The next morning, I decided to return the smartphone to Lord Souju before I returned home. Goodbye, smartphone. Thank you, smartphone. I will never forget you, my friend!
After partaking in breakfast, I was called over by Lady Youko and handed one million yen for yesterday's performance. She explained to me that this was the standard fee for a performance, but what exactly should I do with this large sum? This was two month's worth of expenses.
Ah, but with this, I can return the smartphone to Lord Souju and pay for my rent! I can even sign a contract for a cheap smartphone! But, I didn't want to ask the lawyer Mr. Tamaru to be my guarantor.
A poor person couldn't get rich too quickly. It would go over their head. I mean, I hadn't ever thought about getting a contract for my own smartphone until yesterday.
After I left Lady Youko's room, I hurried to see Lord Souju. He was currently in his own room. I hope I wasn't going to disturb him. I knocked on the door.
"Sou, it's Reiko. Do you have time now?"
Lord Souju opened the door and let me inside. Lord Souju's room was extremely simple, but a bunch of monitors were lined up. Were that many necessary? He only had two eyes. This was strange.
Lord Souju prompted me to take a seat on the sofa and called a servant on the phone to bring some tea. The sofa was a simple one from Herman Miller. It suited his image.
"What's up, Rei?"
"Um, I decided to return your smartphone."
When I said that, Lord Souju's face immediately turned sour.
"You can't. It’s a means of crime prevention. If something were to happen to you, I would be immediately contacted. Grandfather would regret it if you were to get hurt. Even though he had been constantly saying that he wants to return the favor to Lord Juuichirou Kujouin, I don't know what he would do if he exposed the man's granddaughter to danger."
I wondered what he would do.
"I appreciate the sentiment, but escorting me to and from school is already enough. I feel sorry for having you even lend me a smartphone."
"Hmm. Then, just pay for the phone bill. That smartphone is specially made. Keep it on you for your safety."
"Just the phone bill is fine?"
"Truthfully, I don't want you to pay the phone bill. But, you're a stubborn person. Even though you can just be spoiled by me."
The servant knocked on the door and brought in some coffee. And macaroons!
"Fufufu. Then, I'll be spoiled and enjoy some macaroons!"
Lord Souju watched me be a glutton and showed a beautiful and gentle smile. Being bathed in sunlight, he looked very picturesque.
…Ah, he was so cool. So handsome.
"Hey, Rei. That's unfair."
Lord Souju's ears were bright red as he said that. It appeared that my inner thoughts came out. How embarrassing!
"You really can't be like that with anyone else but me, you hear! Well, you can with Sara though. But not with Kaname!"
"Yes. I'll strive to prevent my inner thoughts from escaping my mind."
My mouth really didn't work properly. How frustrating.
"Then, there you have it. Just pay the phone bill."
We decided that I would pay the monthly phone bill for the borrowed smartphone. We made a simple contract.
"What are you going to do for the rest of the day?"
"I think I'll go to Shiseido Parlor before going home."
"Ah, the one that Ms. Fuki went to when she was younger?"
"Are you going by yourself?"
That was right. I wanted to treat Lady Sara, Lord Souju, and Lord Takaoka to thank them for everything so far. And, I also wanted to buy a present for Comrade Yoshio and the landlady.
Thus, I decided to invite Lady Sara and Lord Souju to come with me to Shiseido Parlor. Unfortunately, this clashed with Lord Takaoka's schedule. We headed for the Shiseido Parlor in Ginza. The two stood out greatly. They were a beautiful pair of twins. I felt like a third wheel.
This was the first time in my life that I've ever treated someone and with the money I earned. The job was through a connection, but it was still money I made through my own work. The two restrained themselves and only ordered drinks. When I told them that I didn't want that, they reluctantly ordered cake and parfaits. All of this was worth my one month's worth of expenses, but they had taken care of me that much.
"Ufufu, this strawberry parfait is delicious!"
"Oh, my chocolate parfait is also delicious."
I was in very high spirits. For the first time in my life, I was treating my precious friends with the money I had earned. People would normally spend their first paycheck on a present to their parents, but I couldn't. If we were talking about my father, he should instead be paying for child support.
We left Shiseido Parlor, and I headed straight home to Hanaoka. The two offered that I stay another night, but I refrained. I thought that I shouldn't rely on them if I didn't need to. And, there was school tomorrow. I had to work on my assignments.
I left a gorgeous world to return to my former one. This quiet and meager world was one I was raised in.
After I did some light cleaning around the house and finished my assignments, I prepared dinner. Today was egg on rice, pickled vegetable salad, and miso soup. As the rice cooked, I turned on the washing machine. After it rang, indicating the wash cycle was complete, I moved the laundry to a drying basket. I waited for the water to drain. Before I put the laundry back in, I returned to the kitchen again. My washing machine had two compartments. I was worried that it was nearing its lifespan. But, I believe that I could survive by hand-washing my clothes now that I lived alone, and I, fortunately, possessed a washboard!
I ate my handmade dinner. Since living alone, I often left the radio playing while I ate since it felt a little lonely. Today, the news was playing.
—The consolidated earning of Kaname Cloud is forecasted to be raised for this term.—
News on Lord Takaoka's company was playing on the radio. I wasn't well-versed in economics, but I was sure that this meant he was doing well. It was amazing to appear on the news!
It really felt like we belonged to two different worlds. It made sense why the heroine Ms. Miu Yuuki wanted to warn me. It was normal to view Lady Sara and the others becoming friends with a poor person like me as strange. That might have been her way of showing kindness. But, back in middle school, a girl with a strong sense of justice tried to protect me, but in the end, she hated me more than anyone else. I probably had a bad habit of not being self-aware enough.
…That reminded me. Ms. Yuuki said that I had a condescending attitude. In other words, that meant I appeared too arrogant? What should I do to appear normal?
After my meal, I cleaned up after dinner and entered the bath. I believed that taking baths was a luxury. I was glad to be born in this era. I heard that it was difficult to enter a bath in the past. Ms. Fuki had told me that it used to be the norm for homes to not have baths inside. When I was a child, I commented to the landlady that it must be difficult to use firewood for her boiler, but she said that this was easier than in the past.
Tomorrow was school. I overcame the temptation to use my smartphone and went to sleep! Was what I thought, but in the end, I grabbed it. Oh, there was a video of Lord Shiroyama's performance.
Hmm, I wasn't very fond of his playing. I enjoyed intellectual performances. His relied heavily on emotion. But, if this performance was highly rated in competitions, did this mean that this was the mainstream way now? After all, Lady Mary was an old, old-fashioned person.
After that, I listened to a performance from a famous pianist, but they weren't seen as a performer who was as emotional as Lord Shiroyama. I guess that the type of people who enjoyed Lord Shiroyama's performance enjoyed that kind. People enjoyed the performances that fit their tastes.
Well, it didn't matter to me.
Was what I had thought, but Lord Shiroyama showed up in front of me the next day.
"My rival, Reiko Kujouin!"
As I enjoyed lunch together with Lady Sara and Lord Souju at the café in the salon, Lord Shiroyama appeared. What was this? Could I not enjoy a peaceful lunch? Lady Yuria Sakurada's capture targets were all crazy people. Naturally, Lord Souju was the exception.
"I won't lose to you!"
He said and promptly left.
"Is he really a quiet person? He doesn't look like one at all to me."
"I'm also very surprised. He used to always be in a daze."
"Well, that just shows how amazing Rei's performance was. But, if his attitude continues to escalate, I'll need to hammer the nail."
Lord Souju's wicked smile was scary.
"I'm also here! So, do relax, Rei. I'll also ask Grandfather and Grandmother."
"Thank you, Sara, Sou."
Having said that, I didn't want to trouble them. Lady Sara and Lord Souju were my precious friends. There were many insane characters around me, but the only physical attack was that tackle from Lady Yuria Sakurada.
Although there were slightly uncertain factors in my school life, I was doing okay. Of course, I wasn't close to the other new students, Ms. Miu Yuuki hated me, and every time I encountered Lord Shiroyama, he declared, "I won't lose!" By the way, I hadn't encountered Lord Katsuragi. This was solely thanks to Lord Madenokouji. I was truly grateful to him. Even if Lady Yuria Sakurada was watching me from afar, she hadn't called out to me.
My presence in the school stood out, but I didn't mind since I had Lady Sara and Lord Souju. Rather, I was worried that the two would get too angry on my behalf.
Another piano performance was quickly booked for me next month. I also took first place in the term exams. Fufufu, I was a scholarship student after all! Until now, Lord Souju held the top spot. Surprisingly, the top of the second-years was Lord Katsuragi. Third-years was Lord Madenokouji.
Even though Lord Katsuragi didn't listen to people, I guess he properly listened to classes. The student council president had to not only be a salon member but also have excellent grades. I understood why they nominated Lord Souju.
"Rei, you're really smart, aren't you? I heard that Lord Juuichirou Kujouin also had an unbelievably keen mind. Grandfather told me that when I told him you stole the first place spot from me. His data processing abilities exceeded the normal person's comprehension, and he could make accurate judgments."
"Lady Mary never told me anything about Grandfather, so I don't know. So, Grandfather was smart, huh."
Why did Grandfather marry Lady Mary? It was strange.
Everything was going so well that it scared me.
After the exams, the school was bustling with preparations for the cultural festival.