Maria-sama ga Miteru:Volume3 Chapter5
 Springtime Buds
 Part 1.
-If this is how I'm going to end up feeling, I won't desire for another person, ever again.
On my sixteenth winter,
I experienced a farewell so painful it cut my body apart.
I first met Shiori during a spring day. One morning that I arrived at school far earlier than I usually did.
Why did I come to school early that day, despite not having anything planned? Frankly, it's because I thought it was time to wake up, that's all. I went through all of my morning preparations an hour early, hopped on the earliest train, and didn't realize my mistake until I noticed how much less crowded it was.
I hated keeping time, to begin with, so I don't really double-check what time it is. I'm the type that thinks I'd rather get to school late than hear the alarm clock ringing, so I've come to accept this sort of mistake happens.
When I stepped off of the circulation bus from JR's M Station in front of our school, the sunlight was blinding to my half-awake eyes.
Shielding my eyes from the sun, I walked through the high gate. The blue sky looking down on me through the thick roadway of gingko trees looked like it was etching out a soft pathway, like Milky Way.
It had an embarrassingly romantic echo. If I were to say that during class, what kind of faces would everyone make?
-How unexpected. That twisted Satou Sei-san has a cute side to her, too?
But I had no intention of pleasing them.
Flipping my long, back-length hair, I muttered, "Idiotic."
But the closest word to the answer to that was "everything," as well as "myself."
Like the innocently smiling students at this school, like they were saying, I have no dissatisfaction with this world.
Like those pathetic parents that never questioned if they were raising their children properly.
Like the school that didn't bother labeling me a delinquent because I always had top-notch grades.
Like myself, living normally on a daily basis despite being annoyed by everything.
All of those, everything.
If I can't find anything to love in this world, including myself, the biggest problem probably lay in myself.
This world existed long before I did, and so it probably headed toward a better place by majority vote. People who can't conform to that world, then, bear responsibility for being unable to conform.
I'd figured that much out, so I've been lying low. But a sixteen-year-old adolescent sometimes rejects having to play out the role of a "pure maiden."
Why do I have to laugh with everyone?
Why do I have to involve myself in conversations that I don't care about?
So I keep myself silent.
Nothing I can do. Because this is the meadow of angels.
So Maria-sama, standing in the middle of the fork in the road, looked to me like Nio.
She looks so serene, so kind, but in reality, she was dividing students walking into the school into good or bad.
I formed a pistol with my right hand and pointed it at the white Maria-sama statue. The holy maiden Maria stood in front of the small, green forest, and prayed to heaven for the sake of her students every second.
"Bang!" I sounded in my mind, and I ran, laughing.
Running down the pathway of freshly-budding trees was invigorating. I'd always wanted to do it once, when there was no one around.
I didn't mind people seeing me, but being questioned for it was a pain.
I didn't believe in Maria-sama, so I wasn't afraid of divine punishment. Jesus of Nazarene and his mother Maria were both real people that died long, long ago. After 2000 years, even ghosts must have gotten bored.
And if Maria-sama was really that close to God, she was supposed to save these bad sheep. Now, come, save my aimless soul!
I ran, shouting that, over and over again.
It was the middle of spring.
I'd just become a second-year in high school.
It wasn't that I had any dissatisfactions. I just had no warmth. I was wandering in the dark, in a dried, vast wilderness.
I didn't know what I should do.
I didn't even know what I wanted to do.
Panting, I leaned against the sanctuary wall. I'd somehow ended up here. My subconscious seemed to have run me the opposite direction from the school buildings.
Oh well. I'll rest here for an hour, and I entered the sanctuary.
After a few steps into the dark, silent corridor, the first thing you saw when you opened the thick, decorated door was a wooden statue of a crucified Jesus Christ. When you glanced to its left, a full-colored Maria statue. And to its right, a stained-glass window of brilliant colors. Long, wooden benches were on either side of the passage down the middle.
The morning prayer of the sisters must have ended, as there was no one inside.
I chose a seat by the wall on the second row from the back and leaned back. A picture of angels was painted on the ceiling. It was the first time I'd looked at it, relaxed, like this.
I wasn't a Christian, but the sanctuary was a beautiful place, I could say that much. I didn't dislike Buddhist temples, either, so I might simply have a liking for religion-based architecture.
I wrapped my arms around my shoulders and closed my eyes. It soothed me. It felt like I was rolled up in a ball, surrounded by a tough shell.
Don't touch me. Forget about me.
My body wanted sleep, but my mind was unusually active. But that's alright, I rolled over to my side.
How much time passed? Eventually, I lost track of time, and I didn't even know if I was awake or dreaming, when I heard something.
Like an herbivore that was at rest, my body immediately reacted, and I jumped up like a spring-powered doll. Who cares if someone saw you, a voice whispered inside my head.
And they were apparently surprised at my sudden movement, as the person who'd made the noise before spun around. –She sat in the front seat, near the middle.
Both of them had spent time not realizing they were there.
She had probably been kneeling and praying, and I gulped my own breath after watching her stand up slowly.
With the stained-glass window's light shining upon her right shoulder, she looked so white, so divine.
Smiling, she walked toward me. She was wearing the Lillian Girls' Academy high school uniform, and her straight hair reached down to her waist. And her skin wasn't as pale as I'd first thought.
"… A first-year?"
I might have been looking at her like I was appraising something.
"Yes. I'd just arrived at Lillian this year."
Her bright voice sounded soothing.
I didn't remember each and every face in school, but I probably wouldn't have forgotten her if I'd seen her a single time.
I carved that name in my heart. It was just a name, but it was curious, how the fact that it belonged to her made it so much more special.
I'd never bothered with other people before, but when it came to the first-year student named Kubo Shiori, I became incredibly curious. So I smashed my feelings right at her. Not satisfied with her name, I asked about what class she was in, what middle school she attended, where she lived, I kept asking such impolite questions.
At first, Shiori looked bewildered. But because my questions were borne out of curiosity rather than being critical, she politely answered each and every one of them.
Shiori graduated from a school in Nagasaki, and she was recommended to Lillian. But her lack of an accent was because she was originally from Tokyo. Her parents died in a car accident when she was in third grade, so she was taken in by her uncle in Nagasaki, and now that her obligatory education was over, she decided to return to her home. She had no relatives in Tokyo, so she attended school from the school dormitories.
Shiori bluntly spoke of her tragic fifteen years of life. At the very least, that moved me. Her tolerance for an rude upperclassman, who she was meeting for the first time, and her willingness to accept me, it felt incredible.
She was mature, and she looked like even my twisted, thorny self could hold her hand, and she would be so divine that not a scratch would befall her.
"Will that be all?"
After a moment of silence, Shiori looked at her watch and spoke.
"I must be going now."
I was conflicted, by the desire to stay like this, and the realization that it was becoming awkward. But I nodded anyways. And after I nodded, I felt incredibly heartbroken.
"I'm sorry for having taken your time."
"No worries, I'm used to it."
Transfer students from other schools were often questioned like this, she smiled, with no hint of bitterness.
"Oh, my name is-"
"I know. Rosa Gigantea en bouton, Satou Sei-sama."
"During the first-year ceremony, you were introduced."
After answering thus, Shiori politely bowed her head and stepped out of the sanctuary. Having lost Shiori, the sanctuary felt like it had lost some of its luster.
 Part 2.
I'm more famous than I thought.
Shiori knew about me from the Yamayurikai-sponsored first-year welcoming ceremony. I do remember being forced by my onee-sama, Rosa Gigantea, to help out, but it wasn't fun, but I wasn't allowed to escape, so I also remember just sitting there.
If I'd paid attention, could I have found Shiori from the crowd?
The answer is yes, of course. No matter how many people there are, there was only one Shiori, and she would look unique, separate from the rest.
Mizuno Youko looked surprised.
"… No, it's the first time you've ever said someone else's name, so I was surprised, that's all."
After school, I'd stopped by the Rose Mansion for the first time in forever, and this was the response I got. Youko, an honor student and a very caring person, finished reading some documents and then said, "So?"
"Nothing. I ran into a first-year named that this morning, that's all. I found out she's in the same class as your sœur, so I wondered if you'd heard any rumors or something."
She didn't seem to remember. I thought maybe there'd be information floating around, because of how strong of an impression she left, but that wasn't the case.
"If you don't know, whatever."
I'd begun to leave, when Youko grabbed my arm.
"Since you've come this way, just stay for a bit. I'd wanted to point out before that you don't seem to understand your position as a bouton."
But Youko's here, fully aware, so it shouldn't be a problem if I'm gone. Is what I thought, anyways.
"I didn't become a bouton because I wanted to."
"But you accepted it, by becoming Rosa Gigantea's sister, did you not?"
"She wasn't Rosa Gigantea then."
"What a quibble. My head hurts just thinking about next year."
Youko put a hand to her head and sighed.
Of course. Because other than herself, none of the bouton were dependable.
Rosa Foetida en bouton Eriko does what she's supposed to, but she always looks bored. And I happily skip. When the three of us lose the "en bouton" from our names, the Yamayurikai may seriously collapse.
But that's alright. Because my head hurts thinking about next year, too.
"Anyways, stay a bit, at least until someone else comes."
Youko wouldn't let go of my arm.
"Even if I get away, it's not your responsibility."
"But I still don't want to have let you get away, when I was by myself."
I sat down in a chair. Not necessarily for Youko, but because just standing was getting tiresome. Either way, Youko said "thank you," and looked through documents again.
After about five minutes, I could hear the creaking sound of someone climbing the stairs.
"Oh wow, what a rarity."
My onee-sama, Rosa Gigantea, arrived with Youko's sister, Ogasawara Sachiko.
That was a rare combination, too. When she got to the door, onee-sama held out Sachiko like a newfound doll.
"We ran into each other in the hallway, so we came here together. Sachiko-chan's like a cute Japanese doll, so I can't help wanting to be with her."
As onee-sama said, Sachiko was undoubtedly beautiful. I knew about her from before high school, because she was a year under me. Of course, knowing about her simply meant I'd seen her once, as I'd never bothered to meet her.
In her case, she was a famous figure in school because of her appearance and her stature as a young woman of a rich family. When Youko made Sachiko her sister, I thought, why would she bother with such a pain-in-the-ass person? But it was obviously because if Youko didn't do it, no one else would have had the courage to do it.
"I'm sorry to show up with a Western face, onee-sama."
"Oh, are you sulking? Oh you fool, Sei's face is Sei's face, I picked you because of your face, after all."
"Sorry, and thanks."
I felt satisfied. I loved hearing "I picked you because of your face" from my onee-sama. People can't see who you are on the inside, so when they praise you on your outside, it's a lot more persuasive.
As Sachiko sat down next to Youko, I moved myself to the seat next to onee-sama. I don't like an intimate atmosphere, but I didn't dislike the Rose Mansion. Maybe she knew it, because onee-sama never told me to show up at meetings or tea parties. In my case, I'd show up if I wanted, and I'd not show up if I didn't. So she knew it would be a waste of breath.
Yes. Onee-sama has always been good at handling me.
When I entered high school, I received a lot of sœur proposals, but I turned them all down. I just wanted to be left alone, but everyone kept clamoring, why don't you pick an onee-sama. When I began thinking that was becoming extremely annoying, Rosa Gigantea en bouton showed up.
She said she liked my face. I want to keep seeing your face, so be by my side. And with that, I decided to be her sister.
Having been told why I'd been liked, I felt a lot more at ease.
That's why sometimes I showed up at the Rose Mansion and sat down, for her sake. I didn't like meetings, but I just needed to sit there and pretend I was listening.
Using Youko and Sachiko and onee-sama's voices and giggles as a BGM, I silently sang "Maria-sama's soul." As for why I decided to sing that, it was because it's the first song that flowed through my head. As long as it was a song I knew, I wouldn't have minded a modern Japanese ballad, either.
I wasn't fond of conversing with girls my age. That's why I spent time during recess reading novels. I knew I was an enigma in my class.
Rosa Chinensis and Rosa Foetida arrived, so the meeting began. "Maria-sama's soul" ended with nice timing, so I began thinking about the girl I met in the sanctuary that morning, instead.
As Youko said, I thought it was surprising I became interested in someone else.
 Part 3.
I surprised myself with how aggressive I was.
To start with, I decided to wake up early and wait for Shiori at the school gate. Shiori had to go through the gate, as she used the bus at M Station. The reason why I picked the school gate, instead of the station or the bus stop, was because I decided it was the most probable place for her to pass through.
It was childish, I knew. I was filled with the hope of seeing her happen to walk through the gate, by chance. The possibility that she went to school together with a friend, or that I'd be rejected never crossed my mind.
In the end, that sort of unfortunate result didn't happen. Because Shiori never walked through the gate.
The wave of black uniforms came to a halt. I even forgot to run to the school buildings, instead absent-mindedly watching the doorkeeper close a part of the gate.
Before thinking about the possibility of her being late or simply missing school, I lost confidence. Did she really exist? Youko didn't seem to remember the name Kubo Shiori, and no one else was in the sanctuary at the time, so there was no way to prove she was Kubo Shiori, a first-year student. But strangely enough, it seemed to suit her, being an otherworldly existence.
When it became lunch break, I peeked into the first-year pine class. They must have been used to seeing a second-year, but this class seemed more bemused by second-years, and didn't really bother helping them out.
"What's the matter, Sei-sama?"
Sachiko called to me from behind. She'd been out of the class when I'd arrived, apparently.
"Is Kubo Shiori in this class?"
I couldn't help but ask for confirmation.
Sachiko-sama tilted her head, wondering why I'd ask such a thing.
"Is she absent, today?"
I confirmed her existence, but I still didn't see her in the room.
"Was she late?"
"She was in class when class began. And-"
Sachiko answered my next question.
"As for where she is now, I think the sanctuary."
"She's a devout Christian. So she's always praying in the morning."
That answered everything.
Shiori arrived at school earlier than I did, and was praying to God while I was waiting at the gate.
Even though I met her there yesterday, I'd never wondered why she was there and when she was there from. It wasn't like Shiori had gone there to sleep, like I did, anyways.
And when I heard Shiori was a devout Christian, I couldn't help but nod, so that's what. The "whiteness" I saw in her was probably her faith.
"Shall I tell her Rosa Gigantea en bouton was looking for her?"
"That would be unnecessary."
"You are going to the sanctuary now."
Without thanking her, I turned away from Sachiko. It wasn't like I had fault with Sachiko. But she was sharp, despite having no ill intentions. I knew that, but it still felt unpleasant having my affection toward Shiori seen through by a younger Sachiko.
After returning to my class once, I thought again and changed direction. It would be childish to not go to the sanctuary just because Sachiko said it, and I didn't want to step into a noisy classroom.
To begin with, I wanted to step out and get some fresh air. I walked out of the emergency exit, usually off limits. The fresh leaves were turning greener by the day, and their glitter beauty was so pleasant to the eyes it made class seem extremely stupid.
I would have brought a book. I wanted to skip class, imagining how wonderful it would be to spend time under this weather.
Consciously, or subconsciously, my legs carried me to the east. Maybe I could see Shiori. But it was okay if I didn't. I didn't know what I'd say, if I did.
My feeling, at that point, was honestly to just look at Shiori from afar. If I could watch Shiori without her ever noticing me-.
I looked up and closed my eyes. It felt like I was melting into the greenery. I would become twigs, the fresh leaves, and the wind that ran through everything. I wanted to vanish, like that. I wanted Satou Sei to be exterminated from this world, without anyone knowing I was here at all.
When I opened my eyes, like a miracle, Shiori was there. She was about ten meters ahead, and stopped a meter in front of me.
"Gokigenyou, Rosa Gigantea en bouton."
She was there, like it was the most natural of things. I couldn't help but think that she was the opposite of me, loved by the world and accepted by the world. Maybe that was why I was drawn to Shiori.
"I came to see you."
I wanted to be saved by Shiori. To purify this nonconforming soul, to return me to normalcy.
"I wanted to see you. Would this be a bother?"
I repeated myself. I was begging Shiori with an expression I wouldn't dare show my mother. At some point, I'd thrown away the armor my soul wore, that which protected me. There was nothing I could do if I was rejected. I'd found something in Shiori that I was willing to risk everything to get.
"How could I say it's a bother?"
With a calm voice, like a crystal-clear lake, Shiori replied.
"I was just wanting to see you, too."
I cried, surprising myself with how honest I was being. I wanted to thank God for giving me Shiori.
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