It was the morning of the day of the second exam.
I arrived at Hokusei University much earlier than the start of the exam and stood near the main gate where we were to meet.
The campus was hectic even though it was a Sunday.
No wonder. Today is the second round of exams, the crowning moment for students. Whether you cry or laugh, everything will be decided today. In this light, today is probably the most hectic day at the relaxed Hokusei University.
“Kingo, will he be here soon?”
I looked at the watch I had borrowed from my mother. It was time for my appointment with Kingo and the others But they have yet to show up. I had just received a message on my phone saying that they were on their way, so they would be arriving soon.
“Hey, Ari. Your idol, is he really coming?”
Igarashi Nagine, who is waiting with me next to me, asks, rubbing her palms together.
Nagine is also taking the entrance exam for Hokusei University. And today, when I told her that Kingo would be performing on the street to give me a pep talk, she said she wanted to watch with me.
“Yeah, he’ll be here soon.”
Today, the temperature is low with light clouds. It’s so cold that my fingers are numb. I felt sorry to keep Nagine company.
“Hey, Igarashi, Azekura. You’d better get into the classroom early.”
Noto sensei, a.k.a. Notocchi, is one of the few male teachers at Atago All Girls’ Academy who worries about us. He was visiting the campus to confirm our arrival and cheer us on.
“My friend is coming soon ! So I’ll wait here !”
I’m sorry Notocchi, but I can’t move from here. Soon.
“Good morning, Ari chan !”
“Ah, Shino san ! Good morning.”
Then Shino san appears. She was well protected from the cold by a coat and scarf, and she shook my hand with her gloved hand.
“Today is the big day, isn’t it? If you’ve been working hard up until now, I’m sure you’ll be able to break through.”
“Yeah ! Thanks to Shino san, I’ve been able to prepare well for Japanese, so I’ll definitely pass the exam.”
“That’s the spirit !”
Thanks to Shino san, I have already conquered Japanese, which was my weak subject. On the contrary, it has become a subject I’m good at. It was largely thanks to Shino san’s cooperation that I was able to see hope of passing the exam. I really can’t thank her enough.
“Oh, is she a friend of yours?”
“Yes, she’s Nagine from the same school.”
“M-Misumi sensei !? Why are you here !? Aren’t you supposed to be at another university?”
Oh, Nagine, you’ve mistaken Shino san for Misumi sensei. Well, it can’t be helped because they look alike, yeah. But if you look at her properly, she is totally different. The way she smiles, the calm atmosphere.
Rattle rattle rattle—
And then the sound of cart wheels rolling on the concrete pavement echoes. My attention is drawn to the sound, and I turn around.
“Ari san !”
Kingo is carrying a guitar case on his back and pushing a cart with equipment on it. Beside him, Ryoko san, with her luggage lowered into her hands, was desperately clinging to him.
“I’m sorry we’re late ! We ran into trouble…..”
“Don’t worry, you’re right on time ! Thanks for coming today !”
“No worries ! I’d go anywhere for you, Ari san.”
F-for me !? I can’t believe you would go that far for a fan…….
“Ehehe, I’m very satisfied. I can have a good dream today……”
“Ari san, it’s still morning, you know? It’s still before the actual performance.”
Huh !? Oh my….. I was so happy to have Kingo, my idol, devote himself to me that I just got carried away. The real show is just about to begin !
“So, where are you going to perform? On the grounds?
“That’s my intention. It’s an unauthorized guerrilla gig, so we can’t……”
Kingo shrugs his shoulders and gives a prankish grimace. I’m sorry to make you do something that isn’t praiseworthy, but I’m still happy…….
The two of them took their places in the plaza in front of the main gate, and Kingo and Ryoko san set up their equipment quickly and efficiently. Kingo’s instrument today was the electric guitar. It was the same guitar he always used on stage at the live houses he frequented. And two microphones. One microphone is of course Kingo’s, and the second one is for……Ryoko san !? Could it be that Ryoko is going to sing too !?
Kingo takes a deep breath and switches on the microphone.
Finally, it’s time to begin…….
“Good morning, examiners ! Today is the second exam, the culmination of your three years of study.”
Kingo’s cheerful voice echoes from the amplifier. Before I knew it, a sparse crowd had formed around us. They seemed to be drawn by the rarity of the event, despite their nervousness.
“Whether you cry or laugh, today is the big day. As a college senior, let me send a song of encouragement to all of you !”
A gasp was heard from the audience. I could feel the tension of the examiners relaxing in the air.
Before I knew it, the live performance for me had turned into a live performance for the students. Well, that would be fun.
That’s when I started to feel a little sad. I locked eyes with Kingo. Then he smiled at me……
“I’m going to send this to all the students who are preparing for the exam. TOKIO, [For Yourself.]”
The sound of live electric guitar, which I had not heard for a long time, hit my ears hard. Then, Kingo and Ryoko san sang together with the rhythm backing of 337 beats.
Ryoko san clapped her hands lightly during the interlude from the introduction to the A melody. My hands clapped along with hers…..and the audience’s hands clapped in percussion rhythm. The sparse hand clapping soon synchronized, sounding like a single percussion instrument, and merged with Kingo’s guitar.
No one had ever heard of Kingo, but everyone was quickly drawn in.
It doesn’t matter how well-known he is or what the expectations are.
It was the pure desire to support the future juniors that carried over to the sound and resonated in our hearts. Nagine, my friends at Atago, and people from the school I didn’t know were smiling and clapping their hands enthusiastically.
At the same time, I had a powerful flashback to my six years at Atago Girls’ Academy.
I had high hopes that something would begin once I entered the fashionable girls’ school. But what awaited her was a repetitive, unchanging routine. If I had taken some action on my own, things might have changed, but it never occurred to me at the time.
It was then that I met Kingo……in Lyconess. Kingo strummed his guitar as hard as he could on stage. As I followed Lyconess, I gradually became fascinated by him.
The way he puts all his hard work and desire to entertain everyone on stage in just a few minutes is a true rockstar.
If only I had entered the same high school as him….I regretted a little the days I couldn’t go back.
But I’m done being depressed by boredom.
Overcome the last barrier and……I…….
“Dear juniors ! I look forward to seeing you on campus in the spring ! Fight your last big game with no regrets !”
Before I knew it, the performance had come to an end, and the concert concluded with Kingo’s pep talk.
The dream-like time passed in an instant.
I was sad to leave, but I did not feel lonely because the voices of Kingo and Ryoko san and their accompaniment reverberated in my ears and did not disappear.
“Thank you, Senpai !” “I’ll do my best for the exam !” “You looked great !”
The audience burst out in applause and words of gratitude.
I was not the only one who was getting anxious before the exam. Nagine and the others were almost crushed by nervousness.
But I don’t think anyone here could be pushed down.
It gave me so much courage…
“Ari’s idol, he’s cool.”
Nagine, who was standing next to me, whispered secretly.
“Yes ! Kingo is so cool ! Because he’s a rockstar !”
After the song, the audience slowly dispersed. Everyone seemed to be reluctant to leave, but our fight was just beginning.
“Ari san ! How was the show?”
Kingo walked up to me with his guitar slung over his shoulder. He looked just as he always does on stage at live music venues, and I felt as if a star shining in the night sky had fallen right in front of me.
“The best ! ! Everyone was so excited and I’m a hundred times more excited than ever before ! Thank you so much !”
It’s made my body so hot that it’s melting and burning. I feel like I could melt the ice in Antarctica, let alone blow away the north wind. I won’t do it because I feel sorry for the penguins, though.
“That’s the spirit. Oh, I’ve got something for you, Ari san. It’s a good luck charm to replace your broken hairpin, if you don’t mind.”
Saying that, Kingo offered me…..
“Is this a pick?”
“Yes, it’s the one I used in the performance just now.”
“Can I have it !?”
“Of course. I have a lot of replacements at home, so don’t hesitate.”
I heard that picks are consumable goods. For him, it would be a trivial gift.
But for me, it’s a lifetime memory. The pick that he used at a live concert as a guitarist I admired so much held for me. It is the only pick in the world.
“Then, I’ll accept…….ah…..”
I was about to accept it with full of joy, but I stopped my hand.
“The pick……it’s cracked…..”
A small part of the tip was almost broken off. It must have been broken while playing.
The pick is a thin piece of plastic, so it can break while playing.
For Kingo, it was probably a minor problem. In fact, he played through to the end even if it broke in the middle of the performance.
But for me, it is a bit of a bad omen. I remember the day of the common exam. I was upset because the hairpin I received as a good luck charm broke in front of my eyes.
I was afraid that if I received it, it would be the same as that day……
I suddenly felt uneasy and was hesitating whether or not to accept it when Kingo handed it to me. He took my hand and gently held it in his.
“Once you start playing music, you can’t stop no matter what happens. Whether a string breaks or a pick snaps, the rule is to play until the end. Today, you may get upset because of a difficult problem. When that happens, take a deep breath and remember this pick. And think of it as [the show is the last practice] and work through it.”
Working through it…… Yes, I have to work through it. If I break down just because I’m a little surprised, I won’t be able to face the people who supported me.
Mom, Dad, Misumi sensei, Ryoko san, Shino san………..and Kingo.
Don’t stand still for the sake of all of them.
“Yeah, okay. I’ll try to remember what you taught me. Oh, yeah, Kingo !”
I put the hand holding the pick on my chest and called out.
Under my fist, my heart beats with a thump. My heart is screaming, [I want to tell you.]
But it’s not now……
“I have something I want to tell Kingo when I pass. Will you listen to me?”
The insides of both eyes burn. The blood is boiling and it feels as if it’s being pumped straight from the heart.
Kingo looked stunned for a moment. But like always, he smiled softly.
“Yes, of course. I’m looking forward to hearing it on campus in the spring.”
That was our promise. In April, when I’m a college student, I’ll be on campus…….
“I’ll be there !”
I tucked my pick into the inside pocket of my blazer and turned my steps toward the classroom where the event was to take place.
Kingo, Ryoko san, and Shino san saw me off.
According to the forecast, today’s weather is going to gradually break down. However, the path I was taking was illuminated by the sunlight pouring down through the clouds.
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