Maria-sama ga Miteru:Volume28 Chapter14
The Greenhouse Fairy
A fairy inhabits the old greenhouse.
It's a secret tale that everyone knows about it, but no-one talks about.
This all started in May, not long after advancing into high-school.
"You've been coming here since kindergarten, but you've never noticed that greenhouse until today?"
Satsuki's classmate, Yoriko-san, looked at her with the same kind of expression one might make upon encountering a giant salamander in the middle of the city.
It was recess. They were in the middle of an idle conversation, sitting down and facing each other with a desk between them.
"Saying that I've never noticed it is not quite right."
But if someone asked what was in that general area, nothing would come to mind. It must have registered on her retina every time she went there. But it wasn't something that she was consciously aware of.
"See, take the air as an example. Normally, you don't feel the air when you breathe, right? That's what it's like."
"So, then, you felt the unexpected sensation of air this morning, Satsuki-san? While you were strolling around the grounds after arriving at school early."
"The air was just an example."
Satsuki corrected her. As for the unexpected sensation, the truth felt a little bit different, but she couldn't quite articulate the difference and so remained silent. In reality, it felt like something had been calling to her, inviting her in.
"Pardon me. Anyway, you noticed the greenhouse. The old greenhouse. So then what happened?"
Yoriko-san emphasized the 'old' part because their school also had another, 'new,' greenhouse. All of the educational facilities had been moved over to the new greenhouse.
"Driven by curiosity, I peeked inside. I was surprised by how neat it was. It was astonishing."
Everything was arranged precisely, and the plants were all healthy.
"Oh, you thought it was a dilapidated old building?"
Satsuki nodded her head. After all, the exterior was quite old and the glass was cracking in places. There was no doubt in her mind that the building had stood for many long years beyond its useful lifespan.
Despite that, the moment she entered into the greenhouse a dreamy world full of variously colored blooming roses had unfolded in front of her. As though they had existed without disturbance.
"Since it was my first time there, I was fooled by that juxtaposition."
Yoriko-san let out a sigh that was part amazement and part admiration.
"Still, it is an undeniably pretty spot."
She must have been there numerous times to be so unmoved by it. After all, it was a school facility. It seemed to mean about the same to Yoriko-san as the music room or the clubhouse.
"Say, you don't happen to know who looks after those roses, do you?"
Satsuki-san asked, leaning forwards. Yoriko-san responded with, "Mmmm," which could be interpreted as either, "I know," or, "I don't know."
"I've never met her directly. I don't know her name either."
"Ahh, so it's a student from the gardening club, or the environmental care committee?"
"We don't have a gardening club at our school."
"Still, the environmental care committee isn't a bad theory."
"Not bad – how?"
"The environmental care committee has a sum of money set aside in its budget for maintenance of the greenhouse."
Yoriko-san was incredibly well informed on this matter because she was currently a member of the environmental care committee.
"So … wait, huh?"
In that case it seemed strange that Yoriko-san would never have met the girl, if they were both members of the environmental care committee.
"Honestly, when we're doing our environmental care committee work we never do any maintenance on that greenhouse."
"The environmental care committee doesn't take care of it?"
"Despite its name, the environmental care committee doesn't take care of the martial arts building, or the staff room, or places like that either."
"Ahh, I see."
The martial arts building was maintained by the students from the kendo club, the judo club and the other clubs that used it. The staff room was controlled by the teachers, and the students weren't allowed to touch it.
"It's like those."
So there was someone who was akin to the owner of the old greenhouse, and everything was entrusted to them.
The bell for the start of class rang and Yoriko-san was turning her chair around to face the front when she quietly said:
"A fairy inhabits the old greenhouse."
A fairy inhabits the old greenhouse.
After hearing that, Satsuki became completely obsessed with the idea.
What was surprising was how large a portion of the school knew the legend, or rumor, of the fairy inhabiting the greenhouse.
"About the fairy? I've heard of it. And?"
Mami-san, a recent addition to the newspaper club, responded in an uninterested tone as she swept. Satsuki used the dustpan to collect the classroom's dust.
"Have you seen it, Mami-san?"
"The fairy? Yeah, right."
"And the 'Lillian Kawaraban' isn't going to investigate it?"
Satsuki was wondering why she was asking all these questions while they were cleaning, but still couldn't stop herself from asking.
Mami-san responded immediately, then took the dustpan from Satsuki's hand and walked over to the rubbish bin with it.
"I see the question, "Why?" written all over your face. That's not my personal opinion, it's the consensus of the newspaper club. Of course, finding out who the fairy was would be a major scoop. But we still wouldn't make a newspaper article out of it."
Satsuki asked, as she followed Mami-san. Mami-san responded, seeming somewhat exasperated, with:
"The newspaper club exists solely because of our readers. We won't publish something that the majority of our readers, the students at this school, wouldn't support."
"Don't you get it? The student body wants to believe in the fairy. They don't want us to expose it, and ruin the myth."
Since it's such a special endangered creature, why not arrange a peaceful environment for it? That's almost what her classmate seemed to be saying.
"Teacher. There's something I don't understand."
When Satsuki went to the staff room to return the cleaning journal, Yamamura-sensei hadn't yet left to supervise her club so Satsuki went over to her and petitioned her.
"Was it around when you were here? The legend of the fairy in the old greenhouse."
"Well, we didn't call it the 'old' greenhouse. But there was a story about a fairy living there, yes."
"I wonder why I keep thinking about it so much. It's not like I want to expose the secret."
"Hmmm, I think I understand."
Yamamura-sensei, having completed the prep work for her club, arose from her chair said:
"You're a true believer. So you'd like to get your hands on some proof, no?"
Maybe that was true. Listening to her teacher's theory, Satsuki found herself agreeing with it, somewhat.
Like a child that believes in Santa Claus. A child that earnestly wants to meet him, not considering that it might be their father playing Santa Claus.
But by pulling on the Santa Claus thread it all unravels, and the Santa Claus within them is destroyed. That's probably why no-one was willing to touch the legend of the fairy. That was, in some sense, right. A perceptive adult's way of thinking. But knowing that just made Satsuki want to meet the fairy even more. After all, that old greenhouse was a paradise. If it had been the fairy that had made it that way, then she wanted to meet it, even if it was only one time.
After that, she went to check out the greenhouse a couple of times. Right, a couple of times. It wasn't really all that many.
She may have been able to increase her chances by going there every day during lunchtime or after school, but it seemed like that would be disrespectful to the fairy, so she didn't.
It was also possible that the fairy wouldn't appear when humans were watching. In that case, the plants would be neglected and, consequently, wither and die. Which would be a tragic outcome.
Over time, she became less concerned about meeting the fairy that took care of the flowers. The greenhouse was a comforting place to be. It was probably just her imagination, but sometimes it felt like the plants greeted Satsuki with a warm welcome and an invitation to chat when she came to visit.
One morning she arrived at school a bit early because of a quick bus transfer. She entered into the greenhouse for the first time in about three days when suddenly a voice rang out.
Satsuki looked around, but couldn't see anyone else. In fact, she'd never seen anyone else there.
"You … want water?"
Satsuki inquired of the potted plant beside her, feeling foolish as she did so. This time she didn't actually hear anything, but she still got the impression that it said, "Yes, yes."
"Alright. Just wait."
Satsuki rushed towards the greenhouse exit. Whereupon.
"Where are you going? There's a tap in here, you know."
A girl, standing by the exit, called out to her. She was wearing the same uniform as Satsuki. Probably a senior. Satsuki didn't recognize her, but she was obviously a student of Lillian's high school.
She said, "Over here," and guided Satsuki to the tap, then set down a watering can and turned on the faucet.
The morning sun streaming through the outer glass walls brilliantly illuminated the line from her shoulder to the middle of her back. It was so dazzling that the sunlight seemed to form an optical illusion. Satsuki thought she saw a translucent pair of wings there, like those of a mayfly.
After gathering some water, the girl offered the watering can to Satsuki, saying, "Here you go."
While they were still huddled together, without saying another word, the girl suddenly smiled.
"It's okay, I understand. The water isn't for you to drink."
"You made a promise, right? Therefore you should be the one to do it."
"But, who was asking for water?"
Maybe that voice from before hadn't been hers.
"I didn't say anything."
"Oh? Then … "
The girl walked over to where Satsuki had come from and gently lowered her face towards the exact same plant that Satsuki had been standing beside.
"You still don't understand? Even though she clearly asked you to bring her some water."
That was Satsuki's first encounter with Shii.
One day, during the summer holidays, Satsuki was in the old greenhouse.
"Rosa chinensis. Rosa luciae. Rosa hirtula."
She read out the names as she compared the budding flower to the color photocopies she'd made of a library reference book. She'd lost track of time, immersing herself in her task. The flower was just one of many, but she wanted to know its species.
"You don't have to force yourself to learn their names. The names are just a convenient designation for humans. They don't mean anything to the flowers."
Shii was standing there, holding a plastic bottle filled with tea, and had been there for who knows how long.
"Don't tell me you come here every day?"
"Nope. Every four days or so. Why do you ask?"
"Because every time I come here, it seems like you're here, May."
"So you come every four days or so too … Should we stagger our visits?"
If they only came to water the plants, then one person would surely suffice. If they alternated visits, then they'd only have to come half as often.
"Don't worry about it. It's like I've always told you, coming here isn't some kind of obligation."
"We merely come here whenever we feel like it and water the flowers. This greenhouse and the plants here don't belong to anybody."
"But what if neither of us came here?"
"Then we wouldn't come."
"Things would be fine. When neither you nor I are able to come here, someone else will."
"Really. The roses will call to them. They called to you, didn't they May?"
"This time around, the roses probably called out to both of us. Because they wanted to listen to us chat."
"Is that so?"
"It is. So let's honor their request."
Shii had started calling Satsuki by the name "May" some time after she'd started regularly visiting the greenhouse. Satsuki couldn't remember when exactly, but it was probably when she'd told Shii her name. Satsuki literally meant the fifth month. Which was May.
Conversely, Satsuki had no idea why Shii was called "Shii" – it could be "C," "Sea," "She," "See," or something else entirely. It was also possible that it was simply a shortening of her name, but without asking there was no way to find out.
As far as they were concerned, the nicknames were the only things they needed to know about each other. They never met outside the greenhouse. The Shii in the greenhouse was the only Shii that May knew.
As Shii often said, she was merely helping out to ensure that the plants inside the greenhouse led a comfortable life.
She wanted to be a friend to the flowers.
She did what she could as a way of expressing her gratitude for being shown a lovely sight. Therefore, she didn't want it to become a job.
Satsuki found that way of thinking absolutely wonderful.
During the second term, even though it hadn't been her intention, Satsuki learned a little bit about the Shii outside the greenhouse.
During the athletics festival, Satsuki caught sight of Shii wearing a green headband and helping the green team.
In the beginning of October, at the same time that the second-years went on their school trip, Satsuki didn't see Shii for the entire week.
So Shii was probably in the second-year pine class, but knowing that didn't cause any strong reaction from Satsuki. Once she'd taken a step outside the greenhouse Shii was no longer Shii, but some student with a different name. So even if Satsuki saw her around school, she couldn't call out to her.
Once the second-years had returned from their trip, the final preparations for the school festival began. They didn't really talk about class much, but Satsuki could tell that Shii was busy.
Even if Satsuki continued to go to the greenhouse, it looked like the days when they wouldn't be able to meet stretched on.
Shii had always said that this wasn't some kind of obligation. So if she didn't show up, Satsuki couldn't really inquire as to why.
Even if Shii didn't show up, Satsuki thought she was capable of looking after the greenhouse for the ten days or so until the school festival. After all, she'd worked hard by herself when Shii was away on the school trip. Still, Satsuki felt there was something slightly different about the school trip, when Shii had been overseas, and now, when Shii was coming to school but they weren't able to meet.
Occasionally the watering can would be in a different position to where she'd left it the previous day, and when she went around to water the flowers she'd find the soil was already damp. This led Satsuki to believe that Shii was still visiting.
"Did Shii come here? Was she okay?"
As Satsuki gently brushed the flower petals, she wondered why she hadn't been able to be there when Shii visited. But she couldn't just wait there, like a spider in its web. Satsuki was a first-year student, and not only did she have lessons but she also had to stay back after school to help with her class's preparations for the school festival.
Saturday, the day before the school festival.
On that day, the plan had been to work into the evening, transforming their classroom into an exhibition hall, but after lunch Satsuki quietly slipped out and went to check on the greenhouse. A lot of her classmates had to leave in the morning, or had to help out with their club preparations as well, so they were free to come and go as they pleased.
Shii hadn't come to the greenhouse. But things would surely return to normal from next week, once the school festival was over.
The flowers would once again be surrounded by the sounds of their joyous chatting. Soon they'd probably have to start thinking about preparing for winter.
Trembling, she spun around and surveyed the greenhouse, like she was dancing.
"I'm sure you're happy too, right? Shii will – "
When she spoke, Satsuki felt that something was wrong. She hadn't sensed the overjoyed reaction she'd been expecting from the flowers.
"What's the matter?"
Satsuki made the discovery when she brought her face close to the flowers. The leaves looked different to normal. There was a whitish powder clinging to them.
The white substance on the leaves wasn't just confined to that one plant. The one beside it, and the one beside that, and, looking closer, all the plants in that area were affected to one degree or another.
"They're ill," Satsuki instantly thought.
"… What should I do?"
If it were just one leaf, she could prune it off. It it were some kind of noxious insect, she could painstakingly eradicate them one by one. But with the illness so widely spread, Satsuki had no idea what to do.
Naturally, the plants wouldn't tell her what they wanted. The few times she had felt like they were talking to her had obviously been some form of delusion.
The flowers said things like "Water, please," or, "Change the facing of the pot." The words they spoke never exceeded the extent of Satsuki's knowledge.
And while she stood there, asking herself "What should I do?" over and over again, the disease was undoubtedly spreading.
Satsuki flew out of the greenhouse. Shii would tell her what to do. She'd know how to treat this disease.
There was activity all throughout the school building. Lots of classrooms had their doors open, with students working out in the hallway.
Satsuki hurried to the second-year classrooms. Thoughts about the flowers were filling her head, to the point that she forgot the rule about walking in the hallway. No, she was probably incapable of walking. She ran on, frantically.
Standing outside the second-year pine group classroom, Satsuki called out loudly and a number of students looked at her as they continued to work.
"Can you call someone over for me, umm … "
She made it that far, then lost the words she was going to say next.
"Umm … "
Satsuki didn't know Shii's real name.
"Okay, who did you want to see?"
The student who had stopped what she was doing and approached Satsuki was not Shii. Nor were the other students who had quietly resumed what they were working on. Shii wasn't in the classroom.
Even if Satsuki said, "Shii," the student she was talking to probably wouldn't know who she meant. The custom in the high-school division of Lillian's Academy was to append the honorific 'san' to people's names. Nicknames were rarely used.
"It wasn't urgent, I'll come back later."
Satsuki turned around.
"Ah, you're leaving?"
No matter how she looked at it, it was urgent. But there was nothing else she could say that would help.
After all, how could she ask to speak to someone when she didn't know their name?
None of the people Satsuki passed in the hallway were Shii. Nor were any of the girls gathered in the courtyard.
Even though there were so many students, Shii was not among them.
There was no way Satsuki would be able to find the Shii that she met in the greenhouse, that she spent all that time alone with, hidden among the great mass of students.
Did Shii even exist in this world to begin with? Perhaps she was some kind of illusion, a vision created out of Satsuki's desire for there to be a fairy.
Having not found Shii, Satsuki returned to the greenhouse to find someone else already there.
Satsuki called, thinking it was her, but the girl turned around and shook her head.
Right. It wasn't Shii. This girl was a bit shorter than Shii, and her hair was longer and styled slightly differently.
"I've sprayed them with pesticide, so they'll be fine."
"This was your first time seeing it, so you must have been surprised. But this kind of thing happens from time to time."
"How did you know?"
The other girl slowly approached Satsuki while she stood there, uncomprehending.
"I'd say the roses called out to me."
" … Oh?"
"But that would be a lie. When I saw you desperately searching for Shii I thought something must be up, so I came to the greenhouse to see for myself."
"You know Shii?"
"Of course I know her. And I know about you too, May."
Satsuki instantly understood. That this person was like Shii and herself. So when she sensed a crisis with the roses, she came to help.
The strength suddenly drained from her stiff body, and Satsuki slumped to the ground.
They'll be fine. Those words penetrated deep into her heart. They'll be fine. The roses were saved.
"Thank-you very much. I couldn't hear the voices of the roses. So I had no idea what to give them."
It started off as an expression of gratitude, but midway through it turned into a soliloquy.
Satsuki thought she was a long way off being able to look after the plants by herself for ten days. As soon as something unexpected happened, there was nothing she could do. This girl must have had some kind of training in how to look after plants.
"I tried to be like Shii, but it didn't go so well."
She felt helpless, miserable and regretful.
As Satsuki remained with her hands pressed against the ground and her face looking down, the sound of laughter echoed around above her.
"When someone's sick, only a doctor knows what's wrong, no?"
Satsuki raised her head.
"Right. At the moment, these children are sick. A mother will know if her baby's hungry, or needs their diaper changed, but they aren't able to judge if the child needs fever medicine or antibiotics, for instance. But if a new mother notices that her child is unwell, that's enough for a passing grade, don't you think?"
"A passing grade?"
"When you're a veteran, you'll know more. But you noticed something was wrong and went to find Shii. Well done. Ah, if the rumors are true – "
Interrupting her sentence, Shii flew into the greenhouse with tremendous speed.
"Hi Shii. You're late."
Shii started in amazement at the girl who was cheerfully waving, and murmured:
"Fey... ? Sorry, gokigenyou, it's been a while."
After this friendly greeting, Shii turned towards Satsuki and performed an introduction.
"This is Fey. She's a third-year, one year above me. She hasn't been around much recently, so this is probably the first time you've met her, right May?"
Fey probably taught Shii all kinds of things last year. In that case, Shii probably didn't know much when she started either.
"Since you were so late Shii, I had to step in myself."
"Please do, by all means."
Shii looked around and seemed to instantly grasp what had happened and the treatment that had been applied. She said, "Things were bad, huh," then embraced Satsuki around the shoulder and helped her stand up.
"My classmates told me that May was looking for me, so I ran out here in a hurry. But I needn't have worried since you were here, Fey."
Shii folded her arms and nodded, but Satsuki shook her head and said:
"But, how did your classmates know that I was looking for you?"
"You asked for me, right?"
"I don't know your name, Shii."
"No way. Surely I've told you it."
Shii was taken aback. Apparently she hadn't been trying to hide her identity. Instead, she thought she had already told Satsuki. Such a trivial matter, that Satsuki involuntarily slumped again.
But that was the truth, and as proof of that Shii tore a page out of her school notebook, wrote her full name on it and handed it to Satsuki.
Since she'd only ever known Shii as Shii, it felt a bit weird seeing her full name for the first time.
"So then, why are you called Shii?"
Satsuki tactlessly put her question into words. Her name didn't contain the kanji character for 'sea', none of her initials were 'C,' nor did the character 'shi' appear anywhere in her name.
Shii and Fey looked at each other.
"… What was it again?"
Apparently Shii was a nickname given to her by an older student who had since graduated, and its origin and relevance had been forgotten.
With the school festival safely over with, the gentle daily school-life resumed.
Having momentarily lost her self-confidence, Satsuki was studying hard to try and catch up to Shii and Fey.
"You don't have to work so hard, you know."
"The roses are laughing. They've never seen such a studious fairy."
"Huh? What did you say?"
Satsuki asked, raising her head from the horticulture book she had borrowed from the library.
"I was talking about you, May. You're already a splendid fairy."
Satsuki scoffed, then returned to concentrating on her book. Apparently they could prepare for the following year's round of disease and pests by caring for the soil during the winter.
"Well, there are all types in fairy society, so whatever pleases you should be fine."
"I'll do as I please then."
Outside, a cold wind blew.
Even though the glass walls were starting to crack, inside it was surprisingly warm.
Satsuki closed her book and slowly walked beside Shii down the central corridor.
A fairy's life-span was a scant three years, so Satsuki thought she should put her all into it. She would study more about plants, put more of what she learned into practice, and listen carefully to the words of the flowers more.
So that when Shii graduated, she'd be able to stand on her own.
And then, in due course, she'd hand over this precious old greenhouse to someone else.
"Did you hear the flowers' voices?"
The day when, unexpectedly, a young fairy with tiny wings stumbles into the greenhouse.
- Satsuki's name is written as 皐月 which, as mentioned, means the fifth month.
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