to let him know everything that was on her mind. The well-being of her child, how much she wished her world were different, how nervous she got simply acting beside him.

He never let her know how nervous he was beside her.

“Easier said than done?” He replied back clearing his throat as he adjusted his collar.

Erika nodded laughing and the image of Erika softly singing lullabies to Mao floated to the front of his mind from his imagination. He wondered if Maki had ever put Jun to sleep…somehow he seriously doubted it. He didn’t visit her chambers often but when he did it was the maids playing with Jun as Maki laughed beside them and continued doing whatever it was she wanted to. Jun didn’t seem to think of it as a lacking though, he still loved his mother with all his heart. She was still a part of his life, but she never really took a part in it.

“Not even the half of it.” She smiled widely before reaching over to hug her mother.

“Did you say to bye to Mao?” Nao asked offhandedly as Erika nodded smiling and Shota couldn’t help but feel a small smile float onto his own face looking through the three generations of women in his mind.

Erika quickly said a goodbye as she kissed her mother on the cheek and walked ahead of Shota. Of course in her rush she barely realized she was faster than him so he raced to catch up and open the door for her as he always did. He may be a prince but he had not forgotten his manners.

Nao slowly entered the house today fighting the will to call Erika back as she did every day. Takuya's whispers ringing in her ears.

We couldn't control her once...what makes you think we'll be able to stop her from running herself to the ground again?

“Where’s the driver?” Erika asked frowning as she looked inside the car at the backseat and Shota rolled his eyes.

“It isn’t that unsafe to drive with me is it? Sit up front today.” He questioned back as she narrowed her eyes and shook her head.

“It’s not that but being in the car alone with you hasn’t ever turned out to be good for me.” Shota laughed as he got in the car beside her slamming the door casually.

“Hey…I think they’ve been enjoyable experiences.”

“For you maybe,” She snarkily replied and then her face cracked into a smile as she brought her hand over her mouth and covered the giggles that tumbled out and Shota couldn’t help but feel his stomach turn over itself.

As time grew from her partition with Jin and with this job Erika was slowly changing. Perhaps not to the once carefree teenage girl she had been but she did seem less upset with herself. For that he was happy he forced her three months ago to take this job in this very same car.


He parked his car in front of her house and she slowly steadied herself before she grabbed the door and made a move to leave when he grabbed her hand and pulled her back inside. Something inside him had to stop her before she decided to say no. “Take the job Erika,”

Erika looked down at the hand as if it burned her and he backed it off remembering how cautious she truly was around him. “Why do you care so much about what happens to me? Why should it matter?”

“Because I know that you need this as much as this movie needs you.” He bit his tongue knowing that if she took this the wrong way he had just waved goodbye to her for the rest of his life.

“How am I supposed to be a good mother to Mao prancing around on a set like some-“

“Normal girl with hopes and dreams?”He bit back and saw her expression falter but the anger only grew. He was right and she couldn’t deny that fact.

Her eyes narrowed as she tried to pull her wrist free but he could not let it go. “Am I allowed to be this frivolous?”

“Why because you aren’t Meisa? Because you have responsibilities?”

“I’m not like you Shota, when I fight for myself no one hears, in that house,” He followed her gaze to the largely ornate house with black barred gates. “I’m alone in my fight…”

Immediately as his words tumbled out of his mouth he wondered how she would take them. “I’ll fight for you. I want them to give you what you want…if this is what you want Erika tell me and I’ll fight for you.” Her eyes teared up as she opened her mouth and he already knew what was going to tumble out so he continued speaking so he could stop her. “Don’t use Mao as an excuse…Ken’ichi will figure out a way for that to work. If you want I’ll even bring Jun and a maid along so she’s not alone.”

“Thank you for the ride home. Drive safely.” Erika bit out in such a manner that Shota couldn’t help but want to hate himself. Seriously…what had he done to make this girl who used to worship the ground he walked on to turn on him so furiously? She was a tornado of emotions as she walked away from him.

Erika couldn’t help but bite back the tears that were forming in her eyes. How could she possibly say yes? She had promised herself that Mao was the only thing that mattered now, how could she possibly be selfish? She twisted the door knob ready to exit the car when she felt Shota grab her arm and she wrenched it free and couldn’t help herself as she turned around to look painfully at him as she whined. “What now Shota?”

“What have I done?” He looked so desperate for a response that she felt bad that she had managed to bring the prince of their country to such a state.

“What have you done?”

“Yes I can’t for the life of me understand why you hate me.”

“You’ve given me hope.” She banged the door shut so that no one outside may hear them as she looked him straight in the eyes. “You may not understand but- I had given up on that dream. I can’t possibly ““ She bit back the tears that readily pounced out of her eyes and despite her protests somehow Shota had neared towards her caressing the top of her hair in a manner that was too comforting for a man who refused to wipe away her tears. “Don’t-“

“Shut your mouth Erika, that’s a royal command.” Without another word he had pulled her into his arms and simply hugged her so that the sobs in her chest quelled and she shut her eyes not wanting to enjoy something as simple as this. Despite herself she enjoyed the feeling of being hugged though, she hadn’t been cradled by someone in so long. She hadn’t felt cared for since Jin had left her. She knew she was just using him, but she couldn’t stop and it seemed that he didn’t mind that she simply wanted to be embraced either. “Feel better?”

A slow nod from her head meant she was released immediately and she was stuck wiping her tears away herself. “I’m sorry for becoming over-emotional.”

“It’s understandable, you’re a woman. Your entire gender was once considered insane. There’s obviously some credibility to the fact.” He teased her and it worked, her smile rose on her face and she punched him lightly on the arm, careful to not cause serious damage to the royal beside her.

“Thanks.” She turned around to make her way into her house again when she heard his voice enter her ears.

“Erika-“

“What?”

“It’s not wrong you know…to want something for yourself.” His tone was serious now as she froze on the doorknob.

“I know that.” She turned to look at him. “If you’ll fight. I’ll fight with you.” The smile that stretched on his face made her heart jump as she smiled back.



---------------------------
China

“The latest news coming straight from Japan is that their royal prince is finally half-way through his first feature film project after many delays concerning their lead or shall we say ex-lead actress.” The announcer’s voice filed throughout the eatery at which Jin couldn’t help but look up. He felt strange here looking at her as her face graced the television screen but he smiled nevertheless. Despite looking skinnier than usual, she looked happy. “It was revealed today that a new actress would be working alongside Shota-sama in the feature. Toda Erika-san is here today at the station with us alongwith the prince and the director.”

Jin cleared his throat for a second and bit back a bitter laugh. It should have been obvious to him, he had come between them once and maybe Shota wouldn’t have enjoyed having that happen again. Even if nothing had come of it Erika had been absolutely enamored by the prince and he by her. They could finally discover what they felt for each other whether it was just an attraction, friendship or something more. He looked down at the bowl of rice he had on his tray and struggled to move past the knot in his throat. Suddenly he didn’t feel like eating. “Erika-san is it true this isn’t your first time working with Ken’ichi-san?”

Ken’ichi…the name sounded familiar enough and he looked to the man to whom they were referring to. He’d never spoken to him but he remembered the man giving him a dark look when Jin had first started working at the studios. It wasn’t long after that the man had disappeared completely and Jin never thought of him again. Here he was though, listing himself as one of Erika’s many hidden secrets. “Jin, why are you staring at the screen like you’re going to shoot it?” His one friend in China softly asked but he couldn't bring himself to answer. Words escaped him as he thought harder.

He wasn’t a fool. He knew Erika had never been a virgin even when he married her and he realized now who that man was too.

He may have forgiven her behavior when they’d first gotten married but that didn’t mean he forgot.

Somehow the anger he felt towards his wife built as he saw her laugh between the two men who flanked each of her sides. How was he supposed to trust her? How was he supposed to ever rise to that status where the other men who wanted her were when she wouldn’t even give him a chance to?

Maybe she didn’t even want him to…maybe she wanted to degrade herself in this manner. How the hell should he know?

He saw her hand touch Ken’ichi’s shoulder as she smiled and explained how Ken’ichi was a rookie director at her father’s studio.

All Jin heard was the sound of an envelope addressed from her that he’d opened last week…divorce papers.

"Jin...are you okay?" His eyes shot back to across the table where a girl with block shaped glasses and scared smiles looked back at him.

"I'm fine Aya."

Truth was, he wasn't. He was angry and pissed though who was he to try and rule her life.

Was she even taking care of their child?

She had no time to reply to his letters? But time to act?

What was really going on between her and the two men beside her? Why did she send the papers?

No...he was far from fine because for the first time in a week, he was thinking about signing them.
End Notes:
...it's been close to a year.

I know it's a sad thing I've done because this story is my baby. One of the first stories I've truly looked at and said DAYM SON.

Truth is, you guys have really done a lot for this story. Every single reader whether you've read once or all the way till here so I apologize for the length of time this update took. It never really took shape at first and then I kinda lost touch and wrote a whole bunch of other crap and now today I finished it.

Since the last time I've updated...Erika's popularity (hits wise) has surged. Briefly I'd like to thank everyone who clicked on any chapter. You've made a girl very happy.

Thank you to all the reviewers I've had for this story as well :) maohartjun, iamsinglelicious, and Christine.

Previews:

"Why isn't he picking up?"

"Take these... they'll be able to pick up where I left off."

"So you're just leaving...again. Like nothing has happened."

"Have you thought about transferring? Into political science? You definitely have an aptitude and interest son."

"You're married?"

"Not for much longer."


If It's Nothing Why Doesn't It Feel That Way? by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
Enjoy guys :) honestly I don't even know where this came from...but I finished it in between studying for my exams :D
----------------------------------------------

The door bell rang and Hina ran towards the door with a pressure on her feet that seemed to come from her heart.

It had been a year since she had held him last in her arms but only minutes since she’d remembered him in every way possible. She whipped open the door begging with every fiber in her body that he was - “Kisuke-san?”

“Hina-chan?” This was not the man she had been expecting. “Hina-chan, why are- oh god- you’re- oh god.” A hysteria rose on his face. His eyes fell to the ground as Hina felt her blood run cold in her veins. “Hina-chan,” He kept repeating her name familiarly even if it had been years since she had seen him and even then she had barely seen him for an afternoon.

In another life, this man could have been the man she was waiting for.

If destiny had been different she could have been happy seeing Kisuke alive after being sent to a war where he would surely have died. She could jump in his arms and hold on so tightly that he would almost surely be choked to death. Then she could release her pain and tears on his shoulders and thank the heavens that he was alive.

But Kisuke was not who she longed to see alive.

She had waited a year and now the cold that was settling on her heart let her know that - “Hiro wa-“

His eyes shot up to hers and she saw that there were tears covering the glassy film of his irises. Suddenly her own limbs failed to support her as she slowly melted into a pile of flesh at his feet.

Only a fool wouldn’t understand what this meant. Her lungs collapsed inwards as she opened her mouth to scream but yet she could hear nothing. As if her own body would not let her have the relief of unleashing her pain.

“Hiro-kanchou,” His voice crumbled and a tear rolled its way down her face as she realized the words that would undoubtedly leave his lips. Her hand flew to cover her mouth, but whether it was to help her breathe or muzzle her breaths she wasn’t quite sure. “You were Hiro-kanchou’s wife…”


A silence blanketed the room as Erika’s whimpers echoed against the fake bustle of the studio town and Shota stood above her, his fists clenched at either of his sides.

“CUT.” Ken’ichi called out confidently and Erika felt her heart constrict for a second as she looked up to see her director. He was smiling at her as if she had given him the world and more. “Erika that was flawless.” Why was it everyone sounded so astonished when she did well? Did they expect her to mess up?

A hand came right in front of her eyes blocking her vision and she looked up to see Shota smiling down at her. “Need a hand?” She felt her heart lighten as she nodded grabbing his hand and lifting herself from the ground where Hina had fallen.

She fiddled with the bun her hair was in until she felt it come lose and saw Shota tilt his head sideways. “See something interesting?”

She was only teasing him but she felt herself grow alarmed when Shota responded. “You.” She immediately ducked her head away from him and placed a hand on her throat as she giggled nervously bumbling to find words to say back to him that would make her appear less of a mess. Seeing how frantic she looked at the fact he had tried to flirt with her he sighed. Despite his better intentions he cleared his throat and spoke. “Now I’m teasing you.”

Immediately, Erika felt her heart ease it's battle against her rib cage and she grinned shaking her head. “That isn’t very nice. I almost had a mini heart attack.” Shota didn’t respond other than to smile at her and it was just as well as Ken’ichi came over interrupting their private conversation.

“You guys- there’s something the two of you have brought to the scene that is just taking it above and beyond what I expected. Every take is better than the last.” Ken’ichi paused here to look at Shota who simply looked back at him with a blank expression. “Kisuke’s acting here has really improved since he’s been with you Erika-chan.” Shota’s eyebrows rose dramatically and Erika knew that expression on his face even if she had never seen it before.

He looked shot down and hurt at Ken'ichi's callous words.

Erika suddenly grew flustered and tried to salvage the situation. She hadn’t come here to start acting to make Shota feel inferior. “It’s more the other way around. He has brought a life into me." Shota almost burst into laughter but then he saw how serious Erika was. She obviously didn't realize what she had just said. Ken'ichi tilted his head sideways trying to stop himself from laughing at her as well.

Bring a life into her. Shota couldn't help it as he turned away for a second trying to laugh. Erika looked at him worried, believing she had caused more harm than good.

"Ano- Erika- what you said-" But Erika didn't want to say anything else lest she hurt Shota more.

"I have to be leaving anyways Ken’ichi. Thanks for today.” She bowed and made a move to step away from the stage but Ken’ichi grabbed her hand.

“I seriously mean it Erika...thank you for all of this. For doing this. For us.” Erika felt an eerie calm come over her as she pulled her hand away from his as slowly as she could. She folded her body over in a low bow. Though they were thanking her all she could think of was her own gratitude for this distraction. Without Hina, Erika wouldn’t really have anything other than Mao to live for.

And though Mao was a great cause to live for, Erika did not want to become that mother. She did not want to be that mother whose only focus in life was her daughter.

Her own mother’s face flashed before her eyes but she quickly blinked the image away. “That’s sweet of you to say so Ken’ichi…but no. I have to thank you guys for helping me not lose my mind.” She raised her head her new bouncy curls hopping all over the place as she turned on her foot and flounced away.

Shota couldn’t help but smile as he slyly observed her backside in the yukata they had made her wear to portray Hina. How delicate and feminine it really was. If she turned around and caught him staring at him no doubt it would probably ruin the small semblance of a friendship they had but he didn’t even care.

“She’s perfect isn’t she?” Ken’ichi’s voice broke through his thoughts and he turned to look at his director realizing that Ken’ichi was looking at indeed the same thing he was. “I hated her father, and I hated her for a while too. I’m still not sure whether I’ve forgiven myself, or her or the world for what happened.”

“What?” Shota couldn’t help but murmur softly looking at the man who was technically his boss even if Shota could easily choose to disrespect him.

“Nothing Shota.” Ken’ichi clapped a hand on his back. “Nothing.” Ken’ichi walked off the set to go talk to a camera man and left Shota looking back and forth between where Erika was and Ken’ichi stood.

Nothing?

If it was nothing why was his stomach twisting over itself at the prospect of their nothing?
---------------------

CHINA

“Look I promise it’s just one class we have to sit through…I have to talk to my dad and we have time to kill and it won’t take that long Jin.” Jin stretched his arms over his head yawning.

“Do we have to? I’m kind of tired.” It was true, he had been up studying all night to get his mind off the fact that his wife was currently in the company of two men who could snatch her away anytime they wanted.

Bitterly he frowned as he thought that she likely didn't even consider herself married to him any longer. After all, she had already sent the papers right? What was left to stop her from going after whichever of the two she fancied?

“Please Jin. I promise you can sleep in his class.” Aya interrupted his thoughts.

He was almost thankful, if he had thought about it any longer he might have cursed himself into oblivion for coming here. He still didn't regret his choice. “I seriously doubt your father would let a student sleep in his class.”

“Well you’re in business and not the special diplomacy program or political science. I think you’ll be fine.” Aya laughed as she looked at the mysterious man she had managed to befriend.

Originally, Jin hadn’t wanted to talk to her. On the first day he’d said little more than a few words in response to her quest to find out more about him. What a tiresome bore he’d been, but he’d been cute enough that she’d insisted on continuing to sit with him in all their classes together.

And thank god she had because the man she had got to know in this year was a man she definitely wanted around. Even if she knew nothing about him there were things about Jin that made him a particularly good friend.

He was always around to help with last minute assignments, always supported you in whichever way possible, never let someone offer you more drink than he knew a respectable girl would want and yes even saved you from the villains in your life.

Or at least she thought that was him.

She had yet to prove the last one, but with the way this Prince of hers that she'd stumbled upon but she knew it was only a matter of time before he proved her right. “Come on, you know you’ll end up coming with me anyways...admit it you’re too soft to say no to me.” She was half-testing him, she didn’t actually know that he was too soft to say no to her but felt a strange happiness blanket her as he relented moaning and marched head first into her father’s lecture hall.

She followed soon after holding her books to her chest unable to wipe the arrogantly happy grin from her face.

Jin hissed as he looked around. The entire class was already full save for two spots in the very front right beside each other. “Is your dad’s class this popular?”

“Well he was very good at what he did.”

“And what was that?”

“International relations. My dad was a diplomat to China from Japan before he retired and decided to settle down here and teach about international relations instead.” She put her books down taking a look at Jin who’d quietly taken out a pen and paper. “You’re going to start making notes?”

“You never know what you need after all. Why do you need to talk to your dad again?”

Aya sighed. “I need to get him to take me out of a summer job. He told me to start working under the current diplomat from Japan this summer but I can’t do it. It’s too boring. I did it last summer.”

Jin’s eyes bugged out of his head as he looked at the girl beside him as if she was crazy, which could have been quite likely. “You were one of the assistants at the office of the Japanese diplomat to China and you found it boring?”

“Well if you keep placing orders for the same coffee over and over again I promise you’ll find it boring too Jin.” She started laughing at his incredulous expression. Then her face blanched out as she saw her father walk in through the door and Jin immediately grew magnetized by the powerful presence of the man before him.

His stride had an air of supremacy, he was wearing a western-styled suit that made him look as if he was the owner of a huge conglomerate and Jin couldn’t help but feel floored by the aura of kindness etched into the man’s face.

It was a kindness that he recognized in his own father's face.

Aya was still hiding underneath her hand at the appearance of her father though. Apparently his presence was only that awe-inspiring to one man in the room.

Ueto-san looked at his daughter and gave her a smile. Jin saw in shock that the man’s attention had turned on him and his smile grew even wider. A small subtle nod was thrown in his direction and Jin grabbed Aya’s hand and brought it down from her face.

Aya’s father’s friendly demeanor cracked for just a second as he saw the strange boy take his daughter’s hand in his and whisper into her hair. “Aya…your dad’s here you can’t just hide behind your hand.”

“Jin!” She exclaimed looking down at their intertwined fingers, she’d been waiting months for him to do this and he chose to do it now! “Not in front of my dad! Let go!” Immediately her hand was dropped like a hot potato. Jin hadn’t thought of it that way but he supposed now that was why her father had given a small measure of special attention to him when he’d walked into the room.

Aya bringing a non-student to his class must have looked like he held some sort of special regard with Erik-Aya! He corrected automatically. How could he have switched their names even in his mind?

They were nothing alike whatsoever. Erika was what might have been described as an classically beautiful and completely insane girl. Aya was a delectably intelligent and desirable modern woman.

He noticed it…of course he noticed it. Jin was in love with Erika but that didn’t mean he was a saint. Aya however made it easy for him to forget what she looked like entirely, she spoke with the pride of a man, went into ridiculously dangerous situations like a headstrong stubborn idiot and was still the best friend he had ever had in his life.

He hadn’t even revealed anything about himself and yet strangely they never ran out of things to talk about.

The rest of the three hour class flew by and Jin found himself honestly interested in the material that Ueto-sensei presented before the class. He even asked questions which caused Aya to laugh and call him an over-achiever under her breath. He was going to kick her under the table until he realized that any movement could be seen as their legs weren’t hidden beneath the table and it could be perceived the wrong way by Ueto-sensei.

It was wrong that he should be spending so much time alone with a girl…but he was keeping his distance from Aya in that way and so he didn’t consider it against his commitment to Erika to spend time with her. Aya was after all just a friend, and indeed probably the only one he would miss if he were to leave for Japan right now at this very instant.

She reminded him often why he was here. Even if she was unaware she was doing it. If he had had half her strength when he had been in Toda Takuya's household maybe he would have never come here. “Come on fanboy- class is over. Let me go introduce you to my dad.”

“Shut up Aya.” He hit her lightly on her shoulder as she laughed and grabbed his hand pulling him to the front of the class where her father was with his other students. When he saw her father smile at him in approving manner, his fingers clenched tightly onto hers and Aya turned to look at him with a bemused expression but kept walking forward.

Aya had never been one for girlish fantasies but she couldn’t help but feel her stomach flutter at the thought that one day she was going to hold the hand of the man beside her and walk out of a church, dressed entirely in white.

-------------------------

JAPAN

“Your serve!” Shota shot back as he hit the tennis ball back at his brother who grinned as he dashed across the court and hit it back to Shota. Like that they continued to dance around the flat green expanse of a palace court as Maki, Chiaki and Erika sat off to the side with Toma residing over their shoulders.

“I’m getting tired just looking at them.” Chiaki laughed as she looked between her husband and her brother-in-law fanning herself lightly. She raised her hand and called for a maid who came immediately. “Could you set aside a jar of lemon and mint juice for us? Or maybe two.” She looked at Erika as if asking her for something but Erika couldn’t seem to understand what it was possibly until she saw Toma just behind Chiaki-sama nod and she quickly nodded as well. He seemed to be her only human counterpart amongst these gods. “Yes two it is then.” Chiaki smiled serenely at Erika. “So Toda-san, I heard you’re taking part in the play with my little brother?”

“She is.” Maki answered back quickly for her and Chiaki turned to look at Maki as she shook her head just the slightest bit so Maki huffed and leaned back into her chair.

Sensing Chiaki seemed to want to start a conversation with her, Erika cleared her throat and smiled up at the crown princess of Japan. “Yes, thank you for having me over. I didn’t expect to have the honour of meeting you and Ryuhei-sama.”

“It’s no bother really…Shota insisted that he needed to practice his lines and didn’t have the time for a game. We promised that you would be here and then Ryuhei got his tennis partner back.” Maki’s tone was bashful and Chiaki laughed lightly as if she was sharing some sort of private joke with herself.

Beyond that though, Erika didn’t know where to take the conversation.

What did one ask the future queen of the country?

Thankfully she needn’t have worried long as Ryuhei and Shota returned to the patio table just in time for the two maids walking back with the lemon and mint juice pitchers. Erika observed Chiaki’s posture change as she served the drink for Ryuhei and somehow she found that odd.

She would have imagined that the maid would serve him directly but Chiaki doing it herself threw her off guard. “Thanks Chiaki.” Ryuhei bent down to kiss his bride on the temple before walking to the empty seat beside Maki.

The affectionate gesture made her heart squeeze painfully but she kept her smile firmly on her face refusing to show any emotion on her face now that the Crown Prince was on the table.

The only other empty seat was beside her and that she gulped nervously feeling Shota sit down beside her. Though she knew it was nothing to be worried about she felt herself shift her chair a little bit closer to Chiaki. She knew Shota was only joking around with her when he- well when he flirted but regardless it felt strange to be seated this close to him when Maki was right there.

“So this is the Erika you’ve told me so much about Shota.” She felt her attention turn towards Ryuhei again.

There was something so distinctly foreign about the man's face that for a second the rumors surrounding his birth flitted back to her mind but just as quickly she forced them back out. His features may not have matched what would have been traditionally Japanese but there was a distinct gentleness in his face that immediately put her at ease. It might have been his warm smile, or just the way he looked at her as if right now she was the priority.

It was a wonderful quality to have in the future emperor of their country.

She immediately bowed her head back down to hear the laughs of those around her, even Toma who had been somewhat of a help to her at this awkward gathering. “Hai…ou-“ She raised her head suddenly as she realized she’d forgotten how it was you addressed the crown prince.

“Just call him Ryuhei…no one’s here so it really doesn’t matter.” Shota patted her back lightly as he looked at Maki expectantly.

“Yes?” She replied lazily, never turning to look at him as she automatically sensed his gaze on her.

“Aren’t you going to lovingly pour a cup of lemon and mint-“ Immediately Maki grabbed the cup and poured the juice. Then just as she was about to hand it off to Shota whose hands were outstretched she pulled it back and sipped on it herself.

Shota frowned at his wife who stuck her tongue out. “Iie. Pour it yourself ouji-sama.” Erika started laughing pulling a hand over her mouth as she saw how adorably childish the man beside her looked as he poured himself his glass.

“So Erika-san,” Ryuhei lit up a cigarette and placed it in his mouth. Erika was tempted to frown but quickly remembering where she was seated she decided to simply gaze back at his inquisitive words. “You were married once before?”

That was not something she had expected from the man with the kind face.

Her shock must have been apparent because even Chiaki who seemed to look at her husband with nothing but adoration gave him a look that said she didn’t approve of his question. “Ryuhei-sama…you are mistaken.” Erika was shocked to find her voice hard and sweet. Shota wasn't done with the pitcher but she roughly grabbed it from his palms and felt it almost slip out of her grasp save for Shota's hands saving the jar from falling. “I am still married.” She finished pouring her glass and held it up in a fake cheers as she took her first sip.

“But he’s not around? And here you are…working without his permission and coming over to strange men’s houses.” Shota looked at his brother with a careful gaze warning him not to push Erika…he knew what his brother was trying to do. He was trying to put Erika to ease by forcing her to reveal so much about herself that she would no longer care what these ‘royals’ thought of her.

He remembered so well only because he knew that was exactly what he had done to Chiaki at their first arranged meeting.

The girl had hardly batted an eyelash much less run out crying like the many other girls he had been forced to meet. That was how Ryuhei had known she would be the only woman who could be Queen to his King.

“I’d hardly call the royal family strange. Is there something to be worried about here? Indeed it’s so nice here it feels like it’s my own house.” Shota snickered to himself as he saw Ryuhei’s expression fall for a second into awe. “As for permission…I promised myself a long time ago that I would never follow the orders of a man. I would be his equal.”

That was Erika, beautifully unexpected.

Erika on the other hand was cursing herself inside. How on earth could she say that to the Crown Prince?! She was being lippy and she was scared that at any moment Ryuhei would take offense to her words and stalk off the table but he didn’t. His awe-filled expression simply changed to an uncomplicated understanding and he folded his hands before him looking at Shota. “I like her.”

“Get in line.” Shota replied back immediately. He was laughing but the tinge of possession didn't go unnoticed as everyone around the table looked hesitantly at the two of them.

Becoming of everyone's gazes on her, and only imagining what they were thinking, Erika felt heart sped up under her chest.She gulped a more than healthy portion of the mint lime concoction down to avoid looking back at them.

Pitying her Chiaki tutted the two brothers. “Both of you stop it. You’re making Erika blush beyond belief…you’re incorrigible when it comes to teasing women.” She placed a hand on Erika’s shoulder comfortingly.

Shota opened his mouth to correct Chiaki but before he could say another word they saw Jun and Mao run towards them from the play area near the court where Yui had been trying to occupy them.

He laughed to himself shaking his head.

Who was he kidding? He couldn't say what he wanted to say.

Not here, and definitely not now.

Maki would probably give him hell for admitting openly how he really felt towards Erika.

Erika wouldn't be the first person who had found her way between their marriage...but she would be the first one he had ever felt something for.

It wasn't even Maki that he really stopped himself for though he realized as he looked at Erika who was now nervously conversing with Chiaki as the future queen held Mao in her arms.

If he let her know now though…he knew without a doubt Erika would never trust him again.

When the girl in front of him was finally ready to hear the truth he would tell her.

He saw her turn to look at him and then realizing he was looking at her she quickly turned away and grabbed Mao back to herself like a blanket she was using to shield herself from his eyes. Or perhaps to push him away.

He snickered to himself as he got up and told Ryuhei to get out of his seat, hoping to make Erika more comfortable. Maki sure as hell seemed happy with his move.

He saw Erika's chest fall slightly as she smiled back at him from between the Imperial Couple.

When he did decide to tell her how he felt about her...she wouldn't run away from him.

--------------------------------

“He didn’t force her into loving him?” Mao asked dumbly. In her mind, Emperor Shota had always been painted in the picture of being a forceful righteous almost dictator like figure. She had never imagined him to be the type of man that Meisa was painting in her mind now.

He sounded positively- perfect, quietly observing the abandoned wife of another man, waiting for her to come to him rather than forcing her to his side.

It didn’t make their relationship any more acceptable but- Mao hated that she could no longer hate him for seducing her mother. She may have very well fallen for him too if she had been in that vulnerable state with such a gentleman encouraging her to become independent again.

Hikari had long been put to bed so Meisa could now openly act as mean as she wanted to towards her goddaughter. She hit Mao over the head and as her goddaughter expressed her pain in a series of ows, Meisa continued. “Absolutely not…Shota was better than all of the men I’ve known in my life…including your father. He was caring, generous and beyond all of that he knew how to listen. He was callous and obsessed with justice to a point where it could drive someone he was speaking with insane but- despite all of that he had a good heart beneath his chest. There is a reason the country has never gotten over the loss of him. There is a reason that no one believes in the royal family now. I almost pity his poor successor.”

The image of the slyly gorgeous man appeared in her mind and she felt butterflies rise in her stomach. A feeling that felt almost nostalgic now that she had heard so much about Jun. “I’ve met him you know…Jun.”

“That boy has his work cut out for him. Making the country believe they need an imperial family that’s utterly useless in this day and age- but if anyone can do it...he can.” Meisa smiled despite the fact her words were anything but positive. “Did he recognize you?”

“Not quite.” She laughed despite herself now oddly fond of the fact they had met when before the thought that this man had spent most of his childhood with her mother had just annoyed her.

“You know…” Meisa started but then at Mao’s expectant expression she suddenly became silent. “Actually- let’s not ruin the story.” At Mao’s aggravated sigh Meisa snickered.

They were just getting to the good part.
End Notes:
There are a lot of parallels between Aya and Erika :) if you caught them. Good job :D! *high five*

In case you didn't catch them :)

Where Erika was the love of his life, Aya is the best friend Jin has ever had in his life.

Where Toda Takuya is a man who has ruined every life he has touched, Aya's father is a man whose generosity has saved many.

Where Erika thinks of Jin as a normal man and her husband, Aya thinks of him as her Prince.

PREVIEWS:

"JOON! JOON!"

"Take these with you Mao...they'll tell the next part of the story better than I ever could."

"Why isn't he picking his phone up?!"

"Mao...you're here? Why are you here? Oh dear god."

"Don't look so shocked Shun."

Yup we're going back to Mao-time :D! Thank you to my reviewers :) you guys are the best. Christine, maohartjun, Eyeslikeatoms and Lacey :)
One Night by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
I know I said we're going back to Mao but guys lets put that on hold for a bit.

Lets go back to Jin and Erika and Shota

I really like Jin's part of the story too guys...I can't help it! Damn you Jin! You were supposed to leave T.T
CHINA

Jin shook his throat slightly settling into the spot he held on Aya's couch in her palatial house, he still wasn’t quite sure what he was doing here but he was quite nervous about the whole thing. She’d asked him over for dinner but the whole affair felt really strange.

He cleared his throat and looked at the cherry mahogany coffee table that was in front of him. This table was the only thing separating him from ex-diplomat Ueto and his sons as they amicably discussed China’s relationship with Japan. A topic though he knew quite a bit about, was obviously not invited to speak to. He was a mere business student, and the Ueto family was political royalty. A smile wormed its way onto his face as he remembered Aya. Well...save for their rebellious unwilling political princess.

“You have to understand father…the Chinese went through a huge century of shame and humiliation after the Japanese occupation “ the fact we’re even here, living in their country as revered citizens is because you have tried to improve that relationship. Diplomat Goro will definitely be asking too much of them if you ask them to become our manufacturers. You’ll put them in a ‘lower’ position, yet again.”

“Kame! You know that is not Goro-san’s intention by asking to utilize the factory workers here.” Ueto-san looked stricken at the prospect of his son's thought and for a second, Jin pitied him. Representing the country while living in a totally different nation must have been tough for him. He wondered if Ueto-san was ever able to feel at home in either country. Much like Jin himself, Jin could not see Japan or China as his home, he felt perpetually lost. “There has to some way we can convince the government to allow us to develop more facilities, we need them or Japanese production and exports won’t be able to fulfill the U.S. demand any longer.” Then shockingly he saw the older man, who had become the subject of much of Jin's admiration as of late, turn to look at him and Jin gulped. Though the words hadn’t left Ueto-san's mouth, Jin knew exactly what the man was going to say to him. “Jin…what do you think? How would you position our proposition to increase Japan’s manufacturing facilities in China without trying to make it seem as if we're using this opportunity to reduce the skill level of the workers here?”

He blinked dazed for a second, what the hell could he say? Other than the obviously strained relationship between China and Japan he didn’t know much. He was just about to say that when he saw Kame and Junno laugh to each other, the gesture obviously hidden from Ueto-san's view.

He knew that this shouldn’t affect him. It was obvious he didn't know much about politics...but the idea of the two brothers giggling at his expense made the tongue in his mouth taste bitter. Here was Ueto-san asking for his opinion and he was scared to give it just because of his inexperience?

No, he wouldn’t fall into such a trap again. “I think it would be best if positioned the proposal, as a means to which China can gain more international clout, something that helps build the nation and its people’s skills. Take a long-term perspective, with the short-term price.” When they didn’t respond Jin felt the need to continue. “China’s number one goal since the world war and colonization efforts has been to stand independent of the G7 nations. To the Chinese, Japan is another G7 nation trying to capitalize on China’s resources. Rather than positioning it in a way which threatens China’s own well-being we need to consider what this country, and what these people want. Not just our nation. They want to see themselves succeed on a global platform, as a force to be reckoned with. Japan needs to help them, not hinder them.”

When he finished he saw Ueto-san smiling kindly, and Kame and Junno struck silent. As if they hadn’t quite expected such a knowledgeable answer from him. “You’re highly optimistic about the way the Chinese will perceive Japan’s request.”

“No…I’m highly optimistic about the way we’ll present it to them. We are the ones who decide how they will treat us based on how we treat them sir.” Jin insisted. Growing up in China he had really learned what it meant to be a Japanese child in China. Many Chinese families lost precious family and honor in the Japanese occupation. The children grew up teasing him and bullying him, simply as a way to get revenge on the country that had ruined their families.

For a long time, Jin had thought it was his fault…but then he realized that he hadn’t given them a reason to believe he was different from his forefathers. It was only once he actively tried to bridge that gap was he able to make friends.

“What are you lot blabbering on about now?” Aya strolled in and, without a care for the obviously single armchair beside her father, came and plopped herself down right on the other side of Jin’s loveseat. She set down the bowl of dried nuts and chips she’d brought along, all mixed up together as Junno crinkled his nose at the sight.

“Yah Aya! You mixed them up again! You’re supposed to keep them separate!”

Aya shrugged as she reached into the bowl picking up two cashews, a chip and an almond. “What’s the point they’re both salty anyways.”

Sticking his tongue out Junno, Aya’s younger brother, followed. “You’re never going to get married. What a useless wife you'd make.”

Kame simply smiled and looked directly at Jin who was already in the bowl grabbing the munchies, happily throwing an almond back in his mouth. “I wouldn’t bet on that Junno.”

No Kame was sure now, that even though Jin himself probably didn’t know what was happening to him. The Ueto family would probably claim him as theirs. After all, he’d never seen Aya so desperately want to touch someone. Every three minutes or so she would lightly touch Jin’s shoulder or smile at him and laugh.

She was more smitten with this man beside her than he'd ever seen his little sister with anyone.

Kame looked to his father for just a second for his reaction. A pensive smile on his face Kame realized that his father wasn't blind at all to the antics of the two children pretending to be adults in front of them. The only reason he wasn’t stopping them from sitting next to each other and conversing amongst themselves was because he approved of Jin.

Kame looked at Jin again as the oblivious man laughed and covered his mouth to make sure a stray potato chip piece didn’t find its way spat across the room. “So Jin…what’s your poison?” Kame asked one corner of his mouth up-turned into a smirk.

Jin turned to look at him eyes widening. “I don’t really drink tha-“ but with one look from the Ueto patriarch he decided to take back his words. “Whiskey, please.”

Kame wondered if he’d chosen that on purpose, or if he could even know that his father’s favourite drink was Whiskey.

Aya chuckled behind her hand as she raised her hand squealing. “Me too please!”

“For once in your life act like a lady!” Kame chastised but poured her a drink anyways and brought back five whiskeys.

This would surely be an interesting night, getting to know his future brother-in-law.


JAPAN


“Kanpai!” Ken’ichi yelled out as the entire cast and crew collectively threw back the small portion of sake poured into cheap plastic cup. Well, all except for Erika…because Erika didn’t drink like the rest of the women on set did.

Shota would have thought this would have made Erika feel left out but the girl only smiled brighter and chattered more excitedly than any of the drunken women.

Ken’ichi continued his speech. “We’re almost done filming the movie and this group of actors has really been some of the best I’ve ever worked with. I’m glad we’ve worked together again Erika,” He raised his hand to his lead actress smiling brightly. “You, my phoenix, have saved us, with your eternal beauty and never-ending talent…and Shota- who the hell knew you actually were good at acting?” Ken’ichi joked laughing to himself. Everyone on set nodded in agreement and Shota knew he was supposed to take it smiling and nodding so he did even if he would rather have punched his director’s lights out. Ken’ichi had never been that wonderful at holding his liquor. “I’m only joking of course, thanks for your hard work Shota! Speaking of joking! Joe! You little surprise in a basket-“ He turned his attention to the rest of the cast and Shota took that as an invitation to stop listening. After all, when Ken’ichi started he could talk quite literally for forever.

Instead Shota found his feet shuffling him towards his leading lady. As he came up to her he saw her turn to look at him and, in his imagination he was sure, smile wider. “Shota! This party was such a good idea wasn’t it? It really helps us get the morale to do the last couple of scenes.”

He just hoped that she didn’t realize he had moved three steps closer to her since she’d started talking. Their shoulders were almost touching. He tried to mask it so she wouldn’t realize and close up like a flower at sunset. “Are you happy you did this film now?” Over the past three months that they’d been filming together he had gotten to see Erika close to every day. The idea that this would no longer be a reality was starting to hit him but he still had not found any indication in Erika’s behavior that showed she felt the same way about him. That she even cared having his presence in her life.

Then again…maybe he was asking a bit too much from a married woman and even if she did decide to give into his selfish demand for her love. In the end nothing could really come of them but a dalliance between the sheets that would probably ruin the very shaky friendship they’d formed. Nor if they got serious could he ever give her the things she deserved because his position, not to mention his wife, would not let him. He could never marry her, birth a legitimate child with her, or hold her for everyone to see.

So really you see, there was no point to his trying to force this relationship on the both of them. Yes, there was chemistry, and an undeniable urge in him right now…but if it was only him he could control himself he was sure because his urges weren’t worth ruining Erika’s life.

Yet even so he thought these things he couldn’t help but feel his heart deflate at the sight of her laughing happily as she took in the sights of the entertainment world’s glitzing lights and studio team. Smugly nodding, she gave him a friendly grin.

His own grin faltered. That was always the smile she gave him, the one that yelled what a ‘good’ friend he really was.

Sure Erika blushed and even mumbled a bit around him…but it was more that she was nervous about their situation not him as a man. He was a prince, she was a commoner and she reminded herself of it every day despite his attempts to normalize their friendship.

He was confused…had he even made any sense?

Drinking always muddled his thoughts.

“I really am happy about everything…this movie, you and everything you’ve done for me.” She folded her arms under her chest, and he couldn’t help but note the slight swell of her chest. He knew from his own experience with Maki, it was likely because she was still breastfeeding. He was more than healthily distracted when he heard her next word pass his ears. “Shota, you’re my savior aren’t you?”

The words were casual but Shota was floored. Had he heard correctly? He knew he shouldn’t take it seriously because she had the most nonchalant expression on her face but- all he could think was that- “Ah Erika- could I steal you away for a second?” Ken’ichi smiled at the two of them grinning as he tossed back another cheap cup of liquor. Shota wasn’t sure but wasn’t this Ken’ichi’s fourth cup in a little less than 20 minutes? “We can go to my office near the dressing rooms neh? We need to have a little chat.”

Shota couldn’t help but want to intervene and say no, that Ken’ichi couldn’t have her but Erika nodded and followed Ken’ichi carefully out of the set room. While they walked away, his co-stars Shirota Yuu and Odagiri Joe grabbed him and made sure his own throat was no longer dry.

A cold settled over his heart as he contemplated what on earth Ken’ichi could have to discuss with Erika.

Somehow his mind wouldn’t give him peace from imagining the worst of scenarios.

For her savior, he couldn’t help but think he was doing a horrible job.


CHINA


For the rest of the night, Jin found himself laughing with the Ueto family as they drank and ate the food the chef prepared for them, politics left aside because Aya, they all knew now, detested it with a fierce passion.

Finally at midnight they re-entered the salon from the dining room. Aya ran towards the loveseat and sat down. She looked very sleepy but seemed to be waiting for something. The rest of them took their seats, still listening to Kame tell an embarrassing story about Junno and Aya stealing each other’s water bottles like foolish little kids.

Jin was smiling ear-to-ear barely aware of what was happening until he realized that Aya had fallen into his lap, her head nestled comfortably on his thighs as she smiled and sure enough…seemed to have gone ‘asleep’.

Junno laughed at Jin’s stricken expression. “It’s okay she does that a lot- I can move her for you if you’d like.”

“Ah no- I mean its okay she’s already sleeping I don’t want to wake her up.” Jin took off his suit jacket as slowly and carefully as possible as he draped her with it. It was colder now that it was night time and he didn’t want her getting sick but she really shouldn’t have drank this much. He was going to talk to her tomorrow morning…he couldn’t believe she was like this even around her father!

“Father,” Jin’s eyes flickered upwards to see Kame smiling at him though he’d obviously been addressing his dad. “What do you think of the idea of Jin taking over the summer internship that Aya dropped at the diplomat’s office?” Then as if realizing he needed Jin’s consent for this, he looked to him. “As long as that’s something you’d be interested in Jin.” Jin looked between the three men that he’d come to really enjoy the company of this evening. Though he was obviously a stranger, he felt like he had known them for years.

Ueto Shuichi turned to look at him with the full force of his critical gaze now. Jin could tell because now he was being measured up as a potential candidate and he couldn’t help but gulp nervously as the icon’s voice asked, “Would that be something you’re interested in Jin?”

He’d just been offered an internship at the Japanese diplomat’s office for the gods’ sakes. He would be a fool to say no, especially since he was getting so obvious an ‘in’ into a world he’d thought would be out of reach for someone who wasn’t even involved in International Studies. “Yes.” He grinned, ready to get up to shake Aya’s father’s hand.

Ueto Shuichi shook his head smiling as he came over to him, making it apparent he didn’t want to wake his daughter up either. “Then you have it.”

“Welcome aboard what Aya likes to call ‘train to boredom’.” Junno laughed but Jin couldn’t help but smile wider.

He had a feeling- things were really going to go well here.

Because Ueto Aya and her family felt like his saviors.


JAPAN


Erika stepped into Ken’ichi’s office watching him turn on the lamp and sit back against the wooden material of his desk. “Do you know what you’ve done Erika to be here?”

Indeed it felt like she had done something horrible at school and right now Ken’ichi was sitting her down to punish her, but she shook her head because the truth was she had no idea what she had done. “Have I done something wrong?”

“Rika…” He laughed lightly rubbing his lips and Erika felt the blood in her veins freeze. “Can I tell you something?”

She didn’t know what to say.

Ken’ichi had not called her Rika in years, too many years. The last time he had called her Rika, she had lost something that the world had labeled precious to her even if she had never really considered it so. His voice had been just as it was now, low warm and velvety, coated with the blanket of sake. “Ken’ichi-“ She started but just as soon as she spoke, he moved forward again to cover her mouth with his hand.

“I know I asked…but I’m going to tell you no matter what your answer is. So what you say now really doesn’t matter.” He looked at her so seriously a spike of fear grew in her heart looking at him. This wasn’t the confident, rowdy and directorial Ken’ichi she had always known all her life. This Ken’ichi looked like she had taken his heart and stomped on it. When it was quite the contrary. “Do you remember that day? That day Takuya dragged you off our set? You were going to be a star and he dragged you away.”

He didn’t need to remind her of that. He really didn’t need to remind her of that. “I remember.” Her words were muffled in his palm. It was all too clear the memory of her tears, the way her mother had screamed at her, begged her to answer why she hadn’t thought before her actions.

“I told him that day. I told him what you meant to me.”

“I know you did.” She sighed softly into his hand and watched his eyes shut. He looked pleased at the sensation of her breath against his hands and she felt her stomach twist inside of her unsure of where they were going…but then wasn’t this sort of conversation inevitable between them? All past lovers when faced with each other must feel this urge to- discover something about the other party years later. “Three months later I was married to Jin.”

Ken’ichi laughed. The prospect of her marriage must have been laughable to him but to see him laugh at the years of her life that she had devoted to Jin made her head hurt and her heart pain. Her love for her husband was no joking matter but she supposed to him it must have been a bitter irony.

“He asked me to marry you. Your father did. I couldn’t.” He laughed again but now all Erika could feel was a distorted form of confusion and sadness. Her mind pitied her younger self who had for weeks on end screamed and thrashed against her father to fight for a chance to come back to this man. This man who had never seemed to want her past her ‘expiration’ date. He lifted his hand off her mouth and looked straight at her. “You hate me don’t you?”

“No.” She cleared her throat looking at him straight in the eyes. “I could never hate you Ken’ichi.” His befuddlement encouraged her to continue speaking. “Without you I would have never met my husband…and he’s the one I truly belong with.”

This time Ken’ichi looked at her silently as if somehow her words had completely betrayed him. His face was a painting of anger, pain, hurt and misunderstanding. “Erika-“

“Ken’ichi-” She interrupted intent on ending the conversation because this was going nowhere.

“NO! I’ll speak first!” He boomed out loud and stood apart from her. “I wanted to tell you how much I hated that decision. How much I hated myself for being no better than your father! I ripped us apart just as much as he did!”

Anger fueled her own yells against him as she screamed now. “I’m glad it happened!” He seemed furious with her reply, un-expecting of the way she was so unaffected by his confession. Now Erika could only grow irritated…what the hell did Ken’ichi want from her anyways? Did he want her throw herself into his arms and bid good bye to her life now just because he had told her he admitted that he hated that he hadn’t fought for her?

“You don’t mean that.”

“Of course I do. I never really loved you. I know that now and I guess it’s time for you to know that too.” She huffed and turned around making a move to leave but felt Ken’ichi grab her hand and pull her back as he scoffed into her ear. His breath too warm on her neck.

“Are you serious?”

“You were an infatuation Ken’ichi, a crush that went too far.” She tried to wrestle her hand free from his grasp but he refused to give.

“ERIKA!” She turned around to see Shota stumble through the door panting heavily as he placed a hand on his forehead, shutting his eyes.

Seeing Shota, she felt Ken’ichi drop her hand and slowly trying not to make it obvious that they’d been fighting she walked towards Shota. “Are you ready to go home?” She asked softly and saw Shota nod rubbing his head still.

“I drank-“

“It’s okay.” She said. It normally wouldn’t have been but she needed to get away from Ken’ichi. As far away from him as possible and she would take any way to get there right now. Even a drunk Shota. She turned to look at Ken’ichi and bowed. “Thank you for everything today. It has been a pleasure working on this movie with you. I’m excited to finish this movie. You’re a great director Ken’ichi.” It was all she could really say to him…and yet she’d known though she was trying to be kind her words had hurt the most.

Her ex-boyfriend’s tearful expression injured her heart but she couldn’t bring herself to care much right now. How dare he simply yell things at her and what on earth did he expect her to do with this information anyways?

Shota held onto her hand simply nodding towards Ken’ichi as he pulled them out of the room. She looked up at his moving back as he entrenched their fingers together. His skin was burning hot and she couldn’t help but feel worried for him as he took them towards the car. She saw him come over and open the door for her before running back to the other side of the car. “Shota- are you okay?” She questioned softly as he sat down beside her. He made a move to start the car but she placed a hand on his and blinked shaking her head. “We can stay here parked for some time if you’d like.”

Shota turned to look at her and whimpered softly in his seat. He must have drank a lot after she and Ken’ichi disappeared. He was pale and shaking. They had been in that room for almost an hour. “It was Yuu and Joe…they made me drink and I couldn’t think and I knew Ken’ichi wouldn’t do anything but-“

“Shota you’re not making any sense.” Her tone patient she lightly caressed his shaking arm. He shook her off and sighed, leaning his head against the cool metal of the steering wheel.

“Forget about it Erika…you’d never understand.” He looked so forlorn but how was she supposed to help him feel better if he wouldn’t tell her what he was feeling right now?

“Shota…are you really going to say that to me?” She felt her eyebrows furrow as she took in the sight of her prince in such an un-royal state. “I’ve been through hell and back trying to reclaim myself and my pride and I really don’t think I ever will so really are you saying that to me?” He looked at her fearfully as she felt her voice let out some of the anger she’d felt towards Ken’ichi. “How could I of all people not understand whatever it is you’re going through right now?!”

“You really want to know?” He reached for her hands in his drunken stupor and she let him. He couldn’t do much harm to her in this state, nor would he remember likely, and so why should she not let the man who gave her butterflies hold her hand?

She nodded.

“I thought Ken’ichi would-“ He gulped and then shook his head as if trying to stop himself from saying it but then his grip on her hands tightened, stealing courage from her. “I thought he’d try something with you. Something you wouldn’t want.”

She felt her eyes widen and struggled to keep down the ball forming in her throat. When he looked at her and saw the pity in her eyes for him, he only felt the pain his heart stab through his flesh harder. “Shota…”

“No, see you don’t get it Erika-you just simply don’t get it and how could you?”

“Shota I understand you’re protective over me as a sis-“

“ERIKA NO. ABSOLUTELY NOT.” He yelled trying to stop her from speaking, from interrupting him when he so clearly needed to get something off his chest. From saying that she was something to him that she most certainly was not. She felt her fingers reflexively reach for his as he tried to shift away from her. “Erika…I- I didn’t want anyone else-“He gulped and shook his head again trying to clear the daze he felt from the alcohol over his head. It was like a cloud covering his judgment. “When this is over we won’t see each other again will we? And then the idea that another man would try and touch you-” She felt his fingers rub against the inside of her palm, willing her to not leave his hand now.

But she did.

She had to. How could Erika ever let Shota hold onto her when he had all but admitted that he -

No. She couldn’t allow it. She would be besmirching the name of the royal family by letting him feel these things towards her. She tried to turn away from the vulnerable prince but Shota didn’t stop, his fingers twisted their path up her body to her chin and pulled her eyes back to his. “Shota no-“ She muttered softly and he shook his head. “Let go of me please.” She begged softly hoping he would release her because if anyone saw them, anyone at all, she would never be able to recover from this and neither would he.

“Tell me you don’t feel a thing. Nothing at all, that I’m just a friend.” She opened her mouth to tell him just that when she felt a gust of air on her lips that kept the words from coming out. Like a block his breath on her locked her words in her mouth.

“Shota- you shouldn’t-“

“Damn the shoulds and shouldn’ts.” He cursed and let go of her chin as she shoved her face in her palms trying to quell the heat that had surged on her face. Her heart was pumping away in her chest at a million miles an hour. Had- had she encouraged this somehow? “Just tell me, so I can force myself to stop. Break my heart. Just stop this so I don’t think about it anymore.”

“Don’t you dare yell at me you selfish man!” She yelled back and heard him laugh the same way that Ken’ichi did. “No don’t you laugh either because you have no idea what I’ve been through.”

“Don’t I? Haven’t I been standing beside you while it happens? Watching you try to look so brave, so strong and I’m just waiting for you to let go so I can catch you.”

“Don’t flatter yourself. I’d rather fall on the ground.” She narrowed her eyes. It was hard to be patient with him when he was being this infuriating.

He grabbed her shoulders and pulled her towards him. His head fell in the crevice where her neck met her shoulders. “You still haven’t said it,” His lips kissed the tightly pulled skin over her veins and she sighed breathily despite herself. His lips were hot and trailed the smallest bit of saliva down the side of her neck. “So fine,” He raised his head and looked up at her ready to close the gap between them. “Tell me you don’t like it when my lips cover yours…even if we aren’t who we say we are when we kiss. Tell me my touch disgusts you. I’ll back off. That will work too if you’re not willing to be the bitch here.”

“Shota-“ She whimpered softly, trying to calm the heat that was unwillingly rising from her core through the rest of her body. If he kept pushing her like this, she really wasn’t sure what she would do. Or more importantly, what she would let him do to her. “You aren’t thinking right now.”

“Then why does it feel like I’m thinking more clearly than I have in years?” He let his fingers run past her lips and Erika knew she should have backed away from him but the mere sensation of his fingers on her flesh was making her weak in the knees. “Let me kiss you Erika. Just once. As me.”

“No.” She fought back softly shutting her eyes and heard him growl as he came closer to her.

“I’m going to do it without your permission.” That made her eyes fly open as she scowled and cursed herself for looking so weak in front of him.

“NO.”

“ERIKA-“ He hollered and she pushed him off her just as she felt the slightest brush of his lips against hers. Electric this time, more electric than any kiss she had ever had in her life with any other man. She had felt like a super charged battery had been placed in her body that reacted to his force.

“No, Shota.” She raised her left hand and pointed to her ring finger forcing him to look down at his own and she saw the fog that had covered his eyes lift as he remembered Maki. “I’m still married.” So are you, she thought quietly as she looked at him her entire body shaking from the surreal experience.

“You’re right…and you still love him don’t you?” She nodded. She could never stop loving Jin. “You’ll wait for him until he comes back won’t you?” She nodded again. “And what happens to me then?”

“I don’t know Shota…it’s none of my business.” She risked a look towards him and saw him look at her with mercy filling his face.

“It won’t be the same.” His words caressed the side of her face and she felt her spine twist her into an upright pose. “It’ll never be the same your relationship you know that right?”

“Because he left?” She shot back…she would have never thought Shota would be the type of guy to capitalize on a man’s weaknesses.

She was right because he wouldn’t.

His next words shocked her…mostly because in some part they were true. “No Erika it has nothing to do with him. Things would never be the same for you two because I came.”
End Notes:
One Night was supposed to be two parts long...but screw it. I put both parts up.

Thank you to Christine for reviewing!!! and everyone else I missed last time I updated! Lacey and eyeslikeatoms :)
all of you guys super rock.

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PREVIEWS

and because I don't have much of the next chapter written here's a random excerpt of the story from WAY in the future.

“What’s your name anyways? And how dare you enter my room without asking for my permission?! Do you want to get thrown out?”

“How rude. Are you allowed to talk to your citizens like this?” The girl roughly pushed back and Jun was sure that if he wasn’t the prince of her country he would have been punched out already.

“When they’re obstinate and lacking manners I’m sure I’m allowed to teach them how to act. I’m merely helping you.”

“Helping me ruin your reputation in how I edit your answers in the interview asshole.”

“Did you just call me an asshole? Do you know what an offence it is to swear at members of the royal court?”
“Oh. What are you going to make me do? Bow down for hours until you take pity on me and forgive me? OH WAIT I FORGOT. You guys handed all that power over to the legislative body and now have no place in our government! Doll figures!”

“YOU-“

“MAO!” He heard a voice yell out and suddenly he couldn’t breathe.

Mao?

This girl was Mao?

“Mao- were you yelling at the prince?” The guy who entered, marched up beside the girl and bowed down apologetically as Mao’s own jaw dropped. “Please forgive her for her behavior. She wasn’t thinking properly.”

“Shun get up! What are you thinking apologizing to a guy like that?!”

“MAO!” Shun yelled out angrily having had enough. “Please.”

Mao- that girl with the laugh like wind chimes. “I get it I get it. Sheesh.” She rolled her eyes glancing at Jun with a dirty look on her face and for some reason he found himself laughing.

So this was her? Erika-sama's daughter? She was nothing like Erika had described. She didn’t so much inspire the image of perfection at all. “Mao have I met you somewhere before?”

“YOU ASS YOU DANCED WITH ME IN KYOTO! I didn’t even want to. You forced me!” She yelled back shaking her head and Shun looked at her in shock.

“You’ve danced with the prince?”

Jun grinned cockily stretching his arms behind his head as Mao grumbled. “I can’t be bothered to remember every girl can I? Just today morning I had an unknown number calling me and-“

“That was me.” She interrupted not at all pleased with his anecdote.

“Ah no wonder you were offended. I apologize for my un-gentlemanly manners.”

“Forget it. Asshole.” She marched out of the room and Jun couldn’t stop laughing it was too perfect.

Erika had been right. She was rough, and rude…and the two of them-

Well Jun could already feel it- that they they were destined to meet.

Happily Never After by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
So the title of this chapter is especially sad.

This has been brewing for a long time. Most of you knew it was coming.

Good luck.

Thank you for being patient with me :)
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CHINA

“Jin, go and grab the prepared proposal from the printing office will you?” Kame hollered at his employee as he watched Aya’s ‘boy’ immediately perk up and lift his head with a smile at him nodding. That was the one thing Kame didn’t understand, Jin was just so happy to just be an unpaid intern here. Most of the interns here hated their jobs, but Jin actually loved it and spoke with such passion that he’d even managed to render Diplomat Goro speechless.

And his connections had even proved useful. Jin had turned out to be a childhood friend of one of the owners of China’s most prominent manufacturer, Qiaoting, who the Japanese were leveraging with this initiative. It had definitely made the discussion smoother having him there.

“Definitely!” Jin bolted out of his seat and waved at a couple of his co-workers on his way down. This month had felt like heaven working here. Here when he was doing things, it felt like he was actually making a difference, far more of a difference than he had ever made trying to run Erika’s father’s failing studio.

Here he was useful, people actually listened to him...and he was just an intern. It didn’t make sense to him at first, until he realized that these people wanted to see him succeed, Takuya hadn’t.

As he approached the printing office, he saw all the printing girls were huddled around a desk, screaming childishly. He scoffed covering his grin with one hand. Tatsuki-nee, the printing supervisor, must have stepped out for a second. Otherwise, she would never let them slack off like this. In some ways, Tatsuki-nee reminded him of what his mother-in-law Nao might have been like had she ever been allowed to participate in the family business.

Who was he kidding? The Toda family was not that forward in their mindset, at least not with their own women.

Jin stepped forward watching his friend in the copy department, Rosa, sigh breathlessly as she trailed a finger down what he assumed was some sort of picture. “Our prince is so beautiful and she is too, they suit each other so perfectly.” Jin smirked already thinking of ways to take advantage of their distracted attitudes and teach them a lesson about ignoring their work. As he approached just the slightest bit closer he leaned his head near Rosa’s ear and saw Sasaki yelp as if to warn Rosa but it was too late, he’d already blown into her ear. Rosa jumped in the air and Jin cackled as he heard her squeal loudly and back up. Of the printing girls, Rosa was undoubtedly the most beautiful and talented, she was able to fluently converse in five languages so she was responsible for most of the translations that were sent down here. She was also his English tutor on Tuesday nights.“JIN-KUN!” She placed a hand on her heart. “Stop doing that when we’re-you know-busy doing-something!” Rosa huffed noisily as her cheeks colored red in embarrassment.

Jin was already glancing behind her, Sasaki was trying to reach for the paper on the table but he snuck over and snatched it out of her hand. He laughed watching the women growl at him and try and get it back, he focused on keeping it away from them avoiding looking at the paper. “I’m going to tell Tatsuki-nee to fire all of you, hiring 20 year old unmarried women was not a good idea when they’re so -“ His eyes glanced at the paper and now he realized exactly why the women here sounded so breathless.

“Ha, look who’s floored by our dear prince. Like what you see Jin?” Rosa was about to tease him that he shouldn’t look so in love with the image on the paper...after all there wasn’t a soul here in the building that didn’t know that Ueto Aya and Akanishi Jin were together. Without fail they ate lunch almost every day and it was pretty obvious who held the power in their relationship too. Aya would stay over working nights with him in the building sometimes, just so Jin could finish his assignments on time. After all the Ueto daughter knew most of his job anyways, considering she herself had been in the same position last summer.

Jin didn’t respond. How could he? Did he like what he’d seen? A sadistically sad sketch of the woman, who he had once upon a time called wife?

“Do you have the Qiaoting proposal?” He muttered out softly, unable to tear his eyes away from the image of Erika wrapped in the arms of a ghost as the Japanese Imperial Prince Shota looked on from the back.

He hadn’t seen her in front of him like this in so long, it was making his heart hurt.

Rosa leaned her fingers on his shoulder and he turned to look at her as she handed him the proposal. “Have the hots for Toda Erika, Akanishi Jin?”

He felt his eyes widen as he took in the name on the poster and saw that Rosa was right. Indeed, it did say Toda Erika. “Is that her name?”

“And you called us perverted. You didn’t even bother reading the name of the woman you think is so beautiful.” Sasaki teased him and he shot her back a small closed smile. It probably didn’t look too genuine...but that was the least of his worries.

She had chosen to go public with her birth name. Had she already divorced him in her mind? “Yeah I guess so,”

Jin dropped the paper back on the table ready to leave when he heard Rosa’s voice filter through his ears again. “I heard Maki-sama doesn’t like that Shota-sama spends so much time with her now, that Erika-san, Sasaki.”

Sasaki shrugged. “Well...you do know the rumors behind Shota-san. I wouldn’t be surprised...and what girl has the courage to say no to the Prince even if she didn’t like him? Which mind you, I don’t think would ever happen.”

Jin scoffed lightly, his soft interruption made the girls turn to look at him as he quickly stepped through the door before anyone could ask him too many questions. He felt his knees shake as he trudged up the steps, feeling like he was going to war now the way his heart hammered in his chest.

He tried to calm himself down, why shouldn’t she use her maiden name? She probably thought of herself as separated from him anyways, that was why she didn’t respond to his letters. That was why she had sent him those divorce papers.

He was the only fool here, holding on to a fantasy like an idiot when Erika was so obviously moving on without him.

What the hell was he doing with his life?

He marched his way to Kame’s desk like a dead man who had risen from the grave. “You can go for lunch now by the way,” Kame shot out at him and Jin nodded idly as he handed him the proposal. “Are you alright Jin?”

“I’m fine.” He lied through his teeth. “I promise.”

“All right,” Kame raised an eyebrow and Jin just grinned tightly. Kame only looked at him skeptically, he supposed he looked rather fake. The Ueto family didn’t know his history...and that was the way he wanted to keep it. He had managed to keep his brief time in Japan these past few years as vague as possible when asked. “Are you meeting Aya today for lunch?” Kame glanced down at the proposal nodding, obviously pleased with the work the printing girls had done.

“I might call her office and ask them to tell her I can’t make it today.” Kame looked slightly alarmed but Jin tried to ignore the implication of it. “I don’t feel that well actually...”

“Okay come off it Jin. I can tell you’re not fine.” Kame suddenly stood up and grabbed his coat. “We’re going to the bar come on. There’s no ailment, a good glass of whiskey can’t fix.” Jin was about to insist that they don’t drink but then Kame attacked his secret thoughts. “You look like you need to talk, a glass of whiskey will help.”

He did need to talk...that was true.

If there was one thing Jin didn’t like about the Ueto family, it was that they all drank considerably too much. Of course, it wasn’t like he didn’t understand why. The world’s politicians bonded over liquor. Deals were made in saloons, bars and the odd burlesque club or geisha house. To be an effective public figure, it seemed you needed to lead an excessively large private life.

They walked to the bar in silence. If he was going to tell Kame about this, he’d need liquid courage that was for sure.

So this was a habit, Jin had found himself picking up. On top of helping open you up to other people, liquor was numbing and fun and he could forget for a little while that he had responsibilities. That he wasn’t sure what was happening to his family back home, that he should probably go back soon rather than dwindle his short time here doing things that weren’t relevant to his career. Even if he was enjoying it far more than-

Kame sat him down in a booth as soon as they entered the small shack, and called for the lady at the front to bring them a bottle of imported alcohol. “You’re not physically sick are you?”

“Not really...does nausea count?”

“Not if it’s related to your mind and not your stomach.” Kame grinned as he poured them the amber liquid and offered it to him in a shallow glass. “Drink up.” Jin pulled the liquid back in his throat. Kame poured him another glass and he shot that back far too quickly too.

Another two glasses and twenty minutes later Kame grinned at him. “If you don’t start speaking up I’m going to have to call in our father.” The words slipped out casually from his mouth but Jin didn’t notice which was just as well. Kame wasn’t in the mood of explaining why he’d let it slip. “What’s wrong Jin?”

“If a bird wants to fly, do you let her fly?” Jin mumbled. “If she begs you, do you open her cage, sign the documents and let her go?”

“If you’re going to get sued otherwise, yes.” Kame poured himself a glass watching the sullen Japanese man look at him with an utterly disappointed expression. This was not the answer Jin had been hoping for. “What is this about?”

“A woman.” Kame’s head shot up from his glass as he saw Jin huddled over himself, face shoved into his arms. He felt his own fists tense at the revelation.

Jin was- with someone? He sure as hell knew Aya didn’t know about her and Jin didn’t act like he cared so much for this woman when he was around Aya. Kame tried to arrange his face, to try not to look so shocked but it was near impossible. He managed to keep only the slightest hint of anger at Jin in his voice. “A woman?”

“She wants to end it.” Jin shook his head. “No I should correct that. We’ve been apart for a while. More than a while. More than a year. It’s just not final in my own mind. I need to end it...and I can’t.” The face of his infant child flashed before his eyes and Jin choked back a sob. His daughter didn’t even know what he looked like, how much he cared for her...and nor had anyone bothered to send him a picture of her. He didn't know what she looked like either.

Kame shut his eyes tightly. This was slightly more bearable. All men had women who plagued them. Hell so did he, and every time he thought of his lost bride he wanted to shatter himself to pieces for being unable to protect her. Why was he alive if she wasn’t? But this wasn’t about sharing their mutual pain, Kame had to convince Jin to let this woman go if he wanted to see his sister happy. “Your love is dead...so put the relationship to rest in your mind, Jin.” Jin looked up to see Kame look at him stonily. “I understand your feelings...don’t misunderstand my advice for being brutish. I had been bethrothed to a girl when I was young. We grew up loving each other and I lost her when I was 15. She died in an after hit of the war. Soldiers were firing...and their bullets pierced her liver, dead within minutes because it took too long for us to get her to the hospital. She died right before my eyes...and believe me, if you don’t let yourself move on. You’ll live life in grief forever.”

“Is that why you haven’t married anyone?” Kame’s eyes narrowed into a glare but he sighed. He should be honest with Jin, he knew that, but he wanted Jin to close this chapter of his life so that he’d openly love his sister.

So yes even though it was the reason he hadn’t remarried, he wouldn’t reveal that. “It isn’t necessary for you to know this...but my loyalty to her ended when I attempted to follow her past this life.” Kame smiled sadly as he remembered the way the water in the ocean had filled his lungs. How her face had flashed behind his eyelids, how much he’d wanted to die. “When I find love...I will be the first person to embrace it, Jin. I don’t want to live selfishly. I want to share my life. I can’t do that if I’m holding onto her in a destructive state can I?” Jin gulped as he rubbed his eyes groaning. Kame had a point. “I gather your woman is still alive?”

“She is,” Jin admitted as he rolled his bottom lip between his front teeth. Then the true plague behind his thoughts, the true reason behind his anger slipped his lips. “I’m pretty sure she’s with another man.” He kept his eyes fixed on Kame, gauging his reaction as he saw the older boy look at him with a barely shielded disgust.

Jin didn’t blame him. “Then why are you prolonging the torture on yourself?”

“How can you ask me that when you’ve so obviously been in love yourself?” Kame didn’t know how to respond. It had been so long since he had loved, so long since his heart had frozen over for all but his family. “It-isn’t-“

“If another man is in her bed, aren’t you being pathetic by keeping her in your heart when she so obviously doesn’t want you in hers anymore?” Kame shot back cruelly. Jin felt his body flinch at the impact of Kame’s words like a whip to his mind. He imagined Shota caressing his wife where only he had before, holding Mao in his arms, swooping Erika into his-

Kame watched Jin’s eyes fill with tears as he pushed on, desperately hoping to help Jin see reason. Sure, he was doing this for his sister but he felt a real urge to speak out to Jin now. How could he stand for this? How could he want a woman who had all but crushed him by loving someone else? “How can you put yourself in this position Jin? Have you always been this weak?”

Jin knew he should stand up for himself right now...but he had a feeling Kame wasn’t saying these things to be hurtful to him. Kame was simply acting like any older brother would. In a way, it was almost better Kame didn’t know the woman Jin was talking about. It made his advice unfiltered and honest. “So I should let her go?”

“You’re a fool if you don’t.” Kame narrowed his eyes as he leaned forward. “Remember, the sooner the better...” Kame couldn’t help but add as he saw Jin’s eyes glaze over. “What are you waiting for? She’s not changing her mind.”

-----------

JAPAN

“So...they ended it then?”

“Oh absolutely not,” Meisa corrected pulling her hair out of its tight gray bun. “It is getting late...should you not call out to the man who you refuse to love and not because you’re interested in females but because you’re just a self-righteous little stubborn human?”

“Are you normally so eloquent?” Mao glowered at her mother’s best friend, watching Meisa’s smile grow larger. The godmother she had never consciously met was obviously enjoying Mao’s own personal drama far more than she was relaying the story of her mother. “Oh don’t look so cocky, old lady.”

“Speak for yourself brat, I am the picture of youth.” Meisa looked out of the door as she brushed her hair with her fingers. “You should warn your friends if you do not plan on returning tonight and prepare yourself to leave tomorrow morning. I judge Nao will need you back home soon?” It was the first hint of Meisa speaking of Nao and Mao took this as an invitation to finally speak more on a topic that Mao herself had been unsure of whether she’d wanted to bring up.

After all, was it entirely proper of her to ask Meisa about her relationship with her grandparents? “Did my grandmother hate you?” She blurted out as Meisa stood up on her feet ready to walk out of the door.

For a second Mao saw Meisa’s face flicker with an unrecognizable emotion, until she rolled her lips inward and shook her head. “No, Mao. Your grandmother is not such a person. She is selfless and sacrificing above all else, she is a martyr. She is more a priestess than I could ever be, and yet here we are.” Meisa smiled softly. “Without your grandmother... I would never be where I am today. Your grandmother pitied me. Her heart was never broken in her life. She had never loved anyone before your grandfather...and she had never bothered to be unfaithful to him.” Meisa looked down almost ashamed of the way she was explaining this to Mao. “Your grandmother is the strongest woman in the world, and- sometimes if she’s too harsh understand Mao that she is only looking out for you.” Meisa’s eyes brimmed for a second with tears. She rubbed at her eyes and lifted herself from the floor as she stood up and looked at Mao. “Please go make your calls and we’ll meet back here in ten minutes. I will prepare a mattress for you to sleep with us tonight.” In a flurry of miko clothes, Meisa had disappeared and Mao was left looking at the room blankly.

What had that been about?

--------------------

It started with tears, that was the first thing Erika realized. It was the sound of her child crying loudly, beyond loudly. In fact the sound of her tears were horrific, and not just because as mother Erika was hurt at the sound of them, it had more to do with the fact that after a long night rehearsing this was not the way she wanted to wake up. She’d barely managed to get herself to bed as she remembered that both her director and her lead actor had impure intentions when it came to her.

Still…even she knew that these few precious moments hugging Mao and coddling her back to bed would be the only moments she had with her daughter. So when she finally got the will to lift herself from the bed she was shocked to find her mother was already at the cradle’s side and Mao was safely tucked away in her arms. “Mom?” She said softly as Nao turned to look at her.

“Erika…I know you came home late last night, but would you mind coming with me to the living room?” Nao muttered softly so that Mao wouldn’t stir. Despite this Erika slowly stood up and made a move to take the child from Nao’s grasp. She was thankful Mao didn’t wake as the two of them moved towards the dining table.

Their house, it appeared, had gotten horribly bare. The intricate vase at the entry hall had disappeared from view and Erika wondered when that had happened. “Mom, where did the vase go?”

“What?” Her mother muttered back as she stared at her daughter, who stood transfixed staring at the entry hall of their house.

“The vase, you know that big black one we kept by the front, always filled with flowers? To honor your own mother you used to say?” For a moment as Nao’s silence echoed in the room. Then she just kept moving shaking her head smiling softly. Erika realized what must have happened and more than that she realized that she had neglected her family these past few months. Reflexively, her arm tightened around the slumbering baby in her grasp.

Would Mao’s future really not be safe here in the Toda house? Was the studio in so much trouble? Was this the end of the great Toda family? Was this how it really happened?

The tears sprung to her eyes and her mother turned around to look at her and shake her head. “Come now Erika, that was a part of my dowry. There’s no reason to cry. It was just a vase…we no longer needed it.” As Nao continued walking, all Erika could do was follow until finally they were seated at a table and Erika saw now there was an envelope there waiting for her, and quite clearly the name read Akanishi Jin.

Her heart jumped in her throat. After so long, there was finally word from him. A smile flittered on her face, despite how she may have been feeling before now this proved that all she had done these past few months was worth it. She had waited patiently for him, she had spurred the advances of men who had made her heart skip wisely, because she knew as she had always known.

Jin would come back for her.

“I’ll never let you go.” He had promised her in that small shack in Argentina.

Despite her faith in him, she had started doubting herself. How could she not after more than a year, but it was time for him to return home soon. He had never sent her the divorce papers back. This was the sign she had been waiting for.

Soundlessly, her mother realized what her daughter needed from her. Erika passed over Mao to her mother’s arms as her hands eagerly reached out for the package, rips resounding loudly in the air as pages upon pages of things tumbled out of the package…but none of them looked like letters.

Except one, and despite knowing it would be better for her to read all the pages entirely she reached for the one with his writing. The writing she had craved for so long, the writing she wanted so badly to see that she had written him religiously in those first few months, without response.

Erika,

I’m sorry this took so long. I did not want to send these back to you.

I’m still not sure I do…but I hope these papers deliver you to your freedom as much as they deliver me to mine. I hope you finally get everything you’ve always wanted. I understand our situation, and as much as I want her to myself, our child deserves the company of her mother. Fathers are after all, just statue figures in the end.

I want you to know why I’ve sent these back. It wasn’t just because you sent them to me, because in that case I would have vengefully sent them back right away but Erika…I want you to know that right now, I’m going to be selfish. I think you of all people might understand. I know you’ve chased your dreams, you’ve always been that sort of girl. I’ve always been that sort of guy who never had a dream. Unless you count you, then yes I had a dream once upon a time. I even fulfilled it…seems like a fairy tale now, those years we had together. Maybe one Mao will hear one day…except there- well we’ll change the ending shall we? At least for now I don't think she should know our happily ever after was really a happily never after.

I finally found something I want to do Eri, something I want to do forever. Something I think that to start pursuing seriously, I need to let go of a lot of things.

I need to let you go. My signatures are on these blank divorce papers. When I first saw these I didn’t understand if this was necessary, I didn’t understand why you sent them to me unsigned. I thought it was a joke, a cruel test…but I think I understand why now these papers are necessary for the two of us to be able to freely grow.

Despite everything I’m writing, I want you to know I will always love you. No matter where we are, and who we become I will always be yours first. My heart will always have your name signed on it.

You are the great Toda Erika again, and I’m sure that you don’t need my help. I’m merely an Akanishi Jin who you knew once upon a time, but if you ever need my help for anything, for Mao, for your mother, for you- please tell me.

Yours forever,

Jin

Erika’s tears splattered loudly on the paper, like loud droplets of rain or maybe that was in her own mind. She could hear her world go quiet, as the pages screamed in her mind and for a few moments all she could do was read through the whole letter again. A gasp escaped her lungs and she stopped shaking her head. No she had to read it through again, this couldn’t be real.

She slapped herself. She had been sleeping before this, maybe all of this was just a dream. Mao had never cried and woken her up, her mother had never sold the vase that had stood in their house since Erika could remember and her husband-

If this was a dream why wasn’t she waking up?

She looked up at her mother, who was staring at her with pity in her eyes. Erika felt herself gasp again, and then again and then again.

It was getting harder to breathe.

She must be dreaming right?

There was no way they actually sold that vase right?

There was no way that her husband had just divorced her through a set of papers she’d sent him months ago in a fit of anger right?

There was no way that any of this was real right?

“Erika…” Her mother started and she looked at her mother shaking her head as the hand rose to her mouth to stifle her sobs. No, she couldn’t wake Mao up. She couldn’t do that- she was all Mao had left.

Jin had just-

Erika sobbed again despite herself. This time her hands ran to her eyes as she bent over herself, her chest touching the fronts of her thighs as she hugged herself and gasped for air. She was getting loud, this wouldn’t do but how could she stop herself?

It felt like someone had ripped her heart out of her chest.

Jin had left her, he had abandoned Mao, he had done what everyone had always told her he would once he went back to China.

I’d never wanted to come back! His words in their wedding day echoed in her mind now. When he’d left her that day in the hospital, she had been her old self, the self that had hated him- had he thought that was it? That she wouldn’t open up to him again? Could he truly believe that?

After everything they had and went through?

Had he really done this?

But as she looked at his papers she saw that he had, he had stamped his thumb at the right spots, made the right initials and scripted the perfect signatures designed to fit right into their spots.

Jin had finally let her go.

And it seemed for his own happiness, he begged that she let him go too. It was her turn to sign.

Who was she to deny the man she loved anyways?

So without another thought, another sob or another tear, she got up picked up the pen they kept right by the telephone in case they needed to note down messages and signed everything just as perfectly as he had. As the great Toda Erika, she couldn’t mess anything up could she?

Then she grabbed Mao from her mother’s grasp and heard her mother’s voice shakily say- “Erika,”

“Mom, could you take care of sending these to our lawyer?” She replied softly, she was happy that somehow throughout all of this Mao hadn’t awoke. Mao would never need to know any pain because of her father. Erika would make sure of it. “I have work tomorrow, Mao will be coming to the set with me.”

“Erika-“

“Mom please…” Her words were filled to the brim with pain. It took all of Erika’s self-control to not turn into a bawling monster right then and there. She had been an insensitive selfish girl before but she couldn’t be that right now. She had more to think of, she had a child. She had plans. At least now she also had a source of income.

A source of income her family would need as it appeared.

“All right.” Her mother managed to mutter out and as Nao watched her daughter walk away she wondered if she had made the right decision here. Had it been right to make Erika send Jin those papers when she’d been emotionally vulnerable? Had it been right to use her daughters own emotions against her?

Had Nao just ruined a marriage that could have been saved?

She reached for the paper that Erika had clutched onto so desperately, so happily when she first reached for the package.

As she read through the passages she felt her heart jump in her throat, her hand over her mouth, tears building in her eyes for her daughter.

Jin wasn’t going to come back.

And despite her doubts, she knew that at least her daughter’s freedom this way would make her happy.

--------------------

CHINA

“You’re making the right decision.” Jin remembered Kame’s voice in his ears. “The more you think, the more you’ll hesitate.” Kame was right, but Jin wasn’t sure if it was the right decision. He didn’t think he ever could be.

He had just denounced all ownership of his family. The family he had dreamt of since the day Erika finally let him into her heart. The family he had promised to come back to when he’d left.

Jin had never broken a promise before.

He was sure Erika may not need him anymore but then what of their daughter?

Despite his own better judgment, he started penning a letter to Meisa. He couldn’t rest with this feeling in his heart. Meisa had always been a friend of his, she would tell him wouldn’t she? How his daughter was? How Erika was really faring? It was too late to ask these questions he was sure but he had to. If there was even the faintest hope of her reply he had to.

“Jin?” A voice echoed from the doorway and he saw Aya was looking at him confused. “Why did you just leave the party like that?”

He struggled to keep his voice at a level tone. He didn’t want her to realize he’d been crying. What sense that would make, grown men in the Ueto clan didn’t cry. “I just needed a moment to myself.” He managed to mutter out rather sensibly, he thought.

Junno had asked to hold a party at his house and who was he to say no? Jin had gotten accustomed to the whims and wishes of the Ueto house and he worked hard to fulfill them because these people were going to get him to his dream. He knew he’d have to work hard for it but he’d decided to follow where his heart led him and he realized now that because he’d never been perfectly at home in Japan or China “ he was in the perfect position to be an in-betweener.

A diplomat of Chinese growth and Japanese nationality, he saw this as the perfect opportunity for someone like him who had struggled in roles that placed him in one identity or the other.

This was the new dream he had decided to adopt when his old one had left him. He had to make sure it was worth it, he had to work hard to make sure this dream lasted forever. When he looked up at Aya he saw that she was looking at him, eyes filled with pity, mouth open ready to bite into whatever pain was gnawing at his own heart. He almost laughed at her expression, reading the thoughts that were already in her mind no doubt ‘How dare anyone let her beloved Jin suffer’? “Jin-“

“Forget it Aya.” He stood up quickly and moved past her. Sometimes, at times like these he realized that he was too close to Aya. He couldn’t be this close to her for her own sake. He knew times were changing, and he was a fool to stick to the old ways but something in him told him that if he kept up this ruse of friendship with Aya he’d let her believe that it could be more someday.

And it couldn’t. How could it when Jin had eternally pledged himself to a woman who was on her way to becoming the mistress of the most powerful man in Japan save for the Crown Prince and the Emperor himself?

Ueto Aya stood at the door as she gulped weakly, resting her back against the door-frame of Jin’s bedroom. Despite knowing that she shouldn’t be in here any longer now that he wasn’t in the room himself she allowed herself to walk closer to the desk where he’d been seated so passionately, the pen held in his hand with such force that she wondered what or rather who he could be writing too with such fervor.

Her eyes glanced at the one singular word on the page in front of her, she lifted the paper up closer to her eyes.

Meisa.

She looked back at the doorway, and outside the room where Jin was no doubt pretending once again like he always did that his life was perfectly fine but Aya knew now. Something was terribly wrong, she’d always known Jin was hiding something but never before today had she seen him in such a state about it.

When she’d first met him she’d decided it was none of her business, when she grew to like him as a friend she decided she’d wait for him to tell her about it the way friends should share secrets but now-

Now all she could do was glare at the paper in front of her and wonder who on earth was Meisa and why had she made Jin cry?

------------
End Notes:
So mostly this went up bc I realized this story hit a milestone a while back :) (in fact TTTC has hit the same milestone quite recently so thank you :D to everyone who has bothered to click and read this story and TTTC). Part of this update was finished like literally back in July but it was saved on another computer so I kind of forgot about it and just finished it in the past few days :) Also I rewatched the movie this story was originally based on (it's Zubeidaa if you guys ever feel like seeing it :))
Thank you to everyone whose reviewed this story since the last update :) Christine, Uniquemikoto and ichigoyamada :D (Chri, Miko and Yammieee :D) you guys make me seriously happy.
PREVIEWS
“If it’s about last night I’m sorry- I didn’t-“
“Did you know I’m an idiot?”
“I want to try as Shota and Erika.”
“You don’t trust me.”
"Come on Shota...just do it."

Love,
From a Sleepy Lily
The Tale of Two Idiots by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
I wrote this to Adore You - Miley Cyrus bc it's actually kind of a nice song.
Also guys. ryoka is so sexy.


“Okay everyone, clear the set please, Toda-san. You know what to do.” The voice speaking out at her was curt, blunt and the eyes she looked back at right now were unemotional.

It was clear now, at least to Erika, that Ken’ichi was painfully professional with her now on set. Not that she minded it. She didn’t want to be treated in any special way “ in fact if anything she was grateful that he was acting this way around her. She didn’t need any concessions from him, she just needed to do her job.

That didn’t mean that her job wasn’t impacted by his obvious change in the way he treated her. Her ability to redo a take for no reason simply because she was unsatisfied with it was gone, the ability of her costume team to take slightly longer than others was gone as well.

Now she was expected to perform at the top of her ability and if Erika had been a less talented actress, she was sure she would have faltered under the pressure Ken’ichi was placing on her.

But she wasn’t…and she had determination in her heart now. She looked up at the team around her. In this scene, Hina was left alone, crying surrounded by a hypothetical pool of white light. Slowly the light would dim, as her tears would fall down her face, the light would drop as the dress she wore would turn from white to black in the after effects edits.

This was all supposed to signify the end of an innocent age for her character Hina’s life. Somehow she felt it was all too apt that Hina was letting go of her husband too just like she was but for an entirely different reason.

This scene was from earlier on in the movie but they’d saved it until the end because Kenichi thought it would help her embody Hina’s spiritual essence. She was wearing a night gown that reached just below her knees and left her looking like more of a child than even Mao.

Hina was fragile, heartbroken- hopeless.

Reflexively, her eyes glanced towards her little princess who was tucked away safely in the hands of a production assistant. Her daughter was happily distracted grabbing onto the hands of Japan’s very own little prince with her chubby fingers. It was a clumsy grab- her daughter’s fingers should have slipped off his hands but Erika swore she saw Jun’s hands purposefully hold onto hers.

As her eyes were glued to the sight of the two children, tears came freely to her eyes making them appear dreamy - and Ken’ichi hadn’t even said action yet. “Save it.” She whispered to herself and shut her emotions off, just for a second. She’d need every sob she could muster up for this scene. It wouldn’t do to cry prematurely just because she always felt like crying since she'd read Jin's letter to her.

She'd waited years for that letter. She'd waited years to hear him say that he would come back - not that he would stay. That wasn't what she was waiting for. So it felt like he'd betrayed her trust, that he'd thrown her back the same painful words that she'd thrown at him in that room so long ago.

It felt like she was robbed. If she'd known that this letter he would eventually write her would be to end their marriage she could have stopped caring for him long ago.

She felt like he'd robbed her of the capability to love without hesitation.

“Action!” Ken’ichi’s voice called out and Erika’s eyes whipped open, tinged red from the force she’d been using to hold her tears back. It was going to be a long take but Erika wasn’t worried about how she was going to get through it. All she had to think of was her daughter, her family, and her life in complete shambles. How had she become that girl? How had she become a single mother? Sure she’d been acting like it but she’d never actually realized that was what she was- when had her life become like this?

When had they lost everything? When had her perfect dream crumbled into pieces around her feet?

She didn’t even remember it anymore.

She whimpered aware of the silence around her as she began to feel the sobs knock on her chest loudly like a fist painfully rapping on the cherry wood door of her house to take the glass vase she'd peered at in awe of it's sparkle since she was old enough to remember. The gasps between her tears weren’t planned but a result of the fact she was having trouble breathing through the cloud of her thoughts. Why was it when you were sad you almost always felt cold? Erika brought her arms up around her body to shield herself from her own pain. Though the action was in vain, when the pain came from so deep within no external action could ever truly put it to rest.

Her cries echoed off the walls as everyone watched, bewitched by her performance when she began to choke on her feelings. They knotted up like ropes from her heart finding home in her throat, forming a hypothetical block in her trachea that kept her lungs from expanding to their full capabilities. Her body slowly began to crumble towards the ground, knees quivering like someone had taken the very base she relied on every day out from under her and now she was standing on nothing but thin air.

Matsuda Shota felt his own eyes pinprick as he watched Erika carefully. Something about her performance today was especially strange. While he could normally tell the differences between Erika and Hina, today he knew he was not watching Erika perform. There was a rawness to her tears that he knew not even the most seasoned actor could perform “ he was sure that Erika was crying herself on that set.

Why did she look like her world had turned against her? Why did she look like she didn’t believe in anything anymore? Why did she look so- strong even despite the weakness that the rivulets of water down her face represented?

He had never seen a person cry with such strength.

He was thankful when a few seconds later Ken’ichi’s voice called out. “Cut!” because his own heart was hammering away in his chest “ begging him to race forward and hold her to quell her tears.

But Shota wasn’t stupid, he knew these romantic notions were useless. So he walked slowly over to where Erika was still curled into a ball, rocking back and forth.

“It wasn’t what I expected,” Ken’ichi shot out as he looked over the film on the camera. “But it was better, Erika.”

The girl beside him didn’t respond, she just sat, her frame shaking. Shota gulped as he sat down beside her. Why was she still crying?

“Erika-“ His voice was soft but Erika didn’t respond. He placed a hand tentatively on her shoulder but Erika didn’t so much as make a move to throw his arm off her like he thought she might have.

“Erika-“ Ken’ichi called out and suddenly her head jolted upwards and Shota caught sight of her eyes. They looked like they’d been gouged out and drowned in tears. “You did good today.” He gave her a small smile and though Erika should have been happy at the sound of the praise that she had rightfully earned today, all she could do was nod lightly. “I think that’s it for today guys, pack up!”

He was about to ask her if she was all right but Erika didn’t wait for anyone. As soon as the words were out of Ken’ichi’s mouth the girl had flown over to where her daughter was with his son. In seconds, she was hugging Mao close to her chest.

Shota felt his tongue go slack in his mouth. He never did know what to say to her anymore. Mao’s appearance on set was undoubtedly one of the ways in which she kept herself constantly reminded of what she was supposed to do “ wait for Jin patiently. Like any wife should for her husband.

So Shota had begun bringing his own reminder of his heritage, his own son was after all third in line for the throne after him. What better way for him to remember the duties he had to his country as its prodigal son? He was after all only legitimate heir to the throne, in all of the existing family lines of the Japanese monarchy. If the truth should ever arise about their families convoluted blood history - well he would be forced to take over the throne.

He never intended on exercising that right of course. Even he knew his brother was far better suited to the position than he was. Where Shota had always been irresponsible and impulsive, Ryuhei was cautious and caring for their country.

As everyone prepared to head out, Shota waited for Erika, he had driven her over and he would drive her back. She never said more than she needed to when they drove together, which was just as well he supposed. He may try and beg for her forgiveness if she started treating him as a friend again...and maybe he didn’t deserve her forgiveness because of the way he’d behaved. He had all but forced his feelings upon her.

But that wasn’t an accurate description of their situation either - because he knew what he felt every time he kissed Erika. He wasn’t just imagining it when he felt her respond to him. Her response was ever so present when he heard the shaky breaths she took, or the way her fingers quivered aching to hold his hand or the way her mouth would caress his just the smallest bit before she remembered that this wasn’t something she should let herself do-

But then did it matter if she responded to his kisses at all? Did any of it matter if she didn’t want it to matter? If she didn’t want to have those feelings or even want to act on them? Who was he to make her forcefully open her heart enough to want him back? “Are you ready?” He mumbled finally in front of the object of his affection.

Her eyes peered back at him filled to the brim with apology and pity. “Shota...I'm sorry I think today my father’s going to pick me up today in a little while-“ So that was how it was going to be, her father of all people. Shota almost wanted to laugh. He should have known she would do something to take away even the few moments they had in private. She didn’t trust him any more, and why should she?

She probably couldn’t trust herself around him either, he remarked arrogantly in his mind.

“I understand.” Shota didn’t know what else he could say. Erika was looking straight at the ground, her eyes fixed perfectly on something. He looked to clutch Jun’s hands into his own but-

His son had already fallen into the trap of another Toda daughter. Jun was preoccupied laughing into Mao’s ear giggling away. For a boy who had considered Mao to be a drooling little idiot, he saw that Jun had quite a bit of fun pampering the baby who was laughing away at his side having wandered away from her own mother.

Just as well, he supposed as he saw them get sleepy in their seats.

It left him with a sign.

Everyone else from their production had left the set.

Only he was here, in this empty theater with the prodigal Erika...and he was going to tell her something that would make her even more uncomfortable around him.

If she was going to kick him out of her life by snatching even those few moments he had with her in the car, he didn’t care that he might hurt her feelings by telling her this. The filming was almost over, so if he wasn’t completely honest with her, while sober, he knew he would never be able to live peacefully. “I’m not sorry I kissed you Erika.” Her eyes moved up to lock with his. “When you sit there, and you cry like yourself in front of everyone at this set, you solidify the very reason I want to be there for you- I’m not sorry I kissed you even if you want me to be. I won’t be. I refuse. Even if you take away our friendship I don't care. I won't apologize for wanting to be there for you, for wanting to care for you that way.”

His words held a certain degree of harshness to them despite the kindness they implied, Erika felt like she was being scolded by the prince in front of her. It felt nice to know that someone could still scold her after all this time. Her father had all but stopped - and well - who the hell else bothered with her? She was an adult - left mostly to her own devices. When Shota closed the extended gap between them, she didn’t back away. He was waiting for her to say something, but she didn’t know what she could say to him. The only thing she could mutter out was- “Why am I such an idiot Shota?”

That stopped him in his steps towards her. She smirked watching his features throw themselves into a disarray. She saw his brain whir, what could she possibly mean to ask him? Was it a trick question? “You mean why you’re an idiot enough to not kiss me back properly?” He joked, was she extending the hand of friendship once more to him?

“Sure, why not? Why would you like such an idiot who obviously doesn't jump at the chance to be with one of the best men in the country?” She cracked a small smile when she saw a blush rise on his cheeks. She hadn’t meant to flatter him, surely someone like Shota who had been showered with praises since he was born must be tired of hearing things like that.

Erika was right, generally words like that didn’t incite a reaction from him but hearing them from Erika’s mouth was a different experience all together for Shota. The way she acted around him often made him feel like she didn’t think much of him, if at all. He wanted to remind her that she had a valid reason to stay away from him, but he had a feeling this conversation wasn’t about his marriage or hers for that matter.

It was about why he liked her…and if she wanted him to say it. He would. He’d tell her exactly all the reasons that Toda Erika had bewitched every fibre of his being these past few weeks. “I like you because you’re standing there, looking at me with all this admiration, and you make me want to be better just by being beside you.” His words were soft and he didn’t make a move to hold her hand, or brush his lips against her cheek though he wanted to.

He was no fool, he knew that before he made a move like that again - he would need her permission. Especially now that they were out in the open, away from the privacy his vehicle offered them. “Take it from me Shota, the only good thing I’ve ever done is give birth to that thing over there and she’s already ready to run away from me.” It was the first time Erika had so callously referred to her daughter. “I don’t think I could help you be a better man Shota. I'm sorry to say you're wrong.”

He wasn’t sure what this conversation meant...but this was the Erika he had grown to love so he decided that no matter what it was she wanted out of him, he would give it to her. If it made her feel better, he’d do it. “Did you know Erika?”

His question was so open-ended he knew she would have no idea what he was talking about. “Know what?”

He placed his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket, enjoying the way Erika’s eyes lit up with curiousity. Her lower lip twisting into her mouth as if it would help her to bite away at some of the mystery in his question. “Did you know I'm an idiot too?” She was blinking at him dumbly. “They do say only fools fall in love. That’s it. I’m one fool liking another. Nothing special.”

Erika stood, completely unemotional, like a piece of stone, until she cracked slowly and burst out laughing. Just like on stage earlier this evening, it seemed a wall that was holding back everything she felt had come crashing. She clapped a hand on her thigh and covered her mouth with a hand because surely it couldn’t be lady-like to laugh this hard in front of a prince.

To Shota even this laughter seemed out of place, like it came from a source of pain, because every snicker sounded like a sob in disguise. “You mean it isn’t the way I opened my heart up to you- the way I trusted you from the heart?” That had been why Jin had fallen in love with her, it seemed logical to assume Shota would love her for the same reason.

This time, it was Shota who laughed as he moved closer to her face. “You don’t trust me Erika. Don’t your actions today show that? You’re going home with your dad..not with me.”

“Don’t I?”

“You don’t.” He parroted back at her.

“Isn’t staying here the best way to show my belief that you won’t do anything? Here we are alone in a quiet theater, and sure are kids are here but they're sleeping and you haven't done anything Shota. You won't. You know not to now. You’ll just stay quiet by my side, supporting me waiting for me to fall-“ She laughed loudly again. “I’m sorry what was it? You were waiting for me to fall so you could catch me?”

Shota laughed back. He shouldn’t have because Erika was trying to be cruel with him and it did hurt a little but he laughed back because what else could he do anyways? If she wanted to laugh at his feelings, he’d let her because today was different. Today Toda Erika was hurt and he was going to find out why. It could help his cause in appealing to heal her broken heart. “What happened Erika? What changed that you want me to catch you now?” He snickered expecting an equally teasing response from the girl.

He was caught off guard by her blunt response. “I decided I wanted to kiss you. I want to try as Shota and Erika. That’s why I can’t go home with you because if I do- I’m not sure if I'll stop you at the right point if we're somewhere too private. You’re right. I do like it when your lips are on mine and for a second I can forget that I am who I am and just kiss you like the past few years haven’t happened and I’m still a girl who felt inexplicably drawn to a stranger on a stage.”

It was the closest he had ever come to hearing that Erika had feelings for him. He should have been jumping up and down, but he could only dumbly stare back at her. It was so open, so honest - and from a girl who tried so hard to hide so much it was almost unbelievable she would speak to him like this now. “You want to kiss me? Aren’t I still married?” Why?

He knew Erika- she would have changed her mind only if something drastic had altered the way she thought forever. She was stubborn so her opinion never changed all that easily “ what had happened?

At that she guffawed, seriously he was joking right? “That hasn't stopped you before.” The way her eyes looked up at him were different. He had never been privy to an Erika who knew how to get what she wanted. It was like he was confronted with a completely different girl. She was trying to seduce him.

His eyebrow quirked up. For a girl who was normally so mindful of behaving appropriately around him today she had thrown all caution to the wind. His feet stepped softly towards her- if she wanted him to kiss her who was he to say no? “Aren’t you still married too?” He ducked his head slowly towards hers, his arms itching to reach out to her shoulders and just pull her to him already.

“Actually since 2:40PM yesterday, no I’m not. My lawyer file the paperwork for my divorce.” Shota backed up off her shockingly quick with his movements but this time it was Erika with a foolish smile on her face who pushed their faces closer together so her breaths fell on his skin. “Are you scared Shota? All this time, you’ve been the one pursuing me - and I’m the one asking you this time, you must be scared. No proper girl would ever do this. See I’m not too proper after all?”

He looked stricken and indeed it was all Erika could do to not laugh out right in his face. What a load of shit Shota was when push came to shove.

“Erika-“ He glanced over to their children idly “ they had settled into the seats and snoozed away. He could only be thankful for the ability of children to tire themselves out.

“Come on Shota-“ Erika felt her forehead collide with his and saw the way his eyes shut, right now she felt a little bad for Shota. She was pushing him into a corner, in this theater. She needed to be wreckless, she wanted to be able to do whatever the hell she wanted and he seemed like the only person who would let her be immature for a second. “Just do it.” He didn’t move to close the small gap she’d left for him but she could feel his hand clench onto hers, fingers wringing into each others like he was trying to steal resolve and strength from her. It was an action that should have told her to stop because this meant far more to him than it did to her. For her it was an escape, a way to forget. For him it was all he’d come to want in the months that he’d gotten to know her better. “You know you-“

The rest of her words never echoed through the empty space of the theater because his lips had bound her own in their grasp, long enough for her to feel her stomach twisting over itself, in sickness or in health she wasn’t quite sure. She felt dizzy at the prospect he actually fell for her pushing him but then why wouldn’t he? Shota was dying to be her savior, and if she asked he would give her the royal palace itself she was sure.

A snore came from behind them and Shota’s head turned away from her just in time before she deepened their kiss. He was breathing heavily. She was barely affected. “That wasn’t fair Erika.”

“I know.” She blinked lightly back at him. Was it fair to use Shota’s feelings for her own gain? She felt a little sick that she'd actually done that to him. “You didn’t really want to kiss me did you?” She replied softly.

“No I didn’t.” He agreed, he looked frantic, his fingers running through his hair quickly as his hands rubbed his face. She felt her eyes run up to look at him. Was he serious? Had he caused her heart so much confusion all for nothing? Was he putting her in this position for nothing? “You can’t just use me to forget him like that Erika. I’m a little more selfish than that. It might be hard for you to believe but I don’t just want you because I find you attractive. I want you to want me- I shouldn’t care because eitherways I’m with you but I do care. So it feels a little unfair. I’m sorry I shouldn’t have kissed you, not this time.” He shook his head looking at their children. “Jun- wake up.” He ruffled the his son’s hair.

Toda Erika watched Matsuda Shota bustle around the theater, making his yawning child rush towards the exit. Mao wailed loudly as he parted and Erika was left standing there with the consequences of her decisions.

Mao didn't stop crying. "Stop." Now mostly because she wanted Erika to pick her up but Erika didn't know what to do as she stared at her child. Her child that was a result of the love she'd had once upon a time with Jin, somehow her desire to protect this child to love her and only her for the rest of her life had dulled a little.

It was an odd image to be sure. "Stop." Mao wailing, hands waving, screaming to be loved.

Erika staring back at her.

Wouldn't Mao break her heart one day too?

Just like her father?

Akanishi Jin had done something unforgivable to the world when he decided to end their relationship. Yes, Ken'ichi had snatched something that the world had considered physically precious to her but at least he hadn't broken her heart.

Jin had made sure she wouldn't love anyone again.

"STOP MAO STOP PLEASE!" And so Erika broke down in front of her child, wailing loudly until Mao's tears finally ceased and the little girl's eyes peered at her mother, eyes curious and filled with pity for the adult in front of her who didn't seem to be any more knowledgeable about the ways of the world than Mao herself.
End Notes:
So this chapter is one of my favourites simply because of the imagery at the end :D i hope you guys could imagine it properly but I love the idea of Erika just crying loudly as Mao cried in front of her. It's an image I've held dear in my heart for a long time. It also shows the deterioration of her own character because the weaker Erika gets as a person, the weaker she gets as a mother.
Thank you to ichigoyamada and UniqueMikoto :D for reviewing. I hope everyone enjoyed this chapter. It was a little sad...but it was expected neh? She won't get over the official end that soon. I know most of you love Erika and Jin...so how do I say this without making Shota sound inconsequential?
Mao's discovery will always be about her two parents. So don't worry we'll always have lots of Jin in this chapter and Erika and Jin will always love each other even when they grow to love other people.
No previews :( I hope you guys don't hate me for that T.T but I will tell you that well Jin is going to a party and we're going to see the return of Meisa and Mukai in the next chapter.
Changing the Rules by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
Team...I am trying to rekindle writing and finally it's working! (YAYAYAYA :D)
“So that’s it? This is what you’re giving me to tell me the rest of this story?” Mao looked at the heap of books in her hand, bound rather old-fashioned-ly with a four cross set of ropes with a knot on top. “You were quite the lazy storyteller Meisa, you never told me half of what I needed to know. I still don’t quite understand why things have turned out the way they have.”

Meisa looked at her god daughter with a humored expression. “Tell me Mao, don’t you think it would be better to hear this story from your mother’s own voice? Why she fell in love with Shota? I feel a bit wrong telling it to you actually.” Mao’s eyes flickered up painfully as she watched the old lady peer closely at her. “Mao, I’m sorry things turned out this way.”

“What could you have to be sorry about?” Mao muttered out as she shoved the books in the bag she’d brought with her. “I should just be happy you bothered to take me in at all-“ She kept her gaze away from Meisa because she knew what the older lady was apologizing for. If any of them had taken a moment to think of her, to think of the relationship her parents had- none of them would be here like this.

In the end, yes Toda Erika and Akanishi Jin were hurt by their separation but both moved on to create lives of their own that made them happy.

Right? They did live happily ever after in the end?

Somehow only she was here, sitting in the past, digging up treasures of memories that people had long decided to forget.

Why had no one ever thought of her benefit?

Why had her mother left her?

Why hadn’t her father forced his wife to let him raise her?

“You know...he was never that much fun to be around.” She blurted out looking closely at Meisa’s face for her expression. “I don’t understand why someone like you would love my grandfather. I mean I loved him, but even as a child I was always scared of him, I never needed to be of course. He loved me like he loved no one else and he was fiercely protective and happy around me...but I knew. I knew I was the exception not the rule.”

She expected Meisa to look hurt, somehow it was cruel of Mao but she wanted the old lady to appear as heartbroken as she felt right now at the imaginary family photo that kept entering her mind of her with her two parents. On the contrary, Meisa actually looked happy that Mao had brought him up. “Will you tell me a little about him?”

“Takuya ojii-chan?” Meisa’s nod was perplexing. Why, after all these years would Mukai Osamu’s Meisa care whatsoever about the man who had been intent on keeping her latched to him even if it meant snatching every shred of dignity she had? “He was irritating, eat this, do that, do your math, why are you dressing like that, don’t bring boys home, don’t bring boys to the backyard, don’t bring boys to my room either, don’t bring girls either in that way-“

“How many boys were you bringing home Mao?”

“Oh don’t you worry, between the two of us I’m sure you’re still the winner there.”

Meisa rolled her eyes and shook her head at the immature antics of her god daughter but regardless a smile rolled onto her face as Mao giggled. “Do you behave this way with your grandmother too?”

“No, but you’re not my grandmother are you?” She teased sticking her tongue out childishly.

“There is this thing called respecting your elders-“

“Why do you even care about him still?” It was the real question Mao had wanted to ask and she saw Meisa’s eyes widen for a second, the wrinkles lining the sides of her eyes momentarily flattening out as a result of the shock.

“Mao, I don’t think you understand how love works.” Mao was about to open her mouth and exclaim she knew exactly how love worked because she’d managed to love about two boys in her life (did Jun count if she’d loved him so much as a child apparently?) “When you fall in love with someone, you give them a small part of yourself that you never get back. When you break up that’s why you’re so hopeless “ you’re left by yourself to somehow take what this person has given you of themselves to rebuild yourself. When you’re together, that seems perfect. When you’re not together, it’s hell. You’re left to become yourself without that person. It’s a strange feeling.”

For a second, Mao stood there staring at her carefully. “You make no sense old-lady.”

“I will always love your grandfather…but it’s just as right to say that he was toxic for me and completely a representation of the worst decisions I made in my life.”

Mao felt a ball in her throat as she pondered what Meisa had said. She had never felt like that…well ever. She didn’t give herself up to anyone, and part of that had been seeing her grandparent’s strange marriage, but a lot of it had been abandonment issues. If you never gave yourself up to anyone, well you were never left behind by them either.

So when the silence was too deafening for both of them she decided to say the only thing she could say. “That’s fucking gross.”

“Don’t ask questions you don’t want to know the answer to then little one. Now! On your way!” She grabbed Mao by the shoulders and turned her around so she was facing the stairs-

But instead of falling headfirst down the stairwell Mao was faced with a luminescent tall figure of a man who blinked quickly and then shifted his head to look at the witch behind her. “Is this who I think it is?” His voice was deep, resounding and kind…the type of voice you heard at the end of movie trailers in theaters that left you with goose bumps.

“Yup and she’s just as irritating as I thought she would be.” Meisa voiced out from the back and Mao saw the man’s eyes flicker for a second with that sort of happiness that came from seeing something you used to love left in your drawer and you’d forgotten about.

“You’ve grown up beautifully Mao-chan,” Mao’s eyes widened and the guy immediately looked like he wanted to correct his statement. “I meant that in the most platonic way possible-“

“Hentai.” Meisa muttered shaking her head behind and Mao grinned nervously stepping away from Meisa’s hands watching the guy automatically move closer to his wife.

It didn’t take much to realize that this was Mukai Osamu. “I mean she’s a spitting image of Erika! I didn’t realize how much she would look like her.”

“Yeah yeah, I remember that first night you barely spoke to me.” Mukai blushed and Meisa fumed. “You didn’t seriously like Erika did you?”

“Of course not! Did I spend the whole evening talking to her or with you?” Mukai hollered back at her. “Ah, sometimes you drive me insane.”

“There used to be a time when that was a good thing.” She huffed and flipped her hair back in his face.

“Who said it stopped being a good thing?” He grinned down at her foolishly as Mao saw her god mother’s cheeks flush in a way that was reminiscent of a much younger girl. For a second, she felt like she was privy to the very innocent love story of two high-schoolers. As soon as their lips were close to each other, though Meisa turned her head to look at her god daughter who was grinning away cheesily.

“Don’t stop on my account,” She raised her hands almost arrogantly. “It’s cute seeing two old people in love. Look at you guys with your grey hair and wrinkly faces. Come on, just kiss!”

Meisa’s jaw dropped. “You little brat, you come here I’ll show you whose old-“

For the rest of their short-lived encounter, Mukai had to ensure that his wife’s still quite deadly nails didn’t puncture Mao’s skin as Meisa’s god daughter cackled away brightly.

-----------------

“Why are we here?”

“Your father overturned a vital law that they need our consent to return back to its original place, it’ll start with your succession which is going to occur soon. The government has deemed you’re ready to take on the throne so I’m to abdicate as soon as possible. After all, an empress can only rule for so long before her son-“ Jun raised an eyebrow at his mother.

“You’ve ruled longer than dad did. Some would say you did a better job too.”

“If you count the years I ruled behind the scenes, I’ve ruled longer than most people would think possible and certainly longer than many kings in the past.” Maki grinned tightly as she walked down the marbled hallways of their government office, her hands tucked into the shapely Dior suit she’d had especially stitched for occasions like this.

As she’d gotten older, his mother’s body had become more frail but her mind only grew stronger and her will more stubborn, there were chances for her to leave the throne before but it was only now that Jun had seen his mother start actively pursuing leaving the post she had desired and earned through marriage.

He knew the reason of course.

It had less to do with his preparation and more to do with an ultimatum his mother had received from the one thing that mattered more to her than the throne.

Eitherways, it didn’t matter to Jun. He’d been prepared for this role since his birth. Being treated specially, even having his super rich friends treat him differently because of his heritage “ it was all going to pay off today. “What’s the law about?” He questioned softly as they entered the elevator reserved for higher-level officials. As royalty, they didn’t come here to Parliament often but they were privy to use this elevator when they did just so they wouldn’t have to interact with too many of the workers and disturb the environment of the government.

Jun thought that it was unfortunate the way the role of royalty within their country had slowly been diminished. If he could “ he wanted to restore it to the fervor it had been when his father had taken the throne but he understood the delicate political stance of the monarchy as it was at this point. They couldn’t make too many moves too openly or the public would retaliate completely against them.

He saw his mother pull her sunglasses up to her forehead as she hammered away on her phone, probably texting the minister that they were on their way up. “Your father made a lot of special concessions for that foolish woman. She refused to accept herself for who she was.”

“Erika-san?” He muttered softly and saw his mother nod jaggedly obviously angered at the mention of her name.

To this day, when people spoke of Erika in public he’d seen people spit her name ominously as if trying to spell away a bad omen. She had become the ultimate figure of a temptress, the curse women threw freely at each other to call the other a cheater.

And yet, despite himself, all Jun could feel when he heard the name Erika was an overwhelming amount of happiness.

He knew that he should be the same as everyone else, after all Erika’s appearance in his father’s life was the reason his father was no longer alive. She was the reason his mother and father remained separated despite being married in the face of everyone in this country.

She was the reason behind a lot of things.

But she was also the first person who taught him to ride a bike, she was the only person who went swimming with him whenever he wanted to, and she was the first woman he ever remembered loving who wasn’t his mother.

In his formative years, while Maki loved him she had been focused on establishing herself as the powerhouse princess, not to be cast aside by Chiaki-sama. After his aunt’s death, she became even more rigorous with exercising her rights as queen “ and somehow her rights as a mother were left forgotten.

Erika was only too happy to fulfill them and Jun was all too happy to let her.

He wouldn’t quite call her a mother, because it never felt the same as it did with his mother but Jun knew that he had loved the woman. Not the same way his father had but Erika had helped give him the self-confidence he had today to be himself and not some puppet engineered by his country to behave perfectly.

It was the same reason he was sure, he would be able to return this country and his family to the place it deserved. “What sort of concessions?”

“She was married to him.”

“I thought you said that was only a ceremony.”

“That’s what I thought. That’s what he told me. But they were legally married- bound by a special law that allows emperors to take up to two officially recognized wives.”

“Does someone of Erika’s kin need to be present?”

“No…it’s a simple legal proceeding and thankfully for us her family has never bothered to make contact after they took her body away from us. Good riddance, like I would want her in the royal mausoleum.” Jun cringed, he didn’t like to think of the way his mother had handled her death but nor could he blame her for her actions. For every political step Maki took forward Erika had pulled her back three steps simply by living with the man she had married. Maki tucked her phone into the purse. “I’ll leave this up to you then Jun-“

“Hey, what if I want two wives?” Jun wiggled his eyebrows jokingly when he saw Maki look closer at him.

She froze as she came up to him with a threatening look that only his mother could ever truly muster. She glowered, her voice lower than before when she spoke now. “If you can joke about that after knowing everything that happened you are truly not ready to be emperor.”

“Then you should just hold onto the position a little longer like you have and I sure wouldn’t mind-”

“If I could I would ““

“But even for you there are things that are more important than this country aren’t there?” He saw his mother falter as she looked at Jun fearfully. She always did this every time he even brought the topic up.

To be fair to her, she had done a good job of hiding her relationship around the public but those in the palace knew full well that their empress never slept alone at night and had practically been married but four months after her emperor’s passing.

Widow she may be, but in mourning she most certainly was not. “I’m not quite as heartless as you seem to think I am.” She relinquished smiling softly at her son. After all these years, he could hardly hold it against his mother to have someone in her life who would support her into her old age.

“Did you ever love dad?” He muttered softly as the elevator doors opened and he saw his mother shrug as she walked out but not before turning around.

“He’s not the man you think he is Jun and unfortunately, that was never very important in our line of work Jun. Maybe that was why your father felt the need to create this law. No matter how hard I tried- Shota never listened. In the end, for him love came first. She came first.” Maki scoffed pushing her hair behind her ear as she marched ahead fully aware of her tall, handsome son following her in his footsteps.

Some days that’s all Maki felt he was. A pretty, dumb face “ but maybe that was her own fault. He was a reflection of her, a reflection of Shota and even a reflection of Erika.

Maki tried her hardest most days to not think of Erika…only because there were so few people in the world who knew the truth. And the less time the truth spent in her consciousness, the better it would be for all of them.

-----------------

Mao shuffled on her feet as she stood outside of Tegoshi and Ryo’s apartment. Two night she’d walk in feeling awkward but come out the next morning feeling on top of the world.

Were they even home?

Are you home? She quickly texted Tegoshi.

It was Ryo who answered. You can stop standing outside like a stalker, we can see you from the window on the side.

“Fine! Then just come open the door will you!” She barked out loudly embarrassed that she had to be caught in that awkward situation. She rubbed the back of her head, making a disarray of her hair just as the door opened and she was faced with Ryo who was looking straight at her so intently she had to look anywhere but at his face. “Can I just- get my stuf-“

“Right, felt a bit wrong to keep your bags outside.”

“Are you “ driving tomorrow?” She coughed out and he shook his head. “Phew.”

Ryo looked like he was irritated with that response as he scoffed rubbing his nose before he shoved his hands into the pockets of his grey sweatpants. In that moment she kind of hated herself, because she’d just glanced down at his crotch and then up to his face and he’d obviously seen because he looked like he wanted to laugh at her. “Is it that weird?”

He also looked surprisingly good today. In a dark grey t-shirt that hung tight and loose in just the right spots, a houndstooth necklace that hung low on his chest, black flip-flops “ he was the epitome of low-maintenance and Mao found herself gulping.

It’s like he knew exactly what she liked her guys dressed in. Would it be very fucked up to proposition him for sex again? “It’s really weird. Let’s be honest, any time naked grunting was involved it’s weird.” She managed to answer both him and herself. “Thanks for keeping my stuff safe.”

“Thanks for coming to pick it up.” He gruffly responded and she watched him turn around and pull out several suitcases. “Did Meisa tell you anything interesting?”

“Just “ stuff. I got these.” She flashed him diaries from her knapsack and he rolled his lips inwards and tried to smile.

It ended up making him look a little psychotic. “I guess that’s good?”

“It’s great.” She corrected.

“Amazing.”

“Fantastic really.”

“Wonderful.”

“Amazing.”

At that she laughed, because the spell of their banter had been broken. “You said that already.”

“I was running out of positive descriptors.” His smile was real this time and Mao felt gutted like someone had decided to take her insides and pull them out rather roughly. She felt like buckling to the ground as he reached for her hands and made her pull her suitcases out of his house. “I really hope you find what you’re looking for.”

“Me too.” She sighed.

“Hey listen?”

“Yeah?” She wanted him to say something good. Mostly she wanted him to say he was still into her and he was okay with forgiving her and-

When she looked at him now though, he looked really apologetic. “I’m sorry I said that about your mother. I mean I don’t really know her. No one really does at the end of the day.”

This apology was far better than what she expected and she was shocked to find it necessary because her heart felt lightened now that he’d admitted what he’d done wrong. “Thanks…I’m sorry too. I reacted like a baby.”

“Can’t be helped.” He teased.

“Really can’t.” She agreed.

“How unfortunate.” She could hardly hold back the smile as they started again.

“Truly a disaster.”

“Very distressing.”

“We could go on forever couldn’t we?” She started to walk away as she raised a hand to wave back to him.

She could only barely hear his response. “We could try.” She almost stopped but she shut her eyes and moved forward.

Nishikido Ryo was unexpected, and interesting, and obviously so magnetically attractive she found it hard to think clearly around him but he wasn’t her goal- and she couldn’t forget that she had a whole other chapter of her mother's life to uncover. The most controversial of all.

Ryo had been right. He didn't know her mother, not really, no one did but everyone cursed her. Everyone hated her- and especially now that she'd learned everything her mother had gone through she didn't feel like that was fair.

So she would make sure. She would make sure the truth about Toda Erika and Matsuda Erika was revealed to the world.
End Notes:
Guess what...no previews :D! BUT that's because I'm literally uploading the next chapter next :)

Thank you ichigoyamada for the lovely review :)!
Crossing Borders and Bridging Gaps by Anna Clair
Author's Notes:
Back to the Past team :D~!
“So who is she?” Aya asked for yet the thirtieth time this past evening. Jin had had to work late and Aya insisted on staying at the office with him because it couldn’t be safe for him to go home alone at night.

Jin had looked at her as if she was mad, which she absolutely 100 percent was! Stark raving mad!

But he was impressed with how she had managed to get him to let her stay…and now he’d have to walk her home instead because it was far more dangerous for her than it was for him. Still it was exactly this quality of Aya’s he found endearing. “What does it even matter Aya?”

“Duh,” She rolled her eyes making an effort, in vain might he add, to pull the pen from his hand. “Because you were crying like a little baby!” He stopped writing then and Aya managed to succeed pulling the pen away. “Come on, take a break. Talk to me.”

“And what is talking to you going to do?”

“I can listen. Sometimes that’s all you need.” She smiled brightly twirling in front of him, the curls at the base of her neck swinging around her face perfectly in time with her skirt. “I’m a great listener, you can just ask Junno. I’ve helped him get over many a man.” Jin’s eyebrows shot up into his hair as he looked up at that. “Oh oops…well…it’s just you.” He shook his head disapprovingly but despite himself, Jin felt himself crack a smile. He felt the strangest sense of calm come over him when Aya skipped over to him and pulled him up from the chair.

“Aya,” He sighed lengthening the last vowel in her name as she twirled him around with her. “What are you doing?”

“Dancing with you. Getting you to loosen up. I’m going to be honest you are no fun Akanishi Jin…and I want us to have fun. A lot of fun.” For a second, he was worried by what she meant with her words, but she immediately stopped dancing and flicked him in the head.

“OW! Aya!” He frowned rubbing his head as she protectively folded her arms over her chest.

“You deserved it, I saw that face you made…get your head out of the gutter.” He burst out laughing. “What’s so funny?”

“Nothing, this, you- how you think I think.” As soon as he said it though he regretted it, Aya’s fell faster than he thought possible and Jin had to bite his tongue to himself. “Aya…”

“No it’s okay, you’re right.” She stepped in front of him, all the dance in her step had disappeared as she leaned back on a table and slouched forward. Even in this extremely manly position, she looked like a picturesque image of strength. “Just explain yourself then. Why? Why not me?” What was he supposed to say? He was trying his best to forget since his conversation with Kame. Freedom from Erika still came easily, freedom from Mao…not as much.

From his last letter, he had gotten the smallest glimpse at his little daughter. She’d been giggling beside a slightly older boy pulling on his leg as he tried to run away from her and she laughed maniacally. Jin imagined that she would be mischievous, a regular rebel and he imagined putting her to sleep at night and how right everything in the world would feel if he could just hear her laugh every day before he went to bed.

Not for the first time since he sent those letters, did he wonder if he had done the right thing but he couldn’t take it back and he was sure Erika didn’t want him to so this was it. This was the life he had chosen, working late, and watching Ueto Aya try her best to break into his closed heart. He wasn’t being fair to her. “It’s not you, Aya.”

“No let’s stop pretending…it’s not that it’s not me…it’s that it’s someone else. Tell me about Meisa. Tell me about her. I need to know.”

Jin looked at her blankly…and then he remembered. He had been writing to Meisa that day. That was the name she had spied on. That was who she thought he loved.

Suddenly all he could do was laugh. Aya had much more of a chance of breaking into his heart than Meisa did. She was jealous of Meisa? “Why? Knowing will just hurt you more.”

“No that’s where you’re wrong. Knowing frees me, because you know the more you do this- this not talking thing - the more mysterious you become and you know how I feel about mysteries.”

“Yes, yes Agatha Christie is your favourite author.”

“If she asked for my first born in exchange for the script I would gladly give it up.” Aya laughed at her own joke but was left bewildered when she was the only one laughing. “Okay it wasn’t that bad a joke-“

“It’s funny that you want to know why when you just spat it out.” Aya furrowed her eyebrows and Jin wasn’t sure how much more he wanted to spell out that it was his first-born that was always on his mind. “What did you give up to come here Aya?”

“What did I give up?” She parroted back. “Nothing Jin, I’ve lived here practically my whole life.” She smiled and came over to sit beside him as he leaned against his desk.

“Well Aya I gave up a wife, and I gave up a daughter…and you saw me crying because I didn’t want to give them up but there’s nothing in this world-“ Without knowing what had happened he felt his eyes cast downwards. “I’m sorry. I should have told you earlier...but things didn’t end well, and I wasn’t sure where my life was-“

“And my family was making concessions for you because they liked you…for me.” She whistled low and stuck her lips out. “This sounds like something out of a movie. Love interest has a family on the side. Oh woe is me.”

“Is that really all you have to say?” He had to say he was surprised, he expected tears and yells. He almost wanted them because he’d never led her on but he had used her for her standing in this nation to get him opportunities with her family.

“I’m sorry, I could slap you…did you want a slap?” He gave her a look and she rolled her eyes. “Fineee…settle for a push on the shoulder?”

“I don’t understand why you’re not more upset.” He admitted after the silence between them grew too long and he saw Aya shrug.

“Are you still married?”

“Nope.”

“You’re still in love and you have a daughter?”

“Yup.”

“Then I can live with that.” Her shockingly confident proclamation did make his heart break a little bit for her.

“Aya-“

“No don’t say another word tonight Jin, just because I’m not overreacting doesn’t mean I’m not hurt…you could have told me all of this before and it would have saved the both of us a lot of trouble and you know it. So for now- just let it go. If I want to stay as we are is that really harming you? If I want to keep being beside you does it change anything?”

“But Aya….we aren’t anything.” Jin had to utter back. “And I’m not sure we ever will be…and you deserve better.”

“But I am sure.” She smiled brightly, “I’m nothing if not persistent, stubborn and a pain in the butt Akanishi Jin, so just wait.” She turned her head to his and pressed a quick chaste kiss on his cheek. “Just wait, and let it happen.”

“Let what happen?” He asked back dumbly but Aya simply smiled.

“I think it’s time I got home…good night Jin.”

“At least let me drop you home-“

“Ahh…don’t bother. I think it’d be good for you to worry about me a little.” She winked at him and walked away.

When the door shut behind her, he felt his heart jump into his throat and was surprised by the very defined knots he felt in his stomach. He tried to focus on the work at hand, he still had to confirm the employment terms of the Chinese facilities for tomorrow and so he had work to do now that Aya was finally gone-

Oh who was he kidding, less than five minutes later he had followed the Ueto daughter out screaming her name.

-------------------------

The sun was shining brilliantly, the lush palace gardens were truly in full splendor and Erika for the life of her could not understand what on earth she was doing here after two hours of inane chatter.

Currently the princess was asking her opinion on the state of the grass and Erika for the life of her couldn’t care. So she had to break when she saw Maki guide them over to the tennis courts, servants, nannies and body guards appropriately in tow with Mao, Jun and pitcher of lemonade. “Why am I here Maki? You’ve barely spoken two words to me and I can’t pretend to understand what I’ve done to upset you so much that you’d invite me here just to ignore me.”

Maki swung her hips around seductively but who the little princess was trying to seduce Erika couldn’t tell you. “I’m deciding how much I like you Erika, how much leash I’m willing to give you…and you, my dear friend, should take this time to decide how far you’d like to go. If this is really worth everything he thinks it is. If it’s worth everything he’s trying to convince you it is.”

“How far I’d like to go?” She echoed dumbly. The expression of pity crossing Maki’s face made Erika’s skin crawl. “I don’t understand what you’re talking about...”

“I can help you understand, but it depends…how honest would you like me to be? How clear does our relationship have to be Erika because we’re not going to be friends, much less acquaintances, you’ll become the dark side of my shadow and you need to tell me you’re okay with it. So I’m sorry, if I couldn’t find the words to say to you before.” She held a hand out to the girl as they reached the tennis courts.

In the distance, Erika could see Shota running around the courts with someone other than Ryuhei as the older prince appeared to be catching his breath on the side.

Despite her best efforts to not falter in front of Maki, she felt her eyes drawn to him. There was sweat running of his head as he dashed from side to side, his entire being absorbed in the game. Every hit back to the player on the other side echoed loudly with a restrained force and strength.

Erika felt her heart skip a beat as she gulped back the knot forming in her throat.

He’s married, his wife is literally right in front of you, stop looking at him her mind reminded her. His chest rose and fell as he got ready to serve again. The ball was bouncing on the court...off-handedly her hand ran to her own forehead. “Competitive, aggravating, so determined and focused on winning the one thing he can’t. I sure as hell can’t talk to him so I thought I’d reason with you.” Even though Maki tried her best to sound like she was inviting Erika into a conversation, Erika knew better than to speak up. This was not a conversation, this was an ambush. One that was carefully planned to ensure she would no longer be a thorn in the royal family’s side now that they’d finally chosen to acknowledge her…and she supposed consequently the threat she represented. “He’s been running around the court like this since well-” She paused tactically as she turned around to smile calculatingly at her. “I don’t need to tell you since when. You already know don’t you?”

When she spoke up she tried to keep her tone of voice as cold as possible. “I couldn’t tell you…I don’t spend my every waking moment by his side.”

“No, but you do keep his mind company every waking moment of his day whether you’re aware of it or not.” Erika blinked furiously as the words washed over her and she turned slowly to face Maki who was already looking at her. “Shocked?”

“Not really but I’ve never encouraged it.”

Maki smirked proudly, in the type of way that was smug, like if this wasn’t about her cheating husband then maybe Maki would have patted herself on the back for being correct yet again. “He just couldn’t wait for you, could he? Shota’s not a patient man, and he needs no encouragement. He just needs a participant and from what I understand you’ve been accommodating.”

She had to correct her. Yes it was true that now Shota and she had been almost repetitively pulled together more at Shota’s insistence than hers but she’d have been lying if she hadn’t said she enjoyed the attention he paid to her. Still, she couldn’t just let Maki think this was more than what it was.

Yes they’d kissed, three times. Once as what she assumed was a joke, once because he was trying to show her the depth of his emotions and once because she was using him “ that did not a relationship or an affair make.

As her mouth opened to form her defense, she was pulled away and faced with the young prince himself who had found his way to the pair of women who had been watching him but in their exchange testing each other had missed seeing him come up to them.

Erika couldn’t help but remark that on the courts he’d looked calculating, focused, frenzied but organized in the way he wanted to capture his win. Here, he looked furious, desperate and extremely apologetic…but not to Maki. His face was fully brought up close to her. “Erika,” Even his voice held every hint of the feelings that he held for her and Erika couldn’t help but feel very afraid. It was bad enough that Shota embraced her every chance he got, it was worse now that Maki knew, and worse yet that Erika could barely bring herself to care enough to stop herself from faltering and slipping into his arms as he held himself out to her like a treat on the end of a stick. “Why are you here?”

Erika didn’t answer, but Maki did on her behalf. “Because you’re acting like a lunatic, a spoilt brat and if you won’t address the issue, I will. Like I do everything around here for you, Shota…I’ll even get you Erika if you want. That’s my job isn’t it? To do the things you really can’t?”

The glare he threw his wife confirmed all the suspicions Erika had had about their marriage the first time she met them.

Not shockingly, she compared their marriage to her own. She had been so envious but now she saw there was nothing to envy between them. In her marriage, Erika had compromised and Jin had brought patience to their marriage, they had allowed love to thrive in their hostile environment.

But Shota and Maki never had...for them marriage was a perfect photograph and no matter what would come their way Shota and Maki would remain married to each other for all eternity. Come hell, high water, or Erika herself “ nothing would break them up.

“Do you want to open this door Maki? You should have kept her out of this, what happened last night was between you and me.”

“Would someone care to inform me what’s happening here or was I invited to watch my prince and princess fight and rip each other to shreds?” She bowed uncomfortably and shuffled away from them pulling away from Shota’s grasp. “I think I should be taking my leave, Rina can you hand me Mao please-“ She asked the maid who looked fearfully at Maki for permission.

The princess scoffed. “When you’re the cause I think you should stay and watch…it’s only fair you see the rift you’ve caused between us don’t you think Erika?”

“Keep her out of this.”

“WHY? You want me to give you permission right…well here it is Shota. Here, you go. Erika’s my best friend now. I’m out with her and you can join us, spend all the time you want with her because she can be my best fucking friend for the press. In fact, let’s have my best friend move into the palace with us- what about our bedroom?? She should stay there too!” Maki shrieked as Erika’s eyes widened when she saw Chiaki from the back cringe.

She had never been so embarrassed in her life.

“I’m taking her home.” Without another word, Erika found her hand in the prince’s hand and she succeeded in wrenching it free, very aware now of how everyone including the children, the servants, Ryuhei and Chiaki were watching them. She could only pray the safe distance they were away meant that they couldn’t hear every word blasting from Maki and Shota’s mouth.

Shota grabbed her hand again, despite her insistence to pull away. He went to the maid who passed him Mao in his other hand as he easily carried her daughter.

Erika wanted to be happy for a second. The image was very close to what she had always wanted with Jin. If she shut her eyes for a second she could imagine the hand in hers was his- and he was giggling and laughing as he made eyes at his daughter and she spent her time looking at him.

When she opened them though once again, she found herself marching out of the palace hands intertwined with the prince as he kept her close, weaving through smaller halls now, ones she didn’t recognize but offered the illusion of privacy.

Then she was slowly put into a car, he was in the car beside her after he nodded and sent the driver off. “You shouldn’t have come.” He barked as they exited the gates and she saw whatever had had him in that posture worm his way out of his body. He seemed to relax reflexively like there was a lot more than his wife stifling him in the palace.

“I can’t very well deny the princess of my nation.”

Shota scoffed. “Why not? I’m the prince and we’ve both seen you have no trouble denying me.” She laughed a bit at that and Mao in her lap snickered as well, though the baby had no clue why she was laughing. That fact itself made Erika laugh harder. “Do you think this is funny?”

“Oh come on, it’s a little funny that every one thinks we’re having an affair.” She rubbed her eyes. “We’re a mess of two people who have no idea what we’re doing to each other but we’re certainly not having an affair.”

“Maki has a history of over reacting and she blew what I told her last night out of proportion, hilarious considering her own personal interests.” A tone of bitterness was in his voice that Erika had never heard before.

“Did you ever love each other?”

“I thought I could…for a long time.” Shota’s response sounded like a consolation prize. “She’s always going to be there. She’s the face of our marriage now, and a considerable force in the family but- no I don’t love her. I respect her, admire her “ but I don’t love her.”

The silence played with her heart the same way Mao was playing with her hair. She looked at the personification of the commitment she’d made with Jin as she jostled in the seat, trying to eat her hair. Erika moved it away from her hands as she slowly spoke out. “Do you love me?”

“Do you need an answer?” He teased as they drove. She didn’t respond but regardless he answered her. “Yes.”

“How do you know?”

Shota paused at the red light and turned to look at her. “Honestly? You’re difficult and I’m still here.”

“How romantic.”

“I don’t need difficult in my life Erika, in fact- everything’s been easy. Whatever I’d wanted- I’ve been the prized son of my mother. I’m her pride and joy. I’m her success story.” He left the innuendo behind his words silent as Erika nodded understanding what he meant. “I was allowed the world at my feet and suddenly you came.”

“And I wasn’t allowed?” She responded and he shook his head smiling.

“We both knew when I met you if I’d whisked you away that night-“ She blushed. “Well needless to say you would have held little resistance to me.”

“You doubt me.”

“No I don’t doubt you. I just know what I felt…and I’d like to think I know how you’d felt. But when you did get married to Jin and I saw you in that store “ yeah you weren’t allowed but that’s okay. There’s a lot of married women around me and you don’t see me mauling my brother’s wife do you?”

“I think I should really ask Maki.” She cracked up seeing his shocked expression. “Oh- oh come on Shota “ it was a joke!”

“Rude. I’m not going to talk anymore.” He shook his head but despite that, the fact they were joking around with each other was lightening the heaviness in his heart. Even if it was at the expense of his capricious past.

“So it was because I said no?”

“No, you were difficult because “ well I guess I couldn’t look away.” He finished smiling as he stopped the car a little bit away from her house. The daylight filtered through the car and Erika felt her heart skip a beat as he looked at her. “You clapped for me, you believed in me, and I couldn’t look away.” He bowed his head apologetically. “I truly am sorry about today, you didn’t deserve that.”

Looking back, it didn’t bother her all that much that she’d been embarrassed for the man before her. How could it when he said the most lovely and honest things about her like this? “I’m sorry about last week, at the theater. I didn’t meant to use you like that but-“

“I can understand.” He reached for Mao and tickled her slightly. The little girl giggled and reached upwards for him and Shota was only too happy to acquiesce until she drooled on him and burst out laughing and clapping wildly. “She’s funny. Way funnier than you.”

“Way to make a girl feel jealous.”

“Anytime I can make you feel anything, I think my day’s work is done.” He laughed.

Erika laughed back because he had absolutely no idea the depth of feelings she was exploring because of him. With Jin it was easy, it was hate and it was love. With Shota it was complicated, it was trust and then distrust, it was longing and then guilt. “You might have to get used to that feeling.” Shota laughed for a second and then he stopped as she grabbed Mao from his hands. “Thanks for the ride.”
End Notes:
And now I'm done :) Thanks Team. No previews but you got a whole new chapter so hope everyone enjoyed it :D!
This story is published on Asian Fan Fiction at http://www.asianfanfiction.com/viewstory.php?sid=432