fWell, I know I can't into grammar. It has always been my Achilles heel in the language since young. Sorry for that.
Every morning, Chiaki never failed to arrive in class just barely on time. It wasn't because she overslept or had poor time management though; rather, it was because she always continued practicing on the drums in our club room even after the preparatory bell rang. She came from a sports club, so that was probably why she loved practicing in the morning.
However, Chiaki was actually late this morning, which was quite rare for her.
I didn't see her earlier when I went to the club room to drop off my bass, and even after the bell for classes had rung and the teacher had stepped into the classroom, she was still nowhere to be found. Mafuyu had refused to look at me since the beginning of the day, and I had hoped that the tense atmosphere between us would ease up once Chiaki got here...... I guess I shouldn't be so dependent on others.
When Chiaki opened the door (located behind me, diagonally to the right) and entered the classroom in a strangely energetic way, we were already ten minutes into the first period. Our young and timid English teacher even dropped the chalk on the floor in shock. Chiaki leisurely made her way between Mafuyu's desk and mine, then sat down at her seat. Aside from her school bag, she was also carrying a huge plastic bag with a handle on it.
"Teacher, am I considered late? Or was I already marked absent?"
Our English teacher looked at the clock, then coughed twice and said softly, "I'll count you as late this time, but don't enter the classroom so brazenly next time."
"Right. I'm sorry."
She took her textbook out of her bag and, at the same time, turned her head over and stuck out her tongue shyly. "I shouldn't have stayed up late last night."
"What are you carrying?"
"Hmm? Oh, I'll tell you later."
Right after class was over, Chiaki opened up the plastic bag she had brought to class and pulled something out from inside. "Tada!" She proudly showed it to Mafuyu and me.
Mafuyu was stunned; her mouth was wide open. My expression was probably the same as hers.
It was a white T-shirt—and over the chest, was a cute image designed using psychedelic purple and orange colors.
<Ebisawa Mafuyu & LOLLYPOPS>
That was actually what was written on it.
After much difficulty, I finally managed to force that line out of my throat.
"What's this? The T-shirt of our band, of course! It's really cute, right? I was thinking, if Mafu-Mafu hasn't decided on a name for our band yet, then we'll just use this name."
Chiaki said that proudly. With a feeling of disbelief, I confirmed the strange name yet again, then shot a glance at Mafuyu—her face was pale white.
"Well, it just so happened that Nao was listening to EL&P when I went to his house yesterday, and an idea suddenly came to me—why don't we also name our band E&LP."
"W-Why is my name in there?"
"Because Mafu-Mafu's our band leader. See, it's just like <Hajime Hana & The Crazy Cats>." [TLNote: Wiki link here.]
Exactly how old are you? Is it because you frequently drink with your uncles and relatives? There were times when Chiaki spoke just like an old geezer...... no, actually, she sounded older than them.
"Leader? M-me? Why?"
"Eh? Didn't you hear it from Senpai?" said Chiaki, as she spread the T-shirt out on the table. "Senpai said that the Folk Music Research Club is a revolutionary army, right?"
"Come to think of it, she did......?"
My memories began drifting to the distant past as I murmured. Kagurazaka-senpai was a self-proclaimed revolutionist. As for us, whom she had gathered, it seemed we were her comrades in her revolution.
"She said that I'm the fighter, Nao's the secretary, and Mafu-Mafu's the Highest-whatever-Chancellor."
"I have never heard that before." Somehow, Mafuyu was close to tears.
"Hey...... Shouldn't the band leader be Senpai?" I interrupted.
"Senpai's the Chief Secretary. Which means...... even though it seems like the person who holds the most power is the great leader, that's only on paper. In actual fact, the one in control of everything is the Chief Secretary. That's the so-called 'Troika' system."
"Is that so?" "You're referring to the Soviets?" "I see." "I learned something new today."
The classmates around us were all enthusiastically nodding their heads. Somehow, I was no longer affected by their antics.
"Therefore, I put Mafu-Mafu's name in the name of the band."
"...... I don't want that."
"Why don't you come up with a name yourself then?"
Mafuyu gripped the table tightly and refused to let go.
"Aihara, I want that T-shirt." "Ah, me too. LL size."
"I'll just charge you guys three thousand five hundred yen a piece."
"That's costly!" "It's just you cutting out a template and spraying paint over it, right?"
"It's common practice for a band to earn cash through selling merchandise."
As Chiaki—surrounded by a bunch of guys—displayed her knack for business, Mafuyu's face became paler and paler. I wondered if I should speak to her, but I had no idea what to say.
There was a sudden and loud bang. Mafuyu had suddenly pushed her chair backwards, making everyone around her turn their head around in shock. She dashed out of the classroom, as though she was trying to run away from the stares of our classmates. I was about to give chase, but Chiaki was a step faster than me.
Chiaki shouted outside the classroom. I followed suit and ran out as well. Chiaki gripped Mafuyu's hand as Mafuyu tried her hardest to shake loose. Shit, this scene's a mess. Just as I was about to intervene—
"Mafuyu! Look at me and listen!"
Mafuyu suddenly stopped moving. She leaned herself stiffly against the walls of the corridor, and turned her body slightly towards Chiaki; she held her head low the entire time.
I just looked on like a moron—there was nothing I could do to get close, and nothing I could say.
"Listen. Half the reason I'm staying in the Folk Music Research Club is because of Senpai."
Chiaki held onto Mafuyu's hands as she continued.
"As for the other half, it's the same reason as you, Mafuyu. You should understand, right?"
Mafuyu lifted her head up in surprise. I could only see Chiaki's back, but somehow, it felt like she was giving off a gentle smile.
"There's nothing wrong with that!"
Mafuyu's face went red. She didn't finish what she was about to say, as the bell signaling the start of the second period had rung.
Mafuyu left the classroom in a hurry after school, and was nowhere in sight during band practice. I then realized she didn't actually bring her guitar today.
"I guess I'll go look around for her. Her shoes are still in the shoe cabinet."
As I was about to walk out of the practice room, Senpai grabbed my shoulders from behind.
"There's no point in doing that. Comrade Aihara already did what needed to be done. All that's left are problems Comrade Ebisawa will have to deal with herself."
I glanced at Chiaki. She was sitting in the middle of the drum set, staring at the handmade T-shirt spread out over her knees.
The things she needed to do—
The things Chiaki said this morning—
I sat myself on the floor. I had no idea what was going on at all. Her reason for staying in the band? What does that mean?
"Did...... I go overboard this time?" Chiaki mumbled.
"We can leave that for the historians of the future to decide. For now......"
Senpai took a piece of paper, that was folded in half, out of her pocket and opened it.
"Today's the last day...... for registering for of the live performance."
Forget about the name of the band—the part where we were supposed to fill in the names of the band members was blank as well. I suddenly felt a chill in me.
If—Mafuyu quits the band, just like that. What should we do then?
Chiaki lifted the T-shirt and said, "Can't we just fill this name in for now?" Senpai put on one of her rare bitter expressions and said,
"Mmm...... You know, I'm actually glad Comrade Aihara wasn't the last member to join the band."
That was the only time I actually readily agreed with Senpai.
"Isn't that a really suitable name for a cute and loli-loli band like us?"
"You can use that name after I leave......"
"How about having Nao dressed up as a girl too?"
"Over my dead body."
Senpai plugged her guitar into the amplifiers and used the noise generated to interrupt our silly conversation.
"I'll come up with something to push back the deadline to noon tomorrow. Let's all wait for Comrade Ebisawa here tomorrow morning! Then, I'll skip my lessons and submit the application form to the live house we'll be performing at."
Senpai then turned her head to look at me.
"It's just a name we're using for our application. Even if we don't make it in time, it doesn't mean anything. If there's really nothing we can do this time, there's always a next time. Don't put that expression on your face."
"Well, you aren't wrong......" What exactly is the expression on my face right now?
"More importantly, have you come up with a rough estimate of the fees required for the training camp?"
"Eh? Yeah, I'm done."
Since our only expense was food, I was in charge of the finances for the trip.
"Four thousand and five hundred yen per person."
"Whoa! That's cheap. Do we really have to pay that little for a three-day-and-two-night trip? Are snacks included in that?" Chiaki asked. Bring your own snacks!
"...... That's the price if four people are going, right?"
Senpai suddenly asked. I said nothing, and gave a nod. It'd be cheaper to prepare meals for more people, so the cost would definitely go up if only three of us were going.
"So the problem now lies with us huh?"
Senpai sighed as she tuned her guitar. What exactly will Mafuyu decide regarding the training camp?
Is she really not planning to go? There was no way I could discuss that with her if she didn't come to practice.
There's no point in doing all this if Mafuyu isn't coming!
"Well, it's pointless for us to continue talking about it any further. Let's begin our practice!" Senpai stood up as she said that.
For some reason, I had zero motivation to pick up my bass.
Right here, right now, the minimum three elements required to start a rock band are here—a guitarist, a bassist and a drummer.
If we were to create music in our current form—
We could start up the band, albeit barely, even if Mafuyu wasn't around—
Senpai stared at my face for a while, then said,
"I guess we'll start with some covers. You should know how to play <Hotel California>, right?"
I nodded. Senpai began strumming the quiet intro on her guitar. Earlier on, when we had first started the band, we frequently practiced a number of songs by The Eagles. And even now, when we were waiting for everyone to gather in the practice room, we would sometimes randomly start playing some of those songs. We've practiced the songs so many times that my fingers have already memorized them.
Perhaps Senpai had already seen what was on my mind?
It's said that, when The Eagles were recording this song, there was actually a part in the intro where thirteen guitar sounds were overlapped. It was impossible for Senpai to do that alone. Even though there were only a few overlapping improvisational parts and solos, there was no way Senpai could replicate all that with just her hands alone.
I had almost forgotten to sing the chorus with Senpai. All I did was strum the bass in a daze, as I immersed myself in Senpai's vocals, and experienced for myself the blankness beneath her voice.
She—Mafuyu, wasn't here.
The practice ended really quickly. I made my way to the staff room to return the keys to the practice room and ran into Miss Maki just outside the door.
"Oh, Nao. Come here for a moment."
Miss Maki's hair was tied up, and as usual, she was dressed in a white pleated blouse and tight miniskirt. Though she dressed really formally, she was actually a really violent teacher, which was difficult to conflate with her role as a music teacher. I really do hope, in the future, she'll stop dragging me around by my ears.
"Miss, that's the girls' toilet over there!"
I tried my hardest to resist after realizing I was being pulled into a really terrible place.
"Ah, that won't do."
Miss Maki pulled me to a turn at the staircase. Just up the stairs was the fourth floor—it was a corner of the music room that almost no student would pass by this late in the day. Miss Maki forced me against the wall and pressed her heel into my foot. She then began her interrogation.
"Mafuyu came to the preparatory room just now."
I see. So she ran to the preparatory room huh? Miss Maki used to be Ebichiri's student—Ebichiri was Mafuyu's father—back when he was a lecturer in college. It seemed she had been close to Mafuyu since way back.
"I have no idea why, but for some reason, she seems pretty depressed. Did you two quarrel or something?"
"Nope, nothing much happened...... Ah! Ouch! Don't shift your body weight onto your heels!"
"I did mention before, that you should be prepared to have your arms broken if you made Mafuyu cry, right?"
"Since when!" Though she did say she wouldn't let me off easily.
"What happened? Aren't the two of you getting along really well?"
"Do we look like we're on great terms with each other?"
Miss Maki shrugged.
"So you're really unaware of it...... All that girl talks about is you and the Folk Music Research Club."
"Eh? No, that's just......"
Things wouldn't have reached this state if we were on good terms with each other, right?
"She's still in the preparatory room, so go and look for her. Just say I told you to tell her to go home quickly."
Just as I was about make my way upstairs, the back of my collar was suddenly pulled back.
"I almost forgot. There's something else."
I turned around and saw a smile plastered on Miss Maki's face.
"I heard you people are going on a training camp? Without asking permission from me, the teacher-in-charge?"
"Eh? Ah! Uwaaaa!" Damn Mafuyu, she told her? Good lord...... why did you tell her that!
"And it's at a villa next to the beach? You guys sure know how to enjoy yourselves."
Miss Maki's eyes became abnormally frightening. I tried to move back in fear, but she was stepping on my foot, and holding my tie as well. I surrendered.
"Don't you think it'd be better if an adult came along? I just so happened to have bought a new piece of swimwear last summer, but haven't had a chance to go for a swim since then!"
"Just kidding. It just so happens I have work that day, so I can't make it. You must feel really relieved now, right? Did you heave a sigh from the bottom of your heart, you brat?"
The pain was hell if the choke was applied in the wrong place.
"And so? What about Mafuyu? She said she wasn't going, and Maestro Ebichiri disallowed her from going as well?"
"Ah, no. We've already obtained permission from her father."
So...... she already made it clear she wasn't going? Despite Miss Maki's grip on me, it felt like I was slowly sinking towards the bottom of the sea.
"Are you going there and leaving Mafuyu by herself?"
"No way...... I want to try talking to her, and ask her to come along. Everyone will be troubled if she doesn't come." Speaking of which, it's about time you let go of me, right?
"Everyone will be troubled if Mafuyu doesn't go? Why?"
"Why...... huh?" Why is she asking me that? "Because she's our guitarist."
"That's not what I meant!"
For some reason, a sinister smile appeared on Miss Maki's face. She moved her face closer to mine, making me want to turn away, but I couldn't do so, as her tight clamp had immobilized my head.
"Well, just tell Mafuyu honestly...... about why you'd be troubled if she didn't go."
Why—I'd feel troubled?
Miss Maki's words caused me to fall into silence.
"Speaking of which, you people aren't going there just to swim, right? Putting aside the guitars, what are you guys planning to do about the drums, amplifiers and such?"
"...... Eh?" Miss Maki's grip loosened for a brief moment, and I took the opportunity to slip away from her.
"The equipment in the club room belongs to the school, right? You people won't be able to borrow any of it if it's an unofficial club gathering."
It was just as she said. What's Senpai planning to do about that? Then again, I don't think she was one to not think about things like this.
"In any case, I've done my part to remind you guys beforehand! The school would never agree to something like having students stay overnight outside by themselves, so open your eyes and make sure you people aren't discovered by the other teachers."
And with that, Miss Maki walked downstairs and left. So she's actually someone who doesn't really dwell on the details.
Music used to be a core subject at our school, so the whole fourth floor housed equipment related to music. At the end of the stairs, straight to the left, was a door covered with red felt; it looked just like a door you'd see at a concert hall. That was the music hall, which was rarely used. Located along the side of the corridor, extending outwards to the right, were the storerooms, which were used to store all sorts of musical instruments. And at the end of the corridor, was a metallic door, which led to the music room we used for our typical music lessons.
I heard a series of melodies coming from an electric guitar not plugged into an amplifier; the sounds emanated from a room to the right of the music room—the music preparatory room. The guitar's timbre sounded beautifully delicate and gentle.
What song is that...... It should be the harpsichord part of <Brandenburg Concerto No. 5>? She actually managed to clearly replicate the rich sounds of the arpeggio with just a single guitar. As I carefully listened to Mafuyu play the guitar, I recalled how weak <Hotel California> had sounded earlier, when just the three of us were playing.
When the song was over, I could hear the sounds of Mafuyu tuning her guitar. Despite that, I remained rooted outside the door, not moving an inch. What should I do? Mafuyu would probably be angry if I just opened the door and walked in like that.
In the end, I tried calling her name out softly. The sounds of her tuning suddenly stopped. The words I wanted to say, that were frozen in my mouth, disappeared completely as well.
Because—Mafuyu hadn't said anything to me yet.
And I—had no idea what to say as well.
"Well...... Urm, Senpai said the registration for the live performance...... closes tomorrow."
I pressed my palms against the wall and said that, word by word.
"Since we have to fill in the names of the band members, as well as the name of the band itself...... if we don't decide soon, we may actually have to use the name Chiaki came up with."
I noticed a slight change in Mafuyu's breathing when I mentioned Chiaki's name.
I tried desperately to find a suitable word...... Right, I'll just start from that. I wanted to ask her about it anyway.
"About the training camp. Do you have any reason not to go?"
It felt like a long time had passed before I heard her answer.
"Actually...... there's no special reason."
Mafuyu's murmurs came from behind the thin door. I felt slightly relieved upon being able to speak with Mafuyu, but then came her next line.
"However, there is no real reason for me to go either."
"Wha......!" That's just too much! What's with that!? "Then what did you join the band for?"
"I don't know," came Mafuyu's reply. "I really don't know."
She sounded just like a lost child. I squatted in the corridor and thought hard for a while.
"If you attend the training camp, then perhaps you'll know."
I tried replying to her with that. Even I myself felt it was quite a silly answer—it sounded like something a kid in elementary school would say. However, there was no taking it back once I said it out loud.
"It's not just practice. Everyone will swim, eat, and play with fireworks together."
It seems fun, so why don't you try it? Is that not a good enough reason?
I remembered Miss Maki's words: just tell her honestly about what's troubling you.
Even though it was something that had to do with me, the me back then couldn't comprehend it. And so, in order to solve the most immediate problem before me, I told Mafuyu,
"Since you joined our club, we wish to participate in the training camp together with you."
Not just to practice, but also to play together. To talk about all sorts of things together.
"And since there won't be any teachers around, we can play as much as we like! Moreover, there won't be anyone to complain about us, regardless of how loud we get, since we'll be staying in a villa. Also, even though it might sound like I'm bragging, I'll be preparing some really delicious food as well! Urm, and it won't cost much—just four thousand and five hundred yen per person for a three-day-and-two-night trip—"
I realized I was speaking faster and faster, and talking about all sorts of stupid things.
"And so, well......"
I slowly let out the air jammed in my throat. There's nothing much left for me to say, right?
That was all the me back then could do.
"...... I'll be waiting for you in the practice room tomorrow."
After that, I waited breathlessly for a moment, but there was no reply from inside.
Sigh. I guess the only thing I can do is wait.
I silently left the door. While making my way towards the stairs, I actually stopped twice to turn around and look back. It somehow felt like I could faintly hear the sound of Mafuyu playing her guitar. Dvořák's music...... but that may just have been the evening bell of the faraway towns.
Unfortunately, I met Chiaki at the train station the next morning, and was thus left with no choice but to take the same train as her to school. It was 6:40 A.M.—normally, I would've still been in bed at that hour.
"You didn't sleep well last night?"
As we traveled in the wobbling train, Chiaki, who was sitting next to me, suddenly came up close to me and stared at me.
"Hmm? Nah! I slept really soundly."
With my head lowered, I leaned against the bass and wove a lie.
"Have you been coming up with names for the band?"
"Mmm...... I guess."
"So you don't actually trust Mafuyu? I feel sad for her."
Aren't you the same as me? You even made a T-shirt. I originally wanted to retort with that, but upon changing my perspective a little, I guess that was probably the best thing Chiaki could come up with...... right?
"I've come up with over ten more names since then."
"Aren't you the same as me!" Damn, what a waste of energy, trying to view her in a better light by considering things from a different perspective. Chiaki then took out a notebook and confidently showed me a long list of backup names for the band. I couldn't help but sigh when I saw that.
It was about seven when we reached school. We went to the staff room, but couldn't find the keys to the practice room in the key box.
"Strange? Nao, you returned the keys yesterday right?"
Chiaki and I exchanged looks for a brief moment. That meant someone had come to school earlier than us, and had already made her way to the practice room.
There were only two possibilities—Chiaki immediately turned around and ran, almost bumping into a teacher while making her way outside the door. She ignored the yells of the teacher and scooted away from his side. She then dashed through the corridors, towards the courtyard.
Chiaki roughly pulled open the door to the practice room—her shoulders slumped immediately. Following closely behind, I glanced inside the room, and exchanged looks with the person inside.
The person in the practice room was not Mafuyu, but Kagurazaka-senpai—no wait, she's Kagurazaka-senpai alright, but w-why is her blouse unbuttoned halfway? Her lingerie was showing, and she was in the process of removing her skirt—
Chiaki let out a shout, then shut the door after elbowing me, who was behind her. Damn, that hurts!
After a while, Senpai opened the door and stuck her head out from inside.
"Sorry, I never thought you guys would be here that early. You two can come in now."
Chiaki stepped into the room really quickly. As for me, I couldn't help but feel a little intimidated—I mean, Senpai was changing in the room not too long ago, yeah?
Senpai had changed out of her uniform, into a patched denim miniskirt and a T-shirt with the photo of the Cuban revolutionist Che Guevara—that outfit had anarchism written all over it.
"Why are you changing here?"
"Didn't I tell you yesterday? Today's the final day. I have to hand in the application form to the live house we'll be performing at."
Oh, right! She did indeed say that before. So that means, the reason Senpai wore her uniform to school, was just so she could enter the staff room to get the keys? What exactly is this person going to school for?
"Speaking of which, I never thought the band members would be here this early. We really are united!"
And with that, Senpai patted Chiaki's head.
"This can't be considered all the members, right?"
Chiaki lifted her head and asked softly.
"Mmm, you're right."
Senpai nodded her head, then proceeded to take out the application form from yesterday from her pocket. She then pulled a desk out from the corner of the room, and placed the opened form on it. In the box asking for the members' names, four names were already filled in.
Aihara Chiaki (Dr). Ebisawa Mafuyu (G). Kagurazaka Kyouko (G, Vo). Hikawa Naomi (B, Vo).
Only the name of the band was left blank.
I didn't want to think too much about it, so I changed my focus to some other place on the form...... Eh?
"Oh, what about the rental fees for the place?"
It was impossible for us to perform live for free, but I had completely forgotten about cash-related matters. Though two other bands would be performing with us, the individual amount each of us would have to pay should still be pretty costly. However, all Senpai did was show a faint smile.
"You don't have to worry about that. We are the guest performers, so we don't have to spend a single cent."
What's this? How is it possible for such good things to happen...... ah, this person here must've done something again? I guess it'd be better if I didn't pursue it any further. It feels really scary.
"Should Comrade Ebisawa not make it in time—right, why don't we just use the name <Folk Music Research Club>?"
Senpai tapped the tip of the pen in the box for the band's name.
Chiaki opposed immediately with, "Eww— that's not cute at all."
"Really? I quite like the name though."
"Then why don't we just use <みんおん>? It's much easier to remember with just four characters." [TLNote: Read as "Min-on". Something like K-On, except it's a short for their club. It's written in Hiragana, but I guess the Kanji should be 民音]
"That sounds like the name of a pub in some suburb. I can't accept that."
"Then how about adding an exclamation mark at the end. <みんおん!>"
Chiaki took out her notebook again and began reading out the names she came up with, one by one; as for Senpai, she was rejecting them one after another in a loving manner. I sat myself on the stool and leaned my bass against the wall, listening to their conversation halfheartedly.
Back then—Mafuyu had waited for me in here as well. The day I suggested we have our guitar showdown. Despite her not giving me any sort of reply, she still waited for me. Therefore, this time, all I could do was wait for her like this.
Thinking about it, it somehow felt like Mafuyu and I had always failed in trying to get our points across clearly. There were times when we could communicate, but there were times when we couldn't—and with the gradual accumulation of miscommunication, it felt like there might come a day when all that would turn into an unsalvageable misunderstanding or something?
If that's really the case, then shouldn't I try asking her properly?
That's if Mafuyu is—
Senpai and Chiaki had actually left me alone when they noticed I was silent and engrossed in my own thoughts. How long have those two gone on with their conversation already? The chimes of the bell pulled my consciousness back to reality. I was shocked. I quickly directed my sight to the clock in the room. The sound I heard was the preparatory bell right before lessons—class was starting in five minutes.
Both Chiaki and Senpai, who were chatting at the table, turned their sights to the clock as well. A bone-chilling silence followed after the chimes were over—it didn't feel like we were in the middle of the blistering summer in July at all.
Senpai gestured towards me. I stood up, and Senpai placed the pen in my hands.
"We have no other choice. You are the third person to join the band, so you decide."
I stared straight into Senpai's face.
Mafuyu didn't come, so I'm the one—
"It's just a name, so don't think too deeply about it. Nothing will change because of it."
Is that really so? I thought to myself as I stared at the application form.
It somehow felt like Mafuyu would no longer come here if she didn't appear now? Should I sever the relationship between us right here......
I adjusted my grip on the pen—I spent the whole night yesterday thinking about it, before finally deciding on something. Should the situation come to the point where I would have to be the one to come up with the name of the band, I would name us <Blackbird>.
However, this name would lose its meaning if Mafuyu would no longer come here. It would become a name that forced me to recognize the fact that we could no longer fly with our wings broken.
The tip of the pen came into contact with the paper. Just as I was about to write the first character "B"—
Senpai lifted her head suddenly. She looked past my shoulders, towards the door of the practice room—and smiled.
I held my breath and turned my head around.
The heavy door had opened, revealing a slit that allowed the summer air to gush into the room. Chiaki ran to the door and quickly opened it. Mafuyu, who was outside the door, was about to take a step back, but Chiaki immediately grabbed her by the wrists, causing her to flinch.
Next to me, Senpai said, "Morning, Comrade Ebisawa."
As for me—I couldn't say a single word. The countless words were all stuck in my chest.
In the end, I passed the pen to Mafuyu, who was pulled into the room by Chiaki. That was the only thing I could do.
Mafuyu stared at the pen for quite a while, before accepting it with her left hand. She stood at the door for a long time, despite me having left the table already.
Next, Mafuyu walked slowly towards the table. She wrote the letters in the blank space of the application form, without any hints of hesitation.
"How do you pronounce that?" Chiaki asked softly.
"Fe-ke-te-li-ko," Mafuyu mumbled. That's quite an intriguing pronunciation. What language is that?
"Does your mother speak with a Dutch or German accent?"
Mafuyu and I lifted our heads at the same time when we heard that sudden line from Senpai.
"...... How did you know? Mama mentioned before she was born in Holland."
"Because you don't usually pronounce the 'g' as 'k' in Hungarian. Nevertheless, it sounds much nicer this way."
Senpai took a good look at the name Mafuyu had written. The smile on her face looked as gentle as the white clouds floating in the sky in the early morning.
"You like this song?"
Mafuyu took a while before nodding in response to Senpai's question. Somehow, it felt like she had stolen a glance at me when she did that, and that caused my face to burn.
Which song is that? The pronunciation of <feketerigó> somehow made me feel like I would gently fly up into the sky in an instant.
"It's a really good name."
With that, Senpai folded the application form and stuffed it in her pocket. She then quickly got close to Mafuyu and pecked her lightly on her cheeks. Mafuyu's face went red in surprise, and she took a step backwards.
"Ah, right. Comrade Ebisawa, just pass the four thousand and five hundred yen in your pocket to the young man! I've designated him to be in charge of all finance-related matters."
Senpai said that just as she was about to step out of the classroom, and Mafuyu's face went red yet again.
When the door closed, Mafuyu took a brown envelope out of her chest pocket and stuffed it in my face.
I managed to grab the envelope before it fell to the floor. There were a few thousand-yen notes and some five-hundred yen coins inside.
"Eh? This......" You don't have to give it to me now! Then again, it means that, right? It's that, right? I wasn't quite confident, so I snuck a glance at Chiaki, who was standing beside me. Wow, her face was lit up with happiness.
"Put it away quickly."
Mafuyu turned her head away as she said that. I placed the envelope in the pocket of the guitar case. It was only then that I realized my heart was thumping wildly. I had no idea why, but I couldn't calm myself down. I can finally attend training camp together with Mafuyu! Everyone can go there together!
"Mafuyu, teach me how to spell out the name of our band again. I want to tan it on my skin when we're at the beach."
Chiaki's ecstatic voice came from behind me.
"I am bad with the sun, and I do not know how to swim."
"Ah, we'll have to bring a parasol then. Do you want to buy our swimwear together?"
"I said I do not know how to swim—"
"Don't worry. I'll bring a giant float along."
Chiaki pushed Mafuyu's back as they walked out of the room.
Mafuyu was just outside the door when she suddenly turned her head around and called out my name. My gaze shot passed Chiaki's shoulders and went straight into Mafuyu's eyes.
"...... Will I really know?"
When she asked me that question, Mafuyu's eyes still looked as though they were skies filled with dark clouds. I suddenly felt my chest tighten a fair bit.
"Know what?" Chiaki moved her face close to Mafuyu's to look at her. Mafuyu shook her head, so Chiaki turned her sight to me instead.
If you attend the training camp, then perhaps you'll know—that was the irresponsible sentence that came out of my mouth. The reason Mafuyu joined this band, as well as the things that caused Mafuyu to feel lost—
The looks from the two of them were boring into me. I swallowed hard and nodded.
"You should be able to find the answer...... probably."
If felt like Mafuyu's slightly uneasy gaze was fixed on the tip of my nose. I couldn't help but lower my head and stare at my fingers. And then, I took a step forward—
"I promise you......" As I said that, I stretched my hand out towards Mafuyu, "That if you aren't able to find an answer, I'll listen to everything you have to say."
It was a promise I had made some time ago.
Mafuyu's face flushed red. After brushing my outstretched fist away with her hand, she turned around and ran towards the school building.
Chiaki looked at me with no idea of what was going on, then followed suit behind Mafuyu.
I turned my head back to look at the empty practice room.
The reason for Mafuyu to be here—
Somehow, I felt there was no one who could tell her the answer to that. She had to find it on her own. You see, I myself had no idea why I was hanging around here. However, I had no intention of harboring lingering doubts forever while hanging around with the rest of the members of the band.
I turned my sight to the empty desk. It somehow felt like the name Mafuyu wrote had been carved into the surface of the desk when Senpai traced out the name with her fingers.
feketerigó. A name that tied us all together.
Can we find it during our training camp? The certain thing that's definitely there, that binds Mafuyu and me together.
The bell for classes finally rang. Shit, I'm gonna be late. I locked the practice room and dashed towards my class.
Somewhere, among the cluster of trees in the courtyard, the cicadas began to sing.