“C-Come on, you guys,” Sorey sighed. “Let’s take it from the top.”
The poor conductor was at his wits’ end trying to get his friends to start piecing together their orchestra score for their show at the Lastonbell Culture Festival. He unfortunately found Lailah and Zaveid from having a singing battle off to the side while the latter plucked away on the double bass, Edna chasing Mikleo with her incessant triangle, and Alisha looking for her resin for her bow. The worst of it was Rose and Dezel.
Rose had picked up the alto saxophone without much of a problem. It was easy to hold, and it made her quite the looker, which Dezel didn’t need to see to know that she was fine. She had tailored her outfit to give off the jazz vibe that she felt was much less stifling than the orchestral attire, and Zaveid and Dezel had joined her in her exploits after she begged enough. Zaveid had found bits and pieces—with Edna’s help—to dress up in similar fashion to a long-lost friend. Dezel, much to his chagrin, was victim to Rose’s coordinating, amassing a grey suit with an emerald-green vest. At his request, he asked for a rose corsage. And Rose had his hat specially made to match hers.
Of course, he was far more reluctant to participate in the concert itself. Jazz and orchestra didn’t mix, but Sorey was sure he could fuse them. He had said something about making it like some sort of analogy to the coexistence of seraphim and humans, and…Dezel had to give him credit for trying to justify it.
Still, as the unofficial big brother to the ragtag group of misfit seraphim and oddball humans, he wanted to be supportive. He had decided to learn the trombone. Tubas weren’t jazzy, and trumpets—dual-wielding trumpets were so commonplace. Trombones at least looked unconventional…probably. But they had a horrible sound if the player wasn’t skilled enough, and he hadn’t ever touched one, so naturally, he assumed he would sound like a dying goose.
Eguille and Rosh, who had come to assist with the event, had offered to help him learn by giving him a few lessons. He wasn’t sure what to think. It was a kind gesture, but he wasn’t fond of the idea of more people knowing how bad he was at the trombone. And with a little push from Sorey, who was still busy trying to reign in his herd of catty seraphim as Dezel viewed them, he bit the bullet.
“Just don’t make fun of me,” he grumbled when he met with Rose’s two brother-like helping hands near the tavern near the park.
“We’re here to support you!” Eguille smiled at him.
“And besides, we know you have a thing for the Boss, so we’ll train you to catch her eye…or ear, in this case,” Rosh chuckled.
The supportive sentiment quickly ended when Dezel put the mouthpiece of the winding brass instrument to his lips, vibrated, and sputtered out a few flat notes that made them realize that he was a lost cause. They still tried, finding that he was pursing his lips into the mouthpiece too much then too little and not using warm air or blowing from the belly.
“Sorey, this is hopeless,” Dezel muttered when he met with his conducting Shepherd for a lunch break. He had come back from working with Eguille and Rosh while the brunet had finished listening to Mikleo vent about Edna and her cursed triangle. “I need a different instrument.”
“We don’t really have anything else,” Sorey said apologetically. “And I guess you can’t fake playing it.”
“Goddammit, why did I have to pick this stupid thing?”
Rehearsal time came quickly. Everyone took their positions, and Zaveid gave Dezel a reassuring pat on the back. He was standing in the rear of the orchestra-slash-jazz band behind Rose and her glittering saxophone. Alisha, Mikleo, and Edna made up the tiny orchestra situated to Sorey’s left. Rose, Zaveid, and Dezel were to the right. Lailah was in front of the instruments with the microphone stand levelled with her mouth.
“Okay, we’re going to rock!” Sorey encouraged though he was still nervous. In fact, he somewhat wished he had Sergei to help him. “R-Right. A-one, two, three, four!”
It was a catastrophic cacophony that blew him back from the conductor’s podium. The tuning methods that he had taught them a few days ago had gone out the window. Each instrument fought with each other. It was then in that discordant atrocity that Dezel found love for his instrument.
He did it. He played one of those comedic trombone slides blaring over the rest of the group and knocking Rose in the head by accident. Such slides weren’t appreciated in orchestras and bands, and they were extremely not appreciated when someone got hit by a flying slide.
“Hey, Dezel, watch it!” Rose snapped at him. She gripped the back of her head as she turned to glare at him—not that he could see her—before she happened upon a sight she hadn’t seen in forever.
At first, it was a stifled giggle. Aiming the trombone down as he hunched over, he performed another full slide. That giggle evolved into a chuckle until he went on a sliding rampage with the trombone. He exploded with laughter, tearing up and holding his stomach from laughing so hard. He hadn’t even meant to hit Rose the first time, but here he was. Laughing at the first good sound coming out of him and at the idea that he had managed to extend the slide far enough to weaponize it.
“Yo, Dezel, you okay?” Zaveid asked him with a chortle himself.
“Aw, how cute! Dezel really can laugh!” Rose cooed.
“Guys, settle down! We have to rehearse!” Sorey pleaded with them. He himself couldn’t deny how much fun the prickly wind seraph was having, though. “Alright, we’ll take a break then. Even though we did absolutely nothing.” He left the podium in search of something.
“Rose…!” Dezel panted after calming down. “I’m so sorry…I didn’t mean to…b-but…I can’t stop laughing!”
Usually, he was shy and standoffish with her. With his new instrument and love for its battle cry, he rushed up to her like a child. He pushed the trombone into her hands. “D-Dezel…!” Rose gasped.
“You’ve got to try this! You hold it like this. Put your lips up to the mouthpiece like this,” Dezel instructed giddily; he was practically trembling with happiness. “Like this! Mmm—like that.”
“D-Dezel…t-this is like an indirect kiss…” Rose stammered. “Oh my god, we’re going to indirectly kiss,” she repeated under her breath, this time with a tinge of pink on her cheeks.
He held up the trombone for her, placed her hands, and mingled with her fingers so she could hold it up herself. He showed her how to do the slide, and waiting with anticipation, he faced her. He was beaming.
Rose, conflicted about going through with it despite the indirect kiss but also wanting to see more of this puppy-like Dezel, braced herself whatever euphoria the slide had given him. She vibrated her lips into the trombone and quickly moved her arm in then out and back in. As soon as she finished the slide, Dezel burst out laughing again.
“I’ve never seen him laugh so hard like that,” Mikleo said.
“I’ve never seen Dezel with any emotion other than rage,” Edna countered nonchalantly.
Sorey returned to his instrumentalists with new sheet music. “I found it!” he happily said.
“Found what?” Mikleo asked him. Everyone except for the two playing with the trombone gathered around.
“A song that’ll make Dezel happy. It’s called ‘Attack of the Trombones’. It’s, like, the only song that has a whole bunch of the slides he likes. I figured it would be a good motivator for him to become one with his instrument.”
“You mean we have to listen to him do this repeatedly?” Edna grumbled.
“Oh, don’t be like that, Edna,” Lailah lightly scolded.
“If it makes Dezel happy enough to practice, then I think it’s a good idea,” Alisha added.
The group of them looked over at Dezel and Rose. The one who was usually too angry and curt to show affection to the red-haired assassin was still ogling his newfound sound. Maybe it wasn’t so bad. They would just have to withstand it; after all, it wasn’t often they saw him like this, and Rose especially thought it was a gift from the gods to be able to witness this once-in-a-lifetime event.