Just Who The Hell Do You Think We Are?!
‘Have you ever heard of Quantum Physics?
About the Laws of Probability?
And String Theory and Infinite Universes?’
Mio tapped the end of her pen against her desk to an imaginary rhythm. Tapping away minute after minute as she sat staring at the paper of the notebook on her desk, still blank. Her mind was blank; no words or music beyond the tapping.
This was usually the moment when inspiration struck and she’d be up half the night writing down lyrics to her newest song for Afterschool Teatime to perform.
No inspiration came. Not tonight.
Mio leaned back in her chair, her long black hair cascading down towards the floor. Raising her hands above her head and joining her hands, she stretched herself out.
“There’s no use. If I can’t think of anything, then I might as well go to bed. No need to tire myself out for nothing.” Closing the notebook, Mio stood and grabbed her phone. She checked for any messages than she might have gotten while she’d been deep in thought.
“Nothing.” Mio closed her phone and made her way to bed, after turning off the light. “Tomorrow is another day. I’ll try again later.” Mio lay down for the night and drifted off to sleep.
Ui knocked on her big sister's bedroom door.
“Sis, it’s time to get up!” Opening the door and stepping inside, Ui smiled as she saw her sister sprawled out on her bed, the duvet haphazardly spread across her, along with her trusty Gitah laying beside her, Yui’s arms wrapped around it and holding it close. Yui merely grumbled and shifted in her bed, but did not wake.
“Come on Sis, we have school today!” Ui stayed in place, though she spoke louder now. Yui grabbed the duvet and pulled it over her head. “Okay, just five more minutes, okay? I’ll get breakfast ready!” Yui nodded slowly under the duvet, vaguely acknowledging what she heard. Ui smiled and headed out of her bedroom.
Walking into the kitchen, she began making up some breakfast for herself and her big sister. She glanced up at the clock.
“Five more minutes. Then an hour until we leave.” Ui nodded. She’d gotten used to their morning routine after all the years she’d been helping her sister. It was second nature to her as she prepared the food, began packing both of their bags and...normally Yui would be awake as soon as she smelled food, but Ui guessed she was just tired. She kept an eye on the clock to make sure to wake Yui up on time.
“Come on Sis, breakfast will be ready soon!” Yui finally sat up, albeit slowly. She turned to Ui with half-lidded eyes and serious bed hair.
“Morning Ui.” Yui said with a yawn as she stretched out. She turned to her sleeping companion. “Gitah! Good morning!” She wholeheartedly hugged the guitar. Ui smiled.
“Let’s go, Sis!”
Ritsu breathed on her hands, hoping to warm them in spite of the chilly winter air.
“Dammit, should’ve brought my gloves today.” She cursed herself as she rubbed her hands together. The cold was already beginning affect her as she struggled to move, the chill seeping into her body. “Hurry up Mio.” Looking up and down the street, Ritsu once again cursed herself. It was unusual for her to arrive at their meeting place before Mio.
“Ritsu!” A voice called out from down the street. Ritsu caught sight of Mio jogging along, her hair flowing against the wind. “Sorry to keep you waiting.” She said once she had caught her breath, white frosty clouds rising with each rush of warm air she let out.
“Let’s just hurry up before we’re late.” Ritsu stuffed her hands into her pockets as she began making her way towards school. Mio fell in step with her, though neither of them spoke for some time.
“Sorry, Ritsu.” Mio said after a while. Ritsu looked over at her as they walked along. “I stayed up later than I was supposed to last night.”
“Hah, it’s usually me apologising to you, Mio.” Ritsu said dryly.
“Yeah, well...I’ve been struggling to come up with lyrics recently.”
“Don’t push yourself too hard.” Mio looked over at Ritsu.
“Are you feeling alright, Ritsu? You don’t seem like yourself.” Mio said, concerned.
“What’re you talking about? I feel fine!” Ritsu leapt in front of Mio and walking backwards as she faced her. “Are you sure you were staying up to write, or were you worrying about gaining a few extra pounds recently?” Ritsu goaded with a smirk.
“W-what’re you talking about?!” Mio blushed.
“Now that you mention it, Mugi has been giving us lots of sweets; maybe it’s all going to your tummy!” Ritsu prodded Mio’s midriff.
“R-Ritsu!” Mio yelled as she smacked her friend upside the head.
“So, Jun-chan couldn’t make it today, huh?” Azusa asked as she took her seat in the classroom.
“No, apparently she contracted a cold and had to stay in bed today.” Ui said, standing next to Azusa’s desk.
“She was probably up all night reading manga or something stupid like that. She ought to be more careful.” Azusa said tiredly.
“How’s my sister doing in your club?” Ui asked suddenly.
“Huh? Yui-senpai...she’s just like always, I guess.”
“You haven’t noticed anything unusual about her?” Ui persisted, leaning closer to Azusa.
“Uh…” Azusa leaned away from her, feeling like Ui’s eyes were boring through her even when they were closed. “I suppose she’s been somewhat morose, but I chalked it up to the cold weather. That, and all this preparation they’re doing for their finals.” Azusa said, counting down on her fingers as she listed her thoughts.
Ui gave a strained smile.
“I guess you’re right.” With a wave Ui made her way to her own desk and sat down. Azusa let out a breath.
“She can be really scary when she wants to be.”
Yui walked into the classroom, seeing that Ritsu and Mio had already taken their seats.
“Hi guys!” She greeted as she walked past. They both waved back. Yui made her way to her own desk, though before she got there she saw Mugi talking with Nodaka.
“Nodaka-chan! Mugi-chan!” Yui said happily as she approached.
“Hello there Yui. I see you’re on time today.” Nodaka said, raising an eyebrow behind her glasses. Yui scratched the back of her neck.
“What were you guys talking about just now?” Mugi turned to Yui with stars in her eyes as she clasped her hands together.
“Nodaka was telling me all about this amazing idea; she says that other versions of ourselves in other places!” Mugi said enthusiastically. Yui was confused.
“Like another me in the next town?” Nodaka laughed.
“No Yui, it means that there could be infinite other versions of all of us in other dimensions.” Nodaka explained. “It’s called String Theory; some scientist suggest that every choice in the perceived universe spawns another, separate universe that the other possible choices play out in. That means there’s infinite universes that have developed in infinite different ways to our own!” Nodaka continued. Yui cocked her head.
“I’m still confused.” Nodaka sighed.
“You see, Yui, Quantum physics is based on perception; you’ve heard that old riddle of the tree falling in the forest with no-one around to hear it, right?” Yui nodded slowly. “Quantum mechanics is based around the idea that space does not become reality until it is perceived, and thus physics work differently until we observe--” Nodaka stopped when Mugi motioned for her to.
“Yui, what Nodaka means is that there are lots and lots of other yous and mes out in other dimensions! Sometimes things go well for us. Sometimes they go bad. Sometimes we don’t exist at all. But there’s more of all of us than we can count!” Mugi smiled broadly. “Isn’t that wonderful?!”
“I guess so…” Yui said hesitantly.
“Alright everyone, get to your seats!” Sawako ordered as she walked into the classroom. Mugi waved to Yui and Nodaka as she returned to her own desk.
“Hey Yui.” Nodaka turned back as she spoke. “I heard from Mugi that you guys have been preparing a new song. Do you mind if I stop by later and listen for a while?” Yui thought for a moment. It wasn’t everyday that Nodaka came to the clubroom.
“I’d like that, Nodaka-chan!”
“It’s no use. I can’t get this song down right.” Mio said as she stopped the rest of the group. Everyone seemed to be in low spirits.
“I told Nodaka that she could come by and watch us play. I want to show her our new song.” Yui said, with a hint of reticence.
“We don’t have a new song; Mio hasn’t come up with anything yet.” Ritsu spoke harshly.
“I’ve been trying!” Mio yelled back. “I’m the only one who comes up with songs around here!”
“But you’re never eager to practice them!” Azusa yelled suddenly. She realised what she’d done and clamped her hands over her mouth. “S-sorry.”
“It’s okay, Azusa-chan.” Mugi reassured.
“I don’t want to play anymore.” Ritsu hung her head. “Everything’s always the same.”
“You think our band is losing its flair?” Mio asked.
“We’re not as in sync as we used to be.” Yui said saddly.
“I feel like we’re losing what makes us...us.” Ritsu pulled out her hairband, letting her hair fall over her eyes.
“What do you mean Ritsu?” Mio turned to her friend.
“Think about it; I always watched those old concerts and I wanted to be just like Keith Moon, to be like all my idols. I play like they played. I copied their style.” Ritsu dropped her drumsticks and slumped on her stool.
“I’m the same. I’m just like every other guitarist.” Azusa spoke quietly. “I never felt like I had my own identity; I just played like everyone else and hoped the rest would fall into place.” Her hold on her guitar slackened as she hunched over, her eyes darkening.
“That’s what I’ve been feeling then.” Mio said solemnly. “I wanted to write my own songs, put my feelings down on paper then play and sing them. I wanted to express myself through music. But the more I looked at everyone else’s work, the more my lyrics became like theirs. There’s been less and less of me in my songs and more of other people. That’s why I’m struggling, and rightly so…” Mio placed her bass against the wall.
“Gitah...I bought it in a store.” Yui held her guitar away from herself. “There’s lots of other guitars out there just like it. It isn’t so special.” Yui threw the guitar onto the couch. “And neither am I. Everyone always knew it. I just had to realise it.” Yui said darkly, tears welling in her eyes. Turning towards the door, Yui started to make her way out. Ritsu and Mio followed after her.
“I always knew this was a mistake…” Azusa whispered as she placed her own guitar against the wall. Yui reached for the door handle.
“Hold it right there everyone!” The girls all looked towards Mugi, who was still behind her keyboard.
“I don’t need tea, or anything else from you Tsumugi!” Ritsu yelled. “I’m going h--”
“That’s enough Ritsu!” Mugi yelled forcefully. “We’re all staying here! We’re going to play for Nodaka! We’ll play our own way, like we always do!”
“You said it yourself Mugi; there’s lots of other us’s out there.” Yui spoke darkly. “We aren’t very special.” The others all nodded solemnly.
“You’re right Yui, there other versions of us out there. But aren’t us! When we play together, I only see and hear one Yui Hirasawa on lead! One Azusa Nakano on backup! One Mio Akiyama on bass! And only one Ritsu Tainaka on drums!” Mugi stepped away from her keyboard. “In this universe, in this reality, there’s only one of each of us, and there will only ever be one! That makes all of us special. Us, and the music we make!”
“But our sound is based on other people;s!” Ritsu countered. Mugi stomped her foot defiantly.
“Yes, but we take inspiration and make it our own! We make that music unique with our style! Just like how there’s only one of each of us in this world, there’s only one After School Tea Time and it’s music!” The girls all looked at one another. Mio stepped forward.
“Sorry Mugi, but I think you’re wrong about--” Mugi leapt forward and slapped Mio across the face.
“STOP!” She screamed at her friends. “You aren’t losing your touch or your style! Stop doubting yourselves, and just believe in what you can do!” Mio rubbed her cheek; she could feel her blood pumping now.
“Mugi, you--” Azusa was silenced as Mugi clenched her fist and yelled.
“You play because you believe you can, right?!” The girls stopped, then nodded. “Then all you need to do is believe!”
“Mugi…” Ritsu started.
“If you believe that there are an infinite number of yous in the multiverse, then they believe in you too! There are a billion Yuis, a billion Ritsus, a billion Mios, a billion Azusas; and there are a trillion, trillion, trillion Tsumugis who all beleive in you and what you can do!” Ritsu cocked her head in thought.
“I guess there would be.” She said quietly. Yui and Azusa agreed.
“Do you get it yet?! Do you understand what I’m telling you?!”
“Mugi…” The girl all said in unison. Mugi dramatically thrust her hand skyward, pointing to the heavens.
“Don’t believe in yourself! Don’t believe in me! Don’t believe in the me who believes in you!” Mugi clenched her fists as she screamed. “BELIEVE IN THE YOU THAT BELIEVES IN YOURSELF!” Mio snatched her bass from the ground and held it aloft.
“I believe in the trillion, trillion, trillion Mios that believe in ME!” She strummed her bass as she struck a pose. "Mine is the bass that will play to the heavens!"
The other girls all rushed back to their own instruments.
“We don’t just play other people’s music!” Yui yelled.
“We play more than our own music!” Azusa joined her.
“We play our very souls!” Ritsu roared from behind them.
Nodaka opened the door and stepped inside. “Hi guys, how’s the song coming alo--”