Maria-sama ga Miteru:Volume4 Chapter7
The hatsumoude on the second
They say the population of Tokyo is going down, but I think overcrowding is a bigger problem in some areas than others, because there're tons of people in some places and almost no one in others.
Really, if you go to place that's just a housing district, it's quiet, like the world just ended, so despite walking almost seven minutes to the bus stop, the only living being I crossed paths with was a stray cat.
Maybe most people don't think about going to hatsumoude on the noon of the second. Speaking of which, the postal services are probably on break, too, so the New Year's cards wouldn't be sent out today.
The bus routes that were so clogged with traffic during work days only had a few household cars passing by, and even those cars were sparse, so the streets were quiet. Even the air felt like it was trying to vanish.
Only I was waiting at the bus stop.
I looked right, at the direction the bus was supposed to come from. Nothing.
I lowered the shoulder-bag that hung over my right shoulder on the bench, and then sat down. The timetable for New Year's was a sheet of dyer paper pasted over the usual plastic timetable, but I didn't bother looking at it. This bus route went between JR Station and the private railway tracks, and because it went through a number of big crossings and picked up and dropped off people from schools, apartments and hospitals, it rarely matched up with the schedules.
(I wonder if father and mother have gotten to Yamanashi by now.)
I cradled the box of pastry on my thighs. Last night, mother went out and bought it. Because I was intruding in on someone else's property. So she bought three boxes of the same pastry, giving one to me and one to Yuuki, and then departed. These days, the number of department stores open on New Year's Day had increased.
Yuuki departed one step ahead and was lightly packed. I think all he took was a paper bag with the box of pastry. Men have it easy.
(Oh yeah, Yuuki said he was staying at Kobayashi-kun's house?)
He's a lively, nice kid. Well, we're the same age, but I nodded approvingly, in nee-san mode, and that reminded me of the New Year's card, the one with the familiar name.
Because it was after a night's sleep, I couldn't remember anything about the name, much less what kanji it may have been made up with.
(Hmm. I guess I'll start from "A.")
Aikawa, Aizawa, Aida. … Oh jeez this'll take forever.
Just as I thought it probably wouldn't have started with an A, the bus came. Fitting the New Year's mood, it had a Japanese flag plate on its front end.
It was more crowded than I expected, but lots of people got off at that stop, so I was able to find a seat.
(Iida, Ikeuchi, Itakura-)
The roads were empty, so the bus went smoothly, like a monorail at an amusement park.
(Ueki, Usami, Uchida, Umezu-)
The temple you could see from the bus was surrounded by paper shides hanging from stretched-out, thin ropes, and you could even see the temple festival carts.
The temple you passed by when riding on the circulation bus that left M Station and went to Lillian Girls' Academy, I wondered if that one was also like this on New Year's. Temples dressed up on New Year's quite a bit, so it was a bit like Maria-sama being dressed up during the Maria festival.
(Etou, Enatsu, Enoki, Endou-)
While I did that, the bus reached the north exit of M Station. It usually took twenty minutes, but it only took at most half that today, so it was shocking. When I got off the bus and looked around, I noticed there were still a lot of people wearing kimono, because it was still the first three days of the new year.
(Oikawa, Ooki, Okano…)
My heart skipped. Maybe I could see her today, I thought, and even my legs trembled with excitement at the thought, as I tried to climb the stairs. (O is Ogasawara's O.)
-Ogasawara. Ogasawara Sachiko.
It'd been a quick three months since we'd performed the sœur ritual. Yet, I still didn't feel "calm" around Sachiko-sama. Having my sailor scarf tied had become more of a daily ritual, so I was getting used to that. But Sachiko-sama would always do the unexpected, and that would subsequently leave me scrambling to figure out how to respond.
Walking while holding my hand, untying one of the ribbons in my hair.
Sachiko-sama might not realize how I become petrified when she does something like that.
There were many people in front of the convenience store I was told to wait at, but no one I recognized.
(Did I arrive too early?)
There were more than twenty minutes left until the time I was told. Because someone else might come, in the meantime, I stood in front of the convenience store instead of waiting inside. I wanted to see someone I recognize quickly. I wanted to welcome everyone.
(Okuyaam, Osada, Oda, Onizuka.)
I was bored, so I resumed the name-finding quiz.
But my memory wasn't even slightly stirred. It probably was from the A-line. Just as I was about to start down the K's, the automatic door behind me whizzed open. I tried to instinctively turn around, but the person who came out of the convenience store was way too fast, as that person embraced me.
"… You sound like the child of a monster."
Sounding exasperated, the "degenerate" loosed her arms that had been wrapped around me from behind.
"After all, you are a Lillian student, so you should at least tone that down to 'Kya.'"
She didn't even need to look. That voice, and the feel of those arms.
When I spun around and knocked Rosa Gigantea's arms off, I felt like jumping, so elated I was to see her. It'd just been a week, but it felt so nostalgic.
"Alright! Happy New Year's!"
Rosa Gigantea opened a bag of candy mix, which screamed "I was just bought at this convenience store," with its logo'd tape, then reached in, grabbed a handful and stuffed it into my pocket.
"Eat it whenever you feel like it."
"But how about everyone else's share?"
A handful of candy might have been over half of the bag.
"Oh don't worry about it, I bought it for Yumi, the sweets-lover."
Rosa Gigantea unwrapped a maccha candy, tossed it into her mouth, and then rolled up the considerably emptied bag and smartly stuffed it into her own pocket. I wondered if she'd bought the candy, and then didn't feel like holding onto it, leading to the sharing. After all, she only had a small handbag, so there was nowhere for her to put it.
Rosa Gigantea glared back lightly, like she was scolding me, for my ill-mannered stare at her.
"Ah, sorry, it's the first time I've seen Rosa Gigantea in casual clothes, so it feels like it's something really fresh."
Maybe she took care of the hair ends today, because her features looked especially sharp. She wore dark brown boots to go with her caramel-colored long coat. And she casually wrapped a condensed-milk-like white muffler, resulting in her looking really like an adult… or maybe more like a gentleman from outside the country. It was cool.
"Yumi-chan, you look cute, your navy duffle coat suits you well."
"Eh, oh, hardly, I'm nothing compared to Rosa Gigantea's expensive coat."
What was I hurriedly returning a compliment for? And who uses such a cheap term like "expensive" in such a situation, anyways? -As I depressed myself, I flicked my own forehead. In this sort of situation, Sachiko-sama would just smile and say, "Thank you."
But this was Rosa Gigantea. "Yup, it was expensive. It's cashmere. Last year, no, maybe the year before that, I begged my parents to buy it for me. A combined Christmas and birthday present. And maybe my New Year's gift, too."
Rosa Gigantea was just as cheap. I felt like I was with an associate.
"But, dang, Yumi-chan's bag is stuffed. Do you have your pajama and change of clothes in there?"
She sniffed. Gosh, she's totally like a perverted old man.
"… Yes, I do."
Plus, my bath towel, my tooth brushing set, and other things like that. Personally, I thought Rosa Gigantea's setup was the bigger question. Because we were sleeping over, and not at a hotel, but at a home, right?
"But you came early, Rosa Gigantea, you came by train, right?"
I asked, while distancing my bag from Rosa Gigantea.
"Nope, I came by vroom vroom."
Vroom vroom, would be the kindergartener's way of saying "car." Gosh, an old man, or a baby, Rosa Gigantea really needed to pick.
"But there's no bus from M Station to Rosa Gigantea's house, right? Wow, you got driven by your parents? How wonderful."
"What, Yumi-chan, you want to ride a car?"
(… No, that's not it…)
I think Rosa Gigantea's wrong, here. But if I were to try to correct her, I'd end up confused, so I decided against it.
Sa is Satou's as.
Satou Sei. –Also known as Rosa Gigantea.
"Okay, let's get going, then."
When I reached into my pocket for a peach-yogurt flavored candy, Rosa Gigantea said that, despite it being before the meeting time.
"Eh, what, but…"
I was about to ask about the other people, but she dragged me to the north gate.
"Did I ever say anyone else was coming?"
"All I said was, let's go on a date."
"Fufufu. Gotcha, Yumi-chan."
Rosa Gigantea made a slurping sound and terrified me.
"B, but, didn't you say lodging…?"
I asked, frightened.
"One stick is still called a carrot. Two people is still lodging."
"G, good bye."
I turned around.
"Oh dear. Do you think I'd actually let go of prey that easily?"
Rosa Gigantea grinned, as she dragged me back.
"Yumi-chan, you're sooooo cuuuuuuute. There there, let's go somewhere nice, with onee-san.'
"Please have mercy!"
Usually this would be when Sachiko-sama showed up. … However.
"Searching for Sachiko is futile. She's at home right nooow."
"Yumi-chan is all mine. How shall I cook you tonight?"
I squirmed, as Rosa Gigantea whispered into my ear, and she responded by hugging me like a doll.
"Hey! Didn't Sachiko teach you? When you act like that, it just serves to please me."
(… She might seriously be sadistic, Rosa Gigantea.)
And I'm masochistic because I enjoyed being scolded by Sachiko-sama, so we were a perfect fit. –Wait, what am I thinking?
"-Anyways, leaving sexual harassment at this…."
After touching me all over on her own accord, Rosa Gigantea either became satisfied or got bored, let go completely, like there was some sort of time trigger.
"Let's get going."
I feel like I heard her say that just a moment ago. I hope this person doesn't intend to repeat every action since then.
"Come on, let's go."
Rosa Gigantea went down the steps, first.
"Yumi-chan, hurry up."
That's when I realized. The time between the first "let's get going" and the second "let's get going," Rosa Gigantea intended to act innocently, like nothing ever happened.
"Rosa Gigantea, you're sneaky!"
I caught up to Rosa Gigantea and lightly whacked her arm. The candy was swaying in my pocket.
I won't be deceived by this!
Rosa Gigantea, under the guide of a "date," took me to the temple by the school.
"Wow, Rosa Gigantea! Are you an ESPer!?"
"What are you saying?" We got off of the circulation bus and walked under the shrine archway. As I expected, festival carts lined up either side of the shrine pathway. The burning smell of soy sauce drifted in the air.
"Squid? Or corn?"
"We can do that later, let's go pull our fortunes."
Rosa Gigantea was very far from being able to be called deeply religious, so it was surprising, until I realized at least part of her reasoning was for "checking out the goods." Because she went in line for the prettiest shrine maiden, despite it being the longest line.
"So we really did go on a two-person date."
I mumbled, as we lined up for the fortunes. For a moment I still had a sliver of hope that Yoshino-san and Rei-sama would be waiting for us here.
"Yoshino-chan and Rei are in Hakone for New Year's."
"With their families. It was Yoshino-chan's wish, because she's healthy."
It was odd. Hakone was famous for hot springs, but wasn't it known more as a tourist spot for the elderly, than high-school girls?
"Umm, are you sure you don't mean Karuizawa?"
"Do they do horseracing in Karuizawa?"
I'd forgotten. Yoshino-san loved sports. So Shimazu and Hasekura went to Hakone to let Yoshino-san see a horse race live. It seemed like Yoshino-san's go-go-go personality was a result of her environment. Not just Rei-sama, but their parents were also soft on Yoshino-san.
"Rosa Chinensis is studying during the break. And Rosa Foetida is at her villa in Hawaii. She goes every year."
Rosa Gigantea thought about it, and then raised an eyebrow and she answered.
Toudou Shimako. "I didn't invite her."
"Lots of reasons. Shimako's household gets a lot of visitors, so on New Year's and the likes, she has to help out a lot. And plus, do you think that devout Christian Shimako would come to a hatsumoude at a shrine? You shouldn't try to sway her beliefs like that."
"Um, Rosa Gigantea? … If you're going to say that…"
"Yup. Once we go there, it's over. You shouldn't be inviting any Lillian student to a hatsumoude."
Rosa Gigantea cackled.
"Then, why me?"
After all, I'm an actual student at Lillian Girls' Academy, you know. Plus, though not really something to brag about, I was raised in the greenhouse since kindergarten.
Rosa Gigantea sniffed, as she crept closer.
"Yumi-chan, your household covers the million gods, Buddha, and Maria-sama, all together, friendly-like, right?"
What kind of smell is that? I ended up sniffing around my coat, but Rosa Gigantea, even though she said it first, doubled over in laughter.
"You're really funny. Did you think you had the smell of sacred wine, incense, and holy bread and wine or something? Smell was a metaphor. A metaphor, understand?"
"-Which of course means Yumi-chan's house is a mixture, after all."
We had no prayer shelf, but we had shrine charms pasted around the house.
We had no Buddhist altar, but Yuuki's room, as a Hanadera student, was filled with Buddhist goods. And the Lillian Girls' Academy I attend is a Catholic school.
And my household accepted it all, without a second thought.
"Come to think of it, how unchaste."
"Oh don't fret, my house is the same. So I can tell if someone's a comrade by their smell. Plus, that's Japanese culture. And this is how the Yamayurikai members are, so don't worry. If they didn't have plans, I'm sure Yoshino-chan and Rei would have joined us."
"But Shimako-san is different?"
"Shimako is special."
She seemed to have reminisced about Shimako-san, as she softly narrowed her eyes.
Oh, Rosa Gigantea. You always seem to leave her alone, but you care so deeply about Shimako-san. Well, she is your proud sister, after all.
"Hey, Rosa Gigantea."
I'm finally trying to get a better opinion of you, so stop checking out the shrine maidens like that.
It was finally their turn to get their fortunes, so I turned over a box with a single hole and rattled it. Then, when I looked to my side, Rosa Gigantea, who had lined up in front of me and thus was already long done, was holding the shrine maiden's hand. –Gosh, you can never let your guard down with her.
"Slightly good luck."
Rosa Gigantea said.
I followed after.
We'd moved a bit away from where you receive the fortunes, and were standing near the plum trees, with beautiful blossoms of white fortunes sprouting along their branches. The real flowers, of course, were still some time away from blooming.
"It would have been more interesting if we got great luck and horrible luck, you know? Speaking of which, what's better, slightly good luck or uncertain luck?"
"I think slightly good luck is just a hair better. … Is there even horrible luck?"
"Well if there's a great luck, I'm sure there is?"
But I'd never heard of a slightly bad luck or an uncertainly bad luck.
"You won't lose anything, and your wishes will come true, despite some difficulty, or something? Gosh, how dicey."
Rosa Gigantea folded up her fortune and tied it to a plum tree.
"Ah, hold on a second."
The fortunes were written in an archaic-like way, so it was difficult to read. Rosa Gigantea's ability to read them in a heartbeat was an exception. It seemed like she wasn't just good at English.
Rosa Gigantea took the fortune from Yumi's hands.
"Mmm. You might marry or move this year, it says. Also, you won't have many children. Hmm, an influence of the declining birth rates."
Moving aside, I think "marriage" and "children" are completely irrelevant to a sixteen-year old high-school girl.
"It says your wishes will come true as long as you work hard. Daily diligence, so to speak."
Here, she said, as she handed the fortune back, so following in Rosa Gigantea's footsteps, I folded it and tied it to a branch. Another fortune flower had blossomed.
Your wishes will come true as long as you work hard. But what am I wishing for the most?
I thought about it as I looked at the various charms, like the "arrow to ward away demons."
Family stability. Good health. Warding off disaster. Safe birth prayer. Traffic safety.
People in this world have many things to pray to God for. And everyone lives with a myriad of worries.
The votive pictures were filled with "let me get into OO university." With this many wishes, I wondered how God could possibly fulfill them all.
"Thanks for waiting."
I was praying, so Rosa Gigantea left me behind to check out the festival carts, and now she returned, almost skipping with joy. Umm, she said it was a hatsumoude, but she wasn't really visiting the temple, so what did she come here to do? I was getting the feeling she'd come just for the fortunes.
"Umm, Rosa Gigantea…? What's that?"
My jaw dropped at seeing her carrying a vinyl bag in both hands.
"This bag has ikayaki and grilled corn. And this bag has okonomiyaki and takoyaki and yakisoba. I bought a lot, so they put it in bags for me."
Apricot candy might be impossible, but we could carry cotton candy home, she said. Rosa Gigantea had designs to keep buying, so I felt a bit nauseous.
"Umm. What I'm asking isn't what's in the bags, but what you intend to do with so much food."
"Of course, eating."
"Us. Alright, let's start with takoyaki, Yumi-chan, that's easy to eat."
And Rosa Gigantea took out a pack of takoyaki from one of the bags. Wow. I only got a glimpse, but she bought three packs of each.
Rosa Gigantea picked up a takoyaki and lifted it.
How dreadful, I opened my mouth. But fresh-made takoyaki is warm and delicious. And the tako was big and juicy.
"Alright, let's eat while it's still hot. Oh, we're in the way of passer-bys, so let's go to the back. Yumi-chan, hold one bag."
Just doing what I was told, I picked up the bag with takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and yakisoba in one hand, and carried a paper bag with a box of cakes in the other, and followed Rosa Gigantea to the back of the shrine, into the grove of mixed trees, using the trail. I was still carrying a big shoulder-bag, so I may have looked quite absurd. Some might even think I've run away from home.
Rosa Gigantea still had a hand open, so every now and then she'd feed me takoyaki, and so we ended up splitting a pack of eight four-four.
"What are you thinking, Rosa Gigantea?"
"What? Have you become anxious, because I'm leading you to a place with no people?"
I stared at Rosa Gigantea, who was still playing around.
"You know as well as I do that the two of us aren't going to be able to eat all this."
Rosa Gigantea placed a rubberband around the emptied plastic pack, and carefully placed it back in the vinyl bag so it wouldn't spill. All of a sudden they'd come to a place where knee-high stone statues lined the path. This was leading out of the shrine area, it seemed. It was like a back road, and at the side of the small pavement, a number of cars were parked.
"Someone else is coming, right?"
"I don't know if I would answer right or wrong to that."
Rosa Gigantea grinned, and she fished around her pocket.
"Ah, I have candy here."
My hands were occupied, so I pointed my hip at her.
Rosa Gigantea took out a key of some sort. Of some sort? It was definitely not a house nor bicycle key. It was probably, not, it was definitely a car key.
Without giving me time to gather myself, Rosa Gigantea kept walking, and when she got next to a yellow car, she used her key.
"Now now, come in."
She placed the bag with squid and corn in the backseat, got in, and reached over to open the passenger seat.
"Uhh, umm, Rosa Gigantea…?"
Where's the driver, I wanted to ask, but my luggage was taken, and then I myself was pushed into the car.
And what I was afraid of happened. Rosa Gigantea got into the driver's seat. And she turned on the engine and put on her seat belt. Apparently, Rosa Gigantea had driven here herself, left her car behind the shrine because the station parking spaces were filled, and gone to M Station to pick me up by bus.
"Don't worry, I have a license."
She showed me her card, and it was indeed just like my father's one. The picture definitely belonged to Rosa Gigantea, and the name read "Satou Sei." And she'd turned 18 on the 25th of the previous month, so she was of the right age to legally drive.
"It's all good."
Rosa Gigantea laughed, as she courteously fastened my seatbelt.
Ignoring my anxiety, the yellow car driven by Rosa Gigantea began moving. But then, the moment we got to the stoplight in front of the bus route, the engine stalled. I began trembling. In a way, it was scarier than a jet coaster or haunted house.
"How long have you been driving?"
I was very afraid of asking. But I didn't have the confidence I could sit quietly without asking. I just noticed, but that "thing" stuck to the front glass. Isn't that the "new driver" mark?
Turning on her left turn lights, Rosa Gigantea asked back. Uhh, wasn't that light late?
"I am asking, how long you have been driving since you received your license."
"How long? Today's the first time I drove outside of the practice range."
"It's all good, I was safely able to drive here from home."
"It'll be horrible if you get into an accident."
I might have been shrieking. But this may be curtains to my life of sixteen years, so I think that's a normal reaction.
Gripping the steering wheel, Rosa Gigantea laughed, pleased.
"Le, let me off, please."
"You won't die. After all, both of our fortunes were for 'good' luck. Oops."
Even though she was a newbie, she attempted a clumsy passing. I don't know where we're going, but please, don't hurry. Please don't try anything, please, just get on a straightforward road.
"Oh, wonderful adulthood-!"
I started praying to Maria-sama.
"Hahahah. Yumi-chan, you're funny."
Screeeeech, screech screech screech!
"Gyaaa. Save me, Maria-sama!"
And thus, strapped to a car like it was a mental and physical torture chair, I completely forgot to ask a very crucial question, so overwhelmed with panic I was. –Or rather, there was no way I was going to compose myself enough to ask.
Where are we headed?
I think it would have been very nice to know.
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