[Ahh… How did it end up like this…]
Belle Huggins cast a sidelong glance at her boyfriend, who was completely entranced in casino card games gambling, and sighed.
“Belle, I’m going to get everything back and double it…!”
“Yes yes… Just don’t over do it.”
Belle’s boyfriend, Donny, was a self-proclaimed gambler, but in actuality, he moved from job to job as a day laborer, and was unemployed on that specific day.
It was not always like this. Donny used to dream of owning his very own restaurant and being the best cook in the Labyrinth City, and he worked tirelessly in a tavern’s kitchen in order to achieve this goal.
Belle wholeheartedly supported him. She would come by the tavern where he worked to help him in any way she could, but she always liked singing, so she would also entertain customers by copying idols.
Those days of poverty were fun, until one day, something happened.
“Do you want to be an idol?”
A scout visited the tavern.
At first, Belle thought it was either a joke or a scam.
The business district didn’t have a great reputation, and there were people claiming to want to hire girls to be idols, but taking them to nasty brothels instead.
But Donny, not really thinking about it, said she should at least hear what he had to say, so she ended up visiting his office.
Who would’ve guessed it was actually real?
She was called to a place named Jewelry Productions, an actual idol office.
Their line-up included popular Idols like Citrine, who was the number one ranked idol, and Garnet, who went on tours all over the country.
Belle started performing under the name “Agate”.
Belle’s daily life was suddenly completely different.
She received voice training and dance lessons, was provided soap and scented oils for free, and made new friends, who bonded not over their tragic pasts and licked each other’s wounds, but over dreams of a bright future.
Obviously, there was also rivalry between idols, and some people would pick fights with her out of jealousy, but there was a certain element of seriousness about everyone betting it all on the same stage. It was less about lying in bed cursing people you hated, and more about sharpening your blade and cutting the others. It was a fresh kind of pain for Belle, and it only made her devote herself to this path even more, since she hated to lose.
And then, it was time for her to set foot on a real stage. She would be Garnet’s opening act on a park stage.
Bell could not remember if she danced or sang well. She had the feeling that she had performed a strange polka, but she was in a trance, and only had vague memories.
All she could remember was the brightness that made her eyes spin and the wild enthusiasm that made her blood boiled with excitement.
After that, she slowly gained more fans, and people started saying her songs were good.
She had confidence in her voice, but not in her dancing. She managed to mitigate this problem by making it part of her on-stage character that she only sang. This actually ended up having a positive effect, as people praised her stoic attitude.
But as she climbed higher, her boyfriend sank deeper.
Shortly after she became an idol, he quit his job in the tavern after an argument with the owner. He bounced around from tavern to tavern, but by the time Belle got on stage, he grew to loathe the restaurant business as a whole.
He used to gamble for fun, but he was getting increasingly absorbed in it.
It was as though he was mirroring Belle’s success, and was slowly but surely straying further away from his path.
The amount of money he was borrowing from Belle was also increasing.
[Is it my fault…]
Belle sighed as she watched over Donny.
She couldn’t abandon him.
Surely this was the price of her success, she thought, but somewhere deep inside her heart, she noticed something.
Even though she showed nothing short of her full support towards Donny and his dream, he never supported or congratulated her.
“Can we go home Donny…? Forget about the money…”
“What!? I can’t back out now!”
Belle knew he was just going to end up penniless and lowering his head to her again.
She was becoming increasingly successful as an idol, but her heart felt cold.
‘Why did it turn out like this?’ She thought.
She liked that man, and she liked his dream that he talked so much about.
“Quiet! I’m trying to focus here…”
That was when the entire casino shook.
The pianist stopped playing, and Belle heard people murmur in confusion. The reason for this abnormal development soon became clear.
A terrifying roar echoed throughout the casino.
“W-what!? A tiger monster!?”
“That’s complete nonsense, we’re in the middle of the city! There’s no miasma here…!”
It was pandemonium from that point forward.
Tables turned over, chairs broken, and people were sent flying.
Belle could not comprehend what was happening, and could only look on in blank amazement.
To Belle, who was seriously thinking about whether or not to reconsider her relationship with her boyfriend, what she was seeing was utterly bizarre.
“Ah! We have to get out of here!”
By the time she snapped back to reality and thought this, Donny was already gone.
“Hum, Donny…? Where…?”
Donny had already run away, and left Belle behind.
Belle fell back, as she watched Donny run.
She wondered why she was there, and why she worked so hard for that man.
But reality did not allow Belle to wallow in her sorrow.
A hard, ebony table, large enough for ten men was flying through the air, knocked away by the rampaging tiger. It was headed straight towards Belle, and it would surely crush her.
Belle looked at it with a blank expression. That moment that lasted less than a second felt like an eternity.
[It’s over… In a place like this…]
[Ah, I know, this is all a dream. All of it, including my success as an idol and my break-up with Donny. I’m going to wake up under a thin blanket in the same old shabby inn, and go to the tavern where Donny works to help him.]
Belle closed her eyes, and said farewell to this world.
““ You know, an idol has to protect her face.””
But someone would not let her give up.