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Maria-sama ga Miteru Novel 22, Bara no Mille-Feuille, Pt. 3

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  • atheniag
    High Tension and Roller Coasters The morning of the amusement park date was a cloudy one. But you know, there s a zero percent chance of rain. The final
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 12, 2009
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      High Tension and Roller Coasters


      The morning of the amusement park date was a cloudy one.

      "But you know, there's a zero percent chance of rain."

      The final examinations, which for so long had been a towering cloud of gray, had finally gone somewhere not to be found, and so her mood had cleared. If she were to think of something as gray again, she would think of the school closing ceremony. She hadn't returned the questionnaire, but because of that she had received a notice today.

      "I've heard that the amusement park is fairly empty during the winter."

      Her younger brother Yuuki said from behind, as he looked over the weather predictions for the day in the newspaper from the living room.

      "Really?"

      Both of them were on post-exam vacation, but seeing him up at 7 AM was rare. And seeing that he wasn't in pajamas, she knew he wasn't taking a bathroom break before going back to bed again.

      In the kitchen, on top of the gas stove, the sounds of a moving frying pan could be heard. Because she had heard the sound of cracking eggs, her mother was probably making scrambled eggs.

      "But you know, this time of year really doesn't feel like that kind of season. That's why not as many people will come. That's what I've heard."

      Yuuki said, as he raised his morning paper.

      "Aah. But in the winter there are people who go sleeveless underneath their jackets, and in the summer there are people who even wear fur coats."

      "Plus there's also holidays, and universities, and winter holidays and all. Just high-school kids like Yumi and I might have exam holidays, but the whole country has some holiday or another now."

      "But at least there won't be any middle school kids, right?"

      "Lately, there have been parents who take their kids out for holiday from school."

      Her brother checked the news once more, and Yuuki was just closing the newspaper when Yumi realized.

      "Yuuki, we're really siblings aren't we?"

      "Wait, why are you thinking about this now."

      Yuuki proudly made a bland face, showing off his boredom.

      "Really happy when fun things are in front of our faces, right? And then, when our feelings start floating and running around, we have to put a brake to our heart to put some control into it, right. When you go too far at something, this is what you do, right."

      "....."

      Ah, he didn't reply. She knew him well.

      Maybe it was because he had been in a bad mood since the morning, Yumi thought, and quickly changed the subject.

      "By the way, Yuuki, why are you up so early today? Are you going out somewhere?"

      "Yeah."

      After Yuuki folded up the newspaper, and turned toward the kitchen, Yumi began following Yuuki and asked, "Where are you going?"

      "School. I don't know anything else, but last night while Yumi was in the shower, Kashiwagi-sensei had called."

      "And?"

      "He called me over."

      Yuuki took out some milk from the fridge, poured it into a cup, and gulped it down.

      "Called you over? To school? Why?"

      "I don't know. He said we'd discuss the details once I got there. He wanted me to help him out with something, it seemed like."

      Yumi followed Yuuki, who put down his glass and quickly left the kitchen.

      "So will you go?"

      "Aah, well, I can't not."

      "Even if you don't know what's going to happen?"

      Maybe she was being a bit nosy but, she couldn't help herself.

      It's just that, Yuuki was going to meet with that Kashiwagi-san guy. If it were Kobayashi-kun, or Takada-kun, then she'd have no worries.

      Kashiwagi Suguru-san was Yuuki's upperclassman who had attended Hanadera Gakuin. He was snobbish, a bit monklike, Sachiko-sama's cousin, her fiancée by parental decree, but also a rumored homosexual, and somehow she felt as if he was after Yuuki... there's no point explaining any more. Basically, his existence made Yumi unhappy.

      "I can't really find a way to say it but, I think Kashiwagi-sensei has a lot of moments where he has fun by forcefully calling others to come."

      "Well."

      That Yuuki, he worries me so. On New Year's Day, when we had gone to visit Sachiko-sama at her house, Yuuki came to the girls' room and cried because he had to share a room with Kashiwagi-san.

      Whatever this was, it didn't sound like fun.

      She didn't really think anything had happened between Yuuki and Kashiwagi. Just that, dumping her brother with Kashiwagi-san wasn't a fun idea.

      Yuuki finished his breakfast quickly too, and beat Yumi out the door.


      Chapter 2

      She had arrived fifteen minutes early to the rendezvous point, but Sachiko-sama could still be seen at M Station.

      "I couldn't sleep well because of the excitement, so I got up, and quickly came here."

      "Onee-sama, couldn't sleep because of the excitement .... "

      "I woke up even before the golfers do, is what they say right? Something like that."

      Yumi took it to be a synonym for "Because it was so much fun", but maybe she had meant something different. But it wasn't any different, and when Yumi confirmed this to herself, she felt overjoyed.



      (TL Sukoshi: Yumi's as confused about Sachiko's idiomatic usage as this translator is, thankfully. Editor Erica: Golfers are notoriously obsessive both in Japan and in the west, and are well known to wake up crazy early to be the first on the course or at the driving range or stay out late, or golf in rain or snow or.... "Earlier than the golfers" is REALLY early.)

      "My family, you know, they wanted me to go by car. And not to the station, but to the amusement park. I had a horrible time trying to convince them otherwise."

      "By car...."

      (TL Sukoshi: In Japan, a car acts more as a mark of status, either showing that you have enough money to sustain a household, or that you yourself are fairly wealthy.)

      Nowadays, Yumi didn't even think about such methods of transportation. If the whole family wanted to go to the amusement park, then they would go in Dad's car, and Dad would drive them, but as a high-school student, it's expected that Yumi would ride a bus or a train.

      "None of them understand me. Riding with Yumi, just the two of us, in the midst of a crowd, being jostled up and down, and getting lost while changing stations, it's all really fun."

      "Being in the midst of a crowd and getting lost is fun?"

      Generally keeping a distance from crowds would be fun.

      "If it's only the two of us, then it's very fun."

      "Onee-sama....."

      Yumi became suddenly overcome with affection, but replied with a sober "No, you know".

      "We can't do anything about the crowds, but we can find ways to choose the train car we get on. And we can also make sure that we don't get lost."

      Danger. Danger. If she became careless; well she had no room to go wrong. If she did, then she wondered why she had looked up on her fathers's computer the stations and the train timings and the fares in the first place.

      Keep it together, Yumi. It wasn't anymore a matter of if, but when. Don't get swept up in Onee-sama's pace. Yumi dropped into a pose where she made a tiny, tiny fist, and Sachiko-sama reached her hands out toward Yumi's neck, to straighten her collar.

      Even though today she had no uniform, this was Sachiko-sama's trademark.

      The two had both worn straight, blue jeans, even though they had not made plans to dress similarly. It was the same type of jeans that Sachiko-sama had bought on their first date. The shoes too were the same that they bought on the trip. And like the rest of her clothing, she wore a white, decoration-less, plain shirt, with the top most button open.

      Yumi on the other hand wore something completely different than what she had worn to her first date, Yumi wondered as Sachiko-sama fixed Yumi's collar. Then, Yumi had felt a gap between her and her adult-like Onee-sama's dress sense, so she wanted to appear more sophisticated. In the end, Sachiko-sama had instead come to her level. Was this really for the best? Well, Sachiko-sama was enthralled by her new style, so she guessed everything was fine.

      The train finally entered the station, and they got onto it.

      Again there was a large rush, but they had prepared for the worst. Both of them lined up in front of the door. Indeed, during winter holiday and exam holiday, it seemed that the amount of students decreased. Plus, Yumi used the bus everyday, so she didn't know anything about the confusion on a train other than what her classmates had told her.

      Until the time came to change trains, everything went smoothly. Sachiko-sama had planned to play some game along the way, so we played "Atamatori" as the train bounced up and down.

      Atamatori was the opposite of Shiritori, where the first person says a word, and the other person must say a word whose last letter was the originally said word's first letter. For example, if someone says "Gorilla", the "G" is carried over, then the other person can say "Thrilling", and so on it goes.

      Start! First up, Yumi.

      (TL TL SUKOSHI: Shiritori, the conventional game, and Sachiko's creation Atamatori are designed to work with Japanese words, which have syllables rather than letters. In Shiritori, the last syllable of a Japanese word is used as the first syllable of the next: "Yuki" (Snow) can lead to "Kizuna" (Bonds). Atamatori would take "Yuki" and make "Fuyu" (Winter). The rest of this has been localized into English for effect, but I've included the Japanese dialogue so you purists who insist on everything as Japanese as possible can have your fill.)

      "Atamatori"

      "Ah, um, well, Aria"

      Oh, Sachiko-sama slipped. Smooth.

      "Freesia" (TL Sukoshi: A flower "Fureejia" in Kana)

      "Fuufu" (TL TL SUKOSHI: A married couple)

      "F... Sukaafu." (TL TL SUKOSHI: Scarf)

      What's wrong Yumi. You're slowing down. Contrastingly, Onee-sama was gaining speed.

      "Suraisu." (TL TL SUKOSHI: Slice)

      "Rirakusu." (TL TL SUKOSHI: Relax)

      What in the area looks weird, Yumi wondered.

      "Rinri" (TL TL SUKOSHI: Ethics, morals.)

      "Ri... Um, Onee-sama, haven't all the previous words had 'ri' for the next beginning?"

      "Haha, are you just noticing this now?"

      "But Onee-sama, aren't you just fooling around with me? Making me thing so hard like that."

      "But it was a nice exercise for your mind, wasn't it?"

      Sachiko-sama laughed dryly.

      "Mind exercise."

      This imouto who never trained her mind had no reply.

      Since they had switched trains, they had then played "Double Shiritori", and got to have good fun with her Onee-sama. After the next train switch, she competed with her Onee-sama in "What you see Shritori".

      In Double Shiritori, the last two letters are taken and appended to the end of the next word. For example, if you start the game with "Shiritori" (TL TL SUKOSHI: Shiritori), then you continue with "Riddle" (TL TL SUKOSHI: Torio)" or "Rise" (TL TL SUKOSHI: Torikago), and you go on from there.

      "What you see Shiritori" had the same rules as Shiritori. The only difference was the addition of a rule that said that you could only use things that you can see, which made it much harder. If the syllable is 'To' and you look out of the window and see something like 'Torii', then perfect. People's names and city names were fine, so if Torii Eriko-sama were to enter into the same train, then it would obviously okay to use her name, but ... having a coincidence like that occur was highly unlikely.

      In such a situation, those with expansive vocabularies would have the easiest times. If you were to see a sign that's color was in between light and dark blue, saying "Hanada Color" would be great. If you were to see the style of kimono sash of an old lady sitting in a seat in the distance, and say "Yoshino Kantou", even that would be great.

      But because there was no referee, she wasn't sure whether that would work or not. Sachiko-sama had her strong and weak points, for example she didn't know any small console game's names. As they took trains that took them closer to their destination, she knew she wasn't just imagining that the percentage of kids on the train was increasing. So they were going to the same place, huh. Winter holiday. It was a bit emptier than usual, but just a bit, and in reality it would probably be overcrowded.

      Danger, danger. If she didn't think in a more positive light, then. Times like this she should learn from her Onee-sama how to behave under high tension.

      (The amusement parks crowds, and lining up was fun. How could that be?)

      Just as Yumi began lightening up her mood, the train reached its destination station.

      But no matter how many positive things she thought about, there was no turning away from the truth in front of her eyes. She wondered how she could comprehend this truth.


      "Why..."

      When the Rosa Chinensis sisters reached the bubbling amusement park entrance, both of them exclaimed at the same time.

      Just why in the world. Over there.

      "Well..."

      Just like an ancient idol, a man raised one hand in the air and returned a careless smile. And beside that person, was --.

      "Even I would like to know why."

      Not cheerful, not even cold, but it was the smile of one having been caught. This representative boy was the other.

      Basically, for some reason it was the odd couple Kashiwagi Suguru and Fukuzawa Yuuki.

      "Suguru-san. What is the meaning of this? I, yesterday you had politely kept silent."

      Sachiko, who had been in a good mood until now, had the smile wiped off her face.

      "Of course I know. That's why I took up the car, right?"

      Now that Kashiwagi-san had mentioned it, Sachiko-sama had talked about it earlier. The "others" of the "family and others" seemed like it had been Kashiwagi-san. But, just what in the world was Kashiwagi-san planning.

      "Well then, why are you here?"

      Of course Sachiko-sama asked. And, Kashiwagi's opposing answer was.

      "Maybe I shouldn't have. But just because you girls came, doesn't mean that we can't enter the amusement park, right?"

      Of course. The amusement park wasn't Sachiko-sama's for today. And Kashiwagi-san, who himself had brought nothing, wasn't wrong. Was something bothering him, or did he have something more to say, Yumi wondered deeply. Unlike Kashiwagi-san, Yumi thought deeply about such things.

      "I understand. You guys came to the park to have fun, with no connection to us, right."

      Sachiko-sama became summarily nonplussed.

      "Right. No connection. If you think of it like that, then it'll be for the best."

      It was like a posed-smile for a commercial, just somehow coming out. But now was the time to talk to her brother, the Fukuzawa twins looked after each other closely, and now she needed to help her brother.

      "Then why does it seem like you camped out at the entrance?"

      "In this huge space, and with so many people, do you really think once we get inside that we would be able to secretly search you out? Don't you think that would be pointless?"

      "Quite a stalker huh. I'm tired of hearing you talk about how you won't meet us."

      "You're welcome."

      He said it without having any reason for giving praise or extending courtesy. They stood together, the intolerable Kashiwagi-san and his polar opposite, her dwarf brother Yuuki.

      (TL Sukoshi: Obviously Yuuki isn't actually short, but dwarf-like in comparison to Kashiwagi.)

      "Kashiwagi-san asked for my help."

      Yumi questioned Yuuki quietly about what happened. So then.

      "Trust me Yumi. I really didn't know about this. When I met him in front of the school gate, I had no chance to question him, he just whisked me in the car, and then this."

      When I looked at the pleading eyes behind the plea of "Trust me", and looked at this 16-year-old's involvement, I understood that he wasn't lying. As a guy though, what did he mean by being just whisked into the car.

      "So you came in Kashiwagi-san's car?"

      "Yeah, and he's a horrible driver."

      No matter how you looked at it, Yuuki wasn't happy. Not only had he been forced into derailing his sister's plans, but he had also been sapped mentally and physically
      by Kashiwagi-san's bad driving. Maybe there was a connection between the two. Kashiwagi-san's driving is, to put it lighty -- dynamic, to put it badly -- chaos.


      "So Yumi, let's go and buy the tickets. The time we spend associating with these people is wasted."


      Sachiko-sama gave up resisting Kashiwagi-san, and walked over to the ticket booth.


      Not knowing was one thing, but having your brother be one of the meddling two. It was an embarrasment to the Fukuzawa family. But once she thought about it, she had shown her Onee-sama many such embarassments of her family. Perhaps even in this situation, Sachiko-sama would let it slide.

      "It's not Yuuki-san's fault. Suguru-san forced him into it."

      Sachiko-sama laughed with a look on her face that said "That kid worries me". Good job, Yuuki. Sachiko-sama honestly understood the situation.

      "But just what in the world ..."

      Sachiko-sama took her purse out of her shoulder bag, and glanced over at the entrance to the amusement park where they had met Kashiwagi-san and Yuuki earlier.

      "He's not the type of person who would just come to the amusement park to annoy us once he heard that we were coming."

      There were no definite subjects in her sentence, but it was none other than Suguru-san.

      "Maybe he was just jealous of us..."

      Yumi was not at all enthused with the sudden preoccupation that Sachiko-sama had developed with Kashiwagi-san.



      Chapter 3


      While they planned the date, Onee-sama and Yumi had worked out the budget for today.

      So when she opened her purse and paid, Sachiko-sama gave money no heed. Even whatever location they would end up eating lunch at had been judiciously planned for. Onee-sama's household was a very wealthy one, but both of them were just high school students who lived off their parents' money, so even the Fukuzawa family had contributed their proper share.

      Whether they were being treated or just having their due depended on what their parents felt as the actual money earners. Onee-sama would ask in a boring way "If you could fulfill my request...." to her parents, but in the end it had gotten the job done. Unlike what she had said to her parents, when the two approached a store, Onee-sama told her that they would buy things in the store together.

      If they hadn't gone inside, Yumi didn't know what she would have done. But Yumi was very happy about what she thought could happen. What kind of a perfect day is there like today to buy things to hold their memories.

      "Wow"

      From outside of the entrance, the smell was overwhelming, but when she entered it felt as if she had been transported away from reality into fairy-tale land. The language inside was Japanese, but it wasn't Japan. It wasn't even France, nor America, nor Africa, not even Australia. Maybe somewhere above the Earth, in some nowhere-land.

      "It's a whole other world."

      When she would come to places like this, she would immediately begin wanting to run all around. Perhaps because she still had a child's heart. Until now when she looked at Onee-sama she stared and thought, "She's going to leave soon". The moment she had crossed the gate, everything flipped around. But good. In this world of dreams, she had won this person as her prize. She felt no shame.

      "Onee-sama, over here, over here! Hurry, Onee-sama, let's get in line!"

      Yumi entered just a bit quicker than the others, and waved back to Onee-sama.

      "Please wait, Yumi!"

      Laughing, Sachiko-sama gently ran after her. What fun!

      The inside of the park was a bit crowded, but not uncomfortably so. Everywhere she looked there was something to do, but everything had a small line attached, not that she cared. To quote Onee-sama "Lining up is fun".

      Everyone in the park was a resident of this fairy land. If you thought like that, then you could think of everyone as friends, who came to enjoy together.

      Ah, but.

      "I thought we wouldn't be able to see their faces."

      Waiting in line for a ride, those guys who had earlier talked about "No connection" and "Freedom," were wedged inside a group of five girls. They had said such bombastic things earlier, but it seemed like they had full intention to follow Onee-sama and her.

      "Woow. You're from Gunma? And today's a free day for you?"

      (TL Sukoshi: Gunma is a prefecture in Japan's Kantou area.)

      Kashiwagi-san, that idiot, was talking with the college-aged Onee-sans around him, and his speech seemed to make the surrounding flowers bloom. Shy Yuuki didn't enter the conversation, and perhaps because he was worried about his real sister's reaction, he would occasionally glance furtively at her.

      (TL TL SUKOSHI: For reasons beyond me, Kashiwagi is talking in an extremely feminine way. Because Japanese is subject-less, when I originally had read the sentence, I thought it was one of the college girls who had said it.)

      "Wooow two guys together seems that suspicious? We're hurt you see, the two of us, we were blown off by our sweethearts, so we came here to lick each other's wounds, so to speak."

      Who were these sweethearts. Just what was this licking each other's wounds thing. Two guys together looks that suspicious? Just look who's saying that, Kashiwagi-san.

      "Yumi, there's no point. If you show a reaction to Suguru-san, then you do exactly what he wants you to do."

      "A reaction, well..."

      "Oh? Then please stop looking backward. It would be horrible if you were mistakenly looking at Suguru-san."

      ".... Sure."

      Now that Sachiko-sama had mentioned it, she hadn't even noticed that she had fixed her attention backward.

      Even Onee-sama's reasoning that Kashiwagi-san had begun talking with these unknown Onee-sans was probably right. And even if she was wrong about it, she didn't feel that she should pay any attention to Kashiwagi-san. Of course, Kashiwagi-san's words were bringing Yumi's attention back to him, but not out of jealousy or any such thing, but that she would look in his direction and become unhappy.

      Onee-sama was thinking in a very adult way. It's true, they shouldn't show any reaction. They should forget that Kashiwagi-san and Yuuki were behind them. They had to.

      At the ride, there were numerous groups of people riding together, entering a place that looked like a theater. And of course, the group they saw in front of their face was the "licking each other's wounds" group. But when she factored Sachiko-sama's request of avoiding high places, fast things, and spinning things, she felt a definite inclination to "enjoy as much as possible", and she would not lose to the men.

      When she saw a cave exploration ride that involved gently floating on the boat, the first person they would see at the end of the line was Kashiwagi-san. He would wave back toward them with a smile, and Yumi would answer in the most forceful way possible.

      When they went outside, they felt a bit of the sunlight on their faces after being inside that cloudy place. They turned their faces not just up, but slightly to the West as well.

      "The restaurants will probably be most crowded right now."

      Sachiko-sama said, looking at her watch. Yumi heard a sudden scream above her, she turned to see what it was, and saw a roller coaster right in the middle of its decent.

      "Let's ride on something else, and then let's go and eat something, okay?"

      Yumi replied "Sure" cheerily as Sachiko-sama leafed through the informational leaflet, which contained the park map.

      And then, for some reason Sachiko-sama lifted her head from the leaflet, and stalked past Yumi's back.

      "O..Onee-sama?"

      At Yumi's back was, of course, that really cool "licking each other's wounds" group. Sachiko-sama narrowed her eyes, went up to Yuuki, and said one thing.

      "Are you fine with roller coasters?"

      Yuuki immediately made a "yeah..."-type face, but the question had been answered.

      "It's not like I absolutely can't go, but, I'm not really that comfortable ... but?"

      The last "but?" showed that some new unknown had entered the picture. Actually, even Yumi had the same "but?" whispered in her mind, and so she understood.

      As soon as she heard Yuuki's response, she turned toward Kashiwagi-san and asked a quick question.

      "Oh. Then, Suguru-san will be fine. Could you please take Yumi with you on a roller coaster?"

      (Huh?!)

      "Ok."

      (Wha?!)

      Without any prior warning, Sachiko-sama asked Kashiwagi-san. This really was Sachiko-sama. And then Kashiwagi-san replied Okay. This really was Kashiwagi-san.

      "And you, Sacchan?"

      (TL Sukoshi: Sacchan is the shortening Kashiwagi uses for Sachiko. Sachiko-chan = Sacchan.)

      "I'll sit here holding our stuff"

      "Then, I'll stay here with Sachiko-san."

      Yuuki tapped Kashiwagi-san on the shoulder in a Take-good-care-of-my-sis way.

      (What, why, where's everyone going?)

      So then as the conversation between the three, who had been walking quickly through the roller coaster line, died down, Yumi could only flap her mouth open and closed like a goldfish. When she finally opened her mouth, she said "But you know," just as the conversation had come to a complete end.

      "I didn't really, on a roller coaster, I mean..."

      She didn't say it. That one sentence. When someone plays a what-comes-to-mind-first game, if the first word is "Amusement Park", then the expected answer is "Roller Coaster". These two images were merged in Yumi's head, but today, because she had come together with Onee-sama, from the very beginning she had let gone of the notion of the roller coaster. She wasn't even going to look at a roller coaster with desiring eyes.

      "I want to see Yumi while she's riding. That's fine, right?"

      Yumi while she's riding. There was no use in trying to look from above ground at a passenger high up on a roller coaster going at limitless speeds. If you could recognize someone you know on a roller coaster like this, then you were something.

      That's why, was Sachiko-sama really after this "want to see" thing? I really did not want to ride, but because it was cute whim to a younger sister, it could also be thought of as an order from the elder sister.

      She really didn't want to think of it like that. She wanted it to be that she wouldn't have to ride on the roller coaster, and she could still have fun with her Onee-sama. Right, Yumi had protested to her Onee-sama before. She had even protested to her Onee-sama recently. But she stopped herself with a mental "wait a minute".

      (TL Sukoshi: Yumi's referring to the Soeur auditions, which she initially adamantly opposed, and Sachiko supported.)

      It was a sort of kindness, and when she thought of it like that, Onee-sama wasn't being mean at all.

      "But, even if it's Kashiwagi-san"

      Yumi whispered. "Even if he's not the most comfortable, how about riding with my real brother", and she stood there. It seemed that she was alone. No that was wrong. It was three-against-one, and the situation quickly became a penalty game.

      "What's wrong? If it's just a small outing like this, then isn't *Kashiwagi-san* fine?"

      What a horrible thing to say. That "Kashiwagi-san" and me?

      "Plus, Sacchan, we can just wait here as friends."

      "..."

      This was bad. Really bad. Even though they were both men, she could rely on Yuuki. When there was alone, she could definitely depend on Yuuki.

      "Right?"

      Sadly, even Kashiwagi-san had confirmed and understood Yumi's feelings.

      And then.

      "Suguru-san. Please take Yumi."

      (TL Sukoshi: The original Japanese was short, curt, and formal at the same time. There's no real English equivalent.)

      Just as Yumi depended on Yuuki, Sachiko-sama depended on Kashiwagi-san.

      That's why she had entrusted him with her "dear" younger sister.

      But to give such a "dear" thing to such an awful person.
      Just that "dear" part of her that loved her "dear" Onee-sama accepted Kashiwagi-san.


      They gave their stuff to the two waiting on the bench, and began to walk toward the ride.
      She didn't want to walk toward the line, but the thought of following Kashiwagi-san made her feel as if she were grasping on to her individuality, so Yumi walked ahead. Kashiwagi-san slowly and nonchalantly followed Yumi, diagonally behind her. He followed slowly, but had a wide stride, so the distance between them never really widened. As the two approached the end of the line that had formed in front of the line, Kashiwagi-san, who had been following Yumi, graciously guided Yumi onward.

      Saying something like "ladies first", he began daydreaming. A do-nothing rich boy must have learned things like these in his education. He might not have any strong inclination himself, but there must be times when he must escort women to social places.

      "Kashiwagi-san!"

      "Hm? What about me?"

      Tall Kashiwagi-san stooped over and smiled.

      "Just what's going on in your head, and just what kind of a person are you, I don't understand."

      Yumi voiced the words just as they came to mind. And then, Kashiwagi-responded.

      "Fine"

      Just what was "fine"? When he himself was made the subject of the conversation, and about this subject someone claimed that he or she didn't understand, and then acting happy because of such conversation. This guy really loved himself, didn't he? It has to be, Yumi thought.

      "So, just what about me does Yumi not understand?"

      "Why are you here?"

      "Because Sacchan wanted to make Yumi ride a roller coaster, and instead of her I came along."

      "That's not what I meant."

      Today, why did he come to the amusement park.

      From the moment they met at the entrance to the amusement park, not all the time, but off-and-on, she thought about it. It became a small question in her mind that she just couldn't get away from.

      Just why was Kashiwagi-san (Yuuki was just dragged into this, so he was not a part of this matter) here? He had heard from somewhere that Sachiko-sama and Yumi had a date at the amusement park, and chose the same day to stage an ambush, there was no denying it.

      But then, what was he after?

      Right now, Yumi was with Kashiwagi-san, but until she found out, she would not let him go. She wouldn't go around clinging to him and bothering him, but she would keep turning toward him, and would get it out of him from her vantage point.

      "I'm a guard"

      "Guard?"

      "Right. I may be an eyesore, but if something were to happen, then I'd be needed, or at least something like that."

      "What is this something?"

      "Ahh, that's."

      Kashiwagi-san patted Yumi's shoulder because the front of the line was empty.

      "That that. I don't understand it!"

      Ah, he was purposefully muddying up his words, and Yumi understood.

      "Well I'll help her if there's an earthquake, or if we get caught in traffic and she calls me on her cell phone to go to the bathroom, then."

      In other words, that's what Kashiwagi-san was. Not as much a guard as he was an assistant.

      "So what might happen?"

      Yumi hesitated, but asked anyway. With the current mood of the conversation, it wasn't a very welcomed topic.

      "I, well it's better that I'm not needed."

      "... I see."

      "You see, but you're still down."

      "Welll."

      She couldn't really put it to words but, more than the fact that Kashiwagi-san had come because of Sachiko-sama it was the very fact that he was here that was bothering her. Looking at it from Kashiwagi-san's perspective, he wasn't a bad person, but he still troubled her. He was the manifestation of a rival love, there was no mistaking it, and while she doubted Kashiwagi-san's claims that he was actually someone outside of the arena, Yumi refused to lose.

      "Don't tell Sacchan about this conversation."

      Kashiwagi-san brought his middle finger up to his lips and made the secret gesture; Yumi nodded back silently.

      It was bad to share secrets with your rival, but she just couldn't think of a way to bring up such a conversation with Sachiko-sama. She felt it would be better not to talk about it.

      The line to the roller coaster lead into a tunnel that made her think of darkness.

      Yumi let go of her troubling feelings on the roller coaster.


      Continued in Part 4
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