Here's part one. Enjoy.
Just as I mentioned before, we have a large music hall in our school that is capable of holding more than a thousand people at once.
The size of the music hall is huge. We even have bands from our town borrowing the venue for their concerts. It has become a facility which our school is proud of.
However, Kagurazaka said this as she sat down on the last row of seats while looking downwards with her hands crossed before her chest,
"This won't do. This venue is not suitable."
The first year male student and I asked at the same time. He is one of the first-year committee members of the school's festival who followed us here.
"Because we're a rock band!" Chiaki answered before Kagurazaka-senpai could by sticking her head out from behind. "Think about the scene back at the chorus contest. The audience will not be able to stand up and enjoy themselves, can they?"
I faced the stage and scanned through the the audience's seats that are slanted like a bowl. It's just as she had said. Should the people in the audience engross themselves to the beats of the rock by shaking their heads about, a slight carelessness may result in the unfortunate accident of the viewer falling over, resulting in injuries or even death.
"Well, since most of the stage lightings are located in the sports hall, I think it's much better to hold our performance there."
One month had passed, and we were getting close to our school's festival.
There's still this music hall available other than the sports hall, so there is need not worry about the lack of venues for both the musical performances and the stage performances.
Well, that is if Senpai and Chiaki do not make any unreasonable requests.
"Urm...... but the sports hall is already taken up by the performances of the Drama Club and the class performances. Moreover, the Karate Club has forced themselves into the schedule just yesterday as they wanted to do some martial arts performances, so the schedule for that venue is full. Can't we just have all the musical performances perform here?"
The committee member had on him a timid look as he observed the expression of Senpai, and he did all that while speaking to her in a polite manner. He was probably stuck with the task of following us around until everything is over because he knew the Folks Music Club will definitely create some sort of problem. Sorry — I apologized in my heart by slapping my palms together.
"To put it more explicitly, the stage is the furnace of our passion, so that's something out of my control. The people in audience will definitely jump about in their excitement, and they may even rush up to the front of the stage! It will be a problem for the committee should anyone get hurt, isn't that so?"
The committee member could only answer with an unintelligible "Ah, u-uhh......" as Kagurazaka-senpai pressed on. From the way she spoke, instead of it being the situation where we were making a request to the committee member, it's more like forcing him to take measures against an unavoidable disaster. Senpai is as cunning as ever.
"I-I'll discuss it with the rest of the committee."
The committee member ended up running away from us. As I looked at his back, I prayed that he will be luckier in the future.
"Oh right, I'll be going to the student council's office for a while," said Senpai with her arms crossed before her chest.
"Obviously to check on the clubs that will be using the sports hall. From now on, we'll have to be on the lookout on where we can cut into the queue."
The hair of Senpai swayed about like the tail-feathers of a cuckoo as she ran away. I gave a sigh as I watched her disappear. She may look like someone who does things sloppily, but she will get serious if she is hatching a ploy or something. I wonder how she will be like when she steps into the society in the future.
"Things will get busy!"
Chiaki was enjoying it. There was no time for me to catch my breath after school these days. Though the chorus contest had concluded only recently, we still have the sports day coming up next, followed by the school's festival. The days at our high school will be surrounded by all sorts of activities nonstop until November.
Chiaki and I walked towards the music preparation room which is located at the other end of the corridor. Mafuyu was revising the pieces that will be used during the school's festival. It was all because of Kagurazaka-senpai's willful words: "I do not wish to perform the same item twice on stage. We've gathered ourselves a group of interesting people, and that makes me want to try dabbling in classical music."
However, someone who was walking towards us from the other side stopped us from moving ahead by stretching out both of her arms. The person's actually the music teacher who wears the shortest skirt — Miss Maki.
"It's best...... to leave Mafuyu alone for now."
Miss Maki jerked her thumb towards the door of the preparation room. Looks like there was no need for her to explain any further.
Sounds of piano were coming out from the room endlessly.
The three of us stood at the middle of the corridor for a long time as we listened to the music that swirled around our ears after it had passed through the wooden door. The gentle stampedes of the passage sounded just like the footsteps amid the crowd.
"...... I've heard this piece of music somewhere."
It's the twelfth movement of <Pictures at an Exhibition> composed by Modest Mussorgsky. This is a piano suite consisting of diverse contents which were inspired by the paintings of a deceased friend.
Rimsky-Korsakov brought about a renaissance of the piece which stimulated the the imagination of musicians around the world, and that gave birth to all sorts of transcriptions for the orchestra pieces. I never quite liked this music since the original version sounded very crude, and I had never once bought it — however, my opinion of the piece changed when I heard the sounds of the piano coming from the other side of the door.
But Mafuyu should not have recorded this piece before. I walked next to the wooden door unknowingly and pressed my forehead against it to listen attentively to the sounds from inside. The tempo of the tune from the room was much slower compared to the <Limoges> typically played by the other pianists. A slightly depressing atmosphere was mixed into the light and skillful tune.
It feels as if I could see my destination before me after walking up the path in the marketplace.
The rapid steps were suddenly interrupted by a thick and heavy chord. I was shocked motionless in front of the dark entrance.
That was the thirteenth movement — <Catacombæ>.
The sounds of my heartbeats and breathing were reverberating in the cold air.
The sense of emptiness brought about by the weakening sounds of the piano.
That was just unbelievable. I could not believe it even after hearing it with my own ears.
Mafuyu was playing the piano, and she did not get any single one of the notes wrong.
Mafuyu's fingers have really......
Before long, the rays of the sunset were faintly penetrating through the lingering smell of mildew, bones, death and dust. It's the Promenade, the fourteenth movement—
Just then, the music from the piano suddenly stopped. I pulled my face away from the door in shock. Next, I could hear the tapping of footsteps. The door was then opened hard by someone.
Mafuyu's face turned red the moment her eyes came into contact with mine. She said furiously,
"S-Stop listening while standing there!"
"Eh, oh, sorry...... so that means we can go in and listen?"
So we can't go in and we can't stay outside? What do you want us to do then? Mafuyu slammed the door shut after she stepped back into the room, and this time around we could hear the sounds of her locking it up. Eh? Hey!
"Why are you locking yourself up in the room?" I knocked on the door immediately. "Let us in! I need to get all sorts of musical scores from there!"
Why? Is there a need for her to be that angry just because her playing the piano was heard by someone? Just as I was about to yell at the door, someone suddenly pulled me on the back of my collar.
"Guee!" I let out a strange noise unknowingly.
"You are not to cause a ruckus here. Just leave her alone for now."
With that said, Miss Maki began walking towards the stairs while dragging me along. My limbs were thrashing about wildly since I was about to asphyxiate. Chiaki stared bitterly at the door of the preparation room for a while before following in our steps.
"Actually, Mafuyu has been practicing on the piano in the preparatory room for a few days already. It's the same for just now. It looked like she was set ablaze after looking at the various scores. Before I knew it, she was already playing the piano without even noticing my existence next to her."
Miss Maki said that in a low voice at the corner of the stairs. Chiaki and I exchanged looks with each other.
"Have her fingers...... really recovered? Is that true?" asked Chiaki.
"You two have heard about it already?"
I nodded my head slightly. What a perfect performance it was! I have always thought I will never get to hear Mafuyu's piano ever again. I was surprised when I heard the news from Julien, but the impact was much greater when I listened to her performance earlier.
"So it is something caused by her psychological issues...... I guess? That's the reason why I feel it is still too early to be happy about the recovery of her fingers. In any case, it looks like the girl is planning to return to the embrace of the piano once more. However, Maestro Ebisawa will probably kick up a fuss out of happiness if she is to practice at home, so that's the reason why she is doing it at school."
That's because there are still some knots between her and Ebichiri. Moreover, Mafuyu is a really stubborn girl.
Then again, I never thought she will recover to such a state.
"Since this is quite a pickle, please do not disturb her for now."
"W-When did Mafuyu start practicing on the piano?"
"Hmm? Last month, I think?"
So she really did start practicing on the piano after her reunion with Julien, huh? Everything makes sense if that was the cause.
Even the doctors said we could only wait — and Julien's the one we're waiting for.
Before walking down the stairs, Miss Maki instructed us sternly that we are not to get close to the preparatory room as long as the sounds of piano are coming from the inside. She left Chiaki and I at the corners. I slumped against the stairs.
"Mafuyu...... that's just great."
Chiaki murmured as she looked up the stairs. We could no longer hear the music from above us.
"Are you not happy about it, Nao? Mafuyu can play the piano again, you know?"
"No, I am happy. But even though I am happy......"
"Speak your mind. Come on?"
Chiaki grabbed me by my collar and rattled me about. I revealed my true feelings.
"It feels frustrating. Even I find myself to be a huge idiot."
"What do you mean?"
Today's a day where I was pulled about by the scruff of my neck...... When Chiaki questioned me further, I told her everything in my heart. Like how Mafuyu had changed because of her reunion with Julien, and yet I could do nothing.
When I was done saying that, Chiaki released me and stared in the direction of the window.
"...... Is that so?"
Her restless voice landed at her feet.
"So Nao is feeling frustrated because he could not do anything for Mafuyu?"
What's wrong with Chiaki? Chiaki's back looked very small.
It was as though she will cry the moment I touch her hands.
"That's right — it feels painful precisely because the person is right next to us."
It seemed like Chiaki was mumbling to herself. I thought about it for a while, and just when I was about to say something to her back, she quickly turned her head around.
"Well then, what would you have done back then?"
The usual determined gaze had returned to Chiaki's eyes once more. She then greeted my stomach with a solid punch, which landed squarely with a thud. Ouch! I staggered a few steps back as I pressed my hands against my stomach.
"...... I would have went back home and listened to <London Calling> beneath my blanket."
"You idiot. Listen to it yourself."
This time round, she rewarded my head with a slap. What do you want me to do then?
"Do I even have to say it? Practice."
The term 'rhythm section' is originally a jazz terminology, and it refers to the piano, bass and drums. These instruments need not perform solo; instead, they only have to ensure that the tempo of the song goes on without a hitch. For our band, that encompasses me and Chiaki.
The general opinion is that the quality of a band is not determined by the striking vocalists or the guitarists, but the standards of the rhythm section. The most notable examples will be bands like Green Day.
"...... So...... why am I doing push-ups here?"
"Because you lack physical strength! Hey, no resting!"
As Chiaki stepped on the pedals of the bass drum, my sweat was dripping on to the floor of what should be the air-conditioned practice room of Folks Music Club. I'm not bragging here, but the limit of the amount of push-ups I can do is ten.
"Listen up. Nao's drained at the end of that live performance, no? Mafuyu will always rush ahead of us when we play as a band, so we will have to bark up."
"Now that you've mentioned it...... I am really weak."
"You should at least train till you can lift the guitar amplifiers with a single hand."
"How can I possibly lift that up?"
Whoa! She actually showed it to me. Put that down, it's really dangerous.
"No rest. Your target is thirty push-ups."
Chiaki pressed me against the floor once more. Please, just spare me from that already.
"It somehow feels like your perseverance is lacking. I'll be sitting on your back now."
"No way, you're heavy! I'll get squashed!"
I struggled non-stop as Chiaki squashed me with her butt. The door opened to reveal a small slit, and a pair of sapphire eyes were peeking into the room timidly. Chiaki stood up immediately when she noticed that.
"Mafuyu, what are you doing?"
Chiaki grabbed Mafuyu's hands and pulled her into the room. I'm saved. I stood up to pat away the dust on my knees.
"...... S-Sorry...... for just now."
"Mmm, I'll spare you this time since you're honest." Why is Chiaki putting on a stuck-up look? "Someone was still engrossed with her piano even though we have something important going on in the band. The camaraderie of the band was wrecked by Mafu-Mafu in an instant."
"I was not engrossed in it!" Mafuyu tried her hardest to lie.
"Well then, I will entrust Mafuyu with a task related to our band."
"...... Which is?"
"Sit on Nao's back."
"Why?" "What's with that!?"
"Because you can practice on your guitar even when you're sitting on Nao's back! I have to drum, you know."
"That's not the point."
With her eyes narrowed into a line, Chiaki thrust her drum stick to my throat.
"Alright, there's still thirty more to go, so persevere on. Give me some clean push-ups while going along to the beats of my drum."
That's scary! I dropped onto the floor without second thoughts. Having suffered from the same dominating air of that sports-oriented girl, Mafuyu did just as Chiaki instructed and sat down gingerly on my back.
"Min! On! Fight!!! Min! On! Fight!!!" [TLNote: Min-on's short for their band, as mentioned in chapter 4 vol 2]
Chiaki began drumming in beats of four as she did some sort of strange cheer. What's with this? Is she a school bully? Moreover, Mafuyu's pressing me down on my back with her weight—
Eh? It's not as heavy as I thought. Or rather, she is inconceivably light. Is her body that slender? Come to think of it, did I not climb up the hills together with Mafuyu while carrying our luggage? Push-ups are nothing compared to that.
The beats of the drum suddenly came to a stop.
"I'm so pissed! Why is Nao doing those push-ups with an indifferent expression on your face!?"
It's because you asked me to!
"You looked so painful when it was me who was sitting on you. Ah, darn. What's your weight, Mafuyu?"
"Eh, urm......" I could not catch her muffled answer.
"Unforgivable! I'll be sitting on you as well!"
"Why!? Don't, I'll die!" "It will be fine, so stop moving!" "W-We are falling!"
I was breathless from the combined weight of the two girls, and the door just so happened to open at a time like this. Kagurazaka-senpai's eyes opened wide when she saw the plight that I was in.
Upon hearing the pitiful plea from me, a sinister smile appeared immediately on Senpai's face.
"Where should I sit? On your head?"
"No, wait, don't do that!" Why are things turning out like this!?