I want to see Mafuyu in kimono too.
That was the fifth time I saw that car.
After a turn, I was standing at a position where I could see the garage of my house. One look and I knew immediately what was going on here — because that was the fifth time already. The sun was already setting due to shorter days of the winter. The black engine hood of the foreign car gave off a faint shimmer due to the rays from the porch lights. I could also hear the rumbling sounds of an orchestra.
There was no point in running away (since this was my house). I sighed and opened the door at the porch.
"That's why I'm asking you to try it once! It will definitely be interesting! Since you're planning to play this piece faithfully, you should be faithful in areas like this as well, shouldn't you?"
"Don't be silly! The replacement melody is written precisely because the soloist could not hit the high notes during the very first performance!"
"But it's printed on the published scores too! Come on, try it! You never know, it may just fit!"
"Do you want me to wreck the performance or something? And you're asking me to find a second baritone just for this part? What rubbish!"
"Or how about you sing it?"
"Enough of your jokes!"
Tetsurou and Ebisawa Chisato, separated by a table with a few pieces of papers on it, were engaged in a heated argument when I entered the living room. The booming melody of Beethoven's <Symphony No. 9> was playing in the background, but the two guys were arguing with voices that were comparable to the tune of the orchestra. On one side was a famous conductor in his crisp suit and with his white hair; on the other, the industry's ruffian, though his sloppy sportswear made him look more like a hobo instead. If one saw the scene in which they were pointing at each other's nose and arguing at the top of their lungs, I doubt there would anyone who would deny the fact that they used to be classmates.
I originally planned to sneak past the kitchen unnoticed, but was called out by them.
"So you're back, Nao. Listen to me, Ebichiri is just atrocious!"
"Oh right, help me drill some sense into him. Hikawa's actually coming up with all these crazy suggestions for the arrangement."
Wait, why are you guys throwing the problems on me? I'm both physically and mentally drained already. Senpai came up with the sudden decision to participate in the live performance yesterday. And thanks to the auditions, our practices were really solid.
Moreover, I could not invite Mafuyu out during Christmas eve.
While I was engrossed in my own thoughts, Tetsurou grabbed me by my shoulders and made me sit down before the table. Before me was the conductor score for <Symphony No. 9>.
"Urm...... so what's going on here?"
"Ebichiri's intention is to reproduce Beethoven's original intentions faithfully during his performance of Beethoven's Ninth at the end of the year. Therefore, he's removing the revisions made by Wagner and Weingartner!"
"Oh......" Just let him be.
"This is just unbelievable! He's even intending to reproduce the trumpet parts that were gnawed away by the worms in the final movement! Muhuhuhu, now I'm burning with anticipation. I'll definitely come up with a great article to blast his performance."
As there were various problems with Beethoven's handwritten scores, his future musicians added in all sorts of arrangements to Beethoven's Ninth. That is to say, the Beethoven's Ninth that we were used to (regardless of whether it was good or bad), was different from what Beethoven had originally envisioned. So Ebichiri wanted to return it to what was before?
"There were actually supposed to be two melodies to the baritone's recitativo. And so I asked him to change it to a duet as it was supposed to be in the scores. But Ebichiri rejected my proposition."
"But of course. It's not supposed to be a duet."
"Who cares, just try it! Listen to this, Nao. Ebichiri, you sing the second part."
Tetsurou stopped the CD and played the tape instead. What came out was the voice of Ebichiri as he gave the orchestra his instructions. The tape was probably recorded during a practice. The last movement of Beethoven's Ninth began shortly after. The dissonance between the strings and the band clashed against each other, and reached a climax after the collapse. The two middle-aged men beside me began singing, "O Freunde!" — my head hurts from their duet. What the hell were they doing? Look at their ages......
"This will definitely become a joke."
Ebichiri snapped, stopped singing and switched off the tape recorder.
"Why? Our voices were really consistent, no? Oh I know, I'll go on stage as the second baritone. I'll charge you cheaper for the performance fees — I mean, I used to be in the choir as well. What do you think about my singing, Nao?"
"I want to go home......"
I was at my limits. I did not come to this world so that I could do a comedy act together with these middle-aged men!
"Which home? You're referring to Misako's house?"
"It's quite problematic for me if you're asking me that question seriously......" Anywhere but here, damn it! I guess I might as well escape to Misako's house.
"But Misako will be at Hong Kong all the way until the end of the month, so she's not at home. Her company has plans to expand into China."
"Why do you know that?"
Tetsurou said Misako would criticize him really harshly whenever they met after the divorce. There were even times when she refused to speak to him.
"Ahaha, that's because she's actually still in love with me. Whenever I called her occasionally, she would say things like, 'I'll be busy from this date to that date due to these activities, so you're prohibited from calling me!'. Her words may be harsh, but she would keep me informed about her schedule. What a dishonest woman she is! Isn't that really cute?"
"Then don't get divorced in the first place! It's about time you two face reality!"
"I wouldn't have enrolled to the College of Music if I could do what you've said."
"Do not lump me together with you, Hikawa. I enrolled into college with the aim of becoming a professional musician."
"Drop that cool act of yours, Ebichiri. You've divorced once as well, so we should be fellow comrades, isn't that so? Oh yeah, we're buddies! Let's sing together songs filled with happiness and joy!"
Tetsurou went crazy and began singing <Ode to Joy>, so I tossed a cushion at him in order to shut him up. Just as I picked up my bass and was about to walk out of the living room......
Ebichiri cleared his throat behind me. I had a bad feeling about this.
"Actually, I came here because I had something to ask you."
I placed my hand on the door knob as I tried my hardest to hold back the feeling of resignation that was spreading throughout my body. I see, I guessed just as much. It has always been like this.
After placing my bass behind the sofa, I took a seat once more.
"U-Urm. What do you wish to know?"
But I knew it would be something related to Mafuyu even before his answer. Ebichiri crossed his fingers and rested his chin on it. He hesitated for a moment before saying,
"My Beethoven's Ninth concert will last only until the 23rd. I'll be taking a rest after that."
"And so, well......" Surprisingly, Ebichiri shifted his gaze away. There was a long pause before he continued, "I do wish to celebrate Christmas with my family once in a while."
I knew that I was sweating behind my back, and I had a really good idea why Ebichiri showed up at my house. I really felt like running away.
"Little did I expect her to reject me after I said that to her yesterday. It seems like Mafuyu will be busy on the 24th."
Stop looking at me with your eyes lifted upwards. It was really disgusting, you know?
"And then...... mmm...... I asked her what she will be doing, but she refused to give me an answer."
"I know the answer. Isn't there a love hotel located behind the shopping mall that's in front of the bus station? That must be it. It's the only hotel in the vicinity that cost eight thousand yen a night."
"Just shut up, Tetsurou......"
I had no strength left in me to come up with any retorts. "Did you just say a love hotel!?" Ebichiri sprung up in anger, but I was drained of my strength to calm him down.
The eight thousand yen was useless anyway.
I recalled what happened during the lunch break that day. Kagurazaka-senpai came barging into the room suddenly when Mafuyu and I were the only people inside. She then announced the schedule for the live performance.
The first person to snap back to reality was Mafuyu.
"...... An audition?"
"Yeah. This is an actual commercial activity, and I managed to squeeze ourselves in at the very last moment. I had sent in the tapes already. Our audition will be held in the beginning of the next month. A live performance."
Senpai was pacing in circles around the room; Chiaki, who was behind Senpai, was crossing her arms with an expression of resignation; Mafuyu was leaning against the sound system; as for me, I had to put my arm against the amplifiers to steady myself. It was not the first time I experienced this firsthand, but Senpai was really acted swiftly. She should have only heard about the Christmas event <Snow Crash> at the same time as I did, which was last Saturday, from Tomo.
"I've already confirmed the fact that my fellow comrades will be free on Christmas eve. I believe everyone will fight alongside with me this time as well, yes?"
Senpai scanned our faces once more as she popped the question with a bright smile on her face.
Mafuyu glanced at me hesitantly for some reason. Our Christmas Eve was shattered just like that, floating between us. What should I do?
Mafuyu moved her gaze away all of a sudden.
"Have you decided on the piece which we will be performing during the audition?"
I could feel the lifeline snapping apart when I heard Mafuyu 's question. Our date on Christmas eve — no, even though it was not a definite thing, but......
"...... Are you okay with this?"
Asked Chiaki as she popped her head from behind Senpai's shoulder. I had no idea if she was directing that question to me or Mafuyu; I did not know what she was trying to confirm.
But Mafuyu nodded her head slightly in response. She then made her way to the guitar's amplifiers and picked up the photocopied brochure of the event.
"A disco event? That means we'll have to perform songs of that genre as well?"
"Well, the event will be held at a club, so disco is the type of music that is more popular among our target audience, especially when you bring their age into consideration. However, it will be boring if disco's all we do. I do have a few propositions in mind."
Senpai pulled out a few MDs from the guitar case and stacked them onto the guitar amplifiers. She then fished out a few stacks of scores as well.
"The audition will be twenty minutes long. I plan to spend half the time on passacaglia to surprise the hell out of our judges."
"I do agree that we should make full use of whatever methods that are available to us. I've no problem with performing that for twenty minutes non-stop if that's what you want," Chiaki joined in the conversation from the side next to the amplifiers.
"We have the advantage of two vocals, so I am planning to show them our prowess in the later half of the audition."
"I wish to use the synthesizers if possible. The performance was nowhere near perfect during the school festival."
"I do agree with that, but I think we'll be facing quite a few problems visually. I'll have to come up with something."
"Right, if we synchronize with the guitar—"
The only thing I could do was to stare at the three girls exchanging their views seriously while I remained rooted on the floor. It was only until Senpai pinched me on my cheeks that body unfroze itself.
"...... Nao? Hello, Nao?"
I finally regained my senses when my face was slapped repeatedly. Tetsurou face was right before mine, so I retreated on reflex, and that caused me to nearly fall backwards. Ebichiri stared at me with irritation from the sofa. Shit, how long did I blanked out?
"Why are you spacing out? You should at least wait till December before you dream about that passionate night on Christmas eve."
"T-That's not it!"
I realized Ebichiri was glaring at me with a really scary expression on his face. I swallowed my words immediately.
"Urm, well, in any case, it's nothing like what you're imagining."
"What do you mean by that? Are you planning to spend the night outside together with Mafuyu again?"
"That's right, Nao. It will only cost you four thousand eight hundred yen if you're resting at the hotel. There is no need to spend the night there."
"Tetsurou—!" "Shut your trap, Hikawa!"
"The love hotel's a really messy place during Christmas eve, you know? I'm offering you advise because I am worried about you as your parent." I don't need those sort of concerns from my parent!
"I-In any case!" I kicked Tetsurou aside and turned towards Ebichiri. I raised my voice.
"It's not just Mafuyu and I. We'll be holding a live performance on the 24th."
"A live performance......?"
The colors of Ebichiri's face changed at least seven times — there were times when it was fuming red, others when it was ghastly white. He then heaved a huge sigh and slumped his body deep into the sofa.
"The band again huh....... But we did talk about her resuming the concerts next year."
There was an obvious displeasure in his voice.
"She is practicing on the piano as well, isn't she?"
"Of course. But to be perfectly honest, I am still against Mafuyu playing in the band."
"Why...... is that so?"
"According to Matsumura, the amount of time Mafuyu spent practicing her piano was way more than what she used to do two years ago. But despite that, she's practicing on the guitar as well. You do know just how straining that is, don't you?"
I clenched my fists unconsciously. She actually increased the time spent on practice? Going by the average time a professional spent on the piano each day, she would be practicing on the piano for at least six hours a day when she reaches home each day. And considering the fact that our band practice ends at six in the evening, that means she'll be practicing till midnight at the very least. And she was actually practicing much more than that? When does she sleep?
"Mafuyu is doing all this on her own will, and that includes the band as well. But you do know she has the bad habit of forcing herself without giving any consideration to her body."
I could only nod my head in response to that.
"And so, how should I put it? That girl is continuing on with the band because she wants to be with you, isn't it? If you tell her that it is no longer necessary—"
"Please, enough of this joke of yours."
My voice sounded like it was pressing against a blunt blade or something; Ebichiri was forced to swallow his words. I do know it was selfish of me to say that, but those were my true feelings.
"Mafuyu...... she...... she did not join the band for reasons like that. It's because she's the guitarist of feketerigó. It's because she enjoys creating music together with Senpai, Chiaki, and...... me. That's the reason why she's staying in the band."
My words were actually stabbing deeper into my heart than the words of Ebichiri ever did. Ebichiri lowered his eyes and sighed.
"...... Is that so? I am sorry."
I shook my head. The things Ebichiri said were right. I really feel like kicking myself to death. That was really embarrassing of me.
Mafuyu chose the band instead of me. But I do know very well just how abnormal that thought of mine was.
"I'll leave Mafuyu in your hands. Please inform me should anything happens."
Ebichiri said with a calm voice all of the sudden. He then stood up.
"Sorry for interrupting."
Tetsurou waved his hand while he remained lying on the sofa; as for me, I did not stand up. The only sounds I heard was the opening and closing of the door, as well as the exhaust of the foreign car disappearing to the distance at night. Just what exactly did that man come here for? Did he really make the trip down just to discuss that matter?
"That guy has taken quite a liking to you, Nao. That's the reason why he comes over frequently."
"Eh? Ehh? Ehhhhhhhhhh?"
Ebichiri? I don't quite remember doing anything that put me in his good book.
"Moreover, I'm the only friend he has in Japan. It must be really lonely for him."
"Now that's quite the lonely life he has......"
Tetsurou is his only friend? He might actually be better off without any.
"...... Well then, when will Mafuyu come over to greet her new father-in-law?"
"You've been rattling non-stop! Damn it!"
"Because you had called Mafuyu directly by her name several times already, but Ebichiri was totally fine with that. Since her father has accepted you already, it will be just a matter of time."
"Eh? N-No way!"
But then again, t-that might actually be true! Whoa! What should I do? Was Ebichiri pissed off from that......?
"Hurry up get yourself engaged with her. I am dying to see Ebisawa Mafuyu in a kimono."
"Get engaged yourself!"
I never expected Tetsurou to play pretend with the music of Beethoven in the background as he imagined the engagement scene. My headache was kicking in again, so I ran to my room with my head in my arms.