Maria-sama ga Miteru:Volume30 Chapter7
Amongst the Stardust
The shadows were growing long by the time they left the gift shop.
"There's still some time before the fireworks. Yumi, is there another ride you'd like to go on?"
Sachiko-sama asked, looking at her wristwatch.
"How about we go on the merry-go-round, onee-sama?"
"Ah … that thing?"
Despite Yumi's bold invitation, quite predictably Sachiko-sama looked back at her grimly.
"I already told you that I can't stand spinning things, didn't I?"
Sachiko-sama rejected the idea, probably because she was conflating all rotating rides and had seen Yoshino-san incapacitate herself on the teacup ride not that long ago.
"While it does rotate around, it's not a frenetic spinning. At most it's a slow twirling. Look, there's a baby riding on it."
Sachiko-sama finally relented after seeing a one-year old riding the merry-go-round with her father.
"I suppose so … "
Just as Sachiko-sama was letting her guard down, Kashiwagi-san said:
"You've been horse riding before, right Sacchan? It's about the same pace as a warm-up trot around the horse grounds. Plus, it isn't going to hurt your butt."
Minus points for the followup. Still, the 'horse riding' example was quite smooth. Yumi never would have been able to come up with that comparison herself.
"Okay. I'll take the challenge."
Yumi took her onee-sama's hand and walked over to the end of the line, before she could change her mind.
"Oh, what about you two?"
The two guys hadn't followed them and when Yumi asked, "Aren't you going to go on the ride?" they both answered, "No." But they each had different reasons.
"It'd be a bit embarrassing."
Yuuki said, his eyes indicating that being put on public display riding a wooden horse that was adorned with flowers and a lavishly decorated saddle as it rose and fell while slowly circling around was more than he could bear. But he didn't dare put that in words, probably because he didn't want to say anything to deflate Sachiko-sama, given how much effort it took to get her interested.
"Would you be embarrassed too, Suguru-san?"
Kashiwagi-san said, running his fingers through his hair.
"But I'd just look so perfect riding a white horse that it would draw everyone's attention."
Yumi wondered if she was supposed to laugh but couldn't really decide, so didn't provide much of a reaction. Sachiko-sama laughed sarcastically, so that was probably the correct response. And as for Yuuki, he ignored it completely.
The sun was setting and the lights were coming on in various places around the amusement park.
In its nighttime configuration the merry-go-round too shone brilliantly, like a radiant jewelry box.
"A long time ago, in my grandmother's room, I saw a music box that looked like this."
Sachiko-sama said softly as she watched the carousel, spellbound.
"When you opened the lid, there were three horses that would slowly spin around accompanied in time to the music. Beneath that were drawers with rings or necklaces, I can't remember which, but there were all different colored gems. I used to enjoy opening the music box and the drawers, and gazing at the horses and the jewels. It was incredibly pretty."
Sachiko-sama smiled at the memory.
"It was so beautiful that my younger self wanted to enter into the music box. And here it is."
As she said this, Sachiko-sama dashingly straddled a white horse. Her movements and posture were awe-inspiring, probably due to her horse riding experience.
Yumi followed her, taking the horse diagonally behind Sachiko-sama's. Following her onee-sama's lead, she sat with her back perfectly straight.
The music flowed forth and the horses began to slowly move.
Inside the glittering jewelry box, dozens of horses gracefully twirled.
From time to time, Yumi's onee-sama would look back over her shoulder at her. Yumi would wave, by way of response.
It was closer to twirling than spinning. No matter how many times they went around, they never drew any closer.
They didn't draw closer. But they didn't get further away either.
That's fine. That's fine.
Yumi felt as though she had found her answer.
Her onee-sama twirled.
Smiling radiantly, calling out to her, "Yumi."
Commit it to memory, this sight.
This scene that shone so brilliantly it almost stung her eyes.
Undoubtedly, there still remained plenty of wonderful things in store for Yumi. But this moment was a once in a lifetime experience.
She would stow it safely in her jewelry box, as her most prized possession.
It made opals look like pretty candies, figuratively speaking.
"I suppose this is a decent enough spot."
Tsutako-sama exhaled, then smiled.
After struggling up the hill road, they'd arrived at this lookout just in front of the artificial mountain. Since it was away from the bustle of main street, and the lights from the other rides weren't in direct line-of-sight, it was the perfect spot for watching the fireworks. It overlooked a lake, and sections of that were lit up, but complaining about it wouldn't change anything. Instead, Shouko was impressed that they had managed to find such a location.
This was probably one of those places that well informed people knew about but most people didn't. Even though they'd arrived fairly early, there was already a small crowd there.
"Oh, right, why don't we check that the chocolate we bought fits inside my uncle's camera case?"
Tsutako-sama said. There was still about 15 minutes until the fireworks started. She'd probably made this proposal thinking it would be a perfect way to kill some time. But Shouko wasn't convinced that this would be a good idea for Tsutako-sama.
"Umm, will you be alright?"
Even talking about it directly made her a bit nervous.
"Umm. You know…"
While Shouko floundered, Tsutako-sama guessed what she meant and said, "Ahh."
"About what my uncle said? That if I open the case I won't be able to stop myself from taking a photo? Is that what you're worried about, Shouko-chan?"
With all her heart and mind. Of course, that's not to say she didn't have faith in Tsutako-sama, it's just that, to Shouko, Tsutako-sama's uncle's words sounded like a curse.
Like how a recovering alcoholic can return to their former binge-drinking ways with just a sip of alcohol. Or how a single cigarette can lead a former smoker back to their pack-a-day habit. Those kind of stories were fairly common.
"Don't worry. It's not like quitting smoking."
"I'll just take the camera out for a second. I'll put the chocolate in the case, see how it fits, then put the camera back."
"Then let me do it."
Shouko put her hand out without thinking about it.
"You'll do it?"
"It's just taking the camera out for a second, right? Put the chocolate in the case, see if it fits, then put the camera back. If that's all there is to it, then I can do that."
Tsutako-sama said that she was just going to take the camera out and replace it with the chocolate, but the moment she touched the camera she might press the shutter, just out of habit. Surely it was better for Shouko to do this, rather than run that risk.
Since Tsutako-sama was only taking a break from photography for today it didn't really matter if she became re-addicted, except for the fact that this camera was part of the wager between her and her uncle. And she couldn't lose that.
"Well, I suppose I could always do it tomorrow."
"Huh, no way."
Having come so far, she was going to put it off?
"Well, okay then, can you do it for me, Shouko-chan?"
Enjoying Shouko's reaction, Tsutako-sama reached into her bag and retrieved a black case from near the bottom. It had been a while, they'd last seen it in Tsutako-sama's uncle's store.
Tsutako-sama seemed puzzled. Even though Shouko had both her arms outstretched waiting to receive the camera case, Tsutako-sama kept hold of it and lightly shook it.
"What's the matter?"
"I'm trying to remember if I held this before."
Tsutako-sama said. By 'before' she probably meant when they were in her uncle's store.
Shouko shook her head. She remembered that scene well.
"Your uncle buried it in your bag."
He'd said something smug like, "Good luck," as he put it in.
"That's what I thought."
As she was saying this, Tsutako-sama peeled apart the velcro that kept the top attached to the rest of the case.
"What are you doing?"
Panicked, Shouko lunged at her but Tsutako-sama simply smiled.
"It's okay. I'm not going to lose the bet. Or, rather, my uncle made it so the outcome was never in doubt."
"He tricked us."
Tsutako-sama held out the camera case for Shouko to see and inside were two small Youkan jellies.
The wager had surely given Tsutako-sama's uncle enough amusement to cover the cost of the camera repairs.
After they got off the merry-go-round it was almost time for the fireworks to start.
"Ahh, this is bad."
Like Cinderella hearing the clock strike 12 o'clock, the two women hastily fled. And following them were the two princes.
"Hey, where are we going?"
"I found a good spot to view the fireworks from a while back."
Yumi explained, turning her head to look back at the guys. It was away from the buildings and not brightly lit. It was also somewhat elevated and near a lake, so both the view and the scenery would be nice.
Still, they probably weren't the only ones who had this idea, so the place might be packed already. At any rate, all they could do was try. If it was full, it was full. Essentially, the sky was so vast that they'd be able to see the fireworks regardless of where they were.
When they reached their target destination, they found there were people there but it wasn't overly full. Since the fireworks happened at the same time as the evening parade, most people were probably watching that. This lookout was away from the parade route.
Yumi said to the patron that had arrived just before her, then proceeded to survey the area. Yumi was checking her watch, thinking it was almost time for the fireworks to start, when she felt a withering gaze coming from beside her.
Yumi turned to see what it was, and there was...
Her drill-like hair rolls swayed beside her ears.
Instinctively, the pair embraced tightly. – Well, that's what Yumi expected, but the cute petit soeur ensconced in her open arms didn't respond that way at all.
"What kind of greeting is 'excuse me?' No matter how dark it is, you should still be able to recognize your petit soeur's face with just a single glance."
In reality, her petit soeur was playing it very cool.
"By all rights, you should even be able to identify her from behind."
On top of that, she was also very strict.
Yumi had been worried that she wouldn't see Touko today since, despite the signs that Touko was there, they hadn't run into each other yet. Now that they had met when she wasn't really expecting it, Yumi was getting excited. But only a little bit, nothing too over the top.
"Touko-san's just saying that she's very happy to see you, Yumi-sama."
As they looked at each other with somewhat conflicted expressions, these words suddenly slipped into the space between them.
Yumi searched for the owner of the voice and standing there smirking was Kanako-chan. She was bursting with style, wearing one of the character's caps and with a bag of popcorn hanging from her shoulder. It looked like she had been fully enjoying her time at the amusement park.
"Kanako-san, please don't put words in my mouth."
Touko glared at her, but Kanako-chan seemed completely unfazed.
"Translation: I'd be embarrassed if I told the truth."
Thrust and parry, Kanako-chan seemed happy to provide her own translations of Touko's comments, which made Touko fall silent. Still silent, Touko leaned in close to Yumi and whispered, "I was worried we weren't going to meet." This time around, Kanako-chan didn't supply a translation.
"Did you hear someone call out 'Touko' just now?"
From some distance away Yumi heard a voice she knew well. She looked around and, sure enough, a group of people were making their way over.
"See, I told you it was Yumi-san."
Yoshino-san led them over. Following her were Shimako-san and Noriko-chan. Just as Yumi was starting to worry that the Yellow Rose sisters were still fighting, Rei-sama appeared. It seems she had stopped to pick up a handkerchief that Yoshino-san had dropped.
They explained that they'd run into each other at the slow boat ride and had decided to come here together.
The Red Rose sisters, the Yellow Rose sisters, the White Rose sisters, and Touko and Kanako-chan, plus, as a freebie, the two guys from Hanadera. It felt like the whole gang was there.
"Now if Tsutako-san and Shouko-chan were to appear – "
They'd have a royal straight flush, the best possible hand.
"But things never work out that well."
While everyone shared a laugh, a hand slowly raised a short distance away, amongst the crowd.
Was she like the devil, speak and she appears? Because there was no mistaking that it was Tsutako-san standing there.
"I noticed you a while ago, but Yoshino-san beat me there so I was just waiting for the right time to make an entrance."
"What an incredible coincidence."
As Yumi chuckled to herself, a chorus of "Nope" came from around her.
"We've been waiting here because Yumi-san and Sachiko-sama said that this was the place to go if you wanted to watch the fireworks. It's no coincidence."
"Right. And earlier Sachiko asked if we were going to watch the fireworks, so I took that to mean that we'd meet up here."
Rei-sama too smiled in amazement.
It was then that the fireworks they'd been waiting for started.
Hyuu ––– , bang!
A section of the amusement park was decorated with a giant ethereal flower.
The fireworks came one after the other, without a break.
The surface of the lake reflected the sky, becoming a dream-like flower garden.
The group of friends smiled broadly watching the fireworks make their heavenly journey.
When they went off they shone like hundreds of stars sparkling in the night sky.
Yoshino-san turned to Rei-sama, smiled and said, "Your mouth is open."
Tsutako-san and Shouko-chan were portioning off sections of the sky, using their fingers to make a frame.
Kashiwagi-san and Sachiko-sama were talking, she agreed to let him drive them home.
Shimako-san and Noriko-chan were holding hands.
And Yumi, she was looking up at the sky with the same expression as Kanako-chan, Touko, Yuuki, and probably everyone else.
At first she had been concerned about how it would turn out, but looking at the sparkling faces of her friends it felt like everyone was glad that they came today.
The firework's brilliance was just a moment in time.
But they'd never forget it.
Everyone was smiling.
All sorts of things had happened, but everyone would carry with them some happy memories.
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