Mushi mezuru himegimi, or The Lady who Loved Insects (虫めづる姫君), is the twelfth-century Japanese tale of one who defies social convention and breaches the decorum expected of a Heian court lady.
The protagonist befriends insects, names her attendants after them, and engages in poetic exchanges involving furry caterpillars, leading to laughter on the part of others. Portrayed as even more eccentric is her disregard for her physical appearance: she leaves her hair untrimmed; has unplucked eyebrows; neglects to blacken her teeth; and allows herself to be seen by men.
Donald Keene has suggested that, while the reader may be attracted by her independence of mind, the author was probably trying to satirize those with eccentric behaviour and unconventional tastes
“Gokigen’yoh, Enjou-sama, Reika-sama.”
The President and her followers greeted us as they came our way.
“The fireflies are splendid, aren’t they? It truly transports you to another world,” murmured the President as she gazed out over the garden.
I couldn’t help but give a self-depreciating comment.
“It would be nice if they flew a little closer though…”
I heard Enjou stifle a laugh in the background. Stop laughing! We still haven’t established whose fault this was!
“Perhaps. But who is to say that the loveliest view isn’t from here?”
As expected of the President. What a great way of putting things!
“Kisshouin-san,” said Enjou, “If you really wanted to see them up close, shall I go catch one for you?”
“…Just the thought is enough, Enjou-sama.”
Your eyes are totally laughing at me, Enjou. Who knew he was so easily amused.
I heard people laughing melodiously from Maihama-san’s direction. Surrounding Kaburagi, and Maihama-san next to him, were countless fireflies floating about.
“Look, Masaya-sama! The fireflies are…!” she exclaimed proudly, trying to stress that it was like the two of them were being blessed as a couple.
Why were all the fireflies gathering around such a noisy person? Had she prepared some kind of bug attractant?
In contrast to her high spirits, Kaburagi seemed expressionless and gloomy. Being popular had its own troubles, didn’t it.
“The young miss besides Kaburagi-sama… Maihama-san, was it? From Yurinomiya…”
The President’s gaze turned sharp.
“Yes, Youko-sama. She has intruded on our school a few times.”
“Some of the students at Yurinomiya called her the Queen.”
The words of the Pivoine member shocked me. The Queen of Yurinomiya!? I had thought she was some small fry but she was ruling as the Queen of Yurinomiya!?
“Goodness…” the President smiled sweetly.
Her eyes weren’t smiling at all.
They wouldn’t say anything rash with Enjou here, but I was already looking for a path to retreat.
But, tired of dealing with Maihama-san, Kaburagi suddenly spotted his best friend and came over.
“So here you were, Shuusuke.”
“Oh? Were you looking for me?”
“Kaburagi-sama, thank you very much for inviting us today,” thanked the President as our representative.
The rest of us began to follow suit. Kaburagi exchanged a few words with us before telling Enjou that he had something he wanted to talk about. He obviously just wanted to escape from Maihama-san.
“Let’s talk inside then,” agreed Enjou.
The two of them tried to leave but Maihama-san stubbornly followed after.
Or at least she tried, but Enjou gently rejected her.
“We just want to speak alone for a little bit, so do you think it would be possible to just give us a bit of time?”
“You won’t see these fireflies every night. Try and enjoy yourself,” added Kaburagi.
With that, this time they really did leave her to head inside. A splendid escape, Kaburagi.
Now that we had nobody we needed to watch our words around, the atmosphere exploded in tension. Maihama-san wasted no time in beginning her attack on me.
“Goodness, Reika-san. I saw you earlier. It must be so pitiful that even the fireflies won’t pay you attention. What a shame that you couldn’t become Tamakazura tonight.”
So she was listening that time with Mrs. Kaburagi… Maihama-san’s face as she glared at me was a sight to behold.
“My! Reika-sama is unlike a certain somebody who the fireflies pay any attention to. I must say, you reminded me less of Tamakazura, and more of the Lady who Loved Insects. For one thing those are quite the eyebrows you have,” retaliated the President before I got a word in.
“Hohoho,” laughed the other girls.
“The Lady who Loved Insects!? That’s quite a rude thing to say,” Maihama-san glared at the President.
The President smiled, unbothered.
“I suppose it might be. Perhaps we shall say that the insects were simply attracted to Kaburagi-sama’s brilliance instead. Watching the two of you made me think of a bug zapper. My, that’s a beautiful dress you have on. Let me guess, inspired by the Japanese Moon Moth?”
“Wha-…! Hmph! If I’m a moth, I suppose that makes you the carniverous plants trying to eat me. How scary! I’d better get Masaya-sama to protect me!”
“Hohoho, it’s a shame then that Masaya-sama won’t pay you attention at all.”
“Is that something you lot should be saying? Even though you’re in the same school, and some in the same year, no matter how much time passes you still seem to be just part of the crowd to him.”
Maihama-san had quite some guts to pick a fight with her…
From a distance it might have looked like two young girls chatting amicably, but in truth they were trying to kill each other verbally.
“Unfortunately for you, Reika-sama over here is close enough that Kaburagi-sama played a song on the piano for her. That Chopin piece was wonderful, Reika-sama.”
“Eh!? Ah, yes-!”
Uwah, you’re throwing me onto the frontlines too!? My hair was tied up to match my kimono though, so my offensive power is reduced by 20%, you know? And my sword is made of foam.
“Kaburagi-sama played the Fantasie Impromptu and the Minute Waltz for her. His rendition of the Turkish March was wonderful too.”
Ah! She casually added in the songs played for Mao-chan too!
“Oh…? I see. Then perhaps I should ask him to play me some piano as well.”
“Perhaps you should. Whether he’ll agree is a different matter, though.”
S-, Scary… The exit strategy! What’s the exit strategy!?
And even though it was all the President and Maihama-san talking, why was it that Maihama-san was staring venomously at me!?
Their battle continued for a while longer, until Maihama-san left.
The President gazed at her leaving.
“That girl is quite unrestrained in Yurinomiya, you know. Putting on the airs of a Queen and telling her followers to isolate those that she doesn’t like,” she commented, “Using a group of people to isolate a single girl. You can tell what kind of person she is just from that.”
“I feel sorry for the girls of Yurinomiya, to have people like those in charge.”
Eh… Is that something you girls can be saying?
‘One man’s fault is another man’s lesson.’
People in the past said really wise things, didn’t they.
I gazed at the fireflies in the garden and brought my thoughts elsewhere. It would have been nice to see them from closer.
Suddenly my arm felt itchy, and I realised a mosquito had bitten me. The fireflies avoided me, but the mosquitoes were okay? What was the meaning of this.
I wasn’t allowed to scratch it despite how itchy it was, so I used my nails to carve a cross on it. So itchy! I had better go to a dermatologist tomorrow.
“Protecting the members of the Pivoine is my duty as the President. Reika-sama, if anything happens with Maihama-san, come and tell me immediately. I’ll always be on your side.”
“Thank you very much…”
No matter what, I’d never tell her a thing. Just thinking about a battle between Suiran and Yurinomiya was scaring me.
We laughed into the night.
The next day Enjou had sent me a bug cage with a single firefly inside. During the day, the firefly was just some black bug.
Japanese Moon Moth: