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EVERYONE: The Shimmering Companion (vignettes, sidestories, and extras to the main theater-verse)

Episode 61: Eight Gods and Two Guest Stars

The readthrough room buzzed with excitement as the Niji Troupe got together to read through the play "The Tale of the Eight Gods". "Rona said something about getting two guest stars to play the sisters this time..." Serena mused as she made herself comfortable at the table with her script. "I wondered who those guest stars could be?"

"I heard that Rona reached out to the Naranja's theater department to find our guest stars..." Ash smiled. "From what I am hearing, she couldn't have picked two better people for those roles!"

"Aren't Benika and Yukari usually played by guest stars anyway?" Liko wondered. "That was the impression I got when I first saw the script in the Naranja Library some years ago..."

"This is typically the case, but not every troupe will feature guests." Brock explained. "Some troupes will cast the sisters like any other role."

About then, Rona arrived in the room, with Nemona and Juliana following her. "All right everyone--thank you for a successful audition session for 'The Tale of the Eight Gods'. The theater department of Paldea's Naranja Academy has graciously agreed to pitch in with extra actors, and crew, along with our two guest stars for the lead roles--Nemona Cárdenas as Benika, and Juliana Villaverde as Yukari."

Cheers filled the air as Nemona found a seat near where Serena and Brock were sitting, with Juliana taking the seat next to her. "Nemona, Juliana--gracias to you both, and the other volunteers from the Naranja theater department for helping us bring this play to life."

"The pleasure is all ours." Juliana smiled. Nemona nodded in agreement.

"Now then...'The Tale of the Eight Gods' is a joyous and adventurous play about two sisters' journey to save their kingdom, alongside eight gods of the elements." Rona began. "The show tells the story of Benika and Yukari, two sisters who live in a Waku-like fantasy land. On the night before the Starlight Festival, the Starlight Lantern--the sacred lantern used to kick off the festival--turns up missing. That night, the Goddess of the Moon appears to the sisters, and tells them that the missing lantern is part of a plot to overthrow the Emperor--and with the help of seven other elemental gods, they can save the world."

She next addressed the excited troupe members. "Does anyone have any questions about the play itself, or anything you may not understand about your role?"

"How exactly does the Goddess of the Moon appear to the sisters?" Dawn asked. "Will I be a projected image on the stage? Will I be above the stage on a ledge? Hanging by wires?"

"Since the Goddess appears in the room with the sisters, the best way to do this is to place the Goddess on a large ledge above the stage." Rona replied. "You will have a catch tether hidden in your costume for safety reasons."

She looked around. "Any other questions before we start going over the play scene by scene?"

"Would it make sense for the God of Earth to have a guitar, or can I still use the vina?" Brock asked, looking over his first scene in Act 2. "The script doesn't say if the God of Earth is supposed to use an instrument, but the production notes in the back suggest a guitar or a harp...so what do you think, as our director?"

"Since the play is set in a fantasy world, I have no issue taking a more trad Galarian approach to the music this time, so you're welcome to use your guitar." Rona replied before looking over at Misty and Ash. "So Misty, Dawn, Serena--if you want to use your fiddles, you can. Ash, if you want to use your Pokeflute or a whistle for a change, you can..."

"A fire god with la flautita galariana would sound both mysterious and pretty!" Liko smiled.

"Liko--even though the script says the Goddess of Ice needs to know how to ice skate, would you rather train to do that, or work out some dance steps that are inspired by ice skating?" Rona asked.

"I'd rather dance..." Liko replied. "It can take several months just to master the basics of skating, and we may not have that much time."

"Okay...I'll talk to the dance crew later today to modify the Goddess of Ice's major scenes to include dancing instead of skating." Rona replied. "In the meantime, you can study ice skating routines for moves that could be transferred to a dance."

"You're a great dancer, Liko--you can do this!" Roy smiled.

Once sure no one else had any questions, Rona began "Now, let's begin our discussion with Act 1, Scene 1..."

She waited a moment for the ruffling of pages to quiet, then summarized the scene. "After the narrator explains the lore of the Starlight Festival, the scene opens on Benika and Yukari making preparations for the Star Festival. But their excited preparations are cut short when a villager informs them that the Starlight Lantern is missing. Benika suggests going to see the village elder, and so the two sisters depart right away, unaware of the adventure they are about to embark on."

After seeing that no one had any questions, she continued with the summary of Scene 2. "At the elder's house, Benika asks the elder why the Starlight Lantern was taken--and the elder admits that even he doesn't know--but the thief's ambitions are not pure, considering that they took a sacred object. As the lantern turned up missing some hours before, the elder concludes that the thief could not have gotten very far, and asks the sisters to track down and bring the thief to justice."

More pages ruffling signaled that there were no questions about Act 1, Scene 2. "Later that evening, as the sisters are packing for their quest to find the Starlight Lantern, the Goddess of the Moon appears to them..."
Episode 62: A Pecha of a Tale

"All ready?" Misty asked as the group finished rolling their ornate backdrop scroll for "The Legend of Momotaro" to the beginning.

Brock nodded as he emerged from a dressing room, a lady puppet wearing a beautiful gold chrysanthemum print costume in his arms. "Kikuri-hime is ready to go, too."

"No matter how many times you perform Kikuri-hime, I never get tired of hearing her voice." Ash smiled as he too emerged from a dressing room in black, cradling the Momotaro puppet in his arms.

"The cue to display the first scene is 'ehon, ugokidasu'--picture scroll, come to life." Brock reminded the crew in charge of the backdrop scroll.

"I'd better be suiting up too--I'm playing Fushi!" With that, Misty hurried backstage to change into a black outfit of her own.

"It was a good idea to show off our puppets on TV..." Serena smiled before handing off some props to a stage ninja. "It shows audiences that puppets are more than just goofy beings for kids..."

Brock heard the TV show's host finishing the group's introduction out on the stage. "Mask up--it's go time." Ash nodded, and pulled the hood of his costume over his head, rendering him completely in black.

"...and now, please enjoy as the puppeteers of the Kagayou Theater present 'The Legend of Momotaro'. the host concluded, to the studio audience's applause.

A few tense moments passed before the Kikuri-hime puppet appeared in a spotlight with a vina flourish of gold ribbons and light. "Ohayou gozaimasu--good morning, all." Brock begin in Kikuri-hime's distinct strong and yet gentle voice. "I am Kikuri-hime; keeper of Waku's history and legend. The story I want to tell you today is a familiar story to many children of Waku--the adventures of the Pecha boy Momotaro."

Brock next made the Kikuri-hime puppet look at the closed backdrop scroll. "But before I can tell you the story, we must first open its picture scroll."

He then called to no one in particular Ehon, ugokidasu!

"Wow"s and awed chatter filed the show's studio as the backdrop scroll unrolled to reveal a scene of an ancient Wakunese countryside, complete with a small house. "Long ago, in what is now Kanto, there lived an old man and an old woman--their names are not important." Brock narrated as Kikuri-hime. "They were common folk, and so had to work hard to earn their keep."

He watched as an old man puppet and an old woman puppet appeared in the scene. "The man would cut grass for the farmers that lived nearby." Brock narrated as the puppet did this, then delivered some prop grass to some farmer puppets. "While he was away, his wife did the housework and worked in their own little field." He let that hang as the old woman puppet swept the house's front stoop...
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Episode 63: Discussing the Jeweled Towers On the Air

"The Kagayou's newest play has led many to compare it to an iconic video game--but are these jeweled towers connected to aeons, temples and a fallen world, or not? I'm Fern Kendall, and this is 'Places and People'." a black haired DJ began before the show's theme song started.

After the theme song played for a few minutes, Fern spoke again. "Hello, and welcome to 'Places and People'--I'm your host, Fern Kendall. This week, we join Kagayou stars Ash, Serena, and Misty for a sneak peek into their latest play, "The Journey of the Jeweled Towers'."

She addressed Ash, Serena, and Misty in the other half of the studio. "Ash, Serena, Misty--thank you for taking the time out of your busy rehearsal schedule to visit us."

"The pleasure's all ours." Serena replied.

"Can you three give our audience a brief synopsis of the play?" Fern asked.

"The show tells the story of Silver Beautifly, who is tasked to journey to the sacred Rainbow Tower." Serena explained. "This task gains more urgency when she learns that the evil sects of the world are on the move--and awakening as the embodiment of the rainbow may be key to stopping a war that would throw the martial world into chaos!"

"Let's address the proverbial Donphan in the room--was the play inspired or influenced by 'Final Fantasy X'?" Fern asked.

"A lot of critics have compared this play to 'Final Fantasy X', with the theme of a world-spanning journey to achieve divine power." Misty replied. "But there are a few major differences between that game and the play. For one thing, the journey to achieve divine power is exactly as it is claimed to be, not a ruse for a false god. That said, more than a few evil sects try to exploit the promise of a rainbow goddess for their own gain over the course of Silver Beautifly's journey. But they learn too late that a Beautifly is more powerful than you think!"

Fern and some of the crew laughed in agreement. "Okay, then..." Fern smiled. "Ash, it goes without saying your role gets a new bansi for the show, right?"

"Yeah--but for the sake of the mics and other equipment, I'm not gonna play it here." Ash replied. "Although if you wanna hear it before you come see the play, catch our promo livestream tonight, or any of the other publicity events we have planned!"

"That's probably a good idea..." Fern smiled. "I understand that May's costume can change color as the play goes on?"

"Yes!" Serena replied. "I can assure you it will be worth your time to see her in her full rainbow glory!"

"I have to give kudos to the set crew and the acrobatics and athletics crew for thinking up some creative challenges along the way." Ash agreed. "That does include a few instances of the Sonic for me!"

"May might be the star of the show, but we all have our own challenges to face during the play--and they're never the same challenges twice!" Serena explained.

"So if you see the play multiple times, our colorful journey will be different each time!" Misty added.

"That's interesting!" Fern replied.

"How May's color changing costume works is a simple costume change trick you see all the time on the Tawame stage." Serena explained. "May is actually wearing two costumes--the colorful rainbow outfit you ultimately see in Act 3, and the normal silvery outfit."

"The silvery outfit is made of several different pieces." Misty went on. "Once May clears a Jeweled Tower, the stage ninjas remove the appropriate piece to reveal the appropriate color. By the time Act 3 arrives, she's fully colorful--and her character's title changes to reflect that."

"But we won't give away the play's ending!" Ash interjected.

"Don't worry, I won't ask you three for any spoilers." Fern assured Ash before asking Serena a question. "Can you tell us about what some of the challenges in the Jeweled Towers are like?"

"Without giving too much away, they are less Final Fantasy X and more The Legend of Zelda, to refer back to our video game analogy from earlier." Serena explained. "Instead of touching glyphs and moving spheres around, we are climbing, rolling, shooting targets, cutting things, pushing blocks, jumping, diving, flying, and more!"

"But no matter what the challenges are, they fit the tower we're in, and fit our abilities." Ash agreed. "So to name a few examples, the Ruby Tower involves a lot of fire, as well as climbing and jumping. The Topaz Tower involves a lot of lightning, as well as a lot of leap of faith challenges in low light."

"Don't worry, we don't leave the audience in total darkness." Misty assured Fern. "The Sapphire Tower's where I actually get to do some aquatic work, and I do some skating in the Aquamarine Tower."

"Does Liko have any skating ability?" Fern asked, curious.

"She's being trained to do challenges like that, but I'm not too shabby an ice skater myself." Misty replied.

"The Pearl Tower is easily one of my favorites..." Serena began. "Without giving too much away, that tower involves manipulating light, and colorful mandalas as its theme. But my honorable mentions of favorite towers are Brock's trick shots and parkour challenges in the Emerald Tower, and the starry night challenges of the Amethyst Tower..."
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Episode 64: The Braviary Meets the Three Dragons

The audience of kids and teachers in the Kagayou's main theater watched as the lights came up on Liko, who wore a simple teal Wakunese traveler's costume with a gold belt and the teal version of her lucky heart pendant, and Roy, who wore a maroon Wakunese traveler's costume with some gold trim, on the set of a forest. Some glowing red paper in a ring of rocks implied that their characters were making camp for the night. "Mightyena-san, I have been pondering something for the last few nights." Liko began as Roy organized a few more props. "They say that when you need help the most, three dragons will come to your aid. But who, or what, are the three dragons?

"The adage refers to these tiles in a mahjong set..." Roy explained, setting three dragon tiles for Liko to see. "The blank white tile is Haku, the White Dragon--although some mahjong sets will have a blue or black border to avoid confusion with replacement tiles. Haku is said to be the eldest and wisest of the three dragons, and his patience resembles the gods of heaven. But he can and he will fight to protect the good and the pure, usually with a divine bow, white like him."

He next showed Liko the red dragon tile. "The sword looking tile is Chun, the Red Dragon. Since his tile resembles a sword, he is naturally a skilled swordsman. But don't let his boundless energy and joy fool you--when he has to fight, he hits and hits hard."

He noticed Liko studying the green dragon tile. "The green tile with an elaborate kanji on it is Hatsu, the green dragon. Since this character can mean 'to send out', she is the messenger on behalf of her brothers, but she is just as wise and as clever as they are."

"I see..." Liko smiled before looking up to the imagined stars. "Haku-san, Chun-san, Hatsu-san, please watch over us on our search for the Elemental Manual...


Gasps and worried whispers filled the theater as Liko and Roy were surrounded by bandits on a Wakunese road in the next scene. "But if we give you all our money, we won't be able to make it to the Grand Shrine!" Liko pleaded. "You wouldn't be so heartless as to rob travelers to one of the holiest places in Waku?"

She remembered she had the red dragon tile from before, and held it close. "Chun-san...we need your help!" she whispered as an aside.

Roy's feigned panicked expression turned to genuine joy as a bansi flourish echoed from offstage. "A flute? Who would be playin' a flute out here, boss?" one of the actors playing bandits asked.

The orchestra played a triumphant flourish as a spotlight at stage right appeared on Ash, who wore a red, black and white Wakunese swordsman's costume. "Get away from these innocent travelers!" he cried before elegantly jumping before the actor playing the bandit king.

"By Arceus...it's Chun, the Red Dragon!" Roy gasped.

"An' here I was tinking yer jus' a tile in a mah jong set..." the actor playing the bandit king sneered. "But if ya wanna fight, I can easily take out all four copies of ya!"

The crowd of actors on the stage did not expect a glittering white arrow to land in the center of the stage. "Perfect timing, Haku-san..." Ash smiled as Brock--now wearing a beautiful white and blue Wakunese outfit--made a few jumps off the cliffs in the set to join Ash onstage.

"I'll guide the travelers to safety--focus on the king!" Brock called before motioning for Liko and Roy to follow him. "Come with me--our base isn't far from here. Hatsu-san will see to it that you are well cared for..."


"...With the bandits defeated, the White Dragon Haku and the Red Dragon Chun returned to their base, where Hatsu the Green Dragon awaited their return." the narrator explained over a tense interlude from the orchestra. "Confident that evil was not around the three dragons' cave, Wandering Braviary saw fit to tell Haku, Chun, and Hatsu the real reason why she and Noble Mightyena were traveling..."

The lights came up on Liko, Roy, Ash, Brock, and Serena--who wore a beautiful green dancer's costume with gold trim--inside a cave filled with prop "diamonds", "rubies", and "emeralds". "...in actuality, we were not really going to the Grand Shrine." Liko explained to Serena. "We were seeking the legendary Elemental Manual, in hopes we could keep its techniques from falling into evil hands."

"We used the Grand Shrine ruse in hopes that would get those bandits off our backs." Roy agreed. "But we both are grateful for your divine help.

"Finding the Elemental Manual will be a harder task than you thought..." Serena cautioned. "Many years ago, a warrior just like you went on the same journey. "But he had what he believed was an ingenious solution to keeping the manual out of evil hands--by scattering its pages across Waku."

"But we saw him do this, and know exactly where each page is hidden." Brock assured Liko and Roy. "So if you are willing to go to the very ends of Waku, brave many dangers, and master the techniques on the manual's pages, you just might prevent a war..."

"A war?" Liko gasped. "You mean, evil sects are fighting over the Elemental Manual?"

"Not just that, but many noble warriors and noble sects are seeking to find its pages, just like you." Ash went on. "But we can stop the fighting--if someone can master all the techniques of the Elemental Manual, the evil sects will be judged, and peace will return to the martial world..."
Episode 65: A Lucky Day for Tips

"Okay if I can come play with you in the park today?" Misty asked as she noticed Brock approaching the theater foyer with an elegant but well loved guitar case in tow.

"Sure--Ash already had plans to go to the movies with Serena, May and Dawn are out shopping, and Liko and Roy are out camping by one of the local lakes for today." Brock explained. "Besides, trad fiddle and guitar will almost always attract an audience."

"Be right back!" Misty called before hurrying back down the hall, presumably to go get her fiddle.

Once the two companions had reunited by the theater entrance with their instruments, Brock led the way into the warm sun towards the bus stop that led to the local park...


"This looks like a good spot to play!" Misty smiled as she led Brock towards a ring of colorful flowers overlooking a path leading westward, and path going north.

"The Colorful Ring Garden's always a good spot to play for tips." Brock agreed as he wrote "TIPS" on a white section of an empty Midori Mist cup.

Once sure his "tip jar" was somewhere where the wind wouldn't blow it over, and coins and bills couldn't be taken out of it, he turned to his waiting guitar case, and started tuning up, making sure to give Misty a low G note, so she could tune to him...


"Ready?" Brock asked, strumming a soft G chord to check his tuning.

"When you are." Misty replied as she played a G note to check her own tuning.

After thinking a moment for a suitable tune to warm up with, he started a brisk melody for Misty's fiddle to weave through. The "looping tune" was one of Misty's preferred warm ups, and it typically managed to attract an audience whenever they played for tips.

But neither Misty or Brock expected to hear a flourish of a Pokeflute and a mandolin strum when their audience applauded their performance some moments later. "Ash?" Misty gasped.

"Surprise." Ash grinned as he settled in with his own gig bag. "Movie ended not too long ago--you missed an exciting adventure!"

"Yeah--'The Journey to Harmony Mountain' turned out way better than I thought!" Serena agreed. "I'm surprised no one's turned it into a play!"

Misty smiled as she rechecked her tuning. "Nothing wrong with spending our day off from the theater by seeing a martial arts movie--and you're right. There's many movies that could work on the Tawame stage."

After playing an A note for Serena to fine tune a familiar gold-brown mandolin, Ash looked over the many whistles, a ukulele, the space typically occupied by his Pokeflute, and a few harmonicas in his gig bag. "Besides the Pokeflute, what else am I gonna need to play?"

"C. D, Eb whistles for now." Brock replied. Ash nodded, then played another A note so Serena could start tuning her own fiddle.

"Added bonus of a wind instrument--you don't have to tune!" Serena smiled as she too tuned up...


After huddling to decide on a set, Misty kicked off a festive tune in C, which Serena provided harmony with her own fiddle. Ash soon joined on a C whistle as Misty changed keys to F over a piano backing track from Serena's PokeNav--this way, Brock wouldn't have to play in F, Misty had said.

Applause filled the air as more people ran to listen to the four companions playing together. "Let's really get'em dancing..." Misty smiled before starting an upbeat tune, spurring the growling crowd to clap along. Serena joined in with a mandolin backup, before Brock joined in with some soft chords as the girls changed keys to A major. Ash joined in on his Pokeflute to complete the quartet, spurring many in the crowd to clap along. Some kids in the crowd even danced as their parents eagerly dropped in some coins or bills into the rapidly filling Midori Mist cup.

Brock noticed the cup was almost full as the crowd roared with enthusiastic cheers, applause, and whistles. "Good thing I remembered our large change jar..." he remembered as he set his guitar back in its case long enough to retrieve a large Nomelnade pitcher he and Misty had modified into a large bank.

Once the "tip jar" was ready to be refilled, Ash offered "I'll start the next one..." before launching into a common Pokeflute etude sped up to reel tempo. The others joined in some moments later, spurring the crowd to clap along. Some children in the audience opted to dance along to the ensemble of Pokeflute, fiddle, guitar, and mandolin.

With Ash and Serena occupied debating what the group's next set should be, Misty took a moment to fine tune her own fiddle. "Wasn't expecting Ash and Serena to join us..."

"Me neither..." Brock agreed as he retuned a flat A string. "But when they do join us, it's a nice surprise--mainly when we're not expecting it!"

He noticed Ash and Serena had agreed on a set. "'Morning over Pallet..." he whispered to Misty as he found the G chord he needed to start on.

"Got it." Misty replied before starting the elegant melody with a little playfulness over the guitar's gentle bass line, aware all the while of Serena retuning. Ash kicked off a jig moments later, spurring the crowd to clap along as the ensemble picked up the pace...
Episode 66: The Power of Earth

The acting training room buzzed with excitement as the group arrived to practice a few scenes from Act 1 of "The Loyal Raikou of Waku". "Remember everyone--we're only focusing on dialogue and a little movement today." Rona assured the group as she arrived in the practice room. "Once everyone's comfortable with the flow of these scenes, and what their character is supposed to do, we'll go out to the stage to properly block everything."

Dawn gave Brock a nudge. "How does it feel playing an energetic character for a change?"

"A refreshing change from all the softspoken characters and narrators I tend to play." Brock replied. "The actor playing Master Kurou won't know what hit him when I confront him at the height of Act 3."

"I'm looking forward to blocking that scene!" Ash smiled. "Shame we still have a little while before we block it--I've been picturing what it would look like in my head when the Raikou finally roars!"

"I can assure you that that scene will be everything you've imagined it to be--and I will give my all to be sure that it is exciting for the other actors, and exciting for the audience." Brock assured Ash. "But for today, let's focus on Act 1."


"Okay...this is the most important scene in the entire play--where Kitora figures out that Master Kurou is actually the leader of the Shadow Lotus Sect." Rona explained. "Brock, I know you will want to unleash your full fury once you put two and two together, but be careful that your anger, sadness, and shock doesn't veer into melodrama. Try your best to sell Kitora's emotion to the audience, without overacting."

Brock nodded. "I never would've tried out for this role if I didn't think I could play it well--so I will give my all into making Kitora's rage feel realistic."

"All right...let's start from the beginning of the scene, when Suiren arrives to visit with Kitora, and Kitora shows her the odd letter he found in the previous scene." Rona began, spurring Misty to join Brock in the center of the room.

Misty watched for Rona's cue to begin, then walked into the stage area. "You said you found something strange in Master Kurou's room last night?"

"Yes..." Brock replied as he gave Misty a blank piece of paper standing in for a prop letter. "Even though part of me feels ashamed for taking something of my master's, the black lotus seal on it troubled me--I know as well as you do that that seal is the sign of the Shadow Lotus Sect."

"So why would Master Kurou turn to evil?" Misty wondered as she unfolded the paper and studied the imagined writing on it.

"That's what I'm trying to understand..." Brock sighed. "Ever since I became one of his students, and he taught me the Green Star Bow, he seemed to be like any other noble master in the martial world--tough and yet fair to his students, and eager to fight against evil in whatever form it presented itself. So assuming that this letter to Master Kurou from the Shadow Lotus Sect is real, does that mean that all the students he ever taught will now walk the martial world in shame because of their teacher's selfish betrayal?"

"No--just because he is your teacher does not mean he is above the laws of the land, or the laws of heaven." Misty assured Brock. "He may have thought that no one would ever know his true nature as a leader of the Shadow Lotus, but you found this letter proving it. So the task of bringing your master to justice now falls to you."

Brock's look of feigned horror spurred Rona to smile in approval. "If I may see the letter?" he asked Misty as he composed himself.

"Here it is..." Misty gave Brock the paper again.

"My dear brethren of the Shadow Lotus, our time to rule the martial world is close at hand." Brock read the imagined writing on the paper, his voice growing more and more frightened as he read the message in his script. "All we have to do now is find the thirty two Exalted Jewels that lie scattered across the land. Once they are united with us, we will be the true rulers of Waku!"

He crumpled the blank paper in anger as he growled in frustration, not wanting to read more of the imagined message. "WHY???" he finally screamed, startling everyone else. "WHY DID SOMEONE I TRUSTED BETRAY ME???"

He looked off to the right of the room. "Master Kurou! No...you are no longer worthy of being called master to me." he muttered, aware of Rona's excited and pleased smile of approval of his feigned fit of fury. "KNOW THIS, KUROU! I WILL FIND THE EXALTED JEWELS BEFORE YOU, AND THEN BRING ARCEUS' JUDGEMENT UPON YOU! EITHER THAT, OR DIE TRYING!"

"Okay, and scene!" Rona smiled, pleased at Brock's feigned angry outburst. "First, I liked that ad lib of Master Kurou no longer being worthy of being called master..."

"I felt it would make sense, considering the rest of the play, and it would make the final showdown have a little more urgency than it does in the script." Brock explained, taking a few deep breaths to calm himself from his imagined rage. "I didn't make the angry rage too melodramatic?"

"I thought that outburst was perfect!" May raved. "It was the perfect blend of anger, sadness, and frustration that I would feel if someone I trusted betrayed me, too."

"Yes--I was afraid you were going to attack at any moment!" Liko agreed.

"It's not very often that your characters yell--but when you do, you have a very good reason to do it!" Roy smiled. "And being betrayed by the one your character believed was his master is a good reason to yell."

Rona nodded in agreement. "If I could suggest one thing to make that fit of rage even better, can we add just a little more sadness into the lines? Your character is mainly heartbroken by this betrayal, after all..."

Brock nodded, then made a note in his script. "Little more sadness, not so much fury..."

"Are you ready for the rest of us?" Ash asked.

"Not yet..." Rona assured Ash. "Let's finish up this scene, where Suiren suggests getting the rest of you guys on board with Kitora's quest..."
Episode 67: The Braviary's Catch-landing

"Okay, Liko..." Rona began as a sand pit whirred into place from below the stage. "This is the most important part of this scene--Dark Vortex has whirled his way across this pit, taunting you that you can't reach him. Amethyst Braviary taunts back that she can so reach him, and uses her Divine Wings skill to leap across the pit. Remember, you want to try and mimic flying as you jump--since we will have wing projections to help add to the fantasy."

"Got a catch tether?" Ash asked as he joined the others onstage to watch Liko practice the jump.

Liko proudly showed Ash the catch tether attached to her training garb. "Every time--Roy is adamant I put one on any time we do aerial work."

"Okay...I can assure you they work as advertised." Ash went on, blushing a little as he recalled his own mishaps that the catch tether had prevented.

"Ready over there?" Rona called from the other end of the pit as she made an X out of tape to designate where Liko was supposed to land.

"As I'll ever be." Liko called back as the acrobatics crew fitted her with wires to further create the illusion of flying.

"Amethyst Braviary, you are cleared to fly." Liko heard the chief spotter say, signaling that everything was in place for Liko's first attempt at the jump.

Liko nodded back. "Okay...here I go!"

After getting a little bit of a running start, Liko made a mighty leap into the air...only for a pop, a clink, and a POOF to signal that Liko's leap had not gone as planned. "I'm okay!" Liko called from inside the pit as the spotters hurried to lift her out. "The sand actually cushioned my fall."

"You okay, Liko?" Brock asked once Liko was safely back on the stage again, and out of the wire harness.

"I think so...nothing hurts at all." Liko replied as the medical team arrived to check Liko for injuries.

"We'll check you over, just in case." the chief doctor replied.

Once the thorough exam was over, the chief doctor told Rona "Aside from a bruise on her right arm, she's okay. But that should heal on its own, so she can go again with the proper precautions."

"Let me go get a new catch tether, then we can go again." With that, Liko hurried backstage as the sand pit was reset for another attempt...


"You're sure you want to try again after that tumble you took?" Rona asked as the group arrived to watch Liko's second try at the jump.

"I'm sure..." Liko replied. "Any tips to help me clear the pit, and reach your X?"

"After reviewing the video of last time, I can think of two tips." Rona replied. First, you need more of a running start, and second, you needed to jump a little earlier to allow the wires to carry you. Jumping at the edge with wires will carry you a fourth of the way, maybe halfway, at best."

"Judging from the power you put into that first try, you did make it halfway across before you fell and the catch tether rescued you. May noted as Liko was guided to her starting point, with the point where she was supposed to jump marked with another tape X.

Rona making the smaller tape X gave Dawn an idea. "Mind if I borrow your marking tape?" she asked Rona as she looked over the smaller X."

"Sure." Rona replied, watching with bemusement as Dawn laid down a strip of marking tape at Liko's new starting point.

"Now we've managed to visualize what should happen for a safe jump." Dawn explained as she returned the marking tape. "I've marked her start point for the running start, so if she jumps at the little X, she could make it across the pit to the big X."

"Let's do this!" Liko smiled.

The group, Rona, and the crew watched as Liko made her running start, jumped at the small X, made an elegant spin in the air as she flew across the pit, then landed at the large X! "WOW!" Brock raved as he led the applause. "You did it!"

"That spin was a nice touch!" Misty agreed.

"Thanks..." Liko smiled as Roy arrived with a bottle of water and a towel. "I put the spin in the jump to add some style--this is Amethyst Braviary, after all."

"It fits perfectly in the scene, so keep it in!" Roy raved. "The audience should love that opening night!"

"We'll try the jump again here in a minute..." Rona assured Liko as the pit was reset for another attempt. "I'm just grateful you made it across that time. If you still couldn't make it after or modifications, I would shorten the pit and the jump, but I don't think we'll need to do that."

"I'll do everything I can to make sure that Amethyst Braviary's flight looks as cool and as beautiful as I can get it!" Liko vowed, making cheers go up in agreement...
Just thought I'd pop in and give my two cents on this (I've only read 5 chapters so I haven't gotten far lmao)

From what I've read, while a bit shorter per episode, I'm enjoying it so far, as with your other Theaterverse fics. Certainly an entertaining first few episodes. If I find the time, I'll try and read more to develop a more concise opinion on the fic, but I say keep it up! :bulbaLove:

Interesting angle, I like the sound of that

(not sure how you feel about pings, but feel free to let me know)

Episode 68: The Readthrough of the Lucky Star

The readthrough room buzzed with activity as the Niji Troupe got together to read through their latest play. "Joanna wasn't mad about her part being cut?" Rona asked as Dawn settled in at the table with her script.

"Not at all--she understood why you decided to combine Himawari's character into Brock's storyteller character Niko and Serena's character Yuzumi." Dawn replied as she studied her script. "The more I read the play, the more I realized cutting Mom's part was the right thing to do. Having an independent young lady rely on her mom wouldn't make any sense!"

"I like the version of Ichika in here..." Ash agreed as he read through his own script. "Dunno what the old Ichika was supposed to be like, but this version of Ichika is much better for you!"

Rona smiled in agreement. "All right then...let's get this readthrough started."

The ruffling of scripts filled the room as the troupe members opened their scripts to Act 1, Scene 1. "The show tells the story of Ichika, who is worried about the warlord Kagehide's sudden rise to power." Rona explained. "She makes a wish for the strength to fight for what is good and pure--and that night, Jirachi appears to her with a message from heaven--if Ichika follows him across the world, she will eventually grow strong enough to challenge Kagehide for the fate of Waku, and find out the truth about his rise to power."

"Sounds exciting!" May smiled as she perused the scene where Jirachi appeared to Ichika. "How am I going to be appearing to Dawn in Scene 2? Will I be on wires, on a high platform, a projection on the stage, or something else?"

"You'll be on an upper platform overlooking the set of Ichika's room. This way, Dawn can see you, and it will create the illusion to the audience you are above her." Rona explained.

"Likewise, how should I portray Ichika here in Scene 1?" Dawn asked. "I don't want to oversell her fear at the rumors about Kagehide, but I do want to show that she is confident, and sure of herself."

"We'll go over that once we begin acting training later this week." Rona assured Dawn. "Anyone else have any concerns or questions about Act 1, Scene 1?"

"I'm wondering how I should portray Yuzumi here, when she tells Ichika about all the rumors." Serena explained. "I get the impression she's not trying to scare Ichika...she's only telling her what she has heard."

"Some troupes do have Yuzumi try to frighten Ichika, but I feel his wouldn't make sense for her character." Rona replied. "First and foremost, she is only the messenger on these rumors, and encourages Ichika to make of them what she will."

"So basically, you are telling her 'I heard a thing...here's what I know about this thing, here's what others are saying about this thing, so what do you think of this thing?'" Misty explained. "You want to be as gentle and as neutral as possible--since even your character doesn't know if these rumors are true or not."

"Thanks, Misty--I'll keep that in mind for acting training." Serena mused as she turned a few pages to Scene 2.

"Now then...later that night, Jirachi appears to Ichika in response to her wish made in the previous scene." Rona explained as she summarized the scene. "He tells her that her fears about Kagehide are warranted--and that he and the other Legendaries believe she can stop Kagehide's ambitions for the imperial throne. But since she wished for the strength and courage to do that, he will guide her on a journey to discover that--and take down Kagehide once and for all."

"I'm looking forward to the banter in this scene..." May smiled.

"Me too..." Dawn agreed before turning to Scene 3 of Act 1.

"The next morning, Yuzumi spots Ichika departing on her journey." Rona went on. "Once Ichika tells Yuzumi about her encounter with Jirachi, Yuzumi asks to come along as well--since she too wants answers about Kagehide. Ichika agrees, and the two of them depart town together. Along the way, Yuzumi tells Ichika that it is worth her time to keep an eye out for the storyteller Niko--and that his stories often have secrets hidden within. It turns out that Ichika knows about Niko--and that she would know his harp anywhere in the land. Jirachi also tells Ichika it would be worth it to have Niko join her on her quest, as he has the gift of singing magic."

"That's gonna be fun..." Brock smiled as he read over the scene. "It would be a bit too convenient if I showed up here, so I'm glad they moved my first scene to a little later on in Act 1."

He studied his first scene for a moment. "Which would make more sense for Ichika and Yuzumi to find me? In the teahouse, or in the town square?"

"If you want to show off your storytelling skill, you can appear in the town square." Rona replied. "There's no specific tale you have to tell in this scene, so feel free to pick any exciting Wakunese story you'd like."

'My Lord Bag of Rice' would be nice for this scene, since it's basically Ichika and Jirachi meeting backwards." Misty suggested.

"Hikari Slays the Serpent!" Liko suggested.

"Can't go wrong with 'Momotaro'!" Ash suggested.

"Everyone, please!" Brock assured the others. "I have a stash of stories I'm thinking of using--and I might change it up each show, as a surprise for the audience. "But I can assure you that whatever story I pick, it will be exciting..."

Episode 69: Golden Delphox On Stream

"Good morning, all, and thank you for joining us for our promo stream for 'The Golden Sword of the Flying Delphox'!" Rona addressed the webcam. "Serena is here, Misty is here, Brock is here, and Dawn is here--and all are ready to answer your questions about the play, other plays, Tawame acting in general, behind the scenes info, and more.

She highlighted the stream rules so that the whole chat could see them. "The rules are over here, but when in doubt, ask me or one of the mods. Remember that our stars have the right to not answer a question, too." She let that hang as the color coded tags to address Serena, Misty, Brock, or Dawn appeared at the bottom of the screen.

"remember--if u want to ask a specific star a question, don't forget to tag them." a mod reminded the chat.

"@GoldenDelphox--can u tell us anything about the ::sword emoji:: u use in the play?" a chatter asked.

"While I can't show it off here--it's safe in the armory until our next rehearsal--I can tell you that it's somewhere between a rapier and your typical one handed sword." Serena explained. "I really wish we had it in here, so I could show you guys..."

"If you DO want to see it, we filmed our latest acting practice, so you can see Serena wield it that way." Misty assured the chatter. "Or you can always come see the play!"

"Speaking of which..." Serena flashed a pair of tickets for the play on the screen. "We have four pairs of tickets for the play to give away during the stream!"

"Once each hour, we'll pick a name out of the proverbial hat." Brock explained as Rona added the giveaway rules on another pane of the stream window. "You don't have to be present for the whole stream to win--we'll e-mail the winners once the stream is over."

"the fine print is over here, if you'd like to read it." a mod pointed out the giveaway rules.

"@SapphireDragon--was it weird voicing yourselves or doing motion capture for the companion video game?" a chatter asked.

"Motion capture is not comfortable by any stretch..." Misty shuddered at the memory of the motion capture suit.

"Not easy to do parkour in a motion capture suit." Brock agreed. "Playing the vina with sensors on my fingers was an interesting experience--the vibration on the strings made the sensors vibrate too--even though that wasn't registered as capture data. It felt like my hands and fingers were getting a massage. But I can assure you that Digi-Emerald Raikou and Digi-Ruby Phoenix are at least playing their instruments correctly."

"We recorded well over a million spoken and sung lines for the game." Dawn agreed. "We even had to motion capture singing too, so the Digi-Eight Spirits are properly speaking and singing."

"@PearlDeerling--did you dub yourselves in any languages besides english or wakunese?" a chatter asked.

Dawn nodded. "I know Ash and Serena dubbed themselves in Kalosian and Paldean, Liko and Roy dubbed themselves in Paldean, and Brock has dubbed himself in at least Kalosian, Paldean, and Talien."

"What we didn't record ourselves, we personally approved the voice actors that would dub us." Misty explained.

"@EmeraldRaikou--do you get a new ::vina emoji:: for da play?" a chatter asked.

Brock nodded, then showed the camera a majestic vina with emerald studs and ivy decor. "Here it is--the Emerald Ivy Harp."

"Don't worry, Ash fans--you'll get to hear Ash's new flute for the play later tonight, when Ash, May, Liko and Roy take more of your questions." Misty assured the chat as Brock carefully, but quickly put on his vina fingerpicks. "So if you have questions for them, stay tuned at 6 PM for the night stream."

"They have their own set of tickets to give away, too!" Serena added, smiling all the while at the excited Raikou emojis in the chat as Brock flexed the fingers of his playing hand to check if the picks were on securely, making it look like he was a Raikou using a claw swipe.

After first playing the exercise "The Voice of All the Colors" to check the vina's tuning, Brock noticed a question in the chat. "@EmeraldRaikou--how do you tune that many strings?"

"The answer? With a tuning key." Brock explained, showing the camera his instrument's tuning key. "Like most harps, you really only need to fine tune most of the time. You only do a major retune when you restring it--when you play often like I do, you usually do that every six months. If you don't play as often, you only need to restring and retune once a year. In my case, I prefer to do any restrings and retunes around the New Year, and again around the start of June."

After thinking a moment for a suitable tune to perform, Brock decided to play part of the tune "Spring River in the Moonlight", to the delight of the chat, his troupemates, and Rona.

Once the song's last note faded away, hearts, like icons, and applause emojis and GIFs filled the chat. "Thank you..." Brock replied. "This just a small taste of what I plan to play in the show."

"If you're planning to attend the night stream, you may want to turn down the volume on any headphones--because a bansi can get loud." Dawn cautioned, spurring a smile from Misty at a memory of Ash actually managing to blow out a speaker with the iconic Wakunese flute...
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Episode 70: The White Dragon in Training

The acting training room buzzed with activity as the eight stars of the Niji Troupe convened to begin learning the first few scenes of "The Revered White Dragon". "Okay, everyone..." Rona began as she arrived with the master copy of the play's script. "Is there anything about the first few scenes of Act 1 you don't understand, or have questions about your role in general?"

"When Dawn, Liko, Roy, and me arrive in the dragon's cave in Scene 2, how are we supposed to arrive?" May asked. "Should we be running? Walking?"

"Since you all mutually agreed to seek out the three dragons in the previous scene, you should try to walk confidently, but respectfully--this cave is the domain of a trio of gods." Rona replied. "Anyone else?"

A smile formed on her face when no one said anything. "In fact, let's begin today's training by going over that scene..."

"Since I don't have the bansi just yet, is it okay if I can use a tin whistle for today's practice?" Ash asked, retrieving a familiar gold whistle with a green mouthpiece from a pocket in his training leggings.

"Of course--a bansi would be too loud in here." Rona replied before finding the start of Scene 2 of Act 1 in the master script. "When we get to your part of the scene, make it good!"

Ash nodded, then watched as May, Dawn, Liko, and Roy confidently strolled into the stage area. "Very good!" Rona smiled, pleased at the graceful, but confident walk the four of them had made. "Liko, Roy--once you have followed May and Dawn onstage, stand by the foyer's entrance on the cave set--you are essentially keeping watch from a distance as Princess Beautifly and Jade Deerling meet the dragons. For the moment, the left edge of our stage area will stand in for that--I'll show you both the exact location when we start blocking on the stage."

"Got it!" Roy smiled. Liko nodded in agreement before making some notes in her script.

Rona next addressed May, Dawn, and Ash. "Now, let's start the scene where Princess Beautifly and Lady Jade Deerling meet Chun."

May nodded, then called to no one in particular. "Great three dragons, hear our plight--where can we find the Eight Masters' might?"

After a few tense seconds, Ash played a heroic trill on a D note, then made an elegant jump before May and Dawn. "Greetings, Princess Beautifly and Lady Jade Deerling." he began. "If you are seeking something, Haku's seeing crystal can see anything in the world."

"Where is Lord Haku--and the lady Hatsu?" Dawn asked.

"Haku is away hunting at the moment, and Hatsu is tending her sacred herb garden." Ash replied. "Until they return, I will answer what questions I can about the Eight Masters of the Spirits."

"Who are the Eight Masters of the Spirits, exactly?" Dawn asked. "We have done our fair share of research in the imperial library, but not a single scroll or book mentions their names or titles!"

Rona motioned for the scene to stop. "Nice job so far! Let's skip ahead to where Haku returns..."

Inspired, Liko carefully pushed a wooden pedestal holding a white pearl into the stage area. "Here--this can stand in for the seeing crystal for now."

"Thank you, Liko..." Rona smiled before finding Brock looking for a suitable bow in a pile of prop weapons in the top right corner of the room. "Ready over there, Brock?"

"Just a sec..." Brock called back before holding a practice bow with green designs high for the group to see. "This will stand in for the bow I'll have opening night."

With that, he hurried back to the stage area with the bow, a quiver full of prop arrows, some prop meat, and his script. "Middle of Act 1, Scene 2?"

Rona nodded before telling Ash "Start from the point where Chun tells Princess Beautifly and Lady Jade Deerling that Haku should be back any moment."

"Hm..." Ash studied his script for a moment before finding his line. "Here we go...it shouldn't be too much longer, milady--Haku said he would be back around this time."

"I'm back!" Brock called as he arrived in the scene before stepping back in surprise at seeing May and Dawn. "Princess Beautifly...Lady Jade Deerling...what grants us the honor of your imperial visit?" he asked, kneeling before May and Dawn in respect.

"Lord Haku, I come to you with an urgent request..." May explained. "You, Lord Chun, and Lady Hatsu have likely heard that the Dark Raikou Sect is on the move..."

Brock nodded. "Yes...many are the tears I have seen across your domain, milady. It is time for you to prove yourself as a worthy leader to your people, and seek out the Eight Masters of the Spirits, before your realm is consumed in war and chaos."

With that, he moved his hands around the pearl, singing a gibberish prayer-like melody for a moment. "You should first seek out Master Azure Dragon, whose twin blades strike down evil with the fury of a roaring river, and the chill of a winter's snow. She currently trains near the Misty Spring, awaiting the day her services are needed..."

Episode 71: The Tale of the Jade Flute Continues

"Three years ago, the Kagayou took the global Tawame fandom by storm with 'The Phoenix's Jade Flute'. Then the story was continued in "The Return of the Jade Flute". Now, the epic adventure finally continues with new characters and a new story. I'm Fern Kendall, and this is 'Places and People'." a black haired DJ began before the show's theme song started.

After the theme song played for a few minutes, Fern spoke again. "Hello, and welcome to 'Places and People'--I'm your host, Fern Kendall. This week, we join Kagayou stars Brock, May, and Liko for a sneak peek into Part 3 of the Jade Flute series, 'The Music of the Jade Flute'."

She addressed Brock, may, and Liko in the other half of the studio. "Brock, May, Liko--thank you for taking the time out of your busy rehearsal schedule to visit us."

"The pleasure's all ours." May smiled.

"Can you three give our audience a brief synopsis of the play?" Fern asked.

"This show's story picks up a year after 'The Return of the Jade Flute' ended, with new characters Glorious Braviary and Noble Mightyena--Liko's and Roy's roles--coming to visit Princess Jade Chrysanthemum in hopes of establishing diplomatic relations with their country and hers." Brock began. "But when evil sects take in interest in Glorious Braviary's heart pendant, it is up to the Venerable Phoenix to take up his magical flute once again!"

"Before you ask, we didn't write a Part 3 because we felt like it." May interjected. "Fans really wanted to see Liko and Roy play a part in this series' world."

"So while the play does leave the door open for a fourth part, we'll let everyone enjoy this new third part first before we start writing a part 4." Liko agreed.

"Were the writers inspired by your own adventures with Roy, or was your character's plot a total coincidence?" Fern asked.

"More coincidence than purposeful." Liko replied. "That said, the writers are inspired by our offstage activities, so I wouldn't be surprised if they were inspired by my adventures with Roy across Paldea, and the school trip to Kitakami."

"Okay then..." Fern smiled before addressing Brock. "Is Ash using the same instrument he used in the other two plays, or is this instrument all new?"

"It's still the same instrument, and it still sounds wonderful!" Brock assured Fern. "Liko's reaction to seeing Ash in full costume as Venerable Phoenix--iconic flute and all--was priceless."

"Yes--I couldn't resist bowing before Ash when I saw him in costume for the first time." Liko admitted. "For all intents and purposes, he really did look like a god."

"Rona got a kick out of Liko's bow, so we ended up working that into the play--when Glorious Braviary and Noble Mightyena meet the Venerable Phoenix for the first time."

"Without giving too much of the play away, how much does your character know about the Venerable Phoenix?" Fern asked. "Is he a legend in that country, or is all you know rumors from travelers?"

"I got the impression from the script that the Venerable Phoenix and his magical flute was known about in other lands." Liko replied. "So by the time this play begins, Glorious Braviary and Noble Mightyena have heard some amazing, yet credible stories about him. While their first priority is their diplomatic mission, they long to see the Venerable Phoenix for themselves--something Roy and me discuss in an intimate dialogue in the palace guest room during Act 1."

"While Ash is rightfully the star, we all get a chance to shine." May agreed. "Meeting Shaymin in Green Sky Woods is one of my favorite scenes..."

"Noble Mightyena's and Glorious Braviary's welcome scene is easily one of my favorites for the pageantry alone." Brock explained. "The crew did their homework about what welcoming foreign diplomats looked like around the Opening of Waku, then adapted that to a Waku that never was.

"There were so many amazing parts in this play, it's hard to choose!" Liko admitted. "But if I had to pick one, it would be either meeting the Venerable Phoenix, or Roy fighting off Master Peaceful Darkness to protect me when we are ambushed at Spring Willow Villa towards the beginning of Act 2."

"For the curious, Roy is not actually punching and kicking the fight actors." Brock explained. "While it may look like an impact to the audience, it's sound effects that mainly sell the power of the attack. Roy is actually stopping the punch or kick just close enough to make it look like a hit, and the sound effects do the rest for the audience. But in actuality, the fight actors are never really in any danger."

"Oh"s went up from the crew at this. "These aren't Super Smash Bros.-esque hit sound effects, either, where you can very obviously tell they are game noises--they are realistic sounding punch or kick sounds." May agreed. "If Roy needs to do an elemental punch or kick, the sound crew mixes the appropriate elemental sound with the punch or kick noise, and the effects crew adds the appropriate burst for the audience..."

Episode 72: Meeting the Sun Goddess and the Torterra

The audience inside the Kagayou's majestic auditorium watched as Liko--in a majestic purple Wakunese costume with snow and amethyst motifs, talked with May--in a beautiful purple, blue, white and gold costume on the set of an ancient Wakunese bedroom. "But Tsukuyomi-sama, I worry for my mother and father..." Liko explained over the orchestra's tense interlude. "Do they still live, or have they passed to the underworld?"

May just smiled as the orchestra's song turned hopeful. "Peace, Amika-san... your parents are alive, and safe. But if you plan to rescue them, the way to do so will be long..."

"I'll do anything to rescue my mother and father--just tell me what to do!" Liko pleaded, being careful not to scream.

"In the morning, travel to the sacred Cheri tree in the town square. My sister Amaterasu will meet you there--she will tell you what to do next." May assured Liko. "While my sister will guide you by day, I will watch over you by night."

"Thank you, Tsukuyomi-sama." Liko replied with a bow.

"For now, get some rest--you have a long journey ahead of you." May smiled before disappearing in a beautiful burst of "stars", leaving Liko alone onstage for a moment before the lights went down.

"Amika drifted into an uneasy sleep, and when morning came, she traveled to the sacred Cheri tree." the narrator went on. Imagine her surprise when she found Amaterasu there, armed with her sacred blade."

The lights came up on Liko arriving on the set of an ancient Wakunese town square, complete with a majestic Cheri tree in bloom. She balked in surprise at Dawn--in a majestic white, red, orange and gold costume--holding a beautiful prop sword with sun motifs. "The Great Lady who Illuminates the Heavens herself!" Liko gasped before bowing in respect before Dawn.

"My sister told me everything." Dawn replied. "in order to defeat those who hold your parents prisoner, not just any martial arts will do--you will need to learn and master the four Divine Arts of the Four Guardian Gods--Seiryu of the East, Suzaku of the South, Byakko of the West, and Genbu of the North. From here, Genbu's cave is the closest, so we will begin our quest there. Of the Four Guardian Gods, Genbu is as wise as he is powerful. His Divine Earth Bow will grant you a powerful ranged attack in case melee combat isn't possible."

"But what if we run into bandits, wild Pokemon, or yokai along the way?" Liko asked as she followed Dawn offstage.

"Peace--my Sacred Sun Blade will protect you from harm--even if we must face the demon king himself!" Dawn assured Liko as they departed offstage.

"The way to Genbu's Sanctum was uneventful." the narrator explained. "Once they reached the great crystal cave the divine black Torterra called home, Amika was more amazed by the crystals and divine underground gardens than Genbu's sacred music and archery prowess..."

Oohs and ahs filled the theater as the lights came up on a glittering crystal cave set, complete with ivy and flowers. "Wow...I never dreamed I would see the abodes of the Four Gods!" Liko gasped before asking Dawn "Is it okay for a humble mortal to be here?"

"If Genbu sees that you are with me, he will know you come to him with a great need." Dawn assured Liko before making a grand gesture to one of the alcoves holding one of the garden sets. "These underground gardens are able to grow underground because of his sacred music--the same sacred music that gives you Cheri blossoms in the spring, fresh Berries in the summer, a grand harvest in the fall, and hardy fruit such as Orans and Nomels in the winter, which do not mind the cold."

Liko nodded, then called offstage "Forgive the intrusion, Genbu-sama!"

As if in response to her call, a familiar male voice singing in a mystical language and a vina joined in with the orchestra's mystical melody. No matter how many times I hear Brock sing, it's still amazing to hear! Liko smiled as Brock--in a majestic black, gold, and green costume--appeared in a whorl of leaves and chrysanthemums, playing a well loved vina and singing all the while.

Once his performance was over, Brock waved away the vina, then addressed Dawn. "Tsukuyomi told me to be expecting you, Lady Amaterasu." he began. "Our mortal guest has nothing to fear."

"Genbu-sama, how is it you know of the days and nights passing by, yet your abode is underground?" Liko asked.

"Oh, but I can see the light of the Celestial Sisters down here." Brock assured Liko. "But on days when I cannot see them, the crystals make a worthy substitute."

He snapped, summoning a glowing green crystal, which projected an image of a beautiful green, black and gold bow with leaf and ivy decorations. "But let us turn now to other matters--those who kidnapped your parents and hold them prisoner are powerful warriors--but the strongest mortal blade is no match for the Divine Earth Bow. No matter how far away your target is, and no matter how much armor they have, it will always strike true for those who fight for the good and the pure. But before I lend you this sacred treasure, I will see to it that you learn to use it properly..."

With that, he sang Karuto, iichiida shou... seemingly warping him, Dawn, and Liko offstage, to the amazement of the audience...
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Episode 73: The Heart of the Bow

"Here we are..." Brock smiled as he and Liko emerged inside one of the Kagayou's many archery training ranges. "First and foremost, any shooting not for a play or competition should be done in a wide, open space; or on a training range, like this one."

"Okay..." Liko replied as she pulled on her bracers.

Once sure Liko was ready, Brock walked her through the proper shooting stance. "Now--to form the proper stance while standing, you want to stand shoulder-width apart completely sideways to the target, with your toes at a 90 degree angle to your target."

He observed Liko trying to mimic his pose, but her feet were too close together. "Almost..."

Liko quickly readjusted her feet so that her toes were at a 90 degree angle. "Better." Brock smiled. "There shouldn't be any bending at the knees or waist, and no leaning either."

He winced when he saw Liko slouching a little. "You want to keep a straight back." he reminded Liko. "Your head is the only thing that turns toward the target, and your arms are the only body part that moves, okay?"

"Got it!" Liko replied as she adjusted her position.

"We'll worry about shooting from a kneeling position once we get shooting while standing down, okay?" Brock assured his student before showing Liko one of his own arrows. "On most arrows, there are three fletchings--two fletchings of the same color and one of them a slightly different shade of the same color. When nocking your arrow, the different color fletching should face away from the bow and towards you. Once your arrow is in position, place the nock of the arrow--that's the split ending at the back of the arrow--on the string of your bow, pushing it in until you hear a subtle click."

Liko did her best to follow along with what Brock was doing. "Okay!"

"Now, form your stance again." Brock instructed before gently shooing a green cat Pokemon out of the target lane.

He waited for Liko to get in position, then went on "First of all, that's a much better stance than before. To shoot properly, start by straightening your hand with the bow ahead of you, but keep it flexible with a slight bend in the elbow. Whatever you do, don’t lock up your shoulder."

"Got it!" Liko smiled.

"You want to hold the bow like you would the handle of a teacup or coffee mug, with three fingers--typically the index, middle and ring--but keep the thumb lowered." Brock explained as he prepared his own shot. "There are several different grips, but you pick the one that's best for you."

Liko readied her shot, then waited for Brock's instructions. "Moving on...to draw, draw with three fingers around the string below where the arrow is placed." Brock explained. "Try to keep the elbow of your drawing hand in line with the arm that’s holding the bow."

He smiled as Liko assumed the correct pose. "Very good...now anchor your drawing hand on your face, ideally somewhere in the region of your mouth and cheek just below your eyes or nose so that you can see down the shaft of your arrow."

A few tense seconds went by as Liko drew her bow, the green cat Pokemon watching all the while from the safety of the sideline. "When you're ready to shoot, simply relax your drawing hand and follow through with the shot."

Liko fired a few seconds later, her shot landing on the outer yellow ring of the target. "One last thing--don’t put down your bow or change your position until your arrow is in its target." Brock explained before observing Liko's shot. "If this were a competition, you'd get three points for that shot."

"How'd I do?' Liko wondered as the green cat Pokemon brought her arrow back to her.

"You did well following along with my instructions." Brock replied. "It may sound like a lot to remember, but we'll keep practicing so it becomes second nature--hopefully in time for a play where you can use this new skill."

Episode 74: Brainstorming for Competition

"Okay, everyone...Rona's asked all the troupes to submit ideas to the writers for a playwriting contest--with the top three plays getting performed onstage." Brock explained as the group got together in one of the conference rooms in the theater's backstage area. "So let's brainstorm some potential play titles to give the writers."

"I'll write down everyone's suggestions!" Misty volunteered as she located a wave and pearl print notebook. "Once we have a sizable enough list, we'll narrow them down to the three choices to pick for the writers. I'm only looking for titles--he writers will come up with a plot and everything else."

She looked around at her excited troupemates. "Any volunteers?"

"'The Five Luminous Flowers'?" Dawn suggested. "I'll be happy to play Shaymin!"

"That sounds like a beautiful play!" May smiled as Misty wrote Dawn's suggestion down, as well as "Dawn as Shaymin?" in parentheses.

"'The Golden One of Harmony'?" Roy suggested.

"That one might work with Serena in the lead." Misty replied as she wrote down Roy's suggestion. "Who else? We'll keep working until we can't think of any more!"

"'Fragrance of Jade Leaves', maybe?" Ash suggested. "The idea just popped in my head, so I'll trust the writers to come up with a decent plot..."

Misty thought for a moment. "I can think of several different plots that could go with that..." she admitted as she wrote the title down.

"'Medallion of the High Mountain'?" Brock suggested. "I can see you, me, Ash, and Serena playing the Four Guardian Gods..."

"That DOES sound like fun!" Misty smiled as she happily wrote down Brock's suggestion.

"'Ballad of the Black Pearl'?" May suggested.

"That might work, if we can avoid connotations of pirates." Misty replied. "That might conjure up 'Pirates of the Sevii Islands' to the writers..."

"'The Legend of the Jeweled Mountain'?" Serena suggested.

Misty smiled as she pictured what the colorful glittering mountain set would look like as she wrote Serena's suggestion down. "That would be an exciting adventure..."

"Have we performed 'How Hikari Slew the Arbok' or 'The Tale of the Jade Suicune' before?" Liko wondered. "I feel both of those would make good plays..."

"We have done several different versions of Hikari, but we haven't done 'The Tale of the Jade Suicune' before." Misty assured Liko.

She didn't, however, expect Ash to get up from his seat and quote Kaitou's angry monologue at the height of the story. "We came in good faith that you would offer fifteen towns to us. My king fasted and prayed to Arceus for three days before sending me here with the jade Suicune. If you are intending to keep your word, you will do likewise, and at the end of three days of prayer and fasting, you will host a great ceremony in which I turn the jade Suicune over to you before all of Esta. If not, I will use the jade Suicune to smash this pillar, breaking it and taking me and you with it!"

Applause filled the room at this. "It's decided! If we ever do that play, Ash gets the lead as Kaitou." Brock raved as he applauded.

Even Misty couldn't help but smile as Ash took a bow for the group. "Okay...let's get back to work. Who's next for a suggestion?"

"Speaking about Ash as the lead, I thought of the perfect play for that...'Flute Echoes from the Mountain Mist'." Dawn suggested.

"I would totally try out for the lead if the writers pick that play for our entry." Ash grinned.

"'Sakura and the Kirin'?” Brock suggested. "We could get the animatronics crew to build us a kirin..."

"We have plenty of dragons, Pokemon, and other creatures of Wakunese mythology in our animatronics collection, but I don't think we have a kirin yet." Misty mused. "I'll have to ask when we get done here."

"If the crew needs a reference, I'll lend them one of my Wakunese mythology books." Brock assured Misty as she wrote his suggestion down.

"'The Pearls of the Rainbow'?" May suggested. "We could build or upgrade one of our Ho'oh animatronics for that..."

"Yeah--the crowd went wild when our latest one flew right over the audience!" Roy smiled at a memory of a previous play.

"I'm sure that idea would be both beautiful and exciting..." Misty agreed as she wrote down May's idea. "Keep the ideas, coming, everyone!"

"We're nowhere near done!" Ash vowed. Even Misty was laughing as she turned the page in her notebook to make room for the next wave of ideas.

"If we're looking for a guest star, 'The Tale of Little Raikou'..." Serena suggested.

"If we go with that idea as our entry for the contest, and it wins, I'll see if Forest is interested in guest starring." Brock assured Serena.

"What about you, Misty?" Liko asked. "Even though you are our designated writer, you're welcome to contribute some ideas too."

Misty thought for a moment. "Only idea I can come up with for now would be a play about a character that has to travel to the sea for some reason..." She let that hang as she wrote 'character traveling to the sea?' in her notebook.

"No pressure, Misty--if you can't think of anything right now, you can always add your ideas later." Serena assured Misty as she prepared to write down another suggestion, affirmative murmurs from the others filling the room all the while...
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Episode 75: The Not-So Beautiful Sound of the Vina

In the rehearsal complex's music room, Brock winced as his fingers stumbled over a wrong note. Maybe I should try playing this slow... he thought as he thumbed the music in his script to the beginning of the piece. For a tune named 'I Wish You Well', this is way too fast a tempo...

With that, he readied his vina to play again. 'I Wish You Well', attempt at slow tempo, take one...

As he carefully picked his way through the tune at a prayerful walking tempo, he didn't notice that Misty was listening to him practice from the hallway, muddled tremolos, missed notes and all.

Applause snapped him from his concentration when the last D note faded away some minutes later. "Not bad for the first try!" Misty raved as she applauded. "Is that 'I Wish You Well' from Act 1?"

Brock nodded. "Dunno who wrote the music for the play, but that tune's tempo is way too fast as is in the script. So I thought I would try it at a slow tempo. It sounds SO much better at a slow tempo!"

"Maybe I can ask Rona or the music team to let you play it slow?" Misty offered.

"Possibly...this is Harmonious Raikou's lament for the imperial palace, as he fears the worst for Princess Jade Lily and the imperial family at this point in Act 1." Brock explained. "Then your character, Faithful Dragon, arrives to inform him that Princess Jade Lilly, the Emperor, and Empress are alive, but in hiding from Golden Scyther, setting the main adventure into motion."

"Do you play another tune in celebration when you learn the imperial family and the princess are alive?" Misty wondered.

Piqued, Brock thumbed through more of his script to discover more sheet music near the end of the scene. "Yeah...this is 'The Wind Carries a Wish'--a faster and happier tune, and another one I haven't played before..."

A smile formed on his face. "Maybe I need a break from 'I Wish You Well' for right now...no harm in starting to learn 'The Wind Carries a Wish'--since we are going to start blocking that scene soon."

With that, he began the new tune at a slow and careful tempo so he could get a feel for the rhythm and the basic melody, Misty listening all the while. Despite a few missed notes and shaky tremolos, the tune sounded good for a sight read, he figured.

Misty applauded again as the last high D chord faded away. "Nice! Aside from a few tremolos that sounded off, and the odd missed note, you did great!"

"I plan to work on those for both tunes in the scene." Brock assured Misty. "Keep in mind that 'The Wind Carries a Wish' is a faster melody, but I'm playing it slowly to get a feel for what it will sound like fast."

"If you can't play it right slow, you probably can't play it fast." Misty agreed.

"Not the fastest tune I've ever played, but it is pretty brisk, perfect for a celebratory melody." Brock mused before setting aside his vina long enough to pull out an exercise book.

Inspired, Misty found her bag, dug out her script, then flipped to the scene in question in Act 1. "Well played, milord..." she read her first line.

"Just a sec..." Brock realized what Misty wanted to do, retrieved his script, flipped to the scene Misty's character was in, then set it on a nearby music stand. "Okay...start from when I've finished 'I Wish You Well'...

"Well played, milord..." Misty read her line again.

Brock balked in feigned surprise. "Dragon-san...when did you arrive?"

"Not long ago...I come bearing good news concerning the fate of the imperial family, and Princess Jade Lily." Misty explained. "They are all safe, but are hidden somewhere I have sworn not to disclose, lest Golden Scyther and his men are listening in..."

Brock heaved a sigh of feigned relief. "Thank Arceus the princess, the Emperor, and the Empress are safe. I had feared the worst, and so I was playing a lament to voice my sadness in a way words could not express."

"Let the vina strike up a happier song--Their Majesties are safe." Misty assured Brock.

Brock nodded, then retrieved his vina. "Very well...what sort of happier song do you suggest?" he asked.

"How about a song to assure the princess that you are coming to rescue her and her imperial parents?" Misty suggested. "I'm sure she is as worried about you, as you are for her."

"This is true..." Brock admitted. "His Majesty the Emperor appointed me her royal teacher, and so I taught her everything a princess must know. So while princesses in other lands are forced to only know the way of the embroidery needle and the frying pan, a Wakunese princess can fight as well as any man!"

Misty tried oh-so hard not to laugh and break character at the poetic line. "Then play this song to assure Lily-hime you are well...'The Wind Carries a Wish'"

Brock smiled. "And the wind will carry three wishes of mine in this song..my wish that her parents reclaim their rightful throne, that Golden Scyther faces justice for his treachery, and I can rejoin her in the palace once more."

With that, he started another slightly faster rendition of 'The Wind Carries a Wish', which echoed once again into the hallway...

Episode 76: Interview with the Phoenix and the Delphox

"...it's been called a tale of a clever messenger, but the Kagayou's highly anticipated production of 'The Tale of the Jade Suicune' proves that audiences are willing to watch the seven troupes put on a tale of virtue--albeit an exciting tale of virtue." a TV announcer began. "Joining us live in the studio are the Niji Troupe's yuushi and eiyuna, Ash Ketchum and Serena Lacroix, for some insights behind the scenes, and expanding the classic story to include many more roles and scenes."

He turned to address Ash and Serena, who were relaxed in two chairs. "Ash, Serena, thank you for taking the time out of your busy rehearsal schedule to visit us today."

"The pleasure's all ours." Ash replied. Serena nodded in agreement.

"At first glance, 'The Tale of the Jade Suicune' doesn't sound like it would fit in the action packed Tawame style...how did you manage to make that work?" the announcer asked.

"The writers mainly expanded on Kaitou's journey to the Fire Kingdom, and finally giving the other kingdoms a name, a culture, and an appearance." Ash explained. "This means that Kaitou ends up making some friends along the way--many of which come to back him up against the powerful Fire King."

"That's without giving too much away." Serena assured the TV studio audience. "In the original story, my role, Ayami, only has a handful of lines. In our show, she actually goes with Kaitou to the Fire Kingdom. So she has a part to play in the adventure too."

"Rest assured, there's still plenty of martial arts to be had!" Ash assured the studio audience, to some applause.

"What can you tell us about the new characters in the show?" the announcer asked as the applause quieted.

"Brock's character, Eiji, is a traveling storyteller from the Earth Kingdom." Serena explained. "In a sense, he is both telling us the story, and commenting on what is going on as a character. So he does get a chance to flex his comic muscles a little."

"With so much opportunity to show what is never seen or glossed over in the story, the writers created plenty of named characters for Kaitou to interact with." Ash went on. "So this helps immensely with the old adage 'show, don't tell'."

"How long did it take the prop crew to create the titular Suicune?" the announcer asked.

"Our prop team actually made four jade Suicunes--all of them alike." Ash replied. "Two of them are used in the show, one is on display in the theater's museum to promote the show, and one goes with us on publicity tours."

"Suicune A and Suicune B alternate nights, so if something happens to either one, the other can stand in." Serena explained.

Some 'oh's filled the studio as Serena produced a beautiful golden pouch from her bag, and unwrapped a beautiful leaping Suicune statue carved in green jade from a plush blanket. "Here it is...our publicity Suicune."

Cheers filled the studio as one of the camerapeople hurried to get a closeup of the beautiful statue for the home audience to see. "Actually, it would be more accurate to say they are almost exactly alike." Ash explained as Serena turned the publicity statue upside down to reveal its maker mark, a sun design, on the underside of its stomach. "We tell them apart via the maker mark."

"The maker marks in turn make the statues' names." Serena went on as she carefully put the publicity Suicune away. Performer A is Starry, Performer B is Shiny, Display Suicune is Luna, and Publicity Suicune is Sunny." She proudly held up the golden pouch for the camera to see, to some applause.

"When we take Sunny out in public, it is usually inside a protective case, and under guard." Ash explained. "People are encouraged to look, but not touch."

"I can see why--they all look beautiful!" the announcer agreed as footage of one of the troupe's publicity appearances played for the audience at home...
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