May 18, 2021 5:07 AM
esther and ivy meet the Stage
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He spends four years learning his craft. Getting to the top of his class, his prefecture. He will have his stage, he knows it.

The application goes out to Seisho Music Academy, her family confused - isn't that a girl's school? - but supportive.

Four weeks later, a letter comes back.

She's not going to Seisho. She can't believe it, she did everything right it isn't fair she deserves this. She writes back, begging them for some other way, a path for hope. She lingers with her razors a little when she shaves her legs, she waits in silence alone in her room among the blinking lights and notification badges and letters and the soft knock at her door that marks her mom leaving yet another meal outside.

Another letter.

She's not class A material, but they're impressed with her application - would she be interested in a spot in class B, perhaps? It's still prestigious, and while she might not be good enough to rule the stage, maybe she can bring coffee to the ones who do. On that one condition, she can join the stage of the 99th graduating class.

Of course, she says yes.

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The top theatre school in the country is a girl's school, of course. 

He still sends his application. He has fought for the stage and he will have it, even at the cost of this. He can pretend for 4 years.

He finds the letter back shoved into the kitchen trashcan, already torn open by his father's hands. He picks up the envelope and smooths it out, reads the line Dear Ivy, the Seisho Music Academy is delighted to inform you...

He doesn't stay to read the rest. He is Class B now. Ivy Rogers of the 99th class. He can deal with that.

He doesn't tell his parents where he's going. They'll be pissed but he's already set up their payments.

It's everything he's ever wanted.

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It's only for a little while, she tells herself. She can be an actor if she just holds on and shows them how good she is, that she belongs in class A, in the spotlight. For now, she'll sit in this orientation as a teacher holds up a lighting can like it's their first time ever seeing one. Her uniform blouse itches and she's tired from a late train in and she still hasn't met her roommate yet. Hopefully they won't be too hard to get along with.

She yawns and looks around the classroom, hoping her sunglasses will keep the snooping discreet.

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He is very obviously enraptured and is furiously taking notes on the 101-level information the teacher is presenting. It is not his first time seeing a lighting can, but he will handle it with reverence when it's passed around the class. He doesn't spare too many glances for the other students, past the brief sizing up he did when he walked into the room. If he's noticed the boredom of the students around him and the strange glances he's getting, he's not letting on.

Reviewing basic information is incredibly important to the continued good practice of any skill, and he will treat any information on the technical aspects of theatre with the respect it deserves.

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Dork. It's almost like she actually cares about this class. And what's with the hair? It's like she's an anime protagonist. On the other hand, Esther knows everything in this class - maybe she can trade being a study resource for a friend.

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Study resources are good! He wants friends as devoted to this as he is. At a break in the orientation lecture, he can say hi to her. He has also been sneaking some looks at her since the lecture started because wow, she looks cool.

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Well, she is cool. She earned these looks. When the bell rings, she goes for a coffee at the vending machine because it's too early to pay attention to a boring class, and brings one back for her new minion friend as well.

"Hi there. I'm Esther, call me S. What's your name?"

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A friend!! He is doing a not great job at concealing his excitement that this cool person is talking to him.

”Hi S! I’m Zero or Ivy but I prefer Zero.”

He is looking at the coffee set down on his desk with delighted surprise.

”Thanks for the coffee. You have cool hair.”

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"You too. Cool name, choose it yourself? How'd you end up in class B?"

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"Yeah, actually I did. I've gone through a lot of names but Zero's been my favorite so far. I ended up here because technical theatre is like, my one love. I mean, you get to put on this entire show and you don't have to be in it but you get to make it happen, and there's all this knowledge that you can apply to other areas, and I don't get to do tech nearly as much as I like so getting into a school where I could do it constantly was the dream, and I haven't decided what I'm gonna specialize in yet but I want to take every single class and..."

He will continue on like that until he realizes S hasn't gotten a chance to speak in a solid 5 minutes.

"So how'd you get here?"

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Ah, so this one's a chatterbox. She can use that.

The usual, apply to the school, try to be a stage girl, get rejected, wallow in shame and regret until they take pity on you and make you a techie.

Maybe not that.

"Oh, you know, always been my dream to support the girls on stage! I've done everything from front of house to lighting op to stage ninja, I'm just excited to have the opportunity to learn from people like you! Tell me about your first show?"

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Someone is willing to listen to him jabber about theatre! This is great.

"My first show was an outdoor production of Romeo and Juliet! I knew so little that I wasn't even a stagehand, just front of house, but all support jobs are important in theatre. It went off pretty well except for the part where my parents needed me home before the show ended, so I had to awkwardly curry some favor among the stagehands to get someone to cover me at the end, but it all worked out, and I was pretty much in love with theatre right then. All the people working together, like a giant machine. Nothing like you get as an actor. How about you?"

Something about this girl sets him just a little on edge. Not in a dangerous way, just a feeling that she has something to hide. He won't let it show-- if she wants to keep hiding whatever it is, fine by him, but he bets he can get it out of her eventually.

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The kid is cute like a puppy. "We did Oklahoma; I ran sound. It's amazing what you learn when your crew has about three mics to their name and ten times as many cast members. Gave me a taste for what could be done on a shoestring budget, now I pick up the odd sound board position for the cash and to remember where I came from. Can't get too prideful, lest you get caught in the rigging and dangled by the ankle above the stage until someone comes with a ladder to get you down." She looks faintly embarrassed for a moment before shaking her head to dismiss the thought. "Anyway, the lecture's starting again. Want to explore the grounds this evening? I know some class As that we can hang out with."

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He giggles at the mental image of someone dangled above the stage by their ankle. A weirdly specific anecdote, but with the embarrassed expression he probably won't ask about it.

"I'd love to explore the grounds, but-- you know class As here? I don't know anyone, much less people in an entirely separate area of theatre from me. I guess I could've maybe met some people online, but there were... barriers to that. "

He looks pensive for a second, then brightens.

"But yeah, you should totally introduce me to them! I want to meet everyone I possibly can. And the grounds looked really nice on our way in, too."

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The lecture passes a lot quicker with something to look forward to, even a little bit. She's curious about this girl's "barriers", but she can keep her secrets. For now.

Afterwards, she grabs the girl's bag and starts walking towards the canteen. Seems as good a way as any to establish the hierarchy here.

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Um. What.

There is no polite way to say "hey what the fuck you just took my bag??" without causing a scene, and this girl seems like she knows a lot of ways she could kick Zero down a social notch. He stands there for a second before deciding to hurry after her. 

"Uh, nice of you to take my bag," he says, making a grab for it. Maybe this will be enough of a signal for S to take a hint?

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Good, she's following. She nearly lets Zero take the bag, then thinks better of it. "Don't mention it. Fancy some dinner? I hear they've got dumplings."

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He is going to be annoyed but is then distracted by DUMPLINGS.

"Yeah, I'd like that a lot actually."

Possibly he should just try as hard as he can to like S. He is pretty good at liking people when he sets his mind to it. Already he can list some good traits about her: She has cool hair, got him coffee, probably the bag thing can just be passed off as her trying to be nice...

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Kid's a pushover. She almost feels sorry for her. Earnest though, and she knows how to put a smile on Esther's face. Turns out that they did have dumplings at the dining hall (lucky guess on her part), and Zero is happy to keep the conversation going all through dinner. S slips her the bag back and nibbles at some toast. When they're done, she turns to Zero once more.

"Want to see the Stage?"

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There’s dumplings! And conversation! Also, he gets his bag back!

“The stage? I mean sure, I already saw some pictures of it online but yeah!”

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"They only put the public parts online. Want to see how the stage really works? Finish your dumplings, and let's go explore the backstage."

She doesn't know if they can get into the backstage, but if she can't figure out some way inside, her name isn't Esther Lark.

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"Are... you sure we won't get in trouble for this?" He looks a little nervous.

Then he smiles. "I still totally wanna do it though."

He makes sure to grab his bag first this time.

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Quick learner.

"Not if we don't get caught! Now let's see what sort of lights and sound Seisho's donors can buy."

She starts walking briskly off down the hall, passing a set of elevator doors marked as out of order and several classrooms filled with instruments, and a closed door with a "Recording" sign lit.

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Good to have someone around to troublemake with. He's a rule-follower on his own, but S being here means they can go look at some actually interesting stuff.

He tries to catch a glance of whatever's happening in the recording room. He just manages to see a girl putting on a winning-TV-smile before he has to jog to keep up with S's quick pace.

"Glad you know your way around here, I'd be wandering around like a headless chicken alone. Despite the hours of orientation, they didn't actually spend much time going over the map."

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S hopes that Zero's having a good time, and that she'll be chill if they meet anyone.

"It's a knack." Also she looked up the map beforehand, can't be too careful.

"Here we are!" They're standing before a door marked "Backstage", with the sign of... a giraffe? Odd, that hadn't been on the plans. "Let's hope it's unlocked."

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He is having a good time! He is also excited about this mysterious door. 

The giraffe is kinda eerie though. It has eyes that seem to follow you. He stares at it for an uncomfortably long time before realizing that S is looking over at him.

”Right. Yeah. Let’s go in,” and he pushes on the door.

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