In the end, we couldn't have a film appreciation viewing the day before the party.
I was too focused on the piano that they couldn't call out to me, resulting in the viewing being canceled.
"I'm sorry, Sara."
"Please do not mind. Let's have a film appreciation viewing another time. Until then, let us both think of the ones we would like to see."
Right, today was the day of the party. It appeared that the authorities of various circles would attend tonight when the party starts. As such, some artists will also come in hopes of having those authorities become their patrons. But, I'll keep my thoughts on how this was like a giant marriage interview a secret.
I had makeup put on and my hair done. My Bellini dress used deep navy cloth and detailed embroidery. My hair was in a half-up hairstyle. I felt like I looked like a princess straight out of a manga.
I was nervous, but this nervousness felt pleasant. Even I knew how excited I was. I wonder if Lady Mary also felt like this back when she performed professionally. I played on the piano before the party started. As usual, I played Hanon, Czerny, and Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier. This was my routine.
I was really looking forward to this. I think I might like the piano more than I had originally thought I did.
I waited in a separate room until it was my turn. I decided halfway to play Goldberg's variation and would be playing the request of the organizer of the party, Lady Youko, first.
The sounds of people's voices gradually increased. The party had started. A short time later, I left the room I was waiting in and entered through the saloon acting as the main hall. A crowd of men and women of all ages dressed in gorgeous outfits were there with Lord Takeru Hongou and Lady Youko at the center.
"Here is one of today's main stars, Lady Reiko Kujouin. She is the sole disciple of the genius pianist Lady Mary Shirasagi as well as the grandchild of Lady Mary and Lord Juuichirou Kujouin. Please enjoy her wonderful performance. She will first be playing Liszt's 'La campanella' as per my request."
I stood in front of the piano and gave a formal bow. Lady Mary also drilled this bow into me. Even now, I recall how her bamboo ruler hit my back…whether I liked it or not. It was a bitter memory.
Next, I sat in the seat, closed my eyes, and focused my attention on my fingers. Then, I opened my eyes and placed my fingers on the keys. I exhaled and began my performance. I intended to play as I usually would, but in the end, I played exactly according to Lady Mary's instructions. No matter what I may have said, I did like Lady Mary's performances. Although, she hated them.
When I finished playing, I received a large round of applause. Everyone probably enjoyed the piece. As expected, there was no problem with Lady Youko's choice. I didn't continue to play, and the party continued. I was arranged to play later. I would accept requests for pieces that I could play.
After my performance, Lady Sara and Lord Souju came over. Other people also gathered around me, but the twins protected me and prevented those people from getting too close.
Thank you very much, Lady Sara and Lord Souju!
"Rei, that was a wonderful performance!"
Lady Sara smiled and complimented me. It seemed that I did very well in my performance. In that case, I was also delighted. As I giggled and chatted with the two of them, Lady Youko also came over.
"Rei, that was amazing! It's the second coming of Lady Mary Shirasagi!"
Please stop! I would hate it too much if you call it the second coming of Lady Mary!
Next, Lady Youko began to introduce me to the people next to her.
"This is Lord Shuuichi Shiroyama, Lady Anna, and their son Madoka. They are a family of musicians. Are you also aware of them?"
I apologize. I did not know them. I couldn't say and vaguely tried to play it off, but Lord Souju noticed.
"Mr. Shuuichi is a pianist, Mrs. Anna is a vocalist, and Mihail is also a pianist."
Lord Souju informed me of such. I couldn't believe that a professional pianist was attending the party! I wonder what he thought of my performance.
"It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Reiko Kujouin."
I wanted to hear a professional's impression and waited in anticipation. This was probably conveyed to him. The pianist Sir Shuuichi opened his mouth first.
"You are surely a genius to give such a performance at your age. You can only be a genius! I had asked Lady Hongou just now if the phantom pianist, Madame Mary Shirasagi had passed away. I'm terribly sorry for your loss. Under whom are you currently studying?"
Being told I was a genius made me embarrassed. I felt my cheeks growing hot. I was sure they were bright red now.
"There is presently no one teaching me."
"Is that so? But, it was truly wonderful. As a doting parent, I believe my son possesses superb technique. Just the other day, he won first prize at an international competition… Mihail, a terrifying rival has appeared. No, you must become her rival."
I didn't know how to answer. Seeing me troubled, Lady Sara informed me about Lord Mihail.
"Rei, Lord Mihail Madoka Shiroyama is a second year student at our school."
Speaking of Lord Mihail Madoka Shiroyama, he was another capture target, right?! I had now met all the capture targets. Lord Shiroyama was a tall, handsome, half-Japanese boy. He glared at me from above.
"I won't lose to you. I'll definitely win."
I was annoyed by that declaration. What did Lord Shiroyama think piano and music were?
"…Music is not a contest. I do not believe that there exists a performance accepted by all. However, I do believe that there are performances that can be rejected by 99 people yet move just 1. In short, it is a matter of preferences. If there is to be a contest, then it wouldn't be with me but with yourself."
"Ms. Reiko, you are a true artist. Madoka, you must polish your sound."
Lord Shiroyama's mother, Lady Anna, told him. The father called his son Mihail while the mother called him Madoka. This was probably the result of each of their upbringings. How strange.
"I definitely won't lose to you!"
"Madoka! Mind your manners!"
What was with this Lord Shiroyama?! The capture targets in Lady Yuria Sakurada's otome game were all far from normal. Lord Shiroyama left just like that.
"I apologize for my son. He's normally calm and carefree, but it seems that after meeting a pianist of the same age as him who played better than him, a competitive flame must have sparked in him for the first time in his life. I am immensely happy that a desire as a musician has grown in him, but what he did was rude to you. So, please forgive my son."
What a kind-hearted father. A far cry from my trash among trash father.
"Please do not worry about that. You acknowledged me as a pianist. That is a great honor."
I said that, and the Shiroyama couple relaxed. They were a truly good pair of parents.
"Rei, you're the type to normally not rock the boat, but that's not the case when it involves pianos, huh."
It was just as Lord Souju pointed out. I grew passionate whenever matters involved the piano for some reason. Even I didn't know why.
"You're making a face even I've never seen."
Lord Souju was a satori!
"I'm not a satori."
"Sou, you can see through everything."
Lord Souju broadly grinned.
"At any rate, Lord Shiroyama had always had a blank face on. To think he could act like that. I was surprised."
"Sara, is it true that Lord Shiroyama usually has a blank face on?"
That person with such passionate eyes? I couldn't believe it.
"It's true, Rei. That's why he didn't seem to mind Yuria Sakurada following him around in the salon. Or rather, he always seems indifferent no matter who it was. His face makes him seem like he has music constantly playing in his head."
Ah, that was right. Lady Yuria Shiroyama was with Lord Katsuragi in the salon along with his friends Lord Shiroyama and Lord Madenokouji. This was what Lady Sara informed me before.
"Could it be that Lady Yuria Sakurada saw the heroine as an obstacle? By pairing the heroine with Lord Takanashi, who wasn't a salon member, she was intending to make the other capture targets her own."
"Rei, you're asking about that now?"
"That's right. That girl had always been acting upon that intention."
I was taken aback. If that was the truth, then what a frivolous girl she was.
I realized for the first time the definitive difference between Lady Yuria Sakurada and Lady Mary. Her delusions were a projection of her desire. The world according to her was convenient for her.
I now regretted treating her delusions the same way I did with Lady Mary.
"Rei, will you perform for us again? Next will not be a request from me but my husband."
Lady Youko called out to me, and I sat in front of the piano again. Lord Takeru Hongou's request was Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 23, also known as Appassionata. It appeared that he enjoyed Beethoven just like Lord Souju. I steadied my breathing and focused. Then, I began my performance. I felt the pleasant tension and the uplifting feeling. Only the sounds from the piano entered my ears. The world was only the piano and me.
After my performance, I received another large round of applause. I truly felt good! I felt like I understood a little of how Lady Mary must have felt when she performed as a pianist.
"With this, you're an overnight star, Rei. You will receive job requests, but I would like you to leave the selection to Youko. There'll be groups who will try to take advantage of you. You want to be independent, right? So, I want to respect that feeling. We won't become excessively involved. We’ll be sincere like Lord Juuichirou Kujouin and noble like Lady Mary."
When Lord Takeru Hongou said that, Lady Youko nodded with a smile.
"I'll be your point of contact. I'll make sure that none of them directly contact you and will securely control your personal information so none gets leaked."
I earned my own money!
Moreover, it was through a piano performance. I might be able to make a living through this until I become an adult. Even if I decide to leave this school, I can attend any other high school and still live. How truly delightful. Now, I could return the smartphone to Lord Souju and make my own contract. Though, how much was a smartphone again?
Afterward, I played BGM on the piano. I played Goldberg's variation. It was calming and beautiful. I was engulfed in the tranquil sounds of the piano.
Even though I was performing this piece as a form of BGM, a crowd gathered around after I finished. Lord Takaoka was among them.
"Lord Takaoka! You were in attendance?"
I was a little delighted and called out to him. Lord Takaoka smiled in response. As I wiped the piano keys to prepare for the next song, numerous people told me they wanted to take a picture with me. Lord Takaoka saw that I was in trouble and rescued me.
"Lord Takaoka, you always save me when I'm in need. You're like a knight in shining armor. Thank you very much."
"You're welcome. Then, as thanks, will you be willing to take a picture with me after this?"
"Of course! Can I also get a copy of the picture?"
"I'll send you the data."
I barely had any photographs of myself. That was why I was genuinely delighted. There was a cameraman present at the party this time and they had also taken pictures of me, but I thought they were more for records than for personal use.
“That’s not good! I get to have a two-shot with Rei first. We have yet to take a picture together!"
"Sara, you will take a picture with me? Then, since we're both wearing beautiful dresses, I want to take one while I'm still wearing this."
"Naturally! Brother Kaname, make sure you take plenty."
He took plenty of pictures for us. Halfway through, Lord Souju joined, and all three were in the pictures. In the end, I only had one photo with just Lord Takaoka and myself.
I also had a photo together with Lord Takeru Hongou and Lady Youko taken by the professional cameraman. It appeared to be a necessity for my future jobs, and my performance was also recorded on video. I hadn't noticed at all!
That night, many photos were sent to my phone when I went to look at it. Lady Sara was cute! Lord Souju was cool!
A smartphone was so convenient! As I thought that, I finally investigated the cost of a smartphone. I felt faint. This was bad. I really should return the smartphone!