After changing, I went out of the inner room and found that some guests had already arrived, and the hall was bustling with chatter.
The first people that entered my view were familiar faces, with Ueda-san, Mieko-san, as well as Akihito-san.
“—We reached the final day of the performance last week, so we’ll be returning to Tokyo the day after tomorrow. It’s great that we get to attend Owner’s party.”
Akihito-san said. He looked quite smart in his formal party suit and was as flashy as ever, although he did look handsome from the outside.
It’s a good thing that he came, as I’d hoped.
His appearance here would probably satisfy Kaori.
Feeling relieved, I looked at the surrounding guests.
Beside Akihito-san was a middle-aged man in a suit. With his lightly-tinted sunglasses and a well-groomed beard, he gave off the impression of a “person in the business”.
“My, if it isn’t producer Kiyomizu-san,” Yoshie-san said.
So he is actually someone in the business! I raised my head.
“Is that the producer for ‘Hunt for Heirlooms’?”
“Yes, exactly. Owner was under his care during that time, but I thought they were already estranged…”
Yoshie-san muttered, apparently not having expected that person’s presence.
There was no news from him after all that trouble two years ago, after all.
Next to him was a two-man group that looked familiar.
“Oh, and I think that’s Masamune, that two-man group of entertainers.”
I was taken aback by Yoshie-san’s words.
“Yes, that’s Masamune.”
Rather than entertainers, they were performers who captivated audiences with acts like pantomime and even held performances overseas. They were called Masataka and Muneyoshi, so put together, they were Masamune.
“Is Owner also close with Masamune?”
“Well… I think it’s their first meeting. Kiyotaka-san must have brought them here. I’ll go and welcome them.”
Yoshie-san went over to Owner, who was chatting amicably with the guests.
As the beautiful Yoshie-san approached, Akihito-san ogled at her conspicuously.
She must be to his liking. No doubt he’d be astonished if he learns that she’s in her forties and is Owner’s lover. Thinking about that situation, I giggled.
“Did you see something funny?” Holmes-san asked from beside me.
“Ah, no, but Akihito-san…”
But my words trailed off when I turned to look at him, and my heart leapt from seeing Holmes-san in a formal suit.
His smooth hair, well-arranged facial features and white skin harmonized well with the glossy suit. On top of that, he had an elegant bearing and was wearing a gentle smile.
The sons of noble families in the Meiji and Taisho periods probably looked like that.
What now? Holmes-san is too dreamy!
It’s a little mortifying that he caused my heart to pound like this.
“…I’m surprised. Did Yoshie-san help you with your hair and makeup?”
Holmes-san asked with an expression of genuine surprise.
“Ah, yes. She didn’t just help me pick out a dress, but also helped with my hair and makeup. I-Is it weird?”
I asked uneasily as I looked up.
“…It’s beautiful. It really fits ya.”
Those words cleanly pierced through my heart.
I-It’s against the rules to use Kyoto dialect there.
As time passed, guests started steadily arriving, and Holmes-san went to receive them.
The ones that I somewhat knew were Yanagihara-san, who was a fellow appraiser of Owner, as well as Hanamura-sensei, whom I’d met in Okura Hotel.
There were also many people who were apparently under the same master as Owner.
(Were they the people Owner had rivalries with in the past, I wonder?)
Hearing a familiar voice, I whirled around Kaori with her parents. As expected of a family that owned a draper shop, they were all in kimono.
“In the end, my family was invited here. My sis couldn’t make it ‘cos she’s got an interview on TV.”
“Yup, when I heard that Owner got his kimono from Miyashita Draper Shop, I thought you all could get invited. And Kaori, you look awesome in your kimono.”
It was a madder red hōmongi1 decorated with red leaves. As a daughter of a family that owned a draper shop, it was no wonder that she dressed with style.
“Thanks. Yer also beautiful, Aoi. Hey, is that handsome guy over there an actor? And I heard that Masamune’s also here, right?”
Kaori feverishly grabbed my hand while staring at Akihito-san. So she’s really a celebrity chaser, I thought as my cheeks relaxed.
At that moment, Manager appeared in front of a large door with the words “Exhibition Hall” written on a plate. He quietly held the door open and bowed to everyone.
“—Welcome everyone, and thank you so much for coming all the way to my father’s birthday party.”
Perhaps he was nervous, for he said that in a louder voice than usual, then bowed again. Everyone in the room stopped talking to listen to him.
“T-This house used to be the private art museum of my father’s master, Yagashira Kuranosuke, a merchant who possessed a good eye for art. It was passed down, and today this Exhibition Hall contains the Yagashira Family’s proud collection. P-Please feel free to take a look before eating.”
Manager stiffly said, then opened the two large doors with a clank.
The guests exclaimed, “Wow!” as their eyes lit up, after which they streamed into the exhibition hall.
“It’s Owner’s collection. C’mon, Aoi, let’s go!”
Observing Aoi’s excitement, I nodded, and we entered the hall together.
I took a step and was immediately rendered speechless.
It was definitely not an overstatement to say that it was exactly a small museum.
Many pieces of artwork in Renaissance style decorated the reception hall, along with paintings and scrolls that lined the walls.
Round tables were placed at fixed distances away, and on them were jars, flower vases, pitchers and enormous plates.
“Wow, everything here’s amazing!”
“Well, it’s Seiji-san, after all.”
The guests stared at the artwork in fascination.
“Please do not touch the artifacts on display,” Manager nervously prompted.
As for Holmes-san, he was in front of a pot placed on a table at the end of the room, explaining to the guests. It was a smooth, jade green pot.
“This is seiji, or celadon porcelain from China, and is one of my grandfather’s most treasured antiques.
“It’s a kind of porcelain that is also known as ‘god’s work’, and is said to be a physical representation of a nation’s aesthetic sense, with its simple yet sublime beauty, with its overflowing elegance. Only a few dozen of these have been confirmed to exist in the world, and this particular one was discovered by my grandfather’s master, Sōnosuke, on the continent.
“It’s a supreme art piece worth an incredible amount, so please take this opportunity to admire it.”
As Holmes-san spoke, I thought, “I can’t believe such a treasure belongs to a normal (?) family!” I was both impressed and amazed.
After he’d finished showing the whole collection to everyone, he whispered to Manager, “I’ll go check on the party room,” then left the exhibition hall.
The opening of this collection to the public was probably a way of buying time before the food was ready.
As I watched Holmes-san’s figure leaving the exhibition hall, Akihito-san walked over to me with a full smile on his face.
“Hey, Aoi-chan, you look so mature and wonderful today!”
“Thank you, Akihito-san.”
Next to Akihito-san was the two-man performance group, Masamune.
“Amazing, it’s a team of entertainers!”
Kaori said in a small voice as her eyes sparkled joyfully.
“Akihito-san, this is my friend, Miyashita Kaori-san. She’s the daughter of the family that owns Miyashita Draper Shop.”
I introduced Kaori to him without delay.
“Ah, I see. Your kimono’s also brilliant. I’m glad that I’m able to get to know high school girls who can wear kimono so well.”
Holding Kaori’s hand, a handsome smile appeared on Akihito-san’s face.
Kaori looked down as her front turned bright red.
Akihito-san has been established to be a playboy, but I suppose it’s fine. Kaori seems to be overjoyed, after all.
At that moment, Manager said, “Ah, Aoi-san,” and quickly walked over to me.
“Sorry, but I have to leave for a while, someone’s calling me from the party room. Can I trust you to lock up this room with this key when you leave?” He asked as he held out a key with an antique design.
“—Ah, yes, sure.”
I accepted the key, and Manager hurriedly left the exhibition room.
What in the world happened?
His looked quite pale, so perhaps his stomach hurt because of his nerves. Anyway, locking up this room seems to be a heavy responsibility… there are lots of amazing works of art here, right?
While I was feeling some panic from holding the key, one of the entertainers in Masamune, Masataka, suddenly exclaimed, “Wow!” as he looked up at the ceiling.
“I just noticed, but that’s an amazing chandelier!”
Upon hearing those words, we raised our heads to look at the chandelier.
The chandelier had a design similar to those in the party hall of a palace. With many crystals linked together, it let out a great amount of light.
“Yer right! This is some luminescence!”
“Yeah, I bet this chandelier also costs a bundle.”
I let out a sigh of admiration while looking at the ceiling.
“The preparations for the party room are complete, so please move there, everyone.”
Manager’s voice rang out from the other side of the door.
“Finally, it’s time for the party. I can’t wait!”
The guests streamed out of the room, all of them smiling.
I walked together with them, but stopped at the door.
After Kaori, Akihito-san and Masamune had exited the exhibition hall, I checked that there was no one left inside, then carefully locked the door.
I turned the door knob to ensure that the door was properly locked, then nodded in satisfaction and headed for the party room.
At that time— I didn’t have the slightest idea that an unbelievable incident would occur right before our very eyes.
This post is made possible by our amazing patrons!
Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher, Yazmin Arostegui, Steven Baltakatei Sandoval, Bennet Kilian, Slush56, Alicia Kernen
Assistants (Tier 1) : Jaime Cuellar, Karen Kronenberg, redlegsfan21, Anna, Definitelynotme, Rolando Sanchez
Thank you very much for all your support!