Long ago in an ancient land there lived an established family of the noble class. According to the custom of their culture they required a son to carry on the family name and become heir to the estate.
In the tenth generation of their recorded history, they found themselves unlucky in their task of producing an heir. Four girls were born before they were blessed with triplets: two boys and a final girl.
During the infancy of the triplets, the elder girls were treated normally, receiving equal attention from both of their parents and relatives. As the triplets grew up, however, the lives of the daughters began to change.
They were encouraged to be demure, keeping to themselves when in the presence of their father or anyone, actually. Practical household arts were the basis of their education as well as music and painting. Although they were well off and would probably have servants when they married, they were taught how to cook and tend a small garden.
The young boys, on the other hand, were afforded every luxury and free to behave however they felt. They had private tutors and even attended school. It was important that they received an education as one of them would be the heir to the family fortune one day and would rule over the village.
As the girls gradually became teenagers, their mother began talk of marriage. If they were very lucky, they would be matched with a kind and wealthy man. If not, well… they tried not to think about it.
Suzu, the third daughter in the family, thought about her future far too often. While her older sisters were excited about their prospects, she dreaded it. Her affinity for the outdoors did not suit a proper wife. As a child she constantly wanted to run around and never sat still. She was forbidden to move faster than a shuffle around their women’s room therefore she was often restless during the day and night.
Lastly, she was very intelligent. This was not to say that her mother and sisters were not but more that she was forward thinking. What was preventing her from being free to go outside the compound walls? Some rules a man made up years ago? Why?
She constantly battled herself internally, trying to make sense of the world she lived in. Sure, she was taught all about their history and culture as a child but now as a young woman she was being forced into a future she did not want.
When her eldest sister, Chiyo, married, Suzu was beside herself, worried that she would never see her sister again and that she would be mistreated. The women in her family tried to calm her but it did no good. Chiyo moved away after the marriage ceremony and Suzu did not see her until the wedding of their next sister, Sayuri.
Suzu’s feelings about marriage softened slightly as she saw the kindness in her second brother-in-law’s eyes. She did not recognize that same kindness in her first brother-in-law but Chiyo told her things were “just fine”. She said she was happy enough but that her husband had a hot head and sometimes shouted at her. Suzu hated hearing this. Sayuri’s new husband, on the other hand, was very gentle and kind and matched Sayuri’s temperament exceedingly well. For this Suzu was glad. At least one of them would be happy.
Soon it came time for Suzu’s betrothal. She was adamant that she would not go quietly. Her mother pressed her to obey and not dishonor the family. Suzu didn’t want her family to be shamed by the village but she just couldn’t go along with this future.
So, by the light of the moon she began to plan. During the day she was obedient and did all the work expected of her in the months leading up to her wedding day. She embroidered, sewed, and painted all day long. Her mother was thrilled!
In the evening, however, she was wide awake and poured over maps or books she took from her father’s library. Other times, she sneaked out to the barn to practice her swordsmanship. She was actually getting very good.
Finally, it came time for her wedding day. Suzu knew only three things about her betrothed: he had a handsome face, he liked swords, and his name was Katsu.
For the ceremony, Katsu wore a ceremonial sword and a garment made all of fine silk. Suzu, on the other hand felt like a present wrapped with care. She wore a long silk gown several layers thick and her feet were wrapped into delicate silk slippers. Her face was plastered with dramatic makeup and her hair put into a beautiful bun. None of this would be seen, however, as a heavy veil and headpiece were placed upon her head. The veil was a dense silk that only allowed her to make out blurry shapes. The headpiece further obstructed her vision by hanging beads that surrounded her head and tinkled when she moved. She tried not to.
The marriage and tea ceremonies were performed and the couple was carried away on sedan chairs to their wedding chamber. Finally they were left alone. Suzu could not see his face clearly and he could not see hers. He spoke first.
“Well… let’s see your pretty face…” a warm voice said. Suzu’s heartbeat quickened because she knew what was coming next. His hands went up to her face and he began to lift her veil…
In several quick moves she had whipped around him, pulled his sword out of its sheath, and held it carefully, but firmly, against his neck, ready to act if he tried anything. Her headpiece thudded on the floor.
“You are going to let me go,” she breathed into his ear, her voice soft but clear, “You will not follow me.” She could feel him tremble and she held back a grin. It felt good to be powerful. “I’m going to release you and you will stay still while I leave. If you try anything else I cannot promise you’ll be safe. Do you understand?” She felt him nod slightly and she breathed sharply, startling him. “Do you understand?! Yes or no!”
“Yes!” He said quickly.
“Good,” she breathed and released her hold on him only slightly. She pushed him towards the bed and dashed to the large paper window, turning back with sword in hand to protect herself in case he came towards her. He remained on the bed but turned to face her, looking both terrified and awestruck. She bowed her head at him mockingly, her veil slipping from her head and pooling at her feet.
“Thank you, Katsu, for being a good sport. I hope you aren’t teased too horribly for this.” She looked towards him briefly with a smirk, slashed the window, and hopped out, running towards the forest.
She was free.