disclaimer: aside from the four members of "High Anxiety" and the haiku separating chapter sections, none of the characters, songs and concepts written here are mine and I intend to make no profit from them.

introduction: This is a follow-up to that little vignette I wrote down some time back called "Second Smartest Only?", and it still revolves around Tachibana Ryujin, his friends, his music, and these small incidents.

Just read on and see if you like it.

Chapter One - Past

First of all, it had been difficult to track all four of them down; and when I managed to track down Kenji, he told me their story. When I found Ryou, he told me exactly the same story Kenji did. Serge... wasn't much of a talker about those things, but he did tell me about his friend Ryujin.

Much to my surprise, the formerly-taciturn leader of "High Anxiety" was enthusiastic when I had told him that his other three band mates ("not 'former', because technically, we haven't actually split," Ryujin reminded me) said their stories.

Well, this was his side of the story, which unlike the other three, pointed the way to the mysterious voice who had sung her way through several of the group's work.

...We started with four.

Through it all, there were four of us.

That young lady? Yeah, she was part of us but NOT part of us, you get my drift? No, she's not an outsider, she's a dear friend of ours, and we all love her very much.

But her misanthropy makes Tachibana-san look like a Care Bear.

...I like your imagery.

Thanks.

Anyway, where were we? So yeah, you asked us why we started playing music? Many reasons, but I guess the first reason was that we wanted to entertain ourselves.

Yeah, even if we did regularly win the school's band competition, we'd give the prize to the runner-up. We never really cared about competing, winning, or losing. Just being on that stage was reward enough.

I mean, take a look at the three of them.

Serge and I met up with Otohime Kenji when we went looking for a bassist - an hour had barely gone by after I put up the poster in the Music Room's bulletin board when this average-looking guy knocks and asks if auditions were held that day.

...Yeah, he brought out an antique double bass. Said his grandfather had been an exchange student or something, joined something called a "rondalla", and left him that bass as his legacy.

But do you know what the weird part was? The old man expected him to wreck the damn thing learning how to play it. True enough, it was at that audition for our then-nameless band that the old bass gave up the ghost and fell apart.

We got him a new bass and discovered that the old man was right - this guy had a good ear for music, and after a few sessions we got him on board.

Now, Sarutobi Ryou, he liked to hit things.

And he liked to hit things because he hated how he looked.

His parents looked ordinary.

He, unfortunately, had the (mis)fortune of having the right genetic mix to look like a textbook bishounen ripped straight from the pages of your run-of-the-mill shoujo manga.

Even worse, his complexion had that strange quality that when hit by light at a particular angle, he would SPARKLE.

The guy who first had the gall to call him Edward is now a quadriplegic.

That was when he gained the nickname "Purple Monster", way back in junior high.

Anyway, last year in juniors, a resourceful teacher pointed him towards their school's unused and rather rusted drum kit and had him clean it. An hour later, he returned to see the kid discovering his rhythm on the pedals and the sticks for the very first time... and he never looked back afterwards.

...he still has to deal with the fangirls, worn panties, swooning, and other things regularly, though.

And Serge Oaks... though that is a curious case.

Ask him why he plays the guitar and he - while still being tactful despite his annoyance - will correct you: he thinks of Tachibana Ryujin-san as the guitar player. Serge is the AXE-WIELDER.

Ask him once more why he took upon the divine duty of axe-wielding, and he will tell you with the straightest of faces that his guardian saved the galaxy and many other known worlds by powering up a laser gun with his skill with a guitar.

Enough about that, the real truth is that Serge originally didn't have any aptitude for music whatsoever. When he saw his guardian play and tried to imitate it, he failed and failed spectacularly.

Right there and then, Serge made it his life's goal to do damn near everything so he'd be as good as - if not better than - his guardian.

And this was the one and probably only thing Serge Oaks took pride in: nobody worked as hard as he did.

Rehearsals for four hours? He'd do six with a smile on his face. Basic lessons? He'd take them on and then head off to chord progressions, plucking techniques, even stuff from that "rondalla". The works. It even got to the point where he'd come to school with his fingertips bandaged from all the practice, playing, plucking, and scales.

Serge Oaks didn't HAVE the genius to play the guitar, but he sure as hell made up for it with lots and lots of hard work - his pride and joy was that all these were done with what Edison defined "genius" to be.

And Ryujin?

Tachibana Ryujin did it for no other reason than "it seemed like a good idea at the time", way back when they won that little GF/DM tournament hitting every note and singing along to "Genesis of Aquarion" - Serge didn't even know his friend had a falsetto that made Justin Hawkins sound like James Earl Jones (he was exaggerating at the time, my voice isn't that high - Ryujin).

Now Kenji, THAT was a falsetto. He even had that death-metal lowbrow scream to go with it. Complementing that was Ryo's booming baritone and growling bass - out of place for someone who had that little sparkle, eh?

Serge didn't sing because he wanted all his concentration focused on his gui-er, axe-wielding.

Which Ryujin didn't mind - after all, he went to have his voice checked and they found out he was middle-range in spite of the extremes he could put his voice through... that and he wasn't that bad with a guitar, too.

After that meeting at the club room and heading towards that Internet shop for some beers and a disastrous round of online gaming, High Anxiety was born.

\ holy shit ownage \ defense of the ancients all stars \ triple kill rampage \

From the outset, High Anxiety wasn't your run-of-the-mill band.

They had spent barely 4 months together as a group when they cut a little ten-track album and discreetly released it onto the indie scene.

Viral marketing got them written onto an international rock magazine who couldn't play "pin-the-genre-tail-on-the-donkey-band", and settled for "punk", as most of Anxiety's work revolved around a riff or two.

That article didn't actually get them loads of album sales, and they didn't care. The fact that they made it onto a rock magazine (with a 4-star rating to boot) was accomplishment enough. (Actually, the real reason they couldn't sell albums because there were none, the indie scene had devoured their first release. International fans had to make do with downloading them.) With the album came the promotional gigs during the weekends, which meant leaving Friday classes a bit early to rehearse then drag their still-sleepy and exhausted forms to school Monday morning.

They did however gain a whole new respect for the album-making process after this was done, but the clubs they'd go to often asked for covers.

That wasn't a problem with them, covers were the songs they knew better. It was only after someone specifically requested their song from their album that they decided to include those songs in their rehearsals too...

When playing in other schools' "Battle of the Bands" contests (they were one of the guest bands), Serge often warmed up by playing four chords, and the band followed suit. As he went through the notes, Serge felt his band mates were actually performing to his pace, and by the time he actually noticed, everyone was shouting "MASTER!" along to the final chorus. That would be one of the band's best ways to start off any gig, not that most of the audience knew what "chop your breakfast on a mirror" really meant, and the band gladly kept it that way.

When the end of the year came, the band cut another album: "Let Them Eat Cake!" a scathing critique on current gender roles with more deadpan humor than they thought they themsevles had.

True to form, word of mouth got them onto that same magazine again, who called them a "comedy band", much to the band's collective amusement.

The holidays were busy with gigs and promotions (or lack thereof), and a little something called "viral marketing" got them a small fanbase: Kenji and Ryou loved the attention while Serge and Ryujin were indifferent to it. This was the time when Serge had a wonderful idea about their next album.

\ wind gathering \ leaves shivering silently \ the winter's embrace \

"We've just about run out of unique riffs," Serge observed after another session meant to put together more original ideas went down the drain.

"'Out of riffs' does not mean 'out of ideas'," Ryujin replied.

"What ideas? We don't have anything we can call original anymore," Kenji said.

"Everyone's gone with all OUR ideas," Ryou added.

"They were not OUR ideas, Ryujin explained, "and why are we so concerned with their ideas? Let's put our spin on their ideas, that way, we'll have our mark on 'em."

Serge got a glimmer in his eye, the sign of a seed of an idea being planted in his mind.

"All right," Ryou said. "So if we go with this, how would we personalize something that belongs to someone else already?"

"Ryou, we have been doing that way before 'Facts'," Kenji answered his friend and band mate. "Remember the covers we've been doing?"

"That's it!" Serge finally said, jumping up as the idea fully formed. "Let's make an album diary." At his fellow band mates' quizzical stares, Serge continued. "We record most of the stuff that happens in between songs, right? During sessions and rehearsals? That way we can get to show everyone why we like the songs we put here." He handed each of his band mates a sheet of paper. "Write down the two songs we've played live that you like most and why."

A full ten minutes had passed before each of them turned in their answers.

Kenji wrote down "Ready Steady Go!" by l'arc-en-ciel... (-Why? -Dude, we dressed up like Cheering Squads. If that wasn't the awesomest of awesome outfits, what is?) ...and "happily ever after" by Nakagawa Shouko. (-Don't tell us why you picked that one out, you'd just end up spouting drill-related manly speeches again. -Aww...)

Ryou chose "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred... (-okay, you just officially melted my brain. -It's technically our best work. -Technically? -yeah, if you look at the way we performed it then... -I was on a ridiculous bender then, right? -You didn't want to remember it, Serge. -Figures.) ...and Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love". (We couldn't do the choir from Bohemian. Yeah, that's true, but this is really good too. Loved your Elvis impersonation there, Ryujin. -Of course, he's the King.)

Serge's picks were "Cliffs of Dover" by Eric Johnson... (Not "Master of Puppets"? -Sick of it. That song is for warming up only.) and Bon Jovi's "Love For Sale". (laughter)

Ryujin chose a medley of two songs: Coldplay's "Trouble" and Keane's "Everybody's Changing". (-Cool choice, bro. -That was inspired. -Yeah, because you guys didn't know up to that point that I could play the piano. -You should have picked "I Don't Like Mondays". -Yeah, I could have, but this is fine, too.

Right around the time they were finalizing the album, Tachibana Ryujin found out that in between rehearsals, recording, school, and other tasks, his end-of-academic-year grades came in: holy smoke, #1 in all private schools; #2 in Japan?

The end of the academic year then came, and with it the awarding ceremony. That was when the little intermission number with Ryujin and the pint-sized surprise (who ended up beating Ryujin by a hundredth of a point) ended up stealing everyone's hearts...

...Serge got it all on tape.

This was going into the album whether Ryujin wanted to or not - it was just too cute to leave out.

(A/N: See the story "Second Smartest Only?" for the whole thing.)

And thus, "Extemporaneous Spontaneity" came to be, and none of them realized just how big a hit it was going to be.

The international magazine had called it "a genius of subtlety, heart, and soul".

Everything changed after that...

...well, that had actually started this whole mess. Serge already had plans for the next album, but had to put them on hold as we were selected to join a contest to find out which high school band was the best in Japan.

...and we were disqualified.

Kenji and Ryou tried to plead for our case saying that we had never really expected to sell that much or sigh a revolutionary deal with a record company that took care of every possibility: downloads, sales, the works.

It didn't work, and I really didn't mind what had happened, but the time we spent on rehearsing for this contest's pieces disappointed me greatly. Anyway, some group named "After School Tea Time" had won the contest by default, and we were just about to pack up and go, when...

...I overheard another emergency taking place in the dressing room opposite ours. John McClane comes to mind: why does this crap keep happening to us?

author's notes:
omg. a cliffhanger. if you know your stories, you know what will happen next. how I'll pull it off will be the big surprise. and no, I haven't quit on Arcane Heart yet, as the preliminary battles are giving me more writer's block than I can conceive. that and Freestyle Philippines is closing shop on march 2 - a sad end of an era.

please rate and review if you found this story great/good/meh/bad/awful/(other, please specify).