Extra Episode – IV

Youko
“…It’s really coming down.”
Kazusa
“It’s supposed to be like this the whole weekend. I saw the forecast this morning.”
Youko
“Come to think of it, this is the rainy season in Japan.”
Kazusa
“…I guess.”
Youko
“…You still don’t feel like talking about Japan?”
Kazusa
“…Not really.”

My mother, who still had her attachments to Japan, and I, who had thrown away Japan and all my memories with it.

Any time that place came up, our conversation would slip out of sync.

Youko
“Look, Kazusa…”
Kazusa
“What?”
Youko
“There’s a great big tree right outside the window.”
Kazusa
“Yeah, and?”
Youko
“Once all of that tree’s leaves have fallen off, I’ll be…”
Kazusa
“We’re in early summer, and it’s raining. It’s gonna keep living for a while.”
Youko
“Until winter, at this rate.”

Even so, while we were spending time together, Mom made the effort to act the part of the usual, detached Youko Touma.

Still, it was all too clear to me exactly how much effort it was taking.

And…

Lately, the enjoyable hours we found at the start had been steadily decreasing.

She had lost weight. Her appetite had plainly lessened. Day by day, her limbs were growing more withered.

Day by day, she was getting paler. Her hair and skin were losing their luster.

…The biggest thing was, she had become negligent in tending all of that.

Youko
“You know that there’s a small safe in the back of the living room closet, right?”
Kazusa
“Wait, really?”
Youko
“Yes, there is. The key for that safe is in the altar drawer.”
Kazusa
“You seriously brought an altar all the way to Vienna… wait, we have an altar?”
Youko
“That was a joke.”
Kazusa
“Oh. Right…”
Youko
“Actually, it’s in the top drawer next to my bed.”
Kazusa
“Okay…”
Youko
“Open the safe with that key, and you’ll find a key to a safe-deposit box…”
Kazusa
“What’s with all these keys?”
Youko
“The safe-deposit box needs a PIN, too, not just a key. I’m going to tell it to you now, so memorize it. Don’t write it down, just keep it in your head.”
Kazusa
“Ugh, fine.”
Youko
“Make sure you remember it. It’ll be important when the moment comes.”
Kazusa
“I’m not interested in property or entitlements! You know that better than anyone, Mom!”
Youko
“Well, you should start being interested. Some day, you’re going to take over Youko Touma Offices. …Well, maybe it’ll be ‘Kazusa Touma Offices’ then.”
Kazusa
“I don’t need that. Once I stop being able to play piano, I’ll just die a dog’s death. I won’t have any regrets in a life like that.”
Youko
“No, absolutely not! You have to live happily, even if you’re alone.”
Kazusa
“Money can’t buy happiness. Even you must know that…”
Youko
“Still, it’s not possible to die a dog’s death happily. Now, listen to me.”
Kazusa
“Mom…”

And, even though the most enjoyable time had passed, Mom hadn’t stopped her chitchat.

She was clearly shaving down her stamina and vitality in her attempts to keep things light, but what she said was starting to get strange.

This was a painful moment, different from anything before. I was chatting with Mom, but it wasn’t fun at all.

She wouldn’t tease me. Wouldn’t evade the topic at hand. Just kept repeating these joyless, unpleasant discussions.

Just piling up talk about things left undone, worries, reminiscences.

As though the person speaking before me were no long Youko Touma…

Youko
“Say, Kazusa…”
Kazusa
“Hm?”
Youko
“Do you want to know about your father?”
Kazusa
“No, I don’t wanna hear it.”
Youko
“Why not?”
Kazusa
“I’m not interested now. That’s all.”
Youko
“But, supposing I… Supposing you were left all alone in the world…”
Kazusa
“Wherever I end up from now on, the only parent I have is Youko Touma.”
Youko
“Kazusa…”

…For that matter, I felt guilty over the fact that I was going to end up being Youko Touma’s only descendant.

Kazusa
“So stop talking like that all the time. I’ve told you over and over, I don’t have any regrets. I don’t resent you, or hate you.”
Youko
“Kazusa…!”
Kazusa
“…Stop. Please.”
Youko
“I’m sorry, Kazusa… I can’t leave you anything… Oh…!”

Mom’s weeping resounded quietly through the hospital room, filling the gaps between the sounds of the rain.

Kazusa
“I told you, stop!”

My words weren’t out of embarrassment. I genuinely wanted her to stop.

Things were too sad this way.

Mom had lived her life in such an easygoing way, and now, her humanity was wavering, little by little.

And that…

Could it mean that, before anything happened with her life itself, the existence of Youko Touma was already meeting a dull, sluggish death…?

Youko Touma was a proud god to me. A selfish mother. An unreachable rival. And, a dear friend, to whom I could talk without care.

But the person here now was an ordinary human. A quiet-hearted old woman, worrying over the future of this youth.

This wasn’t the Youko Touma that I, and the world, had wanted…

Kazusa
“Listen, Mom, you should get out of this hospital…”

So, unable to bear this atmosphere any longer, I forced an unreasonable demand onto her, even though she was weaker than I was.

Kazusa
“Then, I’m gonna make you listen to my piano-playing. I’m miles better than I was at that concert. I’ve been playing fifty hours, a hundred hours a day.”

Because I was still weak.

I couldn’t graduate that quickly from the spoiled brat chasing after her mother’s shadow.

Kazusa
“What do you want? Beethoven? Schubert? Mozart? Give me any request and I’ll play it.”
Youko
“…”
Kazusa
“Just… quit saying stuff that’s gonna make me sad…”
Youko
“…clôture.”
Kazusa
“Huh…?”

And, at that moment…

Mom raised her eyes, slightly red from crying, and muttered that single word.

Youko
“Play clôture.”

Kazusa
“…”

It was such a minor piece that even people with a taste for classical music probably wouldn’t be able to call it up quickly in their minds.

Its composer, the time in which it was composed, and its original title were all unknown.

Even its title now, clôture, had just been given to it by people who claimed its origins were in France.

Germans called it Die andere Seite des Glücks, a completely different title, asserting that it was theirs.

And I knew both titles well.

Youko
“I played it in my debut performance here in Europe… It’s the piece I’ve played the most in my life.”

Yes, because it was Mom’s greatest pride… And, more importantly…

Kazusa
“A concerto…?”

A piano concerto, performed with an orchestra.

In other words, it would require holding a concert, or chartering an orchestra…

I couldn’t do it alone. It was a piece that would require the strength of many other people.


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