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"Snapshots of St. Trinian's"

by

A Gentleman of Leisure.

The Story So Far:

In May 2003 Sunnydale, in California, was destroyed, and Rupert Giles and the Scoobies, with half of the New Slayers, headed for Britain to rebuild the Watchers' Council, and to find and train all the newly awakened Young Slayers from around the world. On the first part of their journey, travelling northwards towards Seattle Airport, they rescued a Japanese girl, young genius Chiyo Mihama, from being killed and eaten by a Kyuuketsuki, a nine foot tall Japanese Vampire Demon. [Crossover with Azumanga Daioh, Manga and Anime] [1]

Now it is mid-September. They have set up a new Council Headquarters and training centre, and with Giles's help and influence, Chiyo has been able to transfer from College in the USA, and instead enter Cambridge University to study Ancient Languages. First of all though, she visits the Watchers' new home, an old residential boarding school somewhere in the heart of England. [2] [3] [4]

1.

'A Home From Home.'

"It's huge!" exclaimed Chiyo, as she stepped out of the Japanese Embassy's large black Mercedes, and got her first proper look at the school. "It's much bigger than it looked in the pictures you sent me! It's like a palace!"

The building stretched out to her left and right across a broad frontage, three and even four stories high in some places, built in a light brown stone that glowed warmly in the midday autumnal September sun. A wide flight of stone steps led up to a portico with Greek columns and large, double front doors. Some sections of the building were partly hidden by scaffolding, but elsewhere there was ivy growing up the walls, with windows and french doors standing open invitingly.

"Welcome to the asylum," said Giles with a smile. "This is our home, now. We think it was originally built as a manor house by a country gentleman, sometime in the late seventeenth century, probably shortly after the Restoration of Charles II, and then rebuilt and extended by the owner's grandson when he was elevated to the peerage. That means when he was made a Lord - an aristocrat," he added, looking at the building with satisfaction.

"Something like your 'Daimyo' in Japan, I think," Bibi explained.

"It's amazing," said Chiyo again, gazing at it all in wonder. No ordinary person, not even the very richest, could ever afford to live in something this big back in Japan. There was never enough building land available, and every square metre was practically worth its weight in gold to the developers! Even her own home in Tokyo, huge though it was by ordinary Japanese domestic standards, was tiny compared to this, seeming to be scarcely any bigger than the gatekeeper's lodge they'd passed as they entered the main gate.

"There are extensive grounds all round the place - several hundred acres. It used to be a large deer park in the old days, and more recently, when it became a boys' school, a part of them were used as playing fields for football and rugger," Giles said, waving his hand at the horizon around them. "Over there's a wood, and we have a lake, behind the house," he added casually. "We'll show you round properly later on."

It was at this point that some small understanding of the wealth and influence of this strange secret organisation that called itself the Watchers' Council began to filter into Chiyo's mind, and as the only daughter of a very rich man herself, she started to appreciate a little of their potential power and importance, and so perhaps that of the Slayers too.

"Unfortunately, the last of the family line died in the First World War, leading his troops in a charge across No Man's Land at the Battle of the Somme, in Belgium. The entire company was wiped out. Not a single soldier survived to reach the enemy's trenches, or return," Giles continued.

"A very brave man. It sounds rather like our stories of the historical wars in Japan, several centuries ago," said Chiyo.

"Hm. Really? Perhaps so. Anyway, it need never have happened. The British generals had no idea what it was like at the Front, and ordered the troops into suicidal attacks that had no chance of succeeding, none at all - not to show their bravery, as your warriors might have, but simply because they were too stupid, or too stubborn to listen to good advice.

"At any rate, after that the place was apparently empty for over twenty years while the will was disputed. Then it was taken over by the armed forces and used for secret training during the Second World War, after which it was bought and converted into a school. They went bust a couple of years ago, which was lucky for us. It meant that we were able to get hold of it very reasonably before it started to deteriorate too much, considering the way property prices keep shooting upwards these days, and now, here we are!"

"Er, Giles. History lesson later, perhaps?" Bibi said gently.

"What? Oh, dear. Yes. Terribly sorry, Chiyo, Mr Miyazaki. I was getting rather carried away there, I'm afraid, wasn't I? I know tend to ramble on a bit sometimes. It's this place - the history of it, and so on. It does that to me. I do apologise."

"No, no," said Chiyo. "I love to hear stories like that."

"Since I first came to England, I have been constantly surprised how alike the histories of our two peoples have been in many ways, " Miyazaki observed.

"More so than the Americans?" Chiyo asked him, also in English.

"I haven't been posted to America yet. I went there on holiday when I was at school, but so far I think I prefer Britain." He smiled politely. "Excuse me please, Miss Bibi," he added, and bowed to her.

Bibi bobbed her head in response, and picking up Chiyo's small case she started to walk towards the foot of the broad flight of stone steps up to the front entrance.

"Welcome to 'Sutton Place Physical Training College for Young Ladies'," Giles said. "We hope you'll be happy and comfortable while you're with us - whenever you're with us. We want you to feel at home here, Chiyo. A sort of home-away-from-home as you might call it."

"It looks quite wonderful - I'm absolutely sure I shall. Thank you, Headmaster - Sensei," said Chiyo with a little bow of her own.

"Oh, no! Not you too!" Giles exclaimed. "Has Bibi already been coaching you to call me that?"

"Nani? Gomen nasai! Excuse me?" said Chiyo, smiling and looking innocent.

Before Giles could say anything further, there was a patter of running feet approaching, and a small crowd of girls of several nationalities, all in their early to mid teens and wearing tee-shirts and trainers, appeared round the end of the building, followed a few seconds later by a slightly out-of-breath man in his late forties, who was very obviously an ex-British Army P.E. instructor.

'Another welcoming committee?' Chiyo wondered.

"Some of our pupils," Giles explained, removing his glasses and giving them a good polish. "Ladies, please introduce yourselves to our visitors!"

2.

"Is That The Way The Wind Blows?"

Suddenly, at the top of the steps, the front doors swung open wide, and there stood the original Scooby Gang of Buffy, Xander, and Willow, accompanied by Vi and Kennedy, all of whom Chiyo recognised immediately. It looked a little like the opening shot of a British 'period' film, except that instead of wearing 1930's frocks and blazers, or perhaps 1830's costume, everyone was dressed in extremely casual American style, mostly scruffy jeans and old Tee-shirts. As they began to walk down to greet the newcomers, another taller, younger, slender, graceful girl, with very long wavy dark brown hair in a centre parting, pushed between them, and came leaping down the steps two and three at a time to land with a thump right in front of Chiyo.

Just for an instant the little Japanese girl was caught unawares, and her heart did a sudden flip, feeling as if it had turned right over. Then she flushed as she realised that for a split second she had thought it was Sakaki who was coming rushing down towards her, instead of Buffy's younger sister.

"Hi Chiyo! Great to see you again!" Dawn exclaimed excitedly. "Did you have a good flight? We've got a room all ready for you. One of the girls'll get your bags. Oh, Konnichiwa! I meant to say that first - sorry, I forgot!" she said, seemingly all in one breath.

"Hello, Dawn. I am fine," Chiyo responded, laughing. "I had a good flight, thank you, though unfortunately all my luggage has disappeared. I think perhaps it's gone on holiday somewhere without me!" she joked. Dawn wrapped long arms round her and the two girls hugged tightly.

"Hey, I think you've grown some more!" Dawn whispered in her ear. Chiyo looked puzzled, uncertain quite how to interpret the remark.

"Bibi, isn't she bigger? Don't you think? I reckon she's gained at least an inch - there!" Dawn teased, and Chiyo promptly went bright pink for a second time.

Bibi smiled too, but for another reason altogether. She'd noticed the sudden swift changes of expression on Chiyo's face at Dawn's dramatic appearance, and although she knew of Sakaki, and that she and Chiyo were close friends, for some strange reason mistakenly supposed that it was Dawn who was the cause. Perhaps it was a reasonable assumption, perhaps not. Only time would tell.

'So, is that the way...?' the ex-bot said to herself.

3.

"Just Get Lost!"

"Bibi, is there anything we can do to stop the Embassy from finding it's way back here without our knowing? Apart from asking Willow to cast a spell on them, which I'd rather not do unless there's absolutely no other way," Giles said quietly as they trailed the welcome committee along one of the upstairs corridors towards the room that had been prepared for Chiyo.

"I'll see what I can do," said the Buffybot. "They've got one of these Satellite Navigation gadgets mounted on their dashboard. Shouldn't be too difficult to jinx it."

"For goodness sake don't get caught!" Giles said hastily.

"Oh Giles, as if!" she replied. "I'll admire it when they're leaving. I'll just have a quiet chat with the chip - say 'BOO!' to it or something. That should confuse it sufficiently."

"Can't you just erase the memory of this trip?"

"Where's the fun in that? If I can persuade it to guide them round and round in circles, say... oh... give them a tour of Spaghetti Junction for an hour or two maybe, wouldn't that discourage them far more effectively?"

"You are awful...!"

"...But you like me?"

She tucked her arm into his and giggled.

"It's rather a nice thought, I must admit," Giles said. "I do pity poor young Mr. Miyazaki, though."

"And we'll have to have a proper talk with Chiyo about everything, won't we? The facts of Real Life, so-to-speak?" said the Buffybot.

"Give her a day or two to settle in first, OK? Once she's got used to being here, we can invite her to sit in on one of our introductory sessions - you know, the history and purpose of the Slayer."

"'The one girl in all the world...'? Good thinking, Headmaster - Sensei!"

"You call me that again, my girl, and I'll put you over my knee and spank you in front of the whole school!"

"Oh, yeah? You and who's army? I'd certainly like to see you try!"

They looked at each other.

"In private, now that's another matter!"

4.

"It's The Thought That Counts."

"Is there anything about the room that you'd like us to change for you, Chiyo?"

The girl shook her head vigorously. "Oh no, Miss Buffy. It's so beautiful - I can't imagine anything better. Thank you so much! I've never even seen a room with pictures actually painted on the ceiling before, not outside of the Imperial Palaces, or in shrines or temples back in Japan."

Chiyo paused, but despite her obvious pleasure with the room, she seemed worried.

"We've all got rooms this big, you know. You count as one of us, so of course you have just the same as we do," Willow said to reassure her.

"Um... it's not that, Miss Willow. I am deeply honoured by your great kindness to me," and she bowed to the older woman. She hesitated, and they could all see that even so, something was definitely bothering her. Dawn came and put an arm round her.

"What's the matter, Chiyo? Are you feeling unwell? Maybe you're jet-lagged? Come and sit down on the bed here, and tell me what's the matter. Maybe the rest of you could shoo off out of here for now, OK?"

"Oh, no. Please don't go. I have to explain. You see - it's my luggage. It's... it's about all the stuff that's been lost."

"Yes, we know. Don't worry yourself about it. Doesn't matter in the least, honey. Mr Miyazaki said before he left, that he would continue his search, didn't he? Anyway we or the other girls here'll lend you anything you need for today, and tomorrow we can go shopping if you like, and replace every single stitch of clothing that's gone missing. Hey, it'll do the British economy good! We can introduce you to all the best shops in London's West End," Dawn said encouragingly.

"For 'best', be advised, Chiyo, she means 'most expensive'," Xander observed, grinning.

Chiyo tried to smile back, not entirely successfully.

"It's not my clothes and things that I'm actually bothered by losing," she said awkwardly. "No. You see, I had brought presents for everyone, and... and now they're all lost, and I've got nothing to give you! Please accept my humblest apologies!" and she bowed so deeply to them all that she was bent almost double.

"Oh, Chiyo!" Dawn said. "You mustn't worry yourself about that! It's very sweet of you, but you really didn't have to. Anyway, I'm sure your stuff will turn up eventually."

If it were at all possible, Chiyo looked even more seriously embarrassed - in fact she was almost in tears.

"Forgive me, but I don't think you really understand, Dawn. I must explain. The giving of gifts is central in our culture - it is one of our most important customs. No one in Japan would pay a visit to even a close friend without taking a small gift of some sort. You are all doing very great favours for me - inviting me to stay, and arranging for me to study at Cambridge. For this I need to show my appreciation and thanks."

"But we know already," Dawn said, puzzled. "You don't have to give us presents as well, though presents are very nice, of course. Presents are always nice."

"Excuse me, Chiyo. Is this what you call 'Giri'?" Bibi asked. "I've heard of your national custom of everyone giving each other little gifts at almost any excuse, but 'Giri' really means something more than that, doesn't it?"

"That is correct, Miss Bibi, much more. It's rather difficult for me to explain to you. 'Giri' means, er... how do I say it properly? Perhaps 'Social Obligation', as well as 'Debt' - that is the best way I can translate it, I think. I and my family are already deeply in your debt for saving my life, and now also to you, Mr. Giles, for helping me to get a place at Cambridge. These are very serious obligations indeed. The giri therefore is very great also, and so the balance has to be restored. It will take me a long time." She shook her head and sighed. "And now I've started by losing all your presents."

She looked so small and dejected that Giles very nearly patted her reassuringly on the head as if she was still a child. He managed to catch himself in time, however, and just as well too, because nothing could have been calculated to offend her more than that.

"Chiyo, we really do appreciate your intention, but please don't worry yourself about it. After all, it's not your fault, is it? They'll turn up before too long, I'm quite sure, with your embassy's Mr Miyazaki on their trail, and in the meanwhile we have a saying..."

*

Earlier, as they followed Bibi's Jaguar in the Embassy's Mercedes, at what she considered a rather reckless speed, Chiyo had explained her problem to the young man from the Embassy. As a fellow countryman he had understood her concern instantly, but he'd shaken his head and assured her that it wouldn't matter as much to her hosts as it would have if they'd been Japanese.

"The Westerners give each other presents of course, but not exactly with the same intent as we do. The fact that the gifts you brought have been lost in transit won't bother them anything like as much as it would us. They seem to have no concept of losing face in the same the way we do. They have a different outlook, one that may be strange to you, but the British gaijin have a saying that fits this situation perfectly from their point of view. They simply shrug and say 'Never mind, it's the thought that counts!' For myself," he said, shaking his head, "it's an attitude I find difficult to understand. I promise you that whatever it takes, I will find them, Mihama-san!"

Chiyo thanked him, and knew that he really would labour day and night until her errant luggage was retrieved. Nonetheless, she wondered if perhaps he was unaware that she had had lived in the West already, and knew the phrase, and knew also that, at least from the gaijin's point of view, it could be a perfectly genuine sentiment.

*

"...We have a saying - 'It's the thought that counts', Chiyo," Giles reassured her. "It's very kind of you, but you mustn't worry about them. I'm sure all your cases will turn up in due course."

"Maybe I could have a go too, if you like, and see if I have any luck finding them," Willow offered. Chiyo thanked her politely, though a trifle doubtfully, not really understanding what she meant.

"You don't know what she might be able to do, do you?" Bibi said. Puzzled, Chiyo shook her head.

"She's a witch," said Buffy. "A real one. Didn't you know?"

Chiyo's astonished expression gave her answer.

"I can see we still have a whole lot to tell you about ourselves, Chiyo," said Bibi, looking thoughtful.

"She's one of the family, now. I think we definitely need to tell her about almost everything," said Buffy, unconsciously echoing Bibi's observation to Giles, made a little earlier.

"Agreed," said Giles, nodding and taking off his glasses. He started to polish them. "I think you'd find it very interesting, Chiyo. What do you say?"

Interesting? Chiyo thought about everything she knew, or had deduced so far about her friends. If there was more, a lot more, and what she had already learned was merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg, then it looked as if the time between now and when she went off to start University was going to be much more than just interesting. Possibly extraordinary might be a better way to describe it.

"Really? Oh yes please, Mr Giles!" she said enthusiastically, all her worries thrust aside in an instant. "I want very much to take 'Slayer 101'!"

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END.

NOTES

[1] Kyuuketsuki to Shikeishikkonin

[2] Sticks And Stones

[3] The Sun Also Sets In The East

[4] Welcome Committees

and others.