This chapter kind of feels good and all, but the search don't really make sense (or rather, not that realistic). Then again, it's just a story.
EDIT: And oh yeah, break's over. Final chapter will probably take about a week or two to clear.
I returned to the basement and sprinted past the staff, towards the PA console. I then asked Hiroshi, who was standing to the side, "Sorry, but can I ask a favor of you?"
When Hiroshi was finished listening to my request, his face displayed an expression of "Huh?" However, the person in charge of the audio system—who wore a bandanna on his head—seemed to have immediately understood what I wanted. He rapped on the equipment and asked,
"So all you need is the time difference between the sounds?"
"Urm, yes. If possible...... be as accurate as you can."
"Pass me the source. I'll take a look."
"Oi, hold on! I'm at a loss here!"
"It doesn't matter if you don't get it!"
The guy grabbed my phone and swiftly recorded Mafuyu's message.
"—Oh? This is quite an embarrassing confession we have here...... Hey lad, it's not good to make a girl cry."
I totally forgot—I had actually allowed a stranger to listen to Mafuyu's painful words. But then, now's not the time to be thinking about something like that. Hiroshi grabbed me by the hand just as I was about to rush towards the exit.
"Oi! Where do you think you're going? You still haven't had your rehearsal yet. Also, why has Kyouko disappeared as well?"
"I'm going to find Mafuyu right now! Hurry up and let me go!"
"You know where she is?"
"I'm currently calculating her position. Lad, hurry up and move! You still have to get a map, right?" The bandanna guy interrupted.
"I'm really sorry! I'll definitely be back before the concert begins!"
I briefly exchanged sights with Chiaki, who was at the drum set, then flew towards the door. Thank god Furukawa's in the resting area. He would definitely fly into a rage if he knew we were pinning our hopes on something as silly as this.
However, we had no other options besides this. All of this may be for nothing, and we may not be able to recover the wing that's been torn off—but even so, we couldn't just succumb ourselves to that fate without doing anything.
I pedaled as hard as I could on my bicycle, making my way to the neighboring town—the train station closest to my house was there. I stormed into the stationary store to obtain a long ruler, a compass, and the largest map I could find. I glanced at the clock in the store before I left—it was already five forty-five. The summer dusk was slowly being swallowed up by time. And next is—hmm...... should be the district office. Wait, why the district office again!? I couldn't help but recall the time Mafuyu and I had run away from home together. The plan I had come up with back then was pretty stupid. I took my phone out and used it to connect to the district office's website.
...... Hold on. Which number should I call? I stopped pedaling and parked my bicycle on the walkway next to the railways. I was at a loss at what to do. Come to think of it, I don't even know what to call that thing they play every evening at five!
There wasn't much time left, and I would've only wasted more time if I continued to panic and not do anything. I dialed the number of the district office.
"Urm, good evening, I'd like to inquire about something. It's about Dvořák's music...... the song that plays every day at five in the evening......"
When I recalled the situation much later, I realized it was really stupid of me to ask that question in that way. I must've really confused the general division operator. Dvořák's music...... who would've understood that?
My call was transferred a few times to various divisions, before finally reaching civil defense.
"You mean that music? That's the radio broadcast for disaster prevention!"
It seemed the person on the other side of the phone was an old civil servant.
"If something like an earthquake or fire occurred, we'd play an emergency broadcast via those speakers! The thing that rings at five every day isn't a chime, but a test broadcast."
Eh? So that's the reason behind that? I never knew......
"Uhh...... urm, then...... may I know where those speakers are situated in the city?"
My heart nearly sank to the floor when I heard his reply.
"Where huh......? In over forty different locations?"
I was close to fainting, but I managed to continue.
"Can you please tell me...... the location of all the speakers?"
All the fire stations in the city, nearly all the public schools, and the parks also. I spread the map out on the divider on the roadside, then marked all the speaker locations the civil servant had told me. I was getting irritated about halfway through the task. I never thought there'd be so many. Damn, it's almost six o'clock.
Just then, my phone rang.
"Nao? It's me. The mister at the PA finished crunching the numbers and asked me to inform you about it."
"But why you—" Damn, I'm stupid. There's no other way he could contact me aside from Chiaki! It was my fault for not leaving my phone number behind before I left in a hurry. After I finished writing down the three numbers on the side of the map, Chiaki asked,
"Right, what are these numbers for? Is there really a way for us to locate Mafuyu? It's already so late—"
"I don't know, but......"
I took out my compass. Indeed, there isn't much time left. As I gathered my thoughts, I clamped my phone between my ear and my shoulder and explained,
"At the current temperature, the speed of sound in the air is about 348 meters per second."
"In the voice message, after Mafuyu's voice faded away, I could hear the sound of the chimes. Those chimes ring every day at five."
I forgot when it was, but I had listened to Dvořák with Mafuyu before—the canon of the second movement of <New World Symphony> that traveled at the absolute limit of the speed of sound. I was really thankful of Ebichiri's habit of overly doting on his daughter—an ordinary phone would definitely not be able to pick up the broadcasts in the city that clearly. I had that high-end phone to thank for that.
"All the speakers in the city broadcast at the exact same time, so that means the sound from the more distant speakers will take longer to reach you, right? All I need to do is measure the time lag between the chimes, then multiply it by the speed of sound, or 348 meters per second. That'll allow me to figure out roughly how far Mafuyu is from the speakers. There were three separate chimes in the voice message that arrived at different times, so—"
"Y-You can figure out where she is just from that alone? But the time between each chime is so short...... a-and...... there should be a lot of speakers as well, right?"
"Mmm. So all that's left is for me to believe in Mafuyu."
Using the compass, I drew circle after circle on the map. Of course there were huge margins of error, as my calculations were based on estimated time differences, as well as the speed of sound. I wasn't so lucky as to obtain a precise spot on the map where three circles overlapped, but even so, there was still a ray of hope—the intersection between those circles and that line.
"...... Believe in her?"
"Because she brought her guitar with her and said she was at a loss at whether to meet us or not."
In addition to that, there was also Mafuyu's last detected location Miss Matsumura had told me.
"But what's the point in knowing that? The information's already two hours old!"
"So what I'm saying is—I'm assuming she headed directly towards the live house right after running away from home."
There was no other option but for me to believe in that.
Starting from Mafuyu's house, I used my finger to trace out a route along the national highway, moving north. Mafuyu's last detected position happened to be in that direction as well.
My finger stopped when it hit one of the circles I had drawn. Next to my finger was a blue line that traversed the map horizontally—it was a river.
Is that where Mafuyu's at? If she was planning to make her way to the neighboring city following that path, it made sense for her to walk north all the way to the river, then continue along the riverbed, which would lead her north-east—
That's right. Regardless of how good the receivers on her phone are, in order to transmit the sound of the chimes that clearly, she'd have to be in a place where there were no objects to block the path of the sound, right?
Everything made sense if she was at the riverside.
I hung up on Chiaki and replayed Mafuyu's voice message. Could I hear the sound of water, to confirm my hypothesis? Sadly, the sounds picked up by the receiver were too faint for me to make much of them, so everything boiled down to luck. In any case, what I hypothesized was something that had happened over one hour ago. She might've become tired from all the walking, and stopped at some place to rest. Or, she might still be making her way to the live house.
My only option was to believe the latter.
After stuffing the map and my phone into my pocket, I released the kickstand on my bicycle to prepare to continue my search.
As I rode along the narrow road with no sidewalks, I was constantly overtaken by cars that sped past me. By then, the dark clouds in the sky had slowly dispersed, allowing the setting summer sun to peek diagonally down at me. The sun in the west was bright red, just like the color of blood.
I was already sweating all over when I saw the dikes of the river. I pushed my bicycle up the slope and swallowed huge gulps of the air that blew against my face.
At the bottom of the grassy slope was a river that seemed to stretch on endlessly. The river was narrower than usual, due to the hot weather, and was dyed in the colors of the sunset. I took my map out and confirmed I was heading upstream. The problem is...... will I really be able to find her? On the map, the overlap of the three circles was nothing more than just a triangle a few centimeters wide, but in reality, that area was extremely large. I could easily see people lying on the riverside, people walking their dogs, and others practicing badminton. Upon seeing all that, I couldn't help but think—wouldn't it be great if the world disappeared into the dusk, leaving behind only Mafuyu and me.
If that were the case, I'd definitely be able to find her.
The sweat on my body was gradually drying off, and the wind was beginning to feel a little chilly. My left hand still held on to the map, and my legs had never once stopped pedaling.
There weren't many significant landmarks along the riverside, only the metalworks factory located right below the dikes. I was about to reach the area of the triangle outlined on the map, but the river before me suddenly became wider. I was forced to take a detour, as I was riding along the riverbank. As I followed the large turn, I passed a baseball diamond and a football field to my left.
When I cycled through the turn and got back to the riverside, I stopped my bicycle in a place filled with grass. As I looked at the riverbank filled with pebbles, I was suddenly overcome with a surge of fatigue. I sat down on the grassy slope.
It should be somewhere around here, right? My mind was made blank by the winds blowing past me, and the heat from my body—a result of the vigorous motions I was going through earlier—was instantly absorbed by the cool grass beneath me.
I only had an hour left. Seems like I won't be able to find her. The real world was hopelessly large, while I was so insignificantly tiny—I felt like crying. When the bond between two people disappears, they won't be able to meet each other again. All that was left was the darkness of the night, silently, but surely, creeping up on me.
It will no longer return—the thing that tied Mafuyu and me together will never return to me again.
I took my phone out and confirmed the time of the voice message. It's already too late for me to do anything, but I should at least give Mafuyu a call one more time. But all I heard was the hollow sound of the dial tone landing on the grass, drip by drip. I buried my face between my knees in depression—the hand I was holding the phone with dropped to the ground. As I counted the number of rings, it felt as though the dial tone were repeatedly slicing my arm with each ring.
The thing that had once bonded Mafuyu and me together—
Music—I heard it.
I raised my head slowly, and for a moment, I thought it was just a hallucination. I listened intently to the wind that breezed past the surface of the river, and ignored the inanimate electronic sound endlessly ringing from my palm. I began to seek out the faint sound.
There really was the sound of music—I could really hear it. I slid down the grassy slope and stood on the exposed soil on the riverbank. I closed my eyes and listened intently to the sounds of a guitar. The constant G open chords sounded just like the heartbeats of a bird, and the melody riding on those chords, was like the eye of the bird, looking through the darkness of the night.
I had heard that song before. It was the first song that tied the two of us together.
I began to sprint wildly across the soil—before the song stops playing, and before the sun sets. I ran onto the grassy patch and traveled against the flow of the music, seeking out its source. As I searched, I pried open countless Canada goldenrod flowers, and even stepped on some of their stems.
My view suddenly widened when I reached the end of the patch of weeds. The river had already chewed up the afterglow of the setting sun, and was washing it away silently. The night winds gently flowed through my hair. I looked around in an attempt to find that song. The light gradually disappeared, and everything around me sunk into the deep blue hue of the night.
Just then, a flash of light streaked past the corners of my eyes.
It came from a place upstream, far away from me—on a dune formed from the alluvium of the river. There, a bunch of maroon hair glittered brightly with a gold brilliance under the last remaining rays of the setting sun.
I kicked aside the gravel next to my feet and rushed upstream.
The person squatting on the ground, staring at the surface of the river, suddenly raised her head when she heard my voice—it's Mafuyu alright. The shadow of her guitar case stretched really far upstream. She was holding on to her handphone tightly with her hand—her phone was playing a polyphonic <Blackbird> ringtone.
Mafuyu's eyes opened wide due to her surprise. She mumbled as she stared at me sprinting towards her.
"Why...... are you here?"
I swallowed my saliva as I attempted to catch my breath. With my back hunched over and my hands on my knees, I replied,
"...... Why else!? To find you, of course!"
Tears appeared in Mafuyu's reddish eyes.
"...... Why are you looking for me? You idiot!"
I didn't know if I should've been angry or dumbfounded, or if I should've just laughed instead. In the end, I stretched my hand out to her.
"...... Let's go! Everyone's waiting for you....... We'll be going on stage at seven."
Mafuyu hugged her knees and shook her head fervently.
"I can't go."
"Because...... I had gone off and disappeared, so I no longer have the right to go back. Everyone would just be troubled if I was around, right?"
I lifted my head up to look at the sky that was slowly being dyed in the colors of the night. It won't do for me to convey my feelings with just words alone. But even so—
I grabbed Mafuyu's right hand, whose fingers Mafuyu had buried in the sand. Mafuyu looked up in surprise.
"How would you feel if your right hand were to say that to you as well?"
"We would feel really troubled if you weren't around! It's that simple. If you don't return to us, we won't be able to play any songs at all."
"But...... my hand is currently......"
"That doesn't matter! Can you stand? Here, hold on to my shoulder."
I propped Mafuyu up forcibly.
"If you can't play using your hand, then use your teeth to play! If you can't do that either, then get on the stage and dance! We're a band! And think about who gave the band its name!"
"Don't decide that by yourself!" Mafuyu's eyes were about to sink to the bottom of the sea. "Even if...... even if I'm around, there's nothing I can do! I can't even play the guitar—"
"Things like that don't matter at all! Even if you can't play the guitar now, there's still the piano!"
I grabbed Mafuyu tightly by her right wrist.
"What are you talking about?"
"It won't do if Mafuyu's not around! Don't you get it!?"
Mafuyu's tears fell towards the ground along with her words.
"Didn't I promise you before our training camp? I gambled my whole life on that, you know? That's why I said things like 'I'll listen to anything you say if you can't find it.' You also agreed to it back then, right? If that's the case, then don't run away!"
I had no idea what I was saying.
"And I promise you, you'll definitely find it this time, at the live house. It's okay even if you can't play the guitar. Just stand at the side of the stage and listen to us play. If you still don't get it after that, then I'll be at your beck and call—I don't care if you want me to grab a hat and collect money for you for the rest of my life. So—"
Just then, I remembered what Miss Maki had said to me before. Why do I feel so troubled when Mafuyu's not around? It's because I—
"Actually...... I had planned to live out the three years of my high school life not participating in any clubs, just spending my days listening to CDs. But because Mafuyu appeared...... because I hoped to keep you by my side, I purchased my bass, modified it and practiced. But you—you're always like this. Don't just disappear like that!"
It was because Mafuyu had appeared, and because I had hoped to keep her by my side. I had already gone so far and done all those things. However, the words in my mouth were swallowed up by the burning breath in my throat.
Mafuyu walked up to me with unsteady steps and grabbed my shoulders. She lifted her head and looked at me with her shimmering eyes, then shifted her gaze to someplace around my upper arm. She said with a hoarse voice,
"...... Idiot. You're an idiot!"
"Just let me be one! Can you walk?"
Even though her gaze was still fixed on my arms, she nodded her head.
We cycled upstream along the bicycle trail. I could feel Mafuyu's body heat on my back, and both her arms were wrapped around my waist. The pedals were getting heavier and heavier, and the sky darker, with each passing distance. The throbbing from just then had not totally died down yet. I dared not look at the time at all. Gripping the handlebars tightly, I looked at the arms wrapped around my waist from time to time, to make sure Mafuyu was still by my side.
Mafuyu's right here; and now, I'm bringing her there.
But that's all there is to it—she's only "here," just like her right fingers. It was only a physical presence. The blood being pumped couldn't reach her, so she couldn't move.
I can't let things end like this. I can't consider this a band. If so—
Senpai and I—can we make it in time?
I didn't know. All I knew was that I could feel her breath blowing on my ears. I firmly gripped the handlebars again, which were wet from my sweat, and transferred more strength into my feet.
The sky was totally dark when we reached Bright. The windows on the first floor, as well as the entrance of the staircase leading to the basement, were lit up with bright neon lights. The place was particularly eye-catching compared to the surrounding quiet, and relatively dark, residential area. There were some people hanging out around the neon lights—they should be attendees waiting for the performance to begin? I parked my bicycle in the corner of the parking lot packed with cars, then glanced at the clock in the office. It was already seven ten. We didn't make it in time. Has the concert already begun?
"Are your legs okay?"
"I-I can walk," Mafuyu leapt off the backseat and stood on the gravel ground.
We walked past the attendees that had gathered there. Just as we were about to head down the stairs, Mafuyu suddenly stopped in her tracks and began to hesitate again. I grabbed her by the hands.
"But...... It's already......"
Already what!? Chiaki's still waiting for us! I told her I'd definitely bring Mafuyu back. I briskly walked down the stairs. There was a small table situated at the turn, where staff members were selling tickets for the concert. "Ah! The two of you......!" One of the staff called out to us, so I shouted, "We're one of the performers!" I then pulled Mafuyu by her hands and continued running downwards.
When I pushed open the heavy soundproof door located at the end of the flight of stairs, a series of blinding and scattered rays, as well as an intense bout of a penetrative rhythm, came lunging at me.
When we stepped inside, Mafuyu and I were immediately cut off from the outside world by the door behind us. I could see the audience moving to the rhythm amid the dense hot air around us. There's probably about a hundred people here....... no, maybe more? The person in front of the crowd, bathed in the colorful spotlights and going all out while drenched in sweat was—
It took a lot of effort to hear Mafuyu's whisper. Right, that person is Chiaki. The dancing white drumsticks were etching out beautiful and cruel arcs in the air, just like a whip. I could faintly see Chiaki's burning face amid the gold and white shimmers of the golden cymbals. Beneath the constant shuffles of the light cymbals was the rhythm of the bass drum, which seemed to make its way right into our hearts, and even up our throats.
Chiaki saw me.
No, she's not looking at me. Somehow, I clearly knew—
She was looking at Mafuyu.
The beats suddenly changed. A provoking rhythm with semiquavers that climbed up the scales in a flash, before diving all the way down, poured from Chiaki's drums. That caused a stir among the audience, who itched for more.
"That's......" Mafuyu's voice was a little hoarse.
I too, knew what it was. <He Man Woman Hater>—the song Mafuyu and Chiaki had used to duel each other for over ten minutes, with so much intensity that it had felt like they were slashing away at each other. Mafuyu was grabbing onto my arm with her left hand; it seemed to be twitching. She was searching for the nonexistent set of six strings, to answer Chiaki's call.
"Let's go. Chiaki's calling us."
We walked along the wall of the live house and brushed against the backs of the crowd as we made our way towards the stage. We walked into the resting area after locating the door leading to it; though it was called a resting area, it was nothing more than a passage that led to the emergency exit, with a few cabinets placed along the way. We saw a few guys already changed into their attire; they were standing shoulder to shoulder, and were ready to take the stage at any moment. Right when he saw me, Furukawa grabbed me by the shoulder and slammed me against the wall.
"Oi! Taisei!" Hiroshi was about to stop him, but Furukawa brushed his arms away. Furukawa grabbed my collar and pulled me close. The back of my head hurt from the impact against the wall, but somehow, his voice seemed especially piercing.
"Quit fooling around, you bastard! What time do you think it is now?"
"Why the heck are you apologizing to me? You should be apologizing to your drummer instead! She's been holding on this entire time with her solo performance!"
I looked at the stage, bombarded by the merciless rays of the spotlights, from my position at the side. Chiaki—she stirred up the atmosphere of the place by constantly moving her arms, as though they were about to snap off. By herself.
Chiaki did it all alone.
"Urm, may I know...... where Kagurazaka-senpai is?"
"That's what I wanna know! Where did she run off to?"
She's not here—that means Senpai didn't manage to make it in time? The piercing tones of the open rimshot came from the stage, and the descending sounds of the bass drum were slowly fading away. The final note of the drum performance was buried by the cheers of the audience below. In response to the cheers, Chiaki twirled her drumsticks in her hands and stood up, wobbling a little. As though there were an invisible string leashed around her neck, she walked to the side of the stage unsteadily, and collapsed into my chest.
"...... Nao, you're—so—slow—"
"And I want to scold Mafuyu a lot!" Despite her leaning limply against my chest, Chiaki shot a fierce glare at Mafuyu. Mafuyu shrunk herself to the side and removed the guitar case on her shoulder.
"In any case, let me have a drink first!"
Chiaki accepted the bottle of water Hiroshi offered, and finished it in a flash. The flush on her face had nowhere near receded, but she was already anxiously looking back at the stage.
"What are you planning to do?"
"Hold on till Senpai returns, of course!"
"Just give up already!" Furukawa said that from beside me. "You managed to stir up the audience with your solo performance. You've done all you can already."
"I don't want to!" Chiaki rejected him immediately. "Mafuyu, go prepare yourself too, quickly! Senpai will definitely make it back here."
I shook my head. Chiaki had no idea how demanding my request was. Mafuyu lowered her head and stared at her right hand.
"Forget it, I get it. I'll go back on stage by myself. Stupid Mafuyu!"
I chased Chiaki and ran onto the stage. A wave of cheers from the audience assaulted us immediately. I took a look at the area below the stage, and all I could see was a sea of people whose faces I couldn't see properly because of the stage lights. I felt goosebumps on my body—Chiaki...... she had been fighting alone this whole time in a place like this?
I could faintly hear the yells of Furukawa or some other person from behind me, but it was already too late. I was standing on the stage, looking at over one hundred people beneath me. Their blood vessels had already been infused with the drugs Chiaki administered. In the place before me—on the stage to the audience's right—was my Aria Pro II bass, sitting on a stand, waiting for me.
I could no longer turn back. Something had been injected into my blood vessels as well—I was burning up. The instant I touched the neck of my bass, I felt a sweet surge of electricity flowing into me. Despite my legs trembling from nervousness, my mind was in a surprisingly clear state. What should we do? Senpai's not here yet, and Mafuyu's still stiffly standing behind me...... if only one of them would take the stage. I couldn't do anything alone—I had already exhausted myself bringing Mafuyu here.
"...... Nao, wait...... I'm sorry......"
Chiaki stuck her head out from behind the drums and said to me in a hoarse voice,
"My legs feels weak. I probably played too hard just now....... Please give me a moment, as I can't step on the pedals right now. Ahaha, what a problem we have here."
I looked at Chiaki's slumped thighs in despair. I began to hear the boos from the crowd below.
"Sorry, I have to rest a little longer." Chiaki's voice sounded like it was close to tears. Chiaki had been fighting by herself on the stage, but what about me? Could I do that as well? But I couldn't. I could only carry my bass and do nothing, with my back facing the audience. This was a situation I couldn't have faced alone in the first place. I looked to the side of the stage. Mafuyu was squatting next to the wall, looking at me with a painful expression on her face, while Furukawa and Hiroshi were discussing something behind her. It seemed Hiroshi had finally given in. He lifted both his arms above his head—and both of them took their guitars out of their cases.
Ah. Is this where everything will end?
After many difficulties, I had finally brought Mafuyu here, but it was already too late. When I realized it; when I ran out of this place; when I looked for her; when we returned together—everything was already too late.
There was a change in the atmosphere of the live house.
My ears had picked up the slight change—there was a brief gush of wind, followed by a strength that supported me, who was on the brink of collapsing.
I steadied myself and turned to face the audience. Behind the staggering crowd was the opened soundproof door. The person standing there had her long black hair tied up in a braid; it was fluttering along with the escaping hot air—just like the tail feathers of a bird.
A few of the attendees close to the door had noticed and turned their heads around. The silhouette swung her arms and tossed something out. I barely caught the glittering object that soared through the darkness above the crowd. The sharp sound of rubber squeaked through the microphones. The audience died down in an instant, and a moment of silence fell upon us.
"...... What's this?" "What just happened?" "Who's that?" "Eh? What?"
Small ripples began to form. However, I was only looking at the thing in my hand—a tape with the title of a song clearly labelled on it.
I see, it's this song!
Somehow, it felt like Senpai had known everything right from the start.
"...... Senpai?" Chiaki whispered. I put the tape in Mafuyu's tape recorder, which hung right beneath the microphone. The moment I pressed play, the cheers of the audience rang out once again. The crowd split in two, and that person began making her way grandly to the stage bathed in colorful lights.
Senpai looked at me, Chiaki, and finally, Mafuyu. She then put on a gentle smile.
Just then, the melody of the piano began to play.
The spinning tape recorder played out the crisp chords of the piano, while the microphone, with its head lowered, gently picked up the sounds being released. I immediately knew what was going on here, so Mafuyu should've known too.
Even though it was broken up into segments by Kagurazaka-senpai, and pieced together to form another song, I still recognized it immediately upon hearing it—it was the sound of Mafuyu's piano.
Senpai allowed the melody of the piano to continue flowing, with her back still facing the audience. At the same time, she said to everyone with a low but clear voice—
"Not all of our members are here yet."
Chiaki tilted her head in confusion. As for Mafuyu, she had raised her head in shock and was looking at Senpai.
Indeed, not all the members of feketerigó are here yet. Even though Mafuyu's here physically, her soul isn't here.
"As usual, let's start by warming up with some songs by The Eagles, until everyone's here!"
Upon seeing the energy return to Chiaki's eyes, Senpai turned around and grabbed the microphone. I gently laid the chords of my bass on the crisp sounds of Mafuyu's piano.
Next, Senpai's voice joined the fray—
<The Last Resort>
It was the hoarse singing voice of a traveler who had traveled the seas with only his body and his life.
<The Last Resort> is the last track in The Eagle's <Hotel California> album. It's a requiem dedicated to the Native Americans, whose homeland was plundered, sullied and destroyed. It's a slow and sad song. Actually, the melody carrying the song right now was put together using segments plucked from Beethoven's piano sonata—though I wonder how many people here actually figured that out?
It was probably only the few of us here. Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major—what was being played were the variations of the final movement: <Gesangvoll, mit innigster Empfindung>, a title written by Beethoven in German. [TLNote: which I think translates roughly as "Cantabile with Heartfelt Emotion" or something. I can't into German.]
How long did it take for Senpai to create something like this? She had obtained the source of the music from Mafuyu's CD, arranged the different segments together without changing the tempo of the individual pieces, and changed it into a song sung by The Eagles. That was indeed what I had asked her to do. It might've sounded easy on paper, but she had actually done it for me.
And that was the reason Mafuyu was here right now.
Even though it was just a series of notes connected together and spewed out from the shabby tape recorder hanging off the microphone stand, Senpai, Chiaki and I had all found Mafuyu in there.
Mafuyu should've found it too, right? The place she was in our hearts. She wasn't playing anything, and was only listening from afar, but that should've been even more reason for her to understand—to understand her reason for being here.
The hard sound of the cymbals gradually faded away as we entered the second chorus; Chiaki's drums came in right after. The color of the silently swaying audience was exactly like that of the sea that existed in Mafuyu's eyes. The sound of Mafuyu's piano headed straight into that sea. The sextuplets of the fourth variation wobbled along with the waves. When the vocal section of the song was over, Senpai used her Les Paul guitar to engage in a lengthy exchange with Mafuyu's piano. Her guitar became entwined with the piano, and with that, we entered the sixth variation.
However, my steps stopped right there.
The melody of Mafuyu's piano was about to come to an end, but <The Last Resort> was far from over. When the scale changed into G major, the requiem of the Indians became our elegy—
I began to pray. Finally, Mafuyu's piano reached its end, and what was left was the melody of my bass, as well as the sound of Senpai's guitar, as it mimicked the cries of the seagulls. Mafuyu had disappeared. A void opened up in our sound.
Senpai's singing sounded like a prayer too—filled with overflowing hope, which gave her a reason to bleed. In the name of destiny and the name of God. What a helpless and cruel line it was. And thus, everyone left her—Senpai's singing echoed in nothingness.
Suddenly, I noticed it. There was someone there. On the other side of Senpai's melody, and above Chiaki's tempo, entering in slowly—the sound was right next to me. The melody sounded way too natural, as though the melody had branched off from my bass, and extended endlessly into the sky. It gently encased itself around the sound of Senpai's Les Paul guitar. As I breathed the accompaniment of the chorus into the mike, I narrowed my eyes and looked towards the other side of the stage.
Behind Senpai's tall silhouette, I saw a golden shimmer. The maroon hair glittered under the dazzling stage lights.
For a moment, I wondered if that was just a hallucination of mine. I mean, my ears had always heard things that weren't there. But thankfully, it wasn't an illusion at all. Senpai sang out the final prayers. It was a song for those who had plundered the homeland of others, portraying the helplessness of those who had their homeland stolen from them.
—They call it paradise
I don't know why—
—You call someplace paradise,
kiss it goodbye—
As though Senpai's melodious voice had been sucked into darkness, all that was left were the sounds of the guitars constantly streaming out. One of the guitars sketched out the finale of the song, while the melody of the other flew away into the faraway skies.
I took another look at the other side of the stage. It really wasn't my hallucination—Mafuyu was right there, plucking the strings of her Stratocaster with her slender, fair and mirage-like right hand. The cymbals behind her clashed, and the sea of people beneath us erupted into a roar.
I could hardly remember what happened after that.
The clash between Mafuyu's and Senpai's guitar solos continued on for five minutes, and might've gone on longer if I hadn't stopped them. There was no time for us to rest after we finished <The Last Resort>. The audience below us was already impatiently urging us on by stomping on the floor.
We didn't talk much on stage, as each and every second up there was precious to us. The many things that had slowly gathered in us over the last two months, were hurled beneath the stage in one go, in thirty minutes. Some of the audience might've drowned from that.
When we were done digesting all our songs, we were cheered as we walked off the stage. Our bodies were drenched in sweat. Chiaki could no longer stand, so thank god Senpai got to her before she fell on the floor.
Hiroshi and his band members, and the other band that consisted of middle-aged members, all had smiles on their faces. The only person with a grumpy expression was none other than Furukawa. However, that grumpy person then spoke.
"Oi. You guys are the opening act, but for some reason, some people down there are demanding an encore."
He pointed at the stage rather unwillingly—it's just as he said! The rhythmic sounds of clapping and stomping from the audience reached us, and it sounded as though the ground was rumbling. I had already planned to succumb myself to the rather comfortable fatigue, so I showed an apologetic smile and replied,
"Urm...... but the amount of time for the concert is limited......"
"Quit complaining! Get on the stage now, or else the building will collapse on us."
Furukawa kicked me in the back. It seemed like the staff had no intention of moving the instruments on the stage either; they all just looked in our direction. I guess we have no choice but to comply.
I then shot a glance at Senpai. She had allowed the exhausted Chiaki to sit on her thighs, so she said to me,
"Looks like we'll have to allow Comrade Chiaki to rest. You two can take the stage!"
Us two...... both of us? That means—
I looked at Mafuyu. There was a red hue to her fair skin, and the color of her eyes was the same as the color of the summer sky.
"See, this is the name of our band!"
Senpai patted Chiaki's chest. The logo of feketerigó was printed there on her T-shirt.
"So there can only be one song for our encore."
Mafuyu had already nodded her head in agreement before I could react. She stepped onstage without any hint of hesitation. The orderly sounds of clapping and stomping then shattered into waves of applause. It was when I saw Mafuyu carrying her guitar on her shoulder without fear, that I realized—despite the difference in genre, Mafuyu was still a professional musician, so she was already used to all these things.
The only problem was, that didn't apply to me. As I was hesitating, Mafuyu briefly looked me in the eyes. She then used her thumb and index finger to play that song—<Blackbird>.
With that, I was forced to go onstage as well.
The spotlights and Mafuyu's face were all so dazzling—I didn't pay any attention to whether I had sung well or not.