kaigou: Happy typing on mac. (1 Hyperbole and a half)
[personal profile] kaigou
That aren't even complete, but have sat in your head just waiting for when you'll finally get around to them. Or maybe it's just that I'm so tired of dramas where everyone's hanging all their hopes on the young master, or the daughter finding a husband, won't someone save the family, oh noes, yet they ignore the perfectly capable daughter or wife who's standing right there, who's been doing the work of saving, all along. This scene's been waiting to be written, if only because I'm tired of waiting to see it in a drama.

"You really have no idea," Tsiu repeated, wondering. "Why the family paid up the debts of your pathetic little shipyard--"

"My family's shipyard has stood for a--"

"Oh, who cares," Tsiu said. "We've got shipyards in every port, and another dozen here in Tzeucha. If you think we cared at all about your family's shipyard, you're as stupid as your father."

Sindhu straightened up. "Don't you dare speak that way about my--"

"Your father was a fool!" Tsiu's roar drowned her out. Sindhu backed up a step as if he'd struck her.

She rallied, but she was losing composure, and with it, the argument. "My father--"

"Didn't know a thing. A complete fool," Tsui scoffed, disgusted. Sindhu tensed, but the tilt of Tsiu's head, and the set of his shoulders, told Kini that Tsiu's disgust was mostly with himself. "When my mother--" He broke off. "I was with the minister in Palii, the spring I turned twelve. There were several possibilities for a treaty-consort, she said. Two of the biggest families in Kurnukoza."

Sindhu sank back down on her stool, a defeated look on her face. She muttered something inaudible. It didn't look like either of those two families were hers.

"There were good reasons to entertain their petitions," Tsiu continued, as if he didn't even notice Sindhu's dull stare. "But someone else petitioned the minister, begging for a little of her time. He was the final son of a long line of a shipyard family, and he was quite certain our family could use a shipyard like his. My little grandmother was going to toss him out, but for some reason she let him speak. You see--" Tsiu's voice turned vaguely mocking-- "he had a daughter, not quite fourteen. Docile, sweet, obedient, she'd make someone a good wife. He humbly hoped that some kind of accord could be reached. My little grandmother thanked him and sent him on his way."

Sindhu said nothing.

"Then she happened to casually mention this man, to someone she knew in Kurnukoza." Tsiu made a face. "What am I saying, she knows everyone. Naturally it wasn't long before she found out that your family's shipyard had been on the edge of financial ruin for years."

Sindhu didn't look up, but she nodded.

"You can't starve a shipyard," Tsiu told Kini and Nakayari. "You need credit. A ship isn't paid for until it's built, but you still have to pay for the materials, the tools, the people to build those ships. Unless someone was investing behind the scenes, the shipyard should've been broken up for parts, long before. The minister called Sindhu's father back. She was willing to consider his request, but first she wanted to see his books."

At that, Sindhu looked surprised. Tsiu just rolled his eyes.

"Of course she wanted to see the books. We have better things to do than get involved with a family who can't manage their own dealings, or who'll just go bankrupt and..." Tsiu waved off that tangent. "Anyway, he brought them. It took two highest-rank accountants working three days and nights to puzzle out the ledgers' secrets."

Sindhu flinched noticeably.

"Ledgers," Kini interrupted, repeating the word Suifu hadn't known how to translate. "What are ledgers?"

"A kind of book." Tsiu pointed to the books laying open on the table. "These contain the accounting for a house or business. You keep track of the money coming in, the money owed, the money going out. It should all add up. The shipyard books did all add up... yet they didn't. If the numbers were right, the shipyard owner should have had nothing. But his family was fed, his children were clothed, and no one had shown up to carve up his belongings and auction them off. Somewhere, somehow, there was income that wasn't recorded in the books he gave my grandmother."

Kini was annoyed. She seemed to be the only one lost. "And that's bad?"

"Depends." Tsiu laughed again, his bitter humor lending an extra twist to his words. "It's not important, here. When that man returned, my little grandmother let him think what he wanted. That's when she asked him for his accountant's name."

Kini nudged Nakayari. He shook his head; she hoped that meant he'd explain later.

Tsiu's unwavering gaze was fixed on Sindhu. "Oh, he had all kinds of excuses, but eventually it came out. He hadn't the money to pay an accountant, so he'd taught his eldest daughter a few sums. She'd been doing the books ever since. If only he'd been a better man, a better father, he wouldn't have forced his eldest daughter to do such improper work. If the minister wanted to meet this daughter, he supposed he could do that, but she'd be worthless as a wife. He was all apologies, the zhatsekun little toad."

Stumped, Suifu stopped his translation, as Sindhu burst out, "my father is not--"

Kini cut her off. "Tsiu! Words we can all understand!"

"Oh." Tsiu switched to Nasoyunukona-yen. "He kept apologizing, agreed with everything, always yes, yes, of course, bowing over and over. A toad."

Nakayari muttered, obsequious. Kini muttered right back that she didn't know that word, either.

"Stop!" Sindhu slammed a hand down on the table. "Stop, just stop. I won't have you saying these things about my father. He's a good man. He worked hard for our family, despite--"

"Your father was a fool of the first degree--"

"Because he dared to come before your family and ask for--"

"Because he had no fucking clue what he had, and he was willing to give it away!"

That brought Sindhu up short, along with everyone else in the room.

"You!" Tsiu pointed right at Sindhu, uncaring it was the rudest of gestures. "You! Sixteen years old, and for four years you'd been juggling the numbers for a man who couldn't hold onto a copper coin if you nailed it to his hand. Your work had my grandmother's best struggling to keep up. You have an absolute brilliance for numbers, and all your father could do was apologize because you'd never learned to do embroidery?"

Sindhu's mouth hung open. Suifu struggled to keep up with Tsiu's words. What he missed, Tsiu's tone and gestures made pretty clear.

"He was a fool, a total fool. Such a prize in his family, and all he could do was cry about how he had so little to offer. Not even a dowry. Who'd want to marry a girl when she brought nothing with her? Where, oh, where, would he ever find a son-in-law to take over, so his family's shipyard wouldn't end with him?"

Tsiu looked around the room. No one answered.

"I'll tell you: nowhere, that's where!" Tsiu shook his head. "Most people can't get that good with numbers if you gave them a lifetime of study. But that fool was so convinced that the only way, the only way, his shipyard could continue was with a son, by birth or marriage-- he was completely blind to the fact that he already had an heir, one any smart business would pay good money for three times over."


Date: 8 Jan 2014 03:53 am (UTC)
annotated_em: a branch of a Japanese maple, with bright red leaves (Default)
From: [personal profile] annotated_em
I don't know anything about these characters, but this scene is deeply gratifying to read nonetheless. Because yes, what about the quiet person who's been working in the background to hold everything together while the rest of the family falls to pieces? Why don't they ever get their due?

(Team Elinor forever and ever, amen.)

Date: 8 Jan 2014 07:51 am (UTC)
ivoryandhorn: An ornate wrought iron gate silhouetted against a cloudy sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] ivoryandhorn
This was super satisfying to read! Thanks for sharing it early.

Date: 8 Jan 2014 02:57 pm (UTC)
dejla: (delenn by iconsbycurtana)
From: [personal profile] dejla
Oh, this is nice. And it's nice to see Sindhu appreciated, even when she has such a boulder on her shoulder. (A chip just wouldn't do it.)

Date: 9 Jan 2014 02:51 am (UTC)
hokuton_punch: (monster eva not a lady greenonionicons)
From: [personal profile] hokuton_punch
BAD. ASS. And so satisfying. :D