Chapter 97 – Preparations for the Star Festival

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Today I visited Corinna’s home to formally order a blue robe for ceremonies and one for everyday use. Since the ceremonial robe will take time, I requested them through Benno ahead of time, except the design of the embroidery, the weaving of the obi and the fee; apparently many things have to be determined in person.
Corinna allowed me to bring the female family members as attendants today. As Corinna herself is in the midst of pregnancy, I was told to bring along an assistant for taking my measurements. Previously Benno took my measurements over my clothes, but she apparently wanted to take my measurements properly since it looks like we will be associates for a long time to come.
With Lutz absent, I have come together with Tuuli to get things done. My mother’s health seems to be slightly bad, and although she wanted to come along, father forbade her.

“Ceremonial, that means a very nice cloth will be used, right? It’s the first time for me to see such soft, smooth cloth.”

Tuuli, who finished the measuring after I undressed down to my underwear, touched the cloth with sparkling eyes. It looks like there hasn’t been an order to handle such fine cloth at Tuuli’s workshop. I guess watching Corinna’s work will be a good experience for Tuuli.
The cloth used for my ceremonial robe is the one given to me by Benno. It appears it had already been dyed blue at the dyeing workshop, where mother works, and given back to Corinna’s store. As it’s a lapis lazuli-like strong blue, it resembles the colour of my hair.

“Maïne, sweety, you can put on your clothes now. Tuuli, thank you for your help. This ceremonial robe will be embroidered with decorative words expressing the scriptures’ prayers at its hemming. Once light shines on those letters, they will glitter in gold and silver, and it will be very beautiful.”

And, a crest has been stitched right in the middle of the collar’s embroidery. The nobles decorate theirs with their respective family crests, but since I don’t have one, they have used my workshop’s crest.

“This is Maïne’s crest?”

“Yes. It’s the crest of Maïne’s workshop. This is a book. This is ink and this is a pen. And here’s a combination of the hair ornament’s flower and the materials for making paper. I came up with it and it was finished after Benno added in quite a bit.”

“It’s you after all, Maïne. So he had to correct it after you created something weird, right?”

“… Gah, I was only told that it’s too plain.”

While Corinna giggles as she listened to our conversation, she gently spreads the blue cloth on a big work table. The table was fully covered by the blue cloth, which has a lustre that felt as if it was flowing, just like a wavy sea.

“Usually you make sure that the cloth and the design of a ceremonial robe stand out by specifying the weaving and choosing the yarn. But, since we have no time now, I will use an already finished cloth, okay? I’m planning to have its shape stand out when light shines on it by using embroidery with a thread in the same colour all over, but Maïne, I wonder, what kind of design would you like?”

Being told that she will weave in the design into the fabric itself, it was a kimono’s woven pattern that came into my mind, as the very first option. I wonder whether she plans to apply embroidery with a feeling similar to figured satin or silk damask.
As I’m small, the parts, where she can use embroidery, will be few compared to an adult. Having said that, the fabric is big since the sleeves, which have plenty of elbow room, are as wide as those of a long-sleeved kimono. Although the time needed has been reduced in comparison to weaving the cloth from scratch, putting embroidery on all of it is difficult.

“Umm, Miss Corinna. Even if you ask me that, I don’t know as I have never properly seen a ceremonial robe. However, if you are going to apply embroidery on the whole, keep it as simple as possible…”

I ought to have seen it during my baptism, but my memories have been completely swept away by the library and the Gl○co pose. I don’t remember very well the robes worn by the blue-robed priests. If it’s the Scriptures held by the Head Priest, I do remember it, but as for his robe that appeared to be extravagant, I was completely ignorant.

“Maïne! A noble’s ceremonial robe cannot be plain!”

“Whaa! … But embroidery all over is a lot of work, so I think it would be alright to keep it slightly simple? You think so too, right Tuuli?”

While I was soothing Tuuli, who was in a huff, with all my might, Corinna placed a hand on her own cheek while saying 「Now let’s see」.

“It would be great if we could show extravagance with simple embroidery, just like Tuuli’s coming-out dress appeared after making a few simple adjustments, but does anything come to mind, Maïne?”

Being told so by Corinna, I brood over it as I search my memory.
Rather than embroidering the whole with small patterns, we should lower the parts that have to be embroidered by using a largish design.

“… How about decorating it with flowers and a『Flowing Water Pattern』?”

“Flowing Water Pattern?”*

“Umm, it means inserting flowers at several places in a pattern which exudes the impression of flowing water. If you widen the space between the water ripples and place some petals in-between, it will look gorgeous even if the embroidered parts are few… That’s at least what I think.”

I draw curves that look soft and yet flexible with a loose touch with a loose and yet flexible touch on the slate. By making the depth of the curve lines thick and thin, I depict a flowing water pattern. I try distributing petal-like small hearts and cherry blossoms consisting of five long and narrow hearts in a suitable way.

“It would be better to think about the design of the flowers a bit more, but this water flow is nice. Maïne, you are my elder brother’s water goddess, aren’t you?”

My mouth suddenly cramped due to that naming coming out of the giggling Corinna’s mouth. Even if Benno and me were to deny it, it would be impossible for us to clear the misunderstanding of those around us if Corinna, who is Benno’s younger sister, is the one asserting it.

“… Umm, Miss Corinna. Just how far have you spread that story?”

“Otto is the one finding it amusing and spreading it, I think?”

… Otto, you utter fool. Get scolded by Benno!

While eating the lunch that had been prepared by Corinna, Corinna and Tuuli began to excitedly talk about the flowers decorating the flowing water. Given that I don’t know the names of that many flowers, I have been left behind, despite being the one impacted here.

“Lady Corinna, it looks like Master Benno wants to enter the room…”

“Sorry for intruding during lunch, Corinna. There’s something I’d like to pass to Maïne. Is that fine?”

“Yes, it’s alright. Maïne is done and apparently doesn’t know what to do with her free time.”

Being beckoned by Benno, I lightly jumped off the chair and headed towards Benno.

“Read it somewhere alone with no one else around. I will leave the rest to you. It will be a big help if you tell me in case you have a good idea.”

“Okay…”

Once he says that and passes a piece of paper to me, Benno raises a hand lightly and quickly goes back to the store below.
After I check the surroundings and make sure that no one’s here, I immediately opened the four-folded piece of paper with a rustle. The paper was a list of problems Benno noted down.

“W-Wait a moment, following a memopad of precautions and lambasting is a letter with an assignment list?”

There are various points, starting from stupid issues like Otto being useless and out of it since Corinna got pregnant, to things related to the italian restaurant, such as its interior, menu, service and price per guest. If there’s something I can come up with that will solve these problems with the snap of a finger, I will sooner or later think of it, but there are also solutions where I don’t know whether they will be accepted in this place. Of course, it also lists problems where I have to raise the white flag.
While pondering about a reply to Benno, I scrutinized the problems one-by-one. And then, I sharply inhale and become pale at the moment I read the last problem.

“Maïne, what’s wrong?”

How long did I stand frozen there? Tuuli came peeking at the letter that made me look gloomy and worried. I folded the letter in panic but realizing that it’s equal to a listing of figures for Tuuli, who cannot read characters, I breathe out secretly.

“Say, what’s written on it?”

“It’s a secret as it’s about work.”

While deceiving Tuuli who was eager to learn of the letter’s contents, I quickly put the piece of paper that had the problem list into my bag.
After sighing slowly, I try to ponder whether there is any solution for the last problem, but I’m not hit by inspiration readily.
Since Benno said that taking along Lutz outside the city will happen after determining a place for the workshop, I simply swallowed that story. By no means did I perceive that as him being unable to take Lutz along because he hasn’t gotten the permission of Lutz’s father.
Just like me, Lutz believes in Benno’s excuse. Seeing Benno returning from outside the city Lutz’s eyes gleamed with the expectation of 「I wonder whether he will decide on a location for the workshop soon?」. There’s no way I can tell that kind of Lutz something like 「You can go there even as soon as tomorrow as long as your dad gives his permission」. It would result in causing an irreparable rift in Lutz’s family.
… I simply don’t know a good method to persuade Lutz’s father gently.
Tuuli and Corinna wanted to use flowers of the four seasons in the embroidery, but while they were getting excited next to me whether to do it from the top to the bottom, or from the left to the right, I was at my wits’ end.

******

“The Star Festival will take place soon, won’t it?”

“Waah!? W-What?”

Being called out by Lutz along the way to the temple, I look around me with a start. Lutz squinted his eyes slightly and peered at me. To keep a secret from Lutz, who is in charge of taking care of my health condition is a herculean task for me.

“What’s wrong, Maïne? Aren’t you distracted quite a bit?”

“I’m not! What were we talking about again?”

Apparently having quickly seen through me being dazed, Lutz returned to the topic after sighing once.

“Star Festival. Does it look like we can go together this year?”

“Star Festival? … Ah, you mean the summer festival? It was about playing in water, right?”

“No, it’s not water, it’s about throwing Tau fruits.”

The Tau Fruit is a small red fruit seen during spring. I heard that it will swell up to a the size of a fist by storing a lot of water in summer. I have understood it as something like a naturally occurring water balloon, but I have never seen the real thing.

“If it’s not playing in water, what kind of festival is the Star Festival?”

I completely don’t grasp what kind of festival it is since I never participated in it. Lutz taught me, who is inclining her head to the side in confusion.
It seems the Star Festival is actually not a festival of playing around in water, but a day of marriage ceremonies. Apparently marriage ceremonies are carried out all together once a year and it seems that throwing Tau fruits has been taking place as it’s connected to the marriage ceremonies.

“Meaning, those unrelated to the marriage ceremonies will go together into the forest once the gate opens on the second bell and pick up Tau fruits. When the third bell chimes, the marriage ceremonies begin, and after the ceremonies finished upon the fourth bell, the brides and grooms will leave. The guests, who had gathered in the central plaza until then, will lurk in various alleys and get ready to use the Tau fruits they have.”

Being reminded of the spectacle during the baptismal ceremony where a great number of people appeared on the main street, a picture of everybody holding water balloons in their hands popped up in my mind. That’s surreal. I don’t get the meaning.
But, there are many events related to important ceremonial occasions that bear no meaning if seen by an outsider. Even in books I read in the past, there were certainly many various events such as guests fighting at a marriage ceremony, all invitees trespassing on the bridal night or the right of the bridal night belonging to the local lord. It’s probably best to comply with the custom while considering it as the culture of this place.

“And then?”

“After all the brides and grooms have entered the central plaza, the battle will start once the bell chimes. In other words, the Tau fruits will be thrown at the brides and grooms.”

“Eh!? At the brides and grooms!?”

“Correct. They will run to their new home while the groom is protecting his bride. You might as well say it’s a test of the man’s dependability. At that time various people along the way will throw Tau fruits at the bride and groom, and it will turn into a exhausting cycle of them running around the whole city while throwing back at their attackers and having Tau fruits thrown at them.”

“What an amazing festival.”

Even at the exchange of engagement gifts in Japan, there will be some mysterious goods, but there’s meaning to it, if you strain the interpretation. The Tau fruits said to be thrown at the brides and grooms might carry the meaning a prayer for children or the perpetuation of one’s descendants if it’s a fruit that has many seeds.

“But you know, the ones who gather and throw Tau fruits with the highest zeal are definitely the adults who were unable to marry this year. Every year they aim at the brides and grooms with an unbelievable drive smoldering in their eyes. It’s funny though.”

Yeah, I certainly understand, such murmur popped up in my head.
Including my time as Urano, I had an extremely weak relation to things such as lovers or marriage. I can very well understand the emotions of the adults, who were unable to get married, throwing Tau fruits with all their might at the married couples, who leave the temple with smiles full of happiness.

“… I was able to comprehend what kind of festival it is. I’m looking forward to it, Lutz.”

“Oh, Maïne, you are suddenly all eager? And then, once the married couples are gone after having been chased away with the Tau fruits, various celebratory dishes will be lined up on the plaza. The children will go back home after the sun goes down, at a time when they have eaten enough of those dishes. After that, the children will be forbidden from going outside. The reason being that next it will become a festival for just the adults where alcohol will be put out.”

As might be expected of a festival with the name of Star Festival, the most important event apparently starts at night. After the children are gone, it will apparently change into a festival of the unmarried adults, who have grandly celebrated the appearance of the married couples, searching for lovers. The ones who will be vexed the most at this point are those who were born in summer with their coming-of-age ceremony being at the end of summer, according to Lutz.

“Umm, I wonder, do the orphanage children participate in the festival?”

“Who knows? So far I haven’t seen them even once. … Is there something you got to do at the temple, Maïne? If I remember correctly, you told me that there isn’t anything until autumn, but does it look like we can go to the Star Festival together?”

Even though I was asked by Lutz with a worried look, I was unable to answer right away. Seeing that the marriage ceremonies will take place in the temple, there might be some work for me.

“… I don’t really know, so I will try to ask the Head Priest.”

I enter the temple and Lutz goes back to the store. After seeing off Lutz, I changed clothes in my room, and then tried to ask Fran about the Star Festival while immediately writing a letter to request a meeting with the Head Priest.

“Hey Fran, did you ever take part in the Star Festival?”

“Sister Maïne, it’s not Star Festival, but the Ritual of Star Union. Isn’t the Star Union a ritual to congratulate a marriage?”

Fran explained that it’s a ritual called Star Union and not Star Festival in the temple, and that it’s something connected to the myth of blessing the marriage between the God of Life and the Goddess of Earth by the God of Darkness, who is the supreme deity.
As it’s originally a ceremony that was carried out at night where it was easy to obtain the God of Darkness’ divine protection, it seems that it’s actually, even now, taking place during the night in the noble district. It appears that the commoner’s ceremony ended up being carried out in the morning when the ceremonies of the commoners and nobles were separated after the number of residents in the city grew too much.

“Though, if it’s the blessing of the God of Darkness, it seems to be best to hold it during the winter when the nights are long…”

“Sister Maïne, it was summer when the God of Darkness gave his permission for the two gods to marry. Given that there’s the offering ritual in winter, it seems that there are no priests who can grant their blessings.”

I lightly shook my head after reconsidering it and then nodded at Fran’s denial. Although it was me who mentioned it, there will be no marriage ceremonies in midwinter.

“If I consider it properly, it’s difficult to hold a marriage ceremony during a blizzard. If one considers that the newly-wed family has to prepare for winter, marrying before autumn is just logical. If the wedding anniversary is the same for everyone, there probably won’t be any husbands angering their wives by mistaking the date either.”

While saying that, I finished writing the letter.

“Fran, can you please take this letter to the Head Priest? There are things I want to ask the Head Priest about my and the orphanage’s duties at the time of the Star Festival.”

“As you wish.”

In spite of me meeting the Head Priest during the filing of documents in the morning, it’s necessary to set up a meeting even for petty consultations and I have to make an appointment through letter. I’m slowly getting used to these bothersome formalities. Still, there are also very many situations where trivial questions are resolved by being written down in a letter.
Anyway, what I was told time and time again by Fran and the Head Priest is to not carelessly chatter at a place with other people present.
Despite me scheduling the meeting date for several days later, the Head Priest grabbed his head at the instant he scanned through the letter he was given by Fran and called me to his secret room.
I follow him obediently, but as for a reason why he is so troubled with the letter for requesting a meeting, nothing comes to my mind.

“Is it alright even though I have no meeting appointment?”

“You fool. The Ritual of Star Union is tomorrow, right!? Won’t the ceremony finish before you even send out something like written invitations?”

The eyes of the Head Priest got a sharp glint and he asked me that right after we entered the secret room. Given that the Head Priest lectures me in this room while showing anger that’s similar to him releasing cold air, even though he usually scolds me with a composed expression, it’s better to be in his normal office during the times he’s angry than here.

“Oh, is that so? I simply thought that there’s still some more time left as I was told that it’ll be soon…”

“I suppose it’s a topic that won’t be brought up in the temple since it’s the norm. Because the filing of documents, that had piled up until now, is progressing nicely, I ended up postponing it, but it looks like we have to focus on your education first, doesn’t it?”

The Head Priest clearly realized that I’m not understanding the events within the temple at all. This is bad. It’s a dangerous omen.
Having a premonition that, just as gossiped between the grey-robed priests of the orphanage, his zealous training which results in the grey-robed priests becoming first class, albeit reluctantly, once they become the Head Priest’s attendants will befall me, I secretly avert my gaze. The fed-up expression of the Head Priest was reflected at the edge of my field of vision.

“Good grief, you are… So, to answer your question, the Ritual of Star Union is a ceremony of growing up. Since you are an apprentice, you mustn’t participate in the ceremony. Rather, as director, stand watch so that the orphans don’t leave the orphanage. There will be many people from the city entering and leaving the temple during the Ritual of Star Union. Make sure that not a single person leaves the orphanage during the ritual since it’s a ceremony where the blue-robed priests are eagerly pining for alms.”

Being told to stay in the orphanage’s building on the day of the festival, I got flustered. As I want to participate in the Star Festival and throw Tau fruits, I really don’t want to get locked away in the orphanage.

“Umm, I’d like to participate in the Star Festival in the lower city. Is that not allowed?”

“The lower city’s festival?”

The Head Priest’s eyebrows twitched slightly.

“All of the city’s children will go to the forest to pick up Tau fruits throughout the morning. In the afternoon it will apparently turn into a festival of throwing the Tau fruits at each other.”

“… What’s that? Just how is that related to the Star Union?”

“I don’t quite understand. I never participated in it until now as last year I had the Devouring and the years before my physical condition wasn’t that great either. I’m looking forward to it very much as this year’s my first participation, but…”

The Head Priest creased his wrinkles and eyebrows. It’s an expression wavering between rejection and sympathy. He wanted to tell me that it’s not allowed, but at the same time he pitied me for it being the first time I could participate.

“… No good? Though I believe that the children of the orphanage will also be docile if I take them along, you know?”

“The morning will be fine with that, but what will you do about the afternoon? In fact it will be a mutual throwing of Tau fruits at each other, right? It will be problematic if needless quarrels happen after taking the orphans into the city. Since the blue-robed priests will head into the noble district in the afternoon, it will turn into a situation where there are no people in charge present.”

It seem that the blue-robed priests and their attendants will all leave the temple for the sake of the noble district’s Ritual of Star Union once the marriage ceremonies in the morning end.
Isn’t it fine for them to play inside the temple’s grounds once there’s no one left to get angry?

“… Umm, Head Priest, can you please permit the throwing of Tau fruits in the orphanage and temple in order to not cause troubles outside in the afternoon, once they have picked up the fruits in the forest throughout the morning? Since it’s a rare occasion, I’d like to have the children experience the festival as well. Given that it’s the first time for me as well, I have been looking forward to it very much…”

After slighly casting down his eyes and pondering about it for a while, the Head Priest slowly lifted his line of sight and said,

“Very well. You will have to clear it away properly. Also, I won’t mind as long as you don’t cause an uproar to the degree of worrying the city’s residents.”

“Thank you very much.”

*****

Starting from afternoon, there’s immediately a preparatory meeting at the orphanage. As it will be fine as long they are not discovered by the blue-robed priests, they will wait for my and Lutz’s arrival after having finished the cleaning of the prayer room in the early morning and having changed into their attires for going to the forest. We will sneak out secretly and go to pick up the Tau fruits in the forest. The orphans, who are doomed to be always locked up in the orphanage, are very elated.

“I will be a sentry on that day.”

“I will prepare the carriages.”

The grey-robed priests won’t be able to pick up the Tau fruits in the forest as they have various tasks such as participating in the ritual, having to prepare the blue-robed priests’ departing to the noble’s district, and standing guard as sentries. They are watching the frolicking children while looking jealous.

“However, any duties will be done once the ceremonies end, right? As for the throwing of Tau fruits, let’s start the throwing battle once everyone finished their task after the blue-robed priests and their attendants have left towards the noble’s district. It’s something that’s more fun with everyone joining in. We will patiently wait until all the priests have finished their duties, okay?”

Once I asked the children, they nodded deeply.

“Yeah, we will wait!”

“I will pick up the share of those who cannot come due to their duties.”

I had the grey-robed priests, who are on duty, compromise by preparing dinner and having the children endure. What to say, it seems they went without dinner on the day of the Star Union’s ritual since the blue-robed priests were all out.

“I will ask my cooks and have them make plenty of food.”

After returning to my room, I requested Hugo and Ella, through Fran, that I’d like them to finish their business, to prepare dinner, on the day of the Star Union until the fourth bell.
As it seems that Hugo is an adult, who hasn’t been able to marry, he’s burning with the ambition to participate in the festival. I heard from Fran that he’s eager to have his work finished as fast as possible.
Although he would be unable to throw Tau fruits at the married couples, it would be fine as long as he could please the children of the orphanage, right?

 


T/N Notes:

* Maïne uses 流水紋 (ryuusuimon) which depicts a pattern of water ripples on a water surface as the water flows. Corinna repeats the spoken word in katakana. By the way, if you use the kanji to search in google, you will be easily able to find many pictures of such patterns. [up]

 


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