How much time had passed since the young village boy went for help? For days the young girl had to watch as her mother lay in bed, her condition only worsening as moments passed. If only she was older and able to understand these things, but she was so young and afraid. There was no one there to care for her and her mother, they were only a pair. How rough life had become for her mother, having to raise a young child on her own. Faithfully the young girl stayed by her mother's side. Would everyone forget all about them?
"Musume listen to me now."
The child glanced at her mother's tired face, eyes sunken and dull. She was the most beautiful woman in the whole village...at one time. "About six years ago...I met a restless, rebellious man. He carried a sword wherever he went, for he was a samurai. He was too loud and always made decisions without thinking, he was a fiery young man..."
As her mother spoke, she saw love in her eyes and for just a moment, the woman she once was before the sickness. How much this man must have meant to her because despite all impossible circumstances and separation, she remained devoted to that samurai.
"I came from a lesser family and he, a notable samurai family. Already he was betrothed, but neither of us cared or thought of the consequences. We were separated because of our mistake, but that mistake brought you to us. Even if we cannot be together, I had a piece of him through you. This man, your father, promised that shall you ever need him...that he will take care of you, no matter the cost. Soon, that promise will be fulfilled. I cannot stay with you any longer Musume."
Mother would be leaving her soon? The young child's eyes welled up with tears, slowly they trailed down her face. Dropping onto her cheek and descending downward, she sniffled and wiped her runny nose on the back of her yukata.
[color=red]"Mother, I don't want to be taken away! I belong with you!"
The small room suddenly seemed so quiet and the young girl looked towards the bed.
A small smile graced the older woman's lips and she seemed to be experiencing a nice dream.
The child reached out her small hand and placed it on her mother's and for the first time...realized what death was. She covered her eyes and sobbed loudly into her sleeve and knelt next to her mother's side for many hours. Until feeling a presence next to her. A gasp escaped her lips as she looked up at the older man, a katana hung from his side. He glanced down at the young child, his child, and smiled sadly at the way those brilliant red eyes stared at him with such hope. He spoke, his deep voice breaking through the silence,
"I see now...how you got your name. Akane."
---- 3 days ago ----
Since the day they met, Akane and her father had been together. The bond between them was so strong. They shared the same passion and her father would always tell stories of his travels and victories as a rebellious man. When had she become a nuisance to her father...was she no longer wanted here? No part of this young woman ever thought an offer of marriage would be made for her, over-confidence had been her friend the past year. Silence descended upon them as they stared out over the courtyard. They had received the Daimyo into their home only a short time ago and he put forth an offer that her father and his wife could not and did not refuse. How could a respectable family accept someone like her as a wife? Shocked, she sat silently and watched as her own freedom was given away to another family with promise that the next day a sedan would be sent for her. All day, an excitement and frantic pace had been set over the entire household as they made preparations for Akane.
The young woman watched as her father looked out over their courtyard, jovial mood replaced with something more serious, something the samurai had never really been.
His loud voice interrupted the silence as he spoke firmly, "The Furuki family is a well-known and highly respected family. To refuse the offer would have been a disservice to you, my daughter. I only want your happiness and for you to experience more from life. A husband can provide you safety and companionship and that is what you deserve. Because of my sins, I thought that never could be accomplished, but thanks to the Daimyo...you will be able to finally be accepted."
Akane stood to her feet, red eyes blazing as she pointed her finger at him,
"Idiot samurai-man! You are only doing what your own family did to you, trapping me into marriage!"
She whirled around and hurried towards her room, hearing him shout her name but not stopping. Of all people, her father was supposed to understand this matter of arranged marriages. Tears threatened to pool in her eyes, but a long time ago...she told herself she would always be strong and not give into crying.
---- Present ----
The intricate sedan was a symbol of her imprisonment, and never had Akane felt such overwhelming despair. Dreams of freedom had slipped through her fingers in a matter of moments. Those red eyes blankly stared out the window of the sedan, the cool demeanor hiding the sadness beneath. Before leaving, she'd shared a brief goodbye with her father, and he had seemed lost when telling her that he would miss her. Akane sighed loudly and indignantly crossed her arms and folded them across her chest, muttering to herself in the quiet sedan, "Idiot samurai."
The uncomfortably long trip gave her more time to think, but the closer the sedan got to the Furuki manor...the more she began to worry and despair. What if her betrothed didn't find her attractive? Akane admittedly didn't think she was anything special, her hair was black as ink and fell straight to her hips and it always stayed straight as a board much to her dismay. Her face was far too rounded and made her appear much younger than twenty-one years and it didn't help that she stood at only five feet and one inch.
The large red eyes for which she was named, was the only feature she loved, yet it made others uncomfortable, it's not like she was some sort of Oni. Personality probably wouldn't be winning over anyone either. The young woman was fiery tempered, chose to ignore lady-like mannerisms, disobedient, and she made many of her decisions based on emotion rather than logic. What sort of man would accept a woman like that? Akane's thoughts were interrupted briefly at the announcement of their arrival.
"Kimura-san, we've arrived!"
Time had passed far too quickly and the toll it took on her body was now noticeable as she shakily stepped to the ground, ignoring her escort's out-stretched hand. Geta touched the ground one at a time and finally she was able to stretch. Oh, how good was being on land and getting to stretch her arms and legs again! Those who had carried the sedan glanced at her oddly and scurried out of the way as quickly as possible, making her feel self-conscious. The offer from her step-mother to have her hair pinned up and her face painted elaborately somehow sounded more enticing as an older woman looked down her nose at Akane's bare face. A fight had been won because she fought long and hard, one victory for her! Besides...there was no use in deceiving anyone. If they accepted a b*****d child, then they should be prepared to accept these other aspects of her, in her opinion, and her opinion was the one that mattered the most to her.
"Hmph!" Akane turned her face away from the servant, sticking her nose high in the air.
"If you'll follow me...Kimura-san. The others have been waiting."
She nodded her head, slightly rolling her eyes at the implications of being late and the older woman sighed, continuing on with instructions as they made their way towards the meeting hall. How many rules were there going to be? Be quiet, sit still, blah blah blah. The hall itself was rather large, the doors were slid open for her slowly and Akane made her way inside without further instruction. Unceremoniously choosing the only empty cushion on the far right and kneeling, disregarding the other women in the room. Akane straightened her back and used those etiquette lessons her step-mother had so desperately taught her and then finally glanced at the others briefly with a soft sigh. Wait...there were three other women chosen to also be brides to the Furiko brothers, somehow the thought had managed to slip her mind.
Was paying attention really that hard a task for her? Smacking herself in the face seemed appropriate, but she refrained. Instead Akane glanced to her left to get a better look at the other women and instead became locked in a staring contest with a peacock. Her eyes widened and she pointed at the bird in shock.
"Um...this? Is this normal?"
"Aislynn. Aislynn. Aislynn."
As was her normal habit, the young woman repeated this to herself under her breath, over and over again like a mantra. The way the vowels and consonants of the word rolled so easily off her tongue must mean something, right? On most occasions, she would never be idle, making herself useless like a piece of decorative furniture, but today was that day. As she had on other days such as this one, she stood outside his room, wishing for the courage to walk in and ask. Her thoughts were interrupted briefly by a young spirit who glanced in her direction with a shy smile. The spirit, a young girl, knocked tentatively on the door...her hand shaking slightly with her efforts to stay calm and collected. He usually did intimidate some of the servants this way, especially when he spoke with such indifference. The spirit stuttered before gaining access to the room. Usually she would be the one to deliver the message that the girl now brought him, but most of the servants knew that on these days her personality altered from confident and outgoing to quiet and reserved, and so they didn't bother her with carrying many messages. She wondered if he noticed the difference or if he was as indifferent to her as the rest of the servants.
Why was he the man she loved...yet hated to love? From the beginning, all she remembered was him. Why, why was he the person that she remembered most vividly? Why was he the first and brightest memory she had? Time passed here, and yet she barely noticed. Seconds, hours, minutes, days...she had no recollection of what had transpired. Maybe, no...today she would ask him. Yet, she had said that so many times before. She was afraid to ask because maybe there was the chance that he would refuse to tell her or simply, he would tell her, but it would be something she didn't want to hear. How she hated this man! Hated him for making her feel this conflicted.
The voices from him and the servant, drifted into the hallway where she waited. More humans...more servants. Was that how she once was? She shook her head, tossing her brightly colored blue hair from side to side. Today the long hair that she usually kept up, fell loosely around her shoulders down towards the middle of her back. She hadn't bothered dressing up, but merely she dressed as she always did. A simple black, strapless dress whose hem hit her about mid-thigh. The dress molded to fit her body...no, not tight, but like it was made for her. Her shoes were open toed, black flats which she pretended to study as the servant exited the room and left to get what the Lord had asked for. She would just have to take him this boiling water (an odd request, but their Lord Ambrose was a little odd himself) and come right out and ask.
The mental struggle in her head continued as she leaned against his door, contemplating on going to see him without an excuse, but no...not today. It was taking every ounce of her courage to stay standing there, waiting for that girl. Instead she focused on her mantra, whispering it softly to herself. "Aislynn. Aislynn is my name." The young servant girl reappeared with a wooden bucket of the boiling water, steam rising off of its surface. Aislynn smiled at her before speaking, "If you would like, I will take the water in for you?" The servant all but thrust the bucket into her hands, almost causing her to spill the scalding water on the floor, and scurried back the way she came. She stood staring after her for a moment before turning towards the door. The handle of the bucket was in her right hand, causing her to lean slightly towards her right side with the added weight, she knocked twice with her left hand and began to open the door. She was not afraid of him, despite if he did get angry with her for entering without his permission first. She was his personal attendant and messenger after all, it must give her some rights. Aislynn's voice came out calm as she spoke,
"Excuse me Lord Ambrose. I have your...boiled water."