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La fille aux cheveux de lin

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“Sigh… how come the group suddenly disbanded…”

It was nearly Rui's first anniversary in being a professional cellist when suddenly, the orchestra founder, who also served as the conductor, disbanded their chamber orchestra without telling any reason behind it. The members were in disbelief, and so Rui.

The moment the group heard the announcement, they immediately raised questions of how and why it was too sudden, even one member told the conductor that he would try to continue to run the orchestra group since he had an experience of being a conductor once, but no, the conductor shook his head in disagreement and told the group to just find another orchestra group. Rui, at first, wanted to ask why would he disband the group, but since she thought he had a private reason, she didn't ask and just shrugged it off, trying to just accept the unfortunate sudden news. Her daily commute from Sakaide to Kojima had come to an end. Starting from the next day, she would rarely see the seaside of Utazu with Play Park Gold tower from the Great Seto Bridge ever again.

Next station, Sakaide. Next station, Sakaide.

The train finally approached Sakaide Station. Rui cautiously stepped out of the marine liner while guarding her cello case against the wave of people coming in and out. Since she had nothing to do before going home, she descended the stairs and turned to the minimarket, buying a can of her favorite brand of beer. She needed something to ease her mind away after all the things she heard from her now-previous workplace. Going to her old kendo dojo? No, she was too tired. Carrying 25 pounds-weighted cello complete with the hard case every single workday made her back sore even though she loved the instrument so much. Or cook something for dinner? No, she preferred going to izakaya or a small udon restaurant for tonight. She wouldn't have enough energy left to wash the dishes after cooking and eventually just took a bath and slept, dirtying the sink. Her parents would scold her if they knew.

“Or… maybe I should play cello in Higashiohama again?”

The idea suddenly struck on Rui's head while taking the last sip of beer.

Rui enjoyed going to Higashiohama Park that was located just a kilometer away from the station. She frequently cycled here in her off-days, taking her cello outside to play something random, be it Brahms's Cello Sonata or even the emotional 1st movement of Elgar's Cello Concerto in E-minor, Op. 85. The calm sea breeze blew slowly, creating a cool atmosphere that Rui liked while drawing the strings there with the bow. Higashiohama Park is her favorite place.

Rui threw the beer can into the corresponding trash bin. She grabbed her case and put it on her back. Normally, she would always head home after work, but today was the only day she detoured to Higashiohama before going back.

After a few minutes had passed, she finally arrived. She immediately sat on the bench after placing the cello beside her and took a deep breath.

“Hah… if only I brought my bicycle…” She leaned back, resting her sore back and shoulder.

Today was a tiring day, or she could say a mixed ride one. On the bright side, she felt like it was a time for her to step into a bigger orchestra group that could be found in metropolitan areas like Tokyo or Osaka. Since she wanted to pursue her career more, she should find a new orchestra group as soon as possible, and in exchange of that, she would say bye-bye to daily view of the Great Seto Bridge. But rather than thinking about what her life would lead her up, she should start drawing the bow before the sun settled down.

Rui opened her cello case and took it out. Then, she adjusted the endpin until the cello matched her height. Afterward, she sat again and grabbed the bow from the case.

“Hmm… Ah, I guess Debussy's La fille aux cheveux de lin will be an excellent start.”

Rui started to calmly draw the bow, yet filled with an expression on it. The gentle sea breeze accompanied her play and swayed the tree branches, fitting the peaceful atmosphere of the song. She closed her eyes, grasping each of the beautiful tones that came from her cello. Her fingers danced in tune with the bow. Debussy was such a brilliant impressionism composer.

The moment she opened her eyes back, there were a bunch of people, from the kids until the elderly, looking at her play. Rui was joyful, and she couldn't hide her smile.

But… there was one girl that caught her eyes' attention.

On grass in bloom, talk to me, please.

Girl with fine curls and long lashes.

A very petite girl with blonde-colored chest-length hair, complete with fine curls and long lashes.

For, love, in clear summer sunlight.

And between the summer sunlight, their gaze met each other.

If she connected the dots from line to line that she could remember, the girl suited the description of the flaxen girl from the poem written by Leconte de Lisle that inspired Debussy. Rui's brain went full of thought and luckily, she could finish the song with no wrong note.

Wait.

Huh?

Did…

Did she just coincidentally pull the actual interpretation of ‘The Girl with the Flaxen Hair’ to her with the melody coming from her cello?

Her heart bounced like it was nearly jumping out from her chest and her voice faltered. She was too dumbfounded by what she saw.

A... fateful meeting with the flaxen hair girl.

“Y-you… t-t-the g-gi—”

“Eh?”

“N-NO NO IT'S NOTHING!” Rui hung her head behind the cello body. “IT REALLY IS!”

Even when Rui threw out of a heavy breath to calm her mind, her heart couldn’t stop aching.

She was like… a maiden that fell in love with a stranger.

“Umm… are you trying to say that I look like the flaxen girl from that poem?”

Rui nodded, lifting her head up. “…..yeah.”

“No, I'm not.” She answered while sitting beside Rui. “The girl from de Lisle's poem is more perfect than I am.”

“I-I'm sorry i-it's just my first impression on you… My head went full of thought…”

“It's fine!” the girl chuckled. “Thank you. You remind me of my earlier days of being a pianist.”

Rui saw a smile plastered on the girl's lips, but she… could feel a sadness lingered somewhere in her words.

“It was my earlier song that I practiced with my sister. I'm an ex-pianist.”

“Umm… if I may know” —she put the bow back to the case—“why did you quit from being a pianist?”

Rui, you dumb! That's a quite sensitive question that you could ask to a stranger!

“W-wait no, that's… kind of rude. I'm sorry for asking.”

“It's fine. It's just… well, you can look at my hands.”

Rui took a brief look at her hands. It was trembling.

“At first, I couldn’t… accept my fate, but I should move on. If I was still feeling caged, I wouldn’t move forward. I should just accept it. It’s been a year since I develop a multi—”

“Shiori!”

The two turned their heads to the source of the sound, and Rui could see another blonde, although looked older, came and panted.

“I… I was searching for you! Please don't get me panicked!”

“Ah, I'm sorry, onee-chan. It’s just… I heard a cello sound coming from the park and I was curious. It was too beautiful for me...”

“Let's go home, shall we?”

The girl, or Shiori if she heard the name right, said in a low tone, “…Alright.”

The younger blonde stood up from her seat and thus followed her sister. Before they had completely gone, the girl waved her hand, saying that she hoped they could meet each other again on a certain day and introduced herself better in the future.

Rui, too, also hoped that as well.

But.... would that day ever come?