Maria-sama ga Miteru Novel 22, Bara no Mille-Feuille, Pt. 2
- Chapter 4
To say this was not an adventure story might be understating it. In order to return the princess (Rei-chan) who was swept away by an evil demon safely to this world, you must go, brave Yoshino, with attendant Nana.
In order to pull herself together, and bring the story to a climax: at the gates of hell (the front desk), she asked the guardsman (information lady) for the route to Beelzebub's lair (the garden). The guardsman kindly spread out the leaflet and drew on the hotel guide map. With a red pen "this area" or "around here" were marked as being important locations.
Of course, with a beaming smile for the two of them, "The garden is beautifulâ"you might want to take a stroll through it. Butâ¦ did someone recommend it?" she put the question to them. The truth iTL Sukoshi: they were chasing an Omiai. Though even if their mouths had burst open, there was no way they could have said such a thing.
Following the route that had been laid out for them, they had climbed down a flight of stairs and found the door that lead out to the garden, when suddenly a voice from behind called them to stop.
"Yoshino-chan?" That voice seemed to radiate both incredulous and forlorn. As Yoshino turned to look over her shoulder, she suddenly recharged to full power. "Just as I thought, it is Yoshino-chan. What are you doing here?"
There was no mistake: having lived next door to them since she was born, she'd encountered this person almost every day. She'd only spotted this person for just a moment that morning before they all ran off in the limo. It was Rei-chan's father. In addition to that, in truth, he was Yoshino's uncle.
"Uncle. Where's Rei-chan?" She ran up to him. Cutting through the entire greeting she pressed on him. She should have brought her magic wand (shinai) for her uncle: he was scary and not grinning.
"Would you look at that. Yoshino-chan, you seem to be in high spirits." The person standing next to her uncle burst into laughter. "What's wrong?! Do you need Rei-chan for something?!" This person was the evil demon, erâ¦instigator of today's Omiai: Yanaka-ojiisan
"Ah, hello." As she was in the middle of grilling her uncle in the spotlight, she gave a perfunctory greeting. And even if she had had the time, this seemed to be the person who had brought Rei-chan to the Omiai. It was very unlikely she would be able to muster a courteous greeting.
Yanaka-ojiisan didn't worry on this point. He approached Nana, who was standing behind Yoshino.
"Certainlyâ¦ you must beâ¦"
"I'm Nana. Please excuse my lack of correspondence, Yanaka-sama." Where had Rei-chan been concealed? It's not right for you to hide herâ¦ In the middle of Yoshino's heated dispute with her Uncle, she caught a hint of what was being said behind her back and she turned around.
Yoshino asked, "Nana, what did you just say?"
"Who is this girl?" Uncle asked.
"Has not Honored Father Hasekura met me once before? Perhaps you do not remember?" In addition to Yanaka-ojiisan, Rei-chan's father was also being addressed as "honored father" by Nana.
When his chest was finally freed from the grip of his niece, "Honored Father Hasekura" concentrated on reaching back into his memory.
"Ah! From Arima-san's place. You've become such a perfect ladyâ"I didn't immediately recognize you."
Harrumph. Ordinarily, Uncle had such a stubborn personality. He seemed to have become flattering out of nowhere.
"But, why is Nana-chan with Yoshino-chan?" At which point, Yanaka-ojiisan who had just been reminded could recall the specifics.
"That reminds me, Arima-san said that only Nana-chan had been accepted to Lillian."
"That's right." Nana nodded. "I was accepted into the same school. However, that was long before I was granted the privilege of being close friends with Yoshino-sama. We were just out spending the day together. While chatting away happily, by chance, the topic of Honored Father came up. It seems you'd come here today, right? If possible I had wanted to meet up with you again after all this time, and we ended up being uninvited guests." So as to not lose or seem inferior to Uncle, Nana's words were also flattering.
"That makes me happy to hear."
"Although sensible Yoshino-sama said that because it's bothersome we should stop, I partly coerced her." This way of speaking was also quite skillful. She hadn't used the keywords "Rei-chan's Omiai" even once. Rather we had come to see our Honored Fathers. Moreover, she followed it up by painting Yoshino in a favorable light. Howeverâ¦
Nana's consideration was welcome but, it would have been nice to have said this before now. After having pressed her Uncle for Rei-chan's whereabouts, her aim had probably been revealed.
"At the moment Rei-chan is strolling with my son in the garden. See, look there. If you want to go over and see, it's all right." He pointed through the glass. In the spacious Japanese garden, she caught a fleeting glimpse of the back of the head of a person who seemed to be Rei-chan moving through the dense trees.
"But, wouldn't we be interrupting?" Yoshino hesitated. When she was so honestly granted permission, she wanted to doubt it would be permitted without some kind of catch.
"My son would probably be pleased too. He seems to have been interested in Yoshino-chan."
"Whaaâ¦ me?" Not just in Rei-chan, but he was also interested in Yoshino. That's unscrupulous. Then, couldn't it be that he was just a skirt-chaser? If that's what he was up to, there was a misunderstanding.
"Pretty soon now my son will also undergo the same operation Yoshino-chan has had."
"On his heart?" Yoshino quietly touched that place on her chest. Yanaka-ojiisan nodded.
"Therefore, Rei-chan was worried and made the time to see him. She's a kind daughter."
"Y-yesâ¦ that's true." What? So that was it? Yoshino finally understood. It didn't mean that Rei-chan was interested in having an Omiai. Until a year ago, Yoshino had probably looked very much like how Yanaka's grandson does now. She had probably wanted to help him, if only a little, and decided to meet.
Caught up in her own fantasy, she had misunderstood. Becoming confused and giving chaseâ¦ "I'm an idiot," Yoshino thought. Rei-chan is kind. Yoshino should have known that more than anyone.
Somehow her chest felt deflated.
"Shall we stop by the garden?" Nana proposed.
"We should." For that matter, since Yoshino was his sempai in getting through the operation, she could cheer on Yanaka's grandson. If asked she wouldn't hesitate to offer some advice.
"Oh yes, go on. Go on." As they were being shooed out by Yanaka-ojiisan, they moved toward the sprawling fragrant forest.
"You've known about Yanaka-san since before we met?" While walking down the path to the garden, Yoshino asked Nana.
"When I heard Yoshino-sama ask for the reservation for "Yanaka-san" in the shop, I thought, it was probably just a coincidence, but it could be him. I wasn't certain until we met just now."
"Why didn't you say anything at the time?"
"Becauseâ¦ I wasn't asked." Nana answered, aloof. Well, it was certainly true that she hadn't asked--it's natural that she wouldn't have known that Nana and Yanaka-ojiisan were acquainted. Even if she had made the inference that Yanaka-san had been doing kendo as a hobby for years, being not at the level of a Sherlock Holmes or Akechi Kogoro, it doesn't seem like she could have arrived at that conclusion. (TL Rei: Akechi Kogoro is a famous Japanese detective created by noted horror writer Edogawa Rampo in the early 20th Century.)
A narrow road ran among the trees. From their previous position, they hadn't been able to see Rei-chan and company at all.
"Is this really the right road?"
"Probably. From inside the hotel, we could see Rei-sama going down this path." She had been feeling uneasy about this place, when suddenly her field of vision opened up.
"Whaa." Nana and Yoshino both exclaimed at the same instant. The moment they exited the dusky road, they were bathed in light. Before their eyes, rays of reflected sunlight glistened off of a pond that had just now come into view.
"Wow." She was so moved she had remained standing there for quite some time. Or at least that's what it had seemed like. It was the kind of situation where one composes an impromptu haiku, but nothing was forthcoming.
From somewhere the sound of birds flapping their wings could be heard. At this, Yoshino returned to her senses.
"I wonder where Rei-chan is." Even though their prospects of finding her had improved, she hadn't been able to spot Rei-chan or her friend.
"Yoshino-sama, over there." Nana pointed at a one-meter tall hedge. Although she had her face turned away as she was crouched down facing her companion, the figure was unmistakably Rei-chan's. But where was Yanaka-san's son? After searching the area, she was able to just barely detect the head of a person protruding over the hedge. Apparently, he seemed to be squatting down, doing something or other. Rei-chan was watching that person.
Since Yoshino had not heard more than simply the story of how Yanaka's son was going to have an operation, she decided to speak from the heart with a supportive serenity. As Rei-chan's cousin, a courteous greeting would certainly be behavior befitting a lady.
However, when Rei-chan's cheek in profile came into view, gradually her composure over her emotions began to slip. Why was she laughing so happily with the company Yoshino was about to meet? Could it really be out of sympathy? In short order, she flew into a spitting rage.
"Why that littleâ¦"
"Uhâ¦ Yoshino-sama?" Nana's cautions did not reach her; Yoshino was already running toward the hedge. As she was running with full force, naturally, Rei-chan noticed her. She opened her eyes wide and stood up. Her mouth formed the word "Yoshino".
Right about the time when Yoshino arrived on the scene, Yanaka's son, who had been squatting turned around and said, "Huh? Yoshino-san?" Their eyes met for an instant as they momentarily confirmed the other party's presence. Yoshino thought her astonishment must have shown on her face. Seeing about the same surprise reflected in the face of the person before her caused her to realize her own.
When Nana caught up to her and noticed him, as Yoshino might have guessed, she too was a loss for words.
"What's going on, Yoshino?" Rei-chan asked, being the only person to differ in the type of surprise she displayed. Given that her company had just increased from being alone with Yanaka's son to also being with Yoshino and an unknown girl who was just catching up to them, she waited patiently for someone to please explain this situation succinctly.
"Ohâ¦" being the first person to speak Yoshino said, "So you're the person who was with Rei-chan."
"So you're Yoshino-san. I should have realized it when I first saw you. Certainly, you were in the civic gymnasium during the match, right?" There must be some kind of mistake, right? He was the boy she had just collided with a little while ago.
"Ummâ¦ is there only the two of you?" Yoshino spun around, scanning the vicinity. Was there the possibility that someone other than Rei-chan and the boy was lurking nearby? However, no new character was popping into the story. In the spot where the boy had been squatting down just now, she was only able to make out a procession of ants. The boy had been messing with the ants just before they arrived; what appeared to be a trap was laid in the ground with a twig.
He turned and said directly to Yoshino, "Yoshino-san. I will never lose to you."
"Whaâ¦" for a moment she couldn't understand what had been said to her. Just now she had been wondering where Yanaka's son was hiding. There were too many things to be thinking about at the same time.
"Next week I'm going to be having the same operation on my heart that you had. If it's a success, I'll have a strong body too."
"Wait a secondâ¦" just now he said "operation". Butâ¦ the one having the operation was supposed to be Yanaka's son. In other wordsâ¦ Was it possible?
"Which of us is better suited for Rei-san? Let's have a bout to decide." One mustn't make light of an enemy just because he's younger. "I love Rei-san." This guy was serious.
"Nana, did you know?" as they rocked back and forth on the return train home, Yoshino asked.
"About what?" Nana asked in return.
"That Yanaka's son was really that young?" Although Yoshino had called Yanaka-ojiisan "Grandpa", and truly in appearance he was the spitting image of a grandfather. She might have guessed him to be young, but in truth he had already passed seventy. If they were talking about his son, one might speculate that he was around forty or fifty. But despite that, his son was ten years old. As it was, when you saw them walking together, they looked for all the world like a grandfather and a grandson.
"I didn't. I hadn't heard the whole story about the family." After Nana said this, she muttered, "Butâ¦ I had completely forgotten, but now I remember hearing from Grandfather Arima that Yanaka-ojiisan had remarried."
"Yes." Being worn out from their adventure, the two fell silent. Although Yanaka-ojiisan had offered to transport them back in the hired car with Rei-chan and company, Yoshino had decided to forego that. And so now alone with Nana, the two retraced their steps.
"Oh! In the all the commotion, I forgot to introduce you to Rei-chan."
"That's right. Even though I've been waiting." With her right hand covering her mouth, Nana gave a big yawn. Due to the train's heat and extreme vibration, she was being lulled to sleep. Yoshino was also given to yawn.
"But when that time comes, how should I introduce you?" Even though she had tricked Eriko-sama, would this third-year middle school student cooperate to get their stories straight again? Last year and again this year, hadn't Rei-chan fought first Tanaka-san, and then her little sister in the Inter-High School Tournament? They both liked adventureâ¦ It's taking a leap but, since Rei-chan had the same tastes when it came to cake, wouldn't she also have a reliable opinion when it came to first impressions of sweet girls? Orâ¦
Perhaps next year Yoshino would get a Petite Soeur.
Nana spoke, "Please tell Rei-sama that a middle school student wants to have a contest with her."
"WHAT?!" This was something she hadn't expected to hear; Yoshino instinctively looked at Nana. "A contest? You don't mean, as inâ¦ a kendo bout?"
"What else is there besides that?"
"Noâ¦" For instance, knitting or baking cakes or a Cosmos Paperback Book Speed Reading Competitionâ¦ Although she enumerated such things in her head, she didn't speak them aloud because it had become futile. When Nana, the (probable) heir to the Arima Dojo, said "a bout", with the exception of kendo, what else would she have been talking about?
Speaking of which, just how advanced is Nana's true kendo ability anyway? If you assume that her plan is to get revenge for her two elder sisters, does that mean she would be using all of her skills? There were various things she wanted to ask, howeverâ¦
"Please convey my intentions without fail." And so saying, she fell silent. Next to her, Nana's breathing had already slowing into the pattern of one sleeping.
"No wayâ¦" Bothered by what Nana's real intentions might be, Yoshino couldn't feel sleepy even in a place like this.
Reverie of the White Rose
Two Peaceful People
Just as she crossed the threshold of the school gate, a loud voice called out from one side.
"Shimako!" Emerging from the school together with Shimako, Noriko, who had not been the one that had just heard her name called, nevertheless turned in unison with Shimako.
The owner of the loud voice was immediately discovered. In a white apron, a triangle bandage, and sunglasses, which could only be called a mismatch of fashions; standing out considerably among women as a man with a close cropped haircut and a solidly built frame; a person so wicked that one is forced to skip right past conspicuous and arrive at "sinister." Someone who appeared to be approximately thirty years of age.
"Ahâ¦" Shimako-san muttered quietly. Somehow he didn't appear to be a complete stranger to Shimako. Even if he had seldom spoken to her, at least the other party who had called out the name "Shimako" clearly recognized her.
"We need to talk." This strange man rapidly closed the distance and seized Shimako-san by the arm.
"Hey, what are you doing?" Noriko interrupted the two people, panicking. Shimako-san voluntarily brushed off the hand that had been gripping her.
"Yes, but I don't want to talk about it right hereâ¦ Anyway, come on, let's go."
"I'm going home. If you have to talk, please do it on the way. Please, won't you come along?"
"That's impossible. There's no time, and even if I had the time, I can't just nonchalantly accompany you to the house. If I was caught by the old man, my ass would be in a sling."
"Well then, you're on your own." In order to show that she didn't feel obligated, Shimako turned her back on the aproned man and began to walk away. Despite this, he followed her.
"Is it going to be okay?" Noriko was charmed by her elder sister's decisive attitude. Although Shimako-san displayed the appearance of being a frail woman, at her core she was strong and steady.
However, Apron Man did not give up quite so easily. "I guess there's no choice. I didn't want to get rough, butâ¦" he muttered to himself. From behind, he caught a hold of both of Shimako's arms.
"KYAAA~" Shimako-san, who was having the freedom of her hands snatched away, twisted her body in resistance. Of course, at this even Noriko couldn't keep silent.
"Take your hands off Shimako-san!" She took a hold of his apron.
At which pointâ¦
"Stop it, both of you!" Shimako called out. Noriko was so surprised she literally halted all movement. Apron Man instinctively let go.
"It's all right, Noriko."
"Huh?" She didn't understand what was "all right". Slowly and deliberately Shimako turned around and spoke to Apron Man.
"Where would be a good place to go?"
"Shimako-sanâ¦" It was her intention to follow them, but she couldn't.
"It's all right. More importantly, I do not wish to be noisy in front of the school gate." Shimako-san turned in a circle, surveying her surroundings. It seems they had just missed the bus's departure. There didn't seem to be many students left at the bus stop. She couldn't spot sight of a security guard within the range of her vision.
However, if they managed to be noisier than this, eventually some students would probably take notice. Once outside the gate they should be able to spot a security guard or two. Shimako-san must be worried about that.
"I said it's all rightâ¦ Anyway, I'll go home along afterwards. I'll call you tonight."
"Shimako-sanâ¦" In the end, Shimako-san and Apron Man rode off together in a station wagon. She had been taken somewhere. Since it was Shimako-san, if she had thought it was even the least bit dangerous, she probably would have made a ruckus and firmly refused to go. She had said, "It's all right" so in her judgment she must have really believed it was just that.
Butâ¦ what if Shimako-san was mistaken to think it's all right? Despite the fact that Shimako-san believed in him, whether or not that aproned man was up to no good is another story entirely.
What should I do? In the end, wouldn't it be all right to consult some trusted adult on this? That's what she thought at the time.
"It's probably all right," a voice from behind her said.
"On what do you base that argument?" Noriko turned around. There she saw a noble-faced woman standing alone.
"I know who that man is." She wore a leather jacket and jeans. From her large shoulder bag, the face of a college textbook was peeking out. She was a Lillian college student. "Should I tell you who it is?" Though once she had turned around, the woman had assumed a very suggestive pose. Noriko turned back around and began walking the other way.
"No thank you. Shimako-san will call me tonight." The female college student didn't follow her.
"Yes but for you, until you get that phone call, you're going to worry endlessly. You poor thing."
"If you were to ask me who he is, Shimako wouldn't be mad." Although she had been annoyed and didn't want to lose face, Noriko turned back. In this, she was unpleasantly defeated. When she gave in, like an owner who praises a dog that returns a thrown Frisbee, she patted her head saying, "Good girl."
"I'm terribly sorry but, actually, could we go somewhere else?" Noriko proposed.
"Some place that doesn't attract quite so much public attention."
"Ummâ¦ are you coming on to me?"
"Not at all. Even though Shimako-san had had consideration and taken great pains in not making a scene, if we draw undo attention to ourselves now, it would undo everything she'd fought for."
Gradually escalating from patting her on the head and saying "good girl", she had had her shoulder and arm stroked and now she could confidently say the woman was clinging to her back. High school students who had come out through the gate, upon seeing this, were whispering to each other surreptitiously.
"You're rightâ¦" The college woman separated her body from Noriko for the moment. After that she said, "follow me" and began walking away.
While watching her back, Noriko thought dimly. For it to come to this isn't the end of the world. Fifteen minutes ago, Shimako-san had said so herself.
"Lately, there have been times when I'm noticing more and more," that is to say, these had been Shimako's words. That incident had occurred only fifteen minutes ago. Two people stood side-by-side in front of Maria-sama's statue. As one always does when passing here, they joined their hands in prayer. When there are two people, No...even if there are multiple practitioners, in generally all cases, Noriko finishes prayer first. Shimako-san had always been the one to have her hands joined the longest. Before too long Shimako-san opened her eyes and said with a smile, "Shall we go?"
Until coming before the statue of Maria-sama, Noriko had been mentioning her plans to go on short Buddhist statue viewing pilgrimage. But putting that aside, just as soon as the two people began walking once more, Shimako-san said, "Lately, there have been times when I'm noticing more and more."
"What's that?" Noriko asked. From Shimako's tone, it didn't seem like the subject matter was going to be very serious. Yet, it also wasn't the kind of story she would be laughing and reminiscing over.
"We're peaceful, aren't we?"
"By we, I mean Noriko and I."
"Peacefulâ¦" She didn't have time to finish gauging the meaning of what Shimako-san was saying. Noriko simply repeated what she'd heard. Peaceful.
Without a doubt, if asked, "Are the two of you peaceful?" I think a good response would be, "we're peaceful." No war had been born against this person. They were able to eat together every day. They were also able to study when they came to school together. Of children in all parts of the world, they were blessed with the opportunity to be in a richer environment.
However, because Shimako-san had limited this to "Noriko and I" she probably wasn't talking about anything as grand as that. Of course, in this peace, the two participants couldn't trade off.
"If the "us" is Shimako-san and myself, who would be an example of someone who isn't peaceful?"
"For example, Yumi-san or Yoshino-san."
"That would be..." Some very familiar people had been named. Yet, in having named someone concretely, she somehow understood.
"Those two are in strife just now." While walking with a patient gait, Shimako-san nodded.
"Even so, I wonder if it's okay if only the two of us are leading a gentle life," was what Shimako-san said. From the same class as Shimako-san, Fukuzawa Yumi-sama and Shimazu Yoshino-sama seemed to both be mentally and physically caught up in the problem of getting a little sister.
Shimako-san, along with the others who are called RoseTL Sukoshi: Ogasawara Sachiko-sama and Hasekura Rei-sama, although they were a grade above her, must all be busying themselves in earnest with preparations for entering college. Additionally, for both the Crimson Rose and the Yellow Rose elder sisters, the great challenge of climbing the hurdle of "graduation" awaits.
However, only we who are called the White Rose sisters have nothing troublesome staring us in the face. Which, was fine by Noriko.
"Isn't it okay?" There is almost always a problem or question which grows and grows until it threatens to suffocate you. Isn't it okay if there is no great affair of the heart? Or so Noriko thought.
"I agree." Although Shimako-san said so, there seemed to be some fragment of understanding she was missing. "I have a feeling that that air of tension has vanished." Air of tension. Can't you say with assurance that in a student's life, an air of tension must always persist? Though, the Shimako-san of the here and now said there wasn't any, it seemed to her that the current air of tension is simply too lax.
"In that case, my reading of it must have been wrong. What would you call it?"
"Peace at any price?"
"â¦Ah. What a neatly fitting word." One could say it was fitting. Although she only allowed herself the thought, Noriko was surprised.
"Must there always be peace at any price?"
"Must there beâ¦ It's not possible to explain very well but, for example? If this place was paradise, where's the problem? If it was a battlefield, it wouldn't be permitted. That's probably the case anywhere in the world, right?"
"In other words, Shimako-san, you suggest that even when we're surrounded by a serious atmosphere, the two of us have no such problems."
"Rightâ¦ I think." It's not a superior solution, but it seems pretty close.
"But," Noriko spoke. "That's something that can't be helped, can it? Shimako-san doesn't have an elder sister graduating this year, and you already have a little sister, namely me. The Crimson and Yellow Roses couldn't help being in their situation."
"That's right." Shimako-san nodded with a smile. "But you know, Sachiko-sama and Rei-sama had obtained little sisters by about this time last year. And still they weren't feeling peace at any price."
"Is that right?"
"Sachiko-sama's introduction to her little sister, Yumi-san: she seems to have been feeling torn. And Rei-sama, between her kendo match and Yoshino-san, she was definitely troubled."
Noriko didn't know about last year. Even if she had heard it as a rumor, at the time the sense she got was of a person in upheaval. She probably hadn't grasped its true meaning.
"Well then, Shimako-san, don't you think it'd be okay if some scandal happened?"
"Of course, but please don't return the rosary." They both laughed. The Yellow Rose Revolution of late last fall, which had begun with Yoshino-sama returning Rei-sama's rosary, had given rise to many such returned rosaries.
"Iâ¦ really for everyone, I think I want to do something. But what would be good, I'm not sure."
Picking out a little sister or which courses to take is that girl's responsibility alone. Although they were comrades, because she is not personally affected, for Shimako-san, surely she would be overstepping her bounds.
"After all, we were the only ones who weren't able to help with the tea party." Shimako-san spoke once more, looking down. "I wonder if it's okay if we're the only ones who can pass the time peacefully like this." A few minutes later, because it was unexpected that anything would happen, it stood to reason she should say this.
Noriko was brought to the university cafÃ© by the college student. She put hot coffee on the table. While clinging to Noriko, she sat down next to her and put her fingers in Noriko's ears. If Noriko didn't react, she was told the woman would be disappointed.
"Are you sexually frigid?" As a greeting, it was indescribable. Putting aside whether or not she was frigid, Noriko asked for confirmation.
"You are Satou Sei-sama, correct?"
"How did you know?" The college student, or rather Satou Sei-sama, said coolly, "even when we haven't met", throwing her head back. "I understand. It's normal." In truth, given this exchange of small talk, could she say the rumors about her had been quite true, or did she differ from the image Noriko had imagined? And yet, "Ah, this person is Satou Sei" hadn't been her only thought.
"You called Shimako-san 'Shimako'. Also, at the inter-high school tournament, you were far off but didn't you wave to us?"
"Ah, gotcha." With a pop, Sei-sama punched her palm with her fist. If you were only to say that this person was Shimako-san's elder sister, it wasn't believable. Admittedly at that time there had been a great number of people. Also, when two people are alone together, all bets are off. What had Shimako-san been feeling when they met each other?
"Pffw. To leave without giving your name. I thought, 'Who in the world was that person?' Although I'd been hoping to realize after the fact."
"I'm sorry I can't make a Yumi-san-like loud reaction."
"I guess not. She was born having that reaction. Unfortunately." Sei-sama stood up. Moving from right beside Noriko, she changed seats to be opposite her. There was no meaning to clinging to a person who isn't bothered by it. It seems she had only wanted to see Noriko's reaction.
"I'm Nijou Noriko."
"Yes. Thank you for always taking care of Shimako. I'm Satou Sei." Having only seen each other's face from a distance, they had not had a proper greeting. They tentatively introduced each other and bowed.
"And?" Noriko quickly raised her head and asked. "Who was that person?"
"That person? Who?" Sei-sama asked and looked diagonally outside.
"The Apron Man! Didn't you say you'd tell me if I asked? Orâ¦ no way, at that time were youâ¦" Noriko leaned forward in curiosity. She seized the collar of Sei-sama's jacket. "Were you just pulling that out of your ear? I knew it. I knew it." After liberating herself, Sei-sama first straightened her collar. Afterwards she had reminded Noriko to have some coffee and put her elbows up on the table. Then she said, "Huh? Who does this remind me ofâ¦"
"Who?" while dropping a portion of milk into her cup, Noriko wasn't sure who she was supposed to have been reminding her of. But anyway, who in the world was that guy? The impact made by his cooking apron was too strongâ"she hadn't gotten a very good look at his face. Certainly, she didn't know where that attitude had come from.
"Oh." She thought she might have said, "I see." Shimako-san's father. At that time, he'd wore his apron rather in the fashion of a pious monk wearing a stole, it reminded her of the image of Takuya-kun making a practical joke at the school festival. However, if you said that man reminded you of someone, it wasn't Shimako-san's father. He was far too young.
"But you seeâ¦" Sei-sama said. "That was Shimako's elder brother."
"WHAT?! Butâ¦ isn't Shimako-san an only child?"
"An only child? Have you asked her specifically?" She hadn't. Actually she couldn't remember whether or not she had asked.
"They're separated in age and because they don't live together, I wonder if that's why he hasn't come up in conversation."
"Is that right?"
"It is. Also, he's, well, an eccentric person. Though, Shimako would never speak ill of anyone. Ohh. I see. You were worried because it seems like Shimako is your beloved. Well, does that set your mind at ease?"
"Yeah." It's a relief but, it was a shock that Shimako-san had failed to mention that she had a brother.
"There's no resemblance."
"No, there isn't." Despite the fact that Sei-sama still had all her own coffee, she took a sip from Noriko's cup as she spoke.
"But, without a doubt they're blood-related."
"Is he safe? Is he out?" Her brother had gotten out of the car and began to run. Rushing into the building ahead of her, he gave out a war cry, "UOHH".
"â¦ Out, is it?" Excusing herself and removing her shoes, Shimako also entered. This was a kindergarten building.
"Safe AND out. It's disappeared: my masterpiece!" her brother had said. More so than a kitchen, this place gave you the feeling of being constricted. Squatting down on the crowded floor, in blank surprise he opened the lid of the oven.
He'd said repeatedly in the car that he was in the middle of baking a cake. The "safe or out" had referred to whether or not he'd scorched it black or would make it back in time to take it out. But to say that it had disappeared wasâ¦
"Masafumi-san." A middle-aged woman who had appeared spoke her brother's name. On the plate she held in her hand, lay the still steaming pound cake. "Because your masterpiece had been turning the color of a Kitsune (reddish-brown), I took it out. Since my oven has an old timer, please be sure to pay attention. A few minutes more and your kitsune would have become a black bearâ¦ OH!"
"How do you do. Please excuse the interruption." Since she had been noticed, Shimako bowed her head.
"My little sister," her brother introduced her. For some reason he omitted the purpose of her presence.
"Really? What a beautiful lady. Is she really your sister?" The woman brought her face closer to Shimako's face and shifted her glasses so as to get a better look.
"Are you sure this isn't a girl you're dating who goes happens to go Lillian Girl's School? You know, even if you're dating, it's still a crime." The difference in age and the lack of a strong resemblance was to blame. For the longest time, whenever they were seen together, because there was no precedent, they had certainly experienced the reaction of someone saying "You two? You're lying..."
"My name is Todou Shimako." Shimako presented her student notebook. It's possible this would be some kind of acceptable proof that she had the same "Toudou" surname as her older brother.
"Ohh. It's true. I'm so sorry. I'm the principal of this kindergarten. For your older brother, we're alwaysâ¦"
"Oh no, I should be thanking you for always taking care of my brother."
"Come now, it's a give and take." While presenting her older brother with the pound cake that lay on the plate, the kindergarten teacher laughed.
"Principal, how was the taste?" My brother asked.
"What's this?" she cocked her head at him. Shimako listened intently from his side. "Don't play dumb. My masterpiece, you tried it, didn't you?"
"You'll get a bad reputation if you accuse people baselessly."
"Oh, then what are those crumbs around your mouth."
"Ohâ¦ darn." Upon wiping her mouth, no crumbs were found. Her older brother gave Shimako a wink.
"You tricked me! You must have seen the cake was smaller than it should have been.
"Sorry." Shimako apologized to the principal. At which point, the principal's angry voice changed to a laugh.
"Well, I was able to entertain my guest, one way or anotherâ¦" Shimako politely declined the principal's invitation to come spend time with her in her office. The two of them stood opposite each other across the kitchen table. A kindergarten building after the kindergarteners had gone home is so quiet, you completely forget where you are. Although occasionally a faint sound can be heard emanating from somewhere. Apparently this was the sound of teachers who remained doing some work.
"I hadn't heard that you'd gotten a job in a kindergartenâ¦" While drinking the tea her older brother had made, Shimako wondered whether or not their parents knew about this.
"It's not that I was looking for one. There's a temple behind this building. It's going through some troublesome times just now. One person is still undergoing training. The chief priest of the temple is an administrator for this kindergarten. Since they're having a manpower shortage, I'm helping out is all."
"And baking cakes?"
"Oh, this is just a prototype. You know how kindergartners are with midday snacks. Oh, did you know? When I was in school, I worked at a cake shop as a part-time job."
"At a cake shop?" This was the first she'd heard of it. Shimako thought she didn't remember this because she had probably been very young. It seems things were kept secret so the father of the house wouldn't hear of it. Having a part-time job or working as a tutor, it seems various things were kept on the down-low. That father, wasn't there been anything he had been brought into the loop on?
"Even though things may have appeared that way, it all stopped when I gave up trying to become a Buddhist priest. I wasn't looking for work; I was invited to help out by the owner. If I can earn the experience while working, eventually I want to take over as a shop manager."
"Is that true?" How much of that is true, she really didn't know. She didn't think the conversation up until now could have been made on a foundation of complete falsehoods. For instance, it was likely that he had the part-time jobs he mentioned previously. Since it seemed like her older brother's relationship with their father had improved, she should hear the story from the other party as well.
"Would you like to try some?"
"Is it all right?
"Of course." Her brother boldly cut the pound cake with a kitchen knife and placed it in front of Shimako.
"Onii-sama has always been more skillful than I."
In appearance this was a very normal pound cake. However, it had a faint sweetness that melted on the tongue; the aftertaste was enveloping. It was a taste that cannot be forgotten after eating even one mouthful. She felt rather like a child receiving something from an adult. It was mysterious that such large, rugged hands could produce such a delicate taste.
As she tasted it, her older brother had a serious look on his face.
"Heyâ¦ is it true you got yourself a guy?"
"A guy?" She had been unconcernedly eating cake while he was talking, and at this she almost choked. Somehow she was able to wash the cake down with some tea.
"Who told you that?"
"I had a telephone call from a friend a little while ago. That person, how do I put this... he said he saw you with a guy."
"I was withâ¦ a man? When?"
"Seems like sometime around summer vacation. During a Buddhist statue exhibit."
"Ohh." Shimako nodded vigorously. This wasn't a case of mistaken identity. Indeed, they seem to have accurately recognized me after all.
"By 'ohh' can I take it to mean that it's true?"
"Yes, but we weren't alone. That man is a friend of Father's. His name is Shimura-san. Maybe you've heard the name before?" Having been invited by Noriko, the three of us had gone to see the Buddhist statue exhibit. It's possible she and Takuya-kun had been seen during the time when Noriko had slipped away to the bathroom.
"Shimura-san is a grandfather, isn't he?" her brother spoke angrily. Apparently he had only heard the word "man" in his conversation. They probably hadn't touched on the man's face or features. Likely, this friend had purposefully omitted a key element of the story because her brother's reaction had been amusing. "I see. I don't remember you expressing much interest in Buddhism. So what are you saying? That you went on a group date in order to see a Buddhist statue. That's veryâ¦ suspect."
"To say that I have no interest in Buddhism is inaccurate," Shimako corrected him with a smile.
"Oh really?" her brother replied, giving an astonished face. As they meet only occasionally what would he know of her likes and dislikes? Although her brother might be fully-grown, it didn't mean development for Shimako had ceased.
"Lately, someone's been influencing me."
"No, my underclassman. Before we left, do you remember the girl who tried to restrain you?"
"Ah, now there was spirit."
"Yes, I've made her my little sister."
"I see. That's good." Her brother partially closed his eyes and drank his tea. "You've turned a gentle color."
"If the former was meringue, this is whipped cream."
"Even your examples are baked goods." However, this neatly conveyed what he had meant. Her brother was carefully probing her.
"It seems everyday has been gentle."
"Being so peaceful is frightening." He laughed jokingly, but her brother had a serious face and he was watching her intently. It left her quite ill at ease.
"What?" Shimako asked.
"Peace and calm are unpleasant for you?" he replied.
"That's notâ¦" She tried to explain it as only being a joke. More important was what her brother had said earlier.
"If you were to leave the house, it doesn't mean I'd start thinking about coming back." When she stopped to think about what he was sayingâ¦
"Is that right? If I left, I'd be giving you the okay to move home?"
"That's not it." Her brother was wholly denying that. "Because I'm a no-good son, if you were to marry a superior priest, then the temple would prosper. That's what I think." (TL Rei: Raise your hand if you want to see Noriko as head priest at Toudouji)
"I know. You're more interested in Mighty Jesus than Shakyamuni Buddha." Her older brother brought his hands together in prayer and then crossed himself. Shimako thought this was wholly unnecessary. "So then what? Do you still want to become a nun?"
"I don't know."
"I see. Well, that's fine." Her older brother patted her shoulders. He seemed to be satisfied with Shimako's "I don't know" answer. It was true she had clearly stated before, "I want to become a nun." She had more or less altered her original intention. She had been made to recognize that by these kinds of things.
Before she knew it, it had gotten dark out. With the ringing of the evening bell, she confirmed there was indeed a temple directly behind them. If she didn't start for home soon, their parents would worry. She carried her plate and her teacup to the sink.
"When you marry and return home, I won't be immediately leaving becauseâ¦"
"There's no certainty I'll find a wife."ãã He picked up the car keys, which had been tossed away onto a table and said, "I'll drive you back. And anyway, Father is healthy; there's no need for me to return. I know it's unfair but, please be dutiful to our parents enough for the both of us."
"â¦" Shimako thought.
Their relatives having always had to deal with such an unfettered person, she didn't feel there was cause enough to do anything.
"Riko~" from the couch in the living room, Sumireko-san called. "Answer the phone. I'm doing my nails; I can't answer it." Twisting the faucet off, she could indeed hear the sound of the phone.
"Okay." That Sumireko-san. Even if she was in the middle of painting her nails, it wouldn't matter. Lately, any time Noriko was about, she wouldn't answer the phone. This was the kind of landlord-tenant power struggle that had materialized.
"I'm getting it now." Having interrupted her tidying up after dinner, Noriko rushed to grab the telephone receiver. She anticipated who this might be. "Hello?"
"Hello, Noriko?" It was the long-awaited telephone call.
As promised, she'd received a phone call from Shimako-san.
Just as Sei-sama had said, the Apron Man had only been her brother and they had gone off to have a chat. They were separated in age by ten years or more. For as long as she could remember she had attended boarding school, and she seemed to have only scattered memories of having lived together.
"Ahh, I see. He tentatively thought about becoming a Buddhist priest."
Shimako-san laughed into the telephone receiver. Although "Ahh, I see" and "tentatively" don't go together in a set. She probably couldn't top the novel appearance of a cooking apron and sunglasses.
"What did your older brother need to talk about?"
"That'sâ¦" Shimako-san began with a strained laugh.
That panicking priest of an older brother, from a conversation with a friend, was led to believe that Shimako-san and Takuya-kun were lovers. He must have been worried about his little sister. If it was that sort of thing, it explained his actions before. "It was the same for me," Noriko thought.
"That's right. But, he seems to have been hurried."
"He ran out in the middle of baking a cake."
"â¦What's with that, Mr. Priestly Watchful Older Brother?" (TL Rei: Noriko is making up some kind of label for him by combing Onii-san and Obou-san into one word.) She'd never heard of a person studying in a temple and baking cakes on the side. Or was that a hobby?
"That's because, didn't I tell you," Shimako-san said. "He's only tentatively going into the priesthood." Given that her speech was reduced to a whisper, her father or someone might have been walking nearby. Discussing her older brother is probably a taboo subject at home.
"Incidentally, I met Shimako-san's Onee-sama." Noriko tried to change the subject.
"Umm, really? What did you talk about?" Suddenly Shimako-san's voice became extremely bright.
"Nothing really. Just making conversation. She treated me to coffee."
"Did you properly thank her?"
"I did, butâ¦ That person, is she really Shimako-san's older sister?"
"Sei-sama? Oh yes." Based on how Shimako-san had responded, she had probably been a very wonderful person. Noriko's feelings were becoming labyrinthine. (No wayâ¦)
Likely, Shimako-san had been spared having her body stroked by that person in that way.
The Heaviness of Reverie
"Shimako-san is being ... weird?"
Yumi narrowed her eyes at Tsutako's comment.
"Shh, you're too loud."
Tsutako-san warned, and looked around. But classrooms become noisy after the afternoon cleaning is done, so nobody noticed their hushed conversation.
Yumi copied Tsutako-san, and lowered her voice. Yumi had met Shimako-san both yesterday and today at the Rose Mansion, but nothing seemed different about her.
"This is news from Wisteria Class, in other words, it's information I gathered from Shimako-san's classmate Katsura-san."
"She acts fine normally. She's fine in class, during homeroom, and in conversations. But during breaks, or when she thinks no-one else is there, she spaces out. It's the kind of spacing out that makes people wary of getting near her. As if she's lost in her thoughts. Maybe she's having some problems, Katsura-san was thinking."
This isn't the Cherry Blossom season though, Yumi thought as she looked outside.
(TL Sukoshi: Shimako had a fairly hard time adjusting to life in Lillian without her Grande Soeur, the infamous Sei. Sei had taken Shimako as a soeur in her final year, so Sei left Shimako with only one year of guidance. The "Cherry Blossom season" is the time when the cherry blossoms begin to fall, and when Shimako begins to remember Sei. Last year, around this time, she became slightly ... out-of-it (depressed is too harsh a word) when she remembered Sei, but soon found Noriko and made Noriko her soeur. There are parallels between Noriko and Shiori, but I won't talk about them, and if you don't know who Shiori is, then that's your job :)
"But Shimako-san's one of those spacing-out types, isn't she?"
"She is, isn't she."
Tsutako-san first laughed loudly, then dealt her next card.
"Oh, then what's this? Yesterday when going home, Shimako-san got in a car being driven by a shady-looking guy; it drove off in a different direction than her home."
"One more thing. Noriko-chan, who had been waiting there by herself, was later escorted by a mysterious university student toward the university building."
Well wasn't this becoming a noisy affair.
"Is that also from Katsura-san?"
Yumi-san asked for confirmation, but Tsutako-san shook her head.
"Actually, it was Naitou Shouko-chan"
"What is this 'haha' business? Shouko was just going home, when she happened to see Noriko ... what do you think of this?"
"Why are you asking me?"
"Yumi-san just seems like the right person here."
I meet her everyday at the Rose Mansion, and she's a good friend of mine, huh. But so was Yoshino-san.
"Well, Yoshino-san has been busy with her own things lately, and she's had her thoughts on one person so."
Or that's how it seemed.
Of course Yoshino-san was far from depressed. She had a lot going on with her soeur relationship, but she had also suddenly begun putting a lot of time into her clubs. Everyone knew that Rei-sama was soon going to retire her post, so Yoshino-san kept up the hard work for her sake.
(TL Sukoshi: Rei is the captain of the Lillian Kendo team.)
"In other words, Tsutako-san is worried about Shimako-san, but has no real evidence huh."
"Have you tried asking her yourself?"
That was the fastest method. Tsutako-san grasped onto Yumi's shoulder, and said.
"I won't go and ask her. If I were in her class, then I could simply go up to her and talk, but if I were to just randomly come up to her it would be unseemly. That kind of showy thing would get me caught by the newspaper."
The girl that Tsutako-san had been hiding from all along was their class's Yamaguchi Mami-san, and her Magic Eye. Mami-san was the high school newspaper, Lilian Kawaraban's, chief editor.
"The moment you take a step outside of the gate, your affairs become private. If I follow her, or prod her about such affairs, wouldn't she feel weird?"
"But you're still worried?"
"Yep. So instead, there's Yumi-san. You can ask her, right?"
"Um yeah, well..."
Without giving a definite answer, Yumi gave a "I'll do what I can" type answer, and left for the Rose Mansion.
Is Shimako really worrying about something?
Yumi thought to herself, as she climbed the creaking stairs. She had heard about it from Katsura-san and Tsutako-san's findings, but when she had first seen it herself, she had been shocked.
It really wasn't her imagination, was it.
Did Noriko, Shimako's soeur, sense this too?
Whether Noriko had sensed it or not, she had better do what she can for Shimako-san at this point.
But what could she do?
She pondered back and forth, but at any rate, she needed to meet with the real Shimako-san. Yumi built up her resolve, opened the biscuit-like door, and cheerily said "Good day".
The White Rose Sisters were inside the second floor clubhouse.
"If you happen to meet Rosa Chinensis later, then please tell her that I'll be a little late."
Noriko-chan told Yumi as she sipped her tea.
Yumi nodded, and went over to Shimako-san. When Yumi had entered the room, Shimako-san had smiled and said "Good day" in greeting, but now she was sitting on a chair near the window, and looking out at scenery.
"Where's Yoshino-san? Club stuff?"
Shimako-san turned around and asked, perhaps noticing Yumi's glance.
"Yep. She seems to have gotten very into it lately."
"I see. Well good luck to her then."
Shimako-san smiled gently, but, and perhaps this was Yumi's imagination, she didn't seem happy. But whether the unhappiness came from fatigue, or troubles, or feeling lonely, Yumi could not tell.
So Yumi tried asking.
"Shimako-san. Did something happen?"
Tsutako-san had told her not to do it this way, Yumi reflected, but there were direct methods for doing such things.
Shimako-san quickly darted her eyes.
While Yumi did seem as if she were just wondering, she just couldn't think of anything else to say to Shimako-san. Shimako-san replied:
Shimako-san didn't know how to react.
"I'm sorry. I couldn't really say it the way I wanted to before but, I was wondering if Shimako-san had been brooding about something. Just something. If she was brooding, then I wondered if I could do anything about it. Uh, well, it's not as big of a thing as it sounds, but I was just wondering, you know, if I could, just like maybe, come to be some use for Shimako or something."
Yumi wondered just what she was really saying, but went on talking.
Shimako-san's lips suddenly quivered out a sigh.
"Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, ha-ha-ha, a-ha-ha-ha...."
Yumi wondered what in the world was going on. The only thing she could concretely grasp about the situation was that Shimako-san was laughing.
"Nothing, hahaha, Yumi-san you!"
"Onee-sama, what happened?"
Noriko-chan too stopped sipping her tea, and came over.
"Whatever happened Noriko, just listen! Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!"
Both Yumi and Noriko-chan just stood there, dumbstruck, unable to do anything.
"Ahh, what's wrong, I can't stop!"
Shimako-san held her stomach, and laughed for three minutes, as tears began streaming down her face.
".... Shimako broke."
Sachiko-sama said as she entered the room.
Part III Rosa Chinensis's Sigh
At first, Yumi didn't really understand what Sachiko-sama was trying to say.
It was December, after school, on the second floor of the Rose Mansion.
Final exams were going to start soon, so today would be their last regular meeting. The next meeting was on the last day of finals, so after the formal meeting, everyone began talking.
So everyone's voice began mixing together.
But perhaps the most important reason why she couldn't understand what she was saying, was because she never expected Sachiko-sama to say something like it. No, never.
"After finals, do you want to go to the amusement park?"
For a second, everything went quiet. Rose Mansion. Just now. Something. Had happened. She had felt it.
Yumi-sama asked her Onee-sama.
The truth was that Sachiko-sama had actually spoken while everyone else was speaking, but because the situation was as it was, Sachiko-sama took care to guide the conversation, and to look closely at Yumi's face for her reaction.
(Ah, she's waiting for my answer.)
She was waiting with unwavering eyes.
(What a weight on my shoulders.)
She broke out into a cold sweat.
With Sachiko-sama this way, she couldn't just reply back with "I don't really understand what you mean by this, Onee-sama". Then maybe, she had no real need to confirm the words that Sachiko-sama had just uttered. Plus, everyone else was giving her an "I want to help, but I don't know how" look.
By "everyone", she of course meant the Yellow Rose Family, Rei-sama and Yoshino-san, and the White Rose Family, Shimako-san and Noriko-chan.
"Could you repeat your question, please?"
First, determine the foundation. Just to avoid the chance that there had been a mistake in Yumi's interpretation of Sachiko-sama's words. But.
"Do you want to go to the amusement park? That's all I had asked."
All possibilities of misunderstanding had disappeared. There was no mistaking it, Sachiko-sama had just proposed that the two go to an amusement park.
"By amusement park, you mean the amusement park, right?"
There was a reason behind the seemingly-idiotic question that Yumi had asked. A long time ago, the question of deciding whether or not to go to this famous place had almost driven the Rosa Chinensis Family into separation. But the misunderstanding, and the uneasiness it had caused had long passed, and the bond between the two had long ago strengthened, and everything had turned out all right....
But still, it was that untouchable place. The amusement park.
(TL Sukoshi: *Spoilers about a previous book*. The entire historic allusion that Yumi refers to is a (to very nice effect) dramatized reference to "Rainy Blue." The entire incident was a huge, school-wide one, creating great fanfare for the Rosa Chinensis Family, and painting an annoyingly persistent negative impression of Touko. Editor Erica: In a nutshell, the arc in Rainy Blue in which Sachiko and Yumi briefly split began with a series of canceled dates to go to the amusement park.)
This can only be approached with patience, Yumi thought, as she put the brake on her speeding thoughts. False happiness can lead to much damage.
"Well, it's a place with rides, and attractions, and fun places to go to, and character dolls, and..."
Sachiko-sama cut Yumi's wandering explanation short.
"What other kind of amusement park is there?"
So there was no misunderstanding about the meaning of the word "amusement park" then.
(Which means ... well what does it mean?)
Yumi tried desperately to remember what her previous conversation had been about. Just what had she been talking about before Sachiko-sama's "Well then"
Oh, yeah. Yoshino-san had said, "Final exams are a real drag".
Rei-sama had replied with something along the lines of "Because Yoshino doesn't study any of the subjects that she isn't good at," and Yoshino glared back at Rei-sama. Ahh, something still felt missing from the flow of conversation.
Then Yoshino-san, the person who needed no luck, requested "I'll be thinking about what to do when I'm done with exams. So please, wish me luck." While Yumi was wondering whether Yoshino-san's idea had had any effect, Shimako-san had replied in a light voice "Noriko and I will be making a small trip to observe Buddha statues."
Then Yoshino-san burst out suddenly "That's right, see. Someone should give me something. You know, when you first start winter vacation, you're still a little confused. You just want to do something fun during winter break. You feel like you just have to go somewhere. What do you say, Yumi-san? You wanna go somewhere? Or should we all go as a group? " or she had said something like that. And when Yumi was brushing it aside, Sachiko-sama had let loose her "Well then."
"So you had asked me if I wanted to go to the amusement park after finals?"
Yumi asked, madly trying to get confirmation. Onee-sama replied back with a deflated look.
"Isn't that what I had said in the first place?"
So it wasn't false happiness, but real happiness.
"But I won't ride any roller coasters."
Wow. Then it had to be real.
"I'm happy, I'm so happy! What should I do. Oh, uh, everyone, how many are you, you know, who don't like the amusement park?"
"Yumi", Sachiko-sama said, interrupting Yumi.
Did she do something wrong again. It was because she was going too fast, again. But.
"I don't really understand why you're apologizing though."
"We'll go together to the amusement park, just the two of us of course."
Then this is, no it can't be, but maybe it's a.
"But, it really surprised me!"
Yoshino-san said as she closed her English textbook.
"I know she really didn't want to make a scene, but maybe, you know, like what if, you know because I had asked whether we should all go, in like an invitation, but when she said only the two of us, it was like she was waiting to refuse or something."
It was the second day of final exams.
The words "First Period, English Grammar. Second Period, Mathematics. Third Period, Religion" were written in bold on the second year Pine Class blackboard.
Yoshino-san was in that mode where she was hoping to memorize just one more word until the instructor came in. When she became engrossed in her conversation, she didn't notice that she had closed the English textbook.
"But when Sachiko-sama just blurted out, without any reservations, that 'just the two of us', she even added 'of course'."
She rolled the English textbook around, and began to shift around. Yoshino-san loved the topic, so even days after the incident happened, she kept expressing over and over again how embarrassed she was with the incident to Yumi.
When she carried on in such a nosy way, for some reason, Yumi's mind refused to settle on the conversation. For some reason, she kept wanting to scream "Please stop!" and run away so quickly that her cheeks would become red.
"Hey, how come you have such a bored look on your face?"
Yoshino-san quickly noticed her lack of attention.
"No, don't stop now. Keep going if you're having fun with it."
Yumi had no choice but to raise her two hands in the air, and say "waaai" as if she were reading from an old Chinese text.
"And you know what, something was on my mind before."
"But, you know, I wonder."
Yoshino-san made the same face she would make when she would look at an equation, because she was bad at math, a deflated look. For that matter, Yumi herself didn't know what she had meant by "I wonder".
"Why, what's wrong? Is Sachiko-sama scheming about something?"
"Not scheming. It's just that, she's fulfilling a promise she made a long, long time ago."
"I don't understand anything."
"I don't really understand it but, I feel lonely."
"She said it would just be the two of us so I would think I'd be happy but."
She was happy but, she felt equally happy and lonely.
"Nothing's making sense."
"Well you know what I mean, like making new memories."
"Aha. I see. Now I think I sort of understand."
Yoshino-san said, but did not show any pity for Yumi.
"I had a feeling that maybe that's what you were trying to say. Yumi-san just worries too much. Sometimes you shouldn't just worry and worry and lurch along, and instead keep going ahead without any hesitations."
Yumi quickly replied "Maybe" without being able to contribute anything else to the conversation.
"It's a useless waste of time you know. It's better to just stick to the outside track, rather than running around in circles in a marathon, right?"
(TL Sukoshi: This conversation, while lacking a definite topic, really IMO shows the different personalities of Yoshino and Yumi.)
"It is isn't it."
She smiled for what seemed a lifetime, and wove her eyebrows into wrinkles for what seemed another lifetime.
What she could do now, she wouldn't be able to do again tomorrow.
And the thing she needed to do was.
"Yoshino-san, how are you on your model sentences?"
She turned away and quickly began concentrating upon her textbook, and so Yumi too opened her textbook.
Why did they have to make finals so comprehensive.
Continued in Part 3
- Many thanks for this translation! Showers of double chocolate chip cookies upon all of you. Btw, *raises hand* I would LOVE to see Noriko as head priest at Toudoji!
- Hahaha. That was actually a note to myself i forgot to take out.On Sat, Aug 15, 2009 at 9:56 AM, szeweii <szeweii@...> wrote:
Many thanks for this translation! Showers of double chocolate chip cookies upon all of you. Btw, *raises hand* I would LOVE to see Noriko as head priest at Toudoji!
"How much sand will the hand hold?" ~Jessica, mother of Muad'Dib