Chapter 5 Part 2
VOLUME 2: ~Naïve~
Chapter 5 “Yada-kun’s guardian angel” PART 2
Late that night, the group of us, aside from Onpu-chan who had work early the next morning, turned into witch apprentices and flew to Yokohama on our brooms.
Along the way, we asked Hazuki-chan for updates on Yada-kun, who was still on suspension, but she confessed that she had only received a single call from him, with an apology for making her worry, and had no other news to share.
She must be worried sick. Glancing at Hazuki-chan’s pained expression, I found myself blaming Yada-kun for his recklessness.
“That’s the ‘Five Pennies’,” Hazuki-chan said as she pointed out the club to us. The place was in the midst of closing up for the night, and we spotted a male worker switching off the neon signboards at the club’s entrance.
We landed on the roof of a narrow building nearby and surveyed our surroundings.
There was a large ginkgo tree located right in front of the club. After making sure that there was nobody around, we flew down and landed at the foot of the tree.
This ginkgo tree was but one in an entire row of trees which stretched down the road. It was towering at over three stories tall. As it was winter, the tree was bare of leaves.
“We’ll be able to see everything from this spot,” Ai-chan said.
“And this tree’s so tall. I’m sure it knows everything that happened!” Momo-chan added cheerfully.
“Let’s move a little further away,” I suggested.
Gathering some distance from the tree, we quickly summoned Magical Stage.
“Ginkgo tree, please show us what happened here last Saturday night, during the fight!”
Following Hazuki-chan’s command, we suddenly found ourselves floating up into the air, before being carried to one of the branches of the gingko tree. The moment we were all perched on the branch, we felt time shifting around us.
I saw the winter sun sinking at the horizon, so I gathered that we had travelled to about 5 p.m. on that day. GB-san’s band was scheduled to play at 7 p.m. in the evening.
The club had closed after lunch, and was probably preparing for the dinner crowd. The lights were on, but all the window blinds were drawn, and we couldn’t see inside.
“Ah! That must be Yada-kun,” Momo-chan pointed out.
“You’re right. I can see his trumpet,” Ai-chan added.
I looked closer, and managed to spot Yada-kun and his trumpet through a minor gap between the blinds. There seemed to be about ten staff members in the club as well. We spotted them passing in and out of the club via the side entrance, sometimes to catch a cigarette break, or on errands to get ingredients. Some were dressed as chefs, while others, probably waiters, were clad in white button-down shirts and black pants. Most were Japanese, but there were a few African Americans and Europeans too.
Then, it happened.
“Eh? Isn’t that Kotake?” Ai-chan suddenly exclaimed as she pointed to one of the side alleys.
I was surprised to spot him, and rubbed my eyes before looking again. Yes, it was really Kotake.
“But Yada-kun said he was alone during the incident… Doremi-chan, did you know about this?” Hazuki-chan asked.
“No…” I replied pensively.
“I’m sure Kotake-kun was worried about Yada-kun too, so that’s why he’s here,” Momo-chan assured me.
“Oh, I see. That’s really nice of Kotake,” Ai-chan said. “Doremi-chan, look at those two women coming this way. That’s Yamaki-sensei’s wife and Tachibana-senpai’s mother, right?”
I looked, and saw the two beautiful women coming from the opposite side of the road, walking in our direction as well. I wondered if they were here as spies for Leon, seeing that he was probably worried about Yada-kun too.
“They’re certainly dressed differently from usual,” Ai-chan commented.
“But they’re still recognizable, even with those sunglasses,” I replied.
I wasn’t the only one watching the two women, many passers-by were staring at them too. Though they were dressed in plain-looking coats and boots, they definitely stood out from the average woman. Leon’s wife, Minako-san, was especially conspicuous with her large sunglasses, partly because the sun had already set quite some time ago. Ai-chan and I had met Minako-san and Tachibana-san during that incident last year with Tamaki, so that could also be the reason why we managed to spot them so easily.
“That’s GB-san’s wife,” Hazuki-chan suddenly whispered to us as she pointed at a woman, who was leading a child to the side entrance of the club. I had never met her in person before, having only seen photos of her in the jazz CDs Dad owned, but her presence in real life was truly imposing.
“Ah! She’s just like Big Mama,” Momo-chan commented.
Yes, that’s exactly it. This woman almost matched GB-san in size and attitude; she was truly the typical big-bodied Osakan lady. At that moment, she seemed to spot Kotake, and waved him over. The two exchanged some words, but we couldn’t hear them because we were too far away. Just then, the two beautiful ladies joined them.
“Are they saying hello? I think Kotake will be shocked to find out that one of them’s Leon’s wife,” Ai-chan said.
“You’re right. Kotake seems surprised,” I laughed.
“Oh well, he’s in the presence of three powerful ladies, after all,” Ai-chan snickered.
Ai-chan was right, Kotake did seem a little overwhelmed standing in their midst. Finally, GB-san’s wife went back into the club.
“Doremi-chan, Ai-chan, that wasn’t very nice. Kotake-kun is here because he’s worried about Yada-kun,” Hazuki-chan scolded gently.
“Those three ladies were so cool. I wish I can grow as tall as them…” Momo-chan said dreamily.
Seriously, Momo-chan, you’re still too young to join them anyway.
At about 6 p.m., the lights at the club entrance flickered on. A short while later, a waiter came out, carrying a board with details of that night’s live concert written on it, and placed it near the door. It seemed like the club was ready for business. The two ladies, who had been waiting near the entrance, spoke to Kotake, as if convincing him to join them, and the three of them soon entered the club together.
We waited patiently on the gingko tree as the time for the concert came. As we were outside, we couldn’t tell what songs were being played, or what was happening inside the club. Yada-kun never came outside, either, despite the fact that he wasn’t performing that night. He was probably helping out as a waiter.
The street was bright with the neon lights of many establishments along the road, many of them restaurants, cafes and eateries. When we first came, there were plenty of children about, but now, the street was filled with office ladies, businessmen, and college students. I finally understood why Kotake was initially hesitant to enter the club; the area didn’t seem like the sort of place for a young student to hang out at night.
“I think the concert’s over,” Momo-chan suddenly spoke as she pointed at the club’s entrance.
It was just past 8 p.m., and customers were starting to leave the club. As there was going to be another concert later on in the evening, a number of customers were entering the establishment as well. We saw some staff members outside the side entrance too, standing around and talking, the flames of their cigarettes glowing in the dark. We couldn’t tell if Yada-kun was among them.
Soon, Kotake and the two ladies came outside as well, and Kotake made his way to the staff entrance. A while later, we spotted Yada-kun, trumpet case in hand, exit the building. He bowed to someone just inside the door, and we guessed it might be GB-san or his wife inside. Then the door closed behind him, and the alleyway fell into darkness.
Meanwhile, the two ladies had made their way towards the gingko tree we were perched on, chatting happily. They must be talking about the performance, and judging from their smiles, it must have been a good show. The two ladies then stopped under the tree; they must be waiting for Yada-kun and Kotake.
Just then, a group of males exited the club and made their way towards the two ladies.
“Did they come for the performance too? They must have spotted the ladies while inside; they’re too beautiful to go unnoticed,” Momo-chan commented.
“What? So they’re trying to pick them up? Gotta hand it to them,” Ai-chan replied.
I saw the scene as the men did; two ladies were standing alone in the dark, seemingly in a good mood after listening to such a great performance. They probably had their guards down, and I understood how the men could have worked up the courage to approach them. Regardless, the two ladies confidently stood their ground. The men might have been drunk, or up to no good, but judging from their stance, I had no doubt that the ladies knew how to handle the situation.
However, at the moment, we spotted Kotake and Yada-kun dashing towards the group. They must have assumed that the ladies were in trouble.
“…No! Let’s go stop this!” Hazuki-chan suddenly shouted in a panicked voice.
“Wait, something important is going to happen soon,” Ai-chan cautioned.
Yada-kun and Kotake soon reached the group of men and confronted them, their courage belying the fact that they were mere high school students. Heated words were exchanged, and suddenly, one man snatched Yada-kun’s trumpet case from him and, with a mighty swing of his arm, tossed the case away.
“That’s horrible! Now Yada-kun’s going to be really mad!” Momo-chan gasped.
Momo-chan’s prediction came true and Yada-kun swung a punch at the man, as Kotake and Minako-san hurriedly tried to hold him back. In that moment, passers-by came rushing to the scene, no doubt drawn either by the crash of the trumpet case hitting the ground, or by the sounds of conflict. We spotted the teacher and the volunteers amongst the crowd.
Kotake was holding tight on to Yada-kun’s arm and saying something to him. Tachibana-san had gone to retrieve the trumpet case, and now handed it back to Yada-kun. However, Yada-kun proceeded to push Kotake and Minako-san towards Tachibana-san, and then motioned for them to leave the scene, but it was already too late.
After witnessing the scene, we called Onpu-chan, who was as anxious as us, and updated her regarding the situation. As usual, she provided us with great advice on how to proceed, then cautioned us not to divulge that we’d learned the truth using magic. I felt that the warning was somehow directly solely at me.
During lunch break the next day, Ai-chan, Momo-chan and I went to the staffroom to look for Leon, but he was not at his seat. Hesitating for a moment, we then headed up to the roof.
“How many times are you going to break the no smoking rule?” Ai-chan called out.
Leon jumped in surprise upon hearing her voice, but relaxed and continued to smoke after seeing that it was only Ai-chan. Then, after learning that we had come to talk about Yada-kun, he grew serious, stubbing out the cigarette in his portable ashtray.
“You three girls look like you’re ready for war,” he commented.
“Leo… Yamaki-sensei, we know the truth. Yada-kun was not at fault. Please let him come back to school,” I pleaded.
Leon sighed, and retrieved his pack of cigarettes from his pocket, pulling out another stick.
“Our high school isn’t a welfare organization. We can’t do anything if he insists on wanting to quit school,” he mumbled as he took out his lighter.
“That’s really mean, Leon!” Momo-chan argued.
“Yada might have acted without thinking, but it wasn’t his fault. In fact, I’d already heard the whole story from my wife. She even offered to speak to the school leader and principal, which would have led to him receiving nothing more than a heavy warning. But Yada was the one who declined her offer, so the truth was never made known. I thought he was trying to cover up the fact that Kotake was there, but that boy had already come and spoken to me himself,” Leon said.
“But isn’t that good enough, now that we all know the truth?” I asked.
“I’ll repeat it again. Our high school isn’t a welfare organization. If Yada has chosen to hide away, nobody can help him. You girls can go organize a petition or whatever, but the result will still be the same. Personally, I don’t care if he chooses to drop out of school or not, but if he is unable to handle such a small situation properly, then I worry for him. The world isn’t such a kind place.”
With that, Leon finished his cigarette and extinguished it in his portable ashtray.
“Anyway, don’t make things complicated. If you girls really care for Yada, convince him to go speak to the teachers and the principal himself. If you can do that, I’ll help you girls and put a good word in for him then.”
Giving us a wave, Leon then headed for the stairwell door and disappeared back into the school building.
That day, we relayed Leon’s advice to Hazuki-chan. Onpu-chan was also present, having made time to come to join us.
“So that is Yamaki-sensei’s advice. Thank you for telling me. I guess I’ll take a day off work today, and go meet with Yada-kun,” Hazuki-chan said in a determined voice. Thankfully, the sadness which had plagued her these past few days was nowhere to be seen.
“Is it alright to just let her go alone?” I asked worriedly as we all stood at the entrance to the MAHO-do, watching Hauki-chan leave.
“It’s okay, they will figure it out,” Onpu-chan said in a bright and confident voice, as she tied an apron around her waist. All of us, including Lala and Majorika, then started to tidy up the MAHO-do. With Hazuki-chan’s determination and Onpu-chan’s confidence in our hearts, we all felt relieved for the first time in days.
The next day, Yada-kun returned to school. After school, Leon rounded up Yada-kun and Kotake and accompanied them to the principal’s office. They were to meet with the principal, the student leader, as well as the teacher in-charge of us freshmen, for a discussion.
All of us decided to “join in” the meeting as well. However, we didn’t have to use any magic. This time, we employed the old-fashioned method of eavesdropping.
Hazuki-chan had called us the previous night, sharing that GB-san, his wife, and the band members were all worried about Yada-kun, and apologetic that the incident had happened.
“I shared that with Yada-kun too, and told him to think about the history of jazz, as well as the history of the African-American people like GB-san. That was all,” Hazuki-chan said.
Not understanding her words, I asked Dad about it when I was updating him about Yada-kun’s situation. Dad was worried about Yada-kun as well, as he had not seen Yada-kun turn up for work at “Bird” for the entire week.
“I see. Hazuki-chan’s simple words will probably have a heavy impact on Yada-kun,” Dad said with an emotional expression on his face.
Then, seeing that I was still confused, he finally explained, “I feel it’s better that youngsters like you are exposed to classical music than to jazz. If Yada-kun had picked up the piano, like you and Pop, or the violin like Hazuki-chan, such incidents probably won’t have happened.”
He then shared a brief history of jazz with me. It was a complicated one, but I finally understood what Dad and Hazuki-chan were talking about, and also why Yada-kun decided to go to school today too.
Now, hiding in the school garden outside the principal’s office, it was easy to hear what was going on inside the room, despite the curtains being drawn. Aside from Ai-chan, Momo-chan and myself, a large group of interested parties had also gathered. There was Shimakura Kaori-chan, Okuyama Naomi-chan, Nagato Kayoko-chan, Yokokawa Nobuko-chan, Hasebe Takeshi-kun, Sagawa Yuuji-kun, Oota Yutaka-kun and Miyamae Sora-kun too. Everyone was worried about Yada-kun, and with strength in numbers, none of us were afraid of the fact that we might get caught.
Kotake was the first to speak, and after he was asked to leave, he came to join us in the garden to eavesdrop. Next, Yada-kun spoke about the encounter, and then started to talk about why he decided to change his mind and come back to school.
While jazz had a shorter history compared to classical music, it used to be a style based on African tribal music. Thus, jazz had its roots in America, with the African Americans being its founders. While there are many Asian and European jazz artists in the world today, the genre had started out as music created by the poor and oppressed African Americans after the revolution freed them from slavery.
We had read about the discrimination issues in our textbooks, and I remembered learning how the African Americans had stood up for their rights countless times, despite facing strong opposition forces, and how they had finally earned the freedom to live as an equal member of society.
I guessed that was what Hazuki-chan was hinting at with her words, and it seemed that Yada-kun had understood, as he now explained how he wished to learn from the resilience of GB-san and his band. And then, as Leon had no doubt made him promise to do earlier, Yada-kun bowed and apologized to the principal at the end.
I recalled what Dad had told me last night, “History may not seem important to us now, but jazz is a genre that has come a long way. I’m glad that youngsters like you are still willing to learn about it.”
Now, I heard Leon speak about the same sentiment to the principal and assembled teachers. He also spoke about Yada-kun’s sincerity in mastering the trumpet, and since GB-san’s band was one of the best around, it would be good for the principal to give Yada-kun express permission to visit the club and practise with them.
He further added that written permission would be beneficial in protecting Yada-kun. It could cause trouble for the school if their student was found performing in secret, late at night in a club which served alcohol, without the school’s consent.
Yada-kun also promised to be more careful in the future, as well as to take his trumpet practice with GB-san’s band seriously, if he wished to perform with the band someday.
He also shared that he had initially kept quiet about the incident because of Kotake. At that time, he had wanted Kotake and Minako-san, who was a minor celebrity, to escape, not wishing for them to get hurt. If Kotake had gotten involved in the fight, he might have broken his leg, stopping him from joining the school soccer team and competing in matches.
After Kotake and Minako-san had escaped, the police arrived to see only Tachibana-san and Yada-kun left, since the group of men had fled at the first sign of trouble. They had been questioned, and with almost no eyewitnesses around, suspicion had thus fallen on Yada-kun.
At that point, Leon apologized for his involvement as well, since he was the one who asked for Minako-san to go check up on Yada-kun. Judging from Yada-kun’s response, he was truly shocked to learn that Minako-san was actually Leon’s wife.
“Leon can be really nice when he wants to, huh?” Ai-chan grinned as she stacked up the chairs.
“That was my first time hearing jazz music.”
“It was my first time too, and we’re lucky to have such masters performing for us,” Momo-chan laughed.
With everyone’s help, the chairs were soon all cleared away, and the gym returned to its original state.
Today, GB-san and his band had been invited to give a performance at our school. Of course, Yada-kun did a solo performance as well, and it was in all a great show. They played a host of famous tunes, including some familiar songs from TV dramas. Everyone, including myself, was pleasantly surprised.
“I’m glad to have heard Masaru-kun performing too. I just want to thank GB-san and his wife, and Yamaki-sensei and his wife, and Doremi-chan’s dad, and everyone who came today, and…” Hazuki-chan continued to chatter on happily.
My Dad, Hazuki-chan’s father, as well as the music conductor and some regulars at “Bird”, Yada-kun’s workplace, were invited to the performance too. There were a surprising number of jazz fans of Dad’s age, and upon hearing that GB-san would be performing, had put in requests to the school to let them attend the show too.
GB-san’s kindness shone during the show, as evidenced by his friendly emcee sessions. I felt that he, together with Hazuki-chan, were really like Yada-kun’s guardian angels.
Even Onpu-chan had come to listen to the performance, though she had to hide outside and listen in through the window.
“Maybe we should have printed out some posters and stuck them on our notice board at MAHO-do!” Momo-chan pouted.
“Momo-chan, enough people turned up as it is,” Ai-chan reminded her.
Yes, we had made flyers for the concert and distributed them to everyone who came to the MAHO-do. While the performance was free, we were worried about the turn-out, since we didn’t know how many students from Misora High would be interested enough to turn up. Besides, GB-san’s band usually played on weekday evenings, so we were worried that the regular customers wouldn’t be free to come for this concert.
“We didn’t really have much time to spread the word, but look, the gym was totally filled today. Isn’t that great?” Onpu-chan smiled. Due to her celebrity status, she had been unable to help with advertising the concert, and was initially quite worried as well.
“Yada-kun is really grateful to the music conductor of ‘Bird’ for helping out as well,” Hazuki-chan shared.
“Not that anyone can tell from his stoic expression,” Ai-chan teased.
“Oh, but Yada-kun’s will surely get even more popular now! Hazuki-chan, you’d better be careful,” Momo-chan grinned.
That was true. Yada-kun was definitely good-looking, but his cool demeanour made it difficult for people to approach him. Now, after seeing his passionate and lively side during this performance, even I felt that his attractiveness had increased by 30 percent… Who knew how amazing he must now seem to the other girls in our school?
“Masaru-kun is really cool. Guess I need to work hard on my performance skills too,” Hazuki-chan said with a nonchalant smile, totally brushing off our teasing.
“Won’t it be nice if we can hear Doremi-chan talk like that about someone too?” Onpu-chan smiled and winked at me. I stared at her, clueless.
“She’s talking about Kotake-kun. He’s really popular amongst the girls too, right? It’ll be Valentine’s Day soon. Go get him with chocolates,” Momo-chan encouraged me.
Well, it was true that Kotake was much taller and cooler now compared to how he was in elementary school, but Kotake was still Kotake. Though his current popularity did make me a little nervous…
“He’s the forward of the soccer team; you’re bound to have lots of rivals. Quick, learn some techniques from Momo-chan and make him some Valentine’s sweets,” Ai-chan teased.
“I need to start thinking of presents too. I’d like to give some chocolates to everyone who’d helped us out this time,” Hazuki-chan said happily.
I felt that Valentine’s Day had become a more enjoyable event now that we were a little older. The girls would exchange gifts and eat our chocolates together. Though some girls would give chocolates to the guys as well, I wondered if any boys were expecting chocolates from us.
Valentine’s was just a month away, and before that, our store would surely be stocked with lots of cute chocolates, as well as Momo-chan’s new gateau au chocolat creations. The madeleine cakes made using the moulds from Yuuna-chan’s dad’s workshop would finally make their debut as well.
But what should I do if Kotake really was expecting to get chocolates from me? I used to think that I would worry about it when the time came, but I actually didn’t have much time left.
Well, one thing I could be certain about was how busy we would all be in the upcoming month.