It has definitely been a while since I last updated this story, but I have not given up on it!
On the Ferris wheel's descent, Kyoko was actually able to enjoy the scenery now that she wasn't so nervous about a romantic cliché happening at the top of the Ferris wheel. The Osaka scenery really was pretty. Other than the sea and harbor, the Ferris wheel took them high enough that Kyoko could see an unobstructed view of the Osaka skyline.
Once their cart reached the bottom, Kyoko and Ren still had a little time before they would meet back up with the tour group.
"Kuon, I'll be right back. I need to use the restroom," Kyoko said.
"I will wait for you out here," Ren replied.
Kyoko headed into the ladies room and hurriedly took care of her business. As she was washing her hands, she couldn't help but overhear a conversation that a group of ladies was having next to her.
"Did you see that leaked photo of Tsuruga Ren? He could still be closeby! Do you think we might see him?"
"Possibly! You know, I saw a guy outside that looked really similar. Do you think it could be him?"
"Why would Tsuruga Ren be waiting outside the ladies' restroom? You don't think he's here with a girl, do you?"
Kyoko froze. They needed to get out of here quickly. She quickly shut off the water from the sink and dried her hands, hurrying outside. She found Ren leaning against the wall, waiting for her. Unfortunately, with a glance over her shoulder, she found the group of ladies coming out of the bathroom behind her.
"Kuon, those ladies seem to recognize you. We need to leave," Kyoko whispered hurriedly. Ren nodded and grabbed her hand, leading them away from the group towards their tour bus.
"I'm sorry for causing you so much trouble," Ren apologized.
"Eh? It's no trouble! I understand that it's hard for you to go out on the streets without being recognized. You don't have to apologize for it."
"We've spent much of our time here trying to hide my identity instead of sightseeing. If we hadn't had to do that, you might have had enough time to do other things like see the aquarium. Maybe it would be better if you looked around on your own since you wouldn't have to worry about me being recognized."
"But I like sightseeing with you!" Kyoko blurted out. Ren paused, widening his eyes in surprise.
"I like spending time with you, even if we have to sometimes take detours to protect your identity. I don't care if we waste some time with that since I get to spend that time with you," Kyoko continued, blushing as she spilled her true feelings. When she looked up at Ren, she found that he was smiling softly at her.
"Ah! Look at the time! We should be getting back to the bus before they leave without us!" Kyoko tried to change the subject as she realized just how embarrassing her words had been. Ren only chuckled slightly before accepting her change of topic, following her back to the meeting point.
"Were you two wearing those shirts this morning or am I hallucinating?" Mari asked as the bus began to head towards their next destination.
"I accidentally spilled something on Kuon's shirt, so we decided to buy him a new one. Since I felt guilty, I bought one as well," Kyoko lied.
"Well they're cute!" Mari gave her a thumbs up. Kyoko blushed and slid down in her seat to hide herself.
"Did you two enjoy Osaka Harbor?" Mari asked.
"Yes! We rode the Ferris wheel, and the view was beautiful," Kyoko replied.
"Oh, the Ferris wheel is very nice! I heard a few of the other couples were able to ride on it as well. Although some of the couples ended up not being able to enjoy the harbor as much since there's a few here who are very big fans of Tsuruga Ren. Apparently he was spotted in Osaka Harbor on the Santa Maria. He might have even been on it during the same time that we were there. Some of the diehard fans tried to look for him and weren't able to enjoy the scenery as much."
Kyoko laughed nervously. "Oh really? I should have greeted him if we saw him. We're from the same company, after all."
"Of course. I bet Tsuruga Ren changed his disguise afterwards. He should really be more careful in case something like this happens again."
Mari smiled at her, and Kyoko continued to laugh nervously.
"I expect that someone like Tsuruga Ren learns from his mistakes. He won't let himself be discovered again on his vacation," Ren suddenly said from Kyoko's side. She looked to see him smiling at Mari as if he was in on a secret.
"I'll trust your judgment," Mari laughed. Kyoko felt like she had missed something in their exchange.
The sun was just setting when the tour group reached their destination for dinner. As Kyoko stepped off of the bus, she was greeted by neon signs just beginning to light up. They were in the Dotombori district of Osaka, crowds lining the canal running through the center of the famous district. Mari led the group along the canal towards a restaurant with a ginormous lit-up crab adorning the front.
The restaurant specialized in crab dishes (hence the six meter crab in the front). Kyoko rarely ate crab, but she had to admit that the crab hotpot she ordered was definitely the best crab she had ever tasted.
After dinner, they had a little time to snap pictures around the Dotombori district before boarding the tour bus again. There was a 15 minute drive before they reached their next destination. Two twin towers loomed above them, connected in the middle by a bridge and at the top by an observatory with a giant hole in the center. Mari explained that they were at the Umeda Sky Building, which housed the Kuchu Teien Observatory on the top floor.
Not all of the tour group could fit in one elevator, so they had to split into smaller groups to get to the observatory. Inside the elevator going up to the 35th floor of the Umeda Sky Building, Kyoko watched through the glass window of the elevator as they ascended. Once the elevator reached the 35th floor, the tour group boarded an escalator surrounded by glass. The escalator ride was pretty long since they were going up 4 floors at once.
Finally, they reached the top floor of the building where the Kuchu Teien Observatory was. Kyoko strode up to one of the floor-to-ceiling windows and stood in awe. From up here, she could see all of Osaka at night. It was a clear night, so the buildings stretched as far as Kyoko could see.
"Kyoko, would you like to see the Skywalk?" Ren asked. Kyoko nodded eagerly, and he led her up a flight of stairs that opened up to an open-air circular walkway on the top of the building. Here, the view was even more breathtaking. Although it was dark, Kyoko could spot the river running through Osaka as well as the lit-up Ferris wheel that she had ridden on with Ren earlier.
"Look at all the lights!" Kyoko exclaimed to Ren. It was pretty dark up on the Skywalk, so Kyoko couldn't see his face clearly, but she knew he was still next to her with the warmth of his hand in hers.
"It's very beautiful," Ren agreed.
"It almost looks like a landscape of fairies," Kyoko smiled.
They remained on the Skywalk for some time admiring the city lights. They walked around the 360 degree view, and Kyoko spotted an area down some stairs out of the corner of her eye. She pulled Ren towards the area, which seemed to be a railing covered in small hearts. On closer inspection, they seemed to be padlocks.
"Eh? Why are there so many padlocks here?" Kyoko wondered.
"There's a lot of places like this where couples will place a padlock on the railing together and then throw away the key. It's supposed to symbolize an unbreakable love," Ren responded. Kyoko looked around at the locks covering the railing. There were so many that you could barely see the railing anymore among the locks.
"Do you really believe that it works?" Kyoko asked Ren.
"I'm not sure. But even if it doesn't, it's still a nice memento to come back to and try to find."
"Symbolizing love with a lock doesn't sound that romantic though. If anything, it almost seems like you're trying to lock someone into a relationship unwillingly."
"That could be one interpretation, but I like to think of the lock and key as a symbol of trust. You wouldn't give the key to your heart just to anyone. When you allow someone to unlock your heart, that means that you trust that they won't break it."
Kyoko thought of the box around her own heart, a multitude of locks lying unlocked around it. "Sometimes you don't willingly fall in love though. It just happens."
"Falling in love is different from being in a relationship with another person. The first may be unavoidable, but the latter is always a choice. That is what I believe the lock represents."
When Ren looked at her with such an earnest gaze, Kyoko found herself shyly looking at her feet. She jumped a little when she felt a hand rest on her head. She tilted her head up to see Ren smiling down at her.
"Even if you decide that you don't want to be in a relationship, I'm content to be able to spend time with you like this," Ren said.
More than ever, Kyoko found herself wanting to kiss Ren. She was in love with him, of course, but she understood now that although she unwillingly fell in love, it was truly her choice what she decided to do with the feelings. Even if it hurt him, Ren would support whatever decision she made, and that made Kyoko love him even more.
She thought of all of the antics that they had been up to the past few days and realized that she wanted more. She wanted to be able to spend more time with Ren and learn more about him. She wanted to laugh at his goofiness and explore new places with him. Not just on the tour group. No, she wanted to do all of this with him every day. Is this what it would be like to be in a relationship with him?
"I…" Kyoko couldn't find the words to express what she wanted to say.
"Whenever you're ready, I will wait patiently for your answer. Never feel pressured by me," Ren rubbed her hair. Kyoko leaned into his touch, confident that she would be able to say the words she wanted one day soon.
When they returned to the hotel after visiting the Kuchu Teien Observatory, Kyoko told Ren that she wanted to take a shower. It had been a hot day and Kyoko was feeling a bit icky from sweating so much earlier.
Once she finished her shower, Kyoko stood in a towel, realizing that in her haste to grab her clothes from her bag, she hadn't paid attention to what she was grabbing. Instead of a pajama shirt and pants, she had grabbed two pairs of pants. Should she go out in only her towel to quickly grab a shirt from her bag?
Kyoko remembered when Ren had done so, and her cheeks heated up as she pictured that small towel around his hips and the bead of water slowly dripping down his muscled chest. No, she couldn't do that!
"Kuon?" Kyoko called out hesitatingly.
"Yes? Is there something wrong, Kyoko?" Ren replied immediately.
"I forgot to grab a shirt when I went into the bathroom to shower. Can you bring one to me from my bag?"
There was a momentary silence, and Kyoko worried that Ren hadn't been able to hear her. She was about to repeat her question before Ren finally responded. "Of course."
Kyoko heard some shuffling followed by a brief pause, and then footsteps as Ren approached the bathroom door. She heard the door handle turn, but then Ren suddenly stopped.
"I'm going to open the door only wide enough so that I can hand you your shirt."
Kyoko hid behind the opening of the door, and when it opened and a shirt was thrust through the opening, she immediately grabbed it and pushed the door shut.
"Thank you!" Kyoko exclaimed. She unfolded the shirt in her hands and almost dropped it in shock when she realized what shirt Ren had grabbed.
Thinking that she was going to spend the trip rooming with her best friend, Kanae had insisted on her bringing one of her Setsu outfits after hearing about her interesting choice of underwear from Chiori during her secret mission. After much arguing, Kyoko had reluctantly agreed, putting one of the outfits in her bag. She never thought that Ren would grab this one outfit!
It wasn't as if he had never seen her Setsu outfits before, but she had always been able to hide under the guise of her character in the past. Now, she would only be herself, wearing such provocative clothing in front of the man who she loved.
Kyoko winced but pulled the shirt over her head. At least it was better than just a towel.
After putting on the rest of her clothes, Kyoko softly opened and closed the bathroom door, walking into the bedroom of their hotel room. When she looked around to see where Ren was, she found him staring at her from the chair next to the coffee table next by the window. Kyoko's cheeks immediately heated up.
"Moko-san wanted to see one of Setsu's outfits, so I packed it, and I didn't know you would grab this one when I asked you to give me a shirt," Kyoko said nervously. Ren looked away and shifted in his chair, crossing his legs.
"I made you uncomfortable, didn't I?"
"I could have chosen any other shirt, but I intentionally chose this one when I saw it since I wanted to see you wear it again. I didn't consider how it would make you feel to wear such a thing in front of me."
"It's fine! We agreed that you would teach me some modeling tips tonight, right? Models have to wear these types of clothes sometimes. It's good practice. When do we get started?" Kyoko cocked her hip in an imitation of Setsu. She saw Ren's throat move in a swallow and felt a little thrill at unnerving him.
"Whenever you're ready."
I had a pretty nasty breakup, and it was a bit difficult to write fluffy romantic fanfic afterwards. I've had a while to recover though, so hopefully the next update for this story will not take nearly as long. Thank you for continuing to follow me!