Epilogue: Half a year later.
Things had finally settled down in my life. I was working on the last scene for the film the director wanted me a part of. I later found out that both my onii-chan and lover were to take part in the collaboration project. Sou-nii was the brother of the female main character, which was me. Mom, in other words, owner and supermodel Reiko, used this opportunity to reveal Sou as her son and my real life brother. This was all to raise the company's reputation.
Sou, having filmed all of his scenes, left to work on another project in Korea that might take a few years, two weeks ago. Yashiro stayed behind to fulfill his dream of helping newcomers, thus, he stayed behind. Sou's new manager was a cute, short young woman who..was someone you didn't want to underestimate. I met her when she came to pick Sou up and lets just say...that she made even me take a step back in caution. When he cried about not wanting to separate from me when we just reunited, she didn't spoil him like I would have. With her, I think he'll start talking in complete sentences.
As for Dai...because of the injury he received from protecting me, he got scolded by Reiko and was told to take a few weeks off. Because of that, it was difficult for him and the band once they returned but his and the band's fame has been steadily making a name for themselves because of the movie. The band was given the job of making the theme song and Dai was to play the love interest of the main character. There has also been offers for them to go international. Of course, even until today, we were still dating and keeping it a secret from the media. Only our close friends are aware of our relationship (No, mom doesn't know. She'd kill me if she did.)
But there was one person whose life was put on hold for the past half-year. Mai. She was still getting rehabilitation for her leg. Because of that she couldn't do much on her own. While I was glad that Jen was looking after her, the guilt in my heart in getting her caught up into my fight was still eating at me. If only I had told her to back out...that wouldn't have happened. Every chance I got I would go visit her, and even though she didn't like that I was still blaming myself, she smiled when I was able to go see her.
I opened the door to her office and went inside. She was sitting at her desk, glaring fiercely at me. I knew right away that things weren't going to end well. "What's going on?"
"I need you to tell me the truth." With her hands folded under her chin, she put on her business expression that screamed trouble. "Are you and Daisuke dating?" She said, tapping on the pictures on her desk.
...I wasn't as shocked as I thought I would be when she asked me. It was obvious that she would eventually find out. I took a better look at the pictures she was pointing at. It was various of pictures of me and Daisuke going into his apartment. Holding hands, whispering to each other, kissing etc. I sat down at the chair in front of her desk and crossed my legs. "Why ask me that? Those pictures obviously says it all. They are good shots of us, I must add. Can I get a copy of them?"
Mom sighed and sat back in her chair. "Why doesn't you response surprise me? You knew it would be revealed sooner or later, didn't you? But you should have told me at least. You're lucky that I got my hands on this before they were published."
"It doesn't really matter if everyone else finds out about it. Wouldn't it be good advertisement for the movie? 'Main female and male character are dating in real life, how will this end for the two uprising celebrities', would be a nice title." I grinned but mom's eyes were far from smiling.
"If that's all it was then I wouldn't say anything but..."
Before she finished her sentence the door opened and in walked the man of the hour, the man who had the honor of being loved by me. Dai looked at the grinning me and at my angry mom, confused about what was going. But like me, I'm sure he realized that something was definitely wrong.
He sat down on the chair next time. "President, is something wrong?" When he saw the pictures spread out on the desk, he flinched. "I guess you won the bet." He said to me.
"Hehe, I told you so. You underestimated the power of the media."
"What?" Mom interrupted.
I put my hand under my chin and kept on smiling happily. "We made a bet about how long we'd be able to keep our dating a secret. Dai thought it would at least a year before anyone found out. I warned him 6 months was the limit."
"..." (This is mom being speechless.)
"I admit that I was off but you haven't really won. It's been seven months since then, not six!"
I pouted and argued with him about how that didn't really matter. We continued back and forth with mom watching on shocked by our behavior. But I had a feeling that she was more shocked about me seriously dating someone. She suddenly slammed down her hand on the desk and yelled. "That's enough!" She sighed again for the second time since I entered the office. "To be honest, I'm surprised that my daughter agreed to date someone whose a celebrity. But that doesn't matter as long as you're both serious about this."
"Then what's the problem?" I asked exasperated.
"This." She said, taking out more pictures and throwing them on her desk.
My eyes widened at the sight of me wearing a black jacket with the picture of a rose on it, me with a mask hiding my face and a bat in my hand. There were also other pictures of me fighting and riding a motorcycle. I stood up and shifted through all the pictures, panicking. Dai also looked at them with me. "H-how did you get this...W-who?" It was one thing for the media to find out I'm dating Dai, but if something like this got out, my career as a model and actress would plummet in one swoop.
"It's probably one of your old gang members, someone who has a grudge against you."
Was it...Lin? No. That last I've heard about Lin was that she left the Huang family and with her brother's support she was slowly building her reputation as a model. We've already patched things up. Then...it's probably one of the many people who has something against me. As a former delinquent who left a legend, it was obvious I would have a lot of enemies.
"As of now, it doesn't really matter who sent this to the reporters. Even if your face clearly can't be seen, the physique will be compared to you and the rumors would circulate, giving us a bad reputation. I'm sure many people would start saying that our agency is one who condones violence."
"Then...what do we do?" I clenched my fists tightly, almost enough to draw blood.
Dai took my hands in his and pried them open. He shook his and then smiled. "Don't hurt yourself." When I nodded my head he pulled me towards him, his left arm wrapped around my waist and my head laid against his chest.
Mom blinked her eyes. "Amazing. How did you tame that wild girl?" She asked Dai.
I blushed and glared at her. "Hey!"
She laughed. "I wasn't sure what we should do about this but after looking at you, I came up with a plan."
She spent the next half hour explaining what we were going to do to calm things down. I was taken aback by how risky it was but both Dai and I knew that if it worked then we would turn the table around. It was a rather exciting proposal that I was looking forward to...until she said reached the end.
"You'll be going to College."
"Even if the plan worked, we still need to show them that the Nanamori Inc. focuses greatly on the future of our models. Not just their careers but also their education."
"But I wanted to focus more on acting once I graduate this year!"
She glared at me. "I'm happy that you've changed and love your job but you still have a lot to learn. Dai is also planning on attending University, follow his lead and become an amazing woman who won't let the media or anyone else talk bad about."
I looked at Dai, who nervously avoided my eyes. It was my turn to sigh. "..Fine." When we left mom's office, I made sure we were alone in the hallway before facing Dai.
"A-Arisa? Um..." He put his hands up and backed away towards the wall. "Now, now. Lets talk this out."
I snapped back my hand and punched the wall, zooming right past his face. "College...why didn't you tell me?"
He looked at the hole next to his head. "Whoa..." Dai cleared his throat. "I was planning on bringing up on our next date. President beat me to the punch." When I didn't say anything but just stood there unmoving, he laughed nervously.
"What a sight." Someone said, chuckling. "Dai getting cornered by his girlfriend...well...he was always like that." Satoru walked toward us carrying a folder. "I guess you guys heard from Reiko about what happened?"
"Satoru." Dai called out desperately.
Satoru looked at my expression and took a step back. He coughed and cleared his throat. "Good luck with whatever you guys are discussing." He opened the door to mom's office. "I'll talk to you about your new schedule later." He shut the door behind him and left.
"Traitor.." Dai mumbled. When he looked back at me, he gulped. "I really am sorry for not letting you know earlier. A lot happened and I didn't know when was the best time to bring it up. Tonight I'll treat you to this new baker that's been getting attention and we'll talk about it some more."
"Do you really think that food will..."
He interrupted before I finished. "I heard that they're known for their delicious muffins!"
...And that was how we ended our night, with thoughts of planning for school and for our upcoming battle with the reporters.
Two days later we held a press conference. But the person I saw there shocked me. He removed his sunglasses and revealed his face. "My cute, cute daughter! It's been a long time!" He ran up to me and hugged me tight. "Because you refuse to call me, I've missed hearing my cute daughter's voice!"
Pissed, I pushed him back. "Old man, when did you come back?" Dad was as handsome as any male model around, he could be mistaken for a famous model. Whenever we went out in public, everyone would ask if he was model. Tall, handsome features, good style and a broad back that would make any girl swoon. According to mom, he looked like a playboy who couldn't be trusted.
"Puu, puu!" He said pouting. "Call me otosan!"
"Puu! Fine, fine." He put his hands in his pocket and smiled. "I'm hear to help protect my cute daughter of course."
"...Huh." I looked behind him to see a small boy clinging to his shirt who looked to be around 9 or 10 years old. "Who's the brat?"
"Hehehe, don't be surprised now! He's your new little brother!"
"Is that so?" I leaned down to the boy. "What's your name, brat?"
"It's not brat! I'm Kyo!"
I blinked my eyes and then laughed. "Is that so Kyo-chan? Call me Onee-chan, okay?" He nodded his head. "Good, good?" I said, patting his head. I stood up and left a stunned dad standing there. Of course I wasn't shocked. It wasn't the first time dad did something like this. The last we he came he had the house filled with ten cats, saying he couldn't leave them alone. Of course, in the end we found others who could take care of them.
Dad, me, mom and Dai sat at the big table in front of the press. And before we could even settle down, the cameras started snapping and the questions came piling in. Satoru asked for everyone to settle down and called out to the reporters one by one.
"Is it true that you used to be in a gang? How is that the agency could allow such a thing?"
Mom denied the accusations. "It's true that the person in those pictures is the very same Arisa sitting here. But please don't misunderstand. As everyone knows, until a few years ago my husband used to take pictures of celebrities. He used Arisa as a model for an idea we had about a shooting. I don't know who or how they found these pictures but they are indeed from that time."
"Do you really expect us to believe that?! Aren't you just trying to hide the fact that your daughter was involved in these violent acts?" Another reporter stated.
Dad spoke up this time. "While she is our precious daughter, we consider everyone in the company as our children. We look out for their future. This is our responsibility as those who protect their dreams." He then went on to explain how even if I was someone who did those things, then it was their responsibility to scold me and to guide me.
We spent the next half hour answering questions related to those pictures but then the focus switched to me and Dai.
"While talk of marriage and living arrangements will still be far out in the future, our relationship is a serious one. I know that there have been rumors spreading of me changing partners a lot, so it can't be helped that everyone thinks this is just for advertisement for the movie. But I ask that since we are in a committed relationship that everyone gives us your support." I smiled at Dai and nodded my head.
Dai held my hand under the table and started talking. "We are still young and have a lot to learn. Because of this the both of us have decided that for the next four years we will continue our education and work part-time at Nanamori. There has also been rumors about the band getting international offers but I think it's still too early for us...also...I have no plans of leaving her behind."
"Don't you think that's selfish of you? What if the other band members want to make their début overseas?"
"Do your best Dai!"
"We're supporting you both!"
"Ari-chan, take care of our guitarist!"
I looked towards the back and there stood the rest of the band, calling out to the both of us. Kei, Ryou, Yuki and even Shiki yelled for us to kiss. Dai and I looked at each other amazed but then laughed. He gave a small and gentle kiss on my lips while at the same time never let my hand go. That was...the end of one legend and the start of a new legend being born.
Hand in hand we took a stroll that night, Dai was getting ready to kiss me goodbye when all of a sudden guys surrounded us. They were probably delinquents who were looking to earn some money by kidnapping celebrities. I was planning on calmly handling things until one of them grabbed Dai's arm and pulled him away from me. I heard the snap of a red string being cut and in the next few minutes found all six guys laying bloodied on the ground, moaning in pain. I whipped the blood from my cheek and grinned. "As I thought, I can't be satisfied with just being a legend. Even if I'm a professional model and actor, even if I'm a girl in love, I'll always be the Tainted Rose."
When you prowl the night, keep your eyes wide and ears open. Because hiding behind the curtain of darkness, the legend of the beautiful female girl with the strength to beat up the strongest will come to life. She was once known and will always be the tainted rose.
End of Volume 4 / Fin 🌹