Chapter 2:


The Sound of Love

A gentle breeze filled the store, weaving through the air as the doorbell rang. The door swung open, and Kurokawa hurried in, seeking refuge from the chilly wind outside.

She propped her guitar case against the wall, patting her clothes to remove any leaves and twigs stuck to them. Then, she unwrapped the scarf around her neck and turned her gaze towards me, smiling.

"Didn't want to wait for the weather to get better, Kurokawa?"

"I have a photoshoot later, but I wanted to stop by and show you what I've accomplished," she said, starting to pull the instrument out of her bag.

"You know you could have waited until tomorrow, right? I'm here almost every day."

"And miss a day of practice? No way!"

It had been quite some time since she asked for my help with her studies. Since then, she had been visiting the store frequently, seeking tips, instructions, and having me assess her progress.

At first, I was a bit uncomfortable, but I also felt guilty for not giving an immediate response. In the end, I confined my assistance to only when she visited the store.

"I practiced this last night," Kurokawa said excitedly.

As she clumsily positioned the guitar against her body, I could see that she still had difficulty holding it correctly, which was expected from a beginner.

I decided not to correct her at that moment and simply observed attentively.

Her hands trembled slightly, but her determined expression didn't waver. Her fingers traversed the strings with hesitation, producing out-of-tune and disharmonious sounds.

As she played, I noticed her eyes fixed on the strings, showing her concentration in each movement. Her gaze oscillated between a look of frustration and a spark of enthusiasm, which seemed to grow with each note.

"Don't you think I'm improving fast?" she asked, resting her arms on the guitar and looking into my eyes, waiting for my response.

Anyone with knowledge would easily notice areas for improvement. Nothing in her performance showed technical excellence, but considering she had only started studying recently, that was to be expected. However, her determination and willingness to learn were aspects that deserved ample recognition.

"For someone who's just starting, you're doing quite well," I replied sincerely.

With my response, I noticed a slight relaxation in her tense body. She seemed relieved to hear that she was making progress, even if it was modest.

"But I think there are still some things to improve," I added. "Have you been following the book I lent you?"

"I'm trying, but even some basic concepts still give me the chills," she responded with a heavy sigh, furrowing her brow slightly.

"That's okay. Remember, you're just starting out. With more practice, I'm sure you'll gain more confidence. Besides, you're already much better than I was when I started."

As I spoke, I noticed a timid smile emerging on her face. I wanted to encourage her and convey my support, but at the same time, I didn't want to be too harsh to the point of demotivating her. I felt a mix of responsibility and a desire to help her reach her potential.

"You said you have a photo shoot later. Still have time for me to give you some tips?"

She checked her phone for the time and was surprised.

"I completely lost track of time!"

She began hastily packing her things. Her fingers seemed to dance with agility as she carefully adjusted the guitar in its case. A strand of hair escaped and fell on her face, but she barely noticed, so focused she was on preparing everything.

Her cheeks were slightly flushed from the effort, and her expression was a mix of concern and anxiety.

Seeing her so rushed, I approached to help.

As I took some notes from her and handed them over, I felt our hands almost touching. I felt a bit embarrassed by the momentary closeness, and my heart seemed to accelerate.

"Thank you," she murmured, her face slightly red.

Finally, everything was packed, and she looked at me with gratitude.

"Sorry for all the rush. I'm heading out now," Kurokawa said as she tucked strands of hair behind her ear, revealing more of her beautiful face.

I could feel my cheeks warming up.

"If you need any help, I'll be here," I said a bit more timidly as she opened the door to leave.

"Thanks, Tanaka," she said with a gentle smile and a glimmer in her eyes before departing.

The ambiance, which until then had been filled with lively sounds and colors, turned silent and lifeless after Kurokawa left. The sounds of the guitar echoed in my mind, reminiscing the moments when she played with dedication and enthusiasm.

Loneliness settled in at that moment as if a part of the magic of music had left the store along with her.

Mrs. Yamazaki came out from the back and noticed the change in the atmosphere, giving me a sympathetic look.

"It seems like she's really dedicated," she said, smiling kindly.

"Yeah, she really is. It's impressive how committed she's been."

"And you're making a difference in that, Yuuji. Your support plays a significant role in her progress."

I tried to hide my blushing face, but I knew it was futile. Mrs. Yamazaki had always been perceptive and attentive to details. She noticed what I hadn't fully admitted to myself yet.

"I still have doubts if I'm doing everything right. I've never taught anyone, but seeing her progress brings me a gratifying feeling."

Mrs. Yamazaki placed her hand on my shoulder with affection.

"Teaching and sharing your knowledge can be challenging at first, but it's a wonderful opportunity to grow as a musician and as a person. I believe you're more than ready for it."

Her words comforted my restless soul. The feeling of being supported and encouraged was incredibly heartwarming.

As Mrs. Yamazaki went back to the shelves, my thoughts turned to the next meeting with Kurokawa. Perhaps it was time to seriously consider her suggestion and contemplate the idea of teaching more formally.

As I delved into my thoughts, I looked out the window to the outside, realizing that the weather was improving. Golden rays pierced through the gray clouds, illuminating the green of the leaves and the garden. The breeze became refreshing and serene, and birds began to decorate the sky once again.

It seems like the sun got tired of hiding.

♪ ♫ ♪

The next day, I eagerly waited for Kurokawa outside the school after classes. As each minute passed, more students left, but I didn't spot any sign of her. Thinking she might have already gone, I started preparing to leave as well.

However, just as I was about to take the first step, I heard a familiar voice calling my name.

"Hey, Tanaka!" Kurokawa called, running towards me.

My cheeks blushed slightly at her enthusiastic tone. Trying to maintain composure, I searched for words in my head to explain what I had in mind.

"I've been thinking of taking your studies more seriously... I have some materials that might help you. Can we set a day?"

A joyful smile lit up her face as she held my hands, hopping with excitement. The tenderness of that scene made me even more bashful, and I also felt my hands slightly sweaty.

"Sure! I'll check when I'll be free and let you know soon."

Realizing she was holding my hands, she quickly let go, and her face turned slightly red, just like mine.

Our gazes shifted, both seeming a bit timid. I noticed she also looked at the ground, and a wave of shyness filled the air, making it hard for both of us to look directly into each other's eyes.

"Meanwhile, I'll think of some things we can do," I said, intending to dispel the awkward atmosphere that had formed between us.

"Well... I have to go now, but I'll be in touch soon."

We said goodbye, and Kurokawa continued on her way.

I stood still for a moment, still feeling the sensation of her touch on my hands. When I finally raised my head, I noticed the sun was setting, painting the sky with golden hues. I wiped my hands on my pants, trying to conceal my anxiety, and started walking home. As I made my way, I didn't realize a huge smile had formed on my face, and the feeling of happiness filled me.

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