Maria-sama ga Miteru:Volume19 Chapter4.5.3
-- The Burial Among Cherry Blossoms --
Under the moonlight, the cherry blossom tree's roots were being dug. Just one person, silently. It would have been better if the hole had been bigger. But nobody knew for how long the small potting shovel that was in her hand would dig. In the middle of the night, this school was the end of the world. Like powdered snow, the petals fell. When she rested her hands and looked up, the cherry tree sported a bursting, proud sort of bloom.
It was one of those rare mornings when Yae-san came late. As she looked at the cherry trees out the window, she could see that they had not quite reached full bloom yet. Perhaps seven or eight flowers had bloomed.
"The wheels of the car caught into the ditch, and things became difficult."
Explained Yae-san who had come to first period over thirty minutes late, to the classmates who had gathered around her desk.
"Were you hurt anywhere?"
The whole air of the classroom was saturated with a feeling of pity. Fujiko-san, however, with a different attitude, was the only person who viewed the real person in the middle of that circle.
"Did I look happy? Did you just ask whether I looked happy? Me?"
When at lunch, the two were alone together, and she said as much, and opened her eyes in surprise. So then Fujiko-san asked "Really?" and laughed. Fujiko-san couldn't be beat. After eating lunch, they took a stroll towards the Church, and it came that time on their schedules to talk about secrets.
"Yes. It really was horrible, but a bit wonderful at the same time." Yae-san confessed.
"The kindness of the act of saving us by lifting our car out of the ditch."
It was a guy. Fujiko felt the vibe immediately.
"Was he old?"
"I don't know how old he really was. But, ... yeah, I wonder if he was past twenty. He had this air about him as if he was a housekeeper of some mansion."
Yae-san shrugged her shoulders.
"Because the wheels were out of the ditch, the car could move. So I had to hurry on to school."
"You had to, huh?"
Of course "Nothing" really had happened, but Yae-san thought of that boy fondly. But it wasn't that Fujiko didn't understand Yae-san's feelings. When one is in trouble, and is lent a helping hand by someone else, they appear several times better than they actually are.
"Some day I'll apologize, I thought. What his name was, what his address was, I thought I'd ask. Because he didn't say anything and simply disappeared."
"Did he look like a nice guy? A cool guy? Which one?
Yae-san laughed, took her comb out of her sailor uniform, and combed Fujiko's hair. That was as far as this talk was going to get. In Yae-san's eyes, she was viewing him as a sort of "heartthrob".
Everyone at school was a high-class lady, so everyone had mansions, and when at school, used private cars. People of the opposite sex from out of the household came either from servants, old teachers, or your father's friends. Excluding things such as car accidents, it is quite impossible to think of a guy as a heartthrob.
Eventually, marrying the person your parents chose for you was your fate. Because you could not wish for love like you found in books, you were cursed to not even once feel the warmth of that light upon your heart.
On the other hand, both Fujiko and Yae-san had long hair. Dark black, and straight. The kind of hair that justified the head it was on. While running the comb through Fujiko's hair, a prank of the wind blew in cherry blossoms, and a small ring of cherry blossoms while being woven together fell to the ground.
After this, Yae-san would occasionally fall silent. Fujiko was worried about just what had happened, but she herself would not ask. If the time came when Yae-san wanted to talk about it, she would. She had heard that Yae-san's father had fallen from his former glory, but other than that, she had heard nothing.
"Fujiko-san, what should I do?"
Yae-san asked reluctantly on a road they often walk together on.
"It seems like I've fallen in love."
"Fallen in love?!"
She had thought that whatever Yae-san was brooding about that it was about her family, but she never thought to wonder how Fujiko-san's heart was feeling.
"It's the man who helped lift my car out of the ditch. As I was heading to sewing class, I met him all of a sudden. And then."
The way Yae-san had talked, it sounded as if she met with the man every day. Using excuses such as flower practice or tea practice, she would go to see the young servant boy each day, and stop to talk with him.
"What should you do? There's nothing to do."
The moment Yae-san had said the word "love", she felt uneasy. Without knowing why, Fujiko herself had become inflamed. So the words she finally found and offered to Yae-san were forced and unnatural.
"Yae-san. Don't you have a fiancé? Have you decided what to do with him, once you finish high school?"
"He's just the person my parents picked."
"So Yae-san, if you understand this, would you be willing to exchange engagement gifts with him?"
"That's..." Yae-san exclaimed breathlessly. "You just don't understand what it means to be in love. If you did, you could." In the middle of her friend, Yae-san found herself meeting the face a girl she did not know. She shivered.
"Well Yae-san, what sort of answer are you looking for from me then? Do you want me to tell you to break you current plans and go your new way just to be happy? Would you feel satisfied if I said that?"
"Don't talk like that. It's just, I, don't know what to do. I don't know, so I wanted to ask."
Yae-san squatted in place and covered her face. While standing, Fujiko found fallen cherry blossom petals on her friend's hair.
"If I go now, you can still make it on time. No-one will notice, right?"
So please, don't get involved with that guy.
That advice was the only thing this person who did not know what love really is could say.
Yae-san said and rose, then began walking slowly.
Yae-san had said, "I see". For some reason, Fujiko couldn't get herself to ask more about it.
That night. A phone call came from Yae-san's mother. In the evening, Yae-san had run away from home, going in an unknown direction. If Yae-san came to visit, Fujiko was instructed to keep her there and to contact her mother. That was all. She quickly closed the conversation. Perhaps, she'd be talking with another classmate next time.
If this was something big, then Yae-san would have known about something funny from school, Fujiko thought as she placed down the phone receiver. Then, Fujiko remembered. It was something she couldn't help but notice about Yae-san at school. Perhaps the situation was more pressing than she had thought it to be then.
So would Yae-san finally end up running away to the house of a classmate who rejected her parents?
No. If Yae-san were feeling just as she was from the afternoon, she wouldn't come to rely on me. When Fujiko returned to her room for lessons, she opened her textbook, but she couldn't let her thoughts of Yae-san go. The faces she had made to Yae-san during lunch made her clench her fist tightly.
But now, what in the world could anyone do for her? The fact that she had taken this path filled her with regret. Even if Fujiko could not cheer her on, there were other paths for Yae-san.
From the window, a small sound rang out.
Fujiko-san came up to the window. So as to not alert anyone else in the house, she opened the window slightly, and finally, the figure of Yae-san's body resolved itself.
"Thank god Fujiko-san's room is on the first floor."
Because Fujiko's house was close to school, Yae-san had come here countless times to play.
"Well, earlier, your house..."
Yae-san had cut her long hair, making her seem like a boy. No, not just her hair. Even the clothes she wore were mens'. This way, if anyone ran into Yae-san, they wouldn't be able to recognize her. She really looked like a boy.
"What I said during lunch....?"
Fujiko-san said, to which Yae-san shook her head with a "No" in response.
"It's not because of Fujiko-san. My dad found out. That's all."
That was the worst possible situation. But perhaps she could use that as some unexpected leverage.
"If your father found out, how about you explain to him why? Perhaps if you make him feel as if things became so unbearable that you had no choice but to leave, then your father would do something."
But Yae-san replied "That won't work."
"At home, see. My dad has been having a hard time at work, and he's incurred a lot of debt. So he thought, perhaps he could speed up my wedding."
The family of Yae-san's fiancé were managers for a bank and a convenience store. It was said that they were working together with Yae-san's father's company to build up assets again.
"So then, for the company, Yae-san would have to....."
"I wonder if I would be able to help out any of his employees if I marry, was the only thing I could think about."
But she could not.
"Is it because he knew of your love?"
Fujiko asked. Yae-san opened her eyes in slight surprise, and laughed back "Yes, that's why."
"I love that man enough to abandon my parents. He too is willing to throw everything and run away with me."
It was the oft-heard clichéd line. But to think she'd hear it uttered in real life by Yae-san was something else.
"But didn't you come to me to get rescued?"
"I came to say goodbye."
"Yae-san came, huh? So like a tale I could talk about when I became an adult?"
Yae-san laughed a little.
"Yes that. Fujiko-san will probably think of me and talk about me all the time. But I wouldn't be able to come to see you. Because we can't meet again."
When she whispered this, tears began coming out of Fujiko's eyes.
Yae-san said, and placed her wooden comb in the palm of Fujiko-san's hand.
"I give this to you then. Because my hair has become short."
It felt like receiving a souvenir.
"No, I can't. That's."
Fujiko hugged her friend across the window.
Because it was immoral, or perhaps because she was shirking her duty. Maybe using those reasons, Fujiko could get Yae-san to stay. They could not meet each other again. The person she treasured so much would disappear from her life. It was an unbearable thing to ask.
Yae-san patted Fujiko's back, as if to soothe her.
"Please. Don't go. Stay here, with me."
But she knew she could not change Yae-san's feelings. Fujiko of all people knew this well.
What should she do. At this rate, Yae-san would leave.
Should she wrap herself around Yae-san's neck and constrict her breath? Then Yae-san couldn't go anywhere. If she couldn't meet her again then. How would it be different from dying?
Fujiko-san folded her arms and huddled around Yae-san. While they were embracing each other, Yae-san could not even begin to think that her friend had thought something like this.
The next day, the school was in uproar.
A student ran off with a boy. But not just that. This boy could control people's thoughts by meeting their eyes. The girl's fiancé had put a price on the runaway couple's head. As the story went around, it was exaggerated further with homemade additions, until it had become a tremendous rumor.
That day, Fujiko did not go to school. She realized that there would be a big fuss at school, but her body felt heavy, and she didn't feel like moving.
Knowing about Yae-san's disappearance, Fujiko's parents thought that she had received a big shock, and they let her stay at home. Around town, probably because a servant had seen her return with dirty clothes, her mother called up relatives and asked them to send over a psychiatrist.
In the middle of the night, the only reason Fujiko had gone to school was to dig a hole. But who would believe that. Why did Fujiko do this, she did not know. She had no words to express how she felt at the time. It was just that, she could do nothing else at the time. She could not let go of that last memento of Yae-san from her hands for even a second. So she decided to nullify it. That was all.
But later, she would feel a ripple of regret course through her. At school, in order to soften and fertilize the earth around the roots of the cherry blossom trees, a teacher one day decided to dig. There, the teacher found the comb. It was confirmed. Because it was the comb that Yae-san would use commonly, the school once again fell onto the topic of Yae-san. It was said that Yae-san was eaten up by the cherry blossoms. Because the rumor was as beautiful as a phantom, it was treasured and passed around by everyone.
For a cherry blossom to grow so beautifully, just what was buried in its roots? Whatever it was, nobody knew.
"Hey, do you think Yae-san was really eaten by the cherry blossoms?"
Occasionally, Fujiko's classmates would remember about Yae-san, and ask.
From the branch of the cherry blossom tree where the leaves would scatter, Fujiko would look up at the blue sky. Not being able to see her because she was dead, or not being able to see her in spite of her being alive, both were two very different things. But Fujiko believed that, right now, Yae-san too was looking up at the same sky.
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