Kiku Honda needed a suitor. He was at the age where he should have been looking for a wife, but no matter how many times he was presented with a woman from the other alliances or from his family's neighboring estates, he found no interest in any of them.
These were dire times for the Hondas. If their only son refused to marry, how could they hope to preserve their lineage?
Kiku had his own problems to be worrying about. His good friend, the head gardener, had passed away. Now that he was gone, his orchard of sakura trees was beginning to wilt just as his dear friend had only a few weeks ago. None of the gardeners that had offered their assistance could match his friend's skills or honesty. He could tell that they were only boasting so they could serve his wealthy family.
Feeling troubled, he decided to take a stroll with his dog, Pochi, in the groves of his wilting sakura orchard. Their branches looked frail, and their petals did not have the same delicate glow that they bore when his gardener had been alive.
"Oh, Pochi, what am I going to do?" Kiku asked his fluffy, brown companion. "If I do not find a wife soon, my family is going to be very upset, but if I don't find a gardener, then my sakura trees will surely die. I know there are good gardeners out there, but there isn't a good way to tell the honest ones from the greedy ones so easily."
Pochi only whined and gazed into his master's soft brown eyes.
Kiku sighed and bent down to pet his dog. "I'll think of something
" Desperate for ideas, he looked to the petals that were slowly drifting down to the earth in unpredictable patterns. While he was doing so, he heard the faint laughter of some of the female servants who worked in his family's estate. Something sparked in his head. He had an idea that would solve both problems!
"Pochi! I've got it!" Kiku beamed excitedly. He hurried back to his parents to tell them of his proposal to his dilemmas.
You loved tending your gardens. Even though your parents had scolded you for getting your hands dirty all of the time, you didn't mind. You loved the earth, as well. Every time a new sapling would sprout up from the patted ground, your heart would give a small leap at the new life you had brought to the world. Each and every sapling and sprout were given your undivided attention as though they were your children. And you loved every single one of them.
You had just finished watering your plants and picked off some stray weeds when you heard a mailman call out into your home.
"I have a delivery for ____________ _____________!" he said.
"That's me," you said going to the front of your humble home. "Who is this from?"
"It's from Kiku Honda of the Honda Clan," the mailman said.
"Kiku Honda!" you gasped. He was only the most handsome bachelor and was part of the wealthiest family in the entire province! What sort of message would he have for a humble gardener such as yourself?
When you unfolded the letter that the mailman had given you, you began to read as much as you couldyour father had taught you how to read some words so you weren't completely illiterate.
To ___________ ___________ of the _____________ family,
On behalf of Kiku Honda of the Honda Clan, you are cordially invited to be an audience for an upcoming contest along with several other females such as yourself to be given a chance to become the wife of Kiku Honda as well as the Honda Clan's head gardener.
If you are interesting in attending and would like more information, please present yourself to the Honda Clan's main estate tomorrow at dawn.
The Honda Clan
The letter was marked with the official Honda Clan seal. It was a real letter from the Honda Clan, themselves! This was all too exciting. Your parents had been looking for a suitor for you, and the position even included that of a gardener. And on top of everything, Kiku was an absolute gentleman. This was a chance of a lifetime! You couldn't wait to tell your parents the exciting news.
You had not expected there to be so many competitors in this contest. It appeared as though the Honda Clan had invited every single bachelorette from their province for this contest. Some were strong-willed, some were breathtakingly beautiful, but all were here for one thing: to become Kiku Honda's wife.
When the guards had opened the doors to the main estate, the young ladies had all flooded in like rushing water that had been contained for too long. You were pushed aside and to the edge until you stumbled into the garden. It was a sight to behold. There were rows after rows of beautiful sakura trees. Such magnificent trees could only be deemed worthy of being kept within the inner walls of the Hondas' estate. But...There was something a little off with the trees. They appeared to be wilting. Was this why the Hondas had also asked for Kiku's future wife to also be the family gardener?
"I appreciate you all for coming here this morning," the voice of the only son to the Honda Clan spoke above the excited whispers and squeals of the bachelorettes.
"As you have probably read from your letters, you are all competing for my hand in marriage," Kiku continued. "In addition to being my wife, you will also be competing for a chance to become my family's head gardener. Many of you may not know, but my good friend and gardener passed away only a few weeks ago. He was a good friend of mine, and he will be missed dearly. That is why I hope that my family's replacement will be someone that we will all be able to love and trust.
"The competition is simple: I will all give you a different seed of a different plant, and whoever grows the healthiest and most beautiful plant from the seed given to you will become my wife. I will be the judging your entries. You all have exactly a year to care for your plant. Until then, our assistant gardeners will manage my family's garden. I look forward to judging your lovely plants exactly a year from now."
All of the girls were buzzing with excitement. Something as easy as growing a plant would guarantee them the hand of Kiku Honda? How simple! You waited patiently as the crowd progressed slowly towards the front to where Kiku Honda, himself, personally handed each individual bachelorette a seed.
When you received your seed, the handsome man had given you a warm smile that nearly melted your heart.
"I wish you luck, young lady," he said.
" you blushed. Then, you moved quickly out of the way of other young ladies waiting to be presented their seeds.
you thought as you clutched the precious kernel as if it were a newborn chick. This seed will determine whether or not I will become the head gardener
and Kiku Honda's wife. Determined for the position, you promised yourself that you would take extra care of this plant that would be judged in exactly a year. You couldn't wait.
A good three months had gone by. You had not known what sort of seed Kiku had given you, but whatever plant it was, it was certainly taking its time to grow.
"I don't understand," you said aloud as you sprinkled water over the seed's specially ground soil. "If we only have a year before it's supposed to become a beautiful plant, then why hasn't anything grown?"
In the meantime, Kiku would step out of his family's estate (accompanied by guards, of course) and pay visits to the homes of each and every competitor. When he had arrived at your house, your heart nearly leapt out of your chest. You, ___________, a young women who could make even the weakest of plants grow into full bloom, were not able to successfully get Kiku's plant to even sprout. It was embarrassing and shameful to say the least.
"Kiku Honda!" you gasped and began to dust the dirt off of your hands. "What a pleasant surprise! Please excuse me for the mess. My parents always scold me for being so inconsiderate of my cleanliness."
"Not at all," Kiku chuckled. Either he was being extremely polite, or he was purely friendly. "You are ____________, correct?"
"That's right," you nodded.
"Do you mind if I take a look around your garden?"
"Not at all!" you exclaimed. "It is an honor for you to even visit a humble home such as mine!"
"The pleasure's all mine, ___________," Kiku bowed. It was a good thing he was paying more attention to your garden than to yourself. Your face was blushing ten shades of red, and it was even more embarrassing when your hands were still covered with dirt.
"You have a lovely garden," Kiku finally said after touring the extent of your garden. "Did you grow all of this, yourself?"
"Yes, I did," you said bowing your head as low as your neck would allow you to. "A thousand thanks for the compliment, Kiku Honda."
"There's no need to get so formal, ___________," Kiku laughed. "I may be treated as royalty in my family's estate, but here, I am just Kiku, a man who is just visiting a lovely lady's lovely garden."
"There's no need for you to lower yourself because of me," you spoke in a soft voice.
"It's quite alright, ___________," Kiku said. "And how is the seed I gave you doing?"
" your eyes averted themselves away from Kiku altogether. "It's
apparently a late bloomer."
"Is it?" Kiku sounded surprised.
You nodded. "I'm giving it my full attention each and every day, but it just doesn't want to grow."
Kiku raised his eyebrows. "How curious
"Forgive me," you said quickly. "I must be distracting you from your duties, aren't I?"
"Not at all," Kiku smiled. "It was nice being able to see your garden. Perhaps I will come over for another visit sometime before the end of the competition."
"Thank you, Kiku!" you beamed trying your best to hide your emotions.
"Thank you for this opportunity," Kiku said with his warm smile still on his perfect face. "I must be off to visit the other competitors now. Farewell, __________."
"Farewell, Kiku," you echoed and watched him leave.
Now I really have to make sure I don't mess this up! you thought with even more determination than ever before.
Six more months had gone by. When making your usual rounds, you saw lovely plants being displayed by some of the other competitors and overheard conversations of how well others' plants were doing. You lowered your head in shame. All of this time, while the other ladies' plants had grown into exquisite, attractive plants, yours had yet to blossom. Perhaps you had been getting ahead of yourself. There was no way the Hondas would want a useless gardener such as yourself, let alone be related to them.
Oh well, __________, you thought disappointedly. There's only three more months. Perhaps a miracle will happen.
The miracle never happened. When the full year had come around, you and the rest of the bachelorettes had been called back to the Honda's main estate to present your plant. Pots after pots of tall, healthy, and gorgeous plants were towering over you. None of them looked dry or weak. All were much better than yoursafter all, you had noting to present save for a pot of dirt with a dormant seed still buried underneath the soil.
To save yourself from embarrassment, you hid all the way in the back of the hundreds that had presented themselves to Kiku. You didn't want anyone to laugh at you when you showed everyone what sort of "plant" you had grown.
When it was finally your turn, after hours of waiting in line, you hid your face behind your pot so Kiku wouldn't be able to recognize you.
"If you do not remove the pot from your face, how will we be able to judge you properly?" Kiku asked.
"There is no need to know who I am," you mumbled from behind your barren pot. "I have failed to produce the healthy and beautiful plant you have asked for."
"I insist," Kiku said stubbornly.
After summoning up your courage, you held your breath and lowered the pot just enough so Kiku was able to see your eyes. He recognized you immediately.
"I remember you," he said with a smileperhaps he was smiling out of sympathy. "You are ____________, if I remember correctly."
"That is right," you answered reluctantly. Then, you heard someone laughing in the background.
"Look at her!" a lady cackled. "She doesn't even have a plant! Why did she even bother to show her face here?" The entire estate erupted in laughter as your head lowered in shame. If Kiku asked you to remove the pot from in front of your face again, you didn't want to so he wouldn't see your face streamed with tears.
"Silence, everyone!" Kiku barked in an unusually loud voice that caused the estate to grow quiet. Then, he softened it once more. "You may be laughing, but keep in mind that this young lady who you are laughing at is going to be my wife."
Suddenly, the entire estate was filled with confusion and murmurs of questions.
"What?" "How?" "Is this a joke?"
Kiku lowered the pot from your face and wiped away your tears with a cloth.
You were as confused as the rest of the competitors. "I don't understand. I thought you said that I was your future wife, but that couldn't be it."
Kiku gave you a reassuring smile. "It is, ____________. You see, those seeds that I had given you all a year ago were actually cooked plum pits."
You couldn't believe your ears. You were speechless.
"And as you can see, no one else followed my rules: I specifically said that they were supposed to grow a healthy and beautiful plant from the seed I had given them. That was impossible because the 'seeds' I had given everyone would not grow in the first place."
It was slowly becoming clear to you now. "Then
"Everyone else here cheated," Kiku concluded. "Those plants that you see were probably not even grown by their own hands. They were dishonest. My family does not tolerate dishonesty." He cupped your face gently in his soft, clean hands. "You, however, have the type of honesty that will be perfect for being my family's head gardener as well as being my wife. Your plant-less pot is proof of that."
I don't know what t-to say
" you babbled.
"Then perhaps you can answer my question, ____________," Kiku laughed. "Will you be willing to accept the position of being the Honda Clan's head gardener and my wife?"
This was more than you had ever dreamed about. You knew all of your hard work and honesty would pay off in the end.
"Yes," you answered. Tears were flowing from your eyes again, but these were tears of joy. "Yes, I will."
"Then all is well!" Kiku beamed. "I cannot wait to introduce you to my family!"
You were pulling weeds around the sakura orchards when you felt something wet lick your face.
"Pochi!" you laughed. "Stop it! I can't play with you just yet!"
"Are you almost finished up, __________?" you heard your husband ask from behind you.
You stood up and brushed the dirt off your legs. "I think I'm just about done here," you chuckled. Then, you turned your attention to the sakura trees overhead. "How do you think I did?"
Even though your hands were caked with dirt, Kiku took your hand in his and kissed you on your lips.
"I think it's perfect," he smiled. "It's just like it was when my friend was still alive."
"Then, I'm glad," you grinned as you watched the shower of petals surround you and your husband. This season had been really bountiful. The petals came down in a shower as if like the gentle first snowfall of winter.
"Lunch is ready," Kiku told you breaking the silence.
"Can we stay here just a little longer?" you asked staring into his deep pools of brown.
"Just for you," your husband sighed and wrapped his arms around your waist where a slight bulge was. "How is our baby coming along?"
"It's doing fine," you giggled and gave Kiku a kiss.
"Are you sure it's alright for you to be working at this stage?" he asked concerned.
"I'll stop after a few more days," you said rubbing your stomach. "I think the plants are going to miss me while I'm away."
"Let's just hope our child doesn't like playing in the dirt as much as you do," your husband joked. "Otherwise the servants are going to be having a hard time keeping things clean."
"Hey! That's not nice!" you giggled. "It's thanks to my love of the earth that the garden is what it is!"
"And it's the reason you became my wife in the first place," Kiku added before pressing his lips softly onto yours as two sakura petals would rub together.
"I can't argue with that," you chuckled. "Come on. I think our child and Pochi are getting hungry, too."
"Don't forget to wash up before eating," your husband reminded you.
"I won't," you smiled and walked with him hand in hand towards the Honda estate with a flurry of sakura petals surrounding the two of you in a pink blizzard and a little trace of dirt trailing from your fingertips.