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[14:08] <Sachiko> As Golden Week drew to a close, Blue Finn found itself with a rarity: A new face amongst the fairly insular set of regulars. Sachiko had visited every night since Mari's visit, keeping to herself, and while she enjoyed the music it was clear there was more on her mind.-
[14:09] <Sachiko> It was most obvious as the last performer left the stage each night. Every time she waited a little while longer, signs of some internal war written on her expression, and then would leave looking more than a little frustrated.-
[14:09] <Sachiko> But they weren't there yet tonight. The room was about as crowded as it ever got, and a four piece band of uni students from Sophia's were on stage and doing an adequate but uninspiring job. It seemed to be holding Sachiko's attention, though her hands kept busy fretfully spinning a cheap cardboard coaster on the thin puddle of condensation that'd formed beneath her glass.
[14:20] <PersonaGM> ["Ah, Spuuki Tanuki." Said Caolan Choi, slipping into a seat at the same table, eyeing the university quartet. "Truly, the graham cracker of the Katashiba music scene."]
[14:55] <Sachiko> "They're so milquetoast," she sighed, dragged from whatever she'd been thinking about and back to the real world. "I feel like there's talent in there somewhere, but nobody's digging for it."-
[14:55] <Sachiko> She let her hands still and turned to face him. "How's it going?"
[14:59] <PersonaGM> ["As well as could be expected." Said Caolan. "These visits at the Finn take up a lot of what free time I have, but it feels good to be performing."]
[15:13] <Sachiko> "Yeah, I bet," she murmured.-
[15:13] <Sachiko> "… so you're going on next?"
[15:14] <PersonaGM> ["That's right."]
[15:18] <Sachiko> "So how much did you bribe Blue to put these four on ahead of you?" she smiled. "Letting them sandbag to make you look good, I don't know…"
[15:18] <PersonaGM> ["Oh, I don't have to bribe anyone. Believe it or not, they ask to go before me wherever they can."]
[15:19] <Sachiko> "Wait, what? Why?"
[15:20] <PersonaGM> ["The reason is exceptionally foolish." Said Caolan seriously. "Are you sure you want to hear it?"]
[15:23] <Sachiko> "Doubly certain now."
[15:25] <PersonaGM> ["Do you see the fellow on keyboard? Tall, lanky? He's wearing sunglasses, which is probably why he keeps missing the odd key… Well, this is his first year at the university. Last year, he was in the class above me."]
[15:25] <Sachiko> "Ok…"
[15:28] <PersonaGM> [Caolan let out a long-suffering sigh. "There was a girl, you see."]
[15:31] * Sachiko grinned.
[15:31] <PersonaGM> [His face both darkened and reddened. "I, ah, wasn't interested. But he was."-
[15:31] <PersonaGM> ["And she wasn't. In him, at least. With me it was a different story."-
[15:32] <PersonaGM> ["He's hated me ever since. So he tries to go on first in order to show me up."]
[15:37] <Sachiko> "And what a great job he's doing," she laughed.
[15:44] <PersonaGM> ["It's terrible." Said Caolan, sighing- although for a moment his mouth twitched into a smile. "I believe the head of the band keeps trying to change their time slot, but Mr. Finn thinks it's too funny to let up."-
[15:45] <PersonaGM> ["Do you want to know the cruellest thing?"]
[15:48] <Sachiko> "Definitely."
[15:48] <PersonaGM> ["She was in here last weekend." Said Caolan gravely. "And the moment he realised, his playing went to pieces. Nerves, I believe."]
[15:57] <Sachiko> "Oof. I'd feel bad, but… he probably should've taken a hint," she said. "How'd you do?"
[15:59] <PersonaGM> ["As well as I always do." Said Caolan, his voice laced with satisfaction. "I'm not a little punk, thus, it takes more than a pretty girl to throw me off."]
[16:00] <Sachiko> "Sounds like hubris to me."
[16:02] <PersonaGM> [He laughed. "Do you care to hear a personal fact about me?"]
[16:06] * Sachiko nodded.
[16:14] <PersonaGM> ["I come from a family of performers." Said Caolan. "In fact, the Choi family has been a part of the Hong Kong opera scene since the fifties- and before that we did opera in Shanghai and elsewhere. My whole family works in the field. When I was little, I used to work on costumes and props, helping the adults. Then I began getting parts myself."]
[16:30] * Sachiko watched, eyes bright. "I didn't know it was a family thing for you. That's cool."
[16:43] <PersonaGM> ["Haha, thank you." Said Caolan. "I admit, it's not a very common upbringing."-
[16:43] <PersonaGM> ["Doesn't especially pay well, though."]
[17:09] * Sachiko looked like she was ready to be glib, but she caught a look at Caolan and thought better of it.-
[17:09] <Sachiko> "… maybe not. But it's a fun hobby, at the worst."
[17:14] <PersonaGM> ["For certain." He smiled.-
[17:17] <PersonaGM> ["Regardless, to bring me back to my point: I'd be letting down generations of Chois and Cais if I let myself be put off my performance by a girl in the audience."]
[17:22] <Sachiko> "Oh, you think you'd be the first one in your family to trip up?"
[17:23] <PersonaGM> [His smile broadened into a grin. "Others may panic and stumble around such things, but a man of Choi is merely emboldened by his audience."]
[17:39] * Sachiko just laughed. "Sounds like one of those things that's true until it isn't."
[18:07] <PersonaGM> ["Well, if it becomes untrue for me, perhaps you'll be there to witness it."]
[18:56] * Sachiko gave him a long look. "Maybe."-
[18:56] <Sachiko> From up on stage there was a whoop and a clatter as Spuuki Tanuuki finished their set, dragging Sachiko's attention away. "Seems like you're up."
[19:15] <PersonaGM> ["So it seems." Said Caolan. He got to his feet. "I hope you like what I sing tonight."]
[19:25] <Sachiko> "So do I," she smiled. "Good luck. Hope you don't see anyone too pretty."
[19:30] <PersonaGM> ["Hah."-
[19:31] <PersonaGM> [As Spuuki Tanuki filed off the stage to polite applause, they passed Caolan. The 'punk' shot Caolan a dark look, which Caolan failed to acknowledge in the slightest.-
[19:33] <PersonaGM> ["Returning to adorn our humble abode with his golden pipes yet again is the President of Sophia Academy's Lion Hall, Caolan Choi!" announced the MC, to an audibly keener round of applause. Choi grinned as he got on stage.-
[19:34] <PersonaGM> ["It's good to see you too." He said, his eyes shining. "What're we in the mood for tonight, folks?"]
[11:18] <Sachiko> Nobody seemed ready to offer an answer, but then they only had a brief window before Sachiko put her hands up to her mouth and hollered: "But Not For Me!"-
[11:18] <Sachiko> She was grinning as she did it.
[11:30] <PersonaGM> [Caolan laughed.-
[11:32] <PersonaGM> ["And me without my trumpet. We have that one on record?" He glanced at the MC.-
[11:32] <PersonaGM> ["Am I a joke to you, pal?" Said the MC.-
[11:33] <PersonaGM> ["Of course we do. My mistake." Said Caolan, grinning. He pulled the microphone off its pedestal and waited for the song's distinctive refrain to spin up.-
[11:35] <PersonaGM> ["They're writing songs of love… But not for me…"]
[11:43] * Tao settled in to watch, though only after she glanced over at the bar to check the look on Mr. Punk's face.
[11:47] <PersonaGM> [His expression was sour; it had been ever since the audience had welcomed Caolan. He knew as well as Sachiko did that Caolan wasn't going to choke.]
[12:01] * Sachiko smiled and turned back towards the stage.
[12:22] <PersonaGM> [Caolan was, if anything, more on point tonight with this song than he had been in his debut. Whether due to shaking off the rust, getting into the groove, or because he knew the song more, he gave a performance. Technically he did well, but it was the smiles, the way he moved- the joy he radiated from performing that brought people onside.-
[12:22] <PersonaGM> [And when he finished, the applause was hearty and loud; he bowed several times.]
[13:53] * Sachiko clapped too, and even added a quick cheer. He'd been a good sport, it was the least she could do.-
[13:53] <Sachiko> But as he left the stage that expression crossed her face again… trepidation? It lingered there for a moment, only broken when she mumbled "fuck it" and stood to look around for that weird, lurky bartender.
[13:54] <PersonaGM> [The bartender was at the bar, watching the proceedings with an oddly smug expression.]
[13:59] <Sachiko> It was the kind of smug you could feel as much as see, but Sachiko bore it until she got close enough to speak. "What do I need to do to perform?"
[14:00] <PersonaGM> ["That's a big question. Not sure I have time to go over the myriad ramifications of your deeply philosophical inquiry, missy."]
[14:03] <Sachiko> "Don't be tedious."
[14:04] <PersonaGM> [He smirked. "Well first you need to sign a ledger, which gets you your time slot."]
[14:11] <Sachiko> "Alright," she said. She realised her hands were fidgeting, and so she shoved them into her pockets. "Can I do that, then?"
[14:18] <PersonaGM> ["Sure. Oh, you also need someone to vouch for you."]
[14:25] <Sachiko> "And who's someone?"
[14:26] <PersonaGM> ["Well, someone on the ledger already. Or a known quantity to meself. Or someone willing to drop a fee."]
[14:43] <Sachiko> "Uh huh," she muttered. She gave him a narrow-eyed look, then glanced over her shoulder to where Caolan was drawing closer. "Hey Choi, will you vouch for me?"
[14:44] <PersonaGM> ["Of course." He said.]
[14:45] <Sachiko> "Thanks," she said, giving him a little smile. "Good job, by the way."-
[14:45] <Sachiko> "Are we good?" she asked Blue.
[14:47] <PersonaGM> ["Sure. When did you want to go on?"]
[14:52] <Sachiko> "The soonest open spot you've got."
[11:21] <PersonaGM> [Blue rocked back and forth a little, sucking his teeth.-
[11:21] <PersonaGM> ["Well, typically we'd have finished up with your boy here. He always takes the last slot." Said Blue. "Buuuut, we had a cancellation a little back and Spuuki Tanuki lemminged into it, so we kinda have a slot right now."]
[11:36] <Sachiko> Whatever spark had animated her flickered and threatened to burn out. She cast a wary look at the stage.-
[11:36] <Sachiko> She swallowed. "… ok. Yeah, let's do it."
[11:46] <PersonaGM> [Caolan quirked an eyebrow.-
[11:46] <PersonaGM> [Blue, however, smirked. "Just sign away." He pushed the ledger to face her.]
[12:07] <Sachiko> "…" Sachiko left a quick, wobbly signature on the ledger. "You'd think you were getting my soul in the bargain."
[12:16] <PersonaGM> [His smirk widened. "You tell me if your soul is worth some rock and roll."-
[12:16] <PersonaGM> [Caolan quirked both eyebrows.]
[12:54] <Sachiko> "Only if I'm lucky."-
[12:54] * Sachiko looked back at Choi and gave him a quick, tight smile and thun hurried off towards the stage without another word.
[12:58] <PersonaGM> ["Good luck." Said Caolan as he walked back to the seats.]
[13:07] * Sachiko stepped up on stage just as the session musicians were starting to leave. She spoke with them for a while, a few gestures towards Blue suggesting that part of the conversation involved confirmation that, yes, she was meant to be there.-
[13:07] <Sachiko> Once she was done, she took a seat at the piano and adjusted the mic.-
[13:12] <Sachiko> "Hi everyone. Looks like I get to steal the last word from Choi tonight. I'm Sachiko." She put on a grin for the audience. "Let's see if I remember how to do this…"
[13:36] <PersonaGM> [The audience's curiosity shone at her from their many eyes, lit up by the half-light of the bar.-
[13:36] <PersonaGM> [Curiosity, tinged perhaps with wariness, or maybe scrutiny was a better word.-
[13:36] <PersonaGM> [Caolan leaned forward, his gaze focused on her.]
[13:52] <Sachiko> She began to play. Plenty would have recognised Ryo Fukui immediately, but the opening melody was a lilting, delicate thing, only blossoming out into something more weighty once the drums joined in.-
[13:52] <Sachiko> If Tony were here he would've spotted the same flaws in her playing that he had seen at the audition, and while her approach to working around them was the same she made it look a lot more effortless at the piano. She let the drums take up space where it was appropriate, working with them rather than next to them.-
[13:52] <Sachiko> And then the tempo picked up.-
[13:52] <Sachiko> It would have been sensible to pick something simple for her return to the stage, but as the song progressed it became clear she'd given herself a dare. The drumming was growing faster and she moved to match it, forcing her numb hand to keep up. It tripped once, twice, but she bit her lip and forced it back on course.-
[13:52] <Sachiko> Faster still. She'd stood at some point, sweat drops dotting her forehead. She looked positively frenzied.-
[13:53] <Sachiko> Even once the pace returned to something more measured, the same intensity remained and she rode it out all the way to the closing chord. She dropped back onto her chair as the note rang out, whatever had possessed her fading slowly. It was hard to tell whether she was grimacing or grinning, but the quiet laugh as she settled suggested it was the latter.
[14:13] <PersonaGM> [There had been nods and even chuckles of recognition when Sachiko had begun. Plenty of people had been in conversations, and many turned back to them as Sachiko began.-
[14:18] <PersonaGM> [But as the song picked up its frenetic edge, their attentions were wrenched away from each other and back toward her, and there it stayed.-
[14:22] <PersonaGM> [The atmosphere cooked, became unsettled and febrile as she played. An odd and lurid affect seemed to take hold, as though the tableau had been painted in neon purples and greens.-
[14:38] <PersonaGM> [When the song ended, people applauded, but even the applause sounded a little discordant, as though people hadn't quite been sure how to respond. Yet the response was earnestly felt, and as the last few claps died out the atmosphere slowly turned back to normal.-
[14:41] <PersonaGM> [Caolan's expression had not changed throughout the performance, although he too clapped vigorously.]
[14:47] <Sachiko> The unusual reaction didn't seem to bother Sachiko one iota. She struck up an animated conversation with the session drummer before leaving the stage, and when she came down the steps she may as well have been floating.
[14:52] <PersonaGM> ["Not bad, newbie." Said Blue as she wafted his way.]
[14:57] <Sachiko> "Not bad enough to get a drink?" she asked, wiping her brow with a sleeve.
[14:57] <PersonaGM> ["What'll it be?"]
[15:03] <Sachiko> "Coke will do."
[15:09] <PersonaGM> [And so he served her a coke. "Going for the hard stuff, eh?"]
[15:09] <Sachiko> "I was going to say whiskey but I'm pretty sure you're a narc."
[15:10] <PersonaGM> ["To my bones."]
[15:10] <PersonaGM> ["Also you couldn't handle whiskey."]
[15:11] <Sachiko> "No way to prove that," she said with a smirk. "I'm gonna go sit. Thanks for the spot."
[15:12] <PersonaGM> ["S'all good."]
[15:14] <Sachiko> She went back to Caolan's table and dropped into her chair. "Hey."
[15:16] <PersonaGM> ["Hi."]
[15:20] <Sachiko> "I got a response, if nothing else," she said with a laugh.
[15:24] <PersonaGM> ["It was a good response, in my estimation."]
[15:26] <Sachiko> "Oh yeah, I'm not complaining. Besides, it was fun."
[15:35] <PersonaGM> ["You looked like you enjoyed it, yes." He said with a smile. "It was intriguing."]
[15:36] <Sachiko> "Intriguing, huh?"
[15:40] <PersonaGM> ["I'm always interested in seeing how people perform. You were very intense during your performance, yet relaxed, even a little transcendent afterward. I like to perform in a casual, perky style. Your performance resembles an exorcism."]
[15:44] * Sachiko started laughing and despite valiant efforts she kept laughing for a good while.-
[15:45] <Sachiko> "Yeah, it kinda felt that way," she said eventually, through the occasional giggle. "Tonight, at least. I don't know how representative it is of my performances, but… an exorcism. Yeah, I'll take it."
[15:46] <PersonaGM> [Caolan smiled. "Will you perform again?"]
[15:49] <Sachiko> "Yeah. I have to make it a habit again."
[15:49] <PersonaGM> ["That's good. I think I'm looking forward to seeing you perform."]
[15:53] <Sachiko> "And I'm looking forward to performing," she said with a little smile. "Thanks for the push."
[15:56] <PersonaGM> ["Push?"]
[15:58] <Sachiko> "Been trying to get up there for a few nights. Seeing you up there… helped, I don't know."-
[15:58] <Sachiko> "It's probably the 'casual, perky style'."
[16:01] <PersonaGM> ["Ha. I'll take your thanks sincerely." He said with a grin. "If it helps you get back into the groove, then I'm glad."]
[16:50] <Sachiko> "I wouldn't say it if it wasn't sincere," she said, sipping her drink.
[16:51] <PersonaGM> ["I know."]
[17:00] * Sachiko smiled. "So do we duel for the rights to the final spot of the night? What's the protocol there?"
[17:03] <PersonaGM> ["We could share it. Me one day, you the next."]
[17:04] <Sachiko> "Sounds disappointingly fair-minded. I spent all this money on a duelling pistol…"
[17:24] <PersonaGM> ["Hoh, duel me with a sword, coward."]
[17:25] <Sachiko> "Of course. The pistol is just insurance."


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