To be honest, I hadn't told Mafuyu something—there was a major problem with that classroom: the gaps around the door. The soundproofing in the classroom wasn't perfect, so sound still leaked out of the room; and because of that, a rumor about how "a very impressive guitar solo could be heard from the courtyard after school" had spread throughout the school a few days later.
"Which piece? Is it that <ちゃらり ~鼻から牛乳~>?" [TLNote: It is roughly translated as 'Cyarari ~Spitting Milk from the Nose~', and the thing can be seen via the link. Thanks to Alice for pointing the vid out, cause I had no freaking idea what it was.]
"I've heard that before too. I'll get dizzy if I listen to it for too long."
So it's actually Bach's <Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565>. That lass really likes Bach, huh? It wasn't time for homeroom yet, so I listened half-heartedly to the broadcast of the girls' morning gossip, while recalling the pieces Mafuyu played.
"She played <Farewell> yesterday too. It was so~ very fast. Originally I couldn't figure out what piece it was." [TLNote: I guess the piece is more widely known as <Tristessel>, but <Farewell>'s the lesser-known name (in the english community at least) that is used in the novel. To quote wiki: 'Neither "Tristesse'" (sadness) nor "Farewell" are names given by Chopin.']
"Ah, so that's <Farewell>?"
I had heard the guitar version of <Farewell> as well. Chopin had initially composed the piece to be played at a very fast tempo—roughly four times the speed of current day interpretations—so in a certain sense, Mafuyu's performance was actually the correct version. I wanted to say that, but everyone would definitely call me a perverted critic or a stalker, so I chose to remain silent. Wait, what's with this? Are the critic-genes from Tetsurou doing something weird in my body? Stop that immediately!
Our teacher opened the door before the school bell finished chiming, and Mafuyu followed behind him. The whole class suddenly sank into silence. Everyone briefly exchanged looks with each other before returning to their own seats as though nothing had happened. The only one unaware of the situation was the very person herself. Even so, it seemed like Mafuyu had sensed that something was going on. As she walked to her seat, she looked at everyone with a puzzled glance.
"Wanna go listen today after school?"
"Then I'll have a listen before my club activities start—"
I heard people whispering that and noticed a few guys sneaking glances at Mafuyu while grinning broadly. It had been less than a week since Mafuyu's transfer, but the number of girls who would try starting a conversation with her had nearly dropped to zero—she was probably being treated like a rare creature by everyone.
However, that had become quite a problem for me as well. That place was actually my relaxation room, and yet, it was occupied by someone else. Seems like I'll have to snatch the classroom back from Mafuyu's hands.
I came up with a really despicable plan to lock myself in the classroom to shut Mafuyu out. When math—which was the sixth period of the day—was over, I immediately grabbed my bag and rushed out of the classroom after bowing goodbye to the teacher.
However, I was dumbfounded when I arrived at the old music block at the back of the building. There was already a padlock hanging on the door of the classroom. Damn her, how dare she do that to my (self claimed) room!
While staring at the lock before me, I remembered the paper clip and the flat-blade screwdriver stored in my bag. Don't underestimate the skills I've acquired from modifying sound systems since I was young—a long, thin wire is all I need to settle a lock of such low caliber. No, that'd be considered a crime, right? Speaking of which, it'd be game over for me if I were seen by anyone while trying to pick the lock open anyway. However, if I do it quickly, it'd probably take less than a minute...... "What are you doing?"
A voice suddenly came from behind me. I nearly jumped three meters up in fright. As I turned my head—
It was actually Mafuyu. She was totally furious, and her maroon hair looked as though it were standing on her head.
"You criminal, you must've been thinking about picking the lock, right? Please do not come close to me ever again."
That is indeed the case, but on what grounds do you have the right to scold me?
"Why are you always following me?"
How mean. So she herself is treating me as a stalker too? Stalking is a criminal offense, so I might fall into trouble should she actually file a complaint against me. Looks like my life's in a very terrible situation right now.
"No, look...... I've always used this classroom, and that amplifier was modified by me too."
I explained while trying my hardest to hold myself back.
"You were just using it without permission!"
"But Miss Mikoujima gave me permission to use the classroom too......"
"This is a room for practice, not a place for you to laze around and waste your time while listening to CDs!"
Mafuyu pushed me aside. She opened the lock, walked into the classroom, and shut the door. I froze on the spot and thought for a few seconds. Then, without a second thought, I barged into the room, opening the door forcibly as though I was trying to tear it down.
"Stop treating me like an idiot who's wasting his time. Life is all about wasting time till a person dies."
"Then why don't you just die already?"
Did she just say something extremely cruel to me?
"Can't. If I die, my mother and little sister would be very sad." I allowed myself to talk nonsense. "I already know the only family you have is that useless father of yours." What's with that retort? Damn, has this lass read Tetsurou's articles already? That stupid dad always mentions me in those articles of his. For example: "The way this conductor handles adagio is as slow as my son when he makes potato salad." However—
"I do admit he's useless, and you're free to see him as an idiot if you'd like. However, the person who will be troubled by all these comments is me. Apologize right now—mainly to me!"
"The very existence of critics is troublesome. They always write rubbish."
Oi oi, what's with this? Mafuyu's expressions suddenly turned solemn, and she looked close to crying. Then again, why am I arguing with her in a place like this!? Upon considering that, my mind quickly cooled down.
"They are not the ones playing the pieces. All they do is listen frivolously, then talk nonsense, like what you are doing right now."
"Urm, well......" Talking nonsense is actually a fault of mine—I had originally wanted to say that, but after thinking deeper into it, I realized it would be a really feeble retort. Therefore, I could only shut my mouth.
"...... It's just guitar. I can play that too!"
Those words came out of my mouth unintentionally. They weren't nonsense though.
As a guy who listens to all sorts of rock, I used to play the guitar as well; though, that was something I did during the summer of my second year of middle school. I found a dusty classical guitar in the storeroom of my house back then, and used it to fervently practice the prelude to <Stairway to Heaven>.
However, I no longer touched it anymore.
Mafuyu narrowed her eyes, and her gaze became cold. Her expression looked as though she was saying, "I bet that's just you sprouting nonsense anyway."
Just as I was about to say something again, Mafuyu suddenly picked up her guitar, which was leaning next to the table, and plugged it into the amplifier. She then walked to my side and forcibly put full-sized headphones on my head.
She gently grabbed the pick with her two fingers and strummed the strings of the guitar. I suddenly fell into the flow of the melody. Amid the strong discords, those ever-changing descending notes came gushing out like the waterfalls at the top of a cliff. What followed next was the grand, yet eerie, arpeggio arch, as well as a well-polished melody that encompassed the stamping of feet along with the dance—both of which were rising up from beneath the valleys.
That's...... Chopin's <Étude Op. 10, No. 12>
A storm raged on in my mind, but it was forcefully interrupted by the sudden cadence.
I was left dumbfounded. Mafuyu pulled the headphones off my head, and the sounds of reality slowly crept into my ears. My heartbeats; the sounds of me breathing; the sounds of engines on a faraway road; the cheers of the baseball team as the players ran to the bases—each and every sound I heard just seemed so unreal.
Mafuyu bent down and stared at me, as though she was saying, "Does your 'playing guitar' sound something like this?" There was quite a heavy silence.
"...... Can you still say, 'It's just guitar. I can play that too,' after hearing that?"
I remembered her giving a sigh as well.
I had originally wanted to say, "Stop treating me like an idiot," but I really could not say it convincingly.
"I've already said it. Get out. This is a place to practice."
"What's the big deal with playing a musical instrument?" I complained. "So you're saying if I bring a guitar here, I'll be able to use this classroom too?"
"Don't mimic me if you lack the ability to do so. Scram!"
While I was at a loss at what to do, Mafuyu pushed me out of the classroom.
Not long after, another piece flowed through the gaps from behind the tightly shut door. It was Chopin's <Marche Funèbre> from <Piano Sonata No. 2 in B♭ minor>. Is she deliberately looking for a fight? No wait, she doesn't know the sounds can be heard from outside the room, right? [TLNote: That's the funeral march, btw]
I pressed my palms against the door as my head drooped downwards. For a while, I allowed the sounds of Mafuyu's guitar to seep into my body. It gradually turned into an unbearable pain, but I found myself unable to leave that place.
I was thinking—why guitar?
Just play your piano honestly. If you did so, I could've listened to you playing the piano while naively thinking to myself, "Though she's young, her techniques are really quite brilliant." Why did you have to step into my world? Nearly all the pieces that you're playing are piano pieces, right? What sort of prank is that!?
Don't mimic me if you lack the ability to do so.
I recalled Mafuyu's words. My shoulders slumped unwillingly, and I retracted my palms from the door. Compared to the sublime techniques of Mafuyu, no one could possess skills within the acceptable range, regardless of who he was. It was especially so for me, since I gave up guitar after just three months of playing.
Can't be helped. It was a classroom I was using without any prior permission, since it was quite alluring to be in an environment where I could listen to my favorite CDs at full blast without needing to wear full-sized headphones. However, that's all there was to it. I won't feel particularly troubled without it.
Just as I turned around, about to make my way back to the main building—
"Young man, you're giving up already?"
A voice suddenly came from behind me.
I jumped in shock and quickly turned my head backwards. What came to my eyes was the sight of a girl in her uniform, half kneeling right above the door—on the low roof of the music classroom. She was wearing a huge, fearless grin. I couldn't move an inch, and could only look at her motionlessly.
...... W-Who's that person?
She had a set of pretty facial features, with eyes that were giving off a horrifyingly sharp gaze. She was like a female cat that had escaped from the exceptional well-to-do environment—like those found in Egypt or in royal families—in which she was raised. I took a look at the color of her lapel pin, and confirmed she was a second year student.
"Are you gonna run away, looking all crestfallen, right after you've been taught a lesson by her? You'll become a true defeatist like this, you know?"
"Urm, well......" My numb legs could finally move—I moved backwards a little. "......what are you talking about?"
That girl then hummed a song. It's Ray Charles' <Born to Lose>.
"Born to lose. Don't you think this song exists just for you?"
"We are all born to lose. Isn't that how it was all along?" No wait, why am I answering her? I should run away. Things are not looking good. I better not get close to people like her.
She gave a hearty laugh.
"So young man, you're actually quite good with your retorts, aye? I feel slightly relieved. Why don't you draw out your weapon? Your country is being ravaged by the enemy."
*Thud thud* She said that as she knocked her heels against the door of the practice room. Why must I allow myself to be criticized by you like that? Then again, who the heck are you?
"Mafuyu should've played it to you just now. Chopin's <Étude Op. 10, No. 12>—<Revolutionary Étude>.
She said that with her index finger outstretched. I nodded with a "Mmm." Then, I suddenly remembered something—
I was wearing full-sized headphones, right? How did she know?
That violent smile of hers could've caused even an elephant to faint.
"I can hear all the revolutionary songs of this world."
She nimbly jumped off the rooftop, and that long hair of hers, braided behind her, floated in the air like the tail feathers of a majestic wild beast. She silently landed between me and the door, then straightened herself immediately.
"I wish to make Mafuyu my comrade. Therefore, young man, I am in need of your help. Please assist me."
No, stop. I really have no idea what the heck you're talking about—
"My name's Kagurazaka Kyouko."
Kagurazaka. I'd heard that name somewhere before. I began to search my memories.
Oh right, Chiaki mentioned that name to me before.
Kagurazaka-senpai stretched out her hand towards me.
"The Folk Music Research Club welcomes you as a member."