“What’s your dream?”
When she was asked this in a soft tone, Saya couldn’t answer immediately.
No matter how difficult the problem was, she could always come up with the right answer or as close to the right answer as she could, but she couldn’t find the answer for this in the end, even after thinking about it for almost an hour.
The man in his fifties or so who threw the problem at her gave a troubled laugh and said, “I’ll leave it as homework then,” sending her off with a blank expression.
(My dream... My dream...How can I find my dream?)
“... Did they give you a difficult homework assignment, by any chance?”
When someone asked her a question in a voice that tinted with a chuckle, Saya looked up slowly.
Saya was sitting in the back seat of a compact car, which had been prepared as inconspicuously as possible, and Sakuya’s eyes met hers in the rearview mirror.
When he saw her pondering what she had been told on her way out, he apparently couldn’t keep quiet.
‘So did I’, he cut in with a quiet tone.
“When I was first introduced to the Master, he said, ‘What do you think is the difference between vichyssoise and cold potato soup?’ That was the question.”
“Eh, what’s that. Isn’t that just the way you say it?”
“No. Vichyssoise is ‘Vichy-style potato potage soup with leeks’. But with cold potato soup, the recipes are many and varied.... It’s easy to find out what you need to know. So I figured that wasn’t the answer.”
When he had just been ‘picked up’ by Chiharu, he was taken to meet the Master. That was what asked of him when introduced to Chihiro Kudou, the current head of the Kudou family, without so much as a greeting.
It was like a question from a child who wanted to know, but it was also a nasty question, like a riddle.
When Sakuya couldn’t answer, Chihiro smiled meaningfully and said, “Here’s your homework then,” told him to come back when he understood and sent him on his way.
“... So, how did Sakuya respond?”
“Does that matter?”
“That’s, uh... Yeah.”
“I don’t think that’s helpful.”
Sakuya glanced sideways to see that the traffic light had turned green and turned forward as before.
He drove in silence for a while, but when he felt the mood in the back seat rising, he gave a small chuckle.
“I said I didn’t know.”
He knew right away that Chihiro wasn’t asking a straightforward question.
However, he couldn’t figure out the intention of the question or what the correct answer would be, so he finally said, ‘I don’t know’.
He said that Chihiro did not give him the right answer to that.
The man just laughed and said, ‘You’re a logical thinker, aren’t you?’
“I’m sure there was no set answer. As Saya said earlier, it could be a ‘difference in language’, a ‘difference in the impression given to the other person’, or even a ‘completely different thing’. You wanted to know how I took it, what I thought of it... I think that’s what you wanted to know.”
“.....Yes. But I think my homework differs from that...... He asked me what my dream was.”
As she looked at Sakuya’s troubled face, Saya belatedly agreed with his words, saying that it was not helpful after all.
“...Dreams, huh. I’m sure that was a kind gesture from Uncle Kudou.”
The presentation to the relatives of the Kudou family was scheduled for next month.
The Kudou family was famous for its ability-based approach among the famous families with numbers, and that was why the first thing the people from the branch family did was to check the “ability” and “readiness” of Saya, who was adopted into the main family.
Until now, they had been kept hidden from the Hiiragi family, so trying to search the past had limited results in return.
It’d been two months since Saya was taken in by the main family. The tutor who was assigned to check her academic ability found that she was of such a high level that he surrendered. If he taught her how to play the piano, she could play it easily, if he let her draw pictures, she could impress professionals, if he let her use a computer, she could use blind touch, and she could even use several programming languages.
On the day of the event, a part of her ability would be revealed by the head of the family, Chihiro, and if that was the case, the only question they would ask Saya was this.
‘How do you plan to use that ability in the future?’
If this was a social event that included other families, she would be encouraged to get a fiancé, considering Saya’s gender and age.
One couldn’t say that such a story wouldn’t come up, but if one were trying to get a match, even better. He bet they’d think they should know about the uses of her abilities first.
“That was what made the Kudou family unique.... And Chiharu taught me that when I was very young.”
“Yeah. The Shijou family, the Odori family, and the Kudou family are all close in age, so it is likely that they will continue to keep in touch. In our family relations, we have opportunities to interact with our branch families, and I don’t want to get in trouble for asking too many questions.”
‘So that’s what you mean’, Saya thought, understanding what Yurie was trying to say.
Just as Chihiro had given Yurie some prior knowledge beforehand, Chihiro had also advised Sayaka to prepare an answer since she would be asked this question.
And that intention was immediately conveyed to Chiharu, who heard the story from Saya, and that was why he didn’t give a hint himself. She thought he was trying to teach her indirectly by daring her to connect with Yurie.
(He’s kind, but strict... But still a sweet person, I suppose.)
“The word ‘dream’ sounds too vague and difficult, but what about someone you admire, for example? It doesn’t matter if you want to be this kind of person. You might get some clues from that.”
“Respect, huh?.... I don’t have those strong feelings, but I honestly felt that Masaki-sensei’s skills were amazing.”
He was an astute lawyer who could put together the necessary documents overnight and make the nightmarish separation from the Hiiragi family a reality.
The extent of his abilities could be seen from the fact that he was employed by the Kudou family, which was known for its meritocracy.
Saya secretly considered Masaki as a great person when she heard he was able to bring negotiations to a conclusion in a flash, without the other party having any doubts.
“Well, well, it’s Masaki-sensei, isn’t it? I’ve heard he’s a great man. I heard that Chiharu’s grandfather was a wonderful negotiator, and he studied to be a negotiator overseas because he admired him.
A negotiator was a police officer in a police organization who had the role of negotiating with criminals to rescue hostages.
Naturally, to be able to take on such a task, you needed to gain special skills, and the content you learned ranged from psychology to behavioral science.
It was a perilous job because you were basically negotiating in the field, which could lead to injury or even death.
“So, Saya-san, is your goal to be a negotiator?”
“No, I’m not there yet.”
(Honestly, if you’re a female negotiator, you’re probably not taking half the risks... Because the police community is particularly strict.)
Saya knew the police was a male dominated society.
There were some female professionals, but most of them were used as advertising models or were prevented from moving up the ladder, and even when they moved up, they were not looked upon favorably by those around them.
Rather than going to a workplace where you were forced to go through such hardships, it was obviously better to find a place where women could move up if they were capable.
As she looked at Saya, who had gotten lost in thought with a dazed face, Yurie gave a small smile.
To be honest, she was more puzzled when Chiharu told her that he wanted her to consult with Saya, whom she had only interacted with on a greeting basis since she was adopted by the Kudou family.
The Hiiragi family, where she was originally born and raised, was a branch of the Shijou family, the youngest of the branch families.
She barely remembered having any kind of interaction with them, even though she was the daughter of the family, and they couldn’t do anything about it... She wondered if it was all right for her to ask for advice.
However, when she talked to Saya, she found that the girl had a very straightforward personality, and she seemed like a mature child who was too good to be true, but could not set her dreams.
Thinking that she could help the lost girl, Yurie said, “Please keep this between us,” and then talked about her own situation.
“The House of Shijou... Well, I hate to say it, but the idea of male supremacy persists. I don’t mean to demean women, but I’m taught that women should marry into another family and make a connection. But I think it was... the previous generation. Apparently, the woman who grew up watching her father’s arrogant personality complained that Shijou’s male-dominated way of thinking was outdated and that the company should actively recruit capable women. Thanks to that, she has been offered a position on the board of directors of the company, and doesn’t want to be an ornamental director when she takes the position. I intend to carry on the legacy of my predecessors and carry out reforms firmly. That’s why I think you should think about what you want to do first... before you shrink your own potential just because you’re a woman. Why don’t you think about that first?”
Yurie was very lively as she talked about her dream, and she had a different kind of beauty from the calm atmosphere she used to have.
Staring at that dazzle, Saya blinked a couple of times and tried to ruminate on what was said.
(Don’t let being a woman reduce your potential...huh.)
She already had in her head what she could learn from textbooks.
If she had enough knowledge in terms of study, then was there anything else she wanted to learn?
When she thought about it, the first thing that popped into her mind was the face of the Hiiragi family’s parents, shouting at her like a demon.
Then, a little later, Natsumi’s face that showed a sense of superiority that she couldn’t hide behind her pity-inducing tears.
What the Hiiragi family’s parents did to Saya was abandonment and child abuse.
And the act of approaching a man with a fiancé and sleeping with him was considered adultery.
She’d say that both were criminal acts with enough elements to be sued in a civil sense.
Saya wanted to know objectively what kind of intentions and feelings they had for doing it.
They said that negotiators study a wide range of subjects, such as psychology, behavioral science, and criminology.
She hadn’t known yet what kind of job she would have in the future, but she was sure there were many jobs where learning would be useful.
‘All right’, the girl said, looking up.
‘It looks like you’ve decided’, Yurie said, smiling happily.