I have a message from another time...

Eyrie Productions, Unlimited

Undocumented Features Future Imperfect
The Order of the Rose: A Duelist Opera

The Federation Lives Forever!

by Benjamin D. Hutchins

© 2014 Eyrie Productions, Unlimited

Chapter Five
"I Believe I'll Dust My Broom"

Xinqisan, Liuyue 16, 291 ASC
Wednesday, June 16, 2410
Asami Sato Girls' Academy
Sakuragaoka, United Republic

Kaitlyn arrived at the Light Music clubroom after school to find Yui there alone. She was sitting on the bench facing Ritsu's vacant drum kit, her face set in a frown of concentration, tinkering around with the riff from the new song Mugi had unveiled after Stupid Guitar Tricks the day before. At the sound of the door, she looked up, then stopped playing and smiled brightly.

"Oh, Kate-chan-sensei!" she said. "Hello!"

"Afternoon, Yui-chan," said Kate. She paused inside the door and looked around. "Just you today?"

"The others will be here in a little while," Yui explained. "Azu-nyan and Mio-chan had to go to the music store and get some new strings and stuff, and Ricchan and Mugi-chan tagged along, but I decided to stay and work on this riff."

Kate smiled, but didn't respond directly; if she remarked on her student's diligence at this point, it would just feel patronizing (even though Yui herself would almost certainly not take it as such). Instead, she said, "Well, if you feel like taking a break, Miki has something he'd like to show you."

Yui tilted her head inquisitively as the blue-haired young man who played rhythm guitar in Kate's band entered behind her, one hand raised in friendly greeting, the other holding a hardshell guitar case.

"Miki-sensei!" said Yui, rising to her feet.

Miki grinned. "You don't have to call me sensei, I'm not a teacher," he said.

"Sure you are! Everyone in the Art of Noise is a teacher when it comes to us," said Yui with a smile. "What's up?" Noting the case, she asked, "Did you bring your blue Gīta again?"

"Not this time," Miki told her, crossing to put the case down on the table. "Come and have a look."

"OK!" Yui got up and unslung Gīta from her shoulder, placing it carefully on the bench's padded seat. "You just wait right there," she told it, and then went to join Miki and Kaitlyn by the table as the young man unlatched his guitar case.

"Kate and I were talking last night about something you told her during Stupid Guitar Tricks yesterday, about how you can't play any guitar other than Gīta," Miki said. "I think this might be able to help you with that."

"Well, it's not that I can't," Yui qualified, looking a little awkward at having to contradict an esteemed teacher-figure. "I just don't want to." Reddening slightly with a silly little smile, she added, "Gīta's all that I need..."

Miki smiled. "I can understand that. He's a beautiful instrument," he added, without a hint of the faintly mocking indulgence most people showed when they followed along with Yui's habit of personifying her guitar, "and I know the two of you work well together. But there are certain styles of music a Les Paul isn't really suited to, and if you want to expand your musical horizons to include them, you're going to have to give some other guitars a try."

"Like what?" Yui wondered.

"Well, like this," Miki replied, swinging open the lid of his case.

"Ooooh," Yui breathed at the sight of what lay within. "It's so pretty."

The guitar in Miki's case wasn't a solid-body electric, like Gīta or Azu-nyan's Muttan; in the general shape and thickness of its body, it looked like an acoustic, but its body was made of some shiny silver metal rather than wood, and instead of the usual hole in the soundboard, it had a stylized metal grille covering most of the top.

"Is that a speaker?" Yui asked. "Like some kind of built-in amp?"

"Well, kind of, now that you mention it," said Miki. He lifted the instrument out of the case and showed it to her. "This is called a resonator guitar. Specifically, this one's a Dobro."

"Doughboy?" Yui wondered.

"Dobro," Miki told her. "Short for 'Dopyera Brothers', after the company that originally made them." He struck one of the strings with the ball of his thumb, producing a surprisingly loud note with a distinct metallic tang to it, then muted the string. "They were invented on Earth back in the early 20th century - about 500 years ago, before electric amplification. There's a metal cone under here," he said, tapping the speaker-like grille, "and a thing like a metal spider on top of it, which is attached to this saddle under the strings here. It makes the guitar louder than a normal acoustic without needing an amp."

"Ohhh," said Yui. Then, with a thoughtful frown, she went on, "But we do have amps now. So..."

Miki nodded. "So now it's mainly about the special sound. With a Dobro, you can play stuff that just doesn't sound right any other way. For instance..." He hopped up on the end of the table, balancing the guitar on his leg, and took an object from a compartment inside the case next to him. This proved to be a short length of what looked like brass pipe or tubing, which he fitted onto the pinky finger of his left hand.

"Now for this," he explained, "you need to have the guitar in what's called an open tuning. In this case, I'm using open D, which means if you play all the strings without fingering anything, you get a D chord." He demonstrated. Standing off to one side, Kate smiled privately at the look of dawning delight that came onto Yui's face.

"When you're tuned up like this and you have the right tools," Miki went on, waggling his brass-encased pinky, "you can play things like this."

"Dust My Broom"
Robert Johnson, composer
(performed in the syle of Elmore James)

Yui's eyes were wide with amazement as Miki played the opening riff, and widened further when he started singing. She'd never heard him sing before, except mixed into the backing vocals on Art of Noise tracks, and his singing voice was surprisingly different from his speaking voice, particularly when he sang in this unfamiliar style. It was raw and a little bit angry-sounding, with a faintly raspy, growly undercurrent that seemed at odds with his clean-cut, cheerful image.

I'm gettin' up soon in the mornin'
I believe I'll dust my broom
Said I'm gettin' up soon in the mornin'
I believe I'll dust my broom
I quit the best gal I'm lovin'
Now my friends can get my room

I'm gonna write a letter
Telephone every town I know
Said I'm gonna write me a letter
Telephone every town I know
If I don't find her in Mississippi
She'll be in West Memphis, I know

Eyes closed, head nodding to the beat, Miki threw down a couple of increasingly complicated variations on the opening riff as a sort of solo, then let rip with a third verse.

I believe
I believe my time ain't long
Said I believe
I believe my time ain't long
I ain't gonna leave my baby
And break up my happy home

Then he wrapped up the song with what Kate sometimes jokingly referred to as "the ANSI Standard Blues Outro", struck a final chord, and muted the strings, looking up to see how his student was taking the lesson.

"That was awesome!" said Yui. "I've never heard music like that before."

"It's a style called 'delta blues', because it originated around a river delta on Earth - at around the same time these guitars were invented," Miki explained, lifting the Dobro slightly for emphasis. "Now, don't get me wrong - you can play the blues on an electric guitar. Even slide blues like this song, if you get the tuning right... but it's never going to sound like it does on a resonator. That's really my point. There are all kinds of tools for all kinds of jobs, in music as in everything else."

"I know playing another guitar kind of feels like you're cheating on Gīta," Kate added with a smiling wink, making Yui blink and blush slightly, "but in music it's all about giving yourself permission to experiment. To really grow as a musician, you've got to try new things. Maybe they work and maybe they don't, but either way, you've got to try them."

Yui nodded, her face taking on a slightly preoccupied look. "To grow as a musician," she mused, as if mulling it over.

Kate made thoughtful eye contact with Miki, who smiled and nodded faintly, then said, "I don't know if anyone's ever told you this in so many words before, Yui, but you have a genuine gift, and I don't want to pressure you, but I do want to encourage you to make the most of it."

"I what?" asked Yui, sounding honestly taken aback. "No I don't! I'm nothing special. Not like you guys."

"Azalynn told me that you'd never even held a guitar before you bought Gīta, not much more than a year ago," Kate countered. "Is that right?"

"Uh..." Yui counted backward in her head from the current date, then nodded. "I guess it is."

"And within six months you were playing lead guitar at the club's school festival show," said Miki. Then he added with a wry little grin, "Speaking as a recovering child prodigy, that sounds pretty gifted to me."

"But..." Yui touched her index fingertips together, looking embarrassed. "I'm not very smart, and I'm bad at sports, and Azu-nyan says I'm really lazy and I never practice..."

"Has Azusa ever seen how much you practice at home?" Kate asked.

"Well... no, I don't think so," Yui admitted, sounding as if she'd just realized it.

"Well, maybe you should fix that sometime," Miki said with a little grin. Hopping down from the table, he put away the slide and then returned the Dobro to its case. "In the meantime..." He closed the case and latched it, then turned to Yui with his hand resting on top of it. "Would you like to give this a try?"

"Huh?" asked Yui.

"Take it home for a little while," Miki said. "Get acquainted, see how you like it."

"Are... are you sure?" Yui wondered, looking hesitant again. "It looks really expensive..."

"Oh, that's just because it's shiny," Miki assured her with an easy grin.

Xinqiliu, Liuyue 19
Saturday, June 19

It was a slow and rainy Saturday afternoon, and between one thing and another, not much was going on. Yui had been practicing for an hour or so, indifferent to the passing of time, when something Miki had said on Wednesday afternoon rattled at random through her head. She stopped playing and sat a while in uffish thought, then set her borrowed Dobro aside, picked up her gearPhone from her bedside stand, and texted,

TO Azu-nyan <3

Hey, you want to come over and practice
together for a while? I've got something
new I want to show you.

A few seconds later, her phone vibrated and the reply appeared on screen:

FROM Azu-nyan <3
TO Yui-senpai

Who are you and how did you get
Yui-senpai's phone?

Pouting slightly, Yui texted back, Aw, don't be like that! After another short delay, the response appeared,

Fine, I'll be there in a bit.

Yui sent back, Yay! <3 and returned to work. Some time later, she heard the doorbell, then the sound of Ui answering the door. With a grin, she set the Dobro aside again and scampered down to the landing halfway down the stairs. From there, she could see Ui taking Azusa's coat and umbrella while the latter exchanged her shoes for house slippers.

"Azu-nyan!" she called happily. "Come on up!"

"Go ahead," said Ui, smiling. "I'll bring you up some tea in a little while."

"Uh... OK," said Azusa, feeling a trifle awkward. She'd only visited the Hirasawa household a couple of times before, and both of those times she'd actually been here to see Ui, who was, after all, her classmate. It felt a little odd to be going up to Yui-senpai's room. As she climbed the stairs, she wondered what Yui had really invited her over for. Surely it wasn't really to practice - Yui never practiced - but she couldn't figure what else it might be. Maybe she wanted help planning some kind of surprise for one of the other girls in the band?

Yui led the way into her bedroom, humming cheerfully, and then climbed up and sat down at the head end of her bed with her legs folded under her, gesturing to the foot as she did so.

"Have a seat," she said, and then - looking more businesslike than Azusa thought she'd ever seen her - Yui picked up the gleaming metal acoustic guitar that had been lying on her bed and settled it on her knee.

"... What is that, senpai?" Azusa wondered. She leaned her gig bag against the wall, then climbed up and settled herself at the other end of the bed.

Yui beamed. "This is Dō-chan!" she said, and struck an open chord on the guitar, which was startlingly loud for an unamplified instrument. "He's a special kind of acoustic guitar. Miki-sensei introduced us the other day, while you and the others were at the music store with Mio-chan."

Azusa glanced behind her at Yui's Les Paul, which was propped on its Hercules stand at the end of the bed, then asked, "I thought you couldn't play any guitar but Gīta."

"So did I, but Kate-chan-sensei said I should try to grow as a musician," said Yui, so seriously it (perversely) almost made Azusa want to laugh. "So I've been practicing with Dō-chan on my own for the last couple of days." She gestured to a clutter of books and sheets of paper that were spread out on the side of the bed by the wall.

"Even a Monkey Can Play the Blues," Azusa read speculatively from the cover of one. "Um... Yui-senpai... have you been doing this instead of studying for your history test next week?"

"Sort of, but it's OK, it's not until Wednesday," said Yui blithely. As she spoke, she was fitting a length of brass pipe over the little finger of her left hand. "Anyway, I want you to tell me what you think of this. I need to know if it's any good before I try it on the others."

"Uh... OK," said Azusa. "But why are you asking me?"

Yui looked mystified by the question. "Because you know so much more about music than I do," she said, as if it were self-evident, and then added with a perfectly sincere smile, "And I know that if it stinks, you won't lie just to make me feel better, 'cause you're my Azu-nyan."

Red-faced, Azusa mumbled inaudible gratitude and sat with her fists on her knees, unable to look directly at Yui. The elder guitarist didn't seem to notice. Instead, she composed herself, then took a breath and began to play.

Azusa Nakano's Journal

Liuyue 19

A while ago I wrote, "I can't decide if Yui-senpai is a genius or an idiot." I couldn't figure it out. She has perfect pitch and she always plays so well, but I never saw her or the others practice unless I yelled at them, and she gave me that weird nickname, and she's always getting in my space.

Well... I just came back from spending most of the afternoon and evening with her. Just us, our guitars, and the music. I haven't practiced that hard since I was ten. And... I think I understand now.

I was asking the wrong question. She's not a genius OR an idiot. She's... Yui-senpai. She does everything she does all the way to the hilt, no multitasking, no half measures. Whether it's playing her guitar... or learning a whole new form of music... or loafing around the clubroom with the girls... or loving the world... or hugging me. Whatever she's doing is the ONLY THING she's doing, and she's doing it with her ENTIRE BEING for as long as it takes.

I can't believe I didn't see it before now. I've been so wrapped up in wishing she would be a better senpai that I've been the world's worst kōhai. It's not for her to change to suit my tastes, it's for me to learn to take her as she is.

That said, it was awfully nice to get in that much practice. I hope it's not the last time we do that.

And I can't wait to see the look on Ritsu-senpai's face when Yui-senpai shows them what she's learned on Monday...

Eyrie Productions, Unlimited

Undocumented Features Future Imperfect
The Order of the Rose: A Duelist Opera

The Federation Lives Forever!
Chapter Five:
"I Believe I'll Dust My Broom"

Written by
Benjamin D. Hutchins

The EPU Team

Based on K-On! created by

Contains excerpts from
"I Believe I'll Dust My Broom"
by Robert Johnson and Elmore James

Next: Chapter 6: "Make Some Noise"

E P U (colour) 2014