MUGI-CHAN: CHOOSER OF THE SLAIN
CHAPTER 1- A SONG FOR A HERO
Author Note- Like previous stories of mine, this is a first person tale of Tsumugi. Like the others, it's supposed to be sort of a parody, and not to be taken too seriously. Also, this story also includes Pickles The Cat, Tsumugi's off screen fluffy companion. Anyway, this is basically another one of my "Mugi Stories", so if you liked those, you'll probably like this. If you haven't read them, don't worry, there's not much connection between them and this. As always, there will be some impossible to avoid 'out of characterness' since I'm writing for a character that gets so little inner monologue or development.
STOP, MUGI TIME
Like just about any adventure, it all started on day like any other. For some reason, adventures don't ever seem to have some kind of foreshadowing or warning these days. You don't get your calender marked, or any time to properly prepare and say good bye. Heck, even Frodo didn't really have much of a heads up. So in a way, I was like a hobbit, except Japanese, female, with blonde hair, and I played a musical instrument. That musical instrument is actually a big point in this story, because it started everything. My tale began on a warm summer's day as I was studying for exams with the rest of my friends. We were at Ricchan's home, pleasantly chatting, studying, drinking tea, and listening to her brother get mad at video games in the other room. From what I could decipher from his frantic shouts and screams, he was doing quite terribly at Shadow Of The Colossus. It was like any other warm summer day spent at her house, and even with my sometimes rabid imagination, I couldn't have guessed what kind of journey I would undertake soon. However, if Ritsu and Mio had decided to admit they loved each other, and then kissed in a place where I could safely observe from a distance; I would have guessed it months before it happened. Anyway, my story began here...
Yui-chan, who was quickly losing her focus towards her English studies, spoke up, "Ricchan, do you have any cake here?"
My favorite hairbanded drummer shook her head, "Nah, we're kind of on a budget right now, so we don't have many sweets."
I was confused, because I thought cake was a basic necessity like plumbing and electricity.
Yui pouted, resting her chin on her textbook, "If I don't have something sweet, I'll die! Mugi-chan, do you have anything?"
Azusa-chan spoke before I could, "Why would she have cake with her?"
THAT was what I forgot before I left, to bring that vanilla crazy cake I had bought yesterday. I even told myself over and over again that morning not to forget it, and now there I was sitting cakeless when a friend was in dire need of cake. Feeling quite sad about that, I replied, "S-Sorry, but I forgot the snacks at home before I left."
"You were going to bring some?" Azusa looked surprised, apparently not remembering how I always had snacks ready. It was part of my check list of things before I left my house. Keys, cellphone, mp3 player, stun gun cleverly hidden, and snacks for friends. I subtly pressed my hand against my left pocket, making sure the stun gun was still there. Mother placed much emphasis on me bringing it around, even if it had gone off in my pocket once during class. That, though, was a story for another time.
I nodded at Azusa, and then Mio said something, "Oh, Mugi, are you playing in the competition at that one concert hall next week?"
"Competition? I don't know anything about that." I answered, completely curious now. I happened to like both concert halls and competitions, but not winning because it made me feel bad for the other competitors. Winning made me wish I were bad at more things, which made me wonder if Ritsu wished she won more things.
Once again, Azusa spoke before I could, "What's the competition about?"
"Maybe it's a furry eyebrow contest, then Mugi-chan would definitely win!" Yui complimented me. I was flattered that she thought so highly of my brows.
Mio shook her head, disappointing me because I would have loved to win a eyebrow contest, then explained, "No, there's a competition for piano players next Thursday, and the winner can win up to 80,000 yen or a mystery box!"
"I'd take the mystery box." Yui remarked. Ricchan and I nodded, knowing we'd do the same thing.
"The catch is that it has to be a classical piece." Mio went on, "Which means it has to be something written before the 1800's I guess."
Cake Consuming Crocodiles! That meant I couldn't use my piano rendition of Coheed And Cambria's song The Suffering. All that effort teaching myself to play that for nothing... That wouldn't keep me down though, so I asked, "Do you think I should enter?"
"Definitely." Ricchan answered right away.
"It couldn't hurt." Mio was a bit more modest.
"Mugi-chan would definitely win!" Yui enthusiastically exclaimed.
"You're pretty much the only piano player in this town." Azusa added, although I wasn't sure just how complimentary that was supposed to be. Come to think of it, I hadn't met a single other piano player or keyboardist in high school, and none of the clubs had one. That could have been why I got several invitations for other clubs to play for them, but I wouldn't ever leave the Light Music Club. Those other clubs would actually make me do stuff!
I was touched by their kind words, "Aww, you are all so sweet! If I win, I'll share the reward money with everyone!"
"Then it looks like it's decided." Sawako replied, sitting next to me...although she hadn't been there a few seconds ago. Everyone looked about as surprised as I was feeling, except I was surprised in a happy way, and Ritsu was surprised in a 'every door into my house is locked' way.
"What are you doing in my house!" Ritsu gasped, because she had locked all the doors. This is why I didn't lock the doors in my house, because I didn't have to think about how someone got in when I find them going through my refrigerator in the middle of the night.
Sawako gave her cutesy face and answered, "I was bored and lonely so I decided to see what you all were up to."
"How did you know we were here?" Azusa asked.
She just shrugged, "I guessed, and checked Yui-chan and Mio-chan's house."
"How do you know where I live?" Mio then asked.
Once again Sawako shrugged, not really taking this serious, "Silly Mio-chan, I know how to use the internet."
That was right, you could find where people lived using search engines these days. Now I could finally find where Jun lived since Azusa wouldn't give me directions. While my friends were certainly wondering more about Sawa-chan's presence, I finally got a chance to speak before them and asked, "Hm, what do you think I should play for the show?"
"Stairway To Heaven!" Yui instantly answered. Nobody bothered to correct her.
Azusa put a bit more thought into it, "Well...I think you should do something different than the normal classic stuff."
"Fur Elise could be a safe bet." Ricchan suggested. I gritted my teeth at that because I hated Fur Elise and I hated listening to every other kid struggle with it back in music class during primary school. To me it was like the song Carry On My Wayward Son in all those music video games, you can only play it so many times before it makes you want to start slamming your head into things. Soft things of course, because music isn't something worth getting a concussion over, despite what metal fans may believe.
"I agree with Azusa-chan." Mio agreed with Azusa-chan, "You should find a song that nobody else will play, one that sounds great and will make you win for sure."
"Freebird?" Yui suggested again.
"Mio-chan and Azusa-chan are right." I said, because they were right, "This weekend I'll go into town and find an old music store and look around for some sheet music that looks good. I'm thinking...something French." For some reason that was met all around with frowns, "...fine, okay, German then."
"German composers are some of the best." Sawako replied, "You'd win for sure with that."
And that was how the story of me going into town to find a song to play in a contest began. Our time at Ricchan's home was spent studying a bit more, then followed by watching the second season of Strike Witches which made us all feel insecure about our sexualities. It was Wednesday then, and I would search out for a song on Saturday.
Over the next two days, I wondered just if I could play a modern song use pass it off as being classical. Plenty of obscure video games used fantasy sounding music, and I could borrow from them and probably get away with it...but what if they found out I cheated? Realistically, they'd probably ban me from playing piano anywhere ever for the rest of my life! I could only imagine what my friends would think.
"If only Mugi-chan had just played Fur Elise..." Ricchan sighed, standing in the rain, hands in her pockets, looking into the distance while the saturation was turned way down for dramatic effect.
Yui-chan would be crying, "We trusted her!"
Mio would shake her head, tears in her eyes, "It all started when she began drinking black coffee. We saw the signs, but we didn't stop her. WHY DIDN'T WE STOP HER!"
Not wanting to put my friends through an ordeal like that, I decided that it would best to actually win this contest fair and square.
SATURDAY AND A SONGBOOK
I took the bus down to that really big mall that always seemed to have everything, and spent an hour looking for a store that would have what I wanted. I checked around that store that sold like 80 guitars, the one where I bought Crack The Skye in Something For Everyone, and as I walked out of the mall, I wondered if it was worth telling everyone just how the conflict between Mugitsu and I ended.
Before leaving that morning, I looked online for some local places that could have obscure classical music, and found a little place called Midgard's Threshold. Now, I don't have a great business sense, but doesn't seem like a good thing to make an antique store. Not because it would scare customers away or anything, but it would draw in the wrong kinds of people. As far as I knew, Midgard was some place in Norse mythology, but some people are going so think of it as the at place from Final Fantasy 7. They go in looking for cosplaying stuff, and find this little run down antique store. However, from what the store's website said, they did sell old sheet music. I found that to be oddly convenient that they just happen to list that they sold that.
Even more oddly convenient, the place was only a ten minute walk away from that super mega mall, so I didn't have to buy another bus ticket. I strode happily over there, and the sun was shining, the birds chirping, and the flowers blooming. Midgard's Threshold was pretty easy to find since it looked like it was built in the early 20th century, with its worn wood exterior and yellowed glass windows. It looked extraordinarily out of place because it was part of a strip mall, and it had a Hot Topic on one side of it, and an adult video store on the other.
Proudly, I marched inside and didn't have metaphor for my marching. The inside of the place was dim and musty, like Azusa's basement; not that I would know or anything. Light came through the windows in a way that some how illuminated every single dust mote in the room. The store only seemed to be one room, with all sorts of knick-knacks and junk lining half a dozen shelves. I slowly walked between two shelves, taking in everything I saw. There were a lot of little Scandinavian things, which probably aided in the name of the store. Lots of books in languages I didn't speak, portraits painted by people who died before my parents were born, even a rusted bearded axe. Heck, antique didn't really fit the description, they were more like artifacts. It was strange, after turning 18, I had visited that little adult video store more than once (they sold eroge games and I play them for the STORY), but had never noticed this little place.
A large, but thin, paperback book caught my eye. Dog eared, with yellowed pages, was an old song with an English title I struggled to read due to the elaborate font.
"Hee-my-enns ov tsa Aaa-eee..." I struggled to make out it, not even realizing I was speaking aloud.
"Hymns Of The Aesir." The voice of an elderly man finished for me, presumably the owner of the swell little dwelling. I looked over to see someone who looked old enough to be my grandfather. He didn't look Japanese, with his pale skin and tired blue eyes, er, eye, since one was blocked by an eye path. The man's long white hair fell in messy waves just past his shoulders, but he was dressed like any other person that age would dress. Thankfully, he spoke in fluent Japanese, "That's a fine collections of songs, madam, some of my favorites are there."
I wasn't sure how to react, with him being so forward. Trying to not stutter or anything, I replied, "I'm, uh, looking for songs to play for a concert...and they have to be at least 200 years old."
The man nodded, stroking his long white beard with one of his wrinkled hands, "Yes, a boy around your age came in here earlier today asking for the same thing."
"He didn't buy it though?" I assumed.
"I would not sell it to him." He clarified.
"Oh." I blinked, not quite expecting that, "Is it not for sale?"
Shaking his head, he answered, "It is, and it fits the criteria of what you need, but the boy was rude and disrespectful."
"I'm sorry to hear that, I can't imagine how someone could be like that." I said, then picked up the book, leafing through a few pages to see if it was what I wanted. All the song names were in either Swedish or Norwegian, I couldn't tell, but the dates for some of the songs listed went back to over 600 years ago. This was perfect, I could blow everyone away by playing the piano accompaniment to what were probably old Norse poems. So I asked, "Excuse me sir, how much would I have to pay to obtain such a fine book as this."
Much to my surprise he answered, "For someone such as yourself, it would cost nothing."
"Someone like me?" I really hoped this wasn't leading onto to creepy doujin material. And I had forgotten my stun gun too.
"Yes. I saw that spark of life in your eyes as you looked through the ancient notes and ballads held within there. It was a spark of passion, of someone who wishes to play music for the love of it, not out of greed." He explained, apparently a psyche evaluator.
I wasn't sure how to react, so I excitedly blurted out, "T-Thank you sir! I will cherish it and make sure nothing happens to it!"
"No thanks is needed," He turned to walk back to wherever he came from (presumably the back room of the store), then looked back to say, "You may find some of those to be difficult to play, so make sure to spend plenty of time practicing."
"I will!" I bowed, and left to go do just that.
A MIDNIGHT SONG
Apparently something as simple as coming home and just finding a song to play out of a book that had dozens just wasn't something I was allowed to do. Upon returning to my ample dwelling, I found that the patch cable that lead from my keyboard to the speakers I used for it were gone. Not only that, but the AC adapter was missing as well, and I needed that because I didn't all the batteries needed to power my Korg without it. Confused as to how both of those could have just vanished, I consulted my parents with thoughts that perhaps they knew of the objects whereabouts. No such luck, they had not tread into the sanctity of my room that day.
It took me a bit, but then I realized there was only one realistic culprit who could be responsible for this. Ahem, once upon a time I acquired a pet cat during my travels in the vast city of Tokyo. This cat is named Pickles The Cat, and he is a very mischievous creature as most of his species are (Maine Coon is the breed name), and he routinely tormented me in my various tales. Still, I loved him and all his fluffy mayhem. Recently, I bought Pickles The Cat a nice little cat house thing, complete with a little tower thing he could climb. The house part was at the top, and he had taken a liking to pilfering things and hiding them in there. It was pretty surprising just what he got away with. More than once I had found things such as house keys, string, bottle caps, my breakfast, my underwear, and my homework.
So, surprise surprise, I found my furry friend cozily residing in his cat house, right on top of the cords I needed to make my keyboard function as a keyboard. While it certainly would have made for a great blunt weapon, dealing at least 1d10 damage. I smiled at Pickles The Cat and went to take those cords back, because Mugi's needed them more than cats did. My tender hand was met with a playful swat from his poofy paw, with claws not quite fully out.
"Pickles The Cat, I need to get these to play my keyboard. You don't need them, you are a cat, you do not even play an instrument." I reminded him, and went to try again. Once again, I was met with a playful swat, instead this time there were claws. Those claws raked against the back of my hand hard enough to draw blood. I quickly retracted said hand and cradled it against my bosom, "Owie! That hurt! Bad kitty!"
He rolled on his back and looked at me with eyes that said, Problem Mugi?
"Yes there is a problem. Clawing people is mean!" I told his eyes.
From downstairs, I heard mother call up, "Tsumugi dear, are you talking to yourself again?"
"No mother! Just Pickles The Cat!" I replied back.
There was a pause, "Okay, just making sure you're still sane, or at least sober."
Jeez, mothers, right? You raid the liquor cabinet once in junior high on a dare then all of a sudden your parents brand you as an alcoholic. It was all because of my old friend Miyuki back then, she'd always get me into trouble. That wasn't relevant, and I had more important matters to attend to. Getting those dumb cords back from a cat that smiled their kitty grin every time they saw my blood. Within six hours of meeting him, he had attacked my eyebrows, and rallied other cats to attack Ricchan. I was beginning to think he didn't really like me all that much, or anyone else for that matter.
Never one to be defeated by a small furry feline, I went to go get the wiffle bat and respond with appropriate force. After about an hour and half of intense combat with my pet, I finally got the AC adapter back, but let him take the patch cable for his own sinister means. It had been a brutal battle, leaving with me many claw marks, bruises, and at least one cracked rib. Pickles The Cat had taken at least four gentle bops on the head with my wiffle bat, but I think in the end the fight was his.
I set up my Korg Triton in its rightful place in my room, near the window. Tonight, the moon was shining bright in the sky, with a million stars competing against it for glory. Pickles The Cat and I had formed a shaky peace, and I allowed him to sleep on my bed nearby because he was just so darn cuddly.
Carefully, and delicately (which I guess mean the same thing), I placed the songbook against the back of my keyboard on the little stand for it. I leafed through it page by page, trying to find something that suited me. Many of the titles had those squiggly accent lines that I didn't know, so I didn't know how to pronounce any of them. All but one, whose name I made out as being something like, Through Bifrost. I happened to like both bi and frost, especially the former, so that seemed like the perfect song to attempt to learn. I looked at the time signature and saw it as being 5/7th, which was my least favorite time signature. Yui-chan could sweep pick in 5/7th time, which warranted my envy. The song itself was a little tricky, with lots of staccatos, tempo changes, seemingly random accents, and a part that looked plagiarized from the song Destroy The Opposition by Dying Fetus. It made me wonder how a 14th century composer could copy something written in the last 15 years. I didn't put it past those clever Scandinavians though.
The song started off with a G sharp in both the treble and bass cleft. After playing with Houkago Tea Time for so long, I forgot that you sometimes had to use both hands for the piano. Memories of my Mugi-rage towards Fur Elise surfaced, and I had to take a few deep breaths before continuing.
Something about the moonlight peering through my open window, and the cold breeze, accompanied the haunting melody of Through Bifrost perfectly. The tune was frighteningly beautiful, and it amazed me that I was capable of playing such a lovely thing. I closed my eyes as I replayed what served as the chorus, and pictured snowy mountains and ancient forests untouched by man. The music reminded me a bit of Moonlight Sonata or We Three Kings, and probably would have gone great with a tambourine working like a metronome.
Even Pickles The Cat looked up from meticulously grooming himself to take in the chilling sound of this piece I was playing. With this, I was sure to put the audience and whoever was judging into tears and use all the money to make my friends happy. The song was only two minutes long, and I wasn't sure how long I was supposed to go on for. I'd have to ask Mio-chan about it, since she would probably be able to point me in the right direction for the details.
My second wind after my battle with Pickles The Cat had pretty much disappeared completely after playing that, and I found I could hardly keep my eyes open. While I wanted to just throw myself on my bed, jeans and all, I knew that wasn't proper at all. Despite all of a sudden being so tired that I could hardly stand, I took a quick shower, brushed my teeth, donned my gray and white pajamas (because colors representing a winter sky were fashionable in the summer), then fell asleep on my bed without even taking off my bathrobe.
As I fell into the world of dreams, that haunting melody played in my head like a ethereal lullaby.
And thus, my journey began.
TO BE CONTINUED
Stupid Obligatory Author Note Thing- Well, I hoped everyone mildly enjoyed the tedium of this pilot chapter. It, like, foreshadows things and stuff so it's kind of important. I won't go into anything regarding the story though, since I want it to be a TOTAL surprise. For once I think I found the right balance of references and off topic tangents, but as the author it's hard to say. Anyway, read the next chapter to find out how Mugi's "Journey" begins.
Oh yeah, I like reviews too. They're pretty and work great at motivating me to write this faster.
A Thank you to Starasp for beta-reading. If you're into Lucky Star, you should read his sci-fi story, it's pretty freakin' good.