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Sakuragawa: A geisha and maiko RPG
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Shido sat in front of his lit mirror backstage at the Korumatsu Imperial Theater.  The backstage area, along with most of the rest of the theater, had recently been refurbished, and the scent of new paint and dust tickled his nose as Shido applied the thick, white makeup to his face.  It was the opening night of "Kagotsurube Sato no Eizame" and while he was not precisely "nervous", Shido was rather tense and focused.  His idol, Bando Tamasaburo, had performed this role to perfection, and Shido was determined to live up to his hero's standard.  

The backstage area was a hive of activity.  This production of "Kagotsurube Sato no Eizame" was rumored to be one of the biggest, costing several million yen.  There were extravagant costumes, lavish scenery, dozens of extras.  Currently, the stage manager was barking orders to the set dressers, and there was the hum of a sewing machine as the tailor finished last-minute alterations.  A gaggle of young boys portraying kamuro trampled by Shido, chaperoned by a harried man carrying an armful of costumes and struggling to keep his charges in line.  

Shido had invited Masuyo and Ryuuki to the performance, complementary tickets waited for them at the box office.  He wasn't sure if either would come- Ryuuki was busy preparing for his trip to Tokyo, and Masuyo might not show just to spite him.  

1st-May-2012 12:29 pm - Hotaru and Okaasan
Hotaru stood nervously in the entryway of her okaasan's office.  "You wished to see me, Okaasan?"
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A few nights after Hachmitsu’s arrival in Sakuragawa, a black, dark-windowed car pulled up in front of the Murasaki no Tsuki. The suit-clad driver hopped out and opened the rear passenger door, bowing energetically as the woman inside stepped out. She was tall by Japanese standards, and slender, wearing a trendy suit and with her hair dyed a stylish shade of light brown. Several loitering tourists scurried towards her, cameras raised in the hopes of catching a glimpse of some famous starlet or up-and-coming singer, but her sharp glares send them rushing away picture-less. Misaki opened the door to the restaurant and the woman stepped inside. The young hostess shut the door behind her, blocking her from the view of the outside world.

“Ah, Yamashita-san,” Keiksuke said, coming around from behind the bar to greet her. They bowed to each other, and he led her to a corner seat at the bar. “I presume you want a Sparkling Summer to start your night, as usual?”

“Of course,” Yamashita Yuna replied. The Sparkling Summer was a drink Keisuke had created and named for her as partial thanks for her financial support when he was building the Murasaki no Tsuki. She wasn’t entirely sure what was in it, but she thought it was delicious.

Yuna settled onto her bar stool, crossing her long legs and peering around the restaurant as Keisuke worked. “You only invited geiko as I requested, correct?”

He grinned. “Of course. I know your preferences by now. I invited Hinako from Hoshino, the independent Ishida woman, and…an interesting new arrival named Hachimitsu.” He glanced up at her. “She’s from Tokyo too. You don’t know her from there, by any chance?”

Yuna sniffed. “You know I don’t frequent the ochaya of Tokyo. Kyoto and Sakuragawa are more to my taste.”

“Well, she seemed proper,” he said. “I thought it would be good to give her a try. If it doesn’t work, I have Harukawa on speed dial and an agreement that Yaekano will come quickly if we need her.”

“Good,” Yuna said. Keisukei finished the drink and set it in front of her.

“Can I get you something to snack on while you wait?” he asked her. “I know you don’t like to go up to the banquet until the geiko arrive and set up.”

She shook her head. “No…I’m sure you prepared me a lovely dinner and I don’t want to ruin my appetite for it. Please just let me know when they are ready for me.”
19th-Mar-2012 10:03 pm - The New Arrival

Sato Kaori walked calmly, yet purposefully down a pretty tree-lined street on the eastern edge of Sakuragawa.  She wore her favorite (and most flattering) vintage houmongi, sky-blue with a motif of Japanese cranes and black pines, with a deep grey obi featuring an intricate Ajiro pattern embroidered in gold.  A stack of newly-printed hanameishi were tucked in an elegant silver case in her left hand.  

Kaori’s mission today was to present herself to the okiya, ochaya, and associated shops and businesses of Sakuragawa.  Kaori had already presented herself to the kenban and its officials yesterday, stating her intention to register as an independent geisha.  The officials at the kenban seemed to take her story of an ailing okaasan as the reason for her departure from Tokyo at face value, and the registration had proceeded without delay or complication.  

Kaori kept her expression neutral as she strolled past the shops and cafes.  Truth be told, Sakuragawa was not Kaori’s first choice (or second) for a place to live and entertain, but her options were dwindling.  Re-establishing herself in Tokyo was out of the question, her mother had seen to that, and her attempts to initiate her own okiya in Kyoto had been almost disastrous.  Kaori was only glad that she had not invested any of her own money in that project, and her losses had been minimal.   

Kaori had arrived in Sakuragawa the day before Kimitoshi’s misedashi, and despite being jet-lagged she had made it a point to be in the crowd to observe the debut of the district’s newest maiko.  The girl's kurotomesode had been acceptable enough, though it was a pity the girl wasn't pretty.  Sakuragawa seemed to suffer for pretty women in general.  Tokyo was famous for its stunning geisha and maiko.  Kaori sighed; she would never accept this place as "home", it  was merely... a temporary exile.

Kaori came to her first stop, Murasaki no Tsuki, a modern-looking building which purportedly boasted an ochaya on the second floor.  She pursed her lips; she wondered how the tea house would be soundproofed from the noise from the restaurant; she would hate to have to turn down appointments here because the clients couldn’t hear over the racket of the first floor.  

No matter; Kaori entered the building quickly but confidently, entering a small but well-appointed reception area.  She made her way to the hostess, bowed, and said, “Good morning.  My name is Hachimitsu.  I am an independent geisha new to the city.  May I speak with your proprietor?”

8th-Mar-2012 04:45 pm - Promoting Sakuragawa
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Kimitoshi’s misedashi was the biggest even in the district in a while, but it was far from the only one that was going to happen that year. About a week after that event, Hanatoshi and Kanotoshi appeared on the front steps of the district’s other three okiya, as well as in the doorways of the local ochaya and businesses and at the doors of their teachers’ classrooms to announce that Hanatoshi had made the decision to become a geiko. It wasn’t really a surprise to anyone, since she was very dedicated to the profession, but the announcement that someone had officially decided to stay on was always a happy event in Sakuragawa. Beginning that day, Hanatoshi changed her hairstyle from the ofuku she had been wearing since she turned 18 to the special hairstyle called osafune, the hairstyle most Kobayashi girls wore as a prelude to sakkou.

Once the excitement over her announcement and Kimitoshi’s misedashi died down, though, the folks in charge in Sakuragawa (in other words, the teachers and the four okaasan) started feeling a little tense. Now that Kimitoshi had debuted, there weren’t any more minarai, and only two shikomi. On the surface this wasn’t a bad thing. Sakuragawa was a small district, after all, and many houses in other districts went for long periods of time without even one shikomi. But the problem was that very few girls made it past the shikomi stage, and then not all of them made it through the maiko stage. But without new people coming into Sakuragawa, the district wouldn’t survive.

Clearly, something had to be done.

And so it was that, as the beginning of April rolled around, the district’s teachers, ochaya owners, and okaasan all crowded into the Ishida house for a conference. They drank tea, ate snacks, and discussed the issue of how to attract more future maiko and geiko to the district.

But after discussing for several hours, they had reached an impasse. It was time for an expert opinion. Ichigokoro went to see if Hotaru was home, and called for her to come down to the already-crowded sitting room.

When she arrived, everyone exchanged greetings, and the people already in the room shifted around a little so Hotaru could have a place to sit too. Once she was settled in, the shamisen teacher Takei Fumiya picked up a small notebook from where it sat in front of the foreign woman who had been taking photos at Kimitoshi’s misedashi and studied a page on which she had been scribbling wildly for much of the meeting. He sighed.

“Hotaru-chan,” he said, “you have probably already noticed that Sakuragawa is a very small place. To make a long story short, we’re working on some ideas to attract more young women interested in becoming maiko and geiko. We have already decided to let Yaesuzu’s mother write a manga about her life as a maiko, ad we’re considering letting this year’s spring dance be filmed and broadcast as a TV special. The other big ideas right now are to put up a website that would tell people about the district and give them an easy way to inquire about becoming maiko or geiko, to hire a team to make a documentary -- it could be about Sakuragawa in general or it could follow one or two specific people, like some of the ones that have come out of Kyoto recently -- or to,” and here he paused for a moment as his eyes darted to the woman beside him, “or two begin allowing foreigners to join the district. My wife says there are a lot of foreigners interested in becoming maiko or geiko, but honestly we’re not so sure about the viability of that option…”

“Anyway,” his wife interrupted before more drama could unfold, “we wanted to ask all of the maiko and geiko here what made them want to become maiko or geiko, and what made them choose Sakuragawa over their other options. And since you’re here right now, we figured we would start by asking you.”
21st-Feb-2012 04:43 pm - Kimitoshi's misedashi
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A few days after the party with the onnagata, and after Hotaru’s first set of lessons at the school, Kanotoshi and Kimitoshi went around to each of the other okiya in the city with notes reminding the other maiko and geiko that Kimitoshi’s misedashi was imminent. They had already passed out similar announcements almost a month before, but since the district was so small and everyone was always so busy, it was customary for new maiko and geiko to pass around such reminders.

The day of Kimitoshi’s misedashi was bright and sunny. It was a touch on the warm side for mid-March in Sakuragawa, and the spring leaves and flowers were making their first appearance. Many local families were out and about enjoying the weather. Tourists too had come to Sakuragawa to enjoy the atmosphere, and today the district’s main roads and even many of the smaller ones were packed with tourists. While most tourists wouldn’t even know what a misedashi was and couldn’t identify a real maiko from another tourist dressed up as one for fun, there were many in Sakuragawa today just to catch a glimpse of Kimitoshi’s debut.

Ichisei stood at the front door of her okiya, shaking out her favorite pale yellow shawl before draping it elegantly over her shoulders, hiding the upper half of her light grey kimono and the cream obi she wore with it. She slipped her komachi geta on and stepped aside to let Ichifumi get to her zori. While the blue-clad maiko slipped her footwear on, Ichisei opened the door and stepped out onto the street to make more room. Ichifumi followed her as the twins, both wearing pink, made their way into the entryway to get their zori. Okaasan followed after them, pausing just long enough to pick a pair of new white zori out of a cubby in the entryway and set them out for Hotaru, whom she had dressed in a cheerful combination of pale purple and yellow for the day. Okaasan herself wore a dusty green. Once they were all out on the sidewalk and door had been locked behind them, she paused for a moment to fuss over the small ornaments in the twins’ hair and to make sure the brand-new blue cloth in Ichifumi’s ofuku hairstyle was neat before leading her household through the small back roads and alleys that would allow them to avoid the most tourist-filled roads on the way to the Kobayashi house.

*** *** *** *** ***

The Hoshino family lived the farthest away from the Kobayashi house, and while Hinako would have much preferred to just stay home and practice her arts, Kogiku was shrewd enough to know that putting in an appearance at another girl’s misedashi or erikae was good for networking in Sakuragawa. The event was bound to be attended by some of their customers, and of course it was an opportunity to be visible to tourists (their teachers wouldn’t be at the house to see Kimitoshi off but would instead be waiting for her at the school, where she would go to greet them). It was also a good chance to size up other houses and keep tabs on who was new, who had left, and who was moving on to another stage in her career. Hinako in particular found this interesting, as it helped her gather more information on her rivals.

In Sakuragawa, the custom at a misedashi was for the debuting maiko and her oneesan to both appear in their most formal kimono, and for the oneesan to accompany her newly-debuted younger sister on her rounds of greetings. All of the other maiko and geiko in attendance, including the others in the debuting girl’s house, would show up in fairly informal kimono for the day. Maiko were expected to have their hair styled as usual, but it was taboo for a geiko to show up in her wig or with her hair styled. It would be seen as a bid for attention and as rude to the new maiko and her house. But that didn’t mean there weren’t ways for a crafty okaasan to draw attention to her girls. And Kogiku was crafty.

The night before the debut, she had set out three colorful outfits: a bright emerald-green kimono with a black and white hakata obi for Hinako, sky blue with a black obi covered in a colorful pattern for the maiko Kozen, and sunny yellow with a grey and blue obi for Sami. They would certainly stand out from the crowd too.

Kogiku insisted that they rise early, dress early, and leave early so they could be at the Kobayashi house early enough to get good spots close to the front door -- but not so close it looked like they were trying to crowd the Kobayashi family out of their own pictures. Just close enough that people were sure to notice them.

*** *** *** *** ***

Because they left so early, the Hoshino family was indeed the first family to arrive. Even so, they had been beaten to the house by several eager tourists (who quickly turned their attention to the colorful crowd) and a short, chubby white woman dressed in a purple iromuji and carting the biggest, scariest, most professional-looking camera of the day. She had a tripod tucked under one arm and was waiting patiently by the door, as though she thought they family was expecting her. She gave a slight bow of acknowledgment to the Hoshinos, but only Kozen returned the acknowledgement. The Ishida and Harukawa families arrived from slightly different directions at almost the same time, and the respective members of each family greeted each other and the Hoshino girls cheerfully…though Yaesuzu kept her distance from Hinako. She waved eagerly to Hotaru and Sami, hoping both would join her for a chat before Kimitoshi appeared.

A rather nervous-looking Japanese family, all dressed in Western clothing except for the mother (who wore a chic maroon tomesode), worked their way through the crowd and joined the kimono-clad white woman at the door. They spoke together for a few minutes before someone pushed the front door open, which caused the tourists to go nuts snapping pictures (they ALL wanted that first shot of Kimitoshi taking her first steps as a full maiko), but it was a false alarm. Rather than Kimitoshi appearing, the Japanese family and the woman who had been waiting by the door were all brought inside, and then the door was once more shut firmly behind them.

Ichifumi groaned a little. “We’re going to be here a while,” she murmured. “I think that was Kimitoshi’s family only just arriving, and they hadn’t even let Miri-chan in yet…”

The Ishida twins nodded, and Harukawa girls all sighed a little. Near the door, Kozen looked a little sour. “My family was late too,” she muttered to Sami. “They said the traffic from the hotel was awful because of all of the tourists trying to get to our house to watch my misedashi too.”

As the women waited together, chatting with each other and exchanging stories of their own debuts, more people began arriving to watch. Ryuuki and Masuyo arrived, as Ryuuki had promised Kimitoshi he would. They worked their way through the crowd of tourists to stand closer to the maiko and geiko. Another pair of men arrived from the same direction the Harukawa family had come, and the maiko and geiko turned to greet them as well. A short time later, and elegant black car with dark windows pulled slowly down the small street, stopping a short distance from the crowd gathered in front of the house. The driver hopped out to open the back passenger door, and a tall, leggy blonde climbed elegantly from the car and joined the waiting crowd. She was much taller than most of the people gathered, and even though many people moved aside for her she didn’t try to move to the front of the crowd. She nodded greetings to the maiko and geiko as well, then turned her attention back to the front door to wait patiently, an expensive digital camera clutched in a black-gloved hand.

Yaehisa, Yaesuzu’s older sister, looked around. “Well,” she said to nobody in particular, “looks like everyone is here. Even one of our customers from overseas. Now we just get to wait…I bet Kimi-chan’s kimono is gorgeous.”
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This list corresponds to the stages of training maiko characters experience in Sakuragawa. Shikomi are not included on this list. Shikomi may wear Western clothing or Japanese clothing depending on the situation and the preferences of their okaasan. In situations demanding wafuku, they may wear casual kimono (komon) or yukata (summer only).

Many of the clothing and hairstyle changes here are based on actual changes that happen among the maiko in Kyoto. However, since not all of the details of these changes are known to folks outside of the Kyoto kagai (e.g. when and why do some maiko wind up with purple fabric in the ofuku or yakko shimada styles when others never do?) and since Sakuragawa isn't supposed to be Kyoto anyway, some details have been altered or invented for the game.

Maiko (Minarai to 5th year)Collapse )
Geiko (including erikae)Collapse )

Special Events and Additional NotesCollapse )
18th-Feb-2012 09:32 am - Sakuragawa OOC
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octogirlie suggested that we have a community just for out-of-character stuff, so here it is: Sakuragawa OOC. This community is for posting any out-of-character conversations, interesting links, my updates on what's going on in the background of Sakuragawa, plot discussions, etc. It's only open to members of the Sakuragawa RPG. Please join with any journal you want, as long as I can figure out who you are :p

ETA: I have a plotting post up here. When you get a minute, please read it, and feel free to comment on it (over at Sakuragawa OOC if you've joined by then, or here if it's easier).
14th-Feb-2012 01:57 pm - Escape to Asia
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So, I have been hunting for pictures to use as visual references for Sakuragawa, and in the process I came across a Tumblr I thought might be interesting to folks here: http://escape-to-asia.tumblr.com/ It's not just Japanese stuff -- there's plenty of Chinese stuff on there too, some Korean, and possibly also pictures from other places (I admit to not paying a lot of attention to the non-Japanese pictures at the moment because I'm a GM on a mission :p). Just FYI, it might play music when you open the page, though today the music player doesn't seem to be working. It was working yesterday though and the music was pretty nice actually.
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(OOC: Doin' multiple things at once ftw! Technically this takes place the day after the party at the Hanazaki, but I wanted to get going on Hotaru and Sami being able to interact as well so here it is. Let's see if this can work :p)

Dance and music lessons started around ten in the morning -- perhaps not early by most peoples’ standards, but for a maiko or geiko who hadn’t gotten to bed before two or three in the morning, it was more than early enough. This particular morning began with all five of the house’s resident young women -- Ichisei, Ichifumi, Ichishou, Ichizakura, and Hotaru -- eating a quiet breakfast before collecting their things for the day’s lessons. Okaasan had set out a pretty blue kimono decorated with tiny yellow and white flowers, plus a cheerful orange obi, for Hotaru to wear to her lessons that morning, and after breakfast the twins helped her into it. And then it was time to go.

The five set out together, but not too far up the road Ichifumi (who had her hair down and brushed straight that morning) turned off down a narrow side street. “She has to get her hair re-set,” Ichishou explained, “and the hair-dresser we use has her salon down that street. She runs it with her two sisters.”

“It’s gonna be our turn at the end of the week,” Ichizakura moaned. Ichishou wrinkled her nose a little, and Ichisei just chuckled at them.

“Still not used to it?” she asked. The twins laughed and chorused “No!” at her. All three laughed, pausing only to bow to an older woman who passed. She bowed in turn and smiled at them before going off to wherever she was headed, and the little crowd of girls from Ishida continued on their way.

A few steps past the road where Ichifumi had left them Ichishou finally cleared her throat a little and trotted forward a few steps from her usual spot near the back of the line to speak to Ichisei. “Nee-san,” she asked, “what happened with Ryuu-nii-san and Hinako? The thing you and Fumi-nee-san were talking about at dinner the other night?”

“Oh. THAT,” Ichisei replied. She looked around to make sure nobody who would care about their conversation was around. “Well, of course she was at the party Takei-sensei had for his wife back in January. That was the last party Ryuu-nii-san came to, before last night. Anyway, that new maiko from Harukawa, Yaesuzu, was dancing. You two have seen her, right?” she asked the twins. “Isn’t she in your dance class?” They both nodded, and Ichisei continued. “She’s very beautiful, and talented. Since she is so new she isn’t very popular yet but it’s only a matter of time. Hinako being Hinako, she sees the poor girl as a threat. So one minute at the party Suzu-chan is sitting beside Takei-sensei, pouring him some beer. Nobody was paying much attention of course, that’s just normal behavior at a party. Sensei was speaking to one of the kabuki actors, his wife was speaking to Hanatoshi about her plans for turning her collar, Kanotoshi and I were warming up for a performance, the other guests and geiko and maiko were talking amongst themselves, and all of a sudden poor Suzu-chan just SCREAMED.” She paused as the came to the intersection of their narrow little street with the main road that ran through the hanamachi, and looked around again before turning right and continuing down the road. She glanced back to make sure she hadn’t lost her entourage (especially Hotaru). Satisfied that they were still all there, she continued. “Everyone went quiet and I looked up, and there she was, just covered in alcohol. Someone had spilled an entire tray of drinks all over her. A couple of glasses broke too, so she had glass in her hair and down the back of her kimono. Everything was ruined -- her hair, her makeup, of course her kanzashi, her kimono, probably even her obi and her juban. Fortunately it was near the end of the month so she wasn’t going to be wearing those kanzashi for much longer anyway, but the obi and kimono were both brand-new, worth millions of yen, and ruined. Plus because of her hair she couldn’t have gone out again that night, so she lost all of that income for the evening.” She huffed. “So I looked around to see what had happened, and there behind her was Hinako, apologizing and claiming she had tripped. But…Hinako is a very good dancer, and there was nothing for her to trip on, plus Ryuu-nii-san told me he saw Hinako glaring at the back of Suzu-chan’s head right before the accident…I don’t think it was an accident, and neither does he. Even Takei-sensei suspects, and he is usually so nice and doesn’t think poorly of anyone.”

The three Ichi girls fell silent for a while, carefully making their way through the crowd. Most people ignored them -- they weren’t as eye-catching without their elaborate costumes -- but a few people with sharp enough eyes to notice the twins’ hairstyles snapped pictures and exclaimed excitedly to each other. Ichisei, Ichishou, and Ichizakura just ignore them.

They were about to turn left and cross the street to go down another, slightly less busy street, when Ichisei paused and motioned ahead of her. “See those two there, across the street?” she asked. “The woman in the green kimono carrying the bag and box and the young girl following behind her, in the pink kimono? The woman is Hinako, and the girl is their new shikomi.” She looked at Hotaru. “I don’t think Okaasan wanted you to hear the story about Hinako at the party. She wants you to form your own thoughts about people here, and she’s like Takei-sensei, she likes to see the best in people. But as your older sister I think you have the right to know what you’re dealing with in Hinako. She sees anyone with talent or looks -- and especially anyone with both -- as a threat to her. She might see you as a threat someday. Their shikomi seems nice enough, so maybe there’s hope for her. But you should be careful, alright? Take what you hear about Hinako with a grain of salt if you like, but watch your back too.” And with that, she turned back to wait for the light change. As soon as it did she crossed the road and headed straight for the door to the kaburenjo, where several other young women could be seen rushing inside already. She and Hinako glanced at each other, but aside from a brief bow before Hinako pushed ahead of them into the school, they didn’t acknowledge each other at all.

*** *** *** *** ***

Kozen had left the okiya early that morning to pick up her shamisen at the instrument shop. A worn spot had appeared on the skin stretched over the frame, and Okaasan had insisted that she take it for repairs right away rather than risk getting a hole in it. The shop had called late in the afternoon the day before to report that it was ready. As Kozen’s first lesson of the day was always shamisen, she had to go pick it up right away. That left Hinako and Sami to go to the Kaburenjo by themselves, Hinako carrying a small bag with her flute and music in one hand and the case with her drum in the other. Normally she would have Sami carry these things, but Sami had her own instruments to worry about. They came to the final crossing before arriving at the school…and she glanced across the street. A small, tight smile appeared on her lips at the sight of the little group gathered there, waiting for the light to change.

“So, Ishida has a new girl already,” she murmured. “I recognize her kimono, they had one of those twins wearing it not too long ago.” Clearly, the reuse of kimono was something she disapproved of, despite the fact that every house did it rather than build a whole new wardrobe for its youngest members. “That house has Ichifumi, who is the most popular maiko in the district.” Clearly, she didn’t approve of that either. She glanced casually over her shoulder at Sami and smirked. “You should have no problem outranking her in popularity. You might even win an award your first year, once you become a maiko.”

Somehow, they all arrived at the school doors together. Ichisei and Hinako sketched quick and barely-passable bows to one another, and then Hinako casually stepped in front of Ichisei and entered the school first. By all right she shouldn’t have done that, as Ichisei was more senior, but…well, Hinako had little use for seniority. She glanced back to make sure Sami had followed and slipped out of her zori before continuing down the hall to her flute lesson, which was held in a room much closer to the main entrance than any of the dance lessons. “Continue to make us proud, Sami-chan,” she said before disappearing into the lesson room and closing the door behind her, leaving Sami to go to her dance lesson alone.
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