"I see. But I was hoping we could start playing," Sayo said.
"Sure." Tae put down her album of bunny shapes, and picked up her guitar. "Did you practice what I showed you, Sayo-senpai?" she asked as she was setting up her amp.
"Of course," Sayo replied while getting her own equipment ready. She practised every day regardless, as long as nothing got in the way, and incorporating what Tae had suggested hadn't been a huge shift. Her way of phrasing could be a bit esoteric, but she clearly knew what she was talking about. You just had to ask the right questions. Sayo's experiences with Hina came in handy for understanding how to communicate with Tae.
"One, two, three, four," Tae counted up, then started playing.
Sayo waited for her cue, then joined in. As per her goal of requesting these lessons, she paid attention to Tae. It was like her personality changed while she was playing. Normally you could call her a bit strange, and she seemed a bit lost in her own way of viewing the world. You could perhaps go so far as to call her an airhead. But once she picked up the guitar she became very focused. It had seemed a strange thought at first, but Sayo had concluded that the best way to describe Tae when playing was that she looked cool.
Do I look like that? Sayo wondered. She had several times been told she looked cool while she played, but she hadn't really paid any mind to what that could actually mean. Yet having these practice sessions with Tae had made the concept make more sense. The girl looked... was really cool with the guitar.
It was still a little strange to be there in the first place, but Sayo thought she had made the right choice. A while back she had felt that her road to becoming a better guitarist had hit a dead end. After reflecting on how much she had grown as a person, and how that had happened, she had decided she needed to broaden her horizons. There was only so much she could do all on her own. Even if her goal was to discover her own sound, she had decided it couldn't hurt to look to others for inspiration. And the most logical place to start was looking at the other nearby guitarists.
Each of them had their own sound. Hina possessed an energy that none could match. Kaoru had a style that inspired happiness. Moca and Ran shared a passion that worked in harmony. Kasumi was brimming with heart. And Tae was filled with soul. By comparison Sayo's own playing sounded hollow to herself.
While watching the other bands' performances, Sayo had come to the realisation that Tae was probably the best of them. It had been a little hard to detect at first, since the rest of her band wasn't at quite the same level, and her playing fit in well with them. But once she had noticed it, it had felt clear as day to Sayo that Tae's skill was a step above everyone else. Not just in her own band, but in all five. Sayo had felt like she might gain a better understanding of it if she got to see Tae play on her own, so the next logical step had been to ask her for lessons. She had expected to be met with some confusion, or be asked why, but she had gotten a very simple response:
Tae didn't brag, or show off. Her playing was simply confident, skilled, and... cool.
Even though her thoughts wandered, Sayo's fingers kept up. She wasn't quite there yet, but it felt like she was approaching something. That there was something lurking out there for her to discover. The top of a hill to reach to see a spectacular new view. She just had to keep playing, to keep having these sessions to find it. With Tae. But their current session had to eventually come to an end.
"Hanazono-san, would you like to go get something to eat?" Sayo asked. "I want to repay you for all this."
"Yes," Tae said immediately, though she didn't rush putting away her guitar. She clearly cared a lot for her instrument. "I'd like hamburg steak," she said a moment later.
"That shouldn't be a problem," Sayo said. It wasn't like she spent a ton of money on other things, so she should be able to afford that.
"With extra fries."
"Alright." Sayo smiled. That gave her an excuse to get the same without looking weird. She had noticed that Tae seemed to have quite an appetite in general. "Maybe I should bring some homemade snacks next time," she said after packing up her own guitar.
Tae let out a small gasp, then suddenly grabbed Sayo's hand. "You can make snacks?" she asked, her eyes twinkling.
"Uh... y-yes," Sayo said. For some reason she was starting to feel flustered.
"Sayo-senpai. Would you like to marry into this household?" Tae asked next.
"W-what?" Sayo thought she must have heard that wrong.
"My mother is a good cook, but she's not so good at snacks," Tae said. "We could use someone like you." There was no indication that she was joking. In fact, she was oddly intense. "You can have any partner you want. Even Oddie."
Sayo was lost for words. She had been introduced to Oddie, but that didn't make the situation any less bizarre. Rather the opposite. Then a mischievous thought snuck up on her. "And... e-even you?" she asked.
"Even me," Tae answered with a confident nod.
"I... I'll think about it," Sayo said. Wait, why did I say that? The question loomed over her, yet she didn't feel inclined to try to take it back.
"Good." Tae seemed satisfied for now. "Shall we go?"
Sayo hefted the guitar onto her back. "Yes, let's," she said.
Tae didn't let go of her hand as they walked out, and Sayo didn't ask her to. She didn't mind.