Notes and Disclaimers: Maria-sama ga Miteru and Lillian Academy are the creation of Konno Oyuki, and the property of Konno Oyuki, Shueisha and Geneon Entertainment. The characters and situations in this story are the creation of Alan Harnum, and are reproduced here with his permission.
This story is an extra special treat. Not only is it the third of this look at the soeur system at Lillian Academy through time, it also marks the first new story Alan has written in a while. And he did it special for me – I’m very honored. :-) If you aren’t already familiar with Alan’s work, you’ve misssed, so visit his website. He’s done some magnificent Yuri and shoujoai work, especially his Utena stuff. If you already know Alan’s work, you know why I’m so excited that he contributed to this series! In a sense, it is because of him that the whole series exists – we were watching Maria-sama ga Miteru and got to Episodes 10 and 11, “Ibara no Mori” and “Shiroi Hanabira” and just went off on conjecturing what the whole history of the soeur system was. So there you go.
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Chronicle of a Revolutionary Girl (Forest of Thorns – III)
* * *
The final term of the school year has begun, and graduation day approaches for the year above me. My mother twitters about and takes me shopping for dresses for the parties that are to come. A bird must have its plumage, after all.
If she knew what it was we planned, I fear the shock might strike her dead! The thought gives me a shameful glee; I try to pity my mother, to understand how deep her bourgeois indoctrination goes, but it is hard. At sixteen I feel so much wiser of the ways of the world than her, who never reads anything more taxing than fashion magazines.
To understand the cages prepared for us in this system, as it was prepared for our mothers, and how to escape them, has been a great gift for Hana-chan and I.
I have not spoken to Hana-chan yet regarding our plans, but I am sure she will be amenable. Her passion and commitment run as deep as mine to the new Japan the Party wishes to create; the activities in Kyoto, shining as a beacon to the rest of the country, will surely inspire the populace. The success of the Party’s programs in the local government will be proof to the people of the greater justice and equality provided by the socialist system; they are tired of the corruption of the ruling party, and will eagerly embrace another way if it is shown. Of course we want to help however we can.
* * *
Thank you for the book. Hana-chan and I read it together. We were moved to tears by the stories within, and by the songs. The agonies of the workers are the same today as they were fifty years ago: indentured, exploited, repressed, so that men like my father can have their big houses and their mistresses.
It is presumptuous of us, perhaps, we daughters of privilege, but we found ourselves identifying in particular with the lyrics of one song:
I am a mill girl; a frail bird
Even though I have wings I can’t fly away
Even though I can see the sky I’m stuck inside a cage
A tiny bird with broken wings
I said to Hana-chan that we at Lillian are also like caged birds; we are pretty, we sing, we move slowly within our confines, under the watchful eyes of Maria-sama and the nuns. Hana-chan said that we are more like hothouse flowers, but I do not quite understand why she made the distinction; both are, after all, caged.
I have resolved to speak to Hana-chan before the month is out. She has been more distant than usual of late, but I do not believe I will have trouble persuading her; work is always heavy in the second term. She is also upset by the departure for college of her “onee-sama”; I have explained to you before, I believe, about the intricacies of the soeur system. You are, of course, familiar with Mariko-sama, my “onee-sama”, your younger sister, who introduced us in the first place! Though I have not seen much of her lately, occupied as she is with her studies.
* * *
My heart is broken. I used to cry at the girls in the magazine stories and their broken hearts, having never known such pain myself; then I shook my head at them, knowing their heartbreak was bourgeois indulgence, nothing compared to the pain the great majority of the population suffers daily. Now my own heart is broken and I have no words with which to describe it. Hana-chan will not come with me.
I spoke to her in the music room–that was how we met, originally, I with my flute and her with her violin. I told her my plans. Our plans. She looked at me without comprehension, her eyes like a caged bird’s. Leave? she said. Are you joking? What would our parents say?
I don’t understand how I could have misjudged her so completely. I have been a fool. It was no more than a game to her, all our reading, all our talk; a bourgeois romance with proletariat sympathies.
Go and work? she said. And do what? What do we know other than how to be pretty and desirable? Be realistic, she said. Be realistic? For the first time in my life I am being realistic, trying to escape my cage, live my own life!
We… fought. Spoke cruel words and accusations. And I struck her. I have never struck anyone before in my entire life. I struck her and she fell, and I ran. I have stayed in my room for nearly an entire day now, packing and unpacking, sometimes gripped by fervour and sometimes by despair. To my surprise, no one has come for me; I am sure Hana-chan must have told someone by now.
I do not know if I will be able to mail this letter, but I must write it for myself, if no one else. I must give order to my thoughts and accept that I was wrong about Hana-chan, that she cannot escape the cage; that she is one of them, not one of us. I must figure out how to push her out of my heart.
* * *
Mariko-sama said she would write to you, but I believe I also should as well. I need to explain myself, for I will not be coming to join you in Kyoto.
Tsk tsk, she chided, you made me leave my studying, now I’ll never go to college. You rich girls are so selfish.
I was in the middle of packing my bags again when she arrived. She just walked right in rather than knocking–I had forgotten to lock the door–and sat down on the bed, looking around for something to tap her ashes into. I hurriedly got her a teacup saucer.
So what is this all about? she asked.
And I told her everything, though I do not know when I began to cry. A part of me wanted her to embrace me, but Mariko-sama is not a very physical person, so all she did was put her hand on my shoulder.
When I finished Mariko-sama put the remains of her cigarette aside and looked at me carefully. So you want to run away to Kyoto?
Koujiro-san… your brother… he said there are projects, for the Party… a demonstration of ideology in action, an alternative to the bourgeois ways, convincing everyone…
My brother, she said. And then: it seems I have been neglecting my little sister in anticipation of going away to college. I must ask your forgiveness for this. My brother is a good man, doing good work, but I do not believe you should go to him in Kyoto.
I want to work for the new Japan, I mumbled; for sixteen years, all I have ever had I have had upon the backs of others, the men and women working for my father, whose mothers and fathers worked for my father’s father, and their mothers and fathers for my grandfather’s father. Now that I am come to consciousness of this, of how my happy life is built on the labours of others, how can I not try to do something for the masses, to assuage some of my guilt?
Do you know why I chose you as my petite soeur? she asked. And I replied, heartfelt and pained: no, I have never understood why. You’re so smart and strong, and I, there is nothing special about me except that I’m from a rich family, and that is nothing special at all. It is my shame!
She reached out and touched me then, her hand upon my cheek, arm across my shoulder.
I chose you because you are a kind girl who feels the pain of others, she said. I thought I would choose a scholarship girl like me, one who would be teased like I was, someone I could protect. And then as I watched your class, trying to decide who I would choose, I saw you, I saw how friendly you were with all the other girls, how you tried to be nice to everyone. You never teased or made fun of anyone, and I saw how those around you changed as well, those who might have made fun, shamed by your refusal. I wanted to see you grow and bloom. I wanted to transplant you to other soils and see you rise strong towards the sun. I never wanted you to feel ashamed of what you were; only to grow beyond it, to understand it.
She began to cry; I had never seen her cry before, and it scared me. She did not sob loudly like I do; just tears, rolling silent down her face.
You are my little sister and I love you, she said. I do not want you away in Kyoto with my brother; I want you to stay here. I want you to visit me at college. I want you to tell me about the little sister you have chosen, and how she is growing.
When you are done with school, when you have your diploma, that is when you should make this kind of decision. Grow a little more, with me. You don’t need to run off to Kyoto to prove yourself to me; I know that you’re a good person. I like who you are now.
Even if you are a selfish rich girl, she said, smiling at me. This was always our little joke: a selfish rich girl, taking advantage of her poor scholarship girl soeur.
We talked long into the night, of ideas and people and things, of books we had read and yet to read. It was morning before we knew it, and we walked out onto the balcony and watched the sun rise together.
My brother and I had an argument once, Mariko-sama said. About where the revolution begins. He said the revolution begins only with action, that until the first shot is fired, or the first march begins, there is no revolution. I said he was wrong, that revolution begins… here. She touched her breast over her heart. This is where it begins. Inside of us.
I have begun to feel that she is right, though about what I am not sure. I am not sure if all that she has said is true, but I do know one thing: I believed before that to run from this place would be to prove myself an adult, to escape from childhood into adulthood. I’m not so sure any more that this is the case. The adult thing to do is to stay, to accept responsibility for what I am, for the ties I have to people like Hana-chan and Mariko-sama; to the little sister I have yet to choose, the one to whom I can pass on what I have learned, what Mariko-sama has taught me.
I hope that you understand this decision, Koujiro-san. The time may yet come when I will join you in Kyoto, but that time is not now. I wish you and the Party all the best; I will, of course, continue to subscribe to Akahata. For now, I will work for the new Japan in my own way. For now, my revolution remains my own.