In the bustling streets of Shibuya, a teenage girl found herself on a mission. Word among the streets was that many of the rising stars associated with Fortuna Entertainment have appeared frequently throughout Shibuya, often being seen at the Cafe Seiren, visiting the Hee Ho Mart and Jewelry Carabia and, most prevalently, the Uzume Lesson Studio. And now that she witnessed someone walk inside, she was prepared to see who it was through any means. There’s no way she was going to pass up the opportunity to meet one of the most well known artists in the industry.
Making sure no one was looking, she quietly snuck inside the lesson studio, hoping the pounding of her heart wouldn’t give her away as she steadily approached a door that seemed to lead into the main room. Feeling giddy with excitement, she reached for the door knob. But before she could grab it, she heard a faint voice from the other side.
“This is it… We’re going to lose each other… aren’t we?”
The voice was too faint for her to make out. Quickly and quietly, she opened the door just a touch, only enough for her to see inside. Her eyes immediately locked onto the figure of Yashiro Tsurugi and another teenage boy she didn’t exactly recognize, though from what she heard he was supposed to be good friends with Tsubasa Oribe.
“Looks like… Our paths have drifted too far apart.”
But still, something about them seemed so… strange. The air and tension between them wasn’t normal and the way Yashiro was standing seemed so different. Just what was going on?
“I really did… love you, you know.”
"Eeehhh?! WHAAAAAAAAT?!?! Y-Yashiro Tsurugi… i-i-i-i-in l-l-l-l-lo-love?!?!” She could feel her mind racing as she tried her best to focus on what was happening.
“Even after you found out what I really am?”
She had no idea if what was happening before her was actually real, but if it is, this is truly unbelievable.
“Whatever you are… it doesn’t change the time we spent. Together.” She watched as Yashiro’s face held such a strong sense of confliction and desperation, quite unlike anything she thought she would ever see on such a firm and confident idol, “But if… this is where it ends…”
She could her face flaring up, her mind was swirling and her heart felt like it would explode any moment now. Her focus felt like it was slipping away, feeling like she would pass out from sheer shock, but she held on with every bit of strength in hopes of staying focused.
“No… I can’t do it… I can’t imagine being apart from you!” A fierce determination overpowered the sadness in his eyes, “Even if I have to turn against the world… I would choose you over the seven billion people on this planet!”
Not being able to handle the scene she was witnessing for another second, she quickly yet quietly shut the door and rushed out the studio as fast as her legs could take her. As soon as she was outside, she felt her legs trembling, ready to give out at any moment, her face like a boiled octopus as she felt her mind and heart racing a mile a minute.
"This isn’t happening! This isn’t happening!! THIS! ISN’T! HAPPENING!!!”
“Hey, sis! Over here!”
Her frazzled mind somehow caught attention of her brother’s voice at the end of the block, standing with some of her friends. She immediately kicked it into high gear and ran up to them as fast as possible.
“Huh? Sis, what’s wrong?”
She took a breath before she spoke, “You will not BELIEVE what I just saw!”
Things were starting to get really strange.
To think Itsuki would actually be able to say that after the events he’s been through in the last few months. After learning about the world of mirages and the power of performa, his normal mundane teenage life took a turn for the truly bizarre. And yet to think that in light of what he’s been experiencing the past week this was the most strange thing going on. All of a sudden, he went from being able to walk down the street without anyone barely taking notice of him to not being able to go anywhere without someone coming up to him to tell or ask him something. But strangely enough, all of them were pertaining to Yashiro, but not for the reasons he assumed. He would have thought that the people who would approach him would ask how things were going for him in his recent transfer to Fortuna, but instead, the things they would say were much more personal.
“How are things going with Yashiro?”
“Are you and Yashiro doing okay?”
“We’re really happy about you and Yashiro!”
These were becoming very common things for random people to suddenly come up and say to him, to which he could only reply with a simple “Fine” or “Thanks”, not really knowing what else to say to this. And considering that Yashiro told him about how he was dealing with the same questions pertaining to Itsuki, he could just tell that something really weird was up. Something he didn’t think he would figure out.
At least, until now.
Upon stepping out of the cafe, his Topic rang and he checked to see a message from Touma.
Touma: Oi! Itsuki! Yashiro!
Yashiro: What is it?
Touma: You two said that a lot of people have been asking you guys about each, right?
Touma: Well… we think we figured out why. Head over to the office right away.
Itsuki: Got it.
Placing the Topic into his pocket, Itsuki made his way to the Fortuna office as quick as he could, dealing with a few more questioning people along the way. Once he made it, he saw that everyone was already there, including Yashiro, who held a look of absolute impatience.
“Ah, Itsuki, you made it,” Maiko greeted him.
“Aoi’s here. Now tell us what’s going on.”
“Always so impatient, Yashiro,” Her playful demeanor switched to serious, “Anyway, we were just about to go out and ask around to see where everything started, but that’s when something interesting came on TV. Mamori, show them.”
The young girl sitting on the couch nodded and reached for the remote, starting the recording they saved.
“... In other local news, Tokyo has found itself in an absolute craze! All stemming from an eyewitness report, word has spread of the possibility that the reigning idol, Yashiro Tsurugi’s, heart may have been enraptured. But not by a woman, but by a man, nonetheless! At first, it seemed like the identity of this mysterious lover would remain that way. But local citizens have helped to identify this man as the young idol in training at Fortuna Entertainment, Itsuki Aoi. According to the witness, who wished to remain anonymous, they said “When I first saw them, I didn’t think it would be possible. But the longer I listened, the more I believed it. Yashiro spoke on how much he loved him and how he would always choose him regardless of whatever may happen. I don’t know Itsuki all that well, but one thing I know is that he is very lucky to have won the love Yashiro Tsurugi!” So, is this nothing more than just idle gossip, or is it possible that Tokyo’s biggest heartthrob has been snatched up from right beneath us?”
Once the recording stopped, the others turned to look at the two teenagers, who were, as expected, staring at the screen wide eyed with red faces flushed in embarrassment. Itsuki was left at a loss for words while Yashiro averted his gaze to the ground, not able to handle looking at any of them.
“... They actually think… Me… and Aoi…” He muttered under his breath.
Maiko spoke, trying her best to hold back the chuckle from looking at the two boys, “Well, that’s the gist of it. All of Tokyo believes you two are an item.”
“No wonder…” Itsuki whispered.
“We have to do something,” Mamori spoke as she turned to face them, “Can’t we just tell everyone that it’s not true?”
“It’s not that simple, Mamori,” Ayaha said, “Rumors are very hard to stop, especially one that made it to the news. It’s going to take a lot more than just saying it’s not true to make everyone believe it.”
“Well, we have to do something!” Tsubasa shouted, “Everyone thinks Itsuki and Yashiro are dating, and that’s not true!”
“... Hmm…” Maiko hummed deep in thought.
“Maiko, what are you thinking?” Kiria asked, suspicion already seeping in her voice.
“Well… I was thinking that maybe we shouldn’t stop the rumors.”
“Huh? But… everyone will still think Itsuki and Yashiro are dating,” The young girl said, confused.
Touma threw her a questioning (and frightened) glance, “Maikooo, what are you planning?”
“Well, Fortuna has never really been known for sparking romance. This is the first big love story to be associated with us and it’s already generating a lot of buzz. Something I don’t quite think we should stop.”
“So…” Itsuki began, nervous, “You want me and Yashiro to… date?”
She chuckled, “No, Itsuki. I’m not saying you two have to actually date. Everyone already thinks that, we just need to throw a little bone in to entice them and make it official.” She placed air quotes on the last word.
“So, you want us to pretend to be together for publicity.”
“Well, if you were to put it so negatively, Yashiro, then yes. But I see this as a great thing.”
“Maiko, sorry for being so rude, but are you insane?!” Ellie exclaimed.
“Oh come on, just think about it. This could be a new opportunity for you two,” She turned her attention to the two boys, “This is your chance to show a completely new side of you both, broaden your horizon; try something new. You already did such a good job in making everyone think you already are dating by accident, actually pretending to be should be a breeze,” Her slight joking tone faded when she saw the boy’s flushing faces were only getting brighter and let out a sigh, “Listen, if you don’t want to go through with this, that’s fine. If so, I’ll do everything I can to stop this whole thing. I’ll let you decide.”
Silence filled the room, the awkward tension so strong it could practically be visibly, and the few seconds that lasted before Itsuki spoke felt like an eternity. And when he did, it definitely wasn’t what they were expecting.
“Yashiro, what do you say?”
“You’re really leaving this up to me, Aoi?”
“I told Maiko that I would try anything she offered me to find my place. But if I’m going to get you involved, I want to make sure you’re okay with it. Besides, it’s my fault that you got into this mess in the first place.”
“Don’t blame yourself, we both got ourselves involved in this,” He looked back down at the ground, his face still burning, “... This just might be the most embarrassing thing I’ll ever do…” He whispered under his breath before he looked up at Maiko, “All right.”
“All right? So… you want to go through with this?!” Excitement creeped into her voice, and once the boys nodded simultaneously, her whole face beamed, “Oh, this is so exciting! We better get to work right away if we’re gonna turn you two into adorable lovebirds!”
The two boys were overcome with embarrassment and a shared desire to just be anywhere else but the office.
“Ellie, you’re going to teach them.”
“Huh?” The blonde asked, “Why me? Can’t we just get Barry to do it?”
“Barry isn’t as well versed in the art of love, not anything like you. If anyone can teach them how to act like a proper couple, it’s you.”
Ellie gave a pondering look before Touma spoke up.
“Come on, Ellie. Is giving them just a few pointers too much for you?”
“A-As if!” His teasing tone always knew how to work her up. She looked to the two boys and gave a determined look, “Alright you two, you better take this seriously! By the time I’m done with you, you’ll be a love story worthy of Hollywood!”
The two were ready and willing to put their all into this plan. But one thing was definitely certain between them.
This is going to be awkward.