This was a nightmare that she couldn't wake up from. What had she done to deserve this? She had been born Toga's sister. Their father was only doing this because he feared a relationship between her and Toga. Faced with marrying Kenta though, being with Toga seemed to be the lesser of two evils. She curled up, pulling the blankets over her head. The sun would be rising soon and with it the new day. Her father had said that Kenta would be arriving within the next few days and she dreaded when he would walk through their door. Why?
His hand hovered before the door. He hesitated, uncertain as to whether or not it was wise to speak to her now. She had not answered him the other times that he had tried to speak to her, to apologize. It was unsurprising. He deserved to be ignored. There was no reason for her to listen to him or even face him now. He would be asking too much of her.
Why had she left her room? It had been expected. She had to make an appearance. She had to meet with her future husband. It was horrible. As she waited, she could still hear Toga's voice. It had been the first time that he had spoken to her since the day that he had learned of the marriage. He had sounded as though he were in pain when he had told him that father had sent word that he and Kenta would be arriving in a few hours.
"Shiriko." She neglected to look at him. Toga released a heavy sigh and diverted his gaze for a moment. "It will be alright," he said. The words sounded like a lie. He was lying to himself, but he could only hope that it would be true for her. Something told him that it would not be. When the silence continued, he eventually turned away and walked down the hall. As he neared the kitchen, he heard the front door. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw both his father and the man that he assumed to be Kenta. His stomach twisted and he quickly looked away. In the hall, he could hear their footsteps as they made their way to where Shiriko waited.
She felt sick.
Bile rose in her throat. She closed her eyes, hoping that she would not be sick. Though, if she were sick she might disgust Kenta enough that he would choose not to follow through with this arranged marriage. Her eyes opened when she sensed her father's gaze boring into her. She looked at him and then at Kenta before slowly rising. Somehow, she managed to force a small smile. "Hello, Kenta."
"Shiriko." He took her hand and pressed a kiss to her knuckles before releasing the appendage.
In her peripheral vision, she saw the pleased expression that her father wore. She hated it. She wanted to pull her hand away. She did not though. Kenta's hand moved to the small of her back and she allowed him to guide her to the small table. Kneeling down, she stared at the rough wooden surface. Only a few days prior her father had lured her hair, had shared tea with her and told her of the arrangement.
It was strange that Toga was not present. She supposed that she should have expected it. Even if he was her brother, he was not required to be present for such a discussion as long as father lived and remained her male guardian. She doubted that he would have been allowed to come anyways though, their father might have demanded his presence. It would not have been beyond her father to have wanted to witness the pain that he was causing his son, especially because of Toga's feelings.
"The wedding will be in five days."
The announcement drew her from her thoughts. Briefly, she lifted her gaze from the table to look at both of the men before she lowered her gaze again. She said nothing. Though her conscious screamed for her to do so, she made no objection. Her father gazed lingered on her for a moment before his attention returned to Kenta. She relaxed when the weight was lifted. Turning her head slightly, she watched her betrothed and father interact. They seemed to know each other well enough. She was not aware of their prior relationship. Of course, she did not know her father very well either.
From her bedroom window, she watched Kenta train in the yard. He had not changed much. There was still a scar on his forehead that he had received on his first hunt. His movements were the same. He was still certain, hard-headed, a man more suitable to fight along side with than to be her husband. She would not deny that he was attractive, but that meant little to her. His forest-green gaze suddenly met hers and she tensed, having not expected him to look at her. She diverted her gaze, but she could feel him staring at her still. After a few minutes had passed, she looked at him again. He waved at her, a smile on his lips. She forced herself to return the smile. Kenta returned to his training. Why had he agreed to this? She could only guess. As she watched, she saw Kenta suddenly stop and wave to someone. She knew, without leaning out of her window to see, that it was her father. A few seconds later, Kenta began training again. Outside of her room, she could hear footsteps on the stairs. She recognized the sound of her father's footsteps, but there was someone else with him. There was a knock on her door. "Come in," she said, knowing that it would be futile to deny her father access to her room. The door opened and she turned her head to look at him. There was a woman with him. Her hair was dark with streaks of gray.
"This is Gina. This is my daughter Shiriko," he said, motioning to each woman in turn. "Gina will prepare you for the wedding and for your knew duties as a wife. You will listen to her."
She nodded. He left and she was alone with this Gina.
"Hello," Gina said pleasantly.
"Hello," she said more quietly. She looked away and resumed watching Kenta. There were soft footsteps on the wooden floor as Gina approached her. A moment later, she felt Gina grasp her shoulder.
"There is nothing to worry about."
"If you say so."
The smallest frown darkened her features, but it quickly faded. "Do you have any questions?"
There was nothing that she wanted to ask. She was to be married and she was to perform her duties as a wife and hunter. There was nothing else to know.
"It will be a simple transition. You will be fine."
The words sounded as though they had memorized and that they were now being repeated. She briefly wondered if her father had instructed Gina in everything that she was to say.
It was happening too quickly. The days were passing by without her. She felt as though she were watching from a distance. Her body was no longer her own.
She looked at Gina as if seeing her for the first time.
"You should not allow your thought to wander. It is not desirable."
"I am sorry," she said absently.
"We should continue."
Why was all of this instruction necessary? She saw no reason for it. For all intents and purposes, Gina's presence was unnecessary for all reason save for a few. She knew that her father was using this woman to watch her when he couldn't and to make her wholly accept the approaching marriage.
"Shiriko." Irritation was evident in Gina's voice. "There is only one day until the wedding. You must-"
"Was your marriage arranged?" she asked suddenly. She seemed to have caught Gina off guard. Looking at the woman, she saw that her expression was one of surprise. She waited for the answer.
"It was not."
"Then why instruct me. There is no purpose for you to be here." There is no way for you to understand what I am going through.
"I can help you."
"You are nothing more than one of my father's pawns." She turned her gaze to her Sakura tree. The blossoms were gone. It was a depressing sight. Beside her, she heard Gina move closer to her.
"I am not."
There was hurt in Gina's voice. She felt the smallest amount of guilt for having caused the woman such a pain. In the few days that she had known her, she had learned that Gina was a kind woman that vaguely reminded her of her mother in some of her mannerisms.
"I only wish to help you."
There was some truth in her words. She glanced at her. Only her father would find a woman such as Gina that would make her bend in such a way if only not to hurt her, that would remind her of her mother with the kind honest assurance. It was a cruel move on his part.
"Why don't we take a walk? You might feel better afterwards."
She nodded and started to walk down the path that led away from the house, trailing after Gina.
The door opened. Without having to turn around she knew that it was Toga. She heard the door close and then the silence resumed.
"Shiriko." She said nothing to him. He had not expected her to. Studying her, he examined her wedding raiment. "You look lovely," he said honestly.
"Thank you." Glancing at the mirror, she met his reflection's gaze for a few brief seconds before looking away.
He slowly approached her. Each step was careful as if he were approaching a deer in the woods. He hesitated before grasping her arms. "Shiriko." She tensed and he relaxed his grip by a fraction. "You do not have to do this."
"What would you have me do, Toga?"
She closed her eyes and shook her head.
"You would have me run away with you and start a new life elsewhere."
"Yes," he admitted after a moment.
"I cannot do that."
"You don't care about him."
"That is not the only reason!" She pulled free of his grasp. Folding her arms, she glanced at him before looking away. She chewed on her lower lip, trying to control the raging emotions within her before she spoke again. "Toga." She met his gaze. "I do not share your feelings. You must understand-"
"You would rather be with Kenta."
"I would be with no one. I have accepted this though."
He took a step towards her. "Shiriko-"
Her sudden anger caught him off guard. She had turned her back to him. He lingered for a moment before nodding and leaving the room.
Closing her eyes, she pinched the bridge of her nose. She wanted to scream. The building of rage was too much. Lashing out at Toga had only made her feel a little bit better. It had probably been wrong for her to do such a thing, but it couldn't be help. He was frustrating. He asked too much of her, expected too much of. He was no better than their father. She wondered what had made him think that she would ever return his feelings. Had she said something to him, not knowing that it could be warped into some sick confirmation that she might... She sat down. This is Toga's fault. If he hadn't of... Damn it. He drove father to do this. Father thinks that I... She shook her head as if that would somehow chase off the emotions that were quickly starting to spill over. This was terrible. None of this should be happening now. A soft knock to the door drew her attention. She glanced over her shoulder just as the door was opening. It was Gina. Her gaze lowered.
"It is time."
The words were ones that she dreaded.
There was a quiet command in the older woman's voice. She all but forced herself to rise. Walking to the door, she didn't look at Gina when the woman touched her arm.
Nodding, she stepped through the door. With Gina, she made her way to the where the ceremony was to be held. Her steps were strangely light and in a matter of minutes she found herself at the end of the road. Pausing for the briefest second, she swallowed the knot in her throat before forcing a smile and going to where her father waited for her.
She felt numb. Standing beside Kenta, she barely heard any of the words that were said. A goblet was placed in her hands and she lowered her gaze to it. An instruction was given to her. The words were nonsensical. If it weren't for the fact that she knew what it was that she was to do, she would have been confused. She looked at the priest before turning her gaze back to the goblet. After a few seconds, she raised it to her lips and took three sips from the liquid within. It was alcohol and it burned her throat as she swallowed the liquid. When she was finished, the goblet was taken from her and she watched as Kenta mimicked her actions. A few more words and the ceremony was finished. It had happened too quickly. It was all over too quickly.