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Page Two

Juuni Kokuki — 十二国記
(The Twelve Kingdoms)

Tsuki no Kage, Kage no Umi — 月の影 影の海
(Shadow of the Moon, Sea of the Shadow)

By Fuyumi Ono — 小野不由美

Translated by Shinkun
Edited by Myuuchan
Special Thanks to J-Dra

Volume One – Chapter One – Page Two

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

    Youko attended an ordinary high school for girls. Other than the fact that it was a private school, there was nothing particularly special about it.
    Her father, being the strict man that he was, chose that school for her. Since her junior high record was fairly good, she could have gone to other schools with higher standing. Her former teacher had strongly suggested that she choose a different one, but her father would not allow it. It was too far from home and it had ‘bad’ traditions – he was against schools with showy traditions. Instead, he preferred schools with strict policies. At first, her mother thought it was a shame considering her high grades, but quickly agreed with her father. Whenever both of her parents agreed, what Youko wanted was unimportant. Though there was a school far away that had uniforms she liked, if she had made a fuss over that, she would be scolded and called spoiled. So she stood silently and obeyed her parents.

***

    ”Good morning!” Youko called out in a cheerful voice as she entered the classroom.
    A few girls turned to face her and waved. One of them rushed towards Youko. “Nakajima, did you do the math homework?”
    ”Yes,” Youko replied.
    ”Do you think I can take a look at it?” the girl asked.
    Youko, seated near one of the windows, nodded as she pulled out the homework. Several of the girls quickly surrounded her desk and began to copy the sheet of paper.
    ”Nakajima’s very diligent, isn’t she? She makes a good class leader.”
    Youko grinned slightly upon hearing that.
    ”It’s true, class leader. I hate doing homework and I easily forget how to do it,” said one girl.
    ”Yeah! Yeah! Every time I try to do mine, I quickly become bored and sleepy! I wish I was as smart as you, Nakajima!” exclaimed another.
    ”Yeah! She can finish her homework so fast!” said yet another.
    Youko rubbed the back of her neck with a bewildered look on her face. “T-that’s not true…” she stammered.
    ”Well, at least you like to study,” came the response.

    ”No way!” Youko said with a laugh. “It’s because my mother is very strict,” she said. Although this was far from the truth, she did not want to single herself out.
    ”My mother checks my homework every night before I go to sleep, so I’ve grown to dislike doing it,” she lied again.
    In reality, her mother disliked the fact that Youko studied so much. It was not out of a lack of concern for how her daughter did in school. Rather, it was her opinion that if Youko had enough free time to go to a cram school, she could be using that time to do housework instead.
    In spite of that, Youko did not study so diligently because she enjoyed it. She was simply afraid of being scolded by her teachers.
    ”Wow! That’s strict!” said a classmate.
    ”As soon as my mom sees my face, she tells me to go study!” said a second student. “It makes me hate studying even more.”
    ”Yeah, me too,” the first responded.
    While Youko laughed and nodded in approval with the girls, one of them said in a small voice, “look, it’s Sugimoto,” as a young girl entered the classroom.
    All of the girls stared at the newcomer coldly as she made her way to her seat. An air of hypocrisy filled the classroom. Over the course of the semester, the girls had made it a fad to ignore her. The girl looked over at her classmates and then at Youko, stared for a bit, then hung her head in shame. She indecisively walked in Youko’s direction and sat down in the seat to the left of her.
    ”Good morning, Nakajima,” Sugimoto said.
    Youko, holding back, found herself about to reply as if it were a reflex. She quickly tried to hold back, but before she knew it, she had answered the greeting. Her classmates quickly began talking behind her back, but she pretended not to notice. They were constantly pointing and laughing discreetly. Although Youko held her head in shame and looked sad, the pointing and laughing continued all the same. She couldn’t help but listen to their taunting. Though she often felt sorry for Sugimoto, if Youko ever did anything to sympathize with her, the tables would be turned; Youko would become a victim herself.
    ”Umm, Nakajima…”
    Although Youko heard the timid voice coming from her neighboring classmate, she pretended not to notice. She felt bad for ignoring her, but she didn’t know what else to do.
    ”Nakajima…” the girl very patiently called out to her many times.
    Suddenly, the giggling voices ceased and the girls were staring at Sugimoto coldly. Youko, unwilling to ignore what was happening around her, also directed her gaze at her, but did not reply.
    ”Umm… Did you do last night’s math homework?” Sugimoto asked.

    Upon hearing the request, the girls burst into laughter.
    ”Yes, I did…” answered Youko.
    ”Sorry, but can I have a look?”
    The teacher always designated who was going to be quizzed in the next class the day before. Youko suddenly remembered that Sugimoto had been yesterday’s choice. She then turned her gaze to her friends who were refusing Sugimoto’s request and staring at her. She knew that they were waiting for her response.
    ”I’m sorry, but I still want to review the homework,” she replied nervously.
    It appeared as though Youko’s audience did not care for her indirect method of refusal.
    ”Nakajima’s so sweet, isn’t she?” said one of the girls in a disappointed, condemning fashion.
    Youko unconsciously lowered her head.
    Another student agreed. “I wish Nakajima would have told her straight out though.”
    ”You’re right!” someone else agreed. “She should have told her that Sugimoto’s talking to her was annoying.”
    ”Yeah, there are idiots in this world that just don’t get the hint until they are told directly,” said yet another.
    Youko was in a bind. She could not muster the courage to go against the other girls. On the other hand, she did not have the courage to say such mean things to the girl next to her. So, Youko just laughed nervously.
    ”Really. Nakajima’s such a good person,” began one of the students. “Because she’s such a good person, people rely on her, like *somebody* we know around here.”
    ”Well, I *am* the class leader,” Youko replied.
    ”Sugimoto knew she was going to be called upon in class today, too. It’s her own fault for not studying. You don’t have to take care of a person like that,” the girl added.
    The students laughed cruelly as they continued their comments.

    ”If I lent Sugimoto my notes, she would only dirty them,” One of the girls ventured.
    ”Yeah, that would be awful,” another girl said.

    ”Don’t you think?” agreed one of the girls as they laughed hysterically once more.
    As they all laughed, Youko caught a glimpse of the seat next to hers. She noticed that the girl in it had her head down and that tears had begun to run down her face.
    ”Sugimoto is responsible too,” thought Youko to herself. “No one else is to blame. It’s not as if someone decided that she should be the victim. Becoming a victim was a result of her own doing.”

Copyright Fuyumi Ono, Kodansha, 1992
(C)小野不由美・講談社 1992

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