While it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife, the same can be said for a man of lesser fortune or even a lady of good fortune. In the countryside town of Inaba, the landowning families were in an uproar over the Amaterasu Estate finally being let out to a family of great fortune from the city. One such family was the Hanamura’s, who had a long history tied to the Junes Estate with a respectable £2000 a year. They were not as wealthy as many city families were and had fallen on rough times with the land not producing as well as it had historically, but they were still living comfortably and had a good reputation.
The family consisted of Mr. Hanamura, the head of the household, and his loving wife Mrs. Hanamura, along with their three children Chie, Yosuke, and Teddie. Chie was the eldest by less than a year, a tomboy who had never quite grown out of her wild tendencies in childhood, who would only be able to provide a suitor a very modest dowry. Yosuke, the middle child, was the heir to the household and knew his duty, whether he wished it or not, was to make a match to a lady with a generous dowry in order to support the family. Teddie was the handsome and frivolous youngest son, let out into society when both siblings were still out and single, and without a care in the world. That morning, all Mrs. Hanamura could talk about was the fact that the Amaterasu Estate, the property with the highest value in town that had been sitting untouched for a year since the previous owner had passed away without an heir, had finally been let out to the Amagi family. The heir was worth £5000 a year, and Mrs. Hanamura was not letting the fact the heir was a woman hold her back.
“Can you imagine, a family worth £5000 a year in Inaba?” she prattled on during breakfast. Teddie was holding onto her every word while Chie and Yosuke tolerated her in amusement. Mr. Hanamura, meanwhile, was focused on reading the news and did not seem to be paying her chatter any mind. “At that cost, surely they would not have need of a large dowry?” Mrs. Hanamura glanced at her eldest child as she said so who blushed in embarrassment and looked away. It was not common for women to become heirs to the household, but sometimes in order to keep a property within the family they would name the eldest female child the heir which would treat her the same as a male heir. Their family friends the Shirogane’s had done much the same with their daughter Naoto once they realized they were not able to have any more children after she was born. It made marriage a complicated affair – if they married a woman as a man would they would have to adopt or have a surrogate in order to have a child – and if they married a man, it would have to be a second or third son and not the heir to the other family estate. Mrs. Hanamura did not mind navigating the challenge if it meant securing one of her precious children’s future and ensuring her family would have stability.
“Have you gone to call on Miss. Amagi yet?” Mrs. Hanamura asked, directing her question at Mr. Hanamura who glanced over his newspaper at her.
“I have not,” he replied, before holding the paper back up to cover his face. Mrs. Hanamura frowned at him.
“And why ever not? How are we to secure a meeting with the family if you will not do your duty as head of the household and pay them a visit? How is she to fall in love with Chie or Teddie if they are never to meet?” she asked, frowning at her husband.
He lowered the newspaper again. “I do not see the rush m’dear or what all of the uproar is about. All the Amagi family has done is cause a ruckus in our quiet little down. I refuse to call on them and bring such chaos into our home – it can be chaotic enough as is with the three we have.” He glanced over at Yosuke and gave a small wink before raising the newspaper again, as it if would somehow block the tirade of his most unhappy wife.
“Then you would set up our children for ruin! I am quite sure every other family in town has already called upon Miss Amagi!” Mrs. Hanamura shouted, sounding quite upset at the whole affair. “How will Chie ever find a good match if you refuse to call upon other households? Or our dear Teddie? Do you wish to place more of a burden upon Yosuke? It is already hard enough for him to find a good match as is!”
As she continued to nag at their father, Teddie quickly grew bored by the conversation and snuck off upstairs to try on some new clothes his mother had bought in town for him recently. Yosuke and Chie, meanwhile, headed outside, deciding to enjoy the fresh morning air and to take a brisk walk. Chie had on a simple dress with sturdy boots she had taken from Yosuke when he had grown out of them when he hit his first growth spurt as a teen. She wore her hair down as she often did at home, for she hated to tie it up and preferred to let it loose. Yosuke was much the same in that he rarely styled his hair back as most other young men did these days and let his bangs fall naturally in his face. “I think father has already gone to see the Amagi’s,” Yosuke mused. “Did you see him wink at me when mother was not looking?”
Chie shook her head. “He does love to tease mother,” she replied. “I do wish she would not bring up my dowry so much though. I already know how much of a burden I am on the family.” Chie picked one of the weeds that grew in the tall grass around the estate and ran it through her fingers as she said so. Yosuke’s eyes narrowed at her as he leaned against a tree.
“You know you will never be a burden to me,” he insisted. “I will always be happy to have you around, even if you nag at me and call me names.” Yosuke’s eyes twinkled in merriment, while Chie punched him in the arm.
“You are as bad as father,” she grumbled, before smiling at him. “I do appreciate it though. I know how you feel, but I still would not want to be a burden on you. You deserve better.” She smiled sadly at him before also leaning against the tree with a sigh.
“What do you think about the news of the Amagi’s?” she asked.
Yosuke shrugged. “Unless she has a rich sister it will not do me much good,” he replied. “As an heir I am unable to marry another heir after all.”
Chie tilted her head. “It has happened, though, has it not?” she asked.
“Very rarely,” Yosuke replied. “Most families of means do not want to marry without a dowry. And it makes passing down both estates a complicated affair,” he replied. “I prefer not to deal with such a headache.” He turned to look at Chie. “What of your feelings?”
Chie shrugged. “I know you wish to marry for love but…” she stared off into the distance. “If one of such means did take interest in me in spite of my dowry, and were a kind, decent sort of person…” she trailed off. “Love could always come later, do you not think?”
Yosuke shrugged. “All I would want for you is your happiness. And if you do not love your partner, I do not see how you could be happy. We are fortunate our parents love each other, in spite of father’s teasing. Many other families are not the same. Look at how stiff the Shirogane’s are,” he pointed out.
“Yes, but they still did a fine job raising Naoto,” Chie replied. “You cannot deny that.”
“Naoto would have come out as she did regardless of who raised her,” Yosuke quipped. The Shirogane’s were close family friends of theirs and Naoto was his best friend. His mother had hoped for a match between the two of them until Naoto had been announced as the family heir, much to her dismay. Yosuke thought highly of his friend and always stuck up for her. Chie smiled softly at his loyalty, before glancing up at the placement of the sun in the sky.
“I should probably get started on sewing,” she grumbled. Chie hated having to do chores expected on her as a lady of the household and always felt jealous of her brothers who had a lot more freedom. She diligently did them every day, however, knowing that if she were to stand a chance to get married she needed to have at least a basic skillset when it came to running the household. She also wanted to be able to help out her brother if she did end up as an old maid he had to support when he had his own family.
“How about we go horseback riding this afternoon?” Yosuke asked, smiling widely when Chie beamed at him in reply.
“I think that sounds like a splendid idea,” she replied, before rushing off. Yosuke watched his sister, a slight pang in his chest as she headed inside. He sometimes wished she had been born a man and was the heir instead, for she honestly showed much more interest in male centered activities and was steadfastly loyal to their parents. That would have saved Yosuke from having to take on the duties as the male hair and given him more opportunity to chase after other interests as well. Yosuke sighed before heading inside, deciding he may as well do some work himself and look over his father’s account books.
A few days later, Mrs. Hanamura was again complaining about the situation with the Amagi’s, pointing out that there was a ball coming up in the neighboring city of Okina and how there were rumors that Miss Amagi was invited. “I hate to hear that family name,” she sighed, frustrated since without formally calling on the family they wouldn’t be able to be introduced at the ball.
“It is quite a shame since I called on her several days ago and she is set to visit tomorrow,” Mr. Hanamura replied as he poured cream into his tea.
Mrs. Hanamura sat up higher in her chair. “Miss Amagi is set to visit tomorrow and you only think to tell me this today?” she asked, a dangerous lilt to her tone.
The children all glanced at each other in surprise. “Father, we are going to be visiting our aunt and uncle in Okina tomorrow,” Teddie said with a frown.
His father nodded. “I thought it better to invite her for lunch with the three of you out of the house. It gives your mother more of an opportunity to ensure everything is in order without my eldest two tracking in mud and you, Teddie, thoughtlessly leaving your things everywhere.”
“But I want to meet Miss. Amagi,” he pouted, and Mr. Hanamura grinned before ruffling his youngest’s hair.
“Meet her you will at the ball,” he promised.
Yosuke gave his father an amused shake of the head. “I knew you called on her the other day,” he replied. “Why must you always tease mother so?”
“Is she not pretty when she is flustered?” he asked, glancing at his wife who had stood up and was directing the household staff in what they would need to do to prepare for the Amagi heir’s visit. Yosuke shook his head before dragging Teddie outside so they would both be out of the way of the household staff and their mother and sister as they started cleaning. His father had locked himself in his study which meant it was up to Yosuke to keep Teddie entertained for the day.
“How about we go for a walk about town?” Yosuke suggested, and Teddie immediately asked if Yosuke would buy him something. Yosuke let out a sigh but agreed, wishing again that his mother hadn’t spoiled the boy so much.
The next day, after the Hanamura children had spent the day in Okina with their aunt and uncle, who were both quite excited to hear about the visitor their parents were expecting for lunch, they returned home for dinner, eager to hear how lunch went. They were amused to return home and find their mother besotted by the young woman. “Yukiko Amagi has the finest manners I have ever seen,” she said with a sigh. “And so lovely! Her parents raised her the right way, they did.”
“Anyone can afford to have such fine manners when they have £5000 a year,” Mr. Hanamura pointed out with a wry grin. “I much prefer having children with a little more personality, myself.” Yosuke rolled his eyes, knowing that his parents were a bit lax when it came to their own upbringing. Yosuke and Chie at least knew how to behave in society, but there was a definite lack of manners when it came to their youngest sibling.
“Do you also think Miss Amagi was lovely, father?” Yosuke asked curiously.
“She was, in fact, a very fine young lady,” he replied honestly. “It is a shame she is an heir. But it seems she does have a sister and will be bringing her to the ball,” he replied. “Hopefully she will be even half as pretty.”
“Oh, yes, she does have a sister,” Mrs. Hanamura said in excitement. “And they have a family friend travelling with them as well. He is said to have £10000 a year!” She looked at all three of her children. “At such a cost he would have no need for a dowry. It may even be worth you looking at,” she said, giving Yosuke a sly glance.
Yosuke shook his head, still steadfastly holding onto the idea two heirs marrying was too much of a hassle. Besides, £10000 a year or not, Yosuke wanted to marry for love. If he was to support his family, he at least wanted a partner that he could enjoy spending time with. “She is returning to the city to bring them to her estate along with some more of her things. They are supposed to be staying all season,” she added. “We must make sure to make an impression at the ball!” All three children were honestly curious to see Miss. Amagi for themselves and what her sister and friend looked like. It wasn’t often they had someone new show up in their society that was not a family they had grown up with, so they were looking forward to a bit of excitement. Yosuke wondered how things would go at the upcoming ball.