At last the day of Rigel’s meeting arrived. He again dressed in his formal wear and he and his mother traveled to the villa. When they arrived she kissed him on the cheek and held his hand.
“Good luck. I hope you can make a connection with one of them.”
“Thank you, mother…”
Suzu gave his hand one more squeeze before stepping back and allowing him to be escorted by Lady Cassandra.
They came to a pavilion surrounded by water and five young ladies quietly talking to each other. A grand display of food was nearby and some of the ladies ate from intricately painted dishes. As they approached Lady Cassandra clapped her hands and all bright eyes were on her.
“Ladies, it is my honor to introduce to you the royal son of the Suzu Clan, Rigel An. He will be spending time with you today. He is an agreeable young man and you should all try and get to know him a little better if you have not already. I will be in my quarters with Lady Suzu if anyone should need me. Good luck.” She left them and stepped a distance away before disappearing inside. The ladies all stared at Rigel and he felt his ears burn. Why did he agree to this again?
After a few seconds (that seemed like eternity) Rigel spoke out in his low voice.
“I want to thank you all for agreeing to meet with me. Um… Our clan is small but it is well furnished, peaceful, and the rules are very fair…” he trailed off as they continued to stare. “So… Do you have any questions about me… or our clan?”
With that several hands shot up and Rigel swallowed, preparing for the worst. He made eye contact with one and she spoke in a clear voice.
“Is it true that sisters of your clan are free to speak to men inside the compound?”
“Yes, we even dine together.” One girl gasped and others exchanged looks.
“I heard that the men aren’t killed when they father a child and are instead sent away with honor.”
“Yes, this is also true. My father lives to the west. He has visited us several times throughout my life.” More gasps.
“I heard that one of the sisters of your clan took a secret lover…” At this question there was dead silence. Rigel frowned as he turned towards the voice he knew well; It was Hana. He gave her a look of disappointment then closed his eyes as he spoke.
“I was a child at the time and she was never an official sister of our clan. She was banished and we haven’t heard from her since that day.”
“Why was she not killed?”
“That is not my mother’s way of doing things.” Rigel furrowed his brow and Hana looked on, an annoyed expression on her face. “We reserve death as punishment for truly horrible offenses. Truthfully, I do not know what that would take and I hope we never find out.” The others in the circle nodded gravely.
The conversation went on like this for about an hour with Rigel asking his own questions along the way. Towards the end of their meeting he had a better idea of who he didn’t like. Hana was definitely out. He would truly have to consider carefully the rest of the girls…