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Author Topic: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]  (Read 36464 times)

Offline iacus

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Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [33: Respite]
« Reply #160 on: July 22, 2007, 05:29:39 AM »
Necessary evil is, by definition, evil. And even if Reina and Ai don't want to, or are doing it with the best of intentions, it's kind of sad to see them go down that path and do evil.

Offline rokun

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Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [34: Love and Loyalty]
« Reply #161 on: September 08, 2007, 03:17:04 PM »
Hello again! I know I'm not doing a great job of keeping two stories updated, but I've felt a little inspiration lately and I thought it was about time to work toward ending this one. :) I don't know how many of you read this, but I hope those that do are enjoying it. Now, for the beginning of the rest of Reina's tale...


Chapter 34 – Home Is Where the Heart Is

Reina read the lines off the top sheet of paper in a stack that sat on her desk for what must have been the fifth time. She didn’t like reading through dry reports, but such administrative details were expected of her position. Her position…

She looked up at the near-rustic wood-paneled walls that surrounded her desk. Various pictures and awards hung on those walls, and she looked among them. There was a large calendar advertising what had had appeared at the time to be the 2007 version of Morning Musume. That was something that definitely didn’t happen. She wondered if it would become a collector’s item since it was probably going to end up the last one of its like. There were also wide pictures from concerts she sang in. Not telling them where she was of course, but saying she was happy and doing well, she’d asked her parents to send her some of her old memorabilia when she found she was going to have her own office. Wanting to do anything to help their prodigal daughter, they eagerly obliged.

She didn’t really feel like she needed an office of her own, and didn’t for the first week or two, but as things developed both she and Ai had too much going on to be sharing workspace any longer. About a week after the coup, one of the council members had gotten himself arrested and jailed. Although they hadn’t formally charged him yet, it looked like he would be gone for a long time. Everyone thought this was a great chance to provide Reina with an office of her own. Conveniently, it was right next to Ai’s as well, and they had a door put in connecting the two so she could still easily reach the chambers they co-habited.

Looking back down onto her sheaf of papers she still didn’t feel like she needed an office of her own, especially since after she moved in, her workload had somehow magically increased. Council members for some reason seemed more than eager to “escalate” much of their tedious paperwork to Ai’s level, and Ai of course didn’t have the time to do much of it, so most of it ended up in Reina’s hands. Ai apologized often for it of course, especially during their time together late at night, but Reina knew she was under quite a lot of stress herself, so really didn’t mind helping her out. Still, there had to be better ways of living than spending long hours staring at approval forms and activities reports like she had been for the past several weeks. She looked up at the calendar. Somehow, those weeks were already turning into months.

However, right now a particular report had caught her attention. It was vague on many points, but if she was reading it right, it talked about new girls being recruited into the company. She hadn’t had much time to visit Tokyo lately, but she still governed activities in that area in general since she already had the contacts, and this bit of news from Roppongi disturbed her. She’d had suspicions for quite a while now – ever since that first night when Ai told her about the executions of Yamagata’s loyalists in fact – but nothing hit quite so close to home as this. If these things were going on again even in her territory…

Dropping the sheets back on the desk, she rose and walked toward her calendar in her high stiletto heels, black beneath black lace hose with a short black skirt and her traditional red frilly blouse. She looked up at the poster picture hanging on the wall next to the calendar. The season was now spiraling toward summer, so the first two months this poster represented were obsolete. However, she kept it as a reminder of her past life. She was on the poster, together with Risa and Eri. Yossi was there too as if she was gazing down and protecting them. “What do you suppose you can do to help now…?” Reina asked herself. She wondered sometimes what the girl, as well as the others, was up to, but aside from hearing random news about her graduation there wasn’t really much she knew.

Sighing, realizing she was putting this off yet again, she committed herself as best she could and headed to her outer door. Peeking her head through, she told her assistant she would be meeting with Ai, and if anyone asked for her to leave her a message. Her assistant, a severe-looking but actually quite pleasant middle-aged woman, nodded her understanding, and Reina ducked back into her office to head to another door.

When she opened this one, she found Ai in a meeting with one of the councilmen and two others who, nervous-looking and too-sharply dressed, were likely his underlings. Ai was frowning at them while sitting in a quite relaxed posture with her hands set on top of crossed legs, and the councilman himself was nearly glaring at them. When Reina walked in and closed the door, the councilman’s eyes darted toward her, and Ai looked up calmly, the frown disappearing.

“Ahh, Reina,” she said. “I’m sorry, the councilman has a problem he asked me to review. I’d push it off, but I have a feeling if I did so these two would run away by the time I summoned them back.” Her lips drew into a lopsided grin as she finished her tease.

Reina said nothing in response though, and just walked to the side of Ai’s desk, glancing into her slightly furrowed eyes before turning to the three men. “Leave,” she ordered. “Now.” The men stared at her. “I have business with Takahashi-sama. You may return when you see me leave.”

The councilman rose, first as if in anger, but when he opened his mouth to speak the look in Reina’s eye made him hesitate. Reina saw him glance past her to Ai, and apparently whatever he saw there was enough too, and he quickly gathered his bowing subordinates and bowed his own way out of the office more formally than was necessary.

When the door closed, Reina spun back to face Ai, who was now looking intently back at her. “Yes, Reina?” she asked in a concerned voice. “What’s the matter?”

Reina rounded the desk to its front and grazed the back of the chair the councilman had just occupied before sitting down in it herself. She didn’t cross her legs, but held herself somewhat stiffly. Ai still looked at her with great interest. “Ai-chan…” she began, still unwilling to say what had been bugging her for ages. Instead, to begin with, she looked back into the girl’s eyes. “Do you remember our Morning Musume days?”

“Of course,” Ai said, and she sat back, relaxing at the casual question. “It wasn’t really that long ago.”

“Wasn’t it…” Reina said dreamily, staring off at a point somewhere past Ai. “It seems to me anymore that it was only a dream. It was hard a lot of the time, but I was also happy…” After losing herself a second, she looked squarely back into Ai’s face. “Do you ever wish to have those days back again?”

Ai shifted a little uncomfortably, and furrowed her brow in thought before responding. “They were good days…” she began, looking a little wistful herself, but only for a split second. “But it seems like a long time ago for me too. It’s been a long time ago since that was all I truly had to worry about. And…” She stared hard at Reina now. “What I do now gives me purpose, and it gives me strength. I can say I’ve done something in the world, and had an effect on many people.” She studied Reina a moment, but she didn’t try to betray a reaction. “Why the sudden nostalgia?”

“I don’t know,” Reina said. “It’s silly, I suppose…”

“You didn’t come in here and shoo one of the most powerful men in Japan out to talk about the good old times,” Ai said, still studying her.

“You’re right,” Reina said, “I didn’t.” Like she’d hoped though, starting the discussion like this had made it easier. She knew Ai’s true feelings, and now couldn’t help in questioning her. “Ai-chan, I read a report talking about the recruitment of new girls in Roppongi.”

Ai’s face hardened a bit at this, and she folded her hands above her knee. “Yes, recruitment is a constant process. Are there methods or something you have a problem with?”

Reina ducked her head a little. “Well, I got the impression these girls weren’t recruited normally. They seemed a bit more… random… and not as if it was through an arranged meeting.” Ai looked closely at her, and she looked fervently back. “I also have it on good authority that the police officer who was killed a few weeks back was just about to bust Takamoto-san’s laundry operation. It was awfully convenient that all trace of his case disappeared with his life.” She spoke quickly, but now that she’d started, there was no going back. “There are also the reports of recruitment of girls from Osaka and Nara. And also, Yamagata’s loyalists…” As she knew it would, Ai’s face darkened at the mention of that name. It probably hadn’t been uttered around her since the last time Reina asked her on that night.

Ai stayed silent before rising from her chair and walking around the desk to stop before Reina, looking down into her eyes. “I’m sure you’ve learned lately, Reina,” she said gently. “But there are costs to doing business. Sometimes we must do things that we’d rather not.”

“I think I know more than a little about business,” Reina said, “but since when is that what this is about?” she asked, rising to her feet as well to look earnestly into her lover’s eyes. “I thought it was to rid the world of Yamagata’s evil.”

“It was,” Ai said simply. “And he is gone.”

“But the evil that he created is still here…” Reina said insistently. The next thing she knew, her face was flung to the side at a hard slap from the girl in front of her. She looked back, acting as if the growing sting in her cheek didn’t bother her at all.

“Don’t ever compare me to him!” Ai growled, the fire Reina usually loved and lusted after so much back in her eyes. “You of all people should know… should understand…” She grabbed Reina’s shoulders. “I’ve loved you!”

Reina stared back with her jaw clenched tight as cement. “You may have loved me…” she began, and at a flicker in Ai’s look corrected herself. “You do love me, just like I love you…” she continued, and some of the fire died down. “But I don’t think you love anyone else…”

Ai stared at her hard for a moment before releasing her and walking around her desk, her back to Reina as she peered at one of the pieces of artwork on the wall, this of a stag trying to keep its footing at the bottom of a cliff while a dark shadow seemed to loom upon it from above. Reina lifted her hand to rub her shoulder, which was slightly sore from the clenching of Ai’s fingers. It wasn’t quite as painful as the mark on her cheek though.

“What makes you think anyone else is worth loving?” Ai asked in a quiet and smooth voice. Reina felt something cold grab onto her insides. Just as her heart wanted to reach out, she held it back even more tightly. Things couldn’t go on like this.

“What makes me so special…?” Reina asked with a hoarse delivery.

Ai turned around and stared at her in surprise. Instead of saying anything though, she eventually circled the desk and grabbed Reina’s shoulders again, giving her an intense look before pulling her in tightly for a hard and desperate kiss. Reina couldn’t help but respond at first before her mind returned to her, and then she stuck her arms in front of her to push the girl away, staggering back slightly.

“What is that supposed to mean?!” she cried. “You just kiss me, and everything makes perfect sense? You kiss me, and you can forget about all the other people in the world - people you’ve killed, people you’ve violated? Well it doesn’t all make sense, Ai-chan! Even though you don’t do it directly, you’re still the one responsible for all of that! And to think I…” Reina staggered further back, inching toward the door. “I can’t even kiss someone like that!”

Ai’s face grew darker with each new blow from Reina, and at the end she jumped toward her, brandishing a knife from somewhere hidden in her clothes and slicing it toward Reina’s neck before Reina’s own hand darted up and grabbed her wrist centimeters from her neck. She held her posture and now no longer appeared to be staggering at all.

Reina looked into eyes that flared back at her. “Now I know,” she said.

Ai’s eyes widened slightly, and she used the distraction to kick her leg out as fast as she could. The precise strike hit Ai in the stomach, and the knife flew from her hand as she herself flew back halfway toward the desk. Reina didn’t bother to see how she recovered from it, and darted through two doors so quickly Ai’s assistant barely even noticed her before sliding into the elevator whose doors were made to shut as efficiently as possible.

Within a minute she was running through the lobby, disregarding looks from startled and amazed businessmen around her, and out the door, stopping only when she had reached a point several blocks away. Breathing heavily, she kept her stiff legs walking until after another several blocks she reached the train station. Waving her pass at the ticket master, she made her way through the turnstile and onto the train that was bound for Tokyo. Sitting down in a vacant row, she finally caught her breath and thought about what had just happened.

She didn’t think Ai would really have hurt her. Would she? She did love her after all… However, what she’d suspected about the girl’s tainted spirit had been made abundantly clear by their encounter. The girl truly did not, and maybe even could not, love anyone anymore… except Reina. And the only conclusion that could come of that was… there was no way she could love Reina herself. Reina was probably nothing more to her than a plaything; a convenience to let her avoid some of the less desirable aspects of her job, avoided aspects that apparently did not include ordering murders and forced prostitution.

She leaned her head next to the window as the train began rolling and fought back tears. What was it all for? She had worked so hard to bring some respectability back to the streets in Tokyo, and what she thought might be Japan in general in all the time since the coup. However, nothing really changed. Sure Ai didn’t rape any pretty young girl she could find or torture anyone who put the littlest toe out of line herself, but that stuff was still being done. It was no different… Especially, Reina thought, since she hadn’t even realized she really was the one being raped all along. Tears began coming to her eyes now, and she didn’t stop them anymore. She had tried so hard, tried to make things better, tried to make the girl love her…

“I’m sorry, is this seat taken?” an older-sounding woman asked from the aisle. Reina didn’t look away from the window, but shook her head ‘no’. She wondered why she did that; she’d gotten used to having a certain respect and privacy lately, and this certainly wasn’t a time she wanted anyone near her.

She felt pressure as the woman sat down in the seat next to her, but still didn’t turn around. The chances that she would actually care about her were very slim, anyway. Still, Reina tried her best to stop crying. That effort didn’t seem to work very well, though.

“Are you okay, my dear?” she heard the woman ask from beside her. Despite herself, she turned her head to look at her in surprise.

The woman looked back at her with big eyes behind smallish wire-framed glasses. She was indeed older; Reina thought she must be at least fifty or sixty. When she saw Reina’s tear-streaked face, she dug into her purse and pulled out a tissue. “Here you go,” she insisted. “I’m sure there’s no need to be crying. Poor thing, you look like the weight of the world rests on your shoulders.”

Reina stared at the tissue a moment, but eventually took it out of politeness if nothing else. She bowed her head slightly. “Thank you,” she said before using it to dab at her face.

“I know how it goes…” the lady went on. “When I was your age, I felt like I was responsible for everything too. It nearly drove me crazy.”

“But I am responsible for a lot,” Reina said. “Too much…”

The lady glanced at her. “Well, of course I don’t know your story, but there are plenty of other people in this world too who are doing their best to take care of themselves and others. Even those with the greatest power really just use it to assist the rest. They don’t try to control their lives, because those lives aren’t theirs to control. Everybody has her own life, and makes her own choices about what happens to her.”

Reina looked up at the woman after she’d cleared her face up somewhat. Wasn’t that similar to what she was just talking about with Ai? She accused Ai of not loving anyone, but did she herself love any more? Apparently she thought of people the same way. They were her responsibility. They weren’t separate enough to take care of themselves, much less be worthy to love. She thought about Eri. She did love, didn’t she? No… they weren’t equal in her eyes. She didn’t think them capable of anything.

“So why are you going to Tokyo, my dear?” the lady asked. “It’s a long way. Are you returning home? It doesn’t look like you’ve packed much.”

“Yeah…” Reina said, her eyes unfocused ahead of her. “I’m returning home.”



A few hours later saw Reina walking down a Shinjuku street, still carrying nothing but her cell phone and a small wallet that contained all the access to money she needed. Her cell phone was turned off. When she turned a corner, she saw the UFA building appear amidst the many tall ones around it, just as it had so long ago after she’d heard Miki died and this adventure began. Funny, this was the first time she even recollected that taxi ride. This time though, the building looked much more unfamiliar.

As she passed down the street amidst the throng of salarymen, she thought she caught several glimpses of people looking at her, though she didn’t pay them any attention. Eventually she reached the doors of the building she sought, and entering, walked toward the receptionist.

“Welcome,” the receptionist said automatically, barely looking up. “May I ask…?” She trailed off, staring into Reina’s face.

“Is Matsuura Aya in today?” Reina asked hollowly. The woman just stared back at her. After a moment, Reina gave up. “All right then, I’ll just check at her dressing room.” Then she walked away in silence, and although she didn’t look back, knew the receptionist was still staring after her.

After a short trip up an elevator and down a hall, she found herself facing the door proclaiming “松浦亜弥”. Taking a breath, she rapped on it softly. After a few seconds the door swung open. “Yes?” Aya said, and her eyes widened when she caught who it was. “Reina!” she exclaimed, astonished. “Um… please come in!”

Reina bowed slightly and entered the room. It was relatively small, with a counter along one end adorned with various makeup and skin care products. A small couch also sat against one wall. Aya herself was just in a light plain dress, apparently in transition between outfits for one thing or another.

“Have a seat,” Aya said, gesturing to the couch. She studied Reina closely as she accepted her offer. Aya pulled up a chair and sat across from her. “What are you doing here?” she said in an unnecessary high whisper.

“You told me I could always talk to you about… about anything,” Reina said, finding her voice.

“Of course, Reina,” Aya asked, and now concern etched her features. If there was something Reina needed to talk about so badly that she came all the way to Tokyo on a whim for it, and to the UFA building where she could even be seen, it must be something very important. And knowing Reina as Aya did, very important to her could mean disastrous to them as well as the country at large.

Reina looked around again at the room. There were colorful outfits hanging on racks along one side, and it even looked quite lived-in. “You’re really back into it, aren’t you?” she asked.

Aya hesitated at the randomness, but joined Reina in looking around after a moment. “Well, I’m hopefully on my way. They’re trying their best to integrate me back into things, but I’m still not to the point of making public appearances. They’ve even done a good job of shielding me from the papers until the day they want to make the announcement. I’m sure I’ll be back to performing soon though.” She smiled. “I know I could have done a lot to be successful in NDI, but I just love music too much to leave it behind… And guess what! If everything goes well with my return, they’re even thinking about trying to bring Mikitty back too! It was quite an ordeal when we first re-introduced her to them, that’s for sure. They almost threw us out for being impersonators…” She giggled. “Mikitty of course convinced them of her authenticity though…” As her giggling trailed off, she looked into Reina’s eyes again. “You’re not thinking of trying to come back too, are you? I know you liked your career, but you have the opportunity for such a beautiful life with Ai-chan! I wouldn’t think you’d want to pass that up.”

Reina looked down a moment before speaking again. “I had the opportunity for a life, yeah,” Reina said. “Anything I wanted I could have gotten, and I may have been able to stay with Ai forever. But…” She looked back up to Aya’s face intensely, and Aya drew back slightly. Maybe she’d gained a few things from Ai and her time in power. “Ayaya, it’s all wrong. Ai-chan is leading them, but they’re still… They still kill. Their crime hasn’t changed. That was my whole purpose behind it, but something has made her a part of it all. She’s now the willing figurehead on the mast of evil…”

As she felt tears come to her eyes again, Aya leaned forward and hugged her tightly. “I’m sorry, Reina. I… I don’t know what to say. Well, aside from being impressed at your metaphor usage.” She smiled at Reina as she said that, but when it was returned with a desperate and painful look, she just returned to hugging her.

When Reina calmed down a little, Aya drew back again. “So, what do you plan to do now?” she asked tentatively.

Reina sniffed. “Well, I’m not going back to Kobe. Maybe I’ll just restart my own business here. Or maybe…”

Her thought was interrupted by the door across from them flying open, causing Aya to jump and turn her head, while Reina instinctively adopted a stance she could easily attack from while sitting on the couch. Aya relaxed a little when she saw who it was, but Reina stayed frozen.

“It is you!” Eri said from the doorway. She ran into the room, followed by Risa and Sayu, and all three pounced on Reina despite all her preparation, hugging her tightly.

Eventually Eri and Risa pulled back, but Sayu didn’t seem to want to let go. “We’ve missed you so much!” Sayu cried into her shoulder.

“But…” Risa began. “Why are you back here? We’re glad to see you, but… I didn’t think you’d ever come here again.”

Aya now stepped forward and pried Sayu away from Reina. For some reason, Reina felt a pang of regret at that, but the pink girl sat right back down close next to her. “While it’s nice to see you guys here…” Aya said, “I’m not sure if Reina needs to have this much attention right now…”

“It’s all over the building!” Eri piped. “Apparently Yamada-san saw you in the lobby, and she placed a call directly to Tsunku before telling everyone she met that she’d seen Reina Tanaka! She told Tsunku you had requested to see Aya, and we overheard her since we were in a rehearsal with him, so the second we heard that we ran down here. I imagine Tsunku will be here before long too.”

“Will he…?” Reina asked. Before she could continue though, a rapid knock came from the door. All the girls looked at it, and Aya started toward it before Reina jumped up and extended an arm to stop her. “No,” She said. “I’ll get it.”

After a nod from Aya, she walked to the door and opened it to see Tsunku and several staff members surrounding him. The staff members gasped, but Tsunku gave her a hard stare, as if trying to ascertain if it was really her. “Tanaka-san…?” he asked. Then the staff members parted as if something knifed through a wave, and Reina staggered as a woman hugged her tightly.

“Reina-chan!” Yuko said. “You’re alive! Oh, I’m so happy to see you…”

Forcing herself to breathe, Reina did her best to pry the woman off her, and eventually she returned to a position next to Tsunku. Reina adopted her best and most confident look, which considering her experiences lately was quite intimidating. The staff members widened their eyes further. They obviously thought that since she’d been missing for these past months, she was probably starved and mistreated somewhere in some wota’s basement. This stunning woman who looked as self-assured as if she had authority over all Japan was far from what expectations they might have had.

“I’m sorry Tsunku-san, Nee-san,” she said in a strong voice. “I have some things I need to discuss with my friends. I promise I’ll come up to talk with you all later, but can you please let us be alone for a little while?”

Some of the staff already began walking away at the stern dismissal, still seeming surprised they were honoring it. Yuko looked back at her intently, but apparently discovered from Reina’s return look that she meant what she said, and with a nod, headed off after the rest. Tsunku held his ground for the moment, though.

“So it must be true what I’ve heard…” he said. He now looked imploringly yet unflinchingly into her eyes. “Have you heard from Takahashi-san?”

Reina felt a jolt through her when he mentioned Ai’s name, but she did her best to hide the expression from coming to her face. “I promise, Tsunku-san. I’ll talk to you about it later. But please, I need to speak with my friends. Okay?” This time Tsunku nodded, and as he walked away Reina turned back to her friends within the room, who had apparently been watching the exchanges with interest.

“I think we just saw the 'Honored One' in her full command…” Aya said lightly. Risa and Eri stared at her as if they’d never seen her before, while Sayu gave her an intense look she couldn’t decipher.

“Sorry about that,” Reina said. “I just had to get them off my back for a while.”

“It’s no problem,” Eri breathed as Reina walked back to sit on the couch. Sayu joined her just as quickly as she did before, and now kept herself close to her as if she was giving her some type of protection.

“So what’s going on?” Sayu asked from beside her.

Reina looked at the girls surrounding her and smiled. No, she wasn’t alone. She wasn’t sure what these girls could do to help her, but their dedication to their friend if nothing else made Reina feel they had a right to know. Looking last at Sayu, who was gazing at her fervently, she felt as if she really had come home.

Offline glcorps2002

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Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [34: Love and Loyalty]
« Reply #162 on: September 08, 2007, 05:23:45 PM »
Reina, you and the other girls must free Ai from that loveless prison she's keeping herself in or she might kill you all to somehow keep her power.

Offline JFC

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Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [34: Love and Loyalty]
« Reply #163 on: September 08, 2007, 09:28:40 PM »
Quote
Not telling them where she was of course, but saying she was happy and doing well, she’d asked her parents to send her some of her old memorabilia when she found she was going to have her own office. Wanting to do anything to help their prodigal daughter, they eagerly obliged.
Reina's parents must really be trusting to not be all wondering about why she's no longer in MM and/or where she is and what she's doing now.  For their own protection, it's probably better that they know as little as possible.  Reina will also need to try and minimize how much contact she has with them, or arrange for some type of security/protection to secretly keep an eye on them, lest some rival group start getting some ideas about using them against her.  The latter is something Reina should do herself, as we still don't know how far Aichan is willing to go in her new position.



Quote
About a week after the coup, one of the council members had gotten himself arrested and jailed. Although they hadn’t formally charged him yet, it looked like he would be gone for a long time.
Two questions here (actually 3, but the first two kind of tie-in to each other):
1. (a) What was this guy busted for? (b) Does it have anything to do with the Organization? and
2. Is this guy a "security risk"? (if he is, they'll likely have to silence him)



Quote
Council members for some reason seemed more than eager to “escalate” much of their tedious paperwork to Ai’s level, and Ai of course didn’t have the time to do much of it, so most of it ended up in Reina’s hands. Ai apologized often for it of course, especially during their time together late at night, but Reina knew she was under quite a lot of stress herself, so really didn’t mind helping her out. Still, there had to be better ways of living than spending long hours staring at approval forms and activities reports like she had been for the past several weeks.
All that stress day in and day out can't be good. Without some time off to relax and to get away from it, all that work will start getting to them and make them irritable and short-tempered. That's not the best thing to happen to Aichan and Reina if they want to reverse some of the things that the Organization has done.



Quote
“Do you remember our Morning Musume days?”

“Of course,” Ai said, and she sat back, relaxing at the casual question. “It wasn’t really that long ago.”

“Wasn’t it…” Reina said dreamily, staring off at a point somewhere past Ai. “It seems to me anymore that it was only a dream. It was hard a lot of the time, but I was also happy…” After losing herself a second, she looked squarely back into Ai’s face. “Do you ever wish to have those days back again?”
Funny thing, last night they were showing THE MATRIX on television. Reading this part reminds me a bit of the scene where Sypher makes that deal with Agent Smith, specifically when he says "Ignorance is bliss."  It might be that Reina's wondering what life would have been like if she and Aichan had never gotten involved in this whole thing that has since turned their lives upside-down.  What if they never found out about the Council? What if they had continued to be in MM instead? She remembers them both being all happy then, and now, having learned what they've learned, seeing what they've seen, and doing what they've done, they've really changed (especially Aichan).  Their no longer the same people that they were before this all happened. Would they have been better off if they had remained ignorant of all of this?



Quote
“Ai-chan, I read a report talking about the recruitment of new girls in Roppongi.”

Ai’s face hardened a bit at this, and she folded her hands above her knee. “Yes, recruitment is a constant process. Are there methods or something you have a problem with?”

Reina ducked her head a little. “Well, I got the impression these girls weren’t recruited normally. They seemed a bit more… random… and not as if it was through an arranged meeting.”
So in other words, these new recruits were being brought in against their will, or we're being deceived and/or not being told what they were really getting into? 



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“I also have it on good authority that the police officer who was killed a few weeks back was just about to bust Takamoto-san’s laundry operation. It was awfully convenient that all trace of his case disappeared with his life.” She spoke quickly, but now that she’d started, there was no going back.
If I was in Reina's position, I'd be beginning to worry about how much Aichan knows about all of this.  To be honest though, I'm not sure what would be more disconcerting, whether Aichan knows very little about it, or if she knows a LOT about it.  If it's the former it could signify that there's still a problem within the Organization as someone may be doing all of this without permission and/or that there may be some hidden agenda behind it all. If it's the latter...then Aichan likely gave the approval for them to happen, which means she's starting to become more like the man she ousted and replaced.



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“I’m sure you’ve learned lately, Reina,” she said gently. “But there are costs to doing business. Sometimes we must do things that we’d rather not.”
Fuck, it's the latter.



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“I thought it was to rid the world of Yamagata’s evil.”

“It was,” Ai said simply. “And he is gone.”

“But the evil that he created is still here…” Reina said insistently.
Reina's right, Aichan may have removed the agent of evil but that does not remove the evil itself. Rather, in the actions she's been taking to get rid of the old remnants of evil, she herself is continuing the same behaviour and actions she was trying to stop in the first place.  It's the same routine, just a different person doing it and thus she (Aichan) doesn't see it as being similar.



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“Don’t ever compare me to him!” Ai growled, the fire Reina usually loved and lusted after so much back in her eyes. “You of all people should know… should understand…” She grabbed Reina’s shoulders. “I’ve loved you!”
Of course Aichan doesn't realize that she's beginning to do a lot of the same things that Yamagata was doing when he was still there. To be compared to him is shocking and hurtful, to say the least. However, it's the truth. Reina can see that, since she's not the one who's actually making the choices and issuing these orders.

Just because Aichan has Reina and loved her (why'd she say it in the past tense?), that does not mean that she's not capable of doing and being evil like Yamagata was.  The line between being good and evil is razor thin. Quite often people have been known to be straddling the line and be both at the same time.



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“You may have loved me…” she began, and at a flicker in Ai’s look corrected herself. “You do love me, just like I love you…” she continued, and some of the fire died down. “But I don’t think you love anyone else…”

...

“What makes you think anyone else is worth loving?” Ai asked in a quiet and smooth voice. Reina felt something cold grab onto her insides. Just as her heart wanted to reach out, she held it back even more tightly. Things couldn’t go on like this.
That's a damn big thing for Aichan to say.  To think that Reina's the only one she can care for...what brought that on? Is it because of her new position as leader of the Council? She's being asked to do some really big things, and so perhaps to give her the strength to deal with it all, Aichan's trying to make herself cold/emotionless as much as she possibly can. The less she cares about things and/or people, the easier it is for her to make those hard decisions and, at least in her mind, do what is necessary to achieve her goal (which, remember, is to eliminate the evil legacy left behind by Yamagata).



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What makes me so special…?” Reina asked with a hoarse delivery.

Ai turned around and stared at her in surprise. Instead of saying anything though, she eventually circled the desk and grabbed Reina’s shoulders again, giving her an intense look before pulling her in tightly for a hard and desperate kiss. Reina couldn’t help but respond at first before her mind returned to her, and then she stuck her arms in front of her to push the girl away, staggering back slightly.

“What is that supposed to mean?!” she cried. “You just kiss me, and everything makes perfect sense? You kiss me, and you can forget about all the other people in the world - people you’ve killed, people you’ve violated? Well it doesn’t all make sense, Ai-chan! Even though you don’t do it directly, you’re still the one responsible for all of that! And to think I…” Reina staggered further back, inching toward the door. “I can’t even kiss someone like that!”

Ai’s face grew darker with each new blow from Reina, and at the end she jumped toward her, brandishing a knife from somewhere hidden in her clothes and slicing it toward Reina’s neck before Reina’s own hand darted up and grabbed her wrist centimeters from her neck. She held her posture and now no longer appeared to be staggering at all.

Reina looked into eyes that flared back at her. “Now I know,” she said.
So that's it. Even if Aichan thought she loved Reina, even if she really DID love Reina, she was just using her as an escape from what she's done. That means that deep down inside, Aichan KNOWS (hopefully) that what she's doing is wrong, however for some reason she feels that she has to continue this way, doing what she's doing. She might be thinking, "short-term pain for long-term gain", but in the end Reina's right, Aichan is causing the same pain to people that Yamagata was causing. Aichan needs to hear this if there's going to be any chance of her snapping out of it. When Reina rejected her, Aichan is going to be forced to face the evil that she's done.  She's going to have to see that what she's doing isn't different from what she was trying to stop.



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She accused Ai of not loving anyone, but did she herself love any more? Apparently she thought of people the same way. They were her responsibility. They weren’t separate enough to take care of themselves, much less be worthy to love. She thought about Eri. She did love, didn’t she? No… they weren’t equal in her eyes. She didn’t think them capable of anything.
Part of the reason why having so much power is so dangerous is that you start to NOT think of the people being affected as being PEOPLE. They just become nameless faces (or faceless names), which psychologically, makes it easier to make decisions that will affect them significantly.  When you don't actually know them, when you don't actually have to see them and watch how their lives are affected, when you don't have to take their feelings into consideration, it's no longer that big of a deal for you.  The problem with THAT way of thinking, is that it's like the snowball effect. Once you start thinking about people that way, even if it's just once, gradually it all gets bigger and bigger and thus becomes harder to stop. Eventually it gets to the point where it's just natural to think that way, and where you can't remember thinking any other way.  Aichan's snowball is getting bigger, and it's happening fast. If something doesn't happen fast, it'll soon be too big to stop.



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A few hours later saw Reina walking down a Shinjuku street, still carrying nothing but her cell phone and a small wallet that contained all the access to money she needed. Her cell phone was turned off. When she turned a corner, she saw the UFA building appear amidst the many tall ones around it, just as it had so long ago after she’d heard Miki died and this adventure began. Funny, this was the first time she even recollected that taxi ride. This time though, the building looked much more unfamiliar.
The UFA building? If Reina goes there, she's bound to get recognized by someone. This could be bad if they start asking questions about where she's been and what not (especially if word of it gets back to Aichan).



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Eventually she reached the doors of the building she sought, and entering, walked toward the receptionist.

“Welcome,” the receptionist said automatically, barely looking up. “May I ask…?” She trailed off, staring into Reina’s face.

“Is Matsuura Aya in today?” Reina asked hollowly. The woman just stared back at her. After a moment, Reina gave up. “All right then, I’ll just check at her dressing room.” Then she walked away in silence, and although she didn’t look back, knew the receptionist was still staring after her.
The receptionist recognized her?



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“You told me I could always talk to you about… about anything,” Reina said, finding her voice.

“Of course, Reina,” Aya asked, and now concern etched her features. If there was something Reina needed to talk about so badly that she came all the way to Tokyo on a whim for it, and to the UFA building where she could even be seen, it must be something very important. And knowing Reina as Aya did, very important to her could mean disastrous to them as well as the country at large.
More importantly, since Aya knows what the Council/Organization is capable of, and knowing Reina's rank within it, she realizes that if it's bothering HER, then it is definitely something to be taken seriously.



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“Ayaya, it’s all wrong. Ai-chan is leading them, but they’re still… They still kill. Their crime hasn’t changed. That was my whole purpose behind it, but something has made her a part of it all. She’s now the willing figurehead on the mast of evil…”

...

When Reina calmed down a little, Aya drew back again. “So, what do you plan to do now?” she asked tentatively.

Reina sniffed. “Well, I’m not going back to Kobe. Maybe I’ll just restart my own business here. Or maybe…”
What, she's declaring Aichan a lost cause or something? Surely she must know that Aichan's on a path to self-destruction. If she continues, sooner or later someone else will come to do to her what she did to Yamagata. Instead of breaking the cycle, Aichan has become a knowing and willing participant in it. Is Reina just going to leave things like that?



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“It is you!” Eri said from the doorway. She ran into the room, followed by Risa and Sayu, and all three pounced on Reina despite all her preparation, hugging her tightly.

...

“It’s all over the building!” Eri piped. “Apparently Yamada-san saw you in the lobby, and she placed a call directly to Tsunku before telling everyone she met that she’d seen Reina Tanaka! She told Tsunku you had requested to see Aya, and we overheard her since we were in a rehearsal with him, so the second we heard that we ran down here. I imagine Tsunku will be here before long too.”
Uh-oh. While the reunion is nice and whatnot, all of this attention is something that they DON'T really need right now. If Tsunku doesn't get control of this soon, it won't be long before the media is swarming all over the building trying to get the scoop on the NEXT H!P girl to "return from the dead".

Gotta admit though, I'm curious as to how Tsunku will react when he first sees her.



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“So it must be true what I’ve heard…” he said. He now looked imploringly yet unflinchingly into her eyes. “Have you heard from Takahashi-san?”
WTF he knew??? :o



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Reina looked at the girls surrounding her and smiled. No, she wasn’t alone. She wasn’t sure what these girls could do to help her, but their dedication to their friend if nothing else made Reina feel they had a right to know. Looking last at Sayu, who was gazing at her fervently, she felt as if she really had come home.
Home is...home. You can't beat that.



Reina, you and the other girls must free Ai from that loveless prison she's keeping herself in or she might kill you all to somehow keep her power.
QFT!!!  Begin plans for OPERATION: SAVE AI-CHAN! :cool1:

JPH!P :heart:'s Fushigidane, ChrNo, Jab & marimari. Always.

Offline rokun

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Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [35: One Day More]
« Reply #164 on: September 20, 2007, 01:07:57 AM »
Well here it is. Reina's Odyssey is finally and definitely winding toward a close. This chapter may again be the longest I've written, as I've pieced it together over the last couple days, but I feel more proud of it and where it's pointing toward than I think I have about anything else. If anyone who doesn't normally post in this thread has been keeping up a little, this might be a great time to catch up with it all. Of course, it's nearly 400 pages long in my Word so it might take a little while to catch up with, but I'd love to see others sharing in the culmination of the work and enjoyment I've put into it over the past year plus some. ^_^

This story began very humbly. I was disappointed about killing off Reina in my first story, and so I just wanted to write something else with her as the main character. I also wanted to do it completely from her point of view - inspiration I took from one of the other greatly respected writers around here. The 10 pages of notes for this story began with a draft title of "Domestic Musume" :lol:, so you see it even deviated completely from its original intent. Next thing, I decided to "kill off" Miki, and the story began. I hope anyone who's still reading it after such long hiatuses (hiati? XD) has enjoyed it, and I'm trying to give it a fitting climax. :) So without further digression on my part, here is the first of what are probably the last two or three chapters of it. Since it's something I thought fit perfectly and so I wanted to mention it here, the title of this chapter is taken from one of the great songs of Les Miserables. Soshite, hajimarimasu...


Chapter 35 – One Day More

The next few weeks seemed to pass quickly in the frenzy of activity Reina found herself enmeshed in. She hadn’t realized how calm her mostly administrative and office lifestyle had been ever since she left Eri and Sayu those months ago. It was really quite cushy compared to her Hello! Project lifestyle. Of course, the training she constantly had to practice to retain her skills wasn’t exactly relaxing, but since such things had become second nature to her she’d hardly thought of that effort as work.

Tsunku wanted to know all about what had been going on with her of course. Apparently through his own underworld connections he’d learned a bit about her activities, at least enough to know she wasn’t really “missing and presumed dead” as the official line went. Still, he expressed to Reina how worried he’d been. He knew what kind of people revolved in those circles.

For herself, Reina kept her lips sealed over most things, hesitating to even confirm that she knew what was going on with Ai. Tsunku had a good guess at that, but since the rumors of her taking over complete leadership seemed so unbelievable, he sought any information he could from her. However, seeing her unwillingness to speak too much, he didn’t press too far.

“So what do you intend to do now?” he asked with a serious tone Reina couldn’t remember if he’d ever used with her before. It was almost as if he was addressing her as an equal adult.

“I’m not sure,” she responded, although plans had already begun forming in her mind. The desire to have a positive effect on her world still held strong within her, and she fully believed she still had the influence and ability to achieve something.

“So why have you come back here?” Tsunku retorted sharply. Reina’s attention snapped back to him.

“I… needed to talk with someone who was uninitiated,” she answered carefully. This time when Tsunku looked at her, she could see unasked questions forming within his eyes.

“So that’s why you found Matsuura-san?” he asked shrewdly. “She’d been missing for a long while too, and claimed she was kidnapped…”

“I know,” Reina responded easily. “I’ve seen the articles.” Tsunku seemed to know there was much left unsaid around her words.

After a few minutes of just staring at her, he finally spoke up in an exasperated voice, “Will somebody please tell me what’s going on here?!” As he spoke his hands fell to his desk, pushing him up to where he leered over it. “I’ve had girls missing, girls dead, girls reappearing out of thin air, and above all girls mixing in with the Yakuza! Just tell me, have I been the recipient of a case of extraordinarily bad and morbid luck, or have you all just gone crazy? I’m starting to lean toward the latter the more you girls keep returning from who knows where. First Matsuura and Fujimoto, and now you. From all I hear, I can glean that Takahashi isn’t dead at least, but because of the same I also couldn’t imagine her returning to this building. But then again, I had begun to think the same of you…”

Throughout his tirade, Reina peered calmly up at him. She hadn’t realized it before, but he was really a rather diminutive man. Flamboyant of course, and very protective of his assets, but now she took a good look at him… She supposed it started at her audition years ago when she wanted nothing more than to impress the judges and of course him in particular, since he had the final say. To her at that time, he was the leader and deliverer; the one that would set her on the path to the fame and success she dearly desired. That continued with her Morning Musume career, where he still managed them and provided them with the largest portion of their creative inspiration.

However, as she now looked at the man who, leaning over the desk as he was, normally would have intimidated her into almost any sort of submission, she saw only an average, if still flamboyant, person trying to do the best for who and what he cared about most. She felt no fear or even guilt at all, and Tsunku must have noticed that, because after a time he sighed and fell back down into his seat.

“I don’t think you’ll see Ai-chan back in here again,” Reina said quietly, causing him to study her closely once more. “As to anyone else…” she continued, “I sincerely hope the best for Matsuura-san and Fujimoto-san, more than you would guess. However, I still have a job and responsibilities that I’m afraid will keep me from performing for some time at least.”

“You know you’ll be all over the news by tomorrow,” Tsunku replied. “Since Yamada-san recognized you and started telling everybody she knew – to the detriment of her job I might add; I don’t know how many calls she missed and customers she irritated by being absent from the front desk – the information is bound to leak to the outside. They’ve been keeping hawk’s eyes on us lately because of Matsuura and Fujimoto, and have already been asking questions about what really happened to you and Takahashi, so they’ll jump on it the first chance they get. I’d be careful leaving the building, if I were you.”

In response, Reina gave Tsunku a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “I think I can handle the press,” she said in a slightly amused voice.

Tsunku held his tongue a moment as he studied her eyes, and then sighed in resignation. “You really have changed,” he admitted, seemingly grudgingly. “I also don’t expect your surprises for me have ended, have they?”

Reina gazed back at his no longer surprised, questioning look. “What do you mean?” she asked in slow curiosity. “I’ve been honest in letting you know I can’t tell you anything firm about myself right now.”

Tsunku absently flicked the edges to some papers littering his desk. “They’ve tried to stay subtle about it, but I’ve noticed the girls talking and thinking about you,” he said. Reina kept her face smooth as he continued. “Matsuura and Fujimoto use an odd amount of respect when talking about you, so I know something’s going on there even if none of you will say anything about it. I’ve also heard murmurs from Niigaki and Kamei. Michishige hardly seems to talk about anything else.”

He glanced up at her from time to time as if trying to catch a reaction, but Reina schooled herself to silence. It wasn’t very surprising that the girls mentioned her – after all, she had put almost all of them through rather extreme situations – but little facets of what he said caught her attention. She’d have to see what was going on with Sayu… Since the night of the coup, she’d had quite a different impression of the girl.

“Now that I’m back here, I’ll let you know if anything comes up,” Reina offered finally.

“Please do,” Tsunku said quickly, and gave a short nod of dismissal. As Reina rose and walked toward the door though, he shouted after her, “Tanaka-san!”

“Yes?” Reina responded, turning her head to look back at him.

“Nice outfit,” he said simply. “You look very mature.”

Reina smiled back at him. She was still in the clothes she came to the office in that morning – a navy knee-length pleated skirt below an obsessively ironed white blouse and olive vest. It wouldn’t have looked out of place on the highest ranking women in a large company, which Reina supposed she actually was, but the effect was tempered slightly by a ribbon that tied up front into a bow, giving a slight seifuku effect. “But I’m still cute,” she said lightly with a wink, a comment which finally brought a smile from Tsunku as well, and as he nodded sharply again before returning to his paperwork, she left the room.

Despite her desire to talk to her old friends, she spent the rest of the afternoon in a lounge while they worked and rehearsed making phone calls to test her ideas. People came in from time to time, giving her wide-eyed glances and looking as if they wanted to say something, but since she was nearly always on the phone they respectfully kept their distance and left quickly. She could imagine the stories they told their co-workers, but that was of little concern to her at the moment.

Mostly she called some of her contacts in Tokyo, nearly all of whom insisted their continued loyalty quite clearly to her. Yamada-san from Maniacal Love was one of the most extravagant in his expressions, from praising her extraordinarily insightful entrepreneurial sense to declaring undying love, of all things. Well, he was somewhat of a pimp after all… Reina chuckled at the thought of him attempting some of his wiles on her, though.

Even though the calls to people in the city generally were encouraging, others were not; specifically, those to Kobe. She knew her standing wasn’t as naturally outstanding there, especially in the apparent absence of Ai’s support of her position, but she had to see if any support could come from the Council members, because without that she would have an extremely uphill, difficult, and lonely battle. She’d been able to infer their support was nearly paramount in Ai’s coup – they were united in their hatred of the former Chairman, and so all Ai had to do was, well, turn tradition on its head and defeat the man himself. That was hardly an easy feat, but it likely would have been nigh impossible without the Council’s support.

She didn’t have an issue actually being able to talk with the Council members since almost the second their secretaries, who of course can only guess what happens further up, recognize her voice, they were more than willing to put her straight through. They didn’t know much about Reina except that she was incredibly important, and so wanted as little entanglement with her as possible. However, apparently every single one of the Council members themselves somehow knew exactly what had gone on that morning in Ai’s office. Those that spoke more than two words to her mostly with the rest formed threats warning that she should watch her step. She knew her ideal of reform was likely a lost cause since they were still some of the most hardened criminals, but she still had to try.

The one ray of light was her conversation with Ishihara-san, the only woman on the council. She was one of Ai’s staunchest supporters in her vendetta against Yamagata, primarily because she enjoyed the idea of seeing a woman at the top of the organization. Reina had a feeling she wished it was herself, but in a previous conversation had found that despite her sex, felt too old and too stuck in the trap of tradition to seek any more advancement of her own. After all, being a member of the Council was quite a high standing as it was.

Ishihara still claimed loyalty to Ai, but Reina could tell she was dissatisfied with some of the things she’d done. She always liked the woman; despite having organized a large amount of crime herself, it was never of the degrading kind Reina despised the most. For example, she was against them promoting prostitution of any kind, much less involuntary or underage. While she couldn’t convince the woman of anything in this conversation, Reina had hope she might come around.

Eventually the evening fell and Reina became hungry. She looked up from her work enough to realize it was 18:00, and thought it odd there wasn’t more activity. Stretching and stowing her notes for the day, she wandered around the building to see most workers still going strong. The girls were in fact still in rehearsal. Apparently they had a concert the coming weekend, and were doing final preparations late into the night. Deciding she needed some real food, she headed down to the lobby.

When she appeared, whispers broke out from others passing through, and she saw the receptionist, Yamada-san, staring over at her. Nobody bothered her though, and she passed through the doors out into the street. Outside was an entirely different matter.

Upon leaving the building she saw a small crowd gathered to one side, and it didn’t take long to firmly identify them as the journalists and reporters she expected they’d be. At first they only glanced at her as they likely had anyone else who’d walked out those doors, but when a few realized who she was, the floodgate opened and soon she was surrounded.

“Tanaka-san, where have you been all this time?”

“The official story was only that you were ‘missing’. What about the rumors you were kidnapped by a crazed fan?”

“You look in pretty good health. Did you just take a break to get away from the stress?”

“Ai Takahashi disappeared at virtually the same time as you. Did you both experience the same situation?”

“How about the rumors that you’ve been secretly doing adult video?”

“I have quite a substantiated report here saying you’ve become tangled in a Yakuza organization.”

She ignored the comments and questions as if she wasn’t surrounded by a mob, although she became slightly angry at the one about her doing adult video. That was all too close to the truth. Or at least, what had started it all. The one who brought up the “substantiated” Yakuza report was laughed at by his peers, and Reina even joined in with a smile, though of course for a completely different reason.

A few tailed her as she walked down the street, but they dropped away quickly when they realized she was giving them about as much attention as she would rocks. Eventually she made it to a bakery a few blocks away, and when she entered the only sign of them was a few photographers hanging outside to snap paparazzi shots of any situation they might be able to find her in. Each of course wanted the big scoop about what Reina Tanaka had been up to for half a year since her original disappearance, along with Ai’s, had been so widely publicized.

The bakery was almost a different world. No one seemed to recognize her in there, and she calmly ordered a medium sandwich with nearly every topping they possessed and paid with cash she had on hand. Earlier in the day she’d stopped at an ATM in UFA’s building to check her accounts. She already had enough cash to get her by for quite some time, but curiosity about her accounts tugged at her. Interestingly, they hadn’t been frozen yet. Then again her authority, at least in Tokyo, was probably good enough to not only keep her accounts open but “influence” certain parties to deposit large sums in them if she desired. The thought nearly disgusted her. And then of course, there were her overseas accounts…

After a very enjoyable meal she noticed it was nearly 20:00. Deciding that either the girls were still in rehearsal or already gone home, she looked up a nearby hotel and checked herself in. Flashing her gold-lettered NDI business card got her one of the Hyatt’s finest suites, as well as a very sincere promise of privacy.

A while later, once settled in and lying on her bed watching television and drinking hot tea in a complimentary sleeping gown, she was reminded of New Year’s Eve. True it was months ago, but it nearly seemed like ages. It had been a fateful night – what began to firmly set her along the path to the Chairman and her partnership with Ai.

Partnership? she pondered. The two had worked together and accomplished so much, yet there was always that separation of Ai as the teacher and her as the pupil… When their romantic relationship started they had been equal emotionally and sexually, but professionally Ai generally maintained her privacy. It was true she was eager to listen whenever Reina had anything to share, and she followed her consultation regularly, but if anything conflicted with Ai’s personal beliefs she would withdraw and dig in her heels.

Reina had no problem with this at first – she’d fallen in love with the girl after all for her opinions and the integrity of those beliefs as Reina saw them, as well as of course for her special skills... As Reina’s teacher, even once Reina reached a level far beyond nearly everyone else, she was still one step ahead because she not only taught but constantly improved herself as well. Those skills she paid dearly for had been proven in her organization of the coup and her own personal fight with Yamagata. Reina might be in love, but that instance had been the climax of her lust for the girl. Now she was afraid it might have blinded her from seeing the reality of what was festering inside her.

With her foe defeated and the rewards she earned by it, that dark nature Reina always feared yet was inescapably attracted to rose up, and with the shield of righteous fury and vengeance against Yamagata shed, possessed the girl she loved.

She hugged herself, feeling a sudden and stark loneliness she’d not experienced in so long. Even though Ai had been with her nearly every night, recently Reina began to wonder if at those times she wasn’t becoming more alone. Ai was far from Yamagata’s evil, but she had a view of life that was so jaded by her experiences since Miki’s first accident that Reina wondered sometimes if the girl even felt anything when they were together. She did, Reina supposed, but it felt like only a private release for the passion she acquired in her daily life, not the love and care that two partners should share for each other. In this respect she was maybe not so different from the Chairman. For his satisfaction, the Chairman almost every night brought in girls sometimes kicking and screaming, and although Ai had just one lover she stayed completely faithful to in the semblance of a proper relationship, Reina still fulfilled the role of providing her with the emotional and physical satisfaction she needed.

Suddenly she barked a laugh. Alone… Thinking of that night back at New Year’s, she wondered if she really knew alone anymore. True, she was by herself in the hotel room tonight, but completely by her own choice. She imagined there were still many members of the press who dearly wanted to speak with her. Her friends had been so excited to see her, and were disappointed that they had to return for rehearsal. They’d surely be wondering where she was once they finished tonight. And she also knew that if she wished it and could forget her own beliefs, she could be back in Kobe with Ai tonight…

At that thought, she flipped the channel to one that showed some type of drama. Well, tonight she was enjoying being a regular seventeen-year-old for once. Albeit, one who stayed by herself in a hotel’s Imperial Suite that was larger than most houses she’d been in, and many times more lavish. She especially enjoyed the engraved marble deep soaking tub, although Ai had a nicer one in her chambers… Oh yes, it was exactly like New Year’s.

After the pleasant night, which turned into several over the weekend as the girls travelled to give their concerts, Reina became impatient at how little progress was being made toward her goals. She’d heard absolutely no word from Ai, which troubled her since it indicated nothing was likely to change, but she was hardly surprised. She decided to give the Council members some time to cool their heels after her departure, so waited until Monday to contact them again. However, this time she didn’t even get past the secretaries until she got to Ishihara-san, who after a longer conversation she believed might really support her. She said it might be an old woman’s fantasy, but she’d thought about her life and now began to wish she was able to see better days.

Days were definitely in need of some improvement in Reina’s mind as well. News about violent bullying at schools now seemed almost daily occurrences as children saw their futures collapse while crime syndicates still flourished. There was even a story about a high school girl who donned all black before hacking her father, who was a policeman, into pieces. More and more girls such as her were being drawn into the sex business as the society around them shook seemingly with every tremor that hit their too-small islands.

On an even larger scale, widespread corruption had brought chaos to the country’s political system, with high-ranking members resigning or committing seppuku after their careers spiraled into disaster with their failing policies. Through the reports that had passed through Reina’s hands, she knew about what fed some of the corruption, and also knew it hadn’t changed in the past several months despite her best efforts. The Council, and Ai at its head, still held absolute power over the facets of it all that Nippon Dai Ichi controlled.

Then there was the news that had begun spreading in the weeklies over the weekend. Headlines in many different issues as well as eventually the national news pronounced shock and amazement with the fact that Reina Tanaka of Morning Musume had mysteriously reappeared, and a plethora of reports came to light linking her with underworld organizations. Knowing at the news of a seventeen-year-old idol being with the yakuza they might be even less likely to be taken seriously than usual, they made sure to provide plenty of quite clear evidence from first-hand interviews of “anonymous” members of Nippon Dai Ichi to specific links with recent crime. Reina was quite impressed with the detail they came up with in so short of time, and when she thought back to the reporter asking about yakuza being laughed down, it left her with quite a different impression than she’d had then.

All of this of course affected her life out of the hotel. She held enough clout and respect, as well as fear, that there were no complaints in letting her rent out the suite as long as she needed to. However, whenever she went down to the lobby and outside she was no longer unrecognized; nearly everyone walking down the street or making a reservation gave her furtive glances they thought she couldn’t see and whispered behind hands they used to cover their mouths. Reina began to take to ordering room service for nearly every meal.

All of this led her to when, on Monday evening in her suite, she sat with the people who mattered most to her. For obvious reasons this was much easier than her going back to the UFA building, but it didn’t stop her visitors from drawing the glances normally only reserved for her. Eri was there, no longer in bandages although still quite tender after the price she’d paid for her nearly insignificant part in the coup, after which it now seemed nobody had won anything.

Risa was there as well, hand-in-hand with Eri. The sight might have troubled Reina months ago, and in fact greatly contributed to her isolation at New Year’s, but now all she could do while looking at the two of them was smile. Since her return, Risa had seemed genuinely happy for the first time in what might have been years. Ever since, Reina thought grimly, Ai had begun distancing herself from her.

Miki and Aya were there too. Reina hadn’t wanted to bother them yet again with troubles she considered her own, but they insisted with insurmountable obstinacy that they had already been involved, at first unwillingly for both of them, but then of their own accord in a desire for a better world. They also pointed out that Reina was the same way, but she found it difficult to see that point of view any longer. The desire that blazed in her had always been there; it had only lacked direction.

Tsunku sat close to Miki and Aya. Reina was reluctant to involve him, since in his case he never actually had been involved in the first place, but she felt bound to keep to her vow of no longer keeping him in the dark. Gazing levelly at his eyes, which gazed back just as strongly, she thought that through it all, he deserved at least that.

Finally, Sayu did her best to stay as close as possible to Reina. Reina was grateful she didn’t try to get any closer, or the girl would have been in her lap. As it was, they shared the loveseat that faced the couches and recliners the others resided on. Ever since coming into her room Reina thought Sayu had something she wanted to say to her, but she still hadn’t said two words since their initial hug and greeting.

While Reina watched some of the other girls still looking around in awe at the amenities of Reina’s suite, and Sayu still looked like a frog had caught in her throat, she thought about the assembly. Definitely no need to be alone anymore… she thought with a smile, and rose. The wandering attentions of those around her snapped sharply back into focus at her movement, and she thought she could cut the silence with one of the knives she still had stowed at various points around her body.

“I want to bring Ai-chan home,” she pronounced firmly, and the bluntness caused some of the girls to give each other covert glances.

Tsunku cleared his throat. “I may not know as much as you all,” he said with a nod of his head, “But I have a feeling this is something much more easily said than done, no?” Reina nodded in response.

“Are you sure about this?” quipped Miki. “I left Kobe for various reasons. One was that Ayaya wanted to sing again. The other was that even with her as its head, I didn’t feel a place in that organization. I’m not sure she’d be thrilled about turning her back on it.” Reina knew that in her words, she wasn’t just talking about the company.

“She may not be,” Reina admitted hollowly.

“She’s done lots of horrible things, Reina…” Aya said in her ever-sweet voice, and Reina saw in her eyes a question about what exactly her part was in the things she’d heard about as well.

“That’s why we need to stop her,” Reina said simply.

“And you don’t want to kill her,” Sayu said from beside her in a voice that left no hint of a question. Reina brought her gaze to the girl’s eyes. What she saw in there reminded her of something, but she couldn’t pinpoint what. “But that’s the way they do it after all, isn’t it?” she pressed. “I take it you want to take over leadership from her. That’s how she dealt with… the last Chairman.” In her hesitation toward the end, Reina knew she was remembering what happened in his office that day.

“No I don’t, Sayu,” she said. “However…” She hesitated herself. “Things must change, and I’ll take the best option that’s available to me.” Her only response this time was silence. Everyone seemed to understand the meaning of her words.

However, after Sayu stared at her a bit longer, she broke the silence in a soft voice of her own. “You saw her fight, Reina. If… if it comes to that, do you think you can pull it off?” This time Reina was silent, and looked away from the other girl. She knew all too well how Ai fought. Her hope was that it wouldn’t come to that. The woman had to listen to reason if it was presented to her under the right circumstances.

“We want to support you as much as we can, Reina,” Eri expressed, staring hard at her. “But…”

“It’s okay,” Reina said. “This will be much more dangerous than last time. I would ask though… Would you go to Kobe with me? You’re all my friends,” she said, this time to the entire gathering. “I’d like you there with me. However, you won’t need to leave the car.”

Tsunku cleared his throat again. “I take it you don’t include me in that group?” he asked with a lopsided grin.

Reina smiled at him. “I wasn’t planning to…” she said. “Unless of course you’d like to come along.”

“No thank you,” he responded, still with the silly grin. “I’ll feel much more comfortable in my office down the street here.”

“By all means,” Reina replied gently.

“We want to help however we can,” Aya spoke up sincerely, and Miki nodded from beside her.

“Thank you for the offer,” Reina said with a smile, “But this is something I can’t bring even a small army in for. I won’t be storming the place like the last time. I just want to… take care of what I need to and be done with it.”

“I’m going wherever you go,” Sayu demanded suddenly.

Reina turned to her again, and her smile threw off the other girl’s glare slightly. “I expected that,” she said quietly. “And you’ll be right there at my side. In fact, I’m counting on your help in the end.” As the girl stared surprised at her, the shrill digital ring of Reina’s phone broke the tension. “Excuse me,” she said politely, and reached in her pocket to pick it up. “Yes?” she asked into it, and listened to the response. “Right… right. Thank you very much. I’m under your care.” She listened again. “I… see,” she said, a bit more hesitantly, though her eyes steeled with determination. “Tomorrow then,” she said, and slid her phone shut.

When she returned to her audience, everyone was staring at her, the tension at its highest peak yet. “The plans have been finalized,” she said. “There is… a slight change, but I believe it will also be necessary.” She then broke into what she hoped was a relaxed smile. “Are we ready to change the world?” She looked into each face individually, each burning with affirmation, and held the longest at Sayu’s, which burned with something else as well. She now recognized that look.

“Well,” she began again, “We’ll meet tomorrow morning for the trip to Kobe. Tsunku-san,” she said with a slight bow. “May I take them away from rehearsals for a while?”

Tsunku smiled. “I don’t know. They’ve spent up a lot of holiday time lately… especially Fujimoto and Matsuura!” Reina joined him in his smile as the two named girls gave him glares, and he nodded. “I suppose so…” he said, with a grudgingly reluctant tone that was quite obviously fake.

“All right then,” Reina said. “Thank you,” she told Tsunku, and bowed to him again. “You’re too good to us.”

“I know, I know…” he responded, rising from his recliner. As if at a cue, the girls rose as well – one GakiKame pair and one GAM one.

“Until tomorrow then,” Miki said brusquely, and Aya smiled and nodded at Reina as they followed Tsunku to the door.

Eri and Risa held their positions a bit longer though. “I hope you know what you’re doing…” Eri said, concern etched in her voice.

Reina caught Risa watching her calmly as she spoke. “Of course she does,” the older girl assured, and Eri looked up at her. “Go on, Eririn, I’ll catch up with you.” Eri seemed reluctant at first, but with the steady look she received pouted and headed for the door too. Once she was out of earshot, Risa turned to Reina. “I want to thank you… for everything,” she said. “And apologize…”

“For what?” Reina asked politely.

The other girl looked hard at her. “I’ve been in your care so much… You’ve always been the one with and helping Ai-chan. You were there for me when I felt there was nobody I could turn to, and I only repaid you by taking Eririn…”

Reina gazed searchingly at the girl for a moment. “You know, for all the ‘help’ I gave Ai-chan, I also took her away from you.”

Risa’s eyes widened in understanding, and there was a small strangled squeak from behind Reina, but she didn’t look back. After the initial news though, Risa lowered her eyes and shook her head. “No you didn’t,” she said. “I’d already lost her long before that.” She looked up to see Reina gazing back with sadness in her eyes, and quickly raised her hand and shook it beneath her chin. “No no,” she denied, “I’m long past that. With what happened with that guy, that was definitely a low point, but… then Eri and I came together.” The emotion in her eyes strengthened as she shared Reina’s look. “Help Ai-chan, and I couldn’t ask for anything more,” she said firmly, leaving no room for doubt.

Reina looked back a moment before nodding. “I’ll do my best,” she promised. With that, Risa nodded too, her eyes moistening, and turned quickly for the door. Reina watched her leave with a heavy weight on her heart, and soon she was out the door and gone.

“They’ve been really happy,” Sayu said quietly from behind her, and Reina turned her attention in her direction. At the look, she saw Sayu, who had been peering up at her intently, blush and lower her head. Today the girl wore a white shirt with pink sleeves and a picture of a frog in its center, and a semi-short pleated black skirt. Reina walked her way and resumed her seat on the loveseat next to her.

“Yeah, they seem like it,” Reina said, looking down at her folded hands herself.

“At first it was kind of strange, you know. It was always just the three of us. But after finding out that you and Gaki-san both…” She trailed off before continuing, “It was no longer the same, you know? It was as if we’d suddenly grown, and were like adults. Then we went to Kobe, and Eri… There wasn’t any more doubt at all then.” Reina now directed a sympathetic expression over at her friend, who still had her eyes lowered. “I felt I was left behind, so I tried to follow your lead there, and we were almost killed, and then…” Finally she looked up into Reina’s face. “Is it true? Have you been with Ai-chan?”

Reina looked back a moment before nodding. Sayu’s face was expressionless a second before she smiled and lowered her head again. “That’s good. You two had so much in common.”

“You’re right to say that like it’s past,” Reina said, still looking hard at what she could see of the girls face. “With what she’s done lately…” Reina lowered her own head again. “It was wonderful what we had, so it was no mistake, but how it turned out couldn’t have been more wrong.” She sensed the other girl’s eyes back on her, but didn’t look up. “I go to her again with the hope it’s not too late to save her humanity, and I do it out of love. But as she is now I think she’s incapable of understanding love, and I can’t accept that. Who knows what might happen in the future, but I can’t count on her to change.”

She looked up tentatively to see Sayu gazing calmly at her, her lips slightly pursed. It seemed to her the girl was trying to decide something in her mind. “Reina-chan…” she said, and Reina blinked. It had been a long time since she was called that. “Do you remember what happened when Ai-chan was fighting that Chairman?” Reina nodded slowly. She’d been half-expecting this, but strangely she felt relief that it was happening. “You were protecting me, but then…” Her voice softened further. “You kissed me…” Reina nodded again. “Was that just because of her, or was part of you kissing… me?” she asked, her voice nearly deteriorating to a whisper by the end.

Reina licked her lips, her mouth suddenly dry. “I knew it was you,” she responded slowly and simply.

At that, Sayu gave a light smile and stretched back a little in her seat, taking a long deep breath before speaking again. “Do you remember back at Miki’s… memorial?” she said in a much more energetic and Sayu-like voice. She giggled. “It’s funny talking about that now, isn’t it?”

“I suppose so…” Reina responded, unsure where this was going. The girl still smiled, but was carefully watching for Reina’s responses out of the corners of her eyes.

“There was one time when you had been staring off into space, and when you came back and saw me standing next to you, you screamed.” Sayu laughed gaily as she related her story.

Reina blushed slightly. Yes, she did remember that now. It had to do with a certain girl in pink… “I remember,” she said, not wanting to dwell on the memory.

“Well,” Sayu said, “After that, I told you we were best friends and asked what was going on with you and Eririn… And it’s all the funnier now I do know what was going on with you two! You were really quite a cute pair at the time…” Reina felt herself blushing more. What was wrong with her? “But…” she continued, now sounding more serious. “At that time I also felt something else… I thought it was anger that you weren’t telling me something, but now I know it was something different.” Her voice was completely serious now, and Reina looked back up at her, her blush fading. Sayu looked intently back. “It was jealousy…”

“What would you have been jealous of?” Reina asked, trying to adopt some manner of innocence. Unfortunately, she thought she totally failed at that any longer.

“I was jealous that you two had something special I wasn’t a part of,” Sayu responded. “I of course had no idea it was romantic, but I still felt left out. I thought of you as my best friend after all, and part of me wanted you to myself. Funny how kids think of things, isn’t it?” She attempted a half-hearted laugh. “But since then so much has happened, and my way of thinking of things has changed so much…”

Reina noticed Sayu’s finger twitch, and the girl looked down at it. After a few seconds she reached out and grabbed Reina’s hand, pulling it slightly away from her lap. Reina looked down at the joined hands too before looking tentatively back up into the girl’s face. “Since then…” Sayu began. “Since we fought together in Kobe… Since you kissed me… I’ve realized…” She swallowed, hesitating. “Reina, I… I think I’m in love with you.”

Reina stared back at her for a time. She finally realized what she’d been doing the whole conversation. She was leading the girl, starting with talking about how she could no longer see herself with Ai, and then with all her subtle reactions since then. She actually had hoped to hear the girl say those words. She had a feeling with all the experiences they shared lately that it was hardly a surprise, but still, she hadn’t expected to actually hear this declaration.

Looking back into the girl’s expectant and highly anxious face, she thought for a minute. What was she doing? It wasn’t long ago that she spent every night with Ai. But then, she’d just been fooling herself that whole time, hadn’t she? She didn’t accept it until Ai proved it with a blade, but the woman hadn’t truly loved her. Looking back into the youthful eyes before her, though they had been tarnished by her harsh experiences lately, she saw something she never saw when she looked into Ai’s. Then warmth began to fill her, and she could no longer even summon the other woman’s face; it was being shut out by another. She realized what was meant to be and what was not. She made her decision.

Suddenly she leaned forward, and wrapping her arms around the girl’s slim waist pressed her lips against soft ones that had opened to utter a sound of surprise. It never escaped, and the two young girls spent the next minutes exploring and enjoying each other.

Eventually they sat cuddled together, one arm around each other’s waist and the other joined by their hands. Sayu lightly drew in Reina’s palm with her forefinger as she looked around the room with a small smile on her face. “Nice place you’ve got here,” she said casually. “It must not be too bad a thing, being one of the most powerful women in Japan.”

“It has its perks,” Reina said, and Sayu turned to see her grin. “But it has its drawbacks too…” she continued, the grin fading.

“Tomorrow…” Sayu breathed, and Reina nodded. “It’ll go well,” she continued insistently. “I know you can do it.”

Reina smiled at the girl’s firmness. “Thanks,” she said gratefully. She had little hope herself. It would be a greater test of her skills than she’d ever imagined before. “But before I take you along with me, I need to know something…”

“Yes?” Sayu asked curiously.

“Where’d you learn to use a sword like that?”

Sayu broke into a giggle. “Why Reina, didn’t I ever tell you I’ve taken fencing since I was a little girl? My dad says my family is descended from samurai, and so every generation is made to learn swordsmanship. I wasn’t very good for a long time though…”

“Must have slipped your mind,” Reina said with a smirk.

With the hand on the other side of Reina’s waist, Sayu poked her in the side and hugged her closer. “I’m sorry,” she said playfully. “I’ll be sure to try and remember other things I should have told you years ago.”

“That’d be helpful,” Reina said in an over exaggerated hopeful expression. “Best friends, huh?” she asked sardonically.

Sayu hugged her closer. “No...” she whispered into her neck. “Partners.” This time Reina didn’t try to stop the flush that suffused her body. She’d thought of that word a lot lately, but this was the first time it rang with complete truth to her. This time, she wasn’t the one using it.

Offline JFC

  • Miki's Birthday Twin
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Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [35: One Day More]
« Reply #165 on: September 20, 2007, 05:17:39 AM »
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Tsunku wanted to know all about what had been going on with her of course. Apparently through his own underworld connections he’d learned a bit about her activities, at least enough to know she wasn’t really “missing and presumed dead” as the official line went. Still, he expressed to Reina how worried he’d been. He knew what kind of people revolved in those circles.
Tsunku has underworld connections???  :shocked:



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Reina peered calmly up at him. She hadn’t realized it before, but he was really a rather diminutive man. Flamboyant of course, and very protective of his assets, but now she took a good look at him… She supposed it started at her audition years ago when she wanted nothing more than to impress the judges and of course him in particular, since he had the final say. To her at that time, he was the leader and deliverer;

...

However, as she now looked at the man who, leaning over the desk as he was, normally would have intimidated her into almost any sort of submission, she saw only an average, if still flamboyant, person trying to do the best for who and what he cared about most.
Well, Reina's seen a lot of things, as well as done a lot of things during the past few months that she's been gone.  These were things that forces one to grow up, and grow up fast.  What was once larger than life, now seems "normal", if not "average".  Tsunku, while indeed flamboyant, has never tried to portray himself as "the almighty" to any of the H!P girls nor did he treat them like they were his subjects.  He never wanted their praise nor worship, he just wanted their trust in him.  He always just did his best to bring out their best.



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As Reina rose and walked toward the door though, he shouted after her, “Tanaka-san!”

“Yes?” Reina responded, turning her head to look back at him.

“Nice outfit,” he said simply. “You look very mature.”

Reina smiled back at him.

...

“But I’m still cute,” she said lightly with a wink
But of course...after all, how could she not be? :D



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Even though the calls to people in the city generally were encouraging, others were not; specifically, those to Kobe. She knew her standing wasn’t as naturally outstanding there, especially in the apparent absence of Ai’s support of her position, but she had to see if any support could come from the Council members, because without that she would have an extremely uphill, difficult, and lonely battle. She’d been able to infer their support was nearly paramount in Ai’s coup – they were united in their hatred of the former Chairman, and so all Ai had to do was, well, turn tradition on its head and defeat the man himself. That was hardly an easy feat, but it likely would have been nigh impossible without the Council’s support.
So there were members of the Council who already knew that Aichan was going to overthrow and take out the Chairman?  In a way it makes sense. The other council members could have had a hand in distracting the Chairman and/or minimizing the amount of security/resistance they would have faced on their way to his office.  Question now is, are they as observant as Reina? Do the Council members see that Aichan is continuing her predecessor's policies, instead of stopping them like she had originally set out to do?  If so, what actions are they willing to take, if any, to remedy the situation?



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Upon leaving the building she saw a small crowd gathered to one side, and it didn’t take long to firmly identify them as the journalists and reporters she expected they’d be. At first they only glanced at her as they likely had anyone else who’d walked out those doors, but when a few realized who she was, the floodgate opened and soon she was surrounded.
And behold, the circus begins. If Reina thought the press was nosey when she was still in MM, they're going to be practically invasive now that she's "reappeared".



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Earlier in the day she’d stopped at an ATM in UFA’s building to check her accounts. She already had enough cash to get her by for quite some time, but curiosity about her accounts tugged at her. Interestingly, they hadn’t been frozen yet. Then again her authority, at least in Tokyo, was probably good enough to not only keep her accounts open but “influence” certain parties to deposit large sums in them if she desired. The thought nearly disgusted her. And then of course, there were her overseas accounts…
Well, if Aichan had wanted to keep track of Reina and what she was doing, it would be a smart move to leave her accounts untouched, because then she could monitor Reina's withdrawals and purchases.  So long as Reina doesn't start withdrawing shitloads of money or buying weapons, Aichan likely wouldn't get suspicious or see her as a threat.



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With her foe defeated and the rewards she earned by it, that dark nature Reina always feared yet was inescapably attracted to rose up, and with the shield of righteous fury and vengeance against Yamagata shed, possessed the girl she loved.
Once again it all boils down to that old saying about absolute power.



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She decided to give the Council members some time to cool their heels after her departure, so waited until Monday to contact them again. However, this time she didn’t even get past the secretaries until she got to Ishihara-san, who after a longer conversation she believed might really support her. She said it might be an old woman’s fantasy, but she’d thought about her life and now began to wish she was able to see better days.
As much as one would like to believe that Ishihara-san is sincere in what she's telling Reina, it's still hard to shake that little bit of doubt that wonders if this isn't some setup to get Reina back or to eliminate her from the picture.



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All of this led her to when, on Monday evening in her suite, she sat with the people who mattered most to her. For obvious reasons this was much easier than her going back to the UFA building, but it didn’t stop her visitors from drawing the glances normally only reserved for her.  Eri was there,

...

Risa was there as well, hand-in-hand with Eri.

...

Miki and Aya were there too.

...

Tsunku sat close to Miki and Aya. Reina was reluctant to involve him, since in his case he never actually had been involved in the first place, but she felt bound to keep to her vow of no longer keeping him in the dark. Gazing levelly at his eyes, which gazed back just as strongly, she thought that through it all, he deserved at least that.

Finally, Sayu did her best to stay as close as possible to Reina.
So she's brought in the others...but for what purpose? Granted, they're the only ones that actually know where Reina's really been and what she's been up to (to varying degrees), but it's unlikely that any of them have any idea of how deep this goes or how Aichan has changed.  Will Reina tell them what she's been up to? If so, how will they react when they find out?


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“I want to bring Ai-chan home,” she pronounced firmly, and the bluntness caused some of the girls to give each other covert glances.
:stunned:

...

Considering how much she's changed, is that even possible?



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“Are you sure about this?” quipped Miki. “I left Kobe for various reasons. One was that Ayaya wanted to sing again. The other was that even with her as its head, I didn’t feel a place in that organization. I’m not sure she’d be thrilled about turning her back on it.” Reina knew that in her words, she wasn’t just talking about the company.
The company and the money are just the tip of the iceberg. What Miki's really talking about is the stature that comes with the position, and of course, the power.  After having achieved so much, and having tasted what comes with it, if Aichan were to leave it to "come back", she'd be giving up a LOT, even more than what Reina did.



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“You saw her fight, Reina. If… if it comes to that, do you think you can pull it off?” This time Reina was silent, and looked away from the other girl. She knew all too well how Ai fought. Her hope was that it wouldn’t come to that. The woman had to listen to reason if it was presented to her under the right circumstances.
Reina's hoping that there's still some part of Aichan that truly cares enough for her that it won't come down to a one-on-one confrontation.  However, considering how quickly Aichan got sucked into it, and how comfortable she seemed to be in her new position, it's somewhat naive to think that no blood will be shed, one way or another.



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“I’m going wherever you go,” Sayu demanded suddenly.

Reina turned to her again, and her smile threw off the other girl’s glare slightly. “I expected that,” she said quietly. “And you’ll be right there at my side. In fact, I’m counting on your help in the end.”
Now THIS was a surprise, but not for what Sayu said, but instead for Reina not turning her down.  Granted, Sayu was also there in the room when Aichan deposed her predecessor, so if stuff starts to get a little hairy, Sayu won't be completely surprised/shocked by it.  Just not sure, however, what exactly Reina thinks Sayu can do to help out.



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As the girl stared surprised at her, the shrill digital ring of Reina’s phone broke the tension. “Excuse me,” she said politely, and reached in her pocket to pick it up. “Yes?” she asked into it, and listened to the response. “Right… right. Thank you very much. I’m under your care.” She listened again. “I… see,” she said, a bit more hesitantly, though her eyes steeled with determination. “Tomorrow then,” she said, and slid her phone shut.
So that's why Reina's been calling the Council members.  She's planning on returning to Kobe and seeing Aichan, and like before when Aichan was the one planning it, Reina needs some help in actually making it up to Aichan's office. My bet is that it was Ishihara-san that called her, to let her know that whatever arrangements she needed had been taken care of. Hopefully it's not a trap.



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“The plans have been finalized,” she said. “There is… a slight change, but I believe it will also be necessary.” She then broke into what she hoped was a relaxed smile.
Change? What exactly has been changed?



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She looked into each face individually, each burning with affirmation, and held the longest at Sayu’s, which burned with something else as well. She now recognized that look.
It was how Reina looked at Aichan when she asked her a similar question the night before they took down the Chairman.



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“Reina, I… I think I’m in love with you.”
I'd be lying if I said I didn't see this coming.

Still though...whoa.



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“Where’d you learn to use a sword like that?”

Sayu broke into a giggle. “Why Reina, didn’t I ever tell you I’ve taken fencing since I was a little girl? My dad says my family is descended from samurai, and so every generation is made to learn swordsmanship.
Well I'll be damned...cool!



I can't help but see the current thing with Reina and Sayu closely mirroring what happened between Reina and Aichan (only Reina wasn't the one instigating the plan with the latter).  If Reina's not careful, she's liable to follow in Aichan's footsteps the same way Aichan followed her predecessor's.  Reina has to stay focused and remember always that her goal is to save Aichan, not to "bring her down".


JPH!P :heart:'s Fushigidane, ChrNo, Jab & marimari. Always.

Offline Sukoshi

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Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [35: One Day More]
« Reply #166 on: September 20, 2007, 06:04:36 AM »
Thanks for the new chapter!  :heart:

Wow....where to start....after reading the whole chapter my brain has the after movie feeling (after watching a very good movie feeling to be more exact). 

First off, I love Reina's return to Tokyo and hanging out with the old gang.  You really do get the feeling that a lot of time has passed and if it were not for Reina reminding us that it's only been a sort while, I would have easily thought otherwise.  Once again I must say that you really have a knack extremely immersive worlds. 

I'm glad that it looks like gaki and kamei are staying together...somehow I've always wanted Reina and Eri to get back together...*sigh* but it just wouldn't fit, especially if that means leaving Risa alone again.  The Sayu part at the end was very surprising!  I feel happy for the two but I can't help but be sad at the lost love between Ai chan and Reina.  They seemed like the golden pair for so long in the story...hopefully Ai chan will be able to find some happiness in the end.  I don't know if this story can end happily but I'm certainly hoping for it  :farofflook:

Offline iacus

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Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [35: One Day More]
« Reply #167 on: September 20, 2007, 09:46:37 AM »
This really is one of the best chapters yet. I really like the way you bring the wider world into the picture. Most fics here are about the personal lives of the H!P girls and not much else. And understandably so, doing otherwise is hard. But this fic (and Berry Beautiful as well. Speaking of which I haven't commented on that lately, sorry) seem to be about that and different issues that effect the wider world. And you still manage to bring it all together and make it very entertaining. I can't tell what you have planned for the ending, but I look forward to reading it.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2007, 10:30:12 AM by iacus »

Offline rokun

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Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [35: One Day More]
« Reply #168 on: September 21, 2007, 05:47:02 PM »
I'm happy to see that it seems I'm conveying the kinds of things I want to in this story. ^_^ Everybody's responses so far have hit on many of these things.

@JFC: This is very familiar, isn't it? Except Reina's roles have now switched. First she was the apprentice and Ai was the master, to use Star Wars lingo XD, but now... she is the master. Now that the entire country thinks she's one of the worst juvenile delinquents and a celebrity gone bad, will she be able to pull through it all and become a true hero?

@Sukoshi: Nice to see you back here! I'm sorry it took so long for me to update. I'm glad this seems like a good movie to you, and hopefully the ending will top it all. The only story I've finished so far had a rather tragic ending, although there always is some sort of twist... The twist here won't be anything (like Sayu/Reina) that couldn't have been guessed at so far since it's all in the characters and their relationships, but I have a feeling it'll still be a bit surprising. Yuuyami never posts here, but has told me what she thinks might happen. Let me just say to her if she's reading this... Not exactly... ;)

@iacus: Thank you for staying loyal to my story. :) Fitting the outside world in is something I'm really only experimenting with in here, though with my interests as they are I try to inject that hopefully still entertaining social commentary. I think it still seems pretty disjointed so far, but I hope to improve it as I write more and more. Look for it to be a larger theme in my next story. :)

I think I might have two chapters left, though of course I can't hold myself to anything. However, I have pretty clear ideas where I want each of them to begin and end, so if what's in-between gets to be long, they'll just be long chapters. :) I don't see them being too long now, but when I actually start writing I've found anything goes... Thank you again and stay tuned!  :D

Offline rokun

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Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [36: The Path of Daggers]
« Reply #169 on: September 26, 2007, 04:31:30 PM »
Minna genki? XD I decided to open this the way the head of one of my Japanese clubs does in all her emails. As I thought, this chapter ended up longer than I envisioned it, and there will be one more after this to finish this story off. I'll save my longer spiel for then, so now I'll just say I hope you all enjoy the penultimate chapter and final climax to Reina's Odyssey. I'm sure some will be disappointed and some will hate me, but this is completely how I wanted this to end. Expect the final chapter in the coming days...

One other note: The title for this chapter, although also appropriate to the context, is a tribute to the late Robert Jordan, who despite all his criticism was a great influence on the way I view books, literature, and writing. If you know the reference, I hope you can connect the contexts and come to a better understanding of my vision of the story. If you don't know the reference, I have a feeling the context is still somewhat self-explanatory. :) Thank you all for your support...


Chapter 36 - The Path of Daggers

Early the next morning, Reina led a small group of Sayu, Eri and Risa through the hotel lobby to the front desk. The hotel workers, by this time all aware that Reina Tanaka was staying in their Imperial Suite, glanced over at her from time to time as they went about their duties. They gave a careful eye to her companions as well. Reina would have bet almost anything that most of them had no clue who the three with her were, or even who she was before she checked in here last week. That was likely all for the best though, since the more time it took for people to realize others from Morning Musume were involved, the better. If it leaked out that half of the group was participating in a raid on a Yakuza fortress, they’d be lucky to ever be respectable again. Of course everyone would find out eventually, but if Reina had her way the effect would end up being almost completely opposite.

“I’m leaving for the day,” Reina told the clerk, who was nervously bowing at her as she approached the counter. “I may not be back, but I’d like to keep the suite just in case.”

“As you wish, Tanaka-san,” he said, still practicing jerking bows. “I have reserved it for the week in your name. Shall I extend it in case…?” he offered, clearing hoping Reina would refuse.

Reina looked up as if thinking. “No,” she said finally. “I’ll be back by then if I need it. By all means, if I don’t return please feel free to rent it out to someone else,” she said with a sly grin.

The clerk bowed quicker in his visible relief. “Yes, Tanaka-san. As you say, Tanaka-san.”

“Thank you,” Reina said with a small bow of her own, and turned to leave. When she did though, she saw three faces looking grimly at her. “What?” she said innocently. “It’s best to be prepared no matter what.” Not waiting for a response, she headed for the doors. She smiled when she sensed the other girls scurrying along behind her.

After barely seconds, Sayu caught up to her side. “You’ll come back,” she said resolutely. “I’ll make sure of it.”

Reina gave her a sideways glance. “You know, even if things go well today I may not be coming back to this hotel. I believe I still have a condo in Harajuku…”

She felt Sayu give her a level look. “You’re not still going to keep that, are you?”

“It’s paid for and the deed’s in my name,” Reina said with a shrug. “It’s just a house after all Sayumin, and if I’m still alive I’ll need some place to live, because who knows what kind of job I’ll be able to get afterward…” She smiled suddenly. “Besides, maybe I’ll even invite you to come live with me…” A blush now infused the taller girl’s face and she cast her eyes down, though she couldn’t hide a faint smile. Reina also caught Eri and Risa sharing a look out of the corner of her eye.

“That’s right,” Sayu said, her eyes upraised again and face still red, but now not likely with just her blush. “I’m her girlfriend now,” she said proudly.

Reina carefully glanced out of the corner of her eye again at Eri’s and Risa’s reactions to this as the doorman opened the hotel’s front doors for them. They both looked at each other again, but after it, Eri lowered her head with a small smile of her own. Reina felt relieved at that. All seemed well among them. She just hoped that wouldn’t change with the day’s events.

As they walked down the sidewalk, a girl suddenly stepped out from a doorway to face them. Reina heard Risa hiss. Eri froze, and Sayu started to lunge forward before Reina flung out her arms to hold the other three back. After a short angry glance at Reina, Sayu looked back at the girl and growled, “Why are you here?”

Koharu stared back calmly, though with intensity in her eyes, a long knife of some kind held in her hand before her. The sidewalk around them began to clear quickly as people started to recognize Reina and obviously didn’t want to get involved with people brandishing knives around her, even if they were young girls. Reina sighed. Well, this would be all the confirmation everyone needed that she really had gotten mixed up in a “bad group”. She could just imagine the paparazzi hiding out of sight in nearby allies clicking away madly.

“You’re going to see Takahashi-sama,” the girl said simply. Her outfit was quite different from how Reina had seen her last. She now wore tight jeans with a black leather vest, and displayed various signs in elaborate patches on it, some of which Reina recognized as insignia of various groups governed by NDI. She also had her hair in a ponytail that hung forward over her shoulder, and ribbons tied everywhere. Could the girl be more flamboyant? Well, apparently she’s gotten her wish, Reina thought, feeling grim.

Koharu took a leisurely step toward them and began spinning her knife as if she was showing off a new trick. “I’ve heard how you ran out on her,” she continued, “So I know you’re also not up to any good going back. You should have just stayed hidden in your hole.”

Despite herself, at the girl’s comment Eri burst out into a giggle. When everybody turned to her in shock, she stared around at them all innocently and a little scared. “What?” she said defensively, and then to Koharu, “You’ve apparently not heard about where she’s been living…”

After a blank stare, Koharu shook herself and apparently decided to ignore the girl. “Anyway,” she resumed. “I don’t know what your plans with Takahashi-sama are, but I’m here to stop you before anyone gets the chance to find out.” As she finished, her knife stopped spinning and she gripped it tightly.

At the threat, Reina felt tension rise again from the girls beside her, but she continued to hold them back as she frowned at the girl who was now just a few steps away. “You can’t be serious,” Reina warned in a low and dangerous voice.

Koharu stood her ground and jutted her lower lip in what was almost a sullen pout. “Yes I am!” she nearly yelled. “You may think you’re big and bad after whatever you’ve been doing the past year, but I’ve learned a few things too!” As if to prove her point, she began spinning her knife again. “And if you’re good, maybe I’ll even show you wh—“

To Reina’s utmost disappointment the girl didn’t get to say what she intended to show her, because at that moment an object came flying over her shoulder and clubbed her on the side of her head, causing her knife to fly at Reina, who calmly caught it out of the air, and the girl herself to collapse in a bundle of ribbons and patches in front of them.

When she collapsed, she revealed a wide-eyed girl who stood behind her with her knees slightly bent and legs spread in a firm stance, clutching her retrieved handbag tightly in her hands while she stared at the fallen Musume. “I knocked out Koha-chan!” she said breathlessly as she nearly began swaying on the spot. “I killed my senpai!”

Suddenly grinning, Reina stepped forward and bent down to the girl. Seeing obvious signs of breath and pulse, she rose up to look at the youngest Musume. “She’s alive,” she said, still grinning. “I imagine she’ll have a pretty good headache when she wakes up though.” Her face turning to a frown, she glanced back down. “Maybe she’ll finally learn the meaning of humility,” she pondered, then looked back up to Aika. “Run back to UFW and ask them to send someone to help carry her back there. I have a feeling Tsunku will be pleased to have a word with her in her current state…”

Seeing the girl’s still-worried expression, she smiled reassuringly. “Don’t worry,” she said. “Whether she likes it or not, everything will be back to normal by the end of the day today. I’m sure Tsunku will be able to take good care of her in the meantime… and you also of course,” she praised, and the girl lowered her head in embarrassment. She walked up and patted the girl on the shoulder, who at the touch looked up. Seeing Reina smile, she did the same. “By the way,” Reina began. “What do you have in your purse?”

Aika blushed. “Um… just my dance shoes… a bunch of makeup… a can of pepper spray… a —”

“I think I get the picture,” Reina interrupted, grinning.

The girl kept blushing a second before peering back up into Reina’s face. “Is it true what she said?” the girl asked curiously. “Are you going to see Ai-chan?”

Reina nodded. “Speaking of which, we need to get going.” She nodded back to the three girls who were still staring at their junior, and they snapped out of their respective trances and followed as Reina led the way forward again.

“Reina-chan!” Aika called from behind, causing Reina to glance back, though she didn’t stop walking. “Good luck!” she said, and quickly turned to run down the street as Reina instructed, people now beginning to fill the sidewalk again, some peering curiously at the girl lying unconscious in the middle of it.

“It’s about time!” Miki called out from the cab of a stretch hummer before they even reached the end of the block.

The four girls stopped, surprised, and looked at what was apparently their ride. “Well you surely don’t disappoint,” Risa said slowly.

Reina grinned. “A tank for our army…” she said with a smirk, and walked up to the cab where Miki stared impatiently out at them. “If you were right here the whole time, why didn’t you do something about Koharu? You had to have seen her even before she jumped out at us.”

Miki shrugged. “I figured you had it covered,” she said lazily. “You being big and bad and all,” she smirked. “I wasn’t expecting that from the shrimp though. She might have some potential,” she finished, now adopting a thoughtful tone. If Reina hadn’t known how brilliant Miki could be, the sight of how hard she seemed to work at being thoughtful would have completely convinced her otherwise. She almost giggled at the glare Aya was giving Miki from the passenger’s seat.

“Hey, Ayaya,” Reina said, and the girl smiled at her. “You sure you can drive this thing?” she asked Miki, looking the long, large vehicle back and forth. The other three girls, and Eri especially, were beginning to look nervous.

“Piece of cake,” Miki said dismissively. “Hop in,” she said, pointing her thumb toward the back as a door popped open. “We don’t want to be late, do we?” This time when Reina looked into the girl’s serious face, the depth of her thought was most certainly not forced. Looking across her, Aya reflected it as well, though of course it was not unusual for her. Nodding at both of them, she headed for the door, herding the anxious girls in with her, and once they were all settled in, the vehicle rumbled to life and sped on its way.

...

A few hours later saw the girls riding into Kobe, and more than one of them was clutching her seat as if for dear life. Reina had done her best to keep herself calm amid all the bouncing and swerving Miki did for whatever reasons, but when the hummer finally pulled to a stop next to a familiar tall building she couldn’t help giving a small sigh of relief along with the others.

As she began to open the door, Eri grabbed hold of her vest. “Don’t leave us here to drive around any more with her!” the girl cried, her eyes big and pleading. Risa, however, calmly pulled the girl back to her seat.

Reina smiled at both of them. “Don’t worry. I’ll tell Miki not to drive off. I’d like you guys to stay out here for the time being anyway. At least, unless something goes wrong.” She exited the car gratefully and looked up and down it again. “Although… I can’t imagine you being much safer than you’d be in here even if they did come after you.”

As Sayu scrambled out after her, smoothing her skirt, Reina walked up to the cab to see Miki grinning out at her. “Thank you for the ride,” she said softly with a smile. “It was a nice way to break the tension.”

“Don’t mention it,” Miki said, though Reina caught Aya’s pale face behind her.

“Did you think that was on purpose?” she breathed, still holding her mouth tight as if she’d have issues with opening it.

Miki shrugged with a toothy smile before becoming serious again. “Are you sure you’ll be okay?” she asked Reina.

“No,” she responded, looking above the hood at the building before them, before which now stood four guards, all looking stockier than before and none any longer from the group Miki brought in. “But it’s something I need to do. I have to try…” she said earnestly, and Miki nodded grimly.

Sayu finally seemed to compose herself and walked up to Reina, now carrying the long sword she’d obtained in the first coup and sheathing it at her belt. Reina smiled. Sayu definitely demonstrated today why Reina found her quite attractive. She’d gotten rid of her vest to reveal long white gloves that stretched up nearly to her shoulders. Those along with a bright red leather sports bra were all she wore on her upper body that was capped off with pigtails contrasting with the rest of her mature look. Reina had tried to talk her out of those, but she would have none of it. “If I’m going to fight and maybe kill today, I need to look cute, you know?” A short thick black and white striped skirt above knee-length hard leather boots completed her outfit.

Reina wore similar boots, but she stuck with her black leather skirt below a formal dull-colored blouse and jacket. In an unusual move for her however, she carried two weapons visible at her belt – one a normal, if sharp, wakizashi, and the other a reinforced obsidian katana she’d acquired over the course of her stay in Kobe. The sword had taken the smith nearly her whole tenure to forge, and she hadn’t had an opportunity to put it to use yet. That would likely change today. In fact, there was no escape from it to at least some extent if things went as planned. Her face hardened as she thought of the duty ahead of her.

“Mikitty…” Sayu said in a warning tone. “If I make it out of today alive, I might just have one more target to deal with…”

Miki smiled innocently again. “Why whatever do you mean?” she asked the younger girl before turning to Aya and sticking her tongue out. Reina smiled at that, but she was thankful Sayu hadn’t appeared to notice. She didn’t want to start having to rein in the girl’s feistiness already. Instead, with just a huff at the response she walked around the car toward the building.

“I guess that’s my cue,” Reina told Miki and Aya.

“Take care of yourself,” both girls told her at the same time. “And that other girl too, I suppose…” Miki grudgingly added, although Reina could tell deep inside she really meant it.

“We’ll do our best,” Reina responded, and with a slight nod of her head followed Sayu around the cab.

After a few steps Sayu halted, looking at the guards and then up at the building. “Are you sure this is a good idea…?” she asked uncertainly. “Just the two of us going into this… fortress…”

“Remember,” Reina reminded her, “I lived and worked here for months.”

“But you don’t anymore,” Sayu responded, looking down at her with concern.

Reina looked at the doors ahead of them herself. “We’ll see,” she said simply, and walked forward.

As they neared the doors the guards scrutinized them closely, paying special attention to the weapons at their sides. Reina was sure they recognized her, but none gave her the look of awe she’d normally received when walking in and out of this building. However, they didn’t stop them, and they entered the lobby to find an entirely different situation.

Here men and women scurried about their busy tasks as always, and although nobody noticed the two young girls at first, once they made their way further within nearly every head turned toward them in a wave that seemed to emanate from their path. In a similar wave, the crowds parted around them to leave quite a clear bubble in which they walked. Reina expected a reaction of this sort, but what she didn’t expect was that once most of them had maneuvered out of their way, they stood still to stare at them as they passed. Had the Council alerted the whole building to their arrival?

This of course did not go unnoticed by Sayu either, who looked back and forth among the throngs, uneasiness rising seemingly with every step they took. “Um… Reina? Why are they all just staring at us?”

“I don’t know,” Reina responded casually, trying to keep such thoughts from clouding the focus she had to maintain while she walked deeper into the building.

As they passed the reception desk, a gruff-looking man Reina didn’t know standing at it, he seemed about to question the two of them before apparently thinking better of it and standing down, just staring along with all the others as they walked by. By the time they reached the elevator, Reina looked back to see the entire lobby the stillest she’d ever seen it. Hardly anyone still walked around, and most just stood to watch the two girls solemnly, and apparently until they were out of sight.

“Reina...” Sayu whispered into her ear. “It looks like they expect you to say something.”

Her focus becoming unavoidably shaken, Reina looked back at the crowd. They wanted her to say something? She couldn’t imagine what that would be. Sayu must be imagining things, she thought. It wouldn’t be the first time. However, when nobody made any further sign of movement she cleared her throat, and she could almost feel a collective exhalation of breath. What the hell… she decided.

“I couldn’t say if all of you know me…” she began in the loudest voice she could muster that didn’t seem like she was shouting. When nobody seemed to contradict that statement she went on, Sayu giving her a funny look. “All of you must have been so surprised when two young girls came to lead you.” She could see quite a few of the assembly turn to each other to whisper something or other at these words. “From what I can gather, because of his cruelty Chairman Yamagata was not very popular. However, you still flourished under his reign.” A few scattered nods met her statement, but most just continued staring at her.

“Ai Takahashi was one of the women he was cruelest to, but he also didn’t expect any of them to have the thought or ability to rise against him.” At the mention of Ai’s name, a few of the scattered murmurs became nervous to Reina’s ears. “As you know, on that night months ago she proved him wrong, and your Council unanimously selected her as his successor.”

She was starting to get on a roll here, but what she’d decided to say next would be what was truly important. Apparently the businessmen and criminals gathered around her knew that as well, because they seemed to become all the more intent to her. Their attention gave her hope. Her luck with the Council was less than stellar, but could it be just that their power had corrupted them? Well, it was time to throw out her hook. “At first I took a place at her side, and together we tried our best to help everyone succeed. However, as time went on I found that we had very different ideas of what success truly meant. She was happy to continue the ways of Yamagata, if not to the shamelessly cruel extent he prosecuted. I on the other hand have a view of life and success that I suppose is more positive. Perhaps our government’s laws are not the best, and there are times when they must be questioned. However, that won’t happen through further corruption, nor through a society that promotes corruption, at the top of which Nippon Dai Ichi fights for control and most often succeeds. This is something I cannot accept, and I invite anyone who disagrees to state his case, and we can settle this before I ascend to the Council.”

She didn’t know what to expect after her speech, and perhaps she was laying herself out on a line, but especially with Sayu standing firm and just as intense as herself next to her, she felt a young girl’s foolish confidence. However, nobody came forward, and instead someone yelled out from the middle of the crowd, “My brother in Tokyo says things have never been better than when you were at the top there.” Another one yelled after him, “I just want my business to succeed. I’ve vowed to do whatever it takes, but whatever your ideas, I know your record.” However, it was the third comment that really caught Reina’s attention. It seemed to only be given through confidence gained after hearing what others said first. “We’ve been too long under the old system, and there’s no need for crime if things are just done right to begin with! We need a change!”

Varied grumbling and shouting broke out at the revolutionary comment, some agreeing with it, but some just the opposite. “Enough of change!” she heard one man shout. “It’s been nothing but trouble. There’s a reason Takahashi was selected over this child. She still lives in her own fantasy.”

Reina kept quiet through all this, but eventually the talk died down. Some of the assembled salarymen began going back about their business, giving sharp glances at everyone else around. Well it was no use to expect everyone to agree with her, and actually it seemed only the minority did. Well, her battle wasn’t going to be won here anyway. For all their talk these people would follow whoever was in authority over them. Yamagata’s tenure surely proved that. “Come on,” she said, turning to Sayu, and pushed the button for the elevator. She paused at Sayu’s look after doing so, though.

She couldn’t tell exactly what the girl was thinking, but her eyes were fixed on Reina’s face. After a moment though, she blushed and lowered her head slightly. “You’re very brave,” she said softly. Reina smiled, and when the elevator doors opened a second later, they stepped in.

It seemed like a long, quiet ride up after Reina pushed the button next to the unmarked floor between twelve and fourteen. Sayu looked at the button panel nervously, but let out a breath when the elevator ground to a stop when the light disappeared where it would normally have lit up floor thirteen.

The doors slid open, and Reina stepped out into a torch lit hallway. She’d been in this area many times over the past months, but the current situation reminded her only of her first visit here alongside Ai. Only this time, she was leading a resolved but unsure girl down the hall.

“Torches?” Sayu asked as if astounded. “A bit overdramatic, don’t you think?”

Renia shrugged. “They like their tradition.” Walking down the hall she tried to regain her focus, which was much easier in the current atmosphere than among the crowd below.

Before long they came to a nondescript door, and Reina reached out and knocked at it with a black-gloved hand. “When did you put those gloves on?” Sayu asked, puzzled. Reina just smiled. Then the door opened.

“Remember,” Reina said to her companion in a harsh whisper. “Be on your toes, and do whatever I tell you.” She gave a meaningful glance to the two muscled guards that came into view beyond the door, and Sayu nodded, swallowing.

With Sayu at her heels, Reina walked into the dim chamber lit primarily by two beady red lights on the back wall. After a few steps Reina stopped casually, Sayu a pace behind and to her side. She looked around at who was present in the room, holding her head high. As always, the two tables forming a half-moon stood at each side, but only five figures sat behind them. On the left sat what appeared to be a woman – Ishihara-san – and on her right one of the other Council members. The three remaining sat behind the other table. A sixth hadn’t yet been appointed, and there had been no rush since the place had in all practicality been taken by Reina, one of the Council’s small attempts to retain some of their old form to the new order.

She needed the glance to orient herself, but since she’d walked in she only had eyes for the woman sitting at a high podium beneath the red lights. Ai sat there, with apparently some sort of robe on her shoulders, her face as intense as always, and once Reina looked into it their connected gaze barely wavered. Then she spoke.

“Reina Tanaka,” she said formally, if a bit tight. “You’ve been granted audience here to present your case for pardon and potential re-admittance to the Council. However, I don’t recall permission being given to bring another with you – even one who performed honorably during the Succession.”

“I assure you, oh Honored One,” Reina said, and she couldn’t keep a slight bite out of her words. “She is only my assistant, whom I bring with me everywhere.”

“Insolence!” shouted one of the men from the right.

“She’s very well-armed for an assistant,” another growled scathingly. Their comments showed very well where she stood in the eyes of the Councilmen.

Reina shrugged. “Her presence is included in my terms,” she said casually. “I suggest you deal with it.”

One of the men began to bark out something else, but at a quickly raised hand from Ai stayed quiet. “I see you don’t want to continue this formally,” she said, dropping formality herself, although her voice was not any softer.

“I guess not,” Reina said offhandedly. “I mean, that isn’t the way we really run things anymore, is it?”

“You have no right –” the Councilman next to Ishihara-san began, but Reina interrupted him coldly.

“Don’t I? I have much more right than you to be in this place.”

The Councilmen now all began to shout, although Ishihara-san still sat very placid and silent, but Ai again raised her hand. “Silence!” she ordered, and the men complied. They appeared to want to glare at her, but knowing they couldn’t, ended up directing them to nowhere in particular. Reina almost felt like laughing at the spectacle. Ai’s gaze still held strong on Reina’s face though, as it had this whole time. “What are you trying to do here?” she growled warningly. “If you’ve come to apologize to me…”

“I’ve come to do no such thing,” Reina said, though her voice was no longer casual. She pulled her focus and concentration as tightly around her as she could, and with her increased sensation felt Sayu notice her new attitude and tense up as well. “On the contrary,” she continued loudly, “I have come for your apology, Ai-chan.”

The Council members had apparently had enough of their ceremony and tradition being stood on its head, and several of them rose from their chairs as if it would help their objections be heard more loudly. It’s time… Reina thought grimly, and reached up her sleeves while at the same time turning quickly to Sayu.

“The guards,” she told her in a hoarse whisper, and the girl nodded, determined. Drawing her own sword, she spun and flew at the intimidating door guards, who had apparently been quite tense at the heated exchanges but still unprepared for a young girl to come flying at them with a large sword.

Reina couldn’t spare time to see how Sayu did though, and, trusting her at her back, pulled knives she’d hidden beneath her sleeves and hurled them at the two Council members who had stood behind the right table. Each found its mark true, and the men fell back, clutching at gutted throats as their lives bled out of them.

The man in the center, who had not stood, now began to rise as his comrades fell to either side of him. He darted his hand to his belt where he surely had a weapon hidden as he snarled at Reina, but his snarl soon twisted into a look of shock as Reina dove at him before he’d even risen halfway from his seat, unsheathing the swords at her sides and, upon reaching the man, crossing them before her where unfortunately his thick neck existed. Having no hope against one of the sharpest weapons ever created, when Reina’s swords crossed completely, the Councilman’s head fell off his shoulders, his lifeless body falling atop it.

Planting her feet atop the table, Reina adopted her most focused and intense stance, and spun to take in the rest of the room. At the other table, Ishihara-san faced the Councilman beside her, who stared at her with a mouth that drooled blood as she held a dagger of her own in his chest. “Your foulness has sat beside me for too long, Yanagizawa,” she said through gritted teeth. “This girl may be young, but she has a good head on her shoulders. It’s time for a change…” With that, she twisted her dagger and pulled it out of the man, who crumpled at her side.

Wiping her weapon on her shawl she looked at Reina, who nodded, and with a grim smile left her seat and fled through the hidden door behind it. Reina gave a quick glance at the door, but it was vacant, the door itself appearing as if it were blasted off its hinges. There were no guards standing sentinel there any longer, but there was no Sayu either. Offering a silent prayer for the girl she hoped to one day love, she turned her attention back to the red lights and the figure who still sat below them, her swords held slightly tilted and parallel out in front of her.

Ai sat calmly as if nearly the entire population of the chamber hadn’t just been murdered, and gazed around at the devastation before finding Reina’s eyes again. “I should have expected you to try something like this today,” she said softly and regretfully. “I’m impressed though,” she said, her voice gaining strength as she went on. “I never took you for such a cold killer. It was always one of your flaws.”

Reina felt a pang of guilt and regret in her stomach before she stamped it out. “It couldn’t be helped,” she said in a very tight voice. She knew those men deserved death, and so much more. She still didn’t feel that was her judgment to make, but it was a late-added condition of Ishihara-san’s help, an offer which she couldn’t turn down. Ishihara-san had been the recipient of much more of their cruelty and machinations than she ever was.

“Of course,” Ai said, and she finally rose to walk around the podium. Reina’s breath almost caught at seeing her former lover completely again. She did indeed wear a black robe that was tied with a simple sash around her waist, and below it she seemed to wear the same red outfit she used when she killed Yamagata. “So,” she said finally. “Are you going to fight me?”

Reina gazed at her calmly a moment. “You knew this was going to happen the whole time,” she stated. “Why all the foreplay?”

Ai smiled at her choice of words. “I had to make my Council happy, of course,” she responded. “Although, I must say it does also feel rather grand to be talking that way, don’t you think? It’s as if I were the Emperor.”

“Is that what you think of yourself as?” Reina asked quietly.

“No,” Ai said. “But it sounds nice, doesn’t it?” Finally making it to the center of the room, she flung her robe back to the podium and drew the long sword from her belt with a flourish, holding it in front of her with both hands and letting the tip fall toward Reina. “Shall we dance?” she asked.

“Ai-chan,” Reina said, rapidly losing hope. “We don’t have to do this. You’re their leader. You have the ability to end this… to make a difference.”

Ai clicked her tongue. “So little you know of the world, my dear Reina,” she said, and began walking back and forth across the center of the room, her attention still completely focused on Reina. “People thrive on dishonesty and hatred. If there isn’t violence and crime, they think something’s wrong, that they’re somehow less human. It’s the only thing still allowing people in this country to hope that there’s something… more.”

“No…” Reina said, feeling her jaw tighten as emotion welled up within her. “There are other options… There are other ways for people to feel human… There is love…”

“Love?” Ai asked loudly, and as if tasting a strange and unfamiliar word. “Is there…” she continued quietly. “And anyhow,” she interjected, seeming to ignore that topic for the moment. “I thought you wanted to fight me. It’s what you’ve been after all along, isn’t it? It just turns you on, doesn’t it? Don’t tell me my innocent little Reina isn’t drawn to violence like every… single… other... human… being.

Reina swallowed, feeling her eyes really beginning to moisten now. “No…” she breathed. “I’m not…”

“You’re not?” Ai repeated, and her voice suddenly became dangerous again in that deadly tone Reina had heard so often from her. “You see, I thought that might explain it.”

“What are you talking about?” Reina asked exasperatedly.

“You don’t remember?” Ai asked. “Let me remind you. While I was fighting for my life against that bastard, you got so into the moment you just couldn’t keep your hands… or your lips… off Michishige.” Reina felt her body freeze. “I was a little troubled, but then I thought well, you got into the moment. It was a tense situation. Anything could happen. But if violence doesn’t turn you on, then there was something else… Was that it?”

“No…” Reina said in a hoarse whisper.

Was it, Reina?!” Ai asked again, this time almost shouting at her.

“No!” Reina shouted back, and without thinking she jumped down at the girl.

As their swords clanged together, Ai looked hotly into her face. “Then you have no right to tell me how the world works!” she growled, and breaking their parry, began to dance.

At first, Reina did her best just to keep Ai’s sword from slicing something off of her, parrying and blocking with both her weapons as frantically as she could. The sound of clashing metal echoed off the stone walls surrounding them as the two girls who’ve shared so much and learned so much from each other now fought each other to the highest extent of those shared skills. However, it was more than that. It was a fight between competing visions of the world – one of necessary violence and one of peace, one of love and one of hate.

As Reina remembered what was at stake, as she moved beyond the temptation Ai gave her to simply attribute it all to a shattered romance that might never even have been, she felt the certainty of her cause concentrate her focus, and before long she was able to do more than parry and block the woman’s thrusts and swipes.

Ai was stronger than her; that much was obvious from her being the more athletic if nothing else. However, especially in her chosen two-weapon fighting style, and in ironic contrast to Ai’s own fight with the former Chairman, Reina was quicker. Ai could make her daikatana move with a speed that would amaze literally everyone, but Reina with her shorter swords and similar skills, even though she had trouble with a straight-out block, could deflect Ai’s own every time. In fact, as she became more accustomed to Ai’s style, which the girl used in a much more creative way than she ever had in their training sessions, she was able to deflect her sword for long enough to lunge and thrust her wakizashi in for a short, quick jab and slash riposte.

As this continued, and as Reina began to lose track of time as well as anything in their immediate surroundings that didn’t matter for the fight at hand, she managed to get quite a few of those swipes in at the older girl, whose outfit was now slashed in several places, and whose face was now supremely focused in concentration. Reina had marks of her own of course – Ai had nicked her thigh with a low attack, for example – but she was giving out at least as well as she took. Both girls seemed to have the youthful energy to keep the fight up for hours, but after she sliced past Ai’s sword with another riposte, Reina noticed something that astonished her so much she missed a parry that resulted in a cut on her collar that left it hanging down over her shoulder. She realized she could win.

As she fought on she came to grips with that fact, since she had basically accepted that if it came to a fight between the two of them, she would die. Now that the opposite possibility was most likely, she didn’t know what to make of it. She could kill the Councilmen because she knew they deserved a dire fate, but she could never convince herself, despite whatever she might have done, that Ai deserved the same. There was a girl she loved somewhere beneath that serious and grim exterior, and that girl deserved to see what could still be made of her life.

Quickly coming to a decision, hoping desperately that she was right yet no longer afraid of what would happen if she wasn’t, she set her face in determination and changed her tactics. She began adopting defensive moves only, and when Ai noticed this, grim satisfaction appeared on her face at the assumption that she was driving Reina back. After letting Ai think about this for a few moves, Reina dropped her katana as if in a badly calculated feint, and Ai kicked out at her chest, dropping her to the floor where her breath was knocked out of her. Then, before she could react, Ai drove her tilted sword point toward Reina’s neck, but halted just before piercing it, a smile no longer on her face. Instead, she breathed hard as she stared into Reina’s accepting eyes as if confused at what she saw in there.

Reina just stared back at her, hoping to find somewhere deep within those black pools the girl that she used to be… hoping to find Ai-chan. Reina kept waiting for the finishing blow, but it never came. The two girls just continued to stare at each other as if in unspoken communication. Then finally, the silence was broken.

“Stay away from her!” cried a voice from behind Reina. She heard a rush behind her, and saw Ai look up, but neither of them could react before the point of a sword flashed into view and drove through Ai’s midsection.

“No!” Reina cried in her own breathless voice as she saw blood-streaked white gloves appear behind the sword. The only reaction though was from Ai, who glanced back down at her with wide eyes before her sword clanged down beside her, followed by her warm leather-clad body falling down onto Reina.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2007, 06:29:08 PM by rokun »

Offline Sukoshi

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Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [36: The Path of Daggers]
« Reply #170 on: September 27, 2007, 12:56:44 AM »
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  *shakes fist*  :grr: 

this can't be!  darn that cute bunny girl !  UGH!  it can't end like this..................but since this isn't the last chapter there is still hope in my heart!   :cool2:  *pouts at Rokun* (hehe you knew this kind of reaction was coming  XD ) *goes back to pouting*

Offline JFC

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Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [36: The Path of Daggers]
« Reply #171 on: September 27, 2007, 03:48:56 AM »
Maaaaaaaaaaaan...you and your freakishly long, addictive chapters. XD

Well...here goes nothin'.   OSSU!



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Early the next morning, Reina led a small group of Sayu, Eri and Risa through the hotel lobby to the front desk. The hotel workers, by this time all aware that Reina Tanaka was staying in their Imperial Suite, glanced over at her from time to time as they went about their duties. They gave a careful eye to her companions as well. Reina would have bet almost anything that most of them had no clue who the three with her were, or even who she was before she checked in here last week. That was likely all for the best though, since the more time it took for people to realize others from Morning Musume were involved, the better. If it leaked out that half of the group was participating in a raid on a Yakuza fortress, they’d be lucky to ever be respectable again. Of course everyone would find out eventually, but if Reina had her way the effect would end up being almost completely opposite.
I'm actually wondering if any of the hotel workers might be moles/spies working for Aichan and/or the Council. If just one of them are...then Reina's secret raid might not be as secret as she thinks it is.



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“I’m leaving for the day,” Reina told the clerk, who was nervously bowing at her as she approached the counter. “I may not be back, but I’d like to keep the suite just in case.”

“As you wish, Tanaka-san,” he said, still practicing jerking bows. “I have reserved it for the week in your name. Shall I extend it in case…?” he offered, clearing hoping Reina would refuse.

Reina looked up as if thinking. “No,” she said finally. “I’ll be back by then if I need it. By all means, if I don’t return please feel free to rent it out to someone else,” she said with a sly grin.
One way or the other, Reina probably knows that she's not going to be returning to the hotel. If her plan is successful, then she'll have no need to come back as she'll either have replaced Aichan as head of the Council and thus will remain in Kobe, or she'll just leave them altogether and go wherever she wants. If her plan fails...well...dead people don't need hotel rooms, now, do they?



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Sayu caught up to her side. “You’ll come back,” she said resolutely. “I’ll make sure of it.”
Awwwwww... :oops:



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I still have a condo in Harajuku…”

She felt Sayu give her a level look. “You’re not still going to keep that, are you?”

“It’s paid for and the deed’s in my name,” Reina said with a shrug. “It’s just a house after all Sayumin, and if I’m still alive I’ll need some place to live, because who knows what kind of job I’ll be able to get afterward…”
Reina's being quite practical here. Besides, why shouldn't she keep it? Since it's already paid for she might as well make use of it. It'll be one less thing that she has to worry about.



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“Besides, maybe I’ll even invite you to come live with me…” A blush now infused the taller girl’s face and she cast her eyes down, though she couldn’t hide a faint smile.
TanaShige rabu-rabu desu!  :heart:



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Reina also caught Eri and Risa sharing a look out of the corner of her eye.

“That’s right,” Sayu said, her eyes upraised again and face still red, but now not likely with just her blush. “I’m her girlfriend now,” she said proudly.
Well, Risa and Eri were bound to find out sooner or later. :P  Better to hear it from the happy couple themselves than from some tabloid or from the way that Reina found out about the two of them. :mon sweat:



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As they walked down the sidewalk, a girl suddenly stepped out from a doorway to face them.

...

“Why are you here?”

Koharu stared back calmly, though with intensity in her eyes, a long knife of some kind held in her hand before her.
Oooooooooooooo...the girls by now must know that Koharu's mixed up in this too. She's still bound to be pissed off that Aichan chose Reina over her; and then to hear that Reina walked out on her, to Koharu (who desperately wanted to be the one to become Aichan's pupil/right hand) that would be seen as a MAJOR act of ungratefulness and betrayal. 



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“You’re going to see Takahashi-sama,” the girl said simply. Her outfit was quite different from how Reina had seen her last. She now wore tight jeans with a black leather vest, and displayed various signs in elaborate patches on it, some of which Reina recognized as insignia of various groups governed by NDI. She also had her hair in a ponytail that hung forward over her shoulder, and ribbons tied everywhere. Could the girl be more flamboyant? Well, apparently she’s gotten her wish, Reina thought, feeling grim.
Looks like Aichan found herself a new protogé (or she might be working for one of the other Council members).  Question now is, what is Koharu planning to do with that knife and how far is she willing to go? Another important thing to ask...how good is she with it? Reina and Aichan both were able to learn how to fight quickly and are very, VERY good at it. But what type of training, if any, has Koharu been doing?



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“You can’t be serious,” Reina warned in a low and dangerous voice.

Koharu stood her ground and jutted her lower lip in what was almost a sullen pout. “Yes I am!” she nearly yelled. “You may think you’re big and bad after whatever you’ve been doing the past year, but I’ve learned a few things too!” As if to prove her point, she began spinning her knife again.
Shit Koharu, are you really going to start something out in public like this? :O



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To Reina’s utmost disappointment the girl didn’t get to say what she intended to show her, because at that moment an object came flying over her shoulder and clubbed her on the side of her head, causing her knife to fly at Reina, who calmly caught it out of the air, and the girl herself to collapse in a bundle of ribbons and patches in front of them.
Well...I guess Koharu hasn't gotten to the part of training where she learns how to be aware of her surroundings yet. :lol:



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When she collapsed, she revealed a wide-eyed girl who stood behind her with her knees slightly bent and legs spread in a firm stance, clutching her retrieved handbag tightly in her hands while she stared at the fallen Musume. “I knocked out Koha-chan!” she said breathlessly as she nearly began swaying on the spot. “I killed my senpai!”

Suddenly grinning, Reina stepped forward and bent down to the girl. Seeing obvious signs of breath and pulse, she rose up to look at the youngest Musume. “She’s alive,” she said, still grinning. “I imagine she’ll have a pretty good headache when she wakes up though.” Her face turning to a frown, she glanced back down. “Maybe she’ll finally learn the meaning of humility,” she pondered, then looked back up to Aika. “Run back to UFW and ask them to send someone to help carry her back there. I have a feeling Tsunku will be pleased to have a word with her in her current state…”
YAY Aika! :w00t:   Wonder if her being there is a coincidence or not? ;D



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“By the way,” Reina began. “What do you have in your purse?”

Aika blushed. “Um… just my dance shoes… a bunch of makeup… a can of pepper spray… a —”

“I think I get the picture,” Reina interrupted, grinning.
Nice. XD



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“It’s about time!” Miki called out from the cab of a stretch hummer before they even reached the end of the block.

The four girls stopped, surprised, and looked at what was apparently their ride. “Well you surely don’t disappoint,” Risa said slowly.
Is it the same one from the "Find Miki-sama a Hobby" episode of Haro! Morning? :hee:



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A few hours later saw the girls riding into Kobe, and more than one of them was clutching her seat as if for dear life. Reina had done her best to keep herself calm amid all the bouncing and swerving Miki did for whatever reasons, but when the hummer finally pulled to a stop next to a familiar tall building she couldn’t help giving a small sigh of relief along with the others.

As she began to open the door, Eri grabbed hold of her vest. “Don’t leave us here to drive around any more with her!” the girl cried, her eyes big and pleading. Risa, however, calmly pulled the girl back to her seat.
Miki-sama brakes for NO ONE! :wahaha:

Hmmmm...that'd make a great bumper sticker. :P



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“Are you sure you’ll be okay?” she asked Reina.

“No,” she responded, looking above the hood at the building before them, before which now stood four guards, all looking stockier than before and none any longer from the group Miki brought in. “But it’s something I need to do. I have to try…” she said earnestly, and Miki nodded grimly.
One way or another, Aichan cannot be allowed to continue running things the way she has been doing so. She's strayed from the path she intended to walk when she initially deposed her predecessor, so now she must either be put back on the right path, or be removed from it completely.



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Sayu definitely demonstrated today why Reina found her quite attractive. She’d gotten rid of her vest to reveal long white gloves that stretched up nearly to her shoulders. Those along with a bright red leather sports bra were all she wore on her upper body that was capped off with pigtails contrasting with the rest of her mature look.

...

A short thick black and white striped skirt above knee-length hard leather boots completed her outfit.
* JFC composes a mental picture

...

Damn, that's pretty hot. :drool:



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After a few steps Sayu halted, looking at the guards and then up at the building. “Are you sure this is a good idea…?” she asked uncertainly. “Just the two of us going into this… fortress…”

“Remember,” Reina reminded her, “I lived and worked here for months.”

“But you don’t anymore,” Sayu responded, looking down at her with concern.
That's true. Aichan could have very easily changed the security layout/protocols during the time that Reina's been away. There's also the question about how many guards they'll have to deal with.



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Here men and women scurried about their busy tasks as always, and although nobody noticed the two young girls at first, once they made their way further within nearly every head turned toward them in a wave that seemed to emanate from their path. In a similar wave, the crowds parted around them to leave quite a clear bubble in which they walked. Reina expected a reaction of this sort, but what she didn’t expect was that once most of them had maneuvered out of their way, they stood still to stare at them as they passed. Had the Council alerted the whole building to their arrival?
This is definitely strange, and it makes it look more and more likely that Reina's "visit" was expected. If that's the case, were the people here told to not interfere with her and to let her go, unhindered, to wherever she wanted to go?



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“Reina...” Sayu whispered into her ear. “It looks like they expect you to say something.”

*REINA'S SPEECH*
Interesting strategy here that Reina's trying to take. Most of the employees of Nippon Dai Ichi are just that, employees. They just come in and do their jobs as they're told to do them.  While they aren't all in the loop in regards to what happens amongst the upper echelons of the company, some of them at least, are bound to know of the more questionable/corrupt things that the company does.  Chances are many of these employees are still decent, moral people who don't agree with the actions the Council takes.  If Reina can get support from them, they might be able to effect some real changes in the company from within it's own ranks.



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Well it was no use to expect everyone to agree with her, and actually it seemed only the minority did. Well, her battle wasn’t going to be won here anyway. For all their talk these people would follow whoever was in authority over them. Yamagata’s tenure surely proved that.
But at least now they know that: A) there ARE people within the company that are both capable of speaking out/speaking up, and B) there ARE people who disagree with the old, corrupt ways and who want things to change for the better.

The support may be only from a few, but it's still support nonetheless.



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Before long they came to a nondescript door, and Reina reached out and knocked at it with a black-gloved hand.

...

“Remember,” Reina said to her companion in a harsh whisper. “Be on your toes, and do whatever I tell you.” She gave a meaningful glance to the two muscled guards that came into view beyond the door, and Sayu nodded, swallowing.
It's been strangely quiet up until this point. But now that they've come this far and are at THIS point...that's likely to change.



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With Sayu at her heels, Reina walked into the dim chamber lit primarily by two beady red lights on the back wall. After a few steps Reina stopped casually, Sayu a pace behind and to her side. She looked around at who was present in the room, holding her head high. As always, the two tables forming a half-moon stood at each side, but only five figures sat behind them. On the left sat what appeared to be a woman – Ishihara-san – and on her right one of the other Council members. The three remaining sat behind the other table.
So the whole Council is present? Must be to ensure that none of them can dispute whatever is going to happen within the next few moments.



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“Reina Tanaka,” she said formally, if a bit tight. “You’ve been granted audience here to present your case for pardon and potential re-admittance to the Council. However, I don’t recall permission being given to bring another with you – even one who performed honorably during the Succession.”
Might it be that Ishihara-san's job was to arrange this "audience" for Reina?  If so, the ruse of it being because she was asking for re-admittance would definitely have gotten Aichan's attention, and made it more likely that Reina would make it up to this point unscathed.



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“What are you trying to do here?” she growled warningly. “If you’ve come to apologize to me…”

“I’ve come to do no such thing,” Reina said, though her voice was no longer casual. She pulled her focus and concentration as tightly around her as she could, and with her increased sensation felt Sayu notice her new attitude and tense up as well. “On the contrary,” she continued loudly, “I have come for your apology, Ai-chan.”

The Council members had apparently had enough of their ceremony and tradition being stood on its head, and several of them rose from their chairs as if it would help their objections be heard more loudly.
Oh crap...here we go. :scared:



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Reina couldn’t spare time to see how Sayu did though, and, trusting her at her back, pulled knives she’d hidden beneath her sleeves and hurled them at the two Council members who had stood behind the right table. Each found its mark true, and the men fell back, clutching at gutted throats as their lives bled out of them.
Whoa, she's attacking the other Council members!

Makes sense when you think about it. Even if the head of the Council changes, if the rest of the Council remains the same, then it's not likely that the company's policies and practices will change. While the head of the Council makes the final decisions, the Council members also have a lot of power themselves which they undoubtedly abuse.  Reina didn't come just for Aichan, she came to take out the people who have been ensuring that Nippon Dai Ichi continued in it's dark, corrupt ways.



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At the other table, Ishihara-san faced the Councilman beside her, who stared at her with a mouth that drooled blood as she held a dagger of her own in his chest. “Your foulness has sat beside me for too long, Yanagizawa,” she said through gritted teeth. “This girl may be young, but she has a good head on her shoulders. It’s time for a change…” With that, she twisted her dagger and pulled it out of the man, who crumpled at her side.
So now Ishihara-san is the only Council member left alive? If she is, and if the rest of Reina's plan works, then she'll be able to help Reina re-shape Nippon Dai Ichi and set it on a new path.



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Ai sat calmly as if nearly the entire population of the chamber hadn’t just been murdered, and gazed around at the devastation before finding Reina’s eyes again. “I should have expected you to try something like this today,” she said softly and regretfully. “I’m impressed though,” she said, her voice gaining strength as she went on. “I never took you for such a cold killer. It was always one of your flaws.”

Reina felt a pang of guilt and regret in her stomach before she stamped it out. “It couldn’t be helped,” she said in a very tight voice. She knew those men deserved death, and so much more.
Again, we're seeing a replay of sorts here. In confronting Aichan, Reina is now doing what Aichan did when she confronted Yamagata. She dealt with those that were in her way quickly and ruthlessly. There was no way that the Council members would change their ways had they been allowed to live, so to see that the final goal is met, they had to be eliminated.



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“So,” she said finally. “Are you going to fight me?”

Reina gazed at her calmly a moment. “You knew this was going to happen the whole time,” she stated. “Why all the foreplay?”
If Aichan knew that Reina would try this, then shouldn't she be able to see that she's doing it because she's becoming the same as Yamagata was?



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Ai clicked her tongue. “So little you know of the world, my dear Reina,” she said, and began walking back and forth across the center of the room, her attention still completely focused on Reina. “People thrive on dishonesty and hatred. If there isn’t violence and crime, they think something’s wrong, that they’re somehow less human. It’s the only thing still allowing people in this country to hope that there’s something… more.”
The sad thing is...Aichan is at least partially right. Human beings are emotional creatures, and as much as we would like for the world to be a utopia, we know that it's not possible at all.  Thus, we become desensitized, and perhaps even EXPECT there to be evil and darkness in the world.



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“Let me remind you. While I was fighting for my life against that bastard, you got so into the moment you just couldn’t keep your hands… or your lips… off Michishige.” Reina felt her body freeze. “I was a little troubled, but then I thought well, you got into the moment. It was a tense situation. Anything could happen. But if violence doesn’t turn you on, then there was something else… Was that it?”
Oh shit Aichan saw that? The previous night she had told Reina that she loved her...then to see that, WHILE she's fighting for her life...you can't help but wonder if that moment might have darkened Aichan's heart just enough to set her on the path she's currently on.



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Both girls seemed to have the youthful energy to keep the fight up for hours, but after she sliced past Ai’s sword with another riposte, Reina noticed something that astonished her so much she missed a parry that resulted in a cut on her collar that left it hanging down over her shoulder. She realized she could win.
Now when it says that she realizes that she can "win" here, it means she knows that she has the ability to beat (i.e. kill) Aichan.   But, will she actually go that far, and can she actually bring herself to do it if it's necessary?



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Quickly coming to a decision, hoping desperately that she was right yet no longer afraid of what would happen if she wasn’t, she set her face in determination and changed her tactics. She began adopting defensive moves only, and when Ai noticed this, grim satisfaction appeared on her face at the assumption that she was driving Reina back. After letting Ai think about this for a few moves, Reina dropped her katana as if in a badly calculated feint, and Ai kicked out at her chest, dropping her to the floor where her breath was knocked out of her.
She intentionally allowed herself to be disarmed...why? Is Reina gambling that Aichan still has some goodness left in her?  If so, then she knows that this must be the last chance for Aichan to "come back".  If she doesn't do it now, then there's no chance of saving her at all.



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before she could react, Ai drove her tilted sword point toward Reina’s neck, but halted just before piercing it, a smile no longer on her face. Instead, she breathed hard as she stared into Reina’s accepting eyes as if confused at what she saw in there.
Aichan has fought Reina enough times to realize that something is not right. Reina couldn't have been beaten so easily like this. She knows that Reina allowed this to happen, and like the rest of us, she's wondering why.



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“Stay away from her!” cried a voice from behind Reina. She heard a rush behind her, and saw Ai look up, but neither of them could react before the point of a sword flashed into view and drove through Ai’s midsection.

“No!” Reina cried in her own breathless voice as she saw blood-streaked white gloves appear behind the sword. The only reaction though was from Ai, who glanced back down at her with wide eyes before her sword clanged down beside her, followed by her warm leather-clad body falling down onto Reina.
OH CRAP, SAYU!!! :OMG: :OMG: :OMG:

JPH!P :heart:'s Fushigidane, ChrNo, Jab & marimari. Always.

Offline rokun

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Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [37: Shiawase Desu ka?]
« Reply #172 on: October 05, 2007, 10:18:00 PM »
First off, thank you everyone for reading this throughout the past year or so I've been posting here. ^_^ This has taken about a year and a half of my life I'll never get back and is definitely the most intensive work I've ever completed, and I hope it wasn't terrible. If this ending seems a little different from what you expected, well, then I succeeded in always trying to offer what you don't expect, no? :) Anyway, for this story I just couldn't imagine ending it any other way. I hope everyone has the same feeling I do when you're finished reading. It's been such a roller coaster, and I wanted to end it on a high note. So, one last time, without further ado, the conclusion to Reina's Odyssey...


Chapter 37 – Shiawase Desu ka?

Missing Musume Makes Mark: Politicians and underworld bigwigs around Japan scramble for cover as petite princess Tanaka Reina, formerly of Morning Musume, formerly considered dead until suddenly appearing in downtown Tokyo, takes the reins of the top Yakuza organization she was rumored to have joined. Tanaka dropped the veil of secrecy surrounding Nippon Dai Ichi, allowing names and deeds to be revealed to the media as well as police, who after an initially lukewarm reception surreptitiously warmed up to the information after discovering that many sergeants and several chiefs across the nation were incriminated by its contents.

Tsunku laid the edition of Sunday Mainichi he was reading from on his desk and folded his hands, looking over them with a small smile and curious eyes to Reina, who sat beyond the desk in a chair smiling innocently in return.

“My boss was fired, you know,” Tsunku said after a moment. “Something about… washing clothes, and supplementing UFW’s profit numbers. The good thing about that…” he began to continue, and leaned back in his chair, stretching his arms out to the sides. “Is I’ve been promoted, and thus have full authority over what to do with you. The bad thing…” His grin widened. “I’ve had to do some scrambling of my own to disavow any knowledge of certain… acquaintances. That I was successful would explain how you and I are both here at this moment.”

“Is that so?” Reina asked ambiguously. “I’m sure I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She smiled mischievously herself.

“Ahh, Reina, Reina…” Tsunku said. “If I’d known how capable you were, I would have hired you for a completely different job to begin with. I would guess my sense for talent doesn’t normally apply to that arena, though… So,” he said, letting his hands fall to his desk as if he was getting to business. “What can I do for the girl that just triumphed over Japan’s most powerful and corrupt? I hear the Prime Minister himself was called in for questioning. I’m afraid we may see our first change in ruling party since before even I was born…” Talk about being afraid as he might, he didn’t sound the least bit troubled by that idea. Quite the opposite, in fact.

“Well you know,” Reina began slowly. “I wanted to join Morning Musume because I wanted to be famous…”

“That’s something you won’t have to worry about anymore,” Tsunku replied, still grinning. “I’m surprised I didn’t see you with more of an entourage. You came with only Michishige, yes?” Reina nodded, and Tsunku studied her closely. “I’d give a lot to know what’s going on there,” he said finally in a quieter and more serious voice.

“She’s my most trusted ally,” Reina responded simply, though Tsunku didn’t seem at all satisfied with the response. “Anyway, that’s why I joined Morning Musume. All the singing and dancing were just steps on the way toward other things I wanted. But…” She paused a moment, thinking wistfully. “Since being away from it for not far shy of a year now, I’ve realized how much I really miss those things. I have plenty of… other… job possibilities now, but I’d be grateful if I could still perform to some extent.”

Tsunku blew out a low whistle between his teeth as his eyes seemed to glaze over in whatever vision he was seeing. “‘The return of ex-Yakuza queen Tanaka Reina to Morning Musume.’ I can just imagine the publicity writing itself.” His eyes refocused onto Reina, and he seemed to adopt a serious tone again. “What makes you think we’d have you back? I hear the NPA has issued a specific warrant for your arrest on dozens of counts… as well as for Takahashi-san.” He looked at her quizzically as he finished.

“I wouldn’t worry about that,” Reina continued with a smile. “I’ve had a little necessary contact with members of their bureaucracy, and I believe we’ve worked out agreements beneficial to us all.”

Tsunku continued studying her before completely changing his expression to one much lighter. “Well! That’s that then, I take it. Besides, nothing like a little crime and scandal to put spice into our celebrities.” He became suddenly grim again, although Reina could tell he was doing his best not to crack a laugh. “Though you know, the wotas may not be able to keep embracing your whole idol image any longer. I think it’s safe to say that’s gone quite by the by.” Reina didn’t disagree. “Still, I have a feeling other factors may more than compensate for that. You’re going to make me learn a new way to do business, Tanaka-chan,” he finished as if reprovingly.

“I’m sorry,” Reina said with a small smile, bowing her head. “Thank you.” And she stood as if preparing to leave.

“I don’t suppose you’d know if Takahashi-san might make the same request as you, do you? Having the both of you back would be quite the boon, even though it’s you that’s received most of the public attention.”

Reina paused as she was turning. “I couldn’t say…” she said without looking into Tsunku’s face.

“…You did say you’d promise to keep me in the loop on things in the future,” he said quietly, trying not to sound aggressive.

Reina nodded. “I know. I’m just… not ready to talk about that yet. Things with her are… much more complicated.”

Tsunku looked at her, the emotion in his eyes betraying that he obviously was expecting the worst. This was the first time she spoke to him since leaving for Kobe weeks ago, and as far as she knew, no one knew exactly what happened there except those that were present, and maybe a few others not at all connected to Tsunku. While she’d made a business lately of revealing secrets, this was one she wasn’t quite ready to let out of her heart yet, and thankfully the others involved felt the same.

“Are you and Michishige involved?” Tsunku asked suddenly, catching Reina slightly off-guard at the subject change.

“Um…” she responded, oddly not knowing what to say.

“You know if you come back, you two will have to be careful,” he continued. She hesitated a moment before nodding slowly, deciding in this case to be honest. “Niigaki and Kamei have been doing the same. People may be able to accept you joining the underworld, assassinating its leaders, and then bringing nearly the entire Japanese system into chaos, but I have a feeling that might be a bit too much for them to handle.” Reina finally looked over to him to see a not-so-small smile on his face.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” she responded with a smile of her own, and headed out the door at his nod.

Outside, Sayu was standing waiting for her, apparently a bit impatient. Reina thought the girl was going to attack her in excitement when she appeared, but instead she kept herself to unnecessarily tidying up Reina’s vest before asking nonchalantly, “So how’d it go? I told you not to get your hopes up too high, Panda-chan…”

Reina scrunched up her nose. “Don’t call me that,” she said for what must have been the hundredth time since Kobe. Couldn’t there have been another pet name for the girl to come up with? Whenever Reina asked about it though, Sayu just responded with, “But you’re so cute as a panda! And that’s what you are – my cute Reina-panda.” Reina sighed. How could she argue with that? “It sounds like he’ll have me back, so you’re gonna have to deal with me at work as well as home again from now on,” she continued with a poke to the other girl’s shoulder.

Sayu froze as she was picking at imaginary fuzz on Reina’s collar, but couldn’t say anything before girls burst from seemingly all around her.

“Really?!?!” Eri beamed from one side.

“Yay! Reina-chan is back!” Aika said, and gave her a hug, much to Sayu’s disgruntlement.

“Nice going, squirt,” Miki said with a smirk next to Aya.

“Good,” Yossi said, and Reina looked to her for the first time in what seemed ages. For some reason she appeared far more mature than she remembered. “Niigaki needs some more members to give her better leadership experience.”

“Hey, I’m doing quite well as it is!” Risa interjected from her side. At a glance at Reina, she bowed her head in a blush. Reina guessed after their recent experiences that Risa might feel slightly uncomfortable about being Reina’s “leader”. Of course, Reina thought to herself, All of that might be different, if only… She didn’t get much time to her thoughts though as the girls continued their excitement at her seeming return.

“You know though,” Yossi said after it calmed down. “They might just have to rename you Evening Musume,” she said with a grin. “You all don’t have the brightest reputations anymore, you know.”

“That’s not true,” came a young voice from down the hall, and the gathering hushed as another girl walked up to them. “While there might be…” She lowered her head in a blush. “Some of us who haven’t done anything to redeem ourselves, Eririn, Sayu, Gaki-san, and especially Reina-chan here have done far better things than anyone else I know. In fact, when Tsunku had me on house arrest and I thought about lots of things…” A couple of the other girls chuckled slightly at that comment, and the young girl glared at Miki. “My parents couldn’t stop admiring Reina.” She now looked up and beamed at Reina with fervor much different than what Reina had last seen on her face. “You’re definitely still Morning Musume, even if no one else is.”

Reina smiled as she looked back at the girl amid skeptical looks from the others. “Thank you, Koha-chan,” she said. As if her words broke some kind of spell over them all, Koharu’s tense face eased in a smile and the other girls pulled her in to join the celebration. Ah… Reina thought. It was good to have everybody back together again. Well… almost everybody…



A short time later, after escaping the girls momentarily with the prospect of many parties on the weekend’s horizon, as well as dodging the media attention that still accompanied her nearly everywhere she went, she rose out of a taxi along with Sayu and walked up a short grassy hill.

As they walked, Sayu brushed at her skirts. “I still don’t understand why you insist on taking taxis everywhere…” she grumbled. “They’re so dirty. Plus, we have enough money to even buy our own limo and driver.”

Reina smiled at her treatment of the two of them as one unit now. After a few rocky moments, especially dealing with the aftermath of Kobe, the two had settled in at Reina’s Harajuku condo. Reina couldn’t be happier, and for all of Sayu’s random grumbling, she had yet to hear a real complaint. “No more personal drivers,” Reina stated simply yet unequivocally.

Sayu was quiet at that. She knew better than to argue with Reina on this point. Argue they did on a great many small things due to each of their quite intractable personalities, but their fundamental beliefs were the same, and Reina in her newfound sadomasochistic fondness actually looked forward to those fights, because the two of them inevitably ended them by making up in a correspondingly enjoyable way. “Still,” Sayu said though, pouting, “You’ve gotten all those millions of yen in compensation and royalties from NDI, and we’ve got to use it on something.”

“We’ll go shopping and I’ll buy you new clothes tomorrow. How about that?” Reina said, patting her girlfriend’s shoulder. Sayu’s pout turned grouchier.

They were silent a while as they walked further on past headstones and small vaults for urns until Sayu spoke up again. “I don’t know why you still insist on coming here. The last thing this grave deserves is a flower…”

Reina clutched her hand tighter around the flower she held. She knew Sayu didn’t have a relationship before her. Neither of them had really had the chance since they came into the celebrity world so young. Reina couldn’t deny her nature, though. At times like these Reina just did her best to be patient with the girl’s understanding. She looked over at Sayu, who was looking down at her feet as she picked her way across the short grass. She hoped that Sayu could discover things like this with her in the future… and also that they both would discover much more, since Reina knew she hardly knew it all herself.

They saw another girl at the grave as they neared it, and although Reina was slightly surprised, she stayed silent as she left Sayu slightly behind to walk up to it and kneel down to lay the flower atop the relatively freshly dug mound, bowing her head slightly for a short prayer. Then, opening her eyes but not looking up, she asked the girl standing there, “I wouldn’t have expected to see you here.” Looking at the grave, Reina almost couldn’t bear to look up at the one she addressed.

The girl didn’t respond for a moment before saying softly, “I’ve made it a point to visit everyone who died in this war, no matter what side they were on.” Reina looked up at the carving on the headstone as the girl spoke, and tears came to her eyes. “I can’t say I’m not surprised to see you here too,” the girl continued.

“I can’t help my emotions,” Reina responded. “Like you said, no matter how things turn out in the end, it doesn’t change what people mean to you.”

There was silence for a minute again. “You were always much wiser than me,” the girl responded finally, and Reina felt her kneel beside her. “A snapdragon?” she asked. “Odd choice for a gravesite…”

Reina still refused to look at the girl beside her, but when her eyes became so watery that tears began to fall, she turned and threw her arms around her, causing her to give a sharp intake of breath and tense up, but Reina didn’t care. “Oh, Ai-chan…” she said. “Please tell me it’s all over. It is, isn’t it? I’ve tried to stay strong for so long, but it’s been so hard…”

Recovering from the initial pain at Reina’s tight embrace, since she still hadn’t fully recovered from being impaled through her stomach, she patted Reina’s back somewhat awkwardly. With their history and Reina’s new relationship with Sayu, the relationship between the two of them had changed considerably. Ai had apparently gotten used to the idea after her weeks in the hospital, and had accepted her own responsibility in dooming whatever the two of them had. However, loneliness had also sunk in, and Reina knew that recently she’d realized the true meaning of what she felt. She also understood how much she’d damaged Reina’s trust in her, and by observation on their visits just how well she and Sayu got along in contrast. This was the first time since then Reina had made such an affectionate gesture toward Ai – in fact, the two rarely even touched – and Reina knew it must be hard for her, but she also didn’t want them to be completely separated for good. Eventually Ai seemed to relax, and hugged her lightly back in a friendly manner.

“You know much better than I whether it’s over,” Ai said in response to Reina’s plea. “Not in small measure by your own advice, I’ve left that far behind, though it seems like you’re doing a much better job than I ever tried to.”

Reina pulled back slightly to look into Ai’s face. She knew that of course, and she knew that through her actions things would be quite changed for all of them from now on. But… “Ai-chan, I just need to hear it.”

Ai looked back at her seriously, and after a moment responded, “It’s over, Reina-chan.” Reina smiled and bent in to hug her again, this time being more careful of her stomach.

The connection between the two former lovers, the former senpai and kouhai, the former master and apprentice, was brought back to reality at the sound of someone clearing her throat behind them. “Um… excuse me?” Sayu said. “Should I be getting jealous?”

Reina pulled back from Ai and smiled to her girlfriend, tears still glistening on her face. When Sayu saw them, her eyes softened in concern. Then she turned back to Ai, who smiled and nodded, and she rose up to walk over to the other girl. “Sorry,” she said guiltily and with a smirk. “I don’t know why you’d feel that way though.” Sayu stared back at her, unamused. Reina giggled and kissed her cheek before turning back to the grave. Ai was just rising slowly to her feet herself, holding her tender midsection as she did so.

As they looked at the grave, Reina wrapped her arm around Sayu’s waist. “I’m sorry,” the girl beside her said after a time, and Reina glanced over at her. She was looking at Ai with a pained face.

Ai turned back, unsure if she was the one being addressed, but when she saw she was she responded, “Don’t worry about it. You apologized quite enough in the hospital.” The corner of her mouth drew back in a slight smirk. “I’ll live.”

“No thanks to me…” Sayu said, dropping her eyes and grumbling.

Reina felt like giggling again, and wrapped both her arms around the girl to hug her tightly. “My hero…” she said softly, and felt Sayu blush. She turned to the grave to see Ai look back at them, smiling softly.

“A snapdragon is a funny flower to put on a grave…” Sayu said, apparently trying to change the subject.

“I know,” Reina said, looking back at the headstone with a sad smile. “But it’s something I felt I had to do. He was good to me for a long time…” Apparently not being able to give a response to that, the other girls stayed silent as they looked on.
“Well,” Reina said after a time. “Shall we go? I’ve got a taxi waiting if you’d like to join us, Ai-chan.”

“No thanks,” Ai said as they walked back through the graves. “I think I’ll just walk to the station.” It was funny, Reina thought. They passed through all these cold stone tablets to mark the dead, but they stood also among so much life in the well-kept lawn and amid the bustling city around them. Was everything she encountered in life going to be a paradox?

Once they reached the street, Reina and Sayu still hand-in-hand and Ai walking with them as they headed toward their taxi, Reina heard a small voice from the other side.

“Mommy! Mommy! That’s Reina Tanaka! She’s from Morning Musume, and the one you’ve been talking about from all the papers! Do you know who the other two girls are? Are they famous, too?”

Reina glanced over and saw a mother and daughter stopped across from them, the daughter staring wide-eyed and the mother just now squinting her eyes as she also looked at the three girls.

“Yuri dear, of course that’s not Reina Tanaka. She’s too young. Besides, what would someone like that be doing just walking down the street with friends?”

“But mommy…” Yuri apparently wasn’t convinced.

“However, since you know about Reina Tanaka, you should learn everything you can about her. She did some very great things, and made the world a better place. She’d be a wonderful role model for you.”

Now Yuri jumped up and down and shouted over at the three girls, who had now stopped to watch; Sayu and Ai with grins on their faces and Reina trying to disappear into her taller girlfriend’s side. “Did you hear that, Reina! My mommy said I should be like you! I’ll do my best, and maybe I can even join Morning Musume someday!” After that, Yuri’s mother gathered her up and they continued on their way, Yuri looking back as much as she could at the three girls who stayed still as they watched the pair leave.

Reina looked back and forth at the two grinning girls she stood between and gave a pout of her own. “Let’s go. The taxi’s right here…”

“Whatever you say, my hero…” Sayu said teasingly, but when Reina looked at her she saw pride in her eyes. Looking at Ai, through the darkness her own eyes still contained she saw pride as well. Until her and Sayu entered the taxi, she couldn’t look away.

~ fin ~
___________________________________________

I hope you enjoyed my little story. ^_^ This is also the time if anyone has questions about anything. Time for this thread to make the slow journey through the pages. :) Jaa~ mata de~

Offline JFC

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Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
« Reply #173 on: October 06, 2007, 04:09:32 AM »
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“Missing Musume Makes Mark: Politicians and underworld bigwigs around Japan scramble for cover as petite princess Tanaka Reina, formerly of Morning Musume, formerly considered dead until suddenly appearing in downtown Tokyo, takes the reins of the top Yakuza organization she was rumored to have joined. Tanaka dropped the veil of secrecy surrounding Nippon Dai Ichi, allowing names and deeds to be revealed to the media as well as police, who after an initially lukewarm reception surreptitiously warmed up to the information after discovering that many sergeants and several chiefs across the nation were incriminated by its contents.”
Well, that's definitely one way to start changing things in the organization. The main reason why it has been able to do what it's been doing for so long is because it's been able to maintain it's veil of secrecy.  They had always worked from the shadows, where most people were not aware of their existence. Not only has Reina brought them out from the shadows, she's put them in the spotlight.  Everything that they do, have done, and may potentially be doing will now be subject to public scrutiny.

But enough about that...what happened to Aichan!?!?!?  :?



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“My boss was fired, you know,” Tsunku said after a moment. “Something about… washing clothes, and supplementing UFW’s profit numbers. The good thing about that…” he began to continue, and leaned back in his chair, stretching his arms out to the sides. “Is I’ve been promoted, and thus have full authority over what to do with you.
Well, this could explain the "underworld connections" that he had mentioned in one of the previous chapters.



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His grin widened. “I’ve had to do some scrambling of my own to disavow any knowledge of certain… acquaintances. That I was successful would explain how you and I are both here at this moment.”

“Is that so?” Reina asked ambiguously. “I’m sure I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She smiled mischievously herself.
But of course she doesn't. ;D



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She paused a moment, thinking wistfully. “Since being away from it for not far shy of a year now, I’ve realized how much I really miss those things. I have plenty of… other… job possibilities now, but I’d be grateful if I could still perform to some extent.”
It's amazing that a lot of people don't often realize the good things that they have in life until they no longer have them.  More often than not people in similar situations as Reina is in wouldn't have a problem with "going back in time" so to speak and having that experience once again.



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“What makes you think we’d have you back? I hear the NPA has issued a specific warrant for your arrest on dozens of counts… as well as for Takahashi-san.” He looked at her quizzically as he finished.
Okay, the fact that warrant was issued for Aichan implies that she might still be alive. Question is though, what kind of condition (mentally, emotionally, physically) is she in? Is she still "the Chairperson" of Nippon Dai Ichi, or is she back to being "Aichan"? :O



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“I don’t suppose you’d know if Takahashi-san might make the same request as you, do you? Having the both of you back would be quite the boon, even though it’s you that’s received most of the public attention.”

Reina paused as she was turning. “I couldn’t say…” she said without looking into Tsunku’s face.

“…You did say you’d promise to keep me in the loop on things in the future,” he said quietly, trying not to sound aggressive.

Reina nodded. “I know. I’m just… not ready to talk about that yet. Things with her are… much more complicated.”
Oh crap, Aichan hasn't been keeping in contact with Tsunku? That's not a good sign, nor is Reina's response. When you boil right down to it, it could mean 2 things, either Aichan is alive, but Reina doesn't keep in contact with her, or Aichan died that day by Sayu's blade. :cry:



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Sayu was standing waiting for her, apparently a bit impatient. Reina thought the girl was going to attack her in excitement when she appeared, but instead she kept herself to unnecessarily tidying up Reina’s vest before asking nonchalantly, “So how’d it go? I told you not to get your hopes up too high, Panda-chan…”

Reina scrunched up her nose. “Don’t call me that,” she said for what must have been the hundredth time since Kobe. Couldn’t there have been another pet name for the girl to come up with? Whenever Reina asked about it though, Sayu just responded with, “But you’re so cute as a panda! And that’s what you are – my cute Reina-panda.”
Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww...Ya gotta admit, Sayu calling Reina "panda-chan" IS damn cute. :luvluv2: 



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“It sounds like he’ll have me back, so you’re gonna have to deal with me at work as well as home again from now on,” she continued with a poke to the other girl’s shoulder.

...

“Good,” Yossi said, and Reina looked to her for the first time in what seemed ages. For some reason she appeared far more mature than she remembered. “Niigaki needs some more members to give her better leadership experience.”
Starting to look less and less likely that Aichan is coming back, if she's even still alive.



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A short time later, after escaping the girls momentarily with the prospect of many parties on the weekend’s horizon, as well as dodging the media attention that still accompanied her nearly everywhere she went, she rose out of a taxi along with Sayu and walked up a short grassy hill.
Something tells me their going to visit someone. :k-sad:



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“I don’t know why you still insist on coming here. The last thing this grave deserves is a flower…”
Curse you for dragging this out like this.



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They saw another girl at the grave as they neared it, and although Reina was slightly surprised, she stayed silent as she left Sayu slightly behind to walk up to it and kneel down to lay the flower atop the relatively freshly dug mound, bowing her head slightly for a short prayer. Then, opening her eyes but not looking up, she asked the girl standing there, “I wouldn’t have expected to see you here.”
What the...it's not Aichan's grave that they're visiting? But then, who's grave IS this?



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The girl didn’t respond for a moment before saying softly, “I’ve made it a point to visit everyone who died in this war, no matter what side they were on.”
These sound like words that would be spoken by someone who was in a position of responsibility, and who is making an effort to atone for his/her role in whatever tragedy they were a part of.

The girl HAS to be Aichan, but if so, it still doesn't answer the question of who's buried here.



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Reina still refused to look at the girl beside her, but when her eyes became so watery that tears began to fall, she turned and threw her arms around her, causing her to give a sharp intake of breath and tense up, but Reina didn’t care. “Oh, Ai-chan…” she said. “Please tell me it’s all over. It is, isn’t it? I’ve tried to stay strong for so long, but it’s been so hard…”
IT IS AICHAN!  :shocked:



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Recovering from the initial pain at Reina’s tight embrace, since she still hadn’t fully recovered from being impaled through her stomach, she patted Reina’s back somewhat awkwardly. With their history and Reina’s new relationship with Sayu, the relationship between the two of them had changed considerably. Ai had apparently gotten used to the idea after her weeks in the hospital, and had accepted her own responsibility in dooming whatever the two of them had. However, loneliness had also sunk in, and Reina knew that recently she’d realized the true meaning of what she felt. She also understood how much she’d damaged Reina’s trust in her, and by observation on their visits just how well she and Sayu got along in contrast. This was the first time since then Reina had made such an affectionate gesture toward Ai – in fact, the two rarely even touched – and Reina knew it must be hard for her, but she also didn’t want them to be completely separated for good. Eventually Ai seemed to relax, and hugged her lightly back in a friendly manner.
It's quite possible that at one point in time, Aichan really DID honestly love Reina, but taking on the responsibilities of being Chairperson twisted that all and ruined something special that they had. By the looks of it, facing death in the face finally got Aichan to take a good, long hard look at herself and what she had been doing, and it looks like she's choosing to take responsibility for it.  The sad thing is, it also looks like she's sort of punishing herself for it by isolating herself. Tsunku has said that she had made no requests as of yet to return to H!P and MM, and considering the gravity of what she had done, the shame that Aichan feels over what she did is probably too much for her to overcome right now.



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“A snapdragon is a funny flower to put on a grave…” Sayu said, apparently trying to change the subject.

“I know,” Reina said, looking back at the headstone with a sad smile. “But it’s something I felt I had to do. He was good to me for a long time…” Apparently not being able to give a response to that, the other girls stayed silent as they looked on.
Sunnovabitch...it's Daisuke, isn't it? I KNEW I had heard a reference to "snapdragons" somewhere before. They were the type of flower that he brought to Reina's trailer when she first met him on that photoshoot in the first chapter! (yes, I cheated and looked :P ).

Out of all the death that's happened in this story, his is probably the only one that was truly tragic.  His death wasn't caused by hatred or by ambition or revenge or anything like that, it was caused by his sense of loyalty...which was unfortunately directed to the wrong side at the time.



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~ fin ~
Epic dude. Simply epic. :bow:
« Last Edit: October 06, 2007, 04:11:29 AM by JFC »

JPH!P :heart:'s Fushigidane, ChrNo, Jab & marimari. Always.

Offline iacus

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Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [37: Shiawase Desu ka?]
« Reply #174 on: October 06, 2007, 09:04:16 AM »
*applause*
That was an awesome end to an awesome story. I honestly feel the same way about the ending: Any happier or sadder and it wouldn't have fit the rest of the story. I don't have anything interesting to say or ask but I would like to say thank you for writing this story. I enjoyed it so much.

Offline Sukoshi

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Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
« Reply #175 on: October 07, 2007, 10:25:29 AM »
I too would like to thank you for writing such a beautiful and moving story.  The ending was quite fitting and a lot lighter than I thought it would be...maybe even the lightest it's been in the story.  I think the change in mood was refreshing to have in the end.  It felt like the story took a 360 since it went all the way back to the snapdragon but that really added closure.  I also like how the couples seem to be in it for the long haul.   It's still sad to think that Ai chan's in a dark place...though I'm glad there's hope for the girl that we all love so much.  I'm not sure if you're interested in devoting possibly yet another year to writing another epic but I'm glad that you shared so much of your creativity with us in all your stories  :nya:

Offline rokun

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Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
« Reply #176 on: October 08, 2007, 07:45:52 PM »
Thanks for your comments guys. :) It's nice to hear some people like what I do. That's just it - it's what I do. I write this stuff because it's fun to me (and because it's great at preventing me from being bored and making time go quickly on some long workdays XD). I couldn't have imagined this story would turn out this long - it came to be a medium-length novel - when like I said, I just wanted to write something out of :heart: for Reina. This was rather a role reversal of Curse of the Dragons, but I also didn't want to end it the same way. It easily could have, but the point of this story to me is the hope of a better life.

Even though I'd begun a sequel to CotD, I don't feel any need for a continuation of this story, so this as it is should likely be finished. However, you know I won't be able to forget Reina, and so one of these days when the longing takes me, I'll start putting into words one of the ideas that have been floating around in my mind the past several months. :) While Berry Beautiful is meant to be like a soap opera, I'd love to write another more epic story too that also involves Morning Musume. However, after looking at the seemingly quite disparate audiences for my two stories, I'd like to write something that everybody might enjoy. While my writing might be a bit too complex or serious for those that read these for some light fun, I'd like to appeal to as many people as I can.

So, even though there are only a few of you that have been posting here, what kinds of things interest you? JFC, you seem to read everything around here, but I've yet to see you in Berry Beautiful's thread. ;) How about the rest? Is there anyone else that has been loyally reading but has never really commented here? I'd love to hear from you too, because you're my target audience! I want something that will pull you in and engage you. :) Let me know!

In the meantime, I'll think about things and try to get back into writing regularly (I've had a busy schedule the last couple weeks that's finally slowing down a bit). And for those who like it, enjoy Berry Beautiful for now. :)

Cheers!

Offline JFC

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Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
« Reply #177 on: October 08, 2007, 08:56:47 PM »
It never even occurred to me that you had reversed the roles Aichan and Reina had from CotD. Nicely done. :)

JFC, you seem to read everything around here, but I've yet to see you in Berry Beautiful's thread. ;)
I don't know why, but for some reason I just can't get into Berryz-centric fics.
* JFC shrugs


So long as a fic is comprehensible, I'm personally willing to reading almost anything. :)

JPH!P :heart:'s Fushigidane, ChrNo, Jab & marimari. Always.

Offline g4rfield

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Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
« Reply #178 on: October 27, 2007, 11:10:34 PM »
Thank you for writing such a captivating story. My appreciation of how much of a wonderful writer you are after I was enthralled and sat for hours in front of my monitor, leaky eyes and all, eager to read this til the end, have went up a couple or more notch.  :P I have to say it's definitely the most 10 hours of my life spent not uselessly.  :grin: You've piqued my interest from Berry Beautiful and thought since you commented you liked to write epic and epics are usually pretty long, I start digging through this forum to find more stories by you.

One final note: :kneelbow: This is for not killing any H!P girls!  The waterworks have burst ever since that first chapter revealing Miki to be dead and later, on Ayaya presumed to be dead. I'm not sure if  can handle Eri, or Ai to be killed off as well.  :yep:

Now I'm off to read Curse of the Dragons. I expect nothing less than great reading material coming from it as it does on this one and the current on going Berry Beautiful. Since I don't have an LJ account I think I'll put my comment on CotD thead.  :D

PS: Are there other fics you would like to recommend me reading wrote by you or other people that you like?

Offline rokun

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Re: A Young Girl's Odyssey [Epilogue ~COMPLETE~]
« Reply #179 on: October 27, 2007, 11:40:13 PM »
Wow, I didn't expect anyone else to post here! Thank you so much for your kind words. :)  :shy1: :kneelbow: I can't imagine someone just reading my stories for hours on end! I hope this had some cohesion, lol. If you go off to read CotD, I can't make any guarantees to its quality since it was my first fic (of any kind, ever except for one or two very short (maybe 6,000 words) beginnings to stories that never coalesced. And that was like 10 years ago even), and I've not really read through it for a long time myself. ^^;; If nothing else though, I'm glad you've enjoyed what you've read so far.

You're right, I've had a hard time killing off any H!P girls lol. I really need to do that in one or two of my fics... Maybe that'll happen in Circle, but with how I have the plot planned out it wouldn't be any of the major characters at least - at least until the end. I think my problem is I spend so much time developing characters that I just can't bear to kill any off because it robs me of the joy of writing them any longer. :lol:  Hmm, I was almost going to spoil something here if you haven't read CotD yet (although I think I did already in some earlier post), so upon another read-through I deleted it. ^^ Suffice to say, your idea on this might change a little after reading through CotD...

Wow, recommendations, lol. I've not written any other stories than what you seem to have found, so nothing to worry about there. And if I say too much about other writers the ones I don't mention will get mad at me. >.> I already have too few friends around here, lol. Anyway, I'm actually a pretty bad reader here (too much involved in writing and my actual career...), so I haven't read a whole lot of other stories... but Wordsworth's material is very enjoyable to me. He actually got me hooked with a short perv fic from way back when lol, but then I really liked "Too Young". It's what really got me thinking about Berryz & co. as far as fanfics. Detonator M is also good, although the genre isn't a favorite of mine. :lol: Otherwise... "OTN" has great characters, and everyone else here seems to love her writing. My own has kind of mirrored hers in a way. ^_^ We both like character over all else I think... However, I've also not read everything of hers because I can only take so much GAM, and she's such a GAM groupie. :P

Well, thank you again, and I'm glad I've not wasted hours of your life! ^^;;;

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