Notes and Disclaimers: I am once again borrowing the characters and settings of Konno Oyuki, Shueisha and Geneon, because I simply cannot get enough of them. Hopefully, neither can you.
The series of which this is a part is now entitled True Confessions. The “Yumi side” of it is complete – it includes the stories The Truth About Yoshino , Too Much Information and The Problem With Sachiko. This story continues the “Sachiko side” which began with What About Yumi. For what it’s worth, this story is *my* favorite of the series. :-)
As always, if you enjoy this or any of my stories please feel free to let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org!
And again, without any pride, I beg of you, if you like my writing or my notes on the Maria-sama ga Miterunovels, Drama CDs, manga and anime on Okazu, please support Yuri by purchasing either my book or another Yuri publication from the Yuricon Shop.
Lastly, my eternal thanks to the Fanfic Revolution for reading and sometimes even editing my stories and articles.
“No, Shimako-san!” The angry shout was audible even through the closed second-floor door. “You’re wrong!” The biscuit door opened, slamming back against the wall with a loud report.
Noriko-chan, tears visibly streaking down her face, ran out of the meeting room and down the stairs, unheeding of where she was going…or who might be standing there. Without thinking, she hit the first floor and raced toward the front door, slamming suddenly into the figure that had been standing there throughout the whole performance.
Sachiko put out a hand to stop the younger woman, who pulled away as if she had been slapped.
“Noriko-chan?” Sachiko was quite appalled at the change in the girl’s usually placid face. It was heart-rending to see her so upset. Something, some innate maternal instinct, caught at Sachiko’s chest.
“Excuse me!” Noriko-chan forced the words from between gritted teeth, as the tears continued to fall. She made a slight bow, obviously hoping that Rosa Chinensis would take the hint and let her pass, but Sachiko did not move.
“Noriko-chan,” Sachiko’s voice was gentle. Her hand reached out again. At this, the girl’s control failed and she fell weeping into Sachiko’s arms. Sachiko looked up at the still-open door of the second floor council room. Assumably Shimako was in that room but had not, for her own reasons, followed her soeur. Sachiko looked down at the sobbing girl, put an arm protectively around her shoulders, and walked her out of the Rose Mansion.
A few minutes later the two were sitting on a bench at the side of the path that went past the church. Sachiko watched in silence as Noriko cried herself out. Eventually she was down to dabbing tears lightly from the corner of her eyes, and staring down into her lap, unseeing.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Sachiko offered. She would not take offense if the other girl did not. Of them all, Noriko and Shimako kept their own counsel, rarely sharing anything at all.
Noriko-chan shook her head, but said, “Thank you,” politely. She looked up, “I mean, thank you Rosa Chinensis, for your kindness.”
Sachiko wondered at that use of her title, but decided that, for Noriko-chan, it was easier to see her in a position of leadership – and therefore as a kind of counselor – at this moment, rather than as just another nosy person. Fair enough.
Having rejected the offer of a friendly ear, Noriko-chan now began to speak, as if to herself. “She’s so stubborn! I thought we’d moved past this need to keep everything secret, to keep everyone at a distance, to keep each other at a distance…”
This surprised Sachiko a little. She had always assumed that despite their distance from the rest of the Yamayurikai, Noriko and Shimako had developed an intimate friendship between themselves. It was a bit of a shock to think that Shimako, regardless of their attempts at closing that gap, still felt herself so apart from her peers. Sachiko opened her mouth to ask a question, but Noriko-chan’s voice cut into her thought.
“I thought that she would open up at a least a little after we kissed, but still, she acts like she’s alone in this world. But she’s not alone! I’m here!” Noriko-chan clenched the handkerchief in her hand and struck the fist against her thigh. “Why can’t she see that? I want to protect her, I want to help her, I want to hold her forever…” New tears flowed, followed by the handkerchief roughly thrust against her face.
Sachiko put a hand out to gently stroke Noriko-chan’s shoulder. She didn’t know why she should; just that it seemed like the thing to do. After all, this whole fight was about creating unnecessary distance between people, wasn’t it? And if she was Rosa Chinensis then, as Rosa Gigantea, Shimako was a sort of sister to her. Following that line of reasoning Noriko-chan might be seen as a niece, or given the confession she had just made, a sister-in-law. Sachiko chided herself for creating silly relationships between them all, but she kept her hand upon Noriko-chan’s shoulder.
When the girl spoke again, her voice was muffled against the handkerchief. “I think I just said something I shouldn’t have, didn’t I? I’m sorry if what I said sounded weird.”
“It’s all right,” Sachiko soothed. It wasn’t much of a shock, when she thought about it. No more than Rei and Yoshino had been. “I understand.”
Noriko-chan looked up at that. “You do?” her voice was incredulous.
“Is that surprising?”
Sitting up, Noriko-chan looked up at the older girl as if seeing her for the first time. “Well, yes, a little.” She looked out into the middle distance, then seemed to focus on the church in front of them. “Actually, a lot. I guess I supposed that with Lillian being a Catholic school and all…. And Rosa Chinensis is so….” her voice tapered off as if she didn’t want to finish the sentence.
“What?” Sachiko smiled, understanding that whatever she had been about to say, it could not have been very complimentary. “What is Rosa Chinensis?”
“Perfect.” Noriko-chan muttered, turning away so as to not face the upperclassman’s infamous wrath head on.
But Sachiko understood. She had always been seen by the girls around her as some kind of example to be used to bludgeon others into behaving properly. She, the real Sachiko, wasn’t perfect, but the image of Ogasawara Sachiko who walked through Lillian worshipped and feared by students of all ages, was. One of the most amazing things about Yumi was the way she had moved past that fear and worship to a place of genuine care and affection for the imperfect person she was.
“I see.” Sachiko removed her hand from the younger woman’s shoulder and folded it into her lap. “So, Rosa Chinensis would never want to, for instance, kiss her soeur.”
There was a profound silence after this statement. Slowly, Noriko-chan turned to look at Sachiko, her eyes wide.
“Have you?” she almost whispered.
“Have I wanted to?” Sachiko put a finger against her lips in thought. “I have. Have I done it?” She met the other girl’s eyes evenly. “No. Does that surprise you?”
“Yes.” Noriko-chan took a deep breath, held it, then let it out with a sigh. “When I’m holding Shimako-san in my arms,” she gave a quick sideways glance at the older girl, as if judging how freely she could speak, “I feel like everything will be all right. No matter how much I’m troubled, or what’s going on in my life, if she’s there, it’s enough.” She turned back to Sachiko, her voice, her expression, everything pleading for some kind of understanding, “Why isn’t it enough for her? It seems like it’s never enough.” Her voice was rough, threatening renewed tears. She struggled to hold them back.
“I think that it’s not a case of not enough. It’s more a case of,” Sachiko paused, trying to fix in her mind what she was trying to say, “I don’t know Shimako as well as I’d like to but, I think it’s more a case of it being too much rather than not enough.” She struggled with the last, hoping that she would be understood.
“You mean I’m asking too much of her?” Noriko pouted, at which Sachiko smiled, while shaking her head back and forth.
“No, I think that Shimako isn’t used to being unconditionally happy.”
They lapsed into silence, both obviously thinking along the same lines. Shimako, who had wanted to become a nun when she was young, who was a devout Christian now. Being unconditionally happy by falling in love would be difficult under those circumstances, certainly. By falling in love with her soeur, even more so.
“So,” Noriko was clearly thinking out loud. “In a sense I am asking too much of her. Wanting more than what she can give me without guilt or regret. Well, wanting it isn’t the problem, but pressuring her to give me more of herself. She feels like she has to draw back.” she nodded. “I understand.” She nodded again, this time sounding more like her usual self. “May I tell you what happened? I don’t want to burden you with confidences that you’ll be uncomfortable with, but I would very much appreciate your advice.”
Sachiko inclined her head.
Noriko took a deep breath again, and stared up into the sky. “We’ve been closer, recently, I mean physically, but I…” Noriko-chan stopped, her sentence bitten off. Now that it came down to it, she couldn’t just “confide.” “I wanted more,” she finished lamely. “Shimako-san told me that it had to stop, that she was influencing me too much, that everyone else might blame her for taking advantage of me, that it wasn’t a healthy relationship for me. What you saw today was the end of that argument.
“But she’s not influencing me – not that way. I want…. I want… I want to be closer to her. I want her.”
“So. There are really two problems, then. There’s the problem that Shimako has within herself, of wanting something too much that she’s not sure she has the right to want, or that is the right thing to want, and there’s the problem that you may, simply, be pushing a little too hard. This has made Shimako put some distance between you?” Sachiko looked down at Noriko-chan. “If I understand you correctly.”
“You do.” Again, Noriko-chan nodded.
Sachiko looked up to the sky, Maria-sama’s sapphire blue sky. “I don’t have an answer for you, Noriko-chan. But I believe that you and Shimako will find the answer that is right for you both.”
Noriko-chan stood and turned to face the older girl. “And if that means that we…if we become closer, will it affect your opinion of either of us?”
“I don’t believe it will. Would it affect your opinion of me if Yumi and I had that kind of relationship?”
Noriko-chan’s face was a study. After the shock passed, there appeared the most impudent grin Sachiko had ever seen on the girl’s face.
“Yes. It would definitely change my opinion of you.” Noriko-chan laughed. “But not in a *bad* way.”
Cocking her head, Sachiko smiled up at her. “I guess it would probably change my opinion of me too,” she said. Turning slightly, Sachiko gathered up her bag and stood.
Noriko-chan faced her and bowed deeply. “Thank you very much for your guidance,” she intoned formally.
Sachiko waved a hand lightly. “Shall we return to the Rose Mansion? Everyone will be waiting.”
“Mmm.” Noriko-chan agreed. “Let’s go back.”