Chapter 33: Being first (A documentary)

“There are few that history can point to and definitively say that yes, this person has changed its course. Hatsuki is one of those few.”

– Shina, historian 4th degree, introduction to “This year’s notable figures” Issue 72.2

 

*

 

“We thought we knew everything about music therapy. But when Hatsuki came and started questioning everything, we realized what we knew was wrong was far from complete. Her work has opened up a new side of music therapy that we never would have known existed had it not been for Hatsuki.”

– Takahashi, Capitol Conservatory, Dean of the School of Music Therapy, nomination for annual achievement award

 

*

 

Hatsuki shrugged as she glanced away from the camera. “I just wanted to help people and do something I actually cared about.” There was a few seconds of silence and her mouth opened as if to say more, but the words seemed to stop in her chest. She shrugged again, a lopsided smile sliding helplessly across her lips.

 

*

 

“Back then, music therapy was undeniably the most uncreative pursuit we had because of that line of thinking.” Takahashi’s tone was matter-of-fact and his gaze unapologetic. “When you think you know everything, you become static and closed off. And the major thing we supposedly knew at the time was that Sirens and their magic had no place within music therapy.”

 

*

 

“Half-Sirens and Sirens who have a higher tolerance for the sun have actually existed for a long time now,” Shina said, the words rushing out eagerly, her spectacles bouncing as she spoke. “There are even phrases for them in the Siren language: mixed children, and sun-drawn.” She hummed two short melodies. “But in any case, it wasn’t until after the war that humans really began to about them because of the migration.”

 

“You see, particularly the Southern region, Siren villages took a lot of damage during the war. Some of these families migrated and joined other families, but many of the mixed children and sun-drawn moved on land. And they were very smart about it – they knew that to humans, wealth was power (still is today, really) and they brought up to the surface not only treasures, but also prized minerals that could only be found in the deep, by Sirens. So they amassed quite a bit of wealth very quickly and found themselves rubbing elbows with the members of the high class.”

 

Shina waggled her eyebrows, making her spectacles glint. “But if you know history, you should know where this is going. Those born into wealth don’t take very well to those who got their wealth through other means.”

 

*

 

Hatsuki set down her cup of tea and sat back in her chair. “Growing up, I had no idea what music therapy was, to be honest.” She folded her hands atop her lap, glancing down at her fingers as they laced and relaced themselves. “What I did know was limited by either what my parents told me or what I learned in school. There was a lot of school, but the one thing that was never covered was Siren magic. It wasn’t proper,” she said, her face twisting as she said the last words.

 

“But even if there had been any formal avenues to learn about Siren magic, we wouldn’t have had time for it. There was always some assignment due, a project to complete – or worse, an evaluation score that wasn’t high enough. It was always about being first. Especially as the oldest child. Standards are always higher, rules stricter.

 

“After a while, you just stop thinking, really. You just do what you’re told. Finish this homework. Write this paper. Be first in your class so you can get this job. Be first at your job so you can get this next job.”

 

Hatsuki shrugged, her palms upturned as they lifted for moment, before falling lifeless onto her lap. “Repeat until you die.”

 

*

 

“So that first generation didn’t have a great time,” Shina said, sitting back in her chair and adjusting the spectacles to sit back higher on her nose. “It was really hard for them to fit into high society. So a lot of them used their children to do what they couldn’t.

 

“And for the second generation, it was easier only because most of them looked more human, had never grown up in the water. Which is sad if you think about it – a mixed child who only knows half of their heritage? So much potential, just wasted.”

 

Shina sighed. “Who knows what other great advances we’ve missed out on for the sake of assimilation.”

 

*

 

The silence seemed to come from the blankness of Hatsuki’s gaze, a stillness trapped in a dark moment of time. She swallowed once, then cleared her throat, the sound sharp against the quiet. “I was at work when I found out,” Hatsuki said, her voice rough and slow. “I remember I was going to make a copy of this report and I got a message from one of my old classmates. She told me that Junichi had died. Suicide.” She paused, looking down at her hands. “I remember putting the report on top of the copier and I just walking out of the office.”

 

Another silence fell, but Hatsuki found the edge of it quickly. “I wasn’t close to Junichi – we didn’t even have any classes together. But I knew him. I knew his face, I knew his name. He’d walked the same halls as I did, same steps.” Her voice trailed off and her eyes grew distant. “It just … It made me question -” she took a deep breath, shook her head helplessly “- everything.”

 

*

 

“In any case,” Shina continued as she took off her spectacles to wipe them with a cloth, “Many of the second generation was pushed into specific careers, mostly those where they could prove themselves. For example, the long certification process for the medicine field, or the portfolio needed for the financial field.

 

“The first generation saw these as ‘status fields.’ But the second generation saw them as a prison.”

 

“So they did what any self-respecting inmate would do.” Shina tucked the cloth back into her pocket and placed the spectacles back on her nose. “They broke out.”

 

*

 

“I had been traveling aimlessly for almost a year by the time I got to Crescent Island.” Light had returned to Hatsuki’s eyes and her hands were wrapped loosely around the cup of water. “It was by chance too. My parents had of course cut me off so I survived by picking up odd jobs, usually delivering things to different islands. Medicine to Mist Island, a letter to Crossroads. One job had me delivering this antique tea set to a tea master in Crescent Island.”

 

A smile slowly spread across Hatsuki’s face as the memory replayed in her mind. “To be honest, I don’t remember the tea she made, what it looked like, how it tasted. The thing I do remember was falling off the stool when I realized she was using Siren magic to make tea.”

 

She chuckled and shook her head. “It was one cup of tea. But that changed everything. I realize there weren’t any rules around how we could use our magic. We could use it for anything.” Hatsuki leaned forward, eyes shining. “Food, of course, but all sorts of fields, from entertainment to the proper ones, architecture, engineering.”

 

“For me, I just kept coming back to helping people.” She smiled widely. “And with our magic, what better way to do that but through music?”

 

*

 

“I had been away on vacation when Hatsuki’s first paper had been published. It was the only time my assistant had ever called me outside of work.” Takahashi’s lips quirked slightly. “It was also the only time I had ever cut one of my vacation’s short.”

 

“I had worried that granting Hatsuki an appointment to the Conservatory so quickly would cause some backlash in the field. But everyone seemed to share the same sentiment: We needed Hatsuki to continue her research. And by ‘we’ it was not just those in music therapy, but every single person on this earth.”

 

*

 

“I mean, she has a methodology named after her!” Shina’s spectacles nearly came off of her nose. “She has ushered in a new wave of thinking not only about Siren magic, but also being a Siren in general. It’s an exciting time in history – even better because we’re living through it now.”

 

*

 

Hatsuki shook her head fervently. “New wave? I can’t take credit for that at all. I think it’s coincidence, really. I’m sure it’s that other mixed children like myself started to have similar realizations that we could use our magic in different ways than we had been taught.”

 

She shrugged and smiled. “And for the first time, I think we’re all actually excited about being first.”

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