Here's part 1 of chapter 1. Enjoy.
Come to think of it, my father Tetsurou does always give things to me, though it is rare for me to feel happy about the things I've received. Tetsurou is a music critic, and that strange occupation of his allows him to get an endless amount of CDs, books and magazines without even the need to buy them. Tetsurou will always pass the excess to me.
It will be fine if he only gives me 'things', but Tetsurou's laziness is not something to joke about.
That was something that happened on the last day of the summer holidays. When I arrived home after I was done with the band practice, Tetsurou flashed a really forced smile and said,
"Nao, I have something to give you. Something good."
"I don't want it!"
"At least ask me what that thing is!"
"Say it then! I bet it's nothing good anyway!"
"What a poor attitude from you. What if it is something that Nao really wants?"
"Something I want...... for example?"
"For example...... right, how about a new mother who is young, beautiful and gentle?"
"That's something that only you want."
Speaking of which...... not only is Tetsurou past the age of forty, he had even divorced once. Our nearby neighbors still thought of him as the undergrad who's forever retaking his finals. It's impossible for someone like you to get remarried, yeah? How about you face the truth? It's about time you do that!
"I do think that it's not good to let Nao do all the cooking, washing, cleaning and etc...... so that's why I have been actively participating in group dates at the hotels to get you a new mother!"
"It will all be solved if you do the housework instead!" All you do is to laze around at home, and you don't even write your articles!
"That's mean, Nao. Why are you saying that? I have been working hard all so that I can raise you."
"Let me ask you this then - what's with you playing PS2 all day and your hero being at level 30 already?"
"Ah— Well, that's because I am researching on Sugiyama Koichi's music today. After all, he is one of the pioneers who popularize modern music in Japan!"
I switched off the power of the PS2 immediately, and what came next was Tetsurou's shriek and his horrified face,
"I've just leveled him up this morning! Damn you for switching it off!"
"Get your ass to work!"
I was preparing dinner when Tetsurou walked lazily into the kitchen. He was probably revived by the smell of miso soup. He said,
"Well then...... back on our topic."
There's no need for us to go back to the topic! God damn it! Why is this person so stubborn!?
"Nao, take this."
The thing which was swaying in front of me while I was cooking was...... some sort of tickets. Just as I was about to brush the tickets aside, I caught a glimpse of the words 'Conductor: Ebisawa Chisato' — I then realized his motive, and my mood went down in an instant.
"This is...... your job, right......?"
"Mmm, yeah. That's why I am giving it to Nao."
The world famous conductor — Ebisawa Chisato. The person who gave him the rude nickname 'Ebichiri' is none other than Tetsurou, who was also Ebisawa Chisato's classmate in high school and the College of Music. People are frequently giving Tetsurou jobs on criticizing Ebichiri's album or concerts probably because they thought the both of them shared a really good relationship - however, it seemed like Tetsurou is not too fond of criticizing the music of his friends. As to the course of action he will take when he encounters such a situation - you may be stunned by what you hear, but he will always shove the jobs to me. Also, this was the first time he asked me to critique a concert.
"No, I can't do it! Do it yourself."
"I don't want to as well. I took the job without asking who the conductor is. Please!"
Also...... why two tickets?
"I was thinking I could attend the concert together with some beauty, so I asked them to give me two. These are VIP seats, you know? It costs forty thousand yen each! Man, how lucky Nao is to be able to go on an extravagant date! So please! It's not nice to leave the VIP seats empty, so make sure you bring someone along with you. I'll fork over the cash for the night at the hotel as well!"
"Oi Tetsurou! Wait!"
But all Tetsurou did was to mumble nerdy things like, "Metal slime, metal slime" as he escaped back to the word of Dragon Quest.
God damn it! He won't be getting dinner tonight! But despite my anger, I still stuffed the tickets which Tetsurou gave me into my pocket.
I couldn't help it, because I kind of like Ebichiri's performances. Not only do I get to listen to it for free, I can get some royalties from the article too. Might as well.
The next day was the school's opening ceremony. I thought it will be better to get someone to join me, so I brought the tickets along with me.
The first September of the first year of high school was a day where it felt like my classmates had undergone a complete change. For example, some were tanned, while others had their hair dyed.
"Why is Nao not tanned at all?"
"Right, didn't you go to the beach for your training camp?"
The guy whose looks did not undergo much changes came to me and asked me that.
"The purpose of the training camp is for band practices!"
That was the training camp of our Folk Music Club...... though we did swim a little.
"Rather than a change in looks, there must be changes in places where we cannot see."
"That's right. The summer holiday of the first year should be something that brings about metamorphosis - and in many different aspects!"
"And so...... who did Nao metamorphosize with?"
"We are talking about three girls and a guy who went to the training camp together. Something must have happened, right?"
The guys in my class were more or less jealous of the fact that I was the only guy out of the four members in my club. I really wish they could at least learn what actually happened before seething at me with their jealousy...... I was the one who did all the cooking and laundry, and not only that, lots of troublesome things happened as well.
"That's unforgivable! Spit out the truth right now! Did you do it with Ebisawa?" "It should be Ebisawa, right?"
"Well...... Whatever you guys are imagining right now, none of those things happened."
"Move. Stop blocking the way."
The voice of a girl suddenly came from behind the crowd, which caused the guys to disperse like a flock of frightened birds.
Maroon colored hair, fair skin and large blue eyes...... everything felt rather unreal. Even though it had already been four months since Mafuyu transferred to our school, I still find it unbelievable to see her wearing our school's uniform.
I gave a rather unnatural greeting. Mafuyu turned her head to stare at me angrily. She then nodded her head slightly and said with a voice as soft as bubbles, "...... Morning."
"W-Wow, Princess has graced him with a greeting!" "I can't believe this!"
Mafuyu shot a fierce glare at the guys who were making a ruckus before sitting down at her seat next to mine.
"Here. I have roughly memorized them all."
Mafuyu took out a few CDs from her bag. They were the albums of The Smashing Pumpkins which I lent her yesterday. Since she is the guitarist of our band, she is researching on the various types of rock bands.
"How's it?" Wait, she took only a single day to memorize it all?
"I don't really like it, but I can use it as a reference."
Our conversation ended like that.
But even so, that could already be considered as a huge improvement. Back when she had just transferred here, Mafuyu acted just like an injured cat which was afraid of coming out of the hole it was hiding in. After spring ended, we spent our summers together and conquered our very first live performance - it took all of that to shorten the distance between us by only a little.
But on the surface, it might only seemed like she is finally willing to say the morning greetings. The guys who were looking from afar were discussing: "So how far has those two went?" "Since they are exchanging morning greetings, it means they should be bidding each other good night as well......" Shut up, you guys are irritating!
And next...... I checked to see if the tickets were still in my pocket.
I didn't think it will work, but I tried asking anyway.
"Oh right. Mafuyu, which are your favorite pieces out of all the symphonies by Dvořák?"
The classmates around us knitted their eyebrows. Can't blame them...... it's not like you'll be expecting to hear such questions in the high-school classroom during the morning.
"Why are you asking that?" Mafuyu tilted her head and asked.
"Well...... urm, just treat it as a survey."
"The third and the fifth."
It's deep, but there seems to be hope for me.
"How about Tchaikovsky?"
"You two are indeed father and daughter. Even your tastes are alike."
"What are you talking about?"
I gently took out the tickets and placed it in front of Mafuyu — the pieces that will be performed are Tchaikovsky's <1812 Overture> and <Manfred Symphony>, as well as Dvořák's <Symphony No. 5> - and Ebichiri will be conducting. Mafuyu's expressions froze when she saw that.
"...... What are you thinking?"
"Urm...... Tetsurou gave me this, and...... there's two of them, so I am trying to get someone to go with me."
"That feels so stupid. Why will I want to watch Papa's concert?"
Mafuyu turned her head towards the direction of the blackboard after she said that. She does really dislike her father a lot, so I knew it would be futile to try inviting her.
"He failed~" "He's dumped~" "So there is really nothing going on between them!" "Nao, you've got guts to ask her out on a date in class." These live commentators are really irritating!
"So that means Nao's partner is indeed Aihara?"
"Yeah, it has got to be Aihara. She's practically no different than your wife!"
"Who's talking about me?"
The door located at our back's right suddenly opened up, and a voice came in. The classmates around me jumped up in shock.
"Morning! Hey Nao, listen. I forgot that today's the start of our second semester! We came to school at a later time during the summer holidays, so I slept till nine for today as well. Why didn't you wake me up!?"
Chiaki walked past between me and Mafuyu, and sat down at the seat in front of me. As expected from the ex-Judo Club member, she had casually tied her short hair to the side with a rubber band. Her bag was stuffed with drum sticks and old magazines which are strengthened with sealing tape - she was probably practicing on her drumming at the empty space on the rooftop or something.
"Oh? What's this?" The sharp-eyed Chiaki saw the tickets on my desk.
"A concert. Do you want to go? But it's a classical concert......"
"Will those around us forgive me if I sleep and talk in my dreams?"
Then don't sleep!
"Ah, so the conductor's Mafuyu's father? This is live, right? Will they be doing things like Ebichiri's cheers or Ebichiri's dance?"
I couldn't help but to give a sigh...... I really don't know what will happen if I bring Chiaki along with me......
As today's the opening ceremony, there was a long homeroom held in the afternoon. Our class' female prime minister — Class-rep Terada walked up to the stand with brisk steps and got straight to the point,
"Next, we'll be discussing on the topic for today."
Terada pushed up her glasses, and the male class representative (aka Terada's slave) began distributing the handouts.
"There will be a chorus contest at the end of the month, so we will have to select a conductor, the accompaniment as well as the rest of the staff."
Come to think of it, I do think there's something like that. Our school used to have music as a major, so it's a tradition to hold an inter-class chorus contest every year. It's a pretty grand event too. Should it be in any other ordinary school, the event will usually be held in the sports hall or something. But for our school, it will be held in a large music hall which can hold all the students and teachers.
I took a brief glance at the information about the chorus contest that was printed on the handout. The set piece is Mozart's <Ave verum corpus>. Pretty well selected. It's short and easy to memorize.
"Since we've already decided that Nao will be conducting, all we need to do now is to select the person to be the accompaniment."
"She's right......" "Nao's the only who can do it!"
"Oi, hold on a second!"
When I raised my head, I realized everyone in class was already looking at me.
"You're not willing to do it, Nao?" Terada was speaking to me in an overbearing tone, as if she was a people's representative. "Isn't your father a music critic?"
"There's no relation between the two at all! Decide it in a more democratic manner!"
"Fine. Nao, please name us three of your favorite conductors," said Terada.
"It's part of the democratic process."
What's with that? I don't get it. But there's no one in the class who dares to oppose Terada......
"Hmm...... Eugene Ormandy, George Szell and Charles Munch."
"Well then—" Terada placed her two hands on the stand and scanned through everyone in the class once. "If there is anyone besides Nao who can come up with the names of two or more conductors, please raise up your hand now."
A silence fell onto the class, as though it was twelve thousand years after the nuclear fallout. Forget about the raising of hands - no one moved a single inch.
"— Then it's decided. Nao shall be conducting."
I was rendered speechless by Terada's cruel declaration, and it felt like I could hear the sounds from the democracy crumbing around me.
"So next, the candidate for the accompaniment."
Just as she was done saying that, everyone in the class had carefully turned their head around to look at the seat beside me. I was originally confused at what was happening, but I caught on
If we are talking about who in our class knows how to play the piano, the very first person who will come to the minds of everyone will only be...... Mafuyu. That's because she won the international piano competition held in eastern Europe at a mere age of twelve - the youngest ever piano girl prodigy.
However, she no longer wished to play the piano due to a certain reason, and it's a reason that everyone here - and not just me - knows very well. It's probably due to some psychological factors which resulted in her right hand's middle, ring, and little finger being unable to move normally.
Ebichiri did say this before - her hand is in a much better shape ever since she knew me. In actual fact, I had seen Mafuyu playing the piano secretly during our training camp.
Then again...... the problems of her heart are way more serious than her physical problems. It was at a concert in England - Mafuyu was just about to begin playing the first note of Chopin's sonata when her fingers were unable to move. She has not fully recovered from the damage caused by that incident. Even if this is just a school's competition, she is probably unable to play the piano on the stage......
That was the reason why no one dared to suggest Mafuyu playing the piano.
All everyone did was to quietly peek at Mafuyu's expressionless face. In the end, no one came up with a candidate for the position of the accompaniment.
"Oh? So you are the conductor for the Third Class of First Year?"
For some reason, Kagurazaka-senpai was smiling really happily while she was saying that. She was actually the earliest person to reach the practice room - she probably attended classes in the morning. I mean, she is one of those bad students who skips classes all day and only comes to school when the school's over.
"Senpai's from the Second Class of Second Year, right? Have your class already decided on the conductor?"
"Mmm, I was made the conductor straight away - it was the same for last year. I am already itching for the fight."
"Senpai's not singing? Why?" asked Chiaki.
I was curious about that as well. Senpai is the lead singer for our band. Wouldn't it be better for her to sing instead of conduct?
"The pleasure you get when the audiences behind you applause for you is quite an unique experience! The only occupation in this world which allows you to experience that is the conductor. I remember...... Ebisawa Chisato saying something like that in one of his interviews."
"That's because he is a narcissist."
Mafuyu mumbled while wiping her guitar with a cloth. From her tone, it sounded more like she was irritated by her father, rather than hating him.
"It feels like I can get along really well with your father. Can we invite him to see the chorus contest? He should be more than willing to come if there's no clashes with his schedules, right?"
Mafuyu rejected Senpai's suggestion with a frightening expression on her face.
"Ah, speaking of which......" the talk about Ebichiri made me remembered the matter about the concert, so I took out the tickets. "Are you interested in attending this, Senpai? Though it's a complimentary invitation ticket......"
The smile on Senpai's face disappeared as she took the ticket from me. What's wrong? She's busy on the day of the concert? Or are the pieces too heavy for her tastes? Dvořák's <Symphony no. 5> is not really a problem, but <Manfred> may not be something for everyone......
"There are two tickets...... meaning that you are coming along as well?"
"Eh? Ah, yeah, because Tetsurou pushed his job to me yet again. Urm, well...... you don't have to force yourself if you don't want to."
"No. I'll definitely make myself free on that day! I can treat this as your invitation to a date, right?"
"Eh?" Huh? What?
"It has not even been a month since that passionate night - I have never expected young man to take the initiative and invite me. I am dying to turn my happiness into endless words and whisper them into your ears, but since there are others around us right now, let's leave it for that very night."
Please, don't go about saying such things, or else you'll be causing a misunderstanding for those who are unaware of what is going on! What do you mean by a passionate night......
"...... For that very night?"
"Because the concert will be held at Tokyo, right? It will be eight at night when the concert ends, and Ebichiri will most likely answer the audiences' calls for an encore. We should be having dinner after the concert, so rather than going back home after that, it will be better to stay there for the night."
"You can't!" Mafuyu stood up all of the sudden.
"Geez— Senpai! What are you going on and on about!"
Chiaki stood up as well. I took a step back in reflex.
"I do welcome the cute jealousy of you two!"
Senpai hugged Chiaki, who was walking towards her, and planted a kiss on her forehead.
"Don't be thinking that I'll forgive Senpai just like this!" Chiaki was still furious despite being hugged in Senpai's arms. I am already used to scenes like these, so I was not too surprised. Senpai do really enjoy flirting around with girls, while Chiaki joined this band all because of Senpai. She should be mad even if Senpai was saying that as a joke. But...... urm, why is Mafuyu angry as well? And she's even glancing at me angrily.
"Are you jealous of me, Comrade Ebisawa? Or perhaps...... you want to come along as well?"
Senpai proceeded to hug Mafuyu from behind, and dangled the ticket right before Mafuyu. Mafuyu quickly turned her head away as her face turned red.
"Then...... I'll be attending the concert together with young man, alright?"
"...... You can't."
"You heard what she said, young man."
Senpai threw the ticket back at me. It felt like Senpai was happily looking at the strange turns of events.
"The ticket's yours, so you should be the one to decide who to give it to. However...... it seems like both Comrade Ebisawa and Comrade Aihara are unwilling to go?"
"Kyouko, that's just too sly of you."
Mafuyu protested as she continued to struggle in Senpai's arms. Mafuyu's the only person in the whole school to address Senpai by her name, and it's precisely because of how they are always hugging each other like this, that has caused the misunderstandings about the Folk Music Club to go deeper and deeper.
Then I suddenly thought of something...... if I pass the ticket to Mafuyu, and use the concert as an excuse to try to convince her once more, then maybe it will be an opportunity for her to get back on good terms with her father?
But...... with the way things are, it's a little strange for me to pass the ticket to Mafuyu now......
"How about this? The ticket will go the victor in some contests which we will all be participating."
A beastly smile appeared on the corners of Senpai's mouth.
"If that's the case, then Senpai will definitely win!"
Chiaki complained, and I felt the same as she did. Senpai loves things like gambling and contests. Her ingenious schemes has ensured that she had never lost before.
"I can handicap myself! Comrade Ebisawa and Comrade Aihara can team up, while I'll be alone by myself. I grant permission for young man to be on the same side as you two. One against three. How about that?"
It's a little strange for the terms to be that good, right? Senpai must be very confident of herself if she is to come up with conditions like that. Just as I was about to say something, Mafuyu raised her head suddenly and said,
"I'm really happy, Comrade Ebisawa."
Senpai kissed Mafuyu lightly on her forehead. Mafuyu's face went red in an instant, and she quickly pushed Senpai's lips away.
"If Mafuyu's taking part, then I am in as well!"
Urm, you two, calm down! Don't accept the contest without even knowing what you girls will be competing in!
"So what are we competing in?"
"How about...... a sauna endurance contest where we can touch each other?"
"That's just you wanting to touch the two girls!"
"Young man can join us as well, yeah?"
"I see, I can make sure that you are not touching them...... no wait, that's not it! I am a guy here!"
This person can definitely get us a sauna where it's unisex, so that was a really scary suggestion.
"If you are against the sauna, then how about an eating contest where we can touch each other?"
"What's the reason for touching others in an eating contest? And stop being engrossed in being able to touch others!"
"Then...... if we are talking about four people, then Mahjong will be a good choice."
"I do not know the rules of Mahjong," Mafuyu admitted immediately.
"It's simple. The one with the least points will have to strip."
"Don't teach her the wrong things!"
"So your rules is that the winner has to strip? I don't really mind if you are that desperate about stripping."
"I am not stripping! And please do not forget the original intention of the contest!"
After coming up with a huge list of indecent suggestions, Senpai finally said this in a serious manner,
"How about this then. Since we have four musicians here who are fighting it out, then let's decide the winner via music!"
Senpai took a look at me, Chiaki and Mafuyu's faces...... In retrospect, all those crazy antics was probably part of Senpai's plans to force us to grudgingly accept her suggestion.
"The winner shall be decided through the chorus contest!"