Chapter 5 Part 1
VOLUME 2: ~Naïve~
Chapter 5 “Yada-kun’s guardian angel” PART 1
Winter vacation was really too short.
Christmas and New Year’s had passed by with great pomp and splendour, and work at the MAHO-do had kept me busy. Yet when I got back to my room at home and saw the pile of homework, my mood came crashing back down again.
As Pop was preparing for her entrance examinations at the same time, I tried to get into the mood as well, focusing on my homework with the kind of vigour I had when I was preparing for my entrance examinations last year. However, no matter how many pages I completed, the work never seemed to decrease. I wonder if dwarves came into my room in the middle of the night, armed with erasers to undo all the work that I’d done during the day.
Look, my work had disappeared again. If this went on, I’d never finish it all…
“What are you mumbling about?”
“Oh, Majorika! Why are you here?”
I lifted up my head to see everyone surrounding me. Eh, why was I in the MAHO-do? Why wasn’t I in my room at home?
“Doremi-chan, your work really is messy,” Ai-chan commented.
“But she’s erased it all away. Anyway, you’re amazing. I never knew you could do work even when asleep,” Onpu-chan teased.
I looked down at my work on the table. I was holding a pencil in my hand, and there was a page full of faint scribbles that looked vaguely like words on my open notebook. Faint scribbles, because most of them had been erased from the page.
“Was I asleep? For how long?” I asked.
“It’s alright, Doremi-chan. You were asleep for ten minutes at most,” Hazuki-chan assured me as she pointed to the clock on the wall. Oh, but Hazuki-chan, I remember last checking the time more than half an hour ago.
“You woke up at the right time,” Lala chirped as she pushed aside the textbooks spread on the table to one side and set down a tea tray. “Let’s take a break. Momoko made some pancakes for us.”
The smell of vanilla soon accompanied the fragrance of the tea in front of me.
“I’ve opened up a jar of the jam Onpu-chan brought back for us. Let’s heap those on the pancakes and dig in!” Momo-chan said as she brought out a towering plate of pancakes. Although I couldn’t see her face behind the huge stack of pancakes, the cheer in her voice brought my mood up.
This was great. I knew doing my homework at the MAHO-do was the right choice.
Over the New Year holiday, Onpu-chan had gone to Tohoku on a location shoot for a movie. I thought that she had wanted to focus first on being a stage actress, but it seemed like she was now also accepting offers to star in movies. I guess it was because of her failed attempt to break into the movie business as a child idol, so she wanted to take up the challenge again. That was just like what Onpu-chan would do.
When she went to Tohoku, she brought back some delicious-looking jam and honey as souvenirs. There was a jar of pear jam, another of cherry, and another of apple… They were all homemade and looked absolutely delectable.
“All the location shoots are completed, and we’ll be working on the studio shots next, so I’ll be able to return to a normal life soon. Also, I hope that Momo-chan can spend some time to engage me in English conversation,” Onpu-chan requested.
I was busy staring at the scene of paradise before me; there were steaming pancakes dripping with jam and honey. My eyes trailed up the stack of pancakes to the piece right on top. The pile was so high that I’d probably need to stand up tall to reach it.
‘Oh, English conversation? That’s going to be tough,’ I thought as I stood up and reached for the pancakes.
“Onpu-chan, I heard from Papa that you’ll be going to London and Paris in March to stage the musical that was shown here in autumn,” Hazuki-chan asked.
“Really? That’s awesome,” Ai-chan commented.
“You’ve done it. I can read through the English script with you. I’ll be the best partner!” Momo-chan volunteered excitedly.
“Thank you, Momo-chan!”
The two shared a hug, while Hazuki-chan asked shyly if she could join in the English conversation sessions too. But that was not my concern. Right now, I was like a hunter, eyes locked onto my unsuspecting prey.
Lala passed me a plate. I could already imagine myself grabbing the jam-covered pancakes and stuffing them into my mouth, all the while muttering “Fuhehe, hat’sh hreat, Honfu-fan!” (Ehehe, that’s great, Onpu-chan!) Oh dear, I would look like such a glutton.
As expected, I was spotted.
“Doremi-chan’s the first, as usual!” Momo-chan said with a laugh.
“Well, I don’t blame her. It’s vanilla pancake topped with jam, such a sweet harmony. It’s like a fruity paradise in my mouth~~” Ai-chan said in a dreamy voice as she took a bite of the pancake.
Thank you for the commentary, Ai-chan. Let’s see, which jam should I try next? It was a battle scene between the food and us from the moment Momo-chan placed the pancakes on the table.
They’re so delicious, Momo-chan, you’re truly the best! I’m really the happiest girl when I’m eating—.
I took another pancake onto my plate, and moved to open the next jar of jam.
“It’s hard to express this delicious taste in words,” Ai-chan commented.
“Seeing Doremi-chan eat just blows away all the worries I have about the upcoming overseas shows,” Onpu-chan said with a smile as she took a pancake and drizzled it with honey.
That’s right. The musical “Blue Moon”, which Onpu-chan starred in, was originally a British play. The story and songs in the Japanese adaptation were slightly modified to suit the local audiences’ taste, so I had no idea what the original story was like.
However, I remembered being in love with Onpu-chan’s character, Kate. She must have reinvented the character and made it her own, so I guess the upcoming plays would be like a reinvention of a reinvention.
“Doremi-chan, you’re eating too fast!” Momo-chan complained. I tried to slow down my pace.
“Are the other actors going to London too?” Hazuki-chan asked, cutting her pancake into neat slices.
Onpu-chan made a face, “The main cast will be going, but the rest will be incorporating the original British cast. A round of auditions for new actors will also take place.”
“So it’s like an international cast? That’s so cool~~!” Momo-chan exclaimed.
“It’s like a battle, Onpu-chan, so make sure you show the world the power of Japan!” Ai-chan added.
Onpu-chan smiled at their words. “That’s right. Guess I shouldn’t worry so much. I’m just anxious, since I still can’t speak English as well as a native speaker.”
“Don’t worry, Onpu-chan,” Hazuki-chan assured her as she took the jar of honey from Onpu-chan and passed it to me. She then continued as she picked up a slice of neatly-cut pancake on her fork, “I know that being in a musical must be tough, but it’s probably really fun too, right? So just enjoy the feeling of performing for an audience. Even if you can’t pronounce something right, the audience will surely understand you as long as you put your heart into it.”
She said all of this in a quiet, gentle voice, but the words were so strong. I imagined that it must be like how Hazuki-chan used her violin to speak to her audience. Although it wasn’t a rare thing for Japanese musicians to win awards at international competitions, the violin still had the image of being a Western instrument.
“Yeah. ‘Blue Moon’ already belongs to Onpu-chan. If you worry too much, then you won’t be able to perform well,” I said.
Everyone turned to stare at me.
“That’s right! She’s totally right! Doremi-chan, you said something awesome!” Momo-chan praised me enthusiastically.
“You were so busy eating, I thought you weren’t listening at all,” Ai-chan confessed.
Oh, you two are so rude.
I mean, Onpu-chan was really living the character while on stage. It wasn’t because of the auditions, nor was it because the role suited her. “Blue Moon” was made just for Onpu-chan.
“I’m sure you’ll go on to play many different roles, but I guess ‘Blue Moon’ is your masterpiece right now,” Hazuki-chan said with a laugh.
That’s right. I nodded vigorously at Hazuki-chan’s words; glad that we felt the same way.
I wasn’t the only one who was busy during this short winter vacation. Ai-chan, who was the holder of the track record in the high school category, trained indoors during the winter season, and was definitely more conscious of her health than ever before. It was just such a waste that the school could not hire a real coach for her.
However, Ai-chan still had super senior alumni who could give her advice, like how she should not think too much and be as natural as possible, just like Onpu-chan. And if she had a coach, she might be forced to drop her job at the MAHO-do. That would probably be too much, since the MAHO-do was like an oasis for Ai-chan, a place to relax when she was not training.
I decided to study and do my schoolwork at the MAHO-do again today. Though everyone else acted like scary teachers to me, I managed to learn a lot from them too. Thanks to their help, I felt ready to face the upcoming semester.
And that’s not something usual for me, so please don’t say things like “but that’s your job as a student!”
“Oh! Hazuki-chan, welcome,” I greeted Hazuki-chan when she dropped by my place after the new semester’s welcome ceremony at her school. We were to head to the MAHO-do for work together.
I led Hazuki-chan into the living room. As Pop’s entrance exam date drew closer, Hazuki-chan sometimes dropped by to give her some tips and advice. It’s just such a relief to have someone so experienced around.
“Thanks for always dropping by, Hazuki-chan,” Mum said.
“It’s no trouble at all, Doremi-chan’s mum,” Hazuki-chan replied graciously.
In fact, Mum was more worried about the exams than Pop herself. I didn’t see the need for that; judging by Pop’s mock exam results and her piano technique, she should have no problem passing the exams.
Oh yes, Seki-sensei, who had been my homeroom teacher in elementary school, became the homeroom teacher for Pop’s class from last year onwards. During this winter vacation, Pop had been drilling herself with homework and exam practice questions, and her confidence was boosted when Seki-sensei wrote her a letter of recommendation. Receiving that really made us less anxious about Pop.
“What should I wear for the interview? Is this one too gaudy? This one’s black, but the design is quite chic. Do you think it’ll make me look classy?”
Mum had brought out the ensemble she’d worn during my high school opening ceremony, as well as the suit she wore during my middle school graduation ceremony. I felt that both were great choices, but Mum did not share my opinion.
“But maybe they’re not so fashionable anymore. I’m sure everyone else would be dressed to the nines,” she added.
I wondered if she actually knew anything about the current fashion trends for formalwear.
“I don’t think anyone dressed up too much. They’re both great choices, but I think you’d look amazing in a brighter colour. How about going with this one?” Hazuki-chan advised.
Mum, must you ask for advice from a high school girl? And you didn’t even ask for my opinion. But Hazuki-chan really did give her a great, mature answer. Karen Girls’ Academy students were just different from the rest of us. Mum looked satisfied too, as she started to ask more about the interview procedure.
“That’s right. I heard Yada-kun on his trumpet for the first time at ‘Bird’ the other day. He plays really well.”
As the conversation between Mum and Hazuki-chan reached a lull, Dad took the chance to come in with some coffee and add his comment.
“Oh? That’s lovely,” Hazuki-chan replied happily.
I knew that Dad liked jazz, but since when did he become such a critic and expert? Was it because of his recent dabbling into writing?
Anyway, Dad was definitely a frequent customer at the jazz club where Yada-kun worked, since he entered high school, as a waiter. I’d heard that, in recent days, he would perform during the weekend live sessions as well.
“I’m really sorry, Hazuki-chan. It’s your winter vacation, but you still drop by frequently to supervise Pop’s studying. I guess it must be tough on you and Yada-kun, especially if he can’t catch a break to meet up with you during the day,” Mum apologized.
I thought the comment would embarrass Hazuki-chan and she would start to deny things and change the topic like she usually did, but her reply surprised me.
“It’s alright. Masaru-kun has been cheating on me lately, so he hasn’t been coming to look for me anyway.”
Hazuki-chan giggled at our reaction before confessing, “He’s currently dating the 1.9m tall Gabriel Baker.”
This time, it was Dad who let out the surprised yell, and even Hazuki-chan was a little shocked at his reaction. As for myself, I couldn’t comprehend how Hazuki-chan could be so unaffected by the fact that her boyfriend was cheating on her.
“Is it really him? The jazz pianist GB?” Mum asked.
“Oh, so you know him too, Doremi-chan’s mum,” Hazuki-chan smiled.
Mum and Dad sometimes went out on dates to local jazz houses, so they must have heard of this Baker person before. Once again, I felt like I was missing out on an important piece of the conversation.
It started with Hazuki-chan’s Christmas.
Every year, when Hazuki-chan’s dad isn’t away overseas on business, the family would host a Christmas party at their place. The event was held a day after Christmas this year, and as her father is a movie director and her mother comes from a powerful, privileged family, many important guests are usually invited. Since New Year’s Day celebrations were closed-family event for them, Christmas was thus opened up to friends and family. It was similar to what families in Western countries practiced.
“One of the movies Dad directed a while ago featured a jazz music piece as its theme song…” Hazuki-chan shared.
“It was the movie ‘Mr’s Last Words’, right? That was a great movie, and the music was the best too. You mean…” Dad was a big fan of jazz, and was understandably excited.
Hazuki-chan gave a bitter smile, “Yes. GB-san and Dad became good friends because of the movie, and he came with his band to our party.”
It was obvious how much the Fujiwara family prized their daughter, as well as Yada-kun and his ambition of becoming a professional trumpeter. I marvelled at the artful way Hazuki-chan’s dad managed to get such a high profile artiste to attend his party. It was the perfect exposure for Hazuki-chan and Yada-kun.
“I’m sorry. I would have invited you if I’d known you are a fan,” Hazuki-chan apologized to Dad.
“No problem, Hazuki-chan. It’s your home party, after all,” Dad casually waved off her apology.
She then shared that a jam session was scheduled into the programme, and GB-san and his band, together with Yada-kun, joined in to give a performance.
“GB-san seemed impressed by Masaru-kun too. They invited him to go watch their concert one afternoon at a jazz club in Yokohama called ‘Five Pennies’,” Hazuki-chan finished.
“I know that place. It’s a bright club with a great atmosphere… Oh, so he’s been recognized by GB. He’ll have a bright future,” Dad said.
GB, or Gabriel Baker-san, was an American jazz pianist. While he spent most of his 20’s performing in the U.S., he’d since married a Japanese woman and had more or less settled in Japan. He’d also released quite a few CDs over the years. Now, most of his shows were held either in Yokohama or here in Tokyo. Oh, and his wife was a jazz vocalist too, elegant and with a powerful voice; she was a really cool woman.
The jazz club “Five Pennies” was named after an old American film, which featured a jazz soundtrack. Dad, the jazz expert, shared all these to us with a joyful expression on his face.
Anyway, back to GB-san. Named after one of the archangels, he was an imposing man, standing at nearly 2 metres tall. His appearance might look a little frightening, but he was a loving father who doted on his elementary-school-aged son.
“I have my own semestral examinations coming up, so I will have to attend more violin lessons. From now on, I guess Pop and I will be communicating mainly via messaging and phone calls,” Hazuki-chan informed us with an apologetic tone.
Oh, that’s right. Hazuki-chan would soon be taking her first violin exam since entering high school. If she performed well, she would get to join other students from the university level to put up a performance. She would also get the chance to take part in both local and international competitions.
I finally understood why Hazuki-chan had expressed an interest in joining in Onpu-chan’s English conversation sessions with Momo-chan. Aside from jazz, English was an important skill that both Yada-kun and Hazuki-chan could certainly improve upon. Not that I’m a good judge of that, since I was terrible at the language myself. Maybe I should ask to join in the sessions too.
The days seemed to get longer when the new school term began. I continued to work at the MAHO-do in the afternoons after school.
“Harukaze, come to the library during your lunch break.”
The request came from Yamaki-sensei, aka Leon. Yes, I was also currently under an apprenticeship to become the manager for the school soccer team.
The main person acting as my mentor was third-year student and the current manager, the charismatic Kogure Maki-senpai. The audition for the position of centerfield was coming up, and she had been using the chance to train me to take up her role daily after school. The whole thing made me anxious and worried, and I felt like I was studying for some entrance exams, just like Pop. However, she always reassured me with a smile and a “don’t worry, just relax.”
I had been watching lots of soccer matches on TV lately, as well as our school team’s practice sessions after school before I headed to the MAHO-do, so I was slowly coming to understand the game. However, there was still much I didn’t know. It was a strict apprenticeship for me, but Kogure-senpai seemed to handle her role like a breeze.
Since I still didn’t really trust Leon, I did my best to consult the soccer coach whenever I could. Now, I was working on remembering all the player’s names and their positions on the field.
Ai-chan, who was in the track team, and Momo-chan, who was surprisingly an expert on soccer, also helped me along a lot. I hoped that, by the time I reached my second year, I would become more knowledgeable about the sport. By then, a new batch of players would be joining the team, and I would become a senpai myself as well. No, I should not hope to become more knowledgeable, I NEEDED to become more knowledgeable. Either way, I suspected Leon was waiting for some kind of gratitude from me for his guidance, so I guess I should take advantage of this chance and glean all the information I could from him.
With the new school term, our seating arrangement in class was also changed. I was seated quite some distance from Shidou Yuuna-chan, but I was now closer to Shimakura Kaori-chan and Ai-chan. As a result, our corner of the classroom became more much lively and noisy.
“Doremi-chan, Ai-chan, are you girls free during lunch break?”
With that, Kaori-chan invited us to join her at the corridor outside the classroom. I suspected that she’d gotten hold of some sort of gossip again. I hoped it would at least be something interesting.
“I’ve been hearing some things about Yada-kun lately…”
“Huh?! What is it?!!”
Kaori-chan shushed us with a finger to her lips, even though there was no one out here in this chilly corridor. I thought of Yada-kun, but didn’t recall him acting strange lately.
“Some people have spotted him in the downtown area of Yokohama, together with a bunch of foreign men.”
At that, I remember our recent conversation with Hazuki-chan, and was just about to share it when Kaori-chan continued,
“People are saying that those men are drug dealers.”
“What? How can that be?” Ai-chan asked.
“That’s impossible!” I denied immediately.
Before we could speak any further, Kaori-chan interjected, “Yes, I know. I know that Yada-kun hopes to become a professional jazz trumpeter, and that those foreign men are just members of a jazz band based in Yokohama. But that’s not the problem here.”
She then shared that Yada-kun had, in fact, been spotted hanging out with those men numerous times. But that was to be expected; they were fellow performers who frequently put up shows together, after all. However, it seemed that some troubles and fights had been breaking out near the jazz club in recent days, and Yada-kun was unfortunately always spotted somewhere nearby.
What made it worse was that these incidents usually occurred after 9 p.m. . I marvelled at Kaori-chan and her advanced information-gathering skills, since she even managed to get wind of all these minor details.
“Well, it’s the downtown area, after all, and lots of foreigners frequent that place, so it could all be just a misunderstanding. That said, a jazz club certainly isn’t a usual hang out spot for a normal high school student.”
I started to protest, but was shushed by Ai-chan. I guess she was trying to remind me that there wasn’t much point in arguing, since even Kaori-chan herself knew that these rumours were baseless.
“I’m sure the truth will come out soon, and that’ll stop all these rumours. If anyone tries to say otherwise, I’ll do my best to explain it to them, so there’s no need for you girls to worry. In fact, don’t do anything; otherwise it might worsen the situation,” Kaori-chan warned.
After assuring us that she would try to find out more about the matter, we went back into the classroom. I was grateful that she had understood our personalities, and had come to inform us first. If not, we would probably have acted rashly upon hearing those rumours. And knowing how good-looking Yada-kun was, such gossip was sure to spread like wildfire.
I arrived at the MAHO-do with Momo-chan. Ai-chan said that she would drop by later, after a meeting she would be having to decide on a training schedule for the track team, in preparations for various competitions coming up in spring. Hazuki-chan and Onpu-chan had said that they would come by as well, though I was still troubling over whether to tell Hazuki-chan of what I’d learned from Kaori-chan.
“Of course you should! You need to tell her,” Momo-chan urged.
“…I guess you’re right,” I agreed reluctantly.
I guessed Yada-kun and Hazuki-chan themselves were as yet unaware of these rumours. I recalled how hurt Hazuki-chan had been, when she became the target of groundless rumours during last year’s summer vacation.
“Rather than just letting her know, it’s best for us to talk it out together, before she hears about all this from someone else. Kaori-chan said that she’d be helping us by explaining the situation to anyone spreading the rumours, right?”
“Yeah, keeping quiet is almost akin to lying, I guess.”
We decided to bring up the topic after work. While waiting for the others to arrive, we set about making New Year-themed pastries.
Soon, everyone had gathered, and Momo-chan placed a sample cake before us. Majorika and Lala came over for the taste test as well, bringing plates and forks.
“Since it’ll be January, I decided on festive colours like red and white,” Momo-chan explained as we eyed the sweets spread before us. I noticed that she’d used the English terms “red” and “white” in her description.
“Why must you say that in English?” Ai-chan wondered.
But the cake looked really stylish, so I guess describing it in English instead of Japanese seemed fitting.
Momo-chan had used a round pie as base and piled lots of sponge cake and custard cream on top to form a cute dome shape. It was only about 10 cm across, just enough to serve one.
“It’s so cute, like an igloo,” Hazuki-chan gushed.
“You’re totally right, Hazuki-chan. That’s the inspiration behind the design,” Momo-chan replied happily.
“The white chocolate is translucent too, so the pink beneath shows up really beautifully,” Onpu-chan added as she spun the cake around to view it from all angles.
The dome was decorated with tiny strawberries and raspberries, and the entire surface was then coated with a layer of white chocolate. The overall effect was a slight pink colour, as Onpu-chan had described. Cutting the cake then revealed its beautiful red interior.
“It’s delicious! You’re the best, Momo-chan!” I exclaimed as I took a bite of my slice.
“It feels like such a waste to cut and eat it up,” Hazuki-chan added.
“But it looks really nice even when cut up. What a masterpiece!” Ai-chan added her praises as well.
“You’ve slightly baked the strawberries and raspberries, right? The colours are really lovely.” Onpu-chan’s observations were sharp, and her comments elegant, as usual.
Momo-chan appeared happy at our profuse praises, but it was true that her creations were all so delicious and cute, despite them being made using only the most basic ingredients.
Aside from this new creation, we also decided to decorate our standard cakes with winter decorations as well. We would use powdered sugar to create snowflakes and constellations such as the Orion, which shines brightly in our night sky during this season. Lala would help by forming plum blossoms with chocolate, which would also give the cakes a Japanese style. We tried out these ideas on tiny cupcakes and shortcakes, and I found myself grateful for having such an enjoyable job.
After cleaning up, we settled around the table and brought up the issue with Hazuki-chan.
“What…? I didn’t know about that,” she whispered, shocked.
“It’s as if that incident with Hazuki last year wasn’t enough. Kids just love to gossip, don’t they?” Majorika huffed in disapproval.
“That’s right. They might find it fun, but this is just too much. They just don’t realize that they’re hurting others,” Lala added angrily.
“Nobody in class has been talking about it, though, and even Kaori-chan doesn’t know where the rumours began,” I said.
“That said, Kaori-chan has indeed become more discreet,” Ai-chan added.
For that, we were thankful that Kaori-chan and her inquisitiveness had found out about this issue so soon.
“Yada-kun hasn’t been acting any different; at least, he still sounds the same in his text messages to me. How is he in school?” Hazuki-chan asked.
Ai-chan and I glanced at each other. Ever since learning about the matter during lunch break, we’d stolen peeks at him throughout the rest of the day, but didn’t manage to spot any difference in his behaviour.
Come to think of it, though we’d attended the same elementary and middle schools, our interactions with many boys in class had decreased drastically. It was nice to see these familiar faces and approach them when we felt like it, but that was slowly becoming a rarity.
“Yada-kun…? Well, ever since we entered high school, we don’t really talk much, aside from exchanging greetings,” Ai-chan confessed.
That was true, but the only people Yada-kun still spoke to these days were his good friends from elementary school, like Hasebe Takeshi-kun and his gang. He’d always been the quiet type, anyway, so it was entirely possible that he knew of all these rumours but chose to ignore them, rather than get annoyed or try to deny them.
But with so little information to work with, even Onpu-chan couldn’t come up with a good course of action or advice.
“If it’s just baseless rumours, they should disappear on their own soon. Yada-kun is cool, and quite good-looking, so he’s always been popular with the girls, though he chooses to remain aloof. Maybe that has caused some of the boys to become jealous, and they decided to come up with these rumours,” she said.
I recalled our conversation with Kaori-chan, and wondered if what Onpu-chan was suggesting could be true.
She added that GB-san himself, as well as all the band members who performed with him at “Five Pennies”, were mostly African Americans. Many of them were tall and large, of various ages, skin colours, nationalities and spoken accents. Thus, it was possible that someone had been intimidated by these men, and after spotting Yada-kun hanging out with them, most probably speaking in English, had come to the conclusion that they were up to no good.
However, there was nothing we could do about it now. We hoped that what Onpu-chan had said was true, and that the incident would die down soon, as we left the MAHO-do and headed home.
We heard no news over the next few days, not even from Kaori-chan. There were no rumours too, though, so we were also relieved, thinking that the incident had blown over.
“What, Kotake? I’m working at the MAHO-do now. Yes, everyone’s here too.”
I’d received a call from Kotake on my mobile phone as we were cleaning up for the day at the MAHO-do.
“Yada-kun was questioned by the police? Kotake too?”
My exclamation shocked everyone present. After ending the call, I updated everyone on the situation.
After the Christmas party, Yada-kun had become really close to GB-san’s band members as well as his vocalist wife. Since then, he had started visiting the jazz club “Five Pennies” at Yokohama. As the band played mostly at nights, Yada-kun usually stayed at the club late into the night, until the performances for the day were done.
Kotake and Yada-kun are friends, so they’d made plans for Kotake to visit Yada-kun after a soccer match at Yokohama’s Mitsuzawa stadium that day. However, it was already past 9p.m. and the club was filled with adults drinking alcohol, making it difficult for a student like Kotake to enter. In the end, Yada-kun had to come outside, and they were chatting with each other when it happened.
Police officers suddenly made an appearance and started to make inquiries. Kotake showed them his ticket for the soccer match and said that he was on his way home. The officers told them to move along, but made no further interrogations. It was lucky that the club was located on the road from the stadium to the train station.
“I asked Yada-kun to return home with me, but he decided to stay on at the ‘Five Pennies’ instead. I was slightly worried for him, but since the club owner had offered to drive him to the train station after the performance that night and he also promised to go home right after the show, I didn’t insist,” Kotake had shared that during our phone conversation.
Yada-kun’s stepmum probably knew that he visited the jazz club at Yokohama on a regular basis, but it was still potentially a risky situation, since Yada-kun’s work permit only stated that he would work at “Bird”. “Five Pennies” was a club located in the downtown area, and now, with these police interrogations, maybe it would be wise for him to update our school teacher regarding the situation.
“It’s better to make things clear before anything bad happens. It’ll also save GB-san some trouble should anything go wrong,” Hazuki-chan said worriedly. Her dad was the one who introduced them, after all.
“True. A jazz club definitely seems like a place meant only for adults,” I added. Dad had often told me that most of the patrons at “Bird” were middle-aged men.
Jazz clubs frequently have bars as well, so while it was a space for musicians to perform, it was also a place for patrons to drink alcohol and eat while enjoying the music. There were about two to three live shows every week, which usually only started after 7p.m.
Each performance could last from one to two hours, and depending on the venue and date, there could be two shows per day as well. I thought back to how Dad described the “Five Pennies” as a bright club with a great atmosphere.
“The club’s located in the downtown area, and it’s quite easy for anyone to enter the premises. Though most of the patrons on performance nights are jazz fans, many people unfamiliar with jazz also frequent the place due to its wide selection of food and drinks,” I continued, relating to everyone what Dad had told me.
“Yada-kun seems to really respect GB-san’s band. Do they play live every week?” Onpu-chan asked.
“They play three to four times every month, usually on Fridays and Saturdays. Yada-kun isn’t allowed to join them in their performances, but he gets to play with them during their afternoon practices and evening rehearsals, and that makes him really happy. I can tell that he’s enjoying himself lots lately,” Hazuki-chan replied.
“Enjoying himself? He looks the same to me,” Ai-chan retorted.
She was right, since Yada-kun wasn’t known to show his emotions freely. It wasn’t that he hid them away, just that he didn’t see the need to talk about his passion and ambition of becoming a jazz trumpeter with everyone. In a way, he was just like Shidou Yuuna-chan; both of them preferred to keep to themselves.
“Yada-kun lives together with his stepmum, right? It won’t be nice to make her worry. Hazuki-chan, I think that it’s best if you go to talk to him about it, since you know him best. Maybe just caution him to be careful?” Onpu-chan shared her advice calmly.
Yada-kun’s dad was a jazz trumpeter himself, and he was often away overseas working. I wondered if their relationship extended beyond father and son into friendly rivalry, since they were both in the same line.
“Hazuki-chan, advise him to let Leon know too,” Ai-chan added.
“Yep, I agree,” Momo-chan said.
Yes, maybe it was the best choice to discuss the issue with Leon. Majorika and Lala agreed too.
Hazuki-chan nodded, promising that she would let Yada-kun know. He was still a high school student and therefore not of proper age to enter clubs, after all. Furthermore, it was a matter of not bringing trouble to the club and GB-san’s band should anything go wrong.
Hazuki-chan managed to convince Yada-kun, and he notified our homeroom teacher Leon that he sometimes visited the “Five Pennies” to practise and watch live performances. It was a good thing that Leon was also in charge of Yada-kun’s permit to work at the “Bird”; other teachers would surely have been strict and not allowed it.
Leon gave Yada-kun three conditions. First, that he would return home immediately after the performances. Second, that, aside from inside the club, he wouldn’t spend time with the band members at night. Third, that he would inform Leon every time he planned to visit the club, at least one day in advance. Leon insisted that Yada-kun keep to these conditions without fail.
Yada-kun was understandably upset, but Leon also passed him his mobile number, telling Yada-kun to call him should any officers interrogate him again. Hazuki-chan managed to convince him that it was better than contacting his stepmum and causing her undue worry, and Yada-kun reluctantly stored Leon’s number in his mobile phone.
However, all this could not prevent what was to come.
We found out about it on Sunday night.
Momo-chan and I had been working at the MAHO-do since morning, with Ai-chan and Hazuki-chan joining us in the afternoon. Onpu-chan arrived as the shop was closing, and with her help, cleaning up was a breeze.
“That’s it for today. Why don’t you girls go change, then we’ll have some tea together,” Lala suggested.
We quickly changed out of our pâtissière uniforms into our own clothes and took a seat at the table.
“Yada-kun has been suspended, so he won’t be going to school tomorrow,” Hazuki-chan suddenly spoke with a flat voice.
“Huh…? What? What happened?”
I didn’t know how else to respond, or what questions to ask. Glancing around, I saw that I wasn’t the only one frozen in shock. Even Majorika and Lala had stopped preparing tea.
“I don’t know much myself; Yada-kun refused to talk to me about it. It’s just that you might hear some strange rumours tomorrow and start to worry, so let me update everyone with what I know first.”
So saying, Hazuki-chan launched into a full account of what had happened on Saturday.
GB-san’s band was scheduled to play on Saturday night, and Yada-kun had made his way to the “Five Pennies” by afternoon. The club was open for lunchtime and would close for a while from 3- to 6 p.m. in order to prepare for the night’s performance, clean up the place and prepare food for the night.
The performance ended past 8 p.m., and the next show was scheduled to come on at 9 p.m. Customers and band members alike were moving in and out of the club, and the staff was kept busy with their work.
As the second show would end at 11 p.m., Yada-kun left the club right after the first show, keeping his promise to Hazuki-chan and Leon. However, as he was leaving the club, a group of punks approached and insulted him, resulting in an argument and a physical fight, leading to Yada-kun’s suspension.
“He wasn’t the one who started the argument, but he did initiate the fight. It also got the club into trouble. Right now, he feels that a break from school isn’t so bad, since he now has more time to practise on his trumpet,” Hazuki-chan concluded.
“That’s a careless way to think of things. He should have clarified things, and then he might have been let off with just a warning,” Onpu-chan chided. I totally agreed with her.
“He should have just stayed at his workplace,” Ai-chan added.
“But isn’t this good for Yada-kun?” Momo-chan asked. “I myself have thought that way too. If I didn’t have to go to school, I can make so many more sweets, and do more research by visiting other bakeries and shops.”
“Me too. I often miss out on school when I go away for location shoots, and it’s tough to work out a schedule for both school and work. So, I sometimes wonder if I should quit school,” Onpu-chan added.
I thought about what Momo-chan and Onpu-chan had said, and decided that it did make some sense.
“But school’s fun too. Afternoon classes are tedious because I get sleepy, but eating lunch together with everyone, getting to chat with my friends; I love doing these in school!” Momo-chan exclaimed.
“That’s true. Now’s the time to really experiment and do things that only a high school student can do. I even made a friend the other day when I borrowed her notebook during lunch for reference. There are other idols in school too, but I don’t feel reluctant to go to school. Just like how I come to the MAHO-do, I also love going to school,” Onpu-chan said with a smile.
I’ve never thought about things that way before. Yes, we were kept really busy every day, but it also was fun. Lessons were hard, and we had to take tests too, but school was where all my friends were. So, I’d never really thought about quitting school.
“Doremi-chan, let’s just see what happens tomorrow, but I don’t know how to tell Leon about Yada-kun’s current predicament,” Ai-chan sighed as she patted me on the shoulder.
“Yep, you’re right. Alright, we’ll report back to everyone here tomorrow,” I said.
We were all still worried, but as Hazuki-chan seemed to have calmed down a little, we decided to wait till Monday to decide what to do.
When Ai-chan and I stepped into class on Monday morning, friends immediately flocked to us, eager to share news about Yada-kun’s suspension.
It seemed like Shimakura Kaori-chan had already found out about it. According to her story, Yada-kun had been dragged into a fight after a performance at the “Five Pennies” on Saturday evening.
In addition, she also informed us that a local teacher and some volunteers who usually patrolled the downtown area had rushed to the scene. As a result, they had informed our school of Yada-kun’s situation, which resulted in his suspension.
“Leon has managed to get the principal and head of discipline on Yada-kun’s side, but until the matter’s cleared up, he won’t be allowed to come back,” Kaori-chan whispered to us.
At that moment, Leon entered the classroom.
“Yada-kun seems to be down with the flu. All of you take care of your health. Make sure you don’t get any of our students who are studying for their entrance exams sick, because they won’t be closing the school if all of you get infected. Though I’d love to catch a break should that happen…”
Leon’s explanation was crisp, his tone daring anyone to inquire further. However, many classmates remain unconvinced.
That evening, we all gathered at the MAHO-do.
We’d heard that Hazuki-chan had been keeping in contact with Yada-kun still, and we were eager to find out more from her.
She had tried to convince Yada-kun to tell the truth and apologize to his teachers, in hopes that they would lift his suspension. However, he had remained silent, keeping the truth even from Hazuki-chan, insisting that he’d much rather quit school completely.
It was well-known that Yada-kun worked at a jazz club and had foreigner friends. Even though we all knew that those friends were members of the jazz band and thus good people, it wouldn’t be easy convincing other people to overlook their prejudices.
However, we all trusted Yada-kun, despite the fact that he refused to share the truth with anyone. Without any proof, it would be hard to convince anyone of his innocence, and that fact grated on our nerves.
“We have no choice but to investigate this with magic!” I exclaimed.
Everyone nodded vigorously in assent.