Happily Ever After - Act I

Slim delicate fingers hung poised over their selection for a long moment as she pondered which to wear. It was the beginning of April, spring was in the air and today a new group of students would begin their first year of high school at Lillian's Girls Academy. "It feels like a green day today," she said optimistically as she selected a set of green ribbons from the vast assortment before her. Leaning down she peered into the mirror and carefully tied first one ribbon and then the next making certain they were situated properly for her pigtails. With a smile and a curt nod to her reflection in the mirror she stood and walked from her room and down the stairs to the kitchen.

"Good morning Yumi-chan," Fukuzawa Miki, Yumi's mother, greeted the younger girl with as she stepped from the bottom step and into the kitchen. "You seem to be in a good mood today," the elder Fukuzawa woman commented upon seeing the cheerful smile upon her daughters face.

"Good morning Mom," Yumi replied quickly moving to the table and taking her seat. "Spring is here at last," she stated to her mother who moved to the stove and poured her daughter a cup of tea. "It's going to be a beautiful day! I just know it!" Yumi finished with as she lifted a piece of toast from the plate sitting on the table before her and took a large bite of it.

"Is that so?" Miki inquired with a gentle smile, pleased to see her only daughter happy. "Is there something special happening today?" Miki asked as she stepped to the table and placed the cup of tea next to her daughters' plate. Yumi shook her head in denial in way of reply as she took a quick sip of the tea to wash down the toast. Miki regarded her only daughter for a long moment, noting the changes in Yumi as if for the first time. Suddenly she reached out to touch one pigtail gently, allowing the silky strands of hair to slip through her fingertips. "You've grown so much over the last year Yumi-chan; I almost don't recognize my little girl in this young woman you've become."

Yumi said, "Mom!" as she moved her head hesitantly away from her mother's touch, torn between being embarrassed by the display of affection and still desiring her mother's tenderness. The fact that her mother had stated she was a young woman though warmed her heart considerably.

Miki sighed wistfully as she turned and walked to the counter where she was preparing a bento box for her husband. "Before we know it you'll have yourself a husband and children of your own with little time to spare for us," she said as she placed several rice balls in the bento box. "Promise me that you'll come by and visit from time to time, Yumi-chan."

Yumi softly walked up behind the older woman and slipped her arms around her mother in a hug. "I'll always have time for you and Dad," she said as she rested her cheek against her mother's back and listened to the loving heart beating within. The shorter brunette realized that with all that had been happening within her own life she had not been very attentive or affectionate to her own family. "I'm in no hurry to find myself a husband," she clarified softly before inhaling deeply the gentle reassuring scent of her mother which brought a soft smile to her lips.

Miki smiled softly at the rare display of affection from the younger girl and gently patted the arms around her waist as she tilted her head back a little to rest upon her daughter's soft brown hair. "You never know when love will find you," she replied sagely, enjoying the mother daughter moment all the more for Yumi having been the one to initiate it. After several long moments standing as such Miki said, "So I shouldn't be expecting any grandchildren anytime soon then I take it?"

"Mom!" Yumi exclaimed withdrawing her arms and turning away as she felt her checks warm with a light blush. Grabbing her jacket she quickly slipped it on one arm at a time as her mother chuckled good naturedly at her reaction. After a quick swallow of tea she picked up her school bag in one hand and the remainder of her piece of toast in the other. "I'll be heading out," she called over her shoulder to her mother as she stepped from the kitchen and paused at the front door to put her shoes on. Yumi grunted a reply around the piece of bread in her mouth to her mother's call for her to have a good day and then was out the door and into the cool morning air.

As the young brunette walked towards the bus stop as she always did, the morning air seemed cleaner, lighter and she inhaled deeply relishing the pure crisp smell of it. While it still held a hint of winter, as summer was a ways off as yet, it was certainly warmer than it had been the previous week, or so she believed. The morning sky appeared to be lighter, a sure sign that spring was here, or at the very least was quickly approaching. Yumi found the walk this morning to be particularly pleasing which caused her to smile as she strolled along. Today I am an upperclassman, she thought to herself. The realization caused her to grin as she stifled a squeal that threatened to leap out from between her clenched lips. The very fact that she didn't squeal just served to validate her appraisal of herself as being older and perhaps more mature.

Today there would be a new crop of first year students, she mused as she waited for the bus. They will all be arriving this morning with hopes for the future shining brightly in their eyes. Yumi recalled her first day there and just how out of place she felt upon first stepping through the main gates and walking down the gingko lined pathway. Even with her new uniform, with its pristinely white sailor's scarf, she felt out of place as if she was trespassing upon hallowed ground. Though they had been previously informed about how to pray before the statue of Maria-sama, she had been so nervous that first morning that her mind had drawn a blank as she tried to think of what to pray for. Thankfully an upperclassman had taken pity upon her and whispered to her to just pray for a good start to the new grade. Yumi couldn't help but chuckle softly to herself as she stepped upon the bus and found a seat to sit in. She had been so embarrassed that she was certain her face had been red most of the morning that day. It all seems so long ago, she thought to herself as she turned to look out the window.

The bus pulled away from the curb and on to its next stop as Yumi thought back finding it hard to believe that it had already been a year since she had started high school. Perhaps that first day was a sign of things to come, she mused to herself silently. I never would have thought that I would have had a year like I did! The first week for the new first year students was reserved for allowing them to settle into their new homeroom, find their shoe lockers and basically discover their way around the high school campus. Her second week there, upon attending the first year welcoming ceremony presented by the Yamayurikai, she had watched as a raven haired, blue eyed, upperclassman had played upon the organ within the chapel; a performance for all of them. Yumi was mesmerized and held spell bound as if the older girl played for her alone. It was then and there that she had decided she wanted to become acquainted with that particular Onee-sama. It wasn't long however before she discovered that she was not alone in her adulation for the raven haired upperclassman. Nor was that devotion apparently limited to her fellow first year classmates as second year and even third year classmen held her in awe.

As the bus pulled into the train station and passengers departed while others arrived and found a place to sit or stand, Yumi continued to look out the window lost in her thoughts of those early days. April had turned to spring, which then gave way to summer, by which time the young brunette had resigned herself to admiring the sapphire eyed upperclassman from afar as many others did. There were moments of being lost in dreams of speaking to her even if only once but that was all they were, dreams. After the summer sports festival the second year students went away for an entire week on a class trip and Yumi found herself missing seeing the raven haired beauty. It wasn't till her closest friend, Takeshima Tsutako, commented on how empty the campus felt without all the second year students there that she realized she herself hadn't even noticed that they were gone. To her the only one that mattered was her Ogasawara-sama. If she missed the older student, she had plenty of school work to struggle through and to occupy her time and mind as her grades were never above par and often were just barely average.

The second year students eventually returned from their school trip. The warmth of summer soon gave way to the gentle breezes of autumn as the leaves changed colors and the gingko nuts fell from the trees to land like landmines along the walkways for the unsuspecting or careless student rushing to her class or club meeting. School life had settled into the dull routine that teenagers the world over complained about, consisting of assignments and homework followed by tests. As autumn continued though, spirits ran high within the halls as everyone started to prepare for the much anticipated fall festival. The festival offered the different clubs a chance to display what they had accomplished within the first semester of the school year. Additionally each class was responsible for making their own exhibits as well. The day of the festival there would only be homeroom and morning prayers as the classes for the day were canceled in favor of the event. The school campus would be filled with students and their family members rushing from one exhibit to another. Smiles and laughter were the main course of the day as children, young and old, rushed about with their eyes wide in wonder, words of praise tumbling from their lips upon viewing each and every wonderful display.

While the exhibits were a very important factor in the festival, it was well acknowledged that the highlight of the festival itself was the play which was orchestrated by the members of the Yamayurikai. Many of the different clubs would lend their specific talents to insure the play was a success; however the brunt of the organization and management fell to the members of the Yamayurikai. Yumi couldn't help but grin to herself recalling how excited she had been last year at the prospect of watching her first play and perhaps seeing the object of her infatuation as well. As the oldest child in her immediate family she had no reason to attend the previous festivals while she was in middle school. She didn't know any of the upperclassmen who were already in high school and so didn't have a means to acquire a ticket to the festival. As this was to be her first time, she had looked forward to showing the project her class had worked on to her parents and brother.

Yumi raised her arm, resting her elbow against the lower edge of the window and then leaning her head against her palm as the bus pulled out the station and headed to its next stop. I had no clue that morning just how drastically my life would change, she thought wistfully to herself. "Wait," she half mumbled to herself drawing a curious look from the girl sitting in the seat next to her, who upon not hearing anything further returned her attention to the others on the bus. Who would have thought a single word would have set off the series of events that uprooted my young high school life and thrust me into the maelstrom of the Yamayurikai and the fall festival? The young brunette shook her head in disbelief, causing her pigtails to sway gently from front to back several times before returning to their semi-stationary state once more. She had been hurrying to class that morning and as she had turned away from the statue of Maria-Sama she had been called from behind to wait. Upon turning she had been confronted with the appearance of the very Onee-sama she had wanted to speak with since the first year welcoming ceremony, Ogasawara Sachiko. To the first year student it was like a dream come true, right up to the time when her collar and scarf had been adjusted and she was told to be mindful of her appearance as Maria-Sama was always watching. After waiting over five months to speak with the upperclassman she had barely managed to squeak out a 'Gokigenyou' as the raven haired beauty had walked away.

Yumi dropped her arm from the window and allowed her hand to come to rest in her lap as the bus came to the stop just prior to Lillian's Girls Academy. At the time she had wished she had just continued walking and hadn't turned around when called. Now however she was glad she had stayed. That one decision had led to a multitude of experiences. Some of them joyful, some painful and others regretted but they all amounted to a time in her life she wouldn't change if she were offered the chance to do so. If she hadn't stayed she wouldn't have become the Petite Sœur of Sachiko-sama or come to know the members of the Yamayurikai and account them as the dearest friends that they each were. She had assumed the responsibility of the lead role for Cinderella and thus spared the woman she admired the necessity of dancing with the Hanadera student council president who it was later learned was Sachiko-sama's cousin and betrothed.

The small brunette sighed softly to herself as the bus pulled away from the curb. For two weeks I was Cinderella and was allowed to live out my dream. Thoughts of that time spent with Sachiko-sama as her Onee-sama filtered quickly through her mind. Treasured memories that were burnt into her heart and would never fade from her memory. Before she knew it though her time was up, the play was over, and she had returned the older girl's rosary thus releasing Sachiko from the obligation of being her Onee-sama. Yumi recalled that she had felt they were not together for the right reasons, a belief she still held to even now though she secretly wished they were together as Sœurs again. At the time she had felt inadequate in being the younger sister of a woman of Sachiko's high social bearing and prestigious upbringing, who was generally revered as the Princess of Lillian. For a while they had not spoken and Yumi recalled bearing the brunt of the cruelty of teenage girls for first having accepted Sachiko's rosary and then for having returned it. Looking back now it struck her as mildly humorous that no matter what she did there were those that were displeased with her choices.

The bus came to the stop for Lillian Girl's Academy and Yumi rose from her seat and became a part of the deluge of dark uniforms which were disgorged from the bus and proceeded to make their way across the overpass pedestrian bridge. Through chance encounters such as the kendo match and the student council elections the two former Sœur's had finally started to talk again. It wasn't till the Valentine Day event though that they had each opened up to the other. Yumi smiled softly in remembrance as she walked through the Lillian main gates and stepped upon the school grounds to proceed along the gingko lined pathway. That encounter in the Rose Mansion had taken place after the en Bouton Treasure Hunt for the Valentine's Day event and had ended with the two of them crying on each other's shoulder and later going upon their first date. The following month when Sachiko's own Onee-sama, as well as the other two Lady Roses, had graduated Yumi had remained by Sachiko's side to support her in whatever manner she could. It was then that the raven haired heiress had asked her to always be her friend. Yumi had been willing and even had expected to be offered the older woman's rosary. The youngest of the pair had realized that she didn't care what the reason was they were together any longer and that she just wanted to be there for the woman she admired and loved. When the offer to be friends was extended, while confused by it at first as she had expected the rosary, Yumi hadn't hesitated to accept the treasured friendship and confirm that they would always be the best of friends. Yumi had realized that all that really mattered was that they would be together.

Yumi's musings had slowed her pace and hence she was the last to reach the statue of Maria-Sama, the other students that had stepped off the bus with her were already moving off. Tucking her school bag under one arm she clasped her hands before her and bowed her head in prayer. Please Maria-sama; allow me to live my life righteously. Please watch over my family and Sachiko-sama as I am certain this will be a trying time for her. Please help Sachiko-sama find the proper Petite Sœur for her. Yumi paused and swallowed heavily before continuing. Maria-sama, if there is a little sister out there that I may help, and it pleases you, please bring her to me so that I might protect and assist her. I will be the best Onee-sama that I can be.

Yumi opened her eyes and shifted her school bag from beneath her arm to her hand. While doing so she noticed a petite girl with black hair that came to just above her shoulders standing off to one side staring at the statue of Maria-sama. The younger girl's hair style as well as her features reminded Yumi of a traditional Japanese doll in their cuteness. From the look of the uniform as well as the brilliantly white scarf Yumi could tell the girl was a first year student. Yumi, recalling her first day as a high school student, smiled and walked towards the younger girl prepared to offer her the same advice she received upon her first day last year.

The dark hair girl noticed Yumi's approach and turned to face her directly. Yumi saw that the girl was even cuter than she had first suspected, with large eyes that seemed thoughtful and far too serious for a girl her age. "Gokigenyou," the underclassman greeted Yumi with as she drew near.

Yumi replied, "Gokigenyou…" her voice making it seem a question as she waited for the other girl's name.

"Nijō," the smaller girl quickly provided with a short bow. "Nijō Noriko."

"Nijō-san," Yumi said with what she hoped was a warm smile. "Welcome to Lillian. The first day can always be a little unnerving at first." Yumi glanced around and then leaned in and whispered in a conspiratory tone of voice while bringing a hand up to one side of her mouth as if in an attempt to hide what she was saying, "Just pray for a good start to the semester."

Nijō-san's brows creased in confusion for a moment before it dawned on her what the older girl's meaning was. "I wasn't trying to decide what to pray," she explained. "I was admiring the statute. I like to travel and view Buddhist statues," the smaller girl continued to explain her actions. "Seeing the statue here I wanted to look at it as well to see if it held the same attraction for me. I hope I wasn't disturbing you?"

Yumi assured her, "No, not at all. I remembered my first day here and I couldn't for the life of me figure out what to pray for." Yumi chuckled at her words even as Nijō-san smiled and seemed to relax slightly at Yumi's easy manner and good natured chuckle. "An upperclassman came to my rescue and suggested that I pray for a good start to the new school year."

Nijō-san replied, "When you saw me standing here you thought that perhaps I was stuck as well?" Yumi nodded even as she was impressed with the younger girl's quick reasoning. "Arigato for assisting me then," Nijō-san offered as she bowed once more.

Yumi smiled realizing that she really hadn't done anything as the younger girl had not really required assistance. "We were all new here once, Nijō-san." Yumi pointed off to the right. "That will take you to where your shoe locker will be. I would show you the way but I have a prior engagement I must not be late for and it is in the other direction."

"You've been most helpful…" Nijō-san started to reply and this time she left the unspoken question hanging in the air between them.

Yumi groaned inwardly at her lack of manners and then said, "Fukuzawa, Fukuzawa Yumi."

"Arigato, Fukuzawa-san," Nijō-san said with a smile. "I have kept you long enough. Please do not let me detain you any further."

"Gokigenyou," Yumi said with a slight bow as the younger girl replied in kind. Smiling Yumi turned and headed in the opposite direction she had indicated that the shoe lockers were located in. Well she certainly seemed like a sweet girl, Yumi pondered to herself as she walked down the pathway to the Rose Manson. They should have started the meeting already, she reasoned. The Yamayurikai were meeting this morning to discuss the first year welcoming ceremony in which they welcomed the new high school students and presented them with blessed Maria-sama medallions. As Yumi was not a member of the Yamayurikai she was not required to be there for the meeting, however she had decided to stop in and offer her assistance should it be required. It was also a good reason to see Sachiko-sama before classes for the day started. Just the thought of seeing the upperclassman made Yumi smile and a soft squeal escaped her lips as she hurried along the walkway.

"Gokigenyou, Fukuzawa-sama." said a bright voice next to the brunette suddenly.

Yumi, lost in her own thoughts and desire to see a certain sapphire eyed older girl had walked right past a student without even seeing her. The second year student stopped and turned back to the girl she had walked past. "Gokigenyou," Yumi offered with a slight bow. Quickly noticing that the younger girl could only be walking from the very place Yumi was heading she smiled reassuringly. The poor thing must have been too scared to knock on the door of the Rose Mansion. To new students the Roses and their en Bouton's were scary individuals to approach especially when all alone. "Was there something you required from the Yamayurikai," Yumi inquired thinking to intercede on the girls behalf or at the very least to accompany her into the Rose Mansion.

"Arigato, Fukuzawa-sama, however there is no need to concern yourself with me," the petite girl replied with a smile as she clasped her hands before her holding her school bag and causing the banana curls that framed her face to sway back and forth. "I was just visiting my Onee-sama," the smaller brunette explained.

Yumi peered closer at the girl. The manner in which her curls sway is cute though I think she would be prettier if she wore her hair down. There was something about the manner in which her hair, drawn up tight as it were, lent an impersonal appearance to her continence that Yumi found disquieting. For a brief instant she had a flashback to a rehearsal and Sachiko-sama telling her that she should wear her hair down as well. Do I look that way to Sachiko-sama? Brown eyes returned her scrutiny calmly as if daring Yumi to find anything of fault with her or her appearance. I haven't seen her here before. Maybe her Onee-sama is a second year student. It was not unusual for club members to visit the Rose Mansion for one reason or another. Perhaps she accompanied her Onee-sama to see the Yamayurikai on some matter and then overwhelmed by the presence of the Roses she excused herself? "I see, your Onee-sama?" Yumi replied with quizzically.

"That's correct," was the quick affirmation. "I've always wanted to see the Rose Mansion and so I asked Sachiko Onee-sama if it would be alright if I came before classes began to see it." Yumi couldn't believe her ears. Sachiko-sama is her Onee-sama? How? When? Emotions flashed rapidly across Yumi's face clearly seen by the younger girl that stood before her watching intently. Surprise, disbelief soon gave way to confusion and hurt as Yumi's mind tried to process what she had just been told. The sound of the other girl giggling brought her thoughts back into focus. "I like you, Fukuzawa-sama," the first year student stated. "You're entertaining," she added pointing to Yumi's face. Yumi didn't have to be told that her emotions were displayed all over her face. Yumi smiled uncertainly at the other girl's words, not sure what to make of them as her mind still reeled from discovering that Sachiko-sama had finally chosen a little sister.

"Yes, well I hope you have a wonderful school year…" Yumi paused realizing that she did not know the girls name even though the new first year student had called her by name several times already.

"Matsudaira," the girl with matching banana curls offered. "Matsudaira Touko."

"It has been a pleasure to meet you Matsudaira-san," Yumi stated with a slight bow. "If you would excuse me, there is a meeting I really should be getting to." Yumi turned and moved towards the door to the Rose Mansion which was only a few feet away. Try as she might she still couldn't believe that Sachiko-sama had found a new Petite Sœur. Rationally Yumi knew that eventually the older girl would have to choose a Petite Sœur but there was a part of her that wanted to believe that she would always be the only Petite Sœur for Sachiko-sama. It's not like I didn't know this would happen one day, she told herself though it didn't ease the shock of the discovery any.

"If you mean the First Year Welcoming Ceremony," Matsudaira-san offered behind her, "the meeting was canceled as Hasekura-sama couldn't attend."

Yumi pondered for a second how the younger girl would know that the meeting was canceled till she realized that this younger girl was now the Rosa Chinensis en bouton and hence was a member of the Yamayurikai and destined to be a Rose herself one day. Yumi stopped, turned and replied, "Arigato Matsudaira-san, though I feel I should still see if there is something I can do to help."

"Sachiko Onee-sama said I can come to the Rose Mansion any time I want to so I suspect we will be seeing each other a great deal Fukuzawa-sama. I hope you'll take good care of me," Matsudaira-san stated bowing slightly. "Gokigenyou, Fukuzawa-sama," said the petite girl in parting as she turned and walked off down the pathway in the same direction that Nijō-san had taken previously.

Yumi watched Matsudaira-san's back as she walked away for a long moment as the emotions inside her warred with one another. I should be happy for Sachiko-sama, Yumi chided herself. Matsudaira-san certainly seems capable enough; she admitted as she turned about and walked to the Mansion door. There was a certain air about her, though I can't place it, however it was very familiar. Yumi pondered that for a long moment as she turned the handle and opened the door and then closed it softly behind her so that it didn't slam. Yumi started up the stairs to the meeting room but then paused part way up the stairs suddenly realizing what was familiar about Matsudaira-san. She reminds me a great deal of Sachiko-sama. There is that same stately mannerism and calm politeness which only comes from proper schooling and upbringing. The confused brunette continued up the stairs and walked to the biscuit colored door. "Gokigenyou," Yumi said after opening the door and stepping into the room, offering a warm smile to the three girls there currently.

Yoshino and Shimako both smiled and offered a warm "Gokigenyou" in return upon seeing their friend. It took only a moment for them to realize that Yumi hadn't even looked in their direction as her soft brown eyes were fastened upon the dark haired third year student seated at the table. Both girls glanced towards each other at almost the exact same time and shared a secret smile, glad for their two friends in the room with them and the growing relationship that was evident in how they had eyes only for each other.

"Gokigenyou, Yumi," soft pink lips offered up from beneath sapphire eyes that regarded the younger brunette affectionately. "I was hoping you would be here," Sachiko said as she closed the book she had been reading and set it aside. "Though I wish it had been a bit earlier," she gently chided the younger girl.

Yumi replied, "Gomen. I didn't think my presence was required for the meeting." Crossing the room, her pigtails swaying gently with each stride, Yumi walked to the seat next to the current Rosa Chinensis and pulling the chair out slightly seated herself. "I understand congratulations are in order, Sachiko-sama?" Yumi said after reaching out and clasping Sachiko's hands in her own bringing a startled look from the older girl as well as inquisitive ones from the other two present.

"Yumi?" Sachiko asked in question uncertain as to what the other girl was referring to.

"There's no need to hold back Sachiko-sama," Yumi continued with. "I'm happy for you...for you both," she quickly added. "I will admit that I was surprised though," Yumi said, the last part in a slightly hurt tone to indicate she felt that Sachiko-sama should have confided in her.

Sachiko's brow creased in puzzlement as she regarded her former Petite Sœur. "Yumi, if you have something to say then please do so directly and to the point."

Yumi chuckled softly and felt the other two girls move closer, drawn into the conversation by the mere fact of being present. "I should be telling you that Onee-sama," Yumi retorted with and then felt the hands held in hers suddenly grasp hers strongly in surprise.

Sachiko's sapphire eyes widened and a pain stabbed deep within the older girl's heart upon hearing Yumi address her by that name. "Yumi…" Sachiko said in the barest of whispers filled with longing and a touch of sorrow. "…what are you saying?" she finally managed to ask. A part of her heart desperately wanted to believe that the girl before her was asking to be her Petite Sœur once more even though her mind baulked at the thought of the possibility that Yumi would ask that of her.

"I…I just wanted to congratulate you, Sachiko-sama," Yumi stammered suddenly feeling uncertain. "Haven't you given her your rosary yet," Yumi inquired thinking perhaps that was the issue.

Behind Yumi Shimako gasped quickly followed by Yoshino exclaiming "What?"

Yumi turned to regard her friends with a questioning look on her face. "She hasn't told you that she picked her Petite Sœur?" Shimako and Yoshino both nodded indicating this was the first they had heard of this. Three sets of eyes turned to regard the dark haired upperclassman sitting in the chair next to Yumi. "Sachiko-sama?"

The Princess of Lillian appeared as if she had been frozen in place with a look which was a mixture of confusion, shock and utter disbelief. Several long moments passed without the older girl moving and Yumi, growing concerned at the lack of response, gently squeezed the hands in hers which seem to break whatever spell Sachiko had been under. "Yumi, I'm not certain what you've heard or believe you've heard," Sachiko started with in a dazed voice, "but I can assure you that you're my only Petite Sœur."

"But…but I just spoke with her outside," Yumi stated in her defense. "She said she was here visiting her Onee-sama," Yumi added as she glanced to Yoshino and Shimako who had come to stand next to the two seated girls.

Slipping into detective mode Yoshino inquired, "What did she look like, Yumi-san?"

"She was petite with large serious brown eyes," Yumi began with. "I'm certain she was a first year student. She had brown hair which was done up in spiral curls which hung down on each side of her face which swung rather cutely as she moved."

A soft chuckle from the girl seated next to her caused the three second year students to look at Sachiko who was chuckling softly behind a hastily raised hand. "I think I understand what is happening here Yumi," Sachiko offered. "Did she tell you her name?"

Yumi nodded before replying. "Matsudaira-san, Matsudaira Touko I believe she said her name was." Shimako and Yoshino both sighed in relief upon hearing this and then walked over to the kitchenette area to prepare some tea. "What?" asked a very confused Yumi as she watched her friends walk away till she returned her attention to the woman sitting next to her realizing her classmates were not going to be coming to her rescue.

Sachiko smiled warmly and shifted her hands taking Yumi's in hers and held them gently. "The reason I had hoped you would be here earlier was so that you could meet my cousin." Sachiko paused and repressed a giggle as she squeezed the hands in hers reassuringly. "Matsudaira Touko is my cousin, Yumi." Sachiko watched as the younger girls thoughts flashed across the face before her in what Sei-sama had affectionately called 'Yumi's 100 faces'. Slowly realization dawned which was followed by understanding, relief and lastly by embarrassment. "Touko-chan has grown up around me since she was little and took to calling me 'Sachiko Onee-sama'. I did ask her to call me Sachiko-sama or Rosa Chinensis while upon school grounds though," Sachiko explained to Yumi.

Yumi's head dropped and her eyes fell upon her lap as she felt her cheeks begin to slowly burn. "Gomennasai, Sachiko-sama for jumping to conclusions without checking with you first," the ashamed younger girl offered in way of apology.

"No apology required, Yumi," Sachiko assured her as she gave Yumi's hands one last squeeze before releasing them and turning to face the table as Shimako brought a cup of tea and placed it before Sachiko even as Yoshino did the same for Yumi. "It was a simple mistake and one that anyone could have made," she continued with as the other two girls took seats at the table and enjoyed their tea.

Yumi smiled her thanks to Yoshino for the tea as she lifted her head up. "I stopped by to see if there was anything I could do to help with the first year welcoming ceremony." Yumi knew that with the graduation of the Roses that the Yamayurikai currently only had four members when it could have as many as nine. It wasn't in the cheerful girl's nature to stand by when she could lend a hand to help her friends. Discussion turned to the event itself and soon it was decided that they really couldn't make a decision without Rei-sama being present. "I can come back at lunch if Rei-sama will be here?" All eyes turned and looked at Yoshino who indicated that her Onee-sama and cousin should be here then.

"Well then we'll shelve the matter till lunch today," Sachiko offered. "We should probably head to class," she added looking directly at Yumi with a warm smile. Yumi returned the smile and stood taking her own tea cup as well as Sachiko's to the sink to wash them where Yoshino joined her shortly with her own as well as Shimako's cup.

"Don't worry too much about it, Yumi-san," Yoshino said in a soft whisper meant just for the two of them as she slipped the two cups in her hands into the sink and reached for the drying towel. "I hear she is a very distant relative."

Yumi shot her friend an appreciative smile for a second as she washed a cup and then rinsed it and set it in the drying basket where Yoshino took it up and began drying it with the towel. "I think I was just caught unaware is all," Yumi replied as she washed another cup and set it in the basket to be dried. "I know that sooner or later she'll have to take a Petite Sœur." Yumi remained quiet for several long moments as she washed the saucers and set them into the basket to follow the cups set their previously. Yumi shrugged slightly as she continued speaking, "As Petite Sœur's go, perhaps a family member would be perfect for Sachiko-sama."

"Perhaps Yumi-san would be perfect," Yoshino said nudging her friend playfully.

"Not hardly," Yumi replied in a tone of voice that was contradictory to her words.

"Yumi are you ready," Sachiko's melodious voice called from behind the two girls.

"Go on," Yoshino said with a grin, "I can finish this up." Yumi's answering smile expressed the girl's gratitude far more than any words could ever have done. The small brunette turned around only to see Sachiko-sama standing there holding both of their school bags waiting for her with a warm and inviting smile. Gokigenyous were quickly exchanged and soon the Rosa Chinensis and her former little sister were out the door, down the stairs and through the bottom doorway.

"Arigato, Yumi," Sachiko suddenly said for no apparent reason as the two of them walked towards the second year classrooms. Other girls dressed in Lillian school uniform hurried past them offering a greeting or quick word to Sachiko as she was the current Rosa Chinensis.

"Eh?" Yumi exclaimed while shooting a questioning look at the woman next to her.

Sachiko reached down and took Yumi's hand in hers as they walked along the pathway. Other students regarded the former Sœur's as they walked past, uncertain what to make of the two girls walking along holding hands and carrying on a friendly conversation. "It was nice to hear you call me Onee-sama once again," Sachiko explained. "It brought to mind good memories even though it's only the fourth time you've called me that," Sachiko added shooting the girl next to her a reproachful look. "I mean really was it that hard to say?"

Yumi smiled recalling good memories as well. No longer did those memories pain her as they once did. She had longed to be a part of Sachiko-sama's life and here she was, walking side by side, hand in hand with that very woman. What did it matter if they were Sœur's or not, they were together and that was what Yumi really wanted most of all. "Sachiko-sama is scary," replied Yumi in a pouting tone as her face took on a sad and pouting expression to match her voice. "I was too intimidated to call you anything other than Sachiko-sama."

Sachiko paused just outside of the building where the second year classrooms were located in and turned to regard the playfully pouting girl who turned to face her as well as if they had mutually decided to stop and face each other at the exact same moment. Yumi accepted the proffered school bag just before delicate hands reached out and straightened Yumi's sailor collar and then dropped down to untie and retie the white scarf. "Is that so," Sachiko asked as she gazed deeply into the brown eyes before her. "I guess I shall have to forgive you then," she said with an exaggerated resigned sigh. The older girl couldn't help but chuckle as Yumi smiled brightly up at her. "Lunch then," inquired the Rose Chinensis before she turned away to go to her own classroom. Yumi nodded once and watched the retreating form of the woman she admired and idolized.

Later that night Yumi awoke from a sound sleep with the words Sachiko-sama had spoken earlier that day suddenly ringing in her ears. "…but I can assure you that you're my only Petite Sœur."


Author's Note:

This will be the third and final installment for what I have come to call my Fairytale Arc. I strongly suggest reading Cinderella and The Glass Slipper, in that order, before reading this story. Lots going on in my real life, including a move, so only expect weekly updates on this one. I hope you'll enjoy Happily Every After as you have its two predecessors.

Hard to believe that this will make my 10th Marimite story!

As always, though certainly not required, I do appreciate any and all reviews.

Kind Regards,

EJ Daniels

All characters within this story, unless otherwise stated are the sole property of Oyuki Konno the original writer of the Maria-sama ga Miteru light novel series.

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