Shizuka was the only one among them without a funky name. Her name was a proper Japanese name, written with the character for “quiet.” And indeed, she often was quiet, weighed down by a heavy burden of high achievement in her family.
She was from a proper, old-time family in town, where they lived in a large, comfortable house. Her father was a banker at a big fancy Tokyo bank, and her mother was a banker at the same big fancy Tokyo bank before she quit working to raise Shizuka and her older brother, Kazu. Kazu was six years older and had just entered the uber-prestigious Tokyo University after years of grueling study.
It was expected that Shizuka would do the same.
Her mother had spent a lot of energy and many tears getting Kazu to the point of passing the entrance exam for the best high school in the prefectural capital, and then had redoubled her efforts in order to help get him through high school and to help him succeed at passing the nearly-impossible-to-pass entrance exam into Tokyo University.
In fact, Kazu did not get into Tokyo University (known as “Todai”) the first time around. He spent a year as a “ronin,” or “masterless samurai,” which is what you are called when you have graduated from high school but have not gotten into your college of choice. He studied as a “ronin” for a year and then passed the exam the following year.
It was the happiest day of his mother’s life. She nearly fainted with the impact of the announcement, but promptly steadied herself and turned to Shizuka, in order to say, “You’ve seen your brother’s efforts. Now you know what it takes to succeed.”
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