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“I don’t see how this relates,” Lei grumbled as she stood up, her last shot having gone wide of the mark again. Author's Notes
Ashegoi just gave her a look before bending over the firolk table to line up her own shot. There was no point in interrupting the older actress until she’d made her shot. Ashegoi took this whole firolk thing far too seriously. Lei sighed, and coughed. There was far too much smoke in the air for her tastes. Surely there were better places they could go if Ashegoi was that insistent on teaching her firolk. Someplace with less smoke, less lingering smells of spilled cheap beer. Maybe even someplace that required patrons to bathe once a tenday even. Her nose wrinkled as a particularly odiferous man stumbled past, laughing and belching with his friends. She would much rather be at the rehearsal hall, running through that finale dance sequence again. Or home cleaning. Or even standing in line at the licensing office. Anywhere else.
The crack of firolk balls ricocheting off each other snapped her attention back to the here and now. She glanced back at the table just in time to see one of Ashegoi's spotted balls roll gently into the far pocket. The older actress stood and favored Lei with a long searching look. "Do you want to be a good actress or a great one?" she asked.
"A great one!" Lei replied, automatically, trying to figure out what that had to do with the game. Shouldn't Ashegoi be taking her second shot so they could finish this stupid game and get out of this slophouse faster? But no, Ashegoi set her cue against the side of the table and came around to stand next to Lei.
"Look around," she said, gesturing to the room at large. "What do you see?"
This at least Lei understood. Observation was an important skill for an actor, and they'd often had exams in school like this, where they were expected to recite what they saw or had seen. "Two older men drinking in the back corner, three young men playing cards at the round table, no betting. A dice game going on over there, low bets, but the black haired gentleman is paying desperately. Five men at the bar, various ages. The oldest is a Scientist and getting rather sloppily drunk." She wasn't quite able to keep the scorn out of her voice. "A group of six there, drinking and talking. Two at that table, obviously waiting for a third. And three men playing firolk at the other table. Why?"
"And what do they all have in common?"
Lei studied the room. She had the unnerving feeling that Ashegoi was testing her. "They're all... drinking?" She said finally, but as soon as the words were out of her mouth she knew it was the wrong answer.
"The men at the dice game aren't drinking," Ashegoi pointed out with a slight smile. "Try again"
Lei gritted her teeth and studied the room again. There seemed little common factor between the patrons. Some were obviously low-license folks, but there was the Scientist at the bar. And there was huge variety in quality of clothing and style so money didn't seem to be a unifying factor. "I don't know," she snarled finally. "They've all got poor enough taste to be here instead of somewhere nicer?"
Ashegoi laughed. "You're missing the obvious. They're all men."
"Well, yes, but I don’t see what that has to do with…” Her voice trailed off as she noticed Ashegoi shaking her head. She’d missed something obvious, something that was becoming annoyingly common the more time she spent in her star’s company.
“They’re men. You’re a male role actress. And you don’t see why a place like this is useful?” Ashegoi’s all too patient tone grated on Lei. She hated feeling stupid especially around her mentor.
“I… We play suave, charming men. Romantic ideals, not…” Her nose wrinkled in disgust as one of the men at the nearby table let out a resounding belch to the applause and cheers of his friends. “Not animals.”
Ashegoi snorted. “Really? What about Lord Ramuu? Deir? The Black Mask?” She asked with a half smile. Lei sighed, and nodded slightly, conceding the point. The stage was hardly free of coarse male characters. But that still didn’t completely explain why coming here was necessary. But before she could ask, Ashegoi continued. “Listen, I’m not dragging you around to slophouses like this just to teach you firolk. You already know how to play the suave and charming man. But right now, that’s all you’re doing – playing. What you need to learn is this – the raw crudeness under that mask of gentlemanly behavior. The men here are just that – men, unhampered by any sort of social pressure to be anything other than what they are. Yes it’s crude, and yes it’s a bit… barbaric, but knowing it exists, incorporating in into your persona, that’s what’s going to make you great.”
Lei surveyed the room again, trying to process exactly what her mentor was saying. “So all men are just pigs underneath?”
Ashegoi laughed and lightly punched Lei’s shoulder. “In a way. Gah, stop looking so serious about it! Think it over for a day or two. Now take your shot.”
Well, I was initially inspired by the prompt about Southerners playing firolk from the February Muse Fusion, but this little bit ended up being about a bit more.