Goodbye to You and Rock
Mano didn't have a chance to notice when everything changed.
In 2003, the braided nougat hair coloured girl was simply being the "Lone Wolves" sound engineer as a way to aid them in their daily endeavours. She even claimed to be the idol of the group due to her amazing abilities. After all, she had just become a high school student, everything was new, and she was actually really scared, questions bombing her head such as if the uniform suited her well or not, whether she should continue to wear her endless collection of hats or start using contact lenses instead of glasses. She was so proud of herself that she even lied once saying that she had filled an E-size bust cup overnight when in reality she was developing to a B. She thought the bigger the bust, the more "mature" she would feel.
Anyway, when she started helping Junya's group, or rather, start composing music for them at a certain point, she didn't think her room would be filled with instruments, cables and thousands of mastering and recording programs. As much as she continued in the computer club, another passion had been born in her.
Mano Okunoda was a girl whose tastes changed like the nuances of the sky and the weather forecast.
That day, she was very confident in her new piece. It was something else. She wanted to give some of, as she would say, oomph to Junya's band, except she didn't anticipate his answer on the phone saying they weren't a techno band. She had loved the newest track she had composed but had to back down from saying that he had no right to criticize her tastes if he only sang romantic rock songs, blues and boleros for his age.
So she decided to consult her friends because her inner self's opinion wasn't the best of them: "Compose something else."
However, only the words of one of them came to touch her core.
Just as if a guitar string started an invisible melody in her soul.
However, she did not hear his voice. It was just a few words via a small cellphone message.
Thank you for considering my opinion. However, I'm not good at music and my feedback wouldn't be the best of the best.
«. . . »
My apologies for not being able to cooperate with you.
No, no, no, quite the contrary. I'm super sorry for making an impossible request.
That was Mano's final reply.
And now that she thought about it, maybe changing the music theme as her inner self proposed didn't sound so bad.
It was time for a change, and Mano Okunoda loved that.
Minato Ichinose wondered if his answer had been adequate. He had listened to Mano's song, very, very carefully. So much that his little brother asked him when he would remove the headphones from his ears after three hours of having the same track looped.
He really thought he could be of help, or rather, he wanted to tell her that he would support her if she had any questions or doubts. However, for Minato, music was nothing more than notes and chords that he didn't understand. He found it difficult to process how some people could feel the songs touch their souls, or even make them cry or laugh. Bring pleasant or sad memories. Maybe that's why he was bad at music. He didn't want to feel anything sad or painful.
Mano's response came, saying that it had been an impossible request.
Perhaps, very thoroughly, she knew that he would not understand this new world that she had entered.
Minato wanted to understand and decipher it.
Mano is a mystery and a revelation for him.
She never hides or keeps in her mind anything, says what she likes or dislikes. What bothers her or not. Sometimes she lets her impulses spin out of control from time to time and that's why no one leaves her near a skateboard believing that she could use it as a weapon.
Still, Minato flooded back into the sounds of Mano, struggling to find the heart that created the piece.
In the fifth movement, something started to hurt.
He knew it hadn't been the composition.
But... something else.
He imagined Mano, night after night composing that as if her life depended on it. That song had hurt Mano.
No, rather, someone else had hurt Mano and so she asked for help.
Thoughts he had locked up made their way into him. Annoyance? Anger?
No, it was not so easy to decipher.
He had to confirm it with his own eyes before falling into negative ideas. Into invalidating thoughts. In twisted ways of remembering that he used to be a genius. Better than anyone and everyone. That he could overcome any human being, that he could eliminate them from his path without remorse. That any method was valid, after all, was there no one smarter than him.
He was envious of a talent that he did not possess.
No. Minato was wrong. Still, he had to confirm it. Understand why he felt this way. Why Junya Yamanashi's face disgusted him all night.
Minato had changed thanks to Mano. He was no longer that cold-hearted person.
Nonetheless, he fell asleep with an unpleasant feeling inside his heart.
The next day, like a lion-souled penguin, Mano appeared in front of Junya, yelling that she was challenging him to a "Battle of the Bands" at a clubhouse next week. This left the blond boy confused since, apart from having written a letter of resignation as if she were an actual worker, the girl left with the same impetus with which she entered, causing his colleagues to laugh and he felt ashamed.
A "Battle of the Bands"?
But Mano didn't know how to play an instrument, she only knew how music programmes worked.
Although Junya thought, she could have learned to compose. After all, he knew she was a girl who didn't give up easily. She just walked forward without looking at him and left, leaving him very confused.
And if he already believed that his afternoon would get even stranger, Minato Ichinose arrived two hours later with a sour look on his face, or perhaps he hadn't slept much. Junya offered him something to drink and they sat in the room they have before practising. The silence between them could be cut with a sharp knife, the blond feeling uncomfortable for no apparent reason.
"Junya-san, why did you reject Mano-san's composition?"
He choked on his tea.
"Why are you asking that, Minato?"
The boy did not reply. Junya sighed.
"It didn't fit our style. Mano has been helping with our music for a long time now and the fact of composing something without even consulting us took me by surprise."
"And that's why you had to make her cry?" Minato argued.
Junya didn't understand what he meant. From what he remembered, Mano had only entered intrepidly, declared war on him, resigned and left. Although maybe some of the events were the other way around, however that didn't matter at the time.
"I still don't understand what you mean." He took a fifth sigh. "None of that has happened, as far as I am aware."
"Very well. Now that Mano-san is gone, what do you intend to do? Junya-san, I don't plan to lose."
Minato got up, only to leave without saying a word or thanks for the tea.
"These kids nowadays… What does he mean with I don't plan to lose? Is he going to get into that nonsense Mano proposed?" The blond thought out loud. "Obviously I'm thinking of looking for someone new to be our music editor, but… we were never lucky until she showed up because of her tech experience."
You see, Mano is actually two years younger than Junya, and one year older than Minato. The way Mano got to know Junya was due to one of her friends. Her older brother was friends with him and eventually, they became acquaintances. She had never even dared to approach him when he was studying at their same school during elementary, he was already kind of a star at the moment.
He remembered the day, some years ago, when the girl, as unpredictable as ever, entered without excuses to the computer room.
There was Junya completely overwhelmed and confused with the program that was open in front of him. For some reason, he had left some very important files on that damn thing, making him go all the way from his school to his previous junior high school.
There were so many lines and colours, as well as options that he was unable to process the information that he was seeing. He didn't understand why sometimes his bass sounded louder than the guitar and his vocals could only be heard on the left earphone.
"No, no, this is all a disaster!" Mano shouted, scaring him by removing the earphone. "Junya-san, give me that."
And she pushed him off the chair, causing him to roll to the other end of the room after she sat in the adjoining one and crawled onto the computer. Before the blond could protest or scream fearing that his progress would be ruined, he saw a beautiful amber glow come from her eyes, like two precious stones behind the glasses, absorbed in what she was doing and pouring out a huge passion. He didn't know how many minutes passed, but, Mano pressed a key on the board and crossed her arms in victory.
"Can I know what have you done?" He approached her with great curiosity.
Slowly, she put the right earphone on him and she kept the left one.
Sitting side by side, Junya was impressed with what he was hearing, unable to notice the moment when she placed the other earphone on him and was squatting in front of him, drawing a blush from his face.
"And? What do you think?"
"This is..." His talkativeness had been shattered.
"If you need my help just let me know, I consider myself good with these things," she winked at him only to leave him staring into the void.
Now in the present, Junya didn't understand why his heart ached and pounded so much. Mano suggested effects, ways in which they could play with sounds to make harmony after recording and mastering a piece of musical art. She would miss her screams, her craziness, and the way she sought affection and approval when he rubbed her hair after doing a good job. He had never seen her cry before, and he didn't know why Minato had said that to him.
"I just didn't agree with what she composed," he huffed.
But his heartbeat said otherwise, looking at that letter of resignation that the girl with glasses left behind.
He knew that her laughter was gone.
And that he had to join this absurd "Battle of the Bands" because he wanted to see her again.
Mano thought that Junya would follow her. He simply listened to her outburst, received her letter, and the blond walked ahead of her without looking at her at all, preparing to practise. That was why she let go of the confrontation, resentful about her revolutionary idea, only to realize that the only thing she knew how to play was rock just like him. In order to make a techno track come to life on stage, you would need at least a DJ and there was no way to convince someone in such a short time. Also, she had to find a place where they did what she suggested.
Exactly, Mano gave the challenge without having a battle arena.
She began to grumble in the middle of the street, unable to believe how silly she had been. The girl clenched her hands into fists, pulling on her cream sweatshirt. Now was not the time to get depressed! She had to get home and search an appropriate location on her computer, then send the contact to Junya and sign up. It would be easy and simple.
However, she stopped halfway, wondering why her heart ached so much. That closeness, that special bond she had formed with Junya had broken and her chest was going to explode.
Although in seconds, the nougat haired coloured girl remembered yesterday how he had yelled at her and envied her musical talent, believing that he treated her like an idiot by composing something different.
Mano bit her lower lip, resuming her walk so that when she got home, she put a guitar on her shoulder and started with the most basic of the basics, forgetting about her main objective. She had been humiliated, she had cried and still, her heart ached not for that, but for the fact that she woulñd never see Junya anymore.
It really was a nuisance.
She wanted to say goodbye to him and rock.
She felt locked in a prison that Junya had built for her through invisible musical notes. There she was, hugging a magenta guitar, struggling to form something decent that matched his level of technique. She knew she would be able of doing so, listening to his band for so long by audios when editing was enough knowledge for her. However, Junya's talent was so impressive that she regretted everything she had done.
Her heart wished to say that she loved him.
Her mouth that she hated him.
She longed and yearned for the compliments he gave her, but now, after that conversation, the vowels of this relationship had been fractured and she gave up halfway.
Mano felt like an impostor at the moment that something came out decent, believing that she vulgarly imitated the band of which she used, implicitly, to be part of and that everyone would make fun of her. Mano was always seen as a girl who composed old-fashioned and classic rock since that was what Junya asked her. However, when she composed that different track, she realized that what she was composing was not rock at all. No, she was not referring to the fact of the musical genre, but the rock itself was no longer rock but a melody that meant Junya, and Mano wanted to live a life full of it.
Before she threw the guitar on the ground out of love frustration, a message flashed on her phone.
The MiLLiON live house is having an event next week. Friday at 7 pm.
"Minato-kun?" Mano whispered as she read the message. "How did he...? I completely forgot to look for a place for the challenge!"
You're my saving angel! Can you sign me up? I'm trying to compose.
She replied enthusiastically, smiling like a fool.
Okay, that's what I'll do. They ask for a name. Will you use yours or an artistic one?
Mano smiled, typing in each word.
She had completely forgotten about her initial doubt as to why Minato knew all of that.
Minato was not surprised that Mano didn't ask him how he knew that information. The raven-haired boy imagined that she was in her world, determined and composing and that warmed his heart in a special and incomparable way. The fewer tears flowed from her, the better. After all, he had fallen in love with that bright smile that he knew would never look at him.
He couldn't tell exactly when the two became closer. Maybe when it had to do with studies or random conversations she started during their childhood. Minato noticed when Mano fell in love with Junya. As much as he didn't understand why he felt this way about him last night, his suspicions were confirmed. It was more than obvious, but he was turning a blind eye. After all, Mano was always talking about some boy in her classroom, who voted on who was the most handsome of them all and Minato always listened to her, like the friend he was.
Perhaps listening and not showing annoyance or some sign that he wanted her to look at him would have made her take notice of his feelings. However, he liked that bond he had with her and didn't want to break it for anything.
So cooperating with her to defeat Junya didn't sound like such a bad idea to him. So he started looking for places once he got home and sent the message. The fact of being called a saving angel unsettled him for an instant, but he put himself together in seconds to continue reading the registration list. It was there when he saw an interesting little detail.
Okay, that's what I'll do. They ask for a name. Will you use yours or an artistic one?
He didn't think the answer would come so fast.
Sasanqua? Don't you mean Sazanka?
Sasanqua sounds prettier.
And his smile turned into a laugh that woke his little brother from his six o'clock nap.
Mano definitely chose something that showed her love. Her love for a blond with blue eyes and that Minato had no way of winning. If she had thought of such a name, one that literally meant the camellia rainy season, it would never be reciprocated.
Still, the boy wanted to do what was best for her and help Mano win.
Alright. I signed you up.
Thank you! I will send the date and info to the idiot of Junya-san.
Need help with anything else?
The indigo-haired boy didn't know why he asked that.
I don't want to impose myself, Minato-kun. Also, you told me you weren't good at music so I wouldn't want to bother you with something you don't really enjoy to partake of.
He was so regretful for saying that last night.
Tomorrow. Are you free tomorrow morning?
I'll be home composing and practising.
Nothing. Good luck.
Minato closed his phone, exhausted. It had taken him about five years of his life to be that bold towards Mano like that and she didn't understand his intentions. Still, he had to prepare for tomorrow anyway. He didn't know how easy it would be to learn the basics, but he could at least try to understand the theory.
He got up from the computer, only to remove one of the thousands of books from a shelf. When Mano started to get into music, he felt compelled to buy something related to it on impulse to have more in common. He didn't know why it was so dusty, but he cleaned it up and started to take a look at it.
He definitely didn't understand a single thing.
He thought that if he were still that boy with a superiority complex, that would be a piece of cake.
He always lived a life full of talents, shining in them when, in reality, he was just an inferior, average student, disguised as an honours student thanks to a stupid complex. Still, his superiors still expected wonders from him, believing that for the moment he was in a kind of personal slump. They did not reproach him for the low grades, nor the fact that he still does not fill out his sheet of which high school he wants to attend and thus prepare for the entrance exams.
Based on instincts, Minato thought he would find a solution to the problem. He had never tried very hard in life when it came to studies. After all, the superiority complex did it for him, it made him special. And right now, he wanted to be special, but as Minato Ichinose.
Special to Mano Okunoda.
Unable to shine, he strove to enter a world he does not know.
Being theory, mere words, then it would be possible.
Just like how Mano saved him from drowning inside his own fears, complex and tears.
Mano dreamed that she was running. That she ran in a field full of flowers looking for a correct melody.
Mano dreamed that she practised. That she practised with Junya a new melody for his band.
Her dream did not light up. It hovered into black and storms were approaching.
She reached out for Junya's fading profile, her eyes glassy as she was unable to reach him. She had always felt abandoned by him and his rock. She was lonely. Longing to reach a back she would never grasp by wanting to be like him when it comes to music, being her inspiration.
But playing the guitar without a notch, without a gift and without skill, she gave up halfway with her love.
Or so she felt when she woke up with half her face marked with the strings of the magenta musical instrument when the doorbell echoed in her apartment. Her saliva was bared in the gloss of the guitar and her pyjamas were not at all presentable as was her appearance.
Apparently she was alone at home because no one answered the door. It was there when she remembered that from today until next week was her family trip and last night she exclaimed that she would not go for personal matters. She would miss out on the fantastic sights of Kyoto, but she had been there more than once so she didn't care much, she had to win that "Battle of the Bands"!
"But who can it be at this hour?" She said as she stretched, seeing that it was eight o'clock. "Miina, don't you want to open the door?"
"I would love to, Mano-san but as you know I only have paws," Mano voiced acted, making as if her small Tibetan spaniel had replied to her.
"I'm in pyjamas!"
Between her own discussion and the sound of the doorbell, the girl sulkily went to the door and opened it.
"Good morning, Mano-san."
It was Minato.
Mano closed the door automatically in shame, leaving the boy very confused.
"H-Hello, Minato-kun!" J-Just give me a few minutes." She replied from behind the door.
The girl thought that what the hell was he doing there, he hadn't said anything about a visit, according to her perspective.
Minato could listen as she argued with Miina to open the door for him and let him in, at least to the living room of the Okunoda residence as a courtesy while she changed into her room. In the end, she did it super quickly, almost like a ninja. After all, he had seen her in her pyjamas with purple bunny ears, dishevelled hair, without her glasses and drool all over her face.
It was a silly quirk of her to pretend to talk with her dog. Minato found it rather cute and adorable.
In what seemed like five minutes, Mano was someone else. She had her hair tied up in a high ponytail, her clothes were loose as always and she offered to enter her room while she made tea and snacks. Once ready, she returned only to see Minato engulfed in the magenta guitar.
"Is that a Strandberg Boden J6 Standard?" He asked, looking at the magenta guitar with black touches that seemed rather purple more than anything else, but, Mano always called it magenta because it sounded prettier.
"Um, yeah," she sat on her bed, offering Minato her desktop chair, after leaving the tea and rice crackers right there on the table. "I had no idea you knew about guitars."
"Not knowing about music doesn't mean you don't know about brands," he laughed weakly.
In all honesty, Minato spent the whole night searching for the name and model in order to have a topic of conversation.
"It was kind of expensive, but it looks like the bass model Junya-san uses... just a little."
"A EURO 4 LX, right?"
"Yes, you sure are informed!!"
"It's no big deal..." he excuses himself modestly.
He had to know, after all.
Mano finally blurted out the million-dollar question: "And what brought you here?"
"You told me you'd be home today and I decided to take a walk."
"At eight o'clock in the morning…?" Mano raised her eyebrows, crossing her arms in suspicion.
"Yes, at eight in the morning."
"Well, if you're here the better for me. I'm a bit stuck with the lyrics, but I think I already have the melody. Would you mind listening to it? I know you might not understand it very well, but..."
Minato placed a finger on Mano's lips, silencing her.
"I want to listen."
Since his sudden attitude was a mould breaker for her, Mano places the guitar on her shoulder, preparing to play what she spent composing all night.
Music effortlessly fills the air, like waves filling holes in the beach sand; the sound rushes in and around every person in the room. Minato reacts to the beat, the music speaking in some way. A lively rhythm can lift the spirit or move one to dance, while a slow one can relax the mood. Before the notes filled the air again, each person was an island, with them everyone feels the same tidal flows and the beginning of the union feels warm.
When Mano stopped, she sighed and tears of sweat ran down her forehead.
Minato had been captivated.
"Can you believe that I am unable to perceive what I am trying to convey?" Mano wailed. "And I haven't even sung the lyrics because it makes me feel something. I believe like this is not rock at all and that Junya-san is going to tear me apart."
"Then I will help you win." He took her hands. "I was moved by your music. If you were able to pass that on to me, I'm sure you'll be able to steal the audience's heart, after all... you stole mine."
"Oh Minato-kun, how romantic you are today," she laughed. "I think I need that for the lyrics... although I don't want to make a love rock song... but it sounds so tempting with the idea that I have that my hands are itching to start writing."
Mano Okunoda had not understood it a second time. That did not discourage him. Rather, it prompted Minato to remain more direct and bold before losing her forever.
Junya Yamanashi realized that he had changed this last year due to having Mano by his side. There was always an external noise and that noise was her. As much as she sometimes took him out of him inner thoughts, the girl had no bad intentions and seemed to really have an interest in music, like him, even though their bond was different from the usual and only through compositions.
For example, with his best friend Hinari Hiwatari, he could spend hours talking about vocal exercises or if the verses rhymed or not.
With Mano, everything had to do with a lively rhythm.
Junya felt he was falling into a dead-end once he received a message from Mano at night, believing that the girl would never speak to him again.
The MiLLiON live house is having an event next week. Friday at 7 pm.
What he didn't know was that she had simply copied and pasted Minato's message from last night, which he only saw when he returned late from a concert yesterday.
"Is the Battle of the Bands for serious?!" He yelled, drawing the attention of his fellow Lone Wolve's members
"What? What? Mano-chan did it?" One of them asked.
"Mano-tan does keep her word," sighed another.
"I don't know what to do." Junya rubbed his temple.
"Will you enter alone or with us?"
"I guess alone. If not, it would be unfair" thought the blond. "And from what we know of Mano, better go as prepared as possible when it comes to that. Otherwise, she will say that I cheated."
It was his only response to that message that she didn't see since she was practising with Minato just then.
Really, having Mano as an assistant had somehow changed him and that's why he came to that realization and understood... understood that he didn't understand anything. However, being words the weapon he had to use, then he would be able to understand.
Understanding why losing her hurt so much and he couldn't get those smiles out of his head, as well as regretting yelling at her on the phone.
"I don't understand what's happening to me," he grumbled on the sofa in the music studio. "Could it be…? Nah, it's stupid."
But he knew that it was true.
His soul screamed that he wanted to hug Mano and tell her that everything would be fine, apologise and telling her not to leave his side.
By the promised day, Junya was not surprised to see Minato behind the stage with Mano. He had finally understood his words, and the blond did not intend to lose either. It was no longer an absurd music competition, but a race to play the chords of Mano's heart.
Junya walked by right past her, Mano sitting on a chair, practising for the last time. Minato sat next to her, providing moral support.
"As much as he knows I'm not a talented artist ..." Mano slowly pulled out the braids she used to hold her long hair, "Even with the amount of dependency I form around Junya-san, no matter how much I cry, he would never turn around to see me, isn't that right?"
"Yes, I already knew everything very well from the beginning."
Minato didn't know where Mano got a pair of scissors.
"I'm going to say goodbye to rock and Junya-san."
They called her towards the stage.
Her nougat hair fell, floating in the air as she gathered it up to treasure it.
On stage, her presence shone on her own even though her amber eyes were diamond-studded at her corners. Her now short shoulder-length hair sparkled, her long pink sweater that had been a gift from Minato years ago fit her short length navy blue skirt.
She approached the microphone, taking a deep breath.
"I have always been imprisoned by you and your talent. Every time I yearned for you, our main voice fractured and now it has done so forever. So I always gave up halfway. I wanted to say goodbye to all this, even though I was always unable to bloom into a beautiful flower. A person like me who looks like a weed, no matter how much I fall or trample on it, I will stay strong. After all, I want to live an exciting life, like rock."
The live house MiLLiON was in silence, listening to Mano's words that should have been an introduction along with what she was going to sing.
"The fact that you were there for me, makes me able to stand here today. I'm SASANQUA TSUYU and this is my song."
The sweet chorus of the acoustic guitar spoke a musical language to the soul of Junya and Minato. The strumming sound had a calming, hypnotic quality that she craved. Getting lost with the melody of the guitar was an idea of a heavenly afternoon in which Mano wrapped everyone together with her vocals that, although they were not perfect, transmitted a beautiful lyric.
The music had become Mano's external heartbeat and the lyrics were her soul in sweet vibrations; she could forever sing these poetic words, her ode to universal love, nature and creation. However, everything is there, in that momentary exchange of glances, when her eyes met Minato's and they smiled from within.
So, although the world can love her music, its words and her song, music really only lives in those intense moments of love that one gives without trying, those looks that are hardly looked at, in the bond that one makes so accidentally, like her with Junya.
Love is music without volume, but it is also a seed that grows to form infinite branches, roots and flowers, and through your soul, through this sense of intuition that demands a voice, the part of music that both boys can listen, what the world thinks as music is born.
It is born from Mano.
"We won't part again, I won't let you go again. Even if we are lost, no matter how many times… this song, this place, I want to get back to them," her chord movement slowed, taking one last breath. "Thank you... The song that shakes my heart returns."
They were all gone, the members of the establishment were alone cleaning the area for tomorrow's concerts.
Mano had called for him, with Minato by his side.
"Congratulations on winning," she admitted defeat.
After all, it was obvious that the star of the most popular group of the moment won in the voting.
"You did very well," Minato noted that Junya refrained from rubbing Mano's hair.
"Now, goodbye. I will go my own way. I don't think I will ever play music again, nor compose or edit, but it was a nice experience."
She started walking, unaware that Minato had not followed her.
"So you don't plan to lose, do you?" The blond snapped. "And why is she with short hair? I swore that when I saw her before it was long."
"Absolutely not," he replied, smiling with great confidence. "This time Mano-san won this invisible battle between us both, and about her hair, it's a secret."
"Sometimes you can be a bit of an unbearable brat."
And it was at that precise moment that Junya knew that he would not be victorious if something else were to happen.
"Good luck, Minato. Don't lose to anyone. If you do, I'm going to have to reprimand you."
He never expected Junya to give him his approval if it was one, to begin with.
"Thank you," was all he said, following the path Mano took.
Now alone, the blond just sighed.
There were times when music seemed to be teaching his brain how to flow, how to be so peaceful. It was as if the slowly changing tone touched different parts, a kind of ear massage for his mind. It was an invitation to slowness and to feel the presence of himself, the always patient version of him who expects to be spoken to and is content to do so. There were times when light, wind, and nature did the same thing, but in different ways, each in their own way.
Today was a day of music, to feel the soul inside.
Today was the day that Mano Okunoda said goodbye to her love for Junya Yamanashi.
Today was the day that Minato Ichinose reaffirmed his love for Mano Okunoda.
Today was the day that Junya Yamanashi admitted his emotional defeat.
As much as that was a goodbye, it wouldn't be forever.
After all, the beauty of music was the fact that brought three people together in a special way, with that charismatic energy that only Mano can bestow.