Here's a fun fact: Tetsurou was never once illustrated in the five volumes of the series. My mental image of him while I was reading the book is a guy who looks like Jintan's dad (Anohana), but that was not what the author had in mind. In the author's notes of the final book, Sugii said that the editor had once asked him what Tetsurou looks like, and the author replied with "A grown up L (from Death Note)". The editor never asked anything about it ever again.
I hope I have permanently shattered the image of L in your minds. Enjoy.
"So you're saying you bumped into Kagurazaka-senpai?"
The following morning, in the classroom, Chiaki asked me that question as she stared at my face.
"Oh, yeah," I replied in an annoyed tone, "Though I think it was more her waiting for me than me bumping into her."
"Then...... are you joining the club?"
"Why would I!?"
"Because Senpai is the sort of person...... who will definitely get her hands on whatever she wants."
Kagurazaka-senpai said the exact same frightening thing to me yesterday in the courtyard. In front of the practice classroom, with her index finger pointing towards me, she declared, "If it's something I want, I'll do anything in order to get it, by fair means or foul. It doesn't matter if it's Ebisawa Mafuyu, this room, or you."
After she said that, Chopin's funeral march sonata could be heard coming from the practice classroom, and it just so happened to be at the part of the final movement, where the whirlwinds are raging through the cemetery—for a brief moment, I felt like dying.
Stop reminding me of those horrible things! Despite my efforts to forget, Chiaki caused those scary memories to resurface in my mind.
"I heard...... that she had always wanted a guitar that cost a million yen. And so, she went to work for the music store where the guitar was sold, and managed to grab hold of the store manager's weak...... urm, she became close friends with the store manager, and ended up getting the guitar for free."
"What the heck are the police for!?"
"Since Senpai could get that guitar in her hands, Nao should be an instant kill for her."
So you mean I'm not even worth a million yen?
"To be in the same club as that sort of person—I really don't get what's going on in your head"
"But Kagurazaka-senpai is really cool!"
Hmm...... she might look cool if I were looking at her from two kilometers away.
"It isn't that bad to want to marry Senpai, right?"
"Alright, go ahead! But since Japan doesn't recognize same-sex marriage, go to Canada to get married instead! You know, Canada!" And don't ever come back!
"But both Senpai and I don't know how to cook. Why doesn't Nao come along as well?"
"What does it have to do with me!?"
As I said that to Chiaki, the backdoor of the classroom opened, and Mafuyu stepped into the classroom. The preparatory bell just happened to ring at the same time, as though it were reminding everyone that they were still in a classroom. Mafuyu stared at me with the sides of her eyes, then proceeded to take her seat silently. At that instance, I stood up irritably and walked out of the classroom.
A series of footsteps could be heard following behind me.
"What's with you?" Chiaki chased after me.
"I'm going to the toilet! Don't follow me."
"I heard from Senpai...... that you were defeated by Ebisawa?"
I stopped in my tracks. The bell that signaled the start of class rang, and the students that had gathered in the corridors became swallowed up by their classrooms. In the end, the only people left were Chiaki and I.
"You can't quite consider that a defeat."
"Didn't she say...... those who don't play musical instruments are not allowed to get close to the room...... making you run away?"
"If you think you can provoke me with those words, you're dead wrong! Don't underestimate my lack of drive!" Hearing those words come out of my mouth, I couldn't help but pity myself.
"Nao knows how to play the guitar, right?"
"You can't count that as knowing how to play." And more importantly...... I had thrown away the guitar I used back then, so I'm currently not in the possession of any guitars.
"It's fine if you start practicing again! Senpai's very good at guitar, so you can ask her to teach you."
"If that's how it is, why don't you ask Senpai to directly invite Mafuyu into the band? She found out Mafuyu's really good at the guitar, and wants to acquire that practice room along the way, to use as the clubroom, right?
I don't think any of those things have anything to do with me at all! I just hope they'll leave me alone.
Chiaki became quiet all of a sudden...... shit, that look of hers suggests that she's on the verge of crying and smacking me at the same time. But why? Did I say something to make her angry?
"...... Do you not know why Senpai is inviting you? Do you really think you're just a supplementary item alongside Ebisawa?"
Chiaki's words sounded as though they were being squeezed out by force.
"...... I. Don't. Know!"
I couldn't help but cower, taking a few steps back as well. My back slammed against the wall of the corridor.
"Nao, you huge idiot! At your funeral, I'll say 'Nao's life was really boring'!"
With that said, Chiaki dashed back into the classroom.
I walked into the toilet with a heavy heart and sat on the toilet cover. What's with that!
It'd be great if I knew how to play the guitar, but...... if only I could squeeze out some motivation after hearing Mafuyu play the guitar. I sat on the toilet bowl with my arms hugging my knees. The sound of the bell came. I didn't move an inch...... it was the first time I had skipped lessons...... and it had only been a month since the start of school—isn't it a little too early for that? This is my very first step on the path to becoming an utterly useless high school student!
In the end, I obediently returned to class during the second period. I'm a person who gives up halfway through anyway, and I didn't have the guts to step into an arcade. Moreover, third and fourth period were physical education—it'd be scary to face the teacher if I skipped his lessons.
Halfway into lunch break, I walked towards the old music building, thinking I should just remove all my stuff from there. As I stepped into the courtyard, I could hear the sounds of the guitar; it felt like those sounds were directly blending up my brain. So that lass plays the guitar during lunch breaks too? Sigh, I thought to myself that I should just come another time. Just as I was about to head back, my sight was drawn to something placed next to the door of the room. That's...... a rubbish bag for disposing of trash that can't be burned. What exactly is in it?
I got close to the rubbish bag and peeked inside; a burst of anger lit up within my heart. Inside the bag was a huge amount of CDs—The Beatles, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, The Clash—all of them are from my important collection! How dare that girl do this! I cranked open the door forcibly, slamming the door open. The sound of the guitar began assaulting me, but disappeared just as quickly.
"...... Didn't I say already, you are not to enter as you please!"
Mafuyu was sitting on the cushion on the desk and hugging her guitar. Her eyebrows were standing as she said that, but I wasn't about to retreat just yet.
I lifted the rubbish bag and protested angrily, "What are you doing!?"
"The cabinet's too small, so I just took them out of the room."
"Who do you think these CDs belong to?"
"If they weren't yours, I would not have tossed them out!"
I was furious to the point that I couldn't come up with a reply. What's with all that!
"Oi, since you're playing the guitar, you should respect the great pioneers of the rock genre!" And you should respect my private property too!
"I do not listen to rock or whatever, nor do I know anything about it. These things are an eyesore and a waste of space, so take them back quickly!"
Mafuyu pushed the dumbfounded me out of the room and closed the door. What flowed into my ears next was Beethoven's <Piano Sonata No. 12 in A-flat Major>. Yet another funeral march!? That must be deliberate, right!? Just then, a fast-talking melody suddenly appeared in my mind. I ignored the funeral march for a moment and concentrated my thoughts...... Chuck Berry!
<Roll over Beethoven>.
She dare say they're a waste of space? She hasn't even listened to them before! I've sacrificed half of my boring life listening to rock, and yet, she's belittling it? I had originally wanted to hammer the door of the classroom in frustration, but thought otherwise in the end. There were better things I should be doing with my hands.
I hugged the rubbish bag as I headed back to my classroom. As I stacked the CDs on my desk, one by one, I started to think of ways I could beat Mafuyu up...... though, of course, I wasn't really planning to punch her. The guys of the class came over. "You setting up a booth with all these CDs?" "All of them are western music." I wasn't paying much attention to them, despite them saying a lot of things.
What should I do......? How should I teach her a lesson? It's decided, I shall show her the greatness of rock. However, I can't just toss the CDs at her forcefully, so—
I finally managed to locate Chuck Berry's album from the huge stacks of CDs. After slotting the CD into my discman, I stuffed the earphones into my ears.
The afternoon lessons of that day were spent listening to his songs.
I dashed home after school, but forgot to open the door gently as I entered the house; as a result, the CDs in the house came crashing down on me like a landslide. I stacked the CDs back nicely, then removed my shoes and walked into the corridor. The works of Bruckner could be heard coming from the living room.
"Tetsurou, I have something to discuss with you!"
I opened the doors of the living room. Tetsurou was sitting on the sofa with the laptop resting on his knees. He was typing out his article at a great speed, banging hard on the keyboard—the laptop should be a goner soon.
From the speakers came the battering of the timpani, and Tetsurou typed on the keyboard with a *darararara* along with the tempo of the music. It seemed like he was oblivious to the fact I was already back home, so I switched the music off without mercy. Tetsurou slid down from the sofa.
"My son, what've you done? The thing that irritates me the most is when the symphony's cut off at the third movement—didn't I tell you that before?"
"As a middle-aged man who has had the third movement of his life interrupted, do you think you have the right to say that?"
"Whoa, my lil' Nao, where on earth did you learn those dirty retorts? Daddy feels really sad......" I read them from your damn critiques!
"Alright, you should occasionally listen to what I have to say, okay? Stop lying there, sit down properly— don't do a seiza on the laptop! Do you want to crush it?"
After a roar of anger and a round of scoldings, I finally made Tetsurou sit in a position where he could listen to me.
"Do you have something to discuss with me?"
"Yup. I'm calling a family meeting."
"What's wrong? I currently don't have any intention of remarrying! But if it's with a girl like Chiaki, I may consider it."
"Stop with your daydreaming, you criminal! There isn't a second person in this world who's interested in marrying you! And that's not what I wanted to discuss!"
"What do you want to buy then?"
Tetsurou's tone became serious all of a sudden, and that caused me to get tongue-tied for a while due to my shock.
"There's something you want, right?"
I sat on the sofa after calming myself down.
Naturally, I'm in charge of our household's finances, but that doesn't mean I can spend them as I please. I have to arrange a family meeting if I want to buy something expensive.
"I...... want a guitar."
"Isn't there one in the house?"
"You broke it back when you swung it about during the baseball match! Don't you remember!?"
Is a person like him, who doesn't treasure his musical instruments, even qualified to be a music critic......?
"...... Doing it for a girl?"
Tetsurou asked that suddenly.
"There can only be one reason for a guy to want a guitar all of a sudden. It is so that he can be popular with the girls!"
"What's with that bullshit? Apologize to all the guitarists in the world right now!"
"I'll be casting a rejection vote if you don't admit to it honestly." I could say nothing. Why is he such a pain in the ass!?
"How much do you think a guitar costs? It'll cost at least fifty to sixty thousand yen for you to get a decent one, right? You only have about twenty thousand yen that you're free to use, isn't that right?"
"Why're you so damn clear about things like this?"
I pouted and sank myself into the sofa.
"Why don't you earn some cash for yourself! Just write a few articles for me."
Tetsurou pushed the laptop on the table in my direction.
"No...... I don't wanna do that again." I pushed the laptop back. I had helped Tetsurou with some of his articles back when the deadlines were approaching. I had originally thought it was impossible for the articles written by a middle school student to be published in an official music magazine, but little did I expect, the editor actually used them. It was probably due to Tetsurou editing them a little or something? Speaking of which, is that magazine really alright? Since then, my articles were frequently published in magazines or on CD covers, and Tetsurou would pass the royalties for the particular articles onto me.
Even so, the cash earned from the articles I wrote didn't translate completely into pocket money. Tetsurou said that thirty percent would be mine, while seventy percent would be incorporated into the family expenses. I tried protesting once, saying, "Why can't I use the full amount of cash that I earned?" and he replied with, "Because it's the same for me!" I couldn't argue with that, so as a result, I have to hold a family meeting if I want to buy things that are out of my budget.
However, there'd be no need for me to hold family meetings like this if I wrote more articles under Tetsurou's name. Then again, what should I do about the music magazine that hasn't once realized it was publishing articles written by a middle school student......? But if I wrote more articles, it'd be at least two months before I could receive the royalties; and I wanted to purchase the guitar immediately, so I could begin practicing right away.
"The responses to the articles you had written were all rather good. You have indeed inherited my skills—how amazing! It just so happens I've only managed to write two lines since this morning, so help me out a little!"
Please don't say things like me inheriting your skills. I'll never help you write articles again!
"If you don't wish to help, you'll have to admit you're buying the guitar so you can be popular with the girls! If not, I won't agree to you buying it."
"Why do you have to be so insistent on that!"
"Because you started learning the guitar once before, but gave up on it immediately."
I hugged the cushions and fell silent. Tetsurou always hits the nail on the head once in a while, amid all his jokes—I think that must be a very bad habit of his.
"It's true, but......"
"That's why, if a guy's doing it to be popular with the girls, there's no problem at all! Just admit it. And this time, you must resolve that, if you give up halfway through, you'll never get a girlfriend for the rest of your life!"
Those words of his sounded quite stupid, but they were somehow extremely convincing as well. I took a brief moment to think about what he said in silence. For girls, huh—all of this was indeed started by Mafuyu, but it's more the case that I wanted to teach her a lesson......?
"...... Fine. I want to play the guitar so I can be popular with the girls. Just cast your vote of agreement already!"
"Whoa, to hear such a stupid line coming from the mouth of lil' Nao—Daddy feels really sad~"
"Tetsurou, you're in no position to be saying that!"
I raged and threw the cushion at Tetsurou, but he unexpectedly grabbed the laptop and used it as a shield against my attack.
"Just joking! Remember to write my name down when you make the payment, or else they can't wire the bill to me."
My anger subsided after I tossed the newspapers and a half-eaten banana at Tetsurou. I went back to my room and sorted out my thoughts while lying in bed.
I've never been to a proper musical instrument store before. They do put some guitars on display at music CD stores, but I have no intention of getting a half-assed one from there. However, it would feel strangely uneasy if I were to deliberately look for a musical instrument store on the streets. Also, if possible, I wanted to get a guitar that was cheap.
After thinking about it for a long while, my phone rang—it was Chiaki's phone number. If I start the conversation by talking about wanting to buy a guitar, she'll definitely make me join the Folk-whatever club, so I'll just skip that for now.
"—Nao? It's a little too early for you to be home, you coward."
"How's that cowardly? Right, there's...... something I'd like your help with."
"A request? What's wrong? I'll listen, but the price of me helping you will be you joining our club."
"No way. Look, do you know any decent musical instrument stores?"
"Musical instrument stores? Why?"
"To buy an instrument, obviously. I wanna buy a guitar."
I regretted it a little, but I still told her the reason. As expected, she insisted on getting to the bottom of the matter.
"Why, why? Did you dream of someone? Eric Clapton?"
I'm not you! And also, Clapton's not dead yet!
"Could it be...... the things Ebisawa said to you?"
I was speechless for a moment.
"Ah! Silence. I'm right~"
"...... It's not that—"
"Ehh, Nao and Ebisawa—"
At about the same time, both of us swallowed back our words halfway through our sentence. A moment of silence followed. I could hear the announcement for the arrival of the train from her side of the phone—she probably made the call at the train station while on her way back or something? Chiaki finally said,
"Right, since I'm about to head home now, let's go together?"
"Urm...... you don't have to. Just tell me the place, and I'll go there myself."
"Ah, it's fine. I'm a regular there, so it'll be cheaper if we go together."
"Oh! Here comes the train. See you at the station."
She hung up before I could say what was on my mind. For some unknown reason, her voice sounded strangely hoarse. I felt slightly uneasy, but I still took fifty thousand yen out of the envelope that held the money for our family expenses, and put it in my wallet before stepping out of the house. Prior to me mounting my bicycle, I placed my hand over my heart and confirmed it once again......
It was still hot. That was not just a moment of impulse.
To get to the musical instrument store that Chiaki showed me, you'd have to exit through the northern entrance of the train station, then head downwards via the bridge till you hit the flight of stairs at the very end. After walking down the stairs, the store's located right at the intersection point of the shopping street and the slightly deserted residential area. It was sandwiched between two large buildings and looked a little like the spine of a thin book. A signboard with the words 'Nagashima's Musical Instrument Store' hung above its entrance. The shop was rather narrow, but guitars decorated the two side walls, from the floor right up to the ceiling—that made the shop look quite intimidating. The music playing in the store was heavy metal from Northern Europe, which further added to the sense of intimidation.
Chiaki told me before entering the store, "I'm a regular here, so if you try your best to haggle, you'll definitely get a cheap and satisfactory price." I don't have much experience in haggling though, so I wasn't feeling too confident about it.
"But, why'd you decide to play the guitar again? You were still very unmotivated this morning."
So she still asked in the end.
"Hmm—I just felt like playing all of a sudden."
"Do you think I met you just yesterday? You're not the sort of person who does things on a whim, but...... whatever. Hello~"
Chiaki grabbed my hand and walked into the store. Even the floors were filled with guitars, supported by display stands. I strolled past those guitars and walked inwards. Finally, we found the counter amid the heaps of CDs and scores—for some strange reason, a sense of nostalgia hit me.
"Is the store manager around?"
As Chiaki said that, a man walked out from the door behind the counter. His messy hair was swept casually to his back. He should be young, but that tired look of his was quite a pitiful sight—it was as though he were a potato that was left on the side for three weeks after it was picked from the fields.
"Oh, it's Chiaki. Sorry, but I'm quite busy here......"
"Well I'm sorry, but he's just a normal customer. This guy wants to get a guitar."
Just as Chiaki was about to pull me in front of the store manager, another person appeared at the door behind the counter.
"Store manager! The strings in stock don't match up at all— mmm?"
"Eh? Senpai's working today?"
I was stunned as I stood between Chiaki and the counter. Kagurazaka-senpai was wearing the store's green apron—with its logo printed on it—and was holding onto the logbook. How? Why is she here?
"Ah, Comrade Aihara. We're conducting a check on our inventory today, but there was a sudden lack of manpower. Speaking of which, we meet yet again, young man. How nice. Make up your mind quickly and join the club, yeah?"
"Urm...... ah, no...... ugh, why?"
Which reminded me, Chiaki did indeed mention that Senpai had worked at a musical instrument store to get her guitar...... So she was actually talking about this place? I should've thought of that...... Damn, I've been had! This is a conspiracy!
"Take your time! This is my store, so you don't have to hold back."
"Urm, it's my store......" The
store manager made a feeble protest.
"Store manager's store is my store, right? Speaking of which, the numbers for Martin's Extra strings in the inventory don't match up at all. Did you place them somewhere else?"
"Ah, no, about that...... I won't know that if the Chief's not around!"
"Store manager, you're totally useless......"
The store manager looked like he was on the brink of tears.
"There's nothing I can do then. Young man, I have some time to spare, so I'll assist you with your shopping. Need anything?"
"Eh? W-Well, I'm not here to buy anything." I wove a lie on the spot.
"He wants to buy a guitar. What do you recommend, Senpai?"
Chiaki interrupted. There was no point in me trying to lie my way through.
"Hmm. What's your budget, young man?"
"Oh, it's quite a huge sum! About fifty thousand yen."
"Don't take my wallet without my permission! And don't look at the contents either!"
I snatched my wallet back from Chiaki's hands.
"Fifty grand, huh...... you can only buy the cheap stuff here with the amount of cash you've got, but that'd be a total waste of money."
"Don't say that......" the store manager curled himself up as he said that. I had no idea what his name was, but I was beginning to pity him already.
"Young man, how about this then? We'll play a game of rock-paper-scissors. If you win, I'll sell you a guitar that's slumbering in the warehouse and worth a hundred grand, at only half its price. If I win, I'll pick out a guitar for you that's within your budget. How's that?"
"Hold on a second, Kyouko. How can you be so rash?" The store manager was flustered.
"You said half-price, huh...... but is that fine?"
"No worries. It's clearly stated in the first chapter of Das Kapital: people sell their labour-power to a buyer, not to satisfy the personal needs of the buyer, but to augment the buyer's capital."
"I don't quite get it......"
"To put it in simpler terms, it means that most of the instruments here are sold at an exorbitant price, so they'll still earn a profit even if I sell them to you at half price."
"Kyouko......" the store manager was close to tears.
"Store manager's too irritating, so let's play our game outside. Young man, are you gonna accept my challenge or not?"
Kagurazaka-senpai grabbed my hand and pulled me outside of the store.
Though it was really pitiful for the store manager, what Kagurazaka-senpai said made sense too. Or rather, it's a little too good to be true, since I stand to lose nothing.
"If the price for selling me the guitar cheap is me joining the club, then I'm heading back."
"There's no need for me to impose any conditions, yeah? Moreover, I don't think I'd ever lose to a born loser like you." Damn, she's really blunt.
"Alright, I get it. You'll be selling me a decent guitar regardless of the outcome, right? You won't be giving me defective goods or something?"
"Of course! I swear upon the name and reputation of the store!"
"Ready? I'll give you a handicap."
Kagurazaka-senpai flashed a smile of satisfaction and revealed something pinched in-between her index and middle finger. That's...... a guitar pick. Eh? Index and middle finger?
That means she won't be throwing scissors? No wait...... is that a trap? She's misleading me to lure me into a trap? "Rock—Paper—Scissors!" I simultaneously matched the shouts of Senpai, then immediately threw out rock.
Senpai's fingers expanded outwards to show paper—the pick slipped out of her hand and fell to the ground.
"......Young man, you're quite the honest man."
She gently patted my head. That's too sly! Actually, rather than saying Senpai was sly, should I be blaming myself for easily falling into her trap? As Senpai displayed a smile of victory on her face, I could see the store manager behind Senpai heaving a sigh of relief.
"Well then...... I'll be heading to the warehouse to find the best guitar that fits your budget."
I calmed myself down a little and squatted down on the spot. Chiaki came to my side and said,
"Nao's really weak huh."
"You lost the moment you agreed to the challenge."
I lifted my head, and after seeing Senpai take a metallic grey guitar out of the warehouse, I finally understood what Chiaki meant.
"This Aria Pro II costs fifty-four thousand and six hundred yen, including tax. Well, it's exactly fifty grand if I round it down for you."
"Urm...... there's only four strings?"
"Hmm? Don't you know? This is a bass. It has two fewer strings than a normal guitar, and its pitch is an octave lower."
"No, I know that much. But why are you selling me a bass?"
I'm here to buy a guitar!
"Bass is part of the guitar family, right?"
"Urm, well, but—"
Chiaki placed her hand on my shoulder and said,
"Because the Folk Music Research Club lacks a bassist—that's how it is. You understand now?"
It took me two seconds to process that, before I realized in shock—I had fallen into her trap. That girl's motive, all along, was to be able to choose the guitar that I'd be buying, and thus, she promised me that I'd be able to get a guitar regardless of the outcome. The idiot who didn't see through her ploy...... was me.
"I'm not interested in the words of a loser. Need a receipt?"
Kagurazaka-senpai flashed a smile as she said that. So she actually has a cute side to her as well—
"I've never thought of playing the bass......"
"Well, you don't know how to play the guitar in general, right?"
My weak protest was quickly rejected by Senpai.
"Also, you want to issue a challenge to Ebisawa Mafuyu with a guitar, right?"
I was speechless for a brief moment.
"That girl can play Chopin and Liszt with just a single guitar. Young man, based on your current skills, there's absolutely no chance of you beating her with a guitar!"
It's not really a challenge or anything, just—
"But you can win if you use a bass."
Kagurazaka-senpai shoved the heavy bass into my arms—
"I'll make victory yours."