Here's the short prologue. I don't think it's hard to guess who gave Mafuyu the guitar.
Since this volume is a five chapter deal, and chapter one is quite long, I'll be splitting it up into two to three parts.
By pure chance, I had stumbled upon the words carved into the body of the guitar.
I had handled Mafuyu's Stratocaster once before, but hadn't noticed the words back then. That was because the words were carved on the inside of the body and weren't visible unless the screws were taken out.
"I want to change the tone of my instrument too."
Mafuyu said that during one of our band practices. At that time, we had already finished our first ever live performance, and our summer holidays were coming to an end. I was actively discussing effects units and timbres with Kagurazaka-senpai, but Mafuyu kept prodding me in the back with the neck of her guitar as she listened in on our conversation. I had no idea why she had an unhappy expression on her face.
"...... So you want to modify your guitar? Or do you mean you want to use an effects unit?"
"I do not really understand these things. Just help me modify it, Naomi."
I didn't quite have the guts to modify an antique guitar worth three million yen, but I still removed the back cover to take a look. And that was when I saw that located in a square pit behind the pickup.
"Looks like there's something carved into it."
"...... Is that Russian?"
Chiaki asked, as she stuck her face in to take a look. I see, it does look like the Cyrillic alphabet. Just then, Mafuyu snatched the guitar away from my hands.
"Y-You can't look at that."
"Cover it up! You do not have to worry about what's inside!"
Why's she so flustered? It's not like I can read the Cyrillic alphabet, yeah?
"Did Mafuyu know about the words inside the guitar?" asked Chiaki.
"I-I did not."
"Senpai should know how to read Russian, right? And should've read a lot of books written by Russians too."
"Russia is the country of revolutions, but if you think that means I know how to read nearly everything...... you're dead wrong!" was Senpai's answer.
Mafuyu snatched the screwdriver away from me, then closed the cover and attempted to put the screws back in place. However, her right fingers were still unable to move much, so she found it difficult to position the screws. I couldn't watch her struggle anymore, so I helped her out with her task.
"What's carved in it?" I tried asking her. Mafuyu took the restored guitar from my hands and hugged it tightly, as though she were trying to stuff the guitar into her body. After some deliberation, she said softly,
"It's a name. The name of the person who gave me this guitar."
The person who gave her her guitar?
"So someone gave you that guitar......" Chiaki touched the neck of the guitar gently.
"That person must've been really generous to have given you such a good guitar."
"He said it's best for someone new to start out with a good instrument right at the very beginning......"
"I thought Comrade Ebisawa learned the guitar by herself. So you actually had someone to teach you...... What's the person like?"
In the end, Mafuyu still hadn't explained things clearly, as she had spoken in bits and pieces. I too thought she had learned the guitar on her own...... but then again, why did Mafuyu start learning the guitar in the first place? As a professional pianist, who had been surrounded by classical music ever since she was born, something incredible must have happened for her to suddenly pick up the electric guitar.
"Stop asking me questions already!"
Mafuyu stomped hard on my foot all of a sudden. Hey, the one asking you those questions is Senpai!
"Teach me how to use the effects unit. I hope the tone of my playing becomes as colorful as Kyouko's before our next live performance."
Actually, I really liked the refined sound of Mafuyu's guitar that came straight out of the amplifiers without any modifications by an effects unit...... I don't think there's any need for her to compare herself to Senpai in that area, right? Moreover, we had just finished our first live performance not too long ago......
"So when's our next live performance? I want to perform again as quickly as possible!"
Please, not Chiaki too!? Senpai hugged Chiaki and Mafuyu by their shoulders, as though she was asking them not to be hasty.
"There aren't many bands that'll invite us to play with them, so our next performance will be during the school festival."
The school festival is going to take place during the latter half of the second semester—in November—meaning, it's about three months away.
"It'll be our first time performing by ourselves, so a three-month preparation period should be adequate."
"I never thought I'd hear that from the same person who suddenly arranged for us to take part in a live performance occurring only three weeks later!" I couldn't help but take a dig at her.
"Have you participated in regatta before, young man?"
Senpai stretched her finger out and pressed it against my forehead. Why the sudden question?
"Mmm..... In the initial stages of the race, everyone rows their oars using small but quick motions. But that changes once the boat has accelerated to a certain speed; after which, everyone rows using large but slow motions."
"It's the same for our band!"
This person's just spouting nice-sounding stuff to trick everyone again. But I had no chance of victory once the thought "Ah, so that's how it is" flashed in my mind. And so...... I could only agree with whatever she said. Damn it!
"We're already at the stage where we're cruising at high speeds."
Senpai grabbed the guitar resting at the other corner of the classroom and carried it on her shoulder. With her back facing us, she continued,
"But it's not good for us to only accelerate. Plenty of troublesome situations may arise before the arrival of the school festival, so what we should be doing now, is getting ourselves used to the feeling of rowing, and move forward in a steadfast manner."
Senpai then turned her head around and propped her index finger up in a cute manner.
"It's not about the speed, but the camaraderie among the four of us."
Chiaki nodded her head immediately, while Mafuyu waited a while before nodding her head silently.
I recalled that very speech much later down the road...... Senpai might have already had some sort of premonition back then, because, in actual fact, a lot of troublesome things did happen. The three months that followed were probably the most chaotic of my life, whether we're talking about problems of a personal matter, or things that had to do with the band.
Come to think of it, all those troubles began with—
When the summer holidays came to an end, Tetsurou passed me two tickets.