"What's all this carrying on?" said the man next to her. His was the onlycheerful voice. "Aoyagi-sama is a wealthy man. He'll dress you in fine clothes,teach you how to behave in civil society. When your apprenticeship is complete,you may well become the kind of proper young lady who can go wherever shepleases without the slightest reservation."He laughed loudly. Turning her head to glance up at him, Suzu's eyes took inthe broken-down shack before them. The posts leaned and the thatched roof sagged. The dirt floor was divided into a mere two rooms, and everything insideleaned or sagged as well.PAGE 10Theirs was an impoverished life. They were tenant farmers who farmed rice,with most of the yearly yield going to pay the rent. On top of that, the previousyear's harvest had proved meager, and when summer came again, ears did notappear on the stalks. As it was impossible to pay the rent, Suzu was indenturedas a servant. Not her seventeen-year-old brother, or her eleven-year-old sister, orany of her other nine siblings. It was Suzu, fourteen years old according to thetraditional lunar calender, but only twelve if you counted the years from her birth."Well, let's get going."At the man's urging, Suzu bowed. She said no farewells. If she tried, shewouldn't be able to hold back the tears. She steeled her gaze and refused toblink. She looked at her home and memorized the faces she saw there."Take care," her mother said again and wiped her face with her sleeve.With that, Suzu turned around. Her weeping mother, her stubbornly morosebrothers, she understood now that none of them would be stepping forward tohold her back.Suzu trudged silently after the man as they passed through the outskirts of the village. It was near noon and they had already reached the limits of the worldthat she knew. The trail cut up the slopes from the foot of the mountain. Suzuhad never set foot beyond the remote mountain pass."You're a good kid. None of this weeping and wailing. That's what I like tosee."PAGE 11The man's cheerful attitude never flagged. He walked with long strides, sayingwhatever came to his mind. "Tokyo is a great city. You've probably never seengaslight, huh? The estate you're going to, you'll be able to ride on a street car aswell. Do you even know what a horse-draw trolley is?"