Here's part two. Work starts today, so that sucks.
Ebichiri designated a music university in Ikebukuro as the meeting place. Mafuyu apologetically said that she didn't want to see her father, so she went home instead. Personally, I was sort of saved by her decision as a tripartite talk was the last thing I wanted — moreover, I don't think the talk has anything to do with Mafuyu.
Still, Mafuyu will be busy with her schedule due to things like practices, interviews, recordings and performances after she leaves, so we ended up dallying around my home to delay our reluctant separation. It was already four in the afternoon when I reached the university. I was late.
"Sorry for being late!"
As I sprinted into the staff room, I was greeted by a kind-looking man in his sixties and Ebichiri, whose hair was greying out rapidly these days. It seemed like they were having an engaging discussion beside a desk filled with files and scores. They took a look at me and then at the clock, and it was only then when they realized that some time had passed since the agreed time.
"I'm fine with this, but you will have to apologize to our professor here. He has kindly offered his place for us to talk, but you have made him wait."
"I am terribly sorry," I apologized by lowering my head in the direction of the mister, who was wearing a wool vest over a white shirt.
"It's okay, it's okay. First time we meet. My family name is Katase. You're the son of Hikawa, aren't you? Oh my, you sure take after your father."
"Urm, i-is that so?" I've heard that plenty of times since I followed Tetsurou's footsteps into the industry, but this was the only time the comment made me uneasy.
"He's Professor Katase, who teaches history of French music. You can consider him as....... hmm, as my senior."
"Urm...... so he's Kokonoe Hirofume's......"
"Yes, that's right. Ebisawa and I had both learned music theory from Professor Kokonoe!" explained Professor Katase.
Kokonoe Hirofume was a renowned Japanese composer and conductor. He became active in the music scene after World War Two, and participated in the production of many film scores. He was even well received internationally. It is said that he was a really energetic person, conducting on stage a day before his death. A lot of his focus was spent on developing the next generation of musicians as well. Plenty of his students went on to become well known musicians in Japan, of which the most successful has to be Ebichiri (as for the biggest failure...... I'm afraid that'll be Tetsurou).
"The favour which I talked about through the phone is related to Professor Kokonoe."
Said Ebichiri as he motioned me to have a seat.
"Well...... do you want me to write a critique?" Honestly speaking, I am not too familiar with Kokonoe Hirofume.
"No, not that. I hope you can investigate on something."
Ebichiri then spread a stack of handwritten scores before me. On the aged, yellow paper were notes arranged neatly on the staves. It was titled simply with the words 'Sonate pour deux'. Since it's a score with the treble staff and bass staff, it's likely written for the piano or some other keyboard instrument. The mood marking was noted as 'tendrement'. French is a language I have zero knowledge of, but I still understand a few commonly used music terminologies — it means "lovingly". There were no tempo markings I could see.
A note with the words 'opus postumus' (posthumous work) was pasted on the first page. It looked pretty new, so it's probably pasted by the person who collated the scores.
"...... Is this a composition by Kokonoe Hirofume?"
"Is it that obvious?" asked Ebichiri.
"No, I'm not at the stage where I can deduce a person's personality just with the score alone......" I'm barely in the budding stages when it comes to that. "I just thought it might be his work after listening to both of you."
"I think it's Kokonoe Hirofume's work as well, but I have no concrete proof," said Professor Katase.
"So we hope you can investigate on the origin of this music and confirm if it is really Professor Kokonoe's work."
Ebichiri explained just as I was getting more and more confused.
Apparently, Professor Katase is currently lending his assistance in a huge documentary series. As he was compiling the large amount of titles composed by Kokonoe Hirofume, he discovered these scores while sorting through his items that were left in the university. It was named as a posthumous work because they discovered it after his death, but they were not sure when it was composed.
"But this should be nothing more than a draft, isn't it? The notes might be flexible enough, but the fugue is made up of only two voices throughout. Moreover, the bass seems pretty empty as well."
"It's reasonable for you to suspect this as an incomplete work, but Professor Kokonoe is a man who is very rigorous with his words. It's hard to imagine this work as an incomplete one."
"What do you mean by that?"
"It means he's very strict about his compositions!"
Professor Katase elaborated on what Ebichiri had said,
"Back in the days when he was working on the movie soundtracks, he was extremely furious when the production company named his composition as <Symphony of the Seaside>!"
Come to think of it, I did hear about how Kokonoe Hirofume was an eccentric man who gets into a tantrum really easily and even clashes with the movie producers for no apparent reason. I've also heard things like how he was born into a noble lineage with a long history, only to fall out with his family when he wedded a French woman. They barely got in touch with one another after that.
"Therefore...... there's no way he will title it as a sonata if it is just a draft. Moreover, Professor Kokonoe would definitely destroy his drafts whenever he completes his works, probably because he did not want anyone to see them in their 'incomplete' states......"
"I see. Hmm, but......" I shifted my attention back to the score. "Has any one of you played this piece yet?"
Ebichiri and Professor Katase nodded in response.
"We did, but we cannot call it as anything other than an incomplete work......"
"But that's contradicting what you've said earlier......?"
"And so with this title, we're guessing......" said Professor Katase as he pointed towards the words 'Sonate pour deux', "What if this sonata is a duet? Perhaps there is another set of scores somewhere."
It's roughly translated as 'Sonata for two' in English, isn't it? It didn't explicitly state the instrument the song was written for, but from the way the score was written, it should have been composed with a keyboard instrument in mind. Is the sonata written for two pianos? Unable to shake off the questions in my mind, I absent-mindedly ran my fingers past the surface of the score filled with notes.
"This place here...... it looks really empty for the left hand."
"I started off with the same thought as well......" Ebichiri stretched out his hand and flipped the score to a few pages back, "But there are lots of phrases later on where you need two hands to play, so what you've said is not exactly right."
I see. The continuous high-pitched trills of the arpeggio — phrases like that do require the use of both hands to perform.
"Moreover...... here, take a look at this word."
Professor Katase pointed at the bottom right hand corner of the last page — the word 'ensemble' was written on it.
Ensemble. The term is used specially to refer to a small-scale musical ensemble. Meaning to say, this piece was indeed written for more than one musical instrument. Then again, the instruments were not specified on the score, so there's no way we will know for sure.
The mystery lives on. Moreover, why was the word 'ensemble' written on the final page?
"This is definitely Professor Kokonoe's handwriting, but I'm not sure if this is his composition. It might have been a copy of someone else's work......"
As he said that, Professor Katase removed his spectacles and wiped it.
I scratched my head. Everything's a mystery.
"May I ask...... why you two chose to approach me? I am totally helpless when it comes to research related to Kokonoe Hirofume......"
"Professor Kokonoe's son is working in that circle of yours, isn't he? The properties of Professor Kokonoe are all under his care. However, he is a well known hater of classical music, so it is difficult for us to contact him."
"Ah, I see."
They're right. Music producer Tooru Charlois is the son of Kokonoe Hirofume. I've seen him several times at the record company as well.
"Urm, but he's a real big-shot! There's no way a small fry like me could come into contact with him......."
"I originally wanted to seek Hikawa's assistance, but I couldn't contact him at all. If I remember right, he is acquainted with Tooru."
Speaking of what Tetsurou's doing right now, I've not the slightest clue as well. I couldn't even get him through his phone. He only sent me a simple message saying "I'll be doing an interview at Poland for a few days" and poof, no more news from him. Nobody knows where on earth he is right now.
"Sadly, there's not much time left. Ebisawa said Hikawa's son is a pretty dependable person, so I thought I'll try asking you first."
Professor Katase leaned his body forward.
"So what do you think? Can you please help us investigate this matter? I will definitely compensate you for your trouble, of course. I really want to know if this piece is composed by Professor Kokonoe, and if there's another part to the score as well."
Pressured by the air coming from the two men before me, the I could only shift my gaze away from the score.
"...... Well...... why the persistence towards this piece of music? I doubt you are going to do a full compilation of his works, so it should be okay even if the compilation is slightly incomplete."
"Everyone knows most of Professor Kokonoe's works are compositions for the orchestra. Should this actually be his work as well, then it will be the only piano sonata ever composed by him. Moreover......"
With a serious expression on his eyes, Ebichiri murmured,
"This score was kept in the baton case of Professor Kokonoe, something which he carries with him all the time. It must be a really special song."
Ebichiri offered to drive me back home, but I solemnly rejected his offer instead.
"I'll be paying a visit to the publisher, so I won't impose on you."
That was the excuse on paper, but the truth was — it would have been incredibly awkward speaking to Ebichiri in the confined space of a car. I managed to avoid that tragedy, but I was still given a harsh dressing down while on the way to the carpark.
"Be honest with me. What is your job right now? I did hear a few words from Mafuyu, but I still can't put my fingers on it......"
"Ah...... Well......" To be honest, I'm not too sure myself. "I do everything...... And I really mean everything."
I'm not even sure where to start for the various things I do. It's at the point where I am seriously considering if I should write 'ruffian of the music industry' under the occupation box in the tax report. I write articles frequently for the magazines, and I have also written a book with someone else. Since it's rare of a critic to actually perform himself, I am viewed as someone relatively important in the pop music scene due to my uncommon views. Not only was I invited to write for quite a few songs (though none of them sold well), I was recently featured in the production of one for the very first time as well. It's also common for me to be invited as the harmony for the singers during the recordings.
"So I guess I'm a jack of all trades...... sort of?"
"Hmm...... I am grateful that you're accepting our unreasonable request, but with a work like that...... I doubt your lifestyle is a normal one, is it?"
"It no longer is after I chose to write articles for the magazines......"
"Listen to me carefully......"
Ebichiri's heels were echoing loudly along the corridor. As he walked half a step before me, he said harshly,
"Mafuyu is a professional pianist. That means she'll need to maintain her body under a strict regime, just like the athletes do. I do not want to see her falling under your influence after living together with you!"
"Yes, I'm really sorry...... But she doesn't stay overnight at my home all the time. We've only lived together for a day......"
Ebichiri turned around and shot a fierce glance in my direction. We happened to stop right at the gate of the university, so the students walking by were all looking at us in a weird fashion.
"I am not just talking about what happened yesterday. It's also about the future as well!"
"Mmm...... Eh? Huh?"
"Did Mafuyu not tell you she will be shifting the focus of her work back to Japan?"
"Ah, she did."
"Then you two should have talked about the future as well, didn't you?"
"...... Talked about what?"
Ebichiri's face was suddenly overwhelmed by an incoming wave of pity as well as deep despair.
"....... You are indeed the son of Hikawa! I am once again forced to reaffirm that fact...... Back when he was still young, he posed all sorts of troubles for Misako and for the other women as well......"
Eh? Wait, what's going on around here?
The carpark was located right before the school's gates. Ebichiri got into his Toyota Crown, closed the door and drove off in a flash.
Even though feketerigó's glamorous homecoming tour was in full swing when I made the call, nevertheless, Kagurazaka-senpai forced her manager to free up some time so that she could meet up with me. And so during midnight on the eighth of April, we held a secret meet-up session at the Tokyo Dome hotel.
"Our American opponents are really strong. It was a complete failure!"
It had been a while since I saw Senpai. She flashed a wry smile as she gave me a toast using her glass of diluted whiskey.
<feketerigó>, which consisted of Kagurazaka Kyouko (lead vocal & guitarist) and Aihara Chiaki (drummer), made their glamorous debut as a hard-rock indie band five years ago. Kagurazaka-senpai used to dominate the headlines as the rock revolutionary gal. She recently changed her hairstyle to a more mature one, which that made her look even more gorgeous and increased her superstar appeal as well. Worst of all, she looked pretty damn sexy in those robes of hers.
"Isn't it a little too early to enter the American market now? It's not too late to do so after you've gained a firm foothold in Japan."
Senpai prodded my nose when she heard those silly and unnecessary words from me.
"It's never too early. All we need to do is to try again with our new songs. America's a place where they care not about the good or the bad. Only the winners are remembered, while the losers are duly forgotten — that's what I like about that place. So I'll be heading overseas once more, hitching a ride with my cigars and pies and streaking across the plains beneath the moonlight as I transfer between buses — chasing after my American dream!"
There was not the slightest hint of depression in Senpai's smile.
Even though it was titled as a 'glamorous homecoming tour', feketerigó's record sales in America were far from encouraging. Still, Senpai is a revolutionary through and through, so it's pretty much impossible for her to give up standing on the peak of the world and settle for just Japan.
"But of course, I can consider changing the sequence if you're feeling lonely and want me to stay in Japan."
"It does feel a little lonely if it gets hard for us to meet up...... but what do you mean by changing the sequence?"
"I planned to conquer the world before making babies with you, but I'm okay with swapping the sequence!"
As I held the glass of wine tightly in my hands, I retreated and leapt past the bed, making my way towards the side of the door.
"It took you that long to realize my motives despite coming to the hotel room by yourself in the middle of the night? You're as cute as ever!"
"U-Urm, Senpai....... enough with ......" the jokes — I shut my mouth before I could finish off the sentence. Unable to look into Senpai's eyes, I turned my back against her while holding the wine glass next to my chest.
That was not a joke from Senpai. The revolutionary of love never lies to herself, and neither will she lie to the world. She really has not change the slightest bit — she'll still cross the boundaries of my imagination with ease and spread her wings like she has always done.
"Relax, Comrade Hikawa. That was just a joke."
Right, one thing has changed though — she no longer addresses me as 'young man'. Not because I've became older, of course, but because she has finally seen me as her fellow comrade.
"Comrade Ebisawa has just returned to Japan, hasn't she? I have no intention of seeing her depressed expressions!"
I turned myself towards Senpai and made my way back to the side of the bed.
"I'll lay my hands on you once I've obtained Comrade Ebisawa's understanding," so it's with a term like that huh? I guess it'll be safer to find a seat as far away from her as possible.
"Are you keeping in touch with Mafuyu? I don't think the news have touched on her return just yet......"
"Not just that, I even met her at Houston."
"You see, the bonds between us are just impossibly difficult to sever! Our performances happened to be on the same day, so I brought Comrade Aihara along and nonchalantly sneaked into the hotel which Comrade Ebisawa was staying in."
"Do not sneak into the hotel nonchalantly!" That's a crime!
"And the three of us talked till dawn!"
"...... I'm quite envious of that......"
"Comrade Aihara and I had picked up quite a bit of information from our relentless attacks! So you tilt your face to the right when you kiss?"
"W-What? So you bombarded Mafuyu with questions like that!?"
"Nope. That was just me fishing information from you."
"You're as simple as ever! Questions like these are 50-50, so you should know it's just me making it up!"
"How should I know!? That isn't something people typically do!"
"Also, based on the statistics I've accumulated from my experiences, it seems like more people prefer tilting their face to the right!"
For how much longer will I be led by the nose by Senpai? Come to think of it...... "You've kissed enough to do statistics like that?"
"Yeah, but you're the only male I've ever kissed."
"Don't fabricate lies like that! I've never once kissed you!"
Senpai gave a laugh and rolled about on bed.
"Oh, we talked about stuff like that while we were chatting, and it seemed like she was actually getting really worried! She kept wondering about just how intimate we were back in Japan, and even said things like returning to Japan without Ebisawa Chisato after she was done with her tour. So what happened?"
"So you're the reason why she returned to Japan earlier......"
Still...... I was really happy that Mafuyu returned to Japan earlier, and I even get to pick her up at the airport.
"And I heard she won't be leaving Japan any time soon? I see, so that's why you couldn't reject Ebisawa Chisato's request! Well I guess you do need to leave a good impression on your future father-in-law."
I was a little stunned when Senpai pulled us back on topic. Oh right, that's the reason why I gave Senpai the call in the first place.
"That's not really the reason why I agreed to his request...... Moreover, we've already known each other for ages now, so why must I take to heart the impressions Ebichiri has on me?"
"It's okay if you're unaware of that!" Senpai laughed it off with a wave of her hand. "Do fill me in on what's going on then."
It felt like there's something deeper to Senpai's words, but it won't do for me to keep dancing along to her lead either. So I began explaining to her the <Fire-thieving Moths> sonata as well as Kokonoe Hirofume's son, Tooru Charlois.
"A piece composed by Tooru's father huh...... I see, so you're trying to get me to pull some strings?"
"Yeah. I remember there were plans to have him as the producer of feketerigó, right? So I'm wondering if you're still in contact with him......"
"The plans of Tooru being our producer was blown out of the water after we had a huge quarrel......"
"Eh...... A huge quarrel?"
"The first time we met, Tooru said things like how he wants pretty graduates from the idol academy to join us as the bass and the keyboard...... I don't think he had listened to our music prior to that. In any case, he was trying to force us to accept the plan to transform the band into a typical business unit. So I began rattling about how that idea was incredibly stupid, and I ended up pissing him off......"
But of course! What the hell did you think you were doing, saying stuff like that to a big-shot producer who's almost twenty years older than you? So...... that means it's all just my wishful thinking?
"And after that, Tooru and I became drinking buddies."
"Oh well, I guess the only thing left is to locate Tetsurou somehow— Ehhhhhh? What did you just say?"
Didn't you quarrel with him?
"Isn't there a saying which goes 'Great affection is often the cause of violent animosity'?"
"That only applies to close friends, doesn't it!?" You quarrelled with him on the very first meeting!
"Tooru's too busy to even clean his ass when he's done using the toilet, so I'm not too sure if I can get you to meet him, but I'll try and contact him anyway. I should do it within these two days."
"Thanks a lot, you're a great help."
The greatest assets a man can have is his contacts. I finally came to appreciate this fact only after I had entered the industry. Back when I was young, I'd use to think, "That's what makes us impure as we grow up gradually over the years!" But that's all in the past now.
"You don't have to thank me. You do know I'm not doing this for free, right?"
I was incredibly frightened when I saw the grin on Senpai's face.
"Urm...... well...... I doubt I'll be getting much money off this......"
"I never said I wanted money! How about paying with your body instead?"
I could do nothing but run away when I heard that from Senpai. She was saying that while lying on the bed with only a robe on her. However, as I was retreating backwards in the direction of the door, it opened suddenly and I crashed out of the room.
"I'm back, Senpai! Sheesh, I had to go all the way to the convenience store right across the station to get some mint chocolate ice-cream since they didn't sell any around here— Eh? Nao? What are you doing here?"
"It took you too damn long! You even walked over me as you entered the room, so why are you still surprised!?"
Chiaki was wearing a jersey with plastic bags held in her hands, her eyes opened wide in surprise. She then pulled me up unwillingly.
"So what do you think you're doing here? Look at the time!"
"It's easier for him to assault us in the middle of the night!"
"Senpai! Please keep your mouth shut!" Before I was even done with my retort, the furious Chiaki had already gotten her hands on my collar. The next second, the world turned half a circle around me, followed by my back slamming hard against the ground.
"This hip sweep is for Mafuyu."
Chiaki was already locking my arms with her limbs before I could even speak.
"And this armlock is for me!"
"Ow ow ow ow it's gonna break it's gonna break!"
I could hear the frightening popping sounds from my joints while I explained everything to Chiaki with all my might.
"Why didn't you tell me about Nao's visit?"
"At the very least, inform me about how you're sharing a room with Chiaki!"
"I won't be able to enjoy the sweet moments alone with Comrade Hikawa should I have told you beforehand! And I even sent you out deliberately just so I can do this, Comrade Aihara!"
"You're really terrible! Can you please treasure the only remaining band member?"
"Nao, you're in no position to be saying that since you don't treasure Mafuyu at all!"
Huh? I-Is that so? But I do intend to treasure her properly......
"Isn't Mafuyu returning to Japan for the long term? And she should've asked what your plans are for the future, right?"
"Then why didn't you propose?"
I was stunned. Propose?
"Comrade Aihara, it isn't the best idea to just say something that important to him straight to his face, is it?"
Kagurazaka-senpai shook her head worryingly and sighed.
"But that stupid Nao will never realize this for the rest of his life if I don't say it now! I'll be so sorry for Mafuyu."
"Because now's not the time!"
"Rubbish, it's already way too late. They've been going out for six years already!"
"They'll have to wait till the day when my worldwide revolution succeeds and I shatter the saddening and barbaric system in our civilized society — I'm referring to monogamy."
"We should be aiming for revolutions that are way more meaningful than that! How about inventing a totally transparent drum set where the audience can see the drummer in full view during the performance?"
"I'm looking at Comrade Aihara all the time even as I am facing the audience while we're on stage!"
"Thank you! I love you, Senpai!"
The two members of feketerigó were totally ignoring me as they began their nonsensical conversation. But I wasn't in the mood to listen to them.
"Senpai, Nao looks really depressed!" Chiaki prodded my temple.
"But they haven't decided on marriage yet!"
Marriage huh...... so that's what Ebichiri meant with his words? Mafuyu's returning to Japan for the long-term, so that's the reason why Ebichiri asked me what I was planning to do in the future?
No, not just Ebichiri...... Even Mafuyu mentioned stuff like that as well......
"Your expression's saying 'I finally understand now', you know?" Chiaki pulled her face towards mine.
"Well, I'll be nice and interpret it as both Nao and Mafu-Mafu being really busy...... But from what I understand of Nao, I doubt you've even thought about this before, right?"
As what you'll expect from a friend of over twenty years. You do know me well.
"So? Do you want to get married?"
"I don't know."
"You actually said you don't know!? You're just......"
"...... Do I have to?"
"That's not the problem here!"
"May I voice the views of a typical person, however rare it may be from me?"
Kagurazaka-senpai sat herself up and hugged Chiaki from behind.
"There's no point for you to get all heated up over this, yeah? This is the fatal difference between the sexes, a destiny that's carved deep into their chromosomes. Even in death, men will never understand how essential marriage is, so it's not because Comrade Hikawa's incredibly dense up there! However, that's not necessarily the case when it comes to other stuff."
"Really? You heard what Senpai said? That's great for you, Nao!"
I don't quite understand how's that 'great'. Come to think about it, not only was Senpai not standing up for me, it felt like she's dissing me in a really roundabout way instead, wasn't she?
"In any case, you two should get married already! Only then can I wed Senpai in peace!"