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When he received the text message that said only "i cant do it anymore", Akihiro had found himself rushing out of his house faster than he cared to admit. It was the late evening; his sister called to him as he left the house, but he barely answered her question. Where was he going? Even that was a question. He didn't pull out his phone again until he was nearly to the station; minutes remained until the next train. He sighed deeply, the alarm bells ringing in his mind heightening his sense of panic. If he tried to ring, was there any guarantee Shin would even answer...? Sending a message like that...

(What if he couldn't answer?)

(Akihiro tried to put that thought out of his mind.)

The season had turned cold. Akihiro thought on this as he rocked on his heels, holding the phone to his ear with cold hands. Should have brought gloves. Should have grabbed a scarf. Anything like that. Maybe it'd be warmer on the train? Depended on how many people he shared a carriage with. There was a click. The ringing stopped. He'd been answered.

"... Jinguuji."

"... N-Nishimura, you're..." Akihiro steeled his resolve, knowing it was never a good idea to display weakness too quickly with Shin. "... Where are you right now?"

"The Live House." Only as much information as was needed...

"I'll head over, shall I?" (Shin didn't need to know he was already on his way.)

"Why would you want to?"

Akihiro paused in an attempt to diffuse his frustration, "... Sending a message like that, and you don't think I'm going to get worried..."

There was a pause on the other end of the line, though Akihiro doubted it was for the same reason. When he spoke again, Shin sounded almost genuinely confused. "... Worried...?"

"I know what you're like."

"... Hm. Well, whatever. Come if you want. I'm not going anywhere."

The train was pulling up to the platform. Akihiro ended the call on that note, part of him hoping that Shin wouldn't be able to place his location from the tell-tale sounds around him. Maybe he already had. Maybe he just didn't care that much. Either way.

Trains to the centre of the city were always busier than the trains to the residential areas, but even then it wasn't difficult to find a seat. Makes a change, Akihiro thought.

He thought that, and he thought of Shin. Thought of that text message. Wondered why. Of course, this was the usual query to any of Shin's choices in behaviour; why? Why would you do that?... There was never any solid answer. It wasn't that Shin often behaved like this, but the occasions that he did were still too much for Akihiro's liking. He said a lot of things, but Akihiro never knew if he meant them. Never wanted to risk that bluff. There had been the time he'd brought that knife into school. Nothing had come of it, but Akihiro still thought back to then and would wonder what if--. With text messages like that Akihiro worried, but each worry was only the latest in a long line of constant worries and second-guessing. He rubbed a hand across his forehead as the recognisable scenery rushed by outside. Between here and the Live House was a small amount of time that couldn't be helped, necessary time taken to get to the promised destination. It was during those times that Akihiro couldn't help but think this all too much, somewhat. Just a little. A little too much. Things like this. He leant back to be able to look out of the window; the not-too-distant lights of the city centre came closer, closer. He looked back to the interior of the train carriage; about ten minutes left, now. At least there wasn't anybody recognisable from Seirei around. Nobody to notice him, bother him, ask where he was going. (Akihiro thought of Keigo, though knew it most likely he was either asleep by now, or doing homework in preparation for it. Sensible person that he was.)

The journey was quiet and uneventful, and the air seemed to hold the same sentiment as Akihiro stepped off at the appropriate platform. This was the main city stop, but he was the only one to get off. A few people milled quietly on, but as the train pulled off he found himself alone in the station. He pulled his coat around him and dug his hands into his pockets as he walked the familiar path across to where the Live House would eventually be.

He got in without much in the way of resistance. He was a familiar sight to most of the staff there now, though if pressed he knew that most of them wouldn't be able to say how or why. What was the reason for his constant visits? Akihiro wondered if, in his absence, Shin ever mentioned him. Probably not.

Beyond the main concert hall was a small network of corridors. Equipment lay abandoned for the night in the main backstage area, but Akihiro knew he wouldn't find Shin there. Down the second corridor, to the right-hand room with no windows. Akihiro didn't knock. Could you hear a knock from the other side of a soundproof room?

He opened the door and stood against the inside. The light inside the room seemed too harsh compared to that on the outside, but that room was either too bright or too dark, never anything inbetween. And Shin lay on the carpet and didn't look up when he heard the door (and Akihiro had no doubt that he'd heard the door in the first place). His guitar lay to one side, but all of the technical equipment around the walls of the room lay turned off and silent. Shin's breathing seemed measured, normal. Akihiro had seen him worse.

"... So what is it you can't do anymore, huh?"

Shin lay with his arms lightly crossed over his chest, one leg stretched out and the other with one foot pressed against the floor. He lay still but for the constant nervous twitch of one foot. There was a long silence before he spoke.

"Songs."

Akihiro frowned. Of all things, that seemed quite unexpected. "... Uh?"

"Can't write them anymore."

That seemed an awfully sudden decision to arrive at. Akihiro walked over to the middle of the room, but stopped a few feet away from Shin. He sat down, crossing his legs. "I doubt that very much."

"No, I mean it. I can't. I just can't. ...I've been trying."

Akihiro leant back on his hands, "Well, there's such thing as trying too hard. Maybe you're just going through a dry spell?" Shin didn't respond, so Akihiro continued. "... Is this about that concert coming up?"

"Not really. We've already worked out the tracklisting for that. It's already been decided."

"So you don't have to be writing new songs right now? Then, I don't know. Take a break? Give it a rest for a bit. Wait until you're not being pressured by the next big concert."

"And when would that be?"

He had a point, Akihiro could admit that much. Shin was, more often than not, to be found at the Live House. Synchro's concerts were not quite as regular as that, but rarely a month went by without a performance of some kind. When you were establishing yourself it helped to be prolific, after all.

"Well... yeah. But, I mean--... you don't gotta force yourself if you don't have to, that's all. New concert isn't demanding new songs? Then, that's fine. Just focus on what it is demanding. Get through that, move on to the next thing. Be calm about it. S'what I'd do."

"Would you?"

"... Well, maybe not..."

Shin laughed, but the sound contained no humour. "I haven't been forcing myself, though. That's the thing. I--... I'm not sure you could ever say that I forced myself, Jinguuji. That... seems to me like it would defeat the purpose of crafting a song."

"... I guess. I don't know much about that kinda thing."

This was true. Akihiro liked to listen to Shin's music, would marvel at his voice and command of instruments used, though he would rarely report these feelings to Shin himself. Any music was impressive, to think of it - after all, Akihiro would think, even if he didn't like the lyrics or tune or style, there was still the basic fact that somebody had made that song. Somebody had composed it, somebody had written the lyrics, somehow all of the separate elements had been put together and somehow, it had been transformed into a neat, polished burst of creativity that he could hear on the radio, put on his MP3 player, listen to on the school run, whatever he felt like. Akihiro didn't really feel like a creative person himself, but that just made these things all the more impressive. Which part of Shin was it that summoned up these lyrics, that formed these sounds, that grasped the concept of what it all meant? He didn't know, and knew that he had no way of knowing. That was fine. That was just how things were.

"... Hey, Jinguuji."

"Mm?"

"What does--... what do you suppose a song means...?"

"What a song 'means'...? I don't know, whatever it was meant to mean, I guess. Like. Whatever the writer wanted it to mean?"

This answer didn't seem to satisfy Shin, "... Mmn. Then, rather--... how are those feelings put across, do you think?"

"Why are you asking me...?!"

"Curious."

Akihiro scratched at the back of his neck, unable to predict the flow of this conversation. "I really don't know, Nishimura. You're the singer, isn't this your area?"

"You'd really think so, wouldn't you?... Maybe because that's the case, I feel like I know less on the subject than even you might..."

"I don't know, that's a pretty big claim to state."

The twitch of Shin's foot slowed. He rocked that one foot from side-to-side, instead. "... I really don't know, Jinguuji. The meaning of a song... I can put whatever intent I wish into the lyrics, but in the end, isn't the feeling taken home afterwards completely dependent on who listens?"

"I guess so."

"... I'm not sure I can cope with that level of ambiguity."

"Then you picked the wrong profession."

Another one of those just slightly bitter laughs, "... Maybe."

"So because of that, you can't write anymore?"

Another silence. "... I don't know if it's specifically because of that, but... it's... been something I've felt for a long time. Something that's been building." A small sigh. "... I don't--... feel the need to write songs."

"Well, nobody needs to write songs, do they? Just like nobody needs to write books or make films or whatever. I guess if you look at it like that, nobody really needs to do anything, do they? Still nice when they do, though."

Shin continued as if Akihiro hadn't said anything, "... You've said it before, haven't you? That my songs seem to 'have a lot of feeling' in them. You talk about my voice like that, like there's some specific quality that makes it easier for me to express feeling like that. ...I don't know about that, but maybe the first thing there is right. Maybe I do put a lot of feeling into my music. Maybe sometimes too much... but then, that's--... that's fine, don't you think? For there to be some kind of 'feeling' in a song...?"

"Better than there being no feeling, I guess?"

"Exactly." That seemed to be the point that Shin was trying to make. "... Exactly. You're right, Jinguuji. How would one be able to express a feeling if they felt that feeling no longer existed?"

"... You're asking the wrong person for that."

Shin closed his eyes. "I don't feel the need to write songs. I don't feel the need. I don't feel I want to. There's no specific feeling I want to put across, nothing I want to express." He opened his eyes again. "For somebody who wishes to make their living from such a thing, isn't that a pitiful situation to find yourself in...?"

"I still think if you just rested a bit it'd come back naturally. I mean, we are third-year students now, yeah? Lots of work to be done. Teachers won't shut up about university. I'm finding it hard enough, and I'm not the one fronting a band in my ever-diminishing spare time. I don't know, but I think if anyone's got an appropriate time to feel stressed out, then you do now. Yeah? Don't need to get all down on yourself about it."

Shin smiled one of those small, strange smiles that Akihiro didn't know how to interpret. "... You're very accommodating, Jinguuji."

"Don't know about that. Just glad I didn't come here to find you trying to kill yourself again."

"I could do that, too."

Wrong subject to bring up. "... D-don't. Don't, Nishimura."

"I didn't say I was going to. Just that I could, that's all."

"You shouldn't joke about shit like that. Gives people the wrong impression."

"And what impression are you getting makes you think I'm joking?" Akihiro didn't respond to that, though Shin held the silence for long enough in case he wanted to. After enough time passed that he considered Akihiro not taking the bait, he continued on a different path. "... Renji wants me to write a song with him."

"Renji--... oh." However many times Shin said that, Akihiro could never quite get used to it. Being able to talk about a teacher like that... oh, if only the other students knew, how many would be jealous...? Of course, there was a lot going on that the other students were in no way aware of, and Akihiro couldn't help but feel jealous of them in turn for that. How many of the students around them even knew Enami-sensei's first name? None that would dare call him it to his face, at least. And then here was Shin, saying such a thing like it didn't matter. Perhaps, to him, it didn't. Enami-sensei just was Renji, to him. "... You don't want to?"

A light shrug. "I don't know. It's not--... it's not not wanting to, just... I'm not sure I can, that's all. He's... very enthusiastic about the idea. Keeps trying to set a time for us to think about it. Keeps suggesting things we could write about. Looks like he's already started stringing notes together."

"Well... that's good, isn't it? The more the merrier, all of that."

"... Maybe. I'm just not sure I could write anything with him, that's all."

For all the time that Akihiro knew Enami and Shin spent together, hearing something like that was quite surprising. Wasn't that how their friendship came about in the first place? When he wasn't being a teacher, Enami was a keen keyboard player and could often be found performing at the Live House, albeit at times quite unsociable for students. It seemed that Enami had long since been some kind of friend to the Nishimura family, and when it was discovered that the youngest Nishimura son had an affinity for musical talents, it seemed natural for them to try to develop this together.

"I thought you two got on really well..." (More than that, not that Akihiro liked to think of it.)

"It's nothing to do with that. Just... his music. The way he writes. I don't... think I can match my own experience to his. I think the kind of thing he would wish to express is very different to what I would wish to express."

"I'm sure he realises that."

"... That's true. He probably does."

Another silence. Akihiro couldn't really think of anything to reply to this with - the whole conversation was one he found quite hard to keep up with. Shin's talents were Shin's talents, but he didn't pretend to know how any of it worked. If there were any piece of advice to offer then Akihiro would have offered it, but he knew that this was in no way his area of expertise.

Abruptly, Shin pushed himself up into a seated position. He moved around on the carpet until he faced Akihiro, pulling his knees to his chest and staring across intently. "... You're not like this, are you?"

"Hm? Like what?"

"You don't get this kind of frustration."

"I... guess not? Never got into any of the artsy subjects."

The expression on Shin's face almost seemed pained. "... Isn't that unbearable, though?"

"Not really?"

"You don't ever feel that kind of need bursting out of you...? You don't--... you don't ever have some kind of feeling that you want - need - to express...?"

A shrug. "Not like that, I guess. That's more your area. I don't really get it."

"Hmm... I don't really understand that, either. How can you not...?"

"I think we'll just have to agree to disagree on that one."

Shin looked to the side, "... But, I suppose I can't really talk. Even I haven't felt that, recently. Which in itself becomes its own feeling... I suppose. But how could I put that to music, do you think?"

"Still more your area than mine."

Shin then picked himself up, reaching down to pick up his guitar. He looked it over, turning it in his hands. He picked against one chord, and a deep note buzzed in the air for a lingering moment. "I'm not feeling what it takes for me to wish to write songs."

The way he looked at Akihiro afterwards made it feel like it was somehow his fault. "... W-what're you looking at me like that for?! What do you want me to do about it?"

For a moment, Shin seemed to consider this seriously. He looked back down to the guitar, "... I can't reasonably expect anything of you, I suppose. ...Maybe that's the problem." He went over to a bench at the side of the room, where his black guitar case lay open. He gently placed his guitar into it, zipping it closed and hoisting it over his shoulder. He looked to Akihiro with a slightly faltering expression, "... I don't have any dramatic revelations for you, Jinguuji. I'm just... blocked, I suppose. Like what I want is on one side, I'm on the other, and I can't reach out to it no matter what... but, you didn't need to come here tonight."

Akihiro stared evenly up at Shin. "You sounded like you were going to kill yourself."

"... Sorry. I just... I don't know. I don't really have any excuse. That was just the kind of message I felt like sending, so I sent it. I... suppose I didn't really think about how it could be misconstrued..."

Akihiro stood up himself, brushing himself down. "You never do, that's the problem." He watched as Shin walked to the door. He stood there for a moment with his hand on the doorhandle, but made no move to open it. He stared down for a moment, then looking up towards Akihiro.

"... I want to be--... feeling something."

This wasn't anything new. "... I know."

"Can you... help me with that...?"

"I can try."

"Hm. ...That'll have to do." Shin's tone lacked the sharp edge it could have done with such a statement. "... We should go. They'll want to be locking up here, soon."

"--... Ah, yeah. You're right."

Shin held the door open, and Akihiro followed him out of the building. They walked in silence to the train station, though Akihiro didn't find the silence particularly uncomfortable. There was a brief word of parting when it came to their different platforms (Shin would be taking the northbound train to the upper residential district, Akihiro's home was closer on the southern line) and then that was it, and would probably be it until their next meeting during school hours. If, of course, Shin was awake at any point during the days upcoming. He did have a concert coming up, after all.

The ride home was quieter than the one into the city had been, and even Akihiro's home street seemed that degree stiller for the advancing hours. No lights seemed to be on from his house; maybe even his mother had gone to bed by that point. Yukari definitely would have done. He tried his best to be as quiet as possible as he let himself in and made his way up to his bedroom, then jumping in shock at the comparatively loud sound of his mobile phone going off once more. At this time of night he always felt some misgiving for any communication, and seeing that it was from Shin didn't assuage Akihiro from his fears. He opened the message.

"sorry for worrying you.
sleep well."

Akihiro smiled as he set his phone to silent. Apparently even Shin felt guilty, sometimes.