Here marks the start of Nao going gay. Enjoy.
We resumed with the third piece of the night after a brief intermission — <Manfred Symphony>. It is the longest symphony ever composed by Tchaikovsky. And while there may be a slight difference in the length of the piece depending on the conductor, it is typical for it to last for about an hour. The first movement is incredibly gloomy and starts off really slowly. Now couple that with Ebichiri's calm and sturdy style in conducting, it's a piece that is really tiring to listen to. Two seats away from me, Chiaki was already sleeping on Kagurazaka-senpai's shoulders.
In the beginning, I was thinking to myself: why are they playing the piece so slowly? That may caused them to be harshly criticized by the audience, no? But at the third movement, the atmosphere actually became even more suffocating, where I was forcefully pulled into the meditative sounds. When we entered the last movement which had a rigorous military feel to it, I actually straightened my sitting posture.
Ebichiri waved his arms and lifted the orchestra to an incredibly high level. With a swing of the baton, he ended the most rousing part with a climax.
After a moment of blankness which felt like I was looking downwards from the top of a dangerous cliff—
A ray of light descended from the sky — it was an elegant chorale played by the organ. I could feel a jolt of electricity running up my spine. Goosebumps appeared all over my body.
I used to think that <Manfred Symphony> is a boring piece of music...... I see now. It's because I had never listened to an interpretation like this before — one where the conductor brings the whole piece to its climax in such a saddening and theatrical fashion.
The piece ended as if it was sucked into the air. But for quite a long while, there were no clapping or even the sound of coughing to be heard. It was only after Ebichiri let go of his baton when the audiences finally jolt back to their senses. It started with a sparse applause scattered about here and there. Next, the whole music hall was engulfed by the whirlpool of applause which grew larger and larger. I was already up on my feet and clapping before I realized it.
I shot a glance at my side. Mafuyu was clapping with an unhappy expression while still sitting on her chair.
"That's really impressive."
I could faintly hear the voice of Kagurazaka-senpai.
"I have never heard a <Manfred Symphony> that goes along so well with organ. The tempo felt like it was barely containing something within it...... so it was all for the final moment?"
The applause were still going on even after Ebichiri had stepped down the stage. The orchestra continued with their tuning as well. The special thing about Ebichiri's concerts are the encores — it will always turn out to be an interesting and unique performance. I wanted to sort out my thoughts, so I took out my notebook and my pen.
After returning back on stage, Ebisawa spread his arms as a signal, and the noise from the audience died down gradually.
"I am thankful to have the honor of meeting everyone here tonight."
Ebichiri said that with a stern face. It's a line which he will always say prior to the encore. "Narcissist," said Mafuyu beside me softly. I do agree with her slightly.
"We have invited a special guest here, a soloist. He should not be appearing here tonight, so for those who are from the music industry, please try not to publicize this as much as possible, or else I will be in for some trouble from the records company."
A few guffaws came from beneath the stage. A soloist who only shows up during the encore? I have never heard of something like that before.
"I believe everyone should know him as well, but I think it is only proper for me to introduce him. Please welcome Julien Flaubert."
That caused a huge commotion in the audience. I do remember hearing that name somewhere before, so I searched through my memories frantically. I ended up not noticing what Mafuyu was saying beside me.
Julien. Julien Flaubert......
The commotion in the hall turned into a warm round of applause once more. I quickly lifted my head in shock.
At the side of the stage appeared a small silhouette of someone clipping onto a violin beneath his arm. He walked through the members of the orchestra and made his way to the conductor's stand in the middle of the stage.
In the beginning, I thought the person is a girl as I could only see the upper body — the person has shiny golden hair which was glittering under the spotlights, huge eyes, and fiery red lips.
However, the petite violinist who was standing beside Ebichiri was wearing a tuxedo. "Yuri?" mumbled Mafuyu. I finally remembered who he is.
The violinist is more widely known by his nickname "Yuri" rather than his actual name. It was his nickname back when he was pursuing his studies in Moscow Conservatory, a fact that is well known even in Japan. He is always praised to possess 'the looks of an angel' or 'sublime techniques just as if he is Yehudi Menuhin reborn', and etc. He is a celebrity violinist with crazed fans all over the globe. It is said that the sales of magazines will increase by many folds whenever they publish his pictures, and since he frequently appears on the covers of the classical music magazines, that is how I got to know him. He is always putting on a serious and stern expression on the pictures, but he actually holds an innocent air around him that is similar to that of a typical middle school girl (though he is a guy), and he is roughly of Mafuyu's height as well. I think he is one year younger than me?
Julien stood at the conductor's stand and bowed elegantly. That movement of his silenced everyone in the hall.
Nothing was said — Julien lifted his bow, but I could see almost no movements of Ebichiri as he conducted. The clarinets and oboes made a serious inquiry, and Julien's violin replied with it's solo performance. Then, the background accompaniment of the orchestra began to spread its wings slowly.
This song is—
Alban Berg's Violin Concerto.
The concerto dedicated <To the Memory of an Angel> was composed in remembrance of a deceased young girl, and it was Berg's final piece before dying to blood poisoning. The violin solo and the orchestra interwove together to create a sorrowful fricative. The melody sounded like it was sobbing softly.
I did not even notice the notebook had slipped off from my hands.
It felt like there was really the wails of someone coming from a place high above.
The intense allegro of the second movement tells the story of a girl and her pains as she struggled against her sickness. An intense chromatic phrase which felt like it was shaved off from Julien's slender body was finally surrounded by death which purifies everything. It then merged itself into the calm adagio.
The solo violin began playing its highest note, while at the same time absorbing all the sounds from the orchestra — when the piece was finally over and the music had faded away silently, there was barely a hint of liveliness left in the music hall. The mood was different from that of <Manfred Symphony>.
Even so, the young boy in the middle of the stage placed his bow and violin down. After showing the audience a gentle smile akin to that from an angel, the atmosphere in the hall melted immediately.
The applause from the audience was like an endless avalanche.
I was clapping in a daze. I then realized his smile was not offered to everyone in the audience, but only at a specific person.
Is it me? No wait—
I realized the shocking truth, and looked at the seat beside me — Mafuyu sank herself deep into her seat with an absent-minded expression on her face.
Tetsurou actually took a great deal of effort to prepare a bouquet for me to offer to Ebichiri. It's sad to be saying this though — not only had he chosen narcissus which is out of season, he also said this: "Listen to this properly. Narcissus means 'conceited' in the language of flowers! Be sure to tell him that when you offer him the bouquet!" What an idiot.
After the concert was over, I told the girls to wait for me at the lobby. Just as I was about to visit the lounge which was located at the backstage, Mafuyu grabbed me by my suit's helm and gave me a tug.
"...... I'm coming along."
Why? I mean, Ebichiri will be at the lounge too, yeah? It's not possible for Mafuyu to specially go there to see him, right? I think thought of Julien right away. (It looked like) Flaubert was staring at Mafuyu back then......
There should be a reason to that, right? Perhaps they knew each other?
The corridor leading to the lounge was filled with orchestra members as well as the large instruments. Since the performing band was Boston Symphony Orchestra, I could hear conversations in English all around me. I was at a loss of what to do.
Just then, one of the orchestra members saw Mafuyu hiding behind my back, and walked towards us after exclaiming what sounds like "Oh!". We were then quickly surrounded by the orchestra. That's proof that Mafuyu is famous in the professional world as well.
Mafuyu pushed me aside when I tried to communicate with them in Japanese. She then began to converse with the middle-age French horn player with an incredibly authentic sounding American English. She then turned around to look at me, pointed to the end of the corridor with an unhappy expression on her face, and said,
"He said Papa finds the interviewers irritating, so he is hiding in that room."
I see...... as expected from someone who came back from America not too long ago, her English is really impressive. For some reason, I am finding myself to be more and more useless.
The orchestra member took us into a smaller lounge located deep into the corridor. Just as I was about to grab the doorknob and open the door, it was suddenly opened quickly from the inside. "Mafuyu!" A small person along with a voice filled with excitement squeezed through the opening and hugged me all of the sudden.
"Mafuyu, I miss you so much!"
My nose came into contact with soft golden hair. Right after I realized the person was Julien Flaubert, I was hugged tight by his slender arms, and his face was buried deep into my chest. There was a faint scent of roses coming from his hair— no wait! I became flustered all of the sudden, and hurriedly pushed his body away.
"W-What are you doing?"
"Ah, sorry. I was mistaken."
Julien looked at my face and said that in a nonchalant manner, before tip-toeing slightly to kiss me lightly on my cheek. He then turned his attention to Mafuyu as I remained rooted on the spot.
"I miss you so much, ma cherie!"
What surprised me even more was how Mafuyu never hit him or yelled at him despite him hugging onto her tightly. She was only putting on a slightly unhappy expression as she silently allowed her cheeks to be kissed lightly by him. The French are really impressive — that was all I could think with only the remaining half of my brain functioning properly.
Mafuyu noticed my gaze and her face turned red. She pushed Julien away.
"...... W-When did you come to Japan?"
"Yesterday. I am planning to stay in Japan for a while, so we can see each other everyday. Before today's encore, I heard from Maestro Ebisawa that Mafuyu will be coming to listen to the concert as well, so I requested—"
There was a sudden cough. I finally saw Ebichiri sitting before the dressing table located deep within the room.
"You are here in Hikawa's place, right? So that means you will be writing the critique? Mmm...... I am looking forward to it."
Ebichiri said that to me with a serious expression. You are scaring me with your expectations......
The four of us sat down face to face on the sofa in the lounge. I was sitting right in front of Ebichiri, while Mafuyu was sitting by my side. For some unknown reason, Julien sat himself on the sofa-back behind Mafuyu and I. Please, can you sit yourself properly? You are making me feel really uncomfortable?
"Critique? He's writing it?"
Julien grabbed my hair suddenly and stuck his body over my head to look at my face, which caused me to nearly overturn. He still looked like a girl even at that close distance. His peach-red lips was right before my eyes, which reminded me of what happened earlier. I do hope he can keep a distance away from me.
"That is rude of you, Flaubert. Sit down properly! The person whose hair is messed up by you may look young, but he is a music critic. He is our competitor."
Julien disappeared from my sight all of the sudden. I see, he had stood up beside the sofa and stared at Ebichiri with his eyes opened wide, before turning around to continue staring at me. It's only at such a close distance that I realized he is really skinny and small. He may actually be of a smaller build than Mafuyu.
I thought he will be sitting beside Ebichiri, but he unexpectedly sat himself down next to me. Since the sofa was a two-seater, Mafuyu, Julien and I had no choice but to stick to each other. What's with this? Is he making fun of me?
"Is that so? Then I am really sorry! Nice to meet you for the first time, Mr.Critic. Just as you have already knew, I am a violinist. I will be happy if you can address me as 'Yuri'."
I stretched out his hand while introducing himself. The content's a little strange, but his is quite fluent in his Japanese...... he learned it from Ebichiri? There was a strange expression coming from Julien's eyes which I didn't quite know what it was. Hostility? Enmity? A sense of wariness? Or perhaps curiosity? His expression looked like it was a mix of everything, but at the same time, did not seem like any one of above as well.
I hesitated for a while before shaking his hand stiffly. I could feel a sense of incongruity. What's the reason for that?
"My enemy, what is your name?"
"...... Eh? A-Ah. My name is Hikawa. Hikawa Naomi." Even though he is younger than me, he spoke to me in a tone as though he is conversing with someone of his own age. I unconsciously spoke to him in a very polite manner.
"Can I call you 'Naomi'?"
I was stunned. Mafuyu, who was beside me, looked like she wanted to say something as well. Aside from my mother whom I meet once a month after her divorce, the only other person to address me directly by my real name is Mafuyu.
However, the way which Julien pronounces my name is quite different from the way Mafuyu does it — it's probably because there's the name 'Naomi' in the English language as well? It just didn't sound like my own name.
"Yuri......" Mafuyu, who was sitting on the other side of the sofa, suddenly spoke. "You can't."
"What do you mean by that?" asked Julien, as he propped over my shoulder to look at Mafuyu.
"You cannot call him by that."
"You just can't."
Why? I was at a lost of what was happening around me. Then again, why is Ebichiri looking that angry as well?
"Urm, well...... Everyone calls me 'Nao'. If you can, please address me as that."
"So what instrument does Naomi plays?"
"Listen to what I'm saying here, okay!?" "Stupid Yuri!"
"But I don't think it's good to shorten the names of others, or address them by another name!"
"Didn't you ask me to address you as 'Yuri' when you were introducing yourself!?"
Julien stood up from the sofa with teary eyes and hid himself behind Ebichiri's back. He hung his two hands on the sofa like a cat and said,
"Maestro, why is he so fierce with his tsukkomi?"
"That's nothing. Compared to that, it's much more tiring to speak to his father. He became like this because he is surrounded by many such people around him." And you are one of them, Ebichiri!
"So he's fits the mold of a critic very well?" Julien replied. Just what exactly are critics in the eyes of both of you? Being a critic is not just about having to tsukkomi musicians who are hard to communicate with, you know?
"However, the skin of your left fingers are very tough, so you should be playing some sort of instruments, right?"
I was shocked. Julien walked to my side and lifted my left hand.
"Naomi is the bassist of our band," said Mafuyu. Julien and I were both slightly surprised by that, so we both stared at Mafuyu's face. From the edges of my eyes, I could see an unhappy expression on Ebichiri's face.
"Mmm? So you are a companion of Mafuyu?" Julien began to play around with my fingers as he said that. I found it a little strange. He's not the least bit surprised at how Mafuyu's in a band? Or does he know about it already? Just what is the relationship between the two of them? However, I don't think it's the right time for me to ask him that......
"Are you good with your bass?"
"No, not at all." "He's horribly bad at it."
The Ebisawa father-and-daughter pair answered at the same time, and that caused me to sink into the abyss of depression. Why did you two have answer at the same time!? I know I suck at playing the bass!
"I knew it. These fingers are not used to create music. Instead, they exist to distort the truth."
I quickly waved Julien's hands away. What's with that!? Why are all his words filled with animosity? It's the first time we met each other, and I don't think I've done anything to piss him off.
"...... Do you hate music critics?" I tried asking him. There are a lot of musicians who are like that.
"Mmm. I do."
Like the sun which reappears after a heavy downpour, a bright smile appeared on Julien's face as he answered me in a straightforward manner. I see. So you hate them huh— I almost said those words with a smile in order to show my approval of his reply.
"Oh, you mean you have not heard about the things those people have done to my precious Mafuyu?"
I was at a lost of words.
"Yuri, stop that."
Mafuyu actually shielded me physically and said that in a very stern manner.
"But Mafuyu, you said before you hate those people as well?"
"But there is no need for you to say those things to Naomi."
"You used to talk about tying up all the critics and drying them under the sun so that you can use them as fertilizers for the grapes. Back then, I thought that the Japanese are a bunch of really scary people......"
"I never said that!" Mafuyu stood up with her face red.
"Flaubert's the one who said those things."
Ebichiri sighed. The French are a bunch of really scary people......
"Ah, is that so? I remember Mafuyu talking about how that will make the grapes taste bad, so it's a bad idea after all."
"Yuri's the one who said those things as well! Geez! You idiot!"
Mafuyu stood up, stretched past my shoulders and proceeded to slap hard on Yuri's head. Ebichiri and I exchanged a look of helplessness between us. Do what you two like, but can you please don't sandwich me in the middle of your quarrels?
In order to prevent myself from falling victim to Mafuyu's slaps, I shielded my head with my arms and ran away from the sofa. At the same time, just as Mafuyu was about to hit him with her right hand, Julien grabbed it quickly and entwined his fingers with hers.
"...... You should remember how those people have written all that nonsense ever since you could not play the piano, right? And recently, after the issue about your fingers was leaked, those people criticized you unfairly about your lack of professionalism, or how you are running away from the stage."
I stood up in shock and looked at them. I am in no position to be saying much, but — I never thought the critics will be that brazen in discussing the issue about Mafuyu's fingers.
"Are you still continuing with your rehabilitation? Though they do seem to be in a much better shape......"
However, Mafuyu was not angry, and neither did she fling Julien's hand away. All she did was to give a light nod and murmured,
"You don't have to worry. I will do something about it by myself."
I stared helplessly at Mafuyu's profile.
I had indirectly asked her about her fingers many times ever since I know her. The reason for the immobility of her fingers is mainly due to her psychological issues. As for whether she wants to continue playing the piano, I have never heard anything concrete coming from her.
I will do something about it by myself— that's what Mafuyu said, and it was my first time hearing her say that.
Does that mean that she will try to do something 'in order to play the piano once more'?
If that is really the case, then— why didn't she tell me?
Was it because it was Julien who asked? Because they are both living in the same world? Basking under the same brilliance, the same cheers and the same criticisms? Having tasted the same loneliness? So that's why she could say those words to him? If that's the case, then—
It seemed like Ebichiri said something to me, and Julien did the same while staring at my face. However, I could not remember what I said in reply. Why the heck am I here? I pondered on that question repeatedly with my half-blanked mind.
"Really? So he is really a guy...... What a shame."
There were only a few people left in the lobby. Kagurazaka-senpai said that as she pressed her hands on her forehead and shook her head. Senpai kept hounding me about the sex of Julien the moment I talked about how I met him. What the heck is this person normally thinking?
"What will you do if he is a girl?"
Chiaki, who was all sleepy from waiting for me, prodded Senpai's waist gently as she asked that question.
"Hmm? I guess I'll start by learning how to speak French......"
"Yuri can speak Japanese, and he is much more fluent at it than I am."
Mafuyu said softly behind me. Indeed, he is incredibly fluent with his Japanese.
A brief silence engulfed the scene. Chiaki kept staring at me.
"...... Urm, what's wrong?"
"You are not going to tsukkomi her?" Chiaki asked while pointing to Senpai.
"...... It's not like I exist in this world solely to tsukkomi the retarded lines that were said around me."
"I don't live in this world purely for romance as well - I have never forgotten about my revolution, you know. France is a country of revolution as well, so it will definitely be beneficial for me to learn more about them."
"That's something you've only thought of a second ago, right?"
"Oh! Nao's revived!" Chiaki said with approval. Don't be that happy. I only said it by accident!
I will forget the contents of the concert if I continue on with this stupid conversation. I began walking towards the exit of the concert hall. I better get home quickly to work on my draft.
"Hold on, wait! Nao, you are really mean! Senpai and I have waited for you for so long, and you are planning to head home already?"
Chiaki caught up to me with her yells and her footsteps. Then, I heard two more pairs of footsteps as well - Mafuyu caught up to me as well with Kagurazaka-senpai by her side. In the end, the four of us walked out of the main entrance together.
After walking past a row of tall trees that encircles the huge concert hall, I could see the rows of streetlights that were installed on the soundproof walls of the Tokyo highways. It was already late. I did not realize it during the piece, but the encore was actually really long as they had played the whole concerto.
Despite it being a hard to understand piece due to its complex tones, I was deeply attracted to it. That caused me to lost track of time.
Mafuyu called me. I turned my head around to look at her.
"Are you angry?"
"...... Why are you asking me that?" Angry? Who me?
I asked Mafuyu that question in response. She immediately showed a troubled expression.
"I will also like to know the relationship between Julien Flaubert and Comrade Mafuyu! It's the same for young man as well, right?"
"I'm also curious about—"
Mafuyu's face went red from the bombardment of questions coming from all around her. She remained rooted on the spot and looked a little overwhelmed. I turned my head around and found her looking at me with a cry for help.
"Urm, well......" I am curious as well. "Is he your father's friend?"
Mafuyu mumbled something before nodding her head lightly.
"I remember seeing him on the cover of some fashion magazines. He and Ebichiri had went on a tour in America too, right?"
So even Chiaki knew of the existence of Julien? I never expect the fashion magazines to write articles about him as well.
"...... That was a long time ago, when Papa was not the main conductor of Boston."
And that means— he used to go on a tour with Mafuyu as well? And I do remember him saying things like "I'll be depending on the Ebisawa family during my stay in Japan"......
Mafuyu kept staring at my face. She waved her hands hard when I noticed her gaze.
"H-He's not with me that often...... and I was very busy."
"But you two had taken the same plane and stayed in the same hotel, right?" Chiaki said.
"Does he enter the male's bath or the female's bath?"
"There's no such things at the hotels of America, right?"
"Oh right, have you and Yuri performed together before? There are some pieces which are performed only with the piano and violin, right?"
"There were plans for that, but none of them materialize......"
"So that boy is here specially to see Comrade Ebisawa, right? You two share a really good relationship with each other."
Mafuyu was getting more and more restless as the other two girls pelted her with all sorts of questions. I was following them a few steps behind, and as I stared at Mafuyu's long hair while walking, I suddenly thought of Julien's violin. I then recalled his clear eyes and skin, his pale red lips, as well as those cold slender fingers which he used to grab my hands with.
Ahh— yes. The fingers.
Something felt really out of place back then. Just like how Julien had noticed my left hand, the skin on his left fingers were hard as well. Of course, that is nothing strange considering the fact that he is a violinist. But somehow, it feels like his fingertips are not as slender as those of a violinist.
Why is that so?
Mafuyu suddenly stopped in her track and turned around, which caused me to nearly bump into her.
"You know, there is really nothing special going on with Yuri and I. We are just normal friends...... There r-really is nothing between us."
I was stunned. Why is she telling me that?
Mafuyu's face was so red, it looked like steam was about to come out of her skin. She turned her head away and walked quickly towards the direction of the train station.
As for Kagurazaka-senpai, she gave a snicker before grabbing Chiaki and me by our arms and ran towards Mafuyu.
It was already past ten when Chiaki and I reached our train station. Tokyo's really far away.
I remained sitting on my seat with a blank expression even after the door of the train had opened. It was only after a hard stomp on the foot from Chiaki that I realized we had already arrived. I got off the train in a hurry.
"What are you spacing out for? Still thinking about Mafuyu and Yuri?"
Chiaki asked me with a sinister expression on her face as we walked past the ticket gates.
"Urm...... Yeah, kind of."
It was the first time I saw someone speaking with Mafuyu like that. Come to think of it, Mafuyu was the one who looked for him (and to add on, she did it despite knowing Ebichiri will be around as well). Even though my intentions were quite different from Senpai, I was still very curious about the relationship between the two of them.
"Didn't Mafuyu say they are just friends?"
"Mmm...... That's true, but......"
Somehow, it feels like Mafuyu was acting really strange back then. She's incredibly flustered. She kept emphasizing that Julien is just a friend of hers - did she do so out of embarrassment?
"What do you mean by embarrassment?"
"You're not around, so you wouldn't know, but Mafuyu was okay with Julien hugging her or kissing her...... They may actually be a couple."
No wait, they were not old enough back then, right? And Julien hugged me as well.
Chiaki stopped in her track at the nearly empty bus rotary and stared at me with a dumbfounded expression on her face.
"Do you really mean...... what you had just said?"
Wait, the expression of your eyes are really scary! Why are they shining brightly like that of a cat?
Back when Chiaki was still practicing Judo, I attended one of the competitions which she took part in, and everyone at then said she 'will definitely get into the district finals'. When she closed in towards me with lightning quick speed and seized me, I was reminded of those perfect steps of hers during the competition. Before I could fully comprehend what was happening, the night sky streaked past my sight in a flash. My back was slammed hard on the asphalt road. I could feel all the air in my lungs being squeezed out of my mouth, followed by a sharp numbing pain that ran through my spine.
What are you doing!? I frowned. Chiaki's foot then grazed past my hair just as I was about to get myself up — it looked like she was trying to crush my head.
"Are you trying to kill me!?"
"You're unbelievable! Stupid Nao! You might as well die!"
I hid myself into the bushes by the road side in fright. W-Why is she so angry?
"I can't take it anymore! I have to punch you! Or else it's too sad for Mafuyu!"
"Why? Sorry, I'll apologize first, but what's wrong with Mafuyu?"
"What do you mean by you'll apologize first!? Come out right now! That throw was for Mafuyu, and now this body sweep will be for me!"
There's no way I'll be that obedient and listen. I continued to hide in the bushes while hugging my head. I suddenly heard the steps of someone walking on the grass. Next, I was hoisted up from behind my neck. I raised my head and saw Chiaki's pair of eyes that were burning with anger.
"Listen up really carefully. Should you ever say what you said just now to Mafuyu directly, then you better be prepared for my cross armlock!"
I had no choice but to sit in seiza on the soil and reply her politely.
After venting her anger out on me without reservation, Chiaki stomped away with steps of a dinosaur. Damn, tonight's a really crazy night. Why the hell is everyone acting strange tonight?