Here's chapter 2. Lots of quizzes, lab reports and projects coming up, so expect this pace (and maybe even slower) for the upcoming chapters till my semester is over.
The next morning, Mafuyu reached the classroom slightly later than me. The expression on her face seemed slightly complicated. After stealing a glance at me, she sat down at her seat and fixed her gaze on her table.
Class-rep Terada and a bunch of girls who were following her came up to me. She then asked,
"Help me say 'Good morning' to the Princess. Then tell her it's basic courtesy for her to greet others in the morning."
"You tell her that yourself." Also, we sit next to each other, so Mafuyu probably heard you, yeah?
"It just seems like the Princess isn't in a good mood today. Or rather, she can't say what's on her mind."
"Hey, did Nao quarrel with her again? Or did something happen?"
The reason why everyone addressed Mafuyu as "Princess," and why it was my job to relay messages to her on behalf of the class—I'll avoid explaining it, since it's slightly complicated. But in short, Mafuyu was still as unsociable as ever—so why's the group of girls led by Terada still worrying about her? Are my classmates a bunch of saints? Well, it's not like I'm in a position to ask that.
In the end, I didn't manage to strike a conversation with Mafuyu, who was giving off a gloomy aura. The first person who got close to Mafuyu that day was actually Chiaki, who managed to dash into the classroom before the preparatory bell rang.
"Good morning! Morning to you too, Mafu-Mafu!"
Chiaki's seat was in front of me, so she gave us both a tap on our shoulders as she walked past our desks.
"Hey, listen to me. I told my mother about the training camp yesterday. She said that, since we don't need to pay for accommodations, I'll actually have to cover the rest of the expenses using my own pocket money. Isn't she just terrible? Therefore Nao, please choose food that's both cheap and delicious!"
"Ah. I haven't told Tetsurou anything yet. Somehow, it feels like that fella will just yak about it for half a day."
Tetsurou was my father, in principle, but because he lacked any life skills, I was more like his guardian instead. Though it'd only be for three days and two nights, conditions at my house would become really bad without me around.
"I told my mother that Nao would be coming along as well, and she agreed immediately. What about Mafu-Mafu?"
Mafuyu's shoulders flinched when the conversation landed on her. She remained silent for a while, and kept staring at a corner of her desk. She then finally said her first sentence of the day.
"...... Papa says I'm forbidden from staying overnight outside."
Chiaki and I exchanged looks for a moment. Then, I shifted my gaze to Mafuyu's side profile.
I see. Ebichiri gets excessively protective when it comes to things regarding his daughter. He probably couldn't bring himself to allow his high-school daughter to spend the night outside? Mafuyu was probably crestfallen because of that. To be honest, I was slightly surprised, as Mafuyu didn't seem too keen about the training camp.
"Really? Wow, your father's really strict! What should we do then? We'll just continue with the three of us then?" Chiaki looked at me as she asked that.
The sudden outburst from Mafuyu caused not only Chiaki and me, but also the entire class, to jump in shock and turn our heads around. Mafuyu stood up. I didn't know if it was because she noticed my gaze, but her face flushed red in an instant. She then bit her lip hard and sat back down.
I didn't know what I did to make her angry again, so I tried coming up with something to say. But just then, the guys approached me.
"What's all this talk about a training camp? Nao, you better explain this."
"That's right. You're obligated to explain things properly."
"I'll never allow something that enviable—like how you club members are going on a training camp together—to happen."
Ah~ this group of busybodies is coming over yet again. It seemed like my classmates had been directing their attention to our conversation the whole time. Do you guys have a little too much time on your hands or something?
"Where are you guys going for your training camp?"
"The beach! And we're gonna stay at a villa that looks like a gingerbread house." Chiaki answered before I could stop her. At the same time, I could feel the atmosphere around me heat up in an instant.
"Beach? Did you say beach? The Folk Music Research Club's going to the beach together? You gotta be kidding."
"W-Wait a second! Nao, I'll join your club right now."
"I'll lend you my digital camera, so remember to take pictures of them in their swimsuits!"
"Nao, I beg you, please hire me as the errand boy for the club."
Just as I was about to chase away the group of excited boys inching closer and closer to my seat, the bell for class finally rang. And with that, our teacher stepped into the classroom.
"That's quite a problem we have here."
It was rare for all four of us to gather immediately in the practice room right after class. Kagurazaka-senpai crossed her arms and said,
"Ebisawa Chisato should be flying off to Boston for a recording during the period of our training camp, so I thought things would just work out from there."
"How did you know?" The originally silent and grumpy Mafuyu suddenly lifted her head and asked.
"Well, I can get my hands on that sort of information if it concerns my beloved comrades. For now, let's just lock our sights on the period of time that Ebisawa Chisato isn't in Japan, and plan our schedules according to that."
As expected of Senpai, her preparations are incredibly thorough—though I don't quite feel that has anything to do with love, as she said. No, wait a second! Senpai, are you planning to go ahead with the training camp despite not obtaining Ebichiri's approval?
"There's no point in asking him. If he knew his daughter was staying overnight outside, that guy would definitely abandon his recording in a flash to get Mafuyu back."
I recalled the incident last month—that father had even cancelled a concert at the last minute. If he heard about his daughter staying overnight outside, he would definitely abandon all his scheduled recordings.
"I'm fine...... you three can go by yourselves."
"Didn't you just yell 'You can't!' not too long ago?"
Mafuyu glared at me with her face flushed red. She then shook her head vigorously. What exactly does she want?
"There's no point in us dumping Comrade Ebisawa and going to the training camp by ourselves. We can only practice when the four of us are there together."
Mafuyu lowered her head after hearing Senpai's words.
I suddenly thought of something: perhaps it has nothing to do with her father allowing her to participate in the training camp or not, but, instead, she herself might not be interested in joining us? Somehow, it felt like that was how it really was, judging from Mafuyu's expressions ever since we brought up the training camp yesterday.
Chiaki clapped her hands together and said, "I know! Why don't we just hold the training camp at Mafu-Mafu's house?"
Mafuyu shot an ice-cold glare in Chiaki's direction, a glare cold enough to freeze the cries of the cicadas. Kagurazaka-senpai said nothing, and instead, patted Chiaki's head as she said "There, there." She actually didn't tsukkomi her—so Senpai can actually be quite considerate sometimes.
"I guess we have no choice. I've miscalculated this time. I'll try to come up with something, even though we're quite tight on time."
"What do you mean...... by 'something'?"
Having noticed the sinister smile appearing on Senpai's face, I had a bad feeling about all this.
"Hmm? I can't say it now. Hey, didn't I say it before? All I'm doing is sowing the seeds. I myself don't know where the seeds will land, how they will sprout, or what colors the blooming flowers will be."
Those might sound like the lyrics of some song, but she really wasn't joking.
A few days later, I saw the flowers that bloomed from the seeds that Senpai had sowed, and I couldn't help but be shocked by the results.
It happened on a Friday. The first semester was about to end, so the onslaught of after-class remedial courses burned up all my time; I didn't even have time left to attend the club. After school, the setting sun looked like it was being cooked in the sky. I walked back home wearily, while being grilled by the rays of the burning sun. When I reached my house, I saw a large foreign-made car parked in our garage.
No wait—I remember seeing it somewhere before?
I didn't have a good feeling about this, so I opened the door gently. My dad was a music critic who never cleaned anything; he was also ranked the world's number six hopeless man. Because of him, the entrance and the walkway were filled with unsorted CDs and records. However, as I carefully walked into the house, I noticed I wasn't being greeted by a blast of classical music coming from the living room. Instead, it was replaced by the sounds of a conversation. There's someone else in there other than Tetsurou? It had been months since we had a guest here in the house.
I pulled open the door and was rendered speechless by the scene.
"So you're back, Nao? Help me brew a cup of coffee, and add in extra brandy. Give this guy here a cup of plum-kelp tea. Oh right, Ebichiri, why must you always choose <Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn> for all of your encores? I feel like sleeping when I hear that. Choose <Academic Festival Overture> for your next performance instead!"
Tetsurou was still the same as usual—he was dressed in sweatpants and a jersey, and was sitting cross-legged lazily on the sofa. Opposite of him was Ebisawa Chisato, who had an irritated expression on his face. He was wearing a black-colored sweater and well-ironed suit pants. Even though his attire was slightly more casual, his hairstyle was still the same as a lion's mane, as frequently seen on his CD covers—yup, it was Ebichiri all right.
"Sorry for disturbing." He greeted me, but I took a step back unconsciously.
"Nao, go make the coffee, quickly." Tetsurou ordered me without even looking at me; that made me want to slam my fist into the back of his head. "Even if he's a guest performer, you can't just allow him to choose the pieces as he pleases. Or are you implying that, since it's an encore, you can just play according to your personal preference?"
"If you do not like it, you can always leave before the encore. The publisher pays for your concert tickets anyway. Isn't that right?"
"Whoa, Nao, did you hear that? Did you hear that? This person here is actually saying something like that to his audience."
What does that have to do with me? I escaped into the kitchen without a second thought.
I tried to grasp hold of the situation while waiting for the water to boil. Why is Ebichiri here at my house?
Even though he was an old acquaintance of Tetsurou's, it was still hard for me to believe that those two had actually graduated from the College of Music in the same year. Ebichiri exuded the aura and dignity of a maestro, and fully exemplified the word "seasoned," which was often used to describe him. In comparison, if I were to lie and say that Tetsurou had been repeating his years in college all the way up till now, everyone may just believe me and give him pitiful stares.
When I brought them their cups of coffee, their conversation was becoming even more heated.
"All you know how to do is break up the music you've listened to, and savor it in bits and pieces, so what's with those haughty words? What I emphasize is the coherence of the rhythm of the music! The pause in-between the movements is not there for me to clear my throat!"
"Shut up, snobbish conductor! You just copied Furtwängler for your take on Brahms' <Symphony No. 4 in E minor>, didn't you? You can't just emphasize the ending and think it'll be great just like that. Nao, that's how you feel as well after listening to that, right?"
Hey, stop dragging me into this already!
"Right, I want to hear your opinion too. You're the one who wrote the commentary for my 'Complete Collection of Brahms' Symphonies,' right?"
I nearly spilled the cup of coffee in front of Ebichiri. W-Why does he know about this?
"What's with that surprised reaction of yours? Probably all my close friends know about it already. Because I feel really proud about it."
I immediately hugged the tray and squatted down.
I sometimes helped Tetsurou write music critiques and CD commentaries because I wanted to earn some pocket money. Of course, in order to hide the truth, I specifically mimicked Tetsurou's writing style. Damn you! Don't let others know! Your credibility will fall if you do that, right!?
"You are a critic as well, so you should have differing views from Hikawa, right? Hikawa always wrote critiques that strayed from the main topic—he thought it was unnecessary for me to emphasize the agogic accents and dynamics at the same time."
"Since when do I go off-topic!? Your ring finger will move along when your try to move your little finger, right? See, it's something like that. You've mixed your agogic accents and your dynamics together. Nao, you tell him too."
"Urm...... What exactly are agogic accents?"
I was just a first-year high school student, so I still had to research my way through a huge pile of information when I wrote my drafts. It'll be a huge headache for me if you guys start spewing out a string of musical terms at me.
"Probably the rhythmic version of the dynamics," Tetsurou answered.
"...... And what are dynamics?"
"The sound intensity version of agogic accents," was Ebichiri's explanation. Who the heck would understand that!? That's like saying "the right hand is the reverse of the left hand"—you guys might as well not bother with those circular explanations!
"Well...... I feel that Eugene Ormandy conducted better for Brahms' <Symphony no. 4>......"
"Mmm. I tried to replicate the way he made the strings play an octave higher—it was quite interesting. Only the Germans would complain that it was not German enough' anyway."
"I'll say that too! Speaking of which, that sounds really interesting. So you've actually done something like that before? At which concert did you do it? Boston's? Did you record it? What a pity. I could've criticized it with all my might if it had been released on CD."
Great, I successfully managed to divert the topic. Just as I was about to escape the living room, a voice called out behind me.
"Ah, hold on a second. The reason I came here today was to talk to you about something."
I froze for a full two seconds before turning around slowly.
"...... Eh?" My voice cracked.
"Hikawa, I'm sorry, but can you please leave us alone for a moment? I wish to speak to him in private."
"Hey, wait......" Tetsurou was much more surprised than I was. "Hold on, what do you want to discuss with Nao? It can't be that you want his hand in marriage? That won't do. To me, Nao's someone who replaces the role of my wife, you know?"
"Tetsurou, just shut up and scram for now......" "I get it already, so just move aside for a while, Hikawa."
With two people giving him the cold shoulder at the same time, Tetsurou could only pick up his coffee mug and stand up gloomily. He made his way to the kitchen while whistling <E Lucevan le Stelle>. I remembered there was a line in the song that went something like 'I don't wanna die in despair!' or something like that...... This guy, he always managed to make people feel uncomfortable. [TLNote: Line's probaby 'E muoio disperato!', which is 'Alas I die despairing!']
To be honest though, despite how irritating Tetsurou could be, I did hope that he wouldn't go away. I sat before Ebichiri; it felt so awkward I dared not even raise my head. What does he want to talk to me about...... Something that concerns Mafuyu? I couldn't think of anything else.
"You—" Ebichiri put down the mug and began to speak, "have written quite a few articles about me. It has been a while since I've returned to Japan, so I knew nothing about them at all."
Speaking of why I was always writing articles about him, it was all because Tetsurou hated writing critiques dealing with Ebisawa Chisato. It was probably because many people knew they were classmates during their high school and college days, so he must've found it quite troublesome to write them. In order not to receive any jobs that involved Ebisawa Chisato, Tetsurou had deliberately nicknamed him "Ebichiri," and critiqued him in a joking manner. However, that plan backfired, and the critique was well-received. Thanks to him, I was frequently tasked with the job of writing about Ebichiri.
Despite all that, that was still my first time speaking face to face with someone whom I had critiqued. I was in a cold sweat due to my nervousness.
"Truthfully speaking, I do not really have the habit of reading these sorts of articles. However, someone mailed me some articles about me a few days ago. At the end of all the articles was Hikawa Tetsurou's name. But despite that, the sender had carefully pointed out the difference between your articles and Hikawa Tetsurou's."
Ebichiri then proceeded to list the titles of a few columns and critiques—they were indeed written by me. All I could do was stare at my knees and not move an inch.
"There is no need for you to be that tense. You write much better than your father."
"What the hell, damn you—" came the voice of Tetsurou from the kitchen. He sure has a sharp pair of ears—there was no point asking him to leave us. However, Ebichiri and I continued to ignore Tetsurou's presence.
"However, it doesn't seem like Tetsurou is the one who sent those things to me...... Was it you?"
"Eh? No way, I wouldn't do that."
Ebichiri tilted his head. Seemed like he was pretty surprised. If Tetsurou wasn't the one who did it, then who could have done such a thing? Someone in the music circle who had too much free time on his hands?
"Forget it. I came here because I wanted to speak with you anyway, since I won't be staying in Japan for too long."
Eh? It can't be that we're gonna discuss music next, right? No no, please spare me from that— just as I was thinking that, Ebichiri suddenly spoke rather stiffly.
"We'll leave those critiques for another day. Actually...... my reason for coming here is to talk about Mafuyu."
"Urm...... I'm really sorry about what happened back then."
"It's alright. It's all in the past already. Moreover, after that incident, Mafuyu began speaking to me occasionally."
I see...... Well, typically speaking, Mafuyu only speaks "occasionally." So if she talks to you, then that's really something occasional out of the "occasionally."
"However, I still do not have any idea what my daughter is thinking. But, she is now willing to go to the hospital to continue her treatments, and she no longer runs away from home as she pleases, like she used to."
"Isn't that good?"
"But she ignores me when I ask her if she still wants to play the piano."
It was something Mafuyu had lost, and for now, she was still planning not to touch it again.
"If Mafuyu's fingers can recover, then it is obvious that I hope she returns to the music scene as a pianist. Since the primary cause of her illness is psychological, if she is willing to pick up the piano again, then perhaps, she can make a complete recovery much faster. You think the same as well, right?"
"Eh...... Ah...... No......"
I lifted my head in surprise. A sincere expression appeared on Ebichiri's stony face.
"Actually, I did tell her that I wished to hear her play the piano again."
Ah, I said it. Ebichiri almost leaned right before me.
"Mmm, however, Mafuyu never—I mean, Mafuyu-san never answered me at all. She didn't say a single word." [TLNote: Well, being Japanese and all, MC felt it was overly intimate to address Mafuyu without the honorific when speaking to her father, so he added the -san. Just so you know. He'll be doing this in the future as well when he talks to Ebichiri, so keep this in mind.]
I nearly addressed Mafuyu directly by her name while talking to Ebichiri. Ebichiri crossed his arms in front of his chest and let out a sigh.
"Your situation is much better than mine already. She'll lock herself in her room if I mention a word about it."
So I guess the knot created in her heart over the years, wasn't something that could be undone that easily.
"I'm actually saying that with her well-being in mind, but that girl just cannot understand."
I couldn't help but feel that the words of all the parents in the world were all the same. Almost no parents would act without the well-being of their children in mind, but despite that, they can't successfully convey those feelings to their children. I experienced something like this before when I was six. After divorcing Tetsurou, my mother said something to that effect before she left home: "Leave with me! It's for your own sake." That was what Misako had said to me.
Tetsurou never said anything like that, and that was one of the reasons why I stayed in this house.
"All that girl tells me are...... things about the band."
I was deep in thought when Ebichiri's words suddenly jolted my head upwards.
"I have asked her many things about school, like if she is getting along well with her classmates and etc. However, all that girl talks about are things related to you."
I swallowed hard. Things related to me? I really couldn't imagine Mafuyu talking to someone else about things that have to do with me.
"Well, it feels strange to be asking you this but...... what is Mafuyu like when she is at school?"
"Eh? What is she like huh......"
Though I understood what Ebichiri was trying to ask, I didn't know how to answer him.
"It's not like Mafuyu......-san and I get along really well. We hardly talk in class, and even if we do, it's about things related to guitars or the band."
"Is—that so? Strange. You and Mafuyu should be rather close, no? I mean, she did come over to your house when she ran away from home, didn't she?"
Do Mafuyu and I seem really close to each other? Objectively speaking, that may very well be the case.
"What exactly is the relationship between you two? Did something happen between you and Mafuyu when both of you ran away from home......?"
"I said nothing happened, alright!?"
His gaze was really scary, and caused me to jump in fright and hide behind the sofa. With that, Ebichiri cleared his throat and continued,
"In any case, she should be more willing to talk if the person she is talking to is you, right?"
"No...... It's definitely not as you think."
I slumped into the sofa. Part of what I had just said was a lie. When both of us were running away from home, Mafuyu had more or less talked to me a bit about things that had to do with piano and her parents. I was probably the first person Mafuyu had said all those things to, right?
Those were things Mafuyu could only talk about when she was away from her father's side, so I couldn't tell her father about all those things at a time like this.
"I see...... then if so......" Ebichiri directed his line of sight to the coffee mug. "If so—then I probably can't ask for your help anymore. I really do want to know what Mafuyu is thinking, but as her father, it is really embarrassing to have to ask someone for favors like this."
So why are you asking this favor of me? This is the problem between you and your daughter, yeah? Though that was what I was thinking, I couldn't say anything after I saw the distressed expression on Ebichiri's face.
Just then, Tetsurou's voice came from the kitchen again.
"Are you an idiot? The only way to deal with a daughter like that is to leave her alone, till she feels like talking!"
Ebichiri shot a fierce gaze towards the entrance of the kitchen.
"I already told you before—you have to give your child more space. Ah, right, how about having her marry into our family? She's about to hit sixteen soon, right? It's about time for me to get Nao a new mother....."
"Tetsurou, just shut up!" "Hikawa, don't interrupt us!"
Tetsurou snorted, then began whistling again. It was Mozart's <La Finta Giardiniera>—"Even if you reject me, my heart will never change." Damn, he's irritating. [TLNote: La Finta Giardiniera is an opera by Mozart. Not too sure which aria the line is from, but based on this site, it should be from Va Pure Ad Altri In Braccio.]
However, I did feel it was exactly as Tetsurou said, and Ebichiri should've realized it long ago, right? Though he probably couldn't allow himself to do nothing, even if he knew the only thing he could do was wait for Mafuyu to speak of her own accord. I guess that's how all parents are?
The uncomfortable silence persisted for quite a while. I couldn't help but sneak a peek at Ebichiri's face. I guess I should just say something? Even if I said the same thing Tetsurou did, he probably wouldn't accept it anyway. Moreover, if he could hold back till Mafuyu decided to speak of her own accord, he wouldn't have come down here. Then again, he could've just made an excuse, saying he was here to praise my well-written critiques.
...... Hmm? Excuses?
Ebichiri lifted his head upon hearing the strange sound I made.
"You want to say something?"
"Eh? Ah, no, nothing."
I waved my hands to brush that aside. I then clenched my fist, lowered my head and got lost in deep thought. So that's what's happening here? So you're saying I should do this?
I hesitated for a while, then spoke.
"Urm...... I will try speaking with Mafuyu again, but I may not be able to understand what she is thinking. I will tell her honestly that you are really worried about her, and will try to convince her to have a good chat with her father. Will that do?"
The edges of Ebichiri's lips slackened just a little, and he slowly nodded his head twice.
"Is that so? But......" I wet my lips a little. "I can't talk to her about those things at school, as summer vacation is about to start soon."
"Mmm, which means...... I think—at the training camp, I may have an opportunity to talk to her about it."
Ebichiri's unwilling expression was bared for all to see. The reason Mafuyu was so easy to read was probably because she inherited that trait from her father?
"But that means staying outside." Well, that's how training camps are supposed to be. "And I did say before, you people are just high-school students, right? Moreover, Mafuyu's fingers are an inconvenience, and her mental state isn't too stable right now. That is just pushing it."
"That's why...... I feel it's not good for us to keep pushing her like this—she may become even more stubborn instead. Should you allow her to participate in the training camp, then maybe—she may slowly voice her feelings."
I chose my words carefully as I secretly peered at Ebichiri's stiff face. I wanted Mafuyu to go to the training camp as well; she was the final member whom we had spent so much effort looking for.
"Why a rock band? I really do not get it." Ebichiri continued on unpleasantly, "I can understand her wanting to be away from the piano for a while, but why did she choose to play the electric guitar?"
I sank into a moment of silence. What caused her to pick up the electric guitar? I don't know either. I had originally thought it was just an outlet for her to escape from the piano; however, that didn't really seem to be the case.
"...... You dislike rock?"
It was only after I had asked that question that I felt really embarrassed. I was actually directing that question to a conductor who was acknowledged by just about everyone in this world? However, Ebichiri's answer proved to be rather surprising as well.
"I am not arrogant to the point that I can answer that question."
"Regardless of whether it is 'rock' or 'classical music,' those are just labels that record companies and music stores use to allow easier identification and classification on the CD racks. Am I not right? You should know very well that it is dangerous for one to critique a piece of music based on the composer alone, right? Even though they were both roughly from the same era, the Beethoven who wrote <The Symphony of Destiny> was a different person from the Beethoven who wrote <Pastoral Symphony>. If that applies even to pieces from the same person of the same era, then it applies even more so for the countless pieces of music created by thousands of different people. Don't you think it would be arrogant if I were to just point my finger at a certain rack—sorted and classified by some record company for the sake of convenience—and say whether I like it or not?"
Well...... It may really be just as he said......
"I have never heard music that you generally classify as 'rock,' so there is nothing more for me to talk about. I can only say—I do not know."
He doesn't know. This person here doesn't know the place his own daughter is currently at—is that what he's trying to say?
If that's the case—
I stood up, made my way to the sound system, and proceeded to dig something out of the stacks of cassettes. There was only the date [7/6] written on the label of the cassette.
It was the day the band was officially formed by the four of us.
I placed the cassette into the deck and pressed the play button. I could then hear a series of muffled background noises, among which contained Senpai's breath, as well as feedback from the guitar. Next was Chiaki counting down by hitting her drum sticks four times. I was once again pulled back in time, to the afternoon on the sixth of July.
There were the heavy beats of the bass drum. The heat waves, as well as the deep bass, filled the poorly air-conditioned room. My fingers played out the pulses of the music. I shut my eyes, and the various scenes replayed in my mind: the reflection of the cymbals flashing through the faint darkness; the flushed face of Chiaki, who was sitting behind the drum set; to my left, the black hair of Kagurazaka-senpai swaying along with the rhythm; and to my right, the maroon-colored hair of Mafuyu, which seemed like it was giving off a faint golden shimmer. It was as if Senpai's riffs had split open the sands of the desert—Mafuyu's Stratocaster replied to Senpai's singing by playing out the fanfare of the song.
It was Led Zeppelin's <Kashmir>.
This was the song that lit me ablaze, that marked the beginning of my time with two other people.
If only Mafuyu were around—that was my honest wish back then, and the main reason why I fought.
On the sixth of July, that wish of mine finally came true. That was the first band practice after Mafuyu joined the Folk Music Research Club. There was no conversation or any other sort of exchange—that song alone was enough to suck us all in. Mafuyu should never have heard the song before, but despite that, the moment just before the end of Senpai's preludes, Mafuyu darted into the song. Her distinct and strong tunes seemed to have shattered my heart; they lit the practice room ablaze.
Those were no longer the sounds of the old Mafuyu, who cooped herself up in the room to play piano pieces. Even though they were still as prickly as ever, those sharp spikes no longer chased away anyone who tried to get close to her. Instead, they pierced deep into the hearts of others, and transferred her passion directly into them.
The four of us were one. In that short instant that Senpai and I exchanged sights, we could see that both of us were thinking the exact same thing. Our left and right hand were finally together.
For Mafuyu, this was not a place for her to escape to.
I placed my hands on the speakers and pulled my consciousness away from the practice room shrouded in heat, back to my living room.
The song was over. After the cassette stopped with a *pa*, I remained standing in front of the sound system, and for a while, I couldn't move. It was because I could still feel the heat on my face.
I turned my head around and saw Ebichiri supporting his forehead with his hands, his face half-buried in them. I let out a sigh. Is that still not enough for him to understand? I somehow thought that, as fellow musicians, he would be able to understand it.
Just as I was timidly making my way back to the sofa, Ebichiri spoke, with his eyes still closed.
"...... Were you the one who played the D, G and A notes? The bass part requires no technique whatsoever."
"Eh...... Ah, y-yeah. You're right." Well, I suck at playing, so sorry about that.
"No, that should be the correct way to play. In addition, it also seemed like Mafuyu's guitar was specially tuned to the other guitar...... I guess that was the reason why the harmony sounded so good."
I opened my eyes in surprise. Just as Ebichiri had said, <Kashmir> employed an unconventional tuning method, making use of the guitar's DADGAD. He figured that out after listening to it only once? I had originally thought he was just a silly dad who was overprotective of Mafuyu, but I guess he proved his worth as a conductor.
This time, Ebichiri placed his hands around his mouth, and stared in the direction of the sound system for quite a while. Fearfully, I stole a peek at the expression on his face. Did my plan backfire......?
"Is this...... the place Mafuyu is currently at?"
I heard him mutter that to himself. I really heard that.
Then, Ebichiri heaved a sigh.
"I am still not too certain, since all of you are still in high-school. Look, is the president of your club someone dependable?"
"Eh? Ah, yeah, she is dependable." My pitch went upwards unintentionally. Even if my mouth were torn apart, I would definitely not tell him our president was the one who took Mafuyu away at the airport. "Don't worry. She is someone who is really dependable. Not only has she gained the trust of all the teachers, she knows how to take care of others as well. Furthermore, her relationship with Mafuyu is pretty good too."
I slipped in a lie or two without hesitation—in actual fact, none of the teachers trusted Senpai at all.
"As it was something decided at the last minute, we didn't manage to obtain approval from the school. Senpai was the one who found the place for us to stay as well. Still......"
"If you're still worried, how about I follow them along? Not only am I dependable, I'm really good at taking care of others as well." Tetsurou's voice came from the kitchen yet again, but Ebichiri and I ignored him completely.
"...... I understand. There is no choice then."
"I will leave the things regarding Mafuyu in your hands. Please try to talk to her about it."
I cautiously shook Ebichiri's outstretched hands. An overly relieved me sank into the sofa—it felt like my back was melting. That's really great.
However, what Ebichiri said next made me swallow my sigh of relief.
"—Right, you've addressed Mafuyu by her name quite a few times just now. Is that how you usually address her? What exactly is the relationship between you two?"
Eh? Oh dammmmmmn!
I tried to come up with all sorts of excuses, but it took quite a bit of effort to finally send Ebichiri away. After ensuring the foreign-made car had disappeared past the end of the road, I took out my handphone, and saw an incoming call from Senpai. So she was just about to call me as well huh?
"So Ebisawa Chisato went back already?"
On the other side of the phone was the slightly apologetic voice of Senpai.
"So it was indeed Senpai who sent Ebisawa Chisato those stacks of critiques?"
I couldn't help but mix in a sigh with my voice.
"Mmm, but I didn't expect him to visit you that quickly. Sorry for not informing you about it earlier."
"Nah, it's fine. I successfully resolved everything anyway. It seems Mafuyu will finally able to attend the training camp."
I suddenly regretted telling her that over the phone, because what followed was a strange silence. I really wished I could've seen the surprised expression on Senpai's face with my very own eyes.
"...... I'm thinking if I should convert the emotional feelings in me into a song and sing it to you right now! Still, you managed to understand my thoughts despite me not saying anything. Don't you think you're really impressive?"
No Senpai, you're the one who's impressive, for coming up with the idea of sending Ebichiri my articles. Then again, those were the seeds sowed by Kagurazaka-senpai; I just happened to figure out what I needed to do next in order to smoothly navigate through the crisis, and carried out some necessary countermeasures.
"If that's the case, I can focus on the composition of the songs. I hope to come up with six original songs by the time training camp ends. Well, we do have fifty minutes for our performance."
"...... What did you just say about fifty minutes?"
"Because we're going to perform with two other bands, so we need fifty minutes."
Urm...... What exactly is going on here?
"It's our band's live performance! The date was just decided not too long ago. It's going to be on the fourth of August."
*Dooo*, the voice of Senpai disappeared. I dropped my handphone on the sofa just as my brain froze. Live? Did she just say a live performance?