Maria-sama ga Miteru:Volume26 Chapter2
Sentimental First-Year Camellia Class
In the first-year Camellia classroom, Rosa Gigantea en bouton was troubled.
This morning she had arrived at school a fair bit earlier than usual, and left only her bag in the classroom before heading out again to give Shimako-san her chocolates. So when the final review meeting was over and she returned to her classroom, she met most of her classmates for the first time that day. Naturally, she returned their greeting with a "Gokigenyou" as she took her seat, but it was only one of them – Matsudaira Touko – that caused a look of confusion to cross Noriko's face.
On the way home, she'd felt a vague sense of uneasiness, so she got off the bus early and returned to school. It was as though Touko's expression when they'd parted had been calling her back.
Even now, Noriko thought her decision had been correct. When she got back to school, she found Touko alone in the courtyard, crouched down and counting aloud.
No, she hadn't been alone the whole time. Rosa Chinensis had been with her until just before that point. She'd left when she saw Noriko in the hallway, through the window, with a look that seemed to say, "I'll leave the rest to you."
Noriko wasn't able to ask what had happened when they passed each other. Rosa Chinensis had a stern expression that made it impossible to inquire.
The usually elegant, domineering queen's expression showed no leniency whatsoever. It almost seemed like she was the most relieved that Noriko had returned.
As Touko kept counting, Noriko touched her shoulder. At that moment, Touko had looked like she was about to cry — or maybe she'd been crying already.
Something must have happened between her and Rosa Chinensis. But Noriko couldn't imagine what that might be.
It was probably related to Yumi-sama. This was pure intuition, with nothing to base it on, but it felt right. It would explain why Rosa Chinensis had looked so uncompromising, and why Touko had been so devastated.
Because Rosa Chinensis and Touko both loved Yumi-sama. So only a fight about Yumi-sama would make them lose their composure.
Right. At that time, Touko had been different to her usual self.
She'd latched on to Noriko's hand and called out her name, like a drowning person deliriously grabbing on to a helping hand.
(At the time, I thought she was going to open her heart.)
But after that, they hadn't really talked much, and parted ways at the train station. On Monday, Touko had completely returned to her usual self.
What on earth had happened that Saturday afternoon? It almost seemed like a dream.
Noriko tried calling out to her.
There. She'd responded with a fake smile, like normal.
"Are you participating in today's treasure hunt?"
Either she was still deciding, or she'd already made up her mind but didn't want to say. Either way, she was intentionally being vague, avoiding the question, and running away.
"It's not something you should worry about, Noriko."
That was another thing worrying her.
Since Monday, Touko had been calling her "Noriko," without an honorific. So she had to conclude that what happened on Saturday hadn't been a dream.
What on earth was Touko thinking?
She wasn't saying anything, even to her new best-friend, Noriko.
What if, right now, Touko herself was still in the middle of her own crisis?
When she left the classroom at lunch time, Sachiko-onee-sama was out in the hallway.
Touko didn't know whether she was just coincidentally passing by the first-years' area, or whether she was lying in wait. Touko tilted her head down, part bow and part hanging her head in shame, and went to walk by when Sachiko-onee-sama said:
"Are you running away?"
Touko stopped and turned around, wondering what Sachiko-onee-sama was talking about.
"The treasure hunt. Are you participating? Or not?"
"I don't understand what you're saying. Whether or not I participate in the treasure hunt is no concern of yours, Rosa Chinensis. But even if I don't participate, I don't think you could call that running away."
Talking to Sachiko-onee-sama brought back memories of last Saturday. Touko thought that she'd been wrong to look down upon the Red Rose sœurs. She'd even apologized for it. But these were two separate matters.
"Although it seems consistent to me."
"How you're always running away from Yumi."
Touko wanted to retort with something, but she couldn't find the words. If she remained silent, that may be taken as tacit agreement. Nonetheless, she couldn't even come up with a hackneyed excuse.
"Are you afraid of facing Yumi?"
"It's frightening. I'm afraid too."
The words coming from Sachiko-onee-sama's mouth were completely unexpected.
"Because she's so honest. I'm sure she doesn't mean to, but being with her is an assault on your weaknesses. Like they're reflected in a perfectly clear mirror. I don't want to look ... don't want to admit to them."
She looked down, then abruptly smiled. Seeing that expression, Touko instinctively asked:
"So then why are you still with her?"
"Isn't it obvious? I love Yumi."
Sachiko-onee-sama raised her head and answered clearly.
"It's an assault on my weaknesses, but so what? It's certainly confronting, but by no means unendurable. Not being with Yumi would be much more tough. I came to the conclusion that if there were parts of me that I don't like, then when I see them in the clear mirror that is Yumi, I should try and change them. If I'm feeling envious of a sapling growing straight upwards, then I could lean against it, or tie myself to it, and we could reach for the sun together."
She seemed to be saying it was better to move forwards than to just be afraid; that there was a meaning to being together.
Why was she saying that kind of thing now?
Sachiko-onee-sama had been angry when she'd accused Touko of acting high and mighty. Given that, she could have cut off all contact. So then, why?
"I'd accepted that one day Yumi would chose a petite sœur. Thinking about the type of girl she'd chose as her sœur left me feeling both happy and sad. But if Yumi chose her, then she was the right girl. That's what I believed. Even now, I want to believe it."
Sachiko-onee-sama eyes were calm as she spoke.
"But you can't even be my rival."
But in those calm eyes, her fighting spirit shone through.
"Of course, the first person to find Yumi's card today isn't necessarily the person that cares the most about her. Even so, I thought you were the only one that could be my rival, Touko-chan. But if you're not going to line up on the start line – what a waste."
She let out a deep sigh.
Touko knew that Sachiko-onee-sama was being intentionally provocative. She knew this, but —
"Wait a minute."
The next moment, Touko had called out to stop Sachiko-onee-sama from walking away.
"I never said I wasn't going to participate."
Then Sachiko-onee-sama looked back over her shoulder and smiled in satisfaction.
"Is that so?"
"Yeah. I'll be there."
Even though she'd been provoked, it was by no means a bad feeling.
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