Paradise Noise - Chapter 4
The Confined Flower
In the large glass case located near the entrance of our high school, there was always an extensive display of ikebana.
(TL: Ikebana is the art of flower-arranging.)
Since I’m not really that interested in flowers, I normally walked past it without batting an eye. However, that Monday in early May was an exception. I came to school in the morning, changed into my indoor shoes, and was heading toward the stairs when those flowers stopped me in my tracks.
I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even look away.
The baskets were filled with a crowd of bold, red flowers with thin, fine petals; the flowers seemed to burst through the glass case, overflowing it with a ferocious elegance. A number of students eyed me suspiciously as they walked past me.
The bell rang.
Finally coming back to my senses, I reluctantly headed toward the stairs. As I turned my head around to take one last look, I noticed the nameplate at the corner of the glass case.
Year 1, Class 3, Shizuki Yurisaka.
Is that the name of the ikebana artist?
Next to it, there was an unfamiliar name of a second-year female student. However, only the tranquility of the name “Shizuki” remained in my mind.
(TL: Shizuki is written as 詩月. 詩 means poetry and also refers to arts, literature, and style in general. 月 means moon and also refers to freedom, peace, and simplicity. Well, mainly it’s like how names generally have different impressions, and it just so happens that the MC thinks of Shizuki as “tranquil”, I guess.)
As I walked by the glass case at the entrance that same evening, I saw four girls arguing in front of the ikebana display.
“Senpai did most of the work, so I think it’s weird that they put my name on the nameplate…”
“Even so…” “It’s still basically, like, Yurisaka-san’s, right?” “After all, I was just following Yurisaka-san’s advice.” “Sensei was so surprised that he had no choice but to put Yurisaka-san’s name up.” “There’s no way we could set up something this professional by ourselves.”
“But… I’m not even a member of the club, so… it’s not right for me to get this much attention…”
“Who cares about that?” “Anyways, Yurisaka-san, are you going to join the flower arrangement club?”
“Your mother is the headmaster of the school, right?” “We’d be so much better off if you joined us.”
I heard the name “Yurisaka” so I assumed that the one with the troubled look was one of the creators of the ikebana display. Although I couldn’t see her face because she was facing away from me, the people surrounding her seemed to be from the ikebana club. From the content of the conversation, it seemed that Yurisaka Shizuki actually wasn’t a member of the ikebana club; rather, she was just helping with the display by giving them advice.
She was the actual creator of that vivid flowerpot.
Wondering what she looked like, I tried to take a look at her face. I deliberately walked slowly past the four of them. However, if I were to move to a position where I could clearly see Yurisaka Shizuki’s face, I would inevitably end up taking an unnatural route.
Whatever. I don’t want people to think that I’m a suspicious person, so I gave up and walked away.
Just then, I heard a small voice behind me. Turning around, my eyes fell upon hers. It was Shizuki Yurisaka. Just over her shoulder, the bold, red flowers blooming behind the thick glass overlapped with her black hair, making her look like she was part of the ikebana display. As our gazes intertwined, it was as if the cycle of seasons had accelerated around us: summer visited, autumn passed; winter went, and spring came around again.
Shizuki Yurisaka pointed her slender index finger at me and tried to say something. I was puzzled. What, you know who I am? I thought we had never met before.
“Yurisaka-san? What’s wrong?” When a member of the ikebana club called out to her with concern, Shizuki’s gaze drifted away from me. She walked toward the corridor and was instantly surrounded by the ikebana club members. For some reason, a sense of relief filled the bottom of my stomach. Remembering the errand that Hanazono-sensei had told me to run, I turned and walked to the stairs.
The location of the errand was the music storage room on the fourth floor of the north school building, which was right next to the music preparation room.
Hanazono-sensei, who was waiting for me at the entrance of the warehouse, opened the door and invited me in.
“Go sort out all the sheet music and materials, put them back on the shelves, and organize the instruments.”
I surveyed the warehouse, all the way up the dirty ceiling. Sheet music, cases for musical instruments, pipe chairs, stepladders, and more were piled up on the floor in a messy heap, making the room look like it had just experienced an earthquake.
“How did it get so messed up? Are you keeping monkeys in this room?”
“Don’t assume that I’m the one who caused this mess,” she said, her lips pursed in annoyance. “It was already like this when I first arrived.”
“Oh… Sorry, I thought—”
“This is just the place I use for napping, playing games, and happily rolling around when I get a rare item in a video game.”
“So you’ve contributed to this mess!”
“Anyways, I lost my 3DS here, so can you help me find it while you’re at it?”
Maybe finding the 3DS is the actual errand and cleaning out the warehouse is just a side task…
“There’s a lot of orchestral music here, so it’ll be beneficial for Musao too.”
“Huh? Are you really trying to help me? Just because you forced me to run an errand doesn’t mean you have to say things like that—”
“Well, you see, Musao, since I’m your biggest fan, I’ve listened to all of your works. And I’ve felt for a long time that your early works in particular would’ve been better suited with a romantic style arrangement, so it would be helpful to have some of these scores to study them.”
With shifty eyes, she started to ramble on and on as if she knew all about me.
“Wow, you’ve been listening to my early works a lot, right? Then, play a little for me.”
As I pointed at the small organ in the corner of the warehouse, Sensei’s innocent smile made me stiffen my face.
“Wait, no, it’s not like I can just play one of your pieces out of the blue. You can’t play the piece with just one keyboard, right? You have to arrange it first.”
“You can’t play it either way. I mean, you can’t even listen to them anymore. I deleted all of my old songs a long time back.”
“Gah! You deleted them?”
“See, I knew it.”
“N-No, I was actually listening to them! I’ll play it for you once it’s arranged, I promise.”
“I don’t want that promise. Instead, Sensei, how about you clean up the warehouse on your own…?”
“I’ve got work to do. See you later!” Hanazono-sensei hurriedly blurted and quickly ran out from the warehouse. I doubted that she actually had work to do. Wouldn’t she just be reading manga or playing games on her phone?
However, cleaning up the warehouse was surprisingly fun. After all, it was a treasure trove of musical scores. I was able to find scores from Bruckner, Mahler, and Shostakovich symphonies that I had been wanting to properly look over for a while. There were also some seemingly rare and weirdly-shaped instruments lying around unopened. An extremely lucky find (literally!) was a drum set that had been covered by an old, collapsing cardboard box. It had a bass, a snare, four toms, a hi-hat, and some other cymbals. I don’t know much about drums, so I can’t say for sure, but when I hit the snare lightly, it didn’t sound like a cheap product. At the very least, it’s much better than the ones the brass band usually uses.
Now that I’ve cleaned up most of the mess in the warehouse, I had enough space to set up a real drum set. I could only set up one tom-tom on the left side, and only three cymbals in total: a hi-hat, a crash, and a ride. I didn’t have enough time to add any more.
I safely uncovered the drumsticks and a chair from a corner of the warehouse. Now, I was ready to go. I started with a simple 8-beat rhythm, shifted into a shuffle beat, and then hit some fills. However, as I was far worse at it than expected, I quickly gave up.
(TL: A drum fill is a short, improvisational transition between parts of a song, like a brief drum solo that fills a gap between musical phrases.)
Drums—well, I guess that drummers could say that the quality of their drumming was directly reflected in the sound. Perhaps, the sound of the drum depended on where it was struck. Drumming was completely different from what I had imagined. As someone who usually uses a sequencer to play built-in rhythm patterns, I couldn’t stand the gap between my sequencer and reality.
As I was sorting through some sheet music, the door to the warehouse suddenly creaked open.
When I turned around, my eyes met with the girl standing in the hallway. Both of us froze with our mouths half open. It was one of the girls I had seen standing in front of the ikebana display at the entrance.
Because I had only briefly glanced at her, I didn’t notice her features. But, now that I was face to face with her, her gracefulness almost made me feel sorry for even making eye contact with her. I could easily imagine her, dressed in a traditional kimono, putting the flowers of the four seasons in her hands with a gentle motion.
(TL: A kimono is a long, loose robe with wide sleeves and tied with a sash, originally worn as a formal garment in Japan and now also used elsewhere as a robe.)
I wonder what this ikebana girl needed from the music warehouse.
“U-Um,” She said in confusion. “Hanazono-sensei told me to come and clean up.”
“Eh? Ah, haa…”
“By any chance, have you already finished?”
My gaze wandered around the warehouse. Finally, it landed back on her face.
“Yeah, well, pretty much.”
Did Hanazono-sensei tell you to come here?
In other words, while Sensei was doing work, she couldn’t bear the thought of me cleaning up all alone. So, she had arranged for another helper. I hadn’t expected Sensei to be so considerate.
“I’m sorry, I’m late,” she said shamefully.
“No, don’t be sorry, I was fine.” I was at a complete loss for words when I saw her apologetic face.
Anyways, I wonder what kind of connection she had with Hanazono-sensei, especially because Sensei had asked her to help with cleaning up the mess in the warehouse. She’s not a music student (If she were, she’d be in an odd-numbered class with me), and she’s not in charge of any classes either. And even though she seemed to recognize me at the doorway earlier…
I had a lot of questions, but they weren’t things I needed to know. I kept quiet and glanced at her as I continued to organize the sheet music. Strangely enough, Yurisaka Shizuki was still standing in the doorway of the warehouse, fidgeting, even though she had no other business here. I finally noticed that her gaze had been fixed on the drum set rather than on me.
I wonder what she’s thinking. Is this drum set really that rare? Well, if she’s not much of a musician, this might be the first time she’s seen a real drum set.
She then turned her intense stare to me.
“Want to… bang on it?” I offered under the pressure of her gaze.
“Is that really okay?”
Her face glowed from excitement as she entered the warehouse.
Since she had the aura of a sheltered girl who had never held anything heavier than a pair of flower scissors in her life, I thought that I’d have to teach her the basics; things like how to sit and operate the pedals… I was very surprised when she suddenly started adjusting the height of the chair. She sat down, did some light wrist flexing, straightened her back, and put her feet on the hi-hat and kick pedals. Her hands, holding the drumsticks, lifted gently.
The air in the warehouse became suffocatingly dense.
In a way, Shizuki Yurisaka’s gesture was exactly as I had imagined, but it went far beyond that. She tapped the hi-hat cymbal with a delicate, yet bold, gesture, as if she were setting up the first flower on a kenzan. The flower that blossomed from there was a glittering shuffle beat with plenty of ghost notes.
(TL: A kenzan, also called spiky frog, is a specific device used in the Japanese art of flower arrangement ikebana for fixing the flowers in the container. A ghost note is a note played softly between accented beats.)
Feeling dizzy, I slumped back and rested my back against the music shelf.
The sticks held in her slender hands flit from cymbal to tom to cymbal and back again with soft, gentle movements, like a butterfly seeking honey. And yet, the sound that was produced by the sticks had a strength that resonated to the bone.
I stifled my breath as I listened.
Although the tempo remained the same, a sense of acceleration gripped me. It was as if this room, alone, was cut off from the flow of time in the outside world and swept away from it, as if reality was quietly frozen just beyond the door…
She let out a surprised squeal and abruptly stopped playing. The groove suddenly disappears, and I feel as if I’ve just been thrown off a cliff.
“I’m sorry, I got carried away.”
She started to get up from the chair.
“No, you don’t have to worry about that. It’s a drum set that no one has ever used before, and the instrument will be happier if someone skilled played it,” I explained in a panic.
Yurisaka Shizuki had a blank expression on her face.
“…Can instruments feel happiness? Um, do you think they have minds like humans?”
I didn’t want to delve into that nonsensical topic right now.
“U-Uh, I guess if it’s an old, good instrument, there’s… something like that, I guess,” I replied in a straightforward manner while averting my eyes. Shizuki seemed to become even happier.
“That’s right! This is Gretsch’s Round Badge drum set, and based on its sounds, it seems like it’s been used a lot. I wonder how such a good drum set ended up in a warehouse.”
“Round… uh, what?”
“It’s in the shape of a badge, see?”
She pointed to the side of the snare drum.
I could see a small round metal disc affixed to the body of the drum, with a protrusion in the center resembling an emblem with a chrysanthemum flower on it, and the maker’s name, GRETSCH, engraved around it.
“This is the badge that Gretsch used in the ’60s. It’s vintage, it’s a classic, and I’ve never played one before! I love the way it makes my wrist feel like it’s sinking into water and the way the sounds echo back to my collarbone when I do double strokes.”
Out of the nowhere, she began giving me an impassioned lecture about the drum set. Though, since I’m not that familiar with drums, I just felt overwhelmed.
Who are you? I thought you were just an ikebana girl. Her drumming and the content of her speech both showed her vast experience in the field.
“And the tuning is totally jazz. I was taught with jazz drums, so the sound quality of this drum set feels right to me. If I could do something to improve it, I’d like this drum to be a little tighter, but I can’t just cut the holes without permission…”
“Ah, you came from playing jazz? Your style is a little Jeff Porcaro-ish, if you ask me.”
In my modest vanity of pretending to know a fair amount about drums, I listed the name of one of the drummers I knew. Yurisaka Shizuki’s face immediately lit up as she sat up straight again.
“Jeff is one of my goals! I’ve practiced ‘Rosanna’ a thousand times; you can tell that it’s amazing just by listening to it!”
Crap, I think she’s overestimating me now after I made that comment by a fluke.
For the next ten minutes or so, I learned the hard way that pretending to know about something was a mortal sin. Yurisaka Shizuki showed off her seven prismatic colors of drumming, and with a smile plastered on her face, she asked me a quiz about drummers across each era.
“Can you guess who I’m imitating with this phrasing? The hint is in my face!” She said with a frown similar to a statue of one of the two guardian Deva kings.
(TL: Phrasing in music is the way a musician shapes a sequence of notes in a passage of music to allow expression.)
“U-Um, sounds like metal… Lars Ulrich?” For the time being, I’ll just answer with the name of a rugged metal drummer in my knowledge.
“No, you’re wrong~! It’s Mike Mangini! You know, the one who pretends to hit the octoban on his head.” I don’t know. It’s kinda irritating when people say things like that, like it’s common knowledge or something. “Then, the next question. I’m going to throw one of my drumsticks for each phrase, and you’re going to guess which one is Chad Smith’s stick throw!”
This time, she began to play a funky beat. And as she had announced, every two bars she would insert a rest, at which point she would fling the drumstick up to the sky, catch it, and move on to the next phrase. I was unsure how one could tell the difference between the two.
(TL: Rests are intervals of silence in pieces of music, marked by symbols indicating the length of the pause.)
“…This one, I guess,” I said at a random moment.
“No, that’s YOSHIKI’s throwing style. There was a lot of rotation in the drumstick and there was also a hair flip, you know?” No, that’s why I don’t know. “The next question is. I’m going to play ‘Good Time Bad Time,’ but first I’m going to play it like Bonzo, and then I’ll play like Bonzo’s son, starting somewhere in the middle, so please raise your hands when I switch from Bonzo’s style to his son’s.” There’s no way I can tell! That father-and-son pair have basically the same playstyle!
After quiz time, which ended with zero correct answers for me, she had a dejected, apologetic expression on her face.
“I’m sorry, my imitations weren’t very good, so you couldn’t guess any of them at all…”
I’ve been apologized to for a terrible reason, causing me to have no clue how to respond. But as I was at a loss for words, Yurisaka Shizuki stood up. She took out her phone and looked at the screen.
“It’s getting late! Sorry for interrupting while you were working!”
She bowed her head and ran quickly out the door of the warehouse. She suddenly stopped to look back at me as she stepped out into the hallway.
“U-Um,” she said with upturned eyes. “It was fun. Thank you very much.”
It’s not my drum set, and I didn’t do anything to it, so I don’t know how to accept her thanks.
“If you had a good time, feel free to come back and play the drums again if you want.”
Suddenly, I heard a voice coming from behind her, causing her to jump in surprise. We both turned towards the hallway and saw Hanazono-sensei.
“Ah! S-Sensei, I’m sorry, I didn’t help clean up at all, I was just playing the drums.”
Yurisaka Shizuki shrank back. Hanazono-sensei smiled and waved it off.
“It’s fine. If Makoto-chan could do it on his own, then it’s OK. It probably wasn’t much work anyways.”
No, it was very difficult. Whose fault do you think it was? And what’s with the Makoto-chan? Why are you calling me by my actual name all of the sudden?
Yurisaka Shizuki bowed to me and the teacher and took off down the hallway.
“I was listening in the room next to you two’s. I have to say, that was a fantastic performance,” Sensei absentmindedly said as she sent her off.
“Her performance was so powerful that I wondered where she even got the strength from in her thin body. Even Rikiya Higashihara would run away barefoot.”
“Haah. You’re right, it was amazing.”
“That’s the part where you’re supposed to say, ‘Rikiya Higashihara is barefoot to begin with’, you know?”
“I don’t know who he is.” I found out later that he was a jazz drummer who is famous for playing barefoot.
“I think I’ll make this warehouse a little more soundproof so Shizuki-chan won’t get into trouble. I’m thinking of lining the doors and covering the walls with fabric…”
“Um, who is she, anyway?”
When I asked Sensei about it, she told me with great pride.
“Shizuki Yurisaka-chan, class 1, year 3. She’s a real gem. She’s been coming to the rental studio of a friend of mine by herself a lot lately. Since she’s a drummer, I could see her skill even from outside the glass door. I recognized the face of the young girl as soon as I saw her.”
“Indeed, she was like a veteran drummer for her age. Once I heard her play, I knew that I would forget her face.”
“No, I recognized her because she was cute.”
“Where’s the part about her drumming?”
“I love the way her hair sticks to her sweaty forehead whenever she plays a fast song…”
I don’t care what your fetishes are. Really, I don’t care.
“But I didn’t know she went to this high school. When I approached her, she seemed to recognize me since we had seen each other a couple of times in the studio. We really hit it off because we have the same taste in music. It’s a shame, why didn’t she choose music as an elective?”
That’s what I was wondering, too.
“Also, a while ago, I saw her being held up by the girls from the ikebana club. Since she looked bothered by all of the girls’ troublesome talk, I lied and said that she had an errand to run to help her escape.”
“Oh, I see…”
I finally understood what had happened. So, that’s why she showed up here out of the blue to help me clean up the warehouse.
At any rate, I still wondered what the troublesome talk was about. I wonder if she was still being persistently pestered to join the ikebana club. With her personality, I don’t know how she would be able to directly reject their offer, even if it made them angry or made herself unpopular…
“By the way, Makoto-chan,” Hanazono-sensei interrupted my pondering.
“What’s with that name?”
“I know you don’t like to be called Musao. But whenever I try to call you Murase, I inadvertently end up calling you ‘Musao’. So, I decided to call you by your first name now. Whenever there’s a ‘mu’ in a name, my reflex is to call it ‘Musao’.”
“Ehh… that’s just stupid. Then… for example, what’s the name of the famous, dual-wielding swordsman?”
“Miyamoto doesn’t even have a ‘mu’ in it!”
(TL: Miyamoto Musashi is the referenced swordsman. Sensei’s joke be changing both last and first name. Probably.)
“In the far north of Tokyo is the city of Musaomusayama.”
“Apologize to the citizens of Musashimurayama! Even though those people are in the sticks, they would still care about this kind of stuff!”
(TL: Musashimurayama is a city in the western region of Tokyo, in the countryside. Essentially, Hanazono-sensei just made fun of that. And butchered the name. Not cool. *pout*)
“That’s where you should have said, ‘Okutama is the northernmost part of Tokyo.’”
“Do you think such an argument will comfort the poor citizens of Musashimurayama?”
“Isn’t Makoto-chan saying much worse things about Musashimurayama than me?”
“Geh…” I was at a loss for words. I’m sorry, citizens of Musashimurayama.
“So, back to the topic at hand, Makoto-chan.”
Hanazono-sensei said in a tone of voice as if she were chiding a small child. It’s as if I was the one who caused the conversation to go astray. Though, I think that she might be right this time. I was unhappy about that, but I had no choice but to keep quiet.
“Did you complete the errand?”
“What you’re asking me to do is just to clean the warehouse… right? I’ve finished.”
“No, no, my DS! Did you find it?”
“Ah…” Oh, yeah, I remember that part of the errand now. “I completely forgot about it. There were so many treasures that I got a little carried away.”
“It’s gonna run out of battery! I haven’t saved my progress yet!”
“…How did you even lose it in such a state?”
“I was playing my game here when the vice principal suddenly came, so I hid it somewhere. But, I forgot where I hid it!”
Honestly, she is such a good-for-nothing teacher.
The two of us searched the warehouse together, but when we finally found it under a stack of books, the 3DS was already cold and out of battery.
“Ugh… I made it all the way to the boss. Now I’m going to have to start at… the dungeon all over again.”
“I think that’s bound to happen when you play games at work…”
When I pointed this out, Hanazono-sensei sullenly pouted.
“Ah, wait! I know! I’ll just take a proper day off to play my games!”
The next day, Hanazono-sensei was actually absent. She also sent me a message on LINE saying, [It’s self-study today, so Makoto-chan, please keep the class running,] with specific details of the songs to rehearse. That day, I played the piano for the music class and led the matching practice and chorus rehearsal instead of Sensei. I even put on a DVD of Tchaikovsky’s ballet and explained it. I had felt a chill run down my spine, thinking that perhaps Hanazono-sensei would leave all the lessons to me while she stayed indoors and played video games for the rest of her life.
Lately, Yurisaka Shizuki had been routinely coming to the music warehouse to play the drums.
“As expected… I’m really happy when someone listens to me play… plus, I’m playing on a Gretsch.”
“No, wait a minute, I’m not always here, you know?”
When I pointed that out, she had a downcast look on her face.
“…Y-Yeah, you’re right, I know you’re busy… Sorry.”
An apologetic look creeped onto her face again.
“Oh, yeah, but I’m usually in the music room practicing the piano, so if you need anything, just come get me,” I reassured hurriedly.
Now, her face’s expression seemed to say, “I can’t call you if I don’t have something to do… right?”
“It doesn’t have to be anything important, like, you know, a drum quiz or something is fine too,” I added.
Apparently, I had misspoke because Shizuki’s face instantly lit up.
“Oh, I see! Let’s do one now, then!”
She began with a heavy, languid beat.
“Sooo… do you know which Roger Taylor I’m imitating?”
“Which? Roger Taylor is the drummer for Queen, isn’t he?”
“No, it’s Roger Taylor of Duran Duran! Roger from Queen has a habit of overlapping hi-hat openings when he hits the snare, and that’s how you can recognize him, alright?”
You’ve realized that I don’t know a single thing about this, right?
Since Hanazono-sensei had given me the permission to “Customize the drums to my liking,” Shizuki said she would make a hole in the skin of the bass drum. Today, she brought a special instrument for that.
“When you drill a hole in the bass drum, does it alter the sound to be rock-styled?” I asked with a hazy memory due to my unfamiliarity with drums.
“Yes. Unlike jazz, the bass drum in rock is the foundation of the beat.”
A bass drum is what is called a dadaiko drum. In its normal state, it produces a deep, thick, heavy bassy sound. However, since the bass drum is in every basic rhythm pattern of rock music, a crisp and tight sound rather than a rich sound is preferred. In order to remove the echoing, she made a small hole in the skin on one side of the bass drum.
I had some knowledge of the process, but this was the first time I had seen someone do it in person. She removed the drumhead, used a compass with a razor to cut a precise circle about 20 cm in diameter slightly off the center of the skin, and attached rubber to protect the edges of the cut.
“You’re really good at this,” I said admiringly. “I thought you had to go to a music shop for this kind of thing.”
“I think a lot of people request this service at music stores,” Shizuki said with a chuckle. “Grandfather told me that I should be able to do everything related to sound quality by myself.”
I soon learned that she had a personalized jazz salon with a drum set and a grand piano at home. Plus, since her house was located in the middle of a huge plot of land in the countryside of Ibaraki, she could freely play without worrying about disturbing the neighbors. Just as she looked, she was from a rich family. I’m so jealous.
“Due to some previous family circumstances and troubles, I had been unable to live in the main family house, so I was left in the care of Grandfather up until last year. Grandfather was the most eccentric of the Yurisaka family, and since he would not take sides, I was left in his care without any worries.”
…Hm? What’s this talk about her family circumstances? Family troubles?
“Every day was fun. Since Grandfather also played the piano, we often had music sessions. I had always wanted to live in that house,” Shizuki murmured happily.
I decided to leave the subject of her family disputes alone. It would be rude to pry into the matter.
She reattached the hole-cut drumhead to the body and tapped it a few times to check the sound
“I still want it a bit tighter. Let’s mute it a little more.”
If the drum were to be stuffed, the sound of the kick would be tighter and the echo would be more controlled. Normally, blankets were used for stuffing, but Shizuki had already pulled out a small stuffed cat, bear, or elephant from her bag. She shoved them one by one through the hole and into the body of the drum.
“…E-Eh? Are you using that?”
I asked in surprise.
“Yes. Grandfather taught me that this is the best way.”
“No, you can just use a blanket or something instead…”
“He told me to use something I love for a mute so that I can feel the pain in every kick and put all of my heart into drumming.”
“Ehhhh…I’ve never heard of such a thing. By the way, what did your Grandfather stuff the drum with?”
“Grandfather was a man who never muted.”
That was definitely just a slip of the tongue, right?
“Plus, small stuffed animals are perfect for this. They’re easy to insert through the hole and you can fine-tune the number of them.”
Hell, she even said something somewhat reasonable with her flawed logic.
“Wait, but if it moves around inside, won’t it have a weird echo?”
“In order to make it difficult for the elephant to move, I placed the cat’s head between the elephant’s back legs, and the elephant’s nose is secured with the bear’s fangs….”
Are you sure you love your stuffed animals?
However, when she finished tuning the bass drum and started playing again, the quality of her drumming had clearly improved. It was a completely different sound. Is it really that effective to play an instrument in a way that hurts something you love? I think I’ll give it a try. Basically, if I used a rare trading card I got at an auction as a guitar pick, would the quality of my strumming become better…?
Wait, no. That can’t be true. Although I felt like Shizuki’s drumming had gotten much better, it was simply because the sound had become more rock-oriented, which I preferred.
“I’m getting used to it.”
Shizuki’s hand stroked the edge of the bass drum lovingly as if she were petting a dog.
“When I think of Mii-chan, Hanako-san, Pururin-kun, and Mikey working hard inside, I get fired up for each and every kick.”
So you just threw your favorite stuffed animals, who you even named, into the drum and kicked the shit out of them?
“Thanks to you, Makoto-san,” Shizuki said with a smile. “It turned out great.”
“No, I didn’t do anything.”
“You gave me your opinion on the tuning. It’s difficult to listen to the tuning of drums objectively by myself, so it was very helpful to have someone who can also help fine tune it. Makoto-san’s taste is responsible for this sound.”
That’s how it was. It’s true that since the drums were loud, a drummer in close proximity to the source of the sound might receive the sound differently from a bystander listening from a distance. I’m a little embarrassed to say that it was my own taste, though.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say that Makoto-san trained these children.”
“That’s clearly an exaggeration! You’d be giving someone a wrong idea about me if they heard that!”
“So, please…” Oye, stop blushing with those downcast eyes of yours at these times. “Please take responsibility. I look forward to working with you in the future.”
“Responsibility for what? Look, nobody else is listening, but that kind—”
“It’s to help me with the tuning every time…”
“Eh… A-Ah, y-yeah? So, that’s what you mean.”
“I can’t make this sound by myself. I need Makoto-san to listen to it.”
“But I won’t come here every day… Well, most of the time, I’ll be able to come here, but there are days when I have other places I want to go.”
“Could you just tell me your schedule?”
“It’s not really set in stone…”
Depending on my mood, the place I go on a specific day varies. For example, sometimes I just want to go straight home, and other times I want to head to the bookstore.
“That’s how it is. Just add me on LINE so we can easily communicate.”
Shizuki’s face clouded over.
“I don’t have a cell phone.”
“Oh, I see. Sorry… that’s rare nowadays.”
“Mother was… strict about that kind of thing.”
She lowered her eyes, causing me to remember the exchange between Shizuki and the members of the ikebana club at the entrance. Didn’t she say that her mother was the head of the school? The headmaster is probably the old-fashioned and strict type.
“That’s it! I’ve got a good idea!”
Shizuki’s expression brightened, and she clapped her hands together.
“Please put a sign in front of the window facing my classroom to let me know if you can come here after school. I should be able to see all the way to the end of the hall.”
Her classroom was on the other side of the school building and across the courtyard from mine..
“What kind of signs?”
“Oh, I know! The other day, I saw a pillow at the store that had ‘yes’ written on the front and ‘no’ on the back. You can use that!”
“Absolutely not!” How oblivious can you get?
(TL: I would imagine that Makoto thought that raising a pillow that said “yes” or “no” on it would indicate whether he wanted to uh… how do I put this… sleep with her that day. Or rather, that night. Cracked me up once I realized.)
Since Rinko was still frequenting the music room after school, it wasn’t long before she and Shizuki bumped into each other. On a Friday in the beginning of May, I was in the music storeroom as usual, following along with Shizuki’s quiz on drummers when the door behind me suddenly slammed open.
Shizuki stopped playing and looked toward the doorway. Rinko, who was standing just outside, folded her arms and glanced at me and Shizuki twice.
“Excuse me while I interrupt your two-person comedy act.”
“I wasn’t doing that,” I said immediately. If this were a comedy act, I don’t know what qualifies as one anymore.
“Oh, I’m very sorry. That was a slip of the tongue. Excuse me while I interrupt your crime.”
“It’s getting worse with each of your corrections, you know? If I really were in the middle of a crime, don’t worry about being polite and stop me!”
“Were you really in the middle of a crime?”
“No, we’re not! Stop talking about that!”
“Of bread ingredients then?”
“I’m not kneading flour, or any other ingredients for that matter!”
“Of a celebration, then.”
“Ugh, I give up!”
(TL: Crime (犯罪) is pronounced as han・zai, bread ingredients (パン材) is pronounced as pa・n・zai, and celebration (万歳) is pronounced as ban・zai. Also, when you shout “banzai”, you throw both of your hands into the air, which may also be a gesture of giving up. It’s a pun, nice.)
“But, even if it’s not a crime…”
Rinko shrugged, surveyed the warehouse, shifted her gaze from Shizuki back to me, and continued to speak.
“It looks like it’s an illicit sexual relationship.”
“How? You literally just heard the drums playing, didn’t you?”
“Ah, excuses, excuses.”
“Are you sure you’re just schoolmates?”
“What is this, a rap?”
“Present for you.”
“You’re not making any sense at all anymore! Just because you’re out of ideas doesn’t mean you have to rhyme…”
(TL: Illicit sexual relationship (不純異性交遊) is pronounced fu・jyun・i・sei・kou・yuu, the “excuses, excuses” (言えばこう言う) is pronounced i・e・ba・kou・iu (iu is pronounced as “you”), schoolmates (校友) is pronounced kou・yuu and “Present for you” (プレゼント・フォーユー) is written in katakana and said in english. So basically, Rinko’s a boss. At rhyming and rapping.)
However, Rinko really did have a present for me. I swallowed my words, blinked my eyes, and accepted the beautiful large envelope in her hands. It was fancily decorated with a ribbon-patterned seal.
“…Oh, sorry. It really was a gift? Um, thanks anyway.”
I did as Rinko requested and opened the package to find a sheet of music. In the corner and in Hanazono-sensei’s handwriting was a line of text that read, [This is a new cheer song that the cheerleading club asked me to arrange for the brass band.] I realized belatedly that Rinko had set me up when I found a small note that read, [Talk to Makoto-chan and decide which one of you will do it.]
“It’s decided, Murase-kun will be in charge.”
“That’s not fair! You even wrapped it up fancily so I would take it!”
“I believe in your kindness and generosity, Murase-kun.”
“Can’t you save those heartwarming lines for a better occasion?”
“Well, that’s all I needed to do. Since I seem to be bothering you two, I’ll take my leave here.”
Shizuki ran up to Rinko’s back as she was leaving the warehouse. On the way, she tripped on the leg of the floor tom and almost fell.
“I’m sorry. I’m the one who’s been bothering you two.”
Rinko turned around and blinked in surprise.
“Well, I mean, you clearly promised Makoto-san something.”
“I didn’t do anything of the sort. The only promise Murase-kun made to me was that he would not commit sexual crimes against anyone other than myself.”
“Can you please stop driving the conversation into utter confusion? I never promised that in the first place!”
“So, you’re going to commit sex crimes against people other than me?”
“How do you always drive the conversation in a direction that makes me look so bad?”
“I mean, you…” Shizuki said. “You two are dating, right? You’re always together after school. I’m sorry I interfered with that.”
“Huh? No… we don’t have that kind of relationship at all.”
“Really? But everyone in my class says so.”
“Eh? Wait a minute, why is there a rumor about us in Class 3? Do they even know about me and Rinko?”
“That’s not true. You’re both famous. Everyone knows you two, even the people who didn’t choose music as their elective do! There was a lot of gossip about your music sessions and the fact that you two make a good couple.”
“Ehhhhh?!” I quickly covered my cheeks with my hands. When I thought about it, I realized that we held our competition on the rooftop after school. Since it could be heard even from the staff room, I’m sure a lot of students heard the performance as well. They would probably be able to tell that it was us. We were in clear view if someone was watching from the third floor of the school building.
Well, I didn’t really care if people misunderstood that I was going out with Rinko. Rinko, on the other hand, would probably be confused, though. When I glanced at her, I couldn’t believe the look on her face. Her face was red like a fully ripe chili pepper all the way up to her eyes.
“…Me and… Murase-kun are…? I can’t believe that’s what they think of us…”
Her voice was shaking a lot. I was dumbfounded.
“Isn’t it strange that you’re this embarrassed after talking so much about sex crimes?” I couldn’t help but let my true thoughts come out through my mouth.
With a flushed face, she stared at me with an upturned glare.
“…Murase-kun, you don’t understand the female heart.”
If you’re someone who uses fake accusations of sexual harassment to bring people down, please don’t use the word “woman’s heart” like you’re a sensitive person or something.
“I know it’s embarrassing to have rumors circulating that you’re going out with me, but…”
“There’s nothing embarrassing about going out with Murase-kun.”
“Then why is your face so red?”
“Murase-kun’s very existence is a disgrace.”
“What are you talking about? Why did I just get hit by an attack from out of nowhere?”
“I’ve somewhat calmed down. Maybe it’s because I insulted Murase-kun, as usual.”
“Did you even realize that you were insulting me?”
“Did you think I was doing it unconsciously? What are you even thinking?”
“Why are you upset? You should be more apologetic!”
Wait, I just noticed. Did Rinko just mutter “going out with Murase-kun”? She was probably just trying to say that it was a rumor, and not that she’s actually thinking about the possibility… I’m pretty sure I just misheard. I started to become flustered.
“When I think about it calmly, there’s no real harm,” Rinko explained. “What do you think, Murase-kun? Do you mind if others think that you’re my lover?”
“It’s not that… I’m not really bothered by it.”
“Be a little more specific. Does it make you disgusted to be thought of as my lover?”
“Why do you ask? It’s not like I hate you that much.”
“When you say you don’t hate me that much, how much do you really hate me?”
“What’s with the questioning? I can’t say how much, but I probably don’t really hate you.”
“In other words, do you think I’m rather likeable?”
“…Yeah, if I had to say.”
Once again, Rinko blushed, turning red all the way up to her ears. What is with her today?
“I can’t believe you actually said that to my face, Murase-kun. Those were really embarrassing.”
“You were the one that made me say it!”
“Are you sure you two aren’t in a relationship…?” Shizuki interrupted, doubtful.
“Does it look like we are? Is that what this looks like?” I said in a serious tone of voice.
“Yes, that’s exactly what it looks like.”
“I also think we looked like that.”
You can’t just go back to your calm face and say it like it’s someone else’s problem. Do you have a switch for your blush or something?
Shizuki hurriedly stood up, bowed repeatedly to the both of us and left the warehouse, while saying, “Well then, I’ll leave now since I’m disturbing you two.”
All that was left was a stone-cold Rinko, a me, nearly drowning in confusion, and a silent drum set.
“She’s too delicate,” Rinko muttered, gazing at the doorway through which Shizuki had left. “She should’ve just played the drums while I bullied Murase-kun.”
Why don’t she share some of that delicacy with you?
“By the way, Murase-kun. I was wondering about one thing…”
“What is it?”
“That person… Yurisaka-san, I think? She was calling you by your first name.”
“Eh?A-Ah… you noticed?”
I think she was calling me “Makoto-san” from the beginning. But since it suited the atmosphere of Shizuki, I hadn’t paid any attention to it until now.
“That’s because she heard about me from Hanazono-sensei, and I think she caught my name when Sensei mentioned me.”
In a strange tone of voice, I desperately tried to come up with an excuse. Though, I didn’t know why I had to explain myself to Rinko in the first place.
“Hmph,” Rinko said with a suspicious look. “Well, very well, then.”
And I didn’t know why I had to get pardoned by Rinko.
“Come to think of it, you don’t like to be called with a ‘mu’, do you?”
“No, it’s not like that.”
“Maybe I should call you by your first name too…”
Um, Rinko-san, what are you implying all of the sudden?
“I quit. I’m disgusted.”
“Isn’t that a bit harsh?”
“Ah, sorry. I forgot that there’s a ‘mu’ in ‘disgusted’.”
(TL: Disgust (虫唾) is pronounced as mushizu.)
“That’s not what I want you to apologize for!”
“Then, Murase Makoto-kun, please arrange the song for me.”
Finally, after reminding herself of her unpleasant errand and completing it, Rinko left the instrument warehouse.
The clash (?) between Shizuki and Rinko didn’t end there.
Two days later, after school, I was in the music preparation room, preparing the materials for the next day’s class. Of course, I was forced to do the work that Hanazono-sensei was supposed to do. As I continued my tedious work dejectedly, I heard a pleasant triple bass beat through the wall. It was Shizuki.
I was grateful for the change of pace. While I was listening to the drums and absentmindedly moving my hands, someone started playing the piano from the other side of the wall—the music room. I knew who was playing it immediately. It was Rinko.
To my surprise, their performances were perfectly synchronized. Rinko was playing the furiously fast last movement of Beethoven’s first sonata in F minor. It ran through my skull from right to left, left to right, riding on the metallic beat of Shizuki. The stereo sounds were so extravagant and unbalanced that my head started to feel dizzy. It must be very difficult to match the sound of one person with the sound of the other person, since they are both listening to the other person’s playing across a space the size of a room. How could the ensemble remain so composed? However, I had to admit that this was a good way to pass the time. I listened to them play while moving my hands mechanically.
But my boredom didn’t seem to lift.
It’s ironic. I’ve been listening to such an amazing performance all this time, and yet I still felt bored. Well, the only amazing thing about it was that the rhythm was perfect. To be honest, it was overall, a rather uninteresting performance.
Of course, it was a classical piece written for solo pianists. There’s no way you can just add drums to it and have a complete arrangement. That’s a given.
But, I thought that Shizuki could do a little better. Considering her skill as a drummer, couldn’t she bring out Rinko’s piano in an unimaginable way? Is this just a selfish hope?
Just as the progressive section was about to end, Rinko’s piano suddenly stopped. Shizuki’s drums also stopped after overplaying by about a bar and a half, as if she had just stepped into a trap.
I couldn’t see either of their faces, but I could imagine the confused look on Shizuki’s and the frustrated look on Rinko’s.
I got up and opened the door to the music room.
“Murase-kun, I have a favor to ask of you.”
I almost fell over in surprise when I saw Rinko standing right in front of the other side of the door.
“Go tell Yurisaka-san that the triplets are too flat and to be more careful with the weak beats.”
“…Why me?”Just go out to the hallway, walk a little bit, make a turn, and there she is. Go and tell her yourself.
“Since I’m a very modest person, it pains me to make one-sided demands of other people.”
“Why doesn’t that modesty apply to me?”
“Murase-kun is special. That’s why I’m asking for your help. Murase-kun is the only one I can rely on.”
“Don’t say that like we’re in some kind of touching story.”
However, because I wanted to hear the rest of the performance, I reluctantly headed to the instrument warehouse, biting back my frustration. When I told her what Rinko had said, Shizuki stared at me with wide eyes.
“…I-I got it! I’ll work on that!”
I didn’t expect her to be so enthusiastic in her acceptance of Rinko’s criticism. I returned to the music preparation room with half anxiety and half anticipation.
This time, the performance stopped after the theme had been presented. The door to the preparation room opened and Rinko came out.
“Murase-kun, go tell Yurisaka-san. That ride didn’t have enough edge at all.”
“I told you to tell her yourself.”
Well, if I left the matter alone, the performance would be stopped. And so, I exasperatedly went back to the warehouse to tell her.
“I’ll give it a shot!”
Next, in the middle of the progressive section, the piano suddenly stopped and Rinko stepped into the preparation room.
“Murase-kun, go tell Yurisaka-san that fills are basically every two bars, so don’t skimp out.”
I was thinking of connecting the music room to the instrument storage room with a string phone.
“Okay! I’ll work towards it!”
It was a vicious cycle, as Shizuki was at my mercy. I had to walk back and forth between the music room and the instrument warehouse every time the performance was stopped.
In the end, Rinko didn’t manage to play the sonata all the way through and left, muttering in frustration, “It’s not an ensemble at all.”
“I didn’t play well at all…”
Shizuki was completely disheartened. However, since all of Rinko’s accusations had come through me, I regretted that I didn’t wrap it up a little better.
“I don’t have the right to interfere with you two’s after-school time.”
“You’re not interfering. It’s not like we were going to be doing anything together anyways…”
Unable to hear my words, Shizuki left the warehouse with slumped shoulders.
After that, Shizuki stopped coming here.
(TL: KYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA this chapter was cute Rinko is too sweet but it ended on a cliff haha)
(ED: Rinko cute, especially when she called him by his first name)