Today I visited Corinna’s home to formally order a blue robe for ceremonies and another for everyday use. As the ceremonial robe will take time, I had sent the request through Benno in advance. The embroidery design, obi weaving, fee and many other details needed to be discussed with me in person.
As Corinna herself is in the midst of pregnancy, I was told to bring along an assistant for taking my measurements. Benno had taken my measurements over my clothes before, but Corinna wanted my measurements taken properly as we plan on being associates for a long time to come. Corinna also gave me permission to bring my mother and sister.
My mother wasn’t feeling well, and although she wanted to come along, father forbade her. For that reason I have come together with Tuuli, as Lutz is absent today.
“Ceremonial… that means a very nice cloth will be used, right? This is the first time I have seen such soft, smooth cloth.”
I stripped down to my underclothes so that Tuuli could take my measurements. Afterwards, Tuuli handled the cloth with sparkling eyes. It doesn’t seem like Tuuli’s workshop usually handles such fine material so watching Corinna work should be a good experience for Tuuli.
The cloth used for my ceremonial robe was provided by Benno. It had been dyed blue, probably at my mother’s workshop, and returned to Corinna’s store. Its lapis lazuli-like strong blue 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.”
A crest had been stitched in the center of the collar embroidery. The nobles would use their respective family crests, but since I don’t have one, they have used my workshop 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 flower and the materials for making paper. I came up with it and Benno finished it after adding 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.”
Corinna giggled at our conversation. She covered the entire table with the blue cloth, which had a lustre that seemed to flow 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. Since we are short on time, 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 the design into the fabric itself, a woven kimono pattern immediately came to mind. I wonder if she plans to to embroider with a soft material similar to figured satin or silk damask.
As I’m small, the places she can embroider will be few compared to an adult. Having said that, there will be plenty of fabric as the sleeves, which have plenty of elbow room, are as wide as those of a long-sleeved kimono. Although we have saved time compared to weaving the cloth from scratch, so much embroidery will still be 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 all over, 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 really remember the robes worn by the blue-robed priests. I remember the Scriptures held by the Head Priest, but as for the appearance of his extravagant robe, I was drawing a complete blank.
“Maïne! A noble’s ceremonial robe cannot be plain!”
“Whaa! … But so much embroidery 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?”
At Corinna’s prompting, I search my memory and ponder.
Rather than embroidering everything with small patterns, we should decrease the parts that have to be embroidered by using a larger 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 give 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… at least that’s what I think.”
With a firm yet flexible grip on my chalk, I draw smooth and gentle curves on the slate. By varying the thickness of the curving lines, I depict a flowing water pattern. I try adding small hearts similar to cherry blossoms and petals gathered into groups of five long and narrow hearts.
“It would be better to think about the design of the flowers a bit more, but this flowing water is nice. You are my elder brother’s water goddess after all, aren’t you Maïne?”
Hearing that nickname from the giggling Corinna caused my mouth to cramp. Even if Benno and I were to deny it, it would be impossible for us to clear up this misunderstanding 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 Corinna prepared, Corinna and Tuuli began excitedly talking 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, I lightly jump off the chair and head towards Benno.
“Read it somewhere alone with no one else around. I will leave the rest to you. It would be a big help if you tell me if you have a good idea.”
Benno passes me a piece of paper as he speaks, then gives a quick wave and returns to the store below.
After I check the surroundings and make sure that no one is near, I immediately opened the four-folded piece of paper with a rustle. The paper contained a list of problems Benno had noted down.
“W-Wait a moment, first a memopad of precautions and lambasting and now a letter with an assignment list?”
There are various points, starting from stupid issues like Otto being uselessly out of it since Corinna’s pregnancy, 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, sooner or later I will think of it, but there are also solutions that may not be acceptable in this place. Of course, it also lists problems where I have to raise the white flag.
While pondering my reply to Benno, I scrutinized the problems one-by-one. I go pale upon reading the last problem and sharply inhale..
“Maïne, what’s wrong?”
How long had I stood frozen?? Tuuli peaked at the letter that made me look gloomy and worried. I folded the letter in panic but realizing that it’s equal to a page of scribbles 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 containing the list of problems into my bag.
After a slow sigh, I try to ponder a solution for the last problem, but I’m not readily hit by inspiration. Since Benno said that taking Lutz outside the city will happen after a place for the workshop is determined, I simply swallowed that story. By no means did I perceive that him being unable to take Lutz along was because he had yet to receive permission from 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 cause an irreparable rift in Lutz’s family.
… I simply don’t know a good method to gently persuade Lutz’s father.
Tuuli and Corinna wanted to use flowers from each of four seasons in the embroidery, but while they were getting excited about 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?”
Being called out by Lutz along the way to the temple, I look around me with a start. Lutz peeked at me through slightly squinted eyes. To keep a secret from Lutz, who is in charge of taking care of my health 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 noticed my being in a daze, Lutz returned to the topic after a sigh.
“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 fruit.”
The Tau fruit is a small red fruit seen during spring. I heard that it swells up to the size of a fist by storing a lot of water in summer. I 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 really don’t grasp what kind of festival it is since I never participated in it. Lutz taught me, as I inclined my head to the side in confusion.
It seems the Star Festival is not just playing around in water, but a day of marriage ceremonies. Apparently all marriage ceremonies are carried out together once a year and it seems that the throwing of Tau fruit is connected to the marriage ceremonies.
“Those not participating in the marriage ceremonies will head into the forest when the gate opens on the second bell and collect Tau fruit. When the third bell chimes, the marriage ceremonies begin, and after the ceremonies finish upon the fourth bell, the brides and grooms will leave. The guests, who had gathered in the central plaza, will lurk in various alleys and get ready to use the Tau fruit they have.”
I remembered the spectacle of the baptismal ceremony where a great number of people appeared on the main street and I picture everybody holding water balloons in their hands. That’s surreal. I don’t get the meaning.
However, there are many events related to important ceremonial occasions that bear no meaning to an outsider. Even in books I read in the past, there certainly were many such events: 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 the culture of this place.
“After all the brides and grooms have entered the central plaza, the battle will start with the chime of the bell. In other words, the Tau fruit 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 protects his bride. You might as well say it’s a test of the man’s dependability. While they run, the crowd will throw Tau fruit at the bride and groom, and it will turn into a exhausting cycle of running around the whole city while avoiding thrown Tau fruit and throwing Tau fruit back in return.”
“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 throwing of Tau fruit at the brides and grooms might carry the meaning of a prayer for children or the perpetuation of one’s descendants if the fruit bursts with many seeds.
“But you know, the ones who gather and throw Tau fruit 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, my relation to things like lovers and marriage was extremely weak. I can understand all too well the emotions of the adults who were unable to get married, throwing Tau fruits with all their might at the newly married couples, as they 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? After the married couples have been chased away by the Tau fruit, various celebratory dishes will be lined up at the plaza. The children will go back home when the sun sets, after they have eaten their fill of the dishes. Then the children are forbidden from going outside. The reason being that next it will become a festival for just the adults where alcohol will be provided.”
As might be expected of a festival with the name of Star Festival, the most important event apparently starts at night. With the children gone, it apparently becomes a festival for unmarried adults who, having grandly celebrated the marriages of others, will search for lovers of their own. The ones who will be most vexed at this point are those who were born in summer as their coming-of-age ceremony comes 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 a worried Lutz, 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 returns to the store. After seeing off Lutz, I changed clothes in my room. While I was writing a letter to request a meeting with the head priest, I tried to ask Fran about the Star Festival..
“Hey Fran, did you ever take part in the Star Festival?”
“Sister Maïne, it’s not Star Festival, but the Ritual of the 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 connected to the myth of the blessing of the marriage between the God of Life and the Goddess of Earth by the God of Darkness, who is the supreme deity.
As it was originally a ceremony carried out at night when it was easiest to obtain the God of Darkness’ divine protection, it seems that even now the noble district still celebrates it at night. It appears that the commoners’ ceremony was separated from the nobles’ and moved to the morning 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 would be no priests who could grant their blessings.”
I lightly shook my head after reconsidering it and then nodded at Fran’s denial. Although it I had suggested it, it made sense that there wouldn’t be any 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 during the Star Festival.”
“As you wish.”
Even though I assisted the Head Priest with documents in the morning, I was still required to formally request a meeting by letter, even for petty consultations. I’m slowly getting used to these bothersome formalities. Still, there are 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 Fran had given him and called me to his secret room.
I follow him obediently, but I couldn’t think of a reason he would be so troubled by my meeting request.
“Is it alright even though I have no meeting appointment?”
“You fool. The Ritual of the 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 glinted sharply as he spoke just as we entered the secret room. Given that the Head Priest lectures me in this room while showing anger and making the atmosphere frigid, even though he usually scolds me with a composed expression, it’s easier to face his anger in his usual office.
“Oh, is that so? I simply thought that there was still time as I was only told that it’ll be soon…”
“I suppose it’s a topic that wouldn’t come up in the temple since it’s common knowledge. Since we were making good progress on the backlog of documents, I ended up postponing your education. It looks like we need to make your education a priority now, doesn’t it?”
The Head Priest clearly realized that I was ignorant to the events within the temple. This is bad. It’s a dangerous omen.
I had heard gossip between gray-robed priests in the orphanage that even though the Head Priest’s attendants are regarded as first class, the zealous training involved makes them reluctant to volunteer. I have a bad feeling that this training is about to befall me and try to covertly avert my eyes. The fed-up expression of the Head Priest was visible 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.”
I was flustered at being told to stay in the orphanage on the day of the festival. As I want to participate in the Star Festival and throw Tau fruit, I really don’t want to be stuck inside.
“Umm, I’d like to participate in the Star Festival in the lower city. Is that not allowed?”
“The lower city festival?”
The Head Priest’s eyebrows twitched slightly.
“All of the city children will go to the forest to pick up Tau fruit throughout the morning. In the afternoon it will apparently turn into a festival of throwing the Tau fruit 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 was poor. I’m looking forward to it very much as this is the first year I can participate, 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, but what will you do about the afternoon? In fact it will be a mutual throwing of Tau fruit 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, there will be nobody left in charge at the temple.”
It seem that the blue-robed priests and their attendants will all leave the temple for the noble district Ritual of the Star Union once the marriage ceremonies in the morning end.
Wouldn’t it be fine for them to play inside the temple grounds once there’s no one left to get angry?
“… Umm, Head Priest, once everyone has returned from gathering fruit in the forest, would you please permit them to throw the Tau fruit within the orphanage and temple in the afternoon? This way, there will be someone in charge at the temple. 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, I have very much been looking forward to it…”
After casting his eyes slightly downward and pondering 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.”
That afternoon, there was an impromptu preparatory meeting at the orphanage. After cleaning the prayer room in the early moving and changing into clothes for the forest, they will wait for Lutz and I to arrive. They will sneak out to pick Tau fruit in the forest. The orphans, who have always been restricted to the orphanage, are very excited. Everything will be fine as long as they are not discovered by the blue-robed priests.
“I will be a sentry on that day.”
“I will prepare the carriages.”
The gray-robed priests won’t be able to pick up the Tau fruit 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 watch the frolicking children with envy.
“However, any duties will be done once the ceremonies end, right? As for the throwing of Tau fruit, once everyone has finished their task and after the blue-robed priests and their attendants have headed to the noble district, we can start the throwing battle. It will be more fun with everyone joining in. We will wait patiently 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 previously went without dinner on the day of the Star Union 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 on the day of the Star Union I’d like them to finish their business and have dinner prepared by the fourth bell.
As it seems that Hugo is an adult who hasn’t been able to marry, he’s burning with 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 fruit at the married couples, it would be fine as long as he could please the children of the orphanage, right?
* 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]