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Your First and Greatest Fan

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“Shirasagi-san? Another batch of letters for you.”

Chisato lowers the compact and faces the assistant with one of her patented child actress smiles. “Ah, my thanks. Could you just put them right here?”

Nodding, the agent stacks the bundle of envelopes on the coffee table before taking her leave. 

Chisato’s smile persists, slowly fading into a neutral expression as she finishes applying her makeup. Never a moment to waste with her--she’d be called on for the interview any minute, and she had to be flawless. Sure, it was just a quick stint for a daytime talk show, but there was never a bad time to look presentable, was there? Considering after this she had to hurry on to Pastel*Palettes’ practice, and then on home to do schoolwork, and then sleep early in order to get a headstart on the next day…

...Hm. Perhaps she should take the moment to put her feet up after all. Even one minute would be enough to read one fan letter, no? Yes, just one or two would help.

It’s a daily occurrence, to the point of tradition. About a dozen or so letters arrive on her proverbial perch daily, and she does her best to read through as many as she can. Obviously she can’t make the time to read each and every one--in the absolute worst case scenarios, she asks her agent to send an automated response to the writers, but should she get a moment or two of respite she can’t help but try to reply herself. Best to try and let her ardent fans know she cares about them, no? Even when it pushes her to her limits, she has to make time for them. In that sense, this moment of relaxation is just another task on her to-do list. Perhaps that should worry her...

Shrugging those idle thoughts off, she slides the edge of her yellow-dyed index nail to slit open the first letter. The contents are familiar:

Chisato-chan, you’re a huge inspiration to me! I grew up with your work and I revisit it often! Keep shining on!

She feels her lungs reflexively exhale. She’s read this sort of praise a thousand times before, and there was a time where she’d move past it with scarcely a second thought… but lately she’s tried to take more appreciation of such tokens. Perhaps she’s gotten more sentimental, or perhaps she’s grown to understand how cherished her position is… either way, she does her best not to discard such feelings, even if they are from someone she’s never met.

She opens more letters to find similar aphorisms. Your work is so incredible… you’re my absolute favorite actress… I want to be just like you when I grow up... One--clearly penned by a kindergartner--even includes a crayon drawing and a Chisato’s name scrawled haphazardly in hiragana, eliciting a delighted giggle.

And then... she reaches the lavender envelope.

It always comes in a lavender envelope, written in a violet ink with such fine calligraphy that the combination of royal purple and eloquent penmanship would make anybody imagine a prince wrote it. In one sense, that might’ve been correct, although Chisato rolls her eyes at the thought--does the writer always need to go to such specifically florid measures each time? She almost laughs at her own question as she tears open the envelope a little more brazenly than the rest. The contents were crisply folded and expertly penned, without a drop or stroke out of place:

Dear Chisato

I know not when you will read this letter--whether by the cold candlelight of your own bedroom or the washed-out fluorescents of your agency, I hope my words burn just as bright. It has been too many moons since last we met, and for each night that passes my heart sinks further into my stomach at your absence. My eyes are constantly cast towards the horizon, anticipating our meetings that are as fleeting as your moments of reprieve.

I trust you are as well as you have ever been. I happened to witness your variety show special last Sunday, and I must say you are as delightful as you’ve ever been--silver-tongued, crystal-eyed, and with hands so deft that they could paint the wind… how I wished I could reach out and stroke your cheek through the television! Alas, when I did so, I ended up striking my knuckles upon the monitor, and ended up with a light bruise. Such is my folly.

That said, I did notice a certain strain in your smile, the slightest quiver in your laugh lines… was it exhaustion? I pray not. I know how tirelessly you strain yourself to maintain your professional image, and while I do not mean to dictate how you should live your life, I worry for the toll it must take upon your being. Please, if you have but a moment’s rest, reach out and grasp it. You cannot maintain a smiling visage forever, and it would rend my heart to see yours stricken with despair. Remember--you must care for yourself before anyone else.

Take care, my dear. May the bard’s words carry you to a fleeting slumber.

I love you most ardently.

Sincerely,

Your First and Greatest Fan

Chisato always snorts at the last line… not because she finds it mockable, but because it’s such a quintessentially “her” thing to do. Then again, the entire makeup of the letter, from the content to the format to the presentation, brims with that same character.

“Shirasagi-san, you’re on in three!”

“Coming!” Her response is automated, as is the shuffle of the letters onto the corner of the table and into the back of her mind. But even as she dons the amicable grin that the world adores her for, the depths of her consciousness are already forming a reply.

 

“Letters for you, Kaoru-san.”

Kaoru turns from preening herself in the hand mirror to face her stage manager with a dazzling smile. “Ah, thank you most kindly, Maya. I shall repay you tenfold for this favor someday.”

“You, er, really don’t need to do that, huhehe,” said Maya, plopping the paper bag filled with envelopes on the green room couch next to Kaoru. “I’m just amazed you get a hundred of these per week…”

“Per day,” Kaoru corrects, her hand moving to sift through the letters without a moment’s hesitation. “‘Tis the burden of my existence, the toll I pay for my most glamorous and sinful beauty… ah! How fleeting…”

“I guess it is an awful lot to sort through, huh…” Maya idly glances at Kaoru’s hand, which are deftly sorting the letters out on the table before them. “Is it true that you read and reply to every one?”

“But of course!” says Kaoru, resisting the urge to chuckle. “Such darling kittens take precious time out of their days to pen me earnest and heartfelt comments straight from their heart… why, it’s of the utmost imperative that I do the same. Kindness must beget kindness, if we’re to make the world smile.”

“Awwww,” says Maya. “I-I mean, I try to respond to my fan letters if I can too, but I have a hard time figuring out what to say… I don’t know how you do it.”

“It comes with practice. In due time, I’m sure you’ll be spreading love in your own way, my dear Maya.”

“You think so, huh…”

As Maya’s eyes drift up in idle wonder, Kaoru’s hands stop in their tracks, having fallen upon a very particular letter. At a glance, it appears inconspicuous, written in plain pencil with frills-free handwriting and no return address… even its contents are thin in comparison to its fellow letters, bulky envelopes overflowing with spilled feelings. Indeed, the writer made little to no effort to appear presentable--but perhaps that was because this was the one time in her life she was afforded that luxury. Even with such a banal appearance, Kaoru wouldn’t mistake the author on her life.

Smirking, she opens the letter.

Dear Kaoru

I am sure you will read this as soon as it comes into your hands, which, knowing you, will be very soon after writing--give Maya-chan my regards, if you will.

Apparently the meaning of “many moons” has changed since last I checked, for I recall meeting no less than five times the week prior, and for at least an hour on three of those occasions. Should you continue to soliloquize so zealously in my brief and expected absences, I’ll be left with no recourse but to consider you a dog, pitifully howling for its beloved master. That would certainly make sense, considering how much Leon adores you… and vice-versa.

I thank you for watching my content as always, although I must question your choice of adjectives. “Silver-tongued” hardly befits one who gets no questions right on a quiz portion, “crystal-eyed” is rather unwarranted for one who fails a ‘Spot the Difference’ challenge, and my hands are not deft enough to paint a preschool-level rabbit, let alone the wind. By the by, I hope your hand has healed--I cannot imagine the excruciating pain of being unable to touch your beloved through the TV. No, I’m serious. I cannot possibly conceive it. Please be more careful next time.

As for my exhaustion… I have nothing to offer but thanks for your concern. I know it’s in your nature to fret over every last person under your purview, and that sort of consideration is well and truly admirable. However, I must ask you to take your own advice as well. One who exhausts every hour of the day to write letters back to her adoring fans, or to tend to her every friend’s pressing need… that brings its own weariness. I know you would rather hide such fatigue behind a confident smile, but that would only exhaust yourself more. “You cannot maintain a smiling visage forever, and it would rend my heart to see yours stricken with despair. Remember--you must care for yourself before anyone else.” Wise words, aren’t they? You should take them to heart.

Dreams, hm? I’ve never been much of a dreamer, you know. And I don’t imagine--or wish--mine to be ‘fleeting,’ as you say. No, I would rather desire that my time  within them--with you, in peaceful contentment--to last a long, healthy while.

Hahaha, such idyllic notions sound so trite out of my mouth… although I imagine you find them heartwarmingly sincere. Just like you are. If I could learn to act like that, I think I would be very happy.

...I love you, Kao-chan.

Sincerely,

Your First and Greatest Fan

Kaoru stares at the words, long and hard, seized by a force beyond her controls. Eventually the red sprawled across her cheeks consumes her, and she’s forced to hide herself in the paper, hoping that Maya is distracted. The handwriting, formatting, and tone don’t befit the public image of Chisato Shirasagi in the slightest...

But they’re Chii-chan’s. And that’s all that matters.