A Story for the Smoke Signals Thread
Fair Warning: This story will include heavy criticism and cynicism regarding Christianity and the Christian Faithful. Before I get any flames for being such a godless heathen who has no idea what I'm talking about, I'll state here and now that I was raised Lutheran (baptized and went through Confirmation) and asked my mother about her time in Catholic school, as she was raised Catholic. I also started writing this during Easter weekend, so yay for Easter (Plot-) Bunnies during church service.
Thus, even though I already used it, "Wreath of Barbs" by Wumpscut is pretty accurate as a Chibi Gonou song for this story. The miscellaneous children get the song "The Prayer" by Celine Dion (Quest for Camelot OST) and the Sister's inspiration song is "Amazing Grace" as performed on the bagpipes in the movies Braveheart and Amazing Grace, as it's pretty much the most religious "Christian" song I still enjoy hearing - partly it's the bagpipes, which nearly make me cry every time I hear it and I rarely cry for stuff like that.
Arigatou Minasan! (Thanks everyone!)
Midday - Catholic Orphanage, China
"Hey guys, check this out!"
Gonou glared up from his book to the boys standing nearby. Normally they were too busy running around during recess to bother him directly. However, when they took breaks in the shade, that was when they became a nuisance to his studies.
"I learned a cool new song from one-a' the gaijin, wanna' hear it?"
"Sure!" The others chorused.
The first child began making motions as if holding something in his hands.
"If I had a little white box
To put my Jesus in
I'd take him out and-"
"And put him back again!"
The boy had opened up his palms to kiss them before pretending to 'close' the box again.
Gonou rolled his eyes. First raucous behavior and now idiotic tunes? He tried to block out the rest of their conversation by reading, but it was no use; the children were entirely too loud and it didn't look like they were planning to leave any time soon.
The child held up his hands. "Wait, there's a second verse!"
"If I had a little red box
To put that Satan in
I'd take him out and-
BASH 'IM IN THE HEAD!
And put him back again!"
The little boy had pummeled one fist into the other, startling the other children, before resuming a polite demeanor for the remainder of the song.
Gonou blinked quite a few times, trying to digest what it was that he had just heard. Those children want to . . . 'bash' their so-called Devil-
"Haha!" The other children laughed. "That's so funny!"
One girl piped up again. "I wanna' white an' red box now!"
"I'm gonna' get one soon!" The boy proclaimed excitedly.
They don't think anything is wrong with 'bashing' something? Anything? Gonou demanded silently.
"You ain't got no money!"
"Do too!" He retorted, " 'M gonna' sell stuff my folks left me - like some silk fabric."
"No way you've got any silk!" Another boy insisted.
Gonou proceeded to roll his eyes again, stood up, and left the area with a finger between the pages he'd been unable to finish reading. Stupid kids'll repeat anything they hear, he fumed internally, even if it goes against the stupid heretic doctrine that Sister's been preaching to them this whole time! He decided to think no more of it, but it was not something he could easily dismiss.
He'd been at the orphanage less than a year, but he knew very well that his own upbringing had not been "Christian." His parents had stressed "Confucian" values to him and while many of the moral qualities overlapped - obedience to one's parents, not telling lies, murder is abhorred, etc. - he was well aware of the crucial difference between them: a certain "Jesus Christ" the man was called.
"Recess is over, children!"
Jerked from his thoughts by the loud voice, Gonou started walking back to the one-room schoolhouse. It wasn't until he noticed the lack of a weight in hands that he realized he'd dropped his book a few paces back.
"Great," he sighed heavily as he turned back to pick it up. "Now I've lost my page." I'm already too far behind in my reading as it is! He glared up at the Sister's form surrounded by the other orphans that were filing back in for afternoon lessons. That's it, tonight I'm finishing this book no matter what.
Evening - Catholic Orphanage, China
The sun was setting in the dormitory building of the orphanage as the Sister ushered the boys into their hall before heading over to the girls; she always put the girls to bed first, so Gonou knew he had only a precious few minutes to get ready for bed before she returned to put the boys to bed.
He changed into his pajamas - each child had only one pair - and crawled into bed, arranging his book and flashlight where he knew she wouldn't see them, but that would be easily accessible to him in the dark. Gonou was well aware of the strict curfew rules, but he didn't care these days.
For reasons he could not comprehend, the normal flow of learning had been interrupted for the past week - perhaps longer, he couldn't be sure - and learning was of the utmost importance to him. As far as Gonou was concerned, it was his only ticket out of the orphanage; study hard enough to pass some amount of exams that lay waiting in the near future, get accepted into some school in a city, and eventually get a job based on his academic merits.
The Sister, on the other hand, seemed not to care that she had cut back their subjects from four a day to two a day. How on earth are we supposed to keep up with the curriculum this way? Gonou had pondered for two days before asking the Sister about it.
"We are observing Holy Days of Obligation, Gonou. Perhaps you're not paying enough attention during Religious Studies," she had said to him. That had wounded his pride and he'd spent his entire recess that day reading over his notes for what calendrical anomaly dared interrupt his learning.
Passover - another leftover holiday from the Judaic tradition. Maunday Thursday - when that guy told one of his followers to betray him, how smart is that? Good Friday - let's celebrate the day that a man was tortured, beaten, and executed in public. Holy Saturday - a bunch of sitting around, waiting for nothing. Easter Sunday - Hallelujah! He's a zombie now! Let's worship him!
He'd glared down at his page for a good five minutes before realizing the period was over and it was time to go back inside. The nerve of that hypocrite, he'd fumed, taking advantage of our schooling to preach from her pulpit about some heathen religion for not one day, not two days, but an entire week
Only then had Gonou realized that, in reality, the Sister had been doing it all along. Every morning before classes even began the children were required to recite three prayers: Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be, all while standing in straight lines. After studying Social Studies as well as the 'rotation' subject - Reading and Writing twice a week, Physical Education one a week, Art once a week, and Religious Studies at the end of every week - they would spend lunch eating while listening to a Noon Devotional before heading to recess. Once Math and Science were over, it was 'free time' until dinner, which was also prefaced by a prayer.
However, these days they didn't even get to all of the subjects because the morning block of time between breakfast and lunch was spent in the chapel. There, the children were lectured on the Stations of the Cross, practiced performing the Rosary as well as parts of mass, and discussed in detail why that Holy Day was so important.
Gonou gripped his bed-sheets. They're all so ignorant, listening to whatever that Sister tells them like it's another classroom subject . . . At least I can tell the difference between a textbook and a work of fiction. 'The Bible is God's Word' - psht, yeah right. It was probably written by some raving lunatic stuck in a nut-house like this for way too long, so he started 'hearing God speak to him'. Some Supreme Divine Being he is - never did anything for me, that's for sure. At least The Classics were written by men and everyone knows it - Kong Fu Zi never tried to claim he was divine and neither did Siddartha. Boddhisatvas, spirits, angels, all of it's just a bunch of bull-
"Good evening, children."
"Good evening, Sister," the children echoed.
"Shall we say our bedtime prayer then?"
A solemn silence fell over the room and Gonou reflexively rolled his eyes as the Sister began her slow chant that the children quickly joined.
I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take-"
Gonou's eyes went wide as he blocked out the rest of the prayer. 'If I should die before I wake'? And they call ME morbid? They think I'm sullen? 'I pray the Lord my soul to take'? What kind of monster takes your soul when you die? Arg, he groaned as he grit his teeth, Bunch of hypocrites, all of them, I swear!
"All right, children, it's time for bed. Good night to you all," the Sister called out over the rows of bunk-beds.
"Good night, Sister," the children responded in unison; Gonou only mouthed words.
As soon as she shut the door, Gonou reached for his book and flashlight. Finally, I can finish The Romance of the Three Kingdoms (2) and start on next week's Arithmetic homework tomorrow . . .
He was excitedly reading the first page of the last chapter when he felt the flashlight yanked out of his hands, subsequently making him lose his place on the page. His vision was unaccustomed to the darkness, but nevertheless he glared up at the figure he knew to be the Sister's.
"Gonou . . ." the Sister said with exasperation in her voice. She knelt beside the boy's bed, whispering, "I was hoping you'd be asleep by the time I got back to check on everyone."
Averting his eyes from her, Gonou made a soft 'hmph' noise.
"You need to get a good night's sleep or you won't be able to pay attention-"
"No point if we're not learning the proper curriculum," Gonou insisted quietly.
"Be that as it may, Gonou," the Sister began, trying to keep her tone as even as possible, "we have rules about curfew hours. Now, I let you stay up an extra hour but I cannot condone the continuation of your actions - haven't you thought about whether or not you're keeping the other children awake?"
"I'm catching up while everyone else falls behind."
"Gonou- Gonou, I'm sorry but I'm not arguing with you about this," she said as she stood up, turning off the flashlight still in her hands as she did so. "You can have this back after Easter Ceremonies tomorrow. Good night, Gonou."
He felt ready to explode, he was so angry at such a proclamation. Grabbing hold of his sheets, he flopped down into bed and pulled the covers over his head, burying his head underneath of the pillow so that he didn't have to hear her leave. He folded his arms and leaned his forehead against them. Unable to contain himself any longer, he growled audibly into the mattress and pounded his left fist into it, his head making the pillow slant to one side as he did so.
My glasses. Gonou realized that he would have to take them off so he wouldn't crush them in his sleep. It was all he could do to remove them and set them carefully on his bedside table without making any loud noises beyond a soft huff of frustration. Grabbing his pillow again, he buried his face in it, hoping the darkness would lull him to sleep.
Morning, the next day - Catholic Orphanage, China
Gonou's only consolation during the initial Easter proceedings was the hope that, once the day was done, the Sister would go back to teaching the Chinese curriculum and he wouldn't actually need his flashlight again for a long time. He was seated in the very back of the chapel and spent the whole time not speaking a word, choosing instead to glare at every face in every stained-glass window before eventually reaching the cross at the far end of the chapel. The cross now had a white strip of cloth draped over it, which Gonou noted critically was lacking in any dirt, grime, blood, or other evidence of having once come into contact with a dead body.
"--And can anyone tell me what we mean when we say 'the blood of Christ shed for you' and 'the body of Christ given for you'?" The Sister asked of the orphans.
One girl in the second row immediately raised her hand, her two dirty-blonde braids bouncing against her back as she stretched her arm as high as she could.
Smiling, the Sister turned to the girl. "Yes, Shaohei?"
The girl stood up and cleared her throat. "You're talking about Communion, Sister. The wine is Jesus' blood and the bread is His body, so-"
"So we're cannibals."
Please, Gonou, not today- The Sister prayed as she walked towards him, for once wishing there were some way to stop the children from watching her. "Now, Gonou, you're misinterpreting what-"
He stood up defiantly. "We're drinking a man's blood and eating his flesh - where is there room for misinterpretation?"
"It's not meant to be taken literally, Gonou . . ."
"Oh, so I suppose the Ten Commandments aren't meant to be taken literally either?"
"Why?" Gonou demanded angrily, his voice rising. "It's all comes from the same book, doesn't it? That sounds like a contradiction to me - a LIE!"
"GONOU!" The Sister shrieked hysterically before clapping her hands over her own mouth. Hearing the children begin to murmur, she knew she had to diffuse the situation quickly. "Gonou, this debate is over."
"I thought the whole point of these chapel sessions was to debate-"
"Gonou, please go outside."
"Gladly," Gonou hissed bitterly as he left the chapel to a chorus of 'Oooh's from the other children.
He looked up at the stained-glass cross on the steeple. Some 'salvation' - all this 'Resurrection' stuff is doing is brainwashing people.
(1) 'Chu' is the sound kissing makes in Japanese
Romance of the Three Kingdoms is
one of the many books that aspiring scholars are expected to have
read before taking even the lowest level civil service exam in China.
It was one of the books added on later, but is considered one of the
easiest to read as it is generally considered a work of fiction. It
is also one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese Literature
with the other three being Water
of the Red Chamber,
to the West Xiyouji
also known as Monkey
The books traditionally used for the exams are called The Five Classics and the Four Books. The Five Classics are I-ching, The Classic of Poetry, and the Three Rites (a three-volume set). In addition, there the Four Books are The Analects of Confucius (or Kong Fu Zi), Mencius, The Great Learning, and Doctrine of the Golden Mean
I'll admit that most of this began when I became quite embittered during the Easter holidays (like Gonou), but it grew into a relevant one-shot when I realized how much of this can apply to Hakkai's future (cough) dislike of a certain Bishop from the West. I apologize for the weird combination of Judeo-Christian traditions but, once again, I was drawing on what I had experienced myself.
Gaijin - slang (rude) term for 'foreigner' with the more 'appropriate' term being 'Gaikokujin'