Back in 2007 Kakifly released the first story of K-ON! And this photo of Mio and Ritsu in their first year of high school after forming the Light Music Club showcases what a lot of 15 year old girls would do with some photos. Note the tabs on the corners for putting it in an album—hey, its 2007, digital was blooming, but people still liked albums…!
Last time, Ritsu witnessed the coming together of “The Wakaba Girls” and their popularity as a band. She saw old friends and spoke with a new. Nao warned her that Mio was not ready—ready for what? First, let’s take a moment, to see how this all began.
…And Kansas sings…
“All we do, crumbles to the ground though we refuse to see…”
Ritsu stood at the doorway to the office of the university president with her back bent forward in a low bow, she said, “Thank you for your time.” She straightened and made her way back to the dorms walking quickly and nervously, she then pulled out a little cheap cell phone and pressed a few buttons and put it up to her ear.
“Nee-Chan, what’s up?” A male voice said happily. “I need you to bring your car and get me, ok Satoshi,” Ritsu replied in a shaky voice.
“Is everything all right?” Her brother asked concerned.
“I’ll tell you when you get here, just come alone and make sure there isn’t anything in the car, ok?” Ritsu replied, her voice remained shaky and her face was red.
There was silence on the other end of the line for a moment and Satoshi said, “I’ll be there as quick as I can Nee-Chan.”
“Thank you,” Ritsu sniffed and closed her phone which she shoved into the pocket of her yellow and blue track pants and straightened her matching track jacket that was zipped above her small breasts. Ritsu walked quickly and stopped dead in front of the room she shared with Mio, Yui and Ui. Tsumugi had moved into a campus apartment when Sumire entered the school and they started to seriously date.
Ritsu could hear voices inside the room and her hand shook as she opened the door to be greeted by everyone—literally, everyone was in the room! Mio, Yui, Ui, Tsumugi and Sumire; also, their neighbors and rival band called “Gang of Girls” who consisted of, Akira, Sachi and Ayame.
All assembled turned to Ritsu and could see by the look on her face that something was wrong, so Mio went to her and Ritsu led her out of the room and closed the door without a word.
“What’s going on? Why did the president call you to their office?” Mio asked, then said, “Are you all right, you look sick?”
Ritsu pushed up her yellow headband drawing back her shoulder length brown hair and looked up to Mio and said, “I have to go Mio, Satoshi is coming to pick me up, so I have to pack and I’m not sure what to say to everyone, why are they all here?”
Mio’s eyes widened and she almost yelled, “What do you mean you have to go! What the hell is going on, are your parents all right, is…” “I was caught cheating, I used a seniors’ paper from a few years ago and they are kicking me out of school. I have to leave Mio, I won’t be graduating with you and the others,” Ritsu said almost with a whimper.
“But…you can’t leave me, what will I do without you? I need you Ritsu, don’t leave me!” Mio yelled and the door to the room opened to Akira who was about the height of Mio with shoulder length black hair that was held with a pair of skull clips in silver, she wore a black concert tee and black pants. Akira said, “You little fuck! What the hell is wrong with you Tainaka?” Mio started to cry as everyone assembled began to converge out of the room on Ritsu, but they all stood behind Akira who easily grabbed hold of Ritsu and slammed her against the closest wall. Ritsu’s small body couldn’t take the force and she physically submitted to Akira.
For the first time in her life, Ritsu was actually scared, she looked around to see Sumire in the background in shock with her hands to her mouth, Sachi—tall with long hair, and Ayame—short with bleach blond short hair, were starting towards Akira to get her to let Ritsu loose. Mio’s yelps echoed in the hallway and Yui not understanding and not believing what they had heard to be true, held her little sister Ui who was trying to explain what was going on; however, it was clearly Tsumugi who worried Ritsu the most.
The kind, gentle, woman was no longer showing a calm, elegant demeanor and Mugi actually pushed past Sachi and Ayame whose intentions were to get their friend to release the five foot tall Ritsu before she hurt her anymore.
Mugi was strong, she always has been and she pushed Akira away from Ritsu and in a quick motion she slapped Ritsu across her face causing redness to appear and for the first time Tsumugi’s soft voice became a loud yell, something she was never thought to be physically capable of and she screamed, “You cheated! With all of us here to help you, you cheated and got yourself kicked out of school! What about the band—the one YOU started, YOU were the one who brought us all together and we had fun and friendship! What have you done Ritchan? You, you made Mio cry, you hurt us all, what the hell are we supposed to do now!”
Akira said, “I’ll tell you what you do now…find another drummer, and a real friend, what a stupid…”
“No! We need to understand Ritchan, we need to give her a chance!” Yui said quickly as people started opening their doors and looking into the hallway.
“There’s nothing to understand Yui-Chan, I did something unforgivable, and now I’m going to pay for it; I don’t deserve a chance either. This isn’t forgetting to fill out club or stage usage forms, there are no second chances. Please let me pack and go; my brother is coming for me soon and I don’t want to make him wait—the president also said that I have to be out of here before tonight…you can’t fight for me on this, the decision was made…but, I don’t think any of you would…” Ritsu said as Tsumugi backed away from her; at this point Mio ran up to Ritsu and grabbed hold of her as she fell to her knees and wrapped her arms around her body, she buried her face in Ritsu’s stomach and whined, “You can’t leave me, don’t leave me Ritsu, please don’t leave me—why…why…WHY!!!!!!!!!” Mio screamed in a high pitch squeal causing Akira to take hold of Mio and pull her away from Ritsu and embrace her tightly.
Tsumugi stood staring at Mio, her face had lost all color and at this point Sumire took hold of her girlfriend—Mugi was dead still, it was as though something was engraving itself into her consciousness and she couldn’t move until it was finished. Yui began to cry and Ui took hold of her Onee-Chan to comfort her.
“Tainaka, the room is all yours, you have an hour to get your shit and get the fuck out. Look what you did…Tsumugi-Chan is right, you brought all of your friends together, started a band and then you fucked them over with pure stupidity. Good job; I’ll make sure I tell Azusa after she gets out of the hospital, I’m sure even in a wheelchair she’ll want to kick your ass. Some friend you are, you couldn’t even ask your band mates for help. Let’s go girls, I don’t want to be around her anymore,” Akira said leading Mio away even though she was trying to fight against her, she kept whispering ‘Ritsu, don’t leave me’ over and over again. Sachi helped Tsumugi along as she remained stone still and Sumire tried her best to get her girlfriend to come; they walked slowly behind Akira and Mio. Ayame and Ui made Yui follow, she still didn’t know what to do; it can’t all be over just like that? Their friendship, the band…how could this happen?
Ritsu leaned against the wall alone now as the hall cleared of bystanders, she rubbed her cheek where Tsumugi had hit her, and then entered the room she shared with Mio, Yui and Ui and began packing up her belongings, her mind blank and quiet, however her body and hands shook as she worked quickly. After piling her cased drum kit, suitcase and a few boxes by the door, she took a piece of paper and a pen and began writing. By the time she was finished and folded the paper, Satoshi knocked on the open door of the dorm room. Ritsu looked up with a saddened look on her face as she placed the note on Mio’s bed and then quickly ran to her younger brother and wrapped her arms around him, he followed suit and Ritsu said, “I’ve been kicked out of school for cheating…Mother and Father are going to be very mad at me…I lost my friends, I’m abandoning Mio and was hit by Tsumugi–I’m so scared, I don’t know what to do.”
Satoshi squeezed his elder sister who was so much shorter than him and said, “It’ll be alright, let’s get your stuff loaded in the car and we’ll figure this out later.”
Ritsu and Satoshi parted and gathered up as much as they could carry. Satoshi took the larger pieces of Ritsu’s drum kit while she took the rest, they were barely going to be able to make it in one trip, but it was best because the group was heading back—the hour went fast.
Ritsu and Satoshi walked past the angered faces of her friends and Mio in tears screamed again, “Don’t leave me Ritsu!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” This caused Tsumugi to freeze again as a chill rippled through her body. Akira took hold of Mio and squeezed her tightly against her body, Yui once again started to cry and as Ritsu passed Mio she said, “I’m so sorry Mio…”
The ride was quiet and Ritsu looked out the left window of Satoshi’s small Nissan Versa, the car was packed full, but held everything Ritsu had loaded.
When they arrived at their small home in a somewhat run down area of the town Satoshi parked in front of the house and he and Ritsu went towards the door without taking any of her belongings—however, they were met at the door by their parents and her father yelled loud enough for most of the street to hear, “The school called and said you were sent away, they told me it was because you cheated!” Ritsu lowered her head; she didn’t want to see her mother’s sad face as her father continued. “We paid a fortune to send you there and in return you have nothing to show for it except disgrace and shame to our family…I want you out of here, get what you want from your room and be out of the house in a half hour, if you are here when your Mother and I return, I can’t be held responsible for my actions—you shamed us Ritsu and it won’t be tolerated!”
They watched as their parents pulled away in a family sedan and Satoshi helped Ritsu who still remained emotionless to her room where they filled a few bags and boxes from Ritsu’s closet with what she couldn’t part with; Satoshi said, “I’m sorry Nee-Chan, I can’t defend you even though I want to, I’m almost finished high school but…”
“Yes, I understand…” Ritsu replied in a struggling voice as she and Satoshi began making their way out of the house to his car. Ritsu pulled out her junky phone and clicked until she found a name in her phonebook and put the phone to her ear.
“Yo, Ritsu, what’s up!” said a deep girl’s voice on the line. “Maki, I need a place to stay for a bit.” Maki was Ritsu’s old friend who was also in a band and played the drums; she was with “Love Crisis” whom Hokago Tea Time has performed with numerous times.
“I can help you with that, but the only problem is I’m out of town, probably for about three more days, can you wait till then?” Maki said.
“Yes, thank you Maki,” Ritsu replied.
“Mio called me, she’s really upset…I’ll be honest, I’m a little upset myself about what you did and this whole situation—I’m guessing that you can’t go home to your parents? But, I will take you in, however, I will need something for rent and I won’t judge you, just understand that I expect you and Mio to make it right somehow, I can’t be in the middle either. I tour a few cities with ‘LC’, so I can’t cope with any shit from you, understand Ritsu?” Maki said firmly.
“Yes Maki, I understand, I’ll do whatever you say,” Ritsu replied with her voice shaky, but sounding a bit relieved.
“You going to be OK for the next three days?” Maki asked.
“Yes, I know what to do,” said Ritsu.
“Alright, meet me at my place in three days, come in the morning ok, we’ll work it out, in that time though, you need to get a job, understand?” Maki said.
“Yes Maki, I understand, thank you,” Ritsu replied.
“Be safe…” Maki said then the phone went quiet.
Ritsu closed her phone and got into Satoshi’s car and said, “Please take me to 10-GIA.”
“OK, is everything going to be alright, is Maki going to put you up?” Satoshi asked.
“Yes, but I need to wait a few days until she gets back into town, I’m going to rent one of those hole in the wall motel beds until then and go look for a job,” Ritsu said.
“Is that why we’re going to 10-GIA, to try to get a job?” Satoshi asked.
“No, I’m going to sell my drum kit, I wont be needing it anymore…I need money,” Ritsu said flatly.
Satoshi’s heart sank, but he was stuck, there was nothing he could do at this time for her except take her where she needed to go.
Thirty one thousand Yen–that was what her drum kit was worth—a little over $300 dollars. This money would get her a bed for three days, food and an outfit to go job hunting. All Ritsu had left from her musical life was a beat-up pair of drum sticks and notes of Hokago Tea Time’s songs.
Satoshi knew where to take Ritsu, he would keep what she couldn’t carry in his car until she moved in with Maki.
The ride was quiet and finally after all the hours and ordeals of holding back, Ritsu suddenly screamed, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Satoshi jumped and quickly put on his hazard lights and pulled over to the side of the road, after taking the car out of gear he pulled his small elder sister into his arms and she screamed and cried, “I ruined everything, I hurt Mio and Yui and Tsumugi…How can I face them or even Azusa, ever again…what am I going to do Satoshi, help me, help me please, oh please help me!”
…but Satoshi couldn’t help his Nee-Chan, there was nothing he could do except try to comfort her…
Ritsu stood in front of the door to a small apartment; it wasn’t run down or anything like that, it was just small—meaning that it didn’t cost much in rent. There was a plate on the door by the mailbox that read: Akiyama Mio and the room was 301, the third floor, it was safe, as in the high ground…
It was so hot even at this time of night, Ritsu still thought about Nao’s vinyl outfit, as she shook her top to air herself, she then tried to straighten her long brown hair; all the while wishing she could afford a hair cut and then get herself a headband and wear her hair like she used to—Mio could call her “shiny forehead” again? Maybe?
Ritsu knocked on the door and heard a familiar voice inside call, “Who is it?” The voice had a lot of shaky fear in it, Ritsu replied, “Mio, it’s me, Ritsu.”
Ritsu could hear movement inside and then the clicking of multiple locks and then the voice again, “It’s really you Ritsu?”
“Yes Mio…Lycopene!” Ritsu said slightly goofy—the senior trip, the last school stage performance…’lycopene’ just made her laugh and it was just enough to calm Mio who giggled a little which began to get softer as Ritsu could hear footsteps backing away from the door.
“Come in Ritsu,” Mio said in a louder voice and Ritsu slowly opened the door hearing the scraping of chain locks that spread from the top to the bottom, there was four of them on top of the two dead bolts and the handle itself. Ritsu entered and closed the door, Mio said quickly and softly, “Lock it; lock it!”
“Yes Mio,” Ritsu replied closing the knob lock first followed by the 2 dead bolts and then she began stringing the chain locks. Mio briskly went up to the door and checked that Ritsu had every lock in place and then returned to her Kotatsu table where a laptop computer and a few stacks of paper were sitting on the stained wood top. There was also a glass on a coaster that was empty and in an ashtray was a long Kiseru pipe with a red bamboo shaft and silver bowl and mouthpiece; both metal parts were finely engraved. Near the pipe was a box of tobacco and a grinder, there was also a box of wood matches.
Mio dropped a small amount of tobacco into the pipe’s small bowl and lit it, she took a few drags and exhaled after each leaving a cloud of smoke in the air in the room, however a ceiling fan and the air conditioner cleared it quickly. Mio put the Kiseru back into the ashtray and Ritsu could hear it clicking metal on metal as her friends’ left hand shook nervously.
“Sorry, it’s just the door you know…” Mio said.
“Yes Mio,” Ritsu replied.
Mio wore little cotton shorts that were black and flared at the bottom, she also wore a top that was almost identical to Ritsu’s but it was blue with red trim. Mio’s feet were bare and her long black hair was over her shoulders with the rear mass folded over in a hair pin.
Ritsu took off her shoes and left them on the tile in front of the door next to what must have been Mio’s sandals and joined her at the Kotatsu, she sat on the opposite side of Mio at first, but decided to take a spot to the left of her; she wanted to be closer.
Mio’s left hand was still on the mouthpiece of her Kiseru and Ritsu could hear it clicking against the ashtray, and when Mio realized that Ritsu was staring at it she let go and put her hands in her lap.
“You look good, I still never thought I’d see you with long hair Ritsu, you look so pretty,” Mio said, then, “let me get you something, sweet tea, lemonade, I can mix it the way you like it…Sake, beer?”
“I can get it, you should sit; did you take your medicine Mio?” Ritsu asked getting up and heading for the small kitchen which had a few bags of trash in a pile, otherwise the room was clean…Mio didn’t get her trash picked up for a few days so it had to sit until the collectors came and knocked on her door, it took a while for her to trust them, but they did wear matching outfits with the company name on them, so it was ok.
“Yes Ritsu, I took my medicine, I’m just not doing to well today; you know how it is. I’m going to smoke again ok Ritsu,” Mio said lifting her pipe and lighting it. Ritsu filled a glass half way with sweet tea and finished with lemonade and then returned to Mio and took her empty from the table; she then rinsed it and filled it with just sweet tea. “You want ice Mio?” Ritsu asked ignoring Mio having her pipe, she didn’t mind, it wasn’t her place anyhow, besides, Satoshi smoked, usually on the balcony though, so it didn’t matter.
“Yes, ice please Ritsu,” Mio replied placing her Kiseru back into the tray.
Ritsu returned and placed the glasses on the Kotatsu and sat near Mio and said, “I see work is busy, are you doing well?”
“I was sent a message from my superior that was congratulatory, my Mama and Papa are very proud of me,” Mio replied. Ritsu nodded a few times then said, “Why don’t you go back home, it’ll be so much easier on you?”
“No, no, I won’t be a burden on my parents, I may be the only child or just call me the eldest and the house is rightfully mine to start a family, but no, no, my Mama has better things to do than to take care of me. I have my degree, I have a way to work from home, I make my own money with a little help from Papa on the rent…everything is fine Ritsu, I won’t be a burden to anyone,” Mio replied.
“Yes Mio,” Ritsu said causing Mio to look dead at her and say, “You are rather agreeable these days Ritsu,” Mio struck a match and lit her pipe and took a drag and blew it out into the air.
“I’m sorry Mio…” Ritsu began and Mio interrupted by saying, “Of course you are sorry, you said it countless times to me ever since you got kicked out of school…stupid Ritsu…You know, you are lucky that I still talk to you…” Mio smoked and continued, “You sold your fucking drum kit, the only truly prized possession you had when your parents kicked you out of the house, you got Maki to let you live with her for a while and now you live with Satoshi and his wife and child. Mugi got you a job at that café where you all were so hell bent on getting me ‘special training’ when we put on that play our senior year; and what does that really pay you—you’re like a fucking NEET Ritsu, so what, you have a job and are trying—you screwed up to the point of no return, you fucking cheater! You did this to yourself…” Mio started to cry as Ritsu looked to the table top and she continued, “You had a year and a half semester before we were all going to graduate together and when you were thrown out I could hardly get by; sure Yui and Mugi did what they could and Akira…what a change in personality, I could hardly understand it…and the rest of the girls…Ui was starting to mother me all the time so I would never be alone or have to do anything and then…and then, poor Azusa, oh god Azusa–ran down by that fucking drunk! Her reaction, I don’t think I can ever tell you.”
Mio stopped when Ritsu took hold of her forcing her old friend to lay her pipe into the tray on the table, she said, “Yes, that fucking drunk just as well killed Azusa, but she is getting along, she didn’t graduate because of all the time in the hospital, but she is doing fine; I don’t think I want to know her reaction to my, or our situation. All that matters though is that Jun takes care of her; and Nao too. I’m sorry Mio, I’m sorry Mio, I’m sorry Mio, I’m sorry Mio, please Mio, I’m so sorry…”
“I love you, you know that don’t you? You always protected me, then you were gone, I didn’t know what the hell happened to you after you left the university. I called Satoshi and he said you sold your drums to 10-GIA for a small amount that was to pay for nothing more than a hole in the wall for a few days until Maki took you in. After Mugi got you that job and I finally knew what was happening with you between her and Maki, I still couldn’t visit you Ritsu, I couldn’t go see your parents and beg them to let you come home, I wanted to so badly too…By graduation, I was so terrified of leaving the dorm that Yui and Mugi had to walk with me everywhere which was so selfish of me, I was in the way of finishing school. Akira—and her fake bitchy attitude, finally forced herself to sacrifice the rest of her curriculum in order to be with me constantly, something that I will repay her for one day. So, in the end, she graduated with a degree in business instead of education and went directly to that record company where the guy she liked worked. She said that she had a degree which was her plan and she hoped she would never need it because it wasn’t what she wanted to do. See, now you ruined your life, Akira’s life, my life…no, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say that Ritsu,” Mio pulled back from Ritsu and lowered her head.
“Yes Mio, I’m sorry,” Ritsu replied. “I went to see the concert tonight.”
Mio looked up and took hold of her Kiseru and lit it, she said, “How is everyone?
“I stood by the door and had Sake, but I watched them; Nao is amazing. Ui and Sumire are great, Jun is wonderful and even Azusa still has superior skill, she’s not even upset about her situation, she just sits in a chair with the microphone low and sings, she’s really become well-skilled at vocals and they finished with your Fuwa Fuwa Time—most of it was the same, except Nao altered it with her Synthesizer guitar. Yui was there and so was Tsumugi, they didn’t notice me though, I’m glad. I don’t think I can face them right now, I’m sure they blame me for your current situation like you do,” Ritsu replied.
“I don’t blame you Ritsu, I have always been a coward and a cry-baby, it was going to happen sooner or later, I relied on your presence too much and I got overwhelmed…I love you Ritsu, and I always will; it just pains me that you threw your life away like this. I wanted us to be together forever and that is why I sacrificed my Recommendation, to be with all of you, I said it clearly back then and Sawa-Chan Sensei knew that regardless, I was making the right decision—but, I didn’t get to spend the whole time with you and it hurt so much…There is Sake in the fridge, apple, your favorite, one more won’t hurt you, or me,” Mio said pointing to the kitchen.
“Yes Mio,” Ritsu said and got up from the Kotatsu and went to retrieve 2 bottles of Apple Sake, she brought them without drinking dishes as the girls were just going to serve themselves straight from the small bottles.
Ritsu handed one to Mio and said, “Nao says it’s temporary, you and me—that we are dust in the wind…”
Mio took a drink and said, “You know, I can play that on my Shamisen; ‘Kansas’ is pretty cool you know.”
“Isn’t the body of a Shamisen made of cat skin?” Ritsu asked. “It’s synthetic; I won’t get a real one, that’s disgusting!” Mio replied. “What happened to Elizabeth? You don’t play your bass anymore at all?” Ritsu asked.
“Why? There is no “Hokago Tea Time,” besides, the Obaa-Chan who was performing at the marketplace when Yui and Azusa were in that competition all those years ago was amazing, so I thought I’d get one and put the bass in its case, I still have it, although, it’s a little worse for wear, I should have stored it better, but who cares anymore,” Mio replied.
“…but you loved your bass…” Ritsu started and Mio continued by saying, “And now I love my Shamisen—what do you do? Stack up some magazines and use a pair of pencils as drum sticks?”
Ritsu looked to the table top again and quietly said, “I’m sorry Mio.”
Mio blushed and said, “No Ritsu, I’m sorry, there is no excuse for the way I’ve been acting…having alcohol with my medicine is probably a really bad idea too. Look, its getting really late, I‘m surprised that you came, how about dinner tomorrow, just come over and I’ll make something; without Mama around I did learn to cook, its not as pretty as my Bento used to be, but it’s very good.”
Ritsu stood up after finishing off the small bottle of Apple Sake and said, “OK, I’ll come over after work tomorrow and we’ll have dinner…Mio, I love you, and I wish things didn’t turn out the way they did. I’ll make it right somehow.”
Mio stood up and said, “Just be here tomorrow, OK?”
“Yes Mio,” Ritsu replied and went to the tile in front of the door and put her sneakers on, she then started on the locks and Mio said, “Wait outside until I get it locked up again, OK.”
“Yes Mio,” Ritsu replied and she left closing the door behind her, she stood in front of the door and said in a loud enough voice, “Nao said that everyone misses us, but I’m sure that she really is referring to you…Mugi probably wants to kill me and Yui would just push me away” “I see,” replied Mio. When the last lock was in place Ritsu said, “Hey Mio…Skulls;” another thing reminiscent from their high school days and it still made Mio giggle.
It had suddenly become quiet, and a soft whimpering broke out on both sides of the door to Mio’s apartment. On the inside Mio was on her knees with her head in her hands weeping loud enough for Ritsu to hear her through the door. On the outside, Ritsu fell to her knees, broke down and began crying; she whispered, “I’m sorry Mio…”
To bring together a group of girls and start what was supposed to be an ever-lasting friendship—being the one to end it was not part of the plan. It appears that the old friends are having some major difficulty, but there is still a plethora of helping hands to keep them from falling any farther. Next time, Yui teaches and Ritsu and Mio have dinner—with a few guests.
Until next Thursday, as K-ON!!!! “Dust in the Wind” continues. Be there!!!!