It was just another ordinary day in the small village of Mishima. Children played in the streets, their cheeky grins and sun-kissed skin, bringing cheer to young and old as their laughter echoed in the wind. The pleasant sound of the town’s hustle and bustle as merchants cried out their sales, brought a small smile to my face as I reveled in the tranquility of it all.
It wasn’t until a hearty laugh broke me from my thoughts, that brought my eyes to a small Minka house just across the dirt-covered road. There, in all his glory, stood my father, Lord Tanaka, the leader of this small village. He was a large, burly man, with broad shoulders and long black hair that was beginning to grey at his temples.
Noticing me, the brown eyes that have brought me so much comfort throughout the years, smiled at me from afar. His deep voice called out to me, the wind carrying the sound throughout the small bazaar as he ushered me forward with a wave of his hand. With a short laugh of my own, I made my way to him, the smell of rice and ginkgo leaves filling my nostrils as a warm breeze swept around us.
“My dear daughter, what brings you to town today?” At my father’s inquiry, our dear friend Hiro spoke, making his presence known.
“Isn’t it clear, my Lord? She is gracing the town with her enchanting beauty.” With a small chuckle, I couldn’t repress a smile at the compliment the elder bestowed. A sweet old man, Hiro, was one of the elders of our village. He was often found on his porch smoking from his wooden pipe as he watched over the townspeople day and night. If anything strange occurred, Hiro was always the first to know.
In response to Hiro’s praise, my father smiled broadly. His chest puffed out as he gazed at me with pride. His large hand slapping the elder on the back, the hard slap causing Hiro to wince, but join in the laughter as well. I had often heard the same praise from my father as he compared my beauty to the petals of the ume flower.
As they continued their conversation, I quietly watched over the children, chuckling at their innocence and youth. Though it wasn’t long before a sudden change of topic drew me back to my father. Hiro was speaking of the many suitors who had come to us in hopes of making me their wife.
“Any man would be lucky to take Tsuya as their bride.” Hiro spoke with a confident smile, as my father nodded in response, his brows furrowed as he fell into deep thought.
“Ah, yes. That reminds me, Tsuya, you have another suitor visiting tomorrow at sunrise.” With my father’s words, I felt a bit of sorrow tug at my heart. I am sixteen years of age; this is the last year where I will be eligible for marriage. Shooting my father a knowing look, I could see the same sorrow in his eyes, though he hid it well behind his smile.
“Yes, father, I will be ready.” I tried to bury the despair I felt and mustered the strength to smile back at my father. With an unbearable ache in my heart, I returned my gaze to that of the children. But unlike before, their merriment brought me no joy as thoughts of my potential husband swirled through my mind.
His name was Lord Shigaraki. A commanding war general from Osaka, his beauty, as well as his cunning and wealth. Any other woman in my position would be more than pleased to be courted by such a man. But I felt no happiness—only sorrow as I quietly wept behind the façade of my smile.
But though my heart ached at the thought of meeting him, I could not let my father down. I had my duty to uphold, and if that meant marrying a man, I did not know and leaving the village I loved. Then I would do it honorably.
Abruptly, a large hand patted me on the head, the sudden touch pulling me from my thoughts. Without so much as a glance, I knew before I met his eyes that the large warm hand I felt belonged to my father. Peering into the deep brown eyes that had nestled me in their warmth for so many years, I felt the depressive thoughts slowly dissipate.
With a bow and short goodbyes, my father and I made our way to the home, leaving a chortling Hiro behind. Tomorrow’s events still fresh in our minds as we rode our horses. It wasn’t long until my father broke the silence.
“I shouldn’t be too surprised you have so many suitors, Tsuya.” Shooting me a cheeky grin, I gave my father a quizzical look, which he then returned with a gaze of nostalgia, a look I only saw when he thought of my mother.
“You are just as beautiful as your mother. I had to fight tooth and nail to earn her favor. It’s only natural that other men would do the same for your hand.” With a small chuckle, my father’s voice trailed off as he let his mind take him to memories of his late wife.
I had always wondered what my mother was like before she died. But she had died when I was three, the only memories I have are the ones my father shared. He has always talked so fondly of her, of her kindness and beauty. After she died, he never took another wife. Instead, he dedicated his life to me and this village.
Smiling softly to myself, I eyed my father carefully. I hope that my suitor is like my father, honorable and kind.
As I gazed at the home that filled my heart with so much comfort, I felt the weight of despair tug at my heart once more. The sound of crickets chirping off in the distance, and the blanket of stars that covered us were more than enough to set to my mind at ease as memories filled my thoughts.
The sight of the cherry blossoms illuminated by the moonlight sent shivers down my spine, as petals broke from their branches to be swept away by the wind. They said that cherry blossoms represent a time or renewal and the fleeting of life. Life is short, and beauty dies.
Most people, when they held the petal of the cherry blossom, are awed by their beauty and satin feel. But I only felt deep sorrow. My father planted this tree in remembrance of my mother—a reminder of how something so beautiful was lost far too soon. After so many years of knowing the truth behind this remarkable tree, my heart was only filled with dread as it brought forth the knowledge of how nothing lasts. Even my time here, in the home that I loved, has always had its expiration date. And it was finally on its way.
The sound of my father’s horse brought me back to reality, a glance at his tired face revealed his age as wrinkles set in around his mouth and brows. Yet another reminder of life fading, as much as I tried to ignore it, my father was aging. How often will I see him if I am whisked away? How different will he look when those short visits come.
Once again, my heartfelt heavy. The sound of my father’s shoes against the ground was the only thing that broke me from those depressive thoughts once more, as his large hand reached for my small one as he settled me onto the ground. With somber eyes, my father cupped my cheek in his large palm, his voice gruff as he spoke.
“This man, Lord Shigaraki. He is a good man. You will live a wonderful life with him.” With a firm nod, I forced a smile upon my cheeks. The dampness of tears threatened to spill over as I held my father’s steady gaze.
“Yes, father. I will make you proud.” With a satisfied sigh, he put me at arm’s length. His deep brown eyes clouded with joy as he gazed at me.
“Wherever you drift my daughter, this shall always be your home.” Tears rimmed my father’s eyes as he held my gaze. We both knew that I would agree to Lord Shigaraki’s marriage proposal tomorrow and that the Lord would not waste time in making me his wife. Our time together was limited.
The lump that formed in my throat practically strangled me as I struggled for words. Though against my own emotions. I could not show weakness in these times. My father raised me to face my fears with grace and dignity, and I would not let him down in this most crucial decision. With a deep breath, I clenched my fists tightly, forcing yet another smile onto my lips.
“Yes, father, I am prepared, Mishima will always be in my heart, as will you.” I spoke slowly. The echo of my voice, even to me sounded hollow. With a forced smile and a firm nod, my father patted me on the head once more before heading to the stables, both horses in tow behind him. Tomorrow, I shall meet my future husband, and my life will be forever be changed.