Thanks to the success of Dark Moon, Mogami Kyouko was well aware that she might be pigeonholed as the 'bad girl', but this was ridiculous.
"Moko-chan, I don't want to kill you!" she wailed.
"Shape up, Kyouko. You're embarrassing me. Again."
The two Love Me members were sharing a rare afternoon get together at an outdoor cafe. Kyouko's outcry prompted some pointed staring by passing pedestrians, but most people were unable to walk past without taking in the two girls in truly horrid pink coveralls anyway (some even fancied themselves blinded by such atrocities for at least ten minutes after.)
Kyouko could not contain her sobs, rolling around on the floor at the injustice of it all. Kotonami Kanae (or Moko, as Kyouko delighted in calling her) was too used to such displays to react in any noticeable way, flipping her long black hair over one shoulder and pointedly look at her watch.
"I'm sorry!" her short-haired companion wailed. Kyouko hooked her chin onto the table they were sharing and sipped despondently at her sparkly pink smoothie-concoction.
"Just, Mio was a fairly evil princess, and Shouka was a slightly less evil princess...I thought for sure the next role would be an only vaguely sinister princess!"
Kanae was still somehow stuck on the fact that while neither Dark Moon nor Box R was set in a fantasy land of any kind, she could somehow still see a jaunty crown and a pouffy ball gown every time Kyouko went on one of her fairy tale rants.
Opposite her, Kyouko's face scrunched up in despair. "B-but there's no way I can see my serial killer as a princess!"
And that decided for her very quickly to take this conversation to the park, pulling along the rag doll masquerading as her friend (the term caused her a migraine's worth of exasperation, but was exponentially cancelled out by an overpowering fondness she still found alarming at times). Before hastily paying the bill, she had to convince the owner that while she might seem like she escaped from a mental institution, Kyouko had never killed anybody really, please put away your phone, there's no need to alert the authorities.
She honestly felt for her normally cheery-bordering-on-insane friend, knowing the country girl was really very sweet and had no defenses against anything remotely cute and feminine; but as an actress she felt obliged to point out that she had an insanely juicy role that any actress would die for, and from this part she was sure to get even more work.
"More work where I'll have to kill you!" Kyouko had bawled, causing everyone on their street to suddenly remember needing to be somewhere else immediately, taking off in such a fashion that Olympic runners would have thrown their medals in a jealous rage.
There was only one thing to do when Kyouko was so depressed, and so Kanae dutifully bundled her off to the park and plunked her onto the duck feeding bench. By the time she came back with two bags of bread crusts, Kyouko had become some sort of duck whisperer and was only sniffling pathetically as she pet two of the creatures resting on her lap.
"It's just," Kyouko cried into the luxurious plumage of the duck she had hugged to her chest. "It's the first time I get to work with Moko-chan since the soda commercial a-and I have to stab you in the back!"
Kanae refrained from pointing out that actually, it was from the front, and she'd only have to do one or two takes with the real Kanae and about two dozen with stuntwomen; but held back her sarcastic tongue by flinging crusts into the lake and watching the non-Kyouko hypnotized ducks fight for them.
It was a small miracle that they ended up getting roles for the same drama in the first place, let alone roles that so closely mirrored their own circumstances. The seires was a new supernatural procedural drama, Agent X, where a detective uses his retrocognitive dreams and visions to solve extraordinary crimes. Kyouko was to play a man-hating vigilante who disposed of cheating husbands and boyfriends (HABs, if you will), but ends up going on a murder spree after accidentally killing Kanae's character, the woman's only true friend.
"Well, on the bright side, we won't have to practice at being very good friends." Kanae said, offering Kyouko a bag of crusts.
"Moko-chan..." Kyouko's eyes turned dewy as she looked at Kanae in adoration, her sunny countenance no doubt caused by the fantasies playing in her mind of the two of them frolicking in fields of fresh flowers and having teddy bear picnics, vowing their undying friendship for each other over doing each other's hair at sleepovers and extreme cake baking or something. The slender black-haired girl shuddered. She didn't even like cake!
Kyouko returned to her duck feeding almost shyly, tossing the bread crumbs to the raging horde. A pink hue was blossoming on her cheeks. She slowed her throws considerably, pensive and hesitant before opening her mouth.
"Moko-chan," Kyouko stated seriously, her attention eemeingly on the squabbling ducks. "I don't know how to give Rina the depth that she deserves. I-I mean," Here, Kyouko shyly lifted her eyes to Kanae's face. "I would never, ever- I couldn't even think about doing anything to you. I would die if you were hurt because of me."
Kanae tried to stop the embarrassingly earnest smile from appearing on her face. She failed miserably, so she had to cover her mouth with her hand before speaking.
"Well then, I think you've got Rina. That despair and agony...that would drive Rina insane." Kanae removed her hand from her mouth and rested it hesitantly on Kyouko's soft locks. "You're a good actress Kyouko. I believe that you can create her and love her, and make everyone watching fall in love with her too."
After that, Kanae was saved from what could have been (on her part) an uncomfortably warm and soft hug, thanks to the flock of ducks deciding that their bread crust dispensers were broken, and taking matters into their own hands (wings?) They quacked with a vengeance until the two girls threw all the bread crusts, bags and all, into the horde, who then dragged their bounty into the middle of the lake and disappeared.
Rina was happily dicing up carrots with her knife. Last night's hunt had gone off perfectly, the look on that bastard's face when he saw what was coming to him...She smiled, reveling in the high as her knife thunked rhythmically on the cutting board.
Shion's sweet voice filtered in from the genkan. Every week, Shion would come for lunch. It was, until recently, the only highlight in Rina's otherwise tedious routine.
"I'm in the kitchen!" Rina responded. She heard Shion bustle in and place her bag and scarf on the chair. Cheerily, she and Rina traded pleasantries and laughs until Rina noticed her beloved friend holding her stomach and grimacing.
"You're not feeling well?" Rina fluttered over, worried at Shion's pale countenance.
"Just feeling a little nauseous." Shion smiled weakly.
"Do you think you need the bathroom?"
"That's probably a good idea. I'll be right back."
"Take your time, okay?"
Rina looked on worriedly, slowly making her way back to her chopping board. It was true that Shion hadn't been in the best of health even since Rina had gotten rid of Akito, but she'd come around eventually. Until then, Rina would take extra good care of her.
Confident in her resolution, she cheerily hummed. She emptied the carrots into the pot and expertly began peeling the zucchini. Behind her, she heard Shion's light steps back into the kitchen. Smiling, Rina turned around to face her.
"How are you fee-"
"Rina." Shion cut off. She was shaking. Her face was sheet white, as were her knuckles that were clutched around Akito's white beanie. The zucchini dropped onto the floor, forgotten.
Shion had found her souvenirs.
"Rina." Shion started again. "Why do you have this?"
"Shion, it's not what you think." Rina put her hands up placatingly, one still limply holding the peeling knife. "I can explain."
"Oh god." Shion cried. "Oh my god. Are you- are you and Akito cheating on me?"
"What?" Rina laughed, surprised. Shion completely had the wrong idea! "Of course not, Shion!"
"Then why hasn't he come back home in a month?! Why do you have his things?!" Shion flung the beanie at Rina's horrified face. "You lying tramp, how could you do this to me!" she screamed.
"Shion!" Rina cried, backing up against the counter. "Why do you care about him Shion, he wasn't good enough for you! I made it so you'll never be bothered by him again!"
"He's the father of my child, you bitch!" Shion screamed hysterically. She flung herself at Rina in such a rage that Rina instinctively pulled her hands in front of herself, defensive and pleading brokenly for Shion to understand. It was too late when she realized she was still holding the knife.
Shion's face in that moment would never leave her for the rest of her days; frozen in horror, in shock and surprise. Her eyes dimmed as she slumped against Rina, her strength draining out of her like the blood spilling on Rina's kitchen floor. "Why..?" she sobbed brokenly, blood escaping her mouth in a macabre river. "You're my best friend..."
Shion's dead weight forced Rina to the ground. She lifted her shaking, blood stained hands to cradle Shion's beloved face, already frozen by Hade's touch. The bloody knife handle caught on her sleeve, sticking out of Shion's chest like a pin in a butterfly. Rina sobbed, caressing Shion's face with her hands, staining her beautiful face into a bloody mess. She was uselessly trying to rub back some of Shion's warmth and colour.
"Shion," Rina whispered urgently. She repeated her name over and over, the tears dripping down her face mingling with Shion's blood, rocking her cooling body back and forth.
She didn't know how long she cradled Shion for, only that she was weeping, split in half by agonizing grief. The pristine white beanie that had landed on the floor during a fight a lifetime ago was becoming drenched in blood. Rina stared at it unblinkingly.
It was his fault.
If only that cheating bastard Akito hadn't existed, Shion would never be dead. If only she hadn't gotten rid of him already, she could have killed him again for making Shion so sad. She would have made it hurt more, like Shion had been hurt.
All men were the same. Her father, her friends, Akito. How many more times would women be made to suffer? How many more times would Shion be made to suffer? Rina couldn't let this go on.
She wiped her tears, smearing Shion's blood on her face. Gently, she cradled Shion's head and laid her down. She brushed Shion's pretty hair neatly down her shoulders. Shion would never forgive Rina if Rina let other people see her lovely black hair in such a state. She folded Shion's hands over her chest, like a peaceful angel descending into sleep. With trembling fingers, she closed Shion's eyes forever, and placed a lingering kiss on her forehead.
"I'm going to make this right for you Shion." Rina swore. She got up slowly, teasing the carving blade out of the knife holder. With one more venomous glare at the bloody beanie, she strode out of the house.
Rina had work to do.
"Cut! Let's do another take."
Immediately, crew members rushed onto set to reset the scene. Kanae was helped off the floor and was seen to, makeup artists already cleaning off the red streaks of fake blood and wardrobe coming back with a clean set of clothes to change into. Kyouko emerged from the side, going around the kitchen set with her own make up artists fussing with her hands and face.
The director of their episode, Takahashi Misao, ran up to them and beamed.
"That was excellent Kotonami-san, Mogami-san! What an interpretation! I must admit I was a bit confused when you came back with the beanie, but that worked out much better than when we went through the table read."
Kanae took the praise demurely. "Not at all, we just wanted to make sure we did justice to the spirit of Shion and Rina. Thank you for believing in our performance."
"Oh, she's so professional!" the make up girls wistfully sighed. They were working on Kyouko's hands as they talked, and she enthusiastically agreed with them. Kanae's portrayal was so riveting that Kyouko had an easy time responding to her as Rina. As soon as she was released from make-up's clutches, she went off in search of a drink, intending to get one for herself and Kanae.
"Mogami-san!" Misao called from behind her.
"Yes!" Kyouko turned immediately.
"Mogami-san, excellent, really excellent work out there. The way you laid Shion out after she was dead, oh, that made me tear up."
"O-oh, thank you." Kyouko felt herself flushing. "I really wanted people to see how much she cared about Shion, how sorry she was. I hope people will respond to it."
Misao laughed. "Yes, it was extremely well done. However, I think we'll need to reshoot the part of the scene when you're reliving the murder."
Kyouko ducked her head, startled. "Oh...of course."
"Fantastic." Misao said. "I just need a little bit more 'oomph' from you, I need to really feel that Risa's enjoying herself. Then we can move on to your murder scenes. We've just finished casting your three victims!" The director rubbed her hands in glee.
"Oh, that's wonderful!" Kyouko smiled.
But for the rest of the day, that 'oomph' comment tormented her.
Never let it be said that Mogami Kyouko gives up easily. As soon as filming had wrapped up for the day, she had bowed her goodbyes and ran straight for the editing room for the dailies. Disc in hand, she went straight back to the shop and holed herself up, snacks on one side and pad and pencil in the other. She was determined to come out of the viewing bouncing with ideas on how to improve her performance and prove herself to Director Takahashi.
That was three hours ago.
The scene had been on replay maybe three dozen times. Kyouko could see that Risa was happy that Shion was there. She could see Rina was distraught when Shion had died. What she couldn't see, was a Rina who was euphoric, reliving her righteous kills over and over in her head.
How could she do it? How could the two killings reconcile themselves into one being? How could she revel in the blood of one and recoil at the blood of another? She needed an insight.
She needed to call Tsuruga-san.
It was the most logical choice after all. She was playing a serial killer, he was playing a serial killer-- Sure, his character BJ showed little to no remorse, but Tsuruga-san could help her build that part of Rina from the ground up.
Right, it was decided. She would call.
Maybe ten minutes from now.
Happy with her decision, she hefted out the futon and huddled under the covers, telling herself she was not stalling in any way, and of course, Tsuruga-san was no doubt busy, and being so busy, no doubt tired at-- she glanced at the wall clock-- half past nine in the evening.
Well, perhaps it could wait until the morning.
She sat up suddenly, the covers falling off her shoulders. No! No, she needed guidance. She would apologize incessantly of course, for calling so late at night, disturbing his rest...but it would be hard to convey her troubles over the phone, wouldn't it? And Tsuruga-san never eats right. No doubt he'd still be out at this hour, maybe grabbing unhealthy rice balls at the convenience store. She took out Kuon's stone and gathered her courage as it changed colour in the light.
Grabbing the disc, she gathered ingredients for a simple rice porridge and left the house, Kuon's stone on her table glinting next to Odette's perfume.
She made the call to Tsuruga-san halfway to his house (it would be rude otherwise, and Mogami Kyouko was not rude). It was jumbled and half formed, but Tsuruga-san had just chuckled softly and told her he would be waiting.
Kyouko was happy to say that she was still able to talk to Tsuruga-san in a completely normal kouhai-senpai fashion. (Not that she would say it to anyone, because privacy and modesty are the staple of the Japanese people. Banzai Japan!) Sometimes though, she liked to take out the memory of being pressed between the couch in Tsuruga-san's dressing room and Tsuruga-san himself, his body warm and firm and possessive and the heat from the contact between her cheek and his lips unbearable and horribly frightening in its intensity...
"Are you going to come in any time soon?"
Kyouko startled so badly she dropped her grocery bag. All was not lost however, as Tsuruga-san was quick to retrieve them for her and carry them inside. Without her noticing, she had made it to his apartment block and had been idling outside his door for God knows how long. She shook herself out, collected her bearings and quietened the thudding beats of her heart. She slid inside and closed the door securely behind her. This was fine, nothing abnormal about this at all (well, she could hear her demons laughing at her, but would not allow herself to be unfocused).
After she quickly made the porridge and laid it out, she made herself eat until he had clearly finished.
"So," Tsuruga-san said, after clearing the dishes. "To what do I owe this pleasure?" His voice was like a balm on her soul, his very presence a comfort, and Kyouko felt that he might be sitting too close, though clearly he was sitting a completely respectable distance away.
Kyouko quickly reminded herself the he was the Emperor of the Night, and he couldn't help himself, really, he didn't mean anything by it because his personality was defected and foreign like that (and if she should watch and re-watch the roles which this trait manifested itself then, well, it was a coincidence that they were on at two in the morning when she couldn't sleep anyway). She cleared her throat and started to explain, but nothing came out so she resigned herself to popping in the disc and letting him see for himself.
As the scene played out on screen, she allowed herself to be carried away by the performance, to despair at Shion for not understanding, for thinking that any man could come between them. Oh Shion, men don't matter. Men only let us down.
The part of her that was still Kyouko whispered no, not every man. But that was neither here nor there, and so she shut it up in a box and put it away.
As the scene faded to black, she faced Tsuruga-san and waited.
"Seiza is not necessary." He said, alluding to her traditional kneel.
"No." Kyouko said. "I need to, because I need guidance."
"How much more of Rina do you need?" Ren said softly. "You already know everything about her."
But I don't know why! Why is she so happy? I don't know what it feels like! She refrained from saying anything though, waiting it out, trusting him to steer her in the right direction.
"Ok then," Ren sighed, sliding back more comfortably. He probably was not aware, but it drew her eye to his powerful shoulders and his lean form. Emperor of the Night! her demons screeched. He blinds us!
"Rina gets something from the killings. What is it?"
"Satisfaction." Kyouko replied quickly. She had thought these questions through herself, but an experienced actor like Ren would teach her where she had gone wrong.
"If she's satisfied, why does she keep killing?"
"Because it's not enough."
She opened her mouth and closed it.
"I see." Ren smiled. "So why did she kill in the first place?"
She knew that one. "For justice. For the men who did her wrong. Her and everyone else."
"And how did it feel?"
"It felt..." Kyouko stopped, considering her answer carefully. "It felt right. She put a stop to it, and he wasn't going to get to anyone else."
"So she felt powerful. Anything else?"
She looked at him, helpless. Ren took pity on her.
"Why did she smile when she was holding the knife?"
Why did she? Knives were a woman's domain of course, the kitchen where she would carefully sharpen them, the gleam of the silver when she cleaned them. She knew how to use them, how to utilize them to her will. The heavy comfort of an old friend. The power of life and death depended on a single slice. The accomplishment of a job well done. The victory, the ecstasy of controlling them exactly how she wanted. Feeling them submit to her will under her own hands. How could she stop at one? How could she, when she knew the power that it granted her, the high that she could relive again and again?
Ren turned off the his set top box and retrieved the disc. He extended his hand in front of her face and waited.
"I'll drive you home."
She took his hand, uttering a heart felt, "thank you." She let go before she was tempted to keep holding on.
The next day, Misao congratulated her on Rina's elation, gruesome and skin crawling as it was.
"Perfect." Misao praised. "Absolutely perfect."
Kyouko blushed and stuttered, pleased that she had performed her best and done Rina justice, strange and confusing though it was afterwards.
"From now on, it'll be you ripping into the boys! I can't tell you how much I look forward to it." Misao crowed, handing Kyouko a manilla folder. "I forgot these yesterday, but I thought you might like to know who it is you'll be killing for our lovely audience." They both laughed, and Misao called lunch.
Kyouko sat down with a curry rice and some green tea before letting herself lay out the head shots of Rina's unfortunate victims.
She froze, cradling one headshot in particular before throwing her head back, cackling to herself. If she had known about this, there would have been no need to bother Tsuruga-san last night.
Around her, the cast and crew felt the urge to run away very quickly, sensing murderous intent and Kyouko's demons running havoc over roof of the mess hall. Freedom! They cried. We'll never let him rest!
Seeing Fuwa Sho's headshot cemented Rina's killing intent and subsequent joy inside Kyouko's head. She giggled maniacally, obscenely happy and thinking happy thoughts about getting to run Shoutarou through with a prop knife two (or twenty) times.
In fact, she would make sure to screw it up a few times "unintentionally" and maybe stumble over the lighting crew while she was at it.
Said crew considered cowering under the tables as a truly excellent idea when what sounded like hell itself cackled and giggled hysterically from where that nice actor Kyouko had clearly gotten into her character a little too much.
Takahashi Misao simply wiped a tear of joy from her eye and congratulated herself on some truly inspired casting.