Maria-sama ga Miteru:Volume1 Chapter6
It had become Sunday.
"Yumi, have you finished?"
At around eleven in the morning, Sachiko-sama came to the first-year peach-class to find Yumi.
"Ah, almost. The person coming to swap with me should be here soon."
"Don't worry, there's no need to rush. I'll look at this exhibit while I wait."
After she spoke to Yumi, who was acting as the receptionist, Sachiko-sama walked along the exhibit, gazing at the fourteen drawings for the "Road of the Cross."
"So what's happening?"
Katsura-san, who was watching over the class with her, asked, after seeing Sachiko-sama come in. She was the guide. Her job was to answer questions for any visitors who had them.
Yumi was cornered in the small reception desk. The exhibition presentation was a bland job, and along with the fact that it was morning, there were only about three visitors.
"Yumi-san, what's your role today?"
"- well, you did mention that before. Then, I am not mistaken?"
"That means, you did not accept her rosary? Then why are you two so friendly?"
Yumi had no answer, because she herself wasn't sure.
She was not given the rosary, but that didn't mean they had an awkward relationship or anything, and there was thus no need to keep their distance, so it was the same as always.
"Umm… well, since we are going to be performing together, it's a good idea to be friends?"
Well, to be blunt, that was the easiest answer.
"In that case, you might as well become friends with the Hanadera student council leader, too."
Katsura-san said lightly, as she had no idea about everything that happened.
Yumi laughed, hahahah. Then, her replacement arrived, so she stood up from the receptionist chair. She had been seated for an hour, so the cushion was crushed, and the shape of her butt was clearly etched. When she hit the cushion to remove it, Sachiko-sama returned.
"Ah, Sachiko-sama, could you sign in?"
Yumi opened a notebook and held it out, as per her job.
Ogasawara Sachiko was recorded using a calligraphy pen. After writing, Sachiko-sama took Yumi's hand.
"Okay, let's go. Excuse us, everyone."
Katsura-san, as well as other students, seemed to have been overwhelmed by something, and simply stared, jaws agape, as they left. As she held hands and walked, Yumi thought, Sachiko-sama is definitely awesome.
"Aren't those two looking even more intimate than before?"
Sent off by such words, the two of them slipped into the crowd of people in the school building.
The play started at two in the afternoon.
"Where were you? I said we were gathering by half past twelve!"
Yumi and Sachiko-sama arrived at the dressing room right behind the stage five minutes before one, and Rosa Chinensis, wearing the costume for the queen, looked absolutely irate as she welcomed the two.
"Onee-sama, you look like the queen from Snow White."
Sachiko-sama's remark simply served to agitate Rosa Chinensis even more.
"When you're late, you're supposed to apologize, first!"
Both of them earnestly bowed their heads, then began changing. They had an hour until the performance. They decided to be lectured as they changed.
"You said you were going to go ahead as planned last night, but we were in a state of near panic, thinking you might have changed your mind again. We thought the two of you had vanished somewhere."
"Oh, come now."
They rubbed the foundation lotion on themselves as they chuckled. The theatrics club seemed to use Dohran, but as it was somewhat suffocating, they decided by majority vote to use regular cosmetics.
"Oh, speaking of which. Yumi, here."
Sachiko-sama held out a paper bag that was placed in a corner of the dressing room. When she opened it, a gorgeous 65D-cup silk brassiere was awaiting her.
"You'd be in tatters if your shoulder pad were to fall off, right? I'm sorry it's not new, but if you'd like, go ahead and use it."
It was a bit awkward. She'd seen her classmates' brassieres while changing for gym class plenty of times, so it was weird she felt this way.
"What are you worrying about, Yumi-chan. Ahh, how aggravating. Everyone, hold her down and put it on!"
At Rosa Foetida's command, Yumi's usual cotton brassiere was pulled off, and the extravagant brassiere that felt completely out of place on her was put on. Because they were all the same sex, it was okay, but it would have been a sight to behold, regardless.
Even so, she wondered why people had to have such a difference in body figure. Without stuffing, it was like wearing a numbered cloth bib for a relay.
While she was padding herself with her exclusive-use shoulder pad, Rosa Foetida appeared behind her like a rear ghost, and quickly tied her hair.
"Ahh, Yumi-chan, your hair is so simple, I finished in five minutes."
"Is that sarcasm toward me, Rosa Foetida?"
When Yumi asked, Rosa Foetida answered, "More a complaint than sarcasm."
"It's springy, it's silky, and it's straight. And this length? You don't often find hair this tough to tie, and yet it's these kind of people that come late-."
Kaguya-hime is good for next year, Rosa Foetida, muttered as she danced about. The foster mother fighting with pins and combs and rubber bands to do Cinderella's hair looked a bit ridiculous and humorous.
"By the way, where is the prince?"
When she finished wearing the Sister B costume, the witch, Rei-sama, fastened the button on her back.
"He actually arrived on time, twenty minutes ago, and is on standby in the gymnasium waiting room."
"Wow… Even despite yesterday, he came."
She thought, "How remarkable."
"And that is both a perk as well as a flaw."
Sachiko-sama was smiling bitterly into the mirror.
"By the way, what were you two doing together? Yumi-chan's duties ended at eleven o'clock, I thought?"
Rosa Gigantea asked, nearly bursting with curiosity, while turned into a king, using a cushion at her stomach to "dignify" herself.
The two of them had a date around the school festival.
They had gone around to the exhibits by the invention club, handicraft club and fine arts club in that order, then had a commemoration two-shot photo taken by their big panel at the photography club's exhibition room by Tsutako-san, then ate curry at Sakuratei to investigate how it went.
"We ate curry before the performance…"
"I envy you two. Neither of you know what nervousness is."
The Roses said.
"That's not true."
As she retorted, Yumi actually thought, "Maybe."
Because things had become so sensational yesterday evening, even though today was the day of the school festival, she couldn't shake the feeling that she had accomplished her big job. And that was perhaps why she didn't feel very nervous.
"Yumi. You forgot your lipstick."
Sachiko-sama, whose hair was finally completed, put on Yumi's lipstick for her. The same colored lipstick as Sachiko-sama.
The matching lips were a bit embarrassing, but it made her extremely happy.
When she peeked out through the space in the curtain, she noticed there was a bigger audience than she expected. The Lillian seats as well as the universal visitors' seats were almost completely filled. By the time it had become ten minutes before the performance, the seats were completely filled, and they were awaiting the curtains' rise. A standing audience was already gathering.
"I apologize for smacking you yesterday."
Sachiko-sama stepped forward and apologized to Kashiwagi-san at the side of the stage.
Her smile was brilliant. Full of confidence, inviting him to bring it from wherever he wished.
On the other hand, the prince was his usual invigorating self, but he also seemed to look slightly dispirited.
"I've been beaten. The gingko stains were removed, but it still smells."
Even being remotely close to him, you could smell that unique odor. In that case, he definitely could smell it.
"However, it won't reach the audience, so I shall turn it into perfume with my spectacular acting."
That confidence, and that positive outlook, was something that could genuinely be praised. Apparently roughly two dozen people had come from Hanadera Institute to watch their adored student council leader. He was extremely enthusiastic, wanting to show his classmates and juniors a once-in-a-lifetime hour of triumph.
The setting of Cinderella's house was prepared on the stage. Sachiko-sama squeezed Yumi's hand tightly once, then walked out to the middle of the stage. Yumi went on standby at the side of the stage, ready to walk out when her turn came.
After the curtain-raising greeting, the illumination over the audiences' seats went out.
Cinderella had begun, and Yumi walked out into the spotlight.
The blaze stretched out to the heavens with a crackling sound.
Prepared solely for today, and with their roles fulfilled, wooden planks and paper were gathered, and turned into a blaze of memories.
With the grounds empty after the guests returned home, a firestorm was underway, with the students stoking its fires.
"Be very careful of the fire."
They said, but as this year's post-festival night event had no wind, the teachers also relaxed and watched. Many students brought left-over fireworks from the summer and lit them together.
Yumi's class' "Road of the Cross" was to be kept by the school as an art and caption set, so they gathered their rough drafts and sign posters and tossed them into the fire.
The producers of the Cinderella costumes and props and settings took their respective bits back with them, so Yumi tossed her script book, with its two weeks of memories, into the fire. Now, nothing was left. She thought, because there was nothing left, memories would be vividly burnt into her heart.
Eventually, a number of students gathered with instruments and began playing, one after another. First, the mandolin club performed the rhythmical Oklahoma Mixer. Then, naturally, a number of rings of students gathered around the bonfire. Girls took each other's hands and joined into rings, and so a folk dance flower bloomed.
Rather than joining a ring, Yumi climbed the moderate embankment outside the track, alone. Like the audience seating for an amphitheater, this was prime seating to look over the grounds.
Following the rock band's tempestuous Jenka was the brass band's wonderful Mayim-Mayim. Her heart felt like it had a hole poked through it, while she watched the dancing.
Everything ended today.
The dream-like days that began two weeks ago with a bent scarf.
With the Cinderella play over, she would no longer have reason to visit the Rose Mansion. After cleaning and returning the brassiere she borrowed, her link to Sachiko-sama would evaporate. Because the bet was over, Sachiko-sama no longer had reason to bother with Yumi, either.
Girls blessed with good fortune are often called Cinderella Girls, and Yumi felt precisely like one. She was just an ordinary girl with no real talents, but she was allowed to accompany the school's most adored girls, and was able to come away with plenty of memories.
Even though her ordinary days would resume again tomorrow, she felt it was going to be different from two weeks ago. It was hard to explain just how, but she felt she had changed for the better. So even though she felt a bit lonely now, she knew it was going to be alright.
"I found you."
She turned around when a hand tapped her shoulder, and saw Sachiko-sama. The person she longed to see most had magically appeared.
"Are you free?"
"Ah, … yes."
Yumi stood up from her crouched position. Apparently she had been soaking in her grief for longer than she expected, as her calf throbbed.
The two of them walked for some time, looking for a quiet place to talk.
"It was so chaotic after the curtain fell, I was unable to settle down and speak with Yumi."
Sachiko-sama's hand held two packs of apple juice, in paper packaging, from the Milk Hall vending machine. She stuck a straw in one, and handed it to Yumi.
"Congratulations on a successful play."
A toast, in front of Maria-sama, and after they touched the sides of their paper packs together, they sipped at their straws. The folk dance had at some point transformed into a Bon Festival dance, and the Tokyo marching song played by the string quartet in the distance seemed like a national anthem for some exotic country.
"It was fun."
Sachiko-sama exhaled, after sipping.
It was not a gloomy sigh, like before. Rather, it was more like the exuberant exhalation after swigging a can of beer, like in the beer commercials.
After that satisfied sigh, Sachiko-sama suddenly began giggling.
"What is it?"
"Did you notice? During the dance, I stepped on Suguru-san's foot three times."
"He's showy, so he'll never admit it, but it must have hurt. Because I was wearing high-heels."
When she imagined it, it seemed so absurd, that Yumi, too, began laughing out loud.
Sachiko-sama struck back with physical retribution, as Kashiwagi-san couldn't understand the pain of others. It was not enough to counteract her feelings, but it must have at least made her feel better.
Sachiko-sama returned to a serious face.
"It's because of Yumi that I can be laughing like this."
Surprised, she looked at Sachiko-sama's serious face. That unbelievable statement had indeed been spoken from the lips of the beautiful face in front of her.
"But, I, didn't."
"You did. Maybe you don't know, but you did. So-."
She placed her juice-box on the ground so that it wouldn't spill, then reached into her pocket.
"May I, hang this over Yumi's neck?"
That was Sachiko-sama's rosary, that she had seen several times.
"But, yesterday you said you-."
As Yumi began speaking, Sachiko-sama cut her off, "Of course?"
"If you were to accept, desiring to swap Cinderella roles with me, I wouldn't be happy."
"Sympathy, bets, this has nothing to do with any of that. This is a sacred ritual, after all."
She thought about whether she was worthy of accepting that rosary that had already been spread into a loop. But, Sachiko-sama had chosen Yumi, and to think herself unworthy would be to distrust Sachiko-sama's choice of people.
Yesterday, she chased Sachiko-sama. Remember your feeling then, she told herself. That the person to chase Sachiko-sama had to be her. Even if she was inexperienced, she simply needed to work harder to overcome that.
Go for it. Yumi ordered herself.
Sachiko-sama softly placed the rosary over her neck. A launching firework for residential use exploded in the air, as if blessing the two. Then, the music changed.
Both of them simultaneously spoke. The accordion, pianica, and harmonica played a nostalgic melody.
What they had heard some time ago must have been practice for today.
"Three quarters…, no, six eighths, I think."
One, two, three, four, five, six. One, two, three, four, five, six.
"You can dance to it with a waltz!"
The two clasped each others' hands.
Joining the leading ensemble, the students had begun singing. They danced a waltz to the background of the soft, angelic singing voices.
The cold air was delicious, and it felt wonderful to the skin.
She felt she could dance forever under the moonlight.
The night Yumi became the petite sœur for Rosa Chinensis en bouton.
The moon, and Maria-sama, was watching them.
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