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[15:52] <Sachiko> It would be appropriate for the bell attached to a music store's door to be a beautiful, sweet-toned thing, in keeping with the instruments ahead, but Tony's was a cheap bit of brass. Maybe this was appropriate in its own way - visitors were pretty rare, and even then most of them were students looking for an afternoon's work.-
[15:53] <Sachiko> Still, it wasn't equipped for much punishment. So when Sachiko opened the door with little too much force when she arrived after school, the poor thing just clattered to the floor and rolled into one of the drifts of instruments. The poor girl skipped her usual introductions and tried to chase it down, cursing violently as she went.
[16:03] <PersonaGM> ["Oh damn." Said Tony behind the counter. "I was hoping it was customers, but it's just Sachiko, breaking all my shit again."]
[16:15] <Sachiko> "Pretty sure I am your only customer." She recovered the bell and went to hang it up again, but the flimsy hook had broken off with it. She stared, then went and sat it on the counter in front of Tony, her limp a lot more pronounced than usual. "… sorry."-
[16:17] <Sachiko> There was no getting around the fact that she looked terrible today, pale and tired. There was a fresh scuff mark above her eye, too. There was nothing she could do to hide it, so she just watched him like she was daring him to say something.
[16:19] <PersonaGM> ["Well come on now. It's only a bell." Said Tony. "You didn't hurt yourself when you came through, did you?"]
[16:28] <Sachiko> The reflexive urge to perform a sarcasm was obvious on her face, but Sachiko bit down on it. "I fell down some stairs," she said, gesturing towards her face. "Which I know is the bullshit lie answer, but I actually did, and-"-
[16:28] <Sachiko> "… Look, it's been a lousy day," she said, her voice wavering for just a moment. "Can I do the audition, please?"
[16:38] <PersonaGM> ["Sure, if that's what you need."]
[16:47] <Sachiko> "It is," she said. "Can I use the Firebird?"
[16:49] <PersonaGM> ["Sure."]
[16:57] <Sachiko> […]
[16:57] <Sachiko> Sachiko had only been in to use Tony's practice space once since she'd been given permission to use it. What she'd found was a surprisingly high-end studio, though the disorder of the shop found a home here too in odd ways. Cords seemed to be strewn across every surface, tangling wherever they overlapped and leading to rat-king-esque knots here and there. The pedal board was balanced
[16:57] <Sachiko> on top of a bizarre pyramid of unsorted pedals.-
[16:57] <Sachiko> Still, it wasn't quite as bad as the shop. She could at least find her way around, and busied herself setting up a signal chain to the hefty practice amp in the corner.-
[16:58] <Sachiko> "So do you need something specific here, or do I just perform what I want?"
[17:00] <PersonaGM> [Tony carefully settled himself into an armchair and adjusted his sunglasses. "Best you do what you feel fits the best."]
[17:07] <Sachiko> "Great." It would take a couple more minutes of setting up pedals and cables before she began, and when she did she started slow, head down and focused.-
[17:07] <Sachiko> She was getting a feel for the instrument with simple chords and rhythms at first, and Tony could watch her posture relax as she went. She didn't bother pausing to start for real once she had her footing, she just morphed the practice riff into something more structured and heavy.-
[17:07] <Sachiko> It was simpler than what she would've done with the piano, and rooted in rock rather than jazz, but that let her cut loose. There were odd choices here and there - timing changes and unusual accents to the riff that stood out. Tony would be able to see why if he looked closely: She played right-handed, and while her fretting hand was agile, the movements of her picking hand seemed
[17:07] <Sachiko> clumsy by comparison.-
[17:07] <Sachiko> Here and there it seemed to fail to make the motion she was aiming for… at which point she simply folded the mistake into the structure of her playing, utilising repetition to make them features rather than bugs. It was an effective trick but not foolproof, and it didn't make up for weaknesses elsewhere in her technique…-
[17:07] <Sachiko> But every time she succeeded in making one of these shifts, she grinned with a weird, vindictive brand of satisfaction.-
[17:07] <Sachiko> And this process continued as she moved into a brief, improvisational bridge before what was clearly intended to be a chorus, emerging from the heaviness with something soaring and clean.-
[17:07] <Sachiko> She wasn't improvising the song from whole-cloth, and was clearly stealing phrases from other, more well-known songs in places, but she was stitching them together into a pretty well-assembled whole and using absolute confidence to carry the rest.
[17:22] <PersonaGM> [Throughout the performance, Tony reacted in ways small and large. He tapped his foot at certain spots, or bopped his head. Occasionally he tilted his head to one side or the other, cocking his ear out. He smiled, but his eyes were invisible behind those big black sunglasses.-
[17:24] <PersonaGM> [When Sachiko finished, he leaned back and clapped softly, chuckling a little to himself. "Not bad, Sachiko. Not bad."-
[17:25] <PersonaGM> ["But the way you played reminds me of a story. A story about young Tony, way back in the day."]
[17:36] * Sachiko was breathing hard by the time she was done. She let the guitar dangle from its strap as she methodically massaged her right hand with her left, wincing with every press.-
[17:36] <Sachiko> "Yeah?" Despite the pain, her voice was gentler than it had been when she arrived. She dropped into the chair by the studio's computer. "What's that?"
[17:43] <PersonaGM> ["It was a gig. My first big gig. I wasn't quite nineteen. I'd drunk a little too much and the stage lights were too bright, so I was sweating like a pig. Big audience, too, waiting to see a young man do his best or burn right out, whichever came first. But I had the music in my fingers and you don't need to be sober to play. I had my song. Four minutes long. It was all going well until the minute mark."]
[17:48] * Sachiko nodded, listening. She had the guitar balanced across her knees.
[17:49] <PersonaGM> ["I pluck. Sound gets weird. I look down. String broke."]
[17:56] <Sachiko> A different kind of wince. "Improv time?"
[17:58] <PersonaGM> ["Improv time." Said Tony.-
[18:00] <PersonaGM> ["I wasn't coherent enough to really think out what I was doin', so I just played what I felt I could do with all the strings I had left."-
[18:01] <PersonaGM> ["I was about two thirds through the song when…" He made a snarp click with his tongue. "There goes string number two."]
[18:04] <Sachiko> "… how badly were you maintaining this thing, Tony? You didn't put new strings on the day before?"
[18:08] <PersonaGM> ["Hey! I did my best. My guitar was almost my only possession back then. I was poor." He said with a chuckle. "And unlucky. Black cat crossed my path earlier that day, right as rain. Not to mention that fox from the geisha school Tomoko was there. Wouldn't put it past her to file a man's strings before a gig."]
[18:14] * Sachiko laughed lightly. "Ok, we'll blame Tomoko then."
[18:14] <PersonaGM> ["You know, now that I think about it, someone pre-paid for those drinks. Bet it was her too."-
[18:15] <PersonaGM> ["But I'm up there and I'm sweatin' and my precious baby's falling apart in my hands, and everyone's watching me do it. So I do the only thing a rational person can do in that situation: I start cryin'."]
[18:16] * Sachiko had to stop the routine on her bad hand just so that she could cover her face. "Oh god."
[18:23] <PersonaGM> ["I'm now two strings down, I'm cryin' and those goddamn lights are cooking me like a turkey. I'm still playin'. My starting song's toast, my second one's not too good either, gotta turn it into something I can play with what I got left. By then all I got left is emotion and instinct. Everything else has fled the coop."-
[18:27] <PersonaGM> ["I'm so focused on maintaining play that I forget to finish. By the time I realise it I'm about two minutes over, I'm strung out, and everyone's staring at me." He settled back in his chair. "I'd had shit luck, and lost my song. But the song I'd made wore all that shit like a badge. Something I was doing my best at despite things falling apart. It kept people spellbound. No one wanted to move."-
[18:27] <PersonaGM> ["Got second place."]
[18:44] <Sachiko> That got a smile, but she looked hesitant to say whatever came next. She took a deep breath and looked down at the instrument in her lap.-
[18:44] <Sachiko> "I guess that means you saw what I was doing, then. Did it work?"
[18:45] <PersonaGM> [He chuckled. "Sure. You play like someone who's always down a string or two, in that sense. I felt it. And it felt good. Good enough for me."-
[18:46] <PersonaGM> ["But at the moment? In the long run? Still only gonna get you second place."]
[19:04] <Sachiko> Sachiko couldn't meet his eyes for that. And she couldn't keep how much it hurt off her face, even if she had expected it.-
[19:04] <Sachiko> "Ok," she said. She managed to hold her voice even, but even if she'd wanted to say more she wouldn't have tested her luck.
[19:09] <PersonaGM> [Tony was quiet for a little while. He took a strip of jerky out of his pocket and thoughtfully chewed on a little square.-
[19:25] <PersonaGM> ["Tomoko got first place, you know." He said. "She went up on stage and played the shamisen like she was born to it. Every note was perfect. Set to a poem she'd written herself that brought tears to the eyes. Everyone watched her face. Even her kimono was just right. Afterwards, a lot of people said to me something like… 'You were amazing, but…'"-
[19:27] <PersonaGM> ["It didn't take long for me to go wild hearing it. I wanted to tell 'em, 'I would be as good if I could work on my music from dawn to dusk too. But I have to actually earn my bread.'"-
[19:33] <PersonaGM> [He sighed. "She always had more strings than me. And no matter how good you play, a broke guitar usually loses to a fixed one."-
[19:35] <PersonaGM> ["The competition's in October." He said. "I'll sponsor you, and you'll have six months in which to practice. I'm not as good a teacher as I used to be. But you have potential, and you've got a raw kind of genius to how you play."-
[19:36] <PersonaGM> ["I can't guarantee you'll win the competition." Said Tony. "The geisha school is good at what it does, and Tomoko knows how to train that maiko of her's. You'll probably lose, same as I did."-
[19:37] <PersonaGM> ["It'll be something to see, at least."]
[19:52] <Sachiko> "Yeah, that's what I want to be," she said quietly. "Something to see."
[19:53] <PersonaGM> [He chuckled at some unknown joke.-
[19:54] <PersonaGM> ["See, that's what I did, too." He slowly got up out of his chair. "I remade my image of what I wanted to do. Didn't win the competition, but I did win some things in the end."]
[20:18] <Sachiko> A bitter expression crossed her face. She stood suddenly, leaving the guitar where she'd been sitting. "I'm gonna take off."
[20:22] <PersonaGM> ["Fair enough, fair enough. Take care." Said Tony, carefully heading back out to the storefront.]
[20:32] * Sachiko followed him out. She spared one glance back at the guitar before turning off the light and shutting the door behind her.
[20:35] <PersonaGM> ["…"-
[20:35] <PersonaGM> [ The Hermit Arcana Strengthens…]

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