After watching the scenery pass by from the indoors of the ship for a while, Kyoko and Ren agreed to explore the rest of the boat. As Ren opened a door leading to the outdoor deck, Kyoko felt a gust of wind. Since they were traveling on the water, it wasn't as hot as when they had been visiting Osaka Castle. It was actually quite windy right now, so Kyoko chose to take off the hat she had been using as a disguise to avoid losing it. She didn't think she needed it anyways. She wasn't nearly famous enough yet for people to recognize her so easily, contrary to what Ren believed.
On the deck, there were binoculars that one could deposit a small coin into to look through. Kyoko smiled at a little boy who was marveling at the view from the binoculars. His dad held him up on his shoulders since the boy was too short to reach the binoculars on his own.
There were multiple outdoor decks, and Kyoko followed Ren up a flight of stairs to arrive on the stern of the ship. Unlike the main deck that they had previously been on, the stern had multiple benches facing forward rather than to the sides. There weren't as many people here, and Kyoko didn't see anyone from their tour group.
"Do you want to take a picture?" Ren asked. Kyoko nodded, asking a lady nearby if she would help them take the picture. Kyoko took off her sunglasses, prompting Ren to do the same, although his face was still obstructed by the baseball cap he was wearing. After the lady had taken their picture, Kyoko reclaimed her phone and looked at the picture, gaping once again at Ren's flawless appearance. Did he ever take a bad photo? She would need to remember to remind Ren about those modeling lessons he promised her tonight.
Kyoko heard Ren gasp as a strong gust of wind suddenly knocked his hat off his head. Kyoko watched as the baseball cap was carried off by the wind, sailing through the air for a few seconds before falling into the water below. There was no way they could retrieve it.
"Oh my god. You're Tsuruga Ren!" The lady who had taken their picture exclaimed. Kyoko's face drained of color, but before she could think about how to deal with the situation, Ren suddenly thrust his sunglasses on her face, moving her behind him and turning her body around. The few people who were on the deck immediately gathered towards Ren, widening their eyes at seeing the star in the flesh.
"Wow! Can we get a picture?"
Kyoko attempted to turn back towards Ren only to have him nudge her leg, urging her to stay turned away. Oh. He didn't want to be seen with her, right? That would definitely ruin his image…
"I would be glad to take pictures, but in return, can I ask that you all keep that you saw me to yourselves until we reach the wharf?" Ren asked. Even without seeing him, Kyoko could tell that he was sporting his infamous gentlemanly smile.
"Anything for you, Tsuruga-san!"
Kyoko kept her face looking outwards, scooting out from Ren's back and around the railing. Everyone was too preoccupied with Ren to notice her, and once Kyoko reached a door leading inside, she pulled out her hat from her bag and replaced Ren's sunglasses with her own. Content that she was now hidden, she watched as fans fawned over Ren, asking him for pictures and autographs. Ah, the price of fame. Kyoko was glad that most people couldn't recognize her outside her characters yet.
There was a small window on the door, allowing for Kyoko to watch the situation outside as she leaned on a wall on the other side of the door. After a while, the fans slowly started to trickle away. Kyoko opened the door and "accidentally" dropped Ren's sunglasses, turning to head back inside and hoping that Ren would follow her.
"Ah, miss, could you hold the door?" Ren asked, dropping down to pick up the sunglasses without anyone noticing anything amiss. Kyoko nodded, holding the door for him and making her way to a museum inside the ship about Columbus. There was no one in the room, so it was a perfect spot for them to have all to themselves. Kyoko sat down on one of the benches that was facing away from the entrance, and Ren sat down next to her, his sunglasses already back on. Since they were alone in the room, he took them off but held them open and ready in his hand if anyone suddenly entered.
"I'm sorry. I didn't know what to do, so my first instinct was to protect your identity," Ren apologized.
"I understand. It would be bad for your image if the media found out that you were spotted with me."
"What? No, that's not it at all. I just didn't want you to be pulled into the situation. I don't care if the media photographs us together, but we aren't dating each other, and they would definitely spin the story. I know you don't want that right now. I don't care about what kind of blow I would face, but I wouldn't want them to antagonize you."
Kyoko looked up and suddenly gasped as she looked at Ren's face. He tilted his head to the side in confusion at her reaction.
"Is there something on my face?" Ren wondered.
"Y-Your eyes! You aren't wearing your contacts!" Kyoko exclaimed. Ren's face paled, and he swore in English.
"I can't believe I forgot. I should have been more careful. I should have known that something like this could happen," Ren leaned his elbows on his knees, putting his head in his hands.
"What are you going to do?"
"Damage control. I need to call Boss. He'll know what to do."
"I should have brought Natsuko on this trip. Without Ren and Mogami-kun around, I'm so bored. I was looking forward to enacting my five-step plan to help solve whatever fight they were having, but Kotonami-san and Yashiro-san ruined it! Ren won't even answer any of my texts! What if he blocked my number?" Lory complained to his assistant, Ruto.
"Tsuruga-san would not do such a thing in case of emergencies," Ruto responded.
"That boy's so ungrateful! After all I've done for him, all I ask is for him to respond to my texts and tell me about what's going on between him and Mogami-kun! I'm dying to know!"
"Tsuruga-san wants privacy at the moment, but I'm sure he'll tell you the details at some other time."
Lory's phone began to ring, the opening to one of his favorite otome games set as his ringtone. Lory absentmindedly looked to see who was calling him before springing up, immediately picking up once he saw the ID.
"Ren! You're finally answering! I knew you would come around! Now tell me, how has your trip with Mogami-kun been?" Lory spoke before Ren even got a chance to greet him.
"Boss, I've run into a problem. I forgot to put in my contacts, and people discovered my identity."
Lory's teasing smile disappeared. "What happened?"
"I was taking a picture with Kyoko, so I took off my sunglasses. A breeze knocked my hat off, and people recognized me."
"I see. It's not Mogami-san anymore but Kyoko..." Lory couldn't help but slip in a teasing comment.
"Boss." Even from the phone, Lory could tell that Ren would be glaring at him right now if he could. Lory cleared his throat. Right. Back to business.
"Did they take photos?" Lory asked.
"Yes. I should have been more careful."
"Was Mogami-kun's identity also revealed?"
"No. Only mine."
"That's good. You should change whatever disguise you're wearing right now so that they can't find you as easily if they post the photos online.
"That's not possible right now. We're on a pirate ship."
"It's not a pirate ship, Kuon," Lory heard Kyoko's voice faintly. Lory's eyes widened. Kuon? Just how far had they gotten in their relationship if she already knew his true identity?
Lory couldn't help but pump his hand into the air in glee. Ah, finally! Ren had taken that first step and confessed his true identity to someone! This was magnificent news! Lory would have to tell Kuu that Ren was finally on the path to accepting his past. Maybe he could even get Ren to contact his parents again since Kuu always talked off his ear about how many times he and Julie had watched that video of their son whenever Lory called him...
"Boss? Are you still there?" Ren's voice brought Lory's attention back to the situation.
"Right. Now that you've been photographed with your natural eye color, it looks like it's time for you to accept that colored contact sponsorship deal."
"What colored contact sponsorship deal?"
"The one that I'm making up. When you return from your trip, you'll model some colored contacts. We'll tell the world that you were given trial pairs and decided to incorporate them into your disguises. When you are able to, switch your outfit and change up your disguise. Hasn't Yashiro-san prepped you on this before?"
"I was careless this time."
"This isn't like you, Ren. You must have been too distracted with Mogami-kun," Lory teased.
"Okay, thank you for your help."
"W-Wait, how has your trip been so far-" Lory said before hearing Ren cut off the call.
"How could he? I give so much effort to help him, and this is how he repays me? He's so ungrateful!" Lory pouted.
When the Santa Maria returned to the wharf, Ren kept his head down and followed Kyoko to where the Bus 1225 tour group was gathered.
"I'm going to let you all explore the Osaka Bay Area for the next two hours. This will be our meeting spot. There's lots of small shops around here as well as an aquarium and Ferris wheel, so there's lots to see! If you want any suggestions for places to shop or dine, I would be happy to give you some!" Mari announced. The couples began to break away from the group, and Kyoko immediately led Ren towards the first clothing shop she saw, displaying various t-shirts in the front.
"Which shirt do you want?" Kyoko asked, sifting through a rack of shirts with Ren next to her. Some of the shirts were a bit...weird. She should at least try to find a normal one. She pulled out a gray t-shirt with the word Osaka on it, holding it up to Ren's chest and realizing that it was way too small. All of the larger sizes were out of stock.
"You can pick," Ren smiled at her. Kyoko's lips curled up as she remembered him saying the same thing as Cain when he had taken Setsu shopping for clothes.
"Okay. Then how about this one?" Kyoko held up a neon yellow shirt in Ren's size that said, 'If you don't like tacos, I'm nacho type' in English.
She couldn't imagine Ren wearing something so ridiculous, but then he took the shirt from her, heading towards the counter to check out before she grabbed his arm and stopped him.
"No! That was a joke! I'll find you something better." Kyoko browsed through another rack of shirts. All of them had stupid sayings like that nacho one! Weren't there any normal shirts in Ren's size?
Kyoko turned towards Ren to see him wearing a white bucket hat with a print of bananas.
"Do you think this hat works?" Ren asked with a boyish grin.
"No, I'll find you a better one. Imagine if someone found out that Tsuruga Ren, fashion icon, was wearing that kind of hat. Your fans would have a heart attack looking at such an ugly fashion statement!"
Kyoko darted over towards the hat section, finding a stylish black newsboy cap that fitted Ren's image and thrusting it into his hands before he could get anymore ideas. The hats were next to the sunglasses, but Kyoko spotted a few pairs of clear glasses among them. Picking them up, they didn't seem to have any prescription on them but were rather solely for fashion.
"Try this on," Kyoko handed a pair with rectangular frames to Ren. He took off his sunglasses to put them on, and Kyoko suddenly found her cheeks heating up. How had directors never put him in glasses before? The Japanese public would swoon if they ever saw him like this!
"Never mind. I think your sunglasses right now are fine," Kyoko ducked her head to hide her blush, flitting over towards the shirts section to find something for Ren to wear. She didn't notice Ren looking through a rack behind her until he tapped her on the shoulder.
"What about we get these?" Ren held up two black t-shirts, one in his size and one in hers. On the front of the larger one, there was the word 'Prince' with a crown over the P. The smaller one was in the same style, but instead of saying Prince, it said Princess with a dainty tiara over the P.
In the past, when Kyoko saw such cliche couples t-shirts, she would usually cringe in disgust. She didn't understand why people would want to wear such an ostentatious display of their affection for their significant other. To imagine Ren wearing such a thing with her...it would look absolutely ridiculous. But as Kyoko looked at that playful grin on Ren's face, she knew she couldn't back down from the challenge.
"I remember hearing that when a man buys a woman clothes, he wants something from her," Kyoko smirked. She took the shirt from him, holding it up to her to make sure it was in her size.
"I do want something. I want to match."
Kyoko's smirk was wiped off her face at his honesty, and she doubled over in laughter. Ren took the shirt from her hands and went to the cash register to pay before she could protest. When he returned, he told her that the employees had said that they could change into the shirts in the dressing room.
When Kyoko and Ren emerged, they stopped in front of a mirror on one of the walls of the store. The shabby t-shirt did not match with Ren's designer pants whatsoever, but of course he managed to pull the look off regardless.
"I have to take a picture to remember this," Ren laughed, taking out his phone and snapping a picture as Kyoko smiled widely. They looked like lovesick dorks, but it was charming in its own way.
Kyoko was feeling a bit self-conscious as she walked on the boardwalk hand-in-hand with Ren. People were openly staring at them as they walked past. Even if Ren was used to people staring at him (albeit for a different reason than for wearing a couples shirt), Kyoko wasn't! She was used to just fading away into the background, one plain girl among millions.
"Are you feeling uncomfortable?" Ren noticed her discomfort.
"A little..." Kyoko admitted.
"Then how about we ride the Ferris wheel? That way people won't keep looking at us."
"Sounds good to me."
Kyoko bought the both of them tickets for the Ferris wheel (she had done so before Ren could even reach for his wallet, ha!), and after waiting in line for a few minutes, the two were ushered into a private cart. They sat beside each other, and Ren was able to take off his hat and sunglasses now that they were alone.
As the Ferris wheel began to move, Kyoko had the sudden realization that she had seen moments like this in movies. In a Ferris wheel, the protagonist and their love interest would be alone with no chance for interruptions, taking in the romantic sights of the city. Sometimes, there would be a sudden jerk by the wind, causing one to fall on the other in an adorable way. Other times, the couple would share their first kiss once their cart reached the very top.
…Surely Ren hadn't suggested that they ride the Ferris wheel to carry out one of those romantic clichés?
"Kyoko, are you okay? You look…scared?" Ren said, causing her to turn to him and realize just how close they were. This Ferris wheel wasn't even that cramped! Why was he so close to her all of a sudden?
"I…I'm fine!" Kyoko replied, purposely scooting to the side to put some distance between them, resting a hand against the glass. "Wow! Look at the pier from here!"
"We haven't even gotten that far up. The view should be even better once we reach the top."
Kyoko gulped, trying to focus on the elevator-esque music playing in the cart. A voice began to explain the safety procedures of the cart, and Kyoko awkwardly pulled her hand away from the glass when the voice said that they shouldn't lean against the glass doors. Whoops.
"I'm sorry. It's my fault that you're uncomfortable right now. I shouldn't have forced you to wear that shirt."
"No! It's not your fault! I could have refused, but I didn't. I'm not uncomfortable about the shirt anymore."
"Then, am I the one making you uncomfortable?"
"Of course not!" Kyoko lied through her teeth. Granted, it wasn't Ren's fault completely. She was the one making this into an uncomfortable situation all on her own! He had done nothing but act gentlemanly the whole time, so why was she so scared that he was about to make a move on her? Why was she so scared that he was going to try and kiss her? Didn't she want to kiss him? She liked him, and shouldn't people who liked each other kiss? They had even kissed before (although unknowingly on her part). Why was she so anxious that he wanted her?
"So…how has school been? You only have one more year left, right?" Ren asked.
"Yes. I'm really grateful to the President for letting me attend high school."
"Since you only have one more year of high school left, are you thinking of going to college?"
"I'm not sure. I plan to keep on pursuing acting, so I don't know if a college degree is necessary. How did you decide?"
"I already knew that I was going to continue acting for the rest of my life, so I didn't see a need for a college degree."
"Sometimes I do regret it though."
"I never truly experienced what it was like to go to school. My parents hired tutors for me since I was little. Even when I came to Japan, I didn't go to school like others my age."
"Then…I'm sure if you ask the President, he could pull a few strings like he did for me!" Kyoko encouraged him.
"There's no point anymore. I'm already too recognizable to attend school. Besides, I learned to accept that I wouldn't have a normal childhood a long time ago," Ren smiled sadly. Kyoko instinctually reached out to take one of his hands in her own, wanting to wipe that expression off his face. He smiled gratefully at her gesture.
"That's why I'm glad I met you in Kyoto all those years ago. You were the first one who truly became friends with me for myself, not for my parents' influence or prestige. You didn't care that I was a Hizuri. With you, I could be myself, and I knew that you would accept me. Even now, you haven't let my heritage affect our relationship, and for that I'm grateful," Ren smiled brightly this time.
Kyoko felt their cart come to a stop, and when she turned to look at their surroundings, she realized that they were at the top of the Ferris wheel. They just had a heart-to-heart, just like in those romantic clichés! And now that they had done that, the only thing left in the Ferris wheel cliché was…
"Kyoko? Are you all right?" Ren asked worriedly. He traced a thumb over the back of her hand, and Kyoko flinched her hand away as if burned.
"I'm so sorry, but I'm just not ready to kiss you yet!" Kyoko blurted out.
"Kiss me? Did I give any indication that I would go back on what I promised you before? I said I wouldn't do anything until you were ready."
"Then…why did you suggest we ride on a Ferris wheel if not to follow that trope in movies where a couple goes on a Ferris wheel and has some kind of romantic moment together? Like…a kiss?"
"I promise I didn't suggest for us to ride the Ferris wheel to do that. You already made it clear earlier that you weren't ready for that sort of thing, and I would never force myself on you if you were uncomfortable. I only suggested for us to ride the Ferris wheel since I thought that it might provide a nice view of the city."
Kyoko felt bad that she had made those assumptions earlier. He was right. Kyoko herself knew that he would never push her if she wasn't ready.
"I don't want you to feel obligated to reciprocate my feelings. I'm sorry if I came across in that way." Ren began to close in on himself again, and Kyoko felt bad for ruining the situation with her unwarranted assumptions.
"No! I made assumptions about your intentions, so I should be the one who's sorry!" Kyoko argued. Ren sighed.
"If I did try to kiss you, I wouldn't want to follow those scenes in movies. It wouldn't be special. If I kiss you, then I would make sure it was a special moment between us and no one else. I would want it to be memorable."
Kyoko gasped as she suddenly remembered their kiss in Guam. "Wait! Is that why last time you jumped off the building after you kissed me? Don't tell me that you did that to make it memorable! At the time, I had thought that you had used your wings to fly away to safety, but you actually jumped off the building! How could you do something so reckless?"
Ren rubbed the back of his neck. "I had to stay in character… And I thought it was safe. Once I jumped off the balcony, I grabbed onto a flagpole and flung myself onto the floor below."
"What if the flagpole hadn't been strong enough to support your weight? How could you do something so dangerous like that?"
Ren couldn't help his bark of laughter at her cute pout, causing Kyoko to glare at him. "Hey! This isn't funny! You could have been seriously injured! You're not actually a fairy!"
"You're right. I'm sorry to have worried you," Ren apologized.
"Next time, don't try to be so dramatic!" Kyoko chastised him.
"Next time?" Ren echoed her words with a hopeful smile slowly spreading across his face. Kyoko blushed. Oops. She really should think next time before she talked.
Ren laughed once again, and Kyoko felt her chest become warm at the light atmosphere between them. She was glad that her misunderstanding from earlier hadn't ruined the day for them. She really needed to stop making assumptions and trust Ren's intentions instead. Even though he had lied to her before about Corn, she had realized that it wasn't to laugh at her but because he cared about maintaining her childhood memory. He had given her no reason not to trust that he had her best interests in mind, even now. She needed to keep that in her heart and trust him. It was time for her to take that first step. Only then would she be ready to maybe start a relationship with him.
I really enjoyed writing this whole chapter from the little bit of angst to the fluff :)
It was only a matter of time before Ren was found out. Do you guys think that he'll be able to keep hiding his identity, or will someone discover him yet again?..