Maria-sama ga Miteru:Volume2 Chapter3
It seemed one of the biggest reasons why the rumors spread so fast was the speed of the newspaper club. By noon the next day, every high school student knew about the catastrophe that had befallen the two whom were voted Best Sœur. It was an awe-inspiring display of speed.
"Tsukiyama Minako got us, this time."
"I didn't think she'd publish it the next day."
When Yumi arrived at the Rose Mansion with her lunch box in hand, she found Rosa Chinensis and Rosa Gigantea groaning to one another while sitting across from each other.
"Sorry, could you pour us some tea?"
Rosa Gigantea mimicked the speech mannerisms of section chiefs, like in dramas. Her back was a bit stooped, and she didn't lift her eyes from the table in front of her. She was like an "old man."
"Rosa Chinensis, would you like Japanese tea, as well?"
"Yes… no, actually, I'd prefer orange pekoe, if you don't mind."
Usually she'd accept the same thing, or she would pour herself her preferred tea, but it seemed she had other things on her mind today.
I wonder if Darjeeling isn't sufficient? Yumi thought, as she peeked inside the cupboard, and then she found orange pekoe teabags in a glass bottle. It seemed like she knew exactly how much remained.
She poured thick blend of Japanese tea for Rosa Gigantea in a chawan, and orange pekoe in a teacup for Rosa Chinensis, then placed the tea in front of the respective requesters. After pondering over which to choose, she then filled a chawan a third of the way with the same blend of Japanese tea as Rosa Gigantea and then distilled it with boiling water.
The groaning of the two was based on the newspaper extra spread out in front of them. It was a simple, one-sided monochrome print on a B5 sheet, but it was extremely attractive nonetheless.
The headline in big letters read, "Yellow Rose Revolution." And to its side, "What is going on with the yellow roses?" was neatly printed, further engrossing the reader.
"It's like a sports paper."
Rosa Gigantea grumbled, while holding a mustard-tarama-salad sandwich to her cheek, the sort that only the most die-hard of fans actually order.
"It's rather vulgar for an authenticated high school newspaper."
Rosa Chinensis sighed, rolling her round rice ball around her lunch box. As for Yumi, sitting between them, she stuck a fork into her crab-shaped sausage and thought,
(Is that so,)
Being satisfied by the implications.
The Lillian Kawaraban used to be a more orthodox high school newspaper. She had only started reading the newspaper in depth the past two or three issues, so she had assumed it was always a gossipy tabloid.
She wondered what sort of person Tsukiyama Minako-san was, so fervently tracking down rumors about other people.
Character aside, she took the two-shot photo of Rei-sama and Yoshino-san that was used for the Lillian Kawaraban that was published ten days ago, and this time had the artistic sense to lay out the new article on a torn version of the photo. Even Yumi had to admit that was brilliant.
Speaking of senses, the two Roses in front of her. Sandwich and Japanese tea, orange pekoe and rice balls, those were mismatches, too. –Just as she was thinking about that, Rosa Gigantea started laughing, staring at Yumi's face. She was probably going through life's phases again.
"I heard Yoshino-chan's absent again?"
Rosa Gigantea returned to the topic, deciding to ignore Yumi's face, this time.
"Ah, yes. I went to the Chrysanthemum class during the class break, but Yoshino-san was absent."
"But Rei was here."
Rosa Gigantea mumbled, "she's so honest," then wiped tarama salad off of her lip with her ring finger and licked it off.
Apparently Rei-sama had appeared on time, as always, though without Yoshino-san, and had been properly attending classes since first period. Perhaps she had settled down after a night's rest, although she hadn't recovered to the point where she could outwardly look fine, which itself was quite painful to watch, opined Rosa Chinensis. Rei-sama was probably forcing herself to take everything in stride to alleviate everyone's concerns. But a newspaper with her photo plastered on its cover was unexpected, so she had been stunned, and had read the article in detail, anyways.
"Rei-sama was the one who was dumped, so her classmates'll be sensible and not inquire, but-"
Rosa Gigantea stopped there, but even Yumi knew what she wanted to say. "We're going to be bothered all day as substitutes for the questions."
Because they wouldn't say it, but Rosa Chinensis and Rosa Gigantea both looked extremely tired, even though they had only attended the morning classes so far. Even if they had been at physical education, they looked like they had run an hour-long marathon, or had swum in a pool for that long. But it was out of season for pools, and you could tell just by entering the room that their exhaustion was not sports-related.
Right. Their exhaustion was mental fatigue. They might be stressed out, too.
Perhaps they'd heard the rumors, or they'd read the extra and wondered about the future of the yellow rose sisters, or perhaps the students were simply curious, but they had attempted to hear the story from the people closest to the sisters. And when it came to people close to the sisters, the first people that sprung to mind were the Yamayurikai staff: the Roses, and enboutons and their sisters who went in and out of the Rose Mansion were targets as well. Even Yumi, who you normally would think hasn't yet understood everything that happens in the Yamayurikai, was bombarded with questions to the point where she had escaped to the Rose Mansion, so she couldn't imagine how troublesome it must be for the Roses.
"Was it like this in my case, too…?"
Yumi remembered what had happened two weeks before the school festival. The students were in an uproar over whether Yumi would become Sachiko-sama's sœur or not, and this situation felt just like that.
"It's not really an annoyance."
Rosa Gigantea tied up one of the vinyl wrappings for her sandwiches and tossed it in the waste bin. –Which, of course, meant that out of Yumi's sight, they had all dealt with all of this.
"It's a bother, of course, but it's not Rei or Yoshino-chan's fault, right? I mean, this is all simply compounded by the fact that they're popular, anyways. So don't worry about it."
The Roses were mature, she thought. They were only two years older, but they were able to coolly analyze their actions and their emotions. As for Yumi, she simply thought, "I hope it works out."
"By the way, how about Shimako? You two are in the same class, right? She didn't escape with you?"
"Everyone backs off when she smiles and answers, 'I have no clue.'"
Actually, she was probably joyfully picking up gingko nuts at the secret grove. She was almost bursting with impatience since the morning.
"I see. Beauty is a weapon. In the case of Sachiko, she's so scary no one probably wants to bother her about this."
For Yumi, Rosa Chinensis was also a beauty, in her own right. Rosa Gigantea was more of an exotic beauty, but her looks were on par with the stone statues in the fine arts room. Rosa Foetida-
Speaking of which, where was Rosa Foetida? Rosa Foetida was the most likely to be irritated by all of this bother, too. She was the person Yumi expected would run here first, faster than even Rosa Chinensis and Rosa Gigantea. And Rei-sama was Rosa Foetida's sister, so the questioning would be even more severe.
"Is Rosa Foetida absent, too?" When Yumi asked, the two Roses looked at each other and answered bitingly, "Well she's here."
"She's in an even more otherworldly state than yesterday's Rei. She looks so disturbed I don't think anyone is willing to talk to her."
"It looks like things will keep deteriorating at this rate. I wonder what happened to her?"
Rosa Chinensis rested her head on her palm, musing, "I wonder what happened." Yumi wondered why Rosa Chinensis didn't worry more about Rosa Foetida. Anyways, it seemed like it was at least okay that they knew why Rei-sama was so stunned. Well, it wasn't good or anything, but at least knowing the cause meant there was a way to deal with it.
"Well, if they need to borrow our strength, Rosa Foetida would come and ask."
Rosa Gigantea also spoke in a relaxed tone.
"You don't have to look at us like that, Yumi-chan. If push comes to shove, we'll step in, so don't you worry. But more importantly…"
It was more of a priority to deal with Rei-sama, Rosa Gigantea declared, and Rosa Chinensis nodded.
"But you said you wouldn't interfere with household strife…"
"We said that yesterday, but the situation has changed, what with this thing being published."
Rosa Chinensis flicked the extra spread on the table with her index finger.
Yumi looked down at the article. Actually, Yumi had received the article by the gingko trees and had read through it.
"It's a big problem. It's not an article, it's a novel."
The extra was slammed by all five fingers, this time.
"'Perhaps-.' 'Possibly-.' They're all presumptions. But it's so well-written that when you read it all, you end up assuming it's all true."
Rosa Gigantea's statement that Tsukiyama Minako should be a novelist rather than a reporter was, of course, not praise but sarcasm.
Come to think of it, the piece was indeed more like a novel than a newspaper article. On top of the blurring of truth and fiction, the writer had assumed the feelings of Yoshino-san and Rei-sama, whom were both not even interviewed. But it was so skillfully written that you would miss that fact unless someone pointed it out. Plus, people assume newspapers are written truthfully, so readers end up taking it for granted.
"You want to protect Rei-sama because a false article was written?"
Yumi absent-mindedly nodded.
She'd been trying to follow the conversation, by it was speeding too far ahead.
(Umm, Rosa Gigantea and Rosa Chinensis both said they were just going to watch, but because of this novel-like article, they've started wanting Rei-sama's problem solved. –I think.)
"The problem is that this has been beautified."
Rosa Chinensis stood up and, this time, poured herself a second cup of orange pekoe.
"There'll be repercussions."
Rosa Gigantea leaned back in her chair and signed, "Sheesh."
As for Yumi.
Even when she was washing the three chawan at the sink, she couldn't decipher the Roses' words, and even when she was walking down the hallway after exiting the Rose Mansion, her tilted neck didn't straighten.
But that was solved sooner than she expected.
The early bell rang, so Yumi hurried back to class.
Shimonoseki-sensei, her fifth period math teacher, was a very punctual old man who would always enter the classroom when the true bell rang, so he expected his students to have their textbooks, notebooks and pencils on their desk and sit quietly when he entered.
But for whatever reason they had forgotten this, as a number of students were gathered near Yumi's desk, speaking to each other.
"What's the matter?"
When she went closer, she noticed Oyamada Miyuki-san (小山田みゆき) sobbing at her desk diagonally behind Yumi's. The group of students whom were friends with her simply replied, "Nothing," as if to protect her.
When she looked more carefully, she noticed everyone in that clump had watery eyes. One girl was seriously crying, the others were crying infectiously, they had all missed the early bell, and so when they replied, "Nothing," it was very unpersuasive.
"Ah, I'm sorry, we'll get out of the way."
They realized that standing where they were prevented Yumi from being able to take a seat, so one person moved aside a bit. Well, okay then, she thought, and took a seat at her desk, but the girls behind her still stayed in her mind.
Then, Shimako-san came back.
When she asked as Shimako-san passed by her desk, she simply laughed happily, fufufu. She looked so ecstatic that asking that question was unnecessary.
Yumi noticed the vinyl bag and chopsticks Shimako-san had taken with her were missing, but apparently she had hidden her harvest somewhere in the garden. Even if you were to tie the end of the bag over and over again, the smell would inevitably leak, so she probably didn't bring it into the classroom out of etiquette. And of course, none of the classmates could probably even come remotely close to guessing that the reason for this beauty's wonderful smile was the gingko. Other than Yumi and Tsutako-san, anyways.
"But, that aside."
Shimako-san lowered her voice and spoke in Yumi's ear.
"Rei-sama's problem has caused quite an uproar."
"There're students dissolving their sisterly bonds. And not just one or two pairs."
She was about to say that out loud, so she covered her own mouth, and Shimako-san also felt this coming, and also covered Yumi's mouth, so the double shutter prevented the yell from leaking out.
Immediately, she thought, "So that's it," about Miyuki-san's reason for crying. But Yumi was not so unrefined as to turn around and confirm that. Suppressing her burning desire to find out about that, she urged Shimako-san on for more details.
"I wonder if it's a repercussion of Rei-sama and Yoshino-san's matter…"
Just then, the true bell rang, and Shimonoseki-sensei walked in, so she was unable to hear the rest of Shimako-san's information. Diagonally behind her, Miyuki-san cried in stifled tones all through math class. Because there was no oral practice like English or reading from the textbook for social studies, it might have been a blessing that this was math class, Yumi thought. Plus, Shimonoseki-sensei, perhaps due to his old age, wasn't the type of teacher who really observed his students that much.
Only the sound of the teacher's chalk constantly echoed through the silent classroom.
Rosa Chinensis and Rosa Gigantea were probably worried about this sort of repercussion.
Had Rei-sama and Yoshino-san not been the sisterly ideal for the entire school. Had the newspaper club not beautified their feud with flowery words-. Then it might not have been a spark for other people.
Yumi pulled the B5 leaflet that was tucked into her textbook, folded it into the size of her notebook, and re-read it. The extra, headlined "Yellow Rose Revolution," simply wrote the fact that Yoshino-san had given back her rosary to Rei-sama in front of the Maria-sama statue.
While there had been examples of students dissolving sisterly bonds for various reasons in the past, it read that this was different. It had always been dissolved by the elder sister. Just as it was customary for the upperclassmen to propose to the underclassmen, the pattern was assumed to be the elder sister bringing up the topic of a break-up.
(That's true, it's unthinkable for a devoted little sister to reject her elder sister.)
On top of that, the partner was the Rosa Foetida en bouton. There were easily more than twenty students who would have loved to be Rei-sama's little sister.
(… which means Yoshino-san broke almost every mold possible.)
Yumi sighed once more while reading the article.
"Okay, attendance number five, please solve the problem."
She wasn't paying careful attention, so she froze in terror, wondering if she, number 35, had been called upon. But after a pause, a desk behind her clattered, and she heard a soft, "Yes."
Miyuki-san stood up. After wiping her nose with a handkerchief, she teetered and wobbled toward the platform at the front of the class with weak strides. Like Yumi, she was the type that didn't stand out no matter what she did, but this time there was an undeniable emphasis on her overly fleeting state of mind.
The classmates that knew what had happened murmured. However, the old teacher, with his failing ears, had no way of picking out the stifled crying, so when he saw Miyuki-san's puffy eyes and red nose, he simply guessed, "Hay fever?"
"I'm sorry, I don't know the answer."
Miyuki-san lifelessly lowered her arm, as if lifting the chalk was an immense task. If she had been listening to class, it probably was a simple question, but it was too much to ask of her right now. Because she was crying the whole time.
"You may return to your seat. Attendance number 15."
Tsutako-san walked past Miyuki-san and went up on the platform with a clear "why me?" look. It seemed like she was paying attention to class, as she quickly wrote the answer in white letters.
As she returned to her seat, Tsutako-san pointed at Yumi and mouthed, "Be careful." At that, Yumi snapped to attention. Five, then fifteen, so today he was going through fives. Which meant next was 25, then Yumi's 35. She put away the leaflet and focused on the textbook.
The twenty minutes until the end of class felt extremely long, after that. It actually might have been easier to take if she had been called upon earlier on.
By the time the fifth-period class ended, Miyuki-san's tears had dried up. But her melancholic state remained. It was an odd feeling, like someone else was sitting diagonally behind her.
During the break, Miyuki-san's friends all gathered around her desk again, and although she wasn't actively trying to listen, Yumi found out that Miyuki-san had broken up with her older sister.
The girls surrounding Miyuki-san murmured. But, why. To Yumi, it simply felt like they were saying lines from a drama series, and so the situation felt extremely surreal.
"It was the only way."
Miyuki-san cried again, after being comforted. Eventually the sixth-period chime rang, and everyone dispersed to their seats again.
Yumi thought to herself, "To be continued."
"They're pretending to be Yoshino-san."
Tsutako-san said with distaste, as they walked down the hallway after school.
"Pretending to be Yoshino-san-"
It was such a blunt but fitting explanation that Yumi momentarily lost her words. Miyuki-san during the afternoon was very much like Yoshino-san, or at least like the Yoshino-san image carried by the girls surrounding her. Weak, loveable, cute… Right, just like the image Yumi herself carried until recently.
"Just you watch. There'll be more."
"I'm willing to bet on it."
Yumi didn't know what Tsutako-san intended to bet, but it couldn't have been much of a deal, so she ignored that statement and kept moving the discussion along.
"So how do you pretend to be Yoshino-san?"
"They call out their onee-sama in front of Maria-sama with a tragic face, then return the rosaries."
Yumi screamed inside when she heard that.
"Th, then, Miyuki-san wasn't the rejected, she's the one that started everything? And even though she's the one that rejected, she was crying like that?"
Tsutako-san replied simply. On top of that, she was raising her camera and clicking the shutter every so often, so she was clearly disinterested. The topic was so disinteresting to her that even she took a "how stupid" stance.
"Yumi-san, okay? In life, even if two people like each other a great deal, sometimes it becomes necessary to split up for a bit. Can you imagine Yoshino-san returning the rosary with a smile?"
"If anything, you'd imagine her silently crying, right?"
That was true. She could easily imagine Yoshino-san returning the rosary while suppressing her tears. But she couldn't imagine her laughing or even being angry while doing it. But Tsutako-san said Yoshino-san had brought up the topic of the split in a fit of anger.
"The repercussion of printing is strong. Because when you read the article, you feel like you were there."
That's right. That extra.
It was written to imply that Yoshino-san was a tragic heroine. Unable to stand her own dependence on Rei-sama. That she thought Rei-sama, the future Rosa Foetida, needed a stronger, more dependable little sister. Her fit of anger was a cover for her own insecurity.
"A tragic borne out of her elder sister being Rosa Foetida en bouton. An artistic piece."
Boutons basically are converted to being a Rose as soon as the upperclassmen graduate. That's why Roses and Bouton are often directed to choose little sisters both for their affinity as well as their character.
She suddenly felt ill. She'd never given it much thought yet, but Yumi realized that meant next year she would be Rosa Chinensis en bouton. She worried if she was capable of living up to that title, having seen Sachiko-sama and Rei-sama.
"Yumi-san, you're over thinking things. Shimako-san is Rosa Gigantea en bouton this year, so she'll be Rosa Gigantea next year."
Even though it was someone else's problem, Yumi couldn't help but feel horrified by the prospect of being in that position. It could be quite stressful for Shimako-san.
"Well, even if you're the sister of an en bouton, it doesn't mean there's no way for you to not be a Rose in the future."
Tsutako-san patted Yumi's shoulder, but she didn't know if those words were praise or extra pressure.
But. Even though the prospect of becoming a Rose in the future was enough to shiver her, the idea of not living up to Sachiko-sama was even worse. That being said, there would be pressure following her all the way until graduation for being Sachiko-sama's sœur, so she suddenly felt worried about her heart.
"Tsutako-san, you said they were pretending to be Yoshino-san, so would they have been acting?"
She asked her sudden curiosity out loud. Then, Tsutako-san looked at the tall window at the stair's landing and groaned, "Hmmm." It was well into autumn, so the afternoon sky was heavy and cold. Even so, the leaves that stubbornly stuck to the trees looked like warmth to the eyes, with their dark-colored, round forms.
"Hard to say. They're probably doing it out of seriousness, but…"
"What do you mean?"
"They're obviously just being influenced, but they probably feel like they come up with everything on their own. I mean, the matter of Rei-sama and Yoshino-san must be clearly etched into their minds. But they probably look at it is just an impetus. Even though they probably only really bothered to think about it in the past two days, they imagine that they always felt anxious about not being a fit for their onee-sama. And so this is the right time to distance themselves."
Maybe because the people in question weren't in hearing range, Tsutako-san relentlessly plowed on, criticizing the following break-up girls.
But, what if the girls had actually been anxious about it all along? Right. Just like Yumi, they always wondered, "Am I worthy of her?" and then with lack of confidence, while they mulled around in melancholy, Yoshino-san popped up, and they felt she had beaten them to the punch?
When she said that, Tsutako-san cackled and said, "If it's just chance like that, would there be three pairs in just lunch-break alone?" In that case, it did seem like things were going too neatly. Tsutako-san's insightfulness was admirable.
"You sound like you actually watched it."
"Truth be told, I did. Miyuki-san, who could line up alongside Yumi-san in a competition for 'Most Stereotypical Girl,' returning her rosary with watery eyes."
Tsutako-san lifted her camera, appealing that she, of course, captured that moment on film. When Yumi looked a bit angry, Tsutako-san justified herself, saying she had simply been passing by, emphasizing that she'd happened upon the scene while taking a walk during lunch break. But along the way, she'd also snapped photos of the other two pairs. –What a troublesome friend.
"But, why are they pretending to be Yoshino-san? Is there anything to be gained?"
As they went down the last step, Yumi asked. They were to split up here, with Tsutako-san going to her club house, and Yumi going to the Rose Mansion, but she didn't want to leave in the middle of the conversation.
"It must feel pleasant? Being a tragic heroine."
"A tragic heroine…"
Yoshino-san did have the image of a tragic heroine, and Yumi was a girl, too, so she'd imagined herself being the main character of a sad story once or twice, but-.
"I guess they're that bored of life? They wanted excitement."
Of course, that wasn't part of their calculations, Tsutako-san pointed out.
"Lillian students are fundamentally quite blessed, after all."
Students that attend from kindergarten can study all the way through university as long as they have a bit of academic skill and as long as their household assets remain in place. Of course, there're some that transfer into the academy in the middle, or some that leave to take exams for other schools, but it's the type of school atmosphere where the term "Examination War" is wholly out of place. Without examinations, the school has a rather laid-back atmosphere. Being laid-back is a lovely thing borne from surplus, but sometimes it can bring boredom.
"If days were more thrilling, this kind of disease wouldn't be so contagious."
"Yes, it's a disease. They're so bored and desperate that they can't find anything to do, and just when their souls are so paralyzed that they don't even know what they're looking for-"
Yoshino-san did something completely unexpected.
"It had such an impact that they had a spell cast on them without them realizing it."
"I get it, that makes sense."
Yumi finally felt like she got on the same page as Tsutako-san. If every day were dynamic, there would be no time to be bored, but not everyone lives like that. Had she not become Sachiko-sama's sœur, Yumi might have been rather bored, too. She didn't have a club she was devoted to, like Tsutako-san.
"Then would that mean the reason for the rise in popularity for the 'Lillian Kawaraban' is because it caters to the desires of the bored girls? Like they're peeking in on the daily lives of the Yamayurikai staff – something they can't do on their own?"
"That's probably a part of it. That's why as long as they report properly, they're allowed to do those things. But suddenly interviewing people without immunity, like before with Yumi-san, or printing an article without checking with the people in question is detestable."
This indignation came from Tsutako-san, who made it a habit to secretly take photos of girls in their gymnastics uniforms. Although Tsutako-san always checked with the people before using any of them, so she wasn't as bad.
"It's not right to place all the blame on the newspaper club, but Yoshino-san's actions should have been condemned, but instead it became justified, and then fashionable, and that's where the problem is."
Tsutako-san predicted, "It won't end with three pairs," and left for the clubhouse in a different courtyard.
Things were going out of hand. And she was already overwhelmed with thoughts of how to rectify Rei-sama and Yoshino-san's situation. If things were to continue to spread to other students, it was feasible that everyone would stop being sisters, and that would lead to the Lillian tradition crumbling.
(What can I do…)
Although she was heading straight to the Rose Mansion, she stopped and turned around. She thought, the number one medicine would be to settle things between Yoshino-san and Rei-sama, then report it to everyone. Impersonation crimes tend to stop when the original is solved, after all. … Even if this wasn't quite the same.
She thought the best course of action was to convince Yoshino-san to re-accept the rosary. But she was absent today, too. Rei-sama was probably at her club, but discussing it with the one who was rejected would be futile.
So her next thought was the line that connected everyone. Rosa Foetida. She didn't know why Rosa Foetida was in an ill mood, but her cute sisters were in a crisis. She thought Rosa Foetida should be willing to help. Everyone said it was hard talking to her because she wasn't herself, but in all sincerity, if Yumi explained things, she might come up with a way to solve things. And if Rosa Foetida came up with a plan, Yumi was willing to make it happen.
She was conveniently at the first floor, so she went to peek at the shoe boxes. Rosa Foetida was in third-year chrysanthemum class. Come to think of it, even though they were all in different grades, Rei-sama and Yoshino-san were both chrysanthemum, Yumi mused, as she looked through the small lockers.
(… Rosa Foetida's real name.)
She'd heard it before, but she couldn't remember. Not only Rosa Foetida, but Rosa Chinensis and Rosa Gigantea were almost never called by their real names, so she couldn't recall any of their full names, either.
She had no choice but to go through attendance numbers, confirm their names, and then guess which locker belonged to Rosa Foetida.
(I'm really a fool.)
After feeling down for a moment, she pumped herself back up and began working. Just then, she noticed the figure of a student in front of her. When she stepped aside to allow her to retrieve her shoes, she noticed it was Rosa Foetida herself.
Yumi ran over, overjoyed. But she listlessly turned around, and on top of her teary eyes, one of her cheeks was quite red.
What happened, she wanted to ask, but couldn't.
Rosa Foetida turned her face to the side again and covered her red cheek with her left hand, as if she wanted to hide it from Yumi's sight.
It was because the sight of Rosa Foetida covering her cheek doubled up with the Hanadera student council president. When he was slapped by Sachiko-sama, he, too, held a hand to his cheek. So Yumi immediately understood. Rosa Foetida had been hit by someone.
She only saw it for a moment, but Rosa Foetida's face looked extremely painful. She thought that such a powerful slap wasn't justifiable, no matter who the person was.
Rosa Foetida calmed herself and asked. But asking for help from someone looking to the side was difficult. Plus, at that moment, she felt Rosa Foetida was in a bigger bind than Rei-sama and Yoshino-san.
"I'm sorry, I'm actually in a bit of a hurry. So if you want something, make it quick."
Rosa Foetida seemed to sigh.
"No, in that case it's alright. I'm sorry for stopping you."
There was no way she could make it quick, and Rosa Foetida seemed to be in a terrible situation, too, so she decided not to consult with her today.
Rosa Foetida turned around, remembering something, after she'd started walking away. She was still covering her left cheek.
"I'm sorry, but could you-"
"I won't tell anyone."
Yumi quickly shook her head. Rosa Foetida might have chosen to leave at this time, when there were fewer students walking about, because she didn't want people to see her face.
"It's not like I'm hiding it, but it is a bit uncool."
"No, it's not…"
Yumi didn't really know what she wanted to say with "no, it's not," but she saw Rosa Foetida walk off to the main entrance.
Yumi watched her form grow smaller in the distance.
Where, when and who slapped her? There aren't very many people in the school who can hit Rosa Foetida.
(I wonder if she's alright…)
She wasn't the newspaper club, but she was definitely curious.
When Rosa Foetida vanished into the campus woods, Yumi went back into the school facilities and sighed. With Rosa Foetida looking like that, the future looked grim. She remembered what Katsura-san had said, earlier. "Rosa Foetida is peaceful and secured with a 3rd-year, 2nd-year and 1st-year." There were no definite in the world, she felt.
Yumi realized Rosa Foetida had gone home without changing her shoes when she was just about to reach the Rose Mansion. She thought about going back, but enough time had passed that it would have been futile to chase Rosa Foetida, and Yumi was already quite tired as it was.
But perhaps it was a blessing amidst all the misfortune.
The way she looked, Rosa Foetida wouldn't notice she was still wearing her indoor shoes until she made it home. After all, she seemed to be completely oblivious to her sisters' crisis.
"Oh, that's impossible, Yumi-chan."
Rosa Gigantea laughed. Either she'd gotten used to everything or she'd decided to forget about it, but either way, she was so full of it energy that it almost seemed like her exhaustion during the noon was a lie.
"Yup. When Rosa Foetida's like that, it's over. All we can do is wait for her to be revived."
"'That' is 'that.' You can't tell whether she's dead or alive, and you can't tell if she's thinking about something or not. … Well, obviously she's pondering."
Yumi had arrived when no one else was at the Rose Mansion, so Rosa Gigantea seemed to welcome her with open arms and even made instant coffee for her. If her classmates found out that she'd been serviced by one of the Roses, they'd surely be envious.
"I don't remember when, but she ended up like 'that' before, and it was the first time, so we were all up in arms panicking. Then she returned to normal after a week, so it'll be fine if we leave her alone, I think? Well, just consider it to be bad luck that she ended up like this when Rei's situation came up."
Leaving Rosa Foetida, whose cheek was struck, like this? But she'd been told to keep quiet, so she couldn't tell Rosa Gigantea about Rosa Foetida's swollen cheek. Yumi swallowed her words with her hot coffee.
"Ah, it's good."
"Right? I've figured out Yumi-chan's tastes."
The coffee wasn't just handily made, but the sugar and powdered milk were dissolved in a miraculous ratio.
"Everyone has one or two things they're good at, after all."
"So one of Rosa Gigantea's talents is to figure out other peoples' tastes?"
She spontaneously asked, and Rosa Gigantea laughed out loud, like there was nothing that could make her happier.
"Well, we'll leave it at that. By the way."
After drinking black coffee from her own cup, Rosa Gigantea asked Yumi.
"Do you know what Rosa Foetida's special skill is?"
She didn't know why she was asked that, but Yumi honestly shook her head.
"How about what she's weak at?"
"Unfortunately, no idea."
If she was asked about Sachiko-sama, she'd immediately answer, "Men." But she didn't know anything about Rosa Foetida.
Rosa Gigantea reached out and patted Yumi's head. –Gosh, she's not a child, so she could do without this sort of treatment.
"Huh, but why right?"
"Rosa Foetida has no strengths and weakness."
No strengths and weaknesses? What did that mean? Yumi tilted her head, wondering what Rosa Gigantea meant.
"It's like powering up Yumi-chan's average-ness at everything. Without even trying, she's capable of doing everything above average. Got it?"
"Ah… that's kind of enviable."
Rosa Gigantea placed her hand on Yumi's head: You don't get it. However. Yumi wondered why Rosa Gigantea's skinship was never very heart-throbbing. It was so different with Sachiko-sama.
"People are more at peace with themselves when they're good at something."
"Because they don't have to choose what they want to do. Think about it. If she wanted, she could become anything. But she has nothing she really wants to do. Because every field is lined up exactly the same, to her."
That causes unhappiness, Rosa Gigantea said. People who could do anything carried with them their own specific sorrows.
" Rosa Foetida always looks bored and unwilling to do things, right?"
But she realized that was a bit of a rude statement. Still, Rosa Gigantea also wasn't malicious, so it was alright.
"In truth, she is bored. She always knows what the result will be. She even knows how much she can do."
"She knows her limits?"
"Yup. She can do anything, but she'll never be able to take on someone who's specialized."
Even so, she was on a different dimension. If Yumi were in that situation, she'd be willing to just roll the dice for it. But she knew she'd be laughed at if she said it, so she stayed silent.
"The reason why she accepted becoming a part of the Yamayurikai staff, with its painstaking jobs and all, was because she hoped it would put some excitement in her life, I guess. I mean, she's probably happiest of us all about an eccentricity like Yumi joining, and I think the unexpectedness of making Rei her sister was a key point."
She felt sweat dripping somewhere on her body. Then, what? Rosa Foetida was so bored with life that she was happy with simplifying the criteria for her actions?
"Why're you thinking about this in such a difficult way, Yumi? People choose sisters for different reasons. I know plenty of people who chose people based on their looks."
"Rosa Gigantea… Is that why you chose Shimako-san to be your sœur?"
Rosa Gigantea deflected the question with a meaningful laugh.
"What I'm saying is, don't rely on Rosa Foetida. I mean, they're sœur, so she cares heavily about Rei, but she's not nearly as close as Rei and Yoshino-chan. Plus, she almost never becomes engrossed in anything, but right now she's been captivated. So I don't know what that is, but it's a good thing, I think."
Rosa Gigantea can laugh because she doesn't know about Rosa Foetida's swollen cheek.
"Of course, if things weren't so heavy on her side, she'd probably be the one enjoying Rei and Yoshino-chan's strife the most."
Then Rosa Foetida wasn't going to be much use either way. After thinking a bit, Rosa Gigantea reached over to Yumi's cup, said "let me try a sip," and drank.
"Ah, shall I pour you a second?"
"Really? Okay, can you pour three peoples' worth of black tea in new cups?"
"Yup. Me and Yumi and one more are here."
What is she talking about?
"Oh, Yumi-chan didn't notice?"
Maybe she was trying to be spooky, but there were no ghost traditions in Lillian. There were none, … so she didn't have to try to scare her.
Anyways, Yumi didn't feel like probing further, so she wordlessly walked to the sink and began pouring three cups of black tea, as requested. There were no brand requests, so she used the Darjeeling tea bags, as usual. When she placed the three cups on a tray and turned around, there stood Rosa Gigantea, who'd crept up without a word.
"What. I just came to help, you don't have to sound like I'm attacking you."
Rosa Gigantea took the tray from Yumi and placed the cups on the table.
"But if you keep looking like that, I will."
After giggling at Yumi, who was still frozen in place, Rosa Gigantea hugged her tightly.
(… Like I said, it doesn't make me feel anything.)
But she kept snatching away her freedom, so Yumi struggled against it a bit with her arms and legs. But. Of course, Rosa Gigantea wasn't seriously attacking, so she didn't seriously try to get out, either.
"Ro, Rosa Gigantea, do you do this to everyone?"
Then Shimako-san wouldn't be able to hold herself. Her own onee-sama was flirting with other girls. But Rosa Gigantea separated herself and spoke.
"You question my chastity?"
And then she said, "Nope, just Yumi-chan!" then hugged her again, and kissed her lightly on her cheek.
"R, Rosa Gigantea!"
That's going too far! When she seriously tried to get out, she found herself freed with ease. But, Sachiko-sama was standing where she landed.
No, this wasn't how it seemed, there's an explanation- But Sachiko-sama ignored Yumi, stalked up to Rosa Gigantea and said, coldly.
"You're going too far with your frolicking. You did it because you knew I was here!"
(The three teacups!)
For the first time, Yumi thought, "She got me!" Rosa Gigantea noticed Sachiko-sama coming into the Rose Mansion. And so she wanted Sachiko-sama to see her making fun of Yumi-. She's sadistic, Rosa Gigantea.
"Yumi-chan's soft and huggable, it might become a habit."
"If you love touching people that much, please, do hug your own sister?"
Oh Sachiko-sama, your words can be taken the other way so easily it makes me blush, too.
"Shimako? I've never even thought of that."
"Oh. Then think about it. And please stop reaching out to my sister."
"I'll think about that, instead."
Rosa Gigantea doesn't seem like she'll change. Of course, if she were the type to back down from Sachiko-sama's glare, she wouldn't have been mischievous to begin with.
"Yumi. You too."
Sachiko-sama turned around and scolded.
"Don't flail about so wildly. It just makes Rosa Gigantea happy."
I don't think I did anything wrong though, Yumi thought, but she answered obediently. Because Sachiko-sama wouldn't have been pleased if she just stayed calm, either.
"Now, hurry up and wipe yourself."
Sachiko-sama took out a white, laced handkerchief from her pocket and rubbed Yumi's cheek.
She didn't react at all when Rosa Gigantea kissed her, but she blushed when Sachiko-sama stroked her with her handkerchief. The scent of Sachiko-sama's hair floated over, causing her heart to race.
Sachiko-sama was like a temple guardian demon. But her own body was quite honest, Yumi thought.
She was troubled. She was running out of time to make her decision. Ideally, she would have made a decision earlier and fixed things, but she'd kept telling herself she would deal with it tomorrow, and now time had run out. If she kept leaving it alone now, it'd probably cause irreparable damage. It was her own body, after all, she knew when it was at its limits.
Thus, it wasn't that she had to decide what to do, as it had become a necessity, that's all. There's no time to keep putting things off. Everyone's beginning to notice. Ahh, but still. Could she fight off her dread? It wouldn't hurt because of anesthesia, but once that ran out, it would hurt, wouldn't it?
Plus, there was a bigger problem. That building, she couldn't bring herself to enter it.
She'd stood in front of the foggy window panes before. But she couldn't bring herself to take the last step, to open the door and enter. After pondering things over quite a bit there, she ended up walking away. A Lillian student had walked in front of it, so she was forced to flee. She couldn't let someone see her fretting over her inability to enter the building.
If it were to come to this, she should have discussed it with someone earlier, then have them forcibly tie her down to the examination table. But it was too late for that, now.
"I have to go."
She muttered, but she couldn't force herself to stand. Her cash card and insurance card were propped up on the table, ready to be taken at any moment. And really, she had no idea if her insurance would work, nor how much it would cost, to begin with. –After all, this was her first time.
"Maybe it'd be easier going to a big, general-purpose hospital."
The threshold wouldn't be so high there, and if someone were to see her, she'd be able to smooth things over.
That said, she'd never been in such a tight spot in her ten-plus years of life. Her tympanitis from a few years ago was hardly comparable.
Were human bodies this brittle, that they'd become absolutely useless from one defective part?
Human bodies are no better than a machine that stops working after losing a single screw. Contrary to her normally calculating and cool self, she heaved a desperate sigh.
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