“Please excuse me for asking, but what business do you have here? What exactly is the matter?”
No matter how dirt poor I was, I had no intention of letting someone lacking the minimum etiquette into my home. Mr. Hayashida had an unexpected look on.
“Well, that’s fine. This matter is regarding the consolation money for the light interaction President Sakurada’s daughter, Lady Yuria Sakurada, had with you. Even though she only accidentally bumped into you, you get to receive consolation. Good for you, Ms. Kujouin.”
“Oh my. That’s very considerate of you. But, since it was only a scratch, there is no need for concern. Please convey to Lady Yuria Sakurada’s parents that I have accepted their apology.”
I attempted to enter my house after ending the encounter there. The job of the driver, Mr. Takaoka, lasted only until he confirmed that I had made it home safely. He was standing beside the car, watching the situation unfold.
“I cannot do that. I came all the way here on the president’s orders.”
Mr. Hayashida glared at me with an irritated look. I wished he didn’t think I would be complacent just because I was poor. The moment I opened my mouth to send the men away, Mr. Takaoka came in between us.
“Mr. Hayashida, was it? May I have your business card? Pardon me, but this is who I am.”
Mr. Takaoka pulled out a business card from his jacket pocket. Mr. Hayashida looked at it, and his complexion changed.
“My name is Hayashida. I’m the secretary for Ryuuji Sakurada, the CEO of Sakurada Online Ltd.”
He said and courteously handed his business card to Mr. Takaoka. Mr. Takaoka looked at the card and snorted.
“Please withdraw for today. Not only have you visited a lady’s home without an appointment, but you also tried to enter it. I cannot overlook these facts. I intend to respond accordingly regarding this matter. Now, hurry up and leave!”
Mr. Hayashida and his men turned pale, bowed their heads, and quickly left. Who exactly was Mr. Takaoka?
“Mr. Takaoka, thank you very much for your help.”
“I don’t think they’ll come back a second time, but please do be careful.”
“Um, if you want, I can prepare some tea for you?”
As Mr. Takaoka scratched his head, he muttered softly in defeat.
“That’s not good. You cannot easily allow a man into your home.”
“Was it something like that?”
“It was exactly like that.”
Mr. Takaoka confirmed that Mr. Hayashida and his men had left the premises and returned home. Mr. Takaoka might be an ally of justice. Being a driver was only a disguise. This was somewhat fantastic.
I opened the badly-fitted door once again.
But, my key was a stylish ward key. Hehe, wait, no matter how you look at it, it was a key from the Showa era.
Following after yesterday, today was also full of unexpected happenings.
And, I hadn’t noticed until now that I couldn’t live together with Ms. Fuki, I couldn’t contact her, and I really was very sad and lonely. Just yesterday, I was acting composed even though I was had no relatives left. I was deceiving myself.
Because Ms. Fuki would be happy living with her son’s family, I know that I should give her my blessings. And, in actuality, I was happy for her since she would be spending the rest of her life in peace with her family, no longer pulled here and there by Lady Mary.
Above all, this was what Ms. Fuki wanted.
I really wanted to see Ms. Fuki again. Even just once. I could probably uncover her current whereabouts if I spent some time searching.
But, I wasn’t qualified to see her.
Ms. Fuki had retired from being Lady Mary’s maid and married once in the past, but after her divorce, she returned to work under Lady Mary. For many years, Ms. Fuki received alimony from her ex-husband every month. When her ex-husband passed away, Ms. Fuki met with her son who had been separated from her, and since then, the son was the one sending money to her.
I didn’t know that. I didn’t know Ms. Fuki was married. I didn’t know she had a son. Lady Mary and I lived off her money. From her son’s point of view, we were parasites, and even though Lady Mary was a parasite, she treated Ms. Fuki like a servant. This was a very unforgivable act. Twice a year, Lady Mary would call a famous piano tuner to tune her piano. And, the cost of Lady Mary’s funeral was handled through Ms. Fuki’s savings and held at the closest church. Lady Mary wasn’t a devout Christian at all. Still, it appeared that God had not abandoned her. That was what the priest said. God accepted everyone.
I took off my uniform and changed into pajamas. My plain clothes were only jerseys and T-shirts. Because my jerseys were from my middle school days, I had two sets for upper and lower. When Lady Mary was still alive, I often wore my uniform even inside the house. I had to be properly dressed at all times. When sleeping, I had to wear sleepwear. It was something I made by sewing together thick hand towels. I learned Japanese dressmaking from Ms. Fuki, so I believe I was on the average side of things. I also used an old, worn-out yukata as my sleepwear.
As long as I had my uniform, I was fine for most of the time. Anything went during ceremonial occasions. I wanted to hide my feet when I performed on the piano, but since I only had my uniform, I ended up playing in my uniform.
I began preparations for dinner. I had the leftover steamed bamboo shoots, miso soup, rice, and pickled vegetables. For protein, I had small, marinated horse mackerels. Small horse mackerels were exceedingly cheap! How delightful. However, Ms. Fuki had told me before that they tasted sour. She informed me that I shouldn’t stand in line and buy something cheap. I still stand by that advice to this day.
Now then, just when I was about to eat my dinner, a phone call came. It wasn’t from the rotary-dial phone but my smartphone.
“This is Kujouin.”
As my heart pounded, I picked up the smartphone. This was the first time I ever had a conversation through a smartphone. I thought it was wonderful to be able to have a phone call through this small box.
“I heard what happened from Takaoka. He said that someone from Sakurada Online came to visit you. See, everything’s not alright. It’s dangerous out there. I think you should hurry up and leave. It’s too dangerous for you to live alone in such a place.”
“Even if you suddenly tell me so, it is not a simple matter.”
“I did a bit of research, but scholarship students can stay for free in the rented dormitory. Is the reason you’re staying there the piano?”
It wasn’t the piano. I was hoping that Ms. Fuki might return.
“It’s not the piano, right? Then, could it be because of ‘Ms. Fuki’?”
“Even though the phone, you can understand what I’m thinking?!”
Lord Souju said in an excited voice and laughed. Then, he switched to a serious tone.
“Can you tell me about Ms. Fuki? We want to help you.”
“But, Ms. Fuki herself wanted to return to her family. And, her family doesn’t want to allow me to meet her.”
“Hey, Ms. Fuki is someone important to you, right? I want you to tell me what kind of life she had. I want to share the memories you have of her. That way, I can help lessen your loneliness.”
When Lord Souju said that, the voice coming from the phone changed.
“Rei, I heard what happened! How dare you, Sakurada family! I will never forgive you!”
“Sara, please calm down. Mr. Takaoka helped me. He truly is a great man.”
“Brother Kaname is certainly wonderful.”
“Sara, I heard that. That’s a penalty. Since the punishment game lasts until the end of the day, there are still four and a half hours left.”
“This is a state of emergency though!”
“Still, rules are rules.”
The two were having a conversation on the other side, but what was happening?
“Takaoka will tell you about it tomorrow.”
When I was about to talk, the call ended. Then, I took a bite of my cold dinner. Yeah, the small horse mackerels were the correct move! How delicious. Next time, I’ll make steamed bamboo shoots.
Tomorrow was Saturday, so there were no classes. The past two days have been quite dense with events. Particularly, it was the start of my friendship with Lady Sara and Lord Souju. That was a wonderful happening.
As I finished my meal and cleaned up, I absentmindedly wondered what kind of company Sakura Online Ltd. was. After my bath and cup of hot water, I looked up the company on my smartphone.
Sakurada Online Ltd.
Founder: Ryuuji Sakurada
Established in 1999.
Listed in 2000.
Ryuuji Sakurada was an IT entrepreneur known as part of the 76thgeneration. A darling of the early days of Internet shopping. Sakurada Online operates Online Shop Go! The site is a veteran in the Internet shopping field.
Online Shop Go! was a name I knew. There was a leak of customer information last year, resulting in a huge problem. So, the daughter of the president was Lady Yuria Sakurada, huh.
At any rate, smartphones were truly a wonder! Usually, I would have to go to the Hanaoka library the next day to search on their computers.
The OS on those computers was Windows Me. Since it was donated by the townsfolk, it couldn’t be helped. The browser was so old that many websites couldn’t be displayed. And, the security was spread so thin that calling it fragile wouldn’t do it justice. But, since I didn’t own a computer, there was nothing else I could use.
To begin with, the librarian in the Hanaoka library was an ordinary person. They weren’t exactly a volunteer. They were a public servant in Hanaoka. You could become a public servant in this town through connections. Though, there still was a test in name only. Additionally, the library’s budget didn’t go to books but appeared to disappear somewhere else. This was information I received from Mr. Tanaka of the Mossad. This was certainly information, but I wonder what kind of information network he had.
However, several times a year, books in good condition or expensive books would be donated by anonymous Samaritans, so I gratefully borrowed them. The very expensive books couldn’t be lent out, so I read them on the library’s premises.
By the way, manga and such were donated by the townsfolk. And since there were also CD players, I could also appreciate music on those CDs.
I loved the library. There, no one could bother me. I could listen to music. I could look at books of paintings and photobooks. They taught me that the world was vast.
For example, even though the computers and music area were shoved into the corner of a three tatami-mat room, if I shut my eyes and listen to the music, I wasn’t in Hanaoka anymore. I wasn’t even in Japan but in some foreign country.
Now then, I also spent today fulfilled by the smartphone. That’s right. I also watched and listened to Tiësto today! EDM is the best! Aah~ At any rate, I didn’t know that Marshmello was such a handsome man. It really was a wonderful mask!
As I was enjoying the video, I received a message from Lord Souju.
‘Can I come over to play tomorrow?’
This was the first message I received. I quickly replied.
‘Yes, it’s fine. What time will you be arriving?’
I had perfected the flick input. Fufufu.
‘I shall prepare some lunch.’
‘Rice balls are good.’
Just how much did he like rice balls? Well, if it just rice balls, I can make as many as he wanted.
‘I understand. Will Sara also be coming?’
‘Sara can’t come.’
There was an incoming call on my phone. It was from Sara.
“I’m also going!”
The two appeared to be fighting over the phone, but it was fine as long as they were having fun.
It’s wonderful having friends.