Moshimo itsu no hi ka umare kawareru no nara ba
Seiippai no egao de anata no soba ni yorisou
Sore ga negai
"Rei! Truth or Dare?"
"Which of my songs is your favourite?"
Arriving the top of the staircase, Minako found herself at a lost facing the small buzzing crowd at the front of Hikawa Shrine, immediately wondering if it was a bad idea to visit on a Sunday afternoon. Tipping her oversized baseball cap even lower to hide her face, she slipped past the people and headed deeper into the shrine grounds quickly until the people and the noise lessened to an inaudible level.
Letting out a relieved sigh, she walked further between the shrine's structures, all the while remaining a low profile as to not draw unwanted attention to herself. After ten minutes of wandering and appreciating the beauty of Japan's religious architecture, she found that despite the several times she visited Rei at the shrine, she was still very unfamiliar with the Kami's holy grounds, as well as the duties upheld by those who serve the Kami. Watching the shrine apprentices she passed by working, cleaning and studying, she wondered if Rei had to do all those things daily as well, thinking that she didn't really know much about her friend's life outside of hangouts and school.
Finally decided that it would be a waste of time to go on without guidance, she approached and asked a nearby shrine maiden sweeping under a Japanese oak.
"Rei-san?" The girl held her bamboo broom still, "She is off duty today."
"Eh!" The idol mentally slapped herself, the idea of Rei having a day off never crossed her mind. "I see, thank you." She gave a nod of appreciation to the girl and turned dishearteningly.
"Pardon me;" the girl called out, stopping Minako's retreating steps, "are you a friend of Rei-san's?"
"I see," the girl smiled a small mysterious smile that made the idol wonder. "Rei-san's at the east side of the shrine by the red toriis playing with a group of children." The miko continued to explain seeing Minako's surprise stare. "Rei-san dislike her day-offs being disturbed by visitors, so none of us ever give out her whereabouts to strangers. But she never said anything about friends visiting, so I assume it's alright. However, please do keep it a secret that I told you."
"Oh." Remembering her manners, Minako bowed her head in gratitude once more, saying "thank you very much" before running off to the direction given by the girl, thinking as if she actually knew the miko's name to give it to Rei.
Now getting closer to the red toriis, Minako could hear a lot of squeals and laughter. Turning the corner, she was caught off guard seeing her friend in her casual clothes chasing after a group of kids—none seems to be older than elementary school students— and laughing openly; all traces of the usual stoic and serious teen gone.
She remained standing by the corner as to not alert the miko of her presence, taking in the beauty of the sight, a side of her friend she has never seen. While she was known for her tendency of creating surprises, personally (with all her pranks and whims) and professionally (her creativity and her outstanding performances), she realize the miko was also one to give surprises, in a different way.
To her regret, the rare sight did not last long, for Rei soon found her, which she suspect was aided by the girl's ESP abilities. Watching the miko's face turning really red, all thoughts of pity in the idol's mind was replaced by a strong urge to tease.
"Stop laughing would you!"
"Then stop looking so red!"
"I told you to call before you visit!"
"And miss something like that? No way!"
Rei huffed indignantly, but couldn't help that her cheeks were still red from embarrassment. So instead of looking at the idol, she turned to eye the green bamboo wood in front of her from where they sit in a quiet corner behind the shrine grounds.
"So, what brought you here this time?" She asked once the idol calmed down.
Minako shrugged, "Nothing really. Just felt like visiting." She took off her baseball cap.
"On a Sunday afternoon? You must be dumber than you look then."
"Are you looking for a fight?"
"No, I'm saying that that can't be your reason."
They fell in silence then, listening to the bird chirping around them. It was true that Minako had another reason to visit, and to be more precise, it was a question that brought her here. A question that had been nagging her ever since the game of Truth or Dare? they played during the sleepover they had at Usagi's on Friday night.
Rei looked at the idol expectantly, waiting for the rest of the sentence.
"You have the music taste of an old person."
"Are you looking for a fight?" Rei glared.
Minako stayed in silent for another minute, having a hard time finding a way to formulate her question.
"Why did you say your favourite song is I'm Here?"
Sighing in annoyance, Minako repeated. "I said: Why did you say your favourite song is I'm Here?"
Realizing what her friend was referring to, Rei frowned. "Because it's the truth. Isn't that the point of the game?"
"Actually, no. The point of the game's really to give people a hard time."
Thinking about the dare Makoto made her do, Rei agreed to a certain extent. "I see your point."
"But that's not the point!" Minako shook her head, getting irritated.
"Then what is?" Rei urged, not understanding.
"Why I'm Here? Of all the songs I wrote, of all the songs I sang, why did you choose I'm Here?"
Minako looked into Rei's eyes intensely. No matter how much she thought about it, she failed to come to an understanding of the miko's choice. Of all the songs she ever sang, or even just counting the ones she wrote, I'm Here was the least popular of her songs (even though it was still pretty high ranked compared to songs published around the same period). It had the slowest overall rhythm among all her songs, with a more melancholy melody, and had a lack of general theme; the lyrics were as if it was just a flow of words. From the online poll, the few people that actually listed this song as their top favourite were all of a more elderly group, and her manager even wondered if the result was trustable. There is a reason why the song was never published on television, but just as a special addition in her fifth album along with Sayonara ~ Sweet Days. She couldn't fathom how someone would like that particular song when there were many others to choose from, and she needed to know.
"Because it's the only song that I can hear your voice."
The idol was taken aback by Rei's manner of indifference, answering her as if it was the most obvious thing in the whole world. "My voice?" She immediately went through all her songs in her mind, wondering if the background music, backup voices, or the audio effects altered or covered her natural voice too much.
"Yeah. The voice of Aino Minako, the girl I wanted to get to know." Rei turned to look at the trees again. "Without the presences of the past life, or the façade as an idol. That was the first song I heard that actually speaks your mind."
"T-that's it? But—But… how about the rhythm, the melody? That song didn't even have a theme!" The idol protested, feeling the answer was unacceptable to a musician.
"No, there is a theme."
Minako stared dumbfounded, and Rei jaw-dropped. "Please tell me you do know your song."
"Of course I know! But when I wrote it, I didn't exactly do it in the usual way. The song was… different…" Her voice died down as she started to see what the miko meant.
"Obviously it's different, that's why I like it, right? And like I said, there is a theme." Rei looked at her with a smile. "Hope."
Minako blinked, stunned. She recalled everything about her song, pondering about the meanings behind. She said she wrote this song in a different way, because there never was any detailed planning with this song, nor any hardcore editing. It was, like Rei said, words poured out from her mind, nearly like a rant of words she usually would keep to herself. What was she thinking? About her illness? Her fear? Her regrets? No, at the end, it was about her strength. Proving she existed; that she had the courage to face what was ahead of her, and the courage to speak out what she felt and what she wanted.
Rei was right.
After sorting out her thoughts. Minako burst out laughing.
"What is your problem? Why are you laughing again?" Rei scowled.
"I can't believe… of all the people… you're the one that just taught me a lesson on music, much less, on my own song…"
Rei shook her head watching the girl curling up her body in her laughter. "Not that I don't agree, and honestly it wasn't really music, just lyrics interpretation if you really have to say… But why can't I teach you music?"
"'Cause you're an idiot in music!"
"What gave you the idea that I don't know music?"
"What?" Minako stopped and immediately straightened herself. "Wait. You said you don't care about music."
"I never actually said that. I said I don't care about pop music."
"So you know music?"
"Of course. My school has strict requirements that all students need to be able to perform with at least one musical instrument."
"You can perform?" Minako nearly shouted. "With what?"
"Piano. Grade 8."
"Why did you never say so?"
"You never asked."
"Do the others know?"
"Minako, relax. It's not a big deal."
"It IS! This is you we're talking about!"
"Fine! Okay! It is then. Jeez, calm down." Rei pushed the excited idol, who had stood up in the heat of conversation, back down to a sitting position.
"Are you hiding anything else?"
"I didn't hide anything!"
"What else is there that I don't know about you?"
"How do I know what you know and what you don't know?"
"Hino, you truly are one full of surprises." The impressed idol said with a chuckle.
"What did you say?"
"Nevermind. Your fault you didn't hear what I said." Before Rei had the chance to rebut, Minako continued. "Play for me."
"There's no piano."
"We can go to my studio."
"No way I'm going there. And no way I'm playing for you."
"Did you actually ever played for anyone?"
"Not outside of music class."
The respond made Minako think. "Is there a reason why you choose piano?"
"There is a reason."
"Are you going to tell me?"
"Are you ever going to tell me?"
Minako nodded, now understanding that there is something more involved with the topic. So she switched back to their previous topic.
"So which part was your favourite?"
"Pardon?" Rei blinked, caught off guard.
"You said you liked my song and claimed to be a pro about it—"
"I claimed no such thing!—"
Minako ignored the protest. "So which was your favourite?"
"Rei! Which part of the lyrics?"
"As if I actually remember the lyrics."
"Fine, then I'll recite it for you: Dare ni mo ienai hontou—"
"Isn't that the second verse?" Rei widened her eyes and slapped her own mouth close.
"OH MY GOD! YOU DO REMEMBER! Tell me!" Minako started tickling the miko.
"Minako! Stop!" Rei protested between stifled laughter. But Minako continued with no mercy, and finally the miko made for a run with the idol behind her, both laughing along and not caring if they would draw people's attention.
For the umpteenth time Minako was impressed by the things she knew and didn't know about her friend. But most important of all, she knew Rei was and will always be the one that remain totally honest with her heart. This honesty was and will continue to be what makes her comfortable to trust her miko friend.
To the shrine apprentices' surprise, they heard two girls' laughter ringing across the corridor with hurried steps, finally ended when they hear the door to one of the living quarters slid closed. Those who knew Rei long enough smiled a small smile; it was the first time they hear their fellow miko laughing so loudly and openly without hiding in a corner of the shrine grounds.
If I'm able to be reborn someday in the future,
With a smile as big as I can make, I'll be by your side.
That is my prayer
Sorry for my disappearance, and sorry for this crappy fanfic. I had to get rid of it, it's been sitting in my laptop for ages, and it lacks quality that I don't even want to go through beta. So it actually didn't go through beta, so all mistakes are MINE!
I didn't forget about Echoes of Time, in fact, despite the fun I had in university, I've been spending time trying to plan the plot out better that I got stuck, not knowing what I wanna do. This fic is a part of my planning. I crammed too much info together, the one about Rei knowing piano, and I'm Here is her favourite song. Those info will play a part in EoT at a much later time. For those who remember that I was trying to write a second chapter for my previous fic – September 4th, the second chapter was supposed to reveal the third Minako song that was special to Rei, which is I'm Here. Now that I revealed it here, second chapter of Sept 4th is cancelled.
No idea when will be my next update. I'm terribly sorry. The only promise I can make is I will NOT abandon EoT.
Thank you for reading, and reviews are even more deeply appreciated if you are willing to leave one for this ill-planned story.