It was the first day of Hundred Earth Ancient Dance, and I, made to wear a kimono, headed to the Hundred-Earth dojo with mom.
“Master Momochi, please take care of me.”
“Not good enough! I’ll start today by drilling the right way into you.”
I bowed my head the moment I entered. Then, those words were dumped onto me.
“Please take care of her, teacher. Sakuya! Do your best!”
Mom sat in the corner, watching. It looked like she planned to observe my practice today. Then, we couldn’t practice combat sports.
“Don’t fidget! Okay. First, I’ll teach you sitting and standing. Watch carefully. Move your right foot half a step back, bend one knee, place your feet together, put your bottom on top of the heels of your foot, and sit. Then adjust the bottom of your kimono. Got it?”
“Yes, Master Momochi.”
The following parts of the text will be scrambled to prevent theft from aggregators and unauthorized epub making. Please support our translators by reading on secondlifetranslations (dot) com
“Gzaktbv. Qs vau kv.”
R qszzsole bkp kdpvawnvksdp. Fvlr cynj, clde xu jdllp, rzynl xu qllv vstlvbla, yde pkv sd vsr sq vbl bllzp sq xu qssv. Mbld, yefwpv vbl csvvsx sq xu jkxsds. Rv oyp pkxrzl.
“Ls! Zsw nyd’v es kv yv yzz!”
Ebknb ryav? Ebu? Vlsrzl yzz pyv vbl pyxl oyu, aktbv?
“Wkdl. R’zz es kv sdl xsal vkxl, ps oyvnb nyalqwzzu! Nkjl vbkp!”
Yypvla Ysxsnbk pyv ldlatlvknyzzu. Yyucl kv oyp vbyv? Fbswze R byhl esdl kv vbyv ldlatlvknyzzu?
“Rp kv zkjl vbkp?”
“No! You can’t do it at all!”
What? Why? What specifically? I couldn’t understand!
“Stand straight! You’re stepping back too big! Go on one knee! Place both your feet together and sit! Lastly, adjust the bottom of your kimono!”
Aaah! I’m getting so confused. What was wrong? Wasn’t this alright?
“More beautifully! Have it flow more smoothly!”
I didn’t get it at all. What was wrong? What was my mistake? How was what I was doing different from Master? I had absolutely no idea. But no matter what I did, he asked me to try again.
I practiced just sitting over and over again… Was there any point in doing something like this?
“That’s fine. Let’s stop here for now. This time we’ll do standing. Just do the opposite of sitting. Go up on one knee, stand, then return your foot to its previous position.”
“No! Completely wrong! How many times do I have to tell you?! First, straighten your back! Don’t look down! You’re stepping too big! Do it again!”
Why, why? I didn’t get it at all!
“You can do it, Sakuya!”
I could hear my mom’s encouragement, but I didn’t receive a single compliment from Master after that.
I just sat and stood over and over again. Just intently, intently repeating. What even was this? Wasn’t my mom tired of looking at me for so long? And my feet hurt. Not from being numb, but simple overuse of my muscles. Wouldn’t anyone get tired from staying in a half-sitting position, knees bent? All I was being made to do was repeating that again and again. It’d be only normal if my knees were shaking.
“Alright, stop there! Your knees are shaking and you can’t stand up properly anyway. Next is bowing.”
Bowing… did you really need to practice that kind of thing? I thought we’d already spent enough time just sitting and standing… Wouldn’t my mom get pretty mad if we were only doing these kinds of things…?
As I thought that, I looked over at my mom, but she was watching eagerly. Was this okay? This kind of thing? And also, my mom was practicing herself a little every so often. Mom… if you wanted to learn, couldn’t you go learn wherever you wanted to? You had the time and money, right?
“Hold down your kimono sash with your left hand. Pull out your fan with your right hand. Place the fan in front of you with the handle facing the right side. Using both hands, bow.”
That was simple. I bowed like master did: pulling out my fan, placing it in front of me, and bowing.
“How was that?”
“Not good enough! Hold the fan so that it hides the pivot!”
Hmm… you didn’t say anything like that earlier though… and anyway, what was the pivot?
“Your hand positioning is all wrong! Create a triangle with your thumb and index fingers!”
You didn’t say that earlier either, you know? This is my first time hearing this? Isn’t that just an add-on?
“Hide your thumbs!”
Hmph! Then say so in the beginning!
“Straighten your back!”
Aaaaaaaah! I don’t care anymore! You think I understand what you’re telling me! After I do anything, you just say “Do this, do that”! Whatever I did would all be wrong anyway, right?
“Hm… are you feeling frustration?”
“No, not really…”
I was absolutely filled with frustration! I was forced to do these pointless movements over and over and over again… And anyway, no matter how many times I tried, he’d just reject everything, right? This isn’t what I wanted to do…
“Etiquette is related to everything. Whether in dance, concert dance, or martial arts, no matter the time or place, it all begins and ends with certain rites. No matter what it is, doing those rites properly is only expected. If you can’t do that, you should quit already. There’s no way forward for people who can’t follow those rites. No matter what you do, it’ll all be pointless.”
“…I apologise. I was wrong.”
I meekly bowed my head towards Master. He had a point. All martial arts, even judo, kendo, and everything else, all started and ended with rites. Rites weren’t just about bowing your head and saying some words. It was about respecting your opponent and praising their strenuous efforts.
It wasn’t something where you could just say “Well, this is fine,” or “If I just go through the motions, that’s alright”. It was something you had to repeat over and over, thousands and ten thousands of times until you could get it right. I wasn’t thinking that this was already good enough, or that I couldn’t do something… I just didn’t have any spirit…
“Hmm… It looks like you understand. Okay! Then, let’s continue!”
“Yes! Master Momochi!”
After that, I intently practiced just sitting, standing, and bowing over and over again.
“Oh, Sakuya was really trying her hardest. I’m so happy I left her to Mr. Momochi.”
My mom had been acting like that from the moment we got home. Even now, at the dining table, she kept talking to dad about today’s Hundred-Earth practice. It was the same story, meaning just me sitting, standing, and bowing repeatedly, so there should’ve been nothing more to say. Even so, my mom couldn’t stop talking. She was going on and on about that topic. It looked like my dad was sick of it too.
“Wow, that’s amazing, Sakuya.”
My brother also listened to my mom and complimented me. But was it really that praiseworthy? I just sat, stood up, and bowed the whole time, though…
“If it was that great, show Papa too.”
My father, who was probably pretty pained at hearing mom repeat the same topic over and over again, said that, turning the conversation to me. My mother, hoping that I would show him, looked at me. I’ve said this over and over again, but all I did today was just standing, sitting, and bowing…
“I do not feel it is something I can show to others yet…”
“Oh~, Sakuya’s being modest, huh.”
Dad… were you listening to what mom was saying? All I learned today was really just how to stand, sit, and bow, you know? Those kinds of things that anyone can do…
“Our tomboy Sakuya learned how to be modest! I really am happy I asked Mr. Momochi to do this.”
That was all my mom was saying… that old man was such a trickster…
But, this was bad… if mom sat in my lessons every day like this, then I couldn’t do any other training. At this rate, I’d actually be mastering Hundred-Earth Ancient Dance. I had to somehow get my mom away.
…well, I’ll get to that later. I couldn’t think of any good ideas right now. Also, mom might’ve come along for the first time, but she’d probably get bored sooner or later. My mom went outside a lot too, so there were many times she’d gone somewhere because a friend invited her or something…
Anyway, today was tiring, so I should rest earlier than usual…
Today, I went to the super high-end fitness club “Grande”. Since my mom was a member there, it must’ve been a place that catered to wealthy barrel-shaped madams. The mixing of the upper class in places like these wasn’t to be taken lightly. In fact, if you weren’t with the group at these places, you’d be in a lot of trouble.
I went into the changing room and changed into my swimsuit as the barrel-shaped madams walked by. I could see their radiant bodies, but sorry, my interest wasn’t piqued. If they were young, beautiful girls, then I might’ve even paid to stare at them, but I’d want to be the one getting paid if I had to look at these barrel-shaped madams.
It wasn’t a good idea to do too much muscle training at a young age, so I decided that I’d basically be focusing on swimming for my training.
“Please take care of me, Mr. Kohori.”
“Yes, nice to meet you.”
My coach was this person named Kohori Shichihei. Unfortunately, he was a man. Apparently, though, this Mr. Kohori was pretty popular at the fitness club. Well, it wasn’t like I couldn’t understand the appeal.
Mr. Kohori had a nice, toned body. Well, a fat coach wouldn’t be very convincing, so that was normal, but anyway, he had a well-trained body. Not to say that he had the muscles of a bodybuilder, but just enough that he didn’t have any excess muscle, like a swimmer.
He had a mild personality and taught with great care, so it was understandable why a handsome young male trainer with a toned body would be popular with the barrel-shaped madams.
Of course, I wasn’t interested in men, not even a little. Mr. Kohori had a good physique, and he looked in control of his own training and body. He wouldn’t have looked like that if he hadn’t eaten enough, rested enough, and trained enough. If he was relaxed with his diet, he’d probably get a little flabby, and if he didn’t train diligently, he wouldn’t be able to maintain his figure.
He might’ve been worthy of respect and trust in that regard, but was he good at teaching people? Could he properly manage people? Those were things I could only confirm by being there in person.
“Uh, Mr. Kohori! What are these things!?”
“Arm rings and a floating belt. Try swimming with those on, okay?”
A small swim ring thingy was placed on my arms, and a floaty was wrapped around my waist too. Wait a minute. Wasn’t this the type of thing kids wore so they wouldn’t drown? I didn’t need these things.
“Mr. Kohori! I don’t require these things! I can’t swim with them in the way!”
If I wore them, then it’d be needlessly hard to swim.
“Hmm… even so, toddlers can’t enter the pool without wearing these, but then again, you wouldn’t know… Um, everyone wears these when they first start out. So, as you’re learning to swim we’ll take them off one by one, okay, Sakuya?”
Aah… this had completely become a toddler swimming class… I had such good form that in gym class my teacher asked me “Have you already learned how to swim?”. I hadn’t even learned how to swim! Well, I wasn’t that fast, but…
“Then, Mr. Kohori, I’d like you to support me as I swim without floaties. If I cannot swim, then I will put them on.”
“Ummm… but, you know… what if an accident happens, or something…”
That was true. From Mr. Kohori’s perspective, he’d be worried about an accident. But if I wore arm rings, then I couldn’t be swimming, I’d just be floating. There wasn’t any point in that.
“You will have to let me practice with my floaties off so I can learn to swim, correct? So, if I am able to swim, there wouldn’t be any problems, yes?”
“Uhhhhhh… okay. Alright, Sakuya-chan. So, let’s try just once, then? If you can’t swim, then you’ll have to put on your arm rings and floaties, okay?”
“Yes! Thank you very much!”
Yay! It was worth asking him! It might’ve been annoying and time-consuming to the teacher, but, conversely, if I could already swim, that’d save him a lot of unnecessary burdens. It’d be hard for a teacher to deal with a student who couldn’t swim no matter how many floaties they had on. Having a student who could swim a little should bring peace of mind to the teacher.
“For starters, I’ll swim 25 meters.”
“What?! Sakuya-chan… that’s impossible… I’ll put my hands above and below you so I can lift you up at any time, so please get in the pool and only swim as far as you’re able.”
Well, fine. It’d be hard for a toddler’s body to swim 25 meters, after all. Physical strength was one part of it, but there was also the distance you could travel in one stroke. Not only does a toddler lack the strength to swim 25 meters, but it also takes much more effort to swim that distance. Even in walking, if you have a small stride, you need to take more steps and it’s both tiring and slow.
I entered the pool and swam with the teacher’s assistance. I wasn’t able to go very far even though I was doing the front craw,. After doing 10, even 20 strokes, I still didn’t progress much.
“You’re amazing, Sakuya-chan! Wouldn’t it be better if you went to a real swimming class?”
After having shown magnificent swimming, Mr. Kohori agreed that I could swim without floaties from now on. I also thought about it after hearing what he said. I didn’t really want to go to a fitness club, but a swimming class. It was just that, unfortunately, my mom would not allow me to go to places like that.
After my training with Mr. Kohori had ended and I returned, mom still hadn’t done any training and was enthusiastically chatting with the barrel-shaped madams.