The concert hall was silent, it felt empty. There was no public but the orchestra was ready. Jun Matsumoto, the young conductor, was clenching his jaw while looking towards the entrance. They were prepared for rehearsals but the guest star for the Christmas performances hadn’t arrived yet.
Kitagawa-san, the powerful magnate of classical music, had had the brilliant idea to stage a bunch of concerts in one of the most important venues in Tokyo for the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. He had chosen Matsumoto-san and his orchestra and had contacted pianist Sho Sakurai to join them. Problem was that Sakurai was a diva and hard to work with, according to different sources. He had just finished a world tour where he was treated as a god and he probably was exhausted and grumpy and difficult to deal with.
- Well, he’s certainly god-like. – Murmured Matsumoto – He’s very talented and handsome.
Akani-san was staring at the young conductor with a frown on her face. She was one of the violinists and her experience had taught many things to Matsumoto.
- Did I say it out loud? – Asked Jun.
She simply nodded.
- I apologise. – He continued speaking to the whole orchestra. – We’ll wait ten more minutes. If Sakurai-san doesn’t grant us with his presence, we will start without him.
A deep, soaring voice, like a thunder coming for the depths of Earth, echoed across the hall:
- Isn’t this supposed to be a suite for piano and orchestra? Is the piano going to play itself, then? Or will you multitask?
The musicians gasped and set themselves in their positions like children scolded by the school principal. Matusmoto-san turned around to meet with the big, gorgeous eyes of the aforementioned guest star.
- I was expecting you to step inside this hall through the entrance and not…..
- I’m not conventional, you know?
He sat in front of the piano, looked at the musicians and then at the big, gorgeous eyes of the young conductor and roared:
- Are we starting or waiting for somebody else?
Like a well oiled machine, the orchestra and the piano player fit perfectly, producing the most beautiful sounds a human ear could experience. Jun knew instantly those performances were going to be a success. Which meant more offers to work together with Sakurai-san. Which meant more uncomfortable moments, bullying and snickering.
Jun clicked his tongue annoyed by his own thoughts. Sakurai-san looked at him and smiled. Jun averted his gaze and focused on Akani-san who was again staring at him with a frown.
They continued with the rehearsals for a few more hours. Jun realised how the piece that was missing in his orchestra was precisely somebody as skilled as Sakurai-san. It was like a gold engagement ring needing a diamond. Now the gemstone was put in place and it was perfection.
When they finished it was lunch time. Sakurai-san snickered towards Jun and left. He didn’t thank, nor even acknowledge the other musicians.
Toma Ikuta, who was Jun’s friend and the orchestra trumpetist, approached the young conductor.
- He’s even worse than what I have heard. They call him The Beast for a reason.
- I was making engagement rings metaphors in my head.
- These two weeks are going to be hell.
Jun simply shrugged and walked out of the hall. Outside, the press had gathered and Sakurai-san was being interviewed. Jun and Toma stood in a corner for a while to listen to what he was saying. He was charming, well-spoken, nice and was praising Matsumoto-san as a conductor.
- Matsumoto-san’s age doesn’t interfere with his talent, it pushes him forward.
- Did he just insult me? – Jun asked Toma – What does he mean with my age? He’s not much older than me.
Toma put his hand on Jun’ shoulder.
- I told you he’s the worst. ‘Beast’ doesn’t even make him justice as a nickname.
They got so deep in conversation that they didn’t notice that the press had already gone and Sakurai-san was walking towards them. A simple ‘boo’ from the pianist startled both.
- Have you seen this?- Sho pointed towards the spot where the press had been minutes ago. – The world is mine.
He laughed and walked away.
- Monster. – Muttered Toma.
- I’ve had enough. I’ll go and tell Kitagawa-san what an awful idea this is.
He proceeded to call the magnate but then he stopped himself. He recalled how excellent the performance was, when it was only the first rehearsal. He imagined the greatness they could create together. Kitagawa-san trusted him, he could not disappoint him. And the public deserved to listen to such magnificence. It was only two weeks, he could do it. He had encountered pebbles and rocks in his path many times, but he had overcome all of it. So he decided to call for sushi delivery instead.
He returned inside the hall after lunch. Akani-san was already sitting on her place.
- I’ve heard they call thim The Beast. – She said.
Jun rolled his eyes.
- It doesn’t matter, we’ll have to deal with him for the sake of music.
- Such talent and such lack of humanity. – She continued. – What a brat. If he were my son….
Jun gestured to shush her.
The other musicians were starting to come in the hall when a secretary guy came running to Jun.
- Matsumoto-san, I have a message from Sakurai-san. He says he would have texted you if he had your phone number but he doesn’t so he says he won’t be able to attend the afternoon rehearsal because he has better things to do.
Jun felt like a salt statue, his feet stuck on the floor and his mouth unable to move to form words. This was going to be a truly tough rock to overcome. He finally regained strength and informed the musicians that the rehearsal was postponed until the next day. He didn’t want to look at Akani-san nor Toma.
They all left the hall and the building after that, while Jun remained inside, deep in thought.
- The world is yours, Sakurai. But I have the gold ring. – He said to the empty room.