Archive for December 9th, 2018

disjoint

The following passages are excerpts from: Sound! Euphonium: The Kitauji High School Concert Band’s Turbulent Second Movement (響け!ユーフォニアム:北宇治高校吹奏楽部、波乱の第二楽章)

These excerpts contain content covered by the Liz and the Bluebird (which is an adaptation of parts of this novel), and so can be said to contain spoilers for it. You have been warned.

The excerpts chosen for this post are two prologues, printed at the beginning of each half of the novel, which describe Mizore and Nozomi’s starting points as they face each other in their final year in the band.

Please watch Liz and the Bluebird and read the Sound! Euphonium novels if you can.

Prologue (Mizore):

Her black hair swayed back and forth as she walked, her upper arms, perhaps because of the lighting, tinged a soft red under her short sleeves. Behind her, Mizore followed more closely with her eyes than her feet, watching the tips of her hair hanging from her high ponytail bounce as she walked. Her hair was much longer than it was in their middle school days. As she hopped up the stairs two steps at a time, her toned legs showed themselves under her dark blue skirt.

“Nozomi, wait.”

Mizore’s voice was like a whispered breath, a sigh she let slip, vibrating her vocal cords. This early in the morning, the school building was filled not with students but with silence. Mizore took a deep breath. The air felt dusty. Above her, Nozomi’s clamorous footsteps easily drowned out Mizore’s soft whisper of a voice. Why should I expect a voice like mine to reach her?

“Mizore? You still down there?”

Nozomi’s voice echoed across the narrow hallway and down the stairs. She must have gotten to the music room first. Mizore could no longer hear her footsteps. Mizore gripped the handrail and took each step one at a time. As she felt the cracks in the old wooden handrail, Mizore peered upward between the flights of stairs to the floor above, but there was no sign of Nozomi — at least not from where Mizore was standing. With no more reason to keep her head up, Mizore’s gaze naturally swung downward. She had just replaced her inside shoes for her third year of high school, and they were still bright white, without a smudge. They look like a first year’s shoes, Mizore thought.

“Hurry up! Hurry up!”

As soon as Mizore made it to the top of the stairs, Nozomi called to her, waving her hand back and forth vigorously. The light coming in through the windows lit Nozomi’s outline with a soft glow, and the large white ribbon at her chest swayed back and forth with her body.

She waited for me.

To hide the smile that started to spread across her face, Mizore pulled her lips back tightly into a horizontal line. Nozomi broke into a bright and carefree smile.

“I’m just so looking forward to practice, I must have walked faster than I usually do. I just really want to play!” said Nozomi, pointing to the lock on the door to the music room.

As soon as Mizore understood what Nozomi meant by her motioning, she froze up. She only waited because she had no choice. I should know better, she thought, ashamed of her giddy excitement just moments before.

“Unlock the door. Let’s get some early practice in together.”

“Yeah,” Mizore muttered quietly after a pause.

Mizore took out the key she brought with her from the staff room; a neatly written label dangled from it with the words, “Music Room”. Unlocking the music room every morning was Mizore’s job. It was an unwritten rule of the concert band — since when? Mizore wondered. Nozomi stood beside her with eyes full of anticipation. Mizore slid the key into the keyhole and shifted her gaze towards Nozomi.

“Nozomi, um…”

“Hmm?”

“Nozomi, do you…”

Mizore and Nozomi’s eyes met. Suddenly, Mizore felt as if she were suffocating. She pulled at her blouse, tightly at her chest, before silently shaking her head.

“Never mind. It’s nothing,” she said.

The door clicked as Mizore unlocked it. Nozomi hummed an audible response, but said nothing. She was smiled, but Mizore couldn’t help but think her smile was contrived.

“I am so ready to practice this morning!”

“You really like practicing, don’t you?” Mizore said, a moment later.

“What are you talking about? You’re more into it than I am,” Nozomi replied.

Nozomi threw open the door to the music room. The room was arranged so the whole band could practice together. There were far fewer chairs than last year. Without the slightest hesitation, flute case dangling in one hand, Nozomi waltzed straight over to a seat at the end of the first row and sat down. During a live performance, that seat would be the closest to the audience. It was a seat reserved for only the best players to sit. Nozomi flipped through the pages of her music binder.

—Liz and the Bluebird.

Through the clear vinyl of the sheet protector, Mizore read the title of the page Nozomi had turned to, the title of this year’s choice piece for the national competition. The piece was based on a fairy tale and composed for a concert band. Mizore swept her hands under her thighs to smooth out the pleats of her skirt as she sat down.

“This piece is kind of like us, don’t you think?” said Nozomi, holding up her binder in one hand and grinning a toothy smile.

What is that supposed to mean? Mizore thought. Is that a good thing, or a bad thing? While those questions swirled around in Mizore’s head she said nothing.

“I guess,” Mizore said finally, her response far more cold and indifferent than she had intended. But Nozomi showed no sign of taking her answer in a negative way.

“Yep. I thought you’d feel the same,” Nozomi nodded with a smile, before turning to look at the room’s dark green blackboard.

Mizore followed with her eyes to the countdown written in a corner of the blackboard, marking the days until the competition. The white rounded numbers sentenced, without room for any doubt, a certain end to the dream-like days she still clung to.

“I can’t wait to perform this piece! I wish the competition would come sooner.”

Mizore gave a slight nod in response, willfully ignoring the voice in her heart exclaiming what she truly felt. If only that day would never come.

 

Prologue (Nozomi):

Nozomi looked at herself in the mirror. She ran her fingers through her hair, pulling together loose strands into a bundle she held with her left hand. She took the red hair band she had held in her mouth in her right, and fixed it tightly around her hair to make a ponytail. When she let go, her usual self looked back at her. Staring coldly at her reflection, Nozomi pulled the edges of her mouth into a smile, her white, freshly brushed teeth peeking through her lips. It looks like you’re having fun, she thought. It was a clear and fine morning.

“Good Morning!”

“Morning,” replied Mizore, after a pause.

It was the first day of summer vacation. While Nozomi marched onward in high spirits, Mizore wore her usual expressionless face. Nozomi traced the outline of Mizore’s face with her eyes, glancing over her pale skin, pale lips and emotionless eyes. Mizore’s eyes reminded Nozomi of the depths at the bottom of the sea. Whenever Mizore’s eyes, filled with stillness, were directed towards her, Nozomi felt her heart shudder. It was an unpleasant feeling, as if someone was rubbing a toothbrush raw against her instincts, and it ran from her chest all along her body, until she could not help but break into a self-deprecating smile. By then, Mizore had already looked away.

“Are you going to take any practice exams over the break?” asked Nozomi.

“Only one,” Mizore replied.

“Really? So you didn’t sign up to take any other exams? Taking at least three is almost an unwritten rule at a school like ours, but I guess that doesn’t really matter. Natsuki and Yuuko will be taking some too.”

“I didn’t know.”

Mizore turned the key in the lock and it answered with a resounding click. Nozomi took hold of the door handle and, like always, was the first to enter the room. Nozomi went straight over to a seat at the end of the first row — her seat. When she set her bag down she felt a wave or relief wash over her. Here she had a place where she belonged.

Nozomi took her flute out of the case she had brought with her, and glanced at Mizore. Mizore had laid her instrument case across her lap as she flipped through her music binder. The clear vinyl of her sheet music protectors stuck to her fingertips as she turned the pages.

“You’ve got another solo part this year, huh,” said Nozomi.

Nozomi scanned the measures of the competition choice piece, “Liz and the Bluebird,” with her eyes. In the third movement, there was a duet which consisted of a flute and an oboe solo. As the melodies of each instrument crossed each other, they expressed the thoughts and feelings of Liz and the bluebird. The tone of the oboe part had a clear determination to it, taken so far as to be painful, and this expression was complemented by the whisperings of the flute part, which followed in its wake. The first time Nozomi played this piece she was certain no one else but her could play it. The only one in this school who can support Mizore’s solo is me, she thought.

“Nozomi…” Mizore paused, collecting her words. “Do you like this solo?”

“Absolutely. I love it.”

Why wouldn’t I? It’s a flute solo! cried a voice inside Nozomi she wouldn’t let out. Someone like you, who plays a solo every year, could never understand how I feel.

“I mean I think it’s really great we get to play a solo together,” Nozomi continued.

Nozomi held a page between her pointer and middle finger and waved it about with no particular aim in mind. Light from the window reflected off the page’s clear protective sleeve and created a bright white spot, which flittered across the page, sometimes obscuring parts of the music. It was irritating, so Nozomi stood up, walked to the window and yanked on the curtain. A shadow swept across the room and dropped the lit room into semi-darkness.

“Me too,” Mizore said after a long pause. She was looking down and her eyelids quivered.

Nozomi sat down again, leaned against the back of her chair and made a bright smile.

“You know how we’re kind of like Liz and the bluebird in the fairy tale? When I first heard the duet of the flute and oboe solos, I was sure we were the ones most suited to play the part.”

Last year, Mizore didn’t quit the band. Even though I left, she stayed behind. Nozomi really wasn’t sure how Mizore felt about her. But since she always comes to practice with me in the morning, Nozomi thought, she probably doesn’t hate me, at least.

If I were the bluebird, Nozomi thought, I would visit Liz again. Even if it were impossible for us to go back to the way things were before, there should be nothing wrong with coming to visit every once in a while. There is no reason a tragedy must end forever in tragedy. At least that’s what I believe.

In response to Nozomi’s smile, Mizore’s eyes moved ever so slightly. Something, similar to a smile, crossed her face, before she turned to her music binder, flipping the pages, one after another. Nozomi blew across her flute’s mouthpiece, obliterating the dry sound of flipped pages with a high pitched shrill that sounded as if someone were screaming.