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I remembered Hiroshi had once talked about how he sometimes swapped roles with Furukawa, to form a joke band focused on laughing at how bad the other was. But after hearing them in person from the resting area, I couldn't help but tsukkomi them in my mind—in no way was that bad at all!
I actually preferred Furukawa's vocals. According to the information Chiaki gave me, Furukawa's professional accompaniment to his vocals was one of the reasons Melancholy Chameleon's concerts were so spectacular.
Speaking of which, the thing that depressed me the most was the main act—the band of four middle-aged guys. The band consisted of a piano trio and a guitar. During their self-introduction backstage, I found out their band was made up of an elementary school teacher, a guy who ran a confectionery shop, a construction worker, and another person. My initial impression of them as "just an amateur band" was shattered in an instant, right at the beginning of their very first song. Despite them being so incredibly good, they actually only play in their spare time?
"It'd be really depressing to listen to those old guys when your new singles weren't selling well."
Hiroshi whispered to me jokingly.
So that's the reason they were the main act instead of your band, which consisted of two professional musicians? So you guys were actually just the appetizers?
"But we don't call them old guys for nothing. They're impressive when they start out, but they tire out as they go on. It's quite interesting, so look forward to it!"
Well, it was really funny watching the latter part of their performance crumble into a mess, when the middle-aged guys started gulping iced vodka while still on stage.
The celebration party for the performance wasn't held at a pub, probably because they took into consideration we were only in high school. Instead, we went to a Chinese restaurant. The second floor was filled with over twenty people, though some of those customers were unrelated to our group. The whole situation was a mess, and was made worse by the middle-aged guys, who had already drunk some alcohol before even coming here. The tatami room had cushions and short tables, which made it feel more like a hotel rather than a Chinese restaurant. And as a result, we relaxed ourselves a little too much. Some of the people even placed a few cushions together to lie on top of.
Prior to the start of the celebration, Hiroshi and the other three members of his band started playing rock-paper-scissors all of a sudden. It seemed they were deciding who would be the one to drive, as the unlucky driver wouldn't be able to drink. The final duel was between Furukawa and Hiroshi, and the defeated Furukawa was visibly pissed.
However, Chiaki and Senpai chose to completely ignore Furukawa. With the laws of Japan totally erased from their minds, they began binging on wine. Oi, someone stop them immediately!
"Senpai, when did you start drinking?"
I asked her meekly, as I watched her drinking cup after cup of Shaoxing rice wine.
"It is said that back in olden Europe, parents would feed their babies gin if they cried in the middle of the night!"
....... Why are you telling me such scary trivial knowledge!?
"Hey, Kyouko......" Hiroshi, who was sitting beside Kyouko, said while drinking, "It has always been my dream to marry a girl who's younger than me—and who holds her liquor better than me—and have her take care of me for the rest of my life."
"I'm sorry, but I have my sweethearts already. There are about three of them."
I had no idea which of her words were true, and which were fake.
"Speaking of which......!"
Chiaki, who was sitting next to Senpai as well, was originally competing with the middle-aged guys at drinking, but she suddenly placed her glass down with a "hic!" and stood up.
"It seems like everyone's no longer pushing the issue, but I still say Mafuyu's actions today were unforgivable!"
Mafuyu, who was slowly eating her salad next to me, flinched at that sudden statement.
"That's right! She was this close to betraying her comrades. That's quite a heavy offense!"
Senpai knelt on one of her knees, and put on a sinister smile on her face.
"There'd be no need for the Special Investigation Team if an apology was all that was needed to solve everything!"
Chiaki said that before slamming her hands on the table. Mafuyu hid herself behind my back in fear. Even though the middle-aged guys had no idea what was going on, they joined in on the fun with "Yeah, pay with your body!"
"I heard Comrade Ebisawa had no idea how important she was in our hearts?"
They were obviously bullying her. But I'd definitely be in deep trouble if I interrupted them now, so I had no choice but to remain silent.
"Then...... what do you want me to do?"
Mafuyu's voice sounded like it was close to tears. You shouldn't have said that! Chiaki leaned her body over, as though she were about to step over the table, and placed an empty whiskey glass in front of Mafuyu.
A caramel-colored liquid flowed out of the glass bottle. No wait. But that's Shaoxing rice wine, yeah?
"I-I can't drink."
"Don't worry. I'll add sugar to it for you." Chiaki dumped a huge spoonful of sugar into the whiskey glass. I can't see how that'll solve the problem.
"Chiaki, calm down, don't enter into your old-man mode!"
"Why can't I? I'll eventually become an old man anyway!" Like hell you will! You're a girl! "Geez! If we let Mafuyu off the hook this time, she'll definitely do something again that'll bring the band to the brink of dissolving!"
This has nothing to do with the band dissolving or not—Hey, wait! Before I could stop her, a desperate Mafuyu had already held her breath and brought the glass to her lips.
The next instant, Mafuyu collapsed on the floor with her face flushed red. The sound of cheers came right after. Oh please, she's not performing a stunt here! God damn those drunkards!
I carried the flushed Mafuyu to the restroom, and on the way back, Mafuyu's face had turned slightly green. As I was about to help her back to her seat, I nearly bumped into someone at the turn of the corridor. I raised my head and saw a pair of squinting eyes below a bandanna—it was Furukawa.
"Ah, s-sorry...... Urm, well, it's been hard on you today."
"You'll have to work harder in many areas!"
"Right." I shrunk my neck. Just then, Mafuyu struggled a little beside me.
"...... Thank you...... for earlier."
Mafuyu raised her head and murmured that towards Furukawa. I had no idea what she was talking about, so I turned my head to look at her.
"Earlier on...... he helped me connect my guitar to the wiring."
I then turned to face Furukawa again. I see, so that's the reason Mafuyu appeared onstage so suddenly. Furukawa frowned and stared at Mafuyu's hand for a long while, before saying,
"You right hand can't move...... but how bad is it?"
"Y-You can see that?" I was way more surprised than Mafuyu was.
"All it took was one look for me to realize. Don't underestimate a guitarist! If you continue to play the way you do, there won't be a future for you."
Mafuyu looked at her hand and fell into silence. She then squeezed past me to make her way back to her seat before me. I was about to follow her, but Furukawa grabbed me by the shoulders.
"...... Is there something you want?"
"Are you planning to stay in that band forever?"
Furukawa asked me with a frown. I nodded my head rather unnaturally. Why did he ask that?
"You should quit for the sake of the band."
"Your abilities are miles below that of the rest of the members!"
Whoa! I knew that very well myself, but it still hurt to hear him point it out directly.
"You know that as well, right?"
"I do, but......"
My gaze landed on my fingers.
I opened my left hand, then clenched it again. I lifted my head to look at Furukawa.
"...... This is my band."
"Is that so? Do as you wish then."
Furukawa pushed me hard on the shoulder, towards the seats. Just as I was about to head back, I heard another sentence from him behind me.
"If you guys give me that sort of bullshit again next time, I'll definitely punch you till you drop."
Despite being severely reprimanded by him, I was quite thankful for that last line—it meant we still had a chance for a next time.
"So there's a next time huh. Well said."
I was shocked by that sudden line. I turned my head around, and standing in the corridor was Kagurazaka-senpai, with the drunk Chiaki behind her.
"The sexual harassment in there is getting out of hand, so we ran away!" Chiaki ran over and grabbed Mafuyu by her arm. Mafuyu almost turned around to run away in fright.
"It's time for us to hold an evaluation meeting. Mafuyu, you can't run away even if you want to!"
Chiaki pulled the teary Mafuyu towards the stairs. I had no idea if Chiaki was sober or still drunk.
The four of us gathered at the entrance leading to the first floor, and began our evaluation meeting.
"Since we're a revolutionary army, why don't we start by evaluating ourselves? Let's surround Mafuyu and yell out what we think, okay? That's what they always do during sports activities and such."
"That's just plain bullying!" And where the heck did Chiaki get that idea from?
"That's already outdated! We're in the twenty-first century now. The modern-day revolutionists should carry out their self-evaluation like this......"
Kagurazaka-senpai suddenly locked both of Mafuyu's arms behind her back, then began tickling her by her armpit. It just so happened that I was sitting two steps below them—and was kicked by Mafuyu as she struggled. I was really close to rolling down the stairs.
"Y-Y-Ya!" Mafuyu kept twisting about in Senpai's bosom.
"The self-evaluation's not over yet, Comrade Ebisawa, so stop your useless struggling!"
"Stop this for now!"
I couldn't help but interrupt, prying them apart. This time, Mafuyu hid herself behind Chiaki, who was patting Mafuyu on her head to console her.
"Young man, you're quite lacking in your critical judgement!"
"You just want to sexually harass her, yeah!?"
"But it should feel comfortable, right? Of course, I'm not saying that with a sexual connotation......"
Senpai suddenly brought her body close to Mafuyu's, and looked at her face. Does she not know when to stop? I was planning on yelling at her a little, but I suddenly noticed the gloom looming in her eyes; so I shut my mouth instead.
There should've only been one thing she was really asking—it felt really great when we were performing live, right?
That was what Senpai's eyes were telling me.
I turned my head and saw Mafuyu timidly sticking her head out from behind Chiaki's back. After staring at her right hand for a while, she nodded her head slightly.
Senpai let out a sigh of relief, something I wouldn't have imagined.
Senpai stood between us and stuck her hand out with her palm facing downwards.
"There's a chance for us next time."
The very first person to place her right hand on Senpai's was Chiaki.
I then stretched my own hand out, as though I were attempting to cover their hands.
Finally, Mafuyu stretched her right hand out as well—the hand that lacked strength, whose fingers were unable to fully open, was so dreamily pale and slender. But to us, it was a right hand we couldn't do without. She placed it above our hands.
It was already late into the night when the party finished. A few of the drunkards were planning to go for round two while they were still on a high. More than a dozen of the drunks had gathered on the dark sidewalk in front of the Chinese restaurant and stood there motionlessly, as though they were some sort of factory waste.
"I feel so dizzy......"
Mafuyu moaned, as she leaned her body weakly against my shoulders, beneath the flickering streetlight. Even though she had only drunk a single cup of wine (and had spit it out immediately after she sipped it), it seemed like a hangover was beginning to kick in for her.
"Are you feeling unwell?"
"Not to that extent yet."
"Then why doesn't Mafuyu join us for round two as well!" But Chiaki's unreasonable invitation was rejected.
"I'm going home."
Mafuyu carried her guitar—or, more like she was being supported by her guitar—and walked unsteadily on the streets of the night. Wait, you're not planning to walk home by yourself are you?
"I'll send you back! It's faster with a bicycle."
"What!? Nao's not joining us?" Chiaki sounded flustered. "But Senpai said she's going as well!"
"I can't drink. Moreover, Tetsurou's gonna complain if I get home late."
Though it wouldn't be because he was worried about me, but instead, because he was worried about his breakfast tomorrow.
"Oh, I see." Somehow, Chiaki's smile seemed a little forced. "Then see you tomorrow!"
"Mmm, tomorrow—but it's Sunday?"
Even if it was the holidays, club activities could only be carried out during the weekdays.
"What are you talking about? I'll pop in by your house tomorrow morning before I go home, so remember to prepare ochazuke for me!" [TLNote: Chazuke's wiki here]
Chiaki was about to rejoin the group of drunkards, who had begun moving in smaller separate groups, when Mafuyu, who had been grabbing my arm the whole time, suddenly called out to her.
"Thank you for today...... and sorry."
"But I haven't done anything." Chiaki smiled.
Not at all. I actually wanted to thank her as well.
It was because Chiaki was around, because she had been there waiting for us—
"Won't...... Chiaki be sad?"
Chiaki tilted her head in response to Mafuyu's question. I turned my head to look at Mafuyu's slightly green face from the side.
"You can go along with Kyouko now. But didn't you say before you were the same as me?"
"I'm not sad. It'd be much more painful if we couldn't be together."
I had no idea what Chiaki was talking about, but it seemed like Mafuyu did. She showed a teary smile and nodded her head.
"So I'll drown you in vodka if you try pulling another disappearing act again!"
"Sorry!" Mafuyu cowered in fear.
Chiaki waved her hands as she ran away from us. Mafuyu then sighed uncomfortably. She didn't look like she could stand properly at all.
I was sending Mafuyu back home on my bicycle, but the journey was much more difficult than when I had ferried her to the live house in the evening. This time, almost her entire body was leaning on me, and in addition, I had to carry her guitar as well as my bass. Moreover, I couldn't see too well because it was dark.
The only improvement was that it was way cooler than it was in the evening.
I chose to ride slowly in a lane without cars. I could hear the cries of the insects, the sound of the car engines from faraway, as well as the *jiri-jiri* sound of the dynamo in the bicycle light.
When we were riding along the road next to the dikes, the silent Mafuyu behind me suddenly spoke.
"Actually...... I was lying when I said my whole right hand was immobile down to my wrist."
"How did you know!?"
Oi! Stop! Don't headbutt the person in front of you when he's cycling with two people on board! The bicycle Mafuyu and I was sitting on slithered along the road like a snake.
"Because you were grabbing on to me tightly when I was escorting you to the live house!"
"...... Oi! Don't loosen your grip! What if you fall off!"
That's dangerous. Just what exactly does she want!
"So you pretended to believe my lie despite knowing all along? Idiot!"
She suddenly became angry for no reason. What's going on now?
Though, to put it more accurately, I wasn't a hundred percent sure if Mafuyu was lying or not—I just felt it was a possibility it was a lie. Regardless, all the possibilities would've dropped to zero if I hadn't forcibly brought Mafuyu along with me back then.
"You know, I wasn't really joking when I asked you to play with your teeth! You should be able to do it, since you're that good, right?"
"How could I have done that!?"
I suffered yet another headbutt in my back again. Man, that hurts.
"Are you content as long as you can listen to me play the guitar?"
"Well...... not just the guitar. There's the piano as well...... didn't I say so before?"
"That's not what I mean......!"
I could feel the air behind me become incredibly scary all of a sudden, as though someone were about to strangle me.
"Actually, I didn't really like the original way you played the guitar. Your techniques were good, but......"
"You are just jealous!"
"Shush! But now, it won't do if you're not around......"
That was my heartfelt thought that I couldn't convey to her earlier through words.
Mafuyu headbutted me a third time, before saying,
"Say it once more."
"But now...... what?"
"It won't do if you're not around......?" Did she not understand the meaning behind those words? "Because for both Senpai and Chiaki, your guitar is—"
"Kyouko or Chiaki, that doesn't matter. What about you?"
"...... Eh? Urm, I really like the way you play your guitar now! Somehow, it feels different from how it was back when you played alone. The way you play has changed as well, right?"
Mafuyu pressed her forehead close to my shoulder blade, then fell silent for a long time. We were already on the national highway; there was only a short distance to go before we passed the overhead bridge and reached the railways. After passing the railroad gates, we'd be quite close to Mafuyu's house.
I could feel Mafuyu's murmurs on my back.
"I'm in love...... with Naomi's......"
I braked hard before the crosswalk. Mafuyu's head swayed behind me.
Did she just...... say something really strange? No wait, or was I just imagining things?
"Don't stop all of a sudden! The guitar knocked against my leg."
"No, wait...... Just now—"
The sudden sound of a ringtone interrupted my words. It came from Mafuyu's phone. She got off the passenger seat and pulled her phone out of her pocket. Who's calling her?
"...... It's from Hitomi." Mafuyu frowned when she looked at the screen of her phone. Hitomi? Who's that? I looked at the screen, and she suddenly came to mind—Miss Matsumura.
I had called Miss Matsumura right after our performance to tell her I had already found Mafuyu, and that she didn't need to worry. But it was already late into the night—I should've called her again.
"...... Yes? ...... Mmm. We'll be there soon. We are almost at the train station, and we will head right back...... Eh? E-Eh?"
Mafuyu's voice became more and more flustered. What's going on?
After hanging up and stuffing the phone back into her pocket, Mafuyu grabbed her guitar and jumped onto the passenger seat of the bicycle.
"H-Hurry! Just go somewhere, anywhere!"
"Eh? What do you mean by anywhere? We're about to reach your house, no?"
"I don't wanna! I don't want to go home today!"
I was stunned. At the crossroad, in the middle of the night, Mafuyu was hugging me tightly from behind—
And she said she didn't want to go home—
No wait, calm down. It's probably...... not that......
Urged on by Mafuyu's headbutt, I began to pedal the bicycle slowly. Just as we passed the crossroad, a powerful beam of car lights shone right in front of us. The car roared to a stop—diagonally, right in front of us.
It was a foreign car I was familiar with, and I immediately knew the reason Mafuyu was flustered. The driver side door flung open, and the person who stepped out of the car was none other than—
"What time is it now!? I-It's so late already, and...... and she's together with you!? Just what is happening around here!?"
I almost fell off my seat in fright after seeing the incredibly scary face of the furious Ebichiri.
"Eh? Why......? Urm, you're back in Japan already?" I thought you were in Boston?
"I just returned not too long ago!"
Whoa! That's just too much of a coincidence! Mafuyu was hugging me tightly and hiding herself behind my back. I didn't know if it was due to the shock, the fear, or the fatigue, but before I knew it, I had already rammed the pedals hard. Not long after, Ebichiri's angry roar disappeared behind us, and all that was left behind me was Mafuyu's warmth.
The wind of the summer night brushed by my ears. I could almost hear the words Mafuyu had said earlier, but I was no longer in the mood to ask her about it again. There were just too many things that couldn't be conveyed with words alone.
I cycled around places close to her house, and in the end, sent Mafuyu back home.
As for the hollers of Ebichiri, the cold glare of Miss Matsumura, and the two Dobermans baring their fangs at me—I don't think it's necessary for me to go into detail about them.
Overwhelmed by fatigue, I slept through most of Sunday—
And then Monday came.
It was our first gathering since the performance.
I had overslept by a lot, so I stopped by a convenience store on my way to school to buy some cold drinks as an apology. The straps of the bass case dug hard into my shoulders, and were soaked with sweat, as I was burning under the harsh summer sunlight. It was really uncomfortable.
I was revitalized when I finally reached the much cooler courtyard at the back of the school.
Just then, I heard the sound of music.
It came from the clubroom. The door was slightly open, as something was stuck in the door—I could hear the sturdy sound of the drums, the crisp sound of the guitar, and the powerful vocals of Senpai come from inside the room.
Why are they playing with the door open? Ah, I remember Senpai saying something like getting the blouse to stick to their skin due to sweat or something...... Oh please, don't tell me you're really carrying that out!
I walked right up to the clubroom, but stopped in my tracks when I realized what song they were playing. It was <Desperado>. There was no way I was wrong about it.
But Senpai had said before that she definitely wouldn't sing that song.
I leaned against the concrete wall of the old music room and concentrated on Senpai's voice.
Somehow, I think I understand now the reason she said that.
Senpai's very first band was dissolved the very next day after she had sung that song on stage by herself.
There was a depressing reason behind it, but that song must've been something really special to her. And that was why she could no longer sing it again after that.
And it felt like I understood the reason we practiced songs by The Eagles whenever everyone wasn't there yet. Despite The Eagles going through many member changes, their songs still sounded as solid as ever. Even if it was a song formed by overlapping the sounds of various guitars, they were still able to replicate it perfectly once they hit the stage. Moreover, all the members in the band were vocalists, so the chorus always sounded especially rich.
If someone wasn't there, the missing void would be incredibly obvious—that was the sort of band they were.
And the reason we played their songs each and every time, was because Senpai wanted to confirm that fact—
...... Wait! Mafuyu, stop playing the beats of the bass as well! That's just really depressing! Did they even realize I wasn't around?
I recalled Furukawa's words at the celebration party, and my feelings sunk even lower.
"You should quit for the sake of the band."
It might've been true that I was the only one dragging the band down. However, I was finally able to say it loudly and clearly—
"This is my band."
I readjusted the straps on my shoulders.
There was Chiaki—and Mafuyu as well.
feketerigó would be born once I walked in. Regardless of how sad the song we were singing was, Senpai would never be on her own again.
I immersed myself in Senpai's voice again as she sang <Desperado>—
Come down from your fences, open the gate
It may be rainin', but there's a rainbow above you
Before the singing of the desperado came to an end, I grabbed the handle, and pushed the slightly opened door.
Here's the end of vol 2. While it is probably the weakest volume out of the 4 (encore not included), I still hoped you guys have enjoyed it. Especially when it is made worse due to my substandard translations.
Special thanks to my 3 editors - Alice, merc and Yeb. Crazycake for the raws. And also those who pointed out the mistakes that I've made in the translations.
Feel free to voice your opinions and feedback of vol 2 here. That's all.