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The note Morie held in her hands was a request for a meeting regarding a new article series in one of the upcoming GRAPH magazines. She was to meet the editors in one of the conference rooms on the upper floor after she was done rehearsals later today. Morie bit her bottom lip slightly. It was going to be a grueling day as they were going to block some of the dance numbers in the show. She hoped the meeting wouldn’t last very long. It would be unfortunate if she fell asleep while one of the editors was speaking.

Morie sighed and stuck the note into the back pocket of her jeans. She bowed and thanked the lady that took care of the incoming mail before slipping into the rehearsal room. There were already several people inside, warming up their limbs and voices. Morie shut the door behind her quietly and bowed to the upperclassmen as she walked by. The underclassmen in turn stopped their activities and uttered high-pitched “Good Morning” greetings as the otokoyaku made her way to her seat.

Not long after Morie sat down, the star of the show entered the room. Hokushou Kairi made her own cursory bows and made her way to Morie’s side of the room. She scooted over to make room for the older girl. Once Kairi had sat down, Morie repressed the urge to coo over the woman’s choice of kimono for the day. It was a deep blue with thing silver threads running through the hems her sleeves. A subtle design that was both androgynous and beautiful. She felt oddly plain in her own green kimono.

“Good morning, Hokushou-san,” Morie smiled and gave the girl a mini bow. Kairi in turn smiled and returned the greeting. The two of them had taken to sitting next to each other every day since they knew each other the best out of the rest of the cast. Morie didn’t want to sit next to any of the other Senka members. She was awful at remembering etiquette and didn’t want to put her foot in her mouth. Kairi was very relaxed about such things. More often than not, the otokoyaku would laugh at Morie’s blunders.

Kairi sat her bag down to one side and took out a small clear pouch. Inside were various colorful letters and she was adding a new stack to them. Morie looked over to her own bag. She had just stuffed her own letters inside her bag for later reading. She pondered organizing the letters, but the entrance of the director distracted her. Kairi motioned for the two of them to head out to the floor. Morie nodded mutely and followed the older otokoyaku.

~*~*~*~

Just as she had feared, Morie felt sore and cranky by the end of the rehearsals. The show had lots of traditional dancing, and despite having the thighs for them… she still hurt. Everyone around her chattered freely and gathered up their things. Morie had already put her stuff together and was fighting off the urge to doze in her seat. She was waiting for Kairi to finish speaking to the director. She had found out that Kairi had received the same note and they had decided to head upstairs together. However, the director had a few things to discuss.

By the time Kairi had finished, Morie had lost the battle. She had dozed off into her bag, crushing some of the letters she had been organizing while she waited. Kairi prodded her awake and Morie sat up with a start and apologized. The other otokoyaku just laughed as she grabbed her stuff and waited for Morie to gather herself together.

Kairi led the way to the conference room while Morie hastily typed off messages on her phone. She had forgotten to let her club staffs know that she wouldn’t be coming out for a while. Then she stuffed the phone into her bag as they entered the room. To her surprise, two of her seniors were also there, Kiriya Hiromu and Oozora Yuuhi. They were engaged in some sort of conversation and it Morie was struck by lovely they both looked. Kiriya was wearing an elegant black kimono under a green hakama and her hair was still slicked back. Yuuhi on the other hand was wearing dark jeans and a flowery blouse. Yuuhi’s hair was loose and longer than Morie remembered. She must have been grown it out for the role of Oscar. Morie bowed and greeted the women in almost perfect unison with Kairi. The editor motioned for them to sit then launched into the specifics of the article series.

They were going to be assigned a person on which to do some research and formulate three questions for the other person. The trick was to do it in a way the other person wouldn’t know who was their researcher. Morie immediately felt nervous and excited. She looked around at the other women and wondered whom she would get. The editor handed them envelopes with their assignments, reminded them of their deadline, and then dismissed them.

~*~*~*~

It had been very difficult, but Morie managed to track down enough information on her assignment. When she had first opened the envelope, she had gone into nervous giggles. She had been assigned Kiriya. Morie greatly admired the woman. She was looking forward to researching her. However, for the first week she couldn’t come up with much. Her time was running out since Kiriya was due to leave for Chunichi and they had to meet before then.

After a particularly difficult day, Morie sat curled up in her bedroom trying to write copy for the article. She already had her first two questions all worked out. In the previous show, Morie’s quick-change spot was changed to be near Kiriya’s corner. She had noticed that the older women enthusiastically liked to talk to pictures of her dog Finch, which she had found adorable. Kiriya’s love for Finch was common knowledge so it could be any of them. Moreover, she really thought that the picture of tired-looking Finch in Kiriya’s corner was very cute.

The second question she may have cheated a little. She overheard someone talking about how your personality affects your driving. After pondering of what her own driving style was like, Morie wondered how Kiriya drove. Knowing her sempai, she always seemed to favor very straight forward and to the point solutions. It would make sense if she were the same with her driving. It was an interesting question, required no research on her part, and mysterious enough that it would be difficult to guess who it was. Morie felt proud of herself.

However, she struggled to finish the research. Any other idea Morie thought of would require her to speak to someone in the cast of Kiriya’s current show. She didn’t want to bother them when they were deep into preparations. Not to mention it would instantly give her away. With a huge sigh, she placed her notebook to one side and flopped back onto her bed. Morie picked up her cell phone and scrolled through her contacts debating whom to bother. Maybe she just needed to think about something else for a little bit. As she skipped through the numbers, she landed on one of her classmate’s entries. Then almost as if that person knew she was going to call her, an email popped up. Morie smiled at the overabundance of smileys that accompanied any mail she got from Yuzuki Reon. Chie wanted to go out for karaoke since she didn’t have any shinko rehearsals scheduled and the next day was both their day off. Morie acquiesced and told Chie to meet her at the one near the theater. Then she tossed her phone to once side in order to get ready.

~*~*~*~

Chie had dominated the song choices for the evening. Morie didn’t mind too much but she was going to have to wrestle the control away at some point. She didn’t want to have to sing another Rose of Versailles duet.

“Aren’t you tired of singing BeruBara songs already? You do it every day! Plus, I don’t want to sing Marie Antoinette’s part again…” Morie whined and tried to take another swipe at the control. Chie expertly avoided the swipe and typed in Ai no Omokage.

“Any good actor must practice even when she is on her day off,” Chie replied solemnly. “After all, I have to make Kozuki-san proud.”

Morie rolled her eyes knowing perfectly well that Chie just wanted to sing BeruBara songs as much as she could. They were interrupted by a knock on the door to their room and Chie sat up to get it. It was their drinks and food. Morie took this opportunity to grab the remote and change the song to an Exile song. Chie loudly protested but she couldn’t do anything now that Morie had the mike and the song had started. She instead tried her best to pout silently while munching on fries.

Once Morie was done, she set the mike down and grabbed her own order of fries. Chie was too busy polishing off her own order to pick another song. Morie teased her lightly about how Chie only lived off BeruBara and fries nowadays. It earned her a mild mocking glare.

“Hey, that reminds me. Do you know about that research article series GRAPH is now doing?” Chie asked in between bites.

“Yeah, I was picked to do it for the May issue… were you picked too?” Morie responded after taking a sip of her beer.

“Really? Then you can look this over for me…” Chie rummaged in her purse and handed a piece of crumpled paper to Morie. She raised an eyebrow and unfolded the paper. It took her only a few minutes to read over the questions. One of the questions piqued her curiosity.

“How did you find this out!?” Morie snickered and pointed towards the question.

“Oh, I just asked her classmate!” Chie chuckled. “You would be surprised what gossips classmates are.” She gave Morie a pointed look then stuffed a fry into her mouth.
“I was drunk at that time! I didn’t mean for everyone to find out you snore like a bear!” Morie ducked as Chie chucked several fries at her.

“I’ll buy you the next drink, okay? And I will let you sing another BeruBara song, just stop trying to hit me with your fries!” The otokoyaku laughed as she tried to mollify the other girl. Chie stopped her barrage and grinned triumphantly. Morie slide the control over to her then continued to eat her food quietly. She thought about what Chie said about asking classmates for information. Who did she know that was Kiriya’s classmate?

The answer came to her as tried to remember who was in what show. Takigawa Sueko was the same year as Kiriya! Sueko was incredibly nice and always willing to help out underclassmen. Morie knew Sueko liked a certain kind of chocolate. She could sweeten the deal a little by bringing her some.

“Chie, want to go to this chocolatier with me tomorrow?”

~*~*~*~

Everyone was seated again at the conference table. This time the editor had an assistant copywriter with him to take down whatever was being said. Morie wriggled nervously in her chair as the editor handed out blank envelopes again to each of them.

“Don’t open them quite yet. I will read the questions and please answer them the best you can. When everyone is done, you can open the envelopes and find out who is your researcher. Oozora-san, we shall start with you.”

Morie continued to wriggle as Yuuhi went through her questions. It was fascinating to hear the questions other people posed. It was just as funny to see her sempai’s reactions to them. When they got to the third question, Morie knew it had to be Kairi that was Yuuhi’s researcher. She had asked Yuuhi about what sort of popcorn she ate during Guys and Dolls. Morie knew that Kairi brought in butter soy sauce flavored popcorn to rehearsals for snacks and she was obsessed with it. Only Kairi would ask a question about popcorn. Yuuhi guessed her researcher was Kiriya, which made Morie almost snicker. Then it was Kiriya’s turn. Morie braced herself for the woman’s answers.

Kiriya took her time to answer each question thoroughly and succinctly. When the editor read out the third question, her eyebrow raised ever so slightly

“’Recently during the Tokyo performance, in the dressing room you were humming songs from Nightmare Before Christmas, but recently what kind of songs are you singing?’” The editor read out and faced Kiriya.

Morie felt proud and slightly embarrassed that she managed to put a wrinkle in that serene face. She had found out from Sueko that Kiriya liked to hum the strange songs from A Nightmare Before Christmas and that she tended to absently always hum songs from things she had just watched. It was an incredibly adorable quirk that Morie thought suited Kiriya. However, it seems that Kiriya didn’t realize that other people realized she did it.

“In the dressing room at the Tokyo Takarazuka Theater we watched “Nightmare” on the DVD player that Yuuhi-san borrowed from Ayano-san. So then, I naturally started humming,” Kiriya laughed and looked over directly at Morie. “Recently…hmm…I have a feeling that I often sing songs connected to the current show.”

Morie flushed and tried to not appear guilty. It proved difficult when Kiriya announced her guess as “Morie-chan.” Well, at least she had tried. Still, she worked on her poker face as the editor moved on to Kairi.

~*~*~*~

After the meeting was over, Morie felt embarrassed yet happy. The experience had been a truly unique one. As an underclassman, Morie had naturally developed some fear of her superiors and this had helped soften that fear a little. She found out something she didn’t know about each of her troupe mates and felt a little closer to them. Not to mention, she in turn received compliments from people she admired greatly. Though, she still wasn’t sure how to take the compliment on her thighs.

The following day as Morie made her way towards the exit of the main stage door, she felt someone call out her name. It was Kiriya. She thought the woman had already left for Chunichi.

“Hiromu-san….” Morie turned around and waited for the woman to catch up. Once Kiriya stood next to her, she rummaged through her purse and took out a pink envelope. She then wordlessly handed it over to the girl.

Morie looked at it for a second then back up at her sempai’s expectant face. She opened the envelope carefully and took out what seemed to be a photograph. Morie’s face melted into a grin and she could barely hold back a giggle. She had been given a photograph of Kiriya and Finch wearing Jack Skellington bowties.

“I usually carry this around in my purse. After the meeting, I thought you would like a copy of this,” Kiriya said and patted Morie’s shoulder. “You are a good kid and talented. I imagine you will do well after you graduate from shinkos. Keep up the good work” With that, she turned to walk away, waving as she went through the glass doors to the outside.

Morie flushed with pleasure and hugged the photograph to her chest. She vowed to work twice as hard now that Kiriya expected great things of her.

I won’t let you or anyone down now, Morie said to herself and put the photograph away. She then headed outside to the crowd of fans waiting outside to congratulate her on another hard days work done.