WA2 Light Novel – Volume 1, Session 10


SESSION 10
11 days until the show

Haruki’s Piece

I spent the whole weekend, Saturday and Sunday, eyes-deep in the guitar.

I sat through class with my head foggy, napped during break time, dashed home after school, and shut myself up in my room.

As Touma had instructed, I played “White Album” over and over, giving special focus to practicing the parts where I got stuck. And, of course, I practiced each scale many times.

Afterward, I couldn’t remember much of what happened between Saturday afternoon and Monday morning. Maybe I was groggy, but I think it was more likely that after repeating the same things so many times, my brain refused to store any more of it in my memory. Instead, I memorized my finger movements—slowly, but surely.

It was difficult not to fall asleep in class on Monday. Well, maybe I was half-asleep, actually. When I ran into Takeya on the way to school, he took one look at me and laughed, “Oh my god, you look like shit.”

Then, Tuesday…

After school, in Music Room #1, my fingers danced over the guitar, thrilled to be playing “White Album” through an amp again after so long.

I had been using an amp with headphones at home, so the sound wasn’t all that different. But between a sound that only resonated in my ears, and a melody that wrapped around my whole body, the latter was definitely a better feeling.

And, somehow, I got the feeling that I had improved compared with last Thursday… But, as I was on my way home—

“Not remotely good enough.”

Touma told me sharply that I was terrible, and not to get too excited. Apparently, she had heard me playing through the open window. Argh…

“That’s not true. Kitahara-kun is sounding great.”

Ogiso did her best to be supportive, but that just made me feel worse.

Then, at the station front, we parted ways with Setsuna—and Touma and I boarded the train together again.

“Phew…”

I yawned. Maybe the exhaustion of all that playing was getting to me.

“Sleepy, Kitahara?”
“Nah, I’m fine. I’m just a little tired, and I’ve got more work to do today.”
“…I guess you really have been playing ten hours a day.”

Touma gave a small chuckle.

“Yeah, I managed it, somehow… Listen, is my guitar playing really that terrible? Am I still far away from being able to play along with you?”
“You aren’t making quite as many errors, but your tempo keeps slipping. You haven’t got the rhythm yet.”
“O-Oh…”
“Well, that tends to happen when you’re playing alone… If we try it together, we can find out for sure.”
“Ah! Okay, will you watch me practice tomorrow, then?”
“…”

Touma suddenly shifted her gaze to her feet, and went silent, as though she were trying to remember something she had been thinking about. Shortly, however, she looked up again and spoke.

“Here’s the thing, Kitahara… Ogiso has reached a pretty important point now. If we want to get her vocals on track as soon as possible, we can’t stop her special training now.”
“…Oh, okay.”

The vocals were the top priority, after all. Nothing I could say to that… Though I did feel a little disappointed.

“How long do you think it’ll take for her to be ready?”
“Two or three more days, I think. I can’t bother with you until then.”

So, I was going to be on my own until the weekend.

We had less than two weeks left before the big show… Would we make it in time?

“Um… So, Kitahara. You… have your guitar right now?”
“Huh? Well, yeah.”

I did have the guitar case on my back.

“You said you wanted me to watch you practice.”

Touma was practically whispering, an extremely serious look on her face.

“Yeah, I did… Oh, are you going to do it?”
“Yes, I am. But…”

Right now.

“The train is arriving at Iwazu-cho. Iwazu-cho.”

The announcement cut me off as I asked her to repeat herself, and the doors slid open with a fsssh.

“Time to get off.”
“Uh… Huh?”

As I tried desperately to figure out what Touma meant, she clarified, “You’re getting off, too. We’re going to my house… Come on.”

°

“…No way.”
“What’s with that stupid look on your face?”
“I-I mean… I didn’t exactly expect you to live in a place like this!”

The room was enormous. On the wood flooring stood a piano, as well as a great variety of other instruments here and there. The equipment looked expensive, though I wouldn’t really know, and there were microphones hanging from the ceiling, of a shape that I wasn’t familiar with.

It looked, for all the world, like a professional studio.

“This is my practice space. I don’t live in here.”
“I know that…”

Ten or fifteen minutes from the station…

As it rose up out of the darkness, it was plain from the outside that the Touma house was unusual. Especially when it came to its size.

After dragging my dazed self through a yard that was big enough to take a jog around, an entryway with a shoe rack that was entirely too large, and a living room that was almost laughably spacious, Touma took me to—of all places—the basement.

The basement. Yes, the basement.

And what I found there was this studio-like room that you would never find in a normal house. Well, Touma’s mother was a world-famous pianist.

“This house is amazing… I’m feeling kind of depressed now, actually.”
“I never want to bring anyone here, because I know they’ll react that way.”
“I mean, this is overwhelming. Having this room… this entire house to yourself.”
“…All alone?”
“Huh?”
“Nothing. Let’s get started.”
“Oh, yeah…”

Without even changing out of her uniform, Touma sat down at the piano.

As I hurriedly pulled out the guitar, I muttered, “You’re the only one here, though, right, Touma?”

“And if I am?”
“Well, I mean…”

It was nine o’clock p.m.

For a high school guy and girl to be alone together at this hour…

“Ohhh, that?” Touma said, with an unnatural affect. “For the record, I kick very, very hard.”
“Huh?”

…Oh, yeah. She did have a lot of kicking power.

“Not that I think you would have the nerve, anyway, Kitahara.”

Urk.

“Right. I guess you are a guy. I just remembered.”

Double urk.

“My taste isn’t nearly that lousy.”
“Okay, okay, okay, I get it!”

I knew, I knew already, but having it said so outright still wounded my pride a little…

“So? Are you going to practice? Go home? Assault me?”
“…I’m going to practice.”
“Alone?”
“Please, Professor Touma, I beg you, rehearse with me!”

I got the distinct feeling she was making a fool of me…

“Well, if you’re gonna beg, I guess I have to… Fine.”

Touma’s eyes grew sharp.

“…All right. Thank you.” I stopped my confused mulling and picked up the guitar.

°

“…”
“…”
“…Another miss.”
“Rgh…”
“Your tempo keeps slipping further and further behind. You’re too slow.”
“Y-You’re just playing faster…”
“I’m not budging. Do we need to use a metronome?” Touma sighed, evidently exasperated. “Look, Kitahara, this is what you’re capable of right now. Before, when we were playing in the music rooms, I changed my tempo to match you, but I can’t do that any more.”
“I know…”

Of course Touma wouldn’t slip out of time.

In other words, I just wasn’t lining up with the precise model that Touma set with her playing.

“Wrong again.”
“Dammit…”

Touma’s gaze was fixed on me, rather than her own hands.

And yet, she didn’t make a single mistake.

“All right, stop. We’re getting bogged down at this phrase.”

Now that she mentioned it, I realized just how many holes there were in the part I thought I was playing.

I realized just how generous Touma had been in lining her playing up with me.

“A synthesizer isn’t a human, so it won’t change to fit you. The humans who are playing have to match the synthesizer, or it won’t work.”

I had nothing to say.

“You don’t have an ounce of rhythmical sense. Just as I figured, you’re completely without talent, Kitahara. In spite of how well you learn everything else.”
“Rgh…”
“Are you mad?” Touma snorted derisively at me.

…But, this was no time to get riled up.

I was out of my depth, and Touma had no reason to think I would make a fuss about something like this.

“I’m sorry, Touma! Please, let’s play it from the beginning again!”
“…Heheh. Very well, sluggard.”

So, I continued furiously working my fingers.

Listening, looking.

“Whoa, whoa, now you’re too fast. It’s always extremes with you.”

I drilled into my whole body that I was enjoying being here.

Sure, it was just band practice, but Touma was right there in front of me.

Touma was pointing out my mistakes for me.

Touma was laughing at my lack of skill.

Touma was… watching me, and only me, the whole time.

I continued to work the steel strings, thanking the god of music for this good fortune.

Through music, I felt a connection with Touma beginning to form itself.

Maybe that was just a fantasy, but I wanted to immerse myself in it.

Just for now.

°

“Miss.”
“Dammit.”

“Another mistake. You have to understand the chords with your fingers, not your head.”
“Got it.”

“Hm. That’ll do for that part.”
“Seriously? All right! I’m getting better at this! Another step!”
“Oh, right, I didn’t eat dinner… Well, whatever.”

“Dammit, not again. Can we do that one more time, Touma?”
“Sure, but… Don’t you have a train to catch?”
“This slide right here… Oh, sorry, I didn’t catch that. What did you say?”
“…Never mind. Let’s do it again.”

°

“Right. That’s enough. Let’s take a break.”
“Phew… Whoof. I’m tired…”
“Pathetic. You’ve got even less stamina than me, Kitahara.”
“Oh, sorry. Whew… Thanks, though, Touma. For joining the Light Music Club.”
“…What’s with the sudden sincerity? Ew.”
“I just want to say it again. Thanks to you, we’re so much closer to making this show a success. I’m, well, curious to know why you joined, but don’t worry, I’m not going to ask.”
“…”
“Also, thanks for playing with me all those times.”
“That was… just a way for me to kill time…”
“And for what you did over summer break. It meant a lot that you taught me how to play the guitar, even just that one time.”
“…”
“Touma?”
“…Shut up! Do you never shut up! Quit being so pushy and practice!”
“Waaagh, I’m sorry! I’ll start… Wait, but it’s only been two minutes…”
“…Did you say something?”
“I’ll get right back to it!”
“Tsk… Heh.”


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