My name is Usagi Tsukino. I was born to Kenji and Ikuko Tsukino. I was their only child—a daughter. I was a disappointment.
I was a disappointment because I was a daughter. My father needed a son to carry on his legacy. My parents loved me though. I wasn't treated like many other daughters without a brother. I was taught everything I needed to be. In some things I was proficient; in others I wasn't. Housework was one of the things I was not. My mother tried to cover it up. The matchmaker would have trouble finding a man who wouldn't mind a woman like that. He would need to be rich enough to hire someone to clean, one of the women who were unable to find a husband. Rich men do not marry country girls like me.
The matchmaker is a person you hear much about in this village. She chooses who marries who and if you go against her advice, it will reflect on your child's match. It would be difficult to do anyway. If you weren't matched with who you wanted, he or she might not want to be married to you.
Perhaps I rambling a bit too much. Naru says I tend to do that. I have introduced myself sufficiently. I should move on.
It started one day when I was walking through the market with Naru. Naru Osaka was my best friend at home. Her mother was the matchmaker, which practically insured that I would have a good match. Naru would have a better one, of course. A man would like a matchmaker's daughter, especially if she was pretty, which Naru was. Her hair was one of the darkest I'd ever seen, but it had a red gloss. It was also curly. No one in our portion of the Golden Kingdom had curly hair besides her family that I knew of. There was wavy hair, like mine, but never curly. Naru had the same dark, near black eyes as anyone, but her face was so kind and pretty. Naru was perfect.
I'm not saying that I'm not pretty. I don't want to sound conceited, but I know I'm prettier than average. As I said before, my hair was wavy. It had neither a red nor blue shine, but gold. Gold like the kingdom. Do not misunderstand me—I had brown hair, only a few shades from black. But it shined like gold and I liked that. I stood out. Light hair is very rare around here. My eyes were the same color as Naru's and I liked them. My nose was different from most people's. It was sharper, but not un-pretty, I thought. I hated my chin. It had a dent in it. My lips were acceptable. They took pink all on their own. My eyebrows were the worst thing I could think of. They were thick and dark. I was lucky to hide them behind bangs. I hated my feet too. I understand feet are not the prettiest things in world, but mine were horrid. I'm going on and on about this. It doesn't really matter anyway. Naru says everybody scrutinizes their beauty too much to appreciate it.
Naru and I were talking about the men who had recently come to her mother's when I first saw him. It was a sunny day. The market was open, and there was someone from every family doing the shopping. I loved those days. It was so nice to just look around at stuff.
None of us noticed him at first. There was too much hustle and bustle to hear even the sound of fifty horses galloping our way, but slowly, the market quieted and turned to see who had come to our village. I was pretty far away from the group, but I could make out the figures of five men. The uniforms startled me. Four were general uniforms. One was a uniform that I had only seen in my imagination. It was a battle uniform, and it seemed dark, but there was something noble about it when you looked at it. Royal, almost. It took a few seconds for that to process. I finally understood why everyone was silent.
Prince Endymion was riding into our village. I stumbled in fear. Prince Endymion had no need to come to our village. We had nothing of importance.
"Perhaps he came to ask my mother!" Naru said excitedly. "Maybe he'll marry me!"
"Don't be silly, Naru. He's the prince. Besides, haven't you heard the rumors? He's supposed to be the reincarnated Prince Mamoru. You know, the one who ran off with the moon princess. . . . Wait, you haven't even gone through the process yet," I mumbled my confusion.
"My mother knows me inside and out. There's no reason for me to go through the process. You're silly, Usagi." Naru leaned over to whisper in my ear. "Isn't he handsome?"
Prince Endymion? Yes, he was. He had the black hair of our district (something we here loved. We liked to think royalty was connected to us) but the blue eyes of the European districts. He was startlingly handsome. I glanced back at Naru. But I had no time to think about that right now. Naru wouldn't be there? I needed her!
I blinked back tears. "Naru, I can't be alone. I'll be too scared. I won't know anyone."
"Yes, you will. All of the village girls." Naru looked like she thought I was insane.
"I don't really know them. I'll be alone." I was shaking. I had too many childhood memories. I wasn't teased at all. No—people loved me. The attention started to scare me. I never understood why but it gave me horrid nightmares of dying and swords and bleeding and screaming. I made a fool of myself. I had to hide then. My outgoing personality faded. I was the girl in the background.
"You'll be fine. It's time for you to make new friends," Naru decided. "Oh, look! He's talking."
We both looked up at our prince.
" . . . Considering that it is market day." I looked at Naru. She didn't know what the first part of the sentence had been either. "A male from each family will need to report. Pick this paper up as you leave."
I waited for a second. "Should I get it for my father?"
"I suppose so. Bye!" Naru skipped away. Her father had been dead for years. There were no other males in her family. She had no reason to stay.
I walked up. I noticed it was all men. The prince probably only wanted them. It didn't matter. I needed to get this for my father.
"My father is ill and resting at home," I muttered. "I will take the paper to him."
"He will be better soon?" the prince asked.
Contrary to popular belief, my father was not a war hero. It was my mother's brothers, and, in fact, they were only soldiers. I had no real war background. My father was a simple worker. I turned to leave. Why were so many people looking at me? I tried to hurry away. I couldn't believe I embarrassed myself in front of the prince. This is probably the only time I'll ever meet him and he won't forget me. He'll think of me as a presumptuous woman.
"Yes, your Highness?" I asked. I hoped I'd said that right.
"You will take that to your father? You won't destroy it and claim you never had it?" Prince Endymion was questioningly me personally. How had I gotten into this mess?
"Th-that's illegal!" I stuttered.
The prince smiled. He thought my surprise was sufficient.
It shouldn't have been. He'd planted an idea in my head. My father wasn't actually ill. He was a fairly healthy man. He just wasn't there at the time. My father was old though. He married my mother when he was in his late thirties and had me on his fortieth birthday—June 30th. I loved sharing that with my father. Nothing could change the fact that Kenji Tsukino was too old to go to war.
Nothing else occurred to me at the time. I just walked home.
It was at dinner that I remembered the piece of paper in my pocket. I finished chewing the bite in my mouth and set down my utensils. I dug around until I found what I was looking for and snapped my head back up.
"While I was at the market today," I began, unfolding the paper and handing to my father, "Prince Endymion stopped by the market today. I was supposed to give this to you."
Father read it quickly. His face lost all color. I straightened up nervously.
"I must go to war," he said. Mother looked like she would faint.
"I thought we were winning!" I jumped up and exclaimed. I tried to recall everything he said. "He called a man from each family."
Father shook with fear. They called a man from each family. I think that I may have started to shake to. How could we be winning if they needed this amount of soldiers? And if we weren't winning, how could I be sure that my father would return? I pressed my lips together and stared down at my food. I excused myself quietly and ran up to my room.
I was scared to death for him. I had to figure out a way to save him.
If I were to be honest, I didn't have any time to think about things like that. The next few days, Mother was preparing to send me to the matchmaker. She tried to teach me to cook (failure), to clean (another failure), and many other things (all failures). The only thing I was remotely good at looking pretty.
"Ow!" I squeaked as another hair was plucked from my eyebrows.
"Don't worry, dear. It will be done soon," Mother said. It wasn't, but when it was, I was sure my face would be scarred pink from the pain. Mother gave me a mirror. The skin was pale up close, but hidden from far away, and unnoticeable when I left my bangs there. "You look so beautiful. The matchmaker will most certainly help you marry up."
I worried about marrying up. It meant that the man would have needed to marry down.
I was decorated traditionally and I looked in the mirror. Something felt off. I didn't want to go to the matchmaker. Mother opened the door to our house and we began to walk down the street.
"Can I do this next year? I can pass for younger," I begged my mother. She shook her head and pushed me into the crowd of girls. I tried to keep from crying the first few seconds, but a giddy feeling came into me the next. The other girls looked just as nervous. Plus, marrying seemed so nice. I could imagine being someone's wife.
A girl next to me saw that. She decided I was friendly and started talking. She was really pretty. Her hair was even curlier than Naru's, but it didn't make her seem quite ladylike. It bounced when she walked. She was tall, but friendly-looking. I liked her already. "Are you nervous? I am. I'm not sure I'll be able to get a good match. I'm Makoto Kino."
I had never heard of the Kino family, but our village was a larger one surrounded by many smaller ones. She must live there. "This matchmaker is really fair. If she thinks she can find you a good match, she will." Makoto seemed surprised that I knew so much. I hadn't felt so friendly in years, but Makoto was surprisingly easy to talk to. I beamed and explained, "Her daughter, Naru, is my friend."
"You're lucky!" Makoto burst out. She giggled at the looks she received and fell back in line. "This is Ami Mizuno. She's the daughter of the woman I work for. Her mother suggested I come here."
Ami was a tiny girl with large dark eyes and blue-black hair. Her clothes suggested her rank in society.
"Hello. I'm Usagi Tsukino," I said.
Ami nodded without a hint of smile. We entered the matchmaking room. I smiled at Naru's mother. She pointed over to a table in a corner. I saw Naru and two other girls. I frowned. The tables only held four people.
"I'm sorry, Makoto, Ami; I see Naru. I'm going to sit with her." I really felt bad for leaving the girls, but I needed Naru to hide behind and they would find a place to sit. I could talk to them later too.
"Alright. Bye, Usagi!" Makoto called with a grin.
I hurried to the empty seat and smiled. "I thought you said you wouldn't be here."
Naru shrugged. "Mother said it was tradition. Sit down, Usa. Usagi, this is Rei Hino and Minako Aino. This is Usagi Tsukino." She gestured back at me. I stared at Minako and Rei. Hino was the name of one of king's advisors. Aino was the richest family around. I looked at Naru. Of course. They needed good matches. But couldn't the Ainos afford to send Minako to the city? Why was Rei in the country? Minako and Rei both had long black hair. Both looked like city girls. In fact, their eyes bordered on light-colored. I was jealous.
"It's nice to meet you," I said. Naru was surprised at how bubbly I was being.
Minako grinned back. "Yes! I'm so excited! I can't wait to find out who my husband will be!"
Rei simply nodded.
Naru whispered, "There are really only three tests. The first test will be individual; then, Mother will put us in groups and watch us."
"Do you know what the tests will be like?" Minako whispered.
Naru said no. I sat awkwardly through their conversation. Gradually, girls disappeared from the room and returned. Minako, then Rei, left. Naru complained that her mother was waiting to work with her last. I just smiled.
"Usagi Tsukino," Naru's mother called. I stood up gently and walked over to her. Mrs. Osaka led me into a little room and gave me a chair. She took a seat on the opposite side of the table.
"How are you, Usagi?"
I smiled shyly. "Good."
"Alright. This interview is really a formality, but do you have any preference on the man I will choose?" Mrs. Osaka waited as I debated what I wanted my husband to be like. It honestly wasn't a hard decision.
"If . . . if you can find him, I would like someone who is kind and serious. Mostly kind though," I added in a hurry.
Naru's mother looked at her list. "I'll see what I can do."
She sent me back out into the group room and called a name I didn't recognize.
Minako waved me over as I exited. "How do you think you did, Usagi? That was a pretty easy test. I'm glad we get a little bit of choosing because I would hate it if I got a husband that liked me, but I didn't really like him. It wouldn't be a good situation for any of us. I just hope Naru's mother can find someone I'll like."
I'd lost her point. "Oh, yes." I looked at where we were. They had moved to a table to eat lunch. This was a larger table. I started to smile as I sat down. Ami and Makoto could sit here now. Both Minako and Rei stopped me from calling them over, each placing a hand on top of mine. With that action, it struck me as odd that these two girls looked so similar, with long, pin-straight black hair—although Minako's shined gold and Rei's was pure black—and similar eyes, but their personalities could be so different.
In the second test, we were handed a piece of paper and instructed to write a letter to the man we would marry introducing ourselves.
"It's most likely to judge our handwriting," Naru said, hardly looking up from her paper. I looked sadly at my own scribbles. Her elegant calligraphy made mine worthless. I sighed and continued. "I've also seen my mother show these to men because she says the tone of your writing tells a lot about yourself."
I could only hope a man would overlook my shortcomings in writing.
"How should sign it?" Minako wondered aloud. "I don't want to sound presumptuous with 'love', but 'your friend' is not exactly something you want to hear from your future wife."
"Respectfully," I answered with looking up. I had just finished my letter and was printing my own closing. I signed my name. Even my signature was kind of ugly. I sighed and folded it up.
Once everyone had handed their letters in, Mrs. Osaka sent us in groups of four. A village girl whose name slipped my mind, a girl I didn't know, and Ami were in my group. The matchmaker then revealed that our test would be the tea ceremony.
"Oh my gosh," I muttered and bit my tongue. I could hardly remember the steps. Naru's mother set a table for the four of us and left everything we needed while she sat a couple feet away and watched.
I wasn't really paying attention. I'd managed to pass the first tests, but the group test was the hardest. The buzz of making friends so quickly had worn off and I felt like my normal shy self. I watched the other girls in my group pour tea gracefully and flushed. I have never been able to pour a drink without spilling a drop.
"You'll do alright."
I turned to the voice. I was surprised to see little Ami, who hadn't deemed to say a word to me the whole day. She gave a shy smile as she passed the teapot. I didn't know she'd even taken her turn yet. I accepted it with a smile and tried to pour. The handle was wet—just wet enough that it was sticky, but also slippery. It fell from my hands and shattered on the table. I had no other thing to do than run.
Mrs. Osaka jumped up and followed me. She caught me right at the door. "Usagi," she said, "I'm really sorry. I wish I could do better for you. I can't cover up that test though. Too many people know about it. I'll try to find you a match."
I choked back a sob. A match. Not a good match. Just a match. I watched as tears ran down my kimono.
I would never get a good husband.
First and foremost, I am worried that I will be getting complaints about the way everyone looks. I was inspired from watching Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon since they looked like your everyday Japanese students. I decided to work with that, except give some leniency to browns and reds and curliness to make them look a little more like their normal selves.
This is going to be very short, ten to twelve chapters max unless it's very well-received. This is more of a second project, so I've put it to the back burner for Queen of Fifteen, which is over half-finished; although at this time, I'm going to put that on hold for another month. I'm extremely busy and extremely frustrated with it. I'm posting this chapter to let you get a taste.