A/N: Well, it has certainly taken long enough, and I'm still not exactly happy with it. I would greatly appreciate your feedback so please R&R.
I do not own MSGM or any of its characters. All such honors belong to Oyuki Konno.
A Foundation of Roses
Hiromi was walking down one of the almost one hundred year old hallways of Hanadera University towards his Macro-Economics class when he felt a vibration at his waist. He pulled his cell phone from the holder on his belt and glanced at the caller id. It was not a number he was familiar with. He was tempted to let it go to voicemail but a sudden foreboding had him pressing the Talk button.
"This is Takeda Hiromi," he answered cautiously.
"Hiromi-kun, it's Sadako Inoue," he heard a familiar female voice answer tensely.
"Inoue-sensei," he smiled in relief as he greeted the gregarious school nurse from Lillian, "what can I do for you today?"
"H-Hiromi-kun," he heard her stammer and gasp, trying hard not to cry and causing worry lines to etch his brow, "it's . . . it's your godmother . . ."
The funeral was held the following Sunday afternoon at St. Lucy Yi Zhenmei Catholic Church. Father Yamada presided for the small group that gathered in the tiny church to say their final farewells to the woman that had done so much for them and for all of Lillian. Eri-chan, Kaori's administrative assistant, spent most of her time trying to console an inconsolable Seiko Kasuga, trying to keep her from collapsing entirely as she clutched a rosary to her breast. It was heartbreaking to watch since the two women had only found each other once again three years earlier after having been apart since their own high school days, each thinking that the other had already died from their attempted dual lover's suicide. To have miraculously found each other only to be separated once again after so little time . . .
Hiromi, his mother Chiyoko, his grandmother Kimiko, and his fiancée, Tsutako Takeshima, had greeted the mourners at the door to the church. The service was as simple as the old teacher could ever have wanted, with Sachiko playing Maria's Heart on the old organ as Yumi sang the Academy Director's favorite song. Shimako had sung Gounod's Ave Maria and then the two had sung a duet of Amazing Grace. Father Yamada had intoned the funeral reading: Chapter 2 of the Song of Solomon.
I am a flower of Sharon
A lily of the valley.
As a lily among thorns
So is my beloved among women . . .
Hiromi had provided the eulogy; extolling the virtues of his godmother, her love for Seiko-sama, and for her family, but mostly her love and dedication for her school and the students placed under her care.
She was interred at the very back of the small graveyard behind the church, right up against the stone wall that separated the church from the school so that she could be as close to her beloved Lillian as possible.
"Sachiko-san, Yumi-san, could I please speak with you for a few moments," Hiromi asked quietly as the two prepared to leave after the service. "Father Yamada has offered us the use of the Sacristy."
"Of course, Hiromi-kun," Yumi replied gently for the both of them, squeezing Sachiko's hand gently while wiping a tear from her eye.
The three bade their final farewells to the guests before making their way back to the vestry where the good father was just finishing up taking off his robes.
"Take as much time as you need, Hiromi-kun," he smiled as he shook the young man's hand.
"Thank you, Father," Hiromi smiled before pulling the cleric into a tight hug. "She loved you, you know," he told the still handsome priest.
"And I loved her as well," Father Yamada replied with a sniff. "She was a good woman."
Hiromi just nodded as the man opened the door to leave, allowing Tsutako, Chiyoko and her mother to enter as well.
"Please, everyone take a seat," Hiromi told them all as he waved the ladies towards a pew that had been set up for everyone's comfort. The slender, beautiful young man with dyed black hair and amethyst eyes bowed his head a moment before looking up at the grouping of the most important women in his life. He coughed before he started to speak. "It was my godmother's desire that her will be read here, in the church that she loved so much . . . almost as much as the chapel at Lillian," he told them with a sad smile before reaching into the breast pocket of his suit coat.
There were very few tears, each of the women having known for a while now that Kaori-sensei was ill. They had all had an opportunity to say their goodbyes over the past few months as the Academy Director faded quickly. The school's board had not yet named a replacement, but there were rumors that a former Rose was up for the job.
"Seiko-sensei has already received her bequest, so it only remains for me to explain the rest," he told the gathered women. "My godmother never lived the high life. She had her small vices, but for the most part she lived very simply. The end result of that, and of the inheritance that she received from her parents many years ago, is a rather hefty sum of money and a single piece of property." He opened the document he had taken from his pocket and began to read:
"To my dearest friends and family, Sachiko and Hiromi, I leave the remainder of my estate, including all financial assets, life insurance and pension proceeds. Additionally, I leave them the only real property that I ever owned, even though it came so late in life. I leave these assets in your care, to be used as you see fit and for the benefit of everyone, in your roles as the founding members of The Rose Foundation. Of all of your grand achievements, I believe that it is this Foundation that has been your greatest so far. Please take care of yourselves and those you love, for they are most precious to me as well as to you."
Hiromi refolded the document and handed it over to Sachiko so that she could read it as well as a new set of tears welled up in those expressive blue eyes. Yumi leaned over so that she could see the document, but only briefly before she turned to Hiromi in slight confusion.
"Hiromi-kun, what does this mean?" she asked softly.
"It means that our little scholarship foundation has just received an injection of funds amounting to several hundred million yen, Yumi-san," he smiled at her.
"S-several h-h-hundred . . ." the former Rosa Chinensis stammered in shock.
"Along with a lovely piece of property that, although it is relatively small, due to its location and improvements it is currently worth about another hundred million yen or so in today's market," he explained.
Yumi just gaped at him, mouth open but making no sound, unable to believe what he was saying.
"Would you like to see it?" he asked with a real grin, the first she had seen on his face since he had received the news of Kaori-sensei's death. "It's not far from here. We can easily walk there in just a few minutes."
"Let's see it," Sachiko said with a determined nod as she refolded the will and handed it back to him, wiping the remaining tears from her eyes. She looked up at the young man that was like a brother to her after knowing him for just over two years, a man she warmly called frère, and smiled. "I somehow get the feeling that this is something that Kaori-sensei would have wanted."
"That she did," the only male to have (unofficially) graduated from Lillian Girls' Academy grinned as he held out his hand to help her to her feet.
The three said their goodbye's to Tsutako-san, Hiromi pulling her into a brief, tight hug and kissing her on the cheek before she drove Hiromi's mother and grandmother home. He told her that he would join them later, but it would probably be sometime after dinner. They all walked to the front of the church and out through the double, dark oak doors and into the early afternoon sunlight. As his fiancée and family turned left to head towards the parked car, he, Yumi and Sachiko turned right down the sidewalk, heading towards the main gates to Lillian Girls' Academy only a few blocks away.
They spoke softly and warmly of the woman they had all loved so dearly and had just finished burying as they walked slowly towards the school that she had loved and where they had spent such wonderful years. When Hiromi stopped in front of the gates, Yumi looked up at him.
"She owns something on the school grounds?" she asked in confusion as they stood looking through the tall gates at the manicured lawns and cobbled paths that they all knew so well.
"Not on the school grounds," Hiromi grinned and then put his arms around their shoulders and turned them around, "just across the street."
"Th-that's . . ." Yumi squeaked as her hands flew to her mouth.
Across the street from the main gates to Lillian Girls' Academy was a small, white, wooden sided, two-story house sitting on a narrow plot of land.
"That's the Rose Mansion!" Sachiko gasped as Hiromi chuckled at the girls' reactions.
"My godmother had this built over the past six months," Hiromi explained. "She knew she didn't have much time left and it was to be her donation to The Rose Foundation, but she died just after it was completed so she couldn't donate it to us herself. Would you like to go inside?"
The two girls just nodded silently, still too surprised to speak. They walked over the pedestrian bridge and approached the wooden front door. Hiromi pulled out a set of keys, unlocked the door, and pushed it open.
The two-story foyer was relatively small, but still large enough to hold the small reception desk that sat as a guardian to all inside. They could see a lounge in a room to their right while a room to the left had been set up as a small office. Through an open doorway next to that they could see a small kitchen. Directly ahead of them was a narrow staircase that went up to a small landing before turning right and leading to a balcony overlooking the foyer. At the top of the landing was a beautiful stained glass window depicting three roses: one red, one white, and one yellow.
"I'm sorry to say that the stairs do not squeak," Hiromi chuckled as the two former roses stared in awe at what looked to be an exact replica of the Rose Mansion that sat on the grounds of Lillian. "The builders refused to loosen up some screws in the steps." He led them slowly up the stairs and onto the balcony overlooking the foyer. A door at the very end led to a bathroom with a shower while a biscuit door was centered in the wall to their left. He turned the knob and slowly pushed the door open to reveal a meeting room with a long, rectangular table in the center covered by a sparkling white tablecloth. A small kitchenette with a sink and under-counter refrigerator was off to the right where you could make tea. The cabinets did have one new addition; a microwave with a built in vent hood over a two-burner stove.
"I-it's the exact same," Sachiko gaped in awe, "right down to the sheer curtains and drapes!"
"It was to be her final gift to us. I'm sorry that she didn't get the chance to see your expressions when you first saw it," he chuckled. "She would have loved them."
He walked over to the cabinets of the kitchenette and opened a drawer, pulling out a large white box and then handing it to Sachiko. She stared at him a moment before looking at the box in her trembling hands. She slowly opened the lid to reveal a brass plaque intricately engraved around the border with a vine of roses surrounding the words "The Rose Foundation" in Kanji, Katakana, and English. As the two girls stared wide-eyed at the plaque Hiromi filled a tea kettle with water and put it on to heat. It wasn't long before he set two steaming cups of tea in front of Sachiko's and Yumi's normal chairs at the table and somehow got the two shocked ladies to sit.
"Sachiko, Yumi," he said with a smile as he toasted them with his own teacup, "welcome home."
The Ogasawara attorney's filed all of the necessary paperwork to transfer the property into the foundation's name and get it set up properly on the tax rolls. The money, in the form of a single cashier's check with way too many digits, was given to Shimako's father to be deposited into the Foundation's operating accounts. The Takeda's attorney filed the necessary paperwork to finalize Kaori-sensei's estate and, by the end of the week, The Rose Foundation was much more than Hiromi or Sachiko had ever imagined it would be.
"You know what we need to do," Hiromi told the raven haired beauty one evening as they met in the meeting room of the foundation's new headquarters. Sachiko's hair had grown out to about the same length as Youko-sama's but was in more of a layered cut that he thought suited her very nicely.
"I don't have the time, and neither do you," Sachiko replied with a sigh. "We each have our own companies to run. If you remember, Father transferred full control of one of our small design firms to me last year when Yumi was so ill. I have a great director running the day-to-day operations, but I still need to meet with her on at least a weekly basis." Sachiko scowled. "Father even had the audacity to ask if I would be willing to move back home so that we could work together in the evenings."
"You're joking, surely," Hiromi laughed. "I don't see Yumi allowing that!"
Sachiko giggled. "I had to keep her from storming over there and giving him a piece of her mind. The evenings are the only time we really have together since we have completely different class schedules, and we spend most of that time doing our homework."
"I know. I'm not able to see Tsutako anywhere near as much as I want to even though our schools are literally next door to each other. And I have to meet with my store managers weekly as well.
"Even before we think about someone to run the foundation, we need to decide what our mission is going to be," Hiromi continued. "The Lillian art scholarships are fine, and I have some more ideas with regards to both Lillian and Hanadera, but with the assets we now have at our disposal we can do so much more."
"I know," Sachiko sighed. "I'm emotional about the issue, and that is not a good basis for a business decision, but I want to do something for women and children with leukemia and other forms of cancer."
"Well, you're not the only one thinking along those lines," he replied with a grin as he stood up and moved towards the tiny kitchenette to brew themselves another pot of tea. "I agree that it's an emotional issue for everyone close to Yumi, but that doesn't mean it's a bad idea. We just have to come up with some ideas that are within our means. Awarding just one or two decent research grants could exhaust all of the new funds that my godmother willed to us."
"I wonder if she knew how much of a pain in the ass she was being to us," Sachiko grinned.
"Sachiko-sama!" Hiromi laughed. "Such language! Surely you didn't learn to speak like that at Lillian!"
Sachiko laughed out loud, her high sweet laughter filling the warmly lit room as Hiromi returned to the table and placed a fresh cup in front of his partner. "It seems that Sei-sama has been having a detrimental effect on my onee-sama, and she in turn has been passing her bad habits on to me," the blue eyed girl giggled.
"How are they doing," Hiromi asked as he reclaimed his seat; concern for his own grande soeurs evident in his face. "I know they couldn't be at the funeral for some reason."
"They're fine," Sachiko smiled wistfully. "They were spending some quality time together at an onsen for the weekend. They both had time to say their goodbyes to Kaori-sensei a few weeks ago so there was no real need for them to attend the funeral service. They get so little time to be together that they take every opportunity."
"I'm glad that they are taking time for themselves," Hiromi sighed. "They need it, being away from each other so much during the school year."
"However nice it is to talk about friends, it's not getting us any closer to an answer to our basic question," Sachiko said, bringing them back on topic.
"True," Hiromi gave her a smile which quickly turned into a wicked smirk, "but it has reminded me of the perfect candidate."
"Oh God!" Sachiko gasped. "You wouldn't dare!"
"Eeehh?" Yumi squeaked in shock. "C-could you p-please repeat that onee-sama?"
It was actually Hiromi, after a couple of moments of chuckling, who repeated the request that Sachiko had put before her petite-soeur and lover. "We would like you to take over responsibility for the management of The Rose Foundation," he said clearly so that Yumi would understand that he was serious, and so that Sachiko could finish with her own bout of giggling at Yumi's initial reaction.
The three university students were currently sitting at a table at Mama Cho's drinking jasmine tea and nibbling on sweet egg tarts; the snack that had become a staple for the members, both current and former, of the Yamayurikai. No one remembered who had originally found the little hole-in-the-wall family-run dim sum restaurant located just outside the gates to Lillian Girls' Academy although a number of people tried to claim that distinction. All they knew was that it had become a habit to meet at least once every other week to share tea, tarts, and talk.
Hiromi had invited Yumi and Sachiko to today's out-of-schedule meeting to discuss the future of the charitable foundation that he and Sachiko had founded almost two years earlier to award art scholarships to deserving students wishing to enter or stay at Lillian. With the new funds now available to it Sachiko and Yumi had spent many evenings talking about what the foundation could possibly do in addition to those two now relatively meager scholarships.
Yumi pounded her head just above her ears, first the left and then the right, hoping to dislodge whatever it was that seemed to be making her hear things that she knew just could not be. When nothing came flying out of her ears she gave up and figured that she must have actually heard what Hiromi and Sachiko had told her.
"You've got to be kidding. Right? I mean, I'm only a first-year at Lillian U, and an architecture major at that! What would I know about running a charitable foundation?"
"Yumi," Sachiko said as she calmed down from her giggles, "it really is not that different from the running of the Yamayurikai. What is the role of the Yamayurikai at Lillian?" she asked her petite soeur.
"Um, well," Yumi reluctantly answered her onee-sama, "to do what is necessary to ensure that the students are provided with an academic and social atmosphere that is conducive to a well-rounded learning experience."
"Yes, Yumi, that is the official role of the Yamayurikai, but what was our real role?" Sachiko asked her with a smile.
"Well, I guess if I had to boil it down to its roots, it was to take care of all of the students and help them learn what it is to be responsible people," Yumi replied after a little thought.
"That's right, Yumi. 'To take care of all of the students.' That means helping all of the school clubs, making ourselves available to the students that had needs, and being role models that they could all look up to and aspire to. And who out of all of the students at Lillian could be considered the perfect role model? Hmm?" she quipped with a grin.
"Onee-sama, if you bring up that damned award again . . . I swear I never did anything to deserve it!" she exclaimed, "I was just . . ."
"Being a role model, putting the student's needs ahead of your own, listening to and caring for each and every one of them, being kind, patient, and accepting of everyone around you, and doing whatever it took to get the job done, even during a time period when you yourself were so ill that you could have died at any moment," Sachiko said with a gentle, soft smile as she laid her hand along Yumi's cheek, just as Yumi so loved for her to do. Yumi leaned into that warm, loving embrace, relishing the feeling of comfort that it gave her. "Frankly I can think of no one better suited to the job. I promise that, at least at the start, the job will not be a full-time endeavor. You will still have time to go to your classes and enjoy your own university experience."
"And you already have a group of volunteers to call upon if you ever need anything," Hiromi explained. "Here at Lillian, you have Sachiko and Sei-sama. At Hanadera, just on the other side of the hill, you have myself, Yuuki-kun, Suguru-kun, Masamune-kun, and Alice-san. At Todai you have Youko-sama, Rei-sama, and Yoshino-san. And, of course, at Lillian Girls' Academy you have Touko-chan, Noriko-san, Nana-chan, Sakura-sama, and Yukiko-chan. Even Eri-chan has offered her services."
"You also have Shimako-san, along with the support of not one but two different temples. Even Father Yamada over at St. Lucy's has offered his services along with the church itself if we ever need it," Sachiko finished.
"Still, Sachiko, it's such a big job," Yumi said as she shook her head, "I mean, we are not just talking about a few art scholarships now. We have no idea what we can do and where we can go with this. There are so many possibilities. Similar and additional scholarships for students at both Lillian and Hanadera; subsidized dorms for deserving students at both schools; counseling services; medical services . . . and that doesn't even start to tackle the bigger issues."
Hiromi smirked at Sachiko who had the good grace to nod and acknowledge his win for the original idea of appointing Yumi to the post. Her wonderful petite soeur had just enumerated four additional services that the foundation could provide to the students and the community with the funding that they currently had and she hadn't even been trying.
"We don't expect to go global overnight, Yumi," Hiromi chuckled. "Until we have both the staff and funds we are just going to stay small and do what we can. In fact, I'd be happy if we always remained small and simply served the local community. Now, what did you mean about the subsidized dorms?"
"Oh, well, um," Yumi gave a shy smile, "After Sachi and I started talking about it, I started looking around the neighborhood on my way to and from school. I noticed that the apartment complex next to the foundation's new headquarters is up for sale. It's in pretty good condition and it's close to both schools. We could put a foundation member or one of the school's teachers in one of the apartments as a dorm mother or something to keep an eye on the students. If we offer the position to one of the school's Sisters we might even be able to get some funding from the church to offset the expenses."
"And the counseling and medical services?" Hiromi pushed her.
"Ah, um, I was speaking to my doctor, Watanabe-sensei, at my last checkup and he mentioned that he had a friend from medical school that was tired of the hustle and bustle of a large city hospital and was looking for a smaller, more relaxed atmosphere. I mentioned Touko-chan's family hospital out in the mountains and he thought it would be a wonderful choice for his friend. But he also said that the man wanted to do a little pro bono work in a free or low cost community clinic somewhere. Watanabe-sensei said that he would be interested in something like that as well and that got me to thinking about the foundation. Isn't there a closed storefront on the other side of RMII?"
"RMII?" Hiromi and Sachiko both asked with quizzical looks.
"Oh, sorry," Yumi pinked, "I've been thinking of the foundation's new headquarters as kind of a Rose Mansion II . . . RMII . . . see?"
Hiromi grinned and shrugged while Sachiko giggled at her partner's wit. "Alright, if you were going to assign those two projects to someone, who would you give them to," Hiromi asked the petite, brown eyed girl.
"Um, well, the clinic I would assign to Yuuki and Touko-chan for obvious reasons," Yumi thought aloud, "and the dorm project I would probably assign to Shimako and Noriko with Suguru-kun to support them; that's after getting Masamune-kun to set up a proper accounting system for us." Yumi decided.
"And you still do not think you are the best person for the job, Yumi?" Sachiko asked as she reached her hand across to take Yumi's in her own and give it a squeeze. "You just decided on four needed projects, identified the facilities and the volunteers, and assigned the responsibilities to those best suited to get the jobs done successfully."
Yumi ran her free hand through her still short brown hair in embarrassment at how she had been going on. She knew how important the foundation was to both of them and she didn't want to be the one to take it down the wrong path. It was so much responsibility and she had her own schoolwork to do. But looking into her lover's eyes, and into the eyes of a man she loved so dearly, she didn't have the heart to turn them down. She put her head down on the table and sighed.
"I'm going to need all the help I can get," she murmured, frightened at the role she was taking on, "and that means the two of you," she said as she raised her head once again and looked at her two soeurs, "but I'll do it. But I want Alice-san as my secretary!" she demanded.
"He's already agreed," Hiromi grinned. "In fact," he said as he looked at his watch, "I believe that he and Masamune-kun are over at 'RMII' right now setting up the computer network and installing the accounting software."
"You . . . you . . . you knew that I'd agree you cross-dressing manipulator!" Yumi exclaimed loudly, causing a few heads to turn towards them with smiles.
"You leave my Hiromi-san alone, Yumi-sama," Mama Cho yelled through the pass-through from the kitchen. "He looks better in a dress than you do! Oh, all that beautiful hair," she wailed.
"Yes, Mama," Yumi yelled back with a grin as the rest of the small restaurant's patrons laughed.
Thanks for reading and, again, please drop me a line and let me know what you think. I need all the encouragement I can get ^_^