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

Episode 77: Bringing Modern Songs Into the Ancient World


In the music room, Roy studied one of his musical numbers in an upcoming play. "There's no set tune to this number, and no sheet music in my script for this song..."

Inspired, he flagged down Brock as he passed by the room. "If you're not busy with something else, will you teach me how to write an anime song parody?"

"Sure..." Brock replied before joining Roy in the music room. "Which one of your songs in the play do you want to write a parody for?"

"This one here--in the scene where Garnet Mightyena worries about Amethyst Braviary's safety." Roy explained, pointing out a song in Act 2. He knows he has to go find Amethyst Braviary before the winter snows set in--but he doesn't know where Bright Claw is holding Amethyst Braviary captive."

"The longest month’s days have passed, indeed...how I regret the thought that the bounds of autumn have been reached..." Brock read the first two lines of the song before addressing Roy again. "The first step in writing a song parody is, what kind of mood is the original song trying to convey?"

"I get the impression that Garnet Mightyena is afraid for Amethyst Braviary's safety--but he's not gonna cower in a corner like a sacred Buneary." Roy replied. "So it starts out fearful, before turning hopeful."

"Okay...so can you find an anime song that its that description?" Brock asked. "It can be from the original Wakunese, it can be a Paldean dub, it can be a dub from another language. Our goal is to find a new tune to set these lyrics to."

"Yeah!" Roy smiled before hurrying down the hall to the theater library. "Let's see what kinds of songs we can find that are up on MyTube..."

---------

"...Okay, after perusing MyTube for a bit, here's my top five favorites that fit the description we agreed on." Roy explained as he reunited with Brock in the music room some time later. "Number 5...'Sorcerer Journey' Paldean insert song from episode 10--'Mi temor por el reino'. Number 4...'Trinity Angels' Kalosian OP #3. I'll have to ask Serena to translate it for me later, since the video I found didn't have subs. Number 3...'Salvation Four' Unovan English ED #2...Number 2...'Illustrious Magic Knights' original Wakunese OP #4...and my Number 1...'Warrior Miracle' Paldean OP #5."

"All very solid choices..." Brock smiled. "Now...if you had to pick one of those, which one would it be? Keep in mind your range, and how well the tune fits the mood of the song and the lyrics."

Roy thought for a moment. "I think 'Mi temor por el reino' would work best, given the context of the scene, and how Garnet Mightyena feels at that point in the play."

He smiled, pleased at making progress in breathing new life into an ancient song. "We have the new tune we're going to set the lyrics to...so what's next?"

"Next is seeing if the lyrics in the script can fit in the tune we chose." Brock explained. "This means we may have to reword the lyrics in the script a little."

Roy nodded. "You're the expert composer, so I'll let you do that part. If it helps, I like to learn and play the songs on my guitar--I find this helps me memorize the lyrics."

"All right--go get tuned, and I'll have the chords and sheet music ready for you shortly." Brock smiled. "From one guitarist to another--I wouldn't mind trying out our masterpiece on my own guitar myself."

"Granted, I'm no master like you are--but if I'm ever stumped on a chord or a song, I can ask you!" Roy smiled before hurrying to get his guitar from his room.

---------

Roy winced when he saw a Bb chord on the tab Brock had written out. "Hm...how to tackle this chord without a barre?"

"If it's any consolation, I've struggled with barre chords myself for a long time." Brock assured Roy as he arrived with his own black acoustic-electric guitar. "In the case of Bb, you can play it with three fingers, or you can play it with four fingers. Usually, I like to play it on the three higher strings, and not play the lower strings at all."

Roy smiled as Brock demonstrated the chord on his own guitar. "That does sound nice..."

"Another option is to add in the D string to this fingering to get a fuller sound--although this means you'll be doing a small barre across the D and G strings with your third finger." Brock explained before demonstrating the four fingered Bb chord.

"That's a nice Zelda-esque sound!" Roy grinned. "I can probably do the small barre with a little practice."

"You can move higher up the neck, and play it here, if you'd rather not do the small barre." Brock explained, showing Roy a new fingering in a new position. "Or you can play it with three fingers in this position, and remove the high E string."

Roy finished copying down the chord diagrams for all four versions of the Bb chord. "I think I'm gonna try the version on the three high strings first, just to see how it sounds in the context of the song."

With that, he went to work sussing out the melody from the tab, Brock watching just in case he needed help or had questions...
 
Episode 78: The Interview on the Heavenly Jewel


"A tale of two best friends, seeking out a heavenly jewel, and seeking to keep it from falling into evil hands." a TV announcer explained. "But what you may not know is that the Kagayou Theater's latest production almost had a very different plot. Joining us now in the studio are three of the Niji Troupe's stars to tell us about their new play's fascinating journey from pen to stage."

Applause filled the Kanto Today studios as the lights came up on Dawn, Serena, and Ash with the announcer. "Ash, Serena, Dawn...thank you for taking the time out of your busy rehearsal schedule to come see us today." the announcer began.

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

"Tell me, what led you to change your new play's plot?" the announcer asked.

"Simply put, Roy was NOT happy when he heard the writers' original idea for the play's plot." Serena replied.

"Rona has told us often that if we feel that the script needs a rewrite for any reason, to tell the writers, or her." Ash went on. "Typically, when this happens, we often don't see what the original version of the script was like."

"In the original first draft of the script, the jewel was a pendant that Divine Braviary wore." Dawn explained. "On top of that, Divine Braviary and Dutiful Mightyena didn't even realize they had the jewel all along until near the end of the play! Roy didn't like this plot, and talked the writers into rewriting the script into the show you see now."

"I see..." the announcer replied over some light applause. "Do you three remember specifically why Roy didn't like the original plot, or are you not told this when a show is rewritten?"

"If a show ends up rewritten before we receive the script for the first time, we are told what is being changed, and why it is being changed, but not who suggested the change." Serena explained. "This is mainly to protect the one that objected from any retaliation."

"In the past, it was not unheard of for actors to be blacklisted, driven out of the troupe, or in extreme cases, even killed if they objected to part of or all of a script." Ash explained, to shudders from the audience. "This is why we have the right to refuse and the right to change enshrined in performer's rights documents today."

"Oh"s went up from the audience at this. "The right to refuse simply means that performers and crew have the right to refuse to perform any material, for any reason, without fear of repercussion." Dawn explained. "The right to change simply means that performers and crew have the right to make reasonable changes to the script."

"So what Roy and Liko both objected to was a cliche plot, and the lack of character development for the villains." Serena went on. "Roy felt that the main characters having the jewel everyone was after be with Liko the whole time was cliche, and Liko felt that the villains needed a reason to be seeking the jewel. As they were, she said, they felt like Saturday morning cartoon bad guys."

"What happens to the original versions of the script that you don't receive?" the announcer wondered. "Are they ever released to the public?"

"When a script is revised, or rewritten, the original versions are typically returned to our library." Ash explained. "The only time they are ever trashed is if there's a lot of objection from within the troupe, or outside the troupe."

"I can only think of a couple of plays that had their original versions trashed instead of being reworked." Dawn remembered. "Sometimes we do release the original versions for the public to view in some form. Usually, we release the script online, but sometimes, we will also release animatics of what the original version of a scene, an act or a feat was supposed to look like, and MIDIs of what a song or a solo was supposed to sound like. If Brock is up to the challenge, we may even release an animated version of what the original version of a play was supposed to look like!"

This got the crowd excited. "We only release full animated versions of a play as part of a milestone anniversary for a play, or the original version and the version that is commonly performed are dramatically different." Serena assured the announcer. This way, we're able to comment on the differences between the two versions--and fans can see what a favorite play almost was.

"It also allows us a glimpse into our writing team's process." Ash agreed. "Depending on the public's interest in the play, we may release a feature version that walks them through the writing process, from initial first version, to the final version that gets performed onstage..."
 
Episode 79: The Great and Wonderful Costumes


The backstage area of the Kagayou hummed with activity as the members of the Niji Troupe waited to receive their costumes for "The Great and Wonderful Pearl". Inside one of the fitting rooms, Misty patiently waited as the costume crew tied on the royal blue sash that would complete her blue, cyan, and silver costume. "...and there we are! Go on and walk around in it, and see how it feels."

"This feels great..." Misty smiled as she walked around the fitting room. "I can't wait to fight in this!"

She smiled when she heard a familiar vina play a soft D chord as she departed the fitting room. "Brock, you look great!" she smiled as she admired the red rose designs on Brock's majestic green, red, and gold costume.

"As do you, Lady Rain." Brock replied in character, playing another soft chord all the while as they located a quiet corner of the room for some respite from the excited chaos in the room. "To my knowledge, we are the first two of the stars to get our costumes."

But before he could begin playing the vina some more, Misty heard a crew member call "I need Exalted Fire, please!"

"The friends of song will be reunited before too long..." Misty smiled as she watched Ash hurry into a vacant fitting room. "Wonder what the flute he'll play in this play will look like?"

"Ash's flutes are like my vinas--they are custom designed for each play we do." Brock explained. "So it's very rare we'll get two instruments that look identical."

A familiar bansi playing a heroic melody spurred Brock to join in with a rhythmic accompaniment as Ash--now in a red, orange and gold costume with black trim that evoked fire--approached the nook, playing an orange and gold bansi with phoenix designs. "That looks and sounds amazing!" Misty raved as some applause went up for the performance.

"Thanks..." Ash smiled as he pocketed his instrument. "May's getting fitted now, then Dawn will get hers..."

"I'm excited to see what Divine Moon's costume will look like..." Misty replied, aware of Brock softly playing an exercise based on a dance.

Ash recognized the tune Brock was practicing. "Working on 'The Bright Moon Over the High Mountain'?"

"Or at least, the dance version of that tune." Brock replied as he continued playing. "I thought it would be appropriate to announce Dawn with the fast movement..."

Just then, May arrived, now wearing an elegant pink costume with pale green and gold accents. "The sage meditating with the vina?" she smiled as she listened to Brock practicing the slow movement of 'The Bright Moon Over the High Mountain'."

"I have the fast part of this tune down--it's often the slow parts that are more difficult to learn." Brock explained as he welcomed Liko and Roy to the nook.

"Playing a little something to announce the lead role?" Roy smiled as he admired Liko's own pale blue snow print costume and his own gold-orange and blue costume with thunderbolt motifs.

"Yeah..." Brock smiled. "And get some extra practice on the slower movement, too."

Just then, he spotted Dawn emerging in a beautiful blue, purple and silver outfit with gold accents. The other troupe members and Rona watched as Dawn spun, jumped, and twirled to the beat of the vina's joyous melody, Rona taking pictures all the while.

"Once the song ended, the backstage area roared with applause. "That was amazing!" Serena raved as she emerged in a beautiful yellow and orange outfit with a magenta sash. "Shame I was getting fitted during the show..."

Rona motioned to Brock and Dawn. "Would you be willing to do that again out on the stage for a promo video for the play?"

"Sure!" Dawn replied. Brock nodded in agreement.

"Before we do that, though...let's get some pictures of all of you for the program and some publicity shots..." Rona replied as Misty shepherded the group together for a group photo.

"Cheese!" the group smiled as they posed in character for the camera.

Rona smiled as she reviewed the picture. "I'll let you all keep this one for a keepsake--if you'll meet me in the photo room, we'll get some better backdrops for program and publicity pictures..."

---------

"This beats the clutter of backstage..." Liko smiled as she made a heroic but elegant pose against a winter day backdrop.

"Yeah--all the set pieces and props everywhere back there wouldn't do for a program picture." Roy agreed as he prepared to throw a punch at an imagined target for the camera.

"Hut!" Ash cried, brandishing his bansi like a sword as Serena looked on in feigned terror for the camera.

Rona, meanwhile, smiled as she reviewed each and every picture the photographers were taking on her PC. "Can I say I love how you guys are in character even during photo shoots?"

She shepherded the group to her for a moment. "Once we're done here, I'll e-mail you all the pictures from today, so you can decide which shot you want in the program, which shots you want to send out for the publicity campaign, and which shots you want to keep as mementos of the play--since I know you all like to have some memories of every play we do--not just you guys, but the others in the troupe, as well."

"It's cool we started a tradition..." Dawn smiled. "What started as a few impromptu shots backstage during 'The Legend of Celestial Crown Mountain' evolved into a sweet way to remember all the plays we do--so much so the other six troupes are doing it too."

"So long as we can step on that grand stage, let's get a memory to remember it by!" Ash vowed, to cheers from the others as they hurried to take some more character pictures...
 
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Episode 80: Stream of the Red Shadow


Good morning all, and thanks for joining us for our promo stream for "The Red Shadow"! Rona typed as a steady stream of screennames entered the chat.

Once sure the camera was on, and Dawn, Brock, Misty, and Serena were present in the room, Rona typed @ PearlDeerling is here, @ EmeraldRaikou is here, @ SapphireDragon is here, and @ GoldenDelphox is here, so if you want to ask them a question, here's your chance! If you have a question for me, tag @ GreatRainbow1.

The rules for questions are over here.
a mod explained before creating the stream's rules block, and moving them to a place where all present in the stream could see.

"If you want to say hi to Ash, Liko, Roy, or Serena, they'll have a promo stream later tonight." Misty assured the chat, making some heart and flute emojis appear in the chat.

"does @ RubyPhoenix get a new ::flute emoji:: for da play?" a chatter asked, never mind that Ash wasn't present to answer his tag.

"I can assure you Ash has a flute just for this play." Serena assured the chatter. "Just like Brock has a new harp."

Harp emojis and excited emojis filled the stream as Brock revealed a beautiful vina with emerald studded ivy inlays. "Here it is...I will take requests, just tag me with the tune you'd like to hear."

Serena smiled as Brock played a soft D chord. "The show tells the story of Glorious Dragon--Misty's role--, and her thrilling chase to bring the titular Red Shadow, a notorious martial master, to justice. Along the way, the group of new friends also seek to keep the thirty Serene Sakura Tokens out of the Red Shadow's hands. But through it all, Glorious Dragon and her friends refuse to give up, even if they have to go all across Waku to complete their mission."

Cheer and excited emojis filled the chat at this. "Rest assured, Sapphire and Marine are ready to go!" Misty told a chatter. "We haven't blocked the Red Shadow fight yet, though."

"When we say we have or have not blocked a scene, all that means is the location of actors on the stage and the movements that they make." Dawn explained. "It's a team effort between us, the crew, and Rona, so everyone knows who's supposed to do what, and when."

"@ EmeraldRaikou--can i hear 'song of the pearl shroud' on the new vina, plz?" a chatter requested.

"Here...Misty set up a piano backing track for Brock to play with on her PokeNav. "Some accompaniment for you--I recorded the piano for these backing tracks myself, so you'll have a realistic sounding piano to practice with or play with any time you like, even when I can't be there."

"::vina emoji:: and :: piano emoji:: sound beautiful together!" a chatter raved as Brock checked his tuning.

"Since Misty recorded all my piano backing tracks on a real piano, you don't get the obvious cheap plonkiness you hear with some MIDI pianos, or some commercial tracks." Brock explained to a chatter. "Having a piano to practice with is helpful in other ways--it's a good stand in for playing with the orchestra, which I ultimately have to do in a lot of plays; and a way to help figure out the tune's melody when I'm first starting to learn a tune."

Once sure Misty's track was ready, he readied the vina to play. "Here we go..here is 'Song of the Pearl Shroud'."

Serena smiled as Brock played the beautiful melody, accompanied by the piano track in A minor. This would be beautiful with a bansi, with vina accompaniment! I can see the boys playing this together in a future play!

Applause emojis and heart emojis filled the chat at the song's conclusion. "Thank you..." Brock smiled before taking a bow for the camera.

Misty noticed a new question in the chat. "My favorite fight in the play? To be honest, I've enjoyed all the ones we've blocked so far. But I am looking forward to Brock rescuing me from Radiant Ariados in Act 2."

Arrow emojis filled the chat in agreement. "Mind you, Misty does get a chance to fight Radiant Ariados--my shot only buys her time to get out of her bindings." Brock assured the chat. "That's without giving too much away..."
 
Episode 81: The Ever Changing Arbok Song


"That's odd..." Roy mused as he studied one of Brock's vocal numbers in the script of "The Tale of the Great Thunder". "The rap sheet song in the script doesn't mention any specific offenses, except for the offense that drives the story--attempting to steal the Jeweled Pyroar Talismans."

"I wonder how Brock would react to the idea of changing up the rap sheet song every show?" Liko suggested. "This is one of his songs in the play..."

Roy smiled as he heard the notes of a vina drifting down the hallway. "Easiest way to find Ash or Brock--follow your ears!" With that, he motioned for Liko to follow him down the hall, where they found Brock in one of the practice rooms, playing a beautiful and well loved vina with willow designs along with a practice track. "Oh, hi!" he smiled as the song ended. "What can I do for you?" he asked as he set aside his instrument and removed his fingerpicks.

"We were reading over 'The Tale of the Great Thunder' in preparation for our first acting rehearsal tomorrow, and we noticed that your song in Act 1 going over Exalted Arbok's rap sheet doesn't really tell the audience just what Exalted Arbok did to alert the imperial spies, except for the one offense that drives the rest of the play." Roy explained.

"So we were thinking about what you would think of changing those other offenses every show--so Exalted Arbok's rap sheet is different each show." Liko explained. "You do have a knack for improv, so it shouldn't be that hard..."

"That's actually a great idea!" Brock smiled. "I've been thinking about that song myself--changing up just what Exalted Arbok did every show solves a big problem for me. So before we go to Rona with the idea, let's fill in the blanks with some example offenses so she has an idea of what this could look like."

A familiar black acoustic-electric guitar in the practice room gave him an idea. "I'll give the vina a break for now, and use the guitar for this brainstorming session."

"We'll go get our scripts while you tune up!" Liko called as she and Roy hurried out, leaving Brock to tune his beloved guitar in peace.

---------

"Now then...Act 1, Scene 4--Great Thunder meets Brilliant Rose in a town." Liko mused as she found the scene in her script.

"Here we are in Phoenix Springs!" Roy read his first line in the scene, making a grand gesture to an imagined town. "But we're not here to bathe in the hot springs today...one of my closest allies, an imperial spy, is stationed here. Maybe he would know how to help you find the other talismans, and protect them from Exalted Arbok's men. If Exalted Arbok is as dangerous as you say, he's probably known to the Emperor's spies."

"That, and they can move across the land without Exalted Arbok and his men knowing!" Liko agreed. "What does your spy companion use for a cover, so we can find him?"

"He poses as a storyteller, so bad guys don't even know his harp has divine power until too late!" Roy smiled.

"Someone who can play magic like a song--I must see this!" Liko gasped in feigned excitement.

Brock lifted a hand to stop the scene. "Let's jump ahead to the part just before the song--after Great Thunder has introduced Brilliant Rose to Righteous Snow."

Liko located her first line in the scene in question. "I'm trying to find out what information I can about Exalted Arbok, and the locations of the remaining Jeweled Pyroar Talismans. Have you or any other spies heard of someone with this title?"

Brock nodded yes. "Exalted Arbok is fairly well known to us--a rogue who has frustrated the Emperor." he read from his script perched on a music stand. "No matter what we may do to attempt to capture him, he always manages to elude our grasp. The attack on your sect and the loss of all but one of the Jeweled Pyroar Talismans is just his latest of many offenses..."

With that, he began rattling off offenses in a song like cadence, punctuating his patter with a few occasional chords:

Pilfering every one of the Exalted Kirin Pearls,
Trying to play discord in the martial world with the Gold Winter Harp,
Attempting to call the floods of spring with the Auspicious Rain Token,
Almost ringing in a drought with the Deadly Summer Bell,
Trying to strike down nobles with the Hopeful Ash Blades...
 
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Episode 82: The Goddess' Rainbow Robe


"...As Ryo made his way towards Clear Day Lake to meet his companions, he found something amazing hanging from a pine tree." Brock finished setting up Scene 3 of Act 1 for the many children and their teachers watching in the Kagayou's majestic main theater.

With that, the lights came up on the set of a Wakunese plain, complete with a prop pine tree at stage left, with the rainbow robe that gave the play its name beautifully draped over one of its prop branches. Ash--now in a red commoner's outfit, arrived onstage with a prop Wakunese style fishing pole and a woven bamboo tackle box. "Ah...what a beautiful day to go fishing..." he smiled as he savored the imagined sunshine on his face. "I shouldn't keep Eiji-san and Akira-san waiting, lest they catch all the Magikarp and Goldeen in the lake for themselves!"

Giggles went up as Ash started towards stage left, but the laughter intensified when he did a double take at the shimmering rainbow robe on the prop pine tree. "What's this? Did a lady leave her robe behind?" he wondered as he carefully took the robe and examined it. "This must belong to a noble lady! No doubt she feels ashamed going out without her robe!"

He thought for a moment. "Eiji-san and Akira-san will understand once I explain everything...for now, I'm going back to town to find this robe's rightful owner!"

Just before he could start offstage, Serena--now in a beautiful rainbow outfit--appeared before Ash in a swirl of smoke and colorful lights, to a triumphant stinger from the orchestra. "Hold, mortal...that is my robe you hold in your hand." she began. "Lady Amaterasu noticed I lost it, and allowed me to return here to look for it..."

Ash knelt before Serena in respect, and offered her the robe. "Here is your robe back, megami-sama. Forgive me for thinking it was a common noble's robe!"

Laughter filled the theater at this. "As thanks for your honesty and kindness, I will grant you a reward before I return to Lady Amaterasu's side." Serena replied as she put the robe back on, completing her beautiful costume. "Name what you wish, and it is yours--anything at all!"

Ash thought for a moment over a soft heroic interlude. "I ask not for gold and jewels, but I do wish I was more than a common fieldworker. So I wish for the chance to be known as a hero, even if it is only for a day."

"All right...I believe you could brave the dangers of a great quest." Serena smiled. "I will ask Lady Amaterasu about a quest for you. If there is something bothering the mortals, Jirachi will visit you tonight with your quest."

With that, she disappeared in a burst of colorful smoke, leaving Ash alone onstage as the lights went down...
 
Episode 83: Yuushi and Eiyuna Brainstorm a Play

"Okay...Rona's announced another playwriting contest between all seven troupes, so what should we write for our entry?" Ash asked Serena as he settled before a PC, ready to write down some initial ideas for their contribution to the Niji Troupe's entries. "I know Misty and Brock are writing a play, Liko and Roy are writing a play, and May and Dawn are writing a play..."

"So before we write our play, what should we call it?" Serena asked. "Keep in mind that if our entry wins the best troupe play or the best overall, we all have to perform it, so don't fill it with stuff you like to do."

Ash thought for a moment "'The Noble Phoenix Medallions' sounds cool, but everyone has to perform it..." he reminded himself as he wrote the title idea down. "I'll keep this one in mind if we can't think of anything else..."

"What about a story about a wandering scholar who wields the Exalted Raikou Sword?" Serena suggested.

"Swap that to a bow and Brock could easily be the lead!" Ash smiled as he proudly typed "The Tale of the Exalted Raikou Bow (working title)" on the top of a new document in the word processor.

"Okay! We'll worry about songs and solos after we write out the lines." Serena agreed. "The music team has said they'll be happy to help anyone with songs and solos for their entry. So what should happen to our wandering scholar?"

"Let's call him Heavenly Raikou for now." Ash replied as he wrote "Heavenly Raikou, a storyteller and scholar of ancient lore" on the cast list.

"Okay, Heavenly Raikou is asked to find a miracle elixir hidden away in some ruins to save the princess' life after evil sect members poisoned her." Serena suggested, spurring Ash to write out her story idea as she spoke. "Along the way, he meets others who have a bone to pick with the evil sect--and that his journey may have a connection to an old folktale!"

"I can work with this!" Ash smiled before scrolling back up to the cast list in his document. "What kind of character would you like to play?" he asked Serena after writing in "Divine Phoenix, a young and spirited adventurer seeking a name for himself (Me!)" into the cast list.

Serena noticed the "Me!" in the forming cast list. "Take that out--you still have to audition like everyone else..."

Once sure Ash had complied, she described her potential character. "Let's call her Noble Delphox for the moment...she joins up with Heavenly Raikou and co. because her sect was destroyed by the evil sect Heavenly Raikou and co. are after..."
 
Episode 84: Readthrough of the Talisman


The backstage readthrough room buzzed with activity as the Niji Troupe got together to read through their newest play. "I'm a little surprised I'm not considered one of the lead roles, considering how much of the play I'm in..." Brock mused as he found a seat near Misty. "I am looking forward to saving you from Golden Scyther in Act 2..."

"Well, I'm actually going to be struggling when you guys reach where I'm being held, so be ready for a fight!" Misty smiled.

Brock smiled. "I promise I'll do my best to make sure the Raikou gets to roar in that scene." He let that hang as Rona arrived in the room.

"Now then...thank you all for a great audition session." Rona smiled. "Does anyone have any questions about their role, or the play as a whole?"

When no one said anything, Rona gave the gathered troupe a synopsis of the play's story. 'The Black Jeweled Talisman' tells the story of Azure Dragon..."

"My role!" Misty smiled.

"...who finds the base of the talisman while on an assignment as a heroine for hire." Rona continued, acknowledging Misty with a smile. "After bringing the base to her companion Green Raikou..."

"My role!" Brock announced.

"...Green Raikou tells her that the talisman is not at full protective power because its jewels were scattered when the evil Golden Scyther tried to steal it." Rona went on, also acknowledging Brock with a smile. "After rallying some more companions for the journey, Azure Dragon sets out to find the talisman's jewels, defeat Golden Scyther, and return the talisman to its rightful place."

She next addressed the excited actors before her. "Does anyone have a question about any specific scene before we go through the play scene by scene?"

"I have a question about my first scene..." May asked. "Should I already be onstage when Azure Dragon and Green Raikou arrive at Azure Wind Lake? Or do I meet them onstage?"

Rona studied the scene in question. "Based on my understanding of the lines in this scene, you meet Misty and Brock onstage."

"Speaking of entrances, I have a question about our arrival at Silver Breeze Mine in Act 2..." Misty interjected. "Since we learn in the previous scene that Lugia is deep down in the underground lake in the mine, should we bring it up when we first arrive, or leave that a surprise for when we reach Lugia's abode?"

"Will Lugia be a puppet or an animatronic?" Dawn asked.

"How would a puppet in water work?" Roy wondered, picturing a puppet Lugia head on a floatie designed to look like Lugia's body in his mind.

"Who said the puppeteers or operators had to be on the figure?" Liko suggested. "If we went the animatronic route, Lugia could function on the same principle as a toy submarine, and the operators and voice actor could control him remotely..."
 
Episode 85: Rehearsing the Bright Blade


A backstage training room hummed with activity as the Niji Troupe gathered to go over some key scenes in the play "The Book of the Bright Blade". "Okay...does anyone have any new questions about the play as a whole, or have any new questions about their role?" Rona asked as she arrived in the room."

When no one said anything, she explained to the excited troupe members. "Now then, today we'll be doing some preliminary acting practice for some key scenes in the play before we go out onstage to block them properly. So let's get started with Act 1 of Scene 3, where Exalted Phoenix and Victorious Delphox ask Sacred Raikou what he knows about the Book of the Bright Blade, and Wicked Blossom's plot."

"Do we already have the book at this point, or are we still looking for it?" Ash asked.

"According to the script, you are still looking for it--and you are trying to find it before Wicked Blossom does." Rona explained.

Ash nodded, then found his first line in the scene. "Raikou-san, if you have a moment?"

"What is it, Phoenix-san?" Brock asked as he met Ash and Serena in the taped off area Rona had designated as the stage.

"What rumors have you heard about the Book of the Bright Blade, and Wicked Blossom's attempts to find it?" Ash replied.

"We fear that she plans to use the techniques inside to subdue the martial world to her thorny fist." Serena agreed.

"You would not be wrong to assume Wicked Blossom has world ruling ambitions..." Brock began as Rona cued some tense music. "She is a crafty one, and her Blackthorn Fist has ravaged many a noble school with poison. Fortunately for you both, she and her followers have not yet managed to find the book. I fear that she may eventually find it!"

"So how do we find it before she does?" Serena asked.

"The noble warriors that wrote the book knew well that evil would try to locate and abuse the sacred techniques within." Brock explained. "So they hid the book in a location so remote, no one has yet found it."

He triumphantly held up a script for a different play standing in for a book. "We have an advantage that Wicked Blossom and her men do not--the writings that the noble warriors composed that reveal the book's location. To the average person, it is simple song lyrics and poetry. But if you know the larger area around Golden Mountain City well, the noble warriors refer to landmarks in the area."

"What about Summer Grace-sama?" Ash asked. "Has she been asked about the book's location before?"

"I have no doubts about Summer Grace's gift of divine sight, but the book has even managed to elude her wisdom." Brock sighed. "When I asked her about the book, and Wicked Blossom's quest to obtain it, she only told me this--'The wicked blossom seeks the bright blade, but she will not find it. Without the noble warriors' guidance, she will forever wander the martial world, an unworthy holder of divine power. But to those guided by the noble warriors, the bright blade will appear, and cut down the wicked blossom when she least expects it'...
 
Episode 86: The Raikou Sings on TV

"A Raikou-born with a gift of song, an elixir of eternal life, and a treacherous official intent on drinking the elixir himself--a thrilling chase is at the heart of the Kagayou's newest play. 'The Raikou's Song'." a TV announcer explained. "Joining us live in the studio is lead actor Brock Harrison, and fellow actors Serena Lacroix and May Alder to talk about the new play, and what goes on behind the scenes to put one of these epic productions together."

Cheers filled the "Kanto Today" studios as Brock led Serena and May into the stage area. "Brock, Serena, May--thank you for taking the time out of your rehearsal schedule to come see us today." the announcer began.

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

"Tell us--what can you tell us about the show without giving too much away?" a female announcer asked.

"The show tells the story of Amber Raikou--my role!--a hero for hire who has the gift of magic in his song." Brock explained. "One day, he is asked to find the legendary Elixir of Longevity at the ruins of an old palace. But not long after rallying some companions for the journey, he discovers that a treacherous official is pursuing him, intent on drinking the Elixir of Longevity for himself! So can Amber Raikou use his magical song to keep the sacred elixir out of evil hands?"

Cheers went up at this. "Is the language your character sings in for the magical song scenes a real language, or is it just gibberish?" the male announcer asked.

"It is a real translatable language based on Talien, with elements of other languages in there." Brock explained. "It has a dictionary and a phrase book, so you can translate what I'm singing into a variety of languages, as well as write coded messages in the language."

"So far, we have dictionaries and phrasebooks for English, Paldean, Kalosian, and Talien, but we're working on a Wakunese dictionary and phrasebook--and more dictionaries and phrasebooks in other languages." May assured the audience.

Applause went up at this. "Care to give us a sneak peek of that magical song?" the female announcer asked.

"Sure...this is the sunrise song from Act 1." Brock explained.

Once the lights in the studio had gone down, and the 'Kanto Today' house band had played him an introduction, Brock sang from a soft golden spotlight:

Ontas kritela nosontolis
Virtili varetzuli
Kiyetu sanela hala'hui
Leilian vo'elus virras...


He then started the iconic chorus:

Vira notu sontiso
Wori melivra o
Huisas sanaela hala
Rekriato me
Kaya naiatolus
Wirehi kala'us
Le'a le'u teras
Rekriato me...
 
Episode 87: The Costumes for a Spooky Tale


The backstage area of the Kagayou buzzed with excitement as the members of the Niji Troupe arrived to receive their costumes for "The Hundred and Eight Ghostly Beads". Liko was already in her costume--an ornate red, blue, and gold costume, complete with the red version of her heart pendant. "Lookin' good, there!" Roy smiled as he emerged from a fitting room in a gold and black costume with Mightyena designs.

"As do you, Mightyena-san." Liko smiled in character. "The costume crew picked the red heart for my costume to show off my character's courage and deep love for the other main characters."

"I'm not surprised--red symbolizes strength, power, resolve, joy and happiness in the Wakunese worldview." Brock explained as he emerged from a dressing room in an ornate orange, gold, and blue costume with Raikou stripe designs.

After accepting a glittering gold vina from a prop crew member, he assured Liko and Roy "Serena's coming--she's getting her costume as we speak."

With that, he started playing an excerpt of the play's main theme--"Prayer to the Night Sky". He didn't notice that Serena had emerged from the dressing room in an ornate shimmering gold costume with Delphox motifs--complete with ears and a shimmering golden tail. For a moment, the bustle in the backstage area came to a halt as Serena danced to the vina's song, showcasing a unique form of dance that was one part Kalosian revue dancer, and one part Tawame dancer.

Applause filled the backstage area when the song ended some time later. "If that was a preview of the play's main theme, I can't wait to hear the whole thing with the orchestra and Ash on opening night!" Dawn raved as she emerged from the dressing room in a white and blue costume with Deerling motifs, complete with a beaded headdress.

"That was it?" Ash asked as he emerged from a dressing room in a pale green costume with red and gold trim, a pale green bansi in his hands. "I would've loved to have joined in!"

"I still need a little practice with the part where you join in..." Brock admitted. "But we'll do that once we all have our costumes, and our final instructions for dress rehearsals and performances."

"HAH!!!" Misty cried as she made a dramatic leap into the group's stage area, now in a pale blue, old, and silver outfit with dragon designs. "Your reign of terror ends here, Spiritomb!" she vowed, quoting her character's lines at the play's climax. "Now, return to the abyss from whence you came, and trouble this land no more!"

"Bravo! Encore!" May's voice cheered, snapping Misty out of character as May emerged from the dressing room, now wearing a pink, orange, and gold costume. "I can't wait to see you say that onstage to the Spiritomb puppet!"

"Neither can I..." Rona smiled as she arrived with her camera. "Let's get a few pictures here before we take pictures for the play's program..."

"Cheese!" the group smiled as a camera flash lit up the backstage area...
 
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Episode 88: The Orbs the Graceful Rainbow Seeks


"It was nice of Rona to just have us do the readthrough while the backstage area gets expanded..." Liko smiled as the group got together to read over the Niji Troupe's latest play.

"It sorely needed it, too--our usual room was starting to get a little cramped, thanks to all the newcomers in the troupe..." Brock agreed as he found a place at the backstage lounge's spacious table to sit. "But this will do very nicely for right now while the construction is going on."

He turned his attention to his copy of the script. "The show tells the story of Graceful Rainbow..."

"My role!" Serena grinned,

"...a warrior-dancer who is searching for the hundred Wonderful Orbs, and if they are as wonderful as people say they are." Brock went on. "After meeting up with others seeking the orbs, Graceful Rainbow and her friends discover the orbs are as wonderful as they are claimed to be--and their powers could be devastating in the wrong hands."

Misty, meanwhile, read over Scene 3 of Act 1 with a bemused grimace. "It would be nice if the Wonderful Orbs had equally wonderful names..."

Excited murmurs filled the lounge at this. "Okay--if you could name the orbs, what would you name them?" Brock asked as Serena delivered a piece of paper and a pen to Misty.

"I'm not sure--but I'm open to hearing you guys' suggestions." Misty admitted. "Once we have at least a hundred--or a little more, I'll see if Rona's open to the idea."

"Celestial Storm!' Roy suggested, to excited cheers as Misty wrote the idea down.

"How about Harmonious Snow?" Liko suggested.

"That's a pretty one!" Misty smiled as she wrote the idea down. "What else?"

"Harmonious Petal?" May suggested. "Glorious Autumn would be pretty too--especially with falling autumn leaves everywhere..."

"Noble Fire would be cool!" Ash suggested.

"Glorious Willow would be nice..." Brock suggested.

"Divine Day would look pretty!" Serena suggested. The suggestions kept coming from around the room as Misty wrote down each of the nice sounding ideas:

"Sacred Dream!"

"Divine Twilight!"

"Celestial Heaven!"

"Verdant Star!"

"Exalted Orchid!"

"Virtuous Rose, maybe?"

"That's a pretty one, Brock!"

"Brilliant Tempest!"

"Great Ivy!"

"Heavenly Breeze!"

"Joyful Sun!"

"Heavenly Aurora would be both beautiful, and cool!"

"I'll add Celestial Rain to the list..." Misty mused as she waited for more suggestions...
 
Episode 89: From the Screen to the Stage


In a acting training room, Rona watched as Ash and a dull green haired girl in a navy blue training leotard dashed around the room, clearly practicing a chase scene as the group and some other members of the Niji Troupe looked on, Once Ash had cornered his acting partner in the upper right corner of the room, he unrolled a little of his training shirt's right sleeve, as if revealing something on his arm, making the dull green haired girl rear back in feigned surprise. "It can't be...that's the imperial crest! Are you..."

"Okay!" Rona lifted a hand to stop the scene. "Catrina, nice work on the surprise! The only thing that would make the reveal of the crest even better is a little more shock in your expression. Remember that Ash is revealing his character's true identity as the imperial prince Brilliant Phoenix in this scene--and your character knows her number's up when she sees that chrysanthemum."

"Little more shock on the crest reveal...okay!" Catrina smiled as she made a note in her script.

"I know it's hard getting the surprise and shock right when I don't have the armband yet, but I thought you did great!' Ash assured Catrina as he accepted some water from Tintri, and Catrina accepted some water from her Glaceon Blanche.

"Catrina, Ash--you two have earned a break for now." Rona assured Ash and Catrina. "May, Dawn, let's work on your opening narration for this episode of the play--'The Golden Scyther and the Jade Raikou'."

"Remember--just like the TV show, you want your dialogue to sound like a natural conversation." Brock reminded May and she and Dawn stepped into the stage area. "It's okay to pause for dramatic effect--and above all, don't race so fast through the dialogue that you forget to breathe."

"Imagine that something cool happened in the news, and you and I were getting together to talk about it in a cafe somewhere." Dawn suggested. "That's what these in between episode narrations should be like."

"Okay." May grinned before finding the narration leading up to the play's second episode.

Once Rona had given her the cue to begin, she cried in character "That's amazing! Do Their Majesties know that their son ventures out in disguise to bring rogues and criminals to justice?"

"They know, and they approve of what he and his companions do." Dawn replied. "He has captured some criminals that even the imperial army couldn't find, and recovered some valuable treasures."

May nodded. "That reminds me...I heard that he captured the notorious rogue Golden Scyther, and recovered a Jade Raikou statue."

"You speak the truth--usually, what happens is Sir Phoenix listens in to the petitions his parents hear to learn about wrongs in the city to be righted. But sometimes, petitioners come to him directly." Dawn explained.

"All right, and scene!" Rona smiled, pleased May had not rambled through her lines. "Your discussion in a cafe analogy worked well, Dawn..."

"Thanks..." Dawn smiled. "Can you keep the cafe analogy in mind when we do this on stage?"

"I'll do my best." May assured her companion as she read through more of the script. "I like how the writers kept in some middle of the episode commentary, like our characters do in the TV show..."
 
Episode 90: The Dragon and Phoenix Get Their Costumes


The backstage area of the theater hummed with activity as the members of the Niji Troupe received their costumes for "The Auspicious Dragon and Phoenix". Brock, now in a ornate green, pale green, white and gold costume with subtle Raikou motifs, halfheartedly plucked out a bored melody as he watched troupe members coming and going into the row of fitting rooms. No Ash or Misty anywhere...maybe they haven't been called yet?

His mood brightened when he spotted Serena approaching him in a majestic gold and orange costume with some lavender accents on the bottom, complete with a headdress that evoked Delphox ears. "There's Sacred Delphox...any word on our two leads yet?"

"Waiting their turn." Serena explained as she removed the headdress long enough to tie back her hair, so it wouldn't ruin the majestic look of a Delphox goddess that her character was supposed to evoke. "Liko's getting her costume now, then May will get hers, then you'll see Misty. Ash is supposed to follow Misty, so you'll hear him before you see him!"

"Here..." Brock located a pocket mirror lying on a table, allowing Serena to see herself. "How does it look, Delphox-san?"

"I think it looks great!" a female voice raved.

Serena whirled around to see Liko arriving in an ornate purple, blue and gold costume with Braivary wing designs, with the purple version of her heart pendant to match. "Thanks, Liko...you look good yourself!"

"I'm kinda glad only May gets wings for her costume..." Liko admitted. "I wonder how she manages to wear something like that and not knock things over?"

"I can take the wings off until the number I need them." May assured Liko before modeling an ornate pink, orange and gold costume, complete with orange and gold Beautifly wings, for the others. "All I have to do is gently detach the wings, like this..."

"Oh, I see--the wings are subtly attached with Velcro!" Liko smiled as May carefully removed her costume's wings, then set them down on the table.

"I'll put them back on once we're all in costume, and ready for pictures." May assured Liko.

Just as Serena put her costume's headdress back on, Misty arrived in a beautiful royal blue, cyan, and silver costume. "There's the dragon!" Brock smiled as Misty bravely posed with some prop twinblades.

"Ash is coming, so he should be over here right about..." Misty began.

She smiled at a familiar bansi flourish in D major. "now..." She sheathed her prop weapons as Ash approached the group in a majestic red, orange, and gold costume with rising phoenix motifs, playing a bansi with fire designs for his starry eyed Pikachu...
 
Episode 91: The Dancing Taillow on Stream


"Good morning all." Rona addressed the camera as users made their way into the chat for a promotional stream. "Thanks for joining us for our promotional stream for 'The Dancing Taillow Scroll'--Misty is here, Brock is here, May is here, and and Dawn is here to answer your questions about the play itself--or just what it's like to be a Tawame performer." With that, the group's tags appeared beneath them on the screen.

"@ SapphireDragon--what is it like auditioning for a tawame play?" a chatter asked. "is it any different from a Western play?"

"Yes, and no." Misty replied. "You still have to read a scene, and you do have to sing a song, but depending on the role you're auditioning for, you might be asked to do something else, as well."

"Usually, you'll be asked to dance, but you may be asked to play an instrument in lieu of a song, or perform an athletic feat in addition to saying lines, to name a few examples. So we're not just standing there reading lines with Rona when we read scenes." Brock explained. "Depending on the scene Rona wants us to prepare, we may be reading with Rona and some of her assistants."

"@ JadeBeautifly--is the lead role hard to play in the play?" another chatter asked.

May nodded. "Brilliant Taillow is actually a fairly active role--but she is enjoyable to play, as well. I'm looking forward to the fight in the treetops of Red Dawn Woods in Act 2..."

Amazed and "wow" emojis filled the chat at this. "Don't worry, we have catch tethers on during the whole fight." May assured the chat. "So if we happen to fall, we won't be going very far."

"The spotters will be there, as well." Dawn agreed.

"@ EmeraldRaikou--what happens when the catch tether deploys?" a chatter wondered.

"Basically, you hear a pop as the tether deploys to catch you, and a clink as it holds you in place." Brock explained. "They are stronger than they look, so once it is deployed, you're not going anywhere. You can move around while you are being held to a point, but you're not going down."

"You may also see them called 'pop-clinks' for that reason." Dawn agreed. "Our spotters can usually move fast enough to rescue us in a few minutes, but they are strong enough to hold someone for hours, or even days, if it came to that."

"They do, in fact, practice rescues just in case the worst happens during a play." May went on. "I have seen them practice, and it's almost frightening how fast they reach the hanging training dummy!"

'@ PearlDeerling--how much of the martial arts are real, and how much are fantasy for the play?" came a new question.

"For this particular play, the style that drives the story is informed by real Taillow style, but exaggerated to its logical extreme." Dawn explained. "For more historically based plays, they are more realistic. For some fantastic plays, they are very obviously fantasy..."
 
Episode 92: Reading Through Fact and Fantasy

Awed chatter filled the air as the Niji Troupe arrived to see the newly expanded readthrough room. "It's good to be back in the readthrough room..." Brock smiled as he settled in at the familiar large white table with his script.

"I've always wanted to know if the Martial Road was a real place..." Dawn mused as she paged through Act 1 of the new play. "So after some research in the library, I found out it is real--and the real Pearl Deerling walked there!"

'Yeah, it's real, all right!" Roy smiled as he found a seat at the table. "Wouldn't mind walking down the real thing as research for our characters..."

"We'd have a long way to go...it goes all the way around Waku." May cautioned as she showed Liko and Roy the road's route. "While many people still walk on it, you can ride a bike, drive, or take the train..."

"That's right! A lot of Waku's modern train network follows the ancient road in some way." Liko remembered. "But they say for the best experience, you need to walk or ride a bike."

"I'm sure it would be a wonderful experience--especially if you traveled in costume!" Rona smiled as she arrived in the room. "But for now, let us focus on the readthrough..."

Rustling filled the air as the crowd of actors and actresses opened their scripts to Act 1, Scene 1. "Now then...'Heroes of the Martial Road' begins with a noble warrior named Exalted Blade meeting Ruby Phoenix on the road." Rona explained. After exchanging pleasentries, Exalted Blade challenges Ruby Phoenix to walk the Martial Road. Ruby Phoenix isn't sure of the request at first, and asks Exalted Blade for some time to think it over. Exalted Blade agrees, with the promise that Ruby Phoenix will have an answer in the morning."

Ash studied his script for a moment. "I'm not sure how concerned or worried I should be in this scene..."

"Exalted Blade is a noble warrior, so he has no reason to attempt to hurt Ruby Phoenix or the other seven Spirits." Rona assured Ash. "He is simply curious if Ruby Phoenix is as strong as he is claimed to be--no more and no less."

"At the same time, he's asking a pretty large request of you, so I would approach this scene with some concern." Serena suggested. "Like Rona said, he has no reason to hurt you, but even a god has doubts about a monumental task sometimes."

She smiled. "Besides, worry or concern will set up the discussion with everyone in Scene 2 very nicely."

"Yeah...I could probably play this as worry." Ash smiled before reading Ruby Phoenix's first line in the tense exchange. "Are you sure you want me to attempt such a momentous task?" The Martial Road is long, and full of danger!"

"At ease, noble phoenix. I have heard many a tale about you and your companions' exploits." Brock jumped in the role of Exalted Blade. "So the Martial Road seemed to be a worthy challenge for a hero like you. If you do not wish to walk the Road at this time, I will respect your choice."

Ash thought for a moment. "I will take tonight to discuss with my fellows the pros and cons of walking the Road. I promise I will have an answer for you tomorrow."

"Very well then--no matter what you decide, the choice is yours alone." Brock assured Ash in character. "This is no ordinary request, so take all the time you need to ponder your decision."

Applause filled the room at the end of the scene. "Not bad!" Rona smiled as she applauded. "My only suggestion to make that perfect is to dial back the fear in your voice..."
 
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