Second Daughter, pt. xiii

Back in her room, Kaori cannot sleep. The lamp is doused, the only light that enters is from the crescent moon. So much has happened in the past few days that Kaori still cannot process. Her sister is to be married. She is to be married once a good match is found. Her poetry having been read. She sighs out the window, listening to the night song.

Kaori opens her eyes, she must have fallen asleep at the window. She is cold, and she notices the sounds have stopped. The gate-bell rings again, the bell she thought was in her dreams. Kaori pulls herself back, still looking into the courtyard but hidden in the shadows around her window. She can see her brother’s lamp come on in the wing across the Courtyard. She cannot see her parents room. The bell rings a third time, as far as Kaori can estimate. A servant approaches cautiously. It is too late in the evening for any sort of proper visit, and the fear of bandits, even in such a safe town as theirs, is one that cannot be ameliorated when the whole kingdom is at war. The servant opens the slat to see who it is, then quickly pulls back. They rush to unbar the gate and open it. Kaori’s father and brother open the door, they have dressed quickly and their weapons are obvious.

The cherry blossom tree blocks Kaori’s view, but she can hear the stomping of hooves. When the man dismounts and enters her field of view, he has a banner strapped to his back and on it is the seal of the prefecture. Her brother and father relax, slightly.

“Is this the Inaba household?” the visitor asks, perhaps too loudly.

Her father’s response is low, an appropriate volume for close conversations.

“Forgive me, Sir Inaba, the wind and cold while riding have taken some of my hearing tonight. I am a messenger from the office of the prefecture.” The stranger produces a seal from inside his armor and presents it to Kaori’s father. He looks it over, and finally relaxes. He gestures for the man to come inside.

“Thank you.”

Kaori dresses herself, she relights her lamp once they are all inside. She dresses, and wracks her brain to think of a way to enter the meeting with good reason. As she sits at her desk, there is a knock at her door.

“Kaori? Its your brother.”

“Enter.”

He takes in the room and seeing she is dressed, smiles at her. “Your presence is requested.”

“Is it good news or bad news?”

He smiles at her again, “I do not know. The messenger said that his message concerned you and Father sent me to get you.”

Kaori hurries after her brother. He knows she is curious and walks her quickly back into the room. Father and the messenger sit at the tea table, quietly. The stranger drinks deeply.

“This is very good tea, Sir Inaba, just what I needed for the ride through the prefecture.”

“I am glad you like it. This is my second daughter, Kaori.”

Kaori bows. “It is an honor to meet a man of the prefecture.”

The stranger stands, his eyebrows are scrunched together. “The honor is mine, young lady.” He turns back to Kaori’s father, who gestures Kaori to sit. “I am puzzled, Sir Inaba. Based on what the Governor is asking, I assumed he meant one of your sons.”

“The message is for Inaba Kaori, is it not? Then this is she.” Kaori nods.

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