“The house is over here.”
As Holmes-san helped push my bicycle, we walked a short distance out of the shrine road and went into a medium-sized pathway.
“I wonder what kind of house it is.”
Dizzy from excitement, I followed behind.
Would it be like a temple?
Or would it have the taste of a country home?
“There it is.” After looking in the direction of Holmes-san’s finger, I was at a loss for words.
When I saw that building, I wondered if it was an art museum.
It was a Western-style stone building overflowing with dignity and composure. With its grey stone walls, it looked like it came right out of the Meiji period. It seemed like there would be these kinds of cultural heritage buildings in the streets of Yokohama and Otaru.
It’s totally not Japanese-style at all!
That was an understatement. The mansion wasn’t that big, but gave off an immense intensity. It was just like a small art museum.
“This was the residence of my grandfather’s uncle, who was also his master.”
Kiiii! The doors, which were fitted with black metal railings, opened with a sharp screech.
“Owner’s uncle was his master?”
“Yes, he was. He was a wealthy merchant, and at the same time, an outstanding art appraiser. Some might even say his success was earned from his highly developed insight. He built this house to show off articles from his collection to guests.”
In other words, it was formerly an “art exhibition residence”.
On top of that, the building itself was just like an art museum.
“My grandfather moved here because he was officially recognized as the heir after his master retired, over forty years ago.”
“He didn’t leave his house to his children, but left it to his nephew?”
“The master didn’t have children, so he made it public that he would choose the most fitting person out of all his relatives and disciples to be his successor. At that time, my grandfather had a lot of rivals, so he worked hard in every respect to be recognized.”
“…I, I see.”
So this residence was like a garland of victory…
Surrounding the stone Western-style building was a Japanese-style garden, which seemed to be quite inappropriate.
“Such a mismatch, don’t you think? My grandfather said that he liked having a Japanese-style garden because it exudes more wabisabi1. It makes you able to enjoy all four seasons, depending on the location.”
“I see. It might be a mismatch, but looking at it now, it does seem to fit to a tee. It’s great!”
That was certainly a good example of Japanese-Western eclectic architecture. Come to think of it, Kura also managed to fuse the Western and Japanese styles, so that could be a characteristic of the Yagashira family.
“Aoi-san, over here.”
“Ah, right!” I noticed that Holmes-san had stopped my bicycle at a corner of the garden.
We ascended the stone staircase, and opened the two large doors to the entranceway, revealing a wide hall that functioned as an atrium.
“S-Sorry for intruding.”
I nervously treaded into the hall.
The room featured a wall clock and a gorgeous chandelier. With paintings, jars and sculptures displayed everywhere, it was really like an art museum.
“…Um, where do we place our shoes? Do we wear them throughout the house?”
“We wear shoes on the first floor, but change to slippers on the second.”
“Basically, this first floor is considered to be a space to exhibit works of art to guests.”
“Ah, I see.”
In a sense, it was truly an art museum.
Satisfied with that explanation, I stepped into the hall, when a voice called out.
“—Welcome back, Kiyotaka.”
The door to an adjacent room opened, and a beautiful woman clad in a chic black dressed appeared.
She had coiling chestnut-colored hair and scarlet lipstick. The mole near her lips made her look enchanting, and paired with her slender body, gave her a lively style. Her dress emphasized the shape of her body, and her bright red high heels were impressive.
With her lustrous hair, the woman radiated an unparalleled beauty.
She was… in her late twenties, or was it her early thirties?
—Who is that? Could it be Holmes-san’s girlfriend?
“I’m back. I see that you’re fully prepared, Yoshie-san.”
“Oh, Holmes-san, you’ll have to get ready soon.”
That woman, who was apparently called Yoshie-san, folded her arms as she looked at Holmes-san disapprovingly.
It seemed that she wasn’t Holmes-san’s girlfriend.
As I was overwhelmed by their appearance, the woman turned to look at me and displayed a kind smile.
“Hello, nice to meet you. I’m Takiyama Yoshie. I hope to get along well with you.”
“N-Nice to meet you. I’m Mashiro Aoi.”
Still not knowing who exactly she was, I introduced myself and bowed.
“I’ve heard about you from Seiji-san. He said that a really cute part-timer came in and is working hard at the shop. That’s great, isn’t it, Kiyotaka?” she said as her eyes narrowed in joy.
“Yes, that’s great,” Holmes-san nodded.
This is somewhat embarrassing… but more importantly, who is she?
But I didn’t have time to wonder about that, for the door opened again, this time revealing Owner.
“Aoi-chan, thanks so much for coming over today.”
He usually wore a stylish kimono, but today he was actually clad in a tuxedo.
“Congratulations, Owner. Um, as a small gift, here’s a high-quality sake from Saitama.” I presented the box containing the wrapped-up sake bottle, causing Owner’s face to wrinkle up in delight.
“Thanks, but ya didn’t have ta bring anything.”
“No, it’s fine. By the way, that’s the first time I’ve seen you in a Western suit.”
“It’s good, ain’t it? But I’ll put on my kimono later.”
“So it’s like iro-naoshi2?”
He’s doing an iro-naoshi even though he isn’t a bride in a wedding. As expected, Owner is flashy in whatever he does.
Yoshie-san happily walked towards Owner.
“As I thought, you look fantastic in a suit, Seiji-san!”
“Of course!” A proud smile formed on Owner’s face.
—Umm, so who exactly is this person?
As I tilted my head, Holmes-san sensed my puzzlement and whispered into my ear.
“…Yoshie-san is my grandfather’s girlfriend.”
“G-Girlfriend?” My voice betrayed my thoughts.
“Y-Yes. There’s a huge gap between their ages, right?”
“Yes, there is an age gap, but… she might look young, but she’s already over forty.”
“I call her ‘the witch’ since I’m familiar with her.”
Indeed, she possessed the youthfulness of a witch.
“She works at an event consultant agency that deals with the arts, and has been a client of ours before. She started dating my grandfather about ten years ago, but since both of them are so stubborn, they’re constantly in a cycle of dating and breaking up. I’d say that they’re more like in an inescapable relationship.”
“I, I see… they’re in a relationship in which they constantly break up and get together…”
In blank amazement, I turned to look at Owner and Yoshie-san, who were standing together.
With such a beauty as his girlfriend, I think I now understand the secret behind Owner’s youthful spirit.
“To do an iro-naoshi, Owner must be really excited…”
“That’s true. Just for today, my grandfather went to a tailor in Yokohama for his suit and shoes, a hatter in Kobe for his hat, and the Miyashita Draper Shop for his kimono.”
Holmes-san added, causing me to be even more shocked.
What should I do? I didn’t know it would be such a fancy party.
While Yoshie-san’s wearing such a beautiful dress, I came here in such a rough outfit because I thought I’d be helping with the setting up!
…Then again, Holmes-san’s also in a rough outfit.
“Holmes-san, are you going to continue wearing that?”
“No, I’ll be changing clothes later on.”
“S-Should I go home to change too?”
“No, you’re already cute like this.”
“There you go, forcing yourself to say something like that again.”
At that moment, Yoshie-san, who had apparently been listening to our conversation, stepped in and said, “It’ll be alright.”
“I’ve brought a few dresses, so I can lend one to you, Aoi-chan. Come, let’s get a change of clothes.”
Still in a state of confusion, Yoshie-san forcefully pulled my hand and dragged me into the room.
“Aoi-chan, which color do you prefer, pink, white or light blue?”
Upon entering the room, Yoshie-san opened up a suitcase delightfully.
“Ah, umm… light blue?” My face stiffened in bafflement.
“Oh my! But since it’s such an occasion, let’s go with pink, shall we?”
“Pink is a little too…”
“It’s fine. It’s not a deep shade of pink, but a pale one,” she replied as she showed me a light pink that was actually closer to white. It was a simple, but really cute design.
“That’s a beautiful dress,” I truthfully remarked, causing Yoshie-san to chuckle.
“I brought dresses that young people would like because I thought I could be of help to you, Aoi-chan.”
“Eh, is that so? Thank you very much.”
As expected of someone who has been long acquainted with the Yagashira family, she’s a really considerate person.
“You’re welcome. I was looking forward to meeting you, after all. Once again, I hope to get along well with you.”
“Y-Yes, I hope so too.”
“It’s quite unique that everyone in the Yagashira family is male, don’t you think?”
“I think that you’re too tolerant when dealing with the men of the Yagashira family. It’d be good to just spit out your true feelings, you know?”
“Tolerant…?” Was I really like that? I was sometimes at a loss whenever Manager went out of the shop while working on his script, but I wasn’t really that troubled by it.
Holmes-san is also occasionally mean, but he’s nice to me most of the time.
After thinking for a while, I replied, “No, not really…”
In any case, I haven’t known them long enough or had such a deep relationship with them to feel that I was tolerating them or holding back.
“Yoshie-san, when do you feel that you’re holding back?”
“For example, with antiques, I suppose.”
“Antiques, you say?”
“How he talks too long about antiques, how he forgets about my existence when he looks at antiques, and how he casually goes off overseas just to look at antiques!”
I was overwhelmed by the woman’s energetic outburst.
I see. It must be tough being in the position of “girlfriend”.
“Seiji-san’s abnormally passionate about antiques. He’s so engrossed in them that I once wanted to destroy his collection.”
“You wanted to destroy them?”
“I wasn’t serious about it. It’s just that he was more attracted to antiques than me, and I didn’t like that.”
Yoshie-san spoke imperiously with her arms folded.
From this, I could tell that she really loved Owner, causing my cheeks to relax pleasantly.
“But Yoshie-san, you fell in love with Owner even when he’s so focused on antiques, right?”
“…Yes, I first respected him as an appraiser. But more importantly, I’m a ‘gerontophile’.”
“Ah, perhaps young people call it differently these days? Anyway, it means I like elderly men, and with Seiji-san’s looks, he’s a perfect strike.”
“So that’s why!”
That made me understand a lot of things, all at once.
“However, Seiji-san always loves antiques more than me, and since he’s so carefree, it’s always so difficult to get a hold of him. I keep saying, ‘I don’t care about him anymore,’ and deciding to break up and with him and look for someone else, but when I actually dated another man, I only appreciated Seiji-san even more! Yagashira men are generally intense in many ways, don’t you think?”
“…You’re right, they sure are intense.” Strongly agreeing to that last statement, I nodded.
“Exactly! They’re too intense in their weaknesses and strengths! It’s impossible to be around them!”
“I think I understand what you’re saying.”
I’ve also been irked by Holmes-san’s weird tendencies, but at the same time I’ve also grown to like them.
“Ahhn, it’s good that I got to talk to you, Aoi-chan! When I tell my friends, they don’t get it at all.”
I could see that happening. Those who don’t know the Yagashira family well wouldn’t understand.
“Really, thank you so much for being here, and listening to my gripes.”
I instinctively smiled as Yoshie-san thanked me happily.
“No problem, it’s been nice to talk to you too.”
At first glance, I thought she was a hard-to-approach, sexy lady, but she’s actually a really nice person.
While having such positive thoughts, we shook each other’s hand.
“Come, let’s get you changed.”
Still perplexed by Yoshie-san’s state of excitement, I just went with her forceful flow and changed into the pale pink dress. She then helped me put my hair up.
“Wow, Aoi-chan, the back of your neck’s really pretty. That’s a strong weapon you got there!”
“You see, you give off a much better impression with your eyebrows done up, so let’s put on some lipstick for you too!” With that, she helped me put on make-up.
After everything was done, Yoshie-san clapped her hands and exclaimed, “Wow!”
“As I thought, you’re so cute like this!”
I was embarrassed, but the person in the mirror was indeed like a different person.
“Ahh, girls are just the best! My son is cute too, but I’ve always wanted a daughter.”
Yoshie-san took a feverish breath.
“Eh? Yoshie-san, you have a son?” I turned around in surprise.
“Yes, I was divorced once, and I had a son from that relationship. He’s currently a first-year student in high school, and he’s studying abroad.”
“A-A first year in high school?”
That’s one year lower than me. It’s absolutely shocking that her son is so old!
Although that might not be so rare for someone in their forties.
Well, it can’t be helped. She looks so young, after all.
“With my son, Seiji-san, Takeshi-san and Kiyotaka, I’m constantly surrounded by men. That’s why I’m so happy that I can get along well with you, Aoi-chan.”
As I thought, the brightly smiling Yoshie-san was beautiful.
“Y-Yoshie-san, you really look young. I never expected you to have a son in high school…”
As I spoke from my heart, she returned a pleasant smile.
“Seiji-san loves beautiful things, so I’m trying my best. And not for his sake, but for mine.”
Those words somehow resonated with me.
It’s amazing to work so hard for the sake of the person you love.
But being able to declare “it’s for my own sake” is incredible too.
“By the way, Seiji-san and I are both humans who love themselves.”
After hearing that remark, I wanted to reply, “That certainly seems like it,” but stopped myself and whispered it in my heart instead.
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