When I woke up, I found myself being embraced by a pair of slender arms wrapping around me from my back to my chest. What's going on here? When I turned my body around under the blanket, the tip of my nose came into contact with soft, silky hair. Right in front of my eyes, was a cute and angelic sleeping face. I was about to retreat in shock, but Yuri let out a nasal "mmm" moan and buried his face into his arm.
Oh right, it's Yuri. We slept together last night. He might've been a guy, but waking up to a body as slender as his in bed, and seeing a face that was so incredibly feminine appear right in front of my eyes—it really wasn't good for my heart.
Moving carefully so as to not wake Yuri up, I slowly moved my body out of his arms and got off the bed. A chilly, creaking sound moaned from the floor. I had no idea what time it was, as it was still pretty dark, but the display of the sound system showed that it was nine o'clock. Well, if it's still dark, that means...... As I pulled the curtains apart, my eyes were blinded by the snow-white world. My barely awake body started shivering in response to the freezing cold. The roads, the roofs of the houses, and our courtyard and fence were all covered in snow, and fragments of the sky were slowly fluttering downwards from the grey clouds.
It's a white Christmas.
For some reason, everything before my eyes seemed unreal. I wouldn't have been surprised if everything, starting from when Yuri had come to my house, had just been a dream. But when I stretched my hand outside the window, my body heat was undeniably drained away as my skin came into contact with the silent chill of the air.
Layer by layer, my drowsiness was peeled away from me. When I closed the windows and turned my body around, I could still see the blonde boy sleeping on my bed. This isn't a dream. Not Yuri, not the snow, and not the performance we'll be giving later today.
Guess I should leave earlier today, since it'll take a fair bit of effort to get to the venue in this heavy snow. After I finished changing into my performance attire, I heaved the bass and the synthesizer onto my back and walked out of the room. Even just walking that short distance down the narrow stairs made me feel like my back was about to break. Yuri said he would be taking a break today, so I guess it would be better to not wake him up, as he should be pretty drained.
"Oh, morning, Nao. Did you have a fantastic night?"
"And here I am, wondering why the hell you're up this early, Tetsurou...... Rather than saying idiotic things like that, shouldn't you be doing something else instead? There are lots of chores for you to do, aren't there? Like the laundry, for example."
I threw a towel at Tetsurou's scruffy face, which had popped out of the living room.
"I'm really busy in the morning. There are children's shows and anime waiting to be watched."
I was in no mood to reply to that, so I walked weakly towards the kitchen instead. I had no intention of wasting my energy on pointless things like that, since it was the day of the performance.
"What about Julien Flaubert? Is he still asleep?"
"Yeah. He said he'd be resting today, so cook him something when he wakes up, then send him to the station."
"Can we hold a photo shoot session in our house? ...... No no no I'm just kidding! Nao! Don't put on such a frightening expression when you're holding a knife in your hand!" Tetsurou scooted back into the dining room. "Speaking of which, I thought he was going to the concert with you. Isn't that why he came here?"
"Nope, he told me he's not going."
Oh?—Tetsurou scratched his tilted head and left just like that.
I know Yuri's angry. He's probably not interested in the feketerigó without Mafuyu, regardless of whether we play well or not. It's the same for me as well. But if that's true, why am I still standing on the stage? Even though only the three of us are left.
Am I just being stubborn, like Yuri said?
Or am I just doing it to savour the sweet excitement of the performance?
Or to bathe myself in the glittering stage lights and the cheers?
It might've been for all those reasons, or for none of those reasons at all. But our forefathers had left us a magical curse, one that could explain everything in any given situation.
If you asked me why, it was because it was rock 'n' roll.
After I finished breakfast, I prepared for the weather by putting on a raincoat over my windbreaker, and wrapped the cases for the bass and the synthesizer with huge plastic bags as well.
The sky was a little brighter when I walked out of the house, but the snow was showing no signs of stopping. The snow was fine, as it was precipitating at a pretty low temperature, so my boots sank halfway into it when I stepped out of the door. It wasn't exactly impossible to walk, but I was carrying a lot of equipment with me. I was seriously regretting not leaving the synthesizer at the venue after the rehearsal the day before.
As I walked out of the courtyard, I was greeted by Chiaki, who was waiting for me. As the drummer, she didn't have to bring anything with her, so she was holding an umbrella instead. Perhaps as a tiny rebellion against Senpai's decision regarding the outfits, Chiaki was wearing a red coat that reminded me of Santa Claus.
"Morning! Pass me the synthesizer."
"I was going to meet you at your house."
"You'd have to wait a hundred years to be earlier than me."
Smiled Chiaki, as she snatched the synthesizer case away from my hands. I originally wanted to offer her the bass instead, as the synthesizer was much heavier, but she was already walking swiftly towards the station with the synthesizer on her back.
"Did you get a good night's sleep? Nao's the type that would think about all sorts of things the night before a performance."
I had thought it was going to be a given that I wouldn't be able to sleep with Yuri pressing against my back, but for some reason, I had actually slept really well. Perhaps it was because feeling the warmth of another human being had made me feel at ease. But that was something I was never going to say to Chiaki.
"I guess I won't be able to rehearse, thanks to these frozen hands."
"You just have to stick the drumsticks to your hands using chewing gum or something."
"Ahaha, why doesn't Nao stick his mouth shut with chewing gum as well?"
"I can't sing if I do that."
"You can hum the song instead."
Strange, why am I feeling calmer as we approach the performance venue? Mafuyu's probably not coming, so there's no way we'd be able to convey our rock music to her. And even though I know that...... No wait, perhaps it's precisely because I know?
I wanted to tell Chiaki what I had heard from Yuri—the things about the hospital Mafuyu would be going to—but I couldn't find the opportunity to tell her amidst our banter.
The club we would be carrying out our battle in, was located in the basement of the largest entertainment center in our city.
The shopping complex was filled with people despite the heavy snow outside. I could hear <Jingle Bells> being played amidst the background noise coming from the shopping mall's entrance, which was decorated with flashing lights. Chiaki and I walked out of the station, both of us covered with sweat. It felt like the sweat on my forehead was freezing as the chilling wind blew past the corridor.
We walked down the escape stairs and into a private corridor, then passed through a door with a "Staff Only" sign to enter the backstage. I could see her back and her long braided, black hair amid the workers that were busily running about with earphones on their heads—Kagurazaka-senpai was already there.
Standing next to her were also two men that I recognized: the muscular, tanned guy was Tomo, and the tall one with blonde hair was Hiroshi of Melancholy Chameleon, Furukawa's partner. What's Hiroshi doing here?
"Morning, everyone. Pass your instruments to the staff. They'll take care of them."
Said Senpai suddenly, as she turned her body around. Even though her back had been facing us, Senpai had noticed our presence before even Tomo or Hiroshi did.
Speaking of which, Senpai's attire was pretty shocking. Despite the heavy snow outside, she was wearing a miniskirt and a tube top that revealed her arms and her belly button. And to top it off, she was even wearing a pair of white boots as well. Her outfit was completely and uniformly white. All she needed was a laser gun, and she would've looked like a heroine that had stepped out of a B-rated science fiction movie.
"Whoa! Won't you be cold in that, Senpai?"
"I'll be releasing an unbearable amount of heat both inside and outside my body later on. Comrade Aihara, you should take off your coat as well."
Chiaki's red coat was removed from her body in an instant. You're wearing a white tube top as well, aren't you? I don't even know where I should be looking.
"Nao's the only one that's not dressed to kill."
Shrugged Tomo in disappointment.
"You might as well play the bass behind the stage. The band would be much more popular with the crowd if only Kyouko and Chiaki were on stage."
Teased Hiroshi, snickering as he rubbed salt into the wound.
"Urm, well, why are you here?"
Tomo's presence there was understandable, as he was a performing member—but why is Hiroshi here?
"That Taisei, he wanted me to be both the emcee and the chorus for his performance. He said something like he's used to the way I talk, so it's much easier to stage the show with me. It's not like I'm a comedian or anything."
Hiroshi grimaced. What, so it's the usual bunch we're used to seeing. We didn't see any of the other performers yesterday, as we had headed straight to the studio right after finishing the rehearsal.
"Well then Kyouko, see you later."
Hiroshi and Tomo disappeared past the curtains that led backstage. Is Furukawa there as well? I still wasn't very good at dealing with him, so I was lucky we hadn't immediately bumped into him.
"You two, come here."
Senpai motioned at us to follow her as she walked to the side of the stage where the footlights were located.
The club had a pretty weird layout. I couldn't quite understand it even though it was already my third time there. Between the ground and the incredibly high ceiling, were multiple levels of dance floors, which made it look just like one of Escher's deceptive drawings. Additionally, there were small "islands" connected by multiple flights of stairs, as well as two large hexagonal stages located really high up.
"We should be able to see everything since we'll be performing so high up in the air. We'll spot her immediately if she comes."
Who is she referring to? Neither Chiaki or I asked her that question.
If it's Senpai, she should be able to spot the sapphire eyes and the maroon-coloured hair, even while performing amidst the darkness and the dancing spotlights.
But all three of us knew there was the possibility that she wouldn't even show up.
Even though we had entered the club, my feelings were as calm as before. "Is it because of the snow?"—I thought to myself. It felt as though all of my feelings had been sucked away by the pure white world.
All Christmas songs were songs about departures. Perhaps that's why.
And so, in the depths of the mall, despite being stuck in a sticky mire of darkness, under the heat of the crowd and the lights that were scratching against my skin, it felt like my chest was burning up once more.
I hope you will come.
I want to see you.
I want to see you, Mafuyu.
The four rhythmic strikes of the bass drum shook the walls and the ceiling, and the footsteps of the crowd, as well as the roaring cheers, were seeping through the concrete.
Different from the cramped live house, the club had an actual preparation room located backstage along the corridor, one that was about half a classroom wide. On the right side of the room was a desk, and on the left, well-arranged cabinets. A lot of performers were around, so the room was filled with instruments, costumes, sound systems and people.
As we were going up on stage next, we planted ourselves close to the exit. Chiaki and Kagurazaka-senpai were chatting with the men from the hip hop group performing right after us. High school students? For real? I heard rumours about an incredible group during the auditions, so that's you guys? How about a drink after the concert? Good idea, let's go out next time. They were blatantly trying to hook up with the girls, but I wasn't paying any attention to what was happening around me. Instead, I was just sitting on a chair, quietly listening to the vibrations coming from the stage while hugging one of my knees.
But there was no way I could've known whether Mafuyu was there or not just by doing that.
Perhaps it's better that I don't know. I should just allow time to flow past me as I become blinded by the footlights and stage lights, and carry the beautiful illusion that she might've been here into my dreams.
The performances of the two groups before us were about to end. Aside from the interjections by the emcees and the interludes of the DJs, the performances of the six groups were supposed to flow one after another without interruption. That was why two separate stages had been prepared for the performers, so that the group waiting could get on stage early and would have ample time to prepare themselves for their performance.
It's about time for us to go.
The door to the preparation room suddenly opened, and I stood up. A female staff member popped her head through the door and said,
"Mr. Hikawa from feketerigó, someone's outside looking......"
Senpai and Chiaki, who were behind me, reacted way quicker than I did; they pushed their chairs away and sprang up in an instant. My knees were trembling. Could it be Mafuyu?
When I was walking towards the corridor, a small silhouette dashed towards me.
Blonde hair came flying out from under the hood of a coat, and a pair of red ears and the red tip of his nose followed. I was extremely confused. Yuri? And it wasn't just him. Leaning against the wall of the corridor, brushing snow off his overalls, was—
Chiaki let out a weird shriek when she ran into the corridor.
"Yo! I'm here to see your performance, Chiaki!"
Tetsurou, with his scruffy face and disheveled hair, waved his hands with a smile.
Why? Why are Tetsurou and Yuri here?
"W-Well, I got him to drive me here since I could not reach Naomi through your phone."
Said Yuri, as he hugged me tightly. Tetsurou drove him here? Why did he do that? And didn't you say you wouldn't be watching our performance?
"Maestro Ebisawa just gave me a call."
I held my breath. Kagurazaka-senpai pushed Chiaki behind her and walked to my side.
"He said they have managed to get the tickets on the waiting list, and will be heading out on the four o'clock flight."
It felt like my head was buried in snow or something—it took me quite a while to comprehend what Yuri had said. Four o'clock flight? What does he mean by that? Four in the afternoon, today?
Isn't that in two hours?
"Why so suddenly!?"
Chiaki questioned Yuri from behind me.
"The Maestro saw the tickets for the performance," said Yuri in tears. "He was afraid Mafuyu would change her mind, so he booked the tickets immediately."
The tickets we had given her. Oh right, Ebichiri's on a break starting today.
Mafuyu, she...... In just two hours, she'll be taking off for the other side of the ocean.
It was only then that I started feeling a sharp pain in my body, as though half of my body was being forcefully pulled apart from the other half. I knew it was coming sooner or later, but it didn't feel real at all. It was farewell.
"Naomi, g-get to the airport right now!"
Yuri pushed my chest hard.
"Young man, it'll take an hour and thirty-seven minutes to reach the airport." "It's only two o'clock right now!"
I looked at Senpai and Chiaki in disbelief. What...... What are you two talking about?
"...... I won't...... be going."
A voice of feigned toughness.
"Naomi? Why are you still being stubborn at a time like this—"
"Our performance is about to start!"
"What...... What are you saying, you idiot!? Seeing Mafuyu is way more important......"
"But this is a live performance. There's no way I'm going to abandon my band at a time like this."
"I will do it then!"
Yuri pushed himself away from me all of a sudden and looked at Chiaki, Senpai, and me—the three members of feketerigó.
"I will play the bass. You should have heard it before, Naomi. I know how to play everything....... everything. And I play it better than Naomi does. S-So Naomi, you should......"
I had no idea where the strong emotions surging inside me were coming from, but I grabbed Yuri by the collar and slammed him against the wall of the corridor. Even Tetsurou was stunned.
Yuri arched his body in pain.
I did remember hearing it once before. Yuri could easily replicate the melody of my bass after listening to it just once. For him, it was as easy as rolling oranges with the tips of his fingertips. But still.
"Don't you underestimate feketerigó."
A deep and murky voice.
"Yuri's bass may be a hundred times better than mine, but I am the only person that knows how to control the effects unit, and the only person that can harmonize with Senpai's melody from below."
With Chiaki's support, I was the only person that could make the heart beat. But the only person that could lift us into the sky was Mafuyu. And only Mafuyu.
Mafuyu is...... the only person that can do that.
My fury lost its strength, and my hands dropped down. A hand gently grabbed my shoulder and pushed me aside. The person then went to support Yuri's body, which was about to collapse to the floor.
It was Kagurazaka-senpai.
"...... S-Sorry, but, but, I....... Mafuyu and, Naomi, they......"
Yuri began sobbing in Senpai's arms while I just stared at my own hands. What the heck did I just do? What was the point of venting my anger out on Yuri?
However, even though I had said all that in the heat of the moment...... it was all true.
Senpai gently caressed Yuri's hair and asked me softly,
"You won't regret this?"
I sank my fingernails deep into my palm. I hadn't fully suppressed my unreasonable anger just yet. What's with that? Why does this person always have to evaluate me in such a dramatic manner?
"Of course I will!" My voice was steaming. "Whether I go or not, I'll definitely regret it. But......!"
The gazes coming from everyone were incredibly painful, so I threw my words at my feet.
"This is Mafuyu's band, a place she can return to to play the guitar once more. So there's no way I'd ever forsake this place!"
"Mafuyu....... her guitar? W-What do you mean by that? Hey, Nao!"
Chiaki approached me and shook my shoulders hard. Ahhh, I said it. Mafuyu had planned to keep it a secret forever, but I said it. But of course. There's no need to keep it a secret, yeah?
Aren't we comrades that are tied together by an existence called Mafuyu? Aren't we feketerigó, four people that share the same blood and soar in the sky as one?
I told everyone everything—including why Mafuyu went to the hospital, why she quit school, and why she chose to stay in America for an extended amount of time.
All of Mafuyu's plans.
Chiaki grabbed my arms and sunk her fingers into my skin in anguish.
"....... That's just silly. Mafuyu and Nao are both silly. I can't understand you two at all!"
She rubbed her temple with her fist as she said that.
The footsteps above our heads were becoming more chaotic as time passed, and the cheers were increasingly getting louder. I could hear the emcees rattling on and on, stirring up the excitement of the audience. Chiaki drew her drumsticks out from the back of her belt and held them in her right hand. She then shot me a glance, and made her way down the corridor, towards the noises that were rumbling down the stairs.
"Let's get going, young man."
With his hands pressed against the wall, Yuri was staring at me with eyes that were filled with all his pent-up emotions.
I said nothing. I just wished for him to listen to our performance. If he listens to the live performance, I should be able to convey to him the things that could never be conveyed through the recorded rehearsal.
I then turned around and began sprinting towards Chiaki and Senpai amidst the sound of the rumbling.
The B stage's lights were off, so we had to be careful not to trip over the wires as we set up our instruments and equipment. Tomo and Furukawa offered their help, as they were the previous group that performed on that stage.
Meanwhile, on the A stage, the members of the performing vocal group were swaying their bodies along to a funky melody, but their harmony was nevertheless solid.
The stands were finally all set up and ready, so I slung my bass over my shoulder and knelt down beside the effects unit to try to calm myself down.
But someone suddenly kicked me in the butt, causing me to fall forward into the legs of the microphone stand. When I crawled up and turned my body around, I realized a pair of sharp eyes located beneath a bandanna was staring at me. It was Furukawa.
"So that lass ain't coming after all?"
"B-Because....... I told you before, didn't I? Mafuyu won't be playing the guitar anymore."
"Who gives a damn about that? I was looking forward to hearing her perform."
He was hoping Mafuyu would come. Just as I thought, Furukawa was displeased with my performance at yesterday's rehearsal.
"That's right. I thought she was going to show herself at the actual performance, since there was two weeks for her to learn and memorize the correct method of playing the guitar. And then your band's shallow performance would return back to normal."
It's impossible...... for such a miracle to occur.
"So it'll just be the same performance as yesterday? That's not even worth listening to."
I shifted my gaze away from Furukawa's body.
And at the same time, I crossed sights with Kagurazaka-senpai, who was adjusting the height of her microphone stand. From the bitter expression on her face, I assumed she had heard my conversation with Furukawa.
The only thing the three of us could do to fill in the gaps left behind by Mafuyu, was modify my and Senpai's guitar parts. That was all. It was nothing more than a quick fix.
"You guys were at your best at the auditions, yeah? I have no idea why you guys insist on performing on stage."
Furukawa disappeared behind the stage after leaving us those harsh words.
Even so, the only thing we could do was perform.
Despite the fact that we could only achieve 75%, even if we pushed our capacity and capabilities to their limits.
The cheers swelled and exploded, and the dance beats that were hitting my organs had come to a halt as the lights on the A stage turned blue. I could clearly see the performers in their finishing pose.
The emcees then began chatting at a clear tempo, though I wasn't quite sure what language they were speaking. It sounded like a rap, and I could sort of make out the word 'feketerigó' buried in their sentences.
I shot a glance at Senpai, who was standing in front of Chiaki, and the three of us exchanged gazes for a brief instant. As the semiquavers began playing on the hi-hat, I firmly gripped my bass and moved towards the microphone stand. Everything started with the clear tones of the chord strokes, which were followed by the entanglement of the toms.
I began knocking my fingertips against the strings of the bass. Restlessness began to rise. Fractured syncopations.
Kagurazaka-senpai's powerful scream split the dark, blue oceans apart, igniting the flames with a blinding light.
Before me, hundreds of men and women were shaking their hair about with bloodshot eyes, as though they were dancing in asphyxiation. The waves of the bass coming from my fingers were sending high-voltage pulses into their hearts, vanquishing the sluggishness in their bodies.
I squeezed the lowest part of the bass's neck and allowed the bass line to gnaw its way into the treble. Following the instructions I had given it, the effects unit began to combine, analyse, and broaden the chord strokes of Kagurazaka-senpai's guitar. The result was an explosive outburst of light from the electric organ and the phase-shifted string instrument. But the rain of light was sucked in the opposite direction into a black hole—the cloudy area just beneath Senpai's vocals, the place where Mafuyu's guitar was supposed to burst apart.
There's no way we could fill that up. How could that be possible?
I came to that painful realization yet again as I plucked the strings of my bass. But it felt like I was plucking my blood vessels instead.
Mafuyu's not here.
I wish you could be here together with us right now, beneath the skies of the burning rain. But Mafuyu was nowhere to be found.
Is it because I'm trying to carve that unbearably painful and depressing truth into my ears, my eyes and each and every inch of my skin? Is that why I'm allowing the arrangement to become mashed up and the effects unit to go crazy, all so that I can ram my sound into Senpai's voice?
It was just as Yuri and Chiaki had said. I'm a hopeless idiot.
A large hole appeared in my heart; and in a half-hearted response to that, I increased the tempo of my music. My blood was spewing wildly, and the wound was getting larger and larger.
But the only thing I could do was continue singing. There was no way Senpai or Chiaki could see me crying, and of course, there was no way the audience could see either. But if I stopped singing for even a brief second, my voice would become seared by my tears, never to make a sound again.
So I continued singing and allowed the breeze from the ventilators to streak past my wet cheeks.
At the same time, my sense of reality was stripped away from my limbs. Each and every one of the wildly dancing audience members was like a cell in my body, and as the tired cells were removed, new cells grew in their place, lusting for blood as they soaked up vitality.
I guess this is how God must've felt.
But even so, I have no need for this.
At that moment, all I had to do was tug at the invisible strings arranged orderly in the air, and I could drag out the one singing voice that I yearned for while standing above the thousands of people. Even if it was the one that was hoarse, and whose lungs were shriveled up, and body, reduced to dust.
But I didn't need any of that.
All I wanted was to see Mafuyu.
I want to see her. I want to see her so badly—
I lifted my head up and swatted away the darkness that was engulfing me. Before I had even realized, I had fallen to my knees, with my hands tightly gripping the microphone stand.
What's going on here? The lights were splitting my face into two. Is our performance not over yet? I turned my head slightly and saw Kagurazaka-senpai looking at me with a sorrowful expression on her face. Her hand was sitting atop my shoulder.
"Young man, can you still continue? Can you stand?"
When did I fall to my knees? We had already finished playing the fifth song of our medley, the song in which I was the lead vocal, and Senpai's guitar solo was the accompaniment to the fugue...... So why can I still hear the beats and the piano riffs? And there's an avalanche of footsteps and applause coming from beneath my feet?
I turned my head around and saw Chiaki sitting at the well-illuminated drum set, her hair swaying wildly as she powered the engine into rotation. I shivered.
The effects unit read the tempo of Chiaki's toms and converted it into a faint harmony of the piano and the xylophone.
"Young man, it's time for our encore! The A stage isn't done preparing yet, so we'll be extending our performance. Get up on your feet!"
Encore? You want me to bleed even more? Are you trying to make me puke out the liquefied bones and organs inside me? But...... But I'm in such great pain already. What else can I sing? Mafuyu's no longer around. And regardless of the song we choose, in our hearts, all we'll be doing is confirming the fact that she's no longer with us—
Just then, we found our answer—me, from Senpai's eyes; and her, from my lips.
Senpai asked me silently.
Can we really do it?
I wasn't sure if we nodded our heads in agreement, but we both turned our heads around and looked at Chiaki. I knocked the body of my bass twice with three of my fingers, and Chiaki blinked hard in response. Even with the loss of our right wing, we were still a bird with a single wing. We needed no words to communicate with each other.
The right hand was raised up high; and it grabbed onto the semiquavers that were busily filling up the club air and tore them away in one go.
The toms, the piano and the glittering decorations that were scattered around the melody disappeared in an instant. The audience, tired from their dancing, was suddenly left alone in the snow. They looked up at the cloudy sky in confusion, and at that moment, a faint tingling sound appeared—Chiaki's hi-hat came in playing beats in 6/8.
Senpai and I didn't lift our fingers. And we didn't sing either.
But I heard it.
And Senpai and Chiaki should have heard it too. It was <Happy Xmas>.
I could hear the melody that Mafuyu carved out with her Stratocaster using all her strength. It might've been nothing more than an illusion; or perhaps it was memories of the past slumbering inside the program of the effects unit, that could only be awakened by Chiaki's light bells on this very night.
But we weren't the only ones that could hear that sound.
The singing voices coming from beneath my feet that permeated the air, and the singing of Mafuyu's Stratocaster to liven up that Christmas Eve—both of them overlapped together to herald in another melody. And in came the singing voices of the children, praying for the end of wars.
I could actually hear it. The tired couples hummed along to the song that was composed of only two verses as it reverberated in the night sky. They didn't know Mafuyu's name. And they should've never heard Mafuyu's guitar before.
But we weren't the only ones who heard it.
Mafuyu's really here.
After the first chorus was over, Senpai and I walked slowly towards our microphones. Chiaki's fill-ins were supporting Senpai's chord strokes as they soared high into the air, and my bass was hitting hard in Chiaki's shadow.
After the main chorus had finished, Senpai began crooning into the mike. I had planned to join in as her harmony, but I couldn't make a sound. My throat had been burned by my acid-like tears. I could clearly hear Mafuyu's guitar right above the pulsations I carved out, nestled in-between Kagurazaka-senpai's chord strokes. The voice that I had long lost, that I could never get back again.
No, can I get it back? What should I do?
While we were still singing on that stage, Mafuyu had already begun her journey. But none of us needed to exchange any words of confirmation with each other. Music was a flame that would emit its rays of light wherever it wanted to, regardless of the distance. But doing just that would only result in leaving an imprint of a white silhouette in the eyes. That was just how fragile and delicate feelings were if you couldn't convert them into words.
So we sing.
That's why singing is the source of all music, regardless of the age or the nation we're in. Singing is the forerunner that strings everything together, and that burns it all apart.
In the end, under the guidance of Senpai's singing, thousands of voices lit up once more like burning flames. The song of prayer John Lennon had entrusted to the children. War would end as long as you earnestly prayed for it to disappear. But John was killed. Still, what remained weren't just his words, or his vision, or his music.
When Kagurazaka-senpai had finished singing the harmony, she did her usual thing and lifted the neck of her Les Paul above her head and began strumming her guitar solo wildly. She finished the first phrase with a single breath, then looked to Mafuyu on her right...... and winked. She then turned her head towards me and flashed me a smile.
Senpai showed me her smile.
Because Mafuyu was right there.
I played my bass to the hemiola tempo in response to Senpai's smile. I guess she knew my cheeks were all wet, but that was okay. As we approached the end of our encore, all four members of feketerigó focused their eyes on the center of the stage. Turning our heads around, Senpai's and my gaze clashed with Chiaki's eyes in-between the toms. I strummed the strings with all my might as I squeezed out all the air in my body, screaming my lungs out as I ran about the stage. When the lights were extinguished in perfect timing to the end of the song, I collapsed onto the floor as the cheers of the audience swept towards me like a whirlwind.
So the clothes are not quite right for the manga page, but I think this chapter is what the manga page is referring to.
Thanks to Asololo and Trarc for the fast edits. Chapter 16 should be released relatively soon.