When I went to take the house key out from my pocket, I finally realized that I had left it inside my dirtied uniform.
“What’s wrong, Rei?"
“I accidentally left my key in the uniform I handed over to Lord Katsuragi.”
“Mr. Katsuragi? Why’s that? I’ve never heard of this.”
That’s right. I haven’t told him anything.
As I briefly explained my conversation with Lord Katsuragi, I took off the hairpin in my hair and opened the lock on the front door.
Lord Souju shouted. Since this was the countryside, shouting at night wasn’t a problem.
“What the? Is your lock not doing its job?!”
Well, one would think that way since I felt the same.
“It’s better than having nothing.”
In the first place, this sliding door could be simply kicked down. As a matter of fact, it was a meaningless door that could only serve as a windbreaker. It rattled loudly as I opened it to reveal a small gravel entranceway.
I had Lady Sara and Lady Souju make their way through the living/bedroom, brought out the seating cushions from the closet, and quickly prepared tea and snacks.
“…The lack of anything is remarkable.”
“Yes. Three people used to live here in the past, so I don’t have many personal items.”
“Rather than personal items, there isn’t even a TV. Ah, is that a rotary-dial phone? It’s my first time seeing one!”
Lady Sara was experiencing too much culture shock that she couldn’t say a single word.
There was a tea table, radio-cassette player, and a bookshelf in this Japanese-styled, six-tatami-mat room, but I guess that it felt too shabby.
“There’s another room?”
Lord Souju was immensely curious and asked. There was a room attached to this six-tatami-mat living space. That was Lady Mary’s room.
“It’s the room my late grandmother used.”
I said and opened the sliding door.
The two opened their eyes wide and were stupefied.
There was a Steinway Grand Piano placed in this eight-tatami-mat room. A thick, Damask rose-patterned curtain was draped over the window leading to the veranda. An Oriental carpet covered the floor. Alençon lace was used for the bed cover. Lady Mary loved lace. Right, the Argentan lace I used to style my hair belonged to Lady Mary.
“Even though your grandmother’s room is extravagant, you’re living quite the simple lifestyle?”
I always felt that simple was a good way of expressing it. I wonder where the divide between destitute and simple lay.
“I’m not particularly unsatisfied or anything. This piano was brought over from the villa before it could be seized. Normally, that would be a problem. But, it seemed to have been overlooked. Lady Mary hated living here, and that was paired with Ms. Fuki being hurt from looking at her. It was just like a skit. I hoped that this room had provided consolation at the very least.”
I liked the living room more than Lady Mary’s room. At night, I would move the tea table and sleep in the futon beside Ms. Fuki. Ms. Fuki adored Lady Mary. I was something like an extra. Nevertheless, she raised and treated me tenderly.
“Rei, can you play the piano?”
“Yes, in a general sense.”
Lord Souju looked at the piano and asked.
I was forced to play the piano for more than six hours a day. Lady Mary’s training was strict. With a bamboo ruler in hand, she would hit my back or legs even when I didn’t miss a key. She claimed that my interpretation of the song was wrong. Many of her instructions were abstract and hard to grasp. She would mix French and German in them. Incidentally, this wasn’t limited to the piano but also my other studies. And just like with the piano, her teaching method involved hitting me upon mistakes. It certainly was a simple education method. It appeared that her goal was to instill culture in me so I wouldn’t embarrass the Kujouin family. Our usual conversations would be fundamentally done in English. Ms. Fuki could also speak English.
While I did believe that there would never be an opportunity for the poverty-stricken me to demonstrate my dance or manners, I endured Lady Mary’s grueling training because it made Ms. Fuki happy.
“Do you have any requests?”
“Hm, because the moon is beautiful tonight, Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14.”
“Then, I shall perform it in the Wiener Urtext Edition.”
Though, I believe that if the moon was beautiful, Debussy’s Moonlight would be better.
I relaxed my fingers before playing Beethoven’s sonata known as Moonlight. After I finished the 1stmovement, I took a deep breath before starting the 3rd movement. I honestly wanted to play like Glenn Gould, but ever since Lady Mary scolded me terribly, I refused to imitate him. Ah, but I can play the way I want now that she was no longer here.
In the end, I finished playing like I normally would–exactly according to Lady Mary’s instructions.
After a short break, the two applauded.
“Ah, it was truly wonderful! Rei. What a passionate performance!”
“Yeah, it was magnificent. Your grandmother was a pianist, huh.”
Yes, Lady Mary was a young pianist who performed in the heart of Europe during the pre-war days. After she temporarily returned to Japan, she married my grandfather, Juuichirou Kujouin. After the war, she didn’t perform in Europe, where the scars of war were still deep, but in America. It appeared that she would only perform in a proper hall or not at all. This was very much like Lady Mary. However, afterward, she had an accident and could no longer appear on stage as a pianist ever again. Lady Mary never told me what happened at that time. Ms. Fuki had told me numerous times all while in tears that if it wasn’t for that accident, Lady Mary wouldn’t have to be in such a place. Though, this was the only place I had ever lived in, so the statement felt strange to me.
“It is already 8 o’clock. If we’re late coming home, we’ll worry our family.”
“Ah, yes. Sorry for overstaying. At any rate, are you sure you’re fine staying in such a place all by yourself?”
“I’m fine. There’s nothing to steal here. The most expensive thing would be this piano, but it would be troublesome to actually steal it.”
When I answered like that, Lady Sara and Lord Souju rebutted.
“I’m not worried about robberies or anything like that. I’m worried about you, Rei!”
“Ah, you mean, robbery and murder?”
“Like I said, not that. There’s a possibility that your body would be targeted!”
I see. If there are no valuables, then they would steal my chastity. I believe that I heard on the radio that there were some, who when stealing and couldn’t find anything valuable, would have a bowel movement in retaliation.
“I understand. I’ll need to first make sure I don’t encounter any robberies, right?”
“…… That’s correct, but what would you do if you’re their target?”
“I’m the target? I’ve never thought about that.”
No matter how much we talked about it here, nothing was settled. I explained that there was a neighborhood watch, but they didn’t seem to be satisfied.
“Because it’s been fine the whole time, today would also be fine. That’s why, please don’t be so worried. In the near future, I’ll buy some security measures. Besides, if something happens, I can run over to the landlord’s house.”
The two reluctantly nodded. But, Lord Souju held out a smartphone.
“I have two. So, you take this one. Keep it close to you.”
“I cannot borrow such an expensive item.”
“When I think about what could happen to you in the future, I would be too worried to even sleep. So, please take the smartphone. An employee of the security company we’ve contracted will come in the event of an emergency.”
In the end, I borrowed the smartphone. If I didn’t, then those two wouldn’t go home.
“There’s an otome game in there, so feel free to play it. Here’s the charger. And, when in an emergency, press here.”
Lord Souju taught me how to operate it. This was my first time touching a smartphone. How amazing! This is a strange, new world!
“Make sure you don’t end up staying up too late.”
The two finally got into the car driven by Mr. Takaoka. This was the end of a day full of turbulence.
I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t bought the dried bonito flakes. I tried searching through the cupboard one more time. Ah, found it! Let’s make some delicious simmered bamboo shoots!
Before I took my bath, I cooked the bamboo shoots. Tomorrow, the flavor will seep in and they’ll be delicious. By the time I exited the bath, it was already half-past ten. Because I have to wake up early tomorrow as well, I entered my futon to get ready to sleep.
I placed the smartphone I was told to keep close by my pillow. My curiosity was piqued, and I grabbed it. Even though the room was dark, I could read the words because of the phone’s own illumination! Although I was at my wits’ end in the beginning when I didn’t know how to type, I finally acquired the skill to flick input.
Ah, I can’t stop! How wonderful a smartphone is! What an epoch-making invention! Watching various people’s performances was like a dream come true!
Thus, I spent a whole night addicted to the smartphone. Despite knowing that I need to and must stop, I could not. What a terrifying disease.