Jui sat in silence, listening as management explained their options. As if they hadn't already been through all of this already as a band. The whole thing wasn't quite as bad as his recent nightmares, but he could still hear the little voice in his head taunting him. It was wrong, he knew it was wrong, this wasn't a failure, it was just ... an end of a road. One the five of them had agreed to all together. But that didn't make the reality of the situation any easier to handle. They still had that contract ... and that, more than anything else, made this feel like a failure. He really hated that feeling.
“Yes, those terms are acceptable,” one of the corporate suits said at last, sealing Jui's fate. He only half heard the rest of the meeting. Didn't matter, he already knew where things went from here, the rest was just details he could sort out later.
“Is it really so bad?”
“... Junbug, my band is breaking up and that's your reaction?? What the hell?!?” he demanded, glaring at his companion.
“Nah, nah, man, hear me out, yeah?” his friend hurried to say. “Bands break up all the time, I know you know that. Hell, this isn't even your first disbandment anyway. Sometimes it's what needs to happen, you know? So something better can take its place.”
“Jun! Not helping!” Jui protested sharply. Unrepentant, his pink-haired friend shrugged and downed the rest of his beer. Obviously, Jui had picked the wrong friend for sympathy tonight. Brat. So much for thinking Jun would have any understanding of seeing a band at its peak suddenly falling to pieces. Well, maybe he should have known better from the start. Phantasmagoria and vidoll had very little in common in the end after all. And yet ... he hadn't expected this.
“Oh stop sulking,” Jun said, ruffling his hair. “So vidoll is disbanding. Obviously you're not retiring yet, mister I'm gonna release a solo album now, too, so stop acting like I just shot your dog. Honestly, flying solo can be a lot of fun. Think of all the freedom you'll have, now that you won't have to argue everything out with four other people all the time. Don't tell me you haven't had times where you've compromised with Rametan rather than doing what you would have preferred, I won't believe you.”
Definitely chose the wrong drinking companion. Most days he really did enjoy Jun's company, but tonight they just weren't on the same page at all. Swallowing another sigh, he shook his head and then finished his own beer. At least he had gotten a free beer out of the evening. But it sounded too much like Jun was happy with his music career the way it was. Shame, he'd long thought they could have fun collaborating on things.
“Thanks, Junbug, but I think I'll just ... go, call it a night. Spare you any more of my sulking,” he said as he got up from the bar.
“Drama queen,” his friend teased, waving him off. “Call me later, yeah? So I know you made it home in one piece, okay?”
“Yeah, yeah, brat,” he mumbled. Maybe he was making more out of this than it really deserved. And maybe it didn't really matter in the end. Done was done. He had to do this, even as the fears of failure and disappointment dogged at his heels. It wasn't what he wanted, but really, what choice did he have? They'd gotten lucky with Crown taking this settlement over forcing them to either stick it out or face being in violation of their contract. He knew he should be grateful they weren't stuck driving each other even crazier right now. Or worse, being sued for breach of contract. And yet....
Jui loved making music, but not like this. He had never felt so alone in his life. Sure, he had complete creative control, freedom to write in whatever style he liked, a chance to really show his depth and breadth of talent. But he was also completely on his own, responsible for everything in a way he hadn't been in the past. Even when he was working with his support artists, he still felt alone. If this was what it meant to be a solo artist, he would happily never go through it again. He didn't believe in hell, but if he had, this would be close. Certainly he had never been so glad to hear recording was complete.
“It can't have been that terrible,” Asagi scolded, watching Jui sprawl across his couch with something not unlike a faint smile. “Drama queen.”
“Shut up, senpai,” Jui muttered into the throw pillow he clutched to his chest. “It was torture. And the worse thought is knowing it cost all that and probably won't chart at all.”
“Okay, now you're just being completely ridiculous. Your fans love you, why wouldn't this new venture do just as well as you've done up to now?”
Jui couldn't help a low snort at that.
“We've never charted that well, senpai,” he said with a soft sigh. “Okay, yes, we had a couple hits on the indies charts, but Crown's never been that happy with our charting, we never broke top twenty, sometimes we were doing good to get into the top forty. They were hoping for better ... and to be honest, so were we. The break for my surgery and recovery opened a chance and ... and I guess I knew this was coming, I just ... didn't want to face that we were a failure.”
“Jui-kun, you aren't now and never have been a failure. And this new direction ... it could be a good thing, yes?”
“This is not a new career direction!” Jui insisted, sitting up with a shudder, the pillow still clutched to his chest. “This is ... this is just a detour. As soon as Crown confirms I've fulfilled the contract terms, I'm putting together a new band. If Crown doesn't want to take us on, fine, we'll either sign with one of the indies labels or start a label of our own. Something. I'm not going through all that again.”
“You'd be completely miserable trying to run a label, Jui-kun, even if it was just for this hypothetical new band of yours,” Asagi observed with a dry smirk. “Fortunately for you, it needn't come to that.”
“Senpai.... I don't even have the band yet and you're already willing to sign us?” Jui asked, trying not to openly gape at the other man.
“It's what friends do,” the older man replied with a loose shrug. “I know you, Jui-kun, the risk is minimal. When you have your new band put together, come to me, we can sort out the details then.”
Too easy, but Jui could hardly refuse. It would take some adjusting, going back to the indies circuit, but better than continuing on alone. He would make it work, somehow. He wouldn't allow anything to defeat his dreams so easily.