Here's chapter 9. Enjoy.
"If Ebisawa dislikes the guitar, why does she still play it?"
Chiaki had plugged her portable music player into a set of mini-speakers, and was listening to the sarabande of <English Suites>. She asked that question as she tapped her fingers on her knees, rapping to the rhythm of the tune.
"She's really good at the piano. And even when she does play the guitar, all she plays are piano pieces, right?"
"Well, they may not be all she knows on the guitar."
Kagurazaka-senpai had laid out a huge number of scores on the concrete floor, and was carefully perusing all of them as she answered Chiaki.
Since the Folk Music Research Club wasn't an officially recognized club, activities were conducted mainly on the roof. Even though I wasn't a member of the club, Senpai still asked me to head to the roof daily after school—I'm not sure if her plan is to slowly rope me into the club. Because we were holding a team meeting, Chiaki was also present.
"So, what are your thoughts after listening to Mafuyu's CDs?"
Yesterday, which was the fifth day since I started practicing according to Senpai's instructions, Senpai said to me,
"Gather all the pieces Mafuyu has played, as well as their scores, and bring them to school tomorrow. Since you live with a music critic, you should have the entire collection properly kept in your house, right?"
I definitely have the scores and CDs in my house, but locating them was another matter altogether. I spent almost the entire night searching for the scores in Tetsurou's messy library and, as a result, was almost late for school this morning. Senpai seemed rather happy as she looked, one by one, through the scores I brought. I knew Senpai was scanning the scores as she listened to Mafuyu's music on the piano.
"So the pieces Ebisawa Mafuyu plays are centered on Bach; but there's no way for her to play the fugue with the guitar—it's technically impossible, right?"
"Probably?" I shrugged.
Fugue is derived from the term "flee" in Italian. This style of composition began during the early days of modern music—in the Baroque era—and was pushed to perfection by Bach. It's a style that utilizes various voices entering at different times, voices that chase the initial melody—therefore, some call it the "fleeing tune" as well. [TLNote: Refer to Note 1 at the end.]
This means that, because the guitar can basically only play a single melody, it's extremely difficult for Mafuyu to reproduce the fugue.
"Therefore, if you are to challenge her, you'll have to do it through the fugue huh......"
"I see...... Eh? What did you say?"
My hand stopped strumming the bass.
"The so-called team meeting was for this?"
"What did you think it was for?" Senpai said in shock. "Young man, I think it's about time you are aware of this, but the difference in skill between you and Ebisawa Mafuyu is akin to the difference between a white ant and a blue whale. It's impossible for you to win if we do not come up with a strategy."
"I already know that, but please be more gentle with your analogies, would you?"
"Then how about an apple against the Earth?" Chiaki joined in.
That's even worse!
"However, you can't challenge her with Bach. There will be no chance of victory if you do that," Senpai resumed the topic.
"Eh, wait a second, I'm gonna play classical music?"
Senpai lifted her sight from the scores and looked even more shocked now.
"But of course? How else do you plan to 'teach her a proper lesson'?"
"...... Urm, well......" To be honest, I had never thought of that before.
"I have nothing concrete in mind, but I guess something along the lines of me playing some rock for her to listen to, so she can be slightly impressed with me?"
"Do you think someone who possesses such sublime guitar technique would be shaken by what you have to offer under these circumstances? Remember—it'd be really troublesome for me if you've forgotten this—I want to welcome Ebisawa Mafuyu into the Folk Music Research Club as my comrade. Which means, I want to welcome her as a member of the band."
"So we must be able to play the pieces together with Ebisawa, right?" As she flipped through the scores on the floor, Chiaki continued, "Meaning, they must be pieces Ebisawa knows."
Kagurazaka-senpai patted Chiaki's head lovingly. I see, so that's the reason we'll be using the fugue huh. The pieces Mafuyu loves, but can't play by herself.
My bass was carefully modified to match the timbre of Mafuyu's guitar, which means...... Is that what she's implying? But wait...... eh? That means me joining the club is part of Senpai's plans as well? So that's already a given in Senpai's mind? I did tell her clearly that all I wanted was that room, and that I wouldn't be joining the club.
"However, she may not fall for our ploy, even if we were to carefully select one of Bach's fugues...... Moreover, even if we successfully instigate the battle, the last-minute skills of this young man would probably be incomparable to hers, and things might just end with that." Senpai bit her lower lip and tossed the scores away. "Well, we may still have a chance if the young man stays by my side and undergoes a year of my training, but that'll take too much time."
I don't want that sort of training either! It feels like my life would never be the same again if I underwent that sort of training.
"...... Hey, Nao. Didn't Ebisawa say she would disappear by June?"
After hearing that from Chiaki, I looked into the sky and began recounting her words. Actually, Mafuyu did say that in front of the whole class on the day she transferred to our school. As she did lots of unpleasant things after that, I had completely forgotten about it.
Those words—what exactly did they mean?
Senpai asked again, "Disappearing in June? She said nothing else aside from that?" Chiaki pressed her finger against her lower lip and thought for a moment, before shaking her head.
"I'll be gone in June, so please forget about me." That's all she said. What did she mean? Is she transferring to another school? Could she be going to study in the high school affiliated with the College of Music?"
"That's bad then." Senpai crossed her arms and said, "If we can get her into the club, I can still tie her down by mesmerizing her with my charms. However, it'll be troublesome if she disappears before that."
"Senpai, there's the Immorality Act, so you know you can't do anything that's overly crazy, right?"
"No worries. If it's me, I can charm her without stripping, so I won't be infringing the Immorality Act."
What's with that eager look of yours?
"So...... young man, if you do not have the resolve to die for my romance and revolution...... Oh!"
Senpai suddenly switched off her discman.
"...... What's wrong?"
"Ebisawa Mafuyu's here."
I looked downwards through the fence and managed to see her back, with that long maroon hair, vanishing into the classroom of the old music building. I'm sure Senpai didn't see that, so how did she know Mafuyu was here? Is she a wild beast?
We laid our bodies low, and quietly waited for a while. Soon, we could hear the sounds of the guitar. Eh? What's this tune? I've heard it somewhere before, but I can't remember. There's a hint of Liszt in its style.
Senpai said into my ears. I remembered.
Niccolò Paganini, a violinist who was known as the Devil, due to his overly impressive techniques. He was a very talented composer too, but due to his distrusting nature, he hated releasing the scores of his compositions. Because of that, nearly all of his works are lost.
His violin concerto and capriccio—along with the piano etudes composed by Franz Liszt based on his capriccio—are probably the only works of his left in modern times.
What Mafuyu was playing was the etude composed by Liszt.
It felt like the bones in my body would creak from those intense vibratos if I listened any longer. Chiaki was cringing as well. What an irritable performance.
"...... I see...... Paganini huh."
Senpai was muttering to herself again. I turned around to take a look, and saw her digging through Mafuyu's CDs with a serious expression; her left hand was also sifting through the scores. What's going on?
Finally, Senpai found a CD and a score.
"What's with those things?"
"Young man, can you lend me these?"
"Well, I'm fine with it......"
"Then I'll be heading home first. I have a song to compose."
"That's right, young man—Paganini. We'll do exactly what Paganini did. We can win with this."
Senpai's face was overflowing with some sort of energy, but I was completely confused. What does she mean? What Senpai is holding in her hands is not Paganini at all—
"Of course. The only person who can teach Beethoven a lesson is Beethoven. Right?"
Senpai flashed a cute wink before walking towards the school building with the score and the CD. She's still the same as ever, saying things no one can understand. The same thing Paganini did?
There's no way I could understand it, no matter how hard I tried; so I placed my bass back onto my thigh.
"Senpai looks really happy—"
Chiaki was sending Senpai off with her gaze and murmuring to herself. Well, that person looks happy all the time anyway.
"I never knew Senpai liked Nao that much."
"The one she likes is Mafuyu, not me. I'm just the bridge that connects them."
Chiaki narrowed her eyes and stared at me, as though she was dissatisfied with something.
Chiaki suddenly stood up and sat down right behind me, pressing her back against mine. I moved slightly forward in shock, but since she leaned on me again, I could move no further.
"She said we're fighters."
Chiaki suddenly spoke.
"Yes. Haven't you heard? The Folk Music Research Club is just a front to fool the world. We're actually a revolutionary army."
"Nope, not at all." A front to fool the world? Senpai actually managed to say that? Oh please!
"...... What was it again? She said something like, the Sixth International or the Vanguard Party or something."
Is that some sort of misleading students' movement of a certain unknown era? Also, what's with the sixth? Where's the fifth? [TLNote: Referring to Forth International]
"I really don't know which of her words are true, and which of those are meant as a joke."
"Perhaps all of her words are true?" Chiaki laughed, "But what if all of them were just a joke? Or rather, there's no way you can discern the truth from the jokes in her words, right?"
"Oh—I guess you could put it that way."
"Didn't I injure myself during the competition last summer? Back then, the doctor said I couldn't practice Judo ever again."
"Wasn't that something that only happened a month ago?"
"Mmm—I lied to you. Nao somehow seemed very worried, so I couldn't bring myself to say it back then."
So even the words of the doctor were a lie? Seeing her act all fine soon after her injury, I was totally relieved; but thinking back, I was really an idiot back then.
"I was really depressed, alright? Your expressions said everything—you thought my injuries were really serious. I couldn't bring myself to tell you that it was actually something that had happened really long ago."
"I...... never thought it was something serious."
"Yes, you did."
Chiaki knocked the back of her head against mine.
"If I hadn't met Kagurazaka-senpai, I may have kept it from you forever." She managed to give up judo because she has the drums now—is that what she's trying to say? But is Chiaki actually that delicate?
"Back then, I frequently ran out of the house in the middle of the night, and roamed around the station by myself. Lots of people came to me looking for trouble. Since I was mistaken for a boy—and adding on the fact I couldn't harness my strength due to my back injury—I often found myself in a lot of trouble. However, I could still take them on if it wasn't more than one on three."
There's no need for you to take on those sorts of things!
"I was chased by them, so I ran into the basement of a building. Then, I realized it was a live house; and it was there that Senpai held them off for me. She was really cool—she actually brought some drinks over, and asked them for the entrance fees."
...... That's cool?
"Ah, but she asked for my entrance fee too."
"Just as I thought."
"As I didn't have much cash on me, I could only pay using my body."
I wanted to tsukkomi her on that, but I gave up in the end. "So, what's this 'fighters' thing about?" That term sounded like it was used to describe the grunts in the movies.
"Right. Senpai said that, to start a revolution, she'd need at least three more people. The chairman, the treasurer, and an army commander or something. With Nao joining us, all that's left is Ebisawa."
"Hold on, I haven't joined the club yet, yeah?"
Suddenly, I no longer felt Chiaki's back. I fell backwards onto the concrete floor and gently knocked my head against it—the pain spread to my jaws.
As I opened my eyes, I saw Chiaki's upside-down face closing in on me. I gulped in shock.
"There's no reason not to join us, right? You've bought your bass too."
Chiaki grabbed my head with both of her hands. I could no longer move even if I wanted to.
"...... Is it for Ebisawa?"
For Ebisawa—it was slightly different from what those words implied, but I nodded my head anyway.
"Why? Why are you doing this much for her? You shouldn't have much drive in you, no? Moreover, you've been practicing nonstop recently, and your technique's getting better. I was quite surprised by you, you know?"
I wouldn't know how to answer her if she asked me that one more time. "It's to get back my personal listening room"—that sounds like an excuse no matter how you look at it.
I mean, if all I want is to be able to listen to my CDs leisurely after school, there should be other, simpler methods of achieving that.
So, is it for the reputation of rock? Or my pride? No matter how I try to explain it, something doesn't feel quite right. But no matter what, I have to challenge her.
I thought quietly for a while. Chiaki then released me and stood up.
"How did you and Ebisawa meet each other?"
Chiaki sat against my back again, and asked.
"Why are we talking about this?"
It's hard to explain what happened that day, so I had no desire to talk about it.
"I just told you how I met Senpai, so it's your turn to tell me."
I couldn't think of any good reason to refuse—and Chiaki was knocking her head against mine—so I began to recount the incidents of that day. I told her about the department store that was filled with rubbish at the ends of the world, and how Mafuyu was playing the piano sonata by herself.
I left out only one thing: the junk that gave off the sounds of an orchestra.
She probably wouldn't have believed me anyway—and for some reason, I felt it'd be better if I kept it a secret, even from someone like Chiaki.
"That place seems quite interesting. I want to visit it too."
"No, it's not fun at all."
The heaps of large-sized rubbish were like skeletons left over from some war, left to rot gradually as days passed by—among them, stood a piano. Everything was deadly quiet, and the world had ended for that place—Mafuyu was probably the only person who could breathe life back into that place.
I tried to recall, yet again, the melody of the piano sonata Mafuyu played on that day. It was formed by a sequence of arpeggios, just like the gentle bobbing of the surface of the sea. Is that Debussy...... no wait, it's probably Prokofiev? I still couldn't recall the name of that tune.
Also, it somehow felt like it was something I couldn't touch. Mafuyu did say, back then, that she wanted me to erase that song from my memories.
If so, that song must hold a certain key. For Mafuyu, that song leads to one of the secrets she's holding.
It wasn't till then that I realized I didn't understand Mafuyu at all.
"In any case......"
Chiaki's voice suddenly appeared before me and pulled me back to reality.
Unknown to me, Chiaki was already squatting before me and staring at me.
"You're very concerned about Ebisawa, right?"
"Hmm...... mmm?" I replied vaguely, "Nah...... what? I don't get what you're talking about."
"There's no need for you to play dumb at this point."
Chiaki showed a faint smile and gently knocked my forehead once. She then stood up.
"Alright, I'll be heading back home as well. I wanted to ask if you needed my help for your training, but I guess it doesn't matter."
Chiaki walked back into the building without even looking back. I was left alone on the broad empty roof, and the lonely melody of Mafuyu came from beneath my feet.
Why are all the girls around me such perplexing people? I shook my head and picked up my bass again.
I suddenly remembered how Mafuyu had come barging onto the roof once before, and thus, I began practicing only after I finished tuning the instrument.
The next day, after she came into the classroom, Mafuyu passed me a squarish light-grey object from her bag. It's pretty well wrapped—what is it?
She shoved the thing into my hands. I looked at it from all sides several times.
"That thing, it's...... my fault. I bought this for you."
I had no idea what was going on. Mafuyu bought something for me? What sort of joke is this?
"But, you absolutely cannot open it here."
I nodded despite my brain being in a mess. However, those classmates of mine who don't listen to a single word others have to say, came leaning in close to me—excited, as usual. One of the guys snatched the package from my hands.
"What? A present from Princess? Oi oi, is this for real?"
"It's not a CD. Nao, can we open it?"
"Eh, ah, wait......"
The packaging was torn open before Mafuyu and I could even stop them. It was a CD. On its cover was a zombie with a blood-stained axe in its hands, giving off a nasty grin. It was titled "IRON MAIDEN Killers."
"Didn't I say not to open it!? Do not show it to me, it is disgusting!"
Mafuyu turned away, and her voice sounded like it was close to tears.
"Mafuyu said I'm disgusting yet again. My sole hope for living is gone."
"Don't worry, she's not talking about you." "But this zombie looks slightly similar to you, don't you think?"
My classmates were saying stpuid things again. I snatched the CD back from them.
"Urm...... you bought the CD for me just because of the cover?"
I had thrown away the cover I had found behind the cabinet, as it was beyond recovery all thanks to Mafuyu spraying a load of the insecticide on it. Mafuyu nodded with her back still facing me, and murmured, "Hurry up and put it away."
It was just a cover, so why was she so concerned about it? I thought of Mafuyu, who was disgusted by just the image of the zombie. Then, I thought of her going to the heavy metal section and flipping through the CDs—all filled with covers containing extreme designs and images—while desperately trying to locate Iron Maiden's album hidden within. I no longer knew what I should say to her.
Mafuyu noticed I had something to say. She shot a glance at me.
"Urm, no...... it's nothing."
"Mmm...... It may be a little too much for me to be saying this, since you bought it specially for me, but this is actually their second album. The cover that you ruined is actually from their first album." I couldn't blame her for confusing the two, since the styles of both covers are extremely similar. After hearing that, Mafuyu's face immediately turned red. Oh shit.
*Bang*—Mafuyu slammed her palms against her desk and stood up.
"I'll go buy it right now."
"Nah, lessons are about to begin."
"I'll buy it!"
"It just so happens that my second album's in pretty bad shape, so I'm really grateful to you for buying this album for me." Just as I was consoling Mafuyu, the preparatory bell rang. And because our teacher came to class earlier than usual, Mafuyu finally removed the idea from her head. I really don't get girls at all!
Note 1: Oh joy, tl;dr time. K, the Japs actually do the term fugue as フーガ (Fuuga). Wiki said that the English term "is derived from either the French word fugue or the Italian fuga", so that's where the derivation comes in. 遁走曲 (literally means fleeing tune) is another form of the term fugue in Japan, though it is hardly used in the book.