Maria-sama ga Miteru:Volume5 Chapter3
 Part 1.
"So, how'd it go?"
Tsutako-san leaned in, brimming with curiosity.
It was lunch break a few days after the "special meeting." Yumi was eating lunch with Katsura-san's group, but her hand that was holding her chopsticks was frozen.
"How'd it go? I'm sure you can tell just by looking at me."
Because she'd been eating lunch in the classroom for three straight days.
"My, my, Yumi-san, whose most notable feature is her vigor, is sighing. Which means the little sisters aren't particularly amused by all this."
It wasn't like they were expelled from the Rose Mansion, but it didn't feel comfortable sitting there. Because even if they were eating lunch together, the boutons would gather and discuss things amongst themselves. And when that happened, the "outsiders" would feel obliged to remain "outsiders" and scoot themselves to a corner, so they wouldn't hear.
Then, it would be better if they weren't there to begin with. So after discussing it with Yoshino-san, they decided not to frequent the Rose Mansion for the time being. If something were to happen, Shimako-san would notify them, anyways.
The boutons were all in different classes, and Rei-sama had club activities after school, to Yumi understood they didn't have much time to discuss things together. So when they did manage to gather in one place at once, it would be better to let them be.
"Tsutako-san, would you like to sit here?"
Katsura-san said as she stood, and offered her seat.
"Oh, don't worry about me, I'm fine."
"No, no. We finished eating, and we're going, now."
The five had pushed their tables together for lunch, and other than Yumi, everyone had stood up. Her four classmates neatly packed up their lunches and placed them in their bags.
Tsutako-san put a finger to the bridge of her frameless glasses and raised them.
"Yes. We invited Yumi-san, but she doesn't seem interested. But it would probably be lonesome eating lunch alone, so please, Tsutako-san."
Katsura-san quickly explained, before she hurried to catch up to the classmates whom were waiting by the door, and then they all skipped along to their destination.
"… What was that?"
Now that only Yumi could hear her, Tsutako-san let her guard down and muttered.
"They're going to the library to look up chocolate recipes."
Apparently one of them had found a wonderful recipe book at a bookstore, but it was extraordinarily expensive, so she couldn't afford it with her allowance. Well, she could, but then she'd be short on ingredients for the chocolate itself, or something. Anyways, someone else pointed out that she thinks she saw that book in the library, so they all decided, "let's look for that wonderful book!" and that was that.
And on a side note, the speed at which they ate lunch after deciding to go was incredible. Katsura-san had taught Yumi that it was better for one's health if one deliberately chewed and ate their food, but that same Katsura-san was swallowing down food after four or five bites.
"I see. A wonderful chocolate book. That would be fascinating, indeed. Why didn't you go with them, Yumi-san?"
Tsutako-san stretched back to her seat and grabbed her milk box, then sat down on Katsura-san's seat, which had been warmed like a zabuton.
"Sachiko-sama seems to hate chocolate."
Yumi meekly replied. She didn't want to talk about this.
"You jest. Sachiko-sama was eating Rosa Foetida en bouton's handmade Bûche de Noël on Christmas."
That was delicious, said Tsutako-san as she stared off into space. It wasn't really handmade, as she'd simply touched up a marketplace good, but Tsutako-san didn't really see it being made, so she didn't know about that.
"… That's right."
The Bûche de Noël is in fact filled with chocolate cream. Yumi saw Sachiko-sama eating it, too, and it was not like she was eating something she disliked out of courtesy.
Sachiko-sama was extremely picky with food. They'd only known each other for four months, but Yumi had completely grasped Sachiko-sama's expression when she found something she disliked. Someone who would look that disgusted by something wouldn't be able to completely hide that fact.
"Then I wonder if she's just against the act of giving chocolate on Valentine's Day? It's all the same to me, though."
"You lost the joy of giving chocolate on your anticipated Valentine's Day, is it?"
Even though you went through such lengths to do research, remarked Tsutako-san. Her milk box made a hissing sound as she drained the rest of it. She might have been being compassionate, but that spontaneous noise was intrusive, and so if she was being cordial, it ruined the feeling.
"Well that's indeed harsh. You've basically been kicked out of the Rose Mansion, but the classroom is filled with Valentine's Day talk."
Tsutako-san glanced around the lunch-time first-year peach-class.
It wasn't just Katsura-san and others. Two-third, maybe even three-quarters, whatever the number, the majority of the students were thinking almost entirely of Valentine's Day, so outside of class, conversations naturally drifted in that direction.
How to give the chocolate, which chocolate stores are good, I saw a chocolate recipe on TV, that sort of thing. The ones that were truly excited to the point of intending to present handmade knitting were even knitting at every non-class opportunity.
For the teachers that put up with us every day, for that senpai we admire, for that boy from another school that we have a one-sided love for, everyone had different people they wanted to gift, but everyone was thinking along the same lines.
It was just a week until Valentine's Day.
"So, what are you going to do?"
What is she going to do? She was gloomy because she didn't know what she was going to do.
"If this is how it'd be, I should have stayed an insider. Even if I become an outsider, it's not like I'm confident I can find Sachiko-sama's card."
Hearing Yumi's complaint, Tsutako-san mischievously prodded back.
"Mmm. So you don't care if someone else dates Sachiko-sama." "Of course not."
Absolutely positively not.
"Then there's nothing else you can do. I mean, you stepped out knowing it would be a long shot to begin with. What an ungallant way of thinking."
She knew that almost as much as she knew it would be a long shot.
That's why Yoshino-san was gallant. Because she knew it would be a long shot, but she stepped on that plane without any hesitation, and on top of that, she was proactively trying to figure out where Rei-sama would hide it. She only has one body, after all, so she was already planning out where she'd start looking, and so even though she wasn't with Rei-sama, her days were always busy. Plus, Yoshino-san still had the joy of giving Valentine's Day chocolate, on a completely different note from the date.
"I wanted to give Sachiko-sama chocolate, too."
Said Yumi, as she somberly looked up at the dreary sky.
"Then, why don't you make it and forcibly give it to her?"
Gosh, Tsutako-san, she even clapped her hands, as if she'd come up with a stroke of genius. Furthermore, Yumi could do it like how Yoshino-san returned Rei-sama's rosary, but calling Sachiko-sama to the Maria-sama statue. Tsutako-san was definitely aiming to grab a photo.
"Do you think I could do it? Me?"
After all, her onee-sama was her onee-sama. Yumi didn't think she could even call Sachiko-sama out anywhere.
"That's true, it might be impossible for Yumi-san. More befitting might be an image of you holding back tears while despondently making chocolate, and those tears drip into the mix, knowing that this chocolate would never be eaten. And the chocolate that should be sweet ends up being a bit salty."
Tsutako-san acted out a melancholic face and balled her hands, but all Yumi could do was sigh.
"… That's just enka."
Plus, how do held-back tears drip? She wished Tsutako-san wouldn't make fun of it just because it was someone else's problem.
"But Yumi-san, thinking is 'free.' If you want to give her chocolate, think of it from the perspective of giving, okay? If on the fourteenth of February Sachiko-sama suddenly wants chocolate, how would you feel if you weren't prepared? You would regret it forever. So you should start off by making chocolate, and if she wouldn't accept it after all, then you can call me and we can eat it together in the classroom."
I'll even treat you to canned coffee then, she concluded. Because after all, friends exist to be there for you. And Yumi began to feel better.
Tsutako-san then finished things off by adding that, if possible, she'd like to be present (if hidden) during the chocolate presentation, but Yumi graciously declined. It wasn't a documentary, and she wouldn't be able to speak with seriousness to Sachiko-sama when knowing there was a camera somewhere. If she wanted a perfect shot that badly, Tsutako-san could try to track them down. Her very own treasure hunt.
"Well then, good luck!"
While they were conversing, the early bell for the afternoon classes rang. After seeing Tsutako-san back to her seat, Yumi wrapped her empty lunchbox with a bandana.
Katsura-san and friends came back from the library filled with excitement. And the knitting students seemed to intend to keep knitting until the late bell.
-Which is when Tsutako-san came back, apparently remembering something.
"I forgot to tell you. This treasure hunt, actually the photography club is going to get a bite of the pie, too. But we're more like assistants rather than cooperatives, so we won't be told who hid what where, but the photography club is in charge of the photographs for the 'Lillian Kawaraban.'"
That's all, said Tsutako-san as she walked back in good humor.
And from that, Yumi guessed Tsutako-san didn't intend to give anyone chocolate this Valentine's Day. The camera and photo-loving photography club ace was going to chase young ladies this year, without any holidays, again.
 Part 2.
Would you call it habit? After finishing cleaning duties, Yumi realized her legs had absent-mindedly carried her to the Rose Mansion.
"Are you alone?"
Rei-sama seemed to have come straight from class, as she grinned in her school coat while holding her bag.
"Long time no see. Speaking of which, I have something I wanted to give you. … Hold on, -hmm."
She tried to sort through her bag, but she seemed to have decided that scouring through her bag while standing was difficult, so she said, "Well, let's go in for a bit," took Yumi's hand and went inside.
It was bad enough that Yumi had come by the Rose Mansion, wasn't it really bad if she actually went in?
But Rei-sama bounced up the stairs without any care, and breaking free and escaping wasn't an option. So Yumi resigned herself to following Rei-sama upstairs. As long as Sachiko-sama isn't here, she thought.
When they entered the room, Rei-sama turned on the lights after that gleeful exclamation.
"I'll prepare the teakettle."
Out of habit, Yumi dashed to the electric pot.
"Don't worry about it."
She tossed the old water from the pot, rinsed it, and filled it with new water. Then when she plugged the cord into the electric socket, it began making a dull, "I'm boiling the water now" sound. After that, she rinsed the dish rag, drained it, and wiped the table. She wanted to mop the floor, too, but she was afraid of the dust rising and decided against it.
"Well, I'll be going now, then."
When her cleaning habit came to an halt, she suddenly realized, "Why am I here?" and wanted to get away.
"Hold on. Thanks for doing all these chores, but that doesn't mean you have to go as soon as you're done, you know?"
"Umm, but, aren't you all going to have a meeting now?"
Because Rei-sama has club activities today. But she came straight to the Rose Mansion, so there must be something planned today.
"Well, we are."
Rei-sama laughed as she pulled out the seat next to her and beckoned for Yumi to sit.
"But I said I had something I wanted to give Yumi-chan, didn't I?"
She'd completely forgotten. That's right, that's why she came to the Rose Mansion.
Rei-sama took something out of her bag and placed it in front of Yumi. It was a book, like a thin magazine.
"I was thinking of handing it to you when I ran into you, so it was in my bag the whole time. A cookbook for pastries. There're a lot of recipes for handmade chocolate, and the directions are really clear, so it should come in handy. The recipe for Rei-san's specialty chocolate truffles is pasted somewhere inside, too."
"But, Rei-sama, won't you need this, too?"
"Don't worry. The important bits… well mostly just the ingredients, I jotted them down. And I have a bunch of other books like this, anyways. Or do you not need it anymore?"
"OK. Then, let's keep it a secret from Sachiko and surprise her. How about this?"
Rei-sama was lively, because it was her field of expertise. Her handsome looks got in the way of this image, but she was always caring to begin with. After all, she'd been able to get along with that Yoshino-san for this long.
While they were leafing through the chocolate pastries book, filled with color photos, the door suddenly opened behind them.
They'd been so absorbed they didn't notice the footsteps on the stairs, so the two of them hurriedly stood up and quickly hid the book under their bags.
"- Why are you so surprised?"
"No, nothing. At all."
Since she'd gotten up anyways, and the electric pot had finished boiling the water, Yumi poured tea for the two second-years.
"Yumi, how about yours?"
Sachiko-sama coldly asked.
"Ah, I'm about to leave."
"Do you have something to do?"
"… Yes, kind of."
Because she couldn't answer "well it's uncomfortable staying here." Truth be told, she didn't mind if she stayed until Minako-sama or Shimako-san arrived, but Sachiko-sama seemed to be in ill spirits today. If she milled about and displeased her any further, it would be horrible, she thought. When Sachiko-sama was this stressed, you had to exercise extreme caution. You wouldn't guess it from how she usually conducts herself, but she did have a tendency to enter full hysteria.
"Then quit milling about and go."
Ouch, pretty harsh.
"Sachiko, stop acting like that. I pulled Yumi-chan in here."
Sachiko-sama raised her head a bit, looked Yumi and Rei-sama, then said, "I see," and sipped her tea.
What do you have to do, or why did Rei-sama pull Yumi in, she didn't ask anything. It would be troublesome if she had persistently asked her, too, but it was just as awkward when she didn't ask anything at all.
"Well, excuse me."
When she headed toward the door after a quick bow, Rei-sama said, "Wait, Yumi-chan," and stopped her.
"Sorry, could you stop by the chrysanthemum class and hand this to Yoshino?"
She was handed that book. The title was hidden because it was flipped, but it was still an audacious way to have gone about things. To Yoshino, she said, as she winked out of Sachiko-sama's view.
(… Which means she's letting me borrow it.)
Instead of "thank you very much," Yumi answered, "Alright," and left the room. Sachiko-sama wasn't interested at all by what Rei-sama would give Yoshino-san, and just sat still, elegantly sipping her tea.
Right as Yumi went down the stairs and went to open the door, it was opened from the other side, and she bumped into Shimako-san, who'd stormed into the building.
Luckily, the only damage caused was that what they were holding fell to the ground.
"I was trying to come here as soon as I could after cleaning duty, but a number of things delayed me-"
While she was explaining why she was in such a hurry, Shimako-san began picking up the scattered documents. Yumi also helped.
Noticing an unfamiliar book among the scattered documents, Shimako-san said, "Oh."
"Yumi-san's? So you're making chocolate for Valentine's Day after all?"
"… Mm. I don't know. Well, I borrowed it from Rei-sama, in any case, but I'm just looking through it, for now." "I see."
Placing the documents under her arm, Shimako-san flipped through it.
"Come to think of it, I do recall everyone talking about this in the classroom."
After a quick smile, Shimako-san closed the book and held it out. As she received it, Yumi thought, she's probably not going to give Rosa Gigantea chocolate.
"If I knew Yumi-san would be here, I wouldn't have had to hurry so much, after all."
Farewell, said Shimako-san as she went up the stairs.
(Oh, that's right.)
When she left the Rose Mansion and entered the courtyard, Yumi finally realized.
The two "outsider" first-years had not gone to the Rose Mansion in quite some time. Which made Shimako-san in charge of most of the chores. Not that the upperclassmen were forcing the job onto her, but she must have felt it awkward to have the upperclassmen clean the room and pour her tea. So Shimako-san, despite being encumbered as it was with class and committee obligations, was doing her best.
When onee-sama and sister end up being separated for one reason or another, other people are hit by unexpected repercussions, Yumi thought.
She couldn't just become absorbed in her own problems.
She tried to reflect on her actions.
 Part 3.
The newspaper club announced the Valentine's Day event through a small leaflet.
The "Lillian Kawaraban" was normally a weekly newspaper, so they printed a smaller version as an extra issue, or a supplemental issue, depending on how you look at it, and distributed it every day.
They titled it the "Lillian Kawaraban petite-sized Valentine's project countdown special." Even the broadcasting DJ might twist their tongue on that one. After all, that title alone took up most of the small issue, but it did grab peoples' attention, so it was hard to criticize it.
As a daily paper, it gradually let the students know about the Valentine's project that the newspaper club had brought forth to the Yamayurikai. No one knew what was going on at first, but the slow, daily leaking of bits and pieces of news captivated the curiosity of the girls. Especially the second issue, where the involvement of the boutons was printed, that definitely was big. After all, it hadn't been long since the student council election, so the popularity of the future Roses was still peaking.
"And so like, all the students think the sisters of the boutons must know something, so they've been cornering me all day."
Yumi shrugged her shoulders as she finishing cleaning duty and was shutting the windows to the music room.
"So, Yumi-san, you do know something?"
Shizuka-sama slowly lifted her hand from the piano cover and turned to Yumi. Her neat, short hair settled down in an outline for her face.
Yumi emphatically shook her head. The scraggly hair she'd tied in two sliced through the air.
In regard to the project, all she knew was that it was a game to find the treasures the boutons were going to hide. And since she hadn't been participating in meetings, she didn't even know if the decision had made as to whether that treasure was going to be a card, chocolate, nor whether the extra prize had been decided upon to be the date. Since the treasure hunt was announced to the school, the sisters of the boutons basically only knew as much as the other students.
"And how is Shimako-san?"
"Well, at the very least, they seem to realize asking the person herself would be out of bounds, so our classmates are restraining themselves. Plus, Shimako-san has that aura around her, so that helps her, too."
Holding the cleaning diary to her chest, Yumi sighed. The classmates that had been cleaning the music room with her had already returned to the classroom, and so for the short time until the chorus club members arrived, the music room was left to the two of them.
Yumi had gotten here late, so she penalized herself by appointing herself in charge of the diary.
"That's true, she's not really the type to get bothered by people. But, I'm a bit envious."
Don't worry about it, Shizuka-sama said, and she didn't speak any further on that subject.
"Then, Yumi-san, are you still being hounded by your classmates?"
"Thankfully not, Yoshino-san and I went to the newspaper club captain about it, and she printed the day that the sisters were participating as regular students, and so we weren't told anything. That settled things."
"Ahh, that's good, then."
Shizuka-sama was about to study overseas, so maybe she just wasn't interested to begin with, because she was acting rather indifferent to the Valentine's Day project. Of course, if this involved fighting for Rosa Gigantea's chocolate, things might be very different.
"Nowadays we're bothered more by 'where do you think they would hide it?' sort of questions. I mean, I'm the one wanting to ask that!"
It's a big school, and she'd never done a treasure hunt before, so she had no idea where good hiding places are. Plus, the boutons were smart, so they wouldn't choose someplace easy."
"Good question… I think I'd start by thinking where I'd hide it if I were them."
"If I were them."
Yumi'd never thought about where she would hide things. So she started off by imagining where the person in front of her might hide things.
"Shizuka-sama might hide something in the grand piano, for instance?"
She asked, patting the piano lightly.
"Wouldn't that be too easy? Plus, if someone were to play it that day, they'd notice it right away."
So somewhere anyone would think of would be out. Hiding treasure is difficult.
"But, piano aside, the music room is a nice starting point. Either here… or the library."
"I wouldn't be bothered by who finds the treasure, but if possible, I'd prefer it to be found by someone who can at least understand a bit of how I think, you know?"
Shizuka-sama was a librarian.
She thought as she nodded. Where would Sachiko-sama hide it? What kind of person did she want it to be found by?
If she could find Sachiko-sama's treasure first, it would solidify Yumi's understanding of Sachiko-sama as her little sister. And that might entice Sachiko-sama to accept her chocolate. And Sachiko-sama accepting her even just a bit more would be the ultimate present for her.
"By the way, Yumi-san, are you giving Sachiko-san chocolate?" "Eh?"
The conversation skipped such a great distance that Yumi emitted something of a squeal, in surprise. Although in retrospect it made sense, because the treasure hunt takes place on Valentine's Day, which is when you give chocolate.
"My, was it a secret? Should I not have asked?"
"No, that's not it."
She intended to make chocolate, but she didn't know if she could present it- wow, it could turn out to be a long story.
Actually, she'd already picked out what chocolate she'd make. She thought like 40 percent of the joy of making something was the act of planning it out. And then another 40 percent would be the anticipation of it coming out the way you imagine it. And the remaining 20 percent, well that was just a mish-mash of shopping for ingredients and actually making it. Well, she hadn't really gone into the "making" phase of things yet, but she could imagine it. At least… at least with imagining, the chocolate would always come out perfectly, and you could re-do it as many times as you want.
"How about Shizuka-sama?"
Right after she asked, Yumi thought, "oh, shoot," but Shizuka-sama didn't seem at all bothered, and giggled.
"Yumi-san, you just tried to be sympathetic, didn't you? Stop it, you don't have to."
"… I'm sorry."
"I look up to Rosa Gigantea a great deal, but it's not like an unrequited love or anything. I just didn't get to become her sister, then suffered a crushing defeat at the election, and on top of it all, I'm about to head to Italy in a bit."
But doesn't that all add up to a harsh experience? Is what Yumi thought, but for Shizuka-sama, it might be that all of that overwhelmed any grief she might feel from her broken heart.
"So, I'm giving her chocolate. Of course."
"Rosa Gigantea asked me, 'I don't think Shimako will give me some, so can you give me some?' Of course, I was never going to defer to Shimako-san to begin with."
Was a different type of person, but she seemed to be as tough as Yoshino-san. In a way, they both used difficult circumstances as a springboard for greatness. And so they both were rather powerful.
"When did you two become so close-"
"Rosa Gigantea and I? It's normal, just like you and I, Yumi-san."
Does Rosa Gigantea even have time to be worrying over chocolate like that? She showed up so rarely Yumi didn't even know if she was coming to school.
"Rosa Gigantea is kind, so she always accepts everyone's chocolate. So in that sense, it's actually quite pleasant to give her chocolate."
Yumi didn't know if "kind" would be the word to describe Rosa Gigantea here. Because, you know, it's her.
"Oh, but I'm not saying Sachiko-san is unkind, just so you know."
A name she couldn't just let slip without noticing. Plus, it came with the adjective "unkind." Well, it was actually "not unkind," but that wasn't the point.
"What about Sachiko-sama? If she's been mentioned in contrast to Rosa Gigantea, does that mean she does indeed reject chocolate?"
"What? Yumi-san, isn't that why you're in distress?"
"Yes… but still."
But Shizuka-sama seemed to be speaking like an eye witness, so Yumi thought it'd be normal to ask. Especially because she'd never mentioned to Shizuka-sama that she was agonizing over Sachiko-sama's apparent dislike of chocolate. And she hadn't been asking around to the point where it'd become a rumor.
"Because I'm of the same year as Sachiko-san. Why would it be odd that I know what happened last year?"
"I mean, she's beautiful, and has quite the presence. She was just a first-year, but she was receiving chocolate from first-years and upperclassmen."
"Middle school is strict about this, so even during Valentine's Day it wasn't permissible to bring in chocolate, right? That might be why that happened."
The moment they became high school students, the rules were loosened, in order to "emphasize the students' autonomy." Well, that's why everyone patiently waited during compulsory education, because that loosening of rules awaited in the future. But anyways, "enjoying Valentine's Day" jumped near the top of everyone's list of how to enjoy high school life. And for students who otherwise had no real plans for giving and receiving chocolate, presenting it to a student they admired was the next alternative. And that's why the Yamayurikai staff tended to be swamped with chocolate.
"And basically, Sachiko-san became exasperated by the mountain of chocolate being offered to her, and began turning everyone away."
"Eek…" "But that's one type of kindness."
"How is turning everyone away kindness?"
Yumi earnestly asked, but Shizuka-sama simply smiled.
"You'll know soon enough."
She was side-stepped again. –Was she being teased?
The chorus club members finally began appearing, so Yumi bid her farewell and left the music room.
Shizuka-sama hurried to the door and stopped Yumi.
"You know, you only experience it three times. Enjoy Valentine's Day, including the days leading up to it, to the fullest. All of your worrying and perplexing will simply pave the way to a better future, both next year and the year after."
"I was just an observer last year. So I'll definitely make it memorable, before I go to Italy. Yumi-san, you should-"
Yumi couldn't make out the end, but she could guess what Shizuka-sama wanted to say.
She only had a little over a year left with Sachiko-sama. If that would be the case, she should make the most of it. Laugh without restraint and worry with all seriousness, so that she wouldn't regret it later. That's probably what Shizuka-sama wanted to say.
Yumi energetically responded, bowed her head again, and began walking to the staff room.
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