Kind of dig how the author reuses the titles for the crunch chapters. Just like this one.
The live house we were supposed to perform at was located in a neighboring city, and stood in the center of a quiet residential area.
If I had taken the train there, I would've had to transfer lines and travel for quite some distance—so I decided to just ride a bicycle instead. It was a Friday, and the sky was filled with dark clouds—it was the day of our rehearsal.
As I traveled along the side road, that lay next to the national highway and that followed the outskirts of the city, I saw old houses lined up together, as well as warehouses of the People's Association and more. The first floor of the building the live house was located in was filled with offices, while the second floor and above consisted of apartments. At the entrance of the building was a huge notice board, filled with all sorts of posters and advertisements. In various colored chalk, the events of the night were detailed on a small blackboard on a tripod stand.
The signboard of the live house wasn't very big, and printed on it was the name of the shop "Bright" in a white cursive font.
Speaking of which, even though it's located in such a remote area, Bright is actually quite famous around here. I had heard quite a few bands and their fans had actually traveled all the way from Tokyo just to come to this place.
It was three when I reached Bright, and the sun was still shining high above me. There were already a few large cars parked in the gravel parking lot next to the building. There were some young men loitering around the entrance that led underground, and judging from their hairstyle and the clothes they wore, they didn't seem to be your typical civilians.
I saw a familiar person among those people, and heaved a sigh of relief. Hiroshi was wearing a black vest that emphasized his well-toned body; it also made it easy for people to see the chameleon tattoo on his arm.
There was a guy with long hair standing next to Hiroshi. The man was biting down on an unlit cigarette, and the bandanna on his head nearly covered his eyes. He carried a guitar on his back, and his silhouette seemed to give off a dangerous aura—somehow, I had seen him before somewhere.
"Yo! You're here already. Kyouko's already in the basement."
Hiroshi happened to spot me as well, and waved his hand to invite me over. Thank god for that, as I didn't have the guts to walk into a place like that by myself. I shrunk my neck and walked slowly towards Hiroshi, passing by the other rockers on my way. He then suddenly pointed at the person next to him and said,
"This guy's Furukawa. He's our lead singer."
"Hey you, you must be laughing to yourself whenever you call me the lead singer, yeah? Quit making cold jokes about me being a funny lead singer or something, alright?"
The long-haired guy's tone seemed to indicate he wasn't joking; he even shoved Hiroshi's shoulder.
"Well, that's okay, cause I'm the funny guitarist too!"
"Shut your trap."
Ah...... could this person be......?
"Sorry, are you actually..... TAISEI?"
So that's why I found him familiar-looking—he had appeared in one of the magazines I had written critiques for. It was a very serious magazine about classical music, so it was really rare for them to publish an interview with the guitarist of a rock band. That was why he made a lasting impression on me.
"That's the name I use when I'm playing as Melancholy Chameleon. Right now, my name's Furukawa Taisei," TAISEI, no wait, Furukawa stared at me with a sullen expression on his face.
"Oi, you don't know anything about me, so why do you know about Furukawa?"
"Eh? Ah, because the magazine 'Friends of Musicians' published an article about him once......"
"That's a magazine about classical music, right? Ah, I think you said something like that before? Ain't that good for you, Taisei? You've gotten a new fan for yourself who has come from another area of music!"
"Just shut up already. Isn't it about time we go in?"
Furukawa walked down the stairs. I stopped Hiroshi as he was about to follow Furukawa.
"...... Urm, did Mafuyu come?"
"She's the mixed-blood......"
"Ah! You mean the cutest girl? The one who's always angry? She's not here yet!"
"...... I see......"
I couldn't help but lift my head to look at the gloomy sky as I walked down the stairs. I dazed out for a while.
Mafuyu didn't attend any of the practices at school, and didn't pick up any of our calls. Which meant...... she probably won't come today either?
"She's the girl you said you quarreled with?"
As we were walking down the stairs, Hiroshi suddenly stopped in his tracks and turned around to ask me that. The tattooed chameleon shone brightly before my eyes, which shocked me.
"...... Eh? Well...... we haven't quite reached the state of quarreling yet......"
"I see. Then can I make a move on Kyouko while you're still hesitating?"
I missed my step and nearly rolled down the stairs. I quickly regained my balance by leaning my body against the wall. I could hear multiple footsteps approaching from behind me, so I moved my face close to Hiroshi's and asked in a low voice,
"What do you mean? Why are you suddenly asking that?"
"Nothing much. I thought it would be better if I confirmed something first."
"But why are you confirming with me? Speaking of which, urm...... what sort of relationship do you share with Senpai?"
"Hmm? How old are you? Shouldn't be older than eighteen, right?"
"I'm only in my first year in high school."
"Mmm...... then I can't tell you just yet. Wait till you're older before you ask me that question again!"
So what's their relationship? Now I'm really curious.
After we finished that conversation that left me hanging, we found ourselves at the bottom of the long flight of stairs, and what appeared before us was a sturdy soundproof wall. That reminds me, this is the first time I've been to a live house. I was really nervous.
I followed Hiroshi and slipped my body horizontally past the heavy doors of the shop. A stinging smell that consisted of a mixture of cigarette smoke, sweat and alcohol, assaulted my nose.
Despite the place being very spacious, I couldn't shake off my difficulty breathing. At a short distance away from the door, there were a few round tables and chairs scattered about, and further in, was a slightly old bar positioned under some purple and red neon lights. Additionally, an area of bare concrete could be found to my left, and across that, a stage could be seen. They seemed to be conducting checks on the footlights, which shone mercilessly on Kagurazaka-senpai, who was fiddling with her effects units on the stage. Chiaki was also there, helping carry the microphone stands. Both girls were wearing a miniskirt and a short T-shirt that nearly showed their navel. They were quite careless to be standing at an elevated level in that attire...... but it should be fine, right?
"Are all the members here? What? Not yet?"
A sweaty man with a bandanna on his head was yelling at Senpai from the side of the stage. Looks like he's the person in charge of the audio equipment. I quickly ran to the side of the stage.
"Young man, did you see her when you were above?"
Senpai was looking downwards and focused on the task at hand when she asked me that. She should be asking about Mafuyu. I shook my head in silence.
Senpai's answer was rather uncaring.
However, Chiaki came running over hastily.
"Is Mafuyu not here yet? I'll give her a call."
"Ah, let me do it."
Tuning the drum set is probably the most time-consuming task, right? I passed her my bass while thinking that, and took my phone out as I walked out of the shop. I climbed up the winding stairs and back to the surface. After exiting, it felt like I could finally breathe again.
But despite the numerous calls I made, Mafuyu didn't pick up. I don't know if the harsh words in my voice mail had made things worse, but she didn't even enable voice messages this time. The hand holding my phone was trembling, and the disconnect tones slid down my throat as though I had accidentally swallowed some marbles.
Is she really planning to not show up without even saying anything? I had no idea what she was pissed off about, but....... gimme a break!
What will Senpai and Chiaki think about this—
Something suddenly came to my mind. I opened up my wallet and pulled out a name-card, then made yet another call on my phone—I had inputted the wrong number a few times during the process.
"...... Yes? This is Matsumura speaking."
The voice sounded as cold as ice. The woman had said she was the one in charge of taking care of Mafuyu. I recalled the glamorous mansion Mafuyu lived in, and those fierce-looking Dobermans, then unconsciously wiped the sweat off my palms using my jeans.
"U-Urm, I'm Hikawa, the person who visited the mansion a few days ago."
"Right. I am sorry for what happened back then. May I ask if it is something about our young lady?"
"Y-Yes. May I know if Mafuyu...... Mafuyu-san—Well, today's the rehearsal......"
"My mistress was squatting in front of the door with her guitar at noon. I could not bear to see her in that state, so I brought her back into the house—"
"Eh? T-Then where is she now?"
"She has locked herself in her room and refuses to come out."
I was stunned for a while. I then collapsed butt-first onto the ground and heaved a heavy sigh.
So she...... had planned on coming? But should I be at ease because of that right now?
"Which means...... it's not possible for her to come down today?"
"She should be able to if I am to break open the door and cuff her using handcuffs."
"T-That's not necessary. Please do not do that."
Hey you...... can you not say such scary things in such a calm manner?
"Pardon me for asking, but is tomorrow the actual performance of the band?"
"If that is the case—"
Miss Matsumura paused for a moment, as though she was thinking about how she should word her sentence.
"I am really sorry, but I may have to trouble one of you to make your way down tomorrow to pick up my mistress . I will try to come up with some way to restrain her."
Restrain? You're not even going to try to convince her? Somehow, it felt like she was someone who would really tie Mafuyu up with ropes and such. Scary.
Which means—it'll be my responsibility to convince Mafuyu?
"...... Alright. Please do that."
"So that means, it'll just be the three of us rehearsing today."
I went back to the basement and told them about the conversation I had on the phone. Senpai replied rather calmly with that sentence. But Chiaki, who was standing in front of the drum set, looked as though she had something stuck in her throat.
There were lots of personnel around the stage: the Bright staff in their blue uniforms, the members of Hiroshi's band, and another group of performers, slightly older than the rest of us. Everyone was busy making sure the lights and the audio system were working properly. Despite the air conditioning, the place was filled with such an intense heat that people would sweat even if they were just standing about and not moving.
"Young man, we don't have much time left, so start preparing! There'll be people rehearsing on stage after us, so stop dilly-dallying!"
I nodded my head and put on an expression that looked as though I had just drunk something really bitter. I then picked up my bass from the stand.
Mafuyu wasn't there, so I had no idea where I should've been standing on the stage. When the four of us practiced together, Senpai would always stand directly in front of Chiaki, and I'd be on Senpai's left, and Mafuyu on her right—that was how it should've been.
"Start with the drums. Hurry!"
The sound effects crew yelled angrily through the PA system. Chiaki began to tap out a sluggish set of sixteen beats with her feet, forcing me to focus my attention on the music.
"You gotta be kidding me! You're asking a band like that to be the opening act?"
We heard a furious shout just as we finished our third song. I jumped in fright and turned around to look at the entrance of the green room, located to the left of the stage. Furukawa was hollering at Hiroshi.
The opening act—which meant he was referring to us. Did we rub him the wrong way? The personnel present were all looking at the two of them from a distance, with troubled expressions on their faces.
"I said that someone's not there, right?"
"What sort of bullshit excuse is that? We're talking about a rehearsal here, and she's not here!? Oi! Kyouko!"
Furukawa pushed Hiroshi aside and climbed onstage. I reflexively retreated back a step, and nearly tripped over the wires on the floor.
"I said this before, yeah? I don't care if it's your band, but if I'm not satisfied with your performance during the rehearsal, then you won't be getting up on stage. Or do you think you have the liberty of looking down on this just because it's a casual gig?"
Furukawa was as overbearing as a mad dog. If our performance today was unsatisfactory, we wouldn't be allowed to take the stage—so they had actually agreed on this beforehand?
"I did agree to that......" Senpai placed her guitar down and wiped off her sweat before continuing, "So? What do you want here?"
"Nothing! We could still joke about it if it were just the sound that was lacking, but that's not the only problem here! It's like you're deliberately screwing things up!"
"I like Taisei the most~! 'Cause you always tell the truth."
"Don't you try laughing it off!"
Furukawa pointed his index finger at Senpai's chest.
"With your skills, you should be able make up for the missing person during the performance, right? But you're just standing there leisurely playing your solo!"
"The person not here today will definitely be here tomorrow."
"You guys had a quarrel, right? I just found out about it. What'll you do if she doesn't come down tomorrow? Since she's not here right now, you should've gone up on stage with the mindset that she won't be here tomorrow!"
Senpai pushed Furukawa away with force. I could feel Hiroshi, who was behind me, forcing himself to swallow the words that were about to come out of his mouth. That applied to me as well—I couldn't say anything at all.
"I don't even want to consider the possibility of her not showing up tomorrow."
"What are you saying......?"
"So...... even though I'm letting Hiroshi down, we won't be going on stage if she doesn't come down tomorrow."
"Oi! Kyouko! Don't be so rash—"
Furukawa turned his head around and interrupted Hiroshi.
"Hiroshi, don't you step into this!" He then turned back to face Senpai. "Since you put it that way, fine! Just carry on with your bullshit rehearsal as you please! I'll be outside for now, as I have no intention of listening to something that'll cause my ears to rot! Tell me when you guys are done!"
Furukawa pushed the onlookers aside and walked past the shop in huge strides. He then pushed open the soundproof door with his shoulders and stormed out of the place.
The stagnant and heavy silence continued on for a long while.
Chiaki squeezed her voice out from behind the drums.
"Sorry, I'm always deciding things by myself...... But can you guys go along with me?"
Chiaki directed her gaze at me, but I lacked the courage to accept it; so I lowered my head and looked at the messy wires beneath me instead. The footlights were blinding me.
"Sorry, but we want to continue with our rehearsal."
Senpai shouted in the direction of the PA console.
The next piece was my song, and the bass was the instrument leading the melody. Despite that, though, it was like my fingers were stuck to the strings of my bass—they couldn't move.
If Mafuyu really doesn't come tomorrow......
That was something I was unwilling to consider for even a second.
But she really didn't come down. Even after the sun had circled the Earth once, and time had fast-forwarded to the final rehearsal, on the very same day of the performance, Mafuyu didn't appear.
The next day—
It was four in the afternoon. My phone rang—it was Chiaki. I had just arrived at Bright, and was parking my bicycle in the corner of the parking area. I hastily took the handphone out of the back-pocket of my jeans.
"Yes? Did something happen?"
Even before Chiaki spoke, I already had a bad feeling about all this.
"Mafuyu....... they said Mafuyu disappeared!"
Chiaki panted into the phone.
*Shaaa* All I heard was something scrapping against my jeans. For a long while, my mind was blank. I didn't even realize my bicycle had fallen on the ground, or that the spinning wheels were dirtying my shoes.
"Where are you now? At Mafuyu's house?"
"Mmm. Miss Matsumura told me about it."
Chiaki was tasked with picking Mafuyu up from her house. We planned to borrow Hiroshi's drum set for the actual performance, so we asked Chiaki to help transport the drum set and pick up Mafuyu from her house along the way—or, that was what we had planned.
But Mafuyu has disappeared?
"Disappeared...... what's going on there?"
"It seems like...... she ran away from home again."
Oh, I see. Running away from home. Again. I could suddenly feel my brain enter a surprisingly calm state—so Mafuyu disappeared yet again without saying anything.
Then...... what should we do?
"...... What should we do?"
Chiaki repeated my thought with a voice close to crying.
"Just come down to Bright for now. It's not like you can do much there. Hiroshi and his drummer are with you, right? They have to rehearse as well."
Somehow, my voice sounded like it had come from an old recording.
After the call was cut off, I began to think of how I should break the news to Senpai and Furukawa.
Mafuyu disappeared. I didn't manage to convey my words to her heart. "Come up with something by yourself"—Senpai's words reverberated in my ears again. But did I try doing anything at all? All I did was look on from the sides, as the events flowed past me, just like I had always done. I was actually the person standing closest to Mafuyu, in a place where I could touch her just by stretching my arms out.......
"And so, what do you guys wanna do?" Furukawa asked.
I walked down to the basement and reported the contents of Chiaki's call to Furukawa and Senpai, who was adjusting the balance of the microphone stand. That was the first sentence I heard when I was done informing them. Members of the staff, in blue shirts, were walking all over the stage, and the sounds of the instruments streaked through the burning air.
What should we do? He's actually asking us what we want to do? Why is he asking us that question!? I was well aware I was in an anxious and irritated state.
Mafuyu's not coming. Do you even need to ask? Just hurry up and kick us off the stage! Senpai, you too! Tell him we're unable to perform today!
However, Furukawa said nothing, and just stared at Senpai instead. Senpai looked at him and said,
"There are still three hours till the actual performance."
"Are you a moron!?"
Furukawa asked indignantly; I felt the same way as well. Is Senpai a moron?
"We planned a rehearsal today as well! What'll you do if she doesn't come despite you guys waiting for her? It'll be really troublesome for us if we're informed at the very last minute, that we'll have to take the stage at an earlier time!"
Then you might as well free us from our misery! Why are you asking things like "What will we do"? I don't get him at all.
"Taisei, I know that. But even so—"
Kagurazaka-senpai pressed the microphone hard into her chest. I could hear shrill feedback coming from the monitor speakers.
"I still want to wait. Can I? I'll do anything I can to make it up to you, for the troubles we've caused."
"It's not about you making it up to us or not! I don't give a damn about whether that last member of yours is coming or not! At a time like this, you should be prepared to take the stage with just the three of you, yeah? I can spare more time for you guys to practice, and it'll be fine if you even want to change the songs you're performing! I really have no idea why you're so insistent on her!"
"But...... this is not just my band. So I can't do that."
I could clearly see the cowardice in Senpai's eyes as she said that. The fearless Kagurazaka-senpai was actually being timid? I could hardly believe it.
I already had a bad premonition about this the night of our training camp. But even so, with the truth right before my very eyes, I was so depressed I could hardly breathe.
This person here—she had gradually lost all her bandmates because of things like this.
And that's why the her right now is afraid of losing Mafuyu. She's afraid of losing feketerigó.
I couldn't bear to see Senpai in a state like that. However, I was totally helpless—
A sudden gush of wind rushed into the live house. Furukawa and I turned our head around at the same time, and saw Chiaki rushing in after pushing the door open. Hiroshi and the others behind her were carrying the drums wrapped in cloth.
Chiaki ran towards us. Her eyes were red and puffy from her tears. There were stains of her sweat on her white-colored shirt, which had our band logo spray painted onto it.
"Mafuyu, she d-disappeared again......"
Chiaki could speak no further. She grabbed hold of the legs of the microphone stand, and lowered her head to catch her breath. I could clearly remember the angry expression on Chiaki's face at that time. The scene of the training camp appeared vividly before me. Mafuyu's guitar and Chiaki's drums were perfectly synchronized—just like the arms and legs of one person, or an ingenious canon that went on and on forever.
But despite all that, Mafuyu had disappeared. Without leaving behind a single word.
What's with that? Just what are we to Mafuyu? This isn't how things should end! We've come so far, so how could we end everything like this?
"Hiroshi, I'm really sorry for the wasted trip."
Senpai said that to Hiroshi when she saw him moving the drums on stage.
"It was nothing! But did you guys manage to contact the girl?"
Chiaki and I both shook our heads. After waking up in the morning, I had called Mafuyu at one-hour intervals, not hoping for much, and all I heard were the cold mechanical replies of "Sorry, the number you have just dialed is not reachable."
"Comrade Ebisawa..... may be making her way down here......"
Senpai murmured in a feeble voice, that was almost swallowed up by the noise around us. Is that what she really believes? Why is she not giving up?
"Why are you still insisting on this?"
Upon hearing that question from Hiroshi, Senpai showed a smile that was like the dusk.
"Because feketerigó is a band for the four of us."
I couldn't stare at that smile of hers, so I turned my face away. Chiaki, who was looking at the floor the whole time, slowly raised her head.
Just then, I saw the band logo printed on the chest of Chiaki's T-shirt.
There was a small black silhouette of a bird perched on the "g" of "feketerigó."
Chiaki squeezed a smile and rubbed her eyes when she noticed my gaze.
"I-I made a lot of them. There's one for Nao...... and one for Mafuyu too."
"...... A bird?"
"Eh? Ah, you mean this? Senpai designed it."
So that was indeed the shape of a bird.
Its feathers, from head to tail, were all black—only its beak was yellow. I knew that bird, but I had only seen it in pictures before. It was a bird we shouldn't have been able to find in this country, but I knew that bird. Why?
I turned my head to look at Senpai. Our eyes met.
"I didn't tell you? It's Hungarian. "fekete" means "black," and "rigó" means bird. Put them together, and you have blackbird."
I couldn't breathe all of a sudden. The sounds in the live house drifted further and further away from me. At the same time, the words Senpai had said back then, and the expression that was on Mafuyu's face—they became clearer and clearer in my mind.
"You like this song?"
Mafuyu nodded in response to that question.
Blackbird. Senpai didn't know, and Chiaki didn't know either. Only Mafuyu and I knew the real significance behind that song—the name of the band decided by Mafuyu; the very first song the both of us played together, back at that misty junkyard at dawn.
Why did she come up with that name? Why did Mafuyu and I come up with the same name?
Senpai's voice pulled me back to the difficult-to-breath atmosphere of the live house. The voices of the people conversing; the sounds of footsteps and breathing; the clashing of the cymbals; the sounds of the impact of glass; the feedback from the microphones—the sounds around me were the same as the ones before I had sunk myself in my sea of memories, but there was one sound that wasn't there before.
The sound of my heartbeat.
I fumbled for my phone in the back pocket of my jeans, and ran towards the entrance of the live house. I squeezed horizontally through the small opening of the door, and sprinted up the narrow and dark staircase. Despite hearing the sounds of someone chasing behind me, I had no time to stop in my tracks to look back. When I reached the parking lot, I immediately dialed Miss Matsumura's number.
"...... Yes? This is Matsumura speaking."
"Urm, It's Hikawa. There's something...... I'd like to ask you."
Calm down and speak properly—I kept telling myself that.
"There's something I'd like to confirm. Mafuyu...... Mafuyu-san...... did she— "
"—Did she bring her guitar with her?"
Two seconds of silence followed.
"Please hold on, and do not disconnect the call. I will go confirm that right now."
I prayed hard as I waited for Miss Matsumura's reply. If Mafuyu had brought her guitar with her when she left her house—
"Sorry for making you wait. I did not find Mistress's guitar in her room. I have searched in all the other possible places as well, but I did not see it. She should have taken it with her."
My answer sounded like a cough. We were still linked to each other—the melody tying us together was not broken yet. Just as I was about to thank her and end the call, Miss Matsumura continued,
"We are currently locating the whereabouts of my mistress. The cellphone my mistress possesses is embedded with a GPS tracking device."
"What does that mean?"
"We can pinpoint the location of the phone via satellite."
Ah...... I think I heard something like that before. Oh right, Mafuyu's high-end phone was custom-made for her at the request of her ever-doting father, so it wasn't impossible for him to have activated a service like that.
"Which means...... you already know where she is?"
"No. We began tracing my mistress's location right after we found out she had disappeared. We located her position at three in the afternoon; however, she seemed to have changed the settings on her phone, and we have not been able to detect any signal from it ever since."
I lowered my head in dejection. She didn't even know how to save the numbers in her phone not too long ago! Damn!
"...... I see. But......"
"But it is better than nothing."
Miss Matsumura then told me what Mafuyu's position was two hours ago. I opened up a map in my mind...... No, can't do. I can't figure out where she is just from this address alone.
"I will contact you if any new developments arise. Please give her a slap in my place if you find our young lady before we do."
"Ah, a-alright. Thank you very much."
I quickly ended the call.
"...... Young man? Is there something—"
I turned my head around. Senpai, who was chasing me earlier, was standing on the stairs leading to the basement. Chiaki was right behind her.
"It seems like Mafuyu brought her guitar along with her."
The expression on Senpai's and Chiaki's faces softened a little when they heard that. Indeed. If she brought her guitar along with her, then there was still a chance. Moreover, she was also carrying her handphone—
Her handphone? Why did she take her handphone with her? For what purpose?
I looked at the phone in my hand. Shit! I'm an idiot for not noticing the calls earlier; they were from Mafuyu as well. The time of the call was—five in the afternoon, which was not too long ago, back when I was still in the basement. Damn! Why did we always miss each other? No, hold on—there was a message in my voice mail. With my trembling fingers, I pressed the button to play the message.
Noise—the noise of the wind, as well as vehicle exhaust? I also heard a loud *garagara* sound. Senpai and Chiaki looked at me uneasily, as the speakers continued to pour out those stuttering sounds.
"...... It's me. I'm sorry."
It's Mafuyu. It's...... Mafuyu's voice.
"...... I feel really lost. Chiaki said she'd be picking me up, but I had no idea what to do, so I ran away. Because I'm starting to hesitate once again."
She's hesitating. Hesitating about whether to come here? I tightly gripped the phone with my sweaty palms, so as not to miss a single word Mafuyu said.
"But...... I'm sorry. As expected...... I can't go there."
I suppressed my urge to yell with all my might.
"Since I have done such things, I can no longer return to everyone's side...... Even without me by your side, Naomi...... should be okay, right? Since there's Kyouko, and Chiaki......"
What the heck is Mafuyu talking about? Don't give me that crap! Everyone's waiting for her! Without her, everything will not start—why can't she just understand that? Is it because it's something that can't be conveyed with just words alone?
"Moreover...... it's getting harder and harder for me to walk, and my right hand...... can no longer move at all. Even if I go there...... I'll just be a burden to everyone, so...... I'm sorry."
The voice message ended just like that. I could almost shatter my phone with my grip. Chiaki was looking at me from the side with a frightened expression.
Your right hand can no longer move? So she can't play the guitar even if she's here? I originally thought Mafuyu would definitely understand if we played together on the same stage, but she can't play the guitar?
"Nao, are you alright? Was that...... from Mafuyu?"
I my lip hard and nodded my head.
"What did she say?"
"She said she can't come. That her right hand is unable to move right now, and that she'd only be a burden to us if she were here."
Even I felt like crying when I saw Chiaki becoming more and more depressed. What's with all this? Why? Why have things turned out like this?
"...... And so? What are you planning to do, young man?"
I raised my head and saw Senpai put on a silent expression that looked like the aftermath of a downpour.
"What else? I'm going to find Mafuyu, of course!"
I might not be able to find her, and I might not be able to make it to the performance, but those things didn't matter to me at all. We are the blackbird, and Mafuyu was the right wing. In order to fly, we'd definitely have to find her—regardless of whether she could play the guitar or not.
I played Mafuyu's voice message over and over in an attempt to sift out the clues hidden among the noise behind her voice. The clues should be able to lead me to Mafuyu. I must find her, and then—
Then what? For the things that can't be conveyed through words, what could I use instead, to link them together once more? What must I do to once again find the thing that links us together?
The thing that connected us—
Something clicked in my mind. I recalled what I had heard earlier. There was other noise, aside from Mafuyu's painful words, that had attracted my attention—right, it was music. The canon of the bells ringing from a place far, far away.
"...... Nao? What's wrong?"
I shifted my gaze from Chiaki's face to Senpai.
"Senpai...... you said before that you'd help me as long as I asked?"
Senpai nodded with a light smile on her face—as though she was saying "I've been waiting for that line for a long time".
"But...... I think it'll be a really unreasonable request......"
"I'll be the judge of that—not you, young man."
Yeah. There's such an impressive person next to me, so why didn't I ask for her help earlier? When she was done listening to what I had in mind, the expression on her face remained unchanged. She just grabbed my hand and looked at my watch.
"We have less than two hours left. I can't make a trip back home."
"S-So you can't do it—?"
"Anything is fine as long as it's by The Eagles?"
I nodded my head repeatedly after dazing out for a second. That means she's willing to help? But can it really be done? I asked myself that, and thought it was really just—
Senpai swung her hair and ran off. Not long after, she disappeared into the depths of the parking lot. Next, I heard the sounds of an engine fade away in the blink of an eye. She's just too quick with her movements.
"What's going on? What was that just now? Where did Senpai go?"
"Sorry Chiaki, but there's no time to explain right now." I placed both my hands on her shoulders and continued, "We might not have time to rehearse, so we'll have to leave all the preparation work in your hands...... Sorry, but can you stay here and do that?"
Chiaki opened her teary eyes wide, then said,
"...... You're going to find Mafuyu?"
"Mmm. I don't know if I'll make it in time, but I'll definitely bring her back."
"I got it."
"You must definitely find Mafuyu. I have lots of things I want to scold her about."
I nodded in return.
I counted out the things that had to be done. Can I really find Mafuyu using this method? I didn't know. But I couldn't think of anything else, so I could only try. We had just under two hours till our performance—I raised my head to look at the cloud-filled sky.
I must definitely find her—I must find Mafuyu, who exists under the same sky as me.