If you’ve ever experienced uncontrollable laughter when you’re frightened, let me tell you—it’s a trip.

You can get this album on [bandcamp] (for “name your price”).

I thought about writing in an end, but decided to leave it open. (Artistic choice or laziness? You be the judge.)

(Who will emerge from the shards?)

Vocals: りょ子
Arrangement: wasi
Lyrics: kafkafuura
Circle: Takamachi Walk
Album: wither
Event: C97

もう見えない 嘘の色
消させて 未来を

kibou wo nakushitan’da
mou mienai uso no iro
kesasete mirai wo
mou shin’datte ii

I’ve lost all hope—
No longer do I see the color in such lies
So let me end my future
I don’t care to live it anymore

I carve myself hollow bleed myself dry
Don’t think about me you’re wasting your time
I’ll never forget what gave me these scars and
I never asked for the weight of a heart

So I’ll pretend I’m alright act like I’m fine
I say that I’m okay but that’s just a lie
A ghost in the mirror, under the mask
This feeling of emptiness tears me apart

I’m dying to see 破壊したらね

itami de nao kezurareru
kyoufu wo kyouki de azawarau
I’m dying to see hakai shitara ne
kagami no naka no hito wa

Pain continues to rip my soul away
But I laugh off the fear, my sanity slipping
I’m dying to see, what will happen
To the person in the mirror when I break it…


kawaita kokoro ga waku
shin’da mama no hou ga ii no ni
konna mono ga hoshikunakatta
doushite nozondeshimau?

My parched heart springs to life
If only it would stay dead!
I never wanted such a despicable thing
How can it keep dreaming of more?

Quiet is comfort
Silence my heart end my misery
Eternal slumber
Is all that I ask so put me to sleep

So I’ll pretend I’m alright act like I’m fine
I say that I’m okay but that’s just a lie
A ghost in the mirror, under the mask
This feeling of emptiness tears me apart

I’m dying to see 破壊したらね

itami de nao kezurareru
kyoufu wo kyouki de azawarau
I’m dying to see hakai shitara ne
kagami no naka no hito wa

Pain continues to rip my soul away
But I laugh off the fear, my sanity slipping
I’m dying to see, what will happen
To the person in the mirror when I break it…

So I’ll pretend I’m alright act like I’m fine
I say that I’m okay but that’s just a lie
A ghost in the mirror, under the mask
This feeling of emptiness tears me apart

I’m dying to see 破壊したらね

itami de nao kezurareru
kyoufu wo kyouki de azawarau
I’m dying to see hakai shitara ne
kagami no naka no hito wa
kagami no naka no hito wa

Pain continues to rip my soul away
But I laugh off the fear, my sanity slipping
I’m dying to see, what will happen
To the person in the mirror when I break it…
When I break it they…

Dolls into Pitiful Pretenders

The prized pearl of the album.

When those notes of Circus Reverie hit…

…anyway you know I love the meta. Meta that attacks the listener? Oh, even more.

Dolls into Pitiful Pretenders
桜花之恋塚 〜 Japanese Flower|蓬莱人形
Vocal: めらみぽっぷ
Arrangement+Lyrics: RD-Sounds
Circle: 凋叶棕
Album: 彁
Event: C97


kono mi wa gen’sou no veil no naka
sore ga kitto anata wo sosoritateru no ne

I exist beyond the veil of illusion
—which only serves to arouse you more, I’m sure


mou keshite doko e tomo yukanu
tsugou no ii on’na ni

…for to you, I must seem a convenient woman
—one who won’t run off on you


dakara namae sae shiranakutomo
sore ga katachi dake wo aishiteirareru deshou?

You don’t know my name, but it’s no matter to you
—all the better when you love only the idea of me, am I wrong?


enigma to iu kotoba no sono mama ni
subete ga nazo no mama dattara ii wa yo ne

…for you hear “enigma” and see sanctity
Wouldn’t it be splendid if everything remained a mystery?


jibun’ dake wa to shin’sei na mono wo otte
keiken’ taru jibun’ ni yoishirerareru mono ne?

That way, as you envision yourself alone pursuing the sacrosanct
—it’s easier to remain drunk on delusions of your false piety, I’m sure


keshite nemuru koto nado nai
anata ga keshite nemuru koto naku

It will not sleep
—and neither will you, ever


keshite misuterare wa shinai
imi wo midashitsudzukeru kagiri

It will not be abandoned
—not as long as you keep finding meaning in it


soshite umoreru koto mo nai
anata ga ima mo hakaba no ue de

It will not be buried
—for you stand over my grave


soshite kieru koto sae nai
namida wo sosogitsudzukeru kagiri

It will not vanish
—not as long as you pour your tears over me


yuugen’ no sekai wo yuugen’ da to yon’de
dakedo anata jitsu wa kowagatteiru no yo ne

You see a limited world and claim it deep
—but in truth, you are frightened, aren’t you?


itsu kitto uragiru ka shirenu
“tsugou no ii on’na” wo

…of the convenient woman whom
—you are sure will one day betray you…


moshikashitara mou tou no mukashi ni.
dakedo anata ni wa kitto eien’ nano deshou?

Perhaps she already has—long ago
—but surely to you, she’s forever, am I wrong?


enigma to iu kotoba no sono mama ni
subete ga wakaranai mama nara ii wa yo ne

…for you hear “enigma” and feel fear
—all the better to remain ignorant, and know nothing


anata no naka no osoroshiki mono wo otte
iyasarenai furi ga dekiteshimau mono ne?

That way, as you pursue the frightening possibilities within
—it’s easier to pretend you remain unhealed, I’m sure

** **

reverie reverie
saa anata mo tonaemashou

Reverie… Reverie…
—come now, chant with me

** **

reverie reverie
itsumade datte shigamitsuke

Reverie… Reverie…
—clinging to me, forever

**! **!

reverie! reverie!
ware wa shigen’ taru e no toriko

Reverie! Reverie!
—“I am prisoner to the primeval image”

**! **!

reverie! reverie!
shisha wo horiokoshite
kikazariasobu no deshou ne – saa.

Reverie! Reverie!
—so say you, as you dig up the dead
—to play dress with, I’m sure—but come along…


sou yo dare hitori sukuwarenai
datte sukui wo toozaketeiru no dakara – deshou?

You are right: not a single soul will be saved
—what with all you do to keep the salvation truth brings away…


enigma to iu kotoba wo sono mama ni
guuzou wo aishiteirarereba ii wa yo ne

…for you hear “enigma” and know you are cursed
—but why fret, as long as you can still love your idols?


itsumade datte utsukushiki mono ni oborete
norowareteiru koto ga yurusare tsudzukeru mono ne?

…as you drown forever in beautiful things
—what better way to evade criticism than a curse you cannot escape?

Marks of Sin

American sin.

* This song also appears on the album MARKS OF SIN by Yonder Voice, with the same lyrics, and is sung by Yonder Voice’s vocalist: 瑶山百霊 (Yaoshanbailing)

In Latin, Ira, Invida, and Superbia are three of the seven deadly sins: Wrath, Envy, Pride, respectively.

“Heaven-sent”: Clownpiece is technically a lampad, which in Greek Mythology are fairies/nymphs sent from the heavens (by Zeus) as a gift to Hecate (whom Hecatia Lapislazuli, Clownpiece’s master, is based on). In any case, “heaven-sent” does not necessarily mean “sent from heaven”, but “born through the will of a higher power,” as opposed to occurring naturally. (Lyrics state she’s born in hell, after all.) Either way, as our environment shapes us, hell shapes her children. It’s only natural.

“Before leaving again for the fault of their sins”: I’m assuming a multi-level multi-stage hell (with freezing and burning and much much more!)

Normally when you think “Envy”, the color green comes to mind, but the distinction between the two colors (blue and green) is a bit blurred in Japan.

“Imagine yourself”: essentially the same form as the previous stanzas with “I imagine myself” but it transitions better from the previous stanzas back into the first person of the next one.

Marks of Sin
Vocal: miko
Arrangement+Lyrics: RD-Sounds
Circle: 凋叶棕
Album: 彁
Event: C97


sate kore ni clownpiece
jigoku no moushigo no hitori wa
sono chiisa na ashi wo fun’de
potsuri potsuri to tsubuyaku

Behold the colorless fairy, Clownpiece!
One of hell’s heaven-sent children
As she skips around on her small feet
Muttering words one after the other:

そう かねてより思うに

sou kanete yori omou ni
monotarinai mono ga aru
jigoku no yousei ni shite
sono signature wa doko ni?

Always, I think to myself
Am I not missing something?
Though I am a fairy of hell,
What have I to signify that?


ari to arayuru zainin’ ga
kono mi umareta basho ni ochite
soshite onore ga tsumi no sono yue ni mata satteyuku

All of the sinners, each and every one
Fall down to this land where I was born
Before leaving again for the fault of their sins


shikaru ni kono mi ni wa hitokakera no tsumi sae naku
sore ga yue ni kono mi wa yukubeki tokoro mo nai

However, I have not a piece of sin to my name
And for that reason have no other place to go


tada soko ni aru dake de wa ikenakatta no ka, to.
arui wa sore ga tatta hitotsu no tsumi ka

Excluded, is my fault that of simply existing?
Or does that count as my only sin?

己に立ち向かう 全てをなぎ倒す

onore ni tachimukau subete wo nagitaosu
ikari ni furueru sugata wo omoiokosaseyou

I imagine myself, writhing in anger
Cleaving down all who stand against me


atai wa shitteiru zo!
kono gouka ni mo nita iro
kore koso itsuka mita fun’nu to iu no darou?!

That sin I know!
Its color like that of infernal flames
Is this not the so-called Wrath I’ve witnessed before?


aa, nan’ to iu tsumi no iro wo shiteiru!
aa, kore koso kono mi ni fusawashii!

Ah! What a sinful color it is!
Ah! This! This is what I was looking for!


somo kore ga clownpiece
jigoku no moushigo no hitori ga
sono chiisa na atama wo futte
potsuri potsuri to tsubuyaku

Behold the pure fairy, Clownpiece!
One of hell’s heaven-sent children
As she shakes her little head about
Muttering words one after the other:


sou, onore no umare wo
toihajimeru sono mae ni
sonorashisa wo motomeru
ittai nani ga tame ni?

Still, before I question
The meaning of my birth
Why is it that I seek
Symbols of validation?


nani mo shiranai mono, nani ka wo mi ni matou koto, ga.
arui wa sore ga hajime no tsumi de arou ka?

I know nothing, after all… Would cloaking myself in something…
Would that constitute my original sin?

己が持たぬもの 全てを恐れ憎む

onore ga motanu mono subete wo osore nikumu
minikuku yugan’da sugata wo omoiokosaseyou

I imagine myself, ugly and deranged
Full of hatred and fear of all I do not own


atai wa shiteiru zo!
kono gokkan’ ni nita iro
kore koso itsuka mita shitto to iu no darou?!

That sin I know!
Its color like that of bitter cold
Is this not the so-called Envy I’ve witnessed before?


aa, nan’ to iu tsumi no iro wo shiteiru!
aa, kore koso ga kono mi ni matou iro!

Ah! What a sinful color it is!
Ah! This! This color is fit for me to wear!


kegarenaki sabaku ni
nedzuku naki “gensou”
mukunaru mono no me ga
akaaka to ran’ran’ to

Shown a fantasy, the kind unable
To take root in a faultless desert
The eyes of the pure-hearted
Light up blazingly bright


saa saa
odore yo pierrot
dare no ishi ni sae mo aragae

Come now
Dance, O pierrot—no longer colorless
Fight against the will of all others


utae yo pierrot
omae ga sekai no chuushin’ to natte

Sing, O pierrot—no longer pure
Become the center of the world


warae yo pierrot
ikutsumono tsumi no narehate ni imi wo ataeyo!

Laugh, O pierrot—deranged fairy
Give meaning to the vestiges of countless sins

己の望むもの 全てを叶えよう

onore no nozomu mono subete wo kanaeyou
haruka tooki “gen’sou” ni sae te wo nobasu you ni

Imagine yourself, making true every wish you desire
Reaching for distant fantasies just beyond the horizon


atai ni wa wakatta zo!
kono katachi no imi ga
kore koso itsuka mita gouman’ to iu no darou!?

That sin I know!
I know the meaning in its shape!
Is this not the so-called Pride I’ve witnessed before?


aa, nan’ to iu tsumi ni michita ishou ka!
aa, kore koso motometa katachi yo!

Ah! What a sinful shape it is!
Ah! This! This is the symbol I have sought!


aa, kore de ii, kore ga ii, to hitori
tada, sotto hokusoemu no de aru!

Ah! This is great! This is perfect!
Alone, the fairy chuckles to herself…

ホーカス・ポーカス // Hocus Pocus

The fools are those who believe—and those who do not.

Then who is left? Those who believe AND do not.

In the first stanza, “saved” is a homonym of “duped”.
All the second-person parts are probably self-referential.
I believe the title contains the derogatory meaning of “hocus pocus” as well as the straight meaning, ie. “all this hocus pocus (nonsense)”
I preserved the indentation, but I am not sure if it necessarily means anything.

 Hocus Pocus
魔女達の舞踏会 〜 Magus|秋霜玉
魔法使いの憂鬱|The Grimoire of Marisa
Vocal: めらみぽっぷ
Arrangement+Lyrics: RD-Sounds
Circle: 凋叶棕
Album: 彁
Event: C97


shin’jiru mono wa sukuwareru
ashi kara zen’bu sukuwareru

Those who believe are “saved”, they say
“Saved” as in saved from their fortunes
Yes, I know—but even so…


omae wa yowakumo zeijaku de
douse dare ni mo kate wa shinai

You are weak and frail
You could never win a fair fight

生まれ育ちは 変えられぬままに

umaresodachi wa kaerarenu mama ni
mi no hodo shiru ga ii ga

Unable to change your upbringing
It would be best to know your limits…


shikaru omae wa kashikokute
sore bakari wa dare ni mo makenai

However—you are clever—
In that aspect, you are second to none

たった一つの その武器を持てば

tatta hitotsu no sono buki wo moteba
kowai mono naku

Use that one weapon to your advantage, and
You’ll have nothing to fear


tatoe kono sekai ga
kiba wo mukidashi ni shitemo

Even if the whole world
Bears its fangs against you


sono subete kawaseba ii
yarikata wa mou shitta kara

All you must do is evade their attacks
Simple, for you already know how to do it

傾け もっと もっと重く
あるもの皆 乗せきるまで
そしたら全部 くべるんだ

katamuke motto motto omoku
aru mono min’na nosekiru made
soshitara zen’bu kuberun’da
hitosaji no miren’ goto

Break the balance of the world’s order
The weight of all you own on one end
Then set everything aflame—all of it
Along with any dash of lasting regret


hocus pocus
kono mahou ni tane mo shikake mo nai no da to
shin’jiru mo shin’jinu mo oroka
saa dou da zamaa miro

Hocus Pocus
This magic has no trick, no contrivance, I say—
And those who believe and those who do not are all fools
What have you say now? You got what you deserve!


me wo tsubureba kasuka ni
mimi wo fusageba shizuka ni
mukiaubeki kotae

Shut your eyes and faintly you’ll see
Plug your ears and softly you’ll hear
The answer you should face—


omae wa moroku mo hin’sou de
douse kumi suru ni atai shinai

You are meek and fragile
No one would ever bet on your success

気づけ 端から敵しかいないと

kidzuke hana kara teki shika inai to
sou shika ikirarenai

Forget false alliances, all you have are enemies
You can survive no other way


shikaru ni omae wa sakashikute
sore bakari ga omae no mikata

However—you are bright
Your intellect alone is your friend

たった一つの その武器の限り

tatta hitotsu no sono buki no kagiri
kokou ni tate yo

And as long as you have that one weapon
Stand proudly, independent


tatoe nani mo ka mo ga
fukanou da to itte sae

No matter if you are told
Your aims are impossible


sono subete hitei shiyou
yarikata wa mou shitta kara

Deny it, deny everything
For you know already what to do

俯け もっと もっと深く
その背に背う 十字の分だけ
そうして全部 燃やすんだ

utsumuke motto motto fukaku
sono se ni ou juuji no bun’ dake
soushite zen’bu moyasun’da
hitosuji no koi to shite

Bend over, into your burden
Deep as the cross on your back will allow
Then, burn it all, burn it all down
With the spark of love to light the flame


hocus pocus
dorehodo mo gisei ni shite nao tarinai ga
moto yori tsuriai wa shianai
dakara mahou nan’ darou?

Hocus Pocus
No matter whom I sacrifice, I have not enough
But what is magic, if it is not
An unfair exchange?

 一歩 一歩 また一歩

ippo ippo mata ippo
shouko ga tsumiagariyuku
kono chi wa kou to tsugeteiru
keshite tadoritsukenu to

With each step, one after the other
The evidence keeps piling up
So my wisdom declares thus:
“You will never make it”

閃け もっと もっと高く
そうして全部 虚仮にしろ

hirameke motto motto takaku
hito ni wa todokanu sekai e
soushite zen’bu koke ni shiro
hitohira no rule sae

Spark! To ever greater heights
To a world beyond mere mortals
And laugh at the fools
And their rules


hocus pocus
kono mahou ni tane mo shikake mo nai ga yue
kotae wo zen’bu nejifusero
shin’jireba kanau kara

Hocus Pocus
This magic has no trick, no contrivance, so—
Restrain all the “answers” for
Wishes come true if you only just believe!

この魔法が 全部幻なんてもう
とっくのとうに 知っているさ

hocus pocus
kono mahou ga zen’bu maboroshi nan’te mou
tokku no tou ni shitteiru sa
watashi wa kashikoi kara na

Hocus Pocus
But don’t be a fool—Yes, I know—I’ve known
This magic is all just an illusion
For I am clever, after all


Sponsored by: Mei

Whither = “to where” – It’s rare I get a chance to use the word—forgive me.
The subtitle: 宇宙よ (sora yo) means “O Universe”

(彁 will come next.)

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin Episode V ED Single
作編曲:服部隆之 (Hattori Takayuki)
作詞:渡辺なつみ (Watanabe Natsumi)

幾つ 傷付いたら
哀しみは 消え去るだろう
どんな 場所に行けば
苦しみは 薄れるだろう

ikutsu kizutsuitara
kanashimi wa kiesaru darou
don’na basho ni ikeba
kurushimi wa usureru darou

How many times must I be hurt
Before my sadness is numbed away?
Where do I must I go to find
Reprieve from this suffering?

時は駈けゆく 青白き馬
伸ばすその手に 未来はあるか
夜明けは赤き 物言わぬ竜
争うことに 終わりはあるの

toki wa kakeyuku aojiroki uma
nobasu sono te ni mirai wa aru ka
yoake wa akaki monoiwanu ryuu
arasou koto ni owari wa aru no

Time is a pale horse racing on ahead
But does taking your hand lead to any future?
The dawn is a silent red dragon
But does warring ever come to an end?

果てない宇宙よ 抱いて欲しい
答えて宇宙よ 宇宙に続く道はあるの

hatenai sora yo daitehoshii
kotaete sora yo sora ni tsudzuku michi wa aru no

O endless universe, I wish for your embrace
Tell me, O universe: Is there a path that will lead me to you?

それでも生きて 明日へ

I can’t do anything! anything!
soredemo ikite ashita e

I can’t do anything! Anything!
Yet tomorrow, still I will live on…

誰も 抗うことの
叶わない 運命がある
何度 背を向けても
その羽に 連れ去られてしまう

dare mo aragau koto no
kanawanai un’mei ga aru
nan’do se wo muketemo
sono hane ni tsuresarareteshimau

Everyone is hostage to some fate
They are unable to resist
No matter how we may try to turn away
Fate always sweeps us back up in its wings

人は消えゆく ひとひらの雪
愛も望みも 散り逝くのなら
心は何処へ 向かえばいいの
分かり合うのは 愚かでしょうか

hito wa kieyuku hitohira no yuki
ai mo nozomi mo chiriyuku no nara
kokoro wa doko e mukaeba ii no
wakariau no wa oroka deshou ka

We are all but snowflakes melting away
If our love and desires so soon cease to be
Whither shall we direct our hearts to hope?
Is it futile for us to try and understand each other?

闇が光を 映している
たどり着けると 祈る想いを 照らすように

yami ga hikari wo utsushiteiru
tadoritsukeru to inoru omoi wo terasu you ni

Still, there is light within the darkness
May it shine upon these feelings I pray will reach you

それでも生きて 明日へ 明日へ

I can’t do anything! anything!
sore demo ikite ashita e ashita e

I can’t do anything! Anything!
Yet tomorrow—tomorrow, still I will live on…


教えて宇宙よ 生きる意味を
遥かな宇宙よ 星は罪を
許しますか? 許しますか?

oshiete sora yo ikiru imi wo
haruka na sora yo hoshi wa tsumi wo
yurushimasu ka? yurushimasu ka?
i can’t do anything! anything!
anything! whoa whoa

Tell me, O universe: Does life have any meaning?
O distant universe: Will the stars
Absolve me of my sins? Will they?
I can’t do anything! Anything!

果てない宇宙よ 抱いて欲しい
答えて宇宙よ 宇宙に 宇宙に続く
希望はあるの そこに愛はあるの?
それでも生きて 明日へ

hatenai sora yo daite hoshii
kotaete sora yo sora ni sora ni tsudzuku
kibou wa aru no soko ni ai wa aru no?
I can’t do anything! anything!
soredemo ikite ashita e
soredemo ikite ashita e

O endless universe, I wish for your embrace
Tell me, O universe: Is there a hope out there
That will lead me to you? There, will I find love?
I can’t do anything! Anything!
Yet tomorrow, still I will live on…
Yet tomorrow, still I will live on…

Phantom Moon

Blatantly unofficial translation.

Pick up Takamachi Walk’s new album on bandcamp [here]!

I did lyrics for one of the songs. (Not this one.) Where the lyrics were less specific I went more with what I felt than trying to dissect the intent, just so you know in advance.

Phantom Moon
魔術師メリー | 大空魔術
東方妖々夢 ~ Ancient Temple | 東方妖々夢
Vocals: ながの, noaon
Arrangement+Lyrics: noaon
Circle: Takamachi Walk (高町Walk)
Album: wither.
Event: C97

迷える 心が

mayoeru kokoro ga
tsuki no an’koku made
todoketara ii
tama ni sou omou yo

Wandering, I sometimes wonder
If only my lost heart
Would reach the darkness of the moon, then…


kan’jou no umi ni hitori
mata hitori
oboreru mitai ni

In seas of emotion
We drown, each of us
One by one


mikadzuki no yoru ni kimi no
senaka wo ou dake de
mahou no you na
kotoba wa mada kietenai

On nights with crescent moons
I can only chase after you
For I’ve yet to forget
The magic words we spoke


kimi ni oitsukenai nara
kono mi wo yakitsukeba ii
sore dake wo negau

And if I cannot catch you
Better I to burst into flame
For nothing else I wish for

Lost in the past
We share in our pains
This could not last
This would not last
Can we forget?
Can we erase it all?
This cannot last
Always the same
I curse the rain
I curse your name
An illusionist’s shame
I curse your name

Haunting my dreams
Phantom machines
Bearing your name
Baring my shame


mikadzuki no yoru ni
sora ni saken’de

On crescent moon nights
Surrounded by cloud lilies
I scream to the sky

Haunting my dreams
Your name, flowing
I stand, fearing
Fearing your face
Remembering your love
I know there’s no going back for us anymore


yume ni mai
kimi, hitori
omoi no umi de
mikadzuki no yoru ni
mahou wo kakete

In dreams we dance
You and I
In the sea of our emotions
On crescent moon nights
May magic fall upon us—
—and strike the memories from our minds.

Eupho Christmas Special // Daytime Christmas Lights

I originally planned to release a translation of this short story on Christmas Eve last year but it never happened. Better late than never though, right?

This short story is taken from the last book in the Year 2 arc of Sound Euphonium (a short story collection – [AZ-JP]), and is written from Nozomi’s perspective. She is running errands on Christmas Eve and runs into Natsuki. This story takes place after the main sequence of Year 2 events and is therefore after the events of Liz and the Bluebird and the most recent movie (but does not spoil its ending).

I wanted to translate this story because it offers a rare glimpse from Nozomi’s perspective (who often hides what she thinks) and also illustrates what I love about Natsuki.


(This may be taken down by the end of the year so read it while you can!)

真昼のイルミネーション // Daytime Christmas Lights

The usual Christmas songs were playing, out onto streets lively and gay, when Nozomi walked into the bakery to pick up the cake her family had ordered: a white-frosted strawberry shortcake, dressed up neatly in a decorative box. Strawberries were a fruit her mother liked, the firmness of the shortcake fit her father’s tastes, and the not-so-sweet frosting was Nozomi’s favorite kind, so as long as she could remember, her family ordered the same cake every year from the same shop. It was, at this point, an integral component of the Kasaki family’s Christmas dinner, along with curry, rice and chicken.

It was only just past noon, but Kyoto’s 4th Avenue was overflowing with people. In no hurry on her way back to the station, Nozomi glanced at the packs of students, all dressed up for the holidays, shuffling this way and that. Nozomi liked the merry atmosphere of Christmas: the tall trees with their bright decorations, the staff with their Santa hats, the skip everyone seemed to have in their step—all of it served to lift some weight off her chest.

“Oh, hey—Nozomi!”

When Nozomi heard her name, she stopped and turned around. It was Natsuki. She was dressed casually, in a light grey coat and purple scarf with subdued hues, and was waving.

“Hey! Never would have thought I’d run into you here! What are you up to? Out shopping?”

“Well if buying a movie ticket counts as shopping, I guess so.”

“You went to see a movie? By yourself?”

“Yeah, by myself. So what are you here for?”

“I came to pick up a cake for the fam, for tonight—you know, it being Christmas Eve and all.”

“Tonight? You don’t celebrate on Christmas day? That’s the normal thing to do, isn’t it?”

“You open gifts from Santa on Christmas day, but everything else happens on the twenty-fourth, right?”

“That’s not the way my family does it at least. We don’t break out the Christmas cake until tomorrow.”

“Well, ‘to each their own,’ I guess. Everyone has their own way of doing things.”

“When you put it like that,” Natsuki said with a nod, “I guess there’s no real right or wrong way to celebrate Christmas.” As far as Nozomi could tell, she did not have strong feelings either way.

Natsuki glanced at her watch. “Do you have time to grab a bite to eat?”

“Yeah, I have time… Did you have something in mind?”

“Not really, but I’m sure we’ll find a good place if we just wander around a bit.”

Without waiting, Natsuki headed across the street and Nozomi followed, looking around and taking in the decorated sights.

The topiary in front of a nearby department store was cut into neat cubes and wound with electrical cords for all the Christmas lights. It was ugly. To Nozomi, the windings of unlit lights looked as if they were choking the life out of the greenery.

“Doesn’t it make you feel a bit strange, seeing the lights during the day?” Natsuki asked suddenly.

Nozomi froze. Was I being that obvious? Or am I just that easy to read? She glanced at Natsuki, but Natsuki was focused on the topiary Nozomi was just looking at.

“At night, they’re all bright and shiny and all, but during the day, all you can see is a tangle of cords. It’s like seeing the person on the inside of a mascot character costume.”

“You’ve seen inside one of those mascot character costumes before?” Nozomi quipped.

“Oh, you know what I mean! It’s a metaphor,” Natsuki laughed.

Nozomi gripped the handle of the bag holding the box with the cake in it tightly. “I really do like the lights though, when everything’s all lit up…”

“But doesn’t it upset you? You know, how the kind of people who wouldn’t even notice the lights during the day just turn around and are always like, ‘Wow! It’s so beautiful!’ the moment they’re turned on? Like, ‘What gives you the right, when you can’t even tell the worth of someone unless they’re burning bright?’ You don’t feel that way too?”

“Am I missing something? Because I think you’re reading way too much into this.”

“I can’t help what I feel okay? …and I really feel that way. You know, I…think the kind of person who can realize someone’s worth without having to see them shine, and can be like: ‘You don’t have to shine to be worth something. I see your worth, and I see you,’ those people—I just think they’re really amazing. Like, Yuuko’s really good at that, seeing people for who they are.”

“Natsuki…you really like Yuuko, don’t you?”

“What makes you say that?”

Anyone who heard what you just said would have the same reaction.”

If you asked either of them directly, both Natsuki and Yuuko would claim to hate the other’s guts. “She and I can never—and will never—get along,” they would say, but despite that, both of them clearly had a deep respect for the other. Nozomi, as well as many others, often wished they would put aside their differences, be a little more honest with themselves and just get along, but she recognized, even if she did not fully understand, that the way they always fought was more proof than counter-proof of the love they shared.

Nozomi subconsciously smiled when she thought about Yuuko fulfilling her role as the band’s club president. She was a model president, from the moment she took on the role to the moment she passed on the torch. She was kind, a little scary, and most of all, determined, in a straightforward way. It would feel weird for Nozomi to say she admired Yuuko; they were much too close for that. To admit she was jealous did not fit either; Nozomi was too soft to hold on to that sort of animosity.

It really is so much easier to speak ill of others than confront your own problems, Nozomi thought, reflecting on where her thoughts almost took her. When things don’t turn out the way we want them to, everyone wants a villain to have take the blame. That way, we can file away the outcome as unfortunate but settled. After all, the future is too long to bear to consider the faults that lay at our own feet; no one wants to admit they could have been better—but if there is one thing I never want to become, it’s someone who refuses to look at the ugliness inside her. No matter how hard that is.

“Oh, look, it’s that café Kanade’s been going on about. Let’s go here!” said Natsuki, as she stopped and looked inside one of the glass-paned storefronts.

The warm-looking interior, dotted with the glow of several wood-burning stoves, looked very appealing to Nozomi, who had begun to shiver from the cold wind blowing outside.

“Do they have dessert?” Nozomi asked.

“I’m sure they do… Look, see? It says they have galletes.”

“Oh, that sounds good… Now I’m hungry.”

Natsuki opened the door, and Nozomi followed behind her. As they walked into the café, they were first met by a pleasant gust of warm air. The table they were shown to had two sofas for seats, with decorative cushions that more-or-less cried for attention.

As they Natsuki and Nozomi wiped their hands with the steamy wet hand towels supplied at the table, they looked over the menu. The names of each dish were overly long, but each was paired with a picture, and Nozomi felt her stomach shift expectantly.

“I think I’ll have this one—the one with the walnuts and vanilla ice-cream.”

“That’s what you’re looking at? I’m really drawn to this one with the bacon and eggs, but I don’t know…”

“If that’s what you want, you should get it,” said Nozomi, offering a nudge.

“You know what? I think I think I will,” replied Natsuki, dropping the menu and waving for the wait staff.

The both ordered one item each. If Nozomi had her way, she would have liked to order some tea as well, but her allowance was running a little tight, so she passed on it.

“I’m glad I ran into you today,” said Nozomi, as they waited. “It’s great to be on winter break, but everyone’s so busy with entrance exams I can’t bring myself to ask anyone if they want to hang out.”

“Well you can always ask me. I’m always up for hanging out.”


“You bet. Now that we’re done with the band, honestly I’m bored to tears,” said Natsuki, with heavy yawn as if for emphasis. She did not bother covering her mouth. “I know it’s not like me to say stuff like this, but it feel like I’ve got this big hole in my heart, you know? When you’ve spent every day practicing as much as we have, hearing ‘You’re free!’ is more of a nuisance than a blessing.”

“Not to mention the fact that we’re both done with our entrance exams.”

“Yeah, that too. Definitely. I mean I have no idea what to do with this much time. I guess once we enter university our time will get gobbled up by part-time jobs and circle activities and whatever, so this is only temporary, but still…”

“Don’t forget to add studying to the mix.”

“Right, studying. I can’t even imagine what that’ll be like—studying at university. Honestly I’m still not convinced going to college is really the right thing for me. I’m only going because that’s how everything ended up. If it wasn’t for everyone else going, I doubt I would.”

Natsuki, who had slumped over to rest her chin in her palms after her yawn, slumped further, onto the table like a pudding collapsing without its container. By the time Natsuki’s chin hit the table, Nozomi could see the whorl on the back of her head without leaning forward.

“I think it’s rarer for someone to go to college with a set goal in mind. Isn’t the whole point of going to figure out what it is you want to do?”

“You really think four years is long enough to find that out?”

“I’m sure it’s long enough for some people, and for the others, they gain the insight that four years of college isn’t enough to find what they’re looking for.”

“That’s quite a spin you’re attempting.”

“But I’m right, aren’t I?”

“Well, I guess…” Natsuki yawned again, this time so hard tears welled up in her eyes. “What do you plan to do at university? Are you going to keep playing the flute?”

“That’s the plan—but there isn’t any concert band at our university, so I think I’ll end up joining an orchestral group.”

“I’m glad to hear that. The flute really suits you.”

Nozomi laughed. “What does that even mean?”


Natsuki looked as serious as she sounded, staring up from the table, so Nozomi pulled back the gut reaction she had to laugh it off. But Nozomi did not want to look fazed, so after hugging one of her legs with the other under the table, she moved to change the subject.

“What about you?”

“Me? I dunno, maybe I’ll join a band.”

“You mean like, a rock band sort of band?”

“Yeah, I think it would be fun.”

“You’re not going to continue playing the euphonium?”

“No plans as of yet. I’m kind of burnt out on it.”

“Ah… I hear you.”

Nozomi could not count the many times she had heard the phrase. Burnout was an all-too-common refrain, throughout both middle school and high school. It’s a lot of work, being part of a concert band club. You put your soul into it, sparing no effort to squeeze whatever you can out of yourself, and all for one single performance. As Nozomi reflected on the past few years, she found a lot of pain and suffering—but what lay beyond it all, at the culmination of her efforts, was an unbelievable experience—it was so fun. There’s just something about performing in front of other people. Preparing for it is like refining the tip of a beautiful blade, working improvement on improvement, reaching for perfection. Practice is boring, and has none of the flair of a performance, but the final result, that moment on stage when it feels like the heavens open up and your soul tingles from the excitement and joy, is more than worth it. To Nozomi, that moment was everything; she loved it more than she could bear—but she could still understand how chasing after it for so long could wear someone down.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t think it’s possible for me to have an experience like what I’ve had at Kitauji ever again, so I can’t really justify the effort anymore.” Natsuki, usually brimming with confidence and a do-or-die attitude, looked down at the table and spoke slowly, as if considering every word. “It felt so incredible, performing at the Kansai competition. I thought to myself, ‘This has got to be my peak in life.’ I’m dead serious.”

“It may be your peak for now, but only until you hit your next one. You’ve got no need to worry.”

“If you say so…” replied Natsuki with a smile masked over a sigh. The way she smiled was beautiful, but it was a beauty tinged with loneliness.

Nozomi began folding her hand towel into an awkward looking boat, but before she was done, the wait staff brought their orders, so she quickly shoved it out of sight.

“Well, don’t mind if I do~” said Natsuki, popping a piece of bacon from her gallete into her mouth.

Nozomi took her knife and fork and split hers straight down the middle, spilling the pastry’s caramel sauce onto the plate.

“This is really good,” said Natsuki, after taking a proper bite. “The only problem with stuff like this though, is that there’s never enough to fill you up.”

“But isn’t that a good thing? You get all these flavors, but you still have room for more.”

“I didn’t think of it that way… You’re a genius.”

With that silly of a response, it was hard for Nozomi to take Natsuki seriously, so she answered with an exaggerated shrug. Natsuki meanwhile busied herself with folding a part of her pastry over with her fork to keep the egg yolk from spilling out.

“About what you were saying earlier…” said Nozomi, grabbing Natsuki’s attention back from her plate, “it’s true we may never have an experience like what we had at Kitauji again, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have something different. Playing an instrument doesn’t have to be such a serious endeavor.”

Natsuki did not interject, but continued chewing on her food.

“You might think you’ve had enough now, and not play at all in college, but you might feel an itch to play after you graduate. Maybe that feeling won’t come until you’re old and have grandkids. It’s never too late to start again. Competitions offer us really clear goals to strive for, so it’s easy to get obsessed with them, but there’s nothing wrong with just playing because you want to. At least that’s what I think.”

“Were there people like that in the ensemble group you joined outside of school?”

“Yeah, tons! Some people who only picked their instruments back up after starting their careers, and there a few people in our group older than my grandmother—people who just want to play.”

“That’s really cool, taking the initiative like that to be true to yourself. Maybe I’m just overthinking things.”

Natsuki used the leftover pieces of her gallete to scoop up the rest of the sauce on her plate and gobbled up the last few bites of her order. Nozomi, meanwhile, had more than half of hers left on her plate.

After wiping her mouth with a napkin, Natsuki, with a satisfied look on her face, leaned back into her seat. As Nozomi watched her long bangs brush against her cheek, she thought about how much longer Natsuki’s hair was since the time they first met. It looked even longer than usual because it was not tied up that day, perhaps because of how cold it was.

I wonder what kind of face she would make at me if I told her I liked it shorter.

Nozomi’s clumsily made towel ship began to collapse, sinking in the puddle of condensation pooled around her glass.

“I mentioned I went to see a movie, right?” said Natsuki, breaking the silence.

“That you did. What did you go see?”

“The one everyone’s talking about nowadays, you know, the one based on the suspense novel. I went to see it because a band I like did the main theme song.”

“Was it any good?”

“It was. The movie incorporated aspects of the novel pretty well and overall, had a decent script and cast.”


“Well, yeah. I guess so.”

As much as Natsuki seemed to be praising the movie on a surface level, that clearly wasn’t all there was to the story. Nozomi bit down on a walnut with her back teeth and decided to press her on it.

“Was there something that bothered you about it?”

“I don’t know if I would go so far as to say that, but…when I heard the main theme song play during the movie, it was just so catchy, like a pop song. It just felt so different from any of the music the band used to play… I guess this is what happens to everyone when their music starts selling, but I didn’t want to accept that it would happen to this band.”

“So what you’re saying is, now that this band you like has made it big, you feel left behind. A lot of early fans feel that way, don’t they? At least that’s what I hear.”

“I’m not denying that’s part of it, but there’s much more to it than that. Remember how I was talking about the Christmas lights? That’s closer to what’s bothering me.”

“What do Christmas lights have to do with anything?”

Natsuki did a rare thing and took her time to think about how to answer, furrowing her brow.

She must really have strong feelings about this band… Nozomi could only guess what kind of music they played, but most of what Natsuki listened to had lyrics that were a bit too intense for her tastes.

“I guess what I’m trying to say is: I’ve always felt this band was fine just the way it was. Even if they weren’t shining, so to speak, there wasn’t any need for them to. When I was looking at those unlit Christmas lights, I thought, you know, ‘This is beautiful.’ But it’s not like those lights aren’t going to come on; they will, and they’re all the more beautiful for it, so people from all around will come to look at them. But what happens then? Someone will say, ‘We’ve got to make them brighter, so more people will come!’”

“Well, I suppose so.”

“It’s not a problem so long as they understand what was great about the lights in the first place. The kind of people who say, ‘If we do this and this, it’ll really bring out the best in them,’ they’re not the problem. Even if there’s a big change in direction, I can understand when it’s done in service to the original. I can respect that. But the more people gather, eventually you’ll have people who don’t have any idea what they’re talking about speak up. ‘There’s still not enough light. We need to add these other, different lights,’ they’ll say, or, ‘I know the instructions say we can’t have these run all night, but I’m sure it’ll be fine!’ Then what happens? When the circuits overload and the lights all break, it’s always those idiots who are scratching their heads, saying, ‘I wonder why that happened?’ Gee, I wonder why.”

“You’re kind of scaring me here. This is just a metaphor, right? Are you really that upset?”

“I’m not upset, I’m just…worried. I don’t want this thing I love destroyed by someone who doesn’t know the value of it.”

Natsuki became quiet before she continued. “But that’s not the worst of it. What I’m really worried about is becoming one of those insensitive idiots, an adult who doesn’t even realize they’re trampling all over someone else’s love. I can’t see myself as a college student, let alone a working adult, so as I sat there watching that movie and listening to the main theme song, I felt this wave of anxiety swallow me up. You know how they say a lot of people panic right before they’re about to get married? I guess this is just the college version of that.”

Natsuki tried to laugh it all off with a joke at the end, but she wasn’t doing a very good job. Her smile was strained.

Nozomi picked up the last piece of her gallete with her fork and popped it into her mouth. The last bit of the melted ice cream was so sweet it made her teeth hurt.

“I’m anxious too—about college and about starting a new way of life. It’s equal parts excitement and worry.”

“So you’re saying it’s normal to feel this way?”

“Yeah. I’m sure everyone has to deal with a little anxiety. But it’s going to be alright. Even if you end up thinking you’ve made the wrong choice, all you have to do is turn back and start over.”

“Is that you speaking from experience?”

“I…guess you could say that.” Nozomi said, reaching for her glass and downing it in a single gulp. The cold of it gave her a brain-freeze and she visibly flinched.

Natsuki broke out laughing, and when Nozomi saw that this time her smile was genuine, she smiled back.

“Natsuki, you’re not going to turn into one of those adults you hate.”

“Where’s your proof?”

“Okay, so I don’t have any proof, but…” …that’s how I hope things will turn out. As Nozomi admitted, she had little to back up her claim, but, even a baseless confidence is worth something if it can help lift someone up, she thought, and decided to assert herself a little more.

“…I know how good of a person you are, Natsuki, so I’m sure everything will turn out fine.”

Nozomi had spent so long running around in her thoughts that by the time she blurt out the rest of her sentence, it was not quite what she had in mind. Now I sound like an irresponsibly positive idiot.

“What?” Natsuki said, as she responded with a “What am I going to do with you?” sort of laugh.

See? Nozomi thought at first, but in the lightheartedness of Natsuki’s voice she felt a non-verbal thank you.