Maria-sama ga Miteru:Volume17 Chapter7
The Parakeet's Hint
Wednesday was group free activity all day. Compared to Rome, the city of Florence was small and apparently easy for the students to see it all.
This morning, Yumi and friends went to the Uffizi Gallery. The school had booked reservations in advance for the number of students planning to come. But the surge of tourists from around the world was huge, and the lines were long. Both the line people with reservations and the line of those without. Many tourists just looked at the long lines from the gallery entrance and gave up.
After about a 20-minute wait, Yumi's group entered quietly. They tried hard to see it all, because they had to squeeze everything into a single day. With their guidebook, they decided which artworks to see, and smoothly made the rounds of several pieces.
Starting with the far too famous "The Birth of Venus" and "Primavera," by Sandro Botticelli.
"The Birth of Venus" had Venus standing upon a giant scallop in the center, two embracing wind gods conveying Venus to shore on the left, and a young lady holding Venus' cloak while waiting for her. The blue of the sea and sky. The pink was beautiful, distributed through every important part such as the cloak and flowers.
"Primavera" had been in the "pictures I do not know very well" category for Yumi since long ago. In a forest where flowers bloom, Venus, three goddesses, Flora the goddess of Spring, and other fairies were arranged. Looking over the whole scene, she could not help but think it was a bit inconsistent. She didn't remember if it was from an art book or a middle school art textbook, but whichever book she first learned of this painting, it only included the portion with Flora the goddess of Spring. Now, even standing before the actual thing, it looks like a collage.
"So that's it. Might you be overthinking it?"
This, just like "Maria-sama's Heart", was a question that Yumi would probably grapple with for her entire life.
Leonardo da Vinci's "Annunciation." Speaking of da Vinci, his most commonly known work was the "Mona Lisa", which sadly was not here. Although this was her first time learning of this "Annunciation", Yumi was totally pleased with how lovely this Maria-sama was painted. She arbitrarily decided that this "Annunciation" was number two behind Angelico's.
Another big "art that I want to see" was Raphael's "Madonna of the Goldfinch." A very young Jesus petting the goldfinch held in Saint John the Baptist's hands, Maria-sama watching over them, a very, very, beautiful thing!
"I got it."
Yumi said softly while walking along the corridor lined with ancient sculptures and busts.
"I like paintings where Maria-sama is drawn beautifully."
"I too have understood something."
Yoshino-san said. When asked "what?", this was her reply,
"Because there are so many statues of naked men, you cannot blush at each one."
... I see.
They got a brief impression of the other paintings, then left the gallery around lunchtime.
"Well, what shall we do?"
Yumi, Yoshino-san, Tsutako-san, and Mami-san: the four of them exchanged glances. They had tentatively decided that the plan for the afternoon was shopping (including window), but they were getting hungry. The story was, the school had arranged panini lunches for folks who wanted them, but since the four of them didn't want panini, they set their sights elsewhere. Amidst the fading memories of conquering the leaning tower, feelings of "if we cannot get lunch on our own, what will we do" grew bigger.
So they started the discussion off with "what shall we do?" While watching the Arno river.
"If this were Japan, we could look for a fast food place or a convenience store. But there aren't any on this map. There will probably be one if we go to the train station."
Mami-san went while flipping through pages of the guidebook.
"Uh. Yesterday's hamburger, today too? No thanks."
"But, Yoshino-san. Are you confident enough to go into a restaurant and eat?"
"No. First, I don't know the proper etiquette."
Me neither. Yumi shook her head in agreement.
"I do not really understand how to pay the bill. It's complicated, with tax and tips and service fees."
I see. So what to do?
"Anyway, can't we think while walking? I'm hungry."
With Tsutako-san's one statement, the four of them headed to the other side of the Arno river. Perhaps if they went past a food place, a solution would more easily come to mind.
Ponte Vecchio is a wondrous bridge with both sides lined with precious metal shops. Originally it was butcher shops and grocers, but Ferdinando the First hated the smell, so he replaced the whole area with gold and silver artisans. If you look him up, you'll find he was someone of importance, a "Grand Duke of Tuscany."
High school students had no need for precious metals. Actually, they did notice some, but the change they carried was totally not enough to buy anything. And that's how they persevered Ponte Vecchio's shops, just looking from outside. After they became adults, worked, and had money of their own, they could come again.
"But old is good for the look of the town."
Thus urged on by Tsutako-san, they took a souvenir photo on the bridge, then finished crossing.
Following the street that extended from Ponte Vecchio, they came out in front of Palazzo Pitti. According to the guidebook, there are lots of art galleries and museums in the vicinity. But if they went sightseeing they wouldn't be able to fulfill their original purpose of shopping so they turned around. If anything, they had the impression that this left bank of the Arno was more spacious than the right bank with the train station.
"Okay, I got it."
Mami-san suddenly stopped and said.
"Let's get take-out from this place here."
Here before their eyes was a bar like there was everywhere in Italy.
"Take out... I see."
This way, at least, they won't have to worry about etiquette or tips. Of course, this also clears the "no hamburgers" requirement.
"All for this plan, raise their hand."
Mami-san raised her hand. The remaining three hands went up.
" 'Can I take out O.K.?' "
"Take out" might not have the same meaning here as it did back in Japan, but the young man in the restaurant understood perfectly. The four of them each purchased panini and a bottled beverage, then they left.
"One way or another, we did it."
"Yep. They want to sell; we want to buy." So it's like we tried with all our might to understand the meaning of each other's words."
They crossed Ponte Vecchio again, and stopped in at the hotel for a moment. Since eating at the side of the road would have been ill-mannered, they searched around for a piazza or a park or someplace. While searching they decided to sit at the hotel.
Panini and drinks. In the end, it was the same as the lunch provided by the school, but theirs came with a sense of accomplishment. The results were the same, but the process differed.
Easy do to in Japan, but in a foreign country, an adventure.
The field trip was the embodiment of thrills and excitement.
After finishing lunch, they once again went out.
First, they went to a shop selling marbled stationery and bought a souvenir for Sachiko-sama.
"I wonder if we should get something for Touko-chan and Kanako-chan."
Since Noriko-chan's onee-sama, Shimako-san, probably bought something for her. Yumi said quietly. To which Yoshino-san replied:
" 'It's fine,', meaning what?"
"It's fine to buy something" or "it's fine to not buy something?" Or did Yoshino-san's "it's fine" mean "it's fine either way, whether you buy something or not"? But Yoshino-san seemed to be engrossed in choosing a souvenir for Rei-sama. That's right. Mami-san was also puzzling over a souvenir for Tsukiyama Minako-san, and Tsutako-san was closely examining picture frames to be used for some unknown person. Inside the small store, other Lillian students had also come in to shop.
Eventually, Yoshino-san brought two cute, small boxes to the cash register. As if she just started to remember the earlier conversation,
"It's fine to buy something."
"Yumi-san, which are you going to make your little sister?"
In this case, "which" probably meant Touko-chan or Kanako-chan.
"They cannot both be your little sister together, so it's better if you don't keep their hopes up."
What should she do for a souvenir? She didn't want to create a misunderstanding, so she had to be careful.
One year ago, after just one action by the center of attention Sachiko-sama, Yumi became a "candidate for little sister" and the focus of rumors throughout the high school. Back then, because of all the things going on, it was scary to be surrounded by so many inquisitive looks. Eventually she did become a little sister. Now, she can look back and laugh. But being made to think of those two girls, it was pitiful. If she was just feeling guilty for not doing anything, then there's nothing she can do about it right here and now.
"Is that what you mean, Yoshino-san? Did you buy a rosary for your future little sister at the Vatican?"
"I did not. I changed my mind."
"Oh. And why's that?"
"It is futile to buy something for someone without being able to think of that other person. "Also."
"I thought maybe I would give the precious rosary that Rei-chan gave to me, so that I would choose a precious little sister."
That was a very compelling argument.
Yumi could tell that Yoshino-san was thinking about this seriously.
Even after paying once at the register, gazing at the shop's goods while waiting as friends shopped, she'd see something else she wanted. So after purchasing some more stationery, the four of them headed out towards the Duomo.
They walked along the Arno river, to Ponte Vecchio, then turned north. Changing to a westerly course after the Duomo, after going to the vicinity of the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, the Arno river comes out to the south, and from that spot then returned to their hotel. This was their rough course. If they noticed a side street, of course it was okay to digress.
Brand shops were futile. They focused on small shops selling small things, gatherings of souvenir stands. They were a little curious about what Italian department stores were like.
At a jumbled store that spilled out into the street, Yumi and friends suddenly heard a voice. It was a greeting in Japanese. Naturally, thinking they themselves were being addressed, they looked around left and right, but found no such person. Around here, such a greeting would be from a Lillian student or teacher.
Thinking it was just their imagination, they once again started walking.
Mami-san pointed, "Ah! Over there!"
There, in a store that sold leather bags and belts, probably not for sale but at the same height as items for sale, hung a birdcage. Within that birdcage was a large parakeet.
"Did it talk?"
Mami-san spoke to the birdcage. Then. Sure enough, "Gokigenyou" came back as a reply.
"Wow, amazing. It's so well-trained. Gokigenyou."
Talking with the bird was amusing. Everyone greeted it simultaneously. Every time, the parakeet would reliably respond:
Some Lillian students who came here previously must have taught it. Or it also could be students from Course B, who came from Venice.
Thanks to the parakeet, the young ladies had stopped at the store and appeared happy. The shopkeeper also grinned and with a big smile, said "Gokigenyou." Although it was doing best to understand, unfortunately, the pet bird was just imitating what it heard.
The parakeet continued to chatter away.
"Welcome to Florence."
Surely, as if someone suddenly pushed the 'play' button on a tape recorder, unexpected words came out.
"Coming to Florence at least once is a good thing."
Who taught it these words? They listened while starting to become amazed. Yumi was startled at the next words to come out:
"Florence senbei. Florence senbei."
"No, isn't this a handbag store?"
Tsutako-san and Mami-san both buckled over in laughter, while Yumi and Yoshino-san both spontaneously exchanged glances. Florence senbei? Is there a chance it's possibly real?
And then the parakeet emitted a guaranteed shock:
"C'mon, stop it, Satou-san."
Satou-san, Satou-san. No way.
No way, Satou Sei-sama!
"Hey, so you think it was Sei-sama after all?"
Yumi asked a steaming hot Yoshino-san as she came out of the bathroom.
"I don't know. But no matter how much you think about it, you won't be able to solve it here. Unless Sei-sama appears right now before our eyes."
They had talked about this for a long time while walking back after that scene. And after returning to the hotel. And at the dinner table. Whenever their faces met, the topic of conversation unfailingly was "Is Sei-sama in Italy or not?" The explored every clue, but clues were just clues. There was no way that a great detective would appear and expose the truth like in the solution of a mystery novel.
"Ah, me too, please."
Yumi saw the label of a small bottle in Yoshino-san's hand, so Yoshino-san held offered one in the palm of her hand. It was stomach medicine to help digestion.
Every night a different restaurant, yet they all conspired to serve a mountain of meat. Japanese were originally an agrarian people. Even with their youth, they could not digest so much meat at one time.
"Also, we need to pack again? I just realized. Am I forgetting anything?"
Tomorrow morning, they vacate this hotel and head for their final destination: Venice. She hadn't forgotten anything. The problem was that the souvenirs that she bought today were crammed into her bag. Because it was stationery, it should not be folded or crushed.
"When we get back to Japan, we'll figure it out."
Saying this, Yoshino-san, washed the medicine down her throat with water from a plastic bottle.
"Yeah, I guess you're right."
Just like the meat, tonight's discussion topic seemed to cause indigestion.
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