“You want to listen to my song? Then I’ll sing as thanks for the delicious cake. Sing with me. My song… Zero’s song. Let’s sing it together.
“...is what he said to me when I met him. Zero was so cool!” Mitsuki exclaimed, recalling the first and last time he’d spoken to Zero all those years ago.
The group was gathered in the office – it'd been a few weeks since their win at Black or White, and Tsumugi apparently had an important announcement to make. Right now, the beta was at her desk, finalising the details of whatever it was that she needed to tell them, and the members of IDOLiSH7 were waiting in the meeting room while discussing the legendary idol.
“That’s nice,” Riku said, an envious smile on his face. “I’ve only seen him on TV.”
“I’ve heard his name before,” Tamaki commented, leaning against Sougo while eating his third cup of King Pudding that morning. Sougo had tried to stop him, as he usually did, but there wasn’t much he could do to come between the alpha and his favourite snack. “Is he really that amazing?”
Iori sighed, shaking his head at his classmate’s ignorance. He was surprised Sougo hadn’t told Tamaki about Zero before, although he did suppose MEZZO didn’t have much time to rest. It wasn’t as if Tamaki was particularly interested in learning more about the idol industry, anyway.
“Well, he was the one who started the current idol boom,” Iori said, reciting the facts as if he was reading them off a book. “Although Zero was only active for a short 3 years, all of the businesses affiliated with Zero have been growing by 20% yearly. It is said that he increased the worldwide economy by 100 billion yen up until his final year, when he disappeared.”
Tamaki’s eyes widened; numbers made it a lot easier to understand just how much of an impact Zero had made with his music. “Whoa, that’s amazing!”
Yamato hummed, leaning back against the couch. “Even though he was earning well, why did he disappear at the height of his popularity?” he asked no one in particular. It was a question that had been asked multiple times over the years: why did Zero disappear?
He'd had so many fans supporting him, always selling out concerts even out of Japan, and yet he’d vanished without so much as a word. “Zero’s songwriter, Sakura Haruki-san, ended up in Nagi’s country during his search for Zero, if I recall correctly?” Sougo asked, looking at the blond.
It was a revelation that Nagi had only made known a couple of months ago, when they’d been discussing how to gain Otoharu’s forgiveness for losing sight of their goal. Mitsuki had been beyond shocked that his boyfriend knew Zero’s composer, of all people, still was shocked by the fact. But he also genuinely hoped that Nagi could get over the loss of his dear friend, probably one of the first true friends he had.
“Yes! And at that time, Haruki entrusted me with the songs that he had written for Zero.”
Mitsuki looked over at his boyfriend. He didn’t prod into Nagi’s past often, knowing that the topic of Haruki brought up less than happy emotions in the alpha. “Hey, Nagi! Did he happen to say anything about what Zero’s like? Sakura Haruki-san was a close friend of yours, wasn’t he?”
Nagi nodded, a soft smile on his face as he recalled Haruki’s exact words. “He told me that Zero’s songs are magic – it’s as if he were a magician casting joy upon his listeners,” he said. Haruki had always seemed so happy whenever he talked about Zero and his singing; it’d been obvious that Haruki loved Zero, loved being the composer of his music.
“A magician, huh… Ah, I really want to meet him again!”
“Speaking of Zero,” Iori chimed in, “it seems they’re opening Zero Arena.”
The members of IDOLiSH7 were more than familiar with Zero Arena, having been there multiple times before. It was where they’d gone after their failure at Music Festa, where they’d gone to when Otoharu had announced their disbandment a few months ago. It was the place where they’d rediscovered their goal as idols. “There will most likely be an extravagant kokera-otoshi for the renewal.”
Tamaki’s eyes widened in surprise. “Kokera-otoshi? Is it like daruma-otoshi? Are they going to smash it with a hammer, even though they just rebuilt it?” he asked, shock and confusion lacing his voice.
Sougo hid a chuckle behind his hand, but Tamaki heard it anyway, and the alpha turned to look at his boyfriend with a frown. “Don’t be mean, Souchan. Are they really planning to do that?”
Iori sighed. “Of course not, there’s nothing to be gained from that.”
“Kokera-otoshi refers to the first public performance done at a newly built theatre,” Sougo explained. Tamaki stared at him blankly, clearly still not quite understanding the meaning of the word, and Sougo continued, “It garners a lot of media attention and gathers a lot of people, so the big players in every industry are called forth. I’m sure there’ll be top stars from the idol industry, befitting of Zero, performing at the grand opening.”
The door clicked open suddenly, and the seven idols looked up as their manager entered the meeting room. “I’m back...” she called out, face hidden from view as she kept her gaze trained on the ground.
“Welcome back, Manager. You met up with that TV station today... wait, are you crying!?” Riku exclaimed, noticing the tears gathered in Tsumugi’s eyes and beginning to freak out. He turned to look at Iori with wide eyes, silently asking for help. Riku’d never been good at dealing with crying girls.
“What happened!?” Iori demanded. It was difficult to discern the reason for Tsumugi’s tears – her being a beta meant that they couldn’t identify the cause from her scent. It could’ve been from sadness, anger, joy, or anything at all.
One thing was for sure though. If anyone had bullied their manager to the point of tears, there was absolutely no way that the members of IDOLiSH7 were going to let it slide.
“I...” Tsumugi started, her voice thick with tears. The mood in the room was tense; everyone shared the same sentiments as Iori. “I have... a very, very important announcement for everyone!”
“Announcement...?” Riku echoed unsurely. This sounds serious.
Tsumugi nodded, sniffling and wiping at her eyes. “I just want to thank you all... for letting me be IDOLiSH7’s manager...” she mumbled.
Everyone stiffened at her words.
This lead-up, could it be she’s quitting as our manager? Iori thought. Is it because of that one time I scolded her for even longer since her despondent expression was just too cute!?
Did a complaint come in because I was practicing our dance at my drama’s set?
Is it because I got carried away and went drinking with those super famous band dudes after filming!?
I was eating King Pudding in class… Did my teacher tattle on me or something?
Even though she told me to consult her on anything, perhaps I rearranged MEZZO’s schedule a little too much?
OH… I got really excited and took a commemorative photo with those fangirls… Maybe there’s an issue with that?
Is it because I had dance practice late into the night even though she told me to take it easy!?
“No way,” Riku said, shock lacing his voice, asking the question that they’d all been too afraid to say aloud. “Are you quitting!?”
The beta shook her head furiously, and a shaky smile now adorned her features. “That’s not it,” she assured, and they all heaved similar sighs of relief. “At last, I can finally return the favour with this new job I’ve picked up for you guys! IDOLiSH7 is finally getting their own show!”
Their eyes went wide, for a completely different reason this time, and Riku threw his arms around Iori in celebration. Iori was too stunned by the news to even react, simply letting Riku squeeze him in his excitement.
The happiness radiating off Riku was contagious, and soon Iori found himself smiling as well. A glance to the side revealed that Sougo appeared to be in the same situation, with Tamaki gripping the elder omega’s shoulders and shaking him back and forth.
Banri beamed at the members of IDOLiSH7. “Congratulations on getting your own show, everyone!”
From the seat beside him, Otoharu nodded. “Congrats! You’ve all worked so hard.”
“Yes!” Tsumugi agreed, her tears finally having stopped, at least momentarily.
They were in Otoharu’s office now, having been called over by the company’s president just a few minutes after Tsumugi broke the news to them. It still seemed surreal that they were finally getting their own show – they'd nearly had the chance half a year ago, but it’d been axed by their sponsors.
Sougo still felt terrible about that, even now. The members had repeatedly told him not to worry about it, that it hadn’t been his fault, but it didn’t change the fact that it was because of him that FSC had pulled out from their sponsorship. After all, Sougo was certain his father still didn’t approve of him being an idol, even after they’d won a title as grand as Black or White’s Male Idol Award. “Manager, about the sponsors...” Sougo trailed off, knowing that they’d understand what he was referring to.
Expectedly, Tsumugi caught on immediately, as did Tamaki. The alpha huffed in annoyance, nudging Sougo in the side. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that he was beating himself up over what had happened the past again. “Don’t worry about it! The sponsors are predominantly IT companies, so they have little or no ties to the business sector,” the beta assured.
Sougo heaved a small sigh of relief, managing a smile. “That’s good to hear,” he said, and Tamaki nudged him again, clearly still annoyed. Sougo grumbled indignantly, glancing up at his partner with a frown, and Tamaki simply pursed his lips. “We can finally put this issue to rest and continue on without any more trouble from my end. Stop that, Tamaki-kun.”
“It’s because you’re thinking of unnecessary things,” Tamaki muttered.
Yamato let out a chuckle. “Tama’s just worried. It’s all because you did your best. You’ve come so far, we all have, that not even your father can interfere anymore, since both MEZZO and IDOLiSH7 are pretty well-known now,” he said.
“Thank you, Yamato-san.”
“Is getting our own show, like, a really big thing?” Tamaki asked. Sougo raised an incredulous brow at his boyfriend, and Tamaki did so as well. “What? I’m just asking.”
“It is, it is!” Mitsuki replied excitedly. “We’re getting a show that features our name right up top, kind of like Mister Shimooka’s The TV Man Show!”
“And part of the reason why you’re getting your own show is because of Mitsuki-kun’s hard work on The TV Man Show,” Otoharu supplied helpfully.
Mitsuki pointed at himself. “H-huh? Me?”
“Remember how Mister Shimooka came down with the flu just a little before the end of the year, and had to take a break from the show?” Banri reminded. “That one time where you all filmed without Mister Shimooka.”
It'd been between Douglas Rootbank’s Christmas concert and Black or White. That entire month had been incredibly busy, so it hadn’t been all that shocking when Shimooka called in sick. The veteran emcee hardly ever missed any filmings, much less one for his own show which happened to be broadcasted live, but they’d had to carry on anyway.
“A lot of people in the variety show industry praised Izumi Mitsuki-kun’s performance! Especially his ability to talk non-stop and keep the conversation going,” Banri added. “You’ve really done well.”
Tears began to well up in Mitsuki’s eyes, even as Yamato continued, “Definitely. Mitsu really saved us that time. He connected each and every conversation thread, and changed topics smoothly too. Mitsu’s always doing this for us, though.”
Riku nodded furiously in agreement, eliciting a small smile from the omega standing beside him. What a cute person. “Like during the Emcee Corner’s for live performances! He keeps everyone together, and always gets everyone pumped up!”
“I... I don’t do anything special, though.”
“That’s what you think, but it’s an incredibly valuable talent in the eyes of people in the TV business!” Otoharu corrected, a pleased smile on his face.
Mitsuki swallowed past the lump of his throat, and when he blinked, he felt the first tear trail down his cheek. “Ah...”
Of course, Otoharu wasn’t done speaking just yet. “Thank you, Mitsuki-kun. It’s because of that very talent of yours that we’ve secured a show for IDOLiSH7.”
“Because of... me...?” Mitsuki asked, again, still in disbelief. His voice was barely louder than a whisper, and he wiped hastily at his eyes. He wasn’t fooling anyone, least of all Nagi and Iori, both of whom were looking at him with a smile.
“It’s incredible, nii-san! People in the industry are finally recognizing your talent, just from watching your work!” Iori said excitedly. Mitsuki was always overlooked, in the past and even now. Sure, he wasn’t exceptionally good at dancing like Tamaki, neither was he exceptionally good at singing like Riku. He wasn’t handsome like Nagi, or a good actor like Yamato. But Mitsuki’s charm had always been in how he managed to bring out the best reactions from the rest of the group, and now he was finally being acknowledged for it.
“I love Mitsuki’s stories!” Nagi exclaimed. He'd seen Mitsuki beat himself up one too many times, for not being as popular as the other members. He knew Mitsuki still felt inferior to Iori, knew that it would probably always be like this, but Nagi had always admired how hardworking his boyfriend was. And now, that hard work was finally coming to fruition. “Your voice, the way you speak – you make everyone smile and cheer everyone up! Mitsuki, very, very thank you!”
“We knew you could do it, Mitsuki-san!”
“I’m really glad Mikki’s here!”
“Thank you, Mitsuki!”
Mitsuki laughed, wiping at his eyes once more. “You dumbasses… Now, don’t flatter me... I couldn’t have done all of this by myself…” he mumbled. “I’m going to head to the restroom for a bit, okay?”
Without waiting for anyone to reply, the beta left the room, slamming the door shut and heading to the restroom just next door. Sougo stared at the closed door, waiting until he heard the restroom door close before speaking. “I thought he’d be moved, but that was a pretty calm and collected response.”
Yamato snorted, shaking his head while looking at Sougo in disbelief. He'd thought that by now Sougo would know how Mitsuki was like, but apparently, he’d thought wrong. “Nah. He's definitely crying in there right now.”
Just as Yamato finished speaking, they heard Mitsuki exclaim from the restroom, “I did it! I... I did it...!”
“M-Mitsuki-san,” Tsumugi sobbed, and the rest of the group looked at the manager to see that she was crying as well. “He’s worked so hard! I’m so, so happy...”
“Crying out of empathy again, are we?” Iori asked with a chuckle. He glanced at Riku when he felt the alpha’s hand slip into his, leaning against Riku’s side and sighing happily. “Nii-san’s long-cherished dreams are finally coming true – the world is finally recognizing my brother’s talents.”
“It’s the same for you kids. Each and every one of you is unique, and that uniqueness is valuable, splendid. The pros in the industry can see it too,” Otoharu told them. “That’s why, with its massive budget and the many people working behind it, this show is in your hands now. Thank you, for working your hardest all this time. I am truly grateful.”
The president chuckled, glancing in the general direction of the restroom. It was silent for a fraction of a second, then the sound of Mitsuki’s crying travelled into the room. What started as muffled sobs soon grew into full-out bawling, and when Nagi made to go to his boyfriend, Yamato simply put a hand on his arm and shook his head. “Give him some time.”
Pursing his lips, the blond nodded. They both knew that Mitsuki didn’t like to show his weakness to others, although Nagi did sometimes wish that Mitsuki would learn to rely on him more often. Still, Mitsuki was the older of the two, so it made sense that he felt like he had to be less reliant on Nagi.
Otoharu stared at the closed door, brows set in a frown. “I kind of need to use the restroom...”
Banri grimaced, offering the beta a pat on the back. “Please hold it in, President.”
That night found Nagi knocking on Mitsuki’s door, cautiously pushing the door open when Mitsuki called out, “Who is it?”
When the familiar head of blond hair poked through the gap in the door, Mitsuki chuckled. “Oh, Nagi. It's you,” he said from where he was sitting on his bed. “Did you need anything?”
“Do I need a reason to come to my boyfriend’s room?” Nagi asked, shutting the door and walking over to sit beside Mitsuki. The beta’s eyes were still red from all the crying he’d done in the office restroom, and then again after dinner.
The second time around, it’d been because Iori and Yamato had been discussing the potential things they could do during their show. They'd asked Mitsuki for suggestions on things they could do or say, even though they didn’t even know what the concept of the show was. “You’ll be the main emcee, after all. What do you think will make a show more interesting?”
Mitsuki had heard only until main emcee, and then he’d managed a “Who knows? Excuse me for a bit” before disappearing into his room. About twenty minutes passed before Yamato suggested that Nagi check on Mitsuki, and Nagi would never reject any chance to spend alone time with his boyfriend.
Sighing, Mitsuki let his body weight sag against the alpha’s side. “No, you don’t,” he conceded. Mitsuki didn’t think he would ever get used to Nagi referring to himself as his boyfriend, or vice versa. In fact, it was still bizarre when he thought about their group dynamics, about how they’d all ended up in relationships of their own.
Granted, the two fated pairs getting together had only been a matter of time, although it’d been a good half a year since they’d established their respective relationships. Sometimes he still wondered how it was that he’d even ended up together with Nagi, as plain as he was in comparison to Nagi’s beauty.
But, as always, Nagi would chide him for putting himself down. It was one of the only things that Nagi would get angry at him for – the alpha hardly ever got offended on his own behalf, but he was more than happy to get angry for Mitsuki’s sake. It'd been weird to get used to at first, since people seldom stood up for Mitsuki, but it was nice to have someone who he could count on to be on his side.
“You know, Mitsuki,” Nagi started, the aforementioned beta glancing at his boyfriend, “you should give yourself more credit. I know it seems like you don’t shine as brightly as some of us on stage, but isn’t it because of you that we can shine like that?”
“Think about it. If not for your emceeing, we wouldn’t be able to properly showcase the different aspects of our personalities on shows,” Nagi told him. “Sougo certainly wouldn’t speak as often without you directing questions to him, and sometimes Tamaki’s replies are easily misunderstood, but you rephrase it in a way that’s easy for the audience to understand.”
“That’s normal, though, isn’t it?” Mitsuki asked, wrinkling his nose as he felt the tell-tale prick of tears at his eyes for the third time that day. He knew where Nagi was coming from, knew that the alpha’s points were valid, but it seemed like such a mundane thing that anyone could do.
Nagi sighed, shaking his head while looking down at Mitsuki fondly. “I could never do that. It’s a good skill to have, to be able to control the flow of a conversation the way you do. Don’t ever think that you’re any less important than the rest of us, okay?”
“Why are you trying to make me cry again?” Mitsuki grumbled.
Nagi only laughed, pulling Mitsuki so that now the beta’s face was buried in the front of his shirt. “Aww, don’t cry, Mitsuki! You know it hurts my heart to see you cry!”
“You’re so dramatic,” Mitsuki couldn’t help but chuckle, shoving weakly against Nagi’s chest. Already he could feel his tears seeping into the material of the alpha’s shirt, and to some extent Mitsuki felt bad about dirtying his boyfriend’s shirt, but it wasn’t as if Nagi was going to loosen his hold on him any time soon. So, the beta muffled his sniffles in Nagi’s shirt, letting Nagi rub his back soothingly.
“Don’t ever think any less of yourself,” Nagi said again. “All of us are important to IDOLiSH7.”
Mitsuki nodded against Nagi’s chest. “Yeah. I know.”
The remaining five members of IDOLiSH7 sat around the dining table.
There was a sort of nervous excitement in the air, each of them anticipating the long-awaited first filming of their own show. They’d had a few guest appearances on other shows before, aside from being regular guests on Shimooka’s show, and were planning on using whatever experience they’d managed to accumulate to make their show a success.
“Our own show, huh,” Yamato mused. “At long last.”
“Sorry for making us go the long way around,” Sougo said, smiling sheepishly at the others.
Tamaki rolled his eyes. “I told you to stop blaming yourself already. What’s it going to take to make you forget about that incident, anyway?” he questioned. “I like your normal scent better, so quit harping on what already happened.”
Sougo pursed his lips indignantly – he couldn’t really tell what his scent was like now, but he supposed it wasn’t as sweet as it normally was. Still, he couldn’t help but feel responsible for FSC retracting sponsorship for their original show a few months back. No matter what Tamaki or the others said, he knew that he was at fault. “What do I smell like now?”
“A little... bitter? Like burnt caramel,” Iori replied, sniffing the air experimentally. “Something like that.”
“Exactly! It’s like when the caramel on pudding is overdone!” Tamaki agreed.
Iori hummed thoughtfully. “Yotsuba-san’s right. You shouldn’t keep thinking about that incident.”
“You’re being hypocritical, Iori,” Riku pointed out, taking a sip of his warm milk with honey, courtesy of none other than Iori himself. “Last I remember, you beat yourself up about Music Festa even until the day of our JIMA performance. Or have you forgotten?”
“-the exact same thing that Sougo-san feels,” Riku cut in, raising a brow at his boyfriend as if to dare him to say otherwise. Expectedly, Iori couldn’t retort, because they all knew that what Riku had said was the truth – Iori had blamed himself for their failure at Music Festa for several months, and Riku was fairly certain that he still felt that way now.
Huffing slightly and turning away from Riku, Iori mumbled, “You really have no delicacy, do you?”
“Okay, the two of you, stop fighting,” Yamato cut in, eyeing the other couple in the room. “Same goes for Sou and Tama. I know you’re all just worried about each other and are bad at expressing it, but please remain civil with each other.”
“You say that like we’re going to get into a fist fight,” Tamaki commented. “I wouldn’t ever hit Souchan, even if he pisses me off sometimes.”
Yamato sighed. “Just five minutes ago you were getting along. Didn't you all go on a date recently?”
“What does that have to do with anything?” Iori asked incredulously.
It was true that their common off day had been just a few days prior, and they’d all gone out with their respective boyfriends for the day. Tamaki had gone to the orphanage with Sougo to visit the kids, Iori had gone to Riku’s house to visit his parents, and Nagi had made lunch for Mitsuki while the beta had been working at Fonte Chocolat. Even Yamato had gone out with Tsumugi, and apparently had run into Tenn while they’d been having lunch.
Iori knew he was being unreasonably annoyed, because Riku’s lack of delicacy was something that he should be used to by now. But maybe it was because Riku had been so incredibly excited during their RabiChat session with TRIGGER two days back, and it ticked Iori off that Riku was still hoping for Tenn to come back to their family.
He wasn’t jealous, per se. Or, at least, he hoped he wasn’t. He just didn’t want to see Riku build his hopes up only to get them crushed by Tenn again, because he knew that Tenn valued professionalism over his familial ties. Sure, things seemed to be going fine between the two centres, but there was no way to guarantee that Tenn wouldn’t suddenly be cold to Riku again.
If at all possible, Iori wanted to avoid that situation, but he couldn’t change how Riku felt about his brother, so he might have been a little frustrated at the alpha’s naivety.
He wasn’t entirely sure what had gone on between Tamaki and Sougo, though. The relationship between the members of MEZZO had seemed smooth-sailing, but he supposed Sougo wouldn’t voice aloud any of their problems anyway. For all he knew, it could’ve been something as petty as Tamaki giving Ryuu a nickname and using it multiple times during the course of their RabiChat session. It didn’t seem too far-fetched, given that it was Tamaki and Sougo after all.
The leader sighed again. “Usually, people don’t pick a fight with their boyfriend mere days after a nice day out together, but what do I know? I’m as single as I could possibly be. Anyway, let’s go to bed soon. Riku, make sure to keep yourself warm. Don't fall sick, you hear?”
“Yeah, I got it,” Riku assured. He glanced at Iori, the omega still refusing to look in his direction, and sighed. He picked up his empty mug, rinsing it in the sink before heading back to his room. “Goodnight, then. See you guys tomorrow.”
The four watched as Riku left the common area, and Yamato glanced at Iori. “Now isn’t the time to start a cold war with Riku, Ichi. You know better than I do that he’s going to worry about this, and we don’t want that to happen, do we? You two, go to bed already.”
“Fine,” Tamaki huffed. He stood up, hesitated for a second, before dropping a quick kiss on Sougo’s cheek. “Night, Souchan. Night, Yamasan, Iorin.”
When Iori and Yamato glanced at Sougo, the omega’s face was bright red.
Yamato snickered. “See? Tama doesn’t mean any harm. He just doesn’t like when you brood.”
“I know,” Sougo sighed, finally getting up, at the same time as Iori and Yamato. “Goodnight.”
“Be more lenient with Riku,” Yamato told Iori, before entering his room and shutting the door.
With a soft sigh, Iori trudged back to his own room. He passed by Riku’s room on the way there, and for a moment he contemplated going in to apologise for his moodiness. But Riku had been coughing the past few nights, and if he was asleep, then Iori didn’t want to disturb him. He needed all the rest he could get, which wasn’t a lot, nowadays.
So, instead, the omega pushed his own room door open. “Goodnight, Nanase-san.”