Debussy Saves the Day Again
Truthfully, Che didn’t know why he’d been studying as hard as he’d been.
At any point, Yokan could show his face again and obliterate the entire school. In fact, Che had been all but certain Yokan would make an appearance as he and Tyson rode the maglev cab to Legaros Tower that morning, zooming past the craters and singed earth left behind from the explosions.
Thankfully, the destruction seemed to be concentrated in grassy areas, as no actual buildings had been disturbed during last night’s attack. Still, Yokan had no reason to hide himself any longer. He’d been spotted twice at this point, and security was only going to get tighter.
Che had seen no sign of Reagan or Vista, and he couldn’t believe he actually wanted to hear their goofy speech so early in the morning. Yet, as Che had repeatedly told himslef, they were just like Tyson, confused teens caught up in a situation that was way more dangerous than they realized. If only he could convince them that working with Yokan wasn’t worth it in the end.
If only he could tell them that the real Rowan was probably dead.
Professor Avis, without question, suspected him and had likely been monitoring his and Lorenzo’s conversations since they first snuck into the conference room. She also likely knew that they’d watched the recording she’d sent to Pauldron base, which meant at minimum she knew they’d snuck out of the dorms at night to watch it.
Yet, during class, Professor Avis wasn’t any more severe than she usually was. She called on students she was certain wouldn’t know the answer to her questions while ignoring Che completely. Besides Lorenzo’s absence, nothing seemed out of place on the surface, which made Che bristle. Where was Lorenzo, and what was he up to now?
He tried to stop Nikki after class, but she’d already slipped away before he had a chance to call out to her. He sighed. Why couldn’t she just tell him what was going on? What was in the restricted area that was so important that everyone had to know about it except him?
With each passing moment, Che considered forgoing classes altogether to focus on another way to inside the Marbot Research Facility. He’d been playing the role of a student long enough. There were so many more lives at stake now. He needed to get to the bottom of everything and soon.
So, when he found himself just outside of the rehearsal hall for his choir class, he wasn’t sure if it was even worth stepping into. He was just about to turn around when he noticed Bella standing off to the side, looking glum.
As if sensing his presence, she quickly turned around, eyes widening as she realized it was him.
“Oh, it’s just you,” she muttered, her voice laced with disappointment.
Che sighed. Well, at least she didn’t seem too shaken up by everything. “Yup, just me. You going inside?”
“I was…” Bella bit her lip as if debating something. “I was waiting for you, to be honest.”
Che’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Me? Why me?”
Bella placed her hands on her hips. “You can’t be serious! Our promise? Did you already forget?”
Che blinked, realization dawning on him. So, she remembered their conversation from the other day. Che wanted to smile but knew she’d probably change her mind if he did. Besides, maybe this explained her behavior back then, when she wouldn’t talk to anyone. It seemed like she’d finally worked something out and was back to her usual self.
Che supposed he could attend just one more class.
“Oh, that’s right!” Che responded, his voice light. “So, it’s going to be today? What piece are you performing?”
Bella smirked, tossing one of her pigtails behind her. “I picked a Debussy piece, just like you. I decided on ‘Clair de lune.'”
Che nodded in silent approval. Of course, this was clearly Bella’s attempt at one-upping him, but he figured she’d do much better with this piece than the Mozart one she attempted before. He also wondered why she chose “Clair de lune” in particular, given its melancholic and contemplative nature.
The poem the piece was based on was about an individual who was trying to find himself under the moonlight. He created elaborate fantasies in his mind, of masked figures dancing underneath a sad and beautiful moon. It was one of the most well-known pieces of music in existence, and it was also one of Che’s favorites.
“What made you decide on Debussy?” Che had to ask.
Bella cocked her head to one side, her expression thoughtful. “I guess I was feeling a little… introspective.”
Che smiled. He had a feeling that Bella might actually put her heart and soul into this piece. He couldn’t wait to witness it.
“Let’s go,” he motioned towards the entrance of the rehearsal hall. Bella huffed and rolled her eyes, but she followed him into the rehearsal space nonetheless.
Though quite a few students were missing, from what Che could tell, there were still enough people to make up healthy amounts of each vocal section. He strolled over to the rest of the baritones who were conversing amongst themselves.
He was just about to take out his choral book when Professor Nine glided into the room in her usual fashion. After launching into her characteristic melisma, she took a moment to regard everyone in the room.
“My, my…” she sighed. “We’re down quite a few voices, aren’t we?”
Che heard the other students murmuring in agreement. Professor Nine’s eyes met his, and she smiled.
“Ah, Mr. Rowan, I had you in mind this morning!” she sighed, her voice gentle. “The piece you performed the other day dazzled us! Would you like to take the stage again today?”
Che shook his head. “I’d be delighted, but I believe there may be others who’d like to go first today.”
Professor Nine chuckled. “Very well then! Who will be the first to perform?”
Bella stepped forward, her face an expression of determination. “I’d like to go first. I’m performing ‘Clair de lune.'”
The professor nodded, smiling as if she knew something the others didn’t. She motioned towards the front of the piano, and Bella quickly moved to hand her the sheet music. Professor Nine unfurled her robe as she sat at the piano, looking over the piece carefully.
“I feel this will be very inspired,” she winked at Che as her hands hovered above the piano’s keys.
As before, the room was filled with an anticipatory silence before Debussy’s characteristic melodies flowed through the room. When it came time for Bella to sing, Che watched as she raised her left hand as if gesturing for the music to swell.
Instantly, her voice echoed through the room, perfectly in tune with the accompaniment. Her performance was filled with emotion, and it seemed to grab hold of everyone in the room.
Even Che found himself transfixed as Bella sang with a passion that seemed to come from somewhere otherwordly. This wasn’t how she’d sounded the other day, and this was nothing like Che’s performance, grounded in the toils of humanity. No. This was ethereal, something that could only be witnessed, not imagined.
When the piece had finished, Bella stood silent as applause filled the room. Professor Nine rose to her feet, a proud smile playing on her lips.
“Well done!” she exclaimed. “That was truly magnificent!”
Bella smiled, her cheeks turning a light shade of pink. Che couldn’t help but grin at the sight. He was proud of her, and he was sure she’d remember this moment for years to come.
Bella looked up at Che, who gave her another approving nod. He could have sworn he saw the corner of her mouth twitch ever so slightly, but she quickly turned away before rushing back to her spot on the bleachers. Che chuckled as he shook his head, but he knew that was as much of a “Thank you” as he was going to get. Besides, he didn’t need to hear her say it.
Like the poem her piece was inspired by, Che knew what it was like to wear a mask, to have to pretend to be happy while surrounded by beauty and the fantastical.
Still, eventually, there always came a time where people had to break the mask and reveal their true selves. Maybe, with Bella’s performance today, she’d chosen to do just that. Perhaps, mask or not, Che could still make a difference even though it all seemed pointless.
Perhaps he wasn’t ready to give up on Legaros Academy just yet.