Chapter 8

Juliena Hizuri sat lazily on a red velvet chaise lounge inside her exquisite penthouse apartment, smoking a sleek, long cigarette holder in her slender, scarlet-nailed hand. Her luscious thick mass of golden hair was swept to one side down the curve of her lovely, alabaster neck, and large silvery hoop earrings glinted against her fair skin. She donned nothing but a lacy, ebony lingerie robe that accentuated the curves of her voluptuous figure. Her alluring face was covered with relatively little makeup for her standards, which included a matte brown nude lipstick, a bit of foundation, and some eyeliner.

Neverthless, Juliena Hizuri looked as breathtakingly seductive as ever.

The beauteous actress was speaking on the phone with her husband, her long bare legs tucked daintily under her knees.

"I won't stand for this, Kuu, I won't," she cried dramatically, her resplendent golden head flung back against the crimson velvet of the settee. "Oh—I think I'll kill myself!"

"Now, now, darling," Hizuri Kuu chided her. He was currently seated in his limousine on the way to a press conference to promote his latest blockbuster movie. Juliena had complained at the last minute that she was suffering from one of her 'headaches', and had refused to join him in making an appearance. "You can't always expect things to go your way."

"Are you saying you're siding with Kuon?" Juliena wailed out. "But, Manaka—"

"I know you are very fond of Manaka," Kuu said gently. "But you can't force Kuon to love someone when he does not."

Juliena pouted mutinously.

Taira Manaka's mother was one of Juliena's closest supermodel friends back when they had strutted the catwalk. The pair often modeled together for the same exclusive, high-class designer brands all over the world, not to mention they were also label-mates at the time. When Juliena had given birth to a son and her best friend had given birth to a daughter, both women had been delighted. They had vowed that their children would marry so that they could become in-laws. As a result, Kuon and Manaka had basically grown up together because Juliena frequently arranged playdates between the both of them. The problem was that Kuon tended to ignore Manaka as a child. He'd never seemed interested in her, and it only got worse when they became adults. As far as a prying Juliena knew, they'd slept together a few times during their teenage years, and that was it. Manaka had often gone crying to her mother—and to Juliena—that Kuon had slept with many other girls back when they were studying in medical school together, and also when they had started working in the hospital. An incensed Juliena had confronted her son, but he'd gently told Juliena that he was not dating Manaka, and neither had he promised her anything. Therefore, he was not obliged to stay faithful to Manaka when there was not even a relationship to stay loyal to. To top it off, Kuon had had the gall to say his mother was the reason for Manaka's heartbreak!

"You keep giving Manaka the illusion that there is something between us, Mother," Kuon had said matter-of-factly. "Let it go, and eventually she will let go of me, too."

How ridiculous! How could Juliena be at fault here?!

No, the problem had been with someone else the whole time, and a foolish, naïve Juliena had only realised it now.

Back when Kuon was six years old, he'd wandered off to the gardens of the Takarada Manor when Juliena and Kuu had visited Lory Takarada and his family. When he returned, he'd started uncharacteristically gushing about some pretty teenage girl he'd seen at the gardens. All Juliena had understood was that the girl had been wearing a high school uniform. Both Kuu and Juliena had been baffled. From what they knew, there was no girl in the Takarada family of her age. She had told her toddler son as soothingly as she could that he must have imagined the whole thing. For weeks Kuon refused to believe her, and he'd insisted in going back to the manor so that he could see the mystery girl again, much to Juliena's exasperation. Thankfully, as he got older, Kuon finally stopped talking about her. But something had changed. He refused to go into acting and to join show business—something that surprisingly did not disappoint her as much as she had expected it to—and had told his parents that he wanted to save lives for a living instead. Juliena had been astounded. It was all because of the butterfly he had been holding onto that day, she'd surmised. Watching it die must have saddened Kuon enough for him to experience a sudden and unexpected breakthrough.

She'd figured that he was still small and childish then, and would most likely change his mind about his future occupation as he became older. But Kuon never wavered from his goal. He came out top of his classes every year in school, and before long he graduated his high school at the early age of fifteen. Once he had earned his bachelor's degree and had aced his MCAT, he had then enrolled in one of the best medical colleges in the world. It didn't take long for Kuon to earn his medical degree, and he'd subsequently gone on to start his residency. His hard work, resolve, and natural genius allowed him to obtain his medical license and rise in the medical field with a stunning velocity throughout the past few years, and just last year he had officially assumed the role of a thoracic surgeon. Both Kuu and Juliena were extremely proud of him.

All seemed well.

But then today happened. Juliena had called Kuon to inform him about the sensitive series of events that had ocurred in the Takarada clan regarding the whole disgraceful divorce Kouki Takarada and his first wife had gone through some time ago. This was due to the fact that Kuon would—on his parents' behalf—be attending the birthday dinner party Lory was hosting. Neither Kuu nor Juliena could accept Lory's invitation as Kuu had a press conference to attend to at the same time and Juliena had originally planned to join her husband there.

That was until she heard Kuon's reaction to what she'd told him over the phone. Her whole nightmare began, and she'd been so distressed and unhappy that she decided not to go for the press conference with her husband, after all.

The mystery girl at the gardens of the Takarada Manor was real—in fact, she had been under their noses the whole time.

"Don't you comprehend, Kuu? The woman Kuon's been obsessed with all along is Kouki Takarada's ex-wife!" Juliena exclaimed theatrically into her iPhone, waving her exotic cigarette holder lightly as she did so. "His ex-wife! I heard she even has a daughter from their past marriage!"

"You don't know if he's obsessed with her," Kuu responded patiently from the other line. "She was just a silly crush he had when he was six—"

"No, he definitely is," Juliena insisted. "Why else would he ignore poor Manaka for so long, when she's perfect for him? Not to mention he's been with so many different women in the past, but he broke up with all of them!"


"I won't accept this!" Juliena went on obstinately, pursing her delicately curved mouth. "Why, she's closer to my age than to his! And let's not forget she's a divorcee with a child herself!"

"She's a very pitiful girl, Julie," Kuu reprimanded her softly. "Have you forgotten how sorry you felt for her when the divorce happened?"

Juliena took a drag of her cigarette in an attempt to put off answering.

Yes, she had pitied the other woman greatly back then. No one deserved to be abandoned by their husband for a younger woman and then cast out by his family like an unwanted sack of dirt. Juliena had nothing against Kouki Takarada's ex-wife personally; in fact, she sympathized with her immensely.

"I may feel sorry for the girl, but that doesn't mean I want her as my future daughter-in-law," Juliena pointed out archly. "For God's sake, she's ten years older than him! Also, have you realised that if Kuon marries her, our son would become a stepfather to her daughter? And their marriage would make our relations dreadfully awkward with the Takaradas. My point is, no mother would want her son to marry a divorcee with a child, Kuu!"

"I think you're going too far here with the talk of marriage, Julie," Kuu said amusedly. "We don't even know how the former Mrs Takarada feels about Kuon."

"Maybe, but have you met a woman who isn't in love with Kuon, Kuu?" Julienna sighed desolately. "He's always been a charmer."

"I'm sure the former Mrs Takarada has more concerns on her mind than the prospect of remarrying, Julie."


"Look, Julie," Kuu answered, sounding distracted. "I know you're worried, but don't think too much, sweetheart. I'm reaching the conference in a few minutes now. We'll talk again later, all right? In the meantime, try not to get too worked up over nothing."

Juliena sighed again, but she assented gracefully, exchanged goodbyes with her husband, and hung up the call. Exhaling a few smoke rings from her perfect lips, the blonde thought hard on what to do. Her gut instinct as a mother told her that there was definitely not nothing going on.

Perhaps it was time to give dear Manaka a call soon for an update.

Kyoko gripped her thin knees from under the hem of her black skirt. Her heart was racing and her skin was breaking out into cold sweat as the recording of Lina's malicious rant on Dr. Tsuruga's smartphone played out harshly into the now silent ballroom. She numbly forced herself to tune the crude, hurtful screaming out of her mind, and instead averted her eyes furtively to everyone else sitting by the elegant tables.

Identical expressions of shock were etched on their faces. Kyoko felt almost sorry for the guests that had been invited to the party—more specifically, the guests who were not from the Takarada clan, and who were either members of the entertainment industry or from other aristocratic families. They had come to this dinner party expecting a great meal and servings of excellent wine and other forms of entertainment. What they had not signed up for was to directly witness the petty and horrific drama between Kouki's former and current wives. In the settings where interactions among noble families were held, dirty laundry was never to be aired publicly. Uncouthness and the revelation of anything remotely scandalous were both considered a major faux pas. To have such vile screaming blasted in their faces over what was supposed to be an amicable dinner must therefore be beyond appalling. As for the Takarada family, they had to be mortified. Kagura Takarada looked to be on the verge of passing out, her bloated countenance a nasty shade of green, while Kouki seemed to be choking on his breath. Lory's features—after getting over his shock—now looked uncharacteristically livid beneath his sailor cap.

Lina Takarada's pretty face had turned ashen. She was shaking violently in her seat and refusing to look at anyone, her manicured hands trembling like she was suffering from a mini-seizure. Kyoko wanted to pity her—she really did—but she couldn't find it in herself to summon a shred of sympathy. She had the sore abrasions on her arms under her shawl and the pain in her abdomen from where Lina had kicked her to vouch for that.

And then the shrill recording on Dr. Tsuruga's phone finally came to end, and an ominous hush filled the air like a heavy storm cloud. The silence sounded deafening. No one moved so much as an inch by the lavish dining tables.

Despite the suffocating atmosphere, a shaken Kyoko saw that Tsuruga Ren was the only one among the ballroom's occupants who appeared the most unaffected by what had just happened. The angular planes of his face were unreadable.

Suddenly, Lory Takarada rose from the head of the main dining table, his eyes brooding and hostile under the brim of his cap, his mustached lips pressed in a tight line. Without a single word to anyone, he turned and stormed off from his chair, his white sailor captain's coat fluttering behind him.

"Father!" Kouki was already standing up, his voice a maelstrom of frustration, anger, and worry.

Lina got to her feet instantly too, her stilettos tottering on the polished marble floor, and she ran unsteadily after her father-in-law, her heavily ringed fingers outstretched desperately towards him.

"Father, please!" she begged shrilly, grabbing the back of his coat. "It's a lie! This is all a—a hoax! I swear it!"

"That will do, Mrs Takarada," Sebastian, Lory's faithful butler, said quietly. He had materialized by Lina's side from seemingly nowhere, and he took her arm gently but firmly, forcing her to let go of Lory's expensive coat.

With that, Lory wordlessly exited the ballroom through one of the large doors, leaving everyone behind to face the mess.

Kyoko could feel a flush growing on her cheeks now. She didn't want to look at the others anymore. Even though it was clear that she was the victim in the recording, and was not actually in the wrong—she had not uttered a single word back in response to Lina's brutal insults and taunts, nor had she physically struck back—no one liked being humiliated by a bully in front of so many people, especially not if the audience were all influential stars in Japan. However, whatever mortification she was feeling now, Lina must feel a thousand times worse. She had just been caught harassing and physically assaulting someone in front of not just her own family, but also by their visitors. In the Takarada clan, all women were expected to behave in a dignified, ladylike fashion. In fact, Kouki had left Kyoko for Lina because, according to him, the former was too 'old' and too 'unsophisticated' for his patrician family's taste. It was hence extremely ironic that his new wife—Kyoko's supposedly much better replacement—had just displayed a completely barbaric and vulgar side to the public. Lina's humiliation was definitely also heightened by the fact that her father-in-law had basically shunned her in front of everyone else.

As if right on cue, Lina whirled around, fists clenched so tightly that her bony knuckles were white, her intricately made-up eyes glittering with cold rage. She looked so demented with wrath that Kyoko half-expected her to start foaming at the mouth.

Her terrifying glare was fixed right on Kyoko.

Before Kyoko could even register what was happening, Lina had pounced upon her, her long, claw-like hands curling around Kyoko's thin neck. She sank her ringed fingers ruthlessly into Kyoko's vulnerable flesh, crushing her airways so that she choked the copper-haired female.

Chaos erupted all around the ballroom.

Kyoko was dimly aware of people yelling and shouting in a blind panic, and several others grabbing hold of Lina and attempting to drag her off Kyoko. Hazily she could see Dr. Tsuruga—he'd somehow gotten to where Kyoko was sitting in a split second—and Dr. Fuwa both gripping Lina's arms, trying to tear her away from Kyoko without hurting the mother even more.

Spots of red filled Kyoko's vision, and not just because she was being suffocated slowly to death.

She was so sick of it—sick of being emotionally and physically abused, sick of being discarded because she wasn't good enough, sick of being humiliated, sick of being depressed—that the sudden spurt of hatred and resentment just consumed her entire body like a tidal wave.

Kyoko lashed out her leg and kicked the other woman squarely in the stomach, causing Lina to release her agonizing, iron-clad grasp on Kyoko's neck and fall back with a loud, shocked cry. The blonde hit the floor immediately, her stiletto heels giving way beneath her. Strands of her golden hair had escaped her splendid French twist, and one of her diamond chandelier earrings had disappeared in the midst of their altercation.

Oxygen flooded Kyoko's lungs once more, and she gulped numerous times in sweet relief. Her bare neck throbbed in pain, however; Lina's sharp, talon-like nails had done a number on her soft skin, not to mention her hands—and the unyielding metallic protrusions of her rings—had definitely bruised Kyoko from how tightly she'd been strangling her.

Kyoko jumped when she discovered that Dr. Tsuruga was touching her. He was gently brushing aside the copper curls of her hair to examine her slender neck more closely, his sensual mouth taut with displeasure. Kyoko wondered if she was imagining the fury in his dark obsidian eyes as he scrutinised her injured skin.

It was then when she heard Lina moaning in pain and clutching her flat abdomen from where she was crumpled on the floor. Kyoko's hazel eyes widened, her heart lurching into her mouth in shock, when she noticed the see-through mesh of Lina's full-body gown darkening rapidly into a sinister crimson at the area between her shapely thighs. The redness was spreading at a persistent rate.

Horrified gasps resounded within the dining hall.

"Lina!" Kouki was kneeling next to his wife, his complexion as pallid as a sheet. "What happened? Why are you bleeding?"

"She did this," Lina sobbed out, still holding her stomach and writhing on the marble floor as if she was being internally scalded by boiling hot water. Teary black streaks of melted mascara flowed down her cheeks. "That bitch did this to me, Kouki! Oh, it hurts—it hurts so much—someone save me, please—"

Kyoko's senses spun. What happened? Had she kicked Lina so hard that she had broken something? Why was Lina bleeding?

Dr. Tsuruga finally bent down to join Kouki on the floor, and with a clinical detachment, he deftly lifted the hem of Lina's gown from around her skinny ankles and began rolling the bloodied material back from her legs.

"What are you doing, you lecher?" Kouki roared to Ren.

"He's a doctor, Mr Takarada," Manaka—Ren's date—piped up timidly. She'd appeared next to Ren, looking apprehensive and slightly uneasy by what was going on. "And I'm a nurse."

Everyone had gathered around a fallen Lina, their mouths agape at the scene. Dr. Fuwa's arms were folded as he watched the collapsed woman grimly. As a psychiatrist, physical wounds were not his specialty, and it was best to leave it to the surgeon.

Kouki's hands clenched. "Then one of you tell me what's wrong with my wife!"

Dr. Tsuruga was examining the source of the blood, which seemed to be from between Lina's legs; now that the hem of her gown had been pushed up, Kyoko was stricken to see the stark sight of blood gruesomely painted all over Lina's inner thighs.

None of this felt real. How could Lina be bleeding so extensively from a mere kick? Lina had kicked Kyoko in the stomach earlier too back in Lory's study, but Kyoko hadn't bled at all, at least not from the kick! Had Kyoko struck Lina so hard that she'd damaged some of her internal organs? Kyoko's pulse rocketed with fear at the plausibility. She wasn't sure—nor could she recollect—just how forcefully she'd kicked Lina in her oxygen-deprived frenzy.

"Vaginal bleeding," Ren said abruptly, and Kyoko's head reeled. This was not what she had been expecting to hear. "Is Mrs Takarada expecting, Mr Takarada?"

A terrible hush fell across the room.

Expecting. The word hit Kyoko hard as the gravity of what she had just done began to sink into her like a sharp blade. She had to clutch the side of the table to steady herself before she toppled over from her chair in a dead faint. The silky tablecloth wrinkled under her white-knuckled hands.

Kouki's jaw dropped. He looked stunned. "No—she isn't… I mean, I don't know..."

Takarada Kagura sucked in a breath noisily, her plump hand grabbing her pearls like they were her lifeline. "You don't mean—"

"We need to get Mrs Takarada to a hospital now," Ren said quietly. "I'm not a gynaecologist, but there is a high possibility that she is suffering a miscarriage right now."

Lina was having a miscarriage. A miscarriage. She had been pregnant.

She was miscarrying, and it was entirely Kyoko's fault.

Kyoko had kicked Lina right in the stomach, hadn't she?

She was the one who had thoughtlessly shattered the life in Lina's womb.

Lina had done many horrible things to Kyoko. She'd stolen Kyoko's husband from her, had torn Maria's parents apart, and had humiliated Kyoko time after time. She had insulted and mocked Kyoko, had called her the most degrading of names. She had kicked, slapped, and choked Kyoko, had physically assaulted her. Yet Kyoko could put all that behind her if she needed to. She wouldn't fight back. She wouldn't retaliate. Perhaps she wouldn't even hold a grudge if it came down to it. But there was one exception to this rule, and that was if Lina ever laid a finger on Maria (though Lina admittedly never did so, because Maria was Kouki's daughter, too). If Lina had touched Maria, Kyoko would hurt her, and really, really badly at that.

The point was, Lina could torture Kyoko all she wanted, but hurting her daughter? That was the one thing Kyoko would never forgive.

And yet this was what Kyoko had done to Lina. She'd destroyed a baby's life—an innocent, fragile, harmless life that had nothing to do with a vicious Lina's transgressions. She'd robbed a mother of her child, had taken Lina's baby from her. As a mother herself, Kyoko knew just how deplorable her own actions had been. It didn't matter that Lina and Kouki had not known Lina was pregnant; they knew now, and they had lost their child before it was even given the chance to live. Kyoko had destroyed the baby. And because of what Kyoko had done, none of Lina's past transgressions against her mattered anymore. Lina's sins were tame compared to Kyoko's.

Kyoko was a murderer. A killer.

She sat on her chair dazedly. She could hear what was going on, but none of the words registered in her mind.

People were mumbling amongst themselves, sounding scared, alarmed, and agitated. No one appeared sure on what to do. The view of all the expensively-dressed aristocrats looking so helpless and bewildered was almost comical. It seemed inevitable that the scandalous details of the dinner party today would leak to the press tomorrow; there were just too many celebrities involved at the scene for the information not to be exposed to the tabloids. People were going to talk, and soon Kyoko's name would be plastered across the tabloid headlines as the culprit responsible for ending another woman's pregnancy. Maybe not her face since no one had taken any photographs here, but her name would be announced everywhere in the media. She might get fired from her workplace. And without a job, she wouldn't be able to feed herself and Maria. Oh, but that was assuming Kouki hadn't claimed custody of Maria and taken her away from Kyoko by then. Who would trust a murderer to mother their child, anyway?

Kouki was speaking urgently to Tsuruga Ren. He scooped his wife—who was still moaning uncontrollably in pain—up into his arms, not seeming too concerned that he was getting blood stains on his costly tuxedo.

"I'm going to drive Lina to the hospital," he said. "The nearest one is ten minutes away, I think. Dr. Tsuruga, please come with us. We would feel more reassured with your assistance."

Kyoko sensed Ren glancing at her, but she didn't meet his gaze. She stared blankly ahead of her, not wanting to see what was written on his face.

Would there be disapprobation and disappointment? Or disgust that Kyoko had robbed Lina of her baby? Horror and revulsion that he had been attracted to a woman who was an even bigger monster than Lina herself? Regret that he had actually associated himself with Kyoko in the first place? Or maybe scorn that Kyoko deserved everything—her husband leaving her for another woman, her clinical depression, the abuse she had received from Lina—after the atrocity Kyoko had just committed? He probably pitied poor, sweet Maria for being raised by such a reprehensible mother. All these negative thoughts threatened to engulf Kyoko, making her feel nauseated and light-headed.

She felt Dr. Tsuruga leaning over, and she hazily realized that he was speaking to Dr. Fuwa.

"Bring her home," Tsuruga Ren said in a low voice. "Watch over her."

"I know," Fuwa replied tersely, running a hand through his disheveled blond hair. He looked irritated and annoyed about everything.

"I deeply apologize, ladies and gentlemen," Kouki shouted, addressing the bemused crowd. "Due to a family emergency, we will have to cut short this banquet. I promise that we will make up for your ruined evening. Please expect a compensatory gift at each of your doorsteps tomorrow. Once again, we dearly apologize, and goodnight."

Dr. Tsuruga turned gracefully away from Fuwa to join Kouki's side. The nurse Manaka scurried after them, her heels clicking on the floor. Sebastian promptly ushered them—and Lina, who was still being carried by Kouki—out of the ballroom.

Kagura Takarada turned on Kyoko instantly, her earrings bobbing against her powdered cheeks.

"You'd better be prepared," she snarled. "We're going to sue you. Don't you ever forget that Kouki and Lina lost their baby because of you!"

"Go ahead and sue her," Fuwa shot back. "But we have plenty of eye witnesses to support the fact that Lina Takarada was choking Kyoko. This means that what Kyoko did was basically self-defense. Don't forget Dr. Tsuruga's recording of Lina assaulting Kyoko too, because we'll be showing that in court. So we'll see what the judge says about that, won't we?"

Kagura opened her mouth, but she was rendered speechless by Fuwa's rebuttal.

Having said his piece, Dr. Fuwa took Kyoko's hand and hoisted her to her feet from the chair. She stumbled, but he steadied her by sliding an arm around her narrow waist.

Now that Lory and Kouki were gone, the guests were leaving as well. Picking up their purses, they left their porcelain plates of half-eaten culinary offerings and half-empty wine glasses on the extravagant dining tables and hurried together through the vast doors of the opulent ballroom, looking perturbed and shaken. The servants working under the Takarada clan were escorting them out, all the while apologizing to the guests for their ruined night. More servants awaited them in the hallway to return their hats and coats. On the other hand, the remaining relatives of the Takarada clan stayed where they were; they, too, apologized to the guests as the latter departed.

A maid, dressed immaculately in a black one-piece dress and a white half-apron lined with frills, approached Fuwa and Kyoko.

"In light of what happened, Miss Maria has been sent to a room for her to rest in," she told him, looking hesitantly at an unresponsive and numb Kyoko. "Unless she is to go home…?"

"No, it's probably for the best that she stays here tonight under the care of her grandfather," Fuwa answered, stealing a worried glance at Kyoko as well. "Tell the kid that her mum isn't feeling well tonight, but she'll be back for her as soon as she gets better."

The maid bowed. "I understand."

The rest of the night seemed to pass like a blur before Kyoko's eyes. She was vaguely aware of Dr. Fuwa tugging her down the corridors of the luxurious manor along with the other elegantly-attired guests of the party, who were whispering covertly to each other and exchanging glances at Kyoko. Fuwa glared at them, and they hastily went silent, which only intensified the tension in the air (though Kyoko was too overcome by the stupor she was in to care). And then they had exited the main doors of the Victorian-themed estate and he was guiding her across the open space parking lot. She wobbled blindly after him on the cobblestone ground through the maze of parked sports cars and posh, refined automobiles until they reached the sleek outline of Fuwa's Jaguar. She didn't have to tell him her address; he knew ages ago, since it was listed under her patient record in his clinic.

The car ride home—which lasted for an hour—was silent, with neither saying a word to the other. She rested her head against the hard, cold surface of the window, feeling too fucked up inside to fall asleep despite her fatigue.

Fuwa parked his Jaguar at the parking lot by her apartment block, and the pair took the elevator up together. When they reached her unit, he fished out Kyoko's keys from her black clutch that he was carrying for her and unlocked the door.

"Thank you for bringing me home," Kyoko said listlessly. Her large brown eyes were dull and her elfin features were set in a disturbingly emotionless mask. "You can go now. I'll see you for our next appointment at the clinic."

"Oh, shut up," Dr. Fuwa muttered. He pushed her lightly into the shadowy, dimmed apartment, then followed her in and closed the door behind them. He felt around the wall for a switch and flicked it on.

Amber light flooded the hallway, illuminating their figures.

She just stood there, wearing that sexy halter dress, staring at him. He could see the reddened marks and the bruising on her neck, and it made him sick to the stomach.

A few wordless seconds ticked by.

Fuwa spoke curtly. "Look. It's not like I want to be here. Don't misunderstand. The thing is—and I'm just going to be frank about it—considering your current state of mind, I'd rather not leave you alone by yourself."

Kyoko continued staring at him.

He strode over to her, and clasped her delicate shoulders. "Listen to me, Kyoko. You are not to blame yourself for this. No one in their right mind is going to blame you. Do you hear me? What you did was considered self-defense. That woman was choking you. She was going to kill you if nobody stopped her. You kicked her so that you could make her let go of you before you fucking suffocated to death. That's it. You didn't know she was pregnant. She didn't even know herself, for Pete's sake! Neither did anyone else, okay?"

Kyoko still said nothing.

"They have nothing to sue you for, nothing," Fuwa said evenly. "That woman wouldn't have lost her baby if she hadn't been trying to fucking strangle someone. Her miscarriage was her retribution for everything that she did."

Kyoko shook her head, her skin waxen and her doe eyes haunted.

"I'm a killer," she murmured lifelessly, and he knew then that she'd barely heard him. "A killer. A killer."

Fuwa inhaled. None of this was what he had signed up for when he offered to go to Lory Takarada's birthday banquet with Kyoko as her plus-one. He'd been looking forward to mingling with the numerous gorgeous women at the venue, but somehow ended up distracted by watching a psychotic freak beat up his date in Lory's study instead. He had to admit it was pretty ingenious of the surgeon named Tsuruga Ren to record Lina's assault and release it in the enormous dining hall where everyone was seated. It might seem drastically callous, but people—and by people he meant the public, not just the rest of the Takaradas—needed to know how crazy that bitch was. She needed to be completely unveiled; that would be the fitting punishment for Lina Takarada. Everything had been entertaining for a while in Fuwa's eyes until, well, it stopped being entertaining. So much for his expectation of having a whale of a time tonight with the smashing wine and the attractive females present; he ended up handling the most tiresome nonsense today at the Takarada Manor.

"Look," he said. "You're obviously exhausted. Go and sleep it off first. We'll talk about this in the morning."

Kyoko was eyeing him with something like dazed wonder now.

"Why?" she asked wearily. "Why are you even here?"

Fuwa stiffened.

She was right. Why was he here? This was completely uncharacteristic of him. He didn't care about his female patients. It was cruel of him, but nevertheless that was the way he operated. The only time he gave a fuck about their health was during his appointments with them at his clinic, and that lasted for a short hour. Once the hour was over, it would be farewell until the next appointment. If he saw them in between appointments, then it was merely for sex. Nothing more, and nothing less. His lovers knew exactly what they were seeing him for. He never discussed about their mental health whenever he saw them privately in his bed outside of his working hours. It was true he had met up with Kyoko outside of their appointments before, and she was the sole exception to his rule since he didn't want to have sex with her but was only seeing her personally because he liked getting a rise out of her. Inviting himself as her date had mainly been to score the other females at the party. However, going so far as to escort her home after a disappointing evening and now comforting her and trying to keep her happy was so unlike himself that he was suddenly appalled by his behavior.

What the fuck was wrong with him? He didn't care about the well-being of his patients. Seeing Kyoko outside of their appointments was for his entertainment, which involved watching her get mad whenever he made fun of her during their shared meals in the past together. In the meantime, seeing his other female patients outside of work was for his sexual entertainment. It was about his gain, not about theirs. But what he was doing now—driving Kyoko home, telling her none of this was her fault, taking care of her—didn't benefit him at all. It was for Kyoko.

No. No. He couldn't be falling for that plain Jane, could he?

How preposterous!

The mere thought chilled his blood instantly. He wouldn't accept it. He wouldn't accept this ludicrousness!

Fuwa Sho did not fall in love. Ever.

"You're right," Fuwa bit savagely at Kyoko, desperate to lash out at her for the confusion and havoc that she had wrecked upon his once perfectly-organized life. "I honestly don't know why I'm still here with you. It's probably all the alcohol I drank. That's really the only thing I got to enjoy at the banquet today, since everything else went to shit. You've ruined enough of everyone's night today."

He regretted his outburst the moment the words left his mouth, for Kyoko's already pale face drained of color in response to him.

Shit. He hadn't meant what he'd said. Not even close. Lina was the one responsible for the hellish night. What the fuck had he been saying? Had he gone momentarily insane?

But Fuwa was too proud. Caught in a turmoil of conflicting emotions, he didn't know how to undo his words or how to amend what he'd unintentionally inflicted on Kyoko. Forget being a psychiatrist—he needed one himself right now.

Feeling like a coward, he turned on his heel and opened the door of the apartment, then stomped out.

Fuwa had just approached the lift lobby when the doors of the elevator slid open, revealing Dr. Tsuruga Ren.

The damned bastard looked as fucking regal as ever in his multi-dollar three-piece suit despite the whirlwind of a nightmare they'd gone through tonight. The sight of him did not help Fuwa's already bitter and stormy mood.

"Ah," Dr. Tsuruga said calmly, catching sight of the other male. "If it isn't Dr. Fuwa."

"What are you doing here?" Fuwa demanded, then caught himself. Why did he care?

He didn't care about Kyoko's relationship with this man. Not one bit.

The corner of Tsuruga Ren's lips curled humorlessly. "I'm here to see Kyoko. Thank you for taking care of her for me, Dr. Fuwa. Or at least that's what I believe I asked of you, but I see that you are leaving."

Fuwa's hackles rose. There were two messages in Tsuruga's statements, and neither sat well with him. The first message was clear: he was very obviously staking a claim on Kyoko—so this doctor did have feelings for her—and was hence 'thanking' Fuwa for watching over what was his. The second message was implying that Fuwa wasn't doing a very good job of it.

Which was true, but the blond didn't want to think about it.

"Yeah, well, I watched over her for me, not for you," Fuwa sneered. "The last time I checked, she isn't yours, Tsuruga Ren."

To his incredulity, the surgeon ignored him. He fluidly brushed past the psychiatrist and pulled open the unlocked door of Kyoko's apartment unit.

Enraged at being ignored like that, Fuwa stalked after him. Dr. Tsuruga strode down the now empty hallway of the apartment and entered the living room. From where both men stood they could see that the sliding glass doors of the balcony were ajar, and long, milky curtains billowed about outside in the windy night air.

Fuwa's heart stopped.

Within the brief span of time since he'd left Kyoko, she had drifted beyond the curtains. She was currently sitting on the cement ledge of the balcony, her legs dangling on the other side. She looked almost serene, her copper curls dancing across her heart-shaped face and her red shawl flickering about her arms.

In fact, she didn't look at all disconcerted that she was sitting perched on the ledge of a balcony ten apartment floors up from the ground.

"Darling," Tsuruga Ren said, very, very gently. He was approaching the woman in deliberately slow but sure-footed steps, his branded leather shoes moving noiselessly past the open sliding doors of the balcony. "What are you doing?"

She gave him a wan smile, not looking taken aback to see the doctor at her home.

"Thinking," she said, "about how tired I am of everything. That's all."


A/N: Firstly, I'd like to apologize for the overdose of angst in this chapter, since the previous one ended on such an ironically triumphant note. I was a little apprehensive about writing this chapter because I had already planned the plot twist with Lina, and I knew things were about to get very grim and serious. Secondly, I don't think the ending of this chapter is an overreaction on Kyoko's part—she is diagnosed with clinical depression since the very beginning of the story and knowing that she's caused another woman to miscarry is a huge blow, especially since she is a devoted mother herself.

I also promise that Ren will play the central role in the next chapter. Sorry that Shotaro seemed so prominent for the past few updates; he will play Ren's love rival in time to come, if you haven't already guessed.

By the way, out of curiosity, between 'Amnesia' and 'FotPB', which fic would you like to see an update from first? (I can't promise anything, but it would be interesting to know, thanks!)

To sum it up, thank you so much for all your reviews and kind words. I truly appreciate them more than you can imagine.