The Last Emperors.
Chapter Four : Arigato
By Jolie Adam
“Should I bring thongs? You think Japanese guys are into that?” joked Dawn as she neatly packed an array of light t-shirts and a few dresses for their work vacation.
Their audition tape for Rank was taped and submitted on the same day, followed by an intense battle against renowned French dancers at Juste Debout Dance School in the afternoon. On their way home, late that night when they were all basking in the glow of yet another glorious victory, their agent called frantic. Jacques was breathless on the other end when Dawn picked up, speaking about a dozen words per nanosecond. She was used to his cut-throat, business approach and had never spent more than five minutes on a call with him. He called, recited events with relevant detailing such as date, time, payments or winnings, presence (anyone worthy of noting being in attendance; media, sponsors, etc) and impact (how much the event/battle held at stake for their career). Last night was slightly different, yes he still spoke faster than anyone she’d ever encountered but it was a relatively nicer exchange. Jacques was after all Heat Agency’s most coveted agent – he was ruthless, spineless, impatient and greedy. All the qualities you would despise otherwise in a person but made for such a proficient agent. He’d been a huge part of their notable success. They were known as street legends before him but once they were signed, everything they did was publicized or documented somehow to their progressive advantage and was most likely paid work. They used to be off the grid but thanks to Jacques, The Last Emperors were now all over the map. So when Jacques called last night and told them they’d gotten the gig hours after he’d submitted the tape, Dawn had about ten seconds to express her elation before he went on about everything it entailed. Departure was Thursday at noon, upon which they were to immediately get settled at their hotel. Friday would be spent getting accustomed to the city but only for the morning because a studio had been booked for them to start practicing. When Dawn asked why since he’d already mentioned that their first meeting with Rank would be on Monday, she realized that Jacques simply hadn’t wasted anytime in pimping them out. He’d uploaded their audition tape on Youtube for his friends who worked in administration for the Shamasaki Dance battle. Turns out they were too late for the artists’ submission but thanks to his well-oiled connections, they were registered and all set to perform. He warned them of how monumental winning could be, adding “If you think this Rank gig is a big deal, win Shamasaki and you will have all of Japan’s art world at your feet…in the lotus position.”
“Put your damn thongs back in the drawer! If anyone is in dire need to get laid, it’s definitely not you,” Lorra smirked looking at the floss-thin bundle of colourful undergarments.
“I second that. You need to have sex, like last year. You’re all work, all the time, Lo,” Julia interjected, laying on Dawn’s bed, having finished packing in less than an hour. “Besides, Japanese boys don’t lick the liquorice,” she notified Dawn.
“That’s why I don’t mess with boys. I’m looking for a grown ass Japanese man, who knows jujitsu, slicks his hair back with gel and wears custom made suits.”
“I think you’ve watched too many Japanese action movies. I bet you two fried dumplings no one dresses like that over there,” Lo said, paying more attention to the amount of shoes she was packing. She could still hear Jacques emphasizing the previous night to “pack light, pack tight and make sure at all times, you are all looking right. They are pickier than holy virgins about who they like so wow them with your talent and then seduce them with your style.” Thank the sweet Buddha for dear Jacques.
“I think I have,” she sighed, putting back her audacious g-strings, settling on a few clean matching underwear sets.
Julia giggled as she looked up from her phone, proactively stifling a laugh, “According to Adriana, the only thong you’ll need should be between your toes. She says it’s pretty hot there right now so I check the weather and it’s not just hot, it’s that make-you-leave-your-weave-at-home humid, I-see-hay-sus type of heat.” The girls burst out laughing at her exaggeration. Julia clutched her stomach from laughing pains, kicking the sheets off the bed in her attempt to regain her composure. Wait ‘til Japan got a load of this trio.
The front row was full of girls cheering and fangirling over the tall look-a-likes. Some fans even went to the extent of dressing in a style eerily similar to the twins, complete with their fashion staples including thick beads, neck warmers, backward baggy jeans and printed tees. A few had the boys’ faces printed on their shirts. Les Twins were on KTV to participate in a game show that incorporated dancing, playing pranks and answering questions into the program which was divided into three opposing teams; the Blue Team, the Red Team and the Green Team. Les Twins were wearing Blue shirts demonstrating the team they were allied with. Each team was started off with a brief interview before the dancing portion of the show. At the very end, the crowd would lift a card, either blue, red or green, to vote for their preferred team and that team would get a bonus win – but only if they were already the predominantly winning team in the running.
Larry and Laurent were naturals at winning the crowd over when it came time to socialize with the fans. They were very involved and hands-on, playing around with their admirers, being gracious when asked to pose for pictures and joking around with each person. By the time they were done, all the girls were flushed pink, blushing because they’d been able to rub shoulders with their dance idols. Most of their Japanese fans wanted to touch their hair, in awe of its size, shape and cottony feel. They needed to play nice because come Saturday night, these people would be the ones rooting, applauding, cheering loudly for them in the stands. And that popularity would transcend to the judging table and influence the panel of judges into declaring them as winners. Not that losing was an option.
Lo was seated next to the window because Julia always got nervous and claustrophobic being in airplanes and would freak if she hadn’t gotten the aisle seat. Dawn was passed out on her shoulder, after drinking too much Japanese green tea courtesy of the airline. She looked down as the plane began to descend towards the ground, the concrete platform far but visible. This had always been her favourite part when it came to flying, watching the ground from a birds’ eye view as they got closer and closer to the common world. Not only was the view magnificent, the greeneries and shape that would go unnoticed from up close were sharpened, but it also reminded her of the karmic law which affected everything in life including planes. What goes up must come down. And that thought kept her humble, even when the nation’s most read paper practically advertised her dancing skills, or when she battled against dancers she admired growing up, and even when they were booked on the same day as an audition and flown a day later to another continent, all costs taken care of. If an object such as a plane could soar through the sky for hours and yet, somehow always find its way back down – she could ride this wave of fame and recognition for weeks, months, maybe even years, knowing at the back of her mind that there’s equal glory in the rise as in the fall.
The attendant smiled at Lorra, Dawn and Julia and greeted them politely, “Welcome to Tokyo!”
“Arigato,” she bowed gracefully, borrowing the polite manner of the stewardess.