The man with dreadlocks adjusted his glasses before picking up a sheet of paper that contained a series of questions. After skimming his eyes over the sheet briefly, he placed it down and shifted his gaze to the blonde male before him. Folding his hands on the table in front of him, he vocalized the first interview inquiry.
“Tell me about yourself.”
The man currently being questioned fidgeted with his fingers slightly under the table, but maintained eye contact. He could not allow the interviewer to recognize that he was nervous. Reminding himself not to stutter, he responded to the command.
“My name’s Shizuo Heiwajima and I’m 23-years-old. Although I have never been a part of the entertainment business before, I am certain–
“Don’t start with that! By saying that, you already gave yourself low marks. Begin talking about your skill set! You’re only supposed to mention work experience when you have work experience.” The interviewer interrupted exasperatedly. After sighing and shaking his head, he spoke up once again. “Now let’s start over. Tell me about yourself.”
“Isn’t this a bit much, Tom-san? This is just a mock interview and I’m already stressed out. Haven’t we practiced enough already? You said I’d be fine.” Shizuo let out an exhale, clearly tired from practicing since they had been doing so at least three times a day for the past week. Tom had insisted that Shizuo train for the interview as much as physically possible in order to ensure that all went well; however, all that the practices had succeeded in doing was making Shizuo even more apprehensive. He had been confident at first, but now he was doubting himself. Was it really that hard to join a circus? He voiced his concerns to his friend and was met with another sensible ‘Tom response’.
“The circus is not all fun and games. Especially the one you are applying for. The Grand Cirque is the most famous circus around these parts. In order to be accepted, you need to prove that you’re worthy and that you have the skill. You haven’t gone to school for the circus, so you already have that against you, but you do have natural talent.” Pausing for a moment, Tom thought over what to do next. As an idea popped into his head, he snapped his fingers. “I got it. How about we go to one of the shows? I know you’ve been to one before, but that was a long time ago. We can visit all of the stops and maybe you can learn a thing or two.”
Shizuo nodded eagerly, obviously finding favor with that idea. His preferred method of learning was watching and by going to the circus, he would probably gain a lot of information—just as Tom had said. Before he could speak up, Tom slid a paper over in his direction.
“This is the list of the current performers and staff. This includes their positions and their stage names. It would be nice if you could get acquainted with these people, or at least remember their names.”
Shizuo’s eyes scanned over the paper, attempting to absorb all of the information. He wasn’t sure he would be able to remember it all, but he would do his best nonetheless.
Ringmaster — Mizuki Akabayashi (Scar)
Lion Tamer — Yagiri Namie (Demoness)
Knife Thrower — Orihara Izaya (Blade)
Fortune Teller — Celty Sturluson (Smoke)
Clown/Juggler — Kida Masaomi (Flick)
Trapeze Artists — Orihara Kururi & Orihara Mairu (Echo & Shadow)
Human Cannonball — Kuronoma Aoba (Blue)
PWGKTAH — Ryuugamine Mikado (Target)
Sword Swallowers — Sonohara Anri & Niekawa Haruna (Saika & Cut)
Russian Bar Trio — Vorona & Simon & Denis (Angel & Sushi & Sharp)
Elephant Trainer — Kyōhei Kadota (Beanie)
Resident Doctor — Kishitani Shinra(Glasses)
Costume Designers — Karisawa Erika & Yumasaki Walker (Needle & Thread)
Transportation Manager — Togusa Saburo (Wheel)
Circus Owner — Haruya Shiki (Frown)
“What does PWGKTAH stand for?” Shizuo asked while scratching the side of his head.
“Shizuo, focus!” shouted Tom, his voice lacking its usual conciliatory tone. Although he was a part of the business portion of the circus, there was only so much he could do to help his friend. Whether or not Shizuo was accepted into the circus, depended mostly on Shizuo and his own efforts.
Grunting, Shizuo refocused his attention to the paper. Yup, there was no way he would remember all of this, but perhaps watching the performers in action would aid in his memorization.
The next show would be in three days and to say Shizuo was excited would be an understatement. There was nothing he enjoyed more than viewing the performers, visiting the booths, and eating cotton candy or kettle corn. Unable to contain his excitement, Shizuo frequently checked clocks and even calendars. Time seemed to move impossibly slowly, but somehow Shizuo managed to wait three days.
The Grand Cirque had finally arrived in Ikebukuro.
♠ ♦ ♣ ♥♠ ♦ ♣ ♥
“Step right up, step right up. This way to the jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring Grand Cirque. Come one, come all, and see the most amazing sights in the universe. And the most amazing thing of all is, that entrance is free. That's right folks, you don't pay a cent to get in. You pay to get out, but the cost of that is up to you. So step this way.”
Shizuo looked in every direction, taking in all of the sights. There were numerous tents, but one stood out. Although each tent had the traditional red-yellow scheme, the main one was much larger and a multitude of individuals were shoving against one another, attempting to enter.
After making sure Tom was still behind him, he began pushing past a couple of people as well. The seats were filling up quickly, but Shizuo managed to snag two front-row seats in one of the three seating areas. On the other side of the tent, there was a concession stand and a novelties stand as well. As tempting as it was, Shizuo would not risk sacrificing his perfect center seats in order to obtain items from the aforementioned stands.
Tom settled into his seat, finding a comfortable position while Shizuo sat on the edge of his own. Excitement quickly took over the latter when the last of the audience managed to find seats.
“That's right, lady; thank you, sir; you're most welcome, young fellow-me-lad. Are we all in, now? Great! Then let the show begin!”
The lights gradually dimmed into complete darkness. Clapping could be heard, but it abated when a spotlight shined on the center of the ring. The attention focused on a man in a top hat and red tailcoat. From his point of view, Shizuo could see everything in perfect detail. How lucky he had been to acquire front row seating! The man had a scar over his right eye—which proved to be his most defining feature—and with a visual aid, Shizuo could remember this guy’s stage name: Scar.
“Ah, looks like a full house tonight. That means more money for— I mean, welcome ladies and gentlemen! Non-binary individuals! Children of all ages! Gods and goddesses! Animals or just animalistic people! Freaks and friends and foes! Welcome all—“
“Just get on with it already!” Another spotlight appeared, this time shining on what looked like a teenager in clown makeup. His hair was blond, his face painted white, his nose painted red, with black diamonds drawn under his eyes. His outfit was atrocious, but that was obviously intended. It proved to be so horrid that it actually worked. That was not the most attention-grabbing factor, however. He was juggling what appeared to be ten rubber balls along with some bowling pins.
At the display, the audience went wild. The boy’s smile grew due to the attention and he lowered to bow, ‘forgetting’ that he was juggling. One by one, the balls and pins hit his head as he repeatedly cried out ‘ouch’. After rubbing his head and pouting, several audience members laughed while one old woman muttered something along the lines of ‘the poor dear’.
Scar cleared his throat and the attention redirected back to him. “Step right up, step right up. For you’re at the circus! The greatest show on earth, why yes it is. Under the big top, stripped and tall…” As he spoke, the man began expertly swinging around a cane, tossing it high into the air before catching it. He repeated this process several times, but it failed to come down one of these times.
The man faked a look of puzzlement while looking around. “Now where did that go…?” As he looked around, he scratching his head. All of a sudden, female giggling could be heard. The ringleader sighed in an over-exaggerated manner before shaking a finger accusingly towards the roof of the tent.
“You young ladies better give that back this instant!” He stated, seemingly calling out to the darkness. Another two spotlights appeared, shining towards the top of the circus tent. On two different stands, there were two girls—perfect mirrors of each other (aside from hair and slightly different outfits). Judging by their location and attire, they were trapeze artists. They wore sparkling purple outfits which seemed to dazzle the audience.
The first one had braids and appeared overly eccentric. She was currently playing with the cane in a taunting manner. Flashing a rather cruel yet playful smile, she decided to speak up.
“If you really want it, come and get it!” She tossed it to the center between the two poles. Immediately, her counterpart—a less eccentric female with short hair—jumped onto the trapeze, grabbing hold of the bar with her hands and swinging forward rapidly. In an incredible feat of acrobatics, she managed to grab the cane with her feet while letting go of the bar and performing an incredible spin. She let go of the cane, allowing it to fly in the air while she made a perfect landing on the stand next to her sister. As the cane followed the laws of gravity, she caught it without looking.
The audience went wild. Absolutely wild. Everyone was shouting and screaming things along the lines of “Do it again, that was amazing,” and “Oh my god, did you see that?” He even heard the lady from before mutter, “The poor dear.”
Shizuo was absolutely astonished. Even more so, since he knew that was only the tip of the iceberg. He joined the audience in clapping enthusiastically before the ringmaster interrupted their applause.
“Alright, alright! That’s enough! Sheesh, show-offs. Save that for the show.” As sudden as before, the two lights shinning on the girls turned off. Quickly, they turned back on only to reveal that the two females were gone. “Huh? Where did they go?”
The two spotlights then moved to form one spotlight. This single spotlight was redirected to a female standing near the ringmaster. She wore a fancy, colorful dress with multiple layers. She seemed incredibly timid, fidgeting slightly and saying nothing. The ringmaster arched an eyebrow before asking her a question.
“Do you know where my cane is?” She nodded shyly before opening her mouth and reaching inside. This confused everyone until a golden handle was visible. Everyone in the audience shared the same thought: No way! The girl gripped the handle and began pulling it out of her mouth, revealing a long, black cane. The audience began screaming once again as she handed the cane to the ringmaster.
“Ah, yes. Um…” he looked at the cane with a hint of disgust as there was saliva trailing along it, “…thank you, my dear.” She nodded and bounded off, away from the spotlight. Shaking his head, the ringmaster refocused. “Now where was I? Right!” He began tossing his cane in the air, letting it fly and fall. Over and over as he caught it without fail.
“Step right up! Step right up! For you’re at the circus! Ignore the peanut shells littered about and the stench from the animal trailers. Step right up! Step right up! How are the elephants taught such fantastic tricks? They’re cruelly whipped and terrified of the human beasts—“ Before he could finish, he was interrupted once again. This time by a loud roar.
A spotlight quickly shined onto what appeared to be a tiger. It roared again and began stalking towards the ringmaster. The man quickly backed away and tripped over his own feet. “Down kitty, down boy!” The tiger merely roared again and continued approaching his prey.
Another sound caught the audience’s attention. This time, it was the sound of a whip. After hearing the noise, the tiger quickly turned around to where a spotlight shined on a woman. She wore an incredibly revealing outfit which the audience seemed to adore. Overall, she was an incredibly attractive individual with long, black hair, fishnet leggings, and a bodice that left little to the imagination. Despite her pulchritudinous features, there was a scowl on her face. An expression so fierce, it rivaled and even exceeded the tiger’s.
Snapping her whip once again, she gave the tiger a command. “Get back, you beast!” The tiger growled, but eventually complied and walked over to her meekly. It began licking her hand which proved to be a rather adorable display. “Good boy.” She pet its head gently before walking out of the spotlight, the tiger following alongside her.
The ringmaster let out a rather long exhale before picking up his hat—which had fallen off when he tripped—and placing it back on his head. He stood up and dusted himself off.
“I just want to finish my introduction! Is that so much to ask?” He looked around, seemingly looking for something else that might interrupt his performance. “Mhm, alrighty then! Step right up! Step right up! For you’re at the circus! You all are here to make a spectacle of those who are taunted enough. The shortest man and the creep without limbs…”
As if he was not interrupted enough, something else interjected during his speech. A knife. It whooshed past his head, knocking off his hat in the process. A voice followed the blade, piercing through the silence that formed at the sight of the glinting metal.
“Oh, come on now, you know we don’t have anyone like that.” The ringmaster simply tsked at the voice, bending down to pick up his hat and pull the knife out of it.
“Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to play with knives?” The ringmaster questioned, turning towards the sound of the voice. A new spotlight revealed a young man with black hair. His aura was enchanting, his dark attire was alluring, and facial expression radiated confidence. After shrugging, more knives were visible in his hands.
“She also told me not to run away and join the circus, but well…” he chuckled slightly before continuing, “…here I am.” The charming young man flashed the audience a smile and a couple females squealed. They shouted his stage name as well as ‘I love you’ and ‘please marry me’. The old lady even chimed in with a ‘the poor dear’. Clearly, this individual was well-known and had a plethora of fans. With the knives still in his hands, he waved at the people, looking around at the different individuals. For a brief second, he made eye contact with Shizuo and gave him a wink.
“That’s great. Now can you allow me to finish my speech?” The exasperated ringmaster inquired. The knife-thrower simply hummed and nodded in approval.
“Of course, but first, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room.” After concluding his statement, he clapped his hands together and a spotlight shined on an elephant making its way to the center of the ring. “Oh, and you know what? All of these spotlights are ridiculous. Let’s simply shine light inside the entire tent!” He raised hands even higher and clapped again excitedly. Nothing occurred, however, and slight frown formed on his face. “Huh, that didn’t work…”
The ringmaster placed a hand on his chin, seemingly deep in thought. “Aha! I got it. What if we had help from the audience?” The man turned to face the people with a large smile on his face. “Ladies and gentleman! We’re going to need your help with the lights. Would you mind forming a round of applause for the the jaw-dropping…awe-inspiring…Grand Cirque!”
Instantly, the audience roared with intense cheering. They applauded and screamed until the lights finally managed to brighten up the entire tent. All of the performers from before, and even some new ones, were present on the stage. They waved enthusiastically at the audience which continued to cheer. All of them had amazing costumes which seemed to be suited to their character. There was a multitude of colors, styles, and shimmering factors.
Shizuo was having a hard time taking it all in. Everything was amazing…and this was only the opening! More than anything, Shizuo wanted, no, needed to be a part of this circus. The entirety of it amazed and fascinated him.
As the applause finally died down, the ringmaster twirled his cane in order to garner the audience’s attention once again. This time, lively music accompanied his speech. “Step right up! Step right up! For you’re at the circus! Cotton candy pink and blue, popcorn and peanuts for you to share. What a wonderful place the circus is.”
Shizuo could not help but agree with complete sincerity and commitment. Indeed…what a wonderful place the circus is.