Hear My Song!
Stars and Students
Checking her face and hair for the fourth time in twenty minutes, Miku put away her pocket mirror and tried to not let her nervousness get the better of her. She had good reason to be nervous, though. It had been a hard and steep path to get here, but now she was only minutes away from meeting the famous songstress Luka Megurine.
It was normal for Miku to admire Luka. She was only twenty and both of her singles had landed way up in the charts. Every girl in Miku's class, even in the whole school, looked up to Luka and dreamed of being in her position. But Miku wasn't just dreaming about it. Though she had worked hard every day and practiced in her free time, it had still been hard to win the competition and the first prize of recording a duet together with Luka.
There was a knock at the door. Opening it without waiting for an answer, the head of staff, whose name Miku just couldn't remember, came in. But instead of closing the door, he just stood there and waited for a few seconds. Then, with the elegance she admired, Luka Megurine walked in, smiling. Miku immediately jumped up.
"You didn't lie, Erico. She is really cute. Really fits the voice from the tapes," Luka said casually while looking at the contest winner.
Luka was every bit like Miku had imagined. The long pink hair was beautiful, and so were her blue eyes. It was a pity she was in casual clothes, jeans and a plain black T-shirt, and not wearing her stage outfit.
"Luka, be nice to her. I'm going to the recording room to tell the guys we're about ready to make the first recordings for the duet," the man called Erico said. He left quickly—but not without giving Luka a warning glare.
"Don't take him seriously," Luka said. She leaned against the wall. "So you're Miku," she said, as if to make sure she got it right.
"Yes, Miku Hatsune. It's nice to meet you, Miss—"
Miku was abruptly cut off before she could finish her greeting. "Luka is fine. It's not like you're just some fan." Luka smiled. The singer certainly didn't seem like the type to beat around the bush or to be overly polite. She continued to eye Miku like some exotic animal.
Miku just gave a nod. Luka's personality was quite different from what Miku had expected. That obvious glare didn't help to save the view that Miku had of Luka. But at least she still seemed like a nice person.
"Thank God someone that can actually sing won that contest. You see, my manager did the whole 'record a duet with Luka Megurine' thing without my consent! I can't believe that guy. Tch." Luka averted her eyes and seemed to try to stare a hole in the ground.
That was enough to shatter Miku's last delusions about the gentle, elegant and graceful Luka Megurine. But in a way, this Luka wasn't bad too. She seemed more…human and reachable than the idolized version. Miku wasn't sure how to deal with it for now, but she'd try her best to get along with her.
"Are you a student?" Luka went back to looking at Miku, who had sat down again, seeing as it was pretty pointless to be polite in front of this woman.
"Yes. I'm going to Yamaha High School. I'm a freshman there." Miku tried her brightest smile, and Luka answered that smile with one of her own.
"You're still a minor? Erico didn't tell me about that. Pity. I had planned to take you out drinking after this." Luka emitted a dangerous aura, one that smelled of scandal and chaos.
Miku didn't know what to say and decided to change the topic away from drinking parties. "What kind of song is the duet going to be?"
"There were no real plans since we didn't know who would win the contest. I assume you wrote the lyrics for a song, as we asked you to?" Luka put on a serious face, now that talk had shifted to business.
"W-what? I haven't heard of anything like that. I didn't write any lyrics!" Miku panicked a little bit. The contest finals had been three weeks ago, and Krypton Corporation had sent her a letter telling her the date to show up and the address of the agency's record studio. There had been no notice of anything like preparing lyrics!
"Don't fret. I was just joking," Luka said with a deadly serious expression. She then slightly averted her eyes again, grinning in a way only villains on television usually did.
Evil. The woman was clearly evil. Evil to the core. With a pitch-black soul. Miku took a deep breath and tried to calm down. What a mean prank to play on her when she was so nervous.
"The title for the song we're going to do is 'Distance.' It's different from the rest of the album. I'll show you the recording room. You should listen to the music once or twice before we try to do the vocals. I'll have to warn you, though. I've never sung with anyone in sync before." With another grin that would make the devil's advocate turn pale, Luka left the room ahead of Miku and waited for the green-haired student to follow.
Miku had seen bits of the studio before, like when they had directed her to the waiting room, but now she had a much better view of things. They walked past one recording studio where someone else was recording a song. Luka didn't seem to be in a hurry, but she walked at a fast tempo.
She also talked a lot. "It's unlikely we'll get this done in one go, so you'll probably have to come back here again. I'll show you around the perimeter once we finish exhausting the patience of the recording team."
They reached the recording room labeled as 3/2-C in no time. Luka pulled an ID card from her jeans' pocket and opened the door to the room. It was part audio room, part recording room, and Luka entered the audio part. Pulling up a pair of headphones, Luka signaled one of the staff members that was sitting in the recording room to play the music. She gave the headphones to Miku, then leaned against the wall next to her and waited.
Miku took the headphones and listened to the track. Once, then once more. The song was…how to describe it? It had a gentle feel but also sounded happy. It wasn't pop at all, it was more like a speedy ballad. Miku liked the song, although she figured it would be hard to sing together with someone she'd never sung with before.
Miku pulled off the headphones after the track had run through one more time. "It's a nice song. Are the lyrics difficult? I've never sung with someone else before, so I'm sorry if I mess up at first." Miku wasn't sure if she could really do this all of a sudden. From the sound, there seemed to be many interacting parts where they had to catch each other perfectly.
"Here are the lyrics." Luka had gotten a sheaf of papers from somewhere and now handed it to Miku. "I've been practicing them for a few days now, so I'll be able to cover you if you mess up."
Luka was making no secret out of her belief that even though Miku had won the contest, she was still just an amateur. Not a professional.
And she was right. Looking at the music, Miku had to take a deep breath. There were so many overlays and parts where they had to time their entries just right…
"Don't worry, nobody will bite your head off if we don't finish this today," Luka said. She took her place at the left microphone stand. "Let's try it once before we officially start."
Miku was holding tight onto the pages of music, trying to memorize the lyrics. The words themselves weren't particularly difficult. The hard part was timing when she had to come in and leave. Miku's expression changed to serious but affectionate, one to match Luka's.
"At least you seem motivated enough." Luka looked up at the big glass window and signaled the staff member to play the music.
Miku had no idea what she was in for.
~~~Hear My Song!~~~
A good four hours later, Miku sat exhausted in the cafeteria of the agency with Luka. As she leaned back in her chair, she stared at the ceiling, unable to speak one more word. Was this what idols went through every time they recorded a song? This wasn't just hard work, this was downright slavery.
"Good work." Luka put two cans of juice down on the table, much to Miku's delight. Miku opened a can, took a big gulp, and sighed as the cold liquid rejuvenated her throat.
"Honestly, you weren't as bad as I thought you'd be. If you keep it up, we'll get it done on the next date." Luka opened her own can. She had seemed to be feeling pretty well and fit, and emptied her can in one greedy go.
Miku didn't know if Luka was making fun of her or praising her. But that was pretty irrelevant anyway now. Miku was way too tired to be conscious of the fact that Luka was still super popular and a rising star in the music industry. "I'm amazed you put up with this every day," Miku said. She put her arms on the table, resting her head on them.
"I actually did a lot more than just this. Today I trained for a dance choreography that's coming up soon, and then I studied a bit of English before it was time for me to work with you." Miku felt strange with Luka talking to her like they were close friends, even though they barely knew each other.
"I kind of want to die when I remember how far I am from home." Miku sighed and took another gulp from the can of juice. It was some odd vegetable juice.
"My home isn't far from here. If you want, you could stay over and I—" Luka stopped as if she felt a monstrous glare from behind. It was her manager, Erico.
"Erico, were you there the whole time?" Luka's face lost a bit of color. Miku sensed Luka's manager didn't take kindly to all the scandals she almost caused. Having a high school student stay over at her place and do who knows what with her was exactly the kind of trouble Luka was likely to get into.
"Yes. Miss Hatsune will be escorted to the exit now. You still have work to do, Luka." Erico pulled Luka by her arm and away before Miku could even say goodbye. Luka threw her a kiss, which caused Miku to remember that there were rumors that Luka wasn't just bilingual but also bisexual. From her previous experience, Miku was pretty sure that Luka had spread that rumor herself and then abused it to tease innocent fans. She just was that kind of woman.
Two security guards escorted Miku outside and informed her that she would hear from Luka's manager once the next date for the recording was set. After they took her guest ID, Miku made her way to the train station. It was a ten-minute ride to the station near her house. Thinking that she still had to make dinner for her cousins was sort of annoying. But there was no helping it.
Miku didn't notice just how tired she was until she almost fell asleep on the train. If she ended up cooking in this state, she would surely cut herself or worse. Leaving the station, she stopped by the supermarket on the corner to buy some cup ramen for her two cousins. She only wanted to go to bed now and it was barely six o'clock.
Miku was thinking back. Luka was still working at this hour? An idol's life really was hard. Dance routine, practicing English, recording a song and then even more work. Compared to that, her life as student was a lot easier, even though she worked part-time in a flower shop and did most of the house chores as well.
Coming home, Miku found an…interesting view greeting her. She had two cousins. Neru Akita, who was eighteen and worked for a writing agency, was the younger of the two. The other was Haku Yowane, who was sadly an unemployed NEET that spent almost her entire day drunk. The girl was practically a freeloader at their house. Since Neru paid most of the bills and was really close to Haku, Miku didn't mind it most of the time.
When Miku walked in, Neru was sitting on Haku's back, while Haku herself was lying on the ground, facedown. Neru was holding a big bottle that was without a doubt full of booze. Or not quite as full, knowing Haku.
The nature of this scenery was normal. Haku and Neru were really really close, and it was almost a daily occurrence for Neru to confiscate Haku's booze to prevent her addiction from getting even worse.
Neru launched a full assault of complaints against Miku all at once. "Miku, where the hell have you been? It's past six o'clock. I'm starving!" Neru thumped Haku's bottle down on the floor, careful to move it out of the white-haired woman's reach.
"I told you I had an appointment to record a song. Here's dinner. I'm going to bed." Miku was in no mood to deal with Neru's annoying antics, so she put the bag with the cup ramen on the table next to Neru and left for her room. The apartment was small, and she was lucky to have a room for herself. Neru and Haku shared one, mostly so that Neru could look after Haku.
Miku slammed her door shut and threw herself on her bed. She hadn't thought that the idol business would be this draining. She was too tired to get up now, so she'd take a shower in the morning. Thank God the next day was a Sunday, so she had no school and could sleep in a bit.
Getting up one last time, Miku undressed down to her underwear, undid the hair ties holding up her hair and crawled back into bed, not even turning on the lights once. Hugging the leek pillow she treasured, Miku was fast asleep after a few seconds.
~~~Hear My Song!~~~
"What do you think of her?" Erico, a middle-aged man in a black suit, asked. He was Luka's manager, and he was sitting next to her while they were eating dinner. "You know, the green-haired girl that was there for the recording today."
"Miku? Well…honestly? She's got talent, but no stamina at all. I thought she'd fall asleep on the spot after we were done. She's the cute type, though. I like her." Luka sighed and thought of her biggest rival, Gumi. She was a popular songstress working for J-Net Corporation, a rival agency.
"I thought you might say that. I see some potential in her, but she'd need to work a lot on herself and her ability to sing to be able to survive in this business. If she even wants to, that is. Most give up right away after seeing how hard it is to be an idol." Erico sipped his wine.
"But personally…I do like her. She didn't get rude or make any sarcastic remarks the whole time, no matter how much I teased her." Luka put away her fork and knife and rested her head on the back of her chair.
"If all of your fans knew what a terrible person you are, your popularity would go down faster than a ball of lead," Erico sighed. Luka always made sure to act proper and idol-like under the eyes of fans and the mass media, but in private…
"It's a nice break to be able to act naturally with someone other than you."
Luka thought about Miku for a while after she had finished dinner. There was something interesting about her. Luka somehow knew that even if she didn't pretend to be who she was on-screen that Miku wouldn't hate her. Intuition, maybe?
~~~Hear My Song!~~~
Neru had somehow managed to stop Haku from getting back the booze bottle, and now they were eating cup ramen in the living room. Neru was quite a difficult person to be with. She was often snobbish, mean, and liked to annoy people just for the hell of it. Miku got a lighter treatment than total strangers, but there was only one person she opened her heart for.
Haku still had tears in her eyes, mourning the loss of yet another bottle of booze. She knew it wasn't good to drink this much, but she couldn't help it. When she was drunk, reality seemed a nicer place to be. Neru was gone a good portion of the day, and so was Miku. Haku was often all alone in their apartment, doing nothing but pitying herself.
They both ate in silence. Neru had always felt sorry for poor Haku, but she didn't want her to fall any deeper in the alcohol pitfall. Even if it meant hurting her by taking her booze away by force.
Neru finished first and then proceeded to stare at Haku. Sometimes she questioned herself. Was it really all right like this? After all, they were pretty close. Not as close as blood-related sisters, but they were a lot closer to each other than either of them were to Miku. But then…Haku was the only one who gave her this special feeling of being needed.
Haku had finished up her food as well and looked not very happily at the floor. She felt miserable for always causing trouble, for both Neru and Miku. It was just a circle of misery and self-pity.
Neru didn't feel well. She had worked a lot this last week and was exhausted, especially after continuously caring for Haku every day since Miku had started working part-time. "Let's go to bed."
Pulling Haku on the sleeve of her gray sweater, Neru got up and slowly dragged Haku along with her. The room was originally Neru's, and she only allowed Haku in there—mostly because of how untidy it was. Clothes were lying around everywhere. Neru also owned a cheap computer she used to write a novel separate from her job at the writing agency. The bed was no bigger than Miku's, and there was only one, despite the fact that two people lived in that room now.
"Neru…I'm sorry that I always cause trouble." Haku's voice was as sad as ever. Neru didn't understand how she had failed to find a career when she had a nice, melancholic voice like that.
"Don't worry." Neru walked closer and caressed Haku's cheek with the back of her hand. No one but Haku got to see this side of her. "I know you don't mean to." Standing on her tiptoes, Neru kissed Haku on the cheek, took her hand and pulled her towards the bed.
Neru pulled off the long jean skirt and plain yellow top she was wearing and just put it on a pile of other worn clothes. Haku was wearing long but tight jeans and a gray sweater, both of which she put away after undressing.
Neru knew the walls were thick so Miku wouldn't hear them, but she always thought about what the girl would think if she found out that she was sleeping with Haku. Would she be disgusted? Hate them? Move out? Neru sometimes treated Miku harshly, but she didn't hate her or want her to leave.
After she pulled the quiet woman toward her and then to the bed, Neru gently pushed her down, knelt next to Haku, and looked down at her. "I love you, Haku." It wasn't just something she said casually or often. Nobody but Haku had ever heard Neru say it.
With a faint smile, Haku closed her eyes and reached out to her lover, caressing her neck and drawing her in. The blond girl followed after without a word, lying down next to her cousin, looking at the calm face that Haku was now making. If only she could be like this outside of this room.
Sitting back up for just a moment, Neru untied her ponytail and let her long hair fall over her back. She then knelt over Haku and slowly moved downwards, strands of her hair tickling Haku, ever so slightly annoying her until only inches separated their faces.
In this dark room, Neru had shared so many nights with Haku. It had become so natural, so normal for them to be like this. Bridging the last gap, Neru closed her own eyes and passionately kissed Haku.
Maybe it had been pity or loneliness in the beginning that had caused them to fall together like this. Maybe it was both. But right now, Neru loved her cousin and wished for nothing more than her depression to end.
The kiss endured for a long time until Neru, cheeks red and hair falling over her face, finally broke it off. She grabbed the blanket they shared and covered both of them with it. Under the thick blanket, Neru could feel Haku's body heat, could feel her heartbeat.
Opening her sad red eyes, Haku laid her arms around the smaller blonde and showed a melancholic smile before kissing Neru. It was rare for Haku to take the initiative and Neru happily gave in to the kiss, lying on top of the taller woman, getting more aroused with every passing moment.
The moment yellow and red eyes met each other's gaze, everything seemed to stand still for just a little while. Neru's hands slowly found their way to Haku's neck and from there on, further down, drawing hot lines onto her skin.
A moan escaped the quiet girl when Neru reached her chest, playing gently with her nipples, teasing them. "Neru…" Haku's voice was never more than a whisper in bed, loud only enough to have her lover hear her. Opening her mouth a little bit, Haku closed her eyes and moved her face away in embarrassment. Neru couldn't help but smile at this. She happily responded to her by leaning down and emerging into a fiery deep kiss.
Not until Haku made a bold move and her hands moved to Neru's small chest did she stop. With a gasp for air, the small girl looked in surprise at Haku and then imitated her, grabbing Haku's breasts with her hands more roughly than before.
Moving about under the blanket, both of them could feel each other's body, each other's touch. And not until over an hour later did either of them fall asleep.
~~~Hear My Song!~~~
The sound of the alarm. Miku murkily remembered disabling it before she went to bed the previous…
With a groan, she opened her green eyes just a bit to look for the source of the noise. It wasn't her alarm. It was the door. Someone was knocking on the door.
"Miku! Wake up already!" Neru was about to knock down the door from the sound of it.
Too sleepy to yell, Miku got up, looked at her alarm that showed…twelve-thirty? She had never been the type to sleep in this much.
"I'm awake…stop knocking…" Miku said as if to herself and started dressing. The knocking got louder with every passing second.
"Miku! Are you in there?!" Neru yelled. Whenever Neru was like this, she was either hungry or in a bad mood and had to take it out on Miku. Was this retribution for the cup ramen last night? Seriously, that woman needed to get a grip on proper behavior…
Finally dressed in just a short green skirt and a black shirt, Miku stomped to her door and pulled it open to see her annoying cousin. "I am awake, stop knocking!" she yelled. Miku was patience in person in most things, but Neru really got on her nerves sometimes.
"Good, then you can make breakfast and…what's with that face?"
Miku was averting her eyes and keeping her mouth shut to prevent bursting out in laughter. Neru's hair was standing in a thousand directions. The ultimate bed hair. And it looked especially hilarious since Neru didn't seem to know about it.
"Your hair…go look in a mirror." Miku got out without laughing too much. Her mood had seen an instant change from pissed off to amused. Neru really was impudent with things like this. True, her house chore skills were abysmal. Worse than Haku's. And that really was bad. Really, really bad.
Neru had taken off to look in a mirror and a scream from the bathroom told Miku that she had found it. With a blazing red face, Neru vanished into her own room, likely to comb her hair.
Miku would prepare breakfast anyway. She was used to doing it. That wasn't what had pissed her off. It was Neru's princess-like attitude and how she treated Miku like a servant sometimes. Well, it was just her attitude. When Miku or Haku really needed her help, she didn't leave her family hanging.
With a sigh, Miku opened the fridge and looked in the breadbox to check for toppings and bread. None of them favored Japanese-style breakfast. But she had forgotten to go shopping the day before, so they had nothing at home. That meant she had to go shopping.
With a big sigh, Miku went back to her room, grabbed her handbag, and knocked on Neru's and Haku's door. "I'm going to buy breakfast." That should be enough. But really, how could she have forgotten…right. She had been so tired from her recording with Luka Megurine that she was had almost fallen asleep on the train back.
While Neru managed bills for electricity, water and the rent, Miku was in charge of the food bill. Neru often complained that she should buy more meat, but that was expensive. And with Haku being a freeloader, they couldn't exactly squander their money.
There was a bakery on the corner down the street. Maybe she would stop by the coffee shop that was on the way. She was still feeling sleepy. Walking out of their apartment, Miku made her way down the stairs. They lived in an apartment complex and occupied the top right apartment. Miku was halfway down when she heard someone calling to her.
"Ah, Miku. Morning!" Looking up, a short blond girl was looking out of a window from the apartment complex next door. It was Rin Kagamine, one of the Kagamine twins. The pair lived alone, only supervised by a social worker. Miku envied them. They went to a music-oriented middle school and their tuition was being paid by a fund for young promising musicians.
"You're going shopping? Perfect. I'm sending Len with you!" Rin yelled down, knowing that Miku was in charge of shopping. Rin was a loud, energetic and cheeky girl, the complete opposite of her brother, Len, who was calm, composed, and more on the gentle side, but also a klutz on occasions.
Miku didn't want to yell this early, for it was still morning for her, and just nodded. At least Len was much easier to bear than Rin. The girl would stop at every other shop, looking for things and often buying stuff nobody needed. Miku liked her a lot for her cheerful personality, but hoped that her cheeky and wild side would go away with adolescence.
A few minutes later, a pretty out-of-breath Len Kagamine came running down the stairs, a rucksack on his back. "Sorry, Miku, Rin is always so irresponsible." Len often felt responsible for the nonsense his sister caused. More often than not, he also served as Rin's scapegoat or guinea pig, which he wasn't very happy with.
"It's just how she is. If you stood up to her more, she wouldn't order you around like that," Miku said, but knew exactly what kind of answer Len would give. He would wave his hand erratically in front of his face and make big eyes, like someone had just proposed flying to the moon.
"What? Miku, you know how scary Rin can be! Impossible, absolutely impossible!" And there it was. The waving. The big eyes.
Miku burst out laughing and it got only worse when Len acted all confused about it and asked her what had been so funny. The twins made a great team, even though Rin constantly bossed her brother around. Only shaking her head, Miku walked past Len, not telling him that he was really predictable.
"What are you going to buy?" Len tried to change the subject, and Miku felt it would be cruel to tease the poor guy any more than this, so she went along. "Rin made a dozen impossible requests as usual, so I'm just going to buy bread and some stuff to make sandwiches." Len would make a good husband in the future.
"The same. I was too tired yesterday to go shopping and only got the other two cup ramen for dinner." Miku suddenly remembered that she had told the twins about her recording and that Len was probably also sent along to find out how it went.
"I am so jealous. To record a duet with Luka Megurine must've been really awesome, right?" Len was shining like a kid that had just gotten some candy.
"It was…hard. Really. I have no idea how Luka does all that work every day. I was so tired after four hours of recording that I thought I'd fall asleep walking."
Miku told the twin of her experience and didn't notice how unusually quiet Len was being until she saw how his eyes had gotten.
"What? Did I say something weird?" Miku was now thinking about it. No…nothing weird.
"You call her just Luka? Wow. You two must've really gotten along." Len had no idea. Luka in flesh and blood was nothing like the television idolized star he knew.
Miku didn't want to destroy his image of Luka, so she kept quiet about Luka's true personality. But it made sense now that she thought about it. Idols were idols because they were unlike real people. Special and gifted. It must be hard on Luka to keep that charade up every time she appeared on television or in an interview.
"We worked together, so she said it was okay to just call her Luka," Miku said casually. In truth, Luka seemed to hate the whole "Miss Megurine" nonsense, especially from fellow songstresses. Miku herself was astonished by how quickly she had gotten used to Luka's antics and behavior. It almost seemed natural for her to call her Luka. But if she did that in front of some other fans, they might just eat her alive.
They were almost at the bakery when a mountain of bread walked out the door. More accurately, it was a girl about the size of Miku carrying a mountain of French bread—a good dozen loaves. And, as the bystanders expected, it only took a few steps for her to stumble and hit the ground violently. Miku and Len had anticipated as much and had their hands, most literally, full catching the bread that was sent flying.
"Ow…shit!" the girl cursed. Miku wasn't used to such a cute girl saying "shit" openly like that. She slowly got up and Miku then recognized who it was—one of the waitresses from the coffee shop around the corner. Her name was…Miku just couldn't remember. But she remembered her. Nobody else had bright red hair that resembled…drills…more than anything else. But boy, did Miku learn the hard way to never actually say that to her.
"Are you okay?" Miku helped the girl up and pointed at Len. "Your bread. You might wanna take some off his load." Len was balancing ten loaves of French bread and could have easily gone to the circus with that.
"Thank God they didn't go to waste. Thank you so much." The girl seemed very happy. A bit too happy for just bread. Pulling a few loaves of bread from Len's pile, she bit her lip and looked around. "Can you two do me a favor and help me carry these to the coffee shop around the corner?"
They had no idea who the girl was except she worked at that coffee shop and that she was a weirdo. Not only did she buy way too much bread (who in God's name was going to eat all that?) but she also failed to think about how to transport it. She couldn't really have thought that she would be able to carry a dozen loaves of bread that distance without falling.
With a sigh, Miku nodded and took two more loaves of French bread from Len's pile, who was now finally able to see what was in front of him again. "That was really dangerous," he said to the girl. "You should be more careful."
"We were going to the coffee shop anyway. The bakery is probably all out of French bread now," Miku jokingly said, and knew it was most likely true.
The three of them went around the corner and reached the coffee shop in a matter of minutes. It was a small shop that was in a quiet street. Mostly students of the nearby university came here, but Miku liked the atmosphere of the place. It was filled with old wooden tables and it was clear from the decorating that the owner really cared for the place. The owner…speaking of her, she was an very odd person. A giant. Literally.
"Ruuuko!" The girl yelled and everyone in there knew she was yelling for the owner. From behind the counter, a very tall woman emerged, easily measuring two meters. Miku was always sort of frightened by the height, but the woman was a really affectionate person.
"I knew you'd buy too much again. That's why I wanted Ritsu to go with you…" Either she had just woken up or was in a natural mode of drowsiness. Miku had never seen the woman with the mismatched eyes seem really awake, and she came here quite often.
"Hello. I see you helped Teto out. Thanks, you two." Her sign of gratitude was followed by one of sleepiness, a big yawn. "Teto, I told you two. Not twelve."
The owner, Ruko Yokune, wasn't in fact the actual owner. She was just running the shop instead of the owner who was always traveling around. He opened the coffee shop in memory of his dead wife and then looked for someone to run it for him.
"You said two. So I got you one, Ritsu one, and ten for me," the girl, called Teto, answered with a deadly serious expression. Miku remembered now. She was the waitress that sometimes messed up orders.
Then it hit Miku. Ten loaves of French bread? Ten?! She looked at the girl. She was no taller than Miku and just as slim, so where in the world could she put ten loaves of French bread? Len was making an odd face, like the ones usually seen in anime. Miku stomped on his foot, not quite gently, so he stopped making that face. It was really weird.
"Ah, I'm Teto. Teto Kasane. Nice tchu meetcha!" The girl was already eating the first loaf halfway in her greeting.
Ruko took the remaining eleven loaves of French bread and put them behind the counter in a basket. "Next time I'll send Ritsu shopping," Ruko complained.
Miku and Len were standing somewhat dumbstruck in the entrance when someone behind them coughed and they found their way back to reality. Moving to a nearby table, they sat down, both watching the short red-haired girl arguing about the bread with the super-tall black-haired woman for a while until an extremely cute waitress was suddenly standing there, trying to take their orders.
"One coffee, with milk and sugar. Thank you." Miku was a little perplexed when the waitress just stood there, apparently looking at Len, who was making yet another odd face. Had Rin taught him that? Miku would need to have a word with this sister of his. Giving him a knock with her elbow, Len finally got a grip and ordered the same as Miku.
"That waitress was really cute. I'm here pretty often, but I've never noticed her before," Miku said casually, expecting a comment from Len. Instead, silence followed. Miku looked to her side to see Len just sitting there with one of those super-obvious "I'm in love" expressions.
"Get a grip already." Miku shook him slightly when she noticed what she had been doing the whole morning. "Sorry, Len, I'm almost acting like Rin." Miku was embarrassed how easily she fell prey to Len's defenselessness.
"That's okay. My sister is a lot worse." Len tried to force a smile but gave up midway and let out a sigh. At least they didn't share a room anymore since they'd moved to Tokyo.
After a few minutes of quietly watching the scene Teto was making when Ruko confiscated the leftover French bread, their coffee arrived. Miku couldn't help but eye the waitress for a bit. Why had she never noticed a girl this cute before? She had to keep Len occupied before he could willingly become the slave of this girl. How old was she? She was only about as tall as Miku, but the maid outfit concealed her curves a bit. Miku guessed that she probably wasn't older than she was.
The waitress left for another table and Miku found herself without a spoon. Len didn't have one either. Did she just forget it? Maybe she was a little air-headed. Miku got up and walked to the counter where they kept the tableware and took two spoons.
"How are things at school, Len?" Miku waved the spoon in front of the spaced-out Len and repeated her question. He was totally lovestruck. Great. Rin would probably blame that on her for all she knew.
Patting the spoon against his forehead, Len finally reacted. "Go ask her for her number or something," Miku said with a slightly annoyed face. She couldn't stand it when someone acted like they were in a different universe just because someone was cute.
"Oh, no, it's not like that. It's just…uhh…" Len tried to find the right words for an excuse, but Miku's glare gave away that it was useless. He just concentrated on his coffee and then remembered Miku's question.
"Rin's grades are as bad as ever. She's the best in the school at vocals but terrible at about anything else. When I get back home, I'm going to have to help her with her math homework. Rin and math don't mix. It's like trying to teach a ferret to sit still. Oh, don't tell her I said that…" Len made a pleading gesture and took a sip of his coffee.
Miku smiled at that last comment, leaned back and closed her eyes for a moment. She was still tired from the day before. True, she had heard working as idol was all about stamina, but this was just a joke. Four hours without a break, and Luka drove her on like a slave. But Miku found it odd that Luka hadn't blamed her for any mistakes. She just had her repeat each part until she had it down pat.
After a few minutes of just talking about school and grades, an angry and sulking Teto came to their table and sat down. "Thanks for before. Ruko is being a mean bitch and took away all of my bread."
Miku was a bit amazed at what a foul mouth this girl had. "Were you really going to eat ten loaves of bread?" Miku paused, leaned a bit forward and lowered her voice, so that Len couldn't hear them talking. "How do you keep your figure like that? Tell me."
Teto looked slightly confused and then seemed to be deep in thought. "I don't really eat anything with the bread. Just the bread itself. And if Ritsu doesn't cook, that's all I eat," Teto said with a bright smile, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
Miku made a sort of "ehh…" face and returned to her sitting position. She had finished her coffee and Len was about done as well. "Sorry, Teto, but we need to get going. We were originally going to buy breakfast. My cousins are probably already dead on the floor," Miku said, knowing that Neru was prone to such antics.
"Okay. I need to get to work or else I'm gonna have to listen to Ritsu's boasting all day. See you two around." Teto didn't wait for them to leave. She simply jumped up and took their empty cups with her. "Don't worry about the coffee, I'll pay for you as a thank you." Teto vanished behind the counter for a moment and then into a back room, probably going to change.
"If I ever meet a weirder girl, so God help me…" Miku sighed with a smile and got up. Len followed after and they made their way back to the bakery, where they hopefully had re-stocked on bread.
"They're probably rich in there with someone like Teto living nearby…" Len said, and did some math in his head, resulting in a slight headache.
"I need to buy some other things as well, Miku. I'll see you later." Len had stopped in front of a small shop that was selling vegetables and fruits. Waving at Miku and waiting for her to give a sign she had heard him, Len walked into the shop, out of Miku's line of sight.
"I better hurry, or Neru is going to eat a pillow or something…" Miku jokingly said and entered the bakery.
~~~Hear My Song!~~~
Miku was always fascinated by how Haku's mood changed when Neru was near her. During the week, her mood was pretty bad when Neru was out for the entire day working and Haku was alone at home. But on Sundays, Haku seemed almost like a normal person. The three of them had just finished breakfast when Haku lay down on the floor, going lap-pillow with Neru. Miku thought that Haku seemed like an enormously oversized cat right now.
Neru was already using her cell phone and doing her favorite thing—pissing off people on message boards. Miku didn't know what the fun was in "trolling" people, but Neru got a real kick out of that. The contrast of doing that and patting Haku's head all at once was one Miku had just accepted as an odd wink of fate and let it go.
Seconds after thinking about how Neru was wasting her time spending so much time on her cell phone, Miku's own cell rang, the ringtone being the ever so popular "RIP=Release" single that had brought Luka instant fame overnight. Unknown number.
"Hatsune. Hello?" Miku greeted the caller politely, not knowing who was on the other end. And said other end almost instantly broke out in laughter and said to someone else: "Dammit, Erico, I owe you sushi now." That was Luka's voice.
Miku turned around as if to shield her words from reaching Neru, who was a big fan of Luka's. If she knew that the idol was right now on her phone, she'd never let her talk in peace. "Luka? How did you get my number?"
"Secret." Miku could virtually see Luka grinning on the other side, well knowing how such a thing would annoy about anyone. "But that's not important. Are you free today, Miku? After remixing the tapes, the producer said we only need the last bit to finish the song, and the studio is empty today."
Work. Luka called for work. Stupid workaholic idol. Miku let out a sigh and even though she wasn't very happy about working on that song for two days in a row, she said yes and asked for a time to show up.
"Best would be you get moving right now. And wear something cute. I'll take you for lunch afterwards." Luka hung up without waiting for a response. Wear something cute? Luka was talking (and probably thinking) like some old perverted man. But…well. It couldn't hurt to dress up a little.
"I'm going out for a bit. Since we had breakfast this late, lunch is canceled. I'll make spaghetti for dinner," Miku directed briefly towards Neru, who made a mental note but seemed too absorbed into her little game of pissing people off.
She chose to wear a knee-length green skirt (most of her favorite clothes were some variation of green) and a black sleeveless top. Binding her hair back into twin tails and looking into the big mirror on her desk, Miku paused for a second. Just who was she dressing up for? Luka? Well, she did ask her to, but…
Deciding that her usual self was cute enough, Miku left the apartment. The other two remained as they were, like stationary objects. Haku seemed to be asleep, though. Closing the door, Miku left in a hurry. If she really had to cook this evening, she'd better get done with her work soon. Luka even wanted to take her out for lunch. Thank God they still had enough things for spaghetti at home.
Miku took the shortcut through the little park behind her apartment to the next station and immediately blessed her good luck. Miku had heard that Gumi often went and socialized with her fans and even spontaneously sung for people, but she had never had the luck to see Gumi herself. The star from J-Net, the other big music agency here in Tokyo, rivaling Krypton—Gumi.
It was a stage name, and the idol was really hard on people who tried to find out her real name. The agency had done a good job of keeping that a secret. Gumi was just standing there, singing for a bunch of kids from the neighborhood. She really must've loved being around her fans.
She seemed to have finished one song just now as she bowed for the happy pack as they gave a round of applause. Miku stood nearby and looked surprised to see Gumi here. Their eyes met and Gumi excused herself from the kids and came up to Miku.
Surprised, Miku was suddenly happy she had at least cared enough for her appearance to do her hair and pick out some nice clothes. At least the idol wouldn't think she was a sloth. Not knowing what to say, Miku got a little bit nervous. But she didn't have to say anything. Gumi stopped right in front of her and took a closer look.
"I knew it. You're the winner of the National Yamaha Songstress Competition, aren't you? Um…I'm sorry, but I really can't remember your name." Gumi was a bit perplexed by how relieved Miku seemed to be.
Thank God Gumi was really like she had imagined. Luka must've been the oddball in the idol business. Miku followed Gumi's blog and Twitter and she often talked directly with fans. "Miku. Miku Hatsune." She introduced herself and bowed slightly.
"It seems you know who I am." Gumi smiled. "I heard that you are going to record a song with Luka? Did you meet her already?" Gumi had met Luka before and even though they were not on very good terms due to their business, they had not been hostile to each other…even though Gumi had been a bit put off by Luka's flirtations, teasing or not.
"I did." Those two words carried so much disappointment with it that Gumi knew instantly that Luka had shown her how she really was.
Well, that was to be expected. Gumi didn't like Luka very much, but she admired her hard work and stamina. Since they did not appeal to the same audience, their only real rivalry was in the charts, and Gumi had been constantly losing to Luka there.
"Don't take it so hard. Want to stay and hear a song? I was going to sing a song from my new album Aimo next for these kids," Gumi offered. Miku knew that doing all this was good for Gumi's popularity, but apparently she was doing it mainly because she liked being around people and making them happy with her music.
"Actually, I am on my way to the train station to finish the recording from yesterday. Luka called me over all of a sudden." Miku declined the offer and regretted meeting Gumi exactly today when she had no time. Keeping Luka waiting wasn't a very good idea, given her personality. "I need to get going, but nice meeting you. You're every bit as nice as I imagined." Miku tried to take off just to be held back by Gumi.
"Can you give me your cell phone number? Who knows, maybe you'll become famous." Surely Gumi didn't have any ulterior motive for asking her…although she'd probably prefer Miku to work for J-Net if it came to that.
"Sure." Miku handed her cell over to Gumi, who entered Miku's number into her own cell. "Didn't think I'd ever get someone as famous as you to ask me for my number." Miku smiled nervously and got her cell back.
"I hope you understand I can't give you my number. My manager would have a seizure. She's really scary sometimes." Gumi sighed. Even idols had their own problems. Thinking back, Luka seemed to be quite wary of her manager as well. Miku wondered what kind of person was able to keep these celebrities in check.
"No problem." Miku was less nervous now, seeing Gumi was only human too. A look on the digital display of her cell told her she had to run if she wanted to get the train. "Sorry, but I really need to run now!" Miku almost yelled while already running, leaving Gumi behind.
~~~Hear My Song!~~~
After only an hour and a half, they were finished. Finally finished. Luka grabbed Miku before her manager could show up and they escaped through one of the back doors for personnel. Miku was a bit bothered by the issue of just leaving without notice.
Luka had changed her hair into a ponytail, wore some cheap jeans and plain top and just as cheap sunglasses. Aside from the hair color, nobody would've guess she was Luka Megurine. Miku also questioned the choice of her clothes. After all, Luka had told her to dress up, and now she was running around like that.
"There is a nice ice cream shop not too far. Someone from the agency owns it, so we can go there without having to worry about people finding out who I am." Luka was more or less dragging Miku forcefully with her. Miku didn't know of any ice cream shops, at least not in the vicinity.
"Then why did you dress like that? Couldn't you have gone as you are?" She couldn't keep up with Luka's way of thinking. Well, they did have to get there somehow, but then again…Luka was famous, but would people instantly recognize her? Her pink hair didn't stand out as much as it used to, since there were a lot of people imitating Luka right now.
In general, the latest idol trend seemed to cause people to run around with the oddest hairstyles. Miku had been dyeing her hair like this for many years now and it made her special…until everyone else started copying people like Gumi and Luka, who had exotic and unnatural hair colors.
Luka didn't answer the previous question and dragged Miku along. Five minutes. Ten minutes. Just how far were they going to walk? Miku was pretty sure it would be faster to walk back from here than take the next train.
Miku wasn't familiar with the area they were now in, as it was exactly between the agency and her home. Her school was in the other direction, so she rarely if ever came here. The street was lively, but not polluted. The atmosphere was nice and it had a western feel to it, like one of these streets that they filmed dramas in.
Luka walked, with perfect aim, towards a small ice cream shop that had no particular name nor did it seem really special. Seeing the owner made Miku feel slightly irritated. He was a blue-haired man that she had seen before. But she couldn't remember where.
"Kaito. Hey, Ka-i-to!" Luka waved from a distance and walked straight towards the counter. There were a few tables just outside the shop and maybe half a dozen tables inside. Two couples were sitting outside, emitting an obvious romantic aura.
"Hi Luka," Kaito answered with a gentle smile. The first impression anyone got from Kaito was that he was a nice guy. The "best friend" version of a nice guy. And Luka seemed to know him well. Miku didn't really catch most of what they discussed, but once they were through, the man's attention shifted to Miku.
"Your new potential girlfriend? She looks really cute." Now that was a really blunt and direct guy. He wasn't bad-looking and seemed nice enough, but with an attitude like that…
"Kaito, that habit you have of talking without thinking is what stops you from having any success with the girls. That's Miku Hatsune, the winner of the competition that ran recently. We just finished recording a duet." Luka laughed him off and ignored his question completely. She didn't exactly know what she saw in Miku. Just because she enjoyed being a flirt, people always thought she'd go out with about anyone.
"I'll get the usual. It's my treat, Miku. Choose what you want." Luka left her standing there and went to sit down in the back. Luka didn't like to sit outside or near the entrance and be victim to people's curiosity.
"It takes a lot to put up with her, doesn't it?" Kaito talked to Miku as if they had been friends forever. Oddly, it didn't feel wrong. Kaito seemed to have a natural talent for getting along with people.
Miku just nodded and took the card, picking pistachio ice cream. She always liked to try out new foods, and that one seemed pretty good. Kaito started preparing the ice and Miku went to sit down with Luka. Did that woman ever consider waiting for others?
"He's a nice guy. He also works at the agency, but his singles have been selling pretty badly so he runs this shop. Speaking of people that work at the agency—you see that booze shop across the street? The woman running that one is also working for us." Luka leaned forward, dangerously close to Miku's face.
On instinct, Miku flinched a bit, but even so, their faces were barely inches apart. Up this close, Luka seemed instantly quite as beautiful as before, even with her hair up like that. Miku wasn't the type to hunt after romance, but this moment had her heart beating a little faster.
"It's a secret, but Kaito has been trying to ask her out since forever. You saw how he is, though. He always makes her angry with his honest-to-God remarks." Luka noticed how nervous Miku had gotten once she had leaned in and moved in even more, acting like she was about to kiss the girl—just to stop at the last second, pull back, and start giggling to herself.
Miku's cheeks had taken a deep shade of red, and she knew it was useless to try to hide her nervousness. "Don't worry, not even I would just randomly kiss you." Luka waved her hand and grinned at Miku.
"You're a terrible person, Luka." Miku sulked and looked away. Spending a few seconds in silence, Luka leaned back on the chair and stretched her arms out, sighing.
"It feels good to act normally with someone who's not my manager. I know I'm not the nicest person, but I can try if I must." Luka loved to tease people, but she knew when enough was enough. And that point had now been reached. "I'm thankful you didn't get angry and leave yet." Luka was almost a bit perplexed that Miku hadn't.
"One of my cousins I live with is one hell of a lot worse than you. So I guess I'm a little used to this." Miku wasn't particularly happy about Luka's personality, but at least that woman knew that she was a difficult person, unlike a certain someone in Miku's family.
Miku's ice cream came first. "A Pistachio Carnival for the young lady." He put the ice cream cup down and left to prepare Luka's.
"I think I saw one of his CDs once. I remember seeing his face somewhere," Miku said in between eating bits of her ice. It was really delicious. Not watery, as pistachio ice often happened to be but also not so strong that one couldn't taste anything else for a while.
"He does a good job of singing, to be honest, but his first single was pretty rushed by the agency and sold really badly. He still hasn't recovered from the bad publicity." Luka played with a strand of hair that had gotten loose from her ponytail.
Miku pitied Kaito a bit. Talking with the spoon in her mouth was bad manners, but as Luka didn't seem to care about that at all, why should she? "Why isn't the agency doing anything? Like making a promo song?" Miku asked, and knew the answer alone from Luka's face.
Luka was actually embarrassed from that question and averted her eyes, looking at the wall. "I guess that's my fault. The agency is working hard to make me a star, so Kaito and Meiko are pretty much on their own for now." She did sometimes feel responsible for their low popularity, but neither of them blamed her, for which she was quite grateful.
Miku thought that Meiko must be the woman that Luka had mentioned before. Working in a booze shop was an odd occupation for a songstress, though. If she was anything like Kaito, then they would get along really well.
"One Peach Parvilietti." Kaito put down a pink and pinker ice cup in front of Luka, who stared at it with sparkling eyes.
Today was apparently a slow business day, and Kaito had some free time as he sat down on a chair next to them and started up a conversation. "How did the recording go? Did Luka act like a slave driver like usual?"
Miku could see what Luka meant when she said that Kaito was always saying what he was thinking. That was admirable in one way, but really bad in another. "The recording team was worse. I admire Luka's stamina to put up with all that."
"Working for Krypton is all about stamina. I assume Luka already told you I'm a failure as a singer." His tone was free of sarcasm or self-pity, just plain truth.
"I didn't say that. I said you got bad publicity because the agency rushed your first single." Luka seized the conversation and pointed her spoon at Kaito like a magical weapon. "I would never say you're a failure, and you know that." Luka seemed really angry for some reason.
"My bad, Luka. I know you aren't one to badmouth hard-working people." Kaito smiled and scratched the back of his head.
Miku felt oddly charmed by this guy. Luka's personality and his seemed to work out fine. Miku asked herself if Luka ever thought about going out with him, but then, according to Luka, he seemed to have his eyes set on someone else.
Miku turned around to the shop in reaction to her thoughts, and then immediately jumped up, pointing at someone in front of that shop. "Ah!" Leaving her ice was it was, half-eaten, Miku left running and was across the street in a few seconds, grabbing the person suddenly by the wrist.
Luka was confused and perplexed by this sudden turn of events. It seemed so totally out of character for Miku to attack strangers on the street. "Don't put the ice away, I'll check what's wrong." Luka left Kaito in charge of her favorite peach-flavored ice cream and made her way across the street.
Miku seemed to be arguing with a tall, white-haired woman with really beautiful red eyes. They seemed pretty close. Luka couldn't help but eye the mysterious woman a bit before she spoke up. "What's wrong, Miku? Who is this?" Luka appeared next to Miku, who was still holding the woman by her wrist, talking vividly to her.
"One of my cousins, Haku Yowane. The one that isn't a terrible tease." Miku sighed and finally let go of Haku, who seemed quite depressed that her plan to secretly go out and buy some booze had failed. She had even gone to a shop a good distance away from her home and still ran into Miku. Fortuna really hated her.
"I'm Luka. I was just eating lunch over there with Miku. Do you want to join us?" Luka sometimes said some outrageous things. Miku really didn't really want to tell her that Haku was a NEET and a drunkard. But the most important thing…
"Wait, eating ice cream is supposed to be lunch?! There are so many things wrong with that, I don't even know where to begin." Miku sighed and turned around to Luka. "But anyway, I'm sorry, but I need to get her back." Without further notice, Miku grabbed Haku by her sleeve and pulled her along.
"Just so you know, I'm angry," Miku whispered to the taller woman and instantly regretted it. Haku already had tears in her eyes, knowing well that Miku had canceled whatever she had been doing to prevent leaking out that she was just a drunkard NEET.
"I'm sorry, Miku…" Haku whispered back, lowering her head and staring at the ground. Miku let go of her sleeve and took her hand in exchange, pulling her less strongly than before. Even though Haku was older than Miku was, taller, and probably stronger, she just didn't put up any resistance. She knew drinking was bad, but didn't have enough willpower to resist.
Luka didn't follow them. She was a bit disappointed that Miku had just taken off like that without an explanation. It didn't fit her character. Luka was sharp when it came to such things. Miku didn't leave of her own will—she felt she had to take her cousin home.
Luka stood for a few more seconds in the middle of the street, looking after Miku. With a sigh, she pulled out her cell phone. Thank God she had saved Miku's number after Erico had found it out. Calling her now would only make things awkward, so she typed a short text message.
Let's go somewhere next time.
~~~End of Chapter I~~~