I write to you on behalf of my deceased parent, Lord Kanzaki, regarding the testament he had written and confirmed with the village council prior to his death. As you must know, my father was the proprietor of Teretill, a sizeable square of land, which, with no son to inherit it, shall henceforth belong your family. The testament specifies that you are to receive the land, house, carriage, and furniture of Teretill. My mother, the household staff, and I are already making plans to vacate the premises, and the contract requires you to be present on the date that this testament is to take effect (21 days after the death of the deceased). We look forward to meeting with you.
Dear Ms. Kanzaki,
I send my condolences for your father's death, and pray for your family's welfare in these difficult times. Unfortunately, I am impelled to remind you that our family is also entitled to your father's remaining wealth, according to the rules set down by the village council regarding any inheritance that binds separate households. I thank you in advance for your steady cooperation.
Dear Mr. Fassa,
I regret to inform you that my father has recently spent the last of his savings and income on lavish gifts for a number of relatives as well as early preparations for his funeral. Any valuables belonging to my father will certainly be forwarded to your family. However, your family is not entitled to any property, with the exception of land, that has belonged to my mother or myself for over one year. I thank you in advance for your understanding.
A Fond Farewell
Hitomi's father had been preparing for his own death for two years.
Two years before, a doctor informed Kanzaki that he suffered from some fatal illness that was rapidly spreading throughout his body. There was no cure. The doctor gravely told him that he had only one or two years left to live, and to use this time to spend with his loves ones as much as possible. Knowing what his early death would do to his family, Kanzaki calmly accepted his fate and dealt with it at once.
He knew that, in this village, women were absolutely forbidden to own land and only allowed one tenth of the proprietor's annual income in inheritance. This was hardly enough to live for a few months. He also knew that without a devoted son to ensure the well-being of his wife and his daughter, his beloved family would be at the mercy of his selfish brother-in-law, Meiden, who would likely leave them homeless or sell them into slavery at once.
Unlike most of the men in the village, Kanzaki had always held very modern views, and believed strongly in the equality of women. While others thought of these restrictions on women as sensible, Kanzaki believed them to be arbitrary and unjust. Why shouldn't a woman own and cultivate her own land? He held that women were certainly as capable of such demanding work as men were, and it was wrong to restrict those unmarried of the benefit of living independent from their families. Needless to say, he was often criticized for his opinion, which always made it clear who his real friends were and who simply sought out a relationship with him for his wealth. It was almost convenient, in fact.
On the other hand, his views seemed to enhance his fathering skills. He was kind and respectful to his wife and his daughter at all times. He often explained and discussed political, intellectual, and monetary matters with them that normally 'should be no concern of a woman.' As a result, his daughter Hitomi was fiercely loyal to him and openly shared his unconventional beliefs. She was well educated, born clever like her mother, and compassionate like her father. Kanzaki could not be fonder of her. But in the present circumstances, her sex was a severe disadvantage.
Thus he devised a plan.
He wrote to all of his close relatives, most of them on his wife's side, and sent them large sums of money; sending only small amounts at a time in case any of the deliveries were intercepted. Kanzaki was reasonably wealthy and sparing in his use of his money; he purchased only out of necessity, and he put much of his annual income away for saving, so he had much to 'give away as gifts'. A quarter of his savings would be given to the relatives, and the rest was evenly divided between his wife and his daughter. This was enough for each of them to live on their own in relative comfort.
"But Father," Hitomi had asked him, knowing the answer already, "where will we live?"
"I've already discussed that with your mother's brother-in-law, Uchida," he replied. "He invited you to live with his family, for which you should be extremely grateful. I offered him an extra sum of money, but he wouldn't accept it. I'm told his daughter is married and no longer living at home, so he and his wife would be more than pleased to receive both of you."
"That's wonderful news, Father, thank you," replied Hitomi respectfully.
Her father kissed her forehead gently and left to wash up before dinner. As he went, Hitomi felt the heavy weight of guilt settling in her stomach.
Mr. and Mrs. Uchida were the kind parents of Hitomi's childhood friend, Yukari, and Hitomi couldn't think of two better people to look after her mother. But Hitomi was almost eighteen now, and desired something far beyond living a quiet life in the village with nothing to do but wait to be married. As much as she appreciated these comfortable arrangements, her mind was set on something very different. Hitomi could only pray that everyone would understand this without feeling insulted somehow.
She decided against admitting her feelings to her father all at once, and instead would gradually reveal her intentions starting with subtle requests. So it was without suspicion that Kanzaki obliged Hitomi in creating two separate bank accounts for her and her mother's money; she had expressed her desires under the pretext of wanting to be cautious.
"If one vault was robbed, for instance, half the money would still be safe," explained Hitomi earnestly. "We could leave one for savings, perhaps…that would be useful! And what if we spend our money unwisely? When the first vault empties, we'll know without calculation that we've spent half of the money and it would give us a little perspective before we spent the whole lot. Really, Father, it just makes more sense."
Kanzaki understood from this that his daughter was economical as he was (which wasn't a lie), and said, "A wise suggestion. You no doubt thought of this when I sent our relatives money in small fractions at a time."
"Not exactly, sir," she replied truthfully. "At first, I simply wanted to avoid any future disagreements over the handling of the finances with my mother. I thought that if each of us governed our own share of money alone, it would force both of us to be more responsible about spending it. There would be no conflicting ideas about what exactly should be spent or the need to eventually compromise."
"You are not sisters, Hitomi," said Kanzaki, smiling fondly at his daughter's obvious want of independence. "There need be no rivalry between the both of you, when each of you want and require such different things. Since you are so different, you'll each bring perspective to the other when she needs it. Don't worry needlessly. I imagine you two balancing each other off nicely."
"I suppose so…"
"I will take your suggestion, however, and divide the fortune into two accounts," he continued. "But do try to use one vault at a time with your mother instead of harshly dividing everything you own from her. You'll be living together just as we are now, and it would be better to hold onto what few attachments remain of this family."
"You're right, Father," replied Hitomi. "Such a thing would be better if we are to live together."
Some nights, Hitomi contemplated not telling anyone at all of her plans until after her father died. He would simply pass away untroubled and Hitomi would only have to deal with difficulties posed by her mother. It all sounded perfectly rational in her mind, but…
'If anyone were to understand what it is I want, it would be my father,' thought Hitomi to herself. 'And I couldn't bear to follow through with it if I didn't have his consent.'
It always came down to the same conclusion in the end: she would ease him into her thinking, and tell him the truth as soon as possible. In the meantime, she came up with more hints and suggestions to share with him.
"Father, how is it our family came to own this property in the first place?"
"Father, did you ever grow restless living in the countryside all your life?"
"Father, what do you think of city life?"
"Father, did you know that a new legislation in Palas allows women to own land?"
"Father, how does one become an entrepreneur?"
At first, her father was too busy dealing with the money, hunting for new employers for the household staff he would no longer be requiring, and whatnot. But the questions just went on and on. And each time Hitomi asked him one, she waited less and less time before asking another. Soon, her father noticed a theme emerging in his daughter's topics of discussion.
"Daughter," he said to her one day after calling her into his study. "Are you thinking of moving to a town?"
"…I find myself very curious about them, sir," replied Hitomi nervously.
"Answer the question, please."
Hitomi hesitated, and her eyes fell to her feet. The inauspicious moment had finally come – the one she'd done much preparing for. Now she must choose to tell him the truth openly, or lie and live with it forever. She could risk infuriating him, risk breaking his feeble heart in two, or let him finish the rest of his life in peace. And although Hitomi had made up her mind long ago about what to do, it was still tempting to make that last minute change.
Hitomi looked up and saw that her father was watching her carefully with an unreadable expression on his face. He didn't look angry so much as he looked thoughtful – this made Hitomi feel exposed. Was it possible that he knew everything that was happening in her mind? Could he have known her intentions all along, despite how much she laboured over trying to be subtle?
Then Hitomi realized that this awkward moment of silence was perfectly indicative of the answer to his question. At this point, it would be an insult to try and deceive him with such a stupid lie.
"Yes, I am thinking of it," she said, finally.
"I see," he replied, leaning back in his chair and exhaling deeply.
"Father," said Hitomi slowly, after waiting in vain for him to continue speaking, "may I have your permission to do so?"
She gazed at him expectantly, holding her breath with anticipation.
"Certainly not," he said shortly.
Kanzaki watched as his daughter's face fell.
"Never have you required my permission before," he continued, "and I resent that you should start to now. You are not a child. Make your own decisions."
"But… but Father..." she said miserably, trailing off.
His reply cut Hitomi deeply. How could he say such things? How could he desire to act as he did before in these precious moments that they had left together? Couldn't he see how painful it was to lose him? Didn't he perceive how much more afraid his daughter had become at the prospect of this enormous change because she knew that he would never be a part of it? Had he not thought of how important his opinion had become now that she would forever be without it? Did he feel no loss in leaving? Overcome with emotion, Hitomi's eyes stung and began to well with tears.
"Father," she said loudly, her voice trembling like a child's, "I still do not require your permission for anything at all. Don't you understand? I desire your permission!"
"Because," she sobbed, "because… oh, because, Father, I love you!"
At this, her father's shoulders shook and he began to cry as well. Anyone else might have been embarrassed at the sight of two people, both father and daughter, crying so shamelessly without trying to stop themselves. But these two did not care – it was the first and last time they would be able to cry together. Kanzaki motioned for Hitomi to come to him, and she knelt to the floor by him, burying her face in his knee and crying her eyes out.
"Oh, my beautiful daughter," he said at last, "Know that if you hadn't asked to leave for the city, I would have advised you to do it anyway."
"Thank you so much, Father," Hitomi said through her tears before she cried even harder.
Dear Ms. Kanzaki,
Enclosed with this letter is a signed document permitting the manager of your estate to sell the inherited property for money, all of which is naturally to be forwarded to myself. Once again, accept my condolences for your loss.
Hello, all! Thanks for reading chapter one. It's an awful lot shorter than the first chapter for my other Escaflowne fanfic, Secrets of the Revolution, and you should know that this is very uncharacteristic of me. I just thought that shorter chapters would help me to update sooner. Hopefully this one's not too short, but I imagine they'll get much longer from here on anyhow.
I would really, really, really appreciate any comments or criticism, so please take the time to review this chapter. Robots always love reviews. Also, if anyone's interested in being a beta reader for my next chapter, that would be soooooo great. Be sure to let me know via review or e-mail.