Do me (and the author) a favour by imagining Tetsurou as an aged L. It's the least you can do.
Enjoy. I'll probably start working on Shinonome soon. Will probably revisit the other 3 chapters as a change of pace from Shinonome whenever I feel like it.
"We're getting married."
It was late at night when Naomi called. At the time, I was digging through piles of records in hopes of stumbling upon some cash or something edible.
"Really...... Hmm? That's not important...... I thought I remembered dumping some instant ramen here?"
"What do you mean 'not important'!?"
My head crashed into the desk when I tried to dodge that ear-piercing roar from the phone, causing the records stacked on the desk to tumble down on me like debris from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
"Tetsurou? What was that noise? What happened? You okay?"
"Ugh, I'm fine. Furtwängler's portrait is now crooked...... How am I supposed to tell what's right-side up now? Oh right, so when's the wedding dinner?"
"Eh? Urm...... well...... not that soon."
"If only you were holding the wedding dinner right after this...... I'm really hungry, you know? How about a full course French dinner?"
"I'm an idiot for letting you be the first person to know......"
"Ah, hold on, my bad!"
I pushed through the layer of record covers and finally crawled out of the room, then switched the cellphone to my other hand.
"And so? Who's getting married?"
"You mind listening to me seriously for once!? I am!"
I missed my step on the stairs and, in response, swung my limbs about in a fluster. As my body flipped around in the air, I managed to grab the banister, then planted my butt on the rail and slid my way down to the first floor. Pretty impressive acrobatics, if I do say so myself. But I still ended up crashing headfirst into the corner of the wall. That freaking hurts.
"Eh? Urm...... Do you have any idea what you're talking about, Lil' Nao? We're talking about marriage here, yeah? Where you can naturally get a girl pregnant just by being together?"
"Like that's ever gonna happen! Why are you trying to teach false things about sex to your son that's already twenty-four years old?"
"But in Lil' Nao's case, you just appeared in this world without me knowing what had happened......"
"Ahaha, just kiddin'! You're the culmination of love between Misako and I!"
"That doesn't sound any better! Ahh, whatever, do as you please."
I rubbed my head and sat down on the first step of the staircase.
"You're talking about marriage, but who are you wedding?"
"Who else? Who else could it be but Mafuyu?"
"Oh, plenty! Like Chiaki or Kagurazaka Kyouko?"
"Nah, that's impossible."
"How about that blonde violinist?"
"Yuri's a guy, damn it!"
"You blurted his name right out away even though I didn't say it. Now that's just suspicious, don't you think?"
*Duuuu* The call was disconnected. It was just a joke. As always, his boiling point is too low.
I stood up and brushed the dust off my T-shirt, then walked past the orange lights and into the living room, to pull a record off the rack in the dark. It was probably a habit born from my job, but I always selected music that would allow me to show off my professional knowledge whenever the situation called for it.
"Marriage huh...... I forgot when he said this, but I do remember him talking about how marriage was unnecessary or something, right? He's matured over time"—I thought to myself.
But it doesn't feel real at all.
I mean, he is someone that has been taking care of himself (and even me as well) ever since he was young. I'm not sure, but maybe that's why I thought he wasn't someone that would have the same "urges" you would expect of a child. I even expected him to live out his entire life single.
After all, he would never be getting married if it hadn't been for that one moment of impulse!
Now, what should I listen to on a night like this? Opera? <The Marriage of Figaro> seems like overkill, since it discusses who has the right to get laid on the wedding night; and I'd feel sorry for Nao for that...... <Lucia di Lammermoor>...... That's about political marriages......
I ended up choosing <Turandot>. The princess that slaughtered her suitors, and the prince from an unknown land that was in love with the princess—it was a story about an impulsive marriage. So that makes Ebichiri Emperor Altoum? Pwahaha, there is no way he would agree to the marriage.
Eh? Wait...... so that means, Ebichiri and I...... are about to become in-laws?
Gotta call him right away.
"What time do you think it is right now?"
Ebichiri didn't sound very happy.
"Mmm...... I have some questions for you. Can you hear the song I'm listening to?"
"<Turandot>..... The duet between Princess Turandot and Calàf, right? What about it? It is already midnight!"
"Right, right. So I was suddenly struck with a question: after the princess and the prince wed, what becomes of the relationship between their fathers? Specifically speaking, Emperor Altoum and King Timur?"
"Quit beating around the bush if you are talking about Mafuyu and Naomi's marriage."
"Whoa." I nearly dropped the phone on the floor. "W-What? So you already knew?"
"I more or less poked around regarding their views on the matter, and I did ask Mafuyu if she had the intention to marry. I never got a clear answer from her, but since she will be shifting the focus of her job back to Japan—"
"Ah, so I'm a step ahead of you regarding the news! Yay~ I win! Nao called me just now to tell me they'd be getting married!"
"Really? He reached his decision pretty fast this time around."
I sank myself deep into the sofa and lowered my voice.
"You know...... can you be just a little bit more...... surprised or something? I made this call just so I could enjoy your flustered reaction!"
"It is not like I exist in this world just to make you happy."
"What!? Haven't you been my plaything this whole time?"
Ebichiri ignored my words without hesitation.
"Not only is Naomi indecisive, he is also strangely lacking in confidence. Moreover, his future is not too bright, so I am not too assured by him......"
"Oh geez, I wonder just who his parents are? Eh...... That's me!"
Ebichiri had no intention of playing along with me, so I was forced to go along with my own joke. And thinking about it—doing things like this in the living room in the middle of the night amidst the glamorous orchestra of Puccini..... feels really freaking empty.
"But aside from those issues, Naomi is a pretty dependable person. Mafuyu is not like a typical person—there are lots of things she does not know how to do...... but Naomi happens to be great at housework. In a way, I think Mafuyu has found the right partner for herself."
"Because Nao's practically my wife! Ah, you gotta listen to this, Ebichiri. It's been years since Nao has moved out of the house, but I only learned how to change the toilet rolls just recently! How's that!?"
"I have a rehearsal tomorrow morning, so I will be hanging up."
"Can't I get a response or two from you!? I'm feeling really lonely right now!"
"Get somebody else to accompany you if you cannot fall asleep!"
I realized something all of a sudden, so I lifted my legs onto the sofa and curled myself up while hugging my knees. Here goes my final question.
"...... Question. Could it be that...... I am the only one that's getting all flustered?"
"Took you long enough."
And with that, the call was disconnected. I left my arms dangling behind the sofa and leaned my head against the back. While staring at the dark ceiling, I spaced out to the resounding tenor of Mario Del Monaco.
Princess Turandot wasn't prepared for marriage even after the prince had solved her difficult questions, so the princess, at her wits' end, ended up crying in front of her father. But, for some unknown reason, the prince couldn't watch on any longer and said: I will give up on the princess if you find out what my name is before dawn.
And so, the princess ordered—
Nobody sleeps tonight—everyone is to investigate the man's name throughout the night!
It's not like I could fall asleep even without the order of the princess! To think my son actually said he's getting married......
Speaking of which, Nao really hates operas, doesn't he? He doesn't like any of the Italian operas.
"Why did the prince say that?"—Nao disliked that part the most—"He could have married her successfully if he had kept his mouth shut! And he even revealed his name in the end. Is he an idiot?"
A really frank opinion, but the opinion of a child.
By now, he should understand how the prince had felt, right? He probably does.
The prince had done it to make the princess feel at ease—that was all there was to it. And it was the same for marriage as well.
The problem is, scenes with the two fathers in <Turandot> are really sparse, so I can't use them as reference at all! I have no idea what I should be doing right now. Oh right, I haven't even congratulated him yet. Do I have to? How should I go about doing it?
Guess I'll call Nao again.
"...... Yeah? What?"
"Ah, sorry, are you busy making babies with Mafuyu? Sorry about that......"
"What kind of joke is that!? I'm hanging up!"
Yet, I could hear the voice of a girl saying "Naomi, what is wrong with you? You are not sleeping yet?" behind the furious roars of my son. Looks like I wasn't too far off.
"Well, I need to ask you something. When a son tells his father he is about to marry a woman...... Urm, how should the father feel...... And, what should he say to his son? I don't know what to do!"
"Aren't I your son!? Why the heck are you asking the person in question!?"
Damn my son! Oh well, given this wonderful opportunity, I should ask Nao to put Ebisawa Mafuyu on the phone.
"I'm about to be a grandpa now! Rather than waiting until I pay an official visit to her in the future, it'd be better if I said a few words to her first over the phone...... You gotta be quick about things like this!"
Nao hesitated for quite a while, but eventually gave in.
"...... Hello? Good evening...... It has been a while......"
"Long time no see! It's me, Tetsurou, the ruffian of the industry! Let's get straight to the point, you mind granting me the rights to promote your next Japan tour?" "Stop soliciting!" "Nao, do not interrupt us!" "M-May I ask..... if you are about to discuss work-related matters with me?"
"Nah, I was just kidding."
Upon hearing the fine voice of Ebisawa Mafuyu, I cleared my throat, lowered my own voice, and dropped my body back down on the sofa. How did Nao hear what I just said? Ah, are they lying down side by side, their faces snuggled against each other with only a cellphone in-between them? Damn it! What a lovey-dovey couple!
Then again, that's how all couples will behave right before they get married, regardless of how they will fare in the future......
"How should I put it...... Are you really okay with this? You only have one chance at life, so are you really gonna choose Nao?"
"...... I will always choose Nao...... regardless of the number of chances I am offered."
How I wish there was someone that would say that to me as well!
"I see...... H-Hmm. I-In any case...... congratulations? Mmm, it should be okay for me to say that at a time like this, right? Oh yeah, what're your plans for the wedding? Nao's side is easy to deal with, but Mafuyu should have a large network of people you can't ignore, so you'll have to hold a wedding dinner, right?"
"...... We have not...... thought that far ahead just yet. It may be necessary for us to hold a wedding dinner, but...... I am thinking of whether Naomi and I should make a trip to Germany before that....... We were just discussing that."
"Germany?" I rolled my eyes as I sifted through my memories. "...... Ah, your mother?"
Ebisawa Mafuyu's mother. I think she started living in Bonn, Germany after divorcing from Ebichiri.
"Mmm. If possible...... I hope Papa...... will come with us too......"
"That's not quite possible, is it?"
I then teased Mafuyu by mentioning things like the number of grandchildren I would love to have, which resulted in Nao snatching the phone from her and roaring at me in anger. He then hung up without warning again.
I slumped down into the sofa. Right, it's high time Ebichiri faces his past, yeah? Well, it should be difficult for him to reject Mafuyu's request, since she will be going there to break the news of her marriage to her mother. Why did the couple break up in the first place? A clash in their musical ideologies......? Can't be, right? It's not like disbanding a band or something. I'm not too certain about the details, but I'm pretty sure the wife was the one that couldn't deal with the husband any longer. Speaking of which, I—
I suddenly sprang up from the sofa.
Now's not the time to be laughing at them! I'm in the exact same position right now!
I hopped off the sofa and circled around the dining table. Nao gets along really well with Misako, so there's no doubt he will invite her if they're holding a wedding dinner. I might actually be the one that's not invited...... Mmm, but then I don't have to worry about bumping into her if that happens. Like hell that'll happen! I'm his father after all! Nao's not that heartless!
What to do? Misako and I chat on the phone once every few months, but it's been years since we last met! Though I do get to see her close-up photos in the news or on the internet every once in a while, she's way prettier in person...... Ah, that's not the point, is it?
In any case, we'll meet each other sooner or later. What to do? You can hang up a call at any time, so you don't really have to worry about the bullshit you're saying, but an actual meetup is a totally different league altogether! She won't insult my shabby clothes like she used to first thing when we meet again, right? Or will she complain about my table manners? As for my work...... she is not someone that would talk much about that. She is respectful when it comes to things like that.
How long have we been apart?
Back when Nao was just six, till now—that's no more than twenty years. So eighteen?
More than enough time for a brat to grow up into an adult.
Actually, this is a pretty good chance for me, isn't it? It's been quite a while, and although it's not like I have to make up with Misako or anything...... I'm just running away from my problems using my jokes as a smokescreen. So now's the time to calm down and face the issue head on, isn't it?
Despite knowing that, it still took me the entire length of the opera before I could resolve myself.
What one needs at a time like this, is guts. It's kind of similar to how udon becomes all soggy if you overcook it—so I called Misako's company right away. My call was picked up by a secretary despite it being the middle of the night. Now that's what you'd expect of an international company.
"Sure, I'll get the chairman for you. Please hang up the phone and wait for her call."
Eh? Hold on, you just have to pass the message on in my stead! Is she still awake at a time like this?
My phone rang after a short wait. When I picked up the call, I heard some background noise, followed by—
A nostalgic voice.
"...... Mmm, it's me, Tetsurou. Sorry for calling you in the middle of the night. Eh? You're in Tel Aviv right now? Where on earth is that? The Middle East? Ah, right, it should be evening there. Mmm, I forgot about the time difference already...... It's nothing important, just, urm...... well...... let's get married......"
She hung up.
At times like this, you just need the guts to call her once more. So I did just that and called her company to have the secretary put me through to her again.
"Sorry, I'm not sure if that was a slip of the tongue or just one of my jokes....... Mmm...... Well...... I guess he'll inform you about it sooner or later, but Nao's about to get married...... Yeah, mmm, that piano girl. So you knew about Mafuyu? Oh right, you and Nao do meet up quite frequently....... Yeah, yeah! She's a really cute girl! Well, Nao inherited his taste in girls from me! Mmm...... Also, will you be attending the wedding dinner if they're holding one? I think so, they'll probably reserve a table for us....... the table of honor, yeah? Ah, not yet, they haven't decided on the details like dates and whatnot....... Oh but...... you know, stuff like that happens all the time. Like how the guy and girl at the same table end up marrying each other after participating in someone else's wedding dinner together......." She hung up on me again.
At times like this, you just need the guts to talk to her again and again. So I called the company for the third time. I'm terribly sorry, Miss Secretary. As for Misako, she did politely return both my calls—so I guess she's still holding a torch for me? But, of course, that's something I'll keep to myself.
"I said I'm sorry already! I'll be serious this time. So...... when will you return to Japan?"
Misako's voice finally returned to normal. It was the first time we had talked to each other seriously in a long while.
"Nao and Mafuyu will definitely pay you a visit. And since Ebichiri's a really stubborn person, he'll definitely insist on troublesome things like how 'the parents from both families should meet up,' and things like that. We skipped all that stuff back then, didn't we? ...... Mmm, ...*sigh*... In any case, we'll have our hands full pretty soon, so why don't we meet up before that?"
I honestly wanted to praise myself. It was really smooth; and I wasn't buttering her up. None of my cheeky words. And no shyness from me either. There, I said it just fine, didn't I!?
"Just a dinner or something. There's plenty of stuff we can talk about....... Ah, I'm not too sure if that's the case for you, but I have so many things I want to tell you!"
What happened in the past, and what will happen in the future...... as well as tiny, insignificant things that aren't related to the profound questions of life......
I switched my phone to the other ear, lay down on the carpet, and waited for Misako's answer.
All I had to do was shut my trap and wait for her response while listening to the soft, mist-like background noise. But damn my personality. My serious facade didn't last more than two minutes, and I ended up saying,
"...... This feels just like...... how it was back when I proposed to you, doesn't it?"
What came through the phone after that was a ground-shaking roar of anger.
But Misako didn't hang up this time around. Though silence dawned between us once more, we were still connected to each other—though the Gobi desert, the Taklamakan desert or the Syrian desert did keep us apart.
I'll wait no matter how long it takes, even if it means waiting until dawn. She's the one paying for the international call anyway, and I've already made her wait eighteen long years. All we had to do was think deeply about our past to obtain our answer.
I walked to the sound system and replayed the aria of Prince Calàf—and along with it, came Misako's faint, soft voice.
As for what the song was saying—
On your mouth I will tell it when the light shines.
And my kiss will dissolve the silence that makes you mine!