He tapped a pencil lightly on the notebook paper in front of him, staring at the handwritten words in nothing less than disgust. How in the name of hell did I end up getting drafted for lyrics...? he wondered silently. Damn that Katrina anyway! This is too close a deadline. Manx must not have told her what we were here to do.
"Mind if I sit down?" a soft voice interrupted his thoughts. He glanced up to see a pair of large blue eyes staring at him from behind tinted sunglass lenses. Hot pink hair framed a tired but bishounen face, and the newcomer was dressed in a bright orange sweatshirt and khaki cargo pants. "All the other seats are taken." He gestured around the small cafe, and the fact that the chair opposite him was definitely the only free one left was abundantly clear.
He gathered the papers around him and pulled them to hide inside his notebook. "Sure."
The young man sat down, setting a steaming cup of taupe-coloured coffee before him, along with a sketchbook. "Thanks a lot. I've never seen it so busy here." He took a sip of the drink before him before stating, "I'm Shuichi, by the way."
He opened his mouth to say "Aya;" the word that came out in answer to the young man, however, was "Ran."
The young man grinned. "Pleased to meet you, Ran." He winked slightly. "Whatcha working on so hard over here?"
"Nothing important really." He stashed the notepad he'd been working on under his tray.
"Wait a moment... I recognize you!" Violet eyes shot up in alarm. "You're in the new band!"
He sighed, relaxing. "Right." Please don't let him be a reporter or journalist or anything concerning the news! I don't think I could take it today.
"I'm with Bad Luck! One of the other NG bands!"
"Omi's - one of the other people in my group - mentioned Bad Luck." The small smile on his face wasn't, to his own quiet surprise, faked. The young man seemed to bring something in him he'd thought dead since what Takatori had done to his family. "He says you're going to be the next Nittle Grasper."
"We're going to be bigger than Nittle Grasper!" Shuichi declared, a huge grin on his face. That nosy expression came over his face again. "So you working on a new song?"
Don't look a gift horse in the mouth. If what Omi says is true, this Bad Luck is almost to the point of going worldwide. If he's got help to offer, swallow your pride, Ran, and take it. "First song actually."
Shuichi nodded sympathetically. "Those are always the toughest. It gets easier as you go. I just finished up our newest one!" He held out his hand. "Mind if I take a look? Maybe I can help."
Wordlessly, he opened the notebook and handed it over.
* ~ * ~ *
She strummed her fingers down the strings on her guitar then looked up at the closed door across the room. Sighing, she set her instrument down and opened her boss's office door without knocking. "Seguchi-san?"
The blond producer looked up at her with tired blue eyes and pasted on a very fake smile. "What can I do for you, Gough-san?"
"Katrina, please, Seguchi-san."
"Then what can I do for you, Katrina-san." The tone was polite, but the look in his eyes told her he'd really rather be left alone.
She took a seat across his desk from him. "What's bothering you, Seguchi-san?"
He blinked sharply. "What makes you think something is bothering me?"
"You look like you haven't slept in weeks. Are the threats getting worse or something?"
He shook his head. "They were constant till last week, but it's been quiet since then. As the saying goes, too quiet."
Katrina nodded, cropped black hair moving with her head. "I'm sure the authorities are going to get to the bottom of this before anything too major happens."
"I wish everyone here was as calm about this as you are."
"I haven't lived in Japan my entire life. This is a... calm place compared to some places I've been." She stood, wandering over to the Nittle Grasper plaques on the wall. "What else is bothering you, Seguchi-san? You have the look of a man who has a great many things bothering him," she turned back to him, "some of them business, some personal."
"You read people like books," he stated softly, shaking his head. "I'd swear you're a telepath."
She smiled faintly and tiredly. "No, that was my sister."
"You have a sister?"
"I had an older sister. She died a long time ago, before my father and I moved to Japan."
"I had a brother. He was a lot younger than me, an entire decade. My father disowned him while Nittle Grasper was on tour, something about him not living up to the family name and reputation. I... hadn't seen him since."
"'Hadn't'? Meaning you've seen him now."
"Don't concern yourself with my personal life, Katrina-san."
"Then, Seguchi-san, at least let me help you with the threats against the company." He looked up, a faintly interested look in his eyes. "I have this cousin, on my mother's side. He might be able to help us out. He used to be a bodyguard for Taketori Reiji."
"Might be worth considering. Thank you, Katrina-san."
She slipped back out, retrieved her guitar, and stepped into the elevator. Staring at her face in the reflective walls, she smiled. "We're going to get them, neesan. Just you wait and see. But I guess that's all you can do: wait. I'm going to pay them back for taking you from me."
First Draft: 24 February 2002
Revision: 18 November 2003
Well, finally, Mission Three done! Sorry for the delay. My mind has been wrapped up with gutterly thoughts on Three Shades of Red. But, please remember, I live for feedback!
For those of you who would like to know what all is going to go on in this fic, take a look here (SPOILER WARNING):