Merry Christmas. ^_^

Finished this late last night, so I figured I may as well deliver a Christmas gift of sorts to SD:
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Chapter Eight
Welcome back, my Idol

Erika got off the train, sighing heavily. It had been a couple months, she thought to herself, but it was finally time for a visit.

She walked down the street a few blocks to a small two-story shop. The shop's sign read "MegaGamers," but Erika already knew what she wanted to see was inside. She opened the doors, only a few people were inside. Nonetheless, Erika tried to keep a low profile, crouching down slightly as she walked down an aisle towards the counter.

A bored young man in a wheelchair at the counter rattled off, <Hi, welcome to MegaGamers. Can I help you?>
He looked up with a forced smile. His eyes widened with recognition and shouted <Hayasaka-sama! It's been a while!>

This was the cue the once-quiet store had been waiting for, as the three young men standing around rushed the counter in awe. An older man walked in from the back, asking <What's all this racket?>

His mustached face looked at Erika. He looked surprised for a second, but noticing the crowd building outside the store, he motioned for her to come to the back of the store before the scene got out of control.

Safely behind the door, the man's stern features quickly softened. <Erika. I didn't really know if a big star like you would ever come back.>
<Oh, come now, Yanagisawa. Did you really think I would up and leave you so easily?>
<I honestly didn't know,> the stern look came back; <It's been four months Erika…since the…incident.>
<I know. I've just been busy is all.> Erika had a rare look of regret in her eyes. <I'm sorry.>
<It's all fine,> Yanagisawa laughed. <You're Hayasaka Erika, the great Idol. You owe nothing to me or to this store.>
<That's not true.>

She was interrupted with the door creaking open and the counter attendant's head sticking through the door. <Sorry, Boss-san,> the boy said sheepishly, <but the crowd's getting restless.>
<The crowd? Oh, of course. Sonoda-san, there will be no event today; Hayasaka-sama is just here to speak to me privately.>
<Oh…> the boy looked disappointed himself.
<You shouldn't be surprised. Yuuji, you're the reason Hayasaka-sama had to leave in the first place.>
<No,> Erika spoke up, <it's alright.>
She looked at the wheelchair. <Yuuji has paid his price. I'll sign some autographs for a half-hour or so. I don't have to be to the studio for another two hours yet.>
Yuuji's eyes brightened. <Thank you, Hayasaka-sama!> He let the door close to tell those gathering the good news.

Erika looked over at Yanagisawa. <So,> she said, already putting on her fake-happy face, <do you still have any of my old cosplay outfits here in the store, or should I just go out in this?>
Yanagisawa finally grinned. <You've done more than enough for me. I'm hardly going to try and play 'dress up the Idol.' Especially not with you.>

The two shared a laugh as Erika walked out to the front area of the store.
She was immediately mobbed by the fans in the store, but Erika was used to this by now.
After about a half-hour, Yanagisawa, in all his preparation, came out from the back with an air horn. The ensuing noise broke up the crowd just enough for him to yell out that Erika needed to be on her way.
The disappointed crowd tried to argue, but knew they were defeated and after a couple minutes started to file out. Soon enough, the store was empty.

Erika grinned, <Thanks, Yanagisawa.>
The manager returned a smile of his own, <Don't worry about it. I'm sure you have more important things to do than entertain a tired old man and his store.>

The doors to the store slid open and a young girl in a school uniform walked in.
<Yuuji,> she called out. <Mom wants me to check up on you before I go home from school.>

Spotting Erika, the girl's pleasant look turned into one of disgust. <Uh…why is she here?> she said, with an angry tone in her voice.

<Yuki,> Yuuji sighed, <It's fine.>
<After what she did to you, that's all you can say?!> She practically yelled, <It's FINE?>
<Sonoda-san,> Yanagisawa said softly.
<No,> Erika stopped him. <She has a right to be mad. Look, I have to go. I'll try to come back down later.>
<Thanks Erika.>

The Idol walked out the door into the snow. <What right did I have to be there,> she thought to herself, <after causing them so much pain?>

Her thoughts drifted to the events of four months ago, when Sonoda Yuuji was hired as a hand at MegaGamers after much prodding on Erika's part for someone to help lift her work burden.

Erika's friend, Sonoda Masamichi, offered his son for the job primarily to keep his daughter, a regular of the store, under some level of surveillance – he feared Erika's influence somewhat. However, for all Masamichi's cunning, he failed to realize just how much his son was into the otaku scene – he recognized Erika almost immediately.

Erika's cover was shattered through Erika's selfish wish for less work. Also shattered was the body of Sonoda Yuuji, who found himself trampled by hundreds of screaming fans the day after he revealed that he worked with the famous missing seiyuu.

Erika was quickly whisked away by the TCPD, but she could no longer live in relative secrecy. She couldn't be mad at Yuuji – he had been hurt enough and meant no harm to begin with.

However, she was mad at her fate, assigned to her by a vengeful Masamichi. Her happy autonomous life was destroyed, but her life wasn't at all horrible…

<Downtown Tokyo> the trains automated voice chimed off melodically.

Erika let out yet another deep sigh and walked off the train onto the platform. A few minutes later, she arrived at her destination.

She walked in through the sliding doors. The lobby was awfully American in design, but perhaps that was to be expected.

<Erika! How are you?> a handsome man said as he walked up to Erika looking like he had won the lottery.
<Hello, Amora,> Erika said as they embraced.
<Heh,> Amora blushed. <It's good to see you too.>

They walked hand in hand through the double doors into the conference room.
Erika thought to herself, <Perhaps my fate isn't too bad, after all.>

She sat next to Amora as the TV in the front of the room cycled between three logos, all strangely hypnotic.

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Kimiko sighed. This was the fifth time she had tried calling him. Perhaps she wasn't even worthy of being heard anymore.
This time, however, he picked up.

<Kawaiza Amora. Microsoft Japan.>
<It's Nanasawa.>
<Hey there, Nanasawa-san. Look, can this wait? I was in the middle of a very important meeting.>
<With…her?>
<If you must know, yes. It's our biggest event of the year; it's very important. Look, I'll call you back later.>

He hung up without another word. The dial tone hit Kimiko with a twinge of jealousy. She had been suppressing it for so long, but it finally hit her: she wanted Erika's success. Badly. The feelings of inferiority and hatred snuck up so easily it was surprising for the aspiring seiyuu, but they hit her nonetheless.

The fact that her fledgling career was in the shadow of the great Hayasaka-sama was bad enough.

The breaking point was when Erika's career, distraught with rumors and truths detrimental to her image as an Idol, was able to be resurrected so easily, while Kimiko struggled to get even the smallest part.

Now Erika was becoming the backbone of Microsoft's plan to promote its new Xbox 360 console, while Kimiko faked sick trying to get away from life.

It made her angry; at herself…and at Erika.
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Author's Notes:
You didn't think I would build to a climax in the other storyline without pulling a Fred and shifting viewpoints, did you? :P

There isn't much more to this chapter to be spelled out without me giving away more than I feel is necessary at this point.

For those keeping track, the main characters I have yet to account for in this timeline are Dom, Masamichi (in person), Meimi, Miho, and most minor characters. Junko doesn't count in my mind, but if you want to, go ahead. I'm not saying when or if we'll see any of them, though.

:iiam:

Also, for timeline purposes, this little episode is occuring at the same time as the last chapter.

Also, since a time was never set officially, this is early afternoon (2-ish) on Monday. Yuki and Yuuji are out of school, Erika's in a meeting, and I'm placing Kimiko as a late night worker, but we've never been made clear of her schedule of anything other than closing Sunday nights.

Next chapter should be up early next week. Again, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

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