How perfect, the “Precious Memories” card game package featuring Mio Akiyama playing her Bass, Elizabeth. Fitting to the story in every way…
Last time on K-ON!!!! “Dust in the Wind” Old friends gathered and gave forgiveness and the night was finished with Jun performing a mentally painful task to pleasure Azusa—she then looked back on her old mementos of her relationship with a man named Koyomi.
Now, Mio and Nao form a bond as Nao tries to get Mio to step outside for the first time in years—also, Ritsu brings over an old friend, although, there is a hidden agenda…
Keion!!!! (K-ON!!!!) “Dust in the Wind” Part 9.
Although she shook nervously as she unlocked the door to her apartment, Mio opened the door to see Nao carrying her instrument equipment in both hands and over her shoulders like a pack mule, it was quite a sight with her being only five feet tall and very small.
Nao wore a black parka with a gray fur trimmed hood that had gray fur pom-poms at the ends of the drawstrings. Nao’s black hair had been jostled by the cool fall wind but the two clips she had on the left kept that side mostly straight.
Nao entered and nudged the door closed behind her with her guitar case and kicked off her sneakers on the tile and Mio helped her by taking a few of the cases she carried especially her heavy portable practice amp.
“Thank you Miss Akiyama, I should have taken two trips to bring everything, but I felt the less you’d have to be at the door the better,” Nao said unzipping her parka and fixing her hair. “It got cold fast this year, it doesn’t feel like fall, but at least that heat is gone.”
Mio put down what she had taken from Nao and said, “Are you giving me a concert today—is that going to make me feel better?”
“I thought we’d try something different, so go get your Bass—Elizabeth right?” Nao said taking her coat off, she hung it on a hook by the door next to Mio’s and stepped up on the carpeted floor from the entrance tile. Nao wore a pink track jacket with white trim that was zipped above her breasts with a white top underneath, she had matching track pants with white stripes that covered the pink socks on her feet.
“My Bass is shot, I have my Shamisen…” Mio began as she straightened her colorful robe and Nao said, “No Miss Akiyama, go get your Bass—let’s go, stop wallowing in your sorrows, you need to do something that brings back the memories of old and stop with that depressing ‘cat-skin’ music.”
“Fine, I’ll go get it, but my Shamisen has synthetic skin—and its not depressing, it sounds nice…where did the attitude come from Nao?” Mio said as she made her way to a closet between the living area and the kitchen.
“I don’t have an attitude Ma’am, but I did have to ask Sumire for more money because I can’t afford to keep my house without clients, its not that expensive either—we are making progress; you are going to return to your old self, now get your Bass Miss Akiyama,” Nao said a bit flustered.
Mio didn’t say anything at first, she didn’t think about the fact that Nao was established and had bills to pay, she remembered that hot summer night where she gave her services to Mio alone. Nao must have been struggling because she gave such a low Yen number to Tsumugi, something that turned out to be a mistake. So, Mio pulled her old Bass case from the closet and closed the door, she then returned to the living area where Nao had put her equipment together out of the way and brought one case to the Kotatsu which now had the blanket attached and the heater underneath the center was running on low making it very warm and comfortable.
Mio put the Bass case on the floor near both she and Nao and opened it, the reaction from both of them was pretty negative due to the fact that it had a musty smell and the stings were corroded among other things. The Bass was a Fender Jazz Bass with a dark brown burst coloring and what used to be chrome hardware.
“Looks like I wreaked it,” Mio said calmly.
“Do you want me to take it to the dumpster outside, it’ll take just a second, maybe I can make Elizabeth spin a few times on the way in—there might be a great crash and what is still intact might be able to break too?” Nao said with the same degree of calmness, she had to use some reverse psychology on Mio and hoped that it worked–the problem–Mio was quite intelligent; but, this was once her beloved left handed Bass, she wouldn’t let it go regardless of its condition.
“No! Maybe I can take it to where Ritsu works and they can fix it?” Mio said with a slightly upsetting tone—Nao was successful, now to continue.
“Why pay 10-GIA to repair your Elizabeth when you can do it yourself? You should take pride in doing the repairs yourself, that way it becomes a larger part of you and gives you the satisfaction of a job well done,” Nao said.
“But, I can’t fix stuff like this,” Mio replied.
“I can teach you, I restored ninety percent of my Roland, I only had a professional repair the body and I took care of all of the electronics and I even upgraded the pedal box to take a few modern outlets like a Fire Wire and USB—the whole rig is from the 80’s none of that existed yet. The only thing I couldn’t change was the cable that goes from the synthesizer to the guitar; it has multiple prongs like a computer monitor—more than that, but nonetheless. There was also a memory card, but it was damaged and I couldn’t replace it, so I upgraded to USB stick drives—you know I’m a klutz and had no fine motor skills, I took classes and practiced just to be able to do this, I read a ton of books to gain the knowledge and had people show me and teach me exactly how to do the physical work. Miss Yamanaka taught me to play the guitar, she actually has a lot of patience and believe me I really needed to have someone ‘hold my hand’ the whole time—now, I’m going to hold your hand and we are going to fix your Bass and make it like new,” Nao explained.
“What does any of this have to do with getting me over my problem?” Mio asked.
“Well, like the countless bullies in junior high said to me…Just shut-up and do as you’re told!” Nao replied harshly. Mio cringed and nodded.
Nao began explaining the steps needed to do the repairs, she had Mio perform what she was capable of first such as removing the stings by cutting them and pulling them out of the tuners and bridge, once that was complete, Nao explained how to remove the pick guard that was held in place with many screws, she helped Mio to use control with her hand as she did this. Once the pick guard was lifted away from the body they looked at the underside where all of the hardware was attached and saw that all of the electronics; Pots, pick-ups, wires, etc, were all covered in corrosion and had to be replaced, so Nao took a bag out of the case that she had her tools in and removed the contents which consisted of all new parts that were to fit Mio’s Bass.
Nao explained everything about the parts including the soldering points and that they were going to replace everything to new condition, but first they would strip the Bass of all of its parts, clean it and then rebuild the electronics by soldering the wires—something that Nao would teach Mio to do.
By lunchtime the bass was in multiple pieces and was cleaned to where it looked like it was in used condition but not nearly as bad as it was before. Nao dumped all of the electronic parts that were removed from the pick guard into a trash can and Mio went to prepare lunch.
While Mio was in the kitchen, Nao plugged up her amp and guitar and set the volume low so she wouldn’t bother the neighbors and began playing a gentle Surf-sounding tune called “Sleep Walk” by Santo and Johnny, it had a lot of smooth bends and was all instrumental. It was a very old song and was from the States; however Mio could be seen smiling as she prepared the meal. Nao smiled herself and continued to play the song gently; she had come a long way from breaking strings to having the skills of a pro and Mio started to understand what gave Nao the push to become better and better. If Nao had rebuilt her Vintage Roland and the synthesizer then it meant that she had a lot of pride in it and probably loved it as Mio had once loved her Bass—was Nao just trying to get Mio to return to her musical interests? There had to be more though…
After a great lunch and some rest, Mio and Nao continued on the Bass, and although she was scared of being burned, Mio agreed to listen to Nao and learned how to solder the wires, she was beginning to truly understand why Nao wouldn’t let anyone touch her guitar, it was like touching her body, it was a part of her, the work and love put into restoring it was great and Mio would soon have the same feeling that Nao carried.
Mio survived all the soldering without burning her fingers, but she had a few mistakes which Nao helped her fix. In the end, the rebuild was near perfect and Mio now could reassemble her Bass by herself, she finished with a set of new strings and Nao taught Mio how to set up the Bass for the perfect sound and Mio finished it off by polishing it one last time.
“Well, get your Bass Amp and plug it in, I hope that isn’t damaged,” Nao said.
“No, I kept it covered and clean, it should be ok,” Mio replied and quickly went to get the large amp, she brought it into the room and plugged it in and took a new cable that Nao had handed her and attached it to the amp and Bass and then tested the sound, she then began playing slowly and carefully, it was kind of like getting on a bike after a long time without riding—right? Mio’s skill was great when she was young, so it didn’t take her long to get her rhythm back and she smiled as she powered out a Bass line and Nao joined her with her Roland and they played a few tunes—mostly the ‘Hokago Tea Time’ catalog that Nao had to wing it in performing because she only knew ‘Fuwa Fuwa Time.’
The girls smiled at each other, Mio understood what Nao felt towards her guitar now and at the same time she was able to rekindle her love for her Bass. Mio and Nao put their instruments in their cases and embraced—Mio was so tall compared to Nao but she held her tight and said, “Thank you Nao, how can I ever repay you?”
“Step outside the door for only one minute and then you will repay me,” Nao said softly.
Mio could feel her heart beating fast and with Nao’s head so close to Mio’s chest she could hear it too. Mio shook nervously for a moment and remembered what Nao had done for her and took a deep breath and still holding onto Nao she made her way to the door of the apartment, she began opening the locks and then stepped back and opened the door still with Nao holding onto her. Nao wasn’t very strong at all, but she moved her way out over the threshold of the doorway and began pulling Mio with her. Tears started to stream from Mio’s eyes as she took a very stiff step out of the doorway to her apartment and stood on the concrete landing and looked out to the parking lot still with little Nao holding onto her. Mio breathed quickly and shook with her eyes wide, she could hear every sound that was outside including cars going by or groups of people talking, she was so scared that she started to pull back in, but Nao wouldn’t let her and quietly said, “Just thirty more seconds Miss Akiyama, just hold on a little longer.”
Mio began to pull against Nao who gripped her with her entire body as she could hear footsteps coming up her own stairway, she looked over to the top of the steps as a few people came into view and she pulled herself away from Nao and screamed a yelp, but before she could re-enter the room she saw the people coming towards her with Nao standing and staring at Mio with concern…it was Ritsu with Maki.
“What’s it been? A year since I’ve seen you last and you finally come outside, yet you still won’t leave your home; I don’t get you Mio, I thought I’d get a better greeting than a scream?” Maki said as Mio placed cups of tea on the Kotatsu for the four of them.
Maki was a bit taller than Ritsu but shorter than Mio and had long, smooth black hair and a very pretty face. She was slender and wore an orange long sleeve top and blue pants. On her feet she had black sneakers and on top of her head were large red-rimmed sunglasses.
“You need to understand Maki, this was the first time I’ve been out of the apartment in years; I was horrified!” Mio said covering her legs with the Kotatsu’s blanket as she sat on her pillow.
“Well, it seems the little cutie performed a miracle by getting you out the door,” Maki said as Nao blushed and looked away; she started to smile as she could tell right away that Maki shared her interest in girls, did Ritsu bring her over just for them to meet? But, then again, Maki was the drummer for ‘Love Crisis’ and they were all old friends, so Nao started to consider herself the odd one out…But, then again, Maki called her a ‘cutie?’
Ritsu whispered something to Maki; she said to slow down—if Nao heard that, then the question she was asking herself would have been answered.
“So, your name is Nao? Sometimes the ‘Wakaba’ call you Naoko because you are such a good girl?!” Maki asked as Nao looked at her fixing her glasses and hoping that her cheeks weren’t red—they probably were.
“Yes Miss Maki,” Nao replied sitting straight on her pillow causing Maki to tingle all over, she gave a big smile and said, “Naoko it is huh? So, I see you brought out old ‘Beth’ and gave her a rebuild for Mio and that awesome vintage silver thing is your Roland—that’s so cool, I’d love for you to tell me more about it, it’s a synthesizer right?”
“Yes Miss Maki, I restored most of it myself…ex…except for the body, I had someone do that for me, its difficult with the handle at the top and I didn’t want to mess it up. There was a chip in it but you can’t even tell because the craftsman did such a great job repairing it,” Nao replied.
Ritsu almost giggled as she saw how bright Nao’s cheeks were, she was blushing so much, it was as though Nao were standing in the cold—she was fumbling over her words too and fidgeting.
“Ritsu, I need help in the kitchen, why don’t you come so I don’t have to carry so much in myself,” Mio said obviously trying to give Maki and Nao alone time. Ritsu didn’t protest and joined Mio in the kitchen and they prepared dinner together while Nao and Maki spoke in the living room.
Nao began showing Maki her equipment from her guitar to her laptop. “Kami-Sama, what’s with the huge headphones, and they’re green too!” Maki asked as she looked everything over without touching—she wouldn’t want someone to touch her drums. “Are you like one of those ‘headphone girls’ or something?”
Nao replied by saying, “I get that a lot, but what you aren’t understanding is, I have to mix live, with a delay, I have to change my tones with the pedals…it’s kind of like DJ-ing; you know, with records or multiple media—not the easy computer way; and I listen to everything in advance as I perform. It took a lot of years to learn how to do this, but the results are amazing and I really enjoy it!”
“I bet you do, I think the farthest I can go is beating the heads of my tubs and that’s it, but you, man I’d love to hear you play something,” Maki said smiling.
Nao obliged and prepared her equipment, she would play a full song which caused Mio and Ritsu to look in from the kitchen. Nao opened a channel on her laptops speakers which would let her hear everything that she had to alter on delay so Maki could see the entire process, she then slung her G-707 over her shoulder and stomped a few pedals, she then began her computers program and began playing the ‘Answer’ remix holding her Ebow and a light pick in her right hand. The sound coming from her amp was different than what was coming from the computers speakers and Nao kept the volumes low but audible so the differences could be heard at the same time making the song sound somewhat strange as though it echoed.
Nao didn’t sing the lyrics, for this mini show it was the instrument sound that mattered and she was still hiding the fact that she was getting singing lessons after the last time she was made fun of for having a horrible singing voice. Nao knew she wasn’t ready to sing in front of people yet, so she didn’t.
Once the song was over Maki clapped her hands and said, “I’m really impressed, so you use the pedals on the synthesizer and that bow thing—then on top of that, you turn those knobs on the guitar and even when you have a moment of down time or a good sustain you alter the sound directly on the computer—shit, you must have spent hours every day for years practicing doing this! And, now I understand why you wear the headphones, so no one hears the delay echo but you…wanna join ‘Love Crisis?!’”
Nao smiled and said, “I can’t, I am a wakaba girl and I’m starting to think that I may not have a love crisis anymore?”
This time Maki blushed, Ritsu had convinced her to meet Nao and it was worth every second. After all the touring with the band, she finally had time to settle and now she was able to meet someone, but not just anyone, Nao had great musical interest, she of course was with a band herself and she was so adorable!
“Do you mind if I call you Naoko or Naoko-Chan? Especially on our first date…say, now and Saturday night?” Maki asked.
Nao blushed again and looked to the floor and said, “Yes Miss Maki, I would like that—a lot.”
Ritsu and Mio smiled at each other, if this worked out, then Ritsu and even Mio would really be able to pay Nao back for all that she had done for them—Tsumugi and Sumire would be surprised, maybe there was a double date in the future for them?
At this point, Mio and Ritsu brought in dishes of great food for dinner, they refilled the tea cups and the four sat around the Kotatsu talking about old times and the future. Near the end of the night, Maki and Nao had become closer—physically—and although Ritsu kept telling Maki to slow down, Nao took it in stride, she was probably very lonely, however her hormones wouldn’t get in the way of making a relationship work, she just hoped that it would. Maki was the outgoing faux ‘thug’ to Nao’s quiet good girl; it was a perfect relationship with great balance.
It had been a long day, but one that was very worth while, Mio had made great progress, Ritsu didn’t appear as tired as she usually was and Nao and Maki had found each other. Finally, all was becoming right with the world.
Next time on K-ON!!!! “Dust in the Wind” Yui and Ui, Tsumugi and Sumire, Nao and Maki, Jun and Azusa and Mio and Ritsu—each have their own story, be here next Thursday as they each get a moment on ‘stage’ in Part 10!!!!