Second Daughter, Ch. 6, Sc. 2

The family is sitting down together. Dinner has just passed, and tea is almost finished. Kaori’s sister turns to her.

“Sister, will you dance for us?”

Katai nods, as does Huiren. “It will be good for you. We know the Governor’s decision was hard on you, this will be a good distraction. Go on.”

Her sister jumps in, “Yes, and I will play for you.” She claps, and a servant comes by. Kaori thinks. It has been most of the day that she has been thinking about the Governor’s letter. About her failure. About her brother’s gambling, how dare he! It takes her mind a long moment to switch tracks, to think about dances, about stories, about artwork. Kaori realizes everyone is looking at her. Except her brother. He has not stopped looking at the table since dinner began.

“Play… play The Lone Swan.” Katai and Huiren glance at one another. Kaori’s sister stiffens.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Yes I am. Play the song.”

Kaori rises and moves towards the side of the room, where there is more space. She closes her eyes. Her sister plays the first few notes. She focuses on them, clings onto them. Her father did not raise her to get distracted by the everyday, he raised her to achieve selflessness through artwork. To contribute and produce and change the world. Kaori knows she cannot do that if she cannot forget herself in her artwork. She takes a deep breath, centering and calming herself. The movements begin, almost of their own accord. She feels them, really feels them with everything she has. She does not let herself think, she only lets herself move and hear. She is to become the music, and in becoming that, tell the story of the Lone Swan. After only a few bars there is no more Kaori, only The Lone Swan.

Once, there was a swan
Who traveled with his own flock
And yet was alone.

The swan cried out to the moon,
Why must I be so lonely?

The moon heard the swan,
Lighting a path in the dark
The swan was led away.

Soon, there was no one nearby
Only wind, and wood, and moon.

Finally alone,
The swan sang out in the dark
But no one could hear.

The moon turned its face from swan
The wind dies and the wood rots

In his loneliness
The swan does not hear approach
An old and great man.

Why do you sing so loudly?
No one has come to hear you.

I sing to find my way home…

The dance ends. Kaori’s outstretched hand falls back into her now seated lap. Kaori realizes that her sister has cried throughout the whole dance, and played without missing a note, as far as Kaori could tell. Even her father’s eyes are glistening. Weili is no longer in the room.

“It pleases me that both my daughters have such dedication to art. Now go. Your mother and I have much to discuss. Kaori.”

“Yes?” Her voice is as though she has just woken up, raspy and strange.

“Go apologize to your brother.”

Kaori bows instead of trusting her voice, and leaves the room. She walks down the hall, taking the time alone to clear her throat. Her brother’s room is only one on this side of the house with the light on currently. She knocks politely.

Weili opens the door. His eyes are red, but dry. “Yes?”

“I came to apologize. I don’t hate you, Brother. I know you did what you thought was best. I’m just…” Kaori has time to realize that there is a waterfall ahead of her, and then she is cast off. “I’m tired of not being recognized, of not having strangers praise my work. To have the Governor do that was a thrill I didn’t even know I wanted. More importantly though, it was terribly improper of me. The point of my work should be the finding of myself, the finding of my way, not the praise of my peers or even of strangers. You acted within that knowledge, and have proved yourself to be the superior person. I should not hold that against you, or imply my displeasure.” She falls before her brother, bowing deeply to him.


“I had hoped your art would be sufficient to bring honor to our family.” Kaori flinches as though he’s kicked her in the ribs. “But it would seem I too, lost sight of your art’s purpose.” He bends down and picks her up. “It is I who should be apologizing, dearest sister.” He smiles at her. “Can you forgive me, Kaori?”

“Of course, Weili.” He places a hand on her shoulder and smiles warmly at her. Standing like that for a few moments longer, Kaori finally nods her head, and turns to go back to her room.


Several strides down the hall, Kaori turns to look at him.

“One day, you will be the most famous poet in all the land.”

“One day,” Kaori responds, “I will find myself in one of my poems, and be completed.”


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