Happy new year. Enjoy.
The slow and wobbly train which we took to the beach was the last train of the day, which means that we won't be able to return home tonight. As we walked along the wrinkled roads which were similar to the skins of old people, a gush of wind breezed through us, and it carried along with it the smell of the sea and the rain. The skies had already turned dark unknowingly, and it was still filled with dark, gloomy clouds. It looks as if a gentle prod of the fingers would cause the layers of clouds to break, and flood the lands with rain.
After passing by the residential district, we came to a small trail that leads uphill, and Mafuyu was already breathless from all the walking. She had to stop for a while after every distance of about tens meters, and take a short rest with her back bent slightly and her palms on her knees.
"That's why I said, there's no need for you to force yourself to come along with me."
I had no idea if it was because of her panting for breath, but Mafuyu's reply was extremely short. Speaking of which, you should have worn some clothes that are easier to move around if you were running away from home, yeah? The last time I saw you, you were wearing the same fluffy dress as well.
What should I do? I can't possibly leave her here by herself, right? "Do you want me to piggyback you?" If I dump the guitar and the luggage, I should be barely able to do so, right? Though it will be really tough for me to walk uphill.
"I will never do something as embarrassing as that. I'm fine."
Mafuyu's shoulders were heaving up and down, but she still answered me forcibly.
"You won't collapse like you did last time, right?"
"I said I'm fine!"
However, I still helped to support Mafuyu when we reached the fringes of the forest.
The guitar was hanging on my right shoulder, the luggage on my left, and Mafuyu's right arm was slung over my neck. I could not even straighten my back with all the weight pressing down on me, and yet I felt like I was on a high, and that feeling surpassed all fatigue which I was supposed to be experiencing. What the hell is wrong with me?
"Isn't it heavy for you?"
The stubborn Mafuyu was leaning half of her body weight against me, and she was walking mostly on a single leg. She asked me that worriedly, but I never gave her a reply, and instead I sung <Hey Jude> from The Beatles. And any time you feel the pain, hey, Jude, refrain; Don't carry the world upon your shoulders — that's the songs of the lyrics.
I could hear the laughter of Mafuyu next to my ears.
"You are better off singing. It's much better than your bass."
Shut up! You don't have to care.
There's nothing too bad about the weight of the luggage - the biggest problem we faced was the poor vision at night. There was no proper road in the forest, and even though the trucks had sort of rolled one out, it was still filled with the trees roots, making it easy for us to trip on them. We had bought a torchlight from the convenience store before boarding the train, and that was the only source of light for us.
We had nearly tripped a few times, but the other person would support the falling person with all their might. If the two of us were to really fall down, then we would probably never get on our feet anytime soon.
The sounds of the waves of the nearby sea had infiltrated the dark forest, which sounded like the quiet sobs of a few thousand people. The night was especially dark due to the cloudy skies, and that caused us not to be able to see the roots on the grounds properly. Even if the end of the forest which leads to the mouth of the oceans is just a few meters away from us, we would probably not have realized it and walked on anyway, only to fall to our demise. We were fondling through the darkness for nearly the whole of the route, and we could faintly hear the rumbling sounds of thunder from faraway.
Even so, when we reached our destination, the two of us stopped our footsteps and lifted our gaze off the ground at the same time.
Even amid the dark night, we could feel that the forests had came to an end.
'This place is indeed something special,' I thought to myself. The outlines of the layers of junk seemed to be giving off a faint glow of light.
<The Department Store of Hearts' Desires>.
The place that has gathered many torn and tattered wishes.
The place was surrounded by silence, as though it had been shifted to an alternate dimension. However, the place would be shaken by the occasional lightning which would light up the whole place in a flash, followed by the sounds of thunder.
When we saw the entrance of the junkyard, both of us leaned against each other and just stood there for a long time.
It's too big. I have to dig out a tiny instrument from this mountain, which is made up of tons of rubbish heaped up together — it suddenly felt like I wouldn't be able to find it even if I spend my whole summer looking.
"...... Are you really going to find it?"
Mafuyu asked softy. I nodded my head silently, and put away Mafuyu's arm from my neck, before making my way to the junk mountain alone. Since I am planning to find it, and since I am already here, there is no point for me to be dejected forever. It will not do if I don't start searching.
If it was thrown here on the day before yesterday, then the location of the bass should be somewhere close to the entrance. I flashed the torchlight at the foot of the mountain, and began scanning the gaps in between the junks which consists of derelict bicycles, vending machines, Pachinko machines, grandfather clocks and etc.
I turned my head around inadvertently, and saw Mafuyu sitting on the luggage and gazing at the junk mountain with a tired expression.
I'll just let her take a rest. As it is something which I had lost, I have to be the one to find it.
How long did I take to walk around the foot of the mountain once? I really don't know. When I returned back to Mafuyu's side, I was so tired my eyes could barely open. The light from the torchlight was much weaker than before, and my hands were filled with filth.
"But it's impossible to find it......"
I heard Mafuyu's voice, and so I switched off the torchlight and sat down next to her.
"I've only...... walked around it...... once."
My throat was parched, so I could barely make a sound.
"And it looks like it is about to rain! Even if it really is here, you won't be able to repair it if it is drenched by the rain."
"That's why I have to find it as quickly as possible!"
"Why? I don't get it. Why are you so persistent about it? I-Is it because I said that I like the tone it produces? But...... those words......"
"Because that is a really special bass."
I replied with a hoarse voice,
"Even though it is neither expensive nor rare, I had changed its pickups, modified its wiring, shaved it with a file, and even installed a tuning circuit - all so that the bass can match the tone of your guitar. The tone of that bass was created by me, so it's a unique bass."
I could almost hear Mafuyu holding her breath.
And there's the promise between Senpai and I in that bass as well.
I would not have thrown it away if that bass was not that important to me.
"Moreover...... we haven't looked at the insides."
A drop of rain fell on my face as I stood up.
It's raining. I have to hasten my pace.
I stepped on the roof of the derelict car, and began scaling up the slopes with a *krakaka* sound from my feet. It took me that much time to look through the foot of the mountain, so how long do I need to comb through the whole mountain? Moreover, it's not like I can definitely find it. I did not have any definite proof that it was thrown here.
It won't do for me to just let myself be drenched by the rain either.
*Giii—* a sound of the rubbing of metal came from behind me. I turned my head around - on the trail that I had walked on, was a white silhouette which seemed like it almost blown away by the winds.
Mafuyu had followed me.
"What are you doing!?"
As I had reached the crater of the mountain first, I stretched out my hand, and grabbed Mafuyu by her wrist, before pulling her up to my side. Mafuyu had nearly fallen down the mountain due to her unstable footsteps and her weak right hand. She finally got on the slanted industrial-use refrigerator after much difficulty, and said while panting,
"I'm going to help you find it."
"You don't have to, and we only have a single torchlight anyway......"
"I want to help!"
I heaved a sigh, and directed my attention back into the center of the junk mountain. As I looked at the giant swamp of darkness before me, I could not help but be overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness. I actually have to look for my bass amid this nightmare of the huge piece of land before me that I can never wake up from.
I shone the weak, untrustworthy rays from the torchlight towards the valley, and I suddenly saw something reflective. I stared at that thing carefully with the light from the torchlight still shining at it - it's not the sharp reflection of metal, but rather, it's from a much softer reflective surface. Mafuyu realized what it was before I do.
"...... It's still there!"
Her voice was as disoriented as her breaths.
Mafuyu then made her way down the basin. She first stepped on the edge of a protruding cupboard, before grabbing onto a half-buried metal desk with her left hand, and moved downwards slowly and carefully. I followed her hastily, while remembering to shine out the path for Mafuyu with the torchlight.
The grand piano located at the basin was more slanted than when I first saw it. The cover was already torn off from it and slid off to the side. How many storms had it went through already? I shone my torchlight at its interiors, and the still orderly strings were filled with filth and decaying leaves.
I opened up the key lid, and pressed gently on the keys.
A surprisingly clear sound stirred up waves of ripples in the swamp of darkness. But that's all there is to it, and the echoes disappeared in an instant. So the resonance back then was really just my auditory hallucination - or not?
"Why can it still make a sound despite being in such a dilapidated state......"
Mafuyu said with a voice close to crying next to me.
Probably because we are at <The Department Store of Hearts' Desires>? Because this is a special place that fulfills the true wishes of people who come from faraway places.
Mafuyu stood before the keyboard, and began playing every single key, starting from the lowest A note - it started off as a series of slow and sturdy steps, and then it gradually changed into a series of light springy hops, before finally streaking past like a flash of lightning - the five fingers of her left hand climbed up all the way to the highest C note.
She did not miss a single note, and every single note was that clear and penetrating.
The lingering sounds of the piano shrouded us like the mist beneath the moonlight.
"Why...... We easily found something that I no longer want, but why can't we find the thing that you're looking for?"
Mafuyu mumbled with her head slumped low as she held on to the edges of the piano. Is that a raindrop that has fallen on the keyboard, or is it something else? I really don't know. It just felt like the junk beneath my foot was noisily responding to the brief sounds of the piano that broke the silence for an instant.
That feeling — it's just like the tuning of the orchestra prior to the start of a performance. The oboes began playing the A notes, and the concertmaster of the violin followed with the same note. The rest of the orchestra then began to tune themselves to the pitch of that tone.
So— they will only respond to Mafuyu?
I suddenly remembered something.
If this is really a special place—
And if it can really fulfill my heartfelt desire—
I gave off a tight voice. Mafuyu raised her head to look at me.
"Can you play the piano for me?"
"Just play something, anything. Ah, no, try playing songs that require you to use the white keys more. Can you please...... do that for me?"
Mafuyu was dumbfounded. She stared at her right hand for a while, before lifting her head to look at me again.
"It's fine if you use just your left hand to play."
Because it has to be Mafuyu who's playing it.
"If Mafuyu's the one playing, then I think it will probably respond to your calls."
Mafuyu shifted her gaze from my face slowly, and they landed on the keyboard of the piano.
That was something that she had already abandoned.
I did not wait for Mafuyu's reply, and once again scaled up the slope made up of layers of rubbish. The opposite of the basin just so happens to be the highest point of the junk mountain — a peak made up by a heap of cars.
Right when I climbed up the highest point of the mountain—
The sounds of the piano came from beneath me.
The five separating chords disappeared into the darkness, and began spreading outwards bit by bit as they began to change form, just like a flock of birds riding on a gust of wind.
Book 1 of <The Well-Tempered Clavier> — Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C major.
That is the very first article in the piano scriptures left by Bach.
It's a prelude that is like a fragile crystal, created by stacking up layers and layers of tones together.
When she played the final chord, the crystal shattered instantly — the bright sparkling shards scattered all over the junk mountain. Every single piece of junk seemed to be awakened by Mafuyu, and they were all raring and ready to sing.
I sat on the engine cover of the derelict car, then closed my eyes and listened carefully.
Mafuyu's fingers weaved out parts of the main melody of the fugue. A second voice, followed by a third, soon joined in the lonely song of prayer in the dawn. Under the lead of the piano, the junk buried within the valley began to resonate — the rich sounds of the string's instruments; the flutes and trumpets; the crisp rings of the tambourines.
The forth fugue flowed next.
But how? Mafuyu's right fingers shouldn't be able to move. I turned my head around in disbelieve, but all I could see was a bottomless pit of darkness. The sounds created by the piano were like the waves that clashed against each other, but I had no idea where they came from. Could she be playing the four voices by using some techniques that I didn't know just by using her left hand? Or did I just fill in the missing parts with my memories and my auditory hallucination?
I don't know. All I can do is continue finding my bass, before the magic of Mafuyu disappears.
I dove into the sounds which filled up the atmosphere, and held onto my breath as I went deeper and deeper. I pried open the arguing viola and cello, and continued diving deeper into sea of the low-pitched sounds. I plunged both of my hands into the ocean bed to search for the sound that is resonating to the sounds of Mafuyu's piano - that obscure and tiny sound.
I found it.
That place was pulsating each and every time Mafuyu's fugue slid down the slopes of the low-pitched notes.
It's the place where the heart is located.
I opened my eyes wide. Despite surrounded by darkness, I could see that place clearly. I slid down the slope of the derelict cars, and crawled along the ridge of the junk mountain. Finally, I could feel the pulse on my palms, the pulse that was supporting the faraway footsteps of the fugue. It's located along the inner slopes of the mountainside.
Right in between the oil barrel with a hole on its side and a small car without its wheels, I found it.
I stretched my hands into the space between the two junk, and gripped onto the neck of the bass. I could feel the strings vibrating in resonance to each and every note played by Mafuyu. That was definitely not my auditory hallucination, because my bass was really trembling to the noise that is real.
I found it. I finally found it.
I pulled out my bass from within the junk. The grey body of the bass was filled with scratches, while the four strings were still vibrating slightly to the sounds of Mafuyu's piano. I could clearly see traces of damage that were sustained when Mafuyu slammed the bass against the ground that day.
I suddenly remembered the words of the mister at the rubbish treatment plant: "Remember to give it a lady's name after you've got your bass back". But that is impossible — I had only realized that after regaining what I had lost. I looked at the bass in my hands breathlessly—
It's just like a small part of me which I had lost, so there is no need for me to come up with any other name for it.
"...... You really found it?"
Mafuyu stared at the Aria Pro II in my hands in disbelieve. She was waiting for me next to the piano this whole time.
"I said I'd definitely find it."
My voice was still shaking when I replied to her, because I was still unable to believe it either.
Mafuyu took the bass away from my hand. She stared at the long scratch on the body for quite a while, before caressing it gently with her fingers.
"I'm sorry...... It must have hurt, right?"
"Urm, you don't have to apologize......"
"Ah! It's not like I'm apologizing to you!"
Mafuyu turned away from me while hugging onto the bass in her chest.
"...... Thank god."
The magic seemed to have dispelled the instant Mafuyu mumbled that. A loud crash of thunder came rumbling, and huge drops of rain began to fall onto the junk with *pita pita* sounds.
"It's raining. Let's go inside! Where's the luggage?"
"Ah, we placed it at the forest there, right? I'll take them here, or else your guitar will get wet as well. Go inside and wait for me."
I pulled open the door of a car that is located on the slope. I then grabbed Mafuyu by her arm and shoved her inside.
"I totally did not notice that there's such a big car buried in here."
Mafuyu said that as she sat in the co-driver's seat. "I found it on my second time here." My hair was still dripping wet when I answered her. As the interior of the car was surprisingly clean, to the point where no one would realize it is that of a derelict car, I would occasionally come in for a rest.
Mafuyu slowly stretched her body to the back of the car. She was grabbing onto a towel when she came back to her seat.
Just as I was taking the luggage from the entrance of the junk valley and running back to the car, the sky suddenly began to rain heavily as though it had its bottom removed. In order to prevent Mafuyu's guitar from getting wet, I sheltered it beneath my body, but that resulted in me being drenched instead. I took the towel from Mafuyu gratefully, and dried my hair with it. A surge of overwhelming sleepiness assaulted me when I leaned my back against the seat, but I forced myself to sit up straight as I grabbed onto the steering wheel.
"...... Just sleep if you're feeling sleepy."
Mafuyu murmured beside me.
"Eh? Ah...... I'm not...... mmm."
"I'm this tired even though I didn't do much, so you should be worse off than me, right?"
"...... I never thought that you could be that considerate towards others."
"I'm so worried about you! Idiot!"
The towel was snatched away from me. Mafuyu turned her body away forcibly, and curled her body against the co-driver seat.
The rain was getting heavier and heavier. Being in the car where more than half of its body was buried within the junk, the echoes of the rain sounded really intriguing - it's just like the static noise of the television.
What time is it now? I didn't even have the strength to take my cell phone so that I can check the time.
I was so tired it felt like the bones in my body would shatter at any moment.
However, before I succumb to sleep, there is something that I have to ask Mafuyu no matter what - it's about the piano that I had heard earlier, the fugue right after the prelude.
That sound...... Let's cast aside the prelude for a moment - it's impossible for the fugue to be played by a single hand. Could it be...... that Mafuyu's right hand could move at a time like that?
Mafuyu's shoulders were rising and falling rhythmically, and I could even hear the slight breaths coming from her. In the end, I swallowed my own question.
The only thing I am certain of, is that my bass is currently lying on the backseat of the car, together with Mafuyu's guitar. That is the only thing that is not imaginary, because I have definitely gotten it back.
If so, then nothing else matters anymore.
I shut my eyes, and allowed the sounds of the rain to continue their ruckus around me.
It was not before long that I sank into sleep.