Operation BMG: The New World
Southern Ruina, Philaco
Neo, along with thousands and thousands of spectators, watched as the ceiling, from the center, began to withdraw towards the ends of the football-sized room, letting in the cool, salty breeze from the sea as he continued singing the number one song on the Menan Charts: Touching Stars. As if responding to the lyrics of his band's song, the stars began to look larger and hotter than usual, the large, full red moon accentuating their luminosity. The fans went crazy at the sight and began jumping up and down, reaching out with their hands and screaming the lyrics of the song.
How apt, he scoffed to himself, wondering how much their manager had to pay the owners of The Coliseum for this. Then again, the gig worked, and he was pretty sure that the review for the papers the next day (alongside countless blogs online) would highlight this moment as the top notching event of the night.
Wiping away a bead of sweat that was rolling down the side of his face quickly, he turned to face his bassist as he began preparing for the finale of the night, his electronic guitar ready for the hardcore string action portion of the song. Meeting Adrian Potter's cobalt-blue eyes, he crooned the last words of the song and launched into their spotlight moment, the women and girls near the stage screaming themselves hoarse when Neo's rosewood hair and Adrian's chocolate-brown hair merged into one as they bent closer to each other. While their manager told them to do this to raise their popularity with the girls (seriously though, why would seeing two guys with their faces so close to each other that they could kiss then and there be exciting to fans?), Adrian and Neo found that the closer they were to each other, the better they would hear their instruments, thus, the near-kiss position worked in more ways than one.
The sound of the drums timed the beat, Kaede Asakura's steady rhythm pulling Neo's eyes to him as the drummer whipped his black hair away from his face, showing off the famous face that was more beautiful than handsome, more delicate than strong. While all three other members of the band shared the same strong, handsome look despite coming from different parts of the Ring, only Kaede could pull off the androgynous, heart-shaped face and lean body and not have any person call him 'girly'. In fact, with the way he relaxed behind his drums at that very moment, looking at nothing particularly, Neo knew that this particular shot would sell millions to both sexes if a photographer managed to capture it.
Suddenly, his sight of the drummer was blocked by Adrian, the bassist's intense eyes saying something to him but what specifically, Neo didn't know. They strummed their instruments four more times before they stepped away from each other and Neo grabbed hold of the microphone stand, releasing his hold on his electronic guitar and shouting over the screams and sounds of his band and the crowd, "Thanks so much for coming tonight! Hope to see you soon! We're Red Moon – signing out!" And, with that, the lights went out, the only indication of life in the large room the shrieks and bellows of their fans.
Neo strode towards the blinking yellow light to his right and was joined stealthily by the synthesizer of the band: Ethan Barton. Despite there being not enough light to see even their own hands in front of their faces, Ethan's blond hair shone while his emerald eyes glittered. Neo once called him an angelic cat, and everyone in the band had to agree with the metaphor.
Their manager opened the door for them, allowing all band members to fall inside their dressing room, and promptly left to deal with other matters, leaving behind a sizable number of guards outside the room plus the guards Neo's father hired for him. Beyond their manager's voice, the band members could still hear the fans begging for more, their chants rising then falling like the waves.
After placing his electronic guitar to one side of the room, Neo threw himself on the couch and pulled his shirt off simultaneously, crumpling it in his hands and using it as a towel, wiping off the sweat from the scar on his left collarbone towards his chest, the beating of his heart still up and running like a trapped rabbit. He watched Kaede pick up a new shirt from the table near the door before making his way towards the bathroom. "Kaede, you gonne take long?"
"Just changing my shirt. Why?"
"Nothing. Go ahead." Neo never understood why the drummer couldn't seem to undress in front of any of them despite them all being guys, but he never pursued the matter. To each his own and all that. Plus, he was feeling too good at the moment, the cool air from the aircon taking the heat and stress of the night away.
He felt the couch sag and found Adrian sitting beside him, a towel hanging loosely around the bassist's neck, his eyes trained on the door where Kaede had gone through with a serious expression on his face. He still had his shirt on, soaked through, and looked oblivious to the fact. Tapping him on the shoulder once, Neo waited until those cool eyes met his and asked, "What was that about, Adrian?"
Adrian gave him a look before setting his eyes on Ethan, who was wiping his own chest with a towel before donning a new shirt quickly, on the far end of the room. "What're you talking about?"
Neo frowned, noticing that his sudden high had suddenly disappeared. "You gonna play dumb? Or you think I'm dumb?"
Adrian sighed, ran a hand roughly through his hair, and glared at the ground. When he turned to look at Neo, he opened his mouth to say something, but before he could, Kaede walked out of the bathroom with a new shirt on and began chatting with Ethan loudly. Adrian shifted his eyes to one side before whispering, "Sorry. Just…forget about it, 'kay?"
Neo had no idea what was going on but he nodded and looked up to find Kaede standing before them like magic, his dark-brown eyes shining as he placed his hands on his hips. Neo raised an eyebrow at the look of pure satisfaction on his face and ventured, "You high or something?"
"Pssh! You pretend to be a hard ass, Neo, but you're just as pumped as me. That was our best gig yet," the drummer practically grinned out. He spread his hands and made a motion that imitated the ceiling of the Coliseum during the finale. "That was a great end and everyone knows it! I mean, if I'm this pumped, imagine what the security and staff are dealing with outside. Hah!"
The high that had disappeared earlier came back with a partner – pride. "Of course it was great. When were we ever not the best?" Neo droned, placing his feet up on the low table before him. He felt his face and eyes shift into what Adrian had once told him looked like that of a wild beast about to attack as he continued, "Don't tell me you ever thought that we weren't great, Kaede, 'cause if you have, I might have to do something…quite unpleasant to you."
Some people might have turned into stone with fear and uncertainty at that, but not Kaede. He snorted at that and replied, "Save the patented look for someone who might respond." He then turned his attention to Adrian and smirked. "By the way, don't think I didn't notice what happened a while back."
Neo could almost feel every muscle in Adrian's body tighten to the point that he had a feeling the bassist would crack if someone touched him. He watched Adrian take in a long breath before saying coolly, "I don't know what you're–"
"Hah! Don't bother faking it!" Kaede plopped himself down on the side of Adrian before leaning in and whispering loudly, "That part where you and Neo had your moment and you moved to one side suddenly–"
Neo's eyes widened as Adrian came closer and closer to cracking.
"–and you fumbled with your chord!" Kaede slapped his hands against his knees as he laughed out loud, not noticing the sudden relief that was flowing off of Adrian's skin. The drummer pointed rudely into Adrian's face and announced as if to the whole world, "You lose, Potter! You messed up, so you owe me 200 rins! Oh, yeah! Asakura rules!"
Adrian slowly crossed his arms across his chest, propped one ankle on his knee, and replied serenely, "Congratulations. Counting the number of times you messed up, I'd say that you are still a thousand rins behind."
Kaede sputtered indignantly. "A thousand? You've gotta be joking! I'm off only by a few hundreds, you senile jerk–"
"Why don't you stop talking and start practicing more? That way, you'll actually beat me at something at least once in your life."
"You arrogant ass! What do you…"
Neo sniggered at the two's usual conversation (if it could even be called that) and nodded at Ethan as the other man approached him silently. He patted the blonde's arm and asked, "So, big date tonight, right? What was her name…?"
Ethan grinned. "I think it was Daria or something. Will find out later. And you?"
Neo grinned back. "Negotiate with my dad on the guard issue again." He blew out a breath filled with irritation and exasperation as he blocked out the voices of the two beside him and focused on the man he considered his second-in-command in the band. He waved his hand carelessly in the air. "I mean, the man's obsessed with the idea that I don't have enough protection and that I should get even more guards and… Jeez! Aren't five more than enough? You and Kaede and Adrian have the guards for Red Moon while I have an extra five–"
"It's stifling," Ethan summed up succinctly.
Neo sighed and hung his head. "To the ends of the wall and beyond." He reached over the table for his cellphone and flipped it open, draping his used shirt over one shoulder. "I mean, isn't it too much? Isn't he being too overprotective? And there's another thing. He promised to call me after the show and talk about it too. I mean–"
His cellphone began ringing, the caller his father.
Jumping up from the couch, he made his way over to the bathroom and locked himself in before pressing the green button and placing the cellphone to his ear. "Dad."
"Son. You're done with your concert?"
"Yeah. You ready to talk business?" Neo knew he was being rude, but having no space to himself, having to feel like a prisoner trapped within human walls had taken its toll on him after a year. He needed to feel less cramped and more…normal.
His father was silent for a moment before his deep voice came over the receiver. "I will be taking your guards away as of tonight. I will contact one of them after I talk to you to tell them that their services are no longer required and you will be, as you demanded, free to be on your own."
Neo felt his heart stop. The one thing he had wanted to hear was being said to him at that very moment, and in the midst of it all, he couldn't help feeling…wary, confused and suspicious. His dad was a hard man to go against and hardly anyone has gotten one over him, even his own wife, unless they persisted with the same argument for a couple of years. Neo had persisted, true, but to get what he wanted after a year… "Thank you."
His dad chuckled. "I'm surprised that your tone sounds a bit disappointed."
"Not disappointed, really. Just…suspicious." He could never lie to his parents.
His dad laughed hard at that, taking a whole minute to enjoy whatever it was he was enjoying at the expense of Neo before he managed to say, "You were always a smart one, son. Smarter than what those damn critics paint you to be."
Neo tensed at the first sentence. "So you were just playing with me?"
"No, no. I am telling the truth. You won't have any guards after tonight. But…" He sighed long and hard as he paused for a while. Then, he said in a gentler tone, "I will explain everything to you when I get home, okay? This isn't something I can tell you over the phone easily."
Neo almost shouted at his dad to just tell him what the hell he meant by that obscure remark when someone knocked on the other side of the bathroom door and Ethan's voice came over. "Sorry to interrupt, dude, but the big boss wants to talk about our next gig and then we're heading home. He said we need to get this meeting on the way."
Sighing, Neo placed his head against the door and murmured to his father, "Fine," before flipping the phone close. Then, to Ethan, "I'm coming." He heard the blonde move away from the door, looked at his reflection in the mirror, and caught his dark-yellow eyes glint angrily at themselves. Shaking his head once, he placed his used shirt on one side of the counter, opened the tap, cupped the flowing water in his hands, and washed his face thoroughly, pressing his palms against his eyes for a moment longer before closing the tap and looking up.
Blank dark-yellow eyes stared back at him, the earlier glint long gone. Instead, another one of his bad migraines began to assault him, forcing one hand to massage his temple as he made his way out of the bathroom and grabbed a new shirt on the table to his left. Pushing past the pain, he donned the black shirt swiftly, caught his manager's gaze, and asked, "What's up?"
"You sure you're okay, Neo?"
Neo looked back at Ethan who was at the driver's seat and nodded. "I'm fine." He motioned his head towards the two who were sleeping on the backseat of the blonde's latest sports car. "You gonna be okay bringing the two home? You never know when they might wake up and realize their, uh, position."
Ethan looked at the rearview mirror and shrugged at the sight of Kaede and Adrian sleeping side-by-side, Kaede's face buried under Adrian's chin, his nose practically nuzzling the bassist's collarbone, while Adrian had his face buried in the drummer's thick brown hair, his cheek nestled comfortably on top of the other's head. Ethan looked back at Neo and murmured, "If they start bickering, I'll just throw them out and let their fans maul them to death."
Neo sniggered as he placed his hands inside his jean pockets. "You're evil."
"Thanks." Ethan revved his car once then saluted lazily at the other young man. "Take care, man. See you soon."
"Yeah." Neo turned and began walking up the hill towards his house, not watching Ethan turn his car around and making his way back to the main road. He knew he could have asked the blonde to drop him off at his house and not at the foot of the hill, but he suddenly didn't feel like seeing his father.
Sighing, he looked up at the red moon and allowed his body to move on its own towards the mansion. Usually he would have started arguing with the five guards his dad forced on him from the moment he was separated from his band mates, but in that moment, he felt so free and alone that it was a tad uncomfortable. He kept looking back to see if there was anyone behind him, but when met with the same empty street, he hunched his shoulders and began making his way past the old basketball court that lay beyond the trees by the road to his house when he saw something that he couldn't believe.
Inside the court was a vision of white, glowing wings…attached to the back of a woman with soft-silver hair until her knees, her long white gown flowing with the wind, her soft face tilted up towards the sky.
He stumbled to the ground, the suddenness of it all making his chest hit the asphalt heavily and losing his breath for a moment, his ears ringing slightly. When he managed to grab his bearings, he looked up from the ground gingerly, gazed past the trees to see into the court, and saw an entirely different vision; a young woman, probably his age, standing in the middle of the court holding an old basketball in her hands. She wore a tight white shirt, fitted black jeans, and had her long brown hair tied back in a ponytail.
I must be dreaming, he thought to himself, but the pain in his chest from the fall was too real that he knew he was only lying to himself. He watched the young woman dribble the basketball for a while before throwing the ball in the air and hearing it go through the hoop with a whoosh. The stranger gave a small smile at that and moved out of his line of sight to grab the ball.
Neo stood up from the ground and patted himself down, not really paying attention to what he was doing. He never bothered to know his neighbors from the time his family moved here, but he would remember a person who played in the court since his room overlooked it. And a young woman, perhaps even beautiful, would definitely stick out.
"Who are you?" he semi-whispered to himself, before adding internally, What are you? He remembered the vision he saw earlier, tried to fit what he saw then with what he saw now, and narrowed his eyes at the mystery that lay before him. Clenching his hands into fists, his heartbeat pounding in his ears, he took in a deep breath and exhaled.
Unconsciously, he began moving towards the young woman inside the court, not noticing the sudden brightness of the red moon above nor the sudden migraine that was building within him.
Camry: Sorry for the long wait. Here are our beloved boys. Ah... I enjoyed revisiting them, especially Neo and Kaede. Thanks to those who reviewed - you are my muses. Thank you to those who continually read the OBMG series - you are always in my heart. I hope to see you when I post the next chapter. Until then, take care and live life to its fullest! :)