Kamiya Kaoru is sold like she is a part of her father’s estate, placed between the furniture and art. She kneels prettily, hands held like captive birds in her lap, counting her breath to keep calm. The towns people have always said she was quite spoiled by her father, who taught her the way of the sword and dressed her like a boy, took pride in her strength and determination. That is how she is used to being treated – as an equal. An intelligent, comprehensive person who can make her own choices, despite her gender.
Her father is dead, though, and there are few men who will treat her in the same way. Not his solicitor, the creditors, her future husband; not even her father, as his last act towards her is one of ultimate betrayal.
“My daughter I leave to Himura Battousai,” the solicitor reads dutifully from the last will and testament of Kamiya Koshijirou, while Kaoru counts her inhalations and thinks about all the ways she could render the man unconscious, broken, and bloody. “Who she will become the wife of within two weeks after the reading of this will, barring the death or grievous illness of Himura Battousai. She will take into her marriage a dowry of –”
Kaoru almost faints from anger as she realizes that she is being bartered away. Take my daughter, her father’s ghost seems to urge, and I will pay you gold and silk, crockery and ink paintings, as well as all her dignity.
“This is as agreed upon with Himura Battousai in previous contracts, dated and signed by both Himura-san and Kamiya-san. Which I have here,” the solicitor shuffles a few papers, pulls several that are bundled together under a slim cloth cover, holding it briefly aloft as proof. “Do you contest the previous contract or the delegation of the will, Himura-san?”
“No,” the voice that emerges from the small man kneeling close to Kaoru is surprisingly deep for someone of his minute size. He is barely taller than she is, broad enough to be obviously male but still quite narrow. His hair is a waterfall of brightness that Kaoru cannot look at. It hurts her eyes while she morns her father’s death and betrayal; it is too vivid and fluid. She wants to cut it with rusty sheers, until it liters the ground like solid tendrils of blood. “I do not contest.”
Kaoru stares at the tatami, and does not cry.