The messenger nods at Kaori. He takes in the cherry-blossom pink clothes, the pastel yellow-green sash ornamented with spring-time symbols. He cannot help but be reminded of his own daughter at home. The two have the same look in their eyes, constantly searching their surroundings for something, focused in their attentions. “The governor of the prefecture has heard your poetry and invites you to his estate after the Spring festival. The goal will be a collaboration that carries the essence of the prefecture, as written by its poets.”
Kaori’s father and brother share a look, their brows drawn. Kaori’s fan comes out from her sash to cover her slack-jawed surprise. It has only been a few days, surely there’s no way the governor could have heard her work by now? Her father is quicker than Kaori, she hopes her future husband will be too.
“And how, exactly, is it that the governor is aware of her work? My daughter has not been featured at any of the festivals, nor published, even locally.”
“That is not altogether true, Sir Inaba. A composition, featuring a verse from your daughter, was presented to the governor by way of one of his magistrates. He said it was produced here in this village. It is the poets from that composition that the governor wishes to recruit for his endeavor.”
Kaori’s fan flutters rapidly. The wind is still cold, and it quickly dries her eyes, helping her focus. She had no idea… could she have known? She rifles through her memories of that day, already muddy from time, but none of the participants wore anything that would indicate they were from the prefecture. Their clothing was nice, but none nicer than any other. Perhaps… could it have been the man in the green brocade? He seemed particularly interested in her…
“After the Spring festival? The timing could not have been worse, Messenger. Her sister is due to be married after the Spring festival. The governor has already approved the date. Kaori will need to be here for the ceremony.” Her brother has spoken up. His eyes narrow slightly, the only sign to Kaori that he has not become a hated enemy.
“Oh… shall I send word to the Governor then that Inaba Kaori will not be able to attend?” The messenger stands up straight, his eyes dart over the table and take in the Inaba family present. The brother is poised, relaxed, almost a perfect copy of the father. The young girl is flustered, that much can be seen from her fan, but the focused look over the edge shouldn’t be ignored. It’s the same look his daughter gives him when she’s about to convince him to give into some request.
“My son and daughter will discuss her participation. You and I may stay and enjoy our tea.” Kaori’s father nods to her. She and her brother rise, bow and exit back to her room. Once they are away from the sitting room, her brother speaks.
“Compose a verse to the Governor, ask him to allow the wedding to take place at the ceremony for for the Prefecture Poem, we’ll send it back with the messenger. Your best work Kaori.”
Kaori looks hard at her brother. “Tell me you know what you are doing.”
“I’m gambling with your possible future as a poet for the good of the family. Yes, I know, but I have faith in your ability. You contributed one verse that day, and that was enough to get the Governor’s attention, obviously he likes your talent.”
“Or he heard that I’m a nubile young lady on the cusp of marriageability and has been fed stories about my beauty and is not in fact interested in my poetry.”
“Either one can be used to our advantage, and if he isn’t interested in your poetry, would it then be a loss?”
“Yes. You’re still gambling with my recognition as a poet, the governor’s motives do not change that.”
Her brother opens the door to her room. “Then make certain it is your best work.” He smiles at her. Kaori wishes she could spread cinders on his clothing.