Author’s note: This story is a work of fiction.
Dinner, no, supper, was French. The apéritif was cider, but I refrained from drinking. I never drank alcohol, and more importantly, I was underaged. The formal start of the meal began with the amuse-bouche. I was too amazed by its beauty. The amuse-bouche before me was composed of smoked salmon arranged like a rose with caviar on top.
I put the dreamy piece of delicious food in my mouth. Oh, my! Caviar was delicious! It was rich and deep in flavor. When I ate at the salon café the other day, I couldn’t taste anything through all my nerves.
As we enjoyed the procession of dishes, Lady Sara’s and Lord Souju’s grandfather told me about my grandfather, Juuichirou Kujouin.
“Miss Reiko, your grandfather, Lord Juuichirou Kujouin was a truly wonderful man. A splendid person. If it wasn’t for him, Japan’s science and technology wouldn’t have advanced to today’s level.”
After the war, HONGO Pharmaceutical, once Hongou Pharmaceutical Research Institute, was under suspicion for supporting the Japanese Army by researching biological and chemical weapons. Naturally, there was no truth there. It was a false report given to steal everything from Hongou Pharmaceutical Research Institute.
The US Department of Defense Joint Chiefs of Staff had crafted a plan known as “Operation Overcast” where they brought excellent German scientists from Germany to America after the war, and a similar plan for Japanese scientists was enacted around this time. It was a worrying situation where the top researchers in the field of science and technology were taken outside the country.
Then, the one who played an active role was Juuichirou Kujouin. He used every connection he had with the West, threw away his funds, and protected Japanese science and technology. It was quite a difficult situation. In the beginning, Juuichirou Kujouin was someone who managed firms based in several locations in the West. While the Japanese people were called yellow monkeys, he was someone respected by the Caucasians. It may be because he held some level of nobility.
And, he was also one of those who opposed starting the war. While he was running around to do something about the Empire of Japan’s grave situation due to the ABCD encirclement, he learned the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. It appeared that he worked based on his assumption of what Japan would look like after the war. It can be said that you could see Juuichirou’s post-war activities through that lens.
Afterward, Juuichirou unceremoniously died from a stroke.
“I learned of Lord Juuichirou Kujouin’s substantial efforts several years before he passed away. He had helped so many without them realizing it. I couldn’t express my appreciation even if I wanted to. And, that was when I visited him.”
Lord Takeru Hongou looked into the distance.
“At that time, he lived in a house much smaller than this estate. His wife wasn’t present, and he lived quietly and modestly with several old servants.”
I might have inherited this poverty god from Grandfather. I wonder where Lady Mary was at that time.
“I couldn’t repay anything to Lord Juuichirou Kujouin. After he passed away, I offered to assist his wife, Lady Mary, but she was terribly offended, saying, ‘Who do you think you are?’ It was exactly that. I was ashamed for offering her food. What I shouldhave done was what Lord Juuichirou told me before he died, ‘Do your utmost for Japan.’ Just that.”
Ah, Lady Mary really was simply a prideful soul. She merely couldn’t allow charity towards her. This was by no means a moving tale. If Lord Takeru Hongou came from ordinary roots, she would say, “How dare someone as lowly as you talk to me!” She was that kind of person.
However, it would be in bad taste to hamper such a good mood. I continued to silently listen. When I checked Lady Sara’s and Lord Souju’s faces, they nodded.
“We heard this story when we were young. That’s why we have an extraordinary view of the Kujouin family. I was so delighted to meet you, Rei, the granddaughter of Lord Juuichirou Kujouin, who devoted himself to Japan even through poverty. You, yourself, are very wonderful, so I believed that we would definitely become friends!”
I see. That was why I was able to become close to Lady Sara and Lord Souju in such a short period. Grandfather in heaven, thank you very much!
“However, I didn’t know that you were living in such poverty, Rei. I am deeply sorry.”
Lord Takeru Hongou suddenly began calling me Rei.
“No, my lifestyle is because of my father. You need not pay it any mind. I’m not particularly troubled by it. I can live off the scholarship funds provided by the school.”
“No, that’s no good. You can’t stay in such a dangerous place! Because of Kaname, you might be attacked by Ryuuji Sakurada.”
“Hm? What are you talking about?”
Lord Souju explained the contents of the phone call Lord Takaoka had with his secretary today.
“What have you done?! What was the point of putting Rei in danger?!”
Lord Takeru Hongou was furious. Deep voices could be scary.
“I am fine. I will be in your care this weekend as a precaution. Besides, I think that Lord Takaoka will properly deal with the matter.”
“Dear, Rei is here in the Hongou residence now, so relax, okay? Even if you say such, there’s nothing else we can do. More importantly, I want to quickly hear the piano performance from Lady Mary Shirasagi’s only student and grandchild, Rei! I, I don’t think I can focus on my meal. It’s been such a long time since I was this excited.”
Lady Sara and Lord Souju’s grandmother, Lady Youko was in high spirits. To not pay attention to this delicious food before her eyes! This reaffirmed my feelings that the rich were different.
“I’m not sure if it will satisfy you, but please listen if you’re fine with my performance.”
“It’s like Lady Mary Shirasagi has come back to life!”
Please stop that!
After we finished eating dessert, we headed immediately to the salon with the piano.
The room most likely was designed based on acoustic engineering. The piano was a Bösendorfer Model 290 Imperial. I was excited.
“Ah, I’ve always wanted to try playing on one! This is the first time I’ve ever seen extra keys!”
Though impolite, I immediately sat in front of the keyboard.
And, to warm up my fingers, I played Hanon’s Scales and Arpeggios and Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier. The keyboard was different from the one I always used. I also played Chopin’s Etude. When I finally got a feel of the keys, I looked up to ask for everyone’s requests.
“Oh, my! It’s wonderful. So wonderful!”
Lady Youko was in tears. I collected myself a little.
“I apologize. I was too excited and went ahead with my warm-ups. Please inform me of which song you would like to listen to.”
“That was your warm-up?”
“Yes. I couldn’t help but want to play on such a dreamy and rare instrument right away, but as I was unaccustomed to these keys, I was more thorough with my warm-up.”
Lord Takeru Hongou and Lord Takaoka had a very surprised look on their face.
“Rei really can do anything. What a surprise!”
Lord Takaoka said and smiled. What a refreshing smile.
Speaking of what I could do, it was really only an amateurish performance and ordinary housework. I didn’t have a single skill that could make money.
That day’s list was full of Lady Youko’s requests. To end it off, I played Lord Takeru Hongou’s present to Lady Youko: Poulenc’s Improvisation No. 15 “Hommage à Edith Piaf”.
Lady Youko was so moved that her tears wouldn’t stop. It appeared that she was a highly sensitive soul.
“You are a magnificent pianist. I shall be your patron! No one has claimed that position yet, yes?”
“I neither attend a music school nor am I an apprentice under any teacher. I am just an amateur who has never even competed. To be able to just play on such a wonderful piano is enough for me.”
When I answered with such, Lady Youko looked like she wanted to say something but was stopped by Lord Takeru Hongou.
“Hm, modest like Lord Juuichirou Kujouin and noble like Lady Mary. Then, treat today as a job as a performer. Now, you are no longer an amateur. You are a professional pianist earning her own money.”
A professional pianist? Is that someone I can become just by announcing it? If I do make money, I guess I could be called professional. Do I have to file a tax report for this?
Ah, I don’t really know.
In any case, I was contracted to take this job as a pianist. My first job would be performing at the reception party happening next weekend at the Hongou’s Western-styled residence. My dress would be provided by the Hongou family. I was grateful.
Ah, my first job!
Once I receive my pay, I’ll go to Shiseido Parlor in Ginza! Just you wait, parfait!
If there is anything clearly wrong, I would be most fortunate if you inform me. （＾ω＾）
Operation Overcast did happen in reality, but it was aimed at ending the Pacific War. As such, there was no operation planned to have Japanese scientists come to America. ‘Tis fiction!
Please overlook the basic flaw in the setting of the story. （＾ω＾）