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

LightningTopaz

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(Rated E10+ for fantastic stage violence)

In addition to the plays that the gang performs as part of the main theatrical fantasy (a rebooted collection itself), this collection will explore what goes on offstage, on the group's days off, what goes on in rehearsals, and even full plays--including some not seen in the main theatrical fantasy.

So if you ever wondered what the gang goes through to put a show together, this companion story is your answer. You'll see that not every show goes swimmingly, and sometimes the gang even wondered if the show would even go on at all. But true to Kagayou fashion, the gang never gives up--no matter how crazy rehearsals seem to get.

You'll also see how the troupe publicizes the plays--in print, on the radio, on TV, and online. School performances, community performances, and festival performances will be showcased as well.

But no matter where they go, the Kagayou has earned their reputation as one of Waku's greatest Tawame troupes--and the Sensational Six and the Niji troupe are known as its biggest stars. The glory did not arrive overnight--the companion (and some prequel stories) aims to shed some light on what it took to get there, and how they continue to hone and train their skills to continue bringing smiles, laughter and cheers in the Theater of Dreams--the Tawame stage.


Episode 1: Leading the Blade

The training dojo rang with the clangs of swords as Dawn and May sparred together, with Ash keeping a watchful eye on the unfolding duel. His pleased look turned to concern as Dawn braced herself for May's attack, then went spinning into nothingness, missing May completely and almost falling to the floor. "How Link does this, I'll never know..." she muttered as she stood up and retrieved her training sword.

"Remember what we went over in our last practice--to do a good spin attack without getting dizzy, you lead with the blade." Ash explained as he joined the girls on the floor, the lights making his red training garb project red sparkles on the floor alongside the blue sparkles of May's training leotard and the purple sparkles of Dawn's training leotard. "Let me go get a blade of my own, and I'll show you."

Once Ash had returned with a training sword for himself, he addressed the girls. "Now...all leading the blade is is your body moving in the same direction as your blade, so you don't get quite so dizzy. This is why the fight trainers say not to twist back and then lunge forward. You can twist back just a little to wind up for the spin, but your primary direction is forward if you're wielding one blade. If you were wielding twinblades, you can twist back farther. This is because twinblade users have another blade to worry about, and so need that extra power to get both blades to their target. This is why the spin attack is more commonly seen with twinblades, other paired weapons, and two handed weapons. But as you've seen in 'Golden Phoenix and Jade Buneary', it is possible to do with a one handed weapon, but harder."

"No wonder Misty spin attacks a lot in fight scenes..." Dawn mused.

"Is the Zelda style spin attack possible?" May wondered. "That would be cool to do onstage!"

Ash nodded. "Yes, it is possible to pull off the Zelda style spin attack with a real blade--leading the blade forward in a circular motion is key to the movement. In some of the games, Link doesn't even move while charging power. When I do it, I just hold the brace for a few seconds and charge forward, letting the effects do the rest. So a Zelda style spin is part physical movement, part special effects."

The girls stepped off the training floor long enough to let Ash demonstrate the spin attack. After bracing himself for a few seconds, as if charging power in his blade, Ash performed a wide circular slice, not unlike the iconic attack from "The Legend of Zelda". "Bravo!" May cheered. "You looked just like Link!"

"The only downside of this move is that it does leave you vulnerable, so this is why they save spin attacks for big moments in a lot of plays." Ash cautioned. "Unless you're a twinblade user, like Misty."

He invited the girls back onto the floor. "So? Who's first to try the training fight progression in Act 2--including the spin attack that knocks me down?"

"I'll go first!" Dawn volunteered.

After Ash and Dawn both rendered respectful salutes with their blades, May watched the flurry of strikes with stars in her eyes. Dawn's getting so good with her swordplay! I can't wait to see how this will look in actual costumes!

A HI-YAH! followed by the thud of Ash hitting the floor alerted May that Dawn had finished the fight, successfully pulling off the spin attack along the way. "Okay..." Ash began as he eased himself to his feet. "That was MUCH better than your earlier fight--nice work on remembering to lead with the blade. Remember--you don't want to wind up too far. Focus on going forward."

Dawn nodded. "Maybe I need a few more tries in slow motion before rehearsal reconvenes in a few days..."

"May? You wanna try the progression with the spin attack?" Ash asked as he retrieved his blade for another runthrough.

"Yeah!" May replied as she located her blade and met Ash on the floor for her attempt at the fight progression...
 
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LightningTopaz

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Episode 2: Choosing Who Battles the Ghostly Dragon


"All right, everyone..." Rona began as she met the group in a conference room. "Before we start rehearsal today, let's decide who battles Ghostly Dragon in the final fight. This will affect how Scene 2 of Act 1 plays out, and what Ghostly Dragon's weakness is."

She set down a bowl with six folded pieces of paper inside. "I want each of you to take a piece of paper and unfold it. Five of them are blank, and one of them has has the characters that spell 'kettou'--'duel' in Wakunese. The one that gets the slip with 'kettou' on it, will battle Ghostly Dragon during the play's final fight."

"Didn't May do it the last time we performed 'Frightening the Dragon of the North Mountain?'" Ash wondered.

May nodded. "I loved doing that fight--when I get to do the fight, he is so focused on raw power that he doesn't know about speed and defense."

Ash smiled. "Well, I'll go first..."

After digging for a slip, he unfolded it. "Empty..." he sighed, showing the others the blank slip he had chosen.

Misty smiled when she saw what was on her slip. "I GOT IT!!!" she cheered, triumphantly showing the group her slip, which had the characters for "kettou" written on it in green.

"Well done!" Rona smiled. "I'm intrigued as to how you would approach the fight." she asked as she cleaned up the conference room.

"I would fight him with twin blades." Misty explained as the group departed. "I see Ghostly Dragon so busy defending one blade that he doesn't see the other one."

"THAT would be cool!" Ash agreed.

Rona giggled, pleased at the group's enthusiasm. "We have a ways to go before we get to the final fight, however. For today, we will continue blocking Act 1."

---------

The main auditorium hummed with activity as the Niji Troupe convened for rehearsal. "Okay, I need our leads!" Rona called, prompting the group to hurry onstage with scripts in hand.

After motioning the group into a huddle, she briefed them on the second scene of Act 1. "This is mainly a dialogue scene. Your characters are just as nervous as the rest of the martial world about the Three Ghost Sect, but by the time this scene ends, you have made the decision to embark on your quest to the North Mountain to finally bring Ghostly Dragon to justice."

"Can we ad lib some of the conversation?" Ash asked, studying the dialogue in his script.

"You can ad lib as much of the conversation as you like, but the lines highlighted in cyan you have to include at some point in the conversation." Rona explained. "When this scene begins, you are gathered around a table discussing the rumors about the Three Ghost Sect over dinner."

"I'll go ask the prop crew if we can borrow a table!" Misty volunteered before hurrying offstage.

"Will we have actual food on the table opening night?" Serena asked. "Or will it be prop food?"

"Since your character and May are the only two that actually eat during the scene, you will have real food, while the others have prop food." Rona explained as Misty and some stagehands returned with a table. "It won't be anything too messy, so as not to ruin the props and your costumes, but it will be food that someone in ancient Waku would have for dinner."

Brock grinned as he showed Rona a selection of microwave ramen noodles. "Can we use these to stand in for the food until we get the actual food made?"

"What a great idea!" Rona smiled. "You can use the microwave backstage to cook them."

"Dibs on the beef!" Ash called.

"I love the smell of the spicy Combusken, so since I'm not actually eating, I'll take one of those." Misty requested.

"I don't mind spicy food, and I'll be putting them in microwave safe bowls to cook, so I'll eat it on your behalf when we're done." Brock assured Misty before setting a bag of the Meli chili Corphish ramen aside for himself. "What kind do you want, Serena?"

"Combusken's fine." Serena replied.

"I've always wanted to try the pork kind." May requested.

Dawn smiled when she saw one particular bag. "All right, you found the soy sauce flavor! I can never find it except at home in Shinou...."

"Well, popular demand led to it debuting in Kanto grocery stores, so I picked up a few bags, since I know you like that flavor." Brock replied. "Let me go cook these..."

May smiled as Brock set aside his script and departed backstage. "Who knew you could actually eat food onstage..."

"It's not easy, depending on what kind of food you're using." Rona explained. "It has to be something that won't make too much of a mess, and can be prepared and consumed in a timely manner to avoid getting the actors sick. Then you have to sometimes block the meal like you would anything else in a play. For our purposes, we don't have to block this meal--you can eat at your own pace."

Brock arrived with the ramen bowls a few moments later. "They're hot, okay?" he cautioned as he gave Serena and May their bowls first. "So you may want to wait for it to cool a bit during the scene."

With that, he retrieved his script. "Where do we start?"

"When the lights come up for Scene 2, you are all gathered around the table." Rona explained. "Jade Deerling starts the conversation, but remember that the cyan highlighted lines have to appear at some point."

"Okay!" the group replied.

Dawn found where Scene 2 began, and addressed the group. "Another master, cut down in their prime...how long until the martial world is rid of the Three Ghost Sect?"

"No school should have to lose their master!" May vowed. "The Three Ghosts should have to answer for what they've done!"

"You have to remember that two of the Three Ghosts have met their judgement." Brock reminded May. "Ghostly Braviary and Ghostly Raikou are locked in the realm's strongest prison, never to be freed again. Only Ghostly Dragon is left."

"So why has Ghostly Dragon managed to elude capture?" Serena asked.

Brock sighed as he read the first highlighted line. "I wish I knew the answer to that question, but of the Three Ghosts, Ghostly Dragon is the most powerful. He has mastered some of the sect's most powerful arts, which confound and confuse all that try to restrain or bind him. Some believe he could even be immortal, rendering every method of execution the Emperor has useless."

"The rumors say that he has journeyed to the North Mountain far from here..." Misty mused, stirring her ramen as she spoke. "Those that dare try to climb the mountain and face him are soundly defeated..."
 
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LightningTopaz

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Episode 3: The Bamboo Princess' Knights


Applause filled the Kagayou's main theater as Rona came onstage before the curtain. After taking a bow for the crowd, she began "Thank you, and welcome to the Kagayou Theater. Today the Niji Troupe will be performing an adventurous twist on a timeless tale. If this is your first time seeing a Tawame performance, allow me to explain a few of the traditions and customs you will see."

She went on "First, the narrator--who may or may not be named depending on the play--plays the harp-like vina, to add ambiance and character to the spoken words. There is also a chorus of musicians and occasionally speakers to assist the narrator, who may also interact with the action taking place. It is not unheard of for the characters to sing in the middle of dialogue, and entire story beats are often conveyed in song. Props and parts of the sets are often brought on and taken away in a moment's notice. If a Pokemon or spirit is needed in the storyline, they are usually portrayed by puppets--the larger ones operated by several puppeteers in plain view of the audience, and voiced by the narrator. Even though you will very plainly see the stage ninjas at work creating the play's world, remember that they are shadows, and therefore unseen to you."

Excited murmurs went up at this. "One major difference between the Tawame tradition, its sister tradition of the Gekijou, and other ancient forms of theater is that girls were allowed to perform onstage alongside the boys." Rona explained. "Tawame and Gekijou girls are not dancing princesses waiting to be rescued by any stretch--they are just as strong, and just as important, as the boys."

She concluded. "Our story for you today tells of a princess of the moon, and her quest to save the mortal realm from a deadly threat--please enjoy the Niji Troupe's performance of 'Princess Kaguya of the Heavenly Bamboo'."

Applause filled the air as Rona left the stage, and the orchestra began a dreamy overture...

---------

The kids watched as Dawn--now wearing a purple, blue, white, and gold kimono-like outfit that looked like shimmering crystal--addressed Ash, Misty, Brock, Serena, and May on the set of a courtyard in a Waku that never was. "Of all those that have answered my call, you four will accompany me and my envoy Ran on my quest to save the realm of mortals from calamity."

"A calamity?" Brock gasped. "What sort of calamity?"

"No doubt you have heard the news that the rogue called Jade Devil is even now making his way to the imperial palace." Dawn explained. "By the authority of Arceus, I have come to put a stop to his ambitions before he can plunge the mortal realm into an age of woe!"

"What can we do to stop Jade Devil?" Misty asked. "Many have tried to bring him to justice, but so far, all have failed."

"In order to stop Jade Devil, we will need five divine jewels that will dispel his evil aura, and protect us from his demonic arts." Dawn explained. "First, we will travel far to the west to find the Ruby of Enlightened Flame. Next, we travel to Golden Tree Mountain in the Eastern Sea, where we will search for the Emerald of the Grateful Earth. From there, we must seek out the sword wielding Noble Pikachu Tachigami, and convince him to give us the Topaz of the Brilliant Storm. Then, we will slay the notorious dragon Souzen, and claim the Shining Pearl. And finally, we will journey to the peak of Celestial Crown Mountain, and claim the Brilliant Diamond."

Ash nodded as he got up to address Dawn. "No matter how far we may have to go, milady, we stand ready to assist you and protect you on this great quest!"

Cheers filled the theater as he rendered a respectful salute to both May and Dawn with a prop sword. "This will likely be a long journey, milady..." Misty cautioned. "So if you will allow us some time to prepare, we will set out at morning's first light!"

"Very well--we will set out as soon as we have enough supplies for our journey." Dawn replied.

I still wish we left in the bit about Son Goku guiding us to the west...
Ash thought as he made his exit. But to be fair, a comical character like Son Goku would be very out of place in an adventurous play like this.

He listened as Brock, now alone on the stage, set the next scene. "The five knights eagerly made their preparations for the perilous quest. Just as Chiyuki had promised, the lady of the moon, her Beautifly envoy, and her four bodyguards departed at dawn the next day..."

The orchestra started a festive melody, prompting Dawn to lead the others out onto the stage, where a crowd had gathered. "Arceus' favor be on your journey, my beautiful Kaguya..." the man playing the father smiled as he hugged Dawn, to some "aw"s.

"I promise you this, Father...I will return victorious!" Dawn vowed, to more cheers as the group paraded across the stage, making room for a beautiful ribbon dance to take place onstage to signal a transition from Act 1 to Act 2. "Okay, to kick off Act 2, we come to a town being oppressed by oni..." Brock explained as he looked over the script on a table in the backstage area.

"I can't wait to see what the set crew has come up with for the oni cave!" Ash grinned, excited to see the play's first dungeon set...
 

LightningTopaz

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Episode 4: Shining for a School

(the real tale: My Lord Bag of Rice

what Ash and the orchestra perform: here)


Applause filled the Kagayou's main theater as Rona came onstage before the curtain. "Good morning, all." she told the hundreds of excited children in the audience. "Today the Niji Troupe will tell you a tale of Waku concerning a hero's encounter with Toyotama, daughter of Seiryu."

Intrigued murmurs filled the air. "But as I am no storyteller, I will let the holy Delphox Kitsune weave you the tale."

Applause filled the air as Rona departed the stage, and Serena--now in a red and orange robe and costume Delphox ears--appeared to a vina flourish in a flash of light, to the awe of the crowd. "Long, long ago in Waku, there lived a brave warrior known to all as My Lord Bag of Rice." she began. "The story we want to tell you is how he received this title."

The lights came up on the set of a Wakunese bridge. "Our hero had went forth in search of adventure, as Wakunese warriors often do." Serena narrated as Brock--now in a dull green and silver warrior's robe--arrived in the scene. "Before long, his travels had led him to a bridge that spanned a huge lake. As he approached the midpoint of the bridge, he heard a voice call to him."

"WAAAAAAAAAAAAITTT!!!" came Misty's voice from offstage, snapping Brock to attention.

"Oh"s filled the air as Misty arrived in a long and flowing blue costume that evoked a Gyarados. “Was it you that called me, milady?" Brock asked.

“Yes, it was I.” Misty replied “I have an earnest request for you. Do you think you can grant it?”

“I will do everything I can, milady.” Brock replied. “Will you first tell me who you are?”

“I am Toyotama, daughter of Seiryu the Blue Dragon of the East." Misty replied, to a triumphant flourish from the orchestra. "My home is in these waters under this bridge.”

"What is it you have to ask of me?” Brock asked as he knelt before Misty in respect.

"I want you to kill my mortal enemy the Scolipede, who lives on the mountain over there.” Misty pointed out an imagined mountain to the east.

Misty pantomimed talking as Serena narrated from stage right. "Toyotama told the brave warrior how the Scolipede had captured many in the undersea kingdom she ruled--and if the Scolipede was not dealt with soon, she would be a captive too."

"...Will you not help me and kill my enemy the Scolipede?” Misty concluded as the lights blinked back to the set of the bridge.

"You have my word that I will do everything in my power to slay your foe and rescue your friends and family." Brock replied. "Where is the fiend now?"

"Asleep." Misty replied. "It comes to the lake at a certain hour each night. You will have better luck fighting it then. For now, come and visit my palace beneath the lake."

With that, she faced the midpoint of the bridge set. Rou iitsa ron selga vichii...

Cheers and applause filled the air as a majestic sapphire and pearl studded palace set rose up from the stage...

---------

"Wow"s and awed chatter filled the air as the set changed to an interior of the palace set. "And here we are!" Misty smiled. "Welcome to my humble palace--please, make yourself at home."

"Don't mind if I do, Toyotama-denka." Brock smiled as some extras playing Goldeens made a place for Brock at a shimmering blue banquet table. "I have often heard tales of this place, and many believe it is just a myth or a bedtime story for the children...but now I have seen it with my own eyes, and can tell everyone that the tales were true!"

Misty motioned to the Goldeen extras. "Make sure our guest from the land feels at home."

"Yes, milady!" the extras chorused as they hurried offstage.

Just then, May--in a flowing peach, pink, and blue costume that evoked Milotic--arrived through a pair of sliding doors in the center of the set. "So this is the warrior of the land the sea Pokemon are talking about..."

"He is my honored guest." Misty explained as more Goldeen extras brought on prop food. "Rally the orchestra, the dancers, the actors--and especially make sure that Shinju and Tenteki are present, as well."

"Right away, milady!" May replied before turning to exit. "Our guest from the surface won't soon forget Tenteki's flute or Shinju's dancing!"

---------

May appeared in a spotlight near the sliding doors. "Pokemon of the sea! People of the land! Her Majesty Toyotama has seen fit to welcome a hero of the land with a grand performance!"

The orchestra played a festive flourish at this. "To begin this momentous performance...." May want on before making a grand gesture to the doors. "The lady Shinju, the star of the sea, is going to dance!"

Cheers went up from the extras as May's spotlight blinked off, hiding May exiting and Ash and Dawn getting into position.

Once all was quiet, an F# from a familiar bansi pierced the air over the soft chords from the orchestra's string section as Dawn--now in a shimmering pale blue and silver costume evoking Lumineon-- slowly walked through the doors carrying a glittering electric blue ribbon. Brock just smiled as a spotlight appeared on Ash--now in a royal blue, red, and gold ninja-like costume evoking Greninja. This is my favorite part of this play... he thought as Ash played a relaxed melody for Dawn to sway, spin, and jump to. No matter how many times Dawn does this routine, it's amazing to watch--especially when it gets to the fast part. Then she really puts on a show!

He saw Dawn strike a pose in preparation for the piece's fast movement. Here we go...

The kids watched in amazement as Dawn weaved and whirled around the stage, creating cascades of color in time to Ash's solo and the orchestra....
 
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LightningTopaz

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Now that I've had time to enjoy Pokemon Legends: Arceus, let's get back into the theater-verse!

Episode 5: Dragon Dances to the Raikou's Drum



"...traditionally, blade dances were done to the mighty taiko drums." Brock explained to an audience of excited kids as Misty got in a few final stretches before her part of the showcase. "But after the Opening of Waku, it was quickly discovered that the Galarian frame drum worked just as well, and was infinitely more portable."

Giggles filled the majestic theater as Misty arrived at center stage, her blades neatly sheathed on her back. "So without any further ado, let's let Misty show the power and grace of the Tawame bladedance!"

A thought occurred to him as applause filled the theater. "Since this act requires precision to do well, please hold your cheers and applause until we're done, okay?" he asked as he located a well loved Galarian frame drum in his nook.

Misty nodded to signal Brock she was ready, then drew her blades. Sapphire, the dark blue blade, was in the left hand, and Marine, the light blue blade, in the right. The jewels that gave the two thin swords their names glittered brightly in the stage lights, projecting blue lights around the stage

Brock, meanwhile, started a jig-like rhythm, spurring Misty to spin and twirl with the glittering twin blades, leaving a trail of blue from both blades as she twirled across the stage. As Brock sped up his beat, Misty also sped up her movement, creating a tornado of blue as she spun in place in time to one final fast roll, to awed chatter from the audience.

Surprisingly, Misty didn't even feel dizzy as she did a quick hop to transition into the next part of the routine, spurring Brock to switch to a reel-like beat. Misty meanwhile, stepped and hopped to the beat of the thundering drum, showcasing various offensive and defensive poses of twinblade fighting all the while. Eventually, she began dueling an imagined opponent in time to the beat, culminating in throwing Sapphire into the air!

The audience and Brock watched as Sapphire flew skyward, the deep blue stone in the pommel of the lovely blueish silver blade making a blue flash in the stage lights.

Some amazed chatter and soft applause filled the air as Misty rolled to effortlessly catch Sapphire in her left hand, spurring Brock to resume his reel-like beat as she got up and spun in one movement! The audience watched in amazement as she combined jumps into weaving and whirling to the beat, as if she was attacking an opponent on an imagined battlefield.

On her last leap, she landed in a triumphant pose with her blades crossed, just as Brock finished his beat with one last flourish. "Thank you..." she wheezed to the roaring crowd.

After sheathing her blades again, she joined Brock to take a bow for their cheering audience. But backstage, the mood was just as enthusiastic as the others applauded their friend and co-star. "Way to go, Misty!" Dawn cheered.

"I don't know if my solo will be enough to follow that amazing dance!" Ash raved as Misty met the others backstage.

"Oh come on, you'll do fine." Misty assured Ash as she accepted a bottle of water from a stage ninja. "I've got'em excited for you, now go out and wow them with the bansi."

Ash nodded as another stagehand delivered a beautiful bamboo flute decorated in phoenix and fire designs, and a red tassel near the embouchure hole. "I'll do my best."

Misty watched as Ash made his way onstage. The dragon has amazed with her dance... she smiled as she watched Brock talk a little about the bansi from backstage. Now it's time for the phoenix to amaze with his song!
 

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Episode 6: Training By the Mountains and Rivers

The theater buzzed with excitement as the Niji Troupe convened for another rehearsal of "Heroes of the Mountains and Rivers". "Okay, I need our stars!" Rona called, spurring the group to hurry onstage with their scripts.

She addressed the group. "Let's start with blocking Scene 3 of Act 1, where the Six Spirits learn of the attack in the previous scene. At this point in the story, you guys are on the road to your next adventure, but you are aware of the rumors of the Enduring Tree Sect's sudden and baffling rise to power."

"Should we be in any kind of formation, or can we just walk where we like?" Dawn asked.

"Just walk where you'd like, so long as you are somewhat close together." Rona replied. "When you guys are ready, let's run through as much of the scene as we can."

"Are we on the road to somewhere specific, or does the script say?" Misty asked.

Rona checked the script. "The script doesn't say, so Brock can change up his comment on where you guys are going each show."

"Got it!" Brock replied before leading the group offstage.

"Word of the attack on the Resplendent Moon Sect spread...before long, the rumors reached the ears of a divine band of wandering heroes..." Rona read the last few lines of narration to cue the group.

Brock lead the others out onto the stage. "It will be an honor to reach Hundred Age Village..." he smiled. "I have longed to see how Master Emerald Seed is doing, and join her for the Cheri Blossom Festival."

Dawn gasped in feigned shock at Brock's carefree comment. "How can you care about celebrating when many more noble sects are not as lucky as the Divine Jade Sect?"

"What do you mean, Deerling-san?" May asked.

"Have you not heard?" Dawn replied. "For many years, the Enduring Tree Sect was just a small school in the middle of nowhere...but lately, they have been on the move, and their followers have been able to defeat and destroy other more powerful clans and sects!"

"Even the Righteous Sword, the Order of the Little Forest, the ladies of the Lofty Mountain, and the Brotherhood of Beggars?" Ash gasped.

"Yes, they have proven capable of besting all of them!" Dawn almost screamed.

Rona motioned for the scene to stop. "Remember you're not terrified, Dawn--only amazed that an obscure school could go toe to toe with the great sects in the martial world."

"Less fear, more amazement, okay." Dawn nodded.

"Okay, start where Ruby Phoenix asks about the great sects." Rona instructed.

"Even the Righteous Sword, the Order of the Little Forest, the ladies of the Lofty Mountain, and the Brotherhood of Beggars?" Ash gasped, this time in feigned awe.

"Yes, they have proven capable of besting all of them!" Dawn replied, a note of surprise in her voice. Rona nodded in approval, and motioned for the scene to continue.

Serena paused to think for a moment. "What secrets have they uncovered to give them such strength?"

"More importantly, how can their ambitions be stopped before the martial world is brought to its knees?" Misty asked.

Rona motioned for the scene to stop. "Misty...can we add a little more concern to your line? Again, you're not terrified, just concerned as to what would happen if this sect's ominous activities go unchecked."

"Okay..." Misty replied, then tried her line again. "More importantly, how can their ambitions be stopped before the martial world is brought to its knees?"

"Master Emerald Seed would know." Serena assured Misty. "As one of the most famous masters, she would likely know what we could do to stop the Enduring Tree Sect, and figure out why they behave like this."

"This is true...as we are arriving in Hundred Age Village on a festive day, let's ask her what is going on privately." Brock suggested. "This way, we do not cast an unnecessary pall on the festival."

Misty nodded in agreement. "The last thing we wish to do is cause undue panic and alarm on a joyous day."

"Very well...we will ask Master Emerald Seed what is going on, and get to the bottom of this baffling rumor." Dawn smiled.

"All right, and scene!" Rona called. "Overall, you did very well, just be mindful that while you are nervous about the rumor, you are not terrified."

"Yeah--it's very rare for the Six Spirits to be outright terrified." Ash agreed as he thumbed back to the start of the scene.

Rona nodded. "Exactly--let's try the whole scene from the start, keeping your characters' emotions in mind."

Once the group was in position offstage, Rona gave the cue for Brock to lead the others out onto the stage. "It will be an honor to reach Hundred Age Village..." he smiled as he arrived onstage with the others. "I have longed to see how Master Emerald Seed is doing, and join her for the Cheri Blossom Festival."

Dawn gasped in feigned shock at Brock's carefree comment. "How can you care about celebrating when many more noble sects are not as lucky as the Divine Jade Sect?"

"What do you mean, Deerling-san?" May asked.

"Have you not heard?" Dawn replied. "For many years, the Enduring Tree Sect was just a small school in the middle of nowhere...but lately, they have been on the move, and their followers have been able to defeat and destroy other more powerful clans and sects!"

"Even the Righteous Sword, the Order of the Little Forest, the ladies of the Lofty Mountain, and the Brotherhood of Beggars?" Ash gasped.

"Yes, they have proven capable of besting all of them!" Dawn replied, a note of surprise in her voice.

Serena paused to think for a moment. "What secrets have they uncovered to give them such strength?"

"More importantly, how can their ambitions be stopped before the martial world is brought to its knees?" Misty asked.

"Master Emerald Seed would know." Serena assured Misty. "As one of the most famous masters, she would likely know what we could do to stop the Enduring Tree Sect, and figure out why they behave like this."

"This is true...as we are arriving in Hundred Age Village on a festive day, let's ask her what is going on privately." Brock suggested. "This way, we do not cast an unnecessary pall on the festival."

Misty nodded in agreement. "The last thing we wish to do is cause undue panic and alarm on a joyous day."

"Very well...we will ask Master Emerald Seed what is going on, and get to the bottom of this baffling rumor." Dawn smiled.

"All right, and scene!" Rona called. "Now then..let's work on blocking. Brock, when you lead the way out, you're not running. Imagine you guys are walking in a park, or on a scenic trail..."
 
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Episode 7: Discussion of the Three Guardians

The readthrough room buzzed with activity as the Niji Troupe convened to discuss their newest play--"The Three Guardians of the Mountains". "Okay, everyone...let's settle in." Rona began as she arrived in the room with the master copy of the script. "'The Three Guardians of the Mountains' may have some similarities to 'The Three Musketeers' but aside from a phoenix born, a dragon born and a Raikou born teaming up to save the martial world, and the bickering of various evil sects, the similarities stop there."

She noticed Serena, May, and Dawn looking over at her concerned. "But worry not, Delphox, Beautifly, and Deerling. You three have important roles to play yourselves."

"That's a relief..." May smiled as the troupe opened their scripts to begin the scene by scene discussion of the play.

"Now...'The Three Guardians of the Mountains' tells the story of how three friends take down various evil sects in the area--which ends up restoring peace to the realm." Rona began. "While they train and make their home on three separate mountains--Ruby Mountain, Sapphire Mountain, and Emerald Mountain--they meet by chance in Evergreen Town--modern day Viridian City."

"That makes sense--Virdian City has long been called 'The Crossroads of Kanto'--because people from all over Waku and the world have come there to visit, see the sights, and reach other parts of Kanto." Ash remembered.

He smiled at Serena. "Gary told me that once..."

Rona continued reading over Scene 4 of Act 1. "After introducing themselves, the three companions--Scarlet Phoenix, Azure Dragon, and Jade Raikou--hear many worried rumors about many evil sects--and how they all appear to be fighting to find the Seven Water Sword, a rare dual water and ice elemental sword manual that can have devastating consequences in the wrong hands. The three of them promise each other to find the manual, or die trying, with Azure Dragon volunteering to learn the techniques inside."

"Sounds exciting!" May smiled.

"This sets into motion a grand world-spanning quest to take out as many evil sects as possible, culminating in a battle against the Beguiling Moon Sect on the outskirts of the Aiiro City--not far from Evergreen Town." Rona explained. In the end, the Beguiling Moon is defeated, the alliance of evil sects is dissolved, and our heroes are handsomely rewarded by the Emperor and the Empress in the Aiiro City, with the Emperor proclaiming six months of celebration in their honor across all of Waku."

Misty studied her opening monologue in Scene 2. "There's a part that says 'It is said that every 3,000 years, the Pecha Berries bloom, and I have seen many a harvest'. What does that mean?"

"Pecha Berries are often depicted as a sacred fruit, so it would make sense for a dragon-born to say this." Rona explained.

"Remember the tale 'Kaitou and the Red Demon'?" Brock reminded Misty. "This is very similar."

"Oh yeah...just as they heal poison in the good and the pure, they poison evil." Misty remembered, so in essence, she is saying she is effectively a daeva."

Rona nodded. "Yes, your characters are daevas--and your monologues reflect that. But even gods worry over their creation--this is one reason why you three embark on the quest for the Seven Water Sword."

"Does the Seven Water Sword have a basis in fact, or is it all made up?" someone asked.

"It does have a basis in Gyarados martial arts." Rona explained. "In order, the seven waters--and the seven katas that make up the style--are still water, rippling water, sparkling water, rushing water, falling water, frozen water, and warm water. Each kata has a moveset of its own, but it is never said how many moves each kata has."

"Okay, so in addition to water, there, ice, fire, and light elemental moves?" Misty guessed.

"It is implied that each kata has hundreds or even thousands of different moves." Serena explained as she looked through Act 2 of the play. "Quite a few of them actually get named, as well."

"Ash, Brock, do you guys have any questions or concerns about your characters' opening monologues?" Rona asked.

"Not so far..." Ash replied.

"No qualms here..." Brock agreed. "Lots of nice Raikou imagery in here, especially the lines about how Raikou should not be proud and arrogant, but strong and yet gentle. It acknowledges how Raikou is often the bad guy in a lot of folk tales, and how that conflicts with Raikou as a Noble Spirit."

"Ash...I will caution you about playing up Scarlet Phoenix's confidence in your monologue." Rona cautioned. "While your character is sure of who he is and confident in his abilities, he is not prideful, and knows how to be humble. Focus on playing up the phoenix as a sign of courage, and joy."

Ash nodded. "I'll do my best."

"Misty, I will give you the same warning..." Rona went on. "Remember that while your character is a fine warrior, she knows that there is a time to attack, a time to defend, a time to support, and a time to retreat when the battle doesn't go her way."

Misty nodded. "The better part of valor is discretion."

"Let's return to scene 5 at the end of Act 1--you three's first song." Rona instructed. "In this scene you three discuss the rumors, agree on going on the quest, and then promise, in song, that you will be there for each other along the way, no matter what."

"I take it we'll have a session with the piano later?" Misty smiled.

"Yes, there's no way the piano could fit in here." Rona admitted. "I do have it scheduled for its spring tuning this week, so once it's tuned, we can start going over the songs."

"Besides, if the piano's out of tune, so will the other instruments and our voices." Brock agreed. "Then the whole show would be off."

"Exactly..." Rona agreed before turning her attention back to the script. "Does anyone have any questions or concerns about the final scene of Act 1?"

When no one said anything, she turned the page to the first scene of Act 2. "Okay...let's move on to Act 2--where Rainbow Delphox, Crystal Beautifly, and Violet Deerling come into play..."
 

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Episode 8: Spreading the Word About the Six Harmonies

"So, how many confirmations do we have on the Pokebook page so far?" Ash asked Serena as he carefully taped a colorful poster advertising the Kagayou's latest play--a revival of a fan favorite show-- to a light pole.

Serena studied her PokeNav for a moment. "We have a little more than 300 confirmed, and 700 interested as of right now--and well wishes from across the Pokeworld. I think 'Seeking the Six Harmonies' is in good hands."

After bringing up MapNav with their planned route marked, an idea came to her. "If you're bored with taping posters to light poles, we can head for places with bulletin boards--like local restaurants, the gym, schools..."

"I didn't think to ask around the schools, but I'm sure the kids would love to come." Ash smiled before taking stock of how many posters he had left. "If we catch the bus, we can hit up Pallet Elementary and Restaurant Row..."

"Come to think of it, it is almost lunch time." Serena admitted. "Let's head for Pallet Elementary and talk to the event coordinator there, then we'll get lunch."

"Deal!" Ash smiled before following Serena to the nearby bus stop...

---------

"Ash, Serena, hello!" the school secretary smiled as Ash and Serena approached the main office's front desk. "What can I do for you two today?"

"Is Ms. Bowen in today?" Serena asked. "We're getting ready for our next play, and we want to extend an invitation to the kids to come see 'Seeking the Six Harmonies'."

The secretary savored a memory of a past performance of the play in question. "The 4th and 5th graders will be thrilled you're reviving that play--and the younger kids will get to experience the magic of the Tawame theater for the first time."

She accepted a poster from Ash. "Ms. Bowen is in a meeting now, but I'll let her know you guys came by, and to give Rona a call--the card I have is still current, right?"

"Nothing's changed, so you should still reach Rona at the number you have." Ash replied. "We hope to see the kids in the audience soon!"

---------

Later, at Pearl's Diner, Ash beamed with pride at the poster that joined many other community event posters on the Here's What's Happening board. "So after we're done with lunch, where should we go next?"

Serena looked up from the menu. "The gym and the library shouldn't be too far off from here, and the community center is another bus ride--that should give us enough places to put up these last few posters."

"I already know what you want, Mr. Phoenix..." the waitress smiled as she arrived to take Ash's and Serena's orders. "Triple Cheeseburger, take it through the garden, don't pin a rose on it, right?"

Ash nodded. "You got it!"

He translated "In other words, with lettuce and tomato, hold the onions."

Serena nodded as she continued studying the menu. "What's the special today?"

"Today's special is the Bottomless Chili Bowl--all the chili you care to enjoy for a flat 500 credits." the waitress replied.

"Can I get cheese on it and remove the onions?" Serena asked.

The waitress nodded "Bottomless bowl 'o red, travelin' to Unova, don't pin a rose on it. I'll have your orders out shortly!"

"Translation: Bottomless chili bowl, put cheese on it, hold the onions." Ash translated. "On our Unova trip, we heard a lot of colorful terms in all the diners--Whitlea and Rosa were happy to compile us a dictionary of it. While there are some 'standard' terms, no two diners will have the exact same lingo."

"You'll have to show that to me sometime." Serena smiled as she savored the ambience of classic pop music and people enjoying their food...

---------

The library hummed with activity as Ash and Serena arrived to put up a poster on the community board some time later. "Hm..." Ash mused as he studied the bulletin board covered in ads and posters for various events. "Where to put this..."

"I can put it on the lower floor's board, if you like..." one of the librarians offered.

She smiled when she saw the poster. "You should have no issue filling the theater--we all loved this play the first time around."

Ash nodded. "I'll still give my all to play Ruby Phoenix well."

"And me to Golden Delphox." Serena agreed.

As the librarian went to put up the poster, a buzz got Ash's attention. Hi, Ash--Misty and me are done putting up our posters. Brock's text read. How are you and Serena doing with your batch?

almost done--gotta catch the bus to the community center and put up one more, and we'll be back.
Ash texted back.

ok--May and Dawn have a few more to put up in the northern part of town, so you guys should beat them back if the buses don't run late. Brock replied back. Once everyone's back at the theater, we have free time for the rest of the day--Rona's little thank you for our hard work today.

gotcha--we're leaving the library and waiting to catch the bus to the community center.
Ash texted back. Cya back @ the theater!

After adding a Pikachu emoji to his text, he followed Serena out to the library bus stop. "How's everyone else doing?" Serena wondered.

"Misty and Brock are done over on the south side of town, we're almost done on the east side, and May and Dawn have a little more on the north side." Ash reported. "Another group is on the west side of town."

Serena smiled as she checked the Pokebook event page again. "Almost 2000 going or interested now--and counting." She let that hang as the bus arrived...
 
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Episode 9: Emerald Raikou Practices For a Festive Day

Let's see...we don't have any shows coming up right now, and it's too rainy to go out...may as well get in some vina practice. Brock thought as he settled in with a book of music marked in colorful note tabs and a well loved bow shaped harp.

Go through and remove the green tabs--those are pieces I have mastered and memorized. he smiled as he removed the green tabs from the book. Yellow tabs are pieces I'm working on polishing and memorizing, and red tabs are pieces I'm learning. Blue tabs are pieces I'd like to learn at some point...

Once sure he had removed all the green tabs from the book, he thumbed to the first piece with a yellow tab. "Getting ready to practice, Mr. Narrator?" Misty grinned as she watched Brock slip on some pale green fingerpicks.

"Yeah--we don't have anything to rehearse at the moment, so why not relax and play music on this dreary day?" Brock replied, flexing his right hand to make sure the fingerpicks were on comfortably.

"Middle pick needs a little adjusting." Misty pointed out one fingerpick about to slip off Brock's finger.

"So it does..." Brock admitted as he carefully nudged the fingerpick into place. "Any of the others need adjusting?"

"The others look fine, from my position." Misty replied before turning to leave. "Happy practicing--I'm off to do some acrobatic training."

Brock acknowledged his co-star and companion with a nod, then turned his attention to the music before him. Okay...let's run through as much as we can, then go back and work on any problematic areas.

With that, he started a relaxed melody, the rain providing a soft accompaniment all the while. Every once in a while, he would play a majestic sweeping chord to add a sense of power to the song, but for the most part, the song was a slow and serene tune with a majestic feel.

Some applause snapped him from his practice. "That was beautiful!" Serena raved from the hallway. "Is that a new song?"

"Not new per se, but one I've been working on." Brock explained as he set the vina on a stand, then located a pencil to make some notes in the sheet music.

"If I may ask, what's your secret to sounding so beautiful every time you play?" Serena wondered.

"There is no big secret, just careful and diligent practice every day." Brock assured Serena as he readied the vina to play again. "But I guess I can show you one of the technique exercises I often do when I practice..."

He explained "This particular exercise helps you limber your playing hand in playing octaves all around the instrument. It also helps build accuracy in playing octaves quickly--which I sometimes have to do during a show. When I do this, I go up the scale across the entire range, then come back down, making sure my fingers don't hit any extra notes on the way to the octaves."

So, re-re, mi-mi, fi-fi, and so on up the scale, then back down again?" Serena asked.

Brock nodded. "I prefer to do it slowly first, then do it faster."

With that, he slowly started up the scale, being careful to hit the octave notes along the way. Once he had completed a slow run of the exercise, he proceeded to play the exercise again at a faster tempo. "It sounds better when you do it fast--almost like a deity or Legendary is appearing." Serena smiled as she applauded.

Inspired, Brock proceeded to play "Verity Song", much to Serena's delight. "Just a quick little playful song for you." he smiled.

"Enjoy your practice--I'm off to the dojo for some sword training with Ash." Serena replied before disappearing down the hallway.

Brock gave his companion a smile and nod, then set his instrument on the stand for a moment. Maybe I should close my door so I don't get any more interruptions. It's nice to visit with everyone, but it is a little annoying when you're trying to practice.

After gently shutting his door, Brock returned to his waiting vina and sheet music, and thumbed to the next page with a yellow tab. Let's work on 'Winter Melody' next...

With that, he started a gentle melody that evoked snowfall on a winter's night, punctuated with fast tremolos and the occasional majestic glissando to evoke a wintry wind and burst of snow. Memo to self--after this run-through, work on my tremolos a little--these are sounding a little muddled. he reminded himself.

When the last note faded away, Brock braced himself for a knock or another signal that someone had been listening in. But when no sound came, he heaved a relieved sigh. Finally, I can make it through a single number in peace!
 

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Episode 10: Let's Go to the Theater of Dreams! (part 1)

"Okay, you guys...let's work on the scene where Ruby Phoenix brings Bright Sun and Radiant Moon to the Six Spirits' hideaway." Ash explained as he led Chance and Elena into an acting rehearsal room. "Do you guys have any questions about this scene, or is there anything you don't understand about this scene?"

"Not really..." Chance replied.

"Seems easy enough...Bright Sun and Radiant Moon learn about the prophecy they are key to, and the Six Spirits assure them they are safe there in the hideaway, and that they will train them." Elena replied.

Chance smiled at his own Pikachu. "Storm, can you and Vanille find somewhere to play quietly while we're rehearsing? It's not time for your first scene yet."

"I can take them to the Pokemon training room while we rehearse." Dawn offered, motioning for Chance's Pikachu and Elena's Eevee to follow her out of the room.

"Tintri can walk Storm through his scenes..." Ash mused.

"...and Neva can train Vanille." May smiled.

"Neva and Vanille looked so cute singing together the last time Chance and Elena acted with us in a play." Brock remembered. "Granted, it was just vaguely musical squeaking to us, but if Vanille enjoyed acting with Elena, I'm not complaining."

Dawn returned a few moments later. "Okay...Storm is with Tintri, and Vanille is with Neva. So now we can all go over what Rona said we needed to rehearse today."

Ash flipped to the scene in Act 1 of his script. "Let's start at the beginning of the scene, when Ruby Phoenix and the kids arrive."

He explained to Chance and Elena. "When you guys follow me onstage to start the scene, you're not running, but you're not trudging behind me, either. You're excited that a legendary warrior is going to train you, but the encounter with Jade Seviper in the scene before this one still lingers in your mind."

"So, we're still keeping up with you, but we're still nervous about the previous scene?" Chance asked as Ash led him and Elena to the left corner of the room.

Ash nodded. "Can you guys convey some nervous excitement as you enter?"

"We'll try." Chance replied.

With that, Ash motioned for Chance and Elena to follow him as he met the group in the center of the room. "Everyone! I've found the two chosen children!" he announced in character.

He made a grand gesture to Chance and Elena. "These are Bright Sun and Radiant Moon."

"Pleased to meet you both...I am the shining warrior Golden Delphox." Serena smiled in character.

"I am the graceful wind dancer, Jade Beautifly." May replied in character, twirling for effect.

"Greetings...I am the wise keeper of the water, Sapphire Dragon." Misty replied in character with a little bow.

"Hail, chosen ones...I am Pearl Deerling, the shining guide of the stars." Dawn replied in character.

"Hello...I am the guardian ranger of earth, Emerald Raikou." Brock replied in character.

"A pleasure to meet you all..." Elena smiled.

"Yeah, thank for letting us stay with you." Chance agreed.

"Do you know why Phoenix-san brought you here?" Dawn asked.

"He rescued us from Jade Seviper, right?" Elena stammered.

"There is a reason why Jade Seviper is after you both..." Ash explained in character. "The seer Natsume has foretold two children just like you will bring about Jade Seviper's downfall, and restore peace to the martial world."

"On the day that the sky is colored brightly, two siblings will drive out the Seviper from the reeds, and bring forth an age of peace and prosperity." Brock explained.

"And Natsume-sama believes we can do that?" Elena gasped. "How?"

"We don't even have a clue how to do any martial arts!" Chance protested in character.

"This is where we can come in." May explained. "We can teach you what we know of our divine arts, and guide you on the journey to the capital."

Elena thought for a moment. "We've known what we must do as the chosen children for some time, but we have worried about Jade Seviper and his men. Maybe now that we have you as bodyguards, we don't have to worry."

"If you two are willing to dedicate yourselves to learning these divine arts, we will do our part as your teachers and bodyguards." Serena explained. "We will all do everything we can to see you safely to the capital."

Chance smiled. "We'll do it!"

"Jade Seviper can do his worst!" Elena vowed.

Some applause from the doorway snapped the group to attention. "That was wonderful, all of you!" Rona smiled as she applauded.

"How did we do for this part of the scene?" Chance asked as Rona came in the room.

"First, Elena did very well conveying Radiant Moon's fear in this part of the scene..." Rona began. "My only suggestion would be to not come across as terrified. Radiant Moon has a right to be afraid of Jade Seviper, but she is not terrified. The Six Spirits' hideaway is a safe place for her and her brother."

"Work on conveying my character's fear--got it!" Elena reminded herself.

"Chance...when you protest that neither you or Radiant Moon have a clue how to do martial arts, you don't want to come across as angry." Rona cautioned. "Your character doesn't understand how he or his sister can be heroes at this point, so try approaching this line as if you're confused."

"Less mad, more confused...okay!" Chance smiled.

"Ash, if you would, let's run through this section of Act 1, Scene 3 again, so I can watch and give further feedback." Rona suggested.

"Right!" Ash called back as he led Chance and Elena back to their starting point again...
 

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Episode 11: The Rainbow's Iron Fan

"If you think all those superheroes in the movies, on TV, and in comic books have been around a while, they have nothing on the wily Infernape Son Goku, the star of 'Journey to the West'." Rona began as an audience of excited children and their teachers settled in to the main theater to watch the Niji Troupe put on an adaptation of the Tawame play "Princess Iron Fan". "'Journey to the West' may be an ancient story, but the adventures of Son Goku still enthrall many around the world today."

Excited whispers filled the theater. "Besides, Son Goku can do some things those other guys can only dream of." Rona grinned. "But rather than me listing off everything this incredible Infernape can do, why don't we have Triptaka--the priest that kept Son Goku in line--tell you about it?"

Cheers and applause filled the theater at this. "Okay! Sit back, relax, and enjoy--Triptaka has plenty of tales he could tell about Son Goku and his wiles..." Rona smiled before departing offstage to some applause as the lights went down, hiding Brock, in the role of Triptaka, making his way onstage.

A mystical flourish revealed Brock in a variation of his narrator's robe--a green robe with a gold and white pattern typically reserved for priest characters. "Greetings, young ones, and thank you for allowing me to share an account of one of the many amazing things that happened as I made my journey westward." he began. "In order to understand this story, the summer was just beginning to turn to autumn as we traveled. The leaves shed their green to reveal their hidden colors, and the nights often turned bitterly cold."

He went on "So imagine our surprise when it started to get hot again!"

Brock's spotlight blinked off, and the curtains opened to reveal a set of an ancient Wakunese road as the orchestra played a festive overture.

When the overture ended, awed murmurs filled the air as Ash arrived in white, gold, and dull red fighter's garb; complete with a headdress that evoked an Infernape's flaming head. Brock arrived riding a beautiful Dragonair puppet. A boy wearing black, red, and gold costume armor that evoked an Emboar came next, and Misty, now in a majestic blue, silver, white, and cyan robe, escorted the Dragonair puppet. "Unless I am mistaken, the summer should have turned to autumn..." Brock mused, wiping feigned sweat from his brow. "So why is it still hot?"

"I don't know..." the boy playing the Emboar Cho Hakkai began. "But I have heard of a land far away known as the end of the sky. They say every night, the king sends people on the city walls to bang drums and blow horns to cover up the sound of the sea boiling. This is because when the sun falls into the sea, it makes a hiss so loud, if they didn’t cover the noise with the instruments, the people would be literally scared to death!"

The children laughed along with Ash at the ridiculous description. "Don't be silly--at the rate we're going, we would've lived three hundred years or more! But we would have plenty of stories to tell!" Ash grinned, to more laughter.

"Okay then, Goku...if this isn’t where the sun sets, why’s it so scorching hot?" the boy playing Cho Hakkai retorted, to even more laughter.

"Maybe the seasonal cycle is in disarray?" Misty suggested.

"Hey, look!" Ash pointed at something offstage. "There's a house up ahead! Maybe we can ask who lives there why this area still feels like summer!"

"All right then, Goku--go and ask the ones that live there why it's so hot." Brock smiled. "And try to be polite about it!"

Laughter filled the air as Ash bounded offstage and the lights went down, buying Brock time to return to the narrator's nook. "Thankfully, Son Goku remembered his manners, and we were invited to join the family for dinner." he narrated. "The children didn't seem to find it unusual that an Infernape, an Emboar, and a human priestess were traveling with me."

The orchestra started an interlude, buying Brock time to shift from narrator to character again. When the lights came up on a group of extras, Brock, Ash, Misty, and the boy playing Cho Hakkai feigning eating, Brock asked the young man playing the host "Tell me, good sir...why is it hot again even though the summer has turned to autumn?"

"You are approaching the Fire Mountains, holy one." the actor playing the host replied. "It is like this all year."

"Really?" Brock was intrigued. "Is there a way we can cross without being burned?"

The actor playing the host nodded. "You can't even find a way around--they are 250 miles of pure heat, able to melt the strongest steel." "Whoa"s wafted down the rows as Brock shuddered in feigned fear.

Just then, a female voice called from offstage "Fresh cakes! Get your fresh sweet cakes!", snapping Ash to attention.

"Well! Maybe I can use my magic to get us some treats for the road, and a thank you gift for our host!" Ash mused as an aside. "There's gotta be a way to get across the Fire Mountains..."

He then cued some lights wired to his hands, making them glow bright gold. Kin magi magiiro! Golden Bag of Coins!"

"Wow"s and applause filled the theater as an ornate bag filled with prop coins appeared in Ash's hands. "If you don't mind, Master; I'm gonna go get us dessert." he whispered to Brock, who was still lost in feigned thought.

---------

The orchestra started a playful motif as the lights came up on Brock in the narrator's nook. "A roving baker had arrived in the area, and Son Goku had saw fit to buy a few of her cakes for us all." he narrated. "But after striking up a conversation with the baker, he learned a valuable clue as to how we could pass through the Fire Mountains unharmed..."

The lights came up on Ash and a girl playing a vendor on a fantastic road, complete with a replica of an ancient Wakunese vendor cart. "How much for a cake, good lady?" Ash asked as he opened the bag of prop coins he conjured before.

"One cake for a coin, Sir Infernape." the girl replied.

After trading one of the prop gold coins for a prop cake, the audience howled with laughter as Ash reared back from the "hot" cake. "YEEEOW! This is hot! Even for a Fire type like me!"

"Well, it's always this hot here..." the girl sighed as Ash continued dancing around the stage in feigned pain, to more laughter.

Ash composed himself some moments later. "Well, they say that if it’s never too cold and it’s never too hot, the five kinds of grain will be harvested not. So how do you get the stuff to make your cakes?”

"Where do we obtain the flour for the pan?" the girl replied. "Politely we request it from Lady Iron Fan."

"A god? It might be a good idea to learn about this Lady Iron Fan..." Ash mused as an aside.

He addressed the girl playing the baker again. "What can you tell me about the lady Iron Fan?"

"As her name suggests, she owns a Nanab leaf fan." the girl explained. "If waved once, the fan puts out the fire, conjures wind on the second wave, and brings rain on the third wave. This is how we can sow and reap the crops to support ourselves. Without it, nothing would be able to grow."

"Good to know!" Ash smiled. "I'll be sure to tell my master all about it!"

The lights went down to reveal Brock in the narrator's nook again. "And tell me about it he did." he smiled. "He spared no detail in his excitement. Once our cakes were cool enough to eat, he decided to ask our host about the mysterious goddess, Iron Fan..."

The orchestra started a peaceful interlude as the lights came up on Brock, Ash, the boy playing Cho Hakkai, and Misty, along with the extras playing the family. "Thank you so much for your hospitality, my good sir." Ash smiled at the boy playing the host. "But while I was out, I overheard an intriguing rumor about a goddess called Iron Fan. What can you tell me about her?"

"Well, why do you want to see her, Sir Infernape?" the boy playing the host asked.

"I wanna ask her to put out the flames of the Fire Mountains, so we can cross safely." Ash replied. "That and you guys could finally have peaceful lives."

"It's a nice thought, but she will not honor your requests without a gift." the boy playing the host sighed.

Rona smiled from backstage as Ash and the boy playing the host bantered onstage. Ash makes a wonderful Son Goku! He has the right balance of being heroic, comical, and mischievous. But I'm looking forward to seeing if the golden cloud works... The floating pillow prop had proved troublesome in rehearsal, from not levitating at all, to going too high up and getting stuck in the lighting, to only hovering for a few seconds before sending Ash tumbling to the ground.

She heard Ash say "Okay! I'll be back momentarily!" This is it! Son Goku conjures the golden cloud!

Onstage, Ash sang Karuto, ichiida shou... to thunderous cheers as the floating gold pillow appeared, making him appear to fly! But Rona was the most relieved. Thank Arceus, it's working!
 

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Episode 12: The Noble Raikou Teaches His Cub

"Okay, Forest..." Brock began as he led his younger brother onto the stage where the crew and the others were getting ready for the day's rehearsal. "After we get done with acting training, it's back in the training garb for fight training--so you can learn to wield a sword safely, and start learning your fight progressions. We'll do some archery training later if you're not too tired from fight training."

"Got it!" Forest smiled. "That training garb is pretty comfy..."

He turned his attention back to his script. "What scenes are we blocking today?"

"Today we're going over the scene where the Emperor appeals for help finding his daughter, Princess Jade Heart, and the Six Spirits and Young Raikou learn about it." Brock explained. "Young Raikou volunteers for the quest, and vows, in song, that he will do everything he can to save Princess Jade Heart, or die trying. For now, we're only practicing the talking parts--we'll work in the song one you get all the words and the tune down."

Forest nodded. "Ash has been a huge help demystifying Tawame singing, and how different it is from music class at school, or singing along with the radio in the car."

"Well, keep in mind that you are the hero in this story, and your voice has to reflect that." Brock reminded Forest. "If you ask Rona very nicely, she'll let Misty borrow the piano in the practice room so you can practice your song some more."

"Okay! I need our stars and Young Raikou, please!" Rona called from the audience.

"We're on, sport--come on." Brock motioned for Forest to meet the others on the stage with their scripts...

---------

"Let's start at the beginning of the scene, where Jade Beautifly tells the others about the Emperor's proclamation." Rona explained. "May, when you come on, you don't want to run, but just fast enough to sell your nervousness and excitement. Your character doesn't know everything about what the Emperor said, so keep that in mind as you say your lines, okay?"

"Right!" May replied before hurrying to the wings.

Once she saw Rona's cue to begin, she jogged to meet the others. "Everyone! Did you hear? Did you hear?"

"Hear what?" Forest asked, confused.

"The notorious dragon Akaiou has kidnapped the princess!" May almost screamed. "The Emperor is appealing all across Waku for someone to rescue her!"

"May...remember you're not terrified, but you are worried for Princess Jade Heart." Rona gently reminded May. "A little fear is okay, but not too much."

"Okay..." May replied before trying her lines again. "The notorious dragon Akaiou has kidnapped the princess! The Emperor is appealing all across Waku for someone to rescue her!"

"When was she taken?" Dawn asked. "Has the dragon made any demands?"

"That I do not know for sure..." May confessed. "The rumor in the capital is that she was taken in the black of the night, while the imperial family slept."

"What about the imperial guards?" Brock asked. "Were they even able to stand against a red dragon's fire?"

"I wonder if anyone has even been able to reach Akaiou's cave..." Dawn mused.

"From what I hear, all those that have tried have failed..." Ash sighed. "What few that did reach the cave told of a massive maze just to reach Akaiou--and many met their ends lost within the labyrinth."

"There has to be someone that can brave the perilous journey, and the dragon's labyrinth..." Serena mused.

"Then I will be that someone!" Forest confidently declared.

"Are you sure, Young Raikou?" Brock asked. "You have shown much promise in your training, but a dragon is a powerful opponent..."

"I believe I can, with all of you supporting me along the way." Forest replied.

Serena nodded. "You're sure this is not just because you like the princess, is it?"

Some of the crew in the audience laughed. "I do not deny that Princess Jade Heart is beautiful, Lady Delphox. But my main reason for undertaking this perilous quest is to see Her Majesty safe."

"Very well then, Young Raikou--this could very well be the chance to become a hero you have long waited for." Misty smiled over an interlude from the piano.

"If this is what you truly wish to do, we won't try to stop you." Brock agreed. "We will go with you, and support you on this dangerous journey--because no hero ever walked alone."

"All right, and scene!" Rona called as she got up from the piano. "How confident do you feel about the song, Forest?"

"I'm getting the hang of singing in Tawame style, but I'd like some more practice with the song before we do it on the stage." Forest replied.

"Just remember that if you ever want some more practice on a song, ask Rona or me, and we'll play the piano for you." Misty assured Forest.

Forest nodded before asking Rona "How did I do with my lines?"

"The question you ask when Jade Beautifly arrives needs less confusion, and more interest." Rona explained. "You of course want to know what she has to say, but you also need to indicate your interest in that, too."

She went on "Your declaration that you will be the one to rescue Princess Jade Heart is almost perfect--that line just needs a little more power. This is one of the major moments of the play, so make it count!"

"Was my response to Serena's line okay?" Forest asked.

"You did well responding on the fly, without any noticeable embarrassment." Rona replied. "Nice work on conveying Young Raikou's noble heart and sense of justice."

"Thanks..." Forest smiled.

"Now, let's try the scene again leading up to the song, from the top!" Rona called, spurring the group and Forest to hurry back into position again...
 

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Episode 13: Readthrough of the Rescue

The Kagayou's readthrough room hummed with activity as the Niji Troupe convened for the first readthrough of the play "The Rescue of Green Jade Town". "Okay..." Rona began as she arrived in the room. "Thank you to all who auditioned. It was no easy task picking some of the roles--for some roles, it was clear who was best for the role, which some others had multiple contenders. But overall, I feel the right actors are in the right roles for this play."

She turned her attention to the master copy of the script. "Let's start by giving you guys a brief overview of the play's plot--those of you that got speaking roles will have your lines highlighted in an appropriate color."

The rustle of paper filled the room as the troupe members opened their scripts to the first page. "'The Rescue of Green Jade Town' may seem like a simple rescue of a ancient Wakunese village at first glance, there's actually more going on than meets the eye."

Serena smiled as she studied the long cast list in her script. "Did we all get our theme colors swapped around?" she asked as she wrote "Me!" next to "Silver Delphox" in the cast list.

"Not really--Misty and Dawn still have theirs." Brock replied.

He nudged Ash. "It's gonna be a bit strange being in red for a change..."

"I've played more gold phoenix-born characters than you think--many of them with a connection to Ho'oh." Ash reminded his companion. "We'll see if this one does too."

"Now, in our first scene, the heroes of Harmony Mountain are traveling, and introduce the audience to the main conflict of rescuing Green Jade Town." Rona explained. "There will be plenty of opportunities to ad-lib in here. You could also improvise this scene, so your conversation is different each show. But the highlighted lines must appear in the conversation at some point, regardless of how much improvising you do."

"I'd much rather improv this scene, but that's just me." Dawn smiled as she made a note in her script.

"When the heroes reach the town, they earn that the Black Zephyr Sect has been giving the town trouble because they want the Jewels of the Sacred Hero, which they were told were in the town--which is true, to a point." Rona went on. "It turns out that Silver Braviary, the town's elder, owns one of the jewels--and the other nine are hidden around the play's world."

"But why were the other nine hidden?" Ash wondered.

"Some years before the story, Green Jade Town was attacked, and all the jewels were nearly lost." Rona explained, paraphrasing Scene 3 for Ash, "The elder at that time, Silver Braviary's father, decided to hide the other nine across the world, and keep the jewel that gave the town its name--the Earth Jade--in the elder's house. The jewels only show their true power if united."

She smiled. "Of course, the heroes accept Silver Braviary's request to find the other nine jewels, drive out the Black Zephyr Sect, and save the town."

"What's this about a Celestial Balancing Pose?" Serena asked as she studied the first scene of Act 2.

"This is actually one of the subplots." Rona explained. "So you'll have to do a lot of balancing in this play, Serena."

"Hm...how would balancing help us save the world?" May was intrigued by the unusual art as she thumbed through her script.

A part of the climatic scene in Act 2 made her smile. "Oh, I see! Serena, Dawn, and I use our balancing skills to keep a large rock from destroying the town!"

"Pretty clever way to work balancing into the play." Dawn smiled as she made a note to reserve the acrobatics room in NoteNav.

Brock smiled at a certain character name in one scene early in Act 2. "I can't wait to interact with Scarlet Fletchling in Act 2..."

"Both Serena and May did very well trying out for that role." Misty reminded Brock. "I was surprised to find out Lyra got that part!"

"Well, Lyra is a great singer, so I respect Rona's choice." May assured Misty.

"I did talk to Lyra earlier today, and she was thrilled that she's going to get to sing with your vina in several scenes." Dawn assured Brock. "I can't wait to hear those songs too."

"I have actually sang "Rain Song on a Spring Night" before, vina accompaniment and all." Brock remembered. "Had to move it down a fifth to A minor and tune the vina to C major pentatonic since the original key of E minor was a little high for me."

He smiled. "I can't wait to hear Lyra's version of the song."

"She should have no trouble with the original key." Rona assured Brock. "Are we ready to move on to Act 2, or is there anything else in Act 1 you would like to discuss?"

When no one says anything, Rona explains the synopsis of the first few scenes of Act 2. "Our heroes do not know that they are being watched by the Black Zephyr Sect. Their leader, Master Black Venomoth, sends Black Murkrow out to follow the group and spy on them. Meanwhile, our heroes meet Azure Meowth, a young wandering hero who moonlights as an acrobat. She tells Silver Delphox about the Celestial Balancing Pose--and that it could benefit our heroes if one of them learned to use it. Initially, Silver Delphox volunteers, and this inspires Green Beautifly and Violet Deerling too..."
 

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Episode 14: Six Spirits Take the Day Off

May stretched as the group met in the training complex's common area. "Okay...'Flying Rainbow of the Imperial City' is in the books! Rona said we have today and Monday off as a reward for our hard work."

"Pity it's supposed to rain all day today..." Dawn sighed as she looked out on the rainy streets of Pallet Town. "We could've gone to the mall, we could've gone to the movies..."

Brock smiled as he held up a board game box depicting a colorful kaleidoscopic pattern. "We could play a game--as far as I know, Illusion is for 4 to 8 players..."

"Oh yeah...I forgot about our massive board and card game collection!" Dawn remembered as Brock set out six of the ten player boards, the massive bag of pattern pieces, the claim tokens, the scoreboard, and the player tokens on a large table, leaving the master pattern cards and a dice in the box.

"Now then..." Brock began as he took the green player token, the green claim tokens and its player board. "There's two different ways we can play 'Illusion'. We can play the standard way, which involves being the first to reach the end of the path on the scoreboard by making kaleidoscopic patterns, or we can play the pattern builder variant, which is basically a glorified matching game."

"None of us have played this before, so let's stick with the standard rules." May suggested as she toyed with her orange token.

"Okay...the object of 'Illusion' is to earn 100 points--and you do that by claiming patterns." Brock explained before dealing out four unique circular pattern pieces to the group. "Now, on your turn, you can start a pattern, or add on to what has already been built. You can start as many patterns as you like, so long as you have at least one piece that can fit in one of the patterns currently out. You can only add on to a pattern if your piece matches the pattern you're trying to add on to. Once the number of pieces in a pattern matches the number of players, the person that placed the last piece claims that pattern, and earns points based on the point values of the pieces in the pattern. The first person to get at least 100 points, wins. If you somehow end up with more than 100 points, that will be rounded down to 100."

He showed the group the claim tokens. "When you put down a pattern piece, you put one of these on top of it, so everyone knows who placed what piece--and who ultimately claims the pattern."

After flipping over a pattern piece to reveal the 3 on the back, Brock went on "Each piece is worth a particular amount of points--usually ranging from 1 to 8, but some versions might have higher piece scores and a higher score limit. When someone claims the pattern, everyone gets points equal to how many pieces they placed. So it is entirely possible to claim no patterns at all, and still win."

He went on "Normally you are supposed to roll the dice to determine who goes first, but I'll go first this time so I can explain how a turn works, and answer any questions you guys might have."

"Do the different pattern types mean anything?" Misty asked, studying the two circular pieces and one star piece and flower piece she held.

"No--that's strictly for looks." Brock explained as he laid down a green circular piece, then placed one of his claim tokens. "You can only put out one piece at a time, or add on to a pattern one at a time. Since I have started a pattern and claimed the first piece, it is now Dawn's turn."

"Hm..." Dawn studied the purple star, blue circle, orange circle, and a second purple star she held. "I'll start a purple star." she explained as she placed one of her purple star pieces and claimed it.

"How do we earn more pieces to place?" Ash asked.

"If you have a piece with a gold starburst, and you place that, you earn two pieces." Brock explained. "Everyone draws back up to four every three go-arounds. If you have more than four pieces when this happens, you keep those, and don't draw more. if someone hits 100 points in the middle of a go-around, that go-around is allowed to finish before the game ends."

He looked over at May. "Anyway, Dawn has finished her turn, so now it is May's turn."

"Let's see here..." May studied the blue star, the red circle, the blue circle, and the green circle she held. "I'll add onto the green circle you started, Brock..." she smiled as she added her own green circle piece to the one on the table.

"All right." Brock smiled. "Now it's Serena's turn."

Serena studied the purple flower, the orange flower, the red star, and the cyan star she held. "I'll start a red star pattern--for Ash."

"Okay...it is Ash's turn." Brock announced.

Ash smiled as he added on a red star piece of his own. "I'll add onto what Serena started, then."

"Now, Misty finishes this go-around, then we come back to me again." Brock explained as he watched Misty study her four pieces.

"I'll build onto your green pattern..." Misty assured Brock as she placed and claimed a third piece...
 

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Episode 15: Venting About the Dress Rehearsal


The Kagayou's main theater hummed with activity as the lights came up for intermission on the dress rehearsal for "Plume of the Great Phoenix". But backstage, the Niji Troupe's six stars were frustrated with the number of things that had gone wrong so far. "I know the old saying says 'bad dress rehearsal, good opening night', but this took the cake!" Misty complained as she settled in to rest in the backstage common area.

"Still not pleased I kept getting tongue-tied on the rap sheet song..." Brock sighed. "Granted, I can still sing fairly fast, so I guess it was just nerves." He let that hang as he accepted a bottle of water from a stage ninja.

Serena nodded in agreement. "I'm hoping to Arceus that the pivotal scene of this play goes off without a hitch..."

"Knowing our luck, Ash will trip and fall down the cliff right as he tries to get the plume." Misty grumbled. "Once an actor or crew member's down, that's ringdown worthy."

"Guys, I know that a lot of things have gone wrong..." Ash sighed. "That's kinda the point of a dress rehearsal--to fine tune everything so everything works on opening night. But at the same time, many things have gone right, too. So let's motivate ourselves to finish strong by reminding ourselves what actually went right."

The angry look on Misty's face softened as she admired Ash's majestic red, white, and gold costume. "Well, you nailed your solo in Act 1..."

"Even after struggling with all those fast runs for the longest time." Brock agreed, the gold Raikou stripe designs on his costume giving the backstage floor a golden sheen as he checked his vina's tuning for the rest of Act 2.

"I'm relieved I got the big dance down without falling or getting dizzy." Serena mused as she took off her glittery white Delphox ear headband to smooth out some frizzy hair.

"That was a beautiful dance, by the way." Misty smiled. "What's your secret to spinning that fast?"

"Yeah, how do you spin that quickly?" Dawn wondered.

"A good sense of balance, and learning the spins slowly." Serena replied. "Once you can do them slowly, speed up slowly until you can do the spins at speed. It's really no different from a fast passage in music, or a fast fight progression."

"It's similar to what an ice skater does." Brock explained as he fine tuned some of the middle strings on his vina. "You keep your body moving at a fairly constant speed, but try to keep your gaze on one “spot,” varying the speed at which you rotate your head."

"Oh"s went up at this. "Everything okay over here?" Rona asked.

She noticed Misty's somewhat glum look. "I know, it's frustrating when things don't go right. But even though many things didn't quite work in the first half of the play, focus on making the rest of Act 2 and Act 3 the best you can."

"Besides, the big scene where we find some treasures, and Scarlet Phoenix finds the Plume of the Great Phoenix is coming up." May agreed, happily spreading her gold costume's beautiful glittering wings. "We have to give our all for the high point of the play!"

Misty nodded in agreement. "Yeah...no play was ever successful after a big pity party."

She found the script on a table and read over the remaining scenes of Act 2. "Okay...the hanami scene on Summer Bridge is next..."

She looked over at Brock. "The script never says what Jade Harp tells in this next scene..."

"If Rona says it's okay..." Brock uneasily looked over at Rona, who gave him an encouraging smile. "I plan to change up what kind of story I tell in that scene for each performance."

"Your only rule is that is has to be a heroic or encouraging tale." Rona reminded Brock.

Brock nodded. "I have a few ideas of what I want to tell in this next scene, so let's vote on what I tell before we go back on. The story everyone seems to agree on, I'll use for when we go back on and opening night."

"That's fair." Dawn replied as she adjusted the slivery rainbow flower in her hair.

"'Crackling Fire Mountain' would be funny." Ash suggested.

"Since we are on a bridge in the next scene, 'My Lord Bag of Rice' would make sense." Misty suggested.

"'Shippeitaro' would be exciting." Serena suggested.

"Another vote for 'Crackling Fire Mountain'." May smiled.

"'My Lord Bag of Rice'" would make the most sense." Dawn suggested. "Considering we are on a bridge..."

Brock located a coin in the pocket of his costume. "Heads, I tell 'Crackling Fire Mountain' for our next scene. Tails, I tell 'My Lord Bag of Rice' for our next scene." With that, everyone watched as the coin went flying up into the air.

Serena watched the coin land with a clink by her foot. "It's heads."

"'Crackling Fire Mountain' it is." Brock smiled as he retrieved the coin.

The lights flashing the five minute warning snapped the group to attention. "Five minutes, everyone!" Rona called, sending actors and crew back to their places for the rest of Act 2.

"Let's finish this strong." Ash reminded Misty as the two of them located their places for the next scene. "With everything that has gone wrong, opening night has to be great!"
 
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Episode 16: Six Spirits Take Questions in the Library

An activity room at Pallet Library buzzed with excitement as the group and Rona made preparations for a Q and A session about their upcoming play, "Wyrdeer By the White Willow", as well as questions about the Tawame tradition in general. Each of the group was seated before a long table on a stage and miced, so they would easily be heard in the large room.

Once sure all the attendees were present, and Rona and the group had been introduced, Rona addressed the crowd. "Good morning, all, and thank you for letting us answer some of your questions about 'Wyrdeer By the White Willow'--or just the Tawame tradition in general."

The number to text questions to blipped on a screen "Here's how this will work.." Rona explained. "Text your questions to the number onscreen, I will ask them, and our stars will answer them. Keep in mind that our stars reserve the right not to answer a question, and questions are reviewed before I see them."

Excited murmurs and upbeat music played as the clicking and text beeps of PokeNavs and phones filled the room...

---------

"Okay...this should be enough to start." Rona smiled.

"You can continue to send in questions while questions are being answered." the chief librarian assured the audience. "So please keep sending in questions."

"Now then..." Rona looked at the first question on her list. "How different is singing in the Tawame tradition compared to other kinds of singing?"

"It's not your typical music class or singing on the radio, and it's definitely not like Western musicals." Brock explained. "Unlike traditional Western theater, there's not so much a wide variety of different individual voices as there are slight variations of voices for a type of character. So every yuushi, or heroic role, will have a specific sound with some slight variations to set them apart, every bushihime, or warrior princess role, will sound somewhat consistent, and so on. If there is a role type that matches Western theater, it's what I do in the troupe--the houkaku role. Since they can play any type of role, they have to learn every different role type's singing style, instead of just one specific type. No matter what role we play, we must remember that song is an extension of acting--so our voices have to sell our role type. Even different incarnations of the same character--which is VERY common in the Tawame canon--will have very slight differences in their sound to tell them apart. So even if two different actors are playing the same role, you would hear a difference in their song."

Rona scrolled down to a new question. "Does the play's title have a meaning?"

"Yes--it refers to how a Wyrdeer would appear to a hero in Hisuian mythology and in martial arts stories." Serena explained. "Often just when the hero needed their help."

"Does a Wyrdeer appear in the play?" Rona asked the next question.

"Yes!" May smiled. "Our Wyrdeer is a rideable puppet, requiring three performers. One operates the front, one supports the rider on its back, and one operates the back. Since it doesn't speak, the front puppeteer can manipulate its eyes and head to convey how it feels."

"Is it hard to learn fights in your plays?" Rona asked.

"Not as hard as you may think--we have a top notch fight team that walks us through every part of the fight." Misty explains. "Safety informs every fight we do, so the fight team will have us practice each part of the fight in slow motion, until we can do it well, and do it without damaging anything or hurting anyone."

"What was the play inspired by?" Rona asked.

"The play is based on a novel, that was in turn inspired by Hisuian mythology." Dawn replied. "Not surprisingly, the novel is popular in Shinou, so I brought my copy to help the writers out while they were writing the script. In all, our play is mostly faithful to the book, with a few slight changes and some additions for the sake of the rule of cool."

"How hard is it to fight with two blades vs. one?" Rona addressed Misty with a question.

"Two blades are harder to fight with, but with enough practice, they can create some creative and awe inspiring fights." Misty replied. "You have to be well aware of both your blades, and where they are at all times. You have more offensive power, but less defense. A twinblade user's best defense is speed and agility--which ties into dragon style martial arts and related styles."

"It does tie into the war fan to a point." May agreed.

"Was it scary riding on top of the Wyrdeer puppet?" Rona asked Ash a question.

"At first, yes it was." Ash admitted. "But once I asked for a catch tether, it made for an easier ride experience--even when we were jumping all over the set. But our puppeteers are very careful not to drop someone. Safety is part of their training, too--since they know they will by supporting riders on top of a puppet sometimes."

"Is it hard to perform in character?" Rona asked Brock.

"To a point, yes." Brock replied. "You have to keep your character's personality in mind, and not slip into how you would tell the story. But with some practice, it gets easier to form a boundary between you and your character..."
 

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Episode 17: Six Spirits Gather at the Rock

Excited chatter filled the main theater as the Niji Troupe convened for another rehearsal of "Raikou Watches From Green Jade Rock". "I can't wait to see you stand on top of the titular rock to look out at the Imperial City." Dawn smiled. "That's where you make your big promise to protect the imperial family."

"Since the rock is not quite ready yet, I'll be standing on a platform for today's rehearsal." Brock explained. "This is the high point of Act 1, so it makes the meeting with Princess White Dream at Chrysanthemum Bridge in the next scene more meaningful."

"Last time I got an update from the prop crew, the rock is almost ready." Serena assured Brock. "It has a hidden door so you can climb on top of it, or see out from behind it, like a podium."

Brock flipped a few pages ahead in his script to the start of Act 2. "It also serves as the secret entrance to the Six Spirits' hideout--where we bring the princess to discuss her fateful journey to Vermilion Sunrise Mountain."

"I hope we get to do that scene today!" Ash smiled as he arrived onstage. "Midori's excited about Act 2."

He noticed the platform standing in for the rock. "Not much of a rock..."

"Green Jade Rock's not ready yet, so I'll be doing my big promise scene from this platform for today." Brock assured Ash. "It'll look good once the rock is ready, okay?"

Ash nodded. "I'm sure the rock will look amazing when it's ready!"

"Places everyone!" Rona called, just as Misty and May arrived onstage.

"Remind me what parts we're going over today, again?" Misty asked as she located her script in a pile of props.

"The big promise scene, and Emerald Raikou's meeting with Princess White Dream at Chrysanthemum Bridge." Serena explained. "Two of the big scenes in Act 1."

Misty nodded. "I'm sure the promise scene will pack a bigger punch with the rock here and the orchestra. But for now, this platform will have to do."

---------

"Okay...let's go over Emerald Raikou's promise scene." Rona explained to the group. "At this stage, you guys know about the attack on the imperial palace in the previous scene, and you don't know if the princess is safe yet. Emerald Raikou climbs atop Green Jade Rock, and vows to do everything he can to protect the imperial family, or die trying."

She next addressed May. "May...of the group, Jade Beautifly is the most worried about Princess White Dream's fate. You don't want to be terrified, but try for a blend of sadness, fear, and a little bit of anger."

"Imagine if something horrible happened, and you don't know if i made it or not." Ash suggested. "Try channeling how you would feel in that sort of scenario into this scene."

May nodded. "I would probably feel the same way Jade Beautifly does in this scene if I was worried about you, Ash. This should help me get in character!"

"If everyone is ready, let's start the scene from the beginning." Rona began as she took a seat in the front rows to watch the scene.

Serena arrived onstage. "Everyone...the Blazing Storm Sect has attacked the palace..."

Gasps filled the stage. "Those rogues--why did they want to harm Their Majesties and the princess?" Brock demanded, a note of gentle anger in his voice.

"They wanted to take the throne for themselves, and have their leader, Master Red Storm, proclaimed Emperor." Serena explained. "The good news is, the Emperor and Empress are safe. However, no one knows the fate of Princess White Dream..."

"Surely someone knows where the princess is!" May protested. "Are you sure you haven't heard a rumor where she is?"

"About that..." Misty assured May. "I have heard a rumor that the princess fled from the palace moments before the attack took place. Granted, it is a rumor, so it may or may not be true. So there is still some hope she is alive somewhere."

"It would be very out of character for the princess to be in league with the Blazing Storm." Ash agreed. "And Beautifly-san knows better than anyone that she despises those rogues."

"It is also possible she may have been warned by someone, and fled to safety before the attack." Misty suggested. "The Imperial Guards may have also taken her to safety."

"Whatever may have happened, be assured that Princess White Dream is somewhere safe." Serena assured May. "We will do what we can to find her, and reunite her with her parents."

"We may also find out more about the attack--and how to put a stop to the Blazing Storm's ambitions--along the way." Misty agreed.

"But what if there is something more to the attack than treachery?" Dawn wondered. "What if the Blazing Storm want to rule more than this realm?"

"If that is the case, I'm willing to fight for the sake of everyone, and the imperial family!" Ash vowed, to some cheers from the crew watching in the audience.

"Princess White Dream, the Emperor, and the Empress have done so much for us." May agreed. "Now it is our turn to help them."

Brock said nothing, but slowly and carefully stepped onto the platform to look out at stage left, as if a set of the imperial city was there. "Their Majesties, Princess White Dream, and all who live in the imperial city are under our protection. Though we did not know about the Blazing Storm's plans, and could not stop the attack, we can still see to it that the princess is safe, and put a stop to the Blazing Storm's ambitions. Therefore, let us promise to go to the very ends of the world, locate and protect the princess, and protect the realm from this force of evil."

"All right, and scene!" Rona smiled, pleased at Brock's reverent pose atop the platform. "Dawn, you did very well conveying your character's concern in this scene..."
 
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Episode 18: Promoting The Guardians on the Air


"It's been called a Wakunese treasure, and 'the Theater of Dreams'...and these high flying martial arts adventures have captured the world's imagination. But for three of Pallet's own Tawame stars, they wouldn't have it any other way as opening night for their latest show approaches. 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 sit down with three of the stars of the Kagayou Theater's Niji Troupe and learn what it takes to bring the wild world of the Tawame theater to life, and take an exclusive sneak peek of their latest show, 'The Revered Temple of the Guardians'."

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

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

"Can you give us a quick overview of what the play's about?" Fern asked.

"The quick version is--a group of temple guardians embark on a world-spanning quest to get a sacred artifact back before an evil sect can abuse its power." Serena explains. "But along the way you learn about the temple, our characters and the artifact we are seeking."

"The bad guys knew EXACTLY why they wanted this artifact, and it wasn't 'because we needed a conflict'." Brock agreed. "But you'll have to see the play to find out why."

Laughter filled the studio in agreement. "Ash, how demanding would you say your role here is compared to other yuushi roles in the Tawame canon?" Fern asked.

"It's about on par with most yuushi roles you'll find in the canon." Ash replied. "The yuushi is one of the more demanding roles in a Tawame troupe, but I relish the chance to challenge myself with every play we do."

"The eiyuna's roles can also be equally demanding at times, but the cardinal rule of any Tawame play is that an eiyuna must never upstage her yuushi, and the yuushi must never upstage his eiyuna." Serena agreed. "They should work together in a mutual relationship."

"Aw"s filled the studio at this. "While we're on the subject of roles, what can you three tell us about your roles in this play?" Fern asked.

"My character is considered the chief guardian among the temple guardians." Brock explained. "He knows when it's time to take charge, and who should step up to lead when the going gets tough. But he's not afraid to fight if he has to, especially if one of his fellow guardians is in danger."

"Unlike a lot of Delphox-born roles, my character is a very relaxed and let things be sort of person--which I'll admit is a welcome challenge from the active and giggly girl a lot of Delphox-born roles tend to be." Serena explained. "She is mainly the temple oracle, which explains a lot about her personality, but she is ready and willing to change fate if it means a better future."

"My character is the yang to Serena's yin--considering he leads the joyous and upbeat services at the temple, a good voice is a must." Ash explained. "It was hard not to have this role slip into a large ham--something our impresaria explicitly told me to avoid--but I think I achieved a powerful voice without it devolving into parody."

"You can ham it up when it counts, though." Brock smiled, making giggles fill the studio.

"On the subject of voices, what is the music like in this play?" Fern asked.

"There's plenty of the loud and bombastic songs and solos the Tawame stage is known for, but there's some lower key numbers as well." Brock replied. "The vina does get quite the workout, particularly in its sacred usage as a solo instrument. It has been documented as accompanying hymns, not unlike a piano or organ. So there is a grain of truth to how I use it in the play."

"The bansi makes some appearances too." Ash agreed. "While I get my chance to play the upbeat solos the bansi is famed for, there are some sweet and soft solos I have to play too.

"In an early draft of the script. my character delivered her prophecies in song." Serena explained. "But the music team objected to too many songs in the script. So we cut that aspect altogether."

"You could probably fill a CD box set with all the rejected songs." Brock grinned, to knowing giggles from Ash and Serena.

"A Tawame play is of course known for its music, but there shouldn't be a song every three minutes." Ash agreed. "This is why they tell you in any Tawame play writing class to put the songs in places where the music matters. Some examples include character reflections, emotional scenes, reflective moments, and joyful moments."

"It ties back into the old writing adage of 'show, don't tell'." Serena went on. "The music should sell what your character is thinking or feeling--and is much more effective at showing emotions that just telling the audience that a character feels this way or that way."

"Narration is bound to 'show, don't tell' too." Brock explained. "A good Tawame narrator shouldn't tell the audience 'look at this, see this, the characters feel this'--they should be able to describe the setting and the action enough to allow the audience to see it in their mind's eye. Showing them the action, if you will..."
 

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Episode 19: Readthrough of the Heavenly Dragon Flute


The reading room buzzed with activity as the members of Niji Troupe convened for the readthrough of "The Heavenly Dragon Flute". "Wonder if Misty will be the one to play the bansi this time?" Serena smiled as she looked over the cast list in her copy of the script.

"Probably not...it looks like Ash is playing the dragonborn role for a change." Brock replied as he settled in at the table with his script, complete with his character's lines highlighted in green.

"Not that I mind playing a dragonborn...I have the best teacher to help me learn the role." Ash assured Brock, grinning at Misty as he found a place at the table.

"Cardinal rule of dragonborn vs. a phoenixborn--dial back the energy unless the character is explicitly described as energetic." Misty reminded Ash.

Serena smiled as she studied the cast list, with her role highlighted in yellow. "I'm playing Diamond Delphox...I can only imagine how pretty my costume is gonna look."

"Let's get through the readthrough first before worrying about costumes." Brock assured Serena as Rona arrived in the conference room, making the excited chatter in the room quiet.

"Now then...Ash, you're sure you can do okay playing Crimson Dragon?" Rona asked. It was very rare that a role in one of the Niji Troupe's plays had to be recast, but Rona always tried to put the right person in the right role in the first place.

"I'm sure--it would be a welcome challenge." Ash assured Rona.

"Relax, I'll teach Ash everything he needs to know about playing a dragonborn character." Misty assured Rona.

"All right...but if you feel the role isn't working after the first rehearsal, I'll try and recast you into a better fit." Rona told Ash.

Misty thought for a moment. "The only major recast I can remember was the time Serena was horribly miscast as a Liepard character..."

"Don't remind me..." Serena shuddered at the memory. "I tried my best at playing the role, but I just couldn't get into the mindset of a bad guy."

"I remember you struggling with the role, and that I owned my mistake after that disastrous rehearsal." Rona assured Serena. "I'm learning as much as you all are, and I may not always get a role right. Luckily, one of the comical roles in that play opened up, and you thrived in your new role."

"Mind you, I'd be open to trying a bad guy again if they were a funny bad guy." Serena explained. "Like one of the three Miss Fortunes..."

"You would probably fit Coin the best of the three..." Rona smiled. "But let's focus on this show..."

With that, the ruffling of scripts opening filled the room. "'The Heavenly Dragon Flute' tells the story of Crimson Dragon, who is on a quest to find the titular flute as part of his family legacy. However, since no one knows for sure where the titular instrument is, many believe it is only a myth. It isn't until he befriends Azure Phoenix that he learns a valuable clue about the instrument, and what could happen if it falls into evil hands."

Misty smiled at her role in the cast list. "Ash...if I teach you about playing dragonborns, will you teach me about playing phoenixborns?"

"Sure!" Ash smiled. "Not all of them are balls of energy that are constantly bouncing around the stage--there are some serious phoenixborn roles."

"I think this is one of those..." Misty replied as she read over some of her character's scenes in Act 1. While bushihime roles can be energetic and joyous like a phoenixborn, Azure Phoenix comes across to me as your typical bushihime role--her energy is channeled into her sense of duty, justice, and honor."

"Interesting..." Brock mused as he found Azure Phoenix's first scene in Act 1 and read over it. "As I'm looking at it here, Azure Phoenix comes across to me as someone akin to a samurai of old. A lot of her lines reference some of the samurai's virtues--particularly honor, courage, and discipline. In just your character's first monologue, I counted five mentions of honor, six mentions of courage, and four mentions of discipline."

"A samurai, huh?" Misty mused, picturing herself in a blue version of female samurai's armor. "I do know that lady samurai existed in ancient Waku, and would definitely exist in the play's world...and I would be more than happy to attempt wielding a katana!"

"I've heard katanas are pretty heavy..." Dawn mused as she made some notes on her script.

"They are--even I had trouble wielding one when I first played Taira no Koremochi." Ash confessed.

"Every katana we use in our plays has a name." May explained to Misty. "So if you did get to wield a katana in this play, what would you name it?"

Misty thought for a moment. "Something water or ice themed...Kousetsu is a classic, Hakugin sounds nice..."

"Kousetsu is a name everyone knows from Final Fantasy." May agreed. "It would also work for your character."

Rona smiled as excited chatter raced around the table in agreement. "Misty...if you really want to try and wield a katana for this play, I will let the armory crew know to forge you your very own copy of Kousetsu."

Misty couldn't believe her ears. "Would I ever! I'll do my best to make Azure Phoenix a beautiful and strong samurai of the snow!"
 

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Episode 20: Song of the Iron Flute


The audience in the Kagayou's majestic main theater watched as Ash--now in a majestic red, orange, and gold costume--arrived on the set of a large ancient Wakunese house. "Goupeline-san, I'm back!"

"Welcome home..." Serena--now in an ornate orange-yellow costume with prop Delphox ears-- smiled as she met Ash at center stage, to "Aw"s as they hugged each other. "I trust the Shadow Rose Sect was defeated?"

Ash nodded. "You speak true--the Shadow Rose Sect will trouble the martial world no more. But this is what puzzles me..."

Serena watched Ash set down a greyish bansi with flame decorations etched into it. "Why would a flute be troubling? Do evil things happen when you play it?"

"No--when I played it, it healed the area the Shadow Rose Sect corrupted. I believe the effects of its magical music hinges on the heart of the one playing it." Ash explained, walking around the table as he spoke. "Should one with a pure heart play it, so too will its song be pure. But if someone with an evil heart plays it, so too will its song bring forth evil."

"So what do you plan to do with it?" Serena asked. "Do you plan to keep it for yourself, and play it to judge other evils that lurk in the shadows?"

"No--I plan to take it to the capital." Ash explained. "This way, it will be safe in the hands of the imperial family, so its song is never used for evil. But I am not going alone--you are welcome to come with me, and rally others to join me on the journey. The more people we have protecting this magical flute, the better."

Serena nodded in agreement. "I know Jade Raikou is here in this area. Where he is, his partner Blue Dragon is not far behind. Would you like me to send word to them about your trip to the capital?"

"A wonderful idea." Ash smiled before locating a sheet of paper and pretending to write Wakunese characters on it. "I will also send word to White Beautifly and Violet Deerling asking for their help. With six people guarding this special instrument, it will be very hard for bandits or an evil sect to take the flute..." He let that hang as the lights went down over a tense interlude.

"And so, Scarlet Phoenix and Amber Delphox each sent out messages to their allies." the narrator continued over a soft wave of strings. "Luckily, all four heroes were able to answer the call, and it was not long before the new party of six gathered to discuss how best to make the perilous journey to the capital. But little did anyone know, Jade Raikou had an even graver piece of news that would complicate affairs even further..."

The lights came back up on the house set, revealing Misty, Brock, May, and Dawn with Serena in the now darkened night scene, pantomiming a nervous conversation. "Thank you all for responding so quickly to my message." Ash began as he arrived with a platter of prop food. While I was on a mission to drive out an evil sect, I found among their ill-gotten goods an enchanted flute."

"Enchanted? In what way?" May asked. Her silvery white costume shone in the stage lights, giving her an ethereal appearance.

"When played, it has a magical effect befitting the performer's heart." Ash explained. "If played by a noble hearted person, so too will its song be divine. If played by a dark hearted person, its song will bring despair and suffering on the world."

"Phoenix-san worries it could fall into evil hands, and so plans to bring it to the capital, where it will be kept safe as an imperial treasure." Serena added.

"That explains how the Shadow Roses could affect such wide areas far away from their attack." May smiled. "They were playing evil ki through a flute!"

"A very clever means of attacking a large area." Dawn agreed. "I'm sure it works the same way when its song is used for a noble purpose..."

"Are you sure you want to bring such a powerful instrument to the capital, Phoenix-san?" Brock interjected, to a tense stinger from the orchestra. "If the rumors Dragon-san and I are hearing from the capital are true, you would be putting the martial world at an even graver risk if you brought something that powerful to the capital!"

"What do you mean, Raikou-san?" Dawn asked, concerned.

"We have heard talk that not every noble is pleased with how the young Emperor rules, and are even now plotting to overthrow him and the young Empress." Brock explained. "An enchanted instrument would likely embolden these rogues, and potentially bring rebellion and chaos!"

Gasps filled the stage and the theater at this. "However..." Misty interjected, quieting the tense music from the orchestra. "Keep in mind we have not yet found any hard evidence of a plot just yet. For every person that wants to see the Emperor deposed, there are five more that want him on the throne. All the same, a journey to the capital would still be a grave risk at this time--so do you still wish to travel all that way?"

"Furthermore, the defeat of any evil sect will not go unnoticed." Dawn agreed. "There may be many more evil sects rallying to avenge the Shadow Roses even now."

"If you still want to go despite all of these warnings, we won't try to stop you." Serena assured Ash.

A hopeful swell of music started as Ash feigned thinking for a moment. Just as the music reached a crescendo, he revealed his character's choice. "I feel that we still need to travel to the capital, or somewhere where this sacred instrument will be kept safe."

"Okay..." Misty replied. "No matter what happens, Phoenix-san, we will all do our part to keep your treasure out of evil hands." With that, the lights went down to end the tense scene...
 
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