It was said you hadn’t seen true charisma until you’d watched an Anodyne work a crowd.
She jabbered away at lightning speed, fielding questions from everyone as though they were one entity. The Suitors in their white tuxes crowded at the center of the crush, all the non-Suitor Fags in their black tuxes crowded around the perimeter. All watched her with hungry eyes. Fags and Suitors who weren’t close enough to speak with her chatted with each other, shooting glances to see if a spot had opened up.
The Suitors’ facial expressions weren’t necessarily predatory so much as they were full of a childish and sorrowful awe, as if in the presence of some intimidating and impossibly beautiful idol. This was worship. Viewed from a distance, it was rather pitiful.
Ivy took a seat on a chair at the bar and twirled around.
Several Suitors jockeyed for seats next to her and at her feet. Tips exploded in puffs of snow. Suitors would watch Ivy, tap on their Tags, and smile proudly when she acknowledged their contribution. At times there was practically a small blizzard going on over her head.
The scoreboard over the stage showed Ivy had approximately fifteen thousand points left on her Topic before she did her next song. Tips chipped away at the difference. Her Golden ranking meant she was accepting Gold and Silver as payment. There was a large scoreboard set up over the stage’s proscenium, the numbers ticking down with every tip.
Ivy expressed overenthusiastic delight at the constant inflow of tips from the foaming devotees around her.
“Aaahh! Ah-huh! Whoa! Aw, thanks!” she’d say when a puff of snow burst over her shoulder and drifted into her hair. “That’s really really sweet of you, thank you so much! Aw, thanks, Clamfart. Aw, thanks, Grubmeat. Aw, you guys are awesome. You guys are AWESOME.”
She spun around on her bar stool.
“You know what I did today?” she said to her enraptured devotees.
Her question was met with a chorus of “What?”, and “What was it you did, my love?” One overzealous Asian Suitor kneeling at her feet kept begging her to let him perform a foot massage. Ivy ignored him.
“You know what I did today cause I’m having a real hard time, “ — Another tip exploded overhead — “ aw, thanks, you guys are awesome. I did this thing that I almost never do. You know what I did today? For like the first time in like, months — “ She lowered her voice to a whisper, “ — I actually watched porn.”
“Oooh…” said everyone, leaning in.
“I, like, almost never watch porn,” said Ivy. “I always read it, cause I’m, like, fuckin’ classy like that.”
She giggled excitedly.
“But no. I watched old school porn for like — I watched one video, and I was like, ‘This is strangely fake.’ But um, yeah, then I got bored.”
Another tip came in.
“Aw, thanks a lot, Cumsock.”
“You so adorable, baby girl,” said the guy she’d called Clamfart, an African-American guy, skinny with a shaved head and a narrow chin with an elaborate facial hair spiral.
“Aw, thank you, sir, that’s really sweet!”
Tips kept coming and her topic continued to fall. It was now already below 13000. Most of the tips averaged a couple hundred, and it was mostly the same Suitors in her inner circle doing the tipping.
Ivy was slightly manic in her presentation. She bounced with a cheerful, hyper energy that she hadn’t demonstrated when she’d been alone with him. Everyone felt jealous at everyone else.
Ivy’s Mod Chuck was at his usual spot behind the bar. His presence eased the crush of male attention on the small girl. Everyone knew — one wrong move, one wrong word, any sign of aggression or displeasure, and Chuck would be on the offender with his talons. The wrongdoer would be rejected from the room, and possibly the Palace itself.
Ivy greeted another recently arrived Omega Suitor. He took her hand in his and kissed her knuckles, kneeling before her.
“Hi, Monkeybutt! How are you?”
Another tip puffed over her shoulder.
“Aw, Clamfart, I love you.”
“Heavenly now that I’m in your presence, my princess,” said MonkeyButt, shoving a Suitor out of one of the nearest stools and taking the guy’s place.
She sprang off her stool and onto the bar, turning around and examining herself in the huge mirror behind the shelves of alcohol.
“I feel like I look fat as fuck but I guess I’m just gonna have to put up with that, you know?”
There was an immediate volley of dissent.
“Don’t say that!” and “Lies! All lies!” and “Quit playin’, you know you’re perfect,” and “Aw, that’s not true, you’re amazing,” and “I love you so much,” and “I don’t care if it’s shark week, you can bleed all over me any day.”
“Aw, thank you, that’s really sweet actually,” said Ivy, turning and admiring herself.
She stepped down on the other side of the bar where Chuck stood, glaring at everyone with his arms crossed.
Another tip puffed over her shoulder.
She caught another glimpse of herself in the mirror.
“I look like shit today,” she said again, a look of defeat on her pretty, heart-shaped face. “Jesus Christ, I look like shit.”
The crowd volubly disagreed with her, a cacophony of compliments.
“Seriously, what we gotta do to convince you you’re beautiful?” asked Grubmeat.
Suddenly the one called Cumsock, a dark-eyed, brown-skinned Asian fellow with a sturdy build and a flop of black bangs, the one who'd been begging Ivy to let him give her a foot massage, jumped up on the bar and yelled, "TRIBUTE!"
He pointed at Chuck.
"A TRIBUTE TO THE PRINCESS. A TRIBUTE TO THE ANODYNE. WE MUST EXPRESS OUR DESIRE."
"Yes, Tribute!" yelled Monkeybutt and Grubmeat. "A Tribute! We call for a Tribute!"
The whole crowd joined in, shouting, "Tribute!"
It turned into a chant.
"Trib-UTE, Trib-UTE, Trib-UTE!"
The Suitors and Fags all chanted loudly.
Chuck held his hands up. The chant died off.
"Granted," Chuck announced. "The Suitors called Grubmeat, Cumsock and Monkeybutt may sing the leads. Everyone else is chorus."
Everyone in the room stood. A swell of Suitors filed down to the mosh pit area for a spot closest to the stage.
"Can Suitors participate in orchestra?" Clamfart asked frantically, raising his hand and waving it.
"Granted," said Chuck.
Ivy was led to the stage by Cumsock, Grubmeat and Monkeybutt. Grubmeat and Monkeybutt took her by the arms and lifted her between them. Cumsock led the way. The white tuxes and black tuxes parted for them.
The curtain raised and instruments were conjured onstage- bass, drums, percussion, horn section, strings, everything an orchestra would need. They sat lustrous in the stage lights.
The same silver microphone Padd had sung into the day before appeared, this time with two identical ones on either side of it.
Cumsock, Grubmeat and Monkeybutt all lined up in front of the mics, looking classy as hell in their spotless white tuxedos.
Other Suitors scrambled onstage to man the instruments. Drums, percussion and bass were filled.
"What shall we sing for you, my princess?" Cumsock asked Ivy, leaning down.
"I'd like to hear — ," Ivy announced, then she leaned over and whispered into Cumsock's ear.
"A fine choice, my princess, worthy of your epic hotness," he said, and turned to address the crowd.
"The Anodyne has chosen the song 'Blurred Lines' by Robin Thicke and Pharrell!"
"May their voices live on!" chorused everyone in the room.
Clamfart, who had commandeered the bass guitar, counted the band in with a "1–2–3" and yelled, "E'rrybody get up!"
The music started. An energetic bass riff and clicking drumsticks.
"Hey hey hey hey," yelled the audience in unison. "Hey hey hey hey!"
Ivy danced provocatively as bass riff descended into the verse as Cumsock sidled up to her, mic stand in hand.
If you can't hear what I'm trying to say
If you can't read from the same page
Maybe I'm going deaf
Maybe I'm going blind
Maybe I'm outta my —
All three of them sang together in a soulful descending vocal riff.
Grubmeat stepped over to Ivy, bumping Cumsock out of the way.
Okay, now he was close
Tried to domesticate you
But you're an animal
Baby it's in your nature
Monkeybutt cut in, bumping Grubmeat out of the way.
Just let me liberate you
You don't need no papers
That man is not your maker
The two other leads joined in —
And that's why Imma take a
The entirety of the Theatrium except Padd and the animals thunderously sang the words with the band and the vocalists.
Ivy sang, leering at them over her shoulder and twerking.
I know you want it
The three lead Suitors sang.
I know you want it
Ivy sang again.
I know you want it
The Theatrium sang together, Ivy the center of a sonic vortex of voice.
But you're a Good Girl
Can't let it get past me
You're far from plastic
Grubmeat finished it.
Talkin bout getting blasted
The whole Theatrium joined in again.
I hate these blurred lines
I know you want it, sang Ivy
I know you want it, sang the three Suitors
I know you want it, sang the Theatrum, but you a Good Girl
The way you grab me, sang Cumsock.
Must wanna get nasty, sang Grubmeat.
Go 'head get at me, sang Monkeybutt.
E'rrybody get up! yelled Clamfart.
The song blasted away, Ivy dancing, the Suitors singing and trying to get closest with her before she danced away, the rest of the audience minus Padd nodding along and singing the background parts. Ivy's tattoo stood out on her glowing white skin. She was synced to the percussion, jiggling her butt and looking cute and flirty and generally driving everyone insane.
Tips continued to explode over the stage. The numbers on her Topic continued to tick down and down and down.
When the song finished out its last bars, there was one final cry of "These blurred lines!" from everyone, and the room went gangbusters with cheers and merrymaking.