Maria-sama ga Miteru:Volume5 Chapter1
Yoshino-san repeated after a blink.
"Aww, it's that season already?"
Yumi had brought up the topic as they walked through the hallway toward the Rose Mansion after school.
Because, she thought, now that the student council elections were over, it was time to turn her attention to Valentine's Day.
"Already? The department stores and supermarkets start fighting over Valentine's Day about a month before the day."
"Right, right. … Less than three weeks."
Yoshino-san, wearing gloves, bent her fingers and groaned. It was unusual, because Yoshino-san was always at least a step ahead of Yumi, so the fact that she'd forgotten about Valentine's Day… after all, she talks about "first-strike victory" being her motto, so she was the type who'd already have thought things out by now.
"I guess people are built to not think about things they don't like."
She'd been placing her hands over her ears to warm them, after using the disposable hand warmers in her pockets, so she didn't hear it very well.
"Just as I said. Valentine's Day bums me out."
"Why? You don't give Rei-sama chocolate?"
"Of course I do. Every year. … Which means I have to give her chocolate this year, too."
Yoshino-san seemed extremely depressed. Heavyhearted, and her legs must have become heavy, too, because she stopped dead in her tracks.
They'd just popped out into the courtyard. The Lillian Girls' Academy student council staff headquarters, the Rose Mansion, stood in their sights.
"Well, it's not like you must, but it'd be odd if an annual thing were to stop this year of all years, right?"
"Right, because she'd be stunned if I didn't give her a Valentine's gift after the 'Yellow Rose Revolution.' Considering Rei-chan's personality, anyway."
"You don't want to give her chocolate, Yoshino-san?"
As they spoke, they arrived at the Rose Mansion, but she gave no signs of wanting to enter yet, so they leaned against the door and continued their conversation. Yumi was actually really cold, but she brought the topic up herself, and it'd be horrible if Rei-sama were to hear them, so she endured it. Rei-sama would become depressed by the smallest things if Yoshino-san was involved.
"It's not that I don't want to give her something."
But in Yoshino-san's case, it was what she would give that was the problem.
"Because it's Rei-chan, you know? Can you imagine the pressure I feel? What am I supposed to do, in exchange for the chocolate cake that grows every year?"
"Eh, what? Rei-sama gives you a present, too?"
Apparently they exchanged chocolate pastry every year. And then they'd exchange candy and cookie on White Day the next month.
"Chocolate cake that grows every year…"
For a moment, Yumi felt envious, but then when she imagined being on the receiving end, she realized how much pressure that would be.
Yoshino-san's onee-sama, Hasekura Rei-sama, was the type of person with very-short hair waving around a shinai, so she might seem one way, but in truth she was a girl that absolutely loved baking snacks, so she was almost like a professional when it came to cookies and cake.
"It was alright so far, I mean, I used to have a sickly body, right? I don't think she expected much, at all, so it was okay that I'd give her store-bought chocolate-"
But that wouldn't work anymore.
And on top of that, Yoshino-san had the added burden of having broken up earlier, and then reconciling. So it wouldn't look proper unless she opened the new chapter in their relationship with a flourish. Thus, Yoshino-san was feeling pressure from all sorts of angles. Maybe that's why her subconscious had deliberately sealed away any thoughts about Valentine's Day.
Of course, Rei-sama would probably be happy with any chocolate Yoshino-san would give her. So "not tolerating store-bought chocolate" was more Yoshino-san's own will. And she was just cornering herself like that.
But Yoshino-san knew that. That's why Yumi didn't say anything. Even if they both thought it was sad, everyone has things they seriously ponder and worry about.
"I wonder why we're stuck giving chocolate."
White breath poured out of Yoshino-san's mouth.
"I don't think that's the case? You could give something else. Like, something handmade."
A twitch. Yoshino-san's eyebrows furrowed.
Yumi thought, "Shoot!" the moment she said it, but it was too late. She'd wanted to lend her friend a hand, but instead she dunked her in a bog herself.
"Hand-knit sweaters? Or mufflers?"
Yoshino-san looked dejected as she spoke.
"… Sorry. I wasn't thinking."
"No, it's not Yumi-san's fault."
The gloves that were warming Yoshino-san's hands were handmade by Rei-sama. Not just her gloves, but the lap blanket she used during class, her winter zabuton covers, they were all handmade by Rei-sama.
When it came to Rei-sama, she wasn't just about baking, her knitting was also very professional. So when faced with someone like that, just what kind of handmade thing could you give? Gosh, with different onee-sama, you end up with vastly different worries, Yumi thought.
"Sorry I'm not any help."
Lowering her shoulders, Yoshino-san reached for the doorknob.
"This Valentine's Day. Yumi-san, you're giving Sachiko-sama chocolate, aren't you? And you wanted advice."
"Wow! You see through everything."
There's detective Yoshino for you. But when she praised her, she was given a bitter smile.
"Yumi-san's just too easy to guess."
She mumbled, exasperated. Rosa Gigantea always teases her about it, but what she thinks is actually always revealed in her face.
When they opened the door, her skin felt slightly warmer, and they could faintly hear the friendly chatter from upstairs.
They both heard their onee-sama's voices among the chatter, and with glittering eyes rushed to the stairs, vying to be first. Their cuffs of their skirts tossed so that if their onee-sama were to have seen them, they would have been scolded, "How naughty!"
Yumi's heart beat quickly at the thought of Valentine's Day.
Excitement and fascination mixed and made her feel restless.
And that happened around the end of January.
And a few days later.
Yumi didn't expect anything to begin with, and Shimako-san tilted her head, asking, "What do you mean?"
Yumi thought while scratching her non-itchy head.
How predictable. Shimako-san was clearly not the kind of person who gave chocolate to people on the fourteenth of February every year.
"Oh, Yumi-san, even I know about Valentine's Day."
She giggled politely. Oh, that's good, Yumi sighed, relieved. She didn't know what she'd do if she had to explain Valentine's Day from scratch.
"Saint Valentine, or Saint Valentinus, there're lots of pronunciations, but in Japan they call him 'Valentain' don't they."
"Valentine. The name of an Italian saint that was martyred. February fourteen is a holiday for him."
Shimako-san's explanation sounded extraordinarily genuine and dignified. Regretfully, she wasn't able to ask about this in the sanctuary. Instead, they were in the dressing room inside the gymnasium. It was the break-time before physical education, so the appearances of other students' thighs and in their underwears leapt into her eyes.
Yumi'd paused in the middle of changing for the conversation, so she hurriedly shed her petticoat and put on her knee-high, black spats. Then, she took off the three-quarter sleeved v-neck shirt that she wore instead of a one-piece or a babashirt, and put on a white collared gym shirt that had "1 Peach 33 Fukuzawa" sewed on to the front. And with her arms exposed, she felt goose bumps all over. Not that she could do anything about that, it was retribution for keeping herself too well cared for on a daily basis.
"I don't know when or how the holiday arrived on Japanese shores, but chocolate is very unrelated."
Having finished changing, herself, Shimako-san bundled her soft, cotton-like hair with a plain, thick black rubber band, and then tightened a hachimaki that matched our class color – peach. Shimako-san often looked soft and impossible to restrain, but in truth, she always walked around with a straight back, and no matter the weather, she carried herself without ever letting down. It is like she's always tense. She looks like such an angel, but you can never figure out what she is thinking, so in a way she is quite mysterious.
"Then, you're not giving Rosa Gigantea chocolate?"
Lowering her voice, Yumi whispered in Shimako-san's ear.
"Oh, that's what you meant."
Shimako-san smiled, finally piecing together what Yumi had meant. She'd been asked, what are you going to do for Valentine's Day? But Yumi thought, wouldn't you normally immediately think about chocolate?
"Yup. Shimako-san became Rosa Gigantea's sister a little earlier than me, right? So I was wondering what you planned for Valentine's Day."
Would you call it research? She wanted to gather as much information as possible and come up with a masterful plan. It was the idea behind her asking around. But Yoshino-san was completely unreliable.
"… I'd not given it any thought."
She didn't feel disappointed at all. Because Shimako-san was a question mark from the start, so she'd given up before she'd asked.
Yumi and Shimako-san's image of Valentine's Day was too different. After all, she talked about Saint Valentine. She'd probably never done something as mundane as sending a gift of chocolate. … Probably not even to her father.
"I'm sorry I couldn't serve as a reference."
Shimako-san concluded the conversation the same way as Yoshino-san and stepped out of the dressing room.
Even with a sweatshirt and a jersey training pant, February physical education was tough. The light jogging to warm-up bodies didn't work, because cold air drifted through the space in the cloth, so it ended up being more of a war of attrition. Blowing hot air into her cupped hands, Yumi simply wanted to avoid jamming her fingers as she ran.
Because today, they were going to play basketball.
"Of course." Tsutako-san laughed heartily.
"Yoshino-san and Shimako-san are both unique cases, Yumi-san's in the wrong for trying to use them as an example."
Yumi folded her arms and groaned; she didn't need to be told that. It was the afternoon of the day Shimako-san had told her, "I'm sorry." On the way to the science room for class changing, Tsutako-san pointed her pocket-sized camera at Yumi in the hallway.
"But there's no point in asking me, either. Unfortunately, I have neither an older sister nor little sister."
Yumi wouldn't have even thought about asking, anyways.
"Tsutako-san, don't you have anyone you look up to in your club, at least?"
An immediate answer, after moving her face away from her camera. And then she said, "Who do you think I am?"
"The photography club ace, Takeshima Tsutako-san."
Her frameless glasses glimmered.
"Do you think there's someone in Lillian with better photography skills?"
Tsutako-san's answer seemed a bit off the mark from the question. She'd taken "look up to" as "respect," and then taken that to a "goal" perspective. Though in her case, it might be that the starting condition for a senpai would be someone better than her, so in a way, it wasn't really that off.
"Oh, what a shame." "What?" "Take it as an opportunity to be in the spotlight."
"Like Yoshino-san? Please."
Feeling daunted by just the prospects of it, Tsutako-san pulled her head back. Maybe she remembered the "Yellow Rose Revolution." Speaking of which, Tsutako-san completely left the originators aside, and instead rebuked the follow-up break-up sisters.
Think about it, said Tsutako-san as her eyes glittered.
"Lillian is filled with wonderful students. Do you think I can narrow that down to a single person? First of all, think about what would happen if I found a sibling. What if an obstacle were to arise, like her demanding I only take pictures of her?" "I see."
Which meant Tsutako-san had resolved to be alone for the whole three years. What a splendid resolve, or something. Because on the other hand, it also meant she had no intention of changing her ways. Yumi thought she should re-think her peeping photos, though.
As expected, Tsutako-san wouldn't be any help, either. Yumi reflexively sighed, and instead of an apology, Tsutako-san gave a point of advice.
"You might get advice if you ask Katsura-san and others, but it'd be a waste of effort to ask."
"Oh, can't you imagine it now, the stereotypical Valentine's Day."
True. –Though that's a bit rude to Katsura-san. But Katsura-san and the others really did try to live a fairy-tale school life. But maybe Valentine's Day would bring out something off the wall for them.
"Yumi-san, you should think about what you were actually looking for, and start over again."
"What I was actually looking for?"
"Why're you gathering information. You know, because the person you're giving chocolate to is so big, right? So you want to set everything up perfectly, right? Then there's no point in asking normal students. Really, the only people who could possibly be of any help would be those in the Rose Mansion, am I right?"
"But Yoshino-san and Shimako-san were of no help."
"Why do you have to ask first-years?"
"What? But I'm a first-year…"
Mumbled Yumi, and Tsutako-san, exasperated, lifted her index finger.
"Second-years and third-years experienced being first-years, too."
"Chocolate for onee-sama? Yes, I gave her some last year, why?"
After finishing her cleaning duty, Yumi ran to the martial arts building at the back of the school and caught Rei-sama before club activities began.
"Ah, umm, I was hoping for some references. Umm, you didn't… give her a super large chocolate cake, did you?"
"Oh come on. I can't bring that to school."
Rei-sama cackled, then mumbled, "Yoshino must have talked," while looking proud. Oh, no. Rei-sama doesn't get how Yoshino-san feels, at all. She wasn't bragging about the super large chocolate cake, but rather quite the opposite.
But Yoshino-san's agony wasn't important here, so Yumi felt sorry for her, but decided to leave it aside.
She concurred, laughing, hahahah.
"Just a trite thing. Something that fits in a bag."
Using her thumbs and index fingers, Rei-sama made a square. It was around the size of a book. Something that size could be called "trite," and it would be perfectly safe to bring to school.
In a sense, her treatment of Yoshino-san and Rosa Foetida was wildly different, but on the other hand, the only person she could make a super large chocolate cake for was her neighbor. And of course, to Yoshino-san, that could also be called a "heavy burden."
Finally, someone I could use as a reference, Yumi thought. Tsutako-san was right, after all. Indeed, things went smoother by asking people who were first-years last year. Plus, since it was in the past, there was the added bonus of knowing the effects. So she could ask the onee-sama who received the chocolate, and would be able to set up a perfect Valentine's Day.
Last year, Rei-sama was the sister of a bouton, like Yumi, so she was the perfect person to ask. And only because there was no way she could ask Sachiko-sama, whom she was going to give the chocolate to.
"So what was it?"
She asked, excited. Pure chocolate by a famous chocolate company? Adult-flavored chocolate bonbons?
"What was it? Oh, the chocolate?"
In Yumi's mind, she was already thinking back to the department store's chocolate display. High-class chocolate in modest-looking boxes seemed like such a perfect fit.
"Umm, if I may ask, for reference's sake."
What would she do if she were told, they were dried-plum-sized chocolate worth several hundred yen? But the opponent was Sachiko-sama, so cheap chocolate might not fit her tastes. But at the same time, Yumi decided that if she'd have to use up her New Year's money, she would, and that's when Rei-sama answered.
"Bitter chocolate truffles. I think six in a box."
What an expensive echo. The little, dried-plum-sized chocolate in the department window might have had that name too, yes, and they were absurdly expensive.
And Yumi, being a commoner, quickly began calculating in her head.
If they were 200 yen each, it'd be 1,200 yen.
300 yen would be 1,800 yen.
400 yen would be 2,400 yen.
500 yen would be- she stopped. She felt a bit faint. Because for a commoner, the thought of six balls of chocolate costing 3,000 yen was unbelievable.
Even though she attended a ladies' school, it was troublesome to be bundled up together. Because each household had different fortunes and assets. She knew this from the start, but when she visited Sachiko-sama's house over New Year's, it was really hammered home.
Even though they both lived in Japan, and both attended the same school, they were really, really different in terms of value. Not that she was dissatisfied with her home or anything.
"What's wrong, Yumi-chan?"
"I feel faint."
Little bills were flying around chocolate like butterflies, in her head.
"Did the thought of giving truffles to Sachiko exhaust you?"
"Umm, something like that."
"Don't worry, it's not that bad, give it a shot!"
Not that bad? Maybe Rei-sama, who seemed like someone closer to her in terms of class stature, actually wasn't? "Give it a shot", she said. Yumi felt like withering.
And, the more expensive it became, it also felt like she was going further and further away from her original intention of giving Valentine's chocolate. Maybe that was a vulgar way of thinking, though.
"I'll write the recipe down for you."
Rei-sama pet Yumi's head and smiled.
"If you want to make truffles. I'll help you a bit, just keep it a secret from Sachiko."
That's when Yumi realized.
"Um, umm, do you mean, how to make truffle chocolates, when you said recipe?"
Rei-sama's confused face spoke volumes. The chocolate Rei-sama gave Rosa Foetida was, like what she gave Yoshino-san, handmade.
Yumi mumbled. There was no need to confess having made the wrong assumption.
Rei-sama was superhuman. On one hand, chocolate truffles and on the other hand, chocolate cake. And she made them both almost simultaneously.
But, in the end, it wouldn't be much of a reference, after all. It wasn't something to brag about, but the most Yumi'd ever done with baking was help her mother bake doughnuts by taking them out of the moulds. So to tell that sort of person here, try making chocolate truffles? Skill was a bigger problem than money.
Rei-sama said she'd help, but if it ended up with her doing most of the work, she wouldn't be able to make truffles next year. And if Rei-sama did more than half, it would lose the "handmade" part of the gift. But all that said, Yumi'd never even imagined making truffles by hand.
"Thank you very much. I'll think about it."
Yumi bowed her head and dashed away. She'd underestimated things, fixating on chocolate, and now she felt like she had nowhere to go.
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