Maria-sama ga Miteru:Volume17 Chapter4
The Mouth of Truth's Complaint
Rome's subway has only two lines, A line and B line.
Because it is so simple, at least compared to the Tokyo Subway Transit Map, you probably wouldn't recognize it if you saw it.
Well, this is a foreign land. Not being what you're used to, even buying one ticket is a big task.
Each class had some freedom in choosing some activities. In Japan, they chose the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, the Colosseum, and the Mouth of Truth. In that earlier discussion, it was unanimously agreed that "this would be a good chance to ride the subway." But now that they were actually trying it, it was quite the terrible challenge.
In any case, it was crowded. But today is Sunday.
Because it would have been impossible for 30 people to all board the same car, they split into three groups, confirmed how many stations down the line to go, and which exit to head towards. After they got through the exit, they called roll. After confirming that everyone was present, they moved on. They called roll before leaving the station. They called roll as soon as they left. Everything was fine. Because of the event with Sakura class yesterday, Sensei was more nervous than usual.
Upon hearing the word "subway," Sensei blatantly made a face that meant "that's going to be a hassle". Now they understood why. But Katori-sensei was trying to accommodate what the students decided, as long as it wasn't dangerous. That was also the high school's policy.
From the station next to the hotel, they first rode the A line, bound for Termini Station. Here the station intersected with B line, along with international and domestic national rail lines. It was probably the largest station in Rome.
The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore was around a 5-minute walk from Termini Station. This was a church built due to a revelation of Maria-sama. By coincidence, there wasn't a cloud in the sky today. So under a sky that reminded them of the deep blue of Maria-sama's Heart, the white building also called "Saint Mary of the Snows" shone bright and beautiful.
When they entered the church, it was the height of Sunday mass.
In the center of the wide church was a simple partition of something like rope, where rows of seats for the priests and faithful offered their prayers. Although the words of the prayers and sermon differed, there were many sections that overlapped the masses held in Lillian's church. They attended a Christian school, so Yumi's group also put their hands together and prayed behind the faithful.
They returned to Termini Station, this time riding the B line to the Colosseum. As soon as they exited the station, the famous round stadium appeared. To tell the truth, the second-year Pine class homeroom had arguments for and against including this place in the plans
The arguments in favor included "this was one of the many places that Princess Anne went sightseeing in 'Roman Holiday', which I want to see with my own eyes." The arguments against included "I don't want to go to places that made a spectacle of killing." Eventually, they decided to look at it only from the outside. Both sides agreed that the Colosseum was a good waypoint for the Mouth of Truth, even though it was one train station earlier.
There was lots of greenery. The air improved. Relaxing and walking on old cobblestones, they came to an old church.
Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Really, there was no doubt that the reason this place stood out was that the "Mouth of Truth" was here. If you saw the line formed outside the church, you'd nod in agreement "yes, yes."
"I bet it's empty inside the church..."
"Yeah. You can see that from the street."
Despite this conversation, for now, the second-year Pine class formed a single line behind the queue. The head of the queue turned to the right after entering the church, then down a long and narrow passage. There is the "Mouth of Truth."
The "Mouth of Truth" is a marble disk with the face of Triton, a god of the sea. Tradition says that if a liar put their hand into its mouth, it would eat the hand
The disc is said to be an ancient manhole cover. Yet people line up to see it. Is this too the influence of that famous scene in "Roman Holiday"? All the time Yumi and friends were watching, nobody mimicked a tabloid reporter by howling and pretending to have lost a hand.
Tourists were conscious of the number of people lined up behind them. As each person's turn came up, they took a picture or two in front of the "Mouth of Truth," then made way for the next person. As a result of this, the line moved much more quickly than they thought it would. Of course, it goes without saying that the Lillian students followed this implicit rule.
Yumi and Yoshino-san both put their hands in the "Mouth of Truth" at the same time, and Tsutako-san's camera went "click."
"The two of you together" was requested by both the Newspaper and Photography clubs. If Shimako-san had been in the same class, they certainly would have asked for "all three people."
After they finished taking their picture, they went into the church. It was old, dark, and small. But the floor was beautiful with its Italian tile and gave the church a special atmosphere. Some tourists were content to just put their hands into the "Mouth of Truth" and leave, but that seemed more than a little wasteful. There was a lovely church here, just a few steps away.
After a late lunch at a restaurant a short walk from the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, they walked to Circus Maximus Station (a nice leisurely stroll while digesting lunch), rode the B line to Termini Station, then the A line back to the hotel
"I have an eyewitness report of Sei-sama."
Mami-san said, while holding her chopsticks like a pen.
"Not just A-san from Sakura class. There are others."
Apparently, Mami-san did not relax in her room during the brief time between returning to the hotel and dinner time. It seems she was gathering intelligence, calling out to students in the lobby, sometimes visiting the rooms of friends in the Sakura and Wisteria classes. Meanwhile, roommate Tsutako-san was in her room, checking remaining quantities of film and carefully going over her camera, just as you'd expect. They were both the "go your own way" type.
Yoshino-san asked, while stuffing her cheeks with stewed vegetables. Tonight was their first Japanese cuisine in a long time. The school knew that they would eventually miss rice, so they incorporated a Japanese restaurant into the plans.
It was not in the spirit of "when in Rome...", and probably heresy, but they were honestly grateful for some food that wasn't cooked in olive oil.
"Some Wisteria class students also saw someone who looks like her at Milano airport. It was quite a topic of discussion amongst the Wisteria class. Someone who looked just like the original Rosa Gigantea walked by."
"At the Milano airport...?"
While listening, Yumi felt like maybe she just might have been there. When she bought the marker pen, the words "Rosa Giganea" had come from a cluster of Wisteria class students. But they weren't talking about Shimako-san.
"And it looks like that was the case even at Narita."
"That was just a similar name, though."
Mami-san herself even admitted that she mistook "Katou" as "Satou." When three people all asserted this at the same time, Mami-san muttered, "I can't say that for sure."
"Now it's not just the same name, but also the same face."
"Yeah. She heard the announcement and said it was Katou-san. But what about the students who said they saw someone who looked like Sei-sama? Do you think it is just a coincidence?"
Too many coincidences. Everyone thought so.
"Sei-sama came to Italy?"
To Yoshino-san's question, Mami-san shook her head and added a correction.
The three people mulled over that word. Sei-sama had come to Rome. Rather suddenly, the mood had shifted.
"What is she up to?"
"A trip, right?"
"What about school?"
"Oh yeah. The university is on post-exam vacation right now."
So there was no problem with the schedule.
"But didn't Sei-sama come to Italy on her school trip? I wonder why she would return to somewhere she had just been two years ago? Wouldn't France or England be better? Because she's spending all that airfare to Europe."
Yoshino-san's argument had an unusually persuasive power.
"So, that person is someone else after all...?"
"Even after hearing about all the people who saw someone who looked like Sei-sama? That doesn't suggest something? Sei-sama looks like a customary Japanese person. That's not someone you'd see around here.
"Naria, Milano, and Borghese Gardens? These are all accidental resemblances?"
The three of them folded their arms and pondered. For the time being, they sipped their Japanese tea and gave their brains a break.
"If it was really her, wouldn't she get in touch with us?"
While nodding in agreement, the four of them all raised their teacups with both hands and drained their cups.
Dinner was over, but this conversation was not.
Because none of them had seen this "just like Sei-sama" person themselves, all four of them were not completely convinced.
That night, while Yumi took a bath, Yoshino-san called Rei-sama on the phone.
Since it was 11 p.m. Sunday here, it would be 6 a.m. Monday in Japan. Rei-sama would probably be getting dressed for the morning, with time for a nice long phone call.
The rule was that calls to Japan from the hotel room had to be called collect. Because of that, students could only call their homes. Even if they wanted to hear their soeur's voice, it would be impossible unless they burdened the other party with the phone bill.
But in Yoshino-san's case, her onee-sama was Rei-sama, her neighbor and cousin. They had more flexibility when it came to finances. She could call Rei-sama at home, even collect, and a relative could cover the cost.
Yumi got out of the bath without noticing, saw the back of Yoshino-san sitting on the bed and laughing, and envied her.
She wanted to hear Sachiko-sama's voice. To say silly things, and be scolded for it.
When she was touring various places, in a hurry, helping out, then she didn't feel so lonely. But when the day was done, and she had a chance to breathe? She really missed her onee-sama during such nights.
There was no TV program here to distract her. Even variety shows were not funny when they're in Italian.
A person could be homesick, but this was something different. In other words, she was sister sick.
And though she could call home, that would do nothing for this particular ailment
She wanted to see her right now. She wanted Sachiko-sama to know that she missed her.
Japan and Italy. Right now they were separated by an easy-to-understand "distance on a map" that could only be bridged by a return flight home.
What should someone do when sooner or later such vague things as "circumstance" or "daily life" or "time" pull two people apart?
As she thought about it, a flood of tears overwhelmed her.
It was already late, and too hard to think about things after onee-sama graduates while in the middle of a school trip.
Slowly but steadily the tears filled her eyes and rained down. And she could not make them stop.
She heard no sign of Yoshino-san's phone call coming to an end, so Yumi softly closed the open door.
Back in the bathroom, she washed away her tears with cold water.
Tomorrow was Florence.
She had to change moods.
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