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Kyoko stood in front of her desk at school, irritated but not surprised. Seriously? This was happening again? Here? She shook her head at the vase of white chrysanthemums. Whoever had done this -- and she had a sneaking suspicion of who -- hadn’t even bothered to put water in the vase. She settled gracefully onto her seat and pulled the flowers out of the vase, setting aside the admittedly pretty container to take home. She glanced at the clock. Twenty minutes to class. A smile played around her lips.

“What are you doing ?” shrieked an indignant Nanokura Mimori, six minutes later. She had strutted into the classroom expecting to find that Mogami girl crying over the death flowers, but she didn’t seem bothered at all. In fact, she seemed to be enjoying herself.

“Making a flower crown,” Kyoko replied, her fingers twisting the stems expertly. Her few remaining grudges flew out from the shelter of Mio to bask in this girl’s aura. “Why?”

“You -- you do know what white chrysanthemums mean , right?” the model stalked over to her seat, hands on her hips. 

“Mm-hmm.” Kyoko made a few final twists, then held up the completed crown to admire her handiwork. “In addition to being a symbol of mourning, they also represent loyalty and devoted love.” 

“Or a declaration of people wishing you were dead!” Mimori snapped back. 

Kyoko gave a delicate little shrug, then put on the crown and took a picture. “They’re beautiful regardless. Do you want your vase back?”

Mimori flushed. “You think Mimori did this?”

Kyoko sent the image to two of her favorite people, then set her phone to silent and put it away. She got out her books, then set the flower crown carefully atop her bag so it would not get smushed. Finally, she looked Mimori in the eye. “No one else in this class really recognizes me, let alone has something against me, Nanokura-san.” 

“That’s because you’re not trying to steal their boyfriends!” Her hands were on Kyoko’s desk now as she leaned over the girl who was, for the third year in a row, her classmate. 

Kyoko rolled her eyes. Her grudges did the same. “Nanokura-san, how many times do I have to tell you I have no interest in him?”

“Mimori knows you do! Otherwise why would you have put a hex on him to make him so obsessed with you?” She pulled her hands off of Kyoko’s desk and stomped her foot on the floor. “It’s been ages since you worked with him, but anytime you’re on TV, it’s Kyoko this and Kyoko that! Let go of my Sho!”

Kyoko glanced at the clock. Other students would be arriving soon, and she really didn’t want them to get the wrong idea from Mimori’s tantrum. “Nanokura-san, seriously -- I have no interest in him. I didn’t put a hex on him. Honestly, I would be perfectly happy to never see him again. The only reason I’ve seen him at all in the past year was that you called him and told him that I was at school.”

“But--!”

One of Kyoko’s grudges clamped the girl’s mouth shut. Kyoko took a deep, steadying breath. “Nanokura-san, I don’t know how else to explain this without basically giving you my life story. If that is what it will take for you to leave me alone ,” she hissed, a bit of anger slipping through her calm facade, “then let’s talk after school. Okay?”

The grudge released Mimori’s mouth, letting the girl say, “Why would I want to know your life story?”

“Because it would convince you, once and for all, that there never was anything romantic between him and me -- and never be.” Kyoko leaned over and slipped her phone out of her bag. She sent a quick text.

Mimori struggled with herself for a moment, before finally accepting this. “Fine.”

“Good. And no telling him .” 

“Why not?” Mimori asked, her phone already out.

Kyoko glanced over the text back she’d received, then sent an affirmative response. “Because it’s in your best interest to keep the two of us separated. And I’m going to tell you things that he doesn’t want people to know, because they ruin his ‘cool’ image.”

At that point, other students began trickling into the room, and Kyoko’s grudges forced the model over to her seat. Mimori glared daggers at Kyoko, who began reviewing her notes from last class.

***

After their last class was over, Mimori stalked over to Kyoko and glared at her. “Let’s go.”

Kyoko took another deep, steadying breath. She was not going to snap at Nanokura-san. The girl was in as deep as she used to be. This was for both of their own good. “Alright.” She put on her flower crown, picked up her bag, and pulled out her phone. Good. She was here. 

Mimori blinked, flabbergasted. Why was this girl so weird ? Who in their right mind would make a crown out of death flowers, much less wear it? And why, why, why was Sho so obsessed with this weirdo?

Kyoko led the way to their lockers, where they both changed into their outdoor shoes. Mimori followed a step behind Kyoko, arms crossed and pouting. Or at least, she was a step behind Kyoko until she burst into a run.

“MOKO!” Kyoko yelled, launching herself at her best friend, who was waiting just inside the school’s gates. Kanae stopped her with a well-timed hand to her forehead. “Ow! Moko, why?”

“Because you’re causing a scene. Nice crown, by the way.” Kanae’s gaze found Mimori. “Is that her?”

“Yup! And thank you, Moko! I knew you’d like it. Do you want to wear it? It’d look so good against your dark hair, and --”

“Who is she, and why is she here?” Mimori demanded, having finally caught up to Kyoko. 

“This is Kotonami Kanae, future number-one actress in Japan and my best friend in the whole wide world!” Kyoko beamed, linking her arm with Kanae’s. 

Kanae allowed this. “And I’m here because the last time she was alone with a girl who hated her this much, Kyoko almost got thrown off a building. So let’s go already.”

Mimori blinked at this blunt and frankly scary answer. “Where are we going?”

“Karaoke.” Kanae started walking, tugging Kyoko along with her. Having a best friend was a pain, she told herself. 

“Mimori doesn’t want to go sing! Mimori wants answers!” she protested, trotting after them.

Kanae rolled her eyes. “We’re not going to sing. The boxes are soundproof.”

Kyoko nodded. “It’s the best place to have a private conversation. You never know who’s listening. After all, this isn’t a conversation you’d want to have overheard, right?”

Mimori pressed her lips together. She had no retort to that.

***

One short bus ride later, the three of them were tucked into a karaoke booth, and Mimori was staring indignantly across the table at Kanae. “You want my what ?”

“Your phone. You’ll get it back when we leave. I don’t want you recording this.” She held her hand out in front of Mimori, palm up. 

“No! Mimori doesn’t trust you!”

Kanae shrugged. “Then leave.” When Mimori opened her mouth to respond, Kane continued, “We don’t trust you either. So either you hand over your phone or you leave. Take your pick.”

Mimori glared at her, but dropped her phone in Kanae’s hand. “If you break it, you’re paying Mimori back!”

Kanae did not dignify this with a response, instead shutting off the phone and tucking it into her pocket. She then glanced over at Kyoko and regretted it instantly. Her best friend was staring at her with wide, sparkly eyes. She didn’t have enough room to dodge as Kyoko threw her arms around her, squealing, “Moko, you’re so cool!”

“Get off. You’ve got a story to tell. And the sooner you talk, the sooner we can go home. You’re cooking tonight.” Having Kyoko as a roommate could be exhausting, sure, but it did come with certain benefits -- namely, her incredible cooking (and seeing her best friend every day, but Kanae would never admit that). Kyoko had just gotten too popular to be able to safely stay at the Darumaya, so the two had gotten an apartment. If it was secure enough to keep Kanae’s family out, it was secure enough to keep anyone out.

Kyoko nodded, recipes already swirling in her mind. She shoved them into the meeting room for Bo to look over and focused on the task at hand. Reluctantly releasing her best friend, she sat up properly and turned her attention to Mimori. “Okay, I’ll start from the top, and I ask that you don’t ask questions until I’m done.” Mimori nodded. “Sho and I have known each other since we were four years old.”

“What?” Mimori gasped.

“Mo! She just told you to be quiet!”

Kyoko soldiered on, ignoring Mimori but shooting Kanae a thankful glance. “My mother and I lived at his family’s ryokan on and off for quite a while, and she would leave me in his parents’ care when she was particularly busy with work. When I was still in elementary school, she left me with them permanently, and it was understood that I was being trained to be the next okami and Sho’s wife when he took over the ryokan.”

“You’re lying!”

This time, Kanae put a hand over Mimori’s mouth to stop her outburst. “Shut. Up.”

Mimori shot Kanae a filthy look but closed her mouth. Kanae removed her hand and returned the glare.

Kyoko wished that she had gotten Corn stone out of her bag for this -- or at least worn Princess Rosa today. But she did have Moko here, so she would be alright. She swallowed, then continued, “Of course, Sho never liked that idea -- he’s always wanted to be a musician, even when his parents disapproved. And I… back then, he was the only one I had. I was hopelessly devoted to him, and believed him to be my prince. He liked that about as much as the idea of taking over the ryokan. But I refused to see it. So at the end of junior high, when he asked me to come with him to Tokyo, I said yes.”

Kanae put her hand over Kyoko’s and squeezed. Kyoko flipped over her hand and squeezed back. Mimori sat silent, shell-shocked. He had brought her with him?

“We got here, and I worked three, sometimes four jobs to support us while he worked on his music. He got into Akatoki and -- well, I won’t bother recapping his career. But he started coming home less and less, and grew more and more unpleasant. He stopped even pretending to care about me. The only time he would even sit and have a conversation with me was when I got him strawberry pudding. And yes, before you ask,” she said, a hint of a smile on her face, “I’m serious. He loves strawberry pudding but refuses to buy it himself because he thinks he’s too cool for it.”

Mimori’s face was twisted in confusion. This… made no sense. Was she making all this up? Her Sho would never be so uncool as to like pudding! Letting Mogami support him, sure, but pudding?  

“Anyway, the day after -- I guess you’d call it an argument? Anyway, the day after he was really upset about a TV special giving Re… giving Tsuruga-san more time than him, I went to see him at work. I thought I’d bring him some Moz to cheer him up.” She prayed that Mimori wouldn’t notice her name slip-up. “And I saw him on Shoko-san’s lap, trying to seduce her. She asked him about me, and he brushed me off. He said that he’d just brought me to Tokyo to be his maid, and that he’d send me back when he was done with me. He said that I was plain, boring, and had no sex appeal whatsoever. I… was pissed. Any affection I’d had for him turned into hatred.” Kyoko gave an awkward little laugh. “I said I’d get revenge on him, and then he had me thrown out of the building. And that’s it. That’s our entire history, up til the point that you know -- the PV.”

Mimori didn’t know where to start with her questions. This just… was so much to take in. Sho was from a ryokan? He was a runaway? He loved strawberry pudding, of all things? And she…. “You loved him?”

“I thought I did. Knowing what I know now, I’m not sure if it was really love, or if it was more of a desperate little girl clinging to the only person who had ever even tried to care about her.” She shrugged, a bad habit she’d picked up from her fairy prince. Well, at that time I didn’t know Corn was a person. I really did think he was a fairy.  

“Do… do you still love him?” Mimori’s voice wavered between timid and suspicious.

Kyoko shook her head. “No. But I don’t hate him anymore, either. I’ve moved on with my life.”

Kanae gave her hand another squeeze, this one approving, and then released it.

“But then… why does Sho keep chasing you?”

“I guess he still sees me as property,” Kyoko sighed. “He doesn’t like thinking that there’s anything he can’t have, even if he doesn’t really want it or it wouldn’t be good for him.”

“But…” Her face twisted.

“Nanokura-san, there’s a reason I’m telling you all of this, more than just getting you to leave me alone,” Kyoko said. 

“What?” Her mind was spinning. Mogami had to be lying. She had to be. But what would she gain from making herself look so pathetic?

“You… you remind me of how I was. Back when I thought I loved him -- back when I thought he cared about me.” She lowered her eyes to her hands, clasped properly in her lap. “So I wanted to ask you… when was the last time Sho did something for you?”

Her mind stopped spinning. “He… he does things all the time! He…” No, that had been her reward for telling him about Kyoko. “He let Mimori listen to him record his new song.”

Kyoko was looking at her with something uncomfortably like pity. “That’s not what I meant. When was the last time he went out of his way to do something that made you happy? Something he wouldn’t have done otherwise?” Like giving you rides, helping you with work, taking time out of his day to call you just to say hello, helping you work through your issues, bringing you your favorite meal when you’re not feeling well, insisting on doing the dishes since you made dinner, or making sure that you know you are a priority in his life? And none of this because you asked it, but because he wants to?

Mimori opened her mouth, then closed it again. She glared at Kyoko. “Mimori doesn’t have to tell you.”

“No, you don’t. But please believe me when I say I don’t want anything to do with Sho anymore.” She stood, and Kanae tossed Mimori her phone before doing the same. Kyoko pulled Mimori’s vase out of her bag and set it on the table. “Here’s your vase back. Do you want us to wait until someone comes to pick you up?”

She shook her head. “Mimori doesn’t understand. Why are you being nice?”

Kanae clicked her tongue, her hand already on the door handle.

“Because I used to be you.” She smiled then, a sad smile dipped in pity. “Good luck, though. He’s all yours, if you want him. But you deserve better, Nanokura-san.” She bowed and turned to leave.

“Mogami-san, wait!” She had so many questions, so much to say -- but none of it came out. “Keep the vase. Mimori only spent five hundred yen on it.” (A/N: ~$5)

Kyoko beamed at her and picked up the beautiful vase. “Thank you! I’ll see you at school.”

Mimori watched them leave. She would sit alone with her thoughts for a long, long time before she turned on her phone and called her manager to come get her. 

***

“You really are too nice, you know,” Kanae said later, at their apartment. She was standing next to the stove, stirring a pot while Kyoko chopped vegetables.

Kyoko beamed at her, the flower crown still perched on her head. “That’s why I brought you with me, to keep me from being stupid about it! You really are amazing and the best friend a girl could ever ask for, and --”

“Mo, enough!” she grumbled, cheeks flaming. “I didn’t have anything else to do.”

“Still,” Kyoko grinned, “you spent your precious free time on me!” She finished chopping the vegetables and popped over to check on the pot. “Okay, a few more on those. Good, that’s just enough!”

Kanae had long since given up on trying to understand Kyoko’s half-sentences when she cooked. The result was delicious regardless, and unless it was a special occasion, Kyoko made sure to keep it low in calories but high in protein and vitamins. She just watched in amazement as her best friend half-danced around their kitchen, preparing enough food for them to have leftovers for lunch tomorrow. She even had their bentos out, filling them with bits and pieces as she cooked.

“Moko, where’s the green bento box?” Kyoko asked as she began stir-frying the veggies. 

“Doesn’t your hubby still have it?” She raised an eyebrow.

“We’re not married!” Kyoko squeaked, cheeks going red. “And I thought he gave it back the other day, but I can’t find it.”

“Not married yet ,” Kanae teased, still stirring the pot. “Double-check with him, maybe? But why do you need it? You’ve got two out already.”

“Ah, I was going to make one for Ren. Yashiro-san arranged for the two of us to have lunch together tomorrow. I’m not making him one because he said he had something to take care of, so would I please make sure that Ren eats?” 

“When are you two going to tell him you’re dating so he can stop trying to be subtle about arranging time for you two to be alone?” Kanae raised an eyebrow.

Kyoko giggled. “Eventually. Probably not until we’re ready to tell the president, honestly.”

“Fair enough. Hey, I think this is done.” Kanae couldn’t help but feel honored that Kyoko had trusted her with this secret -- one that quite literally no one else knew. 

The two girls finished making dinner and sat down to eat with an “Itadakimasu!”

“Hey, Kyoko?”

“Yeah, Moko?” 

“Isn’t that the green bento box sitting in the drying rack?” She pointed with her chopsticks. 

Kyoko let out a deep sigh. It really had been a long day. 

***

Kuon collapsed onto his couch and finally, finally was able to check his phone. His day had been insanely busy, even for him. He was trying to finish everything he had to do as Ren before his mother’s upcoming birthday, so he and Kyoko could fly out and spend the whole week with his family. He didn’t know whether to thank the gods or Lory that her school’s break had lined up so perfectly. Probably Lory -- he was trying to get her to stop calling him a kidnapper. Shaking that line of thought out of his head, he unlocked his phone and scrolled through his messages. To his delight, Kyoko had texted him this morning. He felt a pang of guilt for not being able to reply for so long as he clicked on it.

Her image filled his screen. Right, he thought, she’d had school this morning. But where had she gotten a flower crown, if that was the case? You look adorable, princess , he typed, adding a heart emoji. But something niggled in the back of his mind. Didn’t those flowers mean something at a school? There was something from a drama… what was it? He added to the text, What flowers are those?

A few minutes of him staring blankly at his ceiling later, his phone lit up with a call from Kyoko. He answered, a real smile blooming on his face. “Hey.”

“Hi, Kuon.” Kuon -- so she was already in her room for the night, as was Kanae. “Long day?”

“Yeah. I didn’t even get to look at my phone until now. I’m sorry it took me so long to reply to your text,” he sighed.

Her voice hummed over the phone, wrapping around him like a handmade blanket. “No worries, love. I know you’re working hard so we can go see Mom together.” Okay, so it wasn’t just Moko; Kuu and Julie also knew they were together. And she suspected that Kuon had made nice with her previous landlords to gain their approval as well, even if she hadn’t told them herself. 

“I liked the flower crown. What type are they?” Why do they bother me?

Kyoko hesitated for a moment before answering. “They’re chrysanthemums.”

“Those…” his voice was heavy with exhaustion. “Those mean… something.”

“Well, when they’re left in a vase on your desk at school, that either means that you died and are being mourned, or it’s a bullying tactic to convey that people wish you were dead. But they also symbolize loyalty and devoted love, which is why I made them into a flower crown.” He could hear the smile in her voice, as if she wasn’t bothered at all by being bullied at school. School, which she loved so much.

“Who left them on your desk?” He wondered if he was managing to keep his voice calm. He was so tired he honestly couldn’t tell.

“Nanokura Mimori,” she replied, rolling her eyes at his protectiveness over something so silly. At his blank silence, she continued, “You know, the other angel in the PV? The one I pretended was Moko?”

“She’s in your class?”

“Mmm-hmm. Has been every year, by some stroke of bad luck.” 

“Has… has she been doing this the whole time?” How could he have missed something like that?

“What? No, that many flowers would get too expensive.” She gave a soft laugh. “And it’s been on-and-off stuff, nothing too serious. Not even Nacchan’s level one. She’s just one of his fans and was convinced that there was something there.”

Was ?” he asked, keeping his voice as measured as he could.

“Yup. Moko and I took her to karaoke.”

“Karaoke?” he echoed, concern stirred by her mention of Natsu. He had watched Box ‘R’ (several times); he knew what happened when Natsu took an enemy to karaoke. 

“Mmm-hmm. The one that Moko and I use to talk about stuff we don’t want anyone overhearing.” There was a pause, then she continued, “I didn’t really know how else to get her off my back, to prove that there wasn’t ever anything there and never would be, and Moko took her phone so she couldn’t record it, but now I’m wondering if it was a good idea, and --”

“Kyoko, breathe.” He could barely keep up with her fully awake; his exhausted mind couldn’t make sense of the words. 

“I -- I told her about my past. And how Sho used me and threw me away. Because,” she gulped, “because she reminded me of how I used to be. I wanted to try to -- I don’t know, help her? Let her learn from my mistakes?”

“What?” He was only partly following.

“I told her all of that, then asked her when Sho had last gone out of his way to do something for her -- something he wouldn’t have done otherwise. She refused to answer me, so I think she got my point. Er, both of them.” 

“...I continue to be amazed by how nice you are.”

“Moko said I’m too nice, which is why I took her with me. I wouldn’t have thought of confiscating Nanokura-san’s phone.” She shuddered. “Though in hindsight, I’m really worried about her taking the story to the press. It doesn’t make me look very good.”

“It makes Fuwa look worse, so if she’s that devoted to him, she won’t say anything. And if this wakes her up, she’ll probably be too grateful to you to sell the story.” Though they would have to give Yashiro a heads-up. He made a note to do that when he was more awake. 

“True. I just… I hope she figures it out. Because even with how annoying she is, she deserves to be treated better than that.” She let out a huff. 

Gods, she was so forgiving. So caring . “I am the luckiest man on the planet to be with such a goddess of a woman.”

Kuon! ” she squeaked.

“I… said that out loud, didn’t I?”

YES!

“Oops?”

“You don’t sound remotely sorry.” 

He wondered what color her cheeks were. “Like you guessed, it was a long day. So my filter’s slipping.”

“Then I’ll let you get to dinner and bed. I’ll see you at lunch tomorrow, right?” She cradled the phone with her shoulder as she rearranged the blankets on her bed.

“Yeah. I’ll see you then.” His words were soft, but she could hear the tenderness under his exhaustion. “I love you.”

“I love you, too. Thanks for taking the time to talk when you’re so tired.”

“Of course, princess! You know I’ve got all the time in the world for you.”

“Okay, now you’re getting Corn -y.” She scrunched her nose and giggled. “Sweet dreams.”

“Sweet dreams, princess.”

***

Mimori had made up her mind. There was only one way to figure this out, and she was going to do it. So, armed with her secret weapon, she slipped into Sho’s dressing room the next day at lunch, a smile plastered on her face. 

“Sho! Mimori brought you something!”

“What is it, Pochi? I’m busy.” Sho did not glance up from the music sheet on which he was writing. 

“Here you go!” she piped, taking the pudding out of the bag and putting it down on top of his paper. “Your favorite, right?”

Sho jolted backwards, hit by an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. He blinked up at her, and for a moment her image mixed with another dark-haired girl -- the dark-haired girl who now sported lighter locks. “I -- what?”

“Mimori got it just for you.” She gave him a sweet smile. 

“Pochi, what’s going on?” he asked, bewildered. 

She dropped her smile. “Mimori talked to Mogami-san yesterday. She said she wanted to help Mimori.”

Sho blinked. “She wanted to help you? With what?”

“With you. Mimori asked her for hints, because Sho doesn’t tell Mimori much.” She twisted her fingers together in front of her. “Did she lie about the pudding?”

“No,” his mouth said without his permission. “But -- why ?” Why would Kyoko help Pochi? And why with him?

“Why what, Sho?” she asked, giving him a pout she knew to be adorable.

“I -- I thought you hated each other. Why’d she help you?” And why with me?

She shrugged and pulled a spoon out of the bag. “Here you go! Eat up!”

Sho did as he was bid, enjoying his favorite treat for the first time in -- had it been years? Mimori watched his face contort in pleasure. So Mogami-san hadn’t been lying about the pudding. Did that mean the rest had been true? She bit her lip. “Sho…”

Sho glanced up at her. “What?”

“Mogami-san told Mimori other things. About you two growing up. And coming to Tokyo.” 

Sho swore into his pudding. “God, Pochi, why’d you have to talk to her about all that? It’s in the past. It’s over. ” At least, Kyoko seemed to think it was, if she’d go blabbing their past to Pochi of all people. Did that mean she’d told other people? Did that pin-head actor know?

Mimori flinched, but held her ground. “Sho is the one who keeps going after her.” 

“Ugh, whatever.” He scraped out the last bits of pudding from the container. I’m not going after her. I’m getting back what’s mine .

“Sho…”

What? ” he snapped. 

“Mogami-san asked Mimori a question, right before she left. That made Mimori realize some things.” She crossed her arms.

“And?” He didn’t want to hear this, any of this. 

“She asked Mimori when the last time Sho did anything for Mimori that he wouldn’t have done otherwise. Something you needed to go out of your way to do.” She looked at the floor, not wanting to lose her nerve. 

He really didn’t want to hear this. Didn’t want to hear that Kyoko had moved on enough to ask questions like that. Didn’t want to hear how Pochi had answered. “So?”

“Mimori realized that Sho’s never done anything like that for Mimori. It was always as thanks, or something Sho would’ve done anyway, like recording his songs.” She looked up at him again, hating the tears that pricked her eyes. “It made Mimori wonder… does Sho even care about Mimori at all?”

Sho looked stricken. He didn’t answer her; she didn’t need to read his mind to know that his thoughts were not on her. 

“Mimori is glad that Sho enjoyed his pudding. Mimori… Mimori needs to go.” She turned on her heel and left the room. She didn’t want him to see her cry and try to fix it with just a hug. 

When Shoko entered the room a few minutes later, it was to a Sho who had not moved. “Sho?”

He blinked and looked up at her, dazed. “I… I think Pochi just dumped me.”

About time, she thought, but gave him a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. “Well, at least you won’t have to put up with her tagging along with you anymore. You always say that she’s annoying you.”

Sho nodded blankly, his sense of déjà vu even stronger, and pulled the song he had been working on back over to him. 

He didn’t get much work done that day.

***

Around the same time that Mimori was confronting Sho, Kyoko and Kuon were sequestered in the LoveME room, having lunch. Yashiro had dropped Ren off there a few minutes prior, claiming to have a lunch meeting with a fellow manager. It would be horribly boring, really, so Ren should eat with Kyoko instead. He would be back in time to head to their next appointment, so just enjoy lunch!

Kyoko giggled around her chopsticks. At Kuon’s raised eyebrow, she explained, “I just never realized how often he did things like this before we started dating.”

“Believe me, he tries for more. I’ve seen him grumbling over our schedules mumbling about ‘stupid busy actors’ more than once.” He took a bite of the stir-fry. “This is delicious, by the way.”

She beamed. “Thank you! Moko and I made it last night. We had enough for all three of our bentos.” 

His concerns from the previous night resurfaced. “After karaoke?”

She hummed a ‘yes’ around her chopsticks.

“Are you sure you’ll be okay, having told that girl your history?” 

She swallowed her food, then said, “Yeah. Even if she went to the press with it, it’s not like she has proof, thanks to Moko. It’d be my word against hers -- and I’d hope that Shoko-san would have enough sense to keep his mouth shut about it.”

“Let’s hope.” He sighed, then reached out and stroked her cheek. “Are you okay? I know it must’ve been hard to talk about it.”

She leaned into his hand, smiling. “I’m really okay. I had Moko with me, and it’s not like I’ve not told people about it before. It was honestly worse when I had to tell Takarada-sachou about it.” That had been an interesting day. Honestly, the man had been more upset than she had when she was explaining the situation. But after that, Lory had investigated how Sho kept getting her number. She hadn’t gotten an angry call from ‘unlisted’ since. “But thank you for asking.”

“Of course,” he said softly. He brushed his thumb over her cheek, then reluctantly removed his hand. They were at work, after all. Anything more than a brief touch would have to wait until they were away from Lory’s cameras. “Will you let me know the next time someone bullies you, though? Even if you think it’s something silly?”

She nodded and took another bite of her lunch. “It’s really only been her. I haven’t even had trouble on set in a while. But I’ll keep you and Moko updated.” She glanced down at his still mostly-full bento.

He caught her look and took another bite. “Thank you.”

She shot him a teasing look. “And you’ll tell me if any of your co-stars give you trouble?”

He chuckled. The last time someone had made trouble for him on set, he’d been Cain. “Sure thing, princess.”

***

The next day found Kyoko having lunch at school. She was just pulling her notes out of her bag to read while she ate when someone cleared their throat. She looked up to see Mimori standing in front of her desk, holding a bento and what looked like a bag of homemade cookies.

“Can Mimori have lunch with you?”

Kyoko blinked at her. “Er, alright.” She tucked her notes back into her bag as Mimori set down her food and dragged over a chair. 

The two ate in awkward silence for a few moments before Mimori shoved the cookies at Kyoko. “These are for you.”

“Thank you…?” She took them, confused. “Er, Nanokura-san….”

“Mimori talked to Sho,” the model blurted. “Mimori talked to Sho and Sho liked the pudding like you said he would. And Sho didn’t say anything when Mimori asked if he cared about Mimori at all.”

“I’m so sorry--” Kyoko started to say, but Mimori interrupted her.

“So the cookies are to say thank you. Mimori would still be trailing after him if you hadn’t told her the truth. You didn’t have to, but you did. So… thank you.” She stared at her hands, embarrassed. 

Kyoko opened the bag and popped one of the cookies into her mouth. They were small, star-shaped sugar cookies with multi-colored vanilla frosting. “These are really good, Nanokura-san.” If a bit sweet. Definitely not something Moko would even want near her.

“Mimori would like you to call her Mimori.” She fidgeted in her seat. “We got off on bad terms because of him, so Mimori would like a do-over. To maybe be friends?” She glanced up and was startled by the genuine smile Kyoko was giving her.

“That would be really nice! You can call me Kyoko, Mimori-san.” She took a bite of her bento. “I’ve always wanted a friend to have lunch with at school!”

And so Kyoko turned yet another enemy into a friend. She has a knack for that, doesn’t she?