Maria-sama ga Miteru:Volume2 Chapter1 1
Best Sœur. Part 1.
After the school festival.
Awaiting Fukuzawa Yumi, who had idled away her Monday holiday like a cat, were not the ordinary, peaceful days she had been looking forward to, but rather an extension of the busy, lively days that had begun prior to the school festival.
"Ugh, I'm late."
She quickly walked down the gingko tree pathway after scurrying under the main gate, ignoring the other students milling about. … No, maybe she was running a bit.
Even though the hems of her skirt was in disarray, even though her collar was a mess, she could only beg for forgiveness this morning. After all, it was a special day.
"Ahh, why did I forget to switch alarm clocks?"
She had thought, "I should switch clocks" while sitting on the toilet on Sunday, but she had forgotten about it entirely by the time she returned to her room.
Perhaps washing her hands had stimulated her mind enough to put a lid on that memory, or maybe the door not closing perfectly had irritated her. No, speaking to her brother at the landing of the stairs probably was the number one reason.
Plus, as she had decided to sleep in during the holiday, she switched off her alarm clock when going to sleep on Sunday night, so she had completely forgotten about the alarm clock until this morning.
What a blunder. What a disgrace. Late on such an important day.
The Maria-sama statue appeared at the fork. Even though she was in this much of a hurry, she still stopped and put her hands together. That's what habit is.
-Maria-sama, please watch over me today, too. Please help me lead a life without misguided conduct.
Then she opened her eyes and ran, … no, walked, and that's when she heard the voice.
"Wait right there."
When she heard the voice, Yumi's back subconsciously straightened. For a moment, she thought she heard the voice of the person Yumi "feared" the most, but she then realized the voice sounded wrong.
"'Yumi, why are you in such a hurry?'"
She slowly turned around to confirm the identity of the voice, and found herself looking straight into a camera lens.
"Gokigenyou. How was I? Did you think I was Sachiko-sama?"
As she spoke, her camera made a clicking sound. The photography club's ace, Takeshima Tsutako-san.
In the case of Tsutako-san, she doesn't even let go of her camera for a shutter chance even when she's talking, so it almost felt like speaking to a cyborg.
"Gokigenyou. … I'm sorry, I'm in a bit of a rush, so I don't have the time to fool around right now."
Yumi turned down a request for one more and turned her back to her classmate, then resumed walking silently.
"Oh, what do you mean by not having the time?"
Tsutako-san ran after her after pocketing her camera. Even though there must be better subjects elsewhere in the school.
"I see. Yumi-san, for some reason, is in an incredible hurry. May I take this as having to do with Sachiko-sama?"
Her borderless glasses glimmered. When she goes into this mode, Tsutako-san seems just like her newspaper club seniors. In the end, she's just a curious cat.
"Sort of. Not entirely wrong."
As she was not the type of person that could be warded off with half-hearted words, Yumi quickly walked to the school buildings as she answered. She didn't have the time to be wasting time here.
"An earlier arrival to school than usual. Yet an expression screaming that you're about to be late to something."
Tsutako-san jumped out ahead by a half-step, turned around, and deftly walked backwards while staring at Yumi's face. Her footwork was light. Maybe it was a result of her peeping photo style of photography.
Leaving that aside, just as Tsutako-san insinuated, Yumi was not about to be late for class. Still, she would have much preferred her report card to have "Tardy: 1" rather than be in the situation she was currently in.
"I get it. Yumi-san, is Sachiko-sama waiting for you? An early-morning rendezvous at the back of the Sanctuary?"
"French. If you were to translate it, it would be a 'meeting,' I guess? As the romanticist, Tsutako-san would very much prefer to translate it as a 'clandestine meeting.' Speaking of which, you only see the word rendezvous used in space stories nowadays."
"Nowadays." What generation did Tsutako-san come from? Sometimes you begin to wonder if Tsutako-san is actually the same sixteen-years old as you are.
Of course, there are many people around Yumi that you would be hard-pressed to call an "ordinary high school student," so it wasn't that big of a deal.
"It's not something as delicious as a secret meeting."
When she answered truthfully, Tsutako-san adjusted her glasses, lowered her posture and looked up at Yumi.
"Oh, dear. Then, may I ask what that proudly glimmering rosary on your breast is?"
She's sharp-sighted. That rosary was indeed the same rosary she received two days from Ogasawara Sachiko-sama. And because she accepted the rosary, that meant she became the sœur to one of the most prominent students in the school-.
She blushed just thinking about it. It was a spur of the moment, or Sachiko-sama had pressed her in earnest, or whatever, in any case, she accepted the rosary with the feeling of leaping off of a stage made of clear, spring water, but now that she thought about it this clear, morning daylight, she realized the enormous reality that was looming around the corner.
There was a steep cliff right under the stage of clear water, and there was no angel on stand-by at the bottom of the cliff with a fluffy, feathery mattress.
Reality was harsh. If she messed up her flight, she could end up with a broken leg, or worse, snap her neck and instantly die.
"And this is in full view. Yumi-san, usually you hide these things under your uniform."
"I'm, not used to wearing it, so I didn't think about what you do with it after wearing your uniform. ... But, I don't have the time to be talking about this!"
Yumi realized and started running. At some point she'd gotten so engulfed in the conversation that she had stopped, like mothers around a well, speaking as they draw up water. She was already late as it was, but now she was definitely tardy.
"Yumi-san I'll be looking forward to hearing about this later."
Tsutako-san stopped following. In exchange, she heard the repeated clicking of the camera's shutter from behind. What could possibly be fun about taking photos of the backside of a student running at full speed-.
Anyways, Yumi felt that she was more and more becoming surrounded by strange people.
She arrived at the Rose Mansion, the student council's headquarters standing at the corner of the school grounds, at seven fifty.
"I'm sorry I'm late."
When she opened the door to the first-floor room that had, until the school festival, been used as a storage for the "Yamayurikai-version Cinderella" props, the gorgeous faces of the distinguished Yamayurikai members all turned around at once.
Rosa Chinensis, Rosa Foetida, Rosa Foetida en bouton Hasekura Rei-sama, Rosa Gigantea en bouton Toudou Shimako-san, and-.
"Were you caught in traffic?"
She was supposed to be weak against morning because of her low blood pressure, but Sachiko-sama glared at her and spoke with her usual, icy tone.
"Then, what happened?"
Her trademark raven-black hair fell off her shoulders and stretched down her breasts. Her expression, with her angled eyebrows and her cold eyes, looked chillingly beautiful. –But it wasn't the time to be caught awestruck. Although she used kind words in her questioning, it wasn't something as nice as a "question," and no matter how you tried to twist it, it was, at the very least, a cross-examination.
Rei-sama tapped her shoulder, but Sachiko-sama quickly shut her out with a "please stay silent" and advanced to Yumi again.
"If you have a reason for being late, be clear about it."
Even so, it was hard for her to say, "I overslept," when being pressured by Sachiko-sama so much.
"Just, what time do you think it is?"
She bluntly looked at her wrist-watch and answered, and behind Sachiko-sama, Rosa Chinensis started laughing.
On the Tuesday after the school festival was to be a quick cleaning, followed by a brief reflection meeting, so they were meant to meet at the Rose Mansion by eight. Technically she'd arrived before eight, so she wasn't actually late, but Sachiko-sama had sternly told Yumi that, since she was a first-year, she should arrive at worst fifteen-minutes before the meeting and welcome her seniors.
"Just what is your reason for being later than the third-year onee-sama?"
She had no idea. Sachiko-sama, when it came to these things, was as strict as an athletics club leader-. Just as she thought that.
"Sachiko's become quite eminent, hasn't she."
She heard a voice from behind her. Before she could turn around, Yumi's neck was pinioned, so all she could do was screech, "Ugeh."
This was its own style of entrance that truly reflected the person's personality. One of the three-colored Roses of the Lillian Girls' Academy student council "Yamayurikai"'s leaders, Rosa Gigantea yawned without covering her mouth, one arm still wrapped around Yumi's neck. It was a shame, as if she never opened her mouth, her looks were like that of a mannequin.
"My bad, my bad. I completely forgot, so I came as usual. Well, we were meeting at eight, so it's all good, right, Sachiko?"
Rosa Gigantea looked like she was an armed burglar using a hostage, or perhaps a ventriloquist using a puppet, as she stepped forward, dragging Yumi with her.
"Y, yes… but Yumi-."
"I think that's enough."
This time Rosa Foetida interjected.
"The meeting just has to start at eight."
"But! I want Yumi to be a bit more self-conscious."
"Says the person who made her seniors wait 25 minutes the other day. You don't sound very persuasive, Sachiko."
Rosa Chinensis laughed uproariously, but as Yumi was also late by 25 minutes to the play preparations, she could only shrivel even more. Blushing a deep red, having been struck where she hadn't expected, Sachiko-sama protested.
"Onee-sama, you are being far too soft on Yumi."
But she was protesting to people that easily made her dance upon their palms. Rosa Chinensis folded her arms and proudly replied.
"Of course! For us third-years, second-years are like children and first-years are like grandchildren. Training is fundamentally up to the parents. Grandmothers simply irresponsibly find them cute, and treat them as such."
Hearing Rosa Chinensis describe herself as a grandmother made Yumi exchange glances with Shimako-san, who was also a first-year, and then roll her eyes a bit. Ah, I see, the Roses are like grandmothers.
"Sachiko, when you were a first-year, you were treated quite kindly by my graduating onee-sama, were you not?"
Sachiko-sama could not find the words to retort. It seemed like she had been treated extremely well by her "grandmother" when she was a first-year.
"That's how the world is. Give it up."
Sachiko-sama was utterly defeated. Not that anyone actually won.
She wondered if the Roses were fundamentally rather sadistic. Or maybe Sachiko-sama was masochistic. Every time, Sachiko-sama was verbally defeated in this fashion. Even though she was the object of the school's affections, and she was a genuine, named household's princess, the Roses themselves were not simple peasants overwhelmed by love, either.
But, she wondered why Sachiko-sama felt so different when surrounded by the Roses. The usual Sachiko-sama was like a perfect princess.
"Oh my, Yumi-chan. I wonder what this is-?" Rosa Gigantea had finally stopped being a stalking ghost and had turned, instead, into a sexual harassing man, sticking her hand into Yumi's sailor uniform.
She yelped as the cold hand touched her collarbone. Rosa Gigantea quickly giggled, "Sorry," and dragged out the rosary Yumi had hidden.
"Ah hah, so this is why Sachiko's all uptight."
"So she pulls through when it matters."
The Roses spoke among themselves, alternating glances between the rosary and Sachiko-sama. Yumi felt like a panda in a zoo.
"Onee-sama, it's time for the meeting."
She didn't seem comfortable receiving attention in this way, so Sachiko-sama spoke, looking extremely unpleased. It didn't look like she was hiding her embarrassment, but that was probably what it was, nonetheless.
"Oh come, do us a service. When, and where, did you exchange vows?"
Sachiko-sama was finally beginning to look angry. As the Roses had deliberately used a wording to agitate Sachiko-sama, Yumi thought they seemed quite evil.
"And why must I perform a service task to the onee-sama?"
"Oh, if you say so. Then we'll just ask Yumi-chan. Yumi-chan'll tell us, because she's honest, right?"
What a conundrum. Sachiko-sama looked like she wanted to scream, "I'll never forgive you if you tell them," but the prospect of making enemies of the three strongest students in Lillian Girls' Academy was not any better.
What should she do-, Yumi gulped. Just then, she felt a stimulus in her stomach.
The first stimulus was just the trigger, and she felt another wave. There was no stopping it, something horrible was about to happen.
(What should I do?)
But there were some things that people could avoid using sheer force of will, and there were other things that they were helpless with. Because Yumi was fighting the latter, she tried to come up with a way to lower her embarrassment.
(One, to warn them of what's going to happen and simply accept the embarrassment. Two, raise my voice and try to confuse everyone. Three, run.) Yumi chose three. If she was going to confuse herself, she at least wanted to be spared "that."
But when she started running, Rosa Gigantea snagged her right before she got to the door and dragged her back.
"What, do you not want to say? Was it so fabulous a memory you don't want to tell us?"
Yumi shook her head. No. She hadn't run because she wanted to hide the story behind the ceremony.
(Ahh, but… it's too late.)
She should have eaten breakfast if it were going to come to this-. At the same time, a growling sound, like the croaking of a frog, arose from Yumi's body. And, unbelievably, it ran for about ten seconds, her longest ever, and as the room was dead silent, it echoed off the walls.
(Ahh, it's all over…)
Ah, to make these beautiful women hear the croaking of a frog. If there were a hole, … no, she wanted to tear a hole ten-meters wide and then hide in it for ten years.
Rosa Gigantea broke the silence. Because it was her, it was not chuckling nor giggling, but rather an uproarious "hah hah hah." Lead by that, -no, they probably weren't actually lead, but rather their attempt to hold it in was in vain, as everyone other than Yumi and Sachiko-sama began laughing.
"Nice, Yumi-chan, you're the best!"
"I was wondering how she was going to get out of this mess for Sachiko-onee-sama, but wow, what wonderful timing!"
"We shall pay our respects to Yumi-chan's natural comedy and allow them to reprieve, then."
She didn't know why it turned out that way, but in any case, the Roses smiled, apparently more than satisfied. The quick clean-up was indeed very quick, and Rei-sama and Shimako-san, who'd arrived first, had actually completed the job, so everyone left behind their laughter and climbed the stairs. In order to have their meeting, they were headed toward the second-floor room, which was supposedly the nominal conference room, despite actually feeling more like a salon.
There was one room on the second floor and one room on the first floor. Despite being called the Rose Mansion, it was extremely small. However, despite being small, it was splendid enough that calling it a cabin or shed would be disrespectful. It was constructed out of wood in the corner of the school grounds, and was rather clearly older than the other buildings. A triangular roof, stained-glass windows, ivy that crawled around the outer walls, bay windows made of wooden sills, it had the appearance of what you might expect to see in a sepia-colored photo. Once inside, you couldn't help but be constantly reminded of its old age by the warped floorboards and stairs that squeaked with every step, but even so, it had been used with utmost care by generations of student councils, so it was a mansion with a clean, soft atmosphere.
The beautiful seniors climbed the tight, steep staircase while making soft screeching sounds. Although it may have been Yumi's role to have gone ahead and prepared the room, the tightness of the staircase meant it would have been impossible to run past everyone, so she gave up and followed after. Yumi thought that she would have to take advantage of being classmates with Shimako-san and ask about how the Yamayurikai was run.
Starting today, well, more accurately it had begun two days ago the moment she accepted the rosary, she had become Sachiko-sama's sœur. As for Sachiko-sama, she was the sister to Rosa Chinensis, one of the three Roses that lead the Lillian Girls' Academy high school's student council, and thus was slated to become the next Rosa Chinensis. Of course, Yumi couldn't imagine that she would also be destined to become Rosa Chinensis, but as she was the sister to the Rosa Chinensis en bouton, Sachiko-sama, it was expected of her to help out around the Rose Mansion. In actuality, she was more interested in being even the slightest of help to Sachiko-sama, to prove her worth as a little sister.
So, today was a special day. Her first day as Sachiko-sama's little sister.
(I wonder if I disappointed her already.)
Yumi felt a bit blue as she watched the straight black hair sway coolly in front of her with every step. What was Sachiko-sama, the embodiment of pride who hated indecency, thinking of her little sister at this very moment? Because their meeting was filled with mistakes at every turn, Yumi was sure Sachiko-sama wasn't expecting a whole great deal of her, but she wondered if her error this time was too great.
(I hope she wouldn't be asking for her rosary to be returned.)
Screech, screech. As the heavy footsteps climbed, Yumi thought, "You never know." Sachiko-sama, with her unpredictable personality, was, well, unpredictable.
(I mean, everyone was in tears laughing at the frog's croak...)
There were only up to around twenty steps, but the stairs felt intolerably long. It would be so much of a relief if she said anything, but because she was silent, Yumi's thoughts kept turning to negative directions. If she was thinking about putting a blank slate to their sisterly relations, Yumi would have preferred a big bolt of lightning to just smash her that very instant. –As she thought that, Sachiko-sama turned around when she finished climbing.
She still had a sharp look in her eyes. But her relatively elevated position emphasized her splendid beauty.
Even though it wasn't the time for it, Yumi was mesmerized. She hadn't accepted being Sachiko-sama's sister because of her looks, but her looks were definitely the starting point for Yumi's adoration of her.
"Put out your hands, with your palms up."
As ordered, she put our her hands. Because it wasn't likely to be palm-reading, she assumed Sachiko-sama meant for her to put out both hands, and then noticed something about how she looked.
Looked eerily similar. Yes, exactly. The figure of a young boy being punished by a private tutor. She had seen, in an insert picture for a novel, the illustration of a boy sticking out both hands and being slapped on the palms with a pointing stick. Even though she completely forgot about what the book was for.
(Is Sachiko-sama going to...?)
She felt like flying away. She said she would prefer a bolt of lightning – but, when it came down to it, she couldn't help but think, "But I don't like pain."
But, Yumi screwed her eyes shut. Rei-sama, who was walking in front of Sachiko-sama, had already walked through the biscuit-shaped door, so it was only the two of them left in the hallway.
Yet, despite waiting, no pain could be felt from her palms. Instead, she heard Sachiko-sama rustling through her pocket. "Huh?" she thought, and then she felt something light placed on her hands.
When she opened her eyes, two cough drops were placed on her hands.
"Well, it's better than nothing, I hope."
"I understand you hurried so much you didn't even get the chance to eat breakfast."
Sachiko-sama turned on her heel and walked away.
"Just, don't embarrass me too much."
Yumi ran up the last step and followed. Her own imagination was foolish. But, she couldn't imagine in her wildest dreams that Sachiko-sama would give her cough drops.
When she caught up at the door, Sachiko-sama turned around, as if remembering something, and let go of the doorknob.
"Also, please stop with the 'Sachiko-sama.'"
"You're my sœur, so settle down and begin calling me 'onee-sama,' please."
As Sachiko-sama said that and fixed Yumi's tie, she asked, "And your answer?"
Still trying to grasp what was asked of her, Yumi simply nodded, but that was apparently enough, as Sachiko-sama smiled full of satisfaction and disappeared to the other side of the biscuit-shaped door.
She whispered, trying to get used to it. She felt like she was going to blush, so un-used to using the word she was.
It felt ticklish, and it was enough to speed up her palpitations.
It may seem foolish, but she touched her rosary from above her uniform, just to make sure everything was real. The rosary was still there. The rosary she received from Sachiko-sama two days ago.
So, Yumi was the only one allowed to call Sachiko-sama "onee-sama," in the whole school. Yumi was so overcome with emotion she made a fist with her hand.
"Come, stop dawdling."
Sachiko-sama called from the room.
Yumi quickly answered, then popped the cough drops into her mouth. Having been warmed in her hand, it had been difficult to remove the wrapping.
"Oh, where's Yoshino-san…?"
After the regular members had taken their seats, Yumi finally noticed that Rei-sama's sœur, Shimazu Yoshino-san was missing. Shimako-san had already begun preparing the tea, a job normally reserved for first-years, so Yumi quickly went to help.
"Her fever hasn't gotten down since yesterday."
Rei-sama answered, almost like she was speaking to herself.
"I think it's because she was over-excited because of the school festival."
Apparently her body always broke down after events. Everyone other than Yumi seemed to be aware of that, so discussions simply resumed, with no one making any further comment.
As she distributed Shimako-san's tea from a tray, Yumi thought, "I guess Yoshino-san's body is frail." When she thought about it, she'd never seen Yoshino-san participate in athletics activities.
Although Shimazu Yoshino-san had also attended Lillian Girls' Academy since kindergarten, they'd never been in the same class. Although they'd become acquainted with each other recently, because of the school festival, they'd never actually sat down and spoken.
In regard to Yoshino-san, she seemed to have a special personality on top of her frail body that created the image of a sweet young girl, with a relatively weak but perpetual smile. For example, one single lily of the valley in between roses and lilies.
When Yumi placed a teacup in front of Rosa Foetida, she heard a bit of idle chatter between her and Rei-sama.
"By the way, the newspaper club said they wanted to interview Rei and Yoshino-chan today."
"The newspaper club? Yoshino and I?"
Rei-sama seemed to wonder, "Why?" and tilted her head to the side. Yumi also tilted her head. The tough, stern Rei-sama and the honest, diligent Yoshino-san didn't seem to be the type of people to stir up enough cause for the newspaper club to come calling.
"Oh, Yumi-chan, no looking elsewhere or you'll spill!"
Rosa Gigantea seemed to scold Yumi as she took her teacup from the tray.
Even though she apologized, she was still curious about the Rosa Foetida sisters.
"You know. Even the newspaper club doesn't just print scandalous stories. Well, not that I blame you for holding that prejudice, after the big fuss you raised in becoming sisters."
Rosa Gigantea looked at Sachiko-sama and Yumi as she spoke.
She vaguely remembered that there weren't a whole lot of scandals on the school newspaper that she could think of. Normally they're quite normal, printing stories of regular school events, or reporting athletics match results. The paper that was being circulated tomorrow was most likely based on the school festival, too.
"You and Yoshino-chan apparently were voted best sœur in the school-wide survey. It's a formal commission request, and I don't see why you would reject-"
Rosa Foetida spoke in a business-like manner, as if she were stating mathematical formulas, as she asked Rei-sama, "What do you want to do?"
"But, I don't know when Yoshino can come to school..."
Rosa Foetida warmed both of her hands on her teacup, saying, "I understand." Rosa Foetida always looked bored like this. But it wasn't a disinterested feeling you got from her, as she completed every job requested of her perfectly, and she was always present at classes. Because she did everything perfectly, she seemed like she never had a whole lot of fun with anything.
It was quite mysterious.
That Rosa Foetida and Rei-sama were sisters. It was, of course, not really a "thrilling" relationship like Yumi and Sachiko-sama, nor was it a match of like-minded people like Rosa Gigantea and Shimako-san. Rather, it was hard to place.
Why did Rosa Foetida make Rei-sama her sœur? And how did Rei-sama respond? Perhaps because she herself had found an onee-sama, Yumi became curious about others.
"Has everyone received a cup? If so, let's have a toast."
Rosa Chinensis stood up and spoke. She called it a reflective meeting, but it seemed like she just wanted to have one last "good work everyone" party before returning to normalcy. Even after the Cinderella play was over, the Roses had to run around as the executive committee, and even after finishing that duty they were called upon for the night celebration, so they had not been able to gather everyone in one spot.
"First, a toast to a successful school festival."
A toast to straight Darjeeling tea. Unlike Sachiko-sama's tea, Shimako-san's black tea was mellow and tasty. When she eagerly poured herself another cup, Rosa Chinensis once again stood up and spoke.
"Second, as commemoration of the moment Sachiko-sama made Yumi hers."
Partly because she had let down her guard, Yumi barely managed to stop herself from blowing tea out of her mouth.
"Oh my, she's embarrassed."
"-Ro, Rosa Chinensis!"
The third-years mumbled, "Oh how it is to be young," like they were old women. They were totally mocking her, but there was no use in acting up about it. But the phrasing, "making Yumi hers" was rather extreme. But Yumi held back, simply opening and closing her mouth like a goldfish.
"Close your mouth, and wipe your face. How indecent."
Sachiko-sama held out her gorgeous, laced, white handkerchief. Because she had come close to blowing out tea, the area around her lips were wet.
"Oh, you won't wipe her face for her?"
Rosa Gigantea raised her eyebrows in feigned shock.
"Rosa Gigantea, you may wipe Shimako's face any time you please."
"I won't do it for Shimako, but I'd be more than happy to wipe Yumi's face."
"I want to take this opportunity to make it clear. Please do not spoil my little sister."
Perhaps it was because she wasn't being attacked directly, but Sachiko-sama was quite level-headed this time. Yumi still didn't know what was the cause for switching her from elegant mode to hysteria mode. Even though they had become sisters, Sachiko-sama was still an unfathomable being.
As the time for morning prayer was arriving, everyone finished drinking and stood up from their seats. Shimako-san said, as she cleaned the cups.
"There are many shapes of sisters, aren't there."
The fountain water felt colder than before.
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