The Last Emperors.
Chapter Thirteen: Love hurts.
By Jolie Adam
“Hey Lau! Sorry I can’t come tonight. Julia’s sick and I’m going over to her place with food. Xx”
Laurent replied right away, a little relieved she wouldn’t be able to make it. Truthfully he’d only wanted her there so he could show off but he didn’t have to. He’d show off regardless and he’d show off some more when he had her next, squealing with pleasure. He didn’t need her presence to be great. Greatness was him. He’d been nervous since asking the previous night about all the things that could go wrong. Two months in Tokyo had been kind to him and abundant in the prospects when it came to the opposite sex. The girls that came easiest to him were the ones he picked up after a battle or a club appearance. They already knew what he could do so most of the time, all he needed was a smile and they were ready to escort him back to his place. The last thing he needed was for one of his groupies to leech onto him with expectancy in front of Lorra. Even if nothing was set in stone, they had a good thing going. No drama, no fuss, and he actually enjoyed being her tour guide and spending time with her. He didn’t need to overextend himself in order for her to see that he cared which was rare to find these days. Women always wanted a symbol of your affection, a sign, a commitment, a gift or at the very least a title. He didn’t know where things were headed but any preventative measure he could take to preserve their relationship, he would gladly take. And as fate would have it, he wouldn’t have to work too hard since she wasn’t coming.
The Last Emperors were gathered in Julia’s condo, two levels off the main floor. She was closest to the lobby, not that they had to worry about the indispensable elevator. They were all located in suites in one of the finest buildings in Tokyo, probably all of Japan. Rolls of bandages spread out on the floor like an unveiled beige carpet as the girls used it to conform the contours of breasts, binding it flatly against their chests. The act of neutralizing their femininity and downright un-sexing themselves never failed to leave them all in wonder. Without breasts, their curves were tarnished, looking more like round defects on a rather straight torso. The little buds sprouting out of the tightened, retained ropes of bands were just enough to make them look pubescent. Sports bras were hauled over their heads as support in case the bandages came loose. That was a lesson Luluxe, the curviest of the group, learned the hard way during a competition when her clip came undone. Luckily, she’d just finished her set when she felt her breasts floating freely. For a split second, she couldn’t remember why she’d found that knowledge so alarming until she realized Luluxe wasn’t supposed to have breasts. Dawn was. She held her chest in an exaggerated self-hug stance usually associated with b-boy dancers and stayed that way for the entire five minutes it took for Meow to finish her battle. The first minute, she’d been able to play it off as part of routine but every second after felt like a prolonged hour she had to keep her arms crossed before her to prevent her bandages from falling out of her hoodie and the whole arena discovering there were some grown woman breasts beneath that fluorescent blue.
Regi and Waydi were in Tokyo for a Swarovski commercial with Les Twins they’d shot earlier that day. Laurent had done just as good a job describing and relishing the intense yet playful atmosphere of Club Dragon and they were anxious to check it out. And Lau hadn’t exaggerated one bit. Dancers of all ethnicities, shapes, sizes, heights and skills. It was a buffet of talent and different genres of dance artistry. Waydi was having a great time until The Last Emperors walked in. He’d battled Meow once in an off-street battle and had been completely annihilated in front of his entire crew. Meow was smaller, faster, sharper, had more precise body movements, unique body flow and a cocky demeanour. He bore a little resentment for the embarrassing memory but wasn’t too proud to admit that his opponent had great talent. He nudged Lau to alert him, noticing how his friend’s body immediately tensed up and his nostrils flared up like a raging bull, anger slowly thrusting from the sole of his feet to the root of his scalp. A loud oohh creeped in from the audience and engaged the room full of dancers and supporters alike who knew there was bad blood between Les Twins and The Last emperors ever since their battle at the Shamasaki Dance War’s finals. The DJ played on that and changed it to an angry tune by Eminem and 50 cent to fuel the irate energy in the room. Lau forced a smirk on his face to entertain all the ogling eyes waiting for something to happen. His brother walked up to Meow and gave him daps – Larry wasn’t going to let anything sour his mood. Waydi and Regi followed suit, saluting Luluxe and Shao Mein next. Lau stayed in his spot watching them acknowledge each other cordially and once the DJ saw that there wasn’t a fight brewing, he changed the song to a dance remix. Meow started dancing almost as soon as the new beat took over the underground club, enjoying the attention. Waydi crept in soon after in an attempt to steal her thunder and she didn’t stop. She kept going until he eased up and slowly returned to being a spectator. Music was thumping, bass echoing, rhythm bumping from Meow to Shao. As soon as Shao began to move along with Meow, the entire crowd gasped in awe — they mirrored each other completely in asymmetrical reflection. It was all it took for Lau to jump in and try to cut them off. Even Larry stood back watching, observing, his head no longer bouncing along with the song, his entire attention devoted to his brother. He was ready to complete him at any given time. Shao reclaimed her spot by entering Lau’s private space and mocking one of his signature moves. Lau’s chest rose and fell, daggers in his eyes, sweat beads on his forehead — the fluorescent light burned into his pores heating up the already present anger boiling at the core of his being. All it took was Shao elbowing him in the face for him to snap and push back. Before he knew it, Regi and Larry were holding him back and Shao was standing behind them, motionless. He began spewing profanities and daring Shao to hit him again. Shao moved forth and this time Laurent forcefully shoved his opponent so hard that Shao stumbled back into Luluxe’s arms. Larry was having a hard time retaining his brother and getting frustrated. Waydi kept motioning for Shao to stay back in their own corner as Luluxe helped her up. It wouldn’t be long until security showed up and escorted Les Twins and their entourage out.
Very few times during The Last Emperors’ dancing career did Lorra struggle to differentiate herself from Shao Mein. The minute she put the mask on, the character enveloped and molded her until she forgot anything else but the alter ego. Seeing Lau for the first time in character evoked transient feelings quickly replaced by the need to show off. The DJ had picked up on that energy and began spinning a loud rap song that only pumped her up. Seeing dancers always made her want to dance, to contribute, to be better so when Meow prepped the crowd, it was nearly impossible to let her have all the limelight. His reaction only prompted her to do more — her alter ego really had taken over. It wasn’t her fault if she accidentally elbowed him. He’d been the one invading her space trying to cut her off. And when she approached him to apologize, he shoved her maliciously. Embarrassment reigned over every part of her, wishing she could squat into a corner and hide. Besides the fact that she almost tripped on her backward tumble, it had hurt a lot. Her bandages had been wrapped so tight and that alone was causing her enough discomfort. His shove felt like a punch in the chest with the bandages cutting into her skin, bruising the lumps in her breasts. Consciously, she’d made the effort to not touch her chest — all eyes were on her and no one would miss her fervently rubbing the area where a woman’s breasts should be. So she bit her lip until he was thrown out by the security guard before excusing herself to go one level up to Shinjuku to use the bathroom. The minute she let go of her inner lip once inside a stall, a tear ran down the inside of her mask.
“JUST CALM DOWN. THEY ALREADY ASKED US TO LEAVE. WHY ARE YOU STILL MAD?” Larry was screaming at his twin outside the club.
“BECAUSE HE HIT ME IN THE FACE. I DIDN’T TOUCH HIM SO HE SHOULDN’T TOUCH ME.” He massaged his cheek although the spot wasn’t sore. He was really hoarding resentment from their last battle with The Last Emperors and for them to show up on a night that was supposed to be creatively fun and stimulating put a damper on his mood. He hadn’t meant to snap but seeing them was rubbing salt in an open wound. And as stubborn as he was, he had to admit to himself that what just happened wasn’t going to help matters. He sighed loudly, flustered and annoyed, feeling slightly paranoid. Maybe the heat had gone to his head but he was almost certain that when he pushed Shao, he felt cushion on his chest. Based on his height and silhouette in clothes, he was expecting mere skin and bones but against the palm of Lau’s hand, it had felt soft. He shook his head again. Waydi and Regi were already cracking jokes about what had happened and saying something along the lines of “Don’t mess with Criminalz Crew.” Lau ignored the scolding look Larry was throwing him and pulled his phone out of his pocket. He selected a message and pressed reply once more,
“Are you still with Julia? I need to see you.”