Maria-sama ga Miteru:Volume22 Chapter5
 Rose Dialogue
 Part 1.
Her house is just as huge as ever, Rei thought as she looked up to the tall gate.
Not just huge, but totally huge.
To use the proper Japanese she learned in Lillian, the house would not just be large, but very large. But "totally huge" just had some connotation in it that "very large" didn't. At least when applied to the Ogasawara Premises.
Rei felt very special to be considered a friend of the princess that lived in this sort of a place as she seared for the intercom. And to think that a visitor to such a majestic mansion came in a lady's bike was simply absurd.
The tall gate seemed more appropriate to welcome the cars of high officials or the best of domestic cars. The design hadn't even considered bicycles, so, sadly, her ride probably scored her a Double-Zero on the scoring chart for these things.
(Ah, got it, got it.)
Rei pushed the intercom button.
"What business do you have at the Ogasawara Residence?"
The female voice that called out through the intercom wasn't Sachiko's or Sayako Obaa-sama's. Probably a helper.
Maybe she had been too curt, but Sachiko-sama piped in.
"Ah, it's Rei. She's already here huh."
Sachiko said to her helper. Then she began speaking to Rei.
"Rei, the gate will open now. Come in."
Rei waited in front of the intercom for the gate to open, and suddenly it began opening automatically.
"I apologize for intruding."
Rei said as she biked into the premises.
(It's a forest, as always.)
There was still quite a ways until she hit the first building. Once she left the gate safely out of sight, she leaned forward into the bike and began pedaling faster.
(It's a park, like it always is. And wait, here comes the castle.)
Since this was all custom-made, they probably had to pay enormous taxes on it. What kind of thoughts for someone to have riding into such a place on such a bike.
She drove her beloved car into the parking structure to the right, stuffed the key into her jeans pocket, and left. Then she took out the plastic bag from her bike's carry basket and placed it on top of the bike seat. Rei began walking toward the house.
Rei walked up to the front of the house. Before Rei could ring the doorbell, Sachiko came out.
The smiling princess enters the stage. The princess wears a crimson colored sweater with a long white-red checked skirt. On top of her shoulders, the princess sported a lovely gray-brown shawl.
"Are you feeling alright?"
Rei asked because Sachiko was acting more perky than usual.
"Ah, I'm fine now. I just that it would be great to see you outside. The day before you called Rei, I was really busy and I had collapsed, so I was told for the rest of the vacation I couldn't leave the house. I've been really bored, so I'm happy you came to see me."
"Your parents won't let you go outside?"
"My parents were fine. My grandfather's the problem."
"Sachiko, you really are overprotected."
"Way too much."
Sachiko opened the door and beckoned Rei inside. Rei called out "I'm sorry for intruding", and put her feet inside.
"You should call Yumi-chan over if you're bored."
Rei entered the house and began to sweat, so she took her jacket off. Perhaps she had biked too quickly while coming here.
"I can't call her. I collapsed while I was out with her at the amusement park."
"She's worried, huh."
Sachiko was with Yumi-chan when she started feeling bad, then something happened and they weren't letting Sachiko go outside. It wasn't Yumi-chan's fault obviously, but she felt guilty about it.
"That's why I'm keeping this a secret."
After Rei finished taking her sneakers off and putting on her indoor slippers, Sachiko's mother, Sayako Obaa-sama, met them.
"Rei-san, so nice to see you. It's been a while."
"It has, auntie."
Maybe Rei shouldn't be surprised at Sayako Obaa-sama either. She too was like a princess, young-looking, beautiful, and seemed to be the beauty who looked over and guided Sachiko. It may be rude to think this, but Rei didn't think Sayako Obaa-sama looked as if she had a high-school going daughter at all.
"You've heard that Sachiko has been bored right? Please, stay as long as you'd like."
"Sure. Thanks for the offer."
"How about lunch?"
"I just had some."
Soon it would be three o'clock. If she had said "Sure" then some amazing lunch would find itself in front of Rei. And it wouldn't be some normal amount of food either. Earlier when she had eaten some food here, she had been dumbfounded by the sheer amount of food she was given. After that day, Rei decided to never come here during a mealtime.
"Rei-san, how'd you come here?"
Unlike other mothers who were fine with just greeting their daughter's children and leaving, Sayako Obaa-sama had to engage her daughter's guests in conversation.
"I came by bike. It's not very far from my house. If I took a bus or the train, then I'd just spend time going in circles or going past all the stops, and get late."
She had marked out the shortest path on the map, but along the way she accidentally took a turn onto the hilly road and wasn't sure where to go. But today was a beautiful day, and Rei had a great time finding her way from some unknown back road on such a nice day.
"Rei-chan must look stunning on a bike!"
"... It's a ladies bike..."
"It's not one of those sporty ones. It's one of those that all mothers use bring back groceries from the store. The ones with the carry baskets in the front and the place in the back to keep stuff."
"Even that much look great!"
Sayako Obaa-sama's sense of fun was a bit off. She seemed to love everything that normal people did.
"No more mom. Rei, come to my room."
"Ah, wait. It's not much but, I baked a bit this morning."
Rei handed a paper bag to Sayako Obaa-sama. Then suddenly the two Ogasawara women looked at each other and exchanged odd glances.
Rei asked, worried that she had said something rude. Sachiko answered questioningly.
"That's not ... Mille-feuille ... is it?"
Mille-feuille? Why would they think it's Mille-feuille?
"No, it's a pound cake made of dried fruits...."
"Oh thank god. Thanks a lot. Rei-san go along with Sachiko. I'll bring the tea and cake later."
Sayako Obaa-sama seemed to jog off to the kitchen with the pound cake in hand.
Rei wasn't sure what had just happened so she asked Sachiko as they were going up the stairs.
"If anyone hears the words 'Mille-feuille' in my house, their stomach wretches."
 Part 2.
Sachiko-sama's room was a room fit for a princess. A huge, beautiful room.
But that didn't mean that the walls were lined with pink flowers or that the room was filled with teddy bears or other such girly things. It was a room of ivory walls and curtains of a brick-like crimson. The room was a work of art.
The curtains were different than the ones she had seen last time. Perhaps Sachiko changed the color for the season.
Rei considered herself a child, but even to her untrained eye, she could easily spot the furniture made of quality, old wood.
Just what didn't this room have? There was a four-poster bed, a desk, a grand piano, and a table set all fit into one room. Plus Sachiko even had her own bathroom.
Sachiko said, as she picked up a circular object from her table.
With a single glance, she knew it was. To Rei who had a hobby with such crafts, there was no mistaking it.
"Yeah, just a bit."
"No, I'm not as good as you are, Rei."
Sachiko hesitated, but then showed Rei the work.
"I don't really stitch that often."
Rei took the stitching in her hand and set her cheeks in place. In the middle of a white handkerchief, a red rose was blooming. This had to be a Bullion Stitch.
"It looks fine by me."
Sachiko smiled at the praise. Rei was a lucky girl to get a princess to smile at her like this.
"You can tell?"
"Well you know..."
Sachiko always daydreamed about Yumi. She didn't show it but she thought of Yumi as the cutest thing ever. Rei and Sachiko were good friends so Rei knew these things.
It was not quite love.
The two had a relationship that could be best summarized by something Sachiko's previous Onee-sama Mizuno Youko had said. "Ever since you made Yumi your soeur, you've started to make these great faces."
Yumi-chan was pushing Sachiko in a good direction.
"Even though we're still waiting on your cake Rei?"
The two laughed and suddenly a knock came from the door. Sayako Obaa-sama had brought tea.
"Thanks for waiting."
Sayako Obaa-sama said as she placed heated slices of Rei's pound cake on their plates.
"I tasted your cake already Rei-san. It was unbelievably delicious."
"Thank you. I put a lot of hard work into it."
Rei's response was simply flattery but it seemed to make Sayako Obaa-sama happy.
"What did you use to make it? Please show me some time."
"Oh, I'll write down the recipe and send it to you. As soon as I ..."
Rei stuttered as she spoke. Sachiko's composed face seemed to be giving Rei a message.
"Well not right now you know. Soon though."
"Oh yeah sure. Please don't forget."
Sachiko waited until Sayako Obaa-sama left for the room before she shrugged.
"Ah, thanks for holding back on the recipe. If you hadn't, the family's stomachs would wretch at the sound of pound cake too."
It seems like recently Obaa-sama had cooked a fairly large amount of Mille-feuille, and had been causing trouble for her family and friends. If that's all it was then Rei would have no problems holding off on the recipe from Obaa-sama.
Sachiko changed the subject as she sipped her tea.
"You wanted to talk about something right?"
Rei wondered whether she had revealed to much already, and finally admitted that she did want to talk. After all, she had something she wanted to talk with Sachiko about.
"You knew all along."
"I did. Just meeting without a reason isn't your style Rei. Though I would be happy if you just wanted to meet Rei."
"... I'm sorry about that."
"So am I. Plus I'm glad that you wanted to come and talk with me."
Sachiko went back to eating a bite of her pound cake and exclaimed "It's delicious".
"It's made of raisins, apricots, plums, and pineapples."
Rei began to count out individually the fruits that she had put into the home cooked pound cake.
"Is that all?"
"Ah, figs. Now that you mention it, it makes sense."
Sachiko seemed to feel more satisfied as she took a not very thin piece of cake, jabbed her fork through, and brought the fork into her mouth. Rei asked as she saw Sachiko eating.
"I've been thinking about a lot of things."
Sachiko's answer was ambivalent.
Did Rei really want to go through with this? The thing was, she was only having trouble with finding her resolve at the end of the very end of the last part. And the only reason she could go back on her decision was because she was still in a position where she could fall back on something but what she chose. Once Rei began talking about it, she couldn't take the words back.
"Would you listen to something I want to say? Are you up for that, Sachiko?"
"Not a problem with me."
"Just keep your thoughts to yourself until the end, okay Sachiko?"
Rei desperately pleaded with Sachiko. This was the reason she had come.
How should she start this whole thing? But Sachiko was only going to listen and not offer any conclusions of her own, so hopefully she wouldn't press too hard on the topic Rei was going to open with.
"Has become close friends with an underclassman."
"Middle school, third year, a girl named Arima Nana."
"Has Yoshino introduced her yet?"
Rei shook her head and said "No."
"I was doing some things, where I saw them together."
Rei was just relaying the story to Sachiko but maybe she was leaving too many of the finer details out of the picture.
"Oh, I was on an O-miai. That's when I saw Yoshino."
Sachiko suddenly straightened, and narrowed her eyes. Oh yeah. Rei hadn't said anything about that before the vacation.
But it had been a long time since that O-miai. Then finals came up and then the winter vacation, and she never found the time to tell anyone about it.
"Well, um, we'll talk about the O-miai some other time. I just met some cousin I knew. Someone told me that he was going to get the same surgery that Yoshino had gotten so I wanted to cheer him on...."
Sachiko smiled as she asked her next question.
"How old was he?"
"I thought so."
Sachiko thought and laughed dryly.
How had Sachiko known? How did she know it was a kid the moment she heard that he was going to have the same surgery that Yoshino had. Well Rei hadn't really given much import to the O-miai. If it had been a real O-miai then she would have probably made a much bigger fuss to Sachiko about it.
Now Rei was going back to her original point.
"So what does this Nana-san have to do with your O-miai?"
"Yoshino just dropped in unannounced to the hotel, and she had brought that Nana girl with her."
"My dad and the dad of the boy who I had an O-miai with knew about Nana so I decided to do some research."
"More things I'd never expect you to do Rei."
Sachiko let out a bored sigh. Even Rei understood that these rash decisions weren't things she normally did.
"It's because Yoshino didn't tell me anything about her."
Sachiko noticed that whenever Yoshino came into the picture, Rei would suddenly start acting differently and her judgment abilities would become impaired.
"So? What's wrong other than her name?"
Sachiko leaned forward in anticipation.
"Arima Nana used to be Tanaka Nana."
Rei answered as Sachiko swallowed a piece of the pound cake. It felt like there had been a very large chunk of apricot. The fruit chunk must have missed the slice of the knife by a centimeter, because the whole point of the cutting was to decrease the clumps of fruit.
Why was this the only piece that had escaped the knife, though? It had also been missed when Rei had dumped the fruits into the batter, and even when she had been mixing the fruits through the batter.
"Wait a second. Who is this Tanaka Nana?"
"The youngest daughter of the Tanaka sisters."
"Ah, like that Oonaka girl you faced off against in last year's and this year's kendo matches. Those Tanaka sisters?"
"Yeah, those. I was a bit surprised when I found out."
The man who owned the Arima Doujo was their son in law. It was a fairly well known story in the kendo world and so Rei's father and grandfather had known about it, but those lower in the Hasekura family hadn't.
And so Rei hadn't known. Rei didn't think Yoshino had known this either when she became friends with Nana.
"How do you think they met?"
Rei didn't know that much. She had investigated all she could about Nana's life, but she hadn't asked either how they had met. They were all on the same Lillian Girls' School premises, so there was at least one place she could have talked to either.
"But it's a very recent thing."
This had to be Rei's soeur intuition. But Yoshino hadn't seemed to be close with Nana before the school festival. And during the Soeur Audition Tea Party, Yoshino hadn't even been sure about the 'p' in petite soeur. Even though Yoshino had been so aggressive about it then.
"Whenever or wherever they met I don't care a bit about. But why couldn't she tell me?"
Rei stabbed the cake with her fork in her anger.
"I know, I know I'm asking too much of her. I'll be graduating soon and Yoshino needs to find a soeur. But at least, tell..."
Sachiko lightly tapped Rei on the forehead.
"You've become feverish."
Sachiko's touch had felt cool to Rei. And yet for some reason, the palm of Sachiko's hand had cooled Rei down.
"I'll hear all your complaints in a second. But first just calm down a bit."
Sachiko said and stood up. Rei looked at Sachiko, wondering what she was about to do. Sachiko turned toward the room door.
"You can't finish this piece of cake, right? So I'll just go downstairs and grab a spoon."
Sachiko pointed to the cake then left the room. Rei's eyes fell on top of the cake on her plate and there she found a piece that Rei judged too thin to be eatable with a fork.
 Part 3.
As Sachiko waited for Rei to finish her cake with the spoon, she began playing the piano.
Sachiko turned to Rei and asked after she had finished skimming through her practice book.
"'Für Elise' please"
Rei answered as she spun the spoon around in her hand.
"When I meant piano, I was looking for a recital piece."
"Well I can't remember any others! Oh, I also know the Minute Waltz."
It would be great if Rei could have said something like Chopin's "Nocturne A" or Mozart's "March B", but Rei had lived most of her music untouched by classical music and thus was completely oblivious about these things.
"Fine, I'll do Für Elise."
Sachiko looked for the song in her book and stood the pages of sheet music up on the piano stand. Was it organized by numbers, or in alphabetical order by an author's last name, or were the piece names themselves in alphabetical order? All Rei knew was that Sachiko had simply taken the book of music out and thumbed quickly to the page, so she knew the book well.
Could Sachiko play every song in that book? If she could, then wow.
"And now, to fulfill the guest's request."
The familiar melody wafted over Rei. So that's why Sachiko had wanted a recital piece. She wanted something that sounded nice at a distance. The music was very soothing to Rei's ears.
To Rei it felt as if she were hearing some age-old recording from a CD. The song put Rei at ease.
Rei knew that the next moment she thought about Yoshino, the blood would rush into her face. But right now it was necessary for her to calm down. If she did then her thought process wouldn't feel so one-sided.
Every note that Sachiko pressed seemed to be hit at the right time, just the right way.
Could Rei call that a perfect session on Sachiko's part? And then could she attribute a quality of flawless beauty to it? Even the lulls were punctuated by the perfect notes or lack thereof. It was almost as if the music on the sheet was coming to life. Even without saying such grandiose words, Rei felt that she could convey the beauty of the performance to Sachiko with a simple expression of thanks.
This isn't how Shimako would look at the playing though. She too might consider that all the correct notes had been hit, but maybe she would have called the middle section too soft. Or maybe rather than commenting on how loud Sachiko had played, she might have thought that the song's sound felt too distant.
To a person that played music, it sounded different. If Rei could play like Sachiko, what would her performance have sounded like? Maybe she too would be considering the qualities of the music.
When Sachiko finished playing, she placed her hands on her knees. Sachiko finally got up when she decided that Rei's mood had cooled down significantly. Sachiko closed her book of sheet music and put the cover of the piano down. Had Sachiko been looking at Rei for an encore, Rei would have urged Sachiko to play two or three more times.
Sadly, Rei hadn't come for a concert. Rei let the music go.
When Sachiko sat back down next to Rei, Rei began talking once more.
"I won't be going to Lillian Girls' University."
"I don't know if I can make it in time, but I'm applying for other schools."
"But didn't you fill out the escalator application?"
The day for filling out escalator applications had long passed. That day too Rei had been on the fence about where to go. So Rei had given the application just in case.
"On the last day of school, I'll tell the teachers that I won't be attending."
Sachiko nodded slowly. She recognized that this was the real thing that Rei had come to talk about.
Did she know? Sachiko's eyes continued the question. But as soon as she could even think of the question, the question answered itself in Sachiko's mind. Yoshino knew, obviously.
There was no way Yoshino wouldn't know.
Yoshino always wanted to be the first to know anything about Rei.
But Rei shook her head.
"I haven't told Yoshino yet."
For years now, Rei had been telling everyone that she would be going to Lillian for college. So obviously Yoshino thought that Rei would be going to Lillian Girls' University.
"I'm afraid of her."
Rei answered so honestly that Sachiko laughed.
"Aren't you getting too worked up about this?"
It was a good thing that they were such good friends. Sachiko understood all of these things.
"Maybe I am. But I know Yoshino would look me straight in the eye and ask me "why". Then my resolve would break."
"What good is a resolve that isn't resolved?"
"I think I'm right about what would happen. Yoshino is important enough to me that if she really wanted me to change my mind, I would."
"That's why before I tell Yoshino, I need to make sure my thoughts translate into actions. I want Yoshino to have no power over me when I tell her."
So she would tell Yoshino after she told everyone else.
"So you won't tell her that you submitted the escalator application either?"
Rei could not afford to show Yoshino that she was wavering. Rei had decided on a concrete path for her future life. And if they didn't have chances to talk with each other, then it would take longer for Yoshino to find out. That's how Rei wanted to keep Yoshino out of it.
"But does Yoshino have any right to get involved into which university you go to?"
Sachiko looked searchingly toward Rei's face as she asked.
"Maybe she does."
Rei said. Then suddenly she remembered something and said "No"
"I'll make sure Yoshino can't get involved with this."
Rei was definitely going to inform Yoshino some day of this. And everything Rei had done until now to keep Yoshino out of the way to plan what she would do with her life she had never done before. She had never kept Yoshino out of her life like this.
Plans for the future.
Rei remembered, and grimaced at the memories.
"You know. When I was a kid, I had thought that I'd become a nurse."
Rei had never told Sachiko about this before so she was certain that Sachiko would laugh. But Sachiko didn't.
For the little Yoshino who had to keep going back and forth to the hospital. She would even have to stay there a few times. When she saw Yoshino in pain, Rei was so touched that she wanted to become a nurse. Rei had felt that this was a message telling her what to do with her life. If she became a nurse, then she could be with Yoshino and be her strength. It felt weird but to Rei, Yoshino was the only real patient.
"The next thing I wanted to be was a doctor. I wanted to come up with some cure for Yoshino that didn't involve surgery. Because Yoshino had always been afraid of surgery."
"When I found out that Lillian University didn't teach Medicine, I was shocked. It was right before I entered high school. But if I had to go to a medical school instead of Lillian University, then I couldn't be with Yoshino, could I? So after two days of worrying, I finally decided. My first priority was to be close to Yoshino, and that after college I might go to med school."
Sachiko who had been quiet all the while smiled lightly. Rei too smiled. She continued talking.
"I was so sure of everything, right? I felt that if I kept my resolve strong toward this future, then all of it would be possible, even though I know that life wasn't all that predictable. But I had decided that the most important thing to me was to be with Yoshino. But."
Yoshino underwent the surgery on a whim, and then became fine. And then Rei didn't have to protect her anymore.
"Even though I was the one who had dedicated my life to being with Yoshino, I was the one left behind."
As Rei spoke her chest tightened.
Right. The pain from having realized that Yoshino had left her behind still hurt.
"I had grown up watching over her, and so when Yoshino didn't need me anymore I didn't know what to do. For me feeling needed was the most important feeling in my life. I had grown dependent on Yoshino. So I decided that I needed to slowly distance myself from her."
"That's why you wanted to go to some other school?"
"Yoshino and I are cousins. We live right next to each other. It's not that easy to shake her off. We even go to the same school."
"That might be, but still. Was Yoshino-chan the only reason you decided to go somewhere else?"
"It was. But I'm not running away. I'm looking ahead, not turning from what's behind. I'll be studying something that I couldn't here at Lillian."
"And what would that be?"
With her upbringing from Kindergarten in the Lillian school system, she'd be going on to studying to teach kindergarteners kendo. Wasn't that an interesting take to life? Still she knew her choice was one she was making because she had been raised in the closed world of Lillian. Once she left Yoshino and her life here behind, she knew she'd be able to see a much wider world.
She felt at ease with Yoshino. But she was so overwhelmed by this feeling of ease that she was essentially becoming an actor in Yoshino's life, not hers.
Rei had spent the whole year thinking about her choice.
"But I'm weak and my resolve is never strong enough. I kept going back and forth between my choices until I finally chose to leave Lillian. I knew that if I went on this way, I'd lose to Yoshino. I felt like my eyes had been opened."
"Lose? To Yoshino-chan?"
Yoshino was planning to bring Nana along to the Rose Mansion for the Christmas party. Rei didn't know what sort of introduction Yoshino and Nana had planned, but Rei had no doubt that Yoshino was planning to introduce Nana formally to Rei.
"If I try to grow up after Yoshino leaves me behind, it would be even harder."
Sachiko walked up to Rei.
"I think you've made a great decision."
Sachiko grabbed Rei's shoulders from behind.
"I'll think of you completely differently from now on Rei."
"So will I."
Rei began laughing. Suddenly, the doorbell rang indicating a visitor to the Ogasawara residence.
A sound that resembled Rei's alarm back at home, beckoning her to wake up.
 Part 4.
The wintry night finally came upon them.
From the window, the outside looked completely dark.
"Oh wow, it's already time to go huh."
As they were walking down the stairs, Sayako Obaa-sama came to meet them quickly.
"Would you like to stay for dinner, Rei-san?"
"No, not today, I'm sorry. I've already stayed for too long."
As Rei was leaving, Sayako Obaa-sama looked pointedly toward Rei.
"I won't be cooking tonight so you won't have to eat any new experiment."
Sayako Obaa-sama seemed to think that Rei was running away from Obaa-sama's cooking. Obaa-sama seemed to have realized that the always prepared insane amounts of food and she'd put too much time into the whole thing.
"No, it's not the cooking."
"Then what is it?"
While Rei was wondering how to politely decline the dinner offer, Sachiko came in from the side in a rescue boat.
"Mom. Rei came on a bike. It's already dark, and it's not good for her to be out so late."
".... I see."
Sachiko's persuasive reasoning stopped Obaa-sama's insisting. A woman with a daughter wouldn't still insist on a guest staying after all.
"Lately all the guests have been leaving by evening and it's becoming boring at night. Rei-san next time come and stay over at our house."
Obaa-sama didn't look like she would let Rei come in the house next time without staying over. Next time she came she'd have to bring a pack of pajamas.
Sachiko whispered as Rei put on her shoes.
"Who was here earlier?"
"What do you mean?"
Sachiko's mother asked Sachiko.
"You know, twenty minutes ago or so. I heard the doorbell ring."
"Ah, it was Suguru-san."
Sachiko's mother laughed. He wasn't a guest.
"It was Suguru-san?"
When Rei heard the name "Suguru", she decided to stay away from the conversation. But as she heard the Ogasawara women talk about him, she began remembering him.
Kashiwagi Suguru. Sachiko's cousin.
"What did he come here to ask?"
"Hmm. I wonder what it was."
When Sachiko's mother remembered, Rei was putting on her sneakers and Sachiko was putting on her shoes.
"Right right. He had come to return the Furoshiki from the Mille-feuille wrapper."
"That's all he came to do?"
Sachiko could make no sense of the answer and so she asked again.
"That's it. Even though he could have returned it whenever he wanted."
"Like when he borrowed the umbrella a year ago and came back to return it? But why?"
"I honestly don't know."
Sayako Obaa-sama shook her head. The two Ogasawara women folded their arms together and wondered why he had come. They looked like reflections of each other.
"Was the Furoshiki a very special one? Or was the umbrella made of vinyl or something?"
Rei tried to join in but the two shot down her line of thought with a simple "No that's not it".
"The Furoshiki was one of those you use to wrap snapper or sekihan, not something you should return because it is used to wrap wedding gifts!"
Obaa-sama walked over to a table next to the door. On the table was a vase, and next to it was the furoshiki. "Look", Obaa-sama showed it around. Just as Obaa-sama had said, this wasn't some special handmade furoshiki. It was one designed to be used and then thrown.
"The borrowed umbrella had been a women's umbrella and had been bought in Italy. Kashiwagi-san being a guy couldn't use that umbrella, unless it was raining very badly outside.
"... I see."
It was a real mystery. If Rei wanted to figure it out, she too would have to cross her arms and think.
"Well if you come back next week you can help us unravel the mystery."
Sachiko's mother laughed. They'd continue this conversation next time.
Tooru Oji-sama and Sachiko's grandfather hadn't returned yet.
Rei looked down at her watch. It was six fifty-five. She had come a bit late to avoid lunch but she was going back late enough for dinner so she had made up for it.
Rei's bike had been parked in the parking lot. Even though the parking lot was covered the seat was still wet, perhaps with dew.
Rei cleaned the seat with a handkerchief and took out her keys.
"Can I ride?"
Sachiko said as she pointed toward the bike. Rei didn't want Sachiko to walk along as she rode.
"You can ride a bike, right Sachiko? Or can't you?"
"Come on. I can at least ride a bike. Let me on, please."
Sachiko's long heavy skirt extended past her knees when she finally managed to push herself onto the bike. The handle got in the way of Sachiko's shawl so she placed it in the bike's basket in front of her.
At first Sachiko simply spun the tire around a few times. Then finally, she pushed the bike off smoothly and rode with it. Rei followed.
Rei ran down the road which cut through the middle of the forest-like park in the chill night air.
Sachiko hit the brake, then spoke.
"Let's ride together."
"It's fine. This is private grounds so no-one can fine us."
"I see. Okay, then let's go."
Rei's body was hot and she felt a bit light-headed. Maybe because she had run.
"Rei, you're warm."
Sachiko let Rei hold the handle and she sat behind Rei on the rear cargo box.
Rei pushed the pedals down as hard as she could. Sachiko was holding on tightly to Rei's waist.
The wind rushed by them as the bike sped down the path.
The lamps spaced around the path seemed to shine like stars.
Rei and Sachiko began to laugh as they rode.
They felt like a shooting star, zooming through the galaxy.
Could they ride this path forever, into eternity?
Could they reach out with their hands and touch the stars themselves?
With the wind rushing around her and her friend's warmth surrounding her, Rei had no doubt that they could.
 Part 5.
The seemingly endless path eventually stopped. The looming gate in front of their eyes brought them back into reality.
Sachiko got off the bike and opened the door. Rei pedaled the bike forward one step at a time.
Sachiko and Rei once again met where the gate separated the outside world from the inside.
Rei pushed her body against the bike and began pedaling again when Sachiko called out from behind "Rei".
Rei suddenly turned to look back. Sachiko's breath froze white in the air as she panted.
"I'll be going to LillianU."
"I was thinking of going to some other school, learning economics, and helping out my father and my grandfather with the family business but then I realized that I have a lot of time yet. I want to take it slow, and stay in Lillian for a little while longer."
"I want to stay in the same Lillian as Yumi."
When Sachiko finished, she looked relieved.
So Rei then happily waved back to Sachiko and began once more riding onward.
She started pedaling faster. The lampposts illuminated small chunks of the road in front of her.
Sachiko was staying.
Rei had suspected for a while, but hearing it from Sachiko's own mouth made the decision hit home.
In Yumi's Lillian.
Rei's chest suddenly tightened, and she felt a heat within her.
This was Sachiko's decision. What Sachiko had thought about, and worried about. A decision she had come to on her own. Rei could do nothing but wish her the best.
At the crossing, Rei stopped her bike one more time. The road she had been biking on was narrow. The road she would bike onto was a wide one, one meant for cars.
As Rei looked down from the top of the hill, the road she was about to turn own shined outward like the Milky Way.
Rei then biked onward, onto the new wide road, not even once looking back.
 Translator's Notes
- (TL Sukoshi: A Japanese ritual phrase.)
- (TL Sukoshi: "I'm sorry or intruding" or O-jamashimasu is a common Japanese greeting when entering someone else's house.)
- (TL Sukoshi: Furoshiki are special Japanese wrapping papers especially used to ornamentally wrap boxes and gifts.)
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