|End of the Dark Road|
|Character/s in the cover||Ren Tsuruga and Lory Takarada|
|Arc||Dark Moon arc|
End of the Dark Road is the 51st chapter of the Skip Beat! manga series.
Ren goes to visit Lory, who tells him he is going to have problems with his acting because he hasn't experienced love. Meanwhile, Kyoko has spent the night at Kanae's. She and Kanae talk about Kanae's very busy and money-less life. They also discuss the situation with Hiou. She tells Kyoko there is no way Hiou will forgive her. However Hiou returns to Kanae's place to invite her to go back to work with him.
Ren goes over to the President's Mansion early in the morning (6am) and is shown in by Sebastian the butler who is dressed in Arabian style robes. Sebastian shows Ren to the pool room where Lory is shrugging into a robe, having just finished having a swim. They both greet each other good morning and Lory guides then into his private rooms. Ren apologizes for disturbing him so early but Lory says he doesn't mind since lately he's always awake at around 4:30am. Ren, surprised, asks if he can't sleep. Lory says no that he is, in fact, rebroadcasting "Ai no oo Arashi ♡," a dorama full of romance. Ren seems unsure how to answer this and just says, "Is that so?" Internally he is wondering, isn't that dorama licensed to someone else...?
Lory then hands him a bag while saying "this is the object you requested 2 days ago." Relieved Ren thanks him, saying, "He's saved." Lory tells him, "It was quite unexpected request since he is normally a person who takes care of his stuff quite well." Lory inquires about how his cellphone broke as Ren takes the new one out of the packaging, remembering that Ren also borrowed his not long ago too. Ren just says "I was careless," purposely omitting the real reason. The President, now sitting on the lounge smoking a cigar, makes a disgruntled huff at this unsatisfactory answer and says "it's not interesting at all".
A maid comes in with tea and starts serving it on the coffee table that's in between the President and Ren. Lory asks, "Was a woman involved?" Ren makes a noise of surprise at this question. The President looks away from Ren who is staring at him in silence looking a bit uncertain. The President exhales his cigar smoke and whilst frowning says, "Impossible, since you're a boring man and something like that wouldn't come out of your mouth." A bit wary now, Ren realizes he's on dangerous ground and that the atmosphere has gotten cloudy. He knows that the since the President has started on this topic that next up must be a lecture. Hoping for a quick escape he turns towards the door whilst saying, "I must be getting to work..."
The President, still not looking at him, says Ren's name in a super low voice. He then begins to lecture him, as Ren feared, that "he is too clean." Lory continues saying that a lot of women should want to be near him but since he doesn't appear in any articles they find him uninteresting. Lory says Ren manipulates social situations so that women can only ever approach him in a friend capacity. Ren is now sitting opposite Lory who is frowning at him with both his arms and legs crossed. Ren doesn't get why the President is angry when he hasn't had any gossip about him relating to a woman.
Lory clarifies telling Ren, "I don't mean for you to play around, as I myself don't like meaningless relationships," but that he needs to fix his personality a bit and socialize a bit more. Otherwise he will never know other people's good points and if you don't know you won't develop feelings for anyone."
Lory says, "I understand your reasons for not wanting to get close to others but I am concerned for your future as an actor." This statement catches Ren's attention. Lory tells him that he has been able to cover it well but one day it will be revealed. Ren seems confused, unsure as to what the President is referring to. Lory says, "Even though you may have fooled all of Japan, you haven't fooled me."
Lory points at Ren and informs him seriously that his acting skills concerning love are shallow and fake. Ren is completely shocked by this. Lory elaborates saying he gets this feeling every time he sees Ren in a drama. And that Ren has been lucky so far since most of the dramas he has acted in, romance wasn't the main point. Lory points out that now he's 20 years old he won't last long if he can't act in a very hard romance drama.
Lory continues, warning Ren that when that happens that, not only him, but other people who watch his acting objectively will find out about it. Ren is still inside his spiral of disbelief, as he has been acting in Japan for four years now and he thought his skills were seasoned enough but now he's told that his acting skills are still not developed which is a great shock to him.
Meanwhile Kyoko has stayed the night at Kanae's house. She has just finished breakfast and thanks Kanae's older sister for it, who apologizes for its simplicity. Kyoko brushes this off saying it was the prefect Japanese breakfast. Kanae's younger siblings are also sitting down for breakfast, indiscriminately shoveling down their food.
Kyoko apologizes too since she was meant to leave the night before but ended up staying. Kanae's older sister says security in the neighborhood has dropped off so she would've been worried about letting a girl go home by herself at night. Kyoko recalls Taisho's wife saying the exact same thing when she called her the night before but because of this she got to experience for the first time staying over at a friend's place. Kyoko believes that because of this she and Kanae are truly becoming best friends and that her 'past self' would never even think about this happening.
Suddenly, several appliances, large pots and boxes, come tumbling down on top of Kyoko making Kanae's older sister exclaim in shock. She apologizes to Kyoko as she digs her out from the pile whilst saying local quakes are frequent here. Kanae's younger siblings continue to eat not seeming to notice the disturbance or the fact that several heavy objects have fallen on them.
It seems that the Kotonami main house kitchen is always this messy as well as the rest of the house. Kanae's older sister says things just keep piling up so it becomes like this. Kyoko lets out a weak laugh as she crawls out from under the pile of objects saying they probably need a lot stuff being such a big family. Kanae's older sister chortles and says Kyoko can say it honestly that its because they are poor and can't afford to throw anything away. She confesses to Kyoko that the outside of the house only looks like that because Kanae used her money to fix it up. The appearance hadn't seemed to bother the rest of the family but Kanae said she was embarrassed by it.
Kyoko recalls Kanae showing a picture of what the house used to look like and even Kyoko was rendered speechless. Kanae explains, outraged, that she intends to be Japan's representative actress so how could she have a house that looked like that, it would be embarrassing. She tells Kyoko she forced her parents to make the reforms telling them that she would pay for it.
Kanae's older sister is looking pensively into the distance saying that Kanae became even worse after she entered junior high like building a separate bedroom for herself. Kanae's older sister starts to worry frantically about how Kanae got the money to pay for it all. She despairs that Kanae might have turned to illegal means to secure funds such as drugs or organ selling. Kyoko interrupts her saying she doesn't need to worry about that.
Kanae's older sister asks her if she knows what Kanae is doing when Kyoko confirms that she does then Kanae's older sister starts to complain about how Kanae trusts an outsider but not her only older sister. Kyoko feels a bit offended by the outsider remark. Kanae's older sister then pins her with a sharp look and demands to know what Kanae is doing.
Kyoko recalls that Kanae said it was a secret so she just answers "I can't say." Kyoko feels very happy to have been the one that Kanae chose to trust and swears to herself that she'll never betray her.
Suddenly a lump of laundry rushes past Kyoko, trailing clothes in its wake. Kyoko is stunned, unsure what she just witnessed so she follows it outside, gathering the fallen clothing as she goes.
Kyoko is shocked to see Kanae briskly and efficiently hanging out the huge load of washing. Kyoko becomes confused because Kanae had said she was going back to her room to get her vitamins so she asks why Kanae is doing the laundry.
Kanae explains that since her parents work both her and her older sister are in charge of taking care of the housework. Kanae's older sister is in charge of cooking and Kanae is in charge of the laundry. Apparently she didn't plan to do it but when she saw the huge pile of dirty laundry her body moved on its own.
Kyoko starts giggling remembering how Kanae once accused her of giving off a housewife vibe. Kyoko is now laughing out right whilst saying Kanae is even more of a housewife than she, even she can't do high-speed washing like that.
Kanae, embarrassed now, says it's because Kyoko reminds her of a part of herself and she gets angry. She tries hard to hard to hide the housewife behind her actress face however Kyoko makes her recall the smell of detergent. Kyoko isn't laughing anymore rendered silent by this and apologizes meekly.
Kanae seems to ponder something and then lets out a sad laugh as she says she might not be able to show her actress face in the entertainment world anymore. Kyoko is surprised by this and asks why. Kanae says that when Hiou went home last night he still seemed angry even though she had tried to show him by bringing him here that she hadn't meant him intentional harm. She had hoped he would forgive her but life isn't that sweet.
Kyoko tells her that she needn't worry about that. Laughing a little, she explains that Hiou's angry face that Kanae saw was a cover up because when he understood that Kanae hadn't treated him like a kid he looked relieved but he quickly masked this expression so as to not be discovered. Both her and Kanae exchange looks. Kyoko continues, following this thought, and concludes that Hiou was more irritated with being treated like a kid than being wounded by her. Kanae, a bit confused, tries to understand this by asking if that means Hiou was happy when she treated him like an adult instead of a kid. Kyoko is thinking that Hiou might have a crush on Kanae but she confirms what Kanae is saying is right.
Kanae seems to ponder this and then concludes that this must mean Hiou is no longer angry with her. Kyoko chimes in at the same time saying this means Hiou has a crush on Kanae. Kanae looks dumbfounded at this theory. As Kyoko continues to explain her reasoning for this conclusion, Kanae looks increasingly more and more dumbfounded by it. Kyoko says, "It's quite normal for a boy Hiou's age to have a crush or two." Kanae interjects asking if Kyoko realizes how many years she and Hiou have between them. Kyoko says, "Only six years, which is still possible." Kanae exclaims, "It is impossible if you think of it in a normal way."
Then Kyoko counters that saying that didn't Kanae go out with a college guy which is six years difference too. Kanae informs her that it was a job request she accepted where she had to act as a sweet, elegant girlfriend to deter a persistent stalker. Kanae is ruthless whilst describing the college guy saying "his brains are so-so but his looks are good enough that he's quite popular." Kyoko knows this but she can't say without having to admit she tailed her.
Kyoko asks her more seriously if she has any feelings outside of work for the man. Kanae flips this off even more quickly with a dismissive "heh," saying its not like he's an actor who can appreciate her skills. Kanae misunderstands the question about feelings and Kyoko just smiles and sighs at this.
Kanae confesses to Kyoko that the girlfriend role was actually quite hard because she had to pretend to be older and a couple. She wasn't confident that she could act as a couple based on her imagination alone so she bugged and stalked an older couple for a few weeks. Kyoko mentally sends an apology to Kanae's older sister as this is quite close to a crime. Kanae says that research and meeting the client's request is all part of her job though. Kyoko asks about the man she saw her with at Darumaya whom Kanae confirms was a client too. She was acting as his deceased daughter using home videos as a reference to pin down the daughter's personality. Kyoko figures this is what she must have been doing when she met up with the rich, Western-looking uncle.
Kanae then wonders how they got from Hiou to talking about her part-time job. Kyoko remembers that they talking about the 6 year gap. Kanae jumps back to talking about Hiou, saying that when she was younger her motto was Hana Yori Dango. "Food over romance" is Kanae's interpretation of the proverb. This is why she thinks its impossible for Hiou to love her, and its better not to get her hopes up that he'll forgive her. Kyoko is about to agree with her when someone loudly calls Kanae's name. Both Kanae and Kyoko exchange perplexed looks, wondering who it is, maybe her brother but it's clearly a child's voice.
They call Kanae's name again asking if she's awake. Matsuda, Hiou's manager, then steps through the door greeting them good morning and surprising Kanae. The voice exclaims loudly "Wah, what's with this huge amount of clothes?! How annoying, it makes so hard to get through here!"
They then yell Kanae's name loudly again saying "I won't acknowledge you if you aren't awake yet!" Kyoko is now smiling delightedly, having now recognized the voice. Kanae isn't looking at her but across the yard where the voice is coming from. Both Kanae and Kyoko watch as Hiou emerges dramatically from amidst the flapping sheets. Kanae still looks stunned as she says his name slowly, Hiou tells her that he's come to get her as they're going to work. Kanae looks even more stunned by this statement but Hiou is smiling at her as he's obviously forgiven her.
Kanae looks both relieved and grateful for this. Then super happy to be asked to go back to work which she agrees to.
Kyoko thinks in that moment Hiou seemed to have become even cooler than yesterday, however it only lasted a split second as Hiou reverts back to his bratty self.
He hurries Kanae out the door saying they're already late. Kyoko glares at him darkly thinking "who exactly is slowing her down." Her grudges swirl around her and one appears at her shoulder clicking its tongue at Hiou and calling him a twerp.
Characters in Order of Appearance
- Hana Yori Dango is an ancient Japanese proverb that translates to "dumplings over flowers", meaning practical over aesthetic.