Expo House of Cards


Staff member
"My name is Moriyasu."

"And the band?"

"MEMENTO. Latin alphabet, all capitals."

"Huh." The manager chuckled, "Oh, I get it. Clever."

He didn't mention that MEMENTO could only really hold two members: mysterious prodigy 'Moriyasu' and his college friend 'Akira'. Everyone else either couldn't commit to the schedule, couldn't handle the constant flow of shows and tours and impulse gigs, or held certain... creative differences. 'Leadership' of the band was a big one. It came as quite a shock that Moriyasu, the guitarist and backing vocalist, was the one who had creative control over the whole project. Akira, the lead singer, was at least thankful that the workload had been shifted, but too many people found them a little too hard to work with.

This was a one-night gig, at least, so there wasn't much need to get all that acquainted with the band's short, yet sordid history. The two stand-ins had been the ones to recommend this place, after all, though Akira seemed hesitant to take their advice. Said it was probably tied to organised crime in the area; I mean, why else would they be willing to take a chance on a band like MEMENTO? Moriyasu had to admit, the manager was skeeving him out a bit- but, unlike his friend, he wasn't one to back down from a good show.

"So, how much?"

"Twenty thousand."



"Come on."

He saw Akira grimace in the corner of his eye.

[font size="1"]"Mori, don't bargain with this guy; you don't know what he-"[/font]

"Forty, then." The manager smiled, extending a hand, "That's my final offer."

"We'll take it."

They shook, though the smile on the manager's face lingered for a little longer than Moriyasu would've liked. Gold teeth. Scarred gums. Akira took that as his cue to leave, and was followed shortly after, prompting a hailstorm of whispered complaints.

"You're insane. You're fucking insane- you know that, right?"

"Twenty thousand yen is not enough for all four of us." He shrugged, "Besides, he clearly had the money to spare. He was the one who went higher in the end, not-"

"He has the money to spare, dumbshit, because he's a fucking-" Akira checked over his shoulder before continuing, "He's a fucking criminal, that's why. You know that. Fucking hell, Mori..."

"It worked, didn't it?"

He opened his mouth to retort, but nothing came out. Moriyasu was right- it did work. Somehow, some fucking how, his little deal had gone through.

"Fucking- whatever, man." He sighed, "It starts at nine, right? I'll meet you guys at eight- [font size="1"]if you haven't been fucking shot first...[/font]"
"I fucking told you it was a good idea."

Moriyasu laughed and shook his head.

"Nuh-uh, I was the one who had to convince you to not fucking..." He gestured towards the door, "To not fucking book it out the door the second we came in, you pussy. I told you it was a good idea."

They both laughed, then turned back to their drinks.

The gig had gone well, despite both of their concerns. The crowd seemed to love them- MEMENTO hadn't got this kind of reception since they first started, playing locally to people who already knew them by name. They had all gone to the venue's bar after it had wrapped to celebrate, as per usual, but this time it all seemed uncharacteristically genuine. Jesus, these two temps certainly were a cut above the rest- Moriyasu was tempted to keep them on for the foreseeable future.

"Hey!" Akira flagged down the bartender, "Can we get another round over here?"

"Slow down, man, I haven't even finished this one yet."

Akira punched him in the shoulder.

"Well hurry up, dumbass." He winked, then turned back to the bar, "Hey! Over here! Fuckin- fuck, it's too loud in here. Hey!"

Moriyasu left him to it, turning away from the bar to gaze lazily out over the crowd. They were... hardened, by the looks of things. The more he looked, the more relieved he was that the show went well- if people like this got rowdy, they would've been looking at... fuck, he didn't even want to think about that. They seemed calm now, at least- huddled around tables, playing cards, drinking, as they all were. Moriyasu let himself relax.

His eyes slowly drifted towards the venue's manager, standing recognisably at the back, his gold teeth catching the light as he spoke to... someone. He couldn't tell who it was from this distance- some shorter, older-looking guy with a suit and an eyepatch. The only thing Moriyasu could discern from where he sat was the manager's face. The manager's teeth. The manager's... worried grimace. Whatever the pair were talking about, it was making him very nervous- he could tell just from the man's posture that this other guy- well, he didn't know if it was his boss or what, but-

The man turned around.

Moriyasu averted his gaze immediately, catching only the briefest sting from the stranger's stare. It was so brief that he couldn't even process what he looked like- what his expression was, whether he was angry. Something in the back of his mind, against all the context in the world, seemed to tell him he was not. He felt himself tense up as he turned back towards the bar.

"Hey, Mori, what are you having?"

"I'm not-"

It wasn't like him to stutter.

"I'm not drinking any more yet," He shrugged, "Not until I've finished this, anyway. I'll save you the money."

Akira laughed.

"Alright, suit yourself."

And, so, the night went on. Akira kept drinking, Moriyasu kept nursing his pint- wary, but otherwise fairly unbothered. The couple drinks he had before was likely helping his mood. God knows they were helping Akira, who was practically manic when he was drunk. Well- he was manic, and...

"Woah, hey there..."


A pair of women had approached the band, giggling coyly between themselves. Within seconds of spotting them, Akira had turned around completely to face them, almost falling off his stool in the process. He leaned his arm against the bar and smiled—however unintentionally—awkwardly. The girls ignored him.

They seemed more interested in their bandmates- the two temps who had suggested this place. Neither of the leads could hear what they were talking about, but, whatever it was, it didn't take long to work. Within less than a minute, the temps had stood up, each pairing off with one of the strangers, eager to follow them out of the bar. At least one had the manners to awkwardly wave goodbye to Moriyasu.

Akira was furious.

"Lucky bastards..." He scowled once they had left, "How come they managed to pull? This was our show, for fuck's sake- we were the leads. What, do they think we're-"

"Hey, let 'em have it." Moriyasu shrugged, "I wouldn't trust any girl around these parts, anyway."

Akira sighed.

"Since when were you the voice of reason?"

"Since your sixth beer."

"Fuck you, man."

They both turned back to the bar. This wasn't awkward, this back and forth- they had been through it enough times that it couldn't possibly be. There was a reason MEMENTO had two stable members, rather than just one. Soon enough, they both started laughing about it. Quiet, at first, but growing more boisterous as it went on, and as the reality of their situation began to sink in. It didn't matter. They both knew it didn't matter. They were sitting here, in this crime-funded bar, getting drunk after possibly the riskiest gig of their lives. What did they have to fight about?

Moriyasu felt a light tap on his shoulder.

"Moriyasu, right?"

He turned around, somewhat annoyed by the interaction- but seeing who it came from made him change his tune entirely.

It was the manager.

"Yeah?" He said, nudging Akira to turn around as well, "Was the, uh... was the performance alright?"

The manager didn't respond. He just handed the pair a pair of envelopes.

"Twenty thousand each." He said, "Take it or leave it."


"Twenty thousand?"

"Take it or leave it."

"We'll take it, we'll take it..."

"Fucking hell, Mori, I knew we did well, but not-"

Moriyasu took the envelopes, and the manager grasped his hand.


He let go.


He turned away.

"I just wanted to say I'm sorry."
"Moriiiii, my head hurts...."

"What am I, your fucking maid?" Moriyasu scoffed, "What do you want me to do about it? Go get yourself some water- or a painkiller, if it's that bad."

"I'm just complaining, man."

"Damn right you are."

Akira pulled himself somewhat upright and slouched over the back of the couch, frowning at his bandmate from across the room.

"You're way nicer when you're drunk."

"Isn't everyone?"

Moriyasu, of course, refused to turn away from the computer. He refused to take his headphones off, as well- they were open-backs, he would claim, so he didn't have to. He could still hear everything perfectly fine, so taking them off would be pointless. Unfortunately, this made it pretty hard to tell if he was actually listening to what was being said- though, it didn't take a genius to figure out that the answer was probably no.

"What are you even doing over there, anyway?" Akira scowled, "Oh god, don't tell me you got them to-"

"Record the gig? Of course. You know I like to have a record of these things."

"They don't fucking sell. It's a waste of time."

"We don't need them to sell." Moriyasu shrugged, "I mean, you saw what happened with that guy- I reckon, if we keep doing risky shows like that, we can con more people out of-"

"It wasn't a con, man."

"He didn't pay the others."

Akira stopped dead in his tracks.


"He didn't pay the others." He repeated, "They must've been in debt to him or something, so all the money went to us. That's what I'm saying- if we keep finding people in debt, and keep playing shows to the people they owe, then maybe we can-"

"You're fucking crazy, man. We're not doing that."

Moriyasu responded with a shrug, and continued to focus on his work. It was true, though- the others hadn't been paid at all. In fact, he hadn't heard anything from them since the gig. It was safe to assume the worst, as strange as that was to say. I mean, what were they thinking? Agreeing to play in front of people like that was stupid- although, weren't they the ones who suggested the venue in the first place? Is that why the manager apologised?

"Akira, come here a sec."

Oh, well. It wasn't his place to pry. It didn't affect them at all- in fact, it made things better, seeing they had pocketed the full salary.

"What now?"

He took off the headphones and put them over Akira's head, then pressed a button on the keyboard. A song started playing, and- fuck, he could still hear it, even though he didn't have the headphones on.

"You hear that?"

"The drums?"

"No, dumbshit- when I sing. There's like- like mic feedback, or something. Here, I'll play it again-"

"Nope, I don't hear anything."

Moriyasu frowned, snatching the headphones from Akira and putting them on.

"It's there." He said, "Right when I come in, there's a fucking- listen, I'll put it through the speakers."

He played it through the speakers. Akira shook his head.

"You're imagining things, man."

"I'm not-"

"Look, you ever heard of tinnitus?"

"Tinnitus doesn't go that low." Moriyasu snapped, "Besides, I- I know it came from me. I just- look, I just didn't know it was an actual sound, I thought it was just-"

"Your inner monologue?"

"My inner monologue."

Akira laughed.

"Well, it is your inner monologue." He said, "Can you get me a glass of water now?"

"What am I, your fucking maid?"

Mhm, yeah. Yeah.

Good to hear. Thank you for this.

Three-thirty? Yeah, I- yeah, we should be good for that. Outside the lobby, right?


Cool, we'll meet you there."

Akira leaned over, gesturing vaguely in Moriyasu's direction. Moriyasu ignored him.

"Right, yeah- yeah, we're all set up here. Just waiting on you," He continued into the phone, "Thanks, again. I'm sorry things worked out the way they did but- look, if anything happens, we'll just leave, okay? We've got your back. Let's talk about it when you're here, okay?


See you soon."

He snapped the phone shut and put it in his pocket, before finally turning to face Akira. God, what was he looking so expectant for? Was he trying to listen to the conversation from where he stood? That was stupid. Moriyasu frowned.

"What's with that look?"

"You didn't tell me you got girls for the band."

"You're right, I didn't." Moriyasu scowled, "Can you guess why that is, hm?"

"I'll behave!" Akira laughed, "I'm just... pleasantly surprised, that's all- especially given those last two. Oh, speaking of, have you heard anything back from th-"


They were dead. Moriyasu had heard that they were dead- killed by those they owed, paying for their lost revenue with their lives. He didn't know the details. He didn't want to. What mattered is that they got paid instead- and what mattered more was that they managed to get paid with no consequence.

"Guess we're in the clear then, huh?"

Moriyasu laughed.

"Guess we are."

At least Akira could see that side of it, though it was clearly from a place of unknowing. They were in the clear, he could almost guarantee it- men like that didn't tend to be subtle about such matters, after all. If they had a problem, they would surely be made aware of it in much the same way as their previous bandmates. None of that had happened, thank fuck. The only lingering consequence Moriyasu could count was the increased tendency to check over his shoulder whenever he was alone.

It was enough of a green flag to tempt him into trying again.

These two girls, they were in debt as well- both to some sketchy older woman they refused to name. Moriyasu assumed they were talking about some brothel owner at first, but that didn't seem to be the case, looking into it. It looked to be a loan given to them to kick-start their careers- careers which, given their willingness to join MEMENTO, didn't seem to be going too well. Apparently something happened to their benefactor that made her rescind her kindness. He didn't know. He didn't need to know. They were desperate, she was dangerous, and those were the only facts which mattered.


An envelope was posted through the open window.

"Huh?" Akira turned towards the door, "Fuck, is that a bill?"

"It's not a bill, we don't live here." Moriyasu frowned, "Besides, why would they stick a bill through a window? That's-"

"Oh, it's for... me?"

Akira picked up the envelope and turned it over in his hand, pointing to a hastily-scrawled letter on the front.

"A." He stated, "As in 'AKIRA'. That must be it, right?"

Moriyasu shrugged.

"I gue-"

"Aw, and she even drew a little heart..."

Heart? She? Moriyasu forced himself to hide his envious frown. He knew Akira was the frontman and all, but- come on, how was he getting fanmail before him? Akira was... well, he was just a guy, just an instrument- he may have been the lead singer of MEMENTO, but it was Moriyasu's project. Why wasn't he getting any attention like this? God, was this how Akira felt at the bar the other night?

"Well, go on, then." Moriyasu muttered, "Read it."

Akira tore open the envelope and placed the letter down on the desk, squinting a little to read the hasty scrawl.


Our chance encounter was to be expected, in some ways. I knew one day we would meet, but it still feels so soon- ah, how the time has flown! These years have felt like weeks, yet there is not a doubt in my mind that these weeks will feel like years. Excitement will do that to you!

You aren't excited.

But you will keep these letters, will you? I'll make them worth keeping, I promise. I have a lot to say!

Ah, you always were a musician, weren't you? I can tell by your form, by the way you control yourself onstage. It's very impressive, but I wish you'd sing alone next time. Will you do that for me? I want to hear your voice more clearly, now that I know what to listen for. I've got to say, I love it! Hardly a new approach, I'd imagine, but still! New to me! You should be an idol- oh, you'd do so well as an idol. None of this niche, punk music nonsense- you deserve a crowd, a horde! I suppose I'm your first follower. Or... would this make you my last?

I'm going all-in- I can't wait to see your hand~!

- K♡.


"Well, that's..."

"Weird thing to-"

"I was going to say, that's all the convincing I need." Akira laughed, "I'm singing solo this next show."

"What- no you're not, what the fuck?"

"Look, you were complaining about that little... I don't know, your monologue-hallucination thing. Maybe you need to give your voice a rest, okay?"

Akira laughed.

"Hey, if we do what she asks, maybe K will send us some money as well! Y'know, as a gift for her sweethear-"

"God, stop, you're going to make me throw up." Moriyasu rolled his eyes, "Now, let's go. We've gotta set everything up for when these new hires arrive. Hopefully this K bullshit is enough of a distraction that you don't screw this up for me."

It was envy. That was why he felt so uncomfortable, wasn't it? Envy.

He checked over his shoulder regardless. Something told him that habit was going to persist.
If you had asked Moriyasu to draw a picture of the girls he was hiring based on what he knew before he met them, then you'd have a dead-on, feature-for-feature replica of the pair that stood before him.

They were hunched over whilst trying to look like they weren't. The hoods of their jackets were pulled in tight over their heads to prevent the water from leeching any more of the fading dye from their hair- one pink, one blue, like two half-melted fashion dolls. He'd offer his umbrella, but there wasn't anything worth protecting. The outfits would have to change. Though they were dressed in different sets, it was clear their wardrobes matched; these were stage costumes they had repurposed into what was supposed to be everyday attire. Torn black jeans, fishnets, and a baby pink crop-top on one, sky-blue skirt, knee-highs, and a black sweater-vest on the other.

Moriyasu, dressed in a white shirt and black jacket, pretended they were wearing something sensible, and greeted them with a smile.

"Thank you for coming at such short notice."

"It's alright," said Pink- airy and nasal, "Not like we had anything better to do, I s'pose."

And he believed her. He really did believe her. Both of them were probably just glad to be out of that fucking nightclub they were tied to- he had found their records online, and that place looked dire.

"You are gonna pay us, right?" said Blue- hoarse and sharp, "We were gonna call the last guys who worked with you, but- ow!"

Pink scowled. Blue looked like she was going to continue, but was stopped by another raised elbow- this one going in her face, if she opened it again. Moriyasu theatrically stifled a laugh, resolving it into a cough as he watched Pink blush so hard he was surprised the rainwater didn't evaporate around her. He nodded sincerely.

"Of course I am." He said, "We split the earnings four ways- equal shares, usually. Most the money goes back into the band, anyway, so there's not much reason to weight it."


"Well," Pink shifted uncomfortably, "Actually- yeah, that makes sense. It's... very generous."

Moriyasu laughed.

"I don't see it that way. MEMENTO is an investment- or, well, it's more like a gamble, really. The more money that goes in, the more money we stand to make, if things go well. It feeds into itself, y'know?"


"Yeah, I get it."

They were shivering now, which was understandable. It was cold- mid-November was always a bitter time, even in the afternoons, which didn't help the humidity, which didn't help the rain, which didn't help the shivers. Moriyasu, safe beneath the umbrella, was fine. He could stand out here all afternoon, as cheery as he was when he left the hotel lobby.

"So," He smiled, "What should I call you?"

"Well, I'm Mei-"

"Ciel," Blue snapped, "And call her Cerise."



"We studied there for a bit- used the nicknames for a project, or something. Who cares."

As if he didn't already know; Mei for the pink one, Izumi for the blue. Two girls, deep in debt, working in a nightclub run by their tyrannical debtor to pay her off. They'd be at that job for years, if he didn't swoop in and save them. No wonder they were putting up with this. They were desperate. This was something they'd have to get used to, he thought. Standing outside whilst Moriyasu was safe under cover, and Akira was even safer indoors- they were the ones who needed this, after all. That was why he chose them.

"Mm," Moriyasu shrugged, "I suppose it's not my business.".