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[12:18] <Minaplo> "Ah. I know that bell when it goes jingle-jangle like that." Said Tony. "If it ain't my party timer Kurata here to reorganise my shop and use my crap."-
[12:21] <Minaplo> As Sachiko closed the door behind her, she'd notice that the shop's merchandise was once again about as organised as a pitched battle between a Big Band and a Beatles tribute convention- guitars and trumpets mixed, drums were haphazard shelves for keyboards, and a sax near the door had a handful of woodwinds sticking out of it like a bouquet of flowers.
[12:21] <Minaplo> The store was mostly deserted, although there was some kid off in the corner tinkling some ivories.
[12:21] <Minaplo> "What's it today, party timer? Working or playing?" Asked Tony, adjusting his shades slightly.
[12:34] <Sachiko> "'Party timer'?" she asked archly. "You should leave the neologisms to the young, Tony. I say this as a friend."-
[12:34] <Sachiko> She wandered over to Tony's desk, streeeeetched across the counter and dropped her school bag on his side, all with the kind of confidence that made it pretty clear she'd done this quite a few times before.-
[12:34] <Sachiko> "Thought I'd clean just long enough to not feel rude when I steal the practice space. Unless someone's already in there?"
[12:35] <Minaplo> "Nah."
[12:38] <Sachiko> "Awesome. That's the plan, then," she said with a smile. "Even if cleaning here is just committing myself to your weird social experiment."
[12:41] <Minaplo> "Believe in yourself."
[12:42] <Sachiko> "Does that help?"
[12:46] <Minaplo> "If it keeps you comin' back, sure."
[12:48] <Sachiko> She laughed, picked a random direction and set to 'cleaning'.
[01:00] <Minaplo> It was at this point purely for her own satisfaction, as nothing she did would stick. In fact, she was slowly starting to realise that if she -did- enter Tony's and find everything organised neatly, it'd be one of those episodes that would foretell something ominous, like Tony had to sell everything and leave. Or he was dead. Or Caolan was working a different shift.-
[01:19] <Minaplo> As she worked, the kid on the piano continued to tap away. His technique was competent- good, even- but there was a waver to it that suggested the piano wasn't his preferred method of manifesting this particular song. Nonetheless whilst his conviction wavered, his attention didn't.-
[01:19] <Minaplo> "Hey party timer, you found any one to jam with yet?" asked Tony.
[02:01] <Sachiko> "… Nah," she said with forced carelessness. She'd been paying the kid close attention while she continued her sisyphean cleaning routine, every time they succeeded she'd nod. In one case where they pulled off a clever run she outright smiled.-
[02:01] <Sachiko> "I know I should've."
[02:12] <Minaplo> The boy was a European, fair-skinned, with an unruly mop of light brown curls on his head. He was willowy, although lanky might be a better word for it.-
[02:13] <Minaplo> "I get it, you're busy. Exams are coming up in two weeks or so." Said Tony. "Take your time. But not too much. You wanna practice?"
[02:31] <Sachiko> She stepped back to admire the pyramid of drum toms she'd built. There was a glass guitar slide standing at the very top and a second on its side, ready to be sacrificed to a nameless slide god.-
[02:31] <Sachiko> "Yep, my work here is done."
[02:41] <Minaplo> "Well you know the way."-
[02:41] <Minaplo> Her practice room hadn't been touched since her last session in there…
[03:31] <Sachiko> The Firebird was in the guitar rack on the far side of the room, but Sachiko went to the (similarly pricey) digital piano just inside the door. She sat down with a little murmur of relief and set to slowly stretching out her legs, then her hands, keeping her eyes shut the whole time. After a minute or two of careful work, she set her hands on the keys and began to play.-
[03:32] <Sachiko> Debussy blurred into a very loose rendition of Giant Steps, which then blurred into a more complex variation of the tune the kid in the front had been playing. She was letting the changes come instinctive and unplanned, so even she seemed a surprised when she recognised the soft, lounge-y tune she landed on at the end. Unlike her other choices, this one she played all the way through and once it finished she followed suit.-
[03:32] <Sachiko> She let out a gentle sigh as the final notes rang out, frowning at her hands.
[04:33] <Minaplo> "Now that was a bit of a deviation." Said Tony. "What was that there tinkly magic you were working?"
[04:41] <Sachiko> "Waters Of March," she said. "It's an old bossa nova track… Brazillian, I think."
[04:45] <Minaplo> "I know what it is, kid. How did it feel playing it?"
[05:01] <Sachiko> "Complicated."
[05:01] <Minaplo> "That a good thing or a bad thing?"
[05:03] <Sachiko> She flip-flopped her good hand. "… but It was nice to hear it."
[05:06] <Minaplo> "That it was, that it was." Said Tony. "Gotta question for you. Not exactly about the music, pardon that."
[05:07] <Sachiko> She spun around to face him properly. "Shoot."
[05:07] <Minaplo> "Is there some trouble going on up at the school?"
[05:12] <Sachiko> "Oh, yeah there is. I figured everyone in town knew already."
[05:13] <Minaplo> "Most of the kids I talk to here wanna kind of get away from it, and I don't really listen to the radio that much. I guess my question is, is whatever's going on up there affecting you?"
[05:31] <Sachiko> "Honestly?" she asked. "Yeah, it is. No real way for it not to be."
[05:32] <Minaplo> "That's true enough. That school affects everything in this whole damn city." Said Tony. "It's a dramatic place. Always has been."
[05:32] <Sachiko> "Oh yeah?"
[05:36] <Minaplo> "The school buildings may be new, but that school is old, and its roots grow deep." Said Tony. "They grow into the down soil of this city and suck everything up, and in exchange it drops fruit to the earth that refreshes the soil. But the problem is, when you make the tree sick, the dirt gets bad as well, and I gotta tell ya, away from mundane things like the economy or politics, the dirt's here been bad for awhile now."-
[05:39] <Minaplo> "And the thing that gets to me is that when it works it works, and me and that ol' geisha get lots of young fresh talent in to train up and practice with, and others besides, but when it doesn't work, the two of us gotta fight over students weighed down by that sick ol' tree gettin' everywhere in their problems."
[06:08] <Sachiko> "Isn't that true of basically every major institution, though?" Sachiko asked. "The bit about the geisha aside, anyway."
[06:09] <Minaplo> "'Course, but how many of those majors end up having… What was it this time? A middle school riot?"
[06:10] <Sachiko> "A middle school riot, yeah. And depressingly few," she admitted.
[06:11] <Minaplo> "School has the same problems as anything anywhere, it just makes a bigger production outta 'em."
[06:19] <Minaplo> "… But you don't gotta worry about any of my dumb old views on it. It's not affecting you overmuch, is it? Getting in the way?"
[01:38] <Sachiko> "It is, but I'm handling it," she said with a resigned sigh. There was no real point to lying. "Why, is my playing suffering? I thought that was pretty good."
[02:17] <Minaplo> "That why you're here? To hear me tell you you're pretty good?"
[02:41] <Sachiko> "No, I'm here to improve. The hearing that I'm pretty good is just a side benefit."
[02:44] <Minaplo> "Hah. Well you already know you're pretty good. Don't need me telling you that. I was just askin'if you were alright."
[02:44] <Minaplo> He sighed and leaned back.
[02:44] <Minaplo> "Alright then. You wanna improve? You think you can do better than the kid outside?"
[02:47] <Sachiko> "Yeah. I mean he wasn't bad, but the confidence wasn't there…"-
[02:47] <Sachiko> She gave him a quick smile. "And for the record, I'm okay. Thanks for caring."
[02:57] <Minaplo> "S'all good." Said Tony, cracking a dry grin.
[02:57] <Minaplo> "You know, I always figured the best way someone improves is to have someone measure themselves against. And all you seem to got is yourself, which ain't always the best for confidence. So you find someone to compete with to get better, and you teach others to confirm your mastery with yourself. S'why I always try and teach now that I'm not so quick with my fingers."-
[02:59] <Minaplo> "Now how would you feel playing for that kid instead of playin' for ol' Tony?"
[03:35] <Sachiko> "Yeah, we can do that," she said. She gave her fingers another quick flex.
[03:35] <Sachiko> "He's a Sophia kid?"
[03:36] <Minaplo> "You'll have to ask him that yourself. Go geddim."
[01:40] <Sachiko> "Such harsh mentorship…"-
[01:40] <Sachiko> After a brief diversion to the counter to drop her tie ribbon on top of her bag, she headed in the direction of Piano Kid. She kept her distance at first, out of curiosity as much as politeness. How was he doing?
[01:50] <Minaplo> He was doing slightly better. He was playing a song without sheets, suggesting he knew it well, and his slightly perturbed reaction when the timing was off gave away a familiarity with music, if not, exactly, the piano.
[01:59] <Sachiko> Sachiko watched until he found his way to the end of a passage and paused for breath, and by then she was only a couple of paces behind him. "So what's your usual instrument?"
[02:03] <Minaplo> "Oh." He looked over at her, holding his hands in his lap uncertainly. "… String."
[02:10] <Sachiko> "Makes sense. Seemed like you were fighting muscle memory more than you were the music," she gave him a quick smile. "I'm Sachiko."
[02:21] <Minaplo> "Oh. I'm Alfred." He looked boyish, but Sachiko would estimate him to be about 16 or 17.
[02:21] <Minaplo> "I haven't been trying piano very long."
[02:24] <Sachiko> Seeing him straight-on did force her to revise her guess at his age up a couple of years."Are you self-taught?"
[02:25] <Minaplo> "Yeah."
[02:25] <Minaplo> He spoke Japanese with the ease of a natural speaker, as though he's been speaking it his whole life. He had a very faint accent.
[02:26] <Sachiko> "You're doing pretty well then."
[02:28] <Minaplo> "Oh, thank you. You were listening?"
[02:32] <Sachiko> "Only for a bit. I'm not used to seeing other people in here, it's a bit like spotting a cryptid."
[02:34] <Minaplo> "Oh, you're right. Mr. Tony's store isn't as busy as it used to be… You work here, right?"
[02:38] <Sachiko> "Sometimes. It's not formal or anything, I mostly just move stuff around," she shrugged. "And sometimes I'm just here to steal his practice space."
[02:45] <Minaplo> "What do you play?"
[02:54] <Sachiko> "Mainly piano, but I mess around with the guitar when I can."
[02:57] <Minaplo> "Oh. We're like opposites."
[02:57] <Sachiko> "Sounds like it, huh?"
[03:19] <Minaplo> "What got you trying the guitar?"
[03:50] <Sachiko> She clucked her tongue gently. "I mean it's never just one thing, but probably my grandmother…?"-
[03:50] <Sachiko> "Not because she played, though she was a musician. When I was young, I already knew I wanted to expand in the sort of music I could play; Guitar seemed cool, obviously. Still, it wasn't going to happen at home, so I figured that was the end of it."-
[03:51] <Sachiko> "So one day I dropped by her house on the way home from school, and she revealed this ancient, second-hand Bullet Strat and a dog-eared amp and says I can start learning how to play in secret," she grinned. "I didn't want to let her money go to waste, so I wound up spending half my free time there trying to puzzle it out on my own."-
[03:51] <Sachiko> "It was great."
[03:54] <Minaplo> "Oh." His face warmed: eyes widening, smile spreading, head tilted a little to the right. "Wow. I like that reason a lot."
[04:00] <Sachiko> "Yeah, me too," she said gently.
[04:00] <Sachiko> But the moment passed. "Alright, fair's fair: What made you try piano?"
[04:02] <Minaplo> "If you go try and do a gig and say you want to play guitar they'll expect you to bring your own guitar, but if you play piano they'll let you use the house piano."
[04:07] <Sachiko> She stared at him, only to break down in a hurry. She managed to get "Very pragmatic", in around her surprised laughter.
[04:11] <Minaplo> "Yeah, I guess it is. It's the only way I can eat."
[04:18] <Sachiko> She wiped her eyes. "… sorry, I wasn't making fun, you just caught me off-guard."-
[04:18] <Sachiko> "You gig for work, then?"
[04:19] <Minaplo> "That's right. As often as I can."
[04:39] <Sachiko> "That's cool, even if it's work. At least you've got some decent venues around here…"
[04:42] <Minaplo> "There were more before, though."
[07:53] <Sachiko> "Yeah," she sighed. "Kind of the trend everywhere."-
[07:53] <Sachiko> She swapped her weight to another foot and stretched a leg, and, after a glance around for watching Tonys, found a solidly built amp to carefully sit on.-
[07:53] <Sachiko> "So here's a question, if it's not too forward: Wouldn't Tony lend you a guitar for gigs, if that's what you're more comfortable with?"
[08:02] <Minaplo> Alfred squirmed in his seat; he pulled one of his legs up toward his body slightly. "Mr. Tony's already done way too much for me. I don't want to be a charity case."
[08:13] <Sachiko> "Ah," she nodded. She gestured at the leg he was protecting himself with. "Wasn't trying to stress you out. It's cool, I get that instinct at least."
[08:47] <Minaplo> "Yeah, thank you." Said Alfred.-
[08:48] <Minaplo> "I used to have a guitar, but I lost it. I'd be much happier if I could find it again rather than borrowing a new one."
[09:22] <Sachiko> "Fair enough. Do you need help…?"
[11:35] <Minaplo> "Oh. I think having someone else help would be great, but I wouldn't expect you to do it for free."
[02:07] <Sachiko> "Yeah, well Tony-" A head jerk towards the back of the shop "-Wants me to practice with you, and I don't expect you to do that for free. How about we solve both problems at the same time?"
[02:12] <Minaplo> "I think that works."
[02:12] <Sachiko> "Great."
[02:18] <Minaplo> Alfred stood. He was thin, and taller than Sachiko by about a head.-
[02:19] <Minaplo> "I'll ask him if he's happy to lend me a guitar just for this session, then. After that I want to find my own."
[03:26] <Sachiko> "Take your time," she said. She moved to take his seat at the piano while she waited.
[04:00] <Minaplo> Alfred peeked tentatively into the room. "Mr. Tony? I'm real sorry, am I able to borrow one of your instruments for today? I- left mine somewhere."-
[04:00] <Minaplo> "Careless, kid, but sure. What'll it be? Guitar or violin?"-
[04:01] <Minaplo> "Just a guitar for today."-
[04:01] <Minaplo> A few minutes later, he returned with what was obviously the least expensive guitar he'd been able to find in the store. "What's our style?" he asked to Sachiko.
[09:38] <Minaplo> But as he was speaking, the sound of the front door bell rang out, and someone entered.-
[09:48] <Minaplo> She was the type of customer rarely seen in this shop- ignoring for a moment that customers themselves were rare. She was an older Japanese woman, perhaps in her late fifties, wearing a brilliant sky-blue kimono patterned with spring flowers. Her black hair was tied up in a simple, elegant bun. Her manner of moving and standing projected an air of dignity and grace, accentuated with the ease with which she held her age.-
[09:48] <Minaplo> Tony didn't see her, as he was in the audition hall, and her footsteps were utterly silent, yet the moment she entered he froze. "That scent…"
[12:50] <Sachiko> "What style do you-"-
[12:50] <Sachiko> Sachiko shot what was intended to be a quick look towards the door, but spotting the unusual guest stalled her. Trying to take in the woman's bearing and outfit took her a moment, long enough that she was forced by politeness to give a quick gesture of greeting in her direction. She seemed to put two and two together, though, checking over her other shoulder to see if Tony had emerged yet.
[12:50] <Sachiko> "Uhh," she looked back around and tried to refocus on Alfred. "Tell you what, let's not overthink it? I'll take rhythm and lay down something simple, and you pick whatever melody comes to mind. I'll adjust from there, and we'll make it a conversation."
[01:20] <Minaplo> Alfred was staring at the guest, slightly agog, but turned back to Sachiko and nodded. "… Uh-huh."-
[01:20] <Minaplo> As they entered the practice room, Tony slowly got to his feet and walked out, muttering furiously beneath his breath. "I'll handle this. You kids just go on and play."-
[01:21] <Minaplo> Alfred took a lingering look after Tony's back before turning to Sachiko. "You know who she is, right?"-
[01:21] <Minaplo> "Ugh, sorry. I should be focusing on music. A conversation. Sure."
[01:38] <Sachiko> "Pretty sure I do. Tony's nemesis, right?" Her voice was pitched quietly enough to stay between them, and didn't sound particularly serious. She looked down at the piano and stretched her hands theatrically.-
[01:38] <Sachiko> As she promised, she started as simply as she could. To follow her metaphor, she was setting the tenor of the conversation, dictating the simplest elements of pace and mood. Gradually she began working in small flourishes that didn't quite resolve themselves, asking open questions that Alfred could answer as he saw fit.
[02:48] <Minaplo> "Yeah, that's right." Alfred ran his fingers over the strings, letting the noise sit there, almost mimicking her question to him. "Tomoko Suzuki."-
[02:49] <Minaplo> He answered a flourish with a gentle, upsweeping melody. "She runs the geisha school down near Little Lisbon." He sent a flourish back her way, one that felt… Enka?-
[02:49] <Minaplo> "They've known each other forever, but…"-
[02:50] <Minaplo> "(It's been too long, Antonio.")-
[02:50] <Minaplo> "(Not long enough.)" was the bitter reply.-
[02:51] <Minaplo> Alfred let a low note hang for a moment before repeating his enka flourish, but elongated the notes. "I guess a lot's happened."
[03:41] <Sachiko> For as simple as she started, Sachiko was very quick to step up her game. She let Alfred lead and focused on building a steady foundation for him to work with, though she was quick to step into any gaps with some complimentary melodic touches of her own.-
[03:41] <Sachiko> "Seems that way. Do you know any of her students…?"
[05:14] <Minaplo> "I think she only has the one."-
[05:20] <Minaplo> At this moment, Alfred broke out into a strong, steady melody. The shaky hesitancy he'd had was gone as he strummed his guitar strings. The melody he played was improvised, yet he played it with all the easy confidence of someone explaining their favourite movie to a friend, with all the carefree passion of someone whose gut twisted in excitement at the idea of reading a book for the hundredth time.-
[05:23] <Minaplo> "Whoever she is…"-
[05:25] <Minaplo> The melody he played was green. Not green as in inexperienced but green as in glades, as in rolling hills and forests with trees so dense and old that they bent the wind into a tune. It was the green of grass you remembered from your childhood, the type of grass you never saw again, and never would.-
[05:25] <Minaplo> ("Is that any way to speak to me? I'm wounded, Tony.")-
[05:25] <Minaplo> ("You're lucky I speak to you at all!")-
[05:26] <Minaplo> Alfred flourished into a deliberately choppy, discordant beat, waving away the phantasm of his melody with ease. "She's probably a genius. Miss Suzuki doesn't settle for less."
[06:26] <Sachiko> By the time he finished Sachiko was grinning ear-to-ear. She took up that discordant phrase as Alfred left it behind, first repeating on it, then quickly elaborating and building it quickly into a melody of her own. Trying to control the conversation, if he'd allow her to.-
[06:26] <Sachiko> "I could kind of tell that from her look."
[09:18] <Minaplo> "I wonder what she was like when she was young."-
[09:18] <Minaplo> ("You… Really don't miss me at all, do you, Tony?")-
[09:19] <Minaplo> ("And you? Is that why you're here? Because you miss me?")-
[09:19] <Minaplo> ("Ha… I simply came because I thought it best if we introduce our apprentices to each other.")-
[09:19] <Minaplo> ("There's a session on. You'll have to wait 'til it's done.")-
[09:20] <Minaplo> Alfred went along with it, letting Sachiko take the melody and dictate the flow for awhile; he settled into backup, flawlessly underlining her own beats with his instead of interrupting it. But gradually he began to build up, signalling that he wanted it back.-
[09:21] <Minaplo> And if he did, he'd take her same melody but elongate it a little, drop a note or two- giving it a wistful air, a lamentation perhaps.
[01:28] <Sachiko> She let him, of course.-
[01:28] <Sachiko> Their conversation continued for a good while longer, and the pattern continued: Alfred took the tune down melancholic avenues, and then Sachiko expanded on them while adding a little hint of hope. She also took every opportunity to test Alfred, and he seemed to have no trouble passing. She was fairly sure he'd tried to return the favour, too…-
[01:28] <Sachiko> But eventually they found their way to a natural conclusion. Sachiko's piano went silent during the final passage, letting Alfred finish things on his own.-
[01:29] <Sachiko> "Well," she said, still smiling as she nursed her hand. "That was a lot of fun."
[01:36] <Minaplo> "It's been awhile since I played with someone else. I had fun too."-
[01:37] <Minaplo> "Do you think that if we keep playing, Mr. Tony and Miss Suzuki will be forced by the awkwardness to speak nicely to one another?"
[01:41] <Sachiko> She snickered. "Why do you think I kept things going towards the end there? I'm pretty sure this is as good as they get."
[01:42] <Minaplo> "That's kind of a pity."-
[01:43] <Minaplo> ("Aight, get out here now that you're all done!") Shouted Tony from the other room.-
[01:59] <Minaplo> And so out they came, face-to-face with Tomoko Suzuki, who was alone- where was her apprentice?-
[02:01] <Minaplo> Ms. Suzuki bowed lightly toward them. "You were playing well in there, I heard. I am Tomoko Suzuki, the matron in charge of the Katashiba geisha school. It's been a long time since Tony's put forward an apprentice."
[02:54] <Sachiko> "Is that so?" she asked, glancing Tony's way. She probably didn't do it for long, not with the negativity aura he seemed to be exuding.
[03:36] <Minaplo> "After the kind of shit you pull? Why'd a sane man waste his sweat on that?"-
[03:37] <Minaplo> "It seems as though I could say the same." Said Tomoko. "Which is your apprentice? The boy?"-
[03:37] <Minaplo> "Is it that obvious?" Said Tony.-
[03:37] <Minaplo> Alfred was fiddling a little with his hem when Tony said that- he suddenly looked up, openly astonished. He turned to stare at Sachiko.
[03:46] <Sachiko> Sachiko didn't look back at him. She was eyes front, her posture and expression entirely closed off. What he got instead was a front row seat as the temperature around her seemed to drop about ten degrees.
[03:55] <Minaplo> "I see." Said Tomoko neutrally. "Well then. Allow me to introduce my apprentice-"-
[03:56] <Minaplo> Tomoko stepped outside the shop.
[03:56] <Minaplo> "I don't want it." Said Alfred immediately.
[03:56] <Minaplo> "Shh." Said Tony. "Shut up for a second."-
[03:57] <Minaplo> A moment later Tomoko re-entered with her apprentice. Alfred glanced at her- and froze.-
[03:58] <Minaplo> Standing at Tomoko's side was a very beautiful girl- Kimiko Miyamoto.-
[03:58] <Minaplo> She entered, smiling pleasantly- then stopped suddenly, staring at Sachiko. "Smoke bomb girl…"
[04:06] <Sachiko> The ice fa├žade cracked at least partway, and she let out a weak, surprised laugh.-
[04:06] <Sachiko> "Hey," she said with a wave. Then she raised her other hand, showed that was empty and smoke bombless too and dropped them both to her sides.
[04:07] <Minaplo> "You're the apprentice? I knew it." Said Kimiko.-
[04:08] <Minaplo> "No. Apparently the boy is."-
[04:08] <Minaplo> Kimiko turned to look at him. "Oh. My apologies. I'm Kimiko."-
[04:08] <Minaplo> "Hi. I'm Kimiko. I-" Alfred bit his own tongue. "You're Kimiko. I'm…"-
[04:08] <Minaplo> "… Busy."-
[04:09] <Minaplo> He turned and walked back into the audition room.-
[04:09] <Minaplo> Kimiko glanced at Sachiko. "Huh."
[04:18] <Sachiko> "Huh," Sachiko agreed.-
[04:18] <Sachiko> "Do you go to an all girls school just to minimise the number of guys you psychically annihilate?"
[04:18] <Minaplo> "Oh no! My secret's out!"
[04:19] <Sachiko> She tapped a temple.
[04:19] <Minaplo> Tony, however, was utterly unfazed. "Guess she's your type. They make her in a factory or something?"-
[04:20] <Minaplo> "Would that make it better or worse when she wins, Tony?" Said Tomoko.-
[04:20] <Minaplo> Kimiko shot the two of them a glance. 'Cold' wasn't the right word… Wary, perhaps. Cautious.-
[04:26] <Minaplo> Tony growled. The lines of his face were stretched taut. Sachiko had seen Tony warm and she'd seen him gruff, but never hostile. "Alfred Alvin. The boy's name."-
[04:26] <Minaplo> "Kimiko Miyamoto." Said Tomoko, sparing Kimiko from having to interact with him directly.-
[04:28] <Sachiko> Sachiko looked like she wanted to interrupt this… whatever it was, but Tony was making her wary. Her brows had pulled tightly together.
[04:29] <Minaplo> "That all?" Said Tony.-
[04:29] <Minaplo> "So it seems."-
[04:29] <Minaplo> Kimiko shot Sachiko a glance, an apologetic smile, and bowed shortly.
[04:34] <Sachiko> Sachiko bowed as well, but Kimiko got a small shrug. It wasn't her fault.-
[04:34] <Sachiko> "Nice to meet you, Miss Suzuki."
[04:35] <Minaplo> "You too. Ah, forgive me, I don't know your name…"
[04:39] <Sachiko> "Oh right, excuse me. I'm Sachiko Kurata."
[04:41] <Minaplo> "A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Kurata. Please, have a good day…"-
[04:42] <Minaplo> And with that, Tomoko and Kimiko left, climbing into a stately sedan that waited outside, Kimiko keeping the door open for her mentor before she hopped in as well.-
[04:42] <Minaplo> A silence fell on Tony's Tune Emporium. It was probably thick with accusation and masculine distress.
[04:49] <Sachiko> "Came on a little strong with that one, don't you think?" Sachiko asked, after enduring the silence for roughly ten seconds.
[04:50] <Minaplo> "And you think she wasn't? Coming here, uninvited, no warning… Trying to catch us off guard…"
[04:53] <Sachiko> "Don't really care about you and Suzuki. You clearly have history, it's not my business unless you make it my business."-
[04:53] <Sachiko> "… Maybe don't imply her student's a robot, though," she added a little more firmly. "I've met her before, she seems pretty okay."
[04:54] <Minaplo> "They're all the same. Pretty girls with medium-long black hair." Said Tony with a shrug.-
[04:54] <Minaplo> "I'm sorry, Mr. Tony, but that honestly sounds a little racist to me." Said Alfred, re-emerging from the audition booth.-
[04:54] <Minaplo> "Oh, piss off, you street rat. You know what I meant."-
[04:55] <Sachiko> "Hey!"
[04:55] <Minaplo> "Hey what?" Snapped Tony.
[04:57] <Sachiko> "Just cool it, will you? Take a deep breath and remember we exist outside whatever grudge match you're playing out here."
[04:58] <Minaplo> "Yeah, what Sachiko said." Said Alfred. "Kimiko is a person. I don't think she likes this one bit. I don't even think she wants to be Tomoko's apprentice. She's not really doing this for the fame."-
[04:58] <Minaplo> A truly incredulous expression flashed across Tony's face.-
[04:59] <Minaplo> "… Sachiko is also a person and I think you should explain to her why you didn't introduce her as your apprentice. Mr. Tony, sir." Added Alfred.-
[04:59] <Minaplo> Tony shrugged. "Misdirection."
[05:11] <Sachiko> "And what flawless misdirection it was…"
[05:32] <Minaplo> "Whaddya mean by that?"
[05:33] <Sachiko> "I don't think they bought it."
[05:33] <Minaplo> "They mighta bought it a little bit."-
[05:34] <Minaplo> "I don't like being volunteered like that. What if they try looking me up?" Said Alfred.-
[05:34] <Minaplo> "Look." Grumbled Tony. "Do you wanna win, Sachiko? Because that's what you're up against."
[05:38] <Sachiko> "Sure I want to win. I also want to better myself, and I want to have fun, and I want to meet new people," she sighed.-
[05:38] <Sachiko> "Does that stuff matter to you, or is this just a proxy war thing? Because that would kind of suck."
[05:42] <Minaplo> "And I wanna stay off the radar." Muttered Alfred.-
[05:42] <Minaplo> "…" Tony was silent.-
[05:43] <Minaplo> "I won't call her a robot. I'm sure she's a nice girl." Said Tony finally.
[05:52] <Sachiko> "Alright," she muttered. "That's a start, I guess."
[05:53] <Minaplo> "Also she has brown hair, not black hair." Said Alfred. "I like it."-
[05:53] <Sachiko> Sachiko snorted.
[05:53] <Minaplo> "Well at least I was right not picking a bloody boy this time."
[05:54] <Sachiko> "Yeah, she has an aura. It's a bit wild."
[05:55] <Minaplo> "Well at least that'll be fun." Said Tony. "Alright, you brats. Get outta my store. Between you and the fox and the nice young lady it's feeling too crowded and noisy. Tony's gotta recompose himself."
[05:58] <Sachiko> "Yep," she was already on the way to the counter to pick up her bag.-
[05:58] <Sachiko> "I had fun practicing with you, Alfred," she added, slinging the bag over her shoulder and walking back. "How can I get in touch with you? Gotta help you out with that guitar thing."
[05:58] <Minaplo> "Uh…"-
[05:59] <Minaplo> "I don't know, actually. I don't have a phone."
[06:03] <Sachiko> She didn't react with surprise or horror, in fact she didn't react to it much at all. She scooted right past it.-
[06:03] <Sachiko> "My dorm's not too far away. 5 Soejima Road. Whenever you're ready you should be able to find me there, or at least you can leave a message for me. That work for you?"
[06:03] <Minaplo> "Oh yeah, that sounds great!" He said, relieved.
[06:04] <Sachiko> She gave him a thumbs up.-
[06:04] <Sachiko> "I'll see you both later, then."
[06:06] <Minaplo> The Hermit Arcana strengthens…

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