Maria-sama ga Miteru:Volume1 Chapter1
 Monday of Uneasiness
 Part 1.
It was Monday.
Down the rows of gingko trees is a fork in the road, and it was here that Yumi was called upon from behind to wait.
It was a cold, piercing voice, strong enough to seem like an illusion. Furthermore, because this happened right in front of Maria-sama's figure, for an instant she thought that perhaps it was Maria-sama telling her to hold still.
Having been spoken to, you must first stop and answer "yes," then turn your entire body. Even if it was unexpected, you must not act rushed. Suffice it to say; simply "turning your face" is definitively unladylike conduct.
As elegant as possible, as well as beautifully. All in order to get even one step closer to being like the elder sisters.
That is why as soon as you turn about and stand facing your company, you must smile and say gokigenyou-.
Unfortunately, Yumi was unable to answer "gokigenyou."
It was because recognizing who had called out to her struck her speechless.
The reason why she had not immediately jumped up is because she had dedicated herself to conduct herself the way a student at Lillian Girls' Academy should, and her restraint at this moment was show of progress toward this goal ... at least, that is how she wished it would have been. Rather, her astonishment was so great that her actions lagged far behind her racing mind, leaving her frozen in time.
"Um... would you be speaking to me?"
Somehow managing to thaw herself, Yumi managed to ask, incredulously. Of course, Yumi had already confirmed that she was the only one in direct eye-sight, and she was the only one that could possibly be spoken to. Even so, it was difficult for Yumi to believe.
"You are not mistaken. I am the one who spoke, and you were the one to whom I spoke."
Not mistaken, she had said. Yet, Yumi desperately felt like responding, of course there was a mistake, and then running away. Having no idea why she would be called upon, her mind was in a state of near-panic.
She floated a thin smile and walked straight toward Yumi, not knowing what sort of state she was in.
Because they were in different grades, there had been no prior chance to see her face from this close. This was even the first time Yumi had heard her voice this clearly.
Her waist-length straight hair shined so brightly that it begged you to ask what shampoo brand she used. It was so well-kept that it was hard to imagine there was a single strand of ill-conditioned hair.
She held out her bag. When Yumi, still puzzled, took the bag, she reached out behind Yumi's neck with both of her empty hands.
Not knowing what was happening, Yumi shut her eyes, lowered her chin and stiffened.
"Your tie, it was crooked."
When she opened her eyes, that beautiful face was still in front of her. Apparently, she was fixing Yumi's tie.
"You should always be aware of your personal appearance. Maria-sama is watching, after all."
And with that, the person took back her bag from Yumi, said "gokigenyou," and walked ahead to the school building.
(That... that was...)
Standing there, left behind, blood slowly flowed back into Yumi's head, and she began registering what just happened.
There was no doubt about who that was.
Second-year pine-class Ogasawara Sachiko-sama (小笠原祥子). Incidentally, her name was 7th on the attendance sheet. She was known as "Rosa Chinensis en bouton."
She was such the object of the school's affections that you could not help but wonder if it was okay to say her name, for someone of such lower stature to even mention her.
Yumi was just about to boil in embarrassment.
(That's not fair!)
She stood dumbfounded for a few moments.
She had exchanged words with the onee-sama she aspired to for the first time. Yet, it was a horrifically embarrassing episode. It was too cruel.
Maria-sama is mean!
When she looked up out of spite at Maria-sama, the latter maintained her ever-present chaste smile and stood, silently, in the middle of the small, green garden.
 Part 2.
"Ooh, so that's what happened."
Katsura-san (桂), who sat in front of her, just laughed when she heard the story.
"You were so gloomy when you showed up to class, I was wondering if you ran into a molester in the train or something."
"A molester might have been better."
"It doesn't stick with you."
"Yumi-san, it seems you haven't run into a molester."
"I commute by bus."
Students of Lillian Girls' Academy generally took a circulation bus from M Train Station's North Exit at JR town to get to school. Both of them were the same in this regard, but Katsura-san took a crowded train to get to M Station, whereas Yumi took a bus to M Station South Exit, resulting in the difference in pleasantry (or unpleasantry).
"Wasn't there talk about a Lillian rail car, though?"
"There is one, but you know, it's more like the Yamayurikai council gathered everyone together so that Lillian students all crowd into the second car from the back. But because of day duties and club activities and the likes, if you leave too early there aren't enough students, so it's kind of pointless."
Apparently, though, because rumours circulated, female students from schools other than Lillian had begun using that car, making it pretty effective against molesters. Of course, there was no real method of squeezing out males, but apparently the number of gentlemen with the courage to step into a car full of young women was not very high. Plus, there was hardly any opportunity to make any suspicious moves, anyways.
The Lillian uniform used a non-lustrous black cloth that seems like it had a drop of green, and was very refined throughout. The ivory sailor collar with a single black line was tied up as is into a tie. During this season, the one-piece, low-waist plaited skirts were knee-high. Combine all this as a set with the threefold white socks and the ballet-style leather shoes and you get a very traditional outfit, one that had a firmly-rooted popularity with ordinary people as well as, of course, the uniform maniacs.
This attractive outfit advertised a lady's upper-class stature. And sailor uniforms attracted unwanted attention as it were, too.
"Trains are crowded, so I always check how I look beforehand."
Saying that, Katsura-san, using Yumi as a mirror, acted out how she fixed up her forelocks and re-tied her tie. Like this, she meant.
"I see, I was so careless."
Yumi bent over her desk. Then, Katsura-san pat her head, as if saying "there there."
"Pretty much. But people that can sit elegantly as they ride to school wouldn't think of these things. Don't worry about it, it's not a big deal."
"It is a big deal."
"As long as we forget, it's fine isn't it?"
"Because she's the star of Lillian Girls' Academy. Stars don't worry about each and every amateur."
Stars and amateurs.
Even though it was the truth, or rather, because it was the truth, it hurt. Katsura-san's consolation was a bit of an extreme treatment.
Incidentally, Katsura was a name and not a surname. At Lillian, nicknames generally did not exist. The custom was to speak to those of the same grade as "–san". When speaking to an upperclassman, "-sama."
"There's no helping withering away when you're called upon. The only first-year in our class that can handle being spoken to by a 'Yamayurikai' council member is her."
And with that, Katsura-san shot a glance behind her. Following her line of sight, Yumi saw Toudou Shimako just step into the room.
"Gokigenyou, Katsura-san. Gokigenyou, Yumi-san."
As she greeted the two, Shimako-san elegantly advanced to her seat.
Yumi and Katsura-san looked at each other, as if they wanted to ask, "What're you so embarrassed about?"
Even though they're the same age, the discrepancy was enormous. Although completely unlike Sachiko-sama, Shimako-san was also stunningly beautiful.
Looking at her depressed you, making you think, beautiful people are beautiful even from when they were young. Any hope of becoming as beautiful as Sachiko-sama just by becoming a second-year high-school student was snuffed out, just like that.
"Did you hear?"
Katsura-san began whispering, so Yumi also lowered her voice.
"That Shimako-san became Rosa Gigantea en bouton? Even skipping over the 2nd-years."
It was famous. The story about Shimako-san exchanging sisterly vows with Rosa Gigantea despite being a 1st year student.
Implying that it was the latest scoop, Katsura-san put her index finger over her lip and said "Onee-sama told me." Her Sœur was a tennis-club senior, who was in the same class as Sachiko-sama.
"Shimako-san, not only did Rosa Gigantea propose, but apparently so did Sachiko-sama."
"Yumi-san, you're being loud."
The two of them scrunched up over a single desk. It was a spectacle very un-befitting of ladies, but the two of them had not noticed. –Maria-sama, please forgive them, no matter what generation it is, women love rumors about other people.
The Lillian Girls' Academy's Sœur system was said to have been borne out of the school's attitude of respecting the autonomy of its students in High School. As students graduated from compulsory education, in which they lived under the management of teachers and Sisters, they were expected to lead an ordered life with their own power. The Sœur system was adopted so that elder sisters could guide their little sisters through this rather overwhelming time. As that system became completely immersed throughout the school, it became such that even without any strict school regulations, the pure and righteous school life was passed down from generation to generation.
Sœur meant sisters, in French. Presumably in order to prevent confusion with Sisters, they avoided using English. Originally every senior and underclassman was called sœur, but eventually it became a way of designating two tightly bonded girls. No one was sure when the ritual of vowing to become Sœurs through a give-and-receive of a rosary began.
"According to the stories, Sachiko-sama proposed first, but she accepted Rosa Gigantea's hand, even though it came later."
Katsura-san seemed a bit disdainful, but she was definitely getting excited by the rumor-mongering.
"I wonder if she just preferred white over crimson."
"That's not the point. Sheesh… Yumi-san, you're a bit weird. See? When you're in Shimako-san's class of people, you can even have your pick between two roses."
"Your pick, that's such a despicable wording."
"But, truth be told, Sachiko-sama was rejected."
What a wasteful thing to do, thought Yumi.
"What do you mean 'mmm,' don't you think it's horrible?"
"Why? If you can't have two onee-sama, you do have to pick one."
"And you pick the one that came later?"
"But it's not a race."
"Yes it is!"
And thus did Katsura-san conclude the discussion, heaving a sigh. Come to think of it, she had exchanged Sœur vows the day she joined the tennis club.
"Speaking of which, what about Rosa Foetida?"
"Rosa Foetida is peaceful and secured with a 3rd-year, 2nd-year and 1st-year."
For Yumi, as opposed to Rosa Gigantea and Rosa Chinensis en bouton fighting over Shimako-san, the fact that neither of them had younger sisters was more surprising.
"Either way, the reality is, Sachiko-sama proposed to her, and she didn't immediately accept."
As she said that, Katsura-san looked at the clock.
The bell would ring for the morning prayers.
Then, a hymn would sound from the school broadcast system. Aside from the once-a-week morning prayer at the Sanctuary, everyone prayed in their classroom. Everyone sang the hymn, listened to the principal speak, then calmed their spirits and offered prayer to God.
Please allow me to live righteously today.
However, on this day, despite praying, she had the feeling that she was about to be jarred from her peaceful daily life.
 Part 3.
Yumi was called upon after school, just as she had finished her cleaning duties and had walked out of the music room.
"Ah, Tsutako-san (蔦子). Have you already finished cleaning the classroom?"
"Yes, and that's why I hurried here, to ensure we wouldn't walk past each other. Yumi-san seemed to have taken her bag to cleaning duty, after all."
Because the first-year classrooms were distant from the music room, first-years always took their bags with them. As the entrance and the club houses were close by, it was convenient for going home or for going to club activities.
"You were looking for me?"
"I wanted to discuss something."
This prompted Tsutako-san to raise her frame-less glasses by the nose-bridge with a finger, nod, and say "yes."
"Yumi-san. We have club activities to get to, so we'll excuse ourselves now. Oh, I'll return the cleaning journal to the staff room on the way, too."
The three students whom were helping with cleaning duty smiled with pure eyes.
"Why… thank you."
"No, no. Think nothing of it. Gokigenyou."
The uniforms, with the color of damp crows' wings, leniently flowed down the hallway. Tsutako-san and Yumi saw them off together.
"You are, I think, aware that I belong to the photography club?"
Tsutako-san turned back toward Yumi and asked, abruptly.
"Y, … yes."
Because she's notorious.
Aside from class time, she rarely lets go of her camera. Yumi vaguely remembered hearing her mourn, at one point, about how chagrined she was whenever she missed a shutter chance, and that feeling of regret was the reason why she had no choice but to hang onto her camera at all times. Since the beginning of high school, this had been the first time Yumi ended up in the same class as Tsutako-san, but already she'd been shown two or three photos that she never realized had been taken. Though she couldn't really tell how 'good' Tsutako-san was, she had to admit that even her ordinary self looked at least 30% cuter in the photos.
"You know how the school festival is close by? Well, because of that, I've been coming to school early to take photos from early morning."
She only used people as her photo subjects. Well, specifically, "female high-school students." Honestly, there was no problem in that, but she claimed "good photos can't be taken when the subjects even subconsciously pose," so she had a tendency to take secret photos.
"Tsutako-san, don't you think it might be better to stop taking photos as if you were a peeping tom?"
"Why should I throw away the privilege I have, being an active Lillian Girls' Academy student? I just want to seal away beauty as beautifully as they come, within these frames. We'll all age, eventually, but it's possible to preserve 'now' in all its glittering glory. I just think that's my God-given duty, having been chosen by the camera."
With that, she raised a clenched fist.
"Not to worry. I've gotten permission from every one of my subjects. I burn everything, including the negatives, for rejected pictures. And before I present them, I always, always make sure the people involved are willing."
Tsutako-san presented two photographs to Yumi.
Three, two, one.
It required three seconds to realize what the photos were of.
As Yumi had raised her voice far beyond what was generally accepted of a Lillian student, Tsutako-san covered her mouth.
Ahh, and what it was.
The morning scene, that same scene she wished could be erased from her memory. A two-shot photo of Ogasawara Sachiko-sama and Yumi.
Even so, it was definitely worthy of the photography club's ace. She had not let the shutter chance go by. Both of Sachiko-sama's hands were firmly gripping Yumi's scarf. You could imagine hearing the sound of the knot being squeezed.
Even while struggling to hold onto her bag, Yumi stared, absorbing everything in the photo.
As always, Sachiko-sama was lovely. And as a direct result of her presence, Yumi, standing to her side, looked like an angel.
"The first one was taken with a long-range lense, the close-up. But this one, the one where your whole body is photographed, has more of a 'forbidden' mood to it, making it look better, don't you think?"
By the way the title is "Training," Tsutako-san said, and Yumi could do naught but agree.
"Can I have this?"
As Yumi asked, Tsutako-san laughed and took back the photos. She looked as if Yumi had just been snagged hook, line and sinker.
"I don't mind, but on two conditions."
"Condition one: that you allow me to use this photo in a panel for the photography-club exhibit during the school festival."
Exhibit? Panel? Was she out of her mind?
How reckless, to line up someone like Yumi, with an extremely average academic, height, weight and figure, to someone who's perfect in every regard, like Ogasawara Sachiko-sama, in front of every student.
"Tsutako-san. You must be kidding."
"Why would I be kidding? I've been confident, ever since I snapped the photo, that it was my best work this whole year. That's why I developed the film at the cost of lunch break."
As she said that, Tsutako-san's stomach let out a decidedly un-lady-like growl. Ah, her lunch lay untouched in her bag. Hobbies take precedence even over the nurturing appetite.
"But, a panel…"
Yumi looked down.
"You don't want the photo?"
Tsutako-san plucked the two photos and waved them in front of Yumi's face.
"I know. You've always admired Ogasawara Sachiko-sama in secret. Yet, ignoring the remote possibility of a two-shot, I know you don't even have a close-up photo of her head. When the field trip photos were put up outside the staff room, you were vexed that you couldn't request copies, because you were of a different grade, am I right? And as you aren't part of any club, you had no 2nd-year student to request for a copy. The only photo you have is one from the athletics meet. That's the picture where Sachiko-sama, waiting in line for the relay, happened to be in the background and, well, I won't say a rice grain, but she is really just a speck."
"Excuse me. She was at least the size of a pencil. And even so, it's a treasure to me."
Tsutako-san could pursue a career as a private detective if she so desired.
"I wonder if that pencil will satisfy you, after today's events."
The lens of her glasses shined like a camera flash.
"… You're evil."
Of course there was no way she'd be satisfied, having seen such a good photo.
"But, isn't there a chance Sachiko-sama refuses?"
Tsutako-san put up her index finger and laughed, triumphantly.
"The other condition is that you receive permission from Rosa Chinensis en bouton."
"Ehh!? That's impossible, absolutely impossible."
Again, she says something so stunning so smoothly.
Tsutako-san widened her eyes in surprise.
"You two look so intimate. Like sœurs."
Yumi explained. This morning, while heading to school, she'd been suddenly called out, and when she wondered what was going on, she'd been cautioned about her appearance.
"Well. And she fixed your tie while at it, too. If your classmates found out they'd be envious."
"As if they would say, 'Oh, I'm so envious?'"
Just remembering the incident made her want to blush.
"Sachiko-sama probably thought, what a slovenly student."
It wasn't supposed to be like that.
In reality, meeting onee-sama in the near future was supposed to be a more beautiful situation.
For example, like a scene in a movie. A scene that would make you blush just remembering it, even after graduating. Even if it were just an instant. Like picking up and returning Sachiko-sama's handkerchief after it got blown away by wind, or something trivial like that.
But, a bent tie. On top of that, she panicked so much she couldn't even greet or thank her. She'd fallen to the status of an impolite underclassman.
"A slovenly student, isn't that fine? After all, it let you get close to your lovely onee-sama."
There was no retort to that. Had her tie not been bent, it would have been likely she would have never been called to, in her entire life.
"Tsutako-san, why don't you negotiate in person? You do that all the time, after all."
"Even Tsutako-san, brave and fearless as she is, is intimidated by the Yamayurikai council."
The Yamayurikai was the student council of the Lillian Girls' Academy High School. The council, called the White, Red and Yellow Roses were, despite being students, on a different social standing than the regular students, like court officials. Sachiko-sama was the petite sœur to Rosa Chinensis.
"Also, Yumi-san, I decided that it would be profitable to use you for negotiations."
"Because you caught the attention of Sachiko-sama."
"That's because of my tie-"
"If a bent tie were all that were needed to get the attention of Sachiko-sama, every Lillian student would walk around with bent ties."
That was Tsutako-san's retort.
"Quite frankly, I've seen such calculating first-year students."
First-years that undertook a bold deed the likes of walking in front of Sachiko-sama with a bent tie, all for the sake of catching her attention for one moment. Tsutako-san spoke of this in a serenading tone, as if she were a leading actress, standing at the middle of the stage, basking in the spotlight.
"Especially Sachiko-sama, she's considered one of the most compulsive about cleanliness in the school. She's famous for disdaining slovenly appearances, so there might have been more than one person who foolishly attempted such a stunt." To carry a proper soul, one must first tend to their person appearance-. For roughly 11 years since kindergarten, that had been a repeated mantra, and breaking that schooling in order to get the attention of their beloved senior simply awarded them one, icy glance from Sachiko-sama. And then complete disregard.
Even worse, sometimes that student's onee-sama was called out for a discussion about personal appearance.
"Sachiko-sama, … is scary."
"Did you just find out? Ogasawara Sachiko-sama is scary. Of course, this is only with matters that she disapproves of."
"And you're telling me to face that scary Sachiko-sama…?"
Frankly, she thought Tsutako-san was just as scary.
Already Yumi was getting ready to run. The toes of her indoor shoes were already facing the entrance.
"You don't understand, Yumi-san. Sachiko-sama is no demon. She's an angel. Archangel Michael."
"A, Archangel Michael…?"
What is she saying, does she even understand what she's saying? Tsutako-san's eyes were focused on something far away.
"She is, in reality, sublime and tolerant. However, everything that opposes her aesthetic sense is absolutely unforgivable. She is, after all, a born princess. She has her own peculiar sense of rules."
Tsutako-san was swimming away alone. Yumi could not help but raise her hand, say "Um," and request.
"Tsutako-san, I only get mid-marks for language class."
"Can you lower the level and explain, please?"
"Lower the level?"
"Umm, in other words, can you explain more clearly, please?"
Tsutako-san folded her arms and went deep in thought. It was hard to explain to someone else a theory you had already completed yourself.
"To put it simply, Sachiko-sama is never irrationally angry, so it's alright. When she's angry, there's always reason in her words."
"So don't worry and get persuading."
"Seems to be a fit. You and Sachiko-sama."
Sheesh, I can't understand Tsutako-san's thought process.
"And what basis do you have for that?"
"Basis? I have no basis. These things are all about instinct. Intuition."
Sachiko-sama, who never bothered with the ties of underclassmen, spontaneously decided this morning to call out to her, chastise her, and then re-tie Yumi's scarf with her own hands. Tsutako-san seemed emphatic that this was a brilliant achievement, one that couldn't have happened with pure luck.
"Even if the person is not aware of it, I think like-minded people subconsciously step closer to one another."
"And again you're being irrational."
Essentially, it seemed like she was simply pushing something she didn't want to do on Yumi.
"If you're regretful of being thought of as a slovenly student, then replace that image. If you politely thank her, 'Thank you for warning me this morning,' you'll turn out to be a polite lady."
"Ugh, Tsutako-san, you're persuasive."
"Why, thank you. I have been invited by the debate club once."
Her triumphant laugh was so masterful that it felt she could be invited by the theatrics club, too.
Ten minutes later, Yumi stood in front of the door for the Yamayurikai headquarters, the "Rose Mansion."
In the end, Tsutako's killer blow of "You don't want the photo?" had pushed Yumi into accepting the job of negotiating with Sachiko-sama.
 Part 4.
The Lillian Girls' Academy High School Student Council was named the Yamayurikai (Mountain Lily Council) in homage to Maria-sama's soul.
Maria-sama's soul was a blue sky, was an evergreen oak tree, was a Japanese nightingale, was a mountain lily, and was a sapphire. That was the song you were made to learn first, upon entering kindergarten.
(But why is it a sapphire…?)
She had wondered this as a child, and had dragged that bewilderment to the present. Blue sky, evergreen oak, nightingale, mountain lily, and then spontaneously a sapphire.
She could understand the comparison of Maria-sama's soul to such beautiful things, but a materialistic symbol such as a jewel, as opposed to natural beauties such as the sky and plants and animals had always felt out of place. Plus, a sapphire was an expensive possession, so while anyone could look up at the sky and bask in its beauty, only a select few could adorn themselves with sapphire.
(But a lady the stature of Sachiko-sama probably wouldn't find the sapphire out of place.)
And that was what went on in the mind of Yumi, who stood rather blankly in front of the Rose Mansion.
Lillian, being what would have to be considered a 'school for upper-class ladies', was filled with daughters of comparatively prosperous households. Yumi, who'd been attending the school since infancy, technically counted as a daughter of a company president, for her father was the president of a designing office.
While the exchange of their parents' occupations was not standard practice in the classroom, people nevertheless slipped out this sort of knowledge every so often during regular conversations, and from this you could hear of doctors, lawyers, company presidents of smaller enterprises, department heads of larger enterprises, university professors, and other such varying degrees of remarkable titles.
However, the Ogasawara Sachiko she was about to meet was on a different level from such ladies. She was the granddaughter of the president of the Ogasawara group, an extensive management over department stores and leisure parks, among other things, and her mother was reportedly of former nobility, making her a princess of perfect pedigree.
The Rose Mansion. It was called a mansion, but it was actually a small building, roughly half the size of a classroom, taking up floor space in the corner of the courtyard for high school buildings. However, being an independent building used solely by the student council and, with the aid of its wooden two-story appearance, you could surely see why it became known as a mansion.
"I wonder if Sachiko-sama is really in here."
Yumi-san said to Tsutako-san, temporarily lowering the fist she had raised for knocking.
"Well she wasn't in the classroom, and everyone says the Yamayurikai council have been gathering in the Rose Mansion after class every day to prepare for the school festival."
With that, Tsutako forced Yumi to look back at the door. Apparently she had tagged along purely as an escort. Yumi was the main dish. She wanted to complain, whose fault is it that she had come this far, but she had to restrain herself until she got a copy of the two-shot photo. Plus, as Tsutako-san mentioned, if things went well, she could undo the ruined reputation she might have garnered in the morning, and if things went really well, she could be on speaking terms.
"Yes. They come here every day…"
In other words, there was no turning back.
Yumi raised her fist again, but could not bring herself to knock on the wooden door.
(Ahh, how weak I am.)
However, for any normal first-year student, Yumi not-withstanding, it would have taken a considerable amount of courage to knock on this door. That was why Tsutako-san knowingly did not hurry her. If Tsutako-san were to ask, "can't you even knock?" Yumi was prepared to counter with "then you go ahead."
She felt sweat in her palm. That's odd, it's not a sweat-inducing temperature.
Her heart began throbbing more violently, and her legs began trembling.
The world beyond this door was too alien.
Just as she lowered her fist, giving up all hope, a voice called out from behind the two.
"Do you have business with the Yamayurikai?"
Yumi and Tsutako-san spun around like a spring-loaded mechanism.
"Oh dear, I apologize. I seem to have surprised you two."
Standing there was Toudou Shimako-san.
Yumi sighed heavily, relieved. If Sachiko-sama appeared when she hadn't yet steeled her resolve, she might have fainted. Well, even if fainting was an exaggeration, it was definite she would have disgraced herself even more than she had done in the morning.
"Shimako-san, too, why…"
And as Yumi began to speak, Tsutako-san, at her side, elbowed her lightly. "Idiot."
"Shimako-san is Rosa Gigantea en bouton, so she would obviously be here."
She was not a "regular first-year."
"Yumi-san and I wish to speak to Rosa Chinensis en bouton. Shimako-san, would you act as an agent for us?"
As if thinking, nice timing, Tsutako-san immediately began speaking to Shimako-san. Even though they were both en bouton, the difference of comfort between white and red was drastic.
"Oh, if that is the case, would you like to come inside? I believe Sachiko-sama is on the second floor."
Swaying her curls, Shimako-san opened the door and beckoned to the two, whom were rooted to the spot outside.
Not just beautiful, but kind and cute as well, Toudou Shimako-san. Yumi-san stood awestruck for a moment.
Because of this, it was easy to see why Sachiko-sama and Rosa Gigantea would scramble over her. She was, after all, the type of person you would love to stand next to and walk with. Pure white, with soft, brown, curly hair.
In contrast, even with the same colour of hair, Yumi simply had unruly hair. She had managed to subdue her jumpy bristles with ribbons by dividing them in two. –A wild animal part cotton-candy, part Savannah.
Shimako-san spoke to them once more, holding open the door.
"Let's go, Yumi-san."
Gulping hard, Tsutako-san grabbed Yumi's arm. If all else failed, she was planning to drag Yumi down with her.
After taking one step, a mysterious space surrounded them.
Immediately inside was a blow-through floor. When you turned left, you were greeted by a steep staircase. Straight ahead as you reached the second floor was a stained-glass window the size of a door, and the evening sunlight stretched down like it had walked down the steps and to the lower floor.
There was no sign of life on the floor. To the right and above that were rooms, but as Shimako-san said, there didn't seem to be anyone on the first floor. Knowing this, it was apparent that even had Yumi knocked on the door, it was likely that no one would have noticed anyways, causing her to feel exhausted even before beginning the monumental task that lay ahead.
Shimako-san deftly walked up the stairs, holding down the pleats of her dress so they wouldn't rub against the stairs. Yumi and Tsutako-san looked at each other, nodded to each other, and followed suit.
Roughly half of a year since becoming a high school student. For Yumi, the Rose Mansion was as forbidden a space as a Sister's residential ward.
Yumi suddenly felt anxious.
"Is it alright for you to bring in an outsider this easily?"
Shimako-san stopped and turned around at the highest step, briefly looking surprised before saying "Oh dear."
"Why do you consider yourself an outsider? This building is being used as the Yamayurikai headquarters, so the staff members maintain it, but each and every student is a member of the Yamayurikai. We more than happily welcome people who wish to speak to us. Of course, if a hundred students all pushed in at once the floor might collapse?"
Lowering her shoulders a bit, Shimako-san laughed.
As she said, this old wooden building probably could only fit fifty people at once.
Yumi wondered, during what era was this built? The Lillian high school buildings were definitely not new by any account, but even their stairs did not squeak like these.
After climbing the stairs, a biscuit-shaped door appeared on their right. When they followed Shimako-san toward the door, they suddenly heard an earsplitting voice.
"Even so, why do I have to do it?"
It was a loud enough voice to have traveled through the door. When Yumi thought about how such a loud voice didn't seem befitting of the Rose Mansion, that same voice yelled once more.
"This is tyranny! The onee-samas are being mean!"
The word "mean" and the plate hanging from the doorknob reading "Please be quiet, as we are in the middle of a meeting" felt strangely unbalanced.
Incredible. A student capable of saying "mean" in the presence of seniors.
This was, after all, the Rose Mansion. There was no doubt that, inside, beginning with the Roses, distinguished members sat, almost enshrined.
A normal student couldn't attend this meeting and say "the onee-samas are being mean."
"Oh, good. Sachiko-sama seems to be present."
Shimako-san turned the doorknob.
"Then that voice was Sachiko-sama's…"
Yumi was, honestly, stunned. That Sachiko-sama would raise her voice in such a way, would use a word like mean and sound so cross while at it. It seemed like Tsutako-san was just as stunned.
On the other hand Shimako-san just smiled, saying "It's always like this," and opened the door without knocking.
And that exact moment.
"I understand, then. If that's what is being demanded, then I just need to bring her here! Yes, I will bring her here at once!"
And with what could be taken as a sharp parting remark, one student shot out of the room. It was an unfortunate accident that arose because she had been leaning on the doorknob just as the door was opened from outside.
As soon as she thought a person had flown out, Yumi felt a light impact on the front of her body. Then, her sight tilted, the ceiling spun, and she felt a sharp pain at her rear.
Ignoring Shimako-san, who had used the door as a shield, and Tsutako-san, who had held back to be last in line, the direct hit almost seemed like the person had aimed directly at Yumi, who was second in line.
That's why the "ah!" was the person who flew out, and "uwah!" was Yumi's voice.
"Are you alright?"
She heard Shimako-san and Tsutako-san's voices.
It had become a confusing situation, and she didn't know what was happening. Only her buttocks had hit something, but a soft pressing feeling remained around her stomach and breast. Plus, because someone else's hair was covering her face, even though she knew she was supposed to be facing upwards, she had no idea where she was and she had lost directional senses.
Murmuring that, the person lying on top carefully raised herself. When Yumi's vision cleared, the first thing she saw was none other than Rosa Chinensis en bouton, Ogasawara Sachiko-sama. She, too, had not yet realized what had happened, and simply sat, slowly shaking her head.
The straight, long, black hair swayed like the hair for models in commercials and, gradually, returned to their native positions. The difference with TV was that a floral scent accompanied this hair.
"Aww. That was a flashy fall."
"Eh, she got crushed by Sachiko's 50kg? How miserable-!"
"Heeey. Victim, are you alive?"
The students whom were in the room slowly crept out, having noticed the crash. It was a line-up you could only see in a Yamayuri general meeting. Rosa Chinensis, Rosa Foetida, Rosa Gigantea. Next to Rosa Foetida were her bouton and her respective petit sœur.
"Eh, I crushed someone!? Are you alright!?"
Having finally realized what happened, Sachiko-sama hurriedly tried to raise Yumi.
"Sachiko. You shouldn't simply move them. If they hit their head it could be disastrous."
Rosa Foetida en bouton came forward from the crowd. Second-year chrysanthemum-class number 30, Hasekura Rei-sama. Being the daughter of a martial arts family, she had probably seen her fair share of people who had gotten concussions.
However, her sailor collar and low-waist plaited-skirt uniform made her seem even more like a handsome person in male attire – a sight that was a rarity in Lillian. A slender figure with very short hair. Even this uniform, that seemed like one that an antique doll would wear, was worn by her like a man's formal divided skirt.
"Ah, I'm alright, I only hit my back."
Yumi hurriedly stood up. Her butt still throbbed, but otherwise it seemed like it could turn into an uproar.
"Are you sure?"
Sachiko-sama leaned forward with a worried look.
Ahh, if you look at me at such short range, I feel like running away. Your beautiful eyes will get sullied.
"Yes, as you can see."
Unable to bear the atmosphere, Yumi stood up and hopped around like a phoenix bird. She disliked her clownish behavior, but the atmosphere felt like had she not done so, they would have called an ambulance.
"That is a relief."
Perhaps relieved, Sachiko-sama hugged Yumi tightly. The same feeling in her breast as before. Ahh, so that's what it was. It was Sachiko-sama's breasts. Because of the uniform's construction, it's difficult to tell the difference between different peoples' figures, but her breasts are along the lines of the abundant. … This wasn't the time to be thinking of this. Graciously, at the moment, Sachiko-sama was embracing her.
"By the way."
Still embraced, Sachiko-sama whispered in Yumi's ear.
"You are a first-year, are you not? Do you have someone to call onee-sama?"
That moment, she thought of that first-year student who self-destructed by wearing a loose tie. In her stead, Sachiko-sama berated her onee-sama.
Would she drag in a sœur over colliding? In this case, it was an accident, and Sachiko-sama had been the one that had crashed into the standing Yumi.
"Which is it?"
Sachiko-sama whispered urgently.
"I don't… why?"
Because it felt like a secretive conversation, Yumi also suppressed her voice as she answered. Then.
"No worries. Just do as I say."
Extremely forceful. Without given any reason, she was dragged out in front of the extravagant members.
"I have a report for the onee-sama."
As opposed to the hysteric voice that cut through the door, Sachiko-sama had returned to the icy voice of norm.
"Oh my, I wonder what is starting?"
Rosa Chinensis inquired with an intellectual smile. As expected of Sachiko-sama's onee-sama. She had the composure and presence of someone who could make even Sachiko-sama dance on her fingertips.
After leading with that, Sachiko-sama whispered toward Yumi and informed her, "Introduce yourself." She had just realized she had never asked Yumi for her name.
"Ah, first-year peach-class number 35. Fukuzawa Yumi."
When she tried to introduce herself to Sachiko-sama, she half-turned Yumi's body. Apparently, she had wanted her to introduce herself to the Roses.
"I see, Fukuzawa Yumi-san. How do you write that with kanji?"
"Fukuzawa from Fukuzawa Yukichi, you add 'right (右)' to a shimesu-hen (ネ) for Yu, and Mi from the year of the snake (巳)."
"A joyous, and good, name."
Rosa Gigantea smiled brilliantly.
Finally, Rosa Foetida looked at Yumi from head to toe, as if appraising her.
"What with this Fukuzawa Yumi-san?"
All of a sudden, Yumi had been surrounded by the three Roses.
Maybe this is how it felt to be a frog hunted by a snake. Even though her name had "snake" in it, she wanted to be pardoned from this. If it weren't a snake, it was a briar forest. They say pretty roses have thorns, but she definitely realized the Roses weren't merely pretty onee-sama.
Even though she had only hit her buttocks, her head felt light from the invisible pressure. What was Sachiko-sama planning to do after capturing a frail first-year?
"Onee-sama. Would you please cease staring in that way? Look, Yumi is absolutely terrified."
She didn't even know her name until just now, and yet they were already on a first-name basis? Is, how Yumi would have liked to retort, but because it was Sachiko-sama, her mind simply went blank.
The standard at Lillian was to add –san to the end of every name, so first-name basis was limited to only extremely close relationships. Even her parents went by a "friend-like parental relationship," so she was called "Yumi-chan" by her parents. The only person to call her simply Yumi was her little brother, who'd become cheeky as of late.
However, it sounded good. To be called "Yumi" by Sachiko-sama.
Even though she didn't really know what was happening, it felt good, so she decided to play along with Sachiko-sama. Even she could come in useful to her. –That sort of feeling.
"That's true, it could have been unpleasant, we apologize, … umm, Fukuzawa Yumi-san."
Rosa Gigantea craned her neck for a slight bow. This person was Shimako-san's grande sœur. Her face was, in contrast to Shimako-san, more of an exotic look, but she was still far too beautiful to look at up close. Her graded semi-long hair flowed behind her hair like wind and looked pretty.
"However, we cannot help but be attentive to Sachiko's, as Rosa Chinensis en bouton, conduct. I hope you will understand?"
"… y, yes."
Yumi could understand why the Roses would be attentive of Sachiko-sama. But she could not comprehend why they would be staring so intently at her.
"Rosa Gigantea. I would appreciate if you did not speak to Yumi so off-handedly."
Sachiko-sama stepped in front of Yumi, as if shielding her.
"Oh, since when did Yumi-san become your personal possession?"
Rosa Gigantea raised an eyebrow and giggled. Having had her fault taken away, even Yumi, standing obliquely behind of Sachiko-sama, could tell she was beginning to contort her face in anger.
"Well, Rosa Gigantea. Let us hear what Sachiko has to say, first."
"Oh yes, that's right. She did say she had something to report."
As Rosa Chinensis and Rosa Foetida brought back order, Sachiko-sama seemed to cool down, lose her angered look, and then nod.
"I will have you carry out that promise from earlier."
Rosa Chinensis asked back.
"As long as I choose now, everything is settled, correct? In that case, I am choosing Yumi."
Sachiko-sama grabbed Yumi's shoulders and pushed her out front. As if she was showing off a newly-bought toy.
Because Yumi had no idea what was said "earlier," she had no idea what was happening. Rather, she had been brought into a mess without knowing it.
She looked to Tsutako-san and Shimako-san for help, but they both shook their heads. They had both arrived at the same time as Yumi, so they, too, could not grasp the situation.
"Would 'earlier' mean the parting remark you cried out right before you walked out that door?"
The three Roses looked intently at Sachiko-sama.
Smiling triumphantly, Sachiko-sama flowed on, speaking the words that plucked the spirit out of the entire room:
I declare Fukuzawa Yumi to be my petite sœur.
 Part 5.
A white cup was filled about seven tenths to the brim with a red, steaming liquid and placed in front of This is a liquid called 'black tea.'
"Would you like sugar or milk?"
A relatively short, pony-tailed girl offered a stick-shaped item from the basket. This girl was, if I remember correctly, also a first-year. I forget her class and surname, but she was the petite sœur for Hasekura Rei-sama, the Rosa Foetida en bouton, and I think her name was Yoshino-san.
"No, thank you."
I thought in a daze after refusing. Umm, what was milk again?
Ahh, I'm so confused.
The one who was the most surprised by Sachiko-sama's declaration was none other than Yumi herself. She was frozen in place, even oblivious to the uproar around her. How many times must Sachiko-sama petrify her in one day?
Let's settle down and talk about it. Is what happened, and thus everyone moved into the room, past the door with the "meeting" plate.
Sachiko-sama, who'd made the selfish declaration in the first place, left behind her sœur, Yumi, even if the declaration was a temporary loss of mind, and angrily shouldered her way into the room. Prepared for battle, would be the most suitable way to describe her state.
"… War, with Sachiko-sama."
In reality, if you went by image, the two of them probably were more suited to being in completely separate positions.
"Oh dear, what a helpless onee-sama, leaving her little sister behind."
When Rosa Gigantea embraced Yumi by the shoulders and walked into the room, Sachiko-sama seemed to have realized her clumsiness and so she stood up, pulled out the seat next to her, and beckoned, "sit here."
Then, when everyone sat down, black tea was distributed. And that was where we were.
This room had an atmosphere unlike any other school facility. Just like the stairs and the hallway, the floor and walls were of worn, wooden boarding. Aside from the one adjacent to the hallway, the other three walls each had a wooden-framed bay window, and the clean cotton curtains for each were opened and fastened with a thin ribbon. The size was about half that of a classroom, and there was an arrangement of flowers on the elliptical table in the middle of the room that could probably seat up to eight people. Rather than a student council headquarters, it felt more like an old, western-style dining room.
Of course, the three Roses were seated at the table, as were Sachiko-sama, Yumi, Shimako-san, and Tsutako-san, who was treated as a guest. Rei-sama and Yoshino-san pulled chairs over from around the washstand by the wall.
The electric pot was making a bubbling sound, having had fresh water recently added. I had never even imagined students elegantly sitting and drinking black tea after school in a school building. At some point, even cookies were placed on top of spread tissues.
I had no idea you were treated this well when you became a Yamayurikai staff member.
"Let me start off by saying, please do not misunderstand, we put in a lot of personal effort into keeping this a pleasant space to be."
As if reading Yumi's mind, Sachiko-sama, sitting right next to her, whispered. The Yamayurikai budget was not used for tea, she seemed to be want to say. Each member brought in tea themselves, and cookies tended to be donations from classes that had cooking class.
"If you prefer, we have coffee and cocoa. They are, however, instant, so their taste is not top-notch."
Rosa Chinensis smiled.
"So come and play any time you wish. As you are Sachiko's sœur, you are a valuable friend."
Lowering my guard and then nonchalantly firing off the main question. The Roses certainly were not a normal kind of people.
(That, that's right, the crucial matter was still left unanswered.)
Sachiko-sama's bombshell of a statement had left everyone staring at each other.
While certainly not having forgotten, Yumi honestly wished she could simply forget. She could not think of a reason. In fact, having ended up as a victim of an accident, she could not grasp why she was being made to sit in such a seat. It felt more like she was being summoned as a witness for a trial or a parliament.
"Oh, Rosa Chinensis, so you accept Sachiko's assertion?"
"But Rosa Foetida, if Sachiko has made the decision, we are not in the right to pursue the matter, am I wrong? Rosa Gigantea, do you have an opinion?"
"I think whether we accept it or not should be left for later. At the very least, not while one of the protagonists is looking like her eyes might pop out in surprise."
Immediately, everyone looked at Yumi.
(Pr, protagonist, does that mean me-!?)
"Poor thing, she's struggling to grasp the circumstances."
The Roses giggled. Yumi began thinking they were simply having fun at her expense.
(Of course, that has to be the case. It must.)
She could not think this gorgeous membership would have taken that earlier joke seriously. To begin with, regardless of what condition Sachiko-sama was in, there was too much impossibility in her making Yumi her little sister.
Maybe it's all a joke that Sachiko-sama is a part of. Of course, that must be it. Then it all makes sense. "We apologize, our joke might have gone too far." –if they were to say that now, I could laugh, return, "I knew it was weird," and squeeze out of this in one piece.
"No matter what anyone says, Yumi is my little sister."
Sachiko-sama still refused to bend with her statement. What could she be thinking?
"Personally, I would like to ask Yumi-san too, not just Sachiko."
Yumi flinched at the sudden shift of focus. As had been evident, Yumi had not been able to grasp the circumstances. It would be easy to say "I don't know," but she could surmise from the atmosphere that such a statement would simply corner Sachiko-sama into a further predicament.
If possible, she wanted to be an ally for Sachiko-sama. However, how could you fight when you didn't know who was an ally and who was an enemy? She wished Sun Tzu could teach her the art of war right there.
"If I say so, it must be so, am I wrong? There is no need to confirm with Yumi."
She stands firm. Sachiko-sama looks unwilling to crumble her firm stance.
"Just be silent for the time being."
Zap! Even to her ally, Yumi, she was merciless.
Of course, had they really been sœurs, onee-sama's order would be absolute, so she would remain silent. But as that wasn't the case, Yumi felt Sachiko could have been a bit kinder.
"It seems you want to continue this conversation without Yumi-san, but I won't allow that."
Rosa Gigantea's eyes sparkled.
"Sachiko. You simply dragged a passer-by into this mess for the sole purpose of escaping from the job imposed on you, right?"
(Job imposed on her…?)
The moment Yumi tilted her neck to the side, a person sitting far away raised her hand and said "wait." That was Tsutako-san, who Yumi had forgotten existed.
"What is it, Takeshima Tsutako-san?"
"I am honoured that you know of me, Rosa Gigantea."
"Yumi-san notwithstanding, there is no student that knows not of you. You are notorious, after all."
I'm sorry I don't stand out – Yumi whispered, deep inside.
"I am grateful."
Tsutako-san continued after fixing the position of her glasses.
"I do not mind if you simply wish to consider me an outsider, but may I ask one thing, having been allowed to listen in on the conversation?"
"I have no idea what is going on."
Why Sachiko-sama had to declare Yumi to be her sœur. What connection that has with this "imposed job." Tsutako-san seemed to be wanting to know.
"That is true, forgive us for not explaining."
Rosa Foetida nodded. Sachiko-sama urgently stood up.
"There is nothing to explain. I chose a sœur, that is all. The meeting is over."
"How selfish. If you wish to break up the meeting, you may return home by yourself. Of course, Yumi-san will stay here with us."
Sachiko-sama had no choice but to sit back down to Rosa Chinensis' words.
"To put it shortly, Sachiko decided to reject a job for the school festival she had previously accepted, today, after all this time."
"Because you changed your story."
Sachiko-sama complained, but Rosa Chinensis continued.
"The story did not change. Even if there was not enough information presented at the time, your own role remains unchanged."
"Umm, … what is Sachiko-sama's job?"
Now Yumi asked.
"Ahh, we were short on explaining once again. Actually, for this year's school festival we are planning to hold a play."
"The Yamayurikai staff will get together and perform."
It sounded extremely extravagant. Yumi wished greatly to be allowed to watch.
"Us three Roses, being part of the executive committee for the school festival, are busy every day. Of course, that means the boutons will have to be the central figures for the play."
Rosa Foetida added that they planned to borrow members from the dance club as extras.
"Dance club, what play are you expecting to perform?"
Tsutako-san eagerly asked, it seems her blood as a cameraman was beginning to catch fire.
"Cinderella. The dance ball scene."
"And, and the lead role?"
Forgetting her situation entirely, Yumi also became excited. This one had her 'closet Sachiko-fan blood' catching fire.
"Of course, Sachiko."
Sachiko-sama, as Cinderella.
Then Rei must be the prince!? A splendid recital contest of two boutons.
It's beautiful just imagining. Too beautiful. It was getting into Takarazuka territory.
I have to secure a ticket, no matter what. I wonder if they hand out numbered tickets prior to the event, or something. It was something to look into before heading home.
Wait, hold on.
They did mention Sachiko-sama rejecting the job earlier. That means she wants to stop being the lead actress-.
"This year we intend to call upon a guest from Hanadera. Sachiko seems to object."
"It's customary. As both schools neighbor each other on the same hill, Lillian and Hanadera Institute help each others' student councils during the school festivals. We helped out during their school festival last month, too."
It sounded like a neighborly relationship from the countryside. Funerals, weddings, fires, moving. No matter what, people are willing to take a break from work to help out, that sort of custom.
I had a culture shock when my grandfather died in Yamanashi, and his neighbor took a break from his bank, even though it was a busy time at the end of the term, to help take condolence calls. But to see the same thing carried out so close, and by high school students, at that.
"I have no objection to the inviting of a guest. But I see no reason why the Hanadera council leader has to be the prince."
Ah, I see. Rei-sama is not the prince.
"Then what would you have him do? Cinderella? Will Sachiko do the prince, then?"
Yumi was probably not the only one who thought, 'that might be more interesting.'
"Why does it end up like that. I was just thinking, maybe back-stage work like carrying around props-."
"How could you even insinuate making a guest do menial labour? We were the judges for their main event. Even if it might have worked, they did not request us to pour tea. Although Sachiko might not have known this, having skipped out on the appointed day?"
"What I cannot stand is that we are changing role distribution now, two weeks before the school festival."
It was a verbal dispute between Sachiko-sama and Rosa Chinensis. A duel between sisters.
"And as I said, Hanadera's council leader was intended to be the prince from the start."
"That's a lie. Rei was saying the prince's lines all the way up to yesterday."
"I was told from the onset I was just a stand-in."
Rei-sama raised her hand to fan away the electric pot's vapours.
"See, look. Aside from Sachiko, everyone knew. If you are still in disbelief, you may speak to the handicrafts' club whom are working on the costumes. The princes' costume is being tailored to suit Hanadera's council leader."
"So you decided this while I was not in attendance."
Sachiko-sama grinded her teeth, frustrated at how her position was becoming disadvantageous.
"Oh, wake up, we have no need to call secret meetings. … Ah, however, come to think of it, Sachiko did skip out on a number of meetings. We might have decided upon this then. However, in that case you brought this upon yourself, did you not? You always fled when we had a meeting with Hanadera. This is what happens when you never deal with your dislike of men."
(Dislike of men?)
I got it! Yumi clapped her hands in her mind.
To combine everything so far, Sachiko-sama accepted the leading role for the play, as decreed by the Roses. Whether it was intended or whether it was an unfortunate communications miss, only Sachiko-sama missed out on the notice that Hanadera's council leader was to play the prince's part. Having found this out today, Sachiko-sama became as furious as the raging flames, and proclaimed that she was withdrawing from the leading role. The reason is, -well, because she hated men.
(But, hating men…)
She'd never thought about it, but Sachiko-sama and the description 'hating men' seemed to fit together perfectly. There were students in Yumi's class whom admitted to having androphobia or simply hating men, and she did have the same sort of aura.
(I wonder if she dislikes her father, too…)
As she absent-mindedly had such thoughts, she felt as if she was being stared at, and when she looked up, she noticed Rosa Gigantea, jaw protruding and eyes narrowed, laughing at her.
"You were going through life's many phases."
Yumi rushed to suppress her face. However, it was too late. She couldn't take back the 'life's many phases,' and a great wave of red attacked her face, like it was delivering a finishing blow.
"You have an unpredictable nature, you're pretty fun."
Is almost definitely not praise. Even though my grade in Japanese is rather average, I can tell that much, Rosa Gigantea.
"Hmm. However, how does Sachiko-sama disapproving of the lead role tie into her making Yumi her little sister? The plate outside says 'in a meeting,' but does that mean you were discussing a role change?"
Tsutako-san continued her my-pace questioning. However, Rosa Foetida smiled bitterly and lowered her shoulders.
"Well it was meeting, in the beginning."
The staff members who packed into the Rose Mansion after school every day for school festival preparations. Presumably, they intended to discuss a number of problems that had arisen.
They began the meeting without waiting for Shimako-san, who was going to be late because of day duties. Plus, as she was just a bouton, her attendance was not mandatory.
To explain things a bit, the Yamayurikai is the student council, as it would be called in an ordinary school. The official staff members that would be called the "staff" were the three Roses, Rosa Chinensis, Rosa Gigantea and Rosa Foetida. These three filled the student president, vice president, secretary and accounting roles, as per the management structure passed down through generations.
No one really knows when the student council roles became synonymous with the Roses. Whether the chicken or the egg came first. Anyways, when someone mentions the Yamayurikai staff, they mean the red, white and yellow Roses.
However, beginning with the student council, they are also the School Festival Executive Committee, they organize the seasonal events such as the Freshmen Welcome Party and the Graduate Farewell Party, and though not as gaudy also are the Budget Committee and hold general student meetings, and perform a vast number of other small duties, certainly too much for the three to handle alone. As such, you could almost call them apprentices, but the Roses have their sœurs lend their hands as assistants. As long as there is no stunning upset, the Yamayurikai management tends to be passed down in such a way, so that the little sisters of the Roses are called boutons. Everyone accepts them as Roses waiting to blossom.
"Most of the agenda was easy to make decisions on, so the meeting was going smoothly."
"Then Sachiko began complaining about the play appointment."
"When we teased her to silence her, she exploded. Sachiko carries herself well outside, so she's popular, but she has a rather violent temperament, so it is extremely difficult to keep a handle on her."
The Roses said plainly.
"Tease!? That was not mere teasing, you were driving a stake into my heart!"
Sachiko-sama was agitated by the reminder.
"You said I have no right to speak, as I cannot even find a petite sœur."
"I did say that, but that did not mean 'Regardless of who it is, get a petite sœur.' To grab the first first-year you see upon stepping outside, how hasty, how simplistic. You are not warashibechouja after all."
A bead of sweat appeared on Yumi's forehead.
(So that would make me a straw.)
Well, thanks to their explanations, I can see what's going on, but this is becoming ridiculous.
"Warashibechouja, that is splendid. If I remember correctly, it had a happy ending, did it not?"
Sachiko-sama, now you're making no sense.
"So you intended to simply hold onto Yumi-san until you found a better person? I cannot accept such a relationship. As your grand sœur even my dignity would be in tatters."
Rosa Chinensis sighed, disgusted. However, Sachiko immediately responded, staring straight at onee-sama.
"I will take care of Yumi forever. I will train her and turn her into a magnificent Rose. There is no problem then, correct?"
Even if that was prompted by the way the conversation was going, was it wise to say such big talk? It would just magnify her shame when she would have to take it back.
"Stop saying things as you think of them, Sachiko."
"Why do you claim I am simply thinking as I speak?"
"You just met Yumi-san just now. How could you make such a promise?"
Invisible fireworks kept scattering.
However, it was three versus one. Plus, the three were the strongest third-years among the Lillian Girls' Academy High School students.
"If I am not mistaken, you did not even know Yumi-san's name until just earlier?"
Sachiko-sama's tone fell. As if seizing the opportunity, Rosa Gigantea spoke softly.
"Isn't that enough? That's enough stubbornness."
That's right, Yumi thought. It was better to admit defeat in a dignified manner. If she did not want to be Cinderella, there would surely be other ways to resolve the matter. Little sisters are not there to be impulsively bought. She should think harder and find a more suitable partner.
If Sachiko-sama were to choose another first-year, it would be a shock. Even if it was arbitrary, Yumi was happy Sachiko-sama announced her to be a sœur.
Just then, Shimako-san stood up.
"I think Sachiko-sama and Yumi-san did not just meet."
Until then, she had faded into the background like she didn't exist. Like Rosa Foetida en bouton and her petite sœur, it might be that boutons are not supposed to intrude unless needed. Sachiko-sama seemed to be the exception.
"And why do you think so?"
Rosa Gigantea asked her own sœur.
"Because Yumi-san came to visit Sachiko-sama."
"Eh? I thought Shimako brought them here?"
Rosa Chinensis shifted her eyes between Yumi, Tsutako-san and Shimako-san.
"It seems we did forget to ask why Yumi-san and Tsutako-san came here."
Apparently everyone simply assumed that Shimako-san had brought her personal friends, or had brought students volunteering to help with the school festival, or wanted to bring up a problem with a club or the gymnasium usage, or something of the sort. Of course, there was no helping this, as Sachiko-sama's hysteria and the collision and the sœur declaration had left everyone in a confused state.
"Is this true?"
Rosa Gigantea directly asked Yumi, not Sachiko-sama.
Wrangling out an almost inaudible voice, Yumi answered. Even though she had nothing to be faulted for, she disliked these situations. It felt like when her mother was asking for her reasons after a sibling fight as a child.
"I have proof, too."
Tsutako-san took the opportunity to cut in. She handed something to Rosa Chinensis.
(Ah, the photo from the morning…!)
She only got a glimpse, but there was no doubt it was the two-shot photo.
But still. The situation seemed to be settling down, but the two classmates, whatever they were thinking, complicated everything again.
"I see, so the two had already met before. Excuse my discourtesy."
The snapshot made its rounds, and finally fell before Yumi and Sachiko-sama. In this way, Sachiko-sama learnt of the existence of the photo.
Yumi lay in wait, curious as to how Sachiko-sama would react.
When Sachiko-sama took ahold of the photo, first she tilted her head to the side the slightest bit, then slowly began to look at Yumi.
She's contorting her forehead. But it wasn't a look of displeasure.
(This-, this puzzled look-.)
Sachiko-sama whispered so that no one else could hear.
"I wonder when this happened."
I knew it.
She had completely forgotten.
Even though it had occurred just that morning, the fact that she had already forgotten meant that Yumi was too bland to remember. Either that or, for Sachiko-sama, it was too trivial to bother remembering.
Either way, Yumi was disappointed. If her face wasn't remembered, then there was no need to fix her reputation.
However, with that knowledge, Sachiko-sama's actions were nothing short of bold. In her mind, she had taken a first-year she'd never met and declared her to be her sœur.
She has no right to be angry at being called warashibechouja.
"As you can see, Yumi and I, as shown in the photo, have already established an intimate relationship."
Wait a second.
Now armed with a prop, Sachiko-sama seemed to relinquish her hysteria and adopt a more logical attack.
What fast regeneration. The whisper of "I wonder when this happened" must have dried at the rate of a gas-based drying machine, such was the speed at which she recovered.
"Plus, I feel you have no right to intrude on who I choose to be my sœur?"
It seemed she was fully intent on keeping to her lie about Yumi to the bitter end.
No, that's not the case. Sachiko-sama probably wants to convert it from a random declaration to reality. It was hard to say, but probably to get out of being Cinderella.
"Indeed. Even if you came up with it on the spot, to have qualms about you proactively choosing a petite sœur or intending to tear you two apart is not within our rights. You are first and foremost a student in this academy."
Even so, Yumi felt they had to say something. –Lest this goes in a bad direction.
Sachiko-sama was still Rosa Chinensis en bouton, and was destined to become Rosa Chinensis in half of a year. For her to call this normal, average student her sœur, even for a moment, was synonymous with creating an uproar. There was no need to even test this.
In that case, Tsutako-san is unique enough to be a better fit. Even so, why did I have to be the one to run into Sachiko-sama.
"Okay, I approve."
Eventually, Rosa Chinensis said that, and Sachiko-sama's expression brightened. With just that, the atmosphere in the world transformed into a glittering space. Right, just like the scene where Cinderella has magic cast upon her.
Rosa Chinesis continued, smiling.
"This does not mean you do not have to be Cinderella. Just remember that."
Sachiko-sama slammed the table with enough force to overturn cups. Cinderella after the magic had worn off.
Rosa Chinensis laughed scornfully.
"You made that up yourself, did you not? I clearly said that people without a little sister have no right to speak. Therefore, feel free to speak, from now on."
"Then please remove me from the role."
"Hating men does not fall under 'a critical reason for which the change of roles is the only solution.' In your case, it is not like you have an allergic reaction from seeing men, or you feel like vomiting, or anything, correct? Just because you say 'I do not want to' does not mean the world will conform to your wishes. We call that self-centered. I am sure you, as the next Rosa Chinensis, are aware of that fact?"
With that, Rosa Chinensis, put her hand to her cheek and exaggerated despair.
"I am sure this comes back to my inadequacy at teaching. But I had no idea you would not understand such a basic thing."
What a pity. Sachiko-sama had no retort.
Perhaps in this way, the Roses become stronger from generation to generation. It felt like I had just experienced a dreadful dressing room scene.
"I am leaving."
Sachiko-sama abruptly stood up.
Rosa Chinensis remained sitting, looking up at the sœur whom she had just crushed.
"Let me confirm one thing. What is Yumi-san to Sachiko?"
"Do you still feel as though Yumi-san is your sœur?"
Rosa Chinensis is probably asking whether, now that the role of Cinderella is unrelated, Sachiko still asserts Yumi as her sœur.
- I retract what I said before. Of course Sachiko-sama would say that.
After all, making Yumi her sœur was a big act to extricate herself from being Cinderella. With that no longer possible, there was no reason for her to keep Yumi, whom she didn't know the face nor name of, as her little sister.
"Of course, Yumi is my little sister."
Sachiko-sama said something unexpected. Yumi sat up and apprehensively searched Sachiko-sama's face for clues.
She was hysteric until just recently, and she was confused, so maybe she messed up her use of Japanese. Surely she must have meant to say 'she is not my little sister.'
"Onee-sama, are you attempting to slight me? You make it sound as if I made Yumi my sœur for the purpose of using her."
Woah, woah, but wasn't that the case? However, because the opponent was Sachiko-sama, Yumi held back on her desire to interject.
Will someone please say something, in my stead?
Rosa Chinensis nodded, satisfied.
"If you were to throw away Yumi-san now, I would have had to cut our sisterly ties."
Why do things have to become so outrageous?
There was no premonition of this when I woke up. When I stepped out of my house, when I walked through the school gates, nothing was different than usual.
Only, my sailor collar was bent. From something so trivial, I was sucked into such a big incident. I felt like a person in a vortex.
However, for someone stuck in a vortex, it kind of felt like I was in the outfield.
"Did you hand her your rosary?"
"Not yet. I would not mind performing the ceremony in front of everyone, if you so desire?"
"That sounds good."
Wait a second.
Is no one going to stop Sachiko-sama? At this rate, this average person is going to become the petite sœur of Rosa Chinensis en bouton. This isn't the time to be saying "that sounds good" while smiling and sipping cooled tea!
"What's wrong? She looks like she wants to say something."
Rosa Gigantea noticed Yumi's expression.
"I wonder if she has qualms about performing the ceremony here and now."
"Oh come now. Is there any student dissatisfied with receiving a rosary to become a formal sœur?"
Quipped Rosa Foetida, as matter-of-factly as if she were repeating an equation.
"But see, some people prefer to be alone."
"Well aren't you romantic."
That's not what I mean, that's not what I mean, but-. Yumi sat speechless, unable to find the timing to butt into the Roses' musings.
As for what Sachiko-sama was doing while Yumi stuttered, she had quickly reached into her breast pocket and retrieved her rosary.
(Are you serious!?)
Once you place that over an underclassman's neck, you can no longer take it back. It might seem over-the-top, but the sanctity of the give-and-receive of a rosary is like that of a marriage registration.
Or maybe I was the one being insane. This is all a dream. The typical pattern, where the alarm rings as the rosary is placed around my neck, waking me up.
(But do you feel pain while dreaming?)
When I hit my butt in the hallway, it actually hurt. I tested this by pinching my arm, and it did hurt.
"Stay still, Yumi."
Sachiko-sama orders. The rosary in her hand was on stand-by above Yumi's head, its lace opened wide for ease of placement.
If that hung around my neck, I would become the petite sœur of Sachiko-sama, whom I adored.
Botamochi from the shelf. A top from the gourd.
No, more like a horse. A spinning top from a gourd is no surprise. But if you plucked a horse out it would be like 'are you serious?'
Ahh, this isn't the time to be thinking about that. There is only one thing to think about.
Is this okay?
Is it okay to just become a sœur like this?
Yumi and Shimako-san simultaneously shouted.
"Sachiko-sama and the other onee-samas, everyone forgot the most important thing."
The Roses scoffed.
"Do you think she would refuse the rosary?"
"I will not presume. However, I feel it is proper to hear her feelings."
Shimako-san said this firmly. While you might not expect it from how she looks, when it comes to it, she stands up for her opinions. As expected from Rosa Gigantea en bouton. Even so, as a fellow first-year, it was an envious trait.
Anyways, the ceremony was halted, so I was thankful of Shimako-san.
"Indeed. Even if it is an offer from Rosa Chinensis en bouton, there are those like Shimako who say 'I'm sorry.'"
Rosa Chinensis lightly threw a ball to check Shimako-san. It seems that rumour was true.
"However, Yumi-san is Sachiko-sama's devotee. Of course she wouldn't refuse?"
Tsutako-san spoke to Shimako-san, almost like idle chatter.
"I agree. She… Yumi-san, just by observing her I could tell she was a Sachiko fan almost immediately."
Rosa Gigantea nodded. I see, she saw all of my facial expressions because she was observing.
If that's the case, maybe Sachiko-sama likewise figured out in an instant, and that would explain why she had no hesitation in dragging Yumi into the mess.
And by her side, Sachiko-sama was rolling the rosary in her hand, seemingly oblivious to the outcome of the discussion. It seemed she was supremely confident that Yumi would not refuse the rosary.
"Still. There is that chance. Shall we ask, then?"
Rosa Chinensis turned to Yumi and asked.
"Sachiko wants to make you her sœur. Have you the intent of accepting?"
Asked so directly, Yumi lost her words.
Become Sachiko-sama's petite sœur was a fairy tale, like marrying a Hollywood Star. But because it was an unattainable dream, you could continue to dream, and enjoy it.
And now, a ticket for an express train to that dream was in her grasp.
It would be a lie not to say 'yes.'
But deep down, she thought, 'is that okay?'
Everyone stared at the silent Yumi. Then, Yumi solidified her resolve and spoke.
"I apologize. I cannot become Sachiko-sama's sœur."
Everyone began murmuring.
"Now it's getting interesting."
Rosa Gigantea irresponsibly laughed, Rosa Chinensis rolled her eyes, and Rosa Foetida was petrified with jaws agape.
"Do I, have the right, to ask why?"
Sachiko-sama trembled a bit.
"I was certainly a fan of Sachiko-sama, but."
"What, did you become afraid after seeing her true self?"
Rosa Chinensis cut in and asked Yumi.
"Not at all."
Although it was slightly different from her selfish image of Sachiko-sama, she was glad she could see the human side – her sulking and her being angry. Because of that, she felt she couldn't attribute it to disliking Sachiko-sama's personality.
"It's hard to explain, but. Because I'm a fan, doesn't mean I would do anything to become her little sister…"
"Because as a fan, I do have a bit of pride."
"It's disgraceful to be expected to follow orders, tail wagging and all."
"Not quite, but…"
I thought it was hard formulating how I felt into words.
"Well, either way, Sachiko got rejected again."
"Poor Sachiko, two consecutive upset losses."
"The first-years this year are really something."
The Roses surrounded Sachiko-sama. Although rather than consoling, they seemed to be having fun.
"If you think I'm pitiful, will you do something about Cinderella?"
Sachiko-sama forced a smile.
"Oh dear, Sachiko, who hates being pitied, is starting to beg."
"You say to do something, but do you have anything in mind?"
Even though they know.
If you were to step back and look at the whole scene, you would see an interesting image. Sachiko-sama had turned into a toy for the Roses.
"Drop either me or the Hanadera council leader from the leading roles."
"Oh what are you saying, just because you were rejected by Yumi does not mean we have to feel that much pity for you."
Of course, that sort of logic wouldn't fly. However, I began to think it was a bit cruel to force her to dance with a man like this.
She was so averse to co-starring with a man that she tried to make Yumi her little sister.
Yumi suddenly shouted out.
"You were still here?"
Perhaps because she was still stung by the rejection, Sachiko-sama sounded bitter. Even though, as they stood next to each other, she clearly would have known had she left, how uncute.
"Um, would it be possible to tell the Hanadera council leader to step aside this time?"
"Are you trying to back up Sachiko now?"
Rosa Chinensis swayed her jaw-length hair happily.
"It's not about backing her."
Yumi surprised herself, noticing that she was opining to Rosa Chinensis.
For whatever reason, she felt different from usual.
"We sent a formal commission to the Hanadera council leader, so that is impossible."
"Then how about swapping Sachiko-sama's role, at the very least?"
"For example, swapping with Shimako-san's role. Shimako-san is just as pretty as Sachiko-sama. Plus she is also Rosa Gigantea en bouton."
Shimako-san, at having been singled out, shot a look of "how could you say that!" Yumi put her hands together and apologized, in her mind. Even though it was a supposition, maybe it was a bad idea.
"Shimako, a first-year, for the lead role?"
"I think first-year second-year is inconsequential."
"That is true."
I thought, just one more push. Rosa Chinensis stared up at the ceiling in thought.
"Since it was a communication mishap, it seemed like everyone was laying the blame solely on Sachiko-sama. But everyone also-"
And then a voice cut in.
Sachiko-sama, standing next to me, suddenly shouted.
"If you say any more, I will not forgive you."
Rather than the usual hysteria, this was a more weighted tone.
"I understand you are saying this for my sake. However, please do not trouble the onee-samas over me."
Sachiko-sama laid a soft hand on Yumi's shoulder, then snapped right and lowered her head to the Roses.
"I apologize. I will scold her later."
The shoulder she was touching felt sad. Even though I'd tried to help Sachiko-sama, it might have been a complete whiff.
Rosa Gigantea mumbled.
"What Yumi-san tried to say is true. As Sachiko did just find out today, and the responsibility for that lies at least partly within us. How about we think about the role a bit more."
The other Roses immediately began countering. No matter the reason, the costume and posters were already ordered, and as it was almost time for the dress rehearsals, role re-distribution was too tough, seemed to be the strongest argument.
"However, forcing her to dance with a man is wrong, too. For Sachiko's sake, as well as ours."
"I see. People who coerce their juniors into doing things are not fit for leading the student council. Plus, 'Cinderella' is going to be our banner production."
"But it's hard changing roles now."
Rosa Gigantea happily cut into Rosa Chinensis and Rosa Foetida's worries.
"Basically, we just need to make Sachiko willing to play Cinderella."
"Even though we cannot change the Prince?"
"Yup. And without changing the cast."
Rosa Gigantea explained.
"Lets have a bet."
"Unsparingly forcing her to do Cinderella is unfair. So we'll give Sachiko a chance, and if she loses, she has to undergo the penalty."
However, what is bothersome is how she seems confident that Sachiko-sama would lose.
Rosa Gigantea whispered into Rosa Chinensis and Rosa Foetida's ears, already gaining their approval. It seemed like she was using Sachiko's numerical inferiority to her advantage.
"If I win?"
Sachiko-sama asked, unperturbed.
"I'll promise this time, once and for all, you can step out of Cinderella."
"I understand. I accept the bet."
"Sachiko-sama! You're accepting the bet even without asking what it is!?"
Even though it might have been meddlesome, even Yumi burst out at this.
"It hardly matters. It makes no difference if I lose."
Sachiko-sama's rather surprisingly a gambler. Even though she was fastidious, she didn't seem to disgust bets.
"Well, as per Yumi-san's request, I'll explain the rules of the bet."
Rosa Gigantea simply stated, suppressing a laugh.
"Whether Sachiko can make Yumi-san her sœur or not. Of course, Sachiko will be betting on 'yes.'"
The one that was surprised the most was, of course, Yumi.
(I thought I was done here!?)
"You were already refused once. Getting her to accept your rosary by the school festival is almost impossible. However, the moment it happens, you're immediately off the hook. In exchange, you will participate in dress rehearsals as normal until that time comes."
"I see. If I do not want to hold hands with Hanadera's council leader, I need to seduce Yumi as soon as possible, correct?"
"That's right. We will not interfere in any way. Winning or losing is entirely up to you. I think the terms are pretty fair, would you agree?"
"Sounds better than I expected."
Sachiko-sama already looked like she was confident of winning.
"Oh, and, one more thing."
Rosa Gigantea spun around to Yumi and spoke.
"No accepting the rosary simply to be useful to Sachiko. The moment you say okay and the Cinderella role becomes vacant, you're stepping in."
"Eh, why me?"
"What are you saying? When you accept the rosary, you become Sachiko's sœur. Of course it becomes your duty to fill the vacancy left by your onee-sama."
Are they insane?
"I, I, I can't replace Sachiko-sama! That, that's impossible!"
"No worries. You won't accept the rosary. As long as you stay true to that, Sachiko is guaranteed to lose."
And if it falls to Yumi, that would be amusing in itself, says Rosa Gigantea, a dreadful thing to suppose.
"Then, then rather than a bet between the Roses and Sachiko-sama, it becomes a match between Sachiko-sama and I-."
"You can look at it that way. … Well, if you're going to regret anything, regret that you the Buddhist heart that made you think, even for an instant, of helping Sachiko."
Rosa Foetida's word choice of "Buddhist heart" felt out of place at Lillian Girls' Academy.
Tsutako-san muttered, as they walked along the gingko tree roadside.
"Why didn't you just say 'ok'? If Yumi-san became her little sister, it would have been so easy to negotiate."
The autumn sun was falling quickly, and when Yumi was freed from the Rose Mansion, you could already call it twilight.
"Then Tsutako-san, you were worried more about the photo than me, during that whole time?"
"Of course. Who do you think I am?"
The photography club ace, Takeshima Tsutako-san, I think.
"But it's getting interesting."
Tsutako-san said the same thing as Rosa Gigantea.
"Because it's someone else's business."
"I'm at ease because it's someone else. Ah, that's right, now it's Yumi-san's turn to finally collect land tax. It's disappointing that another precious sœur-less person leaves the world, but, well, if the opponent is Sachiko-sama, it's only a matter of time, I think? It would have been more amusing to designate a deadline date, in my opinion."
"Tsutako-san, you think Sachiko-sama is going to win?"
"Because Yumi-san seems so much less energetic about this."
To be honest, I was thinking the same thing. When attacked from head-on, I can't help but wonder if I would end up shaking my head vertically, crushed by sheer power.
"But. Cinderella is on the line, so I can't just lose."
When I raised my fist with resolve, Tsutako-san corrected, "That word choice makes you sound like you want to play it."
When we arrived at Maria-sama's statue, we stopped and put our hands together. This is customary. Heading to school and leaving from school, every day one time each. Actually, any time you passed by this statue, you always greet her.
(Maria-sama, today was a terrible day. If it's possible, please return me to my peaceful days as soon as you can.)
I opened my eyes and turned around, and then.
"Wait right there."
It was déjà vu. Just as in the morning, an icy voice that seems to have come from Maria-sama.
Whether she had come running, she was panting and standing roughly 10 meters behind Yumi.
"Remember this. I will absolutely become your sœur."
Even amidst the odorous fallen gingko nuts, the figure of Sachiko-sama standing straight and proclaiming the challenge was awesome.
"Gokigenyou. Do have a safe trip home."
Having said all she wanted, Sachiko-sama smiled and vanished off to the school buildings.
"She looked pretty cool."
Tsutako-san quipped, as we watched her off.
Even Yumi, that moment, felt her resolve teeter off its base.
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