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Title: The Hunger-For-Ramen Games
Chapter: One of two parts (split up because of LJ’s post limits)
Author: Boots
Rating: NC-17
Genre: Romance, smut, humor
Warnings: Male/male sex, rimming, 69
Pairing: Byou X Shou, appearances by Tora X Saga and Aoi X Kazuki, mention of past Ruki X Shou
Disclaimer: Boys belong to PS Company, I own the story only.
Summary: There is an annual ritual run by the company known as PSC, in which select bands are obligated to send two tributes to a brutal battle of ultimate humiliation known as Visual Battle Royale. The insane stunts are surreal enough, but when one of the hosts and one of the contestants have wanted each other from afar for a long time, things could get VERY interesting.
Comments: My birthday fic for Shou! And, yes, this is a VERY unusual pairing, but with all the things that happened in the actual 2012 Visual Battle Royale, I couldn’t resist. Dialogue in this fic from the actual show is from jaeho_x3’s translation. And finally – I’m very new to the SCREW fandom, but I heard a little bit about Byou and Minase having something of a Twitter war. I tried to include a little bit of that in this story – apologies if it’s not entirely accurate (like I said, I’m new here! ~_^)


In the country known as Japan lies a company known as PSC, a mighty corporation governing the fates of seven bands. As part of their service to the company, several bands are chosen each year to send two tributes (sometimes three, if your band is the host) to a brutal televised (okay, Web-streamed) battle of ultimate humiliation. They call this cruel ritual Visual Battle Royale.


PROLOGUE – PEACE AND SMILE CARNIVAL, 2009

Shou jostled his way through the backstage corridors, thinking that since Alice Nine was done with their set, at least he didn't have to worry about getting his hair and costume messed up. Of course it was jam-packed back here - it was the last time they'd participated in a Peace and Smile Carnival, back when Alice Nine was still just a year old. And the company had even more bands now than they did then.

He spotted the person he was looking for emerging from a dressing room, clad in a traditional Japanese men's costume with a white haori over it. "Sempai!" Shou called, rushing over to Ruki.

The other vocalist turned his head toward his protégée. "Shou," he said, "how many times have I told you that you don't have to call me that?"

"Sorry," Shou said, dipping a quick bow as he reached the smaller man.

"And you don't have to bow all the time, either," Ruki said. "You're too fucking polite for visual kei, you know that?"

Shou blushed a little. "Sor- er, I mean, they just told us we're going onstage with you at the end of the show. They want all the bands out there. So don't be surprised if things get crowded."

"I'll try not to run any of you over," Ruki said. "Is that going to include the kohai bands as well?"

"Kohais?" Shou said.

Ruki sighed. "SCREW and SuG. You're a sempai yourself now, Shou, remember?"

"Oh, yeah." Shou rubbed the back of his head. "I don't really feel like a sempai." He would always consider himself a kohai. Specifically, Ruki's kohai.

"You’ll get used to it," Ruki said - just as another group pushed their way down the corridor, laughing and talking to each other. Ruki grabbed Shou and pulled him out of the way so they wouldn't get steamrolled.

And it was then that Shou caught sight of one particular member of that group. He hadn't been paying attention to the kohai bands' performances - he'd been getting ready to go out there himself at that point. It was his first time really laying eyes on this particular band - if he'd seen this man, he would have remembered him.

He watched the creature glide past him, all frosted blond hair and intense, burning eyes in a finely sculpted face, like a model. Suddenly, everything seemed to go into slow motion. The beauty appeared to be moving through a haze of heavenly clouds, his hair swishing just so as he turned his head to listen to his bandmate . . .

"Shou? Shou? Earth to Shou!" came the voice next to him.

Shou blinked and snapped his head back toward Ruki so rapidly it nearly snapped off his neck. Which would be a hazard in an atmosphere like this. Couldn't have a bunch of perfectly made up and dressed musicians tripping over a rolling head, could we?

"Who was he?" he said to Ruki. "Um, I mean, who were they?"

Ruki picked up on the tone of his friend's voice right away. Oh, boy. Shou had fallen deeply in love at first sight. Or, at least, in schoolboy-like infatuation. He'd seen exactly what direction Shou's eyes were going in, too.

"Those," he said, "are your kohais. That's SCREW. The one you were looking at is called Byou. He's one of us" - meaning, another vocalist.

"Kohais," Shou repeated again.

Oh, God, it would just figure. He knew that there were a lot of guys in his profession - not necessarily at this company - who took advantage of kohais. Used their position to get them into bed. Lorded it over them that they could help them with their careers. (His relationship with Ruki had never been like that. Ruki had offered him genuine, sincere guidance, help and friendship. The friends-with-benefits part just flowed from that naturally).

He wasn't one of THOSE guys. He couldn't take advantage of a kohai.

And so, he rushed back to his own dressing room to get ready for the finale, completely unaware that down the corridor, the one he'd been looking at that was glancing in his direction.

"Who was he?" Byou asked his bandmates. "The tall guy who was with Ruki-san."

The others all looked at each other, puzzled. "Why do you want to know that?" Kazuki said.

"Nothing," Byou said. "Just that I've never seen him before."

But inwardly, he was thinking, "Because he was incredibly beautiful."

* * *

APRIL 28, 2012

Shou sat in the corner on a stool, reading from a sheaf of printouts. This was his first time co-hosting a live TV event. When they'd had the first PSC Visual Battle Royale, he hadn't even participated.

The original game plan, when this year’s Battle had come up in a band meeting, had been for just Saga and Hiroto to do it again, with Tora hosting. Then, Nao had said he wanted to do it as well (as long as it didn't include What's In The Box, the game that had him literally screaming every time they played it on Alice Nine Channel).

And so, they decided to come up with a role for Shou, since it wouldn't do to have Alice Nine with four competitors. Three was pushing it as it was, since the other bands involved would only have two. Hence, him being Tora's co-host.

"This doesn't really say much," he said, holding the sheets out to Tora.

"It never does," Tora replied. "You think I'm kidding when I say they tell us nothing before Alice Nine Channel? I don't know what's coming any more than you guys do. They'll be passing us notes during the show."

"How long is it going to be?" Shou said, looking at the printout again and at his watch.

Saga strolled over to them. "Are you worried you won't make your precious live, Shou?"

"Which live?" Tora said.

"Are you deaf?" said Saga. "The T.M. Revolution one. The one he's been talking about for weeks."

Shou blushed. He was a fanboy, to be sure, and Lord knew he was looking forward to going to the show tonight. "No, that's not it," he said. "I know I'll make it in time."

"Don't worry," Saga said. "We wouldn't make you do anything that would come between you and the object of your fanboy-ness."

"Like we wouldn't come between you and the World Cup?" Tora said. "We had to drag you away from the TV to go onstage."

"It was a semifinal match and it was tied!" Saga said.

Shou looked back at his printout as the two bantered back and forth. Yes, precious little info here. Just a basic outline of events, and a list of the participants. Well, he hadn't really looked over that yet, and he should, because the kohais would be arriving at any minute. Kouki and Minase from D=OUT, ko-ki and Reno from ViViD, and . . .

Oh, God. Oh, GOD. This was just what Shou didn't need. Of all people to be showing up. He was going to have to keep it cool, act natural. He was just going to have to host the show with the man he'd wanted from afar for eternity on that stage with him, that's all.

"You know," Ruki said to Shou, "you should say something to that guy. You've liked him for, what, two years now?"

They were sitting in a Starbucks near the PSC offices after a meeting about the 2011 Peace and Smile Carnival. Shou put down his cup, twisting it on the table. "I just don't want to take advantage of a kohai, that's all."

"Saying you want to get together with him for a cup of coffee sometime isn't taking advantage of him," Ruki said. "Shou, you're a grown man, not a high school boy."

"I know I'm a grown man," Shou said. "And that's precisely why I need to be responsible to those below me."

Ruki sighed, rubbing his head above his ever-present-when-not-onstage-or-before-the-cameras sunglasses. "Look. When you first started with the company, you asked me for advice. I said that there is only one person in this entire world that your success depends on, and that's you. Well, that applies to love as well as career." Pause. "Maybe more about love than anything else."


Shou blinked, coming back to present-day reality with a sigh. His success depended on nobody but him . . .

He'd think about that later. Right now, he had to focus. He had to get mentally prepared. He had to get into co host-mode. He had to . . .

The door flew open. In walked a person in full Piccolo from Dragon Ball Z cosplay, hands held above his head in triumph. Behind him walked Kouki from D=OUT, shouting, "The great Piccolo-sama has arrived!"

He had to accept that this was going to be a crazy day, even by Alice Nine Channel standards.

* * *

When you're promoting your major label debut single, you do whatever your manager says - even if it involves participating in a silly "sports" competition.

Not that Byou was any stranger to silliness. It was part and parcel of his band - they'd been called "the class clowns of PSC" by a couple of staffers - and Lord knew they did enough of it on SCREW TV. It's just that their brand of silliness wasn't usually . . . dangerous.

He'd been through this drill once, right before the last Peace and Smile Carnival. He'd had Jin with him that time. For this go-around, Manabu had taken his place.

"Just what do they mean by 'sports carnival'?" Manabu said as they arrived backstage at the venu, clad in Addidas track suits. Dressing appropriately for the occasion was part of visual kei, right?

"Given what happened before? It probably involves sticking your hands in a box of something and hoping you don't get hurt." Last time, it had been crayfish. "Don't worry, I'll take on anything that could hurt your hands."

"That isn't very comforting," Manabu said, taking a glance around. At least they knew most of the people here. Kouki they were well familiar with from the Tribal Arrival tours. Alice Nine were their sempais, and they'd hung out backstage with ViViD at the last Peace and Smile Carnival. And then there was . . .

Manabu nudged Byou. "What's with the Dragon Ball cosplay?"

The vocalist looked over and did a double-take. Who the hell was that? The person was unrecognizable under the getup. Okay, there was only one person here that he recognized from D=OUT, so that meant it was . . . Reika? Ibuki? Or , , , his Twitter nemesis, Minase?



"Look who’s here,” the cosplayer said, approaching them. “I’m surprised you were brave enough to show up. Don’t worry, I’ll destroy you before the day’s over.”

Oh, yes, it was Minase, all right. “Why the cosplay?” Byou said. “Too ugly to show your face to the camera?”

“I’m dressing the part,” Minase said. “Today, I’m going to be strong. You, apparently, are going to be beat up on the playground.”

“You talk tough,” Byou replied, “but let’s see if you can back it up.”

“Oh, we’ll see, all right. See you in the winner’s circle.” Minase gave an exaggerated bow and headed back toward his bandmate.

Manabu watched him go. “He’s really going to keep that on for the show, isn’t he?”

“If I had known he was going to do that, we would have come as Goku and Vegeta,” Byou said. “We would have . . .”

And then, he froze as his eyes fell on someone at the other side of the room. What was HE doing here? He wasn't around for the last battle! Byou had been told that this was going to be like last time, that Tora would be hosting and Saga and Hiroto would be Alice Nine's competitors . . .

And there went Kazuki's voice in his head, saying once again, "You've got to say something to him sooner or later. So he's a sempai. Big deal. I'm dating a sempai, remember? He's not going to shoot you if you ask him out."

Of course, Byou didn't have the heart to tell Kazuki that Aoi was not exactly well-acquainted with protocol. Or shame, for that matter.

At that moment, a Nico Nico staffer entered the room, iPad in hand, headset on head. "All right," he said. "This is how it's going to work. We'll have the two hosts, Shou and Tora, come out and talk first . . ."

Hosts? Shou was co-hosting? Oh, GOD. Okay, he was just going to have to act as normal as possible. Meaning he'd go out there, act cool and play the gentleman pervert. Open by saying "I like boobs," like he did last time. And if he did that - what could possibly go wrong? Not like they were going to utterly humiliate themselves, right?

* * *

Shou was feeling rather pleased with the way things were going so far. They'd gotten through the first event, the pedometer headbanging contest - except some of the pedometers seemed to be malfunctioning. Namely, Alice Nine's and SCREW's. The latter had ended the event without a single point, despite their best efforts.

They'd moved on to the second one, the jump rope challenge. This involved the band members running into a spinning jump rope one by one, and the audience counting jumps once both - or all, in Alice Nine's case - members were jumping. Shou fully expected his own band to go down in humiliating defeat with this one, of course - the moment Nao announced "We're good at sports," they were doomed. And, indeed, it was Nao who tripped over the rope after they'd only jumped once, and was thoroughly chastised by Saga for his boastfulness afterward.

Of course, Shou knew there was no way they were going to lose the Battle. It was purely fixed. The prize was the winning band got to take over Alice Nine’s own show, and there was no way that Nico Nico, or PSC, would let them out of the once-a-month torture that was Alice Nine Channel. (Or, as Saga put it, "We suffer tremendously once a month. We might as well be women.")

SCREW was the second band to be facing the jump rope. Well, there was absolutely no way they could possibly be worse than Alice Nine, right? As they got up, Manabu grabbed the mike and announced, "We're amazing at this."

The guitarist ran toward the rope, gave a hop and began jumping perfectly. It did, indeed, look like his statement was no idle boast. Once Byou got in, they would be a force to be reckoned with . . .

His bandmate, however, was not joining him.

Shou just stood there, looking puzzled. Why was Manabu jumping, and jumping, and . . . Byou was just standing there? Staring into space? No, staring at him and Tora? What the hell?

"Byou-chan?" he said. Oh, great. He'd just called him "-chan." Fortunately, Shou was known for calling everyone "-chan" at one point or another, so it wasn't too much of a slip. He'd just cover it up by saying it again. "Byou-chan? Byou-chan?"

"He's acting strangely," Tora said.

Byou, meanwhile, was rooted to the spot. Actually, it wasn't Shou that was the initial distraction. It was the spinning jump rope. It had kind of a mesmerizing effect.

It also drew his eyes toward the one spot he'd been trying to avoid since the start of the competition.

Dammit, why did Shou have to look better than ever today? The bright blond hair really suited him. So did the sharp blue outfit. Wait a minute - did he just hear right? Was Shou calling him "Byou-chan?"

And then, there was a hand on his arm snapping him out of his reverie. Nao, who had been sitting next to him. Except he was now standing up next to Byou, leaning over . . .

"You'd better put your eyes back in your head," he whispered. "You don't want Manabu-kun to trip over them."

Oh, CRAP. He was supposed to be out there jumping rope with his bandmate, wasn't he? He leaned over and gave Nao a quick hug for basically saving his life, put on a big smile, dashed over to the rope and . . .

He couldn't see an opening to get in. The thing was spinning a million miles an hour, it seemed. He just hung back, cringing, trying to find a place he could jump in without being whacked in the face (right in front of Shou) . . .

In the meantime, Manabu was jumping . . . and jumping . . . and jumping, alone. What the hell was going on? Where was his bandmate? He couldn't see the exchange between Nao and Byou, he could only hear the fangirls shrieking. Had Byou run off or something? He could hear Shou saying, "Manabu is hanging in there!"

Finally, Byou thought, I just have to go for it. He dashed forward, gave a single clumsy, galumphing jump, and promptly tripped over the rope. Manabu ended up on the ground, flat on his back.

And Byou just stood there, laughing. Because it was the only thing he could do right now. Good thing he was used to making a public ass of himself. He just usually didn't do it in front of a guy he'd liked for three years.

He reached down to help Manabu up, and they took the long walk of shame back to their seats - as Tora announced, "The look on Byou's face says, 'This is all your fault, Manabu!'"

Which, of course, wasn't the case at all. Byou knew exactly what had gone wrong. Nobody stood a chance in the face of overwhelming hotness.

When the competition had moved on, and ViViD was jumping rope expertly - racking up another impressive number of points - Saga leaned over and whispered to Nao, "What the hell was that about? With you and Byou?"

But Nao just had a seemingly innocent smile on his face and whispered back, "I'll tell you later."

Nao, you see, was a lot sharper than a lot of people gave him credit for. It wasn't by accident that he'd been able to shepherd Alice Nine to being one of the biggest VK bands in Japan and the biggest PSC act whose name wasn't "GazettE."

He also had eyes and ears. He'd picked up on the way the two vocalists acted around each other, all the way back to the 2009 Peace and Smile Carnival.

Nao had a plan for what to do about this. If everything went as planned, things would be getting interesting later tonight.

* * *

By the time they reached the last event, Byou was wondering if PSC was going to change the name of his band to SCREW UPS.

They STILL had only one point. They couldn't catch a break anywhere. They'd even failed to pick up a score in the one event where he thought they'd do well - the baseball hitting challenge. Byou had wanted to be a professional baseball player before L'arc-en-Ciel changed the direction of his life. He'd hit the ping-pong balls they were using as baseballs a nice distance.

Unfortunately, Kouki had hit them just a little bit further.

So here they sat, waaay in last place, listening to the description of the T.M. Revolution Balance Challenge. The participant had to balance on a board perched atop three balls, striking a pose made famous by Takanori himself in his Hot Limit PV. Meanwhile, members of other bands would try to knock the contestant off the board by blowing electric fans at him.

At least this sounds more fun than humiliating, Byou thought, unlike some earlier challenges. He could only imagine the things Minase would be posting on Twitter when this was over. He had to start thinking of counterattacks now.

He hadn't looked directly at Shou since the jump rope incident. Mostly, he gazed off to the side. Manabu, sitting next to him, was a bit confused as to what he was doing - but gazed off to the side as well, so they could match.

The balance board challenge started, and the first competitor was ko-ki, who didn't do so well. Fortunately, Manabu managed to last longer - despite losing a ball in the middle of it. And then, Kouki lasted longer than him - mainly because the people who were holding the fans decided to go after his bandmate, Misase/Piccolo, instead of trying to knock him off the board.

Finally, it was time for Alice Nine's competitor. Who, Tora had decided, was Shou himself.

And this, Shou knew, was when the competition was really going to be fixed. Couldn’t lose their show.

Sure enough, Tora informed Shou that he could have support from a bandmate for balancing. So Hiroto walked over to Shou, letting Shou put his hands on his shoulders while Hiroto gripped Shou by the waist - and the audience squeed at the blatant fanservice.

Shou raised his arms over his head in the required pose, Hiroto still holding onto him. Okay, this was fixed, he'd be fine. There were still people from the other bands circling him with fans, but the breeze was slight, not nearly enough to knock him off-balance.

Oh, great, one of them was Byou, wasn't it? Oh, holy hell, yes. Byou was the official fan-blower for SCREW. And Shou should most definitely not be thinking of the concepts "Byou" "blow" and "SCREW" in close proximity to each other, or he'd embarrass himself big-time. Just keep standing there, just hold the pose, just look at Hiroto . . .

Byou, meanwhile, was having similar difficulties. As in, he was well aware that he was in close proximity to this man. Rather, to a certain very appealing feature of his anatomy. And even though he tried not to, when he passed the rear of Shou, he found himself checking out his ass.

It was a nice ass, to be sure. A very nice one indeed. It was also quite visible from the pose - including his underwear. His pants were flat-out falling down.

Uh-oh. He couldn’t let Shou embarrass himself like that, especially since that lovely butt was facing the cameras. He’d just poke his back to get his attention. But consciously or unconsciously, his finger went lower, and he ended up poking Shou right in the butt.

Target sighted - and achieved.

At that moment, Tora decided to verbally inform his bandmate of the situation. "Shou! Why do you have your back to the audience? We can see your underwear!" And Byou took advantage of the situation to inform Shou of his predicament again. Twice. Poke, poke.

If they were going to end this thing with one point, dammit, at least he'd have the satisfaction of finally getting a hand on Shou's ass - even if it was just a finger-poke.

He wasn't quite sure what happened next. All he knew was that Hiroto was fully throwing his arms around Shou from the front, and then he was doing the same thing from behind. Maybe he was trying to cover his underwear. Maybe he wanted to give him extra support. Or maybe he just wanted to take advantage of the situation.

Oh, yes, he had Shou in his arms, and it was like a dream. Except the moment was ruined by Minase/Piccolo and Reno glomming onto him as well.

It didn't matter. Byou held on. And held on some more.

Shou, meanwhile, had felt the finger-poke and was startled. Who was doing that? He had lost track of who was where - he was just concentrating on holding onto Hiroto and staying on the damn board.

Was it really . . . no, no, he couldn't think like that. Shouldn't. Because if that was Byou touching his bottom, he might have a very embarrassing reaction right in front of the cameras, and THAT would blow their image right out of the water, wouldn't it? Universal Music might think twice about the negotiations they'd opened up with them.

Before he had time to process that thought further, though, whoever had been poking him suddenly grabbed him from behind, arms around his waist. And then, there were two people on either side, also crushing in on him, all holding him up.

He looked to the left . . . to the right . . . and saw Reno and Minase/Piccolo. Which meant that the person behind him . . . the first person to grab him . . . the person who'd been poking his ass . . . was . . .

Shou could dimly hear Tora saying, "This scene is something else. What the hell? Why is everyone's back facing the audience?" (There was a whole group of men piling on Shou and that was Tora's concern?) But his brain was blocking out everything . . . except the sensation of one of the men holding him.

Byou had his arms around Shou's waist. His face was pressed against his back - halfway to the bottom he'd been prodding earlier.

Shou had an enormous smile on his face, the kind that would light up the inside of a black hole. Tora was saying, "Shou doesn't look that unhappy about this." Well, that was the understatement of the decade.

Then, suddenly, they were all moving away from him, and the bell was ringing to end the round. The fix was successful. Alice Nine had won the round, and the battle, and had kept their show. And Shou just stood there in the middle of the stage, laughing, feeling one spot of warmth against his back like it had been burned into him with a hot iron.

Byou, meanwhile, grabbed the fan he'd been using and walked back to his seat, slowly. He'd just stunned himself. Amazing. He'd done all kinds of perverted things on stage and before cameras in the past without a second thought. Simulate sex and blowjobs with a blindfolded model? Sure! Strip off his shirt and perform all manner of fanservice in front of screaming fangirls? Absolutely! But this? Poking a guy's ass, grabbing hold of him . . .

That's because it wasn't just any guy. It was Shou. The one creature on the planet capable of reducing a grown "gentleman pervert" to a high school boy.

* * *

The group headed backstage after the cameras were turned off. Manabu rubbed the top of his head - his hair was still messed up from having to wear a horse mask. "That wasn't exactly how I'd dreamed of announcing our major label debut to the world," he said.

At the end of the battle, each band was given a chance to announce their upcoming releases and lives to the public - and the losers had to do it while wearing animal masks. Which meant that the biggest announcement of SCREW's career was done when Manabu looked like a bad Tumblr meme, the microphone jammed into the airhole on the front of the equine head. (My Little Pony, Losing Is Tragic).

"At least we got attention, right?" Byou said. He'd been forced to wear a gorilla mask. He figured he'd make the most of it and act his role, pretending to pick his nose and fling the results out to the audience (he should have flung it at Minase). It was only later that he wondered if Shou would find that amusing or gross.

Damn - that one moment where he'd poked Shou in the bottom, then wrapped his arms around him kept playing over and over in his mind like a continuous loop. The fact that Shou had said, "Is it okay to hide their beautiful faces with these?" when he brought the masks over just made things even worse.

He had to talk to him. He had to apologize for the poking and the grabbing. He had to . . . what?

Meanwhile, Shou made his way backstage, feeling a bit stunned. The show had gone well. The audience had responded. The bands all had fun. And all he could think of was that one moment where Byou had poked him in the bottom, then wrapped his arms around him.

He was going to find him, and talk to him, and tell him he bore him no hard feelings for the poking. And then, well . . .

Shou spotted the other man across the room. He waved. "Byou-kin?"

The vocalist turned at the sound of his name. "Shou-kun?" (Was it Shou's imagination, a bit of wishful thinking, or was there a bit of light in his eyes?)

"Look," Shou said, "I wanted to talk to you about . . ."

And then, suddenly, out of nowhere, one of Alice Nine's staffers rushed up, grabbing his arm. "Shou-kun! Come on, let's go, the car's outside!"

Shou looked baffled. "Car?"

"You know - the one to take you to the T.M. Revolution live! You were concerned you'd be late, so we got you a car!"

He'd forgotten all about that. And to think, when he woke up today, it was the one thing most on his mind. He'd actually thought the live would be his reward for getting through the Battle Royale. What a difference one very crazy hour and a half made.

"I really don't . . ." he began.

"No time, no time!" the staffer said, rushing him toward the door. "Come on, if we don't hurry, we'll miss the start of the show!"

Shou let out a deep sigh. He glanced over his shoulder at Byou as he was just about pushed out the door and bundled into the back of a Town Car. Oh, look, PSC was going classy, unlike the vans usually used to drive them around.

He felt a bit like Cinderella leaving the ball in the pumpkin coach. Only he didn't have a glass shoe to leave behind. (Glass made for impractical footwear anyway, though it would look awesome on camera).

Byou, meanwhile, watched him go. And here was another stunner in a day full of them. He didn't get a chance to say one word to him. Not one.

Nao sidled up beside him, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Hey, there," he said. "You two going to the afterparty?"

"What afterparty?" Manabu said.

"I'll give you the address and the time," Nao said. "We've rented the back room of a restaurant - Alice Nine did. We figured we'd give you guys a little celebration for being on the show today." Lowering his voice, he said, "And we have something very special planned for our two hosts." Looking straight at Byou, he added, "Yes, Shou-kun will be there. We're having this party late just so he can attend."

The two exchanged looks, and then Byou said, firmly, "I'll be there."

"Good," Nao said. "What about you, Manabu-kun?"

"Sure," Manabu said - a bit confused. Why did Nao say something specifically to Byou about Shou? (Byou had never told anyone but Kazuki about his feelings for the other vocalist - just as Shou had never told anyone but Ruki).

"Excellent!" Nao said. "I'll see you there!" He gave a wave, and was off to where the rest of his bandmates were.

Manabu shook his head. "This has been a strange day," he said, "and it just keeps getting stranger."

Byou just had a small smile on his face. Afterparty. Another chance to talk to Shou. He looked at his bandmate and said, "The day's not over yet."

Follow this link to part 2!

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