“What a wonderful performance! As your best friend, I also feel proud.”
I was presently chatting with Lady Sara after being called to her room. We were in our pajamas. Lady Sara looked young without her makeup. Still, she was very adorable. Even after washing her hair, she maintained her loose ringlets. Were her ringlets a natural perm? A shocking truth, indeed.
“Sara is cute even without makeup on.”
“Is that a problem?”
Whenever Lady Sara’s cute side appeared, she would use these words. Her cute side came out now, and I didn’t feel her slight prickliness.
The two of us chatted while eating snacks. “Was this one of those famed ‘pajama parties’?!” was what I thought and grew excited. In the first place, I was wearing what I usually prepared for myself to sleep in, but calling it a “sleepwear party” sounded wrong.
At that moment, I heard a knock on Lady Sara’s door. Lord Souju and Lord Takaoka were there.
“Just as I thought. Sara’s monopolizing Rei! Getting a head-start is forbidden!”
“Hm, we’re having a girl’s talk. If Souju cross-dresses, then you are allowed to join in.”
The two looked like they were fighting, but they really were close to each other.
“Sara, if Lord Takaoka has accompanied Souju, this means that they’re here for a reason.”
It appeared that Lord Takaoka had received another lecture from Lord Takeru Hongou afterward. And, he would be staying here tonight at the Hongou residence.
“Grandfather, you see, told me to properly apologize to you, Rei. He told me that it was a hundred years too early for a reckless fool who put a girl in harm’s way to manage a company. But, I didn’t intend to visit you at this time, but Souju said he had some business with Sara, so I thought I would come too.”
Lord Takaoka wryly smiled.
“By no means! If Lord Takaoka hadn’t been present at that time, I couldn’t fend off that secretary from Sakurada Online. You could only be my savior.”
The minute the secretary saw Lord Takaoka’s business card, he turned pale and left in a panic. I wonder if the secretary couldn’t recognize Lord Takaoka’s face. Perhaps he hadn’t noticed because Lord Takaoka was dressed as a driver. Either way, the secretary was incompetent.
“Yes, this is also another one of my apologies.”
Lord Takaoka handed me a coupon for a beauty salon. Written on it was: 1000 yen, limited to the first visit. Shampoo, cut, and dry came in a set.
“Oh, my! This is quite the bargain! Thank you very much.”
If it was 1000 yen, it was within my budget. While I was deeply moved, Lord Souju stared at my hair.
“Rei, your hair is really beautiful. Soft and smooth. Even though you would look cute with it let down, those split ends. It really is a mess! So bad. You should really go to the beauty salon. I’ll make your reservation for tomorrow.”
Lord Souju said and looked at the coupon. Then, he turned to Lord Takaoka and frowned.
“…Well, whatever. This is the beauty salon Sara uses. Then, the two of you can go.”
For some reason, Lord Takaoka gave a strained smile.
“Let me in your pajama party. It sounds kinda interesting. Ah, right. Rei, tell me about Ms. Fuki.”
“I also want to hear!”
“Then, I guess I’ll join in.”
“Kaname, isn’t it kind of dangerous for you to join in with a bunch of high school girls in pajamas? You can’t say anything to Dr. Ichijou, eh, pervert?”
We talked about all sorts of things, but I spent the night telling the three about half of Ms. Fuki’s life.
I started from when Ms. Fuki met Lady Mary.
“Ms. Fuki became an orphan after the bombing of Tokyo.”
After the war, Ms. Fuki lived as a street urchin in Ueno. At that time, war orphans gathered there. Ms. Fuki slept with her fellow street urchins in the Ueno tunnels. Her head was full of lice, and her body was dark with dirt. She also had body lice and bedbugs. The unsanitary, foul-smelling children assembled as a group to protect themselves as much as they could.
“Was there no one who sheltered the people? That’s too terrible.”
“There were people, but they didn’t shelter them. Instead, they hunted down the street urchins. The occupying American soldiers ordered that something must be done about the dirty and unsightly street urchins. To purge the street urchins, the country decided to gather them in one place. Just as you would gather the garbage in one place, they boarded the children in trucks and sent them to a refuge center. The environment in the center was crude, and Ms. Fuki had said that living on the streets was far better.”
Ms. Fuki escaped from the refuge center, swearing that she wouldn’t be caught again.
She started living in the Ueno tunnels again and pickpocketed and stole to live. However, the world was cold to such an orphan. People spat and criticized her, claiming that because of the street urchins, the city became dirty and the public order worsened from all the delinquency. To the normal residents, the existence of the street urchins itself was an eyesore.
“How could they!? Such a thing to children working their hardest to live on past their parents’ death!”
Lady Sara was truly a gentle soul.
“Ms. Fuki said that the children without any support were treated lower than insects. I also slightly understand that feeling. The secretary from Sakurada Online had such an attitude the other day because I had no support. Right?”
At twelve years old, Ms. Fuki decided to sell her body. The Recreation and Amusement Association, or RAA for short, was dissolved, and it was around the time sex workers were called such derogatory terms like sl*t and wh*re. I believe that it was too cruel to the women trying to make an earnest living. Not only men but also women looked down on these ladies. By the way, the RAA was an establishment meant to supply the Americans with comfort women.
“Rei, you know something quite impressive.”
Lord Souju muttered in surprise.
“Ms. Fuki was beautiful. Even though her body was dirty with filth, only those who would notice had noticed.”
I had heard that Ms. Fuki was assaulted by men many times. Her friends saved her, but it was only a matter of time until her chastity was stolen. In fact, there were also street urchins who assaulted her. So, she decided that in that case, she might as well use her body to make money.
Ms. Fuki somehow managed to get her hands on soap and washed her face. She stood on the street corner in her dirty, torn clothes and with her head held high with her minimum pride she had left.
“At that time, Lady Mary was riding in the car when she discovered Ms. Fuki.”
Lady Mary stopped the car and ordered her personal attendant to call over Ms. Fuki. Ms. Fuki was terrified. She knew what was going to happen, but she was still scared. Nevertheless, she resolved herself.
Ms. Fuki walked straight up to Lady Mary.
Lady Mary lowered the car window and looked over Ms. Fuki.
“This girl is good. She’s beautiful. You, what’s your name?”
Mr. Sugiyama, the male personal attendant who seemed to work as a secretary, said in surprise to Lady Mary.
“Madam! She’s a street urchin?!”
“Be silent. You, tell me your name.”
Ms. Fuki had repeatedly told me about the events that day.
She said that Lady Mary looked like a goddess, shining as she appeared when the car window was lowered. Ms. Fuki often commented that such beautiful people didn’t exist, but I think that many do exist.
Whenever it concerned Lady Mary, Ms. Fuki would become biased and unable to make normal judgments.
“I am Fuki Yamada.”
“Good. Fuki, you are to become my maid.”
Ms. Fuki was shocked by this unexpected development.
“Sugiyama, be sure to train Fuki to be a maid who wouldn’t bring shame to the Kujouin family.”
Lady Mary only said that, closed the window, and had the car leave.
Mr. Sugiyama and Ms. Fuki headed for the Kujouin residence alone.
“This was the meeting between Ms. Fuki and Lady Mary.”
I drank my soft drink. It had been a while since I had a carbonated drink. The bubbles were delicious.
“That’s kinda heavy. You told it so indifferently, but I’m surprised.”
“It seemed to be an extremely difficult era for orphans who had no relatives. And, there were still children, who even though were adopted by relatives, were treated horribly. When I read Barefoot Gen which had a similar environment, courage and hope welled in me. It tends to be seen as an anti-war manga, but at heart, it’s about how children who lost their parents and suffered from radiation from the atomic bomb proactively and encouragingly grew and lived! The brave Gen. The angry Gen. The positive Gen. I absolutely recommend you to read it.”
I didn’t possess Gen’s strength nor his charisma, but I admired Gen.
I returned to Ms. Fuki’s story.
Ms. Fuki was adopted as a Kujouin servant, but she received the necessary education to serve as Lady Mary’s personal maid in the future. As such, it was arranged for her to do servant work while attending school. The school she attended was a private all-girls school and emphasized English studies.
Ms. Fuki learned many things while wearing a beautiful, foreign-made uniform when Japan was extremely poor. While she received strict teachings, it was nothing when compared to her time as a street urchin.
Three years after being adopted by the Kujouin family, Ms. Fuki moved to America with Lady Mary where Lady Mary resumed to professionally perform her music.
“She performed her music in America, right?”
“Yes. Since America was a prosperous nation. Lady Mary returned home after the war broke out in Europe, but the air bombing in Tokyo became severe, so she stayed in Karuizawa. That was where she gave birth to my father. Naturally, the nanny was left in charge of caring for my father as Lady Mary could only play the piano. Many residential foreigners and nobles stayed in Karuizawa, and I heard that even while the war intensified, they had occasionally held extravagant parties. While many Japanese people were poor and starving, they had supplies.”
Lady Mary experienced the end of the war without ever seeing the war in front of her. She looked back at that time as a sort of inconvenient period. That was her only impression concerning the war.
Now then, Lady Mary brought Ms. Fuki with her to America and enthusiastically performed her music. Ms. Fuki recalled and spoke with an entranced look of Lady Mary’s elegant yet bold behavior, her divine performance, and her nobility that no one in the victorious America could hold a candle to, as well as the amazing standing ovation Lady Mary received in Carnegie Hall.
And, just as Lady Mary was at her zenith, she was caught in a traffic accident. Fortunately, her life wasn’t in danger. However, her left wrist was injured, and it was difficult for her to continue as a professional pianist. She could still perform but not for too long. Her fingers became numb and hard to move.
If Lady Mary couldn’t have a perfect performance, then she said she would never perform in front of others ever again and returned home.
…Because Lady Mary performed in front of me, it was possible that she didn’t see me as a person since she never showed another performance to Ms. Fuki.